Brand Everything

Just recently we’ve adopted the statement brand everything into our marketing for our stickers, this points firstly to putting your brand on everything, obviously, with stickers  But the hidden meaning is that everything you do is your brand! The Brand IS Everything

As someone who has an interest in all things branding, I feel like, as a designer, I often need to be reminded about the intangible elements of the brand, the bits that cannot be “branded”.

Modern day “branding” means more than just a logo or a corporate colour and font, today branding is all-encompassing. To better understand branding think of it as the place where your company/startup meets other people.

That mean any areas where customers, services, and suppliers interact with our company, will become synonymous with your “brand”. This includes things like your website usability, the cleanliness of the office, and how you answer the phone. It is the way your emails look, your spelling and grammar, what your timekeeping is like, and whether your packaging is appealing. All of these things add up to how we are perceived by our clients and customers and the people who provide services to your company.

So whilst you can brand everything from your laptop, phones or offices… remember that everything you do “is your brand”.

Tech Nottingham Hack24 2018

This time last week we were sat in Nottingham town hall with hundreds of bleary-eyed builders. Builders of tech, not of buildings that is. These are some of the smartest coders, developers, and designers, Nottingham, has to offer. The challenge was, of course, the 3rd Hack24…which true to the Ronseal naming structure, says what it is on the tin. 24 hours to hack something together.

I’ve been to a few hacks before, but this was by far the biggest and best I’ve been to. And the quality of the hacks was next level too. I’ve been in an around tech for a good twenty years (though I cannot code a line). I love the MVP (minimum viable product) methodology, but honestly, some of these hacks looked ready to go live to the public, all within 24hours. The skills in the room were outstanding and I’m really chuffed that we actually attended.

stkrs started producing stickers for Tech Nottingham a few years ago and from then we’ve produced thousands of stickers for the wider Nottingham tech community. With that in mind we wanted to show our support at Hack24, so we sponsored the bar on the Saturday evening, which is our way of buying everyone a drink as a thanks. It was also great to see was our name alongside sponsors like global brands, Microsoft, Experian Capital One & Thomson Reuters. Of course, at events like this, there are other sponsors, some of whom are stkrs customers, Uniday & Codrius to name two. The other sponsors were MHR, Esendex, eLife, Starling Bank, GitHub, Heart Internet and Liberis.

An event like Hack24 is about making something interesting and many of the challenges involved using “tech for good”. Notably winners of the challenges included an app that helps women report abuse, a team built a shop based screen and camera that could communicate with homeless family members just using facial recognition. Another team used the time to build an app that helped homeless people and another team built a payment app that allowed people to round up purchases with the rounding up going to charity. The full list of winners is below.

I truly hope that those people that attened Hack24 go on to build things that make the world a better place, but equally that the experience has helped them to gain new skills, work with new people and have confidence in their wider tech community. Hack24 was brilliant and we’ll be back next year I am sure.

2018  Winners

The MHR Easter Egg Hunt
MHR asked hackers to build a funny, silly or clever Easter egg into any software

The Winning Team: Knit-WiTs – Elsa Bartley, Aimee Gamble-Milner, Nina Limbrick, Rosanna Nichols

The Esendex Help Nottingham Challenge
Esendex challenged hackers to build something to help Nottingham

The Winning Team: Merge Conflicts – Paul Seal, Patrick Kearns, James Studdart, Jamie Taylor

The Experian Learning About Money Challenge
Experian challenged hackers to ‘create a hack to help people understand how money works’

The Winning Team: PorgPowered – Jamie Lord, Matt Lambert, Dan Meza, Nikhil Gokani

The Thomson Reuters Do Good with Data Challenge
Thomson Reuters challenged hackers to tune the power of data, insight and analytics to ‘create something for social good’

The Winning Team: Knit-WiTs – Elsa Bartley, Aimee Gamble-Milner, Nina Limbrick, Rosanna Nichols

The eLife Envision a New Future for Science on the Web Challenge
eLife challenged Hack24 participants to envision a new future for science on the web

