If A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words ...
Style matters to discriminating buyers. Is your brand image up to snuff?
October 2, 2008
If a picture is worth a thousand words …
Then why are we messing around with all those words? In our last TGC article, we focused on the top ten “power” words and the importance of directing the right message to the target audience. So in this article, we will, in some cases quite literally, focus on the “Target” audience. The reality is that your target audience shops at Target, and while Target is in the commodity business (competing with the likes of Kmart, Wal-Mart and Kohls), they were one of the first retailers to distance themselves from the box label through design.
Consider the phenomenon when an audience re-frames a retailer in order to better match their sensibility of style (and lifestyle). Target becomes “Tar-Jay.” Target’s identity is a radical shift from Wal-Mart’s “low price” to a more expansive “expect more.”
The Importance Of Graphic Design
A successful brand achieves a signature style, whether it is a style of photographic imagery, color or typography, with a consistency of presentation through all aspects of their marketing and merchandising efforts. A good example would be the Martha Stewart brand. There is a definite style to the images, choice of color (who had ever heard of “celadon” prior to Martha?) and, of course, her signature font. A brand done right presents a strong, clear and organized approach to presenting your business, its products and your services.
Paula Scher, a principle at Pentagram Designs, says, “Executing your brand makes you look like you’ve made decisions for specific reasons – you understand who your customer is, what the story you are telling is and what your style represents.”
Keeping On Target
Target was one of the first to implement a strategy of successfully bringing great design to the masses. For Target, it began with Michael Graves (housewares) and continued on to Isaac Mizrahi (clothing), Shabby Chic (bedding and accessories) and Smith & Hawken (outdoor lifestyle). Their sense of style syncs perfectly with the target audience. Given a choice, who wouldn’t choose function and form? The Target imagery has become so signature that the TV ads are an almost sensory overload of visuals of beautiful, happy people colliding almost kaleidoscopically with the brand.
And they are selling soap and blenders …
If there was ever an industry that relied on the visual, it would be the green industry. Remember rule No. 1? WIFS – What’s In Flower Sells – people don’t necessarily buy on what might be, but rather what appeals to them right now. So naturally, a plant in flower is the best visual we can present to a consumer.
Connecting a beautiful image to the feelings your customers experience, and then linking that positive feeling to your business, is tricky stuff. However, it is something so basic, you need to master it. Try this – let’s design a piece of POP. We’ll make a sign. Start with the obvious, a plant you want to sell looking its best (WIFS). Next, inject the target audience – 35-65 years old, female, homeowner, etc., and then add your logo.
Anything look out of place? Does your logo work effectively with those images, or clash, or worse, disappear into the background? One thing is for sure, you’ll know it when you nail it.
Granted, companies like Target, Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and the like have the resources to study markets, conduct focus groups and work with prestigious agencies in order to create brand identity. But what can you do? Let’s concentrate on some of the basics:
Take A Look At Your Logo
No, the seventies are never coming back. Lose the one-dimensional, one-color, cookie-cutter, stamped-out identities used in the local newspaper. You’re looking to appeal to a new generation of consumers, as well as a generation that, in many cases, has grown past you in taste and sophistication. Time for a makeover – and it all begins with your logo. Back to Paula Scher – her advice is to select a style that is based on the audience. She presented a choice between bold, modern, edgy, elegant or friendly.
Before all of you settle on friendly, consider your local market. Who’s the customer? Do you live in a small town, rural community, a “yuppie,” upscale suburb – or something in between? Once you are closer to identifying your audience, then shop your local market. Look at the supermarkets, chain stores, boutiques, etc. Take a close look at all the logos – take in the styles, colors, words – and then walk into the store. Notice how the logo and identity are repeated, in most cases, in a very subtle way, in the merchandising of the store. Now go home and check your mail box, watch for the TV ads and pick up a magazine (something other than a gardening magazine), and you are bound to find new ideas and inspiration.
The important thing to remember is that the opportunity with today’s consumer is to sell style, lifestyle in particular, and to sell it with style. At Sunrise Marketing, programs like the “We Plan, You Plant” and “Perfect Patios & Dream Decks” were designed (the key word, “designed,”) to sell the service of design. You can’t do that with hand-written signs, chalkboards and black-and-white ads in the local paper.
When you are considering an identity makeover, make sure you consult with a professional graphic designer. At Sunrise Marketing, we’ve helped hundreds of retailers find their signature styles. Coordinating your marketing and merchandising style will only reinforce your brand. Your logo is the easiest place to start. It can help you begin the process of re-defining who you are and what you offer.
And make no mistake about it, style matters to discriminating buyers. This is your point of differentiation – style. When you go to a box store, you know what you are going to get, but today’s consumer wants more. Design matters, and when it comes to (life)style, style matters. Period.
Need more inspiration? Visit www.sunrisemarketing.com and click the “portfolio” link to view everything from logo designs to Web sites.
Kurt Fromherz is the owner of Sunrise Marketing. Dedicated solely to the horticultural industry, Sunrise Marketing works with more than 1,000 independent retail garden centers and the growers that support them. For more information about building your seasonal sales strategy, contact Kurt directly by phone: 1-888-393-4443, online: www.sunrisemarketing.com, or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.