Tag Archives: brand integrity

Social Media Gets Serious

We recently read an interview that got us thinking (again) about social media and how people and brands use it to represent themselves.

Novelist Teju Cole is known for his beautifully slow-paced and well-written books Every Day is For the Thief and Open City, both of which offer a unique insight into the cultural dynamics of Nigeria, America and Europe.

Recently he spoke to The Guardian about, amongst other things, his presence on Twitter. An active tweeter, he gets involved with the political sphere, challenging those opinions he finds either lazy or pernicious.

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This perhaps isn’t unique – plenty of public figures use Twitter as a platform to air their political views. What is somewhat unusual, though, is how seriously Cole takes social media. He admitted to writing drafts of his tweets, stating: ‘When I tweet, I’m still a writer’. One can’t imagine some other prolific tweeters taking so much time over their posts.

Perhaps more of us should follow his example. Well thought out posts that accurately represent and enhance your brand identity make for more relevant, interesting, and profitable conversations all round.

One of the beauties of Twitter is how instantaneous it is – it’s so easy to type out a quick message and send it out to the world. Bite-sized nuggets of information can be transmitted immediately. Just look at how quickly topics become trends.

But this ‘instant-ness’ sometimes fosters carelessness. When it’s so easy to send out a tweet, they can seem ephemeral. Here today, gone tomorrow. That’s not really the case though, is it?

Your feed is a timeline of your activities on Twitter that all of your followers can see, and who knows how many people see each individual Tweet? Even if it’s limited to just 140 characters, it’s still a platform on which to display your brand, your business, or yourself.

Cole, conscious of his role as a writer and all that it entails, aims to ‘create a space’, even with his Twitter feed, admitting that he ‘actually sits and thinks about this’. It’s no bad thing to consider one’s online profile carefully. Through his thoughtful and measured outputs, Cole ensures that he honours his values as a writer and is cohesive across all fronts. This is something brands should put effort into too.

When you tweet, you’re tweeting as your company or brand, and so it’s important that your message comes through even in the briefest of messages. Whether it’s through the careful use of certain hashtags or ensuring that specific company vocabulary is used, it is paramount that you establish a distinctive tone of voice in line with the rest of your brand and run with it.

Aim to create a ‘space’ of your own online that’s dedicated entirely to the showcasing of your brand. Whether you’re dealing with customer service queries or promoting a new marketing campaign, you’re still contributing to the associations consumers have with your company and you brand identity overall.

To use Cole as an example once more, as a Nigerian-American writer whose work focuses on Nigerian people and culture, he often engages in discussion about Africa and the prejudiced opinions that some Westerners seem to have of his native continent.

A cosmetics company, despite being a completely different entity entirely, could use the same principal in their social media usage: posting make up tips and engaging in conversations about top performing cosmetic products would enhance their brand identity and integrity. Consumers are given the impression that they know what they’re talking about and further opportunities to interact with them. Every tweet has a purpose.

The same, of course, goes for other social media platforms as well. Put thought into images you post on Instagram (there’s no shame in setting something up especially, or using some super-flattering filters) and give some substance to your posts on Facebook or your blog.

When you say something online, you’re not just making a comment; you’re representing yourself and your brand.

Keep Copy Sparkling

We love writing at Rhubarb Fool. It’s kind of like breathing to us, and a part of why we’re so infatuated with all types of media.

One of the things that most helps you to improve your skills as a writer is incredibly simple – just reading. The more different types of writing you encounter, the more words you’ll learn, the more ways of constructing sentences you’ll discover, and the more styles you’ll sample.

That doesn’t mean just classics. As much as we love Austen and Shakespeare and Fowles, Eliot and Auden and Tennyson, we read everything. Variety is not only the spice of life, but enriches you as a writer and as a

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person. It’s not just magazine articles or blogs that can be captivating either, but seemingly uninteresting things like brochures, supplements and information leaflets.

So copywriting – even in its most ‘basic’ form – is important. If that’s the case, then why is so much of it not very good?

Don’t get us wrong, it’s not that common to read something so dreadful you fall out of your seat, but a lot of the time we find ourselves studying copy and finding it generic and uninspiring.

Considering the fact that this is the medium that brands are using to interact with their customers and foster meaningful connections, this seems quite counterproductive.

Any words associated with your company should shine, engage, dazzle, and resonate with your consumer base. How do you achieve that? With hard work. And by engaging the professionals, of course.

A good example is a project we were working on for Westfield recently. The amount of writing required would be considered by some people to be negligible – less than 25 words. But it took us several hours and 3 different copywriters to come up with our final offering. Why? Because we care about maintaining our clients’ voice and personality across all platforms, even on the smallest ones.

A great way to protect the integrity of your brand and associated collateral is to compile a style guide. You probably already have one, but it may relate more to your logo than to your writing style.

