Have You Connected To Your Cause?


Brands today strive harder than ever to rise above the din of conversations to make lasting impressions on their target audience.  Aligning your brand with a social cause that is in sync with your values and goals has become an important way to attract and keep a growing fan base of followers.

After presenting to an organization of non-profits last week on the importance of branding for their marketing efforts, it occurred to me how many of them try to reach a broad audience with their specific appeal, rather than align themselves with business or personal brands that could elevate them faster to broader recognition.

Companies that are successful in partnering with their customers for social causes share similar traits.  They start by considering their consumer’s purpose and needs (not just theirs), then engage them in a series of truly meaningful experiences that make an impression for a lifetime – not just a moment.  That life-long impact creates a more meaningful bond with the brand, and ultimately results in benefits directly to the bottom-line.

Social cause marketing isn’t just another marketing fad, it’s an opportunity to re-think how you connect with your customers, and how you might create a process that delivers truly meaningful communications that have an impact forever.

Mutual Values

If your brand is clearly defined, you’ll have a core set of values you can easily communicate.  When you align those values with another cause that people already support, it’s another important validation that your part of their tribe and culture.  Social media allows us to show our support with a simple click, which is a perfect opportunity to open the door to a much deeper relationship.  By creating messaging and online resources that align with the right cause, you’ll not only increase your brand’s awareness, but you’ll drive action and inspire others to follow your lead – which in turn strengthens your brand’s online appeal.

Finding The Right Fit

Your cause doesn’t need to come by an already established formal organization or nonprofit.   The key is identifying a cause that your brand and others can eagerly support.  The key is to find a connection  between your brand and a cause that makes sense – especially to your specific audience.

Start by asking yourself what are the things your service or product is invested in for the long run.  What do you really believe in?  What type of belief would inspire others to buy your products/services and support a cause at the same time?  While the process may seem a little callous at first, it’s critical to take into consideration how to partner with your cause in a way that benefits everyone – especially your brand.

Align The Messages

Ask yourself a few key questions before you commit to a cause.  Where is your brand now, and where does it want to be? By aspiring to what you want to become, you begin the motivation for uplifting the partnership between your brand, and your cause.  Focus on becoming inspirational and sharing stories that can resonate with your specific audience, and entice them to share with their circles of friends.

What can your cause engagement do to really inspire people?  What stories can you create that will undoubtedly be shared with your friends and their friends?

Resist the temptation to insert your message into the cause.  Authentic cause relationships must be honestly transparent.  Once your audience gets an inkling of an idea that you’re using the cause simple to benefit your brand – the benefits vanish.

However, once you engage the right partnership and align your campaign messaging with their cause, you’ll create something that resonates with your audience…not simply more information for them.  Be sure to stay focused, and don’t forget to exercise control to keep your messaging on task.

Here’s Your Chance To Think Big – Really Big

The smallest campaign can catch a wave of support if it’s properly positioned and delivered.  Social media enables even the smallest cause campaign to go viral – and it doesn’t take much other than transparency and honesty to reach thousands of supporters with very little investment.   While you’re building that relationship, don’t forget to dream big, and inspire others to follow that dream.

Now is not the time to think solely about your brand’s engagement – dream of how big you might grow your cause related campaign and how best to work toward that together for everyone’s mutual benefit.

What causes is your brand aligned with?  Can you share an example of how cause marketing has worked for your brand?

Building A Smarter Brand


If you’re an entrepreneur in today’s market – my hat’s off to you.  You possess the power to see opportunity where others see obstacles, and you know how to act quickly to take advantage of that window to success.  Time, in today’s economy, is more precious and fleeting than ever as our lives move faster with technology and communications.

Besides endless hours of hard work getting your business financed and established, today’s entrepreneur wears an additionally daunting cap – broadcaster and market leader.  Building a loyal following of customers and fans is more important today than ever before – and the channels to reach them are increasing in complexity and reach with each passing day.

In the heat of the hunt for immediate results, many new (and existing) businesses dash past the brand development stage, and march quickly into delivering logos, websites and collateral from limited or multiple resources.  Who has time to ponder the personality of the language used to describe your product or service?  People just want to know about it, and hopefully stop long enough to pay attention.

Breaking that pattern of rushing to market is a key component to building a solid communications foundation that will serve you and your growing business for years.  Spending the time creating and defining your brand platform with a team of professionals will not only save you precious time, but precious funds in the short and long-term.  If done right, your brand platform will influence every single business decision you’ll make today, and in the future.

