Sins of Genericide: Death of Women and Brands


Back of woman looking towards the sun

When Pretty Isn’t Attractive

Branding isn’t about a pretty logo, swirly typography, pastels, pinks, flowers, birds, “empowering” women, or how much you love coffee. Apparently, everyone’s doing it, which is reason enough for why you shouldn’t.

Branding is about the needs of your clients, having a unique, consistent, and compelling story that separates you from the crowd of competition.

You could be at risk!

Following trends–some, and in moderation, are okay to adopt if you are on the leading edge of it. As soon as the masses jump on board, you need to bail. After all, how is your potential client going to remember to call you if you blend in with the others?
Yep, those pretty visual you had designed are all about you and what you like. You just happen to like some trends, more than one, and put them all together. What is your client’s perception of you?

Here’s the thing, even if you are bucking the trends for your visuals and other messaging, are you living up to expectations you are setting for yourself and your business?

“You can have a carefully calculated brand strategy…a multi-million dollar marketing campaign… delivering a consistent message….But it’s all meaningless if the actual experiences you deliver don’t align with your brand’s messages.”
The Financial Brand

“Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.”
Marty Neumeier, “The Brand Gap”

When Popularity Kills

You already know what this is even if you don’t recognize this word. (It’s also not the first time I’ve written about it on this blog.) Brands that get destroyed by their own success commit genericide. For example, you know brands like Kleenex and Band-Aid. We don’t ask for the product, a facial tissue, anymore; we say, “I need a Kleenex.” Kleenex is the brand, but it doesn’t have a monopoly. Other brands were and have jump in that market. Its own successful campaigns that garnered significant market share, reduced the brand name Kleenex to a generic item. Band-Aid faced the same problem in the 1990s and added “Band-Aid brand” to their message content to educate consumers that while there are other bands out there they are THE reliable brand for adhesive bandages. These brands had to distinguish themselves once again. Because of their massive scale and popularity, that was an expensive and long battle.

Here’s the thing, we collectively do the same to ourselves. My interpretation of genericide focuses on the collective–our industries, niches, markets, etc. Some of us start trends. Most of us merely adopt trends. A few of us don’t start or adopt trends. I’m not revealing any big secrets by telling you that trends are short-lived. It takes even less time these days for a trend to become “dated’, which means it’s very easy to recognize a period in time in which that “thing” was created.

“Please stop empowering me!”
— Nian Hu, Reporter

No longer are you empowering women when you say “empowering women.” The context in which Nian is approaching this topic is a bit different. However, it’s an excellent example of how we are genericizing the messaging. We are grabbing onto the buzz-word of the day, and hoping that launches us into hero-mode and consequently galactic success. Every woman everywhere who’s starting or running a business that focuses on women is empowering women. We are so empowered we’re blowing a fuse!

Let me be more specific.

Two Shades of Blush and Bashful

“Besties,” Ann and Beth, decide to pool their talents and skills to create a big event about women and for women. They want to give women the tools they need to be success in business and in the home while not assuming traditional “female” roles. Oh, that sounds great, doesn’t it!

They talk about the “what”–what tools they share to knock down corporate walls and ceilings and be assertive and get things done (like a man, ya know (insert sarcasm here)) in their careers and businesses, and the tools for being a proper wife, mom, friend without doing everything, including cleaning the kitchen sink. Then, they start working on the story to brand the event–the true purpose and ultimate emotional connection, or in another buzzy phrase, ”identifying their why.”

“We want to empower women! Yes, that’s it! That sums it up perfectly,” they shout in unison. “Oh, yes. I was at an event about this and loved it.” That’s the end of the conversation on the matter and off they go to make it happen. And, that is the moment of ultimate sin. Why? It’s a buzz-word, a trend. We’re all being bombarded with not just this exact message but these exact words. At this point the only difference lies between Pantone 225 and Pantone 226 (two shades of pink).

