Why Blogging is Essential to Your Brand

It’s near the end of 2018, your business is running smoothly, your branding is on point, and you’re doing what you love… but you’re wondering: do I need a blog, too?

This is a common question from entrepreneurs, who usually have the same three obstacles: time, money, and not knowing what to write about.

The short answer? Yes, your business needs a blog.

You can skate by without one, but ultimately, the reasons to have one outweigh the time, effort, and money you might save by skipping it.

The basic reasons? You need to establish authority with two parties: Google and your target audience. Basically, it’s not enough to be an authority in your field. You need to make sure people know it, too.

At any given time, people are out there looking for information. And if you have it and you’re not making it available, you’re losing out!

Let’s Talk About Google

Google is one tool to get in front of an audience. Basically, to make use of it, you need to make yourself available, and that means putting out content that people are looking for.

Your goal with Google is to put out “lures” in the form of valuable information your target audience actually wants. This helps you to rank with Google, which rewards you with gradually higher and higher search result placement. The more valuable Google deems your info, the higher you’ll rank, and the greater audience you’ll reach.

Blogs are also great to use as part of your social media strategy, which also direct traffic your way. If you’re an authority in your field, you can also benefit from inbound links, which are simply when others reference your work. You can buy this kind of traffic, but building your reputation and attracting quality inbound links is key.

Your Brand’s Personality

You’ve spent so much time and effort designing your brand’s personality, and blogging is a great way to let it shine. “Humanizing” your brand to an audience helps make you more likeable, more authoritative, more relatable, more human. And that’s what resonates with customers and builds trust.

As you build trust, you gain authority. Think about where you go to find info you need right now, and why you go there. Is it a friend? A trusted mentor? A brand with history, authority, or pizzaz? It’s the same on the other side.

So What Do I Write About?

You’re a subject matter expert. You might be a good writer, too. That doesn’t mean you have to spend your own time writing. But you do want to mine your own experience for subjects or topics that will be relevant to your audience.

You may already be bursting with ideas. If you’re stumped, start by thinking about something you’ve explained in detail recently. How would you break it down simply for an audience?

Alternately, you can just jot down topics related to your discipline and come back to them a bit later. You can read other blogs for inspiration. You can imagine your platform as a way to talk about current events.

Really, the sky’s the limit.

Are you blogging now? Let us know how it’s going in the comments!

Is the latest Uber rebranding enough?

If you follow branding trends, you undoubtedly heard about the most recent Uber rebranding. They’ve replaced 2016’s odd, blue circuit board pattern with a simple, clean font, and in doing so, invited the opinion of every branding professional, designer, and enthusiast.
According to Fast Company, one of Wolff Olins’ primary goals was legibility. The old logo had caused problems both being viewed at higher rates of speed and distance and across languages. They wanted something clear and visible. They developed a typeface for the brand with this in mind. It’s worth reading into the thought that went into its creation with respect for these points.
But it’s difficult to see this rebrand as separate from the controversy the company is already well-known for. From “Boober” to spying on Beyoncè, to Trump ties, to sexual harassment, to a Google lawsuit, to Travis Kalanick, Uber has a significant reputation problem.
The question is, is yet another Uber rebranding—this rebranding—enough to help Uber move past it’s short, dramatic life? Maybe.

It’s a strategy.

It may appear like simply a bid to shed an old persona when the old one no longer serves, but there is a method to it.

“We tried to kick out all the micro-moments where trust was eroded,” says Forest Young, Creative Director at Wolff Olins, the agency who did the rebrand. This meant every moment where a rider couldn’t reconcile the old, atomic logo with the vehicle in front of them had to go. They had to re-create trust with customers in a tangible way, not from a high tower.

It’s not immune to criticism.

Our own creative team had mixed reactions. Some felt the changes were too safe and even safe to the point of disingenuous.  “The logo seems to get safer as their reputation gets worse”, one person said. “Design saves, but not if your vision and purpose are polluted by your actions” was another.  Some felt exasperation over the frequency leading to customer confusion, and some were disappointed they abandoned the old design. At the end of the day, it’s indisputably well-done. But whether or not it changes minds or eases suspicion is hard to predict.
Uber has an uphill challenge to undo the damage to their reputation. This rebrand may represent a step in that direction. It’s certainly clearer, less confusing, and more visible. But at the same time, rebranding too frequently may raise questions of credibility and instability.

