Our New Brand Promise: Simplify + Elevate

It’s time: our new Brand Promise is Simplify + Elevate.

Our goal starting in 2019 is to make a transformational impact on brands — not inch forward.

We are evolving away from fragmentation and toward unified, cohesive imagery, words, and messaging.

Here, we’ll give you a bit of insight into what a Brand Promise actually is, what it means to us to elevate, and why this.

What is a Brand Promise?

Before we talk about why: what is a Brand Promise?

It’s the single unifying idea behind everything your brand does. It’s also the why and the how of your brand’s behavior.

In traditional media, it was simpler to keep messaging controlled and unified. With digital, it’s challenging to keep everything – social media, content, visual – on the same script.

But a Brand Promise keeps your message clear and consistent. It guides every part of your brand’s vision, presence, and communication.

What does it mean to elevate?

“Simplify” is a verb with a clear meaning. And, there’s sophistication in simplicity. But “elevate” is more abstract.

The answer is: we raise brands to a level above their own market. How that happens isn’t the same across the board. It takes effort on both parts toward that same goal.

We work with brands that share the desire to reach that raised point to help them realize their goals.

More importantly, we work with you to clarify exactly what it would look like to achieve your goals. What your marketplace looks like. Who your audience is. What they respond to.

Knowing each piece of your landscape on a high level creates clarity and purpose.

Why Simplify + Elevate?

Up until now, our Brand Promise was “Performance Fueled by Creativity”. That was an idea that reflected a different time and vision.

We’ve done performance. We’ve embraced creativity. It’s time to get back to the center of why we do what we do.

And now, taking a look at ourselves as an agency, our strengths, our weaknesses, our audience. With all that in consideration, it’s time to create a future for ourselves and our clients that’s uncluttered. Direct. Easy to understand.

If this sounds like you, we’d love to hear from you.

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!

“Hey, What Do You Think Of My Logo?”

Why A DIY Rebranding Isn’t Worth The Savings

We’ve talked before about signs it may be time to rebrandIf you’re feeling off-track, incohesive, if you’ve had PR problems, or if you’ve outgrown your original brand, you know you need to make some changes – but where to start?

If you’ve seen our founder, Re Perez, speak, you’ve probably heard him say that one of the most common questions he’s asked is “hey, what do you think of my logo?” (and not to ask that).

Knowing Just Enough To Be Dangerous

Maybe you’ve heard of the concept of “knowing just enough to be dangerous”. This 2015 op-ed from the New York Times describes an English-speaking critical care doctor working with a Spanish-speaking patient. The doctor knows just enough Spanish to communicate with the patient, but the conversation lacks nuance, context, cultural positioning – all things that we take for granted speaking in our native language.

“I do not know what I might have missed that night,” the doctor concludes. “And what scares me now, looking back at this and countless other similar stories, is that I will most likely never know.”

Here’s the connection to trying to DIY rebranding: Like the doctor diagnosing the patient with only very basic, decontextualized information, asking a branding agency or professional to ‘diagnose’ your logo with no other information may not kill your brand – but it’s tough to do without nuance, context, and any other information regarding your brand as a whole.

Not Knowing What You Don’t Know

These days, it’s not that difficult to find programs that will generate a logo for you – but as we know, audiences hate change. It can be hard enough to rebrand with a strategy, but downright disastrous without.

Here’s the thing: DIY rebranding may seem cost-effective in the short term, but could cost you big by alienating your target audience, not being clear, being strange, clunky, or incohesive.

Even larger brands can make this very basic mistake. Remember back in 2013, when Yahoo rebranded?

“We need to be really entrepreneurial and our attitude is to be really scrappy, and the way that we did the logo — we kept it in-house, we didn’t have someone, you know, as an external firm or consulting firm, we didn’t spend millions of dollars doing it. We did it in a way that came from a very authentic place,” Marissa Meyer said at the time.

But Mayer’s DIY rebranding approach didn’t quite land.  “Authenticity” isn’t a synonym for “amateur”. When you’re dealing with something as critical as your brand’s identity, there are so many ways you can go wrong if you’re not quite sure what you’re doing – even if you are a CEO.

