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Brand Identity

6 questions to ask yourself when building a brand-focused, inbound-friendly website

By | Brand Communications, Brand Identity, Brand Strategy, Brand Theory, Corporate Identity, Product Identity | No Comments

Websites have changed. People have changed. Consumers run on information and websites are their fuel. They search. They learn. They search some more. Before they even talk to a sales rep, they’re 60% through the buying decision according to Gartner.

With buyers in the driver’s seat, what does that mean if you’re designing or upgrading your website? A lot. It means you’ve got to build a brand-focused, inbound marketing-friendly website, with all of the content your prospects are surfing for. So ask these 6 questions to make sure you’re capturing, converting, and cultivating customers.

1. WHO’S MY TARGET AUDIENCE?
It’s amazing how much we focus in on target audiences when we create brand strategies and marketing communications, yet seem to make a website more general to attract more people. It’s imperative to clearly define the prospects you want to attract because they’ll be interested in what you have to offer. Use buyer personas to really understand their mindsets, motivations, and pain points. That way, you can start creating pages, content, and offers that appeal specifically to them.

2. DOES MY WEBSITE REFLECT OUR BRAND?
Your website is the hub for all of your communications and the center of your brand experience. It’s the first place everyone goes to when they want information. So make sure it’s a sterling representation of your brand’s mission, vision, and values. And every page should reflect your positioning, purpose, brand story, brand face, and brand voice. This can be a difficult task if you’re struggling with your brand. But it’s all in a day’s work if your brand is fully defined and well articulated.

3. ARE MY PAGES BUILT FOR THE BUYER JOURNEY?
People don’t buy right away so they certainly don’t want to be sold right away. It’s a process—of turning browsers into visitors into leads into customers into brand ambassadors. That means you need to develop a variety of content that’s right for each step of the buyer journey. Someone looking for information doesn’t want “BUY NOW!” shoved in their face. They want information that is useful in their decision process, stuff that helps them learn why there is a need for your product or service. The right content, from e-books to whitepapers to webinars, nurtures your prospect through the buyer journey.

Looking for a deeper dive? Download our Inbound Marketing Primer from our sister company TRUSTinbound Marketing Group.

4. IS MY SEO REALLY O?
Optimizing your SEO doesn’t start with search words. It starts with the right content. Like meaningful pages that appeal to your buyer persona. Pages filled with meaningful information. After you’ve got that, you can optimize your copy, page URLs, page titles and meta descriptions with keywords based on what they’re looking for. Think about what prospects going through the buyer journey would use for real-world search terms – the kind of stuff they type into a Google search window. That’s how you optimize your SEO for real people, not search engines.

5. IS MY NAVIGATION IDIOT-PROOF?
People aren’t stupid, but navigation sure can be. Think about it, you go through all the trouble to get your website on the first page of a Google search, only to lose your prospect in your maze of menus and drop downs. They’ll drop out and go right back to Google. So make sure your prospects can get to where they want to go with the least number of clicks.

6. IS MY WEBSITE MOBILE FRIENDLY?
It’s absolutely mandatory that your website has a responsive design that looks awesome on a desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone. Why? Because your prospects are mobile. In fact, according to a recent study, roughly 56% of consumer traffic to the leading US websites is now from mobile devices. And all of those people want websites that are easy to view and understand.

Meaningful branding and compelling information is the way into the hearts and minds of your prospects. And your website is your digital hub for it all.

So make each page work hard—turning prospects into loyal brand advocates.

Hear that? Sounds like a brand experience.

By | Brand Design, Brand Identity, Brand Strategy, Product Identity | No Comments

Recently, we renovated our kitchen, and part of the fun was buying all new appliances.

We chose Maytag because of the industrial design and the fact that they’re made in America. But one of the most pleasant discoveries we made when we started using our appliances is how they talk to us…well, sing to us…actually, more like R2D2 to us.

If our refrigerator door is ajar, we get a singsongy reminder to close it.

When our food is zapped, the microwave lets us know with a little ditty.

And when our clothes are dry, we hear a merry melody coming from the laundry room.

Sure, there are the usual beeps and boops as you press buttons. But it’s clear that Maytag thought long and hard about how to leverage the power of sound as part of their brand experience. It’s fun. It’s interactive. It’s even endearing.

If you have a product that interfaces with humans, listen. Because sound can help bring your interspecies communications to life. Audio branding can be functional. But at its best, it can be a signature element that differentiates you from the noisy competition. What’s your product sound like when it starts up and shuts down? How can you change up interface sounds to make them your own? How do you bring sound to functions that never had sound before? How can you please the ear in unexpected and unusual ways?

You carefully control your product’s design, color, functionality, and GUI. Now listen to your brand. And make some sound decisions.

Love that new shuttle bus smell!

By | Brand Identity, Brand Strategy, Brand Theory, Corporate Identity, Product Identity | No Comments

“Is that a dryer sheet I smell?”

That’s what I asked myself as I sat on a rental car shuttle bus, going from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to a massive off-site car rental depot. Very interesting, I thought. Fragrance branding. And it worked on me. It made my ride much more pleasant than, say, the odor of gas fumes and sweaty tourists.

Sensory appeal is human appeal. And it attracts people to your brand. A nice fragrance on the shuttle bus was unexpected. And I’ll remember it—because smell is one of our strongest senses, processed by the most reptilian part of our brain. A certain smell can bring back a flood of memories. Maybe it’s the fragrance of lilacs in the spring. Apples in the fall. Or Juicy Fruit gum after school.

