How do you define branding?

When most humans  think of a brand, they think of a logo, like the Nike Swoosh or the Starbucks mermaid. And that assessment isn’t incorrect, “branding” comes from the practice of burning a mark on to an animal with a branding iron to assign ownership. So to associate the act of branding as logo design is pretty common, but very inaccurate.

One of the best definitions of branding I found is from the book, Lean Branding by Laura Busche

“A brand is the unique story that consumers recall when they think of you. A brand associates your product with your customer’s personal stories, a particular personality, your promise to solve any given problem, and your position relative to your competitors. Your brand is represented by your visual symbols and feeds from multiple conversations where you must participate strategically. “

Passion led us here


A visual symbol is just one of many brand core components, and it is informed by a deep understanding of why you exist.

However, problem. The visual aspect of a brand’s identity in the start-up world more often than not occurs after the creation of a minimal viable product and before any type of long term strategy is entertained. As a result, communication is inconsistent and noisy. All the more reason to entertain brand development well before a launch, during the business development stage. Today thanks in part to technology, and cheaper manufacturing practices  much easier to get a product or service to market, the marketplace is crowded. T. So it isn’t enough to “brand” simply with a visual identity. Branding needs an inside approach that forces an organization to dive deep into the core of their existence.

I recently asked a group of business designers, How do YOU define branding? Their responses were incredibly insightful.

Values

One emphasized that branding isn’t just about visuals. Rather it is more about the associations that are delivered consistently (very important!) to reflect the story that we want to tell. The main associations are values.

I wholeheartedly agree. Values are the driving force behind any business, marketing, or product development strategy. The reason is simple, people want to align themselves with other people that have similar values and beliefs. Transparency isn’t a nice to have, it’s a requirement for business today. Values give you the opportunity to communicate, very clearly, what you care about, and how you’ll hold yourself accountable.

Your brand’s core values should clearly communicate “this is what we are about” while simultaneously hinting at the culture and deeply held beliefs that provide the foundation of an organization.

If you’re having trouble determining your organization's values, think of your current customers and prospects. What do they value? How does that sync up with your own values as an individual? Is there a mismatch? Now would be the time to solidify these characteristics to avoid any inconsistencies in communication later down the road.

Differentiation

Additionally, another designer commented about how branding is the assignment of unique characteristics to a product or service. In return, customers begin to recognize your offerings based on these characteristics. As a result, your product/service has a better chance of standing out in a cluttered market.

The fact is that everywhere you look, there is a brand. Brands are everywhere, and we’ve become highly skilled at tuning out most of the noise.  Noise relates to the brands that are not relevant, or meaningful to us. However, what might not be relevant or meaningful to us, will be so to another people. This is why it is critical that you niche down your focus to a target audience. Every human is a unique snowflake, with different  lifestyles, beliefs and values. If you try to be everything to everyone, you will be nothing to no-one. Focus on serving prospects and customers that fit your brand values (as mentioned about). If you cannot demonstrate a difference between your brand and your competitiveness through a Unique Selling Point (otherwise known as a USP) you’ll be seen as just another commodity.

Emotion

A 3rd designer that I spoke with pointed out that branding is about establishing emotional connections. Yes! The emotional component is so important, yet often the most misunderstood (at least in my experience).

A word of caution, feelings and emotions are often used interchangeably but they do not mean the same thing. In this context, I pulled a good definition.

Essentially emotions are physical and instinctive. They have been programmed into our genes over many, many years of evolution and are hard-wired. While they are complex and involve a variety of physical and cognitive responses (many of which are not well understood), their general purpose is to produce a specific response to a stimulus. For example: You are on your own and on foot in the savanna wilderness, you see a lion, and you instantly get scared. Emotions can be measured objectively by blood flow, brain activity, facial expressions and body stance. Important note: Emotions are carried out by the limbic system, our emotional processing center. This means that they are illogical, irrational, and unreasonable because the limbic system is separate from – sitting literally behind – the neocortex, the part of our brain that deals with conscious thoughts, reasoning and decision making.


When it comes to making a buying decision, humans act on emotion, first. So, as you launch your startups or grow your businesses, how might you incorporate more emotion into your offerings and messaging (via product/service touch-points) to inspire and optimize these connections?

