Creative Strategy

Truth in Brand Messaging

During a recent meeting with a client we discussed brand messaging, including the brand’s voice, and how we should develop a mission statement that reflects who they are. The topic of inspiration came up, and one of the founder’s had become emotional just telling the story of why they’re so passionate about their new company. Of all the client meetings I’ve been involved in over the years this left an impression on me.

Inspiration for a brand’s Truth

I began to reflect on the reasons I began FYD in 2001. Why I opted to pursue making it my own small business just days after being one of the many lucky candidates in a major lay off at my previous employer. Risky? Absolutely. Rewarding? Absolutely. A lot of long hours and a growing fondness for coffee? Check.

With starting any small business there’s risk and potential for reward. My personal risk was helping support my family after just being laid off from a position that provided financial stability… at least until that day. So literally days after, we made the decision to go for it. But among the many unknowns was developing FYD’s voice. What should we say? Who should we target? How is our story unique?

That recent meeting really brought attention to the fact that everyone has their own unique stories and experiences. Some companies feel that the brand drives the culture, but it should be the other way around. Using your personal inspiration in your brand messaging is an advantage to your competition because it’s more clear, more relatable, and, honestly, easier than forcing something else.

A brand messaging approach

Consider what brand messaging is at its foundation: it’s the voice of your business. It provides clues to your potential customer about what it would be like to hire you, and your job as a brand is to make the message as true and as clear as possible.

Given that most people find it easier to form a strong connection with other people versus just a product or service, focus on defining truly authentic brand messaging by starting with who you are. If you have a team of talented people, each with their own specialities, even better. Their personal brands will naturally promote your business.

Also, you don’t always need to talk directly about your core business to sell yourself. If you have expertise in other areas your audience is interested in, create content around that. It helps you reach people who’d never normally discover you – or your business.

Developing your brand’s voice

Try this exercise:

  • Write down three feelings/adjectives you want your brand messaging to convey.
  • Write down a super specific description of your potential buyer. Give her a name and a background.
  • Outline the #1 message you want a person to remember about your company.

As you’re developing content, come back to this exercise. Is your voice you witty and light? Authoritative and to-the-point? Deep and philosophical? No matter which approach, make sure it’s true to who you really are.

Also consider how your customers or target audience communicate. Are they formal and precise? Casual and conversational? Paying close attention to your brand messaging can help you get it right. Your goal is to build brand affinity by using the diction and sentence structure that’s appealing to your audience and authentic to your offering.

Every brand needs to engage an audience. The best way to do that is to stop trying so hard. Allow the brand voice to relax, kick off its shoes, and just be you. Even the most serious businesses should not shy away from a conversational, friendly tone that expresses personality.

Your experiences, and sources of inspiration, are what will help you shape who you are. Whether it’s your personal brand or your company brand. Of course messaging is just one part of developing your brand. We have some more insights from style guides to why you should budget for branding work to help you start your journey.

As always feel free to reach out if we can help you and your vision.

Creative Strategy

Truth in Brand Messaging

As mobile website strategy plays a crucial role in web design and development we find minimal design can not only be visually pleasing, but important to ensure a fast loading experience for site visitors.

Beautiful design is nothing if visitors don’t stick around long enough to engage. It’s 2016, and your site visitors want to have a blazingly fast site experience. If you don’t deliver, they’ll Google their way elsewhere.

By the numbers

  • 47% of users want a site to load in two seconds or less (according to an Akamai study)
  • E-commerce shoppers want a site to load in about two seconds. Google aims for less than half a second (according to Google Webmasters)
  • 57% of users will abandon a mobile site if it takes longer than three seconds to load (according to a Mobify study)

The consensus is seems to be faster is better since it greatly improves the user experience. Here are some ideas on making your site faster!

Minimal Design

Minimal Design

It stands to reason that, when you create a bare-bones design, your site simply has fewer elements to load. When there are fewer elements to load, you can meaningfully increase the speed of your site. This is especially helpful with mobile website layouts.

It all depends on the philosophy of how the approach site is designed. A lot of trouble can be avoided from the very beginning by designing smartly to avoid harmful practices that affect the site’s loading speed.

