Warning: Are You Accidentally Shattering Your Brand Continuity?

thinkstockphotos-527901068-convertedAt its core, brand continuity is the idea that all communication channels between your brand and your customers (live chat, email, phone calls, etc.) should all look and feel like they’re coming from the same place. It’s the idea that you should strive to give your customers an experience that is as consistent as possible, regardless of how they choose to make contact with you. Successful brand continuity requires you to strike a delicate balance, and if you’re not careful, there are a few ways that you can accidentally shatter all that you’ve worked so hard to build even before you realize you have a problem.

It’s All in the Visuals

One of the more subtle ways to build and maintain brand continuity is also one of the most important, mainly because it can be the easiest to get wrong. You have to make sure that all of your branding from the version of your company logo to things as seemingly insignificant as the font you use are as consistent as possible, regardless of which element of your online and offline presence you’re using. If a version of your company logo is present on your website’s “Help Desk” page, it should be the same version of the logo sent out in your latest email or print marketing materials. Don’t use professional-looking fonts on your website if you’re going to be using Comic Sans MS on your print materials.

You may initially think that this is incredibly easy to miss and in many respects, you’re right. Customers aren’t necessarily paying attention to every last visual element on a page versus a flyer versus a billboard. But, think about it this way: the ones that do notice may be put-off or at least find it odd, which is a feeling you do not want to invoke. Those that don’t notice will still benefit from your strict brand continuity, even if subconsciously.

Getting Everyone on the Same Page

Another way that you can accidentally shatter brand continuity has to do with getting everyone on the same page regarding how your business works. If your website is very clear about one particular policy but your customer service team isn’t, you’re immediately confusing customers every time they pick up the phone. This confusion is especially evident regarding promotions. If an email goes out offering a new sale, you’d better make sure that anyone who answers the phones for your business knows about it and knows what it entails. Otherwise, your customers may get a disappointing experience when it feels like the left hand is unaware of what the right hand is doing, so to speak. It gives the impression that the different parts of your business are operating independently of one another, which is something you don’t want to communicate to prospective buyers.

These are just a couple of ways that you can accidentally harm your brand continuity. Remember, you can never be 100% sure how someone is going to make contact with your business, especially for the first time. So, make sure however they encounter you, it’s equally easy, enjoyable, and helpful.

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How Social Media Changes Everything in Terms of Customer Engagement

thinkstockphotos-522734329Customer engagement has always been one of the primary contributing factors when it comes to strengthening a brand or growing a business, but this is especially true in an era where social media rules the day. The conversation between a business and its customers is more important than ever, but the actual mechanism through which that conversation is unfolding has changed dramatically in a short period of time. When it comes to customer engagement and social media, there are a number of important things to keep in mind.

All Eyes Are On You

Perhaps the biggest factor to understand when it comes to social media and customer engagement is the idea that a conversation between a business and its customers is both more intimate and more public than it has ever been. If a customer has a positive experience with a representative of your brand on their Twitter page, they’re never more than a mouse-click away from telling all of their friends about it. The reverse is also true – a negative experience on a site like Facebook can have huge potential ramifications due to the public nature of that conversation in the first place.

If you search for your brand’s name on Twitter and see users talking about an issue they’re having, you can easily interject with some troubleshooting tips to help them get the most from their product or service. Not only did you solve their problem, but they also didn’t have to ask for help – this is a “win-win” scenario as far as customer engagement is concerned.

There Are No More Small Problems

Consider the public relations nightmare that Entenmann’s created for itself, for example. One day, a social media marketer at Entenmann’s hopped on Twitter, looked at the current worldwide trending topics and noticed that one happened to be #notguilty. Sensing an opportunity to both interject into a popular conversation and craft a pretty solid pun at the same time, the brand sent out a tweet asking who was “#notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want.”

The issue with this is that, as it turns out, the #notguilty hashtag was created as a result of the highly controversial Casey Anthony trial – the verdict of which had just come down earlier that day. Suddenly a seemingly innocuous tweet about snack cakes turned into a national nightmare for the brand as they were seen as obtuse at best and highly insensitive at worst – all of which could have been avoided had the marketer just clicked on the hashtag to see what it was actually referring to. This is the type of major issue that simply didn’t exist five years ago before social media became such a permanent fixture in our lives.

These are just a few of the many ways that social media has changed just about everything in terms of customer engagement in the digital age. We believe that success in this field requires a deeper understanding of the game that you’re now playing as a business owner, so to speak. It’s now easier than ever to pay attention to the conversations that your customers are having with one another and interject in positive and meaningful ways. This is a two-way street, however – one wrong move and you’re potentially looking at a PR nightmare on a massive scale, so making sure that you’re always putting your best foot forward is more important than ever.

