So What if it’s Pretty?

A client told me yesterday that she just didn’t like how a group of designed icons looked. When I probed further, she couldn’t substantively explain why, nor could she tell me what she does like in design. Okay, I get it. Design, like most creative efforts, is subjective. Personal taste counts. But, taste does not trump strategy.

Good design starts with a strategy and a goal. Great designers begin a design around those two factors and then add their creativity.

Graphic designers use strategy

Taste does not trump strategy

A designer friend told me about something that she had created and her client felt it looked “simplistic”. Okay, who is the audience? Are the message receivers not sophisticated? Or, will the audience be in a position to see something briefly, like on a billboard near a busy highway, and not have time to look deeply at a complicated design?

The next thing to consider is that while your personal taste counts, yours is not the only one that matters. The best looking logos have gone down in flames, because a focus group did not relate to what the logo needed to say. And, yes, that kind of qualitative research is essential in creating a logo. For other designs that don’t carry the magnitude of weight that a logo does, pulling together an informal group to review the designs and offer constructive comments will help you determine what resonates best.

Finally, when you don’t “like” a design, explain what you do like. Describe it. Better yet, find examples and show them to your designer.

If you want great design, you must understand your audience and the goals you have in conveying messages. Design does not start with good looks; it starts with good strategy.

Marketing ADHD

Probably one of the most talked about and self-diagnosed disabilities today is Attention Deficit. It seems to be everyone’s reason for not getting things done, not remembering deadlines and not being able to focus.

Don't lose attention

Do you have Marketing ADHD?

It’s a problem!

But, you know what? It’s a problem with an awful lot of marketing, too.

Concentrating on your company’s goals over the long haul is difficult. It’s tedious. It requires a lot of work. And, well, it requires…focus!

It’s so easy to get distracted by that shiny, new thing. The newest marketing thingy to come along must be the answer…until the next new thingy comes along.

Focus and patience are essential to successful marketing. So, here are some steps to help keep the focus:

  1. Think of your marketing plan as a road map. Begin by writing a plan with marketing goals that support your company’s strategic plan. The goals likely won’t change, but the tactics toward accomplishing the goals may. Formally revisit and revise your marketing plan annually.
  2. Set deadlines for each of your marketing efforts and tasks. There should be start and end dates, along with ways to measure if the efforts are working.
  3. Create accountability. Assign efforts and tasks to people and set deadlines for accomplishing them.
  4. Check in monthly. Pull out the plan, sit down around the table with everyone who has a role in the plan, and talk through where things are going and what has been accomplished.

While it’s important to stay aware of what’s out there, add new marketing efforts ONLY when they will directly impact your goals

“We Need a New Brand”

Branding means everything

Don’t confuse marketing terms

I have heard “We need a new brand” from more than one executive in my 30+ -year career, and the little voice inside my head keeps saying: “Why? Does your company have such a bad reputation that it’s worth blowing the whole thing up? Do you realize what it takes to build a brand from scratch?”

After I dig beneath the surface with a few probing questions, I soon understand what I had suspected all along. It’s not the brand that needs to be new, it’s a logo, or a marketing campaign, or even a website!

Therein lies the confusing question: What do people mean when they use the word, brand?

Now, don’t beat yourself up for not knowing the exact meaning of brand. We marketers, like so many other professionals, have our own jargon. If you don’t know what those words and phrases are, it can be very confusing and you may resort to the one word that seems to encompass it all – brand.

To help you along, here’s a short list of terms that can help you figure out what those marketing pros are saying and what you need them to know:

  • Brand: An overarching feel, look and essence of a company.
  • Identity: Another word for brand.
  • Logo: A visual (graphic) representation associated with a company.
  • Tagline: A written expression – generally only a few words – used to convey further understanding of a company and its brand.
  • Marketing Plan: An internal document, driven by the company’s strategic goals/initiatives, that outlines marketing goals, strategies and promotional activities.
  • Campaign: A promotional effort (generally advertising and/or public relations) that is associated with a strategy within a marketing plan. It has a beginning and an end.
  • Advertising: Paid promotion.
  • Public relations: Unpaid or earned promotion.
  • Social Media: Promotion (paid and unpaid) through websites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc…
  • Digital marketing: Promotion delivered on computers, cell phones and other electronic devices.
  • Collaterals: Printed materials, like brochures, direct mailers, and stationery.
  • Content: Words, pictures, videos, etc…
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization, which in basic terms means getting your website recognized and ranked high on search engines like Google and Bing.

Marketing is the CEO’s Responsibility

Marketing is at the table

Marketing strategy starts with leadership

Let’s get this on the table right now; the marketing department is NOT responsible for marketing.

Blasphemy! I know, right?!?

Well, it’s true. No department can market your company. It’s everyone’s job, from the janitorial staff to senior leadership.

While it’s everyone’s job, no one is more responsible for it than the head of a company. Besides setting strategy and watching the numbers, marketing is the CEO’s responsibility.

You may have heard the old adage that finance is king. Nope. Marketing is king. There is nothing more important for a company than surviving and thriving, and the only way to survive and thrive is to produce more business – a.k.a. marketing!

So, I have always been puzzled when the CEO steps out of the room when the topic comes up. All too often, this type of disengagement sends the message that marketing is a task, not the lifeblood of a business. The marketing department becomes the dumping ground for all of those chores and calls that no one wants to be bothered by.

What a waste, and what a mistake. Perhaps we need to reframe the Marketing Department. If marketing is king, then the that department is the king’s army.

The most effective marketing departments are those that have their CEO’s full attention. The CEO doesn’t drop in and out every once in a while. Their leaders are engaged, attentive and making sure that messaging, branding, promotion and sales are operating in concert and at full speed.

The department creates messaging, branding, promotional and sales tools so that every employee of a company can execute their jobs and promote the company.

That’s what makes the department so essential, and I don’t know about you, but that’s the last department I would make the dumping ground of anything.

Here We Go!


I’ve written posts of all types.

Years ago, I wrote blog posts about marketing. And then, I wrote a personal blog about being a working mom.

For a long time, I’ve resisted writing a blog on our website, but now there’s a number of compelling reasons why it’s a good idea. The most compelling is that we have something to share that is going to help others.

So, here we go. I hope you enjoy what insights we can offer. Tell us what you are thinking about and what you need, because we’re here to help.

Thanks for reading!