If it fits it ships…..not if I have to go to the post office

The postal service has shown tremendous insight throughout their current (and brilliant) “If It Fits, It Ships” campaign. In many ways this service should give them a huge advantage over their private carrier competitors. Determining the size of a box, weighing it, and calculating postage per postal zone is a hassle. The simplicity of their program, by contrast, is compelling. Yet they still don’t see the root of their problem. And until they do, they’ll continue to lose business to FedEX and UPS.

Why?

Take our client and friend, Jojami, a superb image stylist. (I should know, she even made me look good, no easy task.) We took it as a compliment when she asked us to design a business image reflecting her professional service. As soon as her cards came off press, we planned to hand deliver them, a goodwill service we often gladly include. Well, unable to sync our schedules, she asked, “Can you mail them?” Of course we could.

Then it dawned on us, does that mean a trip to the post office? Please, no!

Something that should be no big deal suddenly became a nightmare! I mean, have you been there lately? It is one of the worst examples of customer service I can think of. The lines are long. They never have more than one window open. You notice a worker coming to open another window and get excited, then deflated, as the first one goes on break. They rarely smile. They move like molasses, hardly caring. Our local branch is a dump, too. Water leaks from the roof in three spots, one into a bucket, two directly onto the floor. The windows are covered in metal mesh that looks like a prison. No wonder they are grumpy. All in all, the post office is a depressing place, be it the branch near where we used to live in San Francisco, or the one we’re stuck with here today. The service, if you can call it that, is slow and miserable.

We honestly considered driving Jojami’s cards to Delaware. Our post office is a half mile away and we would rather drive to Delaware? Luckily we remembered the Northern Liberties Mailbox Store, a private mailing shop where everything’s the opposite of the USPS—clean, quick, friendly and welcoming. Job done, cards shipped, time saved.

To be fair, the postal service isn’t all bad. They really are amazing logistically. Ever thought how lucky we are to put a mere 44 cents on an envelope and have it ship from here to there, say Alaska, right to a friend’s door? And the delivery people are not like Newman on Seinfeld; they are warm and friendly, reliable and a great part of our community. I love these guys. They deliver in snow, rain, bitter cold, and oppressive heat, every day but Sunday, with a smile to boot! Also, it’s impressive how quickly a letter is delivered locally, often in less than 24 hours within this metro area. That is efficiency!

If only USPS could match the on-site post office experience to their other strengths. Their “if it fits it ships” business model and marketing campaign is so simple, easy and reasonably priced, perfect for any business. They could really stick it to FedEx and UPS. And yet if the public’s perceptions and experiences keep turning sour, no one will pay attention.

So what do you think? When was the last time you actually stepped inside a post office? What was the outcome? Do you prefer FedEx or the United States Postal Service?

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8 Traps to Avoid in a Logo

Last month I covered key factors that make a logo effective; this month I’ll complement that thinking by mentioning some common mistakes and practices to avoid in logo design. (If you missed last month’s post you can read it here on the Bondepus blog.)

Computer gimmicksAvoid computer tricks, filters, and even transparency in a logo. Since many filters become dated quickly and end up looking cheesy, using them shows a lack of savvy design. Even big-time professionally designed logos can reveal this mistake. For example, I once had to add AT&T as a sponsor on the back of a non profit’s T-shirt. For budget reasons it was a one-color screen print, the logo, which had a transparency, does not print one color. That left us no choice but to eliminate the globe and use just the name.

Too complicated/too many elements—A busy logo is an ineffective logo. Use just one, or at most two, graphic identifiers.You want to communicate the core traits of the business as simply and focused as possible.

Dated font—To ensure that your logo lasts at least 10 years, perhaps decades, avoid fonts associated with a certain era. Using a font that was trendy in the ’70s or ’90s will date a company’s “new” identity from the start. That said, it can be appropriate when your company’s brand is retro or throwback, say, Restoration Hardware or Stephen Starr’s Jones restaurant. Bottom line, use a font that fits the characteristic(s) of the brand.

Hard to read font—With surprising regularity people (even designers!) pick a font that is busy, unruly or so hip that it’s hard to read. Cleverness aside, it’s never smart to block the viewer from reading the company’s name. Make it easy for them. Few logos are so fascinating that people will actually work through a puzzle just to read who a company is. They are busy and they will focus on more important things.

Pictures—There are exceptions but as a rule, images (photos) do not scale up without quality loss. Resolution will be a never ending concern. Because a company’s logo goes on so many diverse communication pieces, make it flexible and use vector-based software such as Illustrator or Corel Draw.

Avoid trendy colors—Never choose a color based on trendiness; and if you can’t resist a color that happens to be trendy, make sure it captures the mood and personality of the business. There are ways to apply color that won’t go out of fashion.

Using an unedited piece of clip artYou can’t own something you buy and place alongside your name. It’s not unique to your business if it’s for sale to the world, meaning that you can’t own, protect, copyright or register it with the Patent and Trademark Office. And when you find the company next door using it in their logo, there’s nothing you can do about that.

Unbalanced—The symbol of the logo should not overwhelm the name of the company. If you make the symbol twice the size of the name, you lose the critical balance. Given equal weighting, though, the eye will take both in equally. Since they both represent you, allow people to see both as a unified whole in order to build recognition.

If you’d like to learn more, we’d love to chat further on this topic so central to our work. Give us a call or email. Next month I’ll revisit some of our marketing and branding experiences—things you and I see every day—but look at them differently.

-Gary Epis & Amy Bond
267-239-0409 ph

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What makes your logo successful?

People often ask me, What is it that makes a logo good? My reply is, Whatever makes it effective. You see, people judge a logo based on how it looks, which is important, sure. But that tells only half the story. My purpose here is to cover the visual aspects, yet not the branding work behind each good logo. Next month, I will explain some of the pitfalls to avoid.

Successful logo examples by Bondepus Design

Memorable People are inundated with messages…5,000 per day, says a recent New York Times article. If your company looks like all your competitors, the brain quickly lumps it in that big, boring pile with them and ignores it. Be memorable to gain entry into the compartment of the brain that is relevant and focused on. When your brand identity stands out from the pack, people pay attention, which puts you leaps and bounds ahead of other businesses.

Concept – Does your logo communicate the essence of your business – the who, the what and the why of the business? Does it capture who the company is? Does it communicate the spirit and culture of your company? Does it speak to your intended audience, that is, your customer and prospect base? This is the most important factor in methodically building a brand as opposed to just sporting a piece of cool artwork as a logo.

Character – Creating visual interest can go a long way to being memorable. Character makes you interesting. Used appropriately, a little whimsy can make you stand out. The same, trite radial band looping around your company name no longer gets the job done.

Recognizable – A strong identity requires far fewer total impressions before people embrace and remember it. Thus, much less exposure is needed for people to retain your business.

Versatile A logo needs to be simple in order to be versatile. It will be used on every communication piece and will interact at every touch point. It must live comfortably on every medium—online, print, social media, sign on the door. Can it read powerfully in full color and in black and white?…reversed out for dark background applications?…scaled small and large?

Concise The more complicated your logo, the harder it is for people to take in. So the key is to remove extraneous elements until the logo reaches its simplest form but still communicates the brand. This is not unlike good writing—remove the fluff and stay on point.

Balanced Your eye takes it in comfortably. The space between letters is adjusted and equal. The negative and positive space is balanced. The weights of the name, symbols and icons are visually balanced.

For brevity’s sake I cannot cover everything here. Just remember, as you research, explore, and develop your own business identity, to ask yourself, Are these guiding principles working? If the answer is Yes, you’ll have a powerful and successful logo rather than a cool yet ineffective one.

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Nike’s Swoosh and Apple’s apple are not logos. Seriously.

So what if I told you that the “apple” on the back of your iPad is not really a logo?

First off, I’m not attempting to change peoples’ usage of “logo,” but you might find it interesting that what is commonly thought to be one, isn’t.

“What? Baloney! I know what a logo is.” Okay, let me explain.

What most people typically refer to as a logo is a really a trademark. We already have the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Maybe they should rename it the U.S. Patent and Logo office?

Logo is short for logotype, design industry-speak for a custom-lettered word. How this came to be used by the public I’m unsure, but its root comes from the Greek word “logos,” meaning “word.”  A trademark that is strictly a custom-lettered word is a logomark, or logo. Think Pentax, Hershey’s and Microsoft. The Nike swoosh is not custom lettering, and therefore is neither a logomark nor a logo! The “apple” for Apple Computers is not one either. Rather, these are symbols, some say icons, within a trademark. Whether they are logomarks or symbols, though, they are both trademarks.

