How to Achieve that 'Top of Mind' Market Presence

What do Intel, Southwest Airlines, Snickers and Starbucks all have in common? Their products have tremendously strong brand names. To maximize the sales of a product or service, the brand must be instantly recognizable, remembered and appealing.

Your goal as a vending or office beverage operator is to guarantee that when a personnel, purchasing or office manager decides it's time to change vending, foodservice or beverage suppliers, that your name will be at the top of his or her mind.

Vending operators and office beverage companies by in large do not utilize advertising or mass marketing programs to promote their companies. Many times in our industry, a vending operation's name is remembered by the personnel manager simply because of the calls the direct sales person makes to the prospect or through direct mail.

But do we actually know what methods of advertising have been the most successful in securing new business? Is our "brand" basically our company name on the side of our trucks, if anywhere at all?

Branding takes constant work
In order for us to keep our company name at "top of mind" with our current and prospective customers, we need to create and promote our brand constantly, every day.

There are various definitions of the word "brand."

My definition of "brand" is that it is the unique identifier that correlates to ar company and to a product or service.

Your company name, logo, color scheme and tag line all can be a part of your "brand." It is what makes people remember you and what you do.

Brands communicate who you are
Your brand is meant to create awareness, to promote your high-quality image of your company, and to communicate your message of what makes you different from your competition.

If your brand is successful in accomplishing these items with your current customers, then "word-of-mouth" advertising will occur for you.

Many times a vending or office beverage account is obtained simply because two people from different companies begin talking about who they use for these services and a recommendation occurrs. This is why your company must be "top of mind" with not only the decision maker of a particular company, but also the people who use the machines or service.

Business-to-consumer and B-2-B
Even though we interact and sell daily to the general public, vending operations and office beverage companies are considered business-to-business (B-2-B) operations, and thus our brand promotion strategy will be different from a business-to-consumer strategy.

An example of a business-to- consumer company would be a candy company, your local bank, or an automobile manufacturer. An example of business-to-business company would be companies like microprocessor chip manufacturers, uniform companies, and yes, vending, foodservice and office beverage operations.

The general public normally is not the final decision maker in the purchasing of these products or services. The type of business you are will partially dictate the type of media that you will use to promote your brand. However, other areas such as color schemes may apply to both types of businesses.

Consider your firm's full visibility
One example of a company I saw promoting their brand occurred on a trip this year to Boston, Mass. The company was Citizen Bank. This is a company that could be considered both a business-to-business and a business-to-consumer type of company. I noticed two things that they did to promote their brand.

The first thing was the ATM located at the airport. It was not just a typical ATM with a small decal on it naming the "host" bank. It was surrounded with extra area treatment that included their green color scheme and logo.

The other place I saw their brand was on the toll booth as I left the airport. Right next to the "fast lane" sign for the prepaid users was the Citizen Bank logo.

Citizen Bank paid a lot of money to have their name located on this sign. But the point is that in a short period of time from when I landed at the airport to when I left the airport, I noticed their brand name twice.

Without paying these enormous costs, we can do the same thing. We can ingrain our brand into our customers' minds through repetition via our machines, our vehicles and maybe through banners in our customer's facility. Use these avenues to visually implant your brand into your customers' and your prospects' minds repeatedly throughout the day. We will discuss this later in this article.

To market your company successfully, it is important to have visual elements that represent your company, and a communication plan that ensures that your prospective customers see your brand repeatedly throughout the day. The first step is the logo and color scheme that you use to represent your company.

The next step is the tag line. The tag line is the small, easy-to-read statement that tells your prospective customer or your present customer, in literally two seconds, why they should choose you or keep you as their contract vending, foodservice or office beverage provider.

The third step is to decide what form of media you will use to communicate the look and the message to your client.

Logo, tag line, color scheme in unison
In creating a logo, tag line and color scheme, you need to ask the following questions:

1) Who am I targeting with my message?
2) What specifically is the message I am trying to communicate to my target customer?
3) What colors help me to emotionally convey the message?

Vendors have A dual customer focus
Let's look at the first question:
"Who am I targeting with my message?" We actually have two groups of people that we need to target: the people who actually make the decision about the vending or office beverage service, and the people who use our machines and office beverage services every day.

The majority of the people who decide what vending services their companies use tend to be either personnel managers or purchasing managers. An office manager might make the decision for an office beverage service.

As I mentioned earlier, our business often relies on word-of-mouth referrals, and thus the actual consumer of our products within the workplace is also an important group to reach.

But don't you think that when you do something special like provide soft serve ice cream at a plant during the summer that it is not discussed with friends who work in other plants and offices? Of course it is.