In Conclusion

Your brand much more than your logo, and trying to rebrand yourself might seem like a good, “authentic” way to go, but it can cost you dearly in the long run. If you’re pretty sure it’s time to rebrand, do it right from the beginning with our 7-POINT BRAND AUDIT.

5 more signs it may be time to rebrand

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to rebrand, read on.

Branding your company is not a “fix it and forget it” proposition. Your brand needs careful attention throughout its life—from the day you first create it to your first big rebrand and beyond.

But the “should you/shouldn’t you” debate can drag out for too long, and many companies neglect their brands for too long. That leads to letting things languish when decisive action is needed instead—and losing a lot of goodwill in the process.

It can be hard to rebrand, but for most businesses doing so will eventually become a necessity. Here are five signs you may have reached that point.


You’ve run out of “space”

Maybe you’re bigger than you were when you started. Perhaps you sell into new industries, or you’ve added new service lines.

Whatever the case, if you used to feel that your brand would last until the end of time—and now you wonder whether it’ll last the month—it’s probably a good sign you need to rebrand.

 

You’ve lost your purpose

Author and consultant Simon Sinek has made a career of telling business owners to “start with why”—to remember that customers don’t care as much about what you’re doing as why you’re doing it.

Do your customers care about why you do what you do? Do you?

A rebrand can be a good opportunity to start at “square one” and get your why right.

 

Things don’t “hang together” anymore

If, as we often say at BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE, branding is the process of creating a desired perception in the mind of your customer… Then how do your customers perceive your business?

Do they see a unified whole, or a scattered jumble of random elements?

A good brand demonstrates cohesiveness across 7 separate elements—your logo, your colors, your imagery and more—and if your customers subconsciously perceive a disconnect, they’ll feel less strongly about your brand.

Consider having us perform a 7-Point Brand Audit. If you don’t like the results, maybe it’s time for a rebrand.

Your public hates you

Joan Jett may have sung “I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation,” but brands can’t afford to be so cavalier.

Tylenol knew this in the 80s during its cyanide scare, and its transparency and forthrightness quickly recaptured public confidence. United Airlines, by contrast, recently bobbled their response to a viral video of a passenger being dragged off a plane—and watched the public’s perception of their company drop to a 10-year low.

If you’re facing similar challenges and your response to a crisis isn’t getting you any traction, “starting over” with a rebrand may be one of your few remaining viable options.

 

You’re tired of looking the same

You certainly can’t escape competition in business; in fact, some gurus believe you shouldn’t even enter a market unless there are plenty of healthy competitors. After all—they prove, so the thinking goes, that there’s a market there in the first place.

But if those competitors are getting too close for comfort, maybe it’s time for a rebrand.

If your position in that market isn’t well differentiated—if you’ve been commoditized, for example, because your customers see no perceptible difference between you and your rivals—a rebrand can help you distinguish yourself.

Why, for instance, can the fast food market sustain McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, Five Guys, Sonic, In-N-Out, Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., Burger King, White Castle, and more?

Because they all stand for something different in the mind of the fast food consumer. Burger King sells freedom of choice, for example—think “Have it your way.”—while Sonic and their drive-in restaurants peddle nostalgia.

 

Takeaway

It’s no secret that we think your brand is your most important business asset, and that carefully nurturing it is one of the keys to success. That’s why we say there’s no shame in admitting that it’s time to revisit and rebrand.

Recognize yourself on this list? Fear not—we can help.

NEUROMARKETING

Neuromarketing: Good For Your Brand, But Is it Moral?

Business owners, marketers, branding and advertising specialists all want to know what lies in their target audience’s minds. Why? The more you know about your audiences, the easier it is for you to sell, market or engage with them.

Enter the discipline known as “neuromarketing.”

If you’re interested in creating a brand that helps you build your business AND one that makes a difference for people, then you should know more about this discipline because more businesses are using brain research to gain insights into how to shape their branding and marketing efforts.

WHAT IS NEUROMARKETING?

