Our world today is a minefield of complicatedness. Business is complicated, technology is complicated, disruption is complicated, your clients are complicated, and their problems are complicated. But that doesn’t mean your message should be complicated.

You’re the fixer. You’re the solution. So you need to be clear about how you solve the complicated. If you add to the complicatedness, you will lose. 

We know this – of course – on a visceral level, but then we start talking about our services and offerings, and in our desire to communicate every single spectacular feature or service we offer… we complicate our message. And as a result, people tune us out. As my friend and fellow branding expert Beth Hayden says, “a confused shopper never buys.” 

But I wanted to really understand this more, so I did some research. It turns out, we’re actually biologically wired to dismiss confusion. Did you know? 

Wired for Simplicity

Donald Miller, author of Building A StoryBrand talks about how we’re designed for clarity. Our brains are more or less the same as they were 200,000 years ago, and back then, our brain’s primary role was to keep us alive. It filtered in information relevant to our survival or thrival, because that was valuable. And it filtered out anything else. Distractions were simply too expensive to explore; you might lose sight of the saber-toothed tiger sneaking up on your left. So your brain filtered them out. 

Fast forward to today. As I said: our brains haven’t changed much. If you are trying to engage your business prospect and your message isn’t about how your offering helps them survive or thrive, their brain will dismiss it. In other words, if:

  • the first thing you tell a prospect is all the services you provide & what area you service;
  • the first thing on your website is a list of all your awards and client testimonials; 
  • your company brochure talks to all the various industries you’re in and your latest client wins:

You haven’t told them how you will help them survive or thrive. So all that information is being filtered out.

But there’s more. As I said, the brain’s primary role is to keep us alive… but it is also the body’s biggest energy hog, consuming a full 20% of your metabolic caloric resting rate. It is constantly in tension with itself, evaluating if the incoming information is worth the processing power. 

If your message is too complicated, your brain says, “this is taking too many resources to process. I can’t determine if this will help me survive or thrive. I’m going to conserve calories.” and turns itself off. You’ve experienced this if you’ve ever woken up from a boring meeting or fallen asleep in a university lecture. Tiredness has little to do with it; your brain is literally conserving processing power.  

Be Simple for Your Ego’s Sake

But let me come at simplicity from another angle: your ego. 

Most of us – at some time or another – have “doctored up” texts to appear smarter. (This was me with pretty much every term paper in college.) In a recent study of Stanford grad students, a full 85% of them admitted to doctoring up texts to lend credibility, or come off as more of an expert. There’s logic, there: bigger words are complicated and impressive; I will appear impressive to the reader if I use them. 

Except the inverse is true. 

A 2006 psychology study explored the link between complicated language and a writer’s perceived intelligence. In this study, participants were shown a variety of texts in increasing complexity, beginning with something simple:
“the house I grew up in was red” and graduating to something overly complicated:
“the domicile I resided in from infancy through maturity was crimson in tone.” 

In all of the texts, regardless of content, participants ranked the intelligence of authors with the simplest prose the highest. The more complicated the texts, the lower the intelligence ranking. 

So if you want to appear smart, use simple language.
If you want to make sure your customer understands your offering: make it simple.
If you want to engage your customers, show how you help them survive or thrive. 

A confused customer never buys. 
Stay simple, my friends.

P.S. – Need help simplifying your messaging? Connect with us and let us help make you magnetic to the people who matter to your success.

Branding and marketing are essential to helping drive growth, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a startup or if you’ve been around for decades. But what’s the difference between the two, and what do you need right now: branding or marketing? Let’s do some quick definitions and help determine what you need.

What is Branding?

A brand is what you stand for and it’s what you say about your business. As Simon Sinek likes to say: It’s your WHY. Brand creates an expectation in the mind of your customer – and brand lives up to that expectation. It defines your customer’s pain points and addresses how you’re their solution, and it highlights how you’re different from the competition. It underscores your unique value proposition for winning. Brand captures your company’s heritage and your reason for being; it embodies your business vision and where you want to go. It is a North Star for you and your team.

What is Marketing?

Marketing is the tools you use to deliver your brand message. It’s how you convey your WHY. Swag, newsletters, website, social media strategy: these are the means to deliver your brand message. Marketing covers a vast area of business, including website + SEO; social; content; newsletters; collateral; design (logo, font, colors, etc); Go-to-market; influencer; retention strategies…and more.

Branding precedes marketing. It’s essential to define what your business stands for before you begin your marketing efforts. What should your new logo convey? Who is your ideal target customer? What should your newsletter be all about? If you’re doing marketing first, answering these questions can be frustrating and confusing. Brand avoids all the confusion. Brand is your roadmap, your North Star that tells you everything you need to know.

What is your Priority?

Branding or Marketing: what should you focus on? Here are a few statements to assess your business needs:

  • I know my company’s core principles and values, and can articulate what we stand for. We know our WHY.
  • We know our brand’s purpose for being, and what gap we fill in the marketplace.
  • I am clear about my Unique Value Proposition and what differentiates me from my competition.
  • We know who our target customers are and understand their psychological drivers and mindset.
  • I know what messages will best resonate with my target customers.
  • I know where to find my target customers and how to engage them in a genuine, compelling way.
  • Our communication materials – my website, collateral, business cards and logo – convey my brand and what it stands for in a way that captures my target customers’ attention.
  • My brand tells a story; it talks about customer pain points, how we solve those pain points, and how my customers are better for working with us.  Our brand story is compelling to those I’m trying to reach.

If you can answer these statements easily, you need marketing and we’re happy to recommend some great leaders in this space. If, however, you’re not quite sure what you stand for and how to attract your ideal customers, then you might need some branding. That’s where we come in.

At Magnetic Current we firmly believe you are your brand’s best storyteller and help a lot of companies DIY branding themselves (read this post for more on this). That said: we’re also skilled brand builders and storytellers. If you need help with your brand, connect with us and let’s make you magnetic to growth.

Compelling content drives connection. If a brand connects with us, then we’re more likely to prefer that brand, we’re more likely to buy from that brand. So how can we create compelling content that connects and captivates? Let’s look at my top tips for content that foster connection and captivate the people we care about reaching.

  1. Be relevant  

    You need to get clear about your target and why they would be interested in your service or product or you fall into obscurity.  Why is your chosen audience the best audience for your product or service?  Why do they need or want your product? When you’re targeting your content to people who are actually interested in what you have to say, your content becomes compelling. 

  2. Tell a Story

    Want compelling content? Write a story. We humans are wired for stories; our minds digest stories infinitely better than facts.  But while we all live by stories and we love stories in our personal lives, especially for B2B and tech brands, we leave all that gorgeous storytelling in our personal lives and it never crosses over into work. We wind up talking about features and services, but facts and facts are boring.  To compel you need to tell a story. Read here for what goes into making a great brand story. 

  3. If you confuse you lose

    . As business owners, we know everything about our business; it’s our area of expertise! We want to share everything! But so much of that content is irrelevant to your prospects. As Donald Miller, author of Building a Story Brand says, “the human brain is drawn toward clarity and away from confusion.”  You need to get super clear about your message. Can you say it easily? Does your team know your message and how to say it to customers?  Is it clear why every prospect should buy your service?
  4. Features tell, Benefits sell

     The “so what” is the most important message for your prospects. Distill down the benefit you offer your customers. If you run a car wash, your end result is giving people with a sense of pride. If you have a tutoring business, you’re building self-esteem. When thinking about your business, what do you offer? Peace of mind? A greater sense of confidence? Lead with that point as your headline; then explain how your services deliver on that benefit in subsequent sentences.

  5. Get personal

      Many professionals believe they won’t be taken seriously if they use personal language, but it’s actually a key differentiator in fostering connection. When you write in the first person, you create a conversation between you and your reader.  That helps establish a more authentic relationship. Unfortunately, most websites today use verbiage that reads like a bot wrote the wording.  Skip that.  Use approachable language written in the first person, so it feels like the start of a conversation. Because a conversation can lead to connection and a connection can lead to a sale.

  6.  Lose the Industry Jargon

    Remember that the whole point of marketing and branding is to connect with your audience. And today people are short on time and patience. Make your communications easy to understand and to the point. Write for a 5th – 8th grade level. No one wants to over-analyze your offering. They’ll just move on to someone with more clarity. 
If you need help with your content, we’d be happy to have a conversation about how we can help make you magnetic to success. We help growing businesses become magnetic to success with brand strategy and storytelling.

As a business owner, you’re always stretched in a million different directions. You don’t often think about your logo and if it’s conveying the right message about your business. But is it helping you leave your mark?

Details matter. Your logo can help attract new customers and  distinguish you from your competition. Since it’s my business to help growing businesses grow magnetic brands, I spend a lot of time working with clients to ensure their logo, fonts and color schemes are telling their full brand story in a simple but compelling way. If you’ve ever wondered what makes for a great logo, if you’re considering designing one for your business, or if your current one makes you cringe: below are some helpful logo design tips to keep in mind.

First: do you even need a logo?

Many small businesses decide to skip the logo in the very beginning, or they get something simple off 99designs.com. Either route is great, especially when starting out. But as your business evolves, remember that we live in a world of symbols, so whatever’s next to your company name is functioning as your de facto logo. So let’s ask this a different way: what’s the point of a logo? And does your current one work to your advantage? Here are some benefits that a logo provides:

  1. A logo tells people the name of your company.
  2. It creates differentiation and a good one makes your brand stand out.
  3. A logo represents your business. A great logo has a symbolic association, making your company instantly more memorable and more endearing.
  4. It invites people to explore your brand. Symbols and colors are more interesting to the human eye and mind than plain text. Logos draw interest and pique the curiosity of your potential customers, prompting them to discover more about your product or service.
  5. It can go everywhere. Website, business cards, office door, letterhead: a logo is a visual representation of your business and can extend your brand  everywhere. With a logo, you have more opportunity to be top of mind for your customers and prospects. And familiarity breeds preference.

