Business Strategy

Building a Cohesive Brand Identity

489783302I know companies understand that they need to have a brand, but many miss the mark on creating a cohesive brand identity. Although many may see this as ‘fluff’, creating a strong brand identity can be a complicated process that’s difficult to master.

As I tell many of my clients, brand identity is not just a logo; it’s the entire visual language that your company uses to communicate with its audience. It’s the art of portraying the right message and making a lasting, first impression.

Brand identity answers the questions what do you want your story to be and how do you want to be perceived in the marketplace? I’ve outlined below 7 steps that will I hope will help you in developing a cohesive brand identity:

  1. Review your current brand and your competition: Think about how your brand is being perceived in the marketplace and whether the message you’re delivering is clearly understood and reaching your target audience. It’s not enough to just review your brand; you need to understand what you’re up against. Have you done your market research? If not, now is the time.
  2. Audit your audience: Know your audience! Build a brand around what they want (not what youwant). It’s a competitive world out there. If your customers don’t find what they’re looking for from you, they will find it from someone else.
  3. Choose your theme: Choose your theme wisely. A well-conceived theme creates a powerful and effective communication platform which will deliver a higher ROI. A theme is compelling and engaging because it’s able to communicate your brand identity more effectively. It takes brand identity to a whole new level.
  4. Develop a consistent colour palette: Your colour palette is typically defined by the colours in your logo and is the foundation of your visual brand identity. The colours don’t have to be identical to those in your logo but should complement them. Very important – your colour palette must work well with your website and printed material.
  5. Don’t go overboard with fonts: There are hundreds of fonts to choose from but don’t go overboard using too many fonts that may look creative but are difficult to read. Less is more. You can use a different font for headlines than for body text, but the font must be easy to read, and be consistent across your website and print materials.
  6. Use custom design elements: Looking off-the-shelf isn’t going to help you stand out. Custom design elements can be a huge asset to your brand identity. A professional graphic designer can create your logo and various elements of your website. The images don’t have to be the same throughout your website and print materials but all of the visuals should contribute to a consistent look and feel.
  7. Use a consistent tone of voice: You can’t tell your story without words. It’s important to give a great deal of thought to what style of writing will be consistent with the image that you want to portray in the marketplace and mesh well with your imagery. Consistency is key to a successful brand identity. A professional writer will be able to understand your voice and produce work consistent with it.

Every company needs a cohesive brand identity to compete in the marketplace but many miss the mark because they attempt it on their own. You need a professional marketing agency with strategists, graphic designers and professional writers. CreativeWorks Marketing has over 20 years of experience helping companies like yours build cohesive brand identities. Give us a call today and maximize your return on investment.

Market Research – Your Roadmap for Success

What exactly is market research? Why is this powerful tool important for your business? Market research provides valuable insights on what people will buy, why they’ll buy it, and how to incite them to buy. It’s also used to answer the age-old question, why do your customers choose YOU? In this blog, I’ll highlight why market research is so critical to your business, as well as provide you with key reasons why you’ll need to hire a professional marketing agency for unbiased research.

Why conduct market research?

Market research sets your company up for success by providing the information that you need to make informed business decisions. Experience alone is not enough; arm yourself with research and facts to understand your market and your customers. Market research can help you:

  • Understand your customers and their preferences
  • Identify potential issues you may not be aware of
  • Understand how your customers define your brand
  • Identify ways they value the services/products you provide
  • Learn how your customers compare you with your competitors
  • Test new products/services and/or new markets
  • Gauge the success of a new advertising campaign
  • Identify performance, pricing and/or promotion opportunities
  • Monitor the competition in your market
  • Keep up with the changing marketplace and economy
  • Mitigate risk in your business decisions

Market research methods

When conducting market research, there are basically two types of methodologies:

  1. Qualitative researchis information that comes from conducting deep “quality” research through the use of discussion guides, and is typically gathered via phone interviews, face-to-face interviews, or focus groups. Questions are typically developed by use of a discussion guide outlining issues or concerns you’d like your customers to weigh in on. The answers can help you understand why they chose your company to work with, what they value in your service/product, what they think of your brand, and how they respond to your marketing/advertising. This type of research is best used when you want to understand the needs of your customer so you can better target your marketing and messaging to their needs and values.
  2. Quantitative research is usually numeric, and done through a survey. It is far less detailed and there is no discussion with actual customers. It involves sending out a survey to customers and gathering statistical information, which can then be extrapolated to give you averages and percentages, e.g. 9 out of 10 customers are satisfied with your level of customer service. This type of research is best used for measuring customer feedback on an ad or a new service, or the launch of a new offering.

