Rebranding and the Cancel Culture

According to https://www.dictionary.com

The cancel culture is defined as:  the phenomenon or practice of publicly rejecting, boycotting, or ending support for particular people or groups because of their socially or morally unacceptable views or actions

On February 2nd, 2022, we saw an instance of an increasingly common trend as the professional football team from Washington – previously known as the Redskins – was rebranded as the Commanders.   Why after decades of a successful and highly recognizable brand was this action necessary?

Political sensitivity? 

If so, perhaps the rebranding process was undertaken to correct a past mistake.

Others might suggest that the action was a byproduct of the so-called cancel culture – an instance in which the threat of a boycott or at least public backlash was used to precipitate a change that some people found necessary . . . . while others did not.

Regardless, a revisit of the name has occurred . . . with this instance being one among several recent ones prompted by similar circumstances.  For example . . .

  • In February of 2021, Aunt Jemima (a branding icon believed to suggest an unflattering racial stereo type) became the Pearl Milling Company.
  • In July of 2021, the Cleveland Indians baseball team officially became the “Guardians” – revisiting a century-old brand that had used the same name since 1915.
  • In May of 2021, Uncle Ben’s became Ben’s Original.
  • As of June 2020, a complete review of Mrs. Butterworth’s branding and packaging commenced.  (While the company suggested that the intent was to project a grandmotherly image, others felt the iconography could be perceived as unflattering racial stereotyping.)

So, what’s the branding lesson to be learned from these cases? 

Your brand should be constantly reviewed and re-evaluated to both measure effectiveness AND spot potential sensitivities that could then be addressed BEFORE a public outcry began.

When a possible need to rebrand an historically successful brand is viewed as necessary due to potential adverse customer/audience reaction, try to make the most of the need for change and take advantage of the marketing opportunity.

In the case of the Washington Redskins, the review of the team’s nickname and iconography began back in July of 2020.  While the new name was not selected till almost two years later, the questionable “Redskins” nickname was dropped and the team became known as the “Washington Football Team” during that interim period.  (Real creative placeholder name, eh?)

The team’s audience – the fans – were solicited for suggestions . . . but unfortunately one fan favorite (the wolves) could not be used because of potential intellectual property issues.  (Search “Washington Red Wolves Possible Logos” to see the early groundwork.)

The process of rebranding was not rushed and considerable effort was spent trying to get the process done right.  Nevertheless, only time will tell whether or not the Commanders succeeds in replacing the Redskins in the minds of long-term fans.  Meanwhile, the club will seize this moment to promote new merchandise sales that incorporate the logo as well as grabbing this unique chance to be very much on people’s minds and the source of much conversation. (Check out the new logo.)

As always, we welcome any thoughts or feedback, and we encourage you to comment by using the space provided below.

Creating a ‘Follow Us on Social Media’ Sign in Corel Draw

Disclaimer:  While we only recommend products we know and love, we want to note we use affiliate links and may earn a commission for purchases made through those links.

About Corel Draw: If you’re a graphic designer by trade, Corel Draw may not be your graphics editor of choice. If you’re a small business owner without a lot of graphic design experience choosing to do your branding in-house, Corel Draw is a great choice. You can pretty much address all your web and print graphics needs for a fraction of the price of the typical designer preference, Adobe. Since you’ve landed on this page in your travels, you probably already know that. If, however, buying a copy has been on your to do list for a while, there’s no time like the present. You can buy yours here and support this blog in the process.

A Quick Note About Versions: I’m using Corel Draw 18. As long as you’re using a version in that same vicinity (i.e., 16, 17, 19, or 20), your view should look pretty similar to the screenshots included throughout these directions.

You’ve created your social media pages to reinforce and promote your brand, and you regularly dedicate your time to adding content, so you want to be sure you’re taking every opportunity to properly promote your social media presence.  If your small business has a physical location (office, retail store, etc.), hanging a sign in a high-traffic area is a great option and relatively quick and easy.  I’ll show you the steps to create such sign in Corel Draw.

1.  From within Corel Draw, go to File > New.  You want an 8.5 x 11” portrait page that’s RGB and 300 dpi:

2. Select the Rectangle Tool:

Draw a rectangle in any size and then make sure the Lock Ratio is unlocked:

Then switch to the Pick tool:

Change the size of the rectangle to 8” wide x 10” high and then press ‘p’ to center the object on the page:

Double click the Outline Pen at the bottom right of the screen and change the color to dark gray, the width to hairline, and the style to dashed:

3. With the outline of your sign ready, next you can include the social media logos of your choosing.  Since potential legal issues associated with using other companies’ logos can be daunting, we’ve done the legwork for you and compiled the logos that the major social media outlet wants you to use along with the rules for each.  Visit our post, A “Legal-Approved” Free Collection of Social Media Icons, and simply copy a logo you would like to use from the post and paste the graphic into your Corel Draw file.  Repeat the process for each logo you would like to use.  I’ve selected three and each image is on top of the other at this point:

With one of the logos selected, lock the Lock Ratio and change the height of each logo to about 1.4”.  You may need to move the logos around using the Pick tool so you can access each of them.

