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
Branding Archives - Grafik
A new brand study by Forrester Research seen in the January 8 issue of Computerworld, reports that Microsoft has recently come out on top in a poll of ten consumer technology firms. They are followed closely by Apple, Sony, and Samsung. This ranking surprised even the Forrester analysts who assumed Apple would be on top. With the struggles since Jobs’ death, and the perception that Apple is lagging behind Samsung in the innovation game, Microsoft was able to jump over its nemesis.
Of course it does, but until recently I didn’t really consider why. However, a recent invitation to hear about the 2020 Women on Boards campaign, a grassroots effort aimed at sparking a national conversation around the need for gender diversity on public company boards, focused my attention. Read More
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
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.
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!
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.
It’s a simple idea—and it works because it’s so well executed. Petco, one of the country’s largest specialty retailers for pet foods, supplies and services, is launching a $15 million marketing campaign this week with a new tagline that beautifully articulates the organization’s brand focus. “The Power of Together” is defined in a new TV spot that explores our relationships with our pets. And in the opinion of a brand strategist with two canine kids, Petco nailed it. Read More
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.
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
One of my clients, who shall remain anonymous, dared me to do a blog post on the new Hooters logo. For those of you who have not visited this establishment, which is most famous for its chicken wings, you might not know about their new mark. In short, the owl has been updated and modernized. The “eyes” have stayed virtually the same—to the relief of men around the world.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
For many years Grafik has had the privilege of working with the National Museum of the American Indian. As the designers of the museum’s identity, we often worked with curators to make sure that we were capturing the essence of the museum. One such curator was George Horse Capture, a legend in the in the museum professional community. Mr. Horse Capture died in April at the age of 75, and upon seeing his obituary I was reminded of a wonderful encounter that one of my partners, Lynn Umemoto, and I had with him. Read More
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
“The new JCPenney is an injustice to middle America. The stores look like they are going out of business. Their most notable product lines have vanished, and the walls, shelves, and racks are depleted, stark, and sterile. Survey your customers and respond to their feedback. The board of directors needs to wake up. New is less and the old is more!” —Kathy of Maryland on February 4, 2013
Poor Ron Johnson, CEO of JCPenney. He is getting his pay cut for not being able to transform the JCPenney brand from a lackluster player to a Target-like phenome. And it has not been for lack of trying. First, there were three new logos in three years, all met with a certain amount of indifference. There was a new brand statement: Every initiative we pursue will be guided by our core value to treat customers as we would like to be treated—fair and square. (One of the new logos is a square that clumsily alludes to Fair and Square.) There were the new stark interiors and new mobile checkout units instead of cash registers. And most importantly there was a new pricing strategy—the launch of the new Fair and Square deals—no sales, no haggling, no coupons, no weekend specials. Trouble is, that their customer base really liked shopping for sales, and really liked bargain hunting. Read More
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
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
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
You’ve probably seen the logomarks—the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, the fleur de lys from Relais & Chateau, or the JD Powers emblem. And you probably have certain emotions—even if subconsciously—attached to them. But, not much thought is given to the heavy lifting that these tiny logos have to do in the marketing space.
Like the famed Michelin stars, these logomarks often indicate that a person or business has met a specified standard, or, may signal that an organization is approved by a larger association (see the American Institute of Architects mark below). Whether it is the Heart Healthy mark that appears next to menu items that are low in fat or the Better Business Bureau’s blue B’s that give buyers confidence in purchasing a service, all of these logos have several things in common—they all have to co-exist with other brands. Read More
I guess someone did not get the memo; many of the banks on the Dix & Eaton list of the top 10 biggest banks with the best reputations really belong in a brand Hall of Shame. Rather than considering these banks to have admired brands, this is a great top 10 list for banks that have operated with impunity. Read More
When I was growing up, in the ‘50s and ‘60s it was a very big deal to stay at a Sheraton. The brand exuded luxury and had the mystique of having outposts in faraway countries, long before globalization made it de rigueur for chains to be outside of the USA. The hotels were big, flashy, and important. Those were the glory days of the Hilton, The Ritz-Carlton, and long before each hotel brand had a multitude of sub brands.
