Impressions

by Cochran

My Saturday Branding Lesson

A parking lot with landscaping and a diagonal ...

Image via Wikipedia

So, I was exiting one of my favorite coffee shops after enjoying my Saturday morning cup. I tend to linger longer on Saturdays.

Just for the record, I drive a metallic blue Honda Accord.

As I was leaving the shop, I was reading an incoming text message on my smart phone. Since I was focused on my phone display, I wasn’t looking at my car. But, I knew the general direction in which I had parked.

As I approached my car and pressed the “unlock” button on my remote, I noticed that there was a half-used legal pad sitting on the back seat. My first thought was, “How did that get back there? I never use the back seat and, by the way, I don’t use legal pads (well, not in public, anyway).

Then came the a ha. This wasn’t my car. Mine was parked in the same overall position, just one row over.

My first instinct was to feel embarrassed. Who saw me? Did the owner of the “other” car think I was trying to steal something? Who was having a good laugh at my expense?

As I unlocked my car door, hopped in and sped away, I had a good laugh at my mistake.

Then, another a ha. This was my Saturday branding lesson. Thank you, Honda.

The “other” car I tried to enter was also a Honda. Not an Accord, but a Civic. Not metallic blue, but metallic gray, and probably the same model year as mine.

It dawned on me that this was branding at its best. Even though I wasn’t focused on the cars in the lot, out of a tiny little corner of my eye, subliminally even, I had shown my brand loyalty to Honda. I didn’t walk up to a Toyota or a Mazda or a Nissan and make this mistake. My eyes took me to a Honda, albeit not my Honda.

Was it the color similarity that fooled me? Was it that I sometimes park in that exact parking space (the one where the Civic was) many a Saturday morning? Was it the overall design of the car that I recognized? Did I unknowingly glance at the Honda logo and gravitate towards it?

It was probably a combination of all of these factors (and probably some I haven’t even thought of yet) that attracted me to the Civic. All in all, it was an interesting branding case study. This Accord is only the second Honda I’ve owned in my lifetime. Oh, but I did receive a telemarketing call from Honda this week. Scary, huh?

Pity I can’t time travel back to notice whether there were other Honda models in the same general area of the parking lot. Or notice if there were other cars the same color as mine. Or any of a myriad other factors which may have affected my choice of the gray metallic Civic.

I’d love to know what you make of my branding experience. Please comment and let me know what factors I’ve overlooked in my analysis.

P.S. Thank you, Honda, for the interesting study in branding and brand loyalty. And, by the way, I love my Accord. Keep up the good work.

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February 11, 2012 Posted by | brand loyalty, design, design thinking, Marketing | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What To Look For In Hiring A Web Design Firm

This is a condensed version of a recent talk I gave to a group of sales professionals within a large website design firm. They wanted an agency perspective, so I didn’t mince words.

Here are Cochran Creative Group’s top ten prerequisites in choosing a web design partner.

1. Easy to work with. We look for a firm that’s well organized. Namely, we need to know from the ‘get-go’ who our lead contact person is. We don’t want to talk with a different customer service person each time we call.

2. Speaks in a language we (and our customers) can understand. This harks back to Sales 101: Learn to talk the customer’s language.

3. Is customer-focused. Not only are they interested in our business; they’re also interested in our customers’ business. They’re here to help solve our problems and make our lives easier.

4. Wants to form a real partnership with us. For instance, we’d like help preparing proposals and pitching clients. We’d like to include our web partner on conference calls with customers. We’d like our web partner to take as much ownership over the project as we do. We don’t need you to be anonymous.

5. Takes part in the website planning process. Offers up ideas. Discourages us from going in a wrong direction. Basically, we need your help. We’re not web designers. Please guide us.

6. Offers us content management sites that are design-independent. We spend our days creating custom logos, custom marketing plans and custom advertising campaigns. We want to create unique sites. We don’t want to be boxed in by column widths or drop down styles. We hate the “T” word, i.e., templates.

7. Cares about site aesthetics. We and our customers care about things like centering, consistent use of font styles, font sizes and colors. Aesthetics help maintain a consistent brand message. They may do little for SEO, but they do subliminally attract and keep customers.

8. Is attentive to detail. Looks into even small errors. When we see “done with errors” on the bottom of a page, it doesn’t inspire confidence. If we notice errors, there’s certainly a chance that other visitors to the site will notice them too.

9. Adheres to web standards and provides a high level of quality assurance. Tests each site on multiple browsers for consistency in rendering. We don’t want to hear that a site “might not look right in Safari or IE6.” Unfortunately, our customers could be using less-popular or older browser versions.

10. Delivers on time and is readily available for troubleshooting. We prefer to work with a website firm that provides ongoing support in a proactive way – a group that checks in on a regular basis, just to “see how things are going.”

All in all, we’re looking for a long-term relationship – the launch of a new website is only the beginning.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | website design | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2009: Journey Into the Marketing Unknown

A close friend recently sized me up this way: “You’re most comfortable residing in the ‘unknown’ because that’s where the most learning takes place.”

If that was an accurate assessment, then 2009 was definitely my best year ever. It was chock full of unknowns.

After 10 years as the owner of a marketing and creative design group, all of a sudden, new customers were not beating a path to my door as readily as before. Even long-time customers were scaling back on their marketing initiatives. I took a deep breath and began brushing up on my sales skills, reacquainting myself with some tried and true methods and attending a seminar or two to learn some specific tactics for selling in a down economy.

The marketing and advertising industry was in serious change mode well before the economy took its nosedive. The Internet had already changed everything. No longer were companies relying solely on traditional print and broadcast media to market their products and services. There was and continues to be a whole new set of skills necessary to compete as a marketing professional.

Several years ago, the unknowns of the online world began presenting themselves to me. Website design and email marketing were quickly becoming prerequisites for maintaining a viable business model. In true form, I jumped into those unknowns with both feet, learning as I went and happy to be doing so.

Much to my delight, even more unknowns showed up in 2009. The year has found me gaining fluency in search engine optimization, blogging and social media, especially Twitter. And, I’m reading everything I can get my hands on about design thinking to learn how better to help my business and my customers’ businesses grow in more innovative and human-centered ways. Books of particular note include Ideo’s Tim Brown’s “Change By Design” and “The Design of Business” by Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management.

Despite the unruly and disruptive nature of 2009, I was a bit sorry to see the year come to a close. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that 2010 will present even more unknowns to us all. The pace will quicken too.

Let the learning never end.

January 2, 2010 Posted by | creativity, design thinking, Marketing, Online Marketing, social media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Your Brand Running Smoothly?

Even in the best economic times, every company is wise to periodically examine, refocus and retool its marketing strategy. BrandCheck, a new service offering by Cochran Creative Group, facilitates this process bringing new clarity and consistency to your branding initiatives.

During your personalized half-day BrandCheck session, we’ll explore questions such as:

  • Are you satisfied with your logo?
  • Does it reflect who your company is today?
  • Are you using it consistently across all applications?
  • Does your company’s online persona reflect the same look, feel and voice as your printed marketing materials?
  • Is your website generating the results you need?
  • Are your customers aware of your complete range of products and services?

If you cannot honestly answer yes to each of these questions, then now is the time to schedule your BrandCheck session. During your personalized, half-day session, we’ll be your guide in bringing new clarity and consistency to your branding initiatives.

Click on the BrandCheck icon at http://www.CochranCreativeGroup.com to download an information sheet.

September 15, 2009 Posted by | Marketing | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment