You didn't sign up to be a data analyst, did you?

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Data is driving everything today. The promises that data can make your brand more relevant, appealing and marketable are everywhere. Data can drive business growth, right? But can it? Really?

When computers were introduced it seemed as though any marketer with a computer would be able to secure brand dominance. Then people came to their senses and said, “It’s a tool. It’s just a tool!”

Today the same illusion exists around data. We’re obsessed with it. We promote its use with an air of superiority. We use it to protect us in meetings.

We want it to deliver us, but it can’t! It’s a tool. It’s just a tool!

But it can be a powerful tool if we use it to create data-driven storytelling.

You see, the one thing that never changes is that people are people. Powerful ideas, expressed with excellence, will always capture attention and promote action.

Renault’s VP of global brand strategy, Bastien Schupp was quoted recently as saying, “Ideas will win the race. Good ideas are still more important than technologies.”

We would like to work with you to use your data to point to insights about your audience that can be used to create compelling creative campaigns that drive business growth.

If you’re ready to put data to work we can help your brand become more distinctive, differentiated and valuable.

Let us help you bring life to the numbers.

Join us in the world of big ideas that challenge and move the human spirit.

We make business happen faster. Let’s talk.

Naked Branding

We offer brand insight consulting to uncover unmet needs, new revenue streams and hidden value.

As branding strategists, we help define what’s unique about your company and brands and work with you to position your company or brands for success.

We design enduring brand marks and create brand personalities.

We give brands a strong voice through websites, digital marketing and advertising based on big ideas. Take a look

This is who we are and this is what we do. 

WE MAKE BUSINESS HAPPEN FASTER BY UNLOCKING THE POTENTIAL OF YOUR BRAND.

HUMAN CONTACT. Everyone wants it. Every marketer needs it.

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Because we're human, everybody wants it. Every brand should have it. Every marketer needs it.

It doesn't matter whether you have a product or a service to market. What matters, the only thing that matters, is making human contact with your audience.

Does that sound like an overstatement to you? It isn't.

The world today is moving fast.

You've heard that consumers are in control. Check. You've heard that content is king. Check. You've heard that personalization drives more interest. Check. You've heard that you must reach your audience online. Check. You've heard that you must connect with them on social media. Check. You've heard that you must use data to inform and measure your actions. Check.

Guess what, all of this is true and none of this is new.

It's always been important to try to reach your audience where they are likely to be open to hearing about what you offer.

What has happened is that there's been an explosion of new media channels and technology solutions that require your attention and support.

You know I'm right. Now breathe.

What matters, what really matters is making human contact.

When you begin the marketing process by developing a clear understanding of what is valuable to your audience and why it's valuable to them, the confusion begins to ease up.

This is where you start, but this is only the beginning.

That strategic process is an important step to helping your leadership team get on the same page. Elevator speeches and value propositions are good things, but guess what, they usually describe the functional attributes you offer.

Your playbook helps you push out content to consumers who are in control, right? The hope is that if you are in enough places they may see it and care. It's a volume play at best.

Most of today's marketers stop there. They use technology to muscle their way into view and hope it works. They measure, and they analyze, and they improve.

This too is nothing new.

But there are really two more stages in the marketing process that sophisticated marketers understand and use to help them win in the marketplace.

The first is this: Discover what makes your offering emotionally unique. What do you offer that improves your customer's life? That sounds like a tall order, but it doesn't have to be. Does your brand alleviate a fear? Make someone happier? Deliver confidence? Start figuring out what emotional benefits your brand delivers.

Next, and this is the stage that eludes most marketers, deliver your emotional benefit creatively.

I don't mean with sharp graphic design treatments, (although looking professional is important,) I mean with fresh ideas and approaches that catch the attention of your audience and encourage their interest in your brand because what you are saying to them is connecting emotionally.

"When creating branding and advertising it is important to understand that virtually every product purchase made begins with emotion and is justified with reason." Donn Carstens - Creative Strategist and Writer.

It's true isn't it?

For many good reasons, corporate teams have great difficulty developing communication that connects emotionally, but these two stages represent the secret sauce for making human contact.

And guess what. Once you have found a unique way that your brand makes human contact, you can communicate using that creative approach everywhere and anywhere you need to be!

This really is marketing at the next level.

Creating the secret sauce requires some expertise and talent though, so it's best not to go it alone.

At Naked Branding we've been helping our clients succeed by building their brands with smart, effective branding and advertising that stands out and connects.

We make human contact!

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We believe that a big idea transcends all touch points.

As branding strategists, we help define what’s unique about your company and brands and work with you to position your company or brands for success.

We design enduring brand marks and create brand personalities.

We give brands a strong voice through websites, digital marketing and advertising based on big ideas. Take a look. 

This is who we are and this is what we do. WE MAKE BUSINESS HAPPEN FASTER. If you’d like to get the conversation started about your businesses growth, click here.

How a struggling start-up pivoted to huge success

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Today's story is a classic case study for tax season about how serendipity, advertising, marketing and innovation helped build H&R Block into an iconic brand and how the lessons are applicable to us today. 