What unbiased research means

Almost every business owner I know says that they know their customers, that they speak to them on a regular basis and if there was a problem, their customers would tell them. Sorry to say, but this is rarely the case. Just like we don’t tell the server that the food was really bad, our customers may very well give us a truthful answer, but more likely they will give us a version of the truth. When a third party speaks with your customers, they feel this is their opportunity to really share the “truth” without hurting any feelings. If you are asking your customers directly then this is 100% biased research and is considered invalid because you have a vested interest in them being satisfied customers. Unbiased research doesn’t allow opinions, nor preconceived notions or preferences to affect the research. It is conducted with an entirely open mind and not biased in any way towards a desired outcome.

Market research benefits to your business

We’ve been conducting market research for almost two decades and I know how it can positively impact a business by providing actionable insights that can act as a catalyst for organizational growth. These insights will equip you for better decision-making and provide you with a greater understanding of customers, and competitors. Market research can help you to maximize the potential of your current business activities and create a roadmap for targeted marketing strategies and future growth. Every business, large or small, can benefit from having market research in their arsenal. 

Use a professional agency to conduct market research for your company

Market research is not a DYI project. It’s very time consuming and requires trained and skilled resources to perform, analyze and deliver results without any research bias. Set your business up for success and hire a professional marketing agency with proven processes, resources and analytics to maximize the potential of your market research.

CreativeWorks Marketing will work with you as a trusted partner in achieving your business goals. As a first step, we’ll establish clearly defined goals for market research in addition to determining what you need to know and why. We’ll perform, analyze and deliver results of the highest quality and keep the data confidential. Contact us today and let’s discuss how market research can benefit your company.

Earth Day – 4 Key Elements of a Cause Marketing Campaign

Cause marketing refers to the alignment of a brand with a cause that produces profitable and societal benefits for both. Today, consumers want to know what your company stands for and what you’re doing to make the world a better place. As a result, for many brands, cause marketing is now becoming the norm rather than the exception. You may be surprised to learn that cause marketing was first introduced in 1976. The two trail blazers involved were the Marriott Corporation and the March of Dimes. They worked together to promote the Marriott’s family entertainment complex in Santa Clara, California while raising funds for the March of Dimes. The campaign was a success for both parties and cause marketing was born.

In celebration of Earth Day this April 22nd, I’d like to encourage you to consider launching cause marketing campaign this year, and I’ve outlined the four key elements of one for you to consider:

  1. Simple, inspiring message: What you call your campaign matters. It should be simple, descriptive of your initiative and inspire you to want to participate. Motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson teamed up with the environmental organization The Nature Conservancy with its cause marketing campaign “Renew the Ride”. This campaign was designed to mobilize Harley Davidson’s global community of riders to raise funds for the planting of 50 million trees worldwide by 2025 so that the open road can be preserved for future generations of riders.
  1. Visual storytelling: Studies show that people read only about 20% of today’s web pages and are driven more by an image or short video than they are by anything else. Coke and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) teamed up to support the conservation of polar bears with their Arctic Home campaign. Who among you hasn’t been moved by the wonderful video spots that Coke and the WWF have created about polar bears? Those videos move us more than any written story could.
  1. Social sharing, ‘earnedmedia: The most effective cause marketing campaigns develop multiple media designed to maximize the effectiveness of each channel. Dell is doing a great job inspiring people to care more about the health of our oceans and marine wildlife through its support of actor Adrian Grenier’s the Lonely Whale Foundation. The campaign has gained great momentum thanks to Instagram, YouTube and other social media platforms. And, Coke and the WWF used the web, apps, social media, text messaging and other technology to drive brand awareness for the Arctic Home campaign.
  1. Big world issues, small personal action: While most cause marketing campaigns are calling people’s attention to a big issue, they need to inspire them to take a small personal action. Habitat for Humanity is working towards a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. They teamed up with Home Depot. As part of an employee engagement campaign, Home Depot employees can volunteer to work on a Habitat for Humanity project while being paid by Home Depot. This small personal action of volunteering makes a big difference in improving big world issues.

I believe cause marketing has many benefits for your business including positioning your brand to stand out from the rest while at the same time helping a cause and ‘doing the right thing’.

Is cause marketing important to a brand? 87% of consumers would switch from one brand to another if the other brand was associated with a good cause, according to a Cone Cause Evolution Survey. Is a cause marketing campaign right for your company and your brand? It’s certainly worth considering.

Podcasts – Digital Marketing’s New Best Friend

Although podcasts are not new, I’ve noticed a recent resurgence in their popularity that’s worth noting.

If you may recall, podcasts are digital media files that feature audio recordings, and originated in the early 2000’s, but it wasn’t until technology advanced and distribution methods expanded that podcasting exploded in popularity. In fact 2016 alone, there were an estimated 57 million monthly podcast listeners, a 75% increase since 2013.

Much like blogs, podcasts are used to deliver great content to your audience and have become a key tool in many company’s content marketing strategy. You may be thinking, “why use a podcast when I already have a blog?” Well, let me explain a few of the key advantages that podcasts offer:

Attract New Audiences: Some people prefer to consume their content through listening rather than reading text. By adding podcasts to your marketing mix, you are pulling in a new demographic and gaining more leads.

Multitasking Capabilities: One of the biggest advantages of podcasts is that they can be listened to on-the-go and while doing other tasks. This is great for your brand, as it means your message will reach your audience more frequently during the day.

Hidden Advertising: The casual, conversational nature of podcasts allows you to include a few “hidden” advertisements in the audio without it sounding too blatant. Advertising in your blog, on the other hand, tends to come across as too overtly promotional.

Brand Loyalty: Think about your favourite radio show you tune in to in the morning. Does it keep you hooked? Well, podcasts are very similar. When you offer engaging content, you’ll begin to create a following. And when you create a following, you’ll develop brand advocates for your business.

Stay tuned for my next blog, which will outline some tips you might want to consider when incorporating podcasts into your marketing mix.

The Missing “Link”

LinkedIn is one of my favourite social media platforms to use. Like many of you, I use it to conduct business development activities, discover potential new talent, and find out what some of my peers are working on. As a business owner and marketer, I also use it as a platform to target my potential clients and “tout” my expertise through the sharing of my company’s updates as well as industry-related articles.

LinkedIn has two distinct options: the LinkedIn profile page which most of us have to showcase our personal “resumes”, and the company page that is set up for your company.

While I know many business owners and marketers have an LI profile, many small businesses still do not have a company LI page. So what exactly is the difference between a profile page and a company page on LinkedIn? A LinkedIn profile is probably the most powerful tool you can use for business development as it allows you to highlight your professional experience, connect with your peers or potential clients, join industry-related groups, post your blogs or other articles, and share awards and updates.

I have seen many companies use the profile page as their company page, but LinkedIn has a distinct company page that provides your business with the opportunity to engage with followers with targeted and regular news and activities, share career opportunities, and expand your online brand presence.

If you are a business owner or marketer with a B2B business, an LI company page is a must! If you have a B2C business, it is still a good idea to have some presence on this platform, as this platform is great for SEO and for expanding your reach to influencers.

Here are some reasons I‘d recommend considering using an LI company page for your business:

1. Show How You are Unique

In the description on your company page, emphasize how you stand out from your competitors. You might want to include company news and share information about your company culture. This will help you reach potential customers and also new hires. Support the content with professional videos, or images to help you show how your company is different.

2. Improve SEO

We all hear about SEO, but did you know that Google and other search engines rank LinkedIn company pages and posts highly in the search engine results pages? Having the page and posting on it frequently will help you increase your SEO and increase site traffic.

3. Share Content

It makes sense that you need to write posts that your viewers want to see and share with others. The more you can engage your viewers, the more likely you are to expand your global reach and influence. You can also link your post back to your website for more information and to convert them into a warm business lead. It’s a good idea to create a media mix on this platform as well, so consider using different formats such as SlideShare business presentations, blog posts, infographics, webinars, podcasts and videos.

4. Measure Success

Like most social platforms, you can view analytical data about your company page to help you gain deeper insights into your page performance.

Having a LinkedIn company page will help you network and prospect to a targeted audience for quality sales leads, while establishing your business’ public image on a global scale as a reputable and trustworthy organization. In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer!

Lately, We Just Don’t Communicate

Imagine your business is about to launch a new campaign. You are sending out an e-blast to give your customers 20% off their next purchase. You’re confident this will be one of your company’s most successful ventures to date. On the day of the launch, your office is flooded with emails and phone calls regarding your new offering, and while you’re ecstatic, your team is frantic. But why?

While your campaign was crafted to a tee, the internal communications to your staff informing them of the upcoming campaign and its details were non-existent.

