"Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be." -John Williams of Entrepreneur

It's no secret that we are passionate about branding and can't get enough of it. From colors, and consistency to creating emotional connections, and even branding mistakes, branding is a topic we love to talk about.

But what is branding? And why is it so important?

It is one of the most important parts of your business. It is the way your customers, potential and current, perceive you. It shows them who you are, what you offer, what they can expect from your product or service, and how you differ from your competition.

Your logo is the central part of your branding, but it doesn't stop there. Your brand needs to be infused in everything you do and share. Such as your tagline, marketing materials, website, business cards, product packaging, tradeshow and event branded environments, advertisements, and social media pages (the content AND graphics you share) to name just a few.

It is essential that each piece is branded accurately to represent your business in the most authentic way to maintain a consistent brand that is easily recognized by all. (When you see the Golden Arches, you think of McDonalds and when you see 'that swoosh,' you think of Nike. Your brand be just as recognizable, right?)

Your brand also tells a story and shares the promise your organization provides to your target market. It shares with them who you are, what people can expect from you, what you believe in, and what makes you unique from your competition – it helps define the culture and values of your organization. When you share your brand's story, you are sharing a more personable side of your company; allowing you to connect on an emotional level with your audience. And those strong, authentic connections are what it's all about, right?

A strong brand allows you to stand out from your competition and build trust with, and love from, your target audience. Think of it is your company's personality.

But remember: it must be authentic and consistent.

We want to hear what your brand says about you. Start the conversation by telling us over on Twitter today!

Image credit: milindri | iStockphoto

It is no secret that color plays a huge role in any type of design – from your logo and marketing materials to your branded environment it can dramatically affect moods, feelings, and emotions. It is also no secret that your brand's identity is your first impression and speaks volumes to the outside world about your company and its personality. Sometimes people's minds can be made up, about a brand, based solely off the look of branding.

Color is a powerful non-verbal form of communication that can signal action, influence mood, and cause physiological reactions within your audience.

Colors act in three basic ways: active, passive, and neutral. You can easily match your brand colors to what you want to achieve.

First things first, you need to really get to know your target market: who they are, what they want, what they like, what they don't like, what is their lifestyle life, what 'problem' you are solving for them with your products and services...

You also need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • –What is the message you want to convey?
  • –How will you choose colors that stay true to your brand's core values and message – colors that keep your brand authentic?
  • –What mood do you want to create, and what emotions do you want to spark, with your brand?
  • –How do you want to make people feel when face-to-face with your brand?

So, what does each colors mean, what emotions do each of them invoke, and which colors do you choose to help you achieve the reaction you desire?

Red raises energy level. Known as the most intense color, it pumps the adrenaline like no other hue. It is a good choice when you want to stir up excitement and attention as red can draw people together and stimulate conversation.

Yellow captures the joy of sunshine and communicates happiness. It is sunny, warm, friendly, and believed to stimulate appetite. Do use this color with caution though as it can carry negative connotations of cowardice, and its use in warning signs.

Blue is one of the most widely used colors in corporate logos. It implies professionalism, integrity, sincerity, and calm. It is also associated with authority and success – for this reason it is often popular with both financial institutions and government bodies.

Green is considered the most restful color for the eye – a calm color. Combining the refreshing quality of blue and the cheerfulness of yellow. Green cools things down; it encourages unwinding but has enough warmth to promote comfort and togetherness.

Green is commonly used when a brand wishes to emphasize their natural and ethical credentials, especially with such products as organic and vegetarian foods. Other meanings attributed to this hue include growth and freshness, and is another color popular within financial products.

Purple is the color of royalty and luxury. It has long been associated with implying wisdom and dignity, and throughout history, purple has been the color of wealth and riches.

Orange is another one that can evoke excitement and enthusiasm – it is an energetic color. Orange is often seen as the color of innovation and modern thinking and can be associated with youth, fun, affordability, and approachability.

Black is a color with a split personality. On one hand it implies power and sophistication, on the other hand it is associated with darkness and death. Most logos will need a black and white version for use in media in which color is not available.

White is generally associated with purity, cleanliness, and simplicity. In practical terms, a white logo will always need to stand in a colored field to make it show up on a white background. Many companies will choose to have a colored version and a white version of their logos; for example, the Coca-Cola word mark appears in white on its red tins and brown bottles but is used in red when needed on a white background.

Brown has masculine connotations and is often used for products associated with rural life and the outdoors.

Pink can be fun and flirty, but its feminine associations leads it to often be avoided for products not specifically targeted at women.

