Tag Archives: Branding

Owning A Business – Part One

Owning a business is relatively easy. Operating a successful, profitable enterprise is an entirely different and more complicated matter.

The easy version is to figure out if you want a sole proprietorship, LLC, S, C, or other corporate designation and get a EIN, then open a bank account. You are now a business owner!

Hanging a shingle does not mean customers can find you.

Hanging a shingle does not mean customers can find you.

That may be what you think, but let’s look at what you don’t know. Most business owners don’t know what they don’t know about owning a business, so let’s scratch the surface with these few things from a long laundry list, in no specific order. Come back for more in part 2.

  • The first question you need to ask is why? Why do you want to own a business? Did you get fired? Believe you can do it better than your employer? Are you setting it up for your children to take over some day, and if that’s your reason, will want it? Do you want to be free from having someone else tell you what to do; and do you understand that consumers will always be your boss? Is this your retirement plan, and will it even make money? Or are you doing this because you believe you have a great product or service to offer people?
  • When you look at a corporate structure, consider if anyone else will be involved in the business. Are there going to be partners? Will they be equals or subordinates? Investors? Family members, including a spouse? How do you want to handle taxes? These are questions you will be asked by the professional who helps you set up the corporate structure, and you are wise to engage a business attorney to assist you with establishing bylaws, if necessary, as well as operating agreements and other legal documentation to protect your assets. Check to see if they are qualified to assist with patents, copyrights, trademarks, and any other intellectual property rights you may want to protect.
  • Do you know what EIN stands for? It’s the Employer Identification Number you need for tax purposes, both for filing your corporate returns and for your customers to report their financial relationship with your business. Engaging a Certified Public Accountant or Enrolled IRS Agent (EA) to assist with your corporate tax obligations, including quarterly payroll, is another wise decision. Your accountant can help make sure your chart of accounts is set up correctly, that you’re operating on either cash or accrual basis, and that your financial reports (cash flow, profit & loss, balance sheet, etc.) are accurate. They know the questions to ask, which is why we strongly encourage engaging professionals to help you.

We haven’t even scratched the surface or discussed branding and marketing and customer relations and location and many other aspects of operating a business, so check back for part two next week.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Business Plans & Branding

Developing your corporate brand begins with your business plan.

Circle B brand

Some professional advisers insist that business owners should complete their own business plan.  We agree – to a certain extent.  The business owner must provide the input to a business plan.  Without the owner’s commitment to completing and implementing a plan, however, the process is a waste of time.

A business owner knows what they want to do but may need the skills of a more experienced planner to compile the plan more effectively and obtain financing.  Many people in business also don’t know what they don’t know, which means having someone with the expertise in many different areas to assist can save time and money.  Expertise in leading a sales team may not translate well to budgeting and financial projections.  Being proficient in production techniques may leave something to be desired when it comes to choosing advertising channels or defining consumer markets.  Professional consultants earn their fees by having the knowledge that proves beneficial in a variety of areas.

The first step in starting a business involves some soul searching and market research.  When Brand Irons meets with a prospective client, it is essential to be open and honest in the discussion.  We look for commitment to the process of planning as well as to the long-term success of the business concept.  We also recommend a feasibility study to assess the economic and market conditions, potential profitability, and other financial considerations before deciding to proceed.

Spending a little money up front to know the idea has merit is a wise investment.

While the cost of a feasibility study may be daunting, if the results indicate a better-than-average potential for return on investment (ROI) and the owner decides to go forward, the foundation of the business plan has been put in place.  Assembling the rest of the plan and crafting a strategic model to implement is relatively simple once the decision is made to proceed.

What few people who want to start a business realize is that only one out of every 50 business ideas is commercially viable.  That’s a 2% success ratio!

With the proper guidance from business and marketing consultants such as Brand Irons, you can craft a brand identity for your business based on the foundation provided by your business plan and strategic model.  Your business is unique, which is one of the reasons you need professional assistance in compiling a brand strategy that is consistent with the unique nature of your business and capitalizes on your assets.  The result is a more focused approach to marketing your business and reaching your desired audience.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Brand Success: Tylenol

Have you ever asked for acetaminophen?

More than likely, you’ve asked if anyone has some Tylenol.  That’s a classic example of brand success.  If you visit the Tylenol website, you’ll find 20 different varieties of the product, and learn that the parent company is the McNeil Laboratories subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

logo-tylenolIn the mid ’70s, Tylenol moved from the 5th most popular analgesic to become the number one branded over the counter (OTC) analgesic product on the market.  It had become a more familiar pain relieving product than aspirin.  As often happens when a product is the top-selling or more recognized brand, someone or something tries to take it down.

In 1982, someone tampered with bottles of Tylenol Extra Strength by adding cyanide which killed several people in the Chicago area.  No one was ever caught, but Johnson & Johnson made a smart move.  The company distributed warnings to hospitals and distributors and halted Tylenol production and advertising. On October 5, 1982, it issued a nationwide recall of an estimated 31 million bottles of Tylenol products with a retail value of more than $100 million.

Some considered the move a death knell for the product, while the consuming public praised it for the emphasis placed on the greater well-being of the general public.

