On any given day at any given time, in the rockin’ town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, you may find Vanessa and I seated in an area coffee shop – usually Sweetwaters or Espresso Royale – and sometimes you’ll even see someone with us. That someone, you crazy Mayniax maniac you, is a gutsy entrepreneurial client. Hell, just for funsies, let’s pretend for the rest of this post, said gutsy entrepreneurial client is you.
That was a lotta commas.
Our Gutsy Branding Process
We’re in Sweetwaters having our very first chat, and we just asked you about your “why.” You gave us some crappy answer relating to business. “No,” I say, with Vanessa kicking me under the table, reminding me to keep from being too blunt.
“Don’t make me wanna kick a puppy!” I exclaim, holding back.
We tell you to not even consider a little bit what you do for a living, or what type of business you want to start. We tell you your “why” is about you. As Simon Sinek says, it’s your purpose, your cause, or your belief. And it’s so difficult to get you to think of yourself independently from your business, that we meet a couple more times, until we’re all satisfied your “why” is genuine, and that your “why” is all about you. Because you are who we’re building your brand around.
And with that, the most important part of our branding process is over.
We set up one or two more chats because what we’re about to tell you is gonna be counter-intuitive to everything you “know” about business. We’re gonna tell you to pick one thing to specialize in. And you’re going to fight us about it. You’ll say something like, “But my industry’s different,” because everyone thinks that. We’ll tell you it’s not about your industry, but how everyone’s brain’s function the same way biologically, and about how having one product or service will stick in people’s minds a lot better than several. You’ll still fight. I’ll wanna kick a puppy. Vanessa will be kicking me.
Eventually, we’ll tell you that the best way to have more than one service is to have more than one brand. But we’ll tell you to start with just one brand first, and build the others as we all learn lessons from that initial one. You’ll look suspicious of us, but you’ll relent, because you know we really are in it for you.
We don’t need a lot from you for this part. Vanessa and I will just ask you to hand us a list of who you feel your competition is, and then get cracking on finding more. We’ll tell you the reason we do competitive research is to figure out how you are, and how you’ll be, different from your competitors. And this, our gutsy entrepreneurial friend, is the first thing you won’t fight us on.
This research will help us come up with your brand name, your tagline, a word to describe your brand, your logo, and a whole lot of other things to make sure no one could possibly confuse you with your competition. And until we get to that point, you can take some time off. And drink copious amounts of caffeine.
That’s all I’m writing for this one, fellow entrepreneur! Hope you got a bit of Mayniax Branding process information from it. And, of course, we know you don’t really care about our process so much until you think we’re people you want to brand with. So read our About page to see what we’re all – err – about.
And stay tuned, you gutsy entrepreneur, you! Pt 2 will be out next week!
“7 Must-haves for Your Gutsy Brands!” WOW!!! I love a good click bait title.
For those who don’t know, writing blog posts with lists – and a catchy title with a number in it – is a slightly manipulative marketing tactic, because marketers know people will click on them. And, as a rule, I can’t stand manipulative marketing tactics. “Buy one, get the second half off!” “Call within the next 20 minutes to get this cheap ass shirt you’ll throw away in three years!” “7 Must-haves For Your Gutsy Brands!”
I don’t like those tactics because they’re trying to force people into buying things they don’t need. I don’t feel bad about using a little click bait to make you click on this post, though, because this information is actually crucial for entrepreneurs.
And it’s a helluva lot more important than a half-off cheese grater.
For this list of 7 must-haves for your gutsy brands – which I typed again to manipulate the SEO a bit – I’ve decided to split the must-haves into two parts: the first being culture, and the second being strategy. We see those as two separate areas of branding. We believe that, while brand strategy is dictated by what the market will allow – as Jack Trout said in this video – brand culture is dictated entirely by you, the entrepreneurs of the world.
And now, before the rabid spider monkeys show up, let’s get to it.
Culture – Dictated By You
If someone asked me, gun to my head, whether brand culture or brand strategy is more important, I’d say brand culture. And here are, what I believe, the most important parts of it.
1. Your “Why”
I’ve written a whole lot on why the “why” is important. The most succinctly I’ve done so can be found at A Brand’s “Why” and Meppy Chriswanzukah! The fact is, I believe the “why” is so important, that when entrepreneurs don’t think they can afford our services, I give them homework anyway: figure out your “why,” and communicate it in every way you can. As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
And because you’re entrepreneurs who I’m sure dig passive income, you can do a lot of things – and have a lot of brands – with your powerful “why”! The “why” of Mayniax Branding is “The world is broken, and we believe entrepreneurs are the only ones who can fix it.” With that “why,” Vanessa and I can create new product or service brands, as long as they serve to empower entrepreneurs, which is what we believe in doing, anyway.
