Fresh news

22 May 2018
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The thought of giving a presentation can be a terrifying one for even the most seasoned businessperson. Having to stand in front of colleagues, superiors, complete strangers or important clients – sometimes all at once! – can set the pulse racing, the sweat glands pouring and leave your tongue twisted, tied-up and uncooperative, to say the least. 

However, the real tragedy in this scenario is the fact that all your hard work and great ideas are rendered far less impactful by a poor presentation. You might have a game-changing idea or a report to blow your boss’ mind, but if your presentation is a mess it will leave your audience with a less than impressed perception of you and your work.

So, next time you’re required to give a presentation, try these tips that actually help, instead of imagining your audience naked and ending up queasy, uneasy, or on the wrong end of a sexual harassment workshop!

1)  Prep like a pro

Presentation preparation should extend beyond simply firing up PowerPoint, scribbling on some cue cards and dry-cleaning your ‘take me seriously’ suit. Although it’s crucial to ensure your props and visual cues are on point, you should spend time learning your presentation intimately – practice it in front of the mirror and really get comfortable with the content to ensure you aren’t just standing in front of your audience reading from a sheet of paper. If you really know your stuff, you’ll have some freedom to improvise should you draw a blank and the cue cards just don’t cut it. You will also come across as far more knowledgeable and genuine, and the audience will warm to that and the effort you’ve clearly put in.

Furthermore, it never hurts to get a feel for your audience before presenting to them. Are you talking to a no-nonsense boardroom of time-poor executives? They might not appreciate your ‘working hard, or hardly working, amiright?’ one-liner – whilst, conversely, it might go down a hit with the sales staff. Cater your presentation to your audience and you’re bound to make a more positive impression.

2)  Strike fast, reel ‘em in slow

The fishing analogy might not register with everyone, but the sentiment is rather apparent: start your presentation off on an exciting note, hook them, take your time winning them over, then land it on the right note.

When you first stand up in front of your audience they should hopefully be receptive to what you have to say, or at the very least, they will give you a fair chance to make your case. If, however, you stand up there and immediately start pouring over the latest sales figures, they will probably switch off before you even get through your first slide. Once you’ve lost the attention of your audience you aren’t likely to recapture it, and your presentation will fall flat.

It’s essential that you grip the audience as soon as you start speaking. Open with an insightful quote, an interesting fact or statistic or an entertaining anecdote to get them hooked, then proceed to spoon-feed them the less exciting stuff (though you would do well to spice this up too and present ‘boring’ information as concisely and passionately as possible to keep the audience interested). If you excite them from the off, you will have a much longer window of attention to work with.

3)  Talk to them, not at them

Don’t ever think of a presentation as, well, a presentation – it’s a conversation. You’re not standing up there to reel off monotonous facts and stats, you’re conveying important information in an interactive, engaging, and hopefully two-way discussion that allows your audience to feel like they are part of the performance.

If you just stand up there and talk at them unenthusiastically, without creating eye-contact, they aren’t really going to care about what you’re saying, even if they feign it. You aren’t a presentation bot reading out the daily news, you’re a fellow human being sharing something that you actually care about, and you want them to care too. Ask the audience questions, or for a show of hands, ask for their input or opinion; make them feel included and they will take a vested interest in the content of your presentation.

4)  Learn from the experience

You don’t exactly need to go as far as videoing yourself during the presentation, unless you’re that way inclined, but you should always be open to feedback from your colleagues and members of the audience. Don’t shy away from constructive criticism and try to take this information on board and use it to refine your presentation technique.

As with anything in life, the more you practice something, the better you get. Although you may not regularly give presentations, you will find that  improving your presentation skills not only makes you better at public speaking, but enhances your confidence, empowers you in the workplace, and allows you to assert yourself in a number of social situations.

So, next time you give a presentation, don’t fear it: embrace it as an opportunity to share your hard work, improve yourself and show what a powerhouse you can be!

 

17 May 2018
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The impact that social media has had on the contemporary business world simply cannot be understated. With just over 40% of the world’s population numbering amongst ‘active social media users’, or people that use social media on a daily bases, it has never been easier for businesses and brands to not only reach a diverse and engaged audience/target market, but to foster authentic, valuable relationships with them, going beyond simple business transactions.

 

Social stats

 

So in this era of ubiquitous social media saturation, are there any implications for brands that choose not to have a social media presence? As a small business, does it really matter if you’re not engaging on Facebook or hashtagging on Instagram along with the rest of the world? Let’s take a look at some of the cons of neglecting social media:

Drastically reduced audience reach

This couldn’t really be clearer. As the most recent stats show (see infographic above) of the 4 billion plus internet users, over 3.1 billion are actively engaged on various social media platforms. You have a website, right? Well, if you have a website to cater for the digital audience, you should also have a social media presence to ensure you aren’t missing out on reaching that massive audience.

