**As first seen in the Paducah Sun’s Business Journal and paducahsun.com
“Where do I start?!” We are well into the new year, but this question stops many from developing their annual marketing plan.
There are very important questions to tackle before you put your plan into motion:
- What avenues should you explore?
- What should the timeline look like?
- How do you choose what to say?
- Where should you say it, and when should you deliver the message?
But, back to the original question. Where to start?
Think of your marketing plan as a road trip. Surely, the first thing you are going to do is choose a destination. The same should be true for your marketing plan.
First, ask this: “What are my goals?” Before you can execute, or even really develop an effective marketing plan you need to determine your short term and long term goals.
Once you have defined your goals, then the pieces needed to achieve them should begin to fall in place. You have a starting point, and you have determined where the finish line is, all you need is the gas to get there and the route to take along the way.
Rules of the road:
The next step you will need to undertake is determining the best possible path to get to your finish line. Just like a traditional road map, every destination has many possible routes. But some will make more sense than others. When creating your route, follow these rules of the road:
- Define your audience. Who’s coming along for the ride? More specifically, what area of your business or target demographic are you driving toward that destination? Understanding who you are trying to reach is imperative to a successful marketing campaign. In order to understand your audience, you first have to get to know them. There are many digital metrics at your disposal, especially if you have a social media presence, to help you understand your audience. It might require doing a little digging (and maybe a little math!), but the answers are always out there.
- Develop your message. Once you’ve defined your audience, you then need to craft a message tailored to them. If you can pinpoint your target audience to a specific location, demographic or platform, then you can gain an advantage through messaging by appealing to a more similarly minded audience.Whether that is through sales by targeting a digital keyword campaign, or the style of posts you craft to speak on your social media platforms, keep your target audience in mind. What type of message are they going to respond to?
- Determine your vehicle. Think of marketing as a giant garage that houses all kinds of different vehicles, all with different uses depending on the situation. Distance, terrain, weather and passengers would all factor in to which vehicle you chose to make that trip. Much like choosing that vehicle for your trip, you should similarly choose the vehicle for your marketing. Your audience and your message will help to determine if you should go in heavy on social media, spread your budget over traditional print media, or take aim with television.These decisions should be calculated, as there are metrics that measure trends for different platforms, as well as how those platforms are being engaged by demographic. This is why it’s so important to define your audience before you decide how to allocate your marketing budget.
- Head toward the finish line. Once you’ve set a goal, you will automatically create a benchmark to which you can effectively judge your strategy. While you are on this journey, you can periodically assess the marketing vehicles you chose and the path you ultimately took to see what is working, and more importantly, what isn’t.
Marketing done right never involves doing the same thing forever. Regardless of what your business may be, the landscape is always evolving. It is your job as the business owner to keep an eye on how customers react, as well as how useful those tools were at reaching them.
For this new year, as you begin to dig into your marketing budget, make sure you aren’t just “going for a drive.” Decide what your goals are for the year, then plan out your route from there.
**As first seen in the Paducah Sun’s Business Journal and paducahsun.com
Some will say doing the same thing over and over will never get you positive results. And, they may actually be right in some cases. However, when it comes to your brand, consistency is a necessity.
Your brand consists of the image and message which comes to mind when someone thinks of your product, service or company.
You can’t force a brand on anyone. While your logo and tagline operate as supporting pieces, your brand consists of much more.
Your brand is the core of what your organization represents. It’s how and why you serve your customer. When all of your messaging, imagery and actions match what you want to portray, it will be branded into the minds of those who need your services.
One thing many run into, even marketing experts, is boredom. This isn’t talking about laziness or too much time on their hands, but when consistency begins to feel boring. Some may begin thinking they need to change up the message or change up the look of the company.
Your brand may seem boring and too narrow to you, but remember it’s not for you, it’s for your customers. Establish yourself, your main message, product and service in the mind of your customer, then continue supporting it. You support your brand with creative ideas, instead of creatively re-creating your brand.
So how do you remain consistent in brand and creative in marketing?
Don’t forget your roots.
