In this episode, Michael and Chris discuss what makes for great branding alongside Brad Henderson, a brand marketing expert at Bighowdy.com who has worked with the likes of Nike, Jack Daniels, Sherwin-Williams, and more.
In this episode, we cover:
What makes for a great brand? (being “memorable” and “likeable”)
What priorities should a business have for their brand and brand strategy? (less is often more)
How can you set your brand apart from others in your market? (pricing, reliability, timely, family-owned, etc.)
How can you clearly communicate your value proposition through your brand identity?
The importance of context in creating a brand name and logo.
Rebranding (when or how often should a brand be updated?)
For more information on the tools and resources mentioned in this episode, please visit:
Chris Raines: Today we’re going to talk about great branding, and how a mark or a logo for a company can reinforce not only the value proposition the company offers, but their biggest differentiators against their competition. Let’s dive in.
Chris Raines: Welcome to Grow Your Painting Business, a podcast for commercial, residential, and industrial painters to grow their businesses in their local or regional markets. We’re experts in digital marketing for painters and other trades. And this is a show to share our experience with you. Grow Your Painting Business is a free podcast from Searchprimer.com, the experts in digital marketing for the trades.
Chris Raines: Alright. Welcome to episode 16 of Grow Your Painting Business. My name is Chris Raines. I’m joined as always by Michael Utley.
Michael Utley: Hey.
Chris Raines: How are you doing, Michael?
Michael Utley: Doing great.
Chris Raines: Alright. This is going to be a fun episode, because we usually talk about digital marketing, specifically, and all the niches involved in that. But today we’re going to talk about branding, which in a lot of ways is sort of the foundation that all of this stuff sits on. You can have a great marketing program, but if your brand kind of stinks then it doesn’t really matter that much. So I’m excited about our guest today. Michael, why don’t you introduce Brad Henderson for us.
Michael Utley: Yeah, absolutely. Brad, glad you’re here. Say, “Hi.”
Brad Henderson: Hello.
Michael Utley: Yeah, and Brad, offices at GoEpps, and has his own company, BigHowdy. And he’s been working with a lot of great brands and companies over his entire career, some for BigHowdy and some for others. But brands like Sherwin-Williams and HGTV, Nike, Charter Cable, Jack Daniels, Anheuser-Busch and their brands like Michelob. But we’ve enjoyed getting to know Brad, and having a working relationship with him over the last … has it been a year yet? I don’t think it’s been a year. But-
Brad Henderson: Pretty close, I think.
Michael Utley: Yeah, close to a year. Brad has a really good instinct for what’s going to work and what isn’t, and how to develop a great brand. So the keys to naming a great brand and the keys to developing the essential logo art for a brand, Brad has a really good process for those things. So what we’re going to do today is just kind of dig in with him a little bit, and talk about the keys to a great brand.
Brad Henderson: Let’s do this.
Michael Utley: Yeah, awesome. Well, good. Well, I’ll get things started.
Michael Utley: Brad, when you think of what’s a great brand, or what things you think are most important, what’s your first thing? What’s your first cut? Sort of what Donald Miller might call the caveman test, or the grunt test. What’s the first filter for you between, “Yeah, it’s pretty good,” or “It doesn’t work.”
Brad Henderson: I would say the key things to me are memorable and likable. I think one of the things that I see a lot of people get stuck on is they think that a great brand name or a logo has to explain things or, even worse, they think it has to tell you everything about that brand. But ultimately, that’s a little too much weight to hang on that.
Michael Utley: So what does that look like? When somebody’s trying to put too much information in there, how does that play itself out?
Brad Henderson: You end up with either things that feel like you’re cramming 10 gallons of water into a five gallon hat, so to speak. Or you end up with things that are just so boring and they sound like they’re built by committees. They tend to become very obvious or very long, those kinds of things.
Michael Utley: What are some of the things people do to try to shove more information in? Are we talking about having too many shapes to look at? Too many colors? Too much text? What happens?
Brad Henderson: Too much text is typical, or poor priorities, or lack of priorities, would probably more accurate there. Meaning like, you have a brand name, and then you have a generic modifier. So if the name of your company was Sherwin-Williams, and it was paints and finishes, or paints and stains, whatever that modifier is, that paints and stains part would be considered the generic modifier. But it needs to be clearly secondary to the name brand, which is Sherwin-Williams.
Michael Utley: Yeah, so that’s a company with a name. The text is the name. And so already, you’ve got some text taking up real estate.
