I recently took part in a team building experience that was so impactful that I felt the need to share it here.
This happened at a firm that is one of my newest clients. The firm has been around for some time but is currently reinvigorating its team and processes, and so is in many ways in a start-up mode. The company invited Shindy Media to help tell its story in brand messaging and in a corporate video.
I've only been working with this team for a few weeks, but in that short space of time we've built a good working relationship, one that I highly value.
Even so, I was not prepared for the experience I just had at their office.
The firm's CEO invited me to attend a team lunch, including not only employees but also members of their extended team — service providers who have been assisting the firm with a variety of different business functions, from sales and marketing to accounting and IT services.
At the lunch, as festive music played, the CEO announced two milestones to celebrate — a new hire after an extensive search, and just-completed sales to two brand new accounts.
To celebrate, we were each given a helium balloon to pop in unison, which showered us all in colorful confetti. We were also given tightly rolled up pieces of paper. Inside: two $100 bills. Said the CEO, “One is to thank you for your contribution to the team, and the other is for a random act of kindness.”
In addition to the balloons and cash, we each received a personalized card handwritten by the CEO expressing thanks and recognition.
Some of the members of the extended team have been working with this company for years. I'd been working with them for only a few weeks. Yet, I was fully included in this experience.
The feeling of mutual appreciation and camaraderie was palpable — all the more so because of the CEO's genuineness. This person truly appreciates the contributions of everyone who is helping to actualize the company's goals — even someone who's only been involved for a few weeks — and the CEO wanted to show it in a tangible way.
This small token speaks volumes to me about the CEO's vision to build a loyal, dedicated and happy team. This is an example of great culture building, plain and simple, and by extension, great brand building.
Thanks for joining me on the brander's journey. See you in the next post.
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The more things die, the more they stay alive.The media seem to be constantly predicting the imminent death of a technology or medium.
And, one of our favorites, “Long form copy is dead.”
However, like all the other “dead” items listed above, long form copy is actually alive and well.
First, what is long form copy?
Quite simply, it is copy that is…long. It has lots of words. Lots of sentences. Lots of paragraphs. It takes a while to read. It requires an attention span beyond fifteen seconds…and typically, beyond two minutes.
It is the polar opposite of a Twitter post, which is just 140 characters.
Long form is the kind of copy that advertising legend David Ogilvy loved.
And, it’s the kind of copy most modern marketers hate.
Why marketers hate long form copy:
Because, nobody has the attention span to read long form copy anymore, many marketers say. Their reasoning: we live in a rapid-fire, media-overload, 140-characters-max world now. Nobody has the time or interest to read anything longer than a few short bullet points. Keep it short; get in and get out.
In reality, however, it’s not the length of the copy that affects reader interest. It’s how the copy is written, and its appropriateness to the topic and to the reader’s wants and needs.
Readers hate bad copy, not long copy.
What people don’t have attention span for is bad copy – copy that is off point, poorly written, poorly organized, is more about praising a company than addressing a customer problem or desire, or just plain boring.
Of course there are many times when short copy is far better than long copy, such as when promoting a very simple product – like a candy bar, or a bar of soap. “Yum.” may be all you need on a billboard for the Dove chocolate bar, or “silky smooth skin” on a full-page ad for Dove soap.
On the other hand, when it comes to making a purchase decision about something complex and/or expensive, people are hungry for information that will help them make the right decision. Examples include everything from buying a car or an expensive camera to evaluating corporate enterprise IT platforms. People will consume countless online articles and reviews, white papers, and even whole books to make sure they feel informed enough to make the best purchase decision. This is just human nature.
So, how long your copy should be depends on the information requirements of your customers. Those people who are in your target market – that is, have a real need for your product or service – will be happy to read your long copy if it gives them the information they seek.
You’ve also got to be a good storyteller.
How many times have you picked up a good, 300+ page novel and read it from start to finish because it was so good, you just couldn’t put it down? Or “binged watched” all the episodes of a season of “Breaking Bad” in one night? Or sat riveted through a three-hour movie? These are all examples of long-form consumption, and people do this all the time.
