San Francisco Bay Startups: Good and Bad Branding

With today’s fierce competition for startups in the San Francisco Bay area, it’s important for new companies to establish a brand early. A good brand can easily help a startup make it big, and a bad one can just as easily kill it. What makes a good brand? Good branding goes beyond just an attractive logo and catchy name. It’s important for startups to be consistent in all of their branding, and take every opportunity to convey their brand’s image. Everything a company does or says should reflect the brand, creating brand unity. A brand’s message should be unique and fresh, communicating regularly with its audience in a distinctive voice. Example: Airbnb San Francisco-based startup, Airbnb, has become a go-to app for travelers and vacationers looking for an affordable place to stay. The app provides rooms and guest houses all over the world that are available to rent by the night. Airbnb uses several different social media platforms to spread their message and convey their brand. Their Facebook page is updated every few days with photos and videos related to travel and hot vacation spots, as well as interviews with Airbnb hosts. Their Twitter page shares Tweets from app users …

Learning from Miley Cyrus

Believe it or not, business, sales, and marketing professionals can learn a lot from the seemingly innocuous, if much talked about performance of Miley Cyrus at the Video Music Awards this year.  She quite succinctly demonstrated what happens if branding is completely ignored and caution thrown to the winds.  Much as Miley’s public image has suffered during the blowback, your company or organization can also suffer if you ignore the image you have built up with the public and proceed in radical, different directions.  Here are three big drawbacks to dramatically changing your branding rapidly: Doubt and Mistrust Builds Up – If you completely change what your company is about, people are going to begin to doubt anything they know about you.  While this may help if your reputation was terrible, in most cases long-lasting businesses have significant goodwill built up that is of real value and should not be discarded lightly. Harder to Repair than Prevent – As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Taking care of your reputation and branding by proactively managing it ahead of the curve costs a fraction of both the financial resources and the time it takes …

When You Should Forego Branding for Larger Concerns

We’ve talked an awful lot about all aspects of branding recently.  As the month draws to a close, I’d like to address something you don’t often hear about much: the times when you should stop worrying about brand building and focus on other, larger concerns instead.  It’s easy for people to get so caught up in self-promotion that they lose sight of some of the core fundamentals related to successfully selling their product or service.  Here are a couple examples of times that you should ease up on your branding concerns and refocus your energies elsewhere: Before Your Product or Service is Perfected – Believe it or not, I’ve spoken with dozens of business owners who have become heavily involved in the promotion of their product or service…before they had much more to show for it that a prototype and hopes for the future.  While getting the word out is certainly important, it is equally important to have more to offer than smoke and mirrors, should opportunity come knocking. When You May Need to Re-Brand in the Near Future – Perhaps your business is about to develop a new product that will revolutionize the market place.  It may also revolutionize …

Three Essential Steps to Building a Long-Lasting Brand

We’ve been looking a lot recently at different examples of branding; some large companies, some smaller, some ideas that have worked, and some haven’t.  For today’s article, we’re going to get back to basics and take a look at three essential steps that should be involved in the building of any brand.  No matter what you are trying to sell or what sort of organization you are trying to build, your efforts should always contain these three basic elements and actions if you want your brand to be successful and long lasting: Consistent Application –From day one, attempt to be as consistent as possible in the application of your brand.  Brands develop as people begin to associate the idea of a certain product or service with a company over time, and the public simply won’t make such associations if their interactions with you and your organization do not consistently deliver the same experience to them. Persistence – Successful brands are built and sustained over time; Rome wasn’t built in a day either.  This means that you have to constantly be mindful of your position in the market, and your interactions with customers, both current and potential.  Never lose an opportunity …

3 Epic Failures in Branding ‒ What Were They Thinking?

It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s even better if you can learn from the mistakes of others. Here are three recent examples of branding failures you’ll want to avoid: 1.  Kmart  Poor Kmart. In what looks like an attempt to cover for not having enough merchandise on the shelves, Kmart launched its “Ship Your Pants” campaign, assuring unhappy consumers that if their desired item wasn’t in stock, they could pay for it in-store and have it shipped to their homes. OK, it’s a funny joke. But since families are Kmart’s bread and butter, they’ve always maintained an uncontroversial, middle of the road brand image. Suddenly we’re associating the Kmart brand with having a load in our pants. The takeaway: don’t use excrement to promote your brand. 2.  JC Penney In an effort to revitalize drooping sales, the venerable Penney’s brand decided to get hip and appeal to a younger market. So they redesigned their logo, discontinued a boatload of merchandise, got rid of cash registers, and cut the whole concept of sales and discount coupons. The result? The brand’s strongest supporters, customers who’d been shopping at Penney’s for years, were driven away in droves. Now the brand is …

Big Branding Backfires: Two Leads You Won’t Want to Follow

Marketing and social media experts spend a lot of time writing about soft metrics like brand image and brand loyalty. We think it’s important to build a brand that’s both recognizable and trustworthy ‒ but maybe if your corporation is big enough, you don’t need to be trusted. Check out what’s going on with these two giants: Coca-Cola’s suspect marketing moves Like McDonald’s and others, the Coca-Cola corporation is under fire from consumers for contributing to obesity. To combat criticism and promote the idea that soda can be a safe addition to a healthy diet, Coke launched a new ad campaign this summer. In Mexico and the E.U. the ads focused on helping consumers burn extra calories. They list the number of calories in a bottle of Coke, and feature some easy ways to use up those calories. But wait ‒ the bottle in the ad is almost half the size of the best-selling sized soda bottle in Mexico. And oops ‒ the European ads forgot to mention that you’d have to do all the exercises to burn up all the calories. Coca-Cola recently pulled the ad campaign from their markets in Mexico and in the U.K. Now that’s what …

Brand Building Essentials: Visual Elements Matter

Building a strong brand is a little bit like pitching a tent. Metaphorically speaking, your brand is the overarching tent that’s supported by a myriad of poles, stakes, and ropes. Without them, your tent is just a loose piece of fabric flapping in the breeze. In the same way, the visual elements that support and anchor your brand are essential. Typography Unless you’re a graphic designer, typography is an element you may have overlooked when creating and maintaining your brand image. But typography is an important component of your brand’s personality. Think about your target audience. Are they young and renegade? Businesslike and buttoned-up? Conservative, or cutting edge? Well-chosen fonts and typefaces will make your target audience more interested or more comfortable. Used consistently across online and offline channels, good typography becomes a recognizable part of your brand image. Take the New Yorker Magazine’s iconic look, for example. It’s been pretty much the same since the magazine was first published in 1925 ‒ and the typography is an essential part of that look. Logo Design Always remember this about your logo: it’s not supposed to explain anything about your brand. Your logo simply identifies your brand. Of course, you want …

Branding Lessons from Vanderpump Rules

Believe it or not, small business owners could learn a lot from the popular reality television program Vanderpump Rules on Bravo. I recently had the opportunity to dine there, and hadn’t realized the degree of care that the co-owner, Lisa Vanderpump, put into the maintenance and care of her own personal brand at the restaurant Sur. Here are a few take-aways that entrepreneurs should keep in mind about managing their own personal brand: • Be Congruent – I had not yet seen the television program when I dined at Sur; afterwards I realized how much effort was put into making sure that every single aspect of service was congruent with the others. All of the staff were extremely attractive, the surroundings were absolutely impeccable, the cuisine itself was the varietals and current specials hot in New York and Paris. In other words, every aspect of the presentation of Sur screams high-end, and this lets them charge a premium. • Be Consistent – Another thing Lisa takes extreme care to do is to present herself consistently. This means that whenever you visit Sur, you are always going to get the same style and experience. This means that when people discuss your …

Dos Equis – Great Branding Ideas

During the next several weeks, we are going to take a look at some extremely successful marketing campaigns. Most of the examples we selected are going to be from large, successful brands, so that most readers will be able to easily identify with them. However, we will specifically take a look at strategies that can be employed by smaller business to realize many of the same gains that larger businesses do. So what are some of the marketing and branding lessons we can learn from this particular campaign? • Stand Out From the Crowd – If you think about it, most beer commercials tend to involve sporting events, women in bikinis, good times with your buddies, and things like that. If Dos Equis employed the same strategy as all their competitors, making yourself stand out and establishing brand loyalty would have been an immense challenge. Instead, they went in a different direction, and almost effortlessly captured their niche (and the minds of many customers). • Market Experiences Rather Than Only a Product – The Dos Equis campaign focuses on selling the ideas of experiences to their consumers, rather than focusing too heavily on the product itself. Through the brand persona …