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Four Common Misconceptions About Branding

Branding is complex — it’s the one task that must encompass promises you make to your customers, how you will deliver on those promises and how customers value your products. It involves a lot of moving parts and solid alignment between copy and design. Those who are not exposed to the intricacies of branding may, understandably, simplify the process and make assumptions about its true purpose. So let’s try to squash those common misconceptions and explain the realities of branding.

1. A logo is a brand.

This is a very common misconception, as logos are visual elements that exist at nearly every consumer touchpoint: website, packaging, social channels, etc. Logos are familiar to consumers, and they may become the first thing that pops up when thinking about a company’s brand. But a brand reaches far beyond a logo. A logo is more of a visual representation of the overall brand, an icon that communicates the overarching brand message and evokes similar emotions. It works both ways: brands are not totally complete without a logo, and a logo is never a complete brand.

2. Branding is only the responsibility of the Marketing/Advertising/Public Relations department.

If your company works by this belief, your brand will suffer. It is every employee’s responsibility to understand, support and represent the brand, and doing so will improve consistency and therefore brand equity. For example, if the Marketing department is pushing for a brand that listens to its customers and provides services based on what they want, but then the customer service isn’t up to par, the two departments are not aligned and the brand lacks consistency. This will affect the authenticity of the brand and ultimately how consumers view your brand and your company. Make sure everyone in your organization is prepared and empowered to be a brand advocate, and remember that consistency is key.

3. Branding and Marketing are the same thing.

While the two are closely aligned and certainly work together, branding and marketing are not the same thing. Branding represents what you want your consumers to understand about your company and product. It’s the overall messaging regarding promises you’ll deliver your customers. Marketing focuses on how you’ll get those messages out to your customers.

4. Branding isn’t necessary.

What do consumers tend to rely on most when making a purchasing decision — emotion or logic? It may surprise you, but the answer is emotion. Brands express an idea that consumers can relate to. So your company can (and should!) provide a stellar product or service, excellent customer service and appropriate pricing, but without a strong brand, something would still be missing. You need a brand in place to engage customers, evoke positive emotions and differentiate your company from your competitors. Never underestimate the ability of an effective brand to attract, influence and retain loyal customers.

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Have you witnessed these branding misconceptions? Do you know of others? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Social Media Driving Sales: A Quick Look at Instagram

Social media networks are excellent outlets for making new connections, reconnecting with past friends, uniting strangers who share common interests and more. But brands have also discovered the opportunity for social media to help drive sales.

Instagram, specifically, has been a trendsetter in social media sales. With 300 million monthly users (which is more than Twitter!), brands are using this platform to interact with and invest in customers. And it’s worth the effort because Instagrammers are shoppers! Iconosquare’s 2015 Instagram study shows 70 percent of Instagram users report they’ve actively looked up a brand on the platform. And 62 percent reported following a brand on the channel simply because they like the content it shares.

What does this mean for brands? The audience is there and willing to engage! So brands have to think of creative ways to close the sale. Let’s take a look at an example of how an independent hotel chain has used Instagram to do just that.

LikeToKnowLikeToKnow.it adds a distinctive link that sends users a dynamically created sales email
image credit – LiketoKnow.it

Starwood Hotels was looking for another way to allow customers to book rooms via Instagram after the platform blocked brands from placing a direct clickable link in posts unless they were sponsored. So, the company partnered with a shopping platform called LiketoKnow.it, and together they made booking a hotel room possible in one click within the social platform users were already on. If users click on the Instagram photo, they receive an email with the next step in the booking process. It’s that easy — no more searching around the Internet or jumping from app to app. One click, and the rest is waiting for you in your email.

Sponsored posts are still very much alive and active, and Starwood Hotels uses them at times. However, this marketing team has proved that with some creative thought, there can be so many more ways to effectively reach consumers where they already are and to simplify the booking process. Now, let’s look at an example of a service similar to LiketoKnow.it and how large brands use it to drive Instagram sales.

TapShopTapShop will send users to custom landing pages when they click your photos.
image credit – TapShop

Brands like Joss & Main and Etsy use a software-as-a-service (SaaS) called Piquora’s TapShop to enhance and streamline their advertising process on Instagram. TapShop will create a landing page for each brand where Instagram users can visit, sign up for email updates and purchase products directly. Additionally, if users are on the email list, they can simply like a brand’s photo and then receive an email with the product links for purchase.

