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Feb 04 2014

Three Essential Elements of a Successful Brand

We talk about branding a lot here at One Step. I write about it on the blog, Valerie talks about it in her client meetings and customer service is always explaining the concept of branding over the phone. But still, it’s a hard concept to grasp, especially if you aren’t in the marketing industry and don’t think about branding everyday like we do. So whenever possible, I like to share real life examples so you can see, instead of just hear, how important branding is.

Today’s branding example comes from my second home, Kaiser Permanente. My baby boy is five months old and the past year I have spent a SIGNIFICANT amount of time at Kaiser. During all those hours spent in waiting rooms (anyone else have to endure that 3 hour glucose test? Yuck!) I started to notice all the various elements that work together to create the Kaiser brand.

Hear the Brand

Every element of Kaiser’s brand, from the logo to the advertising to the services provided, is developed around its core messaging. A few years ago, that core message was ” Live well. Be well. Thrive.” Now, they’ve shortened it to simply “Thrive.” The word itself shows up in several different interactions such as literature and commercials. But even when the actual word isn’t present, the message is. In everything they do, Kaiser conveys the message that they want their patients to thrive and that they are available to help make that possible.

See the Brand

The visual elements of the brand always convey the message of thriving. As I walked through the halls of the hospital I saw lots of pictures of people smiling, eating healthy, and exercising. In a word, they’re thriving. The rest of the space is generally white, clean and modern so that the attention is always focused on the pictures of the people.

The logo is a huge part of the visual brand and it also conveys the image of thriving.


The logo shows up just about everywhere…on office walls, on the health literature they hand out, on nurses uniforms. With every encounter the patient becomes a little more familiar with it and begins to make connections between that logo and the real life experience they are having with that brand.

Experience the Brand

The biggest misunderstanding people have about brands is that they believe a brand is simply a logo, a color scheme, or a general look that determines how all their marketing pieces will be designed. But a brand is really about reputation. A brand is what people think of or feel when they hear about or come in contact with your company. Most people are familiar with Kaiser Permanente, the logo, the advertisements, the “look.” And yet ask people about their experiences with Kaiser, and you’ll get some radically different responses. It is in those responses that you’ll see the true impact of the brand.

Personally, I’ve had great experiences with Kaiser. The staff is always friendly and knowledgeable. They offered some very helpful parenting classes. My doctors were easily reached via phone or email for questions that were important but didn’t warrant an actual visit. In my experience, thrive isn’t just a slogan that is broadcasted on radio commercials. It’s a mission statement that fuels every action of every staff member.

What do I think of when I hear “Kaiser Permanente”? It’s not the logo or the slogan or the decorations or the buildings. I think of my sweet midwife who regularly reassured me that my weight gain was normal. I think of the nurse who, when I called crying my eyes out and begging for anti nausea meds, very quickly got a prescription from the doctor so I could get the meds that day. I think of that perfect day in August when I got to hold my perfect baby boy after a long labor during which I required a whole team of nurses to get me through.

Three elements: messaging, visual, experience. Having one without the others will create a lopsided experience that won’t fully engage your clientele. Having all three will create a powerful brand that clients repeatedly use and share with others.

*DISCLAIMER- The views of this blog article are the views of the author and not the views of One Step Services or its affiliates. One Step does not endorse Kaiser Permanente nor does One Step officially encourage anyone to use Kaiser’s services. This is simply an article about the impact of corporate branding on one person and is in no way meant to sway one’s decision towards choosing a healthcare provider.



Dec 16 2013

Mailbox Monday- Pelican Hill Resort Mailer

Seeing as I work in the direct mail marketing biz, I pay attention to my junk mail more than the average person. Every so often I come across a piece that strikes my fancy, either because it’s particularly good or particularly bad. When I come across these pieces, I share them in a fun little segment I call “Mailbox Monday.”

This week I was impressed with a mailer Sandy received from The Resort at Pelican Hill. Pelican Hill is a full service resort in Newport Beach and the purpose of their mailer was to get us to book a company holiday party with them. I’ll take you through each piece of the packet and highlight the things that make it awesome. As you look through this and see things you’d like to use in your own business, let us know! As a graphic design, mail and print house we can put together any type of direct mail piece you’d like to promote your business.