Keep these associations in mind as you make your color choices, stay consistent, and combine them with thought and care. And remember that the overall impact of your logo design will depend not only on the colors themselves, but also upon how these interact with the shapes and text included as well.

Photo credit: Rostislav Sedlacek | iStock Photo

 Branding is important. Can we all agree that, that goes without saying? From a Fortune 500 company to the small business down the street – it matters greatly.

The more connected people are to your brand, the more likely they are to seek it out and recommend it to others. It seems very obvious, but many businesses neglect brand building in favor of other needs. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of building an emotional connection.

If you miss the opportunity to establish your brand in the mind of your consumers you will miss out on life long customers. So, how can you avoid missing your opportunity?

Be Unique
How can you make your business stand out from your competition? Demonstrate one single idea to possible consumers that will show value they can’t get anywhere else. Focus your efforts and expenses on fulfilling your promise of unique value and ensuring you deliver everything that you guarantee.

Customers Come First
Examine the messages you send to your employees. Where is the focus? Is it on you or your customers? Your success depends on how much our team members care for your customers.

What are your associates saying or asking when they connect with your customers? Consider changing your processes and systems, with your customer in mind. The more your team can understand your customers' experience, along with their feelings and expectations, the better they can serve them.

Are You Listening?
Do you regularly listen and respond to your customers? Do you truly understand their concerns and needs; what's behind the surface? Truly listening helps customers feel welcome, comfortable and important in every interaction, whether it's a phone call, face-to-face, email, or chat.

Make a point to regularly listen to your customers. Listen for validation or inconsistencies with your brand image. Be sure to listen to the members of your team too.

Social Media
No other advertising medium can give consumers the access to brands like social media.

One of the amazing aspects of social media is its ability to break down walls that once separated the “few” from the “many.” Brands that engage their followers have incredible opportunities to forge bonds with them.

The power of social media extends beyond mere conversation. By using social media, brands can create a unique experience that draws consumers into the brand culture. By doing so, consumers feel like they have intimate access to brands, which creates a strong emotional bond. Use this to your advantage, and create a social media experience that invites consumers into your world.

 

Image credit: Kenishirotie | istock

Throughout your career have you ever thought to yourself, "I want my employees to be more creative and innovative"?

If you answered yes to this question, you are not alone. However, it may not always be your team that needs improvement. Sometimes it could be your behavior that stifles the creative edge within the team you lead. Not to worry – these tips will help you look at yourself so you can improve your own performance first and create an even more creative team.

We've all heard the phrase "lead by example," and we're sure that, just like us, you have seen this is a great way to improve not only your and your team's performance, but the communication and collaboration within your team as well. And, aren't we all always looking for ways to step up our game, learn, grow, and improve?

Of course we are! So, why not take a personal inventory and find out if the following are ideas and strategies you can implement into your leadership style to help improve you AND your team?

Encourage Creativity
Members of your team may be hesitant to take risks because they do not know whether or not you will support their ideas. It is important for you, and team leaders, to understand that if your team members fear their contributions might be criticized, they are less likely to participate; this is why you need to show your team that creativity is highly valued and you will be receptive to their ideas.

Hidden TalentsTake the time to learn each team members’ distinctive talents. People tend to be most naturally creative in these areas, even if the skills themselves wouldn’t typically be considered “creative.” Allow individuals to use their distinctive talents to contribute to business efforts; regardless of how the talents are tied to the job position they fill.

Once you have taken the time to get to know more you will then be able to decide how their talents can best be used.

Have Fun
Sometimes creativity can be hindered when the work atmosphere is too serious. Creating a fun work environment will allow your team to be relaxed and that is when they will be inspired with great ideas. And don't discount team building. Outstanding teamwork is part of what can help make extraordinary things happen within your company and team building exercises and activities are important to creating and maintaining a strong, effective team.

Promote Problem Solving
Employees who are not confident in their abilities are more likely to ask several questions on a project or task. Help them by NOT answering all the questions. Instead, ask them questions right back so they’re thinking creatively and strategically. Show them that you have confidence in their ability and that you value their opinions.

If you’re applying these tactics consistently, over time, you’ll be amazed at how much more creative your team can be. We’d love to hear how you encourage open communication and creativity among your team? Tell us over on Twitter!

 

Trade shows are the places for exhibitors to shine and present their products or services in the best possible light, so you know you want to make sure you dot all your i's and cross all your t's. But, you also know, mistakes can happen whether you are new to the trade show scene or a seasoned veteran.

