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Working with a Branding Agency

It’s no secret that working with an agency is one of the best ways to start your company off on the right track. But what’s it like anyway? What magical spells are they casting over your logo to make it so much better than something you can do in-house? And why do you need a brand personality anyway? You already know your product better than anyone. The answers are super fun, we can’t give away all our secrets, and because people respond to emotions and purpose, not just pretty graphics. But let’s dig a little deeper. Take a look below as we pull back the curtain to show you just what to expect when working with a branding agency:

  1. Getting to Know You

Whether you’re working with The Creative Bar or another agency, be prepared to answer a lot of questions! The best research always starts with the client. While this may seem a bit tedious at first, try to remember that collaboration generally results in authenticity. Agencies or contractors that present you work without doing their homework are often presenting something that’s visually attractive, but not necessarily true to your organization.

  1. Game Time

Let’s face it, if you knew exactly what you needed, you wouldn’t be coming to us in the first place. So, general Q&A on it’s own just isn’t going to cut it. Some of the most insightful parts of the branding process are the exercises. Together, we’ll learn things about your competition, what makes your brand unique, where there are gaps and opportunities in the market, and what your brand’s personality would be with or without you at the helm. Because after all, if your brand is only effective when you’re in the room, you’re going to have a short run.

  1. The Fun Part

If it were up to us, the entire process would be called “the fun part”, but we can’t argue with the sparkle in our clients’ eyes when we begin presenting them with deliverables. Step by step, you’ll begin receiving completed work on your brand’s identity, personality, and communication style. Most important though, is that this is done one small section at a time for approval. Each portion of your brand standards guide serves as a foundation for the next, so it’s imperative we build one chapter at a time.  Once completed, you’ll truly understand and appreciate your new brand—because you helped build it!

Developing your brand before pursuing any kind of advertisement or marketing will ensure you’ve got your competitive advantage, messaging, and visuals down pat before anyone ever has the opportunity to create their first impression about you. Because what’s the point in competing for your consumer’s attention if you don’t have anything impactful to say when you get it, right? Once you’ve completed this process, you can be sure your company is equipped with the tools it needs to confidently enter the market, grow, and ultimately, thrive.

 

Sweet Emotion: Why Branding Works

 

By now, it’s generally accepted that branding is a good and necessary foundation for marketing your business. And while the average consumer might not understand why they refuse to drink only Smartwater, Starbucks coffee, or Patrón tequila, we can all concede—branding obviously works.

So how did these companies do it? Are consumers really purchasing from these companies because they offer the best product? Is it the fancy packaging? The advertisements? In fact, it’s something much deeper.

All too often we confuse a brand with a product, logo, or slogan. However, a brand is actually better defined as a unique set of values and characteristics that we’ve come to assume about a company. It promises a specific delivery of something far deeper than a tangible product. It is a silent contract for the fulfillment of a desired emotion.

If you think this sounds too far out, simply stop to analyze what a consumer is really expecting when they shop. If a consumer is purchasing home owner’s insurance, is the end goal simply a document? No, they are buying peace of mind. How about makeup? The consumer is likely counting on some form of self-expression, confidence, or artistry. Even something as lifeless as frozen lasagna is selling busy householders the relief of extra time and the comfort of a home cooked meal despite their hectic schedules.

So why does this approach work so well? To break it down simply, by creating and communicating a desirable persona surrounding a brand, a company allows its consumers to build assumptions concerning their products or services. The more consistently these expectations are met on a subconsciously emotional level, the more a consumer begins to trust the company, ideally resulting in absolute brand loyalty.

