Staying Power

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Staying-PowerA logo is arguably the most critical marketing component for any company. It is defined as a symbol or other design adopted by an organization to identify its brand, products, vehicles, etc. It is used on storefronts and websites, letterhead and business cards, and on advertisements of all kinds. A logo is a tool to generate favorable thoughts about a product or service. And the best logos have been proven to stand the test of time.

Think about some of the most recognizable brands of all times. Coca-Cola, Apple, Chevrolet, CNN, 7-Eleven… the list goes on. These brands, and many more like them, may not always be well-received by the public, but their logos certainly have staying power. Their corporate identities are known nationally and in many cases, internationally, within or without the context of an advertisement. They “live” on their own.

LogosIt’s said that the very first logo ever developed was for the Dutch East India Trading Company – VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie). Established in 1602, the VOC is often considered to have been the first multinational corporation in the world.

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However, long before the VOC brand was established came, in my opinion, the most iconic and influential logo of all time. A logo that has endured for thousands of years and is arguably the most recognized throughout the world. It’s the logo that represents the brand of Christianity – the Christian Cross.

CrossNo – this isn’t a religious post but merely an observation about a logo standing the test of time. A symbol, that came into use at least as early as the second century. I’m Catholic, and while navigating my way through Lent, I began to think about just how incredibly long the brand of Christianity has been around. Christianity is not the oldest religion, I’m well aware of that. And it’s not the only religion with symbols, icons or logos. For example, there is the Islamic Crescent and Star, the Jewish Star of David, the Hindu Om, the Buddhist Dharmacakra, and more.

However, strictly speaking from a brand awareness standpoint, I’d argue that the most recognizable logo of all time is the Cross. Like many brands (and religions), Christianity has gone through bright days, dark days, successes and failures. But for a brand that is thousands of years old, and is immediately identified by the sight of a simple cross-like image, it certainly takes the crown as the brand identity with the most staying power.

Times have changed since the early days of Christianity, and even the beginning days of the VOC. Nowadays, whether you are doing a search online, using an app on your phone, or simply out and about in the city, you are constantly bombarded with brands. I enjoy that. Brands are a critical part of every consumer’s purchasing decisions, from the cereal they eat to the car they own, and everything in between. Your logo, while it may not drive a customer to initially purchase a product, is the simplest way to identify your company. The more recognizable your logo and the more it’s seen in the marketplace, the more likely it will encourage product trial. So, make sure you have taken the time to build a logo that best represents your brand promise, is memorable, and will stand the test of time.

Contact Loaded Creative to help you build a logo with staying power.

Mark

By Mark Dello Stritto
President and Creative Director, Loaded Creative

What is your value proposition?

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What do your customers think of you?If you are like me, you either buy or research most of your products and services online. And, if you are like me you realize that there are way too many companies that don’t properly explain what their product or service does, and why you should buy it. There are a lot of articles on this topic, so why are there so many companies out there without a value proposition? Maybe we need a refresher.

Wikipedia says, “A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered and a belief from the customer that value will be experienced.”

If you can’t state your value proposition, why are you in business? Why should anyone buy from you over the guy down the street? What sets you or your product apart from the competition?

Value propositions are important for every size business and should be the core component to your sales and marketing message. Creating a value proposition is simply boiling down your entire sales pitch into a clean message that immediately relates to your customer and compels them to make a purchase with your company. Sounds easy, right? Maybe not, but here are some tips to help you create a meaningful value proposition.

Understand your customers. Talk to them regularly. This proposition needs to resonate with the people who are ultimately going to purchase your product. It needs to speak to them, at their level, in their language. Both during the planning process and once you have your proposition complete, make sure to continually touch base with customers to confirm that what you think is setting you apart is actually the reason they are buying from you.

Understand your competitors. What is their message? Why are you better? You need to make sure your proposition is unlike any other in your market. You also need to understand that in this digital world, customers have access to more information than ever before. They are definitely comparing your product or service to the guy down the street. Make sure when they get to your site, they immediately understand why you are the one they should choose.

