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Visual Content Can Improve Sales

Appearances can be deceiving, but numbers don’t lie! 

Carefully selected visual content can add real value to your brand’s sales and marketing process. Research validates that out, and not your traditional type either. Experts who study brain scans correlated with tracking eye movements indicate these patterns can speak volumes about consumer preferences.

Part physiology and part art, the reasons for this reality are varied. What it means is that no matter where you market your products or services, from tiny gadgets to in-person events to subscription packages, visuals should be at the core of how you plan your communications strategy.

Consider this as your opportunity to take an honest look your brand’s image and touch it up for a public appearance. After all, when was the last time you headed to a business meeting or into the office without taking a look at the person staring back at you?

We’ll explore a few principles driven by statistics that help us understand why visuals are such a big deal for sales and content marketing.

Photos and videos appeal to our brains

Let’s get technical for a moment and acknowledge the fact that we’re built to process visual cues far better than text-based ones. Quoting from a Nieman Reports interview with Marcel Just, director of the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University:
“Processing print isn’t something the human brain was built for. The printed word is a human artifact. It’s very convenient and it’s worked very well for us for 5,000 years, but it’s an invention of human beings. By contrast Mother Nature has built into our brain our ability to see the visual world and interpret it. Even the spoken language is much more a given biologically than reading written language.”
That reality means photos, videos and related tech gadgets play well with human audiences overall—not just humans in a specific demographic.

Another good example is this somewhat dated yet valuable roundup of research pointing to the power of the human face in images to generate empathy and improve conversion rates among viewers. The roundup identifies one successful example of such a pairing in Wistia, a video hosting and marketing firm— mouse over any of these photos to watch a series of still frames strung together to spotlight zany dancing and even a disappearing head.

Fun visuals can indeed generate powerful engagement.

Social media helps prepare buyers to purchase

No duh, you say? Social media may seem an obvious delivery platform for visual-driven sales, and for good reason: Data bear out those assumptions.

For example:

  • 93 percent of Pinterest users use the platform to plan purchases [Shopify]
Ad recall, brand awareness and purchase consideration experience lift within the first second of a Facebook video ad playing [Facebook]
Consumers view native ads such as those on social media 52 percent more than banner ads [Right Mix Technologies]

Sites such as Social Media Impact explain how you can capitalize on Pinterest visuals and visuals on other platforms to drive sales. Even developers can tap Pinterest for a buck as Bloomberg reports via

Visuals boost pre-sales credibility

Content marketers can support their sales by emphasizing credibility through visuals. Consider Stanford Web Credibility Research, which has compiled a list of the 10 most critical factors affecting perceived credibility of websites.

No. 6 on the list should catch your eye. That’s the line item noting the value of a professional-looking presentation.

“We find that people quickly evaluate a site by visual design alone,” the researchers note. “When designing your site, pay attention to layout, typography, images, consistency issues and more. Of course, not all sites gain credibility by looking like The visual design should match the site’s purpose.”

Be sure to check out MediaPost report on home-buying and consumer spending points out. If your brand happens to produce sports apparel, what athletics trends might impact your next marketing campaign? How might you generate revenue based on activity in similar-but-different industries?

In similar fashion, a small shift on the visual marketing front can unleash a tidal wave of engagement and, ideally, consumer spending. A major component of the infographic and other visual media is to grab viewers’ attention so you have more time to build your case, points out on its blog.

Journey into the frenetic online world, the 500 million-tweets-per-day fray and snag eyeballs with photos and video.

And don’t forget to love a little. It might just boost your sales close to 13,600 percent.

New Rules Of Visual Content Marketing

 When it comes to visual content, your customers expect something very different compared to just a few years ago. It is now supercharged by mobiles and visual social media networks.

It used to be OK to have a static website gallery, post text to your social channels, and use corporate photos and videos online. Now, readers depend on visuals to figure out whether your content is worth their time.

Expectations of consumers have changed too. They no longer have time to click through to an image or link to see what your content is about. They make split-second decisions based on the visual content provided.

So whether your content is being consumed within social channels or on your website, visual content remains a powerful tool – but only if done correctly.

In short, the rules of visual content have changed.

Why should you use visual content?

Just take a quick look at these 3 snack size facts about the visually wired human.
In a visual content format :)

Below are new rules of visual content marketing. Break them and you risk losing your customers.

1. The law of the recent

When we go online, most of the content we consume is from today, or at best yesterday.

Content from last week is practically unreachable unless you’re looking for something specific. And content from last year has become history so ancient, it might as well be obsolete.

Skeptical? Test it.

Go to your favourite social network. Open it up and take a look at your home feed. Can you find a post from last week in the first 25 updates?

Notice something else? The only way you can tell how recent a post is, is by the time stamp on them. Posts from today will either have the time they were published visible or tell you how long ago the post was made. E.g. an hour ago, five hours ago, yesterday.

In order for your content to be relevant, it has to be recent. The best way to do that is by time stamping your content or featuring topical events.
Honda has created a social hub on their website where they curate and display recent customer content.

2. The law of authenticity

People are more likely to trust a referral from a friend or relative than a company.

