Archive for category Branding

Color Can Impact Your Business, or Beware of Brown!

I’m a true believer in color psychology.  For instance, the pervasive red inside Pizza Hut makes people hungry but keeps them cycling through – they don’t want to linger at the table.  If you’re still working on your brand logo and designs, take color into consideration.  It may sound hokey, but color has an effect on us as human beings.  How do you want to be perceived by your customers?  Optimistic and cheerful?  Serious and straightforward as an expert with the knowledge to back up your claims?

Check out this beautiful chart on branding and color psychology by Marketo for inspiration.  Favorite quote? “[U]se caution with brown as it reminds most people of dirt.”

True Colors: What Your Brand Colors Say About Your Business by Marketo

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Social Media Is Your Embassy, and More Zen Identity Tips

Zen Garden wikimedia Social media is your embassy.  Be true to your online self.  This post from zenhabits is a great contribution to getting rid of clutter in your digital house.

We’re all suffering a little from online information overload, and since we’ve been online for a while, it’s like when you do spring cleaning on a house you’ve been living in for 15 years and realize how much of your old life is still there.  You’re not that person anymore, but you still have all that person’s stuff.  The digital world is much the same way, and Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology notes that we should purge that stuff and not mourn the loss of it. We’re becoming more of the person we want to be and staying true to that with the things about us that live online.

The idea behind this has everything to do with branding, as well as our online habits and the way we gather information. There are great tips on letting go – it is zenhabits, after all – and keeping clutter at bay so we can be more productive and enjoy ourselves a little more.

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Blog Content Strategy: What Are You Talking About?

What are you talking about on your blog?  If it’s yourself, you’re probably not getting readers.  You don’t want to be the guy at the party whose stories about himself only pause when he has time to stuff an hors d’ouevres in his mouth and continue with “and then I….”

When marketers say the 20 year or so old refrain Content is King, what they mean is the stuff you put on your Web site needs to be interesting to your readers, not just you.  Your blog is not a mouthpiece for your sales department.  It is a virtual conversation that provides something valuable to customers and partners and whomever else you are trying to get to read it.  It’s educational, entertaining, and probably informal.  The more natural a voice you adopt for your blog, the better.  Have fun with it.  Your blog is your creative arm.  It’s where you connect with people who are like you, who would enjoy your product and the subculture that surrounds it the same way you do.

How to come up with ideas to write about:

Listen.

Go to places where your customers hang out, in person or digitally, and see what they talk about.   What else do they like? What can you tie back into the values of your product? Educate them on how to use your product.  Provide profiles and links on people who are doing interesting things with the type of product or service you provide, though not necessarily customers all the time, since that all comes back to being completely about you.  There’s nothing wrong with telling a story or two about yourself.  Just don’t abuse it.  Have other stuff there.

Pay Attention to Subcultures

I read blogs because of the interesting stories they tell about subjects I follow.  And I’ll check out a book or product a blogger is promoting because I trust her, because she writes about other subjects that interest me.

I’ll buy a beauty product from a company if it is a natural product company that writes articles about growing organic herbs and aromatherapy, what collagen actually does for the skin, and how bee farming is humane and generates all sorts of useful ingredients, such as beeswax, which are used in products like theirs.  A blog like this is not designed to push a product, though it informs me about aspects of the product and reminds me of the natural organic subculture that I have unofficially joined through my interests.

Build (and Join) Community

As a side note, I really really love that company if it also sponsors events with recyclers, crafters, and craft brewers in the local organic community and writes about the festivals it supports, since that fits in with my subculture and helps me connect to their idea of community and my own even better.  But events are a whole other ball of beeswax. Though they help immensely with figuring out what to write about.

One way to tap into this community-building and be a local participant is to begin using Twitter to find others like yourself.  Put your interests or your business summary in your profile – as well as a link to your Web site.  Seek out and follow others by typing the words you used to describe yourself into the search bar in Twitter.  People will find you and begin to follow you.  Thank them for following you.  Comment or reply to others in the industry who put tweets up you enjoy, or people who enjoy the same things you do.  It builds on itself until you have a great group of folks who are engaged with your interests, and you can all share ideas – sometimes they are your direct customers telling you what they want, or showing you what they are reading (through the links they put up on their feeds), which is valuable information to have.

Use any or all of these methods to find ideas to write about and good content to link to on your blog. It’s not just about search engine optimization (SEO) or converting sales. You’re relationship building, and you do this through community – and through providing information people care about. Educate. Entertain. Inform. “Convert” comes later.

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Small Business Identity Crisis: The Genius of Landing Pages

Ever find that as a business, you have multiple personalities? That you can’t claim just one type of audience and you don’t know how to address these disparities, these fragments of identity that keep you from being able to write to one type, or have your web site formality set up to attract one type?

