eliminate guesswork about your buyers

In the last few months, two very different clients of mine discovered unexpected and game-changing insights about their target markets. In both cases, we’ve been working on updates to their visual identity and positioning strategies, and some of the changes we’re contemplating are dramatically different from what they’ve done in the past.

This could be scary, but both client teams are feeling confident about the decisions we’re making because we’re not changing direction blindly. Instead, we’re making conscious shifts in direct response to information obtained from surveys of their best customers and prospects.

The surveys revealed that much of what we thought we knew about our customers was correct. But we also got some very surprising information that uncovered customer needs and desires our current marketing plan wasn’t taking into account. We found that many of our assumptions didn’t match the reality of how we were perceived by our customer base. In some cases, the survey data even identified organizational issues that needed to be addressed.

Both clients had the same reaction. They realized right away that the unexpected information made the entire survey process worthwhile. In response, we were able to re-orient our new positioning and identity changes to take advantage of the opportunities that were revealed.

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what is branding, and why is it important?

Many business owners think branding is little more than a logo design, or at most a style guide. As a result, they’re often surprised to discover how involved a process branding really is.

This confusion is understandable because the term “branding” gets tossed around a lot, to the point many people who offer it as a service can’t really describe what they’re doing. That’s a problem if you want to know exactly what you’re paying for—or why you should even consider doing it in the first place.

so what is branding, and why is it important?

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do you have a story that sells?

It’s easy to recognize a great company story when you see it. It “grabs” you, inspires you, and—most important from a business perspective—encourages you to support the storyteller.

This kind of storytelling is what makes great branding work. Yet strangely, it’s the most commonly misunderstood component of the process. A brand is not a logo or a tagline (though those are visual manifestations of a brand). A brand is the position a company, organization, or even an individual occupies in the mind of the consumer, and the qualities and attributes that are associated with it—whether they’re real or perceived.

storytelling in action

Growing up, my only association with the word “Shinola” came from one of my granny’s favorite sayings. It’s one that originated during WWII, and referred to an old, old brand name for a dark brown shoe polish that apparently had an uncanny resemblance to something else entirely.

Shinola WatchAbout a year ago, however, I had my first exposure to a new Shinola when I saw an ad in a magazine showing a beautiful, old-school-looking watch. It had a retro face with a tiny lightening bolt icon that suggested some forgotten piece of equipment I might have happened upon in my grandfather’s garage, wonderful typography for the brand name, the mysterious “Argonite” movement, and the word “Detroit.” And it was clear that lovely strap was real leather.

I wasn’t in the market for a watch, but I was intrigued enough to find out more. I went to the website for the new Shinola and read every word, starting with “Our Story.” And I fell in love. Continue reading

Why image matters — a case study

Raptor Ridge Winery Label: Before and After

Raptor Ridge Winery Label: Before and After

“Freshening” an existing design is a task that often gets placed on the back burner indefinitely. Many of the reasons companies give for postponing this seem reasonable at first: “we don’t have the time,” “we don’t have the budget,” and “we don’t want to risk losing brand recognition” are among the most common.

But the real reason is usually: “we don’t want to mess with this right now.”

While preserving brand recognition is a healthy concern, it’s not enough to justify inaction. You may see some short-term savings, but the risks of letting an aging design go on too long are far greater, and can even hurt your bottom line.

Luckily that wasn’t the case for Raptor Ridge Winery, located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley region. Continue reading