Jeff Crilley spent 25 years in TV News. During his career he made hundreds of national news appearances including CNN, CNN Headline News, FOX News, The Discovery Channel, Good Morning America and The CBS Early Show.
He has been recognized by his peers with dozens of national and regional awards including the Emmy, the National Headliners Award, the Edward R. Murrow Award, the Thurgood Marshall Award and in 2004 was named by the Texas Associated Press, “The Best TV Reporter in the state.”
Super excited and honored to share my story and tips about branding.
Jeff Crilley: Welcome back to The Jeff Crilley Show. This is a subject that’s near and dear to my heart. It’s branding. I met a lovely, young lady at a conference that I was speaking at a couple of days ago, Kasia Johnson. She is the Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Merge Forward. It’s a digital marketing company. Welcome to The Jeff Crilley Show.
Kasia Johnson: Thank you.
Jeff: How did your company start?
Kasia: I started in graphic design. I went to Communication Design to North Texas to get that degree. I wanted to be creative. I wanted to make money, so I continued down that path. I worked at several brands like Fossil and Neiman Marcus Direct. I ended up running a boutique agency and then I went to print for a little bit.
All of a sudden, I found myself as a single mom with a three‑month‑old and a four‑year‑old. That’s how I got into printing for a little bit. I went back into the corporate world even though, before that, I had an entrepreneurial type of lifestyle.
I was driving in traffic all the time. I was picking up my kids really late from school, like 6:30. I was like, “This is not the life that I want.” I really missed being creative. I missed servicing really awesome clients, and so I just jumped.
Jeff: Wow. That’s scary.
Kasia: It was very scary. Everybody said, “Don’t do it.” They’re like, “What were you thinking?” I had one friend that said, “You know, this could be a really good idea. Let’s just see if it works.” At that time, I was freelancing at night, too. I took those clients, I made them full time clients, and I haven’t stopped since.
Jeff: You’re working with some big names. We were talking off the air, AT&T?
Kasia: Yes, Ben E. Keith. We worked with the “Dallas Morning News,” with Anheuser‑Busch and we’ve worked with smaller businesses, too. That’s dear to my heart. I love entrepreneurs. We’ve worked with nonprofits, too.
Jeff: Let’s talk about some things that happen. When somebody approaches you for brand advice, or you’re sitting down with a perspective client for the first time, how does that discussion go? How do you steer the conversation?
Kasia: That’s a good question. We always start with a digital audit. You can come to me and say, “I need a website. I need this,” but I really want to get to know what’s going on with your brand. I want to date you a little bit. We do a digital audit. We figure out what’s working really well and what’s not.
We come from more of a consulting side. We review that with you and then we make our recommendations. Sometimes, it may not be what you think you need.
Jeff: When you talk about a brand, a brand is big. It’s not just a logo. It’s not just a storefront. What are some things that go into somebody’s brand?
Kasia: It’s so important. It’s more important than sometimes your service and your product because it’s credibility. The brain processes visual things so much faster, 60,000 times faster than copy or anything else.
What goes into it that’s really important is to tell your story visually, very clearly, very simply, and make sure that it’s aligned. Make sure that all your social channels look the same. Make sure that your website matches your business card.
Jeff: That’s so important. I run into people all the time that they have different looks. They may have a logo here, but their card is different than their website. Their brochures are different than both of them. You can’t really create a look or a feel if you’re telling different stories, right?
Kasia: No, you can’t. You got to simplify. You got to think, too, that these days, if they see your brand 17 times, I think, they still don’t remember it. You really want to keep everything aligned. You want to make sure that your colors, your fonts, your overall look, your photography, everything is cohesive.
Because everybody’s inundated with so much information these days, they can’t connect it on their own. You have to help them through that process.
Jeff: When we talk about like big brands in America, we think about Apple. It’s a clean look. It’s very sophisticated. Nobody on the planet doesn’t recognize the apple with the little bite out of it, do they?
Kasia: No, it’s a great brand, and they keep it so simple. It’s very smart. The other thing that I’d like to add is that if you keep it simple, it’ll look great on the phone. Your website should be responsive right now, which means mobile‑friendly.
Our phones, they’re getting bigger, but still, we’re doing other things while we have our phone. We only spend a couple seconds looking at it. Make it really simple, easy to read, the information’s right there in front.
Jeff: Kasia Johnson is my guest and her website…Give it to us.
Jeff: Mergeforward.com. Let’s keep this conversation going. What are some colors that you need to think about? I’ve always been told that there are safe colors for banks. Banks can have blue or banks can have green, but banks don’t really want to have a lot of red.
Kasia: Or hot pink.
Jeff: Why is that?
Kasia: It depends on the business, first of all. It’s hard to say what the safe color is for…I have to know what you’re doing. Also, it’s just the way the mind subconsciously connects. If you have a brown color for health, you’re probably not connecting that with cleanliness. Same with restaurants, red for food.
It’s really important to think about what color you want for your brand. The other thing I want to add is that people get very emotional about the color. I love the color blue, but that doesn’t fit for my brand. My brand’s more orange. It’s more vibrant, because that’s what we do. We do creative.
Sometimes, you have to step away emotionally, and really think like, “Well, what is the message I need to send?”
Jeff: Every once in a while, I’ll see purple these days. What do you think about the color purple? You’re wearing a violet, purplish outfit right now. Does purple say anything about standing out? What does purple say?
Kasia: It’s fun. It’s vibrant. It could be used for children type of brands, something a little bit more exciting maybe.
Jeff: That’s great. After the initial consultation with the client, what happens next?
Kasia: Then, we go into creating a blueprint of what we should do for you creatively and what we should do with social media. Social media can be a beast. These days, you have to really think about a strategy before you put anything up. A lot of people think, “Well, I can just go in and put some information down about my business and click a couple likes.”
You really need to step back and say, “What is the message that I want to send out there? What are our goals?” On top of that, I would recommend, be transparent. The human‑to‑human still really works well these days. Tell us what’s going on backstage with your business. Educate me. Give me some really good information that I can anchor to.
Jeff: I remember, one time, I followed briefly a restaurant in Addison. It was an Italian restaurant and every day, it was ask us about our lasagna special. It was sell, sell, sell, sell, sell. There wasn’t any information, and then I unfollowed them. Do you find that a lot of people make the classic mistake of just being too selly on social media?
Kasia: Absolutely. They don’t know what to do, so that’s what they do. It’s a good idea to put in more content. Maybe that restaurant could have shown behind‑the‑scenes of them making food or maybe recommend some recipes that you can make at home.
Jeff: That’s really good. What about all the channels now? There are so many platforms [laughs] .
Kasia: That’s great.
Jeff: How do you know what’s right for your client?
Kasia: I would start simply crawl, walk, run. Facebook is great. Instagram is great. Twitter is great. Then, getting into Snapchat, and Periscope, and all that. Do what suits you best. Really recognize who your target market is, how are they listening, and don’t assume just because you like Instagram, somebody else is going to like it, too.
For instance, I’m a very visual person. I love looking at pictures, because I’m in creative. I love Instagram but I still tweet. I’m not a person of words, but somebody else might be. Everybody takes information very differently, so don’t assume they take information the same way you do.
Jeff: Do you find that some people are still stuck? I’m going to say stuck in the ’90s, and say, “Well, I don’t need social media. My clients don’t come from Facebook. I don’t need it.” They’re a large law firm or they’re somebody that you’re…
I tell my clients sometimes, “You’re telling everybody under 30, “I don’t speak your language. I’m not talking to you.”
Kasia: Don’t assume that everybody’s going to find you through your business card or your website. There’s different ways that people search for different information. If you’re a law firm, it’s credibility for you. It doesn’t have to be tons on social, but put something in there that I can look you up because I may find you through a friend of a friend on Facebook.
Jeff: What are some other services you guys offer?
Kasia: We offer, on the creative side, logo design, Web design, collateral, branding, over all there. For social media, we offer consulting, training, strategy, and then content creation, so videos, banner ad designs, copyrighting, blog writing, a lot of stuff that takes a lot of time to put together. If you get our services, we make it a lot easier.
Jeff: Tell me a story of one of your favorite clients that you’ve worked with over the years.
Kasia: There’s been so many. AT&T’s been really great. Even though they’re such a big brand, they support small businesses. They have a platform that is called Small Business Circle, and they have a lot of great people on there. They are giving advice for free.
I really appreciate that, because as an entrepreneur, it can get lonely. Sometimes, you’re just the one‑man show and you don’t have somebody to ask advice for. Anytime that’s given to you in a simplified manner is great.
We’ve worked with them last year at South by Southwest and we got to interview Mark Cuban. That was really cool, and he was really great. He spent a lot of time with us. We did an interview, we did videos for them, and then we did a Periscope session and a Facebook live streaming. Facebook streaming just came out.
We had more views on the Facebook stream, because they already have an audience. It’s already in your feed and it was really successful.
Jeff: That’s awesome. Kasia Johnson. She is the driving force behind mergeforward.com. Thank you so much for being on The Jeff Crilley Show. We’ll have to have you back.
Kasia: Thank you.
Hope you enjoyed this week’s post and look out for more strategies and tips on branding and marketing your business!
All my best,
Keep rocking and dream big
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