So what are the real bottom-line benefits you’ll get from establishing a solid brand platform and strategy?

1. Stand Out From The Competition

So much competition, and so little time to compare for too long, the window of opportunity to connect with today’s consumer is ever decreasing.  We multi-task on a variety of devices, all while maintaining several streams of conversation and potential distraction.  “New and Improved” simply isn’t enough to attract and keep consumer’s attention today; you have to prove your real, authentic value in competition with everyone.  Truly standing out in today’s market is harder than ever – and reaps even greater rewards when done well.

2. Communicate Your Value Quickly And Clearly

With a solid brand strategy and well-defined personality and language, you’ll be able to  speak with clarity and speed.  While speeding down the highway in your car, your billboard will have but a few seconds to be attracted and memorable to a stream of potential customers.  The internet is like a highway as well; with similar rules of quick and clear attraction requirements.  Keep your message concise and most importantly – make it memorable.

3. Attract Both Customers And Investors

Ask any budding young entrepreneur today who is just beginning to develop business ideas, and they’ll confirm that a strong brand is something they must have to secure funding.  “Build It And They Will Come” is notorious as a poor rationale to develop a product or service.  As humans, we want to believe that our realm of experience is similar if not exactly like our target market’s… which is often not true.   Spending the time to clearly define your target market, and give them reasons to buy from you from their perspective and experience is a critical step to financial returns.

4. Enjoy Lasting Marketing Returns

A well-defined brand platform is one business strategy that gives back for years if executed correctly.  As the company grows, so do you expand on the foundation that was established through a formal branding process.  Without that foundation, you’ll likely change messages and tactics enough to never gain traction in any specific market; and waste critical resources of time and money while doing it.  Developing a solid brand promise also translates into better information for creative expression; saving you time, money, and the sapping effort of going through rounds of creative attempts and evaluation.

5. Grow Faster With Purpose

One of the biggest challenges facing small businesses is to stay on track. It’s hard to know which opportunities to pursue, and which ones to pass on. Particularly when you don’t have the structure and decision-making processes of a large company. A well-defined Brand should be used as a continual, actionable filter to review everything: products, partnerships, people for fit to your core values. If they don’t fit, even if they have merit, then pass.

Brand platform building, especially defining your target market and your unique positioning is a powerful need for every business.  Many businesses see the branding process as a challenge, and not an advantage.

How do you see branding in your business today?  Is your brand platform clear to you and your market?
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6 Important Brand Strategy Steps


Spring is in the air, and this is the time of year businesses are energized about meeting and exceeding their goals.  I like to call it “new better bigger stronger” season.

It’s also time that many businesses consider a change in their marketing efforts and presentation overall to help reach new prospects and customers.  Many brands go as far as consider developing a refreshed positioning message overall to upgrade and uplift their communications to new potential clients.

If you’re one of those thinking hard about your brand’s real position in your market today, there are a few simple steps you can take that will get you down the path to a good start:

1. Conduct A Comprehensive Brand Audit: Take the time (and a survey) to listen in on how your prospects, customers and employees/vendor really perceive your brand.  This feedback is critical to discover any “disconnect” between what you think you’re conveying, and what they’re perceiving.  Once you find the gaps in your strategy, you can make appropriate changes for resolutions.

2. Take Time To Create Your Brand Architecture: It’s important that you take time to really define your unique value position, and prioritize it’s very specific features and benefits. Now is also a good time to define some important keywords that you’ll target your communications with for search engines and your various audiences.

3. Develop A Brand Strategy: Take the findings of your unique architecture and match that messaging with your various target audiences.  Make a list of where you plan to find and engage them, and what type of media or marketing support you may need.  Consider every possible media channel you can think of, from public relations and social media to traditional and interactive media.  Write them down and make a list!

4. Create Your Brand’s Story: By developing and writing out your compelling story that addresses your brand strategy, you’ll begin to be prepared to communicate with your market.  Be sure to think from your target audience’s perspective, and not from you own as an owner or employee.

5. Determine Your Brand’s Visual Requirements: Now for the fun part – from selecting colors, type styles and logo characteristics, you must visually reinforce your brand at every step of the way. Perhaps it’s a tweak of your existing logo that’s in order to update it, or an entirely different visual brand is needed – now is the time to make and execute on that part of the brand process.

