Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Question of the Week: What’s the Difference Between Brand Identity and Brand Personality?

Thanks so much for asking.

There’s a good chance you’re familiar with brand identity already. And if you are, you can just skip to the brand personality subheading below. (Go ahead, ya show off.)

But if not, or if you'd simply like a review, we’ll break it down for you.

What Is Brand Identity?

You may well have the coolest logo or most dazzling home page  imaginable. You might have both. But they alone (or even together) do not a brand identity make. 

For a brand to be appealing, recognizable, and easily remembered, it needs contextual finesse. THIS is its identity.

It’s that thing that helps the consumer instantly recognize the brand. So, for instance, if we were to say “pink mustache,” what brand is called to mind? If you said something like "Elton John," that's a darn good answer. Though a formidable force, he's technically not a brand. (He's a knight.) 

At any rate, you might have immediately said, "Lyft," as most people in their 20s and 30s would. And that’s the target audience to whom Lyft is primarily catering. 

See, Lyft was smart. They came along to challenge Uber at a time when Uber was coming across as dark and elitist. Lyft built their brand identity on differentiation. They started by making their brand color hot pink. The pink mustache grew from there. They hired friendly community drivers that emphasized more laid back and communal elements. All the while, they grew their customer base and increased brand recognition.    

Basically, a brand’s logo, tagline, fonts and color all act towards creating a brand’s identity. And a brand identity is vital. It sets a company apart from its competition and establishes a connection in the minds of the customers. It’s the face of the company. (Or at least the mustache.) 

It represents the company’s services, mission and values.

According to media researcher Nielsen, 60 percent of consumers prefer to shop from brands they already know. So brand recognition keeps old customers coming back.

But there’s another part of the brand that’s equally vital to your marketing strategy. And that’s its personality.

What is Brand Personality?

(If you skipped the above, thanks for joining us again.)  

Let’s say you’re looking for socks. Do you want Merino wool
socks in a classic pattern that will keep your feet warm? Or do you want something purely aesthetic (like sloths or clowns or hot dogs) with no concern for utility? 

We probably all know which of these socks you will find at L.L. Bean. And they don’t involve tube steaks. Or tube socks, for that matter.

L.L. Bean would prefer a hike in the woods to a drive in the city, a worn-in sweater to a sharp business suit, a picnic to a power lunch. “Come on, L.L. Let’s go for a swim in the fishing hole, then cozy up to the fire with some hot chocolate afterward.”

This is L.L. Bean's brand personality. It has been built through years of development of its brand. And while the brand identity might change through different life cycles, the personality will stay mostly the same. 

Much like humans. And it makes sense.

Because in essence, brand personality is a set of feelings, emotions and qualities ascribed to a brand. And quite often, a brand’s personality reflects that of its target customers.

Brand Identity Exists with Brand Personality

Brand identity is like the logical aspect of the brand, while brand personality is the emotional component. It’s like brand identity is from Mars, and brand personality is from Venus. Or maybe the other way around... however all of that works.

Whatever the case, each is a distinctive entity that needs to endure over the long haul. 

So what is your brand’s identity and personality? If your brand were human, would you want to hang out with it? We hope so. Because that’s the idea. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Mistakes to Avoid in Logo Design

Ah, the logo.

It might be small, but it speaks volumes about your company.

So whether it’s a new design or a redesign - and whether you’re doing it yourself or having someone else do it -  here are things you’ll want to avoid.

Following Trends 

You’ve seen the trendy logo. It’s hip, it’s now, it’s what all the cool kids are wearing on their droopy hats.

Then a year later it’s weird, it’s dated and looks like it was plucked from a time capsule filled with droopy hats. 

Seasoned designers know that a logo needs to be timeless. And they have the know-how and savvy to make it so. 

Yep. Nothing screams amateur designer like a trendy logo.

Copying Successful Brands

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Maybe. But out-and-out aping someone else’s design is NOT flattering. Honestly, it’s lame. 