Many businesses forget what they’re good at. They try to expand or move into different markets, which oftentimes results in a watered down brand. Expansion and sub-branding can be done the right way. But, remember to keep coming back to your roots.
Your story is important. Your product or service is valuable. Keep providing what your customers love and be the best at providing it.
Be creative in content, but ensure it supports your established brand’s message.
Here’s what consistency is not: It’s not producing the same picture, same content, on the same platform, over and over.
Here is what consistent marketing should look like: Taking a core message and creatively finding ways to support and communicate it.
For true marketing creatives, this is both frustrating and fun. Creatively communicating the same message over a long period of time can eventually become tiring and feel somewhat redundant. Here are two things to remember: 1. Your customer isn’t thinking about your brand 24/7 like you.
- When you feel like you’re in a rut, look outside your bubble for inspiration. Even just taking a walk or talking with a friend can spark new ideas.
The key is not allowing your personal feelings of the brand to drive your marketing. Keep reminding yourself of who you are serving. What package can you put your message in that will resonate with them?
There are times when a company needs to rebrand, but rebranding should only take place when your brand has never been fully established in the mind of your customer. Making that type of decision should involve research and extensive planning.
But, here’s the action you can take right now:
- Define your brand. Who are you at your core and in the minds of others? (You might even ask a few customers!)
- Brainstorm three ways you can creatively communicate that message this month.
- Document the results. What worked well and what didn’t?
Put away your feelings about the brand. Go back to your roots and remember what your brand stands for in the marketplace. Now, consistently be, and communicate who you already are.
Beat your competitors with marketing consistency. Take a few minutes to evaluate your marketing. Gather all of your marketing pieces you’ve done recently, take a step back and analyze them as a whole.
1. Analyze your logo.
Do you have different versions used across platforms? Is the logo on your business card a different color than the logo on your email signature? Make sure your logo, if nothing else, always stays consistent across print, online and television.
2. Analyze your marketing messages.
What message best represents your brand image? That’s your brand promise which should be reflected in every marketing tactic.
3. Analyze your design theme.
When you look at all of your advertisements, commercials, your website etc, do you see a common design theme? Your vehicle vinyl wrap and your website should have similar colors and design elements. Your commercial and your print advertisements should complement each other, so your brand is immediately recognizable.
Not keeping your brand image consistent can actually hurt the perception your customers have of your business, which could mean a loss in sales for you.
How do you make your brand stand out? Apply these two key points that successful brands take action on every day.
1. Successful brands care.
This goes beyond caring for the community and their employees. What this means is the brand cares about, well, their brand. These organizations are constantly asking the question, “Does this decision support our brand?” This can be anything from campaign designs to the next event they decide to sponsor.
2. Successful brands understand their brand is an assett that needs to be managed.
They realize their brand is more than just their logo. These organizations realize their logo is a symbol of their company as a whole. They constantly evaluate how their logo and name is being used online, in print materials and by others in their organization. They strive to keep not only a consistent ‘look’, but also ensure they are representing their brand in the products and services they deliver.
Remember your organization is represented visually through your brand image. So keep it consistent to reflect that your company is stable, capable and a trustworthy brand to do business with.
Take a look at how we helped these brands become more consistent in their message and design.
Brand consistency should across all aspects of your marketing: print, online, television, etc.
It is that time of year when sports lovers are treated to non-stop games for 12 hour stretches, and the dreams of hundreds of college athletes and fans come to courts across the country.
Equally as exciting for the rest of the population is the opportunity to fill out a bracket and prove their prowess in predictability.
Many offices hold bracket contests as team building exercises and bragging-right opportunities. But, we, at Innovations Branding House, do not.
Most of us are not really sports people. But there are a few in the office who live for the gauntlet run that is basketball in March.
With a little convincing, we eventually all joined in and made some blind selections based on whatever criteria we deemed fit:
-whichever was easier to write
Basically, anything goes.
That led to this thought: How would your brand rank on a tournament bracket?
A lot of times, your potential customers are going to make their decision based on perception alone. They may choose, or not choose, your business after just visiting your website or scrolling through your reviews on Facebook.
While their decisions may not be well informed, that first impression really can be a deal breaker when they weigh their options.
So how do you begin to analyze a sports team by their brand? The first thing I would consider would be their identity and reputation. Does the team stand out? And why? A high academic rating would be a positive. Being known for a scandal would be a negative.
How do they look? Is their logo recognizable and synonymous with their identity? Do their colors complement their image? Universities are brands when you think about it. Their primary goal is to attract students (business) and put out the best possible product (education).
We applied this train of thought to the teams playing in the tournament, weighing heavily on brand equity as perceived by the (probably biased) members of the office.
How Does Your Brand Matchup?
A potential customer may apply the same type of analysis when they are looking for a product or service. It is important to ask yourself, “How do I stack up against my competition?”
These questions are important to consider because they will be the questions your potential customers will subconsciously ask themselves when they weigh you against your competition.
When attracting new customers, this will be all they have to go on to make their decision. And sometimes, that’s all it takes to make someone choose a 16 seed over a 1 seed.
Who Did We Choose? Our Four Finalists:
The University of Kansas: The Jayhawks took the top spot in their corner of the bracket. Their iconic “Jayhawk” logo is easily recognizable and has been their mascot since the early 1900s. Their current logo has been in use since 1946, and there is absolutely no reason to change it.
Yale University: As far as collegiate reputations go, it’s hard to top Yale. The Ivy League school founded in 1701 is instinctively referred to as one of the top schools for academics. So, you could say they have a reputation. They also have their own typeface.
Michigan State University: Their green “Sparty” logo is simple, yet dynamic. The same can be said for their official tagline “Spartans Will,” which they say “communicates our value and purpose in a common language.” They also have an entire website dedicated to the MSU brand.
University of Kentucky: The Wildcats of the Bluegrass State have a rich and successful athletic history dating back to the Civil War. And while “Kentucky Blue” isn’t an official color, it is the official blood type of their strong and loyal following, which can be seen via their many, many, many, fansites.
How far would your brand go?
SHOW ME THE MONEY! TIME IS MONEY!
There are way too many money and time lyrics, quotes and colloquialisms to count or site here, as much as I would love to try.
But all those words convey the same message: time is the most valuable currency we have. So why are you spending so much time on the phone?
Quality time, rather than quantity of time, should be your focus.
If you’re unsure the time you’re spending with plastic smashed against your ear is reasonable or not, take a look at the scenarios below.
If You Hear These Questions, Then There’s a Problem
- “So what exactly does your company do?”
Seriously? If someone took your contact information off of your website and couldn’t figure out the No. 1 basic fact about your company, then you need to re-evaluate that website.
- “At your specialty store, do you carry [Popular Brand Name] and [Other Popular Brand Name] products?”
Let’s use a high-end photography shop as an example for a moment. If the owner is getting multiple calls a week from customers asking if she sells Nikon or Cannon camera lenses, then her marketing and/or her website need work.
Consider this: The majority of calls made to businesses are the result of a Google search. So if your Google Places business page is set up properly, then the caller was just one click away from photos, brand names. All of that information would be right next to the phone number. But if you’re getting this call, then your web presence isn’t properly set up.
- “Where are you located?”
Even companies who don’t have websites have search engine-automated contact information. Come on.
- “How large is your team?”
Potential customers and clients like transparency. Knowing who and how many people will be working on their behalf is comforting to them. Include your approximate company size or your team’s headshots on your website, and this question will disappear.
- “Can you help me with [Topic]? Are you qualified to help me?”
If your expertise and authority in your industry isn’t evident by the time someone picks up the phone and calls you, then your website hasn’t done its job.
The Root of the Problem
If people are asking irrelevant questions like the ones listed above, ask yourself what information you can publicly provide to answer them. Providing the right information online will drastically reduce the amount of time you spend on dead-end calls.
Your time is valuable, so don’t let it be wasted on phone calls that are going nowhere.
Instead, spend it making valuable sales or educating your clientele with answers to questions that will actually make a difference to their business or within their lives.
