Settle Into Your Zone of Genius

Ever get a feeling of energy and flow that is effortless when performing a task or activity? I am talking about pure Zen! That is a Zone of Genius and it is your own unique power. It can be described as the sweet spot between skills, strength and talents.  Most times, this is where entrepreneurs and small business owners are at and the reason they went into business in the first place. It is the passion that drove them to set out on their own and create a product or service that nobody else could!


What does this all mean? The activities you participate in typically fall within one of four zones:

  1. Zone of Incompetence – things other people can do better than you
  2. Zone of Competence – Things you can accomplish and other can do too
  3. Zone of Excellence – Things you can do better than others, but you don’t enjoy it
  4. Zone of Genius – Things that you are uniquely good at and thoroughly enjoy doing

As someone inspired to start and run your own company, it is important to recognize where your Zone of Genius lies and when you start to drift into incompetence, competence, and excellence. What are the activities that you are spending your time doing that you aren’t very good at or are not enjoying? Could someone else be doing it better? Finding the right workflow means understanding what you want, what you are good at and what the organizations needs to grow and thrive.

Working in your Zone of Genius is all about finding joy and energy in a task. Anything that falls outside of that in Zones 1 – 3 needs to be considered carefully and then outsourced to people that find purpose in the job. The task could be overhauled or even eliminated. The Zone of Excellence can be tricky because you will do it well but not enjoy it. This is exactly how people end up in jobs they hate for 20+ years! Be transparent about how you feel about tasks and responsibilities … to yourself and to the people around you.

What is the best way to realize our Zone of Genius? Consider leveraging these exercises:

  1. Monitor work related tasks for a set period … two weeks is usually a good baseline
  2. Put each task into the Zones 1 – 4
  3. Tally up what went into each Zone

This is the fun part! For all the tasks that went into Zone 1 – 3 figure out ways to either eliminate (most of the time it is not feasible to completely eliminate a task, but it is possible periodically!), outsource it or rework the task to make it enjoyable.

Understanding your Zone of Genius means embracing your natural talent, which often can go ignored because you feel pressured to “like” another job or task better, a negative and subjective work evaluation or simply because you are overwhelmed trying to be everything to everyone.

Want to learn more about finding your Zone of Genius? Check out this YouTube video!

Disruptive Branding

“The customer is always right”

This is what drives brands to look beyond the status quo and shake up the marketspace through innovation and disruption to reach new customers. A truly disruptive brand works to consistently develop products and services and marketing methods that rise above the noise.

What Is It Exactly?

Being a brand disruptor is not just about doing something differently. It is about actually changing the game. To make an idea (whether it be a new idea or a reinvented process) or a marketing process truly disruptive it needs to be so significantly better that it completely shifts how people think and steers the market in a new direction. AirBNB and Uber are great examples of this. Not only did these companies give people an opportunity to make money but they made it easier for customers to go and stay places cost effectively.

Key to Success

Pulling off a successful disruption is a perfect mix of market research and risk. It is important to understand the following:

  • Customer experience gaps
  • Insight into customer journeys
  • Current brand perception
  • Consumer market research and data analysis
  • Scope of threat from competition
  • Competitive pricing structure
  • Customer engagement strategies

Be sure to determine the unique customer benefits and experience for customers. Is it really going to disrupt the marketplace or potentially completely miss the mark and damage your brand reputation?

Customer Technology

Consumers relationships with brands are driven by technology, whether it be through social media, websites, digital advertising, or apps. These customer experiences are more interactive, discernable, and reactive given the accessibility and ease of technology. This provides brands the opportunities to learn more about what their customers need and want, along with how they want to be engaged by a business. It also gives them ease of access to what their competition is doing.

The technology also allows brands to conduct market research and test strategies that allows them to find market anomalies and hone in on what could serve as the greatest disruptor for the consumer and marketplace.

How to Be a Disruptor

To be a great brand disruptor, think big! Think about an innovation that seems impossible but then do the research to back it up. Maybe it is about creating a product or a service. Or maybe it is simple about how a marketing and/or advertising campaign is executed to get in front of people and create a positive memorable impression.  At the end of the day being a disruptive brand is all about the belief that customer experience needs to change. Remember, the customer is always right!

Know Where Your Genius Lives

Every decision we make carries an opportunity cost. If we don’t budget our time wisely, we end up wasting it, as well as our energy on things that don’t matter or should be delegated to those with the proper expertise. For example, when I first started my business, I thought I needed to handle my monthly accounting, data entry and P&L statements. I spent HOURS trying to understand and organize the money I was making and spending. What I quickly learned was that the amount of time I was spending on this task each month was significantly taking away the time I spent on client work which ended up causing me some very late-night hours and a lot of stress. The obvious lesson I learned here was that I needed to outsource this task to an expert that manages this more efficiently so that I could focus on building a graphic design and branding business.