Risk of becoming outdated

The modern consumer is more connected than ever before, and with a smartphone in nearly every pocket, these tech zombies are spending much of their waking life browsing on their devices. As such, this connected consumer opts to do as much as possible online, including interacting with the brands they use. If your customer can’t find you on social media, it may just be a matter of time before they lose you entirely.

Missing out on the conversation

As a business dealing with individual consumers you are bound to receive both good and bad feedback from your customers. Unfortunately, a negative experience simply can’t always be avoided, and someone is going to have a bone to pick with you at some point. In the ‘good old days’ they might have picked up the phone and called your office line to complain, but in the age of social media, they are far more likely to go on a Facebook rant. If your business has no social presence, you probably won’t ever know about disgruntled customers badmouthing you to their circle of friends, but in this case ignorance certainly isn’t bliss. Just as positive word of mouth can do wonders for your business, negative sentiments can lead to unwanted consequences such as lost sales, reputational damage and even boycotting of your brand.

So, although you can’t always control or steer the narrative around your business on social media, if you are aware of it and can attempt to engage with a stilted keyboard warrior, you might be able to save face and sway the hearts and minds of the social media masses.

Falling behind the competition

The simple truth is that, although your business might not have a social media presence, at least some of your competitors will. And whilst your nemeses may be creating crappy content or sharing terrible memes through their Instagram account, they are engaging with your shared customer pool, showing they take an interest in more than just their consumers’ wallets. You might provide a far superior product or service, but the modern consumer demands more, they want to feel a personal connection to the brands they love and engage with them on a more intangible level than a simple, cold transaction.

So, although using social media simply for the sake of it isn’t going to drastically change the face of your business, making an effort and finding your audience in their comfort zone can ensure you aren’t doing potential harm to your brand. Get with the times and embrace the future of connected consumption!

31 Jan 2018

We hear it from all and sundry at this time of year, as the Facebook statuses, Instagram selfies and, sometimes, even in cards and letters proudly proclaim, “New year, new Me!” 

The idea may be sound, and on the rare occasion they actually follow through, but the reality is that it’s usually a short-lived transformation, as the ‘old me’ resurfaces after about a month. Although a personal ‘rebrand’ is far easier said than done, and perhaps unnecessary in many cases (let’s face it, subtle consistent improvement is more realistic than a complete reinvention of self), when it comes to rebranding your business the process is far more straightforward and realistic, and considerable benefits of doing so simply cannot be overlooked.

If you think your brand is feeling a little stale, or doesn’t quite reflect the evolution of your business over the years, perhaps 2018 is the perfect time to rebrand. And if you’re sitting on the fence, here are a few key benefits you should consider:

Open your business up to new customers

The contemporary marketplace is ever-changing, with customer needs becoming more complex and competition becoming fiercer. The longer your brand is in the public eye, the more likely you are to build a loyal customer base, as said customers grow to trust your business and find comfort in the familiar. Unfortunately, this also makes it harder to attract new customers, particularly amongst the younger generations, as these individuals tend to gravitate towards brands that are new, exciting and innovative. 

So, whilst your brand might be at the cutting-edge of innovation internally, the perception of the brand may be old and dated. A rebrand could be the breath of fresh air to turn your business into the shiny new plaything that new-age customers are searching for. And, of course, if you do the rebrand right, you will retain your loyal, established customers.

Show the world your evolution

Every business needs a certain agility and flexibility in their internal structures and processes, in order to keep up with the requirements of their customers and the markets in which they operate. With strong competition, more informed and opinionated customers and regulatory requirements to keep your business on its toes, if you fall behind, you won’t survive long.

Over the years in your business’ lifecycle, you’ve no doubt had to change, improve and evolve to keep up with the pace of the market, so, whilst you may be thriving internally and you customers happy, you still have the same old logo, the same tired brand colours and the yearly newsletter with the gaudy, outdated font and imagery; to the outside world, your brand looks like it’s been left behind.

Having a brand-new hybrid engine hidden inside a banged up old Vauxhall isn’t going to impress the contemporary car enthusiast, and it certainly won’t endear your ride to new customers. In many cases, the best way to have your external brand image reflect your modern internal processes, is through a rebrand.

Keep your competition in check 

The growth and evolution of your business will inevitably result in improved capabilities and competencies, as you get better and more efficient at what you do. Unfortunately, in the global marketplace, your competitors are probably doing just the same, and there will come a point where you struggle to differentiate your business, and its product/service offering from that of your competition. 

When you reach this point, you may be forced to compete purely on price, which is never ideal, as you’re forced to drive your costs lower and lower to remain competitive. However, sometimes a rebrand is an alternate method of differentiation. A rebrand is an effective way to find your unique voice, face and ethos, and broaden your appeal in the market. It’s also a chance to connect with your customers on a deeper level than simply offering a product or service, it’s a chance to weave a brand story and persona with which your customers can identify and resonate. 

Think you’re ready for a Fresh start to 2018?

