Tag Archives: branding

Why Powerful Brand Marketing Is The New Normal


“Oh no – not another article on brand marketing”, I hear you say. Well here’s the thing – if your current marketing activity isn’t helping you build a better, stronger brand, you just might be wasting your precious time and money. A quick read through this post will help you review your approach to brand marketing.

Let’s start off with an example. You have just designed a wonderful home page on your website. It’s simple, user-friendly, warm and informative. So much so, the searcher (potential customer) is interested in engaging with you and clicks on your little chat link to ask you a question. So far – so good.

The message the searcher receives back, though, is a sales message and not exactly what they are looking for. The message then directs them to another contact page – to get more information / download a free infographic, oh, and they want credit card details for a trial!

If you’re like me, you’re well gone from that landing page (and probably that organisation). The point I’m making with this example is that there is always a risk of a disconnect between what people expect (because you’ve promised it to them) and what they might get when engaging with your brand.

There is a thread that connects all your customer touch-points and that thread is an emotional one. It is your organisation’s brand. Brand marketing, therefore, must be looked at from a human / emotional viewpoint, if it is to connect positively with customers or prospects.

[ctt template=”3″ link=”045oK” via=”no” ]The emotional thread that connects all your customer touchpoints is your organisation’s brand. It has to be marketed in a smart way.[/ctt]

Brand marketing can be considered powerful when a person’s experience of that brand is constantly positive. This can occur when encountering an organisation’s social media activity, their web page, a press ad, their staff or their service etc. Are you monitoring your engagements?

Of course, there is a danger that online visibility gets all the focus (and measurement), and as a consequence, some business owners (and marketers) can neglect the big picture – their brand marketing. This is not to suggest re-inventing the wheel – it’s just about being smarter about marketing your brand.

Elements of smarter marketing.

Smarter marketing is, for instance, understanding that your brand is NOT your logo, your tagline or your advertising. And that your brand IS the experience that people have while engaging with your organisation is what differentiates you from competitors.

Being smarter is also knowing that in this world of inbound marketing, the content your organisation produces is part of your brand and will remain so forever. Therefore, the voice, tone and message embedded in your content is extremely important.

For example, long after you’ve forgotten about a blog post, a reader might discover same and form an opinion based on the sentiment, structure and relevancy of your words.

Another thing about marketing smarts – your brand promise should also comprise everything that represents your organisation. What type of suppliers you have, your employees, your place of business, how you act and everything you say.

People’s perception of you is your real brand. Brands are a shortcut to help people break through a sea of choice and they mainly use shortcuts that they have had satisfaction with previously.

Finally, how you use your customer data is definitely an element of smarter marketing but it is worth remembering that as everybody has access to data, it still is your brand that remains a key differentiator.

Whatever your organisation’s size – brand marketing is important

The thing to remember about a brand, especially when building a brand from scratch, is that it has to be managed and maintained constantly. Size doesn’t matter.

The business objectives of quality, service and price need to be wrapped in a well thought out branding strategy. Where do you start out? By deciding where your organisation is going to fit in the marketplace you’ll be operating in.

The rest of your brand foundations are set when you determine what it is that makes you different and who your potential customers are. Answers to these questions will be guided by your values and principles – and then you’re good to go.

The main challenge you will then face, with regard to brand marketing, is consistency. This is even more pertinent now when social media activity is included in your marketing. Branding is inclusive of all channels that your organisation uses. Smarter branding is streamlining all your activity with a unified identity, appearance and approach to customer experience.

Use every opportunity you can to market your brand.

There are many good, and bad, examples of organisations using every occasion to promote their brand whenever, wherever they can. Mostly, it will cost something to have your identity promoted, but you should still be looking out for opportunities as/when  they arise.

Here are six examples:

  1. Giveaways – if providing a customer experience, brand it e.g. coffee mug
  2. Apparel – perhaps staff that work with you could wear branded items
  3. Graphics – everything you publish should be branded, including online channels
  4. Email – it is very easy to include branding in your email signature
  5. Presentations – slide templates / and printed materials should have your branding
  6. Packaging – Bags, boxes, vehicles etc. are opportunities to promote your brand


I really like this graphic below. I came across it in an article on digital marketing by Marketing Labs in the UK. It shows examples of offline vs online branding tactics.


