Costa Brava

Costa Brava 2-color logo

This is a logo that I recently completed for a logging company. The client wanted to tie the icon into the rugged coast of British Columbia; costa brava is spanish for “rugged coast” and BC is where the company is located.  The area in which they primarily operate is known for its difficult, steep terrain.

Being a logging company, a tree of some sort was explored, as was an icon that was reminiscent of a rock. Given that Prudential pretty much has TOMA on rock images and every timber company in the world has a tree in their logo, we explored a variety of images that captured the idea of a rugged, isolated place.  The client loved the end result.

They can also use the paw icon as a stand-alone element in their marketing. A lot of small businesses want to look like their competitors, but that generally is a mistake. Bravo for Costa Brava!


Fonts matter

All fonts have a personality & a purposeI’ve mentioned before how everything in your advertising and marketing materials must support your message, even the font you use must support this message. Two of the most over-used fonts are Comic Sans and Papyrus, and they are often used in a glaringly inappropriate manner.

A graphic design student has put together a website that does a great job of illustrating why some fonts are more appropriate for certain messages than others. The website is Comic Sans Criminal. It only takes a couple of minutes to go through the site, so go take a look.

Choosing the right font is a vital part of saying your message well. So, dear small business owner / reader, are you a comic sans criminal?

Via Web Designer Depot.


Vancouver Island University’s logo

We’re visiting my wife’s family in Washington state and British Columbia for Christmas. On the ferry heading to Vancouver Island, I saw an ad for Vancouver Island University. They have a great logo and I thought I’d share it with you.

I like how the logo brings to mind both a maple leaf and the island. Having a literal icon isn’t necessary for a logo, but it’s really nice when the execution is subtle and not overstated.


Next year is almost here…

I know that most small businesses are still busy with Christmas, but did you know that you can get some great deals on next year’s advertising right now? You can save some money by buying next year’s advertising upfront. You’ve noticed that advertising space gets more expensive around Christmas, so avoid that altogether by buying the space now.

The advertising will cost less because the media companies are willing to sell it for less in order to get businesses to commit by the end of January. That helps them budget for next year, and it helps you by making your advertising dollars go farther. You also have the added benefit of planning your advertising at the beginning of the year when things are probably a little slower and it won’t be left until the last minute. It’s completely done for the year.


A Tale of Two Doctor’s Offices

Let’s continue our theme about appearances which has been woven in the last two previous posts (they can be found here and here). Let’s take a look at two separate doctor’s offices. Based on what you see in these two pictures, which office would you rather go to?


Woodlands clinic exterior

Or here?

Montgomery clinic exterior

Given the choice, I bet most people would choose the second office. What do you think?


Image matters

In light of yesterday’s post, How do your customers identify you?, I’d like to direct you to today’s post on Seth Godin’s blog. Here’s the meat of it:

Marketing is actually what other people are saying about you.

Like it or not, true or not, what other people say is what the public tends to believe. Hence an imperative to be intentional about how we’re seen.

You need to give some thought to how you want people to see you and your company. Then you actually need to be that, or at least begin the process of becoming that. You also may need to adjust your company’s “identifiers” – its logo and associated marketing materials – to reflect that identity.

Don’t be like this company. They got a big write up in a well-known technology blog, and most of the comments ended up being about how cheap their logo looked. Go ahead and click the highlighted link and scroll down to the comments at the bottom of the page. Some people had fun with it, but it is clear that a lot of people had a hard time taking the company seriously because of their logo.

The company handled it well, even making a joke about it and eventually announcing they were pursuing a new logo, but that doesn’t change the fact that their unprofessional image overshadowed their service.

You put on nice clothing when you go to a job interview. Shouldn’t you dress your business nicely when you meet a customer? Invest in a good logo that accurately reflects your business and how you want it to be seen.

Oh, and the other stuff that Seth mentions in his blog post, it applies to you as well. Dressing up a bad business with a great logo and marketing is as useless as putting whipped cream on an onion.


How do your customers identify you?

Here’s a question for you: What type of work do you do? Not what is it you do for a living, but what kind of work is it? Is it competent work? Is it mediocre? Is it horrible? Is it professional and white collar? Is it skilled and finely detailed? Is it rough, no-nonsense and immediately useful?

The purpose of this question is to get you to think about how your customers identify your company. I got to thinking along these lines recently while doing some research for a logo I was working on. I was surprised at how many small business logos for this particular field did little to convey the type of work they did.

