5 Things I’ve Learned About Brand Identity (Working For A Fortune 500 Corporation)

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Designing products for 13 years for a large Fortune 500 Corporation, you’re bound to learn a few things. And I’ll be the first to admit, I learned way more working for Stanley Black & Decker than I ever did in school. There’s so much you learn with real-world experience you just can’t be taught.

As a Product Designer, I not only learned how to design products for their specific brands, but learned some key brand information that will help any business get their brand on the right track.

1. Brand Identity is more than logos and colors.

The clean and sweet way to say it is Brand Identity is the visual part of what makes you recognizable to your customers. It’s the message and feel they get from your product, service, or experience. This is why the consistency of your brand identity is so important, (but more on that below).

A brand identity includes so many different components. There’s your business name, logo, typefaces, and tagline. There’s your color palette, packaging and print, social media, advertising, and website. And then there’s shape, textures and patterns, imagery, and graphics. But even those aren’t the entire list. A brand identity encompasses all of the touch points and applications. How many of those touch points and applications depends on how widely the brand is seen.

Strong businesses with recognizable brands make sure the brand is appropriately covered on all aspects seen outside (and even inside) the corporate walls. Wearing a branded T-shirt? The color yellow should be as close to the brand yellow as possible. Selling a high-end and expensive product? The customer service should be right up there with other high-end brands, treating the customer like the big spender they want to be treated like.

2. You can have multiple brands selling similar products.

It’s no surprise that large companies own multiple brands. It can be an incredibly lucrative and smart move on a business’ part, as long as it’s done correctly and the brands are created and run specifically to their own identity.

You’re familiar with the brands PANTENE and Herbal Essences for hair care right? They are both brands that sell shampoo, conditioner, and other hair products. You can buy them both in pretty much any drug store, supermarket, Walmart and Target around.

But did you know they’re also both sold by the parents corporation Proctor & Gamble? P&G also sells the brands Aussie, Head & Shoulders, and Old Spice in the hair categories. You may ask “Why would they sell the same type of products in the same locations under different brands?”

Well, the products, although very similar, and some (although I have no proof) may be exactly the same, are marketed to different customers. Taking a guess here, but based on the brand identities for each brand, PANTENE seems to be marketed to more adult women who are looking for a higher feeling, but cheaper drug store product, while Herbal Essences is typically cheaper, and has a more fun and laid back vibe, catching the eyes of teens and college aged girls. Even the smell is marketed that way.

The benefit for P&G is the ease of selling more product to a larger range of customers. This = more $$$. But the key it to make sure they have a clear brand identity for each one.

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3. The best brands have consistent brand identity and follow clear brand guidelines.

Think about the best brands you know. The most popular. Maybe Coca-Cola? Nike? Apple? What do all these brands have in common? They’re always consistent in their appearance, use, size, scope, color, feel, etc. Unless they’re purposefully going outside their own guidelines (think a new product, or changing the logo guidelines to allow the NIKE Swoosh to be broken up on a new shoe design), they’re always recognizable.

The best brands are one you can recolonize even when OUT of context.

Have you ever played that game, maybe online or on your phone, where you see a logo and guess what it is? Maybe the logo is mostly covered? Or maybe the logo is there, but all the colors are gone? Even harder, when the product is there, but the logo is gone? Can you tell what brand it is now?

You can probably at least guess the big brands because they’re strong, and have always been so consistent, that when parts are missing your brain automatically fills them in. Didn’t think those ads were getting to you, did you?

Brands are made to be kept consistent. Don’t let yours get too sloppy.

4.  You must educate all your employees on your brands and the consistency needed to reinforce those brand identities.

You can be the biggest advocate of your brand and follow all the rules, but at the end of the day, if your employees cannot be consistent with your brand, you’re going to loose brand strength. I’ve sadly had experience where designers, and those who should be the largest advocates for the brand, weren’t following the guides correctly.

But even the lowest gal or guy on the totem pole should know how to use the brand correctly for the job they do. If that means training, then so be it. But treating the brand like it’s not as valuable as it is should be taken seriously. Educate not only how, but educate as to why it’s so important. Make them understand so that they’ll want to be just as much as an advocate as you are.

