Tag Archives: branding

The Art of Embracing Change

One of our writers lives in a neighborhood where the city is in the middle of a huge tree-planting project. Their streets had lost a great deal of canopy when Hurricane Irma came through a few years ago, and the shady covered roads had lost a bit of their charm. Almost as soon as the project started, however, neighbors had complaints. “Trees are messy,” and “I never asked for a tree” were popular complaints as were the responses from excited residents who couldn’t understand why anyone would be resistant to nature. In most cases it wasn’t the tree itself that was a problem for any one neighbor as much as the unexpected change to the city-owned property in front of their homes.

As human beings, we’re all somewhat resistant to change – especially when we’re in a situation that “works” for us. It is a instinctual behavior developed over centuries to help us know how to survive harsh winters, how to avoid poisonous berries, and later, how to stay away from the dangers of gas station sushi. Embracing change is a skill that can be learned like anything else.

Start by identifying your emotions. Does the change make you mad? Worried? Anxious? Confused? Then, locate the source of that feeling. For our story above, some neighbors were mad that no one had contacted them to let them know the project was taking place. Others were worried trees would be planted too close to power lines. Some were confused about how the city chose certain types of trees [all native species]. These were all concerns that could be easily answered once the feeling of resistance was identified.

That’s not always enough for some people. Many of us like to hold on to things out of tradition or memory. Sometimes the logical answer doesn’t solve the emotional dilemma. In those cases, one of the most powerful exercises to try in the attempt to accept change is to take all the people out of the equation. That may sound strange at first, but consider the following: a resident doesn’t want a tree because, well, they just don’t. The city wants one because it cools streets and improves property value. Take the people out of that situation and what’s left is the tree. What would the tree want? Is the tree really asking for too much? “Mysteriously” and anonymously, the trees on our writer’s street all showed up one morning with name tags and a thank you note that went something like this… Hi! I’m Trevor. I’m a Florida Pigeon Plum and I am super grateful for this friendly piece of soil you’ve given me to grow and be part of your home. I’m great at holding orchids in my branches, I don’t require a lot of water, and I’m pretty strong against hurricanes once my roots grow in. Thank you for being my friend. The neighbors who had been protesting having the trees removed withdrew their complaints. By taking the idea of a winner and loser out of the equation, the change was easier to accept.

Our lives have changed a ton recently. They’re going to keep changing for the foreseeable future. The choice we have is in how we manage those changes. Recognizing resistance is how we accept change. Learning to accept change is how we grow.

The Write Stuff

Reading about writing is sort of like eating about cooking. They’re connected activities, but there’s a little more to it than tossing ingredients together and pulling out a lasagna. There are steps to creating strong content. 

First and foremost [and we can’t stress this enough] great content begins with great input. A talented copywriter may be able to build and expand on even small details, but give that same writer plenty of resources and background and they can work wonders. At helium, we’ve gotten pretty skilled at asking the right questions to gather the kind of insight that inspires writers, and we also make it a point to keep clients engaged in ongoing communication since sometimes ideas take time to mature.

Effective copywriting also has to consider style or tone. That’s because the way something is said is often just as – if not more – important than what is said. Very straight-laced, precise, almost academic language appeals to a different audience than content that has a humorous slant. Likewise, if there is an emotion an audience should feel when reading content, the choice of words and the length and flow of content matter tremendously.  

One of the most challenging aspects of creating excellent content is authenticity. There’s a big difference between a product that is truly innovative and one that simply comes in a new color. It is why diamonds are described as “exquisite” and rhinestones are simply “sparkly.” It can be easy to get attached to a specific word, but that doesn’t mean it is the right fit for every brand. When we create content for our clients we want them to be the best versions of themselves, while still remaining true to what their product, service, or offering actually is. In the long run, this closes more sales by attracting the right kinds of customers and prospects in the first place.

Isolation Inspiration

If you’re used to a collaborative process, then quarantine has likely been difficult. A Zoom conference call is great for staying in touch, but tends to be a bit slower than working out visual and creative challenges in person. Some of us feed off the experience of defending our ideas, or making suggestions and improvements to the ideas of others. When it’s just you and a sketchpad, those activities are noticeably missing. So, how do we try to keep things fresh? One of the most effective activities we’ve found is to challenge our own thinking. Everyone is strained and stressed right now, so constructive criticism is hard to give and receive. That means it’s up to each of us to be our own critics and evaluate whether or not an idea is up to par as well as how it could be stronger.

// One approach is to take on the personality of someone else you know. It can be a family member, your least favorite college professor, your best friend, or even your worst enemy. Put your work up to their scrutiny [or your perception of it] and see what you learn. Nothing feels better than proving someone wrong or knowing you exceeded lofty expectations. If your work stands up to multiple viewpoints, the more likely it is to have deeper meaning with external audiences.

