Versa Website Design

Web Design Type and Color

Web Design Type and Color 840 1120 Nathaniel Seevers

Small adjustments to brand expression can have a big impact on things like user perception and experience. When we started talking with Versa about a new website design, we asked questions about the brand and business evolution since their last website was created. We wanted to know what they had learned about themselves and their audiences. We wanted to understand how they’d grown or how the brand personality had changed as the business matured.

When evaluating a website, it’s not enough to just say the design and functionality are outdated. Outdated compared to what, and how far? Is there a spectrum? If those are the only points of reference for new design, you’ll spend a lot of time chasing trends. We wanted, and Versa expected, purposeful progress.

After discovery sessions with the Versa team and collaborative work defining the current brand personality, we started to look at logical ways their identity elements could and should evolve. What needed to shift? What supporting pieces needed to be introduced? After all, why reinvent the wheel when you’re still trying to roll.

fonts 0 versa

When we referenced the updated personality work and our experiences with the Versa team and the Versa environment, two particular elements seemed out of place on the current site:

  1. Versa had an expansive color palette that included a beautifully vibrant red, but it was almost non-existent on the site and in their marketing collateral.
  2. Versa had a clean, versatile sans-serif font in their brand guide, but the serif paired with it on the website lacked the structure and attention to detail representative of the Versa experience.
Single Web Page Mcokup

For the new site design, we elevated the vibrant red from Versa’s palette and used that as the main color element through the site. The higher saturation allowed us to communicate important characteristics of the Versa brand, draw attention to important calls to action, and create paths through the site.

We replaced Versa’s original web serif, Alegreya, with Playfair Display. Alegreya can give a sort of old world feel, and its details begin to look less than polished at smaller sizes. It’s the opposite of Versa’s approachable sophistication.

The switch to Playfair Display created more structure in the headlines and allowed us to play with contrasting weights and sizes to create a clear hierarchy of information.

Though small parts of a much larger process and design plan, adjusting these two elements in a purposeful way improved the brand expression and the user experience.

Why Use taglines

Why Use Taglines When Branding

Why Use Taglines When Branding 840 1120 Shout Out Studio

The jury 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?

Tagline Benefits

The right tagline provides a clear message of what your brand is all about. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams does this with the line, ” Built from the ground up with superlative ingredients.” The message gets right to the heart of what makes Jeni’s different.

A good tagline can elicit emotion and paint a picture of brand personality. Nike says, “Just do it.” L’Oreal Paris says, “Because you’re worth it.”

A tagline allows for brand versatility. Instead of naming your company something so overtly tied to your product or benefit, use your tagline to reinforce the message. If your company evolves down the road, a tagline is much easier to change than your entire corporate name and identity.

How to Build A Better Tagline

  • Start with your brand promise. Why did you create this business? How are you different? Why should anyone care?
  • Show personality. If your brand is a bit more upscale and dramatic make sure you’re speaking in that voice.
  • Make them read it twice. It might seem counter-intuitive but breaking the normal patterns of speech are a great way to grab attention.
  • Draw on emotion or action. Sony does both with, “Make Believe.”
  • Get inspired. Check out this list of the best taglines of all time.

Taglines serve as a concise expression of a brand’s essence, promise, and personality, playing a crucial role in branding and marketing strategies. They encapsulate a brand’s unique value proposition, making it memorable and distinguishable in a crowded marketplace. The art of crafting a tagline involves a deep understanding of the brand’s core values, target audience, and market positioning. It’s not merely about being catchy but about resonating with the audience on an emotional level, thereby fostering brand loyalty. Effective taglines have the power to evoke emotions, inspire action, and anchor the brand in the minds of consumers. They bridge the gap between a company’s identity and its perception by the public, making them an indispensable tool in the arsenal of brand communication. Brands that master the use of taglines can enhance their market presence, reinforce their message, and create a lasting connection with their audience.

pexels tranmautritam 326502 1

Refresh or Rebrand?

Refresh or Rebrand? 1920 594 Soteria Mathewson

Refresh or Rebrand? When is it time to change, and how much?

In 2012, Proctor & Gamble launched TidePods, a revolutionary dissolvable pod with multiple cleaning solutions that worked to clean and fight stains without pouring or spills. This invention helped P&G reach a new market and gain a competitive advantage.

Who knew that the “Tide Pod Challenge” would emerge in 2018 and spread like a wildfire as adolescents across the country were “dared” to eat them like a tasty snack. 

You can’t prepare for the stupidity of future generations, and you must always be ready to problem solve. After the “Tide Pod Challenge,” Tide went into crisis management mode and rethought its messaging and packaging. They used a public relations campaign to validate concerns, show action and control the narrative.

When it comes to your business and brand, adaptation is key

In 1994, when eCommerce was officially introduced, it was revolutionary for the shopping experience and terrifying for the design community. Until this point, most agencies and designers focused their creativity solely on print, and television advertising. The online platform introduced a new advertising spot, a smaller canvas, and a more significant challenge for creative professionals. The design industry was forced to adapt to meet the changing needs of the consumers and businesses they worked for. 

That’s how design works.

