Cooler Innovation's Medina Bailey talks to a B2B PR expert, branded uniform specialist and various cooler firms to assess the impact that good publicity can have on business.
**The press releases, newsletters, brochures, websites, merchandising, advertising and trade shows that make up the marketing mix offer effective ways for water cooler companies to publicise their image and brand, as well as products and services. cooler innovation Deputy Editor Medina Bailey talks to a business to business PR expert, branded uniform specialist and various cooler firms to assess the impact that good publicity can have on business.**
When soft drinks giant Pepsi changed the colour of its can from red to electric blue in 1996, it needed a campaign that would create impact. Adorning a Concorde jet with its new blue logo, tinting the usually red Daily Mirror newspaper front page in a blue hue, and asking Mir cosmonauts to pose with a giant inflatable Pepsi can as part of its renowned Blue campaign certainly seemed to do the trick. Not only did the marketing stunts receive international press coverage, they also made Pepsi rivals Coca-Cola and Virgin sit up and take notice.
Campaigns of this kind may be financially inaccessible for smaller businesses, yet they demonstrate how effective marketing can be when different mediums are used to deliver a message to a specific target audience and reach out to a new one.
A properly organised publicity strategy that is continuous, flexible and makes use of as many marketing methods as possible, will bring about various advantages, says PR expert and founder of UK based agency, AGM Publicity, Alan Godfrey.
“It should reach people likely to buy your products or services and increase enquiries, as well as help sales people to be recognised by company or brand name, and build and maintain the long-term image of the firm,” he says. “Your investment over time will give ongoing, cost-effective rewards.”
Despite these apparent benefits, Godfrey’s experiences in the two decades that AGM has been dealing with small to medium manufacturers and suppliers, have shown that although water cooler companies will have put a business plan in place from day one, their marketing plans are often neglected or even nonexistent. * Bottom of the pile* “Cooler firms design, manufacture and supply superb products, but often only rely on advertising and exhibitions – plus, of course, their sales people to fulfil their sales lead generation needs,” he explains. “Many do not understand PR or have the time to deal with it, so it stays bottom of the pile.”
Firms also work under the assumption that if a product or service is good enough, it will sell itself by recommendation. “Oh really?” questions Godfrey, who has also trained as a photojournalist and worked as an Advertisement Manager and Publisher. “Is that why Rolls-Royce and other huge names spend millions on advertising? They generally market the brand rather than the product.
“That said, in our business, industry people do want information on actual products. But many still believe that readers of trade magazines only want technical information and fail to think about the long-term promotion of the company’s image too. It’s very important to give confidence to buy, and mention expertise, service, quality and supply.”
Do it yourself An understanding of how marketing works is essential to positive publicity, but Godfrey insists that it’s not necessary for all firms to approach a PR agency to perform their duties. His recently published book, How to Handle Your Company Publicity – The Guide, outlines how companies can achieve results by working on their own marketing in-house using methods such as PR, advertising, direct mail and newsletters. In compiling the practical, no-nonsense handbook, which involved speaking to editors, he found that even PR firms and large companies can sometimes get it wrong.
“I’ve proved many times that firms can do the job themselves, but they need to be organised and have someone to carry out the day to day tasks of publicity,” he says. This could be a Secretary or Personal Assistant with reasonable writing and organisational abilities, or someone specifically employed for the role, with the main criteria being that they will remain with the company for a long period of time and really get to know its products, markets and ideals.”
Working closely alongside the Sales and Marketing Manager, the right person should surround themselves with good suppliers, such as photographers, graphic designers, printers and technical writers, and ensure that they have an office for arranging meetings. Daily tasks could include setting up and maintaining a media mailing list, talking to advertising and editorial personnel, arranging exhibitions, producing graphics, brochures and advertising material, writing and issuing press releases, updating web pages and arranging photography sessions.
“Phew! It all sounds too much – but if it’s organised, just a short period every day can see you through. Publicity is a serious function, and playing with it can be a disaster – just ask Gerald Ratner! It must be seen as a continuous day to day job, showing people within the company and outsiders the positive attitude that is being taken.”