Making the decision to refresh or rebrand your business is only the first step in a process that can be long and arduous, if you aren’t quite sure how to approach the change and ensure it resonates throughout the business. Luckily for you, we know a thing or two about rebranding! 

Fresh has led and assisted in some of the most exciting and successful rebrands across a diverse spectrum of brands and industries, helping to breathe new life into tired brands, bring dated brands into the new age and instill organisation-wide change and evolution in some of the most challenging corporate giants.

We are specialists in Branding, Rebranding, Brand Growth, Strategy and Change management, and much more. With our experience and competency in every area of organisational change we are able to lead, assist, or advise throughout the rebranding process, from conception, to strategic planning, implementation and follow-through, to ensure the change is effective, lasting and instilled throughout all divisions and areas of your business.

Still perched firmly on the fence? Check out our recent full rebrand of Sustainable Commercial Solutions, a leading independent sustainability consultancy that trusted us with a complete rebirth of their entire brand, from the full look and feel and logo, to the name: Evora. 

Or perhaps our brand refresh for CGA, a company with a prestigious 16-year pedigree that decided it was time to breathe new energy into their brand  by updating and modernising their logo.

So, if you’re ready to get Fresh and talk rebranding in 2018, drop us a line and let’s start the conversation. It may be the best business decision you’ll ever make!

 

30 Nov 2017
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Let’s face it: some businesses just never seem to sleep. Whilst that may not be an issue for big corporates, with hundreds of employees to take turns manning the phones to ensure there is always someone on call, for smaller businesses it can be a nightmare.

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve no doubt worked your fingers to the bone all year to ensure the salaries are paid and the Christmas bonuses secured. You’ve spent long days, and often longer nights, on the job and at the beck and call of your customers, so as the year ‘winds down’ surely you deserve a holiday too? The unfortunate reality in this age of always-on service is that customers aren’t always so understanding. When something goes wrong with their product or service, they expect someone to be there to assist them, even if it’s the night before Christmas; something better be stirring, and it better not be a mouse! 

Although you may not have the luxury of switching off your phone and hibernating for the whole of December, we’ve compiled some sage advice to help you handle those holiday customer service headaches and ensure you avoid a very merry meltdown this festive.

Manage your customer expectations

Your customers are people too, and appealing to their sense of rationality is an important first course of action. Obviously, the way you handle customer service depends greatly on the product/service that you offer, but simply sending out a friendly pre-holiday communication to all those customers you have on file will help to ensure they are aware of when you won’t be available. Send out a personal email, put a notice up on your website, shout it from the rooftops, but just make sure your customers know service will be delayed during this week, and unavailable during that week.

So, when angry Allen’s recliner isn’t reclining as it should, he might not be any less angry, and you’ll still have to deal with the drama, but at least Allen knows he’ll have to wait until after the holiday hangover subsides to air his annoyance.

Create a service schedule

For some industries, there is simply no way around it, you will always need someone on call to address urgent customer issues. Although it is possible to outsource this capability, issues of cost and competency may render this unacceptable. So, if you cannot avoid having either yourself or trusted employees on hand 24-7, even during the holidays, then the best way to manage the stress, and save your sanity, is a service schedule.

Planning ahead will allow you to evenly balance the schedule to ensure you have constant coverage for emergency situations, whilst ensuring everyone still gets time off, your staff don’t feel unnecessarily overworked and your customers won’t be left in the lurch. 

Automate and stay up-to-date

Automation is a wonderful thing. If you’re involved in the tech industry you probably already have many automated systems and processes that can handle most customer issues, but even if you’re not so cyber savvy, you can pre-empt customer queries and issues and try and help solve issues before they ever require your human attention.

Simply having an up-to-date troubleshooting/FAQ page on your website may suffice, but you can also implement automatic email responses, automated return and exchange systems and so forth.

Always have a backup plan

Sometimes it all just goes wrong. The world ends and the end of days is nigh, or at least it seems that way. So, when the proverbial smashes into the fan, you need to be ready for it. You may think you have the pleasure of being able to tune out and take it easy for a few weeks, but make sure there is always an emergency plan and chain of contact in only the direst of circumstances, and that all of your employees are aware of this.

The last thing anyone wants is for your poor junior staffer to be left to handle an unprecedented customer disaster without any way to contact the boss!

After all, it’s always better to plan for the worst whilst wishing for the best.

Happy holidays!

31 Oct 2017

Content is king.

We hear it so often these days, and it’s a sentiment that holds true across so many diverse areas of our daily lives. Social media is the realm of the new generation of consumer, and content its currency.

So, if you’re aiming to create content, be it text, image, video or otherwise, that people will actually engage with, respond to and, hopefully, share (without coercion, bribery, blackmail etc.) then you had better make sure you’re churning out the good stuff! In a seemingly endless ocean of content, yours needs to be the Moby Dick of mobile, the golden flounder of Facebook; but how exactly do you achieve this?

Well, we have a few tips to ensure you’re on the right track.

