Recent Work: The Choir School's new tagline

Recently, I’ve been working with The Choir School in developing materials for their upcoming 27th season. The organization needed new brand positioning that could carry through marketing materials for the next year — or more.

I created a new brand position and tagline for The Choir School in “Voices raised.”

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This strong, easily-grasped tagline broadly communicates the most unique aspects of The Choir School experience and serves to support their season marketing, underscore their program’s impact, and transition successfully out of their recent dominant messaging which was focused around their 25th anniversary and recent endowment campaign.

Its strength is its ability to reference their mission statement in shorthand, a complete marketing summary that communicates the program’s unique value in a concise package.

To amplify the effect of the tagline, I’ve worked with the organization to provide guidance in how to weave this theme into written marketing materials, as well as into talking points.

This is my sixth season working with The Choir School. It's always great to work with Kay, Dan, Elizabeth, and the entire team, but working to get this season ready to launch has been a particular joy. I am very proud of everything we've been able to prepare for this year.

You can see more of this work here.

When the best branding is no branding

Direct-to-consumer brands have a bad habit that needs to stop: they’re branding the living shit out of their packaging. Just at my home alone in the last few months, I’ve received, gorgeous, but overly branded packages from Away, Quip, Vinyl Me, Please, Harry’s, and Plated, among others.

They certainly draw me into their products (and I clearly love these D2C brands). But not just me.

They also attract “porch pirates,” the package thieves that continue to prove victorious as more customers choose delivery right to their front door than ever before. With more than six-in-ten! American households taking advantage of Amazon Prime’s 2-day-delivery, packages are flying to our doorsteps and attracting thieves.

They’ve gotten me on a couple of occasions, myself.

Consider this viral video that raked up millions of views at the end of 2018, premised entirely on baiting these porch pirates and giving them a surprise.

When this is a real concern, brands should be careful that their packaging, which looks great in photoshoots and in mockups, isn’t an attractant that could ruin the first day experience for a customer.

While most of these companies have done a great job fulfilling replacements if a package is stolen, it’s still no excuse for less-than-optimal operational security and for setting things off on the wrong foot with a new customer.

Contrast that with Apple, consistently considered one of the most valuable brands in the world, whose mailings to your door come in austere brown cardboard boxes with no printing. Even the mailing label sends under an obscure address and with “AI" as the company name (Apple, Inc.’s initials). While porch pirates aren’t always on the look out for specific things — one at our house even stole a generic Amazon package containing, ironically, a bicycle lock — it’s useful to not make things any easier than they need to be.

That’s why you need to be sure you’re taking your brand into the world and experiencing things as your customer will, in all use cases and contexts. Sometimes no branding is better than branding.

When it’s time to consider revitalizing your organization's brand

Whether your organization is in its first year, or celebrating a milestone anniversary decades in the making, its success is affected, in part — and I’d argue significantly so, by how its brand is perceived. It’s a brand’s world. Consumer choice, whether in buying a product or deciding how to spend philanthropic dollars, is more flooded with choice than ever. A strong brand is the message you’re communicating over and over, allowing you to position your organization in the customer’s mind and demonstrate what makes you, you. So when is it time to revitalize your brand strategy?

Things feel stale and you’re having trouble reaching customers
If you’ve heard even one member of your leadership team say, “No one knows who we are,” or “We look behind the times,” then you already understand, even if you haven’t realized it, the importance of brand strategy to the overall success of your organization. And you’ve already expressed the need for it to change.

Our business needs are changing
Revitalization may need to happen because business strategy has changed. Your company could be entering a new market, or launching a new product. Perhaps you want to appeal to a different type of customer, or double-down on

There’s a new name
Perhaps you merged with another organization, or you’ve been sent a cease and desist letter and are in the midst of a trademark conflict. As a result, the organization has changed its name. But that name is just one part of your brand, and making sure your name fits who you are and what business you do is essential.

There are practical considerations, too.
Maybe you feel like your business card is embarrassing to give out, or you can’t read your logo when embroidered on a shirt. These practical considerations can be the impetus for revitalizing the brand identity, too. Effectively presenting your brand is what will drive the perception you intend to communicate.

Choosing to undergo revitalization of a brand is an investment in the future. We’re going to build on your success thus far, change the perceptions around your organization, modify behavior, and ultimately increase performance. Together, we’re going to more clearly communicate who you are.

Cabbage pancakes and crisis communication: a lesson

Local favorites, Xiao Bao Biscuit and Tu, were caught charging customers extra sales tax on every bill, a 2.5 percent surcharge that was undisclosed and intended as a "convenience fee" offsetting credit card processing fees, according to the Post & Courier. The restaurant has since made strides to reformat their checks and respond to the allegations of deception, but not after more than a day of silence as the story danced across the Internet. It underscores the importance of small businesses having a crisis communications strategy in place for when things get out of hand, something it appears XBB did not have. Here's what every small business, non-profit, or individual should do to survive their next crisis.

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