And while the average consumer might bristle at such a blunt and invasive strategy, the brilliant thing about this evolution in marketing is that companies are now forced to be better in tune with a consumer’s needs and are continually striving to offer them more of what they’re looking for. So rather than feel cheated for buying a five dollar cup of Joe, the consumer received exactly what they wanted—a latte with social status and a dash of mobile-ordered convenience. Because yes, even coffee is more than coffee.

advertising for fathers day

The Best and Most Controversial Father’s Day Advertising of 2016

Break out the tissue box! This year has shown us that brands are stepping up their game to make emotional connections with their consumers. The best advertisements find a balance between relating to the audience and aligning a product or service’s unique attributes with the overall message and plot. Check out our list of the best and most controversial Father’s Day ads this year:

1. Gillette

2. PGA

3. Dove

4. Tesco

5. Delta

6. Angel Soft

Lessons from the Big Game: What Makes an Ad Effective

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Long after the Super Bowl is won, the commercials linger—on our minds and our flat screens.  But one company in particular stood out this year, and has for over a decade.

Back in 1995, three frogs named “Bud”, “Weis”, and “Er” stole the show in a commercial that didn’t necessarily say much about the brand (primarily because it didn’t need to). At a time when America picked their beer of choice from only a handful of big name brands, Budweiser needed only be entertaining and comical to create a lasting impression in consumers’ minds—and to this day, the commercial is considered one of the greatest commercials of all time.  In the last few years though, craft beers and microbreweries have grown exceedingly in popularity. As Super Bowl L approached, it would take a lot more than a joke to get more than short-term attention from viewers. Cue this year’s aggressive message:

So what makes an ad effective anyway? Why does this commercial matter? Budweiser did three very important things in this campaign that any campaign would be wise to pay attention to. See below for three lessons you can learn from this commercial:

1. Different is good.
It’s obvious that Budweiser is making bold statements here about what they’re not. “Not a hobby.” “Not imported.” “Not following.” While other large domestic brands are now attempting to relate to consumers of small-batch brews, Budweiser has no interest in comparison. They recognize that they have a specific—albeit wide—target market who appreciates their product for exactly what it is (cue the charming gentleman served with fruit in his beer).

2. Simple is memorable.
Too often companies treat their marketing campaigns as their sole opportunity to communicate with consumers, desperately packing as much information as they can into one ad. This tends to overwhelm a consumer though, causing them to either A. completely shut you out or B. attempt to pay attention, only to forget your message entirely the moment something more stimulating crosses their path. Budweiser keeps their message here to concise sentences that strike home the same point—“we’re not going anywhere.” Think of your target market as a passerby on the street. You have a few fleeting moments to impart your message as they walk away. Keep it brief, keep it interesting, and repeat it as often as you can.

3. Everyone is not the target market.
Beyond perhaps filtered water and utilities, few companies can truly say their consumer is “everyone.” And yet, so often companies cast such a wide net that they lose any kind of distinct brand message, chasing the personal preferences of anyone who will listen. But instead of trying to tell you how the hops they use are just as good as a microbrewery’s, or how their company was born from small beginnings, Budweiser boldly recognizes that they did not become this successful as a large, domestic, non-trendy brand by accident. And so they embraced that, realizing their differences are actually what sets them apart as a brand. And while traditional marketing strategy might tell you to “fish where you see the other boats”, Budweiser sought out a patch of open sea and claimed it for their own.

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Favorite Logo Re-Designs of 2015

A new year is a time for reflection, so we’re looking back on last year’s best logo redesigns. Follow along as we recap these bold and beautiful business moves:

Verizon
This is probably the most popular and obvious change on our list. This logo has seen many variations since the company first came about, but was always haunted by the imbalance of its giant check mark and outdated gradients. This year they made the leap to modern minimalism to match what the company calls “a renewed purpose at Verizon.”

The New York Times
A quick glance at this redesign and you might have missed it. But one thing is for certain—you actually read it this time. Seeing as the company can most plainly be described as a publication for daily reading, this subtle change in spacing between letters and words makes all the difference in legibility.

Alaska Airlines
With more notoriety comes a lesser need for explanation. While the company hasn’t condensed their name, this year, “Airlines” was de-emphasized as purely a strapline. To match their “new flight experience”, the font was smoothed out, cleaned up and given a bit of room to breath, allowing for a fresher, more grown up look.

