I do a lot of different things, as most of you know: creative direction, graphic design, copywriting, web design, illustration… to quote my LinkedIn page. 🙂 Lately, I’ve been coaching quite a few clients in their marketing. I feel like I’ve been giving the same speech over and over, and it’s a valuable speech – like the “How to be a Man” speech from Secondhand Lions, or Curly’s “One Thing” speech from City Slickers. I would like to give you this speech because I think it will help you in whatever you’re doing – whether it’s a business, a cause, a hobby, an idea or yourself. Everyone is selling something. And if you are selling something, you need a marketing strategy – something simple and effective.
So, here we go:
Intelligent Marketing in the Age of Social Media – Part 1
Step 1: Have the Right Name
I told you this was simple! Unfortunately, a lot of businesses, products and even people have names that don’t fit what they do or who they are, but they use them anyway because, in a moment of pseudo-revelation, if not euphoric intoxication, they came up with what they believed was the next best thing to sliced bread. I can’t tell you how many times people have shared with me their “great name” and I felt like saying, “Don’t any of your friends tell you the truth?” Because, if they did, they would have told them, “That’s stupid.” Do your friends a favor, because no one else will: when they come to you with a stupid idea, tell them it’s stupid. Hurt feelings have no place in a friendship.
Usually, I’m brought into the picture after the idea has been set in stone, so there’s not much I can say or do. But I’ll tell you: if someone has a weak or even bad name, it will take a miracle to figure out how to market it. Make it easy on yourself and your marketing people: If you are not a creative person, or even if you are, leave the naming to a professional copywriter. That’s what we do.
Here’s my pet peeve: initials. Initials are the absolute worst idea for a name. For example, B & J Towing, because the owners are named Bob and John. Boy, they really had their thinking caps on when they came up with that one! What is the number one issue that people needing a tow have? Having to wait two hours for the tow truck to arrive. Why not something like On Time Towing? Anything but initials. Why? Because initials are difficult for people to remember – was that B & L or D & J ? – especially if they’re right brainers. Plus, there are probably dozens of similar names out there. You want to be remembered, right? Give people something to work with. (One of the few exceptions that I can think of off the top of my head is BMW, and they are primarily remembered for their distinctive mark. That’s a whole nother category.)
I love the name Pink Plumber – obviously a woman plumber, but who in the world will not remember that? I have a family member whose nanny service is called Purple Nanny. Great name! Colors make great names. So do animals. As a matter of fact, anything that can be visualized makes a great name. Red Bull is the perfect name, especially for an energy drink, because it conjures up a raging, dangerous animal, which is what the makers want you to think you’ll feel when you drink their beverage. They are perfect partners for the ultimate sports events they sponsor. What if it were called B & J Energy drink? Sounds generic, doesn’t it. You do not want to sound generic. You want to be special and unique. You want to be remembered.
Step 2: Have the Right Look
This is where logo and packaging come in. Currently, there is a lot of talk about branding, even individuals having their own, personal brand. They’re talking about logo, basically. Name, packaging and even slogan play into this as well; so does targeting, all of which we’ll get into shortly. But primarily, when you’re talking about branding, you’re talking about a logo and what that logo stands for.
Everyone who knows the Nike swoosh knows the power of a logo and the brand behind it. Only, in Nike’s case, it’s their mark. The mark is the graphic that goes along with the name. There is no more powerful mark, or brand, than Nike’s. Originally, their name always accompanied their mark. But eventually, they dropped the name and just went with the swoosh. That is the sign of a really strong brand, and the results of some very good marketing. Notice that it is the visual in the logo that survived, not the name. That is almost always the case with a brand that becomes a classic. (Kleenex is an exception. Sometimes the name of one brand comes to represent the whole category of products, as in the case of Kleenex. Then it is name recognition, rather than visual recognition.)
When it comes to a logo, you don’t want to look like everyone else. You want to be different. You want to stand out. You want to choose colors, graphics and fonts that are edgy. You want your look to be unique. But, also, you want it to fit the market you’re trying to reach. Which brings me back to Purple Nanny. This business’ target market is high-end clients (doctors, lawyers, bankers), who are looking for a nanny for their children. Obviously, the owner realizes that women drive that market: so she has a stylish logo in stylish colors. No Home Depot here. But it is also fun and whimsical: it needs to be when you’re talking about children. She also knows the historical context of her industry because she’s thrown in a Mary Poppins umbrella. This is a very intelligent logo and look for this particular business.
Here is my entry into this category, done recently for a client:
Of course, all branding can’t be fun and whimsical. Sometimes it’s serious business, as with a funeral home, bank or even an architectural firm. Obviously, those type businesses need a different approach. But what usually happens is, marketers fall into a rut trying to come up with ideas that look like everyone else’s. What is needed is innovation within certain parameters – creativity with bounds. But what we usually get is stereotyping and cliches. Predictability is good when it comes to service; it is bad when it comes to marketing. What if, every time your spouse dressed up, he/she put on the same outfit? Eventually, you would lose interest. It works the same way in business. Have a look, but don’t have one outfit. More on this later.
Here is a logo I designed for an architectural firm in Florida, so it is seamfoam green and, well, architectural, which means it is simple and well-ordered, like a good piece of architecture or even a good piece of music:
Just a word about packaging (another pet peeve). It drives me crazy to go to the grocery store and not be able to find a favorite brand because they changed their packaging. This is the sign of a company that has lost its way, in my opinion. It’s one thing to freshen up a look, but quite another to come up with a look that is unidentifiable with your product. If people recognize your laundry detergent because it is in a bright orange box, like Arm & Hammer, don’t change to a bright green box – you will lose a large percentage of your customers. I was using a body wash that I really liked, and, one day, I couldn’t find it because the company had totally changed the look of their packaging. When I finally found it, months later, I had already changed brands. This is an example of stupid marketing, in my opinion.
Step 3: Have the Right Web Site
There are web sites and there are web sites. We used to ask clients, “Do you want an online brochure or do you want something interactive?” Today, that question no longer applies: it has to be interactive. The next question, not long ago, might have been, “Do you want it social?” meaning, do you want blogging or a forum where people can leave posts and comments? That, too, in a moot question. Today’s web sites have to be social.
The next two questions might be, “Do you need a database?” and “Do you need e-commerce?” If it is going to be a WordPress site, which more and more sites today are, then it is going to have a database. As far as e-commerce, that, too, could be a moot question in future, as more and more people are writing books, shooting videos and offering webinars to clients and visitors.
WordPress offers all of this, and more, which is why, increasingly, I offer WordPress as a solution to almost any client’s need for a web site: it is inexpensive, offers a myriad of themed templates, offers e-commerce, is data-driven, has good security features, has a built-in blog, has built-in SEO (search engine optimization), etc. WordPress has pretty much become the standard in web site design, the way Google has become the standard in search engines. I still offer from-scratch HTML and PHP web site design for clients with unusual needs or deep content; but that has become the exception, not the rule.
There are other, content management systems (CMS) out there, like Joomla and Drupal, which, for whatever reason, companies get started with. I am not a fan of these because, once you’re locked into them, you’re locked in. If you ever wanted to migrate out of them, you’d have some problems. Technology is changing too rapidly to get “locked in” to anything.
Besides, most clients want to be able to “take over” a web site, once I’m done with it, and do their own postings and uploads. WordPress is easy enough to learn for them to be able to do that.
These three things – name, look and web site – are the basics. Anyone who doesn’t have these is not in business, is not selling anything, is not trying to influence people, has no brand. You cannot have a presence in today’s marketplace, or even in today’s society, without these three things.
Have you noticed something about the logos in this article? I didn’t plan it this way, but almost all of them incorporate black and/or blue. These two colors, plus red, represent the strongest colors you can use in a logo, or even in advertising in general. Did you notice how simple the logos are? Very little 3D and no photography. Just simple, plain, flat images. That is what makes a good logo. As few words as you can get away with, as few colors, as few lines. The simpler the better. Like the Nike mark.
Now, I’m leaving a lot out. Obviously, if you want people to call you, you will need a phone number, which you will add, along with your logo and web site address, to your business cards. You may also want to have stationery (letterhead and envelope). There is a lot of customization that needs to take place to figure out exactly what you need for your particular business. So far, I’ve given you the basics that everyone needs.
In Part 2, I will get into the actual marketing process. I hope you’ll join me.
Waitsel Smith, July 18, 2013
Creative Director, Creative Sharks
Atlanta, GA, USA
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Text © 2013 Waitsel Smith. Artwork © 2013 Various Companies as Indicated, Including Creative Sharks. All Rights Reserved.