Probably the least unique word to describe one’s brand is, well, “unique.” Almost everyone says they are but saying and being are two different animals. What’s more, some businesses and organizations can’t even identify to themselves what’s truly different about them among their competitors.
While we sometimes question our own personal “normalcy” (does anyone else feel/think/act this way, or is it just me?), that is the very self-conscious question businesses should be asking themselves. Does anyone else feel/think/act as we do? If the answer is no, that’s cause for great celebration (at least from a marketing standpoint) because that genuine distinction is the foundation upon which absolutely everything about your brand is built.
But…what if you don’t know how you’re different, or even if you are? Again, there is a lot of ground between saying you’re unique, believing it and, ultimately, proving it. You can almost hear Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders belting out “Brass in Pocket”: I’m special, so special, I gotta have some of your attention; give it to me! But how?
For every not, there’s an “is”
Sometimes it’s best to discover who or what your brand is by knowing what it’s not. For example, if you’re a small company with only a few (albeit dedicated and talented) employees, you wouldn’t make promises or claims that could only be delivered by a large staff. You’re not a big company, and that’s more than okay. It might just be better and exactly what your prospects are looking for.
Staying with our size example, because your company is not big, it is likely nimble, flexible, less bureaucratic and more customer-centric. When you’re assessing what your brand is not, always look on the other side of the mirror to see what it is.
Lead with who you are
While understanding what you’re not is crucial, be sure to meet prospects with confidence in who you are. Make sure that what you share about your brand is memorable and credible. Knowing how to pitch your truly unique brand also means knowing what your prospective customer wants. Easier said than done – not just in determining what they want, but also in knowing what you can deliver. Sometimes we are too close to our brands to discern that distinctive quality that really makes us stand out. A helpful approach might be to poll your current customers about what they like most (and least) about your brand or start insightful conversations online.
Get it on the table
For starters, sit down with your team (preferably away from the workplace) and make a list of your company’s pros and cons, strengths/weaknesses, is/is not’s. Talk openly and honestly about everything, from the clothing you wear to the way you answer your business line, the effort you bring to a client meeting, the quality of your product or service, and the manner and time frame in which it’s delivered. Nothing is too inconsequential in this important time of self-discovery.
Assign roles to your team
In the “mini-retreat” described above, decide whose role will be what going forward, once free discussion has concluded. Some of these roles might include:
o The Research Assistant: This is the one (or more) who identifies prospects and their needs and gathers information about your competitors’ strengths and shortcomings.
o The Sleuth: This is the “secret shopper” who engages first-hand with your competition to investigate what it does well and what could be improved.
o The Demonstrator: This is the person who is most comfortable pitching to potential customers the value of your brand and how it can benefit that particular prospect. This person may vary, depending on what is being presented.
o The Truth Teller: This is everyone on your team offering an honest assessment of what could change or be improved in your company. You can offer your suggestions anonymously, if this is more comfortable. Again, don’t hesitate to solicit your current customers’ opinions, too.
Be experts in a niche area
Many brands specialize in fulfilling a specific consumer need. Take every opportunity through every available means (and there are many!) to let customers and prospects know why you can be trusted as the niche expert they seek.
Focus on purpose
Here’s a great example, provided by author Jesse Lyn Stoner, of focusing on purpose: “When I’m at a cocktail party and someone asks me what I do, I have a choice about whether I want to talk to them or not. If I say, ‘I’m a consultant,’ their eyes glaze over, and they move on to the next person. If I say, ‘I help leaders and their teams create a shared vision and put it into action,’ they’re usually curious and begin to ask questions.” Focus on the end-result or experience your brand makes happen, not the services or products you provide.
Don’t copy, and don’t be copied
While knowing what your competition is up to is always good marketing practice, trying to replicate it will likely result in lackluster results and an identity crisis. Choosing a different angle within your particular industry is a more productive – and distinctive – tactic. For example, when Progressive Insurance developed a tool that allowed adjusters to immediately and accurately provide claims assistance at the site of an accident, it distinguished itself among the insurance giants and has since enjoyed great commercial success.
On the other side of the coin, don’t allow your own brand to be replicated. Once you’ve created and perfected an attribute that is truly exceptional, make sure it’s not something others can just as easily do. Pinpoint what is timeless and time-honored about your brand and ensure that your entire team makes showcasing and strengthening that asset their number one priority.
Our team of experts can help you discover what’s unique to you and, once identified, make the very most of your special qualities.
IVY MARKETING. COME GROW WITH US.
