Own Your Niche… Find Your Difference.

The latest Sensis Business Index came out today and again it was sad news for the manufacturing sector. As someone who has lived and breathed industrial marketing, communication and PR for over 20 years this is not what I want to see. I’m passionate about helping Australian companies compete well and increase domestically and internationally.

The SBI says SME’s in the manufacturing sector have the lowest confidence of all sectors… @ 0%. Flat lining. The survey involved 1800 companies so I assume that is a reasonable cross section representative of the national manufacturing community. Compare that to the confidence in cafes and restaurants +14%, accommodation +14%, construction +18%, health and community services +18%, finance +41% and insurance +41%.

At times like this it is important to look at your brand and your purpose.

Find your niche… create a marketing strategy to own that niche. Then build your brand profile so that it attracts customers to you in that niche.

I hear of manufacturers crying in their beer about work going to China. Yes it is true that because of many factors outside their control (blame Canberra!!!) Australia has priced itself out of the market. However I work with smart manufacturers who have analysed the markets, had the courage to move on to new sectors, developed new skillets and as a result picked up new customers. And they are flat out.

China is taking commodity manufacturing off Australia – with the steep rise in costs in China and the emergence of its 200,000,000-strong middle class it will no doubt lose ground to the next ‘China’ that comes along – but I keep hearing that their quality is not 100% yet. It is improving but at the same time I’ve heard enough anecdotal evidence to know that sourcing manufactured goods from China does involve some risk. So, if you are involved in manufacturing look out for niche complex design/precision engineering opportunities and gravitate towards them. The volumes might be lower but the profitability should be higher. Develop a point of difference.

Source: Manufacturers Monthly

A Big Brand Vision.

New Zealand is a very small country. I know, I’m from there. The entire population could fit into Sydney and then some more again. Which is why when I read about a NZ manufacturer taking on the world market I was very impressed. They are called Sistema Plastics.

They manufacture plastic products as the name suggests and one range they have added innovation to is the snap-lock food storage-lunchbox market. As a male I would have thought all of the good ideas were realised years ago what with Tupperware and Decor and others. But it seems Sistema Plastics has come up with a solid product because this Kiwi company is exporting to 59 countries, turning over approx. $100 million and growing at a very rapid rate. They’ve even managed to dominate the Aussie market which is not small thing considering the general attitude that Aussies have to their “cousin across the ditch”.

Can a NZ brand work overseas? The Auckland-based company has Made in New Zealand labelling on their packaging and they say the response is positive. Is brand important to their success? Manufacturing is an industry which often ignores the need for a brand as it goes in search of customers to keep their machines busy. Too often, they ignore the need to know your market, understand their needs and differentiate.

Where Sistema Plastics has been smart is that it has truly listened to what the consumers want and, unlike other manufacturers who make 1 or 2 specific items, they make entire ranges. By supporting their brand with market research and new innovations they are succeeding where others aren’t.

Source: Manufacturers Monthly

How Much Should You Invest In Your Brand?

How about $US14 billion? Is that enough?

$14B is the GDP of Iceland. It’s more than Albania, North Korea and Armenia.

So, who is intending on spending that amount of money on their brand in 2014? Samsung.

Is it working? Well consider this… during the 3rd quarter of last year Apple shipped almost 34,000,000 iPhones to its stores around the world. Samsung shipped over 88,000,000.

Another market… flat screen TV’s. On average the high profile LG “Life’s Good” brand ships approx. 8,000,000 TV’s around the world per quarter. Samsung? 11,000,000. Samsung has 21% market share v LG’s 16%.

Another global icon it is muscling in on is Intel the manufacturer of computer chips. Everyone’s heard of Intel chips… but now Samsung has worked its way up into 2nd place and who knows how long it will be before it is snapping at Intel’s heels? Samsung says that now that they are the world’s #1 in smartphones they intend to become one of the world’s most aspirational brands in a lot of different products.

Expect to see the Samsung brand placed in front of you a lot in 2014.

For those who place little value in their brand… just remember that Samsung thinks differently and is growing as a result.

Source: smartcompany

When Is A Product A Trademark?

We all know what it looks like – the Kit Kat chocolate bar. Those “fingers of goodness”. But are they well known enough to become a trademark?

Apparently there is a legal dispute over the three dimensional shape of Kit Kats. Cadbury has taken on Nestle to prevent them protecting the shape as a registered brand. This comes after the Cadbury-Nestle ding-dong over the former wanting to trademark the colour purple. I for one hope they don’t get to own it because I have a room in my home resplendent in purple which my kids call the Cadbury Room.

The Kit Kat dispute has arisen from the UK Trademark Registry’s decision to accept the 3D trademark registration of Nestle’s Kit Kat on the basis that it is a very distinctive shape. The case has now gone all the way to the European Union Court of Justice. Will this application be to everyone’s taste?

Source: Smartcompany

Battle Of The ‘Mite Brands

In the red corner we have Dick Smith and OzEmite, in the blue corner it’s AussieMite a small family owned business from Adelaide.

Today’s ruling by IP Australia that the two brands sounded to similar to each other so the millionaire businessman has to drop his ‘mite brand – the one he had been pitching against Australian icon Vegemite – exposes the inner workings of trademark law.

