Tag Archives: branding

App-lied Science

When it comes to apps, at Rhubarb Fool we like to think we know our stuff – we do build them on a fairly regularly basis, after all.

A recent comment from a certain fashion blogger got me thinking about the role they play in our day to day lives – and how that insight can help agencies and the brands they work with to tailor them to accommodate the consumer as well as meet campaign goals.

The fashion blogger in question, one Tala Samman of myfashdiary.com (who we’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with), admits that she uses apps ‘for everything from organisation, beauty, fitness, social media and the list goes on…’ And when you think about it, this is the reality for most of us.

We are increasingly living in a mobile world, and if you access Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn on a smartphone or tablet, you’re probably going to do so using an app. Maps, email, radio…all of these are day-to-day essentials for which the app is increasingly the go-to.

Where do branded apps fit into all of this? Unless they have excellent functionality or some other USP, no one will bother downloading them. As Tala herself observes, she’s ‘not the biggest fan of downloading brand apps because they always seem really commercial’. The key to a successful app, then, is meeting your customers’ needs as well as promoting your brand.

Looking at apps in a similar way to printed content can help with this – its features should be as original and as well thought out as any magazine. Indeed, some of the most popular apps are those that are companions to magazines and newspapers. Think Vogue, GQ, The Guardian et al…Well researched and elegantly designed content will always sing regardless of the platform it is staged on.

If your brand or company already has roster of printed publications, it is well worth obtaining an app to accompany them. Just as an online presence is mandatory these days, so is having mobile-optimised content at your customers’ fingertips. Look at it like this: with an app, your customers or potential customers can carry you around with them in their pocket. What could be better than that?

If you’ve got quality content and design then you’re already halfway there. There are just a few things to bear in mind:

1. Apps are more interactive than your average magazine or even your average website. Make sure you provide plenty of stimulation in the form of videos, links, images, and full integration with social media. Ideally, nearly every page should link to another feature or page of the app. I.e. a great page on the best restaurants to visit may link to some relevant recipes or other things to do in the area.

2. Functionality is key. No one will bother persisting with an app that’s unwieldy or confusing. This means that the app should be laid out in a logical fashion, fully optimised for mobile devices, and with all the necessary features (like infinite scrolling, for example, if it’s appropriate)

3. It has to do something. Make sure that the purpose of the app is clear in every single part of it. Even if it is just an app version of a magazine, it has to have something to set it apart in what is a very crowded marketplace. An e-commerce element enriches many apps, as does the ability to log wish lists and preferences. Apps that are useful are the most popular.

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.

Rhubarb Fool offers some top commercial tips for 2014 Part III

Don’t hide your lantern behind a bushel. Share your successes

It’s easy to tell yourself that a job well done is simply a job done as it should have been done and thereafter move on with a quite air of contentment and satisfaction. But you can’t rely on others to shout your having done a job well from the roof tops.

So make sure that you publicise your commercial successes; however, insignificant these might appear to you. Taken on a new member of staff? Success. Submitted a pitch? Success. Won a pitch? Major success. As attractive as modesty is as a personal quality, you’ll find that it’s a far less

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valuable commercial quality.

Social media offers a great medium for sharing your successes. So if you haven’t embraced a Facebook page,

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Twitter account, LinkedIn profile and Instagram account, then make these tools part of your commercial armoury in 2014. It may be that different elements of social media have different values to your business. But viewed holistically it’s vital that social media becomes a central part of your marketing plan.

Bit of a technophobe? Please don’t be put off. Engaging with social media certainly doesn’t have to be a complex process. If you have even a small staff team, the chances are that there will be somebody within this who already has a personal account and will offer you ready assistance in taking that first step to set up your business’s own account. Social media offers a quick, cost-free way of connecting with your customers, creating and promoting brand awareness and, in some cases, establishing new business.

Though we will never shy from promoting social media as a great commercial tool, never forget that it is not without its limitations. There’s no replacement for the face-to-face contact between you and your customers and good old-fashioned networking. Early morning breakfast meetings and 60 second business pitches

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in front of a room full of strangers might not be the most comfortable means of promoting your business, but sometimes leaving your comfort zone can stimulate collaboration, recommendation and the establishing of pathways to new business. Regardless of the power of social media, there remains a host of different networking groups that cater for all industries. Some of these are offered in formal settings, but there are plenty of less formal networking opportunities available.

Stay one step ahead of the game

The more you engage with your business and your industry (by reading, listening and communicating), the better placed you’ll be to start defining the direction that your business takes. So subscribe to newsletters, participate in talks and attend seminars. You’ll stay fresh by keeping abreast of all the innovations in your sector. If you’re the first to know about the advances and new developments you can start sharing your knowledge (and promoting your opinions) by the all important means of social media.