Press releases One of the most important daily duties is providing relevant publications with press releases and material for features. According to Godfrey, the main mistake that companies make is either sending out too many releases or none at all. “Some get their priorities wrong, for instance, they make a huge fuss about their new website and forget about their new product that will be making its debut at an exhibition that has cost thousands and many years to develop.
“Releases should only be sent when companies actually have something to say. Don’t worry too much that you’re not a trained journalist. Just write about what you know in some sort of order of importance and don’t mention your company in every other line. Think about the reader – do they want to know how many offices you have or what the MD thinks?”
The next most cost-effective marketing tool is the mailing, which should be well presented, sent to a named person with a specific job title, offer something that the recipient will need and give them an incentive to respond immediately.
Further methods are exhibiting at events and advertising. As exhibitions can prove costly, Godfrey recommends that they’re planned carefully and ‘worked’ to ensure that they are capitalised on. Invitations should be sent out to potential and existing customers as well as the media, particularly if a new product is being launched at the show. Attendees should be persuaded to visit stands with the offer of a small gift as an incentive, and advertising should be placed in magazines covering the exhibition a month before the show.
“Advertising is an excellent tool in marketing,” says Godfrey, “but of course it can be expensive. You should change the message regularly but keep to your corporate image. Make sure you choose the right publication for you and not necessarily the cheapest. A small advert, such as a quarter or half page spread over two or three editions is usually better than one big page, especially for small firms.”
Branding it Another area that’s often overlooked within the cooler industry is branding, as Godfrey explains: “Branding is very important. People buy brands not manufacturers. Brands are usually trusted over a long period of time. I believe that all products should have the brand name clearly on them, even if they’re out of sight, such as a filter or pump.”
“Whether people drink water from a bottle or use a machine to dispense it – I think we all feel more comfortable with a known, good brand.”
A company that knows a thing or two about branding is uniform manufacturer Simon Jersey. Responsible for designing work wear clothing for delivery personnel that’s practical, fit for purpose and carries positive messages about the company being represented, the firm has experience across a broad spectrum of industries, from office and medical to food preparation.
“Branding is about creating the right visual impression,” says Manager of Bespoke Design for the company, David Sprakes. “Whether rightly or wrongly, your organisation is judged on first impressions, many of which involve your staff. Our customers come to us for this reason.”
Various solutions are offered according to the environment that workers operate in, as well as the company type. Clothing, such as the polo shirt or tunic, can be given a bespoke touch by applying sewn-in logos, labels, embroidery, heat-applied transfers or even reflective 3D material.
With a blue chip client base that includes Emirates Airlines, P&O Cruises and Avis, the firm works closely alongside its clients in order to gain ideas and feedback from the wearers themselves.
“We come into contact with the full range, from those who just know they need something, to those who have sketches of what they are looking for. It doesn’t matter to us what stage they are at, we can join in at any point. As long as they’re receptive to the idea that first impressions can be crucial, then we’re working with the right type of client,” he continues. “We talk to those at the top level who know about budget constraints and company image, and we talk to those out there on a daily basis to see what it is they’re asking for.”
Cooler couture According to Sprakes, the same rules apply in the water cooler world when personnel are making water cooler and bottle deliveries, and carrying out installation and sanitisation visits.
“Impressions here are enormously vital. This is an industry where hygiene is critical, and if you’re a supplier, then your customers need absolute faith in your ability to be hygienic. Companies will question: ‘If they can’t be bothered with their appearance, do they cut corners anywhere else, and is this a risk we should be taking?’”
Further aspects, such as employees visiting homes and weather conditions also come into play: “People don’t like answering their doors to strangers, so a fully branded uniform can help prove legitimacy. A lot of companies need their clothing to work for them. We produce fleeces, waterproofs and high visibility garments for those out there battling the conditions. We also have a composite alternative to steel-toe-capped shoes, which makes it easier to pass through security systems with metal detectors. Uniform truly is a head-to-toe investment.”
As he works closely with Simon Jersey’s design department, Sprakes also revealed what fashion trends will influence work wear over the coming months. His predictions for 2008 include chocolate and oatmeal colours, comfortable but smart trousers and polo shirts.
This article was first published
in Cooler Innovation.