Brand Awareness: Becoming Another Kleenex

thinkstockphotos-497344154In today’s world of marketing, if you are not marketing online, you are missing a very big boat. Marketing is now a science with logistics and parameters that were largely unheard of just a few years ago. However, that is not the case with the notion of brand awareness. The auto industry was probably the biggest contributor to the idea that brand loyalty could be utilized to sell more products. That industry is over 120 years old, and brand awareness became a fashionable tool in marketing automobiles by the early 1900s.

Brand awareness, of course, is the extent to which a name, label, logo, catch phrase, jingle, or another identifier that is associated with a brand, a specific product, or a company is easily recognized by customers. Brand awareness may be old news, but the Internet has taken the concept to new heights, becoming far more measurable and quantifiable as part of an overall marketing strategy.

There are many examples of successful brand awareness implementation. It has always been primarily produced by effective advertising. The most dramatically successful advertising campaign is the one where your product becomes synonymous with the product category. For many years now, a facial tissue has been called a Kleenex regardless of what actual brand was used. This is the same result we see when some people refer to any sport-utility vehicle as a Jeep and any cola drink as a Coke.

The objective in advertising or any brand awareness marketing endeavor is not simply to get your product name or image in front of the consumer. It is to get the image into the mind of that consumer, so when the buying customer wants a product, he or she wants your product before that of any competitors. Repetitious advertising creates a memory trace that remains and is reinforced with every additional occurrence. Think of mayonnaise, hot dogs, ketchup, beer, and coffee. The odds are pretty good that in each case you thought of a specific brand. It is no coincidence that the biggest selling brands are also among those most heavily advertised in various media.

While a successful advertising campaign can create solid brand awareness, a limiting or cessation of advertising can erase the gains in a remarkably short time. Forty years ago, a steel wool soap pad was known as a Brillo Pad. Today, SOS brand is the big seller. Brillo sometimes doesn’t even get any shelf space, and we must ask when was the last time you saw an ad for Brillo scouring pads? The manufacturer failed to maintain the brand awareness level they had established. A massive advertising campaign by the manufacturers of SOS soap pads was the driving force that changed the landscape.

Advertising remains key to this process, and today the most critical medium for reaching the customer is the Internet. No other medium offers such widespread advantages in both reach and monitoring capacity. With the Internet, you can track how many times your ad has been viewed and how many times it has been clicked on.

Furthermore, social media and blogging have opened up new avenues for tracking your brand’s impact. Programs exist that can tell you how many times your brand has been searched for by a search engine. Others can reveal how many times it has been mentioned in a blog anywhere on the World Wide Web. These “mentions” can be even more critical to brand awareness than page views or clicks because each one may represent an impartial testimony to your product. Even negative discussion tends to reinforce brand awareness. The old saying applies: There is no such thing as bad publicity.

Establish it, reinforce it, and nurture it. Brand awareness can make the difference for you in becoming another brand like Kleenex.

Signs That It May Be Time to Change Your Brand

Time to rebranding. Watches with an inscription

As you enter the world of business, you’re told time and again that your brand is essentially everything. It’s the first encounter that most customers have with your organization and it’s your connection to those people, particularly when it comes to establishing the type of meaningful and long-lasting relationship you need to survive. While all of this and more is definitely true, there is one important thing that your brand is NOT: immortal.

Changing your brand may be a difficult decision, but sometimes it is the best chance you have to re-organize your priorities and start anew. There are a few key warning signs that it may be time to change your brand that you should always be on the lookout for:

Time Has Passed and Passed… and Passed…

A lot can happen in a decade. Since 2005 alone, the world saw the rise of the smartphone, the fall (and arguable recovery) of desktop computing, the “death” of physical media and more. If the one thing that you CAN’T say about the last ten years is, “I’ve updated by brand at least once, preferably twice during this period of time,” then you’re looking at a clear-cut sign that it’s time for a change.

So much happens in a decade that without a brand refresh, you run the risk of developing a reputation for being old and stale. Even if you know that isn’t true, relying on the same logo and marketing approach from President Bush’s second term will land you right back there anyway. A brand change or upgrade is a perfect way to start fresh with a bold, new (and most importantly modern) voice.

Your Target Audience is Changing

At some point, any successful business that has operated for an appreciable amount of time needs to deal with a target audience that “ages out” of what attracted them to their business in the first place. If you think of the most successful brands in history, be it Pepsi or Microsoft or something in between, they’ve all had to deal with the same issue at some point in their history.

If despite your best marketing efforts your once steady sales have started to stagnate, or if you just can’t seem to rile up your audience the way you once did no matter what you try, it may be time to rethink your brand and who it is geared towards. Remember that a 30-year-old in 2015, and a 30-year-old in 1965, represent two completely different things and barely resemble one another. If your core audience has gone away, a dramatic change to your brand (but adherence to the values you established in the first place) is a great way to attract the attention of a whole new crop of people in one bold and striking move.