And that’s the trick: your “why” must be authentic. It must be you. You must believe it with every part of who you are. When you’re an entrepreneur, business must mix with personal because business IS personal.
2. Your Mission
Part of the reason your “why” is so important is because it’s the basis of your mission. And your mission needs to be something your team and those you help can rally behind. So put some feeling into it. Don’t let your mission sound like corporate drone speak. Because you’re not a corporate drone, and you don’t want your people to become corporate drones, either.
You want them to believe in the mission. And in you.
Strategy – Dictated By the Market
While I believe brand culture is ultimately more important than brand strategy, you’ll be able to help far fewer people without brand strategy, because potential clients won’t even know you’re there.
3. Your Differences
In 1981, Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.” In it, they talked about our over-communicated society, which alluded to a crowded marketplace, and theorized the idea that the only way to succeed is to stay in the minds of people. And the best way to position your brand in the minds of those people is by figuring out your differences, and using them.
We spend a lot of our time researching the differences between our clients and their competitors, because we believe whole-heartedly in Ries and Trout’s positioning idea. We also believe monkeys are funny. As long as they’re not the spider kind. Or rabid.
Sidenote: Holy crap! 1981 was before smart phones, tablets, and the interwebz! Does that mean we should call the present time our overly-OVER-communicated society?
4. Your Focus
It doesn’t get much easier than focus, especially considering I wrote Focus: A Brand Strategy Assignment, for all you gutsy entrepreneurs. Note: this is after “Your Differences” because you need to figure out your differences before you can figure out your focus.
When we think focus for our clients, we think “One brand, one product, one target market.” For an example on how a company came from near bankruptcy to the number one toy-maker in the world – all because of focus – check out LEGO: The Rise and Fall. And Rise.
5. Your Name
I’m gonna cheat and let Al Ries take care of this one.
6. Your Word
“What the crap are you talking about now, Dave?” It’s okay, I’ll explain.
Ultimately, Vanessa and I want “Mayniax” to stand for the branding category, just like how “Kleenex” stands for the tissue category. As a local Ann Arbor business, however, we need a word that’s gonna remind people of Mayniax Branding, first. And that word is “gutsy.”
Now, we didn’t come up with “gutsy” arbitrarily. We believe every entrepreneur is gutsy, by virtue of simply being an entrepreneur! And we think we’re a little gutsy, too. So, we decided to use that word all over the place so people who resonate with the word “gutsy” will associate it with Mayniax Branding.
Coming up with your word is just another way of planting your brand in the minds of the people!
7. Your Logo
Okay, first, I don’t hate logos. I do, however, hate that so many people think a logo is a brand. With that in mind, I’d like you to read Do People Forget Your Brand Because Your Logo Sucks? It’ll help you figure out what to do about your logo based on the Fortune 100 and – gasp – science!
“Your Logo” is number seven because, while a logo is remarkably important, what’s even more important is what that logo stands for. Without a “why,” without a mission, without knowing your differences, a logo’s a waste of time. Everything about a logo is figured out in your research. It’s a valuable part of your strategy. A strategy which should never be something like, “I like purple and cats!”
A logo may not be the most important thing about your brand, but it is too important to just wing it.
Bonus – Because I Can
Bonus 1. Consistency
Even people who think a brand is just a logo know the importance of consistency, but I didn’t want to write this without mentioning it. People need to continually see the same imagery and read the same message before they start recognizing it as your brand. So no more pink business cards, with green websites, and 18 different business names. Or the puppy gets it!*
Don’t worry – it’s an ugly puppy.
Bonus 2. Simplicity
In 3. Differences, I typed about what Al Ries and Jack Trout – all the way back in 1981 – called our over-communicated society, which alluded to the crowded marketplace. Way back when. In 1981. Because I think that needs repeating.
Our brains are hit with so many more stimuli during the course of our present day, that needless complexities are instantly forgotten in favor of far simpler things. Understanding this is why Apple changed its logo. It’s why we harp so much on focus. The more complicated your visuals and message, the easier they are to forget – for you and your potential clients.
For this happening post, I’ll be writing about branding in everyone’s favorite Tree Town: Ann Arbor, Michigan! This is a first for me, since I usually share branding and brand strategy tips for gutsy business owners and entrepreneurs everywhere. But fret not, denizens of fair Earth! You shall be able to apply these lessons to your happenin’ hamlet, as well.
And now I’m gonna stop typing like I’m from another time.
Naming Your Gutsy Ann Arbor Brand
What’s in a name? Well, everything if you’re thinking strategically. We constantly tell people brand names should be made-up words. That way, if good brand strategy’s applied, those made up words could one day stand for categories, such as Kleenex for tissue, Google for search, and Windex for window cleaner.
How do you come up with a made-up word?
– If you’re lucky enough to have an unusual last name, see if you can get unusuallastname.com
– What words describe you? Come up with a few, mix up some letters, and see what shows up.
– You could always do what Google and us did: come up with a new spelling for an existing word.
We like made-up words because they’re easy to trademark and – once your brand gets popular enough to be searched on Google – it’ll be the only thing that shows up. Plus, Google digs a branded search. Even with that rationale, many people want to stay general with their names. It’s not exactly gutsy, but we still do what we can to help. With that, what’s the one thing the entrepreneurs of fair Ann Arbor should never do when naming their brands?
This one’s easy. Ready? Ann Arbor area entrepreneurs should never put “Ann Arbor,” “Arbor,” “A2,” or any other names that stand for good old Tree Town, in their brand name.
That seems kind of counter-intuitive, doesn’t it. “But Dave, we’re in Ann Arbor! Why wouldn’t we want to use the town’s name?” Here’s why: because everyone uses the town’s name! That makes it even more general / generic that the already general / generic local business names that litter Ann Arbor.
I did a quick search “Ann Arbor” search on Google. The pic below’s what I found:
Reasons beyond “Ann Arbor” being too general in your brand name:
1. People don’t want to type a long name, and “Ann Arbor” is already three syllables and eight – nine if you count the space – characters. You want your name as short as possible, so adding “Ann Arbor,” or any variation thereof, is making things tougher than they have to be.
2. If your name starts with “Ann Arbor,” it’ll never be on page one for an “Ann Arbor” search, and might not even be suggested by Google in the search bar.
Notice the huge block M? Yeah, that’s the University of Michigan’s block M. And it’s kind of a big deal around here. Die-hard Wolverine fans worship at its blocky serifs. Die-hard Buckeyes fans grow angry at the very mention of it – or maybe they’re just angry because their team plays in a shoe. And gets cheap tattoos.
But I digress.
Even if some people in Ann Arbor don’t like the University of Michigan, or give a crap about the block M, they understand its power, and the power of its colors. So naturally, what do they do? They make their logos maize and blue. And even your humble branders aren’t immune to such things. Vanessa’s and my first business, Good Stuff Studios, fell prey to this thinking, as well.
See the history of Vanessa and I working together at our About page.
So what happens when everyone’s logos are maize and blue? Simple: they lose their differentiation. They’re just pretending. They’re just trying for their own block M.
In 2014, Vanessa and I did a logo study you can get to by clicking Do People Forget Your Brand Because Your Logo Sucks? If you want to know the right colors to use for your logo, check it out. And as a bonus, in a town dominated by yellows and blues, the right color to use is red.
Remember to keep your as simple at the block M, the Apple logo, or Target. Simplicity wins the day in everything. Even logo design.
Creating a Tagline for Your Gutsy Ann Arbor Brand
I could write a blog on just taglines. In fact, I could probably write quite a few of them. But for now, let’s keep it simple. Let’s assume you decided to keep your business in Ann Arbor. You may add a couple locations, but you want to keep them all in Tree Town. Well guess what, I’m gonna let you use “Ann Arbor,” now. That’s right, folks! If you plan on keeping your business in A2, you could throw it in your tagline. You could start it with “Ann Arbor’s Original…” and go from there.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned by having a business in Ann Arbor, it’s that people almost have an unnatural need to help our local businesses. So, while putting “Ann Arbor” in your name is bad for brand strategy reasons, putting it in your tagline could have a great impact on your future earnings.
If you’d like to know more about our tagline process – or anything branding-related – fill out the form on our Contact page. Hell, ask us about Ann Arbor and we’ll get back to ya. We dig this crazy town!
Well, I think that’s all I’ve got to say about that. Remember to get a hold of us with any questions. Remember to have fun. But most importantly, remember to never set foot in an oversized horseshoe.