November 12, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
Branding and brand development is an ongoing process.
No successful company—or one of its corresponding brands—has experienced continued success by resting on its laurels. Branding, like selling, is an evolving process.
A cohesive and comprehensive look is important for a successful brand. It is reflected in a logo, a set of colors, and the basic words that go along with your advertising and promotion.
If you have this part nailed down, great! But if you’re wondering how to pull these elements together, here are a few tips to consider before moving forward. In this installment, the focus is on logo and color.
Unless you have a degree in visual arts or graphic design, paired with an incredible threshold for constructive criticism, hire a graphic designer to create your logo and color scheme. Why? A graphic designer has the software and skill set to serve as an independent, objective voice in the creation of your look.
A good designer will take the time to talk to you about your business, your clients and the competition. You should expect to receive three to five options to mull over and tweak before settling on a final design. This designer also should provide you with a color and a black and white version of your logo (in .JPG and .EPS formats), as well as a set of colors that you can use with your logo.
You can do some homework before you meet with the graphic designer. Look at the logos and color schemes of your competitor and your industry. (For example, financial organizations love blue, because to them it represents stability, trust and loyalty.) It’s up to you to decide what you want to communicate to your customers. A designer will help you communicate that message.
Need some inspiration? Take note of the brands or products that you respect. What do they look like? What colors do they use? What do their ads looks like? Then think about how you could apply the same concepts to your brand.
A logo and color palette are the first pieces of the look. In my next blog, I’ll talk about how to develop a tagline and some basic written pieces that can be used side-by-side.
If you’d like to read the previous entries in our branding series, click here.
September 12, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
Take three of your marketing materials and lay them on a table. Can you tell they are from the same brand?
If so, you’re doing well with blending your brand into your marketing and promotions.
If not, don’t worry: You’ve got an opportunity.
This installment of our branding series is about promoting your brand; specifically, how to weave your brand identity into your marketing materials and campaigns. Promoting your brand is the proverbial cherry on top of your branding strategy sundae. It’s your final step of execution. If you’ve missed the previous brand steps, click here to read them now.
If you’ve been with me for my previous posts, you’ve probably taken the time to develop your brand, and ascribe characteristics like color and logos. A successful brand—like Starbucks—puts it together all the time to create a coherent message. The idea is that each time you touch a customer, you reflect your brand.
My colleague Courtney Redfern wrote about this in her recent blog about consumer touchpoints. In it, she points out that your clients expect to receive a consistent experience from you and your business in every interaction.
Promoting your brand is the same concept.
Every marketing piece needs a consistent use of logos, colors, fonts and tone of voice. When it’s all tied together, it creates visual shorthand or instant recognition for your reader. For example, when you see a yellow M on a red background, you immediately know that it is McDonald’s. That’s because McDonald’s has been successful at creating a visual identity.
If you’re having a hard time using your brand elements consistently, develop guidelines using these tips. Brand guidelines outline how and where to use your colors, fonts, logos and other elements. Just like the saying goes with goals, amazing things happen when you put actual pen to paper, and write them out.
The goal is to stay on message. Create consistency and your brand will become more recognizable over time.
August 6, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
Image is everything.
This phrase was popularized in a 1990 ad campaign for Canon. The 30-second commercial for the Canon Rebel featured tennis great Andre Agassi hitting balls, laying by the pool and hanging out on the Vegas strip. The spot ends with Agassi’s eyes peeking out from behind his sunglasses and stating, “Image is everything.”1
Even if the campaign didn’t cause shutterbugs to drop their Kodaks and Nikons in a rush to be more like Agassi, it did affect the vernacular in certain circles (mainly those who think about branding, logos, and company image).
So sit back and think about what your brand looks like. What is your image? What do people think when they see your marketing materials? Do your materials reflect you and your strengths as a financial professional?
In previous branding blog posts, I’ve written about the need to take inventory of your brand, and formulate a strategy. That strategy has to include your image.
The easiest place to start building an image is your logo. There are tons of resources on this. I found this blog (and it just happens to be the first to appear on my Google search) which is a great resource, http://www.creativebloq.com/graphic-design/pro-guide-logo-design-21221. Keep in mind that logo design, if done well, will cost you money. But it’s an investment that if done right, will pay returns for years.
Next you need to think about a tagline for your business. What’s a phrase that you can use to sum up your business or service? When developing this tagline, go back to your brand inventory and look for some of the key themes that speak to what your business is really about. Think about your ultimate purpose.
And finally, put some color with things. Pick one or two colors (which are likely to be found in your logo) and use them. Resist the urge to use every color in the Crayola box, and stick to the few that match your logo.
When it’s all put together, get some feedback. Show it to people and see what they think. Get their first impressions and make tweaks from there.
And then once it’s all put together, use your logo and tagline on all of your materials. Pound it into people’s heads. The goal is to create visual recognition, and get people to remember your look. But make sure you put some thought into it, and don’t just slap something together.
Because image is everything.