Our 7 most popular branding blog posts

Fonts, mood boards, touchpoints, attributes: branding can be a complex process. If you’re new to branding, we’ve put together a list of some of our most popular branding blogs from the recent past to help you on your way.

How to make a mood board

Mood boards can be elusive. Most people more or less understand what they are, but are less clear on why they need one and what they can look forward to in the process. This post explains what a mood board is and what it does, when you should make a mood board, and how you can do so. This is a great starting point for those who are looking to crystallize the “mood” of their brand and a reference for those who are starting the Visual Identity process.

How to find a font that matches your personality

This is a fun, visual post breaking down 23 fonts you may or may not know. Fonts are critical to brand identity, and you need to know what kind of message your fonts might send. If you want to create an effective brand, you need to create a cohesive, comprehensive experience for your audience. Knowing fonts is a key element.

Building a brand of affordable luxury

This post both explains the concept of affordable luxury and teaches you how to achieve it. Michael Kors, Tory Burch, and other fashion names used the concept to propel them toward massive profit from slumping sales. We detail some of the key takeaways you can use in your own branding and brand messaging.

Branding vs Design

These two concepts can be easily confused, especially if neither is what you do. This post helps to break down the finer distinctions between the two. Think of the brand strategist as the architect of the brand, and the designer as the contractor who puts that design into physical being. Learn more about why it matters to you.

Are you using your archetype?

Jungian archetypes come up frequently when we talk about branding. They help provide a framework for bringing your brand to visually, in writing, and in presence. They’re an essential part of branding, plus… they’re fun!

Here a touchpoint, there a touchpoint, everywhere a touchpoint!

A branding touchpoint is more or less exactly what it sounds like: the points where you come in contact with your target audience. This post outlines strategies for both making those points happen, and what to do at those points.

Brand Attributes

This post has everything to do with the perception of quality. Brands of similar or equal value need to set up ways of differentiating themselves, or risk being seen as the inferior product despite the raw quality. Learn more about what you can do to create a perception of high quality.

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments!

Burning Love (For Your Brand)

5 Branding Lessons from the Cannabis Industry

Cannabis branding in the United States is, relatively speaking, in its infancy. Similar to alcohol post-prohibition, it’s an industry that has a tricky, controversial past, and no clear roadmap to the future. Even if you’re not in the industry, there are relevant branding lessons from the cannabis industry to consider.

Give yourself permission.  

All too often with well-established industries, there are certain conventions, expectations, and histories that we adhere to. Sometimes to the point of stagnation. Say, for example, you’re in vitamins and supplements. That’s a marketplace that can feel so crowded that it can be hard to imagine a product that doesn’t feel like a riff on GNC.

But if you imagine yourself in your industry with permission to break the mold, possibilities open up. Your supplements can be beautiful and luxurious. They can educate rather than obfuscate. They can be whatever you want.

Of course, in both supplements and cannabis, there are regulations to follow and respect for history to consider (as AdWeek discusses regarding those still incarcerated or having a record for infractions before a law change).

Stereotypes suck.

We talked about avoiding the trap of using stereotypes a little while ago. In cannabis branding, there are some very obvious stereotypes that might immediately spring to mind, but are now obsolete. The Atlantic cites Olivia Mannix, founder of CannaBrand, as saying “A lot of clients come to us saying they want to look like Apple.” That’s a far cry from your Deadhead uncle and, as they detail, language like stonerganja, weed, and pot.

How does this translate? Two ways: in the language you use and make part of the industry’s new lexicon, and in how you imagine your ideal client, both of which we cover while creating a Brand Platform during a Branding Intensive.

Don’t be so literal.

This one’s obvious. When you look at better-known cannabis and hemp products, what do you see?

Very little green, and if you see a hemp leaf, it’s discrete and stylized.

Your customer isn’t that guy from that movie. 

As Fast Company points out, the target audience for cannabis isn’t Harold, Kumar, any of the guys from Half-Baked, it’s not Cheech or Chong, and it’s not Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused. It’s (at least at the time of publication) women, older individuals with health issues, and sometimes children. Your message to any of these audiences is immensely different than that first group.