Values change, needs arise, and design helps us problem-solve. Whether driven by the introduction of new technology, the change in consumer preferences, or the desire to stand out, there’s never a wrong time to evaluate how your company has evolved. And when your company evolves, so should your design. 

This begs the question…

The question is ambiguous because it depends wholly on the state of your company. 

Many companies are scared to overhaul their brands completely. Whether they’re afraid of the backlash or losing the loyalty of their customers, they’ve spent time and money on the old one, or they just don’t think this is necessary, we’ve learned that there is a proper time to rebrand entirely, and a proper time to simply refresh the design elements. 

Even the strongest brands have a shelf life. According to Brand Leader, “Even household names go through a brand overhaul every 7 to 10 years.” 

You know it’s time for a complete rebrand when:

  • Your branding no longer reflects the core values of your company
  • You’re failing to differentiate yourself from competitors
  • Your business model/strategy has changed
  • You’re undergoing a merger/acquisition 

When doing a complete rebrand, it’s not just about visuals. By contrast, a rebrand is a complete repositioning of your brand. With a rebrand, you leave everything about your current brand in the past.

This means re-considering your company, Strategy, Positioning, Personality, Voice & Tone, etc.

Clean Slate.

A great example of this, an impressive rebrand is Burger King

Realizing that they were falling behind in their market and struggling to compete, Burger King began making internal changes to improve the quality of their products and eating experience. They changed their recipes to move towards healthier, more desirable food, refreshed their store design to create a more enjoyable eating experience, and improved the accessibility of their restaurant with curbside pickup spots, a walk-up window, and multiple drive-through lanes. 

To express these quality and structural improvements, they also completely overhauled their brand and visual identity. In 2020, Jones Knowles Ritchie, Executive Creative Director Lisa Smith, and Burger King’s in-house design team worked together to strategize a rebrand that came out in early 2021.

Inspired by the logo roots, they designed a bold and retro logo that better communicates the “best of Burger King” and the energy behind this rebrand.

burger king logo rebrand bk jkr dezeen 2364 col 0

In addition to the logo redesign, they introduced more “in your face” photography and an illustrative style that aims to make the brand appear less synthetic and more desirable. 

burger king rebranding cover 1024x425 1

Burger King has re-evaluated its place in the fast-food industry. They have seen where they are falling short and have overhauled their brand to improve their place in the industry. Much needed and well respected by many renowned agencies, the Burger King Rebrand is an excellent example of the right time and way to Rebrand your company. 

Learn more about the refresh from the design firm here.

The changes made by Burger King were necessary and vast. But perhaps the need for large-scale change isn’t that evident at your company. 

You’re not falling behind, you’re not restructuring, but you simply feel your branding doesn’t quite fit with the world around you. 

This is usually a sign that you may not need a complete overhaul but simply a refresh. 

Reasons to Refresh:

  • To correct out of date trends
  • To showcase core values that arent being appropriately showcased
  • To reflect the evolution of your business
  • To help showcase new product lines

A Brand Refresh is more of a cosmetic solution to a problem; rather than starting from scratch, you’re simply giving the brand/design a facelift. 

When doing a brand refresh, start with the essential core values and evaluate how they are expressed in the visual identity. From there, we find places to improve, whether in typography, spacing, balance, or contrast. In a similar but less dramatic way, The J.M. Smucker Co completed a brand refresh in late 2020 that got some controversial feedback. 

Rather than a complete overhaul, Smucker simply refreshed their identity to reflect the evolution of the company and its products. 


The primary purpose of the Smuckers facelift was to accurately accentuate the company’s diverse portfolio of brands. Although the feedback from this update varied widely. Everyone considering a refresh or rebrand must understand going into it that the changes made will not always be liked. 

Change requires disruption. People hate change. 

Don’t be scared to refresh or rebrand. As your company evolves, so should your design.

See our article, “How to work through a brand refresh,” to learn more about refreshing YOUR logo to match your changing company.

Pieces of the brand puzzle

Brand Voice, Story, Audience

Brand Voice, Story, Audience 1920 950 Marsh Williams

With apologies to Rod Stewart – “every company tells a story.”

Every company has a story to tell, one worth listening to, but for the most part, one that exists in pieces all around the office. Oh, it’s all there, it just has not been gathered and assembled into a single cohesive message, and frankly, it’s usually easier for someone from the outside to find. Within the company,  people have heard something so many times it just becomes part of the company lore and seems to be matter-of-fact when it is the exact opposite. The little gem, the nuggets, which people hold on to, those are the pieces customers look for, those are the pieces upon which a story is built.

Once we get an opportunity to look, all of the pieces are always there, but like the ingredients for a great recipe, unless you can put them together in the right order, they are just elements, each good but not reaching their full potential as part of a greater whole. In fact, most of our clients have multiple stories that should be told, and that’s where the fun begins. Weaving everything into the company’s origin tale, it’s purpose for being, and the message they want to deliver.

Ironically, building and crafting the message is not the whole story (yeah, that was intentional.)

But what really makes a story great is the listener, the audience/consumer. That’s why the story exists, for, without an audience, the story has no purpose. Knowing about an audience, who they are, what they want to hear, and how they want to hear it: brand voice.

