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[ 0 ] Mar. 24, 2010 | SBO Editor

Design & branding pro shares strategies & tips to help guide your image development.

A recent branding project from Design Harnesk for super-chic Laprairie at Bloomingdale’s. While difficult to be different or outstanding in the cosmetics industry, Design Harnesk was able to establish a noteworthy look for Laprairie through the use of high end materials. Laprairie embraced the look of artful finesse and developed a new emphasis on customer service to match the overall look.

Karen Harnesk is a New York based interior designer. Design Harnesk is a full service architectural interiors firm specializing in brand imaging since 1986. The company was developed expressly to offer personal attention to each project and to provide an unusually diverse combination of national & international design and construction management from concept through implementation. Clients have included Paloma Picasso, Baryshnikov, Elizabeth Arden, and Laprairie.
For more information, visit www.karenharnesk.com or send an email to Karen@designharnesk.com
Annie Oakley and Davey Crockett were two heroes of my youth. These exciting luminaries satisfied the wildest childhood fantasies and championed fair play. Davey, however, was my favorite. He wore a raccoon cap! It was unusual, unique and the coolest thing I had ever seen! Every kid in America wanted one of those cap while singing the BALLAD OF DAVEY CROCKETT during the weekly adventures of this real life American superhero. He was “King of the Wild Frontier”!

I still remember the words to the song, the smell and feel of the raccoon cap, the excitement of watching each television episode and the comfort of my “official membership” in the Davey Crockett Club. I was “hooked” as a loyal fan of the show and all its peripheral swag. So what do a raccoon cap, a song, and group inclusion have to do with developing a BRAND IMAGE?

Every business, whether a small “work at home” service, or a “Big Box Store” must follow some fundamental guidelines.
Create a NAME: Perhaps the most important decision you’ll make is the permanent identity: your company name. It should reflect the nature of your business, products or services, company founder or celebrity associated with the organization. Consider Macaroni Grill pasta restaurant, Accountables – accounting service or Martha Stewart Living for, I guess, everything in life. A name can be an acronym which is the memorable abbreviation of the full company title: HBO, AOL, TGIF. The name should be individual and distinctive, so you’ll need to do a bit of title search homework. You’ll want your name to be recognizable.

Years ago, there was a design firm specializing in theme restaurants. The two creative owners couldn’t decide on a name, so one sat at the typewriter, closed his eyes, typed out 5 letters, and came up with the name MNORX, which stood for absolutely nothing and was unbelievably memorable. I don’t recommend this approach to everyone, but it certainly shows that general rules can be broken.

Create an IDENTITY: Brand recognition is proprietary: a signature or fingerprint of sorts. Identity can be developed graphically with the company name presented in a recognizable font as a LOGO or as an iconic symbol like a “swoosh” or a “bullseye”. The brand can be reinforced with slogans, mottos or even jingles: “Finger Lickin’ Good”, “have it your way”, and perhaps the most concise jingle of all time, “I love New York”.

Identity will be on letterheads, packaging and advertisements. Sometimes packaging can BE the identity: Tiffany’s little blue box is recognized globally. A logo is essential; mottos, slogans and jingle are optional.
Consider frontier days when there was literal branding. The Circle Z or the Double Bar ranch would blaze their symbol onto cattle, vehicles and entry gates to claim ownership and to create identity. Today, we identify brand in the same way, although fortunately, less literally.

I once saw a pink truck identified by the name “Towe Truck” with a giant TOE on the roof. Turns out that the company was a very successful women-owned auto repair shop with a tremendous sense of humor.
Identify your Target Market: It’s important to know your product, identify your customer base or Market, and to determine the viability of marketing your product to the appropriate demographic.

Specific types of products or services will appeal to different markets based on age, gender, economics, special interests and location. If your company targets an exclusive market, you will want to identify your products as incomparable and your services as optimal. When marketing to the masses, you may want to site competitive pricing. Special interest groups, like golfers, for instance, will want the newest and best equipment with professional endorsements. The tween market presents an opportunity for generational inclusivity. Tweens and teens have “disposable income” which can drive products and marketing.

Develop your Business Plan: You’ll need to identify realistic goals, determine the need for investors, establish key roles, product and service development. Your plan should include cash flow projections, staffing and inventory control. Allow for “plan B” in case of unforeseen events such as illness, economic or market changes.
“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept” -Ansel Adams

Know Your COMPETITION: Gone are the days of the general store, a local doctor, or even one method of sending mail. Multiple choices exist, and unlike “right” or “wrong” answers in school testing, the correct choices are not definitive. It’s essential to distinguish yourself from the competition, to “know thyself”…and know the other guys too. Keep in touch with current affairs, social networking, local events, economic changes, environmental conditions and opinions. “Green” or environmentally sensitive products and services are becoming a necessity and no longer an option.

Ralph Lauren is an excellent example of branding. The brand is well defined, easy to identify, and consistent. It’s remarkable that a company selling sleepwear, evening apparel, and sportswear, for men, women, children, babies and dogs (!), furniture, accessories and homegoods can maintain a distinctive image. The iconic “polo pony” can be included in any color or even any size, yet the signature is consistent. They sell a casual upscale country club culture of traditions passed down through generations. It’s a product defined lifestyle. BRILLIANT!

Don’t just “keep up” with your rivals. Strive to stay steps ahead and to be outstanding.

Category: Small Business Opportunities, Small Business Opportunities Nov 2010, Uncategorized