Sunday, July 19, 2009

Do Brands Really Matter?


In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.”
- Warren Buffett



Approved Contribution From "Early To Rise" Online Magazine
By John Forde

Ad agency guys love brands. They love brand-driven advertising too.

On the website for Ogilvy & Mather, the agency founded by legendary ad man David Ogilvy, I once saw the phrase “We’re all about brands.” Poor old Ogilvy probably did a double-tumble tailspin in his grave.

As readers of Early to Rise know, I love to trash the whole idea of brand marketing. And I’m not alone. The entire direct-response industry leans away from it.

It’s just not in our blood. And not for no reason.

Brand-based marketing logic, after all, is the planning you see behind all those Super Bowl commercials that make you laugh but sell nothing.

It’s the thinking behind sleek, wordless billboards and print ads that leave you scratching your head. (”Hmm,” you say to yourself, “I feel vaguely sexy… and crave salted pork products… but I have no idea why.”)

But the main reason we in the measurable, quantifiable world of direct response reject the strategy of introducing a product based on brand is because it is usually a long, laborious, and not measurably effective process. And, far too often, an exercise in self-adulation. But not much more.

However - and you’d better sit down for this - it turns out there’s at least one area in the world of direct response where… yes… even yours truly can spot some value in pumping up the profile of a product’s brand.

Not just a small area. A huge one. Very big.

How so?

How E-Mail Relationships Change Everything

Used to be, every marketing piece that went to your target customers was in an envelope, sent cold to a rented list. Your prospect didn’t know you from Adam.

Brand mattered little, because you had little footing with the prospect in the first place. Benefits and features, instead, told the story.

Then we started marketing online.

You can’t do cold e-mailing online, because that’s what we call sp*m. So the best and brightest e-mail-driven businesses went about it another way.

First, they built relationships with their prospects. With e-zines. With product fulfillment and digital extras delivered to inboxes. With membership sites that brought visitors in free, then kept them coming back for more.

And what’s more important in e-mail marketing than getting a recipient to open your steady stream of e-mail missives? Nothing. Without that, your efforts are sand on a sea turtle’s back. Going nowhere in a hurry.

The relationship is what gets the e-mail opened. The relationship is what gets the e-mail read. The relationship is what makes way for the sale. And that relationship is based on… yep… a kind of “brand” trust that surrounds you or your organization as the source of that e-mail.

The Power of the T-Factor

In short, you’re counting on your name… which IS your “brand”… to carry enough “T” factor (Trust) to keep the reader from clicking “delete.”

The best way to earn any kind of noble brand status, in e-mail or anywhere else, is via the quality of the product itself. Online, that means quality content. Content that informs. That entertains. That gets results. Or at least shows the reader how to get results.

Occasionally, that can happen in a single flash of brilliance. More often, it happens as a trickle. Over time.

First, there’s the e-zine or the valuable online report. There also might be a website, full of content and trustworthy testimonials.

Then there’s the respectful treatment. The lack of sp*m. The html that doesn’t take forever to download. The ideas never heard or seen elsewhere.

A thank you note for sign-ups. Delivery that actually sticks to the promised mailing schedule. And so on.

Until the reader can’t wait to hear what you have to say next. You’ve become part of his online “family.” A member of his inner circle of trust. And that’s where you reap the rewards.

You can now endorse products you’re pretty sure your readers will want. And if you’re right, they’ll even buy.

Continuing to offer them good products deepens that trust cycle. And your brand takes on an even brighter shine. Every subsequent sale, even for higher-priced stuff, gets that much easier.

Of course, bungle it and you’ll lose your brand power pretty darn fast. But there’s no denying it - the deeper this cycle goes, the more valuable that idea of a brand becomes.

The new customer becomes the loyal customer. Ready to spend more, too. Not just a little, but often by multiples. And you’re soon selling lots of specialty items to your serious fans.

This is where fortune building begins.

Yet again, a lot of this depends on how well you lay the groundwork… on having quality information to offer your prospects, right up front.

And that has to happen long before the marketers and copywriters come along.

[Ed. Note: To get more of copywriting expert John Forde's wisdom and insights into marketing (and much more), sign up for his free e-letter, Copywriter's Roundtable. Get a free report about 15 deadly copy mistakes and how to avoid them when you sign up today.

This article appears courtesy of Early To Rise, a free newsletter dedicated to making money, improving health and secrets to success. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.earlytorise.com.



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