Thanks For Making The Pit Stop!

Welcome to CF Branding & Design’s blog!  Here you’ll find posts tailored to small and medium sized businesses about branding, graphic design, advertising, marketing and social media.  When we find out something cool, we’ll post about it here and tell you why!  We’ll also offer tips, suggestions and strategies along the way…all to help you understand the value of good business branding in today’s social marketing world.

Just for fun…do you know what the ‘CF’ in CF Branding & Design stands for?  Hint:  It’s not owner and CEO’s name, Cari Flowers!  Give us your guesses in the comments…

DO YOUR MARKETING MATERIALS REFLECT THE QUALITY OF YOUR PRODUCTS & SERVICES?

kit carrierIf your marketing materials don’t reflect the same high quality of your products and/or services, you’re shooting yourself in the foot…and hurting your bottom line. Picture this:  You provide executive-level training at a high price point, say $1K per person.  You’ve been approached by a Fortune 500 company to submit a proposal with detailed information on a week-long training they want for their executive team.  You jump up and down, do your happy dance…and then what?  Send them info in a word document without any branding and/or graphics?  Hell to the no!  You’re a professional – you send your branded, high quality marketing kit with your proposal…

“You can say anything you want about your company’s high-quality products and services but if your marketing materials don’t reflect the same defined quality you’re going to be dead in the water.” -iCatch

Do you have to be corporate level to need this stuff?  No.  It’s all about perception and no matter what you do, you need to show that you’re worth it.  Take, for example, a chiropractic office.  Do you think they just sit there waiting for patients to come in?  Not the good ones.  They have consistent branding materials all over the place from brochures, rack cards, post cards and flyers to signage at bus stops, mall kiosks, and office locations.  Clients seeing these consistent, professional branding materials are much more likely to trust and go to these clinics.

Pro Rehab

What if you’re a restauranteur? You think just having a sign above your door is enough?  Nope.  Think menus, flyers, banners, rack cards, etc.  When customers see your consistent branding on everything, they’re more likely to trust that your food tastes great and is safe to eat, making them choose you over ‘that other place’.

uptown manhattan

“Marketing materials will always have a place in business simply because holding something tangible in your hands will always have a stronger effect that seeing it through a screen.” -iCatch

How about solo-preneurs? Don’t think you can skimp either!  You’re a motivational speaker helping folks get themselves and their businesses back on track – does that mean you don’t need professional looking marketing materials?  Well, if you’ve gotten this far you undoubtedly know the answer!  You need to think table cloths, banners, brochures, etc.  When attendees come to hear you speak, you want them to recognize you –  immediately.

uptown manhattan

Whatever it is that you do, from high-level corporate training to motivational speaking and everything in between – you must have professional, consistent branded marketing materials that honestly reflect the quality of your products and/or services. Plain and simple.

IS MARKETING REALLY THAT IMPORTANT? UH, YEAH.

You know, when times get tough, companies invariably cut their marketing budget. Why?  Because those involved just don’t get how important, especially in today’s consumer driven era, marketing is.  With people relating emotionally to everything – and a lot of it happening online – you have to maintain a consistent, authentic presence.  Additionally, for brick and mortars with local clients, you need to make sure that you have branded marketing materials.  All of it works together to promote your brand.  If you don’t do this – and all of it – it what will hamper your growth and affect your bottom line.  Now, more than ever, is when you need to focus on marketing!  So what are you to do if money is tight?  Here are some options…

Online

Make sure your brand is consistent across your social media platforms and website.

Consider, if you don’t already have one, creating a blog (which will have the same branding). Blogs help with your SEO and provide quality, company-specific content to feed into your social media.  This also helps to position you as an expert in your given field, promoting trust with consumers.

Advertising online can be much less expensive than print – and you control the purse strings. Especially consider Facebook and Google.  With them, you create your ad, put a limit of whatever you can afford, and the ad runs until your allotted amount is used up.  LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram are good options, too, based on the type of service/product you provide.

Offline

Depending on your business, you will always need office supplies. Why not create branded ones that can be given to customers?  Think pens, sticky notes, calendars, etc.  Most can be purchased at a very reasonable rate and something that you already need/use.

