How to Brand Yourself or Your Company

Industry, World View, Process, Style, purpose

Branding, branding, branding…. Well, I love it! Do you?

Do you feel like… I hear about this all the time…people saying how important it is. But I just don’t know if I need a brand or even really know what it entails …?

Brand and branding are broad terms and are thrown around a lot. It’s often times confusing and hard to know what they really mean. For instance, sometimes I don’t even know what people are specifically offering when they say they are a brand specialist, brand coach, etc.

The thing is branding encompasses a lot, like visual identity, messaging, social platforms, strategy, communication, sense of taste, smell, etc. Yes, all of it. These are all different facets or touch points to a brand.

Branding is the experience you create and are remembered for.

It’s not something that is just reserved for larger companies like Apple, Tesla and Disney. Nor is it only for the hip new companies.

It is for everyone. To express themselves, however they want to.

The chances that you are selling the same service (and feel like everybody is offering exactly what you’re offering) is most likely quite large. So, how do you really set yourself apart?

This is where the beauty of branding comes in. It gives you an opportunity to dive deep to define your what, how and why. And just like you are unique as a person, the different facets you put together to create your company is unique!

Let me explain. You might sell financial advice, lawyering, coaching or whatever service you offer, just like somebody else, BUT how do you offer that service and why? This is where it all changes. (And, even what you offer might, in fact, differ slightly from other businesses like yours.)

This is exactly why I love branding. For me, it’s about understanding and making sure the clients are being understood. It’s about human behavior. Then I get to simplify, organize and prettify it all to create that experience and express it clearly.

Simplify what you are trying to say, so your audience understands.

Organize so your audience can find what they are looking for.

Prettify it so your audience sees you.

My sole purpose is to help you feel confident about bragging about your amazing work and offerings. Because if you didn’t, you would do a disservice to the people who need you the most. Yup, might sound silly, but that’s the truth.

How do you brand yourself or your company?

The simplified version

And as I mentioned, you may sell the same service as another, but there are a plethora of ways to define (and differentiate) your brand.  Here are things I look at to help you discover how your brand is different:

Specific Audience – working with a certain segment of the population like doctors or a certain ethnicity

Worldview – an idea your brand stands for such as inclusion

Process – a specific way you execute your service

Style – a certain personality that sets you apart from others such as being witty or bold

Purpose – in today’s society, consumers are more aware than ever and have different expectations from their products and services. Your company’s purpose can and most likely is the thing that really sets you apart.

Why are you in business?

I’m in business to make you seen and heard and, as grandiose as it might sound, to make a greater impact on the world.

If you have any questions, I’m happy to help!

Design is Subjective

Design is subjective

…but is it really?

I often get asked how I produce creativity.  Isn’t that an oxymoron?

I suppose it is in a way, but you can start with an objective base by using design guidelines as your framework and then, yes, sprinkle some personal preferences and style on top of that for the real goodness to bloom.

 

To give you an idea, here is a part of what my creation process looks like and how I develop designs:

01. REsearch

When you know who or what you are designing for, it’s time to begin the qualitative research. Who is the target audience? What design elements do they respond favorably to? What shapes and colors move them? I do a lot of research before doing any hands-on creative work.

02. start

The key to the creative process is just to start. I know that’s easier said than done.  But with practice, discipline and frequency, it becomes like second nature. Staring at a white screen or blank paper can be frightening. But, once you start throwing shapes, colors, textures, etc. down on your canvas, it will create the motion needed for things to start coming to life.

03. guidelines

Aesthetics are the visual language of emotion. In other words, they will make you feel something whether you want them to or not. Design is about creating and guiding someone through an experience. i.e. You use certain elements to spark ideas, memories or emotional responses.

 

When you work with design, you need to have some logic and reason behind the things you do, or you might end up going back and forth for eternity on various design expressions.  When I first started out, I based everything on what looked good…to me.

 

But I quickly learned that, that is what you do for art— not brand design.

Here are a few of the guidelines that I follow to get started on a brand design project before adding any creative toppings or flavor:

color

Black – Is often associated with luxury, power, elegance, formality, evil and mystery. It can also be associated with the unknown, negativity or grief because it’s literally the absence of color.

White – Represents light, goodness and innocence. It symbolizes safety, purity and cleanliness. It’s also a color that is often used for creating open space, coolness and simplicity.

Green – Is the color of nature, so it represents life, growth, fertility and freshness. It’s often associated with money. It gives us a sense of “go ahead.” (probably because of green traffic lights) AND it has healing power and promotes relaxation.

font

Size – Large font sizes suggest loud, while small fonts suggest a softness or whispering.

