Branding

San Antonio, Here We Come!

At Strata, one of our favorite things to do is talk marketing. We’re problem solvers, and we pride ourselves on helping industries overcome their marketing challenges. With healthcare marketing being one of our many specialties, we’re excited to announce that the Strata team is heading back to the annual SHSMD Connections Conference in San Antonio, Texas from September 19th-21st, and we couldn’t be more excited!

SHSMD? What’s That?

For those who’ve never heard of SHSMD (aka the Society for Health Care Strategy & Marketing Development), it’s an AHA professional membership group that focuses on how the industry can evolve and change with new strategies, marketing, and technology, serving more than 4,000 members.

This year, SHSMD is celebrating the 25th anniversary of their annual “Connections” conference, and we can’t wait to connect with some of the industry’s best marketing and communications strategists. It’s been two years since we’ve been able to interact with these professionals in person, and we’re excited to be able to once again inform, challenge and validate their thinking, while also learning from the conference’s guest speakers from all over the country.

What We’re Looking Forward to & What We’re Bringing

This isn’t our first rodeo (even though it’s our first time going to Texas), as we’ve attended this conference for 20+ years. However, this will be our first time back with a refreshed look, thanks to our 2020 brand refresh. As marketing experts with almost 30 years of experience, we’re excited to bring our expertise to the show, and create some new, long-lasting relationships.

It’s clear that the healthcare landscape is evolving faster than ever, and to stay competitive, hospital systems need to start looking at marketing as a strategy rather than an afterthought. We plan to go into the show with an open mindset and to educate healthcare industries on the importance of New Mover Marketing and how SmartMove can help them achieve their patient acquisition goals.

If you don’t know who (or what) we do, Strata offers a wide range of client-driven solutions to help companies solve complex marketing and communications challenges. We’re a lot of things (innovators, go-getters, marketing experts), but we’re people first—and we know you are, too. That’s why we believe the best way to help a business achieve its marketing goals is by focusing on the people who work there.

Learn More

If you’re attending this year, stop by booth 216 to learn more about how Strata can help you with your marketing efforts. We can’t wait to meet you!

If you’re not attending the upcoming conference- no worries. Contact us today to discuss your own personal marketing plan from the comfort of your own home.

Straight from Our Creative Designer

If you’ve read any of Strata’s blogs, you know that we believe in the power and effectiveness of good marketing. We believe not only in planning, strategy, organization, touchpoints, messaging, and call to actions, but in the great design. Without great design, you could be missing out on a ton of potential customers through failure to grab their attention. Because design has such a wide range of options (nearly endless), we’ve compiled a shortlist of design trends you should keep in mind when planning and executing your next marketing campaign.

Revitalized Layout & Structure

Minimalism

Minimalism is a buzzword that simply never goes out of style. Minimalist design is clean, simple, and sleek, and because of its bare nature, makes the viewer pay attention to the most important details on the page or in the email, letting them know exactly what you want them to do (for instance, a call-to-action) or what you want them to understand. When designing minimally, don’t be afraid to use white space, interesting hierarchy, and unique spacing. Mix it up and surprise your audience with something different and less busy than the rest of your work.

Digitally, audiences are now looking for “simple, sleek, easy-to-use interfaces. If you’re unsure how to simplify your website for a more minimalist design, use tools like eye-tracking tests to see where your viewers are focusing. Once you have eye-tracking data, you can simplify your website to include just those areas that are important to and effective on viewers. It’s also important to eliminate unnecessary pop-ups that can distract from relevant content. “Ensure the user journey is purposeful by opting for simple and time-saving design features so they can easily search for items of interest.”

Storytelling

In marketing, we’re almost always telling a story. It’s important to make sure that the story is not only conveyed by words – but by imagery and layout too. “…more than ever, consumers are looking to buy from brands they can relate to, that feel approachable, relevant and authentic. To achieve a genuine connection, designers and marketers should use storytelling.” Make your story even stronger and increasingly significant to customers with personalization and tailored content, product value, and authenticity. One of the best ways to tell your story is through video, which is why we’ve just launched our new YouTube channel. Take a look to see how we tell our story(s) through imagery and video.

S-Curve Layout

The “s-curve” layout is a unique way of leading the viewers eye down or across a webpage, email, or even a printed document. It’s formed by using imagery on the left, words on the right, and then words on the right, and imagery on the left (or another similar variation) to bring the viewer’s focus from left to right, back and forth. This helps potential and current customers better understand the marketing they’re looking through, but also keeps their attention as they do so.