Here’s a snapshot of what happened. Dick registered OzEmite in 1999 but it wasn’t approved until 2003. The product itself wasn’t launched until 2012.  Meanwhile, the AussieMite brand was registered in ’01 and approved in ’06. So, you’re probably thinking Dick’s brand came first so why did he get ‘hit’ so hard?

Australian trademark law says the owner of a trademark has an obligation to start using it within 5 years or a third party can have it removed from the register. Dick launched his OzEmite 8 years after approval and by then the AussieMite company had already filed to have it removed.

Source: Smartcompany

Aim For Gen Y.

50,000 Gen Y’s have stood still long enough to be surveyed and the results are out (I think we all knew this one)…

They respond to online advertising via their Smartphones more than any other demographic. They own more Smartphones than any other age group too.

More than half said they had viewed an online ad’ on their ‘phone in the previous few weeks. 52% had clicked through on an online advertisement and 6 out of 10 looked up websites they saw advertised on TV. Being online is second nature to Gen Y. How young are they, well 25% of people aged over 14 engage with online advertisements.

What about Gen X who weren’t born with an iPhone in one hand and tablet in the other? 24% view ad’s in online videos, 20% look up a website online because of TV and 29% click through on an online advertisement.

Marketing In The Tough Times Part 3

The first word of advice is…don’t stop.

THINK LONG TERM…Don’t waste what you have already achieved! –


Often during tough times the levels of customer service drop. The mentality seems to be that if the consumer is going to spend less they don’t deserve the same degree of care as before. This is a big mistake.

We are all emotional beings. People like to be treated professionally and respected. They want the purchase to be pleasant and enjoyable and if you take good care of them there is a very real chance they will refer you on to their friends. Surprise your customers. Be the business offering more incentives and specials than anyone else. And, when they arrive to make their purchase “love on them” even more.


Consider collaborative marketing with a complementary business. It could be a dress shop combining with a shoe shop, or a car mechanic combining with a tyre business. This way you share the costs and, by combining your incentives, the consumers have a bigger reason to buy from you.

Remember, even though the amount of money being spent by consumers is less when times are tough there are still a lot of products and services that people want. Clothing, 3D TV’s, travel, cars and houses and many thousands of other items are still being being sold.

Marketing In The Tough Times Part 2

The first word of advice is…don’t stop.

Innovate: if your research shows that the market wants a different solution…go and create it.

A quiet market is a good time to announce a new product or service when there is less “noise” coming from your competitors. It shows consumers that you understand their needs and you are an innovator – which is a strong brand building statement. Also, be innovative about your marketing.

Look at different ways of maintaining your awareness activity for a lesser spend. For example, the Internet provides low-cost opportunities such as responsive websites, e-newsletters, apps, social media, videos and webinars. Publishers find it harder in tough times to fill their advertising space which means you can pick up very competitive discounts.

2. Generate: as you continue to market and promote your product and service, indirectly you are generating interest and a top of the mind thinking that keeps your company at the forefront.

People are continually in preparation to purchase mode. They want information and they want to know why they should purchase your product or service over the others, so keep informing them and giving them reasons why. This will help you survive the tough times and put you in a good position in your market when the economy improves. Investing for tomorrow will always allow for the business channel to be full and looking healthy.

Marketing In The Tough Times Part 1

The first word of advice is…don’t stop.

Brand building, advertising, incentive campaigns, lead generation and public relations often become casualties when a business owner is looking to reduce expenditure but it must be remembered these are the activities which are building your profile, positioning you ahead of your competition and preparing people to make a buying decision.

THINK LONG TERM…Don’t waste what you have already achieved! –

There is enough evidence to show that businesses which continue to promote themselves in the tough times experience better long-term growth than those which do not.

Marketing is a long-term activity and it is important that you maintain momentum.

Consumers need to see and know a brand and its message multiple times before making a purchasing decision. It is more cost effective to continue your campaigns – even at a reduced rate – than it is to pull back or stop altogether and then have to work extra hard to re-establish yourself at the same time as your competitors come back from their hiatus.

Rather than see these tough economic times as a negative, consider them to be an advantage. A time when, as others in your market “take a back seat” on their advertising and special offers, you can accelerate your presence and market share.


1. Evaluate: don’t panic about a changing market, instead take the time to understand where it is going and what the key drivers are. Sometimes in a depressed economy consumers will change their expectations and their buying habits. Know what they want. Is it still the same product or service as before? Is it a variation of that product or something totally new? How much are they willing to pay for it and how often do they need it?

You can find this out by simply talking to your customers – you’d be surprised how helpful people can be when you ask for their input, an online questionnaire, via your social media followers or by asking Modemedia to conduct focus groups or market research. The worst thing to do is blindly continue as you were before the market slowed down.

Business Confidence Up…More Requesting Marketing

Is it because Rudd knocked off Australia’s worst ever PM? Or because we’re sick and tired of feeling down?

Seems that SME’s are coming out of the cupboard and starting to warm up a little, even to the point of requesting marketing advice – a fact which excites me no end!

The facts come from the Sensis Business Index which shows more small and medium sized businesses increased their employment and capital expenditure in the June quarter than in the previous quarter. This was despite sales not having increased. In the first quarter 10% of businesses spent more…in June quarter that became 12%. Still a very low figure across the board.

From speaking to my clients and business owners at networking events I’d say confidence is still flat and there is little reason to smile.