branding

How Do You Communicate Your Business Culture?

I am in the process of opening a second business location (it’s in the works; we’ll announce it when we have things like an opening date!) and, as Grant Cardone would say, the whole thing is giving me better problems.

We can’t escape problems entirely ever, but I think most of us would rather deal with the problems of having 10 million dollars than the problems of having 10,000 dollars! Life is not really about getting rid of our problems, but instead about putting ourselves in a position to face better problems.

One of our ‘better’ problems is this second business location thing communicating company culture. I can’t be more than one place at once so we have to set the tone of Anchorspace’s culture at two geographically different locations without me having to defy relativity by being at both.

I think a big part of why most companies make their employees go in a location and sit on their butts in a chair for X hours a day (even if location isn’t important to the job) is because they are either:
a) too lazy to communicate the company’s culture or
b) they have no idea what their culture even is.

How do I communicate our Anchorspace culture across two locations so we attract the right kind of customers and create a really amazing environment for everyone? How does anyone do that?

Option 1: Staff/Board Training

One way to communicate corporate culture is to make sure everyone is working from the same knowledge base. When you ask someone to ‘greet the customer,’ what should this person ask or tell the customer? At Anchorspace we made a ‘member wall’ in our main office with everyone’s name and face. So when a member walks in, we can greet them in a different way than someone new. We may ask a member if we should make another pot of coffee whereas a new person would be offered a tour.

Clearly this option takes more time because it involves working with people one on one or in a group setting but I like that it gives people input. If people are remote, I don’t see how this couldn’t be done with video trainings coupled with regular check-ins during which there is a clear agenda.

I know for our marketing company, our yearly retreat is super helpful in getting everyone reinvigorated and on the same page. Here’s our process and a sample agenda if you are interested in running a retreat with your small team.



Option 2: Reinventing The Employee Handbook

If you want something a bit less hands on or time intensive, why not revisit that stale employee handbook you have? (I haven’t looked at ours in a year and I’m not even sure Jane and Nate have seen it!)

A handbook not only gives your new hire the information they need and covers your butt as the employer, but it can also communicate work culture. Here are some non-stuffy examples (one involves an interactive website; another finger puppets): https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/unique-employee-handbooks.aspx

Think of your employee handbook reboot as a way to address corporate culture in a fun and memorable way.

Check out the amazing corporate culture of Zingerman’s; even their ‘thanks for applying’ page has personality: http://blog.nus.edu.sg/audreyc/2014/02/26/creating-and-sustaining-culture-the-case-of-the-smallest-cool-company-in-america-zingerman/

Option 3: Clear marketing messaging, online and off.

Do you refer to people as customers or clients? Or maybe you say community members or partners or cowpokes?
I know it seems pretty basic, but picking a word for the people who spend money with you definitely is making a decision… And with your business you’ll make seemingly endless, little decisions that all add up to a culture.

What kinds of adjectives you use? Fonts and graphics? Descriptors? Sotheby’s International Realty are the most detailed marketing guidelines I’ve seen, from acceptable email signature formats to how headshots need to be taken but it does explain their consistency across their international range of markets!

A lot of people refer to these as ‘branding guidelines’ but for most people, that’s things like logo treatments, acceptable fonts and colors, and other design elements. But being comprehensive and making sure you use similar tone of voice and more subtle forms of branding will definitely set the tone for your company culture.

Are you like me and just haven’t necessarily given a ton of thought to this? I know I didn’t think I was very particular… until someone else was doing the work, then suddenly I had all kinds of opinions.

In other words, having a company culture and communicating it not only attracts the right customers to you but also prevents you from becoming a controlling jerkface kind of a boss, which makes everyone happier. Win-win-win.

So give a thought to your company culture because as you scale up or even change course, it’ll give you a lot of direction. And if you want to geek out, this is an article I’ve bookmarked for detailed future reading:  https://emplify.com/blog/company-culture-examples/

Vivre your corporate culture!



Marketing Monday: Top 5 Favorite Holiday Commercials

My working title for this post was “Marketing Monday: Selling the Holiday,” but realized that sounded cynical and Krampus-y, which is not what this post is about.