Connect to people on an emotional level. How does your product or service make them feel? How is it going to make their life better? How is their life going to be affected if they are not using your product or service? You really want your statement to answer the age-old question, ‘what’s in it for me?’ Emotion is what drives people to make decisions. Use this to your advantage.

Make it Clear, Simple and Effective. If I come across a brand that either loses me in its explanation or has an explanation that is so long, I can’t bear to get through it, I will immediately pass it by. Your message needs to be as easy to understand as possible. It literally should hit the customer over the head so they say, “Wow, I need this product.”

Some of my favorite examples of companies with solid value propositions:

iTunes

iTunesSkype

SkypeEvernote

EvernotePinterest

PinterestEach of these are clear, simple and effective.

Once you come up with ideas, run them by your employees and customers. You may need to go back to the drawing board a few times, but it is important to get it right.

When you finally have a solid message, repeat it over and over again in all of your marketing. Shout it from the rooftops. Commit to it. Then get your customers to yell it out. It is the reason you are in business, and the reason you will either succeed or fail…so make it awesome!

What other factors do you feel are important in creating a solid value proposition? What companies do you feel have a strong one?

Contact Loaded Creative to help you make a value proposition that is awesome.  http://www.loaded-creative.com/contact.php

ErinBy Erin Lewis
Digital Marketing Strategist, Loaded Creative

Reigniting the Spark in Your Brand

Has your brand lost its spark? Are sales down and you don’t know why? Have you pulled back on marketing activities to save money and are seeing the effects of a decreased brand presence and a decrease in customer loyalty?

Reignite_Spari

Maybe it is time to reignite the spark and to give your brand the attention it deserves to set you apart from the rest. Here are 5 ways to start the creative process to infuse life into your brand and generate excitement.

1) Make the old new again. Go back to why you started your business in the first place. Review old notes, documents, and emails. What problem were you trying to solve? Who was the audience you were targeting your product or service to? Make a list of how the business has evolved and what attributes have remained the same. Try and rekindle the excitement you first had when building your brand.

2) Shadow employees. You learn a lot about your company when you take the time to shadow employees. How are they representing your brand? What are they doing or saying that you want to use as you redefine the brand? What are they doing or saying that may be hurting your brand? Your employees are as important to building your brand as the marketing and advertising you spend time and money on creating. Use the positives to your advantage and take the time to fix the negatives. Make sure the core of your brand is present in every employee and in every conversation with customers.

3) Interview customers. We all know that the customer is king. Some customers are loyal to your brand, some buy out of convenience or necessity. Have you taken the time to understand why your customers make the decision to purchase from you over their competitors? What excites them about your brand? It may be what you intended or may be something entirely different that you can capitalize on. What can you do better? Without your customers, you would have no business, so taking the time to understand them and how you are solving their problems of meeting their needs is crucial for a successful brand.

4) Get away from the office. You have gained insights from employees and customers, now it is time to digest the information and take the time to look at your company from a different perspective. Getting offsite with your team for a creative session can help you break through the wall that is built around your current brand, and learn to look at your brand from a new angle. Do something fun or silly. Plan activities that have nothing to do with your brand to get employees thinking creatively. Document everything and remember that no idea is a bad idea. Come back together a week later and review the information. You will be surprised at the ideas your team will come up with.

5) Find a creative partner that understands your brand. Agencies are filled with creative minds that are trained to take ideas to the next level. They eat, sleep, and breathe brands. Find a partner you trust, one who really gets your brand. Share your thoughts and ideas and let them unleash their creativity and reignite the spark or create a new spark that sets your brand apart.

Most importantly, when reviewing and deciding to make changes, make sure you show your value, tell the truth, and create a story that your target audience will understand.

For more information about branding or to find a partner, visit http://www.weareloaded.com

5 Creative Ways to Use Social Media to Build Referrals

We’ve all been there. That moment when you need to…  find a new place to service your car; connect with a reliable travel agent to build your dream vacation; or simply need a suggestion for a great restaurant in a new city. In this digital age, the majority of consumers will refer to the Internet for support. But with so much information out there, how do shoppers sift through it and find a place that is going to meet their needs?  Enter the referral.