Ever walk through the casinos in Vegas? Some smell good. Some smell, um, like casinos. But open the doors at the Venetian, and you’re flooded with a signature fragrance. Your reaction is immediate and visceral. Most of the casinos use fragrancing systems, but the Venetian really stands out.

Obviously, smell plays a critical roll in perfumes, colognes, health and beauty products, and food and beverage brands. Retailers and car manufacturers have discovered the power of fragrance branding, too. (That new car smell? Yep, it’s bottled.) But it’s where you don’t expect it that it can have the biggest impact. Your office for example. Why shouldn’t the whole building smell like the C-Suite? Or what about the computer you’re reading this blog on? Why couldn’t it have a cool, techy smell infused in the plastic? And what’s the deal with wall paint? Couldn’t it have a nice lingering fragrance after the paint smell goes away? Fragrances could be matched to colors. Mocha really would smell like Mocha!

When you’re developing your brands, don’t miss out on what could be a key differentiating factor. It’s right under your nose.

Meet the Kiwi. The poster child of fruit branding.

By | Brand Identity, Brand Strategy, Product Identity | No Comments

If you’ve ever eaten a Kiwi, you know it’s a sensory experience:

Touch. Yikes. Brown and prickly. You’d never know there was a delicious, exotic fruit inside.
Taste. Amazing. Somewhere between a melon and a strawberry.
Smell. Nothing unusual. Kind of sweet.
Sight. Outside, not so great. Inside. Heaven. Bright, green, almost translucent with a halo of small black seeds.
Sound. I guess it thuds when you drop it.

But here’s what really makes it experiential: Clever product branding.
The Kiwi is the edible berry of a cultivar group of the woody vine Actinidia deliciosa. It’s a native of Shaanxi, China. Its real name is the Chinese Gooseberry. Ummm…not too appetizing, huh?

So how do we get people to fully embrace and experience the Kiwi’s tasty goodness?

Well first, get rid of the name. Who wants to eat a Chinese Gooseberry? That’s exactly what some produce marketers thought in the 1950s when they wanted to import them into Europe and the U.S. So they branded the fruit “the melonette.”

Okay, that kinda works. Inedible rind on the outside, sweet and juicy on the inside. But it didn’t do the branding job. People just couldn’t get past the little hairy mellonette to give it a try.

The trick was to make the homely little berry cute and exotic. Let’s see. Small. Hairy. Like the flightless Kiwi Bird of New Zealand. That’s it! People can embrace that! They can finally be open to the total Kiwi experience! And the rest is history.

Of course, the Kiwi has little to do with New Zealand. Yeah, they grow a few. So does China. But the biggest exporter is Italy.

So what’s the little branding lesson here?

First, always start with the five senses because they’re powerful human touchpoints. Try to make as many work in your favor as possible.

Second, craft a brand name and brand story that captures the imagination and connects on an emotional level.

Gotta go—making fruit salad tonight with some nice Chinese Gooseberries. Maybe I’ll throw in some Wonderful® Halos™ – also known as California-grown mandarins.

6 sure signs that you have a branding problem

By | Brand Communications, Brand Identity, Brand Strategy, Corporate Identity | No Comments

No long-winded listicle here. These 6 signs are short, sweet and to the point.

1. You need to launch a new corporate or product communications program, but you’re agonizing over differentiation.

2. You need to overhaul your website, but you’re struggling with the “Who We Are” page.

3. All the players in your marketplace seem to be well positioned—expect you.

4. You think a “brand” is just a logo and a tagline.

5. Your people don’t have the same elevator speech.

6. When you ask employees and customers, “Our company or product = ________,” you get a blank stare.

It’s easy to confuse a communications challenge with a branding problem. So here’s a good rule of thumb:
– If you don’t know what to say, you’ve got a communications challenge.
– If nobody knows who you are, you’ve got a branding problem.

Your brand is the sum total of everything it stands for. So, what does it stand for?

Happy Mental New Year!

By | Brand Communications, Brand Identity, Brand Strategy, Corporate Identity, Product Identity | No Comments

Everyone knows that summer means a lull in effort, focus an productivity. Maybe it’s that summer vacation mindset that started when we were kids. Or the nice weather that has us staring out the window, dreaming of being on the beach or in the mountains. Whatever the reason is, the Mental New Year is about to begin, and you need to make sure you’re ready!

So, what exactly is the Mental New Year? It begins right after the long Labor Day weekend when you realize summer is over, and you need to kick your business into high-gear. With Q4-2018 beginning and Q1-2019 right around the corner, there’s no better time to review your branding strategies and make any course corrections.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Oh man, that definitely describes the situation I’m in right now,” don’t worry! Now that you know, you can use the Mental New Year to your advantage! After all, everyone else is getting their heads back in the branding game, too.

What should you do?

Take stock of your corporate and product brand strategies. Are all of your communications on plan and on brand? This is a great time to review the year so far—in terms of branding initiatives, numbers, and objectives and tactics.

Conduct a brand audit that includes your website, social media program and demand gen activities. Everything following brand standards? Everything have strong continuity of brand story, brand face, and brand voice? Are your product brands rockin’ the marketplace? Are you staying true to your branded house or house of brands strategy?

Get ready for tradeshow season. With trade show activity heating up, are all of your properties and messages reinforcing your brand differentiation?

Make sure Marketing and Sales are strong brand ambassadors. Everyone in your organization who touches the brand should be in lockstep when it comes to your corporate vision, mission, and values, and your brand positioning, purpose and elevator speech.

Start gearing up for 2019. Sure, you’ll get a break during the holidays, but now is the time to be looking at fresh budgets, new product launches and brand upgrades.

And now a little toast, “Here’s to your brand health and prosperity in the Mental New Year!”