The Winning Team: Last Minute – Allon Scotton, Charles Andrews, Richard Hall

The Microsoft AI for Good Challenge
Microsoft’s challenge was to use Microsoft’s Cognitive Services or Azure Bot Service to make the world a better place

The Winning Team: $teamname – Callum Massey, Ammar Haider, Carl Austin, Daniel Childs

The Sounds like UNiDAYS Challenge
In a challenge that was way out of left field, UNiDAYS challenged hackers to come up with a hack that sounds like UNiDAYS

The Winning Team: Merge Conflicts – Paul Seal, Patrick Kearns, James Studdart, Jamie Taylor

Tech Nottingham Bonus Challenge – Best Video
Winning team: [Redacted] – Matt Brunt, James Hodgson, Gareth Jones, Adam Cooper

Github Bonus Challenge – #MyOctocat Contest
Come up with a new design for Octocat – GitHub’s mascot

Winner: Paul Seal

Some of the teams at Hack24.

Happy Traffic – A social media guy for time poor people.


TLDR: Schedule posts to make social media more fun. This does get somewhat geeky, but everything used here is a simple app.

Social media is free! “Yay” we all cried back in 2007. We have this new tool, let’s go build a whole new world of customers. And we did.

We skip forward ten years and we have players that have come and gone and platforms that are swallowing up other platforms.

And we have to pay to reach all our hard-fought-for fans ????

So whilst it was easy back in 2007/8 there is nothing that easy about social media today.

With this new reality, how do we deal with it? Before I dig in, let me just say, this is sort of “level 1” of a social media plan. I read tons of stuff online daily and I get well excited about the fact that I can sell stuff across global markets etc, but in all honesty, half the stuff I read out there is either too complex that you’d need to be a data-scientist to understand. Or too time-consuming for a business owner, that you would need a team of social media experts, and data-scientists, to help you with it.

That is why this is called the “level 1” version because it is the very beginner level of creating a social media presence. A solid foundation on which to build. And it is something you can do as a small business owner or solo startup founder.

I had the image below designed as a guide for our internal purposes. Keep reading below the image to understand this, but feel free to download it if you like.

I love social media from a business service point of view, it’s easy to try things and see how things go, and you can have real-time interaction with your customers.

HOWEVER, I am rubbish at posting on social media! I have a million things to do as a business owner and these million things seriously get in the way of my social game.

I really want to be good at it, but I rarely have the time on a day to day basis.

So below is how I got around that lack of time issue.

We (because it isn’t just me) created our content in a big block of time rather than on a daily basis. We photographed a few dozen images in one day, really simple things like; a sticker on a laptop, a sticker in a hand, a sticker on a desk etc. Then spent the rest of day writing simple posts for these images.

That meant that I, or a team member, just scheduled a day into the calendar once a month to do this. Which is way easier than posting ‘live’ daily.

We then used scheduling software to post the images once a day.

This means that rain or shine, something is going out on our social media.

Now you could be cynical and think ‘well that’s not social’ if you’re just posting something you made 4 weeks ago. And you might have a point, however, unless you have a fulltime job doing social media, I’d wager you, something is better than nothing!

The way I see it, is that if it was left to me, which it was for many years, it would rarely get done. However, if I schedule a heap of posts, it is going out every day, with or without me!

The fun bit is I then do the personal interaction “live” if people comment on the post.This feels great, you get enquires or just general banter with your customers and followers.

Also, I can just drop in a post at any point, if I want to post there and then. Two posts is better than one, and one is better than none.

Make it easy for yourself. If there are barriers in your way to doing your social media break it down and make it easy. Booking a day a month to create content, and scheduleing your posts does this, but also you should take the time to set everything up once. This can then run easily without you haven’t to post on several different platforms… and that just happens to be what’s next.

As you’ll see from the diagram we have lots of arrows but before I explain them you see we only really have two content types. Written posts, like this, and Image posts.

In reality, a Written posts has images, and an Images post has written elements. But these are our main labels.

We post out images firstly to Instagram, then they go to other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Linkedin.

Or if we’re posting written content we put that on our blog, then post that to Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

The scheduling software, mentioned above, differs depending on the type of content we’re posting. So if it is an image, we’ll use Grum to post it to Instagram. If it is written content we will use Buffer.

