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Nowadays, tight deadlines, constant requests and 24/7 communication mean it’s increasingly hard to stay on top of everything whether it’s personal or professional. However, in a progressively digital world, there’s constant room for improvement.

To combat these challenges, it’s extremely important to work with agility. But what does this actually mean? And should everyone rush to jump on the bandwagon?
It’s true that most agencies throw the term agile around, professing to work in certain ways when the reality is starkly different. More often than not, companies have outdated processes and business systems that hold them back from achieving any kind of “agile” working practices.
It’s one thing to recognise a problem, it’s another to address it head on. Currently, most agencies only manage to harness glimpses of agility. From client wants and needs, to lack of internal capacity, there are many barriers that stand in the way of making agility a core value.

The steps to establish an agile system
The first step to business agility is to look at team skillset. In some cases, you’ll have a large team dealing with one client, whereas other agencies may service clients on a more individual basis. Whatever your situation, you need to make it a priority to learn about your team and understand from a strategic level what can work more efficiently. You can use risk analysis to make sure you don’t upset the apple cart, particularly when dealing with long-standing clients.
When Organic moved towards an agile way of working, we had to be brutally honest with ourselves. This meant taking a good hard look at our work, people and numbers so we could put together a bespoke, agile framework for the agency. This is key, because there’s no single solution that will work for every business. It’s important to treat each situation as distinct and unique.
Next, don’t just suddenly announce that you’re transitioning to becoming more agile. Everyone on your team has to buy into it, so it needs to be a collaborative approach. Assess how you plan to roll out the strategy; for example, are you introducing Slack or trialling Trello?
When implementing these steps, you need to consider timing and create a plan that fits within a pre-determined schedule. The “two-week sprint” process works well, as you can tweak in real-time, based on employee feedback, and judge what has worked and what hasn’t.
Above all, flexibility is key. Change needs to be monitored, which means ensuring proper organisation before undergoing such a radical culture shift.

The benefits of working in an agile environment
Before you make the shift to an agile approach, you need to be confident that the transformation process will lead to positive results.
One of the main benefits is that you can cope with change positively and start to act proactively – not reactively. There’s always a knock-on effect with how situations are handled, so planning in advance can make a real difference to performance outcomes.
Agile working also means you know how to add value and where. Resources and time aren’t wasted, which is actually much better for staff. This gives employees the freedom to manage their own time and take ownership for their responsibilities. Of course, line managers can still monitor their work.
Overall, this shift to an agile approach empowers people and boosts productivity.

Don’t let fear hold you back
Businesses shouldn’t be worried to step outside their comfort zone. That’s only natural of course but you shouldn’t let that get in the way of experimenting and trying something new.
You can’t expect everything to just change overnight. You have to do the groundwork and start with your people. If you’re afraid of taking the plunge, then test different “flavours” of agility and see what works for your company and your employees. Remember, every agency is different.
That’s why the tactics and processes you employ should reflect your company’s values and beliefs. Taking the process seriously is the only way to truly reap the full benefits.

Should we jump on the bandwagon?
While “agile” has become something of a buzzword within the marketing sphere, it’s not suitable for everyone.
Agility is, at its core, the ability to reach and change. If you don’t want to completely overhaul and rethink your methodology, you can start by defining things in small chunks and deliver “agile” projects in small iterations.
Start little and do it often. When you test and learn, you’ll be able to determine what works and what doesn’t. That knowledge is incredibly powerful.
But a final word of warning – be careful! Another agency’s agile framework might be completely ill-suited to your brand, so don’t just lift, copy and recycle. Be open to changing direction but lean into what makes your agency unique. That is how you champion real, meaningful change.

On the 14th of June 2018 we held Risky Business, an event in London focusing on the perils of website migration and how to successfully navigate them. A team of industry experts gave insights based on their experiences in handling website migration. After the keynotes were over the audience had their chance to ask questions. Here’s a rundown of what was asked.

The Experts

  • Dan Patmore – Natural Search Strategy Manager, Argos
  • Claudia Higgins – Natural Search Insight and Technology Manager, Argos
  • David Wise – Director Channel Sales EMEA, Magento Commerce
  • Jonathan Fink – Head of Search and Innovation, Organic
  • Joe Ford – Digital Marketing Consultant, Organic
  • Simon Dale – Senior Account Manager, Organic


Q: How long would you expect results to get back to normal after doing a “big bang” style migration?