Brad Henderson: Exactly. And that’s already a long one even, and hyphenated, which poses challenges. But for the most part, when you’re creating a new name, you want something that’s going to be memorable and likable, more so than it has the word “painting” in the name itself, necessarily. You can always handle that with a generic modifier.
Brad Henderson: People also kind of get caught up on, they want to put their city or their region into it, or all these other things that end up being sort of unnecessary and also very limiting over time.
Michael Utley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So you’re saying you’ve seen somewhere, somebody feels they have to say, “Serving greater Milwaukee,” and suddenly they’ve got 30 characters that they don’t know what to do with.
Brad Henderson: Right. Or they become Milwaukee Painting and Interiors, or something like that, and you’ve got this gigantic name. When in reality, if I could think of the nickname for Milwaukee …
Michael Utley: Yeah, what is it? What’s the nickname for Milwaukee?
Chris Raines: Like the state nickname?
Michael Utley: I bet they’ve got something.
Brad Henderson: Yeah. Anyway-
Michael Utley: Milwaukee is a city in Wisconsin.
Brad Henderson: Well, we’ll call it … for these-
Chris Raines: We’re going to edit that part out where Chris didn’t know the difference between a-
Michael Utley: State of Milwaukee. Something about brewing beer, I’m sure.
Brad Henderson: It’s either beer or cheese. So-
Chris Raines: Yeah.
Brad Henderson: Sorry, Milwaukee. But anyway, rather than be-
Michael Utley: Sorry? That’s a compliment. Are you kidding?
Brad Henderson: … all those things, you would go with Beer City. That’s a horrible example, because I just named it after the city, which is what I said don’t do. But, yeah-
Chris Raines: So… that’s more of a simplified, focused kind of thing.
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Chris Raines: Talk about likability. What would make a name or a brand likable?
Michael Utley: Yeah, you’re going pretty far in a certain direction toward likability to say that some of these other critical pieces of information should be excluded in order to be likable. You’re essentially giving that 50% weight so far. That’s a pretty big statement. So what is likability?
Brad Henderson: Likability I would classify as something that … memorability plays into likability, because you tend to remember things that you like. It’s not just the name, it’s also kind of the brand identity, whether that be just the logo or the imagery or whatever that goes along with it.
Brad Henderson: A great example of that in the painting world would be Behr. They’ve taken something that was, I assume, a person’s name, B-E-H-R, but then they have taken the visual nature and the homonym that is happening there and they’ve represented it with a bear, which is a cool, interesting, memorable visual. And it’s likable.
Michael Utley: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chris Raines: So, teddy bears are likable.
Michael Utley: Yeah, bears are soft and cuddly, and deadly.
Chris Raines: But full grown bears are deadly.
Michael Utley: Yeah, yeah. But it is likable, yeah.
Chris Raines: It is likable, yeah.
Michael Utley: Yeah, people feel positively toward bears.
Chris Raines: Yeah, I think more of a teddy bear when I think of bear than I do of a large …
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Brad Henderson: Another example would be Valspar, who took what could be a horrible name, but at least it’s different and memorable. And then they associated it with this chameleon, which was a really, great, likable, fun series of imagery that they use in their commercials and on their packaging. And it makes you remember Valspar, and it sets them apart from Sherwin-Williams and Glidden and places like that.
Michael Utley: So that’s an instance where they’ve been really committed to, over a period of years, making sure that that connection is made for their audience.
Brad Henderson: Absolutely.
Michael Utley: Mm-hmm.
Chris Raines: I’m going to throw something out there for the B2B folks, because I know we have people that listen that are in commercial painting. So how do you do the balance between likability and appearing too, I don’t know how to say it, informal or silly? If you had a commercial painting company you wouldn’t want to say Happy Times Painting or something … How do you be likable without getting silly and pedestrian, maybe. Or, too-
Michael Utley: Likable and respectable at the same time.
Chris Raines: Likable and respectable. What are your thoughts?
Brad Henderson: Well, I would say that, essentially, when you look at any good brand, one of the things that you have to do is you have to kind of go through and you have to be very decisive and very thoughtful and introspective and honest and say, “What is it that sets our brand apart from our competitors?”
Brad Henderson: For instance, with a commercial painting company, that might be, we pride ourselves on our flexibility. You may be the price player in your market. You may be, we’re all about reliability. We are all about … quality is one that people fall into, because who doesn’t say they have quality? Creativity might be one if you offer design services along with your painting. Those types of things. So once you figure out what your thing is, then you take that and you need to find ways to give people reasons to believe that thing.
