Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Business Card: A Missed Opportunity?

More often than not, your business card is the first piece of marketing material that is viewed by potential clients. So what does your card say about your business?

First off, the business card needs to establish 3 things: who you are, what your business is, and how to contact you. However, it also needs to do a little more. It needs to connect with potential clients by differentiating from your competitors while staying consistent with your brand.

Some helpful tips...

1. Composition. There are two sides to the business card... and that's valuable real estate. Use both sides of the card to lay out your information... and remember that negative space can be a good thing if designed appropriately. Be sure to include your company logo, tagline, name, title, phone, email, web address, and physical address. Social media contacts should also be included to engage the potential client to connect with you to further establish and nurture the business relationship.

2. Size matters. The traditional business card is 3-1/2" wide by 2" high. If your layout makes better sense designed as a vertical, then lay the card out at 2" wide by 3-1/2" high. Try other non-traditional sizes (smaller rectangle, squares, circles, rounded edges, die cuts, folds, etc.) to differentiate from the crowd. Many printers offer specials for different sizes and shapes of business cards... just be sure that they can fit in a pocket without getting damaged as that will defeat the original intent.

3. Printing and paper. There are many different types of paper (stock) options and printing methods available for business cards. You generally want a stock that is durable. If you have the opportunity, get paper samples to feel the weight of the paper. Some stocks feel like linen, others can feel like silk, and others can print on transparent vellum or even wood veneer... your choice depends on the feeling you want to leave with the person left holding the card, and if your choice is relative to the business you are in. Consider the finish of the stock as well... matte, gloss, uncoated, etc. As far as printing, you can have colors print digitally, on a 4 or 6 color press, screen printed, foil embossed, letterpressed, spot-gloss, etc. Pricing for the different printing methods can vary greatly, so do some research before you make the final decision.

4. Stay true to your brand image. You want to be sure that your business card is an extension of your visual image... so stay consistent! Use your logo, fonts, and color scheme that you have established for your look. Nothing screams unprofessional more than an unbranded business card.

5. Connect with your audience. Is there a specific question you ask potential clients to make them think to convert them into paying clients? Use it on your card. Do you have a QR code or special to drive to your website? Include it on your card as well. Use your card as a "promotional" piece for your business to generate more interest.

6. Be professional. Is your current business card not doing your business justice? Ready for an overhaul? Then consider hiring a brand + design professional to guide you with the process. Most professionals are trained and experienced not only in design and branding, but also the latest in printing methods, and can tie it all together for you which will inevitably save you time and money.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Logo Redesign: A Case Study

The Jacksonville Jaguars NFL football team unveiled a new logo redesign for their franchise last week. 
Was it successful? These are our thoughts...

Overall, the new logo (pictured below), is an improvement from the old version and a step in the right direction. However, as a rebrand to "harness momentum by incorporating bold changes", it seems, in our opinion, to have missed the mark, and resembles more of an "update" than a true "rebrand". The new logo appears a bit soft, incomplete and just not
fierce or strong enough to convince that they are a force to be reckoned with.

1. Fonts. The new font design is better than the old, no question. The angles in the letters provide some movement, but it lacks in commanding attention. The addition of varying letter sizes (J and S of Jaguars) and more angular elements could help with energy and momentum. Incorporating both words to work as one element will also give the sense of unity.

2. The Jaguar. It just feels soft and too round/fluffy, like a house cat. The line weights are a bit confusing. The top of the head should have more defined line weights, bringing out more angles of the bone structure, thus making the icon more bold. Since the line weight of the chin/cheek is so prominent and combined with the black of the mouth, it makes it a bit bottom-heavy. The eyes are said to be the "window to the soul"... and the eyes here are in much need of more definition to draw the viewer in to feel the emotion this logo is supposed to generate. The nose area should display more crinkles as the cat is baring its teeth, which also could use more refinement. The main facial features get lost as they are competing with the spots, and the fluffy ears just don't fit .

3. Color. The color scheme works for the new logo that is shown. However, a bolder, deeper color scheme could work to make the logo look more iconic and powerful. Less white space around the cheek area and ear would also be beneficial. The eyes need to pop with more color. Teal is their team color, but we've never seen a jaguar with a teal tongue, except for their old logo. If the logo was more iconic, the teal tongue would be more successful. Although the Carolina Panthers use a black panther as their logo, maybe investigating the use of a black jaguar would exhibit more strength and distinction.

4. Composition.
The layout hasn't changed at all from the previous logo. Perhaps incorporating all elements (icon & text) to work as one should be attempted to make a more cohesive arrangement. For example, see how the Philadelphia Eagles logo works as a complete unit below. From an unbiased, design and layout viewpoint, the fonts, icon, colors and composition of the Eagles all combine to form one very successful logo.

