BP Oil Logo

The BP Ad That Should Not Have Been

Posted by | News, Branding, Advertising | No Comments

Since the huge oil spill, BP has spent tens of millions of dollars on advertising. Much of it is very good, but recently the energy conglomerate has been running full-page advertorials in the New York Times combating some of the negative press they have been getting regarding the Ken Starr mediated settlements. This morning’s ad on page A11 really had me thinking that someone in their PR department should lose their job. Read More

Financial Planning: Why Customer Experience Matters

Financial Planning: Why Customer Experience Matters

Posted by | News, Technology, Financial Marketing, Digital, Business of Design, Clients, Branding | One Comment

I counsel a lot of financial services clients, and in that regard I have to keep up on the various trades, InvestmentNews, Private Wealth on practice management, the movement to and fro of warehouse brokers to RIAs, and the occasional marketing column.

As I was reading my copy of ThinkAdvisor, I came upon a wonderful article by Michael Kitces that discusses why meeting with financial planners is compared to “a blend of a dental exam, a math class, and marriage therapy.” It contrasts the experience a person will have in a Build-A-Bear workshop to that of meeting with a financial planner. And while this article is especially germane to the world of financial planning, it makes excellent points for any service industry and merits a read. Read More

EYA Brand Tagline Life Within Walking Distance

All Hallows Brand

Posted by | Clients, Branding, Anything + Everything | No Comments

I have written several posts about one of our signature clients, real estate developer, EYA, and the care that they take with their brand. They have lived by their tagline, Life Within Walking Distance, and it has guided their decisions of which properties they will acquire and develop. They have been excellent stewards of their brand, indoctrinating every new employee or intern on the meaning of the brand and how to bring it to life.

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ADWKDC 10 Advertising Week 2013

We’re at Advertising Week DC 2013

Posted by | Events, Grafik Culture, News, Digital, Business of Design, Anything + Everything, Branding, Advertising | No Comments

Advertising Week DC aka ADWKDC is on its 10th year and kicked of last Saturday. The main conference starts today and will feature a number of impressive speakers and panel discussions. I will be on conference floor as part of the onsite social media team posting on behalf of the DC Ad Club, and Grafik (of course!). Come find me and say hello!

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The Optimist: Happiness Day 21

Posted by | Social Media, News, Grafik Culture | No Comments

I couldn’t be writing this blog post at a more interesting time. I’m right in the middle of the busiest month of the year for me. It’s been a hectic week so I’m left much more sleep deprived than usual; I’m emotionally preparing myself to be with my family this weekend for my father’s birthday who passed away last year; and, I just had my first car accident EVER coming into work this morning (I’m still a little shaken up, but I’m not injured). Even for a self-professed optimist, it would be quite difficult to stay positive and not get a little frustrated.

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Chipotle Serves Up Some Fresh Thinking

Posted by | News, Digital, Branding, Advertising | No Comments

Under the glowing eyes of some rather sinister looking robotic crows, a cold, dark factory efficiently churns out processed foods at the expense of helpless farm animals. A doleful scarecrow looks on as a chicken is pumped with hormones, a cow is confined in a tiny metal cage, and products marked “100% Beef-ish” are neatly dispensed to consumers from conveyer belts. This story unfolds with all the artistry and emotional cues you’d expect in a Disney Pixar animated short. But this is an anthem video for Chipotle Mexican Grill.

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The Great Happiness Experiment—Part Three

Posted by | News, Grafik Culture, Anything + Everything | 2 Comments

It’s been two weeks since CEO Judy Kirpich and I embarked on our social experiment taking on the Hapyr.com 21-day challenge, where we’re asked daily to identify what we are grateful for, choose one happy moment in the day, and write a “Thank You” note. The week one recap looked promising of success, but let’s see how week two went.

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The Great Happiness Experiment—Part Two

Posted by | Grafik Culture, Anything + Everything | 2 Comments

CEO Judy Kirpich and I have been doing daily “happiness” exercises as part of the Hapyr.com 21-day challenge. If you’re not familiar with our little social experiment, here’s the intro blog post from last week. Essentially, we get a email every day that sends us to a Hapyr.com page asking us to specify three things we are grateful for, detail a happy moment from the day, and write someone a thank you note. And here’s our feedback from the first week.

