Commander’s Intent and Design

It's a bit odd to mix military terms and design but I recently came across the term "commander's intent" and felt it was a good articulation of how to build great client-designer communications.

Instead of giving a detailed, step-by-step instructions, Commander’s Intent involves giving a description and definition of what a successful mission will look like, then turning over the specifics to the soldiers in the field. The idea being that if the overall goals are understood at a high-level, teams are empowered to make quick decisions and seek better outcomes than if they are just routinely following instructions.

The role of Commander’s Intent is to empower subordinates and guide their initiative and improvisation as they adapt the plan to the changed battlefield environment. Commander’s Intent empowers initiative, improvisation, and adaptation by providing guidance of what a successful conclusion looks like.
— Manage Uncertainty with Commander’s Intent Chad Storlie, Harvard Business Review

While design hardly requires the same split second decision-making, a similar thought-process can apply. For us as designers, it's often much more helpful to hear your overarching concerns (it feels too busy) rather than specific instructions (move this line left by 10 pixels).

While it seems easy enough on the surfect, with any design change, there's inevitably a domino effect to the overall design. When we move the line over 10 pixels, it is now crowding the sidebar but was that your intent? Or did you want to maintain the spacing and decrease the sidebar by 10 pixels as well? When we make the sidebar smaller the thumbnails images decrease and now the header image looks unbalanced...and so on. 

When we don't understand why we're making a change, it can often mean we're either making assumptions that snowball or constantly needing input and feedback.

If we understand that the overall goal is to make the page have more whitespace, we can use our problem solving skills to come up with several options that work. You can even still give a specific solution (like moving the line 10 pixels) that you think will work. However when we have your overall vision in mind, it's much easier for us to make a solution that works.


Passive Marketing: How Customers Hate to Be Sold but Love to Buy

An old business saying goes "People don't like to be sold — but they love to buy." While traditional advertising still has it's place, many consumers are now conditioned to tune it out — especially if it's not personalized to their situation or the timing of the delivery is off. The modern, digital consumer is much more demanding and marketers need to take a more nuanced approach to connect with them.

 

Why people hate to be sold

The concept of the sleazy salesman dies hard. There is a certain resentment involved when someone has more knowledge about a situation or product and can potentially use that edge against you. As customers, we want to feel we're the ones in control and making decisions that are in our best interests rather than having someone else tell us what to do.

The same holds true for marketing. No matter how honest or well-reasoned the pitch is, at the end of the day, a prospective client still sees it as exactly that...a sales pitch. 

 

Why people love to buy

On the other hand, there is an intense joy involved when people add value to their lives. Finding a service or product that improves their lives and solves a nagging problem creates the sensation of satisfaction, even happiness. This bliss isn't just from huge, life-changing purchases like real estate and cars but can come from small personal indulgences as well. The more closely aligned the customer is with your brand, the more likely they are to feel emotionally engaged and confident about the value of their purchase.

 

How to convince the visitor to be a customer

The predicament is this: how can a marketer convince a client to buy an item rather than sell that item to him? 

Identify your customer's core problem and use that need as a springboard for your messaging. Target a specific concern that your niche demographic has and demonstrate how your product is the solution to that specific problem. Focus on the emotional elements of the problem — and how it will feel to overcome the problem with help from your product.

Of course, identifying your customer's needs takes some time and effort. You can do this by conducting interviews, reading customer reviews, or using surveys to collect feedback. As your research progresses, you will collect not only the problem customers are attempting to solve, but the language they use to describe it. That way you can start to use their own language to craft a message that will have speak to them directly. 

At the heart of inbound marketing is giving customers the joy associated with having figured out the solution (e.g. your product) for themselves and the gratification of shopping for that item.

 

Walking the fine line between selling and pushing

Being an adept marketer today sometimes means being decisively passive. That may sound like an oxymoron, but it is actually a targeted strategy. Rather than an aggressive push for sales, let the clients know that you have the means to make their lives better. Educate them and guide them make their own decision. By giving them the fulfillment of independence and the pleasure of being a smart consumer, you will gain their trust and patronage.


6 Visual Trends for 2017

Each year Getty Images compiles reports that go beyond merely vague predictions. Instead they analyze their search traffic to determine what the most common image search terms are and which ones are the rise. I love this because, rather than getting a handful of esoteric opinions from experts, we can see what is actually being used by brands. 

This can be a great opportunity for brands to explore new ways to connect with their customers and see what fits into their brand vision.  

This year, many of the trends are moving away from the hyper stylized and glossy look that has dominated many an Instagram feed these last few years. Here they are:

 

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1. Virtuality

Get immersed in the image.

