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Archive for the ‘Corporate Identity’ Category

5 Small Biz Web Design Trends to Watch

Posted Thursday, August 12th, 2010

The importance of having an attractive website that converts visitors into buyers and helps cleverly promote your small business is essential in these fiercely competitive times.

Mashable, 10th August 2010

Your website has to capture a visitor’s attention, entice him or her to stay and browse around, create an interest in your product or service, and result in sales. For small businesses with limited time and budgets, design is an essential factor in both attracting and converting potential customers.

With this in mind, here are five current design trends that most small businesses can utilize to great effect.

1. Minimalism

While this web design style has been popular for some time, it’s worth revisiting as no small business owner wants to turn visitors away with a cluttered, overbearing and hard to navigate website.

Minimalist design effectively strips away the excess and helps the user concentrate squarely on the content. If a page has too many elements, the user will easily become confused about where to focus on, with many elements vying for attention.

With page weight now affecting your Google search engine position, it’s the perfect time to reassess how streamlined your design is.

There are several principles and steps you can follow to create a more minimalist design:

  1. Go through your site and prune any unnecessary widgets or elements which aren’t serving a real purpose.
  2. Make good use of whitespace, which is the space between different elements of a design. Used well, it will allow for easier scanning of your site and help frame the elements on each page.
  3. With fewer elements, choosing the right color palette or accent color is critical. As color has great significance and meaning, it’s best to test how certain colors interact with each other.
  4. Browse your site through the eyes of your visitors, evaluating if there is too much information, confusing or off-putting elements, or sufficient calls to action. Answering these types of questions truthfully will help you prioritize the essential elements.

A minimalist design doesn’t have to be bland and boring; it can easily be modern, fresh, sophisticated, elegant or refined, based solely on the details within the design.

2. Unique Photography

Two men shaking hands, a group of people in suits sharing a joke, the call center girl: these are all tired, clichéd images that litter thousands of business websites. These types of images fail to convey either information on the company or a sense of the site’s character, and are essentially meaningless.

Using custom photography or artwork whenever possible is recommended, though for small business owners, both time and budget are limited and stock photos are a relatively cheap and accessible resource.

So when choosing stock imagery, it’s best to keep in mind these four tips:

  1. Research your competitors and industry and take note of the images used. You can then find a unique way to represent your product or service.
  2. Avoid being too literal in your choice of imagery as abstract compositions often give a more dramatic and memorable effect.
  3. Don’t always opt for the cheaper low-res image, as pixelated imagery devalues your overall design and looks unprofessional.
  4. Veer away from the bland and predictable and let the images ‘break out of the box’.

Imaginative imagery will reinforce your brand message and add greater character to your website. So, when you must use stock imagery, do so with great care and take the time to find the right piece that will convey the true personality of your service or product.

3. Bold Typography

Web design at its core is about communication, and typography is a vital component of that. Great web typography helps bring order to information and creates a coherent, visually satisfying experience that engages the reader without their knowing.

A recent trend is the use of big, bold typography which helps to create contrast between other text while grabbing a user’s attention. Oversized text can help create hierarchy and ensure users understand your message loud and clear.

In order to utilize typography to create a bold statement, keep in mind the following tips:

  1. Determine the single most important message you want to emphasize, as too many messages can lead to choice paralysis. Understand the qualities of the message you are trying to convey, and then look for typefaces that embody those qualities.
  2. Choose a typeface that will match the character of your work. For instance, if your company embodies the feel of an Old Style font, you should consider Bembo, Garamond and Sabon. It will also greatly depend on what you want to convey with the type, because legibility is as important as the character of the type.
  3. Give the typography the prominent position it deserves by surrounding it with a generous amount of whitespace. This will add emphasis and create even more focus on the typography.
  4. Test out some of the various font replacement options such as Typekit or Typotheque. These allow you to license fonts to embed within your site, and help you to experiment with beautiful typography.

Typography is an art and the decisions you make are subjective; however, carefully selecting a typeface can make a huge difference to the quality of your design.

 

4. Clear Calls to Action

As a small business owner you want your visitors to complete a certain task when they land on your page. It could be to download, sign up or checkout, but these calls to action are one of the most important (and overlooked) elements in a small business website.

You want to grab your visitor’s attention and move him or her to take action. Crafting a clear, concise call to action is essential.

