Building a Brand by Design

These days a lot of my work centres on innovation, change and business consulting, but from time to time I get the chance to dive deeply into branding. Now, as a strong believer in the power of brands and marketing to create change and impact, I see a natural affinity between culture and system change, startups and new product development but when we overlay these with strategy and design thinking, interesting things start to happen.

At the moment we’re working on a new brand. It’s a ground up brand construction – so it’s truly greenfields. But where do you start? How do you find a map and how do you follow it?

Having created many new brands in this way, there are some simple steps to follow.

  1. Naming: The naming of your new brand can be fraught – but should be fun. Coming up with a name that is descriptive enough for your customers but imaginative enough to draw them in can take far longer than you can imagine. Then once you have a name, securing and registering it can take time and more than a little money. There are some agencies dedicated to naming, and if you have a big budget it would be fabulous to work with them … but if you’re running a startup, chances are you’ll be doing the naming over a few beers with your mates. Be sure to think through the various combinations of the name and how it will be used. After all, you don’t want to follow the example of promo pen company Pen Island.
  2. Planning: No surprise here – but I get quite a kick out of the planning process. From building out the communications architecture through to building out the business case, planning is an important step for any startup. You’ll be amazed what you can learn in a couple of days – and the research and analysis (not to mention the discipline) will hold you in good stead as you start to seek funding and build your core team.
  3. Visual design: Most people think that branding is about logos. A logo is just part of the branding process … but it does need to be given time and attention. And budget always helps. Even if you have budget, it still helps greatly to provide a solid brief to your designer – which is where your planning will help. Make sure you share your research and thinking – explain the various use cases and audiences that your new business will impact. Provide a list of “attributes” that describe your brand. Be clear about the vision you have for the future of your brand. All this information should soak into the appearance of your logo and the visual design of your band.

Now that you have a name, some understanding of the potential of your business and some ideas for your logo, take that list of attributes and find them in the list in this infographic from MuseDesign. Pay special attention to other logos that you see and that you admire. Think about how they are using colour to engage you emotionally. What can you learn from great logos? Which designs make your heart jump?

New communications for new times – the next 100 seconds

Communications, marketing and media don’t operate in a vacuum. They are part of the culture of our times.

It’s why we look back on old advertising with a sense of “days gone by” – after all good advertising and communications convey a story and context that goes far beyond the simple message.

So it is not surprising that in this time of COVID-19 crisis, that we are seeing new types, forms and approaches to communication. These new approaches are not necessarily one thing or the other – they are not WHOLLY advertising, nor wholly marketing or even “public communications” that we would recognise. They are hybrids.

One of the more interesting experiments that is evolving is futurist, Mark Pesce’s NEXT ONE HUNDRED SECONDS.

Each day, around 9am Australian Eastern Time, Mark releases a 100 second video clip looking into the near future and challenging his audience to think, act and share.

Themed to connect with Pesce’s award winning Next Billion Seconds podcast, this short, daily video release feels like a hack of platforms and styles. It’s a self-made Frankenstein’s monster combining the immediacy of Twitter, the reach of social media, the urgency of social media video, thematics of TikTok and the seriousness and authority of science podcasting.

No doubt, we’ll see more of this emerge in the coming months. More media. More platforms. And hopefully, more hope.

Safe on Social Media? Don’t Bank on It

Often when we hear of “hacking” or more correctly “cyber hacking”, we hear about how personally identifiable information or secure information has been compromised. This can take the form of files and images or it can be photos, information that confirms our identity and more.

And while a great deal of attention is spent on securing digital systems, one of the most common forms of cyber hacking is “social engineering”. This is where small amounts of personal information are taken from your online profiles and then used to broker more detailed information about you. For example, checking in to a hotel via social media can yield surprisingly useful information that can be used to gain more worrying data, such as your date of birth or address.

How does this work? This interview / experiment from CNN will raise your eyebrows.

The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage

You know when you hear a story how it can inspire, engage and move you? Sometimes you can feel it happening. Sometimes you know it is happening intellectually but can’t quite put your finger on the trigger.

It often feels that we are focusing on positivity over truth – but when an emotional truth breaks through – in a story or experience – we know it for what it is. The challenge for us all is to tell that deeper story – because while it is not always positive, it is liberating.

Blogging into the future

When I started this blog, way back in 2005, I began with a hypothesis. I wanted to write 999 articles exploring the collision of consumer culture and business – and my focus was on proving or disproving a topic at a time.

I began by writing anonymously – fearing that my personal explorations here might impact my professional work. Eventually, after prompting from Ann Handley, I changed this approach, started writing for MarketingProfs and began publishing under my own name.

As the world of blogging and social media started to take off, Drew McLellan and I ventured into the world of crowdsourced publishing with The Age of Conversation. We wanted to know whether there was some emergent value in blogging as a new form of consumer engagement – so we asked the people who were at the forefront of the journey – bloggers. We brought together 103 authors from 15 countries and published the first edition within three months of conception. It was amazing.

A couple of years later we published a second and a third edition. Across these three editions we published around 300 authors and sold thousands of copies that raised tens of thousands for charity. And at the same time, it generated a community of marketers that remain connected to this day.

But times have changed.