Spruce Up Your Imagery

Hand-Drawn Graphics

This type of design can help your company stand out among the rest of the modern, boxy design that’s more popularly used. In today’s digital world, “it is so rare to get a handwritten note from someone that when we do, it feels extra personal.” Adding a small sketch or unique handwritten note to your design, without overdoing it, can increase its authenticity, personalization, and the overall personality of your marketing materials.

Illustrated Iconography

Iconography has been hugely popular for a long time, mostly due to its easy-to-digest nature. It’s a simplistic way to get certain company ideas and information across, such as product offerings, features, and company values. Yet, these days, “icons have been granted much more visual prominence. Conveying brand personality, unique artworks and most importantly, clearly communicating the intended message”. We’re now using them for much more than just features, and making them a lot more interesting to look at than just a simplistic phone symbol. Illustrated and unique icons can be used to help your company stand apart from the crowd, and distinctively illustrate your brand. “Aside from speeding up loading times with lightweight graphics, icons—especially zhuzhed up icons—soften brand identities and encourage an emotional connection to be made with the audience.”

Surrealism

Since the beginning of 2020, reality has often seemed very surreal, making all of us question what we really know to be true and trustworthy. “Considering how mixed up –– and messed up –– day-to-day life often seems; it’s no wonder graphic design is exploring imagery that bends the edges of reality.” Using strange, juxtaposing, and even somewhat jarring elements can catch a viewer’s attention yet also feel oddly familiar if they’re more adapted to strange happenings and visuals. Play around with imagery that tells the story in a more imaginative way, and see how your audience responds. It just might strike a chord!

Data Visualization

Artwork is beautiful – but data is important. Your customer may like how your brand and imagery looks, but they’ll likely love imagery that conveys facts and figures they can trust and understand. Data can be overwhelming when it’s simply delivered using a ton of words and numbers, so using imagery to make the information more readable, understandable, and visually appealing is often the way to go. And, if done right, “prospects can be encouraged to become customers through data.”

Refresh Your Branding Design

Pops of Color

Even if your brand is more neutral and duller, you can always spice things up with a few pops of color at the right place and time. A good splash of color can help bring a message to life without losing brand identity – if done correctly. Here’s a good example from Airbnb. Their brand colors are primarily a bright magenta/red and white, but here, they use a ton of colors to energize a host award without taking away from their overall brand image.

Bold Typography

No matter who your audience – young, middle-aged, or older, bright and bold type is exciting and eye-catching. It draws the reader in, if used in the right place(s), and catches anyone’s attention for at least a few seconds, even from far away. Plus, large type provides maximum readability, as long as the font isn’t too out-there.

Incorporate Cultural Happenings

Socially Conscious Design & Authentic Representation

Social consciousness. Diversity. Representation. Understanding. All of these – in today’s world and into the future, are extremely important and at the top of many customer’s minds. In our current society, “design and culture are integrally connected.” Showing a better future through imagery and design can often be the best way to facilitate change. This year and in 2020 especially, “social unrest and movements for anti-racism have captured national attention,” so you were remiss as a company if you didn’t at least acknowledge or even take a stance on these issues. Socially conscious design with authentic representation of several ethnicities, cultures, sexualities, and more has become a huge part of graphic design practices. “Within the theme of socially conscious design, key trends include authentic representationsustainability, and celebrating diversity and imperfection.”

Sustainability & Natural Elements

Environmental concern. Sustainability. Eco friendly practices. These, too are at the forefront of today’s initiatives, especially after a tough year where many of us have been consistently indoors. We were truly forced to take a better look at our outside world, and our impact on it. Many companies, including Strata (through Operation Eco) are focused on preserving the earth and sustaining the health of our planet. Through natural imagery and sustainable design your company can further convey your care and efforts, and give your audience a sense of peace and tranquility. “As consumers think about waste and their environmental footprint more than ever before…expect to see more and more packaging designs that emphasize sustainability through natural iconography, neutral color palettes, and eco-conscious materials.”

Optimism & Support

Lastly, although we’ve had a rough last year or so, we can finally see brighter days ahead, and so can our customers! Show your support and emphasize this brightness with optimistic design and “good news” layouts. Make your audience feel a sense of trust for your company by showing that you care for them and empathize with their current struggles.

Looking to implement some of these unique design practices into your marketing campaigns, but still not sure where to start? Contact Strata.

