Role of Branding in Direct Mail/E-mail

Branding and the Pandemic

Today, my goal was to come up with a meaningful article about branding that offered some concrete tips useful in the midst of a pandemic.

Nothing was coming to me.    In search of inspiration, I went to google and typed “branding and the pandemic.”

In case you are wondering about the likelihood of those two terms together yielding any meaningful insight, I suggest you search the headline of this article yourself.  Ten full pages of results were returned.  (BTW—I stopped looking through the pages at that point because I grew tired of the exercise, not because the results stopped matching my request.)  The illustration below from page 1 shows some of the many different variations on the theme.

See the bottom of this page for our Special Offer.

Skimming through the headlines as well as a few of the articles, you’ll find that every imaginable subject has been addressed – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  While the amount of information is overwhelming, one fact becomes abundantly clear – branding is important during these difficult times and deserving of every bit of attention you can spare, even though no time and opportunity may seem to be available and the subject of branding may be the furthest from your mind and fairly low on your current list of priorities.

Many of these articles are good ones, and we suggest you use some of your many hours of isolation to acquaint yourselves with the range of insight and good advice being made available.

That said, let me ease your mind – we don’t plan to use this article to reinvent any of those wheels.  Instead, we will remind you to read our earlier pieces on Crisis Management and building some strategic plans for “Weathering the Storm” and identifying parts of your business that you might be able to re-engineer to function in a mostly online environment.

Assuming you’ve already acquainted yourselves with these bits of advice, today’s suggestion is one that might be deceptively difficult to execute:  spend some time on meaningful self-reflection.

  • Who do you think you are as a company?
  • What can you and your company do to ease the burden of the pandemic?  (ex:  make personal protective equipment; serve meals to first responders; deliver products to the elderly)
  • What impression do you want your customers to take away when linking your company name and the pandemic?  Will you be considered a valued member of the community contributing to the greater good?  Will you be thought of as being one of those organizations with so much talent and expertise that you were able to adapt your operations and offer a valuable product and/or service to others while existing under pandemic restrictions?

Once you arrive at an honest answer to these questions through this period of self-examination, what measures can you take to make that happen? Consider:

  • Who you have been (and whether that is who you want to be)
  • The steps you can take to be perceived in the desired way
  • The kinds of plans you can put into place to better equip yourself to deal with crises of this kind in the future.

Once you have a clear vision and understand your brand aspirations, we can help identify useful strategies to implement the results of your self-reflection.

Our Offer to You:

Feel like you need a little assist to make this self-reflection a meaningful and useful exercise?  If so, we’re happy to help other business owners identify opportunities to adapt their resources and skillset to aid their communities (just one of the ways we can do our part during these hard times).  We’ll also work with you on a plan for reinforcing your brand in a positive way while being of service to others.  Just let us know a little about your situation in the comments below . . . describe your business and expertise, and we’ll start brainstorming with you.

Be careful.  Be safe.  Embrace this opportunity to understand yourself and your brand better.  When the pandemic does finally end, you’ll be in a better position to resume more normal activities.

Weathering the Storm

Designed by jcomp / Freepik

As a small business owner, this virus will hit hard.  When sales stop, so, too, does our income.  In most cases, bills will continue to flow in. 

Yes, I will consider myself extremely lucky if all my friends and family survive this pandemic. 

Financial health would be some lovely icing.

The Small Business Association has a lot of great resources for this situation . . . from an Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program to Local Assistance:  https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources 

A lot of other wonderful and necessary business accommodations, information, and tools are currently in the making as well, but the focus of this blog will be about creativity.  As the saying goes, “When one door closes, another opens.”  The lesser known continuation of the quote is “. . . we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”  In this terrible situation, I challenge you to look for another door through which you can temporarily rebrand your business.

Some business alterations are more obvious in this new climate.  Restaurants are open for takeout and offering free “contactless” delivery.  Retail stores are encouraging “retail therapy” from home and also offering free delivery. 

Some business have had to get a little more creative.  A few examples to help inspire your creative thinking include . . .

Craft stores are offering instructions on how to DIY face masks and hand sanitizers from products available for shipment. 

Businesses that typically have at-location customers (and now have an overflow of convenience products) are offering a free roll of toilet paper with their take-out product. 

Gyms are offering virtual classes.

Real estate agents are offering virtual tours (created by the homeowner).

Some entrepreneurs are investing a portion of their reserves in the stock market, betting on the long game.

Invitation businesses are designing postponement announcements.

Charities are hosting virtual auctions.

Some business that simply cannot function now are offering their customers discounts for booking their product/service in advance. 

Home improvement stores (which are able to stay open as an “essential” business) are providing instructions for DIY projects around the house – since most people are homebound with some extra time.