To help prevent mistakes from happening while at an event, you need to make sure you are as prepared as possible – and that also means prepared for what you will do if something goes wrong. Good news is: before you even start to think about packing up to head out to a trade show, you are already preparing as you check tasks off your trade show checklist.

However, not every mishap can be prevented just by checking off all the items on that list. You need to think ahead (or maybe think back to previous mistakes you may have encountered) and think about what you can do to prevent any mistakes.

Go Big or Go Home. Generally, smaller exhibits get less traffic than larger exhibits if for no other reason than location. Bigger exhibits typically are centrally located, closer to the entrance, and along the main aisles. However, the largest benefit of bigger exhibits is square footage and height. Island exhibits can include presentation areas, multiple kiosks, seating areas, ample storage, large format graphics, overhead signage, product displays. While these are still possible in inline displays, the space limits how much can be done.

(Bonus tip: Match the square footage of your main competitors.)

Prepare Your Staff. Training before the show ensures that everyone understands the goals. It also ensures your staff knows their role and every visitor to your branded environment gets their questions answered. Think of a trade show as a job interview – every person who walks in the booth is deciding whether or not to hire you. Making sure each team member contributes to creating a strong team, and is as prepared as possible, will help maximize your success.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. We know your booth is safe and >a href="http://brandscape-ideas.com/blog/41-is-your-comfort-zone-killing-your-success" target="_blank">comfortable but don't hang out there all day! Potential customers are everywhere and are waiting to learn and discover new products, services, and suppliers. You're there to work with those customers, but you're also there to learn and discover as well.

Every show is an opportunity to improve your "game."

What are your competitors showing? What are they saying? Are there any new products or services which would benefit your company? Are there trends you've overlooked and need to study and implement? Don't be afraid to to go out there, introduce yourself and engage. You want to be seen as warm and friendly as possible. Make yourself memorable.

The 5 Second Rule. Having a clean design is fantastic, but if you give no clues as to what industry you are in, or services you provide, people will just keep walking. Someone should be able to identify what your company name is, what your product or services are, and/or what industry you’re a part of, in under 5 seconds. Most people only have so much time to visit a tradeshow, regardless of how cool and awesome your brand and company is – they don't have a lot of time to try to figure out what you do.

Have you learned from a mistake you made at a trade show? We want to hear what is was and how you stepped up and improved your presence at your next event. Tell us over on Twitter!

 

It’s not always easy to admit that our competition may be doing things better than us. Overcoming pride and being open to learning can be a challenge, but doing so is essential to survival in a competitive marketplace. Don’t look at it as a challenge; look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow – a chance to build an even better and stronger brand.

It is important to evaluate your competition on a regular basis. From their social media presences, branding, marketing efforts, interaction from their audience and even their presence at trade shows.

While attending trade shows it is imperative to be evaluating your competition. But, what are you even supposed to be looking for? Ask yourself the following questions, about your competition to assess how they are doing.

Once you come up with answers to these questions, compare them to your efforts and create ways to improve your efforts and stand out in your own unique way.

1. How often do you see this competitor at similar events that you attend?
2. How would you rate your competitor’s branded environment based on: visual impact, image, overall layout, graphics and lighting. (Use a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest score, to easily calculate your answer.)
3. What is your competitor doing to engage trade show attendees? How effective does it seem to be? Are people engaging, and do they seem intrigued?
4. What promotional items is your competitor using, and how does this compare to your material?
5. Is your competitor involved in workshops, seminar sessions, or breakout discussions?
6. On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you evaluate the staff working the competitor’s booth based on: overall image, attire, knowledge and friendliness?
7. Did this competitor do any marketing prior to the event? (Don’t wait until you arrive at the trade show to figure this one out. Do you research ahead of time and take look at what it is they are doing for pre-trade show marketing.)

When you research what your competitors are doing by answering the above questions, you will be able to evaluate how you compare to others based on several different factors. (For example: image, professionalism, visibility, and branded environment design.)

How does YOUR brand stand out from your competition? Tell us over on Twitter!

 

Photo credit: shironosov

 

Of course you want your company known as the best – in general and at trade shows you attend, so what is your plan to make your brand stand out at a trade show?

Exhibitors at a trade show have the same goal: They want to be seen as the leader in their industry. Leadership comes in many different forms, depending on your industry. To achieve this you need to make a lasting impression and engage with event attendees.

Implement the following strategies at your next trade show and your brand will be unforgettable!