To address your audience at an emotional level is to empathize with your target persona. By creating an Empathy Map, you'll be able to plan for and create content that inspires at every touch point in the buyer's journey.

A brand that can stand out from the noise and seep into the hearts and minds of your ideal customer  is made up of a variety of ingredients that are rooted in a clear foundation. This foundation is constructed of core values, product/service/market differentiation, and emotional elements. By taking the time to work with your team to build this foundation, you will have a head start on developing your brand’s culture, visual identity, story, and marketing strategy.

Kirsten Lindquist Campana design thinking and brand experience design

Design Thinkers Buffalo: Our First Meetup!

Last evening was our first ever meet up for Design Thinkers Buffalo! Working purpose:

“we exist to co-create a collaborative community of design-driven thinkers/doers, advocates, and allies, to support and strengthen the growing Buffalo ecosystem through the power of good human-centric design and creative problem-solving.”

Nine of us gathered from a variety of industries and professions to discuss, “how might we develop a strong community of practice that will empower us to create, capture, and deliver value to each other.”

Bringing human-centric design to Buffalo, New York

Interested in organizing a design thinking themed meetup? Here’s the agenda I designed for our first event. The intention was to create some structure, with flexibility for free flowing more off the cuff discussion. I think that the primary objective for every meetup kickoff is to establish a clear purpose. A clear purpose statement will help to inform the direction of all future events and discussion. You, the organizer, can create this yourself, or use the first event to ideate with your members. Additionally, a clear purpose will help to niche your topic and build an active audience of supporters. I hope you find this reference of value.


November 29, 2018 Meetup Agenda

  • Community question: what inspired you to attend/join?

  • Opening remarks

  • Individual member introductions

    • name/where are you from?/what do you do?/what wacky skill do you possess?

  • Community purpose and reflection

    • Working purpose, “We exist to create a robust community of design-driven leaders and changemakers to support the growing Buffalo ecosystem and advance on our own individual creative growth.”

      Intention: “to create, capture, and deliver high value to members to help inspire sustainable innovation and education about good design in Buffalo.”

  • Goal ideation session

    • An “ask and give”
      What are you looking for? How would you like to contribute?

    • Format ideas:

      • Job opportunity

      • Events

      • Speakers

      • Skillshares

      • Design challenges

      • Professional development

      • Book club

      • Topic discussions

      • Field trips

    • Online too?

      • Mighty network

      • Facebook group

      • Slack

      • LinkedIn group

    • Logistics

      • Future locations

      • Day/time

      • Frequency

  • Next steps, expression of gratitude, closing remarks

    • Survey members

    • Other call to actions?

  • Group photo

    • Theme?


Our next meetup is Thursday, December 27th at 7:00 PM. If you live and work around the Buffalo, New Year area and are interested in human-centric design processes and methodologies in addition to creative problem solving, we'd love to have you join us! Special thanks to SPOT Coffee in Orchard Park for the cozy and festive space.

Kirsten Lindquist Campana, Design Strategist

The miracle of a target persona

"When you market to everyone, you market to no one." This adage also applies to creating and distributing your content online.

The reality is that your business has a specific type of customer, so it isn't reasonable (or feasible) to try to create content for everyone. A customer, after all, is a person or business that you believe is a good fit for your offering. Through the creation of a target persona (also known as a marketing persona, and a buyer persona), you can identify this proper fit as your ideal customer—the person with the pain points you wish to serve. A target persona will help you to understand your audience as an individual, so you can create content and messaging that makes an immediate connection.

Photo by  Clark Tibbs  on  Unsplash    

Describe (in detail) the number one ideal person that you want to reach with your content/brand story and why. Whom do you want to attract? There are many templates out there that you can “fill in the blanks” to flesh out your target persona. I typically follow a checklist like the one below.

Who do you wish to talk to?

  • Give them a name.

  • Are they male, female, or does it even matter?

  • Are they in a relationship? Do they have family obligations?

  • What is their likely location? (indicating urban/suburban/rural is sufficient)

  • What profession will they likely have? (identify jobs, industries, or position levels)

  • What is their salary range?