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The Great Happiness Experiment—Part One

Posted by | Grafik Culture, Anything + Everything | One Comment

One of my clients I admire the most came to our offices for a meeting the other day. I have worked with this man for more than 20 years, and he is, like me, a Type A personality. When he walked into the room there was a different aura about him, he seemed calmer, more at ease, and just plain happier. When I asked him about this, he indicated that he was rearranging parts of his life and encouraged me to read a few books, go to Hapyr.com, and watch the TED talk on the site.

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Humanity needs a rebrand.

Posted by | News, Branding | No Comments

I tend to refrain from writing any political pieces for this blog, but listening to the news coming from Syria, I feel compelled to bend the rules.

The dictionary definition of humanity is 1. the human race; human beings collectively and 2. humaneness. In the past, brand attributes for humanity were synonymous with compassion, benevolence, kindness, tenderness, and tolerance. One definition says, “The kind feelings, dispositions, and sympathies of man, especially a disposition to relieve persons or animals in distress and to treat creatures with kindness and tenderness.”

As I listened to an interview with a Syrian doctor describing the horrors of treating patients with exposure to sarin gas, I started to wonder if, in fact, humanity had taken a terribly wrong turn. Had we lost our brand essence, and could each and every person honestly say that they were living as good brand stewards of humanity?

Brand specialists know that one of the best cases for renaming a brand is when there are negative actions that can do significant damage to a reputation. In those cases, it is probably worthwhile to rename and rebrand the company. A case in point is the rebranding of Philip Morris, the vilified tobacco giant, to Altria, a kinder and gentler way of peddling tobacco.

And so the question that I pose here, isn’t it time to rebrand humanity? No matter what hemisphere you look in, from the murders in Syria, to conflict in the Sudan, from mass graves in Mexico to the senseless deaths of youths in U.S. cities, it seems like humans are acting like antonyms of humanity. We are acting with cruelty, hatred, and meanness.

As a firm that develops brands for corporations, nonprofits, and government entities, we often counsel clients to take an objective 360-degree view of themselves; to delve into the tougher issues, to tackle problems as well as successes—not just the successful ones. Only by examining the bad as well as the good can we start to fix their brand.

So, as I saw babies and women covered in swaddling on the front page of the Washington Post, all killed by sarin gas exposure, I thought of what I could have done, what I should have done, and what I can do to start the rebranding of Humanity. I have no answers, but I do know that staying silent is not the way to start to repair.


Rebrand Hedge Funds?

Posted by | Financial Marketing, Design Issues, Business of Design, Branding | No Comments

I have been doing a lot of thinking about how one might rebrand the idea of hedge funds. With corruption and insider trading rampant inside this industry, and with the new SEC regulations that allow hedge funds to advertise, is a new makeover warranted? Most ordinary investors do not understand hedge funds, most likely since they do not fit the economic cut-off for those permitted to invest in this type of financial vehicle. What they do understand is that they are “bad,” run by greedy power hungry managers, and some have lost their investors vast sums of money. Read More


ThinkAdvisor Rebrand

Posted by | Financial Marketing, Branding | No Comments

As a strategist operating in the world of financial services, it is not unusual for me to look at the delivered content of three or four financial sites a day—most of them full of interesting information, but not very easy on the eye. I can usually navigate around them without difficulty, but none of them would win awards for online acumen or branding know-how. So, I was particularly pleased and surprised to see that one of my daily sites, AdvisorOne.com changed its brand, name, positioning line, logo, and site to ThinkAdvisor.com. A notice at the top of the home page clearly establishes the purpose of the site: “a complete professional development and thought leadership destination for financial advisors.” Editorial Director of Summit Business Media Jamie Green states:  “ThinkAdvisor.com is more than just a new name. Advisors are busy, but they’re also very thoughtful people. ThinkAdvisor.com goes beyond a news focus to a complete professional development and thought leadership destination, with tools and resources to help them succeed in running their businesses and serving their clients.

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Livestrong logo

Nike, don’t cut and run.

Posted by | Cause-Related Marketing, Branding | One Comment

I am no fan of Lance Armstrong. I hate the fact that he instilled so much hope among cyclists and cancer patients, and then betrayed their trust by continually lying about doping charges.

I am, however, a fan of Nike—one of the smartest brands I know. The company has created a brand that is about so much more than selling sneakers and athletic apparel. It’s a brand synonymous with persevering to do one’s best—it is a brand that is about being at the top of the game and excelling.

