Sam Harrelson



Sam Harrelson

Mailchimp Rebrand

They’re based in Atlanta…

The email marketing company Mailchimp, which today is announcing a complete rebrand, could have easily given up the quirkiness that defined its branding as a young company the way many other giants have. Instead, with the help of branding agency Collins, Mailchimp is doubling down. It’s keeping its logo-cum-mascot Freddie the Chimp, for starters, and using an analog typeface from the 1920s as its new wordmark, and illustrating its new brand with a series of almost childlike drawings that look unpolished and rough by design. Weird branding is alive and well in Silicon Valley.

Source: Mailchimp rebrands as an anti-tech company

 




Owning your own platform is important, and valuable

I often get the question from clients of why I mostly recommend having your own website on WordPress or a self-hosted platform in the age of Facebook. As companies who built their businesses and traffic flow on the back of Facebook over the years have found out, that can be a very precarious decision. Audience and perceived impact are good, but long-term value is much better. Don’t cheap out and build your house on someone else’s property.

For instance, Medium is an interesting platform for bloggers and writers. We see everyone from politicians to celebrities to tech pundits using it as the place of record for their writings. While there is an audience there, or on Facebook, we’re already seeing Medium making changes to the way it handles its publishers in an attempt to figure out monetization (something which its founder Ev Williams knows about since he also founded Blogger and then went on to co-start Twitter… both of which faced their own monetization issues). This is going to be a constant and something you or your business or your non-profit should take notice of before you let your roots get too deep in a particular platform can change its EULA at any time.

Owen Williams writes the excellent Charged newsletter (you should subscribe) and makes this point about Medium, Facebook, and web presence in general that I highly agree with:

All of this is to say: Medium is great, but be wary! Owning your own platform is important, and valuable, even at this point in the internet’s maturity cycle. It’s a bit more work, but you are no longer at the mercy of the platform, a lesson we can learn from Facebook all too easily.

Source: #167: Medium.com feels like it’s forever. What if it isn’t?




Nonprofits, the smartphone, Facebook, and Google

Interesting thoughts here from the NY Times CEO on how they are shifting focus in relationship to Facebook and Google due to the smartphone revolution … much of this applies to how nonprofits and churches can do better marketing as well:

It’s about how you think about the product and what you’re trying to do and what is the value you’re giving to users. The areas of weakness in the publishing industry have been not having an audience strategy or sufficient brain space to think about how you serve your audience. It’s very easy to get tracked into assumptions about who your audience is. In legacy media, journalistic parameters were set by the geographical limitations. [The smartphone] changes everything. You need to reinvent journalism from the ground up with this device in mind, and then try and figure out what you’re going to do on a laptop and the physical newspaper.

via ‘Facebook is not transparent:’ NY Times CEO Mark Thompson says the platform’s role needs to be clearer – Digiday




Your logo and Instagram content

Good advice to consider here, particularly for nonprofits and churches on slimmer marketing budgets looking to make the most impact possible on social media…

What about content that doesn’t show a clear logo? What about companies with unbranded or non-logoed products? We’ve seen that a huge percentage of the content shared and posted on Pinterest is logo-free. It’s important to go beyond the logo to get the whole story of an image—how brand content is shared over time, who has shared that content and who has influence in getting it shared

via Brands Must Look Beyond the Logo to See the Big Picture – Adweek




What Does Your Brand Do?

Longevity and repetition are two of the hardest to use tools in a marketer’s toolbox, but also the most effective.

via Marketing at millennials won’t save your tired brand | The Drum

There are definitely some points in this post that I disagree with (importance of having a “famous” brand and working towards that being a goal for your organization for one), but this sentence did stick out to me as something that I need to emphasize with our clients more often.

We do lots of “strategic consulting” with non-profits and businesses that don’t necessarily have a large budget for branding considerations. It’s something that often gets overlooked in the process of thinking through a marketing plan. That can easily be seen by the poor quality of logos and branding material that most local or regional non-profits have. But these things can be done well on a tight budget.

As the economy has shifted and nonprofits (especially) are facing slimmer traditional sources of donations there, concepts such as “what does your logo tell people about your group, business or non-profit?” become valuable barometers for improvement whether you’re trying to sell a product or solicit a donation.

You don’t need to have a quality Nike swoosh or Apple apple or Coke wordmark to be successful, but thinking through what you’re presenting and what you’re trying to “do” with your logo, fonts, colors, and brand messaging can make a world of difference when done well.




Check Your Logo Against AI

 

Logo Rank is an AI system that understands logo design. It’s trained on a million+ logo images to give you tips and ideas. It can also be used to see if your designer took inspiration from stock icons.

via Logo Rank – Check your logo design with deep learning

Little more “machine learning” than “AI” but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Still, this is a pretty handy tool I’ll be using to convince a few clients that their logo might need an update.

Don’t get me started on church logos, btw…




The Importance of Getting Your Details Correct

 

My partner Merianna was preaching at a nearby church last month and she needed a time estimate for the drive that Sunday morning. We googled the church and got the address. While on the results page, I noticed their “Hours” stated they were closed. It was a Sunday. That felt… peculiar.

It wasn’t intentional, of course. It’s just a tiny detail that is easy to overlook. But when you only have, on average, about 3-5 seconds to “convert” someone to making a click or engaging with your page in some way, these tiny details add up.

