9 Ways to Measure Your Branding

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Question: How do you measure whether your branding efforts are working or not? What do you look for?

Using Fresh Web Explorer

“I measure our branding efforts explicitly with Fresh Web Explorer. I use it to track every mention of our brand and branded terms across the Web, including tweets, comments, forums, blogs, etc. It helps me discover conversations I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed, and it enables me to keep a pulse on the broader reach of our marketing campaigns.”

MATT EHRLICHMAN 
Porch

Seeing Strangers Recognize Your Logo

“Branding is an important part in marketing because it means you’ve made a personal connection with your audience and inspired some level of longevity for your brand. It’s not just about a number, but rather the feeling you invoke in your target audience. They say that if you capture their hearts, you have them forever. You know this when strangers recognize your logo or company during conversation.”

ANDY KARUZA 
SpotSurvey

 Using Google Analytics

“We use Google Analytics to check our branded keywords and how they grow weekly, monthly, etc. It’s a good way to measure branding efforts to see how many times people are typing your brand into the search engine.”

PABLO PALATNIK 
ShadesDaddy.com

Being Recognized

“It sounds simple, but the best way of knowing if your branding efforts are working is to ask someone to say (or spell) the name of your company. If fellow business colleagues, industry insiders or consumers can say or spell your company name correctly, then half of your battle is already won. Recognition is key to recall efforts.”

KIM KAUPE 
ZinePak

Talking to People

“If people are likely to get on the phone with you when you reach out — or better yet, if they are coming to you — then your branding efforts are working. We’ve seen a huge change in the last year of businesses coming to us instead of us reaching out because of the articles we’ve published that build credibility for our brand. “

KELSEY MEYER 
Influence & Co.

Asking for Feedback

 

“We directly ask our potential business partners and customer leads how they heard about us. I’m always asking for feedback on our creative work like mailers and infographics in every business-related meeting. It helps me to keep thinking about how to improve and open the conversation to learn what branding efforts other businesses are pursuing. “

PHIL LABOON 
Eyeflow Internet Marketing

 Checking Your Conversion Rates

“If your conversion rates have increased, it can mean that the same visitors who have never purchased before are now excited to get to know your product or service. Branding helps soft sell to potential customers who weren’t ready to make a purchase initially but might give your business a chance after repeated exposure. If your conversion rates go up, your branding efforts are not in vain.”

DANNY WONG
Blank Label

Tracking Leads

“We keep a very close eye on our metrics — particularly lead gen. If our subscribers, opt-ins and sales are increasing, we know that we’re doing a good job promoting our brand. We are particularly interested in tracking referrals from clients because we are intensely focused on providing excellent customer service. If our clients are referring friends, we know that we’re doing a great job.”

PATRICK CONLEY 
Automation Heroes

Seeing Company Growth

“We help our clients assess branding efforts through seeing increased leads, higher lead conversion rates, faster close rates, higher paying customers and overall company growth. If you aren’t hitting all four cylinders, get some outside expertise to help you!”

RAOUL DAVIS 
Ascendant Group

The Case for a Chief Story Teller

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The lines are often blurred between the roles of CEO, CMO, CTO, CIO and so on in regards to who is the chief of brand vision. Who we are. What do we do. How the public should perceive the company.

Does the buck ultimately stop with the CEO? Is the CMO’s primary responsibility to expand brand exposure and grow market share? Is every member of company leadership a part of what a company is and can become?

Of course they are, but maybe there should be a CST – Chief Story Teller – role added to a standard C-suite.

Let’s Look At Reality

At the end of the day, the buck stops with the CEO. If they don’t want the responsibility, then they shouldn’t have accepted the title. The ability to share vision with their team and customers is essential to company growth.

But is it reasonable to assume that with so much of their time dedicated to creation of that vision and making the hard decisions that come with it, the CEO also has the time to communicate the vision on a daily basis?

More important, is it reasonable that every CEO have this ability as one of their great strengths?

Should the CMO, who on a daily basis is overseeing the implementation of brand communication and customer acquisition strategies, creation of assets to deliver the message and the team to create them, also be the person on whom this role of Chief Story Teller falls?

I would argue that in the early stage of any company, of course it is one of the hats to be worn, but as a company grows, it is essential that this role be delegated (on a daily basis) to a Chief Story Teller who has both the passion and the ability to relay it to others.

What is a Chief Story Teller?

A good example of this would be Matt Cutts from Google.

While he is neither CEO, CMO or any other C-Suite title, he communicates of a regular basis with customers via videos, blog posts, and social media. More people know his name than Larry Page and Sergey Brin. His role is Head of the “Webspam” team, which to some may seem like not much, but the baseline of all that is Google is search. Without him communicating what is going on behind the scenes of the Google algorithm changes, many things Google does would not make sense.

In today’s world of instant communication, it is possible to share the true vision of a brand and learn from customers what they wish it would become. There is now no excuse in refusing to engage, then have frustration on misunderstanding of your brand by consumers.

Making CST A True Position

So often the role being discussed is foisted upon the CEO or CMO, without taking into account all the other responsibilities they have which interfere with this being their main focus.

If the responsibility of being the true communicator of the brand was handed not to just a public relations spokesperson, but to someone with both the high level expertise, knowledge of inner workings of the company, and the innate ability to communicate, there are amazing opportunities which present themselves.

It is my opinion that by removing the need for sales, while it will be difficult to track direct ROI, the ability to create relationships is greatly enhanced. If the sole role of the CST is to build relationships with no strings attached, then the basic human reaction is to lower mental shields.

