The importance of specialised marketing and brand strategies for architects
Traditionally, architecture wasn't a sector that embraced bold marketing or branding strategies.
It was a sector that relied on word-of-mouth referrals and an existing reputation in certain circles.
The reasons for this could be that architecture services aren't immediately easy for the general public to grasp. Marketing an unclear concept can be a roadblock to both architects and marketers. A lack of understanding in both sectors may have limited how marketing and branding were historically handled.
This seems to be changing - which can only be good news for architects and architecture firms.
Architecture - such a visual sector - has much to gain from bold marketing and branding strategies.
‘Sometimes, the resulting confusion over what the end product offered by architecture studios actually is - a built object, a service, or a spatial experience - leads to ineffective branding and marketing strategies.’ - Anca Mitrache, 'Branding and Marketing, An Architect's Perspective.'
A brand strategy will inform every aspect of a business. From briefing clients to the company's visual identity, to communicating throughout a project, a cohesive brand strategy will maintain consistency at every level.
For architecture studios who want to branch out their client base, up-and-coming architects or for studios wanting to revitalize their services, branding and marketing is essential.
In the past, architects tended to market to other architects. That involved displaying their portfolio proudly, using technical jargon and attempting to appear as impressive as possible.
Where this sector may have been missing a trick is through clear and easy to understand branding.
Translate services into simple ideas
Simple branding could appeal to a wider prospective audience, and disrupt the market by translating specialist services into layman's terms. The market reach of this type of branding could be huge.
Clear brand values can be invaluable
Values offer insight into teh core essence of a brand. Having a rally clear ethos will make you're brand easy to understand, and easy to relate to. Simply put, values humanise teh services you offer.
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Specify and communicate detailed technical requirements, both written and verbally?
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If you have an excellent eye for detail, a technical understanding of website development principles and some project management training or experience then this could be the perfect next step for you.
To succeed you will have…
A Masters degree, and some training for digital project management
A good understanding of website technology
An ability to write technical specifications
A collaborative work ethic ensuring all stakeholders are kept informed where necessary
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An excellent communicator, both verbal and written
UX design is a term that you might begin to hear if you’re in the process of getting a new website.
But what does it mean? Really?
If you’re new to the web design and development process, it can be disorientating hearing lots of tech jargon.
As designers and developers, we can sometimes be guilty of ‘tech talk.' But we also really determined to explain things clearly and simply to our clients.
After all, Albert Einstein said it best: ‘If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough!
So we’re going to explore UX design here. And for starters, let’s unpack the acronym.
UX design stands for ‘user experience design.’
It’s a small term that covers a lot of ground.
UX design is the web design discipline of designing with the user in mind. UX design involves always thinking about user interaction and usability of a site.
A significant part of UX design is the research phase. This involves a study of your audience, your customers. A UX designer will want to know as much as possible about the users of your site. How old do they tend to be? Are they working professionals? Do they engage well with your current site?
UX design is something we have all experienced - without even knowing it. Everyone knows the feeling of being on a website where everything just sort of clicks. Information is easy to find. You can navigate around the site smoothly. You find what you were looking for straight away.
Of course, everyone has also experienced the opposite of UX design. A slow loading site with lots of pop-ups and a crowded layout that gives you a headache. We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve clicked away from a bad site within the first few seconds!
These are the kinds of sites that didn’t prioritise UX design. And they tend to have a high bounce rate and poor user satisfaction levels. This can have a huge impact on your google rankings - so it’s not something to brush off or take lightly.
UX design, or user experience design, covers a broad range of practices. It tends to include user research, wireframes, visual designs and prototypes. UX designers create concepts based around user journeys and flow - meaning how the user travels from one part of the site to the other.
Wireframes are like the skeleton of a website. They show the architecture of a site before colour, graphic and designs are added. This helps designers see how the site will function, and how the user will interact with it.
A UX designer's job is to see the online experience through the eyes of the user. They will identify any possible pain points. They can spot which pathway through the site feels clunky and can register which call to action engages them.
So where is UX design heading?
It seems like the future of UX design is heading towards more simple designs. Users tend to react the most favourably to easy-to-use sites with simple functions. Amazon’s one swipe buying process, for example, is UX design at its most simple and accessible.
We are expecting our tech to do more and more, and make our lives increasingly easier. UX design will have to do more for us, whilst seeming as simple and effortless as possible. No mean feat!
If you’re in the process of building a site and would like some advice on UX design, we’d be happy to chat. Or, if you already have a site but this your UX design needs improvements, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask for a bit of advice.
In the world of design, this is common knowledge. ‘Keep it simple’ is the mantra of many a graphic designer. Clean lines, minimalist shapes, stripped back visual identities - none of these concepts are new or groundbreaking.
But recently the approach of ‘keeping it simple’ has moved well beyond the logo.
Simplicity has become the key characteristic of disruptive brands.
Branding experts Siegel+Gale are so fascinated by the concept of simplicity that they research brands every year for their World's Simplest brand report. This report surveys more than 15,000 people across 9 countries and ranks 800 brands. It’s a definitive understanding of the success of the simple brand.
‘Keeping it simple’ appears to be the one factor all big industry disruptors have in common.
Simplicity not just in design, but approach - at every level. The most successful brands were those that prioritised easy-to-use experiences or fulfilled certain functions that simply made life easier.
64% of consumers are willing to pay more for simpler experiences
55% of consumers claim they’ll pay more for a brand that delivers a simpler experience
A stock portfolio of the simplest global brands outperforms the major indexes by 330 percent.
The top 10 world’s simplest brands were found to be:
“The top performers in our study operate in crowded, highly competitive marketplaces. That said, their ability to consistently deliver their brands with simple, compelling experiences sets them apart,” said David Srere, co-CEO and Chief Strategy Officer at Siegel+Gale.
“Companies will benefit greatly by keeping it simple for customers…or suffer the consequences.”
We can see the effectiveness of the simple approach in our day-to-day lives. The ‘one swipe’ purchase bar on my Amazon app can testify to that! The simplicity of Amazon’s buying process prioritises a lightning-quick customer experience - making it all too easy to contribute to Jeff Bezos’ sprawling empire.
We see a similar user experience with Netflix - ranked the no1 most simple and successful brand. Their original tagline ‘movie enjoyment made easy’ still stands true today.
Netflix’s automation recommendations are designed intuitively so the next big thing is quick and easy for us to find. How many of us had to scroll endlessly to find ‘Tiger King’? None of us. It was one day simply there. We didn't have to think twice about it.
Netflix - as do the other most successful brands - remain committed to smooth, easy user experiences, instant accessibility and global brand recognition.
It’s simplicity done perfectly.
As Manchester businesses, what can we learn from these disruptors?
Empathise with your customer. I mean, really empathise. Getting on exactly the right wave-length as your customer allows you to anticipate their pain-points and experience their user journey. What road bumps stand between them and a seamless experience?
Embrace tech. People love easy-to-use tech. Think McDonald's self-service screen. A few taps and you're done! Without having to scream your order at a spaced-out server.
Streamline your services. Netflix offers one thing, done well. Amazon offers many different services, but keeps things simple with intuitive e-commerce tech that doesn't overwhelm their customers.
We'd love to help you out with a rebrand. If you're after something timeless, simple and disruptive - let's discuss!
A strong brand needs to be more than just a flashy logo, or a well-chosen colour palette.
A strong brand is a brand whose values, culture and objectives are all aligned.
Branding is all about public perception - the knee-jerk reaction someone thinks when they see your name.
Brand identity is closely related to your visual identity. How do you present yourself?
If you haven’t updated your logo in years and it is beginning to age, you might want to consider how it showcases your brand.
If we think about your visual identity as clothing, then a sloppy logo and a tacky slogan are the equivalents of dressing your brand in nothing more than some faded hand-me-downs.
Not exactly likely to make a good first impression.
Your brand identity needs to go hand-in-hand with your values, your story and your culture. When everything is consistent, the strength of a brand really comes through.
The 10 steps that will establish your brand identity...
1. Know your values
Your brand values are your foundations. They should be guiding principles that will help define your brand to the rest of your team and to future clients. Your values are like your DNA, or your blueprint: they will determine every other decision you make.
A value could be ‘clear communication’ if your brand prides itself on the straightforward and direct way it shares information. The values you choose can be a combination of realistic and aspirational. Some values will be things you already pride yourself on. Others will be values to aim towards.
2. Create a customer persona
Knowing your customer inside and out is almost as important as establishing brand values. A customer persona is a profile of a typical customer of yours. This should be as detailed as you can possibly make it!
Think about the age and gender of your ‘average’ customer, their hobbies and family life. Think about their income, their pain points, what motivates them. By understanding your customer, you can understand how to best market to them.
3. Set ambitious but achievable goals
An aspect of establishing a clear brand identity is thinking about where you see your brand going. Your brand should have a trajectory. Everyone should be working toward the same goals.
