What’s Your Brand Building Strategy?

What’s Your Brand Building Strategy?

What’s Your Brand Building Strategy?

Pie chart representing brand divided

Can You Separate the Visuals From Your Brand?

A prospective client recently asked me to help them with a brand building strategy, but they didn’t think they needed a logo and weren’t particularly interested in the visuals. They needed to hone in on their messaging and target audience—what were they saying, and to whom? This way of thinking was refreshing to me, as so many business owners think of the logo as their brand, and it is hard to explain that there is a lot of strategic thinking that needs to go into an effective brand strategy.

Even so, at first I was thrown off. For many years I identified my profession principally as a designer, although I have always taken a very informed approach to a brand strategy framework — researching and formulating marketing objectives, helping to develop messaging and positioning. All of this research, however, has been in partnership with the visuals. I never considered isolating this part and leaving the visual development off, or really, leaving the visuals as they were prior to the brand development.

The question is: Can you approach a brand building strategy without visuals?

I thought it would be an interesting approach, so I dove in. As I formulated all of the questions and went to work seeking answers, researching the company’s history and objectives, and looking at the competition, I kept stumbling on visuals. At every turn, whether it was in the way a document was formatted with font choices and styling, or social media posts that included photos or memes, there was no getting away from the visual aspect of any communication.

Coming back to my design roots, I had to respect the fact that, while it is clear that words communicate, unless you’re only doing radio and podcasting, there is no way around addressing the visuals of your brand. Even if you choose not to use images, words — when not in audio format — are written, and therefore visual.

It reminded me of a lesson given by one of my first teachers at Parsons School of Design, Ray Hooper (Senior Designer for Abrams Books at the time.) He was a wonderful teacher who made learning fun, yet instilled in us very important lessons. The first day of class he told us to look around the simple, stark classroom and choose anything we saw inside the room to focus our attention on. Anything at all, whether it was a window frame, a light fixture, a white board, or a chair. He told us to look at it closely. Then he made the point that no matter what the object, someone, at some time, designed it. Design is all around us — all the time! Every physical thing we interact with that has been created by humans, has been designed by humans!

I am called to revisit this early lesson as I chuckle at being lead so far astray as to think I could create a brand without considering the visuals. It turns out, you can’t. If you don’t consider the visuals, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any, it only means you did not take them into consideration when you put all of your hard work into the other components of your brand building strategy; your target audience, positioning, marketing messaging and content development. 

Another point comes from Master Marketer, Seth Godin as he says in Debbie Millman’s breakthrough book, Brand Thinking:

“The reason we keep refreshing the way so many things look is because of our ceaseless race to leverage the feelings of safety and nostalgia this old thing imparts, while simultaneously injecting a sense of newness to seduce us into reengaging in the experience.”

– Seth Godin

In other words, even successful, longstanding brands need to revisit not only their messaging, but their visual representation from time to time. It’s a huge part of what human beings respond to.

But Where and How do the Visuals Come into Play?

1. YOUR LOGO
Acknowledging the fact that a logo is not a brand, it would be a mistake to deem it a useless investment. Since it will be seen and used everywhere from the header of your website to your printed materials, social media pages and advertising, your logo is the ultimate visual representation of your brand. The meaning held in the symbolism of the object or letterform(s), the color choice(s) and the shape will all say something about your business’ values and personality.

2. YOUR DIGITAL IMAGERY
Do your website pages, social media posts, newsletters, blog stories and promotional materials use visuals? Are they as consistent in their look & feel as your messaging? This is critical to brand recognition, and too often overlooked.

3. YOUR IN-PERSON PRESENCE
From conventions and trade shows to in-person networking events, real live encounters are now coming back into play in the business world. You will have printed materials to hand out, displays for your booth and/or presentation materials that must be consistent with your brand in order to ensure people will remember you.

In conclusion, your visuals are the microphone through which your brand speaks. If the “sound” isn’t clear; if it crackles and squeaks, or muffles your voice, it doesn’t matter what you have to say, you will lose a large portion of your audience. If, on the other hand, it does what it is supposed to, all that will be heard is the clear, sweet sound of your newly branded voice.

I offer a number of approaches to take the next step in developing your brand, depending on your needs. If you’re ready, schedule your free, no obligation consultation today.

Distraction and the Brain-Body Connection

Distraction and the Brain-Body Connection

Distraction and the Brain-Body Connection

Distracted computer mom

I wake up every morning with an agenda that starts with meditation, yoga and a brisk walk outside. Two hours later, when I finally get to my desk with a hot cup of tea and some morsel to hold me over until lunch, I feel I am always behind the 8-ball. The To-Do list is compartmentalized into scheduled time blocks throughout the day in an attempt to control and manage my output. Today, even before I started on the first block (completing this post,) an urgent email came through that I had to address. Then I realized I never really completed that invoice I had started last night, so I quickly got that done. Now ½ hour behind with a meeting scheduled in ½ hour, the day is rapidly cascading into evening with a domino effect that will leave at least one of my scheduled time blocks unchecked.