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Designed by Apple

An Open Letter to Apple

Posted by | Design Issues, Business of Design, Branding, Advertising | 4 Comments

You never had to tell me that design mattered. That there were engineers, developers, and designers all banded together to make your products beautiful. Relevant. Irresistible.

You never had to tell me because I could see it all in your packaging. First the brown kraft paper box—then the white box. The impeccable design and written instructions that got shorter and shorter. The white space. The most famous logo along with Nike. Buttons that were wonderful to touch, interfaces that were simple to use, shapes that made me want to caress them, stroke them, and protect them with cases and screen protectors. Read More

A Little Nature Invades Your Screen

When Design Interferes With Content

Posted by | News, Digital, Design Issues, Branding, Anything + Everything | No Comments

I was talking with Lahaina, one of my social media staff, a few days ago questioning whether GenX is starting to unplug from all of their electronic devices. This conversation was coming on the heels of a discussion I had with my son and his girlfriend after our family decided to leave all of our phones, iPads, and computers in the car this weekend and just spend a relaxing weekend at our farmhouse.

She sent me an article written by Baratunde Thurston on his experiment unplugging from the web. And, while the article was very interesting and controversial, what captured me most were the many comments that were not talking about the content of the article, but rather, the layout of the article.

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Monsanto's Roundup Ready Soybean technology

Poison For A Brand

Posted by | Branding | No Comments

Monsanto’s creed is: “Monsanto is about farmers. It is our purpose to help farmers produce more food, more with less, and conserve resources.”

According to the 2012 Monsanto Annual Report, the agribusiness giant spent $87 million on advertising and promotional expenses. The St. Louis Business Journal reported that the behemoth spent $838 million dollars in marketing for 2010. That’s a whole lot of money for a brand to spend  pitching the nation’s farmers, a lot of money spent counteracting doubts about genetically-modified crops, and a whole lot of money spent to make sure the brand is seen sympathetically. Read More


Prince William—Sigh

Posted by | News, Business of Design, Branding, Anything + Everything | No Comments

OK. I have to give the county some points for trying to get a new logo right. But they have failed miserably by not understanding that adopting a new identity is 1/3 design and 2/3 politics. The Washington Post reports that many of the county’s departments, members of the board of supervisors, and citizens simply do not understand the new mark that is composed of two boxes with the type squeezed in below. Most are angry that they were not part of the process, and furious that the county’s history and tie with agriculture are completely missing. Read More


I am Wonderfilled

Posted by | Social Media, News, Branding, Advertising | No Comments

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfD2xyOWm6UThe newest campaign from Oreo captured my attention last Sunday night when the anthem spot (a 90-second commercial) aired during Mad Men. The infectious tune has played in my head for almost a week now. And when I don’t hear it in my brain, my wife is actually singing it out loud.

So what is it about this campaign that’s so brilliant? Well, for one, it’s well executed. The Martin Agency has married smart lyrics and happy melody with vibrant animation. It’s impossible not to smile when you watch the commercials.

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LinkedIn Endorsements

Endorsements. It’s Nothing Personal.

Posted by | Social Media, Digital | 3 Comments

I feel like I am back at the early days of Facebook when the number of friends you had was a measure of your stature. Now the currency is the number of LinkedIn endorsements you receive.

At first, I was somewhat amused to see who was endorsing me for the different skills that I put up on my LinkedIn page. But soon, that amusement turned to bewilderment. If someone endorses me, do I have to endorse them back? What if I don’t really think their work is worth endorsing? What if I do not know them or have not worked with them? Is it bad behavior or poor manners not to re-endorse someone? What if I get endorsed by someone who has not worked with me in 10-15 years; is the endorsement really worth anything? Read More

Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie & Fitch: Solid Marketing Or Marketing Faux Pas?

Posted by | Business of Design, Branding | 4 Comments

In the interest of full disclosure, I am heavy—definitely overweight and probably have been all my life—except for the four months leading up to my wedding. So it is with a biased perspective that I read of Abercrombie & Fitch’s position towards fat people. According to an article in Business Insider, this clothing retailer does not want to sell its clothes to overweight women or men. The CEO, Mike Jefferies, has been given a lot of flak for stating that he only wants to sell his clothing to “cool kids.” Read More

Matthew Shepard

Give OUT Day

Posted by | News, Grafik Culture | No Comments

Today has been deemed Give Out Day, and in support, Grafik has made a donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation. We’re proud to take part in this event and have been actively supporting the Matthew Shepard Foundation for the last three years. With the help of my partner and friends, I began hosting a fundraising event each year in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to “replace hate with understanding, compassion, and acceptance.” Read More


Hottest Woman Ever

Posted by | Social Media, Digital | No Comments

Google “hottest woman ever” and you will see a picture of Jena, my buddy Eric Weaver‘s wife. Jena is definitely hot, but this is only her passport photo and still it’s usually the first Google search result. Check it out here or just search “hottest woman ever” on Google.

Eric is SVP Social Strategy & Intelligence at IPG Mediabrands. He posted this image of Jena on Flickr in 2005 and frequently refers to it in speaking engagements to make the point that Google loves engagement. Read More


The Right Ingredients

Posted by | Business of Design, Branding | No Comments

Okay. I admit it. I am in love with Kodiak Cakes—flapjacks to be precise. I am not a pancake fan, but Kodiak Cakes have me dreaming about breakfast. So why would this be interesting at all? Well, it’s a great example of how packaging and a good story has the power to attract and pull a consumer (me) in.

I was shopping at Target—picking up the usual staples that a family needs to function—paper towels, toothpaste, and soap. I generally do not think of Target when I think of gourmet food shopping. I don’t really consider their Archer Farms to be fine food—maybe for trail mix or nuts, but that is about the limit. I have always thought that Archer Farms has been a mediocre attempt at giving a personality to a store brand, better than most, but still generic. As I went to pick up a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix, I noticed a really interesting box—brown kraft paper with a great illustration of a Kodiak bear. Read More

SEC Finally Dips A Toe Into The Social Media Age

Posted by | Social Media, Financial Marketing | No Comments

The CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, was proud that his company had hit over 1 billion hours of video watching in one month. He posted a congratulatory note on his personal Facebook account praising his team for his hard work, and that 43 word message resulted in a slap on the hand from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) saying that he broke the Regulation Fair Disclosure act that requires a company to disclose information to all investors at the same time. While he has over 200,000 followers on his personal Facebook page, it is not an official corporate sanctioned page—and the 1 billion hour record could have been deemed insider information. However, if he had followed up his casual praise with a press release on the company page, all would be well. Read More


All In Good Fun: Big Names Get In On April Fools’ Action

Posted by | Social Media, Branding | 2 Comments

April Fools’ Day: a day to celebrate a bit of lighthearted fun. To some, it’s just another day; to many, it’s an afterthought; but then there are those select few dedicated souls who await this day all year with eager anticipation, spending weeks (or months) plotting the perfect practical joke. To those, we commend you for your efforts, and thank you for providing the rest of us with a source of entertainment to brighten up the workday. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite pranks from this year: Read More


How Companies Can Build Themselves Into Successful, Authentic Brands—Full of Amazing Staff

Posted by | Branding | One Comment

I read a great article today in Forbes, entitled, Why Your Leadership Model is Broken. The point made by the author, Mike Myatt, is that our old paradigm of promoting and rewarding people simply for their technical ability to perform a specific function is not enough to build a successful collaborative organization, nor is it the measure alone that should account for how one evaluates performance. This has long been a personal issue for me, as I believe that when an individual comes to a team—a.k.a. a business—it is indeed a social contract that can and should lead to building a greater team overall. And we all have to engage on many levels in order for us to have joyous survival, and to actually thrive, not just survive. There are skills that we have to develop that far exceed what may be written in a job description or in an offer letter. This is true not only for us as individuals, but for the companies and brands that we collectively create. Most companies don’t practice this, and it is a bitter pill to swallow, as it means we all need to take a long hard look at ourselves, what we bring to our jobs and our work, and for leadership—the policies and corporate culture that is cultivated. At the end of the day, it all leads to the bottom line. Read More


Meet Laura Lin: Grafik’s Newest Interactive Designer

Posted by | News, Grafik Culture | No Comments

We did say we’re growing! We’re happy to welcome Laura Lin as our newest Interactive Designer. A designer and illustrator, Laura is passionate about design that effects social change having worked on projects such as Feed the Future and at places including USAID and The QED Group. At Grafik, she’s already started work with clients Anybill and Lockheed Martin. In true Grafite form, Laura is well-hobbied from experimental cooking to thunderstorm watching—and maintains more than 10 blogs to document them. Impressed yet? Wait till you see her lunch salads! Welcome Laura!

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We Have A New Grafite: We Welcome Efrat Levush As Art Director

Posted by | News, Grafik Culture | No Comments

Our shop is growing and the latest addition to the family is Efrat Levush as Art Director. Efrat joins us with more than ten years of experience in design, art directing, and various creative positions, having worked at places such as Opower, Door Number 3, and House & Garden magazine. As a Grafite, she will be on a number of client accounts including Neighborhoods of EYA and JK Moving Services. She has a passion for typography and hand lettering, and is a self-professed foodie—she’s currently working her way through  500-page Lebanese cook book. A certified gourmand? She’ll fit right in. Welcome to the team!

Efrat Levush as Grafik's new Art Director

Efrat Levush, Grafik’s new Art Director

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No Worries When You Move JK Moving–Tune In To The New “Worry Free” Campaign

Posted by | News, Clients, Branding | No Comments

Chances are, you’ll catch a radio spot for JK Moving on your morning drive. Grafik just launched the “Worry Free” campaign, a 10-week integrated effort geared towards both residential and commercial prospects. An extension of last year’s successful “Worry-Free” theme, the campaign includes two new spots, and two of the successful spots that originally ran last Fall. Interested listeners ready to make a move will find all they need to know on the “Worry Free” landing page, www.jkmoving.com/worryfree. Also complementing the audio are display ads across targeted media, print, and direct mail. Read More

Lessons in Agility

Lessons in Agility

Posted by | Technology | One Comment

Here at Grafik, we always try to stay on top of the latest trends in business and technology. But lately our office has been buzzing with one particular phrase that I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around: agile methodology. I decided to sit down with Certified ScrumMaster and resident agile guru Laura Peterson to get the skinny on this game-changing trend and just how it’s affecting the industry. Read More

Our Chief Creative Strategist Hal Swetnam Speaks at “Between Downs”

Posted by | News, Events, Advertising | No Comments

Our very own Hal Swetnam joined other industry pros in discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly of the 2013 Superbowl ads this past Tuesday. The panel also included Kipp Monroe Partner/Chief Creative Officer of White+Partners, Karen Riordan President of SmithGifford, Jim Lansbury Principal/Creative Director of RP3 Agency; and was moderated by Mason Harris of Hutzpah Media. The event was held by the DC Ad Club at Ogilvy Public Relations. Read More


Go Daddy. Gone.

Posted by | Advertising | 2 Comments

Yesterday we switched internet registration providers. We basically said, “Hit the road Jack” to Go Daddy. One gross commercial too many.

There’s been lots of debate in the advertising circles whether the Go Daddy commercial of the supermodel and geek kissing was successful or not. Obviously it was successful—it has gone viral, has been the subject of numerous advertising columns, blogs, and speaker panels. It has been remembered. From their inception, their marketing strategy has been brilliant—outrageous commercials, low-entry price point, milking controversy. And whether you like them or not, they have put “domain registration” on the map. Read More


Go Daddy’s “Perfect Match” Hits the Bullseye! What do you think?

Posted by | Advertising | 6 Comments

Go Daddy’s “Perfect Match” spot may have come in last on USA Today’s Ad Meter, but it has won first place with me, and apparently has a whole host of people talking about it.

Mothers felt the need to explain “what was going on” to their children. It was the subject of lively debate at many post-game Super Bowl best/worst commercial events in the advertising community. During the game, it was the most talked about ad on Twitter. The PR was off the hook— from the Today Show to AdWeek to the Huffington Post—Go Daddy’s “Perfect Match” was everywhere.

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Marketing is BS

Posted by | Technology, Digital, Anything + Everything | One Comment

I was reading the New York Times article and a full page ad from Adobe grabbed my attention. Initially, I just read the headline and was pretty upset—but upon reading the entire ad and delving into this further, I was pleased to see how Adobe is supporting and validating the marketing community. Their “Metrics not myths” campaign is a smart, well integrated campaign designed to sell their new Adobe Analytics product. It includes very funny videosa robust Facebook page, and a well-written blog. Read More