And it could be illegal. So don’t be a scofflaw. 

Continuing the Love Affair with Stock Images

Look. Those stock images were just not that into you. So let them go.

They’re players. They get around. In other words, they’ve been used in multiple designs already. And your insistence on showing up with them makes you look sub-standard, unprofessional and, well, desperate. 

And yeah, they knew how to use you. But if you don’t know how to use them - i.e. which ones are to be used strictly for business and which for pleasure -  you could be facing legal issues. It’s over.

Walk away.

Insisting upon Being Cute/Clever/Complicated

Here’s the deal. You should aim to have your logo be easily recognizable.

You should NOT aim to have yourself be easily recognizable as an under-appreciated yet rising “artiste”.

Your logo isn’t trying to be the Sistine Ceiling. It needs to be
simple. It should communicate as much as it can muster, but with as little as possible. 

There’s no point in a super creative logo that nobody recognizes. So ask yourself, “which parts can I cut out of the Sistine Ceiling and still have it work?” (I think we all know the obvious answer.) 

The easier the shape, the better.

Believing the Customer (Client) Is Always Right

Many are the clients who fancy themselves “creative” because their painting placed second in their high school art show and they still wonder what would have happened had they pursued that particular (lack of) career path.

But also be careful of allowing the client WITH a creative background to take control of the design. They can quickly move from backseat designer to taking the wheel and driving your logo right over a cliff. 

Ignoring the Unconscious Mind

Colors and shapes communicate all manner of things. And what they’re communicating might not be obvious to you.

For instance, edgy and sharp shapes convey masculinity, while rounder and soft shapes are associated with femininity. This is further whittled down to say that serious and driven companies will fare well with those sharper shapes, while more family-oriented companies do better with roundness. 

Yeah, it’s sexist and cliché, but it’s where we are. And designers need to be aware of this.  

Same thing with colors.

In fact, there’s a whole psychology of colors and each hue is associated with different qualities and feelings. 

The main caveat here is to REALLY look at the logo to be sure there aren’t any unintended symbols or colors. And hand it over to as many other people as you can. Because you might not see that the playful shape and bright color you’re using for that toy company logo shares a frightening likeness with a bloodied Chinese throwing star.

But somebody else will.

Misunderstanding Your Audience

As mentioned above, you want to be aware of how different colors and shapes are connected with different gender associations and psychological stirrings.

THAT being said, make no assumptions.

Not all women aged 25-50 are into shopping and martinis and awesome cleaning products, any more than all men aged 25-50 are all about sports and beer and power tools.

Do the homework. Carry out sufficient research into the market. Stay in contact with your client and get familiar with how they want to be portrayed to their audience. 

Not Using Scalable Graphics

In the past, logo designs used either raster or vector images. 

But since the onslaught of the mobile generation, raster images have become SO 2015. That’s because they consist of pixels. And pixels don’t scale well. And logos need to scale correctly for their host device. And so there.

Vector graphics, however, feature precise points and can scale to any digital or print size without turning into a blurry mess. 

They’re also easier to edit so the designer can go straight into using them from initial sketches. 

Choosing Ineffective Fonts 

Fonts are another component of the design where the aim is
for timelessness. But that’s tricky. Because sometimes fonts fall out of favor for no apparent reason. (This isn’t always the case though. With fonts like Duff Wind and Countdown, the reasons are pretty obvious.)

So experienced designers know that they need to strike a balance between creating a unique visual and finding that timeless font that complements it. 

That’s no easy feat.  

Handing the Design off to Your Sister or Cousin

Did you happen to mention your need for a new logo over Thanksgiving dinner and some family member in art school volunteered to do it for you?  We sincerely hope you didn’t agree to this - driven, as countless other bad decisions are, by your tryptophan-addled brain.

Aside from the obvious pitfalls that come with working with family, you don’t want your logo design handled by someone with just a basic idea of graphic design.

Designing a logo requires more than a knowledge of just graphics. It involves strategizing, planning and an understanding of branding. 