If the content is engaging – that is, relevant, credible, interesting, entertaining, informative, or some combination of these – you’ll keep the interest of your audience. In other words, be a good storyteller. If you can effectively do that in five words, great. If you need five thousand words to adequately tell the story, also great.
The same goes for your online videos by the way. The prevailing wisdom these days is that if your video is longer than 30 seconds, your viewers will stop watching. More accurately, your viewers will tune out after 30 seconds if your content is irrelevant or boring. On the other hand, a well-produced video can keep your viewers’ attention for minutes or even over an hour. Examples: a compelling, documentary-style video or a relevant, detailed how-to video. In either case, you’ve got to tell the story well. Everyone loves a good story.
Not dead. Just more specific.
At the beginning of this blog post, we gave several examples of “dead” media. None of these are dead. Their uses have just become more specific.
For instance, at one point, radio was the sole broadcast medium, so it had to fulfill every use of broadcast. Then TV came along, and broadcasters started using both radio and TV for their specific strengths (for instance, it isn’t practical to watch TV while driving).
Print used to be the only way to read things. The Internet and iPads are making it much easier to consume written media on the go, but sometimes you need (or prefer) a medium that doesn’t require batteries and is easier on the eyes – a print magazine, book or newspaper.
Direct mail (i.e. postal or “snail” mail) used to be the sole direct-response medium. Then came infomercials, and then email marketing. Emails offer instant, low cost delivery of marketing messages and very accurate tracking – but also can get lost in a sea of spam. Direct mail has maintained its place in a multichannel campaign for its ability to stand out, provide tactile sensations, and to reach older generations of customers.
Text messaging and social media can be very convenient alternatives for getting a quick message to someone without having to stop what you are doing, but sometimes you need more space to communicate – so a longer form medium like email or even picking up the phone is necessary.
Similarly, long form copy is not dead at all. It just has its specific uses, just as short form copy does. The keys are knowing when to use which, and then executing well – that is, writing good copy – copy that is well organized, grammatically correct, stylistically compelling, easy to read, avoids jargon for jargon’s sake (the same goes for acronyms), and ultimately, gives your readers what they want and need.
In other words, write copy that compellingly tells a story that is relevant to your intended audience. Make your copy as long as it needs to be to accomplish this.
In our previous blog post, we made the case that company name, logo, tagline and graphic design don't really matter that much to building a brand. What truly matters is the experience you consistently deliver to your customers. Everything your brand represents stems from that.
Does that mean things like logo don't matter at all?
No. Actually, logo does matter (as do – to an extent – company name, tagline and graphic design). In this blog post, we'll talk about why logo matters, and its proper place in the entire brand scheme.
Why logo matters: brand identification
A logo is an identifying mark. It is the symbol by which people know that the products and services they are experiencing are coming from your company, and not somewhere else. A logo usually includes an actual spelling of a company's name, though, in some cases, a brand can be strong enough that including the name is no longer necessary, such as with Apple's apple, NBC's peacock, the Starbucks mermaid, and McDonald's golden arches.
Such brand strength doesn't happen immediately, however. It has to be carefully built and maintained over a long period of time to get to the point where the symbol alone identifies the brand and the experience associated with it.
But a brand has got to start somewhere. Even if nobody has heard of your company yet, over time, people will accumulate experiences with your products and services. This will inform their long-term perception of your brand. And as that perception gradually solidifies, the consistent presentation of your logo will help remind customers of the experience they can expect to receive from your brand.
Given time then, your logo will start to take on a life of its own, as a strong reminder of the experience you are delivering and that people can continue to expect. Remember, the logo is not the brand. It is at most a visual reminder of what your brand stands for, based on the long-term accumulation of experiences with your brand.
More than a pretty face
Think of the logo as your brand's "face," just like you have a face. Your face is very distinct, and it immediately identifies you to others. When people who already know you see your face, they link that face to the experiences they've accumulated with you -- what it feels like to be your friend, your spouse, your relative, your customer, and even your enemy.
