This article, by Dennis Kissman, was published in Marina Dock Age – January/February 2016
At the recent University of Wisconsin Docks and Marinas Conference held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida I had the opportunity to give a presentation on branding, what it means and how to achieve it. I chose that topic because it can have either a positive or negative impact on your business. Let me explain; a brand is simply an identifying label directed towards the public for how you conduct your business. The purpose for creating a brand is to Increase the public's awareness of your marina’s name and its logo. How that brand is perceived by the public can change over time and once identified as negative it is difficult and sometimes impossible to change. To make your business successful, you need to build a strong company "essence" that inspires loyalty and trust in your current customers and provides a level of familiarity and comfort to draw in potential customers.
Your brand is something intangible and is often referred to as the "good will" portion of your business. Because your brand is nothing physical that you can see or touch we often lose sight of its value but in reality it is the most valuable asset you have when it comes to putting a value on your business especially when it comes to selling your marina or just getting a loan on the business. Your brand refers to the reputation behind your company's name and logo. To build that reputation you need more than a logo keeping in mind you operate as part of the service industry. You need customer service. You should only employ people who can get on board with your brand, and make sure that each person understands his or her part in building it. Once a customer is ignored or treated poorly either in person or over the phone, you've lost not only that person but everyone else that hears about the unfortunate experience. Remember that word-of-mouth can help, but it can also hurt. This may sound harsh but get rid of employees who won't cooperate--even if they're related to you.
With that said let’s look at some well recognized brands and their logos and how they are perceived by the public keeping in mind a logo is nothing more than the subtle recognition of a symbol, slogan or combination of both identifying your business.
There are a number of brands where a symbol alone identifies who it is. When you see one of the symbols for Apple or Nike, you know immediately what the corporate names are and their reputation. All I have to do is show my two year old great grandson the golden arches of McDonald’s and he knows exactly what it represents. To me these are some of the most well recognized logos out there used to market their products and services.
You may be thinking to yourself these are major corporations with lots of resources and you have very limited resources and need to spend your money wisely. That is exactly my point. You are not competing for a global market. You have a defined target market and using a logo to brand your marina is no different from what these global corporations are attempting to capture.
The question is; how can you go about creating a recognizable logo for your business and get it out to the public when you have limited resources? There a number of steps to take into consideration when developing a logo for promoting your business, including:
-The most recognizable logos are simple and that can be easily recognized without having to think about who it represents.
-When first introducing a logo to increase awareness of your business it needs to be in conjunction with your name recognition. McDonald’s is a prime example of using this concept. The McDonald’s logo was first introduced as the “M” in McDonalds. Now the logo stands on its own.
-A logo should be a single shape, although the size and color may vary based on the application.
-The more a logo is used the more recognizable it becomes. It should be used on every piece and form of collateral material.
-When designing a logo for your marina, do not be afraid to ask for input from others familiar with your business model. Often times the best logo designs comes from a blending of ideas as how others perceive you marina.
The most important form of promoting your business today is having a presence on the web. Even if you're target market is local right now, your customers are on the web, and they'll want to see you there. Having a consistent look and theme will make your logo more recognizable in all other forms of media advertising as well.
You must be vigilant at all times to protect the reputation of your marina. Every contact with the public will either serve to build your brand or dismantle it, and administering damage control can seem like herding cats when something happens to threaten the public's perception of your marina. Remember what happened to BP after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the recent Takata air bag recall. Don’t let something like this happen to your brand.