No, Brand isn’t just your Logo

Many people use brand and logo interchangeably. While a great logo says a lot about you, your company, or your brand, it’s only part of the equation.

Calling your brand your reputation is a lot closer. As a consumer, I am more likely to buy or subscribe based on the brand than the logo. For example, when I see a cute, little panda icon, I don’t know if I should eat  Chinese food or make a charitable donation to save endangered species. If you are putting together a logo, I encourage you to read this article. Unless you really like pandas, consider the first rule: “Uniqueness: Do not emulate the logo of other brands. A copied logo or a common one will make your business look cheap and unoriginal. It is far better to create your own logo for your brand otherwise people won’t take you serious[ly]. A unique logo will also tend to be one that stands the test of time.”

Your brand is shorthand for who you are. It is the gut feeling people have when they think of you as a business, artist, or product. Start this process by identifying how you are similar to other brands. This helps you clearly define both your market and your image. Once you know your similarities, look at your differences. These are what make you marketable. The similar and different combine to create your brand. And it is a balance. Being too similar makes you appear to have nothing to offer. If you are too different, you run the risk of confusing your market and losing your share.

Once you identify your brand, everything you do needs to support that image. Every interaction you have with the public, every product you release, every service and piece of art needs to support your brand. Even your charitable giving needs to support your brand. In January my company, Bedient Pipe Organ Company became the first corporate partner of the Nebraska Organ Recovery System. It started as a joke. We moved a pipe organ across the country and called it an “organ transplant.” But we made a statement about ourselves as a company when we partnered with a group that types and matches soft tissue donors with recipients. We stated that we care about the lives of the people in our greater community. Our hashtag #Organs4Organs supports that partnership. Our brand serves many religious organizations. It’s important to support organizations that do good for a living.

Think of the child stars of the past. Most did not transition well to adulthood, because their brands were tied up in the image of sweet, doe-eyed children. In contrast, look at a company like Mountain Dew, now Mtn Dew. Their product has always included an element of fun and energy. Today’s advertising agencies would never name a soft drink Mountain Dew. Their original 1969 logo included a hillbilly on a tire swing. Over the years the company has changed their logo, but their brand has remained constant. They continue to be a brand of fun and energy, and support that by sponsoring snow and skate boarders, and musicians like Dierks Bentley.

So, figure out who you are. What makes you just a little bit different? Make sure everything you put out there, every contact you make, supports that brand. A great logo won’t hurt, but it is more susceptible to trends than your brand is.

Twitter: You say Build a Following, I say Build Relationships

Twitter seems like a mystery to some. For others, it’s a numbers game. I can’t demystify it for all of you, but let’s start the process by simply remembering that Twitter is NOT Facebook. It has a different audience, and that audience has very different expectations. For now, I follow someone on Twitter whose tweets are, “I posted a new photo to Facebook …” It makes me certain they just don’t get it.

Now, decide who you are. If you are an individual, you don’t need this article. If you are an artist, you are a business on Twitter. As a business, everything you put on Twitter needs to support your brand. Every tweet, reply, retweet, photo, video, and link needs to support your brand. I am the marketing director for a pipe organ builder, Bedient Pipe Organ Company. Our Twitter feed has regular posts of organ music, announcements of upcoming concerts, and daily retweets of things in our feed. As a pipe organ builder, we don’t retweet news stories, unless they are pipe organ related. We don’t retweet Justin Bieber (we might if he took a church job as an organist). We also don’t follow just anybody. We follow news in our area, churches, organists, and other pipe organ builders. We know and stick to our market.

Twitter doesn’t use the Facebook algorithm. This can work for and against you. Yes, everything you tweet shows in the feed of your followers, but that is true for everybody else. Just because you have 11,000 followers, don’t count on 11,000 people hanging on your every tweet. Very few people pay close attention to their feeds. Most interactions happen in the spare moments someone has on their phone while waiting for a bus, standing in line at the grocery store, maybe before going to bed. You’re not going to catch your entire audience with a single tweet. What’s more, not everyone who follows you will care about your tweets. Some people follow consciously, others do it through automation. I recently set up an account for an early music ensemble. Twitter asks you to identify your interests and then automates who you follow. I used music as an interest. Avril Lavigne ended up being one of our first 8 followers. I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but I’m pretty sure she has no interest in attending a concert of Elizabethan music in Nebraska.

Make it play on the small screen. Keep your profile photo simple and bold. This image will show in a very small space to the left of your tweets. It is your logo. Make sure it follows the rules of good logo design. If you can’t tell who you are from a centimeter-square image, choose a different image.

