If you do a Google search for branding, you’ll quickly realize just how vast of a subject it has become in the last decade or so. From your local startups, to tech giants, to the bakery down the street from you, to TED talks, to the hundreds of designers, agencies, and influencers who show up in your feed—they all seem well-versed on the subject in one way or another. Or so it seems.
But is there a right time to spend your precious, hard-earned money on professional branding?
So Why Branding?
If you’re reading this, you’re probably working hard on a startup, you own a flourishing business, or you have an idea that you hope to turn into the latter someday. You already know there is more to growing your brand than getting a logo fitted, buying a domain, and posting content on Instagram (P.S. Please don’t open a business Instagram account if you don’t need it). But what good is a brand when there is so much more to figure out and maintain?
When done right, branding creates equity—meaning that through consistent brand-building efforts over time, your buyers begin associating meaning to what you sell. When they consider buying from your category, it helps them think about you in buying situations (also known as mental availability). Brand equity is the reason Coca-Cola pops up in your mind when you want a refreshing drink, and it’s the same reason you think about McDonald’s when you’re in the mood for a burger.
Branding is what converts your business from a generic seller in the category to a recognized business with meaning attached to it, and it’s worth its weight in gold.
You want brand equity because, contrary to popular opinion, people don’t buy why you sell (see Simon Sinek’s TED talk). They just simply buy the brands they know and remember—and like. But enough about this. I’m not trying to further confuse you with yet another branding definition.
So When to Brand?
If you were to look at a timeline of your business, the process of branding began happening to it as soon as you brought your product or service to market. Think about it like this—people have a perception of what you as a person are about, whether you try to influence it or not. In a similar fashion, buyers automatically assign meaning to products and businesses because it simplifies their buying decisions.
Starting from that premise, if you care about how your offering is perceived by your buyers, the moment to begin investing—time, money, and attention—in your brand is yesterday! But since yesterday, today, or as soon as possible are not helpful time metrics exactly, consider the following two (very ambiguous) development stages in a company’s life. Most of you will fit into one of the categories below.
1. You’re a startup
New startups are born every day. But each day, they also die by the hundreds. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that your startup’s brand is the sole most important element in your business strategy because it simply isn’t. But brand is an undeniably fundamental aspect of your business’ long-term growth, internal and external.
Many entrepreneurs start throwing money at the first designer they find to get a logo done as soon as they have an idea, but that’s a huge mistake. If you own a startup, the earliest you should consider hiring professional branding services is only after you have a business and marketing strategy in place. Do you know if anyone actually wants to buy what you sell (are you market-validated)? Do you know where your money will be coming from? What are your business-related costs? Who are your customers? What’s the competition doing? Will you be infringing on anyone’s intellectual property?
These may all seem like basic, instinctive questions, but you’d be surprised how many business owners omit to answer them thoroughly before committing any hard-earned money to branding efforts and live to regret it afterward. Before you spend any time, attention, and money on branding services, take the time to think through this. There is no point in having a brand done if you can’t keep the lights on.
And when that side is settled, it is quintessential that you invest in quality branding, not just spend on it. And no, I don’t mean that the more you spend, the better the result (although that generally rings true for startups up to a price point, after which you get diminished returns on your investment).
2. You’re not a startup anymore
You’re beyond the point of struggling to make it through the quarter. Your business is hitting its goals, things are going well, and you enjoy the luxury of foresight for years ahead without it making you feel like you have a gaping hole in your stomach. You probably already have a pretty good existing brand. Whether things are going well or they are not so sharp, there are reasons to consider investing in brand at every stage in your company’s development process.
If your business grew past infancy, it’s time to heavily focus on the long-term efforts connected to your brand, namely investing in building and maintaining the mental and physical availability of your brand. At this point, you have real data and perception to work with, so use that to your advantage. It’s a luxury startups can hardly afford.
Like I said before, people don’t buy why you sell something; they simply buy the brands they remember, know, and like. You don’t buy a Big Mac because McDonald’s donates to some cause somewhere, you buy it because you want a burger, and McDonald’s happens to be the first thing that comes to mind, and it’s a block away from your office (have you had enough of my burger talk already?).
If you find yourself beyond the startup stage, you are undoubtedly still ready to invest in branding. And now you can probably even afford to hire some very bright minds.
It’s common to think of branding as either something you do when you’re just starting or something you get done when your business goes through a big change (also known as a rebrand or brand refresh). But brand-building goes way beyond creating or reinventing your visuals. Begin by deeply analyzing the context around your brand and make sure that what you’re doing is actually aligned with what you are saying.
This will enable you to make objective, market-informed decisions aimed at growing your brand and not gut calls based on personal preference, which history has shown is often the death of brands.
Whatever stage you find yourself in, there are reasons to invest in branding—whether that is to establish your brand as a startup or to refresh consumer memories about your brand. Additionally, whichever position you find yourself in today, remember that treating your brand as an investment is a requisite. Lastly, remember that your brand should live and evolve with your business. You don’t just set it and forget it.
