Tag Archives: process

The Brand Brief

February 23, 2017 by

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that greatness is a state of mind. The bad news is that others’ minds decide your state. As with many things in life, this is true for people as well as brands. A brand is, in its most basic description, what people believe, feel, and think about a company. Companies like to think that their brand (or “brand image” if you’re old school) is whatever they’re currently telling the public it is. Which is rare. However, that is the goal. Because when what people think of you matches up with what you claim to be, you’ve hit the branding bull’s-eye.

Great branding is built on a solid foundation. This foundation is commonly referred to as a “brand platform.” Used correctly, a brand platform can act as a launching pad for your branding efforts. Conversely, it may resemble the 10-meter Olympic diving platform, except, instead of water, the pool is filled with buy-one-get-five coupons that cause financial ruin and death by a thousand paper cuts.

A brand platform defines who you are as a company in a way that everyone in the organization can understand—even Chuck in H.R.—by codifying beliefs into a framework that doesn’t change with the shifting winds of accounts receivable. The platform becomes the guiding document in how you speak about the brand and how the brand acts. It is no use marketing something and then failing to live up to those promises operationally when people finally find time to “act now.”

There is no standard template for a brand platform. Most advertising agencies that deal in branding have developed their own process and format. I prefer a classic format that defines a brand purpose (why you exist beyond making money or even your current product), brand position (who you are relative to your competition and audience), brand personality (five or six adjectives, none of which are “sleepy”), and brand affiliation (the type of people your brand wants to attract). Feel free to Google these terms. Other platforms include brand archetypes or variations on all of the above. The important thing is that the platform brings clarity, unity, and direction. So beware the agency attempting to sell you a process that they themselves don’t seem to fully understand—just because it comes with a cool infographic doesn’t make it actionable.

I do not recommend trying to create a brand platform on your own. Anyone inside the company is too close to the situation to be completely objective. Nonetheless, you should be actively involved in the process. An agency that insists on doing everything themselves before delivering a final document fait accompli is probably doing a lot of finding and replacing on a platform they first wrote in 1998.

Once your platform is in place, use it. This is not as obvious as you would think. Weigh marketing decisions against it. Use it to filter operational objectives. Spread it throughout the company so that when an employee gets asked about where they work, they give an accurate answer. Eventually, because branding is a long game, your brand will be cohesive and consistent. And all your marketing will automatically be strategic in tone and message (and media, too, if you’re paying attention).

You will still need to decide on creative directions and tactics, of course, but you won’t have to do the heavy lifting of figuring out foundational principles every time you write a new tweet. Because you will know who you are. And, more importantly, customers current and potential will, too.

Jason Fox is a freelance creative director and writer. He can be found at jasonfox.net and adsavior.com.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Throwing Shade

August 16, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“Everybody reads the same magazines and watches the same shows,” says Lindsay Duer-Robertson, a stylist at Matt Wayne Salon off of 49th and Dodge streets. “That ends ups with people looking a lot alike. Someone who sees that and wants to make a statement will try something different.”

That “statement” for you could be anything from a few blonde highlights to neon pink. But it’s perfectly okay if you don’t know yet where you land on that spectrum. Rebecca Forsyth, stylist at Bungalow/8, says that’s what consultation visits are for. And make sure to bring pictures of anything that’s caught your eye.

“I think there’s this myth that hairstylists don’t like photos,” Forsyth says. “A Pinterest board on a phone is super helpful.” Both Duer-Robertson and Forsyth agree with the oft-quoted hairstylists’ phrase: “My caramel is probably different than your caramel.”

Let’s say you’ve decided to go from brunette to hot pink. “You can do it in one visit, but that visit’s going to be six to eight hours long,” Duer-Robertson says. Best to have a goal in mind and break it up over a period of time. That’ll give your hair time to recover from the processing, which is pretty intense. The bleaching process has to break the melanin molecules in the hair and expose different pigments through several stages: brunette, red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, and finally a pale yellow. Only then is your hair ready to accept an unreal shade like ocean blue or pastel purple.