In fact, research has shown Millennials are even more likely to trust a complete stranger than a company. It’s why user-generated content is considered far more compelling than any content a brand produces.

Photos and videos from your customers tell the real story of your brand and are far more effective.
NZone is an extreme sport (skydiving) company. Customers who share personal pictures of their experience increase authenticity and can instil trust for anyone considering making a purchase.

3. The law of credibility

The law of credibility states that your customers must be willing to stand by your brand by publicly aligning themselves with it.

In layman terms, if your customers are posting images and sharing their experiences, they should be linking back to you or tagging you in their social media updates.

Think about it. What would you trust more? An image or video shared by a company showing how happy and satisfied their clients are? Or the same thing shared by one of their customers?

Dole is an international brand which markets and distributes fruit including pineapples, bananas and paw paws. They often get their customers to share content from events or at home consuming the product.

4.  The law of relevance

Visual content needs to be presented in context. It has to be relevant, informative and well organized.

So if you’re selling a product online, you need to provide corresponding visual content for it. Make sure you place relevant content in the right place.

For example if you are selling  particular line of clothing not only do you need to place photos of that on the right web pages, you also need to place the correct user-generated photos on the right webpage, which in this case may involve your customers with those clothes in a real life situation.

Superette is an on-line retailer. They take care of this law by linking customer photos to their products.

5. The law of the caption

A picture may be worth a thousand words but a caption or headline can often bring it further to life.

There’s no denying that we process visual content faster than text-based content. But a simple caption is often required to tell a visual story more effectively.

A caption also helps you communicate your brand’s identity. For example if your brand focuses on making things easy and fun for your customers, then the caption can be humorous.

The Press, a daily newspaper, ran a photo competition and asked their readers to submit their best backyard cricket photos for a World Cup promotion. One user submitted the image below with a caption that made a photo infinitely more interesting.

6. The law of social

Your customers expect to be able to interact with your visual content – whether it’s on your social channels or on your website.

Make it easy for them by providing them opportunities to comment on your content, share them easily on their preferred social networks, and even email the content to their friends if they want to.

The law of social doesn’t end here though. Your customers also expect you to acknowledge their efforts. If they’ve left a comment, reply to it. If they’ve shared on social media, thank them for it. Find a way to make it worth their while and they’ll continue giving your visual content the same attention.

Interislander – a ferry service ran a photo contest that asked their customers to share their favourite Interislander memory on their website or Instagram and tag them.

Needless to say, the competition was a huge hit!

7. The law of personality 

For too long brands have been bland and boring. Think stock photos.

Thankfully, the recent developments in visual content make it easy to bring a brand to life.

The right visuals, including photos, videos, infographics, and e-books can add depth to your brand story and reinforce your culture.

One of the easiest ways to do so is to give your customers a “behind the scenes” look. Show them what goes into making or marketing your brand, post pictures from office events, maybe even how you brainstorm.

The more your customers know about the culture of your company, the more your brand’s personality will shine through.

The Queensland Opera does this brilliantly. From pictures of their costume designs, rehearsals, and makeup – they keep their fans and followers engaged.

8. The law of consistency

Apart from engaging customers, the role of visual content is to reinforce your brand. For that to happen, your content needs to have consistency.

This isn’t strictly a new law, but it’s worth reinforcing. We’re not referring to publishing visual content consistently. It’s more about elements in your visuals that tell your target market that the visual is from your company – even if you’re not linked or tagged in it.

You can do this by using the same:

  • Fonts and colours as your website
  • Images in your company’s social media accounts and profile page headers
  • Design element like a background, banner, or logo.

Customers should be able to recognize the content is from your brand at a glance.

All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team, have their photos naturally branded. Whether their visuals are from their own team or from fans, they all include the All Blacks in one form or another.

9. The law of resilience

Content never sleeps and neither does your online presence.

Visual content is not a campaign that ends in a few days or weeks. It’s not a one-off thing. It’s an on-going strategy.

Make creating, publishing, and maintaining visual content a key part of your marketing strategy.

Jucy, one of tourism’s top content marketers, has created an on-going visual content, much of which is from their customers.

10. The law of quality

With cell phone cameras getting better and better by the day, customers have learned to take great photos and videos themselves.

And with the numerous filters available through Instagram and others, it’s possible to source high quality content from your customers.

The good news is, you can use that content and combine it with your own in-house efforts to help with your marketing activities.

Dilmah, a renowned tea company, encourages its tea drinkers to share their best photos with them for a chance to win awesome prizes like a 10-day trip to New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

A photo submitted by one of Dilmah fans. Source: Dilmah Tea in the City Photo Competition

Visual content – a vital part of your content marketing strategy.

There’s no denying it. Visual content is a vital part of any marketing strategy.

The days of the old website photo gallery are far behind us. When done right, visual content can drive traffic to your site, increase page views, lower bounce rate, and convert website traffic into sales.

Use these new laws of visual content to up your marketing game and grow your business. Ignore them and you risk becoming obsolete.

How do your current visuals compare against these new laws? Are they giving you the results you want? Or are you struggling to create visuals that would interest your customers?

