Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Color's Role in Brand Marketing

When creating a marketing plan for a product or service, there are key priorities to consider ranging from competitive strengths, positioning statement, tagline, logo, and comparison with the competition. So, even though research has shown that color increases memory, how high is color on the list?

While color allows for a product’s or service’s brand to stand out from the competition, how do you decide what color is the best choice? Sure, you may prefer blue or red, but if the product is orange juice, clearly orange, yellow, or green might be a better choice. You need to decide which color best expresses the attributes of the brand as well as which color best reflects your brand’s message.

The color of blue relays integrity, responsibility, intelligence, reliability, truth, and honesty. Light hues of blue convey peace, softness, and healing. Dark hues of blue convey stability, security, and expertise. Blue often communicates feelings of respect, honesty, and confidence. Some well-known logos featuring blue include: IBM, Ford, Citibank, VISA, Tiffany, Skype, General Motors, jetBlue, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Walmart, Nokia, Facebook, Twitter, and BlueCross/BlueShield.

The color of green brings to mind environment, growth, re-birth, spring, and luck. Green often communicates feelings of relaxation, renewal, revival, freshness, and optimism. Some well-known logos featuring green include: Garnier Fructis hair care products, American Express, Starbucks, Green Giant vegetables, Whole Foods Market, Subway, Aer Lingus, L.L. Bean, Tropicana Orange Juice, and National Car Rental.

The color of red brings to mind love, action, courage, determination and can also represent danger. Red often communicates feelings of boldness, passion, energy – and grabs attention. Some well-known logos featuring red include: Coca-Cola, Red Cross, Bank of America, Target, Verizon, Toyota, YouTube, McAfee, Marriott Hotels, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Lego, and Levi’s.

The color of purple brings to mind royalty, luxury, magic, mysticism, and inspiration. Purple often communicates feelings of luxury, spirituality, and authority. Some well-known logos featuring purple include: Yahoo!, FedEx, FedEx Ground, Los Angeles Lakers, WeddingChannel.com, Cadbury Chocolates, and Hawaiian Airlines.

The color of pink brings to mind youthful exuberance, fun, excitement. Pink often communicates feelings of vibrancy and friendship. Some well-known logos featuring pink include: Victoria’s Secret, Flirt dresses by Maggie Sottero, Pepto-Bismol, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and Mary Kay Cosmetics.

The color of orange brings to mind heat, competition, and productivity. Orange often communicates feelings of strength, determination, vitality, and energy. Some well-known logos featuring orange include: Simply Orange Juice Company, Nickelodeon, Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, Mozilla Firefox Internet browser, Amazon.com, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Tide laundry detergent, and The Home Depot.

The color of yellow brings to mind energy, sunshine, warmth, light, happiness, creativity, vision, and warning. Yellow often communicates feelings of creativity, optimism, warmth, vision, and happiness. Some well-known logos featuring yellow include: Hertz, Goodyear tires, Pennzoil, National Geographic, Ikea, Best Buy, Ferrari, Shell Oil, Yellow Pages, McDonald’s, Subway, Denny’s Restaurants, and In-N-Out Burger – as well as thousands of taxi cabs on streets throughout New York City. Since the eye sees yellow before any other color, there is no question why those cabs are yellow.

The color of brown brings to mind rustic, earthy, and warm. Brown often communicates feelings of romanticism and durability. Some well-known logos featuring brown include: UPS, Gloria Jean’s Coffees, and Louis Vuitton handbags/attire/jewelry.

Black brings to mind expensive products and has been known as “the absence of color” or “all colors.” It communicates feelings of power, drama, and sophistication.

White brings to mind simplicity, cleanliness, and purity – and often catches the eye when it is used to highlight words or image outlines. It is used in hospitals and for health-related items and also for bridal gowns.

Research conducted by Xerox Corporation and International Communications Research from February to March 2003, found:
  • 92% = Believe color presents an image of impressive quality.
  • 90% = Believe color can assist in attracting new customers.
  • 90% = Believe customers remember ads better when color is used.
  • 81% = Believe color gives them a competitive edge.