IHOP
Everyone’s favorite breakfast stop has long taken a lighthearted approach to breakfast, from their playful “Rooty Tooty Fresh n’ Fruity” pancakes to co-op campaigns with a multitude of children’s box office hits. So to reinforce that happy feeling, the company issued their first logo redesign in over 20 years—with a smile.

Coors Light
The second most popular beer in America started with a minimalist design, and somewhere along the lines became a wild mess of drop shadows, cartoony graphics and Monday Night Football typography. In 2015, they stripped all of that away to create a cleaner look—though still visually interesting—that maintains recognizability.

Spotify
This logo redesign is a perfect example of purposeful branding—not just updated art. Spoitfy has long been transitioning the purpose of its brand to a musical experience. Their latest campaigns offer visual interpretations of certain songs and artists, but how do you communicate ever-changing melodic moods with a stagnant icon? For this reason they pared down the graphics, and allowed for the logo to be recolored based on the emotional feeling of its current application. Nothing says customized experience like a color-changing logo.

Primal Cravings
What kind of editorial would this be without a shameless plug from the author? Last year we were approached by Primal Cravings, a west coast based food preparation and delivery service that was gaining momentum fast. In order to set the company apart from the white noise of “paleo” and body-building focused brands, The Creative Bar focused on a fresh (pun intended) new re-design that emphasized the simple convenience of their services, and the freshness of the ingredients themselves.

Get Ready For Instagram Advertising

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What’s New in Social Media
Instagram will officially be expanding its ad capabilities this month, with advertisers of all scales in Asia Pacific and other global regions. This ability comes with additional platform features as well, such as landscape images and videos, action-oriented formats, and the ability to target specific market groups—much like that of Facebook’s current ad management system.

In November of 2013, Instagram initially unveiled its ad products and has slowly increased their appearances on news feeds since. This new platform will allow advertising capabilities in more than 30 additional global markets throughout the South Pacific, with plans to expand to worldwide availability by October.

Why It Matters
Last year, Instagram surpassed Twitter as the second largest social network in America, but of its 300 million active users, more than 70% come from outside the U.S. This rapidly expanding network is expected to continue its growth, with eMarketer forecasting it to have higher net mobile display ad revenues than both Google and Twitter in 2017.

What This Means for Businesses
Marketers have taken note of this lucrative opportunity for their clients and have begun to offer Instagram services to their company’s offerings. Advertising partners currently include companies such as Sony, Vidal Sassoon, Adidas, and McDonald’s. Businesses on a smaller scale can benefit as well, and should be on the lookout for targeted marketing opportunities to come.

5 Signs You Need Re-Branding

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There are many misconceptions about what a brand is and is not, but at its core, it can be broken down to one simple concept. Your brand is what people are saying about you when you’re not in the room—whether or not it’s because of anything you did intentionally. So what is being said? And is it time to step in and change that conversation? The following are five reasons you might need to:

1. Your Market or Offerings Have Changed
It’s not unusual to find that your business has changed significantly from where it began. After all, even Kellogg’s cereal began as hospital food. If you’ve found yourself moving away from your original target market, expanding it, or altering your product or service offerings to better suit a certain demographic, it’s important to make sure you’re doing so intentionally and with a focused purpose. This dictates everything from which product or service features you’ll expand on to where you advertise to which charitable organizations you sponsor and everything in between.
 
2. No One Knows What You Do
An elevator speech is called that for a reason—you should be able to clearly and concisely communicate what your business does it would take you to ride the elevator from the lobby to your destination floor or vice versa. If your speech requires more of a plane ride than an alternative to the stairs, it’s likely time to get a handle on that. The fact of the matter is, you often don’t even have time for an elevator pitch with your consumers. More often than not, its seconds—the seconds it takes them to subconsciously acknowledge and then flip past your ad in the magazine, the seconds it takes for them to arrive at your website and decide whether they’ll stay or go, etc. Can you say everything they need to know about your company in that time? Certainly not. But can you say enough to get them to delve further? Absolutely. And that requires clear messaging from every stakeholder, web platform and sign in your business.
 
