Johnson's World: Understand Your Brand

If you are giving away something with your brand name on it, make sure it does the job for which it was intended.

July 1, 2014
Steve Johnson11276927

I have two pens in my desk drawer. Both are big and beefy. Both are metallic. Both cost plenty, but not to me. Both have the names/logos of press manufacturers (one offset, one digital) boldly emblazoned on their sides. And neither of them work very well.

If these were really cheap pens I’d just throw them away, but they aren’t. They cost a pretty penny and I keep hoping, against all logic, that they’ll work better the next time I use them.

These pens are advertising specialties. They are meant to be the marketing gift that keeps on giving. Every time I pick up one of these pens I’m supposed to be pleasantly reminded of the press manufacturer’s brand. Instead, I’m reminded that these pens don’t write very well, and by extension I actually think less of the brand.

Make a good impression

Be very careful of your brand. Promote it, market it, guard it. If you are giving away something with your brand name on it, make sure it does the job for which it was intended.

The Swiss Army Knife is a very well known brand. Everybody has one. Who would go camping without one? With a Swiss Army Knife you feel cool, rugged, and debonair all at the same time. This knife has so many useful do-dads, plus a corkscrew. I guess only Swiss soldiers opens bottles of wine while under fire.

Swiss Army Knife is one of those rare brands like Harley-Davidson and pro sports franchises that transcends the product itself. That makes it ripe for brand extensions and product licensing.

Like your Swiss Army Knife? Proudly show off by wearing a Swiss Army hat or a Swiss Army dress. Smell rugged and debonair with Swiss Army scents. I’m not making this up, folks: You really can buy Swiss Army brand perfumes and colognes.

I was delighted when I received a Swiss Army Knife briefcase as a gift. Delight turned to disgust in the first year of ownership as the latches both broke, the handle fell apart, and the exterior covering developed tears and split in multiple places.

The case was sold with a lifetime warranty but upon inquiry I was informed that a no-refund policy meant that my only option was to take a replacement case which would be equally poorly made and prone to fail just as quickly.

The end result was a disappointment with an inferior product that remains forever associated in my mind with Swiss Army Knives. Not only will I never buy a Swiss Army briefcase or any other Swiss Army luggage, but now I have a negative association with the Swiss Army Knife brand, even though I’ve never had a major problem with an actual knife.

Don't 'black-eye' your brand

How about your own brand? Everyone has one whether they know it or not. Your company name is your most obvious brand. Any products or services that you provide under a trade name are another brand. Even your own name is a brand.

Are you good at what you do? Being one of the best is the most solid tactic for enhancing your brand’s reputation. Is your company thinking of offering additional services? Make sure you can bring the same level of quality for which you are now known to any new offerings.

Any printing company thinking of extending its brand to include other aspects of marketing had better be sure to have the requisite expertise and equipment in place before seeking out a larger role in marketing projects.

What a shame it would be to sully the sterling reputation of your core business with mediocre performance in other areas. Those ancillary services may seem secondary to you but their importance to your client may be paramount.

“It is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all,” is a sound maxim, but don’t try on your customer’s dime! Whether your are giving your client a coffee mug with your name on it or procuring a targeted marketing database, make sure that you are ready and able to deliver to your client’s satisfaction on every new product and service your provide.