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Brand Strategy

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.

7 steps that can turn your organization into a content machine

By | Brand Communications, Brand Strategy, Inbound Brand Marketing | No Comments

“How the heck are we supposed to generate all of that content?”

That’s the biggest dilemma facing small- to medium-sized businesses when it comes to launching and maintaining an effective inbound marketing campaign. We get it. You need to stay focused on your business. Sure, you want the meaningful blogs and helpful whitepapers. But the reality is, you’re lucky if you squeak out a piece once a month or update your social media sites.

Well, fear not. Here are 7 practical steps to get your content engine started.

1. MOBILIZE EVERY EMPLOYEE, WE MEAN EVERY EMPLOYEE.

Creating a ‘culture of content’ takes time. But it starts with everyone knowing that content is king and that every person needs to help generate their fair share. We suggest starting with an all-hands-on-deck meeting to explain the importance of the inbound marketing program and the ROI it produces. It’s also a good forum to set expectations and appoint a gatekeeper from Marketing to help manage the flow of content. To really jumpstart the process, take the lead and set an example by getting out that first blog, e-book, or white paper.

It’s not just marketing and sales people who should contribute. Many people in your organization have valuable information and a seasoned point of view. From Accounting to HR to R&D, there are fascinating facets of your business, with experts who can offer truly useful information.

Don’t expect your people to actually write all of the material. Instead, focus on content. Then reserve the wordsmithing and editing to your key people or inbound partner.

Three great side effects of all of this? Everyone becomes a better writer, thought leader and published author.

2. ESTABLISH GOALS AND ALIGN WITH YOUR BRAND STRATEGIES.

Establish goals for your team – like 3 blogs per week, 1 e-book per quarter, etc. Set it all up in an editorial calendar, then use it to brainstorm and nail down content a quarter at a time. Be sure it’s front and center with all stakeholders.

Inbound marketing builds your brand with every piece of content. So make sure everything you’re creating is in line with your brand purpose and promise – and your selling strategies. Revisit your vision, mission, and values to make sure everything you produce is on brand.

3. KNOCK OFF THE WRITER’S BLOCK.

Everyone stares at that white piece of paper. But getting started isn’t that hard. Just begin writing. Find a topic that matters to you and your customers. And start writing like you’re speaking to them one-on-one. Be as specific as possible. Offer truly insightful information, and forget the selling. Soon you’ll get the hang of it.

Stumped on where to begin? How about focusing on the top 10 to 15 questions customers always ask you? There’s enough content right there to fill an e-book, white paper, and a couple of blogs. And it helps to have a catchy title. Try this great HubSpot Title Generator to get your creative juices flowing.

4. WRITE. REPURPOSE. REPEAT.

The great thing about generating content is that every single piece builds a library of digital materials that can be repurposed and repackaged again and again. You can turn blogs into an e-book with a little deeper dive and a tool like Designrr. Break a white paper down into a simple PPT and post the deck on a website like SlideShare. Combine several blogs together into an interesting roundup. And turn written words into visual infographics. All rich stuff for your homepage, social media sites, email blasts, and more.

5. DON’T BE AFRAID TO CHANGE IT UP.

Study what works and what doesn’t. Is everyone reading your blog? Write more. No one reading your e-books and white papers? Conduct a quick survey to find out why. Never created a video? Now’s the time to see how one flies. Webinars? Podcasts? You can experiment until you find the perfect mix.

6. THEN MEASURE UP.

Always analyze how you’re doing by measuring the performance of your landing page submissions, new contact rates, website traffic and page views, inbound links, and social media shares. You’ll get a crystal clear picture of what’s working and what’s not.

7. INVEST IN THE RIGHT PEOPLE.

It’s inevitable that, at some point, you’ll need to hire inside or outside people. Don’t fret. That’s a good sign that your inbound machine is racing at full speed. Editors and proofreaders can really help the quality of content. Having an inbound marketing agency [like our sister company, TRUSTinbound Marketing Group] doing a lot of the heavy lifting is a smart and strategic way to go too.

WANNA KNOW MORE?

Download a great ebook from our friends at Scoop.It and HubSpot.

The Moment of Truth

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

You’re delicately crafting or recrafting your corporate brand.

Or carefully launching or relaunching a product brand.

Where do you begin? How do you articulate the USP, the point of distinction, the differentiating factor?

Whether you reside in the old school camp of Al Ries’ and Jack Trout’s classic Positioning; or the new school of story branding, purpose branding or Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, it can leave you staring at a blank sheet of paper.

So where do you really start? What’s the catalyst for everything you want to capture?

It’s the Moment of Truth—that split second when your target audience touches your brand.

Imagine that interaction in slow motion. Person to corporate entity. Human to product. What happens? Physically, emotionally, viscerally? What does that moment look like? Sound like? Feel like? Get all of your brand stakeholders—from product marketing and sales to service and support people—in a room and talk about it. Write everything down you can think of. Scour existing research. Conduct focus groups and watch carefully. Look for the patterns, the similarities and the themes that emerge.

It doesn’t matter whether you make industrial equipment, pharmaceuticals or colas, the truth about your brand is in that moment. It’s how your customer or prospect authentically reacts. What’s on their face. On their mind. In their heart. What they say [and don’t say] to you and each other. How they interact with your product when no one is looking.