1. Virtuality

Images are used to extend the viewer's experience and create the feeling of actually being there. Whether it's a fisheye lens, 360 panoramas or VR (virtual reality), users want to feel immersed in the action. Even if this is just experienced as a still image, this style opens up a wealth of opportunities for brands to create exciting narratives around their products.

Great example of in the moment virtuality from Nike.


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2. Color Surge

Color as the visual star of the image.

2. Color Surge

In color surge, color gets promoted from being a part of a photo to becoming the main attraction. This style tends towards the abstract and minimal, allowing brands to create eye-catching storytelling with heightened emotions. It's also a very accessible style which doesn't need a huge budget to create. A consistent color palette, a few props, and a colorful wall will go a long way.

Beautiful examples of Color Surge from HUE.


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3. Unfiltered

Imperfect. Messy. Real.

3. Unfiltered

In opposition to the abstraction and simplicity of Color Surge, unfiltered is the simultaneous trend towards capturing less perfect, more authentic, spontaneous moments. While this movement originated in journalism, this raw approach can be great for young, disruptive brands that want to engage digital natives who are mistrusting of the glossy image many brands work hard to cultivate.

NYLON builds connections to its audience by using unfiltered style images.


4. Gritty Woman

A new take on femininity.  

4. Gritty Woman

According to Getty, customer searches for “strong woman” have gone up 37% in the last year, and the keyword combination “woman and grit” is up 90%. As debates around gender politics grow, women want to see themselves reflected by brands in a new light. Whether it's displaying physical strength, determination, or real dirt, brands can connect with women by tapping their desire to see themselves reflected with depth, strength and resolve.

ADIDAS celebrates gritty women.


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5. Global Neighborhood.

Exploring our borderless world.

5. Global Neighborhood

These images reflect globalization as goods, people and information circulate more freely. It shows us at a crossroads of redefining our concept of location and geography. The mix of old heritage and new technology as we embrace the constantly changing modern world. It can be an insightful way for brands to address customer longing and nostalgia while also reflecting contemporary flux.

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A beautiful example of Global Neighborhood from TUMI


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6. New Naivety

Spontaneous fun.

6. New Naivety

This light-hearted and fun movement can be seen as the perfect antidote to the world of perfectly polished social media. In this often playful photo style it's less about being on-brand and more about being raw, in the moment and relatable.

New Naivety in progress at MILK 

 

It'll be exciting to see how brands use this move towards more authentic and unprocessed imagery to build better connections to their customers. To download the full report visit Getty Images.


How to Build a Brand: The Brand Interview

You may have heard it said that brand is the sum of what your customers say about your business when you're not in the room to hear. And it's true that to some extent, your brand is outside of your control. However when you carefully create your voice, tone and position statements, you control a great deal about how your brand will be perceived. As long as your brand lives up to the set of brand guidelines you create, chances are good that your customers will understand the essence of your brand.

Whether you're just starting out or taking a second look at your brand pillars, a brand interview can be an excellent first step in discovering your brand.

 

Main Requirement: An Open Mind

Part of the brand interview involves agreeing in rote information: what is your company's ultimate vision? How do you intend to achieve that vision? Who is your main competition?

But the art of building a brand happens when you dig deeper into more ethereal questions--and that requires an open mind.

Come to your brand interview without an expectation of where you think you'll end up. Instead, use a series of associational exercises and explore all the alleyways and avenues your answers take you down.

 

3 Types of Associational Exercises

There are plenty of associational exercises to choose from. For the sake of brevity, I've selected three popular exercises: the Lightning Round, A vs. B and the Visual Exercise.

 

The Lightning Round

During the Lightning Round, you will be presented with a series of questions and asked to provide an answer as quickly as you can. The questions can range from the seemingly mundane (If you were a sandwich, what kind of sandwich would you be?) to the more fantastical (Name a super power your brand would have).

The useful information is derived not from the answer you give, but rather from the reason behind the answer. For example, if your first thought was that your brand resembled a peanut butter sandwich, you may discover some insights about your brand by examining the reason for your answer. Perhaps you answered in this way because your brand and your produce is a staple in your industry. Maybe you always associated peanut butter sandwiches with comfort and simplicity and that is the kind of notion you want your customers to feel when they interact with your brand. Whatever the reason, it is important to take the time to deeply examine them once you answer all the Lightning Round questions.

An easy way to get started is to discover your Brand Archetype which will help guide you.

 

A vs. B

An exercise similar to the Lightning Round is A vs. B. During this exercise, you are presented with two options and are asked to decide which option you believe your brand more closely associates itself with. For example: Apple vs. Google. Simply decide whether your brand is more like Apple or more like Google.