But, what does pink mean in our society?

“Red is sexy and passionate, while light pinks are demure… eliciting… gentleness.”
— Tina Sutton and Bride M Whelan, The Complete Color Harmony, Pantone Edition: Expert Color Information for Professional Color Results Front Cover

The two characteristics identified in this one summarized sentence aren’t the characteristics of every woman or even what women want to communicate when it comes to their businesses with the exception of nurses and massage therapists.

Photo of coffee and handbag

My Swirly, Girly, Coffee Rant

I realize I may start a war about how insignificant your love of coffee is, especially given that, apparently, I am the only one not drinking, not loving it, and not posting all about it on my website and social media. Truly, your all-consuming love of coffee may indeed be the center of your universe (all your family members know and know how to delicately approach if you’ve not your dose by X o’clock). Okay, I probably just started it.

The Grind

The point of this diatribe isn’t that I hate coffee; it’s that it’s redundant. It’s redundant in our own industry. It’s redundant from business to business, creative to creative, woman to woman. We all just…blend. So many designers, photographers and related businesses, particularly woman-owned and run, gush over their love of coffee on their website’s about page, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, email series/newsletter, and every online and printed marketing material they can find. Hey, you’ll likely widen your target market rather than niche. (Say yes to everyone so you don’t have to say no, right?) Even if the coffee industry is your market, can we find some other way to incorporate or discuss it? Everyone who drinks coffee isn’t your ideal client, even for those in the coffee industry. Dig deeper please!

My point is this evolution of tribalism has us adopting trends and holding onto them long after the life-support has been disconnected. We are part of a generation that seems to desire success while sabotaging it all for fear of abandoning or being abandoned by our tribe. So, we blend in with the trend and complain about how much success we’re not having.

The Infection

As a designer, I follow, listen to, discuss creative and business issues within groups, podcasts, videos, etc. In the groups with mixed professions, there’s inevitably a call for a web designer or branding pro. I’ve spent my fair share of time in the larger groups looking up everyone who “raised their hands”.

  • What are they doing?
  • How are they branding their businesses?
  • Is that really the message they seem to desire to convey?

Last week, it happened in a 99% female creative online group. This particular call-for-designers got a significant response. I took the opportunity to see a larger sampling of what is happening in my industry among my peers. I visited and read more than 75 websites, including the about pages and portfolios. Sadly, only 2 or 3 designers stood out. Sure, there was plenty of talent, but I saw more fear…and more and more of the same from site to site. The swirly, girlies had infected 97% of my beloved creatives. Good for those 2 or 3 bold, confident designers! How sad for the other 97%! Even sadder is that looking through the profiles of the poster, she’ll likely choose one of the 97% and go only as far as they have.

Thrown into a pile with other designers, all those individually pretty designs start to run together. They become forgetful. Even as I rant here, I have these words circling the dog track of my mind:

“Your ego is not your amigo…. Venting is the ego’s way of avoiding self-reflection.”
— Cy Wakeman, Reality-Based Leadership

Therefore, I must make it clear. Before you start a caravan to my house to protest how cruel and inhuman I am for these words and going against the coffee-lovers of the world, know that I’m also talking to the “me” of 5, 10, 15, and 20 years ago. I created my own victimhood and welcomed anyone who wanted to visit at a modest price. My self-reflection took way too long and at a way too high a price.

We live in “the best of times and the worst of times”.

Thanks to technology and the internet, it’s never been easier to start a business! That’s the good news…and the bad. Low barrier to entry but oversaturated markets…with oversaturated trends.

Here is a short checklist to help you stand out with your rebrand.