Style guides are so useful because they help you to establish a firm tone of voice, a set vocabulary, and unified purpose, which sets a fantastic foundation for any copywriting that will be done in the future. At Rhubarb Fool we are devotees of the style guide. Find out more by having a look over our

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blog archives, or even get in touch to find out more about what we can do.

Do You Care Enough About Translation?

At Rhubarb Fool we consume all kinds of media with about as much enthusiasm as we attack a certain fruity, creamy dessert…

Inevitably, we come across all sorts – magazines,

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books, logos, apps, supplements, maps, and more, all in different languages. But something else that varies wildly is the quality. And all too often the place where the quality is sorely lacking is in the translation.

It’s almost understandable – perhaps some businesses are more concerned with their home-based audience, or maybe others are just too comfortable communicating only in English. These concerns, together with the distance that foreign languages seem to have in comparison, mean that translation takes a back seat.

It all too often feels like a poorly executed afterthought, with the results being little better than something run through Google translate. And there is just no excuse for alienating members of your target audience in this way. At least, in our opinion there isn’t.

Think about taking the time to make a delicious meal. You go to the finest deli in town (or, let’s face it, Waitrose) to source the very best ingredients money can buy, consult a complicated recipe, and pay attention to detail to make sure every stage is executed perfectly.

Now imagine looking at that delicious meal you’ve just created, and pouring cheap tomato ketchup all over it before serving it up to someone. That’s a little like what getting

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a substandard translation is like. However sparkling the English copy is, however brilliant the design, it’s all for naught if the translation doesn’t convey that.

The fact is that, with English being such an important world language, we’re all a little bit too used to everyone speaking it. It’s so easy to say ‘but they’ll understand the English anyway – why bother with the translation?’ It’s worth bothering because the extra effort to identify with target demographics on their level fosters more meaningful connections.

The effort doesn’t go unnoticed by consumers, and more importantly, you can establish your company as a brand that does things properly –

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do you really want to ever put your name to something below par?

At Rhubarb Fool we have a deep respect for the importance of translation, and its slightly more nuanced sister, transcreation. Catch up on some of our other blog posts for more insights.

Style (Guides) and Substance

We’re all thinkers at Rhubarb Fool. And one of the things that we regularly contemplate is identity. Specifically, brand identity – be it that of our own company, or that of our clients.

Brand identity is something that should be fiercely protected. In a crowded market, it’s not always easy to stand out – not everyone has a unique product. The unique part is you and your company, and the only way to convey that is through how you present yourself.

Brand identities and voices can mean the difference between success and failure. Too many companies resort to generic ‘business’ speak and jargon that completely fails to engage customers. Successful brands have unique voices – think about Apple in the tech world, or Bliss, which stands out amongst the huge crowd of health and beauty products.

Your brand identity determines your brand voice, and your brand voice determines your interactions with customers – so it’s imperative that you get it right. But how to ensure consistency across all platforms and a really clear brand definition? With a style guide of course.

Style Guides enable you to build an overall sense of your brand as well as providing the chance to set uniform guidelines for layout, styling, and logo usage. With both internal departments and external partners in mind, they work to create a consistent code of reference to your brand across a range of teams, projects and media.

Think about it – greater knowledge of brand values and aims helps employees or colleagues to provide a better service, and that same knowledge ensures that external partners deal with your brand sensitively and do it justice – so that you can yield optimum results from said partnership. All of this results in your customers getting a better understanding of your brand and all it can offer – so that you can build a lasting relationship with them.

Through the style guide you can detail your brand story, and by placing your brand in context, you explain its niche position in the market place and what makes it stand out. Additionally, you define exactly what your positioning and offerings are.

A style guide will highlight keywords that really evoke your company’s image and voice, so that you can set the tone not only for the style guide itself, but for the way that the company’s collateral is presented – consistency is key. Essentially this builds a foundation for all content initiatives, as well as making the content development process about ten times more efficient. It saves you money in the long run.

Content style guides also allow you to zero in on your target audience, enabling to better create content tailored to the specific clientele it’s meant for. By creating content that meets the needs of specific people, you will make more meaningful connections with your audience.

We’re brimming with ideas to guide your brand and make it stand out here at Rhubarb Fool. Drop us a line and find out more about what we can do.

Rhubarb Fool offers some top commercial tips for 2014 Part II

Make sure that you are still in touch with your customers

Slavish adherence to the ‘customer is always right’ mantra can be counter-productive. Life is seldom so clear cut and polarity has a tendency to isolate. However, stating that ‘the customer knows what they want’ is little more than an undeniable fact. Ignore this at your peril.

Awareness and understanding of your customers’ aspirations and desires are essential to any business. It’s equally true that having a good understanding of who your customers are and what they appreciate will support your efforts to grow your business in the right way.

So flexibility and the ability to adapt to change in your market places will allow you to keep up with the circles that your customers move in. So make life easy for your customers. This needn’t be rocket science. Do what you’re meant to do, when you’re meant to do it. Make sure you’re accessible, available and convenient. If you can’t give your customer what they want, when they want it; then your competitors will be rubbing their hands with glee.

Increasing your expenditure may not seem the most attractive of proposals at this point of the financial year. But widening the choices that your business offer your customers could, within a relatively short time scale, generate new streams of income that will make that initial expenditure far more palatable. 

Inviting feedback from your customers can represent a swift and effective exercise. But the more difficult exercise of taking on board and actioning this feedback can inspire confidence and loyalty in your brand. ‘You asked, we did it’ surely offers a compelling and powerful message to your customers. 

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer

The analogy may seem a touch extreme, but you have to keep an eye on your competition. So maybe shift your frames of reference. Look at your competitors as a source of inspiration, rather than a nuisance or a threat.

Research the activities and objectives of your competitors. Think about what has and has not worked for them. And there’s always value in stepping out of your comfort zone. So don’t just research the competitors in your immediate market place. Study competitors that are operating overseas.

You could even benefit from looking outwards from your own commercial sector. And there’s no reason to confine this activity to January. Make it a regular commercial exercise. You’ll only benefit from keeping up to date with what others in your industry (and indeed other industries) are getting up to.

Want to read Part III?

Rhubarb Fool

Brand Integrity

Brand integrity‘, it’s one of those phrases that trips off the tongue in pitches and presentations. And that’s probably no bad thing.

As stand alone words, ‘brand’ and ‘integrity’ are each great. They convey a value in terms of your company and you. Moreover, used in tandem the words become a phrase, which offers a desirable message that’s both corporate and personal.

At Rhubarb Fool we’ve decided to avoid using language, if we weren’t completely clear about its meaning.

In our industry we know that the quest for style can come at the cost of substance. This is a path that we have been determined to avoid taking from the outset.

So between us, we’ve had a long (and ongoing) conversation about ‘brand identity’.

What it means to us as individuals and what it should mean to our company.

Allow us to share some of our thoughts with you and hopefully encourage you and your staff to engage in a similar conversation. Because at Rhubarb Fool it’s helped us work out what, how and why we want to be what we want to be.

Integrity.

The integrity of your brand will need to be defined in the first instance by your company’s objectives. It’s here that we started understanding the true meaning of the word integrity. The easiest way that we could understand this was by thinking of the foundations of a house.

The worth of the most beautiful residence will ultimately be determined by what is beneath the soil, not the brick work or the paint job.

Much of the desirability of a Georgian house is based on its sheer durability. We’re attracted to things that don’t bend in the face of adversity and show some staying power.

So let’s assume it’s your company’s objective to build a three storey house. Your company strategy will be the architect’s plan. And your brand will be the facade of that house.

It’s a great positive to have a clear idea about the final build of the house and the look of the facade. But there’s little point in starting work on the third floor or the facade, until the foundations are firmly in place.

And laying down foundations has to be a methodical and incremental process, which takes time, patience and application. In this task there is no room for short-cuts and each step has to be determined by the architect’s plan.

However, each step you take towards putting your company’s objectives into action (implementing the architect’s plan) represents a step towards establishing the substance (or integrity) of the ultimate facade (your brand).

The

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analogy of a house-build is useful to a point. However, the process of building a company and establishing a brand can often involve as much art as science.

There are intangible processes that can’t be readily equated to bricks, mortar, a trowel and a plumb-line. So we’ve distilled some of our thoughts about the art of establishing brand integrity into seven simple points that we hope will help you.

Integrate Your Brand with Your Business Model.

Your brand is not your product. It’s reasonable to assume that you won’t be the only provider of your product in your market-place.

However, your brand does allow you to define both how your customers perceive you and how you make your customers feel.

Work out what your company does best above and beyond your product.

Then set this as the cornerstone of your brand and your business model.

For example, Barbour doesn’t just sell rain coats; it sells well-designed, well made and good looking clothing. They probably don’t sell the best outdoor clothing (Aigle, Musto and North Face all deliver similarly high quality products).

However, when people buy Barbour they are not just buying an item of clothing. They are buying into the

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lifestyle and social grouping that Barbour is seen to represent.

So try playing the word game with some well known brands. Volvo = safety; Chanel = sophistication, Waitrose = quality and Disney = magic. What does your brand equal? Just answer that question.

Decide the most important aspect of your product or service, and make it a part of every facet of your brand communication.

Be Consistent in Your Message.

Now that you have focused on a central brand attribute, be sure that this underpins all your communications — especially inside your own company.

Don’t talk about things that aren’t relevant to or don’t enhance your brand. Added a new photo to Facebook? What does it mean for your company?

