A half century (!)

W.B. Olson Construction has been building their impressive success for 50 years.

For 30 of those years, we've been alongside. From creating their logo and website in the early '90s, to hundreds of projects and upgrades up to the present, we've been proud partners.

This video is one sample of a) how impressive their work is, and b) how we've helped tell the story.

They are easily our longest-served client.

So, here's to 30 more. (BTW, if you have a library or school or aquatic center to build, these are the guys to call.)

How to kill response: The Bermuda Triangle of phone numbers

The old joke as I recall it, when your airplane was landing in Dayton (or Topeka/Knoxville/Boise/Bakersfield/Omaha) the flight attendant would announce impishly, “Please set your watch back 50 years.”

Probably apocryphal. A genuine time-rewind is needed when you see advertising where the call to action (CTA) is a phone number. Back in the day, the phrase was, “Operators are standing by!” voiced with optimistic retail urgency. (Spoiler: they were not.)
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It is almost always ineffective to use a phone number as your CTA.

The worst-case example (where “ineffective” actually translates to “stupid”) is when an advertiser plasters their phone number on a highway billboard, as if a person travelling at speed will notice, read, then remember a ten-digit combination vividly enough to dial it. (Now, that’s the real gotcha question on the cognitive decline test. Pick out the elephant? Easy. Dredge up the 75 mph blur you glimpsed ten minutes ago on the interstate? Not so much.) 

BTW, we counsel clients that out-of-home (OOH) advertising is a reminder medium, a fine add-on – never to be the primary. It offers high frequency, not immediate action. We preach the value of a one-to-six-word billboard headline, never more than ten. If wishful-thinking advertisers run OOH ads with 15 words, an address, more than one image, and a phone number CTA, they're setting fire to money. 

TV and radio are not much better at making phones ring. Why do some tv spots (for walk-in tubs? Med sup? Reverse mortgage scams?) repeat their number three times at the end? They assume their fearful seniors are deaf, distracted and/or slow. (Pro tip: They’re statistically more likely to be pissed off at the assumption.) Frankly, any advertiser (not just the granny grifters) who repeats a phone number fantasizes you'll fetch a pad and pencil. Another passage into the Bermuda Triangle where ad budgets sink into the depths without a trace.

Face it. Every purchase decision involves some emotional input.

Yes, every one. Your web address, ideally, should have some meaning, some relevance, some opportunity to advance your story. Your 800 number is just cold, dead data.

Are there exceptions? Of course. If you’ve been singing your phone number to us, the melody will make it stickier. If you’ve sung that jingle for decades, persist. Don't throw away brand equity. You’ve invested in a chunk of unaided-recall mental real estate, a desirable neighborhood for your brand to live in.

To be sure, phone numbers can be acceptable and effective in print, especially for impulse purchases. Many considered purchases, however, where prospects need information, persuasion, and handholding? Better to guide them to your web address, which I repeat, is far more engaging and memorable than raw numbers. Isn’t it? Isn’t it? If not, you have work to do.  Let's get started.

Geography is no longer destiny. They say.

Well, yes and no. It's true enough that many businesses are no longer constrained by where they can work successfully, unless they're beauticians, pickpockets, or sidewalk umbrella-twirlers. Go boldly to find new customers anywhere. It is unremarkable these days to do commerce in Khartoum, Kokomo, and Cucamonga.

The trend of commerce without contact has been gathering steam for years. COVID-19 merely accelerated it, which is why today we polish our Zoom skills, stay conscious of RoomRater, and keep a dress shirt on a hanger near the desk.

2020 has meant reeducation for people whose careers depended on face-to-face (F2F) meetings in offices or Starbucks. They have discovered very few Fs to F.

But. But. But. Don't take the encouragement to be everywhere as license to be from Nowhere.

Avoid the temptation to be from the Terra Incognita they used to describe on old maps.

Case in point: We got an inquiry the other day from a firm offering their services. We looked at their reasonably attractive website, and looked some more, and some more. Because we could not find a clue as to Where. They. Were. They had omitted their location, even on the Contact page. No phone number area code either. It seemed deliberately disguised.

