Long before “branding” was an ambiguous marketing term, the concept played a critical role in the development of capitalism. Take a step back in time, and you’ll find evidence of branding as far back as the Bronze Age — roughly 4,000 years ago. Metalsmiths of the era marked their armor with a symbol. When soldiers and warriors wore the armor, anyone who admired the craftsmanship (hopefully from a healthy distance), would know exactly who had created it. Then, if they so desired, they could track down the metalsmith and procure their own set of armor.
It’s hard to believe, but once upon a time, branding was a revolutionary concept. It has since been refined, and today, branding is so much more than a single symbol.
“Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be, and who people perceive you to be,” writes John Williams, a contributor with Entrepreneur.com. This is one reason why I’m also a contributor to Entrepreneur.com on behalf of The Newsletter Pro.
One major challenge businesses face is brand clarity. Try as they might, some businesses struggle to figure out who they are or who they want to be.
You may have faced this dilemma. When this happens, you risk clients and prospects getting a garbled picture of who you are as a company. You aren’t in control of the message, and this can lead to brand confusion. If you have local competitors that offer a similar product or service, your clients (or would-be clients) may not be able to tell the difference, or even care.
Improve Brand Reception
An effective way to bring the picture into focus and improve reception, as well as eliminate brand confusion, is through the use of direct mail. Think postcards, brochures, newsletters, catalogs, and so on. Direct mail gives you an opportunity to cultivate your brand and lay a strong foundation for your clients and prospects to differentiate you from the crowd.
Remember, your brand is the relationship you have with everyone who walks through your door, visits your website, gives you a call, and reads your marketing materials.
Direct mail speaks to success by sending an undeniable message of your intent. But before you send that message, you need to answer a fundamental question: Why is branding important to you? In other words, what do you want to accomplish?
Every business technically has a brand. Every single client interaction, promotion, marketing campaign, or social media post you make contributes to the image of “who” your business is.
Control the Message
By looking at what you want to accomplish, you can begin to truly cultivate your brand. You are in control of the message. You may want to influence how people perceive your business — a common goal among many businesses.
Direct mail is an effective tool for doing just that. A newsletter, for example, can clarify who you are or how you want the community to perceive your business. It’s a format that is easy to manage and send to homes or businesses you want to target.
Unlike many other forms of marketing — radio, TV, internet, etc. — direct mail features a remarkable attribute. It has a physical presence — a third-dimension. If the medium is used correctly, it can transform the picture clients and prospects have of your business. It can make this picture three-dimensional as well. Think of it as giving your clients a more complete “story” — the story of your business.
Manage Your Image
As a physical medium, direct mail also does something other forms of marketing can’t match. It delivers content to readers in manageable, bite-sized chunks. It gives them the ability to learn about you and your business on their own time — which we all know is a precious commodity. A consistent and repeated direct mail relationship with customers also allows you to modify your brand over time as your business grows and your priorities change.
You can also take advantage of what science has taught us about repeat brand exposure. It’s never enough to show your clients who you are once. You have to keep it up.
Czech poet Ranier Maria Rilke once wrote, “A person isn’t who they are during the last conversation you had with them — they’re who they’ve been throughout your whole relationship.” But you have to be careful not to overdo it.
Find a Balance
A comprehensive study on branding, spearheaded by the University of Florida, claims that the key to “perfect” brand exposure is a balance between inundation and habituation.
Inundation gives consumers a sense of tedium — the feeling you get after seeing the same commercial on Hulu for the eighth time in 30 minutes.
Habituation leaves consumers with a sense of familiarity — like tuning into your favorite show on Thursday night.
At The Newsletter Pro, we’ve discovered the magic frequency between inundation and habituation when it comes to direct mail: monthly. Or, more specifically, the monthly mailer. Once-a-month mailers (newsletters) linger in households and offices for weeks, sometimes months, subtly exposing consumers to your brand in a passive, yet highly accessible way that feels personal.
Your brand is the culmination of the things you love, the way you run your business, the people you serve, and who you are within the community. Once you know what direction you want to take your brand, you can turn to direct mail marketing to make it a reality.
Through direct mail, you are in control of your brand and you can shape the message you truly want to convey. You can put an end to sending out an unclear image of who you are as a business and finally begin broadcasting in picture-perfect high-definition.