What to Do When Your Branding No Longer Fits Your Business

Brand Words Sticky Notes Perception Identity LoyaltyAny business that has a long life also goes through many different branding identities.

If they don’t, the business may end up stuck in the past marketing to customers who no longer exist. For instance, a demographic such as women in their 20’s, looks completely different today than it did 20 years ago. Since a company’s brand is about the audience more than anything else, it’s important to consider how things change.

Look at a company like Johnson & Johnson.

They have been around for over 120 years. If they kept the same branding over the years, it would be difficult for them to keep marketing to the audience they want to attract. In fact, without appropriate branding they might even offend their audience.

The same can be said for your business.

It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is, over time your branding may need to be updated or changed completely to reflect the direction your audience has moved. If you’ve paid attention to your audience, you are aware and open to how they’ve changed and in what direction they are leading you.

Let’s take a look at what branding does:

  • Branding Communicates Directly to Your Audience
  • Branding Engages Customers
  • Branding Connects Your Product to Your Customer Emotionally
  • Branding Motivates Buyers
  • Branding Confirms and Increases Your Credibility

If your current branding is not accomplishing those goals, it’s time to make a change.

The change might be as simple as a redesign of the logo to a more modern logo, it might mean a change of fonts, or even how your web design looks. Whatever you do, your re-branding should focus completely on your audience and the people who you want to be your customers. After all, it’s the audience that informs the brand, not the other way around. It’s how they see your business, not how you see it.

The choices you make when branding your small business will make a huge impact on every aspect of your business moving forward. The branding will inform the messaging you use going forward, how you connect with your customers, and even how you tell the story of your products to your audience.

The research you do about your audience in order to improve your branding may also impact the choices you make regarding product creation in the future. In short, branding is everything. But, it’s not static. It can and should change over time as your business and customers evolve. Branding, after all is all about your audience.

Spending time developing and building your brand is like building your relationship with your customers. It takes time; it evolves, and leads the way for all your marketing efforts. If the branding is not right, it’s okay, just work on it, and perfect it over time keeping your mind open to your audience and their needs, wants, and desires.

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Is Your Brand Living Someone Else’s Life?

A brand is essentially the reputation of any company. In the day-to-day operating of a company, it’s confronted by a plethora of challenges. It takes a particular sort of person to grow a company while hurtling these obstacles. Brands that I admire are typically ones that are leaders in their category. There are the obvious ones that catch the global eye. Companies like Apple, Google and Virgin. But locally there are also companies whose brand shines. They are on the front lines and manage to lead in their own ways. Their positioning differentiates them and that difference rewards them.

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Then of curse there are the other companies. They’re the ones living some other brands life. These are the obvious brands that rely on analyze what the leaders are doing and mimic them. They believe that since Nike uses a swoosh, then dah, if they use one too they will become as successful as them. This of course is quite a stretch. But you see it every day.

How many hamburger joints follow the McDonald’s model? I’m surprised they don’t adopt a clown of their own. Notice how all auto dealers look exactly the same. Grocery stores also follow each other.

Where someone dares to break the mold and forge out with a brand that screams leader, the public usually rewards them. The norm is broken and they rise to the top. iTunes changed the way music was sold. Amazon revolutionized book distribution. Whole Foods showed traditional grocery a thing or two. Richard Branson and Virgin break boundaries all the time. He seems to take normalcy as a personal challenge. Steve Jobs as well.

In my own community, I see companies copying other companies all the time. I recognize that a major cause is a complete lack of confidence. The desire to BE an entrepreneur but not the where with all to actually behave like one. They all have this wait and see philosophy. Odd, the thing is they’re not waiting for themselves – they’re waiting for you. You take the risks on an idea, if you have some success they’re quick to swoop in and copy you.

I had a leading window and door manufacturer who did a fabulous job retailing his product. He was flustered by the fact that once his flyers went out, the leading competitor would mimic everything he did. As a credit to his sense of humour, he grew so tired of this that a week before his flyer ran he’d send the owner of that company a heads up as what he would be offering. It gave him the last laugh.