Voice is all about connecting with the consumer, what is the tone, what are the words, what is the delivery that will connect with the most impact and best represents the brand. Words, cadence, delivery, tone all are parts of the voice, and understanding it and communicating it internally/externally is critical to consistent brand marketing.

The entire purpose of voice and story is to establish a rapport, a sense of knowing something about both the speaker and listener. That’s how relationships start, and ultimately that’s what storytellers want, a relationship with the audience, which by the way, helps the story evolve. The audience/customer input always impacts the story by definition. Once it has been told, the story becomes the audiences’ to share with their audiences; friends, family, and others. That type of brand loyalty is the gold standard; turning customers into fans.

By diving into all of this, we’re not trying to make this seem complicated, we’re trying to give some sense of the hard and deliberate work that leads to the magic. It’s not easy, but then again, easy never made a great story, did it?

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster

Brand Consistency

Brand Consistency is Worth 20+%

Brand Consistency is Worth 20+% 1920 700 Marsh Williams

A survey we recently ran across had a statistic that, frankly, astounded us: 

“68% of businesses reported that brand consistency has contributed from 10% to more than 20% of their revenue growth.”

Most people would view this as low-hanging fruit and take 20+ percent in revenue. At least, that’s what we thought. 

As we read further into the survey, here is what we found: A large majority of organizations responding, 82 percent, considered brand templates essential, but only 16 percent stated all company teams consistently used brand templates. So companies believe brand presentation is critical and, when adhered to, it increases their revenue. But a significant portion either don’t have brand standards or don’t always enforce their use.

How hard is it to consistently present a company’s brand? Actually, it’s pretty hard when you consider all of a company’s touchpoints. Sure, marketing is a slam dunk, but what do customers experience when navigating voice mail or waiting on hold for customer service? All of this is brand, and it has to be consistent across every customer engagement.

In a previous post we wrote about Vian’s Axiom:

“Marketing is what you promise, brand is what you deliver.”

We spent some time thinking about companies that really have very tight alignment on all brand touchpoints and landed on McDonald’s and one of our favorites REI. 

McDonald’s is remarkably consistent at every customer touchpoint, particularly with regard to visual elements. Customers know exactly what to expect when interacting with the company. Like it or hate it, there are no surprises. McDonald’s also rules on social media. They have a massive following and regularly use platforms to engage and interact with customers. That’s right, the burger chain that’s been around since 1955 has mastered brand communications on the newest media.

REI’s brand message and personality flow through everything they touch, every communication they initiate. The attitude they purvey online, in all media, and in their stores is one hundred percent aligned. They are membership-based and at times, challenge retail industry norms. One year, on  Black Friday, they even closed completely. They walked away from what we believe to be the biggest retail sales day of the year and made the following statement, “Black Friday is a perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected, and complete when you choose to spend it outside. We’re closing our doors, paying our employees to get out there, and inviting America to Opt Outside with us because we love great gear, but we are even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks.” In a letter to his members, Stritzke quotes outdoor visionary John Muir, who stated in 1901, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.” 

A brand is somewhat ethereal, and while this may be hard to agree with, the only place your brand exists is in someone else’s mind. Consistent branding is always built on consistent behavior, consistent voice, tone, styles of engagement, and customer interactions at every level of the organization: this is why formal branding guidelines are critical to overall success.

By “formal guidelines,” we do not mean brand police. We want a clear vision of the brand with examples for everyone to understand and embrace. A brand book should inform, enlighten, and educate. It is something that should be given to every person on their first day with the company. Let them read it and understand the essence of what you want your brand experience to be.

Without this, the customers’ understanding and perception of a brand can change with every experience. Customers will not know what to expect from one interaction to the next, and they will perceive that your brand is inconsistent or, in the worst case, schizophrenic. It becomes too much work to figure it out every time, so customers move on to their next choice in the market.

Brand guidelines are important. Brand books help communicate those guidelines effectively and explain how they can enhance customers’ overall experience…besides, who wouldn’t like a 20 percent increase in revenue from something as simple as brand consistency.

If you’re thinking about your brand presentation and consistency, we’d love to discuss it: no sales pitch, just an honest discussion about where you are and where you’d like to be

what's your brand

What’s Your Brand?

What’s Your Brand? 1920 703 Marsh Williams

“Describe your brand.” It’s a simple request and one that we ask of every client.

Let’s start with one data point. Brand is more than a logo or a name; it’s the full representation of your company (tone, voice, look, values) and how it’s perceived out in the world.

So as companies grow how do they make sure everyone one understands and buys into the brand? Where is the stake in the ground against which you can measure any communication? Do you have one?

We work with companies of all sizes and stages; the first thing we want to know is what is the brand. We’re engaged to act and communicate on their behalf as part of their team so emulating their voice and tone is critical to the role they have asked us to fulfill. Being in lockstep with what the brand is and what it stands for drives everything. For companies that have a brand guide, that stake in the ground, it’s pretty easy. For those that don’t we lead them through an exercise we call Brand Clarity. It’s not a rebranding by any means, but it’s a useful way to gather the information to create the document a business can use as north on the compass and we can use to create more effective marketing communications.

Clarifying Questions

We start the process with some key questions. It’s always interesting because even though everyone generally has the same idea of their company’s brand, there are still nuances which need to be captured and discussed. These discussions are a great way to build understanding and consensus within the organization about the brand.