Article written by Marcus Tiplea
Ahhh… The New Year. A time made for re-evaluating your decisions, like how you told your Aunt Linda your investment in Dogecoin would pay for your retirement by the end of next year. Or how you texted your ex, “Happy Flag Day—I wish I had seen the red ones in you. JK! Whatcha up to tonight? 😉😜” before hibernating from the entirety of the world for the next two weeks.
While it may not always be in your best interest to dwell on all the mistakes you’ve made in the past year, that innate desire to replay the details of your missteps can be good for your business—if done well.
A brand audit is essentially a way to contemplate professionally. Think of it as a way to review your brand’s major assets and messaging, such as content, website design, UX, SEO rankings, logos, brand visuals, and social media. When applied to a website, brand audits are vital to supporting its health, ensuring user retention rates remain high, and preventing older content from harming SEO rankings.
It’s out with the old and in with the new, so let’s get to the details of how you can thoroughly audit your website!
I Don’t Want to Do A Website Audit—Why Should I?
If you’re happy with your current website and visuals, it can be hard to evaluate them from an unbiased perspective. However, an audit can tell you how your audience views your brand. This is essential because it’s your audience that drives profit, so their opinion matters. And just like Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice, sometimes you just have to do it.
A website audit gives vital details into your site’s effectiveness, performance, and visual identity. By understanding what’s driving traffic and conversions, you can gain valuable insights that will improve your site for years to come.
The Main Benefits of a Website Audit
Okay, so we’ve convinced you that an audit is essential. But how exactly does it help? We’re glad you asked…
1. Improve SEO Rankings
Maybe you’re sick of hearing certain buzzwords like narcissist, gaslighting, and SEO optimization. We’ll leave the first two to the experts, but brace for impact, because we’ve got to delve into the importance of SEO.
SEO determines your website’s visibility. And visibility is everything when it comes to people reaching your page. After all, if Kim Kardashian posts a selfie on Instagram, but no one is around to read it, would the Internet ever break at all?
A website audit is designed to evaluate how discoverable your website is to search engines. And by using the data from your website audit, you can fix any SEO issues that may hurt your rankings.
Some things to check for when auditing your website’s SEO include:
- Checking all title, heading, description, image, and meta tags for appropriate keywords.
- Fixing any broken links or images on your website.
- Avoiding placing links on landing pages that may affect website bounce rates by encouraging users to click on said links too soon.
- Building high-quality, internal links.
- Incorporating content that lends itself to outside sites linking back to yours.
- Checking to see which sites are referring the most amount of traffic to your website.
- Cleaning up the back-end code to ensure pages are loaded as quickly as possible.
- Deleting duplicate content.
2. Convert Visitors into Leads
Sure, visitors for the holiday season are great, but you know what’s even better? Visitors who soil all your dishes, eat all your food, and use all your toilet paper but don’t contribute to the meal? (We kid….) Websites are similar—and what kind of a visitor is someone if they don’t end up paying for the services or products you’re offering before they leave?
Lead generation is one of the most crucial aspects to consider when performing a website audit, so always consider how productive your site is at growing conversion rates, including:
- Writing a concise call-to-action on every page— this can be a sentence, a link, a form, or a button.
- Placing the call-to-action in a visible location (i.e. not at the bottom of a 10,000-word article).
- Providing access to certain content, promotions, or other incentives in exchange for filling out contact information forms.
- Deleting excessive or minor calls-to-action (one or two should suffice).
- Using pop-ups to help users whose actions indicate they may be confused or have questions regarding your services (but use them sparingly).
3. Create More Relevant Content
Content is king, and nothing helps with search engine ranking more than high-quality, relevant content. While having a good backlog of content is certainly remarkable, it needs to fit within the vision of your company and your brand guidelines. That means if you’re a doomsday prepper company with blog posts detailing how to survive Y2K and the Mayan Apocalypse of 2012, it may be time to purge that in favor of prepping for the inevitable digital simulation invasion by Metaverse instead.
Some other ways to audit your content include:
- Dividing content into blocks, bullets, infographics, and images.
- Ensuring that all content is in some way driving your users to the end goal of a page, whether it be filling out a content form, contacting your business, or answering a frequently asked question.
- Fixing any content with spelling or grammar mistakes.
- Monitoring which content receives the most visitors.
- Responding to users in the comment section of articles to increase engagement rates.
4. Analyze the Competition
Website audits shouldn’t be insular. That is, it’s important to understand the market you’re competing in and who your biggest competitors are. By analyzing the competition, you can:
- Increase your understanding of how and what your competitors are ranking for.
- Improve business strategy and determine future campaigns.
- Generate ideas on improving branding and messaging.
5. Improve Website Design and UX
Users want to find the information they need as quickly and efficiently as possible, so let’s leave the feeling you’re navigating the winding back-alley streets of Italy via a moped up to Jennifer Coolidge and not the users of your website.
UX design can be improved by considering the following:
- Is your website responsive on different devices such as laptops, cellphones, tablets, etc.?