10 Commandments of Great Copywriting

Follow these tips to help you create clear, concise, lively writing that captures your e-mail readers' attention.

E-mail marketers use many strategies to improve the effectiveness of their campaigns, but one area often overlooked is what fills the page--the copy you write.

Whether you're a seasoned writer or a novice, it's always important to strengthen your editorial skills and make sure your e-mail marketing communications contain valuable information. Good copy helps your readers understand your offer--and how to respond. The following copywriting tips are ones that pros know well. Keeping these "commandments" in front of you when you write will help you create compelling copy that engages your readers, conveys your business message and creates effective calls for action.

Commandment #1: Know your audience. 

Who is this e-mail going to? Picture the average person on your list. Give them a name, even. Think about what their day is like. Think about what's important to them. What are they passionate about? How old are they? What products or services have they purchased from you in the past and why? The more you know about the audience you're writing for, the more targeted and relevant your copy will be.

Commandment #2: Determine your value proposition. 

Know the answers to these questions: Why should your customer buy your product or service? What's in it for them? Why is your product better than the one down the street? What are your key differentiators?

Commandment #3: Find a unique selling proposition. 

The more your offer stands out from the competition, the better your chances of getting a response. Rosser Reeves, author of Reality in Advertising, defines the unique selling proposition as a promotion that offers "something that competitors do not, or will not, offer." He also says, "The proposition must be strong enough to pull new customers to the product."

Commandment #4: Establish an objective. 

What's the purpose of this e-mail? What action are you trying to get the reader to take? You need to be clear on this before you start writing. If the answer isn't clear to you, it certainly won't be clear to your reader.

Commandment #5: Use a compelling subject line. 

The subject line is what gets your e-mail opened, so don't write something quickly just before sending. You have to convince your readers that they really need to open your e-mail. The best word you can use to get the reader's attention is you. The word you says that the message is about them. Other great words for subject lines (and headlines) include new, exciting, exclusive and introducing. Also, try to keep your subject line to 50 characters or less, including spaces.

Commandment #6: Write a great headline. 

If the subject line gets your reader to open the e-mail, then the headline gets them to read further. Consider using some of the buzzwords mentioned in commandment #5 in the headline so it'll grab readers with an obvious "What's in it for me?" message. Here's a question to ask yourself: What if my customers only read the headline? Will they know enough about you and what you offer?

Tip: Write five to 10 different subject lines and five to 10 different headlines to see what works best. Also, you may find that it's easier to write a subject line and headline after you've written the body copy.

Commandment #7: Avoid weasel words. 

When writing headlines, subheads and body copy, don't use words that avoid a direct command, aka weasel words. These include may, maybe, hope, wish, try, but, could, perhaps and strive. Instead, use words like will and can to describe what your product or service will or can do for your reader.

Commandment #8: Don't use passive voice--write in the present tense. 

Passive voice weakens your message. It's best to avoid it. Here are a few examples to help you see the difference:
"Our company was chosen to receive an award" vs. "Our company received an award."
"We have had 15 new products arrive" vs. "Fifteen new products arrived."
"Ten new designs were created" vs. "We created 10 new designs."

Commandment #9: Include a customer quote. 

Do you have a great customer quote that you can include in your e-mail? A brief and convincing quote can add credibility to your campaign. The more real you can make the person to your readers, the better. Including their name, what city or state they live in and even a photo, if it fits your campaign, is a great way to communicate the value of your service.

Commandment #10: Keep your copy clean and concise. 

After you write your first round of copy, read it out loud. Also, have someone else read it to see if they understand the message and the call to action. As you edit, cut unnecessary words and consolidate ideas. See if you can get your text down to 30 to 50 percent of what you started with. Also, include bullet points and possibly subtitles to make it easy to read-and, more important, easy to scan--as most readers scan a page before deciding whether or not to read all the details.

Great copywriting is within your reach. Keeping these tips in mind when you write will greatly improve your copy, making it easier for readers to understand and respond to your e-mail campaign. Good, thoughtful writing will ultimately improve your success as an e-mail marketer.

Defining Your Brand

Defining Your Brand: The First Step In Your Marketing Strategy to Build a Local and a Global Brand

Truly defining your business is a critical first step in developing your marketing plan. Through a continuing series of stories, we've been examining how to build a compelling brand experience that will drive customer loyalty -- highlighting the principles of big brand marketing so that small business owners can replicate those kinds of successes. But before you can start building your brand's experience for customers, you need to take some fundamental first steps to define the kind of brand you want to be.

To guide our marketing plan, we need a very well-crafted statement of the type of business we are in, the type of customers we serve and how we serve them. We have to define what we stand for and the types of products and services that our customers can expect from us. This truly is the first step in the branding process.

At first glance, defining your brand may seem easy, but it takes some soul searching, decision making and data gathering.

Take, for example, someone going into business as a lawyer. It's pretty easy to define that brand -- a person who practices law, right? But to build a brand around his practice, a lawyer needs to determine specifically what kind of law he focuses on and what kind of client he is targeting before any marketing can begin. That means thinking through what regions of the world, categories of law, style of service and other offerings he brings to the table.