Make it interesting. Make it fast.You don’t have very long to capture the attention of your audience. Be considerate of your followers’ time. If you have a lot to say, say it in a series of tweets. If you say it in a series of tweets, use hashtags to pull people through the series. Are you releasing an EP? Use the name of the EP as the hashtag. Use that hashtag in everything related to that project, every interview, every gig, every link to YouTube. Don’t make your followers work too hard, and leave them bread crumbs.

#Hashtags are gateways. #WhyIStayed is a recent example of a hashtag that opened up a dialog about domestic abuse. Think of hashtags as gathering places or open markets. Use your city’s hashtag to publicize an upcoming event. Use a conference’s hashtag to start or join a conversation about that conference or group. #WhyIStayed is a powerful example of how hashtags pull people through a series of Tweets, to learn and to share.

Finally, interact with your followers. I had trouble with a United flight. I tweeted and they responded nearly immediately. I got the whole thing figured out over Twitter. When it was ready to resolve something on the return trip, the support person tweeted that they had wondered what happened to me and were glad to hear from me. That is a great lesson in building relationships. It softened my image of the company. It made me feel less like a mindless member of the herd and more like a person. This involves paying attention. If someone tweets you, tweet them back. Do it as quickly and respectfully as you can. Retweet their compliments. Build a relationship with them. They will pay attention to you when you pay attention to them. This takes work and time, but it pays off.

The Whim

In 2000 I was working part time as on air staff for the Nebraska Public Radio Network, now NET Radio. I worked Saturdays from noon to 7 p.m., and Weekends on All Things Considered aired during my shift. Radio announcers have a strange job. They step into a little room and everyone in the listening area (in my case, the state of Nebraska) knows everything that happens.

On a whim, I decided to submit one of my stories to The National Story Project, an NPR series of author Paul Auster. My story was included. The day my story aired, our network preempted this spot with a Met Opera broadcast. I never got to hear the program live. One of my listeners happened to be listening on another NPR station (maybe she didn’t like opera), taped the show, and sent it to me. I was touched. This is the archived show.

I thought that was the end of it. I thought that would be my one brush with fame. I was wrong. A while later, I received a letter, asking me release my writing for inclusion in I Thought My Father Was God: And Other True Tales from NPR’s National Story Project. Now I was a published author (sort of)! They sent me a copy of the book. I read through it. I enjoyed it. I showed it to friends.

A few years later, I received an e-mail message from Lee Schneider, a documentary film maker, who was working on a project called, Chance Happens. This was completely unexpected and I was skeptical. Then my research showed one of the members of the production team had been involved in the book. I went with it. At this point I started to believe that maybe the Universe was trying to tell me something. My whim was starting to make me believe I had something to offer. I started to think seriously about writing.

This morning, I came across this blog post. It helped me relive the process that started on a whim 14 years ago. Is there a moral to this story? If there is, it’s to do things on a whim. Take those silly opportunities when they appear. The secondary moral, don’t assume you know what’s important all the time. The Universe has a crazy way of throwing together people and things. Go with that flow. It’s full of wonderful surprises.

How to Market Fun

I am a monster with a GoPro and an iPhone. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been walking up to strangers and asking if I could film them for a video, the video above. It’s amazing how easy it is. I say, “Excuse me. My name is Holly. I’m putting together a video to promote a photo contest. If you’re not in the witness protection program, would you mind being part of it? I won’t take more than 2 minutes of your time.” I had one person decline, just one.

I don’t think these people were interested in fame. None of them asked me to send them the finished video. I think they wanted to be helpful, or thought it might be fun. And it was fun! By the end of this project, I had a real desire to go to a quilt museum. I don’t quilt. I simply got caught up in the energy of the people I was filming.

Honestly, I think that’s the key to any marketing. If you can get caught up in the energy of whatever you are promoting, you can create the same spark in others. And it follows that anything we lose interest in as marketers will suffer from that waning energy. We sometimes think of content marketing as a burden, about as much fun as those English Lit papers we had to write in college (woo-hoo). It starts to feel like something we have to do, instead of something we get to do.

So, how does Stella get her groove back? I got energized by other people, people who already enjoyed the very things I was trying to promote. I didn’t survey them. I didn’t do a market test. I got out there with them and caught them in the act of enjoying what they already enjoy. You can see it on their faces. You can see it in the way they move. So, get out there and experience what you’re trying to promote. Listen to the people who already love it. You get to do this for a living.

All the Cool Kids are into Pipe Organs

10513402_660855714008338_8874838361076655335_nThis is a mass selfie (a groupie?) from about a week ago. These are high schoolers touring the Bedient Pipe Organ Company. They are real teens, who got on a bus, and toured four churches and a pipe organ builder one day in the middle of July. Pipe Organ Encounters (POEs) happen all over the US, and the kids who participate are wild about pipe organs.