We then use a couple of simple tools to link these processes together. Which means I only have to set up my content in one place and it will post to other platforms. Again another time-saving tool when you are a busy entrepreneur. and Zapier are tools that help platforms and apps communicate that maybe wouldn’t ordinarily. No need to panic at this point, these are really quite easy to setup and require no coding. You go to their websites find the Applets/Zaps that connect your two platforms like Instagram to Linkedin and put in your details.

So once you have these linked up you can just go back to your two schedulers and put in a month’s worth of posts. Then on every social media channel you have, you are broadcasting content daily.

Some people say you have to pick the times you post, some people say you need to pick the number of times you post. Some say you have to pick the type of content you post on a particular platform and some say you have to post directly to the platforms without scheduling.

However, what I am saying is “just get posting”. In any form, anywhere, at any time. If you get to Level 1 people will start to be interested, then you can always move to Level 2 and beyond by finetuning your game.

Be social. Maybe not Salesy. Finally, this is a tiny note on the type of content you post. I struggle with this one, as social media with no call to action can seem like a task that requires time and effort with no return. However, if you go in too pushy on the sales, it becomes antisocial…not in the truest sense of the word, but people just don’t want to see adverts all day long in their feed, so they will just dump you and you lose the opportunity to speak to your audience.

Give people content that will make then smile or interest them, and they will stick around. And maybe they will stick around long enough to want to buy something from you.

Aim to turn followers into friends, as people are not just prospects. They are people with hopes and dreams, families and friends, people who like the sea or the countryside. The cold weather or the warm sun. They are not just an open wallet or a credit card, true one day they might need to buy what you’re selling, but make sure you are front and centre of their minds when that day comes because of the great social presence you have.

I hate this bit as it sounds like bragging but, just so you know we’re actually walking the walk, last year we shipped our products to America, Australia, Norway, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, France, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Northern Ireland & England! – All of which came through social media.

Love your customers

Before we start, I’m not saying we’re the gold standard of customer service – we’re not – but we’re trying ????

I watched a podcast a while ago by Esther Perel who was talking about “Amore”! Love between you and your other half, and she said we should treat our wives/husbands/partners as well as we treat our best customers or clients!


Because I make a great husband (my opinion) ???? I had to flip Esther’s advice on its head and try to treat my customers as I would treat my wife.

I text my wife with those occasional things, the fun notes, or to see how she is doing, or to check how she is if things are annoying her at work…I tweet customers just like that too…OK I might not use the same language or get too personal, but they’re not dissimilar.

Occasionally I will give me wife an unexpected gift. I’ve been known to do that for customers too, I’ll give them little things, usually stickers, in fact, pretty much only stickers, but the sentiment is the same.

I tell people how great my wife is at this or that (actually my wife is a racing driver and she’s won many British & National titles). And I do that with customers too, when people ask who do we know that does this or that, I’ll tell them how great this person is, or their product is.

I go the extra mile for my wife because she puts up with me. That’s what I do for my customers when I can.

It is very difficult to hate or be indifferent to someone who cares. So in doing little things like the above, you build a customer base who loves you back! You cannot do this with an attitude of “giving to get” though, customer service has to be at the heart of what you do, not because you want your customer’s money, but because you want people to have a great experience. Fullstop.


A word of caution about the above, you do need to be aware that you can go too far and you will probably come off as really creepy.

If I had turned up at my wives parents house with a huge bunch of flowers, a CD with “our best songs”, and tickets for a weekend in Skegness the morning after our first meal out together…she might not be my wife today. So just try to apply normal rules of conduct with customers if you can’t trust yourself to not overstep into creepzone!


If you don’t currently have an ‘other-half’ the analogy is still the same.

Go after customers like you go after “other-halves”.

When you first chased a women/man you’d do almost anything for them.

You presented yourself in the best possible light, you dressed well, behaved well. You became thoughtful and caring, you moved mountains at the mere suggestion of a request.

So “court” your customers, just like you would a women/man, do what you can to make them smile and you are halfway there!

Number one rule is “be genuine”.

And rule two – do not expect something in return…that’s not love, that’s shallow, people will see it soon enough.


