build a brand

How to Build a Brand From Scratch

It is possible to build a brand from scratch successfully. However, it has become a lot more complex, and also a lot easier than ever before (depending on how you look at it). The millennials are a generation privileged with the upsides of the internet that allow them to bring their dreams alive with relative ease. While there are definitely more opportunities to launch a business today, failing in a cluttered 24/7 environment is actually quite easy to do.

One of the main factors in the success of a brand is its ability to carve its own niche and highlight that niche or difference to consumers. When launching a brand, there's a lot to keep in mind, but, here are some of the key factors entrepreneurs need to keep in mind while they being to launch their dreams:

build a brand planning strategy

1. Know and understand your target audience - It is extremely important to understand your target audience to define your brand. Keep in mind their demographics (age, gender, geographical location, income, education, occupation). This helps in crafting the right message and positioning of the brand.

2. Develop a strong key message for your defined audience - The right messaging is critical for building a brand, and only seems to become more crucial as the years pass. Instead of bombarding consumers with too many messages, giving out one key message for them to take away greatly increases the probability of brand recognition.

2. Know what sets your brand apart and stick to that - In order to give a distinct positioning to your brand, it's extremely important to identify what differences you're offering vs. your competitors (or potential competitors). You must be aware of what your competitors are doing in order to have a better hold on the next moves. It is essential to understand your brand and what customers expect out of your brand in the grand scheme of things.

4. Define your brand’s values - Defining your brand’s values helps you to better connect with consumers you want to reach. Humans have emotions, positioning your brand as a supporter of that emotion and the values associated with it gives you the edge to strengthen your brand image. For Example: Being a brand supporting gay rights, which is a topical issue, helps to connect with your customers -- of course, your values should always be aligned with your target market's values most importantly.

5. Listen to your customers/clients - The digital revolution has made it easy to communicate with customers and potential customers. Taking regular feedback from your consumers reduces the chances of any PR crisis and helps create an image of a customer-oriented brand.

 

Following these five keys of advice will assist you in creating a brand with a space for itself in the minds of consumers and set up your brand image. Building a brand from scratch requires diligent work, keeping in mind the end goal to do it effectively, one must be well versed with the market trends and blend them with the brand’s activities and campaigns. It's hard work to build a successful brand from scratch, and takes a lot of time, but it can definitely be done!

 


mobile advertising creative

Why Creative Matters in Mobile Advertising

In order for mobile app platforms to survive, it’s critical to continue achieving profitable user acquisition. However, mobile advertising is a constantly changing landscape.

What works for you today might not work for you tomorrow. 95% of your direct response creative advertising fails to outperform the best-performing assets in your portfolio. You are constantly working to find those 5% of successful creatives.

Over the past few years, machine learning on platforms like Facebook and Google has reduced the level of effort by advertisers to manage their ad targeting, bids, and budgets. Automation has leveled the playing field for advertisers, so much so that creative has now become the key differentiator.

Here are some of the latest creative techniques and best practices to keep your ad creative performing, and continuing to drive user acquisition and growth:

  • Do you have a creative brand ‘bible’?
  • How strict are you with that ‘bible’?
  • What’s your tone?
  • Who’s your audience?

It's surprising how few companies have thought about these questions that ultimately set the stage for creative development.

mobile advertising growth

Brand vs. Direct Marketing

Are you a brand or are you doing direct response advertising? CMOs often want to run brand campaigns and adhere to their brand bible with guidelines and restrictions. On the other hand, the UA team is incentivized by performance and will lean toward direct response. There is a way to meet in the middle and get the best of both worlds. It is important to consider that most of the videos and images in your creative will die in less than 10,000 impressions. If the winning creative happens to be one of the 5% of successful creatives, you can always revisit the creative and iterate to make it brand compliant. Through this process, you will also see the impact of making your ad creative brand compliant.

Types of Assets to Test

There’s a known approach to asset development of concepts versus variations and why you need one or the other. Concepts are brand new ideas, out-of-the-box thinking to develop something that hasn’t been tried before. It’s very difficult to develop fresh, new concepts. With variations, we’re taking that one in 5% successful creative winner. We know the creative is going to work, so instead, you will tear it apart like Legos and develop new creative assets, which often have a higher propensity to be successful.