Joe Ford – It depends on the type of migration, how big your site is, what you’re changing and how your performance recovers from site changes generally. So for sites like Argos, Amazon, Ebay, they will come back fairly quickly because they carry a lot of weight with Google. But for much smaller sites that don’t have the domain authority to back the site up, the return can take much longer. That’s why assessing the risks ahead before you start is so important and you have an idea, personally and for the project, what is going to happen.
Dan Patmore – I would support that and I think the key point is it depends on what you’re changing. What I would also add is that the time when you see volatility, from when Google picks up the changes, varies. At Argos we used previous changes to understand that. For Argos it would be 4 to 6 weeks to see the volatility and the path to recovery would then take 6 to 8 weeks, but we knew that we could add 50% onto that if changes were implemented poorly. I think understanding the curve of response to change is important.
Jon Fink – Yes, from direct experience when I was involved in a site that used 302s for redirections, and that site also had a wide variety of dodgy links, when they did the migration they lost 80% of their organic traffic. Understanding not just the technical aspects but also the history of penalty recovery helps you avoid a double whammy during the migration.

Q: In terms of planning a migration, if it’s taken two and a half years, how do you plan for emerging needs given that SEO and everything changes so quickly?

Dan Patmore – It is challenging. It really goes back to being clear on your strategy, and clear on what you aren’t doing as much as what you are. You have to be intentional about what you are, and aren’t, doing. Being in natural search you try and do everything, so you have to be strict. By and large people that succeed in natural search are interested in the area and really thorough, but I think that having someone to say “that’s a great idea, but not now” has been something that you [Claudia Higgins, Argos] and I have massively benefitted from giving each other.
Claudia Higgins – I think going from a big site change to looking at what you change next, from a data point of view, is that you have to give yourself time to understand what the impact of the changes you’ve just made have been on the site. What worked well, what you maybe don’t want to do again. So if you go immediately into making changes again you will have to work out the impact of all those things. So just giving yourself the time, freezing everything to make sure you measure how it’s working, is really important.

Q: Argos deferred the move to HTTPS until after this migration. Was there pressure in the business to do it all at once?

Dan Patmore – Initially there was. But as the technical teams began to better understand the level of work they would have to do, they realised actually they wouldn’t be able to do it as well. So it resolved itself quite quickly once we could explain the amount of change that would be going on. And as always it’s how you communicate it.
Jon Fink – People tend to take a sharp intake of breath around a domain or URL migration, but don’t realise there’s so much going on around whether a migration is secure.
Dan Patmore – Yes and there are high profile examples of it being cocked up. While to some people it just looks like putting an S in part of the URL, it’s a complete migration as well. For us the benefit of having them separate was understanding the mapping exercise, and doing it in a more controlled way.

Q: With big sites there is an almost constant migration instead of one point in time where you have to execute one. Do you feel technology is speeding up the need for migrations?

David Wise – Like Dan was saying, his project took two and a half years. That’s a long time, especially in ecommerce. Some of the things I’ve been talking about today didn’t exist two and half years ago, so how can you as a merchant start to do things when you’re having to take into account unknown unknowns? The only way is to break down the thinking about how to do things, thinking about flexibility, then looking at the process, and of course the technology. If you’re migrating a website you’re thinking about the CMS, payments, how can you unpick everything without breaking it, and then build it into the new systems. You need the most flexible people, technology, and processes.That’s why the big legacy systems are struggling, the pace of change is just so breakneck that they struggle to deal with it.
Dan Patmore – Absolutely. You need the right setup to be flexible. So one of the reasons Argos’ project took so long is the co-dependencies we had on other workstreams. The other challenge, with the pace of change, everybody has a limited amount of capex, so which new emerging things do you back and which do you wait to establish itself? It’s a risk and reward situation, because you can’t jump after every new trend, because if nothing else you’ll make a hash of it and those things may not even leave the ground.
Jon Fink – You have all these new technologies and changes in behaviour. Often the structure and taxonomy of a website reflects who they are as an organisation, and the language reflects that too. It often isn’t reflecting the users and what they are searching for, what their drivers are, and that’s where Amazon has a real advantage. Their taxonomy reflects the market, not their own understanding of their catalogue. And so for many businesses, whether that’s professional services or commerce, it takes a huge effort to start creating language and UX that reflects the market and where it’s going. It’s the boring part of the everyday change, but once you get into it and reflecting the market intent that’s constantly moving then you have to keep it under observation and understand what’s driving those changes.
Joe Ford – Changes will always be ongoing; migration is just a change. What you need is to ensure these big migrations, and any big changes, set a good base so you can make further changes with relative ease. For Argos making a simple change two and a half years ago would have been a nightmare.
Claudia Higgins – I think that’s down to how well organised we are as a team in knowing what the process is, what’s needed, and having a log on the site. We now have such a good view of what’s going on with the site, and how we work through those changes, and understanding what’s needed that now if someone wants to make a change then we know the workflows and can go through them.