You don’t need us to do this you can do it yourself. Using Google forms or something similar create a simple online form and ask the primary stakeholders in the organization to respond; make it anonymous. Then compile the answers, share them with everyone and discuss the differences. Document the outcome and share it with everyone in the organization. Of course, a full brand book contains more than this, but that exercise a good starting point even for mature organizations.

Begin with these four fundamental questions and add others you deem valuable:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. Name two or three brands that share a similar audience
  3. Why does your company exist?
  4. What makes your company unique?

We’ve never been through the brand clarity process without it precipitating excellent discussions about the value, voice, and tone of an organization. It’s a reliable process for getting everyone on the same page, and when done correctly the output can be an excellent onboarding tool for new staff at any level. The brand book says this is who we are; this is what we believe, this is how we treat everyone with whom we come in contact.

Moreover, if you want to take it to the next level, add information about your visual standards; colors, logos and proper use, fonts etc. There’s your stake in the ground. Something against which you can measure every communication to make sure is on point and consistent across the organization no matter who is telling the story.

key components of a brand guide

Key Components of a Brand Guide

Key Components of a Brand Guide 1920 703 Nathaniel Seevers

A well-formed Brand Guide can act as a playbook for business decisions and marketing strategies. It’s a point of reference as to why the brand was started in the first place and a compass for maintaining your intended path. Keep in mind, when we say brand we’re talking about much more than the design components. More than just the looks. The brand guide should, as accurately as possible, describe the entire character of the brand – the promise, purpose, the walk, the talk as well as the look.

Putting together a full-fledged Brand Book can take some time but it can pay off tenfold across the life of your business. Consider the following key components of a brand guide when you get started.


Give a quick synopsis of the brand. This is your prologue to the rest of the document. The “why” this document (your company) even exists. This part provides context for the reader and helps rally the team working on behald of the brand.

Brand Platform/The Core

This is where you begin to flesh out the character of your brand. Just like talking about a close friend, you should be able to describe what your company’s goals are, what it stands for and the company’s personality. Are you a little goofy or very much buttoned up? The value of this section is in details such as below.

Proper definitions courtesy of Brand Channel.

  • Brand Purpose/Mission: How the brand will act on its insight.
  • Brand Values: The code by which the brand lives. The brand values act as a benchmark to measure behaviors and performance.
  • Brand Essence: The brand’s promise expressed in the simplest, most single-minded terms. For example, Volvo = safety. The most powerful brand essences are rooted in a fundamental customer need.
  • Brand Personality: The attribution of human personality traits (seriousness, warmth, imagination, etc.) to a brand as a way to achieve differentiation. Usually done through long-term above-the-line advertising and appropriate packaging and graphics. These traits inform brand behavior through both prepared communication/packaging, etc., and through the people who represent the brand – its employees.


Who are you working to create a dialogue with and how…

Market – What is the ideal demographic? Who is our brand for?

Voice – how do we speak to the market? At Shout Out we worked through an exercise to identify an actual person representative of our company voice.

Visual Identity

Now it’s time to get into design guidelines. This part is incredibly important for maintaining a cohesive visual brand. Hand this section to partners, new hires, anyone impacting or using any part of your visual brand. It should contain:

  • Primary Logo and Proper Usage
  • Secondary Logo and Proper Usage
  • Logo No No’s
  • Typeface
  • Color Palette
  • Photography Style

In the end, developing a proper brand guide can be an exercise in brand self-awareness as much putting together guidelines for others. Often times it helps to seek out the perspective of trusted contacts not directly involved with your company. Ask them to answer a short questionnaire based on what they do know about your brand.

brands and politics

Brands & Politics: A Conversation Worth Having?

Brands & Politics: A Conversation Worth Having? 1920 703 Shout Out Studio

Editor’s Note: Shout Out Studio has partnered with students from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) to mentor, research and write a series of blog posts for The authors are members of student-led group, East Bridge Consultancy, an affiliate of Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity.

By: Daniel Kuperman & Sean Hynes

When an increasingly complex business environment collides with a decidedly unconventional political landscape, the only certainty is disruption. Although, to many, this bizarre interplay became most visible during Britain’s exit from the Eurozone and the ascendancy of Donald Trump, keen observers noted signs of change well in advance. The prevalence of social media helps facilitate the adoption of oxymorons like ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news,’ somehow becoming mainstays in today’s vernacular. These developments point to a deep uncertainty that pervades social interactions, political conversations, and the markets alike. For some brands, this new standard presents a unique opportunity to connect with a targeted audience.

As exemplified by the immigrant-centered Anheuser Busch ad featured during Super Bowl 50, the growing impact of increasing political divisiveness can be clearly seen. It is also no coincidence this commercial — and others like it — were aired during the single most-viewed television event of the 21st century.

Officially, Anheuser Busch played off the immigrant focus as a coincidence. Amidst the contentious debates that followed Mr. Trump’s proposals for deportation, it was quite the timely opportunity for this ad to air. Delving deeper into the elements of this industry leader’s client base and competition lends useful context to this marketing effort. It is no secret that behemoths like Anheuser Busch have been seeing market share erosion for years due to increasingly popular craft beer brands. A common criticism is that such a massive firm adapts too slowly to diverging consumer preferences, whereas its more nimble competitors were founded upon these new tastes. Perhaps this political gesture intended to rebuy the support of millennial consumers using an unapologetically current ad, costing AB as much as $15 million.

