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Great Advertising – “Pretty is easy. Smart is hard.” – Mitch’s Axiom #343

By Branding

There’s a line of thought in advertising something like this: some work wins awards, and others sell products.

The wisdom in that sentiment is pretty clear.

Advertising creatives sometimes get lost in the quest for “art” in their work. By that, I mean the focus often blurs between what is appealing to the artistic sensibilities of other creatives and what messages resonate with the desired audience.

After all, isn’t that what clients are paying us to do?

I could go on for days (ask my colleagues) about the self-aggrandizing nature of the advertising business.

I’ve preached endless sermons (again, consult my partners) about the self-congratulatory awards banquets creatives flock to so that they can dislocate their joints, patting themselves on the back.

And this is all well, and good.

There are some brilliant creative minds in the industry that fashion arrestingly pretty, outside-the-box work that demonstrates humbling aptitude with the tools of the trade.

But for me, it always comes back to one elementary question…

Did it sell?

How much product did that Addy winner move? How many new customers engaged with that brand?

Did it move the year-over-year sales needle?

You don’t see many award shows for ads that increase year-over-year sales.

Let’s face it.

We live in a data-dominated world. Marketers now have access to reams of information about prospect behavior, trends, and segments. I suppose it can seem daunting to have to study and digest this bounty of information.

I guess it’s sometimes easier for ad agencies to shoot for visually or aurally bombastic targets rather than digging into the data and crafting messages that provoke the viewer to act.

Put simply, for many creatives…pretty is easy.

Great advertising is much more an exercise in smart engineering than a foray into aesthetic splendor.

Can great advertising be good-looking? Of course, and it should be.

But what separates it from the pack is how well the message and aesthetics have been crafted to propel action among the intended audience.

Smart can be more difficult.

It takes chemistry, teamwork (both within agency teams and clients), and major effort to craft effective campaigns. Building effective, efficient advertising “machines” requires a laser focus on the brand’s identity and audience.

The marvel of our present age is that we have so many tools at our disposal to build genuinely effective advertising. And we can prove it.

It just requires the commitment to stay focused on the end consumer of the advertising. We are charged with crafting messages that make people get out of their chairs and act.

That’s why we exist.

We consider how your customers engage with your brand, from your brand identity to how you express that personality in your marketing. We focus on the whole picture.

We maintain a holistic view of your brand, product, and messaging that translates to traffic to your website or your brick-and-mortar storefront.

And often that is hard.

But when a client sees an increase in month-to-month sales or some other meaningful performance metric, it’s so worth the effort. Whether that adds shiny hardware to our shelves or not.

For us, there’s nothing prettier than the smiles of a happy client and their happy customers.

If you like this post, please leave a comment below or share it! If you want to read more from me, check out my posts on Building Your Brand With Original Content and Why Your Business Needs a Brand Guide.

“Everything Is An Ad” – A Key to Solid Brand Building

By Branding

When you think of ads and advertising, what comes to mind? For most people, it’s usually television or print advertising. For some, it may be web banner ads and pre-roll ads seen on YouTube. Others may think of Google and Adwords. But philosophically, it goes much deeper than that. 

“Advertising” means so much more than merely obvious ads.

Any message or communication you produce for internal or external consumption is actually a form of advertising.

Whether it’s an internal memo, a social media post, or paid advertising, building a consistent, honest brand message must be done with a holistic perspective.

“Why?” you ask. It’s simple.

The internet and social media have given audiences access to information like never before.

And to compound the issue, that communication is instantaneous.

In an age where your customers have such ready access to global platforms and real-time communication about your brand, it’s imperative that you are consistently “on message.”

And this consistency must extend from your front-line staff members, right into your board rooms and C-suite. If there are gaps anywhere within your communication chain, like water, it will find a way to seep through every crack.

Look at your company and make sure everyone is using the same brand vocabulary, the same imagery, and the same communication strategy throughout the organization.

In short, when your brand identity and messaging is inconsistent with the customer experience, it’s going to find its way into the public square. You can’t stop it.

You cannot contain it.

There are just too many ways for the truth about your brand experience to find the light of day.

The best way to protect your brand message is to take a holistic approach.

Look at your brand and make sure everyone uses the same vocabulary, the same imagery, and the same communication strategy throughout the organization.

Whether internal or external, all communications must reflect the values and messages embodied in your brand promise.

This consistency helps instill the values and personality within your brand’s culture you want to convey to your customers. It creates a real and authentic brand message.

Authenticity ensures your brand interactions, whether it’s the product itself or a representative of your brand, will be true to your brand values and have a positive impact. 

In today’s climate, people are looking for genuine, trustworthy brand experiences.

By taking an “everything is an ad” approach, you efficiently create those authentic experiences and, better still, create strong advocates for your brand. 

So keep in mind that “advertising” isn’t confined to paid display or social media ads.

It’s the product of every communication or representation inside and outside your organization. Keep them on brand, on message, and true to your brand’s character and values.

It will go a long way toward ensuring your customers embrace and share their positive experiences. Because when it comes to building and maintaining a healthy market share, everything truly is an ad.