This is a common problem in business, especially small business.  Small businesses don’t feel they have a big enough operation to set up landing pages and separate sites or areas for each type of audience.   How will people know where to go? they say.  It’s hard enough getting them to my web site in the first place. 

Sometimes you can write to a variety of audiences, and provide content that resonates with all of them – like Web developer freelancers and CIOs, or teenage girls and their mothers.  But sometimes it just doesn’t work. 

If you sell cakes, you’re not going to appeal to brides and parents of little kids on the same page – unless your audience is

Optimus Prime Cake: More Than Meets the- Naah. Too Cheesy.

like my best friend, who had a Snork cake at her wedding.  You need landing pages to appeal to these specialized audiences, so you can provide your bride with beautiful wedding cake photos that evoke the emotions of her special day, and tout your partnership program with the florist next door who makes the most ethereal arrangements.  The Dad on the Run looking for the perfect Transformers cake for his 6-year-old, a man who wouldn’t know “fondant” if it hit him in the face, will not stay long enough on your Web site to find your Optimus Prime masterpiece if he sees a bunch of frilly wedding sculptures tufted with pearls.  You get the picture.

5-Step crash course in targeted vertical marketing.

  1. So you set up tabs on your web site, and link to them all clearly, with photos if possible, on your home page.  Make the navigation easy as pie, or cake.  Fill your lovely targeted pages with copy and content directed only at the audience for that page.  Have your main navigation bar always visible on the side to help others find what they need if that page doesn’t have it (help Dad discover Optimus instead of Bridezilla).
  2. Write about your various skills in your blog and create categories with lots of keyword tags.  Register your blog on Technorati and hook it up to a Twitter feed, if you have the time to post something to Twitter (or “tweet”) an average of once a day.
  3. You research keywords on the Internet and find out what people are searching for – bless you Google Keywords Tool – then you put some of those keywords on your pages along with great, educational, informative content.  In your own style.  Polished but approachable. 
  4. If you post any ads online, link them to special landing pages just for those customers (your designer will know how to do this, or you can just set up a separate tab in your blog or on the site template and DIY), and add in a promotional code you can track or a coupon they can print and bring in, so you know it’s working. 
  5. Measurement is important (see step 4), which is why you should also visit Google Analytics and register your site so you can look at who is visiting your page, where they are coming from, and how long they stay.  Then you can play around with the site and see if more videos, more photos, or different headlines make a difference. 

 

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Chris Brogan’s Batman Formula for Branding

Chris Brogan’s blog post Personal Branding Basics for 2011 offers pop culture pearls of wisdom for both individuals and businesses, managing to work in Batman as metaphor and, in contrast (or perhaps not), a little Madonna for effect – she is the quintessential brand reinventor of pop culture and a superhero to some Gen X ladies, after all.  It’s an entertaining read even if you’re not into branding, but the post reminds us of some important considerations regarding names (not gimmicks), content, action, and tools – as in not getting overly caught up in the tools you use to put yourself out there.

I am Batman

I am Batman, by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

Brogan’s formula for success is common sense, but contains elements and calculations we often forget in the mad rush to keep up with the Big Brands. And there’s an overarching theme about helping others, which is already a focus for many community-oriented businesses and individuals out there, but still isn’t the overarching principle it should be in the 21st century, given all our talk about talented free agents, right-brained thinkers, cultural creatives, and other revolutionaries.

Probably the most important bit of advice from Brogan: Figure out your promise and execute.  That means action, and not a lot of talking about action.  Doing can be a problem for many folks, especially in businesses that require multitudes of checks and balances and that have a hard time with transparency (e.g., not letting employees on Facebook for fear of what they’ll say).  And we all talk about that novel we’re “working on” that never quite comes to fruition.  Maybe it’s perfectionism, but this market moves at light speed and if we think too long about acting, the opportunity evaporates.

Speaking of light and speed, Brogan points out, “Batman showed up every time the signal was lit. He seemed to be everywhere to stop crime and to build momentum on the fact that crime wasn’t a good idea in Gotham City.” So act on your promise and be everywhere.  Great advice for anyone, individual or company.  And Batman’s a stellar role model, maybe minus the vengeance thing.

So here’s the formula:

“You want to crush it in branding?” says Brogan.  “Focus on:

1. experimenting to improve your abilities,
2. executing to bring your promise into the real world, and
3. telling stories by making useful media to build relationships with your buyers and supporters.

That’s where you’ll see your rewards. Repeat, repeat, repeat.”  No rinsing required.  Armored rubber suit optional.

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Guerilla Marketing Inspiration

Guerilla marketing, the tactic of pulling stunts to get attention for your brand, is a prime way to stand out from the crowded marketplace.  Sometimes it even saves money compared to traditional advertising.  Barter, trade, or donate, and allow  your audience to participate in your fun.