Here are four tips to keep in mind when designing a call-to-action button or advertisement:

  1. Language: Keep the wording short and snappy (always start with a verb), but also explain the value behind the action the user is taking. In some instances it also helps to create a sense of urgency using words such as ‘now’, ‘hurry’ and ‘offer ends,’ with ‘free’ being the number one incentive.
  2. Positioning: Ideally, calls to action should be above the fold, and be placed on every page of the site in a consistent position. For instance, Squarespace, not only has a large call-to-action button at the top of the page, but also has a slightly smaller button in the footer of every page.
  3. Color: The color should make the call stand out from the rest of the design. Brighter, more contrasting colors usually work best for smaller buttons. For larger buttons, you may want to choose a less prominent color (but one that still stands out from your background), so as to balance out its size.
  4. Size: The call-to-action button should be the largest button on any given page. You want it to be large enough to stand out without overwhelming the rest of the design

.

It’s vital you test different combinations of call-to-action buttons and see how each affects your conversion rates (see A/B Testing below). It’s also best to make sure they fit within your overall design.

  1. 5.      A/B Testing

With competition growing fiercer online, it’s important for small businesses to have a website that converts visitors to buyers and creates a competitive edge. That’s why it is important to continually measure and improve site performance, usability and conversions.

One of the foremost ways of optimizing your web design is via A/B testing (sometimes referred to as split testing). An A/B test examines the effectiveness of one landing page over another. The two versions are randomly shown to site visitors to see which generates the best results. You then evaluate the performance of each and use the best version.

Various elements can be tested, including, layouts, copy, graphics, fonts, headlines, offers, icons, colors and more. Here are a few tips for A/B testing:

  1. Clearly define your goal before beginning any test. For example, if you wanted to increase sign-ups, you might want to test the following: type of fields in the form, length of the form, and display of privacy policy.
  2. Start with elements that will have the biggest impact for minimum effort. For instance, you could tweak the copy on your checkout button to see if conversions can be improved.
  3. Don’t use A/B testing in isolation as this alone won’t give you a well-rounded picture of your users. Instead, use other feedback tools, such as Feedback Army or User Testing, in conjunction with A/B testing to get in-depth analysis of user behavior.

A/B testing won’t make a bad design great, but it will prove an effective aid in optimizing your current design’s usability and conversions until you decide to overhaul your website design completely.

These are just five web design trends that small businesses can take part in to enhance their websites. Which web design changes would make the most sense for your small business?


Growing Your Business: 5 Tips from the Co-Founder of Foursquare

Posted Thursday, March 25th, 2010

smallbusiness, 23 March

As co-founder of the Internet’s hottest startup, Foursquare, Dennis Crowley knows a thing or two about growing a small business.

Foursquare is a location-sharing mobile app that lets users check-in to venues, share that check-in with their friends and social media sites, and discover friends, tips, and popular places nearby. The startup launched one year ago, has attracted massive press coverage, and has grown to around 600,000 members.

This isn’t Crowley’s first success story as a technology entrepreneur, and given that he’s also worked for Google, his perspective is colored with the sagacity of knowing that being nimble, lean, and fast can be just as effective — if not more so — as having bigger budgets and more manpower.

Over the years, Crowley’s learned several key lessons applicable to small businesses. Here are five that small business owners should take to heart.

1. “Twitter is your best friend”

Crowley speaks of Twitter as a distribution channel for all types of communication, and describes it as the most immediate way to connect with customers.

“At Foursquare we use Twitter for a little bit of everything: Good news and bad news, press clippings, RTs [retweets] from other users and customer service inquires. We’ll tweet when new versions of our apps are ready for download and tweet when our database is experiencing hiccups. Keeping users in the know doesn’t take any more than a few seconds and your most loyal users will spread the word via RTs.”

The nature of Foursquare may position it to be more heavily followed than the typical small business, but the point here is that small business owners should use Twitter to compliment their day-to-day work experiences.

2. “Keep it light”

The Foursquare team lives by this mantra, so while they share everything from where they are to what they’re doing, they’re doing so in edible, consumer-sized bites, perfect for the sporadic attention spans of their audience.

On this front, they’ve opted to use Tumblr as a lightweight blogging platform. Crowley explains, “On our company Tumblr we’ll post the success stories our users send in, write recaps of what goes down at Foursquare HQ meetings, and post pics of what we’re having for lunch. Our staff is full of personality and we try to show that as much as we can. The story of 16 guys and girls crammed around four tables is much more interesting than the story of a faceless Internet startup.”