Like the Lightning Round, the actual answer is not as important as the reason behind your answer. People hear the options and relate them to different things. Whatever the answer was, take the time to explore the reasons behind your choice. As you continue through each set of A vs. B, chances are good that you will begin to notice certain similarities behind your answers. As the pattern emerges, so will certain core brand traits and elements. As you discover these, you will be able to use them as foundational pieces for building your brand.

A simple way to get started with this is to make a paper with two columns, the first column is what your brand stands for, the second is what it is not. For example "Feminine but not girly", "Professional but not impersonal," "Upbeat but not obnoxious," etc.

 

Visual Exercises

Brands are deeply visual, so it's equally important to include a visual component to the brand interview. This is often called moodboards and can be done in a number of ways from a Pinterest board to cut outs magazines to more professional presentations. What's most important is not the style it is created in (your customers will never see these initial visuals) but finding the images that resonate most with your brand.

 

Putting It All Together

Brand interviews can and should be a lot of fun, but they're hard work and they yield a lot of information in a short amount of time. Once you complete the interview and the associational exercises, let your answers breathe for a bit. Come back to it after a day or two and analyze the results. Look for similarities and explore differences. Bring in a second opinion if necessary. Brands aren't built overnight, so it's critical that you take the time needed to get it right.


10 Easy Steps to Create a Compelling User Experience for Your Brand

With the rapid growth of mobile and ecommerce, your brand's website is becoming ever more critical to your business's success. Even in-store customers have likely researched products online beforehands or will do a quick price-check while shopping. While beauty and lifestyle brands used to be able to concentrate on beautiful in-store packaging and displays to attract customers, the modern, digitally-savvy customer demands a more robust experience, both online and in-store.

The wonderful thing about a website is it's a persistent and autonomous way of attracting and converting consumers. Available around the clock from anywhere in the world, it is one of the most crucial touch-points of your brand. However, web design is constantly evolving and it's easy to ruin the user experience with an unprofessional, poorly constructed or out of date website, losing visitors at the top of the sales funnel.

To make a successful brand impression, your website design should be a fluid extension of your other marketing efforts, blending seamlessly with your packaging and in-store presence. From a functional standpoint, it should be easy to use andavoiding frustrating UX pitfalls. 

While developing a compelling website, is a long-term process, here are some simple steps to help get you started:

 

1. Mix It Up

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Hue is a great example of mixing things up. They are a primarily a socks and leggings company but instead of showing a never-ending stream of socks, they mix up their hosiery with colorful fashions that demonstrate their brand message in a more varied and nuanced way.

Specialization is usually good, but not when it comes to content. If you keep feeding people the same kind of content, they'll eventually get tired of it, no matter how gorgeous your Instagram flatlays are or well-crafted your how-to videos. If you mix things up and produce content in a variety of forms, people will be more consistently engaged. It's easy to get in a rut and just keep repeating the same but trying varying either the content or format. These days brands have a whole arsenal to use for content, from images, how-to videos, infographics, interviews, podcasts, slideshares, user generated content and more. Even gifs have made a comeback!


2.    Elements Should Be Easy to Read (and Tap)

The many users online are now on mobile rather than desktops. And contrary to what was common wisdom just a few years ago, they are often making final purchases from mobile as well. 

What this means for your website is that its elements must be viewable and easily navigated on small screens. Elements should be easy to read in the smaller format, and most importantly, easy to tap. Forms and checkout are often frustrating elements on mobile so make sure they are easy to use and won't drive away mobile customers.

Sephora's oversize Add to Cart in red is a perfect example of a clear, easy to understand interface that even the most distracted user can successfully navigate.


3.    Make it Social

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One of the best ways to make an engaging site is to have a social aspect. Many beauty brands have highly engaged customers who post selfies on Instagram or how-tos on YouTube. This UGC can be repurposed to the website to not only give you constant updates but also endear yourself to your clients more.

Social can also refer to customer review section or forum help keep people on the site — anything that is the foundation of a strong social community. Furthermore, a social angle will help serve as social proof, which can have a positive impact on conversion rates.

One word of caution — social media icons can also be highly distracting, with visitors clicking off your site and into Facebook where they never resurface. While you can't prevent it entirely, keep your social media icons in the footer of your website and keep sharing off product pages until after the customer made payment

 

4.    Get Feedback

The simplest way to develop a strong website is to ask for feedback. How you see the site is different from how a consumer experiences it. Do research with exit surveys or a captive audience to see how you can improve your website at a practical, hands-on level.