An example of a minimalistic website would be:

  • Simple, concise main navigation items
  • More white or negative space
  • Short web forms
  • Smaller images
  • Fewer external assets being loaded (ie. Fonts, Scripts, etc).
  • Minify assets (compress and combine all Javascript and CSS files)

Help from Google

Mobile Website Testing in Google Pagespeed

Google wants your site to be faster. That would help its overall mission of making the Internet faster. So why not use the amazing tools that Google offers?

The best place to start is Google Developer’s own Make the Web Faster page. Here, you’ll get a stellar assortment of tools and info to speed up your site design.

Another excellent tool Google offers is PageSpeed Insights, where you get detailed insights into what’s causing your current site to run slowly. The best part is that you can get detailed reports and recommendations for both mobile and desktop versions of your site. This gives you a great starting point to make refinements to your site!

Optimize Your Servers

An important aspect of making your site super-fast is how you handle your servers. In particular, tackling your server response time which is key. Your server response time is how long it takes for your server to respond to a browser request.

A few strategies to consider for your server to make sure that your server response time is super-fast:

  • Use a content-delivery network or CDN
  • Use a caching solution
  • Improve your web server software configuration

These of course are just a few of the steps we normally take with all website projects. Questions, comments, suggestions? Feel free to reach out or comment below!

Creative Strategy

Truth in Brand Messaging

Working with new businesses that rely solely on their e-commerce based business is a challenge we welcome. We love the opportunity to help by providing great solutions that will help our client’s vision grow. While we never dabble in using templates or “one size fits all” solutions, we do encourage using existing frameworks. The options we consider are open source, heavily maintained within their respective communities, and easy to expand as our client’s needs grow.

Looking around for ways to build your e-commerce project? Here’s one to consider. Especially if you want all the tools of a online retail store but have a limited budget to work with.

WooCommerce

woocommerce-site-layout

WooCommerce is a great solution to build an e-commerce website for startups. From selling t-shirts to subscribing for samples of craft beer each month we’ve made use of WooCommerce on a number of projects. The many tools available within it’s development community offer features to help you scale as needed. WooCommerce is a plugin that integrates within WordPress, a CMS we’ve chosen to develop a majority of our projects.

WordPress is primarily a content creation platform and it’s renowned by SEO experts as one of the most reliable options. It’s easy to add and edit body content as well as meta information to ensure that your pages have a strong chance of ranking for specific pages.

Although there are plenty of options available to start up your store we’ve found WooCommerce to be the most budget friendly. A lot of the features out of the box are perfect for a small online retail shop. There are even some plugins for all the popular payment gateways available to keep you PCI compliant.

Another benefit? Outside of hosting your website there is no monthly charge that goes along with having a WordPress/WooCommerce based store. Both solutions are free to use.

So whether you’re a best selling author or small retail e-commerce business looking for help with building your store, let’s talk!

Creative Strategy

Truth in Brand Messaging

In February, Google officially rolled out AMP (short for Accelerated Mobile Pages). Google says mobile web pages load 85% faster with AMP. Faster rendering means more page views, leading to more ad views (which also load much faster).

At the same time, Facebook announced Canvas, a new fullscreen mobile ad format that can instantaneously load many types of interactive content, including animations, images, GIFs, videos and more. How instantaneous? As much as 10 times faster than the standard mobile web, according to Facebook.

Although ads are only a part of Google’s AMP while Canvas is an ad product in itself, there is a clear connection between the two. Both of these advances bring mobile ‘cloud-based’ engagements to near native-loading times. By dramatically reducing loading time, the user experience is vastly improved. Google and Facebook are essentially telling the world that the user experience is now the single most important component of mobile advertising, for users and businesses alike.

When two of the top players in the digital world make such clear and similar statements on the state of the industry through their products, others will undoubtedly follow.

Who’s in?

google-amp

Major publishers have already started producing AMP versions of all their content. Now, when you Google a news topic, AMP results appear at the top of the page in a carousel-style format that makes it easy to swipe left and right between stories. Twitter and LinkedIn have signed on as partners to the project, which should make social browsing smoother as well; in fact, Twitter Moments now link directly to AMPs.

While Google doesn’t use AMP as a ranking signal today, it does prominently feature AMP pages. Chances are, it will start doing so in the future, though. Over time, it will then increase the importance of using AMP just like it did with its first efforts in ranking mobile-friendly sites higher.