Why Your Business Must Have A Brand Guide

By Branding

Brand guides define the acceptable uses of your logo, color palette, font choices, photography style, and tone of message across all online and offline mediums.

At its simplest, a brand is the consistency of experiences a customer has with your business.

That isn’t limited to experiences with your product. It’s more expansive than that and captures all experiences with your packaging, advertising, employees, social media, other customers sharing about your business.

It’s this enduring memory people have with your business that ultimately defines your brand identity. A brand guide offers the principles to keep customer experiences with your business consistent.

Controlling Your Marketing Message

Whether it’s a famous quote that’s endured for centuries or the “I’m Lovin’ It” slogans of the world. We can all agree words are powerful.

How words are used, of course, matters in advertising.

Your audience remembers what you said and how you made them feel. This is critical to influencing their business perception.

More importantly, how consistent you are in the message you convey through all business activities defines what lasting memory customers carry with them.

At NerdBrand, you’ll hear us often say, “Everything is and ad.”

Your social media presence is an ad. The user manual included with your product is an ad. How your customer support representatives engage, the customer is an ad. How your sales associates interact with customers is an ad.

If you struggle to define the consistent experience you want customers to have with your business across all interactions, how could your customer know what the experience is supposed to look like?

  • How can they latch onto your business for the long term?
  • How can they explain your business to friends and family?

If your customers have no clue what experience they should be receiving, can you ever meet their expectations? Maybe by accident, on occasion.

But if your customers have unclear expectations about what your brand stands for and delivers, you can’t truly offer a quality experience to the — quality being how well your product meets the customer’s expectations.

It’s a brand guide that allows you to control your messaging across your entire organization.

Proper Color Correction

Colors often don’t come out the same for online and offline marketing materials.

If you look closely at some company’s printed materials and compare them to their website colors, you can sometimes see a slight difference in the color shades.

While it might seem trivial to have a slightly different shade of color on some materials, remember that a consistent, enduring experience is what defines a brand.

You’ll never find Coca-Cola, Amazon, Apple, or other major brands deviating from their brand standards on a whim. That’s intentional.

Color is not purely digital. It is defined first by digital for several reasons. First is the device type, technology used (Adobe vs. Sketch), and many other factors.

Colors in digital depending on the device type and screen quality. Print depends on the material, printer, and quality of the ink.

When you print or take your brand colors outside of digital, you’ll find they often become inconsistent, even more so if you have multiple vendors or associates managing different materials.

Fortunately, there’s a solution: pantone colors.

Pantone colors are standardized colors properly referenced and replicated exactly.

The Pantone Matching System standardizes 1,114 colors by assigning each color a number and name. Vendors and employees in different locations will refer to the same color by knowing only the number that identifies it.

This helps manufacturers and others avoid mistakes like color deviation between online and offline materials. As well as between the initial design and finished product.

“Pantone is the industry standard,” Michele Outland, creative director of Gather Journal, says. “It’s something that I automatically go to when I need to choose a color. It prints really accurately.” 

Michele Outland

Gather, which has earned six Society of Publication Designers gold medals and a James Beard award (source).

When creating a brand guide, it’s important to include Pantone colors as well, so you have a clear point of reference when it comes time to print materials, packaging, or otherwise.

Without proper baselines set on color. You’ll quickly find inconsistency as your organization grows and the number of vendors you use increases.

Proper and Acceptable Logo Representation

Your logo is typically the most enduring and recognizable aspect of your brand. To apply standards of your logo keeps the consistency of color and messaging.

Your brand guide will define the differentiating aspects of your logo, assign appropriate color use and variants (e.g., horizontal and vertical). To establish size requirements on different materials and more.

Without establishing acceptable use of your logo, you might find a conference host has changed the color for their event materials. Or a packaging company adds the logo at a size too small.

Get Help With Your Brand Guide

Establishing a brand standards guide isn’t costly, but not establishing one certainly can be.

Imagine the cost of printing a few thousand brochures only to have someone point out colors are off. Your fonts aren’t consistent, or the message is inconsistent.

Consistency makes a brand, and hopefully, these examples are convincing enough.

If you don’t have established brand standards, get in touch. We’ll have our team create a great brand guide for your business.

What is Employer Branding?

By Branding

Employer Branding is something that we believe will become highlighted among brands in 2020. Without putting investment into your company’s perception to potential employees, it’ll make the hiring process tougher, and expensive.

Employer brand describes an employer’s reputation as a place to work. This is not a new concept, but awareness of employer branding among employers may be about less than 50%.

Hiring is tough, there are plenty of candidates, but very few that fit or have the exact skill you need. But maybe the problem is HR is not equipped with a Brand that they are confident in. Thus is not attractive to the right audience they want to talk to.

Salary, PTO, Sick Days, and other benefits are not enough to attract the candidates you are wanting for your jobs. These are “whats” and everyone can offer those. You have to move to a “why” as that is how candidates are judging you.

The Shift To Why

There is a shift in competitiveness for Brands in a job market that’s merging with a consumer one. Your Brand is competing for attention in employment as much as for the consumers attention. That kinda gives me chills, not in a good way, but it’s been happening since the early 2000’s.

