Small Spending, Big Branding

It’s a familiar phenomenon: the biggest brands, like Pepsi and Coca-Cola, spending hundreds of millions of dollars in brand building and brand maintenance. Daily, we’re inundated with TV, radio and print messages that account for much of that brand building investment. Americans see close to 30,000 TV commercials a year, on average.

Let’s think about this for a moment. “Watch” doesn’t necessarily mean “see.” Not every marketing campaign benefits from reflexively pouring millions of dollars into TV advertising. You shouldn’t despair if your own marketing budget comes in at a couple of hundred thousand dollars…or less.

Thanks to changing consumer media habits, a whole range of communications channels are opening to marketers. Broadcast and traditional media channels are starting to feel the pinch of competition for time and attention. Sure, we still watch TV, read the paper and listen to the radio. But the menu of other communications options is widening. What’s more, content has never been more commercial than it is now. Once-pure editorial and commercial brand messages now often merge, making it harder for marketers to define their brand’s unique tone-of-voice.

The alternative is, well, alternative. Alternative thinking, alternative ideas and alternative channels. An Australian entrepreneur recently demonstrated the power of alternative thinking necessitated by small budget marketing when introducing a juice brand, Nudie. The product is fresh juice, without additives. It tastes fantastic, but so what? The product’s success is hinged on much more than its ingredients. It lies in alternative thinking and a personal approach.

The Web site introduces the brand’s owner as “Tall Tim,” who generates dialogue with individuals. Tall Tim invites people to show up at his home at a certain time for breakfast and juice, a freebie you qualify for as long as you show up at the exact, and I mean exact, time. The gesture couples the person behind the brand with the brand itself. That, in turn, promotes interaction between the humanized brand and the consumer. The site urges visitors to get into the act of pushing Nudie’s distribution by offering a standard letter that interested parties can download, sign, and forward to their local stores. It’s a simple strategy that works for the brand because individual customers have cachet and credibility in their neighborhood store. The owners know their customers, and they listen to them.

The letter reads:

Dear (insert name of favourite store) I’ve recently had the pleasure of tasting a Nudie — a new kind of juice with absolutely nothing added. (Yeah, I know, you’ve heard that line before about nothing added, but the people at Nudie really mean it!) Anyway, the point of this letter is to see if you’d be kind enough to consider stocking Nudie. If you do stock Nudie, I would be eternally grateful and I would buy at least (insert number) Nudies every week! To get your fridge fully stocked with Nudie today (or the next business day if you’re reading this letter after hours) call now on 1-800-GO-NUDIE. Call takers are standing by…

Tall Tim turned his distribution channels into branding channels by getting consumers in on the act, and by putting a fleet of cute, purple, distinctively Nudie delivery cars on the road all over the country. Tall Tim has managed to treat every imaginable communication channel in an alternative fashion. His small budget would probably surprise you.

Within five months, Nudie has become the fastest-growing juice brand in Australia, ever. Tall Tim achieved this without any TV, radio, print or direct mail advertising. He tackled the project on a personal level. He used human communication channels creatively and directly. Nudie is not the only brand out there proving branding can be successful without spending millions of dollars on traditional media campaigns. But it offers a great working example of what can be done on a small budget.

I remember hearing information technologists would never be fired for choosing IBM. I suppose you could once could have said the same of marketers who combined the traditional media channels in their plans. But things are changing. The IT guys probably still won’t be fired for recommending IBM, but marketers with plans based on traditional channels and old school thinking shouldn’t get too comfortable.

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