Fun, intelligent, charming and strong? What’s your character?
For years, we have been talking about branding in the sense of graphic designed marketing collateral and website developments. We forget to talk about what goes on behind the scenes to help enhance those pieces and bring companies to life. In the case of Spanish Schoolhouse, a Spanish immersion Preschool and Kindergarten school with 13 locations throughout Texas, they needed to bring themselves to life! When choosing a place to send your children, you want to connect with them. Your children are the most valuable gems you will ever possess in your lifetime. Yes, this is where I want to share a picture of my little Princess, but I’ll refrain from doing that, as this is a business blog. Such constraint! If you are a parent, you have or have had those exact feelings. Needless to say, Spanish Schoolhouse is the perfect example of where just pretty graphics aren’t going to work on selling to their clients. They needed something that would connect with their parents and students.
El Periquito Azul has been the mascot of SSH for years. He is a cute little guy that sits in the classrooms and the kids can take turns taking him home with them. Children LOVE stuffed animals and imaginary games, so this is absolutely perfect for them. Now, what do we do with turning that stuffed animal into the official mascot throughout their branding? I’m in favor of having this stuffed parrot photo bomb every photo we take and use of the children, but that might be overkill! Instead, we now have this fluffy guy vectorized into a character logo. But…is that enough? NOOOOO! El Periquito Azul needs to be brought to life!
As a child, I remember getting my first Barbie. She was this beautiful doll with one costume. To me, she was just Barbie. Then, all of a sudden, as a kid you start getting different outfits for Barbie and different hair styles, and soon, Barbie has a life of her own in your playroom, where she changes to go to the mall, changes to go to the beach, and so forth. This is the point, where Barbie came to life! She became my friend. No, I won’t admit to imaginary friends, but Barbie wasn’t imaginary. Barbie was special. She made me feel like I cared about her. I wanted her to be put away properly by sitting on a shelf, so she could watch what goes on. She would put on pajamas before bedtime. Now, picture doing that for your mascot or logo character of your company…did it just come to life in your mind?
For El Periquito Azul to come to life, we thought of the top few marketing pieces SSH uses. First, we always have summer camps! We need a fun loving summer parrot…how about tropical to imagine him on vacation! We definitely need a back to school parrot, so maybe a backpack and pile of books? For Christmas cards, I don’t know why El Periquito Azul can’t wear a Santa hat and wish everyone Felices Fiestas! There are many other places for our mascot friend to join us, but we’ll start here.
Vectoring a logo or character can take a lot of time, and as with websites, you don’t start the time consuming tasks until all designs are approved. That’s where our sketching comes in. Finding Stephen and getting him on our team was a dream come true, as not many people have the skillset he has to freehand sketch and to vectorize what he sketches. On the right, you’ll see some of the original sketches sent to Spanish Schoolhouse. Actually, this was after a round or two, and they are almost finalized here. The two right images are the back to school ones, showing the difference with a hat on him and with tennis shoes. Aren’t his shoes just adorable? What was decided was that we all liked the shoes, but not wearing a hat, so they got mixed together. Step one here is just about done, and we move into turning him into a real vector character that can be used anywhere in print or online media.
A vector file of your logo or character is the most valuable file you can possess in your business brand kit. Not only is it the branding of your company, but it is the raw file that can be turned into ANY file type somebody needs. A vector file is based on a series of points and lines instead of pixels. This makes your logo design very scalable and crisp. Vectorizing is a special skill that not everyone possesses. That’s not a bad thing, as we can’t all do everything. Stephen is our special tool that happens to be an amazing sketch artist and vectorizer. When creating logos, this is definitely a tool we need in our belt!
This can’t be a “how-to” blog, as we can’t simply teach you how to vector a character. Heck, half the the graphic designers out there can’t vector a character. Below, however, you’ll see how we turned El Periquito Azul into a living mascot for Spanish Schoolhouse. These are just a few of his new looks, but you never know where you’ll see him pop up! He might be on his way to school, and might be on vacation, but he’s definitely staying in the hearts of the SSH parents and students, where a simple mascot has gotten his wings!