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Customer referrals are one of the most cost effective ways to grow your business.  While most organizations agree that referrals are important, and many site them as their greatest source for new business, the majority do not have a program in place to help facilitate this process.

With the rise of social media in marketing, we have an incredible platform for allowing customers to share honest feedback about our products and services. One of the greatest features of social media for companies is that you are essentially building a network of prospects and customers, you are able to start conversations between them, and they can share information with one another. Even though they may not know each other, they are connected through one or many common interests, which make them more likely to value each other’s feedback and opinions.

So, how do you do it?

  1.  Ask for referrals in your thank you communications. Most companies send a thank you communication to customers after making a purchase of a product or service (If you don’t, you should). This is a great opportunity to simply ask for a referral.

“Did you have a great experience with our company? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.”

Sometimes, just asking will yield the results you are looking for.

  1. Encourage check-ins. When someone checks in at your place of business on Foursquare or Facebook, everyone in their network is alerted. While an indirect referral, if a friend of yours has checked in at a local spot, you are more likely to recall that place of business and try it out yourself. And, by the way, check-ins are good for search engine optimization too!
  1. Create a video contest. Ask customers to send you short video testimonials about what they love about your product or service, and give prizes to the most creative, most genuine, etc. You not only gain invaluable insights about your organization, but you now have an arsenal of referrals to use in your online marketing, and the personal touch of seeing and hearing someone on a video makes the referral even more impactful.
  1. Implement a photo sharing initiative. Encourage customers to share photos of creative ways to use your products, or a where in the world is ‘your product or logo’. This is a fun way to engage those who are currently using your products or support your brand and share that excitement in the social community.
  1. Cross-promote with a complementary business. You have built your own social network, now you need to expand the reach of your referrals through cross promotion. Find a company with products or services that complement yours and plan to share experiences and opinions about each other on your social networks.  This gives greater exposure of your business to a larger audience, and comes from a trusted source. It is a win-win for both organizations.

However you decide to incorporate referrals in your social media marketing, make sure to thank customers for providing feedback on your organization. Whether it be a simple email, telephone call, or a shout out on their post, it is important to recognize your customers for taking the time to share their thoughts.

How much of your new business comes from referrals? How are you using referrals in your online marketing?

Contact us if you need help building your own social media referral plan – http://www.weareloaded.com

Cutting Corners That Hurt Your Advertising

Money

Research & Discovery

Typically Research & Discovery is a cost accrued when working with an outsourced ad agency. In order for the agency to best develop branding ideas, identity, new marketing collateral or advertising initiatives, a Research & Discovery phase is very helpful to ensure their full knowledge of your company’s audience, market and industry. The Research & Discovery process may seem like a reasonable place to cut costs, but doing so will lessen the opportunity to create better products down the road.

Copywriting

There are a pile of reasons why we know you shouldn’t attempt to write your company’s next ad or website copy unless you fit most of these characteristics.

Talent

Using Aunt Susie for your next TV spot sounds like a good idea for the price. Or maybe she’d like the spotlight. But can she effectively sell your product or service like you need her to? You don’t have to hire top-notch talent to get a stellar performance. You can find affordable actors who will provide a much more compelling presence than any non trained actor will ever be able to. And here are just a few reasons why.

Production 

The local Radio/TV station, Website or Print Publication has agreed to produce your spot or design your ad for FREE. Not a bad deal right? This could be the biggest mistake you ever make. The quality of work and attention to detail you receive from paying the additional costs of creative communications professionals to design and develop your advertising is far worth the benefit. The ad can be made for you for free, but what it can cost you is sales and loss of your advertising dollar you just spent. Media companies are great for selling and organizing your ad campaigns but are not the best for developing your ads, scripts, or campaigns.

What do you think? Where have you cut costs? Do you think it has helped or hurt your business? 