When defining your brand, put as much clarity as possible into how the brand and business is described, so that you can build a specific brand experience to match it. Here are three key steps to help you get there:
  1. Make an inventory of your skills. List out what you are especially good at and what you want your customers to think of when your brand comes to mind. Your unique set of skills will form the basis of your brand definition.
  2. What are your customers' needs? From your list of skills, identify those that your customers particularly need. Think through the kinds of things you do that your customers will come to you for. You should define your brand based on your ability to fulfill such demands.
  3. Focus on what differentiates. It's important for your brand to be different than other similar options available to customers. Of course your brand experience will ultimately differentiate you, but being unique starts with deciding what attributes set you apart from others. Your goal is to be different and better than your competition.
Let's revisit our lawyer example. A well-defined lawyer wouldn't just say he "practices law." He would be much more definitive and specific about his focus if he wants customers to see his business as a brand. So instead of calling himself a "practicing lawyer," he may define his brand as a "compassionate attorney specializing in family law in the state of California, servicing women who need help getting through the tough times in their lives."

Notice the clarity in the brand definition?

While it's important to be as specific as possible, you also want to be careful not to box your business in with a tightly constrained brand definition. For example, if a hair salon only defined itself as providing "women's short haircuts," it would close itself off from business that could come from customers seeking other hair styles, salon services like coloring or straightening and other demographics like children or men.

If it makes sense to be super specific because you have identified a strong niche market, just be sure to do this consciously. I've seen many salons that specialize in just curly hair or blowouts. If the business is large enough, those could be very well-defined, successful brands. Just be careful not to define the brand too strictly, which would close out future business-building activities.

The trick is to balance specificity, focus and differentiation with the ability to expand. When defining your brand, make sure to describe the type of business in a way that allows for growth over time.

Strategies to Build a Global Brand

Building a global brand requires more than just launching a website that's accessible from almost anywhere in the world.

From language missteps to misunderstanding cultural norms, veteran branding expert Barbara E. Kahn has seen it all when it comes to the missteps of launching a brand across borders. Here, she shares five tips to help entrepreneurs avoid the pitfalls.

1. Understand customer behavior. 

Just because consumers have certain buying preferences or habits in one culture, doesn't mean that such preferences are universal. "It's astonishing how many retailers haven't made it because they haven't studied how consumers shop," she says.

For example, Walmart's mistake in choosing locations in China that were near industrial parks when consumers were used to shopping closer to home instead of near work.

2. Position yourself properly. 

Good brand positioning includes truly understanding your competition and then looking at your competitive advantage. Who are the providers of similar products and services that you sell in this country? They may not be the same providers as in your country.

For example, if you sell athletic clothing, look at where people are buying their athletic clothing. It could be from specialty stores, online retailers, or sporting goods stores. If you have a high-end brand and you're going into a market where the preferred buying location is discount retailers, it may take a different strategy from the one you use in your country. 

You need to understand how people shop and how your brand will fit into that mix.

3. Know how your brand translates.

A clever brand or product name in one language may translate into an embarrassing misstep in another. For example, the French cheese brand Kiri changed its name to Kibi in Iran because the former name means “rotten” or “rank” in Farsi -- not exactly the association you want for cheese.

In addition to ensuring that your brand translates well into other languages, consider which colors are favored in various markets. In the U.S., blues and greens are favored, while reds and yellows are frequently used in some Latin American countries and may be appealing and familiar to audience members from those areas.

4. Think broadly. 

Since your company may need to expand into offering new products based on regional market demands, it's important that your company name be broad enough to accommodate those changes.

For example, Boston Chicken changed its name to Boston Market because it had expanded into other foods,. If your company name is Brian's Computers for example, consider whether that will be limiting in other markets if you also sell peripherals and services, she says.

5. Find good partners. 

Work with your attorney to protect your intellectual property overseas, filing the appropriate trademark and patent protections in the U.S. and elsewhere, if applicable. Find trade representatives who come recommended from colleagues or state or federal trade offices, since they're more likely to be reputable.

If you decide to license your product or service name to a manufacturer or provider overseas, exercise tight controls to make sure that the provider is reputable and won't misuse or misappropriate your name and will adhere to your quality control standards. When you put your brand name on a product or service, you want a consistent experience so that every time, people have it, they understand the values of the brand.

Marketing like the Big Brands

Being a brand is what separates you from your competitors and creates a much stronger connection with your customers.

Marketing like the Big Brands shows entrepreneurs on a small-business budget how to apply marketing strategies used by big brands. 

Whether or not you realized it before, if you're a small business owner, you're also a marketer. Maybe you were never trained, but you are in fact marketing your business. While lots of people have different perceptions about what marketing should be, for me, good marketing is all about creating a powerful and compelling brand experience for customers.

It takes a special kind of person to run a small business. You wear many hats. Entrepreneurs don't often have a clearly defined role within a well-oiled machine, nor can they generally count on multiple resources to complete projects. There's no marketing team to do the heavy lifting.

We also expect marketing to be a never-ending job. The minute we have our plan in place, something changes -- a competitor enters the market, legislation changes the rules or a technological advance requires a rethink.

