Our Blog.

I was working with a client recently who said, “Yeah, let’s design some cool business cards too to go with our new brand. We won’t need many per person. No one will really use them anyway, it’s more for them to be excited about having a business card with their name on it.”

Hm… It reminded me of another recent occurrence I had related to this topic. The last time I was at a networking event, I was talking with another business owner who “didn’t have any cards” on him. “You can look us up,” he said.

It got me thinking about what value business cards have. Maybe they aren’t really needed? After pausing to consider change (always a good practice), I can’t get behind it this time. The concept that business cards are not needed doesn’t sit well with my branding and marketing mind. Here are my 5 reasons that I believe you still need business cards.

1. It’s a physical reminder to follow up

At that same networking event I mentioned before, I gathered about 8 or so business cards from people I had met. I came back to my office the next day, jumping right into client work and running the office, setting my stack of business cards next to my computer. Three days later, I spent 20 minutes or so following up with the people I met that day, checking out their websites if I wanted to learn more about them. The guy who didn’t have one, hmmm… what was his company’s name? Couldn’t remember.

We’ve all had that moment when we find a business card at the bottom of our purse too, and we remember that we were going to reach out. We all need a reminder here and there of our good intentions.

2. They will help jog our clouded memories

This is an obvious one, but still valid. “You know, I met a woman, I think her name was Maya. She could really help us out with this issue we’re discussing. What was her business name again? Wait, I think I have her card somewhere…”

3. It’s the first touch point of a consistent brand experience

This one speaks the truest to my heart and what we strive for here at Four Fin. Consistent brand experiences. Give the person you are talking to a peek at your brand in that initial conversation, with your business card. Is your company established and professional? Scrappy with a sense of humor? Super girly and glamorous? The design of your card can help set that tone without having to embody that persona in your talking points and personality (sometimes you just might not feel humorous, or glamorous).

4. You will empower your team to be brand advocates

Help your team get your business out there by equipping them with little leave-behinds. They might only give a handful out, but that’s a handful of people that might not have heard about you before: a handful of people that are getting the first taste of their own consistent brand experience with your company.

Your team members should all be champions of your brand. If they are not, it might be that you don’t have a brand they are proud of – if that’s the case, we might be able to help. However, If they are already advocates, then help them help the business by equipping them with something to leave behind when they talk about how much they love their jobs. 😉

5. They have the potential to be seen by others aside from the person you gave it to

The person you hand your card to might be a lower level sales person or employee of a small business, who will take your card back to their boss, or the business owner.  If this happens, they will not only be passing on your contact info. If your cards are professionally designed with your brand in mind, they will also be passing on your brand.

How does your business card stack up? Does it portray your brand well? Maybe there’s a way to reimagine it, satisfying the reasons above, but also rethinking the status quo, and delivering something unexpected. We’d love to brainstorm on it with you.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

We believe, as Creative Mornings does, that everyone is creative. Our Account Manager, Jess, is often pulled in on branding or naming discussions, and weighs in on our design work with doodles and feedback. Our clients have come to us, at the beginning stage, or during the process, with new ideas and inspiration for the project that elevates the end result. Our Creative Director encourages feedback on rough sketches, sharing new ideas un-inhibited by ego, volleying projects back and forth and other traits of free flowing collaboration.

One of our Graphic Designers, Kendall, recently brought a great new phrase to us by way of her latest experiment with improv. That phrase being “yes, and.” It’s perfect. While some people might be more artistically minded than others, we believe that creativity can be harnessed and encouraged. We believe that creativity is more about feeding on all that’s around you, less about natural genius. It’s why people are often “inspired by” something.

Along this line of thought, follows the idea that creativity comes from feeling uninhibited, free to express and curious about what will happen in someone else’s creative process when we throw our ideas out there. It’s the guts to share… because once you do, and more ideas are on the table, there starts to be patterns, highlights, new tangents that arise, and clear winners. The creative trajectory of a project redirects to a path that was never possible when only the safest ideas are brought forward.

All of that said, creativity does need to be guided when you are harnessing it to create a brand or ad campaign. Without guidelines, it can run wild and get raucously off track from where you started. It can form a life of its own that might be super fun or edgy (this is a lovely zone for a fine artist, btw). But it might not solve the original brief. It can also be very subjective and hard to agree on. That is why we start all of our projects with strategy. We need to understand the goals of our creative efforts so we can consistently monitor and reign in all the uninhibited and wild ideas into something that solves the challenge, delights the intended audience and represents the brand well.