  • Where does your target persona typically hang out online?

  • How do they like to spend their free time outside of work?

  • Do they like to read? If so, what?

  • What are their core pain points? What are the exact problems to which they need your assistance in solving?

  • Can you visualize this person? If helpful, find an image that best represents what this person looks like to you. (If searching the web, watch for images that are free to use. And always include a source!)

  • What does your target persona value? Choose 5, in order of importance. (Here’s a handy list of shared values.)

The good news is that your people are out there! But you need to be crystal clear about who they are, and picture them in your mind as you create content for them. Take it one step further and complete an Empathy Map exercise to understand your target persona’s needs and wants. Include quotes and other media types to get even more specific.

Kirsten, web content strategist and designer

Save time and money by creating a compelling brand optimization content strategy in alignment with your business goals and your user's needs. The Evokery is here to help you get your story out of your head and into their hearts. Curious? Then let's chat!

How to create an empathy map in 5 easy steps!

To address your audience at an emotional level is to empathize with your target persona. By creating an Empathy Map, you'll be able to plan for and create content that inspires at every touchpoint in the buyer's journey.

What is an Empathy Map?

An Empathy Map is a human-centered design tool initially created by David Gray to help design teams empathize with their end users. I’ve also found that this is a useful exercise that you, the content creator, can use to gain more in-depth insight into understanding the needs and wants of your audience to outline a transformation that makes a connection and inspires!

Empathy mapping will help you keep your user at the forefront of your mind so that you never lose connection while telling your story online.

How is empathy different from sympathy?

Many confuse empathy with sympathy. I saw this video,  Brené Brown on Empathy,  a few years back and it helped my language in communicating the difference.

How do I use this tool?

The best way to approach the exercise is with a whiteboard and post-it notes so you can quickly and effortlessly move your insights around. If you don’t have access to a whiteboard, a blank sheet of paper will do!

Creating an empathy map can help you better understand the needs and wants of your target persona.

Step one: following the example above, draw 4 quadrants labeled, and label each section with the following:

  • think/feel

  • say/do

  • see

  • hear

Step two: include a human head in the center as a reminder that you are documenting insights into the behaviors of an actual person.

Step three: add two additional sections below labeled:

  • Pain

  • gain

Step four: the order in which you work doesn’t matter. Start with the section you have the most insight on, then work your way around, using a single Post-it to capture each thought or idea.

Step five: as you work through the exercise, ask yourself the following guiding questions:

  • What do you want them to think while experiencing your content and brand story? (Experience)

  • What do you want them to feel while experiencing your content and brand story? (Connection)

  • What do you want them to say after experiencing your content and brand story? (Communication)

  • What do you want them to do after experiencing your content and brand story? (Your call to action)

  • What do you want them to see as they experience your content and brand story? (Get visual)

  • What do you want them to hear as they experience your content and brand story? (Get anecdotal)

  • What are their pain points that you wish to have your content and brand story to address? (Their problem)

  • What is the type of gain that you want your content and brand story to communicate? (Your solution)

Get creative and review all your current client interactions (such as emails, social media, blog comments, etc.) for inspiration. Include quotes from testimonials, too!

Final (optional) step: capture it. Take a photo of your work for your digital archives and refer to it often while designing your web content marketing strategy.

An emapthy map I created for a digital marketing campaign

Your answers to the questions above will be combined with your findings on the empathy map to inform your target persona!

Rest assured that there’s no right way to do this. Empathy Mapping is merely a tool to help you better cater your content and brand story to the type of person that you wish to serve. As a result, you'll be able to gauge better the kind of media (and themes) that will best resonate with your desired audience by integrating the results you offer (solutions), and what you stand for (values) to create a compelling brand story!

Kirsten, web content strategist and designer

Save time and money by creating a compelling brand optimization content strategy in alignment with your business goals and your user's needs. The Evokery is here to help you get your story out of your head and into their hearts. Curious? Then let's chat!