A Good Logo is Complicated

Like quantum physics. Or relationships.

Yeah, you can zip on over to one of those online logo makers and sort through their templates and get ideas from their automated robot designer. (It’s not as Jetsons cool as it sounds.)  And that might be an okay place to start.

But eventually, you’ll want your logo to be created by someone with knowledge and expertise. Someone who understands both design and branding

Someone who’s not an automated robot designer.

Because your business deserves more. And frankly, so do you.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Question of the Week: What Makes for Good Content on My Company Blog?

It’s been said that content is the spark that ignites an effective marketing strategy

It was probably said by a writer.

At any rate, content is critical in drawing readers to your site and keeping them there. So if you can establish a solid foundation with great content, the rest can be built upon that. 

#1. Blog Content Is Informative

Let’s say your company sells lightbulbs. All kinds of lightbulbs.

People who land on your website are probably on a quest for lightbulbs. And they might have burning (no pun intended) questions about lightbulbs for which they’re seeking the answers.

You are there to show them the light. (Pun intended.) Present yourself as an authority on the topic.

The content on your blog should provide useful information to the reader. It should teach them a thing or two about lightbulbs. Or at least give an answer to a question they might have. For example, 3 Fascinating Things You Didn’t Know about Lightbulbs. 

BUT, you also want to consider content that tells people why buying lightbulbs from YOU is the best idea in the world. Such as 6 Reasons Why Our Super Bulb Is Better Than the Sun. 

Just be ready to substantiate any claim you make. 

#2. Blog Content Is Relevant 

This is one of the most important rules.

Yeah, relevant in this case means that if you’re selling roofing services, then your blog isn’t populated by articles on the right nail polish color or picking the perfect collar for your ferret. 

But relevance also refers to knowing your target audience and writing to that audience. A lofty dissertation on the merits of solar panels on your roof will fare well on a website committed to renewable energy and visited by the ecologically-inclined. But regular visitors to a site for roofing services will get far more from the knowing the benefits of lighter vs. darker colored shingles for a roof. 

Writing relevant content comes down to research. The writer needs to know enough about the subject, as well as for whom it is being written in order to make it relevant to both. 

#3. Blog Content Is INTERESTING

Who’s reading your content? Real people. Like this woman right here. 

So while information and relevancy are important, they’re not going to keep readers engaged if the writing echoes a textbook chapter on the diversification of trilobites during the Ordovician period. In order to keep their attention, the content needs to be interesting.

But what interests people?

Contrary to what some news outlets say, people like facts. They also dig statistics, metaphors, analogies and funny anecdotes. So these are fantastic ways to keep people interested in what they’re reading. For example, you might employ a sentence like this: 

Did you know that 94% of blog readers sharpen their minds - much like the edge of a sword - while sitting on the toilet?  

Yeah, okay. That's a non-fact. Actually, it’s a blatant lie. But outside of that, the statement illustrates the other four items. So there’s that. 

Another thing to avoid is too much tech speak. Unless your blog is viewed exclusively by IT personnel who shrink from the light of day, best practice is to write in a conversational tone. You don’t need to dumb down the content. Just keep it readable.

And ditch the hoi polloi vocabulary. You can make a salient point without using words like hoi polloi. And salient.

Keep Your Blog Content Real

The easiest thing to do is regularly read the content on your blog. Ask yourself - is it informative, relevant, interesting? 

If not, what can you do to change it? (You can always hire a blog writer to give you steady and reliable content!)

Because if you don’t want to read you own content, nobody else will. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Question of the Week: How Do I Build Brand Loyalty?

You’ve worked hard. You’ve done the marketing, run the ads, given away some free stuff. As such, you’ve landed some customers. But don’t settle into the hammock just yet. This is no time to breathe easy, friend. 

Because now it’s essential you keep them coming back.

Building Brand Loyalty Takes Work

And even more so with the presence of the all-encompassing gigantic discount mall called the internet.

