Category Archives: Around the web
Building a website may seem like a small part of your business development, but it shouldn’t be. It’s often the first thing people notice about your company.
Finding a Web designer was one of the easiest parts of starting Altruette. We posted an ad on Craigslist–which seemed like the most unprofessional thing to do at the time–but within days we had dozens of applicants for the job. We just happened to visit a company called Mars Design first, and it was mainly because it was conveniently located near another meeting we had that day. We were immediately impressed with their work, and they were willing to work with our budget.
We realize now that it could have been a serious disaster. Building a site is expensive, and for small businesses like ours, it requires a big percentage of your budget. But we lucked out. We’ve talked with countless entrepreneurs who have struggled to build their own site or have overpaid for a site that they’ve ended up hating.
And for a company without a brick-and-mortar storefront, the look, feel, and functionality of our website is extremely important. The site serves as our only window for the world to see in, and our content must serve as our sales team.
The easy part was finding Mars Design. Figuring out the next steps wasn’t as simple. Fortunately Marshall Cohen, Mars’s founder and creative director, guided us through the process. So we figured we’d team up with Mars–which we still work closely with–and create a plan of action that any start-up preparing to build a consumer site might find useful. Here’s what we learned along the way–and what any business that’s just starting out should consider before building its site.
Choose your team.
Not all studios are the same. Again, we lucked out on the Web developer front, but we haven’t always been so fortunate with vendors. Now we try to meet or interview three companies before we hire a new vendor. So do your homework. Studios come in all sizes and have different specialties. Check their portfolios and ask for references. Look for consistency among their work and a good sense of style. Do they have a specialty such as e-commerce or nonprofit? How big is the team that will be working on your project?
Figure out your budget.
First and foremost, refuse the urge to just find the cheapest quote. We went with a team approach–Mars Design has both designers and developers. We know one-person shops that can do both, but we liked the team at Mars. “The two–design and development–are separate specialties,” Cohen warns. “Because technology changes so rapidly, it’s nearly impossible for any one person to keep up and offer an all-around quality solution.”
And there are other things your studio should consider when designing and developing your site, such as ongoing search-engine optimization and online marketing. Make sure you know what you’re getting. It’s not uncommon to need a couple of revisions to your designs before you’re happy with them. Ask how many revisions are offered as part of the contract. Working with a small team has a lot of benefits. You’ll get the best of both worlds–individuals that specialize in different areas and at lower rates than the bigger studios offer–because it won’t have the overhead costs of a larger firm. And you’ll often get more personalized service, which is one of the things we love about Mars Design.
This is the fun part and will impact your brand well beyond your site. Study other websites and take notes on what you like about them. “Pay attention to details like style, layout, navigation, functionality, color, logo, etc,” Cohen says. The sites you love might not be in the same industry, but don’t discount them. This exercise will also help you nail down your overall branding–things such as logo and colors–if you haven’t already done so. But be sure to review as many competitors as you can to make sure you differentiate your brand. “Also make sure you take time to navigate through these other websites to figure out what you like or dislike about the experience,” Marshall suggests. Do you find it confusing? Is it user friendly? Is the information clear and concise?
Define your goals.
You need short- and long-term goals so that a studio can build your site with your company’s growth in mind. Think about how things may change over time. Early on Cohen asked if we wanted PayPal or a seamless checkout. We hadn’t thought much about it until he pointed it out. Cohen suggested we use what’s called a merchant account instead of PayPal. He made it clear that PayPal is easier and less expensive but that we would be happier with a seamless merchant account instead. We decided we wanted our site to be as professional looking as possible from the moment we launched and followed Cohen’s advice.
Other questions he says you should ask yourself include: Who will manage the website content to keep it fresh? Will you be doing this yourself or having an employee handle it, or would you rather not get involved and have your design team handle it? We do a little of both. If the changes are significant, we hire Mars to do it. If it’s a simple edit to the site, we can usually handle it on our own. Who will manage shipping? Will your products be shipped through a fulfillment house? If so, your website will need to integrate with the fulfillment center’s system. For us, connecting our site to our fulfillment center was our biggest technical hurdle. It required a lot of back and forth, but it now operates seamlessly.
Build a site map with your Web team.