Taking the highway outside my comfort zone

If you had told me one year ago today that I’d be coaching a global network of learners on how to tell their stories for maximum impact for IDEO (!!!)... well, I would not have believed you because that would have sounded insane. Alas, here we are, one year later and I wrapped up a 6-month fellowship coaching business leaders, designers, innovators, etc. on how to strategize, and craft their stories through the design thinking methodology in IDEO U's online course, Storytelling for Influence. And if that wasn't amazing enough, I had the absolute honor of working alongside and learn from an amazingly talented and collaborative multidisciplinary team that has been so giving of their time. I don’t have enough room here to go into all of the details of the experience, but in summary, I hella stepped outside of my comfort zone, I conquered imposter syndrome, and I think it’s safe to say that my creative confidence is back. IT'S BACK BABY!!!

Yesterday I met up with a small few of my amazing cohorts at the IDEO U office in San Francisco for lunch, and each of us gifted a copy of, The Little Book of IDEO. Herein lies tangible proof of how far I’ve come since June. Damn. Is someone cutting onions in here?  I’m feeling so incredibly grateful for the experience, all the wonderful creatures that I've met, and I'm also very freaking proud of myself...

 Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

This is only the beginning.

Kirsten, web content strategist and designer

Kirsten, web content strategist and designer

Rethinking the testimonial: ask for a success STORY!

Persuasion and influence come more naturally when you can have others vouch for you—the proof is in the social pudding! When we find ourselves in a situation, unsure of how to behave, we look to others to influence our actions. Even if it means going against our own beliefs and values.

Fans at a Depeche Mode concert, Oakland Arena, 10/10/2017

This tendency is known as a conformity bias. I’m sure you’ve experienced this “herd mentality” while you’re shopping around on Amazon’s mobile app late at night. If you're on the fence about a product, where do you look for help? The customer review section!

An image depicting stars from customer reviews.

Reviews work because when it comes to spending our hard-earned money, the opinions of others DO MATTER.

User reviews, case studies, endorsements, and testimonials are incredible ways to increase social proof with your online offerings. And while likes and positive comments do to help, when someone is ready to decide on your brand, a testimonial in the form of a customer story can help balance the scale in your favor. A story adds that emotional element required to resonate with and drive your audience to act.

A testimonial versus a story

For example, which of the following statements feels more impactful to you?

Option A

“I highly recommend Bethany’s coaching services. She is warm and knowledgeable. You would be lucky to have her as your life coach.”

Option B

“When I first contacted Bethany, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I felt frustrated by my lack of clarity, vision, and goals. Despite all her incredible reviews, I felt reluctant to hire Bethany because I didn't understand the coaching process. However, I gave it a go, and as I thought through each of her guiding questions, my mind started to see the patterns and make the connections. Almost overnight, I felt a shift from a fixed to a growth mindset, and I ended the program with a whole new perspective on how to live my life and be happy. Through the tools and methods I acquired by learning alongside Bethany, my confidence is back. I know what I want, and I feel proactive in my quest to make it happen!”

Option B, right? Even if you’re not the target audience, you get a better sense of the transformation experienced by this person through the story versus a review. Perhaps you even feel inspired to take action, “I want Bethany as my life coach!”

Good customer stories need to be:

  • Authentic
  • Clear
  • Emotional

To get started, you could ask your client to follow a proven storytelling structure, such as the Pixar storytelling framework (which inspired Option B, above.) Or, here's a list of guiding questions I constructed that you could ask to help your user hone in on their experience and effectively tell their story.

  • What was the problem you experienced before using our service/product?
  • Why did you hesitate to work with us?
  • Why did you choose to work with us?
  • How did you feel before our work together?
  • How did you feel after our work together?
  • How has our work together changed you for the better?
  • At what point did you think, "aha! I made the right choice!"

Then, using the answers, construct a narrative in a conversational tone— avoid any jargon or business speak. Keep it human.  

(Note: if you do write the story for your client, you must send it over to them for approval And do give them an option to edit as they see fit. Then send over a link to the final product—who doesn’t enjoy seeing their story on the Internet? 😉)

And finally, get visual. We are drawn to faces, especially the eyes. Ask for a photo of them interacting with your product in its typical environment. Or visual evidence of them demonstrating the transformation they experienced after using your service (think before and after picture) to connect a potential client to your brand. But a simple portrait of their smiling face will do because the presence of people will increase a sense of trust.

