Top-of-mind

Your brand is said to have attained “top-of-mind awareness” when a consumer is asked to name different brands within a category and your name pops up first. Every business owner hopes that their brand will someday get there.

If you’re thinking “but I just run a B&B, I don’t have a brand” then I've got news for you! By definition a brand is an “identifiable entity that makes specific promises of value”. So, coupling your establishment name with a promise of an unforgettable holiday or a superb breakfast or pristine bedrooms or whatever makes you the owner of a brand. Congratulations!

Right, so now what? You may just have discovered that yes, actually, you DO have a brand and now you may be wondering what on earth to do about it. An in-depth explanation of branding and all the do’s and don’ts and ins and outs of it would make an entire book on its own, and be daunting to boot, so we’ll keep it as simple as possible.

Firstly, remember the following:

  • You cannot build a strong brand on a weak product
  • Features and benefits won’t make people choose your product – reactions are first emotional and then logical – so aim to tap into your target market’s psyche and evoke emotional response.
  • If you have to identify a point of singular distinction for your product, something that sets your product apart from those of your competitors – this should be your most brandable value – focus on it.
  • Your brand is essentially a promise and you have to deliver on it.
  • Every touch point counts – wherever your customers may stumble across your brand is important, from PR to advertising to a faxed map with directions to your establishment, it’s ALL important.
  • A strong brand is an asset to the company.
  • Good brands change and evolve with changing market conditions.

Now that the key aspects of branding in general have been addressed, let’s talk about the most challenging aspect – attaining top-of-mind awareness where it counts – in the hearts and minds of your target market.

This is best achieved through “integrated marketing communications”. In plain English, this is a method of carefully coordinating all promotional activities including advertising, sales promotions, public relations and direct marketing to produce clear, consistent, compelling and unified messages about your brand across ALL media channels.

In even plainer English, this means that EVERYTHING you do, from your website to printed brochures to show stands to email messages and everything in between should carry your look and feel and communicate the same consistent message.

Communicating your brand constantly and consistently isn't enough, your message also has to reach the right people WHERE AND WHEN THEY WANT TO BE REACHED. This may mean that you have to target the corporate market through a financial magazine instead of a publication geared at holidaymakers. It also means that if your target market is the overseas traveller coming into South Africa, you won’t be communicating much through local media.

The marketing communications mix is made up of five components.

They are:

Advertising

Advertising encompasses any paid form of non-personal (generalised) presentation and promotion of your product or service which clearly carries your brand and is thus identifiable as a message from you.

Key characteristics:

  • Advertising reaches large, geographically dispersed audiences, often with high frequency. The cost per exposure may be low but overall costs are often high.
  • Advertised goods are considered more legitimate by consumers – if they recognise your establishment because they've seen it advertised somewhere before, they’ll be more inclined to choose it over another they don’t recognise.
  • Your company and brand is dramatised or given character through advertising. If your adverts portray a family having fun, this is the character that is associated with your brand and this is the brand image that is built. Advertising is one-way communication and is impersonal, which makes it more challenging to raise the emotional response you are looking for.

Personal Selling

This entails personal presentation by the establishment’s sales force for the purpose of making sales and building customer relationships. In our industry this mostly takes the form of consumer shows.

Key characteristics:

  • This is considered the most effective tool for building buyers’ preferences, convictions and actions when you and your customer are face-to-face you have the opportunity to get feedback and adjust your pitch to suit their needs.
  • This is more relationship-oriented. If you build a rapport with the individual they are more likely to remember you and your product and this is why it is so important that shows are handled by people who are passionate about your brand and product.
  • This form of selling is often the most expensive form of selling but returns can be high if handled effective

Sales Promotion

Sales promotions make use of short-term incentives to encourage the purchase or sale of your product.

Key characteristics:

  • Sales promotions may be targeted at the trade (travel agents or tour operators) or the ultimate consumer and may take the form of discounts, special value-add offers, competitions or rebates.
  • Sales promotions are designed to attract attention and should offer strong purchase incentives to boost sales – make it worth the effort!
  • Promotions of this kind are usually short-lived and aren't all that effective at building long-term brand preference.

Public Relations

Often the most under-utilised element in the promotional mix, public relations entails building good relationships with the public at large through obtaining favourable publicity, building up a good “corporate image” and handling or heading off unfavourable rumours, stories and events.

Key characteristics:

  • Stories about your establishment that are written by members of the press are often more credible than anything you can say yourself.
  • Public relations can take many forms, from news stories to feature articles in magazines to sponsorship of events. Getting in the news is often up to you. If you receive an award, for example, make sure the media get to hear about it! Invite members of the media to visit your establishment free of charge and then make sure they have a positive experience.
  • Public relations also dramatizes or communicates your establishment’s character but remember that you have little control over what character the reporter chooses to give, so it’s important that they have a real experience.

Direct Marketing

This form of communication is directed at carefully targeted individuals to obtain immediate response and cultivate lasting customer relationships.

Key characteristics:

  • Whether it be telephone marketing, direct mail, online marketing or any other, direct marketing has four distinctive characteristics: it’s non-public, immediate, customised and interactive.
  • This is best suited to highly targeted marketing efforts. If your aim is to make your establishment known to travel agents, a direct marketing approach may include a personalised letter with a brochure being posted off and could also include a follow-up phone call where you are able to answer questions and build a relationship with the individual.

Integrated marketing communications takes the core promises of value made by your brand and communicates them clearly and consistently across all these channels.

Each message may have its own style and execution but there should be no doubt that you are reinforcing your brand’s core values.

Finally, while formulating your messages, remember that your competitors are doing the same. Communicate your brand not only to new customers, but to your existing customers as well. Be creative, be passionate, be uncompromising and HAVE FUN!