5. Simplify. The new Jacksonville Jaguars logo looks as if it's getting stuck on being a bit too realistic. Maybe if it were simplified to more of an icon/mark, incorporating the main features or message of the brand, it would be more successful. The Houston Texans did a fantastic job with their iconic look; which incorporates the head of a bull, in deep steel blue, battle red and liberty white; with a lone star... all which reference the flag of Texas and it's rich history.

From a marketing stance, the new Jacksonville Jaguars logo was successful in generating buzz and excitement to look towards the future as the team begins to rebuild with a new coaching staff. However, the real question still remains: will these changes be enough to produce a winning season? What's your opinion?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

We've all heard the term... especially if you own your own business. But do we truly know and understand what it really means?
By definition, your brand is your business identity {id} that will clearly define who you are and the services and/or products you offer; will be used to advertise and promote your business; and should succeed in getting your target market to see you as the best and only option of providing a solution to their problem. An effective brand will connect with your target market on an emotional level and build a lasting relationship with that market, and will completely set yourself apart from the competition.
Your brand consists of a number of key pieces that all work together to create continuity and achieve a higher level of professionalism. So how does a business establish a successful brand?  By creating a positive emotional connection with your brand's name, image, marketing materials and products/services that will build market loyalty. One of the steps to achieving this is having a recognizable, memorable and consistent brand image that will give your business the visibility necessary to enforce your brand message and build credibility throughout your target market. In other words, establish a professional brand identity {id} - starting with a strong business name, an identifiable logo and descriptive tag line that your target market will connect with and remember. 

What does your brand identity say about your business? Does it speak to your target market? Does it make an impression? Does it stand apart from the competition? Let's look at an example...

Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS) was founded in 1964 and has grown to be one the largest, most successful traded sports equipment & apparel brands in the world. Ever hear of them? Of course you have... and chances are, you own many of their products.

In 1971, BRS realized that in order to increase their profits, they needed to expand their market and refocus their brand. Shortly after, they developed an icon (logo), the "swoosh", started marketing the first "swoosh" t-shirt, and profits began to increase. The "swoosh" icon was based on the winged goddess, Nike, who served as an inspiration to the most courageous warriors from the beginning of civilization. They named their first line of footwear "Nike" after the Greek Goddess of Victory and, in 1978, officially changed their name to Nike, Inc.

The company grew rapidly over the next few years by product endorsements, positive reviews from athletes and consumers, and becoming a publicly traded company in the early 80's. The start of the advertising campaign that produced their "Just Do It" tag line in 1988 catapulted Nike, Inc. into continuous, steady growth and evolution across the global market. Today, Nike, Inc. is a top-200 Fortune 500 company that continues to grow and prosper.

Do you think this company would have been as successful if it remained Blue Ribbon Sports? Maybe... but most likely not. They realized that in order to connect with their target market, they had to invest in their brand identity {id} and make some changes. They chose to build upon the feelings of courage, strength and victory... as one should feel when wearing/using their products... making that emotional connection... for the "warrior" in all of us. Seems to have worked out very well for them.

Making a Name for Yourself!

Now that you understand the fundamentals of establishing a
brand identity, you are ready to take the first step in creating
something memorable: choosing a business name.

Choosing a business name is no easy task and many factors are involved in the decision making process. The key to success is ensuring that your business name is recognizable, memorable, and makes sense. So where do you start?

One of the most important factors is choosing a name that reflects your business identity. Think about your target market, the services/products you offer and your overall future plans for your business. The more your name communicates about your business, the more successful you will be in creating a connection with your target market. Less energy will be spent trying to explain what your business is when the name of your business says it all. 

You want your name to invoke positive feelings that create enthusiasm and trust, connecting on the emotional level with your target market. Steer clear of names associated with negative connotations.

Choosing appropriate, unique and descriptive names will ensure that your business is memorable and will most likely describe a key benefit of your business. Avoid difficult, hard-to-pronounce names. If people can't pronounce or spell it correctly, they certainly won't remember it. Size matters! Especially when it comes to website domains and email addresses... short and sweet is always the best way to go.

It is important to test your name to ensure it's appeal. How does it sound when spoken? Can you envision it in print or on your website? Is it available for use as your domain name or for social media platforms? Be sure to check your name's availability when going through the process.

Once you come up with a couple great name options, be sure to conduct a trademark search to avoid any potential issues regardless if you plan on filing a trademark. The last thing you want is to be served with a cease & desist order from another company owning the trademark of "your" business name. You should consider consulting a trademark/business attorney to ensure that you are not infringing on other trademarks, and this attorney should also be able to legally register your name as a DBA (doing business as/fictitious name) and/or corporation.