“We had Masterclasses/lectures on how the Organ is made and even went to Bedient Organ Shop! It was an AMAZING experience and I recommend it to EVERYONE!” Michael, a POE student, wrote on Facebook. He posted picture after picture of kids having a fantastic time looking at and interacting with pipe organs. I’m going to say it again, THEY WERE ALL EXCITED ABOUT PIPE ORGANS! You might not think this is normal, but it is. The smallest children are totally captivated by the instrument. It’s HUGE. You can make it play different sounds. And the coolest part, is you can play it with your feet! Did you ever see Big with Tom Hanks? It’s the same thing…

So, why am I yacking on and on about pipe organs? Because I think marketers sometimes don’t really understand teens. We make assumptions about what they like, based on our own biases. We associate pipe organs with church services we might have been forced to attend as children. Services that maybe even our parents stopped attending after we were confirmed. If we attend church, it has a praise band, which is cool, right? Teens see pipe organs differently. They see amazing pieces of technology you can watch work. Teens see gigantic instruments that dwarf the people who play them. They see power. They see awesomeness! And you can play them with your feet!

Above, is what these young enthusiasts see. They see a guy, dwarfed by an enormous instrument, surrounded by knobs, playing three keyboards (manuals) and a pedal board at the same time. It’s like extreme musicianship. The POE kids are a lot like their friends, who are sampling stuff and mixing their own songs. They love the technology, the mixing and matching, the power of big sounds. After all, a 32-foot Contrebombarde was the original subbass. So, why do we think more kids want to sit in their basements and sample music than want to harness the power of an instrument that is 50 times larger than they are?

Coolness comes in a lot of flavors. Don’t box in younger audiences. The best thing you can do to attract a young market, is to find the coolness factor in your product and let them know about it. It’s cool, because they think it’s cool. Show it to them, they’ll let you know how cool it is.

What’s Your Future Story?

By Rochkind (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Rochkind (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
What does your future look like? Does it look promising, dismal, about the same? Do you know how you’re getting there? Have you even thought that far ahead?

It might make your head hurt to think about what you’re going to eat for dinner tonight. You have a lot on your mind. Every moment of your life seems to be consumed with some sort of compulsion or autonomic task. Things are fine the way they are. If you mess with them, you’ll just make a mess of them. And so you continue with the status quo. Never going forward, never noticing if you go back… just a little.

But, the Future is out there, looming in the distance. Stop keeping your head down, hoping it won’t notice you haven’t gone anywhere in the past XX years. This doesn’t just apply to people going through a particular stage in their lives. It applies to a business that stops growing, a community that loses interest, a relationship that feels more like roommates than partners. It applies to everyone and everything that has stopped telling their Future Stories.

Your Future Story is YOUR story. You can invite whomever you like, but it’s your story. You are responsible for writing it the way you want it to play out. Start your story by saying who you are, what you do, how you got here, now. Continue by saying who you want to be, what you want to do, and how you plan to get there, then. Start your story, then start living it. The Future is waiting for you…

Dear Kitten — A Cute, Little, Fuzzy Lesson in Social Media

Not long ago, Friskies released this video, for BuzzFeed. This cute, little thing stands as a great lesson to anyone marketing on any of the social media — especially Facebook.

Justin and Steve
My boys, Justin and Steve

Bring on the kittens! First, let’s face it. The internet is filled with adorable kittens and puppies. They makes us go, “awwww.” They pull us out of our cubes, and into nature (or at least other people’s living rooms). Not long ago, I sat in the parking lot of my gym, and watched a stranger’s kitten climb into a tissue box. This is the power of the cute and fuzzy! Cats rule the internet, just like they did in Ancient Egypt. Yes. I have cats. So, what does Dear Kitten have to teach us?

Dear Kitten tells a story. You are at your best as a marketer if you can tell a story. This particular story is told through the older cat, while the kitten tumbles, and generally looks cute. It ain’t Ibsen, but it’s fun! We like fun! Be fun! Tell your story!

Borrow from the best. Some time ago, Henri le Chat Noir hit the share zone. It was a brilliant combination of French art film and cats. Henri filled a niche for the cat lover with a liberal arts degree. Yes. I have one of those too. Henri was niche. Dear Kitten is for the masses. Henri was a bit too brooding and critical. Dear Kitten has no disdain.

The dry cat food is to prepare them to be astronauts! The final lesson, is to remain positive. Certainly, some negativity works. Much of the political landscape is hip-deep in negativity. But a positive message like Dear Kitten won’t get the average person unfriended. It will get shared, and draw people to the Friskie’s website, and make that cat food fly off the shelves (and into space!).

Your goal is to generate shares. Make all things cute work for you. Tell stories. Have fun! Stay positive. Maybe you’ll get picked up by BuzzFeed…