There are five excellent specimens of guerilla marketing campaigns for inspiration highlighted on Smarta.  IKEA places thousands of picnic blankets and baskets in Central Park (as well as furnishings all over New York City) to remind people of the way design makes life better.  Half.com gets a town to rename itself after the brand for a year, provides booty for residents.  T-Mobile starts a disco in London’s Liverpool Street Station and airs it on a TV commercial.

What can your brand do?  Think about your mission and your audience.  What would they respond to?  Are you trying to stamp out carbon footprints?  What are some stunts that could help your cause?  Think giant feet in the town square, hot air balloons, or stickers on everyone’s meter boxes.  Think big, and don’t censor yourself until you get to logistics and costs.  Let the ideas fly first – you never know.  I mean, who would have thought that a town would agree to rename itself after a dot com?

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Personal Branding For Business – Brilliant, Not Backwards

Personal branding, the science of establishing a brand identity for individuals, usually related to career/professional development.  The personal brand idea is taken from what companies have been doing since the dawn of capitalism, and an individual uses these principles to find a way to stand out from the crowd, figure out what value he or she adds, presenting a consistent personality online to develop a reputation in this space of too-much-information.

I’ve been reading quite a bit about personal branding lately; as a marketer, it fascinates me.  And I realized that some of the tenets of this practice are employing major principles of marketing that have atrophied in business, principles which need to be reexamined if brands are going to survive.

Me, Inc.The following is a list of 10 reasons individuals, especially job seekers, should be concerned with personal branding.  It comes from personalbrandingblog.com, the brain child of Dan Schawbel, one of the current proponents of the field, and author of Me 2.0.  I took these principles and turned them right back around to business branding, because businesses often seem confused in their Web content and social media strategy, as well as branding as a company-life-long effort. Which technologies to use?  What kind of content?  What does our audience want from us?   The information below is taken directly from Schawbel’s blog. I’ve added my comments in italics.

 1. Generations are colliding online

Facebook started out as a hang out place for college students, but now we’re seeing older generations adopt social networking. Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010. This means that communication between age groups is occurring more and more each day, and your audience is changing rapidly. Entire families are interacting online and 70% of parents friend their kids. You have to be aware of your audience and the content you’re publishing because if they don’t match, it can have a negative effect on your personal brand.

Understand your audience. What are the demographics of the largest portions of your customers?  Don’t exclude older users from technology tools, including social media.  And consider your content and how it relates to them. 

2. Your online reputation can make or break you

Your brand is on the line, wherever your name and face is seen. Clients, managers and other professional stakeholders in your life have access to what you post publicly on the net. You can even lose your job over blog comments or attacks from people that already have a negative view on your reputation. For instance, Madhu Yarlagadda was hired by Skype as the new Chief Development Officer, and after a TechCrunch blog post, people came out of the woodwork to expose Madhu. Skype replaced him after a month of employment….

The brand of your employees matters as much as your company’s brand.  You must consider what your people are publishing, and encourage them to develop their own brands as experts in your industry, especially the execs.  And watch out for negativity.  Have policies in place about commenting or responding on blogs!  Transparency is great for business, so you don’t want to have too many watchdogs, but there ought to be some guidelines for avoiding bad publicity traps.

3. Employers are reviewing your online personal brand …

Almost every website on the planet has a search engine component to it and employers are using them to find more information about you.… Make sure your personal brand is consistent and up-to-date.

Make no mistake, people are Googling your company.  With the dollar tighter than ever, people want to know they’re making the right choice when they spend their money.   Check your Google results, and your online reputation.  Make sure it’s consistent with how you want to be perceived. The challenge is always aligning audience perceptions with your own, and how you wish to be seen.  It’s a give and take, but you can help it along with the right Web content, professional profiles, and SEO.

4. Perception (how we present ourselves) is king

It’s the little things that count, whether you’re in an interview, or interacting with people online. A CareerBuilder survey states that 67% of hiring managers say that failure to make eye contact would make them less likely to hire a job candidate and 38% said lack of smile. People will judge you on small things that make a big difference. By being professional, using good eye contact, shaking someone’s hand, having good posture, and using appropriate images online, you will be more successful when communicating with others.

Your customers will judge you on the small stuff, too.  Make sure you’re portraying your brand in a light that engages with your particular audience.  Know who that is.  If it’s a family friendly atmosphere you want, smile in all your photos, talk about your kids in your blog posts, and provide Web content related to child safety or education.  People need to perceive that you are who you say you are, and the tone in your blog and even the way you answer the phone matters.  Tell your employees to always answer the same way, with a smile – others can hear it. 

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Metaphorical Content: Connect Radically Different Concepts to Generate New Ideas

Everything’s already been done, right?  Not exactly.  Brands – and individuals, really – need to get in the habit of seeing the patterns that play out in daily life and information trends while making creative leaps to connect ideas that haven’t been connected before. 