Developing a great brand story with Rhubarb Fool Part IV

Your brand – your story

Don’t hide yourself away. Your customers want to get a clear sense of you in the brand story you’re presenting. If this story doesn’t carry this sense of who you are, it could appear detached from reality. Likewise, if your brand story is presented from a purely commercial aspect, then it can detract from the personal message you’re trying to get across. While we’re smart enough to recognise when we’re customers, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we want to be treated like customers all the time. Your brand story should engage people to think about the future, but it should do this with clear reference to your present.

Make it actionable. There’s no room for coyness. Your brand story has to give a clear indication of what you would like to happen thereafter . So offer your customers some clear direction about how they can join in. A brand purchase is generally how customers demonstrate their engagement. Loyalty is the affirmation that people have achieved an holistic connection with the brand.

But do remember there’s a thin line between the warm feeling of being guided and the cold feeling of being directed. It’s an irony that sometimes the most compelling stories can be somewhat opaque in offering a message about how they are to be actioned. Instead, they put up the signs and let their customers find their own paths.

Be accessible. The wondrous possibilities that you’re doing your best to conjure up in your consumers’ minds have to be attainable. There’s no point in offering an objective that is out of your consumers’ reach.

We’re approaching the festive season,so prepare for your screens to become inundated with advertisements for men’s and women’s scents. These ads might be dripping with haute couture, outrageous beauty and artistic style. But what all consumers know is that for the price of a few hours’ work, they can bring a little piece of that glamour into their own lives. And smell nice to boot.

A good brand story needs to push the boundaries, but it must still feel accessible, or people simply won’t be willing to take the time

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and effort to make it happen.

Read

part V here

Developing a great brand story with Rhubarb Fool Part III

Your brand – your story

Be consistent. Clear themes and guidelines should inform your narrative and the basis of your narrative. It’s these themes and guidelines that will tie the brand down and reinforce its identity. This process will allow the brand to establish a clear foothold in your customer’s consciousness. Look at Audi. Performance is integrated into every aspect of its narrative. When someone buys and Audi they’re not just buying a car. They’re buying a piece of engineering technology.

Be distinctive. It would be very difficult to promote a brand by re-iterating another brand’s story, or by simply re-arranging a cut and paste. Your brand’s story will need to put some clear blue sky between your brand and its competitors. No matter how many times you rearrange the pieces on a board of draughts, you will never detract from its essential appearance. So if you want your brand to follow a singular path, be singular. Look at the growth of the Relentless brand of energy drink. It didn’t go on about sporting energy, nor did it market itself with breath-taking videos of extreme sports. It simply established a niche that swiftly gained a place in the consciousness of a demographic.

Be imaginative. You want your brand’s story to offer a narrative to its customers. This narrative should strive to create an image of a time that is better than the present. There’s no harm in seeing your task as being to deliver your customers to a better land. And you won’t do this without stimulating some imaginations. So be striking, be bold and never be afraid of ruffling a few feathers. After all the status quo represents little more

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than your opponent.

You want to portray your band as a pioneer. A brand that will define its customers’ futures. The Body Shop’s brand story was of a more organic, integrated and interconnected world; where your entitlement to a great product came with a level of fundamental human responsibility to engage with the brand and it’s ethical objectives. This approach defied editorial convention. However, in doing so, it struck a real chord with many consumers, thereby establishing a broad sector of a big market place as it’s own.

Be specific. You don’t want your brand’s story to engage all and sundry. You can’t be all things to all people, without diluting the essential value of your brand. Your objective is to be talking directly to your target audience. That’s all. So use language that conforms to your audience’s views and expectations of the world.

The Virgin brand (across the market places it has entered) has typically presented itself as the plucky underdog, trying to gatecrash the party of vested interest and complacency. It seeks to

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offer this impression so that it can create a sense among its customer base of being able to offer a better deal. Virgin knows that its audience responds well to the “challenger” narrative. It appeals to people who see themselves as being divorced from the status quo,by virtue of their ability to think independently. Virgin knows that its customers think that they as individuals are quite capable of identify and securing what’s best for themselves. So what Virgin does is identify with this demographic; approaching them as customers, rather than consumers.

Read Part IV here

Developing a great brand story with Rhubarb Fool Part II

Your brand – your story.

Obviously a great brand story might not encompass all of the various components that will be set out in this piece. But it will have enough of them, presented in a brand specific fashion, to offer the customer a sense that they’ve found what they’re looking for. So consider the following twelve points.

Establish credibility.. Customers need to know that their storyteller is trustworthy. Moreover the story that is going to be told will have to be compatible with the sense of trust that has been established. With power comes responsibility and this applies to the responsibility that is a part of narrative power.

You’re in control so don’t abuse your power. This is probably the central tenet of story-telling. When you don’t believe the story teller, you won’t believe the story. Ask the boy who cried “Wolf!” British Airways doesn’t want to serve you. It wants to transport you safely from one place to another in tolerable comfort. But with its professionalism and brand story, British Airways succeeds in establishing a sense of guardianship, responsibility and service that is almost unparalleled in its specific sector.