Your mission

Before you begin, ask yourself, “what does customer success look like to me and how can I better integrate evidence of this within my potential customers' online experience?"

Your customer’s story should outline how your product/service helped them experience a transformation. Humanize their words with a visual of your storyteller.

Can you think of some other ways that you can increase social endorsement throughout your online experience?

Kirsten

Save time and money by creating a compelling brand optimization content strategy in alignment with your business goals and your user's needs. The Evokery is here to help you get your story out of your head and into their hearts. Curious? Then let's chat!

Digital Marketing for Entrepreneurs 101

As as a new business owner, I was struggling with shiny object syndrome especially within the context of marketing my offerings online. And while I enjoyed social media personally, I found it difficult to use it professionally in a way that felt authentic.

"Help Wanted"

"Help Wanted"

Here I was creating and posting on various social platforms Instagram, Twitter, my Facebook page, even a Pinterest account. I experienced a few likes, shares, and follows here and there, but I felt a lack of vision, purpose... a plan! And I had trouble creating my quality content because I was so distracted by learning all the best practices of these channels. I needed to take a step back and develop a keen understanding of digital marketing as a whole, and develop a content strategy that felt more in alignment with my brand. You know the adage, "work smarter, not harder."

In order to accomplish this, I needed to find an immersive experience that gave me a bird’s eye view of the process. Something reasonably agnostic so I could walk away and apply the frameworks and best practices to suit my own needs.

I recalled an email that I had received from Udacity advertising a course they had on digital marketing. As someone that loves to learn by doing, and as an individual that genuinely enjoys picking up new skills online (I was a learning experience designer for many years, after all!) I did a little research, and I liked what I saw.

The Digital Marketing Nanodegree is for people like me: busy working professionals who crave experiential project-based learning experiences.  I felt that the combination of rich content, mentoring, project feedback, in addition to a Slack community filled with other learners all over the globe, met all of my learning objectives. This program isn’t a place to pick up a skill or two; this is a place to build a new vocation. Also, the price was right, so I signed up.

The Struggle...

The Struggle...

I’m about 25% through with the course, and it has exceeded my expectations. I think it’s important to note that there are a lot of misconceptions about digital marketing out there, some of which I believed to be true. Digital marketing isn't all about social media. Yes, having a social media presence is one piece of the puzzle, but digital marketing is about creating an online presence with quality content and a clear message, so your target audience:

  1. can find you,
  2. fall in love with your product or service, and...
  3. buy your stuff and/or hire you!

Of course, that sounds simpler than it is, which is why I highly recommend the Udacity Digital Marketing course if you’re looking to do it yourself or possibly change careers with a pretty high-demand skill set. I’m excited to share more about my experience in a future post!

Kirsten

Kirsten

Save time and money by creating a compelling brand optimization content strategy in alignment with your business goals and your user's needs. The Evokery is here to help you get your story out of your head and into their hearts. Curious? Then let's chat!

The Antidote to Perfectionism


Do you consider yourself a purposeful procrastinator? Meaning: do you often find yourself putting off tasks or creative projects because you want to wait until everything is “just right?” Well, I do. Purposeful procrastination is a compensation mechanism for perfectionism. Here's the silly thing, perfectionism doesn't exist, and it is self-destructive. We create these "perfection-seeking" narratives as a way to seek societal acceptance and approval.

Repeat with me now, perfectionism doesn't exist!

Repeat with me now, perfectionism doesn't exist!

In Brené Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, she warns that perfectionism can hamper success. Perfectionism causes "life paralysis" which Dr. Brown describes as "all the opportunities we miss because we're too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect." Can you think of a project that you've put off? Why do you believe that is?

Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.
— Salvador Dali

How do you conquer feelings of perfectionism? Self-compassion! Begin each new day with a healthier mindset. Say to yourself, "I'm just going to show up and strive to do my best." Be like Dali and say, "Adiós" to perfectionism!

Kirsten, web content strategist and designer

Kirsten, web content strategist and designer

Save time and money by creating a compelling brand optimization content strategy in alignment with your business goals and your user's needs. The Evokery is here to help you get your story out of your head and into their hearts. Curious? Then let's chat!