Fifteen years later the term “stay in your lane” resonates loudly with me as I seek to create synergies with third parties that can help me run Creative Vortex more efficiently. That’s not to say that learning a new skill or gaining an appreciation for another talent isn’t still important but knowing where your genius lives and honoring that is equally, if not more so, important.

This concept also applies to creating a marketing and design strategy for a business. It is amazing to me how often people think they can do this themselves because they “know their business the best” and consider themselves to be creative or a great writer. Or they simply just don’t see the value in investing in a professional design team because they think that an online software can give them everything they need for $150 a year. Then waste hours of their own time trying to do something they are not very good at and struggle with the execution.

The examples below are the most common:

  • Working solo to customize marketing materials from a template to save money vs hiring experts with proven experience to increase sales and company revenue and hit deadlines.
  • Posting on social media sporadically with content that has no meaning to the target market (you think it does, but it is totally off base) vs hiring a professional to do some market research and create a strategy and content calendar that has relevance with your audience.
  • Paying for online ads and using stock visuals (or worse yet, visuals stolen from the Internet) vs hiring a professional digital marketer/designer to create custom visuals and assist with ad copy.
  • Paying a lot of money for a booth spot at a trade show, waiting too long to create the design/marketing and end up missing the mark because they didn’t know about the many, many details related to printing, shipping, set-up and execution.
  • Buying a discount logo online and expecting it to work for all your marketing and business needs. Please know that putting a vertical logo into a horizontal space isn’t going to work because it is so small that people can’t see it. Just because you can get a logo for $99 in a day doesn’t mean you should. Your brand mark should have the ability to shine in all its applications.

How much is your time actually worth? How much time in your day are you spending on tasks you don’t understand and consequently getting poor results for your effort? Think about how much more you could achieve and build your business by partnering with a creative/marketing professional that could help strategically guide your business and ultimately save you time and money. Branding is a process and it is important to build the foundation, which typically includes business name, tagline, mission and vision statement.

Every day we are faced with choices on how to invest our time, and we all can be guilty of the same thing: Taking on too much without properly understanding the costs. Especially when it comes to marketing and design, it is important to partner with experts that know how to create the most impact for your money, no matter how big or small a budget is.

Interested in learning more about creating a branding and marketing strategy? Contact Creative Vortex today for insights on how we can help your business stand out in a crowd.

How Shapes Affect Logo Design

Shapes are all around us and part of our everyday life. And, whether we believe it or not, they play an important role in building and defining a brand logo that serves as an anchor for an organization in its industry. Shapes in brand logos are often overlooked or misunderstood by business owners with most emphasis being focused on color, font type and format. It is important to give shapes the same amount of attention when creating a logo to:

  • Symbolize different ideas
  • Direct the eye from one element to the next
  • Convey emotion and mood
  • Create trust and professionalism
  • Deliver a sense of depth
  • Connect with an audience

Shape elements, including circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, vertical and horizontal lines, organic shapes and spirals all communicate different meanings. Let’s explore how each element translates in a logo and provides a connection point for current and potential customers.

Circles
A common feature in logo design, circles are used in 20 percent of the most recognized brands. Using a circle in a logo conveys positive emotional messages through unity, friendship, commitment, strength, and steadiness. They connote softness, bonding, consistency, sturdiness, and reliability. In some instances, they imply marriage and partnership to show stability and endurance.

Squares & Rectangles
Another popular and common design form, squares and rectangles create an idea of proportion, balance and dependability. While the corners found in these elements are sharp and abrupt, they also help to inspire trust, safety, maturity, intelligence and strength about the brand for consumers.

Triangles
The triangular shape in logo design shows dynamic power, hierarchy, and continuous motion and/or improvement. The shape of a triangle seems to be pushing in a specific direction which helps to give a perception of brand innovation and resilience. Again, the sharp corners help to emulate trust, safety, maturity, intelligence and strength for consumers

Lines
Lines tend to be the least popular and are often used as a secondary element, but still can significantly impact logo design for the better. Vertical lines can portray strength, sophistication, and, in some instances, aggression. Horizontal lines convey community, tranquility, and calm.

Organic Shapes & Spirals
Not every logo has to be based on circles, squares, rectangles, or triangles. The use of organic shapes, which are naturally occurring forms (shapes), and spirals are often used to create unique logos that are a literal portrayal of a brand. Spirals are used to be centralizing, transformative and are often considered to be hypnotic as well. Organic shapes make people feel warm and comforted by portraying well-recognized elements that tug at heart strings or good memories.