Demand For This Role

If the CST isn’t trying to close a deal, only share the true inner workings of the brand, how it can be of benefit, and the true aspects of human emotion and experience, then it is in the customers’ best interest to be open. Not only to becoming a customer, but also to share what they would like to see and how to secure them as loyal followers.

This information can then be leveraged by the CEO, CMO, and others in the C-Suite to expand the company in so many ways.

Without this role, it is likely that much of the vision will never be adopted by the team. Just as important, the true value proposition provided by the company will not be understood by customers and brand ambassadors shall be lost.

The Not-That-Hard Guide to Naming Your Startup

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You can read any number of articles about this subject. I’ve seen many a startup labor over this topic. Yes, it’s important. No, you shouldn’t let it hobble your progress and make it a miserable, emotion-laden battle with your cofounders. Here’s my short process to take the drama out of naming your startup.

Biggest advice: don’t get emotional. Remember that Amazon used to be a jungle and Verizon isn’t even a real thing. And while we’re at it, what the hell is a Lyft or an Uber? You can make this work.

Let your domain name drive the search. Use Domainr and go on a search for a domain name that you like. You likely aren’t going to find a .com that’s available anymore, so I recommend most new companies use either .co or .io at this point. They are growing in popularity and tend to be available. You’ll be surprised what decent ones you can come up with quickly if you think about it. The Domainr app is on my phone and it let’s me search any time I have an idea.

Keep it short. I personally prefer short domain names. They are easier to communicate and easier to type and remember.

Check your social handles. Once you find one check the social handles in this order: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram. You’re looking for something you can register without having to change it across all the networks so people can find you easily on their network of choice.

Make it easy to communicate verbally (by phone). You might have a really good business name in your head (you think) but before you jump on it try communicating it by phone. If you have to spell it ten times that’s annoying and people will spell it wrong and you’ll lose business. I think this step is the most important one.

Make it relevant to the benefit you will provide your clients or customers. Don’t get too cute. No one cares about your vision for the company being communicated in an obscure acronym. Again, this isn’t about your feelings. Pick something functional that will close more business more quickly.

Did I miss anything you think is crucial?

3 Reasons Your Target Audience Doesn’t Care About Your Business

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We’ve all heard the story: An expansion-happy CEO mercilessly destroys a promising startup equipped with a steady growth trajectory and a roster of top-tier clients, all within a year of his ascension to the throne.

When you’re in charge of a company’s growth and marketing strategy, it’s tempting to chase the numbers by drastically widening your marketing reach. But if you want to grow and succeed in an industry, you can’t take a “fire hose” approach to marketing.

If your company is stuck in a growth slump (or veering off course), you might be overshooting your target audience. Here are three reasons your marketing efforts aren’t making a connection.

You’re Targeting the Masses

I recently consulted for a healthcare company that was struggling to close leads despite having a great product. After reviewing its marketing presentation, the problem practically jumped off the page: Its target customer was completely ambiguous. After we settled on a single audience, the company had a clear value proposition and marketing approach that more narrowly targeted its specific audience.

You might think you need to stretch every dollar as far as possible to get the maximum ROI on your marketing spend, but aiming for a general audience is a waste of money. It dilutes your message, your marketing, and your strategy.

Instead, focus on a highly targeted audience to create a relevant, authentic connection with potential customers, and use your marketing budget efficiently.

You’re Confusing Your Audience

I’ve sat through countless campaign presentations. All too often, I walk out of a highly technical 30-minute presentation and think, “I have no idea what this company does.”

Just because you’re familiar with the ins and outs of your product or service doesn’t mean your audience understands it. Your value proposition should never become a guessing game.

Customers, investors, and the market really only care about two things: the problem your product solves and why it’s better than any other solution out there. If you can’t answer those questions in layman’s terms, your audience will go elsewhere.

You’re Not Providing a Call to Action

You may have a narrowly targeted audience, stellar creative, and perfect messaging, but if you don’t offer actionable takeaways for your audience, you’re missing a critical engagement opportunity.

Whether you want your audience to make a purchase, learn more, or enter a contest, your instructions need to be clear. Never put out a message that doesn’t communicate a desired outcome to your potential customers.

Raise Some Eyebrows

You’ll have a better chance of connecting with your audience if you avoid these mistakes. But focusing solely on the right customers won’t generate the cutting-edge marketing that draws people in by the millions. Here are four marketing tactics you should use to elevate your message:

Nail down your medium. Don’t assume a one-size-fits-all strategy will work for your startup. You need to understand what works for your industry and what fits your goals. A fashion entrepreneur may succeed in an ancillary New York Fashion Week event and post her line to Pinterest. But a B2B startup may be better off focusing on thought leadership to land a speaking engagement. Research the best medium for conveying your message, and get your story out as quickly as possible.

Know your customers’ habits. When you know your audience’s habits, it’s easier to meet them where they are. Find out where your target customers congregate to execute perfectly. For example, I market to entrepreneurs. I know they’re on the lookout for new opportunities, and they consume information almost exclusively through their mobile devices. So I focus on capturing relevant headlines on Twitter and aligning with organizations that curate people I want to talk to. I may only have a second to get their attention, so I focus on concise, attention-grabbing tweets and speaking opportunities at popular events.

Consider your costs. Spend your hard-earned money on customers who understand your message and are more likely to use it and become product evangelists. However, cost doesn’t always mean dollars. It includes time and effort as well. The barrier to entry on social media may be low in dollars, but think about whether you have the necessary bandwidth to manage, grow, and interact with your following.

