The other day, a friend and I were having dinner to catch up. I hadn’t seen him since I left my contract job 15 months ago. He told me that in one of his MBA classes, they were discussing the JogAlong branding and website. My response: “How did that come up, and what did people think?” He had volunteered it as part of their discussion about branding and the consensus was people were impressed, including the professor. I thanked him and smiled modestly but inside I thought my chest was going to burst! That kind of feedback really makes me proud. I told my friend the JogAlong branding, website, and company identity were the result of many people’s hard work, experience, and creative visualization.
This exchange made me reflect on how little I knew about the branding process prior to initiating the JogAlong Stroller, and I suspect it’s that way for many people starting their own venture. It’s hard to know where to start, but if I could offer one suggestion, it would be get help from people who know what they’re doing. We are all experts in at least an area or two. But if branding isn’t one of yours, consider the risk of representing your product, self, or service, built upon hundreds or thousands of hours, with a brand persona that is sub-par. There are many ways to develop a business identity, but I wanted to give you, our community, a peek into the process we used, which was, in spite of a few missteps and wrong turns, ultimately exciting and highly rewarding.
If you search for branding and logo help, there are so many options out there, from low-cost providers to huge firms. For someone like me, who had not gone through it before with a long-term perspective, it was nearly overwhelming to find a starting point. I tried to come up with some logos as did some of my artistic friends, but we didn’t find anything we really liked. At this point, I hired a company to do it, but it’s not here that we get the happy ending. People close to me told me the initial brand wasn’t very good; we just didn’t get a positive feeling about what we had. It was hard to stomach spending a good chunk of money and then realizing we needed to start over, but that’s what happened.
Now, faced with needing a new image from scratch, I came to appreciate all the effort, thought, and talent needed to build a good one. I went to a couple of larger ad agencies but they were too big for me. One of them thankfully even told me that. About this time, I discovered Cassandra Bryan Design and liked the look of their other clients’ branding and the fresh clean websites. After visiting with Cassandra and reviewing their proposal, I was optimistic. Coming from the engineering side of business, there were so many things I had never thought about regarding marketing; the CBD team taught me a great deal. They have a lot of expertise within their group, from business aspects to the artistic side of things, all the way through the technical details needed for a great website. Once we got rolling, I really enjoyed working with them.
Cassandra shared about their process: “The first step was research. My team identified JogAlong’s target market, its competitors, and the goals of the company. We agreed that the logo had to have a modern appeal while at the same time communicating the innovation that’s the stroller’s main selling point. I asked Mike, ‘If you had to describe your company/organization in 3 words, what would they be? Why?’ His answer: ‘performance, perseverance, and creative.'”
I smiled when I reread my own answers. “Performance” is related to the product itself. Runners of all levels want to do better and improve. Anybody who has run for some time has undoubtedly had an injury or sore muscle or something aggravating them reducing the quality of their performance; I consider running with a stroller that doesn’t allow you to move both arms as aggravating. Even small aggravations can change how you feel about your exercise session or your race. However, once you’ve been training awhile and you get one of those days when you feel noticeably stronger, it’s an awesome feeling. I wanted to be able to help people who run with a stroller have that feeling.
“Perseverance” is more personal. It took so long to get to this point, lots of ups and downs along the way, but we never gave up. And “creative” originally related to how the JogAlong works. I am proud of this design that makes it possible for parents to get a more ergonomic run or walk with their child. But today the creative part means much more than that to me: it represents the JogAlong team and how they are using their energy and creativity to bring this company to life.
After that first conversation, Cassandra brought the project to her team and they came up with preliminary concepts. She explains: “The icon in the top left design symbolized the stroller’s most innovative quality: the independent moving arms. It also reflected an abstract ‘J’ and ‘A.'”
I told Cassandra I liked that one and the one on the top right.
The team went back to work and came up with more ideas. Cassandra: “We took those revisions and got input from a group of other businesses and marketers my team has worked with in the past. We used their feedback to narrow the choices down even more, and we then did another round of review with Mike. We wanted color that communicates JogAlong as a sophisticated yet approachable product line and Mike agreed.”
Once we had our identity in place, we had to get the word out. But at that point I didn’t understand how the process worked. Search engines, analytics, rankings, community; I had heard the words but beyond the basic definitions, it was all new to me. That’s where Janet Fouts and her team came in. Janet: “We listen to what interests people in our market. The content we share goes far deeper into our users’ lives than just that one moment when they need a stroller. We want to build a community that’s supported by the content we put out. We want people to connect that content with the JogAlong values of getting outdoors in the fresh air with kids, keeping the kids safe, and introducing them to the fun of being outdoors with their parent. In the end, it’s not just about the sale or promotion; it’s about a culture that we believe in and represent.”
Through social media, Janet’s company shares stories that new parents value and that leave them wanting to hear more from us. And at the same time, those stories help us build credit within the search engine realm. That combination of fresh content and how it’s shared in combination with a well-made website with its own specific content has done great for us with the search engines. Janet taught me so much about how our content and message needed to be in agreement with the values of our community. We have continued to build on providing original content with Denny Krahe’s series on running tips, Iana Knak’s healthy recipes and cooking, and Gail Marlene Schwartz’s articles on health and family.
I now look back at where we were a year ago and where we are now. The difference is huge. It’s a big process if you want to do it right, but I’m confident we’re on the right track: a company whose brand is a reflection of its values, with people like you staying connected, well before the product is available.