Brands are now in the relationship business.

The new norm of brand marketing is being a good listener. “Nothing new in that”, you might say. Now that the much relied upon method of broadcast communication (i.e. one-way discussions) is becoming less impactful, building relationships by listening first and then having a dialogue is the way forward.

Many agencies, such as our own, O’C&K, can offer social media strategies, content management, digital expertise etc. However, these will only be powerful brand marketing activities if based on customer insights, feedback and ongoing dialogue. Another way of listening is through influencers that operate within your line of business.

So, as a small business owner, let’s assume you don’t have the time and/or experience for marketing – what traits do you look for in an individual or outsource agency?  We would suggest that the following traits are important in the business of building relationships:

– Listening Skills

– Creativity

– Customer Focused

– Curiosity

– Empathetic

– Story Teller

“A brand is not something you manage over time. It’s something you deliver in the moment”.

I came across this quote when doing research for this post. It was part of a very interesting article from the Harvard Business Review about building your brand as a relationship.

Tips for building brand recognition

As alluded to above, people are interacting with organisations in a plethora of new ways – usually facilitated by technology. Consistency is vital if people are going to remember your brand and what you can do for them. Here is a check-list for some online and offline touch-points that you could apply your branding to:


  • Website / landing pages / blog (+ images) /online maps
  • Social media (logo avatar + promos on cover pictures)
  • Email newsletter / magazines / ebooks /downloads
  • Online directories / infographics
  • Advertisements / forums /groups
  • Online agreements / contracts / invoices /receipts


  • Print advertising / catalogues / brochures / flyers / posters
  • Business stationary / packaging / labels
  • Storefront /window merchandising / interiors (directional signage)
  • Trade Shows / exhibitions stands / podiums
  • Employee clothing / car stickers
  • Sponsorship signage / promotional items / prizes


A simple recipe for brand marketing is to be unique, authentic and to consistently provide value. Of course, you need to manage your brand identity but concentrate on delivering the brand experience in real time.

Marketing in the modern age hasn’t become harder but business owners and marketers do have to be smarter about it. Brand marketing can be distracted by the many marketing specialists that have appeared in recent years, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

If you need to use an expert, make sure you choose the one that will deliver exactly what you require to grow your business.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

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Social Media Branding – Are You Boring People?


Let’s be honest with each other here – most organisations / brands using social media these days are boring.

I believe this is so because when it comes to social media branding, their mind-set is stuck in the old communications  approach to advertising, media releases, sponsorship and marketing materials. An approach that tells people what you want them to hear.

The thing is, even when the social media approach is altruistic, an organisation’s tone and personality often can’t shine through. This is because the minute it comes to marketing communication – the brand personality is wrapped up in cotton wool a.k.a. brand guidelines

Now don’t get me wrong, brand guidelines are necessary, but SME owners / marketing managers really need to revisit their engagement methods with the modern day consumer. In the current whirlwind of connectivity, people want organisations to be more ‘human’.

They want to know that they can trust a brand and will only stick with those that are relevant and authentic. They want to be able to ‘message’ brands when, where and how it suits them.

[ctt template=”4″ link=”r4d18″ via=”no” ]People want to know that they can trust a brand and will only stick with those that are relevant and authentic – #oconnorandkelly[/ctt]

So why then, when brands dive into the social media pool, are they still doing the doggy-paddle and not learning new swimming strokes. In fact, the swimming strokes don’t have to be new – they only have to be interesting. Why? Because interesting, gets shared by people across their own platforms.

If you’re not interesting, therefore, you may be boring.

My own opinion of most brands on social media is that existing identity ‘style guidelines’ are curtailing natural expression. By all means, adhere to identity guidelines but hey – why not draw up separate ones for your online activity. In fact, I’m delighted to say that more and more of our clients are requesting assistance with this element of their marketing.

