For about six months I worked on a project we called the “messaging matrix.” Its original intent was to ensure everyone in our company was sharing the same benefits and messages about all of our products and brands. This started as a simple Excel spreadsheet, but consumed about 400 hours of my time and had so many columns I felt like a data miner. By the end of it, the project ended up being one of my most difficult, stressful and eye opening. I had never read horizontally across all of our brands and products at the same time. I had always looked at them vertically or one at a time. Sounds silly I am sure, but after much thought I realized “what a mess!” We had products that fit nowhere, branding that was going across multiple sectors within beef cattle and branding that was going across multiple species (VitaFerm® was beef, sheep, goat and dairy).
As a person who claims to be incredibly organized and run an organized ship, I had to go into hiding for a while to save face and then ended up having to take the team on a retreat to get this fixed. The end result of this project has been amazing, and it includes:
- Strengthening our message so our dealers can benefit from a more consistent message
- Reorganizing our products in a way that makes more sense for our customers
- Developing a new searchable product center in the Online Dealer Center for easy quick reference to all these great brands and products (remember 43% of end users expect to get product info from you – their dealer)
- Building excitement of stronger branding power
noun: brand; plural noun: brands
1. a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a
So let’s talk branding power. Interestingly enough the word came from our roots. More than a century ago, cattle ranchers used branding irons to mark which animals were theirs. As the cattle moved across the plains on their way to Chicago slaughter houses, brands made it easier to identify which ranches they were from.
With the introduction of packaged goods in the 19th century, producers put their mark on a widening array of products—cough drops, flour, sugar, beer — to indicate their source. For example, in the late 1880s as the Coca-Cola Company was getting started there were many soda producers in every market. Before Coca-Cola could get a customer to reach for a Coke, the company needed to be sure the customer could distinguish a Coke from all the other fizzy caramel-colored beverages out there.
In the first sense of the word, then, a brand is simply the non-generic name for a product that tells us the source of the product. A Coke is a fizzy caramel-colored soda concocted by those folks in Atlanta. For more information on brands and brand consistency see this month’s Tell Everyone article on page 8.
I will end this month with a challenge – something I wasn’t doing prior to this 400-hour venture. Are you differentiating marketing from branding? Let’s work together to create evangelists for our businesses.