  1. Pay more attention to your ideal clients than your competition. Be selective!
  2. If it’s a trend, avoid it, or use it differently. (See previous post, Industry Genericide.)
  3. Use classic, timeless typography.
  4. Use a color palette that illicit the emotions that support your brand from your ideal client and ignore trends.
  5. Make sure the typography and color facilitate readability.
  6. Save trends for marketing campaigns, which are short-lived compared to branding.
  7. Develop and know your brand foundations
    1. Originality
    2. Sincerity
    3. Understanding
    4. Boldness
    5. Consistency
    6. Visibility
    7. Value
  8. Live and breathe your brand promise.
  9. When all else fails, see #1.

Old Bank & Lessons on Relationships

Lessons learned from an old bank for modern business on the value of relationships

I, Rhonda Negard (Fat Dog Creatives) grew up not far from the small town of Oakwood, TX. While it was never a bustling metropolis, Oakwood did experience success in the pre-WWI thanks to its stop along the railroad, proximity to the Trinity River, and a booming cotton industry.

“Oakwood suffered from the boll weevil and the Great Depression and begin to decline in the early 1930s.”–Texas State Historical Association

Oakwood continued its decline and still teeters on obsolescence. In spite of consistent decline, an old bank and banker makes one nostalgic the simple times with more personal relationships and predictability.

While neighboring cities in Leon Country thrive and grow thanks in part to their locations along Interstate 45 running between two of the largest cities in the US, Houston and Dallas, Oakwood sits between a larger town (with a Walmart, hospital, and movie theater) and I-45. The highway connecting the larger town and I-45 accommodates 18-wheelers and occasional added lanes for passing. Most drivers pass through Oakwood on the way to Palestine or Tyler from Waco or another bigger town West. It’s not a half-way stop; it’s too close to a larger town with more options to stop for gas or food.

How does a smalltown bank in Oakwood thrive?

As technology automates processes formerly performed by multiple people while also facilitating significantly more communication and contacts, do we have exponentially more interactions and relationships?

Texas Country Reporter’s Bob Philips introduces us to a low-tech man and his banking business, running it just as it was ran 100 years ago.

“We just want to keep it the same. We like it that way,” says Roddy Wiley.

“People kind of like the personal touch,” says Leila Coater, who’s been at the bank since 1954.

 

Social and Media

Using the various social media platforms, our virtual contacts total more than the population of Oakwood. However, can you say you have exponentially more and greater relationships with these contacts?

Doing what makes since for someone who might live in small town America, like Oakwood from a computer, as demonstrated by Robert Nissenbaum, can establish similar bonds as those customers with their banker(s). In his blog he explains we need to stop posting so much and “engage” more on others’ content rather than hoping to get engagement on our own posts.

Don’t hope, expect, or ask for something from others. Contribute, give of yourself first!

Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Give, give, give, and then ask.”

“Social at its best is you giving…. People stop following those who are pushing all the time.”–Gary Vanynerchuk

You get what you put into something. Start doing for these businesses what you want, more engagement. Let go of ego and actually read and react to what others’s content. Maybe the businesses return the favor–maybe not. It doesn’t matter. The point is to build a relationship over time…through comment threads or tweet replies. One comment can go a long way.

Be social…on social media–engage and interact.

Visibility, Opportunity, Momentum

“When you add an insightful comment or are visible on others’ content often enough, someone will get curious one day and look at your social media profile or page and scroll through and read your content. We all get the notifications when other look at our profile on LinkedIn. How often do you go back and look at who checked you out?” – Robert Nissenbaum

A dying town held together by threads…of relationships

The old Oakwood bank offers some low-tech lessons for the tech-engulfed businesses of 2018. As humans, and business owners, the answer to growing and maintaining a thriving businesses and sense of self, lies in the hands we place at our keyboards. Speaking with our fingers through social media, we must focus more on relating to one another, building bonds. Sharing our thoughts from a soap box won’t make connections or build those bonds. Genuine, honest conversations does that.

Rhonda Negard

Rhonda has more than 20 years of experience in graphic design and marketing. She has substantial experience in the association, financial services, insurance, healthcare and construction industries. She hold a Master’s degree in Communications from the University of the Incarnate Word and a Bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University.