Net result? Suspicion followed by rejection. Why lose the sale? If you're ashamed of what town/state/time zone you're from, stop. Realize you're still there for a reason. Use that reason to engage us. "You prolly never expected brilliant innovations from Paducah/Bangladesh/Folsom Prison, but once you see our work..." If you're charming, we'll be charmed. Pinky swear.

Keep safe. Wear the damn mask.

Image credit: By Nicolas Sanson (1600–1667) - Raremaps.com former image transferred from en.wikipedia, Public Domain, Link

Our favorite apps and tools for staying connected

Having clients on three continents requires one of two things: constant traveling, or learning to collaborate digitally. Since travel often involves confinement in a tin tube with people who cough and sneeze, our teams have invested time and effort to find the best digital tools for working with clients.

Here are the best-of-breed tools we use to stay connected and collaborate with clients and each other:

Dropbox

Dropbox (for file sharing)

Confession: We LOVE Dropbox. Like, really love. Our teams use it for all their file storage and file sharing. It's great because our teams can have all their files in one cloud and access them from anywhere. No need to go searching for assets. Since Dropbox added Google Drive integration, the ability to save Google Docs, Sheets, and Presentations directly has made collaborating even easier. Data security is better, too.

HELPFUL FOR COLLABORATING BECAUSE...

  • Makes sharing files as easy as copying and pasting a link
  • Keeps all creative assets and final files in one location, for designated users to access
  • Integrates with Google Drive

UberConference

Uberconference (for conference calls)

Zoom. FreeConferenceCall.com. Google Meets. Skype. You name it, we've tried it. When it comes to conference calling services, nothing seemed to marry quality and stability with ease of use, such as not requiring users to download apps to join a meeting.Until we met UberConference. For 3+ years, we've been happy users and recommend the service over all the others we've tried. With two office locations (Charolette and Chicago), having the ability to have everyone join the same call and discuss solutions together has been wonderful for our collaboration.

HELPFUL FOR COLLABORATING BECAUSE...

  • Easy for all office locations to join the same conversation
  • Great for screen sharing and showing clients presentations
  • Video conferencing for a personal touch, even digitally
  • Automatic transcript creation of meetings to make sure notes are correct and those who couldn't join can still hear what happened

inVision

InVision (for website development)

Prior to discovering InVision, designing websites with clients was more challenging. It was hard to present website mock-ups to them — displaying static PDFs was often less than engaging. InVision changed all that. We're able to make website mock-ups feel more like websites when clients review them. They can click on a button and see where it will take them. The navigation bar works. It's easier to understand and picture the end result. We've found it can save us weeks of feedback and editing, because clients can more easily visualize the end product.

HELPFUL FOR COLLABORATING BECAUSE...

  • Allows clients to visualize final website better than just PDFs
  • Clients can interact with the mock-ups and see where links go
  • Collaborating is easier with commenting feature on specific sections that need updating

Adobe XD

Adobe XD (for mobile app development)

Before developing an app, our team spends a lot of time working on the design and how people will interact with it. Using Photoshop was, for years, our go-to solution for quick mock-ups to discuss and work on. But then Adobe released XD and everything changed. We prototype and share interactive designs with our team and clients for feedback and research. It makes our designs stronger and more effective because we can have more people collaborate on the app.

HELPFUL FOR COLLABORATING BECAUSE...

  • Allows quick design and prototyping of apps before development begins, saving time and money
  • Clients can interact with the design and see how the app will look and behave to address problems before development
  • Makes discussing app design easier because you can easily share prototypes for review

Google Drive

Google Docs and Sheets (for writing and managment)

Messaging and content creation is a main focus, so we spend a lot of time writing and managing posts and analytics. The best tool for collaborating on writing is Google Docs. There's no need to worry about working on the wrong file version; everyone on the team can be working on it at the same time and no one saves over someone's else's edits. You can, of course, access the files from anywhere, too.

HELPFUL FOR COLLABORATING BECAUSE...

  • Everyone can edit the document at the same time
  • No worrying about working on the right version/final version
  • Easy to share with clients for feedback and commenting

YMMV:

What's worked best for you? Feel free to disagree with our choices — after all, this is an area where new apps are being introduced every week.