I love the holidays, and I especially love TV during the holidays (it might be more of a winter thing, now that I think about it). The classics, like Rudolph, Charlie Brown, and A Year Without a Santa Claus are on, and even the commercials are better during this magical season. And, just as with the classics on TV, I have a few classic commercials that I look forward to watching over and over each year.

    1. Frankie’s Holiday- Apple. (This one isn’t quite ‘traditional’ yet, because it just came out this year)

Why it works: In my personal opinion, we all have a part of of us that identifies as an outcast. Or, maybe it’s a longing to connect. Either way, this commercial, combined with the sentimental song “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” and a very minimal flash of the Apple logo, is my new holiday favorite. It’s not the “in your face” commercialized ad we expect, nor does it say “hey buy our thing.” It leaves us with “Open your heart to everyone,” and that’s what the holidays are all about, right? (Fun fact: part of my senior thesis at Bates was about Frankenstein, mainly because I’ve always had a soft spot for characters like the monster and the Phantom of the Opera).

2. Polar Bears- Coca Cola

Why it Works: This might be an oddly specific reason for me, but it reaches into childhood memories of sledding, and the special occasions where our parents jumped into the snow with us. And I usually got really thirsty by the end of all that sledding(I mean, it was hours), so a Coke would’ve been welcome.

For the larger public, this commercial celebrates family and spending time with loved ones. In other words, it’s about ‘togetherness.’ And also, sharing a Coke.

3. M&Ms meet Santa- M&M

Why it Works: Again, I must confess to personal bias- M&Ms are my all time favorite candy. That aside, this commercial is actually kind of funny. When it came out, we were used to seeing this pair of M&Ms in a commercial sense. It addresses the tradition of setting out snacks for Santa the night before Christmas. Then, there’s the “He does exist/They do exist” meeting, and everyone passes out. There’s a similar amount of branding to the Coca-Cola commercial, but again, no shoving sales down your throat (although it does make me want to shove some M&Ms down my throat).

4.  Merry Kisses Bells- Hersheys

Why it Works: There’s a reason why simplicity in marketing is recommended. Although I’m sure the animators for this commercial would disagree with “simplicity” here. Again, there’s not an overwhelming amount of branding plus a Christmas-y tune. Around the holidays, my brother and I helped my mom with baking by unwrapping the Hershey’s Kisses to get them ready for cookies. It was a simple, kinda mundane task, but I loved doing it because we had Christmas music playing and were usually giggling the whole time. So, this is yet another win for “Kassie’s sentimental childhood.”



5. Christmas Kittens- Bangor Savings

Why it works: I hadn’t seen this commercial until last week, when Nicole referenced it in our Tech Thursday video (which you can find on our Facebook Page). It’s really just a cat video, but for Christmas. If you have pets, especially cats, they tend to get a little…er, excited about all the shiny presents and MY WORD the tree. (Is it just me or do the cats get progressively feisty as the video goes on?) Apparently, there was a community connection remembering this video years later. To the outsider, it probably doesn’t seem like that thrilling of a commercial. For the people ‘in the know,’ though, it’s a different story.

What do all five of these commercials have in common?

Little to no branding, and a message that’s nostalgic/sentimental. After all, as Dwight Schrute once said, “Nostalgia is truly one of the greatest human weaknesses…second only to the neck.”

Any commercials I missed that should be added to this list?

Your Business and Spotify: Using Music To Market

I’ll be the first to say I thought I was too old and uncool to use Spotify. Also, seeing my friends who have their accounts connected to the service, having people know what I was listening to sort of freaked me out.

Then, Spotify offered a $.99/month for three month trial. You know me, I’m a sucker for a deal.

Traditionally, when we talk about ‘content marketing’ we mean using pictures and text (and, if you’re ambitious, sometimes video) that you create to reach your customers. Increasingly, content is becoming more diverse: music, art, animated gifs… So Spotify is helping change the kind of content businesses can share easily with customers and potential customers. 

In this new world of online marketing, as more and more messages and platforms are needed, we don’t have time as businesses to make everything from scratch… so we’ve begun curating. Platforms like Pinterest and Spotify show that businesses can do marketing without making everything from scratch themselves but by curating something interesting.

In short, Spotify is a way for businesses to easily curate content.  Let’s look at a few ways this can be done.