 

5.    Hire and Develop Strong Content Creators

A great user experience can't happen without great copy. From your product copy to your social media, your content must be well-crafted, regardless of the medium. While it's tempting to save money and do it yourself, think about the quality and perspective that an experienced, professional writer as well as the time it will take to create, edit and polish your writing. Don't think of writers as an expense but consider it an investment in your business's future.

 

6.    Build Around User Types

One of the biggest mistakes is to craft the site to appeal to a general audience and not your buyer persona. Generic websites that feel out of touch with the brand ethos can lead to a disjointed and confusing brand experience. Make sure your website fits seamlessly with the rest of your branded touchpoints.

 

7.    Keep the Experience Simple

Experience complexity is a barrier to engagement. If more than two steps are required for the customer to get to where they want to be, it's too complex. A simple landing page that gets straight to the point provides as little incentive to leave the site as possible. Keep in mind that a simple design is not necessarily easy to make, so don't be surprised if it takes time to develop one.

 

8.    Let Users Customize Their Experience

One of the best ways to get customers engaged in your small business's site is to let them personalize their experience. For example, you might give them the option to change the visual settings or let them set the currency they'll use to purchase your products. Even something as simple as a "local time" option can make your site feel like home.

 

9.    Make It Mobile-Optimized

Grand designs are often non-functional outside a desktop setting. A great user experience must span all devices, not just desktops. That means making considerations for small screens and limited space. 

Mobile-friendly, in which websites were built to display acceptably on small mobile screens, is now being replaced with mobile-optimized in which the entire design of the site is reconsidered and crafted in the best possible way for mobile visitors. As mobile is expected to grow exponentially, it's critical to keep up with this emerging trend.

 

10.    Go With Your Head, Not Your Heart

What you feel is right will not necessarily be what the consumer will enjoy. You and your design team have a different viewpoint, and that's OK. What's not OK is letting your tastes take over the site's final design. Much like product development, it should be user-centric — when in doubt, do research and testing.

 

Developing a great site is an important part of growing your small business. Your social media accounts are great for reach, but your website is ultimately responsible for converting that attention into actual revenue. Make it an engaging website, and you'll be rewarded.


Mission Statements: Why You Need One and How to Write It

Your mission statement defines your business goals in three key ways: what the company does for its customers, what it does for its employees, and what it does for its owners. A mission statement describes a business's current reason for being. It is sometimes referred to as  company mission, corporate mission, or corporate purpose.

A mission statement describes where you are right now and how you plan to accomplish your current goals whereasthe vision statement focuses on the future and where you want to go in the future. Meanwhile a unique value proposition tends to focus more on positioning your company with competitors. 

 

Why You Need a Mission Statement

A well-formed mission statement can support your brand in many ways. Use your mission statement to:

  • Accurately pinpoint your business strategy and identity — Your mission statement forces you to narrow in on what you’re trying to accomplish in your business. It helps you to succinctly sum up your strategy and identity, giving a focus to your brand.
  • Quickly communicate business goals and values — Your mission statement can give the basics of your business philosophy to people who are curious about your company.
  • Guide decision making — Your mission statement helps you maintain consistency in marketing and product development. Your brand can be shaped by the decisions made throughout your company, both in the present and in the future, with the guidance of a carefully formed mission statement.
  • Unify the entire company under one banner — Your mission statement is helpful for your entire staff. It can provide a clear concept of the direction which you want your company to take, and it can help to ensure that all your employees are on the same page  as your company grows and develops.

A good mission statement gives prospective customers a reason to do business with you, and gives your own employees something to rally behind.

 

What Goes in a Mission Statement

Like a brand itself, a mission statement’s contents can be flexible. Sometimes it’s a single sentence, sometimes it’s a paragraph, sometimes it’s an entire page. As a best practice, try to limit yours to a paragraph or two, but don’t feel restricted if you want to add more.

Your mission statement should answer a few key questions about your brand:

  • Customers:
    What problem do you solve for your customers?
    What do you do and why do you do it?
    What market do you serve and what benefits do you offer?
  • Owners:
    Do you want to make a profit, or is it enough to just make a living?
    What are your financial or personal goals for the business?
  • Employees:
    What working situation do you create for your employees?
    What are your values as an employer?
     

While these are the main points of a mission statement, you may want to expand to discuss special processes, ambitions or the company philosophy. Remember that a mission statement should showcase the unique personality of your brand so avoid over generalizations.

 

How to Write a Mission Statement

Even though it’s short, writing a mission statement isn’t always easy. If you find it difficult to get started, follow our five-step process below. Before you begin, you may find it helpful to complete the preparation exercises at the end of this article to help get your creative juices flowing.