“Organizations cannot afford not to be listening to what is being said about them, or interacting with their customers in the space where they are spending their time and, increasingly, their money too.” ~ Malcolm Alder, KPMG’s Economy Practice, KPMG in Australia
As I was a shy child (way long time ago), I think I would have cringed at the idea of social media when I was in high school and college. There is something about hiding that still appeals to me today. I could only imagine if parents could have checked up on me in college by viewing my Facebook pictures. Whew…thanks goodness I made it through before cell phones to call home regularly and before social media to track my every move.
Now, however, as a business owner, social media is my friend. I might have gotten addicted to Facebook for my personal life too, but that’s a whole different topic! As a business owner, I know I need to stay fresh in the eyes of my clients and prospects. We need to portray our company in the personality that we want to be known by, and leave that ever so sought after first impression. I’ll admit, I didn’t want that additional task to add to my list of duties, or the list of a team member’s duties. We are all working hard over here, but somewhere…time had to be found!
Too many companies treat social media as a one-size fits all. If all companies don’t have the same marketing strategy for their business growth, then they shouldn’t have the same social media strategy either. What works for one company may not work for you. Sure, we can all take lessons from how social media giants like Chick-fil-a and Nike keep their information fresh, offer deals and promotions and keep their audience entertained. But when it comes down to it, you need to do what works for your company. What works for your clients and prospects. There is no one-size fits all strategy behind it.
Many more posts will be coming about social media, but first and foremost, make sure your social media plan incorporates the following key ingredients:
- Keep it Fresh! Your target audience is looking for fresh ideas and a source of knowledge. Make sure your plan incorporates a timeline of when you need to be thinking of new topics.
- Don’t Sell! There is nothing worse than following or liking a business and being sold to every day. Retail stores need to post sales and coupons, but most of us don’t. When a follower feels like they are being sold to because they like your page, they can simply unlike it as fast as they liked it. Remember, social media is NOT a direct sales tool. Yes, sales come from it, but they come from you building your brand and building a loyal following based on your perceived personality. Direct sales pieces bring in clients for a transactional deal. Social media brings them in for life!
- Quality NOT Quantity! There is a misinterpretation when it comes to staying in front of your followers. They aren’t on social media to follow only your company. They are on it for friendships, relationships and knowledge. Companies that post every day are very likely to get ALL of their posts hidden from being as bad as spam. Make sure what you post is interesting and targeted to your audience. Build loyalty versus annoyance!
When we work with our clients on social media, we’ll start by building a brand image. Then, we’ll work with the client on a social media strategy that is just for them. What’s their personality, and how can we portray it to make then stand out when somebody is looking for their product or service. When doing social media yourself, make sure to follow the simple rules above, and you’ll be on the right track! However…don’t take a break…social media doesn’t have downtime!
Last, but not least, I have to show you the best cartoon I’ve found on the effects of social media. Check it out below from Mashable!
When I was a little kid, I wasn’t very fashionable. Heck, who am I kidding…I’m STILL not fashionable. However, let’s not go to that topic for now! I’d look at the other girls who were fashion trend setters and didn’t like them, as I thought they acted better than everyone else. As a kid, making fun of others was all I could do, as I didn’t know how to be fashionable and stand out like them. So, while I felt better as a kid making fun of others, this doesn’t work in the business world. This is a very common problem of many businesses. They don’t know how to STAND OUT! A business is started because somebody decided they were good at something, or they found a need in the marketplace. That’s great! Now, as many others were also good at the same service, or found the same need in the marketplace, you need to make sure your company succeeds by standing out above them!
Now, I know you think you are chosen as a vendor because you are much more charming than your competition. Yes, I’m sure that closes some deals for you, however, most deals are going to close because of your uniqueness and how you present yourself. The last thing you want is for a prospect to say…”Well, I’ve met with 3 companies, and they are all the same.” What makes you stand out amongst the others? Do you have a value proposition statement that you can say in less than 30 seconds that answers why you over the competition? It’s not…”Because I’m professional” or “Because we are highly qualified at what we do.” Everyone else has the same answer! You shouldn’t only have one unique value proposition. Make one up for each different type of prospect you encounter. I can tell you I have several, and I’d be more than happy to share them with you. Feel free to call or e-mail me for more info on value propositions! I love the chance to get to STAND OUT amongst my competition!