Scale your marketing. There is no definite answer for how much you should spend on marketing, but according to Bloomberg, companies should start by spending about 5 percent of their revenue on marketing and adjust as they grow.

No matter how wonderful your product is, you can’t be everything to everyone. And when you try to market it that way, it weakens your message and pushes your audience away. Concentrate your efforts on sending out the perfect message for the right audience in the best place, and your marketing dollars will work harder. Pick your most relevant segment, and let your new brand advocates do the rest for you.

Allison Conkright Engel leads global marketing and operations for the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs. Prior to Dell, Allison worked for various startups, leading their Southwest expansion efforts. She has more than 15 years of experience in media and marketing and has worked for several iconic brands. Connect with Allison on Twitter.

Contest: Free Branding Services for the “Next North American Startup”

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Are you a startup in North America? Did you blow your whole budget on R&D?

A startup without a solid brand at launch isn’t going to succeed. It’s that simple. Lucky for you, Vancouver digital branding agency Skyrocket wants to help. They’re holding the Brand Prize contest (open to North American startups only) with the winning startup receiving a $40,000 Visual Identity and Branding System.

Why are they doing it?

According to Skyrocket Creative Director Michael Parks:

“Startups spend all their resources on R&D, often neglecting their identity and brand. Of course developing a valuable product is important, but having people who want that thing is the key to making it! By creating a brand that breathes purpose – that defines the audience relationship – we can captivate a market and truly disrupt.”

startup branding

Skyrocket wants to give one worthy startup a chance they wouldn’t otherwise have, by providing full branding services for free: they want to launch that startup into the market with every possibility for success.

Are you that startup? The contest works like this:

Brand-Prize-How-Works

Applications are open (at www.thebrandprize.com) until September 15: the winning startup will be announced just 15 days later on September 30.

If you’ve got a killer product and a solid business model, then there’s only one question you’ve got to answer:

Do you have what it takes to win the Brand Prize?

About Skyrocket

Skyrocket is a digital agency specializing in user-experience design and branding. Whether they’re building a complex web app, an ecommerce website, or even a simple website, everything Skyrocket does works to express a company’s brand.

19 Social Media Facts That Every Marketer Should Know (Video with cover)

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Aenean volutpat dui ut velit hendrerit, et pharetra ipsum vestibulum. Morbi neque orci, eleifend et sagittis consectetur, scelerisque sed nulla. Phasellus laoreet quis dui ac convallis. Donec interdum iaculis metus sit amet dictum. Donec aliquam tristique ante sed tempus. In at dignissim sapien. Nam egestas porttitor urna sed eleifend. Photo Credit: stavos Read More…

A Trend Is Always A Trap: A Famous Ad Man on Mediocrity

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“No one ever got fired for buying IBM,” as the saying goes.

IBM here is a metaphor for the safe choice. For jumping on the corporate bandwagon. For following the trends of business.

Trend following might be safe for corporate types, but for startup founders, “safe” is a four-letter word.

Just ask legendary ad man George Lois:

Because advertising and marketing is an art, the solution to each new problem or challenge should begin with a blank canvas and an open mind, not with nervous borrowings of other people’s mediocrities.That’s precisely what “trends” are—a search for something “safe”—and why a reliance on them leads to oblivion.

Despite the risks of trend following, startups are notoriously bad about doing so (see my post Why Does Your Startup Sound Like a Startup? for more). Startup trends appear in homepage layouts, messaging, user acquisition plans, and even approaches to company culture.

But your runway’s shrinking and everything’s on fire and how are you going to make payroll?

This is no time for the safety of other people’s mediocrities.

Lois, again:

In any creative industry, the fact that others are moving in a certain direction is always proof positive, at least to me, that new direction is the only direction.

Sounds a lot like the startup worldview. So it’s weird that, when, it comes to branding and messaging, so many startups fall into the trend trap of mediocrity and then oblivion.

Disruptive technology, you say? Too bad you look and sound like every other player in your space.

What if your messaging and marketing were as disruptive as your technology? What if your team put in the effort to tell a truly compelling and meaningful brand story that did justice to your product?

Leave the trends to the bloggers and journalists; they need something to write about come January.

By the way, when asked for insight into the coming year’s trends, Lois says:

My answer is always identical to what I said the previous year: “Beats the shit out of me. I’ll know it when I do it.”

Patrick Woods is a hybrid ad man/startup guy. As director of a>m ventures, he connects startups with awesome branding, PR, and marketing strategy.

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

3 Simple Questions to Uncover Your Startup’s Personality

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Duke Cannon Soap

My team does a lot of brand development, both for startups and for Fortune 500 clients. In the process, we’ve developed lots of tools and frameworks and processes for creating good work.

You’ve probably heard terms like brand essence, brand platform, positioning statements and the like. Those traditional processes, coupled with our own, are really helpful in jump-starting and guiding a brand project.

But as it turns out, almost all are completely irrelevant for early-stage startups. That’s because before you’ve arrived at product-market fit, your name and brand design matter little, if it all.

As you’re approaching product-market fit, brand does begin to matter. But the tools brand professionals often feel too ambiguous early on.

So what’ a founder to do?

The power of personality

That’s why I love the idea of uncovering your brand personality. It’s simple and bite-sized. And you can start working on it right now, no matter where you are on the growth curve.

Unlike brand essence and platforms, personality is something we innately understand. We already say things like, “That was the longest coffee date every. The dude had no personality,” and “She’s super inspiring with a magnetic personality.”