- Is your site designed to meet accessibility standards for those with visual, hearing, or other impairments?
- Does your page have a logical flow, indicating that a foundational information architecture has been constructed?
- Is the site user-friendly, affording visitors the opportunity to make mistakes and correct them easily?
- Are the visual elements of your page legible, fluid, and designed to prevent slow web page loading times?
- Is your company’s description and key differentiators easily viewable on the first page of your site?
Just like any good musical artist, your website should constantly be evolving. There are always ways to improve your customer retention rates and generate new leads by improving your website’s basic functions.
A website brand audit forces a company to take a hard look at its performance levels and devise new and creative solutions to improve business practices. Do you need help with your website? We’d love to chat!
What’s in a name? We happen to think when it comes to a business name, the major aspects of a good name are brand recognition, admiration, and connection.
Finding the right name for your small business or startup can have a huge impact on your success, either negatively or positively.
The wrong name can do more than just fail to connect with potential customers… it can potentially cause loss of business or even legal hurdles. But on the other hand, a creative and clear business name can be extremely helpful in your marketing and branding efforts!
Here are 8 tips to consider before you start brainstorming the perfect name for your next business:
1. Avoid A Name That’s Hard to Spell
Anyone ever met a Catelynne or a Loryn? Phonetically these names are easy to pronounce, but chances are, anyone who met them IRL may have had a hard time looking them up on Facebook later. They probably typed out Lauren or searched for one of the other 400 spellings of Katelyn. The same goes with a business name… when naming your business, creative and unique isn’t always better. When brainstorming names, make sure potential customers won’t get lost or confused about how to search your business online!
2. Don’t Pick A Name That Could Limit Your Business As It Grows
Picking too narrow of a name may cause you problems down the road should you choose to expand to different products or markets. For example, what if Jeff Bezos named his business “BuyBooksOnline” instead of “Amazon.” He would have either been pigeon holed or spent a lot of money rebranding! That said, try to avoid names like “Woodwork of Greenville” or “Picture Frames Unlimited.” This will ultimately limit your business to a very specific product or city. You may never grow, but it’s nice to have the option!
3. Get Feedback
Come up with 5 to 10 names you like and then run them by friends, family members, and trusted colleagues. Try to get feedback from people who don’t know you that are in your target audience as well. Sometimes when you’re so close to an idea and it’s super personal, it can be hard to look at it objectively. This feedback will be extremely helpful in being more objective as you come up with a successful business name.
4. Say it Out Loud
Have you ever had a really good idea in your head but then realized it sounded awful when you said it out loud? We’ve all been there. So say your business name out loud. Say it to a few people who haven’t seen it spelled to make sure it’s clear and people wouldn’t be confused about the spelling… (Remember the Katlyn debacle?)
5. Conduct An Internet Search
If anyone is good at finding dirt, it’s the internet mob. And you definitely want to channel the internet mob when naming your business… Well, not completely, just the sleuthing part.
Once you’ve settled on a name (or 2) you like, do a quick (or not so quick) web search for the names. Oftentimes, you’ll find that someone else is already using that business name (womp womp). And while that doesn’t have to be a total showstopper, it should give you pause. Having the same name as a potential competitor down the line may cause a few issues…
6. Conduct a Trademark & Secretary of State Search
After you do a quick internet search, you’ll want to do a search at USPTO.gov to see if you will be able to trademark or service mark the name. Since most likely you’ll want to set up your business as a corporation or an LLC, you should also do a search of the Secretary of State’s records to make sure your name isn’t too similar to another business name that’s already registered. If it is too similar to an existing name, the Secretary of State may not allow you to register it.
Pro tip: a good corporate lawyer can help you conduct this kind of search.
7. Make Sure You Personally Love It
Once you’ve gotten feedback from trusted sources and weighed all your options, it’s important for YOU to really love the name. As the business owner, you’ll have to live with the name for a long time, so make sure you are really happy with it and believe it will resonate with your brand vision as well as your customers.
8. Purchase The Domain Name ASAP
Once you are settled on a business name you LOVE, you better go and secure the “.com” domain name for your business ASAP (if it’s not already taken). If it is, you can always choose an alternative, such as .net, .org, .biz, or other possible domain extensions. However, customers tend to associate a .com name with a more established business.
If someone already owns your desired .com name, they may be willing to sell their name for the right price (if it matters enough to you), or you can get creative with your domain name and use additional keywords that might help people find you later. Just remember to keep your domain as short and concise as possible. Nobody wants to type in www.thelongestdomainnameintheworldandthensomeandthensomemoreandmore.com. (That’s a real domain, btw.)
Brand names matter. Whether it’s short and sweet or it evokes feelings, the name is important.
It’s so important to get your business name right the first time, because rebranding is never simple. But no worries. Things can always be changed as you or your business evolves. That said, you name it… we can help!
And check out our new social media post to see how Tangible got its name.