By Guest Blogger James Cummings, Founder and CEO of Daily Post
IVY Marketing Group is pleased to share this blog from James Cummings with our readers.
The last time you bought a new phone, chances are your final decision was based on the color. Sure, you considered the functional features such as battery power, camera quality, screen size, and so on. But when that was out of the way, the color most likely determined the specific phone you chose.
Color plays a significant role in the way we make purchase decisions. Both children and adults tend to gravitate toward certain colors. Most people believe that there isn’t conclusive evidence about the persuasive power of color—that it’s based on hunches and anecdotal evidence, but there is comprehensive research that proves otherwise.
In this post, we will be addressing how you can integrate the power of color psychology to your branding activities and drive your ROI, especially in ecommerce websites.
The importance of color in branding
It is almost impossible to discuss consumer behavior without branding. There have been many attempts to categorize consumer responses (feelings or character traits) according to various individual colors—like associating yellow with happiness or red with boldness. The truth, however, is that color is too dependent on personal experience to be completely attributed to specific emotions.
In a study aptly titled the “Impact of Color in Marketing,” researchers discovered that about 90 percent of impulsive buys can be linked to color alone.
In another study titled “The Interactive Effects of Colors,” the role of color in branding revealed that the relationship between brands and colors hinges on consumer’s perception of which color they believe is appropriate for that particular brand. This means “color fit” is a big piece of what brands use to sell their identity.
Consider McDonald’s use of red and Starbucks’ use of green. In both situations, these brands use a main color to represent their brand. Red is often associated with appetite, and is perfect as the dominant color for an eatery, while Starbucks is strongly involved in the preservation of the environment and touts its environmentally-friendly activities with green.
In another study, “Exciting Red and Competent Blue,” it was confirmed that purchasing intent is strongly affected by colors because of the influence they have on consumers’ brand perception. In other words, color impacts the way consumers view a brand’s “personality.” For a brand like Nike, which is perceived as sporty and cool, using colors that emphasize these traits will connect strongly with consumers.
Finally, scientists have proven that our brains prefer shortcuts—recognizable patterns that help us make quick decisions regarding a purchase. Color is incredibly important in developing a brand identity—so much so that it has been named the key attribute new brands should consider when creating their logos. A color associated with positive emotions (especially around a product) will ultimately guide customers in decision making.
Evidence that color matters
When people understand how a brand is trying to position itself, people consider colors that are a fit with those positions to be more appropriate.
According to Kissmetrics, the following statistics reveal how colors affect purchases:
- When marketing new products, brand managers should consider the visual appearance and color of their products above other factors because 93 percent of shoppers use it to make their decisions.
- In a recent survey, it was revealed that 85 percent of shoppers place color as the main deciding factor when buying a product.
- Color increases brand recognition by 80 percent, and brand recognition is directly linked to consumer confidence.
- Certain colors attract certain types of shoppers. Red, orange, and black attract impulse shoppers, while teal and navy blue attract budget shoppers. Pink, rose, and sky blue attract traditional buyers.
- In one study, some 42 percent of online shoppers based their opinion of a website on its design alone, and 52 percent didn’t return because they were unhappy with the overall aesthetics.
For more on these statistics, please see the full infographics from Kissmetrics.
The psychology of online color marketing
The impact of color is just as influential online as it is in brick and mortar stores. The overall design of your website can win or lose you customers. If a website doesn’t use the right aesthetics and design, it could lose its appeal to the majority of visitors who consider this an important factor in engagement.
How certain colors affect customers:
- Yellow: Youthful and optimistic; usually for grabbing the attention of window shoppers
- Businesses that use yellow in their branding: Denny’s and McDonald’s
- Red: Energetic; generates urgency, increases heart-rate, common in clearance sales
- Businesses that use red in their branding: Coca-Cola, Netflix, and Youtube
- Blue: Creates the feeling of security and trust
- Businesses that use blue in their branding: This is popular among financial institutions, such as Visa and Citi. Nonfinancial brands like Facebook, Wal-Mart, and AT&T also tap into the effects of blue
- Green: Related to wealth, health, and freshness. It is the easiest color the eyes can process
- Businesses that use green in their branding: Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Landrover
- Orange: Assertive, useful in call-to-action; sign up, buy and sell, subscribe
- Businesses that use orange in their branding: Home Depot
- Pink: Romantic and feminine; valuable for marketing products targeted and girls and young women.