1) Strike first

The likelihood of someone sharing your content is often determined as soon as they’ve read the headline. Yes, people really are as fickle as that – but can you blame them? When you’re scrolling through a thousand different posts, most of which aren’t really worth your precious time, the article with the funny/quirky/witty headline might just catch your eye, and tempt you to click that link.

If you bait the hook with that perfect headline, you’ve given your content the opportunity to work its way into their busy day, and if you can back that headline up with genuinely interesting, value-adding content, you’re well on your way to a share!

2) Hit them right in the feels

Making your audience feel something is a reliable method of prompting a response. Sure, there is a caveat to this, and certain emotions are far more desirable than others (think joy, surprise, and excitement, over anger, disgust, or guilt), but one of the most powerful and compelling factors in determining how likely a piece of content is to go viral is its ability to generate an emotional response.

Let’s be honest: if your aim is to get your latest blog post to hit the share highway, you are far more likely to achieve this by generating a shock response to something unpleasant, than writing a boring sales pitch filled with figures and testimonials.

Emotion is a powerful tool in your content arsenal, just be cautious of a free-fire approach.

3) Don’t reinvent the wheel

Despite our inherent belief in our uniqueness, we humans aren’t that difficult to understand. We follow patterns of behaviour that can be mapped across universal lines and, when it comes to content, we can be downright predictable. Cat videos are basically the cornerstone of the internet, and anything with a cute baby doing something funny is almost guaranteed to go viral.

So, when it comes to creating content, why try and break the mould? Why search for the holy grail of unique content, when you can simply review your analytics, see what sort of content performs best, and follow this example?

Obviously, you don’t want to simply push the same blog post every few months, but if you have a top performing post, don’t be afraid to ‘borrow’ certain elements from it, whether style, format, tone etc. Give your audience more of what you know they like, rather than always trying out new recipes on them.

4)   Engage the eyes

This should be fairly obvious, but when it comes to content, visually stimulating media comes out on top. People are inherently lazy, and prefer to watch a short video explaining a topic than to read about it in so many words.

On average, photos on Facebook generate 53% more likes than the average post. So simply adding a few relevant images to your weekly newsletter will make it twice as likely to be read and shared. It’s a no-brainer.

If you have the time and/or resources to ‘say it with a video’ it’s definitely worth your while. Video is shared 80% more than any other content, so invest in video and you’ll have the rapt masses sharing your colourful little animation to all and sundry – even if it is your annual sales report!

28 Sep 2017

Brands these days are intrinsic to modern life. Almost everything we see and interact with on a daily basis is branded in some way, from the food we eat to the clothes we wear. In this contemporary life, brands are the way we define ourselves and the medium through which we attempt to understand the chaos of the corporate world.

There is inherent and considerable power in this. Being so intricately woven into our daily lives, it is only logical that the brands we love would start to dictate our buying behaviour, lifestyle choices and even our personalities. Brands are no longer just choices we make; they are the foundation of our modern lives. As Spiderman says, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ and this really rings true in the modern age of global brands.

So, when consumers place their trust in your brand they expect you’ll value this and act accordingly, treating them with a mutual respect and working hard to continue earning this trust.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Brands sometimes forget how important the relationship they have with their customers is, which can lead to these relationships being taken for granted, abused and sometimes irreparably damaged. Whilst the idea that ‘the customer is always right’ may not always hold true, with customers often committing the same abuse of the mutual trust established in the customer-brand relationship, as a brand it is your responsibility to ensure your first consideration is your ‘fan base’, and act as an organisation to provide real value to your customers that extends beyond simply providing a product or service.

Sometimes brands have such a profound stranglehold on their customers that they can get away with seemingly anything, forcing their users to accept their (often unreasonable) terms or face life without their beloved brand. This can be labelled an ‘abusive brand’: when a brand that fully realises how completely inured their customers are to their products and/or services they use it as a means to ensure that the consumers keep consuming, no matter which new and often unnecessary offering they push on their customers.

To give a well-known face (excuse the pun) to an abusive brand, one needs look no further than the behemoth that is Facebook. Facebook proffers to make its customers lives easier by ‘learning’ and gathering every little bit of information it can about its users. It is so deeply entrenched in their personal lives that being without it is a frightening thought for many. But the question one might ask is, do I really trust Facebook with all of this precious personal information?

The Facebook messenger app (a forced download for direct communication on the platform), for instance, allows the corporation to:

- Read your bookmarks and browsing history;
- control your mobile data connection;
- read, add to, modify or remove your contacts;
- read, add to or modify your calendar events;
- get your precise geographical location;
- send and receive text or multimedia messages;
- read your text and multimedia messages;
- make calls off your phone without your intervention, read your call log, reroute your calls;
- read, modify or delete the contents of your memory (SD) card;
- use your device’s camera to take pictures and record video;
- use your microphone to record audio; and
- read your stream on social media networks and post to your social media streams.