Q: Who are the friends in the C-Suite that the SEO person can get an audience with and fight for the relevance of SEO within a business?

Dan Patmore – You don’t necessarily have to hit the C-Suite immediately. Integrating with other teams, the taxonomy team, the content teams, digital planning team. The product team can be difficult because there are so many stakeholders. Working out which conversations to assert yourself in gets easier, especially as team stakeholders are engaged. From a C-Suite perspective, really it’s whoever is in charge of ecommerce and technical products.
Simon Dale – I think in a big company it’s easy for departments to be siloed. SEO has a lot of touchpoints in all the different departments, even including PR and social. SEO is in a good place to break down the barriers, and help with integration. If everybody is pulling in different directions then there’s no point doing it. So I think SEO is ideally placed to make those friends and pull everything together.
Jon Fink – It’s always better to plan SEO in strategically from the beginning than bring it in later to try and fix problems that have arisen.
Claudia Higgins – I think inserting yourself consistently into other teams processes, such as asking to see wireframes before a page goes live, helps you build advocates in other teams who will say “We shouldn’t really do this before speaking to SEO”.
Dan Patmore – Nothing is delivered in isolation. As a business grows there are lots of people that have the opportunity to affect your digital future. It used to be that not following [SEO] best practice led to a missed opportunity, but now it’s the case that actually a big negative could come. For us, it’s not about empire building, but being a bastion of credibility, empowering other teams to have the knowledge they need, and know when we are best involved.
Claudia has invested a lot of time in which technologies to put into the hands of content writers and traders, so we can move beyond “where are we ranking for those keywords” to “how can we effect change”.

Download the Risky Business Whitepaper

If you want to find out more about migrations and the risks involved then you can download our free whitepaper on website migrations here, as well as watch videos from the event.

The only constant… change

James Moffat, Founder and Executive Director of Organic spoke at the DMA’s Customer Engagement 2016 event. Below is a brief round up of his talk at the event.
In the good old days, engaging with customers was easy. You connected with them in store, maybe dealt with a few mail order forms, and if you were particularly savvy, had a phone line they could call you on. The number of channels was limited, and almost always involved contact with a person in one form or another.
But things have changed.
Although change has always been part of the human dynamic, the speed of change is now the defining feature of our era. As technologies emerge, mature and are replaced like digital mayflies, embracing it is all anyone can do to keep up let alone get ahead.
So, as we scrabble to adopt and understand new platforms we begin to believe that it’s not just technology changing but our fundamental nature. It isn’t just how people are interacting with brands that is different, but what they want from them, too. We see people behaving like brands, carefully managing a persona, and brands increasingly trying to be just like an individual. Our instinct then is to dive headlong into trying to build richer, more meaningful (and hopefully longer) relationships.
But here’s the thing. In all of this the one thing that isn’t changing is the customer. Where and how they engage with you will change, but what they want hasn’t changed.
Customers don’t want a new relationship, they want a better version of the successful relationships brands have built in the past.
Think about any shop that you have returned to time and again. What lured you back each time? The fact that they knew your name, or listened to the details of your recent holiday? Or was it simply the fact that they offered great service, great value and great deals that they knew you would be interested in?
We talk about customer engagement as if the aim is to have a personal relationship with each customer, knowing their every like and dislike, to be their confidante ready to cheer them up when times are tough. But really we’re missing the point. Yes, customers want a personalised experience but what they mean by personalised and what we think they mean seems to be disconnected.
The relationship should be personal in areas relevant to the customer and add value to their experience of your product or service – not try to position your brand as their ‘BFF’. And thanks to digital technology we’re now in a better position than ever to do that. But it’s not about bigger data, it is about better data. And how you use it, for that matter.
The brand/customer relationship is inherently transactional, and so customer engagement must relate back to the transaction and the services you offer. How are you making it better, easier, more enjoyable? If you’re not then it doesn’t matter how close you try to get to the customer they will just retreat from you. They don’t want you to be their friend: they want you to be a better retailer.
If this all sounds a bit cold, don’t think that loyalty is dead. Far from it. Compelling and meaningful communications that support these fundamentals are what will engage customers. But the fact remains that what makes these communications effective, and keeps users engaged with a brand, is not that you know their name and start your email with it, but that you continually offer them the best products, deals and service – and that your attempts at engagement enhance and add value to that.
Create customer engagements that enhance your core proposition, rather than ones that distract from it. Make things relevant to the customer and you’re onto the start of a wonderful relationship. If you don’t do this, the customer will leave you behind. We live in a world where the ability to stay relevant is the defining feature of success and failure means extinction.
If you’re struggling with customer engagement get in touch today and find out how we can help you connect with your audience in a more meaningful way.

