Revitalize Your Brand to Revitalize Your Business

brand revitalization

A few months ago, I got up on my favorite soapbox (my blog, of course!), and debunked three myths about branding.

The first of those myths was that your brand can be created in no time — well, actually, that your brand can be created at all. Here’s why I had to falsify that thought: your brand is something that, with time, you’ll uncover. It’s your job to embrace that discovery and then illuminate it.

There’s another piece of evidence, though, when it comes to debunking the myth that your brand is a one-time creation. And that’s this: over time, your brand will evolve.

The evolution of a brand

The three initial keys I gave to discovering/uncovering your brand were these:

1. Observe. Watch your clients, and document how they interact with your business and current brand.

2. Research. Survey clients, analyze the competition, and create benchmarks.

3. Evaluate your mission. Identify the audience(s) you most want to serve, and learn how you can best serve them.

Now, that is, of course, the abbreviated version of each of those steps. I won’t dive in further right now, but here’s the important thing to take note of: none of the actions listed above are a one-time task.

You should always be observing.

You should always be researching.

You should always be evaluating whether your mission still fits your audience, and vice versa.

And as you continuously do each of these things, here’s what will happen: your brand will evolve.

A case study for a Brand Boost

Because we often hear that consistency is the most important thing in branding, it’s often thought that your brand can never change.

I urge you to consider this, though: your brand is the feelings, biases, and inclinations that flood your clients’ and prospects’ minds when they hear or see your organization’s name. It’s an emotional connection that rarely stays stagnant.

And so the truth is, as your business grows, your brand often needs to change to reflect that growth and keep the doors open to unlimited possibility.

This was illustrated for me perfectly through a recent client project. The task? Give new life to the brand of Ferris Hills, an independent and enriched senior living community in the Finger Lakes. Naturally, this called for a Brand Boost.

Ferris Hills realized that it had outgrown its branding. And it did this by observing, researching, and evaluating its mission over time.

In observing and researching, the organization realized what its residents really loved about the community and what sets it apart from others: its proximity to Canandaigua Lake as well as Thompson Hospital; its options for meals, activities, and events; the carefree living it allows for.

A fresh take on the good life

What the Brand Boost resulted in for Ferris Hills: an updated logo, a wave of new photography, and design of a beautiful brochure that captures the essence of the good life.

We’ve interwoven design elements — from colors like greens and lavenders to scripted fonts — that evoke a sense of happiness, vitality, and calm.

Ferris Hills isn’t your standard senior living center. When they lead with “I promised myself the good life…” they let you fill in the blank with whatever that might mean, and then they strive to create it. The campus at West Lake is a hub of activity where life sincerely gets better.

Revitalize your brand

Change is good. It means you’re observing, analyzing, and evaluating the environment you’re operating in and the audience(s) you most want to serve, and keeping an open mind as to how you can do it better.

Your brand will naturally evolve as you grow, and it’s your job, business owner, to let it.

Want to see where your current brand stands? Download my free ebook, What Does Your Brand Say? to do a mini-audit of your brand — then sign up for a complimentary Brand Clarity Call where I’ll help you work through it.

Designing an Experience

designing an experience

When you walk into a floral shop, it’s easy to find yourself attracted to certain bouquets. Maybe it’s the Calla Lilies sprinkled with the Bells of Ireland and dotted with Lily of the Valley. Or the way the tulips are balanced by hydrangeas. You see, florists are experts in pairing just the right flowers to make you want them staring at you from your kitchen table every morning.

They do something that many people can’t: they see what works together, so they package it. Then, they sell it. And it works — because suddenly we see what we might not have seen before. And when it works really well? It resonates with us.

The magic of packaging

The same could be said of your brand. Your brand starts with a single element — maybe it’s your logo. It could just as easily be a texture that speaks to you. Or a color that represents you. The talent of a good graphic designer comes in being able to take disparate design elements that work on their own — a logo, certain graphics, a color palette, various patterns — and package them together so that they work even better. In their unique packaging, they form an identity for you and your organization — one that resonates with your ideal client.