Marketing Materials

Branded apparel is a good option for employees…especially if they’re in front of customers a lot and/or out on the road.

clothing

Brochures and flyers, along with business cards, are great to place in different locations (with permission, of course) and usually don’t cost a penny to put there.

Collateral

Loyalty cards are the perfect option for getting folks to keep coming back.

loyalty card

Outsource

Another option to consider, depending on your budget, is to add a boutique firm to your expert ecosystem rather than hiring folks to handle all of the work in-house.  You’re saving time, money and headache.  Think about it…you’ll have an expert team who knows what to do and when without having to pay for benefits.  If you take a minute to crunch the numbers…it really is a great option to outsource – for a variety of things, but especially your marketing.

 

*Any and all links are provided base on use and/or research. I do not receive any compensation (monetarily or otherwise) by providing recommendations in my posts.

YOU HAVE YOUR LOGO – NOW WHAT? THE 4 STEPS YOU NEED TO TAKE

So, you finally have your perfect logo – the face of your brand – do your happy dance!  Now whatcha gonna do?  Get it out there – the right way…

Step 1:  Protect It

You’ve gone through a lot to get the perfect logo for your brand – the one that’s going to convey to consumers who you are and what you do. Because your logo is so awesome, others are going to want to copy it so you need to protect it – fast (especially those $5 logo ‘creators’ out there)!  Give serious consideration to registering your trademark.  While the US government doesn’t require you to register your trademark for it to be valid (i.e. simply adding the ‘TM’ to your logo), you will be best served by doing so.  Why?  Because then you can sue anyone who tries to copycat your logo.

Step 2:  Be Consistent

I know, I harp on this all of the time, but it’s the foundation of your branding campaign – consistency is key. Your logo needs to look the same no matter where it is or what it’s on.  And don’t forget your company colors.  They go hand-in-hand with your logo and your colors need to be reflected the same way throughout all of your marketing platforms – consistently.

consumer trust built consistency

Step 3:  Establish Brand Identity Guidelines

You need to establish your Brand Identity Guidelines and get it to your employees ASAP so that you can maintain consistency…here’s a handy checklist for you:

    • Set of digital files to include your logo in black & white, gray-scale and color in various formats (jpeg, png, etc.)
    • Specific colors (include the numbers no matter which system your using – CMYK, RGB, etc.)
    • List of specific fonts
    • Templates for letters, presentations, emails, etc.

Step 4:  Where Does It Go?

You’ve worked hard on creating the perfect logo to represent your brand…so where does it go?  Everywhere!  It needs to be on anything and everything that has to do with your business.  Why?  Because you’re building recognition, and the quickest/best way to do that is with your logo because, after all, we are visual creatures.

Printed Materials:

Business cards, letterhead, brochures, print ads, mailers, flyers, banners, posters, uniforms, any and all promotional items, etc.

Online:

Website (all pages – don’t forget the favicon!), social media, email signatures and blasts, banner and other ads, etc.

The gist here is, anywhere you think your business name should be is where you need to put your logo. Instant recognition is what it’s all about and the cornerstone of your brand.

 

 

Disclaimer:  Any and all links are provided based on use and/or research. I do not receive any compensation (monetarily or otherwise) by providing recommendations in my posts.

LOGOS – YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR – DON’T BE CHINTZY

One of the most important elements of your brand is your logo.  This is where you need to spend your marketing dollars…for a professional graphic designer who will listen to your story and provide you with a high quality logo symbolizing your brand.  Choosing to use a fly-by-night, $5 online company is not a good option and in this post, I’ll explain why.  Read on…

logo - eye tracking

What we (professional graphic designers) do…

Most folks have no idea what goes into creating a great logo for a brand – one that fits and tells your story visually.  Here’s a breakdown of what we do:

Communicate

We talk to clients; more importantly – we listen.  We find out what you and your brand are about so that we have the context we need to create your story graphically.

Research

We spend time researching… Who is your audience? What is the industry doing?  What do competitors’ logos look like?  Are there regional differences?

