Skip to main content
Tag

branding agency

branding agency

How To Brand A State

By Brand Development

Earlier this year we were asked to submit an RFI and an RFP to help in the branding of a state. State meaning—the United States of America.

Being asked to development a brand for an entire state was an exciting opportunity. After all, how many branding agencies get a chance to brand a state? We corresponded with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development in attempt to help them generate ideas on how to accomplish colossal task.

If you’re a governor, deputy/executive director or director of tourism considering a state branding initiative — I want to share with you 5 take-a-ways we learned through our experience in approaching state branding that may help you in attracting the right branding agency.

1. Clearly define your goals
Most state branding initiatives start with some kind of economic goal. However most of these goals tend to be broad and ambiguous. Having a goal like “Strengthen and grow existing business, both urban and rural.” is good, but too vague; or “increase innovation, entrepreneurship & investment” tend to create confusion amongst your constituents. Create and define your goals with actual numbers and implement the methods to accurately measure and track it. Use the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable and timely) method to set goals. Focus on the methods to achieve the goal along with its desired economic impact.

2. Identify negative brand images and what it will take to overcome them
The state we worked with had a great business environment, low taxes, beautiful scenery and a host of outdoor activities to attract young, single professionals. However, the state had a negative reputation. As we dug more into the problem, it seemed to be an obstacle that would need an immense advertising/branding budget to overcome.

“The strongest, most powerful brands in the U.S. are state brands because they encompass forceful emotions of pride and self-identification—and everyone has a say in it.”

State branding is inescapable. Think of how many times you notice your state’s license plate on the way to work? — state flags on public buildings, utility bills, businesses named after states and the list goes on and on. Apple, voted the world’s #1 brand doesn’t even have that kind of exposure. Any attempt to brand a state must address what brand already exists.

Take Michigan.

As a business owner, I’m constantly being wooed to move my business to Michigan. I have nothing against Michigan. I love visiting the great lakes and would definitely consider moving there—until Detroit went bankrupt.

Texas State BrandingThe public feud between governor Rick Perry of Texas and Andrew Cuomo of New York is a great example of two state brands battling for economic brand equity based on negative state brand impressions. Governor Perry has been enticing businesses in New York to move to Texas for lower state and corporate taxes with the:Texas is Calling, Your Opportunity Awaits campaign. Every business owner knows that taxes are a constant hindrance in achieving growth goals—especially if you’re in one of the highest taxed state in the union like New York. (SOURCE: Taxfoundation)

Cuomo countered with the start-upny.com campaign that cost 15.2 Million dollars to reverse the negative perception, but it was too late. Perry successfully rebranded New York as the highest taxed state in the union. For a business owner, this doesn’t bode well for attracting businesses to New York.

Colorado State BrandingColorado recently legalized marijuana. People and businesses opposed to the drug and the culture, have had their once pristine brand image of Colorado’s mountains (John Denver singing “rocky mountain high” in the background) and miles of endless skiing tarnished—not to mention its vibrant economy and workforce. Now living in Indianapolis—a more conservative statethan Colorado, I now have reservations about telling people where I’m from, as most people view Colorado’s unconventional culture somewhat taboo.

Colorado Logo

In every case, don’t overlook what negative brand perceptions exist, they determine the entire course of your state brand development project.

3. Get budget approval and funding in advance
We were told that the branding agency selected would have to go 6 months without pay until the state legislature approved the budget. This was the nail in the coffin for us. How could they expect us to work for free for 6 months without guarantee of pay? We were also told that any travel on the agencies part would have to be self-funded. Some of this we were willing to do, but in the end the requests where a non-starter.

4. To attract business, you must play by business rules
The government sector is much different than the private sector. When working with private sector businesses—part of the process is getting to know each other to see if the right chemistry exists to work together. A good client/agency relationship is key to any successful outcome. It’s all about people. And the branding process can be very long (9-12 months). Don’t submit an RFP out for bid and expect to attract the best agency for your state branding project without taking the time to get to know them first. The typical government process circumvents what could be—in most situations—a great working relationship.

5. Reconsider the RFI and RFP process
We where requested to submit an RFI (Request for Information). I’m always somewhat skeptical of an RFI, but decided to spend the time exploring how to go about branding a state just for the exercise.

Our ideas earned us attention as we were then invited to submit an RFP. When we received the unorganized RFP, it was vague on budget, timeline, goals. It was also poorly written.

The biggest frustration was that our questions went unanswered. Most state governments are required to post the RFP for bid on cumbersome public procurement websites.

In the end, the requirements were unfeasible, and our ideas listed in the RFI where stolen. Not to mention that no business was generated through spending hours on the RFI and RFP.

In conclusion, almost every state branding project is a rebranding exercise where you must work against entrenched negative brand impressions. In order to be successful, set clear goals, identify negative brand impressions in advance and learn how to address them, change them or go around them. Do not take the typical RFI to RFP approach to attract the best branding agency, get the budget and funding figured out in advance and be willing to work with your branding agency candidates to create a good working relationship out of the gate.

Interested in learning more about our Indianapolis or Denver branding agency? Contact us today to learn how we can help your state.

[easyembed field=”stateCTA”] [vc_separator type=”large” dh=”1″ color=”light” icon=”” align=”left” margin-bottom=”40″ margin_top=”40″]

Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

 

how to rebrand

The 7 Factors For Rebranding

By Brand Development

There are many factors to consider when evaluating the decision to rebrand your company. Typically you’re gripped with a sense of bewilderment as the word ‘rebrand’ typically means ‘change.’ This is always difficult, especially when you’re the one responsible for the success and longevity of your company.

Faced with undulating marketplace circumstances—a rebrand may be the only viable option you have to remain competitive. The entrance of new competitors, commoditization, internal changes and changing customer attitudes may have weakened your company’s ability to accurately articulate your unique value proposition. Perhaps you’ve been knocked off by faster, more agile competitors with more aggressive marketing tactics than your own or you let things get away on you by not keeping up to date on massive disruption that is taking place across various industries.

Whatever the case, re-branding can be a good thing. It signifies a stage in your business’ maturity and growth. It is an opportunity to more closely examine your mission, purpose and the betterment of your company.  

Brand development can be a catalyst for innovation—an opportunity to develop your current processes. It can bring clarity and alignment to you and your stakeholders and spur employee motivation. In the end this tunes up your company’s internal engine where the end result is customer satisfaction and increased profitability.

To help you understand the main reasons most business owners choose to rebrand, we’ve listed 7 factors that will help you determine if now is the time to consider a rebrand.  

Famous Corporate Rebrand

Famous Corporate Rebrands

1. Name change
Our name no longer fits who we are.

Naming is a long and difficult process. Most viable domain names have been taken or are listed as premium listings because of their necessity and acclaim. Be prepared to pay for a high-quality name or be prepared to make one up.  Start at Name.com to check out the availability of your domain. Work with a branding agency to help you come up with a meaningful, memorable and viable choice. Your name is the most important branding element of your business. A recent example is when Anderson Consulting became Accenture. Anderson Consulting changed their name due to global market expansion. “On January 1, 2001 Andersen Consulting adopted its current name, “Accenture”. The word “Accenture” is supposedly derived from “Accent on the future”. The name “Accenture” was submitted by Kim Petersen, a Danish employee from the company’s Oslo, Norway office, as a result of an internal competition. Accenture felt that the name should represent its will to be a global consulting leader and high performer, and also intended that the name should not be offensive in any country in which Accenture operates. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)

2. Revitalize a brand

Our identity does not represent us any longer.

Due to the natural development, evolution and innovation of your products and services new vertical markets and channels will emerge that prove profitable changing the course of your company. You may have received feedback from your customers or have seen a decline in web traffic. Perhaps you were a packaged product company that has now evolved into a virtual product.  The move to the virtual environment will need to communicate a different message then one sold in a brick-n-mortar. When in doubt, interview and survey your customers to understand if your brand is still connecting to deliver value.

3. Revitalize a brand identity
Our identity is outdated.

Brand identity is a mixture of the visual representation of the product and service you provide and about how that product/service relates to, characterizes and represents your customers. Have your customers changed? Once again when in doubt, interview and survey your customers to understand if the brand is still connecting to deliver value.  Does it need a new look or a whole new service offering. In a recent example, Walgreens completely changed its course to remain relevant and to remain true to its brand values by completely eliminating tobacco from their stores and redesigning the customer experience and adding clinics due to the sweeping health care law.

Logo swooshes gone wild

Logo swooshes gone wild

4. Create an integrated system
Our visual materials do not look the same.

Over the years as marketing managers and designers have come and gone, they’ve left their own interpretations of your company’s brand on your materials. If standards were not put in place at the initial development of your brand—chances are your materials look inconsistent, scattered and unfocused. 

BRANDING TIP: Still using swooshes and drop shadows? These were hot design trends in the late nineties and early 2000’s. Today, flat design is ‘in’ lead by top global brands like Apple, Windows and Google.

5. When companies merge
We need a new brand to represent the new company.

Perhaps the #1 reason to rebrand is when two companies merge. Think Disney and Pixar. Sirius and XM Radio. Exxon and Mobil. When two cultures collide, key staff members are let go, leadership styles and philosophies change, everything is turned upside down and inside out. This especially takes a mental toll on your employees. Not knowing what is happening in the C-Suite, guesses,  estimations and imaginations run wild that result in anxiousness, worry and loss productivity. Communication is key in this time of transition. The brand development process will help you align and get your new team on the same page quicker.

6. When internal teams lack clarity

Our employees lack direction, engagement and purpose.

One of the most important outcomes of the brand strategy process is employee clarity and understanding of the company’s mission and purpose. The brand development process will allow you to re-discover the purpose of your brand—the why behind the what—providing direction, increasing employee engagement and purpose.