The Park Sheraton in New York, while not the Plaza, was still a desirable address. My how times have changed.
I must admit, that in my mind, the golden age when Sheraton was viewed as a global outstation in distant lands seems light-years away. I rarely consider choosing a Sheraton and generally prefer another hotel in the Starwood portfolio.
In 2009, BrandChannel reported “Sheraton has been a brand in decline, unlike Starwood siblings W and Westin. The most recent Consumer Reports ratings ranked Sheraton as the worst in its category, based on value, service, upkeep, and problems; customers have blogged about the brand’s poor quality and even Hoyt Harper, Starwood’s senior VP of brand management, admits that “some of the hotels were substandard.”
Sheraton decided not to throw in the towel on this hotel brand, but instead embarked on a three-year, $6 billion rebranding effort that involved getting rid of properties that were subpar, redoing interiors, and overhauling all of the properties with a focus on social spaces. In October 2010, they launched an ad campaign focused on the new renovations.
HotelManagement.net reported that, “A key insight that directed the creative vision for the campaign is the growing trend of travelers seamlessly blending business and leisure—also known as “bleisure”—and the demand for socially driven designed spaces and amenities. As part of the brand’s overhaul, every aspect of the new Sheraton guest experience was designed to promote social interaction and bring people together.
As reported in HotelNewsNow.com, “The US $6-billion investment in the upper-upscale brand has already paid off because market share has increased, customer satisfaction is at record levels, and the percentage of Sheraton customers who are Starwood Preferred Guest members has jumped from 39% to 45%.
And, now, yet another $20 million ad campaign is set to launch this month. The new campaign, designed by Kaplan Thaler Group and Razorfish, is called “Meet You There.” According to their press release the new campaign is tapping into the growing demand from travelers for spaces that promote social interaction and bring people together. Every aspect of the new brand is designed to meet this expectation. And, of course, the ads will showcase the new enhancements.
So, will it work? My concern is that Sheraton has upgraded its interiors, provided new spaces for interaction, launched new programs like Link@Sheraton and Sheraton Fitness, but have they really redefined their brand or just fixed infrastructure problems that certainly needed fixing?
Brands are not “fixed” that easily. What will Sheraton have to do to get increased mindshare from a new audience that is probably not familiar with the luxury brand of old, and what will it have to do to reinstate Sheraton into the minds of those who “knew it when”? It will be interesting to wait and see if social interaction as a brand has legs in the hotel space. Let’s face it, if it is successful, I wonder how many spouses will even let their husbands or wives check into the Sheraton for business?
On Tuesday WWD reported that retail giants Target and Neiman Marcus have announced they will partner to create a limited edition of 24 designers for the holiday season. Following Target’s hit last year with the Missoni line, the two retailers, who are at almost opposite ends of the price spectrum, both have much to gain from this unique partnership.
Apart from an interesting retail story, this is a case where an iconic brand in luxury retailing has an opportunity to liven up its brand. While Neiman Marcus is synonymous with expensive merchandise and is famous for its Christmas catalogue where items can range as high as the millions, it also has the moniker “needless markup” and has become somewhat of a fusty brand. Teaming with Target can give this luxury brand a good dose of “hipness” making Neiman more relevant to a younger crowd. Neiman has been trying to shed some of its effeteness and, as WSJ reported, the store reversed a policy in October of only accepting a Neiman credit card, American Express or cash. Clearly the brand has to walk a fine line partnering with Target’s more “cheap-chic” to ensure that it does not erode the luxury and exclusivity that is associated with the Neiman name.
Target, on the other hand, will continue to demonstrate that it has the buying and manufacturing power to combine good design with value pricing. By using its production lines and less expensive fabrics, it can introduce new high fashion designers to its mass-market clientele. This alliance also bolsters the Target brand as a maverick in the retail space, willing to embark on alliances that seem unlikely. Target continues to entice its clientele by finding innovative ways to bring luxury goods to a broader market at a lower price point.