Brainstorm & Design

Based on the information we receive from our clients and the research we’ve done, we start the sketching and conceptualization process that flows into the design phase. This is where our education, experience and in-depth knowledge of the critical elements that go into designing the right logo for your brand (word vs. symbol, color, font and shape) shines.

Presentation

When the designs are ready (we generally provide a few different options), we present them to our clients for feedback. They make their choice and we revise as necessary – sometimes we tweak, sometimes we don’t; it’s all about how well we listened to the client, researched and designed.

Final Product

Once the finishing touches have been made, we then provide our clients with their high quality logo, in various formats that will work well with all areas of branding – digital/print, large/small, color/black & white, etc.

What they (cheap logo makers) do…

Logo - inconsistent design quote

What do the cheap, online logo makers do? They throw together some clip art with a standard font or two and send it to you.

Yep. That’s pretty much it – worse case scenario (almost…see below).  Best case scenario – you go a couple of rounds providing feedback and get a logo with a chance of a vector format being provided but it may not include all the files/elements you need and you won’t know because you don’t have the right software to open it.

Based on what I wrote above about what we do, there’s simply no way these folks who offer logos so cheaply can provide the level of quality and professionalism that an experienced designer gives you. Something else that you need to seriously consider…the potential for copyright infringement of clip art, photos, stolen logo concepts, artwork, etc.  It happens all too frequently online.  Here’s what one freelance designer said in a response to a complaint (one of many) made about a transaction with a separate ‘designer’ who stole the artwork he delivered to the client – directly from the Fiverr forum:

“I did a lot of research on Fiverr before starting my design gigs. I do a lot of freelance logo design and nothing ever will start under $500. There’s just a lot of research, time and skill going into to it… so I was shocked at the amount of people offering logo designs for $5, how could they be any good?

Well, they aren’t, most of them anyway! What I found out was that a lot of the logo “designers” on Fiverr are blatantly stealing. I found a huge amount of stolen work, some sellers are even taking work from some of the top designers out there, and then you scroll through their Fiverr gallery and the work they have delivered simply doesn’t compare!”

Now, there are a few decent freelance designers out there on these types of sites, however, it takes time to dig and find them. Do you have that luxury?  Remember…you get what you pay for…don’t be chintzy.

logo - remember the company

Want more info? Here are some links for you to check out…

Are Logos Really That Important for your brand? Hell to the Yes!

Just how important are logos in branding?  They’re the backbone, cornerstone, foundation…whatever analogy you want to use.  Why?  Because we are visual creatures.  Time and again science proves that we prefer pictures to text…and inherently visualize the text we read (imagining it in picture form).  So, when it comes to representing your business – your brand – your logo is the most significant thing you will create; it’s the face of your brand – your story. So, what do you need to know about creating the right logo for you?  Here’s an overview:

unique overdrawn

 

Keep it Simple: You don’t want a confusing, overly distracting design…your logo needs to be clean and simple so that it quickly and easily conveys who you are and what you do.

 

Recognize Relate

 

Make it Appropriate: You need to design your logo for your target audience so that it appeals to them directly and instantly.

 

art trouble

Make it Versatile: Your logo has to be functional and able to work across all platforms – online and in print.  In other words, it needs to be in vector format so that it can be scaled to any size without losing any quality.

 

recognized understood

 

Make it Memorable: Your logo needs to be remembered – and instantly recognized.

 

 

Right Forever

 

Make it Timeless: Your logo needs to endure…will it still be as effective in 10 or even 50 years?

 

 

Impressions connections

For most of us, great logos instantly connect us with a brand (and feeling) without the need for a name. An ill-conceived logo can very simply destroy your brand.  You need a logo that’s expertly designed which can reach your target audience and convey your brand’s worth – it’s that important and the holy grail for any business.

 

Branding 101: Wrap Up – Let’s Get Social

Wow…you made it! This is the last segment of my Branding 101 series where I’ll wrap everything up and talk, specifically, about how to socialize your brand.  If you missed any of the other segments, start here before reading this.

Let’s Recap…

Throughout this Branding 101 series you’ve been able to:

branding 101 storyYour Story – Its Promise

Gain an appreciation for what a brand story is, the science behind storytelling and why it’s critical and start creating your authentic story.

branding 101 perception5It’s All About Perception

Learn how to find out what perceptions are already out there about your brand.

branding 101 popularPersonality Matters

Define your brand’s personality.