Spotify Branded Playlist

The most popular type of content is the branded playlist. You have a user account as a brand and from there, you make playlists. We can look to early online adopters like Starbucks and Coca Cola for examples of this:

starbucksplaylist

Now I know what you’re thinking, it must be pretty cool to make a playlist and your own little album cover and let people follow you. The ability to create a pretty playlist cover is only available to a few users, so the visuals of the first four songs added create the tiled artwork of most playlists:

dentistplaylist

(I tried to think of the most non-musical seeming service and boom, found a dentist office playlist… with 25 followers!)

In what may be the most hipster thing I’ve ever seen online, someone was complaining about this because they had some “uncool” song as one of their first four and they were ‘too embarrassed to even share it on Tumblr’. I had a chuckle at that but I understood the struggle.

Note: Searching Spotify from a computer is super annoying. This kind of works but best to do it from your phone: http://www.listenspotify.com/



That said, if you want to share a link to your playlist from your computer (because, let’s say you’re scheduling things on social media) here’s a way to do it:  http://www.listenspotify.com/en/share-your-playlist

Spotify And Targeting

As you can imagine, if you’re willing to pay Spotify some cash, you can target people based on their demographic information and more: https://www.spotify.com/us/brands/targeting/

The Premium members (like myself for the moment) don’t hear ads but it seems like the average Spotify user spends 148 minutes a day on the platform so those who are on are really into it-meaning they are willing to put up with an ad here and there.

Spotify At Your Business Location

It may be natural to think of having a soundtrack for your brand that maybe plays at multiple business locations, events, and other locations where people experience your business (you know, without annoying ads and all that). That’s the goal behind Soundtrack Your Brand, but it doesn’t yet seem universally available but it’s only a matter of time for things to move from online to real life.

If you’d like to be an insider, Spotify has a Rock Star Program: https://community.spotify.com/t5/Spotify-Community-Blog/Rock-Star-Program-News/ba-p/1310201 Note that you can only join it if you’ve previously contributed to the community but perks include being among the first to try new features.

If you want to learn more about Spotify and your brand, I found this pretty comprehensive podcast (the show notes also link to resources). That’s right, I’m leaving you an audio resource about audio content:

PODCAST: How to enhance your small business brand with Spotify [Episode 6]

In short, Spotify is one way your brand can connect to people in a fun way. And maybe if you follow a Coca-Cola’s playlist, you’ll find yourself craving a coke a little more often.

cokespotifyplaylists

Once Upon a Brand

One of my favorite parts of Mad Men was when they have their brainstorming sessions for a client. A group of people sit around trying to come up with an idea for a print ad, commercial, or tagline. Without being necessarily overt about it, they go through the questions that marketers today ask: who is this for? What problem do they have, and how does this product/service solve it? And, the big one: How do we show them rather than tell them? It all boils down to determining the best story to tell. Clearly this is a watered down summary of Mad Men and I really need to learn how to separate how real life stuff works vs how they happen in the movies, but it’s what comes to mind whenever I think about brand storytelling.



People love stories, and are more likely to remember a story they’ve heard than a statistic (unless it’s really crazy). Exchanging experiences with others is one of the ways we express empathy, which creates a bond among people.

In marketing, it’s a useful way for brands to connect with customers (past, present, and future). It doesn’t always come in the form of selling a specific product- it’s typically much more subtle than that. In fact, storytelling from brands does something a bit more subtle by carving out a place for themselves in our hearts. With storytelling, it’s important that we show rather than tell, so here are 4 brands that know how to spin a decent yarn:

Cheerios. The all-time best example I can think of as part of Cheerios’ story is the one where the Grandmother is talking to the baby in the high chair who has a bunch of Cheerios in front of her. This story shows a few different things in fell swoop. First, you see the cross-generation component- an elderly woman and a very young child, enjoying the same food. Then there’s the family element, when Gram is mapping out where all the different family members live in relation to each other via Cheerio. There’s also the use of an adorable child clearly getting frustrated that it isn’t actively consuming any of the cereal yet. It all ties in with the narrator at the end saying that Cheerios is “just part of the family.” Yeah, it’s pretty heartwarming.