Packaging items helps people understand, appreciate, and connect with the experience, whether it’s flower buying, interacting with your brand, or embarking upon new travel destinations.

Packaging travel

Consider the organization AAA: as a travel agency, AAA packages vacations to present them to potential buyers as a one-stop shop: your airfare, lodging, meals, transportation, and excursions organized over 7; 10; 21 days for maximum enjoyment. They can do it because they know the product. Where you might look at a trip to Ireland and be overwhelmed with options, they can present to you an all-inclusive trip with an itinerary delivered to your inbox.

Local travel bureaus are doing the same. But what’s even more fun to see than the standard packaging of hotels and restaurants is the coming together of partner entities to form a trail you can explore — one with a unique brand to call its own.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

That’s precisely what so many local tourism partners have done. It’s the trails created by others that give us the encouragement, and the understanding, to explore newness without overwhelm. Take for example the Finger Lakes Sweet Treat Trail. Voted #7 on USA Today’s 10Best list for Food Trails, this one’s focused on the good stuff: the cookies, jams, honey, ice cream, and other sugary delights, all made with a focus on locally-sourced ingredients.

On their own, each of the businesses on the trail operates just fine. But together? They’ve joined to create a brand that brings more visitors and fosters a better experience. (And gets featured on USA Today…)

The same could be said of other local trails with which I’ve worked: the Canandaigua Wine Trail, the Cayuga Healthy Choices Trail, and the Let’s Go Hike and Bike trails. Each is made up of seemingly disparate entities — ones that you might think to visit individually, but wouldn’t necessarily know how to approach together as an outsider. As collective entities with distinct brands, they’ve united to offer experiences.

Trails you want to be on

It is incredibly important to create a brand that excites the people you want to reach. Whether it’s perfecting the pairing of flowers in a bouquet, partnering a logo with graphics and textures for a company identity, or packaging the wineries, waterways, and sweet shops into a trail, make your next creation an experience that others want to take part in.

Create a brand that excites. A package that inspires. A trail that invites.

What skills, elements, or ideas will you blend into an experience next?

Crowdfunding: Use Your Brand + Community to Illuminate Your Campaign

Brown Hound Bistro Kickstarter

On July 12th, my good friend and inspiring business owner Trish Aser took a bold step forward: she began a 15-day Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 in an effort to move her bustling business from South Bristol to Canandaigua. Her goal? Serve up her next course: expand her restaurant, Brown Hound Bistro, to bring even more local Finger Lakes ingredients to the table for a greater number of diners, year round.

I call this a bold move because Trish is stepping outside her close-knit neighborhood. She’s asking for help. And she’s going after a dream. But perhaps it isn’t such a bold move. After all, Trish has two key allies on her side in this campaign: her brand and her community.

How your brand can boost your crowdfunding campaign

Trish (and yes, her dog) opened the Brown Hound Bistro in 2005 and immediately became a pioneer in sourcing local ingredients. She works with local farmers, dairy producers, winemakers, brewers, and more, to bring her diners the best that the Finger Lakes has to offer. (Seriously — I might be a bit biased, but have just one meal at the Brown Hound and you’ll be shouting it from the rooftops yourself!)

Ten years later, Trish hasn’t strayed from her mission to keep things local and has been incredibly consistent in maintaining her relaxed, approachable, Earth-inspired brand. It shines through in the Brown Hound’s ambiance, in the local art on the walls, in the presentation of the menu, in the tone of her servers, and even as she takes Brown Hound on the road via her catering services.

How does this help her when it comes to crowdfunding? Sites like Kickstarter are flooded with campaigns on a daily basis. Like any crowded marketplace, the businesses that stand out are the ones that use their brand to tell a story.

Trish’s brand is doing just that: it’s telling a story of humble beginnings, an exuberant passion for food, and a dedication to supporting local producers.

What story is your brand telling?