6.  Develop Your Brand’s Operational Requirements: From logo use, to how the phone is answered – it’s important that you communicate the tone of the first five steps to every single person you engage.  Consistency is key to branding – and you now have the power behind your brand to communicate it with confidence.

Complete and document these steps with care, and you’ll not only see how you stand out from the competition, but you’ll be laying the foundation to grow faster than competitive brands in your same category – even in your same smaller community.

The biggest brands in the world know from experience that a well-defined business brand will generate more leads, rapidly accelerate their sales cycle, and create solid returns to their bottom line in faster time frames.  No matter what size company you are, the same principles of success apply to you.

If you’re like most of our clients and need help clearly defining and positioning your brand, we’re here to help.

Drive By Branding


I ran across this post (no pun intended to the image above) from fellow blogger Pam Moore, and thought it was so on target that you might enjoy its serious levity as well.
Brands, as we may both know, are not just logos – and they certainly aren’t built as quickly as a logo might be designed.  Beyond your company’s basic marketing platform, your brand represents the goals, objectives and unified identity that you want your customers and partners to be able to clearly identify and understand.  Great brand strategies have plans and purpose – just like great businesses have a business strategy for their products and services.

Definition of Brand:

A brand is the identity of a specific product, service, or business. A brand can take many forms, including a name, sign, symbol, color combination or slogan. The word brand began simply as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp. A legally protected brand name is called a trademark. The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity – it affects the personality of a product, company or service.

Pam Moore’s 15 Hints You are Guilty of Random Acts of

Branding (RABs)…  or what I like to call “Drive By Branding”:

1. You make midnight changes to your logo and launch the next morning on Facebook.

2. Your new logo does not match any of your other colors or fonts… yet you launch the lame  midnight logo anyway.

3. You leave a networking group and feel some competitive pressure, so you decide it’s time for a website overhaul which lead to the logo change.

4. You have no plan for your new website or logo overhaul.

5. You developed your new logo and/or brand elements in Powerpoint. You did a screen capture

of the image from Powerpoint because you don’t know how to create a .jpeg or .png file.

6. You have no idea how you are going to modify the rest of your brand elements to match your now launched but terrible logo.

7. You don’t know what to do with your ugly logo you launched. Nobody responded to the email asking for feedback.

8. You don’t really have good Adobe Photoshop or design skills yet you do all of your own graphic design work.

9. You have no formal training or real business experience on brand, marketing or design yet you do all of your own plus your clients design and brand work.

10. It doesn’t really bother you that all of the above is true. Your thought is “it’s just colors, people know what I can really do.”

11. You think it’s cool to be just like your competitors. You also figure it’s easy to copy them so why not do it.

12. You think your market will think you are the same as your competitors if you just copy/paste their experience and make it your own.

13. You think it would take too much time to put a real brand strategy together.

14. You think by copying your competitors brand people will think you’re just like them even if they double your experience, have twice the team and real branding skills.

15. I am annoying you with all of these statement because they are true. You want to think I am wrong, but you know deep down in your heart I am right.

Ok… let’s be honest.  Are you guilty of any of these villainous acts of branding?    Can you imagine how much time and money you might save by taking the task of branding seriously before you begin marketing or advertising your product or service?  We have branding process that works…every time if you’re in need of any help.


How to Interpret the Language of Branding


Branding professionals, like so many other types of work, often use terms that are both confusing and unknown to many of their clients.  While it’s true that branding terminology can be its own language, it’s not hard to decipher – just type “branding terms” into any browser for a bit of research.  But really, who wants (or needs) to rush to a computer in order to understand anyone who’s job is, in part, clearly communicating basic values?

I’m going to make the assumption that you’d rather have a quick overview of branding terms, rather than spend the hours it might take to review the (literally) millions of results you’ll get from an online search of brand terms:

Brand: There are many ways to express the concept of “brand”, but basically – they’re all the same.  A brand is a promise about who you are and what benefits you deliver.  This “promise” is one that needs to be reinforced each and every time people come in contact with any facet of you, your product and/or your business.

Brand Identity: In more common terms – a logo.  This mark can be made of many parts that represent the values of your brand.  It might include a specific logo design, color scheme, symbols and typeface(s).

Brand Image: Brand image is simply the set of beliefs about what your brand is…what it stands for…what your customer associates with you and your brand’s name.

Branding: Is the process of building positive perceptions in your customer’s mind.  Note: (not YOUR mind…your customers).

Brand Position: How your compares to (and perhaps collaborates with) other brands that are in your competitive market.