Remember back in 2020 when basically every ad was some big corporation telling you they are here for you or trying to make you cry in the middle of a Tuesday? We definitely do. But if you’re one of those people who have blocked 2020 from your memory, just watch this Amazon ad for reference—
But for real, we just all collectively went through a year of extreme uncertainty and fear. And we don’t know about you, but we are more than ready for everything to feel settled again!
In fact, Summer 2021 turned out to reflect a desire for community, fun, and freedom for most people—and well, getting back to some sort of semblance of normalcy. But was that also vibe in the advertising world?
With Summer winding down, we’re looking back on a few brands with advertising campaigns that made us even more excited for “Hot Girl Summer.” ???? You tell us if they passed the Summer 2021 vibe check:
Alright kids… long before the age of social media and television ads (when people walked to school uphill barefoot in the snow), there were these things called billboards. In fact, billboards have been used since the 1830’s… And well, Adidas just came along and changed the whole game.
In an effort to announce the debut of their recent inclusive swimwear collection, Adidas installed the world’s first liquid billboard.
That’s right. Adidas installed a swimming pool holding 11,500 gallons of water on a popular beach in Dubai. The purpose of the ad was to reinforce that all women should be able to be confident in their swimwear no matter their appearance, and all the women in the vicinity were invited to take a very public dive into the pool.
The goal of this campaign is to encourage women of all shapes and sizes to feel powerful and comfortable in their swimwear. Senior Brand Director at Adidas Amrith Gopinath said, “Our belief is that nobody should be prevented from enjoying the benefits of being in and around the water, hence the recent launch of our diversified product offering for all women and our burkini collection.”
We wouldn’t expect any less from the brand that brought us the culture changing “WASSUP” commercials. In late June, Budweiser released a commercial called “Go Fourth, America” that featured actor Bill Pullman reprising his famous presidential role from “Independence Day” for the first time in 25 years. In his speech, he celebrates how America has rallied together to overcome the challenges of the pandemic and encourages the country to look towards a brighter future. “Go Fourth, America” also highlights a donation from Budweiser to Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organization focused on enabling vaccine access in the U.S. and globally.
While it’s certainly not super cheeky like the beloved WASSUP frogs of old (AKA: the 90’s), this commercial gave us nostalgia, made us laugh, and almost made us cry. In a time with so much division, Budweiser found a way to connect with so many people with different backgrounds. No matter your political stance, it’s hard to watch this ad and not catch feelings. If you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, check it out here—
This one might just be our favorite because Snickers really said, “I see you and I understand you,” to the working middle class. Snickers’ summer campaign is a series of videos showing people on vacation that just can’t quite relax. The only solution? A Snicker’s ice cream bar.
Picture this. You’re sitting on a beach with your bestie sunbathing and reading a nice book. Just then, a plane flies overhead… and trailing behind it is a message from work that ruins the whole vibe. If you’re triggered, you’re not alone. The plane is definitely a metaphor for how our phones have made us accessible at all times. It’s a call-out to our current culture which doesn’t really allow us to ever truly disconnect.???? Yikes… We’re pretty sure we can all relate to this one.
Oh, and here’s a little bit of insider info—This ad actually utilizes weather-based triggers for ads on Youtube, Facebook, Snapchat, and other mediums whenever the temperature rises past certain points depending on the market. That’s right, Snickers knows when you’re starting to sweat, and they’re using it!
These campaigns are all great examples of how much the advertising industry changes depending on current events. And listen, marketers have their work cut out for them, because the average consumer has gotten a lot smarter (looking at you!) and a lot more in tune to when they’re being manipulated or over-advertised to.
With the overload of campaigns and advertisements in our current climate, companies have no other choice but to think of new, creative ways to stand out. We’ve found that the biggest change in the last year is that consumers are more motivated by social justice movements than ever before. Equality is now ranked the number one biggest motivator, and diversity went up more than six places in ranking in one year. For the most part, consumers are basically saying, either get woke or get left behind.
We’ll keep watching to see how long this type of advertising is trending, and we’ll be on the lookout for what’s coming next!
When it comes to owning a small business, you have to be good at wearing multiple hats and juggling multiple job titles. And oftentimes in a small business, your employees also get thrown into the exciting world of owning multiple roles. It’s great to have people on your team who can jump in wherever it’s needed, especially when it comes to marketing and social media! But, there are also challenges that come with having employees step into multiple roles.
If more than one person is writing your social media captions, blogs, and email marketing content, it’s important to establish content guidelines to make sure all of your content has a cohesive voice.
Why is a Cohesive Brand Voice Important?
If your content lacks a cohesive voice, you may be creating brand confusion or unintentionally coming across as inauthentic to readers. People want to connect to a brand in a personal way, so if your content feels disjointed or fragmented, your audience may not be able to figure out how to really connect to the “face behind the screen” and fully get on board.
Enter: Content Marketing Guidelines
A great brand feels like a friend you can connect with, and every brand wants to connect with their audience in a meaningful way! So if the person writing your brand content is inconsistent, don’t worry; this can be easily fixed with content guidelines!