Setting these goals will help you make important decisions, such as how to approach a marketing campaign, or what new logo to choose. Your goals should inform your brand personality and identity.
4. Consistency across all touchpoints, both on and offline
Part of a quality brand is strength. There is a reason Apple is such a juggernaut of a brand. Their brand identity is very firmly established. Their aesthetic doesn’t budge. Their marketing and messaging are consistent across the board.
Another good example is Lush. Lush is a global brand with a fiercely loyal customer base. Their brand identity is absolutely consistent, with a recognisably friendly company culture, cruelty-free values and a consistent ‘look’ in every single one of their stores across the globe.
5. Make sure your content marketing is ‘on brand’
Your content marketing is the voice of your brand. It is every email you send, every piece of social media you post and every piece of text on your website.
The content your brand distributes should have the same tone of voice and core message. This should always reflect your values. If one of your values is ‘warmth’ but your emails are consistently formal, your content marketing could be weakening your brand identity.
6. Establish a visual identity and colour palette
A large part of your brand identity is the visuals people associate with you. McDonalds instantly brings to mind that red and yellow, and those golden arches. Nike’s ‘swoosh’ is instantly recognisable.
Your visual identity is like the clothes of your company. You have to make sure you choose something that is a perfect fit and ‘on brand’ - after all, it will determine the first impression people have of you.
7. Develop brand guidelines
Brand guidelines are style guides that determine the aesthetic visual identity of your brand. They ensure consistency across the board. Brand guidelines are a huge part of cementing your brand identity.
Once you have official guidelines set in stone you can begin to distribute them across your entire team. This ensures everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and everyone is familiar with the essence of your brand.
8. Address and remarket the company culture
Your company culture is something that few businesses consciously think about. The culture of a company is all about how the team operates. For a strong brand identity, it is worth taking a long look at the culture of a company. Redefining the ‘essentials’ of how you work can help with your consistency across the board.
9. Get the team onboard
Your brand identity is all about your team and the individual personalities that make it up. It goes without saying that you have to have the right people.
If you have a clear brand identity you're more likely to get noticed by like-minded individuals. Include your brand guidelines in any job advertisement you send out to ensure you’re attracting the right people.
10. Work on a brand strategy to be used across the board
A strong brand is nothing without a strong strategy. Your strategy should cover how to boost your engagement, how to connect more with your target audience and how to nurture those leads and enquiries that you get.
Your brand strategy should focus on two core things: your brand and your customers. Working out how to get a connection, a relationship, between your brand and your customers is vital to your success.
Here at 22 Group, we're brand specialists. We can study your target audience, research your market and develop a bespoke strategy for your brand. Our designers are experts at crafting unique and impactful visual identities. We can write a compelling brand story for you and help you define your core values.
Image, symbol, language, name, design. All of these jigsaw pieces help make something recognisable and unique.
A brand is an identity, first and foremost.
Just like ranchers who branded cattle with their own recognisable mark to distinguish them from other herds, your brand is yours and yours alone - a unique trademark.
So, what makes a brand a brand?
Because there are brands, and then there are brands. The brands so huge they are recognised by young and old alike across all corners of the globe.
Their power moves beyond just a striking logo, or a well-chosen colour palette. Their power lies within their brand story, the associations of their brand - that unspoken public perception.
A successful brand, then, is one that is considered as a whole.
Here at 22, we don’t just want to create brands, we want to create identities and experiences.
The products we create move beyond just logos and designs. We believe a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which is why we take a holistic approach to our branding.
Our designers, developers, marketers and copywriters all work collaboratively at every stage of our process, resulting in a cohesive end-product that is consistent across the board.
Investing in your brand is investing in your future.
A quality brand won’t have to be rebranded for years to come. A timeless visual identity will find relevance across a span of audiences and contexts.
A true branding success is marked by something that lives beyond the person who created it. An immortal creation. Just as the name ‘Disney’ has moved well beyond the individual, so too does a successful brand.
Nowadays it's easy to think of a website as a product that can be created for a budget price.
Template website builders are everywhere. At the end of a quick Google search are millions of budget websites - you're a few taps away from getting yourself a website at a bargain price. What could be easier?
And surely, it makes good business sense?
A cheaper website is a shrewd investment, right? It saves a huge amount of money. It does the job. It at least gives you an online presence.
Unfortunately, the dangers of budget websites can be so far-reaching that they undermine any benefits from their initial low-cost.
At best, you'll have a cheap-looking, basic website that will do little in the way of generating leads or revenue.