So, if you’ve always thought, “I’m not the creative type,” ask yourself the last time you freely shared an idea you were sitting on, or the last time you truly listened to someone else’s idea, not to evaluate their “creativity,” but to really soak into the idea they were sharing. Alternatively, if you think “I’m more creative than other people,” ask yourself, how many of your “great” ideas were grown from the seed of someone else’s planting.

We believe all brands should be creative…it’s one of our #wordstobrandby and by that, we mean, all brands should be given the chance to be shared and collaborated on. All brands should be harnessed from a deep well of free-flowing thought, a well that is devoid of ego and full of unsuspecting characters and new, unforeseen paths.

Is your brand ready for some creativity? Great. We have ideas. We’d also love to hear yours.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

We work with companies throughout San Diego, but have decided on La Mesa as our headquarters for Four Fin. Why? Because, we believe in real connections, genuine people, easy parking and sunshine. It’s a straight shot on the 94 to Downtown San Diego, and quick to hop on the 8 or 125 as well. We like the creative vibe of our space, the neighboring businesses and the growing culinary scene out our front door. La Mesa is turning a corner in it’s history, to appeal to younger crowds with cool new establishments like Public Square, Coin Haus, Farmers Table, Boulevard Noodles and Sheldon’s Service Station.

Those last two are owned in part by mover and shaker, Aaron Dean, who is infusing life into the business community with his involvement with the La Mesa Village Association and his energy into a number of new local hotspots.

 

AARON DEAN

La Mesa Business Owner

 

 

 

 

 

  1. So, we’ve seen you pouring serious heart into La Mesa (we’re amped). Why this part of San Diego?  

La Mesa has always been a part of my family. I went to Fuerte Elementary decades ago. My father medical practice has been at Grossmont for over 38 years and my Grandparents were active in the community since 1959. For me I see huge potential for growth and love the feeling of being part of this community.

  1. What was the last thing you got really excited about? 

Well I was really excited and honored to be on the cover of Day & Night in last weeks Union Tribune. It was a great article not just about me but the happenings in La Mesa. It felt good to be able to talk about so many of the businesses and events happening in La Mesa.

  1. If you could only drink one beverage for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Sheldons Coffee of course…however in a few months my answer would change to Depot Springs Beer!

 

For more information on Aaron, and his improvements to La Mesa, you can read the latest two union tribune articles he was featured in:

La Mesa: the next culinary hotspot – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Aaron Dean has appetite for big plans in La Mesa

Thank you Aaron for all you do to foster community and encourage the growth of this town we love. See you at Sheldon’s!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Authenticity is at the root of the most successful brands. That’s why part of our branding process is a deep dive into your soul as a business owner. What are your values? Why do you do it all? Why is your company important to your customers?

It’s a word that gets thrown out a lot, but what is authenticity? We believe it means ignoring what others are doing (to an extent) and focusing on improving your offerings and relationships with customers in a way that makes sense to your business. We believe it means being in the long game. We believe it means showing your human side.

Mailchimp recently created a whole campaign around the concept of doing things your way. For them, that was to have a little fun with their name.

Why is this campaign successful? Beyond the insane good creative direction and execution, it’s successful because it shows businesses how to have fun with their brand. It also shows us how to be human. Mailchimp is a HUGE organization, that speaks to you like a friend. We are all people in the end. Whether a CEO or intern, we’re driven by emotion. I want to like who I’m partnering with, or buying services from, or investing in. And I can’t like them, if I don’t know them.

What does “authentic” look like to your business? Is there a possibility you could open up a bit more in your brand? Maybe you can dig a little deeper and share your companies values. Let your customers get to know your company more, and thus like you more. Baffled on how to start? We can help.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

So you need a logo? Awesome!

We have more questions. What is your company’s promise, the vision, the uniqueness factor? Once we have these (and many other) questions answered, we work to develop visuals that tell that brand’s story. Of course, a logo will be part of it. However, fonts, images, colors, textures, custom illustrations, messaging, tone of voice, delivery methods, even employee training, etc all contribute to the success of a brand. So, we think big picture!