- Businesses that use pink in their branding: Mattel (think Barbie) and T-Mobile
- White: Focus and attention; whitespace is used to contrast and emphasize important information on a website
- Businesses that use white in their branding: Azure Virtual Machines uses it in combination with cyan. Apple has also mastered the use of white in branding
- Black: Sleek and powerful; valuable for marketing luxury products or services
- Businesses that use black in their branding: Uber and the American Centurion Card
- Purple: Calm and soothing; associated with wealth and luxury but also represents, fantasy, mystery, wealth, and wisdom
- Businesses that use purple in their branding: Wonka, Curves, FedEx
Enhancing your website and online marketing with the right colors
Now that you have an idea of how color psychology impacts consumer behavior, you can apply the following best practices to improve engagement and ROI (return on investment) on your site.
Color is tricky, but if you use it appropriately, the results can be rewarding.
There are four major principles to consider when planning color usage on your website:
- The right way
- The right time
- The right audience
- The right purpose
Tips that will improve your conversions
Use blue to build user trust
This principle is mainly used by financial institutions. Your bank probably uses it for its website.
Yellow is for caution
This is the color of warnings; common in wet floor signs and traffic signals. It is also applicable online.
Orange creates a sense of haste or impulse
While primary colors are good for call-to-action signs because they create contrast, orange inspires a sense of urgency to make your visitors act quickly.
There is no universal law when it comes to colors, though there’s plenty of evidence that it matters to your bottom line. Test your hypotheses about which colors will resonate with your audience using A/B testing until you discover what works best for your site.
The power of a logo is fascinating. Children as young as three can begin to recognize that a logo stands for a product or service, and by the time they’re seven, they can recall what product or service a particular logo represents. According to a Logos Now study on logo treatments and brand perception, the top 10 companies with the most widely recognized logos in the US and UK are Nike, followed by Apple, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, Amazon, Target, and Adidas.
No graphics are needed here; most consumers can see clearly in their mind’s eye what each of the above logos looks like…the swoosh, the dot, the arches…they’re all familiar icons on our cultural landscape.
As a brand’s single most identifying factor, the logo is almighty, in both a commercial and psychological sense. “If, in the business of communications, ‘image is king,’ the essence of this image, the logo, is the jewel in its crown,” said acclaimed graphic designer Paul Rand, who has developed logos for IBM, Westinghouse, UPS and ABC, among others.
The anatomy of logo creation is equally compelling. Good logo design and development is about so much more than getting the graphic elements right; it’s about knowing who your company or organization is…not so much what you do, but who you are. It’s also about who your customers and prospects are and what they want from you.
Long before hiring a designer, companies that want to be widely recognized and associated with a logo (who doesn’t?) can avoid multiple or misguided design options and extra costs by asking themselves some key questions first:
What do we stand for?
Again, your logo should say who you are and not what you do. If, for example, you’re a business that repurposes old computer parts to build new machines, you might prefer a logo that suggests your environmental consciousness and resourcefulness, as opposed to one that shows a dismantled and rebuilt computer (which would be an awfully cluttered logo to boot, no pun intended).
Multiple sources concur that the number one rule in logo design is simplicity. But a logo cannot possibly convey everything there is to know about a brand, so distinguishing your principal values and aspirations is essential. Think of it as an “elevator speech” in a single image. Do you esteem speed, innovation, conservation, reliability, exploration, durability? Knowing who you are and what you champion will guide everything else in the creation of your logo.
Who are our customers (or who do we want them to be)?
Who is your target audience and what do they value most? You may be proud of your 75 years in business, but that is probably not what’s most important to consumers. They care that you can offer them a solution and that you value the things they value.
Consider Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. Both companies offer the same basic products, but from very different atmospheric and cultural standpoints. Starbucks embodies upscale, West Coast sophistication, while Dunkin’ Donuts plays to a more down-to-earth, unfussy vibe. Customers side fiercely with one or the other, for reasons far beyond coffee grounds. The two powerhouse logos convey those differences, too.
What do we have to offer that our competitors don’t?
Knowing what makes you unique and outstanding in your space is crucial to logo development. Start by nit-picking your competition; what do you do better than they? What do you do less effectively? Where and when are their spikes and dips in sales? How are they marketing themselves? What are people saying about them on social media?
Ask your current customers what they like most about doing business with you. Maintain online conversations to get even more insight. Though it may hurt, you may find things you could improve upon, which is every bit as valuable as knowing what you’re doing right.
What is our personality?