// Another way to think more broadly even in isolation is to apply your skills in seemingly unrelated directions. As designers and brand builders, we can sometimes get overly focused on the piece. One way we break out of that thinking is to take something completely unrelated and ask ourselves “How would we make an ad campaign for that?” It might be a product we see at the store, or it might be a scene in nature, or a meal we’ve cooked. Stretching the mind in a new way always reveals new perspectives.

// When more direct methods prove ineffective, or we really are “just stuck,” we tap into the tremendous power of simply walking away. Just like you sometimes have to reset a stuck wifi connection, brains and imaginations need to be reset from time to time as well. Meditation works great. So does exercise. But truthfully, anything that gives your senses a total change of scenery is appropriate. Do not get caught in the trap that perusing some social media is as therapeutic as time away from a computer when it comes to giving your brain a break. It is usually much more productive to do something that engages your brain differently than doing something mindless.

Most importantly, take time for you. With everyone working from home these days, the regimented, reliable schedule of the workday tends to spill over into family time or free time. At first, you feel accomplished and motivated… but keep it up and you’re on the fast track to getting burned out. Allowing yourself to be the kind of person who experiences the world beyond your desk is what keeps the creative fires burning.

Thinking Outside the Stock

Don’t get us wrong… we appreciate stock photography. A lot. There is rarely a better resource out there for finishing jobs with limited budgets or extremely tight turnarounds. The one thing stock photography cannot deliver on its own is uniqueness. That’s because stock photography is designed to depict iconic scenarios – business meetings, kids playing outside, romantic dinner on the beach, and many other similar settings, events, or groups. So, there is an unavoidable air of familiarity about them. That can be reassuring or even useful at times. The same doesn’t hold true in luxury markets or in other competitive industries like real estate or high-end travel and hospitality. For those audiences, the idea of custom, one-of-a-kind, never-before-seen imagery sets the tone for the exclusive offering or appeal of one brand over another.  

Photography is more than just a service we offer at helium – it’s a passion. Many of us consider ourselves better-than-average amateur photographers. Many of us have had formal photography training. All of us have a deep appreciation for what it takes to look through a lens and capture an image that conveys mood, moments, and meaning. Each photographer is different, which means there’s a just-right photographer out there for every project. It may be for a print project, web design, or even a strong Instagram following, but custom photography has the power to elevate any good project to greatness.

To make sure we’re developing only the very best opportunities, we maintain relationships with many top local photographers based out of South Florida and the Northeast U.S. locations of helium. And we know how to “speak” photographer to artists we haven’t met before, or who live and work elsewhere in the world. Lighting, film or digital, fashion or landscape, artistic or journalistic, we believe in a collaborative process that arrives at a clients’ vision and produces visual assets that are as distinct as a brand’s logo.

New Normal? Next Normal? What Does the Future Hold?

In uncertain times, one of the most common questions is “when will things go back to normal?” After many hurricane seasons in South Florida, we’ve gotten used to temporary interruptions in the way life and business works. This time around is different. We have power and air conditioning [thank heavens], but it’s the whole entire country that’s “hunkering.” The one certainty is that this crisis won’t last forever. What’s interesting is how things may look on the other side. As creatives, we’re hardwired to think about what’s possible more than simply what’s normal. And while these times have been [and continue to be] challenging, there are a lot of positive outcomes that could be possible on the horizon.

One of the most exciting is that businesses and brands may use this time off to reinvent themselves or refocus their marketing efforts in a new direction. It’s a really great moment to be working on a new website, for instance, as internal collaborators can access everything they need to remotely. And, because it’s a digital format, there are no delays associated with printing, delivery, mailing, or storage. When restrictions begin lifting, the curtain rises on a whole new online presence for your brand. It feels like a fresh start for everyone – and can be ideal for launching new products or services, or simply changing the attitude and stature of your brand.

Another view of the future may see a giant leap forward in digital engagement. Likes and follows may not matter as much as digital attendance for an online event. Along those lines, event marketing may take a dramatic shift to incorporate remote interactions into the overall experience. Overnight, we might see everyone become a bit more of an influencer because the lines between online and IRL will blur, or in some cases, completely vanish.

family time

Despite the drawbacks and challenges right now, many people are taking time to reconnect with the positive aspects of life – being with family, spending time outdoors, cooking, being creative, meditating, reading. It may just be that the next version of normal involves a priority shift for many people, which means brands will need to shift too. The cache of name-brand recognition may be based less on price and more on authenticity, safety, or relatability. People will be looking for new ways to travel in which space isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. What used to be extra conveniences like curbside pick up and delivery won’t simply vanish as restrictions lift; they will likely become substantial portions of businesses consumers expect across all retail industries.

Simply going “back to the way things were” is just one possibility. What if we could “go forward to something better?”