No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to stay in one place for too long without feeling a sense of, well, boredom. I'm not talking solely about physical location, either. This habit has affected my path to learning, the way I have come to understand the world that you and I inhabit, even the food I eat and the music I listen to is altered because of the overwhelming change going on in every medium of our daily lives. I also can't help but feel that I'm not alone in this shift. I may be more perceptive to it because I fall into the millennial category, but this thing (that I am labeling as boredom) affects all of us, even if we're unaware.
What does all of this have to do with building brands and creating remarkable experiences? Everything. It might sound like an overly broad statement, I know. But it's the truth. Generations of humans that have yet to enter childhood and adolescence have already encountered millions, if not billions, of digital and analog distractions (many business & marketing folk would like you to think of these distractions as advertisements, but they're not fooling anyone). Susceptibility to boredom is inevitable. I know this, and you know this. Not only is the digital landscape changing rapidly, so too is the language and methodologies used to attract and retain attention. People everywhere (not only the younger generations, mind you) are learning to embrace change, and with this change, a new era of advertising.
The goal of advertising is (or at least should be) attracting new customers and retaining existing customers. Why, then, are so many businesses doing it wrong? The billions of distractions I mentioned is nothing short of a reality — we are constantly being bombarded by advertising that doesn't speak to us, therefor adding distraction to our lives. What am I getting at? Yesterday's marketing tactics no longer work. Now, advertising that works generally isn't perceived as advertising at all. What works is adding value, instead of taking it away. Building trust instead of provoking false confidence. Relationships based on open transparency, not deceptive façades, are the way of the future.
“…I believe the only path to building a thriving business is to be human.”
All of these traits hint at the glaringly obvious: brands have the ability to be more than just a logo on a website, a clever slogan on a shipping box, or a stock image on a billboard — I believe the only path to building a thriving business is to be human. Embrace the change in our modern culture. Become memorable for the right reasons. People want to interact with brands. People want to build relationships with brands. You're probably wondering, “How do I deliver on this monumental goal?” With the technology available to us today, there is an infinite pool of possible routes to take. Luckily for us, there are a few universal characteristics every brand can attain and build on top of in order to become not only memorable, but remarkable.
Just as you cannot (and definitely should not) be all things to all people, I cannot be all things to all businesses. Keep on reading to learn about the value I bring to the table and how I can best tell your story in a way people will remember.
Value can be created, achieved, perceived, and even destroyed. One point to keep in mind: value has to be built on top of something real. Let's call it a foundation. This foundation doesn't necessarily have to be tangible. There is imagined value, historical value, future value, face value and even expected value.
Just like the general nature of value itself, my value is multifaceted and based on a mixture of tangible and intangible assets & skillsets.
I have been building websites and developing brands professionally since 2005. There has never been a day I would work on a project without learning additional skills or increasing my understanding of how those businesses I worked with functioned.
It is common knowledge that the more you do something, the better you get at it. For me, this is only one piece of the puzzle. Looking at my own work, I have always felt like I could do a better job. When I created my first website (circa ~2003), I thought it looked like crap. I actually wouldn't consider it a website by today's standards. I was so devastated that I ended up building websites for fun, covering just about any subject I found interesting. How ridiculous is that? (I'm pretty sure that's the reason I dropped track and field in high school.)
“…a culmination of thoughts and ideas.”
One of the greatest benefits about having learned the ins-and-outs of website building is that there is an incredible amount of overlap with all sorts of fields, providing a never-ending supply of new skills to develop and master. This isn't so much a list as it is a culmination of thoughts and ideas. I'll try my best to outline what I mean below:
Working with a wide variety of people and businesses has honed my ability to ask thought-provoking questions. This is one of my greatest strengths because it helps me to deeply understand the businesses I am working with.
Where there is true understanding, there is the opportunity to solve real problems. I don't simply propose a new website design by stating “Your current website looks terrible.” I outline exactly what needs fixed, how a specific solution will create the ideal response, and why this change is important.
