Small Business – Big Brand

I love speaking to small business owners and entrepreneurs about the importance of branding to the growth and success of their companies. At a recent presentation, I realized that the examples I was using to illustrate this point were, for the most part, large, well-known brands. And while those big brands are useful in illustrating one point or another, it’s important to remember that branding is at least as important for the Davids as it is for the Goliaths.

A recent article from Entrepreneur magazine guest columnist Arpist Sinha effectively drives that point home.

“There is widespread ambivalence about the relevance of branding, especially among startups and small businesses looking to find their feet in an innately hostile environment,” Sinha says. “For the most part, small businesses remain blinded by the erroneous assumption that brands exclusively signify the ‘bigger’ fish in the pond.

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Look Before You Leap

Whenever a new or existing client comes to us wanting to redesign their company’s logo, we always stop and ask a few very pertinent questions. First of all, why are you considering altering your logo? What motivated you to make this change? And finally and most importantly, are you subconsciously blaming your logo for deeper, less visible defects within your company?

Like the car lover who buys a vintage Mustang and immediately heads to the body shop for that candy apple red paint job without ever checking under the hood, you may be making cosmetic changes while ignoring problems that are festering just beneath the surface.

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Clarity By Design Award #4!

I was a student studying the Pop Art movement when Ellsworth Kelly first came to my attention. Back in the 1960s, Pop Art challenged traditional ways of creating and enjoying art. The stark simplicity of the movement had people openly doubting if this was “really art.” From Jackson Pollock’s chaotic canvases, which often inspired the response, “My kindergartner could have done that,” to Roy Lichtenstein’s huge renderings of comic book images, to Andy Warhol’s soup cans, it was a wildly creative time. I loved it, and I especially admired Ellsworth Kelly’s studies of color. His art focused exclusively on pure form and primary colors, with a refreshing emphasis of white space.

“I have worked to free shape from its ground, and then to work the shape so that it has a definite relationship to the space around it; so that it has a clarity and a measure within itself of its parts (angles, curves, edges and mass),” Kelly said. “With color and tonality, the shape finds its own space and always demands its freedom and separateness.”

Kelly died in 2015, so he didn’t live to see the completion of “Austin,” his final project. Opened in February of this year, “Austin” is a small, non-denominational chapel built at the University of Texas’s Blanton Museum of Art.

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The Perils Of Brand Fatigue

Effective branding is all about relationships. I was reminded of this fact recently as we started getting ready to move. Visiting one of our favorite stores, we spent some money on things we’d be needing for the new place. We chose this particular retailer for the styles they feature and for their not-so-crazy prices. Overall we were pretty happy with how everything works in our new rooms.

Then it began. Not weekly, not daily, but close-to-hourly messages from that same store. On Facebook, via email, and popping up on pretty much any site we might happen to visit. Many of these intrusive ads were for the very item we’d just bought.

Slowly but surely, my affection for this particular retailer began to sour. I might consider coming back if you would just leave me alone for a few minutes. To add insult to injury, one of the bigger purchases we made showed up on my feed two weeks later on sale. Now I know. If I’d waited a couple of weeks, I would have saved hundreds of dollars. This is not the kind of message that garners affection and loyalty.

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Easy? No. Simple? Yes.

We live in an information-saturated world where the need, the yearning, for simplicity is greater than ever. In communication, in marketing, in just making it through the day, we want to cut through the clutter and get down to what matters. Simplicity isn’t necessarily simple to achieve, but it’s always worth the effort.

As a business focused on “clarity by design,” we’ve always operated an Apple-based shop. Between desktop computers, laptops, our iPhones, and an iPad we’re just about as Mac-centric as we can be. And for us, that makes sense, because, from the user’s point of view, the products that Steve Jobs envisioned and produced are all about stripped-down, streamlined simplicity.

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity,” Jobs said. “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

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