In recent years, people have begun disliking talking on the phone more and more. So when someone takes the time to pick up the phone and ask you a simple question, it means that your web presence needs help.
You spend too much time on the phone because clearly something, or a few things, isn’t working.
Top of mind awareness doesn’t magically happen when you throw money at billboards and large ad placements. It’s more complex than that. Top of mind awareness starts with brand consistency.
We’re not saying that a large budget doesn’t contribute to some marketing success. But even companies without money to burn can make themselves memorable. And the easiest way to start being memorable is by being consistent.
What Brand Consistency Is
Let’s break down what brand consistency is word by word.
First, what is a brand? It’s mainly two things: your company as a whole, and the promise that it makes to customers about your service or product.
Secondly, consistency is when a customer sees two or more examples of a company’s marketing and easily recognizes (without being told) that every piece belongs to the same business.
If your marketing is consistent, then customers should be able to identify your work or brand in any form or format.
Common Ways Brands are Inconsistent
Also note that big companies aren’t immune to inconsistency – it may actually be more common in older, larger companies than it is in new, small businesses.
Companies that have been around the block a few times have had more time to redesign, recreate or entirely change their branding since their inception. That can cause small details, like a business card or the vinyl on a company car, to be pushed aside for later until they’re forgotten.
Businesses both young and old fall prey to inconsistency. The following are the most common branding missteps we see companies make across their print and digital marketing.
- Stretched logos
- Multiple logos
- Inconsistent colors
- Different fonts
Successful Companies are Consistent
Consistency breeds recognition. Recognition eventually turns into top of mind awareness. Top of mind awareness translates into increased sales and fiscal success.
Inconsistency can lead to your company conveying multiple, different messages or lead to no message being conveyed at all.
Customers shouldn’t have to work to understand what who your company is or what it does. And guess what? They won’t. Those potential leads will walk away without a second thought.
Brands that get it right care – they know that a brand is a huge asset that should be nurtured and managed.
Consistency = Recognition = Increased Sales
Inconsistency = Confusion = Stagnant Sales
Consider how your brand comes across to your customers and to people who don’t work with you yet. Do they understand your company and its message?
We wouldn’t say that Innovations is old … It’s experienced.
We have seen a lot throughout our decade and a half of practice, and as a result our company has grown and bettered itself every day.
But why does it even matter?
We’ve Seen Ghosts of Businesses Past
We were in business through the downfalls of iconic brands such as Circuit City and Hummer.
In 2007, Circuit City fired 3,400 of its highest paid employees. While that decision isn’t the sole reason Circuit City is no longer around, it certainly played its part.
Hummer vehicles boasted a trendy appearance and a horrifying 10 miles to the gallon. By 2010, the brand proved that edgy looks can’t compensate for outrageous gas mileage.
Thanks to seeing these lessons unfold in real time, we remember to constantly push our own creativity, value our team and focus on building quality work for our clients.
We’ve Ridden the Tidal Wave of Technology
Since our inception coincided with the beginning of a new millennium, it’s only right that Innovations has grown up with technology.
Our company saw the creation of the Apple iPod and iPhone, and watched as VCRs and floppy disks were replaced with DVD and players and USB flash drives, and then by Blu-ray players and digital storage.
Innovations also saw the rise of social media that have shaped our current culture. We were putting in hours before anyone had ever heard of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Now, our team uses all of them daily!
Practice Makes Perfect
No, we’re not saying we’re perfect. But you get the idea. The Innovations team has the knowledge and skills to handle anything our clients throw at us.
Our company has weathered the tests of 15 years – specialty clients, technology shifts and minor scrapes included.
After 15 years, our agency is healthy and intact.
After 15 years, our team is still excited to learn about new software, technology and better ways to grow our clients’ businesses.
After 15 years, we are still the best marketing partner for your company in the business.
Whether you’ve just gotten started with your own small business, or you’ve been in the trenches for awhile now, owning a small business is a stressful and expensive venture that hinges on your company’s ability to offer something worthwhile and stand out from the crowd.
