This was my first year attending the annual Spring NEMOA Conference. The event had drawn over 500 catalogers, marketers, printers, and retailers. The lobby was booming with catalogers. A thought had crossed my mind at some point. Standing amongst the crowd, hands full of catalogs, business cards, pens, flyers, advertisements, and more; I thought, out of these 500 plus marketers, how does one stand out? But wait, if I had those boots from Venus maybe that would help me stand out more, right? Hey! Did I just get branded by Venus? Now how does one go about branding like that? To my satisfaction CEO Eoin Comeford from MooseJaw spoke on this exact topic. His presentation got me thinking about a lot of things; but perhaps most significantly how important brand is to a company. I think back to my Eddie Bauer days how our manager made us all read Eddie Bauer’s biography before sending us out to sell down jackets. It’s not enough to have a brand; one must understand and believe in that brand as well. And by the way, here’s a thought, if you cannot sell your employees on your brand, how could you possibly expect to sell it to your consumer?

Back to Basics

If you get lost and forget what your company is supposed to look like, think roots. Unless you want to branch out into another brand it is important to remember who you are and, more, who your customers are. Ask yourself, what do they expect from you? How shocking would it be if LL Bean sent out a catalog selling skateboards and belly rings? You can’t please everyone all the time and the best thing you can do is stick to your roots and be what you are. That, after all, is what makes you unique and what sets you aside from the competition.

Create a Company Culture and Sell Your Employees on It

A while back we had posted a blog Finding a Cultural Fit for Your Company. Knowing your company culture is also essential to branding. Finding employees who are good fits for that culture could make or break your company. Don’t forget they are the ones making your products, selling your products, and living the results of your company’s standards; if they don’t like the company then that could be a red flag that your culture is not where it should be. No one wants to listen to a VP of a garden catalog tell us about how much he hates gardening. It’s contradictory. Culture is what makes us who we are; it’s what others see when they look at you; and it strengthens your brand. People strengthen your brand just by virtue of being a part of it. Unfortunately, as much as they can build that image, they can also tear it down. If you cannot happily love and live your brand, how can you expect others to do the same?

Provoke an Emotional Response

Your brand must be relevant to the lives of your consumers. Provoking an emotional reaction is a great way to do this. If a consumer is indifferent about your company, they are indifferent about your products, they don’t believe in your ability to make their lives more valuable. Think about what drives your customer and focus on that area. For example, if you have a camping equipment catalog, it makes sense to use what your customers love about camping in your advertisements. Think canoes and sunrises; or a happy couple sipping coffee on the dock with the same glass French Press on page 14 of your catalog. Creating that emotional response is a good way to put the consumer in a place they want to be. When they are in that place, they are far more likely to enjoy your catalog and to buy your product. One has to be brave when playing with emotions. As Comeford had pointed out at NEMOA, you always run the risk of ticking people off. You win some, you lose some. As long as you are winning your intended audience, then you are doing exactly what you should be.

Think: image, history, culture, employees, consumers; they all make up the essence we know as ‘brand.’ They are critical to the survival of your catalog. Brand is powerful. For LL Bean, branding helped spread his message from a little old house in Bryant Pond Maine across the world. For Eddie Bauer, it brought his ideas from the woods to the catalog. Make sure the message you are sending about your company is the one you want to be heard.