The Letter

When looking at this letter, the first thing I noticed was that it said “Dear Sandra” instead of “Dear Recipient.” The sender was able to do this with variable data (which, by the way, is something we can do too). The result is a personalized letter that is more likely to get opened.

The second thing I noticed was the list in the middle of the letter. Since the rest of the letter was written in paragraphs, the list stood out and its contents were intriguing. What’s a prosecco toast and how can I get homemade truffle party  favors? My interest was sparked and so I read the entire letter.

I was pleasantly surprised by the rest of the letter. Instead of getting a sales pitch telling me how great The Resort at Pelican Hill is (which is what I was expecting) I was offered help in planning my upcoming holiday party. The letter was centered on me and my needs and outlined the ways that Pelican Hill could meet those needs. The letter didn’t tell me how great Pelican Hill was, instead it lead me to draw that conclusion on my own.

Lastly, there are things that stick out to me because I’m in the direct mail business. Things like paper quality, unique branded letterhead and a legible font type all work together to create a professional presentation. And while the average person may not be able to identify those things specifically, it’s because of those things that she’ll look at that letter and think “wow, this is incredibly classy and well put together.”

sales letter direct mail

We can create custom letterhead, create content and mail out sales letters for your business

The Booklet

While the contents of the letter were focused on the recipient, the contents of the book are all about the resort. Once they sparked my interest and identified my need, it was time to show me how they could meet that need. Pelican Hill chose to do this primarily through photos. About 75% of the book is made up of big, beautiful, high quality photography. Without reading a single word, I was able to get a feel for what the resort was like and what kind of party I could have there. When I did read the words, I found out more details about the resorts various venues, different catering services

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direct mail

Like this book? We can design, print and mail one for your business!

The Packaging

My favorite part of this mailer is the packaging. The letter and the booklet were enclosed in a clear plastic pouch. Without opening anything I was able to see the personalized letter and the stunning cover of the booklet. To me, this packaging makes a lot of sense. Why waste time and resources coming up with ways to interest people in opening an envelope with great content when you can just use the content itself to spark the recipients interest? Plus it goes right along with the clean, minimalist look that is present in the letter and the booklet.

direct mail best practices

Obviously I was impressed with this mailer. But did it motivate me to book a holiday party with Pelican Hill? No. We prefer more laid back, family oriented holiday parties here at One Step. But if you can’t get a sale, the next best thing is to get people talking about your brand, company or service. So I’d say the mailer was still a success 🙂


Aug 07 2013

A Personal Brand Allows People To Know You Before They Meet You

When Peggy came to One Step, she was running a successful real estate business and getting her business from referrals. She was ready to invest more money in her business and step up her marketing efforts.

“By the time a client contacts me, they feel like we’ve already met. That’s the true impact of excellent branding.”- Peggy McCullough. She brought in her branded business card and sat down with one of our creative designers. While there were certain things she liked about her business card, she wanted an overall more polished look. She was looking for something current and timeless, and that’s what we delivered.

Peggy loves her branding because she feels it truly fits her personality and style. By the time clients call her, they feel like they already know her based on her branding. After only three months of sending branded direct mail, she’s already getting calls.

real estate marketing


Nov 26 2012

Unexpected Twists to Classic Beach Designs


Working in Coastal California, we often draw inspiration from the Pacific Ocean and various elements that represent the coastal lifestyle. But the ocean gives inspiration to many, so we are constantly striving to produce coastal themed designs that demonstrate something unexpected. Below are just a few examples of brands we’ve designed that, with a special twist, pay homage to our beautiful California Coast.

small business marketing

Many beach themed designs focus on the blues and cool colors found in the ocean. This piece is unique in that it pulls from the warm colors found in the sand and sunset.

marketing agency orange county

This gorgeous harbor shot is given a unique look when a watercolor effect is added.

Our graphic designer took a more abstract approach to this coastal agency orange countyThe wood pattern used in Brandon Theriault’s brand is very “beachy” and stirs in the minds eye iconic images of piers, old Woody cars and lifeguard towers. Plus, the unique brown and green color palette is a nice break from the myriad of blues often seen in beach themed brand designs. What do you think of when you view this photo? Beauty, peace, happiness, paradise. While sunset photos are pretty common, the way this one is presented creates a strong emotional response in the viewer. Who wouldn’t want to buy a house from someone who works in paradise? custom graphic designRather than simply focus on the beach itself, the Hunten’s postcard displays images of coastal living including big cities near the ocean, palm trees and beautiful coastal houses. marketing agency orange countyAndrea sells in a very specific area, and therefore chose an area specific photo easily recognizable by the residents there. She built her brand around the colors in and style of that photo.

For Gran Sueno is a beach resort in Mexico. We incorporated abstract designs with real life photos for a cohesive look that portrays elegance and relaxation.


Nov 26 2012

Mailbox Monday: Paving the Way for Black Friday

The holiday season is in full swing and with it, lots and lots of holiday themed marketing. In the weeks leading up to black Friday, I browsed through my mail box and pulled out some advertisements that  provide excellent direct mail marketing lessons.*


Here’s the cover of Target’s big toy catalog. A couple of things about this stick out. First off, the bright colors and glitter are sure to grab the attention of little ones making lists for Santa. The same color scheme is carried out throughout Target stores. When creating your mailing pieces, pay special attention to visual elements that will make them stick out amongst a sea of other holiday mailers.

Second, I like the fact that they created an entire mailing piece dedicated to a specific type of product. Of course, Target sells lots of different products but most people are in the market for toys during the holiday season. When creating your holiday mailing pieces, think about your products and services that are most relevant to the holiday season and make them the focus of your content.

Lastly, the timing of piece was perfect. It came out about 2 weeks before Black Friday, giving kids plenty of time to make their lists and parents plenty of time to map out their route to get the best deals and (hopefully) avoid being trampled. When creating your holiday mailing pieces, make sure you send them out in a timely manner. Our customer service reps can guide you in creating a timeline so your pieces are seen at a time that makes them relevant.

On the back of the mailer, Target put a $5 off card that you can easily pull off and stick in your wallet. They did the exact same thing last year, which I remember because I threw it away thinking “I don’t have kids, I’m not going to spend $50 on toys.” Well, it turns out that 7 biological nieces and nephews and 5 honorary nieces and nephews require a lot more than $50 worth of presents. I’ll be saving that card this year, for sure. When creating your holiday mailing pieces, consider consistency. If you did something that worked last year, do it again this year.



holiday marketingUnlike Target, Costco didn’t do much to change their mailer for the holiday season. This is right in line with their brand, which doesn’t change for the holidays. Yes, they sell a lot of holiday products, but they don’t decorate their wharehouses or use any sort of holiday gimmicks to increase business. They simply continue to offer excellent service and important bulk products at a great price. When creating your direct mail marketing piece, stay true to your brand. Both Target’s and Costco’s marketing pieces are effective because they are a true reflection of the company brands.


direct mail marketingI feel that most of the text on this FrontGate mailer is hard to read. However, they made sure their “free shipping” message stood out, which is great. When creating your direct mail marketing pieces, find a visual way to bring attention to the message you think is most important to your recipients.

holiday advertisingThe back of this mailing piece is much better than the front. I love the fact that they highlight one product, which I’m assuming is a very popular product. They show a big beautiful picture and even include a testimonial which gives the product credibility. Plus, if you read the description, you’ll find descriptions of similar products as well as pages where those products can be found. This entices the recipient to go a step further and actually open the catalog, which takes her a step closer to making a purchase. When creating your holiday advertisements, use high quality photos to show off your products. Also, consider using testimonials. It’s a great way to make your company stand out from others and it gives you instant credibility.

Well that’s all that’s in my mailbox this week. What’s in yours? Tell us about any interesting direct mail pieces you receive in the comments below. Or take a picture and post it to our Facebook page.

*Please Note: One Step Services does not endorse any of these companies, nor do these companiees endorse One Step Services. One Step Services did not design, print or mail any of these pieces. However, photos of these pieces were taken by One Step Services. We are simply commenting on these direct mail advertisements and do not claim any of them as our intellectual property.