The lesson here is that it’s worth checking on your own statistics to see who’s paying attention. Relying on the same old same old might be hurting you.

The crowd is real. 

Not unlike craft and microbrew, there are lots of new cannabis brands vying for attention. Eleah Lubatkin writes for the Huffington Post: “When faced with numerous competitors, this ethos of independence and innovation became an asset for craft brewers who invested in scaling that ethos with sophisticated design and messaging into lasting brand value.”

And this is a cue cannabis has taken as well that translates well. Thoughtful branding, including a strong visual identity and brand message will go a long way for brands that want to establish voracious connections early on (which is, or should be, all of them).

What do you think? Unexpected, or obvious? Let us know in the comments!

What is Kanye Doing?

Will Kanye West’s brand survive a dramatic message shift?

We’ve talked about branding lessons we can learn from rappers in the past. This seems like the time to talk about messaging and Kanye West’s brand. Specifically, Kanye West’s brand as an example of what can happen on a large scale when your brand goes off-message.

If you don’t follow Kanye’s Twitter, there’s a good chance your life’s a little less stressful than the 28 million who do. Let’s go over the trouble with Kanye West’s brand messaging.

 

Establishing Brand Expectations

West’s core audience had come to expect a message of innovation, creativity, wealth, and West using his platform to boldly right social wrongs. His musical catalog evolved from honest, eager, and relatably imperfect to larger than life.

A moment frequently referenced is the 2005  Hurricane Katrina telethon where, next to a clearly flabbergasted Mike Meyers, West stated “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Through this and through his song lyrics, fans reasonably concluded West’s politics were in line with their own.

 

Conflicting Brand Messaging

But since the 2016, election, things changed. Following a mental health event, West seemed to publicly support Donald Trump, even meeting with him at Trump Tower. West then mostly disappeared from social media, and fans cautiously hoped his Trump praise would die off has his health improved.

Then in April 2018 came what seemed like verification that, in fact, West’s political alignment was far more conservative than expected. Among other tweets, “I love the way Candace Owens thinks” and one stating he and Trump share a “dragon energy” caused fans to recoil in horror. Meanwhile, his core audience began to shift from liberal to conservative.

 

Is This… Strategy?

For some, Kanye West’s brand as an innovative genius is protected by conspiracy theories. For others, there’s speculation that this reversal has killed West’s brand.

And for still others, there’s an argument that West knows exactly what he’s doing—and there might be an example to follow here. After all, his still quite young, Adidas-backed Yeezy brand unexpectedly experienced a boost immediately following this radical shift. He is and has always been an expert force in creating hype on social media so… maybe?

What remains unclear is whether this is all part of a larger strategy, and if so… what is it? And by the time we know, will it matter?

 

Ultimately, what’s even more frustrating to an audience that truly loves you and your brand (and has overlooked past behavior) is being completely and utterly confused by your message. They’re unsure if they approve or disapprove of your message. If you’re a megastar with a decade and a half’s worth of building a loyal following, people want to give you the benefit of the doubt. If you’re brand new? Chrissy Teigen said it best: “kanyeeeeeeeeeeeeee iljeflaejsf’pifgaiw’rgjwregfreogjwrpogjjr”.

 

You CAN say that!

Know your audience, know your message.

Here’s something we sometimes hear when working with clients on verbal identity: “I can’t say that”. Those three little words might be rattling around in your head, too, when thinking about your brand’s voice. And they need to chill out!

This is bigger than just your brand, of course, but for the sake of this article, we want to try to shake “I can’t” from your vocabulary when talking about your brand.

Obviously, there are some topics you would be best-served to avoid, and we all know what they are. But there’s so much people avoid saying out of a sense of “is this appropriate”, “Is this professional”, or “will I lose customers”.

If you’re hesitating, hemming and hawing, or otherwise feeling like you’re walking on eggshells when speaking in your brand voice—you’re in the right place.

Once you’re able to answer questions like “who is my brand speaking to” and “how do I speak to them”, this becomes an easier task.

 

Don’t make it weird.