An unlikely partnership, perhaps. But hats off to the two brands for being daring enough and confident in their own brand position to attempt this.
I admit it. I never heard of Dr. Richard Feynman. He was a world renowned physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1965 as well as a slew of other scientific awards. In science circles, he is considered one of the most important thinkers of our era next to Einstein. His Wikipedia entry gives a pretty good overview of his life and accomplishments, and a TED talk by one of his close friends, Leonard Susskind, another physicist, gives a great view into Feynman the man.
I stumbled upon Feynman looking at three of his videos, one on Beauty, one on Honors, and one on Curiosity. They are short videos and well worth the time to look at. Without being a spoiler, Feynman has a distain for all honors—including the Nobel Prize.
I have thought long and hard about honors, awards, and shows. I have a leg in each camp—those that enter shows all of the time and enjoy the recognition they bring, and the other camp that is not exactly disdainful of shows, but carefully decide where they want their work to be.
Grafik has its share of honors and awards. Those awards have helped us attract talent, have helped keep our creative staff’s morale high, keep our staff confident, and are nice to send to clients. That’s the positive side of honors.
The negative side of awards—they can make you complacent and over confident. They do not really indicate whether you have solved a client’s problem or not. Many of the award shows are beauty contests where strategy is not even considered. And lastly, it can be deflating when you do not get into plum shows—adding to the self doubt many designers already feel.
I have been a judge at several awards shows—from the granddaddy of design—Communication Arts—to smaller local shows like the Wilmington Delaware Ad club—boy was that a fun show… There is a science of judging shows, and many scholarly articles have been written about the vagaries of awards. I have seen that the composition of judges matters tremendously—is there a design superstar among the judges, is there one dominant judge that intimidates the others, is there a judge that is shy and retired? The composition and how a show is set up is also critical—how many entries are you going to look at, and how long is the judging. I can tell you that pieces that are viewed at 4:00 PM in the afternoon are regarded quite differently than pieces that are seen at 10:00 AM, when you are fresh and eager.
Positioning of entries is also a critical element. If you are looking at five pieces in a row that are stellar, it is quite possible that all five will not get in, as the judges start to feel that they are not being as discerning as they need to be. On the other hand if one good (not great) piece is sandwiched between four or five mediocre pieces, it has a good chance of getting in.
Award shows are what they are—they have problems, biases, and built in structural problems. They are also expensive. I suspect this has forced many good competitors out of the shows due to budget cuts, and it has given an unfair advantage to larger firms that can afford to enter unlimited entries. So why do we continue to enter them?
I do not have an answer to that question. As I have gotten older, the joy of getting into competitions is not the same as it was when I was 27 and got my very first award for a poster I designed for the National Symphony Orchestra. I can actually tell you what appetizers I ate at the awards banquet, and what it felt to see a piece of mine hung on the wall. I was so excited to get in that my scream reverberated across the loft that Grafik called home, scaring several of the staff in the process.
Seven hundred awards later, I rarely keep track of where we enter and what we get in. I am not sure that we have gotten one drop of business from awards and I know we have paid a king’s ransom in entry fees in both good and bad times. But, perhaps looking at the face of a young designer when they receive notification that a piece of theirs has placed is a good enough reason to enter. Perhaps the sustainable memory of being recognized is worth the downside. I desperately want to be like Richard Feynman—who really did not care one iota if he got the Nobel or not. But I’m not there yet, and perhaps will never be.
Summer: Hot sidewalks, cool Slurpees from the 7-Eleven, and hot dogs. Memories of mustard, soft hot dog rolls, and sauerkraut. Hot dogs equaled fun—baseball games, summer nights at the swimming pool, and the rare view of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile in our shopping center parking lot.
Americans love their hot dogs. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, from Memorial Day until Labor Day aka “Hot Dog Season” seven billion hot dogs will be consumed in the USA. That’s 818 hot dogs eaten every second during that time frame! Most of them are consumed in July. Los Angeles, San Antonio, and New York lead the country in eating hot dogs.