Brad Henderson: So let’s say reliability is your issue. If you pride yourself on your reliability then what you want to do is reinforce that with reasons to believe. So have services or products or policies that reinforce that idea. The old Domino’s 30 minutes or less guarantee back in the day was a great thing where they were like, “We are the timely player.” And they backed that up with a guarantee.
Michael Utley: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brad Henderson: If creativity is your thing then maybe you offer a free design consultant up front. If reliability is your thing then maybe you offer some sort of a pricing guarantee where you say we’re going to project an end date and if we’re not by then, then you get a rebate. Or things like that.
Michael Utley: So if you’ve got a strategy in the marketplace, and you’ve said, for example, we have a large commercial client in the Boston area. And we’ve been talking with them this week about how do we build a moat? Things are going well. We’re getting business in, et cetera, but how do we build a moat around us and the competition?
Michael Utley: So what I’ve been exploring this week has been how do I deepen their expression of their most deeply held differentiators? And their differentiator is … so far, what we’ve got is, “We work the way you work.” And that needs some work, but what the meaning is, is we’re going to fall in step with your operational processes so that when we have people in who are functioning in your workspace, we’re going to avoid shutting down machinery, we’re going to avoid standing in the path of areas that need to stay cleared out for trucks. We’re going to do our scaffold planning, and pollution control around decisions that are going to allow you to continue operations.
Michael Utley: So there’s a lot of nuts and bolts and a lot of technical information, but so far the best way they can express it is, “We work the way you work.” The problem is, we’ve got to flip that around and make it customer-centric so it can be received as a message, because that’s a little bit vague. And if you don’t know where somebody is coming from, you don’t know what it means.
Michael Utley: But, yeah. But you’re saying the brand is more than just keeping a real clean shape and name mark. It’s also saying, what’s your value proposition? How are you different? And then how can you demonstrate that with your brand creative?
Brad Henderson: Exactly. In your example, and this is completely off the top of my head, but a couple of things that you might look at would be, if that’s what your complete brand proposition is then maybe up front you do an evaluation. And you give that evaluation a name. And so it’s called a workspace audit.
Michael Utley: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brad Henderson: So when we’re going into your space, before we actually paint your space we’re going to go in and we’re going to do a walk-through. We’re going to send somebody days ahead, we’re going to do a walk-through, and that person is going to tell us, okay, here are things you need to look out for. Okay, well, we’ve got cables coming through here that you need to look out for, or this area is very sound sensitive. These people need an hour’s notice to get things shut down if we’re going to have to get in here. This place is time sensitive, and so if you say you’re going to be out by 5:00 you have to be out by 5:00 or you’re going to have to come back another day.
Michael Utley: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brad Henderson: And give them the opportunity to get all of that on the record, and then you deliver and over-deliver on those things.
Michael Utley: Brilliant. I love it. Yeah, you’re talking about how a company can pick something and really dive deep, not just to say it but to demonstrate it. So you’re talking about the values of the company beyond the name and into the things that you’re willing to offer. The things you’re willing to propose to back up your brand name. If you say, “Rock solid, industrial painting,” well, how dependable are you? You’re saying you’re rock solid, and that’s dependability, but give me 10 points of what dependability looks like in a relationship with you. Put it on the homepage or website. Put it in the first page of the contract. Name it something that is aligned with your brand and the way you relate to customers.
Michael Utley: Okay. Let’s switch gears for a second. I want to ask you a couple of other things. Brad, I’ve always enjoyed sort of seeing you going through your creative process from a distance, and I don’t want you to give away the secret sauce, but you’ve got a process for coming up with names. If someone’s just getting started out there, or it’s a company, like a lot of our clients, that’s very established but maybe they’re launching a new nationwide effort. Maybe they’re launching a new product division to do, essentially, flooring or some other type of industry, and maybe they’ve got a fresh start on things, and they need to come up with a name. What are, I don’t know, two or three ideas you have, things that you talk about a lot or think about a lot, when someone’s trying to come up with the right name for a new business or a new service?
Brad Henderson: Well, first off, I would say it is one of the most difficult, creative projects that you can work on, especially if you’re talking about smaller businesses. This is someone’s baby, and they get very, very attached to it, and it’s incredibly hard to be objective about that. And so that’s the biggest hurdle that you have to overcome, because by the time you’re ready to name it, you have spent years coming up with the idea and honing it and going so far down that rabbit hole that you know every in and out of that business. And you start thinking, well, I have to say all this in one fell swoop, and I have to communicate all this.
Michael Utley: Right.