A website migration is a project that businesses will have to tackle more often than ever before. You might think that a migration is simply (as if it is simple!) shifting all your content to a new domain name. But actually, migrations come in a variety of flavours, each with their own challenges. What they all have in common is the potential to impact your search performance. We’ve put together an infographic so you can get a quick overview of the main types of website migration projects and the risks of getting them wrong.
On the 14th of June we’re holding a free breakfast event from 08:30 to 11:00 where a selection of experts in SEO, retail, and ecommerce will be discussing topics around the risks of website migrations and tactics to avoid disaster.
You can find out more about the event, sign up, and get a free whitepaper on migration risks too, right here. 
infographic showing the types of website migration and risks involved
So now you know the potential risks, isn’t it time to find out what you can do to make your migration a success. Come to Risky Business on June 14th to get expert insight. 

Believe it or not, Organic began in the spare room of our founder, James Moffat. From these humble beginnings we’ve grown and grown to a digital marketing consultancy working with massive brands, and each stage of growth has meant more experts on the team, who need more space and more equipment to get stuff done. So we’ve been through a fair few different serviced offices over the years.
As we’ve continued to grow, we’ve added more and more London-based clients to our books for both retained and project work. While we’re always happy to have a trip up to the big city (scary as it might be for some of us country mice) it quickly became apparent that a permanent London office made sense, to support our head office in Exeter.
After trying various locations we’ve settled in nicely at LABS Holborn, a modern working space that offers everything from serviced offices to hotdesking and meeting spaces. But what makes it right for a busy and growing digital marketing consultancy?

Location, Location, Location

There’s no denying that LABS Holborn is in an amazing location. Not only are you slap bang in the middle of London, but it’s easy for us to access from Paddington Station, and ideal for striking out into other areas of London when we’re doing client visits. Likewise, clients find it an easy location to get to, especially as it’s so close to Holborn Underground.
We’d trialled serviced offices in other locations, but Holborn gives us the ideal mix of energy and amenities.

Infrastructure and support

When you’re moving into a new office the last thing you want is to be struggling with technology, getting your space setup, and spending too much time dealing with stuff that just doesn’t help you get on with the reality of business.
The LABS community team are always on hand to help us deal with the day-to-day stuff that crops up in any office.

A place to build opportunities

Your typical serviced office building doesn’t tend to breed collaboration. There’s something about them that keeps interaction between businesses to a minimum. Not so at LABS.
We’ve made some great connections and come across opportunities that just wouldn’t occur in a traditional office setting, where you’re siloed off from others in the building.
Maybe it’s the nature of the businesses that choose to setup in them, or maybe it’s the work of the community managers who work to create a place where people get to meet and interact. The design of the space also helps; the serviced offices are glass fronted and have shared kitchen areas so you get to know the people around you. And of course the café downstairs ends up being a place to unwind and network. One thing is for sure: part of what has worked so well for us is the way that this kind of environment leads to inspiration and new connections.

