Thursday, January 24, 2013

Great or Safe - You Can't Be Both!

I've seen several cases lately where graphic designers will gather opinions on Facebook regarding logos they're designing. I can't help but think that reflects badly on their brand. The client is retaining them based on their professionalism in the field. I feel letting Facebook friends chose their best says plainly that these designers don't have the confidence to know what is the best solution. A logo speaks to the face of a brand.  It's not a work of art but a communication vehicle. These designers are doing their clients a disservice. 

I believe that a designer who is charge of helping to develop brand images must do so based on the brand and its promise to its marketplace. There are plenty of examples of individuals who believe it's not a good idea to ask the public for their input. Steve Jobs of Apple was one of these. He absolutely believed he knew what people wanted. Henry Ford had a great quote: "If I had asked them what they wanted they would have said faster horses." I've always said to my clients, "I don't give you what you like, I give you what you need." 

More times than not crowd sourcing delivers mediocrity. The general public are more likely to choose safe over ground breaking. When you engage the efforts of a professional you put yourself in their hands. If you don't entirely trust them, then you chose the wrong person. Put your brand into the hands of someone who can really make a difference. The last thing you want is to be is safe. Safe doesn't stand out from the crowd. If you're a graphic designer reading this and you enjoy crowd sourcing to make your decisions, maybe it's time you reconsider your occupation. When you're designing an image your client is the brand that hired you, not the public. They are there to be inspired by the truly great ones. 

We should all strive to one of those.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Web Killed The Trogan Horse Brand

Before the web was a dominant influencer to a brand, a company could essentially hide behind their brand. How their advertising portrayed them was all the contact the public had with the companies they bought from. With this in mind a company could say one thing on the surface and do an entirely different thing behind the scenes. The tobacco industry is a good example. In the public eye, the advertising showed a lifestyle that was glamorous and appealing while the reality behind the scenes was that they were selling a product that could kill the user. At that time there was no recourse as effective as social media to exposing the double identity of that brand. Today the web changes that scenario.

Today, every business has to be sure that all channels of contact with their prospective customer may be using is represented in their marketing plan. You have to be aggressive in defining what your brand stands for. The flagship of your brand today is your website. If you hire an amateur to do you site, it will turn off those who approach you online. Your brand image must be consistent to make the best impression every time they come into contact with you. Any week points in your presentation works against you.  Unlike the old days, you can no longer risk the ire of the public when you say one thing and do another. Authenticity is paramount to defining your brand. Anything that reflects bad behaviour will be exposed almost instantly to a planet-wide audience. If its bad enough, it could take on a life of its and ruin a brand.

The web is an open book and that's a great thing. If your brand fears the web, then it has problems culture-wide. The web absolutely levels the field. Staying on top off your marketing efforts on and off-line allows you some control over what messages are being pushed out to the public. The challenge of course is staying on top of these efforts. Just like lean manufacturing, your branding needs constant attention and improvement. To ignore your brand is to play with your sales potential.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Choosing The Right Color For Your Brand

Nothing is more striking visually in a brand than its colour palette. It can move people, calm people and agitate them. Colour has meaning and can be historically relevant. An example of what I mean by this is - let's say you have an antique store or modern store for that matter that sells 1950's era goods that are original or retro. You would be wise to use the pastel colour palette from that era (shown here). On doing this, your audience would immediately relate to the environment you are trying to create. 

Color also can help the customer feel a certain way. Red for instance is a power colour. It motivates. This is the number one colour used in retail sales to get customers to react to a sales statement . Act Now! Call Today! Up to 50% off - these are things you see every day and colour sells them.

I also like to analyze what colours the competition is using and use a palette that is completely opposite which is currently being used. Think UPS and brown. This is a leadership approach to color selection. How ever you choose to pick your corporate palette, don't just make the choice based on your personal taste. If mauve is the proper selection to help you sell, don't ignore it just because you may not like mauve. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

When Should A Company Re-Brand?!

There are many good reasons why a company might want to re-brand. Entrepreneurs by their nature see the benefits in upping their game. Constantly raising the bar within their category keeps the competition on edge. They spend more time keeping up or as I like to say. "following, not leading."

A common mistake you'll see all around you is companies who think re-branding is changing their logos and marketing materials. Without a doubt this may indeed happen with a re-branding, BUT it is by no means the definition of re-branding. You would want to re-brand if you are looking for positive change and growth for your company and you want to do it from a leadership position. A lot of companies look to branding when sales have fallen flat or growth has hit a wall. They are not happy with the status-quo and they have a keen desire to be stronger and to have a brand that resonates this with their current and potential customers. Sometimes the culture of a company has become tired and there's a sense of spinning their wheels. Every brand stretches and contracts over time. Perceptions of the brand miss the mark simply because there were no strategies in place to lead the brand. 

An unfortunate  time to re-brand is when a company is in its death throes. Due to circumstances that aid to the demise of the company, realistic finances are never available to properly address a re-branding. This is where you'll see people who think changing the logo is going to solve the problem and fool the customers into thinking the problems have corrected themselves. This is lipstick on a pig. If you hate the taste of Pepsi - is changing the logo going to make you enjoy it more? Of course not. Same goes for branding.

You re-brand because you see an opportunity to take your company to a higher level. You have the confidence to determine where your brand sits today, analyze it and determine where your leadership exists and build on that. Essentially you know what you'd like your brand to stand for - this is your chance to freshen up and build towards that end. I use a pretty extensive process to get this done. There is also plenty of information out there to at least get a fix on the direction you should take. I've had many cases where a logo change wasn't needed and this was because the logo was highly recognized and that kind of cache is hard to recover. 

Be sure that you get your brand right and not build on false hopes at the risk of alienating existing customers. What ever brand you have it's a must that you be authentic. There are plenty of examples in the marketplace where companies scream great service only to slowly eat away at it. Grocery chains are good at this. In the last few years (in Canada anyway) we've had them start charging for bags that were once free, having us pack those same bags where they once had bag boys. Introducing self-checkout under the guise of speed when it's about greed. Airlines and their charging for blankets, pillows, snacks etc. when they were once free. Both these industries tout service, but are actually re-training their customers at the expense of their brands. One day you will see something come along and replace their greed models and they will be standing agape with open mouths and wondering where they dropped the ball. i.e.: Blackberry today. 

Your brand has to be about them not you. If you must re-brand, do it strategically. If you desire a new logo, be sure your motives reflect your corporate culture not just because you're tired of your image. An old adage I've always used is, "the point when you tire of your own image/marketing is just the point when your clientele are beginning to notice it."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's 2013 And I've Got Nothing!

I'm sitting here trying to be profound  and write something great about the coming year's branding efforts. I've got nothing. Not to say I'm pessimistic about the coming year, but I'm drawing a blank about what to write about. Since I've started blogging (2006) I have written several hundred articles on branding. Now, during the first week of a fresh new year I can't think of a single thing to write about except this description of my dilemma. I try to write an article a week as a minimum. Sometimes the inspiration flows and I'm able to bank them and other times (like this week) I can barely conjure up more than a paragraph. 
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