Focus Your Branding For Success

One of the important challenges we face as a communications team is convincing new and old companies that having a formal, written, focused marketing strategy is and essential foundation for success.  You’d think this wouldn’t be all that difficult to accept from a logical perspective; planning is key to reach any of your goals.  Yet, we’re constantly surprised at how few do have one, and how many say they do… but really don’t.

Focus, in marketing, is critical.  The risk of losing focus is failure, and often signals the end for a brand.  But how do you go about focusing and developing a cohesive, integrated brand marketing strategy?  Our advice (obviously) would be to hire a professional to help you… unless you have a strong background in marketing; let alone advertising, public relations, social media, and web development.  All of these important brand strategy tools are there for you to consider, and strategically plan into an actionable list of tactics and to-do’s.

If you don’t have the experience or funds to invest in a professional’s guidance and help, strategizing and defining your unique communications is more than challenging – it’s nearly impossible for many entrepreneurs and emerging brands.  Although you may not have the resources to hire a professional or agency, the need remains, and many businesses close their doors because of scattered and unfocused brand strategies.

There are a few mistakes that continue to reveal themselves when investigating our client’s unique brand stories and goals.  If you can identify any these trends in your communications, consider that it might be time to adjust your thinking and plans:

Serving Too Many Masters.  Focus your attention on one, possibly two messages at any given time.  Consistency is key – in both appearance, tone, and frequency.  If you can’t clearly communicate your value in various time frames you’ll encounter from the elevator pitch to the hour long lunch, you’ve not defined your brand clearly enough for anyone to easily understand.

Not Everyone Is A Fan.  In fact, few people will be fans as you introduce and continue to communicate your brand’s services or products.  If you’ve not defined your target market with extreme precision and detail, you’ll not spend your time or money wisely with a shot-gun approach.  Your unique enthusiasm for what you do, and who you serve needs to be carefully tailored to be in the tone and mode your very specific audience is welcoming.

Cheap Is Not Always Good.  That 150,000 coupon booklet opportunity might seem like a great media buy – until they scatter your brand in the wind after delivery to your neighbors doorstep.  Randomly choosing media options that appear to be a good deal is not part of a targeted media campaign.  While great deals happen, you need to have a media and communications plan (PR+Social Media+Advertising) that broadcasts your message to a very specific audience. Start with a 90 day commitment at a miniumum with good frequency for that specific media channel.

Not Following The Herd.  Investing time mingling in social circles that your brand should be known is, including networking events and social media channels, may be one of the most effective use of time and money for your brand’s success.  Even the largest national brands maintain strong social presences in their specific industry’s circles.  Once you’ve got a solid brand strategy and communications plan in place, it’s critical to network your way to larger circles of connections – and opportunity.

Don’t forget – the 80/20 rule still applies in brand marketing today, especially with tighter budgets and more communication channels to choose.  Time is still money – and spending both are critical first steps for any brand – no matter what its age.  If you find you’re in need of direction with this critically important step in branding, please contact us.

Focus your brand’s strategy on an innovative, integrated communications plan – and get started on the path to greater rewards for your investment of time and money now.

The Long Road To CommRow

It’s been months since I’ve felt I had the time, or motivation, to return to blogging.

For awhile, I used the “more important things to do” excuse.  Or the “does it really matter if I do or don’t?” excuse for not taking the time to look out into the world, and share perspectives on the ever-changing world of branding and marketing.  The fact is – I have been busier than at any other time in my career.  Looking back on the past 10 months now, I see that my lack of dedication to blogging was more about my lack of dedication to myself – to my own growth and understanding.

Plus…and I mention this with the utmost respect to those who actually make a living blogging (or helping others to) – it’s damn hard work.  Given how hard my most recent project has been, there simply weren’t enough hours in the day.

I’ve “come back to myself” now, and to this thing I love – investigating, commenting, and sharing dialogue about the things and perspectives that motivate me every day.

What happened in those 10 months was nothing short of miraculous.  An empty casino at a key location in downtown Reno was transformed into a 60,000 square foot, three level entertainment, food and climbing/training center.  From Fitzgeralds’ has risen CommRow – Reno’s First Urban Adventure Destination.

In December 2010, I joined the developer’s team to begin the process of designing (and redesigning) the facilities – from concept development through local government approvals – I was able to see every aspect of what it takes to develop an entirely new category of brand – the creative reuse of an outdated casino into a contemporary center for healthy fun.  Positioning the property from its inception, we developed a brand with nothing less than 14 sub-brands – each with their own identity and purpose.

While nobody knew exactly what would become of this idea at that time, we all worked days and nights and weekends to drive toward finding out if we believed it was financially feasibly possible.  Literally tens of “waterfall” spreadsheets later – the decision was made that it was – and the race was on to build it.

Ten months later – we opened the doors to the first three floors with fireworks, concerts and crowds.

And now I’m the development’s Marketing Director/Creative Director/Graphic Designer/Janitor.  As the processes for getting an effort this big off the ground begin to establish themselves, I’m hoping to have more time to dedicate to my first passion – SmartBrand.  And to getting back to building more brands for passionately focused companies.