    Hopefully you are starting to get a sense of the abusive brand concept. Facebook leverages its users’ dependence on their service to coerce them into acceptance what might usually be seen as unreasonable terms. And they are not the only big brand (ab)using their power in this way.

    In an age where brands play such an important role in their users’ lives, these users are constantly looking for a hero brand to provide them with quality products and service and offer real value in their lives that extends beyond a simple transaction. They want their brands to be green and sustainable, to create employment and respect them, not bully them into using their products and services.

    So, to avoid becoming an abusive brand, it’s crucial to focus on forging a relationship of respect and mutual appreciation and benefit, then leverage this to find out what your customers want and need and how you can make their lives better, instead of trying to dictate what you think they need and push your products on them whether we want them or not. 

    Being a better brand starts with realising that your customers are your most important resource, and working to ensure a healthy, respectful relationship with them. It’s really not that difficult!

07 Aug 2017
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The world has become obsessed with health. From living and eating cleanly, to finding better, more ethical ways of doing things; the concept of health extends far beyond simple human wellness.

So, when it comes to ‘brand health’ we would most readily describe it as a measure of the overall state of the brand and how people perceive it, both internally and externally. In order to be seen as healthy, a brand needs to consider many aspects of its operation, from product/service manufacture and delivery, customer relationship management, community relationship management, values and more.  Building a healthy brand is a holistic process that needs to be incorporated into every facet of the business and it should ideally begin at the earliest phase in the life of the business.

Perhaps the most user-friendly method of gauging brand health is to simply ask, and honestly answer, the following questions:

  • Does your brand have a meaningful purpose and is this purpose served in all that it does?
  • Does your brand have a unique meaning and identity?
  • Is your brand an engaging, effective and coherent communicator?
  • Is profit a consequence rather than a main driver of your brand’s activities?
  • Does your brand build sustainable relationships by never taking more than it gives?
  • Does your brand add value to people’s lives?

Let’s take a look at these questions in more detail.

Does your brand have a meaningful purpose and is this served in all that it does?

One of the first steps in starting a business is to create a business plan, and within this, a mission statement: a concise summary of your business’ reason for existing, its goals and the philosophies and values that determine these. Essentially this can be seen as your brand’s purpose. In order for it to be considered meaningful, your brand’s purpose should be aligned with ethical business practices and focus on adding value to your customers’ lives, rather than merely existing to turn a profit. This is no longer just a noble ideal; it is a standard that consumers have come to expect from their brands. 

As a brand custodian, you must believe in your brand purpose and live by it, making sure that this drives every business decision you make. Staying true to this will guide the brand in the right direction, helping to maintain a desirable level of brand health. 

Does your brand have a unique meaning and identity?

This follows on quite logically from the first question, as your brand’s identity and meaning will largely be defined by its purpose. However, whilst your brand purpose encompasses its core values and business practices, the identity and meaning speaks more to who or what your brand is, what it looks like and the meaning behind this. It’s important to define your brand and create a rich persona that people can identify with, as such; it needs to be unique, sincere and memorable.

Although the identity of a brand is often seen as simply the visual elements such as the logo, brand colours, fonts and other design elements, when coupled with the brand meaning; this takes on a deeper dimension. The brand identity then encompasses everything about the brand that is shown to the public, whilst the meaning attempts to explain the conceptual thinking behind this.

Creating a unique, honest meaning and identity is one of the best ways for your brand to connect with your customers on a personal level. It helps to humanise your brand and people find this easier to relate to. Getting this right is a very important part of building and maintaining a healthy brand!

Is your brand an engaging, effective and coherent communicator?

Communication is a vital part of any business and generally encompasses two main dimensions: internal and external. In order to embody the healthy brand ideal, it’s important for your business to be proficient in both forms. 

Internal communication is essential in ensuring that all those who represent your brand, from your top-level management to sales floor staff and delivery people understand what your brand stands for and act in accordance with its purpose, values and standards. The importance of having a unified brand that speaks with one voice cannot be understated. Effective, engaging and coherent internal communication will help to ensure that all of your employees understand your brand on a personal level and appreciate their role as a representative of it, in turn increasing their employee satisfaction and brand resonance. It is essential to get it right internally before one goes external; staff may be patient and forgiving, customers less so.

External communication, therefore, is even more important. Essentially, your brand is being judged by every single message that leaves your business, especially those that are sent out unintentionally. It can be a treacherous landscape, but the best way to navigate it is to be honest and sincere in all communications and ensure that the internal workings of your brand would hold up to external scrutiny. It is also very important to define the voice of your brand and stick to this, making sure that every message sent out speaks in this unified brand voice. Doing this will strengthen your brand identity and increase customer loyalty as they begin to trust your brand and familiarise themselves with the way it communicates. 

Is profit a consequence rather than a main driver of your brand’s activities?