Brand Management: Is the process of controlling your brand’s identity and message throughout your entire organization, and through the all communication channels (including the media)

Brand Equity: Is the value of your brand’s assets – its qualities, reputation and recognition – and the demand it creates.  A brand with great equity creates loyal customers that carry their loyalty through to future revenues.

Ther are many, many other terms you’re likely to encounter when you enter a conversation about brands.  Brand message, brand strategy, brand revitalization, rebranding or even brand extension – just to name a few.  You don’t need to worry about these at first – as the basics will help guide you through.

Is Branding Important? Really?

From our experience, far too many companies jump to developing a logo or website before they really have a full understanding of the foundations of their brand.  Too many companies just want to rush to develop award-winning logos and impressive website or  launch materials only to have their sales go sideways when the customer has an actual brand experience.

You and I both know this – false promises don’t work in the end. Your brand must honestly, accurately convey who you truly are each and every time the customer encounters you, and every single other “touchpoint” every other of your brand.

It really doesn’t matter if your selling and marketing a product or service.  And it doesn’t matter if you’re a small company, or a large corporation – the branding process applies to you along with the same benefits you’ll receive from getting it right at the start.

Branding Your Bottom Line


When was the last time you took time to consider your brand?  If you’re thinking about your logo, you’d only be partially on track.

Your company brand isn’t simply what you appear (or want) to be, its what you do, and how your perceived.  One of the easiest ways to understand this is to simply replace the work “brand” with an alternate word – “reputation”. Your company brand includes every touch point by every stakeholder that’s in contact with you, including your internal resources such as management, employees, vendors and most importantly – your customers and prospects.  Crafting your brand’s communications at the beginning of your outreach will save you money, while substantially increasing your effectiveness – especially in comparison with your competition.

Brand Faults

Poor brand development can results in many losses to your bottom line.  Here are a few you might consider avoiding:

No Point of Differentiation

Contrast and compare your product or service with your competition. Besides obvious factors like price, what really makes you different?  WHY should YOUR customer care?  With a strong positioning statement and strategy, your customers will want to build a relationship with you that could last a lifetime.  If price is the only factor that sets you apart, you’ll not gain a significant part of the existing, or future market potential.

Lack of Brand Image

You know how the logo on your card is different than the one on your sign or in your recent ad?  Perhaps the font your using on your letterhead isn’t the same as what you use on your website?  Or that shade of green that you like on your brochure just isn’t the same as your logo?   This inconsistency within your brand will certainly create confusion.  With the few precious seconds that you have to establish your brand in the mind and heart of your prospects, you can’t afford to cause any confusion that might cost you business.

Unreal Brand Values

If great customer service is one of your brand values, then leaving a customer on hold for more than a few brief moments isn’t consistent with your promise.  And if your customers can’t trust your business promise, then how can they trust you enough to buy from you?   Ignoring your brand’s core values will cost you loyal customers and new prospects – and you may not even know it’s a problem if you don’t look carefully at your brand.

Lack of focused offer

If you’re good at providing one singular product or service – then focus on that without trying to become “all things to all people”.  Competition, especially in today’s challenging economy, is more aggressive than ever.  If you’re an accountant, would you consider adding another line of work to your office and provide legal counsel?  Of course not.

But too many brands fraction their efforts early in the process of determining their specific brand niche – and bring so much competition to their door, that they can’t survive the crush of competitive brand messages.  Be the brand leader in your category – no matter how narrow that category may be.

In addition, it’s far more cost effective to market a specific product to a target audience than to shotgun a series of products or services to the general public.  Get specific, and you’ll get results.

Poor Internal Communications

When employees can’t get real information from management – they make it up for themselves, and develop rumors that take more time to address than resolve.  Rumors have “legs”, and can easily become a perceived reality in the marketplace – to your current customers and prospects as well.  If your stability is in question, you’ll feel the money leaving your hands before it even gets to you.

Leverage Your Brand

Branding is critical for every business, and even for nearly every professional personally.  Whether your launching a new business, or have been in business successfully for years – addressing your brand will provide you with the foundation for continued growth, or to gain the necessary market share that you’ll need to be successful.  Build you brand as a competitive asset – as you would your legal and financial status and systems.  As a core value that’s often overlooked, don’t be one of the many businesses who invest in every aspect of their operations – with exception to their most valuable asset – their brand.

What have you done to codify your brand?  Do you have it written down in detail so that you can share it with your staff, customers and prospects?

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