We get it. And what’s great is that innate understanding translates into brands as well.

Personality is something intrinsic that’s manifested in things like personal style, communication style, food and drink choices, and other lifestyle and social considerations. And the same is true for brands. Those external choices point to something deeper about what your brand believes about the world.

And the great news is that you can begin developing your brand personality today, starting with three simple questions.

1. What would your brand order in a bar?

First, ask what your brand would order at a bar. This exercise is great because it’s quick, relatable, and an answer almost immediately comes to mind.

For soap brand Duke Cannon, I’d say a classic American whiskey. Not bottom shelf, but no small-batch, hand-crafted crap.

For Warby Parker, a gin martini up seems about right.

Dollar Shave Club, a local craft beer (that Duke Cannon would probably roll its eyes at).

You can do the same thing with food. If your brand was eating its last meal tonight, what would it order?

Pizza? Surf n’Turf? Veggie burgers?

2. How does your brand walk and talk?

Next, try personifying your brand a little more. Picture your brand as a person in your head. Does he have a beard? Glasses? Is she wearing a sundress? Or a pantsuit? Hair up or down? What do they look like when they walk?

Whatever your brand eats, drinks, or looks like in your head, it’s less about the actual choice and getting it perfect, and more about the social connotations that come along with these things. Images crop up in all of our heads at the mention of tiniest personality detail — like a drink at a bar.

A woman eating a bone-in ribeye with whiskey versus a women eating a mixed green salad with Chardonnay, for instance. You start to know that person, even if just a little.

3. What does your brand believe about the world?

Finally, try to give your brand some strong opinions. About the world, about current events, about other products. Strong opinions are generally the clearest opinions. And when you’re clear about what you believe, people will understand your personality faster.

And don’t be afraid to be polarizing. Strong opinions are inherently controversial. They’re also the most convincing. And the people your brand might alienate wouldn’t be your customers anyway.

Take this example from the Duke Cannon FAQ page:

WILL USING DUKE CANNON SOAP GET ME LAID?

SON, YOU HAVE US CONFUSED WITH A POPULAR BRAND OF SHOWER GELS. THEIR “EFFECT” PROMISES GREATER ATTENTION FROM “EAGER AND ATTRACTIVE YOUNG FEMALES.” AND IF YOU BELIEVE THAT LOAD OF BS, YOU ARE A COMPLETE D-BAG. PLEASE LEAVE OUR SITE NOW. OUR SOAP GETS YOU CLEAN, NOT LAID. YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO TAKE CARE OF THAT YOURSELF.

Strong opinions don’t necessarily have to be direct shots at other brand, however. Harlan Estate is a super high-end, super exclusive California winery. Before you get the privilege of buying a bottle, not even a case, you have to get on their mailing list.

Their wines are listed at price points like $700 and $800 on the secondary market. Their brand believes something about wine and the world. So much so that H. William Harlan penned a 6 page “letter from the proprietor” that gives background on the family, the land, and the winery. And he closes with this statement:

“Yet we have only just begun to understand this land sufficiently to bring it into its current form. And I feel that is as it should be, for fine wines evolve over decades, and wine-growing estates, families, and communities across generations.”

Knowing your brand

As you being to explore these exercises, you’ll quickly see how a brand with a strong personality is so much more interesting and meaningful than one without.

The Duke Cannon website could say “the easiest way to get clean” or “the biggest bars of soap online.” Harlan estate could say “the best wine money can buy.”

Those are the easy, obvious positions. The “what” to say without thought about “how” to say it.

But we know there’s more to the story. Through fleshing out the personality behind the voice, we feel like we know these brands. When Duke Cannon gives you the finger, you chuckle.

When Harlan Estate says something like “Winemakers believe that the land speaks to them of possibilities. A winemaker’s goal is to express those possibilities, to capture the best of what the land has to offer,” you actually nod your head and say, “Yeah, express them.”

That’s because in addition to feeling like you know the brand through its personality, it also feels authentic. After spending some time with the Duke Cannon brand, there’s a high degree of consistency in terms of design, copy, and overall user experience. In fact, when you make a purchase, your confirmation email comes from intern1@dukecannon.com.

Harlan Estate, at the other end of the design spectrum, reinforces its personality with minimal design, rich black and white photography, and nearly a dozen multipage PDFs about everything from the vintages to the land to the opinions of the founders.

Authenticity emerges when your voice matches your beliefs. When the design and copy and experience work in harmony to communicate the truth about your brand personality.

So what does your brand believe about the world? The most interesting brand personalities emerge when you identify the tension between what is and what could be. What should be.

What is that point of tension that brought your brand into existence? Start there, and build outward.

Move from a Product to a Brand

Developing your personality will help your grow from a product to a brand. A product is easily copied; a brand is unique. A product is easily ripped off; a brand is an individual. A produce is a thing; a brand is a personality.

In our world, products are increasingly cheap and easy to test and launch. In a world of ever-expanding competition from incumbents and other startups alike. There are dozens of similar startups playing in the same space.

So how will you succeed?

First, you’ll build an incredible solution to a big problem. But then, to push even further ahead, you craft a compelling brand personality that energizes and inspire your audience.

A great personality keeps speaking even when you’re no longer talking. A great personality inspires people to talk about you when you’re not around. In my case, that meant a dude suggesting a dude buy soap as a gift to another dude! That’s powerful.

So what are you saying?

Patrick Woods is a hybrid ad man/startup guy. As director of a>m ventures, he connects startups with awesome branding, PR, and marketing strategy.