Yep. Your customers might love your stellar product or service. But what can you do to keep them from wandering to the internet to find a similar product at a cheaper price, in a different color, with faster shipping?

Here are some tried and true ways to build brand loyalty.

1. Maintain High Quality

If your customers are loving on the quality of your product, then don’t change it for something more inexpensive. Sure, they may experience the thrill of finding a comparable product at a cheaper price. But when the quality is lacking, that thrill is soon gone. 

And then they’ll come back to you.  

2. Engage, Engage, Engage

Do you know what brand recall is? (Hint - It’s not when they pull your brand from the shelves because of a salmonella scare.)

This term refers to your customers’ ability to see your message and immediately identify your product or service with your brand name. 

And this is done by keeping them engaged.

No one wants to be merely an order number.

Building your brand means building momentum through communication. Let your customers know about new and exciting developments and  offerings. Keep them abreast of “what’s next.” Ask their opinions: 

  • How was your experience?
  • Were you satisfied with customer service?
  • Did the product or service meet your expectations?

Let them know that you’re listening and that you care about their experiences and/or concerns.

You can also proactively engage with your website customers through a live chat platform. This provides a personalized reply to their queries with almost no waiting time. A big plus in this “just add water and stir” world of instant gratification.

3. Remain Relevant 

What’s your competition up to these days? 

If you just shrugged and said, “Dunno,” then get out there and take a look. Monitoring the competition is how you stay up-to-date with the current trends in your industry. And to stay relevant, your marketing and communications strategy should reflect this. 

Otherwise you can expect about as much success from those efforts as selling yoga pants in a coal mine. 

4. Give Them Incentives

Another reason to stay vigilant of your competition is so you can provide incentives for consumers to return to your company instead of going to them. 

This can be achieved through insider discounts, special status, gifts with a purchase or complimentary shipping, for example. Anything to create added value and a sense of privilege. People love to feel special and to belong.

It could even be something as simple as a loyalty reward card. After all, what’s in YOUR wallet? We’re guessing at least a couple of those cards. 

5. Provide the Luxury of Choice

“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

Obviously this worked for Henry Ford. But unless you’re selling something so rare and unique that it can’t be found anywhere else in the world, it isn’t gonna work for you.

These are fiercely competitive times. 

So even if you don’t have the funds from the get-go, once your product gains popularity, consider creating variations to suit different tastes. Yeah, we’re talking about different colors, styles and sizes. But we’re also talking about offering a choice when it comes to shipping and payment methods too. 

6. Say Thank You!

You probably heard this from your parents or caregivers a lot. 

And regardless of all the other things they said that may have led you astray, turns out this one was valuable advice. 

In an effort to remain all business, companies often forget to
extend a simple thank you for their customers’ business. So wish your customers a happy birthday, some jolly holidays and a rocking new year. And thank them for their patronage.

Customers in every industry - from florists to toy-makers to steel-workers - appreciate this extra human element. Even if they pretend they're not the mushy type. 

Brand Loyalty Means Going the Extra Mile

Does your first repeat purchase mean anything to you? What about the third transaction? The fourth?

(Your answer should be yes.) 

Customer loyalty is invaluable. So exceed expectations. Do what it takes (within reason, of course) to make your customers feel valued. Because they are.

And if you do, they’ll return the favor. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

How Mobile, Social, Cloud and AI Tech Are Changing the Face of Marketing

Consumers are demanding a lot of personalized attention these days. Like a world full of cranky, hungry toddlers. As such, marketers have had to get clever about appeasing them. And a box of animal crackers ain’t gonna cut it.

Here’s the nitty gritty - the power has shifted to the consumers. They expect every experience to be curated specifically to them in each moment. What’s more, it’s no longer unreasonable for them to have these expectations. 

Mostly because they’re getting their needs met. 

Smart Brands Realize the Power of the Consumer

It is the consumer who decides when, where, how and in what way they’re going engage with a brand. And when they do, the experience had better be consistent, seamless and relevant across all touch points. Otherwise, heads are gonna fly. Or, more accurately, consumers will ignore you - which one could argue is just as fatal to your business as decapitation.