Picking up on my last post, 5 Tips to Stop Annoying Your Prospects, the subject of Attention has proven to be worthy of a deeper dive into the nuanced aspects of how this function of our psyches affects us on multiple levels. Originally planned as one post, as I have researched and read more about it, I have decided to break it up into several parts, this being Part 1.

The Psyche/Mind

With the phone and computer at our fingertips 24/7, we have allowed these devices to obscure our clear mental space—my consciousness. We live in a world dominated by technology. Even when we power down the computer and turn the mobile devices to silent, we often move to the television to “relax.” I’ve read that the most effective way to clear the mind is to curtail all “input” of information. Watching TV is still input, adding to the information already cluttering our minds. When does anyone ever sit in silence? If you ever find yourself or someone else in this state, the impulse is to ask, “What are you doing?” We have come to a collective mentality of constant “doing,” as if this is the overreaching virtue of humanity.

Why can’t I focus on one thing at a time and just methodically get it all done?

In my meditations, I often see more clearly how tenuous it is to maintain a thread of deliberate thought. Being meticulous about what is allowed to come into the forefront of our consciousness is a challenge we are facing as a culture. It’s why writers go to a remote cabin in the woods when working on a book. To maintain focus and escape distraction.

Environment & Technology

It’s easy to blame social media, our phones, flashing advertisements—all part of the sea of deliberate distractions in which we swim. But is that just a cop-out? Could it be that what’s happening with these “deliberate distractions” is that we have not addressed our own addictive, undisciplined behaviors associated with them? It’s not easy, and not only advertisers, but software designers and social media companies are becoming more and more sophisticated in their manipulations of our attention to their gain. Their products & services are designed to be addictive!

While emerging technology exists in service of creating a barrier to interruptive technology, our own brains are ultimately responsible, and they are overtaxed and faltering. The truth is, the neurological tools we have are ancient. Every time you check your phone you get a hit of “new information” dopamine, triggering addictive behavioir. When someone “steals” your attention, how do you get it back? Taking a good hard look at ourselves and how we respond to the world around us is part of it, but I think it’s going to take more than that.

The more intentional we are about communication and collaboration, the better it works with the human mind. Technology may have less to do with it than we think. It was supposed to make getting things done easier, but database-driven software telling us what to do actually DOESN’T WORK. The reality: work requires non-linear thinking & effort—it’s hard. But our brains are always looking for the quick fix – the shortcut. 

The Brain-Body Connection

“Multi-tasking” doesn’t exist—the human brain was not designed that way. It’s really “Switch-tasking,” says Cal Newport, author of Deep Work. Distraction has a large cognitive impact—every time you divert your attention to something else, even for a moment, it takes the brain 5-15 minutes to get back to the level of focus you had before diverting your attention. One study shows people check their email every 6 minutes. This leads to even more unproductivity.

The Breath

Shallow breathing makes us sluggish and tired. Rather than getting up and moving, it is common to go for another cup of coffee or other stimulants, which provide a temporary lift followed by a sharp drop in energy. I sometimes get up and dance around for 15 minutes instead of having caffeine in an afternoon slump, and have found that it is often even more helpful in elevating alertness than ingesting stimulants, if I can get myself to do it! Good music helps, and making it fun is key.

The more we move, the more deeply we breathe. Deep breathing can also be practiced without movement with many of the same benefits, as with the yogic practice of pranayama. Pulling more oxygen into the lungs increases blood flow and can open arteries, restoring the body and brain with fresh oxygenation.

There is a growing interest in clearing toxins from the body with diet and clean air that also affects brain function. Perhaps “toxic information” should be added to this “detox” approach, connecting mind and body. Eastern philosophies like yoga and martial arts have offered wisdom in this regard for centuries.

There’s so much more that can be explored with the brain-body connection regarding attention, but I’ll segue here to the context of this fascinating subject within marketing.

Marketing and Attention

In marketing, getting the attention of prospects is primary to any other steps that might make the sale. That said, as growth-oriented businesses, annoyance and anger is not the kind of attention we want to garner. Master marketer, Seth Godin, wrote the following about “The simple but difficult marketing flip:”

“From ‘Pay attention, I want you to buy what I made.’ To ‘I’ve been paying attention, and I think I can offer you what you want.’

The flip is to give your attention first rather than demanding the attention of others. It makes sense, but this is not how traditional marketing has done it. Examining how the human brain and psyche works is a great stepping stone to creating lasting relationships with your audience. There are no easy answers—it’s an ongoing conversation and I invite your comments.

