branding

Social Media Help From Your Friends

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Launching a new brand on social media is difficult. It takes time to build your audience, find your voice, and win the attention of your target market. But what if you could speed that up a little bit? How you ask? Just ask your friends. Your friends, whether they are personal or professional, probably have a sizeable head start on your social media presence, and their reach is exponential. A current side project of mine with a non-existent budget has lead me to try this technique to boost our following on social media networks across the board as well as promote a single message in a well orchestrated social media blast. Here is what I did to plan this. read more

Building a Successful eCommerce Site – Part 2

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In part one of building a successful eCommerce site, we talked about how the location of a brick and mortar store is the equivalent of the search engine results for an eCommerce site. The gist of what we were talking about is putting the business in the best position for high volumes of traffic. However, high volumes of traffic to your business, whether it be foot traffic or Internet visitors, isn’t going to do any good if the business can’t convert the sale. So let’s look at another consideration that applies to both brick and mortar stores and eCommerce sites; Design.

Brick and Mortar Interior Design = eCommerce Site Design

Quality design makes people feel at ease, it lets them know you are serious about what you do, and it adequately reflects your brand. Good design not only reflects well on your brand, it also influences how people buy. In a brick and mortar store, you have the advantage of employees to communicate the brand’s message to potential buyers, but eCommerce sites often don’t have the luxury of face to face communication. This is where design becomes even more important. Consider these things when you start to think about your site design:

Vet Your Designer

Do your research here. Look at their past work. Either ask them for references or look up contact info for someone they worked for and just ask them about it. Actually, do that! You might find that they were slow to work with but they communicated every step of the way, which is much better than someone who doesn’t communicate at all and gives you a finished product that vaguely resembles what you want.

Ask Them To Tell You a Story

So you found someone who designs some pretty slick stuff, great! But how are they at telling stories? If they are simply asking you what design choices you want and not at all about what makes your business unique and different, walk away. Just like that. Find someone else. There are hordes of people out there that have the technical skills to make a website work and look good, but most don’t possess the traits required to tell your brand story AND make it look good, which is what sets apart a successful eCommerce site and a mediocre one.

Set Yourself Up For Flexibility

We have written about why we love WordPress here before, but I can’t stress to you enough the importance to have your site built on a system that you can manage yourself. Most designers, and frankly people in general, tend not to be the best communicators, especially when you need something done urgently. The power to make changes yourself will be priceless over the life of your business.

One should place just as much importance on site design just as one places importance on the interior design, product placement, and customer flow of a brick and mortar store. In the end, good design will last the life of the business and pay for itself ten times over. Take your time and find someone who can help tell your story with finesse and efficiency.

Stay tuned for part 3 of Building a Successful eCommerce Site.

Photo Credit: xJason.Rogersx cc

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Biggest Marketing Mistakes

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Marketers have the great responsibility (and sometimes burden) of coming up with creative, attention-grabbing campaigns, communications, advertisements, and more, and every once in a while there’s a marketing initiative that makes us ask, “What were they thinking?” We’ve compiled what we believe are some of the biggest marketing mistakes from years past and others very recent. There’s something to be learned from them all!

Marsh Williams

So who doesn’t love St. Patrick’s Day? I mean really…all the beer, all the green, all the green beer. So why not honor the Irish with a new product launched in their name on their day. Nike thought it was a great way to tie everything up into one neat bow.

They wanted to introduce a new shoe named the “Black and Tan” in honor of the drink by the same name which is usually made with the Irish staple: Guinness. What they failed to realize is that while Black & Tan might be a perfectly respectable name in Beaverton Oregon, it would never, ever be used in Ireland.

Black and Tan refers to a British paramilitary group organized to help put down the Irish rebellion of the 1920’s. The Black and Tan’s were notorious for their violent and oppressive tactics and are reviled to this day in some parts of Ireland.

So take Nike’s plan to introduce a shoe named Black and Tan on St. Patrick’s Day, an incredibly insensitive and ignorant move, and you have a perfect storm for stupid marketing tricks. The only thing Nike could do to make it worse when they got called out on this gaffe would be to say that “Black and Tan” was the unofficial name and they never intended to use it. Sometime I’d love to hear a company say, “…you know what? We really screwed up and we’re embarrassed by our actions and lack of knowledge in doing this. We’re sorry.”