Caps – Writing in all caps can do two things: Like font size, it can also suggest intensity or loudness, but on the other hand, it can also help the content look more clean and simple because the height of the letters is uniform (rather than having a lot of shape contrast or ups and downs visually).

HINT: Do not write in all caps when the sentence is long, because it can be hard to read.

Type – There are so many different types of fonts. Each has a different style that represents different meanings or feelings…from the simplicity of a san serif font to a more personal or historical connotation with a hand-written cursive.

shape

Round – Round shapes give a warm, soft or loving feeling.

Angles – Sharp angles can be associated with speed, harshness, directness or certainty.

texture

Silk – A flowy silk fabric gives a feeling of elegance, femininity, lightness or luxury

Wood – Is associated with nature and often gives a sense of being real or down-to-earth

Metal – Implies a sense of strength, coolness, toughness or roughness

 

So yes, design is subjective…but not really. 😉

 

There are more guidelines and certainly different interpretations, but I hope this gave you some fun insight on how design is created.

If you have any questions, I’m happy to help!

Extreme Makeover: Brand + Site Edition (Before & After)

Is it really worth spending ...

the money on picking colors, creating visuals, crafting your messaging and designing the best layout for all this content – all to simply prettify your website?

Hey, it just “looks,” right? Does any of that really matter that much?

An overwhelming: YES

I’m sure you already know first impressions do matter.  There have been plenty of studies showing how it take seconds and even milliseconds to form a judgment. Yes, it might sound harsh, but we all do it.  For example, you have already made a judgement about me, just now, by reading these first few lines.

And the same goes for your brand and website.

As soon as a potential client lands on your website, they have an impression about you! It can mean a sale or a not a sale, a call or not a call, a sign up or not a sign up…you get the idea.

So we can agree that impressions are made by what we see and read (or hear). And, maybe you’ve asked yourself whether words or visuals matter more. What grabs someone’s attention first? 

Again, an overwhelming: YES 😉

Both make up that fantastic content that is needed to grab their attention…to create an experience that will keep them on your site.

But, it’s not enough to get that potential client in the door. As soon as a user lands on your site, you need to make sure you take them where they need to go and give them the information they need, and as you also know in today’s world, you need to do it pretty stinking fast before you lose their attention.

No time to waste

This is where knowing your audience comes in and why I always talk about finding your niche. It’s so important to know specifically who you are serving, which problems they have, what outcome they are looking for and how to solve that for them – and very quickly and efficiently getting that across with the right look, feel and messaging.  And, I can almost bet you that you will also have a conversion, because you’ve given them good reason (a great experience) to buy what you sell. Well, isn’t it really all about the experience, at any point of contact?

So, today I like to follow the tip I give my clients; “show don’t tell”. In other words, I thought I would show you how we solved a client’s problem of figuring out who they want to work with and how they want to communicate with them, and of course, presenting all of this in a manner that levels up their actual work quality.  The outcome is not only more clients but also a stronger team because they are collectively working towards a clear cohesive vision.

Without further ado...

We recently worked with the Collier team, a financial advisor firm from Denver, Colorado.
When we started out, they had a general idea about who they were serving, although the reason why was also sort of vague. And, it wasn’t really fueling them or their business efforts. They understood how important messaging is but they also knew how difficult it can be to express themselves and get the right words down on a piece of paper, so to speak. 
This is where we were able to really help out!
This team is seriously a fun group and this, among other things, needed to come across on their site. You see, having the idea that you need to show up a certain way in order to get business and make people like you is no longer valid. Being you instead of being what you think your audience wants to see, read or experience is what’s right in today’s world of society desiring authenticity and truth.

So, after going through strategy sessions and pivoting a couple of times, we created an experience that is precisely what it would be like to engage and work with Collier in real life.  It’s now very clear for the team members and, well, likely for you too as a visitor to their site. 

Just have a look at Collier’s new brand and site HERE!

 
Do your brand + message speak for you?

How Design Affects You

Good design, in everyday life, when it’s done really well shouldn't even be noticed.

It might sound like an odd concept, but in my opinion the intention of design is to be seamlessly beautiful. It should make life flow.

Today, I will perhaps give you a different perspective on the world. One that you actually already experienced but just didn’t notice, or just didn’t think about in that way.

Let’s have a little fun and look at how design plays out (the good and the bad) in product design, home decor design, human design and website/brand design.

PRODUCT DESIGN

Flow: Smart phone.

Holy moly! Really, think back 10-15 years ago, who would have thought you can have all of that in a little box that you could put in your pocket or purse…really?!  This delightful device makes life flow beautifully — well, I know there are hiccups with it, but overall, it helps life flow efficiently and consistently throughout the day. You can find your way with it; talk to people anywhere in the world; level a shelf; find out what the temperature is; ask it to look up khaggarddesign.com without even having to type it in ;-), and a gazillion more things!

