Brand Central Station: Micro Branding – Multiple Personalities

You’ll need a different site for each brand. The question is: do you need a new site for every mood?

Got a headache? Go to www.excedrin.com. Want to color your hair? Go to www.clairol.com. Those are the brands you know and love. It probably didn’t occur to you to head over to www.bms.com.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is a $20 billion company doing business worldwide. But they have nowhere near the brand-name connection between need and solution that their products have. Why is that? Branding. What to do? Create multiple Web sites, of course.

I recently spoke to a company that writes software for the Department of Defense. Their client list includes customers like the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. On the other hand, they sell agricultural accounting and information management software. Clearly, the guys building missiles and the guys driving tractors not only have nothing in common, they don’t feel comfortable buying from somebody who consorts with the other kind. Solution? Two Web sites.

But then they had a little problem. They have a project estimating tool that’s great for anybody and everybody. This is a product Uncle Sam can make use of just as well as Farmer John. What to do? Create a third Web site? Maybe, maybe not.

Sometimes different markets call for a different look and feel for same product. That software package, dressed up in olive drab, will appeal to the DoD a lot faster than if it’s clothed in a plain, blue suit. The same goes for draping it in denim coveralls. Tractor drivers will cotton to it faster in that style than they will if it’s wearing wing tips.

Create multiple Web sites for each vertical? When the verticals are that far apart, yes. But we’re not done yet. In time, the right choice will be to subdivide the brand by job responsibility within a given company, within a given market segment.

Different people within each company have different needs and respond to different offers, different language, and different branding. For those of you who missed the now out of print “Strategic Selling: The Unique Sales System Proven Successful by America’s Best Companies”, it may be worth looking for it in the used bin. Maybe “The New Conceptual Selling” by on of the same authors (Stephen E. Heiman, Warner Books, 1999) will fill the bill – I haven’t read it.

The original book divided prospective customers into four areas of interest: the product user, the economic buyer, the advisor, and the manager. Each of these individuals is motivated by different things in order to achieve different goals. Does your Web site recognize these divergent needs and offer up a different brand to each?

Is your product easy to use? Will it save money? Is it used successfully by others? Will it make a company more productive? The answer should be yes to all of the above and presented to different Web visitors in these different lights.

So now you have a Web site for a given vertical and a brand for buyer types within each vertical. While we’re at it, let’s add another layer: the size of the prospective customer’s business. That’s how many verticals multiplied by four types of buyers across four or five business size classifications. How much is all this going to cost? Wait! Don’t answer yet. Because we’re not done slicing and dicing yet.

How is your brand presented to John G. Smith who lives at 123 Main Street, Anytown, USA? Mr. Smith is an interesting mixture. He works for a manufacturing company in the textiles industry. His responsibilities revolve around facilities management and shop floor control. He’s more interested in quality than cost savings. He doesn’t eat meat. He has a flexible budget, but no ability to hire more people.

Does your site brand your product to cater to Mr. Smith’s hopes and fears and sway him with persuasion that is geared to his psyche? It will.

The same sort of tools being used to match up banner ads with Web surfers based on their clicks and their search terms – used to put the right message in front of the right person at the right time – can be used on your site to match up the right benefit statement to the prospect and deliver the right brand at the right time.

The Web is starting get interesting.