Extend the Life of Your Ads

There’s a lot that you can do to extend the shelf life of your creative. Here are just some of the ways you can keep your creative fresh through testing variations:

  • Image Formats and Layouts: Showcase your product or service in several layouts.
  • Video Length and CTAs:Your video ads need to be in the rage of eight seconds or less. Your call to action should be in the first three seconds and it needs to be strong.
  • Types of Images: Consider taking your own photos or degrading the quality of the images and videos to make them appear user-generated (more authentic).
  • Color Uses in Images and Headers:Test simple and plain backgrounds with soft or blurred out colors or gradients. Allow the viewer’s eyes to focus on bright vibrant foreground colors. Test soft background colors vs bold colors, strong texture vs muted texture, and simple vs clean vs busy and cluttered backgrounds.

 


toys r us demise

The Demise of Toys R Us: What We Can Learn

If you’re like me, you’re definitely a “Toys R Us Kid”, so, seeing a once giant retailer like Toys R Us close its doors for good is a little heartbreaking. I spent a lot of time there in my childhood, and, while it was magical as a little kid, I haven’t been there in over a decade. It’s still sad nonetheless.

However, if we really look at it, it’s not all that surprising. Toys R Us has been heading down this path for a long, long time. There are probably numerous reasons as to why this is happening, including a massive amount of debt it was unable to over come, but, to me, none are more damning than Toys R Us’s obvious lack of innovation and executive’s reluctance to change and keep up with the times.

The once giant retail company filed bankruptcy in September of last year in order to restructure debt and introduce changes to be more “competitive”. The advances, which included in-store augmented reality games and children’s playrooms, proved to be ineffective — not to mention a at least a few years too late — in attracting more shoppers from the comforts of their couches this past holiday season.

toys r us demise

The simple truth is, Toys R Us put itself in this situation. The blame falls squarely on management’s shoulders. Over the last two decades while the internet was starting to boom, e-commerce started becoming commonplace, smartphones in every consumers pockets became the new norm, and social media took off, Toys R Us failed to innovate its business model, incorporate technology, or adapt to changing consumer behavior… and it did them in!

Retail stores in general have been suffering for years, trying to stay relevant and bring something new to the table as folks begin shopping more and more with online retailers like eBay and Amazon right at the tip of their fingers. No one NEEDS to leave their house to go shopping for much anymore, especially toys, so retailers have had to up their games to compete. They’ve had to add immersive shopping experiences to their stores that consumers just won’t find online.

A prime example of a toy store embracing change and keeping up with this philosophy is American Girl. Little girls love American Girl dolls and are excited about going shopping in American Girl stores. The company created an upscale, immersive shopping experience featuring doll hair and beauty salons,  photo studios, and even cafes that you can only get in their stores. They provide entertainment – and that’s what really keeps people coming back into the store.

Toys R Us lagged far behind in terms of innovating and bringing new shopping experiences to the table. Why would people shop there when they could easily buy the same toys on a trip to Walmart or Target to get milk? Why would someone chose to go out of their way to go to a Toys R Us store when they could find the same toys online for much cheaper? The answer: most wouldn’t and this is the result.

Toys R Us Aisle

While it is sad, the ending of a company like Toys R Us, which has been an icon in American culture for quite sometime can teach retail brands and organizations a few simple but important points. While price points are important, they are not the end-all-be-all in consumers minds. Creating innovative, memorable, and immersive shopping experiences for consumers is becoming more and more important if traditional retailers want to keep up with the Amazon’s of the world. Putting items on a shelf in a big room full of aisles is not enough anymore. People want experiences – like the kind you can get at the Apple Store, Build-a-Bear Workshop, or the American Girl store.

If other traditional brick-and-mortor retailers are to stick around and be successful in our mobile and internet obsessed wold, they need to be able to adapt quickly, innovate, and plan for the future in ways they hadn’t thought about before – or, they could be heading for a slow, painful death. Just like Toys R Us. #RIP


marketing advertising branding difference

Marketing, Advertising, & Branding... What's the Difference?

