When I’m out and about speaking and running workshops on marketing I’m often faced with puzzled looks when I start talking about branding. But the fact is that your brand can become one of your strongest marketing assets — even if you are a micro-business.
It isn’t an easy area though: it’s as much as art as a science. Get it right and you will have loyal customers who come back again and again; get it wrong and customers could be indifferent towards your brand or even hostile.
So how can you build a brand that has the power to drive your ambitious business?
Here, in part one of a two-part blog, are four ways to maximise the power of your brand.
People become obsessed with the logo of a brand, mistakenly believing that this is the brand. But the most powerful brands mean something deeper to their customer base — and it’s that meaning that keeps people buying, even when it might be more rational to choose a cheaper option.
The first step is to accept that a brand is not entirely in your control. It is an impression that exists in your customers’ minds created by how you look, what you say, what you stand for and how you help them. But you can influence this impression by defining your brand identity and then ensuring that it runs through your entire business so that your customer has a complete end-to-end experience that lives up to their – and your – aspirations.
This is a contentious statement – especially for a brand expert like me. But the name of the business doesn’t have any significance until you give it meaning.
Think about all the made-up words that are brand names – Google, Hibu, Spotify, Moo. They all have very strong brand identities but before they defined what they wanted to stand for, those words meant nothing. So pick a name that you like and that’s available as a domain name, and then work on creating something that customers can identify with.
To create effective brands, the real work starts long before the creative people are let loose with their colouring pencils.
Start by deciding what makes you different within the market and being specific about what you deliver to your consumers. Next, define your values and ethics – this is about defining what you believe in, what would will always do and what you never do. Finally, think about the personality of your brand. Imagine a person and describe them.
Then you can work on the words, behaviours and images to portray this to your customers.
Now you can develop the visual part of branding, which includes the logo, colours, fonts and even tone of voice to bring your personality to life. This is the artistic bit – and much less about science – so it can be quite subjective
Write a detailed brief for a designer that outlines what you want to convey and to whom so that they can bring the brand to life in words and images.
If you create strong visual codes, your customers will know it is you even when you play with your codes – just as Google does with its daily doodles.
Copyright © 2014 Christina Richardson is a business marketing specialist, mentor and founder of The Nurture Network. She is also co-founder of the Brand Gathering community, helping young businesses to grow by working together.
Whether you’re launching a new business or rebranding your website, the chances are you’ll need to make some decisions about colour at some point along the line.
And, whilst colour will make your business look more exciting, interesting and engaging, the right colours can also help you sell more products and services. Colour psychology can help you communicate consistently and coherently and compel your customers to buy.
It would be lovely if I could tell you that picking red will grab attention and that’s the colour you must put on your website, but the truth is that it’s a little more complicated than that.
There is no list of must-have colours for every business. Just as your business is unique, so are the colours that’ll work for you. But with some thought, you can create a colour palette to help attract customers and build your brand.
Start by defining your intention. What makes your business unique, why do your customers love what you do and what impression do you want to create? Make a list of key words and pick just three that encapsulate what you’re trying to do.
Now, take advantage of colour psychology — it’s a great framework to create colour palettes that work. In particular, you can consider which seasonal personality best represents your business.
Spring businesses are creative, inspiring communicators who value simplicity and clarity and the spring personality is often described as spontaneous, proactive and forward-thinking. Use light, bright, clear and warm colours with a softness and delicacy about them.
Summer businesses are organised, efficient, romantic, graceful and elegant. The Summer personality is reserved, thoughtful and intuitive. It also feels a strong sense of responsibility and will never let you down. Use delicate, cool and muted shades. Flowing lines and a softness of tone is very Summer and a soft, watercolour style works well.
Autumn businesses are earthy, organic, community-minded and value-driven. Autumn brands have a strong connection to nature, a love for the past, a thirst for understanding how and why things work and they often enjoy challenging the status quo. The Autumnal personality makes a great campaigner. As you might expect, shades are warm, intense and muted.
