Category Archives: graphic design tips

How to Take a Local Small Brand National

It’s not as scary or as difficult as you think to take your brand national.

Use social media. It’s all about Facebooking, Tweeting and friending people. These are the largest national platforms available to a small business… for free. Take advantage of them.

Capitalize on what makes you unique. Really truly not every business is the same. Even if you’re in an industry like Financial Planning, some people may think you’re all the same but you know you’re not. Believe me there is something about you that is unique, you need to find it and market it.

Be willing to try new things. I fought social media for a long time, especially twitter. It was hard for me to see the value but everyone was doing it so I decided to jump in. My reach nationally is so much broader now, I find it amazing the kinds of businesses that follow me and where they are located.

Step out of your comfort zone and give it a try. You can play with the Big Guys!

The Marketing Budget – Where To Start

What Goes into Your Budget?

Before any budgets can be created, there has to be a marketing plan in place. The cost in time and energy to create the marketing plan will pay for itself. Hiring a marketing professional to help develop a plan is something you may want to consider. Too many times small businesses work without a plan and needlessly spend money on “marketing” efforts that have absolutely no return on investment. You need to have a clear vision of what your marketing strategy is and a set of marketing activities that will raise visibility and generate demand.

Sales Tools

Another area of your marketing efforts that would need to be budgeted for includes your sales tools. Examples of sales tools are your Web site, business cards, letterhead, brochures, flyers and other collateral materials needed to fulfill your sales goals. The most cost-effective thing to do is work with a design professional to create a branding package. Service packages will help you manage your budget by knowing upfront exactly what everything will cost.

If your company has the need for many sales tools, then a way to control costs is to create components as you go, but it is advisable that you not cut corners on the design or quality of the tools. Cutting corners on sales tools creates an image of being small and unprofessional to your prospects.

After your logo has been created, then start with business cards, then your Web site and a brochure.

Most businesses can benefit from a highly professional, quality Web site. Be sure you understand the importance of your Web site to your business and the impact it can have on your revenue before you determine the budget. If your primary marketing effort is Internet marketing, you really should consider putting a few more dollars into your Web site and have it developed professionally.

This rule also holds true for your other marketing materials. I heard a quote once from marketing professional that may be harsh but is 100 percent true. “The only way to keep your brochure out of the trash is to have it professionally designed.” Just take a moment to think about that. How many times have you gotten some kind of marketing piece and threw it out because it was not visually appealing, not well written or looked like it came off of an inkjet printer? You formed an opinion about that company in two seconds and decided it was unworthy of your business. You don’t want to be that company.

Working with a design professional can actually save you money. Industry professionals have many contacts for printing, hosting, PR and other services and often can negotiate better pricing because they represent many clients to one vendor. Also, if having a brochure, Web site, ad, postcard, etc., actually entices people to call and do business with you then the investment is well worth it.

Branding

If you are a new business or even an established business wanting to make 2011 your most successful year, you will likely need to put effort towards creating your company brand. Developing your brand image is more than just getting a logo to call your own. However a well-designed logo will be the centerpiece for your branding efforts. Your brand images will be the key components of your marketing efforts, so be sure you work with a design professional to create something that you can use for many years to come. This is not something that changes monthly or as often as the whim strikes.

Marketing Programs

After deciding on corporate branding issues, determining the appropriate sales or marketing support tools, the next step is to determine what programs you are going to execute. All promotional activities fall within the eight categories:

  • Direct Marketing
  • Internet Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Advertising
  • Public Relations
  • Word of Mouth
  • Strategic Partnerships

To identify what programs are the best for your business, you might want to begin by seeing what others—in your industry, as well as outside your industry—are doing. However, don’t get caught up in “copycat marketing.” What others do may not be right for you, and part of why you put a marketing plan together is to differentiate yourself from others, but it is a good start to look at their activities for guidance on where you should invest your dollars.

Once you have established your plan keep in mind that you don’t need to do all the activities at once. Plan them out over the year so you can budget for them and measure their effectiveness. If you have too many things going on at once, you won’t be able to keep track and measure.

Understanding the return on investment on a marketing activity enables you to determine whether to keep it running or stop it and try something else.

Summary

Establishing an annual marketing budget helps you identify the money your business has to invest in its marketing activities. Managed properly, your marketing budget is the best investment you can make in your company. If you wisely invest your marketing dollars, you can get a profitable return on your investment.

