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Defaulting to Facebook for Your Brand?

Have you let your website languish, turning to Facebook instead as your de facto website? As an art and craft supporter and practicing artist myself, I often seek out artists and makers of all kinds. Perhaps I stumbled onto an image on Pinterest. I want to learn more about the artist, see what events they participate in and view new work.

More often than not, I find a website that hasn’t been updated in ages making me believe the artist is no longer active until I discover a Facebook page with recent updates. Very often, there’s no website, only a Facebook page.

It’s easy to understand why people default to Facebook for their content. It’s easy to use, especially if you couple that with a website that is sorely out of date and/or difficult to update. I still come across people who have to pay someone to make updates, and often wait a long time to do so. That is a thing of the past. No one, least of all a small business, can afford to be hamstrung like that. The world moves too fast. (See this earlier post on developing a new website with today’s tools.)
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Different Matters

secret sauce

After picking many pounds of marionberries recently, I had to start getting creative. I’d already made jam, sorbet and tarts. (I’m officially banned from buying a separate freezer.) Then I recalled a marionberry barbecue sauce I’d made last summer, not the most obvious application of the berries. I found a recipe, switched up some of the ingredients, adjusted it till I arrived at a secret sauce, ready for pulled pork.

Now, imagine your business is the pulled pork (or roasted tofu for you vegetarians). What’s your secret sauce? That set of ingredients that only you have that lend your enterprise a flavor all its own.

In order to land on your secret sauce, you first have to embrace the idea that people need something to go on to pick you out of the crowd. Most businesses rely too heavily on the notion that because they exist, someone will want their product or service. Someone will eventually find them. Or they think their passion alone will carry them to success.

This works well for those rare businesses that fill a peculiar niche. But even that lasts only so long. Soon, there will be many more shops serving bacon maple milkshakes.

What makes you different is the very substance of your business. It defines your branding (both image and voice), it simplifies marketing efforts, it boosts confidence on the most trying days, it gives you connection-making mojo.

Someone like me can tease out your secret sauce, put it into a larger context, refine it and put it into service. But you are a big ingredient in making that happen. A business that’s fully engaged in shaping their own brand benefits enormously, even if you can pay someone to do most of it for you.

To be fully engaged means going beyond where you feel comfortable going. It means thinking through aspects of what you do that you hope to avoid, such as limiting yourself, living up to certain standards or, believe it or not, truly believing in how your endeavor will benefit someone.

Ways to think of your secret sauce:

• An unexpected or distinctive personality or voice.

• A surprising promise or set of promises.

• A collection of traits that, while not individually unique, together, are refreshingly distinctive.

• Using the stories or experiences of people who do business with you as a marketing tool in itself.

• A very specific combination of what you do, combined with who it’s for (not moms or CEOs, but people needing “x” or worried about “y”) and how they benefit (really benefit).

• Figure out what you can put limits around or make specific or singular.

• A way you buck convention or call out what others won’t.

Not what your competition is doing (who is that anyway?)

When Details and Options Confuse

I went to a natural pharmacy I like very much and saw that flu shots were available. So I decided to get one.

Pharmacist: Do you want it subcutaneous or intramuscular?

Me: I don’t know. What’s the difference?

Pharmacist: One is under the skin, the other is the muscle.

Me: Is there another difference?

Pharmacist: One is a big needle and one is a small needle. Read more

360 Ways to Upset Your Customers: Ing Direct’s Brand Goof

Ing Direct Merger and New Disgusting Logo

All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.


The average person is growing more sophisticated in its sensitivity and connection to brands. This can either work in a company’s favor, or not, especially in the era of social media.

Today, I learned that my online savings account Ing Direct merged with credit card company CapitalOne. Gone will be the hip orange brand with its happy bouncing ball and overall inviting feel. In its place will be yet another inexplicably uninspired logo mashup, probably the result of boardroom egos that overlooked the power and success of a brand that was able to make saving money seem fun. Red, white and blue isn’t exactly a step forward. And few people, if any, like credit card companies, which is why the visual brand is even more important in a case like this.

CapitalOne has owned Ing Direct for more than a year. But most of us only found out today via a reactive instead of proactive email. That mistake caused an even greater backlash because it broke down trust. People feel duped.

Retaining the visual strength of the brand or developing one that resembled the spirit of the original might have eased concerns. Witness the blowup on the Ing Direct Facebook page.

But why the hubbub over the color orange or a thoughtless name change, you ask? Isn’t that a superficial detail?

Because that’s how we humans are. We have a need to connect to the companies we do business with. We expect businesses to know us. We bought into a hip savings brand with a certain look and feel. A brand is not just the amount of time it takes to reply to a customer service email. It’s not how easily the website functions. A brand is more than that.

The devil is in the details. It’s not always easy to know which details are bedeviled, which is why there should be a thoughtful person asking the right questions. Someone should have had the curiosity and sensitivity to remember what brought customers there in the first place. That would have resulted in a name not associated with people’s fears (credit card company) and visual image that fit the spirit of the original Ing Direct. Change is good but even non designers know that the arc/swoosh logo is, well, very yesterday. People are saving for tomorrow.

It Takes a Real Voice to Give Customers a Voice

Elvis at the mic

Knowing how your customers feel about you benefits you just as much as it does them (assuming you actually make improvements to fit their needs).

You can use that feedback to improve services, promote the results you offer and sharpen your marketing message. But it can also build good will…or not.

The key is being and sounding authentic — actually caring whether someone had a good experience dealing with you.

Recently, I had just such an experience with Voicebox, a karaoke place with personal party rooms. The day after a group of us celebrated a friend’s birthday, I received an email saying I rocked (I like to think I did.) and thanked me for bringing my party there. They like to reward employees for a job well done and asked if I’d like to comment. For an added touch, they included our playlist.

On the other hand, there are companies — whose products I use and like — that send surveys I’m initially happy to fill out, only to feel several pages in that I’m working too hard. The surveys smack of statistic gathering, and worse, a veiled attempt to tell me how great they are given the bias of the questions.

That’s when I quit these surveys and leave feeling worse about the company than I did before.

Two requests for feedback. Two completely different ways of connecting.

Sounding and acting as if you really care is also a good way to share your brand voice through your values. For small companies who remain vexed about what a brand is and how to promote theirs, this is one such tool.

Rock on.

(Image: Kevin Dooley)

Your Values Writ Large

Soul Repair

When I was looking for a WordPress developer to partner with, I found several good people but ended up selecting someone who had a statement of values on his website. They happened to jive with mine so I hired him for a small project, and now we’re working together on a much larger one.

Not everyone does business this way. But many do. Many potential customers what to know what you stand for. Don’t be afraid to share your values. If they’re truly important to you, you’ll draw in the kind of people who you really want to work with.

This company delivers coffee, tea and food products for restaurants, cafes and institutions. Their values become their brand. But they go a step further than displaying their guiding principles; they tie each principle to tangible evidence, linking to specific pages on their website.

This kind of concise framework has an added benefit of keeping you on track and simplifying your efforts. The more clear you are on the core things, the less you have to talk about it.