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COLUMN: Brand Development Starts with Vision

branding-graphicEDITOR’S NOTE: Jesse Kramer-marketing expert and VP of marketing for Horsham, Pennsylvania-based AWE Tuning-has developed a series of articles on small business branding, crafted specifically for aftermarket shops. This is the first installment of many more to come by Kramer.

Building a brand is a marathon, not a sprint. It sounds daunting, you don’t know where to start, and that’s why you won’t do it. But your competition will, and then one day-¦ they will pass you. Or maybe they already have. Read on to stay in front.

I’m going to go through the fundamentals of brand building in a five part series. The five stages are vision development, positioning the company, product development, sales/distribution, and finally marketing. But again, you probably won’t do it, so maybe just stop reading now.

If I’ve still got you…let’s start with vision:

Where are you going?

I’m on a call daily with a different dealer. Given my branding and agency background, I find myself in consulting mode frequently, and I’ve found there are very consistent truths in our industry: 80 percent of businesses won’t specialize (I have hypotheses on why this is, but that’s a another discussion). If you ask these businesses what they are, they answer with what they do on a daily basis.

What you do every day is not a company direction, it’s not a vision, rather it’s a bunch of tasks strung together to put food on the table (that’s important, too).

Money is a report card, not a vision. There has to be some time set aside for working “on the business” not “in the business” to set direction (trite, but true). I’ve created a spectrum for all selling channels in the aftermarket: the “customizer to distributor” spectrum. Let’s put real examples here.

Magnus Walker is a vintage Porsche tuner. By most measuring sticks, he’s known for this. People follow him and his beard. He’s a brand. Would you ask Magnus Walker to get you two pallets of BBS monobloc race wheels?

Turn 14 Distribution is a distributor. They have 321,000 square feet of warehouse space, boast two-day shipping to 83 percent of the U.S., and offer real-time inventory updates. Would you ask them to tune a ’72 911?

These are extreme examples, of course, but here’s the point: vision is a North Star. You will never touch a vision, but you’ll always try. Vision will answer every major business decision you ever have to make. Vision isn’t what you make, why you’re better, and it isn’t where you’ll sell (we’ll get to these), but rather, it’s why you get up in the morning.

In the subsequent four articles, we’re going to touch on positioning, your products, your sales and distribution channels, and then your marketing. None can exist without the others, and they must be built brick-by-brick. But it all starts with vision.

So, why do you get up in the morning?

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