3. Sales are Down
This is perhaps the most obvious reason that leads a company toward change. Whether your leads simply aren’t converting to sales, you aren’t reaching your financial goals, or worse, your revenues are on the decline, one thing is certain—it likely did not happen overnight. An effective brand has established a competitive niche, a credible persona, and is consistent in the way it communicates all of the above. This unswerving brand messaging in turn builds trust with the consumer, which puts them at ease for purchasing. If customers are confused about how you differ from the competition, or receive inconsistent information from one touch point to the next, they are likely to move on.
 
4. You’re a Master of None
We all know Nike is truly great at making athletic apparel—more specifically, shoes. They are stylish, performance engineered, and endorsed by some of the biggest names in the business. Could they then also make a great fitting high heel that did the same? Of course! But they’ve chosen not to because they realize trying to be everything to everyone would water down their credibility and take away from the resources that make their star products so successful. While it’s tempting to offer as many services as you can to capitalize on opportunity, chasing down too many options will leave you looking mediocre. Proper brand analysis of your strengths and weaknesses can give you perspective on a more realistic strategy for your company to ensure its maximum potential for growth and profit.
 
5. You Need a New Look
Left last on the list for a reason, this is probably the most common thought that comes to mind when businesses think of branding. However, it’s truly the last puzzle piece that remains after brand development has been initiated. Once a business has decided on its message though, deployment of the brand through proper visuals is vital. Consistency, again, is the key to earning consumer trust so you must ask yourself—“Is my company’s look consistent with what we represent?” If you claim to be a professional and forward thinking business, is your website modern, clean and up to date? If you’d like to convince your target market that employing your services is an easy decision that will result in peace of mind, are you utilizing colors and a photo style that put them at ease? A re-brand of your business will help you assess potential hurdles, and communicate past them subconsciously to create an environment in which your consumer is eager to buy.
 

Creating a Marketing Plan for Your Business

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Marketing plans are underrated. As companies get busy, it’s easy to switch into a reactive mode, rather than a proactive one. However, where a business plan may serve as a map for your company, a marketing plan is most certainly the key or legend. This important piece adds detail and direction in the steps to increasing sales and visibility.

“The single most important thing for a small business to include in its marketing plan is a very clear understanding of its customers and its competitors,” said Robert Thomas, professor of marketing at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.

Every marketing plan looks a little different, but at its core it should explain your target market, where they will potentially see you or are currently seeing your competition, and your game plan for reaching them. Thomas suggests these distinctive checkpoints:

Define the need. What problem are your consumers facing that you solve? You must be able to articulate this before you can ever become valuable to your customer.

Define your market. Who are your customers? Focused and consistent brand communication will garner attention. However, it’s difficult to send a detailed message if you’re trying to appeal to everyone on a broad scale.

Define your competition. In order to figure out your competitive advantage, you need to study your opponent. Where are there gaps in the market not being addressed? And don’t’ make the mistake of assuming your only competition is direct competition. A sponge is as much a competitor for a dishwashing detergent as other leading detergents.

Define your brand position. Keeping all your research in mind now, write down your brand position statement. This should be a simple sentence defining who you are, what you offer, and how you accomplish that. Think “Problem + (Your Company) = Solution.”

This should give you a great starting point for creating an effective marketing plan. Other things to consider in today’s market though are social media and web marketing, as well as the tactics and brand personality you’ll incorporate to reach your consumer once you’ve figured out who they are and what they need. For more information on creating a detailed plan or campaign, please do not hesitate to contact us at (866) 796-6307 or email us at info@thecreativebar.com

You Don’t Need an Advertising Campaign…Or Do You?

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So you’re launching a new product or business. Or maybe you’ve been around a while and you’re just looking to increase sales. Either way, you need to launch an ad campaign first, right? Maybe not.