P.S. In writing this I feel a degree of fear, because I am setting a benchmark for our future selves to live up to ???? however at STKRS we’re about producing things that help our customers improve their businesses, so if for a small moment it helped you think about a customer based improvement, then maybe it was worthwhile.

Tips and tricks to make your stickers even more useful.

You now have a few hundred stickers so what’s next?
What do you do that will make them actually useful?

Here’s a tip…give them away and stick them on stuff.

Actually we know that that is not actually a tip, because it is almost like a ‘law of nature’ that you will actually want to stick them to something…everything even!

In our time printing stickers we’ve seen a few of our smart customers do great things with their stickers, so we’re going to let you in on their secrets and hopefully you’ll be able to make your stickers have a bit more utility.


Tip One: We’ll start with the low hanging fruit first. Be a self-promoter. Stick them on everything that is yours, like your laptop, ipad, phone, desk, bike, mug, friend’s bike and mug. Be shameless in your promotion. The more people see your logo the more familiar they are with it and the more likely they are to think of you we the need arises, it’s some subliminal advertising voodoo.


Tip Two: Take pictures of your stickers on relevant or irrelevant items and places. If your app is about security, stick your logo sticker on a chain-wire fence and then construct a tweet around this, or use them in your blog posts. Check out our social media for ideas, Jaz loves taking a bunch of stickers and photographing them on stuff.


Tip Three: This is where the trackability comes in. Ask your customers to tweet pictures of your stickers, then you can see where your stickers go. If you are at an event and you plonk a load of stickers on a desk you have no idea who has them, so ask on social media, even leave a not next to the pile of stickers. Also, people are more likely to take them out the swag bag and stick them on something if you ask then to photograph it. They get a tiny bit of fame you get a bit of social media gold. Win Win.


Tip Three Point Five: Ask your customers to tweet pictures of your stickers…but make a game or competition out of it. Who can photograph the most unusually placed sticker? Who can place the most prominent sticker? Who can take the best pic with your sticker in? I once placed a sticker on the side of a mountaintop hut in the Alps…it’s probably the highest sticker in the world…or it was, until one of our customers placed one at base camp on Everest. Warning these can get you into trouble depending on how sensible your target audience is. But you probably won’t go to prison…I think (best get legal advice if you’re worried). The competition doesn’t have to be for swag or stuff it could just be for kudos.


Tip Four: Next level integration. We love augmented reality here, so on a number of occasions, we have created augmented stickers with the likes of Blippar, Layar and Vuforia. The great thing about these apps and integrations is that the stickers are just standard, but once you scan the sticker, with your phone app, they can bring a whole load of extra content to the customer. They can be fun animations or videos, games, secret areas of your website, or even just extra information, but the great thing is they are trackable. With the backend software, you can see how many people have scanned your stickers and clicked your links.


So the humble sticker can be much more use than you might have thought, but here is one last tip before we drop the coupon.

We have found over the years that pictorial or icon based stickers seem to go down the best, this might be a bit annoying if your logo is just text, but you might want to think about how you can put your logo on something that people want to put on their laptop…if it is fun, cute, scary or just plain interesting you are more likely to get someone loving it enough to stick on their device. Obviously, you can make awesome products that people want to be associated with too…in fact, you should definitely do that 🙂

We’re going to give you that coupon code now in case you want some stickers. It lasts until the 15th of Feb so don’t delay.

Code: TIPS20


If you’re not quite ready for stickers yet, but you will be soon, you might want to sign up to our newsletter as we’ll drop coupon codes in there.


I was at a session on copyright and trademarking and I came away with a few good nuggets, I thought I would share, as I know there are a few people out there it will effect.

The first rule of thumb, copyright exists with the creator! If you are the designer, illustrator, photographer or whatever if you created it you own the copyright. The only way your client has the legal copyright is if you sign it over to them in your contract. If you didn’t then you own it – I thought that was interesting.


Secondly, this one is for those creatives who also dabble with music, when you record someone, the copyright for that recording is with you. The producer is the copyright owner of the recording, again you have to sign it over contractually if the client wants the copyright. Also, they may think they own the copyright to the song, which they do if they wrote the lyrics, but if you made the musical arrangement for them, then you own the copyright to that, as music and lyrics are separate copyrights in a song.