A blog that strives to help entrepreneurs create and develop their corporate identity is now focusing on crisis communications and rebranding opportunities.  (Ya, that one’s us.)

I hope offering a handful of business Coronavirus coping strategies sparked your inner innovator.

Remember . . . “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” (Charles Darwin)

Good luck.  Stay safe.

Crises Management: Messages Sent Now Will Define You Forever

Branding is about who you are and who you want to be . . .
and the steps to take to make that happen!

I sat down to write an article on the preparation of electronic files for various purposes – commercial printing, publications, the Internet, electronic ads, novelty items, etc.  However, we are in the middle of a world-wide health and financial emergency, and my partner and I felt we’d be remiss not to address that subject instead.

When a crisis occurs, you have an opportunity to demonstrate that you are a good corporate citizen and simultaneously cement and communicate your brand to current and potential customers in a positive way.

Developing Your Message

One of your first priorities as a small business owner when trouble strikes is to send your employees and your customers a message about the situation.  You need to be empathetic to their circumstances and emphasize that you are all facing the same difficulties because (most of the time) you will be.

You need to provide an overview of the steps you are taking to manage the crisis and (if relevant) explain any modifications being made to your products/services to deal with the situation and address special needs.  Finally, you must emphasize the importance of good communication and outline in detail the best ways to contact you with any problems or concerns – phone, e-mail, text messaging, social media etc.

Needless to say, you have to prepare your employees for any changes to their roles due to the crisis, and you should coach them on the proper information to communicate when dealing with the public.

Once you have figured out the correct content of your message, you need to prepare versions for all of the various media you will be using:

[   ]  e-mail

[   ] letter

[   ]  web site posting

[   ]  social media posting(s)

[   ]  signage for physical location (including any changes to usual hours) and instructions for getting in touch

[   ]  PSA (Public Service Announcements) for local media

[   ]  Press releases communicating information of interest to the public

While not all of these vehicles will be appropriate for everyone, every business will need to utilize more than one, remembering that different customers have very different preferences for receiving information.

Memories Are Long

Part of being a good corporate citizen is to honestly assess the part your product/service plays in the community.  Are you essential . . . or a luxury?  If you are the former, you will need to reassure people that you will continue to serve them with the least possible disruption.  You want to be sure to stay away from any language or unintentional suggestion that you are exploiting the situation for profit or gain.  Conversely, any steps taken at such times to offer charitable assistance and lend a hand to the community at large are important.  While your business might be suffering from a less profitable moment, too – chances are others are dealing with even more difficult circumstances and could use your help.

Memories are long.  When conditions improve, your customers will remember your behavior.  Did you lend a helping hand . . . or just help yourself?

Be Honest

In all of your communications, be honest and truthful.  People have an innate ability to recognize when you are being evasive and less than forthcoming.  While we certainly understand that some information is private or cannot be shared due to the likelihood of being misunderstood, you will do your business and your brand the most good by developing a reputation for being the kind of company a person can trust.

While honesty can be difficult in the short-run because hard messages sometimes have to get delivered, the long-range benefits will be worthwhile.  People will be inclined to believe ALL of your messaging, which is one of the key benefits of building a good brand.

Be safe.  Be well. 

Observe the guidelines implemented for our collective good!!

Note:  In the midst of a crisis, future planning is probably the furthest from your mind.  Nevertheless, planning is also an act of faith and optimism for the future.  An upcoming article will explore the reasons all of us should be developing contingency plans for portions of our business that can be conducted online. 

A “Legal-Approved” Free Collection of Social Media Icons

When looking to promote your social media presence, you want to include logos for each outlet, but you don’t want to be on the receiving end of legal issues with Facebook or Instagram.  So we’ve done the legwork for you and compiled the logos each social media outlet wants you to use along with the rules for each.  If you had a legal department, their ‘approved’ rubber stamp would be inked up and ready!

Facebook

Brand Resources – https://en.facebookbrand.com/facebookapp/

  • Use the “f” logo to promote your business’s presence on Facebook.
  • The color of the icon can either be facebook blue or white.
  • Include a call to action and link with the logo.
  • When using along with other icons, ensure they are all equal in size with adequate space in between each and maintain the shape and proportions of the “f” logo.
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.
  • Don’t make the logo the most prominent feature of your piece.

Instagram

Icon (and instructions) – https://en.instagram-brand.com/assets/icons

  • Use the Instagram glyph (or outline) in black or white (though you can place on a pink background when showing with other social media icons in their brand colors).
  • Use the logo with a call to action unless including in a lineup with other social media icons.
  • The glyph should be surrounded with clear space – specifically 50% of the glyph’s size – on all sides.
  • Make the glyph no smaller than 29×29 pixels.