Not all companies choose to align with any specific political ideology or movement, but rather embrace a broader theme such as unity seeking widespread appeal. Coca Cola’s #AmericaIsBeautiful campaign aims to evoke a powerful, albeit safer, reaction among their customer base. The ad seems to make the case that despite our differences, we can bond together and enjoy the ubiquitous experience of a Coke. Compared to AB’s commercial, what Coke lacks in boldness it makes up for in mass appeal. For a country appearing to be growing apart on political and social fronts, this may be a wise approach.

The less audacious brands are perhaps in the best company, opting for a neutral stance instead of venturing into potentially hostile social arenas. Well-recognized (and more often than not, publicly traded) companies chose to respond in ways that would not commit them firmly to either support or opposition of Mr. Trump’s actions. A longer-term outlook reveals a danger of staying out of the conversation, however. While this more guarded course of action makes sense from a shareholder-centered perspective, if social tides turn and increase pressure on corporations to take a stand, those who stayed neutral will be first in the line of fire.

As the powers of social media continue to grow at a seemingly exponential rate, this pressure will continue to creep up on corporations. Public relations nightmares have gone from a minor inconvenience to becoming a major catastrophe overnight, with recent occurrences involving Pepsi and United Airlines coming to mind. Whether it was a company releasing the wrong politically charged ad or having employees’ actions reflect poorly on their employers as a whole, companies must be wary of the powers behind making the wrong move, especially with growing pressure to step out of the neutral zone and take a stand. For United, a single failure in PR crisis management resulted in a $250 million net loss in market value.

Individually, these examples are anecdotal at best; extrapolating on any single situation would be ill-advised. Deciphering a best practice may be impossible for industries as a whole, but by engaging with one’s unique audience, companies can aspire to connect on a more profound level with end users.


PodcastsStorytelling ShoutBlog1

Podcasts and the Art of Storytelling

Podcasts and the Art of Storytelling 842 452 Shout Out Studio

Storytelling is the oldest and most effective method humans have to pass along knowledge. It’s how we’ve developed cultural values and passed history from generation to generation. We are wired to remember it.

This is why learning how to tell your story is just as important as what it is you have to say. If your delivery is boring, cluttered, or disorganized people start to lose interest. Think of it as a dinner party. The people who take control of the conversation and demand the most attention are those who are the best at telling stories. They may not have the best stories at the table, but their ability to make what they’re saying interesting and entertaining is what wins over the crowd.

While there are endless outlets for your brand to tell it’s story, only one format has brought back the classic type of storytelling. Oral storytelling is an intimate and traditional relationship between the storyteller and audience. It’s been around for as long as we’ve used language to communicate. Although it is unlikely you will be speaking to your audience in close quarters, huddled tightly, it still offers an important lesson. The best way to experience the oral tradition of storytelling without interrupting your daily life is by listening to podcasts.

Podcasts have been around for a good while now, but as of recently there have emerged clear victors when it comes to storytelling. They offer lessons in effectively finding your voice, style, and feel to best reach your audience. They’re also great ways to spend long roadtrips or long days at the good ol’ 9-5. Here are some great podcasts to get you started:

Serial: If you managed to make it the past 6 months without hearing about Serial, then I’m genuinely impressed. After its release last October, Serial set a new presidence of what radio-journalism could be. It follows a reporter’s investigation of a murder from 1999. Without giving too much away, it’s a gripping series that reached the top of the charts.

Longform: A Q&A format podcast that focuses on the creative process of writers and journalists. It’s an in-depth and intimate look at a professional storyteller’s processes–both grounding and relieving (hint: everyone struggles sometimes). That being said, it’s always inspiring to hear people in love with their craft and career.

Radiolab: Taking a complex and philosophical subject matter and creating an interesting and understandable radio show is no easy task, but Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich do just that. Their series of podcasts use storytelling to explain or examine broad and sweeping subjects, such as time. Another great part of the show is the production value, which adds to their stories without being distracting.

The Truth: You can’t handle the truth! The Truth is an entertaining Fiction podcast utilizing the tagline “Movie for your ears.” Between improvised dialogue, interesting production, and captivating story lines, The Truth is definitely worth a listen. Also, I don’t apologize for the A Few Good Men reference. Worth it.

99% Invisible: One of my favorites, 99% Invisible hosted by Roman Mars focuses on art, design and architecture. Each episode examines a specific example of design, dicussing it in depth with professionals, experts, or those directly influenced by the matter at hand.

While this is just a short list, there are tons of great podcasts. Each has it’s own story, and they all tell it in an incredibly unique way. It might come in handy when telling your own story someday.


Brand Building: Attracting Your Ideal Audience

Brand Building: Attracting Your Ideal Audience 776 415 Shout Out Studio

Whether you are establishing a new brand or taking a closer look at an existing brand, one key aspect to take into account is your audience. Furthermore, are you attracting the audience you want? Successful brands are able to identify and align with their audience in a way that is both natural and genuine.

