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Branding De-mystified

During a BioOhio seminar a couple of years ago, my talk on marketing communications planning and strategy was interrupted by a presenter from a large agency who declared, “That’s branding—we charge $40,000 for that!” I smiled and replied that many of my clients don’t have that much in their entire budget.

We specialize in serving the communications needs of technical clients, many of whom make materials or components that are critical but small parts of end-use products. Unlike toothpaste, promotion costs can’t be amortized over millions of units, so budgets are usually small. Whether we’re creating a marketing communications plan or just a brochure, Web page or trade show graphic, we ask some basic questions to glean the information needed to craft an effective selling message.

And if our process is called “branding” in today’s buzzwords lexicon, that’s fine--the brand message should be integral to all communications elements.

Finding the Selling Point

Over the course of my 20+ years in advertising, “branding” was preceded by such monikers as “Value Proposition,” “Competitive Advantage” and “Unique Selling Proposition.” I simply think of it as the selling point: finding that special thing that enabled me to set sales records and win awards when I was in the field.

 I adapted “the 5 Ws and the H” from my journalism background to discern the key selling points of my clients’ companies and technologies by asking a series of questions:

  • What is it?
  • What does it do?
  • Who can use it?
  • How can they use it?
  • How does it make them money or save them money?

Depending on the job at hand and its complexity, we’ll drill down with related sub-questions in each of these areas. Other considerations include the competitive landscape, IP positions, and distribution channels.

These queries might take a day or two if we’re developing a detailed plan and strategy. If we’re preparing to create a booth graphic and a press release to launch a new product for a current client, it can be handled in an hour or so.

“Branding” can be a simple, cost-effective process of gathering information to create effective communications.

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