We can help you with your social media style guide also – if you wish, just contact us here.

Employees should be allowed to share business stories naturally. It’s a human thing. Them doing so then becomes part of the brand story. Not allowing them to do so, results in the real personality of the organisation remaining behind closed doors. That is why so many organisations appear to be boring when communicating online.

By the way, old fashioned, interruptive style advertising does not help the situation either – good article here from Brand Quarterly on this topic.

Look at it this way, it’s no coincidence that the content most shared by people is that which involves human emotion be it entertaining, informative or educational. Behind-the-scenes videos, staff profiles, subject matter experts, interviews and product stories are all ways in which people make brands come alive.

If people from any organisation are unshackled from brand guidelines and allowed to be themselves, within reason, they will become advocates of the brand. I’m saying nothing new here – business owners and marketers have always known that it is customers and staff that are the essence of a brand.

The Role of Social Media Branding.

Let’s quickly agree that branding is important for marketing. We know this because it can help provide an advantage over competitors through differentiation, help reinforce reputation and manage visibility.

It is also true to say that branding guidelines are necessary for consistency. However, that is not to say that having guidelines means there is no room for change / flexibility.

The branding may change but the brand should remain the same. So, if we take branding here to include activity on social media – then being flexible can only enhance marketing activity.

As part of modern day marketing, social media plays a role in search results. This means it can be used for not only driving traffic to your business but also to build trust and relevancy (reputation) with people online. In fact, recent surveys have shown the strong influence of social media on shopping habits:


By creating a dialogue on social media, a brand owner (especially in a business start-up situation) can obtain genuine feedback and build authenticity. As already alluded to, however, consistency is essential – online activity must mirror a brand’s purpose just as much as a paid campaign would.

If your organisation is only starting your social media journey – here are 4 excellent tips from the guys at Social Media Examiner, to start you on your way,

Be More Likeable on Social Media – Not More Boring

We’re not going to write this blog post and pretend that gaining attention on social media is easy. It’s not. As you well know, most of your competitors are now using social media in an attempt to improve search results and customer experience. The thing is, amidst all that online noise, being genuine helps you to stand out and be more likeable.

Being genuine means being real and not just using social media as a promotional tool. By providing some value (content) you will be in a position to develop your following. Also, people will like you more if you engage by inviting both a discussion and feedback.

If you’re good enough, smart enough and tell a good story – people will like you.

Before I finish on this topic, I should mention one more thing. Most marketers will agree that having a clear brand positioning is essential for long-term business growth. However, there is a danger in all of this attitudinal change to social media branding that the fundamentals of brand strategy may be neglected.

For instance, we are all too aware of ‘keeping up with the latest’ trends which have enticed a lot of brands online. The thing is – many organisations are not basing its social media usage on tangible business benefits.The risk, therefore, is that with all the focus being on social, the overall brand strategy can be overlooked. As a result, the brand message and experience gets fragmented across an increased number of platforms.

This can undermine other marketing activity and indeed the brand equity itself.

Don’t get me wrong – social media offers a great new way of engaging with connected customers it’s just that your brand strategy probably needs to be rebooted for the modern customer. A reboot might include a revisit to the purpose of the brand i.e. the role of the brand in a customer’s life; a deeper understanding of the customer (personas) and developing a simple and clear visual brand message.

What next for social media?

What’s the future for social media branding? Bearing in mind the caveat alluded to above about brand positioning and the tips below, here are some observations gleaned from around the web.

– A standardisation of various platforms i.e. biggest platforms are mimicking each other

– Video is getting close to the peak – live video is hot and circular video is growing

– Augmented Reality / Filters adoption is growing

– Increased competition amongst the big search engines

– Platforms becoming business tools and not just for social

– Tech filled glasses (spectacles) and live-streaming

– Better geo-filtering for ad targeting

– Microsoft bought LinkedIn – so watch this space

Tips for successful social media branding

We meet different organisations from various industries that have many brand variables when it comes to being smarter about their marketing online. The one bit of advice we always give them is not to waste their time on networks that don’t work for them.

