How Branding Raises Assets

Branding raises assets. Here’s how.

“The investor will treat your brand like your brand treats the investor. If your brand has no personality and no warmth the investor will treat it likewise – with no loyalty and high-performance sensitivity”.

Article by The Hedge Fund Journal

There are very few articles that talk about branding in the investment management arena, especially the alternatives space. The link below highlights an article by The Hedge Fund Journal, written by Lucy Meiland and Nisrin Metcalfe-Zerekli.

Despite being a few years old, the message is still relevant today. More so among hedge fund start-ups or smaller investment managers. These shops have compelling performance numbers but have less knowledge of branding and its benefit.

Branding is a people thing

It’s not just about fonts, logos, colors. Branding wears a much wider hat than corporate visual identity. The brand is every experience to date: internal, external, rational or emotional.

Socialising Media

With the increased use of social media, podcasts and video conversations, branding is on the increase. And it’s personal.

This increase has brought accessibility. Experienced and emerging hedge fund managers talk about how they got started. They share their views about the industry today, and cover specific topics such as risk management. They also tell some memorable stories. For them and for us.

It’s personal to me

What comes across is the essence of the person. As a result, you hear their actual words, the way they rise to a point or laugh about an anecdote. In Managing Brand Equity, David Aaker writes that all commercial brands provide a functional and emotional benefit. The same is true of the finance industry. We rationalize but it’s all about the personal relationship when times are tough.

More to come

In the coming months, here is a Consideration List of topics. Please get in touch if you have a specific one you’d like us to discuss:

  • evolving your messaging
  • pitch books – above and below the surface
  • visual identity
  • storytelling
  • communication skills a must-have
  • regulatory changes and creating a process to edit content
  • approval process management
  • website design and evaluation
  • the ambiguity of language
  • Aristotle – the sum of all the parts

Client presentations: telling a story or simply sharing information?

Data Communication

I recently heard a podcast by the 356labs team. Founder Boris was chatting with Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic about how to tell stories with data and the need for more effective data communication skills.

Much of what they were saying resonated with me and my own client/agency experiences over the years in the market research and finance arenas.

There is a tendency when dealing with data to try to present all findings to your client. You believe you’re doing the right thing. However, what you’re actually doing is putting the onus on them to disseminate the information and force them to determine their own conclusions.

A client perspective

Imagine you’re in a presentation and the presenter hits you with information slide after slide. After a while the key points you originally thought interesting are now forgotten, just as a new tide of information being presented increasingly weighs you down.

That’s what it feels like, in whatever arena – market research, product management, process and project management etc. The principle is the same: too much information that is insufficiently focussed.

Teaching communication skills

In short, there is insufficient emphasis on teaching colleagues how to tell a story. This concern ripples across many industries. Moshe Mikanovsky helps companies build lean software products agrees. “In Product Management, it’s critical to provide the insights and the story since most of our stakeholders are not technical and we can lose them very fast. Coming up with the storytelling approach is a struggle for many of us though.”

This issue is all too familiar; colleagues with excellent technical skills who are not versed in ‘telling’ a story. A solution would be to a) find a colleague in the team who works with words – such as the Marketing department – or b) help teach technical-oriented colleagues to adopt a new way of thinking.

Not only would this expand their skill set but a long tail approach such as this would be more beneficial to the company because it would raise the necessary standards of interpretation and communication.

In so doing, a missed opportunity becomes a long term advantage.

And the tools?

If the story is compelling, then visuals are secondary. Of course, they add to the storytelling experience but they need to add value. There are many data visualization tools out there. However, as with data communication team learning, strengthening the knowledge around what you already have – Microsoft 365 tools – is a great starting point.

Our work is primarily Excel and PowerPoint and it’s because those tools are pervasive. Everybody in the business world has them, there’s no barrier to entry.

Cole Nussbaumer Knafic

Effective Message Communication presentation

Here is a short PowerPoint slide deck that helps to illustrate some of the points discussed above.

  • Effective Message Communication
  • Are you really telling a story
  • Traditional Approach
  • Unocussed information
  • Alternative approach
  • Focussed information
  • A mass of data or a filtered set of data
  • Data Communications consider your audience

Key Points re Data Communication

  • Find the story in the data and create a flow
  • If using visuals, ensure they merit being shown
  • Stories have endings, provide one
  • Recommendations must be actionable

Why was Beethoven’s Midnight Sonata sent to the moon?

Beethoven’s Midnight Sonata was sent to the moon. What happened next?

Artist Katie Paterson currently has an exhibition on display at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh.

One of the exhibits in the Earth Moon Earth Exhibition by Katie Paterson.

As one of her exhibition pieces, a grand piano has been placed in the middle of a large chamber room and has been programmed to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

So why is there a piano in a gallery playing a Sonata?

What makes this project unusual is that Katie Paterson not only sent a classical piece of music to the Moon and back, but that she did so using Morse code (known as Moon Bounce).

Specifically, Paterson used Morse code to convert musical notes into information. This information was sent to the moon where it then reflected off the moon’s surface before returning to Earth.

Sonata’s missing reflections

What’s interesting is that the moon didn’t reflect all of the information that was sent. In short, certain notes never made their way back to earth. Nevertheless, those musical gaps and absences remained in the score.

What does the Sonata sound like now?

In the video you can see the programmed notes of the Midnight Sonata being played. However, also being played are the gaps of silence, those missing moments that were held in lost shadows and moon craters.

What’s this got to do with content marketing?