On the other hand, when people who haven't met you before see your face, they have no history with you, so they can't yet form solid perceptions of you. Your face is simply one in a million faces. They might think it is a pretty face, but until they start spending time with you, your face won't have much meaning for them. The meaning they attach to your face will come over time – time spent getting to know you. Slowly, your face will accumulate meanings and associations for the people who come in contact with you. In essence, your face will become a logo for you – your identifying marker that confirms that you are indeed you, and what to expect as a result.
Your face can be an AWESOME logo if it is associated with a positive experience or meaning. Faces like Gandhi’s, Mother Theresa's and Audrey Hepburn's (to name just a few) conjure up great feelings among the majority of people.
A face or logo can also convey something tragic or horrifying, as is typically the case with the faces of certain world leaders during World War II, or more recently, Bernie Maddof's face. In the corporate realm, it could be BP's logo after the gulf oil spill, or Enron's logo after its massive fraud was exposed in 2001.
The point we can't emphasize enough is that the logo itself is just a placeholder. Whether it is the most beautifully designed logo ever, or one of the plainest, or even one of the ugliest, really doesn't matter. What does matter are the experiences customers have interacting with a company and its products and services.
No beautiful logo has ever survived being associated with a bad customer experience, nor helped a company when it has treated people poorly.
With brand, beauty truly comes from within, not from just a pretty face.
Does logo design matter, then?
Actually, it does – just not to the extent that most people might think.
The design of a logo helps reinforce the brand promise. Its design plays a part in suggesting what people should expect from a company. When the company delivers on that promise, the visual message of the logo is reinforced.
A logo that is a good representative for its company is attractive to look at, and its theme conforms to what people would expect about that company based on the company's brand promise and delivered experience.
For instance, the Wendy's fast food chain promises "Old Fashioned Hamburgers." (In fact, they've registered this tag line.) The Wendy's logo has evolved only slightly over time, and throughout, has retained a nostalgic, old-time feel that fits with their brand promise of wholesome, authentic, old-fashioned burgers.
Beyond that, the design of the logo doesn't matter all that much. I know that sounds counterintuitive. But consider the top 100 brands from Interbrand's "Best Global Brands 2013." While most of the logos are relatively clean and not unattractive, none really stand out as stunning or brand making. These logos are powerful not because of how they are designed, but because of the accumulation of customer experiences associated with these brands over a great deal of time, and only for this reason.
So yes, logo matters but:
But, only to the extent that the company attached to the logo has consistently delivered a fantastic customer experience over a significant period of time. In other words, the experience matters a whole lot more than the logo.
It's amazing then that so many companies (and graphic design firms) put so much emphasis and effort into logo design, and seemingly so little effort into ensuring a consistently awesome customer experience. This is just backwards.
When is it time for a new logo?
Great question! There are exactly two circumstances when a new logo could really benefit your company:
1. When your company is brand new – this, of course, is the right time to have a new logo.
2. When your company is undergoing a radical transformation that will fundamentally change the customer experience (for the better, we hope). Then, changing your logo, along with other visual cues and messaging, will help support the delivery of a new brand promise to customers.
For instance, BP (British Petroleum) might have been well served to change its logo after the gulf oil spill of 2010, particularly as that logo is all about environmental sustainability.
That image didn't hold much water (pardon the pun) after the spill.
On the other hand, take the case of Budget, the car and truck rental company. The firm recently, quietly updated its logo:
I'm at a loss to figure out why. Their value proposition is fundamentally the same: low cost vehicle rentals. So why change? What was wrong with the old logo? And how much did it cost for Budget to revise its signage, documents and truck paint nationwide?
I wonder how many people actually noticed the change (of course, I did, driving down the freeway one day, when I spotted a Budget truck, but then, I'm a passionate brander, so I notice these things). And what message does this send, if any?
One could argue that the new logo is indeed cleaner and more modern than the previous one. And I agree. But does that really matter? Ford, Coke, IBM, McDonald's and GE have scarcely changed their logos in many decades (and in some cases, a century or more!). This hasn't seemed to diminish their success at all.