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

5 Simple Ways to Use Twitter to Its Full Potential

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twitter tipsEven the best businesses can have trouble adjusting to social media. It’s understandable that plenty of profitable and professional companies don’t use Twitter correctly, especially if they’ve been in business for many years before social media came into play. However, customers keep up with businesses online, and they will judge your ability to use Twitter and other social media sites.

If you want to attract more technology-savvy clients, then you need to make sure that you’re making the most of your Twitter account. Twitter can help bring in more potential customers and promote loyalty from your current customers, but only if you’re tweeting the right things in the right way. Take a look at these five things that even good businesses do badly on Twitter, and make note of what you could be doing differently.

  1. They forget to create a profile. One of the worst things you can do is keep your profile picture as the little egg you first start out as. Make it personal. Upload a professional profile picture for your company. The picture should ideally be something that is recognizable even when it’s small. Don’t forget to also fill out your bio. If there is nothing there, people won’t know who you are or what your company does. This should be one of the first things that you do — there’s no excuse for you to be tweeting with an unfinished profile.
  2. They tweet just about business. Yes, Twitter is a great way to show off your company and gain new customers. However, you shouldn’t plug your business in every tweet. Do people really want to read 140-character advertisements all day long? Tweet photos of your workplace or employees, facts about your industry, tips that you learned along the way, a funny anecdote or a question for your followers. People will be more likely to follow you and recommend you to others if they actually enjoy reading your tweets.
  3. They don’t follow polite Twitter etiquette. Just because you’re interacting on the Internet doesn’t mean that you should let your social graces fall to the wayside. Don’t do tacky things like constantly beg for retweets or use excessive hashtags. Take the time to check your spelling and grammar. Use correct punctuation. No, you don’t need to use three exclamation points. Treat Twitter as though you were writing a company email or a friendly note to a client. You can have fun and joke around on Twitter, but make sure you do it in a suitable and easy-to-understand way.
  4. They tweet too rarely. If you’re not tweeting regularly, then you’re not tweeting correctly. Twitter is made for frequent, daily updates. Because you’re limited to 140 characters, you should feel the need to tweet frequently anyway. If you’re having trouble remembering to tweet at least once a day, try a social media management tool that allows you to schedule tweets in advance, such as Hootsuite or TweetDeck.
  5. They don’t interact with others. You shouldn’t just be tweeting out into the abyss and assuming that your followers are reading. Think of Twitter as sort of a meet-and-greet. Make conversation with others and share interesting news and facts. Get to know people within your industry as well. This might sound counterintuitive or like fraternizing with the enemy, but it will help expand your social network. It’s perfectly fine to talk customers and other business owners on Twitter too. Compliment others on something they’ve done that you admire. Ask them about their experiences in your industry. Thank your customers for their patronage, and make sure that you make it personal and sincerely mean it. Interacting is what Twitter is all about, so start talking to others and not just to yourself!

Did you take note of what you could change on your own Twitter account? Not making the most of Twitter doesn’t mean that you run a bad business, but it does mean that you are losing out on potential customers. Now that you’re armed with these tips, go ahead and rethink how you use Twitter. Redesign your account and start tweeting new, more interesting things. Twitter should be a enjoyable experience for both you and your followers, so go have some fun!

Brendon Schenecker is equal parts developer and CEO, which has led to array of tech-based startups and over 10 years of experience managing startup ventures. Brendon is currently founder and CEO of Travel Vegas, a technology-focused destination travel company.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

How to Survive a Rebranding and Still Kick Ass

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Question: After you go through the rebranding process, how do you build credibility again? Do’s (and don’ts) to share?

startup brands

Don’t Panic

“In my first venture, there was a partnership divorce, forcing a much-needed rebranding. Because I am in the B2B space, it was not challenging to transition the name. We simply changed our marketing materials, made an announcement and continued on with business. We didn’t make a big deal of it or act panicked, and we found that because we set that example, no one else acted negatively, either. “

Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

rsz_incontentad2Remember the Proof Is in the Pudding

“Clients, funders and other stakeholders will connect with your brand if you can prove that “who” you are as an organization drives results. Cultivate opportunities to use stories in your conversations, pitches, sales calls, press and so forth that show how you have delivered the results your new brand purports. “

Alexia Vernon, Alexia Vernon Empowerment, LLC

Start by Setting Expectations

“Let people know that you’re still the same committed business owners/team, and the only thing that has changed is the way you talk about what you do — that’s all. Your heart is still in the same place, and you want your existing customers and clients to help you continue to move forward in the right direction. Setting those expectations early on will go a long way.”

Nathalie Lussier, Nathalie Lussier Media Inc.

Enhance Not Only Your Brand, But Your Credibility

“Levo League recently went through a rebranding process, and one of our primary focuses was to maintain credibility throughout. We took the time to host focus groups and surveys, and we used the feedback to stay true to our users’ perceptions of Levo. We wanted our rebranding to enhance the perception that Levo feels like there are real women behind the site, and that it’s a safe space to network. “

Caroline Ghosn, The Levo League

Don’t Wait for Consensus

“To me, the key lesson in branding is to always pick a select few people to be responsible for making the decisions, instead of relying on a whole team of people to come to some sort of consensus. Great design and branding rarely come from compromise.”

Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

Be Open and Honest

“Going through a rebrand is not easy; there are times when you feel like you are running multiple companies at once, working with old and (hopefully) new customers simultaneously. It’s imperative to be truthful with people as you undergo the change. If the rebrand is due in part to some previous weaknesses, be upfront with that information — you’ll be surprised how receptive people are to honesty.”