In this line of work, I oftentimes hear clients and prospective clients confuse marketing, advertising, and branding, and they also tend to use the terms interchangeably.

This usually makes me cringe just a little bit, because, while all three of these things may be a part of the bigger-picture plan, using them interchangeably like this grossly oversimplifies the deeper meaning and more complex concepts behind an effective marketing strategy. To understand marketing and the difference between these three concepts, it helps to look at yourself and try to apply each one to you as a person.

MARKETING:

Marketing can be though of as how you see yourself. It is the image that you are trying to present to others around you. In this analogy, things like how you dress, how you groom, and the colors and patterns you chose to wear all play a part. We all have a strategy for this (even if we don’t consciously realize it). Even not having a so-called strategy for your appearance is a marketing strategy in itself.

You choose your image to portray yourself as a business professional, a punk rocker, a tech nerd, etc., and by doing so, you are expressing to others your character, attributes, and in the end, the value you offer to others, all through your appearance.

For a business, a marketing strategy considers how you want others to perceive your company. It should convey the vision and of the business and express it in a way that the public will recognize and begin to associate with your company.

How you “dress” (or market) your company will determine how effectively your message and image will be accepted by consumers you want to reach.

ADVERTISING:

Advertising is how you act in public. While marketing describes how you see yourself, advertising describes how you act around others. Where you hang out, who you hang out with, how you carry yourself, and what you say are just as important as how you look. All of this should be considered with your marketing strategy to assure that you have consistency between your image and your actions (remember: actions speak louder than words)!

Your business advertising strategy is the just like this. If you execute it in the wrong places, with the wrong message and tone, at the wrong times, or to the wrong audience, it will tend to confuse consumers and could turn your audience away (AKA – don’t be a hypocrite.)

BRANDING:

Branding is how others see you, and, the good news is you can help influence this through marketing (how you see yourself) and advertising (how you act in public). If you have a strong brand, you can spend more time building on it. If you have reputation problems, however, you will need to focus on rebuilding or changing other’s perceptions of you.

For example, if your professional network believes you are a ‘fraud’ or a ‘slacker’, then it will require more than just dressing professionally and mastering your LinkedIn profile to change this perception. You’ll need to re-work and re-stratgise your personal marketing and advertising.

When it comes to business, understanding how your audience and consumers perceive your business is critical for how you decide to execute a marketing and advertising strategy. This is why the branding component of this equations is so important.

To sum it all up…

While I just oversimplified complex marketing concepts quite a bit, I find that applying these concepts as an analogy to ourselves creates an effective and simple way to explain how each of these three concepts can and should be applied to your business.


brand story engagement 4 phases

4 Phases of Brand Story Engagement

A good brand story is important… You only have one Brand Community. You understand who they are, what they want or need from you, where they are coming from, their motivations and where the best touchpoint is with each to be effective with your communications.

Each phase of your relationship with these people requires a different kind of storytelling. It’s the same brand story, because it has to be to be consistent and authentic, but it needs to be in a form that is appropriate for achieving the strategic goals of the phase you are in!

brand story engagement 4 phases

 

Phase #1: “First Contact” —
In the world of business communications, the current wisdom is that you have eight seconds or less to hook the interest of a prospect. So the first form that your story needs to take is distilling an aspect of the value you potentially offer a target group into a singular, resonate way.

  • Be disciplined: pick a single storyline that will make them want to know more and stick to it!
  • Keep it simple: At glance, most stories can be overwhelming, so don’t try to be too conceptual or “clever”.
  • Make it personal: Sharing something that feels intimate and familiar engages with folks on a better level.
  • Use images: As overused of a phrase as it may be, it’s true, “a picture tells a thousand words,” as long as the image helps tell the story rather than being simply an attention grabber.

Phase #2: “Reflect Their Needs” —
If you’re successful at first contact, then the next phase will determine if the prospect is driven to learn more about you and whether you will be in the consideration set in the future. Make sure your company website, social media profiles, presentations, and more, give them what they need.