Look for my next post on attention in the next month or so, and in the meantime, if you’d like a little 1:1 time to brainstorm on your company’s approach to giving your audience your attention, set up a call, or for new prospective clients, a free session with me.

5 Tips to Stop Annoying Your Prospects

5 Tips to Stop Annoying Your Prospects

5 Tips to Stop Annoying Your Prospects

Attention Overload

TODAY I RECEIVED A TEXT MESSAGE FROM A PROSPECTIVE CLIENT I spoke with a few days ago. I was in a meeting, but took a quick glance to find that it was an automated promotional message for her business.

Even though I know her and am interested in building a relationship with her, I found the automated text invasive and off-putting. I let her know that I prefer she email me with such messages and to leave texting for personal, direct communications. Thankfully she immediately apologized and removed me from that list.

Take my money, but don’t you dare ask for my attention.

Attention is the hottest commodity around today. It’s no longer about money. In fact, people pay, oftentimes lots of money, in order to block demands for attention so they can focus and clear their minds.

We live in a world where it’s not just the clinically diagnosed that have issues with “Attention Deficit.” The idea that it’s “just 5 minutes of your time” has nothing to do with it. The effort it takes to divert your attention for those 5 minutes, or even 1 minute, and the increased effort it takes to get back on track with what you were doing & thinking, is disabling and desperately counterproductive. We are starting to realize that “multitasking” is a fallacy. That in order to truly accomplish anything well, we must keep both eyes on the target, excluding all else. It’s hard enough to do this when our attention isn’t continuously being demanded upon.

As business owners, how do we reach people without invading their privacy or becoming an annoyance they just want to block? In comes that dirty word: “marketing.” It’s a word no one really wants to hear. I recently came across a website called “everyonehatesmarketers.” This is a truth.

That’s why this movement against traditional “marketing” really resonates with me. Mark Schaeffer calls it The Marketing Rebellion, which is the title of his book. We have gone to great lengths to block ads, stop unwanted callers and even pay money to watch programs without ads.

“FREE” is a Lie

We’ve learned that “Free” is a lie. Everything always comes at a cost. Whether it’s having a sign-up form or video ad thrown in your face, blocking the thing you came to watch or read—or even more invasively, seeing an incoming call from what appears to be a person in your local area, only to find a robotic message about something being sold that you have no interest in—the breach of privacy, trust and personal space is everywhere, like flies in a barnyard!

No One Really Cares How Great You Are

As business owners, we have worked hard to perfect what we have to offer, so naturally we want to expound on that. Reality check: no one really cares how great you are! (Sorry.) Your audience’s top-most concern must be understood if you want to truly reach them. Lead with identifying their problem.

5 Tips for Non-annoyance

Next time you think you just need to post more, push more advertisements through or sign-up for a sales funnel marketing plan, ask yourself these 5 questions first:

  1. Is it going to reach my ideal customer through the channels I’m using?
  2. Does it solve a problem my ideal customer is struggling with?
  3. Is it especially for my ideal customer? (Think about this: “It’s for everybody” actually means “It’s for nobody.”)
  4. Is my product or service really and truly the perfect solution to their need?
  5. Is my primary message about them? (Tempting as it is, beware of making it about you and your offerings.)

If you can answer YES to all 5 questions above, it’s less likley that you’ll annoy a bunch of people that have no interest in what you’re selling. And you won’t need to reach so many people either.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes. And if you’d like some help determining who your ideal customer is and what problem they’re trying to solve, sign up for a free 30-minute consultation (and I really mean FREE) with me.

Lindy Bostrom Photo

Lindy Bostrom

Lindy Bostrom officially launched Bostrom Graphics in 2003 in California after working for more than a decade as an Art Director and Graphic Designer in NYC. Bostrom Graphics develops branding and marketing strategies for small businesses. We have vital interests in working with businesses with humanitarian causes, health & wellness, and advocates for freedom of expression using mediums like filmmaking, writing and public speaking.

We take pride in maintaining the highest level of integrity and accountability in building trusting, growth-oriented relationships.

CONTACT US

5 + 6 =

4 Reasons Your Marketing Isn’t Working

4 Reasons Your Marketing Isn’t Working

4 Reasons Your Marketing Isn’t Working

4 Steps to Better Branding

Images © 2021 Lindy Bostrom

SO YOU WANT TO GET YOUR WEBSITE OFF THE GROUND, get going with some social media activity and start networking more. You know you need to do these things to bring in more business, but you find yourself floundering every time you try to start.

What should you say?

Where should you post?

How much text is too much on your home page?

How do you reach out to people without seeming like a slimy salesperson?