Flexible spaces

Of all the serviced offices in London that we looked at none rivalled the flexibility of LABS. Not only do we have our own space but we can easily book rooms for client meetings. We can work in any of the public areas when the mood suits. And making changes to the office is simple so we can make it really feel like home.
We’re also beginning to explore using the event space, so we can contribute to the community of businesses and share our expertise and knowledge, and begin to build new connections, partnerships and opportunities.
When we moved to LABS Holborn we knew we were getting something beyond your normal serviced office, but it’s really only once you’re in that you get a feel for just what a boost this kind of space can give to your business. And judging by 2018 so far, it’s only going to get better.

We have worked with a variety of firms in the professional services sector. From site migrations and technical SEO work, through to creating social media guides and creative content production, professional services marketing is a rich landscape, but one that many have traditionally viewed as slow on the digital uptake.

As customer behaviour has changed, driven by the adoption of mobile technology and social media, so has their expectation of fast, flexible and responsive services. While the B2C sector, especially firms creating technology and leisure goods, has led the way here the same pressures are mounting on professional services firms.

Our experience has been that professional services firms acknowledge the need to change but can often struggle with the steps needed to get there. Often teams work independently and workstreams are not interrelated to the overriding digital performance strategy.

The search question

Search performance is a vital part of professional services marketing. For some firms a significant amount of enquiries will come via search, and ensuring that your site is fit for purpose when it comes to the search engines is important otherwise you risk losing out to competitors. However for many firm in the sector search isn’t about securing business, as a lot of it comes from direct referrals, word of mouth and reputation, but simply about having their content discoverable by potential clients.

Many professional services firms create high quality content for their sector, whitepapers, reports, video and podcasts. This content is created to position the company at the forefront of their sector, and also to convince potential clients to use their services. The reality is that most potential customers view this content after initial contact and relationship warming, not because they are searching for, say, a solicitor in their area. Having this content easy to find and access helps to nudge potential clients down the funnel.

The good news for many businesses in the sector is that their sites often have strong domain authority, which means that adjustments to technical SEO, and understanding how to create content that works for search engines as well as users, can lead to results in a relatively compressed timeframe.

Understanding search priorities

A typical issue we encounter that can hamper search performance is stakeholders basing on-page content and messaging around personal priorities, or assumptions about what people will want to see on the page. In reality the content should be based around what users are searching for, and the kind of content that is going to help them.

Stakeholder engagement and using data and facts to support our recommendations plays a big part in success here and is always a priority focus for us.

How can professional services leverage social media?

How can professional services leverage social media?

Due to regulatory restrictions, and the individual digital and security policies of firms, professional services has historically had an uneasy relationship with social media. Social is a space that is often freewheeling, requiring an ability to react and interact quickly that can be at odds with heavily regulated industries.

In our experience professional services firms are increasingly open to social media, but sometimes struggle to bring the two worlds of social and their sector together. Part of our work in professional services marketing has been to help firms build a framework that can allow them to use social in a natural way while also ensuring they meet any regulatory requirements.

It’s also the case that social works best when brands don’t use it as a purely broadcast platform. Coming up with creative ways to land a message that don’t feel like a typical push can be tricky, but it’s something we’ve helped many brands achieve. Using creative visuals, larger campaign ideas, video and more we’ve helped professional services firms create the kind of content that people will want to engage with and share naturally.

Got to get paid

The days of viral campaigns that saturate social media solely due to extensive sharing and interactions are pretty much a thing of the past. As organic reach on all social platforms continues its downward trajectory to basically zero the need to understand and master paid social is vital for any brand.

For people to share your content you need them to see it first, and to make enough people see it you’re going to have to pay for it. There’s no two ways about that, but it’s a fact many brands are slow to acknowledge. Our approach is to use paid social in an iterative fashion, testing different posts against audiences and then increasing spend as we see positive results.

Getting creative with professional services marketing

While many businesses in professional services understand that digital marketing is vital to success on so many levels, one area where we see some struggle is making campaign assets, and day-to-day content, stand out from the noise.

Many firms will post on social media with pure text posts, with copy that is dry and very much ‘broadcast’ in nature. Blogs will be either very short or extremely dense, and often lack the kind of structuring that helps increase engagement online (including use of imagery and compelling headlines). There’s no reason why digital marketing for professional services firms can’t be creative and engaging.

We’ve worked with clients in law, accountancy and other professional services to create a variety of editorial illustrations, infographics, and other rich media that tells a story. The results have always been exciting and engagement and traffic sees positive increases.