The importance of community in crowdfunding

In any major venture — especially for business owners — community is key. Crowdfunding is no different — in fact, at its core, it’s all about community. Fortunately, Trish has been busy at work cultivating a strong one over the last decade.

In building her restaurant, Trish has built community in the following ways:

1. Delighting customers. From her regular visitors to seasonal tourists and everything in between, Trish has served thousands of customers who’ve visited the Brown Hound to savor a meal. But beyond serving them, she’s gone out of her way to delight them with unique tastes, fresh ingredients, and impeccable service.

2. Building a family. Speaking of impeccable service, Trish has built a family at Brown Hound. Her team — in the kitchen, behind the bar, and on the floor — is a crucial part of her community and especially important to both living her brand and advocating for her mission.

3. Supporting local producers. In sourcing and supporting local, Trish has extended her reach well beyond just farmers. She works with local winemakers, brewers, and distillers to offer an impressive, local beverage menu, and she’s cultivated relationships with local artists to adorn the walls with Finger Lakes-inspired art. (I’ve been fortunate enough to have my paintings hanging there!)

Your customers are your community. Your partners and producers are your community. Your staff is your community. Catch my drift? Community is everywhere. Cultivating yours now can and will be the difference maker as you continue making your dreams come to life.

Build your brand, cultivate your community, and go after your dreams

It takes years of hard work and exploration to solidify your brand and build a loyal community. But with both at your side as a business owner, anything is possible.

Will you join me in supporting Trish in her quest for the next course? Act now! Head on over to her Kickstarter page and remember, every dollar counts!

Three Branding Myths We Need to Debunk Right Now

business branding myths

There’s a lot of buzz about branding. From one-person solo businesses to large corporations, the importance of a strong brand has only gotten more prominent as time goes on and companies rely on exceptional experiences and word of mouth to boost their sales. Your brand, quite simply, has to be on point.

But with all the buzz, there’s a lot out there to read and learn — and not everything you’re hearing is true — or necessary — for your business.

Three branding myths worth debunking

1 – Your brand can be created in no time. (Actually, that your brand can be created, at all.)

If there’s one thing you need to know right now, it’s this: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your brand won’t be, either. Branding requires research, time, and strong doses of intuition. The most important aspect of branding is authenticity, and because of that, it requires the patience to figure out what your business is, what your business stands for, and who your business serves. And all of that means you need time.

What should be done in this time?

Observation. Watch your clients, documenting how they interact with your business and current brand.

Research. Survey clients to gather stories. Get the lay of the competitive landscape. Create benchmarks and identify gaps.

Mission evaluation. Decide who you most want to serve and how you can best serve them.

Branding isn’t about creation. It’s about discovering what’s already there, and knowing it will evolve. When you allow for intentional and productive time to evaluate your business and where your brand stands, you and your branding strategist will naturally uncover your brand.

2 – Your brand is all about you.

The second most important thing to know is this: while your brand is a reflection of you and your business, it is not all about you. Your brand is the key that opens the gate to connect with your ideal customers, and because of that, your brand has to speak directly to them.

While you’re in the discovery process, take the observations of how people are interacting with your business and where that intersects with your mission, and note what speaks to them most. What do they come to you for? What desire or need does your business fulfill? Your brand has to be uncovered with the customer in mind — because it’s what connects with them that will ultimately dictate what your brand is all about.

3 – Your logo = your brand

Finally, this is perhaps my favorite branding myth to debunk: there are many people out there who will equate your logo with your brand. While your logo is a crucial piece of your brand, your brand is so much more than just the logo: your brand is a portfolio of the colors, type, tone, and ethos of your business.

So where do elements like your logo come in? Your logo, website, and marketing materials are vehicles to carry your brand, as are you, your team, and your ambassadors. Powerful, intentional branding is about activating and empowering those vehicles to tell your story.

The truth about branding

With three strong myths debunked, let’s get to one truth: your business is your brand. And a powerful, relatable brand is imperative for your success as a business.