Shapes are building blocks and create patterns, providing something for our brains to memorize and recognize. The use of different shapes, or the use of one strong shape, in logo design can help to create an emotional and psychological bond between a brand and its consumers. It is important to understand how shapes affect your logo and how to incorporate them in order to create a brand connection.

The Psychology of Color & Your Logo

The biggest brands in the world are defined by their logo and the color that represents them. Multiple studies have shown that a brand’s color influences 60 to 80 percent of a consumer’s decision to purchase a product or service. Specifically, 84.7% of buyers claimed color as the primary draw to a brand. While the use of color is always subjective, it is also closely linked to a business’s brand identity and its ability to position itself with target audiences.

The psychology of color shows patterns of how people respond and form strong associations to certain hues in specific industries. Of the top 100 brands in the U.S., blue is the most popular color at 33 percent, followed by red at 29 percent and black (or grayscale) at 28 percent. Only 13 percent of those brands use yellow or gold.

Image credit: canva.com

The Marketo Engage blog by Adobe does a great job of breaking down the use of color in branding.

Red

Evokes a passionate and visceral response. It is a color that increases your heart rate, makes you breathe more rapidly, and activates the pituitary gland.

Color code: aggressive, energetic, provocative, attention-grabbing

Purple

Sophisticated yet mysterious color. The richness of this color tips its hat to the royalty and elegance found deep within us.

Color code: royalty, sophistication, nostalgia, mystery, spirituality

Blue

One of the most popular choices for a brand color, it is thought to put people at ease as it is reminiscent of the sky and ocean.

Color code: trustworthy, dependable, secure, responsible

Green

There is a wide variation between its shades and is synonymous with calm, freshness, and health. Deeper greens are associated with affluence and lighter greens are associated with serenity.

Color code: wealth, health, prestige, serenity

Yellow

Because yellow is reminiscent of the sun, it communicates hope and optimism. Yellow stimulates creativity and energy, and its brightness is especially useful to catch a customer’s eye.

Color code: positivity, light, warmth, motivation, creativity

Orange

Combines the brightness and cheer of yellow with the energy and boldness of red to make a color that is full of life and excitement.

Color code: vitality, fun, playful, exuberant

 

Brown

Speaks of earthly simplicity, as well as strength and durability. However, use caution as it also reminds people of dirt.

Color code: earthlike, natural, simplistic, durable

 

Black

Used by companies that wish to boast a classic sophistication. Black works especially well for expensive products.

Color code: prestige, value, timelessness, sophistication

 

White

Represents purity and cleanliness and is a popular choice for healthcare and child-related businesses.

Color code: pure, noble, clean, soft

 

 

As always, the use of color in branding and marketing is subjective and you never know when someone is going to love it or hate it … or be completely indifferent. However, the bottom line is that brand colors are critical to the success of an organization by keeping it front and center with the right target market.

 

3 Tips to Calm Networking Jitters 

We are looking for something when we put on our networking hats and approach a room (perhaps right now it’s still a Zoom room!) full of people that we are hopeful to meet. Maybe you are trying to keep up with business trends in your industry, find a new job, looking for talent to fill an open position, build a client list, make new friends or find the most impactful way to volunteer or give back. Your WHY for networking will always be shifting and evolving, but it’s important not to leave the practice for the moment you need something.  Really, the best time to network is when you are not asking for anything so there is time to grow and cultivate relationships. Perhaps, you will be the one giving for a while before needing to receive from a circle of influence. Think of networking as a marathon and not a sprint. Get in there and get comfortable to find your rhythm and style, but also make sure you aren’t always talking with all the same people.

Networking isn’t always easy, but it is so important to ensure that you have access to opportunities not open to the public. Having a high-functioning network provides valuable behind the scenes insight into different fields, internal perspective on jobs and advice on how to grow professionally. Simply put, networking provides better business opportunities and the perception of increased status.

I have been in business a while and have learned a few things about networking and running a successful boutique graphic design agency. Networking is significantly easier for me now after attending all kinds of events, trade shows, luncheons and dinners, but I had to learn a few tricks when I first started out. Below are three tips that can help you calm the jitters.

Prepare What You Want to Say

No, I don’t mean read from note cards or from notes written on the inside of your hand. However, you can still come prepared with what you want to say. Practice a 10 to 20 second elevator speech about yourself that includes who you are, what your professional background is, and why you are at the event. Networking is about getting to know other people so be prepared to ask questions of other people, including the presenters if the opportunity presents itself. It’s also important to have a general understanding about the subject matter being presented or discussed at the event.