For publishers, brands, and even e-commerce sites, utilizing AMP means faster load times and a better user experience. After all, don’t we want our audience to engage faster regardless of the device?

 

 

Creative Strategy

Truth in Brand Messaging

Have you heard or experienced first hand one of the following scenarios?

  • You’ve hired a designer and it takes months to complete the promised materials.
  • Your web designer built your website, it “kind of works”, and now you can’t get ahold of them.
  • You’ve paid a designer that promised “XY & Z” but they are now having difficulty just getting through “AB & C”.

It’s unfortunate occurrences like these that can make the thought of finding a professional designer / agency seem like a daunting or just undesirable task. Fear not! There’s a few ways to weed out the bad and find the right fit for you. You just have to ask the right questions during the courting process.

Be prepared

Notes on your brand

Before you start your search there are a few key points you should have together that will help you narrow your search for the right designer.

If, for instance, you’re in need of a new website you should have an idea of who your visiting audience is or will be, what information they need to find when visiting your website and what the end goal of their visit should be (ie. Contact us, purchase a product, etc.). Just having that bit of prepared information will help when looking for the right fit to collaborate on building your vision.

Ask questions

post-web-design-questions

Whether you’re tech savvy or not you should have a strategy for what questions to ask when looking for the right fit for your project. Ask for specific examples of work that may fit what you’re hoping to accomplish. How the process worked with previous projects. Do they have on going relationships with client projects? Can they provide multiple solutions for the task at hand? With your target audience, what solutions would they provide to help draw them in to accomplish more conversions?

Being able to establish the right team to help bring your vision to life will be a cornerstone of how successful the results are. Whether you’re hiring someone full time or in need of an agency to be your “creative services” department, you should feel confident in their abilities and how they will help you grow. They should offer plenty of solutions to help you achieve your end goals and lend their experience to explain why certain concepts work and why others may not.

 

 

Creative Strategy

Truth in Brand Messaging

A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person.

Your reputation is comprised of many elements: what you do, what you say and how you present yourself to the world. For a small business a brand style guide lays out the rules for how you’re presenting yourself.

A quick google search on style guides reveals many intricately designed, novel-length books that dictate the exact usage of a logo, and the specific kerning between type. If you’re still figuring out who, exactly, your customer is, and just beginning to think about what features you want on your website, putting together a style guide at this stage might seem intimidating and unnecessary. But it doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be fancy and you don’t have to be a professional designer to make one.

The mere exercise of creating your first style guide can actually help clarify what’s really important to you, and start to give shape to the words and actions that make up your brand.

Step 1: Start with why

You probably spend a lot of time explaining what your product or service does, but how often do you think about why you do it? A good style guide will start by answering key big-picture questions:

Mission statement: Write one sentence that describes the reason your business exists. You really don’t need more than a sentence, I promise:

Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.

TED: Spreading ideas.

Google: Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Personality: Once you know the why, you need to know the who. Think of your brand as a person. How would you describe them? Sophisticated? Quirky? Down-to-earth? Loud? A dreamer? Write down 3-5 adjectives. Those are the skeleton of your brand’s personality.

Target audience: So you’re now starting to know who you are, but who is your customer? The easiest way to define them is to think about the archetypical person who would use your product or service: how old are they? What’s their gender? What’s their career? Education level? Favorite flavor of Doritos?

Step 2: Make your mark

post-brand-mark

For people, our mark is our signature—it’s what validates a contract, makes a check cashable and adds value to autographed books. For a company, your mark is your logo.

A logo does not have to be literal. It does not have to have a picture. It doesn’t necessarily even have to have your name (think of Apple or Nike). What it does have to do is represent that personality you described above. 

Once you have your mark, your brand style guide explains how to use it. The top three things you should think about are:

1. Where should it appear? Should employees use it in their email signature or does it only appear on the website and business cards? Does it go on every page of a powerpoint presentation?

2. Are there different color or shape variations? Do you want both a stacked version and vertical version? Do you have both a bright green version and a plain black version? Does it always appear with your name, or are they sometimes separated?

3. When should those variations be used? Should your green version always appear on a white background? If you have a photo background, should you always use the black version? On packaging to you use just your logo and not your name, or vice versa?