For now…I have my hands plenty full and have been enjoying every excruciating second.  More importantly…I’m learning so much, so quickly, that I’ve become once again dedicated to exploring and sharing about the business of building brands.

I hope you’ll come back and share your thoughts as I do…and always, honestly, thank anyone reading this stuff I feel compelled to share.

More to come about CommRow’s intents and challenges…and about the world of branding, marketing, advertising…and all their many components.

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.

Reno Green Drinks @ Reno Collective – West Street Market In July!

It was another great gathering of “green” professionals at this month’s Reno Green Drinks at Reno Collective.  A BIG thank you to Mike Malody at Reno Beer Crawl for providing the libations.

Photos of the night’s festivities can be seen here.

Thanks to Natural Nevadan for joining us…and covering it on their blog!

Reno Green Drinks thanks to Ed Askins and Colin Robertson for giving our group tours of the Reno Collective facilities.  If you haven’t stopped by to see them – please take time to check Reno Collective out at 250 Bell Street in downtown Reno.

JULY’S Reno Green Drinks will be on THURSDAY, JULY 22nd (5-7pm as always) – and we’ll be meeting at WEST STREET MARKET.

Just in time for Artown, and for the peak of the downtown summer season.  We hope you’ll join us in supporting the bars, shops and restaurants in one of Reno’s most sustainable reuse of urban areas – the West Street Market.

Measuring Your Social Media


Yes…it can be done…and with accuracy.  Brand awareness is still a major goal, but metrics play a key role in measuring the ROI from your investment in time – or your client’s investment in you.  Start with the goal… then determine the time you think it should take to achive – then measure your results for the two.  It’s not as difficult as you’d think.  Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:

For Facebook

So much expectation around this platform that it’s quickly become the defacto leader in the social media mix.  There are plenty of tools and demos you can work with, a few of which really help measure your success:

  • How many times was your promotion message liked?
  • If you launched your own Facebook application, how many times was it actually installed and shared?
  • Did you actually reach your targeted audience?  Check in with Facebook Insights for some guidance.
  • What was your investment into your Facebook campaign in dollard, and how does that compare with the cost-per-click, or better yet, amount of new sales?

The Viral Blog

Blogger outreach programs are key to public relations these days.  For the money, it’s quickly becoming a cost-effective way to spread your brand’s message.

  • Use Google Alerts to find out just how many bloggers are talking about you.
  • Do your research to find out what comments they received.
  • Measure your web traffic both before, and after the campaign.

The Tweet

Immediate results – for la fraction of a penny on an impression. Twitter is quickly becoming the go-to application to launch a brand. Measuring your impact on Twitter is fairly simple to uncover:

  • How many times was your hashtag used?
  • Who retweeted your posts?
  • If you have a vanity URL – how many times was it accessed and used?
  • Of course, how many new followers did you gain?  Be sure to eliminate the growing army of spammers who really arent’ engaged with you.

Video, Video, Video

Perhaps our personal favorite, YouTube (Vimeo, Viddler, etc.) are quickly becoming THE tool of choice.  Try to discover:

  • What is your new views count?
  • Did you receive any “likes”?
  • What was the download count for your video?
  • Did you gain new subscribers to your channel?
  • How many social shares did you track?

These suggestions just begin to scratch the surface of possibilities for measuring your campaign.  New tools to help you do this spring up like dandelions in a field of grass.  The key is to truly define your goals before you start…and establish your form of measurement well before taking any steps toward a launch.

After all…without an accurate way to measure your efforts, why even start?

What are YOU doing to measure your campaigns?  What successes/failures have you experienced that might help others?

How about you – how are you measuring your campaigns and defining success?

A Tool To Help Measure Social Media


We all have questions about the ROI for social media campaigns.  Are we really being heard by the right people?  I ran across an article by CMG Partners, co-authored by Warren Katz, Laura Papero and J. Mark Carr titled “Improving Product Launches – Stop Seeking The Silver Bullet“.

Like them, I share thc common brand steward questions they do –  “where are people talking about us?”, “how big of a bang am I getting on this program?”.  More importantly  – how do we really know when it’s worth the investment?

Trendrr is an exacting tool to help monitor web presence and social media impact.  From the examples created on their site, you can see how it’s deployed to measure terms, companies, conversations – even brands on the web.  Creating your own data sets is a bit daunting, but once you’ve taken a bit of time to explore how you can configure the system – it’s fairly easy and intuitive.

Better yet, you can dive a bit deeper into terms and concepts that may be a bit too complex for Google Trends.

Don’t get me wrong – brand equity can’t be diluted into simple data.  I can’t agree with Trendrr’s positioning that through their tool set, you can “understand your brand’s full online and social media presence”.   There are so many additional factors that simple response can’t measure – the quality of mentions and response, their tone (both intended and implied) – and even more importantly – the market share for any particular measurement.  But Trendrr is one tool that can help you quantify data for those that are selling direct response – or at lease the viral aspects of one.

And so, you can spend countless hours assessing and measuring a brand’s position and reputation online – and simple (free!) tools like Trenderr can be a very way to get started.

Think you’ll use Trendrr?  If so – how?  And if not – why?

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