This is true of big businesses and it's certainly true of small ones. Many entrepreneurs look longingly at the big brands, wishing they could replicate their activities and generate their impact. I believe that in small business, you can get the same kind of results as the big brands, just on a different scale.

The methodology needed to create an amazing brand experience remains the same whether you're Nike, a local restaurant, BMW or a consultant. It's the same process regardless of the size of the business. Sure, the budgets may be different, but how you get there is essentially the same.

To start, small businesses can learn a lot from how big brands create experiences that connect with customers, creating sharing and loyalty.

It's a matter of knowing what you want to accomplish and following proven best practices that work on any size business. It's a matter of turning your business into a brand by creating an experience tailored to your specific customer. Small businesses can often do that even better than big ones.

Brands should be inspiring. That should be your ultimate goal. As an entrepreneur, you may not think you can be inspirational, but you couldn't be more wrong. It comes with the entrepreneurial territory. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and way of life. You can add more value to people's lives than most large corporations. Innovation and creativity doesn't necessarily come from the towers of big business. It comes from the breakthrough, on-the-ground thinking of small businesses.

Explore the different aspects of small business marketing, using principles seen from the big brands. Investigate how to act like a brand, identify your target customer, position your business and map out touch points -- all with the goal of helping to create a comprehensive marketing plan that builds toward a compelling brand experience.

Forget What Your Customers Need; Branding Is About What They Want

There's a major distinction between advancing your marketing efforts and actually transforming yourself into a brand. If you want to be a brand -- which should be your ultimate goal -- you need to understand the difference between what your customers "need" and what they "want."

Need. Our customers need certain things from our business. A need is fulfilled by a functional benefit -- a fact or rational attribute about your company. Generally speaking, most competitors in any field supply roughly the same functional benefits and can therefore generally fulfill the needs of their customers. If they couldn't, they wouldn't be in business. Fulfilling a need doesn't differentiate one business from another; it's a cost of entry.

Want. In order to be truly successful in business, your customers have to move beyond just needing your product or service to actually wanting it. While they may need the functional benefits that your business offers, it's important for your brand that they want to choose you over other options. The "want" is what separates your business from others, and turns you into a brand.

"Want" is an emotion, and therefore represents the more connective benefits your business and brand offers. When you reach an emotional level with your customers, you become a brand in their minds. You've made an emotional connection that rises above functional features and that builds loyalty. It's the "want" that moves you from being an ordinary product or service to being a desired brand.

Let me illustrate. You need to wear a shirt every day -- we all do -- to keep warm and dress appropriately for work. These are functional benefits you quite honestly can get from almost any shirt company.

But let's say you personally choose a shirt brand that targets a younger more stylish consumer. Maybe it's the style and fit of the shirt, or the way it's merchandised in-store, or the website that draws your attention and sweeps you in. In fact, all of the above work together to build an emotional connection that make you want this specific brand shirt.

But it's that emotional connection that resonates most with you. You "want" these shirts because they help you feel younger, stylish and more individual. You want them because of how the brand makes you feel. It's an emotional choice based on emotional benefits that the brand provides for you, personally.

This brand, for you, has risen above the functional benefits of just any shirt to the emotional benefits of what the brand does for you. 

Finding the "want" is key to building a stronger, more emotional connection with your customers. And it's this emotional benefit that will become the basis of your entire marketing plan moving forward.

Through your daily activities with customers, start thinking about how you can connect more emotionally, moving them beyond just needing you to actually wanting you. Think beyond product needs and think of customer wants.

Is There a Difference Between a Product and a Brand?

So what is the difference between a product and a brand? It’s been a fascinating exploration because on the surface it probably seems like there is no difference between a product and a brand. But when you dig a little deeper, there actually is a big difference -- a huge one.

I’m going to take you on a journey, so to speak, in a class-by-class, column-by-column look at what separates a product from a brand. 
If I were to sum it up in one word, the difference is emotional. You’ll see what I mean.

Products perform a function.

They have properties that when combined together do something for customers. The problem is that within any given category, most products perform similar functions. There’s very little differentiation. Ingredients are ingredients and they tend to be the same across a category.

Products are all about what they do for people. Products fulfill a customer’s needs.
Functions, ingredients and needs -- that’s what makes up a product.

Brands offer an emotion.

Brands are actually quite different from products because they don’t just cover a customer’s needs, they fulfill a customer’s wants.

We don’t fall in love with products -- we fall in love with brands. Brands offer a promise and an emotion. Brands are about how they make people feel. Brands fulfill a customer’s wants.
Promises, emotions and wants -- that’s what makes up a brand.

The big difference.

In short, while you may need a product, you will want a brand.
So for example, I may need a cup of coffee, but I personally want to get it at Starbucks.

Coffee is the product in this case and caffeine is the ingredient. I need it to get going in the morning and I could get it literally anywhere, including at Dunkin’ Donuts, the corner market or at home. But I choose Starbucks.

Starbucks is the brand in this case, and the experience at Starbucks is the emotion I want in the morning. I want a Starbucks coffee because of the unique experience I get and from how it makes me feel. It prepares me for the day ahead and makes me productive in the morning. With Starbucks coffee, I am ready! I want Starbucks for how it makes me feel.
Products equal functions. Brands equal emotions.
Hopefully you can see that products are basically at parity to each other, they fulfill the same needs. Brands are what differentiate because of how they uniquely make people feel. This is the basic lesson we can learn from Big Brands which we can apply to our brands - Make your customers WANT your brand.

The Basics of Branding

Learn what this critical business term means and what you can do to establish one for your company.

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does "branding" mean? How does it affect a small business like yours?

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors'. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can't be both, and you can't be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.

The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials--all of which should integrate your logo--communicate your brand.

Brand Strategy & Equity

Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.

Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company's products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product--and customers will pay that higher price.

The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it's not just the shoe's features that sell the shoe.

Defining Your Brand

Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:

  • What is your company's mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don't rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a nonprofit small-business advisory group or a small business development center. If you have sufficient funding or wherewithal, consider hiring a brand consultant and a logo designer.

Once you've defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:

  • Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
  • Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
  • Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business--how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
  • Create a "voice" for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
  • Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don't need to be fancy, just consistent.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won't return to you--or refer you to someone else--if you don't deliver on your brand promise.
  • Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you. If you can't do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.

Closing Thoughts

Branding is a huge subject with diverse areas that need addressing and so many SMB's stop with their logo and business card. Branding is an experience that is seen, heard and felt. Too many times we see owners try to piecemeal it together over way too long a period. Branding should be just as important as the business plan itself and done will proper attention to get all the pieces of the puzzle together and then over time enhance and build on the foundation. So many try to put the roof on (advertise) before they have the walls up (message, slogan, website.......). And as will hear here - Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!

How to Name Your Business

What's in a name?
A lot, when it comes to small-business success. The right name can make your company the talk of the town. The wrong one can doom it to obscurity and failure. Ideally, your name should convey the expertise, value and uniqueness of the product or service you have developed.
Some experts believe that the best names are abstract, a blank slate upon which to create an image. Others think that names should be informative so customers know immediately what your business is. Some believe that coined names (that come from made-up words) are more memorable than names that use real words. Others think they're forgettable.

In reality, any name can be effective if it's backed by the appropriate marketing strategy. Here's what you'll need to consider in order to give your small business the most appropriate and effective name.

Enlist Expert Help to Start

Coming up with a good business name can be a complicated process. You might consider consulting an expert, especially if you're in a field in which your company name may influence the success of your business. Brand identity consulting firms have elaborate systems for creating new names and they know their way around the trademark laws. They can advise you against bad name choices and explain why others are good.
The downside is cost. A professional brand identity consulting firm may charge a lot to develop a name. The cost generally includes other identity work and graphic design as part of the package for brand identity development. Online naming services that charge little do exist, but spending a reasonable amount of money early for quality expert advice can save you money in the long term.

What's in a Name?

Start by deciding what you want your name to communicate. It should reinforce the key elements of your business. Your work in developing a niche and a mission statement will help you pinpoint the elements you want to emphasize in your name.

The more your name communicates to consumers about your business, the less effort you must exert to explain it. According to naming experts, entrepreneurs should give priority to real words or combinations of words over fabricated words. People prefer words they can relate to and understand. That's why professional brand identity consultants universally condemn strings of numbers or initials as a bad choice.
On the other hand, it is possible for a name to be too meaningful. Common pitfalls are geographic or generic names. A hypothetical example is "San Pablo Disk Drives." What if the company wants to expand beyond the city of San Pablo, California? What meaning will that name have for consumers in Chicago or India? And what if the company diversifies beyond disk drives into software or computer instruction manuals?

How can a name be both meaningful and broad?

Descriptive names tell something concrete about a business - what it does, where it's located and so on. Suggestive names are more abstract. They focus on what the business is about.

Consider "Indtour," a name that was developed by a brand identity company to help promote package tours to India. Though it's not a real word, the name is meaningful and customers can recognize immediately what's being offered. Even better, "Indtour" evokes the excitement of foreign travel.

When choosing a business name, keep the following tips in mind:
  • Choose a name that appeals not only to you but also to the kind of customers you are trying to attract.
  • Choose a comforting or familiar name that conjures up pleasant memories so customers respond to your business on an emotional level.
  • Don't pick a name that is long or confusing.
  • Stay away from cute puns that only you understand.
  • Don't use the word “Inc.” after your name unless your company is actually incorporated.

Get Creative

At a time when almost every existing word in the language has been trademarked, the option of coining a name is becoming more popular. Some examples are Acura and Compaq, which were developed by naming firm NameLab.

Coined names can be more meaningful than existing words. For example, "Acura" has no dictionary definition but the word suggests precision engineering, just as the company intended. NameLab's team created the name Acura from "Acu," a word segment that means "precise" in many languages. By working with meaningful word segments (what linguists call morphemes) like "Acu," the company produces new words that are both meaningful and unique.

However, made-up words aren't the right solution for every situation. New words are complex and may create a perception that the product, service or company is complex, which may not be true. Plus, naming beginners might find this sort of coining beyond their capabilities.