Building a site map is important. “It’s like a family tree–it shows the relation of pages and information within a website. Pages are typically organized in hierarchical fashion,” Cohen says. Your Web design team can help you build the site map and determine which pages are necessary. However, it’s very helpful to start looking at other websites to see how information is presented. Is it broken down into small, digestible pieces? Are those pieces on individual pages or separate pages?
Define your target.
The goal of your site is to reach your target demographic and communicate with them in a language they speak. You need to know your customers so well that your website answers any questions they might have and makes it easy to buy what you’re selling. To help you do that, here is a list of questions to ask yourself and your team:
- Who is your target audience?
- How old are they? Are they men, women, children, or a combination?
- What key information does this audience need? What inspires them? What influences their decision-making process?
- Where do they live? Will they be visiting your site during work or at home? (We always hate when we open up a site with annoying music. It’s fine if customers shop while at home, but it will drive them away fast if they’re visiting while at work.)
- What do they expect when they visit a company site like yours?
- How are they using the site? Are they Web savvy, or are they just beginning to use the Web for online business? What might scare them off?
Choose a memorable domain.
Finding a memorable domain that’s available is nearly impossible these days. We spent months trying to figure out what name best represented the brand we were building. We were obsessed with finding a single word that spoke for the brand, and we weren’t happy until we found it. It was such an unexpectedly tough process that we think it requires a future column of its own.
At the end of the day, working with your Web team will require a lot of give and take. But when it comes to anything technical, heed your Web developer’s warning. Cohen told us early on not to hit a certain button when we were on the back end of our site. A few days after we launched, we decided to post a new blog. It was Thanksgiving morning. When one of us (we won’t name names!) couldn’t get the blog to publish, we hit that button. The site disappeared from the Web instantly. Cohen was forced to get on his computer and get to work. He got the site back up, and we learned our lesson. And we had one more person to be thankful for that day.
Image Source: Writetodone.com
It may be a cliche statement in the Marketing world, but the term “Brand Power” is a solid truth. The concept has existed since the 1880′s in brands such as Quaker, Heinz and Campbells. It has gone through several evolutionary phases adapting to changing consumer dynamics and marketing platforms (IE Social Media is the new “Town Crier”).
It safe keeps the business and creates a relationship and a faith in consumers. It is essentially, that which bonds consumers with businesses and develops product and service recognition. Simply put Branding is what creates a recognition for a businesses and carries them past their competitors.
Companies like Apple, Coca-cola, Nike, Adobe, Old Navy and more, all started out small. No more than concepts, ideas and passions. They often began as garage run businesses or chemistry experiments in rented building. Regardless of their humble beginnings, regardless of their industry background, their services and their products, each of these companies has one key and crucial element in common.
Brilliant, innovative, thoughtful Branding.
…and Branding is what?
In past posts we have dug into the concept of Branding. What it is, what it does. Suffice to say Branding is all about determining a core philosophy and image for your company. It must start from the foundation of your business and resonate outwards through out your sales divisions, manufacturing facilities and employees, service teams, marketing campaigns and promotional materials.
Branding is the means with which you begin to identify your business to consumers. It is the image you cultivate for your cliental. It is the association that people naturally develop with specific products and services. It is more than just your logo and colour scheme: it includes and relies on your employees, your customer communications day to day, your end products, and your after sales service. Successful companies provide quality products and excellent service. They treat after sales with as much importance as making the sale, because successful companies understand the need for repeat business and customer relationships. This consistency in service from start to finish builds their reputation and establishes them as a brand.
Successful branding is all about determining your core values, strengths and weaknesses as a business and then comparing those to what matters to your Target Market. Play your strengths into what matters to your Market through consistent and engaging communication.
Marketing To Your Targets.
Know Your Target When Developing Your Brand
Remember, Branding needs to keep the consumers priorities in mind at all times.
Put another way, “do not try to sell steaks to vegans”.
This painfully obvious right?
Nope, not always. Take a look at Coca-Colas flop with “New Coke”.
Coca-Cola is a brand story for the ages. They have a multitude of successful brand campaigns under their belt, and currently lead the pack when it comes to Social Media Marketing. However even giants trip on their shoelaces.
