The Process of Branding Your Company

Podcast with Graphic Designer LeeAnn Eddins

Podcast: The Process of Branding Your Company

In this episode of the Banowetz Marketing Podcast, LeeAnn Eddins talks to Sarah about her career as a graphic designer working for large and small marketing firms and freelancing, her introduction to branding and the process behind branding a company.


Welcome back to the Banowetz Marketing podcast. Today I have a special guest on, LeeAnn Eddins, how are you LeeAnn?

– Hi, I’m doing very well, thank you.

– Good, good.

– [Presenter] The Banowetz podcast.

– So introduce yourself to us.

– Well, my name’s LeeAnn Eddins and I am the owner of L.A.Eddins Design and I help marketing departments take their strategy and their visual communications to the next level. Whether you’re just getting started of whether you’ve been doing it for yourself for a while, I can help you with overflow or when anytime capacity exceeds demand.

– Awesome, awesome. So what’s your history a little bit here? What is your background?

– I have been a graphic designer for more decades than I want to admit. I studied it in school and got my first job right out of school, down in Houston, Texas, where I worked at a ad agency and worked at various agencies down there for about nine years, before I met and married a cowboy and moved to Iowa because that cowboy happened to be from Iowa. So, that’s why landed me here and I’ve been here ever since working in marketing departments, in-house and out of house, design agencies and, excuse me, advertising agencies as well. So I’ve had a broad and varied background. My last career was 15 years at the University of Iowa as art director of the UI Health Care enterprise so that was a–

– Very nice.

– Yeah, that was a pretty big job. It was a lot of fun for a lot of years but then three years ago I decided to come out on my own and help people who are in the situation I was in at the university with lots of demands on time and creativity and effort and not always the resources to get it done.

– So what are your strengths as a graphic, I’m just gonna jump right in, what are your strengths as a graphic artist, ’cause I know, but I want to hear you say it, too so.

– Well, a lot of it is that I see the big picture in the graphic design world. That’s one strength. Another strength is that I’ve done so much over the course of my history. So that means, one, I’m not ready to prove myself, I’ve done that pretty well, and two, I don’t have an agenda. I’m not trying to find my voice or to make my own artistic impression for anybody, I’m here to help. I mean, I don’t have a lot of things that I want to do still except to live a good life, to help as many people as I can and employ my craft.

– And you are very strong with branding.

– Very strong, I was the logo cop at the University of Iowa.

– What does that mean? Okay, so explain this to us.

– Well, I knew about brand standards from the very beginning of my career because one of the big companies I worked for was Shell Chemical company. And I worked for the agency that had the Shell Chemical account and so, we had a prescriptive brand standards, hundreds of pages that we had to comply with. And so, in the course of my career, I would always ask where’s the brand standards, because I–

– That’s super important.

– That seemed to be important to me, it was a rule book and so I was very cognizant that you needed to adhere to these standards. And there were many people, when my last job in Houston was at Kwik Kopy corporation, which is a printing franchise and I was the only one at that time who had ever even seen a branding standards manual and so I got to author and create one for them for their very first one. It went from everything with uniforms and like the franchise environment, what the branded environment looked like, all the way to the logos and wraps and packaging and the things that a print company would use to house their product. And so, that was a big part of it. The one, then when I got to the university first thing I did was reach for that brand standards manual and read it on the very first day.

– Which is exactly why you need it is that all these employees and all these hands in the pot are creating the same standardized content.

– Exactly.

– And a standardized voice so that you don’t confuse the customer.

– Well, when I say, and we can talk about this another time, that branding is boring, it should be for the in-house marketer because they’re seeing it over and over and over again where your customer may see it twice for every time you see it, or every time you see it a hundred times, they might see it twice. So, it’s, people get sick of it. The creative individual gets sick of using the same colors, the same style, the same type face.

– The same pod.

– Right. And, you know, if they don’t like those particular colors, they need to find their happiness elsewhere because that is how–

– It’s how companies grow.

– [LeeAnn] It’s how companies grow by–

– It’s how companies build trust with their target audience.

– And it’s how you keep from being confused for the competitor in an ever increasingly demanding environment. There are so many messages hitting us every day that, to have a strong brand presence is extremely important.

– Yes, I want to say amen, but I don’t know if that’s right.

– Amen’s fine with me. Preach it, sister. That’s, we can just keep going with that.

– Okay so, our topic today is design thinking and this is going to be a two-part video because we have a lot of content

– A lot of content.

– that you want cover, yes. So, part A on design thinking. I’m excited to hear this LeeAnn.

– Okay, well, design thinking seems to have gotten a lot of buzz recently. You hear about Tim Brown going about how wonderfully design thinking can help in the corporate board room and it’s new in the corporate board room because they’re used to being analytical thinkers where they narrow their choices until you come down and review your information til you come down to like one good option. But analytical thinking, while necessary, design thinking can compliment analytical thinking in the decision maker’s toolbox by bringing a different kind of context to problem solving. One that is not linear and one that is very, very human centered. In fact, design thinking it is in no way a new thing. We might be hearing about it new to some levels of industry but designers, engineers, architects, interior designers, they been using design thinking for a long time. So design thinking is not a new thing. It actually was coined in the 1960s by Herbert A. Simon who was an economist and later, a Nobel Prize winner for his work in economics but he was looking at how organizations make decisions. And so, his work actually is the foundation for what they use for AI now, artificial intelligence.

– Really? Okay.

– Right, yeah, it’s pretty interesting. So, in the late-60s is when he came down with a three step, kind of a three step process and then other thinkers and problem solvers, forward thinking people throughout academics had amplified and modified some of his findings and added to it. And it actually became the foundation for my education.

– Okay.

– Yeah, and so, we were to be creative problem solvers who could enter any field, any industry, any business and address the problems that are at hand and to add value by being novel thinkers and having an innovative approach to the circumstances that business finds itself in. No matter what that may be. Design thinking is very critical with sticky problems. Problems that are ill-defined or that elude the analytical problem solving. That, maybe they don’t even know exactly what the problem is. Design thinking can help corral the information and approach it from different ways to help unravel these types of problems.

– Can you give an example of something like this?

– Of a sticky problem?

– And then how this would, yeah.

– Well–

– For a, let’s say for a business owner around here in the…

– Well, maybe they see that sales are falling off.

– [Sarah] Okay.

– Okay? So, if they say sales are falling off so we need to get the sales force out and we need to try new or we need to try to do more, more of what we’ve always done. Any time we’re in a situation, we’re doing more of how we’ve always done it, fails to produce the desired results, that’s a situation where design thinking can reorient, it can reorient you to what really is the problem? Perhaps it’s not a sales problem. Perhaps it’s a competitive problem. Perhaps it’s, or perhaps it’s a shift within the consumer mindset. So there’s any number of things that you can apply design thinking to and, I don’t know if that’s a great example.

– No it does. It makes me think of the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” Have you–

– Exactly.

– [Sarah] Right?

– Yeah, yeah. Design thinkers

– You’re using

– are the scurriers. design thinking–

– Yes, right?

– They’re the one’s who are like sniffing around, or whichever, sniff and scurry or sniff and settle, I don’t, one’s staying put and one kept going. The one who keeps going to try to find different avenues, that is design thinking. Very much like “Who Moved My Cheese?”

– Oh perfect.

– Yeah.

– Well I’m glad the analogy worked then. Or the corelation, yeah.

– Or that I read the book. And that I read the book, yeah, sure.

– Perfect. Okay, so LeeAnn, Herbert came up with three steps. You’re using six right?

– I’m using six. Which are basically subdivisions of his initial three. One was about fact finding and information gathering. The other is to ideate and prototype and then finally to test. Those were the three groupings that he made. Now people use up to eight and 12 steps but for my purposes, I keep it at six with kind of two in each category.

– Perfect.

– Okay, so, we start with empathy. Designers have been using empathy for a long time. Empathy is about understanding, really, really understanding your audience and what they want. It’s about getting into their head and leaving your agenda at the door. It’s not about what I want. When I’m designing for people, it is not at all about what I like to do and what I want to do.

– And now is it even not about what the company likes and what they necessarily want? Isn’t it about the, wouldn’t the focus be on the customer then?

– [LeeAnn] It’s always on the customer.

– Okay.

– But it’s a human centered approach. So as a graphic designer employing design thinking on behalf of my client, I have to think about their particular circumstance and their personalities and that kind of stuff. It’s kind of that evolution of design thinking when I can bring my client along to abandon their aesthetic sense or their proclivities in order to reach their client. Then I’ve really, if we can get to that point, that is like the sweetest time, when I feel like I’m really giving some value to my client because they might have been doing things that they like and missing the mark on their customer but if they can get out of their comfort zone, perhaps, and into the mind of their customer, they’re gonna get much better results.

– Yeah, I agree.

– Yeah, but that, you never know. I always ask who the stakeholder is because they’re the ones who are going to say yes or no ultimately.

– Well, and today in our, in the Banowetz Marketing team meeting today we were talking about just building trust with the clients and how important that is.

– Right.

– Because they need to trust you so that when you make suggestions like this then, then they can listen and–

– Exactly and at least give it a try. The one thing that we don’t do is abandon research and documentation. I mean we want and have that feedback and that comes later in the process. So when we start with empathy, we’re trying to find out everything we can about the customer. The typical building of a persona that many marketing firms, and especially web design firms, are using these days comes right out of empathy. It’s about knowing who your client is. What motivates them, how they live. Everything that you can gain about your client will help you speak to them in their voice and in a way that resonates with who they are.

– I like to call it an avatar. Like, I would like it when, more than like it, I want the companies that work with me to have an avatar in mind of who their target–

– Right.

– Person is and not say 24 to 75 years old, male and female, but get it really niche it down to your avatar and have that, even name that avatar.

– Name them. Give them a dog or a cat. I mean, it’s all the way down to where they live and what they drive. It’s just trying to personalize this nameless, faceless demographic information.

– And if you change, if you’re always shifting then the customer gets confused too. Whereas if you’re constantly talking to that person.

– Right, you’re having a more personal connection with your customer.

– Authentic.

– And authentic, absolutely. So empathy is finding out who your customer is and it could be several. It could be several, you can have several avatars or several personas that you’re trying to talk to but you may speak a little differently to each one of them and with the multi-channel marketing that we have today, you can actually do that.

– And in fact, it’s key now and it’s going to get even more multi, I mean it is.

– Even more.

– Yeah, the way that the, okay, the way that Facebook ads are going is that instead of just speaking to one, you could be speaking to the husband, serving up an ad to the husband and then serving up an ad to the wife for the same restaurant but you’re providing different, you’re speaking to each one individually.

– Exactly because I’m gonna be for the fish and my husband’s going for the steak.

– [Sarah] But it’s the same restaurant.

– But it’s the same restaurant.

– Different creative, different text but same end goal.

– Exactly, exactly. So that empathy is critically important and we keep that in mind all the way through. The next step that I like to talk about is the definition stage. And while we’re empathizing, we are starting to form a definition both of what the customer needs and our perceived problem. Remember where we talked about sticky problems before.

– I like the term sticky problems that you use, LeeAnn.

– Oh, well good, ’cause you know what? Problems these days are getting stickier all the time. That’s why design thinking is so important for people to learn and to use in their toolbox, to give it a try. And so, the definition stage comes with defining your problem, redefining your problem in terms of what you found out through the empathy, through the research and getting to know your client. And you know, empathy is often mistaken for sympathy. It’s not the same thing and it may be just a syntactical thing that I am splitting hairs here, but it’s not feeling the same way as the customer. I do not feel the same way of every one of my clients but I empathize with their feelings and how it impacts their decisions and how, and so I am able to anticipate what may come next when I’m working with that client. In the same way, if those clients understood those things about their customers, they would be more able to anticipate. They don’t have to feel, you can’t ask a 35 year old corporate executive male to absolutely identify with a post menopausal, you know, 50-ish something pushing 60, maybe, woman. You just can’t expect them to have sympathy.

– Yes, that makes sense.

– But they can–

– But they can, yes.

– Empathize.

– They can have empathy for them.

– They can understand what is going on with them and that it impacts their life in a real way and that, so they can, so that’s the difference. Sympathy is what you have, perhaps when you’re grieving. You can have sympathy because we’ve all had grief. Empathy is understanding how that emotion effects or how those circumstances effect an individual who’s very, very different from you.

– No, it makes sense.

– Yeah, people get those a little confused and I like to make that distinction but I’m not always sure, sometimes it goes over people’s heads. So once we define our problem and we define who our audience is and who we’re talking, we also want to define the message or we want to start defining the message at that point. And then we move into the next phase which would be the ideation phase. Now, people like this phase and are probably the most familiar with, this is the brainstorm, the problem solving, the creative exercise.

– And my guess is you don’t want them to jump right to the third stage. You want them to go through the one and two even though–

– Exactly. Most people want to skip all the empathy and the research because that really is hard and time consuming, and they want to get right to jump into these creative problem solving using these, I read it in a book and let’s try this, around the conference table or whatever we do. And people might have fun and then corporate looks at that and say what a waste of time. They had fun, it was good team building but it didn’t produce anything.

– Well, and without the foundation too, the problem is you’re gonna jump from one idea to the next idea to the next idea without having a firm foundation.

– Without having a firm foundation as to what you’re doing, it could get really off the charts. However, that’s okay, to getting off the charts in the ideation stage. What happens is, this is the free-for-all creative thinking, the where you’re connecting dots and free association. It’s all that kind of mental stuff just coming out and if you can’t take the results of that and then screen it and analyze it from the things that you learned in this information gathering stage so that you can eliminate the ideas that are really don’t make any sense and hone in on the ideas that are actually novel and could produce fruit and could be that innovative thought that you were after. And so, often times, especially for the graphic designer, the ideation and the prototype stage happens kind of at the same time and were working independently. People don’t understand that you can brainstorm all by yourself but you really can. You just have to know how and practice. I always start with words. Even though I’m a designer, I start with words. Because words have such powerful meaning and they actually help me start to think in pictures.

– No, that makes sense.

– And when words and pictures connect that is powerful, that is crazy powerful.

– Yeah, I agree.

– And so, when you’re ideating a prototype the whole thing is to do as many as you can. When you’re doing a creative session, to get as many ideas as you can, you often get to this point of absurdity with ideation and people think, then time to shut it down. We’re getting ridiculous. No, that’s the time to–

– That’s the sweet spot where you’re really–

– That’s the sweet spot. Add gasoline right then because you’re gonna, because what happens is is that you get all the regular stuff out, all the first come to mind stuff. Top of–

– The things that people feel like they have to say in front of their bosses and that type of thing.

– Exactly. You get all that stuff out and you get all those first ideas out. Those common ideas out because what we’re driving for here is innovation. We’re not driving for, oh yeah, everybody could have thought of that. We’re driving for something new and different and so when you get to the point of absurdity that means people are tired. That means they’ve run out of the bank load of stuff that they’ve come with presuppositions. They’re out of those, they’re done. They’ve exhausted all of that kind of criteria and now they’re actually doing some new thinking. They’re, and if you have a group of people who are getting to that point, someone will say something completely absurd and someone else will say the light will go off. It’s really kind of magic when that does happen. But it actually takes a little effort to get to it. And creative sessions are vulnerable places for people. Especially in a group setting. Especially in a corporate setting.

– I could see that ’cause people could think that they, that they are going, look stupid or come up with a stupid idea.

– Exactly, and depending on who’s in the room, the dynamics in the room, you don’t want to look stupid in front of your boss or your manager or anyone who’s been critical of you or who may, I don’t know, be doing your review next week.

– So how do you get over that when you’re helping lead a company this way?

– Basically you need to have someone not associated with the company, really.

– Really pushing the staff to–

– Yes, who’s facilitating this kind of thing. Unless you’re a company that’s, unless you have senior level buy-in for this kind of stuff, it’s very hard to do it on your own. You really do need someone to facilitate this kind of–

– I can totally see that.

– Because if you have a naysayer in the group, they’ll kill it. They will absolutely kill it and if no one has the authority to tell that naysayer…

– Be quiet.

– Five, time out in the corner. You, time out in the corner and make it stick. Even if it’s the CEO. Oh, God, who’s gonna do that? Come on, no one. No one’s gonna do that. So, if you have a facilitator who can do it and make it stick, well because they have, hopefully paying them decently, then that–

– Well yeah ’cause their job

– that’s their job

– is to push people

– is to make this–

– out of their comfort zone.

– Right, and to put the CEO in a corner if they’re nay saying right off the bat. Because one of the things is is no judgment. That’s one of the rules about creative–

– Love it.