First a little interesting history.

1946: Two brothers in their 20's, Henry and Richard Bloch, opened a small business bookkeeping company called United Business Company with a $5,000 loan. They focused on bookkeeping and offered tax preparation services as a value-added courtesy to their customers and friends in the building. They struggled for 8 years and were about to give up when...

1955: At the beginning of that year the brothers decided to discontinue their tax preparation services which they felt were distracting and provided little revenue to the company.

Serendipitously, two things happened:

  1. The IRS which had been offering free tax preparation services to the public had decided to discontinue that service.

  2. One of their individual clients, a man named John White, worked in advertising sales at the Kansas City Star. John encouraged the brothers to run a couple of ads in the newspaper promoting their tax preparation services and after much discussion the brothers ran their first ad in late January, 1955.

After the first ad ran Henry, who was out visiting a customer, received an urgent call from his brother who exclaimed, "Hank, get back here as quick as you can we've got an office full of people!"

The ad had appeared at just the right time. People were receiving their W-2 forms and the IRS had informed the public that they would be discontinuing free tax preparation services.

The tax preparation side of their business took off and took over.

They sold their accounting business to their employees and set up their new tax preparation service. Since their family name Bloch, was difficult for people to pronounce and spell they went with the simpler, phonetic, Block and named their new company, H&R Block.

Within weeks they had grossed $20,000., more than a third of the annual volume that their original company had taken years to develop.

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What had they discovered?

  1. That there would be a scarcity of tax preparers.

  2. That people were uncomfortable doing their own tax returns.

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1956: With that encouragement, the brothers decided to open an office in NYC; the next city chosen by the IRS for discontinuation of tax preparation services. They opened seven offices that year, all near IRS offices and tripled their revenue to $65,000.

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FRANCHISING: The brothers shared the responsibility of managing the NY offices but neither of them wanted to relocate with their family, so the decision was made to sell the operations there. Two CPA's wanted to buy the NY business but could not meet the asking price. Instead they offered to pay $10,000., along with royalties and the H&R Block franchise network was born!

1962-67: The company went public in 1962 and by 1967 had nearly 1,700 offices in 1,000 cities in 44 states.

The price of preparing a return had remained $5. for 12 years!

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1970's: The company now had 8,600 tax offices nationwide providing professional services for the mass market and began building a national brand. They began by using what we would call spokesperson or influencer marketing today.

Influencer and Founder Marketing:

In 1971 the company employed an influencer, trusted American news commentator John Cameron Swayze, to be in their television commercials.

In 1972 Henry Bloch began appearing in television commercials that established H&R Block as a brand you could trust. His midwestern demeanor projected confidence and Henry Bloch appeared in the company's commercials for years.

1978: The company began selling the idea that their expertise could save you money with the line, "What they know could save you dough."

That same year they had to come to terms with the fact that their rapid expansion required an army of trained tax professionals. To address this the company set up its own H&R Block income tax schools which exist today.

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In the 80's H&R Block began using computers to complete tax returns. In 1980 the company acquired CompuServe, a move that helped H&R Block grow and keep its 8,676 offices connected.

1986: Working with the IRS and Sears, the company took a leadership role in electronic filing. The test was a success. Electronic filing decreased filing errors and the consumer received their refund more quickly.

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1980's TV ads:

People will always have fears that they are paying too much or too little income tax but by 1985 they were selling the idea of bigger tax refunds if you used H&R Block. Henry Bloch is still in the commercials.

Sweeping tax changes drove the "Don't face the new tax laws alone" ads. Relevant to today's circumstances.

1999: That year the company tripled its ad budget from $30M to $100M to finance a new campaign which employed TV, radio, print and outdoor advertising. The campaign won Best of Show and Gold Medal awards but more importantly, helped H&R Block boost its 2000 sales 38% over the previous year!

The "Worried about Bill" campaign from advertising agency Y&R/Chicago debuted on Jan. 12, 2000.

2015: The company once again sold the idea of getting bigger refunds. The television ad for this campaign delivers a very compelling demonstration.

The DIY audience: By the mid-90's the company enabled DIYers a way to file their taxes using their software and by 2004 they added a DIY service with a tax pro review.

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2018: Virtual tax prep gives taxpayers tax office support without the office visit. H&R Block Tax Pro Go enables clients to get their taxes prepared and filed by a tax professional based on the information they provide online.

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H&R Block and IBM Watson: "H&R Block with Watson turns our 600 million data points and 60 years of tax expertise into a personalized tax preparation experience that is accessible and understandable - an experience you won't get anywhere else." Meg Sutton, director of client experience.

2018: "Get your taxes won." starring Jon Hamm

"The H&R Block mission is simple. We look at your life through tax and we find ways to help."

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What are the lessons for us today?

  1. While you may be starting with a new idea, innovation or brand extension, be open to unexpected opportunities that may present themselves.