There are two sides to any marketing campaign. External marketing allows you to get your message across to your intended audience, and internal marketing allows you to effectively market your campaign within your organization. In order for any marketing campaign to be successful, you need to create a plan for both.

We all know that running a new campaign can be time-consuming and we get wrapped up in the details and often don’t take the time to keep our staff up to date. In order to ensure a successful campaign however, you’ll need to bring your staff up to speed so they know how they are impacted and what, if anything, they need to do.

Here are a few key tips on how to effectively prepare your staff for an upcoming marketing campaign:

Give Advanced Notice

After working with your marketing team to develop a new idea for a campaign, share it with your staff. If a new campaign is being implemented without staff members knowing all the details, it’s easy to get the message confused. Sharing your ideas for the new campaign will allow staff to prepare, and will also encourage them to contribute their own thoughts and ideas towards the new campaign.

Provide Supporting Materials

After giving your team the heads up about the new campaign, it’s time to get ready to launch. Depending on what kind of campaign it is, you will need to provide your team with supporting materials that will allow them to carry it out as you had intended. For example, if you are promoting a new service for your clients and they are encouraged to call in and inquire about it, prepare a script for your front line staff. If calls should be directed to your sales department, then the person answering the phone needs to know where to direct the call. The more informed they are, the increase in likelihood of a successful campaign.

Measurement Matters

It’s one thing to let your staff know about a new campaign; you also need to follow through with them about it. Ask them how the campaign is going; are they getting a lot of calls/emails/website requests? If your team is dealing with customers directly, you need to communicate with them effectively so you can measure the success of your new campaign.

Share Success

Your campaign has just ended and of course, it was a hit! Share this success with your team. Not only will sharing the success encourage your employees, it will also give you a chance to evaluate what went well, and discuss how you can create an even stronger campaign the next time around.

In order to effectively market any campaign to your customers, you need to be prepared to market it internally as well. Keep your staff in the loop when launching your next campaign; you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.

Content Contempt

At the end of last year, I wrote a blog about the lessons we learned from marketing in 2016. One topic I touched on in that blog was about purchasing content on the Internet. I’d like to delve deeper into this issue because as a marketer, content creation is one of my main responsibilities.

So what exactly is content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute describes it as “the technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.”

Content marketing is key to the marketing process because it adds value to your business in the eyes of your customer. Your business’ page is not just a website where you can purchase a service, it’s a website where people can go to learn about your business and what you stand for. That’s why I was surprised when I started noticing a lot more pay-for-content websites appearing online. These websites are essentially content stores; a user can go in and purchase a generic blog or a video while gaining the usage rights. Who is writing the content about your business and for your customers seems to be not too relevant or valued. Although you can pay extra for it to be “customized” content, the writer does not know your voice, your brand, your company, you, or the value you bring to your customers.

While this content is quick and easy, as a professional marketer, I know how important it is to know my customers before I can write for them. Whenever I finish a blog or an article, I have to look at it and say, “Would my client say this?” If not, I have to re-work it. If blogs are used as persuasive text written by an industry authority to inform a targeted audience about an industry issue, then that content needs to be an informed and educated one.

The blog writing process can be lengthy and it can be difficult to fully capture someone’s voice and opinion on a subject, which is why bloggers often interview, create outlines, have many conversations, discuss topic ideas and angles before writing the first word. This process is not part of the “buy a blog” dot com experience; in fact it is quite the opposite.

I have personally tested many of these online content sites, only to find spelling mistakes or generic content that adds no value to the conversation online. I have downloaded a blog on LinkedIn, only to find LinkedIn spelled incorrectly. If small business owners were to simply buy and post the content, what would be the result?

I have heard that from a Search Engine Optimization perspective, these online sites offer great content, but blogs contain SEO based on the sheer fact that they are online content, not just based on keywords thrown in. More importantly, I don’t feel a quest for SEO results should detract from the value of a good blog.

I work with a lot of small businesses, and one of the main things they want to promote to their customers is the personalized quality of their service. I am not convinced that any online content provider site can create this level of quality prose, simply because there is no investment in understanding exactly what the client’s value is to their audience.

When it comes down to it, marketing isn’t a commodity. It’s about the relationships you form with your clients and the work you produce for them to get them the results they want. I love the feeling of writing something amazing for my clients, because I know that both themselves and their clients will get value from the message.

So next time you are shopping online for content, remember: if you don’t value the content on your site, how can you expect your clients to?