You know those moments when you’re at dinner with new people, and you’re not saying a whole lot because you’re going over all the ways you could accidentally offend someone?  Your brand does the same thing. It avoids interacting, and sounds stilted when it does try. And your audience picks up on this! Knowing who you’re speaking to and what kind of messaging (from the world, from other brands) they’re used to will help you avoid situations like this.

 

Don’t contain multitudes.

This is the uncomfortable sense you get when your brand has grown in a direction that feels like a giant, fire breathing amalgamation of every voice that’s ever been involved in your brand, EVER. Your brand feels like an oversized Katamari ball. And when you’re trying to say everything, your message is diluted down to nothing. This leaves your audience feeling confused, overwhelmed… generally uncomfortable. If they’re not moving away from you exactly, it’s only a matter of time before something calm and soothing that feels like it’s speaking directly to them sweeps them off their feet – and they’re gone.

 

Focus on the positive

In some cases, there are things your brand simply cannot say. In this situation, it’s best to acknowledge them, take them off the table, and focus on what you CAN say. It can be tempting to comment on every trending topic, but it’s just not always appropriate. So rather than focus on what your children’s book company has to say about Stormy Daniels, save it for your personal conversations, and keep

Sometimes it’s just a matter of feeling like you have permission to, say, use expletives in your marketing, or permission to take a pass on politics when you’re just not a political company. If your audience is younger, or you’re a company like Cards Against Humanity—hell yeah, you absolutely should be swearing!

Do any of these scenarios ring true to you? If you’re struggling with questions of voice and audience, we can help. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Are you brand building —or baiting?

Is your brand lying to your customers?

To over-sell or under sell? That is the questionright? We want to get our brand to the widest audience humanly possible, but we don’t want contort our brand so much that it’s unrecognizable. Or worsethat it looks like something it’s not. Properly branding your company helps you avoid what we’re calling “brand baiting”, or, bluntly, branding lies.

Here’s the thing: have you ever bought something that you THOUGHT was cashmere, only to get home and discover that it was polyester? Have you ever bought something from a company that LOOKED like your favorite brand, only to discover later on that it was a cheap knock-off?

Us too!

…it sucks.

Think for a second about how you feel when you realize you were duped. Mad, sad, evaluating whether or not it’s worth trying to get your money back. The company got the sale, right? Right.  Are you going to spend another penny with that company?

A b s o l u t e l y not. And you’re probably not going to stay quiet about itwhat might have once been a low-key gripe to your friends and family can now be broadcast instantly and LOUDLY across social media.

You could go viral for all the wrong reasons.

This practice is the exact opposite of brand building. We call it brand baiting, and it’s a terrible idea for anyone that wants more than a one-night-stand with their customers.

 

So, how do you know if you are doing it? Here are the top 5 ways to figure it out…

    1. Your sales jump then slump. Did you start out strong and full of promise, only to see your revenue dwindle? That could mean you’re promising something people really want, and not delivering. Which leads to the second point.
    2. Your social media is full of complaints. Social media is a goldmine of informationpeople do not hold back. They’ll let you know through poor ratings, and will often detail their experiences with the product itself, their experience with customer service, billing problems, you name it. If you’re seeing a lot of “NOT what I expected!” or “LIES!”, it’s time to re-evaluate your strategy.
    3. Your top Google results are poor reviews.Similar to social media, if your product is on Amazon with poor reviews or any other third-party site, pay attention. People might be buying into one thing but dealing with branding lies.
    4. You’re kind of a one-trick pony. Imitation and deception aren’t long-term strategies – you will be discovered. Even if not, the zeitgeist will change, and you’ll have to change too.
    5. Customer service is overburdened with confusion and complaints. Your customer service will be hit HARD with complaints if your brand is pulling a bait and switch. Customers are incredibly savvy, and, similar to social media, they’ll make their voice known. Listen!

 

If you suspect you might be dealing with branding lies, accidentally, on purpose, or in-between, it’s time to take control of your message. Discover what you can do to make sure you’re putting the right message into the world.

Is Your Brand Proactive—or Reactive?

When we say “proactive” and “reactive”, what does that mean—and what does it mean for your brand’s positioning and longevity? 