So when selecting your brand’s color or colors, ask these key questions:
  1. What color truly represents your brand’s personality?
  2. What color suits the characteristics of your product or service?
  3. What colors do your competitors use?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How Social Media Has Changed the Hiring Process & Other Timeless Hiring Tips

Please welcome Alison Green to my Blog. Allison Green is the talented voice behind the popular “Ask a Manager” Blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. Also, she writes a weekly column on career and management issues for U.S. News & World Report’s website and is the co-author of “Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader’s Guide to Getting Results” (second edition to be published by Jossey Bass in the spring of 2012). Alison’s career advice has been featured in The Washington Post, The Wall St. Journal, ABCnews.com, Fox Business News, Men’s Health, and on NPR’s Marketplace Money. Check out her Blog, follow on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook. I had the honor of interviewing Alison recently, and I would like to share the highlights.

How has social media impacted hiring – the good ways and the bad ways?

ALISON GREEN: On the candidate side, due to sites like LinkedIn, it’s easier than ever to figure out who in your network might be connected to an employer or field that you’re interested in – which is a huge benefit that I suspect most people aren’t taking enough advantage of. Twitter and other forms of social media make it really easy to build relationships with people you might want in your network – what used to require going to tons of networking events and conferences (which was sometimes impossible) can now be done from your home office or living room couch. On the employer side, social media has made it easier to get a more complete picture of a candidate: if he/she has a digital footprint/an online presence, what he/she is writing about, how he/she portrays himself/herself online, what is the person interested in, etc. Of course, this can be both good and bad. Employers can now find out less-than-flattering things about candidates that they previously would not have uncovered (and which, frankly, might not actually have any bearing on a person’s ability to do the job).

What are the most important questions an EMPLOYER should ask a candidate during an interview?

ALISON GREEN: Really dig into past experiences. Too many interviewers ask surface-level questions about past jobs and then move right on to the next question on their list. It’s far more useful to focus on a few key pieces from the candidate’s past and really spend quality time probing to get beneath the surface. So instead of just asking about a particular project and then moving on, the interviewer should follow up and follow up and then follow up some more. For example, “What was the biggest challenge there? How did you approach that? What happened? How did you deal with that? Then what happened?” You can learn a great deal of valuable information about how the candidate really operates, and it can separate a good on-paper candidate from a great in-practice candidate. I’m also a huge fan of asking what kind of feedback candidates have received from their previous managers. This can tell a lot in terms of the substance of the response itself and also how candid candidates are when answering. If people have been lucky and received constructive feedback about things they could have done differently, how have they processed the feedback and what improvements/changes did they make?

What are the most important questions a CANDIDATE should ask an employer during an interview?

ALISON GREEN: Ask about what’s going to be most important to achieve in the role during the first year and how the new employee’s performance will be measured. This provides a good picture of what the new employee will be expected to do and what success will look like, but it also shows how clear the employer is on what he/she is looking for. Another great question is, “What obstacles do you think the person in this position will face?” You might hear about the impossible coworker, the difficult bureaucracy, or the uncooperative vendor. Even better, you may hear about an aspect of the position that you might not have otherwise heard about. And conveniently, while these questions are about learning things that will help decide if this is the right fit, they also happen to be great questions that will impress a hiring manager, because they make it clear that you're thinking rigorously about the role.

Since employers are not hiring candidates for their weaknesses, and candidates may not always be honest about this question, what is the value of asking "What are your weaknesses?"

ALISON GREEN: The question itself has become so cliché – as have candidates’ answers to it – that it’s basically useless now. That said, as a hiring manager, I AM interested in figuring out what the candidate’s weaker points are, because I want to make sure that those weaknesses aren’t going to be fatal for this particular position. And I want as full a picture as possible about the person I'm hiring. But, often, you can get to that information by conducting a rigorous interview and a thorough reference check. However, there are creative ways of talking about weaker spots during an interview. For example, the question I mentioned earlier about feedback from previous managers can address this issue, and it’s interesting to see how insightful people are about their own weak spots – as well as how open they are about talking about them. In fact, I’ve always found that the stronger the candidate, the more able he/she is to provide a thoughtful and accurate perspective on his/her own weaker points.

How do you differentiate managers and leaders?

ALISON GREEN: When I was telling someone recently that I consult on management but not leadership, I defined the difference as “I don’t teach anyone how to inspire anyone.” I was half joking, but that’s pretty much it. I think of management as setting goals, monitoring progress against those goals and holding people accountable to them, building a strong team (which means hiring as well as being willing to fire when necessary), building a culture around high performance, etc. It’s the day-to-day business of getting things done. But I think of leadership as creating a vision and motivating other people to work toward that vision.