The Who, the Why, and the How

In part 1 of the All About Branding blog series, we talked about what branding is, why it’s so important, and how to tell if it truly matches your products or services. Now, we’re seeing if your brand also matches something just as important – your customers. But first, let’s discuss who exactly your customers are, as well as your greatest fans and loyal supporters (your customer base).

Who Are Your Customers?

You may think your customers are simply the people that enter your store, call your company, or send you an email. And you’re right – they are. But those aren’t your only customers. There are actually many different types of customers that you may not even be aware of. For example, those who visit your site, hear about your product or service via word of mouth and plan to call you or visit your site this week, or those who have visited your shop or thought about your product, but haven’t returned – in person or online. There are loyal and engaged customers (maybe they have a subscription to your service or consistently order your product), and there are those you don’t see (who like your social media photos or talk about your product to friends and family). Customers and potential customers come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s important you think about all of them no matter what type of business you run.

customer base, on the other hand, is the group of people who are loyal to your business! They not only buy and love your product, but talk about it often and maybe even post about it on social media. They’re engaged in your happenings and come back again and again for your offerings. “These shoppers may be loyal to your brand for a number of reasons…you offer them a product they want or need, your brand’s messaging resonates with them, or they enjoy being involved in your brand community.”

When it comes to your brand, you also don’t want to forget about those you communicate with on a daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly basis. The wholesalers, retailers, and vendors you work with should all get a good sense of your brand as well, whether that be by how you speak to them over the phone, the tone you use in your emails, or the branding materials you send them online or in the mail.

And, although it’s easy to pass by the importance of learning about your customer base, as well as understanding this base and catering to it, it’s essential for your business and brand. In a recent study of 1,900+ business professionals, 45.9% said their #1 priority for the next 5 years was customer experience (even over pricing and product). And consumers agree with this notion. Statistically, “76% of customers expect companies to understand their needs.”

What is Your Why?

Knowing the “why” of your business is an integral part of understanding and building your brand. You need this as a foundation to decide on all other aspects, such as your goals, your ideal customer base, and inevitably, your brand. Ask yourself questions about your company, like:

Once you’ve answered all of these questions, you’ll have the tools you need to determine your ideal customer base and make other valuable decisions for your business, and when you have a better idea of your target audience, the rest comes together fairly smoothly. The better your understanding of this base, the easier it is to retain them. Here are four simple steps to further identify your target customers:

1. Outline your audience – describe their lifestyles, situations, wants, and needs. Maybe come up with a fake customer persona to lead you in the right direction.

2. Note their pain points, and how you can provide solutions.

3. Think about what’s at stake if their needs aren’t met.

4. Think about the payoff if their needs are met.

Understanding your customers’ wants, needs, personalities, and actions, and thinking through how your product/service can relate to these, will ultimately facilitate to great success for your company.

Does Your Brand Match Your Customers?

What you find in your research of your ideal customer base will contribute heavily to how you define your brand. Is your target audience wealthy, with high expectations? Do they demand exceptional service? Brand your business to be high class, with a product that uses the best and rarest finds. Oppositely, maybe you find your business to be a low-budget, large family’s go-to product. Market it as family and budget-friendly, with consistent offers and an understanding staff. Another example? Maybe your customer base is all about the young, the new, and the trendy. Create a modernized website, consistently post on social, and make sure to be on TikTok. Simply meet your customers where they are, where they’re going, and where they want to be…and be a brand they connect with mentally and physically.

Knowing your customer base and creating (and upholding) a brand to match it is imperative to maintaining and growing a great business. Add loyal brand advocates to your adamant customer base by engaging with them beyond the first purchase, and showing them consistent, inviting brand messaging. Don’t just sell them your product, but remind them again and again of your friendly service, amazing offerings, and unique brand and message. Implement strategies and services, such as loyalty programs, social media campaigns, and exemplary customer service, to turn strangers to visitors, visitors to customers, and customers to promoters – who will promote your brand for free through word of mouth.

Identifying your customer base from their lifestyles, to their situations, problems, implications, and needs, is the best way to build a brand that meets them where they are, and where they’re going. Looking to improve or streamline the branding of your marketing campaigns and messaging? Contact Strata to brainstorm some ideas that can help you connect with new and returning customers in a meaningful, on brand way.