When we talk to clients about branding, we talk about a brand’s position—how your brand differentiates itself in its market. No matter what your product or service is, you can be sure you’re not the only one doing what you’re doing. You’re part of a history (even if very short). It’s impossible to exist in a vacuum. But is your brand’s position proactive or reactive?

A proactive brand is, basically, a brand with a plan. It knows itself, it knows its place in the market, and it knows how to occupy that position effectively through what it does—and doesn’t—do. A reactive brand, by contrast, is one that does just that—reacts to whatever is going on around it at the time. With modern consumers ‘trained’ to see organized, cohesive, consistent brands, being more reactive can come off as erratic and alienate your customer base. Equally worrying, being too reactive can rely on consumer awareness of what you’re responding to. Let’s look at a recent example: Pepsi’s entry into the sparkling water market, bubly, vs seltzer juggernaut LaCroix’s long game.

bubly’s parent company, Pepsi, knows their market and their competitor—and they should. Despite the fact that you’ll be hard-pressed to find an article that mentions bubly without mentioning LaCroix, they have managed to differentiate themselves. Here are some key takeaways for your small business:

 

 

Knowing your audience is critical

A quick Google search will tell you that bubly (that ‘b’ is lower-case on purpose) hits the millennial market HARD: cute, all-lowercase messages on the can’s tab, bright colors, simple, clean, minimalist packaging, omitted vowels. Every box is checked and ready for consumption in a market where cans are a significant part of the experience—and your consumer’s identity. Everything is on point, and poised to bring in a projected $100 million.

The trick? Knowing both what you are and what you aren’t as a brand, and a crystal-clear vision of the position your brand occupies in its market.

 

 

“I don’t want to talk about authenticity”

‘Authenticity’ is, notoriously, a moving target. bubly doesn’t try to hide what it is: Pepsi’s well-funded entry into the sparkling water market. Will this turn some people off? Sure. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily (we’ll see if, longer-term, bubly goes the way of Crystal Pepsi).

For a small business, an “authentic” identity can actually prove counterproductive to your goals. That grassroots feeling can be a part of your brand’s identity. But, just like “professional”, “authentic” is not a personality.

 

 

Your brand’s identity only exists in relation to another brand

Reactionary branding is bold—in the short term, this could be a good thing. It could allow for short-term recognition—but longer-term, it’s difficult to sustain and may limit your brand’s ability to develop its own identity. But with growth comes change—and, especially in small business, change without a plan can be disastrous.

Your takeaway? A strong brand identity grows and changes over time. A solid identity is agile—able to seamlessly adapt and respond to current events or changes in its own voice—rather than just responding and making things up as you go.

The bottom line is that your brand needs to be proactive in developing its identity in order to maintain the trust you’ve cultivated with your customers. Big-name brands may look like they’re making things up on the fly, but behind the scenes, there’s a clear plan in place. If any of this sounds familiar, we’re here to help!

THREE TIPS TO KEEP YOUR BRAND’S VOICE CONSISTENT

Is Your Brand’s Verbal Identity Sending Mixed Messages?

When people think about branding, they are often thinking about a brand’s visual identity. There’s another, equally important component: your brand’s verbal identity. In an ideal world, these two work in tandem to deliver clear, consistent messaging.

With communication happening at lightning speed, through multiple channels, and handled by multiple people, it’s critical to to develop a strong verbal identity. If you’re not clear on your brand’s voice, it’s easy to go off the rails. And when that happens, your messaging can become confusing, jarring, and you can lose touch with your core audience.

Just like visual identity, your verbal identity broadcasts your message into the world. A company with a strong brand voice uses that voice at every point of interaction – email, customer service, social media, web copy. Your brand’s voice should be specific, consistent, and everlasting.

 

Be Specific

It’s human nature to want to please everyone, or to attempt to speak to everyone. But in doing so, you can quickly lose sight of your goals in an effort to include as many in your audience as possible.

The solution may seem somewhat counterintuitive: in establishing a brand voice, you should know, very specifically, who you are speaking to. Are they millennials? Moms? Dog people, cat people? Your message will change subtly depending on how your audience sees themself and how they interact with

 

Keep It Consistent

Maybe you decided to try a more ‘millennial’ approach for a little while, only to double back to your old personality. Take a step back and evaluate what your brand has been saying – and how you say it – to date. How would you describe your brand’s current personality and voice?