 

GoPro. One of the interesting parts of GoPro’s story is it’s use of User Generated Content. Most of their marketing simply shares the cool things their users are doing with the product. In doing so, GoPro as a brand mimics what their products do- act as a vessel for people to share their own stories. This also makes their product accessible to a wider variety of people. When I think of people who would frequently use a GoPro, I think of skydivers and mountain climbers- generally adventurous people. Watching the various marketing material from the brand challenges this belief, since they show a high volume of normal, everyday people using the equipment for normal, everyday things. Below is a video from their YouTube Channel of a family enjoying some t-ball in a local park (no stunts or crazy air-born maneuvers):

 

 

Lego. Creating a story using video footage is great, but what about a feature length film? Some would argue that the Lego Movie is an example of brand storytelling (especially this article from The Sales Lion), and I’m inclined to agree. The movie is all in Lego form, but it isn’t an over the top “buy our product” movie. It’s a pretty genius move all around. The movie inspires adults and children alike to reconnect with that imaginative, creative part of ourselves. Legos are all about what we make of them, otherwise, they are just plastic blocks that really hurt when you step on them. Creating a movie that inspires this creation gives the customers an added affinity for the brand, and the product itself.

 

Netflix. I love this commercial because it’s a display of self-awareness on the brand’s part. It flips the whole man running after a woman about to board a plan scene, and people are able to laugh a bit at themselves- Netflix knows that we all share passwords in weird, convoluted ways (like brother’s roommate’s ex-girlfriend stuff), and that we’ll go through great lengths to get a Netflix password but not much else. In other words, it’s a relationship worth fighting for.

 

Whether you sell products or services, or work for a mom and pop store or a giant corporation, there’s always a multitude of stories you can tell. Notice in Mad Men, no one is trying to tell the story of the whole company; they show small vignettes and over time. These messages contribute to the company’s overall story.

Rather than trying to tell a big story about your company, try telling 10 small stories and look for a unifying theme. Ideas:

  • Your most interesting ‘regular’
  • A conversation you overheard in the breakroom
  • An interesting item on the boss’ desk
  • An innovative way you’ve seen a customer use your product
  • The first customer your business ever had

In telling small stories, like all the examples above, you’ll see they actually help show bigger things, like values and ideas, in a more memorable format. 

This month, we’ll be talking a lot about storytelling. If you subscribe to this blog, you’ll get our posts about it.

What’s your story? Take some inspiration from some big brands to think about yours. And here’s hoping some of these blog posts can help along the way!

The Death Of Branding

Since the beginning of this year in particular, I’ve been reading a bunch of articles about the death of brand loyalty, Forbes and The New Yorker’s recent articles in particular.

To summarize (probably overly so): people now have access to information. Gone is the ability to take out a hundred thousand dollar ad campaign in Time magazine with your logo and have millions of Americans swooning over owning that item.

Gone also are the days where it was cool to walk around with a Coach wallet covered in logos.

What, you don't want this $20 wallet covered in a brand's logo?

What, you don’t want this $20 wallet covered in a brand’s logo?

So not only do we care less about having a cool brand name literally on us (as a collective anyway) but we can also comparative shop, bid, and otherwise get what we’re paying for until our heart is content.

So is branding dead? Not really, it’s just reappeared in another form. Like a zombie.

We now care more about who we buy from than we ever did. 

To demonstrate this idea, let’s look at mattresses.

 1950s- Englander mattress’ brand name is on this ad twice… and associating itself with Goodyear, another brand.mattress-ad-1950s

2014- You can buy a locally made mattress delivered to you on a bike. Mattress Lot delivers mattresses on bike to people in the Portland Oregon area.

Ok might not be fair to compare a large brand to a local mattress store but this is our economy folks. People who own local mattress stores can do well too.

englandermattressvsmattresslotingoogletrends

A business started in 2010 to be getting half the amount of Google searches as a brand in existence for over 100 years? Not bad!

As you see in both these cases, we have a ‘brand’. In case one, it’s the manufacturer and in case 2, it’s the store selling certain kinds of products.

Consumers understand that many of our products are being manufactured in China, Bangladesh, and other countries… so we have to make that ‘human’ connection with the person selling the product now, not necessarily the manufacturer.