5. Listen to your customers.

You get to decide what you want your brand to be. BUT, and that’s a big BUT, your customers give some of the best insight of your brand could be.

Here’s and example:

Sildenafil was a pharmaceutical drug created by the labs at Pfizer to reduce hypertension, or high blood pressure. During research the drug didn’t do as well as they had hoped. However, one of the side effects patients were getting was penile erections. Yep - the drug known as Sildenafil turned out to be the early marketing of what we know as Viagra today. The drug became the first oral treatment approved to treat erectile dysfunction in the United States. But had the company not listened to what the patients (customers) were telling them, they may have continued on their path trying to come up with another hypertension drug. By listening to their customers, they sold the same product, but decided to change branding and marketing course, making millions in revenue.

Sure, you may love your brand, but it doesn’t mean people will buy it. Make sure you get in tune with the customers who buy your product, and continue to stay in tune. Don’t stop researching. There’s always something your customers can tell you.

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So, knowing all this now, do you feel like your brand identity is up to snuff? Or maybe your own brand needs a boost?

I’ve created a completely FREE 12-day Branding Boosting Challenge for small business owners who needs a little help refocusing on their brand.

This isn’t a step-by-step PDF on how to create a brand board. No. This is a daily guide sent directly to you with a short challenge you can do that gives you more insight and understanding of your own brand. Think you know your brand now? Just wait.

 
 

Subscribe to the Challenge here and each day you’ll receive a new 15-minute task you can do to take your brand to the next level! We’ll cover everything from your competition to positioning, and everything in between. You can’t afford not to try it out. And who knows, maybe you’ll be the next Viagra.

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12 Reasons To Hire A Virtual Assistant

If you're here, you probably know V.A. is short for a Virtual Assistant. It's a position similar to a Personal Assistant who provides services that relieve his or her employer from the stress of tasks that are associated with managing one’s personal life, but typically a job focused with your own business goals in mind. The person is typically professionally trained in specific tasks and software to aid in reaching those goals.

The “virtual” part of the job is due to the fact that each VA is mostly, if not always, working remotely on tasks to help your business and/or personal life be successful and less overwhelming for you. I live in, and my business, Lauren Austin Creative, is officially located in, the Mid-Atlantic, just north of Baltimore, Maryland, but as of today I support clients in different states all closer to the West Coast. And they all started and run businesses completely different from each other.

My business primarily focuses on working with small businesses, providing creative, design, and social media services. I’ve been a professional designer for the last 13 years, so it is the perfect niche for my skills. However, V.A's provide different services and support a wide range of tasks, at all types of skill levels.

This task list isn't exclusive, but gives a general idea of some of the most popular tasks outsourced to V.A.'s:

  • Bookkeeping & Data Entry
  • Scheduling & Calendar Management
  • Payments & Invoices
  • Accounting
  • Course and Teaching Creation
  • Webinar Configuration
  • Event Planning
  • Design - Graphics, Web, Pinterest Pin, Inforgraphics
  • Website Management - Updates, SEO Configuration
  • Presentation Building - Powerpoint
  • Newsletters
  • Marketing - Emails, Sales, Click Funnels
  • Social Media Management & Strategy
  • Organizing Contest & Giveaways
  • Ad Creation
  • System Setup & Management
  • Writing, Proofreading & Editing
  • Resume Creation
  • Blogging
  • Content Creation
  • Customer Service
  • Personal Assisting - Shopping, Booking Appointments, Researching, Bill Pay, Travel Planning and Booking

Almost any task or role a traditional employee does can be delegated to a Virtual Assistant. But it's not only the tasks themselves that bring business owners a benefit. Below, find out 12 reasons why it's actually MORE beneficial to hire a Virtual Assistant than hiring a traditional employee:

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#1 - No Paying Employee Taxes, Insurance, Or Benefits

How is that possible you ask? My package and hourly rates cover employee taxes, insurance, and benefits. These fees are also spread out across all my clients. Keeps things less expensive and more simple for you. Plus I do all the tax, insurance, and benefits prep work on my end, so you aren't left handling the paperwork.