Rhonda NegardGraphic Designer, Consultant, Speaker – Fat Dog Creatives

Pilot Flight Plan: Q1

5-Week Supercharged Virtual Co-Working and Accountability | Every Monday from Jan. 29−Feb. 26, 9:15 a.m. for 30 minutes
Q1 FUEL: Motivation, Organization, Planning, Accountability

Logo Redesign Challenge Submission From Tamara Hanks, Hanks Design

This logo design submission comes from Tacoma designer, Tamara Hanks. Tamara has been in the graphic design industry since the early 1990s. She founded Hanks Design in 2001. This logo was designed around 15 years ago.

“I thought this would be a fun makeover to do as the logo was fairly complex and it would be a challenge to simplify it — making it a more symbolic logo than an illustrative one.

“I wanted to really change it up in color as well. The ‘A’ for Armstrong doubles as a walker. The idea of ‘care’ jumped out and the word love seemed to be almost synonymous. So, a heart was used to represent what we all want for our loved ones who need a little extra care.

“It was a fun challenge and I love the new clean lines. It’s a fun exercise to go back to the past and use new ideas to represent the same ideas.”

Tamara, we think this is a thoughtfully clever redesign!

Original design

Armstrong Home Care and Respite Services original logo design by Tamara, Hanks Design

Armstrong Home Care and Respite Services original logo design by Tamara, Hanks Design

 

Redesign

Armstrong Home Care and Respite Services logo redesign by Tamara, Hanks Design

Armstrong Home Care and Respite Services logo redesign by Tamara, Hanks Design

Armstrong Home Care and Respite Services redesigned branded business documents by Tamara, Hanks Design

Armstrong Home Care and Respite Services redesigned branded business documents by Tamara, Hanks Design

Logo Redesign Challenge Submission From Rhonda Negard, Fat Dog Creatives

By Rhonda Negard

Rhonda Negard has been a graphic design er for more than twenty years. Fat Dog Creatives is her business where she showcases her design work.

The original logo made almost 20 years ago was more of an adorable jailbird character (illustrated by Billy Holmes) with disjointed typography in a circle placed rather awkwardly nearby. Basically, there were two elements put together to make a logo.

A 24-7 Bail Bonds original logo

A 24-7 Bail Bonds original logo

 

The goal of the redesign to make a more sensible union of the elements, keeping the bird visible and integral in the design. The canted square lockup is a playful nod to the family game board jail, which also helps to make it more memorable. The break between lines in the name help to emphasize the actual service rather than repeating it in a secondary tagline as in the original design. The orange color is based on the orange jumpsuits of penitentiaries and the black for the stereotypical stripes of the jail bars.

Logo Redesign Challenge Submission From Rhonda Negard, Fat Dog Creatives

A 24/7 Bail Bonds logo redesign by Rhonda Negard, Fat Dog Creatives

A 24/7 Bail Bonds business-cards

A 24/7 Bail Bonds business-cards

A 24/7 Bail Bonds handwritten cards

A 24/7 Bail Bonds handwritten cards

Blog Content Ideas: Networking & Elicitation

Staring at the Blank Canvas. What to Write.

Many small business owners struggle to come up with ideas for content marketing. It’s perfectly understandable. Aside from HR tasks, payroll, bookkeeping, and, well, the actual business of selling their product or service, there is barely time to brainstorm blog ideas. There are a number of different ways to come up with post ideas from our everyday lives. One great content source: the business networking and professional meetings we all attend.

 

marketing networking small businesses puget sound

 

The value of taking part in local business networking events and professional meetings for digital marketing.

Taking part in local business networking events and professional meetings or seminars has multiple levels of intrinsic value (even for introverts).

  • First, building a relationship with other professionals leads to client-creating connections;
  • Second, these events are great providers of continuing education for professionals, allowing them to see what potential clients need them to know or instructing them on practical skills (in the case of professional seminars); and,
  • Third, alert professionals at events are gaining valuable information regarding topics that they need to cover on their digital marketing platforms.