I bet you can think of a few ‘brands’ you and your friends still love. Maybe Converse sneakers or Subarus. But I bet your loyalty is stronger with the businesses where you buy those things now than it ever was before.

As a small business owner, I’m excited to live in a time where I don’t need to promote that I carry x and y brands but can instead run the best business I can selling the best products and services I can find. And here’s hoping you are too.

What’s Your Blogging Motivation?

When I saw the Ramit Sethi quote below, I laughed very hard and very alone in my office for about five minutes:

For 99% of people, starting a blog is a terrible way to make money. You might as well take your money, shred it, spend a year sewing it back together by hand, and then light it on fire. You will still have saved time and heartache.

I laugh because the imagery is amazing. I also laugh because it’s true… which probably is leading you to say, “Why the heck would I even blog then?”

The money you’ll make blogging, or at least the substantial amount of what you’ll make, won’t be actually on your blog but related to your blog. I’ll get into that a bit later on.bloggingmotivation

Here are three motivations for you to blog:

Motivation 1: Blog because you love to write. 

I started a blog for this very reason. You know when people ask you when you are 9 what you are going to be when you grow up? I always wanted to be a writer.

I was told by a couple ‘important’ people that I wasn’t a good enough writer to be published anywhere. So after a few frustrating attempts to charm the uncharmable in the competitive world of writing (apparently my dream is not very unique), I decided I’d start a blog back in 2007 and write. Write to practice writing, write to learn things, write to meet interesting people, write to get better at websites.

From the stats on this website, I see thousands of people are reading what I have to say. And if I would have listened to those couple important people, I wouldn’t be here today saying it.

So if you want to blog because you are tired of the gatekeepers who tell the world what’s good and not good, blogging is a great project for you. Your writing will be known and someday, you may even get paid to write on other websites.



Motivation 2: Blog because you want to get traffic to your business website.

Let’s say you want more people to come to your website. You can pay thousands of dollars a month for Google Ads, slick SEO dudes in India to do mysterious things for you, and other tactics. But honestly the best thing you can do to get traffic to a website is to have a blog.

Search engines love blogs (this graph via Hubspot):

what-factors-do-you-attribute-to-traffic-increase

People love blogs:

Bloggers love blogs for obvious reasons (I mean basketball players like to watch other people play basketball too, right?). And as someone who regularly follows about 800 blogs, I would say I’m a more ‘heavy’ blog reader than someone who doesn’t blog at all.

So what am I saying with all this? People read blogs and they drive traffic to your website, which gives you an opportunity to make money if you sell things there.



Motivation 3: Blog because you want to be seen as an expert. 

Have you ever walked around talking about how smart you are about, say, growing plants? How did that go for you? I bet if you actually did that, everyone would think you were kind of a jerkface.

Now what if you had a blog with pictures of your tomato plants being taller than your house with interesting ideas for getting rid of slugs? Now that’s much better isn’t it? It’s the antibrag: you just put awesomeness out there and let people find it.

See with a blog, people can see how and if you know your stuff. And since it’s out there working for you 24-7, the blog is introducing people to you that you have never met.

Just last night, I went to a gathering. The friend I went with said that one of the party hosts (who I had never met) has always wanted to meet me. “Like you’re famous or something.” my friend laughed.

That, my friends, is the ‘blog effect’.

Any substantial money most people will make from blogging is indirect. You’ll be hired to speak at conferences or to write for other websites. You’ll sell products on your website or throw together an ebook that people will pay to download. You’ll be seen an an authority on whatever and be hired by people to help them. Yes, it is money you make because you have a blog but not from the actual blog itself.

If you want to pull off enough advertising revenue to impress your grandparents, that will be a long hard road which you may never get to the end of. The most successful blogger I’ve ‘met’ who admitted the truth to me said they made about $11,000 a year off ad revenue from their very popular blog. A nice chunk but not much above the federal poverty line. If you are making about $100/year off your blog, you are considered in the 90th percentile. This is not to discourage you from blogging… just from blogging for this reason.

What is your motivation? If at least one of the above motivations speaks to you, give it a shot. But if you are tempted by the fruit of another motivation, you might just want to look at another way to use your time.



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