I looked out to the back yard, yesterday, just in time to see a blue jay burying a hazelnut in the ground. It hopped around in the loose soil, searching for the right spot, then set the nut down and proceeded to pound it into the ground with its beak until the nut could no longer be seen. The bird then looked around and grabbed some small twigs to cover the spot. Finally, it picked up a fat, short stick and marked the spot. The stick is still there, leaving me to wonder when the blue jay will reclaim it’s prize, and I wonder if I moved that stick, could it find the nut? Does it know that squirrels frequent these grounds?
‘How the heck,’ you may be asking yourself, ‘does a blue jay hiding a durned nut relate to branding and marketing?’ Well, I’ll tell you.
Blue jays are all very similar looking to a non-Audubon Society onlooker like myself. Without some specific knowledge of the species, I doubt that I could distinguish one from another if my meal depended on it.
When I meet my clients for the first time, they are often a lot like that blue jay in the back yard. They are visually indistinguishable from their industry peers, and they are usually hiding their best treasures. Like the blue jay, the messaging in their marketing doesn’t speak to humans.
‘What do you mean by that, Hobkirk?’ you think as your forehead rumples.
I’ll spell it out:
• Companies often lack a distinguishing, clear, meaningful corporate identity.
• Their best qualities are usually not communicated to their ideal target market. (In fact, they often have not clearly defined their ideal target market.)
• The messages in their advertising and marketing typically do not speak to the people in their target market, and their tag lines are often meaningless.
• Their treasures have been buried so long that they no longer know what they are or where to find them.
• They often lack a clear understanding of how their identity, brand, branding, advertising, and marketing can converge to keep their peers from stealing the show.
Instead of leveraging their identity, values, and brand to make connections with their target markets, most businesses, large and small alike, leave (and sometimes create) stark disconnects at nearly every point of marketing communication. What happens when a disconnect occurs? Your prospective or existing customer moves on to someone else. That doesn’t sound very appealing, does it?
Every small business can and should employ the same tactics and tools that large businesses use to market themselves. Small businesses often rely on the time-honored excuse that they haven’t got the budget for professional branding and marketing. There are now plenty of options available for attaining affordable brand development and marketing planning, so let’s bury that excuse next to the nut. Or they whine, “I hate marketing.” If you hate marketing, hire someone you can trust to do it for you. Better yet, hire someone who can actually convince you that branding and marketing are fun. Or, close your doors and go look for a job.
How can you avoid having a squirrel steal your customers?! How can you make sure that you are connecting with your clients using compelling messages at every opportunity? Where are these opportunities?
Hint: Marketing opportunities are happening to you every single day. Ring me up. I love talking about this stuff. Meanwhile, I’ll be out back moving sticks around, while trying to figure out where the blue jay got a hazelnut this time of year.
Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.
Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.