 

branding 101 expectationsConsumer Expectations

Understand why it’s critical to not only meet but exceed consumer expectations.

Huty1913428It’s Elemental, My Dear Brander

Discover all of the elements that are part of your brand and why your logo is the cornerstone.

Ok, the recap is done, you’re ready to get out there and do it, right? So let’s get social.

How To Socialize Your Brand

Brand stat png

 

According to Social Media Examiner’s latest Social Media Marketing Industry Report, a whopping 90% of marketers said that social media is important to their business.  Well duh.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few years, you know that social media is the tool to build and maintain your brand and here’s why:

Benefits of Social Media MarketingSocial media marketing

I don’t need to go into this further (in this post anyway) because we all know it’s true so let’s move on to what you need to know right now about socializing your brand.

Carefully choose your social media platforms.  Do them all or do one or two…you need to take time to decide which platforms suit your brand best and how much time you have to dedicate to maintaining them:

social media platforms

Now obviously these are the biggies – but perhaps your brand has a niche market. Say you design custom homes – well then, Houzz would be the perfect platform for you!  Do a quick google search on what your niche market is along with the words ‘social media sites’.  Check out some of these platforms that might work for you.

Make your brand human (remember when I talked about brand personality?)  Here’s a great article with ideas and suggestions like including staff photos, encouraging employees to participate in social channels and being responsive to your consumers.  Which leads to…

Create valuable/shareable content.  Here are some excellent expert tips:

expert-tips-shareable-content

And you must take time to peruse and bookmark this article, 25 Ways to Create Shareable Content by Gini Dietrich.  She gives fantastic tips on creating brand-specific content that’s clickworthy.

Keep imagery consistent. Whatever you do, you’re telling your story…about your brand.  You know, the one with the look that’s part of the story?  Well, if you throw up a picture of rainbows and unicorns while talking about a ‘beat the peak’ alert because you own and electric co-op, that’s not going to jive with your consumers, right?  Keep it real.  Keep it consistent.  Keep it authentic.

Need more help figuring it out? Read this: The Smart Marketer’s Guide to Choosing a Social Media Niche: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding, Analyzing, and Testing The Best Platform For Your Business.

There’s a rabbit hole of information out there, one I’ve fallen into many times. So if you find yourself starting to fall down that same hole looking for answers, I’m here, just ask.  Thanks for taking the time to read this series.

Branding 101: Part 5 – It’s Elemental, My Dear Brander

Welcome back to my Branding 101 blog series! In the last segment I talked about consumer expectations and why they’re important.  In this post, I’m going to talk about all the other parts and pieces that are part of your brand – showcasing who you are.

What Are Brand Elements?

While your brand is partly intangible (the story, the personality, the expectations), equally important are the tangible visuals that depict it:

week 4 - thursday quote

 

Logo

Colors

Website

Social Media Pages

Ads

Collateral

Not only visual, there are the other senses to consider to make the whole…wait, what? Check this out from Marcia Stone of Element Three:

  • Theme Line – “The Quicker Picker Upper” is associated with Bounty; “Can you hear me now” is an important part of the Verizon brand. Theme lines like “Just do it.” for Nike or “Don’t leave home without it.” for American Express help to quickly state the brand position memorably. Great theme lines have a long run, too, rather than being changed every year. This allows brand communications to develop sub themes to help it come to life.
  • Shape – The distinctive shape of the Coca-Cola bottle or the Volkswagen Beetle are trademarked elements of those brands. Dyson’s vacuum cleaners feature a unique ball on which they can maneuver easily. The one-of-a-kind chunky Ugg boot has become a classic fashion item.
  • Graphics – The dynamic ribbon is also a trademarked part of Coca-Cola’s brand. Coach’s unique pattern of “C’s” emboldens the look of most of their products. Louis Vuitton’s stylized flower pattern makes their luggage uniquely identifiable. The red and tan plaid lining makes Burberry coats stand out from plainer competition.
  • Color – Owens-Corning is the only brand of fiberglass insulation that can be pink. UPS’s unique brown trucks and uniforms have become its trademarks. Sephora cashiers wear one black glove with which they handle products before giving them to customers.
  • Sound – A unique tune or set of notes like NBC’s chimes can denote a brand. A jingle may come to mind at the mention of a particular brand name. Think “Um um good” for Campbells or “What would you do for a Klondike bar?”
  • Movement – Lamborghini has trademarked the upward motion of its car doors. Apple launch a revolution of screen interaction when the motion of two fingers moving apart allowed users to enlarge images on their iPhones and iPods. The revolving motion within its suction chamber sets Dyson’s bagless vacuums apart from bagged vacuum brands.
  • Smell – Scents, such as the rose-jasmine-musk of Chanel No. 5 is trademarked.
  • Taste – KFC has trademarked its special recipe of 11 herbs and spices for fried chicken.