Since HR and Marketing Departments share a common goal of having successful employees who also need to be brand advocates, how can the two departments work together harmoniously? 

ALISON GREEN: Marketing can teach HR a lot about remembering who their audience is. HR sometimes gets so caught up in internal processes that they forget to assess what they're putting out with the eye of an outsider. So then you get deadly dull job postings that are full of jargon and bureaucratic references, instead of really describing the work and what should attract the ideal candidate to the role. A little bit of marketing’s focus on the audience and the fundamental goal wouldn't hurt!

Image Credit: Thanks to Scott Hampson for use of his comic with this post. Check out his work at http://www.agent-x.com.au/comic/your-true-profile/.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Secrets of Employee Engagement


Please welcome Doug Brown to my Blog. Doug Brown is President of Engaged2Perform in Ontario, Canada. For the past 30 years, Doug has served in roles covering the gamut from supervisor to president and has overseen production, quality control, sales and marketing, administration, and distribution and fulfillment. Engaged2Perform is an employee engagement firm that helps growing companies to increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, and motivate employees to achieve corporate goals. It is a network of affiliated partners in Human Resources, Organizational Development, Strategic Planning, Leadership Coaching and Training, Communications, Business Consulting, and Health and Wellness. Engaged2Perform has improved overall efficiency of its clients' employees by an average of 30% by providing strategic tools and services to engage people, so it is no surprise that the company's tagline is “People, Passion, and Profit.”

I recently had the opportunity to interview Doug about employee engagement and would like to share the highlights.

Business jargon is full of long words with lots of syllables. Some are easy to understand, while others seem to be out of Mary Poppins. How would you best explain “employee engagement?”
DOUG BROWN: I would explain it as a strong emotional connection between the employee and the organization that fuels employee motivation, pride, enthusiasm, passion, and commitment to supporting an employee’s company. This translates into meaningful action items that drive performance and productivity and contribute to the success of the company. The “meaningful action” I refer to includes advocating for the company; willingness to grow, improve, interact, communicate, and connect with peers and colleagues; and become involved with ideas and suggestions to find new efficiencies to improve the company.

Why are there so many titles for HR members of the C-suite: Chief Potential Officer, Chief People Officer, Chief Happy Officer, and Chief Engagement Officer?
DOUG BROWN: I suspect this is due to an organization’s trying to put a new spin and focus on the same issues and problems. This may be done to help change the mindset of people and avoid some of the rhetoric (such as, “our people are our greatest strength and asset”), but this is lost down the levels of the workforce. But, in a competitive market where success is defined by small margins, leaders are beginning to understand motivation and engagement and the fact that people may be the key to their business’ success. Programs centered on basic people principles are the key: principles that for several reasons have been lost or strained over time – due to downsizing, restructuring, advances in communication, etc. These basic principles are treating people with respect and courtesy, valuing their ideas and contributions, supporting them in their roles and responsibilities, and finding ways to inspire and reward them.

What are the five best strategies for effective new employee onboarding?
DOUG BROWN: Here are my best strategies:
  1. Recognition: Show appreciation of employee effort and accomplishment.
  2. Communication: Help them understand their role and responsibilities clearly.
  3. Listen: Allow them to ask questions and provide their thoughts and ideas on how aspects of the job could be improved.
  4. Treat Employees as People: Understand what makes them tick in a personal and individual way; what interests them, motivates them, and inspires them beyond the paycheck and their desire to be with the company.
  5. Help Employees Fit In: Employees need to feel that they belong, that their contributions are valued by the leadership team, and that they have become assimilated into the company’s culture.

What are the five best ways to create a successful corporate culture?
DOUG BROWN: Here are my best ways:
  1. Understand the issues that employees deal with and are concerned about.
  2. Strategize on how you can provide an environment that is meaningful for employees and will enable them to accomplish their best work. Leadership teams need to ask: What do the employees need to optimize their performance? Some programs can be applied across the workforce, while others need an individual focus.
  3. Train managers on how to interact, communicate, and connect with employees in ways that will help them engage. This is a critical link.
  4. Implement the proper tools and services that support the process.
  5. Take time to read and understand the research surrounding engagement, what the benefits are, what the key drivers are – this must be done from the top leadership down.