In other words, take two completely unrelated concepts and link them together to create a new idea.  In the world of writing, that’s basically the definition of a metaphor.  You’re illustrating concepts and creating visual images in people’s minds by steering away from cliché and creating your own offbeat comparisons.

This Renegade Hipster post uses old war posters as ½ of the equation, with

If Social Media Was Around for the World Wars

their censorship/Big Brother concepts glaringly highlighted.  The contrast?  Social Media.  Google and Twitter in the Age of World War.  What would that look like?  Someone’s imagined it for you, and created an interesting concept worthy of further thought. 

And isn’t that what you’re trying to do with your content?  Engage readers? Get them to think about your brand and remember it when they need you?

The idea makes social commentary (possibly) while using contrast to highlight connections and patterns in the history of communication – and war.  Designers use contrast all the time to make a point, to create new connections, to revamp the old, to generate ideas.  We should all take the time to create some new connections in our brand identity and content.

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Brand Equality: Can Human Rights (and Other Ideals) Be a Brand?

Branding is entering some new territory these days. Maybe not entirely uncharted, but sketchy and undermapped. We’re at the point in history where we are designing logos for concepts instead of organizations, and I’m intrigued to see where it goes.

On Fast Company’s design site, science and technology writer John Pavlus explores the international collaborative effort to design a logo for human rights. He writes that the concept isn’t well enough articulated to elicit a strong logo, and he may be right. But there are some pretty well articulated organizations getting involved, including judging by the UN itself, and the contest on humanrightslogo.net is using an increasingly popular crowdsourcing strategy to gather designs that might be able to pinpoint the issue. (See examples of logo entries below and in more detail on Mashable.)

Logo submissions for humanrightslogo.net contest from mashable.com

It could happen. The Human Rights Campaign for LGBT equality gained traction with their yellow equal sign on a dark blue background, and I still see the stickers on cars everywhere. As Pavlus mentions, the recycling symbol is another good example of a concept logo, and is devoid of intellectual property or copyright issues. He riffs that recycling is a concrete concept as opposed to the rather diffuse idea of human rights, and there may be a point there. The HRC defined a group of people as the target. Another equality campaign, the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA Yes” green and white logo), is pushing for a particular piece of legislation, both concepts a little easier to wrap one’s head around than a nebulous idea of human rights.

Is there an agreed-upon definition of what constitutes human rights as far as the humanrightslogo.net folks are concerned? Maybe not, but there are probably a few basic tenets we can all support. And since the UN is part of the package, there are no doubt many high minds working on a definition.

Regardless, the whole idea behind the logo, as well as its rather impressive list of participants, may be enough to draw attention to an issue, which is sometimes an important end-goal in itself.

On a less lofty but still important issue, the new USDA food plate sans pyramid demonstrates mass recognition of the idea that easier to digest (pun intended) concepts with quick visual cues are just better for developed countries’ lifestyles at this juncture. These representations raise the point that our society is becoming more visual and more attention-deficient due to constant information saturation, and reminds us that easy visual cues like logos still have weight in branding.

Something an individual can virtually hold in his or her hand allows for easier brand digestion, and color and design often do have more impact than words. So much the better if the concept they represent contributes to humanity in some fashion. Design might just save the world after all.

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The UVP is Dead? Or, Go 007 to Give Your Brand An Actual Personality

In a fascinating article entitled “Does Your Brand Have a Lame Personality?” on Talent Zoo, Tommy Walker starts out seemingly contradicting some of the basic tenets of branding that I have posted here on Royal Pain.  Shocked and dismayed, I read the article voraciously, trying to discern if there was some new idea in branding that I hadn’t seen coming.  Has the UVP (Unique Value Proposition) been replaced with a multifaceted personality that works with different audiences in different ways?  Maybe.  But by the end of the article, I breathed a sigh of relief, for my foundation had not been rattled.  Emboldened definitely, but not shaken.

I am intrigued by the concept Walker raised of being a “living, breathing” brand, just as a person has many aspects to his or her personality.  He asks, “[D]o all of your friends like you for the same reason?” It is worth pondering how the many faces of Eve can happily coexist in a brand that still manages to define itself.  And finding the answer to this puzzle as well as why those friends do actually like you is where the 007 bit comes in.

But before we get to that: the UVP.  I’m not quite ready to do away with it.  I still think that you should choose a genre and customer personality that best fits you and commit to something, because the worst kind of person is the chameleon who puts on a different show with everyone he meets.

However, if you take Walker’s meaning as a nod to the way we present ourselves a little differently at home than at work, or the way we might love to attend the indie crafts market and show off our tattoos, but we also have a hard-driving business side that feels equally comfortable in a good suit… Read the rest of this entry »

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