If you need help with professional services marketing to further improve your online search and content performance then get in touch today to see how we can help you.

The art and design blog Booooooom ran a blog that highlighted the attempts of 156 people to reproduce the logos for 10 famous brands from memory. Have a look at the results for a bit of a chuckle. I cast no aspersions on the drawing skill of the individuals, because as a copywriter my drawing skills are less than stellar. In fact you’d be hard pressed to discern the “scamps” and thumbnails I hand to my long suffering creative partner Ed from the drawings my kids produce. But what the blog did get me thinking about is this: what actually is good logo design?
Memorable logos are an important part of branding, and whenever I’m working on creating a new brand I always love seeing the logo come together. Logo design takes a lot of skill, and I get excited when designers bring in elements of the brand I’ve been creating into the logo, making subtle references to the brand values (or other aspects) in the design. To me that’s good logo design, because it makes a brand feel cohesive, even if people don’t initially notice it. Of course your logo doesn’t need to have hidden meanings and references to be strong and memorable, it’s just a nice touch.

So what is good logo design?

I’m not a designer, but I can tell you that a good logo must fulfil its function: be easily identifiable, strongly associated with your business, and able to elicit a positive response related to your brand – a bit like a bell ringing for Pavlov’s dogs. It’s a sort of visual shorthand and preps people for an experience.
To me a strong logo isn’t necessarily the most beautiful one, nor is it the one with design intricacies that make people go “oooooh”. A good logo can have this for sure, and the very best often do, but what matters is does it stick in the brain? And for that to happen you don’t need it to be something that could hang in the Louvre. In fact I would argue that what makes for memorable logos is more a case of simplicity, exposure and repetition, as well as the cognitive association you make between the logo, the brand, and the feeling you have about the company’s products or services.
A better test of good logo design is do people recognise it when they see it? And even more, can they tell a logo when it is reduced to its smallest discrete component or a portion of it? Draw a curvy, yellow ‘M’. Ask someone next to you what it is. 99 out of 100 will give you the answer you want (the other one will tell you it’s the letter M, either to be awkward or because they are thinking back wistfully to a Sesame Street episode).
The fact that I can’t draw on command a decent approximation of the Starbuck’s logo tells you more about my drawing skills and the unreliability of human memory than the power of the logo. If I see the logo I know exactly which brand it is for, and I could probably tell you based on seeing a small section of it.
What I also found interesting was the amount of old logos that were produced in the study. Is the logo we first associate with a brand always given primacy in our minds? Nostalgia is a powerful beast. Quite a few people drew Apple’s old multi-coloured apple logo (and this happened with other brands too), and no matter what I do that is the logo I always see in my head when I think of Apple. Perhaps this is why major logo overhauls often jar with the public, it rattles our sense of familiarity.

Memorable logo design isn’t easy

Logos sometimes come like a bolt from the blue, and in my experience it’s not uncommon for the designer’s first or second draft to end up being the basis for the final design, often with minimal changes. However memorable logo design takes real skill, especially because it can often be all too easy to make things complicated and flashy.
Don’t get hung up on whether people could draw your logo; when do they ever have to do that? Instead think does it represent your brand, and will people easily associate it with your business? Because those are the keys to good logo design.
If you need help with branding, including logo design, then you can find out more about our branding and content services here, or get in touch with us today to find out about our branding services.

Creating a brand identity

So far in this series of articles we’ve had a top level look at what goes in to making a brand, and we’ve looked in a little more depth at the branding workshop. In this article we’ll look at what goes into creating a brand identity. For the purposes of this blog I’m defining brand identity as the discrete components that make your brand stand out from its competitors.
We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s roll out.