All laughing aside it spoke to the lack of confidence that manufacturer suffered from. It made his brand an also ran. His company name should have been called “Me Too!.” You can look exactly like any company you wish. You can behave like any company but your can never BE that company. The cultures are different and the leadership is different. A brand has to be authentic to be successful. If you’re copying then there’s nothing authentic about your brand and it’s not fooling anyone. It’s the reason Apple outsells anyone else even with a substantially more expensive product. The other-lifer’s – THEY’RE NOT APPLE. THEY’RE NOT AMAZON OR GOOGLE.

You are you. It’s that simple. To be great your brand has to lead not follow. If you follow someone else you are by definition already behind. Following doesn’t put you out front. Living someone else’s life pays homage to the original. Makes sense when you think about it.

Choosing the Right Colors for Your Website

Designing a website that works well and appeals to your audience can be a difficult task if you don’t know where to begin. There are so many schools of thought about what the right color is for a particular type of website. Colors evoke emotions, and you want to be careful about which emotions you evoke. The look and feel of your site is almost as important as the content you publish.

Colors Evoke Emotions

When choosing colors you have to let go of what you think you like, and stick with conventional wisdom. Many people who are new to web design want to pick their own favorite colors, and while sometimes it may be a good choice, more often than not it’s just wrong for the audience. Therefore you need to go through some thought before choosing the color scheme for your new website.

Choose Contrasting Colors

The first and most important rule of thumb is to choose contrasting colors for the background and text. Typically it is better if the text is darker than the background. Even online, black text on a light background is the most preferable for online reading, just like it is for offline reading. If you choose to go the opposite route, double check for issues of readability because for many people, reading light colored text on a dark background hurts their eyes.

Use Natural Colors

Lime green and bright glowing orange aren’t really natural colors and can look quite harsh on a computer monitor. You can use toned down versions of these colors as contrasting colors if you’re careful about how you arrange them. But psychedelic colors are best left to posters, and not used online due to the eye strain they can cause. You’ve probably clicked away from a website due to the immediate pain brought to your eyes due to harsh color combinations.

Use No More than 3 or 4 Colors

A good example of a nice color palette can be found on paint samples. You’ll see that they’ll go from light to dark of the same color. Going with the same idea that you’d use to paint your house or your office, choosing a color palette of no more than 3 or 4 colors will work well for your purposes. These complementary colors, along with judicial use of white space, will make your website look professional and well thought out.

Remember Issues with Disabilities

One of the things often forgotten is that people with disabilities, including vision issues, also use the web. You’ll need to know who your audience is to know if this plays a factor, but having an accessible website should be as important to you as having an accessible store front. Your website is your store front in many cases, you don’t want to exclude people due to lack of attention to this detail. You can learn more about web standards for people with disabilities by reading the about it here at the w3schools.com website.

Your Audience Comes First

Like with most things marketing, it’s all about them. Your website isn’t about you at all. It’s about how you can best represent your products and or services to your customer in a way that pleases them. Men, women, elderly, and even different nations and cultures view color differently. Women don’t necessarily like pink, for example, so be sure to study your audience so that you can get an idea of their preferences.

Understand the Emotional Meaning

behind Color

For many individuals, a particular color will bring to mind emotional connotations that cannot be controlled. For instance red, in most cases can bring to mind feelings of high energy or anger depending on the audience. It’s important to pay attention to how your audience reacts to color and how the color of your website might bring to mind certain emotions. The shade of the color can matter a lot too, so choose wisely.

  • Red – High energy, passion, anger
  • Blue – Trust, sadness, loyalty
  • Green – Nature, wealth, health
  • Yellow – Joy, happiness

Once you start mixing these colors to create other colors, you’ll get entirely new and different emotions.

Online Tools You Can Use

You can create exciting palettes by using an online palette with this Color Scheme Designer. Once you pick the colors with the software, you can see a preview of what your website might look like. You can also download the RGB colors to use, in order to get the most accurate colors possible for your website.

Another really great tool to try is the Color Palette Generator. You can copy the URL of any image to get a color palette generated from the image. This is very useful if you already have a logo, and other marketing collateral and you want to match it to the business image you already have. While this system generates five colors per image remember to not use all five, try to stick to three and no more than 4 colors.

Choosing the colors for your websites is just one of many decisions you’ll need to make for your business. But it’s an important decision to make, so give it some thought while considering the meaning behind the colors, as well as how the colors affect your customer’s choices and vision. You only have a few seconds to get any new visitor to stay and read.

Appearing To Do The Right Thing is The Wrong Thing in Branding

confusedHow many companies can you think of that tout customer service, great pricing, guarantees and transparency? They supposedly embrace social media and pretend to get the benefit of the web. They absolutely want their customers to know they love them. They expend a great deal of time and money trying to convince the great unwashed that they are the genuine article. They appear to be doing all the right things. The tricky word here is “appear.”

They appear to be doing all the right things.

Like any brand, it’s not enough to “appear” to be doing anything. To do so would be a HUGE injustice to your stakeholders. I can’t tell you the number of companies who tell me they’re on Linkedin but haven’t the faintest idea what to do there. They’re there because, “everybody told them they’ve got to be there.” They tout customer service because that’s what everyone wants right? Sure – but ask them what they do to facilitate great customer service and the real truth is, it’s written on the website and brochure but there are no systems in place to deliver.
Saying it seems to be enough. Ask anyone what differentiates them and most will say, “our customer service.” I’ve experienced this first hand. Being a branding guy, you can appreciate this is one of the first things I want to know about when first exposed to a new company in a networking situation or some other venue.

My favourite was one guy who had a guarantee on his marketing. His tout was, “Great service – guaranteed!” Wow! Two promises in one line. I asked him what was the guarantee if he failed to deliver great service. He said in all seriousness, “They can go somewhere else.” Now that’s shallow. That’s what you get if he fails!? Maybe he should reword his position and tell the truth – Satisfaction guaranteed or you can go somewhere else.” Are you sold? This guy wasn’t trying to be a smart ass. He genuinely believed that his guarantee was justified.

It “appeared” to do the right thing. No risk, no expectation to sacrifice should he fail at his promise to deliver. Thank heavens for the brand. Since it’s your reputation, the brand indirectly protects the public from less than ethical businesses. It’s no wonder most purchases are made on the recommendation of friends and colleagues. It’s one of the reasons why social media is so effective at defending and advocating great brands. Screw up and suffer the wrath of social media. “Appearing” be embracing social media shows a major weakness with this scenario.

If you want your brand to flourish and stand for more than what you do, it’s time to stop appearing to do something and start participating in it. Have a brand strategy that uses all channels to push your brand. This is taking control of your brand. Seems like an obvious statement doesn’t it? It’s a simple statement that’s for sure, but it comes with a large commitment. To control your brand you must put out a ton of effort. Sometimes it’s going to feel thankless. It will absolutely define your brand. There is an alternative however – and that’s to “appear” to be doing something. Nobody but your competition will thank you for that move.

Your competition LOVES to define what your brand stands for. They’ll thank you and all they ask in return is a little market share.

It appears to be you move.

