Beige Is Boring: Be Bold With Your Brand

Being polarizing isn’t a bad thing – it’s necessary. One of the most common sayings in the KW2 halls is that if you’re designing a campaign, a website or a social channel to talk to everybody, you’re really talking to no one. Look around the marketplace at some of the most sought-after brands, you can glance at their logo, their TV spots and their website, and know exactly who they are for and if you’re their intended target audience.

Humans are hardwired to categorize everything. In an effort to understand the world, it’s necessary for humans to put everything in buckets and map things into what are called “semantic neighborhoods.” People’s brains will compare two like items (Citibank versus Bank of America) in the same neighborhood; this extends to how we view ourselves. The most surefire way to give consumers an affinity towards your brand before purchase is to enable them to park themselves in the same semantic neighborhood as your brand. The consumer needs to see herself in your brand and to do that your brand needs a strong identity.

How does this work in the real world? The “most inclusive” global event is happening this summer and its lackluster logo is a prime example of how designing for everyone fails. The 2016 Rio Olympics logo is a dated and watered-down version of the “contagious energy” and “exuberant nature” of the Carioca* soul it claims to represent. The worst part is, it’s not alone. Olympic logos have a grand tradition of being a snoozefest. The only recent exception was 2012’s London Olympics logo. Like it or not – it’s memorable and was polarizing.


Whether or not their brand identity speaks to you, a great example of polarizing branding is Sports Clips. Sports Clips is unabashedly “Haircuts for Men.” It’s not enough to feature sports channels on multiple screens at the barber and have a website that shouts “It’s good to be a guy!” It’s necessary for them to exclude women in their advertising – thus ensuring macho men can get their “mini Man Break” with likeminded individuals. Whether or not you agree with the stance, it’s a strong brand that allows the company’s target audience identify with Sports Clips. And it’s working; they’ve been alive, well and franchising since 1995.

Southwest Airlines is another polarizing brand. Their drive to be THE low-cost airline requires them to attract people who don’t take themselves too seriously – both as customers and as employees. Southwest’s refusal to assign seats, their practice of assigning boarding order based on when you checked in for your flight, and their free-baggage check combine to ensure that they’re attracting laidback travelers and keeping them that way. The airline also encourages flight attendants to go “off script” for safety announcements and terminal crew members to play basketball in their down time. This does not attract the elite traveler, but does resonate with folks who want to get where they’re going with as few frills and headaches as possible.

If you close your eyes and think of a modern successful brand, you’ll most likely begin to visualize specific color sets, products and attitudes associated with that brand. This isn’t an accident. In order to have a target audience that parks itself in the same semantic neighborhood as your brand, you need to take a stance. Beige is forgettable. Be bold with your brand.


Illustration of quote bubbles on a computer screen

Shut up and talk to me: 4 steps to finding the sweet spot between your business goals and what website visitors want

Do you find yourself buried in analytics, data, ROI numbers and so many stats that it would make John Nash’s head spin? If so, let’s make sure we don’t forget the one person that tends to get overlooked in all those numbers: the visitors to your website. The customer behind the click. The human being that bounces off your site and, guess what?,  Analytics data doesn’t tell you why. As singer Guy Clark tells us in his not-so-hit song, ‘I’m not that hard to please, shut up and talk to me’.

It’s actually quite easy to reach your website users and let them tell you what’s most important about your site. Maybe more importantly, what really annoys them about a visit to the site. How?

Define the business goals of your website.
Why does your website exist? Sounds like a ridiculous question, right? Make sure you understand the business goals your website is meant to serve. Bringing warm leads to Sales? Increasing the number of customers buying a certain product? Retaining repeat customers?
This is critical to understanding what role the site plays in running your business. When you’ve got a handle on the true business purpose of the site, reach out to real users to determine what they most use it for.

