I think it is fair to say that most of us will be glad when 2021 arrives. I want to send a warm ac4designs welcome to one and all. The continuing COVID pandemic continues to provide a rather bleak outlook as I currently write this. We can only be hopeful that the next twelve months allow a return to all those things we have missed.
Wish upon a…
I will be ‘wishing upon a star’ that cricket will return and that I will be able to enjoy playing and coaching soon. Despite 2020 being the strangest period I have lived through. A year that has been challenging and difficult for so many, not everything about our experience should be seen negatively. I recognise that for many, this year has been very hard, and may continue to be so heading into 2021. There has been however much to learn about ourselves and perhaps what really matters. My hope is that as we don’t simply return to the mad and sometimes unhealthy world that existed before COVID. That we refresh the things we have missed and are good. But fight hard not to mindlessly slip back into the bad old habits of work and behaviour that were never that great in the first place.
ac4designs was able to continue to provide freelance services throughout 2021. I am pleased to have helped loyal existing clients and to connect (albeit virtually) with some new business and organisations. As always my aim has been to provide clear, honest, no fuss help and advice.
I guess no one could have been prepared fully for the impact of the COVID pandemic. Back when lockdown began I sort of assumed that ac4designs helping business would end. That the work would dry up and probably not return.
I was luckier than many, as my second job, ac4designs wasn’t the financial heartbeat of the family. I, like so many, am grateful for the government’s furlough scheme from my main employment. Thus I quickly decided that I had no reason to claim twice and that I would leave ac4designs open for business. During those first weeks of lockdown things certainly went very quiet. But then slowly things started to turn again as some businesses adjusted and begun to look to survive. As the lockdown eased others began to address what the ‘new normal’ meant for them.
Throughout I ensured I stuck to my part-time working hours, not difficult with homeschooling during the day to contend with. This has also helped in coping with the return to the day job. Like many, I also took some time to stop, reflect, and spend time with the family — there were some positives from this experience.
The strangest of times for helping business
2020 is certainly the strangest I have had on this planet so far and if I’m honest I have been very lucky and have to date remained relatively unaffected. I can only clap and thanks those who stood on the front line and helped keep all of us safe, with all my heart.
And ac4designs is still here and continues helping business and the community. Recent months have seen a range of project undertaken to support existing and new businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic created issues for us all. Many local businesses and community groups suddenly found they needed to create or improve their online presence. I have enjoyed helping several in recent months.
Delivering online connections
Brown’s Motorcycles wanted a simple and clean website update to help promote the business.Teaming up with AlFindlay.com we were able to deliver an effective site with the potential to explore online sales of bikes moving forward.
The COVID-19 lockdown also created issues for local community groups. Stripped of the ability to connect in person many lacked effective online mechanisms. As such, this meant they struggled to achieve effective communications during the imposed lockdown. I am therefore particularly pleased in helping the local community magazine The Tipton Times. Helping to establishing an online delivery mechanism for its normally traditionally printed local community news stories.
Relaunching after lockdown
As the COVID lockdown began to ease there was the opportunity to help several businesses prepare to restart.
White Rabbit Discos was keen to relaunch with a new identity. The challenges created by the impact of COVID-19 meant they needed to standout. The identity has already had a positive impact and work continues in developing the business website and marketing support material.
Pride Hair Studio had more practical needs as the potential to reopen the business loomed. This included posters to help inform customers of the new operating rules before they entered the premises. As well as a disclaimer form to ensure that customers accepted the risks of their visit. Helping this hardworking team at a difficult time was rewarding and exactly the sort of working relationship ac4designs seeks to develop with he businesses it helps.
During these COVID driven projects regular clients continuing to operate and need help. ac4designs continued to provide effective support during difficult times for everyone.
Helping old friends
LTP launched several new products during the lockdown period. LTP Ferrex was the latest addition to the LTP family of stone cleaning products. A specialist rust remover this product is designed for hard ferrous stones – like sandstone, slate, and granite. These stones naturally contain iron that can oxidise or rust when it comes into contact with moisture, rain, or certain cleaning products, including brick acid and cement removers. Ferrex removes rust, fixing residues, and it provides rust resistance. Find out more at https://www.ltp-online.co.uk/prod/ltp-ferrex
The COVID demand for sanitising cleaners also created an opportunity for LTP 75% Alcohol Ethanol Multi-surface Cleaner to join the extensive range of LTP products. Responding quickly and effectively is exactly what ac4designs is all about so this project really sums up the whole ethos nicely. As things have begun to return to the ‘new normal’ promoting the LTP brand has never been more important. The final project showcased here is a more traditional large format advertising banner. Visible from the M3 near Reading, this project seems to capture the ac4designs philosophy of working locally but thinking nationally in helping business perfectly.
To find out how ac4designs could help your business or community group then please get in touch via my contact page.
Why small business should make the most of their colour!
This post discusses a simple but highly effective approach that can significantly improve the visibility of your brand. Big global brands take full advantage of colour use but many smaller businesses fail to grasp and make effective use of this attribute.
The power of colour
Colour is a hugely powerful and emotive in all aspects of life. Colour is used all around us every day to warn us, direct us, define our mood and re-enforce our perceptions. We all understand why a fire engine is painted red and what a blue flashing light means. For business branding and marketing, colour is just as powerful. The best brands really understand the importance of colour to support the visibility of the brand and messaging.
“Research reveals people make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on colour alone.
Source: CCICOLOR – Institute for Color Research
The quote above can also be found in this article on the same theme along with a number of other very interesting facts.
As a bit of fun take the list of colours below and write a brand name next to each one. See how many match my answers at the end of this article. (No peeking!)
Red & Yellow:
Green & Black:
It will be interesting to see how many of your answers match mine, but actually, that’s not the point. After all, colours are not owned (with a few exceptions) by brands. Colour is not the only aspect of establishing a successful brand identity. However, I would be more surprised, nay astonished if you could think of an answer for each. The point is simply to emphasise how important colour is to establishing brands in the mind of customers.
The lessons for small business
So how is this applicable to my small local business? Well, you may have a much smaller number of actual and potential customers but the rules are just the same. If you can secure your colours in the mind of your customers the recognition of your brand and its message will be amplified. Now it’s important to make clear that colour on its own is not a winning marketing strategy. The importance of your message to the customer and your capacity to deliver on your promise remain the key factors. Painting your falling down wooden fence a consistent shade of red isn’t going to stop it being ineffective at keeping the chickens in the field. In fact, it can have the opposite effect and just get your ineffective fence noticed more by your neighbours… (Slash customers!)
BUT there are several key benefits to using colour consistently with effective messaging:
Increased recognition of your brand.
Increased engagement and trust.
The common colour mistake small business make
This is really obvious but happens so much in my opinion. Inconsistent use of colour! Most business owners understand they need a logo to define their business for marketing purposes, but few consider the application. Consistent presentation of your identity and use of colour has so many benefits. It simplifies the time, effort and money required to deliver your message. Essentially because there is no debate to be had on the issue of presentation style or colour. This allows you to focus on getting that marketing message just right. Sadly so many small business fail to take control of their presentation style and colour use. This leads to marketing material that may be effective in its messaging, but which is not embedding your brand recognition. It will also inevitably lead to increased costs in creating materials as the presentation of colour is debated each time a task is undertaken.
The 5 simple rules for small business colour use
Before you read my list I should make something clear. This list defines a simple approach to using colour in your brand. There are plenty of examples of brands that use colour in complex and creative ways. However, the more complex the use of colour the more time and money it takes to manage, so if you’re a small business try the following:
Document your colour palette and ideas for use of colour in your business and across marketing. Share this across your business and with those that apply your brand.
Clearly, the use of colour by some brands is very much more complex. There are times when you will need to adjust your approach to colour. Sub-brands or developing individual product brands are just a couple of examples. But for a small start-up or existing business keep it simple. Look around you and ask yourself what your brand colour or colours are? Now ask yourself (and others) if your customers would give you the same answer? Look at your marketing material and ask yourself does it all look as if it comes from the same business? If the answers no then I can be pretty sure it’s cost you more money than it should have. And probably missed an opportunity to embed your brand in your customer’s mind.
Colour by itself won’t make you successful. But it will help!
This is my list (remember I’m UK based so my answers are biased that way and it’s all subjective to your own experience).
Getting there eventually for ac4designs, is better than not at all!
So ac4designs failed to write that news update for July and now the summer in Sidmouth (what there was of it) is fading away. The lesson however is not to let past failings get in the way of future success. Making it happen eventually is better than not making it happen at all. It’s just not as good as making it happen now, but that remains something that we can control.
Busy, busy in July and August
Actually it is not that I have been idle far from it! Work for LTP in developing an online marketing strategy has keep ac4designs busy, busy! An email campaign database management and template delivery system has been established. The system used is Campaign Monitor and a number of test campaigns have already been run. The next key objective is to complete training to allow in house campaign delivery to be completed. This will allow branded message delivery without the need to for external resource. This has provided LTP with a cost effective and direct means of delivering key messages to various customer segments.
Analysis is vital in developing your website. Integration of Google Analytics in January 2012 to the LTP website is now delivering valuable data. This is now being used to drive adjustments to improve the current site. Content has been adjusted and results are currently being reviewed before further development. There is still much to do but adjustments since July have seen a 15-20% increase in traffic! The LTP mission didn’t stop there. A branded Twitter account @LTP_UK was also established. The focus is twofold. Connecting and sharing with tile and natural stone sellers, fitters and suppliers as well as architects and industry related individuals. 300 plus followers gained inside 2 months shows much potential. This will be supported by the LTP_UK_Technical blog. Created to deliver LTP’s extensive experience gained over 25 years. The blog will deliver product updates and case studies that deal with issues relating to natural stone and tiles in relation to staining, protecting, and renovating. Finally the LTP branded Facebook page has also been established and this will be developed in coming months.
And of course there was also the normal label updates and print advertising!
There was also time to assist Dorringtons with another own brand label. This time it was for coffee as they continue to develop the range of additional products that they offer. I was particularly pleased to be able to offer advice that allowed a far superior label solution to be produced, without a significant cost increase.
And for ac4designs…
The backdrop to all this has been some major planning and rethinking for ac4designs. A full-time business launch based in Devon is planned for January 2013. The plans are obviously highly top secret but major adjustments to the business offer are well underway. So keep an eye out for some big changes. A new website is under development along with some exciting ideas for engaging with you all out there. From January of next year ac4designs plans to make your boat go faster than you ever thought possible! This will become clear in time, promise.
Social Media the wettest June on record and the arrival of Christmas!
June was spent dodging the rain and helping a major client tackle their social media and online marketing approach. LTP, based in Wellington, Somerset have recognised the need to embrace an online marketing strategy. Work is ongoing to adjust their approach to their website and content creation and the set up of wordpress (ltptechnical) and tumbler blogs are just the start. Mean time they are jumping on board the social media train with Twitter (@LTP_UK) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/LTP.UK) and I’ll report on the progress at the end of July.
And then Christmas arrived early!
June also saw the arrival of Christmas for ac4designs as work to complete Christmas Pudding label designs was completed for my favourite bakers Dorringtons. An example of the label design is shown to the right. This continues then work to develop Dorringtons own label brand offerings featured previously. Once production is complete I can feature a full review and an image of the completed package.
New time saving software, Yippeeee!
FunctionFox is currently under trail as part of the ac4designs business development plan and I am pleased to report it looks jus fantastic. This software is just so easy to use and will provide superb levels of project management and time recording. No more handwritten time sheets and full analysis of projects. The handy stop start time clock function app for my iphone is just so cool.