Oops!: Electrical windows of my Sicon XB, in my otherwise lovely vehicle.

It’s designed with a bit of attitude, plenty of space for my sporting equipment, great fuel efficiency and a great price point.  All good stuff. However, the placement of the window controls do not optimize flow (not the end of the world or anything but…). Ergonomically speaking, the controls are too far forward on the arm rest which makes the reach awkward. A small adjustment in its placement would make all the difference in the flow of operating. See, we notice when design is not done well.

HOME DECOR DESIGN

Flow: Friheten couch from IKEA.

Check it out…a nice comfortable couch with simple lines, modern fabric and functional storage space. And, with a quick adjustment, this couch turns into a bed for two… hello design flow! (A shoutout to my fellow Swedes for this sensible design!)

Oops!: Carpet (enough said).

This is mostly an American or British practice. I know you might like it, but from my perspective, carpet just doesn’t make sense. Take for instance the common practice in the US of keeping your shoes on while in the house. One word: Yikes!! I can see how carpet could be soft on your feet or reduce noise, but how about some fluffy slippers instead of tracking all that street grime indoors?!  Hmm…I would have to say this one is just not designed well.

HUMAN DESIGN

Flow: Dance 😉

I know what you might be thinking: “I’m a terrible dancer!” Nonetheless, I invite you to give it another free-form try, or perhaps even a salsa lesson or two. It is (seriously) perfectly designed to enhance your life. Regardless of how you think you look on the dance floor, every move can be beautiful and have its own unique flow! More than that, you’ll get exercise, connect with your dance partner, meet new people, get out of your comfort zone and appreciate the art form that it is! And if you are a dancer like me, you know all of this already and are just waiting for the COVID times to be over so you can get your groove back on the dance floor.

Oops!: Human Emotions

Whoever designed human beings (based on your beliefs)…might have gotten this one wrong. Consider this: you know how easy it is to get mad at a family member or partner? They forget to take out the trash, don’t listen to you, call right in the middle of something or didn’t remember your big presentation. It can tick us off or make us frustrated or sad. Then, take that exact same experience, but this time from a stranger. I’d venture to say that you just notice it and go on with your day. I’m certainly not a proponent of getting angry with strangers (or anyone), but shouldn’t it be easier to get upset with somebody who doesn’t mean the world to us?!  Not well designed.

WEBSITE/BRAND DESIGN

Flow: Robinhood.com

I work with a lot of financial advisors, and I’m actually not sure what their opinion is about Robinhood. (If you have one, please share!) But from my perspective as a brand designer and non-finance person, they have done a fabulous job.  I didn’t used to be interested in investing, but now it’s one of my favorite things to do.  Their interface is incredibly sleek and easy to navigate. Great design, great flow.

They have honed in on the not-so-educated investor WITHOUT making them feel bad about it. By saying “investing for everyone” (which is a business model I’m typically not a proponent of), it basically means for those of you who are not so well-versed in the industry we have made it so easy that you will get it. I say, “Thank you!” Now I’m really enjoying finance and investing. Literally everything is done well on their site/app. (I’m assuming my finance folks will say fees are unnecessary, but for me it’s worth it).One final thought. If you know me personally, I don’t get excited about following the news. It’s too dang depressing. However, I still believe it’s very important to be aware. I have come to realize that reading the financials keeps me up-to-date on what’s happening in the world without having to deal with the media craze.

Synopsis: design well done many times around.

Oops!:  Bank of America HSA website

First of all, when you sign into your account, the first thing you see is a slider with advertising for the account you are already sign up for. What!?  The fact that it’s a slider blows me away too. There are a plethora of studies proving that sliders are a thing of the past. Too many calls to action and too much noise.

Then, the list of oops! goes on…

Under the Make A Transaction tab, they default to the assumption that you would like to make a singular manual transaction and finding the buttons to set up or change an automatic payment is nearly impossible! Businesswise, that doesn’t make sense. I could explain in more detail, but suffice it to say, it should never be hard for a user to set up an automatic payment.

Under the Manage your Investments tab, it gives you a 14-step process that you can read on how-to do so, rather than actually taking you through the process step-by-step to set it up. Hmmm.

Lastly, on every page, you have to scroll down half of the page to get to any kind of substance that might or might not be what you are looking for.

Synopsis: I’m sorry BofA, but there are so many no-no’s on this site. I have a hard time understanding how a big corporation like this totally oopsed! on their website design and functionality, making it very cumbersome for the customer to actually use their service.

Engage Me!