An easier solution is to use new forms or spellings of existing words. For instance, NameLab created the name Compaq when a new computer company came to them touting its new portable computer. The team thought about the word "compact" and came up with Compaq, which they believed would be less generic and more noticeable.

Test Your Name

After you've narrowed the field to four or five names that are memorable and expressive, you are ready to do a trademark search. Not every business name needs to be trademarked, as long as your government gives you the go-ahead and you aren't infringing on anyone else's trade name. But you should consider hiring a trademark attorney or at least a trademark search firm before to make sure your new name doesn't infringe on another business's trademark.

Simultaneously you should also lookup the availability of suitable domain names for your business so that you do not have a problem later on in developing a online presence.

Final Analysis

If you're lucky, you'll end up with three to five names that pass all your tests. Now, how do you make your final decision?

Recall all your initial criteria. Which name best fits your objectives? Which name most accurately describes the company you have in mind?

Some entrepreneurs arrive at a final decision by going with their gut or by doing consumer research or testing with focus groups to see how the names are perceived. You can doodle an idea of what each name will look like on a sign or on business stationery. Read each name aloud, paying attention to the way it sounds if you foresee radio advertising or telemarketing in your future. Use any or all of these criteria.

Keep in mind that professional branding firms devote anywhere from six weeks to six months to the naming process. You probably won't have that much time, but plan to spend at least a few weeks on selecting a name.

Once your decision is made, start building your enthusiasm for the new name immediately. Your name is your first step toward building a strong company identity, one that should last as long as you're in business.

Psychology of Colours in Logo Design

colour psychology logos When you look at the logo of a brand, have you spared any thought to their choice of colours in the logo that they have had designed?

Today a red, white and yellow logo immediately signifies a McDonald outlet and the yellow and blue logo shows us it is Visa. But we have never given thought to why these colour combinations were picked. The motivation behind this has to do with the psychology of colours and the way in which our minds take in a colour and the message that we draw from it. We may not even be aware of the way the message is being sent to our brains via an image. It clearly shows that colour psychology plays vital role in the designing of professional logos.

Here we will look at the ways in which many colours will have an effect on those seeing the logo. First we will look at the messages our brains get when we see different colours and also a look at colours in the way they complement each other. This should have an impact in the effect your company logo will have.

What colours tell the people look at them?

Role Of Colour Psychology in the Designing of Professional Logos
When you see the yellow and blue combination of Wal-Mart for example, what do the colours tell you?

In most situations blue is the colour of power and confidence while the colour yellow is of being upbeat. Combined these two pack a good punch and tell us what the company wants us to feel about the brand.
Colours carry a message with green suggesting good health and growth, while brown tends to be more earthy and shows usefulness, while red shows intense emotions, purple manages to show a lushness, white is a symbol of pristine things and black is the bold colour.

The inferences we have given are all of a positive nature but colours do have negative connotations. The same green that is seen as a prosperous colour is also the hue of jealousy, like red is for fury and black means demise. While this actually is not much an issue while making a logo design due to the many elements that go into a brand, one still has to keep these things in mind.

Using a colour wheel to pick out the right tone of colour

Role Of Color Psychology in the Designing of Professional Logos
If you are not careful in picking out colours they may not send the message they want to. So instead of doing it randomly, do make use of a colour wheel. This is a tool that will help in putting colours as per the way they work with each other. The norm is that you can go with colours on the opposite sides of the wheel to ensure that they complement each other.

Normally the colours that are side by side may not work out that well. It goes without saying that all this will be dictated by the brand image of the company. But in spite of that do take colours that work well with each other.

Why are colours so important in designing of logos?

Even without us being aware of it colours play a part in the way we view things. The colours seem to touch a subconscious part of our brain even without our awareness. Each colour like the ones we see online or on roads or anywhere else have an effect on our psyche.

Just think about how many times the logo of a company is shown to people. You are hit by this several times throughout your interaction with them whether it is in person or via television and other media. Since it is shown and seen so many times, the colours in the logo need to be selected with care.

We are creatures that are impacted by what we see and then we respond to that too. In this case a logo that company uses will leave its own imprint of the brain which will then affect our decision making. That is why colour of logo for companies is so vital.

10 Commandments of Writing Headlines

On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.

A well optimized landing page is perhaps the first funnel point and one of the most important aspects that decides whether a user becomes a prospective client or a lost opportunity. Hence the headline, the line that catches the eyes first becomes the primary part of that landing page.
When a visitor lands on a landing page, the window for him to convert or sway to another website is very small. Hence, when you are planning a landing page, spend a good amount of time deciding the headline, because you also have a small window in which you have to grab the readers attention.

Keep it short, simple and sweet

Keep the landing page headline simple and to the point. This will take the readers’ attention off the bat in an instant and will deliver what the content has on offer. This again depends from business to business and campaign to campaign.
Your headlines can also be funny and inventive, but do so only if you have expert copywriters to do the job for you. In order to be funny, make sure you do not loose the essence of your content. There is a thin line that draws between being offensive and funny.