Twitter

Brand Resources – https://about.twitter.com/en_us/company/brand-resources.html

  • While Twitter prefers you use their icon free of any container, they provide versions with the icon enclosed in a square, a square with rounded corners, and a circle.
  • When pairing the logo with an account name or hashtag, scale the text to 100% of the logo’s height.
  • Only use the logo in Twitter blue or white.
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.
  • Don’t surround the logo with other creatures or accessories.
  • The empty space around the logo should be at least 150% of the logo’s width.
  • Make sure the logo is at least 32 pixels wide.

YouTube

Brand Resources – https://www.youtube.com/about/brand-resources/#logos-icons-colors

  • Surround the icon with free space of at least 50% of the icon’s width. 
  • The icon should be a minimum of 24dp in height (digitally) and .125 in (printed).
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.
  • Only use the icon in your social media assets when linked to a YouTube channel.

Snapchat

Snap Kit Design Guidelines – https://docs.snapchat.com/docs/design-guidelines/

  • Use the Snapchat app icon (shown above) along with other apps. (Otherwise, use the Ghost logo.)
  • The icon should be a minimum of 18 px (digitally) and .25 in (printed).
  • The empty space around the logo should be at least 150% of the logo’s size.
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.

LinkedIn

Brand Guidelines/Downloads – https://brand.linkedin.com/downloads

  • Only use the logo in LinkedIn blue, all white, or all black.
  • Make sure adequate space surrounds the logo.
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.
  • The “in” should be a minimum of 32 px (digitally) and .25 in (printed).  The ® symbol should be clearly visible.

Pinterest

Brand Guidelines – https://business.pinterest.com/en/pinterest-brand-guidelines

  • Use the Pinterest badge (above) and not the wordmark.
  • Always include a call to action and your Pinterest URL with the logo.
  • The logo height should be proportionate to the call to action text. 

We hope this guide simplifies the use of social media logos for you.  However, please keep in mind that this collection does not replace the full guidelines provided by each social media outlet, and those should be reviewed in full as well. 

If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you!  Post in the comments section below.

Is Brand a Scam . . . or the Real Deal?

Before a business owner invests the time, energy, and resources to systematically build a brand, some skeptics need to be persuaded that all this talk about branding is not a scam on the part of ad agencies and other marketers out to make money.

For starters, no less an authority of the business world than renown entrepreneur Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway fame was recently quoted as saying about the power of brands:  “Give me a $10 billion budget and ask me to bring out another Coca-Cola that makes a dent in Coca-Cola and I can’t do it.”  By inference, this statement seems to suggest that the branding of Coca Cola has a value of at least $10 billion (perhaps more).

Frankly, branding has a longer history than most people realize.

Do an Internet search for the term “history of branding,” and you get an extremely wide variety of responses.  Some talk about the cattle branding done in the 19th century wild west. An organization called Skyward traces the origins back further, saying, “The term derives from the Old Norse word brandr or ‘to burn,’ and refers to the practice of branding livestock, which dates back more than 4,000 years to the Indus Valley.”

Most sources seem to agree that some form of the concept can be attributed to the Egyptians (and ancient B.C. times) with some credit being given to the Chinese, the Greeks, the Romans, and more due to the marks put on items such as pottery to provide information about the creator and creations.  (For a good historical overview, read Skyward’s essay, “What Is Branding? A Brief History” found at https://www.skyword.com/contentstandard/branding-brief-history/.)

Obviously, the term branding has assumed a much different and more complex identity during the second half of the 20th century.  As Taylor Holland notes in the Skyward essay, “The meaning of the word has evolved so much over the centuries that even people who do it for a living have never made the connection between modern marketing and livestock.”

Contemporary branding is a 20th century phenomenon.  The advertising industry is generally credited with broadening the definition to include establishment of a corporate identity and promotion of sales.  During the “Golden Age of Advertising” in the 1950’s and 60’s, the concept started to encompass the creation of a unique personality for products – giving them qualities that often elicited an emotional response that helped foster brand loyalty.

More recently, we have seen the concept expand even further to focus on something called “the brand experience” with customer service and ease of use playing increasingly prominent roles in effective branding.  (For a quick overview of this process of evolution, see “20 milestones in the history of branding” – https://www.creativebloq.com/branding/milestones-history-branding-91516855.)

So . . . What Conclusions Can Be Drawn?

If the act of branding is, indeed, an elaborate scam, the charade is one that dates back thousands of years, has hoodwinked one of the 20th century’s most astute businessmen, and has evolved to reflect the needs of a changing world.  While the act of branding has certainly become more complicated (as has the modern world), the process still involves quick identification of a product through visual symbols such as a logo and the association of those symbols with positive attributes.  These characteristics will, in turn, always be useful to companies that must continually reprove themselves to their existing customers . . . while constantly being on the lookout for new ones.