Deciding the core values

I’ve talked at length about brand values, and how important I think they are, in another article and I’ll continue to stress the critical role they play in creating a brand identity. To steal a musical analogy they are the riff or motif on which you build the rest of your song. A memorable and unique riff is the bedrock of a song that connects with people, that burrows down into their subconscious. A predictable riff is destined to be forgotten.
And much like musicians we have a largely limited palette with which to work, there are really only so many values or attributes you can use for a brand, but it’s the choice and application that matters.
It’s important to separate core values from the rest, and we spend quite a bit of time in our workshops getting stakeholders to do just that. At first they’ll have to select the values or attributes that they think define the brand. Then together they’ll compare their lists and have the opportunity to discuss and defend their choices.
After this initial stage, where there can be some alignment and often some disagreement (which is always good as it gets people thinking in depth to rationalise their choices), we move to categorisation.
I follow branding expert Paul Hitchens’ approach, which is to sort values into the following:

  • Core values – These are the values that are integral to your brand, that capture its essence, and if they were changed would alter the nature of your brand.
  • Aspirational values – The values we want the brand to have, but perhaps we don’t manage to always deliver them. It can be very easy for stakeholders to put aspirational values into core values. This has to be challenged because it can lead to a brand promise that doesn’t stand up.
  • Accidental values – This covers the sorts of values and attributes that your brand has by its very nature. You’re setting up a design agency, and choose creative as a value. All well and good, but you can’t help but be creative given you’re a team of designers and illustrators.
  • Expected values – The values/attributes we expect of pretty much any business. Words such as professional, transparent and so on end up here. Now, these words don’t have to be expected. After all if you’re operating in an industry not known for its transparency then this could be a core value, but you must think very hard about this. Are lots of other businesses also touting their ‘transparency’ in your sector? Well then it’s just more of the same. However, is your business doing something more to be transparent? Like allowing clients access to information via a technology platform 24/7? If so then maybe you can shift transparency into a core value.

By sorting your values into these categories you can begin to form a foundation for creating a brand identity, and on which your future marketing activity can be based. The emphasis should always be on your core values and aspirational values.

Crafting the brand personality

When the values are in place the next stage is the brand personality. The personality will have many influences.
For small businesses a lot of the personality comes from the owners and the staff, because they are often so heavily invested in the business and also because small business owners often hire people who reflect their own values, desires and drive. Larger businesses may have a personality that has emerged and changed over time, or has some heritage element from earlier in the brand’s history. Or it may have none at all.
The sector the brand operates in, and its competitors, will also have an influence. A professional services brand shouldn’t be jovial, though this doesn’t mean they have to be dry and dull. Looking closely at competitors also means you can chart a different course to make the brand stand out.
A brand personality should feel aligned with the brand values of course, in much the same way we would expect a person’s values to inform their behaviour and personality. It’s often possible to infer an individual’s value set from the way they talk, the things they talk about, and the way they act. It should be similar for a brand, but you’re engineering this as opposed to it being an organic process that takes years.

The brand persona

A useful exercise we get clients to do it to pick a brand persona. We don’t explicitly tell them that this is what they are doing, but we get them to look through a series of images of people and choose the one who best reflects their brand.
Once we have a generic brand persona in place, a sort of archetype that relates to other existing brands and their behaviours, we have a starting point for creating a more detailed brand persona. Often this is realised in a mood board that captures the essence of the brand and a bit of inspirational copy, a bit like a brand manifesto that is written as if the brand is a person.
With all of this in place we can then look at fashioning the mission, vision and positioning statements to reflect the aims of the business and the brand personality. It goes without saying that the brand personality informs the tone of voice massively.

Building the brand identity

The last stage of creating a brand identity is crafting the customer facing elements of the branding. This includes:

  • Name (if not already existing)
  • Strapline
  • Word mark and logo mark
  • Primary brand colours
  • Extended brand colour palette
  • Imagery guidelines
  • Tone of voice

It’s not possible for me to talk in detail about what happens here because so much creative work goes into these elements, but each of these components of the brand all stem from the work done earlier. It should be possible to trace each one back to the brand values and to the information yielded by the workshop, and this should give the brand identity a cohesiveness and logic, even if at first it isn’t apparent.
That’s pretty much what goes into creating a brand identity, in a distilled form. Once everything is refined and agreed on then we create your brand bible, a guidebook that contains all the elements of your brand, how to use them and what not to do. This, along with all the agreed collateral for the project, is the tangible output from the project, and is vital for future success because it is at the heart of keeping the brand consistent.
So those are the steps, but much like riding a bike you can know the individual stages in your head but to ride the bike takes practice. So if you don’t fancy all the grazed knees give us a call and we’ll help you create the brand you’ve got in your head.
If you’re interested in creating a brand identity then check out our content marketing services and get in touch with us today to see how we can help.

