Monday, November 17, 2008


The look and feel of your logo and website can put lots of money in your pocket, but the way the dots connect may surprise you.

Start with the idea that your potential customers don't really know you. They don't know if you're well-established or fly-by-night. They don't know if you're honest or if you treat your customers well. They don't know if you're a solid professional.

People pick up clues from the way your logo, brochure and website look. It's human nature. Think about going to the office or to a party: You can tell at a glance if a new arrival is someone you'll want to get to know by his or her dress and body language. In an instant, you've formed your first impression.

This human habit evolved to let your human ancestors stay alive long enough to bear children. If you could tell predator from prey at a glance, you were more likely to eat and not be eaten. Today, this well-honed at-a-glance sense is used less for physical survival than for making purchase decisions.

Visual branding is about harnessing this at-a-glance sense to boost your business success. Its about using your businesss dress and body language to attract more customers. Think of an amateurish, overly complicated website for a used car lot as opposed to a clean-looking one that still gets the message across. What does each website tell you about the business? At a glance, you know where would you rather shop and which business you're more likely to trust.

Trust means your future customers believe you're likely to be honest and competent, and will deliver a good experience. Sometimes trust comes from friends telling friends they had a great experience. But most of your future customers wont have word-of-mouth to rely on. They have to decide on their own whom to trust. Thats the mission of your logo, website or brochure, to create your business dress and body language -- your visual branding.

Now take it a step further. Gaining your potential customers' trust and belief can also be called credibility. The more credibility you build, the more likely they will buy from you. The word credibility comes from credo, Latin for "I believe." Not coincidentally, the word "credit" also comes from credo. You can obtain lots of credit when lenders believe in you and your ability to repay. Thats not all. The money in your wallet is backed by the full faith and credit of the government. If it wasn't for this belief, greenbacks wouldn't be worth the high-tech paper they're printed on. So our entire economy and your business in particular are built on a foundation of credibility. That's how important visual branding is, and your expression of it in your logo, website and brochures.

Here are a few basics to help your business look credible :

Go for simplicity and lack of clutter. (Think Apple, the master of simplicity in branding.)

Create or demand a clean, well-balanced graphic design.

Use one or two basic colors that go well together, not a hodgepodge.

Choose one font and stick with it. You can express almost anything by using variations within a single font family: size, weight (boldness), italics, etc. If you really must, choose a second font for major headlines. But first try it with one font.

Coordinate a single look (design, colors, etc) across everything you do, including your logo, website, brochures, ads and signage.

Give your business the dress and body language that will tip off your future customers so they can believe in you. Harness their highly evolved, at-a-glance sense to build instant credibility. Credibility equals credit, and that can put lots of money in your wallet.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


In this new era of social responsibility, what you don't do can cost you.

"Cause marketing" is now the norm, and customers who visit your website and see your advertising want to know that you share their desire to make the world a better place by supporting an important cause.

If your business or brand doesn't stand for a cause, consumers may turn to your competitors. The number of consumers who say they would switch from one brand to another if the other brand were associated with a good cause has climbed to 87 percent, a dramatic increase in recent years, according to a Cone Cause Evolution Survey.

Even niche markets, such as the nation's college students, now show a striking preference for brands they believe to be socially responsible. According to a newly released College Explorer study from Alloy Media, nearly 95 percent of students say they are less likely to ignore an ad that promotes a brand's partnership with a cause.

There's a strong connection between entrepreneurship and giving. The challenge is to make your socially responsible efforts a winning proposition for the nonprofit group you support, the community and your business. You can master this marketing challenge by following these five important steps:

Step 1. Give from the heart.
Cause marketing works best when you and your employees feel great about the help you're providing to a nonprofit group. So work with an organization you and your team believe in, whether that means supporting the fight on behalf of a national health issue or rescuing homeless pets. What matters most to you, your team and your customers? You'll work hard to make a difference when you give from the heart.

Step 2. Choose a related cause.
A solid cause-marketing campaign often starts with the right affiliation. So as you go through the nonprofit selection process, look for a cause that relates to your company or its products. For example, when Procter & Gamble's Olay brand skin-care line partnered with the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, its campaign goal was to inspire women to protect their skin from the sun.. PR support yielded widespread broadcast, print and online coverage, helping the program attract more than 9,000 individuals for free skin-cancer screenings.

Step 3. Contribute more than dollars.
For many types of businesses, cause marketing involves donating products or services and not simply writing a check. This can help form even stronger consumer associations between what you offer and the good work you do. For example, a company that works hard to support a shelter for homeless women and children or and an organization that helps cancer patients pay their rent and other bills while undergoing treatment.

Step 4. Formalize your affiliation.
To make your affiliation a win-win for everyone, work with the nonprofit you choose to define how it will help your business increase its visibility, brand or company awareness. If the organization has a newsletter or other communications with its constituents, negotiate for opportunities to do joint promotions. Discuss how you will use the organization's logo and name in your marketing campaigns, and how it, in turn, will use your company logo and name in its press releases, on the organization's website and in other materials.

Step 5. Mount a marketing campaign.
Success in cause marketing often means motivating an audience to take action, such as making a donation or participating in an event.. Using a dedicated marketing campaign, you can reach and persuade the target group while also raising awareness for your business and its commitment to social responsibility. For example, to enhance its relationship with the black community, State Farm created the 50 Million Pound Challenge to educate blacks about the risks associated with being overweight. A special Challenge website was created to provide ongoing advice and support, and has helped hundreds of thousands of people lose weight.