When we see someone in a suit, we assume they work behind a desk. When we see someone wearing boots, we assume they work outside. That’s not a surprise. But it is surprising when someone is inappropriately dressed for they work they claim to do. If the guy who is supposed to clear your land of brush shows up in dress slacks, you’ll wonder if he is prepared for the job. You’ll think the same thing if a person selling you a suit is dressed in a sneakers and worn jeans. How they present themselves gives a clue to whether or not they are up to the job.

The same applies to businesses, yet a lot of small businesses inadvertently give the wrong message in their presentation. If you’re a selling something that has an appeal based on looks (clothing, furniture, whatever) then your business card had better look good. If you’re in a line of work where dependability is key, say transportation, delivery or courier services, then your marketing materials had better look dependable.

When a potential customer needs a dependable courier service, will they think you are dependable by looking at your web site? When a potential customer wants a nice couch to change the look of their living room, will they know you have good taste based on the sign outside your store?

Often a business owner will tell me that once a customer comes in to see their merchandise or tries their service, it sells itself. But the truth is that a customer won’t try your service or come in to see your merchandise until they are convinced that you are up to the job.

Saying you’re up to the job isn’t going to convince them. You show them your are up to the job by making a competent presentation through your marketing and advertising. Fail to do that, and you’ll be like the guy in sneakers and worn jeans trying to sell suits. He can say he knows suits till he’s blue in the face, but no one will buy unless it’s priced so low that it’s too good to pass up.

It’s not difficult to present your company in a competent fashion. Yes, it will take an investment of a little time and some money. But the investment in your business’s identity – the logo, the design of the business cards and the letterhead – is essentially a one-time investment. It is miniscule compared to the monthly ongoing expenditures you make in the course of doing business.

You’re going to have business cards printed up anyway. Why not do them right? Contact me. You have nothing to lose.


Will people ignore your ad?

TechCrunch has a new article on internet advertising. It states that 43% of internet users ignore banner ads. Interestingly, other media have a much lower “ignore” rate: 14% of surveyed people say they ignore television ads, 7% for radio, and 6% ignore newspaper ads.

Much is made about how many people ignore advertising. In fact, a lot of business owners I’ve talked to use this as an excuse to cut their advertising. What surprises me is how many people don’t ignore advertising. 86% of viewers do not tune out television commercials! 57% of internet users take notice of banner ads! Now that doesn’t mean that a particular viewer or user will respond to your ad, but it does mean that they at least give you a chance to tell your story, to let them know what your small business is all about.

You’d do well to make the most of it.


Outside the box

Recently, I’ve gotten a lot of blog traffic via various google searches for Trader Joe billboards. We talk about billboards a lot here, but we’ve only talked about Trader Joe’s once (not counting this blog) where we looked at how they try to look like a small business. Still, the amount of traffic coming from that one search peaked my curiosity. So I google it.

What I found were some really neat billboards created by Nico Ammann that are literally out of the box.

Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell big-name brands, that is the thing that sets them apart from other grocers. So how do you tell people that you don’t carry those brands? They got creative and set up bulletins near national brand advertising and proudly say, “We don’t carry it.” Awesome idea. Wish I came up with it.

Here is one example:

Trader Joe's "outside the box" billboard

Great job, Nico. You can see several more examples of the Trader Joe’s campaign at his website.

Update: Nico contacted me to let me know that this concept was something that he pitched to the Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles, but the idea was never implemented. Still, the idea is brilliant. Trader Joe’s should take him up on it.


Sometimes even the big boys get it wrong

I was driving in Houston after paying a visit to one of my vendors, when this billboard caught my eye:

Yellow Pages billboard, almost all one color

Difficult to read? Imagine trying to read this as you speed past in a car.

Now, I look at billboards all the time; I like to know what the trends are in advertising and a great ad is something I can appreciate. But this caught my eye for all the wrong reasons. While driving past at 60 mph, I couldn’t tell what it was or who it was for.

As I’ve said before in The Art of the Billboard, bulletins like this need to be understood in 5 seconds or less. There is a reason successful billboards use high-contrast colors, they are easier to read at a distance or while zooming by in a car. If people can’t make out what is on the billboard, as in this case where the words blend in with the background, then no one is getting your message. If no one is getting your message, what is the point in paying for a billboard?

Your message needs to be tailored to its medium. Yellow Pages is in the advertising business, but they obviously don’t know billboards.

Don’t be afraid to get some help or advice before you make an investment in your advertising. It may keep you from wasting a lot of money.


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