7. Attract Talent

We are not hiring the right people.

A strong corporate brand is helpful to attracting talent. However an employer brand must also be taken into consideration when rebranding. You must also define the values of your culture and why someone would want to work for you. This can only be fostered by the corporate brand’s values and how they relate to your customers.  The key to delighting your customers is to delight your employees. Outside of the normal perks, you must also communicate the purpose through your employer branding to attract the right talent.

BRANDING TIP: Delight your employees and you will delight your customers.

In conclusion, when faced with the possibility of a rebrand, always start with your customers and employees. Their responses to your inquiries will give you the understanding you need to intelligently make the decision to rebrand. If your name needs changing, your brand image is outdated, your materials are scattered, you’ve merged with another company, your internal teams are off center or you are not attracting the necessary talent to meet customer demand, it may be time to rebrand.

Interested in learning more about rebranding and brand development process? Our proprietary brand development approach—Brand+People™ —believes your people are the key differentiator in a marketplace full of identical competitors. We focus on brand alignment through employee engagement, customer experience and brand perception to create authentic human connections for business growth and success. As a seamless extension of your marketing and sales team, we blend branding, inbound marketing and creative design (professional web design, brochure design, logo design, infographics, package design and advertising) to maximize your business goals. Contact us today to learn more.

brand-interview-guide

Free Download:
Brand Development Interview Guide 

Discovering your brand starts with asking the right questions. Use this guide to draft the right questions to uncover your brand.

[easyembed field=”brandinterviewCTA”]

 

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

 

5 Myths of Brand Development Debunked

By Brand Development

Push back to adopt brand development from the business owner can sometimes be very frustrating. You’re under fire to deliver quality leads to sales — recent tactics of PR, Ads and SEO just aren’t working. You struggle to find true marketplace differentiation but you are not sure exactly what that is. Your messaging is all over the place and the boss wants results.

Don’t give up! We’ve put together a few things to help you look more seriously at why it’s more important than ever to take the time to develop your brand and to help you start coming up with a pitch to turn things around.

In today’s economy, we have 10 to 20 of everything. People begin their purchases by going to the internet or by asking their friends. They block out nearly all advertising. 70% of the purchase decision is over before a customer even contacts a sales person or purchases something from you. Today, brands must go above and beyond to prove trust and authenticity to their customers. One bad experience —  and it’s all over Facebook. Below are 5 myths debunked to help you answer your critics on the need to engage in brand development.

1. Your brand is your logo
Myth. Your logo is just one piece of your brand. Your brand consists of many things: what a customer thinks, feels, tastes, experiences, hears and sees, the good, bad and the ugly about your brand. A fresh, clean and clever logo is very important as it’s usually the first thing customers’ experience.

2. Brand development is expensive
Not a myth. It’s funny how many companies try to do brand development on their own because they’ve gone down the road of trying to hire a branding agency and have gotten back an estimate that curls their toes. But when trying to conduct it themselves they end up screwing up their brand further and spending more money than they would if they would’ve just hired the branding agency. The brand development process takes a lot of work and is priced accordingly. Many hours are spent on research, competitive analysis, communication audits, customer interviews and plenty of time thinking and thinking and thinking. Brand Development is an exhaustive process. To develop a successful brand, you must have a professional brand strategist to provide fresh perspective, insight and direction.

3. Brand development does not need input from your employees
Not a myth. An employee by definition is: a person working for another person or a business firm for pay. True, but in today’s economy, an employee is more like your brand ambassador. He or she may know more than you (Marketing Director or Owner) about your customer. Ask them questions about what customers think about your brand and nine times out of ten you’ll get ten different answers. Your employees are the people who are typically face to face with the customer every day. If they are not accurately communicating the brand values, then your brand is not working to its full potential.

4. Your brand is not your product
Myth. Your brand is your product! People buy what your brand offers them not what you sell them. Take Apple for example; they sell computers, but what they really sell is ideas and the ability to create and think differently. See this video by Simon Sinek for a further understanding.

5. The process is over at rollout
Myth. We have seen so many companies develop brands, throw a big roll out party for their employees, give them a t-shirt and a mouse pad with a new mission statement and within a month, nothing from a cultural standpoint has changed and customer satisfaction surveys remain stagnant. Why? Because the brand development process doesn’t end at rollout, it begins! Companies must shift their focus to the employer brand to begin drilling into the culture through their recruitment and talent management practices. Every new employee hired, must be what the brand personifies otherwise your brand development process is nothing more than a creative exercise — it must be implemented properly or all that hard work I mentioned above will be nothing in 6 months.

Companies and startups need to invest in brand development to help them understand who they are, how they can better the marketplace and how they are going to attract the talent necessary to grow and remain sustainable.

If you are looking for help in defining who you are, what makes you unique in a cluttered marketplace and how to build a foundation of sustainability, culture and best hiring practices for your brand. Contact us today!