There are many services similar to TapShop and LiketoKnow.it, and each one offers slightly different engagement and purchasing options for the customer. Regardless of which one brands choose, it’s clear that there are many options other than simple sponsored posts alone, and brands can creatively combine these methods to effectively refine the purchasing process for Instagram shoppers.

What are your thoughts on using social media as a sales channel? How might you engage potential customers following your pages?

Tips for Directing Voice-over Talent

Communicating effectively with voice-over talent is not a task for the underprepared. Talent and studio time are expensive. Going over budget is something you don’t want to explain to your supervisor. Not getting the read you want from your talent is even worse. With this in mind, I’ve been involved in hundreds of recording sessions over the years. Having a successful session is part art, psychology and skill. So here are some tips.

  • Hire the right talent. You hire James Earl Jones to deliver a James Earl Jones-type read. Asking him to be a light-hearted character isn’t exactly his forte.
  • stopwatchRead your script out loud while timing it. Read it in the style that your talent will be reading it. You need to allow time for performance. Sure, you might be able to fit 70 seconds of copy into 59.5 seconds if you’re John Moschitta Jr. from the legendary FedEx fast talker spots, but if that’s not what you’re looking for, start cutting. Also, allow time for sound effects.
  • Format the script. Make it easy to read in 12-point type and double space it so the talent can write in those last-minute changes.
  • Know what you want the read to sound like before your session. Part of this goes back to hiring the right talent. Reference a read on the talent’s demo reel to give him or her a good starting point. Discuss the target audience with your talent.
  • Don’t overdirect. Nobody wants to be overwhelmed with information. Before you hit the talk back button, think about what you want to get across to the talent. Be clear, concise and specific.
  • parrotDon’t feed your talent lines. Reading a line and asking the talent to feed it back or “parrot” it is something that talent pretty much hates. Give specific direction.
  • You’re not alone. Get the most out of your production by getting input from the audio engineer, producer and talent. They all want the session to be a success.
  • Be positive. Let the talent know that they’re effectively communicating your message. After all, everybody likes positive feedback.
  • Have fun.

If you’ve got tips on directing voice-over talent, we’d love to hear what works for you.

How to Be a More Engaging Storyteller

No matter if you’re recounting stories around the campfire or telling a brand story to reach specific consumers, never underestimate the importance of engaging storytelling. Not only can you shine a light on your personality and more effectively evoke desired emotions through storytelling, but you can also keep your audience coming back for more.

To capture and retain the attention of your brand’s target audience, tap into the power of a good story with this simple strategy.

First, determine what engagement means.

Every time you’re telling a story and attempting to reach others, how will you determine if you’ve engaged them or not? What must someone do to be considered engaged? Are there different levels of engagement?

Use an initial hook.

Right away, give people a reason to care about what you’re about to say. Make them curious, and compel them to listen to you. If you raise a question in this section, be sure you answer it and continue to build upon that answer to keep them engaged.

Reflect before reciting.

The WIIFM (what’s in it for me) doesn’t end after the initial hook. Throughout the story, you still have to prove why your audience should care. This means you have some pre-work to do. You must reflect to determine the purpose of this storytelling, how it will resonate with your audience, how you want them to feel or react and truly why it’s relevant to them.

Be authentic, relatable, compelling, relevant and focused.

Phew! Sounds like a lot of different things to be all at one time. However, your audience is sure to recognize and appreciate you nailing each of these when telling a story. Each one is distinct and crucial. Let’s go through them one by one.

whatagreatstory

Props are not mandatory, but they are helpful.

Authentic

If you’re describing a product or service, be real with the consumer about what they can expect with usage and results. If it makes sense, use real customer testimonials to communicate the authenticity of your business.

Relatable

Figure out exactly whom you’re speaking with and communicate with them in a way that will resonate. Talking to millennials? Perhaps you should use a more relaxed tone.

Compelling

Add depth to your story. Use descriptive elements to describe your characters, situation, problem and resolution. If you’re using visual elements, consider how they’ll motivate your target audience. For example, if you need to show complex numbers, consider using a graph or chart.

Relevant

You’ll need to show relevancy in every aspect of the story, from the content to the tone to the medium. Again, this needs to relate back to your audience. How would your target audience respond to the content and the tone of your story?

Focused

Realizing the lack of attention spans, your story must be focused and direct, getting to the point in a complete but concise way. Use keywords strategically, and keep your messaging succinct.

The importance of storytelling is undeniable. And by following this engagement strategy, you’ll be captivating your audience in no time.

What are your thoughts? Is there anything you would add to this to make a story flow effortlessly into the ears — and minds — of your audience?