Crowley also advises to apply the “keep it light” philosophy to all customer-facing initiatives. He also suggests that small business owners don’t have to be “all business, all the time.”

3. “Guerilla customer service”

Foursquare is by no means perfect. As a young startup, the company faces the challenge of keeping their servers running as they attract record levels of activity, and doing so always in the public eye. It’s a daunting position to be in unless it’s approached head-on, and that’s what Crowley and his team do on a daily basis.

“We’ll use Twitter Search to search for things like “foursquare sucks,” “foursquare broken,” etc. to find people who are experiencing problems but who would probably never submit a support ticket. With a quick @reply we can often shed some light on the issue and do it in public.”

The same guerilla-style customer service is perfect for small businesses, especially with regard to negative press or unflattering blog posts and comments. Crowley says, “don’t feel shy, jump in and comment. Making yourself part of the conversation shows users you’re listening and care about the issues they have.”

4. “Small and scrappy marketing 4eva”

Not everything should be expensive, especially when it comes to marketing. Small businesses could easily be intimidated by the money that bigger companies can throw at large campaigns, but bigger isn’t always better.

Steal a page from Foursquare‘s play book and get scrappy. Take the SXSW Interactive festival. Inside the convention center there were dozens of sponsors with huge tents and elaborate setups. Here’s what Foursquare did:

“Instead [of formulating a marketing plan] we did two things: #1. Took all the swag we had (pins, stickers, temporary tattoos) and put them in ziplock bags. Everytime we found a user that told us how much they loved Foursquare (and there was an army of them!) we gave them a bag of swag to hand out to their friends. #2. We picked up a rubber Foursquare ball and a box of chalk, drew a Foursquare court on the ground outside the convention center and played for four days straight (and yes, we are still sore).”

The game was a huge hit and attracted the attention of conference goers and big media alike. Crowley continues saying, “Thousands of people stopped by to see what was going on, say hi, play a game or two, and pick up some swag. It gave people the chance to meet our team in a super informal setting (playground game!) and hang out with us in an environment where phones and laptops were completely out of the way.”

5. “Show off your team”

The scrappiness didn’t stop with fun and games. Crowley also used the offline event as an opportunity to introduce users to team members, and vice versa, in a playful way.

Crowley states, “We designed our business cards as collectibles — collect all 6 and unlock a Foursquare badge. Once word of this got out, people were looking all over downtown Austin for employees just so they could introduce themselves and collect a badge. Every time we handed out a card, we got to meet one of our users. Actually encouraging people to reach out and introduce themselves to your team puts a name and a face on the products you’re building. It also helped us start a dialog with people who’d probably never introduce themselves.”

It’s a smart strategy that small businesses can emulate to create more personal connections with their customers.


The power of branding: a practical guide

Posted Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

What do we mean by the word ‘brand’?

Design Council, updated 06 April 2009

The words brand and branding are thrown around liberally by all sorts of people in different contexts and with different meanings in mind, so it may help to start by asking ‘what exactly is a brand?’

The simplest answer is that a brand is a set of associations that a person (or group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organisation. These associations may be intentional – that is, they may be actively promoted via marketing and corporate identity, for example – or they may be outside the company’s control. For example, a poor press review for a new product might ‘harm’ the product manufacturer’s overall brand by placing negative associations in people’s minds.

To illustrate the idea, let’s take what is arguably the best-known product – or brand – in the world: Coca-Cola.

Although essentially just a soft drinks product, Coca-Cola the drink is eclipsed by the sheer might of Coca-Cola the brand. This phenomenon is best summed up by the following quote from a Coca-Cola executive:

‘If Coca-Cola were to lose all of its production-related assets in a disaster, the company would survive. By contrast, if all consumers were to have a sudden lapse of memory and forget everything related to Coca-Cola, the company would go out of business.’

In a 2007 survey of the value of global brands by branding agency Interbrand, Coca-Cola‘s brand equity was valued at US$65.3bn, just under half the company’s true market value.

So what are these all-powerful associations? For Coca-Cola, typical perceptions might be that it is the original cola drink (‘The Real Thing’), that its recipe is secret and unsurpassed, that it’s all-American or maybe global, that it’s youthful, energetic, refreshing and so on. Visual associations might include the unmistakable red and white logo and corporate colours, or the unique shape and tint of the original glass bottles.