 

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#2 - Reduce Workload

Get back to doing the important job of running your business. As you saw in the general list above, VA's are skilled in multiple areas and take on the tasks that can become a bit overwhelming. Get your day-to-day organized and back to what you do well. Leave what tasks you don't want to us. Hate posting to social media, but know it's a way to drive traffic to your business? Hire a VA to write and schedule the posts for you!

 

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#3 - Leave It To The Expert

You're great at your business, but maybe not the best designer, or social media manager. Don't struggle to product mediocre visuals when you can effortlessly have a Creative Virtual Assistant do them for you. Websites and logos, flyers and presentations - all created by a designer VA list myself. Trust me, you won't regret it.

 

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#4 - Save Money

Hiring someone to SAVE money?? You bet! Let's do the math - say you pay yourself $60 an hour from your own business, but a VA is $40. Instead of doing the mundane and time consuming tasks like answering emails yourself, paying someone to do it at half the cost allows your hourly time to be spent GROWING the business with your important ideas! Financially you can't afford NOT to delegate those tasks.

 

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#5 - No Over-head

A Virtual Assistant is VIRTUAL. This means no need to provide tangible office space, a cubical, telephone, or computer - you provide absolutely nothing. That equates to no overhead for you and no added expenses like a drawer full of post-it notes! V.A.'s supply their office needs at their own expense. 

 

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#6 - Get What You Pay For

Working with most V.A's is pretty straight forward, as many of them work on retainers month to month. If you buy a retainer for 10 hours of work in August, you get 10 hours of work in August. You don't pay for sick leave or vacation days, and no using the time for bathroom or lunch breaks - nada. 10 hours retainer = 10 hours work.

 

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#7 - Get Back Leisure Time

Get back some of your personal time! We could all use more time. Time to focus on our business goals, time to spend with family, and time for ourselves. A Virtual Assistant can take on some of your tasks so you can get back some precious time to do whatever is important to you! What would you do with a couple extra free hours a week?

 

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#8 - Get High Quality Service

V.A.'s strive to provide very productive results at a great value because our business success depends on how well our client’s (you) needs are met and how well your business succeeds. I want to help my clients' grow and reach their goals, so that I also grow and reach mine. This makes me very efficient, proactive, productive, and put in the added effort for my clients.

 

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#9 - Scale-Ability

All businesses have ebbs and flows. There are busy seasons and slower seasons. A great way to deal with the change in flux is to hire a VA. Most VAs book with retainers or hourly packages. That lets you book more time the months you need it, and back off when things catch up and slow down. (Full-time internal employees don’t allow that flexibility and create more difficulty. Why on-board then let go with each change in the season?)

 

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#10 - Improve Online Presence

It takes enough energy to run a business. Now try running a business while growing your social media presence and duplicating it across Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest platforms. Don't forget about communicatingf back and forth on those platforms with customers. Phew! It’s a lot! Hire a VA to be your social media guru, setting and updating your profiles, scheduling your posts and images, and replying to messages. 
Is your social media presence strong?

 

 

#11 - 24/7 Availablity

Some VAs (like myself) work outside the typical 9-5 work day. For instance I'm available evenings and weekends too because it fits my schedule (and my client's schedule) better. Hire a VA with a flexible schedule and give your customers access to you around the clock. Hiring a V.A. in a different time-zone can also be a benefit. Working on the East Coast, I can have work done for my client's on the West Coast to approve before their typical work day is over. Same goes for hiring a V.A. in another country. Figure out what works best for you.

 

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#12 - Product & Service Improvement

It’s your business so you know your products + services best. But a VA can do research, use analytics and data, and communicate with your customers to figure out how you can improve those services and products so you can be more successful. Get behind the scenes information from a Virtual Assistant who also wants the best for you.

 

So now that you see the benefits, what's the main reason you want to outsource to a V.A.? What tasks do you already have lined up? And what are you waiting for? Let's set up a free 30 minute discovery call to find out the best ways I can help you and your business grow!

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