the deep end.

Trust Your Gut

In branding and in business, sometimes you have to pivot. Sometimes you have to hold true to your values. Sometimes you have to invest yourself in building your brand where you feel the most energy and potential.

You might be grappling with some of this right now. Let me tell you a secret. You already know what to do, and you have from the moment it popped into your head.  One of my favorite quotes, that recently adorned our office felt board, is “Told you so. – your intuition.”

Life moves fast, and business moves even faster. If you spend time ignoring your gut (or worse, being scared of what it’s telling you to do), you’ll likely fall behind on really moving your brand forward. Or worse, your waffling will give off the wrong impression. Your audience will see the inconsistency, and lack of direction. Your brand will suffer. Of course, we believe that a guiding light for a lot of small businesses IS their brand. We constantly harp that you have to stay true to your brand to build a strong and consistent image.

Let me give you a simple example. Let’s say you make widgets. You’ve positioned the widgets as quality widgets. You spent a great deal on R&D and design of the widgets and are confident that your audience needs this level of quality and will be happy paying the high price. You’re releasing the widget in the world and deciding how to market them. You meet an eager and convincing online marketing consultant who promises leads. “I’ve cracked the sales funnel code. We get their attention with an introductory discount and then as you gain traction, we’ll cut the discounts and your followers, now in love with the product, will be okay spending more.” It doesn’t sit right with you. Trust your gut. The audience you’re going after cares about the quality, not the price. If lured initially by price, the second you increase price, they’ll fire up the google engine again to find something cheaper. They’ll be offended with your brand at the same time. This might appear an obvious example, and the decisions you face might be more complex, but the premise rings true. Know your brand, be proud of what it stands for, and stand with it. 

So what if your “brand” conflicts with your “gut”?  

If it’s done right… that brand will be modeled after what’s already in your gut. If you build a truly authentic brand, it will be based in part on the values of the visionary leader. It will keep you from chasing shiny objects that aren’t true to your brand. So, if your gut says something is off, you can confidently listen. 

Before I even ran a branding business, I’ve had a lot of training in this gut-feeling awareness that has helped me make key decisions quickly. In surfing, you have to trust your gut quite often.

Paddling out.

Do I paddle faster and try to get past that almost-breaking wave, or do I pull back and duck dive the white-wash? Anyone who’s found themselves trying to duck dive a wave RIGHT when it’s breaking on top of you knows why that’s an important decision. And one you have to make instantly.

Catching a wave.

There’s a frequently used word in surfing, and actually all extreme sports. Commit. If you are paddling for a wave and it’s looking promising, and you’ve made the gut decision to go for it, you’d better commit. Once the wave takes hold of you, it’s not a time to question your gut. Likewise, if you’re paddling for a wave, and have a gut reaction that tells you to back off, but you stumble a little on listening quickly, you’ll find yourself putting on a good wipe-out show for those on the beach.

Deciding if you can hack it.

All surfers have been there. Standing on the sand during a particularly large swell. Sizing up the surf. Deciding if you’ve got the strength, courage, and lung capacity to attempt to paddle out. You might catch the best wave of your life. You could also tour the local ER.  

I don’t always trust my gut, and when I get too in-my-head, it’s typically never positive. I wipe-out. I pick myself back up. I breathe. Then I apologize to my gut for not listening. “Hey gut, you were right about that client. They obviously weren’t right for us. Had I listened to you, we’d have more space for the right type of growth. Thanks again for always watching out! Forgive me and keep up the clear signals for future decisions.” 

Our gut knows what’s up. It will save us from a mouth full of salt water and deter us from poor business choices. Building a brand that is authentic to you, then learning to trust your gut is a liberating exercise. Go confidently in the direction of your brand dreams. And bring your gut with you.

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Words to Brand By

We are always thinking over here. Throughout the year we gathered our thoughts for our followers on what makes a strong brand, and shared them on Instagram. We’ve revisited our own brand quite a bit this year and are ready to slay 2018 by helping others make waves with their branding.

Are you ready to make your brand clear?
If you’d like to learn about some of the principles to help align your brand, take a look at our #wordstobrandby or if you want to know what the hell we mean by all those buzzwords, and how they could apply to your brand, then give us a call and set up a free 30 min consultation. Make next year your year to own a fresh brand perspective!

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Four Fin Creative is a boutique design and branding firm located in La Mesa, CA, and we’re looking for our Fourth Fin. Are you a humble and positive graphic design rockstar who loves your craft and thinks about brands all day? Maybe you’d love to run your own studio, but hate finding clients? Do you enjoy challenging yourself? Do you enjoy people? Do you enjoy tacos?

We’re looking for you.

As part of a small team, you should be a self-starter, comfortable wearing many hats, taking initiative and collaborating. Do what you love in a fun and casual environment with flexibility. At Four Fin, you’ll have the opportunity to make a direct impact on our growth as a firm, and on the growth of the brands we work with. This position offers leadership potential for the right self-starter who grows with us.

Job duties may include:

– Taking a project all the way from concept development to final execution of print and web designs
– Adhering to brand guidelines and brand consistency, while keeping the creative fresh
– Working with the Creative Director to conceptualize and design brand-experiences across platforms, from email marketing and social content, to printed collateral and trade-show booths
– Sourcing and directing outside vendors as needed, from photographers and printers, to illustration artists and copywriters
– Preparing artwork for final print production
– Writing brand guidelines and designing brand books or culture books
– Professional design execution of corporate communication pieces such as brochures, pitch-decks or sales sheets
– Mentoring and guiding other designers

If you are the Fin we’re looking for: 

– You have a minimum of 5 years of agency or similar experience
– You work in Adobe Creative Suite on a Mac environment
– You love nurturing a brand through all touch-points
– You always love to try something new and do not hesitate to dive in
– You explore other artistic disciplines because it lights you up
– You are a great communicator, quick to grasp new concepts and platforms
– You pride yourself on your ability to “get” your client’s vision
– You conceptualize in the big picture world / and execute meticulously on the details
– You have done your fair share of production work: cleaning up files, prepping files for printing and publishing, etc… and you don’t loathe it
– You are comfortable working with clients as well as under a Creative Director
– Collaboration is your jam. You love spinning rough ideas off of others and, in turn, you give feedback honestly and often

What could additionally set you apart?

– Video or photography chops
– WordPress experience
– Experience in copywriting
– Experience in assisting with brand strategy exercises
– Experience in environmental or packaging design
– Illustration and or hand lettering skills
– A medal in an extreme sports competition (kidding, not kidding)

About Four Fin Creative

Four Fin Creative is a small but fierce design and branding firm, located in up-and-coming La Mesa, where the parking is easy, and it’s (almost) always sunny. We work with a range of smart and ambitious companies, from start-ups to established corporations and organizations. Four Fin helps our clients understand and beautifully communicate their brands, product benefits, services and missions in a way that is efficient, beautiful and compelling. We focus on brand identity design, and how to carry that brand through a number of touch points and platforms.

At Four Fin, our tight-knit team values a sweet balance of getting shit done, celebrating successes, and supporting each other in the process. We offer health-care and generous paid vacation and sick leave, with additional non-paid leave on approval – because we want you to explore life, and keep growing as an individual, in and out of the office.

Compensation $30-$40/hr depending on experience. Looking for full time, but would consider temporary part-time, moving to full. Work should primarily take place at our La Mesa place of business with occasional remote work as life demands it.

To Apply

Send us an email at jobs@fourfincreative.com and tell us in the body of the email:
1) Why you are a good fit for this position
2) Why is this position a good fit for you
3) Your favorite brand and why

Please include a link to your online portfolio and attach your résumé as a PDF.

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Out in the surf line-up, the most important thing you can do is paddle into a good position and keep adjusting to stay there. This is true of brands too. Companies extend a decent amount of energy getting into the sweet spot of their desired audience’s attention and needs. In surfing and in branding, there are a couple of ways to approach positioning that take this analogy a step further.

Hit it where it’s hot. 

When the waves are firing, there’s an obvious spot to sit to land a big one. It’s right next to everyone else. Sitting right next to nine other people will make it more difficult to catch a set wave, since only a few will win out during a three-wave set.

Now, you might decide that you can sit in that spot because you’re clearly a better surfer (or have a better product/offer/business) than those nine. If you are deciding this from a place of objectivity and not a place of ego, you might be right. And, if you decide to take that calculated risk, then go after those three precious set waves, or consumers in a crowded space. Go after them with confidence, and paddle hard.

Also, in this situation, staying connected to the oceans energy and reading the shifting swells will help you know where exactly amongst those nine you’ll need to be. Just as absorbing the energy of your consumers and reading the shifting trends and feedback will help you fine-tune your messaging. Always watching, always fine-tuning, always shifting.

Find a sweet spot.

Sometimes, if you look at the whole scene before you head out, you might be able to find a corner or reform that’s breaking a little further inside that no one noticed. They’re not perfect, they’re likely more varied, but the point is that you get a bunch, because no one else noticed them.

If you look at the whole scene before deciding where to position your brand, you might find this little pocket yourself. The B-list of waves, that doesn’t break out where the A-list breaks, but is perfectly comfortable riding small on the inside, and taking you with them.

If you’ve gotten this far, maybe you’re thinking, cool analogy. But, I’ll be honest, it’s not perfect.

Branding has an advantage surfers wish they had. 

When you are surfing, you are working with the forces of Mother Nature, and that sexy powerhouse will place those waves wherever she damn well chooses. You have to position yourself according to her rules. When you are positioning your brand, you can create waves where they weren’t before. The ‘waves’ in this analogy are followers, adopters, consumers. These waves have forces of their own, and can be drawn away from their normal spot if they are intrigued by your energy. In fact, it’s the often a great way to get them. Shine like a unique and unavoidable bacon from a calm and unsuspecting spot, way past the line up, and watch the wave patterns shift.

I wish I had that power in the ocean.

Do you know your brand’s position? Are you charging hard next to nine others in the line up, or are you beaconing greatness from the calm? I’d love to grab a coffee and chat it out with you.

——

This post is one of a series of posts from Four Fin’s Founder and Creative Director, Jen Derks, on how branding is like surfing. Follow us on instagram for updates on our blog post releases, studio happenings and client work.  

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I recently came across this article and thought it was worth a share as it’s incredibly relevant to some of our core values at Four Fin. I’m officially making it required reading for every new design hire. The article speaks to solo in-house designers at companies of non-designers, but I believe the lessons shared are universal. We approach our client-relationships with a partnership mentality, and we’re often our clients’ only designers. We’re batting on their team, in-house or not.

“Don’t be the smartest guy in the room”

At Four Fin, we believe that creativity and ideation are not the designers’ tasks alone. Everyone, whether they are the client or work for the agency, is valuable in the process of better understanding user experiences, seeing a challenge from a different perspective and bringing in varied expertise. Our Account Manager regularly contributes ideas to our work and our design staff has no issues bringing those ideas to life to test them against the others. Our clients know their users better than we do and that experience is invaluable. The point is, it’s not about us. The best idea on the table could have come from the client’s new intern, we just care that it’s the best idea related to the goals of the brand.

“Let good enough be good enough.”

This principle might seem to counter your perceptions of what a design firm believes. Don’t get me wrong, people come to us when good enough isn’t cutting it, and we value the power of iteration and nailing details. But there is a lesson here. Our clients’ success matters to us and it’s important to me as we grow that we retain a high level of respect for their goals. When a brand is in the early phases of development, we recognize when design perfection should not be the goal, and we comfortably adjust our own standards (yes, really) in order to achieve what is needed for phase 1 (e.g., get that simple landing page up, or fill the feed with relevant stock images until photoshoots can be scheduled). If we maintain this thinking and strategy in supporting our clients through phase 1, we then have more success in helping them grow and get to phase 3. This is when we grab the coffee and pump the Sonos – with design perfection as the goal.

Does your company lack an in-house designer? Is it possible we could fill in, with the same mindset as a designer on staff, but with more resources and flexibility? Let’s find a time to talk it over.

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Fear and Improv: Part 1

Now, I will be the first to tell you, I am not funny. I mean, my friends think I am funny. Or at least they laugh when I say things sometimes. I also, alongside most people on this planet, get a colony of butterflies in my stomach when I am met with public speaking. At Four Fin, a regular question our CEO asks us is, “What is something you did this month that made you uncomfortable?” A few months ago I decided to really test that and I signed up for an Intro to Improv class. The last time I was on a stage was probably 4th grade when I dyed my hair red to play Annie in “Annie” [side note: “temporary” fire-red hair dye is not so temporary for blonde haired folks]. Flash forward 16 years, I am back to my natural hair color and sweating profusely in my Prius before my first improv class. Fifteen minutes of forced slow breathing and a non-stop internal monologue, I was almost ready. I did a power pose, lied to myself that I would be a NATURAL, and opened my car door. Safe to say, I was not a natural.

The Lessons:

Lesson One.

Improv is hard. Some people are quick-witted and natural on stage but most of us are not and the only thing that helps is practice. I had this realization on my first class when I started sputtering out gnomish in response to my scene partner’s question.

Lesson Two.

I can speak gnomish!

Lesson Three.

Improv is essentially preschool for adults. We play games, pretend we are flying to the moon on a secret mission and, most importantly, act ridiculous without caring that we look pretty stupid.

So, every Wednesday night for the past few months, I have been going back to preschool. Turns out going to preschool as an adult is a lot harder than it is as a 5-year-old. As an adult, I am out of practice playing make-believe. Luckily, our improv coach has a few tools to help the incompetent adult dive back into the land of imagination. The most important thing in the improv toolbox is the phrase: Yes, and. Let’s say your scene partner opens the scene with “Let’s build a beautiful house!” You would respond “Yes and… let’s build this beautiful house out of pencils!” Yes and…  supports your partner, accepts the reality of the scene they want to create and builds on that reality. Now, that is beautiful! Yes, and… also requires listening. This is something I discovered when I started speaking gnomish on my first day of class. You see, I was so in my own head trying to figure out what to respond, I forgot to listen to what my scene partner was saying.

Yes, and … is something that directly translates into life in the real world and into my career at Four Fin. As a branding and design studio, an essential part of our job is listening. Our clients are often responsible for the vision of their company’s overall brand, campaign or targeted marketing initiative (i.e., CEOs, Marketing Directors, etc.). We value the practice of genuinely listening and saying “yes, and…” to our clients’ ideas. It is our job to bring their vision to life with an authentic brand and identity. That requires listening, building upon the ideas and dreams of our clients, and translating that dream into reality. And that, my friends, is beautiful.

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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 like these amazing designs. We’d love to brainstorm on it with you.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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So you need a logo?

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?

 

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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.

 

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Published Work: Forbes

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”

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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.

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

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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?

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