Thursday, November 17, 2016

Zigging on the "Trump Train." A Brand Case Study.

This article is a brief brand analysis, not a political opinion piece.

We at Hornsby Brand Design are always encouraging our clients to "think outside the box", "stand out in the clutter," "zig when the competition is zagging." The success of that marketing strategy was never more on display than in the 2016 presidential election campaign. In fact, as reported by CBS News, even House Speaker Paul Ryan chimed in, calling Donald Trump's election win "the most incredible political feat I have seen in my lifetime."

To say Trump zigged when others zagged is an understatement of cataclysmic proportions. He positioned himself as a non-politician—proving that point on many levels—to many Americans' chagrin. He garnered negative media attention repeatedly that surprisingly did not seem to have affect, or if it did, it was only temporary. He'd call people names and received some reciprocal name-calling. Members of his own party were disembarking the train in droves at one point. The campaign seemed to be derailing, and near the end Trump was asked to stop tweeting by his own staff. As brand marketers, we would've categorized his PR as being in crisis-mode for much of his campaign. But Trump won, astonishing not only Americans, but the world.

How did he do this? Perhaps his billionaire-business expertise gave him the edge. Maybe...he read our articles on the five disciplines in "Building a Charismatic Brand" (tongue firmly in cheek). Regardless of your political affiliation, Trump succeeded, so we wanted to take this opportunity to briefly analyze his process in light of branding techniques and glean some application for our own business campaigns:

  • Market Niche: Trump targeted a forgotten demographic. He differentiated himself from his competitors. He was the "outsider," who built trust among those who considered their political grievances finally heard.
  • Market Placement: He knew his target and traveled and communicated where they were, speaking in five states daily up until the last day of campaigning, 133 speeches in just the last week.
  • Message Repetition: He was tireless in "hammering on the sore tooth." He spoke his target's language and he did it consistently and with frequency.
  • Message Focus: Toward the end of his campaign, especially, he stayed on the message his target wanted and needed to hear in order to get on board. 
  • Brand Integrity: He understood his brand as a brawler and "winner." Despite the set-backs that would normally ruin candidates, Trump consistently lived up to his brand, enhancing his brand's authenticity and appeal. This gave supporters the push needed to help move the Trump Train forward even with doubt of the unknown casting a shadow in the distance. In a word, "trust."
  • Brand Team: He surrounded himself with a cast of experts who knew the business of politics yet were behind and supported his brand, ensuring that his brand would not be sacrificed or watered down. He executed some team member suggestions and not others, keeping his brand as an "outsider" intact.

Bottom-line: Brand differentiation and authenticity lays the rails to success and strengthens the brand, enabling your brand to overcome even the most difficult obstacles. For help with zigging when others zag, contact us at

Digital Marketing: The Plan that Won't Wait

First, there’s no silver bullet to success. Rather, it’s always a combination of tactics that will propel your brand towards new heights. Social media, email marketing, SEO, SEM, content marketing, etc. all work together toward a common goal. First and for most, plan your strategy around boosting your website’s search engine optimization. This will be your gateway into the digital world. If you’re not found on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., and if your website doesn’t provide quality information for its users, you won't accomplish your objectives.

Try our 9-step outline:
  1. Know your customers and identify what you hope to achieve through your efforts.
  2. Set a digital marketing budget.
  3. Design elements that accurately reflect your company's identity.
  4. Add your business to online listing sites to boost your local search rankings.
  5. Set up social media profiles on targeted platforms.
  6. Decide if you will be doing your own digital marketing, hiring a marketing employee, or contracting with a digital agency.
  7. Build or update your website so that it is mobile-friendly. Remember to use relevant and consistent content that accurately describes your business AND appeals to your target audience.
  8. Measure your website’s traffic through Google Analytics or other more sophisticated programs.
  9. Monitor how well these methods are working for you, and then decide where and when to spend on paid advertising campaigns.

For help implementing your digital marketing plan, contact us at

8 Steps to Winning More Online Customers

Digital marketing is one of the best investments your business can make. Do it right and watch your business grow. Using search engine optimization (SEO-unpaid), search engine marketing (SEM-paid), and social media will help you reach more customers, make more sales, and elevate your brand. The following are eight tactics to help:
  1. Content marketing (blogs, newsletters, web content, email nurture campaigns). Posting high-quality, relevant content (articles, photos, videos, etc.) will boost your social following, and keep traffic coming to your company website. Create a posting/media schedule and maintain it. A consistent online presence is key.
  2. Business Directories. Make sure all online business directories have your correct and current information. These directories act like a personalized phone book, so listing your business on sites like Google My Business, Manta,, Yelp and others will help customers find your website and your physical location.
  3. Online Reviews. Word of mouth marketing, positive online reviews, and satisfied customer responses will improve your company’s reputation. Inviting customers to leave their reviews on Google, Facebook, or other review sites is the best (and most profitable) marketing you can generate. Identify any questions your customers may have and answer them quickly.
  4. Local Searches. Make sure you’re listed in local searches. This will recommend nearby businesses within your potential customers’ current geographic location. Online listings help your company website show up in local search results. This is geolocation-data-driven, so it will act like targeted advertising.
  5. Organic Search Engine Optimization. Use proven SEO techniques to improve your website's rankings in search engine results. Successful SEO tactics are designed to organically earn (rather than purchase) a strong search ranking. The first page listings are the most likely to be clicked on. That’s where you want your website to rank—and SEO can help.
  6. Search Engine Ads. Use SEM. This is the purchase of on line ads in order to improve your company’s visibility on search engine results pages. By identifying keywords, that your customers are most likely to use when searching for your services, and then paying for a certain number of customer views per ad (known as impressions), you will meet your sales goals faster and sustain your business growth.
  7. Social media marketing. This is the purchase of on line, social media ads (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and/or LinkedIn) in order to build authentic interactions with followers and is often an affordable marketing tactic for small businesses with small marketing budgets.
  8. Responsive website. A highly designed, intuitive, responsive website is the minimal effort you should implement to inform the public and communicate your online brand message. In an ever-changing world of mobile devices, this is a must.
For help with implementing your online marketing strategy, send us a note at

    Talking Turkey. Not Thanksgiving...Budget.

    So you want to digitally gobble up the competition? With a little know-how and planning, you'll be able to feast your eyes on a great bottom-line and maybe even enjoy a little gravy. But where do you start? Well, where you always start, with the budget.

    What is a realistic digital marketing budget? Your marketing budget really depends on the size of your business, the industry it’s in, and saturation (by your competitors) within the targeted digital space. On the small end it could be as little as $100 per month. On the higher end, and depending on how much your company wants to "move the needle," a small- to medium-sized company could spend $2,000 to $10,000 per month.

    In very general terms, for a company just getting into digital marketing, putting 20% of your revenue towards marketing can go a long way. If you hire a digital marketing firm, they can handle a company’s entire digital marketing program, or they can focus on specific portions of a digital marketing plan. The scope of work—as well as specifics like your location, industry, and existing digital marketing assets—will determine the price you pay.

    Hiring a marketing firm is a big decision for small business owners. Take stock of your resources (both time and money) as you decide whether to contract or DIY. Below are a few helpful questions to ask yourself if you are considering doing it yourself:
    1. Do I have the time to train and supervise a person to work on my digital marketing?
    2. Do I have the time to learn an entire field of expertise with its constant changes?
    3. Am I willing to devote myself to keeping up with these changes in SEO, SEM, and website design, much less learn the dozens of specialized tools and channels?
    4. Would DIY take me away from my core leadership and business-building activities?
    However you decide to handle your digital marketing, budgeting and planning correctly are necessary starting points. For more help, send us a note at

    Brand Identity in the Race for the White House

    Wired magazine published an article on presidential logos, stating that "campaign logos—even the clever ones—have yet to play a major role in [the 2016] presidential race." Which concurs with something we continue to espouse and tell our clients: a logo is an element of a brand, not the brand itself. In fact, according to Forbes magazine a brand is "what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name. It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual...and emotional...."

    Visual elements of the brand, including but not limited to the logo, are developed to communicate the brand's message, and this understanding is gaining momentum in the world of politics. In 2004, George W. Bush campaigned with his iconic "W", abandoning the typical name/wordmark application, but it was Obama's campaign logo that raised the bar in presidential branding. The 2016 presidential election embraced the trend and even saw some detour from using Old Glory's colors and attributes. Take a look at these presidential logos and see if you think their brand messages are visually on target and relevant in the ever-changing design...and, oh, political...landscape:


    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

    Things That Make You Say, "Hmm."



     I'll be sure to keep that in mind. Thanks.

    "And the cow jumped over the...cliff?"

    Warning, warning, Will Robinson!

    That's the spirit!

    Tuesday, May 31, 2016

    Client Feedback on the Creation of the Earth Launch Project

    By Mike Lacher / / Originally published on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

    Hi God,

    Thanks so much for the latest round of work. Really coming together. Few points of feedback:
    1. Really liking the whole light thing but not totally sure about the naming system. “Day” and “night” are OK but we feel like there’s more we can do here. Thoughts? Definitely need to nail this down ASAP.
    2. Re: the “sky”… not really feeling the color here. Would like something that pops more. Please send additional options.
    3. Appreciate the work on the sea and ground, but right now there’s way too much sea. The ground is getting lost in it. In general, sea does not resonate well with our users. Was talking with the team and the idea of having no sea at all came up. Thoughts?
    4. Noticed you’ve covered the ground in vegetation bearing seeds according to their kind and trees bearing fruit according to their kind. Is this intentional? Please advise.
    5. Right now we’re only seeing two great lights in the sky… a greater one for day and a lesser one for night? Thinking that maybe we weren’t clear in the original briefing. Definitely need more than just two great lights. Need to make this a memorable, high-value experience for our users. Please revisit slides thirteen and fourteen in the deck. Shout with questions.
    6. Seas teeming with life is fine, but again, we need to reduce the sea. This is a showstopper for us.
    7. Are the winged birds final, or placeholder? Some kind of weird stuff going on with those. Just want to get some clarification before giving more feedback.
    8. Can we get more livestock and wild animals that move along the ground according to their kinds? Again, the passion points for our target users (slide eighteen) are ground and animals that move along the ground. Whatever we can do to increase the amount of ground will go a long way toward converting our users from passive consumers into brand evangelists.
    9. Re: “mankind.” Interesting take on the brief here. Big pain point is that mankind is coming across as largely made in your image. As you hopefully recall from the deck, our users are a diverse group (slide twenty-seven) and we definitely want to make them feel represented (slide twenty-eight). Afraid that if our users see fleshy bipedal mammals positioned as “ruling over” the ground and sea (if we’re having sea), they might feel alienated and again less willing to convert into brand evangelists. Let’s fast-track an alt version with mankind removed. Doable?
    10. Please cut all the “be fruitful and multiply” stuff. We’re a family brand and this doesn’t fit with our voice (slide thirty-four).

    Realize it’s Saturday and you were planning to be OOO tomorrow to admire your creation and everything, but I’m hoping you can keep rolling on this through the weekend. Need to get this in front of my exec team by EOD Monday so hoping to sync up EOD Sunday. Will be around all weekend via email and chat if anything comes up. Looking to you and your team for a big win here.


    The first question you need to ask yourself when creating any new advertising campaign is who will I be speaking to?

    Micro-targeting is a marketing strategy that uses consumer data and demographics to identify the interests of specific individuals in order to influence their thoughts or actions. The goal is to know the target audience so well that messages get delivered through their preferred communication channel. Below are a few tips on what to do and what not to do when selecting a target audience.

    1. Market to everyone. Really? You’d be surprised how many businesses think this is true. While understanding that some products/services have broad appeal, not having a specific focus is NOT a plan for success. A bland brand is probably a good example of one trying to appeal to everyone and yet in reality appealing to no one.
    2. Market to Millennials. NOT! I know you’re thinking this can’t be true, but it is. This group is too broad and diverse. To be successful you’ll have to be more specific and add sub groups here. Besides, it’s much more beneficial to target a moment in life (getting married, graduating, having a baby, starting a new job, etc.) as opposed to the date on a birth certificate. See #3.
    3. Market to “Micro moments” in peoples lives. YES! “Consumer behavior has changed forever. Today’s battle for hearts, minds, and dollars is won (or lost) in micro-moments—intent-driven moments of decision-making and preference-shaping that occur throughout the entire consumer journey.”1  This is a very interesting way to reach the people you want to speak to. By finding these relevant moments, you’ll create a deeper connection to your products/services and in return find the right mix for achieving profitable and sustainable results.

    Undercover marketing: Breaking the rules of “relationship?”

    You’re walking down the street when a tourist asks you if you wouldn’t mind taking his picture? Being the kind person you are, you agree. He hands you his hot new cell phone-digital camera. The tourist is so excited about his new gadget; he can’t stop raving about how cool it is. It’s hard for you not to agree.

    However, what if you found out that the ‘tourist’ was really an actor hired by LG to hit the streets and interact with as many people as possible? Would you feel deceived? Or would you just accept it as another marketing tactic, not all that different from traditional advertising?

    According to the marketing director and the brains behind this undercover campaign, “ was an easy way to create a very non-evasive interesting conversation with somebody without the pressure of it feeling, like, a pitch.”

    The idea behind these undercover marketing campaigns is to make a pitch within a situation where consumers don’t know they are being disguise the identity of the brand representatives. What makes this form of marketing such a strong tool is the trust consumers place in the opinion of a peer. There is an inherent, implied lack of ulterior motive in an impromptu conversation where a stranger offers an opinion.

    As advertising/marketing lines become more and more blurred, those that stand to be hurt the most are not the consumers, but the advertising community itself and the actual brand being advertised. The credibility of this community, and its employer, is brought into question when the unwritten rules that define the relationship between consumers and advertisers can no longer to be trusted. If consumers can no longer clearly draw the boundaries between a casual conversation and an advertising pitch, then how can advertisers think they can build a trusted brand when the very foundation of their strategy is flawed? Something to think about.

    Flex your risk muscle

    Brands that take bigger risks reap bigger rewards that positively impact their sales. And they say it’s often smaller or lesser-known brands that benefit the most from taking bigger advertising risks. In order to foster innovative thought, ask yourself: Do I allow free research and development (R&D) time? Do I invest in innovation: money, people, resources? And do I celebrate failure and risk taking? Below are a few other thoughts to consider.

    First say NO to complacency
    You have a choice. Say yes to putting yourself into situations that lead to innovative ideas. Take classes, form a new business partnership, attend a conference or speaking engagement, or read an interesting book that takes you out of your comfort zone. Take great notes and consider the possibilities.

    Use your filter
    When you have an idea to consider, try looking at it from the perspective of your potential buyers. Then write a detailed target brief based on what you know about them. Then use this brief to justify to yourself whether the project in question is something worth taking a risk on or not.

    Realize failure can be your friend
    It’s okay to fail as long as you recognize it as a learning experience. Innovation is bred through failure, so be sure to catalog successful results and give yourself a high-five, “nice try,” for the unsuccessful ones. From these experiences harvest the key learnings and remember, never allow an unsuccessful risk to hamper your opportunities or advancement.

    Everyone has a risk muscle. You keep in shape by trying new things.

    How’s your web presence?

    According to The Independent We Stand (IWS) campaign report, 97% of Internet users conduct online research for local products and services before committing to a purchase. A business’s website plays an important role not only in a customer’s decision to buy a product but also in whether they share that product with others online. No surprise, right?

    But did you know that despite this, the Local Search Association Insider (LSA Insider) reports that nearly half of small business owners’ websites are not accessible via mobile, and Hibu reports that 45% of small businesses don’t even have a website!

    So, if you are a part of this 45%, now’s the time to make a change. Hornsby Brand Design can help.