Is your brand bold, whimsical, conservative, adventurous, flirty, swanky, inventive, serious, stable, tough? Decide what attitude you want to project and capture it in your logo so that it’s evident from a single glance. All the various graphic elements of a logo (colors, lines, font, weight, positive and negative space, proportion, balance, scalability) must synergize to tell the world who you are in a moment.
How do we stay modern, but also timeless?
“Familiarity does not breed contempt” where logos are concerned, according to a study by Logos Now. In fact, revealed the study, respondents assign positive attributes to brands they are familiar with and negative attributes to brands they are not. While it’s not uncommon for companies to adapt their logos to reflect a new direction or more contemporary times (Pepsi has had 11 logos in 120 years), frequent re-designs can signal an identity crisis and even threaten your customers’ confidence in – and loyalty to – you.
Keep in mind, too, that what’s here today is often gone tomorrow, especially in our world of viral phases and crazes. But you can still be relevant (and cost-effective!) in your logo design by keeping it minimal in detail and rooted in characteristics that, while perhaps restrained, will always be valued.
Versatility and adaptability, however, are musts for logo design. From pens to billboards, your logo has to look clear, clean and uncomplicated on all forms of media, clothing and products. Your graphic designer can help you navigate those waters before you proceed with the first stroke of art.
Our team of experts can help you create a logo that not only says who you are, but also shows customers and prospects how you can add value to their lives.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Isn’t it interesting that today’s marketers have to capture their online audiences within seconds, or risk losing them to another site, yet so many people devote endless hours to binge TV?
New research says it’s neuroscience. Because we humans are uniquely capable of empathy, we can also become engrossed in others’ discomfort or elation – even those we don’t personally know – adapting to and internalizing their psychological perspectives. According to cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken, the hormones cortisol and oxytocin rise when we’re in the grips of a good story, and we actually crave the long narratives that today’s best television can provide.
So, what does all this mean for modern marketers? How can we leverage the natural human gravitation to compelling stories to engage them in our brands?
Just as storytellers like Alfred Hitchcock (and creators of today’s binge-worthy productions) are masters at orchestrating exactly what they want audiences to see, think, feel and predict, successful marketers can lead consumers in the same way with engaging content based on intimate knowledge of their prospects. But first, lest you assume “leading” means “manipulating,” it must be done earnestly and with the utmost integrity – and nary a whiff of a sales pitch.
“Consumers are not inherently opposed to brand communication, but they don’t want interruption,” said Column Five Media’s Katy French, referring to brands infusing their stories with a subplot to sell, sell, sell. “Consumers crave engagement marketing…built on trust, mutual respect and common interests. They don’t want to be treated as a faceless dollar bill.”
Modern direct-to-consumer marketers would do well to realize the remarkable parallels between what attracts audiences to today’s binge TV (and yesterday’s epic stories around the hearth) and effective content marketing. Humans’ psychological need for stories makes us predisposed to investing personally in conflict and resolution.
The identification and incorporation of consumer pain points into your brand story, followed by your answer(s) to the problem, feels instinctive to customers and prospects because of their ability to relate and empathize.
Indeed, psychological studies have shown that when we hear a story, our brains change dramatically because we experience them as though they were real, and we become the main character of every story we hear.
Imagine the possibilities of making our audiences the heroes of our brand stories! While they are virtually endless, crafting great stories takes time, effort and skill. Too many companies and organizations hack out content just to have it, while completely missing the boat on how to make it work.
Considering again that pain points and solutions form the framework of any good story, quality content marketing builds upon that foundation with a character(s) facing a problem your brand can solve, a way for that character to access and employ your solution, and lives made better for it.
Tell your story in a distinct voice – yours – across all formats and platforms. Don’t get high and mighty in vaulted language or bogged in marketing gibberish; rather, talk to your audiences like you would your co-workers, your family, your trusted friends. After all, that’s who you want your customers to be.
Like a beautiful, comfortable home you never want to leave, your brand story needs more than a foundation. It needs details, layers, that demonstrate to your audience that you know them, understand them, want to please the punch out of them. For instance, identify what you have in common with your readers or viewers, outside your service or product, and tie those kindred elements into your story.
The End – It’s Only the Beginning
Like the finale of a favorite binge series, leave your audience wanting more, providing them with multiple ways to share and respond to your story. Let there be no end to what you can offer, only beginnings with ever more heroes in your own special tale.
Let our team of experts mold your story, help you tell it, and share it with the world.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
The most innately understood facet of marketing is brand identity, even among those who know nothing about marketing. That’s because brands etch themselves indelibly into human emotions as early as childhood.