At worst you could have a website that will actively drive users away from your brand, lower your Google rankings, and damage your reputation.
The pitfalls of budget websites are not always immediately obvious. The allure of the bargain price will appear to outweigh every other factor.
But some serious problems can occur with these cheap sites that can have sinister and extensive effects.
Here are some of the dangers of cost-cutting, budget websites…
You won't own your website or any of the content
With a template website builder, you'll often find that the company will own your site and all the data on it.
This means when it comes to making changes or updates to your site, you will have little creative freedom. Moreover, transferring your site's data can be a huge headache. Your data could be locked down, leaving you unable to access it, transfer it, or update it.
Template websites can be shut-down at any moment
A lot of budget website builders make their money from selling customers' personal details on to advertising companies. Due to this, these companies have a habit of shutting themselves down rapidly when they need to.
These faceless companies are under no legal obligation to inform users who have a website with them that they are shutting down. Your site could literally disappear at the drop of a hat, leaving you with an error notice instead of a homepage.
You could be locking down your data with an unknown company that can legally shut down their servers without acknowledging you, leaving you high and dry without a site or the data to transfer elsewhere.
You won't get support
If your template website has issues, who will be on hand to help you sort them out?
Often, companies who create cheap websites won’t offer on-going support, meaning when issues inevitably occur, you will get burned for it. This is how they are able to make their money.
Basic necessary services such as email accounts, image hosting and website transfer could cost you - and companies will often charge through the roof for them.
You'll get a slow site and low rankings
If you're using a budget template builder, chances are you'll be sharing a server with many others.
Additionally, your template website could have malignant or unnecessary code. These factors can really slow down a site and cause loading issues.
A slow loading site will cause huge issues for your Google rankings. If users bounce from your site, frustrated with their slow experience, Google will penalise you accordingly. In today’s age, users are ruthless. They are used to experiencing a good online experience and can tell instantly when their needs are not being met.
If you're not ranking well on Google, you're missing out on new inquiries, plain and simple. It can take extensive time and money to get your SEO back on the right track.
Cheap websites are hackable
Cheap template designs are often poorly coded, leading to security issues.
Owning a cheap website is the online version of leaving your shop door open all night.
Nowadays users are savvy enough to spot a cheap site and won't feel as secure leaving their details with you. if your website is hacked and goes offline, your credibility is seriously damaged.
In web development, it is really a case of you get what you put into it. If you want a better performing website, with a greater return on investment, it is worth spending more on it. When it comes to websites, you do get what you pay for.
Essentially, buying a cheap website could not only be a waste of time and money, but a poor business move. The damage that a bad website can bring about can take a substantial amount more money and time to put right.
Treating a website like an online brochure or a flyer can be a catastrophic oversight and one that is really outdated. The idea that a website should just ‘look the part’ is backward, to say the least.
A website can be your business' most significant commercial tool if created properly.
We can set up a website that won’t just sit dead in the water, but will actually begin working itself. Our optimised websites are designed to capture lead information for you and grow organically. Check out more here.
With the high-street an absolute no-go at the moment, your online presence is more important than ever before.
But it's easy to let issues pile up on your site that, over time, become harder to spot with an untrained eye.
Here at 22 Group, we're website experts and we can pinpoint the key areas where your website is falling short.
So, what things should I be looking for when optimizing my website? We’ve done the hard work for you...
Too many calls to action
A messy homepage, with too many calls to action, will confuse the eye. They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression and this is very true when it comes to your homepage. Too many options will be overwhelming, leading to a disappointing user experience that won't convert.
A responsive site - how important is it really? To put it simply - very. With mobile internet browsers surpassing desktop users, ensuring your site works just as smoothly on mobile is essential. If the content is reduced when you access the site via mobile, or if images don't align, or links don't work - face it, you're driving users away.
Lacks clear communication
In this new normal we're living in under COVID-19, it's really important to communicate transparently with the visitors to your site. Your current clients and customers need information about if you're still operating, your prospects need to know how to contact you and your employees need to have clear, upfront information. Displaying direct communication about how your business has adapted to the COVID-19 circumstances will present as confident and straight-talking.
We can help you with all of these issues.
Our savvy developers would be happy to give you advice on how to make your website work harder and smarter for you. Remember, if it's not converting, if it's not earning you leads, then it's not fulfilling the basic function of a site! Call 0161 672 7822 or email email@example.com for expert advice.
Need some clear and sensitive content? We are currently offering free content marketing to get you through these bizarre times! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if I can help out in any way.