Examples of logomarks and symbols within trademarks

Here is a breakdown of trademark types.

  1. Logotype – a custom-lettered word, with no symbols, i.e. Pentax, Microsoft, Hershey’s, Marlboro
  2. Symbols – Nike Swoosh, Apple Computer, the “P” on a Phillies cap!
  3. Monogram – IBM, GE, the NY combo on a Yankees cap.
  4. Emblems – Manchester United, Free Masons, U.S. Navy.

Today, people use logo to cover all of these. Once a shortening for a specific type of trademark, now has come to be universal. Logo is easy, it’s short and it’s cool. Trademark sounds stodgy. So I’m not expecting clients to tell me any time soon, “Hey, that’s a nice trademark you designed, Gary.”

My advice, just keep saying logo and let us design nuts worry about it.

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LinkedIn – To link or not to link, that is my question

Imagine you’re at a networking event, meeting new people, sharing a few smiles, conversing briefly here and there, perhaps even exchanging business cards. Then the next day you get a couple of invitations, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” What then? Do you accept?

There seem to be two different approaches for handling this. One is to link to most everyone you meet. The other is to link exclusively to people you feel you’ve gotten to know. Which is best? I’m not sure, so I’d like to hear what you think.

For me, I prefer connecting to someone I’ve at least met for coffee. While doing so, I’ve determined that they are someone I’d like to talk with more and get to know further. After all, I took the time to go meet with them. Sure I make some exceptions here, especially for the handful of people I’ve linked to who were simply not feasible to meet with in person, yet with whom I felt a deeper connection. Perhaps an excellent phone call.

Question is, am I missing out on connecting with a much larger group of people? Yes, I may be, but does it matter? If I pay attention to LinkedIn’s Network Statistics, I’m missing out on millions of connections! Yet honestly, how many of us have successfully navigated a 3rd degree connection? Are they really that “connected?” While in reality I’m missing out on only about 2,000 of these, that’s still a lot of people.

Which brings us right back to the quantity vs. quality dilemma. Personally, I’d like to think I’m keeping my network small and more relevant by resisting the urge to play the numbers game. One strong connection is stronger than 10 superficial ones, I figure. Right…or wrong? In our social media crazed world today, am I being foolhardy?

Let me hear from you. I’m curious to know which strategy you find most effective for you and your business. Maybe you consider both approaches valid, and neither is better. I’ve posted this on our Facebook page, so Click HERE and chime in.

I don’t have the answer. Do you?

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Planet Fitness, Are you Really a Different Gym?

Awaiting the left turn signal that leads into our neighborhood, one spied an eyesore of a building, a dilapidated, defunct check cashing operation. It was a sad first impression for the area and embarrassing for us when friends, family and clients would visit. We would wait at that turn signal and chant “Trader Joes…Trader Joes.” Wishing we could transform the building through positive thinking, we even contacted TJ trying to convince them that this was the perfect location.

Then we heard that Planet Fitness is going in there. Yeah! Yippie! But, wait…Planet Fitness? Who are they?

Well, it wasn’t Trader Joes, but anything would be an improvement. We didn’t know the company or the gym but since it was coming in, we started to pay attention.

As the building took shape we heard the radio campaigns. We loved them, they are very clever and they actually spoke to us. They made us want to join. Then the building went up. Huh? I’m confused…. that’s certainly not what I expected based on their ads and messaging.

Their current radio ad announces sequentially:

“If you drink Creatine from a gallon jug, this is not your gym.”
“If steroids is what you call breakfast, this is not your gym.”
“If you have a tattoo of a bicep, on your bicep, this is not your gym.”

And so on. This resonated because I’ve always hated the gym atmosphere. Their tagline and motto is:

“Judgement Free Zone®, which means members can relax, get in shape, and have fun without being subjected to the hard-core, look-at-me attitude that exists in too many gyms.”

Perfect, a gym for everyone. Nobody staring at you, no posing, no overmuscled freaks looking at themselves in the mirror. And best of all, no salespeople. Everyone remembers the used car salesman approach at these places, right?

So, hey, they get it! They are different. This is great! They know what people like me want in a gym.