Charles Bogoian, Kenai Sports, LLC

Get Published

“After we rebranded, we ramped up our guest contributions. We wanted our company leaders to be established as thought leaders, and we wanted to draw people in to check out our company. It made our new brand appear more credible when people found our site via articles our leaders had written. “

Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.

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Pretend the Old Brand Never Existed

“Pretend the old brand look never existed. Scrub it from the record. Bury it on the web. Pretend you are in a witness protection program, and if anyone ever calls you by an old nickname walking down the street, keep walking. Forward, but never straight. “

Michael Portman, Birds Barbershop

Use Video to Be Honest

“Most startups grow too quickly and sometimes don’t understand how important customer service is. I have seen thousands of bad reviews that will hurt the reputation of many companies as they grow. Rebrand, create a video, put it on your homepage, be honest about the past and talk about the day-to-day changes the company is implementing to avoid issues from the past. “

Ak Kurji, Gennex Brands

Explain (But Don’t Excuse) the Rebranding

“We marketed our services under different brand names and, a few years into it, we decided to consolidate under one company brand. We were clear on why the new brand was better and what changed — choosing to be transparent and using messaging with clarity — and stayed consistent thereon. “

Shradha Agarwal, ContextMedia

Stay True to Your Positioning Srategy

“Before you get into conveying your brand to the world through tactics — design, messaging, marketing — first solidify your positioning hook. At ColorJar, we call this your Golden Purpose — it’s the triangulation of what makes you remarkable, how you outplay the competition and what resonates with your audience. Stay true to this positioning, and everyone will feel your value and authenticity. “

David Gardner, ColorJar

Have a Strong Point of View

“When we went through rebranding, it was important for us to have a strong, singular point of view. We achieved this by having one person in charge of the brand identity, and then encouraged him to use bold visuals and a strong voice in order to create a brand that really grabs people’s attention.”

Kit Hickey, Ministry of Supply

Don’t Lose Your Network

“Even after rebranding, you’ll still have your original foundation of values and extensive network to enhance your credibility. Continue to grow your network and showcase your company’s values throughout a variety of channels. Remain consistent and honest to increase customer satisfaction and overall credibility. “

Heather Huhman, Come Recommended

How Brandfolder Makes Your Marketing Life Easier

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One of the most frustrating things about writing tech stories and planning national conferences is that we often need simple assets from companies (think logos, headshots, etc), but it can take an eternity to get them. Emails back and forth, which everyone hates, and we’re still usually down to the wire.

Brandfolder is a recent Techstars Boulder graduate that’s going to fix that for me. While it’s actually aimed at marketing and PR professionals, the ultimate goal is to provide a one-stop place for companies to upload these assets and open them to whomever needs them.

The guys at Brandfolder are already looking at some great traction, and anything that cuts down on email is a win in my book.

Check out our Q&A with Brandfolder CEO Brian Parks below. (And yes, I got the logo above from the company’s Brandfolder.)

What is your startup called?

Brandfolder

What’s the story behind your idea?

It’s pretty simple – I spent several years doing investment banking and business development, and I constantly needed other companies’ information in order to represent them to the market (be it in an M&A pitch deck or on an online travel website). I always found myself waiting for pretty low-level stuff that every company had (logos, headshots, product images, copy), and it slowed down my ability to do deals. I would get this content in a multitude of ways (and often had to hound people for it) and then it was on me to dig through it, organize it and pull what I needed. It was very annoying and extremely inefficient.

So, I set out to create a standard for organizing and sharing this type of content, which happens to be branding and marketing assets. It’s really the marketers and designers within companies who control this content, so we’ve built a tool for them firstly. Ultimately, to scratch my own itch, I want to make this content accessible and on-demand for the most part (of course, some stuff must remain private) in a standardized fashion across companies (on one website – Brandfolder.com), so people who need it are empowered to grab it and move on. The two big things to me are accessibility and accuracy and fostering a new paradigm of control for brands around this content. Control is not having your content buried and under lock and key; control is serving up the content people need in a frictionless manner.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds?

I’ll start off by saying we met at a Startup Weekend event, which I think is pretty awesome. I was dipping my toes further into the startup ecosystem, and Paul was new to Denver just looking to hack and meet folks.

  • Brian Parks, Co-founder & CEO

Before getting into startups, my background was in finance. I worked as an M&A investment banker for five years before moving into startups. I joined an online travel startup in the “basement stage” as employee #1. After 18 months of running operations and business development, I decided to strike off on my own. I moved to San Francisco for a summer to learn how to code, came back and worked as a developer for a bit and then started Brandfolder. And here, I am today. What else can I tell ya?

  • Paul Arterburn, Co-founder & Head of Product

Paul built the first website his hometown of Imperial, Nebraska had ever seen (at least that’s how he tells it…). He was the tech dude in town. He went off to college where he studied finance/entrepreneurship along with some computer science. He spent the next 5 years working for a fortune 500 retail company as an analyst, where he basically automated his job, went remote and started doing more development work for clients through his consulting company. Paul’s been involved with Branfolder since pretty much day one and runs our product development.

What problem do you solve?

The general disorganization and inaccessibility of branding and marketing materials across companies. This content is called upon more than anything else within and across organizations (by internal and external parties); yet, it lacks a dedicated home built specifically for it. We’re a time saver for marketers and designers and the people they support (sales, partners, press).

Why now?