“I think there’s this myth that hairstylists don’t like photos.” – Rebecca Forsyth, stylist at Bungalow/8

“Be mindful, your hair will be really dry,” Duer-Robertson warns. She recommends a protein-based conditioner. “In that first week, put in a leave-in conditioner after every wash.” She personally touts the Damage Remedy and Dry Remedy lines from Aveda, especially the Color Conserve™ Daily Color Protect conditioner. “That’ll keep your color strong up to 30 days,” she says, though pastel shades still may not keep as long as a month.

Such conditioners are valuable, Duer-Robertson says, because the product seals hair cuticles down after being a little roughed up by a cleansing shampoo. Leave a conditioner on for at least 15 minutes (unless it’s a leave-in, of course), and then rinse it out with cool water to ensure the cuticle doesn’t reopen. Consider using a wide-tooth comb to lessen stress on your hair when it’s wet; once your hair is about 80 percent dry, feel free to take a brush to it for a blowout.

Forsyth says it’s the flatiron that’s the huge culprit for further damaging processed hair. The heat is higher and touches the hair for a longer period of time than a simple blow dryer. “If you can achieve a great look with a blow dryer and a brush, you’re in a great situation as far as damage,” Forsyth points out. “I love that more people are wearing their natural styles and textures.”

If you just can’t leave the hot tools alone, remember that the general rule is the less styling, the less shampooing, the better. “Try to find ways that you don’t have to mess with your hair as much,” Forsyth says. “For example, last night I curled my hair, so today I have the base for a really cool updo.” She personally shampoos only twice a week.

For high-maintenance color like neons, pastels, or reds, Forsyth agrees with Duer-Robertson that it’s essential to invest in good product. Some of her favorite products for maintaining perfect color are in Karasoft’s color protection line. “And anything with UV protection,” Forsyth adds. “We blame the shampoo and forget that we’re in the sun all the time. Bring back hats, not just for protecting our faces but also our hair.”

Digital Immigrant, Meet Demand Generation

May 25, 2013 by

Chances are you are a “digital immigrant,” one who was not born bathed in bits, who played video games as a toddler or learned keyboarding in third grade. This means you have a steeper learning curve than “digital natives”—those for whom all this social media stuff isn’t stuff at all. It’s just part of everyday life…how they live, work, play, access information, and make decisions.

Indeed, there is a whole generation of digital natives, who command where, when, and how they find information. They are in control, and that is why they are called the “demand generation.” They compose our customers, our prospects, our employees, our constituents, and our advocates. A key to understanding social media is understanding how to reach, and more importantly, engage with the demand generation.

Here are some tips:

  • Acknowledge that the sales process is no longer linear. The internet has jumped squarely in between you and your customer and interrupted what used to be a good opportunity for you to control the conversation. Now consumers visit blogs to get information and recommendations on what to buy. The average consumer uses more than 10 sources to make a buying decision today, and 70 percent of Americans look at product reviews. What was once linear may be turned upside-down, twisted sideways, and backwards. Consumers may see a product in the store, but then go out into cyberspace to investigate it, only to go back into the store to buy.
  • Content is king. As a writer by trade—and a digital immigrant—knowing this makes me very happy. It also makes me work hard to relate to my target audience with personal, direct, relevant conversations that matter to them. Customers who engage with brands online spend 20-40 percent more on that brand’s products/services. Know your target. Understand their perspective. Quench their thirst for the knowledge they seek. A long time ago, author and speaker Bert Decker impressed me with his edict, “You’ve got to be believed to be heard.” Break through that frontal cortex, and your message just may get through.
  • You do have to be everywhere—and on-the-go. This seems the antithesis to target marketing, but what it means is you can’t think that because you have your website and a Facebook page, you’re good to go. Chances are your target customers aren’t sitting still. It’s likely—not statistically shown—that 78 percent of consumers shop across multiple channels. This means the internet—your site if your SEO is up to date, social media, Twitter, Vine, blogs, e-mail deliveries from you/your competitors, and their phones. And here’s the deal with phones: 31 percent of consumers research products on their phones before buying in-store while 40 percent research products from their phones before buying online. Is your site mobile optimized/responsive so that it feeds the information to fit the user’s screen?

The good news about all this—for those willing to keep swimming in the deep end—is that there is demand, a marketer’s dream. We can meet that demand with products people need and want—and by getting in and staying in the conversation with relevance, content, personalization, and engagement.

Special thanks for inspiration and sourcing for this article from Bob Thacker, former CMO of OfficeMax.