I want to help you uncover where your current brand stands. Check out my free ebook, What Does Your Brand Say? and when you’re ready to level up in your branding and feel its impact on your business, book a complimentary (yes, free!) Brand Clarity Call with me.

To debunking myths + celebrating strong brands!

Destination Branding Can’t Happen in a Day

Destination Branding

In many places in the northern hemisphere, we’re in the midst of what the travel + tourism industry will label as “peak season” — at least, if your prime activities require being outdoors, your destination comes to life when green, and you’re kid-friendly.

Peak season is fun: It’s easy to sell; it’s easy to put a smile on travelers’ faces; and it’s all too easy to kick back and relax while accommodations fill up and activities sell out.

I am all for sunshine, relaxation, and celebration — but let me share a little secret: When your destination is a brand in and of itself, you can make it peak season all year round.

Destination branding: Not just a trend

In 2010, still in the throes of an economic downturn, many destinations in the US turned to re-branding campaigns to revive their image while families and meeting planners worked with limited travel and planning budgets. Yet what one expert referred to as a temporary “branding bug” has stuck around well beyond the downturn — because destinations see the impact a strong brand can have on its image, its influence, and its ability to satisfy.

It’s about learning, not fabrication

The first mistake destinations make in building out their brand is that they begin by thinking it’s something they need to create. But the truth is, unless you’ve just built your city, theme park, ski mountain, etc. from the ground up, your brand already exists. It’s up to you, destination marketer, to dig in and discover it.

Step away from the drawing board and get out and about. Survey past and current visitors, monitor social media — including blogs — to see what’s being said, and get in touch with locals. Research is the name of the game. Ask questions to get to the bottom of what makes your destination unique and what gives it its personality.

Gather a solid idea of what it is that draws people to your destination, what it is that makes them happy there, and what it is that they talk about to others. Pay attention to the words they use, the feelings they express, and the stories they tell. With that pool of research in hand, you’ll be set up to properly package what’s already being emanated, rather than trying to create something from nothing.

Key elements of a destination’s brand

Like any brand, a destination’s brand includes key elements. Here are a few:

Messaging: The taglines, phrases, and stories told. A few great examples: Visit Finger Lakes’ “Taste the Life”, Explore Asheville’s “Discovery, Inside and Out”, or Visit Philly’s “With Love.”

Design: From logos to typefaces and graphics to the style of photography, design plays an incredible role in embodying the feeling of a destination.

The goal of hitting the message and design nail on the head in tourism branding? To evoke a feeling. How do you want visitors to feel upon seeing or interacting with your destination’s marketing — whether in print, on the web, or even on a phone call? (Hint: The feeling you’re encouraging through your marketing needs to match how they’ll feel once they actually arrive!)

What destination branding achieves

Branding a destination doesn’t just equate to sales — though, yes, with the upfront investment and cohesive marketing built around your brand, you’ll be amazed at the potential it holds. Building a strong brand also leads to the following:

Increased pride amongst locals: Giving a destination a brand — so long as it is authentic — gives the people who live and work there a sense of pride to be associated with it. Locals can be your best advocates. Use that to your advantage!

Self-selection: When your brand is true to the experience your destination holds, you’ll find that visitors will naturally be attracted to the places that best suit them, and will therefore be more satisfied with their decisions and experiences.

Destination branding can’t happen in a day

Your destination’s brand will naturally evolve over time. While you can design the messaging and the imagery that will accompany the brand, the personality and characteristics that serve as the foundation already exist. It’s up to you to uncover and amplify them.

Because when your destination embodies a brand — a personality, a feeling, a story — travelers will want to experience it all year round, not just in June, July, and August.

Want to get it a better idea of where your current brand stands? Get my free e-book, What Does Your Brand Say? and sign up for a complimentary Brand Clarity Call today!

Destination marketers: What stories do you tell about your brand?

PS – Research serves as the basis for my design process. Get the behind the scenes here!