Size Matters.There’s a reason millions of tourists every year visit the Grand Canyon, it is really big! People are drawn to big and exciting things. This is one reason to create a large trade show area. Get a bigger booth space and fill it with branded environment that people can't ignore. But, remember it is important to use clean and simple architecture. Don't go big, just to go big. Make sure what you are displaying is attractive and on point with your branding – in every way possible. The booth environment as a whole, if designed well, becomes an experience in itself, creating memorable customer experiences that retain information.

Rely on Your Employees.
Your employees should be your biggest fans. The right employee should be not only knowledgeable about your business, but they should also be excited about it! Bringing a team like this to a trade show, and showing their genuine excitement surrounding your brand, will get others excited as well.

Know your message.
Trade show attendees want to know 3 things about you. Who are you? What do you do? What can you do for me?

Does your exhibit answer those questions? It, without a doubt, should. Avoid any confusion by making sure that your overall brand is clear and easy to understand.

Last but not least. Consistency.We talk about consistency all the time, and it is important here too. Your branded environment, and all promotional material, should reinforce the look and feel you share on all of your media outlets. This includes your website, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If you contradict your existing branding, you can, and more than likely will, cause confusion. Confusion weakens your brand – stay strong and stay consistent.

You have built your brand so you can be memorable and recognizable, so when you are attending events and trade shows, remember these tips to ensure the people you meet will walk away knowing exactly who you company is, what you offer, and why you are the best choice.

Mathias Rosenthal | iStock

Great brands, with awesome branding, stand out from the rest and make a memorable, lasting impression. So, when you think of a "great" brand, what are a few that come to mind?

We're sure Nike's swoosh, McDonald's golden arches, and Apple's white apple with a bite out of it might be a few of the top logos that pop into your head.

While, for small business owners, the overwhelming cost that have gone into these iconic images is hard to imagine, building your brand to greatness can be easier than you imagine.

When getting started, it is crucial to make sure you are not making some of the most commonly made branding mistakes many companies make.

It's More than Just A Logo
Your brand is the perception your clients have of your business as a whole. It is not just your logo. Don't get us wrong, your logo is important but thinking about the overall message that you want people to get from your organization will give you a better foundation for your brand. Think about everything you are putting out there for your audience, and the world, to see – printed materials, branded environment, business cards, website, etc.

Focus on Your Strengths
Instead of trying to appeal to everyone, we urge you to take the time and identify your ideal client. A lot of businesses out there want to market to everyone, but this is an impossible feat and will not help you. Instead, think about your strengths and your ideal client and build your brand around them. Sit down and actually write out a description of that ideal client. Think about who they are, what they value and believe in, what their lives like, what problem your products or services are solving for them, what they find interesting in every day life, and so forth.

Don't Ignore Social Media
When someone has a bad experience, they are very likely to post on social media about it. People are also likely to turn to the internet and social media to research a company, product or service they have not used in the past. Social media websites, such as but not limited to Facebook and Twitter, are extremely important platforms for managing the reputation of your brand. You need to show up there and let your brand's personality shine through so customers are able to learn about you and your products or services, and make a connection with your brand. (Bonus tip: Make sure you monitor your social media accounts for mentions, and have a plan if you ever have to deal with negative feedback. This is also a great place to track what kind of content you are sharing that people are interested in – learn what is and isn't working and adjust your digital marketing plans accordingly.)

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
We have said it time and time again, and will continue to say it time and time again because we think it is probably one of the most important rules of branding and marketing – Once you have created your brand, you need to apply it consistently. Make a list of all platforms where your logo and brand will be visible. This will include, your website, your newsletter, a blog, and social media accounts Is everything uniform? Everything including graphics, bios, and other pertinent information.

No business, big or small, is perfect. You're probably going to make a few mistakes along the way. The good news, you won't be alone. Plenty of others have, including some of the biggest brands in the world. Stick with these brand-busting tips and make the journey a little less painful.

If you’ve attended a trade show, which we’re sure you have at least once or twice, you know how much time and money planning for, and attending, a show can take. Two things you do not want to be wasting.

So once you hit the trade show floor, you want to do what you are there to do, and do it efficiently: gain more exposure for your brand and new products, engage with attendees, make new connections, and close sales.

But, that’s what every other company at the event is there to do as well, so how do you stand out and make a memorable, lasting impression in the minds of your target audience?

Be unique while staying true to your brand and values. Let people know who you are and what you stand for, what makes you different and great.