Brad Henderson: … easily. And that’s the biggest thing to overcome. So with that said, I would say one of the best things you can do is find someone objective, whether that’s an ad agency, a naming company, or maybe it’s someone who’s new inside your company, if you don’t have the resources for that.
Michael Utley: Or talk to you. Or talk to you.
Brad Henderson: Oh, yeah.
Michael Utley: Okay, yeah.
Brad Henderson: Shameless plug. But, yes, that is kind of the quintessential advantage that I have, is I understand naming. I don’t necessarily understand the details of all my clients’ businesses, but that’s actually an advantage, because we kind of meet in the middle. They bring their expertise and I bring my topical expertise, and we end up with something great.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Well, I know that I found it beneficial going through the process with you for our parent companies healthcare product. Enjoyed the process. And so, yeah, just as a shout out to Brad and, actually, putting people in touch, Brad’s website is Bighowdy.com. We’re based in Nashville, so it’s south. So we give them a big howdy, a big hello. Bighowdy.com. And can people get your phone number there? Or at least a contact form?
Brad Henderson: There is a contact form that will send me an email, and happy to set anything up.
Michael Utley: Excellent. Another question. This is kind of the same type as the naming exercise, and we’ll probably have to start wrapping up on this, but when someone doesn’t have a mark or a shape or any existing creative, what do you do to kind of get some ideas out on the table? And then what do you do with people who have something, but it looks like it’s from the 80s and it’s ready for a refresh? Those are two totally different questions, but what do you do in cases where somebody needs an image to be a logo? How do you start to think about logos? And then what do you do if you inherit something, and maybe it’s awful? Maybe it’s great, maybe it’s awful, but it’s no Nike swoosh. What do you do in those cases? What’s sort of your creative process?
Brad Henderson: Well, the first thing is to go in and find out as much about the company as possible, and then take a look at the category that they’re in, and then their competitors, because context is everything. And quite frankly, a lot of people have awful logos, and it makes no difference because they just happen to be in categories where they have another advantage that they don’t have to make a great cold impression.
Brad Henderson: Other people are losing business because they don’t come across as professional. It really just depends on not just your industry but who your clients are, what the context is that they’re buying in, whether or not you’re a known entity. But one thing I will say is if you’re not a Nike or a major brand like that with a recognizable logo that’s had a lot of media exposure, and in many cases paid media exposure, over time, the idea of we have a lot of equity in our mark is usually not as true as people like to think that it is. Most people don’t really think about your logo.
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Brad Henderson: They don’t have an opinion about it. They’ll know if something’s off, and they’ll know if something’s really cool or interesting. But everything else, most people just … they’ll go … it literally never crosses their mind.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Yeah, so at the end of the day, sometimes we have a lot of investment in something really based on our own personal connection to it. And it may be even keeping us from connecting well with our audience if we’re not willing to keep it up to current date, look and feel, let it evolve with time.
Brad Henderson: Exactly. And when you find a creative person that you want to work with on those things, then, I would say, it’s key to be honest with that person. And if you aren’t sure that you want to make changes, or you aren’t sure that you want to make bold changes, be open and honest with that person, because I’ve literally worked with clients who spent tens of thousands of dollars and they got through the process and it turns out that they never wanted to be there in the first place. And they just stuck everything in a drawer and kept doing what they were doing previously.
Michael Utley: Sounds like you’ve heard some horror stories and seen some horror stories firsthand.
Brad Henderson: Well, I wouldn’t call them horror stories. I mean, we’re not digging ditches here. Lives aren’t on the line, but I see a great brand as an opportunity. And some people take advantage of that and some people don’t. But it’s rare that it’s a truly, truly negative thing. But it can help you reinforce your position as somebody who is confident and trustworthy and likable, and reinforce the ideas, and give people a reason to believe what you’re telling them.
Michael Utley: Excellent. Brad, this has been great.
Chris Raines: Yeah, great stuff.
Michael Utley: Thanks so much. That’s Brad Henderson from BigHowdy based on Main Street in Nashville, Tennessee. And this has been … Chris, you want to close us out?
Chris Raines: Yeah. I think you just did. We’ll see you next time! This has been episode-
Michael Utley: This is Grow Your Painting Business.
Chris Raines: On episode 17.
Michael Utley: Yep. Alright.
Chris Raines: Thank you.
Michael Utley: The Grow Your Painting Business podcast is a free services of searchprimer.com. Visit us today for more information on how you can grow your business using the latest tools in digital marketing. Searchprimer.com.