  2. Do your research. Are market conditions creating an unexpected opportunity? Is there an unmet need?

  3. Be customer centric. Position your offering in a way that matters to your audience.

  4. Give serious consideration to what you name your brand.

  5. Build a brand voice that is recognizable.

  6. Test your idea by advertising or promoting it to gain exposure, validation and feedback.

  7. Brands choose audiences, but audiences choose brands. Pay attention to who responds to your offering and why.

  8. Be open to redirection and agile enough to accomplish it.

  9. Work to hit a nerve with your audience. Deliver benefits that connect emotionally as well as rationally.

  10. Keep it simple.

  11. Execute advertising with smart creative approaches that resonate.

  12. Align media channels to objectives and your audience's lives. People live in the world, use a variety of media channels to reach them efficiently and effectively.

  13. Monitor what works, adjust and grow with those insights.

  14. Innovate, advertise, analyze, repeat

  15. Remain customer centric

And above all persevere!

The Bloch brothers listened to the advice of a newspaper display advertising man back in 1955 to test the market with advertising, the rest is history.

Message delivery systems may evolve and change but advertising works, always has and always will.  Smart advertising built from powerful, overarching ideas, creatively executed works even better.

Naked Branding

We offer brand insight consulting to uncover unmet needs, new revenue streams and hidden value.

As branding strategists, we help define what’s unique about your company and brands and work with you to position your company or brands for success.

We design enduring brand marks and create brand personalities.

We give brands a strong voice through websites, digital marketing and advertising based on big ideas. Take a look

This is who we are and this is what we do. 

WE MAKE BUSINESS HAPPEN FASTER BY UNLOCKING THE POTENTIAL OF YOUR BRAND.


"Will your team be OK with that?"

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“We’ll help you think differently about how you market your brand. Will your team be willing to listen?"

“We’ll collaborate with you to look for fresh insights regarding what makes your brand highly valuable and to whom. Are you willing to take the time to examine that?”

“We’ll empower you to think differently about how your brand is unique and differentiated from its competition. Are you willing to dig into that?”

“We’ll identify the brand attributes and benefits that are the most valuable to your customers and work with you to position your brand as uniquely valuable to them. Will you be able to engage your stakeholders in this process?”

“We’ll then go to work articulating that position in a creative way that will resonate and connect intelligently and emotionally with your audience. Will your team be inspired by this?”

“We will work with you to develop an overarching theme or unique concept and create a cohesive look and feel so that the brand’s messaging and expression will feel consistent and harmonious across all of its touch points providing efficiency. This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Will you be able to make it to the finish line?”

“As we roll out and evaluate this team inspired work we promise we’ll always be an advocate for the customer and the customer’s experience with your brand, recognizing that your team faces relentless internal corporate pressures. Are you OK with that?”

Do you need someone to help your team take an honest look in the mirror at your brand, what it offers and what it projects? Do you need help moving your brand forward? We can help. Are you ready for that?

Naked Branding

We believe that a big idea transcends all touch points.

As branding strategists, we help define what’s unique about your company and brands and work with you to position your company or brands for success.

We design enduring brand marks and create brand personalities.

We give brands a strong voice through websites, digital marketing and advertising based on big ideas.

This is who we are and this is what we do.  WE MAKE BUSINESS HAPPEN FASTER.

 

 

Naming your brand?

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When it's time to select a name or rename the organization for strategic reasons, we find that frequently, everyone wants to participate in the naming process.

That can work if you start with the following important guidelines.

1.  Determine why it’s important and valuable to change the name of your organization. Are you changing the name to make the organization more relevant to your audience? There are many legacy brand names that no longer resonate or have appeal to today’s modern, youthful audience. Their names have simply outlived their usefulness. Instead of letting the organization drift into obscurity or becoming vulnerable to a disruptor, give some thought to renaming the organization and becoming fresh again.

Did you just go through a merger that would benefit from a fresh name that better aligns the two organizations? Are you changing the name to signal a change in the organization’s strategic focus? Laclede Gas became Spire. The name is much shorter, and they were able to move away from using a descriptor name that pigeon holed them into a specific industry and energy product class. Their new name allows them the freedom to grow in any industry or product category that is strategically useful to them.

2. Decide how you want your organization’s team members to participate in the process. If you want to allow everyone to think about names and offer suggestions, MAKE THE SUBMISSION PROCESS BLIND. Good names can come from anyone, but you don’t want the process to become biased because of who the contributor may be. You want the best name not the one the CEO, most vocal board member or biggest donor came up with.

3. Give your creative agency partner the authority to recommend the final name. You still get to have the final say but there will be a rationale that will support the process and provide you with insight. Your naming consultant has the experience to know what name will work best for many reasons. They will also be able to keep the process from becoming internally politicized. See #2

4. Look for a short name. A short name will provide you with the most flexibility in its use. Think of how much space it will occupy on a billboard. Think of how it will be used on building signage. Think of how it will look super small at the bottom of a sponsorship page with 20 other organization’s logos.

5. Look for a memorable name. Unique names can be very memorable because they are unique. Uber is a great example of this. It came from nowhere but now it’s a VERB! It’s easy to remember and say. Starbucks is memorable and their brand mark has become so iconic that they don’t even need to use their long name anymore. Their icon is sufficient.

6. Think beyond descriptive names.  They can become long and difficult to work with but if you can think of one that is short and is descriptive like Netflix or Lyft they can be considered. The strongest names and marks are those that are arbitrary, suggestive or fanciful.  They are the ones most able to achieve trademark protection too. Think Starbucks. Uber. Trivago. Prius. Apple. Nike.

7. Google the name to see who else may be using it. This won’t guarantee you trademark protection, but it will save you from wasting time exploring a name that is already in use in your category or geography. However, just because you may see another organization using the name on Google doesn’t necessarily make it off limits. If they are not in a competing space it may still be an option for you. You may even notice the name in use by places you’d like to distance yourself from. When we researched the name Silence we found gun silencers and chose to rethink our direction. If you think your organization may become national or even international, you will want to place greater consideration on who else is also using that name and have a lawyer do a deeper search of the availability of that name.

8. Go to GoDaddy.com and research what URLs are available. This step will also help you become more aware of your options. Do you need a .com or a .org? You may find out that one of the names that you desire can be purchased for a higher price. Sometimes it may be worth it to pay that price.

9. Watch out for choosing a name that may have numerous connotations, several spellings or is difficult to pronounce. When you’re close to the subject you may not see it coming but sometimes names chosen with the best of intentions that can become very problematic.

Spelling. There are many words in our language that sound the same but can be spelled

in different ways. Cell and Sell. Pear and Pare. Pray and Prey. Bridal and Bridle. Cite, Site, Sight. Council and Counsel.  Dual and Duel. Waive and Wave. You get the picture. Be mindful that you’re not setting yourself up confusion.

DANGER: Make certain you don’t inadvertently end up sounding like your competitors. Additionally, be careful the name you choose doesn’t have unintended meaning to other languages or cultures.

10. Go for a timeless quality. Everyone can look back and remember names that didn’t stand the test of time. Radio Shack was huge. They had a very descriptive name that was extremely relevant during that technology era but today, people don’t have any idea why to shop there. Even though they moved to the R inside of a circle the move didn’t happen soon enough and now they are facing obsolescence.

In summary, be strategic, keep it short, go for memorable and timeless. Arbitrary, suggestive and fanciful names are usually better than descriptive names. Stick to the above guardrails to avoid internal politics. Rely on your creative agency partner to recommend the very best option and you’ll benefit from a name for your organization that you’ll be happy with for years to come.

Naked Branding

We believe that a big idea transcends all touch points.

As branding strategists, we help define what’s unique about your company and brands and work with you to position your company or brands for success.

We design enduring brand marks and create brand personalities.

We give brands a strong voice through websites, digital marketing and advertising based on big ideas.

This is who we are and this is what we do.  WE MAKE BUSINESS HAPPEN FASTER.

If you’d like to get the conversation started about your businesses growth, click here.

What's the big idea?

Every business today wants a big, game changing idea to keep it growing, but they mistakenly think that big ideas come from data. They don’t.

Data may provide you with insights, but raw ideas come from disciplined, creative minds.

Big, game-changing ideas come from people with battle-tested intuition and unfettered imagination.

“Across companies and industries, we’re increasingly enabled with data, which means decision-making has never been more empowering. It also means that creativity has never been more important.” Spencer Rascoff, Zillow Group

Data can point the way, but bright ideas are the secret sauce that will help your brand soar.

Big ideas come from creative minds that can see opportunities in how to solve business problems with engaging solutions and creative excellence.

Big ideas come in all forms, but they have one thing in common, they connect emotionally and intellectually with their audiences. They often have thematic legs that can take your brand across the spectrum of today’s marketing channels and be useful for years. That’s why they’re worth investing in.

Big ideas that connect emotionally and intelligently with audiences and change behavior will ALWAYS be the right way to market ANYTHING!

They aren’t just valuable, they’re invaluable. But you need creative firepower to make it happen, which begs the question: Do you have people who think about the entire scope of the brand from the audience’s perspective. And if you do, are those people skilled at developing creative ideas and expressions big enough to build the brand?

We welcome working with your team to solve the business problems that big ideas can impact.

Join us in the world of big ideas, ideas that challenge and move the human spirit.

Naked Branding

We believe that a big idea transcends all touch points.

As branding strategists, we help define what’s unique about your company and brands and work with you to position your company or brands for success.

We design enduring brand marks and create brand personalities.

We give brands a strong voice through websites, digital marketing and advertising based on big ideas. Take a look.

This is who we are and this is what we do.  WE MAKE BUSINESS HAPPEN FASTER.

If you’d like to get the conversation started about your businesses growth, click here.

A 15-step guide to catching the BIG ONE

A 15-step guide to catching the BIG ONE:

  1. Think strategically
  2. Choose your target audience
  3. Know where they are
  4. Know what they like
  5. Position your brand to be valuable to your audience
  6. Figure out how to make a connection that matters to them
  7. Pay attention to when they’re in the market
  8. Think about where and when to send your message
  9. Send a creative message that resonates
  10. Get them engaged
  11. Don’t be impatient
  12. Let them come to you
  13. Be ready to send a different message if they're not biting
  14. Move to a different location if they’re not biting
  15. Test and analyze

SUCCESS!

Good things come to those who bait. *

Naked Branding

As branding strategists, we help define what’s unique about your company and brands and work with you to position your company or brands for success.

We design enduring brand marks and create brand personalities.

We give brands a strong voice through websites, digital marketing and advertising based on big ideas. Take a look at here.

This is who we are and this is what we do.  WE MAKE BUSINESS HAPPEN FASTER.

If you’d like to get the conversation started about your businesses growth, click here.

The muskie in the photo was caught by Dale Bartel on Eagle Lake, Ontario. It weighed in at 30lbs. plus and was immediately released after the photo op and is waiting for you. 

Is digital transformation driving you crazy?

You're not alone.

Here's the problem: At this moment in history, the words "digital transformation", are being applied to every aspect of business.

The strategy to improve processes with technology that enables an organization to run with greater efficiency is an important one. This investment is reminiscent of the industrial revolution when factories where build to engineer more efficient manufacturing processes.

While invaluable, the implementation of this kind of digital transformation is infrastructure related and tactical.

Developing business strategies to win audiences, gain market share and increase corporate value must always be first.

In marketing, digital transformation tactics should subordinate themselves to the Brand and its goals.

Your corporate brand and the brands you market must be created and expressed with personalities and benefits that add value to the audiences they serve. Brands pick audiences, but audiences also pick brands. Creating a brand that resonates and connects with your audience is critical to making business happen faster.

If you get this right, everything starts to fall into place, and you become extremely efficient.

Today there is an out-sized emphasis on digital tactics and analytics, but we've found that if you start with a specific business goal and support it with a big creative idea, your palette for connecting with your audience will be much larger and you'll have more successful outcomes.

As Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes put it, "it is not about doing 'digital marketing', it is about marketing effectively in a digital world."

At the end of the day, setting specific business goals that marketing can impact with intelligent strategies and creative solutions delivered across effective touch points is the most efficient way to support business growth.

So are you focused on brand goals and strategies, or are you losing your mind in the digital tactics trap?

Please take a look at our site to see how we've empowered businesses to grow with strong strategic thinking and dynamic creative.

 

The truth about what all brands need.

Every brand has a reason for being.

The scientists know what it is. The management knows what it is. And the engineers know what it is. Innovation, strategy and manufacturing have aligned to give birth. But what they have birthed is a product. 

It isn’t a brand until something is done to make it a brand. It has no personality until one has been created for it. And that’s what all brands need--a clearly defined personality.

The marketer that invests in building a distinctive personality for its new or existing brand will enjoy the largest margins and profit the most.

Prospects don’t know your brand exists or what you’ve created it to do. You’ve got to give your brand CONTEXT to help others recognize and relate to it.

“Most competing products are similar. It’s the way they are positioned and branded that distinguishes them in the marketplace. The fact is, you’re creating a presence and what that presence says about your product.” David Bartels, Chief Creative Officer.

Does your brand project an energetic, purposeful existence that invites others to engage with it? Does it project character and intelligence? Does it project the right name, gender and fashion to make it relatable to a modern audience? Does it have a distinct personality?

Every buyer of every product is a human and humans relate to their world through emotional and intellectual connections.

“When creating branding and advertising, it’s important to understand that virtually every purchase begins with emotion and ends with reason.” Donn Carstens, Creative Strategist

Make sure that your brand goes to market with a distinctive brand personality.

Naked Branding

As branding strategists, we help define what’s unique about your company and brands and work with you to position your company or brands for success.

We design enduring brand marks and create brand personalities.

We give brands a strong voice through websites, digital marketing and advertising based on big ideas.

This is who we are and this is what we do.  WE MAKE BUSINESS HAPPEN FASTER.

If you’d like to get the conversation started about your businesses growth, click here.

Do you know what B2B branding is really about?

Think about this: In the B2B world you’re either helping customers make money or helping them save money.

It’s one or the other. 

Next, think about this: Your customers are humans engaged in risk aversion. What they really want is to make a smart, safe decision. Are you helping them?

The brand you create goes a long way in helping your customers feel secure in their decision-making process, especially the RFP and funding processes. What are your customers really buying? Security and peace of mind.

Consider this: Your product isn’t born a brand. Before branding, your product doesn’t have a personality or reputation that others can relate to. It’s not a brand until something is done to make it a brand. It’s not a brand until you make it a brand. 

Branding and advertising are powerful tools that help build your business. 

"When creating branding and advertising strategies, it’s important to understand that virtually every purchase made begins with emotion and ends with reason.” Donn Carstens, Creative Strategist

Once you get this, you realize that using creative professionals to form and give personality and intelligence to your brand isn’t just valuable it’s INVALUABLE.

We can help. Our work is smart, surprising and proven. 

Visit our website to see how we make brands move. 

Come, join us in the world of big ideas where customer confidence is built and reputations are made.

Time to rethink your company's growth strategy?

As a daily reader of the Wall Street Journal, I read article after article about businesses whose growth strategy is acquisition and contraction.

When optimism for top line growth fades, the growth strategy becomes…

Acquisitions + Reductions = Growth.

Efficiency is fine, but when you get to the end of that, what do you do next?

Why not create new customers by leveraging your marketing dollars to generate excitement around your brand?

Develop a growth strategy that energizes and engages your audience. One that…

  • Shows Imagination.

  • Demonstrates Expertise.

  • Solves Problems.

We can help you succeed by taking this more imaginative direction.

 We can help you…BUILD YOUR BRAND. GROW YOUR BUSINESS.

The top 4 reasons to give your Brand a health checkup.

The good health of a Brand is important to any business, yet everyday, external pressures threaten it. That's why, from time to time, it’s important to give your Brand a checkup.

Every Brand risks becoming:

1. Dull

2. Outdated

3. Fractured

4. Marginalized

Healthy Brands are current, relevant and differentiated. They look and feel ALIVE.

If that’s your Brand, it is probably enjoying robust sales. But if your Brand has become dull, outdated, fractured or marginalized, it’s sales are declining and steps should be taken to breathe fresh life into it before it’s too late.

Sometimes brands need to be freshened up or rejuvenated to get the attention they deserve.

We can help by showing you how to stand out from your competition and project your brand with personality and intelligence.

Check here to see how we've helped other brands develop their professional personalities and drive business faster and further with strong, imaginative and forceful creative strategies.

Let's talk about how we can help give your brand a fresh approach.

Vitality!

This is a legitimate question with financial consequences.

Too many brands are head down, working extremely hard in the noble pursuit of creating and delivering products and services to their marketplace.

But what about vitality? The dictionary defines vitality as energy and strength.

Simple enough. Is that what your company is projecting?

Does your brand project that it is alive? Does it project youthful vitality?

Does your brand reflect the vitality of a company that you'd like to work for?

Here's how we help bring vitality to brands:

  1. Brand positioning that stands out from the competition and energizes your audience
  2. Brand identities with personality and intelligence
  3. Big ideas that bring your brand to life
  4. Distinctive brand communication that reflects your brand's personality
  5. Advertising and marketing that connects emotionally and intellectually with your audience

Look at our website to see how we bring brands to life.

We'd like to discuss with you how we can help your brand project more vitality.

Why Branding should get the CEO's attention.

Today’s C-Suite is exploding with new members. The Wall Street Journal published an article about CIOs gaining in stature and the size of the technology investments they are responsible for is astounding. WSJpdf

The article stated that top CIOs spend more time in the executive suite than in their data centers and that some are interacting with their CEO 6-7 times a day!

It’s understandable that corporations recognize that technology can play a significant role in their competitiveness, but let’s remind ourselves of why they are using technology in the first place, TO SUPPORT THEIR BRAND.

Let’s take a step back for a minute.

A product isn’t born a brand it’s born a product. It’s not a brand until something is done to make it a brand. Branding can make a huge difference in the life of a product. It provides the product with a persona that people can relate to and remember.

Brands pick audiences but consumers pick brands. This is true for both Business to Consumer and Business to Business brands. Again, branding can make a huge difference in the life of a product.

Even unbranded” companies in truth are branded they just haven’t viewed themselves through the lens of their audience. They should and assess whether they feel comfortable with their brand image and persona in the marketplace.

To create a brand a strategic brand vision is necessary. That vision starts by analyzing the brand’s point of difference and value from the perspective of the consumer. It ends with the brand’s expression across all touch points. 

The C-Suite title usually assigned to create and manage the emerging or renovating brand is the CMO. Even though the CMO holds the responsibility for this effort there is another C-Suite voice that needs to give it their attention and be an active participant. That person is the CEO.

The role the CEO plays in branding should not be underestimated.

There are many reasons why the CEO should be invested in the branding or rebranding process.

Here are mine.

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THEY HAVE PERSPECTIVE

The CEO is the only one in the company with a holistic view. Other senior leadership members may provide insight but their viewpoint is frequently biased by their subject matter expertise and departmental goals. Only the CEO has the 360˚ view from the top.

THEY HAVE TO ADVOCATE FOR THE BRAND

While everyone in the company should share in the responsibility of being a brand advocate it is the CEO who is often on the front line representing the brand. Stockholders, shareholders, investors, community leaders, boards, the media, employees, family, friends and even competitors associate the CEO with the brand.

IT’S PERSONAL

It’s hard to believe but many CEO’s don’t care what their brand looks like or what personality it projects but many do and ALL SHOULD. It’s has to feel awkward to be a CEO with great taste leading a company that hasn’t paid attention to the way it appears in the marketplace since its beginnings. If you’re that person it’s imperative that you invest your time in the branding or rebranding process for your own reputation as well as the reputation of your company in the marketplace.

If you’re not that person, you certainly realize that the brand you are the face of says volumes about you, your taste and how likely you are to support innovation. Make sure you have a CMO with taste and give them the latitude and budget to hire the best resources available. In other words, you definitely want to be viewed as wearing a good suit.

THEY HAVE TO LEAD THE BRAND FORWARD

A CEOs most significant responsibility is to grow the company.

A company without a brand runs the risk of being viewed as a commodity. It’s pricing is more susceptible to discounts and price undercutting.

Solid brands on the other hand generally enjoy greater profit margins. 

Smart branding inspires confidence and increases value. And this translates into better financial performance.

Once a brand achieves a level of awareness and establishes an emotional connection with its audience its marketing dollars are more efficiently spent. The strongest brands usually become the market leaders in their category.

If you want to explore the list of the world’s most valuable brands, click here for Forbes's list of the world's most valuable brands http://onforb.es/1XvAiiP

Business to Consumer brands top the list, but we think that Business to Business businesses really underestimate the power of brand building and the value it can bring to their market share and the bottom line. There is much opportunity to grow your company by growing your brand whether you’re a global enterprise or a local one.

Your brand’s identity is your first touch point. It says volumes about how you want your business to be perceived. It gives your audience a way to relate to your brand. Yet, untold numbers of companies overlook this or get this most important first impression wrong.

For most businesses the next most important asset is their website. Your website also makes a first impression. Giving it the right look and feel and valuing your customer’s experience when using your site are critically important to positively growing your brand identity.

Providing ample resources to get these two early consumer touch points done right is money wisely invested. Don’t skimp on hiring a good firm. Choose one that can provide you with help positioning your brand, create an enduring brand mark and a consumer centric website.

THEY HAVE TO SET THE CULTURE

Your company already has a culture whether you define it with words or not. Is your corporate culture helping grow the business or keeping growth stagnant?

Do employees have a clear understanding of what the corporate culture values?

Like it or not, the CEO frequently shoulders the heavy lifting in setting the cultural tone for the company.

Branding can have a positive impact internally as well as externally. A unified brand across all touch points builds the brand’s personality. Once you move the focus from the CEO and give intellectual ownership of the brand to everyone in the company you enable your most valuable assets (your people) to speak with brand clarity magnifying your brand.

Your external audience will also be able to relate to your culture and feel more comfortable and confident in how they experience your brand.

A positive culture is usually no accident.

THEY HAVE TO DRIVE SYNCHRONICITY

Every company should inspire confidence by projecting that it’s modern, innovating and moving forward. There are a lot of moving pieces and parts. Branding is only one of them. Those CIO’s that were mentioned at the top of the article are essential to the process. So is the rest of the C-Suite team. CMO’s may have the responsibility to lead the branding process but access to and collaboration with an engaged CEO will make the process go more smoothly.

When corporate support systems build themselves around a brand vision everyone will get there with greater clarity and speed. Your customers and employees will be happier and so will your CEO!

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We believe that a good idea transcends all touch points. 

As branding strategists we help define what’s unique about your company and work with you to position your company for success.

We design enduring brand marks and websites that engage.

Big ideas that resonate, engage and move your audience are what we excel at.

Expressing those ideas across all touch points means that your branding, advertising and communication achieve synchronicity and perform efficiently.

This is who we are and this is what we do.  It’s simple, really, but not easy.

WE HELP MAKE BUSINESS HAPPEN FASTER WITH CREATIVITY THAT DRIVES ROI.

If you'd like to get the conversation started about your businesses growth,                     click here and let's talk.

Ceci Bartels CEO

 

5 things Marketing wishes CEO's understood about marketing

  1. To win we have to be customer centric not company centric.

  2. Business growth is achieved faster when we are differentiated.

  3. Building a strong brand provides real financial value.

  4. Business growth increases more swiftly By taking creative risks.

  5. Brand building is not a sprint it's a marathon that requires big ideas.

The marketing department of an organization can often appear to be a mysterious place to upper management. On a good day they represent the magic kingdom and on a bad day they represent all that's wrong with the company's sales. 

But the truth is, the marketing team represents one of the largest value building engines in the company so it's good to understand what's at the core of their magic (or, what it takes to work their magic).

Is your brand CUSTOMER centric or COMPANY centric? 

Customer centric branding and messaging is critical. It's obvious but it's not easy or even usual. 

Most companies are company centric because they start from an interest in expressing who the company is and what it does. There are a lot of reasons for this. First of all, it's just natural. Telling people who you are and what you do is normal. However, when you're in business and your desire is to make your business known, liked and trusted by an audience, you have to introduce yourself in a manner that your audience will find interesting and valuable...to them. 

Second, all marketing teams face the daily internal political environment. The pressure to please their internal managers can be intense and even the best marketing departments can lose sight of their consumer's interests when interfacing with their management and management's varying agendas.

Third, brand marketers work within their set of immediate problems and challenges. They view what they need to do through that lens often focusing on urgent internal needs. 

Support your team in making customer centric marketing and you'll be a hero.

Why business growth is achieved faster through differentiation.

People are bombarded with information. The way we cope with overload is to compartmentalize. We allow the information that is interesting, relevant and useful into our minds and we disregard the rest. Categorizing is helpful to us. We're also emotional beings and we process information both rationally and emotionally.

A brand must differentiate itself to win a spot in our crowded minds. Positioning a brand to win means identifying what makes your brand uniquely different.  What can your brand say that others can't, aren't or won't say? What benefits does your brand provide your audience both rationally and emotionally? Standing out from your competition clearly, succinctly and memorably is critical in helping your audience remember and prefer what you offer.  It builds confidence in your brand. 

If you get that right, you'll be able to fly past the competition.

Strong brands provide real financial value to the companies that invest in building them.

Studies have shown that companies with strong brands are able to attract and retain more customers, charge more for what they offer, retain employees longer and generate higher margins. 

Whether you market to a business audience or a consumer audience you're marketing to a human and human's use brands to help organize their preferences.

Take a look at Forbes' list of the world's most valuable brands and the value of building a strong brand will become painfully obvious. http://onforb.es/1XvA

Spending money on building a customer centric brand pays off. 

Why a CEO should care about taking creative risks.

"Creativity is the most practical thing a businessman can employ," Ad legend Bill Bernbach.

You can build your brand the hard way by muscling your way to success or you can build your brand an easier way by using powerful, big creative ideas that are well executed.

To be honest, most people either can't get their heads around this, don't know how to pull it off or are just too fearful to take the risk.

But everyone CAN advance their business more swiftly with powerful, big creative ideas well executed. Big ideas are the best value around. They have the ability to break through and engage your audience. They allow you to stand out and be remembered. They are media agnostic. They may even grow into a creative platform that will allow you to reach your customers in all kinds of ways. They aren't valuable, they are invaluable.

Be the champion of big ideas.

Brand building is not a sprint it's a marathon that should be done with enduring creative assets.

I like to say, "Branding is a verb".

The way your brand expresses itself provides your audience with clues about your brand's personality and value.

Your brand's identity is your first touch point. It says so much about how you want your business to be perceived. It gives someone a way to relate to your brand. Yet, untold numbers of companies overlook this or get this most important first impression wrong.

For most businesses the next most important asset is their website. Your website also makes a first impression. Giving it the right look and feel and valuing your customer's experience when using your site are critically important to positively growing your brand's identity.

Providing the resources to get these two early touch points done right is money invested wisely. Don't skimp on hiring a good firm who can provide you with an enduring brand mark and consumer centric website.

When it comes to engaging with your audience big ideas that endure over time make a real difference. It's easy to focus on the media tactics, especially the newest ones, but if you aren't differentiating your brand and pursuing a bid idea that resonates with your audience you're wasting they money you're investing in media no matter how measurable it is. Sorry, I know that this truth hurts.

It's easier to purchase media than to create engaging creative.  Give your team the support they need to craft creative worth spending money on.

 

We believe that a good idea transcends all touch points.

As branding strategists we help define what's unique about your company and work with you to position your company for success.

We design enduring brand marks and websites that engage.

We create big ideas that resonate, engage and move your audience.

WE HELP MAKE BUSINESS HAPPEN FASTER WITH CREATIVITY THAT DRIVES ROI.

This is who we are and this is what we do. It's simple, really, but not easy.

If you'd like to get the conversation started, click here and let's talk

Ceci Bartels, CEO

 

 


 

 

Observations and Musings

Wonderment, amazement and appreciation.   

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This is the time of year when magic is in the air. 

If you’re like me you know when you’re experiencing something magical and this week when the St. Louis Symphony performed the music of Pixar, with scenes from those movies coordinated to the orchestration, it was magical.

It is sheer joy to witness extraordinary creative expression.

People just know when they’re in the presence of a high quality creative product and revel in it just like people know when they’re not and want to run from it.

But what makes up a high quality creative product? What happens to create the emotional connection that allows this magic to happen? 

Is it the writer or creative director who came up with the original idea and gave it its shape and form?
Is it the creative process with its twists and turns and seemingly endless rewrites and concept boards in pursuit of the optimum expression of that idea or content?
Is it the proper selection of uniquely talented individuals invited to participate in the expression of that idea?
Is it the steady hand of the managers and support staff that keep the entire team enthusiastic and on track toward the creative goal?

It’s all of the above. The realization of a quality creative product requires a team of uniquely gifted, talented professionals working together through a disciplined and often serendipitous creative process to create a final outcome that stands up to the word excellent.

So let’s marvel at what inspiration and creativity add to our world and celebrate the wonder and magic that comes from it.

Happy New Year!

Ceci Bartels