The Importance of Planning Ahead…

…with event season coming up time to plan exhibition graphics and ‘giveaways.’

I know, you’ve just dragged the Christmas tree down from the attic (unless it’s a real one, of course), and carefully arranged all your twinkling lights – but believe me, you need to keep the exhibition season still sizzling away in your mind.

Why? Because ideally, you should be planning your exhibition a few months before it happens. “Seems a bit much!” I hear you cry. Well, let me explain:

Like anything in life, the more you ‘put in’, the more you ‘get out’. Yes, it’s a bit of a cliché, but you know what, it’s true!

Firstly, start to think about setting yourself a realistic goal, or objective, for the exhibition. It could be, for instance, raising brand awareness or finding new leads. You can do that one sitting on the sofa after your Christmas lunch.

Don’t give yourself too many goals, as you should measure them during and after the exhibition, to see how successful the event has been, and whether it was worth the amount of money you invested in it. It is easier to do when the objectives are ‘small steps’, as they will give you a clearer picture, and something you can build on.

Next, you need to be contacting existing customers and potential prospects, whether that’s by email, phone, social media, or direct mailing, and so on. Do all of the platforms you use (and your letterheads, etc.) carry a consistent logo, colour schemes and fonts? What are you going to send them? Aha! You need flyers or brochures…and you may as well have more designed and printed ready for the exhibition stand, as you will need lots of them!

Now, you’re starting to plan ahead, aren’t you?

Your design for the stand will also need to be consistent with your company branding – note to self: all branding needs to be absolutely ‘correct’.

First things first – how much is your budget? How much do you ‘want’ to spend?

There are many types of stands out there, from pop-ups & pull-up banners to bespoke stands, choose something that suits your company vision, values and ethos, as well as your budget.

Make it as eye-catching as you can to ensure you stand out from your competitors.

We once had people queuing to get on a client’s stand that we had designed, it didn’t cost them a fortune either. Ask yourself: what would make a potential client stop and talk to me?

So, while you’re munching another mince pie this Christmas, planning ahead may sound like a huge undertaking, but it’s more than worth doing as your exhibition will run like a dream.

So for a laugh, I paid a branding consultancy £12k…

Last night my husband brought to my attention the Steve Coogan audio book, Alan Partridge: Nomad.

In it, Alan describes the new logo he has designed with his branding agency.

It is quite frankly, the funniest thing I have heard in ages.

Well, they do say that there is nothing funnier than the truth, and although I haven’t had clients quite as prescriptive as Alan Partridge, I have had some that really should leave the designing to the designer and walk away.

Have a listen. Then imagine if you were being orchestrated by a client like that. Be kinder to designers.

Listen here:

Thank you Steve Coogan, you are amazing!!

New Year: a fresh perspective

I’m thinking of refreshing my logo. It’s been awhile, and with the change in my business, I think it is a good idea. Designing for myself, however, is a total nightmare. I’m a tricky customer to design for. It won’t happen anytime soon.

I often have clients come to me who are apologetic during the design stage of a logo. They hate to inconvenience me should a logo go through one or two rounds of development. It always makes me smile.

It is rare that a logo is created perfectly in the first draft*. Extremely rare. I often think the development phase is something we need, client and designer. The logo grows with us and, at the end, it should always be a something we both wanted.

This is why I HATE crowd designed logos, or ‘off the shelf’ logos. They sort of fill an initial hole but they will, like most cheap sugary things, leave you needing something more substantial.

So now comes the thorny question of cost. I recently had someone say that I was considered ‘too expensive’ because my designs were better than the ‘cheaper alternative’. I was never asked for a quote.

Wow, so I was too expensive because I was too good. I am, in fact, cheaper. I have no idea what the cheaper person was charging, but experience tells me that cheap means it will need doing again sooner. Lack of experience in design (cheap) can often lead to inconsistencies across a brand and a slap-dash approach.

A logo, in my opinion, shouldn’t be something that is redesigned every couple of years. How on earth can you gain any visual brand recognition if you do this?

So, if you are reading this and you have rejected a designer on looks alone as being too expensive, please please take the time to have a chat.

Don’t shop for design on price alone. You will just be wasting your money.

