Brandnew 2005

Symposium Is All About the Message
John Bidwell,

John Bidwell,president of Bidwell ID, said ‘branding’is an oft-used term that he hopes to better define for the region·s business professionals.

John Bidwell has always incorporated an educational component into his work.
Indeed, Bidwell, founder and president of Florence-based Bidwell ID, has employed a number of means to educate clients and prospective clients about the many aspects of marketing and brand-building. Topics covered by so-called white papers downloadable from his Web site include everything from logos to copyrights; capital campaigns to naming a company.

“I find that an educated client or potential client turns out to be a better client,” said Bidwell, who said his white papers are what he considers an objective approach to answering common questions about the often-complex world of branding.

Recently, he sought to take this educational component to a higher plane. This was the genesis of a symposium, created in conjunction with the Mass. Small Business Development Center Network, to be staged Nov. 1 at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. The museum will serve as not only the site, but also one of five case studies — in this instance, a not-for-profit group — that will, according to event planners, help attendees gain an appreciation for the nuances of marketing.

As Bidwell explained to BusinessWest, not-for-profits have seen traditional sources of funding — foundation grants and allocations from local, state, and federal organizations — dwindle, leaving them under increasing pressure to raise more revenue. One key to this, of course, is marketing.

“This is a time of great change for not-for-profits; they have to reach out and do a lot more development work than ever before,” he explained. “Part of that development work is branding, and this is something that many of these organizations never had to look at before. They have to look at who they are and how they define themselves in a way that wasn’t an issue only a few years ago.”

A similar focus will be put on other industry sectors and specific marketing challenges though case studies involving Amherst College (education); the Amherst Nursing Home (health care); Banana Publishing (a small, relatively new business); and Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s Way Cooley brand of coffee (a new product).

The purpose of the symposium, said Bidwell, is to take what many business owners consider a buzz word — branding — and give it some workable definitions that they can apply to their companies and agencies.

Getting the Word Out

Bidwell told BusinessWest that, originally, the letters I and D incorporated into his company’s name stood for illustration and design.

“I’ve always been into graphics and design,” he said, adding that he did work for a number of newspapers and magazines earlier in his career. Later, those letters stood for identity and design, he said, and today, they’re used to convey the fact that the six-year-old company specializes in helping clients create and shape an identity, or ID.

Bidwell, who studied Theology at McGill University and did a stint for the Peace Corps in Africa before moving into the marketing field, has done such ‘identity’ work for clients ranging from Mount Holyoke College to the National Yiddish Book Center, to DramaWorks, the Northampton-based company that uses theater to help companies understand workforce issues.

These are among the ‘educated’ clients he described, noting that the more individual business owners know and truly understand about the need for branding and the many components of that assignment — the better he will be able to partner with them to achieve positive results.

This fall’s symposium (for information, visit www.brandnew2005.com) was designed to offer working examples of how branding works — and how it can work better, said Bidwell, noting that the program will include several aspects.

There will be presentations on the branding strategies for each company or product, he explained, and also questions from a panel of marketing experts and then more questions from the audience.

The panel of experts will include Lee Phenner, vice president of Hill Holiday Design in Boston, Cheri Cross, partner and communications professional with Slate Roof Studio in Northampton, and Rick DeBonis, senior vice president and director of Marketing for Hampden Bank. As for the audience, Bidwell said he expects it to include everything from marketing and public relations professionals to business owners.

The case studies were chosen, he said, to spotlight the different kinds of challenges faced by various industry sectors and types of businesses. As he mentioned, non-profit groups like the Eric Carle museum are under mounting pressure to reach broader audiences, and thus boost revenue.

“A lot of not-for-profits are taking more interest in branding because they’re being forced to,” he explained. “Many of them are struggling to survive and they’re having to address development and branding issues.”

Springfield-based Banana Publishing, which has created cross-border telephone books, including one for Longmeadow and Enfield, Conn., was chosen to highlight the many challenges faced by emerging small companies, said Bidwell. He told BusinessWest that this case involves both a new business and a new product, and that branding efforts must be designed to raise awareness for both.

Amherst College, meanwhile, was selected to focus attention on higher education and its unique issues, he said. The discussion will likely focus on whether such a well-known institution needs to market itself — and how it goes about that mission.

Cooley Dickinson’s Way Cooley Coffee was chosen to spotlight the branding of a new product, said Bidwell, noting that the hospital began to brew its own brand and use proceeds to help bring health care services to those who are uninsured or underinsured. That talk is expected to focus on how the hospital is getting word out about its coffee, and how effective these efforts have been at building awareness.

“These are all successful ventures,” Bidwell said of the case studies he’s assembled. “What we want to do at this symposium is examine the various ways that effective branding contributed to their success.”

Name of the Game

Bidwell said he expects some business owners to attend not because they know what branding is and why it is important — but because they don’t.

“To many people, this is just a buzz word and they don’t really know what it means,” he said. “Some people thinking branding is just a new name for marketing. I happen to think it’s goes beyond that, but that’s a matter for discussion.”

There will be many of those at the symposium, which, if it is as successful as Bidwell believes it will be, could be the first of many.

As he said, educated clients ultimately become better clients.

George O’Brien can be reached at[email protected]