Coffee bags that resemble old motor oil cans, Americana flavoring, and as the designer quips “Coffee for yer Pops.” Fuel America is the brainchild of Commoner, Inc., a Boston-based identity studio that makes logos and trademarks fun again. You could get lost for a while in their Dribbble account, but I recommend it highly. But let’s focus on this one brand identity for a moment, because it’s loaded with great inspiration and solid branding lessons.
All posts in Brand Experience
The change to a forced Timeline display for all Facebook pages at the end of this week (March 30th!) has many of us scrambling to make sure our Pages look good in this new view. Here are some things I’m learning that might help you make your Page as appealing as possible given the constraints and limitations of forcing your content into a “timeline”.
HOLD THE PRESSES!!
JCP, or JC Penney, or whatever we are supposed to call them this week, has changed their logo again. Sadly, it still looks like something done in Powerpoint. How do they keep doing this???? Behold…
We’ve been taking the time to create press releases meant for online publications about the recent live events we’ve done using our Twitterface tool, with some good results.
Lisa began this practice while at LightThread using a variety of paid and free online PR channels and trackingresults. She experienced the best results from prlog.org, obtaining front page search results within 24 hours of release and months later continuing to get front page search results. Prlog also makes it easy to link on your Facebook profile in addition to bookmarking through Delicious.
The benefits of doing this are:
- Backlinks to your site helps SEO with search engines. You will get linked to from the press release sites and anyone who picks up the story and posts about it from their site.
- People find you and your offer that might not have, otherwise… we’ve seen pretty significant results with this about the Chip Foose-John Deere event we did (they are a big brand after all so that helped) but with every release we’ve sent out, we’ve been surprised at the number of blogs and sites that have found it and posted the information or linked to the release or our site from theirs.
- It formalizes your operations. Last week Lisa zipped off a list to our team of all we have accomplished in the last 8 weeks. It is surprising how far we have come in only the past 2 months since she came on board. These press releases help us see our progress over time and give us a list of “News” items we can refer back to each year to see some of the highlights of what we’ve done.
- It’s free, save a little bit of time writing the release and posting it to the press release sites. Though we will do more formal and traditional paid announcements at various times, using this approach we’re only spending the time it takes to write and polish the release, and it’s well worth it.
- It adds credibility to your small business. Let’s face it… times are tough. Capturing quotes from happy customers and tooting your own horn in a non-pushy way can only help your efforts to sell products or services in a buyer’s market. Every little bit of promotion helps add to the overall number of people who hear about what you’re doing!
Keep in mind the free sites take a bit of time to set up your profile but once you use them the first time they are much easier to use again in the future. Please feel free to leave your favorite press release site in the comments section!
Two different friends of ours on Twitter, @simonkuo and @britt_w, shared a link that I had not had time to look at until today. Once I did, I was amazed. Experience Paris… the whole city, like never before.
I have long had a fascination with what lies across the sea. Though I’ve not been to Europe yet, I have often imagined myself there for reasons unknown even to me. The idea of many places there just call to me, but this panoramic view of Paris offers lessons beyond appeasing a girl’s fancies.
Immersion into an environment like this IS the ultimate experience, and it’s far better than Second Life or a virtual reality. Zoom in closely, and you can see people eating on a terrace, or the Saints on the top of the Sainte Chappelle, something you could not see as closely if you were there in person.
This wonderful site is not the only place you can feel as if you’re standing in front of a place you’ve never been. Google Maps latest “street view” feature for many places is totally amazing. To revisit a place you lived as a child, explore the home of a friend you’ve met online, study a city you’re moving to before you arrive… it’s all possible now for a lot of major places by just putting in the address and zooming around the nearby streets.
So how does this translate to your business? Are you giving people something tangible to see so they almost feel they are experiencing it firsthand? When we redesigned the APS website we went in and took photos of the location, staff and even some faux surgery photos to give people an up-close look at what working with these plastic surgeons, nurses and supporting staff would be like. @zachishere and @simonkuo from Westside Studio did a great job capturing different aspects of a “day in the life” of these busy doctors and staff and we used them throughout the site, telling a graphic story in pictures that are more compelling than stock photography ever could be (we have a few of those mixed in as well, but not many.)
Don’t just paint a picture in words of what you can do for people… find a way to have them experience it. Our friend Kamran @swagclub sends unforgettable goodie boxes to people sometimes (we loved our gifts!!), knowing that’s the best way for people to get what receiving customized promotional merchandise can feel like when it’s a good fit for the audience.
I’d love to hear how you make things tangible for people in the comments. I will be thinking about this for our products and services too, as digital goods are often just experienced via samples online. An interesting challenge, to be sure!
