Mike Detmer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the principal of Detmer Business Solutions, which provides companies in the systems integration space with easy-to-use business knowhow modules that enable functional managers to better execute key duties. One of the outstanding events available to those of us who live in St. Pete is attending the Indy Car Grand Prix race that runs through our city streets in the spring. While the racers are low to the ground and travel fast, it’s easy to identify the drivers by the branding on their cars. Each is its own rolling logo. By using a diversity of colors, graphics, and fonts, the car designers attract fans to their teams and customers to the brands they sponsor.
Like the professional racers, your branding says everything about you. It gets attention, builds interest and creates desire among the customers you hope to serve. Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to do. As a business consultant to residential systems integrators, I often conduct marketing reviews as a way of determining if the branding that is in place accomplishes this task. In many cases the branding is fine, and the company identity shines through, but in other cases, it does not. Looking at the causality of weak brand identity among companies in our space, I’ve noticed that a major cause of ineffective branding is a dated look. In these cases, I recommend a brand makeover.
Equipped with this perspective, I’d challenge you to put your branding through the relevancy test. Here are a few tips as you do:
Form An Opinion: Take the time to compare what your brand looks like to what potential clients see when they shop for an integrator. You can do this by clearing a wall in your office, printing the logo and home web page of your company and those of your competitors. Then post the prints beside one another on the wall. Step back and take a look through an objective eye and rate each posting for attraction and communication. I use a brand-rating tool for this exercise and am happy to share it with you.
Ask What Customers Think: Ask some of your clients, architects, friends, and fellow tradesmen to go through the same exercise. This can be done on the wall, or the images can be pasted into a PowerPoint presentation and emailed to each individual. Ask which brand attracts your attention most and which is best at communicating what the company does at a glance. If your company rates above the others, your branding is probably fine for the time being. If your brand ratings are low, read on.
These two pictures show the before and after brand makeover for Millennium Systems Design Inc. in Orlando, FL. Get A Designer’s Take: Like residential systems integrators, there are a plethora of good graphic designers in the market. Get one involved. When a designer looks at the project, don’t jump right into discussing price. First, ask for input on your current branding. The answers will show you how the designer thinks and help you decide whether you want to go further.
Determine Your Strategy For Change: Remember that changing branding can be an expensive proposition. An extreme makeover may be too much. In that case, consider a modern refresh. If your business has been around for a decade or two, and you have a brand image in the community, a refresh may be your best bet. I recently went through this exercise with one of my clients, and we deemed that if he were starting a new business, the logo, font and color choice would be different from the refresh approach he chose. Our goal was to respect his heritage and enhance his image, not remake the brand.
Change Over Time: When you undertake a refresh, consider the costs and timing of doing so. Make a list of everything that has your branding and logo on it. Some of these items, like your web pages, can be changed immediately, while others can be changed over time. Why discard existing invoices, business cards, crew shirts, and truck wraps when you can deplete over time and go to the new look afterward. A soft change can still have the effect you want and conserve your cash.
Don’t Have Time, Hire A Pro: In many cases, residential systems integrators are so busy working in their business that there is little time to consider important enhancements to branding or process refinement. In this case, consult a firm like mine to do the heavy lifting. There are a group of us in the business that have the experience of enhancing branding without disrupting business.