 

KEY TAKEAWAY: Brands can be represented in many ways that go beyond just a brand name or logo to involve all the senses, creating a richer, more memorable brand experience.

 

Why Do I Need Cohesive Brand Elements?

Cohesive Brand reasons

Your brand elements have to be cohesive and universal so that they are consistent. Your story, without these elements, will make consumers not ‘get you’ and most likely choose to do business elsewhere…with a brand that tells the whole story and resonates – consistently.  I keep using the word ‘consistent’ because I just can’t say it enough…it’s critical to a successful brand!

How Do I Create Consistent Brand Elements?

First and foremost, get your logo done – right. You need to work with a good graphic designer, whether in-house or from a boutique marketing firm that’s part of your expert ecosystem.  Why?  Because graphic designers know their stuff.  They know colors, fonts, etc. and can create the right visuals for your brand.  They’ll listen to your story and create it graphically.  This is the most important element of your brand.  Whether you have a lot of capital or not, this is where you need to spend your money.  Your logo is the backbone of your story and all other elements.

Here are some things to consider when deciding which direction to go for your logo:

perfect-logo-design-infographic-2

While most of us don’t have the marketing budgets of Apple, Coke or Disney, the infographic above by Company Folders shows you how important your logo is for your brand.  Don’t skimp or take the easy road!

Once your logo is set, you need to create consistent imaging across all media…both online and off. Your website needs to have your logo throughout and when consumers either click through or find you on your social media platforms, all of your headers need to have the same image branding.  When you get into your collateral and advertising (whether online or not), the same imaging and color scheme need to be present.  It has to be consistent (yes, I said it again) so that it continues to promote and build trust with your consumer base.

Here are some useful tips for you as you work on creating consistent platforms:

Beyond The Visual

Ok…now what? In the next segment (because this was a biggie), I’m going to show you how to socialize your brand!

Want even more information – or inspiration? Check out these links:

Branding 101: Part 4 – Consumer Expectations

Hello and welcome to the fourth segment in my Branding 101 blog series! In the previous segment I discussed brand personality – how it’s the human characteristics that consumers associate with your brand and hopefully you’re well on your way to figuring that out.  In this segment, I’m going to help you bridge the gap between your brand personality and consumer expectations because it’s the Age of the Consumer and they are feeling empowered thanks to the digital marketing explosion.

Why Are Consumer Expectations Important?

Consumers can find out just about anything and anyone at any time – online. And, depending on what they find, they’re going to start forming an opinion – positive or negative…and talk about it – socially.  You’ve spent a ton of time working on your branding…does it jive with your targeted consumer in a positive way?  Do you know what they expect from your company, product and/or services?  I’ve created this quick graphic that synopsizes a great article from CRM Magazine, quoting Robert Passikoff of Brand Key, that breaks it all down for you:

Consumer Experience

It’s all about the customer experience. The experience generates emotions which, in turn, create expectations.  Those expectations can either lead the consumer to purchase and talk about it OR it can create a rather dicey negative experience that they will most certainly discuss online – everywhere.  For obvious reasons, you want to focus on the former so that you can achieve higher profits and engender customer engagement and loyalty.

How do I Meet (and Exceed) Consumer Expectations?

