Branding in the Modern World

In a post-advertising age, big brands should no longer expect success solely generated from monetary funds. We live in a digital world that demands creativity and innovation; an interactive online community where effective marketing does not have a price tag. This modern landscape forces brands to change their consumer approach and offers the opportunity for all brands to thrive despite how green their garden appears. I will discuss how certain brands are succeeding in the wireless world and what they attribute to their fruition.

Zappos (Customer Service)

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh knows firsthand that it is not all about the money anymore. Hsieh says that the most valuable driver of growth for the company has been repeat customers, and the most advantageous method to spread brand awareness has been through word of mouth. Zappos invests the money other companies spend on paid advertising into customer service, which translates into positive customer experience.

The first implementation of their customer-oriented strategy can be found on the company website. Zappos offers free shipping anywhere in the United States and a return policy free of charge. Hsieh explains, “The additional shipping costs are expensive for us, but we really view those costs as a marketing expense.” Furthermore, company contact information is listed at the top of every single page on the site. Hsieh says that his company actually wants to talk to customers and most other company web site bury contact information at least five links deep to avoid as much interaction as possible with consumers.

The second way Zappos attempts to increase lifetime value of its customers is through an unconventional practice. Hsieh says, “There’s a lot of buzz these days about ‘social media’ and ‘integration marketing.’ As unsexy and low-tech as it may sound, our belief is that the telephone is one of the best branding devices out there. You have the customer’s undivided attention for five to ten minutes, and if you get the interaction right, what we’ve found is that the customer remembers the experience for a very long time and tells his or her friends about it.”

Warby Parker (Social Media)

Warby Parker is using the buzz of social media and applying a crowdsourcing approach, which has transformed the company into one of the hottest eyewear brands. The eye apparel experts offer a timely solution for customers who struggle with decision making when it comes to fashion. They send five pairs of glasses so that consumers can choose the perfect fit. If a customer is still unsure of the right choice, support is offered on Warby Parker’s Facebook community. This online community encourages photo posts of consumers wearing different styles of shades so that other users can assist in the decision. Further guidance is offered by the brand itself, who will often chime in with kind advice. Warby Parker’s social efforts have been madly lucrative and its Facebook page is lit up with comments from happy customers.

 Monteith’s (Storytelling)

While Warby Parker is using forms of digital communication to generate growth, Monteith’s is exploiting the power of brand storytelling. The New Zealand-based cider brewer used negative publicity about other food and beverage companies and spawned a positive idea. Although not as startling as finding a fried chicken head in an order of McDonald’s chicken wings or a latex condom in a bowl of McCormick and Schmick’s clam chowder, Monteith’s decided to stick real apple tree twigs inside of their beer packaging. People began to complain on social media sites and phones were ringing off the hook in regards to the sticky situation.

Monteith’s issued an apology that reassured the freshness of their products. They stated that they were “sorry” for the inconvenience the twigs caused, but when you make cider from fresh apples it is inevitable that twigs will fall off the trees during harvesting. Monteith’s tells an effective story that is being heard in a digital world where people have the option to hear what they choose.

Apple (Simplicity)

Speaking of apples… Apple continues to bathe in their fruits and Ken Segall, author of “Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success,” shares his inside knowledge of how Steve Jobs built such a strong brand around simplicity. It is no secret that people love Apple because of their products’ advanced capabilities, yet unpretentious interfaces. However, the inner-workings of the company are revealed by Segall and provide useful information about the power of simplicity in today’s age.

Segall says, “The whole company is guided by this love for simplicity. Apple has this unique way of applying common sense and not getting wrapped up in the intricacies.” Furthermore, he illuminates three elements that define Apple’s success. The first, “Think Brutal” describes Apple’s brutally honest approach and how consumers appreciate the transparency of the brand in a two-faced modern business world. The second, “Think Small,” is a comment on the size of internal groups working on company projects. Segall says that Apple never throws a ton of people on a project, unlike most other companies. They have small groups of smart people that produce time after time and feel good about it. They want to work 80-hours per week. The final, “Think Phrasal” refers to Apple’s ability to use words wisely. These techies are brilliant when it comes to selecting as few words as possible that will have the greatest impact. It is an ideal format in today’s fast-paced environment.