I’m excited to see some brand redesigns that have recently occurred, to two long-standing brands we are all so used to we probably don’t even think about them much, for bananas and ketchup.
Heinz has updated, with brilliant results, the lowly ketchup packet and if you think about it, you’ll see how people and their needs factored into this design. The old ketchup packets can be messy, inconvenient (if eating while driving, and unfortunately, we have to do that sometimes) and they don’t even hold much. The new condiment packaging is more like a small tub, so you can peel back the cover to dip your fries or whatever in it, OR you can rip off the top and squeeze out the contents. The beautiful part of the design is that it resembles a tiny bottle of ketchup… this was inspired creative thinking, to solve real complaints by customers for over 30 years, and I really love it! Yahoo has an excellent piece on this from the company’s perspective about how and why they made this change and what took them so long… they’ve apparently been working on a new design for years.
Chiquita Bananas have also been modernized, with a playful, icon set of stickers that will introduce a whole new cast of characters to banana lovers. Stickers, games and a Facebook community give people something to play with and talk about… there are even skateboard graphics! Everyone knows bananas are healthy to eat, but with all of these little images and fun ways to participate with the brand itself socially, now I believe they’ll be more fun. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this positively impact Chiquita’s bottom line. The graphics are kid-friendly, but not kid-like, if that makes sense… they will appeal to adults too, especially those who Tweet and hang out at Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and the like, where we talk in OMG’s and LOL’s. The images are quirky, fun and cool. There’s a wonderful article with a lot of details about the design here… check it out! Their website also rocks – very interactive and playful… corporate businesses could stand to take some lessons from it about how to present information in small chunks and make exploring a site fun and compelling.
The thing that cannot be denied is that people are increasingly affecting what brands do, where they participate online, and what they offer. And that’s a great thing! We’ve had focus groups and marketing analysis for years, but those efforts to get into customer’s heads by nature, can only represent a small sampling. With the advent of social conversations, sentiment analysis, and being able to directly ask anyone listening online what they think about your brand, or what they need, the opportunities for hitting the target when changing a product or service are better than ever. I have noticed, in the last six months, nearly every single proposal we do has SOME element of social marketing or social presence in it, because it’s needed (we think) or wanted (by the prospect.) Despite the economic troubles nearly everyone has faced, it’s a really fun time to be in the business of branding, marketing and selling!
Two well-known brand strategists engaged in a conversation on Twitter yesterday that caught my attention. Olivier Blanchard, The BrandBuilder and Gabriel Rossi were discussing some of the problems companies have, in their opinion, with marketing and branding.
Gabriel said “People who criticize Marketing & Branding need to learn to see the value of brands as a powerful socio-economic force“, and Olivier’s response was like a glass of cold water in the face: “… as opposed to looking at Marketing and Branding as the discipline of putting together ads, brochures and mailers.”
I’ve worked with so many companies on branding and marketing and that is what I do for them. In fact they often hire me because I am a “big picture” person who can help define and create the vision for the tangible brand, and then backtrack and execute the myriad of details to make it a reality. That has been my role, but I know that while appearance and physical materials are critical components of a successful branding effort, they are only the uppermost layer.
So often, my personal experience with companies is that we are focused on the appearance and business strategy and deals, but we don’t have time to go deep into the heart and soul of the brand and find ways to expose and communicate that. This problem reminds me of an artichoke, and I have slapped together a graphic here to try to demonstrate what I’m talking about…
The heart of a brand, like that of an individual, is vulnerable. It must be both soft enough to prove genuine caring, and strong enough to withstand scrutiny and adversity. But it is your core offering – not your products and services – and if you aren’t in touch with and know what’s in the heart, establishing lasting relationships with customers will be difficult or hit and miss. Do you want a shallow relationship with the people that interact with your brand, or a sympathetic bond that can withstand conflicts?
There are not enough hours in the day – I am all too aware of this, as I often find the bulk of my day being spent on putting out fires, or trying to take advantage of a new opportunity. It’s no wonder, between meetings, presentations, adminstration, lead generation, chasing down dollars owed and creating new content that digging very deep beneath the surface just does not seem to happen. In fact, I had to write this blog post over lunch and was not really present at the table with people, or it wouldn’t have happened. This happens to a lot of us, every day. Too many great ideas, lots of drive, but just not the time or resources to make it all happen now.
But we all need to try to carve out the time to make sure we are in touch with what matters most. Engaging people from the heart of your brand, being vulnerable and forging true and lasting customer relationships, is what will keep companies alive and thriving, through good times and bad times.
I want to thank my personal brand experts on Twitter for giving me great food for thought – not just yesterday, but quite often. The realization is one thing… figuring out what to about it, is a task for another day!