This question may seem strange at first, as many people assume that the primary goal of doing business is to turn a profit. However, it is important to understand that we’re not suggesting that profit is a bad thing, or undesirable result. Profit is an essential aspect of every business’ survival and its importance should not be downplayed. Rather, the question is whether your brand exists to do more than simply turn a profit. If your brand looks to create real value in people’s lives and provide products and services that can address a real, meaningful need, then profit will be an inevitable consequence. It is about existing for a greater purpose than making money by any means, and customers appreciate and reward this with their support and loyalty. 

Building your brand to see profit as a consequence and not the sole driver of your activities will more likely result in ethical behavior and healthy practices, whilst still turning a profit, ensuring sustainable success and creating enduring relationships with your customers.

Does your brand build sustainable relationships by never taking more than you give? 

The modern consumer is a complex, multifaceted individual. They not only expect brands to provide the highest quality products and services, they want to see their brands doing business in a way that is non-harmful, sustainable and ethical.  Ticking all the right boxes can be very difficult for some brands, especially if they’ve been established on principles that aren’t in line with these standards.

An inherent part of doing business is to take certain inputs and then use these in a meaningful way. This can include materials, ingredients, labour and many other resources both tangible and intangible.  Brands are expected to ‘take’ in this way but it is essential to look at what the brand ‘gives back’ and this is the core concept of a sustainable relationship; never taking more than one gives. Your brand can do this by sourcing your ingredients from ethical, sustainable suppliers, empowering your local communities by hiring local workers, implementing environmentally-friendly production processes and more. 

Creating sustainable relationships with all those individuals and entities that engage with your brand will help to ensure the prosperity and enduring nature of those relationships, ultimately leading to success for your brand and strengthening your position as a healthy brand.

Does your brand add value to people’s lives?

Perhaps the most important question of all, this one ties together all of the previous questions and really speaks to the core of what it means to be a healthy brand. 

Adding real value to people’s lives is what drives a healthy brand and forms the essence of why your brand exists. This value extends beyond just offering useful products and services and encompasses the relationships your brand builds, the social initiatives you create, the role you play in improving the environment in which you operate and much more.

The modern customer expects 360-degree value from the best brands and failing to deliver on this can see your brand lose out to your competitors. If your brand can provide real, holistic value it is well on the way to becoming a truly healthy brand and enjoying all of the numerous benefits thereof!

 

24 Jul 2017
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The contemporary business landscape can be a treacherous one, to say the least. With far greater access to the internet, the ubiquity of social media and the somewhat concerning dawn of fake news, there are numerous potential pitfalls for any business with an online presence.

But what should you do if you find yourself, and your business, caught up in a social media storm of epic proportions? Do you simply weather it and wait till the hate dissipates?  Do you hire a PR firm to help spin it the right way? Or do you take matters into your own hands and attempt to rescue your sinking ship yourself? Ultimately the choice is yours, but if you’re considering the last of the aforementioned options, we’ve outlined four steps to turn a social media fail into a potential win.

1. Own up and shoulder the blame

Trolls are an unfortunate reality of the internet, and oftentimes you’ll find that these denizens of the web send hate and criticism your way for no valid reason. However, sometimes the outrage is warranted. So, you messed up; a customer had a terrible experience in your store and has decided to vent online about it, sharing their cringeworthy story all over Facebook, which then just so happened to go viral, leaving the social media masses unsurprisingly outraged. The last thing you want to do now is try and shirk responsibility or play the blame game. Even if you’re convinced Sarah Smith is embellishing her story of the 5-hour wait in line at your little store, it’s not a wise move to say as much; the public will invariably side with their fellow shopper, painting you as the bully. Your first step is to take it on the chin, admit responsibility and apologise sincerely.

2. Handle it directly, and publicly

You’ve been called out in public; the trolls are baying for blood and the big bully narrative is quite firmly established. You need to handle this in a personal capacity and show you genuinely care. If you simply post a vague sweeping statement/apology as your Facebook status without directly addressing poor Sarah Smith, you’ll be branded insincere and further entrench the image of an uncaring company. You need to contact Sarah directly and publicly; this is now in the public space and you want to be seen handling it swiftly and appropriately. Don’t try and handle it ‘offline’, as this won’t do much to repair your public image. 

3. Put it into context and endear your brand to the public

You need to handle this one carefully, as you don’t want to be seen to be making excuses or deflecting the blame, but it always helps to put an event into context. Let the public know that you’ve been in business for 10 years, as a hands-on, family-owned small business that genuinely cares about its loyal customers. Subsequently you should emphasise that the 5-hour wait time is not the norm and you will strive to ensure this never happens again. If you can find a way to shine a more lighthearted or humorous light on the whole debacle, this can help to show the public that you are human after all, and as such, mistakes happen. Perhaps mention that you’ll be offering free newspapers to customers standing in line to ease the stress of queuing. Try and gauge the public sentiment and act accordingly, but if you can show your human side and inject some humour into the whole thing, you might just turn a negative into a positive.