Neuromarketing is a very new discipline that is increasingly capturing the attention of marketers and is getting more and more legitimate. In 2006, it almost seemed like science fiction. If you’re interested in learning more about neuromarketing, check out “Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince

Consumers with Neuromarketing”. It’s a book that every marketer, salesperson or business owner should read. Even Guy Kawasaki (author of Enchantment and former chief evangelist of Apple) highly recommends it.

So what exactly is neuromarketing? It leads with the premise that our subconscious (the emotional part of our brains) makes buying decisions in a matter of split seconds. By studying our brain’s reactions to different brand stimuli, marketers can design better products, create better brands, or even simply communicate more effectively in order to attract and serve people and consequently get them to buy more. Neuromarketing uses technology to measure consumers’ brain activity when interacting in different ways with a brand, in order to basically inform the brand’s 4Ps:

  • Product
  • Pricing
  • Placement
  • Promotion

While consumers might lie or might not be able to articulate all of their feelings regarding a particular brand when faced with traditional market research, such as focus groups, neuromarketing removes all of the human subjectivity and just gets right to it. Humans might lie or not know what they feel. The brain knows everything even though it doesn’t always share that information with the owner. So, by looking at the respondent attention level, emotional engagement, memory storage and other metrics, neuromarketers can find the truth about their customers. Not everyone agrees with this idea, though. Many have concerns regarding the reliability of neuromarketing and some are even questioning the ethicality of this recent discipline.

NEUROMARKETING RESEARCH

In recent years, several researches have been made to get more insight into the consumers’ minds. There are several techniques used, such as fMRI (Funcional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), SST (Steady State Topography), EEG (Electroencephalography), Eye Tracking and Galvanic Skin Response.

In 2006, the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) presented the results of the first fMRI study examining the brain’s response to branding. Twenty males and females had their brain activities monitored while they were presented with images of familiar and unfamiliar brands.

The results showed that strong brands activated a network of cortical areas and areas involved in positive emotional processing and associated with self-identification and rewards. The activation patter was independent of the category of the product or the service being offered. Furthermore, strong brands were processed with less effort on the part of the brain. Weak brands showed higher levels of activation in areas of working memory and negative emotional response.

(Source: EurekAlert)

Another study, this time from the Gallup Management Journal, reports on another fMRI research, this time on customer engagement. The study found that the higher the level of engagement from a customer, the more activity occurred in three parts of the brain: the orbital frontal cortex (emotion), the temporal pole (memory) and the fusiform gyrus (facial recognition). The lesson to be learned from this study is that the more engaged a customer is, the more he is actively trying to pull out memories about his interactions with the specific brand.

WHY NEUROMARKETING?

As I mentioned earlier, neuromarketing is attracting a lot of critics and brings up several issues. Many critics of neuromarketing claim that this new science is exploiting people and trying to sell them things they don’t need. Others are also considering the possibility of political brainwashing with the help of neuromarketing.

Commercial Alert, the website “protecting communities from commercialism”, say that they “oppose the use of neuromarketing for corporate or political advertising” as they see three big potential problems with the discipline: increased incidence of marketing-related diseases, more effective political propaganda and more effective promotion of degraded values.

However, many companies have been trying to integrate neuromarketing within their marketing efforts: Microsoft tried mining EEG data, Frito-Lay studied female brains, Google partnered with MediaVest for a biometrics study and The Weather Channel used EEG, eye-tracking and skin response techniques.

Whatever your views on neuromarketing, if you decided you would like to dabble with this new science, you might not even be able to – the costs of conducting such research would probably bankrupt most companies, but there still is a lot of general information out there that could prove to be very useful for your brand.

WHY SHOULD ENTREPRENEURS AND SMALL BUSINESSES CARE ABOUT THIS?

I’m sharing this article with you to elevate your awareness and understanding around the “science” that goes into building brands. Most people think it’s about coming up with a “pretty logo”. It’s not that you don’t want a logo, but consider that branding delves on a completely different level that building “logos”.

FINALLY, WHILE NEUROMARKETING IS GOOD FOR YOUR BRAND, DO YOU FIND IT MORAL FOR RESEARCHERS TO LOOK DIRECTLY IN CONSUMERS’ BRAINS?