The company advertised in the national media for individuals not to consume any products that contained acetaminophen.  When it was discovered that only capsules were tampered with, Johnson & Johnson offered to exchange all Tylenol capsules already purchased by the public with solid tablets.  The company also took the innovative step of creating tamper proof seals for bottles, creating a renewed sense of security with the consuming public when Tylenol was re-released.

Now, more than 30 years later, the tampering incident is little more than a footnote in the product’s history.  The Tylenol brand owns the market for acetaminophen pain relieving products.  Bayer still owns the brand recognition for aspirin, while one of the other pain relieving medications, Ibuprofen, has become recognized for the product rather than the manufacturer.  In essence, it is it’s own brand.

The lesson in this case study of a successful brand is that Tylenol has dominated when it comes to the 1st Law of Marketing:  The Law of Leadership.

It is the leading brand because it is the first brand in the prospective customer’s mind.  People don’t ask for acetaminophen, they ask for Tylenol.  Once you have a customer, they are likely to stick with your brand – as evidenced by Johnson & Johnson’s success with recalling Tylenol products because of the tampering incident.  Tylenol has become the generic term for acetaminophen, another example of that 1st Law of Marketing.

Remember that marketing is perception, not the product, so people perceive the first product in their mind to be the superior product.  The first brand tends to maintain its leadership because the name often becomes generic, as is the case with Tylenol.

Professional consultants are available to help your product become the #1 brand at whatever scale is possible.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Brand Success: Band-Aid

A key to the success of your brand, or any other brand, is to be first in the mind of the consumer.  Do you ask for a facial tissue, or for a Kleenex?  Do you ask for a soft drink, or for a Coke?  Do you ask for an adhesive strip, or for a Band-Aid?


The 3rd Immutable Law of Marketing is the Law of the Mind, as defined in Al Ries and Jack Trout’s 1994 book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.  Briefly stated, it means that being first in the mind of the consumer is more important than being the first to the market with a product or service.  The success of Johnson & Johnson’s Band-Aid brand adhesive bandages is a perfect example of a company owning the consumer’s mind.  The Band-Aid brand name today is synonymous with a first aid product, but it is also identified with a method of providing solutions to problems.  It has become a common term in everyday language, which solidifies that place of ownership in people’s minds.

How many times have you heard someone identify a temporary solution as needing a “Band-Aid” for fixing the problem?  The benefit to Johnson & Johnson is that every time the name is mentioned, in whatever context, it reinforces the brand’s identity in the minds of consumers.  The consumer may not know that Band-Aid is a Johnson & Johnson product, but they do know what a Band-Aid can do for a cut, scrape, or other minor injury.  The consumer doesn’t ask for a Curad bandage, even though that might be what they wind up using to patch up a small injury.  They ask for a Band-Aid.

Owning the consumer’s mind, however, does not excuse Johnson & Johnson from continuing to provide a quality product to customers.  That sense of ownership comes right back to the company.  Johnson & Johnson’s reputation, to a certain extent, is built on the credibility they’ve established with the Band-Aid brand, and other brands in their portfolio.  Johnson & Johnson must constantly monitor quality and sustain the brand’s identity at an exceptional level to continue their ownership of the consumer’s mind.

The success of the adhesive bandage for Johnson & Johnson has enabled the company to diversify and offer other medical-related products to that consumer market.  Gauze bandages and a host of other products have found a place because the Band-Aid brand is so strong.

While this may be a great success story, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with your business.  Good question.

Your brand may never achieve the level of ownership Band-Aid has in the mind of the consumer, but it could.  You may need professional advice, but if you can become the leader in your industry and own a specific category or niche, there is an excellent chance your product or service can become the preference of your customers and others.  It takes market research, graphic development, and a number of other pieces to put it all together.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 

Branding Your Leadership Position

To establish your brand, start with the reason your business exists.  Think about your mission and why you do what you do.  The #1 immutable law of marketing is the law of leadership.  That means being the leader in your industry or community or wherever you can exert influence as a leader, and thus own the brand.

If, for example, your business is a funeral home and there are two other funeral parlors in your community, how can you be the leader when it comes to funeral homes?  What can you do to brand your services?

First, think about how you want to be known as a funderal home in the community.  Study your competitors and figure out how you’re different.  Then do some more research and think about how you want to be known.  Analyze your options to own a specific niche and carve it out with a solid marketing strategy.

Options might be to position your furneral home, or brand, as the most economical of the three in your community.  The opposite position would be to be the most expensive. How would your brand justify the cost and provide the value for the price if that’s the option you choose?

Is the brand the way you take care of customers?  The extra value you provide, such as providing white gloves to pall bearers?  Perhaps it’s the uniforms your employees wear?  Is it how you greet guests coming to view the deceased?  Or is it the follow-up you do after the services iwth the family?  Perhaps it’s the relationships you have with area churches.

This used funeral homes as an example.  Your business, wherever you’re located or whatever stage of business you’re in, can take advantage of the niche you possess.  Whether you believe it or not, you have a niche you can use to build your brand.  The possibilities are there, but there are also times when you need an independent, third party perspective to help you see the potential.