When Matt Carnaghi decided to begin selling the all-natural anti-chaffing product he had developed, he knew he needed some help with developing a brand. The avid distance runner and weightlifter turned entrepreneur, Carnaghi knew about marketing and promotion – he works in business development for Carterville-based Harness Digital Marketing. He also knew he needed help in building a brand.
“Everything is about the market and the brand,” he said. “I didn’t want to look like a home-based business. From the beginning, my goal was to be in a commercial space, so when it comes to my bottling, my logo, my packaging and my website, everything has to look like it was done professionally.”
Carnaghi turned to James Moseman of James Arthur Design Co. in Marion. The two began the journey to a brand through an extended time of questions and answers.
“We spent hours and several meetings talking about concepts, the product, the target audience and ideas,” Carnaghi said.
Moseman says Carnaghi understands the concept of branding.
“Matt has a really unique product and he understands that it has to be positioned in the market so people take notice,” he said. “We worked with him on everything from the name of the product to packaging and promotional aspects.”
Together, they explored the history of not just the product, but even of the ingredients in what has become known as Koko Balm.
“The brand came from the fact that the primary ingredient is cocoa butter,” Carnaghi said. “Since the original thought was that the product would be for athletes, we went with the K – a more aggressive letter.
“Some of our original designs were very Central American, but we didn’t want it to look like coffee or chocolate. Again, since our audience was athletes, we wanted something vibrant,” Carnaghi said.
“Finding the right name was super important,” Moseman adds. “When you are dealing with a product like his which is rooted in cocoa, we wanted to incorporate that culture – going back to Mayan or Aztec civilization. It’s all something we considered.”
Carnaghi admits that branding has been more of a challenge that he anticipated.
“It’s been much more involved than I expected, but without it, I would not have a product ready for the commercial market. Everything is about the market and the brand. Even before I had a complete business plan, I began work on the brand. It is that essential and as a new business that brand is all I have.”
Moseman says branding for a company or product is all-encompassing.
“It’s something you touch and feel, but a lot of people don’t realize what it is,” he said. “It isn’t just one thing. While the most visible aspect is a logo, it is all of the other things that make up a business. It’s the experience; it’s the feeling you get when you walk into the business. It’s not just the commercial, but a brand is a way of life or a feeling. It’s more than print materials, a website or logo. It’s everything down to cups, shirts and layout. It’s all of those things working together.”
“Branding to me includes everything about a particular business,” said Dennis Poshard, owner of Arthur Agency in Carbondale. “It has to do with every point of contact with customers and their perceptions in the marketplace or community. It has to do with every facet of your business and the customer experience. It’s not what a lot of people think – it’s more than your logo, letterhead and website. Those are part of the big picture.”
Poshard says a brand is built upon what customers think and experience when interacting with a business.
“The best logo in the world can’t help you if your customer experience is bad,” he said.
For that reason, Poshard says he tries to move clients beyond seeing branding as simply an exercise in graphic design.
“When we undertake a project for a client, we really try first to learn about their business, what the brand is currently and what their customers’ brand perception is and to be honest and direct. While we’re working on a logo or whatever, we’re also giving them lots of advice and lots of suggestions that really move more into business practices and touch points with clients. We advise them on everything from answering the telephone to handling orders. We’re always trying to improve the customer experience. That has the biggest impact on the long-term building of a brand.”
“A brand is strangely difficult to define,” Moseman said. “but it is something your customers can feel and it is what helps them to favor you over your competition. A brand is your business’ DNA and defines you in a unique way.”
Nic Skovgaard, owner of Alter Ego Marketing, calls brands “accelerant.”
“Your brand has to mean something,” he said. “You can have a strong brand in the wrong direction and it can work against you. Great branding or marketing will put a bad business out of business just as fast as it will help a great business grow.”
He explains that if a new restaurant has poor service or low-quality food but only a few customers the impact is less significant than one serving the same fare to thousands of buyers because of marketing.
“It just speeds everything up,” Skovgaard said.
John Barwick, owner and president of Marion-based TMG Company, says when it comes to branding, business leaders need to be cautious about making assumptions.
“I think one of the biggest things is that businesses assume that people know who they are, what they do and how to reach them. They assume they can only share their message in a few places and it’ll work.”
Barwick says too many companies ignore digital marketing channels including having a quality website, utilizing free services like Google’s “My Business” and social media platforms.
“You don’t ignore people when they walk through your doors, you can’t ignore them online, either,” she said.
Poshard warns that it takes more than new branding or even a new logo sometimes to revitalize the business.
“There’s thinking that the logo is the brand and if it’s refreshed, it will suddenly revise the business,” he said. “Businesses have to look at the entire business. If the logo is good but the customer experience is poor, there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Moseman points out what worked for one company in regards to branding probably will not function equally well for another.
“We’re not talking about one-size fits all; we’re looking for what works specifically for your and your company.”
That’s exactly the approach he has taken with Koko Balm, and Carnaghi is pleased.
“Having a good brand is given me every possible opportunity to be successful,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for more.”