4. Repair the burnt bridges

Once you’ve managed to put out the bulk of the blaze and calmed the situation somewhat, you shouldn’t just rest on your laurels; you’ll need to show your commitment to ensuring this sort of thing won’t happen again. Transparency and a candid approach will not only help to endear your brand to the public, but further ensure that you’re prepared for any future incidents (which you can hopefully avoid altogether, but should be prepared for anyway). You could, for example, post a video showing the process of quality checking, meticulously folding and wrapping all the items you sell, accounting for what may be a slightly longer wait in line. Show your customers that each sale is precious to you, rather than a faceless transaction to be completed as quickly as possible. Adopting a policy of transparency will also help you to ensure that all of your processes really are up to scratch and will stand up to customer scrutiny, should it arise.

Don’t wait until disaster strikes

Although these steps might not apply to every situation, this should serve as a basic guideline to handling an unpleasant social media situation and help to reduce the damage to your brand. But remember, a proactive approach, in which you foresee, prepare for, and accordingly avoid any potential risks, is far preferable to the reactionary approach, once the proverbial hits the fan. 

02 Jun 2017
AdobeStock6

The social media storm that has swept over society in the last few years shows no sign of dissipating. In fact, it seems quite likely that the ubiquity of social media will continue to grow and spread until it is second nature for everyone that identifies as part of this contemporary, constantly connected world.

The benefits of social media for brands and businesses are plain to see, representing a unique insight into the lives and behaviours of one’s customers, as well as a medium through which engagement and authentic interaction can take place. But it is crucial that businesses approach their social media offering in a manner that makes business sense, and that’s where a social media audit comes in.

What is a social media audit?

Essentially, a social media audit is a holistic review of your business’ social media efforts, taking your activity, performance, audience, investments and other factors into account, then analysing them against your objectives and goals.

Many brands are guilty of getting so caught up in the hype of social media – after all, everyone and their gran has a Facebook profile these days! – that they simply flock to create an account on every available social platform and ensure their business has a visible social media presence, without really considering what value they offer their users on said platform, let alone what value the business itself is getting out of it.

You might think of a social media audit like a budget review. Just as you may be shocked to learn that you’re spending thousands each month on the office popcorn machine (which is only ever used by Ben from HR), you may be equally appalled to discover that you’re wasting significant resources on daily posts for your 5 followers on Facebook.

Step 1: Measure the metrics

The first and most direct step is to gather the hard data, the metrics that provide insight into how your social media efforts are faring. This will include likes, shares, comments, clicks, follower count, views, post reach, mentions and whichever other relevant metrics are available on the various social platforms you are using.

Luckily, most of the major social networks come with powerful, built-in analytics tools, which will provide high-level metrics and other insights to assist you in conducting your audit. There is also a plethora of third-party analytics tools, many of which are totally free to use, that you can leverage in this regard.

Once you’ve gathered all your data per platform you can use it to determine which posts perform best (images, video, plain text?) on which platforms and how your audience responds to such posts. This will help you focus on what you should be offering and how to post effectively to each of your platforms for the best ROI.

Step 2: Analyse your audience

You know your products and services intimately, and hopefully this translates to a similar knowledge of your particular target market. This is crucial in determining how you engage with your audience through your social media channels, but it’s also important to remember that certain social networks have slightly different audiences and communities within them.

When you know the demographics and interests of your audience, you can better focus on offering them content that appeals to them, as well as helping you to focus on the social platforms where you are most likely to find your particular target market.

If you produce bespoke, handcrafted tea-cosies, for instance, you’re far more likely to find your audience on Pinterest and Instagram than on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Step 3: Criticise your content

Once you know the audience/s you’re talking to, and which channels to speak to them through, it becomes crucial that you critically analyse the content and messaging that you’re sharing with them through said channels. Aiming for consistency and quality in tone, type and message is key.

You might be posting frequently to Instagram and replying to every single comment you receive, whilst you rarely post to Facebook or respond to queries. You might even be using a different tone across channels, keeping it ultra-casual on Twitter, yet overly formal on LinkedIn. This all serves to create discord and leave your followers confused about what your brand stands for.

Although it is a good idea to try and optimise your content for the platform (think rich media on Instagram, with more text-heavy posts to LinkedIn) this should never mean compromising the core of your brand and its public persona. Stay true to your brand, keep a good level of consistency across platforms and turn followers into fans.

Step 4: Reflect on ROI

The ultimate goal of your social media efforts should be to realise your key objectives and see a satisfactory level of Return On Investment (ROI), whether that is quantitative in nature (Leads, sales, subscriptions etc.) or more qualitative (Brand love, follower engagement, word of mouth) depends on what you’re trying to achieve and your goals as a brand, but ideally you should always have a clear idea of your social media targets.

Generally when you review your ROI you would look at your social media spend factors, which include ad spend, agency fees, software costs, content production costs and more. You would then look to compare these costs to the results. Say you’re spending £200 a month for your social media and you notice no increase in sales, yet your follower base is steadily growing, you might be seeing great ROI if your goal is to build your community, but very poor ROI if you’re just after sales leads.

