How Graphic Designers Are Missing The Boat On Branding!

$caredGraphic design firms have for years neglected a key space that can bring them a significant new stream of revenue. Most of this missed opportunity is due not understanding the opportunity of branding. For far too long, graphic designers have called developing logos “branding.” Re-branding is being marketed as simply changing the logo of a company. This mis-information is then picked up by the media and the mis-conception breeds on itself. I cringe every time I see in the media that a company is re-branding, and on investigation, see that they are simply changing the logo.

You have to ask yourself, “why are clients seeing a need to re-brand?” and what-ever the reason, why did they feel that a logo change would solve their problem? My guess is that this concept was sold to them by graphic design and advertising firms. After all, that is usually all they understand that branding entails. If the reason to re-brand was a flattening of sales activity, the company wanting to raise the bar and reach to higher levels of business or even to strengthen a brand for a potential sale – how is a pretty new logo going to address those and many other serious reasons to re-brand (properly)?

To graphic design firms: If you’re not getting twenty to fifty-thousand dollars for branding projects BEFORE you even start designing, then YOU’RE NOT BRANDING! In many cases there’s no design included in a re-branding. Many of you are doing aspects of branding for free. Many graphic designers see themselves as artists when they should be seeing themselves as problem solvers. You’d be wise to get a handle on how to sell branding properly. What is really exciting is that branding, when done properly becomes a catalyst for additional graphic design. It may surprise graphic designers, but many brand process elements are not even graphic design functions. It is not a visual solution, but a strategic solution.

Logo re-branding isn’t the graphic designer’s fault entirely. It’s just that they have been sold a bill of goods by peers who see low hanging fruit and don’t have the tools and capability to do branding properly. Keeping the myth alive benefits them. Designers gladly grab the immediate opportunity, not realizing the real money eludes them. Designers should do themselves a favour and investigate embracing a branding process that allows them to not only position their practices as branding leaders but also allows them to change the conversation within their markets. Lift the veil on branding and watch your clients take you more seriously and in an entirely different light.

Sadly, re-branding by logo will in many cases have your clients revisiting issues in the short term. Why, because it won’t (and can’t) solve the problem that brought it about. There’s only so much a visual can do to change perceptions. It’s what we call putting lipstick on a pig – at the end of the day it’s still a pig!

Are you in the design industry and want to learn more about driving profits by building brands for clients? Find out more here:  http://www.mydesignshop.com/common-mistakes-designers-make-with-branding-webinar

My Self-Investment = Self-Confidence Rant!

whatisyourbrandI’m always trying to find ways to improve on what I do. I do a lot of reading, I reach out to people. I’m continually looking for great opportunities to get my message out there. I recently launched my new website that I had ported over to WordPress. Now my blog is within my site rather than at a separate location. I’ve also just launched my new ASK ED! question service. In the bag and ready for promotion is a 3 product mastermind like consulting packages that I will start promoting very soon. Also In the works is a new branding product for those in the graphic design industry and I’m also half way through my second book – “101 Branding Tips, Volume 2.”

All of this takes an investment in time, effort and money. It is frankly a dedication to self-investment. It’s important to keep the wheels in motion and continually and consistently delivering on the promise of being of value to my audience. What I see out there though (and on a regular basis) is a lack of self-investment. I can’t understand the attitude that to do nothing is acceptable. All businesses have peaks and valleys. I’ve heard every excuse why business is bad. Every time I’m involved in this discussion I ask “what are they doing to change this.” I get the same response – absolutely nothing. I do get lots of reasons for the lack of commerce, customer apathy, the bad economy, competition, advertising doesn’t work, promotion’s not for me, I’ve got no money, blah, blah, blah.

From my seat this lack of self-investment is a testament to their lack of self-confidence. These people WILL spend money on everything but the very things that will make them money. To do nothing delivers nothing. To wait is to add another excuse down the road – “shi*! I should’a done that 6 months ago!!!” If your self-confidence is waning, recognize it and do what have to to boost your moral. Join or start mastermind group. Network more. Speak to groups of people. A lack of self-confidence is written all over your face so there’s no hiding it. You either deal with it or suffer from it. This equates to your brand both personal and corporate. To do nothing defies logic.

Thanks for putting up with my mid-summer rant.

So You Want To Build A Brand.

brand buildingWhere does one start to build a brand? Do you just let nature dictate, or should you plant your own seeds and nurture it along? My answer has to be the latter. As I see brand as essentially your reputation, I often tell start-ups to determine what they’d like their brand to stand for and then to work to that end. I think that that’s a little easier than to trip along unengaged with who you are and what you stand for.

I also think that you should differentiate your brand from the get-go. If you use differentiation as a strategy, then you can analyze the competition and then do something different then they are doing. Use them as a “what not to do model.” The strategy here is to resonate with your customers by positively standing out. It’s not to be different for the sake of being different, but different by being better – a leader. Your brand image should reflect something other than them. Most industries use a follow the leader mentality. Look at the leading brand in a category, more often those competing against the leader use the same colour palettes, the same images and the same conversation.

You want to own the conversation and attract by your difference. Values you adopt and consistently abide by will see you go from start-up to flourishing. Your brand values define you and your brand. Who ever you decide to become, be sure to be authentic and passionate. Branding can be your friend and positively affect every touch point of your brand.

Are You Holding You Back?

stressedIs your brand continually evolving? Are you always watching for tools and education to put more opportunity in your cross-hairs? Just last year I fine-tuned my website. I really thought the look and functionality was exactly what my brand reflected. In the year or more since that re-do I recognized that to update or improve the sight I really should have not completed it in html (which I did myself). I am now in a major re-do porting the site to a WordPress platform. This is beyond me so I had to engage the services of a professional in this area. I’m anxious to get the flexibility that this platform allows.

Are you finding it easy to get the brand information and/or training you need to help you grow your brand? I’ve signed up for a few webinars and online lectures only to have them deliver generalities. I leave with more questions than answers. You come to realize that the webinar is really just a come-on in a complicated sales funnel. This can happen in a paid webinar as well. I set my sights low in many things that I attend. I am usually just looking for a nugget or two that can help me more effectively deliver my products. When I deliver to my clients, I often ask myself if this is how I would like to be treated? Is this price point something I would consider paying?

Do you monitize your services? Do you find it difficult to do? I’m curious to know what platforms you find advantageous and are you and your audience having an enjoyable experience working together? I’ve seen just having a book out there draws people to you and your brand experience. When you have a strong brand, you’ll find yourself in demand for your opinion. How many people offer to buy you a coffee to get your opinion on something? These questions are exacting the reason I found that the platform of my website was sorely lacking to allow me to quickly adjust to new revenue streams. I like to react immediately not six months or more down the road. My brand expects me to jump while the iron is hot. Who better to invest in than myself? A few thousand well-directed dollars can make a HUGE difference in how your brand develops.

How many people do you know, who whine on about the economy but do nothing to develop opportunities that will will positively impact their businesses? It’s as thought their answer is to ignore the problems and success will eventually find its way to them. I wish that were true but it’s never worked that way for me. I’ve always had to create my own opportunities. It’s like the old adage. “I seems the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Great or Safe – You Can’t Be Both!

MOUSETRAPI’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.

The Web Killed The Trojan Horse Brand

imgresBefore 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.

Your Brand Is Spreading Rumours About You Again!

What’s your brand saying about you?

It’s all over the street – nobody really knows what you do there at ABC Co. It’s not like your customers or potential customers are spreading bad news about you, it’s more the fact that they’re not saying anything at all. There is no buzz. Everybody knows you but for some reason that’s not translating into tangible business. You appear to be doing everything right on the ground. But are you really?

From my experience dealing with SME’s (small to medium enterprises), a common misconception about marketing is that have to list everything that they do on their business cards, brochures and marketing materials in general. “Ed,” they tell me, “if I don’t say – it I don’t do it!” Maybe you’re saying too much. They seem to feel that an overall strategy is less important than a great eye-popping graphics. Manufacturers give more space on their marketing materials to pictures of their plants and group shots of the entire staff. Retailers are preoccupied with getting that price as low as possible and pretending to have great service while remaining closed on days popular with customers. Service businesses are more concerned with their convenience than their customers by relying entirely on email for connections.

The common problem is not that you may be known physically, but you’re unknown intellectually. Your customers can’t identify you with a need they have for your products or services. They’re confused. It’s a common communication/branding problem. The few example above point directly to:

1) No positioning strategy. Your audience “is never everyone” it’s always a segment. It’s the segment that brings the most cash your way. Inevitably if you list everything, you’re bound to forget one thing. In the customers mind, since you do list everything, then you must be telling them that if it’s not listed – you don’t do it. A simple but uncompromising rule. It’s much better to chose the service or category that brings you the highest opportunity and separates you from your competition. This will position you as the leader or the go to company.

2) Lack of communication. Everyone loves those super graphics that are so cool in marketing. The viral video. Anything that will catch the eyes and minds of the viewer. The problem is that while cool, they communicate nothing. Their goal is quantity over quality. Who cares if hoards of people look at you, if they don’t translate into business for you. If you don’t have a consistent strong ongoing compelling message to tell, what is your brand really saying about your business? You are ultimately responsible for what your brand is saying – make it count.

3) Authenticity. You’ve seen it I’m sure; businesses bragging how service is the key to their brand and they make you wait on hold for 20 minutes. They open when it’s convenient to them and they connect entirely by email because it wouldn’t be convenient to drive all the way over to see you. Their entire brand is a contradiction. These are companies that don’t live up to their brand values.

To brand effectively you must say it, believe it and live it. Branding is all about controlling your perception on the street. You have the opportunity to define yourself, drop the ball and the marketplace will not be kind. Once the rumour mill takes over, you will spend more time correcting and following, than doing what makes you income and moves you forward.

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