Make your story ring true. Just as you have to be believable, so too does your story. It should conform to, promote and expand your customers’ existing structures of belief. This is a structure of belief that applies not only to themselves and others, but also to your brand. Andrex and its little puppies are a great example. Those little puppies not only divert you from the core nature of the product. They also

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create a sense of a brand that is nurturing and caring. Just as the brand can nurture and care for all those cute puppies, so too can it nurture and care for all its cute customers (and their cute children).

Suggest prior acquaintance. Your brand story should be something that your customer finds easy to recognise. It has to be explicit enough for its influence to be identifiable,yet flexible enough to adopt different guises. However, familiarity will make it so much easier for potential customers to assimilate, which will greatly facilitate the task of delivering the message that you’re trying to deliver.

Read Part III here

Developing a great brand story with Rhubarb Fool Part I

Your brand and how Rhubarb Fool can tell your story

There must be some fundamental human urge to tell tales. There are many cultures that have been defined primarily by oral histories passed down from generation to generation. The very meaning of the word history is simply that. His story.

There are many reasons for the durability of the art of story telling. Not least it has enormous powers to engage, entertain and educate. And let’s be very clear about one thing. Despite the plethora of technological advancements that inform and guide our everyday lives; the power of story telling (to engage, entertain and educate) remains essentially undiminished.

As marketing techniques have gained in sophistication and scope, so brands have started using story formats more extensively in a bid to define themselves and establish their niches in busy market places. And it’s this process that will be the central theme of this post. But before we can understand what makes a good brand story, we have to understand what makes a good story.

A good story has at its core an affirmative value. Humans covet affirmation and stories offer that connection. They allow us to bridge generations and establish our connections with (and thereby better understand) our fore-bearers. Re-read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Consider its essential portrayals of the human condition. In terms of what excites, conflicts or motivates us; nothing has really changed over the millennia.

In my research for this piece, I’ve identified six basic tenets of a good story:

It will make you care.

It will offer you an undertaking right from the outset.

It will establish themes and offer information that allow you to piece together parts of the story.

It will balance inevitability and unpredictability.

It will balance anticipation and uncertainty.

It will provoke awe and wonder.

These extremely helpful rules of thumb will assist any story telling process. But how do we apply these rules of thumb to the process of creating the story of a brand? What guidelines do we refer to at Rhubarb Fool, when we’ve been asked by a customer to develop a brand story. Again research leads us to a slightly longer (but in some instances over-lapping) list.

Read Part II here

Marketing a small business on a shoe-string with Rhubarb Fool Part III

Follow Rhubarb Fool’s top tips on marketing a small business

7. Make feedback work for you

Got a happy punter? Trouble them for a little of their time to set out a few words about how you made it all work for them. Most customers are happy to offer a reference if they’re asked, but you can’t expect them to take this initiative themselves. References can open doors to a bunch of new customers. If you’re not seeking them out, you could be missing new opportunities.

8. Go the extra mile.

It can be a lot easier (and cheaper) to keep a customer, than to get a new one. So work your customer base. Establish strong relationships by personalising interactions and making your customer feel that you really understand their aspirations and needs. If you fancy using a broader brush, why not try an email campaign. But be careful with this. You don’t want your customer getting too used to deleting your communications. Make sure you send material that your customer enjoys reading and looks forward to receiving.

9. Count on a coupon

Not an idea that would have much currency in the creative communities of Shoreditch, or Soho; but

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there’s still currency in coupons. Research demonstrates that there’s a feel good factor associated with using a coupon and that people will go out of their way to do so. And when a customer uses a coupon, you can extend their loyalty by offering them another one.

10. Freebies

An important factor of the faith that you have in your product has to be the belief that if someone has the good fortune to try your product, then they’re going to end up wanting more of it. So don’t be afraid to offer out free trials or samples. It’s quite clear that it’s going to be

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easier for a customer to purchase a product, if they know what they’re getting and they know that they like it.

So there we have it. Ten cost-effective marketing strategies will help you to engage customers, enthuse existing customers, extend relationships, and ultimately establish your brand at the forefront of people’s consciousness. Sometimes you don’t have to throw money at a situation to deliver results. A little time and effort can be just as effective in promoting your brand.

Digital design, branding and content part II

Rhubarb Fool shares 10 benefits of quality web design

5. THE PURPOSE, INTEGRITY AND COHERENCE OF YOUR CONTENT

Content and design should co-exist in harmony on your site. Always remember that it will take visitors some effort to try and understand what you’re trying to say. So make sure you don’t:

  • say it in blocks of small, dense text
  • set out your text in an unattractive way
  • use tools of navigation that aren’t straightforward.
  • allow your “calls to action” to be confused.
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visitors away. The job of a good designer is to work with your content. They’ll deliver it with clarity and visual appeal, so that it directs your visitors to do what you want them to do.

6. THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL

Choice of fonts, text spacing and contrast are the sort of details that make a significant difference to the overall quality of your site. Such subtleties could be overlooked by those happier

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with function than design. But ultimately it’s is these subtleties that can determine how readable and functional the site is.

7. LEAVE IT TO THOSE WHO CAN SEE THINGS AS THEY ARE, RATHER THAN AS YOU’D LIKE THEM TO BE.

Your expertise is your business. The chances are that your expertise is not web-design. Sometimes you’ll actually benefit from making a trade off by focusing on what actually works for the web, rather than what actually works for you. When you pay the premium for a professional web designer, you’re paying for some who as the experience of translating ideas into web pages.

8. AVOID FALSE ECONOMIES.

Everybody wants a good deal. But how many times have we all regretted convincing ourselves that the great price we’ve been offered would actually deliver a great quality product. It’s quite possible to try to buy into the promise of getting high-quality design services and ending up spending time and money having to get someone else to put a bad job right. You’ll never run a business well if you don’t try and secure value for money in your purchases. But our experience is that good design takes time. As such, it costs money.

9. RELIABLE PARTNERSHIP

Business owners and web designers need to take a completely collaborative approach to creating a website. The process involves communication, a to and fro of ideas, conflict and compromise. If you can go through this process and deliver a satisfactory outcome, you’ll be at a point of establishing a long term commercial relationship.

10. ROOM FOR DEVELOPMENT

The foundations that should be laid by good quality web-design should offer a solid foundation from which improvements and embellishments can be made. It may be that you want to want to add a new product, or include a new service. Whatever the case may be, your site should already have have a suitably strong aesthetic to allow you to move forwards rather than to retread old ground.

So if you’re looking for some guidance in the field of web-design why not contact us at Rhubarb Fool. What you’ll find is a process that will be all about you. Not us.

Digital design, branding and content part I

Rhubarb Fool shares 10 benefits of quality web design

In any new industry, it’s been our experience that self definition can come to play a big role in determining a service provider’s skills and abilities. We’ve certainly met a lot of web designers. But a lot of the web designers we’ve met have actually been individuals who are quite capable of building a website, but believe that this ability somehow bestows on them the ability to design a website. Self belief; however, is necessarily a very subjective issue.

Rhubarb Fool can’t offer you any definitive advice that will assist you in your quest to find a good web designer. However, what was evident to us was that when you’ve found a good one, you’ll know it.

Something there’s no question about is that quality web design can be an extremely valuable investment. But these seem to us words that slip out a bit too easily. What do they mean? What are the actual benefits of commissioning a professional web-designer? Will your hard earned gold pieces actually yield a tangible return? Will an attractive website stimulate your business’s growth?

At Rhubarb Fool we champion great web design. Here are a few reasons why.

1. CONSISTENCY OF BRAND IDENTITY

Professional designers occupy the macrocosm, rather than the microcosm. They’ll be focused on  creating a visual identity for your brand that maintains its integrity across a variety of different contexts.

Your logo, website, social media profiles and even your business cards all need to be singing from the same sheet. Homogeneity and individuality need to be dancing together like old partners of the silver screen.

Brands that have a consistent visual identity are simply more memorable than those that appear fragmented. Being more memorable, they’ll also be more durable. A professional web designer should know how to make your brand’s visual identity move seamlessly across different contexts.

2. MORE VISITORS WHO STOP FOR A CUP OF TEA, A SLICE OF CAKE AND A CHAT.

Your website represents your business. So you’re not just looking for clicks. You’re looking for visitors who will  browse through your site and become acquainted with you and your brand. Don’t be under any illusions. Most visitors will have a swift glance at your site and then be off. It takes something a little bit special to keep a visitor interested in your site. It takes even more to make them want to learn more about you and eventually make a purchase.

3. MORE CUSTOMERS

A good web designer will focus on calling your visitors to action. They’ll be asking them to “sign up”, “learn more” and “buy now”. The placement, appearance and content of these calls to action will be vital to the functionality and effectiveness of your site. The upshot of getting this done right is simple. Busy cash registers.

4. PUTTING CLEAR BLUE SKY BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR  COMPETITORS

The internet is built on the back of websites that are “good enough”. So how are you going to stand out from the crowd? Within any one industry you can bet your bottom dollar on the fact that there will be a lot of websites that look the same. They say what they’re expected to say, in a manner that they’re expected to say it. Their design doesn’t offend, but nor does it excite.

We’ll never encourage anyone to make a spectacle of themselves. But quality is all about identifying your individuality, focusing on your unique selling points and combining these elements into one joined-up visual identity.