Knowing your objectives and then aligning them to what you spend is a crucial part of the social media audit.

Don’t be scared to get social

Although the world of social media can be intimidating to some brands, the benefits, both tangible and intangible, tend to outweigh the costs, and creating a strong social media presence for your brand will no doubt give it a boost in the long run.

So don’t be afraid to go out and get social with your customers!

 

05 Apr 2017

We probably understand far better than most, and hopefully you’ll excuse the bias, the value of keeping things fresh. In a globally connected, technologically-driven world, it is essential for business to be constantly growing, shifting and evolving in line with the latest social, financial and technological trends, and failure to do so can spell the end for even the biggest of businesses.

Keeping up-to-date and on trend is often far less intimidating than one might imagine. It might just be a case of tweaking your pricing structure, expanding your stable of products and/or services, or simply updating your website. However, there comes a point in every businesses life cycle where it becomes prudent to ask the tough questions, to critically analyse what the business stands for and how it fits into the context of the contemporary market/s in which it operates. Subsequent to such deep introspection a business may come to the somewhat unpleasant or oft-inconvenient realisation that their brand has become dated, and that the way they look and present across various channels no longer reflects where they are in their journey. It is at this point that the business has to make the difficult decision to refresh their brand or to rebrand entirely.

A refresh or rebrand is not exactly a quick and simple decision. Although it is often highly necessary, essential even, it can be an extremely disruptive process if not handled correctly. Additionally, and particularly for businesses that have been active for some time, a rebrand needs to be lead properly and introduced to one’s customers in a way that doesn’t clash too violently with their internal cognition of one’s brand. Remember, a business that has looked, felt and sounded one particular way for a long time has built up a certain persona in the hearts and minds of its clients, the public and the marketplace at large. Whether entrenched brand colours, a fondly-recognised logo, a particular way of communicating or a host of other identifying factors and properties, the outside world already has a set view of the business, and a rebrand is going to come in and shake that all up. It’s no wonder that many businesses are so hesitant to stir things up in this way!

So when CGA, a company with a 16-year pedigree, came to realise that it had become necessary for them to refresh their brand image, it was, needless to say, a carefully considered, strategically driven move. Founded in 2011 by Chris Garthwaite, a pioneer in the field of customer experience, CGA is a recognised leader in customer experience management, on both a national and international level. Operating in an industry in constant flux, in which the changing customer demands and digital capabilities drive change and innovation at a relentless pace, CGA had found that they too needed to evolve with the times.

Making the decision to refresh the CGA brand proved to be the hardest part, as the next, most logical choice was to call in an expert to lead the change both internally and externally. Having worked closely with us in the past, CGA had full confidence in our ability to give the brand a Fresh new perspective on life and we delivered in style (if we say so ourselves).

 

 

The old CGA logo

 

 A Fresh new perspective

 

 

Variations of the new logo


Our first and most important step was to breathe new life into the old CGA logo, without losing the invaluable intangible value associated with this iconic visual property. We adopted a subtle, ‘less-is-more’ approach in refreshing the logo, retaining the iconic red circular holding shape, but opting for an entirely new typeface for the wordmark.  The ‘C’ hugs the ‘G’ in a visual metaphor that conveys working closely in partnership with the client, whilst the descending tail of the ‘G’ also forms the smile of a satisfied customer. The existing brand tagline ‘moving customers together’, which was seen as too passive and somewhat underwhelming, was reworked to the far more powerful and active ‘Transforming Customer Experience’, positioning CGA as the definitive authority in this area. 

 

 

Visual properties and colour palette

 


With a Fresh new logo and bolder, driven new direction firmly in place, the next step was to develop the brand look and feel, with a focus on the usage guidelines for visual properties and graphic 

devices, along with a new colour palette. Again opting for the subtle integration of imagery into the holding shape focus ring itself, we developed a visual style that was at once bold and powerful, yet understated. The bright, distinctive colour palette helps define their unique methodology – with a logo and colour assigned to each process in the methodology.



 

The CGA customer journey methodology

 

  

The Heartbeat logo


Utilising this subtle approach to the brand refresh we successfully managed to bring the CGA brand and its visual properties into a new era of customer-driven service. We gave the brand a bold new approach that didn't move entirely away from their roots or distance itself from the business’ proud heritage, thus ensuring minimised cognitive discomfort for CGA people, their customers and the market at large, in which CGA continues to be a definitive leader amongst its contemporaries.

A brand refresh or rebrand can be an extremely disruptive process and, handled incorrectly, can result in the loss of brand recognition and customer affinity. However, that shouldn't distract you from the fact that a refresh or rebrand is often a critical stage in the business life cycle. The differentiating factor is the partner you choose to lead your business through this defining moment and ensure that your refresh or rebrand achieves the identified outcomes and cements itself in the hearts and minds of your target market.