Roll out! Roll out! Let’s get this brand on the road.

Roll out! Roll out! Let’s get this brand on the road.

How to create a Brand Manual

So we’ve successfully commissioned and completed our brand project and we’ve got a shiny new brand identity sitting on the tarmac ready to take off.

What happens next will determine whether all the blood, sweat, and tears at the design stage will actually pay dividends or not. 

The last thing that anyone wants is to have an amazing brand that is either applied inconsistently or hidden in a cupboard. This stage of the brand process is commonly called the Roll-out and is probably the most important stage in the process.

To help smooth the path of the Roll-out, welcome to your new best friend – the Brand Manual.

What is a Brand Manual?

The Brand Manual is the handbook that should be supplied when every new brand is taken out of its cardboard box. Look on it as an instruction booklet which explains the thinking behind the design of the new brand, the technical specifications of the design, and appropriate guidance as to how the brand should be applied to all the collateral that a company uses on which their brand appears. 

So let’s take them one at a time. A new brand should speak for itself in terms of its ability to communicate an idea or theme. However, the Brand manual will probably show the old brand and give a brief synopsis as to the thinking behind the redesign. It’s also an opportunity to explain the less obvious elements that aren’t immediately obvious to the casual viewer.

A Great Example

One of the best examples is the FedEx logo and the directional arrow in the negative space between the e and x. Believe it or not a large percentage of people just don’t see it.

Next comes, the “tech spec”. Designers are a pretty precious bunch when it comes to their creations and rightly so. Consequently, they want to make absolutely sure that the brand is faithfully reproduced when a third party, which could include suppliers of printing, signage, vehicle livery, promotional goods and a host of others get hold of it. 

Advice on the appropriate resolution of image, colour specifications, safe areas and formats, should be provided to ensure that when reproduced, the design looks exactly the same as it did when it was first presented to the client.

Finally, the manual will also show examples of how the brand applies to a representative range of items that the company plans to produce. This will differ in each instance but typically the brand will be shown on stationery, signage, vehicle livery and clothing. It will also give the designer the opportunity to recommend size, positioning, background colours and additional design elements.

Many Brand Manuals don’t stop there. It’s not uncommon, especially in larger companies, for the Brand Manual to extend to other aspects not directly related to the logo itself such as style of communication, tone of voice, imagery etc. However, unless you’re Google or Amazon it’s probably best to keep it succinct.

Show the world

So we’re now armed with our Brand Manual and are prepared to inflict bodily harm on anyone who doesn’t follow its guidance to the letter. How and when do we share it with the world?

There are two schools of thought –  the “Hard Launch” or the “Soft Launch”.

Going hard means that a date is set for the launch and thereafter the old brand is completely replaced with the new version. Stocks of anything with the old brand on it are disposed of and new stock is ready to go on the date of the launch. It’s “out with the old and in with the new” in one fell swoop.

This approach can prove to be quite expensive and possibly environmentally unfriendly if, for example, large stocks of brochures, stationery and other printed material need to be disposed of. The advantage is that clarity, decisiveness and a feeling of positivity can be strategically used to influence how staff feel about the new brand and the company in general. Everyone likes to work for a company that is dynamic and single-minded in its vision.

The soft launch takes the foot off the throttle. A date can be set for the brand launch but the new identity is introduced much more gradually. So when stocks of printed material run out they are replaced with new branding. When finances allow, new signage is applied and vehicle livery changed. Inevitably there will be a changeover period where the old brand may coexist with the new until it is eventually replaced.

The downside to this approach is that it may portray the company as indecisive, conservative, and a bit less dynamic. There are really no rights or wrongs and much will depend on how determined the owners or managers are to implement the new brand and whether finances are available to speed the change.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, it’s always a good idea to keep your staff onside with what’s happening. Getting their “buy-in “ can often determine the successful roll-out of the brand. Including them in research sessions at the design stage, asking opinions, and explaining in detail the logic behind the process will all help to make them feel invested in the new brand. When staff feel proud and enthused about the image of their company that positivity will be apparent to customers.

