Category Archives: Branding

What Inspires You and Your Business?

Recently, my husband and I took a trip to Yosemite National Park in Northern California. So many people have heard of the park, but not sure how many people have viewed its natural splendor, its beautiful waterfalls, killer rainbows, untamed wildlife, and jagged peaks. At first, it jolted me into a place I’ve never experienced before. And, before I knew it, I was writing much more creatively than I had previously. I started taking photos I dared not take in the past. Why? Because I was inspired. And, when I got back to Connecticut and started working again, it was feverish: “what else can I do, what more can I accomplish”. I realized that it’s inspiration that gets me all revved up and wanting more. Of course, you also have to have the perspiration to do the work and finalize the details as well. But it’s the inspiration that makes you see the forest through the trees. The plan behind the details. Take a look at the photo below, taken at Inspiration Point. Beautiful, magestic, steady, and strong. What inspires you and your business?

Half Dome, Yosemite Park

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LinkedIn: Ways to Stay Top of Mind

LinkedIn is a great BtoB Social Media tool for professionals looking to connect with one another and keep abreast of workplace changes. Here are a few ways to stay “top of mind” in your profile and remind folks that “hey, I’m here!” in a professional setting:

  1. Post and share insightful articles, especially for those target markets you’re looking to go after. A few times a week is perfect
  2. Engage with your Connections. If they have a Work Anniversary, congratulate them. Or, if you find one of their articles interesting, “Like” it
  3. Join Groups with like-minded individuals – converse with them and provide useful assistance
  4. Make introductions via your 2nd and 3rd degree connections. Be helpful to folks before you need the help yourself!
  5. Make sure that your profile is complete (full bio, education, work history, gave and received recommendations, causes, profile photo). If you click on “View Profile”, on the right hand side it’ll have a Pie Chart with your current strength

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Nobody Likes to be Pushed, Right?

There’s the old saying, nobody likes to be pushed. They like to guide themselves into making the right decision and how they feel comfortable doing it. This is a form of “Pull” rather than “Push” Marketing. An example of Push Marketing would include an advertiser saying “buy my products, buy my products, they’re the best!” See an example here. The best for whom? Well, the marketer of course. Pull marketing is based more on thought leadership and / or having a conversation. An example would include creating a white paper based upon your industry and posting on your Social Media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Not only does it establish yourself as an industry expert, it allows for those within your network to comment and engage with you. You’re pulling (or attracting / inviting) them into your sphere – a sphere that is more comfortable for those within it. Of course, we’ll always have television advertisements or radio spots, but as the future progresses and time gets more precious, wouldn’t you rather spend it on things that you enjoy and want to engage with? We’re curious to hear what your opinions are…

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Save Time With Social Media

There are numerous businesses who utilize Social Media on a regular basis, often posting 2 or 3 times a day. It’s a great way to spread the word about upcoming events, new product offerings, and providing insight into your particular industry. The time spent on these postings can be cumbersome, which is why there are Social Media aggregates available (most for FREE!). Try Hootsuite.com if you’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, and WordPress. You can post multiple communications, on separate days, and schedule them ahead of time. When Monday comes around, that communication will automatically post. You don’t even have to think about it (well, unless someone responds to your post – then, you have to give feedback). Another good Social Media aggregate is TweetDeck. Whichever system you decide to choose, saving time is so important to a business, especially one in its infancy stage or strapped for employees.

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Copywriting: How to Sell With Compelling Words

Recently I received a direct mail piece from the Sierra Club asking for donations to help save an endangered species. Receive these often, however this one took a different approach, from the perspective of the animal himself, see version here – SierraClub. The marketing and communications piece was so endearing and heartfelt that I couldn’t imagine not giving funds to help the animals. It put the reader in the mind of the animal. It starts out with “Dear Human”, then leads into “Imagine your family under attack…” and “Our fate is in your hands”. Often when the writer uses empathy they make an emotional connection between two or more things. And, good storytelling is about drawing people in with feelings, emotion and heartfelt stories.