 

Building Your Brand: How to Create a Lasting Logo

The most important component of a solid brand is your corporate identity, or logo. It’s the cornerstone of your visual communications and brings together your business name and sometimes a graphic element to establish your business identity. Used consistently, logos help customers remember you when they need your product or service.

A common mistake business owners make is it to think that their logo has to include an image of the product or service they offer. A logo is simply a visual representation of your business. While it can be tempting for a financial planner to use a dollar sign, it doesn’t make for a very original logo. If every other financial planner in town uses the same imagery then your target market can’t tell you apart. The main goal of a logo is to connect with your target market and it can’t do that if it doesn’t differentiate your business from your competitors.

Entrepreneurs on a budget often decide to design a logo themselves. Although this may seem like a smart option, it can cost you in the long run. Not only can it be time-consuming to develop a logo yourself, it can also make your business look amateur. Even if you have a great idea for a logo, you may not be able to execute it properly.

Professional graphic designers have the skills and expertise to create a logo that will last. They understand how to use color, fonts and imagery to create a logo that matches your brand message. A professional designer will also keep into consideration the various uses of your logo and make sure it will look good no matter what the medium, from a business card to a billboard.

Hiring a professional designer does not have to break the bank. There are many talented freelance or boutique firms who can create a professional, lasting logo for a lot less than the large design firms.

Whether you decide to design your logo yourself or hire a professional, here are some things to keep in mind as you choose a logo for your business:

Design: Choose a design that reflects the style and personality of your business. And, almost more important, your logo should be appealing to the people your target market. For example, the logo design for a children’s clothing boutique would be vastly different from that of an accounting firm.

Scalability: When choosing a logo, make sure it will look good no matter the size. Your logo needs to be something that can be reproduced on both a business card and billboard. Logos that have too much detail can be difficult to recognize when distilled to a thumbnail.

Less is more: Some of the most recognizable logos, Nike, Mercedes, Coca-Cola and all have very basic, iconic designs. Simple logos are often the most effective as they are easy to digest and can more quickly communicate the essence of your business. They are also easier to reproduce in a variety of mediums like apparel or promotional items.

Uniqueness: As mentioned throughout this series, your logo should represent YOUR BUSINESS. Avoid using clip art, templates or other generic images.

I would love to get your comments…

Did you hire a designer to design your logo? Why or why not?

New Gap Logo Take Two…

I can’t help myself but to comment again on the new Gap logo. Now that the company has responded to the negative public outcry, I must follow up.

They have released some statements that caught my attention.

First they said they have been working on this rebrand for two years. Wow, really I find that really hard to believe. They missed the mark in so many ways, how could that have happened with a two-years or discovery and development?

Second, they said the new logo was created to “connect with their millennial target market.” Again I find that to be a strange comment because they clearly did not “connect with their millennial target market.”

So I decided to do some research myself and here is what I found, in about 10 minutes.

  1. I did a two second Google search and found this article on USA Today.com from earlier this year. It had some great insight on this generation. Based on what I read, if I were designing this logo I would have created something a bit more sophisticated instead of dumbing it down as they have. This was just one of many articles about the Millennial generation.
  2. Then I conducted a quick focus group with my son and a group of his friends, who are Millennials. They were, conveniently for me, hanging out and eating everything at my house. I showed them the logo and asked them “what does this logo say to you?” They had various reactions, none of which were good. They all said that the logo looked like “they sell boring clothes.” Most of them said they have never spent any of their “own” money in a Gap store.
  3. That comment made me pick up the phone and call a friend of mine who is the manager at a very large local mall. She said that their findings show that right now teens and young 20’s are the biggest spenders because they have money and no bills. Hmmm.

I’m not trying to make light of the discovery process. I know that if I were the one to do the rebrand I would dig deeper than just the three things I mentioned above. However, I do want to point out that I gained some valuable information from doing some simple research. Maybe they should have dug a little deeper.

So either Gap, Inc. is totally off on who their target market is, or they don’t understand the market they want to attract. Or both. It seems to me that they have completely lost touch of who they are and who their market is.

The last thing I will comment on is their invitation for a crowd-sourcing project. A representative was quoted saying “We love our version, but we’d like to… see other ideas.” There are two-things wrong with that statement. “We love,” tells me that this brand was created with an internal mindset. Yes, as a company you want to like your logo and be proud to promote it. It does make marketing a lot easier. However, you don’t start there, you end there. If you are a consumer products company you have to start with an external mindset. What does our market want, how do they feel, what emotion do we want them to feel when they interact with our brand? Gap has it all backwards.