A successful Brand Identity design and Roll-out project should result in a company feeling better about itself, looking better to its customers, and poised to capitalise on these feelings of progressiveness, dynamism and aspiration in its marketplace.

Top 7 Coact Tips

Top 7 Coact Tips

Coact is a great reporting tool but does need some finesse to use well. We’ve put together seven top tips to help you get started creating easy to understand reports.

  1. Automatically updating reports

One great thing about Coact reports is the fact that, since they are connected directly to data sources, they constantly update as new data comes in. This means that your reports no longer need to be presented as static data. This prevent

s you having to build them every month and can instead send an online link that constantly updates with new information allowing you to pretty much set it and forget it.

  1. Different ways to display data

Data in Coact can be presented in four different ways that each fit specific purposes:

  • Simple numbers showing an increase or decrease compared to the previous date range.
  • Tables that show the value of different metrics.
  • Graphs that visually display data over time.
  • Pie charts that display the breakdown of different shares of a data set

Knowing when to use each of these methods can make your reports a lot easier to understand and also a lot more impactful.

  1. PDF Page Breaks

This one isn’t as obvious but it’s still incredibly important. When exporting reports to PDFs from Coact you have to make sure your page breaks are in the correct place and aren’t ruining your layout. You can tell where the PDF page break is going to be by a small arrow on the left hand side of the page.

  1. Tabs

Along the top of your reports you can see the tabs menu. Using this allows you to separate different sections of your data into totally different pages. This is useful if you want to make your reports more organised and easier to read, since all data of one kind can be found in the same place.

We use this to separate traffic and SEO data into their own tabs which means everyone can find what they are looking for.

  1. Don’t get too technical

As the one making the report, chances are you have a decent knowledge of what each and every metric means. However it’s likely the client you’re sending the report to doesn’t have this same level of knowledge so you need to be careful not to get too technical.

One good thing to include to keep things simple are a lot of visual graphs. Everyone understands graphs going upwards – generally – means growth and increases over time so including a lot of these will go a long way towards making your reports nice and easy to understand.

Another great thing to do is add a text box underneath all of your data to explain what it means. This works better on PDF exports since your explanation will match the data at the time you write it and may not make as much sense in a month once more data comes through.

Sometimes SEO and technical data can be a bit tricky to understand so adding both of these will make your reports much easier to read and understand for a client who may not be as well versed as you are. 

  1. Remove useless or irrelevant information

A lot of tables you pull from your data sources come with far too many metrics which can make them very difficult to read and require a lot of scrolling. For some people, the more data the better and for others it’s important to get to the point as quickly as possible with excess data just not relevant. Removing a lot of these pieces of data will focus your reports and make them much easier to understand.

7. Scale your blocks appropriately

In Coact you can change the size of every block you drop into your reports meaning every single piece of content is completely customisable. While it’s always good to fill the page and be large enough to read, it’s important not to make them too large so they look spread out.

If your table only has a couple of columns then keep the size small to avoid this. If you have columns that fill the whole page then by all means stretch them the whole way out.

With these tips you’ll be able to create better reports that are easier to understand and also easier to create. Coact is a great tool we’ve been enjoying and we think that more people should be making use of it in the industry.

How we use Flexible Working

How we use Flexible Working

Here at Brand Ambition we are very lucky to be able to employ a flexible working arrangement and we thought we’d tell you why we do it and how it benefits us both as a business and employees.

Now the exact arrangements of flexible working differ per business but, for us, we make it simple. We each work 37.5 hours per week, normally spread out between 5 days and we all work the core business hours of 10AM while 3PM. When we start and finish work each day is down to each team member and this allows us to take control and work when it best suits our lives and daily routines. Since we also work both from home and in the office, we can make use of this in both scenarios. 

