You may think that branding & advertising shouldn’t be a consideration in your yearly budget, but research by Britain’s Design Council shows that ”Almost half of all UK businesses believe that, over the past decade, design has become more important in helping them maintain a competitive edge.”.
You may think that you’re too small for branding, but every brand starts small. With the right branding, how big your business is up to you. The truth is, both brand and business work seamlessly alongside each other, and in order to grow your business, you will need to grow your brand.
Branding, in my opinion, is the most important aspect of any business, regardless of size, target market, or sector. An effective brand strategy ensures growth in increasingly competitive markets. An impression will always be left with the end user, and you have to make sure it’s positive.
What is a brand?
In its simplest form, a brand is a philosophy, a story, a promise to the end user. It’s a lifestyle, an aspiration, and an association with your target audience. A brand is built on the foundations of who you are, where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there.
Most people perceive the brand to be a logo, but a brand is an overall image, transposed across your website, your stationary, promotional collateral, packaging, the way your shop looks, the way your employees communicate with the end user. It’s the relationship between your business and the end user.
The foundation of your brand
Imagine your brand as a road map - the direction of where you want to take your image. It will take time to get where you want to be, it will be uncomfortable at times and you will make mistakes. It’s not going to be perfect from the start, and will always evolve alongside the ever changing markets.
To establish your brand, ask yourself these simple questions;
- What do you stand for, what’s your mission statement, your philosophy?
- What is the value of your products or services, and how will they benefit the customer?
- How are you different from your competition?
- What does your existing customer base already think of your company?
- What qualities would you like them to associate with your brand?
Research is a key part of learning the needs and habits of current and prospective customers. Don’t assume you know what they think, find out from the horse’s mouth as it were. It may not be what you want to hear, but it is vital for the direction of your brand.
How to market your brand to your audience successfully
- Invest in quality branding and design. research by Britain’s Design Council shows that ”Every £100 a design alert business spends on design increases turnover by £225.”.
- Write up your brand’s philosophy. Every one in your team should know it off by heart. Many companies have started to publish it on their website for the public to see.
- Define your brand’s voice. Your business constantly communicates with its end user, make sure it’s using the right tone.
- Develop a set of brand guidelines, and stick to them. Going through this stage is vital to understand how the brand will be taken into all directions. It will make it easier for an agency to work consistently and to a deadline on artwork if all possibilites have previously been considered. It will also ensure consistency.
- Always listen to you market place, and the end user. Their response is a good benchmark of the brand’s success. Take note, and take action where is needed in order to take the brand to its next level.
You have spent weeks putting a considerable amount of blood, sweat and tears into a campaign pitch, a new brand strategy, or website artwork concepts for a client.
Being very passionate about the conclusion you and your agency have arrived at, you can’t wait to show it off to the client. A quick bundle into a zipped file, whack it up on a Dropbox, and fire off a quick email. That should do the trick, right?
Sure, there are some cases where you don’t need to have a big song and dance alongside your work, but how can you expect to inspire the client if you are not there to tell the story? Personally, I like to be there to witness that lightbulb moment when the client “gets it”.
You should be excited by every piece of work that leaves your agency, and more importantly, you need to show the client that it means a great deal to you too.
I see more often, important artwork and campaigns arrive to the client attached in emails which sign off with; “looking forward to receiving your comments”. This basically means “It’s not worth meeting about, we’re not all that excited about the idea, so here it is, figure it out for yourself, and feel free to rip it to pieces”.
If you are face to face selling the idea, you will have an easier time making the client enthusiastic, and are more likely to gain “sign off” first time round. Or at least, a swift conclusion on round two’s direction. On email, this usually ends with a messy string of feedback and amendments.
As much as email is valuable to the day to day runnings of interacting with clients, it is certainly not to best way to sell creative ideas. You will loose leverage in the direction, and your idea will more than likely end up being picked apart by committee, with no voice present to defend yourself. Most of the time they are not the target audience, and usually need convincing that the direction being taken is the right one.
Yes, it is quick and convenient, and it is more cost effective, but the client needs to feel like you’re going above and beyond. Presenting ideas directly almost always results in better work, less haggling the little details and less time spent reworking and amending.
At The Read Aloud Creative, we ensure that the relationship we have with our clients is always to a high, personal standard, and that we are consistently pro active when it comes to suggesting new ideas for their brands.
