Happy New Year . . . Time for your Annual Checkup!

As the glasses clink, remember the important task that awaits you — your annual check up. No worries; you don’t need to see your doctor (or maybe you need to do that, too), but the check up I’m referring to is the one that keeps your business’s brand on the right course.

Perform an Annual 5-Step Brand Wellness Checkup: Take a few, quick steps each year around this time to determine any needed changes for your brand and implement accordingly. Click here to revisit the original article that explains the process in detail.

Have any questions? Post them in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section below, and we’ll be sure to get back to you!

Hope 2022 brings you much happiness and success!

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.

Nicely Branded Displays Help Sell! (i.e., Branding and Your Trade-Show Booth)

Opportunities to exhibit your products and services are another key way to take advantage of and further promote your branding efforts.  Whether you are participating in a sales convention, a “meet and greet” at a mall or shopping center, or a charitable or educational event, you are typically provided with an empty space for you to make your own.

David Brossard, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While your goal is certainly to have a visual image that immediately identifies you to all bystanders, lots of simple (and more complex) methods exist – ranging from a table cloth in your corporate color and brochures that show off your logo to a high-tech, continuously scrolling video or presentation on large screen monitors mounted on portable walls set on top of carpet squares to get maximum control over the space (including special music and lighting).  I’ve seen elaborate settings that could require a small army for set up . . . as well as versions that got pulled out of a briefcase.

Personally, I’ve been involved with both extremes.  I helped create upon request a custom environment with a rug that had a repeated logo and included branded signage done in gold that reflected custom lights shining down from above – creating the right ambiance for a silent presentation on a loop that reinforced the message being spoken by the salesperson.  The booth was designed to fill a 12’ X 12’ space that provided brand recognition appealing to all senses.  And yes, logo embossed giveaway items were spread across the surface, including various novelties and free water bottles that had a logo imprinted label as well as candy molded into the shape of the logo.  This environment got loaded into several custom wooden crates about 2’ X 2’ X 6’ that often resulted in shipping costs.    (Useful Tip: We’ve found that providing logo-embossed bags for attendees to use in gathering their freebees from other vendors are a very good, inexpensive way of getting your branding seen!  These bags tend to get retained longer and are more visible than many alternatives.)

 The Human Factor (Practicality Matters)

Invariably, our salespeople thought they wanted the largest, most complete and complicated display . . . until they realized that setup would be difficult and time-consuming hard work that took time away from opportunities to meet prospects.  While some companies might be large and affluent enough to have special dedicated staff do all required preliminaries, such situations are – in my experience – the exception, not the norm.

So, what kinds of compromises exist that allow for an impressive display with reasonable setup?

After experimenting with full-sized “pop ups” as well as table tops (which were pretty reasonable), we eventually landed on the use of various-sized roll-up banners with customized artwork (including logos and by-lines) done in our corporate color and placed behind a table with an imprinted table cloth that held additional signage in acrylic holders (allowing artwork to be changed easily and on demand).  We found these roll-up alternatives to be affordable AND very manageable . . . so even small business owners on a tight, fixed budget can be properly equipped to have a well-branded space in situations ranging from a large arena or convention center to a small corner in a local gym or public library.

If you have a laptop computer, you can also add a touch of tech by creating a presentation or video in a software app such as PowerPoint and set the show to run on a continuous loop.  Such creations can be done quite well DIY and need not incur additional expense.

Note:  Need help picturing these types of hardware setups?

search “roll up display”

search “collapsible trade show booth”

search “pop up trade show booth”

In the end, the bottom line is to consider likely situations you might encounter and take steps in advance to prepare.  Branded environments need not be overly expensive but do take time and some planning to get ready.

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

October 27th:  National Blogger’s Day?

Recently, I saw a reference to National Blogger’s Day being October 27th.  While I have never celebrated such an event (or frankly even heard about that one), I’m always interested in another excuse to have a good time . . . so I decided to look into the matter further.

I understand that we can now find 570 million blogs on the Internet with over 30 million of those in the United States.   (See the First Site Guide article Blogging Statistics 2021: Ultimate List with 47 Facts and Stats by Ogi Djuraskovic that was last updated on August 26th, 2021.)  Therefore, a National Blogger’s Day certainly seemed somewhat between possible and likely!

According to one of the keepers of such information (i.e., WhatNationalDayIsIt? (whatnationaldayisit.com)), their algorithm did pick up October 27th.  However, the most recent reference was almost five years ago, and you’d be more likely to have heard of the event in Indonesia. 

So . . . why bother asking the question or writing this article?

With about 7 million blog posts per day (see Blogging Statistics 2021: Ultimate List with 47 Facts and Stats), perhaps the bloggers of the world deserve a little bit of extra attention and should unite in adopting this date themselves to enhance the general recognition and raise the profile of the many bloggers sharing information and providing a valuable public service – often without much (or any) personal financial gain.

Whjaddya say?

You in?

What Is a Blog?

According to Merriam-Webster,  a blog is defined as:

“1 computers: a website that contains online personal reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks, videos, and photographs provided by the writer

also: the contents of such a site

2 a regular feature appearing as part of an online publication that typically relates to a particular topic and consists of articles and personal commentary by one or more authors”

Blogs may take the shape of successful journalism such as the Huffington Post or range from personal diaries to business columns posted on corporate web sites to:

  • Humanize the people and products of a company.
  • Communicate a desired message directly to the public.
  • Improve the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) of a company’s web site.
  • Provide customer service tips.
  • Further develop and promote a corporate brand!

Regardless of the type of blog, the time, effort, and resources expended to communicate a message to an intended audience are considerable, and such commitment does deserve recognition (even those bloggers who may be motivated by less than completely pure and altruistic intentions).

What Can Be Done to Get October 27th Properly Recognized?

Well . . .

If all the bloggers in the U.S. chose to adopt this holiday as their own, that would be a pretty good start of 30 million people – 570 million upon recruiting fellow bloggers worldwide.  If each of these bloggers then communicated their desire to celebrate to their audience, the total acceptance increases exponentially . . . and would demonstrate the power and credibility of blogging today!

(Sound far-fetched?  Then read:  Finally! Here’s How Cyber Monday Even Became a Thing.)

Clearly, such a process takes time measured in years, not days.  That said, a famous Lao Tzu quote says “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” so . . .

  • Post a blog article acknowledging October 27th as a day you choose to celebrate.
  • Send a press release to your own audience and perhaps the local media.
  • Buy a cake.
  • Have a drink.
  • Toss a little confetti.
  • If you’re a company, stage an event.
  • Report on the results from the prior year – year after year during your annual celebration.
  • Keep providing quality content to your readers.

If enough bloggers were to take such steps, perhaps October 27th might one day become a recognized “thing” like cyber Monday.  If not and the suggestion fails to capture the public’s imagination and attention, we’ve at least given ourselves a platform for increasing awareness about the ground swell growth of activity and increasing importance of that discipline called blogging.

Note:  In doing some research for this article, I came across the following:  What is a Blog? – Definition, Information, Articles, Tools (marketingterms.com), which I have decided to pass along as some interesting extra reading, which can – perhaps – be saved until October 27th to add a little additional insight to your reflections on that day.