  1. Define your business goals, strategy, and ethics.
    You can’t write a mission statement if you don’t know what your mission is. Collect your thoughts and write out a brief description of your brand’s business model and ethics. Also describe the personality you’d like your brand to have. Answering the four questions above is a good start.
  2. Create a list of keywords.
    What words best represent your brand? Traditional or Innovative? Affordable or High-end? These are the words you will sprinkle throughout your mission statement: a single powerful word can make more impact than a sentence-long description.
  3. Flex your writing muscles and look for the most potent words. 
    For example, careful does not hold as much weight as meticulous. Break out the thesaurus if you’re struggling.
  4. Frame everything as a story using the keywords. Take time to write a first draft. Try to present your information as a narrative: who you are, what you do, what makes you special. Aim for a paragraph, but don’t be afraid to go longer. You can always cut it down later. If you just keep writing, you may find that usable ideas flow more easily.
  5. Summarize with a powerful leading statement.
    Once you have the bulk of your mission statement written, you’ll want to summarize your brand’s mission into a single sentence (or a series of punchy words). This can be catchy or inspirational.
  6. Refine meticulously.
    Mission statements should be short and sweet. Keep cutting, editing, combining, and rewriting until you have something that’s both engaging and quick to read. 

How to Craft Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)

Unique Value Propositions (UVP), also known as Unique Sales Proposition (USP) is a simple, straight-forward statement that conveys the problem you're solving, the benefits of your company/brand and what differentiates you from the competition. 

It's the existential question of the business world. At some point, most of us have pondered this on a personal level: Who am I? What’s my purpose? What do I excel in? If you're a business owner, you should be asking similar questions of your business as well. What benefits does your service or product provide? What problems does it solve? And why should people choose you over the competitors?

The sum of these answers equals a defining statement about your company, your unique value proposition. A value proposition not only informs customers but also serves as a driving agent for the direction of your company.

“BUT!” you say. “I don't need a unique value proposition. My product is amazing and it sells itself!”

Yes, your product or service probably is amazing. Maybe your current customers already know you’re amazing, but are you satisfied with your current customer base or do you want to grow? On the internet, your written content has about 5 seconds to grab someone's attention and tell them your story. A unique value proposition can help you do just that. Plus, as you scale, it can act as a powerful guiding force to keep your business in alignment.

In general there are three types of unique value propositions. Here are some examples of UVPs taken from the beauty industry:

  1. Operational Efficiency
    Think of Ulta with their emphasis on breadth, value and convenience

  2. Customer Intimacy
    Think of Laura Geller with their emphasis on personal training and interaction

  3. Product Innovation
    Think of AHAVA with their skincare lab and development and innovation

Most businesses will have a combination of these (you can’t decide you’re an innovation business and neglect operations!). However one will be the central strength.

 

Crafting a good unique value proposition

A good unique value proposition answers three questions:

  1. What does my company or product do?
    Use simple, straightforward language. It can be easy to get jargony here so be careful. How do you explain your business to family or acquaintances who are outside your niche? If you are B2B, you might be able to get away with a bit more in-speak, but even then you are likely talking to someone who wants to hire you because they want you to be the specialist.

  2. What problem(s) do we solve?
    The answer may seem obvious. If you sell skincare, then obviously you help people maintain healthy skin. Maybe, though, you sell skincare  specializing in anti-aging products for people with sensitive skin. You might lose some of your audience, but are suddenly highly relevant for your target market.

  3. What makes you different?
    Chances are good that you have at least one competitor doing the exact same thing you do. (In fact, not having any competitors is usually a bad sign.) What sets you apart? Focus on how you do it differently or better from everyone else. Do you focus on a specific target demographic? A geographical region? A specific industry?


Some examples of Unique Value Propositions 

Ulta’s UVP:

 

“We are the largest beauty retailer that provides one-stop shopping for prestige, mass and salon products and salon services in the United States. We focus on providing affordable indulgence to our guests by combining unmatched product breadth, value and convenience with the distinctive environment and experience of a specialty retailer.”

 

What they do: beauty retailer

What problem do they solve: providing affordable indulgences

How do they do it differently: unmatched product breadth, value and convenience with a distinctive environment

 

Laura Geller’s UVP:

 

“Laura Geller Beauty is a leading prestige color cosmetics brand developed by professional makeup artist, Laura Geller. The Company is renowned as the pioneer of the "baked" category of makeup – cult-favorite, multi-tasking powders that deliver remarkably vibrant color – and for its easy-to-use, multi-tasking products intended to simplify and improve women's makeup routines.”