I’m well chuffed that a did it, and even more so that I managed to get under my target time, with 2hrs 20mins.
The day after and I have been aching and moaning like an old man, but it was definitely worth it!
Thanks to the City of Bath for hosting it, and the organisers for making it happen. An awesome day, and an awesome experience.
For me, this is very scary. I have always hated running, and even the thought of it brings back haunting memories of being dragged around a boggy Danetre School playing field, trying to find bits of painted wood for so called “Orienteering” in P.E Class.
A few of my friends are extremely good at running both short and long distances, but it never really rubbed off on me. In fact, not many forms of exercise interested me early on in my life, apart from attempting to Skateboard. In recent years, I’ve occasionally played 5-a-side, dabbled in the gym, thwacked at badminton, and a few games of squash, but nothing too serious.
So last year, I decided to change my attitude towards exercise, started getting into road cycling, lost quite a bit of weight and began to get my pace up. I can safely say that cycling is fantastically addictive and now something that I want to pursue a lot more in my life.
In July, some friends and I embarked on a Daventry to Bournemouth bike ride for Macmillan Cancer Support. We raised a fantastic amount of money, and the goal was big enough to get me determined to succeed, but small enough to push me onto other things.
While I have a lot more plans of cycling adventures, events such as Triathlons and Marathons started my mind whirring.
My girlfriend likes running, and some how persuaded me to signing up to the Bath Half Marathon this year. I like a challenge and thought why not, and booked my place.
It didn’t occur to me until a few weeks before Christmas, that I probably think about training. Especially considering I had no previous running experience!
So I’m now left with only 8 weeks until the race and starting to worry that I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I doubt that I’m going to be fit enough, or whether I’m going to get a good time.
Wish me luck with the training!
2012 was an extremely good year for me. A lot went on in both my personal and professional life, some of it bad, mostly good. One thing’s for sure, I have learnt a hell of a lot from my experiences, and have been inspired to keep going in the same direction.
Over the last couple of years I have started writing out a list of both personal and professional goals for my New Year’s resolutions. I have been pretty good a keeping to them, but there’s always a few that slip away. I have decided that this year, I will blog about them. Hopefully this will give me the drive to achieve!
Personal New Year’s Resolutions (in no particular order)
- Loose 5% body fat in time for Sophie & Nick’s Wedding (late July).
- Spend more time with my girlfriend, my friends and my family.
Run the Bath Half Marathon - extra points for finishing circa 2-2.5hrs.
- Cycle the Royal British Legion London to Paris (and then maybe to Amsterdam).
- Go explore & get lost in Rome.
- Go explore & get lost in Istanbul.
- On School nights, wake up at 06:00 & go to bed at 22:00.
Spend more time in Portugal.
- Write for my website more often - I’m aiming for once a month.
Take more photographs- Here’s my Instagram!
- **NEW** To ride my bike more, and visit more of England on it.
Professional New Year’s Resolutions (in no particular order)
- Build even stronger relationships with our current client base.
- Increase overall brand awareness of The Read Aloud Creative.
- Secure 5 more clients.
- Work with a Northamptonshire shoemaker.
Work with **Top Secret client**.
- Launch our new, up to date & responsive readaloudcreative.com.
- Secure more work from clients in Greater London & Birmingham.
- Grow the brand in the Bath & Bristol area.
- Increase The Read Aloud Creative’s yearly revenue by 200%.
- Move into a bigger head office.
- Work on a national ad campaign.
Here’s an christmas advert we did for MDavies Ltd. They’re a wood burning stove & fuel specialist based in Daventry, Northamptonshire, UK.
We wanted to express the fact that Christmas is a time of giving and celebrating with loved ones.
When it’s all over, there’s no better way to relax than to spend the evening conked out in front of a glowing hot fire with a bottle of wine.
Happy birthday to Pablo Picasso who was born today in 1881. Here he is in his Cannes studio in 1956 in a photograph taken by Arnold Newman.
The word “brand” to many entrepreneurs and business startups is either an afterthought ( when it’s too late ), or gives a vision of expense with little value for money. This skepticism Is boiled down from a fundamental misunderstanding of what the term “brand” actually means.
A brand is not just a company name or a logo.
A professionally established brand will concisely portray the roles, morale and personality of your company or business. While a cunning name and a well constructed logo will position your brand above its competitors, a well developed brand is what builds confidence, secures good interactivity with its community, and works as a benchmark to push the business forward and excel.