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Keep It Simple – And, Keep Pushing

Being simple isn’t as easy as it looks. In fact, it’s harder! How do companies excel within this extraordinary world of complexity and so many options to choose from?

Look at companies like Apple and they keep it simple (yet still profitable). Their product lines (iPod, iTouch, iMac, etc) are easy to navigate and understand. Not a lot of extraneous buttons or manuals that take weeks to understand. Their advertisements are simple and to the point. Their “Think Different” campaign in the late 90’s, again, was simple, to the point, and EXTREMELY effective. Their message encompassed radical thinkers, those that stepped beyond their boundaries to produce something spectacular. And, for which the world will always love them for. Bob Dylan, the Dalai Lama, Amelia Earheart, even Steve Jobs himself, all in black & white with the simple tagline of “Think Different”. Everyone gets it. The short video, “Think Different” had simple dialogue and made people yearn to become something better than they were today.

Not that every company needs to model themselves after Apple, but oftentimes less is more. Whether it be product design, advertising, assembly lines or how corporate meetings are run – Keep It Simple.

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7 Ways For Businesses to Increase Facebook Fans and Engagement

Facebook is the huge behemoth people drop into daily conversation. But, are businesses capitalizing enough on fan engagement and following? Here are seven ways to assist in garnering attention, capturing interest and keeping those followers:

  1. Website: include a link on each page of your site. Or, include a scrolling log of Facebook updates (see example here)
  2. E-Mails: send regular e-mail marketing campaigns to your subscriber list notifying them that you’re on Facebook and post updates to your business on a regular basis.
  3. Promotions: Third Party Affiliates such as Wildfire or a less expensive solution called North Social partners with Facebook’s interface to provide promotions. Just about anything can be offered, from a Sweepstakes to a Deal Share. Fans are looking for info that’s not just relevant to your business, but what’s in it for them.
  4. Promoted Posts: Facebook recently started allowing businesses to promote their posts for a flat fee, see article here. Facebook estimates that only 16 percent of all posts are seen by the intended audience. Therefore, promoting your content can go a long way to increase engagement.
  5. In-Store Signs (for brick and mortar locations): strategically placed signs that encourages your presence on Facebook can be placed near the cash register or front door. In fact, you can even have cashiers mention to customers to “like us” on Facebook. Quick, easy and most importantly free.
  6. E-Mail Signature: place an icon on your outgoing e-mails to customers, vendors, anyone you might do business with
  7. Ask Questions: people love to engage with a brand or business that they love. Why not ask them questions that solicits feedback. Heck, you can even use it as Market Research! And, when they do interact, that interaction will appear on their friends’ newsfeeds.

Number 8 Communications provides social media strategy and consultations for small to mid-size businesses. If you have further questions or would like assistance on growing your fan count, please let us know.

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The 411 on Brand Identity

Why is it so critical?

Whether you’re a newly found company or looking to re-brand an existing business, a strong brand identity can position a company above its competition all by itself. But having a brand that’s strong takes time, money, and effort to develop. It’s not as easy as redesigning a logo or rewriting a tagline. Brand identity may be developed and monitored within the marketing department, however when in full effect, it crosses all departments, job descriptions, product launches, customer service reps, and beyond. In fact, it should involve everyone within the company, getting them to understand the evolution, and to be your most enthusiastic ambassadors.

An existing brand identity (and how to re-work it)

Successful re-branding involves “evolution”, not “revolution”. A perfect example would be Aesop’s Fable “The Tortoise and the Hare”. The story concerns a hare who ridicules a slow-moving tortoise and is challenged by him to a race. The hare soon leaves the tortoise behind and, confident of winning, decides to take a nap midway through the course. When he awakes, however, he finds that his competitor, crawling slowly but steadily, has arrived before him. It’s important to not get too crazy with a re-branding effort because you could end up destroying fragile emotional ties / customer loyalty / and ultimately, sales. One step at a time is almost always much more effective for both the company internally, and externally, for your customers.

Brand identity – it’s WAY more than marketing!