July 2, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
We’re at the midpoint of a six-part series on branding, and it’s time to talk strategy. (Break out the playbooks and dry-erase markers. It’s XXs and OOs time.)
The worksheet included a section on strategy, and posed the following questions:
- What is your company’s ultimate purpose?
- Do you have your company’s mission, vision or value proposition written down?
- Who is your ideal client?
- What is the most important element of your product/service?
If you are a budding student of the brand, you’ve already taken the time to write down the answers to these questions. All others must write “I will not water down my brand” 1,500 times on pieces of Mead wide-ruled notebook filler paper.
But seriously, the answers to these questions are crucial in helping develop a brand strategy. Your business may have several facets, but you don’t haphazardly focus on an element without developing a strategy. You have to know who you are to know where you are going.
McDonald’s executives aren’t likely to sit in a board room and talk about the little nut packets that come with hot-fudge sundaes. This is not the focus of their marketing efforts. Those nuts aren’t important enough to generate revenue and therefore, don’t warrant marketing dollars.
According to an April article in Forbes magazine, what’s really going on is, “McDonald’s continues to broaden its product portfolio by offering high quality coffee and healthy drinks (either through its traditional restaurants or the Cafés), competing head to head with Starbucks and local cafeterias—benefiting from local trends like austerity in Europe.”1
It’s hardly haphazard.
Just because you aren’t the world’s largest food chain, doesn’t mean that you can’t approach your branding and promotion with the same precision.
And take a serious look at the answers to the questions you’ve written down. Take some time to think about those answers, and how you incorporate them into the development and perpetuation of your brand.
Don’t break the playbook before it’s written.
June 18, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
The word audit makes most people grimace. It triggers an underlying fear of punishment. It’s similar to the feeling many teenagers experience when a parent enters their room to discover what really happens behind the sacred door.
It’s the fear that someone will see what you are doing and be disappointed.
But, conducting an audit on your brand can have a positive result. It helps unveil a true picture of your company as your customer sees it.
When is the last time that you sat down and honestly assessed your brand, and thought about how it relates to the customer experience? If you’re overdue, this blog and accompanying worksheet will help you complete a brand audit.
Sometimes the word brand is a catchall to describe the collateral used to promote your company (logos, colors, websites, merchandise) but the scope is wider. In my last blog, Branding and coffee; A supercharged combination, you learned that your brand is really your “promise”.
To know your brand requires an honest assessment. Strengths come to light, and opportunities become goals. And if you have an open mind, your business will grow.
Try this simplified process to help audit your current brand. Look at it from three perspectives:
- Strategy: What is your company’s ultimate purpose?
- Recognition: What does your company look like to the naked eye/new customer?
- Promotion: How will you tell the rest of the world about your brand?
Consider each perspective as a section of a triangle. Individually, the pieces aren’t very strong. Collectively, they make up a cohesive and holistic brand strategy. Together they can withstand internal or external forces of change.
Now grab your laptop, download this worksheet, and conduct a brand audit. Get the basics on paper for now. We’ll get into the details in subsequent blog posts.
Just remember that no matter what you find, you’re not in trouble!
May 2, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
I think about Starbucks a lot.
I can’t tell you that it’s only because I love their coffee. It’s not that simple.
I’m in love with the Starbucks brand, and the experience that comes with. Everything about the brand gets high praise from me: Packaging, merchandising, service standards, customer-rewards programs, human resources policies, their use of music, philanthropic endeavors and yes, even the coffee itself.
My friends might call it an obsession. But my love for the Starbucks brand has helped in my career; it’s helped me understand how a company can use its brand to cultivate and maintain customer loyalty. And Starbucks, like other companies that I respect, does it by offering an experience.
This blog kicks off a series of posts that I’ll be providing in the next few months about the importance of developing your brand. I’ll be talking about taking a brand inventory; developing a strategy; ways to increase recognition; and how to promote your brand.
But before we move on, let’s talk about the word itself.
There are thousands of definitions of the word brand. Here’s one that I particularly like from Alina Wheeler’s “Designing Brand Identity” (Second edition, 2006):
“The brand is the promise, the big idea, and the expectations that reside in each customer’s mind about a product, service or company.”
I’m particularly fascinated with the word “promise.” A promise sets the stage for a customer in their decision-making process. If they like and trust your brand, they’ll make a purchase. If they don’t, they’ll buy from someone else. And in my little corner of the universe, it’s the experience that keeps me coming back.
Here’s a scenario to consider: I’m standing on the corner of a major metropolitan city and have the choice of Starbucks and another coffee shop in the same square-mile area. I’ll walk to the Starbucks every time. Why? I know that when I walk out, they will have done their best to meet my needs. I know that if my drink doesn’t taste right, they’ll make another one no questions asked. It will be familiar and comfortable.
They have hooked me to the point where if I’m pressed to make a decision on how to spend money on coffee, I’ll choose Starbucks.
This can apply to financial professionals. You may not be a billion dollar coffee empire, but your brand can contribute to your failures and successes.
In the next installment of this series, I’ll take you through some steps to take a solid inventory of your current brand, and then set you free to do the same.