Don't fall into the logo trap. Don't fall into the tagline, name and graphic design trap either. Yes, they matter, but only as support and reinforcement of your brand promise: an awesome customer experience. Logo, name, tagline and design should be attractive and congruent with your brand promise, but that's all that's really necessary. So stop obsessing over such trivial things. You'll gain exponentially more value from obsessing over the experience of your customers.
Thanks for joining me on the Brander's Journey. See you in the next post.
What Brand Ain’t:
In last week’s post, we clarified that “...neither logo, name, image nor messaging make a brand. At most, they play a small part in supporting a brand.”
This is so important that I’d like to devote an entire blog post to this. Because, in many people’s minds, brand is just that: name, logo, tagline, and graphic design -- and that strong brands got that way because they have catchy names, logos, taglines and graphic design.
I'm here to tell you that this isn't true.
Volvo is a very respected automobile name. Do you think that’s because of its name? “VOLVO?”
That’s not exactly the most catchy or sexy name -- at least not in English.
Or perhaps it’s because of Volvo’s logo?
While this may remind some of a gender symbol,
(the symbol for “male”), one would have to stretch far to make the case that Volvo’s brand depends on the strength of this logo. In truth, Volvo’s brand depends on having consistently delivered a pleasurable, safe driving experience in its cars for many decades.
What about some other powerful brands that are household names? Let’s look at Interbrand’s top brands for 2013 - from second place to tenth place (out of their annual 100):
Today, these brand names and logos are very familiar to all of us, and they conjure up very strong associations. Yet, if you'd never heard of these companies before, what would you associate with them based purely on their names alone? Would the names matter if you knew nothing about these companies?
If you were naming your company today, would you name it something like, “General Electric” or “International Business Machines?” Or create a logo for your soda that looks like something from two centuries ago?
Most folks would probably try to find the sexiest, hippest name they could for their companies, and put a lot effort into creating a really attractive, modern logo.
Unfortunately, these things have very little impact on brand. Such a shame, to see such wasted effort.
Before They Were Big
Believe it or not, there was once a time when all of the brands mentioned above were unknown. They were startups. And as startups, they were primarily concerned with creating and delivering the products, services and experiences that would make their customers happy.
Not company names. Not logos. Not taglines. Not graphics.
What’s in a name? What about Disney, named after Walt?
Disney could have just as easily been someone we’d never heard of. Instead, Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth, Disney movies are among the most loved, and Disney is #14 on the list of top brands. It isn’t because of the name, or the cursive logo. It’s because of the experience Disney has kept on delivering, year after year.
The same goes for Ford, #42 on the list -- named after a person, with an old, stodgy logo, and a rather generic tagline: “Go Further.”
What Made Them Big
Google started out in 1996 as a humble search engine. But the team of Larry Page and Sergey Brin were on to something. They worked to provide something we really need, even if we didn’t know we needed it. Then they relentlessly improved it. They’ve given us something we literally can’t live without today. And they’ve done it well. From Gmail and Google Maps to Chrome and Android, and of course, search, Google helps us run our lives, get things done, and have fun. That is the strength of the Google brand.
And what if Google had opted to call themselves “SearchKing” and had a crown for a logo instead of its now-familiar multicolor logotype?
It wouldn’t have made a difference, as long as they executed everything else exactly as they have. The only difference is that we’d be saying “Let’s SearchKing it.” instead of “let's Google it.”
Google demonstrates that it’s not the name, logo, tagline or graphic design that make the brand strong. It’s the experience delivered. By and large, Google delivers a really great experience to most of us. And we’ve rewarded Google for it, by using its constantly and making it the number two brand of 2013.
What about #1?
Oops, sorry, we forgot about the number one brand of 2013 in Interbrand's list. OK, here it is, and it’s probably no surprise:
Apple is all about design and making things easy. Apple’s been delivering on this brand promise for most of its time on earth. But even Apple was once just two people in a garage with no customers, at a time when the brand “Apple” meant “Apple Records,” the record label created by The Beatles. We hardly need to explain what makes Apple the strongest brand in the world today. And to ask the obvious, would it have mattered if they’d called themselves “Pear,” “Peach” or “Pineapple?”