The New Brand Benefit

bowIn a lot of ways starting a business and giving birth to a new brand can be an exciting process. No one knows who you are yet, so they have nothing to build an opinion on. On the other hand, since there is no formal introduction yet, everything about you is essentially rumour at this stage. A good place to start your brand is PR. Having a basic introductory website, and a weekly update to media, will help build interest and keep your information factual.
Any contact with suppliers and potential customers should alway be cordial. How you treat any contact at this initial stage, could set the tone of your new brand. Determine how you would like to be perceived and then strategize as to how you might influence this. Developing a positioning strategy that makes you the leader or the best at something will give your new brand resonance with your market. The worst thing you could do, is “follow the leader.” In doing this your brand offers nothing to the marketplace. Why bother existing at all? Every decision you make should assist in differentiating your new brand.
In discovering your difference, your launch can be exciting. You could be on your way to building a remarkable brand. Dream big! Don’t strive to be one of the best – strive to be the best. Just delivering good customer service isn’t enough – deliver the best service. Discover ways to over-deliver. Never forget that every thing you do affects the success of your brand. Don’t take designing your brand image lightly. An amateur attempt just reflects back on you. I’ve known some small businesses who took more interest in their decor than their brand image. Ultimately this shows in their success or lack there of.
Another important strategy is to build your “expert profile.” Your expert profile is your customer’s perception of your level of expertise. I typically recommend using Linkedin as a good start. Bringing your profile as close to 100% is a great way to get a handle on your level of expertise. Next round it out with a Facebook business page. But, I think that the number one activity that defines your expertise better than anything is blogging. It allows you to actively put your opinion out for all to see. With blogging the trick is to give away valuable information. It’s a lot of effort but the rewards over time can be extraordinary. I’ve not only gotten leads from blogging but press interviews and unique opportunities.
Your brand is in your hands. Ignore it and the competition will step up to define you. Own it, live it and strive from it.

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Content Strategy Ideas That Work & Won’t Burn You Out

Chris Bennet of 97th Floor shares some wonderful content strategy ideas. The heart of the message – repurpose your content. Check out the presentation to see how he suggests doing it.

5 Ways to Pick a Great Domain Name That Fits Your Brand

Picking a great domain name that fits your brand is an important business decision. Likely, up there with some of the most key decisions you’ll ever make, and one you may be stuck with for a long time. Therefore, it is important that you take the time to give domain naming some thought before you jump in without considering the factors involved.

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1) Consider Your Business Model

Your business model consists of what you sell, to whom you sell it, and how you deliver it. Understanding these facts about your business will help you consider why you need a website. Every business has a purpose for needing a website. Consider some of these reasons for having a website.

  • Establish Credentials
  • Provide Information
  • Generate & Collect Leads
  • Sell Your Product & Services

What is the purpose of your website and how does it relate to your business model? Understanding your purpose can help you pick a domain name that resonates with your audience and business model.

2) Think About The Image You Want to Evoke

Words have meanings and bring to mind various images and connotations that should not be over looked. The meanings might be related to the dictionary but they might also be related to popular culture. Your domain name should connect your audience in their mind, before they even visit your site, to an idea of the type of content that will be on your website. That might be very remote such as with made up words like Yahoo.com which just sounds fun and people like to say. It might be more serious and direct such as with a domain name like shareware.com. It might even be brand related by name like MarthaStewart.com.

3) Know Your Market

Get laser focused on this but also look to the future. Do you see yourself expanding into other markets in the future? If you’re sure about your exact market right now, and in the future, you can choose a domain name that directly speaks to that audience. Your domain name impacts search engine optimization (SEO) in many ways making it either easier or harder for your audience to find you. Using a word that your market would use to find you can be an important and crucial way to being found online.

4) Research Keywords to Describe Your Business

You might think that you know all the keywords to know about your industry but you don’t. Try conducting keyword research using tools like Google Adwords Keyword Tool to help you choose a great domain name that represents your business in a good way, but that will also attract an automatic audience due to the use of the keywords in your domain name. Ensure that the keywords you choose have a high search volume and enough interest by your audience to choose those words as your domain name.

5) Know Your Current Position

Is your name known already due to work that you’ve done in the same niche? Are you a already a popular coach, author, well-known writer, virtual assistant or do you meet other criteria that would make your own name, or a made up name, an important domain name to consider?

These are names that you can brand. Good examples are SethGodin.com, Google.com, Etsy.com among others. If you are, or know you will be, very well known you can use your own name or a made up word to create a brand-new identity online but it will be a bit harder than if you choose words that already had meaning to the people searching for your information.

Picking the right domain name will help you establish credentials, provide information, generate leads, and / or sell your products and services. It’s one of the most important choices you’ll make going forward with your business idea. Take the time to use one or more of these five ways to pick a great domain name.