We all like to pretend that we’re expert marketing strategists. We grimace at bad commercials, parse political campaign logos, and pretend to disregard those annoying Facebook video posts from mega-global sugar water makers. We tend to think we don’t need help with our marketing strategies, especially the online ones, because… anyone can create a Facebook Page or Twitter account or even website. It’s easy!

Right?

Well, yes.

But not really. Not if you want to spend your time doing what you’re good at and not making tiny mistakes that add up over time and actually do harm to your “brand” (and yes, we all have a brand whether we like to admit that or not). Seemingly trivial details such as having your Google Business information correct or your Webmaster settings correct for the best Google results or your Facebook Page details can be the deal breaker for someone deciding on whether to call or visit your business, church, nonprofit, etc.

Budget wisely, but keep in mind that doing so doesn’t mean cutting the corners by turning over your very important marketing details to a summer intern or someone who has a mobile phone and a Twitter account. Call us if you need help.




www.🍕💩.ws

linkmoji

Further confirming the notion that your website address really doesn’t matter that much anymore, I present linkmoji.

Enjoy.




Becoming Entreprenuerial In Your Profession

Earlier this year, my good friend Thomas (a PhD candidate and officiant of my marriage) wrote a very timely post about his decision to blog despite some who advised otherwise…

Why I Blog — Thomas J. Whitley: “Though many academics have resisted the move toward ‘branding,’ it has long been a part of academia. One’s credentials, what they’ve written, and where they’ve taught make up their brand and determine, to a large extent, who reads them, who assigns them, and who thinks of them for panel invitations and professional society nominations. Branding has only become more important with the ubiquity of information readily available on the internet.”

Whether you’re a teacher, preacher, business, nonprofit, politician, or insurance salesperson… you should blog.

“Giving away” your knowledge results in so many worthwhile returns.

Trust me.




Should You Use WordPress.com or Host Your Own WordPress Site?

I am often asked by Harrelson Agency clients and potential clients if they should use a WordPress.com site or have us build and host a WordPress site for them. Money is often a main concern, as you can pay $100 – 120 a year for a pretty solid WordPress.com site without much fuss. A hosted WordPress site can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars in building costs, and more for hosting and programming. As with anything, discuss the costs upfront with the agency or company building your site if you go the self-hosted route.

There are advantages to the “set it and forget it” style of a WordPress.com website financially, but there are also a few other variables to consider if you’re looking to have a serous presence on the web and translate that into bigger goals for your company. Remember, WordPress started off as a blogging platform. While you can manipulate a WordPress.com site into a more “professional” looking business or church or group site, it’s not always easy depending on your needs and skill level.

If you do self host, you can use custom / commercial themes, plus all other free themes that exist. You can modify, customize, or do anything that you’d like with your site. With WordPress hosting, you’re limited to a set of free themes that exist in the theme repository. Also, you can’t modify the CSS or other codes within the theme. If you’re looking to customize the site with scripts and customizations (as an author / speaker / consultant / business etc) it’s definitely advantageous to be on your own server. This includes everything from being able to do custom embeds of media to accepting payments to contact forms etc.

Simply put, there are (often mission-critical) things you can’t do with WordPress hosted sites that you can do with a self-hosted site.

Plugins are also a big deal, especially as the web matures. You can upload any free, paid, or custom plugin that you want with a hosted site. This allows you to really maximize WordPress’ potential as a content management system and expand that functionality. With a WordPress.com site, you’re not allowed to upload any free, paid, or custom plugins. Everything from search engine optimization (especially needed in 2015) to handling social media sharing to newsletter delivery to some really cool media handling plugins to how your site displays posts etc are covered. Here are a few popular plugins, but I have a standard 10-15 that I typically install on a new site and highly recommend for flexibility and security and making WordPress more than just a blogging platform.

Of course, spending $99 once a year is a nice idea and provides a sense of regular expense if you’re looking into a WordPress.com site with ads turned off and a custom domain (and a little extra storage). There is a higher initial cost for a WordPress hosted site (typically anywhere from $2,000 to $35,000 for most group, church or business sites depending on many variables). However, the cost of a self-hosted WordPress site over the span of a few years evens out and you get a much “nicer” custom experience that is built around your own brand. This also frees you up from being shackled to whatever changes WordPress.com might or might not make as it evolves as a commercial arm of the larger WordPress ecosystem, as we’ve seen just this week … although the changes are all very positive this time. I’ve never had a client want to go back to something like a hosted service after they realize the options available and how the site “pays for itself” over time.

Maintenance is a very big concern for security and speed reasons these days, or at least it should be an absolute top priority. That does require that you keep your site updated, have backups, keep SPAM controlled and keeping your site optimized. That’s something we do for clients, of course. WordPress.com frees you up from that worry or need for maintenance, so that’s a plus for that side of things. However, like everything else, it’s a tradeoff between convenience and the ability to make something truly “your own” in terms of appearance and functionality.

The biggest point I always make when comparing what we can do with what WordPress.com hosting offers is that I believe you really cannot maximize the potential of your site / blog / online presence / long term branding unless you have access to the additional functionality of plugins and the ability to maintain custom modifications (and get down to the nitty gritty code based level allowing for you to make the site look and act like you’d like for it to). Being able to take payments, offer audio / video / text media downloads etc are all big benefits of what we offer with a self-hosted site, but the biggest benefit is that it’s “your” site and belongs to you, whatever may come down the road.