Thinking big picture is the best way to create a strong brand.

brand

If you try to accomplish too much with the logo alone, it will end up busy and confusing your audience. Or worse, you’ll end up in the safe zone. You know, that place you land when you’re trying not to be too fun, or too stiff, or too lighthearted, etc. The safe zone usually involves committees, and ends in Helvetica, or Gotham, and often black and white. Not a good zone. Sure, it doesn’t offend anyone, but it also doesn’t ignite anyone.

So, instead, create a logo that is a clear, yet adaptable, tone-setter. You can build the rest of the story (lighthearted and youthful, professional yet small) with messaging, images and secondary graphics.

Final thought: Think of your logo like a good pair of jeans. Simple, iconic, fitting to your personality (hipster / mom / skater / cowboy) but also a blank canvas for an array of outfits depending on your mood. It’s the outfits, complete with accessories and shoes, etc. that tell the story, create the vibe, and attract the tribe.

Do you need a logo brand?

 

Save

Save

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

From our work with an exciting new coworking space downtown, and our following of the soon to be open Public Square Coffee House right around the corner from our La Mesa office, it feels like the idea of “community” is surrounding me lately. The concept is an important one, as often studies and films have show it as a measure of happiness. It’s deep rooted in our physiological needs to be a part of a community where we feel safe, valued and connected: a place where we belong.

Good brands know this. When I was studying advertising, it was a one-directional conversation. It’s been so uplifting to see the industry shift over the years to less telling, and more discussing; less what, and more why. There’s more transparency and accountability. The shift has forced companies to think about what is important to them, and why that matters to their customers. Thanks to technology advances, we can get to know our customers better, to alter our behaviors and offerings to suit them. It’s not only more cost effective than large advertising campaigns, but it’s more impactful.

We will continue to encourage our clients to foster community in their own brands, from they way their employees work with customers, to how they promote themselves. It’s a simple idea, but a strong asset for growing companies.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

They say any PR is good PR, but if you aren’t getting high quality media outlets to present you in a positive tone, then you should be doing something to move the needle. We helped the founder of BAM Communications design a simple graph that she uses at her PR company to remind her team of the ideal quadrant to keep their clients in. Forbes ran it as well, calling it “A Graph Summing Up What You Need To Know About Public Relations”

See the Full Article
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

When you set out to brand your new company, or product, what should you focus on? What should your brand stand for and who should it attract? I always advise clients to avoid being too general. What I typically hear in response is, “but I don’t want to alienate potential customers.” Especially true of new and untested concepts, there is a fear that trying to attract a specific segment, or pushing a specific product or product feature, will hurt the potential for broad success in the market.

For product offerings, we’ve seen just the opposite is true. Dollar shave club, Groupon, Google, Timbuk2, and many other current success stories started offering one thing done right, then they expanded.

It’s true of the brand and messaging as well. Offer one solid promise, to one specific segment of the market. It will preferably be a promise that isn’t offered in the current landscape, and deliver on that promise. Once you have the trust of your loyal followers, then you can broaden your approach if it makes sense.

Laura Ries wrote an article for Entrepreneur.com, where she suggests that branding starts, grows and wins in the mind of the prospect. In this article she asks, “How can we focus on one thing we can own in the mind?” The main takeaway overall of this article is “own the mind” in a category, and be first in that category. But she also offers a suggestion for when you aren’t first to launch, and are competing with others in the space. Her suggestion speaks to my point about being specific.

“Narrow your focus. BMW narrowed its focus to “driving” and became the largest-selling luxury-vehicle brand in the world. Subaru narrowed its focus to “four-wheel drive” and became the most successful automobile brand on the American market, in terms of market-share increases. Subaru even outsold Volkswagen in 2015 by 40 percent.”

By narrowing your brand’s focus, you can win in the mind of your prospects.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

One of our favorite, and most delicious, clients Kensington Brewing Company has opened a tasting room. Come taste what they are brewing!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Formally Jen Derks Design, we’ve got a new name and new look. We feel this change will allow room for growth and a high caliber team to support your projects. We are very excited about this change and we’d love to hear your feedback! Let us know what you think at chat@fourfincreative.com

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

An informative flow chart for PR hopefuls that we created for BAM communications was recently published on FastCompany.com. Do you have anything worthy of Media Coverage?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail