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For many years I’ve had the privilege of working with the amazing brand identity consultant and designer, Louise Dyer, founder of Dart Design in Colchester. Today our relationship become a little more formal, as I have now joined the team!  I’m still going to continue working in PR-led marketing communications as Sharon Morrison Communications but, as the need for branding, or a brand refresh, has affected every single piece of work I’ve been involved in for the past four years, it seemed only logical to become a brand consultant at Dart too.

We’re not joined at the hip, but we have jointly written this piece on our take on building brand that last.

Many decades ago a brand was considered to be the embodiment of all the values and positive attributes of an organisation, including its products or services. To others it was just a logo. Today a brand is still considered to be the embodiment of all the values and positive attributes of an organisation and to others it’s still just a logo. The big difference between these kinds of companies, whether they’re as old and traditional as the Bank of England or as new and unpredictable as Google, is that one kind has an innate understanding of their brand, what it is, what it should feel like, how it should be presented to the outside world. They invest time in developing their culture, starting with their staff, then taking steps to ensure customers, suppliers and opinion formers all ‘get them’.  Their message, the one key element that they want us to remember about them, is being reinforced constantly and via every conceivable communications channel, from stationery, literature and the website, to how the phone is answered. This creates likeability, understanding, familiarity and loyalty, all vital components in building a strong brand. Brands like this can weather the storm of bad publicity, acts of God and poor share performance. The companies that believe a new logo will make their business look good and help build sales but fail to invest in creating that relationship with their target audience, will have a look but no substance. Their brands have no foundations and can’t stand the test of time; the appeal is transitory. Perhaps the best way to sum up their approach to branding is this: “if you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there”.

You can create a brand in a number of different ways, but the one sure way to start is by caring about it. This might sound a little corny, but it’s what every major brand – young and old – around the world does. It’s hard to argue with success.

Metallic Elephant – a Dart Design case study

Ros and Karl French started their hot foil stamping business in 2007. If you’re new to the world of hot foil stamping, here’s what you need to know: it all started in the 1800s where hot stamping was used in book publishing to apply gold tooling or embossing to leather and paper. It was applied using heat and pressure to get the look. In 2014 this method is still used to create amazing effects on paper and leather as well as plastic, fabric, hat bands, saddles, handbags and shoes. Based in the pretty Essex village of Frating, Metallic Elephant has grown from strength to strength and is now the only company in the country which builds hot foil machines by hand and to order.

One of the key components of their success is the fact that they produce an exceptional product and really care about delivering great customer service. To grow the business this is important, but first your prospects need to know you exist and, if you haven’t got a massive marketing budget, and most SMEs don’t, the Internet becomes a vital part of promoting the company. Ros, who takes care of the marketing, has always understood the importance and cost-effectiveness of the Internet and spends all her spare time using social media and search engine optimisation to reach out to prospects. She realised that being found, although a significant step forward, was also a problem as the current website didn’t reflect the Metallic Elephant brand. It did, in some ways, work against the business, and she decided that a new website needed to be designed to accurately reflect the brand.

Louise Dyer and Sharon Morrison, directors of Dart Design, based in Colchester, were asked to create it. The starting point was developing Ros and Karl’s beliefs into one cohesive message. The Metallic Elephant brand is all about precision, skill, creativity and respect for the art of hot foil printing; the team is also very approachable and easy to work with. Visitors won’t stay long on a website unless they’re held, so Dart wanted to find a way of making each page “sticky”, so that visitors would want to read on. They believed the marriage of playful headlines with vibrant colour and intricate images would epitomise their client’s brand values, while also being engaging and fun! The site needed to stand apart from the competition, so competitor sites were assessed before committing any thoughts to the screen. The end result is a beautifully crafted website, full of facts and practical information. Hopefully it’s sticky too.

Ros French, Director and Co-founder, Metallic Elephant, speaking about the new site said:

 “The Internet is one of the best ways to market your product, but it’s also instant. Your website is therefore a crucial marketing tool in attracting and informing customers and prospects. We believe our site does exactly what we wanted it to.”

Dart Design Ltd, 01206 854527. www.dartdesignltd.co.uk

Metallic Elephant, 01206 251221. www.hotfoil.co.uk

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