Colin Smith 

When developing an advertising campaign, companies take everything into account from color to typography. Well, most companies do. Apparently PepsiCo. and Japanese based fashion company A Bathing Ape didn’t double check the latter. They collaborated to create a limited edition can, calling the promotion “Pepsi x Aape” to bring attention to Bathing Apes sub-brand Aape. The two companies decided to use Pepsi’s typeface for the promotion, which seemed reasonable. The unfortunate part of this collaborative print ad, which was featured in a Hong Kong subway, was that some mistakenly thought the ad read “PEPSI x RAPE.” The misinterpreted campaign even made its way on to various other promotional products made for the collaboration. This confusion was avoidable if they had reconsidered the typography they both approved for the ad. Attention to detail is crucial, and failing to do so can lead to some embarrassing public apologies.

Luke Pierce

I realize that I am about to write about a very polarizing subject, so please do not focus on the Obamacare part of these ads and instead look at the approach the ads take. At first glance, the ads promoting the healthcare initiative in Colorado are offensive to millennials. They continue to be offensive at a second glance as well. For those of you who have not seen the ads, you can check them out here. After seeing Wednesday night’s episode of The Daily Show where they aired a report on these ads, you can see why this was the first thing that came to mind when we decided on this subject for our Free-for-all Friday. However, when I sat down to write this, I came across this NPR article which shed a little more light on the story of these ads.

After reading that article I now have mixed feelings about these ads. On one hand, given what they had to work with (a budget of $5000), they seem to have done a pretty good job of getting eyeballs on the ads via social media. But on the other hand, the use of offensive material seems like a cheap trick used to just get some added exposure without communicating the brand message at all. This is ultimately the reason I think this is a huge marketing mistake. At the end of the day, the ads succeeded in getting attention, but they didn’t do anything in the way of relaying the brand message that they really wanted to communicate.

 Gretchen Ardizzone

I was just born the year that this marketing blunder was committed, and while it may be an oldie, there’s certainly a lesson to be learned. Prior to 1981, the portable computer didn’t exist. One company, the Osborne Computer Corporation, saw an opportunity to launch a product that would allow professionals to take their work with them via a portable computer with the creation of the Osborne 1. A twenty-four-pound machine hardly sounds portable when I compare to my current day MacBook Pro, but at the time the product was a true innovation. And with innovation we know comes competition. Big brands Apple and Compaq (who no longer exists) launched their own more advanced versions of the PC. Osborne Computer Corporation felt the need to fend off their competitors with the announcement that they were coming out with a newer, more advanced model. One problem…people quit buying the Osborne 1 in anticipation of something more sophisticated, which wouldn’t be released for more than a year later. It resulted in an immediate financial impact and eventually resulted in the company filing for bankruptcy.

Some of you may have heard of “The Osburne Effect.” The term was coined after this event of prematurely announcing a product launch before the product was made available, and the unintended effects of having a negative impact on product sales. The Osburne Computer Corporation may have been first to make this mistake, but others have since followed. When it comes to product life cycles and innovation, there’s definitely something to be learned here. Timing is everything! It’s the reason Apple stays so hush, hush about their new products, and it’s also what fuels their need for constant innovation.

Photo Credit: Alex E. Proimos

A Product of Craftsmanship

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Were pretty big fans of beer here at Shout Out Studio. Recently we were fortunate enough to do a collaboration on our own beer with local brewery, Seventh Sons Brewing, here in Columbus. It got us thinking. Craft beer isn’t the only thing now a days being made in small batches by talented craftsmen. Here is a list of some our favorite companies crafting incredible things:

Luke Pierce

Expert craftsmanship comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms of physical states (solids, liquids, and I guess I don’t know of any artisan gases yet but keep me posted). One brand that I use every day and admire their design, level of craftsmanship and innovativeness comes in the shape of a wallet. zerOz was started by a guy with decades of product design experience, who was one day inspired to create a better wallet.

What I love about these wallets is that they aren’t your typical wallets. They are designed to complement a minimalist lifestyle as it encourages you to rid yourself of month old receipts, rewards cards you use once a year and anything else that is dragging you down. Each one is made by hand in their design studio from a variety of Italian leathers that make up the look and feel of the wallet while they use recycled materials to give it structure. The innovation comes in the way the wallet functions. The wallet is like a card-shaped cylinder with no top or bottom, the cards are meant to slide in and out in the same way you slide a new DVD out of its outer cardboard sleeve and it also has a strap on the back to hold cash. The wallet is an old product, but it is exciting to see new life breathed into it by someone with the expertise to do so.

It’s people and brands like this that make me excited to think of the possibilities when people apply their unique expertise and level of skill to craft new products for all of us to enjoy. There are a lot of talented people out there, I hope they too are inspired to go forth and craft something for us all!