Wednesday’s Winner (Best in Branding)

At Zappos, it’s all about customer service and culture. The digital world is blending the once definitive line that divided brand and culture, and Zappos is capitalizing on the break. The company offers free shipping, operates a 24/7 call center and is so confident in their services that they let customers exclusively manage their marketing through word of mouth. Yes it’s true, paid marketing is an afterthought.

Culture is the only thing that matters, according to CEO Tony Hsieh. He says that happy individuals make happy professionals and happy employees make happy customers. In order to achieve maximum internal bliss the company frequently embraces office dance parties, offers free health care to all employees and even staffs a full-time life coach. The result: More than 25,000 job applications for 250 openings.

However, if you are one of the lucky few to be chosen, do not cross Hsieh when it comes it to the company’s 10 core values. He says that he will fire anyone who does not adhere to the culture guidelines, independent of performance, which Zappos takes very seriously.

And the 10 Zappos Commandments are:

1. Deliver WOW through service

2. Embrace and drive change

3. Create fun and a little weirdness

4. Be adventurous, creative and open-minded

5. Pursue growth and learning

6. Build open and honest relationships with communication

7. Build a positive team and family spirit

8. Do more with less-expensive means.

9. Be passionate and determined

10. Be humble

What’s the Story Behind Your Brand?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The average story can be told in 4,000 words. Lesson: Choose your ammo wisely for your brand strategy arsenal.

Studies have shown that the average consumer is loyal to less than 5 brands (4.2 to be exact). With thousands of brands swimming in the sea of marketplace, how do you make your brand rise to the top?

Regardless of industry, branding is storytelling. And storytelling is more than just telling a simple tale. It’s a powerful and complex brand building method used to create loyalty and preference within your target audience.

Be Relevant
Where do you start? First, to create an emotional connection with your audience you must know your audience. Your brand’s story (like your brand) cannot resonate with all people, so choose who you are targeting and choose wisely. Choose the correct platform that speaks to your target audience. Not all mediums engage audiences the same way. Know your audiences’ needs and preferences.

Be Real
Today, consumers can sense falsehood before your 20-something year old copywriter has a chance to cliché that tagline. Be genuine. Be authentic. Be true to the brand you have built.

This also may require you to be a little vulnerable. Consumers engage with brands they can relate to. Vulnerability is relatable.

Be Hopeful
A story should activate action. Your purpose is to give hope through your storytelling. Inspire your audience and you will hook them. Inspire and engage your audience, and well, you’re the next Starbucks.

Best in Brand Storytelling Example:
To many, this brand is irrelevant. To most, the story resonates on a deep level.

So now, I ask you, what’s your brand’s story?

Collateral Brochure Best Practices

Marketing collateral is an aesthetically appealing way to support your company’s core values through the use of printed materials. Its sole purpose is to present information about your business, products or services that expands upon the foundation of your brand through brand messaging and product offering. Product offering can be utilized informatively or persuasively in your collateral pieces. If used for informational reasons, you will most likely want to create awareness about your product or brand. For example, you might bring your marketing collateral to a trade show in order to build brand awareness. However, if you decide to use your collateral for persuasive purposes, your company may attempt to sell the brand through visuals. For example, you could present your creative package to provide more detail about your service or product in hopes of closing a business deal. Regardless of how you decide to present your product offering, the end result should build a stronger brand message. There are many different deliverables that can be used to communicate your message, but I will be focusing on brochures. I will discuss three best-in-class examples and illustrate their effectiveness.

1.) Zimat:

  • Cover- The cover is designed in a unique way that differentiates this deliverable because it looks like a diploma cover. It makes you want to open it up and view its contents.
  • First and Last Page– Both pages are similar in structure. They present one short message on each page that is not convoluted by pictures or extra text. This layout demonstrates consistency and simplicity in a successful manner.
  • Color- Zima integrates transparencies exceptionally well in the background throughout the brochure. The transparent colors and photos allow the text to stand out in a fascinating way that makes you want to read the information.
  • Copy- The use of dark blue and translucent light blue backgrounds attracts your eyes to the white and black copy. Although the brochure communicates a lot of textual content, it is formatted in a way that is not overwhelming. All copy is placed beneath large, easy to read titles, which organizes the information in a simple and clean format.
  • Theme- After flipping through the brochure, you come away with a welcoming and friendly feeling. This is the type of feeling that sells no matter what you are attempting to communicate.

2.) Trump Hollywood:

  • Cover- All brochures are enclosed neatly into a folder that resembles a silver MacBook Air laptop when closed. This is a great design that contains the information in a visually stimulating and practical way.
  • Tri-Fold Outside- The outside of the tri-fold brochure displays stunning high-rise views overlooking incredibly blue oceans, beautiful beach walkways and sensationally bright city lights. Minimal copy is used due to the powerful impact the pictures exhibit alone. This creates a cleaner and more alluring arrangement.
  • Tri-Fold Inside- The inside of the tri-fold brochure displays an easy to read floor layout, text boxes and additional luxurious photos. Each element compliments the rest and the ease at which you can navigate and comprehend the floor layout of the properties is phenomenal.
  • Copy- The copy is organized in a bulleted and unified way. Although a substantial amount of information is presented, it does not strain your eyes too much because of the methodically attractive layout.
  • Theme– Each brochure exemplifies class and modernity. The entire package is impressive and adequately appeals to the high-end market that is targeted. The success of its allure is a direct result from the use of simple lines and a clean design.

3.) Sequence:

  • Cover– Sequence immediately draws you in with the image of overlapping circles that connect with the multicolored circle logo placed in the bottom right-hand corner. The content that appears to the left of the overlying circles highlights the important part of the text. It is bolded and says “bold corporate,” which reverts your eyes from the circles towards the main brand message. Overall, the look is clean and creative.
  • Locations Page- This page features a great low-angle, point-of-view, fuchsia colored shot of one of their properties with enormous quotations that direct your eyes to the text. This highlights the company’s high quality practice as a “the country’s #1 residential lettings business.” The right-side of the page displays award winning agents and residential locations.
  • Case Studies Page– This page displays an excellent visual on the right-side of a purple colored man lying back comfortably accompanied by very large quotations that lure your eyes to that side of the page. The purpose is to make you want to read the testimonials and the contact information is placed below where your eyes fall after reading the testimonials so that you will instinctively want to pick up the phone and call.
  • Color- There is a radiant fuchsia vibe throughout the brochure that displays gradient backgrounds ranging from deep purples to light pinks. Also, white text is used on the pinkish-purple gradient backgrounds to make it pop and vice-a-versa.
  • Copy- Sequence plays with sizing and bolding to create importance. It allows you to skim through the brochure and take away the most essential messages that the company is attempting to communicate via the print collateral.
  • Theme- The overall theme is funky and creative. The design demands attention and achieves its purpose.

Recent Inspirational Re-branding Stories

Miami Marlins (Entertainment)

A professional sport has never witnessed a more rapid and successful franchise turnaround, from a marketing prospective, than that of the Miami Marlins. The Marlins have generated more buzz this year than in their combined 19-year existence in Major League Baseball. Ticket sales are through the roof and it is a direct result from their re-branding efforts.

The first implementation was naming Venezuelan-born, Ozzie Guillen the new manager of the team in September 2011. This move targeted the largely Hispanic population of Miami so that they would be able to identify with the team leader. Two months later the ball club changed its name from the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins, making the team more personal to the city. This strategic step was followed by the unveiling of their new-look uniforms and updated logo. The release created a PR buzz storm that put the spotlight back on Miami sports for the first time in a long time. The colorfully bright, sleek and modern designed apparel perfectly represented “the colors of Miami” and spoke to a younger generation of fans.

A month after the marketing bonanza, the team signed highly sought-after free agent, Jose Reyes, further increasing the Hispanic crowd’s interest in the team. The Marlins put the final stamp on the campaign package when the organization opened Marlins Park in March 2012. The new stadium is located much closer to Miami, only two miles from downtown and features a state of the art retractable roof. The structure of the roof provides protection from heavy, unpredictable rain showers that are frequent during the summer months in South Florida. It also offers flexibility, allowing the roof to be opened on temperate evenings. The inside of the stadium displays a bright green wall and an erected gigantic marlin structure in center field that lights up and splashes into a pool of rainbow water every time the “good guys” hit a homerun.

These offseason moves are the reason for the re-branding success of the Marlins. President David Samson says, “When it came to selling season tickets, the Florida Marlins at Sun Life Stadium were beyond cellar dwellers last season in Major League Baseball…We were No. 125- counting minor league teams.” Now he states, “There is such a demand for groups and people coming from [places like] Naples and the Keys, and individual tickets are going so well. That’s part of the supply and demand that we’ve never been able to have.”


The Y (Non-profits)

Formerly known as the YMCA, the non-profit organization officially changed its name in July 2010 after being nicknamed “The Y” for decades. Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Kate Coleman says, “It’s a way of being warmer, more genuine, more welcoming, when you call yourself what everyone else calls you.” Chief Executive Jonah Disend of Redscout, a branding strategy company in New York, says that shortening brand names makes sense in the social media era with restrictions such a the 140-character limit practiced by Twitter, and apps for mobile phones. He says, “There’s a real need to make everything fit into a bite-size space.”

In order to keep up with the social craze of today’s digital world, The Y recently released mobile apps that enable users to locate the nearest facility, search group fitness schedules and setup aerobics classes, but many nonprofits have not fully embraced their innovative ways. The resistance stems from their displeasure with Apple, which prohibits the use of iPhone apps for fund-raising. The charitable group elevated their brand in the mobile industry and refreshed their image further with an emblematic makeover. The Y’s new logo sports warm color variations that represent diversity and welcomes membership in a way that the outdated, lugubrious design of the past could not.

Holiday Inn (Hotels)

The most notable hotel success story belongs to Holiday Inn. The hotel corporation underwent a renovation process that tremendously upgraded the look and feel of their properties. In 2007, IHG announced a worldwide re-launch of the Holiday Inn brand. The re-launch “focused on delivering consistently best in class service and physical quality levels, including a redesigned welcome experience [and] signature bedding and bathroom products,” according to IHG officials, and the transformation was completed by the end of 2010. Furthermore, they redesigned their logo, renovating the look to feel more clean and green. Its sleek and inviting design represented the progressive transformation of the brand.

Although the company offers a variety of stays such as Holiday Inn Resort, Holiday Inn Select and Holiday Inn Express, the most recognizable is the Holiday Inn. There are two distinct types: high-rise, full-service plaza hotels and low-rise, full-service hotels. The structure of the new-look hotels is still instantly recognizable, yet delightfully improved from the 1970s. Both types offer a restaurant, pools at most locations, room service, an exercise room and efficient, but relaxing rooms. However, it was the corporation’s devotion to customer service that elevated their status. Holiday Inn promised to be an “affordable luxury for the people,” which persuaded many business travelers to book rooms because the company no longer proclaimed itself to be simply a family hotel. Last year, Holiday Inn was top honoree for the mid-scale, full-service category in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2011 North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study.

Tips for Great Mobile App Design

Today, Mobile Application Development is in hot demand. With thousands of resources and developers out there, it can be hard to find one place to start when considering the development of your app. As Sparxoo Agency’s web/mobile lead, here are a few key tips that I recommend you consider throughout the design and development process:


Plan Your Strategy
Before jumping into any design or coding, there should be a high level of cooperation and planning between the design and development teams as well as the party you are developing the app for.

Consider your business objectives for creating your app:

•    If you are a restaurant that wants to create an app, include an up-to-date menu that users can see that can speed up the ordering process

•     If you’re a retail company and you want an in-house app designed to improve operations, design an app that plays a key role in managing tasks in your business.

A solid strategy at the beginning of the design process will drive the features and content that will go into the app in the future.


Keep It Simple
Keep the content and images you provide on your mobile application as simple as possible. This doesn’t mean cutting down on functionality or what you are presenting in the app, but keep in mind that working with a variety of different screen dimensions on mobile devices as opposed to the standard desktop computer resolution. If you still have a lot of information you have to convey, break it up into several pages that you can easily navigate to on a smaller screen.


Choose Your Framework
The framework you chose will be the backbone of your application. There are a good amount of mobile development frameworks, most notably Sencha Mobile and jQuery Mobile. You can either use a full platform that will tailor to all your design and architectural needs of the app or mix or match frameworks that work together.

If you’re the developer choose frameworks that you’re most comfortable with and understand its ins and outs to get the best results out of your product. All the frameworks out there have a dedicated community of developers and sophisticated documentation that you can get 24/7 access to.


User Experience is Key
Always think about the users who are going to be using your product. They will make or break your app (or more importantly your brand). Consider the target audience’s age, social use, and most importantly, knowledge of technology. Boomers will not respond to a particular app the same way Gen Y will.

Make sure the app behaves like it should: If it has knobs, make sure you use turning gestures to stay true to the behavior as much as possible. If you have a back button, make sure it slides backwards instead of forward. Use the colors from the designs you have chosen and incorporate them as information highlights, indicators and notifications as well.

From a strategic standpoint, provide exclusive content with the app that allows you to enhance your brand. Make it an outlet for the users and your potential customers to get their hands on exclusive deals and allows them to be engaged in what you are trying to achieve.


Test, Test, Test
I couldn’t stress it enough! Test for every possible bug that may occur when using your app: From transitions to user interaction all bases should be covered. If you plan to monetize your application, you don’t want to put out shoddy work that consumers will have to pay for.

If you are developing a web based app or a hybrid, Google Chrome and FireFox have very good developer tools that allow you to test and trouble shoot in their browsers. An XCode provides a great app emulator for iOS apps that you can test on as well.

Also keep in mind Mobile Apps are intended to be iterative, so you should always come out with a better version of your app every few months that address known bugs.


There are a lot of things to consider when designing a mobile application, but all these things and more are what will separate your app from the rest of the pack. Collaborate with graphic designers or let your colleagues play with the app before distribution. This will give you quality feedback on the changes that need to be made in order to make your app the best it can be. Remember you are about to submitting your app win a store filled with thousands of others, so you should make it stand out as much as possible. When you are finally done with your app, take pride in what you have created. Use available means to market the app and create as much buzz as possible.

Traditional Marketing in a Digital World


There is no denying that social media is “the” new marketing tool and almost every business has made the transition into the digital world to keep up with the times. However, social media is no longer an innovative company and does not differentiate a business that is quick to capitalize on the benefits of online communities as it did before. Although pioneering sites are popping up every day that can be utilized to distinguish your brand such as Pinterest, Foursquare and Viddy, it still does not affect consumers like it did when companies first began to market using social media. Those just now beginning their foray into social media are alas, behind the times.


As I sorted through my mail last week I noticed something different about one of envelopes. It was addressed to me in a handwritten fashion. Intrigued, I opened it up and found a lollipop accompanied by a personally inked note from the manager of my bank thanking me for banking with his company. The last time I received a handwritten letter from someone other than immediate family members was over five years ago, so this was special and meaningful to me. The rare experience resulted in the discovery of how distinctive and effective traditional means of marketing have become in our digitized world.


Furthermore, the outdated practice generated a possible answer to a question that I began to explore. How do businesses maintain the ease, accessibility and efficiency that digital marketing provides, while incorporating the personalization of more “old-fashioned,” traditional forms of marketing such as the hand written letter? I came up with an idea that would fuse the beneficial applications of both marketing techniques.

Companies could offer incentives based on a formula that would take into consideration not only social media site interactivity, but also user spending on company products or services to determine a company’s “super users.”  These super users would be shown on a short marketing video about your brand monthly, quarterly or annually depending on your budget. These videos would help market your business more effectively by receiving feedback from the super user to better gauge how to speak to your target audience. By helping to “brand,” your super users ultimately feel empowered. He or she would most likely inform friends and spread the good word about your company. It would also make “top” users feel more appreciated and provide greater value than just offering users to “like” or comment on your page.

Additionally, you could incentivize them with discounts or free products/services. Super users could also be empowered by giving exclusive access to new products being tested in exchange for their feedback. This fusion process would build greater brand loyalty and positive word of mouth attention, while allowing the company to gain a deeper understanding of their target consumer.