How owning your "inner" story can inspire your "outer" story

More often than not, I’ve found during the co-design process of helping my clients strategize their online content marketing I see two different stories that surface: the "outside” story that they share with others, and the “inside” story ridden with struggle, apprehension, and resistance...

How owning your "inner" story can inspire your "outer" story

That inside story has a theme, and it’s usually self-doubt. Self-doubt is the result of an assortment of hindering beliefs, like fear of judgment, fear of failure, analysis paralysis, imposter syndrome, need I go on? Because I’ve experienced these various narratives in my struggle with my inside story preventing me from telling my outside tale, it is relatively effortless for me to speak and listen to from a place of empathy (joining). But it’s often difficult for me to express self-compassion while I’m under the knife.

One thing I’ve found that has been extraordinarily powerful in my experience coaching clients through storytelling is through opening up about my vulnerability when it comes to sharing my personal experiences. In doing so, I establish a connection, build trust, and thus creates a safe space to for the person I am working with to share. It’s incredible to witness that transformation from fear to courage with that simple step.

That's the power of sharing your story!

Courage is indeed a mindset and embracing it as such is truly powerful. Personally, I experience fear in my work and life every single day. The thought of publishing this piece terrifies me! Where I've grown is in my handling of it. I invite it to coffee, but I don't allow it to take over. Fear is OK, but don’t let it keep me from an action, such as telling my story through my content online.

Kirsten, web content strategist and designer

The reason why everyone loves to hear, "why"

Before sitting down to plan your web content and inbound marketing strategy ask yourself, why? Why are you creating content? Maybe it’s to tell your brand’s story or to teach something? Perhaps it’s to move your target audience to action? Or better yet, is it to sell a product or service?

The Evokery

At the very beginning of a web content strategy project, I always ask my clients to dig deep and understand the purpose of the content they wish to create, and how it will serve. But more importantly, I want them to know how they can infuse that with their purpose as a business or individual.

It’s as simple as asking yourself, "why do I do what I do?"

Do not focus on the results of your actions, but know and communicate the more profound meaning of your work. What inspires you? What change do you want to bring into the world? Show AND tell it.

Why, what’s the point? Well, it’s because people like to align themselves with people that have similar values and beliefs. It’s in our DNA.

Think about it. Ever feel stuck in a conversation with another person just rambling off credential after credential? "I graduated at the top of my class in medical school!" Who cares, right? But what if they said, “I quit my well-paying job in finance to get my Master’s in Elementary Education because I believe kids should learn about money at an early age. ” Or, “I went to medical school to become a pediatrician because I lost my young brother to measles and I want to make sure that every parent out there is well informed about vaccinations.” If the welfare of children is essential to you, then these stories of why will resonate—gave you the feels a little bit?

This video by Simon Sinek is one of the most popular Ted Talks of all time. And rightfully so. He breaks down the formula that makes a great company or leader.

Source: TEDTalks

As Simon explains, the limbic system of the human brain is what drives behavior. Associated with feeling, trust, and loyalty it's my favorite chunk of grey matter. It is also the part of the brain that is influenced by visuals and stories, and more importantly, it is the part of the brain that drives decisions.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
— Simon Sinek

If you want to create content that inspires, motivates, sells, or demonstrates, find the audience that believes in what you believe.

Why do you exist and why should anyone care?

  •     Why do you do what you do?
  •     How do you do it?
  •     What do you do?

Put your why at the forefront of everything that you do, especially your stories. People remember how you made them feel.  Focus on your why. Why am I creating this video? Why is my story important? Why do I do what I do?

I believe...

I believe...

Your "why" should be in alignment with your core values. If you need help defining what it is that you stand for, I highly recommend that you give Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a skim. By integrating your purpose into your content, you're communicating your value to your audience. By following your why, you're demonstrating integrity and developing trustworthy relationships that are integral to influencing human behavior. It’s a win/win!

Kirsten

Kirsten

Save time and money by creating a compelling brand optimization content strategy in alignment with your business goals and your user's needs. The Evokery is here to help you get your story out of your head and into their hearts. Curious? Then let's chat!