The first two benefits seem obvious: making personal connections and developing our skills are the primary reasons most attend business events (at the very least, they are there to get continuing professional education credit). The third benefit may be less obvious. When one attends a business event and listens to others talk about their challenges, opportunities, and successes, valuable insight is gained on what matters to prospective clients.

 

blogging content marketing content creation

 

Eliciting information about what other professionals consider important should guide our content marketing

When I worked in the intelligence and national security field, we talked about the skill of gleaning important information without directly asking someone “what’s important to you?” For other professions, elicitation may not be something formally studied or discussed, even though it has a universal value.

During networking meetings and professional seminars, professionals should be eliciting the following information from prospective clients:

  • what are their current challenges?
  • where are they experiencing opportunities?
  • what personal experiences or life changes are they going through that relate to the professional’s business?
  • what motivates them?

When prospective clients discuss their current challenges, pay attention.  Those challenges provide content ideas – blog posts offering ways to help solve those problems for those prospective clients and countless others. Even when they say that they cannot identify problems, that is, in essence, identifying the problem of not knowing how to assess a business’ strengths and weaknesses.

When someone at a networking event talks about how they are landing new opportunities with a certain type of client or doing certain types of work (such as when a real estate agent talks about having a string of luck selling homes in a particular town), this is a lead to content creation related to that business’ niche. Using the given example, this could mean posts for services geared to new residents in that community, or for services for overly busy real estate agents, or something equally related to the change in that market.

Similarly, businesses should be gearing their marketing posts to personal and professional changes in the lives of those with whom they do business. The business environment, like any ecosystem, relies on the symbiosis between enterprises. A remodeling company can talk about things which can be done to improve homes for the growing senior population. An attorney can write about how businesses can improve collections when the market is weak.

Create Value

In short, attending networking events provides insight into the needs, wants, successes, and failures experienced by peers. Writing posts geared to those themes will create value for your audience.

 

Todd Brogowski, Todd's Written Word

Todd is a combat veteran and digital marketing consultant who focuses on providing small to mid-sized businesses with the connections they need to increase their revenue in an increasingly crowded market. A former member of the Special Operations community and the Intelligence and National Security Command, Todd has a bachelor’s degree from Boston College, a doctorate from Georgetown University, and a post-graduate certificate from Cornell University.

Todd Brogowski, Writer – Todd’s Written Word

Simplicity and Perceived Value

Rhonda Negard

Rhonda has more than 20 years of experience in graphic design and marketing. She has substantial experience in the association, financial services, insurance, healthcare and construction industries. She hold a Master’s degree in Communications from the University of the Incarnate Word and a Bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University.

Rhonda NegardGraphic Designer, Consultant, Speaker – Fat Dog Creatives

Recap of CAT Event “Transitions: Ideas to Reality”

Transitions: Ideas to Reality Recap

It was an inspiring, tasty and toe tapping night filled with wonderful entertainment and insights from very talented creatives and business owners from our local community.

Paul Gerard on Creating the World Around You

The evening started with Paul Gerard on the guitar and vocals. One song stood out from the rest for the creative crowd. Walk About told the story of creation according to the Aboriginal people. Paul informed us songwriters would sing or speak the world around them into existence. If they didn’t speak about it, the destination they hoped for wouldn’t show up. For those who followed the songs, they served as ‘maps’.

For creatives, if you’re unable to put form to your ideas, you cannot manifest them.

Innovative and Inspiring Photography

Tyler Miller of Tyler Miller Photography displayed her unique digital art that blends patriotism, mystery, and the female soldier.

 

Lazzat Olarti of Lazzat Photography displayed her talent for unique composition, humor, and sophistication in her photography.