The ability to identify your ideal audience allows you to establish a connection between your brand and your consumers. Having a clear understanding of the type of consumer you want gives you an advantage when it comes to the rest of your marketing efforts. Even if you’re a small business and don’t want to exclude a potential customer, identifying your target audience is crucial to branding.

Values: The values of your company should be apparent in your brand. Are you a company who values tradition and quality? Or do you value innovation and contemporary style? These types of questions should be able to be conveyed simply through your branding. That’s why luxury brands don’t waste resources by trying to reach out to every consumer. That’s also why their branding reflects the exclusive lifestyle they want to attract.  They focus on being selective, high quality, and not available to the everyday consumer. By doing this they set themselves apart and attract the type of customer they want.

Social Media Engagement: What kind of audience does your brand attract on social media? Is it a younger crowd who enjoys entertaining and humorous content or is it an older crowd looking for engaging and informative content. Does it mirror the type of people you hope to attract as customers, or are you missing the mark? Social media is a great way for companies to see where they stand when it comes to branding. It gives both the consumer and the company an opportunity to give direct feedback to one another.

Be Original: It’s easy when developing a brand to look at what is working for other companies. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do for inspiration and ideas, it is a bad thing to do when you try and mimic another brand. To stand out from the crowd and attract the attention of people, you have to find your own image. Even though two car companies are fighting for the same customers, they tend to go about it from a different angle. They have their own story to tell, and that story is unique to them. Find your unique story and use it to build a brand that is all your own.

Don’t Over-do It: Trying too hard to appeal to your audience can come off as just that, forced. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and don’t be something you’re not. Find the middle ground that keeps true to your company, but is also attractive to the audience you hope to gain. This middle ground will be the best opportunity for success.

Lastly, think about the long haul. Build a brand that can be adapted over time while staying relevant to your target audience. Building a brand for the now is setting it up for a complete overhaul. Keeping the long-term in mind will help you build a brand that can stand up to the test of time. You will always need to adapt because your audience won’t stay the same forever, but adapting is easier than changing.

Photo Credit: Roger Reuver


Don’t build a brand, build a community

Don’t build a brand, build a community 842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

Don’t set out to build a brand, set out to build a community. Build a place in hearts and minds and memories. Build a movement. Build a collective of beliefs and standards and by that a collective, focused group of advocates.

That collective group will help you build the brand.

Even when it comes to persona or personal brands, from actors to athletes to world leaders, it isn’t about that one person. It’s about what that one person stands for in the hearts and minds of fans and colleagues and competitors. It’s about the ideals or values represented by that individual. It’s about backing up your talk with the walk. It’s about communication and follow-through.

What I’m saying in all of this is a “brand” is only as good as those who stand behind it. Not just the founders and c-levels but the community that gathers to help carry the flag and share in telling the story.


Photo credit: Martin Fisch via Flickr
In use under Creative Commons License 2.0


Vian’s Axiom: Marketing is what you promise, but Brand is what you experience.

Vian’s Axiom: Marketing is what you promise, but Brand is what you experience. 776 415 Marsh Williams

I have a great friend, Marty Vian, who has always said that “Marketing is what you promise, but Brand is what you experience.” I’ve named this Vian’s Axiom.

Now take that to heart for a moment and apply that to your customer’s experience. How much time to you spend extolling the benefits/virtues/outcomes of your product? How much time do you spend trying to cut through the noise and get potential customers to at least be interested or aware of your product?

If you’re like most companies this is the entire focus of your marketing and advertising effort.

Now take everything you know about your marketing and throw it away for the next fifteen minutes. Forget about all of the effort you’ve put into positioning, promotion and communications.

Make yourself a customer and do the following.

  • Respond to your own marketing offers.
  • Click on social media link, go to your website and pretend you know nothing about your offering
  • Post a question to your company on Twitter, Facebook, Etc and see who’s listening
  • Contact your customer support with an issue
  • Call your customer support phone number and see what happens
  • Call the main phone number of your company and see what happens
  • Send in an email inquiry through the website
  • Fill out a contact form on the website.

If you do these things, the response/result you are experiencing is your brand: as Vian’s Axiom goes, this is what you’re actually delivering to your customers therefore, it is your brand.

You probably know where to go from here, but make sure the response from these experiences matches your marketing…that’s real brand alignment.

Here are a few things we’ve worked with our clients to align; all the company names have been replaced with Green-Widget.

Do Not Reply

Don’t send emails out to anyone, under any circumstances, with a return email address that starts with “” all this tells the customer is that you don’t really care about what they have to say and you are making them look for a way to respond if they need to.

If you have to do this because your IT department is making your marketing decisions, then provide a contact email in the body of the message. Never, ever make your customer have to hunt for a way to contact you.

You’re Valuable, but not That Valuable

Do not send an automated reply to a customer service inquiry that says

**This is an Automated Message to confirm that we have received your inquiry.**
Thank you for contacting Green-widget Support.
As a valued customer of Green-widget, you will receive support within 1 business day.

How’s that for mixed messaging?

Setting expectations is a good thing but try something like, “Thank you for contacting us. We want you to know we have received your request and are reviewing it now. It may take us up to a day to review it and respond. However, If your matter is urgent, please get in touch with us at 123-123-12345 or and we’ll get on it immediately.

To contact us…aww, we’re only kidding.

Recently we encountered a firm whose website contact page had no email address or contact form. It simply listed Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, etc

We sent them a question via Twitter…no response.

We sent the same question to them via Facebook…no response.

We looked up their Chief Operations Officer on LinkedIn and send him an InMail…no response.

We looked up their VP of North American Sales on LinkedIn and sent him an InMail…no response.

That’s their brand you hear not talking, very loudly.

In Summary

If you want your customer to love you and what you’re doing, listen to them, engage them, and applaud them…but do not ignore them; what you say is marketing, and what you do is branding.


Photo Credit: aldenjewell

Backstory on Photo

The Chevrolet Corvair was an entirely new approach to car design, fun, fuel-efficient, and inexpensive: a marketer’s dream. Then reality set in when Ralph Nader published Unsafe at any Speed. It crushed the Chevrolet Brand for years. Thus a great case for Vian’s Axiom.

puppy laying on the floor

Brand Communication and Emotional Connections

Brand Communication and Emotional Connections 880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Pepsi means something different to me than it does to you. I may love it. You may hate it. It may have nothing to do with taste. I may not even drink soda but still love Pepsi the brand. Pepsi can’t control that. They never will be able to. That’s ok.

What brands can control is their efforts to build emotional connections.

It’s the same reason why my wife thought I was somewhat cool and loveable and someone else thought I was a clumsy geek of a mess and said, “pass.” We can never truly control the reaction and perception of others but we can control the vibe we’re putting out and how we communicate our intentions. With brands, like with humans, a little self-awareness can go a long way.

Despite the accessibility to information buying decisions are still made primarily based on emotion. Social media has only amplified that. When we see stats like, 71% of consumers are more likely to purchase based on social media referrals it’s easy to see the logic behind that. However, we as consumers seek even a small portion of logic in order to feed a larger feeling of comfort and affirmation about the purchase about to be made. It makes it ok to buy.

When it comes down to side by side choice, often times people can’t really pinpoint the reason for preferring one brand over another. It’s the emotional connection that wins out over price. Generational demographics matter not because of age and technology skills but more because of familiarity. It’s science. Processing fluency relates to the way information and memory is accessed. When fluent processing is attributed to the past it can create feelings of familiarity. “Processing fluency may even be the foundation for intuition,” the sort of “gut feeling” that can often override factual decision making.

So when building a brand adept at creating emotional connections consider:

  • Positioning your message based on what you want the customer to feel versus telling them your product or service is so good they’d be crazy not to buy it.
  • Leading with your brand values instead of a rebuttal to the competitor landscape.
  • Focused listening. Why stop at creating a realistic customer persona when you can survey the actual customer base?

Which brands do you feel are best at building emotional connections? Let us know in the comments.

 Photo credit: Lecates via Creative Commons

desire not fear postheader 1

Marketing Based on Desire Instead of Fear

Marketing Based on Desire Instead of Fear 1920 703 Nathaniel Seevers

Every day we’re subjected to broad-brushed statements and statistics geared toward making us take some sort of action. It’s marketing. It’s communication. It’s normal. But all too often a portion of the content we digest on a daily basis works to drive action by peddling fear.

Local news has been guilty of this for as long as I can remember.

Severe weather alert, the roads are virtually impassable, stock up now, you might as well just stay home and watch your local news all day for the latest so we can sell more ads.

I get it to an extent. Your local news is a business just the same as a company making hand soap. They are both working to make a profit, to stay open, to pay their people.

The problem with this approach, outside of creating a nation of people digging bomb shelters in the backyard, is that fear is a short-term game. Fear may be the easiest emotion to tap into but it is only a short-term motivator. It’s motivation based on an instinctual reaction—survival not on choice.

People learn and adapt. It’s the same reason why interruptive marketing tactics like animated banner ads and pop-ups lose effectiveness over time.

What if we built marketing based on desire instead of fear?

If fear shaped long-term consumer behavior, fast food restaurants would no longer exist. Gyms would far exceed McDonald’s locations. Las Vegas would have no more secrets to keep. Fear doesn’t embed habits. The solution does. The benefit does. The reward does. The attainment of the desire is what promotes dedication.

In the book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg tells the true story of Claude C. Hopkins, a successful advertising executive hired in the early 1900s to help market this new toothpaste called “Pepsodent.”

Despite widely known information on the decline of the health of Americans’ teeth, many other toothpaste pushers were going broke. That is until Hopkins focused Pepsodent’s positioning on the reward, the desire to have a clean feeling, pretty, film-free teeth.

book on a desk

“Within a decade, Pepsodent was one of the top-selling goods in the world and remained America’s best-selling toothpaste for more than thirty years. Before Pepsodent appeared only 7 percent of Americans had a tube of toothpaste in their medicine chest.” – The Power of Habit

Many B2C brands thrive in the world of desire-based, benefit-forward marketing. Coca-Cola says, to open a Coke is to open happiness. They even encourage you to share a Coke with a friend. They don’t say, “the world is going to shit, buy all the Coke you can carry, so you have something to drink while you’re hiding out in your basement.”

Why not position around fear?

