We’re always excited to take part in a client’s brand launch, but we were especially happy to host the launch party for Carsquare last week, right in our own studio. DC-based startup, Carsquare, came to Grafik earlier in the year looking to clearly define their brand and develop a richer user experience. On Tuesday evening, we unveiled the results of a six-month initiative that included a new logo, a new tagline, and sexy new website that puts Carsquare in high gear. Guests included investors, local media, and several new Grafik clients.
As brand strategists, we feel a heavy responsibility to unearth—and then communicate—the essence of a product and service. And as we go through the process, what emerges from a myriad of choices is a feeling captured in images and words and colors and a specific tone. Our canvases are typically the web and all that can be poured into it—videos and infographics and text for sites, abbreviated versions of same for social media and its accompanying invitation to respond and re-post—ephemeral physical locations like trade show booths and sales offices; outdoor signage; broadcast; and traditional print collateral.
But what if all that were also bound up in a permanent physical space? What if we added architecture to the mix? And what if the “product” was how we see ourselves as a country and how we memorialize—as we must—a truly gruesome event?
After several deep dives with global power company (and Grafik client) AES, it became clear that to effectively promote safety we had to reframe the very concept of an accident.
AES had already taken the first step by changing their internal nomenclature to “incident” versus “accident.” What at first seemed a classic example of Orwellian double speak, was clearly a very canny move indeed, with no underlying desire to deceive or to shirk responsibility. Just the opposite—responsibility was at the heart of the matter. It’s easy to say “accidents happen” and chalk them up to something out of our control. But when you believably and creatively make the point that there is a root cause for absolutely everything, that there is causation for every action, then the word accident narrows in meaning—and the case can be made that every incident is indeed preventable.
Evolving a brand is not always a simple undertaking. It’s not just navigating clients through the process. Regardless of the project, brand marketers are becoming increasingly astute at understanding what I call “The Enlightened Consumer.” This consumer is exceedingly conscious of marketing and takes their relationships with brands very personally.
As these relationships become more complex, so do the ways in which we bring brand experiences to our audiences. Keeping in mind that the Enlightened Consumer (EC) is on a journey with your brand, what do you want them to say to you and to each other? How do you want them to feel and how do you retain and grow consumer bases as brands evolve?
My Dad hit Normandy Beach on D-Day 5. He was a mechanic and truck driver in the motor pool; if he even carried a gun he never told me. He rarely spoke about the war.
My memory of him as a photographer was a lot of vacation film shot with the lens cap on. But after he passed I found a box of photos from 1945 Berlin that are consistently impressive. They are tiny, taken with a Zeiss-Ikon camera he bought when he got there, but when you scan them and blow them up, there’s plenty of visual information in those black & white prints.
I recently attended Facebook Fit in NYC, a summer series hosted by Facebook around the U.S. to help small businesses achieve success. Below are my top five takeaways:
I was really happy in my role as Senior Designer at EDENS, a company that develops, owns, and operates community-oriented shopping places in primary markets throughout the East Coast. I was working on interesting design projects and collaborating with senior executives within the organization on the development of brand standards for Mosaic District, one of the company’s key investment properties in Fairfax, VA. I wasn’t planning on leaving anytime soon. And then I received a call from Mikah Sellers.
Mikah and I had worked together at LEVICK, a top rated public relations firm with offices in Washington, DC and New York City. He had recently joined Grafik and was looking to get the band back together. He said he needed a Marketing Manager, and wanted someone to be his right hand, helping him implement a new marketing strategy for the firm.
How many global power companies stop their normal work for one entire day worldwide to celebrate their safety standards? Grafik client AES does, all to drive home the point that working safely is a way of life. Today, March 28th, nearly 20,000 AES employees from Brazil to Vietnam to nearby Arlington are gathering to recognize the importance of working safely 24/7/365. It was an eye-opening experience for us to see the dedication and commitment throughout the company as we helped them create the presentation for today’s event—and you don’t have to work in the field to take the message to heart. The entire Grafik AES team is far more mindful of all that can be done both at home and at work. Congratulations.
Going for a job at Microsoft, Google, or Facebook, you might expect a rigorous gauntlet of interviews—whiteboard sessions, exercises, and interrogations designed to determine whether or not you meet the lofty standards and fit the corporate culture. You probably wouldn’t expect the same kind of process for a Mid-Atlantic branding agency, though. So when Lance Wain, President of Grafik, invited me for a meetup, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I had met Lance once before when I was VP of Marketing at LEVICK, and worked with Grafik when I was a partner at Doceus. Over a cup of coffee, I learned how the company was quickly evolving into a serious contender in the brand strategy space. Lance told me about his vision, and I was intrigued.
Few things in business are as gratifying as working with startups, particularly those intent on disrupting an industry. Real game-changers are pretty rare in Silicon Valley and New York, and all the more so in Washington, DC. But when you come across one you know it immediately. True game-changers solve real problems for real people. They’re led by individuals who have big, clear visions, and the kind of workaholic, get-it-done drive that enables them to tackle seemingly overwhelming obstacles.
Over the course of my career I’ve been fortunate to work with and for a handful of truly disruptive startups, including NexTone, which was acquired by Genband; Lightningcast, an AOL acquisition; Great Plains Software, which was acquired by Microsoft; and a company called Digex that was acquired by MCI. The founders of each organization had a vision for how they wanted to change the world around them. They spotted the problem and envisioned a solution way ahead of the competition.