Thursday, August 8, 2013

Brand Control for the Smaller Business

There has been a considerable amount of comment and debate on the issue of the brand value of the Royal Family to the finances of Great Britain following the birth of Prince George.   Opinions are divided over the value of the monarchy in terms of the impact on tourism and trade.

There are often similar differences of opinion on the value of a company’s brand.  Putting a financial value to a brand is often only at a time of a merger or an acquisition because the treatment of “goodwill” has considerable taxation implications for all parties.

However, building up the value of a brand is often a strategic priority for senior management.  It can take many years of careful investment and management and it can be destroyed in one flippant remark or situation.  Perhaps the best example being the infamous speech by Gerald Ratner on the quality of the jewellery sold in his chain of stores!

Large companies usually invest fortunes in developing, maintaining or enhancing their brand image.   They will usually do whatever is necessary to protect their investment.  Communications specialists and agencies are hired to manage the process.

In some cases, the brand is regarded as the most valuable aspect of a business, even though accountants prefer a more conservative approach to valuation and recommend that the value rarely appears on a balance sheet.

Even minor modifications to a logo can carry very substantial financial consequences.
But is an investment in brand management a worthwhile investment for the smaller business? 
Without the resources available to larger companies how should they approach creating, managing and protecting their brand?

Building up a brand can be an expensive process for any small business or sole trader and the benefits are often only intangible and can rarely be quantified. 

However, research amongst consumers’ shows there is no doubt that purchasing decisions are frequently influenced by a strong and effective corporate identity.  

There are many examples of how small businesses have used their brand as a key part of their marketing strategy.  Even London plumbers can turn up in uniform driving smart new vehicles with personalised number plates!

First impressions are always crucial in any business and the value of first impressions should not be underestimated particularly in a service company where there is often little else to differentiate between competitors.

If a sole trader or small company is clever they can easily project the image of a larger company with greater resources and capability than would otherwise be the case.  Many self-employed management consultants work independently but add the term “Associates” to their title to imply they can draw upon other specialist colleagues for larger projects.

High quality printed stationery and in particular business cards and quotations are essential for the self-employed or smaller company, particularly in the service sector.    

Networking meetings are the new growth area for local small businessmen and tradesmen because they do not eat into the working part of the day.  Having fantastic quality business cards can make a big difference to the impression passed onto potential clients.

Documents used in all areas of the business should look professional and communicate effectively.  Quotations handwritten on a plain piece of paper can raise doubts in the minds of the customer.

Good graphic design can also be applied to other parts of the business viewed by customers and potential customers.  The most obvious are the staff appearance, vehicles, signage and the web site.

A logo often encompasses the brand and it has traditionally been a good investment to employ high quality designers at the outset.  A logo is a chance for instant recognition and differentiation.  It is difficult and expensive to change logos and so it is important to get it right, first time.

Creativity and style in design are important but the really difficult part is the co-ordination and control during the implementation.  Printing and visual identity can often involve a large number of suppliers – all with their own specialisms and pre-print design and artwork requirements.

It is rare to engage a single supplier for the production of signage, stationery, promotional pens, exhibition stands and training manuals.  All involve different print processes and equipment from screen printing, offset printing, large format printing and digital printing.

Many a client has been disappointed after receiving printed material that looked great on the computer screen but looked dark and dull when printed.

So if corporate identity is a vital part of business communication, how easy is it for the smaller business to control?  How does the logo look when printed in RGB or CMYK or are most people even aware of the difference?  There are many factors that can cause problems with visual identity
This is usually the function of a good graphic design agency but the costs can be comparatively high and usually the service is tailored more towards medium or larger sized companies. 

Very few small companies or sole traders have the budget to employ any form of agency and usually depend upon their own efforts or the graphic designers employed by the various printing companies.

And yet, whatever the size of business, it is essential to control this valuable business asset.
As a result of this particular dilemma a new service has just been launched earlier this year.

Direct2Print Brand Control now offers a new and low cost solution for the self-employed or smaller businesses.    

Graphic design at Direct2Print is an in-house service and is seen as a route to obtaining more print volume.   The service is available for companies wanting to use design in the production of training manuals and utilise visual charts and slides to make training easier to comprehend.

With more and more customers of online printing providing their own digital artwork this service is an ideal way of better utilising design staff and equipment by targeting a niche market with a very competitively priced and important service.

In our opinion it was a win-win situation from the outset.
Creating a simple digital logo is the first step.  For as little as £60 the client can get a new logo or a modification or an update of an existing design.  The client completes a fairly comprehensive brief and provides any preferences for colours or styles. 

It is then left to experienced graphic designers prepare a choice of 3 visuals for consideration and possible adaptation and amendment.  These proofs are provided in hard copy format and digital format.  There is world of difference in how certain colours work together in a digital or in a printed format.

After any modification and selection of a logo the client has the option to have this applied to any number of important files or documents for safe storage and easy application.

In short, this is a basic Digital Asset Management service for a small company. 
The next step is to apply the logo to all the applications required for the visual identity of the business.  A CD and manual are prepared with artwork for all types of business stationery or digital marketing files – indexed for easy reference to allow for fast, low cost editing as and when required. 

The files contain all important marketing materials and documents.  It can be used to store and archive professional looking tenders, contracts, presentations, stationery, uniforms, web design images and much, much more.

The total cost depends upon the amount of work required but it is always a fixed price based on an estimate of the amount of time required for the completed project and supply of the Brand Manual. 
A typical assignment is to create a CD/Manual for all the artwork a small business is likely to need for a total cost of less than £200.

The optional third step is to set up the benchmark pricelists for a wide range of products.
The basic starting cost of the Direct2Print Brand Control service would be £260.  A small price to pay for that extra peace of mind, improvement in administration and efficiency and control over one of the most valuable asset’s any business might have. 

It also saves very valuable time having all the artwork in an easily accessible form.  So, there are fewer problems searching for files – particularly if you wish to switch suppliers, or if your files become corrupted or you upgrade computers.

This is the type of investment that can be really worthwhile and can give the small businessman control over the quality process whether supplying artwork for a business card, web site, leaflet, uniform, vehicle livery, letter or email. 

The investment may be difficult to find on a balance sheet but should help to create more sales and strengthen the service offering.  It will make the business and save you the one commodity that is invaluable – your own time.  And, like the new Royal parents are soon to find out, anything that saves time and gives you more control is a worthwhile investment!