The second thing wrong with their statement is the “invitation for a crowd-sourcing project” Are they aware that crowd-sourcing is the same thing as asking a professional to do spec work? This is a big no no as any professional designer knows. In case the folks at Gap don’t know what that means here is AIGA’s position on spec work. Basically they paid big money for a logo that doesn’t work, and now they are looking to the design community to bail them out, for free. Maybe they’ll give out some free chino’s if they like what you do. The design community should stand together and not participate. It’s an insult. Shame on Gap, Inc.

All of this has been disappointing and amusing all at the same time. I’ll be waiting to hear what they have to say next.

 

New Gap Logo – Branding Gone Wrong

OK really what were they thinking. The original Gap logo was an icon in American fashion. Whether you liked the clothes or not is another issue, but  pretty much everyone knows the gap logo. It’s right up there with Nike.

This is big branding mistake and clearly a display of corporate suits messing where they shouldn’t. I’m sure they thought since sales were down that they needed to rebrand themselves. A company with the brand equity they have does not need to do that. They can wade out the economic storm in tact if they stay strong to their brand. But they decided to make a change and now I think they will lose even more market share with this rinky dink, mess of a logo.

I’ve seen high school design students do better. The gradient of the logo really cheapens the overall identity and it lacks any sort of strength or visual interest. The font says nothing, well it does say something… boring.

I’m struggling to understand how this new logo came about, what’s its purpose and why it fails miserably. Even the original gap logo created in 1969 has more character than this new one.

I’m really hoping this is some kind of joke they are playing to get everyone to talk about them.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Sometimes changing a brand identity is not a good thing

So I have to comment on this rebrand that the Golden State Warriors just completed. This seems like a text book example of a desperate company. I could just hear it now, the owner or management team says “we need to do something to sell more tickets.” Marketing person says “we need to rebrand and reconnect with our fans” Management team says “Yes that’s what we need to do” Marketing person says “Lets get a new logo design and I have a.. nephew, cousin, neighbor, brother-in-law (you can fill in any name here) who can create a really cool new logo” so off they go and look at what they came up with.

This is probably the worst rebrand I have ever seen. Not really sure what the original one stood for but at the least it had visual interest, movement, dimension and you know it’s a basketball team. What the…. is with the new one. This looks like it was created by a high school student who happen to get their hands on some design software. Maybe the intent is to go retro and reconnect the team to its roots. OK I can appreciate that. Simplicity is a good thing in a logo design, but you can see that this new logo suffers from being created by unskilled hands. How disappointing and a honestly a waste of money.

5 Things to Talk About in Your Email Marketing

WebI resell an amazing email marketing system that I customize for each client. They can get a branded template without the advertising at the bottom like those other email marketing services. You know who I’m talking about ;)

Clients get very excited about the system, I make the template, get them all set up and then they don’t use it. I started seeing this trend so I asked a few of them what was going on. They all said, “I know I need to reach out to my clients on a regular basis but I don’t know what to say.”

I know it can be tough to talk about our companies and ourselves but we all have something to talk about. I actually create an editorial calendar for my email newsletters and blog. I have to admit I don’t always stick to the schedule but I do stick to the topics.

One thing I find my clients like are tips on marketing and design. They find them very helpful and usually share the newsletter with someone else. I do keep them relevant to what I do but I try to put myself in their shoes to see what they would be interested in and actually take a few minutes to read.

Presenting interesting and relevant information is imperative to subscriber retention, and beyond that, the transformation of prospects into customers. Here are some ideas on how to get the writing flowing:

  1. Answer a question: I’m sure you get questions from clients that you end up answering over and over. Use your newsletter to answer the questions that pop up and get to all your clients at once.
  2. Give a tip: If you have a business that lends itself to tips/tricks then pick one of your favorites and write about it.
  3. Industry update: You may be in an industry that has updates that you can share with your clients. For instance, a PC Tech can write about the latest software, hardware or even new viruses we should watch out for.
  4. Discounts and Specials: If you sell a product, email newsletters can be a great way to get the word out about specials and discounts. Studies show that people do respond to sales incentives received via email.
  5. Ask for feedback: Include a survey or a link to a place where customers and prospects can leave comments about your company, your website, the industry, your email marketing campaigns, or whatever topic you wish to learn about.

Ultimately, there is no reason why you can’t send out a consistent email marketing campaign, even if you initially feel you have nothing to say.

Rather than fall into the motto of “if you have nothing to say, don’t write,” come up with something to write…but be sure that it’s interesting and relevant to both your business and your subscribers.