With the recent passing of Eiji Toyoda, it’s a good moment to look at a man who re-invented the Toyota brand. While he didn’t found the company (a cousin did), Eiji Toyoda took the Toyota brand from a low-budget also-ran to a global powerhouse. How? By focusing on systems and how to make them better. And by letting the people inside the company help him do it.
Toyoda created a process of labeling assembly line parts–a precursor to the bar code–that made Toyota plants the model of efficiency. He also promoted “Kaizen”– a process of continuous improvement that, at least in his version of it, relied on the company’s own workers as the source of the best ideas to constantly improve quality and efficiency. Toyoda understood that what would distinguish his family’s cars from other cars was to deliver quality for a price-point that worked for American customers –the ultimate Toyota target market. Today, it’s hard to imagine someone not knowing the name of the company that has brought us the Lexus, the Prius and the Camry.
But when organizations talk about re-inventing their brand, they often think first about logos, websites, social media campaigns and marketing slogans. These are essential tools, don’t get me wrong. What’s often missing from the recipe for a better brand is, well, a better brand. Toyoda’s secret ingredient was to focus on how people and processes delivered cheaper, better cars. Translated for nonprofits, that means delivering on the mission in a way that is more consistent, with more impact. Communicating about that terrific quality and impact is actually the last step in the process.
Coming up next month, I’ll be speaking on two topics near to my heart: how to develop a personal “brand,” and how to design video projects for a longer, multi-platform life span. Both of these issues are front and center as we all launch back into fall busy-ness. I find the need to re-assess my workflows and systems, to accommodate new technologies and new platforms for production and distribution. It’s also important to keep building our professional reputations–often across those same social media platforms.
I’m also excited about my upcoming class The Art of the Interview, to be available on Lynda.com. Watch this space for more details and free preview links!
October 9 – Brand U: The Art of Personal Branding Networking Consortium, Washington, D.C.
October 17 - Repurposing Your Video Content: Efficient Workflows & Strategies Interagency Visual Media Group, Bolling Airforce Base IVMG Conference
To quote @ScottMonty Global Head of Social Media at Ford Motor Company, “What’s the ROI of not putting your pants on in the morning?” He’s talking about social media marketing. But the same applies to branding. In other words, you can’t afford not to brand.
So if the ROI of good branding is huge, how do you minimize the costs? Here are three cost-effective tools you can start using right away.
1. Email is Free Ad Space!
I often receive emails without any “signature” –what a lost opportunity! A signature line doesn’t just give you a chance to tell your name and title, it gives you space for a blog link, twitter hashtag for an upcoming event, or YouTube link to your latest video. This simple free advertising can be employed unilaterally—and uniformly–across your organization. (Send a “signature of the week” email to everyone with easily copied info.)
2. Mine Your Own Content!
A tool everyone has, but rarely maximizes—is your own media library. Maybe because it’s not so much a library as a pile, a box, a series of files that no one can find. Graphics, photographs, audio interviews or videotape footage–these all have sunk costs, and can be re-purposed for much less than the initial investment. The key is to use metatags and an archiving and workflow system that makes sense to everyone in your organization. Avoid those awful automatic names (IMG_001) by batch renaming–but always maintain the original name in the data. (Adobe Bridge is a handy tool for this, though there are many others. Here’s a “how to” video by my friend @richardharrington on how to do this.) But whether you use a sophisticated archiving system or a spreadsheet, the ultimate cost savings to promote your brand is large, since you will avoid re-shooting or re-acquiring images or footage where something from your own “stock” library would work to tell the story.
3. Video Sells!
According to IndieGogo, “Crowdfunding pitches with video content raise 112% more than those without.” Video certainly is one of the top-most searched items on the web. But producing a branding video in-house can be daunting, and commissioning one to be made can be costly. So consider starting small, with a podcast. With just the investment in a digital audio recorder or a small digital camera, and some basic audio recording/mixing software (here), you can give out some useful information, and cross-promote your organization’s other content–books, websites, conferences, upcoming events.
Just using these three low-cost or free tools can help you gain ground with your brand, which in turn can help you increase fundraising, sales, visibility, memberships or issue awareness.
With whistleblower or traitor (take your pick) #edwardsnowdon in the news this week, everyone’s talking about our government collecting Big Data. But guess what? Google, Verizon, Facebook, CVS Pharmacy, Giant, Safeway and all the rest have been doing the same thing all along. The difference is this: these companies are monetizing our habits, but we aren’t. Hey come on, people, why do you think Facebook and Google and Linked In are free?! At least the local pharmacy and grocery store offer me discounts in exchange for my personal buying habits. Jaron Lanier’s thoughtful and interesting article in the New York Times this week Fixing the Digital Economy got me thinking. He talks about how we could build a new, robust middle class if we stop giving away all our personal data for free, and letting only big players and their investors reap the rewards. (Ironically, Facebook’s investors aren’t rich enough yet.)
But what if Big Data could move the needle even more, and not just benefit the middle class? What if it could change the world for the seemingly permanent underclass?
Nonprofits need to start harnessing Big Data to serve mission-driven outcomes. Only that can topple this robber-baron economy we have created. In a knowledge-based economy, it’s important to know what people are thinking and doing. And if you’re selling change, that becomes even more critical. In fact, collecting and understanding data is really just another way of looking at and telling your Mission Story. (Sidebar: fabulous blog post about mapping data and storytelling by @eSpatial–I now reveal my wonkiest side!)
Of course correlation and causation are two different animals–just because most axe-murderers drink milk doesn’t mean milk turns you into an axe-murderer! So you need quantitative data–real people collecting real stories of what is happening in the field–to know the difference. And you don’t just want to collect data on your own programs; you need to know who else has tried certain approaches to the very same issues your nonprofit is working on–whether it’s homelessness or environmental degradation or education for girls in Africa. Organizations are turning to tools like Flux or Social Solutions or a mapping tool to build their own data–even while they are out in the field changing the world. But collective data-sharing would be even more effective, and less costly wouldn’t it? It’s the direction in which the philanthropic and nonprofit sector is moving and I think really must move to be effective. Places like Global Impact Investing Network and others are already doing it. More should follow. And every nonprofit umbrella association can be doing the same.
A disastrous new logo can undermine a rebrand process. Case in point: the recent GAP debacle, and the new controversy over Prince William County, Virginia’s new and rather corporate mark (both GAP and PW design fails included a navy blue box–hmmm!) For what it deemed solely “technical” implementation of the input from several stakeholder focus groups, the county paid just $750—not enough to cover a full day of a designer’s time, let alone the critical strategic, research and “listening” work that goes into thoughtful mark development. Kinda reminds me of those scenes in the old Batman TV series when they would feed info into the Bat-computer and then out would pop the answer on a little card—“Holy logo redesign, Batman!”
So. How to create a better outcome?
Successful logo (re)design begins with an assessment of the values, culture, aspirations and mission of an organization or community. A great design should reflect these key components:
1. Respect For Your Past. One of the biggest hurdles in a redesign is respecting and incorporating the past while still looking to the future. And you need to decide if you want an entirely new mark or an updating of your current one. One of the complaints about the Prince William logo was that it didn’t take into account the county’s rich heritage and crest. Moving away from an historic crest or famous mark can be a big challenge. Sometimes it’s important to incorporate key colors or visual elements that can carry over to the new mark. When my high school alma mater commissioned a logo redesign, they maintained the original color and olive leaf from the old crest. The updated website includes a ghosted image of the crest.
There are many wonderful logo designers out there, but my colleagues at C&G Partners in New York @cgpartners are particularly great at respecting historic elements while developing a fresh design approach.
2. A Flexible Identity System for the Future. A mark is not static. It will appear in many different forms—from letterhead and websites to mobile apps and signage, and things you can’t even imagine right now. The mark design needs to take into account all of these iterations, and be designed so that it will work in all. One of my favorite new iterations of the Citibank mark is the logo for the new bicycle sharing program they are sponsoring in New York, cleverly called Citi-bike. In a less flexible world, executives might have balked at using the bank logo in this way, but it’s absolutely brilliant. It connects the brand with a green activity, and builds market share (you get discounts for your membership if you use a Citicard.)
3. A Lasting Impression. Your mark should encompass the best aspirations of your organizational identity—where you want to go, your vision for the world. Trends are common in this business–one year everyone wants red logos, another year, everyone is doing blue. The key to success will be a mark you can have for many years to come. Two critical components (out of many) in good design are attention to negative space and typography. In fact, some great logos are type-only!
And while the internet is filled with logo-on-a-budget options and crowdsourced design that claim to do all this for just a few hundred bucks, the reality is, the time spent delving into your organization for the best possible mark design will be money well spent.