What Landscapers Can Learn From Branding
“We see your trucks all the time,” is a comment that Anthony Pascale, president of the organic lawn care company Natural Turf in New Jersey, hears a lot. The funny part? “We only have two trucks,” says Pascale.
Pascale believes the reason their trucks resonate so much is because of Natural Turf’s successful award-winning brand that Pascale and his partner/father developed with LandscaperMarketing.com, a subsidiary division of advertising agency Graphic D-Signs Inc., also in New Jersey. The company created Natural Turf’s Web site, as well as their brochures and business cards—all contributing to the landscaping company’s brand establishment, says Pascale
Dan Antonelli, president of Graphic D-Signs Inc., says that Natural Turf’s brand is comparable to that of a big franchise, which makes a reputable impression. Antonelli, who has also authored books Logo Design for Small Business I & II says that good branding is especially important for landscapers because so much of their work is aesthetic appeal, and bad branding can mean missed opportunities for new business.
“For example, a landscaper might do beautiful work, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at their web site, or the lettering on their truck,” says Antonelli.
When Julie Evans and Todd Brown, the vice-president and general manager of Fockele Garden Company in Gainesville, Ga, re-branded their company years ago, “it was a lot bigger commitment than we realized,” admits Evans. However, they said the business growth and better customer relations that resulted made their re-branding efforts worthwhile.
Any company who has developed a brand will tell you it’s an investment, but it can put your business in a whole different league.
Cohesion is key
Antonelli says that when building a brand, you have to make sure that it will work in different mediums. “It might look good on a business card,” he says, “but it won’t look good on a T-shirt or side of a truck.” Antonelli recommends going to a full-service marketing/branding company so that you can get uniform files and artwork that your vendors can use (ie. printers, silk screeners, sign companies) because you don’t want your logo to be interpreted by each vendor differently. “There needs to be a synergy and continuity among all the mediums you present to your consumers,” he says.
Cory Hogan, branding specialist and owner of marketing firm Boomerang Strategic, says: “Good marketing requires constant pressure.” And it’s more than just a logo or a business card. “The way you answer the phone, your voicemail, even your phone number are all parts of your brands,” he says. “Rather than a one-time affair, building a desirable brand requires ongoing reviews and improvements.”
Know your demographic
Antonelli says that when it comes to branding, catering to your demographic’s needs often means ignoring your own. In his experience, most of his clients’ consumers are women in their mid-thirties or mid-forties, so he has designed logos that have such graphics as a butterfly or a flower, but the male landscaper has found those images to be too feminine. However, Antonelli says it’s more important that the brand appeal to the customer.
“[Landscapers] don’t necessarily have to love their brand,” he says. “It’s more important to go after their audience and get the response they want.”
Professionalism is always expected
Brown and Evans knew more than anything, they wanted to convey a professional attitude that suggested reliability and experience. That’s why they went with a simple, self-described “classic” design and slogan: “It’s the company you keep.”
Hogan emphasizes that a qualified look is especially important to landscapers because they’re susceptible to stereotypes, such as they only mow lawns or plant trees. “Your brand can promote your niche,” he says. “Perhaps you specialize in xeriscapes. Do your customers know that?” Hogan says if you prove your point of specialized services, customers are willing to pay you more.
If you’ve had the same brand for years, Antonelli recommends re-evaluating it. Does the typography look dated or the design amateurish? He says you don’t have to completely redo your brand, but always keep an open mind to at least modernizing it.
Worth it’s wait in gold
Branding usually takes a major time commitment, but Pascale says it’s an important commitment to make. “If you take the time to develop the image, it shows you really care about customer service,” he says. “Right away, we realized we did the right thing. Everything came full circle.”
And try not to let the slow economy deter you because Brown says that there’s always going to be a reason not to start a branding effort. You might not have the finances now, but then once business picks up, you might say you’re too busy. He thinks it’s important to get started in some way, even it’s just the early planning stages and laying out a game plan. “That’s a step you can take now that won’t cost any money,” he says.