– That creative brainstorming, is no judgment, none. And, really, no filters. So it could get pretty crazy sometimes but that’s where people start to get loose and honestly, when people start laughing, the ideas will start flowing. They’re be loosened up. They’ll be ready to let it go and then when it’s done, a lot of times people are really pretty tired. They’re like mentally exhausted when the time is done. But you have to capture all of the ideas that have been floated out. So there are some rules and there’s some structure that goes along with this and then you come back and you go back to your definition, you go back to the empathy and the fact finding and you start to look. Now which one of these ideas have merit? Several maybe. And then you start prototyping. Prototype hard and fast. And then you start testing. You start testing small. Testing with your internal audience, your stakeholders. You starting testing with the team who’s been doing the creation. Prototype again, tweak it again. Enlarge the circle and test some more. Then bring it back in and tweak it until you get to that final and then when you get to that final deliverable, you test it to the broader audience. But you’re still not done. Okay, you’ve deployed now where, those are the last two stages, test and deploy. But now, once you deploy you might bring it back in a week or two and tweak it again and send it out again based on consumer feedback at that point. So there’s always a feedback loop. And even though I’ve described this as a linear process, it is anything but a linear process because you’re always gonna be finding new things when you get to that test and deploy stage that is going to come back and change your definition, it can change the way you empathize with the clients. You may discover new things about the clients that you didn’t know before that then come back into more ideas, more prototypes and novel deployments. And so, once you get that started you can just continue. It just keeps moving throughout the process.

– Now I’m gonna play a little bit of devil’s advocate here too because thinking as a business owner, ’cause I run a marketing company but also a business owner coming from a family of business owners. So, my husband is an electrical engineering manager and he had me, he introduced this book to me called “Managing the Design Factory”. I mentioned being devil’s advocate here so one of the things they talk about is how the later you are in the process of modifying designs, the more expensive it is.

– That would be part of that close testing that, that I was talking about. When you prototype and ideate and then you look to your peers. If you have it formalized, especially if your, your husband was in electronics?

– Electrical engineer.

– And he’s probably doing something that we’re talking about scaling to thousands of products, hundreds of thousands of products, potentially of expensive design and machining, getting ready to tool up the factory to get these things out. Well, yeah, you can’t make changes after you’ve put it out as easily. So the iterative nature of what you’re doing, yes, you have to test in the ideation and the prototype stages, you have to test more rigorously. But it’s still testing that then expands and expands because, even–

– Well, and it’s probably just like a never–

– It’s never ending.

– It’s never ending process that you just have a culture that this is the way that your design process goes.

– We were in, is the test and deploy.

– And deploy.

– And deploy and now, with marketing you can do the AB testing so quickly with the ads on social media and on the web. That is part of the test and deploy, test and deploy and then reiterate and then go again. But still, even with big manufactured products, they will still take consumer information and apply it to the next version, the next rendition. I mean, look at the Camry now. I just saw a new Camry the other day and I’m like, okay, time to trade. It was slick, it was very sporty looking and they’re already the dependability car, nice sedan. I want to trade my sedan and all, but I want all those dependability features and I want all that new chrome that’s on there too.

– Well, and you bringing up the car industry that’s a perfect example too because the Pacifica is a completely different, it is a completely different vehicle than when it first came out ’cause my family has a car dealership. And the Taurus was a budget, they’re targeting the same demographic so when I was a teenager the Taurus was the big car for teenagers and now my age bracket, they’ve put leather in them. We have one and they like pumped it up. I’m like, this isn’t a Taurus ’cause a Taurus is like some cheap like car and they made it all, well, what they did was they targeted the same demographic that was driving Tauruses back in, when they were teenagers, and now they’re in their, they’re starting to become towards their 40s and they just, same name but now for that demographic. So they’re just constantly changing.

– Exactly, this is gonna date me a little bit but several years ago there was a Cadillac commercial. Now Cadillac was always like mom’s car or grandma’s car, big ol’ boat. And they had Led Zeppelin and the riff from “Been a Long Time Since I Rock an Rolled” and they’re screaming down the road in a Cadillac and I’m going, yeah. Yeah, that’s a new body Cadillac. That’s 40, that’s not, yeah.

– Did you get one?

– And it resonated with me. If I could have afforded one at the time, I would have got it, yes, absolutely, because it was sportier, it was and it had all the appointed luxury features that I acquainted with Cadillac and yeah, it had been a long time since I rock and rolled and if it brought me back to that era, it kind of just transported me immediately so.

– Awesome, okay so, we should end this podcast. What are we talking about next time?

– Well, we could go further in to the ideation and with some different kinds of ways that you can bring more creativity and ideas to the problems you face everyday.

– Love it. Love it, love it. Okay so, for anyone who wants to find you, where do they go?

– I’m at [email protected] and my website

– Perfect. Thank you for coming on.

– Thank you. I loved it, thank you so much.

– And we will continue this conversation. If you need any marketing direction and implementation, feel free to reach out to us at Banowetz Marketing at and we will see you later. Thanks, bye.