 

What they do: color cosmetics

What problem do they solve: simplify and improve women's makeup routines

How do they do it differently: pioneer of the "baked" category of makeup


 

AHAVA’s UVP

 

“AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories was founded to study the powerful, rejuvenating minerals found in the Dead Sea. Since then AHAVA has grown to become the definitive Dead Sea mineral beauty expert.

Start your AHAVA journey and learn more about our rich history and and groundbreaking skincare innovations.”

 

What they do: skincare innovations

What problem do they solve: study the powerful, rejuvenating minerals found in the Dead Sea

How they do it differently: the definitive Dead Sea mineral beauty expert
 

What a UVP Is Not

A unique value proposition needs to answer all these questions one short 2-3 sentence paragraph. This isn't a longer mission statement or a company biography. It's a snapshot of who you are and why people should choose you.

Do not confuse a unique value proposition with a tag line either. A tag line is usually a one-sentence expression that accompanies your business name or logo. They are usually more philosophical and descriptive, but not informative. For instance, you probably know this tagline: “Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Maybelline.” Catchy? Yes. It doesn't tell us much about what it is and why we should buy it, though.

A unique value proposition is also not a specific product offer or promotion. Those are temporary measures to drive business, while a value proposition focuses on building long-term customer relationships.

 

Sharing your unique value proposition

Once you have your UVP written, you’ll find plenty of opportunites to share it. Whether on presentations, proposals, decks, social media, or your website, it’s a great way to quickly orient people to your business and jump-start your conversation.

An simple way to format your value proposition is:

  1. Headline. This should answer the question “what does my company do?” Grab the reader's attention. Let them know immediately what it is your company provides.

  2. Short paragraph. 2-3 sentences that describe what problem you solve and how you're set apart from everyone else.

Crafting a good unique value proposition can take time, thought, and creativity. Not sure where to start? Download our workbook pages to help guide your process.


 

 

What Are Brand Guidelines and How Can They Improve Your Business?

What are brand guidelines?

A brand book (or guidelines) is a simple way to communicate all the most critical information about your brand quickly. It can range from a very simple couple pages on your logo and colors to book-length with detailed information on creating website graphics or their tone of voice. Ideally they are a living document, as you see that questions are repeatedly coming up on certain topics, you add a page into your brand guidelines to address it.

They can be used for internal departments or for hiring external consultants such as designers, writers, and marketers. It’s one of the first things we request when starting work with an established brand.

Why do I need brand guidelines?

When any business first get started there's usually a founder or small, closely-knit closely knit team who all share an understanding of what the brand stands for. However the business grows and begins to scale, there's an increasing number of people who need to understand and make decisions for the brand. Ideally the brand's essence remains constant throughout different touch-points and departments. For instance, the sales team's presentations, social media posts, in-store promotions and website should feel consistent and in brand.

As the circle of people working on the brand grows, it's important to communicate key information about your brand so they can make good decisions that fit your brand. Creating brand guidelines can ensure better cohesion, save you time, and streamline decision-making throughout your company.

What's included in a brand book?

There's no hard and fast rule on what needs to be included. Generally brand guidelines grow as the brand does. A good start is a short intro to the brand, logo usage information, typography and colors. Since brands are emotive, information on how the brand feels and acts can help guide people’s decisions. You can go big picture with mission statements and outlining your brand’s vision. It can go into details with tone of voice and design specs. The amount of detail usually increases as a brand grows and increasing numbers of people are responsible for the brand.

Our brand guidelines differ by the project but generally include logo, stationery, typography, colors, imagery and a high-level overview of how the brand communicates.

Brand guidelines can include a wide variety of topics including:

  •  Product Imagery
  • Social Media Usage
  • Trademarks/Intellectual Property (IP)
  • Written Brand Personality
  • Useful Brand Statements
  • Authorship
  • Guideposts for decision-making
  • Resources
  • Contact information
  • Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
  • Mission Statement
  • Vision Statement
  • Tagline and Usage
  • History of the Brand
  • Founder Information
  • Explanation of the Brand
  • Logo, Usage and Placement
  • Colors
  • Typography
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Ideally guidelines are a living document that grow along with your brand. If you find yourself answering the same questions or correcting the same misunderstandings repeatedly, it's probably time to update your brand guidelines. They require some effort and commitment but ultimately help you build a much stronger, more cohesive brand while freeing your time. 


Bad Reviews: How to Deal with Negative Customer Feedback

Great customer reviews are the golden ticket for helping website visitors convert into customers. 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations However not all reviews are going to be breathless and glowing. So you got a shitty review on your site, now what?