Oftentimes, during a re-branding, other people and departments outside of marketing are not involved in the evolution. In fact, your internal stakeholders should understand the re-branding, believe in it, have a vested stake in its success, so they can then communicate better with each other and with customers.

A company that nails this is Zappos.com. Zappos places great emphasis on company culture and core values. The Zappos’ CEO, Tony Hsieh believes “if we get the culture right, then everything else, including the customer service, will fall into place”. Zappos has a list of core values, listed here on their website, that every employee sees and hears on a routine basis, not to mention being transparent to their customers via their website. The company also publishes an annual 480-page “Culture Book,” which is composed of two to three paragraph entries from employees describing Zappos’ company culture. The entries are unedited, and a copy of the Culture Book is given to all employees (although anyone can receive a copy of the book upon request).

Your employees will ultimately determine your success or failure. That’s why it’s so important to have them buy into your company’s brand identity. However, that’s not something that can be forced. It must be earned…but, once it is, watch out! You’ll have a company that is full of happy, motivated successful brand ambassadors and the company’s direction will move upwards.

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Constant Contact: Great Company, Great Products

Anyone heard of Constant Contact? Over the past few years, they’ve been touted as a leader in E-Mail Marketing, however they also offer services ranging from Online Surveys, Event Marketing and now applications intertwining E-Mail with Social Media.

I received an invitation last week to attend a free seminar, given by them and sponsored by a local design firm. The presenter, Corissa St. Laurent, Constant Contact’s Regional Development Director for the Northeast, gave a phenomenal presentation, engaging the audience which consisted of mainly small business owners within the Providence, Rhode Island region.

The seminar was intriguing and portrayed how incredibly professional the company is. St. Laurent mentioned a few features within Constant Contact, mentioned below, that can be really beneficial for those involved in marketing and communications (whether for personal or professional reasons):

  • Nutshell Mail – tracks your brand’s social media activity and delivers a summary to your email inbox on your schedule. And, the best part? It’s FREE!
  • Learning Center – allows users to learn about upcoming features, benefits, how to’s
  • Local Seminars – you can attend these seminars, most often for free, and you learn a TON. Just when you think you might know everything about the latest and greatest, think again!

Overall, I can’t say enough about the company. Looking forward to utilizing their great product(s) in the near future.

What new Social Media products / software / applications do you find most useful?

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The K.I.S.S. Philosophy: Keep It Simple Stupid

I learned this phrase while attending Central Connecticut State University, pursuing a degree in Graphic Design. The professor used the term all the time and upon further research, was coined by a lead engineer for airplanes, named Kelly Johnson. The principle most likely finds its origins in similar concepts, such as Occam’s razor, and Albert Einstein’s maxim that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”. Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, or Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s “It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.

With the vast amounts of information pummeling the public on a daily basis, we are often overwhelmed with what to look at first, what to pay attention to, what’s important? Without getting too scientific, our brains can only process so much information at once. That is why, especially in advertising, the message needs to be simple. Clear. Concise. Effective.

Some recent ads that came out accomplish their task wonderfully. Accenture, the large consulting giant, recently replaced Tiger Woods with an elephant. The most recent ad portrays the elephant surfing with the tagline: “Who Says You Can’t Be Big and Nimble?” Graphic, humorous, and an immediate recognition with the reader.

Another good ad campaign was in 2008 for the World Wildlife Fund promoting the conservation, research and restoration of the natural environment. They used animals in each of their advertisements and portrayed the message from the animal’s perspective, how the animal FEELS in their environment. The outcome, hopefully, will be that an onlooker will donate to the cause because they empathize with the animals. Again, a graphic image, intermixed with concise ad copy, with a call to action towards the bottom.

There are also ineffective advertisements. Those that don’t either: a) elicit a direct response, 2) have an emotional connection with the reader or 3) both. Of course, bad advertisements (or even good ones) are subjective and are held in the eye of the beholder, however if the above points aren’t met, the ad will most likely be misinterpreted, ineffective or disregarded.

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