From Tagline to Talk

Although Strata doesn’t specifically create and implement branding services, we work with and use brand standards to create marketing materials day in and day out. We’ve seen great (and not so great) brands, and know what makes a brand stand out among competitors. Branding isn’t just a buzz word – it’s important no matter how big or small your company. It isn’t simply a logo and consistent colors – although it is these things. It’s also the way you make your customers feel, the experiences you provide, and the language you use to describe your products and services. Whether it’s known or faintly and unknowingly distinct, you have a brand and an image you’re putting out there…but is it purposeful? And is it the right one? We’re bringing you some best practices to make sure your brand truly matches the product or service you offer.

What is Branding?

Today, in a vast plethora of options to choose from no matter what industry, using tools to distinguish your business, from your logo to your services, is more important than ever. A brand is what helps you set your company apart from other businesses. It’s “a feature or set of features that distinguish one organization from another…typically comprised of a name, tagline, logo or symbol, design, brand voice, and more.” But it isn’t just the visuals. It’s the feeling and experience the customer gets from interacting with your business, whether that’s in person, on the phone, on social media, on your website, or somewhere else. Branding, as an action, is setting up these features, from tagline to talk. It involves understanding your product, why customers love it, and catering to those current and future customers with a distinct and memorable experience. “It’s what transforms first-time buyers into lifetime customers and turns an indifferent audience into brand evangelists.”

Why is Branding so Important?

Even if you don’t think you do, you definitely have a brand. Maybe your customers say “I love that company. Every time I call their customer service is kind, and their products make me feel great. I also love their cute and simple logo. I’d definitely buy a t-shirt.” There’s your brand right there. Your customers perceive these brand elements, have reactions to them, and choose to give you additional business. Yet, the smallest of hiccups can ruin a brand. A few wrong moves or interactions with unpleasant employees can cause your business to be looked at a lot differently, and can change the experience for everyone. It’s important to know, understand, and nurture this brand to continue to grow – and not lose – your customer base. Branding can help you “establish the ways in which you’re different, special, and unique. And it shows your customers why they should work with you instead of your competitors.”

Visuals are of course just as important as feelings. Especially now, in 2021, brands are urged to reach further in their experimentation and uniqueness, creating eye-catching logos, websites, social media imagery, and merch. More and more, companies are expected to be “instagrammable” in their image. Kids, teens, and even adults are intrigued by the idea of getting a good photo for their social accounts. Not every store or business has to attempt this atmosphere, but there should still be some thought behind who you want to be and how you want to be seen.

Simply put, branding gives your company an identity, makes it memorable, helps you create and solidify marketing, and gives your employees and fans something to talk about and be proud of. It can increase the value of your company to give you more leverage in the industry, and thoroughly establishes trust (for partner brands and customers alike). Basically, you’ll look a lot more professional if your brand isn’t just an accident, but is planned, deliberate, and easily recognizable.

Does Your Brand Match Your Product/Service?

Now that you know its importance, take a minute to think about your brand. Does it match who your company is, your products and/or services, and the feeling you hope your customers get when they interact with your business? Does it portray the taste, the look, the feel, the scent, the sounds of whatever you sell? If your answer is “no” or even “I’m not sure,” it may be time to dig a bit deeper into what exactly you’re putting out there for the world to see, digest, and associate with your company.

Maybe you’d describe your company as traditional and authentic. The original idea for your product dates back to the mid 1900s. Don’t hesitate to promote and communicate this in the imagery and messaging of your marketing materials. Maybe use a traditional typeface, a nostalgia-inspired logo, and incorporate some authentic, vintage music into your videos. Oppositely, maybe you’d classify your company as new-age, experimental, unique, trendy, and fun. Use modern branding styles, popular music, and distinctive, trendy content to further create a stylish and hip experience that matches your product.

Psychologically, humans don’t like to think too hard. They like when things are easy to decide on, and when they make sense. Make their decision easy by providing great customer service with a great product or service. Combine multiple unified brand elements so their brain can relax and enjoy the environment. Humans are also terrified of missing out (hello FOMO) – so create a branded experience that’s too good to pass up (aka, inspires FOMO). Make sure your business has a distinguishing look and feel that makes customers (or even potential employees) want to talk about it and brag about it – whether by word of mouth or through a hashtag.

Before starting your next campaign, use this knowledge to think just a bit deeper into your products or services and the story you’re sharing with the world. Make sure your company’s identity is not only one that you’re proud of, but one that exemplifies your offerings and differentiation from competitors. If you’re looking to improve the reach of your brand, contact Strata today to set up an on-brand campaign that utilizes crafted messaging that will help capture and inspire new and returning customers.