If you find any of this familiar, you’re not alone. Many businesses are flying by the seat of their pajama bottoms when it comes to marketing. They post regularly to social media, send out monthly emails, throw all kinds of info on their websites, but they’re not seeing any real interest.

WHY? Should they post more often? Start making cold calls? Hire an expensive lead generation company? Start learning SEO?

Well, if you ask me, that’s putting the cart before the horse.

If you’re getting out there on a regular basis and your marketing isn’t working, chances are it’s not because you’re not doing enough of it. It’s because you really don’t have a brand. There, I said it. It’s BRANDING.

Before I offer a breakdown on the meaning of this ubiquitous word, let me share with you what a brand is not, despite rampant consensus otherwise:

A Brand is Not:
• A logo
• A set of company typefaces or fonts
• A color palette
• A folder of photos shot by a pro
• A collection of templates
• A tagline or mission statement

After more than 20 years working with clients on promotional materials, I have come up with an easy-to-follow, 4-step formula for getting a handle on your brand (and marketing!)

4-Steps-Branding

4 Steps to Better Branding:

  1. WHO: Know Who You’re Talking to
  2. WHAT: Know What You’ve Got That Others Don’t
  3. WHY: Give them a reason; Tell a Story That’s About Them, Not You
  4. HOW: Make a Clear, Specific Offer

Here’s the juice:

A Brand is an experience.

When someone has an exceptional experience, they remember it. They talk about it. They return for more.

Yes, it’s that simple. But as a beloved mentor once told me, “Simple is not easy. Don’t confuse the two!” The question is, how do you create an experience that your prospects and customers are going to talk about?

Here are the 4 steps in more detail:

Step_01_WHO

1. Know Who You’re Talking to

Known as your “Target Audience,” the ideal customer for your business is not going to be everyone. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you could lose business if you zone in on a specific type of customer, thus losing potential customers that don’t fit the profile. As Seth Godin says: “Trying to please everyone is a race to the bottom.” Gone is the time when businesses catered to everybody. Even “one size fits most” has become a lie. We have Google. We want exactly what we want, not something kind of like it! Find your Niche! And if you need some help with that, check out my Marketing Mentor, Ilise Benun’s Pick a Niche Kit. It’ll help you focus in on your ideal customers.

BUYER PERSONAS
Once you start evaluating who your #1 target is, then you can start to imagine you’re talking to them in a live conversation. That’s when the words will start to flow. Creating Buyer Personas is a great way to create messaging that prompts your readers to take action. You can get a free download of my Buyer Persona Workbook just for opting in to my mailing list.

Step_02_WHAT

2. Know What You’ve Got That Others Don’t

What sets you apart from others that are also doing what you do? This is what I call your “Unique Value Proposition.” The important thing here is not to get clever. Most people instinctively know what is unique about their offering. And the truth is, even if you tried to be just like someone else, you couldn’t. You and your business are unique. You just need to uncover what it is.

Step_03_WHY

3. Tell a Story That’s About Them, Not You

How many websites have you visited that go on & on about what they do, their experience, the details of their products or services, their history, bla bla bla bla bla…NEXT! My eyes are getting that glazed-over Google-search fatigue just thinking about it.

What if you got to a website that was about YOU? Where you said to yourself: “That’s ME!” That’s what I’m looking for/need/want…or the exact problem I’m trying to solve!” Now you’re interested & engaged, right?

The story starts with the problem your prospective customer (your Target Audience) has. Then you swoop in with a solution. The story ends with a satisfied customer – and an offer to join the club.

Step_04_HOW

4. Make a Clear, Specific Offer

Don’t underestimate the offer! Nothing is more frustrating than deciding that you want to buy and not being able to find the opt-in button or what to do next to get to the offer. You could get them right to the finish line and lose them—it happens all the time!

Make sure you’re crystal clear with your “Call To Action” – spell it out so a 2-year-old would know what to do.

So that, my friend, is branding in a nutshell. The 4 steps come first. Once you have that, the colors, fonts, logo and messaging fall into place and reflect what you’ve built as the foundation.

Want to take a deeper dive into setting that foundation? If you are a small business in health & wellness struggling with too little return on your marketing efforts, this is for you. I offer customized Branding Program Packages, depending on where you’re at in the game. Take a look, then give me a holler & we can get started. Your marketing strategy will be happy you did.

Lindy Bostrom Photo

Lindy Bostrom

Lindy Bostrom officially launched Bostrom Graphics in 2003 in California after working for more than a decade as an Art Director and Graphic Designer in NYC. Bostrom Graphics develops branding and marketing strategies for small businesses. We have vital interests in working with businesses with humanitarian causes, health & wellness, and advocates for freedom of expression using mediums like filmmaking, writing and public speaking.

We take pride in maintaining the highest level of integrity and accountability in building trusting, growth-oriented relationships.