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.

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Ramp Up Sales This Holiday Season

Many companies believe that pulling back on their marketing and advertising budgets right now is the smart move.  I am here to tell you that it is not. What I am about to say may seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out, it makes sense.  SPEND on your marketing and advertising.  SPEND as much as you can reasonably afford.  Why?  Because while others are pulling out, that frees up room for YOU to get in front of more potential clients and customers.  The competition is being weeded out by poor marketing and advertising decisions – capitalize on their mistake!

Many newspapers, magazines, print and online publications are discounting their ad placements to help fill the gaps – let your companies message fill that gap!

This is a great opportunity to gain new customers and be seen where you haven’t been seen before.

How to be smart about it.

So let’s not go off the deep end and spend a bunch of money on stuff that isn’t going to get you the best return on your investment.  You should know what works for your company (if you don’t work with a company, like Blueleaf Creative and others that can help you develop a good strategy) use that method now and double your efforts.  The opportunity for great reward is out there.  For example.  If you usually post on ad in a local magazine with success, post 2 or 3 in the same publication – not the same ad, but variations on that ad that will build your brand and get you repeated exposure and increase your chance of making a sale.  Perhaps you use direct mail marketing or email marketing – keep it up and increase your mailings.  The repeated exposure will pay off.

Try something new (but be sensible about it).  Try a new marketing technique that will get you in front of NEW potential clients to help you increase sales and GROW your business.  Again, be sensible, don’t put all your eggs in a “new” basket that isn’t proven.  Do a test.  Track the results and if it works – hit it hard!

Time is of the essence.  If you haven’t already developed a Holiday marketing and advertising plan, you need to start NOW – like right now.  On average you will need 2-4 weeks (or longer) to successfully put a campaign together.

Gain last minute sales. Many customers and clients wait until the last minute to make holiday purchases.  Plan now to gain those last minute dollars.

BUT I’M NOT RETAIL. I don’t care if you are a roofer, a tutor, a valve distributor, or an elephant wrangler, the opportunity is the same.  Your competition is pulling out – so step up, fill the gap, increase your sales and grow your business!


How to Better your Business through Smart, Cost Effective Visual Communications

Creative Wisdom is a resource for you and your business as they relate to the realms of printing and graphic design.

In plain English, I’m going to share with you the tips and tricks I have learned in my 11+ years of experience in the design, web and print world and help you AVOID the common mistakes that are commonly made.

In the weeks to come we will visit a series of topics regarding logos and branding, the importance of a well designed business card, the benefits of social networking online, what you really need when you start your business, how to plan and budget for marketing, design and advertising, and how to deal with printers and how to get the best deals on printing.

So who am I and what makes me an expert?  Well, I am Leah Dossey, owner of Blueleaf Creative – a design and full service graphic communication company in Spring, Texas.  Blueleaf Creative will be celebrating it’s fourth anniversary this spring (and man are we excited!).  I have recently been chosen as a recipient of the Sam Walton Emerging Entrepreneur Award, I have over 11+ years experience in the design, web and print worlds, and my passion in life is helping business grow through great design and smart planning when it comes to their marketing goals and budget.

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