Step 3: Pick your colors

post-brand-colors

Color is a personal choice, but it also comes loaded with implications. You may love orange, but are its energetic, cheerful associations right for your company? Refer back to your mission and brand personality.

If you already have a logo, you should probably start there to help define your colors. For help getting started, check out Google’s super helpful color guide. You will want 1-2 principal colors, and 1 or more supporting colors, including at least one neutral or grayscale color. The Starbucks color palette is as identifiable as their mermaid logo.

Your style guide should explain when to use your primary color(s)—e.g. in your logo and packaging—and when to use any secondary colors, e.g. in the body text on your website, or as a background in PowerPoint presentations.

A good brand walks a fine line between consistency and agility: it should be easily recognizable, but open to change as your company grows and develops. Developing a basic style guide gives you a road map to define who you are today, and lays out the route to your business’ future brand identity.

If you have your mission statement, and know what you want to set out to do but need a creative services team to help with the rest… we know who you can contact.

Creative Strategy

Truth in Brand Messaging

Want-to-know moments. Want-to-go moments. Want-to-do moments. Want-to-buy moments. They’re all micro-moments, and they’re the new battleground for brands.

Micro-moments are transforming the way consumers shop. Retailers have to win micro-moments to win omni-channel shoppers. As we head into the holiday season, it’s more important than ever to rethink how your design is engaging your audience.

Plan for omni-channel shopping

Retail giant Target also learned something new about its customers recently. Following 2014’s successful Black Friday, Target discovered that 98% of their guests were shopping digitally and three-quarters were starting their experience on a mobile device. For the first time, Target strategically declared mobile as its new front door to the store. Casey Carl, Target’s chief strategy and innovation officer, called this revelation “a seismic acceleration.” Like Macy’s, the retailer decided it was time to reassess its internal structure.

“We [had] to rethink fundamentally how we design the guest experience,” explains Carl. “It’s not a store experience or an online experience; it’s a mobile-first experience.”

Target brought its online, in-store, and mobile teams together to create a “digital-first organization.” The new team curates its merchandise for maximum shopper ease, and marketing dollars are invested where the majority of Target guests are shopping—online, especially on mobile.

Winning the intent-driven consumer moments

Micro-Moments - Shopping Season is here
Companies that take steps toward becoming fully moments-ready are reaping tangible returns from both mobile investment and overall marketing investment. Brands like those mentioned above have figured out how to remove the friction for their customers in order to fulfill their needs anytime and anywhere.

Being there on Mobile

When someone picks up their mobile device, chances are they want to learn, do, find, or buy something right now. Whether in the form of searches, app interactions, mobile site visits, or even YouTube video views, these micro-moments happen constantly.

And being there on mobile can drive big results and build a competitive edge for your brand. Here’s why:

  • Many consumers aren’t brand-committed. Ninety percent of smartphone users are not absolutely certain of the specific brand they want to buy when they begin looking for information online.
  • You get a shot at your competitor’s customers. One in three smartphone users have purchased from a company or brand other than the one they intended to because of information provided in the moment they needed it.
  • Your presence can drive brand awareness goals. Studies have shown that you can increase unaided brand awareness by 46% (or 6.9 percentage points) simply by showing up in mobile search ad results.3And more than half (51%) of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product when conducting a search on their smartphones.

What about small business?

Whether you’re a startup of two or an established brand with 100+ employees a shift in consumer trends is vital to continued growth. Since many consumers aren’t brand-committed as mentioned above it’s just a matter of being visible with clear messaging and an intuitive experience for customers to research and more importantly… buy.

 

data credit: ThinkWithGoogle

Creative Strategy

Truth in Brand Messaging

You go to see a concert for a certain artist because you have an expectation of what it will be like to hear and see them perform. There’s an established connection.

In the 5+ years working with Red Frog Events, one of the fastest growing event companies in the country, I had the opportunity to learn how to design, develop and market an experience in the event industry. Creating that initial connection that draws customers in whether it was for a Warrior Dash event or for Firefly Music Festival.

The marketing and design aspect is meant to engage potential customers in seconds and tell the story of the event visually. What type of event is it? Why is it better than others? Why do you need to be there?

Telling the Story

Redline Run Motorsports Event

As with any form of marketing it’s a great practice to keep messaging and visual elements simple. Draw users in instead of overwhelm with what they should do. Creating a personality around your brand through posts that engage and entice your audience to feel as if they’re a part of your brand’s community.