Content marketing guidelines may be extensive for certain brands, while for others, it could simply be a one-page reference sheet. The depth of your brand content guidelines will depend on your content and your brand goals.
The 8 Elements Of Great Content Guidelines
1. Audience— The first and most important step when creating content guidelines is establishing who your target audience/market is. What do they like? How do they speak? How do they want to be spoken to?
2. Tone— Do you want your content written in first or third person? Would you like your blog posts, captions, and articles more fun and playful, authoritative, professional, or conversational?
3. Style— Do you follow AP or MLA style? List all of your grammatical preferences. (Oxford comma, anyone?)
4. Keywords— Create a list of main brand keywords and/or ideas that should be included or pulled from for content inspiration and overall brand voice.
5. Headlines— Make sure your content writers know the end result you desire and the action steps you want readers to take so they can include it within their blog titles or email headlines.
6. Copy Organization— Your readers are busy and have short attention spans, so it’s important to teach your writers how to create multiple section headlines in the copy for your audience to keep interested. Set guidelines for section titles, bullets, numbered lists, emojis, and paragraph headers that will keep re-engaging the reader on each platform.
7. Calls to Action— Make a list of go-to CTAs that can be dropped at the end of blogs, emails, or captions to inform your readers of next steps.
8. Internal Approval Process— Detail deadlines, timelines, how writers should submit their content, and what the process is for editing and approval.
It’s important to remember that nothing you create is set in stone— and it shouldn’t be! If things aren’t working, or you aren’t getting any engagement on what you keep putting out, switch it up. Just like any good brand, your content marketing guidelines will (and should) evolve over time.
And as always, we’re here to help! If you want help with creating your brand content guidelines, consulting with your writers, or even managing your content creation, we’d love to talk!
A brand is so much more than a color palette and a memorable logo. But what exactly a “brand” is can be confusing to a lot of people, even business owners. We get it. It’s definitely an elusive topic.
We’ve talked a lot about branding on our blog in the past—topics ranging from choosing the right name for your brand and crafting a compelling brand story to making your existing brand more memorable. But maybe you’ve been around for a while and you’re feeling like it’s time for a refresh or rebrand. Rebranding is a common task many businesses have to take on, but knowing whether and when rebranding is right for your business can be critical to your success.
What is Rebranding?
But what exactly IS a rebrand? There are a couple of different levels of rebranding—partial rebranding and full rebranding. A partial rebrand is more common for companies, while a full rebrand is rare, costly, and should only be done if absolutely necessary.
Partial Rebrand – Partial rebrands usually mean updating the company’s logo, tag line, color palette, focus, etc. This can be relatively easy because it doesn’t change the core of the company. It simply alters the company’s appearance.
Full Rebrand – On the other hand, a full rebrand can sometimes feel like starting a completely new business. A full rebrand can include things like changing the company’s name and/or what the company offers. This is far more disruptive to customers and can endanger the progress you have made so far if you don’t get it right.
Do I Need to Rebrand?
There are many different scenarios where you might realize a rebrand is necessary, whether it be confusion about what you actually do, outdated or underwhelming style, offering a new service or product that doesn’t make sense with the original brand, or merging with another company (to name a few).
So whatever you’re going through that has you thinking about the possibility of a rebrand, we’re here to help. Sometimes a rebrand is definitely necessary, but sometimes maybe it isn’t worth the effort and cost. Here’s our two cents on when to and when NOT to rebrand. Shall we?
When to Rebrand
- Confusion About What You Do/Offer – If you consistently receive questions about the products and/or services you offer, you may want to rebrand. Ideally, your target audience should get a sense of what you do from your brand and be drawn to you before ever contacting you.
- New Service Or Product Offering – If you offer a new service or product that doesn’t make sense under the original brand umbrella, that’s a great time to rebrand.
- Recent Merge With Another Brand – When two companies merge, or one acquires another, there are many important decisions to make. It’s critical to assess both previous brands’ values to determine the best options.
- Outdated or Underwhelming Style – Style trends are always changing, so don’t feel like you need to change with every ebb and flow of trends. However, a style refresh is definitely recommended at certain increments along with the evolution of your audience, society, your company, and style.
When NOT to Rebrand
- To Copy Your Competition – Just don’t do it. It’s important to remember that it’s a GOOD thing to differentiate from your competition, not just follow everything they do. If you don’t have something truly unique to offer, your chances of success are going to be low. Elevate what makes your company unique and communicate that with your brand.
- Just For The Sake Of It – All companies, no matter how successful, need to find ways to be fresh and relevant to remain competitive. However, a rebrand can be costly and can cause confusion with your customers.
- Negative History – You’ll hear a LOT of marketing professionals say this IS a time to rebrand. But hear us out. If you are an ethical business owner who has a great product or service and you have a negative incident that happens, that’s an opportunity to build on your brand, not just start from scratch. Most often, the best thing you can do is own your mistakes, grow, and do better. To us, rebranding feels like hiding from your mistakes, and we’re not about that life.
