How Obama used the Power of Branding – The Big O

Sorry Oprah, you just aren’t the Big O anymore.

It doesn’t matter if you were in the 46% of voters who voted for McCain or the 52% who voted for Obama there is no denying that Barack built a strong recognizable brand and then used that brand recognition to help him get to the White House.  How can we repeat his success with our own business?  Sure, he had millions of dollars to spend and you don’t, but that doesn’t matter – that type of brand recognition can be accomplished by anyone on any budget.  The idea is simple.  Start with a strong visual image that accurately communicates what you are trying to say and then repeat it everywhere.  It is okay to have variations – you message or call to action will change – but the overall image should connect with what people have already seen.  This is called building brand equity.  Just like the equity you build in your home, the more and more people see your brand the more and more they will identify with it.  There is power in this recognition so don’t squander it by constantly changing your visual presentation of your business.   All visual communications should connect, so that they can in turn connect with your target audience, each time stronger than before.

How do you do this?

Practical Application

1.  You need a logo (or brand).

See my post regarding this all important part of your business and how to hire someone to create one for you and what to expect.  This is the foundation of all your brand building and brand equity.  Love your brand.  Make sure that it can be adaptable to other applications.  Make sure it effectively communicates what you want it to say.  Your logo itself does not HAVE to be the only visual item associated with your brand.  Think of Wal-Mart and their use of the smiley face.

2.  Plaster your brand.

Now that you have your logo or brand, (or other linked identifying item that is consistent with your brand, like the Wal-Mart smiley face) you need to adapt it to everything associated with your business.  It needs to be everywhere.  Your website, invoices, facebook page, letterhead, brochures – everywhere.  The more places you put it the greater the chance someone will see it.  That is what this is about.  You have to have brand recognition before you can have brand equity.  (kinda like you need a down payment before you can buy that house)

3.  Police your brand.

Maintain your brand standards.

Nothing irks me more as a designer than to work long and hard with a client to build and create a perfect brand for them, and the get an email from someone in the office who has little hearts and flowers all over the page and not the branded email signature we created for the company.  Is this the message you want your employees to send out?  This weakens your brand (not to mention it isn’t professional).  Select a company font and use it.  No more emails or Word Docs using Comic Sans.  Select a professional font for ALL of your correspondence (email too!) and then make everyone use it.  Period.  It is your company and font choice is not anything anyone should get twisted about.  If they do, they obviously don’t have enough work to do.

Nothing irks me more as a designer than to work long and hard with a client to build and create a perfect brand for them, and the get an email from someone in the office who has little hearts and flowers all over the page and not the branded email signature we created for the company.  Is this the message you want your employees to send out?  This weakens your brand (not to mention it isn’t professional).  Select a company font and use it.  No more emails or Word Docs using Comic Sans.  Select a professional font for ALL of your correspondence (email too!) and then make everyone use it.  Period.  It is your company and font choice is not anything anyone should get twisted about.  If they do, they obviously don’t have enough work to do.

4.  Be consistent.

Don’t change things every six months or every year.  Just like your home building brand equity takes time.  Stick with your brand for the long-haul.  (note:  it is okay to rebrand yourself, but only after careful consideration and a plan.  Think about the Cingular and AT&T.  Two and a half years later they are still merging those two brands.)

5.  Develop a plan for the brand.

How will you use it in new and creative ways?  Do you have it everywhere you can put it?  Does everything surrounding your brand help to promote your brand?  (Do you hand a brochure with your brand on it, only to have a new client then go to your web site and they FREAK out for a second because they don’t think they are in the right place because your brochure and website look NOTHING alike?)

6.  Self promote your brand.

Your facebook page, myspace, personal email, etc.  It is okay to be shameless when promoting your brand.

“Well, I have a logo, but none of my stuff is branded and I don’t have the money to do what you are talking about!”

Yes you do.  Just not all at once.  Again, and I’ll say this over and over again on this blog, you need a plan!  List all of your current items and the importance they are to your business.  Then item by item have them reworked to fit into your new branding, as your cash-flow allows.  Be diligent and self-promote by letting your current clients know what you are doing.  Send out a letter, email, press release, what ever and tell them, “Acme has a new look and feel.  Over the next few months we will be getting a make-over.  Keep your eyes open and watch how we transform!”  Get them excited about making your brand consistent – tie it into new products or services you are offering.  Use your Creative Wisdom and make it happen!

Still not convinced.  Think about how Barack branded himself, use that to benefit your business.   It isn’t that hard.  You just need a plan.