The Cola-Wars: In a galaxy not so far away…
It was 1985, Coke had long been the forerunner and number one cola drink in North America, in fact shortly after WW2 Time Magazine praised Coke’s “Peaceful near-conquest of the world’. However there was a new kid on the block and Pepsi-Cola’s successful re-branding as a “drink of the youth” was beginning to narrow the gap in market shares. More pressure was placed on Coke when Pepsi began a slew of celebrity endorsements, including Don Johnson and Michael Jackson.
Pepsi Rolled Out A Formidable Branding Campaign In The Cola Wars Of The 1980′s
Added to that was the increase in performance by other of Coke’s products, including Diet Coke, which had further reduced “The Real Thing’s” market share.
Then, Pepsi released the “Pepsi Challenge”. Consumers were blindfolded and tasted tested both products – the bulk of them preferring Pepsi’s sweeter recipe.
The writing was on the wall, the gap was narrowing and Coca-Cola had to act and act fast. Their answer? “New Coke”
Based on the results of the “Pepsi Challenge”, they misplaced their priorities and Target Market research by assuming that all that mattered to their consumer base was taste. When they implemented the “New Coke” they effectively alienated one key thing they still had going for them in the Cola-Wars – dedicated customers. So many of their previously faithful consumers boycotted the product that Coke was forced to step back from the campaign, announce the return of the Classic Coke and admit failure.
This is a classic example of good intent, but misplaced priority. It cost Coke in dollars, reputation and landed them a disenchanted consumer base. They recovered of course and continue to implement terrific Marketing campaigns.
It is not enough to Brand yourself by image only. Branding is more than a logo or a ad campaign. Branding needs to be embedded into your business on all levels and then followed through on. It requires buy-in from employees as much as consumers.
The best Branding incorporates a consistent message across your entire business platform. Everyone involved in the company needs to be preaching the same thing – EVERYONE. Nothing will kill a brand quicker than multiple message contradicting themselves.
The Advent Of Web 2.0 Has Sped Everything Up Including Brand Recognition. Image Source: bullseyenj.com
While Branding seldom happens quickly – most elevated brands have been working at it for decades – the advent of Web 2.0 and Social Media has begun to move everything more quickly.
Still long term consistency is the key. Product lines that have a proven track record still dominate the marketplace.
Branding creates in consumers, a natural association between your name and a specific product or service. Whether that association is good or bad is determined by all aspects of your business. A brand can be soured by any negative experience, whether it is a defective product, poor service, or bad communication. Likewise a Brand can be built up and thrive based on all of these things.
Consumers who relate good services, products and after sales work with a brand are going to be faithful to that brand. If you give a consumer a stand-alone experience or product you will have them for life. That is Brand Power, the power to create faith and relationship with consumers, thus securing their business for the future.
A happy customer will always refer others to a brand. Providing good service and products will always cause ripples and your brand name will spread very quickly through word of mouth.
What is more, Brand Power is what creates the “Badge-effect”. It creates within consumers a natural association with a brand as a status symbol. Right or wrong, good or bad, consumers will pursue brands for the status it gives them.
Their is a common joke that Apple user’s pay the extra money for the status it gives them. One meme even re-named the Ipad the “Ipaid”.
Apple is an amazing brand, a stand-alone success story with great products and even better service. Their brand power lies in more than just the “status” given to their consumers, however there is a definite truth behind the status and the Badge-effect behind Apple, inc. It is the same story for many brands.
Branding Is A Badge.
Let’s face it we have all purchased clothing, accessories and swag based on the brand and the logo. What we use, what we purchase, what we wear… these things project an image outwards of who we want people to believe we are.
Grade Ten, (1997 for me) an era of tear away track pants, angst ridden music and bleach blonde hair. It may not have been the same everywhere, but at my High School, if you were cool you wore Nike or you wore Adidas. Those were the brands in writ and those were the brands that publicized you as street savvy.
Ugh, glad those days are well behind us right? Wrong! we have simply traded in those brands for new ones. I went through my skater phase, my “gonna-be-a-rockstar” phase and several others since then, and with each on, different brands came into play.
Brands Become Badges, Status Symbols. We Use Them to Cultivate Our Image. As We Grow Out Of Certain Brands, We Embrace Others.
Branding is a badge, we ascribe to specific brands for our own individual reasons, and we stick to certain brands based on the image we wish to cultivate. Brands will establish s specific customer base, a target market that associates the brand with the image desired.
