Dan Antonelli: 10 Takeaways on Rebranding for Breakout Success
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Branding can make or break a small business, and in times of economic uncertainty, it’s imperative to set your brand apart from the herd. In a ServiceTitan webinar, Dan Antonelli, President and Creative Director of KickCharge Creative, shared some of his top insights into how to rebrand, and how branding can impact your home services business.
Antonelli has written several books on logo design and regularly speaks at workshops and conferences around the country on the importance of branding for small businesses.
Positioning your brand to be top of mind and associated with quality is one of the best ways to increase revenue and gain new customers. Clients aren’t always going to be searching for your service, but when they do need a plumber or an HVAC professional and your name already is committed to memory, you’ll be at a competitive advantage if you have played the branding game right.
According to Antonelli, investing in your brand makes all of your marketing work better.
Here are some of the top takeaways from Antonelli’s webinar on Disruptive Branding 101:
Most small businesses aren’t great at branding, and neither are their competitors.
The opportunity with branding small businesses, Antonelli says, is that most companies do not understand why branding is so important.
“To me, that's great,” he says. “I love it when we do competitive analysis and I look at some of the big players in any market and you see that they do not have their act together as far as branding is concerned.”
When these big players aren’t effectively leveraging branding in their favor, that leaves an opening for the small businesses out there to get their foot in the door with new clients through positive branding and marketing techniques.
If you can out-brand the major players in your market, you can turn customers into brand ambassadors.
Branding is more than just a logo.
Although a logo is important and a big part of your brand, Antonelli says it’s so much more.
From your van wraps to employee uniforms, branding defines how your company is perceived to the world. According to Antonelli, “branding is how people feel about your company, what they say about your company behind your back.”
Standing out from the competition as the company that you can trust goes far with homeowners. Having a stranger in your house can be unsettling for many and if your brand is associated with trustworthiness, they’ll be more inclined to consider your company for the job.
Make sure the logo and words you choose are sticky and disruptive.
The foundation for your brand will be your logo and the wording that you use for advertising purposes. Within both of these arenas, Antonelli advises that you’ve got to make your brand sticky.
“So by sticky we mean that it stands out in their mind, that they can remember who you are when they need to, and it also counters negative attitudes,” Antonelli says. “So as contractors, we're trying to counter the fact that a lot of homeowners are scared about who's coming to their home, right? They want to figure out, who can I trust that's literally going to be inside my home and fixing something of mine?”
In addition to being sticky, Antonelli also recommends being disruptive with your branding style. By that, he means standing out from the crowd. Your brand should be unique, something that doesn’t blend in. When your branding makes you look like everyone else, Antonelli refers to it as “blanding” your brand.
Branding helps when you bid for contracts.
A lot of contractors find themselves not winning the bids that they put out for larger projects—the kind that propel small businesses to the next level.
A better brand can convey to prospective clients that they are offering services that are at a higher level than the competition.
“If I'm dropping $20,000 on a heating and air system with your company, I want to make sure that you will be around next year to service it,” Antonelli says. “So I'm willing to pay a little bit more for that because I believe that the deliverable and the service I'm going to get from you is better.”
Because those big contracts can make or break a small business, Antonelli says branding that could land them should be viewed more as an investment than as a business expense. The money you put into branding can come back tenfold if you are able to execute your message effectively, he says.
It might be worth rebranding even if you are already successful.
Why would you think about rebranding a successful business? Antonelli hears this question often and in response to that viewpoint, he counters, “Imagine how much more success you might have had if you had a better brand.”
Antonelli advises that a good brand does the following to attract customers:
Puts customers at ease
Diffuses negative stereotypes or biases
Aims to make people feel confident in their choice and reaffirms the company value
Matches the company deliverable
Takes control of the conversation and sets the tone to show customers why they should choose to do business with you
If your brand isn’t following through on Antonelli’s list or no longer represents who you are, it may be time to consider a rebranding. Blending in with the competition, not being able to own your brand colors, or if your brand no longer represents the quality service you provide are all good reasons to look into a rebrand as well.
Above all else, Antonelli stresses that success despite a poor brand is not a reason to perpetuate it.
“It's not uncommon to outgrow your brand,” he says. “It's just something you have to be ready and willing to accept. And certainly our stats and what we've seen support that idea that you can have something so much better.”
Your company should value branding over blanding.
Your brand should be disruptive and stand out from the competition as bold and unique, Antonelli says. You want to make sure that your brand is memorable and not just blending in with the crowd.
Whether you’re leveraging the longevity of your brand, your trustworthiness, or a catchy name, you have to make sure that your foundational branding is strong.
Own your colors if you want to stand out.
Effective branding definitely involves having some panache. Antonelli recommends that companies know who their competitors are and what they look like.
“Look at the vans that are in your space, the color schemes that are being used, and then develop a strategy that's unique, that is ownable.”
Here are his top tips on color scheme selection:
Avoid the most common colors used for HVAC companies, such as blue and red.
Think disruptively and look to create a brand with colors that no one else in your market is using—not only in your vertical but in other verticals as well.
Consider two colors not typically seen together.
Even your company name could be ready for rebranding.
Great names for trade companies visually connect with emotions, Antonelli says. And using a symbol or graphic in your name makes it inherently easier to remember.
Using initial or name-based brands make the company name take longer for people to remember, according to Antonelli. And attaching a brand promise to those kinds of names is considered more difficult.
For new businesses, Antonelli recommends steering away from names like TGS Plumbing or Briarson Heating. If you have a name like those, you might want to consider a rebrand. A hard-to-recall name makes acquiring new customers more difficult.
For name-based brands, it takes a long time for people to associate the name with a specific deliverable.
Branding is about more than just truck wraps and colors.
Connect every single touchpoint with your customers. Consistency in delivering your brand promise is key to connecting with potential clients. Your digital marketing, print marketing, and outdoor advertising efforts should all be consistent and connect back to your branding.
In these areas Antonelli stresses that having something generic doesn’t make much sense. You want to stand out to your customers.
Getting a new brand starts with finding a branding expert.
If you’re ready to ditch your old branding and don’t know where to begin, Antonelli recommends getting a reputable design firm.
Not only does a design firm understand the various applications for success, but using an agency also protects you from problems that can arise when using less reputable options such as crowdsourcing. Issues with trademark infringement, not having much communication with designers, and the potential for generic branding are all possibilities commonly associated with crowdsourcing.
So while it might cost more up front to work with a professional design firm, the payoff is usually significant enough to offset the initial investment.
The main takeaway that Antonelli stresses for business owners is that while branding can be costly, the returns that he sees with clients who invest in branding and design are far greater than the one-time fee for quality work.
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