Then the building was completed. Whoa! Hold on! Where’s my gym?!

The design, branding and overall look screams “hard-core, look-at-me” gym. The building is loud, featuring in-your-face colors and metal accents, things I associate with a typical gym.

Everything Planet Fitness is saying: who they are, their core values and messaging, are all great. But this image doesn’t connect at all. It says, “We’re saying something different, but we sure look the same.” This is a confused brand, a marketing disconnect. Every message, every impression should be in alignment with the values a company stands for. This obviously includes the outside of their building even though, inside, they might very well be different.

It’s certainly better than a run-down, defunct check cashing joint, but I’m just not convinced that Planet Fitness is the gym for a regular guy like me. And I wonder how many ‘regular people’ share this feeling.

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How Many Diamonds Would They Give Your Business?

On a recent road trip to West Virginia we took along AAA guide books that rated everything inside according to a ‘Diamond System.’ You know, a lone diamond for budget, no frills up to 5 diamonds for sophisticated, upscale.

We mention this because creating your business identity relies on communicating daily how your business measures up on a similar scale. Prospects viewing your logo subconsciously assess it to categorize your business. Our brains naturally group things via queries like: What is this? Have I seen it before? Is it comparable to something familiar? Along the way, they judge and classify your business, often harshly.

I noticed myself doing so firsthand on this trip. Take those blue highway signs announcing the businesses found off each exit. McDonalds. Shell.  Bojangles. Though I’d never even heard of ‘Bojangles,’ its logo screamed fast food fried chicken. My belly ached. My brain scored ‘1 diamond.’ I kept driving.

Stopping in a typically small WV town for lunch, we walked the main strip weighing our options. The place bearing a hand-scrawled dry erase board instilled little confidence. Next we paused at the Mexican joint, wondering just what kind of ‘authentic Mexican’ food one encounters in central WV. Then we came upon a reputable looking restaurant sporting a neat, bright sign out front and giant coffee cups overflowing with flowers. It looked so welcoming, positive, and current that we ventured inside. Ahh, this was where we’d eat. A comfortable vibe and great menu reinforced our initial impression: This place looks good, let’s see what they have.

Which brings us to your logo, stationery and marketing materials. What do they say about your business? Do you look established and professional…or do you come across as the low-cost option? Are people rating you as 1 dull diamond…or 5 flashy ones? Assuming your product lives up to your promise, does your business give them that gut feeling to see what you have? When people primed to buy compare options, you can not afford them dismissing a ‘1 Diamond’ look and walking in your competitors door.

Have you ever known someone who you know is an expert at what they do, but they don’t look the part?

Truth is, that dry erase place may have had excellent food, but given my options, sorry, there’s just no way I’d risk choosing it. Appearance forms our perceptions and perceptions form our opinions, but most importantly they influence our purchase decisions.

http://www.bondepus.com
gary@bondepus.com

Thoughts? We’d love to hear your comments.

Best,
-Gary Epis & Amy Bond
267-239-0409 ph

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Are the Phillies a Team, a Company, or a Brand?

Yes. They are all 3.

Years ago, when a San Francisco Giants friend of mine told me that he’d gone to a couple Oakland Athletics’ games that season, I remember thinking how odd that was. Generally you are a fan of one or the other. The Mets or the Yankees. But, he said, “The A’s have a good product.” That stopped me cold.

Product? I grew up rooting for this team. They play baseball, they are not a product! Within seconds, though, I got it – like, of course they are, totally! (Maybe you hear I’m from California!)

So, are the best-in-baseball Phillies a team, a company or a brand? Yes. Yes. And yes. When you think about it, the Phillies are similar to a professional services company, their employees and players (including the Phanatic) making up their brand. In any company that does not sell a tangible consumer product – like law, accounting, and consulting firms – it’s the people who embody the core characteristics of the brand.

These Phillies are a very impressive group who exemplify the best in sports – talent, character, integrity. They are class act athletes. But even when a new set of players come in, this entrenched brand transcends that change because the Phillies brand is really us. They are our community, they represent this fine city and they are about to beat the pants off Cincinnati. And everyone else who stands in their way.

GO PHILLIES!

http://www.bondepus.com
gary@bondepus.com

Thoughts? We’d love to hear your comments.

Best,
-Gary Epis & Amy Bond
267-239-0409 ph


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