Just this. When you’ve sent a piece of content you think will resonate with your audience, think again. Think of those craters and shadows on the moon. Think of how messages may drift, even get lost if you don’t pay attention to the audience for which they’re intended. If you don’t consider this, your messages may become diluted, and may even lose their potency.

As content writers – in whatever discipline – every word must have a reason for being on the page. Collections of words should communicate messages that are focussed, thoughtful and intended.

You only have someone’s attention for a short amount of time, so appreciate their time, research and understand their needs, and reply to their open challenges with a focus that creates a great starting point for next steps.

When artists collaborate

As for Katie’s approach to her art, she recognises the need and continually seeks to collaborate with many people including scientists, astronomers, cosmologists and supernova hunters. In her mind’s eye, each brings an important piece to any project at hand. Success comes from teamwork.

The Scottish Gallery of Modern Art is extending the Earth-Moon-Earth exhibition into 2021, so try not to miss it if you can!

Hansel & Gretel, Breadcrumbs and Brand Awareness. Wait, what?

Once Upon a Time

Most of us know of the fairytale story of Hansel & Gretel: two kids leave a trail of breadcrumbs so as not to get lost. Birds eat the breadcrumbs and the kids do get lost in the woods. However, there is a happy ending.

So, what has this got to do with you?

Well, from the moment you first started to post on your website/social network up until today, you must have shared hundreds of photos, news, release announcements, gigs, events, official videos, behind the scenes, etc. At shows, you’ll have talked with fans, and shared your merch/mailing list sign up form. Be it your physical or virtual interaction, you’ve tried to raise awareness of your artistry, find followers and ultimately convert them to faithful listeners of your music. Quite some journey with the dream of a happy ending for all your hard work.

In terms of your social media journey, think of that journey as a ‘trail’ along which anyone can discover your music at any given time. You want them not only to like what they read, hear or see the day they discover you but you want them to explore, and really get a sense of who you are and of your music.

And breadcrumbs?

Each ‘breadcrumb’ along the trail is something you would have posted; it’s like a marker that lets people find out about you. If you put all of these breadcrumbs on a table, they should give a strong picture of your artistry.
So, every time you post, think about what you’re posting and why.

Here is an example for you. My strapline is Art | Nature | Creativity. These are my founding pillars, they’re what I’m all about.

Following the breadcrumb trail at any moment in time

For Art, I post about artists, recent collaborations, events I’ve been to, pics of jam sessions with visual artist friends or their tools of the trade.

For Nature, I love the outdoors, so I share photos taken in CT or Scotland; where I help out occasionally at my local park; I share Mahogany Sessions or Sofar Sofar music videos because many are so brilliantly natural thanks to the outdoor settings.

For Creativity, I write about the songwriting process, publish audio or video ‘Rough Diamond’ songs (i.e. songs first cut before being polished in the studio). I like photography and use my Instagram account as a gallery of work I post on my photography website and photography Facebook Page.

I’m all about community, so I’ll post things relating to non-profit work re: the arts, the environment, and kids.

You get the idea.

The Three C’s

The above example should give you a good idea of what you want to communicate to new followers so as to increase engagement. At the outset decide what you want to give of yourself but also to what extent i.e. how deep you want to go. Some musicians are really comfortable with publishing lots about themselves and of everything they’re up to, while others are more private and tend to focus only on musical aspects. Both are ok but you can’t be vague or wishy-washy.

In short, you have to be clear, consistent and constant in your messaging. This is often known as the Three C’s. Hopefully the diagram below will be a visual aid when you’re thinking about what you post.

You are your own brand. Take care of it, put out quality content and be real.

And don’t forget the breadcrumbs: do NOT sweep them under the table!

This post was published for musicians. As a songwriter who has had to navigate the music industry and learn the ways of music marketing, I wanted to share my knowledge. However, the source of the content comes from a working background in advertising and branding in the market research industry, and branding and communications in the finance industry.

Branding: it’s all relative.

And if you think this is only about music, then you’ve missed the point.

Is There Such a Thing as Word Visualisation?

Is there such a thing as word visualisation? Most of us are familiar with the term data visualisation. For instance, Information is Beautiful produces some of the most spellbinding infographics you can find online or in the books that founder David McCandless has created. Information is Beautiful is dedicated to distilling the world’s data, its information and knowledge, and making them into beautiful infographics and visualisations. And they do it well. More about that for another time.

Over recent years, representing data in a more visually aesthetic way has become an art form. Wildly varying visual interpretations of data have made it a truly effective communication tool. However, whereas images are optional, billions of people around the world say, write and read words every moment of every day. Expressing ourselves with words is as essential as food and water.

Aside from dictionaries and thesauruses, there are plenty of sites on the internet that show you the meaning of words. Many of them also show a word’s possible associations, such as ‘rhymes with’, ‘is the opposite of’, but none do so visually.

Visuwords is a visual dictionary, thesaurus and interactive lexicon. Its interface is clear and colourful. Using the graphs, visuwords say their tool can be used by writers, journalists or other word wizards to associate words, expand on concepts and generally brainstorm.

So, as an example, type in a word, like ‘teamwork’.

Example of visuwords visualisation map using ‘Teamwork’

Once the visual map appears, click on each word to read a description. The legend on the left shows you the associations (coloured lines) and the coloured bubbles the type of word. This tool uses Princeton University’s WordNet, an open source database built by University students and language researchers.

It’s a great start to a visual conversation around the complexities of words, their associations and their meaning.

So, what would you like a visual word map to do?