What’s the essence of the entire moment? Delight? Trust? Confidence? Truth? Happiness? Relief? Family? Wow? A better world? This is just the spark you need for your positioning, purpose or brand story. Once you’ve got that, everything else is easy.

Start with the Moment of Truth. Within it is everything you’re seeking.

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.

The pharma brand namers must be on drugs.

By | Brand Strategy, Product Identity | No Comments

We all see the countless drug commercials on TV.

It’s hard to ignore the onslaught, all trying to convince us to talk to our doctor about them—even after 45 seconds of listing side effects in a 60-second spot. From what I can tell, everyone on the planet has high blood pressure, plaque cirrhosis and debilitating mood swings.

Recently I’ve seen some really bizarre brand names. Granted, this category has always been famous for them. Big pharma and their agencies have many secret formulas for brand name creation that could only appeal to chemists, medical specialists, and masochists. But three new drugs are on the fringe of brand name sanity.

Farxiga, Xeljanz, and Cosentyx. Wow. When commercials contain supers that show how to pronounce the name “Ask your doctor about far-SEE-guh,” they’ve lost. Isn’t the rule for brand names supposed to be easy to pronounce, easy to spell and easy to remember? So what happens when you’re in the doctor’s office? You draw a blank. And get a prescription because you stare off into space too much.

Pharma names are getting more and more out there – to a point where you feel like you’re looking at a Word Scramble, an eye chart or you’re in the throes of a stroke.

I need a couple of Aggrenox and Omeprazole!

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.

If Sales is a sprint and Marketing is a marathon, then Branding is a triathlon.

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

If you’re responsible for corporate or product branding, you have to be in it for the long run. The very long run. Look at brands that are leaders in their categories [Coca-Cola, FedEx, IBM, GE, McDonald’s, Toyota, Google, Amazon, and Apple] and it’s clear they’ve been winning their triathlons for years, decades, even centuries.

The Sales function understands the role of marketing and the value of branding. But it can all go out the window when the numbers aren’t being hit. Bringing in the quarter can mean selling out the brand. That can erode everything Marketing and Branding is trying to do.

The Marketing function is more medium-term focused. But pressure to launch new products, break into markets, appeal to more target audiences and deal with corporate expectations can create too much brand stretch that stings with a resounding snap!

The Branding function, on the other hand, takes the long view because a brand has to stand the test of time. [See brand examples above.] It’s a grueling race to build long-term brand value despite the ups and downs of quarterly sales goals and yearly marketing plans. The race is won by being meaningful, differentiated, relevant and adaptable—year after year. And like triathletes, brand stakeholders do many things well, while always keeping their eye on the prize. They overcome obstacles, beat the competition, bob and weave through economic bears and bulls, and never lose confidence, stamina or focus.

Are you ready for the triathlon of your career? It’s worth the race.

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?

5 Things Harry Potter Can Teach Your Brand

By | Brand Strategy, Brand Theory | No Comments

It’s estimated that the Harry Potter brand is valued at $15 billion dollars. In fact, the record-breaking series of books and films have made J.K. Rowling the first billionaire from writing.

So what branding lessons can we learn from the young wizard of Hogwarts?

1. Always tell a great story.

Your brand isn’t just a company or a product. It’s a story that never ends. Brand storytelling should cast a spell–capturing the hearts and minds of your target audience. Like any great story, your brand needs structure, plot, and resolution. With a narrative rich in emotion, connectivity, and credibility. Sure, you have a logo and a tagline, but what makes your brand compelling and authentic? What does it feel like? What does it believe? What’s its purpose?

2. Create your own world.

What makes J.K. Rowling a genius is that she created a complex and magical world of wizardry, with its own society, customs, characters, and language. Your brand should do the same to add authenticity and depth. You can create a unique world for your brand in many ways. Your website. Your tradeshow booth. The way you package and brand your R&D and support programs. The unique terminology you coin for features and benefits. What’s your Quidditch?

3. Stay true to your brand.

Harry Potter is true to himself. More importantly, the Harry Potter franchise is true to itself. Every aspect of the brand works together, from the books to the films to the Universal Studio’s attraction, to the recent release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. There’s nothing out of place. No weird brand proliferations like Harry Potter Shoes or Harry Potter Coffee. Don’t be a Muggle. Keep a keen focus, and avoid products and services that aren’t “on brand.”

4. Be a fighter.

Harry Potter is a little guy, but he’s scrappy. He has passion, purpose and a sense of destiny. We all have our Voldermorts, but we can never back down. Be aggressive, fast on your feet, and think three chess moves ahead. For your target audience, always make it a fight of good against evil. And always, always, do the right thing. Remember, people love the underdog. You don’t have to be the biggest, You just have to be the best.

5. Keep your audience wanting more.

In 2007, The Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final volume in the Harry Potter series, became the fastest-selling book in history with more than 11 million copies sold worldwide in just 24 hours. Wouldn’t you love those kinds of numbers for your next product release? You can, by using the 4 points above to keep your target audience loving your brand. And by leveraging inbound branding to create a rich experience that delivers on different levels. Maximize your website, blogs, social media, and SEO. And be a wizard when it comes providing tons of meaningful content and contact points.

“Stupendous Brandus!”