Tag Archives: communications tools

The True Value of Relationships

Young Women Travel Together Concept


My parents always taught me to value my relationships, to treat others as I would like to be treated, and to never burn my bridges – that great big world is actually pretty small when you get working in it for awhile.

I’ve been blessed by the results of that sound advice with close bonds with my kids and parents, incredible friendships and truly great clients – some of whom have remained with Ink Tank for more than 25 years – and many who, over a short or long time, have become friends as well. My parents’ advice is both a lesson for life and a lesson for business. It applies to both the clients and suppliers I choose to work with, and also to the advice I give my clients to help them think differently about their businesses and understand how to authentically present their brands.

In our approaches to our friends and family we are (hopefully) transparent, genuine and have their best interests at heart. Our good intentions and integrity are obvious, and they respond in kind. It seems to me to be simple logic that we treat our clients and staff in the same way to achieve similar outcomes.

Yet sadly it’s often not the case. We’re approached by clients because they’re feeling ‘stuck’. They may be losing market share, not growing as they think they should, or not getting the responses they expect. They blame it on the market, on the digital age, on rising competition, on fickle customers, on staff not doing their jobs, or on design that’s bad, ineffective or not ‘creative’ enough. As a result, they might wish to throw their entire ‘brand’ out the window and start over. Many designers, marketers and so-called branding experts will jump all over this as an opportunity for large billings and a chance to put their own stamp on the client. It’s usually a bad idea – more focused on the supplier’s than the client’s best interests.

All of this tells me that they don’t really understand what branding is to begin with. They don’t understand their own brand and certainly don’t understand the relationship their brand has with the marketplace. They’ve thrown the basic tenets of a good relationship out the window – not necessarily deliberately – but by trying to be someone they’re not, talking versus listening, and often in the wrong relationships to begin with.

Everyone wants to feel valued. They want to know that you care about what they care about, and care about them – genuinely. That communication is a two-way street. That you’re confident in who you are and don’t try to be something you’re not. That you listen as well as talk. No one wants to be around people (or businesses) that are all about themselves or that do things to appear caring, but in fact are not. They want the real deal.

While this seems simple, many companies are too close to what they do to see it and themselves clearly. For well-established firms, they’re often stuck in old ways of seeing themselves. In the case of start-ups, they may be carried away by their great idea, or be too money-conscious to get the proper help. In both cases they tend to completely misunderstand what branding is. They underestimate the need for, time involved and cost of researching, defining and positioning their company, product or service, building their brand and creating the right communications strategy. Same goes for developing the name and corporate identity that has available domains, avoids language faux pas and is unique enough to meet the requirements of a trademark. And finally, to effectively target their marketing so they can attract the right relationships in the first place, then sell them and maintain them in the second.

There’s an old adage that often comes up in some form or another: “If you build it, they will come.” The fact is, the notion is only true in this competitive, highly communicative economy if that truly applies to your relationships, not just to what you’re selling.

Ink Tank® is a full service boutique agency located in Toronto. We offer a wide range of business building communication services from strategy to concept to execution to production to evaluation, senior level only participation and highly competitive rates. We work in all on and off line media, and pride ourselves on being able to hit the ground running, and getting it right the first time.

Digital Marketers: Redefining Branding for Themselves

It seems that ever since digital marketing became a force in the universe, marketers who work in that realm have worked hard at redefining branding to suit their vested interests.

Many of these marketers have little experience in traditional branding and are reflective (in my opinion) of a pendulum swung disproportionately in one direction. A plethora of ‘online marketing experts’ are trying (and succeeding) in convincing businesses to invest significant time, money and intellectual capital in a broad capture that sweeps up just about anyone passing through, then justify the cost with their ‘engagement’ numbers.

The true meaning and power of branding has been lost in the chase. And, unless your content is developed by a someone who truly understands your brand, your brand and marketing strategies, and who can also write well, engage and resonate with your specific audiences (and know the differences), and understand which combination of communication tools are right for you business and how to effectively use them, you could very well waste your money, dilute your hard-earned efforts, and end up with a ‘hollow’ brand – one with little substance to support it – or a brand that does not reflect your business.

There’s obviously a place for engagement and content-based marketing – it’s a necessary part of the marketing mix. But it’s just that – a part – one of many tools in the communications toolbox, each with a specific job and a supporting role. (It goes along with the misguided thinking that a logo, a website and a brochure is branding versus an identity and communication tools – but that’s for another conversation). Placing the bulk of your marketing budget in a single ill-defined tool is not going to build and sustain your brand.

And it’s frequently not the most effective tool. Content writers are the puppy mills of the marketing world. They often know little about brand strategy, differentiation, or the competitive sphere of the client. In trying to maximize engagement with a broad reach, businesses are often not actually engaging in an authentic and sustainable way directly with either the audiences who purchase or influence the purchase of their products and services. The fact is, their results are not what they’re made out to be and the lead-time to achieve any ROI of value is long, arduous and hard to gain back.

Sales, marketing and branding are intrinsically entwined. Too often, however, businesses make the mistake of confusing the flow. Many companies, particularly B2B, get caught up in sales driving marketing, or confusing the two, and brand is misunderstood and thus overlooked. Many of them feel that sales got them where they are and so, “Why change?” Others, particularly start-ups and growing businesses opt to have marketing drive their brand. Such is the case with digital content. Brand needs to drive marketing, which in turn will drive sales. And ensuring that your brand isn’t lost in all of that requires ongoing central management. Without it, designers, content people, web developers, PR folks and everyone else – none of whom really understand brand – put their own stamp and spin on what they’re doing, or regurgitate the same information, and you’re left wondering how you could have invested so much for so little.

Branding is tricky business. It requires experience and expertise to define, build and manage. It needs substance and focus, and more than just a single communications tool. And the bottom line is that branding is all about your interests and those you care about. Redefining it to suit a business model only helps many digital marketers to help themselves.