What is the message?
The second question is: What specific message am I trying to communicate to my audience, and what does it mean to my prospective and current customer?

What is it that makes me different from my competition? Is it my fresh healthy food that I make personally every morning in my commissary? Maybe it is my use of technology that allows me to know when a machine is out of order before my customers are aware of a problem. Or that I provide more products and services other than high-quality coffee.

Colors communicate Certain feelings
The third question is: What colors do I use to promote my brand? If you read various articles on this subject, you may read that the color blue is the most popular because characteristics associated with this color are security, coolness and reliability. Because blue is also associated with the sky and ocean, it also communicates calmness and peace. Blue is also a favorite color for men.

The color green is associated with money, nature, health, freshness and loyalty. If we are promoting food, green probably should be a dominant color in our color scheme.

Red represents passion, excitement and speed. If we want to send the message that we are fast and responsive to people's needs, red should be considered.

The tag line is that short, simple message that we send to our customers or prospects when they see our vehicles, our vending machines, our signs, or our brochures, in literally two seconds.

What companies do the tag lines, "What's in your wallet?" and "Fifteen minutes can save you 15 percent on car insurance" represent? More than likely, because you have been repeatedly exposed to these lines via TV commercials, you know that they represent Capital One credit cards and Geico Insurance, respectively.

In fact, Capital One currently has a 98 percent brand recognition rating at this time, due to that tag line.

Some great vending tag lines
We as vending operators can do the same thing. Here are some examples:

  • A & B Vending in Wakefield, Mass. uses the message: "We've Got What You Want!"
  • H &R Sunbelt Coffee in Jacksonville, Fla. uses:"Coffee Perks, Enjoy the Grind."
  • C.L Swanson Corp. in Madison, Wis. uses: "Exceeding Expectations!"
  • Jackson Brothers Inc., St Louis, Mo., uses: "Quality You Can See, Freshness You Can Taste, Service You Can Trust."

All of these are great tag lines. Why? Because by looking at them along with their pictures showing their product or service for literally two seconds, you understand the message they are conveying to the reader.

Obviously, you cannot use these tag lines for your company, but hopefully, they will help you think of a tag line of your own.

What media do you use to communicate?
There are several forms of media that are used to promote brands. Some are more appropriate for business-to-business companies than others, yet all need to be considered.

Print media includes newspapers, magazines and the Yellow Pages. Broadcast media includes television and radio. Visual media includes billboards, vehicle graphics, kiosks, clothing, and sports marketing, such as car racing. Electronic media includes websites and search engine advertising.

Vending and office beverage operators are business-to-business companies and cannot justify investing a lot in these consumer-oriented media. Instead, they have normally communicated through a direct sales force via cold sales calls or direct mail.

But are these the only media that vending and office beverage service operators have at their disposal?

Your assets can double as media
Two forms of media that very few of us use and everyone has available are delivery and service vehicles and vending machines. Why not transform these assets into forms of media to promote your message?

It is very inexpensive to do when compared to other forms of brand promotion and advertising, and for our purposes, these avenues probably provide the highest results for the dollars spent.

Vehicle graphics can take a look, a logo and a message (a brand) and communicate them on a daily basis to prospects and customers.

Vehicles can also be used to promote a firm's website, where the company can further promote the brand to prospective and current customers.

Vending machines are another asset to transform into an advertising medium and reinforcement tool. Your logo, your color scheme, your tag line and your website could be imprinted across the top and bottom section of your vending machines very easily at a very low cost.

Partner with customers
Customer locations are another avenue to reinforce your brand. Consider partnering with your prospective or current customers to place safety or health and nutrition banners throughout the workplace. Send a positive message, including your logo and color scheme, as well as the logo of your client.

Have you ever noticed that when you walk into an airline terminal that the airline's logo, color scheme and the promotional message are everywhere?

As I walked into the terminal at the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. airport for Northwest Airlines, I did not just see a small sign that said "Northwest" on the counter. I saw an area treatment with the red color scheme and logo surrounding the monitor behind the counter.

I saw banners with their current promotion and their tag line. The banners included information about their frequent flyer program and their website.

We can do the same thing in our companies. We can take that customer's lunchroom and facility and transform it into our brand promotion media outlet.

Promote your message everywhere
My suggestion is to do what Northwest Airlines does and take those exact same messages and place them on your vehicles, your machines and in your client's facility. Keep your brand at the "top of mind" of your customers and prospects.

If you consistently promote your brand to your audience, the number of customers, sales and image will all increase over time.