Now let’s go back to your current logo. If it’s delivering on all these points, then that’s a win for you.
But if you feel that your current logo isn’t working for you, and you want to make your brand clearer and more inviting, then let’s talk about what you should look for in logo design.

The Role of Color, Shape & Font

  • Color. Color psychology goes back as far as the ancient Egyptians; they figured out color can impact mood and human behavior. Today, color is important in our media-frenzied society because it can help draw attention to your brand and make it stand out. And research has shown that 60% of customers’ product choices are impacted by color alone.

    So what’s the right color for your brand? Well, that depends on what you want to convey.  For instance, blue conjures up feelings of calmness, confidence and honesty, while red is the opposite: it conveys passion, intensity and excitement. Yellow symbolizes positivity and optimism, while green conveys freshness, prosperity and nature. There are thousands of color options, so it’s important to first figure out what qualities and values you want to express and then apply that to your brand. For some color psychology basics, this color psychology explanation conveys the power of color that brands might want to consider. 
Graphic courtesy of GreenAppleLane.com
  • Shape. Our subconscious mind responds to shapes and associates attributes with them, so designers factor in shape when designing logos. For example: are you wanting to convey community, unity, a sense of belonging? Then your logo would most likely be circular or oval shaped. If you’re wanting to express stability, strength and professionalism: squares. A sense of power, science, logic? Triangles. Below are a few examples of global brands that have been using shapes to subliminally suggest brand values; it can work for your company as well.

Pepsi communicates community and unity; Microsoft expresses stability and strength; Google Drive projects technology prowess and logic.

  • Font. It’s not just words on a page. Typefaces have distinct personalities – did you know? The latest research suggests that typefaces convey their own meanings and elicit specific emotional responses independent based on the forms of the letters and words on the page or screen. Serif types are focused and calming; rounder types elicit happiness; sharper types, anger. If you want to convey tradition and respect, a classic serif font like Times New Roman is right for you. Are you innovative? Then consider a cleaner and modern font, a non-serif like Futura or Helvetica.  Is your brand creative or elegant? A cursive font could help deliver that message. Or perhaps your brand is playful and creative – then you might want to lean in to a display style, like Valencia or Cooper.

A Word on Simplicity

Given all the things we want our logo to say and represent – not to mention that some logos can cost a lot of money – the tendency is to make sure they serve up a whole slew of brand message. But that makes them complicated, which is exactly the inverse of what you want. The most revered logos in the world are actually breathtakingly simple.

This doesn’t mean they’re simple to create. Reducing an idea down to an elemental symbol that captures one overarching big idea – that encapsulates other elements – is often the toughest part of the logo design process. Many logos, even those of big and successful companies, fail to stand out or be memorable because they can’t easily be associated with a single idea. Sometimes that’s because they’re too complex, and sometimes because they’re too abstract. 

The original logo on the left, and the updated TGI Fridays logo on the right, with a less complicated shape and cleaner font. Both say festive and fun; which does your eye prefer?


Apple’s original logo: Isaac Newton under an apple tree.  And the Apple logo today.

Does Your Logo Tell Your Brand Story?

Now for the most important part: it’s got to hang together.  Does it all come together to deliver the right message about your brand?  Firstly, if your logo’s not exuding what your business and brand are all about, then your logo is off and needs some fixing.

Secondly, you should love your logo, but your customers are the best judge, since it’s largely for them. Try to see your logo from their perspective. Thirdly, it’s cool to have hidden messages in your logo’s design, but if it’s not conveying the point of your brand to your customers, you’ve overshot the mark. If you have a few customers you trust and are close to, ask them for their thoughts on your logo. Does it convey the points you were hoping to get across?

A famous logo with a hidden subliminal message. Do you see the arrow?

If you’re considering hiring a graphic designer to update your brand look and feel, it’s helpful to speak with someone who can help you hit these points design-wise. Additionally, you want a designer who can convey the bigger picture of what your business  stands for, while remaining dedicated to simplicity. If you’ve worked with designer in the past and like their work and feel your logo could use an update, talk with them about how to make your logo more impactful.

Need a designer to give your brand a new look? We’d would be happy to have a conversation about logos and more. At Magnetic Brand Strategy, we have a team of dedicated creative designers who can expertly shape simple and powerful logos. We’re dedicated to helping small and growing businesses become magnetic to the people who matter to them.