- You are Overexposed – We run into this all the time with our clients and in our own business. We look at our brand collateral, website, social media, and logo all. the. time. so it’s easy to feel overexposed to it. But just because you’re overexposed to or even growing tired of your brand doesn’t mean everyone else is!
If you’ve thought it through and have a legitimate reason for a partial or full rebrand, it’s important to do it both slowly and intentionally. Developing a rebranding strategy will help you successfully recreate the way customers view your brand without risking your existing momentum and/or relationships. If you thrust change upon your customers, you run the risk of them becoming confused or even resentful. Some may be really excited, but the truth is most people don’t like change. So if you do want to make a change, make sure you have a valid reason and a plan.
As always, we’re happy to answer any questions you might have. We’d love to help you with your next steps.
Gone are the days of pushy, hard-sell advertising focused purely on a transaction. Most people are put off by and will forget a traditional ad several hours later, if not sooner. In today’s market, consumer decisions are largely based on whether or not they feel personally invested in a company.
That’s why connecting with your audience through a brand story is so important. Your brand story opens the door to connect authentically and engage people on a deeper level. Connection— isn’t that what makes stories so powerful? And today’s consumers don’t just want a transaction. They want to feel like they are a part of a larger narrative even when shopping. (If that in and of itself is as interesting to you as it is to us, you can read a little bit about that in last month’s blog as well.)
So, if this brand story is so important, we should probably tell you what it is, right?
What is a Brand Story?
A brand story defines the purpose of your business to consumers. It’s a thoughtful narrative that shares both facts and feelings associated with your brand. Unlike traditional advertising, which is essentially just show and tell, your story is meant to inspire connection.
Your “story” is always unfolding, meaning that it’s not wrapped up into a 3-minute inspirational video or explained quickly in an Instagram caption. Instead, it should be told as part of your communication strategy. And every time you communicate with your customers (whether that be on social media, through email, or in video), pieces of your story are shared.
Okay, so now you know what it is. Let’s talk about some key elements of a good one.
It’s Not About You
We’re not about to bust out a chorus of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” or anything… But when it comes to your brand story, really it should be MORE about your customers than about you. That can seem confusing. So let’s break it down.
Even though your story is about your business’s purpose and values, its purpose is for those values to resonate with consumers in a way they not only associate with, but they also adopt as their own story.
You know you have a really compelling brand story when consumers start to proudly represent your brand and tell the story as if it’s their own, and even market it themselves via word-of-mouth, whether in person or via their own social media.
We know what you’re thinking. That sounds cool. So how do you craft such a compelling brand story?
How to Write a Brand Story
The most relatable brand stories address an origin, a struggle, a set of values, a fix, and a transformation. So, think back to your business’s beginnings to find a story that can resonate with your audience.
1. Take it Back to the Beginning – What made you get started? What is the purpose of your business?
2. Highlight the Conflict – What problem(s) did you find people had that needed solving via your product or service? Where was the gap in the market?
3. Be the Hero – How did you solve their problem? What makes you different than your competition?
4. Share the Wins – How has your product or service transformed people’s lives or made them better? What are they saying about you?
Keep it Consistent
A strong brand story is consistent across every channel. No matter where a consumer is introduced to your brand, the story should be the same. A great way to know if your brand story is consistent is to remove your logo from all of your materials and channels. Would your audience still know it was from your brand? Don’t just rely on your logo; every piece of content you produce should contain the essence of your brand story.
Remember, a brand story is all about connection. A great way to connect is to share success stories and re-share anything your audience is saying/posting about you on their own channels. If a customer is sharing about your brand, they already feel connected to you, so that’s great! Re-sharing their content takes the connection even further. It makes them feel seen and heard, which is one of the best ways to create a loyal customer in today’s market.
A good product gets them in the door; genuine connection is what makes them stay.
At the end of the day, you can spend thousands of dollars on marketing, social media, and content creation, but all of that can fall flat without a solid brand story. By creating and implementing a compelling brand story, you can increase your engagement and earn the loyalty of your audience.
We’ve written a lot of blogs on many different topics, but if we take a step back, the majority have one overarching theme— don’t always just solely believe your own gut. Get others in on your ideas. Say things out loud and trust others’ feedback. Hold your business ideas loosely so if you do a case study and it becomes clear you need to change something, you can be open to actually doing it. Not everyone is as close to your business or industry as you are, so they just simply may not “get it” in the same way you do. So having outside feedback can really help.
All of this couldn’t be more true for today’s topic— naming your business. We know a business is deeply personal, we get it. Trust us. But when coming up with your business name, it’s sometimes best to check feelings at the door, especially if you’re dead set on a name and haven’t exactly gotten any opinions on it yet. Because at the end of the day, you want a business name that will be the absolute best representation of your business and get the best name recognition right? Of course you do! So let’s get to it, shall we?