 

*This has happened to me. It was fabulous. I had a fantastic brief, and a great client team to work with. Kismet.

Goodbye 2016

So, 2016 is almost at an end, the studio shuts for Christmas next Tuesday anyhow.

It’s been a turbulent year, from Bowie dying (heartbroken), to the whole Brexit and Trump debacle.

This year, I had a few things I wanted to achieve in my business:

  1. Find some new networking groups
  2. Form a partnership with a web developer
  3. Decide how I’m going to move forward

Item 1 was soon achieved. I need to network, it is a great way to find work, and get me out of the studio and meet people. I found a BNI group in Derby that had the Graphic Design seat free, so I snapped that up. BNI has been great for me in the past, a great place to get referred work (the best type for me) and a great place to find new colleagues to partner with.

I loved the Derby group straightaway, we are in a great venue – the Velodrome, and it is mid-morning. This suits me, at the moment.

Item 2 on the list soon followed item 1. I had been starting to talk to VOX Digital about working together, so when I joined BNI and saw the Web seat was free I invited them. They are now too a member, and we try and work together as often as we can.

Item 3 is a lot trickier. With the help of my coach (agencyignite.co.uk – also a BNI member in Hertford), I have decided to be more transparent about what I do. I am NOT an agency, and after some thought I have decided I don’t want to do that. I love collaborating with lots of different creative people and don’t want to employ them.

Next year, I want to do some more smaller creative projects and, also throw myself into larger reports and presentations – which I really enjoy doing. These will hopefully allow me to get involved in some larger brand identity projects and audits (dream).

I hope 2016 has been kind to you too, and I wish you a prosperous 2017.

Using design to help sell a business

Recently it has struck me how many of my successful clients have sold their businesses 3-5 years after a full re-brand.

Goes to show how important a comprehensive brand identity can really bolster a business. I’m not going to claim that it is the be-all-and-end-all, the thing that sells a business, but it definitely has an impact. The hard work obviously comes from the team within the business, the strategies they put in place.

Many of these companies had their business exit at the forefront of their thoughts when we started working together. They were looking towards the future.

So how do I think that brand identity helps you get your business ready for an exit?

If you ‘look’ ready to do business, people will instantly feel comfortable with exploring your business further.

Brand identity, done well, with consultation with stakeholders, can do wonders for morale within the business. A business that looks together, visually, helps staff feel proud and motivates them as a team. Its subtle, but it works.

Are you planning on selling the business in 3-5 years? Why bother with a rebrand? A new brand identity puts a solid line under your business, it says we care, we are reaching out to the market place and we are actively marketing. It is less likely that everything else is going to be chaos within the business. So it gives buyers confidence.

If you are interested in how a new or refreshed brand identity can make big changes in your business or begin the exit process, drop me a line and I will show you some examples of the businesses we have worked for that have recently sold.

Alltruck 2015 Culture Book

You may remember last year we showed you the Alltruck Culture Book, if you don’t, take a look and find out more about this remarkable company.

This year, Alltruck are 25! To celebrate, we helped them produce another Culture Book, taking a look back over those 25 years. See the new book here.

A huge achievement for a company these days, and this one is going from strength-to-strength.

Here’s to the next 25 years!

Branding, rebranding, blah, blah, blah!

Everyone keeps going on about their ‘brand’ don’t they? On and on and on. Why should you bother?

Over the years, I have been to quite a few business networking groups, and as soon as I mention the companies I have worked with to rebrand I see the eyes glazing over. This is often followed by the phrase, “well we don’t bother with marketing, it is an expensive waste of time, we have been going for XX years and still get business”. My response is usually, “marvellous, so glad to hear you are busy”, and I move on, exasperated.

So, why should we bother?

I don’t know about you, but when I get up in the morning I like to clean my teeth, have a shower, put on some make-up (gents you are excused from this, or maybe not), dress so I am not looking like a tramp, check it in the mirror, all before I start my day. Even if I don’t have plans to see anyone.

By doing this, I am outwardly showing people that I have some self-respect. Basic branding.

Branding your business is no different. The ‘Brand’ is the concept you want the world to grasp, your ideals and values, that’s the bit you do as it is all about you. The ‘Brand Identity’, the bit I like to do (the logo and marketing material), is the make-up and smart tailored suit.