Many companies believe the surest way to success is to “get your name out there”, gain visibility, shout from the rooftops in order to get your consumer’s attention. But what do you do when you have it? What will you say? Or even more important, what preconceived notions has your consumer already developed about your business based on all that proverbial shouting? Is their impression beneficial? Or will you spend what could have been your first opportunity for a sale undoing what they assumed, rather than educating them on your competitive advantage or benefits? The fact of the matter is, even if you have your elevator speech polished, every touch point with a consumer will build a brand image, whether it’s the one you intended or not.

Branding Is the Message, Advertising Is the Medium
So then what do you need? Well, an ad campaign. Are you confused yet? Thought we were going to say “branding”? Let’s rewind. The word “ad campaign” these days has been reduced to a two page spread in an industry magazine and a new home page on the website. There’s that shouting from the rooftops again and yes, it has its time and place. But the true definition of an ad campaign is “an organized course of action to promote a product or service.” The key word here is organized. Not necessarily flashy, not necessarily repetitive, but a well-constructed game plan. And since branding is the development of how exactly you choose to communicate your message to consumers, maybe the two aren’t so dissimilar. In turn, this means the term “branding” doesn’t just apply to a company-wide facelift either. Proctor & Gamble does not market CoverGirl in the same way it does Old Spice. Each has a unique voice that has been specifically branded to suit the product’s personality. Thus, under the umbrella of a business as a whole, products and services can be branded individually to suit their target market.

So you’re launching a new product or business. Or maybe you’ve been around a while and you’re just looking to increase sales. Either way, you need to launch an ad campaign first, right? Right. Or branding. Same idea. No matter how you define it, The Creative Bar can help. Call or email us today for more information on how to garner the kind of productive attention that will boost your business effectively.

9 Marketing Ideas for the Holidays

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The holiday season is naturally one of the most lucrative quarters for most businesses. But are you doing all you can to help it? Check out these tips below to boost your marketing efforts during this opportune time:

1. Look back on Christmas past.
Optimizing your efforts based on previous results can boost this year’s effectiveness. Capitalizing on these trends on search and social marketing during historically peak times may set you apart from your competitors even more so.
 
2. Deck the halls with key words.
Use key words relevant to the season, but be sure to use “negative” options to keep the search results relevant (ex: A branding agency like ours might want to exclude searches also containing the word “cattle”, so as not to confuse consumers looking for livestock identification services.)
 
3. Make shopping easy.
It’s already hard enough for shoppers to get through the mall in one piece. Make the crossover from in person to online a simple one by optimizing your site for mobile devices, and consider an app for fast access and push notification discounts that will encourage your customers to download. Research shows a consumer is likely to leave your site altogether if making a purchase isn’t easy to accomplish on their device.
 
4. Add a little cheer.
Tailor your copy to reflect the occasion with specific calls to action. Take advantage of this opportunity to excite your consumer by getting into the holiday spirit, and don’t forget to tell them why your product or service is relevant to them especially during this time. Then remind them to take action today!
 
5. Predict the future.
Predictive tools can give key insights into market trends on important dates like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which can help immensely when deciding how to adjust your spending for the holiday rush.
 
6. Share the holiday spirit.
Adding social share options to your product pages is a great way to allow your consumer to do the advertising for you. Whether it’s to brag about a great deal they got, or because Timmy wants Mom to know exactly what he’s asking for this year, social media will spread the word.
 
7. Light the way.
Enable local search capabilities on your site to make it simple to find you. More than ever, customers are visiting store fronts at this time of year for the experience of holiday shopping as an event, to compare pricing and quality of products, or simply because they need something last minute. The ability to quickly and easily find your store may give you a leg up on the competition.
 
8. Give gifts.
Who doesn’t love free stuff? Giving complementary items will draw focus to your company over the competition, and incentivize previous customers to return for more special extras.
 
9. Check your list.
Pay special attention to your campaigns this time of year, and optimize accordingly. Pinpointing which products, advertisements and approaches lead to the most sales will help boost the effectiveness of your efforts as you go.