Grow the Conversation

Networking is about connecting people that don’t know each other. A conversation with good flow can always handle more people to keep it interesting. Invite people that you already know into the conversation and introduce them to people you just met or already have a relationship with. This is a great way to make sure that the conversation isn’t just dependent on two people. People are going to expect others to drop in and out of conversations at networking events. It is also important to always offer authentic conversation. Believe it or not, it’s not hard to spot someone that is faking it. Don’t pretend to know something you don’t … and if you don’t ask about it. It’s a great way to stay engaged!

Work the Room

Make a plan to literally work yourself entirely through the room to meet people. Make a circle around the perimeter or interior of the room, or you can work the room diagonally to make an X. Doing this ensures maximum exposure and keeps you from getting stuck in a bubble.

Remember, it’s hard for everyone to walk into a crowded room to network. Remember … when signing up for networking events typically you are excited about it. It’s been proven that the brain and nervous system responds the same to nerves and excitement. So the next time you are networking and the jitters are growing take a deep breath, look around the room and focus on your plan. You got this!

Branding 101: Use of Social Media

Social media can be daunting for a business to successfully execute and maintain! Creative Vortex sat down with Emily from Little Red Communications to talk about how to create social media content and images that stay on brand, engage with consumers and drive sales, as well as find out how to build and maintain a thriving presence. Emily provided some tips on getting started and making sure content stayed in line with business initiatives and goals.

The Importance of a Visual Story on Social Media

Finding a Balance Between Marketing and Making a Personal Connection

How to Make Your Images and Content Appealing to Consumers

Branding 101: Use of Video

A well-done brand video helps your current and potential customers identify and engage with your business twice as fast as an image or text. People like buying from people and video allows brands to better create a likeable and vibrant persona. Video is shared the most on social media and is processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text. However, it is also important to do it right or you risk creating a bad reputation.

Join Creative Vortex and Elevated Shorts as we explore the different facets of leveraging video in an effective branding campaign.

Long- and Short-Form Video

Consistent Use of Video

How does video complement a marketing mix?

 

 

One Percent

The whole concept of time has changed amid the quarantine period. People have taken on the reality of managing their life from a kitchen table or living room couch. Some of us are lonely, bored and anxious. Some of us are overstimulated by duties that tripled overnight. How do we manage our time so that it still serves us?

1. Create a schedule
For those of us that suddenly have an empty social life or those that are overwhelmed by working full-time and making sure kids finish school, our schedules have changed dramatically. One of the best ways to take back your power in this situation is to create a schedule that gives your day meaning and ensures that you care for yourself. Schedule live fitness classes on Zoom, run outside two miles a day, attend a virtual happy hour or networking session, attend a drive-by birthday party, etc. Make sure you delineate between your work and when you do other things so you don’t end up in front of your computer all day. Try to keep it normal, but if you end up working a few hours in the evening because you spent three hours helping your child with schoolwork during the day don’t sweat it. Just make sure you don’t work all night. Keep it realistic. Don’t worry, you can write a new schedule every day if you want to!

2. Exercise
Make time for exercise! Don’t give up on your new year’s resolutions just because life changed significantly. There are so many online fitness courses to take right now and gyms have quickly ramped up online classes for members. If you absolutely need people to work out with, there are even several organizations that offer live virtual fitness classes to keep people motivated. If all else fails, go outside and walk around the block several times a day. If you have kids, take a daily break from school and work at the park or in the backyard and make sure that it is equally about you as it is for them. Play soccer, create family-friendly obstacle courses, race each other … just make sure everyone’s heart is racing. This is an excellent opportunity to make exercise a habit for everyone!

3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Work on your communication skills with the people you live with, as well as those you work with. If it’s not working for you voice your concerns and frustrations, as well as suggest a compromise that might work for everyone. It might take you a few tries to get it right, but eventually you will. Don’t be afraid to bend the rules a little bit. You aren’t living or working in your normal space right now and emotions are high. Give yourself, your co-workers and your little ones the grace and space needed to feel comfortable. However, make sure you set boundaries (this ties back to creating a schedule!) to make sure that you accomplish tasks by the end of every day. For example, schoolwork has to be done before 2 pm, no work calls after 6 pm, run every morning at 7 am, etc.

So many of us talk about changing things in our life to make ourselves feel more empowered. This really is an opportunity to assert yourself more at work, incorporate more exercise, try a new hobby, engage with family members more, carve out time just for you or to ask for more help. We all make choices every day, and ultimately, we choose what and who is part of our life. I like to think of this as the One Percent Rule. Do one percent better than the day before and before you know it you will see a difference!