4. Next, select the Text tool so you could begin adding content:

Click anywhere on the page and type your business’s information for one of your chosen social media outlets.  Then, set the alignment of the text to centered and choose your font and font size.  I’m going to use Calibri in size 20:

Repeat that process for the remainder of your social media outlets:

Now let’s add the heading.  I’m going to do “follow us” and “on social media” in two different fonts so I will create them as two separate text objects.  Using the Text tool, click anywhere on the page and type “follow us.”  I’m going to use the Candelion font at 160 pts in size and center the alignment.  Repeat the process for “on social media”, which I’m going to type in all caps, add a space between each character, and set the font properties to Calibri, 25 pts, and centered.

5. You’ll see your sign is starting to come to life.  Now you just need to clean it up.  Press Ctrl + A, which will select all the objects in your document and then press ‘c’ to horizontally center them all:

Then, move the objects around using the Pick tool till everything seems vertically balanced.  (Once you select an object, press Ctrl and continue to hold the key down while you move the object to retain its horizontal placement.)

6. Save your file, print (be sure to set your printer Print Quality to the best available option), cut (on the dotted line, which is 8×10”), and frame!

A Note About Fonts and Colors:
While the instructions described above will achieve the simple and modern design pictured, you can (and should) customize the look for your business. If you’ve been brand building from the start, you already have a Style Guide in place, and everything you create for your business should reflect the guidelines you’ve set for your logo usage, fonts, and colors. If you’re new to branding, be sure to review our story on The Role of a Brand Style Guide.

Press Release Generator – Sample Press Release Announcing a New Hire

In an earlier article, we discussed Press Releases as Another Opportunity for Branding.  Specifically, we addressed some of the basic criteria needed to produce a successful PR piece, including discussions about:  Topics, Voice, Audience, Outlets, Format, Quotes and Photos, and Post-Submission Follow-up.  In a second article, we wrote a Press Release to Introduce Ourselves as Part of National Small Business Week (in 2020).  In yet another article, we provided a general Press Release Generator – Identifying Your Content.  At that time, we promised to begin providing examples of the specific kinds of press releases we have mentioned just in case anyone happens to still be sitting staring at a blank page after having crumpled up a dozen failed efforts.

In getting started, the rule of the 5 W’s still applies, so we encourage you to review our earlier articles.  We also want to remind you that voice matters – you must write as though you were a totally objective journalist preparing the story.  Similarly, the content must be of interest to the audience of the intended publications.

That said, the announcement of new employee hires and/or promotions are among the most common press releases and the easiest to place – assuming the publication has a section for including such pieces.  (Many do – particularly trade magazines and papers.)  However, be aware that some outlets might be willing to include all or most of the information you provide . . . but many will reduce your words to a skeletal, bare-minimum sentence or two.  If that is the standard practice, a quick glance at past issues will let you know whether new hires and promotions are featured and the kind of space devoted to each one.

To make sure the same press release works for most circumstances, you just need to be sure the essence of your PR article is in the opening sentences with all other less critical information following (realizing that much could be cut by certain targets).  Also, plan to include a head-and-shoulder photo of the featured employee.

Below is a fill-in-the-blanks-template:

_________________

PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Release

CONTACT INFORMATION:

[Company Name]

[Contact Name]

[Phone Number]

[E-mail Address]

[Date]

[HEADLINE ex.  NAME (of the New Hire) JOINS COMPANY NAME]

[CITY, STATE, MONTH DATE][COMPANY] has announced the addition of [EMPLOYEE FULL NAME] as the new [TITLE].  In this new capacity, [EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] will be responsible for [BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DUTIES].

Note:  Body paragraphs then follow this opening (i.e., background information, quotes, company description, etc.)

Before joining [COMPANY], [EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] served as the [TITLE OF OLD JOB] for [NAME OF OLD COMPANY] from [START DATE OF MOST RECENT OLD JOB] to [END DATE OF MOST RECENT OLD JOB].  Specifically, [he/she] handled [MENTION DUTIES]

Note:  Add the next paragraph when the past history of employee includes multiple jobs.  Repeat as needed to encompass complete work history, incorporating the most relevant and recent positions.  (Typically, no need to go back to part-time jobs while in school!!)  You can also choose to insert any education and/or licensing credentials that might be useful once past jobs are addressed.

Prior to that position, [EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] was also employed by [SECOND OLD COMPANY] as a [TITLE] from [DATE] to [DATE].