It’s a punk move: It’s a quick fix in an age where consumer education and the value of social validation are high. Fear might get you a quick sale based on reaction but rarely will it translate into recurring revenue or repeat business. You can do better than fear. You can be more creative. We believe in you.

Don’t confuse fear and empathy: Empathizing with a concern or pain point in order to provide a solution isn’t the same as pushing an unbalanced dose of “do this or else.”

Brand Association – Communicating from a fear platform doesn’t mean you’ll be cast in the role of the hero saving the day. It just means you’re scaring the hell out of everyone.

This is a great opportunity to refer to your Brand Manifesto or Brand Guide as your compass, making sure you’re pointed in the right direction and speaking from the brand characteristics you documented for your business. I bet you didn’t write “scary” as one of your brand characteristics so why tag your company with that feeling? It can lead to a negative association in the subconscious of the consumer if pursued regularly over the lifetime of the brand.

What to do instead

  • Focus on the resolution – put your benefit upfront and the problem at the end of your copy. “Shout Out fresh scent hand soap softens hands and kills 99% of the germs that cause bad marketing.”
  • Paint a brighter picture – instead of talking about the potential of a post-apocalyptic fall out describe the utopia that comes with the solution you provide.
  • Build an audience around social proof – back it up with positive feedback and a happy community of fans across social platforms.
Identify Your Story

Identify Your Story

Identify Your Story 880 461 Marsh Williams

In earlier posts, we’ve referred to storytelling as a key component of marketing, regardless of the distribution medium. Most companies know they have a story of some kind but it’s not always easy to tell it in clear concise terms.

We recently discovered this for ourselves in redoing our company About page. In asking everyone to write a short bio for the new page the general response was as if we have asked people to eat a bowl of boiled okra, and for those of you wondering, that’s not a good thing. To a person, everyone said they hated writing about themselves and didn’t know what to say, so we changed it up. We wrote everyone’s name on strips of paper and took turns drawing them out of a hat. So the net effect is that everyone got to tell someone else’s story. And you know what, it turned out pretty well. The profiles really captured the essence of each person and there was peace in the read more

Finding Your Company Voice

Finding Your Company Voice

Finding Your Company Voice 842 452 Shout Out Studio

Is It Hanks?

If you had to choose a public figure or celebrity who most represented the company you work for, who would it be? The team at Shout Out Studio once asked themselves this very same question.

As a new member of the team, I am still getting a feel for who we are and how we talk about ourselves as a company. During my first internal marketing meeting, I asked if there was a simple statement or question we could ask to make sure we’re staying true to our brand and consistent in our tone-of-voice. Someone suggested, “Who is our brand?” Immediately I heard them respond, “Tom Hanks.”

At first, I thought of it as foolish being of the same vein as middle school games such as M.A.S.H. and that fortune telling the game that uses a folded up piece of paper with numbers on the outside. However, the more they explained why Tom Hanks represented our brand, I found my perception of the exercise swaying towards relevancy.

Now, I wasn’t there for the original conversation, which I can only imagine consisted of intense debate about how Tom’s performance was better in Big than in A League of Their Own, or how the best movie of his career was hands down Saving Private Ryan rather than Forest Gump, but I know that they discerned two important characteristics of Mr. Hanks and the characters he plays; he is genuine and helpful.

For one reading this, these specific characteristics shouldn’t matter; rather it is the simplicity of the statement that is most important. The group narrowed it down to two specific characteristics, and like any good design, there is beauty in simplicity. Don’t get caught up in how silly the exercise feels or the subject matter. Focus on the simple direction and the insight it gives to the company’s brand identity.

Tom Hanks represents Shout Out Studio’s most valued characteristics of our brand voice, thus giving us one simple question to ask before we send a tweet, write a blog post or give advice to a client. Is it Hanks?

So, if you find yourself asking, how do we go about finding your company voice? You just might find this exercise will provide clarity and consistency to your brand and communications.

Photo credit: Howard Lake

Image of white Suggestion Box

Your Business Doesn’t Belong to You

Your Business Doesn’t Belong to You 880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Let me preface this post by saying that none of what we write here is to call anyone out or make anyone feel bad about their efforts online. If you think we don’t screw up you’re crazy.

The goal for us is to provide some guidance when we can so companies can get better and in turn, provide a better experience for their clients.

Thus the basis for this reminder.

A good friend of mine was telling me about a conversation he had the other day with the marketing manager at a respected business in his area. They were talking about everything online marketing and happened to stumbled over the topic of online reviews like Yelp and Google and so on. This friend of mine happened to ask how this business handled negative reviews online. The reply was to the effect that they ignore it because it doesn’t make sense to let people tell them how to run their business.

Here’s where the reminder comes in: read more

What's In a Name

What’s In a Name?

What’s In a Name? 842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

Some things to think about when naming your business

What’s in a name? Well, it sure meant a lot to Romeo and Juliet but does it have to be a life or death decision for your business?

Not exactly.

It should be a piece of your brand’s overall strategy and it shouldn’t be something that you take lightly. A name is often the first thing you decide on when starting your company and it’s almost always the first impression your potential clients are subjected to.

How will it stand up?

read more

© 2024 Shout Out Studio, LLC
Skip to content