Here are a few other tips that you might also consider:

  • Know your audience – many platforms offer free audience insights so use them
  • Define your goals upfront – helps motivation towards better results.
  • Have clear and consistent branding – create a visual experience for your customers.
  • Develop a clear voice – your language shows the personality behind the brand
  • Leverage influencers – they can help you reach a greater, relevant audience
  • Track and measure results – replicate the good and stop the bad


The likelihood that your target audience is on social media has never been higher. Statistics show that there are nearly 3.4 billion internet users worldwide. Of those, 2.3 billion have social media accounts. The challenge for organisations is to be able to use social media as an element of its overall marketing activity – in a human way.

Being human means allowing your personality to shine through, knowing your customers better and providing a mix of interesting and relevant content.

Always ask yourself – are you guessing what your audience wants and even if not, are you addressing the right issues? Get the answers to these questions right and you’ll never be boring on social media.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

Why Marketing Magic is The New Black For StartUp Businesses

marketing-magic-for-startup-businesses - OC&K

Last week I attended a networking event organised by IBEC in partnership with Bank of Ireland and sponsored by Skillnets in support of the StartUp Gathering 2015.

As one might expect, I bumped into a number of people who had recently started up a business venture. At one stage while I was explaining what we in O’C&K do (outsourced marketing), I realised that it is must be hard for a non-marketing person to grasp the importance of marketing, especially if they don’t understand it.

To ensure that marketing can deliver its magic for a business, it needs to be planned for properly, in advance. That is why I thought I’d put pen to paper (so to speak) and provide some tips on startup marketing below.

It is fully understandable that many startups cannot see the ‘forest’ because they are so focused on the trees. Focusing on the immediacy of the trees is also understandable because they are tangible and provide short-term results.

Such items as planning revenue, sorting out premises, legal and compliance procedures, cash flow and IT items are usually the front-of-mind concerns, but marketing should be there as well.

A startup that doesn’t take the time to plan for customers and how to communicate with them is bound to fail. The truth is that you must look on marketing as an investment, just like all the other elements of a startup. Then it just might perform some magic for your bottom line.

Unfortunately, many founders don’t see that marketing should be an integral part of their overall strategy from day one. As a result, they only embrace it after they’ve launched, which is often too little too late and really lessens the communication’s impact.

Another condition that we encounter quite a lot is that everybody considers themselves to be a marketer. The number of times that I have heard – ‘oh my partner / friend / family / neighbour had some great ideas for publicity so we don’t need to hire anybody’ – is staggering.

When these ‘ideas’ don’t work people then consider marketing a time-suck and a waste of money. So they put it further down the to-do list or worse still, ignore it altogether. They start relying on the features of the product / service for marketing purposes. The ‘build it and they will come’ mentality.

The only advice that I can give, if you’re not employing a marketing professional, is to consider (or better still – involve), your potential audience at each development stage and start thinking about a marketing strategy from the moment you have that great idea.

Initial tactics that startups can use to bring in customers.

In fairness, most startups appreciate that they will need marketing at some stage, but as mentioned above it can end up low on the ‘to-do’ list, for all sorts of reasons. The main reasons appear to be time, money and lack of experience. Here are some thoughts that might help overcome those challenges, initially.

  • Despite what some bloggers say – email is not dead. It is a very effective method of engaging an audience in a direct and measurable way. There are many free services available (such as MailChimp), with which you can automate newsletters etc.
  • Social media is another way of attracting customers. If possible, allocate even half an hour a day on a channel where your prospects are conversing. Many communities on social media form free local networking groups (e.g. dubnet). These can work to collect leads, build awareness and learn from peers.
  • See our post here, about good networking habits.
  • How about looking around for marketing opportunities by creating a joint campaign with a complimentary business e.g. hotel / sports club, gym / spa, theatre / media outlet, beautician / hairdresser, SEO / web design, recruitment / printer etc.
  • This one goes without saying – it is imperative that you have a user-friendly website.
  • Finally, you could look at doing a small direct mail campaign in your area, sponsor an element of a local event or advertise in community newsletters.