First off don’t panic. It’s been shown that having some negative reviews actually INCREASES your perceived trustworthiness. After all, it’s highly unlikely that everyone is going to have a positive experience — it rains even at Disneyland!

However not all customer reviews are the same. Here’s a quick rundown of the types you likely encounter, and what you should do about them.

1. Abusive

Whether it’s someone intentionally trolling, using bad language or indecipherable ranting, these are the reviews you can feel safe removing. Ask, would this help someone’s understanding of the product? Ideally product reviews you show on your site should be furthering the conversation. Not every review has to be an in-depth, thoughtful critique but it should be helpful and intelligible.

 

2. Customer Service Related

A large percentage of complaints are not about your product at all but a customer service issue (the product came too late, it was broken, pink instead of green, etc). These can be proactively handled by the customer service team. While it’s tempting to handle these discretely via email, if you reply openly to the review, other potential customers can see that you’re dedicated to providing a positive experience and eases their concerns. Even better, encourage the reviewer to write a follow-up on how the situation was rectified!

 

3. Legitimate Product Complaints

These can actually be very helpful both for customers and your team. They break down in a number of ways:

a. Basic Understanding: If the negative review is based on a basic misunderstanding of the product, consider ways to clarify both with text and images. There’s a lot of information that in-store customers can see but need explained when purchasing online. This can often be clarified with close-ups on details of the product, showing the product in use or detailed product descriptions. If you're seeing the same complaint repeatedly, it's worth at least updating your product description. 


b. Product Misuse: Sometimes your customers are disappointed by your product because they are using it incorrectly. This is a great opportunity to provide more education. This can be done in a number of ways from replies to their reviews, better written instructions in the packaging, an email drip course or explainer videos on your website. 


c. Bad customer/product match-up: Sometimes it’s just that the wrong people are buying your product. Your product might work great for most acne-prone teens and 20 year olds but not be effective for every skintype.

You can’t prevent every poor-fit purchase, but you can look at your targeting and add product recommendation quizzes or comparison charts to help guide customers to make better choices.


d. Product Problems — Of course sometimes, there’s a problem with the actual product. I’m sure we’ve all clicked on the unbelievably good deal only to see EVERYONE has had issues with the product. The shoes don't fit, the lipstick is chalky, the product breaks immediately. Sometimes even with testing and the best intentions, products go awry. Admitting to these problems and moving to solve them quickly will increase trust and ultimately strengthen your brand.

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Reviews are important, and customers might even give more weight to negative than positive ones. However remember they aren’t an end point but the beginning of a conversation. Use them to improve your site and create a positive customer experience...even if they don't fall in love with your product.


5 Reasons You Need to Create Buyer Personas for Your Business

If you haven't created buyer personas for your business yet, make doing so the next thing on your to-do list. Buyer personas are fictionalized customers who represent your target audience - the people who are interested in your service or product. Businesses that use buyer personas to guide their marketing decisions do better than businesses that don't. Here are five reasons why.

 

Buyer personas help you refine your product.

You're not trying to sell your product or service to everyone in the world. It's better to offer a specialized product than a generic one - everybody wants to buy something that fits their situation or preferences perfectly. By defining the particular subset of people who make up your target audience, you'll get a better idea of how you should change or adjust your product to appeal to them.

 

Buyer personas can guide your ad, content, and website creation.

What kind of design is best for your website? How should you shape your ad campaigns? Making buyer personas can help you answer these questions. By getting into the minds of the people who want to buy your product, you'll gain insights into the most effective way to give them a great experience with your business, from viewing an advertisement all the way to making a purchase.  

 

Buyer personas help you know where to market.

All the hard work you put into marketing won't help you unless your target audience actually sees your ads. Knowing who that target audience is helps you know where to advertise. For instance, if your ideal customers are tech-savvy young people, advertising on the internet is probably a good idea. If you're trying to sell your product to senior citizens, though, you might do better by advertising in print publications.

 

Buyer personas keep your marketing team on the same page.

For a team to be effective, everyone has to be working towards the same goal. Your buyer personas help you define exactly what this goal is in a way that's easy for everyone to understand. After you create good buyer personas, your team can use them as a reference point to ensure that your ads and other marketing materials are targeted at the right people.

 

Buyer personas help you deliver a more personalized experience.

The best way to win repeat business is to make customers feel like you care about them personally. Knowing who your customers are will help you understand what kind of service they need to feel special. You can put yourself head and shoulders above the competition by providing extra value that's meaningful to your customer base.