1. Figure Out Your Ideal Customer
A great exercise, before trying to decide on a name, is to create a list of values and characteristics you want your business to embody. Then think about who your ideal customer group is (age, sex, income range, location, etc.). Every idea you come up with for a name needs to be held next to these details as a way to determine if that name fits with the kind of business you’re trying to create. If you want a bit more in-depth how-to for this practice, you can read all about it here.
Make it a Group Project
Group projects get a bad rap. But gone are the days when the Tommys and Tiffanys of the world are forced to be in class with no real motivation. (Sorry to any well-motivated Tommys and Tiffanys out there ????????) For your group, pick people who you love and respect, rally your friends who believe in you and your future business, grab your creative friends, and get to work!
Don’t be afraid to say every idea out loud. We have this thing in our office that we adopted from author and researcher, Brené Brown. We allow each other non-judgemental space to have a potential “????-y first draft.” When coming up with an idea, we may hit it out of the park the first time, or it may be a ????-y first draft. BUT, some of our very best work has come by saying a bunch of first drafts and playing off of those until we get to the final concept. It can be really quite fun in a group you trust!
2. It’s Ok to Be #Basic
In fact, it’s encouraged! When thinking of a name for your business, it’s great to keep it simple. A simple name is not only great for name recognition, but also when thinking about branding, print, and design. A long, more business complicated name can be well, complicated to fit on product labels, t-shirts, etc. A short name will keep things clean and pleasing to the eye.
3. Sleep On It
If you’re anything like us, you’ve had an earth-shatteringly amazing idea only to sleep on it and realize it’s mediocre at best. There’s no shame in that. So sleep on it! Maybe for a few nights. And if you still love it, you know it’s meant to be!
4. Check for Any Unwanted Doppelgängers
Before you ???? settle on your business name and get suuuuper attached, you’re going to want to do a quick Google search to see if there are any companies already using your name that may be potential competitors. Also take the time to make sure the name not already trademarked. You can easily search the federal database AKA TESS (the Trademark Electronic Search System) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Last but certainly not least, do domain name search. In 2019 a website is necessary, so make sure your business name is available as a website domain. If it isn’t, try using an abbreviation, hyphens, or an alternate domain such as .net.
5. Register That Bad Boy!
Once you’re in love with a name as if it were your first born, you’re going to want to register it as fast as you can. (But not too fast or anything. No typos wanted here! ????)
If you have an LLC, a corporation, or a limited partnership in the U.S., you’ll need to register your business with your state authorities. When you do, your business name will automatically be registered (yay efficiency!). If your business is a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, in most cases, you will register your business with the county and/or city where it’s located.
Oh, and while it’s not a requirement, it may be a good idea to register your business name for a trademark to protect yourself from any of your own future unwanted doppelgängers. ????
Hailing from an entrepreneurial family and being entrepreneurs ourselves, we know how hard this process can be, but also how much fun it can be! We hope these little tidbits helped. And we can’t wait to see what future business names you guys come up with.
In last month’s blog we spent a lot of time telling you how to talk about something besides yourself and your product on social media, but this month we’re going to pull a fast one on you and focus on how to do just the opposite. At the right moments anyways. We’re not changing our position here—we still think you shouldn’t constantly be shining the spotlight on yourself—but we are saying that when you do, you need to make it count, especially in the age of #communityovercompetition.
What is Community Over Competition?
The idea of community over competition has gained a lot of traction over the last few years among creatives and other professionals, with good reason. It’s an extremely positive movement. When owning a small business, especially as a creative, it can be very difficult to not keep tabs on competition. After all, competitive research is taught in business school. But competitive research is one thing… then there’s continual competitive “research” (aka: stalking), when you look at others as “competitors” all the time and have a high likelihood of becoming jealous, territorial, and negative. And that’s not good for anyone, especially your customers.
The other problem with competitive research is that none of your competitors are doing exactly what you’re doing the way you do it, so they’re not technically your direct competition anyway. (More on that later.)
So here we are, acknowledging just how positive this movement is, but we need to also acknowledge this elephant in the room. While collaboration is a beautiful thing, your livelihood still depends on successfully promoting your business, a business that you really believe in. But we get it. It can sometimes get tricky to know exactly how to support others in your industry, but still self-promote without getting competitive or seeming too pushy.
Here are a few ideas to get you started…
Defining Your Brand Story
“Storytelling” has become such a buzzword in recent years that a lot of business owners have started to ignore the idea, but the story of your business is maybe the only truly unique aspect you have to share. People love and crave genuine connections, and sharing your story is a great way to let people know about you, your day-to-day, the behind the scenes of your business, and ultimately build your brand.
Be Competitive With Your Brand Positioning
This is where things get tricky. “Community over competition” doesn’t mean you can never present yourself in a strategic way. You don’t have to be overly confident or put others down to get ahead, but you do have permission to own the things you truly are great at. The fact is, you have a unique selling proposition. No one is just like you. And just like others excel beyond you in certain areas (and you should encourage them in that), you’re better at some things than others are– so why not promote that? But remember, there’s a way to elevate your strengths without knocking the way others are doing things.