This is the big one. You know you have to meet consumer expectations…more to the point, aim to exceed them.  As I was researching something else, I lucked across a fantastic article written by Joe Gagnon, Senior Vice-President and Global General Manager for all cloud solutions at Aspect Software, for MarketingProfs that answers this question so succinctly I almost shouted out loud.  Here’s the gist of Joe’s seven customer expectations that you need to exceed:

 

quote marks The relationship between customers and businesses has forever changed.quote marks 2

 

1.  Know Me – Context and data from every interaction should be carried over seamlessly to the next interaction, even if the customer switches channels or switches from self-service to live assistance.

2.  Make the customer experience mobile – A complete mobile customer experience must harness all channels available on a mobile device. Moreover, the vast majority (70%) of consumers would rather text than talk.

3.  Let me do it – Some 72% of customers prefer self-service over picking up the phone, and 91% would use self-service if it was available, according to IBM Retail Research.  The reality is that customer satisfaction is higher in a DIY model. We are much more forgiving of ourselves.

4.  Make it social – Consumers use social media to complain, ask for help, get opinions from peers, and escalate issues. The attractiveness for brands and consumers is in its inherent simplicity as a communication channel.

5.  Fit it into my life – Consumers don’t want to be constrained by business hours of operation anymore. They are on the go and conducting their business at every hour of the day.  As a result, brands should enable their customers to contact them at any hour of the day and on any medium they prefer.

6.  Save me time – Consumers have a sense of immediacy and are self-driven. They want it to happen now. No one is willing to tolerate a three-day wait for an email reply. They also have little patience for having to go through a contact center for simple queries that they could have solved themselves.

7.  Make me smarter – Consumers would prefer to be informed ahead of time if there is going to be a known change in service. Brands can proactively communicate with customers to inform them of order status messages, appointment and prescription reminders, service outage notifications, and other important messages depending on business needs.

part 4 - b

part 4 - a

part 4 - c

Here are a few more suggestions by Osmond Vitez of Demand Media in his article for the Houston Chronicle:

expectations

So what does this all boil down to? You have to listen to your customer, know what they want and need before they do and make it happen.  Be the leader, not the follower – and definitely not the one who has to play catch-up!

 

Want even more information? Then follow these links:

Improving Customer Experience by Leveraging Technology, Data and Analytics

6 Ways to Leverage Customer Experience for Revenue Growth

The Future Of Customer Experience: 10 Predictions For 2016 And Beyond

Consumer Expectations: The Forgotten Child

How Digital Marketing Has Changed Customer Expectations

 

 

All set and ready for the next step?  Then let’s talk about all the elements of your brand.

Branding 101: Part 3 – Personality Matters

Welcome back to Branding 101! In the last segment, I talked about perception – how to find out and understand what consumers perceive about your brand.  In this post, I’m going to discuss your brand’s personality and help you define it with the help of industry experts.

What is brand personality?

Brand personality is the set of human characteristics that consumers associate with your brand – and how it behaves. If you need a more in-depth description, check this out.

Why does my brand need a personality?

Simply put, your brand’s personality is what differentiates you from your competitors. And, it’s what engenders feelings in consumers.  Feelings.  That’s what gets folks interested in you and your products/services – especially when they identify with them.  Check out this brief article by Everett Bowes to understand more.

How do I determine my brand’s personality?

Here’s where we get to the crux of it – figuring out what your brand’s personality is. You’ve got to describe your brand as you would a person.  There are 5 main brand characteristics:

Personality traits

Based on your products/services and target consumer, where does your brand fit in? Think about it, then take this brand personality quiz by expert Pamela Wilson.  She breaks it down so easily and the quiz is fairly quick and simple.  Now, if you want to delve even deeper into defining your brand’s personality, then you must check out Kaye Putnam’s quiz that will help you with your ‘brandality’ (brand personality).  She comes at brand personality from a slightly different perspective, assigning and defining brand archetypes that, for some, will really resonate.

Want some different ways to define your brand’s personality? Then follow these links:

Big or small, new or old, brand personalities matter – if you don’t define it, someone else will – so get to it!

 

Ready for the next segment about consumer expectations?  Click here.