Clever brands exploit this. Brilliant brands surpass this. Let’s consider Apple again. Do they have a specific customer based founded on image? Yes. Do they rely on this specific customer base? No. Apple has created a product line, a service infrastructure, an image and an experience that transcends “almost” all cliques.
Poll iPhone users, you will find people from every possible demographic within the user base.
Many brands seek this by attempting to gain relevance in areas outside of their current image. The equivalent of Nike pursuing the skateboarding demographic or LaSenza pursuing the denim market.
Some Re-Positioning Campaigns Fall And Fall Hard
They re-position themselves in order to breech other markets. Some, like 80′s era Pepsi and their campaign for the “next generation”, are successful. Others, such as Harley Davidson’s bid to enter the perfume market, fail.
Beginner branding is all about knowing your target and staying true to both your commitment and your promise to said target. Build faith, build reliability, build relationships and you will build a business.
Appropriate for the impending release of superhero conglomeration The Avengers, editor sleepyskunk has put together this awesome five-minute montage containing pretty much every superhero movie you can remember–and even some you can’t remember until you see Robert Townsend and shout, “Oh, shit, so Meteor Man WAS real!”
See the YouTube description for a full list of the films. Consider the lack of Superhero Movie clips a merciful omission.
- Here’s a few dozen superhero movies smushed into five minutes [Video] (io9.com)
- K’s Review: The Avengers Are The “World’s Greatest Heroes,” but are they The World’s Greatest Superhero Movie? (hypethemovies.wordpress.com)
- Five Minutes Of What Seems Like Every Superhero Cartoon, Movie and TV Show Ever (gizmodo.com.au)
isheep = A follower of the Apple cult regardless of the usefulness or real worth of the product. Believes with without question the cult propaganda which installs the almost mythological belief that what they have just bought is the fastest or most user friendly product ever, only to be re-sold the same product, with a few minor tweaks, a few months later with the same rhetoric and complete disregard for reality. Easily mislead by their own egos and think they are being unique and innovative.
- More Than Half Of All Households In America Now Own An Apple Device | Cult of Mac (cultofmac.vanillaforums.com)
- The Cult of Apple (churchofpossibility.com)
- Apple cult mocked by Samsung in Galaxy S II ad (news.cnet.com)
- It’s Time to Stop Talking About the Apple Cult (techland.time.com)
- Apple is Becoming a Patents Cult (techrights.org)
Eugene Soloviev is a 21 year-old Russian Photo Manipulator from Nizhniy Novgorod. He started off in the “Design World” in spring of 2006. At first he began with processing of photos with Photoshop and CorelPainter, then for a joke he cut out objects and placed them in non-standard landscapes. As he grew more serious, he started designing much more seriously. It is necessary to note that he is completely self-educated!
For more from Eugene Soloviev visit apachennov.daportfolio.com
This visualization shows ocean surface currents around the world during the period from June 2005 through Decmeber 2007. The visualization does not include a narration or annotations; the goal was to use ocean flow data to create a simple, visceral experience.
This visualization was produced using NASA/JPL’s computational model called Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase II or ECCO2.. ECCO2 is high resolution model of the global ocean and sea-ice. ECCO2 attempts to model the oceans and sea ice to increasingly accurate resolutions that begin to resolve ocean eddies and other narrow-current systems which transport heat and carbon in the oceans.The ECCO2 model simulates ocean flows at all depths, but only surface flows are used in this visualization. The dark patterns under the ocean represent the undersea bathymetry. Topographic land exaggeration is 20x and bathymetric exaggeration is 40x.
credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
- NASA video visualizes a ‘Perpetual Ocean’ (news.cnet.com)
- NASA Perpetual Ocean: The Ocean Surface Currents around the World (infosthetics.com)
- Videos take artistic look at scientific frontiers (cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com)
- Watch NASA’s Animation of the World’s Ocean Surface Currents (treehugger.com)
- Nasa model of ocean currents looks like Vincent van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’ (dailymail.co.uk)
- NASA’s Perpetual Ocean model looks like animated Van Gogh (geek.com)
- NASA’s ‘Perpetual Ocean’ Video is Hypnotic (webpronews.com)
- Time-Lapse of Ocean Currents Looks Like a Living Van Gogh Painting [Watch This] (gizmodo.com)