This article by Andreas Stegmann looks at the role of the personal blog in 2019. He shares his analysis and insight around many of the assumptions that held water a few years ago:

  • Own your home – do you need to write on your own blog or should you simply use LinkedIn or Medium as your publishing platform? My view is that it depends on what you are trying to achieve – but in general I remain convinced that there is power (and simplicity) in “sharing the message, owning the destination” – and that means post and update on social channels, but write and archive on your own site.
  • Content is king – up until recently, blogs were seen as the most important factor in driving digital and social media presence. But as Andreas points out, content is not king. It is table stakes.
  • Play to a niche – write on a single topic or subject area. Even a blog on marketing can spin off in hundreds of directions. Writing to a niche will take you so far – but may not reflect either the needs of your writing nor the needs of your audience.

So where to from here?

Writing a blog takes effort and attention. It’s not a simple thing to do. But writing requires you to think through and articulate concepts in a way that tweeting or sharing content via social media does not. And for those of us who work at the point where people and technology meet – and where the future of work and ways of working continue to evolve, I feel that writing and publishing (yes video and podcasting too) may be the best form of future thinking and future proofing that we can do.

Merit wins out, right?

The idea of meritocracy – that innate talent and hard work are the drivers of success – is often promoted as the reason that we should turn away from diversity quotas. But political philosopher Michael Sandel provides a refreshing critique.

Apple Mac Pro or Cheese Grater

There are some things I like about Apple products. When they “just work” they are great – but over the last few years, the limits of a closed ecosystem have been exposed. These days we are looking further afield for our design-conscious devices, content and computing. Even the once transformative iTunes is closing down.

But when Apple recently launched its new Mac Pro, comparisons were drawn not with high-end design of fashionable devices, but with low tech, everyday living implements.

Marketers, always keen to step into a pop-culture moment saw this as an opportunity. This ad for IKEA Bulgaria is certainly understated, but no doubt, it will grate on the nerves of the Apple designers.

There has been a long period of analysis and graft around media and communication, with particular focus on the role of news, the emergence of “fake news”, orchestrated misinformation and global political upheaval. I am hoping that we will see more of the sense of play on display here. It encourages us to see beyond the shallowness of words and the divisive nature of “positions” towards the humanity and humour that connects us all.

Getting to Know the Twitter Algorithm

Each of the social media platforms continually evolve their platforms, approaches and algorithms. Sometimes these changes are noticeable and require us to reset our expectations and use. Other times, the changes appear invisible – yet impact our ways of working. For marketers this can prove frustrating – and occasionally exciting, with new benefits emerging.

Digital Information World have produced an infographic that captures a history of Twitter’s algorithm but also provides some helpful tips to improve your Twitter activity. Much of this is simple, but worth reinforcing:

  • Treat Twitter as an engagement and conversation channel
  • Respond to messages and updates
  • Set an agenda using hashtags
  • Use media
  • Update your stream regularly.

Perhaps most importantly, remember to use Twitter Analytics to understand what is working and not working within your network.

Generating Leads with Infographics

Visual content attracts people to your site and services. But visual content – and in particular – infographics -have a very specific job to do. They have to help progress your customer’s journey.

Around 60% of customers have already done research and are thinking about buying by the time they find your website. This means:

  • 60% of your visitors need more information from you to help convince them to proceed
  • 40% aren’t even at the “awareness” stage.

This makes for challenging messaging.

How then is it possible to:

  • Make a lasting and memorable first impression?
  • Keep your visitor’s attention long enough to begin a deeper engagement
  • Convince your visitor to provide some kind of contact information (eg email or phone).

The SEMrush folks have some great statistics on capturing attention:

  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual
  • Captioned text is read 4x more than body copy
  • 50% of your brain is active in visual processing
  • 70% of your sensory receptors are in your eyes
  • We process images 60,000x faster than text
  • 40% of people respond better to visuals.

But visuals are not a silver bullet. They are part of your engagement and lead generation toolkit.

Spiralytics have put together this handy infographic on creating infographics. It shows how you can use data, design, layout and messaging to create a relevant, shareable, lead generating infographic.

The next thing, of course, is to get your infographic in front of your audience. And that’s where your strategy will need to kick in.

Dear Tech: Let’s Do Better

We all want to believe in something larger than ourselves. We want to believe that our words, deeds and actions can make a difference in the world – what Steve Jobs described as “making a dent in the universe”.

But over the last decade, it feels like we have all been knuckling down, focusing on near term data – the next quarter, the month end numbers, the little things that allow us to scrape by week-by-week.

I’m not suggesting all these things are not important. After all, we do need to make our numbers, pay our rent, keep the wolves from the door.

But when did we give up on our dreams of creating a better place than the one we found ourselves in? When did the BIG picture become the landscape for our fears rather than our aspirations? Isn’t it time we re-evaluate?

If there is something that the last decade has taught us, it’s that complex change requires complex solutions. Sure, we can gravitate towards the simple slogan and an easy promise – but the simple truth is that change is hard. It requires effort. And that this future is already here.

The good thing is, is that we’re not alone in this. We have access to the best and brightest minds of our generation, right now. There are massive global corporations turning their attention to fundamental issues and a future that is full of opportunity not fear. It’s why I love this open letter from IBM.

Technology was the defining innovation of the 20th Century, and it looks to be continuing into the 21st. This open letter represents not just an invitation, but a call for participation. Together we can make a difference in the industries that employ our populations and provide purpose and work – like finance, retail, telecommunications and healthcare. But the same rings true for government, the environment and society. Technology has the potential to impact poverty, wellbeing, education and even champion data rights as human rights.

It’s possible. We’ve just got to expect more from technology and the people who work with and in it.