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Billboard Brands
By: Andrew Davis
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Designing an effective billboard is always a challenge. This probably explains why so many are terribly executed. Billboards require concise copy — sometimes only a few words — that people are supposed to read, digest, and process in just a few seconds. If the copy is too long, or the billboard is too busy, consumers will take a quick glance and move on.
Branding should be approached in the same way.
You don’t want a billboard so junked up with extraneous items that consumers are unable to understand it. Brands, like billboards, should be simple and direct. The battle for a position in the mind of a consumer is much like battling for their attention in the few seconds they drive by an out-of-home advertisement. If it isn’t something they are already familiar with, you have but just a few precious seconds to grab their attention. The sharper, more narrowly focused your brand is, the likelier it is you’ll land a strike.
Brands that are complex, or vague, have a hard time fighting through the noise to reach the consumers. However, brands that are simple, narrowly focused, and clear as to their purpose, or value, resonate better.
If you have just a few seconds to reach consumers about your brand, what would you say? Think of what you would put on a billboard to describe your brand. Ideally, it would be just one key word. It would be the one word that your brand has come to dominate, and one that defines it. For example, here is what some of the top brand billboards might look like: “Apple: Innovation in Technology;” “Google: Online Search;” “Burberry: Fashion’s Luxury;” “Marlboro: #1 in Cigarettes;” “Toyota: Automotive Reliability.”
Just two or three words, paired with a logo, would be all these brands needed to not only advertise the brand visually, but also tell consumers everything they need to know about it. Apple is where to go for the latest technology. Google is where to go for online search. Burberry is what you buy to look posh. Marlboro is what you smoke (because if they are number one, they must be the best). Toyota is what you buy if you want a reliable car.
Taking a look at your brand, could you explain it to consumers in just a few seconds, with just a few words? Could you turn your brand into a billboard? If not, maybe it is time to revaluate the brand, and trim off some of the excess. The best brands are ones that are narrow in focus, simple, and consistent. If you have a busy brand — trying to be everything to everybody — it will never hold a spot in the minds of consumers, just as a busy billboard will never register with consumers.

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About the Author
Andrew Davis is a Charleston, SC-based creative services consultant to small businesses and non-profits. Follow him on Twitter here.
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