Marketers Give Quick Branding Lesson at Fast Forward

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NEW YORK -- Experts cited testing, enthusiasm and risk taking as the keys to success at a branding session Aug. 15 at the Direct Marketing Association's Fast Forward conference.

Having a return on your marketing investment is the only way to see that your ideas worked, a panelist said. Without a ROI, it's just art.

"Marketing is the most misunderstood word in business," said Mark Stevens, marketing strategy and communications consultant and author. "It is really the art and science of growing a business."

Companies must capture, amplify and maintain to see perpetual growth, he said. To capture is to crack the code of the combination of words and media to increase sales. A company needs a solid application so that clients will see what it has to offer and want to hire the firm. To amplify, a company must concentrate on romancing clients rather than simply retaining them.

"There are just too many choices nowadays," Mr. Stevens said. "If you do a good job as a marketer, your client will let you rest in peace."

Stand for Something

Glenda Shasho Jones, president of catalog consulting group Shasho Jones Direct Inc., New York, stressed that positioning is key.

"A lot of brands forget what their core business is," she said. "Just look around: Weak brands are all around us."

What a company stands for, the values it holds and its point of differentiation give it positioning in the market, Ms. Jones said.

Also essential are investing time in training employees to understand what customers need, having honest and well-written positioning statements, enthusiasm and a different visual presentation that will let the organization stand out.

"Companies tend to get into a trap where they feel they have to do it all," Ms. Jones said. "You don't have to do everything for everybody, just one or a couple of things well."

Catalogs should strive to create strategic visual packaging and a place where customers want to be. Having a consistent look that reflects the brand and that also provides authority when customers see it are important.

"Catalogs need to have differentiation, not for the sake of being different but based on their positioning," she said. "Take advantage of color, have a visible and powerful logo in the middle, be loud and clear with strength, because it only makes a difference if it sells."

John Kilcullen, president and publisher of Billboard Information Group, lent himself as an example of risk taking during the session. Mr. Kilcullen took a chance and ran with his idea of creating a line of books for "Dummies," and it paid off in a multimillion-dollar empire.

"The key C is carpe diem, because you really have to act on something," he said. "There is too much choice out there, and people want a filter to the best solutions and you have to drive them toward that."

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