Written By Leah Dossey, owner, art director and designer at Blueleaf Creative.  Contact Leah at ldossey@blueleafcreative.com  Follow Leah on Twitter,  join the facbook group Creative Wisdom, or become a fan of Blueleaf Creative.

Why You Need A Logo

Let’s face it.  If you are in business or work for a business – YOU NEED A LOGO.  A real Bone Fide, 100%, Grade A, professional designed (your sisters son, whose in college doesn’t count) logo.  Why?  Because your logo is the single most important visual communication your company has.  It is your face to the world when you aren’t there.  When coupled with strong branding, it speaks for your business.  A professionally designed logo is a must have for all businesses.

“Well, I have skills, I can whip something up myself.”  Let me say this loud and clear, NO YOU CAN’T.  Unless you have some serious art skills, understand visual communications, printing requirements, and web requirements, you can’t design your own logo (and neither can your sister’s son).

Here is what a QUALIFIED designer, studio or agency should bring to the table:

1.  Experience.  Experience in your industry and others.  How many logos have the designed?  What does their portfolio look like?

2.  Consultation.  This is the important part.  Any designer worth their salt will spend time to get to know your business, the market you are in, your competition, their logos, and your business vision (notice I didn’t say your design vision, but your business vision).

3.  Estimate.  After your consultation they should provide you with a written estimate for services and agreements.  Make sure you have the rights to your own logo.  Make sure you understand what they want as their rights to your logo.  Most importantly, make sure the estimate includes a disk (for back-up purposes) with your logo on it.  That disk should contain various files for web and print.  Make sure this is part of the estimate and agreement.  DON’T LOOSE THIS DISK.  Make copies.  Too often, people don’t know where their logo files are.  You’d be surprised but I come across this several times a month.  (We will cover what to do if this happens in a later post – fear not there is a solution – but it will cost you).  Make sure you know how many design concepts they will present you with and how many revisions you get to those concepts.  What if you don’t like any?  Will they go back to the drawing board for free or charge you?  Some do, some don’t – find out.

4. Education – Not their education, yours.  Your designer needs to educate you on the use of your logo.  What files to send to the printer, the embroidery shop, the web guy.  They all need different things.  Make sure you understand this.  Know you logo colors (PMS colors).  Every printer in the world will need to know that tiny bit of information.  What I do for my clients is provide them with a disk and a File Usage Guide.  “What is a File Usage Guide?”, you say.  Well, it is a document that tells you what files are included on your disk.  Which files to use when, and what your PMS colors are.  This is critical information.  Get it.

The big question is – HOW MUCH SHOULD I PAY FOR MY LOGO?

The answer is simple, but frustrating.  It depends.  It depends on your budget.  Like a good mattress, buy the best one you can afford.  Use the guide above to help you select a designer.  See if you click.  If you get the feeling they might be “flighty or flaky” run away!  They don’t return your call in a timely manner, run away.  They think you ask too many questions, run away.  When you find that person who listens, wants to understand your business, educates you in the process, has a portfolio you find interesting and inspiring, AND will ask you “what is your budget” then you have a qualified candidate to business with.  Talk money right away.  You don’t want to fall in love with a designer you can’t afford.  I have seen logos sold on-lie for as little as $9.99 (you get what you pay for).  Be prepared to spend $500 – $5,000+ on your logo.  YUP, that is a big range.  It breaks down like this, you will probably get the most bang for your buck working with a small studio or full-time (not part-time) freelancer.  Bigger studios or advertising agencies will cost more.  NEVER let a web company design your logo. Unless they have a full-time graphic designer on staff, no one there knows what an effective logo should look like.  Just talk money first, then the rest and you should be okay.  Never purchase services based on price alone.  Just like that generic box of mac n’cheese, you won’t be happy.

Can you work out a deal?  Sure, try.  Let them know that you will need several items designed.  See if they can discount the work based on the volume.

My final words on this for today is this:  Develop a good relationship with your visual communication service provider (designer).  This person will then become married to your business.  They will know you and your business goals and they will be familiar with your likes and dislikes, so that 3 months down the road when you need a brochure whipped up for a trade show, they will have a better understanding of what to provide you.  Over 80% of my clients have been with me from the beginning of their business.  Why?  Because I take the time to know them and their needs.  I help them plan for the project we are working on right then, and the one coming up in a few months.  We talk annual budgets, time-lines, marketing goals, and then execute the plan we create.  We are a team.  You want someone you can say, “Hey Joe, remember that ad we did back on ’06, well we want to revamp it and do something like that again.”  So do your homework.  It will pay off in the long run.