What This Means For The Rest Of Us
When new companies start up or established companies rebrand, the people involved tend to obsess about their company’s name, logo, tagline and graphic design. They think that by creating or evolving these branding components, they’ll fundamentally affect the way customers perceive their companies.
What will fundamentally affect the way customers perceive their companies is the customer experience these companies deliver. Things like product quality, product benefits, product delivery, customer service and support, the company’s viability (i.e. its ability to support customers in the future), its ethics, and its stance on political and social issues -- and, the consistency with which these companies deliver these things.
In other words, brands build themselves based on their actions, not on their names, logos, taglines and graphic design.
You can tell customers whatever you want about yourself, but its what you do that will build your brand. Over time, your name, whatever you call yourself, and your logo, whatever it looks like, will come to mean everything your brand stands for, simply by being attached to the experience you are consistently delivering to your customers.
So, if you’re in the process of building a new brand or re-invigorating an existing brand, don’t spend so much time on what to call your company, having a cool-looking logo, or crafting a snappy tagline.
You’ll be much better served focusing your energies on what customer experience you need to deliver and how you’ll consistently deliver it.
Thanks for joining me on the Brander's Journey. See you in the next post.
P.S. Does that mean company name, logo, tag line and graphic design don't matter? Stay tuned for our next blog post to find out.
What do you think of when you hear the word "brand?"
Is it a company's logo?
Is it a company's name?
Is it a company's image?
It is made of the marketing messages a company tells prospects and customers?
Brand is all of those things -- and none of those things.
The truth is, neither logo, name, image nor messaging make a brand. At most, they play a small part in supporting a brand.
Brand is much, much more than these things. Brand is the entire relationship that customers have with a company.
That's right. Brand is a relationship. Just like we have relationships with other people, we have relationships with companies. The way we perceive our relationship with a company becomes the brand of that company.
How are good relationships made?
Relationships are built with every single interaction a person has with a company, its people, its products, and yes, its logo, name, image and marketing messages -- among many more things.
Good relationships are based on trust. And trust comes from having a consistent and good experience with a company with every single interaction.
Good relationships are mutually supportive.
A company supports customers with a delightful end-to-end experience that includes attractive marketing, products and services that elegantly solve problems or provide desired benefits, and post-purchase support that makes the customer feel well cared for.
A customer in turn supports a company by purchasing its products, and referring others to have a relationship with this company.
As long as a company behaves consistently, and in a way that pleases customers, it will reinforce its relationship with those customers, which will ensure a strong brand.
House of Cards
Relationships take time to build.
But, they can be severed in an instant. Literally, all it takes is one false move.
Have you ever been lied to by someone? What instantly happened to your trust of that person? What did that do to your relationship with that person?
It's the same for companies. Inconsistent or dishonest behavior can kill a customer relationship, and tarnish that company's brand -- forever.
With social media's immediacy and global reach, a brand can suffer cruel and irreparable harm in the time it takes to click "post."
Sum of the Parts
If brand = relationship, and relationship = every interaction a customer has with your company, then it stands to reason that everything that affects how your company does business really is part of your brand.
That includes a company's operations, its financial strength, its customer service, its employee morale, its crisis management strategy, its risk management strategy, its social and environmental practices and views, its marketing messages, and how well its product or service actually delivers.
All of these variables and more can affect a company's ability to deliver a consistently delightful experience to its customers. That experience defines the relationship customers have with that company. And that translates into brand.
So there it is. Brand is the grand sum of a great many parts, all working in harmony to keep customers feeling good about a company. Any part that doesn't harmonize with the other parts can threaten the very livelihood of a brand – and the company attached to that brand.
Brand is also what this blog is all about. Here is where we'll regularly discuss brand, branding, and maintaining an awesome relationship with your company's customers -- really, all the same thing.
I hope you'll join me in the brander's journey. I promise, it will be a stimulating one! Let's build some great relationships together.
See you in the next post,
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Ron Marcus, Marketing Cheerleader at Shindy Media, has been on the Brander's Journey for over 26 years.