2 reasons:

1) Proliferation of cloud storage – We love cloud storage, but we feel this problem is only exacerbated by how damn easy it is to throw stuff into Dropbox/Drive. “oh, I can put everything here, and I never have to delete anything! I’ll call this one logo_highres_used for marketing deck 7_final_v4.jpg”). Dropbox is really built for having my stuff everywhere, which it does a phenomenal job at. It’s not built for having everyone else’s stuff in one place, which is what we’re here for. 80% of our users also use Dropbox, as do we, of course, but they also realize it’s not the right tool for every job.

2) Demand for content – More and more visual marketing content is being created and deployed to more presences, and it’s tough to keep up with and keep everyone on the same page. This content is in high demand, so we’re here to put it on demand (first by one link and eventually by more interesting delivery).

What was it like going through Techstars Boulder? What was most surprising about that experience?

An honor. A whirlwind. A great time. A lot of pitch practicing.

Biggest surprise: Just how generous and engaged the mentors and network at large are. That is the #1 lasting benefit of the program. I’m looking for a VP of Sales right now and have a 30+ year enterprise sales guy (mentor I met briefly over the summer) helping me out. All I had to do was ask. That’s just awesome.

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

Thousands of brands using Brandfolder

What are your next milestones?

Thousands more brands using Brandfolder

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?

www.brandfolder.com/brandfolder

 There’s also a great discussion on Brandfolder here.EETNBannerAd1

How To Animate Your Branding

Animation is a form of creative technology that is increasingly being used by businesses to increase their brand awareness and boost audience engagement levels.

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There are various styles of animation, e.g. explainer, whiteboard, 2D, 3D, stop motion, motion graphics and so forth, which can be used to:

  • Promote products and services
  • Boost internal communications
  • Strengthen brand ethos

Animation and Branding

Seth Godin defines branding itself as “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”

If branding is all about making the consumer talk about your business, or a particular product/service belonging to your business, then your mission here is quite clear:-

You have to make your consumers talk about your business!

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Branding is about spreading the word about your business as far and as wide as possible. This could be through any of the following:-

  • Customer reviews on e-commerce websites,
  • Discussions on social media platforms,
  • Video testimonials on youtube, or
  • Video conferences (e.g. google’s recent launch of hangouts on air for businesses)

So, how could animation help strengthen your branding in ways besides the more conventional the more commonly utilization of explainer videos?

Well, there are several possibilities:-

Animated Infographics: When movement is added to static data, facts and figures, these are referred to as animated infographics.

Businesses are using animated infographics in increasing frequency, especially for sales presentations and highlighting the findings of research and development work.

The use of animated infographics is catching on because they can make it considerably easier for the audience to understand and remember the information that is being presented.

Animated Logos: When a logo is made to appear as if it was in motion, it becomes animated logo.

Including an animated logo could make a world of difference to your digital marketing collateral, such as websites, e-libraries online brochures, etc.

Animated logos are also great for impressing viewers in the intros of videos used for marketing and educational purposes and livening web pages and business presentations.

Animated Banner Advertisements: If you would like to improve the effectiveness of your online adverts, then you could consider making your banner advertisements animated.  

The beauty of animated banner adverts is that they can convey more than one message at a time; similar to the way animated greeting cards work.

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Animated YouTube Advertisements: If you are a YouTube user, you will be aware of the adverts that appear before a video starts to play.

Animation is being used in many of these adverts as it is great tool for producing videos that need to generate a high impact in a short space of time.

This is especially true for products that would be difficult to explain using more traditional live filming such as apps and software platforms.

Takeaway

Animation is a form of creative technology which can be used in a variety of different ways improve brand recognition and engagement levels, besides the more conventional explainer videos.

As the importance of both video and content marketing is growing, it may now be time for you to consider how you could start incorporating animation into your marketing strategy.

 

Dr Manroop Takhar is the founder of Qudos Animations, a leading animation studio that excels in producing outcome focused animations for businesses.

You can email him: info@qudos-animations.com, or circle him on Google Plus

Brandery Prepares For Demo Day 2012

Brandery,accelerator,Cincinnati startup,startups,Proctor & gamble, p&g,brandingWe are one week away from seeing the 2012 class at The Brandery accelerator in Cincinnati. The Brandery is a top 10 accelerator and focuses on branding and marketing. They’ve attracted hundreds of applications from across the globe for each of their last three sessions.

While The Brandery follows a co-hort accelerator model, as well as the Global Accelerator model, what sets them apart is their focus on branding and marketing. Being situated in Cincinnati Ohio puts them at ground zero for one of the biggest branded companies in the world Proctor & Gamble (P&G). P&G’s influence can be found within the walls of the Brandery. General Manager, Mike Bott, came to the Brandery after a successful stint as brand manager for Olay and other P&G brands. P&G’s roots don’t stop there, Brandery Co-Founder Rob McDonald is the son of the current CEO at P&G Robert McDonald. The younger McDonald is a lawyer at Taft during the day though.

The Brandery pulls from other marketing resources as well. Take co-founder Dave Knox for instance, Knox is the Chief Marketing Officer at Rock Fish a digital agency with a laundry list of clients that are household names. PF Chiangs, Sam’s Club, Bunn, and White Cloud are just a few of the brands that trust RockFish for their creative needs.

The Brandery is a hard core accelerator. There’s no working part time and participating at The Brandery. We spent five days with The Brandery founders and the staff in Cincinnati’s Over The Rhine neighborhood earlier this summer. There was a constant swarm of activity in the bullpen where each startup has desk space and white boards. There was also class after class in The Brandery’s second floor class room. Folks come from all over the country to talk with The Brandery’s startups and even skype in for lectures.