So on the flip side of that as business owners, if you have ever had anything produced by a designer who has not assigned you the copyright in a legal document then you either need to get them to do so or you are at risk of your designers claiming they own the copyright. Check out the case of Innocent Smoothies, they had to go through legal battles just to be able to use their logo.


TM = Trademark – Is a visual logo or word mark – No legal basis for any claim, trademark actually means nothing. Though some people use to scare others off, or while they are applying for Registered Trademark.


® = Registered Trademark – Is a visual logo or word mark – This is the legal version of the trademark which you can legally enforce should someone attempt to use it. You can only use this if you legal register your logo, to use it without officially registering is an offence.


© = Copyright – Most things can be copyright protected like words, logos, photos, designs etc. – As long as there is a written or documented form of something you can copyright it. There is no need to register anything, but if a dispute were to happen having dated proof is a help. The old ‘stick it in an envelope and send it to your solicitor approach’ helps. Copyright only applies to something that could have been copied, if no one has ever seen or heard it accept you, there is no case.


To end, get yourself protected, if you ever want to sell your business you need to own the copyright to everything you are selling…or it isn’t yours to sell. Including your logo 🙂

Bad Branding Will Kill Your Company

A bad logo and branding spell disaster to your business so sit tight and read how to save your new venture.

My skills come from starting multiple ventures over the course of twenty years. Branding has always been a love of mine since I decided 28 years ago at the age of 13 that I wanted to be a designer. I’m afraid I was a little sad and collected Coca-cola cans and memorabilia such was my passion for big brands and logos. Fast forward ten years or so and I ended up working in a Design Week Top Ten design agency working on global brands like Nestle, Lego and Vodafone. After four years there I went out on my own. Running my own agency Dogtooth, I created numerous brands, products, spinoffs and side-projects for myself along the way, and this is where I learned some important things about starting something and creating a brand.

To put it into context, remember the new GAP logo disaster? That whole escapade is estimated to have cost GAP $100 million!

It all starts by naming your ‘thing’. There are numerous conventions for naming companies and products, so I’ll briefly run through the most popular types, in no particular order.

Names – Personal or family names, these tend to be older companies and are used a lot in serious professions like finance and law. Fashion brands often use the designer’s name like Ralph Lauren, DKNY and Calvin Klein. Ford, Disney and Adidas* are also family names.


Keywords – Then there is the convention of using a clear keyword in your name to denote what you do, as an example Pizza Hut, Burger King and MTV, there is no mistaking what these companies do.

Compound Words – Another naming convention is compound words – two words pushed together to make one new word or name, like Facebook, Microsoft, Walmart or Nescafe.


Words with Meanings – Words with hidden or abstract meanings also feature a lot, for instance we all know Nike is the goddess of victory, but did you know that was going to be (try it), but was changed to Amazon to denote scale, the longest river in the world. Other brands like Apple, Orange, and Ikea all have their stories and abstract meanings.


Made-up Words – These can be words that sound like something, for instance Rolex was famously created (made-up) to sound luxurious. And similarly there are others like GoPro, eBay and arguably the most famous misspelling to create a word is Google. There are many others, especially in the tech startup world, like Skype and Yahoo.


Logo Design
Once you have got your name then there is the task of creating a logo. It may be as easy as just typing the word out in your favourite font, like SONY or Panasonic. Or you can include visual elements that we discuss in ‘Icons” below. Some logos feature visual hidden meanings, like the FedEx arrow between the e and x, CBS eye icon and the Amazon A to Z arrow/smile.


Then there is the colour, a hugely complex issue with links in specific industries and in psychology. Colours are often subjective and cannot be detached from personal perspective, i.e. if blue is your favourite colour you will have a different experience of blue to someone else who’s favourite colour is red. Studies have shown that colour does play a part in purchasing decisions, so you could just choose your favourite colour and ignore all that, but you might be missing a trick. If you have a fun brand, use red and yellows. If you want to be trusted in finance and law, then maybe use blue or grey. Green is synonymous with natural products and peace. Purple is seen as creative and imaginative.