Create an online survey.
Write down a user task list of all the different things users could accomplish on your website. This is really important. Yes, it will be long. That’s OK. There are a heckuva lot of things a user could possibly need from your website. Write them all down. Organize them by broad topic areas and put them in a survey tool such as Survey Monkey. It should only take about 7-8 questions in the survey to get a great deal of actionable feedback from real users of your site. Hopefully, you’ve got a way you can reach those users. You could tap into your CRM or just gather some of your users the old-fashioned way by reaching out to them and asking if they’ll take part in a quick survey to help improve your website. Most of them will appreciate that you’re asking their opinion on the topic.

Get input from users.
Ask your users to select the top 5 tasks they generally need to accomplish when visiting your site. If you can get a decent number of respondents (greater than 50), you’d be surprised how closely aligned many of the users will be on those top 5 tasks. As a bonus, we’ve found that users almost always provide some great insight through the one free-form question we put in the survey. Be forewarned, they’ll be brutally honest with you about the site’s shortcomings. It comes with the territory.

Align user tasks with business goals.
Here’s the fun part. Pull out those business goals we discussed earlier. Compare the user responses to the defined business goals of your site. Literally layer them on top of each other in a visual way. Sometimes, we just use the ol’ reliable Post-It Note to do this. That sweet spot on the Venn diagram is where the content on your site will benefit both your users and your business goals. The insights gained through this process usually lead to new content ideas, website structure and possibly new products and services.

We’ve made this simple approach work for every type of business model and website you can think of.

So, the next time you’re buried up to your knees in Google Analytics and none of it is actually helping you make actionable decisions about what content on your site to devote more time and energy to, just take Guy’s advice again…

You can rattle on about
Why, who, what
A little conversation
Wouldn’t hurt that much…

Shut up and talk to me.

And because we don’t want to be that rude… say please.
View Tim Christian on LinkedIn



The 3 Things You Need to Know Before Planning Your Marketing Campaign

One of the most important things a company can do prior to planning a marketing campaign is solidifying the campaign’s goal. Campaign planning can’t be a shot in the dark, and having measurable goals makes your future campaigns smarter and more effective. I’ve identified a few key components of the goal-setting and measurement process, which are a perfect starting point for your campaign planning:

Know What Type of Goal You Really Need. Sometimes the goal isn’t – or shouldn’t be – buy, buy, buy. The business need of your goal type will largely be influenced by: the product (does it have a long or short purchase cycle? What is the price point?), the target’s relationship with the product (do they have zero awareness of your product? Are they familiar with your product but not using it? Why?), and the company’s share within the market (is your target buying your competitor’s product, but not your product? Is your product totally new to market?). All of these questions and more will influence the type of goal to set. The following are just a few examples of marketing goal types:

  •       Generate awareness
  •       Change perceptions
  •       Encourage trial
  •       Increase sales
  •       Encourage repeat purchase/keep current customers from leaving
  •       Grow your market share
  •       Grow your product’s category

    Be SMART.
    If you squint really hard and think all the way back to grade school, you may remember setting “SMART” goals. But hey, this framework isn’t as basic as you think – MIT uses the SMART format for employee performance development, and marketing software company HubSpot has recommended using it for marketing goal-setting. Because goal-setting can be like navigating muddy waters, using this framework can help you get a clearer picture. Goals should be:

    Specific – The goal should be clearly-written and explicit. Put it through an approval process with people that both work on the project, and those that don’t.

    Measurable – Make sure goals are quantifiable and there is a measurement plan in place. Tracking ROI on previous campaigns can help with both budgeting and setting intelligent goals for new campaigns.

    Attainable – Ensure you’re setting the campaign up for success by allowing adequate time upfront to strategize and plan. In addition, know what internal tools and research are available to help make smarter decisions (for example, is there a database of current customer data you can draw from and model?

    Realistic – No amount of money in the world will get Nike 100 percent market share for athletic shoes, and it may take a lot of money to get them just a 2 percent increase. Examine outside factors that might affect the campaign when setting goals.

    Time-Bound – Limit goals to a certain time frame that is limited but realistic.

    Know What To Measure, and How To Measure It.
    This may be a big giant “duh,” but for each goal type, you’ll want to measure different things. Campaigns with increased-awareness goals may want to utilize a brand metric study, or track increases in branded organic search volume. Utilizing an analytics tracking platform can help measure interest and sales, and provide other valuable information related to the campaign (knowing half your sales come from Chicago will likely influence future planning).