“Why?” is one of the most underrated questions in existence. It seems most people just want to know the “What?” and “How?” without giving much thought to why they're doing something. The what and how are the easy questions providing little or no value. By asking “Why?” we can reveal true underlying problems. More often than not a complete website redesign is unnecessary.
By focusing on why your brand exists and answering key questions, we can work together to figure out why your ideal customer behaves the way they do, and design a customized solution just for them.
Delivering experiences that add value and solve real problems revolves around great design. I work with a content-first approach, and by doing so I am able to focus on what matters. It pains some people to admit that design is not the most important aspect of a website. In my mind, design = content, and content = design. You cannot have one without the other, which is what makes a truly beautiful design stand out.
A responsive design is not just about creating an interface that functions well on multiple devices, although this is one prerequisite. A responsive design creates responses. The content, colors, typography, layout, shapes and imagery come together to create a solution to a particular problem and/or end-goal. Do you want your visitors to contact you via the online form instead of by phone? Is there a product in your online store that isn't selling? These are simple questions, but just by asking the right questions we can narrow in on root causes to your biggest problems. Then it is a matter of designing an elegant solution that both solves the problem at hand and reinforces your brand.
It is no surprise as to why most businesses stick to one logo and color palette for the life of the business. This is one part of building a cohesive brand message, but it is also one that is becoming less and less of a priority. A brand in today's world must fulfill several roles. Going back to my statement that a brand needs to be human, maybe you can begin to see the bigger picture. Not only must a brand evoke a feeling, but a brand needs to be reliable and always on point with its message.
When creating and maintaining a brand, the logo and color palette can certainly help pave the path to attaining new customers and retaining existing customers, but it is only a small drop in a giant pond that has to be replenished on a regular basis. Have you ever asked yourself why your brand exists? Digging deep into why you exist in the first place can make maintaining a brand much less of a hassle and more of an enjoyable experience. After all, if you can't enjoy crafting your brand message, why expect people to enjoy talking about it?
By stating “I create remarkable brand experiences.” I am literally telling you I create things that your customers interact with (the experience) and talk about (being remarkable). I make sure to reinforce this as often as possible. Using words to spread a brand message is incredibly important, and the larger a brand gets the harder it can be to maintain this cohesiveness. Writing copy for your website, promotional materials, slide decks, executive summary, etc. can seem daunting, but if you know the kind of person your business attracts, and can speak to them on a human level, you're going to be light-years ahead of your competitors.
All this talk about maintaining a brand has me thinking about iteration. My brand wasn't built overnight, and the same goes for anything of quality. By purposefully planning out milestones, goals and performance metrics, any business can make giant leaps in improvement in what may feel like an overnight success.
We've asked questions, talked briefly about the importance of design, and touched base with the concept of building a cohesive brand message. All of these actions are necessary in building out an experience for your customers. They can either have an O.K. experience, or an amazing experience that is worth talking about.
Typically when I talk about iterative improvement, I am on the subject of data & analytics. One key to a successful website and brand is to collect data and review the data in order to find out if you're on the right path. You will know this path by asking yourself the necessary questions ahead of time. Is your sales department looking at conversion ratios of visitors:checkouts:revenue? Did you print out a QR code campaign only to not know if people are scanning the codes? Are your website visitors coming from organic searches or are you relying on Pinterest referrals? What keywords convert best?
Even though metrics like these are typically seen in the SEO (search engine optimization) world, we can apply similar tactics to your brand and marketing efforts. Have you requested information from website visitors via surveys? Are you actively going on social media platforms to find out who is talking about you? What are they saying? When I am looking on Amazon to buy a product, I will read most of the reviews in order to make an informed purchasing decision. So, are you listening to your customers? How are you reacting to reviews and online comments? Having a game plan in place to help you make crucial brand decisions and knowing how you are going to word your responses can make or break your business.