Watch Bob Killian’s Guest Appearance on CoronaTV

Missed Bob Killian's appearance on CoronaTV with Joseph Jaffe on April 7th? Watch the full episode above! (Skip to the 9:20 mark to watch Bob's segment (be advised, however, by skipping ahead you will miss out on *the* Macy Gray)).

The episode features discussions about:

  • how brands can (and should!) respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • why every brand should use his new book, REBRAND!, during this time to evaluate how to adapt their business quickly
  • The three things every brand needs to succeed
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Buy Bob's new book on Amazon now!

Buy On Amazon

Interested in booking branding expert Bob Killian for your podcast?
Please email podcasts@killianbranding.com.

Our new book is now published and on Amazon!

On a slow-grow plateau? Are competitors gaining on you? Are your company sales flat? Are your candidate's poll numbers slipping? Are your college's applications from targeted students in decline? 

In short, is it time to rebrand?

No, rebranding doesn't have to be a total renaming makeover — maybe all you need is a revised logo, new tagline, refreshed website or a retelling of your brand narrative. But how can you choose what's really needed, what's going to be a practical investment, what's going to deliver a revitalized brand strategy that can kickstart your growth?

That's exactly what our new book, REBRAND! delivers.

First, it helps you understand what branding is all about, how branding has evolved drastically in the digital age, and why radical changes in buyer and voter behavior have made some branding, marketing and sales strategies obsolete.

Even if you’re crushing the competition, experiencing gazelle-like leaps toward “ten-bagger” geometric growth—it’s always a healthy exercise to consider all aspects of your strategy and tactics, to poke, measure, question, and re-examine.

  • What’s our brand story? Who’s listening? Which messages succeed? Which don’t? Do we deliver our value proposition efficiently and cost-effectively? Will our brand still accurately reflect us next year? Five years from now?
  • Do we have an internal consensus about where we’re going?
  • What’s today’s competitive environment? Who’s gaining share at our expense? Who do we lose to when we compete? Why? What do they have that we don’t
  • Examine the easy-to-measure data (cost of acquisition, repeat sales, lifetime value of a customer, SEO, web bounce rate, exit pages, social media numbers, etc.)
  • Then look at some trickier-to-measure factors (satisfaction with web user experience, levels of aided and unaided brand awareness, loyalty, current brand equity, etc.)
  • Take a critical look at prospect segments. Have we possibly neglected demographic groups: age cohorts, women, Spanish speakers, etc.? Can we expand our geographic reach?

That’s when you reach an inflection point.

After such an exercise, the prognosis may be anything from “we’re just fine, thanks,” to “yes, we need to make changes,” which in turn can range in seriousness from bandaid to weight loss to major surgery. (One hopes not an autopsy.) 

A rebrand, whether a minor adjustment (update the logo, refresh the website) or a serious shake-up (acquire or spin off a capability, revise the messaging and tagline, change the marketing mix), or a total makeover (renaming, new value prop, or more), might lead to success reaching your goals—or lead you blindfolded into a minefield. That's when you have to make some serious decisions.

REBRAND! is here to help

Along with practical advice distilled from decades of experience with organizations of every size from every category, this book provides checklist quizzes for you to self-diagnose in order to find your best chance of Darwinian success. 

Invite your colleagues to add their insights and perspectives on your brand. Try to find consensus if it exists (there's more about how to learn that in the book). Have them take these quizzes separately so you can compare results.

The author, Bob Killian—rebranding consultant, creative director, company namer—helps make clients more visible, more differentiated, and more relevant to their customers and prospects. In 1987 he founded Killian Branding, a strategic agency that has worked with clients in every category and of every size, Fortune 500 to startups.

Bob has been quoted as a branding expert in USA Today, the New York Times, and The Washington Post. He guest-lectures on rebranding in MBA classes. Bob’s White Papers have been taught in a dozen graduate schools of business.

A student of Darwinian adaptation, Bob has written extensively on how modern brands must adapt to evolve in periods of change.

SEE WHY DESIGNRUSH INCLUDES US IN AMERICA'S TOP BRANDING AGENCIES OF 2020.

Buy on Amazon Here

Magic is in high demand and short supply.