Learn more about us here: http://weareloaded.com

4 Tips for Getting Your Message Across Through Your Website to Increase Sales

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Branding

Take a look at your brand. Your message. All the things you currently use to communicate your value to your customer. Assess the message you are currently putting out in the marketplace and make sure your website is completely aligned with your corporate identity. Branding creates the thoughts, feelings, images, attitudes and beliefs that customers associate with your  company. And branding your website is done successfully by doing the following well: 

Design

What are your company colors? Your Logo? Your personality? You have the ability to truly translate your company’s voice and the product or service you offer through the design of your site. The look and feel of the site, achieved through design, establishes your brand. 

Navigation

Make sure all of the information on your site is organized properly and quick and easy for the user to find. Make it very easy for the user to find everything they need to know about you. If they get confused or frustrated, they will click away. 

Copywriting 

Use Google Keyword Planner to create a list of the most searched industry-related keywords users use to search for the products and services your company offers. Weave these words naturally through the content of your site. This way your site will rank higher in search engines, using words your customers identify with most. Also, when writing the copy of your site, be mindful of the questions you can answer for your customers. Be aware of the problems your customers have and the way your company solves these problems. Address these concerns in your copywriting. This way your content directly answers the questions your customers are searching the internet to answer. 

 

 

Learn more about us here: http://weareloaded.com 

Advantages of Different Types of Advertising

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Successful Ad Campaigns are strategic. Understanding who you are trying to reach and the best places to reach them is most important for deciding how and where to advertise. There are a number of variables that contribute to creating a successful ad campaign but here we will focus on different forms of media to use and some advantages for each.

Advertise in the Right Places

All media outlets are quick to say that they are the best. That they have the greatest reach. With all media outlets telling you they are #1, who do you pick?? Your favorite magazine, newspaper or radio station might not be a favorite of your audience. Determine what your target audiences read, watch, and listen to. Your customers’ locations, age ranges, income and interests will tell you what media reach them best. Request media kits from the companies you are considering purchasing from to research the size and demographics of their audiences.

Running an Integrated Ad Campaign

Some businesses try running a radio ad first. They may see little to no results. So then they try a print ad. Then when that doesn’t work, online. The mistake? They are only using one media outlet at a time and hoping to see a change. In advertising, it often takes multiple touch points simultaneously to influence consumers’ purchasing decisions.

To see the best results, we suggest you maximize your advertising dollars by using several media outlets at the same time. This will increase exposure to your audience and higher rates of exposure build recognition and credibility. A typical ad campaign should run for 2-3 months. Then, hold the campaign for a few months before beginning again.

Choosing the Right Media

The best forms of media to use highly depend on where you can reach your target audience. But here are some variables to consider when using the following advertising methods.

Print Ads

  • Credibility of Publication: Advertising in credible print publications can build trust with its readers and your brand.
  • Longer Exposure Time: People spend more time reading a print publication on average than they do skimming through websites. Therefore your ad may have a longer exposure time to this audience.

Radio

  • Sells with Immediacy: Radio ads are great as a supplemental advertisement strategy to promote Call-to-Action.
  • Great for Sponsorship Opportunities: Listeners often have personal connections with DJs that they listen to often. If so and so DJ is adding his/her personality to promoting your business? They sure can influence their following to like you.

TV 

  • Visually Appealing: TV Commercials have the potential to be attention grabbing, visually captivating and entertaining. Doing them well is expensive but they sure can be effective if done right.
  • Great for Telling Your Story: Like film, TV spots have the ability to tell a story and engage its audience for 30-60 seconds. TV commercials are a creative way to soft sell your product or business through story telling.

Outdoor

  • Big and Bold: The size of billboards enables the opportunity to design a powerful, bold message.
  • Geographically Specific: Billboards have an ability to be noticed at a time and place where a customer is ready to buy. This is especially true for retail stores, tourist attractions, restaurants, etc. that are nearby the billboard’s location.

Online

  • Trackable: You can track the sources and successes of your online ad campaign through analytics.
  • Harder to Skip Over: Although there is ad blocking software, it is still easier to skip through and avoid TV and Radio spots than it is to avoid online ads.
  • Great for Social Media: You can reach your audience where they are spending a large portion of their personal time.

What forms of advertising have worked for you? Which have not been so successful and why do you think that is?

Learn more about us here: http://weareloaded.com