According to [NAME OF NEW SUPERVISOR OR OTHER HIGHLY PLACED OFFICIAL WILLING TO BE QUOTED], “[COMPANY] is very pleased to be adding an individual with the skill and experience needed to successfully enhance our operations and meet our goals for growth and customer satisfaction.  We fully expect [EMPLOYEE FULL NAME] will be an asset in the years to come that allows us to provide our customers with the high-quality products and services they deserve.”

Note:  Optionally add contact information.

“While[EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] will be reaching out to constituents soon, [he/she] can be contacted before then at [PHONE AND EXTENTION] or [E-MAIL].”

Note:  Your “boiler plate” company description that outlines the products, services, history, location, hours, etc. then gets added.  See our Style Guide for further information.

Also, please be aware that this “new employee” template can be easily adapted to address employee promotions.  We plan to provide an example of that kind of press release soon.

_________________

As always, we welcome any thoughts or feedback, and we encourage you to comment by using the space provided below.  While we intend to provide other sample press releases in the coming weeks, we would be happy to receive special requests. 

Want a Word document of this example? Just click!

Good luck!

A Key Executive:  Your Brand Manager

Every company, large or small, should have a single individual who holds the role of Brand Manager.  The ideal candidate will be part security guard and part prophet/visionary, historian, designer, and statistician.

Furthermore, this person must be ready, willing, and able to get involved in operations and well as marketing/advertising and high-level strategic planning.  According to salary.com, this job commands a national six-figure average total cash compensation.  That said, I’m guessing that you, like most small business owners, serve as your own Brand Manager – just one of the many roles you must perform (and perform well!) to make your small business successful.

Why a Security Guard?

As a Brand Manager, you are ultimately responsible for compliance with all of the visual branding elements you have put into place.  You make sure the correct logo is used as well as the right by-line, color, font, type of images, etc.  You must constantly and vigilantly be on the lookout for improper style elements and usage . . . and you must intervene when infractions are found.  Furthermore, you must proactively put brand safeguards into place to keep misuses to a minimum.

Why a Prophet/Visionary?

Successful branding does not happen by accident.  Someone must be sitting back and looking at a company’s performance, future goals, current inventory of products, customer services, expectations, and growth objectives to make sure the operations and graphic branding elements are in place and in sync to link all aspects of your brand.  Both short-term activities that implement annual business plans and long-term initiatives designed to fulfill three- and five-year objectives must be defined, implemented, and evaluated to encompass brand.

Why an Historian?

Successful brands build upon the foundation that has been laid in the past.  When making brand plans and strategies, you must align your efforts to the work and past investments done before . . . or risk losing those time- and effort-saving resources.

With branding, smaller incremental adjustments to the work done in the past are typically more effective than complete overhauls in producing successful changes embraced by the public.  Keeping ties to past branding and a connection to your history is smart business.

Why a Designer?

While the Brand Manager will not necessarily be the person who created the original visual branding elements in use by a company, that individual will supervise or at least be a very active participant in all marketing/sales/advertising activities.   As a result, the ability to conceptualize and/or execute campaigns that reflect the style, content, and goals of the brand will be crucial.

Why a Statistician?

While branding decisions will always be somewhat built upon intuition, research data has begun to play an increasingly critical role in branding.  Therefore, the Manager must be familiar with and able to initiate and/or evaluate research activities such as surveys, focus groups, and other vehicles for the collection of information that determines which elements of a brand have been successful . . . as well as those that have not.  Data mining of this kind also suggests future sales initiatives . . . and must be incorporated into the daily operations of the company and evaluated on an ongoing basis.

The Good News

Obviously, the role of Brand Manager is not a simple one.  This multi-faceted job requires a diverse skill set as well as a tenacious, slightly obsessive-compulsive personality that is part creative, part analytical, part technical, and more.  The good news is – you’ve probably been filling this position for a very long time (and probably quite well!!) without the title or extra pay.  While some aspects of this job will come quite automatically and are already in place, the goal of this article is to share the full extent of the duties to help identify any omissions that can be addressed on your way to building a better brand.

Another Tip:

Since the current year is rapidly winding to a close, now is the perfect time to pause for some self-reflection and introduce new strategies aimed at change for the better.  Perhaps even enclose a short survey in that Holiday/Thank You card you send to wish your customers a safe and wonderful holiday season as well as a Happy New Year!!

As always, we welcome any thoughts or feedback, and we encourage you to comment by using the space provided below.

Another Branding Opportunity (i.e., Holiday Greeting Cards)

As a small business owner, you never want to overlook any opportunity to brand your product/services – especially a chance that is relatively inexpensive and has the potential for earning goodwill.  

Since the calendar is now showing the month of November and we’ve “fallen back” to that time of year that has us traveling home in the dark at 5:00 pm, my internal clock (after being set with a reminder for so many years) is telling me the time is right to start planning a new holiday card for the year.