Using these three steps to set clear, intelligent goals before planning a marketing campaign can help you get results, save money and grow your business. If you need help with your goals, we know some pretty great marketers who’d be happy to help – give us a call at 608-232-2300.



Five Rules for Great Logos

If there’s one thing that I love more than anything in my advertising job, it’s being with a logo at birth. Just the other day, we presented logos to a client after intensive planning. Long nights of strategizing, messaging discussions and brainstorming names. At long last, we could put a face to the brand. Choosing the right logo is a critical decision, so here are five criteria and examples to help:

  1. A great logo is DISTINCTIVE. Not only does this mean that it is different from other logos in the market, but that it communicates an idea. The Mercedes logo is rich in history, with a three-point symbol indicating triumph over land, sea and air.  It’s a unique and specific story for the brand that leaves you with a feeling of prestige, longevity and trust.
  2. car_logo_PNG1655A great logo is RELEVANT. With the hard work that goes into understanding your target audience, being on brand and audience appropriate is a no-brainer. Disney’s eloquent mark is on cue with targeting families, representing the right mix of fantasy and fun. Interestingly, people think the logo is Walt Disney’s signature. Fans were often disappointed after receiving his autograph and realizing they did not match up.
  3. ht_disney_a_nt_120930_wmainA great logo is TIMELESS. Avoid choosing trendy colors or shapes. It should be as relevant 50 years ago as it is today and 50 years from now. Steve Jobs picked an apple and decided to include a bite to represent scale – so it wasn’t mistaken for a cherry. The simple mark has endured several iterations, and stands the test of time as the perfect example of a timeless symbol.
  4. downloadA great logo is VERSATILE. It should work across all media in different sizes, color or black and white. The Nike swoosh is on everything from shoes to packaging, clothing and electronics. Developed in 1971, Nike paid the designer $35 for her work. Although Phil Knight did not love the logo at first, there is nothing about it that limits where it can be.galleryimage-1637656680-feb-4-2012-600x378
  5. A great logo is SIMPLE. It works quickly and singularly. You get the idea with a second’s glance. What makes the McDonald’s logo one of the most recognized logos in the world? Its singular color and shape. Inspired by the fast food chain’s building design, the logo lives on restaurants in 119 countries, across 35,000 outlets, serving 68 million customers daily.

The great Michael Bierut, a graphic designerknownfor his logo work, said: “Be purposeful and thoughtful in the choices you make when the options are nearly infinite.” No matter how large or small your business, the logo you decide on will be around for the long haul. Putting it against the five criteria above can ensure that your logo is not just good, it’s great.




Let Your Culture be a Virus: Building a contagious workplace.

We all know that feeling this time of year. Headache, runny nose, cough, maybe stomach trouble? You have a virus. Being ill sticks with you all day long.

Here’s the thing. . .if you have a great workplace culture, it’s sorta like having a virus. But, in a much more positive way. Here’s how:

When I started my career at Leo Burnett Chicago, I was given a BIG pencil (because big ideas come from big pencils). Everything that came to me as a new hire was bundled up in clean white presentation folders with the infamous red apple and Leo’s signature. It created a sense of “wow” and wonderment for what I belonged to. At GSD&M in Austin, TX, palm trees were flown in to adorn the front yard, company values were engraved on the atrium floor and a the smell of breakfast tacos filled the building once a week.

It’s these amazing things, no matter how big or small that define a positive culture. These days, I soak up the Lake Monona scenery on my commute to KW2. I arrive to “Good Mornings” from anyone within earshot. I find my common cup (personalized mugs made for everyone at the company) and add my fuel of choice while catching up with colleagues in the kitchen. Positive cultures are contagious. They become part of who you are. You come to work not because you have to, but because you want to. You are a happier person, and happier people do better work.

So, what can you do turn your culture into a virus? Perhaps you can suggest one or two different ideas to management. Wouldn’t it be great, if everyone’s screen saver had our values on it? Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had matching umbrellas? It only takes one little germ to catch a virus.