These are mostly positive brand associations, but there may be negative ones too. For example, Coca-Cola may be seen as unhealthy, or as a symbol of global ‘imperialism’ by American brands. What is seen as a positive association to some may be unpleasant to others and negative perceptions could become attached to a brand‘s identity even if the company strives to present a different character.

Of course, brands aren’t limited to the food and drink category. If a brand is just a set of associations then practically anything could be said to have a brand, even individuals – think Simon Cowell or Gordon Ramsay.

Ramsay’s own brand is so strong, in fact, that in 2007 he leant his weight to a major advertising campaign by Gordon’s Gin. He was chosen not just because of his name, but because his association with a sense of quality and exclusivity mirrors the drinks manufacturer’s own brand values.

Other high-profile examples of recognised brands include JCB, British Airways, Tate, Yahoo, The Big Issue or even London. From services to cities, products to publications, each carries a strong set of associations in the minds of a large number of people.

What is branding?

If a brand results from a set of associations and perceptions in people’s minds, then branding is an attempt to harness, generate, influence and control these associations to help the business perform better. Any organisation can benefit enormously by creating a brand that presents the company as distinctive, trusted, exciting, reliable or whichever attributes are appropriate to that business.

While absolute control over a brand is not possible due to outside influences, intelligent use of design, advertising, marketing, service proposition, corporate culture and so on can all really help to generate associations in people’s minds that will benefit the organisation. In different industry sectors the audiences, competitors, delivery and service aspects of branding may differ, but the basic principle of being clear about what you stand for always applies.

For the full article see: http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/en/About-Design/Business-Essentials/The-power-of-branding-a-practical-guide/


Global Brands

Posted Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

BusinessWeek/Interbrand rank the companies that best built their images – and made them stick.

Advertisers who want to reach the Bublitz family of Montgomery, Ohio, have to leap a lot of hurdles. Telemarketing? Forget it – the family of five has Caller ID. The Internet? No way – they long ago installed spam and pop-up ad blockers on their three home computers. Radio? Rudy Bublitz, 47, has noncommercial satellite radio in his car and in the home. Television? Not likely – the family records its favorite shows on TiVo and skips most ads. “The real beauty is that if we choose to shut advertising out, we can,” Rudy says. “We call the shots with advertisers today.”

BusinessWeek, August 1, 2005

The Bublitzes and other ad-zapping consumers like them pose an enormous challenge these days to marketers trying to build new brands and nurture old ones. To get a reading on which brands are succeeding – and which aren’t – take a look at the fifth annual BusinessWeek/Interbrand ranking of the 100 most valuable global brands. The names that gained the most in value focus ruthlessly on every detail of their brands, honing simple, cohesive identities that are consistent in every product, in every market around the world, and in every contact with consumers. (In the ranking, which is compiled in partnership with brand consultancy Interbrand Corp., a dollar value is calculated for each brand using publicly available data, projected profits, and variables such as market leadership.)

The best brand builders are also intensely creative in getting their message out. Many of the biggest and most established brands, from Coke to Marlboro, achieved their global heft decades ago by helping to pioneer the 30-second TV commercial. But it’s a different world now. The monolithic TV networks have splintered into scores of cable channels, and mass-market publications have given way to special-interest magazines aimed at smaller groups. Given that fragmentation, it’s not surprising that there’s a new generation of brands, including Amazon.com, eBay, and Starbucks, that have amassed huge global value with little traditional advertising. They’ve discovered new ways to captivate and intrigue consumers. Now the more mature brands are going to school on the achievements of the upstarts and adapting the new techniques for themselves.

So how do you build a brand in a world in which consumers are increasingly in control of the media? The brands that rose to the top of our ranking all had widely varied marketing arsenals and were able to unleash different campaigns for different consumers in varied media almost simultaneously. They wove messages over multiple media channels and blurred the lines between ads and entertainment. As a result, these brands can be found in a host of new venues: the Web, live events, cell phones, and handheld computers. An intrepid few have even infiltrated digital videorecorders, devices that are feared throughout the marketing world as the ultimate tool for enabling consumers to block unwanted TV ads.

