Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Importance of Branding

I was working through some ideas to find that signature item that would help define my store.  I’m find inspiration from two great print makers followed on Instagram, Read Between the Lines and Hello Tosha.  I see both these prints regularly on Instagram from their fans or other websites I might stumble upon

Image of Framed Art Print - YOU ARE MY BUCKET LIST
You are My Bucket List – Read Between the Lines
Pineapple of My Eye – Hello Tosha

Haven’t found my signature item just yet but it got me thinking about important branding is for any business.

I know someone who worked as a buyer for Starbucks.  He once had the supplier who couldn’t deliver shipments of the signature green straws.   To drive home the importance of this position.  He was responsible for consumable materials (which includes straws) for all of North America for Starbucks.   You would think, well if they ran out, they could just use any other brand right?   Nope. 

That issue actually caused ripples of controlled panic. 

There was no way they would allow their stores to run out of green straws.  Why?  It’s part of their branding.  All brand name products, you expect consistency.  If it makes you feel good, you want to repeat that experience over.  Every little thing of that last moment you enjoyed; it’s important for you to have it again.  Even something as different as drinking from a different straw changes that experience.

Yep, brand association.  There’s a lot of people who glimpse the green straw and think, “Mmm…I could go for a Frappuccino”.  If a store when with a white straw or something that is just a different shade of green, that “Mmm” moment may not happen.

You might be thinking:

Really, that’s just silly, how can anyone be so silly as to reject a drink due to drinking straw?

My sister-in-law works in the downtown core in a law firm.  The hustle and bustle of high end shops and career driven corporate executives.  She told me many people, including the lawyers she work for who view having a Starbucks every day, twice (or more) a day.  Some even brand them as a status symbols.  I get it.  If you pay $7.00 for a coffee twice a day 5 days a week, that’s $3640.  If I was CEO of Starbucks, I want to make sure they have the same satisfying experience every drink my customer has.  If those green straws are part of that encourage to buy the afternoon treat, my stores better of them well stocked.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


By day I work in a high tech manufacturing firm as a electronics buyer.  Recently I received this email during my day job after asking the country of origin and date of manufacturer:


He’s a all-capper email writer!  An all-capper are those who always write in all caps!    Each time I read an all-caps email my brain is imaging this huge angry finger wagging parent screaming at my 5 year old self blamed for something my brother did.  My ego takes a hit and then I snap myself out of it.

Emails like this provokes emotions of negativity to the reader and does affect the productivity.  Instead of taking that email as, “he’ll get back to me when he an” and moving on to the next task; I paused, had the image and got annoyed.  Even made a note to self to write about why using all caps is a problem in the workplace.

There can be dire consequences for all-caps email

The common theme is that all-caps emails causes the reader to think you are shouting at them.

What is it with all caps email?  Why does it cause such a physiological negative response?

Don’t know any typographic experts so I asked around in my small circle of friends and co-workers.    Day to day emails are really a replacement for telephone calls before the invention of email in the workplace.  In reality they are a documented business conversation.  If it is conversation, then how you write replaces the intonations of your voice so the listener knows how you want to message to be received.

My non-scientific pool of geniuses came up with two conclusions:

  1. No one like to listen to shouters.
    • Take my image of angry parent to small child.  I’m probably in trouble.  You just shut down and wait for the yelling to be over so you can be on your way.  You are not listening and you don’t get the message.

  2. All-Cap emails are more difficult to read
    • Not sure the reason but lower case letters just seem more friendly to readers.  A friendly conversation, not having a one sided shouting match.

When should you use caps?

  • Using caps sparingly EMPHANIZES the point of the subject at hand. 
  • We’ve also seen this in legal to denote special importance.  I once had a supplier who found sample and made it clear that the parts comes with NO WARRANTY

So any of you who are all-cappers, how hard it is to hit that caps lock key?  Do you really want your customers put off just because it seems easier?

On a side note, the supplier in question is actually wonderful. Nicest guy in the world. However, when I first worked with him, I considered moving my business elsewhere just because of the all-caps habit. Lucky for him, his customer service won out.  No, I don’t ask him not to change his writing habit.  I really have bigger things to worry about in my day job.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Martha Stewart Crafts Scoring Board and Envelope Tool

Last year, I was making a lot of handmade cards and boxes.  Hand folding the cardstock in half wasn’t giving the crisp clean look that store bought parts have.  When I hand scored with a ruler, well, that was even worse because I was very inaccurate due to paper sliding and I got lazy to measure twice.  My sister in law who runs Lucky Charms Cards purchased this same board a while back and she liked it a lot.   There was a 50% off paper crafting tool sale on Joanne’s website so decided to order one.


  • has a built in compartment to store the envelope template so you won’t lose it

2014-07-10 22.56.26

  • has a built in compartment to store the bone folder and will house thin items you may use like a glue pen or erasers


  • In the bone folder compartment, there’s a ‘cheat sheet’ reference for paper sizes to score envelopes for popular card sizes


  • great for projects that require accordion folds like fans or rosettes


  • Large footprint – This accommodates a 12 x 12 sheet and I use this board very often.  However, it takes up too much room on my working space if it’s left out.  I did get around this buy using a letter sorter.  I also use it to hold my other often used tool like my cutting board and my paper trimmer

2014-07-10 22.55.15

  • Envelope Maker – after scoring per instructions, I don’t like how you have to hand cut the notches.  Most of us can’t cut that straight and even though most people wouldn’t notice, I notice how they are not lining up perfectly when folding.


Apply a light, consistent pressure when storing.  Too light of a touch, your bone folder will ‘jump the rails’.  Too heavy will rip your paper

Overall, this is a great scoring tool.  I personally don’t make a lot of envelopes with it as I have an easier to use tool, We R Memory Keeps Envelope Punch Board

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Are You a Small Business Narcissist?

One of the traps I've seen from some of the artists on social media is business narcissism.  On Instagram, one user I follow will only like her own photos or any happenstance photos of her products from any of her followers.  Or on twitter, the tweets are purely self promotion or favours others tweets about them.  It shouldn't since it has nothing to do with my small business but it is a pet peeve.  Why this behaviour is bad? 

It tells your potential customers that you only care about yourself.  All you want is them to buy your product.

Admittingly, the last statement is an extreme generalization.  There are industries and professions that your have one put yourself out there.  All artists like photographers or graphic illustrators needs to self promote.  There needs a balance between self promotion and adding value to your readers or followers. 

Only 1% of sellers out there who has something good enough to stand on the own.  Everyone else imitates.

Just think Apple with the iPhone when they were first introduced in the market.  Now smartphones are everywhere.

I don't read blogs or follow those who only tweets about their next sale or write about this great widget he or she invented.  The fact is, there's a good chance I'll never buy the product.  However, when I see posts about tips and tricks, useful advice or just an inspiring piece of artwork, then I'm engaged.  I want to read more.  I've actually led people to some artists I follow and they purchased from them.

The power of word of mouth advertising is powerful.

I follow television news anchor Tamara Taggart and I love her.  She has beautiful kids and she posts up great finds she happily shares where she purchased them to any follower who asks.  She shares both her happy moments and not so happy ones.  It sounds creepy but I there's connection when I see a glimpse of her as a human being, not the serious local news person.

If you have a social media network for your business.  Take a look at your feeds.  Are they shameless self promotion or are you engaging your potential customers?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

May your country’s birthday filled with celebration, family and happiness!