Discover What’s Truly Unique About Your Brand

Discover What’s Truly Unique About Your Brand

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.


Looks and Personality: Building a Brand to Remember

Looks and Personality: Building a Brand to Remember

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.

Physical Appearance
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.






It’s addicting!  The fast-paced, ever changing world of public relations and marketing captures your interest and keeps you charged up to learn more everyday.  I love to find the best ways to tell our client’s stories and man, they have awesome stories!

It’s my job to discover our client’s goals and then match the best processes to achieve them, within their budgets, of course.  I get to explore traditional, digital and every manner of communication to determine which tactics, whether it is direct mail or TV advertising, a new website or PPC (to name just a few) will efficiently and effectively capture the attention of prospects. 

I also get to work with great people at IVY – they’re creative, fun, caring and super smart.  We’ve all been around the industry a while so there is not a novice among us.  Our clients are very cool too and totally passionate about the services they offer.  We’ve been working with most of them for years so we know they truly care about being innovative and responsible to the markets they service.  I have great admiration for all of them and look forward to every day. 

It’s true what “they” say, if you love what you do, you won’t work a day of your life!


IVY was established in 1990 with a basic premise to offer professional, ethical and highly creative marketing, advertising and public relations services. We have successfully maintained our core values and have been part of many amazing projects, client growth and changes in the world of marketing that continue to happen at lightening speed. Most of our clients serve older adults in some capacity so we keep abreast of the opportunities and challenges they face.   Each day, we keep it real and fun and consistently deliver positive results to our clients and their markets.


As a hybrid graphic and digital designer/web developer with over 17 years of experience, I am always on the lookout for innovative digital and print visual communications. IVY Marketing Group’s broad range of projects keeps my job challenging and rewarding, as each campaign is a new and exciting opportunity to effectively communicate our clients’ messages and help them achieve their goals. It’s my passion!

My body of work encompasses a diverse design style and wide base of clients, ranging from national associations, small businesses and big name brands like Hyatt and LiftMaster. I firmly believe that form follows function and highly value the communicative power of simplicity. 

Areas of professional expertise include Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Word Press, Responsive Design, CSS3, and HTML5. The industries I’ve served include senior living, health care, hospitality and finance.


All my life, I have loved writing. As a child, I could often be found in my room “writing a book.” While “novelist” is not (yet) on my resume, I am a storyteller. I believe that everyone and everything has a great story, and it is my joy to find that story and share it with the world.

After earning my bachelor’s degree in journalism and completing my master’s studies in the same field, I joined a small advertising agency with powerhouse clients in the hospitality industry, such as Hyatt, Hilton International and Carnival Cruise Lines. I began as a proofreader and achieved the position of senior copy writer within a year.

After my first son was born, followed by two more, I started a freelance writing business that included (among several others) such clients as Advocate Health Care and Coldwell-Banker Realty. Clients in the education arena included DeVry University’s Becker CPA and Stalla CFA Reviews, DePaul University, and Naperville School District 203, for which I won two state public relations awards.

For nine years, I was employed as Communications Director for a large faith community, where I managed all aspects of internal and external communications. I was writer, editor, designer, web master, and content manager.

As such, I am experienced and comfortable writing multimedia for a broad variety of industries, products and services.

I joined IVY Marketing Group in 2013, when I began writing client press releases on a freelance basis. I loved the work—and my teammates—so much, I was thrilled when I was invited to come on board in a greater capacity.

I have immensely enjoyed getting to know our valued clients in the senior housing industry, the people they serve, and telling the many wonderful stories that come out of content marketing done right—with the love and care our IVY teams puts into everything we do.


It all starts with one idea. Working with the Ivy creative team for over two decades has always meant taking one great idea and bringing it to life to help our clients meet their goals. We enjoy the challenges offered with every creative opportunity and try to make the design process itself enjoyable for our clients.


Making certain that the projects IVY produces are word- and picture-perfect is my specialty. But I also love implementing marketing campaigns and programs that bring our clients success. Details are my thing, so it is a pleasure to have worked with IVY twice now, first after college four years ago and, recently, for the past two years.

The IVY Group is a terrific team of creative, positive and talented professionals that I love working with and, judging from the length of stay of our clients, I think they love our team, too!


Rock-climbing, training for an 80-floor stair climb event, running a 5K…This is just a tiny peek into what people 20 and even 30 years older than I am, are doing on a fairly regular basis at some of the retirement communities that IVY represents.