Think of branding as a secure foundation to build your business upon, not something to develop at a later date. A brand shapes the direction of your business.
It can be easy to see branding as an afterthought. after all, ensuring distribution of your products and services, and developing your cash-flow may well be your main priorities. Todays expectation seems to be going in a somewhat different direction. With an increased competitive market, first impressions are becoming more meaningful with startups beginning to consider brand development a more predominant division of their start up business plan.
Looking back on some of the most successful startups that have grown into nourished long running businesses, a strongly established brand has been the backbone driving their success.
As a conclusion, we are no longer in a marketplace where a unique product or service will suffice to create a big impression to its users. Your businesses persona, its voice and its image, needs to be unified and concentrated to ensure successful growth and development for the brand. A brand is not just a logo, but it is the very essence, the personality of your company.
“ Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
“ Customers must recognize that you stand for something.
Salvador Dali in a Gondola, Venezia
A couple of friends and I, organised a charity bike from Daventry to Bournemouth for Macmillan Cancer Support.
We left on the 26th of August, covered 160 miles in 3 days, and raised over £2,000!
It was tough, but very rewarding. I’m chuffed to bits with the amount of teamwork the four of us put in, and could not be happier with the level of support that our friends and family gave.
I would like to thank everyone who came to see us off from Daventry, welcomed us at Bournemouth, and took the time to promote and sponsor us.
Our Virgin Money Giving page is still open for a for a couple of weeks. If you haven’t already sponsored us, and would like to, that would be great!
So way back in May this year, I was asked to write a guest blog for The Last Hurdle. It had to discuss how branding can enhance face to face interaction, and ways to ensure effective development of prosperous working relationships.
Everyone knows that if you are in business, it is wise to have a personalised business card to hand out, but what makes a business card one of the most important parts of new relationships?
The business card is one of the most important marketing tools you can have for your business. Regardless of whether you are a one-man band or a multi national corporation, a well-presented business card can be the first form of communication between your brand, and a prospective client.
From the moment they touch it, take it back to the office, and even to the moment they stumble across it some six months later, it is constantly playing an important role of subtly promoting your brand’s existence.
At the very minimum, a business card ensures that the recipient has all the necessary contact information should they need to get in touch with you or your business in the future.
What it also does on a more fundamental scale, is plant your brand into their sub consciousness, like a seed. All you need to do is let it grow, along with some other supporting forms of marketing.
What is often hard to vision is the journey that one single business card can take. It could sit on someone’s desk for years, gradually establishing its brand awareness, or it could be passed on to others, but most importantly it is a constant reminder of your business and its presence.
Make it different
Experimenting with shapes, colours, and varnishes is a good way of standing out. Too many bells and whistles can be overwhelming, and prove to be counter productive.
Remember that the portraying your brand and contact details is the main purpose. Keeping it simple and well branded often triumphs in impact. First impressions count. What you are ideally looking for is “Wow, I love you business cards” when you present them to the recipient.
By my desk, I have a big pile of boring business cards, all blending into one big boring blur, don’t let your card follow suite by blending in with everyone else’s.
My business cards have a spot UV varnish and two rounded corners, and I quite often get people stroking & feeling around with my business cards while we’re talking. I find that great as they are using other senses to comprehend the brand.
Never leave home without them. You never know when the opportunity could arise, and you wouldn’t want to end up writing your details on a beer mat. Is that really going to have the same affect? Nope, unless you work for Carlsberg!
Another tip, If you’re going to give someone a rough price, or a website link, or any short piece of information, you might as well write it on your business card.
This will make the card more valuable to the recipient, and they will be reminded of the kind gesture when following up on your advice.
Give out a handful of your business cards to your clients or suppliers, you never know when you might come up in conversation and having a spare business card to present might come in use.
At every opportunity, get talking about your business and give your business cards out. Leave them laying around in business centres and networking meetings, and if you can, give a few out to one person so they can share them around.
I have had people who I have never met get in contact from one of my business cards, proof that they get around!
Include keywords of the products and services your brand offers on your business cards. This reinforces your overall image but more importantly, you’re not always there to do the supporting talk.
If someone picked up your card that you left in a business centre, will they find out the essentials they need to know about your business? They should be able to!
“ The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.