What is branding and what does it mean to self-storage operator? Before we answer this, I'd like to share an observation made by one of my company's marketing specialists. He said some storage operators approach their market brand in much the same way ranchers in the old west used branding to identify their cattle. In other words, it denotes ownership and nothing more.
However, in today’s competitive self-storage world, brand should not merely be the reproduction of your name or logo on a sign or packaging. It should be the manifestation of a well conceived marketing plan. It defines who you are to your customers. It represents substance, not fluff. A well-established brand differentiates your property from the competition. Good branding is something that is planned and developed over time. It tells your story.
When developing your brand, it should identify all the details about your property that matter. If you want to communicate that your facility is secure, make it that way, then incorporate strong visual images into your logo or use colors that denote strength. If you want customers to understand your facility is professionally managed, keep your property and office area well-maintained and merchandised. Potential and current customers are always assessing the smallest details to determine who you really are. That is your brand.
I have spoken with some operators who won’t consider putting products in their sales/retail area unless they are privately branded, meaning they are branded with the individual facility or company name, not a national distributor. On the other hand, I have spoken to operators who won’t carry anything but commonly branded products.
What’s the right way to go? Either way is fine if the emphasis still remains on quality. However, a poorly designed private-label program will not advance your brand. It can even detract from it if the packaging graphics are poorly printed or products are low-quality. You’d be better off using a nicely designed and well-merchandised “stock” program. (Incidentally, contrary to popular belief, a good private-label program usually costs more than a stock one.) If you chose to go with a name brand, make sure it is well-known to the average consumer, not just the self-storage operator.
Name-brand companies have invested a great deal of money in advertising a product’s quality, and your retail sales and image can benefit. If you need guidance to help you develop your brand, put on your consumer hat. What do you like when you visit a store or buy a product? I believe you’ll discover your likes or dislikes are not that different from your customers’. Whatever you do, make your branding significant to the values embraced by your business. There are no longer any cattle roaming the range.
Roy Katz is president of Supply Side, which distributes packaging as well as moving and storage supplies. The company has developed merchandising programs for many leading companies including Storage USA, the U.S. Postal Service, Kinko’s and Mail Boxes Etc. For more information, call 800.284.7357 or 216.738.1200.