As a Brand you want yours to be the most attractive and well known. But the focus is on the product, not as an employer.

This can lead to candidates wanting to work for you. But after they get there, how many stay long term?

Your Employer Branding must be unique. It has to be defined through message. That is your positioning, and work to attract the talent you want to grow your business.

Messaging Matters

Messaging is what people think about your Brand. Therefore, it matters what potential employees also think about your Brand.

Your website is the first place after that Indeed post that tells them about you.

Do not rely on Social Media to help alone. It can skew views of your culture that could be a toxic one. The message on your website includes: images, copy, and a well designed layout. This tells them whether or not you are attractive enough for them to invest their time into working there.

People have to really believe in the why before they feel they can commit. Remember that today’s candidates put their career first over company.

It’s not like my fathers generation that put company first because there was retirement and benefits to cash out on at 65. That’s the baby boomers generation by the way.

Not so for todays generation. They’re looking at why they should join, and commit their time and skills to you.

Who Should Control Your Employer Branding?

The message of your employer branding comes from leadership. That’s typically the CEO, or HR, but can be your companies brand agency (hint… hint).

You want to create a culture that builds up employee advocacy. Much like you want your product to create and build up brand ambassadors.

Word of mouth will get you better candidates than an employer website careers page or job post.

Career Pages On Your Website

Speaking about careers pages.

This is overlooked on many websites today. It is prime real estate to show off your employer branding. I hated going to Indeed and applying for a job with my skills and resume detailing my entire job history. Only later to be required to take a “quiz” before a phone interview.

Employer Branding

Quizzes, Questions, and Assessments oh my.

Think about this for a minute. How impersonal, and dispassionate of an impression that can create about you as an employer.

Don’t believe me? Read what the audience at Reddit have to say about it, wow.

Potential employees want to be respected as the authority you hired them to be. These things make them feel like they are wasting their time in a sea of possibilities better spent else where.

They also want to work at a place where they can make friends, feel safe, and have camaraderie with their co-workers. After all they will be spending all their time there.

That judgement begins at the interview experience. If you are not nice, then that will get around, therefore no one will apply to your business.

Interviews Are Personal

I hope this can help, “interviews are personal to find the right personnel.”

There’s nothing more impersonal when applying for a job, and no one wants to face-to-face with you.

Inter – means between, mutually, reciprocally, together — not one-sided.

Ask The Headhunter

Imagine if I were to not let you pitch why your product is better, only to ask before you pitched it, to take a quiz about something that is in your industry. Then if I feel you did pass satisfactory enough to my preference, we can discuss it.

No one would do this, and candidates are frustrated by the results as much as the employer.

I care personally about the person and what they want out of the job, more than the quiz scores on Indeed or a phone interview. For me, I can’t read a persons body language when I ask questions over the phone. So let’s grab a coffee, come by the office, or face time if you’re remote.

60% of job seekers quit filling out online applications.

So imagine how many stop after being prompted for a quiz?

Terrible questions

This can put off someone wanting to continue the application process during the interview.

A few years ago, I once watched a persons back go rigid in an interview because of the questions asked, and was offended. It was not my interview by the way that I was conducting or in.

It’s ok to expect them to read about your company online. However, you have to read up on them. With social media, personal websites, references, and other sources, you should have an idea before you decide to have this person interviewed.

More About The Application Experience

This is as important as User Experience with your Brand. Remember 60% of job seekers quit filling out online applications.

“Good candidates know their time is important and they have plenty of opportunities in the job market. Their tolerance for jumping through hoops is much lower than many employers think.”

Sarah Gregory, director of research at Punchkick Interactive

This consideration leads to a good interview experience that the candidate, whether you hired them or not, will share it. You can see many examples on Indeed company pages. Click the “reviews” tab.

I’m not linking any here, because of reasons you’ll see for yourself.

When working on your employer branding make sure you are following your Indeed (or where ever you post jobs) reviews tab for your company.

Reasons candidates leave reviews are many. There are those because they had a really good or really bad experience. Others received offers, and junior candidates are more likely to give reviews.

Real World Case Study

So I’ve been conducting a case study among employers online. Data is something I love to collect and interpret for customers to serve the best experience possible to their consumers.

So I applied at 50 places for a job. Less than 10% were responsive. More interesting was that less than 5% of those, that’s just 2, presented themselves well enough to peak my interest as a legitimate place I would work at and feel secure.

When you are hungry you will eat anything, when you have a plate and options, it’s up to the employer to win the candidate not the other way around.

I found that almost all of them did not understand the job they were advertising for placement. This was frustrating, because as a candidate I was not applying for a job but educating them on what the job actually is. I hope I helped, but I can tell a lot of copy paste is still happening.

Of the ones I did talk to, it was smooth, and we were able to find out what we both brought to the table rather the bullet points that were on the ad.

Don’t copy and paste, talk to NerdBrand about your employer branding about getting the message in front of the right candidates.

We are not an HR firm, but can help you shape your brands message for attracting applicants and define the experience you want them to have with your brand.

If you liked this article, please leave a comment below and we’ll read it on our podcast! Or just share it. Also you can read here on why you need a brand guide for your branding.