Not Convinced?

Perhaps you are one of those people who need some numbers before you can believe.  For instance:
“Consistent branding across all channels increases revenue by 23%.”
From 80+ Branding Statistics You Should Know For 2020
– Ryan McCready, June 19, 2019.

If you are one of them, check out these 80 facts and many others found in articles made available by searching “data proving the importance of branding.”

Creating a ‘Follow Us on Social Media’ Sign in Microsoft Word

You’ve created your social media pages to reinforce and promote your brand, and you regularly dedicate your time to adding content.  Now, 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 Microsoft Word.

1. Open Word, create a new blank document, and insert a rectangle.  (When your cursor turns into a plus sign, you’re able to draw your shape.

By default, mine is blue.  Right click the rectangle and select More Layout Options. 

Set the properties to . . .

  • Size: 10” in Height and 8” in Width
  • Text Wrapping: Behind Text
  • Position:
    • Horizontal – Absolute Position of .25” ‘to the right of’: Page
    • Vertical – Absolute Position of .5” ‘to the right of’: Page

Set the Fill to No Fill and the Line to a Solid Line, Black Color, and .5 pt Width, choosing the Dash Type selection shown below.

2. Click inside the rectangle and type “Follow Us on Social Media”.  Set the font to one or more choices that work as your heading and size to appropriately fill the space.  Set the Alignment to Centered.  I went with the font Candelion Regular in all lowercase at size 160 for “follow us” and (on the next line) Calibri in all caps at size 25 and added a space between each letter.

3. Next, decide which review platforms you would like to feature.  We are currently active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest and will be highlighting those.  Then, go to Google to find logos.  Most social media outlets will have a corporate page that makes their logo available to the public along with instructions for proper usage.  For example, Facebook has a Brand Resources page easily found when searching “facebook logo” on Google.

As you find the appropriate source for each social media outlet, save the logos to your desktop.

4. Press enter within your document to advance to the next line space and then insert each of your saved logos (from the menu at top, press the Insert tab, and choose Picture) in the order you want them to appear on your sign. 

Inserting each of mine took me to the bottom of a second page.  So, the first step in adjusting sizing is to crop any excess space from the logos.  (As you can see above, the outline of the Pinterest image is directly around the icon, so no need to crop that one.)  That’s not the case for LinkedIn . . .

To crop, click Picture Tools (at the very top of the screen), click the Crop icon (at top right), drag the outer edges of the box tight around the logo, and press enter.  Once all the logos are cropped as needed, try to match their size to about and 1.4” in height.  (This will ensure you have adequate room for text.)  To do so, click Picture Tools again and enter a height at top right.

Repeat for the other icons.

5.  Click in the space after your first icon, press enter to add a line space, and type your profile name/URL for that platform; repeat for your subsequent logos.  This process once again took me onto a second page.

Therefore, decrease the font size as needed.  I went with size 20.

And then adjust the spacing a little for each line of text (so you have additional room between each social media outlet).

And you’re done!

6. Save your file, print, 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.

Happy designing!

Press Release to Introduce Ourselves as Part of National Small Business Week in May

In an earlier article (Press Releases as Another Opportunity for Branding), we promised to do our first press release on Brand Building for Small Business, using the occasion of National Small Business Week May 3rd through May 9th to formally announce our blog – believing we now have enough content across many basic business areas to warrant introducing ourselves.

brandbuildingforsmallbusiness.com/2019/12/26/press-releases-as-another-opportunity-for-branding/(opens in a new tab)

With the dual hook of this national celebration plus the rollout of our site as a free resource to the targeted audience, we believe we have enough substance to interest an editor. 

Selecting our media targets on a budget was not easy.  For this initial round, we have contacted about a dozen business journals (all of which serve a substantial small business readership) and an inexpensive distribution channel – IssueWire.com – that also circulates the first press release free.  Clearinghouses such as this one can be very useful in getting the message out to a broader audience, though in a less targeted way than developing your own list of carefully selected publications.  That said, this approach makes the processing of releases much easier, and feedback about the distribution is tracked and easily accessible.  In addition to the most basic level of distribution, several special promotions can be added (at an extra cost) that target social media connections and Google search.

Our goal – we hope to gradually increase the readership of our blog and gain some valuable reader insights.

We will keep you posted about our results . . . and will write a follow-up article on the analysis of the results.  Until then, feel free to review our press release piece and provide us with any feedback in the comment section below.

Read our press release.

https://brandbuildingforsmallbusiness.files.wordpress.com/2020/02/celebrating-national-small-business-week-in-may-new-branding-resource-for-small-businesses-issuewire.pdf

Special Note:
Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group.  To learn more, visit https://blog.feedspot.com/branding_blogs/.