It feels good to look good doesn’t it?

Sometimes life takes us in a different direction, so we need to visit our Tailor to get a new cut of suit, and chose a new shade of lippy. This arms us with the amo we need to take this new direction with vigour and determination. It’s a rebrand.

So when you find your business is going in a new direction, finding new business streams, moving into new markets, make sure people understand your offer and values. Hold up a mirror to your ‘brand’ and check it is still a look that is working for you. Or give me a call, and as your brand consultant I will help you with that.

Take care over logo shapes

Another day, another cock up by a multinational over their logo redesign.

This time it is Hersheys, the US chocolate company. They made the decision to bring their logo up-to-date by simplifying it. But in doing so they have unleashed a lot of comments about what is now looks like…ehem…take a look at this article on the Drum.

It just goes to show, that time, care and attention must be applied to logo design whether it is a new logo or a brand refresh. To me it looks like they did a quick job on this, and because they are a bit too close to the brand they just didn’t see anything wrong with it. I wonder if they used focus groups? That is certainly what they should have done when dabbling with an established brand. Ooops!

How to design a logo

A logo is the first thing anyone sees about your organisation. It has to get a lot across to the viewer in a very short space of time. It has to tell a story: Who you are, what you do and what your values are.

In this article I will guide you through the 5 steps of designing a logo. I can’t tell you how to design it yourself – you haven’t trained as a graphic designer, they are the professionals so it is best if you employ one!

Stage 1 – Do Your Research

At this stage your chosen designer would have assumed you have researched your new company/product name. If you haven’t we suggest you do. This is not hard to do and your accountant can also help you with this before you incorporate your company.

The first thing a designer will do is chat to you about your company to establish the following:

  • Where you think you are pitched in the market place,
  • Who your target market is, who are you main competitors,
  • Where is your business heading in the next 5 years.

It may seem a bit nosey, but all of these questions help to form a vision in the designer’s mind, to make sure they are not going to create the wrong image for your company.

With all this information collated, the designer can move forward to…

Stage 2 – Initial Concepts

This is the fun part for the logo designer. They get to explore the look and feel for your new logo. At this stage you will probably only be presented with 3-5 logo ideas (anymore and your designer really hasn’t been listening, they are firing off logos like bullets hoping one will hit the target).

The initial logo designs will probably be presented as 1 or 2 colours at this stage. This is OK, a well-designed logo should work in 1 colour – there are times where 1 colour is all you need.

Stage 3 – Development

After the initial presentation, where you will discuss the designer’s ideas, and get an idea of the story behind the logos, they will probably need to be developed over 2-4 sets of development.

This is where the designer can iron out form they don’t like, build on the concepts to fit in with your vision and look at colours more closely.

Design Tip:

If you ever feel bogged down or overwhelmed by the design process put the logo visuals away for a few days. When you bring them out again, the fog will begin to clear and you should get a gut feeling about which way you want to go.

Don’t ignore your gut feeling, and remember; you are the one who has to live and work with this new logo for many years to come. Take your time and you will get to the right result.

Stage 4 – Implementation

Usually when the final logo has been approved, or is close to approval, the designer will apply it to stationery design so you can see what it looks like in situ. This will give you a better idea of whether you can work with it or not.

Stage 5 – Delivery

You have chosen your final logo. Amazing feeling! You have successfully recruited a graphic designer who has fully understood and bought into your vision. From there they have created a unique logo just for you!

No picking one off a website, or going through a crowd sourcing website where ‘designers’ have no loyalty or real understanding about you and your company – you will find that you will start to see the same old logos all over place as people try to save money this way.

Now your final logo design is chosen the graphic designer will probably put together a brief set of guidelines about your logo. This should include:

  • How the logo can be used in different settings: against different backgrounds etc
  • The colours in the logo: a full breakdown on the colour in Pantone reference and CMYK (print), RGB (office), HEX (web).
  • The font: what fonts you should use to support the logo and begin to create a brand identity.

These guidelines are set for a reason, make sure all your staff get a copy and understand how to use them. It really helps as your company grows to develop consistency across your brand.