You may read the following tips and think to yourself, "hey, these ideas aren't unique." Well, we'll let you in on a little secret; they are unique because most other companies attending trade shows nowadays are NOT actually fully engaging with all of their potential customers – and we want to help you stand out!

Sometimes it is the “little things” that are overlooked but make the biggest difference. Be sure to cover all your bases and show up completely prepared to engage.

Don’t scare them away.
People hate sitting through a sales pitch masquerading as a friendly discussion. When interacting with trade show attendees, don't spend your time trying to sell your product. Instead, spend those precious few moments GROWING your industry and educating the person(s) on your brand and values. Let them see the personable side of your brand (link the words “personable side of your brand” to: http://brandscape-ideas.com/blog/31-inject-personality-into-your-brand) and allow them to make a connection with it. If you are eager to only sell a product, people won't hesitate to walk away – they might even just avoid you entirely. Have faith in your content and value.

What are you really saying?
Non-verbal communication plays a huge role in creating first impressions (link the words “first impressions” to: http://brandscape-ideas.com/blog/37-7-steps-to-a-great-first-impression) and trade show attendees are constantly watching you. Remember that and be aware of what your body language is saying. Standing in the corner of your exhibit with your arms folded is not welcoming people to stop over.

Attendees will pick up on your body language and assume that you have better things to do, or aren’t interested in engaging, and that they are not important to you. Always be aware of what your non-verbal actions may be telling people. Be on your toes and smile and get ready to introduce yourself with a genuine smile. If you show genuine interest in each and every person you meet, they will remember you.

Listen, it’s as simple as that.
Shift your focus from your sales pitch to listening to your potential customer. Talking is important, you can't avoid that, but listening is even MORE important. Ask questions and really listen to the answer. Give each and every person your full attention and be a problem solver. Find out what this person needs and then you will find out what you can possible do for them. Focusing on each individual person, and being committed to the conversation, is one of the most effective ways to create a positive, genuine first impression.

Remember that to begin new relationships, you must first create a positive impression.

What do you do to stand out and make that lasting impression when exhibiting at an event? Tell us over on Twitter!

 

Photo Credit:  iStockphoto

Consistency is a crucial step towards brand success. As consumers we are more likely to purchase a brand that we feel we know and we can trust, and we all know consumers tend to flock to a brand they know, feel comfortable with, and instantly recognize. We're sure you even notice yourself doing the same thing.

So, how can a company obtain a level of comfort and trust within its brand? A level of comfort and trust that will keep people coming back for more?

One word: Consistency.

Consistency = Dependability. When you meet someone for the first time you instantly start to develop an opinion about them and you make assumptions based on their actions.

For instance, your new neighbor comes home from work one day wearing a business suit. You assume he is a professional businessman with a steady job. The next day you see this neighbor leaving the house shirtless, wearing Bermuda shorts and carrying a surfboard. And, what if the NEXT morning this same neighbor walks out of his house, wearing dark sunglasses, dressed from head to toe in black leather, and hops on a motorcycle?

Are you finding it hard to nail down who exactly this new neighbor is? Of course you are. Now imagine if that same neighbor was a someone you were considering doing business with. His unpredictability may make you think twice about working with him.

Consumers feel the same about your brand! Consumers confused by mixed signals sent by inconsistent messaging may feel like your brand can't be trusted.

Hey, I know you! Consumers want to know you and they want to know your brand on a personal level.

Even though most people consider themselves practical, in the world of marketing, it is a known fact that purchasing is more of an emotional decision than a practical one. Engaging your consumer, and the right emotion, makes them feel like they know your brand on a personal level and that you are trustworthy.

Brand consistency builds trust. Why do you always buy the same brand of toothpaste or the same brand of toilet paper? Because you are boring a predictable? No! Because the product is predictable and you know what to expect from it.

Offering consumers a dependable experience will make them feel more comfortable with your brand and will keep them coming back!

Wait, I'm confused. Do you know what the implications of customer confusion are? A confused customer buys nothing.A consistent brand should instill confidence, not confuse the customer.

For many companies, their branding is actually more of a hindrance than a help.

Subtle inconsistencies in your logo, changes in colors and even fonts, can make a consumer think they have the wrong company. A faulty link on your website will quickly drive a potential consumer to click away from your site and find a competitor who can provide the information they are seeking. Avoid losing valuable business by following one simple rule – be CONSISTENT!

In conclusion, stop viewing consistency as boring. It doesn't have to be dull! Consistency actually paves the way to creativity and recognition with impact.

Photo credit: cacaroot | iStock