From the Armour hot dog jingle to the 1965 animated cartoon selling the Oscar Mayer wiener, hot dog advertising has always been on the lighter side. Hot dogs were promoted as being “healthy” and boasted that they were made of “all meat” but that was before the world of nitrates brought this national food stuff into question. Perhaps the Hebrew National Uncle Sam ad which ran in the 1970s and touted an “all beef” alternative was the first time that the hallowed beef and pork mixture was brought into question. Grey Group (then Grey Advertising) in New York created the series of hot dog ads where the kosher hot dog category was born. “We answer to a higher authority” became a popular slogan associated with Hebrew National for years to come.
Fast forward to the era when most moms will not allow their kids to eat anything but all natural organic hot dogs with no nitrates, hormones, or fillers. Applegate is currently running three hilarious commercials that promote their healthier product. And consumption of chicken dogs or healthier alternatives now captures about 12 percent of the market.
But hot dog haters are also using the media effectively. “Hot dogs cause butt cancer” is the slogan of the latest campaign by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. They have erected billboards in some of the top hot dog consuming markets, and chose Chicago for one of their latest billboards since that area has one of the nation’s highest rates of colorectal cancer among men.
As we enter National Hot Dog month, take a moment to fire up the grill and put on a hot dog—whether it is an all meat, all pork, all beef, all organic, all turkey, all chicken or all soy. And don’t forget the mustard and sauerkraut!
Well, it has been a really long while since I was revolted by a video, but across the pond, in England, the European Commission produced a video that manages to capture every single stereotype about young women. “Science: It’s a Girl Thing” is a campaign with noble aspirations and abominable execution. No one would argue that it is important to get young girls interested in science and to empower them to enter the field. Yet, one wonders how this video ever saw the light of day. From the lipstick logotype to the young male serious scientist eyeing the bevy of beautiful young things, everything in this assignment has gone wrong. The European Commission had the good sense to yank the video on its website, but of course it lives on. To their credit, they issued an apology of sorts. Emakina is the agency that produced the video. With no women on its board of directors, no women on its executive board, and only one woman among nine as a head of their expert centres, one wonders how they got pegged for this assignment. As a very sophisticated digital social media agency, one also wonders why this facebook question did not get an answer….
This is a contrast to another initiative that was announced a week ago in the The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal for Girls Who Code. Started by Reshma Saujani and backed by a bevy of technology giants, it seeks to increase the number of young women who want to be programmers and engineers, not with lipstick, but with real training and opportunity.
My husband is a Middle East analyst and with the current political situation in Syria dominating the media our dinnertime conversations often revolve around the Syrian opposition, Assad’s cruelty, and possible intervention by either Russia, NATO or the United States. I try to avoid discussing politics while in the office, and I rarely write about political events on a company blog since our team has both dyed-in-the-wool Democrats as well as staunch Republicans. While I have personal feelings that support the Syrian opposition, in this blog I am going to address Syria and branding.
The New York Times had an interesting article last week on how Syria has spent considerable dollars in the last few years trying to reverse a decades-old image of being a tyrannical dictatorship. After the death of Bashar al-Assad’s father, the new ruler wanted to change the opinion most people had of Syria to one of an open, progressive regime. Having married a beautiful English-speaking woman, they worked with a PR agency that has been often associated with world leaders, Brown Lloyd James. One of the firm’s assignments was to get more favorable press for the Syrian First Lady, and she was covered in Vogue in an article called “A Rose in the Desert.” The article, which has since been taken offline, painted the President of Syria and his First Lady as being decidedly different than the old Syria, and as wanting to make Syria “… the safest country in the Middle East” and give Syria a “brand essence.” An excerpt from the article, which now can only be found on this website, has a curious statement by Asma al-Assad, “The 35-year-old first lady’s central mission is to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls ‘active citizenship.’ ‘It’s about everyone taking shared responsibility in moving this country forward, about empowerment in a civil society. We all have a stake in this country; it will be what we make it.’”