  • Really show yourselves: Don’t be safe, be thrilling and unconventional!
  • Create brand filters: Make sure your content honors the brand position and story you have committed to.
  • Tell your story well: Is it easy for them to understand quickly what you do and what makes you different than your competition?
  • Create dialog: It’s essential at this stage to convert your company monolog, which websites and social media profiles and advertising tend to be, into a dialog where you are on the listening end.

Phase #3: “Make It Personal” —
It’s all about listening. But listening is just the start. Responding to the specific needs of the client or consumer makes them feel their thoughts are being heard.

  • Make your brand story theirs: As hard as it is to cede some ownership to others, building a truly community-driven story with everyone’s perspectives helps straighten your brand.
  • Guide and inspire: Inclusion doesn’t mean letting go of your story, it opens up a wealth of work related to guiding and inspiring people to tell your story well.
  • Engage respectfully: As much as I love some brands, they are not a primary relationship in my life. So make good use of the ever more sophisticated content management systems available.

Phase #4: “Stay In Touch” —
Once you complete the herculean task of building a healthy, sustainable brand community through great brand storytelling, make sure to keep the fires burning with your brand advocates.

  • Identify primary touchpoints: Make sure you are clear about the best way to stay in touch.
  • Manage the story flow: Make sure you are achieving your strategies by monitoring the type and frequency of your storytelling.
  • Constantly adjust: Use qualitative and quantitative insights to refine your storytelling to keep it relevant.
  • Keep the heat on: Every time you communicate is a new chance to engage, inspire and stimulate meaningful dialog

In the end, great brand storytelling is about being authentic, intentional, strategic and meaningful. The best way to ensure success is to make all storytelling relevant to the moment.


web design mistakes

3 Web Design Mistakes That Could Lead to Lost Revenue

So, you’ve started your own business. Congrats! You’ve put all your ideas out into the world and now you’re just waiting to hit the big time! But, are you seeing the results you were hoping for or has business been slower than expected? If it’s the latter then maybe you’ve made some crucial web design mistakes for your businesses that you may not be aware of. 

To help you stay focused on fully developing your businesses website and helping it reach its full potential in terms of web design, in this post, I’m laying out three common mistakes small businesses make quite often and showing you how to optimize your online strategy in order to reach your full potential.

web design mistakes

#1. — BE RESPONSIVE!

Simply having a ‘functioning’ website doesn’t cut it in today’s world; It’s simply the bare minimum your business will need to survive. You want to do more than survive, you want to thrive right? In order for this to happen, you’ll need to develop a website that’s responsive – meaning that whether individuals are viewing your site from their desktop, smartphone, or tablet, their experience will be an enjoyable one and the site will translate well on any screen size. How about some stats? Around 94% of users cited that unattractive web designs are the main reason they’ll reject a site altogether and 48% consider it to be the number one factor of determining a business’s credibility. Those are some pretty eye-opening stats, for sure.

#2. — READILY AVAILABLE CTA (calls to action)

When it comes to this, you need to start asking “why”. Why are you developing a website for your small business? Do you want visitors to book an appointment, request a quote or sign up for your newsletter? Then lead them to this desired action! Depending on your main conversion goal, there should be appropriate calls-to-action throughout your website.

Your website should be able to direct users to the next step that should be taken once they have arrived. This allows for users to immediately be able to get further information on the business without any hassle of browsing the website any more than they need to.

#3. — GOOD READABILITY AND EASY TO READ/CLICK CONTACT INFO

The main reason businesses develop websites is to further their reach and gain additional clients and/or customers. For this reason, it’s imperative that you make it easy for visitors to contact you; they shouldn’t have to sift through 6 tabs of your website to find your phone number. Consider the use of big, bold buttons that lead to a contact page, and, it’s usually a good idea to include at least some primary (or main) contact info in the footer of your site. This ensures that it is visible on all pages.

To sum it all up…

These days, consumers have very high expectations when visiting a website, so, you need to make sure you deliver a seamless UX (user experience), accessible and clearly defined contact information, and attention-grabbing calls-to-action (when appropriate) throughout your company’s site. Ensuring these three crucial features will lead to increased conversions, happier customers/clients, and overall better brand loyalty for your business.