Logo Love!

Part 1 of a 2-part series explaining the how, when and why
of logo design and redesign for business.

I'm starting a new business and I need a logo...

Just like your business name, your logo should reflect your business identity. It is the visual representation of all that your business encompasses, creating the first impression of how consumers perceive your products and/or services. When your business logo correctly reflects your business identity, it will succeed in showing your potential clients how your products/services will most benefit them... and will lead towards creating brand trust and building client loyalty.  

Generally, logos fall into 3 categories. The logotype is a completely type/font-based design created with some element of distinction. Sony, Coca-Cola and FedEx are all examples of the logotype. There are graphic logos that visually exhibit what the business (or entity) does, such as the Major League Baseball (MLB) logo. Lastly, the icon is a symbol that is used to represent the business and it's brand. Using an icon to represent your business and brand is very tricky when first establishing a business, and it takes a lot of time and money to establish the connection of the business and brand to the icon. The Nike Swoosh is a classic, extremely successful example of the business icon.

Before you decide which type of logo (logotype, graphic logo, icon) would best represent your business, think about the message you want this logo to convey. Your logo needs to make sense, have a connection to your business identity, and be memorable. Differentiate your business logo from that of your competitors, and focus on your business' strengths and benefits. Take into consideration your business name and how that will influence the design of your logo.

Your business logo should be clean, functional, and easy to reproduce. Use color theory to develop the best color palette, and keep it simple. Be mindful of all media applications the logo will be used in, and understand that more colors sometimes equals more in production costs. Also, a logo needs to work, and work well, before it can work in color. Start the design process in black and white.

Steer clear of trends if you want to establish longevity for your business logo. You want your business logo to be unique, original and highly professional, so avoid using clip art at all costs.

Most importantly, hire a professional to create your business logo. Make sure that the person that you hire has the experience and industry knowledge to get the job done. Keep in mind that your business logo should be treated as an investment, and hiring a professional to create your business logo will prove to be one of the best business decisions you could ever make. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Logo Love! Part Deux...

The second installment of our series explaining the how, when
and why of logo design and redesign for business.

So I'm thinking about a logo redesign...

One of the most important aspects in business is whether or not your brand message is reaching your target market.Chances are, your logo will be the first thing consumers identify with when thinking of your brand. Your logo needs to convey your message clearly and all of the values/feelings associated with your brand. Still using the same logo that was designed 20 years ago? Has your business' message evolved over the years? Having difficulty visually differentiating from your competitors? Then it's time to seriously consider a logo redesign.

1. Roll with the changes. If your business has evolved it's brand message, adjusted it's target market, changed it's business name, has recently merged with or made new acquisitions, then it is time to update the logo to reflect the new identity of the business. Remember when Datsun was phased out to form global brand consistency as Nissan in 1981? Seems to have worked out very well for them...


2. Stay up-to-date. If your logo was designed 20 years ago, it's almost guaranteed that it's time for a redesign. Keep your look fresh, innovative and modern to stay ahead of the competition. If you've been in business for awhile, your brand awareness has evolved over the years, and an update to your logo will display that growth and strength in your market. Take Shell, for example, and see how their logo has evolved to stay current with each time period.


3. No copycats. You do not want your target market to confuse your logo with another logo. If you feel that your logo is not unique enough, or has similarities to other logos (see the Sun/Columbia logos below), then an update or redesign is necessary... especially if your logo is being confused with that of your competitors (coffee anyone?). Avoid the potential issues and do a trademark search to ensure that your logo differentiates from the masses. A little too close for comfort...

sun columbia logo samples

starpreya starbucks logo samples

4. Technical issues. If your logo is not working across all media platforms, does not exist in the correct formats, has too many colors, has too many shapes/angles that just don't make sense, contains text that is too hard to read, then it's time to update. The best logos are usually the simplest, most concise and legible that work well both online and in print, and are created with 3 colors or less.

5. Too many negatives. If you're getting negative feedback from your market regarding your logo, then it's definitely time for a change to a logo that better connects with your market. Receiving bad press lately? Change your logo to get a positive boost.

6. Remember me? Logos should be memorable and instantly recognizable. If your logo is complicated, is too long and/or intricate, it will be more difficult to remember. Simplicity is the key to creating effectiveness in a logo redesign.

7. Your logo was not professionally designed... and it shows. Brand and design professionals are highly skilled and trained to navigate target markets and develop logos that encompass the brand message to connect with those specific markets. A lot of research and theory goes into the design and development process that amateurs are just not aware of. Your logo sets the tone for your business, and having a poorly designed logo will hinder your business growth. Investing in a professional logo redesign could be the determining factor in connecting with your market and attaining the success that you wish to achieve.