When starting out, branding your small business can be a perilous venture. Working in the business can make it equally hard to work on the business as well. Today, we dive into some common branding mistakes every small business should be careful to avoid.
First, let’s address a common question.
Why do small businesses need a brand?
Replace the word branding with “reputation.” Your business’ reputation and the impression it leaves on consumers is incredibly important, no business owner would argue against that. Your business might leave a good impression with some people without ever giving it a second thought. But, imagine if your business did that all the time for every person your business encountered. That’s what consistent branding does for you.
From top-notch logo design that conveys a sense of trust to a message and tone that is universal throughout all materials and interactions, branding is about reputation and impression management. Starting out you may not know what to watch out for. These are the mistakes we see brands, both new and old, make.
The vague branding pitfall.
It’s a balancing act between overcomplicating your brand’s messaging (see below) and being too vague. Walking that line properly is tough without proper research and measurement, but avoiding generic catch-all phrasing like “the premier source…” and “best-selling” isn’t doing your brand any favors. Most puffery of that nature goes unheard by most consumers.
Instead, knowing your unique selling point (called a USP) and what sets your business a part and communicating those points in an effective manner (i.e.: using your brand’s voice) is critical to avoiding this misstep.
Undervaluing the power of a brand.
Branding sets the bar for how people can find you. Google is certainly more interested in brands when it comes to ranking your business online, and setting up the type of consistency across the spectrum of media your brand utilizes is the very nature of marketing at its core. Like the old adage goes, “you get what you put in.”
Likewise, be honest with yourself about your business and brand. People can tell when you’re disingenuous. Infuse your brand with your unique style and energy. Brands are a bundle of feelings and emotions, so giving your business a brand that means something and comes from the heart is integral.
Not establishing, or following, brand guidelines.
Setting up standards and uses for your brand is essential to ensuring that it is used correctly. Knowing what type of voice your brand uses on social media, its brand colors, taglines, fonts and typefaces are all facets of your brand identity that need to be standardized.
Not following these rules and guidelines is where many brands fail to follow through on their own brand promise. Diminishing the strength of your brand by defying its own elements does you absolutely no good and dilutes its strength in the eye of a consumer.
Overcomplicating your brand identity.
As mentioned above, being too complicated in your branding efforts and being too vague is a difficult line to walk. No brand needs six colors and/or six graphical elements to differentiate itself. Rather, clear and concise imagery that is congruent with your voice, style, and efforts is what captures the eye (and dollars) of a potential customer. Driving that association between your brand and quality is at the heart of any branding effort, and muddying that effort with too many concepts or ideas can ruin it instantly.
Does your business fall victim to any of these? Or have you let branding fall by the wayside in your business altogether? Innovations Branding House has the knowledge and tools to build, or re-build, your brand with you.
Color psychology is an in-depth study, and certainly not meant to be diluted down into a few hundred words of study. Picking the correct combination of colors is meant to be a time-consuming process because you are not simply choosing colors that “go well together”; you’re choosing the first thing a potential client will notice about your company and what thoughts they will associate with your brand.
That’s a big deal.
How Brands Use Color Psychology
Did you know that 95 percent of companies use only one or two colors in their logo? The remaining 5 percent use three, but none use more than that. The beauty in simplicity cannot be overstated, because confusing a potential buyer is one of the surest ways to turn them off from your business.
So, what is color psychology? By definition, it is the study of hues as a determinant of human behavior. Color influences perceptions that are not obvious, such as the taste of food. Colors can also work as placebos by having the color of pills be certain colors to influence how a person feels after taking them.
It’s the science behind why McDonald’s obsessively uses red and yellow in their in-store décor (hint: it’s to make you hungry), and why purple is used prominently in Cadbury’s branding—to make it feel more special or luxurious.
There’s more to just color than picking one, you must pick a:
- Hue: what most think of when picking out a color, this is picking the wavelength of light to speak scientifically.
- Value: the brightness of a color—the brighter the color, the higher the value and more light it emits. I.E: a bright yellow has a higher value than a dark blue.