We also factor this in when planning internal meetings. Since we work on a sprint based system, we meet every morning to discuss what each of us are doing that day. This normally takes place at 9:30 but can always be pushed back if some members cannot attend. For example, the recent Euros had some team members tired the next day from all the ‘excitement’. 

On the following days the sprint meetings were pushed back an hour to allow team members to recover and continue to work without the hindrance of ‘excitement’ hanging over them.

Employee Benefits

Our five team members have given a little insight of what flexibility means to them and how exactly they make use of it. 

Myles

I’ve utilised the flexibility in the past to give lifts to family members for doctors appointments or to work when they are unable to walk or drive themselves. This has allowed me and my family to have a lot less worry and stress regarding how to get places if it is in the middle of a work day.

I also enjoy starting earlier in the day especially when in the office as it means I get more time after work to myself which is so important for avoiding burnout, but it also allows me to catch an earlier train and avoid the major rush hour and the crowds that come with it which is even more important to me in the current Covid world.

Sam

As a business owner, you naturally work weird hours. I’m always thinking about the business and sometimes that is followed by a burst of inspiration outside of normal operating hours. But it’s the not having to feel guilty when I exchange that time for a longer lunch one day that I love about it. 

I find that I’m most productive early in the morning from around 8am and in the afternoon around 3pm onwards, so flexible working in my normal day, gives me the opportunity to do my best work at my peak times. Outside of that, I’m able to spend time with my family and not feel guilty about it. 

It’s the little things, like not worrying about going to the dentist, or having the odd morning off to take my son for a haircut or even getting the time back that is worked over the weekend.

Robin

Some mornings I wake up and think that there’s really no point in carrying on. Flexible working means that I can postpone the soul crushing inevitability of another dark day for a couple of hours until the Prozac kicks in.

On a brighter note, I also like to get to the supermarket first thing, usually on a Monday or Tuesday, for the weekly shop. Getting in and out early means I can avoid the crowds and there are fewer of the “wear your mask over your mouth and not your nose” brigade. 

It also means that I get first dibs on the yellow labels in the end of aisle reduced price items. Let’s face it who can say no to a Tesco prawn sandwich that’s just a day past its sell-by for only 89p? Or a big piece of Wensleydale with jalapeño peppers. It tastes like boke but for only 28p it’s worth forcing it down.

I usually get back to the grind about 10.30 well before lunch time so I can get a few productive hours in before enjoying my mouldy sandwich. It’s also good to know that I can stop an hour early and make it up the next day on the odd occasion that I come down with salmonella.

Pete

Before joining Brand Ambition, flexible working was something I’d only really seen others do in practice – mainly colleagues of mine that are parents having days working at home, finishing early or coming in late based around childcare. 

It’s not something that I’d ever really considered, but it’s been so helpful. I try to get to the gym a few times a week after work so having that flexibility to start early and finish early to beat the post-work rush is great, it means I can work out in relative peace and quiet! 

Away from exercise, the ability to work around a schedule, especially close to a weekend means a lot. Recently, I’d not seen my parents in a while and they came up to stay one weekend so finishing early and making the time up the next week meant I could get quality time in with them. It shows a real element of trust from the business that we’ll get on with the work and do what we need to do. 

Dylan

Working with flexible hours is something that I am really grateful and appreciative of at Brand Ambition. I have made use of this a few times already! 

Most weeks I play football, and in the summer I have cricket nets, so having the option to start a little bit earlier and shift the time I finish is really helpful when I have to travel somewhere. I was also able to give my friend a lift to pick up a new car last week from Bradford, which I wouldn’t have been able to do if there was a rigid day structure. 

During the Euros, flexible working was extremely useful, especially after England had a late-night victory on a Wednesday night where I made use of an extra hour in the morning before getting to my desk! 

Business Benefits

While the company is only receiving the same number of hours from employees using flexitime as it would using a more standard daily schedule, the quality of those working hours is much increased. Allowing employees to start when they like allows them to begin working when they are ready to work free from distraction or other responsibilities.

There are many times in life when something has to take priority over work and you have no choice but to take a morning or afternoon off to deal with it. This can be anything from taking children to school in the morning to leaving a little early in the afternoon to leave for a holiday. Flexitime allows us to complete these tasks and work when we are free from other responsibilities.

We believe that this creates a relationship between employees and the business where there is mutual respect. Each employee respects the business to put in at least the required hours, if not more and the business respects that employees have lives outside of work and that sometimes we can’t all adhere to a rigid schedule.

As well as this there are several studies that suggest flexitime increases employee retention, productivity and engagement. All of these things are surefire ways to save money and increase your income which is a win for everyone.

Starting a New Job Remotely

Starting a New Job Remotely

We recently welcomed two new additions to the Brand Ambition team – Myles Doncaster (left) and Dylan Comyn (right). Here we get to know the pair a bit better and find out about their first two weeks at Brand Ambition, highlights so far and what they’ve learned about starting a new role remotely, all during a global pandemic.

Hi Myles and Dylan! How have you found your first two weeks with Brand Ambition? 

Myles Doncaster (MD): It’s been pretty great as far as first weeks as new jobs go. Meeting all the team on day one was good and everyone has been so friendly and welcoming. We’ve mostly been getting used to how Brand Ambition works and learning about the clients we’ll be working with. 

I’ve also already learnt a lot that’s going to help me fulfil my role to a higher standard which is great for building my skill set.

Dylan Comyn (DC): The first two weeks have been really enjoyable for me so far. It was nice to be eased in gently with good training on the first couple of days. 

It was also nice to start on the same day as Myles as he is in the same position as me getting used to how the company operates. What is good is that no two days have been the same so far, and I have been exposed to different aspects of the business. 

What’s been a highlight of your time with us so far? 

DC: I think the thing that has been really exciting for me is learning a little more about the company’s background and ambitions. Myles and I have started at the Brand Ambition at a really exciting time, and I am looking forward to helping the company to grow.

MD: I think how organised everything is. The first day was packed with mini-training sessions and meetings to get us settled in and there wasn’t really a moment to sit around. It really made the day fly by! This has continued into the day to day. There is rarely a moment where I am sat wondering what to do which makes for more efficient working and much more fulfilling days.

This isn’t the new Brand Ambition corporate uniform…honest.

How have you found being mostly remote? 

MD: I’ve had some brief experience working from home but never this amount so it is something that takes some getting used to. I think that organisation I mentioned earlier does really help. 

We use something called ClickUp that helps keep track of tasks so if I’m ever unsure what to do then I can check there and normally find plenty to be getting on with. I think overall I quite enjoy remote working since it does save me a lot of commuting time but I can see it being quite lonely so I appreciate our odd days in the office.

DC: For the most part, I have found working remotely has brought both pros and cons. It is great in terms of no commute or having to prepare lunches for the next day, which has made everything feel a lot more convenient. The team is also extremely helpful in terms of support. I know that if I have any questions or issues that I encounter I can quickly and easily contact them through instant messaging or video calling. 

However, we did spend a few days in the office face to face, and it is a lot easier to quickly ask someone a question or to get feedback which is something that takes a bit longer when remote. 

What is the main thing that you miss from being in an office?

MD: Just communication with other people. As much as I enjoy not speaking to anyone outside of my household it is nice to sometimes get out and see some other people

DC: The main thing that I miss from being in the office is just having any direct human contact at work. I am quite a social person and enjoy getting to know people, and although you can still reach out and speak to people on Zoom it just isn’t the same.

What’s a lesson you’ve learnt from starting a job remotely? 

DC: Whilst it is nice to have someone talk you through every aspect of the business piece by piece, one thing that working remotely does give you is a bit more freedom to work things out for yourself in a way. 

Using shared drives and other training documents, I have found that you can spend a little bit more time trying to understand the processes and the way the company operates, which I have found has given me extra confidence and reassurance.  

MD: Motivation has to come from within even more when working remotely. When you’re in the office you’re automatically in work mode but at home you have to mentally train yourself to get in and out of work mode at the drop of a hat. It’s an adjustment but good organisation really does help.

Any advice for anyone starting a new role remotely? 

MD: No question is too small for an email. I’ve sometimes felt like asking something in an email is a waste of time and makes coworkers feel like I’m pestering them. The truth is that everyone is more than happy to help so ask as many questions as you can that’ll help you get moving.

DC: The one piece of advice that I would probably give is to just fully invest in the role and try and learn as much as you can in the first few weeks. Working from home might make you feel a bit apprehensive and cautious, but you are not expected to get everything right straight away, and if you do make mistakes, or when you get any feedback you will instantly learn from them. 

Any good work from home tips that you can share? 

DC: One thing that I have tried to keep consistent when working from home in my last role and in this one is creating a workspace that removes all distractions from my eye line. 

I have recently moved to a new flat, and one of the first things I decided when I moved in was where my desk would be. I have made sure that this area is spacious and comfortable, so it is somewhere where I feel relaxed and able to focus.

MD: Comfort is key. Make sure you have somewhere comfortable to sit and work. Your back will thank you later. The dining room chairs quickly start to show their flaws when you’re sat there for 8 hours a day.

 

Why some of the best PR that you can do is your own.

Why some of the best PR that you can do is your own.

April is here and as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer it feels like for the first time in a long time, the world is starting to finally move forward again. 

This spring feels like a big one and not just because of the previously mentioned longer and warmer days, there is a real positivity that genuinely hasn’t been felt for close to a year. 

Like most people, I’ve been reflecting on the last 12 months. The impact that Covid has had, not just on me personally but the industry we work in and how it has changed. 

Yes, there have been some pretty major shifts in working – all of which we are VERY aware of by now so I won’t go into them in much detail here. However in some instances, certain things really haven’t changed at all. 

For me, the one thing that has stayed the same during this whole Covid-wrecked year, is that the best PR that you can do, whether it’s for you personally or your business, is your own. 

By that, I don’t mean having flashy social media accounts that boast about what you’ve been up to or the car that you’re driving etc. What I mean is, what are you like as a person? How are you to work with? What would people say about you if you’re not there? And can you deliver on what you say you’re good at?

The reason I think this is just as vitally important now, perhaps more than ever, is that one of the major shifts we’ve seen over the last year is the number of people that are setting up businesses on their own.

Whether it is due to redundancy, a change in circumstance or just wanting to go in a different direction, a quick look across LinkedIn shows just how many people are going it alone or in pairs. 

Brand Ambition was formed by Sam and Robin during this last year, and I’ve seen first-hand just how important a person’s personal brand actually is when it comes to setting up your own business a success. 

Sam is an extremely popular person in the digital marketing industry across Leeds and the rest of West Yorkshire. Robin has a great reputation across design, advertising and branding in Northern Ireland and further afield. 

We recently went out with a press release that covered the launch Brand Ambition, the first six months of the business and the success. The response has been brilliant. That doesn’t happen purely because of our USP of helping SMEs. It’s because Sam and Robin have spent time doing their own good PR by building solid reputations for years. 

A quick look across the marketing industry as a whole and you’ll see plenty of businesses and freelancers that are successful for that exact reason too. I can name a few off the top of my head without even thinking about it. I could also name a few, both people and organisations, that have got shocking reputations too. 

It’s all well and good going into an interview or a new business pitch saying that you’ll deliver X ROI or will generate Y amount of coverage or will earn Z links. What matters is how you act in between. It’s all well and good doing the work, but if you’re a bit of a dick? You’re probably not going to be at that business very long or have your retainer renewed. 