Give a Glimpse of what you are trying to offer

By looking at the headline, the visitor must get a glimpse of what exactly it is that you are trying to offer. An ideal headline should provide just enough information to the user, but not disclose all details. It should give away just a small glimpse of the benefits and should entice and urge the user to further read the contents of the landing page.
As an example, a landing page states…
What’s on offer - ‘Earn your degree online’. Any user who wants to enrol or get more details will have to fill up the form.
Solves a problem - A user will not have to run around colleges to enrol, attend classes and then attain a degree. All he will have to do is, fill the form and register to enrol…problem solved?

Add numbers to your headline

Yes, they do help. (Well this is also another reason why you are reading this blog, isn’t it?).
Providing numbers in a headline means that the reader will not be reading just a lump of information, but a specific list of insights into the said details. In some blogs, numbers also connote hierarchy of events and are easy to point out details that are otherwise difficult to mention in paragraphs.
That said, sometimes adding obscure number like 19 or 37 can really catch people’s attention. Numbers leave a mark on the readers mind which makes him think that this message is important. Marketing experts have analysed over the years that figure numbers (1,2,3,4) work a lot better than numbers that are spelled words (one, two. three, four).

Adding Questions is also a go getter

I find that adding questions in an easy and a very powerful way to grab people’s attention. When used effectively, questions rope readers into a story no matter how busy they are. A well formatted question headline has several viewpoints which makes the readers curious.
Now, asking a question in a headline can also be a risk. Most questions by default have a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ answer. If we take an example, there are three instances that can occur:
YES: Someone who wants to study abroad will fill the form immediately.
YES, but NOT at the moment: Someone who is not willing to study at the moment, but wants to give it a thought later may also fill the form.
NO: Someone who does not want to study abroad will move to another page the very instant he/she reads the headline.
Like you can see above, the ratio of people filling the form to not filling is much higher. This way question headlines also ensure that relevant leads (students who really want to study abroad) are much more than junk leads (students who fill the form without any reason).
Though writing a question headline is a gamble, it is a necessary one.

Trigger negative emotions

Negative headlines if used well can work as very powerful motivators.
Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs? He had stated that in order to survive, we thrive on safety, affection, attention and our need to outdo ourselves. So with a headline, when you play upon man’s basic need, that of survival, and offer to help him out of that situation, it leaves a positive impact on their mind.
In an example, the headline and the image play on the negative emotion of ‘Hate’. The headline communicates a problem – something that most people don’t like – bugs. Now, a user who hates bugs will want to read further or sign up to get the solution.
But at the same time, if negative headlines are used in the wrong context, they can kill the message.

Make the headline believable

Only 10 seats left – Study with us for 1 week, get an MBA seat at Harvard  
If this was the case, everyone would have been a alumni of the Harvard, rated the best MBA college in the world! This headline will put anyone on guard. Forget about the user reading the content further, he will close your website and move onto another. Your claim may be true…but keep it subtle. However, the headline should not be misleading, because then the reader will hit the back button and never come back.
By going overboard, you may lose trust with your users. Instead write…
Only 10 seats left! Study with us, get a step closer to your dream – Harvard

Add USP to the headline

In your landing page headline, try words that help sell a product – free, discover, secret, results, quick, guaranteed, off etc. If you know what pain points your potential customer is facing, it should help you write the correct headline and offer him the right deal.
The words ‘Limited’, ‘Off’ and ‘Discount’ are mentioned in the landing page headline and grabs the user’s attention immediately.

Do not use too may keywords in the headline

Yes, putting keywords in the headline makes sure that it ranks well in SEO searches, but stuffing the headline with too many keywords overwhelms the reader and makes it look pushy. Use just the right amount of keywords in a landing page headline which will give you an advantage during web search, search through social networking sites etc.

Landing page headline aesthetics

The less complicated your headline, page and its design, the more likely it is to convert. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
  1. The headlines should ideally be 2 sizes larger than the content.
  2. Do not colour them black, instead colour them a dark shade of grey or ivory white if using the headline against a black/dark background.
  3. Use Title Case – Capitalize The First Letter Of Each Word.
  4. Font size is really important considering that we live in a world where the internet is mostly accessed over Smartphone's.
  5. Don’t use a period at the end of the headline. A period or what is also known as a full stop is a mental note for a user to stop reading there. Remember, a period in a headline is a major mistake!
  6. Don’t keep the main headline very long. If you have a lot to say, break it down into bits. But again, the sub-headline should not be of the same size as that of the main headline as this will kill the essence of the main headline.
  7. Quotations at times can work for headlines.

Use A/B Testing

Make sure you do A/B tests for your headlines to check which version of your landing page and its headline is working best. You can also use free A/B testing tools like Lander A/B and Google Website Optimizer. Over time, A/B testing will also help you analyse your visitors behaviour and what is it that is helping you connect with them.
Then again, when A/B testing, do not make a lot of changes in your headlines or landing pages. This way, when you analyse which landing page is faring better, it will be easy for you to gauge, adding or removing which part did the trick.
Example: When testing a landing page headline, change either the colour or the text or the words. Do not change everything at once. You will not be able to analyse which headline is faring better.
While there are many ways to create headlines, the above mentioned ones are most compelling.