If you’re humored by my examples (even mildly), please engage me! I always enjoy when I get invited to view things from a different perspective whether it’s design ideas, cultural backgrounds, unique experiences, etc. We live in a world where we are constantly pushed to learn or get better at something. So, today I hope I delivered some fun and perhaps unique examples on good design flow.

If you have any experiences that have made you think “wow that just works for me!” or “whoa did somebody actually think that through?” — I would love to hear about it.

How to Write Copy for a Website

I have always had a hard time writing.

Have you ever heard anyone say to focus on the things you are good at, instead of always trying to get better at the things you aren’t good at?

 

Well, in the entrepreneurial world I’d be surprised if you hadn’t… but if you haven’t, now you’ve heard it from me.

Everyone has weaknesses, but something you probably didn’t expect here is for me to give you advice on your website copy right after I tell you that one of my biggest weaknesses is writing.

 

Stay with me!

 

Everything about writing is not grammar or spelling.

 

A big part of writing is the structure and over arching concepts, and how to use it to connect people with what they are looking for, which is what I have mastered and what I want to share with you today.

So, even if I keep telling myself that one day I’ll work on learning how to write,  the truth is, it’s probably a skill I will never really master. In other words, I will keep improving on the overall concept, and keep surrounding myself with skillful writers for the rest.

 

Sooo, if you are a client of mine, don’t worry, you will most certainly keep getting emails along the lines of:

..as good ass that sounds, I think….or I’ll be happy to hope on a call with you… or I can’t remeber the last time I saw….

The giggles are on the house, you are welcome (and if typos are your pet peeve… sorry, I might not be your gal).

I'm not here to teach you Spelling or grammar.

I’m here to teach you structure and give you overall tips for copywriting that I know work. 

I have 4 rules for copy that have nothing to do with grammar or spelling that are vital for the success of any website.

Ready?

Number 01.

You must simplify to amplify. I know that people use this phrase a lot for different reasons, but when it comes to your website less really is more, so what I always tell clients is to follow the 3 R’s: Refine, Rinse and Repeat. When you think you’ve simplified enough, think again and simplify some more. The goal is to get your point across as directly as possible without losing your tone of voice.

(Side note: This does not apply in the same sense when you dive deeper into the website. i.e. on your blog.)

Number 02.

Be honest about your company size everywhere on your site. For example, if you are a one man show, don’t use the word “we”. Your website is there to let the viewer know who you are and to build trust so you can, at one point, exchange money for your service/product… and what kind of trust are you building if you are pretending to be something you are not?

On the other hand, if you are the show, but you have a team, you can use the words “my team and I”. Additionally, if you are a team or partners, “we” is appropriate.

Number 03.

What is the purpose of your website? (every website or page should have 1 main one). 

For example: Do you want them to sign up for your email list? Do you want them to call you? Do you want them to buy a specific service?  (HINT: I typically try to guide the viewer to a soft connection first, like a lead magnet or a discovery call – It’s nicer and less pushy)

Number 04.

Finally, structure.  When it comes to writing great copy you need to have the right structure to help the viewer find what they are looking for. Remember, we are not trying to force sell anything here; we are helping the right people find the right stuff for them.

On that note, the analogy I  like to use that helps people better understand how you want to structure  website copy is that of somebody asking for directions to a restaurant or a bathroom. 

Yup, something along the lines of: go down the hall way there, take a left and another left and then on the right you’ll find it.

You want to guide your user to their desired destination in sort of the same way….

Read here, scroll there, click the big button here, add your name and then BOOM they get what they are looking for!

I will use the home page as a sample of my ‘copy order of operations’, since that is one of the most if not the most important page on your site.

  • First section: Start with the benefit and answer the question (in the most succinct way possible): “how can life be if you use my service?" or in other words, what is the transformation you are offering.  (I also like to reinforce Number 01 to simplify, especially in the top section, as people tend to confuse the reader with too many menu options and social media buttons. There should not be too many things to choose from, and most certainly we don't want to send them off to a social platform when we finally got them in the door!)
  • Second section: You need to clearly define the problem by answering this question: “how would life be if you don’t have my help?" or in other words, where is your customer right now that landed them on your website in the first place.
  • Thrid Seciton: Let them know you understand them and what you know. In other words: "how can I help you get there". 
  • Fourth section: What are your services? Make sure they are laid out clearly
  • Then anything else below.  They have found their destination, the other stuff is extra goodness that they will enjoy (like a really cool mirror in the bathroom or a cool way the flusher works).
 
Now go look at your website to see if you are following these 4 rules! If you do, I will promise you are set up for success, leads and sales!
 
Do you have any questions?

What Salsa has Taught Me

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