Opinion

Making business more attractive – part two

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Bernie Niemeier photo by Mark Rhodes

Let’s return to a theme that appeared in this space a couple of months ago:  Business has a branding problem.

When you think about it, this has been going on for a long time.  Think about the Orson Welles broadcast of “War of the Worlds” in 1938.  Perhaps for the first time, people saw that media, in this case radio, might have the power to create mass hysteria.  Famous for supposedly creating panic about the Earth being attacked, the broadcast actually had relatively few listeners. Still, it had enduring impact as a lesson on the power of media.

Similarly, in the 1950s there was an uproar about the use of subliminal images in advertising — crazy stuff like print ads with vague outlines of nudes reflected in ice cubes.  This concept also was ultimately debunked. Subliminal by definition means below the threshold of human perception.  So, if you can’t notice something, how is it supposed to change your behavior?

Thinking back to earlier times in my career, the American Marketing Association in the 1980s was promoting itself nationally with the slogan, “Marketing makes a good life better.”  Too often, marketing, and by extension business itself, was viewed as trying to get people to do things they ought not do —think booze or cigarettes — or do things that they couldn’t afford  — think credit card debt.

Looking at today’s political environment and acknowledging that most local chambers of commerce aren’t like this, we have a U.S. Chamber of Commerce, supposedly representing business interests. However,  if you look at its actions rather than words, it is functionally nothing more than a Super PAC for the Republican Party.

On the other side of the aisle, we have a Democratic presidential candidate pointing toward big banks and Wall Street as unpunished and unrepentant criminals —  enemies of the middle class that are bent on destroying the economy.

Closer to home, February newspaper headlines scolded the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) for using the taxpayer’s dime to feed hotdogs and Miller Lite to economic development prospects at a Redskins game — how laughable! 

Critics say government ought to act more like a business.  What business wouldn’t have done this for their prospects?  Maybe the state would land a little more business if we sprang for more than hotdogs and cheap beer!  And what about the current Redskins stadium?  Why did Virginia let that go to Maryland anyway?

On a serious note, one would hope that the recent  change in leadership at VEDP had nothing to do with such trivial pursuits — but I digress.

Suffice it to say that business has a branding problem.  This is ironic considering how much time everyone spends at work and how much many of us actually love what we do.

How do we fix this?  The good news is that many companies recognize this branding problem, and they are working to make business more attractive by getting things right.  They get it right with people, they get it right with customers, and they get it right with the community.

Getting it right with people means loyalty and learning.  Let’s not buy into the idea that every member of the millennial generation is going to have 17 different jobs by the time they are 50, thus making loyalty passé.  Instead, let’s give employees opportunities to learn and grow; loyalty will be the result. 

Loyalty is a two-way street — you’ve got to give it to get it.

Getting it right with customers means providing a flawless experience with products and services.  Every touch point is an opportunity to win business — or to lose it.

Getting it right with the community means connecting with your employees and customers where they live and work.

Building your brand matters.  Good marketing does make a good life better.

Many companies get this right and do these things with a smile.  Why?  Because building a positive reputation is something that every successful organization must do well.  Why else?  Because it works!




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