Nov 14 2012

3 Reasons to Update Your Business Brand

With only two months left in 2012, small business owners and independent contractors are creating business and marketing plans to improve their business in 2013. During this process, many are considering updating their business brands. Updating can be a tricky thing. You want your brand to stay consistent so you build recognition and trust. However, there may be specific things about your brand that are preventing further business growth.

Your target audience has changed.

Take a good hard look at your biggest client demographic and ask yourself “Does my brand still connect with these people?” Perhaps your original brand was targeted to people living in the beach cities, but you’ve expanded your business and want to market to people living in inland cities as well. Or maybe you started out by marketing to the middle class but now you’re working with more high-end patrons. If your clientele has changed, it’s time for your brand to change as well.

Your brand is outdated.

Designs go in and out of style like the tides. Perhaps your brand was created to reflect a very specific taste for a very specific time period. You may notice now that the brand simply isn’t grabbing the attention of new customers. If that’s the case, it may be time to slightly modernize the brand. Even something as simple as a slight logo, color or font change will give your brand a fresh, new look while still retaining the properties that make it recognizable and loved by current clients.

Your brand simply isn’t working.

Perhaps your brand is just a few months or years old, but it simply isn’t working for your company. Perhaps it’s not connecting with your target audience, not clearly communicating what kind of business your running, or it’s creating an unforeseen negative emotional connection. Conduct market research to pinpoint exactly why your brand isn’t working, then work to change those elements.

If you decide it is time to change your brand, give us a call! We’ll help you identify why your brand isn’t working and revise it so that it successfully carries you through 2013 and beyond. Call us at 949-587-5301 or email

UPDATE: Found this great article about famous brands who have successfully changed and upgraded their logos throughout the years

Nov 13 2012

Do You Need More Money for Marketing?

Here at One Step Services, we love referrals! It’s the number one way we grow our marketing business. To show our appreciation for referrals, we are offering all of our clients a $25 credit for simply referring their friends and coworkers.

How does it work? Simply tell your friends and coworkers about One Step Services and give them our contact information. When they come in for a branding appointment and hire us to create a brand and printed materials for them, you’ll receive a $25 credit good towards your next print marketing order.*

graphic design orange county

We are also offering a $25 credit for our clients who want to update their own business brand. Come in between now and January 31st to get a brand redesign and order printed pieces with the new design, and we’ll give you a $25 credit to use on your next print purchase.*

*Restrictions apply. Credit can only be used for printing fees, not graphic design or mailing fees. Referrals must hire us to design a brand for them AND order at least one printed product (business card, post card, flyer, etc) in order for you to receive the referral reward credit. Call us at 949-587-5301 with further questions.

Nov 09 2012

Creating a Business Brand- The Visual Representation

The past few weeks we’ve been talking about creating a unique business brand. As a business owner, you need to first identify your target audience, or ideal client, and then craft a core branding message. Once that’s done, it’s time for the fun part- the design! Most of you aren’t graphic designers so you won’t be the one actually creating the brand. However, your input will strongly influence the type of designs that are created for you.

Before you meet with a graphic designer, consider the questions below. You may not be able to answer all of them, but if you start thinking about the visual elements of your brand beforehand you’ll be able to give the graphic designer a good idea of what you want.

  • What colors do you like? What colors do you think will best represent your business and why?
  • Do you want a logo?
  • Do you like simple, minimalist and modern or loud and busy?
  • Do you want to use images in your branding? Do you prefer photos or illustrations?
  • Who is your target audience and what visual elements will appeal to them?
  • What does your business do and how can you represent that visually?
  • Which brands of other businesses do you like? What do you like about them?
  • Are there any particular images that you like or that you think represents your business?
  • Where do you do business? What are some ways you can visually represent that location?

If you need a graphic designer to create a business brand, or to update a current brand, give us a call at 949-587-5301. Our talented team of graphic designers would love to sit down with you and create a brand that clearly communicates what your company is all about. If you’d like to see samples of brands we’ve created for other people, view our postcard sample gallery.