If you don’t have time for any of these elements, you really should get help from the ‘outside’, as early as possible. Have a look at some services listed on our website, to get an idea of what areas you should be thinking about.

Tips and Timesavers.

There are no magic bullets of course but in order to avoid being a startup casualty, try and plan for the following from the get-go:

  • Use a revenue goal to measure your business – over a two year period.
  • Go after the small and easy prospects first – generate up-front cash.
  • Decide how you will be different from any competitor – avoid sameness.
  • Don’t undertake new things that aren’t on your to-do list (plan) – stay focused.
  • Be willing to change based on customer experience – be flexible.

To use a rugby analogy – earn the right to go wide i.e. don’t be distracted by long-term prospects – focus on the first two years and earn the right to survive.

Now that your business is up and running and you want to move your startup to the next level of business communication, consider formalising these 7 elements:

  1. Branding – your brand identity says a lot about you. Your name, logo, a tagline should back-up your brand promise, remember – first impressions count.
  2. Marketing communication – fliers, brochures, business cards, packaging, signs (including online) etc. all reflect your business professionalism.
  3. Channels of communication – can your customer contact you in a way that they prefer? e.g. mobile phone, email, postal address, skype, google hangouts and face-to-face.
  4. Online presence – your website is often the only place that a customer engages with your brand. They should have an excellent user experience at all times.
  5. Social Media – work is required to find out where your actual prospects are, when they are there and what’s important to them.
  6. Blogging – helps SEO, delivery of value to customers / prospects and is a way of embedding your brand story in people’s lives.
  7. Marketing campaign – a short, flexible and simple campaign using online and offline channels for promoting your business should always be measurable Professional help will probably be required with this element.


When it comes to using magic to bring your ‘wonderful idea’ into reality you need to start by determining exactly who your audience is and what matters to them. Thereafter, effective marketing will build a structure for relationships to be created and nurtured in order to ensure business opportunities in due course. And that would be magic.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

Review your branding – or your market will pass you by?


Branding is the DNA code of your business

Why would anybody go into a unit that looked like a shop but had no name, no window display, no signage and of which they had no prior knowledge – nothing to give them a clue as to what or who was inside? I believe that, if a person is out shopping they’re usually looking for something in particular (with exceptions, of course). Perhaps they are re-visiting a place that they like, so I ask again, why would they enter the outlet mentioned above?

The reason that developing your brand is so important is because it can assist the customer with their decision making.

In the beginning, when people purchased locally, it was a needs based decision and aligned with the seller’s character. The sellers were usually known personally and they were trusted to ‘do right’ by the customer. Branding wasn’t that important, from the customer’s point of view. Times have changed and now global and regional brands use comprehensive communication methods (and tools) to convince customers that they don’t have to shop locally. So the marketing challenge for them is not just to sell by painting a mental picture, and creating expectations, but to differentiate themselves, in the midst of all the other marketing noise, by being legitimately trustful and by building an almost personal relationship with them.

Multiple brand touch points.

Local business need to do the exact same thing because if they ignore this changing marketplace (offline and online), and aren’t providing relevant value in the minds of individual consumers, they are going to fail. The market will pass them by because in the current age of connectivity and other digital influences, customers are enabled to make more informed choices on their own i.e. without brands. Modern consumers are not putting up with being ‘sold’ to anymore. They are quite happy to have relationships with brands but are either buying online from those they trust or going to an outlet that they have already researched. Your brand has many, more touch points in these modern times, and it is imperative that it is in the forefront of your prospects minds.

As author and marketing consultant Lynn Serafin (www.the7gracesofmarketing.com) neatly describes it “. Think of branding as the DNA code of your business. Just as DNA defines whether you have blue or brown eyes, are short or tall, and everything else about your genetic inheritance, good branding is the code that defines and underpins all the vital characteristics of your company.”

If you’re new here thanks for popping in and please feel free to leave a reply below. If you liked our content, by all means subscribe by clicking through the pink button to receive our regular updates.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.      Jim – O’C&K