  

If you want a successful business, creating buyer personas is mandatory, and the sooner you do it, the better. From designing better marketing campaigns to keeping customers happy, using buyer personas is one thing that can improve almost every aspect of your business.


5 Simple Ways to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment

You might be driving a respectable amount of traffic to your online store, but your visitor count means nothing if a large percentage of your visitors are abandoning their shopping carts. If people have gone to the trouble of visiting your website, browsing through your products and adding one or more items to a shopping cart, and then leaving at the last minute before they check out, there may be a serious problem with your website. While oftentimes shopping cart abandonment comes down to indecisive buyers, there are many factors that are fully within your control.

The rate of shopping cart abandonment in eCommerce is staggering. Some estimates for particular industries put the figure at 85 percent. It should, therefore, be a key priority in your online strategy. After all, you are probably doing everything else to maximize sales so it is also important to work on reducing shopping cart abandonment to maximize your conversions.

You can do this in two steps. The first is preventing as many people as possible from abandoning their carts before they complete a purchase. The second is to bring the people you couldn't convert back to your website at a later date.

  

  1. Ask for less information

Web users are often short on patience, particularly when using the small and fiddly touchscreens of mobile devices. However, it is now absolutely imperative that your online store accommodates mobile users as best as possible, and this means not asking for any information that isn't absolutely necessary.

While customer accounts containing plenty of useful information might sound like a marketing goldmine, asking for too much is a sure way to put people off. In fact, you should also offer an option allowing people to complete a purchase without having to create a customer account at all.

  

2. Offer multiple delivery options

Some people want their products delivered to them as soon as possible, and will be willing to pay the extra for it. Others, however, would rather wait longer and save some money.

Multiple studies have shown that just over one-third of all cases of shopping cart abandonment were due to shipping costs being too high. Another 10 percent of cases were down to shipping times being too long. To accommodate the needs of all of your customers, you'll need to provide a range of shipping options, including a premium delivery service for those who want their goods quickly and a free service for the more budget-conscious.

  

3. Keep the checkout process clear 

 A slow or cumbersome website that is difficult to use will turn people away in droves. Checkout processes in particular are often more time-consuming and complicated than they need to be, particularly on mobile devices. About one-fourth of shopping cart abandonment cases are due to unintuitive checkout processes that lack clear calls to action or have confusing payment processes.

Online shoppers also like to know what to expect, so show the number of steps left to complete the checkout process. Not only does your online store need to offer a quick and painless checkout procedure, it also needs to demonstrate how easy it is. 

  

4. Don't forget the trust signals

With the plethora of online scams out there, it shouldn't come as any surprise that many buyers are wary when shopping online, particularly when buying from a new company for the first time. Including widely recognized trust signals as well as having an up-to-date TSL (transport layer security) certificate is absolutely essential for instilling a sense of trust and protecting your reputation. In fact, according to Shopify, over three-fourths of consumers have abandoned a shopping cart because they didn't see any trust badges that they recognized. Among the best known badges are VeriSign, McAfee Secure and PayPal Verified.

  

5. Provide Multiple Payment Options

This one shouldn't come as any surprise, but one of the most common reasons that people abandon a purchase is because the online store doesn't offer their preferred payment option. If you're only providing one option, you'll end up alienating a huge number of potential customers. Allowing people to pay with credit or debit cards is obviously a must, but there are far more options available these days, including PayPal and Google Wallet. In some countries, pay on delivery and direct bank transfers also remain popular. Make it effortless for people to save their payment details so they can check out with a single click when they return.

 

Even if you implement each of the tips above, you will still lose customers at the shopping cart stage. Can you get them back, and if so, how? You can get them back, and the best way to do it is remarketing.

You can run remarketing campaigns on Google's AdWords, Facebook, and other platforms. In simple terms, past visitors to your website are shown ads about your business as they browse the internet. This ensures your business is front of mind when they are ready to complete the purchase.

Dealing with shopping cart abandonment can both increase revenue and help you forge stronger relationships with your customers.


How to Tell the Story of Your Brand

Traditional advertising has never been more ubiquitous. From the billboards commuters pass on their highway journeys to the bus wraps city dwellers walk by every day, marketing messages are everywhere.

The onslaught continues every time we go online. From banner ads to pop-ups, those enticements to buy are everywhere we turn. The more advertising becomes an integral part of daily life, the more the messages fade into the background.

If you want to break through the clutter and avoid the advertising overload, try telling the story of your brand instead.

Over the years, jaded consumers have come to ignore or be suspicious of traditional advertising messages. Even so, those same consumers still love a good story, and making the story of your brand a compelling one could be your key to success.

So how do