Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Crab, two ways

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. – Winston Churchill 

Photo: rashida s. mar b., Flickr ccl

This is crab #1. 

I don’t understand. What do businesses in rural Nova Scotia not get about the importance of image? It seems sometimes they care so little as to be detrimental to their success.

Some days you get up wondering what you’re going to write about, and sometimes – like a New Jerusalem shining on a hill – there is your subject matter. It just happened to dovetail with my planned recipe today, which is crab pasta salad. What I read made me crabby.

What’s my gripe?
It came in the form of a news report in a small online newspaper. I use the term "news" loosely. A new clothing store is opening in a south shore town. That in itself is a very, very good thing, and I wish them every success.

But the article itself was so poorly written that there was almost no information in it, except that they were opening. Nothing about the owners (where they’re from, dreams for the store, why they’re doing it) or even what they’re selling (should I consider even going?).

All information about you advertises your business
I attended a presentation recently by Roger Brooks International to the South West Nova Scotia tourism association, at White Point. Mr. Brooks is well known for his work in tourism, community branding, downtown development and destination marketing. 

He and his wife have been “mystery shopping” rural Nova Scotia for a few years. They use the same questions all visitors ask. They’re the Five Ws – the basic questions we all use to make choices: who, what, where, when and why.

That's also the basics of effective advertising. Every communication should answer those same questions, or people have no reason to choose your service over another. The article I referenced above fulfilled almost none of them. In fact, I think it did the business a disservice. 

The business is temporarily opening in a cavernous space on Main Street while their permanent location is being finished. They’re using a small portion of an old “bargain shop” that sold low end goods – including clothes. The accompanying pictures painted a poor picture of the new business. In fact, they made it look just like the old bargain shop. Not a very good correlation to make for a new clothing store.

As a designer (and copy writer) I am offended on two fronts – poor information and bad imagery. Businesses have to realize that every word and picture about them is an advertisement, like it or not. 

I don’t want to deride this pair of entrepreneurs who I hope are successful, but image-wise it's not an auspicious start.

A rural problem
This goes to a deeper problem in rural Nova Scotian business. Many just don’t seem to get that their image is as important as their product. You might be selling quality goods (or services) but if people don’t believe it you’re dead in the water.

Consumers make choices based on preconceived ideas. That is from what they have seen, read, or heard from others. It also extends to store signage and exterior, interior fixtures and even how your employees interact with customers.

It’s not enough to fling open a door and say “we’re open.” It seems a lot of the rural Nova Scotia business community doesn’t have a clue why image is important to their bottom line. It’s especially evident in “depressed” areas.

Take the proliferation of bristol board “sale” signs in windows and poorly-kept store fronts. If you want to kill your chances of success take no steps to control your image in the eyes of the public. 

This extends to badly written articles about your business and unflattering photography. 

Is there a solution?
Why don’t we get it? Does it have anything to do with a reluctance to spend money? It says a lot about your business if you’re unwilling to invest in how your customers view you. 

Rural businesses should certainly understand that they have to draw clientele from a wider area than where they are located. This means making your business attractive, by quality product, image, shopping experience and media about you. Make people want to come to you.

Articles about you should be the easiest, and cheapest, to control – especially if you know about it. If you pose for pictures you know someone’s going to use them. Businesses can ask to see what is written before publishing, at least to check facts.

We purchase goods and services that correlate with the image of our individual lifestyle. If you don’t take the time to craft your image why should others trust you with theirs?

So that’s my crab for the day. I feel better. Crab #2 follows!

I didn't have currants. Wished that I did...

Chilled Crab Pasta Salad
Prep: 20 min  |  Serves 4-6
1 cup crab meat (lump is best, but expensive)
1 lb rotini, cooked and drained
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 lg garlic clove, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup currants (optional, but good)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp curry
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Can be served warm or chilled.


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