Branding is all about emotional connections and is deeply ingrained in consumer consciousness. As such, consumers of all ages are remarkably capable of investing more in a product or service bearing a certain brand, or “personality,” which is precisely what a brand is.
According to Kevin Leifer, “a brand exists in the minds of consumers…nowhere else. Your brand is how your customers perceive you.” Or as Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos says, “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
While brands are largely intangible, transcending marketing strategy into the human psyche, they can nevertheless be concretely examined and developed. Let’s look at some key components of crafting a brand that will attract consumers, earn their trust, and stay in their hearts and minds:
More than anything, your brand must reflect your company’s purpose. That depends, of course, on knowing what that is. What is your vision for your business and, more importantly, your customers? What can you offer them that your competition can’t? What are your intentional goals beyond the point of sale? Consider the brands you respect and are drawn to, and ask yourself why—check out their mission/vision statements and explore how they make you feel.
There’s that word again. Without a discernible character, your brand stands to be muddy and forgettable. Think of human attributes for your company: is it classy, casual, fun, edgy, carefree, serious, open-minded, warm and fuzzy, conservative, philanthropic, whimsical…? This way, you begin to identify a personality for your brand upon which you can build content, collateral, events, and more.
Looks aren’t everything, but they go a long way toward establishing brand. First is the logo, a recognizable symbol of your business or organization that should appear on absolutely everything you produce across all media. Next are colors, fonts, type size and weight, packaging, web presentation, and other elements of design. While flexibility may become necessary (examples are Old Spice’s adaptations to attract a younger audience and Chili’s return to earlier campaigns), a consistent, uniform identity is key to successful branding.
As humans, we all want to belong. Successful brands evoke feelings of connection among like-minded consumers and leverage those emotions to reach them on a personal level. Take Harley-Davidson, for example. Its customers are kindred spirits, not simply because they ride motorcycles, but because they ride a Harley. Companies that cultivate feelings of belonging to a larger group understand that people have an instinctual need for relationships. The more you can invite consumers to engage with your brand on a deeper level, the more you will foster community and earn their trust.
Once you’ve identified purpose, personality and look, it’s time to present your brand. The most effective way to do this is through content, your story. According to inbound marketer Patrick Shea: “In every way, your content is your brand online. It’s your salesperson, your store, your marketing department; it’s your story, and every piece you publish reflects on, and defines, your brand.”
The importance of storytelling cannot be overstated. Adds Kathryn Wheeler, “People love stories. More accurately, people love stories that move them emotionally and to action.” In addition to design elements attached to your content, whether blogs, social media, print material, ads, e-mail, etc., the language you use should tell your story and portray the personality of your brand.
Knowing exactly what’s bringing people to your brand—and who they are—has never been easier. Monitoring tools such as Google Analytics and several others are free to use, and multiple social media platforms allow consumers to communicate directly with your brand. Inviting online conversations about your business in your “voice” demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and reinforces your brand.
How well is your brand identified and understood? Let our team of experts help you develop your unique brand and create strategies, content and collateral that distinguish you from the competition and tell your story to the world.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
A logo, a graphic mark commonly used by brands, businesses, organizations and even individuals helps with instant public recognition. Logos are either icons/symbols or are composed of the name of the organization. Consider first-class brands like Apple, Starbucks, McDonalds and one of the first instincts and associations with them comes down to the bitten fruit, golden arches or mermaid. Is your brand identity so strong that people can identify it merely from a logo?
We believe that a good logo should incorporate the following:
- Simplicity to allow for easy recognition
- Be able to work in all kinds of sizes for design purposes
- Timelessness – will it still work and align with company objectives in 10 years?
- Appropriateness for the intended purpose (utilize typeface and images that speak to the brand)
- Differentiating factors to set yourself apart from competition
If your logo doesn’t have easy recognition within your field, it may be time for a change. Ask yourself if it looks outdated or too trendy? Or has there been a change within the company to expand offerings? Keep in mind this can be a very daunting and expensive task. Some brands have gone through a complete rehaul just to find out the consumers lost the connection and worst sales plummeted.
The infographic below (made by glow new media) displays logo evolution for the following brands: Internet Explorer, IBM, Nokia, Ford, Apple, Pepsi, Microsoft, Cannon, BBC, Kodak, Atari, Volkswagen and British Airways. Let us know which is your favorite logo featured in the infographic by leaving a comment below.
Check out this fun logo quiz from Business Insider and try to guess the brand without words.
Evolution of Logo Design by Glow New Media