So that’s why the vast majority of top marketers are focusing on customer experience. They’re delivering exceptional experiences based on everything they know and learn about their customers, and then engaging them across all channels.

And we mean, ALL channels.

Mobile as a Mogul

There are now more mobile devices in the world than there are people. We won’t venture to guess how many of them are smarter than humans. Some humans, at least. 

The point is, consumers have made a big shift toward mobile channels. 

It’s how they check their email, find out how many “Likes” they got on their latest Facebook post and buy their ball bearings. Or whatever. It’s pretty much the new norm. And this fact has not escaped shrewd advertisers.  

The closeness and increased engagement of mobile gives companies some serious advantages. Marketers are now able to reach consumers with personalized messages and offers in real time. After all, a mobile phone is essentially a tracking device. So companies can advertise to consumers based on their interests, preferences and even physical

Mobile is no longer an option for marketers—it’s a requirement.

Everybody’s Talking

For better or worse, there’s no escaping social media. 

And if you're running a business and dodging it in some attempt to be a loner and a maverick, you’re losing out. Because social media is vital for product discovery, sales and customer care. As such, an overwhelming number of marketers say their companies use social media marketing to drive business ROI.

If you’re still turning your head away and cringing, we encourage to turn to your screen and face it head on. Because here’s the thing - social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat are more than just places to show off your child’s first day of school or what you’re having for breakfast. 

They give companies a load of information about who people are and what makes them tick. And that makes them a valuable part of any successful marketing strategy. 

But if you’d rather skip that whole driving awareness and sales thing for your company, then re-avert your gaze. That’s your business. (Though probably not for much longer.)

The Mysterious Cloud 

Not long ago, clouds were merely puffy white shapes in the sky. People would stare up at them and - as if suddenly engaged in some sort of self-administered Rorschach test - they’d call out what they saw. (An elephant, for instance. Or a chainsaw.)

And while clouds still float about in the sky doing impressions, THE cloud is more mysterious. It’s the “place” where super-sized tomes of information live. And it takes no space. 

This is the magic of cloud-based technology. 

It used to be that companies had to give up massive amounts of money and their first-born child to store all of their consumer data. There was clumsy hardware and software that had to be manually configured. And don’t even get us started on the big honkin' servers. It wasn’t pretty.

Plus, all of that fragmented information was susceptible to total annihilation by any number of vast and sundry natural disasters. 

But with cloud-based technologies, companies now have access to infinite computing resources without having to deal with a cumbersome infrastructure. Thus, managing consumer data is has become even easier than making ice. And without that pesky wait.

Add to that the fact that data and applications can be easily stored in a centralized location that’s accessed from anywhere and at any time, marketers are happy as pigs in mud. Pigs in mud that are able to use consumer data easily and instantaneously to power personalized experiences across all those channels, that is. 

The Real Intelligence of Artificial Intelligence

Once upon a time - not all that long ago - marketers relied on historical consumer information to figure out what customers wanted or needed. This information was gathered by manual and often annoying means - the telephone survey at dinner not being the least of which.

But these days, it’s all about AI tools. 

Unlike the tool that was calling you during dinner to ask your opinion on tube socks, the AI tool collects data to learn from past consumer  behavior. Through algorithms, it draws insights from massive amounts of data to see patterns emerge. 

For example, it can quickly identify the sentiment in a
brand’s social media feed or determine the precise sequence of mobile messages or email that drive a consumer’s behavior. And you won’t even have to put down your fork.  

With AI, companies are getting more from their data and able to personalize their marketing efforts like never before. 

Anticipating Consumer Needs through Data 

This is what it all comes down to. And it’s been a real game changer.

Brands that want to survive need to engage consumers with personalized, real-time content. And they need to do it across all channels.

This starts - and maybe even ends - with the ability to tap into the power of mobile, social, the cloud and AI.

Have at it.