Finally, Winter businesses are dynamic, distinctive, dramatic and luxurious. Winter is a season of extremes and the Winter personality is usually highly focused on the task in hand and excellent at both the big picture and drilling down into the detail. Pick cool, bright and intense shades — this is the only season you should use black for.
By using colours from just one season you can communicate a highly confident and powerful message.
Once you’ve picked your season, select colours that will support your brand messages. For example, yellow will communicate confidence, optimism, self-esteem and happiness. Red is a great colour to communicate energy, strength and vitality. Blue is good for communication, clarity, logic or efficiency. Orange is great for creativity, abundance and fun while green is restful and represents balance and harmony.
So why not take a more considered approach to colour next time you work on your brand identity? It’ll make the world of difference.
Copyright © 2014 Fiona Humberstone. Fiona is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and heads a creative and branding consultancy. She is running a colour psychology workshop in London on 30th September.
In many ways, it’s easier than ever to start up your own business but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand apart from the crowd. But it’s not impossible. Here are four ways to help your business to gain valuable visibility.
Businesses that lose themselves within the crowd are often the ones that don’t have anything to stand for. I’m not saying you need to be prepared to fight crime Batman-style, but do agree on a clear message that you want to communicate and share this with your audience.
People will remember you for your message — just look at Volvo, with its “safety first” message. This is how we remember Volvo; this is what makes the brand stand apart from its competition. If you want a safe car, you know where to turn.
We can’t score the winning goal on our own — we need a team around us to help set it up, block the defence and pass the ball. The same applies to making your business stand out from the crowd; you have to create a trusted dream team — and that includes partners and customers as well as your own staff (if you have them).
Whether you have a marketing team or do that job yourself, you need a fearless brand leader, loyal staff and brand advocates (the customers). These are the people who will set your business apart. This dream team can be difficult to construct but get it right and you will be able to take on the world.
If your company isn’t online yet — it should be! A lot of businesses make the mistake of thinking what they do or sell won’t translate online. They couldn’t be more wrong. It’s time to make what you do or sell visible online because this is where your audience is.
There are many ways to communicate with your target audience online — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr and YouTube. This is where your message needs to be clear — it’s easy to confuse what you’re trying to communicate with the audience and your message can get lost in translation. Don’t spam your audience, choose the most appropriate media, have a clear message and communicate at the right time.
Going digital is perfect for small businesses as it cuts out the advertising middle man, saves thousands of pounds and provides you with greater control of your marketing message.
If you don’t know what the competition is doing, how can you set yourself apart? Take time out to research what those around you are doing; what worked and what didn’t.
If your competitors are doing something you like, think about how you can adapt the idea for your own ends and do it better. Or better yet, take on board everything those around you are doing and do something completely different.
Leah Jarratt is writing on behalf of Salt Recruitment.
Marketing automation will create a world where brands will know what you need before you do. However, there will always be a temptation to go one step too far.
Exploiting the power of big data, we're told, will deliver the marketer's holy grail and a promise of untold riches; delivering a VIP experience to consumers across all the channels they use. That means giving your customers a personal service highlighting the things that interest them via email, online, social media, mobile or geo-location.
Armed with the right tools, businesses are already analysing big data to predict what we’d like even before we’ve thought about it. Data is mined as we go about our daily lives and our behaviour is analysed —interactions made online, over email or through our mobiles. Put through a recommendation engine, our needs can be predicted then electronically addressed wherever we happen to be.
The technology that makes this happen is already here. Marketing automation is acting as the glue that binds these elements together, helping marketers shift from manually creating campaigns to fully automating the majority of their communications with customers.
Take lifecycle marketing — technology is used to manage and send out emails or messages at calculated times using predictive technologies; sending the right messages at appropriate times:
All of these are automated marketing activities, which are executed in the background and based on a series of events. Created once then forgotten, an automated marketing engine manages the whole process.
In the case of abandoned shopping carts where a purchase had not been completed, the automated marketing engine knows to send you a reminder some hours later, telling you how and where to pick up from in order to finish your purchase.
Automated marketing engines can be set to manage multi-step or single-step triggers; automating tasks so customers can be treated as individuals.