When it comes to your search performance there are a lot of factors to consider: is your content high quality with relevancy to the user’s search? Have you got all your technical SEO in order? Is the page tagged up semantically, and easy to navigate and understand? The list goes on. But have you considered whether brand awareness also has an effect?
As Google and the other search engines strive to deliver the most relevant and useful content to their customers, surely at some point in the future how much your brand is talked about, and in what way, could play a part in the overall ranking factor (even if only a small element of the analysis)?
If this seems far-fetched or nonsensical then consider a patent that Google put forward where they detail what constitutes a link:
Google Patent March 24, 2014
“A link for a group of resources is an incoming link to a resource in the group, i.e., a link having a resource in the group as its target. Links for the group can include express links, implied links, or both. An express link, e.g., a hyperlink, is a link that is included in a source resource that a user can follow to navigate to a target resource. An implied link is a reference to a target resource, e.g., a citation to the target resource, which is included in a source resource but is not an express link to the target resource. Thus, a resource in the group can be the target of an implied link without a user being able to navigate to the resource by following the implied link.”
So Google has two versions of a link:

  • Express link – a full-fat hyperlink
  • Implied link – a reference to a target resource, but one that is non-navigable

We know for sure that a legit hyperlink pointing to your site/page from a respected source helps improve rankings. But what about these implied links? Will they also play a part? I think yes and here’s why I reckon brand awareness/mentions could play a part in search rankings in the future.

Do people trust your brand?

We know that Google takes a long hard look at bounce rates to sort rankings. The logic being (rightly) that if a user lands on a page from a specific search but bounces off quickly then the content is probably not useful for someone using that search.
Could Google do the same surrounding brand mentions and sentiment? If Google can see through implied links and other factors that your brand has a lot of negative sentiment, or for a specific service or product you offer, then would they push you down the rankings so that customers find a brand that performs better (with the idea being that the positive brand better serves customer needs)? More importantly would they be right to?
Should Google be deciding whether a brand gets seen based on what people think about it? And what implications could that have for online “witch hunts” where people mobilise against a brand for a particular reason? After all maybe a vocal and active minority of people dislike a brand, that’s fair enough and they can voice their opinion. But should that brand’s search performance suffer because the majority of people who have had favourable interactions don’t go to the effort of giving positive sentiment online?
These kinds of issues could come into play if brand awareness and online sentiment begin to be factored into search rankings.

Brand mentions and local SEO performance

Google definitely looks at non-linking brand citations when working out local SEO results. Name, address, and phone number information (NAP) is taken from your site and Google uses the NAP data to serve up your business if someone searches for something like ‘burger bar in Exeter’.
Having accessible and correct NAP information definitely helps with local SEO results, but Google also reinforces this by cross-referencing any local citations found. So your level of brand awareness and brand mentions on a local scale can really help this kind of search performance.
But does it go further than this?
If there are several other burger bars in your area, but Google can see a lot of brand mentions on other local sites (implied links only) will they drive you up the rankings? It would make sense for that to be the case, but then what if most of these were negative brand mentions? You can see things starting to get sticky quickly.

The power of social media in brand awareness

It’s also worth considering just how much activity goes on through social media these days. More and more people interact with brands directly, or indirectly, via social media. When they like a post, follow an account, share some content, or post directly to a brand or @mention them, a user is signalling their awareness of the brand, and potentially whether they approve or disapprove of the brand too (as we covered when looking at brand sentiment earlier).
The number of people who have active social media accounts must outweigh, by quite some margin, the number of people who run active, quality blogs that can provide express links to your site. So it follows that as the way in which we interact with brands shifts into social then brand interactions, mentions and sentiment on social might come into frame for ranking.

Build your brand authority now

Personally I believe that brand mentions, sentiment and awareness will begin to have an impact on search rankings, and that it will only increase in importance over time. However, even if it doesn’t (or its impact is kept small in the grand scheme of things) it’s still important to focus on building brand authority.
How many times have you been in the supermarket and chosen a brand name, one you’re aware of and feel positive about, over an alternative brand or a supermarket own-brand? Brand recognition has a major part to play in driving sales and growth.
Bringing the analogy back to SEO and SERPs: you do a search for a product you’re after. The second result is for a brand you know and like, the first result is for a brand you’ve never heard of, or don’t have any connection with. Which one would you click?
Want to know how we can help you with your search performance? Contact us today to tell us your needs.