Some of The Brandery’s startups from this class had pivoted by the time we went to visit in August, others have pivoted again as they got closer to demo day. Even startup evangelist Nick Tippmann found himself changing teams with less than two months to go. No matter what way you look at it, next week’s demo day is shaping up to be an eventful one.

“We’re pumped to showcase our companies on Demo Day.  They have done a fantastic job leveraging the relationships and partnerships in Cincinnati and our broader national network to refine and validate their businesses.  Its awesome that the Cincinnati and Brandery communities are working together to build something special” Bott told nibletz.com

From what we’ve heard on our visit to Cincinnati McDonald gets more and more excited every year. In addition to helping teams with legal issues, McDonald gets out in the community with the Brandery teams every chance he gets including festivals, events and even Reds games. The Brandery teams were also major parts of Startup Weekend Cincinnati over the summer. McDonald, Knox, Bott and many of the teams founders were on hand throughout the weekend to provide mentorship and guidance. In fact Austin Hackett, the founder of Crowd Hall (A 2012 Brandery Company) pitched his own startup on startup weekend, the one that actually looked most complete.

Accelerators are intense and sometimes a bit insane. Gut checks at an accelerator happen often and pivots are inevitable. Greg Svitak and Kurt Pettit from Cleveland Ohio entered The Brandery with a startup called Flock’d. The premise for the idea was good, they wanted to do “swarm” like deals at night clubs and bars. Pettit explained to us that the idea was abandoned because every municipality in the country has their own liquor advertising laws which made a nationwide app in that space all but impossible.

Svitak and Pettit regrouped and developed AndTix which is a ticket selling platform for major sporting events. Neither man is any stranger to startups. Pettit has been a designer that’s done startup work for years. Svitak was one of the organizers for the 2012 startup bus to SXSW. After wrestling with the ticketing idea for a little over a week, they regrouped again and plan to show off a great concept in ticketing next week.

26 year old Andy Zhang from Seattle Washington went into The Brandery with a concept called Fly Dutch which according to Angellist matched starutps and investors. Zhang, who is a trained lawyer among other things, actually pivoted FlyDutch into “woowhoo! online dating for the offline type”. His startup boasts no messaging, no surveys and no work. Could it be Pinterest for dating?

One of the teams we’ve seen as a standout since before this session at The Brandery started is Salt Lake City based CrowdHall. CrowdHall is a platform where celebrities, politicians, micro-celebrities, bloggers and others can communicate with their audience in a voting up and down question asking forum. Back in July they tested the platform with Bachelorette winner Jeff Holm. CrowdHall is the perfect platform for elections and online town hall meetings.

Co-Founder Jordan Menzel admitted that CrowdHall would be perfect for the Presidential Election, but the timing may be off. CrowdHall has stayed the course from entry to demo day and will reveal a polished, ready to go product that nestles nicely into it’s own space. We’re pretty sure that over the next few years and then again into the next election cycle CrowdHall will become a household name.

Our other standout team from this years session at The Brandery is Impulcity. We’ve covered Impulcity since before they were even selected for The Brandery. This Louisville startup is offering up a new way to find events in any area. They have hundreds of thousands of events organized and delivered into an app that has a slick and visually appealing UI and a feature set that includes the ability to share events, follow events, and add to an events wall.

CEO and Co-Founder Hunter Hammonds is putting his all into Impulcity. In July they had a full featured, working beta, in fact we were in the beta test. There really was nothing else like it available in any app store or market. Impulcity was able to find and recommend events based on location, likes and other algorithms and deliver them with great visuals and the information an end user needed to make a decision about what to do.

Impulcity may have been perfect to a lot of people’s standards however with just under a month to go Hammonds blew up the whole thing and started over from scratch. They took a lot of beta testers feedback and iterated to the product that will released next week.

The stylish Jay Finch came to Cincinnati and The Brandery from New York,  with his offline-online crowdfunding hybrid, SockStock. The concept takes businesses in need of funding and allows patrons to micro-crowdfund projects at the businesses they frequent via Finch’s platform. Finch has already made inroads in Cincinnati with the Carol Ann and Ralph V Haile Jr /US Bank Foundation who are referring their creative entrepreneurs and artisans to SockStock to raise money for their own projects to grow their companies.  Finch plans on staying in Cincinnati after demo day to further the SockStock platform.

We’re expecting great things from the 11 teams at The Brandery this year when demo day rolls around next week.

Linkage:

check out the Brandery here

Here’s our coverage of The Brandery

Startups everywhere else, need to be here

 

 

Interview With Atlanta Startup: B2CGrid Crowdsourcing To Build Bigger Brands

Branding is a difficult task. Once you decide on a concept, build it out, and test it’s viability, it’s time to turn to branding. Branding is very important. When you consider that most startups are competing in a similar space with another startup, the strength of your brand is vital to your survival.

The problem most startups face, is regardless of whether they’re bootstrapping or funded, branding is something they don’t typically have enough money left over to make a significant impact.

An Atlanta based startup B2CGrid is looking to help crowdsource branding and bridge together a community of likeminded people that can help create and boost brands. B2CGrid looks to connect companies and creatives globally to build strong brands and ultimately sell more stuff.

In short B2CGrid is a market place for freelancers, designers, creatives and even agencies to connect to the companies, small, large and startups, that need their services.

We got a chance to talk with founder and CEO Michael B Moore in the interview below about this exciting new way to help get companies that wouldn’t think they could afford good branding, afford to take their brands to the next level.

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