Gretchen Ardizzone

As someone who was taught to sew at a very young age by my grandmother, I have a great appreciation for the skill, patience, and attention to detail that goes into making something from hand. One Columbus retailer who caught my eye several years ago for their craftsmanship is Substance. The women’s apparel and accessories retailer offer a curated collection of name brand and local artisan products, as well as designs and produce their own collections. In fact, you’ll often see them making the pieces right there in the store. In support of fostering new talent, the second floor of the space also provides a place for up-and-coming independent designers to showcase their work.

Not only does Substance embrace the craft of making a piece by hand, but they’re sharing that with their customers. The brand offers Design Lab workshops which allow individuals at all skill levels the opportunity to explore their creative abilities working side by side with designers to create a one-of-a-kind piece.

If craftsmanship is an important element of what makes your brand unique, make sure your customers see that online as well. Use Instagram to share the raw materials and fabrics of your product or short video of a piece in production, or consider Pinterest to share your brand’s inspiration or DIY ideas for the creative type. The purpose is to utilize the online environment as an extension of your customers and followers to tell those stories that matter to your brand and are relevant to them.

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Brands We Wish Were Real

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Good brands create advocates. Fans so passionate they take it upon themselves to spread the brand message and share their joy. That is what good marketing is all about. Creating brand advocates. We often talk about these brands at Shout Out Studio and do our part to help our clients do the same. In fact, we got to talking the other day and found out that everyone had a favorite brand they were advocates for that simply speaking, didn’t exist. Here is our ode to our favorite brands we wish were real.

Nathaniel Seevers

When you’re on the run from the law when you’re singing into a can when you’re sleeping in the woods…accept no substitute.

“I’m a Dapper Dan man!” 

When Everett McGill (George Clooney) orders Dapper Dan and is offered FOP, another brand of men’s pomade in the movie, O’ Brother Where Art Thou? that was his declaration. Wouldn’t we all appreciate that sort of brand loyalty?

I’m convinced. If not for the main ingredient being real seal oil I might give it a try. For a great men’s hair product with natural ingredients and no seal bits, check out Cliff Original by the way.

So what can we learn from Dapper Dan’s dedicated following? First of all, don’t overlook the importance of your brand’s name. FOP versus Dapper Dan; which one sounds like something you’d like to represent? Also, check out that package design. If I use Dapper Dan I could look like this Clark Gable-ish fella?

I’ll take 2 cans!

Admirable Brand Marketing

Admirable Brand Marketing

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We spend a lot of our time helping brands increase their marketing effectiveness, but yesterday we sat back and took a moment to appreciate those who are doing it right. Here are a few brands, big and small, we admire for thinking holistically when it comes to marketing and telling their story.

Gretchen Ardizzone—Warby Parker

When thinking about admirable brand marketing, for me, it’s got to be Warby. I watched this brand go from undercover indie to mainstream cool, all while managing to maintain their authentic, genuine, do-good attitude. Warby Parker launched in 2010 with its home try-on program and a mission to offer boutique-style glasses at affordable prices.

What makes it admirable is what they’re marketing is bigger than just eyewear. The brand evokes a physical representation of literacy. Heck, the name was even born from two character’s names, Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper, from writer Jack Kerouac’s journal. read more

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Why Use Taglines When Branding

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The jury of branding experts is out on the absolute necessity of a tagline in branding. Some argue that the majority of taglines are bad and basically worthless while others point to the tagline’s direct opportunity to communicate a brand’s purpose and difference right from the start.

A more reasonable statement would be that when conceived and created properly a really good tagline reinforces your brand’s message and helps connect an idea with your audience. Not having a tagline won’t sink your company. But why pass up the opportunity to communicate with the market? read more

Breaking Bad Marketing Habits

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The line between sales and marketing is now barely visible for companies approaching it correctly. For the rest lingering, out of date sales and marketing habits put their prospective clients at arm’s length and threaten nearly irreparable damage to the brand. Relationship building, though always important in business development, has been amplified by a shift to relationship marketing and from deceptive, quick turn, marketing practices.

Every day we see a number of companies using new technologies with old methodologies. From tactical to philosophical, here are 6 sales and marketing bad habits everyone should work to break. read more

target marketing

To Begin Target Marketing Get Laser Focused

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We often come across companies that know they want to market themselves but they don’t know what to say or how to say it. More than that, they don’t know whom to say it to and they often resort to grabbing a bullhorn and yelling to everyone. Target marketing helps you to be engaging to your audience and helps you to more easily see where you resources are best placed. To begin to develop a targeted marketing strategy you must first be laser focused as to who you are and what you want to get across in a message.

Sure, having a market large enough to support your business is important and should be a major part of your analysis when considering even starting one in the first place. But even though you may consider yourself that well rounded, perfect for everyone solution – not everyone will see you that way. You shouldn’t want them to.

The truth is there can be side effects with that approach.

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