An example of telling the story with visuals for an event is the 90’s Bar Crawl and 80’s Bar Crawl. These two brands have a similar style but the theme is easily communicated through simple and engaging design.

For the event marketing of Redline Run we designed a “style” through our social media messaging that included visuals in almost every post. We found that website traffic increased on average of 48% each day a post or set of posts were published. The social marketing really connected with the motorsports audience over time and was the number one method of drawing traffic for the event’s registrations.

From music festivals and mud runs to motorsports and bar crawl events, I’ve enjoyed finding ways to visually develop an event’s brand through unique and compelling design. It’s telling the story of the experience and building anticipation. What’s your experience?

Creative Strategy

Truth in Brand Messaging

Working with startups is something I enjoy doing. There’s plenty of ground to cover when building an online presence and for me the challenge is like having a blank canvas. So here are some things you should plan on if you’re just starting out to paint a complete picture.

Research, review and apply.

Take a look at what competitors are doing through their various social media outlets and see how they’re reaching their client base. Set the bar high and find inspiration from larger brands. Search for some example websites and make note of elements that work well.

With well established brands you’ll notice that their messaging is consistent and visuals are cohesive. This is something to keep in mind while you’re designing and assembling your messaging for your online presence.

The more preparation in place before developing assets to put online the easier it will be when you’re ready to start.

What’s your niche?

After you’ve reached critical mass with the intel you’ve gathered it’s time to make your statement. While you know what you do is great, how will you share this with your audience? What is it that sets you apart? There’s a reason you do what you do and why your excited to share it with everyone, crafting how you market this to your audience is key.

Startup in motion.

As mentioned above, having a consistent message and cohesive visuals are important when marketing your brand. Educating and exciting your potential client base regardless of the medium should be a priority. Once your website and social media accounts are up focus on growing your audience and encouraging interaction with your users.

Lego was once a company struggling to survive in the mid to late nineties. It wasn’t until they embraced their core audience and listened to suggestions that they then started outputting what customers wanted and regained popularity.

The same can be said for plenty of companies. Growing a community around your brand doesn’t happen overnight, but consistency and striving to grow with your audience will help get you there.

Creative Strategy

Truth in Brand Messaging

Designing for mobile isn’t just a solid practice for visual aesthetics. There’s data to backup why there should be a focus on the content that your users find and ensuring a simple intuitive experience.

2x increase in “near me” searches in the past year.1

You’re out and want to find the closest Italian restaurant. Finding the nearest location, with high reviews on Google is probably the most amount of research you’re willing to invest. After all, you’re hungry!

The increase in the “near me” searches is probably just the start. Consider encouraging your customer base to engage in a quick review on Google. Then be sure your information on mobile is geared towards the user who’s “on the go”. Ask yourself if you were your customer, what would you want to know within seconds of visiting your website?

29% increase in mobile conversion rates in the past year.2

Whether they’re on lunch at work, in a grocery store, or waiting patiently at the airport, shoppers are using smartphones to help them decide what to buy. The step from research to purchase should be a simple and seamless one. Give the consumer multiple ways to buy and actively seek their input on how you can improve their experience.

93% of people who use a mobile device for research go on to make a purchase.3

Shopping never sleeps. Online it’s a 24/7 opportunity and your potential customers could be visiting at anytime. Information overload can put off potential customers. Taking the approach of providing relevant content and then allowing them to dig deeper into reviewing what you offer is beneficial to your customers when visiting your website.

Those are just a few of many stats everyone marketing a product or service should be aware of. So continue to evolve the mobile design of your online store, engage your customer base for ideas and reviews, and don’t forget to… think mobile.

Google Trends, U.S., March 2015 vs. March 2014.

Google Analytics aggregated data, U.S., April 1–14 2014 and April 1–14 2015.

Google/Nielsen, “Mobile Path to Purchase” study, November 2013, United States.

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ForYouDesign is a web and graphic identity development firm established in 2001. Designing to enhance and capture the idea of what every client envisions for their project.

We cover everything from web design and development, hosting, branding, content management solutions and more.

Our team is intentionally small, eclectic, and skilled; with our in-house expertise, we provide sharp and innovative work.

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