Since design, production, and distribution all take time, you really should have at least a month (and preferably more) to execute this project.

Pick Your Celebration

While you can certainly elect to celebrate any holiday, Christmas and New Year are the most common for most businesses now choosing to make these commemorations less specific as a way of showing respect for the many celebrations occurring this time of the year:  Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and many more.  (For a complete list of holidays occurring throughout the year, see Wikipedia’s list of events.)

As a result, you may want to select Season’s Greetings or Happy Holiday upon picking the general theme and time of year for your celebration . . . and might want to select iconography that does not favor any one over the others.

Choose Your Medium

Traditionally, greeting cards were printed, addressed, and mailed . . . and recipients would frequently display all of those received as an expression of friendship and appreciation.  For a variety of reasons, printed cards have become less common . . . so those senders that do go the traditional route very often stand out.  However, be aware that mailing costs have risen and adequate time must be given to ensure timely delivery during this most busy of postal seasons.

The alternative, of course, is to e-mail cards.  Assuming you or a member of your staff has both the IT and graphic arts skills to create your template and assuming you have collected the requisite e-mail addresses for marketing and/or operational purposes, this alternative offers a number of advantages.  Specifically:

  • The ability to send cards to multiple people within the same company.
  • Less production and delivery time.
  • More control over the date the e-mail is sent and received.

However, you can expect the greeting to have less longevity – most likely being deleted upon receipt as often as not.

To make the transition from printed to e-mailed greetings, some businesses have elected to use the amount saved on production and distribution expense to donate to a favorite charity and to use that gift as the centerpiece of the greeting message AND branding impression.

By the way, a few companies actually elect to do both – taking full advantage of the timing being different to spread their message across a much longer period.

Create Your Design and Message

The design and message of your greeting card provides an opportunity for branding.  While you can certainly go to a local store or shop on-line, these generic versions eliminate much of your chance to customize your visual elements as well as content.  For example, my old employer used to invest in unique screen-printed cards that had images that both reflected the season as well as the corporate logo and other typical iconography.  Some people choose to show their building fully decorated for the holiday as the cover of the card — both setting a festive mood and reminding the recipient of the company’s presence.  Similarly, quite a few businesses feature group photos of staff to communicate their greeting in a more personal way that allows customers and business partners to attach a face to a name.

In these latter two cases, you can very often take a sufficiently good photo yourself and use one of the countless photo reproduction services to get the final printed product – which gets your project done pretty quickly and inexpensively without absorbing the extra cost of a professional photographer or commercial printer. 

To ensure a quality picture with a traditional visual, holiday theme, you can also go to one of the many sources of free images and download one that you can then use as the basis of pretty cheaply and easily building your own card that includes your logo and a very personalized message.  For example, www.unsplash.com makes available free images such as these:

(Check back in the future to download a ready-to-use greeting-card template.)

When you go the route of designing your own, you can generally find an Internet vendor who will allow you to upload your artwork and provide a high-quality final product . . . very often including the ability to add an envelope with a preprinted return address – a great labor saver.  (Some vendors are even able to take care of recipient addressing – at a cost, of course – allowing you to provide an electronic list of addresses from which envelopes are produced.

When crafting your message, you once again have an important chance to promote your brand as a business that:

  • Cares about and listens to customers.
  • Takes pride in service.
  • Promotes product quality.
  • Values community service.
  • Recognizes the critical importance of good employees who take pride in their work and want to do the best possible job for customers.
  • Has strong local roots.

Feel Good

One of the best benefits of sending out holiday greetings is very simply to feel good about participating in the spirit of the season.  Both you and your staff can enjoy this moment of celebration and picture your card being circulated around the participants’ offices.  This ability to keep a healthy work/life perspective is necessary and will be appreciated by staff and customers alike . . . and will become an important and memorable part of your brand. 

As always, we welcome any thoughts or feedback, and we encourage you to comment by using the space provided below.

SEO Resources

SEO or Search Engine Optimization, in a nutshell, helps your web site be found online.  The quantity and quality of your web content greatly affects your success.  Unfortunately, the formula isn’t that easy (quantity + quality = top search ranking).  Many behind-the-scenes factors are involved, including page load time, meta data, backlinks, etc. 

I found a wonderful cheat sheet – well, more like a cheat guide – that breaks down the most important on-page SEO elements and gives in-depth information on improving each.

According to NP Digital Co-Founder Neil Patel, the most essential in-page areas to pay attention to are:

1. Site Speed;

2. Meta Tags;

3. Content That Drives Search Traffic;

4. Crawlability; and

5. Mobile-Friendliness (or Responsiveness).

If you think your web site may benefit from some tweaks or even a complete overhaul in any of these areas, check out the On-Page SEO Cheat Sheet.