Some marketers have worked to make their brand messages so enjoyable that consumers might see them as entertainment instead of an intrusion. When leading brands are seen on TV they’re apt to have their own co-starring roles – as No. 9 Toyota Motor Corp. did in reality show The Contender – rather than just lending support during the commercial breaks. All are trying to create a stronger bond with the consumer. Take No. 41 Apple Computer Corp., which last fall launched a special iPod MP3 player in partnership with band U2. Not only did the “U2 iPod” say “U2″ on the front and have band signatures etched into the back, but the band starred in a TV ad and buyers got $50 off a download of 400 U2 songs. No. 8 McDonald‘s Corp.’s sponsorship of a tour by R&B group Destiny’s Child means that fans who want access to exclusive video and news content about the band have to click first on the company’s Web site. “It’s hard here to tell where the brand message ends and where the entertainment and content begins,” says Ryan Barker, director of brand strategy at consultancy The Knowledge Group.

It’s no accident that most of the companies with the biggest increases in brand value in the 2005 ranking operate as single brands everywhere in the world. Global marketing used to mean crafting a new name and identity for each local market. America’s No. 1 laundry detergent, Tide, is called Ariel in Europe, for example. The goal today for many, though, is to create consistency and impact, both of which are a lot easier to manage with a single worldwide identity. It’s also a more efficient approach, since the same strategy can be used everywhere. An eBay shopper in Paris, France, sees the same screen as someone logging in from Paris, Texas. Only the language is different. Global banks HSBC, No. 29, which posted a 20% increase in brand value, and No. 44 UBS, up 16%, use the same advertising pitches around the world. “Given how hard the consumer is to reach today, a strong and unified brand message is increasingly becoming the only way to break through,” says Jan Lindemann, Interbrand’s managing director, who directed the Top 100 Brands ranking.

Possibly no brand has done a better job of mining the potential of these new brand-building principles than Korean consumer electronics manufacturer Samsung Electronics Co. Less than a decade ago, it was a maker of lower-end consumer electronics under a handful of brand names including Wiseview, Tantus, and Yepp, none of which meant much to consumers. Figuring that its only shot at moving up the value chain was to build a stronger identity, the company ditched its other brands to put all its resources behind the Samsung name. Then it focused on building a more upscale image through better quality, design, and innovation.

Beginning in 2001, the newly defined Samsung came out with a line of top-notch mobile phones and digital TVs, products that showed off the company’s technical prowess. By vaulting the quality of its offerings above the competition in those areas, Samsung figured it could boost the overall perception of the brand. Besides, consumers form especially strong bonds with cell phones and TVs. Most people carry their mobile phones with them everywhere, while their TV is the centre of the family room. “We wanted the brand in users’ presence 24/7,” says Peter Weedfald, head of Samsung‘s North American marketing and consumer electronics unit.

Now that strategy is paying off. Over the past five years, No. 20 Samsung has posted the biggest gain in value of any Global 100 brand, with a 186% surge. Even sweeter, last year Samsung surpassed No. 28 Sony, a far more entrenched rival that once owned the electronics category, in overall brand value. Now, in a nod to Samsung, Korean electronics concern LG Electronics Inc. has followed its rival’s playbook. Cracking this year’s global list for the first time at No. 97, LG has also sought to elevate its product under a single brand led by phones and TVs.

Some of the older brands in our ranking are clearly struggling to remake their marketing and product mix for a more complex world. This year’s biggest losers in brand value include Sony (down 16%), Volkswagen (down 12%), and Levi’s (down 11%). VW acknowledges its brand value slippage. “Volkswagen is well aware of the current deficiencies,” says VW brand chief Wolfgang Bernhard. Sony, which disputes that it is losing brand value, has suffered from an innovation drought. The electronics giant pioneered the Walkman, but left Apple to revolutionize portable MP3 players, as well as digital downloading and organizing of music. Meanwhile, Sony‘s moves into films and music put it into areas where its brand adds no value. Worse, those acquisitions made Sony a competitor with other content providers. That, notes Samsung‘s Weedfald, gives his company an advantage in linking to the hottest music and movies. Samsung, for example, is lead sponsor of this summer’s much-hyped movie, Fantastic Four, in which a variety of Samsung gadgets play a part. VW faces different problems. It has attempted to move upmarket with the luxury Touareg sport-utility vehicle and Phaeton sedan models; but that has left car buyers, who associate VW with zippy, affordable cars, confused. Similarly, Levi’s introduction of its less pricey Levi’s Signature line in discount stores means it now competes on price at the low end, while trying to fend off rivals like Diesel at the upper end with its core “red tab” brand.

Of course, defining the essence of a brand is only part of the battle. Communicating it to the consumer is the other. On this front, there has clearly been a divide between newer brands that use traditional advertising as just one tool in an overall marketing plan and older ones that grew up with it. Sony, for example, far outspends Samsung on traditional advertising in the U.S. on electronics products. (Samsung advertises on TV only during the last six months of the year, its peak sales period.) Many young brands that scored big gains in value, like Google, Yahoo!, and eBay, depend on their own interactive Web sites to shout about their brands.

Now some older brands, like Coke, ranked No. 1 in overall brand value, and McDonald‘s are decreasing traditional ad spending. In the past four years, McDonald‘s has cut TV advertising from 80% of its ad budget to 50%. Most of the shift has gone to online advertising. What’s evolving, then, is a model in which most brand builders use a variety of marketing channels. HSBC has branded taxis to carry customers for free. And although eBay spends most of its marketing budget on Internet advertising, it also relies on TV to some extent to boost simple brand awareness. “With fragmentation and ad evasion, you can’t count on one medium,” says Tom Cotton, president of Conductor, a branding strategy firm.

Marketers who do turn to TV are trying to make brand messages as engrossing as the programming. Last year Toyota, whose brand value rose 10%, paid $16 million to have its vehicles be part of the storyline on NBC reality show The Contender, about small-time boxers competing for a nationally televised bout. The grand prize: a million dollars and a Toyota truck. Rival Nissan, up 13%, has been parking its Titan pickups on Wisteria Lane in hit ABC show Desperate Housewives. The trucks will also ride into the new Dukes of Hazzard movie this month.

Nor are TV and movies the only target. No. 1 Coke, McDonald‘s, No. 88 Smirnoff, No. 16 BMW, No. 23 Pepsi, and No. 61 KFC are among brands striking deals to plant their brands in video games and even song lyrics. Deborah Wahl-Meyer, who headed Toyota marketing until recently moving to the company’s Lexus division, says both divisions attempt to seed magazine and newspaper articles with vehicle references and pictures. “We have to be more a part of what people are watching and reading instead of being in between what people are watching and reading,” Meyer says.

In an echo of Procter & Gamble Co.’s creation of the soap opera on radio and then TV, some brand builders are taking control of the programming themselves and creating content that tries to draw in ad-allergic consumers. BMW, whose brand value rose 8% over the past year, turned out a series of popular short films on the Internet starting in 2001. The seven-to-ten minute films starred BMW cars and were produced by A-list Hollywood directors like John Woo. The German auto maker has moved onto comic books based on the films aimed at Bimmer-aspiring teens and adults alike. “It’s imperative to create media destinations that don’t look like advertising,” says James McDowell, who headed marketing for the BMW brand before recently taking over as chief of the parent company’s MINI USA business. BMW has also embraced the enemy, TiVo, the television-top gadget that consumers use to skip ads altogether. Since last year, BMW has produced short films and long-form ads accessible through TiVo’s main menu page. BMW fans are alerted to the films in the on-demand video menu when a BMW ad runs.

Such old-line brands as No. 14 American Express Co. are heading down the entertainment path, too. Tipping its hat to BMW, AmEx ran long-form Internet ads/films starring Jerry Seinfeld last year that succeeded in drawing consumers to its Web site and Webcasted concerts. AmEx Chief Marketing Officer John Hayes says flatly: “Brands are not being built on [traditional] advertising.”

Still, none of these marketing ploys are sure bets in a world where old-school advertising means less. That’s why more marketers are investing in design as a fundamental way to distinguish their brands and to stay on the leading edge of technology. “Design isn’t just the promise of a brand, like TV advertising – it’s the reality of it,” says Marc Gobe, chief executive of design consultancy Desgrippes Gobe. Samsung has tripled its global design staff to 400 over the past five years. No. 73 Motorola, whose brand value rose 11%, and No. 53 Philips Electronics have boosted design spending. The move sparked the launch of Motorola‘s hot-selling Razr phone, the thinnest flip phone ever made. No. 85 Nissan gained 13% last year on a wave of bold designs, like its curvy Murano SUV and Altima sedan, as the Japanese company differentiates itself from Toyota and Honda through design rather than quality.

Good design implies more than just good looks. It’s also about ease of use. Apple demonstrated this with its iPod. Users can pick songs or download music from the iTunes music bank with the swipe of a finger. That’s blunted sales of Sony‘s Walkman MP3 player, which has been criticized as too cumbersome. Design can also mean sound. Samsung insists that all its products make the same reassuring tone when turned on. The Samsung tone is even being used in some advertising. “We want to have the same sound, look, and feel throughout our products so it all works toward one Samsung brand,” says Gregory Lee, Samsung‘s global marketing chief.

The era of building brands namely through mass media advertising is over. The predominant thinking of the world’s most successful brand builders these days is not so much the old game of reach (how many consumers see my ad) and frequency (how often do they see it), but rather finding ways to get consumers to invite brands into their lives. The mass media won’t disappear as a tool. But smart companies see the game today as making bold statements in design and wooing consumers by integrating messages so closely into entertainment that the two are all but indistinguishable.


All available UK awards and grants

Posted Thursday, April 9th, 2009

See here for comprehensive searchable database of all UK awards and grants.


Grant Assisted design

Posted Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Are you interested in Design Assistance this year? You can apply for design assistance in the following areas:
Concept design
Product Design / development
Engineering design
CAD modelling and visualisation images
• Rapid Prototyping (FDM)
Website design and build
Graphic design
Branding and Marketing

If one or more of these could be of benefit to you please have a look at the full or part-funded options available to you below or call to discuss. Most of these are applicable for Midlands based enterprises:

Manufacturing Advisory Service Assist 1
MAS assists are 50% funded projects intended for all stages of the design process including rapid prototyping. They can’t be used for graphic design or marketing but can be used for websites in certain cases where it provides a link into the manufacturing/ordering process.
MAS allow a single 10 day assist or two 5 day assists per year.
http://www.mas-wm.org

Manufacturing Advisory Service Assist 2
MAS also offer a larger pot of 50% funded money (£5000-£15000) for large projects which will provide strategic change within a company. These projects need to be linked to manufacturing in some way with the aim of increasing jobs, sales, productivity etc within the company. It is open to any company within the west midlands. These projects are intended to be 10-30 days of work over approx 9 month period. Payment from the client would be required monthly.
http://www.mas-wm.org/www/servicesStrategicChange.htm

Advantage Proof of concept fund
This is a Fund for established start-up businesses in the west midlands. It is intended for innovation and product development providing 75% funding up to £30000.
All sectors considered but priority is given to advanced materials, healthcare, Energy, prototyping, transportation and digital media.
Money is paid to the company retrospectively based on invoices. The Fund is limited in the number of awards it can provide each month. Estimated application time – 6 weeks.
http://www.advantageproofofconcept.co.uk

LEGI Assist
Location: Coventry only (post code check req.)
Provides assistance to Start-up businesses – £500 grant to start business, business mentor, hot desk facilities etc.
Support for existing businesses – business coaches, support packages and a onetime grant of £2000, £1500 of which can be spent with us on consultancy services.
We are an approved LEGI supplier and can provide the consultancy services for businesses with less than 25 employees. The grant money can be spent with us on Product, graphic, or web design.
http://www.legicoventry.co.uk

Business Link assist
We are also registered as a business link west midlands supplier. Company’s involved with business link will have access to grants providing 50% or more match funding e.g.
• High Growth Programme – For pre-start and new starts that are going places. Average grant value £2,500.
• Diversification – breaking into new markets. Average grant value £9,000.
• European Regional Development Fund – variety of projects in objective 2 areas – grant value £5,000.
• Creative and Knowledge Industries – media, publishing, software, art.
• Access to Finance – help to raise money through loans, investment and major grants. Average grant value £2,500.
This is currently only within the West midlands but eventually we will be on the National Database of suppliers. Business link assists can be for websites, product design and development, and marketing.
http://www.businesslinkwm.co.uk

Innovation Networks
Innovation Networks provides grant support to West Midlands based SMEs who are innovating with a new product, process or service.
There are two grants available, a £10,000 Revenue Grant or a £15,000 Capital Grant. The grants are quick and easy to apply for. The simple application process normally takes no longer than 2 to 3 weeks.
Innovation Networks has just secured funding for a further 3 years and will be up and running in the near future.
http://2wm.co.uk/innovation-networks/


 
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The Total Image Group Ltd is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 02595342
The company's registered office is Willow Corner, 7 Ackrells Mead, Little Sandhurst, Berkshire, GU47 8JJ