Does it strike a chord or support the message you are trying to convey, or is it just an amusing ditty that could confuse your audience? If the messages you are putting out aren’t in line with your brand’s message, you may struggle to differentiate yourself from competitors.

And don’t stop reinforcing the message, in meetings, in the staff room, or just over lunch. Don’t be shy about taking the opportunity to encourage the feelings you want your brand to engender in your employees, as well as your customers.

When employees are onside (especially those who have greatest exposure to your customers) — your message will be diffused to new customers organically and effectively.

Connect Emotionally.

Customers can either approach your product or service rationally, or they can approach it emotionally.

How else do you explain the person who pays thousands of pounds more for a Volkswagen, rather than buying another cheaper, equally well-made car? Because there was an emotional voice in the customer’s mind, whispering “Buy a Volkswagen…well-made, trendy, stylish.” It’s just the way the brand makes you

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feel.

Like you belong, like you’re somewhere you want to be in life, like you’re part of a larger group that’s more tight-knit than a simple cross section of motorists. Volkswagen has established a brand that encourages such a level of loyalty and adherence among its customers, that they have established social groups and organisations independent of the brand. (Volkswagen Owners’ Clubs).

Find a way to connect to your customers on a deeper level. Do you offer reassurance? Make them feel part of a social or peer group? Do you make life easier? Connect with your customers on this point before and after the point of transaction. Address their questions and concerns on social media. A little goes a long way. As an industry commentator succinctly observed: “Batman doesn’t have any real superpowers, but whenever that signal lights up the sky, people trust that he will be there — because he always is”.

Reward and Cultivate.

If you already have people that love you, your company, and your brand, don’t just lie back and bask in the sunlight of their approval! Reward them for their loyalty. These customers have gone the extra mile to give you positive publicity in their peer group or in social media. See them as brand ambassadors. Cultivate loyalty from these people early on in your business and you’ll reap the rewards of returning customers who bring their friends with them. Sometimes, just a thank you is all that’s needed, but successful brands do seem to go further. A personalised letter can have enormous traction. Or you could ask a happy customer to write a review, and feature them prominently on your website. Consider the following news report “Porsche reached 1 million Facebook fans quicker than any other automotive brand, so to thank its fans, Porsche made a wraparound for its GT3 Hybrid that included all 1 million names”.

We should all be clear that offering such a positive outcome to a customer or brand supporter will only consolidate the special place that your brand has in his or her heart.

Measure.

Life doesn’t always go the way it’s planned to go. For all of the time and effort you put into devising a campaign to support your brand strategy, it still might not work. That’s business.

Try and see this not as a mistake, but as a learning opportunity. So be sure to closely monitor your return on investment, as you roll-out the new campaigns that you hope will strengthen your brand. If your brand isn’t touching your target audience through the campaign, you haven’t given them a good enough reason to engage.

At the start of each new campaign, re-assess and strengthen your marketing assessment tools for branded and organic search. If it goes up when you launch your campaign, it means people are engaging with your campaign and becoming more interested in your brand.

They are searching for you – often by name – because you have stoked their curiosity. And again if you’ve been fortunate enough to have enjoyed success, don’t rest on your laurels. Stay quick on your feet, nimble and evolve constantly.

Be Flexible.

Now we’ve raised the subject of agile marketing. In this fast-changing world, marketers must remain flexible if they are to maintain relevance. On the plus side, this is very liberating. It enables you to be creative with your campaigns. Lots of brands have reintroduced themselves to new generations of customers – look at Ribena and Lucozade – because they realised that they could not afford to stand still.

So if your old tactics aren’t working anymore, don’t be afraid to change them just because they might have previously been successful.

There’s no room for complacency, the phrase that came up in the Rhubarb Fool boardroom harked back to that old western movie: “The Quick and the Dead”.

Watch Out for Competitors…a Bit.

See your competitors as friends, as much as you see them as enemies. With them snapping around your heels, you’ll be incentivised to improve your own strategies and create greater traction and positive perception in your overall brand.

You’re all in the same business and you’re all in pursuit of the same customers. So don’t be afraid to look at what your competitors are doing, particularly if they’re successful at it.

And of course you can learn as much from your competitors’ failures as you learn from their successes. It could reasonably be argued that the decline of the British and American car industries was down to an obdurate unwillingness to accept that their competitors might be doing things in better ways than they were and that their new customers might actually be making good choices.

Accepting this, you can’t let your competitors dictate what you do and what you don’t do. After all, belief in yourself and what you are doing is why you started a business in the first place.

By trying to anticipate every move your competitor makes, you’ll be at risk of merging into a homogenous provider mush. You want customers to be able to make a clear differentiation between your company and your competitors.

So keep a mindful eye on your competitors when experimenting with your brand strategy — just don’t get blinded by them. Ultimately you know what’s best for your company and that’s your brand integrity.