Determine How Your Add Value To Your Industry
Your customers are paying the most attention to your services or products, but that doesn’t mean they’re unaware of how you interact with other businesses in your industry. If you’re using passive—albeit extremely witty—captions to shade others in your lane, it puts a bad taste in people’s mouths. Instead, figure out how you add value to your industry (and by default, your customers too) and focus on expanding that. For example, maybe host a networking event, a lunch and learn, or an instructional seminar for others in your industry. Your peers will thank you and your customers will think you’re awesome, mostly because you are.
The bottom line here is, even if you’re all about celebrating the ???? out of others, you can still be proud of your work and believe in your business enough to promote it. There’s room at the table for everyone, especially you!
How do you want to be a different person in 2017?
Guess what? You’re rebranding! Not only does rebranding apply to people, it also applies to businesses. Rebranding for businesses means that not only will you be associating your brand or business with a new name, logo, or type of experience, but you are also changing the customer connection. For instance, if you think of rebranding as a resolution, it’s a way to change what you’re currently doing to make yourself or your business into a new and improved version. Rebranding must be effective, catchy, and relational in order to achieve its goals. We hope you consider these resolutions if you’re venturing into the daring world of rebranding:
Let’s Make A Change!
We’ve now established that rebranding is similar to making New Year’s resolutions: they are something that you want to change because you took this year, evaluated, and decided you wanted a different outcome next year. Is your reason for redoing your brand to change an old idea, attract a certain type of followers, or create a new customer identity? Regardless of the reason, these resolutions are pushing your company in a new direction.
This new direction requires qualitative input about the current status of your business. Involve as many people as possible in the brainstorming process: the company’s board/leadership, the employees, and the in person/online experts that deal with rebranding in your line of work.
Here’s an idea: create a focus group with each type of participating in the process, then create a larger focus group with people from different areas of the company. Have them write their own aspirations for the company, then compare and compile into a creative format to present all of the ideas.
Let’s Create A Purpose!
Once you’ve put all of the creative brainpower together and come up with a fabulous result, you have to make sure that your brand has a reason for moving in a new direction. Do you want to redo the name and logo or make a connection between the old and new design? When creating your own technique for rebranding, you need to decide what is important to keep and what is important to discard. Just like your New Year’s resolutions, you look back at the previous year and pick out your roses and thorns (positives and negatives).
Remember, this process is up to you. Not everyone is going to jump on board with the rebranding idea, and you might have encountered some dissent in the brainstorming process. Your decision should be based on a combination of the group as a whole with the most effective ideas coming to fruition.
Here’s an idea: write a purpose plan or mission statement. You now have many different opinions, so condense those into a few sentences or a paragraph that exactly states your goals for the next year. Resolution number two is all about using your innovation to spark excitement in others.
Let’s Start The Process!
So for the actual process: do you have colors or images for your business, do you want to keep or change them, or do you want to make something brand new? Once you’ve considered all ideas and articulated a direction, this is the time to do some visual research.
What brands do you admire? What mission statements speak to you? You want to connect the visual presence of your brand with the intellectual presence of your business. Find two or three businesses that you think do this really well, and research the meaning behind their branding. These days, websites and social media are all the rage, so make sure that you are creating this new brand with a visual appeal that translates through all icons and platforms.
Here’s an idea: in addition to your personal research, ask your customers what stands out to them about your current brand. What do you want them to see in your new one? Have a discussion with a few about the new ideas and see what they will now associate with your new ideas.
Let’s Make A Timeline!
Rebranding is a big project to accomplish, so you want to prioritize and allow a significant amount of time in your daily schedule to plan, as if it were another project on your business agenda. You also want to make sure that you’re streamlining all aspects of the process including promotional materials, online influence, and paper goods like business cards. These are the fun rewards of rebranding!
Here’s an idea: if you’re after a total rebrand, which means you’ll need to redo your website, social media, and business cards, try to accomplish the logo project first. Since your logo is the most attractive and shared aspect of your brand, you want it to speak to your customers. One of the most fun and time-consuming parts of the process is the logo, but it’s the immediate way that your business gains recognition.
Let’s Present The Product!
Woohoo! We’re so proud of you for finishing your brainstorming, purpose, research, and logo. What’s the plan now? Well, here comes the implementation part. As with resolutions, this can be a very personal accomplishment. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your work, and now it’s time to show it off!
Do you want to throw a launch party, do a brand reveal online, or keep the secret until your next big project? So many options to consider, but this part really depends on your company type and what will be most effective for your customers. Once the rebrand is live, you also want to confirm that all employees and connections with company have the same information. If you need to, you can create a rebranding guide to disseminate to anyone who needs the update.
Here’s an idea: if your business is in person with a storefront, host a launch party and invite family, friends, and customers to experience the rebrand up close. If your business is strictly online, post some teasers on social media to heighten the suspense.
Congratulations! You did it!
You’ve successfully rebranded! If you’d like to discuss any of these options with us, we’d be happy to help. We love to guide and create with you in this venture, and we hope that your rebranding experience is a successful resolution.