Changing Your Brand Doesn’t Mean Changing Your Vision

These are just a few of the many signs that it may be time to change your brand. Above all else, it’s important to remember that a brand realignment is not an admission of guilt that something went wrong, or defeat in terms of your business in general. Instead, it’s an opportunity. It’s a chance to throw out the old and rise from the ashes like the phoenix, ready to take a new generation of your target audience by storm and impact their lives with your products or services in a much more organic and impacting way.

The Re-Branding of Curious George

Many people are unaware of the origins of Curious George. For the youngsters who love the books and TV show today, George is just an adorable little monkey who happens to live with a man in a yellow hat. The children watch as George gets himself into all kinds of trouble, learning along with him how to problem solve.

The stories didn’t begin that way, though.

When the very first Curious George stories came out back in the 1940s, George was a monkey who had lived in Africa. The man with the yellow hat tricked George into coming out of hiding by playing on his curiosity. He originally planned to take George back to Europe and put him in the zoo. Instead, the two began to develop a relationship.

It’s interesting to note the prevailing opinions of the time. Many people looked at explorers who went into the jungle as heroes. They wouldn’t have had as many negative associations with an explorer kidnapping a monkey from the jungle as we would today.

The new books that children read today came out in the 1990s. These later books don’t really talk about how George came to live with the man in the yellow hat. The authors of these later books, which are modeled after the original books, focus on George’s curiosity and how he manages to solve his problems. The authors of the newer books recognized that people today wouldn’t appreciate the story of the man with the yellow hat kidnapping George from the jungle.

When the newer books and television series first came out, the authors focused on creating a fun story centered around a lovable monkey and the trouble he could create. Rather than focus on how the monkey and the man with the yellow hat came together, they just developed an entertaining story focused around the present.

You could say this was a re-branding of Curious George — and it was a complete success.

Successfully framing your company for success

When you set out to market your company to your customers, you must understand your audience and what they seek. The new audience of preschoolers in the 1990s and 2000s wanted an entertaining character without the baggage that came with the original, so that’s what the authors delivered.

Similarly, you should familiarize yourself with your customers enough to predict what’s going to resonate most with them. Use this to guide your marketing and re-branding efforts. Audiences might change over the years, particularly if your company’s been around for several decades, so don’t be afraid to shed parts of your original message and add in something new if it will help you reach your customers.

When it comes to advertising, nothing matters more than understanding your audience. Those familiar with the saga of Curious George will find the comparisons between the popular monkey and the marketing campaigns of evolving companies intriguing. If you’re interested in developing a new marketing campaign, call┬áto us today at 847-768-2679. We’d be happy to help you get started.

Marketing Lessons From Movie Trailers

If you want to see a clear-cut example of the power of marketing in action, look no further than the trailers released into cinemas each weekend for the latest Hollywood blockbusters. Nowadays, many feature films cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make, so a trailer needs to fire on every last cylinder in order to help that film succeed. Because of the high stakes involved, there’s actually quite a bit we can learn from successful movie trailers in planning our own marketing campaigns.

Consistency is Key When it Comes to Your Brand

There’s perhaps no more perfect example of the power of consistency in branding today than Marvel Studios. The company’s films include such successful titles as The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: The Dark World, and Iron Man 3. Marvel keeps churning out hit after hit, and the studio has learned how to leverage the power of its brand in a pretty interesting way.

For Marvel, it all begins with the Marvel Studios logo. Every single trailer for every single Marvel film begins with the Marvel Studios branding. Even the title cards on these previews don’t say “From the Director of X” or “From the Producer of Y.” Instead, they say, “From the Studio That Brought You The Avengers.” What Marvel’s doing is making their own brand synonymous with the type of quality entertainment people are coming in droves to see. They’re making Marvel Studios a more powerful brand than the characters in the films, the stars of the films, and even the filmmakers themselves. Pretty soon, it won’t matter which movie features which character. As long as it says Marvel Studios on the front, people are going to go.

In many ways, your brand is the most powerful marketing tool you have — even more powerful than the products or services you provide. If you can turn your brand into one that people can’t help but pay attention to through marketing consistency, your bottom line will benefit.

Leave Them Wanting More

Another important marketing lesson you can learn from movie previews is the idea of “always leave them wanting more.” A movie trailer should never show all of the best parts of the film. Yes, it should show some of them, but not all. The best trailers leave audiences excited for a film and confident they’ll find a whole lot more waiting for them when they go to see it.

Your marketing materials should be the same way. People should get a general idea of the benefits your products or services provide and a desire to experience those benefits firsthand. Your marketing can never recreate the feeling of joy customers get when they start using your products, but it can get them excited about giving those products a try.

Marketing lessons can be found in the unlikeliest of places — even at the cinema on a weekend excursion with your friends or loved ones. Sure, you’ll probably never make a Hollywood feature film and don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, but you can still learn a lot just by paying attention to the way movie studios attempt to sell you on the next big blockbuster coming soon to a theater near you.