- Tint and Shade: Terms to describe how a color varies from its original hue by the addition or subtraction of white or black.
- Saturation: Synonymous with intensity, it is a measurement of how different from pure gray the color is. It helps to imagine this as how pale or strong the color is.
As you can see, just with these four options, picking a color can sometimes feel like picking the needle from its proverbial haystack.
Using Color Psychology to Your Advantage
There is no one color that decision makers lean on to help them make a decision. From person to person, you’re going to find different colors and design elements that speak to them. One person may love black and hard angles, another may prefer softer greens and rounded corners.
Speaking to decision makers is about sending a message that your brand is trustworthy, and having a great-looking brand is akin to owning a tailored suit versus a second-hand knock off. A great logo is often one of the most practical steps you can take toward building brand equity.
Some common facts agreed on about colors:
- Blue hues create a sense of trust and security, and are often seen paired with banks and businesses.
- Green is associated with wealth, is the easiest color for the eye to process and is relaxing. We associate this color with sustainability and eco-friendly as well.
- Orange is an aggressive color which is used to help create a call to action. Other deem orange as a whimsical, playful color (see: Nickelodeon’s logo).
- Black is used to illicit feelings of power, wealth, sleekness and luxury.
- Reds are vibrant, passionate colors known to raise blood pressure and convey energy, excitement, and confidence.
- Yellows convey optimism, friendliness and McDonald’s uses it in their signage to pop against the blue of a clear sky.
- White gives off the impression of purity, cleanliness, and space.
- Purple lends to relaxation and the sense of luxury.
Some interesting trends to keep in mind– over 50 percent of people choose cool-temperature colors as their favorite (like blue, green), around 25 percent pick warm colors (red, orange), and a little over 10 percent choose neutral colors (black, white, or gray).
Color is only one small piece of the puzzle, and we’re always willing to help you find just the rest design and color that suits you.
Your website. A super-fast, super-sleek luxury vehicle. At first glance the two share no discernible characteristics, but to us it couldn’t be clearer. Thinking in terms of facets that are tangible, which you can touch or hold, you may disregard the idea completely.
But, believe it or not, there are at least three attributes that both of them share. Today, we are going to tell you what your website and a Mercedes-Benz have in common.
You buy them as status symbols
Let’s put one thing to rest quickly. Websites are not a commodity, something which can be tossed and replaced without thought. At their heart, websites are your brand incarnate — something that interacts with every interested participant whether they are a part of your target demographic or not.
Just like a car, websites require a fit to their customer. Not everyone needs a convertible, or a manual transmission. And not everyone needs a cart or a gallery of photos added to their website. They are a luxury item meant to display the power and authority you own.
A quality website can add allure to your brand, just like a new car can add allure to your driveway. But above all a website must be useful. A family of four would find little use in a two-door coupe.
They both need tune-ups every now and then
Websites, much like cars, continue to evolve new feature sets and basic requirements. It wasn’t that long ago that cars still had electric cigarette lighters and didn’t require airbags. Nowadays, one of those features is defunct and the other is standard in every model.
Have you heard about mobilegeddon yet? Whether you believe the hype or not, Google has changed the game in terms of mobile searches and suddenly what used to be a perk has now become a stringent requirement. Getting mobile friendly is more akin to adding a turbocharger to your car — you’ll get where you need to go quicker.
The point is, websites and cars alike need to be updated and have maintenance performed routinely in order to function at peak efficiency. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. And if your car breaks down on you when you’re 10,000 miles overdue for an oil change, who do you blame?
You can’t throw a coat of new paint on an ’86 Camaro and call it new. And you can’t redesign your logo and call it a day, either.
It’s all about (your) brand
Simply put, you get what you put in to both. Put $5 worth of gasoline in your car, and you’ll get to the city limits (maybe further if you go with a more economic option). Fill the gas tank up, and you’ll get to your destination despite the long haul.
Likewise, if you cut corners when you develop your website, the quality will show and it won’t take your business much further than where you are currently at. But, if you put in resources to actively attract leads and engage them with content and opportunities that convert you will absolutely see a difference.