Branding your company—from vehicles to interior designs—is well-served by a quote from baseball great Yogi Berra: “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”

Impactful and influential branding doesn’t happen by chance. It requires focus and follow-through. Yet, too often this important element of business success is pushed so far down the priority list that nothing gets done about it.

Three main reasons branding gets short shrift are: a) lack of dedicated branding budget to complete the job; b) lack of strategic direction and tactical support to find and fill all niches; and c) lack of knowledge about less traditional branding techniques and technologies.

Electrical contractors can be particularly susceptible to branding indifference, particularly when business is good—or bad. When it’s good, there’s a tendency—as with most companies—to work the deals in front of you rather than concentrating on image-building. When business is bad, the push to get new deals often focuses on selling, selling, selling—without considering the valuable role of branding in helping increase awareness of the company as part of the sales process.

Plus, there’s a conservative approach to branding and vehicle advertising in the electrical industry. Traditionally, electrical contractors have gravitated toward simple, often elementary, graphics chiefly designed to impart information. Often, the company name, contact and location information are emphasized without much else.

While that may suffice for a long-established company with a stellar track record and reputation, it’s a definite drawback elsewhere. Humdrum, lookalike branding is increasingly becoming a disadvantage as more electrical contractors are presenting a bolder image through new branding.

To define what to do, define what it is to you

Start by defining exactly what branding means to you. Ask yourself such questions as: Do you want to look at your logo, business cards/corporate identity materials, vehicles, signage, office/plant interior, etc.? Are you sending the right message? Do you want to modernize to reflect the changes in your business? How would you prioritize and phase in desired changes given that most companies can’t (or won’t) “eat the elephant in one bite?”

Do it in style

Create a style guide as the process unfolds. A style guide will detail use rules for such items as logos—including everything from color(s) to positioning. Three vitally important reasons to do this are: a) create a color “palate” for everything needed, b) optimize impact, and c) offer consistent look and feel. Some logos, for example, look great in one or two colors but are problematic in full color. Sometimes, the opposite can occur. Thinking style guide as these elements are created will help ensure ability to reproduce the look in a variety of settings, colors and effects.

Don’t look like everyone else

A recent article addressing the biggest problem in content development and marketing today offers insight about what isn’t working in branding (or lack thereof). According to a Content Marketing Institute article by Joe Pulizzi, “In 2016, I led a workshop on content marketing for about 50 small-business CEOs and operations managers. They came from all different industries. Some were consultants. There was a plumber and also a representative from an HVAC company present… What wasn’t diverse was the way they were marketing their companies. Most had e-newsletters. All of them had Facebook pages. Every one of these senior leaders was concerned about search engine rankings…Another consistent characteristic? Not one of them was happy with their marketing… Our job, as marketers, is…creating the minimum amount of content with the maximum amount of behavior change in our customers…For that to be possible, what you are creating has to be valuable, useful, compelling and, yes, different.”

Tips for tip-top branding

Armed with preferences, here are initial steps on the road to rebranding:

  • Decide budgeting and timeline. Be prepared to invest at least a few thousand dollars to get started right. Look at a timeline for phasing in desired pieces, and discuss money-savings that can be found by bundling items together—e.g., different types of signage and interior graphics identifying various internal departments and functions. Optimally, develop the wish list of everything you want, then work on how much, when and where.
  • Vet vendors thoroughly. Find a resource well experienced in the branding and graphics arena in the area(s) you want to address. For example, a company skilled in logo and corporate identity design isn’t always the best choice for vehicle wraps and other challenges. Establish if the company is able and willing to find ways to maximize return on investment by bundling/streamlining efforts. Make sure the company will work within your systems rather than require you to work within theirs, and take the time to understand your business and marketing objectives. Pretty graphics don’t work unless they support strategic direction.
  • Think creatively and cost-efficiently. New technologies and techniques have made it more affordable than ever to accomplish creative branding objectives. For example, digital interior graphics covering a substantial area can be created relatively inexpensively. Such effects as brick, wood and rock texture can be made to look quite “lifelike” without requiring a lot of money or time to install. Non-illuminated dimensional signage also can be quite impactful. Think about who’s coming to your office and the image you want to project—Professional yet modest? Splashy? Cutting-edge? Progressive core values and culture?

Affordability also can apply to vehicle graphics. To keep costs under control, it’s possible to create brand integrity with partial versus total wraps, saving in the ballpark of 50 percent. As part of the budget formula, look at return on investment. If you’re getting average metro area viewings of 40,000 per day on your vehicles, think about how this already powerful tool can generate even more awareness and exposure.

  • Think about your audience and message. Consider what the branding and its applications (e.g., signs and large-format displays) say to your stakeholders—including customers, employees, and partners. Will it help drive buying decisions, enhance employee morale and productivity, make partners take notice, provide a team-building opportunity with employee involvement and input? Do you want to reflect your values and beliefs in some way? For example, using non-vinyl earth-friendly products and working with vendors committed to offering ecologically-friendly solutions can speak volumes about being green.

Contrary to many pre-conceived ideas, rebranding your company can be done professionally and impactfully while keeping a close eye on the budget and resources required to do what’s right for you.