On the flip side, choosing to use something outside of the convention for your industry could get you noticed. However be careful of the opposite effect, a luxury brand may not work in the cheerful orange, it may do better in silver, gold or black.




If you look at 80% of the world’s major brands they use pictorial elements. You may want to create something in the logo that actually has a visual meaning for the thing that you do, for instance, Burger King has a burger bun around the text and Shopify has a shopping bag icon. In the case of Jaguar cars, Shell Oil, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut they all feature icons or symbols which are based on the abstract element of the name, ie the jaguar, shell, bell and the hut, rather than the product.

In a global marketplace, speaking many languages, it is surprising that, though we process pictorial information 60 times faster than text, very few brands chose to use pictorial elements relating to the product they produce and sell.


Web & Social
Now you have your name, your logo and an icon in the right colours you need some presence, and where better to start than with the web and social media. So this is where things get tricky because if you have chosen the name Apple for your Dental Surgery you can guarantee you will not be getting the name Apple as a domain name or username on the internet ANYWHERE. So you have to box-clever and use other conventions like adding the product to the name, for example, (which already exists) or by adding a suffix or prefixes like or and many other variations.

Then you have the fact that ‘usernames’ on the big social platforms may have gone already because someone chose it before you. This is tough luck. I know – I’ve tried directly and indirectly to get a username and failed, despite owning the Registered Trademark. So again you have to try the same game with prefixes and suffixes.

What I would absolutely recommend is to spend the time to make sure you have your username game aligned. Do not use a hyphen on one site and an underscore on another. If you can get the name you want on one site, but not on another, try again with a different version of the name. I would only use the name you can get on all platforms, (by all means register all you can and use a redirect to your main site) or the one username you have that works consistently over all accounts.

As an example, I’ll show you two of my products. I have (and many other variations around this including .com .org .net) and I use etc.

For another of my projects I could not get the name of my App ‘Me But Better’, as and MeButBetter on some of the social platforms was already gone. So I opted for which I also use for ensuring if you google “mebutbetterapp” you will find me, I believe consistency is key.

Screenshot 2016-04-25 07.55.54

This also means registering everything going forward with that same name, even if it turns out to be an app or platform that is a flash in the pan. You never which platform might be the next Snapchat, Twitter or Facebook.

Another little tip on domains names; someone once said to me that owning your niche domains helps to stop your competitors from ranking better than you. So if you have keyword domains in your niche, point them at your brand website. It’s a bit like buying up all the shops on a high street and not letting your competitors steal any sales.

I could write more on this topic, but for now I will give another two top tips.

Tip one, settle on an icon for social media and keep it, do not go changing it regularly if at all. If I go on Twitter and I see the same icons as on Facebook and Instagram I know who I’m dealing with. If you change it or have different ones, I may assume it is another company, a fake account or worst just plain ignore you completely. This also goes for personal accounts if you’re a celebrity or head of industry; keep the same headshot so we know it’s you – it will become your icon or logo.

Final tip, in a social media world think ‘square’! By that I mean not landscape or portrait. Most icons for social media are squares or circles so keep your logo readable in a square format. Stack the words on top of each other or try to keep the text bold so it is readable as a small icon. If you can’t do that because your name is long, then your icon needs to do the work. Make the icon strong and obvious and stick with it. In time, whatever it is, it will become associated with your brand through repeated association.


Once you have built a multi-billion dollar business feel free to disregard everything I have just said and do what you like, but until you have the deep pockets to undo a GAP-style logo disaster, the above might help you along.

Finally my disclaimer. A name, a logo and web presence do not make a ‘brand’, but they are the foundation building blocks of one; without them you may struggle to position yourself for national or global success. If by chance you have a killer product that achieves success without these you will probably be in the minority and I can bet you that you will have to pay a lot more for the domains and usernames at that point. A brand is about much more than the visual assets, it is the brand values, the customer interactions, the team spirit and even the buildings you operate from. Whilst these are crucial to the brand, my skills and interest lie in the visual presentation of a brand, for small or big brands.