 

Brüks Bars on Sticking to Your Values

“Meticulous Quality over Easy Quantity”

Brooke Muldoon and her husband Sean create healthy snack bars that taste like food you want to eat. Their labor of love is known as Brüks Bars. They are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and vegan, made from whole ingredients.  Brooke inspired us, sharing their journey with all the twists and turns of a company built through painstaking work and care.

Early on they talked with a commercial bakery which would allow them to ramp up production AND take it out of their own kitchen. The couple had made every bar in their own home. They were looking forward to increasing production while shifting their attention to more business-building activities.

The facility made gluten products in a mixer a few feet away and they were ensured it would not be a problem. During a tour, Brooke noticed the potential for contamination after a worker poured a mix for another product. Even though money and time had been invested, Brooke and Sean chose to continue using their own kitchen. One of their core values is remaining gluten-free. They knew they needed to maintain control to deliver what they promised. Although it was a tough decision, they’re glad they stuck to it. The decision proved to them it’s better to grow a business based on their values versus taking the easy route.

In Brooke’s words, “We chose meticulous quality over easy quantity.”

Ferguson Architecture on Bigger Vision

Ben Ferguson of Ferguson Architecture has been an architect for many years, recently venturing out on his own. He took this bold step with faith in his vision. That vision was collaborating with clients to make breathtaking structures that tell a story and reflect character. To make it happen, Ben took some very practical steps, starting with a detailed business plan which was numbers-driven. These plans assured him he’d be financially stable to start his own firm.

Ben had previously spent a healthy amount of time cultivating relationships. The time he invested as an employee ensured he’d have no problem staying busy. “From Day 1 I was swamped with business from other clients and relationships.”

Soon after, it was time to get the band back together. Ben went back to his former coworkers and asked them to trust in his vision and take the leap with him. He convinced one to come on board, and then a second. Currently, the company employs 11 workers, all committed and adding to the vision.

“I’ve always wanted to thrive in life. My definition of thriving is working with talented individuals, working on amazing projects, and enjoying a good quality of life.” By creating new and exciting projects and loving what he does, Ben is doing that today.

Wane + Flitch on Creating a Unique Experience

Jeff Wolf and his team at Wane + Flitch (W+F) are providing Do-It-Yourselfers and high-end customers alike, an experience unique to the Puget Sound. At W+F, they repurpose trees previously cut down turning them into 3-inch slabs. By selecting trees and strategically cutting them, W+F truly delivers a different slab every time.

W+F continues to add value to the process by displaying slabs for people to browse, ask questions about, and choose for their own tables. Choose to have the team create the table for you and the customer experience continues well beyond what one would expect. The company uses an app, creating a portal allowing customers to see every step of the process. There is no waiting and wondering. W+F keeps their customers involved at every step.

We’re very thankful to our four presenters and the wealth of information and inspiration they provided. They clearly explained to us parts of their creative process and everyone walked away with something of value.

Special Thanks

We’d also like to send special thank you to the folks at The Union Club. This historical location in downtown Tacoma provided a unique backdrop and view of the Port of Tacoma for the event. The building itself dates back to 1888 and has many stories to tell! If you haven’t stopped by or are looking for a co-working space, give them a call and arrange a tour. (See this video for a snippet of the history: Union Club–A Co-Working and Event Space.)

 

View the photos from the event. (Thank you, Kim Thornton, for sharing your photos.)

 

Join the discussions: Head over to our Facebook page, facebook.com/groups/creativeallianceoftacoma, to stay up-to-date with events, networking opportunities, and chances to grow your business!

 

Gatlin Johnson

Gatlin Johnson encourages others to share their stories, products, and services to the world through the written word. Gatlin’s down-to-earth approach produces content that is easily relatable and understood.

Learn more about Gatlin Johnson at Gatlin Johnson Copywriting.

Gatlin Johnson; Copywriter, Speaker, Business Development

Inspiring Ingenuity: 3 Practices For Your Creative Breakthrough