As usual.

While we shelter in place/self-isolate/self-quarantine/work from home/maintain social distance, we hear the familiar plaintive outcry for magic. Instant solutions that will get everything back to normal by Thursday.

Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so.

That prudent position — accept what you can’t change, change what you can’t accept — requires a clear-eyed examination of both “can’t” realities. Current example: those who speculate about a Covid-19 vaccine arriving (miraculously) before, let’s say, election day. Merely wishful thinking, or cynical disinformation? In our new book (Rebrand!, available on Amazon) we point out that politicians sometimes regard elections as one-off transactions and don’t feel obliged to adhere to what’s, you know, true.  By contrast, if you manufacture mayonnaise or offer financial advice, you must deliver on your promise over and over again, building brand equity.

Caveat emptor.

BTW, friends, DesignRush thinks we’re among the Best Branding Companies and who are we to argue?

 

Want to hear the simple secret of a branding miracle?

Ever notice how many clickbait headlines online  invoke the words “trick,” “secret,” or “simple”? (Yes, we’ve all clicked on them.)

The simple secret of a branding miracle, of course… does not exist. Nor, may I add, is there a “trick” to weight loss, home buying, marriage, public policy, child raising, investing, radioactive waste , wine pairings, religion or elections*.

No human problem more complex than, say, which way to tighten or loosen a light bulb can be solved with a pithy formula. (FYI, even “righty tighty, lefty loosen” isn’t 100% reliable. All the lightbulbs in the New York subways twist the other way, to prevent theft.)

There are, of course, no shortage of buy-my-gadget soothsayers willing to peddle magical trickiness – there’s marketing gold in miracles. One way to sell stuff or create converts or solicit votes is to appeal to the allure of sweet simplicity, delivered without hesitation or doubt. End snoring tonight? Operators are standing by.

The implications for your branding? Life is messy, and considered-purchase decisions are usually complex and nuanced. Usually. With a few exceptions, such as the mid-life crisis red convertible, or the college-visit snap decision, the buyers’ journey takes multiple predictable turns.

To ignite a dialog, on the other hand, brand messaging should confine itself to one special kind of simplicity: it has to stand for something. One thing.

*Well, an army of bots might be a pretty good election trick.

Hey! Another honor for our Chicago office: Best Branding Agencies in Chicago 

 

Research Firm Ranks Top 25 Branding Agencies of 2019…

And we’re #11. Not at all bad, since the list is international in scope. According to the press release we saw:

“DesignRush.com, a B2B marketplace connecting brands with agencies, discovered how the best branding agencies build unified brand identities across many channels. These strategies help growing companies capture consumers, increase awareness and recognition, and ultimately improve revenue.”

Read more here.

Grammar’s stupidest rules – and when to obey them

Many rules of grammar, usage, and punctuation make sense. But others are questionable, such as not starting a sentence with “but.”

tombstone5600307_s

R.I.P., whom.

Why are grammar rules often stupid? They were the artificial creation of purists (many in the 19th C.) who admired Latin grammar so much, they tried to shoehorn English into it.

The effort was and is a continuing clusterfail. The language (as it actually evolves) thumbs its metaphorical nose at the dumbest of those conjunction function injunctions. We end sentences with prepositions, we split infinitives, we abandon the “proper” use of that endangered species of a word, whom.

To carelessly break those rules is something we ain’t putting up with. So to speak.

We advise our staff writers, by the way, to avoid making grammar “mistakes,” even the ones we just called stupid. W, as they say, TF?

You should in your writing, we believe, steer clear of all grammatical sins, venial or mortal, sensible or ridiculous – because language screwups and booboos cause a percentage of your audience to stop thinking about what you’re saying, distracted by how you’re saying it.

What percentage will be distracted? A split infinitive might annoy 1%. Confusing “less” with “fewer” maybe 10%. Confusing i.e. with e.g., 20%. The “shoot me now” errors will, however, bring sneers from 50%. Why, we have to ask, should you roll the dice when you don’t need to? Why risk losing the focus of even one reader, when she might be the one who would otherwise buy from you, hire you, vote for you?

If you are careless, you signal that you care less. No bueno.