Some final comments from Doug: “Every company has several groups that they need to keep happy. This includes shareholders, employees, management, customers, suppliers, etc. Employee engagement has important implications for all of these groups as well as on a company’s brand. To ensure that you meet the commitments and expectations of all groups, you must have employees who are engaged and enthusiastic about their work, have the right training, the right tools and information, and the authority to take action. Don’t forget: Gallup research has shown that engaged employees are more productive and profitable, create stronger customer relationships, and remain with their companies longer than less engaged employees.”

What kind of employees would you like for your company?

Become a Fan on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dougkbrown 

Read “The Impact of Engaged Employees” by Doug Brown: http://bit.ly/pjVDmd

Image Credit: People Insight: http://www.peopleinsight.co.uk

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Do You Know How to Complain Effectively?

As consumers, we have one thing in common: we all complain. We complain about minor skirmishes and also major upsets – ranging from the weather’s too cold or too hot, the movie was terrible, that driver just cut me off, and the item that just arrived in the mail was defective. Some of us become animated when complaining, while others remain calm. At one time or another though, most of us have spoken a bit too loudly while on a phone call with a customer service agent. However, according to Guy Winch, Ph.D., author of The Squeaky Wheel, Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships, and Enhance Self-Esteem, there’s a correct way to complain.

“We have a complaining psychology,” Winch explained. “We believe that to complain to a company will take so much time and effort that it won’t be worth it. So 95% of us actually won’t complain at all when we have a problem. We’ll just go to the competition. Also, we’re afraid of the confrontation. We think it’s going to be nasty and time-consuming. [But] our complaints can be practical, emotional, and psychological tools that we use to better our lives. They can help us gain resolutions to meaningful problems. They can improve our moods, our self-esteem, and our general outlook on life. They can better and deepen our relationships. However, as many sharp tools do, complaints can cut both ways when used incorrectly. When we complain excessively or, in some cases, too little, we can end up getting more cuts, nicks, and scratches than we do benefits.”

As a result of Winch’s psychology background, he provided insight into the dynamics of complaining on a personal level, couples level, professional level, and consumer level. He shared numerous anecdotes to demonstrate good and bad methods for complaining. My favorites were Winch’s personal story about how he successfully dealt with loud noise in New York City, and how one customer disputed unfair pricing at the retail giant Marks & Spencer in England.

Winch explained the history of the toll-free 1-800 number and the reason that so many call centers don’t function in a productive manner. If more of us understood that most call center employees burn out and leave their jobs in less than two years, we might be friendlier when we call to complain.

Winch introduced the ingredients for a delicious squeak, or in other words, the complaint sandwich:
  • Top slice of bread is the ear-opener: this statement (or paragraph if a written letter or email) should mention something positive about the situation.
  • Middle section of the sandwich is the meat section: this is the actual request for action – the tone should sound more like a request for a favor instead of a complaint or demand.
  • Final slice of bread is the digestive: the final statements or paragraph should make it more difficult for the recipient to dismiss the complaint immediately and also increases the reader’s motivation to help – the wording could be “I would appreciate…I would be happy…I hope to hear from you soon for any assistance you can offer.”

Above all, complaints are a gift for a business. They serve as free feedback, an opportunity to take action and make improvements. If the complaining consumer’s issue is resolved to his or her satisfaction – or if the expectations are exceeded, then he or she will become a lifetime customer and will tell friends and family how well the issue was resolved. And the story will be repeated again and again. Smart businesses know that customers who have a negative experience that is fixed become more loyal customers than if they’d been satisfied with their experience in the first place.

“Each time we visit a store, have a meal in a restaurant, take a bus or taxicab, or interact with a service provider, we have the option of letting them know what we thought about their product or service. Of course, most of our daily experiences are not worthy of comment as they fall somewhere in the “adequate” range. But when we encounter extremes in either direction, we have the perfect opportunity to take a quick dip in the waters of community activism.”

So how does your business deal with complaints? Is there a complaint resolution department? How quickly do you respond? And for those of you who represent the 5% who complain, how often do you get the results you desire? Please chime in.

For more information: http://www.guywinch.com

Follow Guy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/guywinch

Become a fan on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thesqueakywheel

Watch Guy talk about the book on YouTube: http://youtu.be/2TgoDCX0uLs

Check out The Squeaky Wheel Blog on Psychology Today: