3 “Lucky” Traits for Every Entrepreneur

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here are the traits according to Entrepreneur that entrepreneurs and business professionals can adopt from the Irish in order to create their own luck!

1. Be courageous

Learn from these Irish leaders who had to fight for their freedom: Queen Maeve who ruled Ireland in 100 A.D., the “Pirate Queen” Grace O’Malley who beat Queen Elizabeth in a battle and Irish politician Michael Collins, who lead the Irish cessation from England. As an entrepreneur, you may need to put your security and financial life on the line. You need courage to surmount past whatever battles may come your way. “Maybe you’ll be lucky straight off and maybe you won’t, but you can take a note from the Irish and increase your odds of luck by being courageous in your entrepreneur endeavors.”

2. Be creative

Learn from the famous Irish poet William Butler Yeats, literary James Joyce, artist group U2 and songstress Enya who tapped into their creativity to achieve success. “Creativity promotes flexibility of the mind and a flexible mind is a great tool for creating ‘luck’ out of opportunities and challenges.”

3. Be persistent

The first female president, Mary Robinson served Ireland from 1990 to 1997 but did not stop there. She was appointed the United Nations high commissioner for human rights from 1997 to 2002 and founded Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative to influence policy makers about securing human rights on a global level. Robinson currently also serves as the chair to the board of The Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice. “Be persistent of the things that really matter to you and be open to opportunities that will help you in unexpected ways”

Protecting Your Brand Name

At Brand Iron, we see companies looking to make changes to their brands everyday. Often times this means changing the name of a current company or coming up with a brand new name for new company. Naming is a vital step in laying the foundation for creating a successful brand name.

Finding a name for your company can be difficult and when you’re changing your name there are many things to consider. The process can be time intensive, but at the end of the day the name of your company will be the first thing your customers will relate to. You will want a name that is creative, relatable, and protectable.

Research is the first step and most essential step to finding a name. It is highly important to analyze your industry and competitors. You want to choose a name that will differentiate you in your industry and make you stand out in the eyes of your customers.  Ian Gibson, a California trademark attorney, who specializes in trademark law gives advice in one of his recent articles, he says, “A basic tenet of branding is the importance of crafting a name that sets you apart. Ideally, this is a unique identity that instantly gives your customers a feeling about your brand and clearly identifies your business as the source of certain goods or services.” Gibson continues on and makes his most important point, “No matter where you are in the branding process, it’s important to ask: how protectable is your brand name?” He stresses the importance of trademarking your brand. If a brand is left unprotected competitors will be able to use your brand name to take market share and dilute the value of your brand.

The most effective way to assert exclusive rights to a business name is to have your name registered as a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). When trying to register a name with the USPTO there are many things to keep in mind. Understanding the process will give you the best chance to find a name that is effective and protectable.

First, we need to understand a bit about how trademark applications are evaluated. Understanding what type of name you have will directly relate to the opportunity you have of obtaining a trademark. Below is the continuum that all names are analyzed by.

Generic — Descriptive — Suggestive — Arbitrary — Fanciful

(shown left to right from weakest to strongest)

Generic and Descriptive names will have little chance of being protected through trademark because protecting them would give an unfair advantage in the marketplace. Giving one company the sole right to use generic descriptions in that industry would make it impossible for other companies to marketing their services without infringing on trademark laws. Therefore the USPTO will never allow you to trademark those generic industry terms.

One of the most effective naming strategies is to create your brand using arbitrary names, created by using words with common meanings in a way that has no connection to the goods or services offered — i.e., APPLE is used to for a tech company. However, for the best way to get your brand name protected by USPTO is to create a fanciful name. These are brand names that have come from invented words with no prior common meaning or are completely out of common usage, made for the sole purpose of functioning as a trademark or service mark. A few well known examples include PEPSI, CLOROX and EXXON.

It must be noted that when choosing Arbitrary or Fanciful brand names you will have to educate your target audience on what your company does since the name does not naturally imply the services or products offered. You will have to use marketing and advertising strategy to inform your audience and create your unique brand and industry distinction. However, by building your brand you will be able to stand out in your industry creating future brand value.

Check out the USPTO’s “Basic Facts About Trademarking,” for information.

 

What’s Stirring Up at SXSW?

After seeing these four letters – SXSW - everywhere this past week, I was intrigued – what is this SXSW craze?

According to Wikipedia, SXSW (South by South West) is a “set film, interactive and music festivals and conferences that take place every spring” in Austin, Texas. This year it began this past Friday, March 7, and runs through Sun., March 16. SXSW is the highest revenue-producing event for Austin ($190.3 million estimated revenue in 2012) and largest music festival of its kind.

SXSW’s original goal was to create an event that would act as a tool for creative people and the companies they work with to develop their careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas.” SXSW is much more than a typical music festival, packing in key note speakers, mentor sessions, workshops and more – ideal for generating connections and even making deals.”

Not only is SXSW an event for new artists, film producers and tech start-ups to get discovered (this happened to John Mayer and James Blunt), but major brands are getting noticed as well. I gained insight in the fact that SXSW is a HUGE marketing bonanza. The most clever tactics involve satisfying needs or solving problems for attendees. Entrepreneur reports companies providing survival kits, along with some notable mentions. Samsung delivered new phone batteries on bike to people who texted #PowerOn, PPLConnect sent a representative to wait in line for you if you downloaded their app and Cottonelle offered a Refresh Lounge with free massages, makeup touch ups and hair blowouts. Attendees are likely to remember these brands more than if they were just given a pen or note pad. These brands delivered real experiences and likely made a difference in their day. Rescuing people from a dead phone or melted make-up can go a long way.

Pinterest Marketing Tips

Don’t think you have time for expanding your social media activity to networks like Pinterest? Think again. Pinterest boards help tell your brand’s story with visual engagement that boosts referrals to your website or product page.

“According to Sprout Insights, Pinterest’s share of social-media referrals soared from .68 percent to a whopping 26 percent in just one year, generating more than 400 percent more revenue per click than Twitter and 27 percent more than Facebook.”

In order gain from time and effort spent on Pinterest, we must remember that prime objective with Pinterest is not to pitch to your potential customers, but appeal to them by offering value, such as “humor, statistics, interesting facts and beauty.”

  1. Share infographics and checklists with interesting facts about your industry, consumer habits or your product/service
  2. Evoke emotions with images, words and phrases that trigger the five senses
  3. Engage with videos from YouTube
  4. Use a call to action with text like: “Click Here, Repin This, or Comment Below”
  5. Grab them with teaser text: “10 Tips for…, How to…”
  6. Boost your SEO with keywords in the About section, on pins, in board titles, captions, links and hashtags
  7. Schedule your pins with Viraltag or Curalate

Brand Iron Critiques NEW 9News Website

9News launched a new website yesterday – we very well know that this is an exciting moment. It’s the time to celebrate the hard work, the evolution, the transformation of a vision into a reality. You’ve already spent time crawling the site and making fixes before the launch - glitches, dead links, images that don’t load, etc. However, there’s bound to be  a need for additional adjustments post-launch. That’s why this is also a critical time to make those adjustments before you drive away your visitors.

So what’s new? The new website incorporates some of the latest web design trends:

  • Grid-style layout (think Pinterest) with dynamic image captions
  • User-friendly icons
  • Lots of images & videos accessible from the home page
  • Animated transitions (news articles pop-up instead of bring you to a new page & the page “slides” across when traveling through pages)

 

Now that you know some of the new elements, our Graphic Designer Jon Lambert and Web Developer Anthony Simone, dove deep into the site to give you the pros and cons according to design and user experience.

Pros

  • The logo and main navigation bar move and reorder when you scroll down the page.
  • Dynamic content is continuously loading. New articles are brought up without having to reload the page.

Cons

  • The site rearranges itself based on window size to an extent, but doesn’t give any options for medium to small sized desktop and laptop screens.
  • Past the top level navigation, the pages seem cluttered and a bit confusing to find your way around.
  • Animations aren’t responding consistently throughout the site.
  • Right sidebar repeats the content on the left (see picture below).

 

Recommendations for Improvement

  • If the site is going to respond to window width but also have a separate mobile version, allow the responsive aspect of the site to go down to at least tablet or small laptop size for usability.
  • Having the small elements (i.e. individual articles) load dynamically without page reload is great because it allows for easy access. However, making the entire high level sections of the site load dynamically has diminishing returns in regards to usability and seems to affect the proper function of the site on some tablets.
  • Replace repetitive content in the sidebar with items like “Featured Video” and “Producer’s Picks.”

9News – we understand you are currently in post-launch adjustment mode working out the kinks to reduce the “visual headache.” We hope this is constructive and doesn’t tear you apart like some of your critics:

 

Congratulations Steelhead Composites!

We are very enthusiastic that our client, Steelhead Composites, is significantly contributing to the acceleration of Colorado manufacturing! The company found a way to serve a demand in the market for a high quality manufacturer of large, high‐pressure, lightweight vessels such as hydraulic accumulators. This made news in ColoradoBiz Magazine!

Steelhead Composites is currently making accumulators for Lightning Hybrids. Accumulators can recycle 75 percent of the energy to make a vehicle 40 percent more fuel-efficient – something that has caught the attention of major car manufacturers!

“We have some great technology that will increase range for natural gas vehicles,” says Andrew Coors, CEO of Steelhead Composites. “We’re happy at Steelhead to serve many different markets in the alternative fuel space and the emission saving space.”

Read the full article for more on Steelhead Composites’ innovations!

Let the madness begin: March Madness is here!

I am self admittedly what you’d call a “fair weather” basketball fan. I attended one game this year when my alma mater CU played KU, and I catch the occasional Illinois games with my dad (his alma mater).  I can count on one hand the number of regular season college games I watch, but come March I’m constantly checking my Sports Center iphone app and bracket results. So what is it about March Madness that turns us all into college basketball fans each year? I decided to learn a little more about the history of the tournament to see if I could figure it out.

“March Madness” was first used to describe the NCAA Tournament in 1982 by Brent Musburger. However, the term was used as early as 1939 when Illinois High School Association (IHSA) official Henry V. Porter wrote in IHSA’s magazine, “When the March madness is on him, midnight jaunts of a hundred miles on successive nights make him even more alert the next day.”

When March Madness began in 1939, there were only 8 teams competing and very little media coverage. Over the years, more teams were added and more terms were coined to enhance the brand including “Sweet Sixteen”, “Elite Eight” and “Final Four.” Todays tournament of 68 teams competing for the championship in 3 weeks of games looks quite different. With the expansion of the tournament came the expansion of the brand and media coverage. March Madness has evolved to be the second most watched sports showcase, right behind the NFL playoffs. March Madness earned more than $1 billion in ad revenue in 2012 and one top-tier marketer spent upwards of $35 million for its NCAA sponsorship, according to an Adweek estimate, and 30-second ad slots during the men’s basketball championship game on CBS could reach a record $1.4 million.

In 2010, The NCAA launched March Madness On Demand (MMOD) and got 8.3 million unique visitors that spent over 11.7 million hours streaming live video and audio. IN 2011, US employers were estimated to waste $1.8 billion in wages of unproductive employees in the first week of March Madness when fans drew up their brackets. That number has significantly increased over the last couple of years where coverage is easier than ever to access on smart phones, tablets and social media.

MSN put out an online survey in 2012 asking website visitors if they would be filling out brackets, and a whopping 60% of people surveyed said they would be. With 68 teams competing, the odds of getting a perfect bracket are 295,147,910,000,000,000,000. No wonder Warren Buffett has offered $1 billion to anyone who submits a perfect bracket. Businesses around the country can engage their customers in a similar way by offering prizes for anyone who can get the closest to a perfect bracket.

With today’s evolving technology, March Madness has made it easier than ever to catch the games, get score updates, and fill out those brackets. They’ve created a yearly “tradition” which offices rally around and friends compete to see who can guess the best upsets. The brand has evolved with the times and is continuing to generate followers in greater waves each year.

Get your brackets ready!

FDA’s New Nutritional Label

If you haven’t heard yet, now you have: the FDA is redesigning their nutritional labels. Manufacturers have two years to comply with the new design.

According to Fast Company, “the new design simplifies and magnifies the calorie count, moves the percent daily value to the left side of the column, and includes a space for ‘added sugar.’”

We think this is a positive change because the nutritional facts are presented much more clearly, which will absolutely benefit consumers’ knowledge and buying decisions. Now here is a breakdown of what expert designers think about the changes:

  •  Maintaining the black and white colors is beneficial because it “creates a blunt contrast with the surrounding package, so consumers can locate this label no matter what.” - Tobias Frere-Jones (one of the world’s leading type designers)
  • The typeface “Helvetica tastes like authority, like confirmed fact. We need to feel trust when we get a second opinion on our food.” – Tobias Frere-Jones
  • “I always thought of the existing label as one of the best pieces of government communication. The new one is even better.” - Stefan Sagmeister (created album covers for the Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and The Rolling Stones, and was a frequent artistic collaborator with Lou Reed)
  • “This is a nice big baby step in the right direction. The original label was not designed for consumers, but rather as compliance with the FDA.” - Bonnie Siegler (founder of design studio Eight and a Half, which has worked with everyone from the Criterion Collection to the Brooklyn Public Library to Late Night With Seth Meyers)
  • Shifting the Daily Value percentages to the left makes each category a clear unit – Tobias Frere-Jones

Read more to find out what other adjustments these world class designers would make to the label.

The Oscars, A Branding Extravaganza

It is that time again, the highlight of awards season is here.  The 86th annual Academy Awards are this Sunday, March 2nd.  The nominations are out, and people are making their predictions on the winners.  You officially have two more days to see all the movies you didn’t have a chance to watch yet. Nothing better than a Saturday movie marathon.

You can download a ballot to fill out prior to the show. Here at Brand Iron we are all discussing who the winners will be.  The New York times has a great predictions article we suggest you check out before filling out your ballot.

As excited as we are to see who wins the awards, we are even more excited to see what designer brands each nominee is wearing on the red carpet!  Did you know the red carpet is 500 feet long?  Brush up on these fun Oscar facts to share at your viewing party this Sunday!

We found a great drawing of all of the Best Actress winners since 1929. It is amazing to see how timeless the designs really are.  Although each year you can get a glimpse of the fashion trends that year, overall the feel is always glamour.

 

Who Needs Commercials?

Experience Marketing spending is taking over marketing budgets of large brands. With big events coming up like the 86th annual Academy Awards and the 20th South by Southwest Interactive concert series, brands are competing for more than air space; they are competing for consumers time by leaving lasting impressions of memorable experiences.

According to The New York Times, “The concept is to offer consumers tangible ways to connect with brands, in a belief that such engagement is more likely to stimulate positive word of mouth and discussion in social media.” In the age of Instagram, there is no better way to sell a brand than through eyes of peers. Continue reading