I’m of the generation that still has reoccurring nightmares about what the next step looked like when my grandmother could no longer live by herself. The very best option at that time was living at a “facility” and  included eating rubbery chicken and playing an occasional game of BINGO. Period. That’s why my parent’s generation begged us not to ever put them into “one of those places.”

I am so proud that IVY’s clients are at the very forefront of an industry that creates opportunities, challenges, and most of all freedom for seniors, allowing them to explore hobbies, interests, passions…the next chapter of their very full lives.

I feel reassured for my own future. Even more, I feel honored to be able to share the impactful stories about this paradigm shift in the world of senior housing. What we hear and see at our clients’ communities is fascinating and inspiring!


Keeping up to date on new public relations strategies, online engagement tactics, and promotional tools is my passion.

With my hospitality background in marketing top Chicago restaurants and hotels, I was eager to bring fresh concepts and communication strategies to our clients and have really enjoyed learning various industries.

Our clients have such exciting and unique events and programs, which really makes it motivating for me to make the most of their content.  Results like increased sales leads, website visits and social media connections make everyday rewarding and interesting.


I oversee, plan and implement projects and processes at IVY.  Often,  I am the conduit between our writers and designers, with printers, and other vendors to fulfill the marketing needs for our clients. I also manage media buys and coordinate production of advertisements.

Working for a flexible and fluid company that is constantly growing, changing and evolving is fun and rewarding. There is always something new to learn.


My bio has a big blank in the beginning—Mom and Dad rescued me in Wisconsin, and no one really knows my origins. They were probably ruff. What matters though is where I am now, running IVY Marketing Group. There are humans here who think they’re in charge. In truth, they do actually have amazing experience in content marketing and public relations, but I’m super important and the center of attention. I mean, look at this face. Right? And I know I’m the top dog because honestly, I’m the only one allowed to sleep through staff meetings and eat things that people drop on the floor.

The fact is though that I truly love staying awake at staff meetings. Everyone talks and laughs and they’re always excited. That surprises me a little because it’s not like anyone has thrown a ball to play fetch or anything. But I guess what gets my pack of peoples’ tails wagging is their work and their clients. I don’t know what a website or a blog is, but I do know that my pack must be good at them because they’ve earned all sorts of awards for these and other things. My bed had to be moved because the framed certificates were taking up so much room. Despite the inconvenience, I’m proud of these awards!

I serve several important purposes at IVY. I always let Mom (and the world) know when the mailman is here. When people come into the office, just one (usually) quick non-invasive (usually) sniff, allows me to determine important characteristics…like if they had anything good for breakfast, own any pets (pet owners are the best!) or if they stepped in anything on the way in. (It’s sort of like me conducting a first job interview.) I generously share my tummy because I know people like to give it a good scratch. I always give kisses, whether one is feeling lonely or not. And I’m always happy to share someone’s meal, especially if they’re trying to lose weight. My pack describes me as being engaging, amusing, and entertaining. (When I hear a siren, I “sing” along and it makes them laugh.) NPR talks about the benefits of having a pet at the workplace. Studies show pets lower stress hormones and improve morale and productivity. I wholeheartedly agree that a dog in the workplace is the best thing since rawhide bones.

As for my pack of people at IVY…they are amazing and always make my tail wag!


I could not be more thrilled to work alongside the IVY team.

For over 25 years, I have been employed in top executive positions across the Chicago area and have consistently built profitable businesses, generated sales, and developed and launched new product lines.

Strategically positioning companies and commodities for growth is a strong suit I’m eager to bring to ResponderHub™, IVY’s new crisis communications solution. I’m also excited to help expand IVY’s reach in the senior marketing industry.

I believe people are more open than ever to thinking outside the box and looking at new ways to reach their customer base, while at the same time reducing their cost of sale. The senior industry is exploding, and IVY is perfectly positioned to respond to the need for innovative, quality content marketing services and effective crisis communications.


I love being able to use my skills to help improve other people’s lives, and with a growing elderly population, it’s important to create meaningful and user-friendly digital solutions to aid the senior living industry.I have a wide range of technology and design skills with a deep interest in Human-Computer Interaction– helping IVY provide outstanding web design and print design services. IVY has a long-proven track record of excellence, and I’m proud to be able to help carry on that tradition.