Of course, small businesses may not have the resources to exploit big data. But the principles remain the same. Overuse of email, for instance, with broad messaging that is neither timely nor relevant can harm your firm’s reputation. Persistent offenders will, at the very least, be unsubscribed and could be reported as spam.
A more focused approach — using audience segmentation and relevant communication — will pay dividends, not just by reinforcing positive brand but by driving more sales.
Fast forward and imagine a world where businesses can reach you anywhere with a message to buy based on what you had been doing. Just around the corner there are a clutch of new technologies that will give marketers the opportunity to reach consumers anywhere and anytime.
Augmented Reality systems could open the floodgates for imaginative marketers and brands to bombard us with messaging 24/7 and potentially intrude in our private lives. But is it inevitable that someone might go a step too far?
It’s all about exercising restraint. Avoid bombarding people with what is unnecessary. Marketing automation with big data is going to deliver the actionable intelligence to tell us what we want, when we want but, if used correctly, it will also keep a check on that step too far.
John Fleming is marketing VP at Emarsys, the global provider of email marketing solutions and services.
There are many elements to a brand.
They all need to work harmoniously in the machine that is your business. We have identified the five key components that, when functioning properly, will connect your brand with it’s audience.
Digital, analogue, environmental.
Wherever seen, used, discussed or heard, your brand needs to be consistent. All this matters.
When talking about your brand, you need to be clear who you are. This prevents confusion for stakeholders, therefore increasing engagement.
Whatever you offer it needs to be talked about through the most appropriate channels. Make yourself heard above the whirring and clanking of your competition.
Once your brand is out there in the business world, don’t be afraid to evolve and adapt. Start it up and never stop.
It’s vital that your team functions as a unit, embracing your brand values, vision and aims. Inspire them to bring their own career goals in line with your brand, ensuring success for all. With all these in place, there’s that can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-spark that every successful brand has.
This can be a man, a mind, a machine or a means.
Yours is there to discover.
The vision you create for your business is one of the most powerful drivers of growth. Having a vision of what you want to achieve, and where you want to get to, is infectiously compelling — to your consumers, to your team and to any potential investors.
As a company founder or MD, your greatest challenge is not just defining your vision in a way that reflects your brand, but in ensuring that everyone on your team buys into it. Your team — be it managers, contractors or even the student who works part-time in-store — needs to have a passionate appreciation of what you are trying to achieve and how you are trying to achieve it.
Here are four ideas to help you define your vision and motivate your team:
1. Keep it simple and make it powerful
Making a vision easily understood is one thing but making it resonate with your audience is more complicated. The key is to avoid jargon and use words and phrases that anyone in your business can associate with. Perhaps the most famous example of this was back in the 1960s when Nike’s vision simply said “Crush Adidas”.
The tone of that statement draws on the competitive nature of sport and the target audience. Its clarity of purpose couldn’t be mistaken by anyone. Nike’s vision was simple, do anything it takes to be bigger and better than its main rival.
2. Be ambitious, paint the future
The most customer-centric businesses will share their vision from the perspective of their customer, and there is no more compelling a way to do this than painting a picture of an ambitious future you want to create for your customers.
Henry Ford used this method — creating a vision that would have been impossible for any person to misinterpret — “I will build a motor car for the great multitude... When I’m through, everybody will be able to afford one, and everyone will have one. The horse will have disappeared from our highways, the automobile will be taken for granted.”
3. Convey the passion
The way those at the top convey the business vision has a direct impact on how customers and staff respond to it. It’s not surprising that many of the world's most successful companies have been led by founders who lived and breathed their business.
Steve Jobs once asked the chairman of Pepsi, “Do you want to spend your life selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?". Apple's own vision was certainly ambitious — “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advances humankind.”
4. Make it relevant
Bold and ambitious visions inspire teams but only when they understand the relevance to them. You must involve the team in order to encourage engagement with the business vision. Co-creation is one of the most powerful ways to do this.
A compelling brand vision, that is understood and believed by your team, is a competitive advantage. It becomes a growth driver for a business and it can make the vision self-fulfilling.