More about Corporate Identity & Branding

More about Corporate Identity & Branding

Success Stories First

Over the last 15 years or so, I've had the pleasure of working with hundreds of companies - helping with their marketing in some capacity. Many of these groups needed branding. My biggest success stories generally come from small to medium size companies, or small departments of larger corporations where their work is respected by their organization. Above are some examples of the more white collar identities I've worked on.

The first, Acheron Review, is an educational organization specializing in test preparation for the Anesthesia Exam required to become an anesthesiologist technician. I worked with the founder back in 2012 when it was being bootstrapped. Acheron translates to; river of pain", and Todd wanted that in the logo. He himself, had taken and passed the course, and claimed the work he put in was a special type of pain for him and his fellow classmates. Back then SEO made a big difference in page rankings and the work I did with my team saw Acheron Review rise in SERPs and get customers.

The next logo above is the logo. I've worked directly with this company for the past several years, and have had to earn their trust with marketing decisions every step of the way. The owner is old school and over time, we were able to prove the concept of a functioning e-commerce site that would produce modest earnings. Eventually, I went to work for them and built a new site that has become their top sales force and it remains that way till this day. Marketing initiatives included proper planning, solid web development, a full suite of graphics and videos that all aided in creating the brand's identity. The new brand was delivered via blog, video, images, announcements, print, and across social media. CUTSEW is in a niche industry and outperforms almost all of its' competitors. To get there we had to evolve a brand that was first established in 1969. After defining the two main target audiences, we found that informational content would be best. We started with graphics, like these below, and later produced instructional videos.

Since we started with the name change first, it was easy to retain old business online. Then we rolled out with whole new face. We released the long form of the logo first to soften the transition. The circle logo started out on all digital content, but now ships on all print collateral as well. So with this new logo we knew we'd have to tell the story, and we were faced with the multi-million dollar question - who are we? This question took all the best practices and a lot of time to answer.

Once I had a good idea of who we were, I began looking into various social media platforms. One that looked like it would get our message out there, one that I had never used, was YouTube. So for the first time ever, I began shooting videos, editing them, and uploading them to a YouTube channel that we created. We cross pollinated interest in our videos with posts to Facebook and Pinterest. The channel currently has nearly 6K subscribers. The website has nearly 3K email subscribers. Sales are steady and spike to break records year over year. This was no overnight matter, and there was no magic bullet.

I'm sorry, who? 

I have two of the most beautiful children in the world. Do you know what they look like? Sure, you can picture cute kids in your mind, but would you recognize them if you saw them? What if you met them once, or I showed you photos on my phone? If you saw them without me, you probably wouldn't have any clue who they were. As wonderful as they are, you won't see them and know who they are without me or their mom being present. And, honestly in today's world, that's probably a good thing. What's the point of me saying all this? Well, I'm not marketing my kids. You know they exist if you're questioned about them, but you have really no idea about my toddler doing simple subtraction and free style swimming already, or about how the baby seems to be keeping those big blue eyes and putting on pounds like he's preparing for full contact sports! They have gorgeous, angelic faces, and you have no clue about their capabilities. And that's the point I'm trying to make. A face is just a symbol. Without stories to inform your customers of your abilities, your symbol is meaningless. It's not just an icon that rings in the mind, but icons plus stories.

Failure to Plan...

Large and small companies alike are guilty of the same failing. They will contract a new logo and maybe one piece of marketing content, then fail to create an Identity. Their new logo or video might be just perfect, but without using media, nobody will ever recognize it. Nobody will miraculously know what the company does from a logo not marketed with story-telling or experience pairing. Below are a few logos I designed for companies, who regretfully did not stand the test of time. 

I'd really rather not work with a business on a new logo that doesn't have some sort of content marketing plan, or at least is willing to create one. The content marketing plan isn't where a company identity is created, but where it is captured in essence and marketed across the appropriate media channels. 

A decent sized logo project came across my desk with a MAJOR corporation. A fortune 500 technology company asked me to make a logo for a new service they were looking to launch. My contact had us put together a 90 second explainer style video, and design a new logo for the service. I think the problem eventually was that there were too many cooks in the kitchen. The whole initiative got watered down, the logo and video got lost in the shuffle. Anything I can find on the project is just garbled jargon. This seems to be the way big companies fail at creating a real brand. I've spoken with a dozen other creatives who watched a big corporate project tank the same way. The organization is overly organized, and perfectionism often times interrupts progress. I prefer to work with small to medium size companies so we can see the hard work actually pay off. 

More regularly, I'm contacted by small companies who are asking for a new logo. Technology groups, legal firms, healthcare providers, industry interrupters, sales organizations, and anyone who's looking to grow their business has found their way to me. Historically, I'd work with any company who could pay the invoice. This has turned out to be a mistake on my part. In the past, when a sales manager, or company founder has asked for a logo, I've obliged regardless of what I saw when working on their project. We will almost always see if they have failed to plan during the discovery process. When I was younger, I would just dismiss it and go on with the process, skipping the key ingredients to developing a successful visual identity. Nowadays, I'm more inclined to work with folks know how to work with their brand, or who have at least suffered a real failure already and are willing to take a new approach. I'm not riding a moral high horse here, or coming out of blind ethics. The truth is, I don't want to work on something that's going to fall flat. At this point in my career, I can pick who I want to work with. I've learned the ingredients for success, and the ingredients for failure. Failing to set goals for branding, and the subsequent plan to realize those goals, is the key to failure. These mistakes are generally made by individuals or groups whose sole focus is to check a box, or who are looking for a magic bullet. This simply does not work. And unless you've got half a million to spend on the logo alone, I choose not to be involved. $500K is my sell out number - lol.

Keys to Success 

On the other hand, organizations or individuals who come to me with stories and experiences in the que, who need a face to represent for them, have my attention immediately. Businesses start and operate in a myriad of ways. The things they all have in common however, are goods or services paid for by clients or customers. Defining these elements, and understanding how your company works with them is the first phase of discovery. In this way we begin to see stories. These stories often define a problem and how your company solves it. Or they illuminate new ways to approach client issues. And of course, they define who your customer is. Target audience consideration is crucial. Many new companies operating in the tech space will have two target audiences. New apps and software applications are often looking to connect customers with providers, or creators with consumers. In these cases, we must identify the audience on either end before we can iron out an image that will speak to them both. Also, in this way, we have two stories to tell. This also entails the work of finding the appropriate media to reach both groups. 

After the initial discovery is complete, we usually find what sets your company apart from your competition. And this is, of course, part of the story you're looking to tell. And if you haven't guessed it by this point, more research on competitors is necessary. Although many folks know who they are going up against in a market, they aren't always familiar with digital market trends and how new players are leveraging the trends to their advantage. This is another place where I can really help. Using specialized web analysis tools and good old fashioned searching the web, I can usually identify key competitors that a sales manager has never heard of. In some cases, the unidentified company may be taking the lion's share in the market space. Once this element is illuminated, we can differentiate from them in the eyes of your potential customers and convey how your different approach is more suited to their needs. 

Wrap Up

I was taught in school that corporations spend from 10-20% of the annual operating budget on marketing. While this is true of larger, and generally more established firms, this is not the case with small, medium, and newer companies. Folks that have been in business less than a decade, or really old companies who stayed small usually balk at these figures as well. That's fine. I'm used to that. However, from my experience, I've found that without a real commitment to marketing, there's not much point to just creating a logo. If you're willing to hire an agency, or individual such as myself, and develop a plan and stick to it, I'd say you're on your way.


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