Reading through social media, web copy, emails – do you feel like you’re speaking to an individual, or several different voices?

Here’s an exercise to try: you’re out shopping. When you get home, you notice you’ve been overcharged, and you need to call the store to ask for a refund. How would you, as your brand, do this? What’s your strategy? When all’s said and done, can you still shop at that store? If you’re unsure, you may not know your brand’s voice as well as you think.

Once you have established that voice, preserve it! Remember that even if you are part of your company’s brand, the brand voice does not have to reflect you in real time. Transparency is admirable, but raw confession might lead to former brand evangelists burning your products.

 

Craft An Everlasting Voice

A well-designed brand voice, one with a core message that can allow you to see past and future, is an investment that will set your brand apart. Knowing your brand’s personality, and corresponding language, can prevent the kinds of verbal mishaps that will land you in Twitter’s crosshairs.

Rather than a set of hard-and-fast rules, your brand’s voice should be consistent, but agile enough to be used almost automatically. It’s not a script – it’s a toolbox.

 

 

Still feeling daunted? We’d love to talk!

Top 3 ways to tell if your brand is worth anything (or not).

LEARN HOW TO VALUE YOUR SMALL BUSINESS BRAND.

There haven’t been many articles on how to value a small business brand, because it is hard, and brand value is one of the most important assets any company can have! For instance, what do you think would happen if Red Bull sold its brand name and logo to Coca Cola but kept its manufacturing and distribution? What about if Ferrari sold its brand name and logo to Mazda but kept its manufacturing and dealership businesses?

Would either of these companies stay in business for long without their brands? Probably not, unless they used the money from the sales to build new brands. The point here is that the brand is the keystone to many, many different business models. It is the MOST valuable asset, and one that pays long term dividends.

So, do you want to know how to a small business brand? Here are our 3 steps for getting the number just right and learning how much you might be able to get for the brand that you’ve been building…

  1. What percentage of your new business comes purely from self-motivated customer referrals, and how much in sales does this amount to each year? Note: This is the amount of sales that you spend NOTHING to achieve each year in marketing or in advertising.
    • Subtract your cost of goods or services sold from the referral sales number above, and you will have one measure of the profitability of your brand.
  2. What percentage of your business comes purely from self-motivated or minimally motivated returning customers?
    • Subtract your cost of goods or services sold, and you will have another measure of the profitability of your brand.
  3. How large is your audience? Add it all up! Of all of the social media networks and list building mediums that you’ve been working on over the years, you have probably built up an impressive collection of people who are familiar with your brand, and it is easy to figure out the value of this audience, IF you have the data. Lists to include are…

    Email list:

    Mobile Phone List:

    Postal Address List:

    Facebook:

    WhatsApp:

    Messenger:

    LinkedIn:

    Google+:

    Twitter:

    Instagram:

    Pinterest:

    Snapchat:

    Quora:

    AngelList:

    Tumblr:

    TripAdvisor:

    Yelp:

    YouTube:

    • For each audience on your list above, add up the amount in sales that each list has generated for your business over the last year (in DIRECT sales to that list, as a result of outreach to that list, on that network or medium that the list is compiled within). This number is a great indicator what each of your lists could produce in future sales!

Ok, so how does this help you know how to value a small business brand? Simple. Now that you have your 3 number totals from referral sales, returning customers and list sales, add them up and you will have an estimation of the sales that your brand produces without much (if any) sales or marketing activity. This annual revenue is THE major piece of your brand’s value.

A purchaser of your brand might take this number and multiply it by a decimal, like .7, annually over the next 3 to 5 years to see just how much revenue your brand is capable of driving without any intervention. The .7 number simply assumes that the revenue will go down on its own over time.. Then the investor would give you a purchase offer based on this revenue. The revenue from these three things is purely attributable to the power of the brand that you have built, and it is what gives your brand value.

If you are unimpressed with your results, LET’S TALK! Brand value is the best retirement plan that an entrepreneur can hope for, and we can help you sail off into the golden years with ease!