We’re entering a world where there are more choices than ever before for brands to choose from when they’re looking for marketing services. Empathy and kindness has been such a big takeaway from the last year, that I firmly believe that those businesses won’t just choose the biggest or cheapest agencies. 

More than ever, they’ll go with the ones that share their values and approaches. Alongside what you can deliver, they’ll want to know about how you act and how you are to work with. How can you demonstrate that? By doing the best bit of PR you can do – your own. 

Influencer Marketing is Dead. Long Live Influencer Marketing.

Influencer Marketing is Dead. Long Live Influencer Marketing.

The rise of influencers across the marketing and communications world has been a rapid one. In 2021, it’s safe to say that most consumer-facing brands and sectors have seen their impact.  

From Mrs Hinch and the world of cleaning, beauty and fashion, to sport and fitness and gaming  and so many more, it’s hard to think of an industry that hasn’t been touched by the rise of influencers. In a slightly meta moment, even the marketing industry has its own influencers, who advise on, well, influencers. 

It seemed for a time that there would be little to stop the popularity of influencers and their use within campaigns. However 2021 and lockdown 3.0 seemed to have other ideas. 

In early January we were back into lockdown and most of us were looking towards another extended period of time spent at home, lucky to even head to the supermarket or for a takeaway coffee, whilst we enjoy a socially distanced walk. 

(In a side note, I started working for Brand Ambition in mid-January and still haven’t seen Sam our MD or Robin our Creative Director face to face yet, let alone any of our clients).  

Whilst people around the country came to terms with the fact that holidays were a long way away, there were however some that jetted off to various parts of the world including Dubai, Spain and more all doing work as ‘influencers’. 

With a lot more time on our hands, the Instagram posts, Snapchat stories, TikToks, and pictures of (generally) pretty young-things with drinks in-hand on a rooftop bar, lounging around the pool or on the beach, the vast majority of which featured a distinct lack of masks and social distancing seemed to erk us all. 

Rewind 12 months as we wouldn’t have thought twice, but given the year we’ve all had, the apparent disregard for lockdowns and the sacrifices made, not to mention the strain on the NHS and the heroic work done by key workers, it all hit a collective nerve. Let’s be honest though, an interview like this and it’s hard not to be annoyed. 

The following days and weeks brought about arguments and opinion pieces that the age of the influencers was over and that marketing managers, agencies and brands would have to look for another way of engaging with audiences. 

However, I’d disagree with that sentiment. I’d argue that now more than ever, influencers should be a key part of appropriate marketing strategies. 

Why? Because there are plenty of good ones out there. I can’t say I’ve ever watched a series of Love Island, but it’s hard not to be impressed with what Alex George (or Dr Alex if you prefer) has done. 

Instead of jetting off around the world and basking in the post-Love Island glow, he’s been back at work with the NHS, whilst encouraging people to look after their mental health. Plenty of people, including the Government have taken notice, as evidenced with his recent appointment. 

It’s not even those that are doing fantastic work for the NHS like Dr Alex. It’s those that are staying at home, doing the right thing and listening to the directions from the government and NHS and playing their part. 

What the whole incident in January did flag, was that more than ever vanity stats and numbers such as followers, likes and comments shouldn’t be a way of choosing if an influencer is right for your brand or for the company that you’re advising on their engagement strategy. 

Questions need to be asked. Things like: “Is this person a good fit?” “Do they have the right morals?” “Would we be surprised by a post from them in a couple of weeks time?” “Are they someone that we’d be proud to have representing our brand?” “Are they generally not a bit of an arse?”

Depending on the answers to the above, then it really doesn’t matter what their social following is like. Take a hard pass and look a little harder. Do a bit more research. The person you’re looking for is out there, and the chances are, they won’t cause you a headache in six months time. 

The age of influencers is over? Not a chance. But our advice? Maybe think twice before you work with someone.