For all of the great press, the beautiful governing couple, and the best PR firms in the world, Syria has not been able to change its brand from one that evokes fear and backward thinking to one that is now an enlightened society. While Mrs. Assad is beautiful and well dressed, and qualifies to be covered in fashion magazines from Elle to Vogue, this has little to do with Syria as a brand. Brands are experienced, and for a brand to be successful it has to evoke emotions that tap to a brand’s essence.
Does Syria as a brand appear to be progressive, modern, open, and tolerant? With the death toll in Syria rising above 14,000 in 2012, the brand is being experienced as brutal, repressive, militaristic, and backward. And no amount of public relations, no fancy magazine spreads or brand polishing can change that.
Grafik is currently on the prowl for an Interactive Art Director.
We want an art director that lives and breathes digital. One who will bring us work that is original and smart, exhibiting passion and a thorough understanding of how interactive experiences should look, feel, and function. We want someone who is hands-on—who takes complete ownership of projects and client relationships from start to finish. At Grafik, we work in supportive project teams, and our art directors are the force that ensures creative directors’ visions are realized and strategist’s insights are applied. You will need to effectively adhere to budgets and timelines, while being completely at home pushing boundaries and exploring new techniques. You will be inspired by industry trends, up to speed on the latest applications and software, and eager to share your knowledge and enthusiasm.
At Grafik, we look for someone with an eye for detail, typography, and color. You are passionate about the work and execute with pixel perfection. You must be extremely organized and very detail oriented—with a solid work ethic. We work in teams around here and value a well-communicated point of view—especially if it helps to cultivate a flawless product. The nitty gritty details follow below.
Desired Skills & Experience
- Bachelor’s degree or higher
- Five of more years of experience managing and directing designers as well as creating and designing campaigns
- Experience creating and designing interactive campaigns across multiple platforms
- Experience managing and directing designers and other team members
- Exceptional portfolio of work executed using a wide range of styles and skills
- Adept knowledge of Adobe CS5 Suite
- Expert understanding of interactive design trends, techniques, and information architecture
- Extraordinary attention to detail and organization
- Strong people management, negotiation, and presentation skills
- Basic knowledge of print production and digital printing
- Proficient in HTML, CSS, JS, Flash, and After Effects
This is a job to get excited over. We sure are… we have some great new clients. Be sure to send your resume to email@example.com with a brief statement about why you have what it takes to be a Grafite. Don’t forget to attach the statement of purpose or your resume will not be considered. Please do not call us, we will choose the best candidates and reach out to you.
It takes a great conductor to keep the trains running on time. With all the new work that has come through our doors in the last few months, this place feels like Union Station. We are looking for that special individual who possesses a combination of communication and presentation skills—imbued with confidence (not arrogance). Around here, we respect a keen negotiator, who can charm vendors and clients alike. You are independent and organized, adept at keeping all the trains on their tracks! You understand market research, brand management, and have a knack for strategic thinking. Plus, you know both digital and traditional communications. And, if you have an MBA, you get major bonus points. Does this sound like you? Keep reading for the specifics.
- Five to seven years of agency experience in account planning and project management
- Strong organization, negotiation, and presentation skills
- Familiarity with the creative development process
- Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite, InDesign, and Pages and Numbers, as well as Google research and analytics tools
- Understand client industry trends in marketing and strategy
So go ahead, send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief statement about why you think you are perfect for this job. No resumes will be considered without your statement of purpose, so don’t forget it! We look forward to hearing about you, and remember, we don’t want you to call us. We will contact the candidates who we feel are the best fit for the job.
With Grafik’s help, DC Prep’s mission of bridging the educational divide in Washington, DC was put to the forefront with the launch of their new website, www.dcprep.org. Since its inception, Grafik’s work with DC Prep has been comprehensive, spanning all aspects of the school’s communication channels from strategic positioning to brand identity development to two versions of the DC Prep website. In the website’s most recent evolution, our goal was to better serve current parents, support teacher recruiting efforts, and provide potential parents with the information they need to enroll their children. To properly motivate their targets, we felt it important to highlight their awards and academic achievements, provide a rational, streamlined information architecture, surface prominent calls-to-action, showcase vibrant photography that visually demonstrate life at DC Prep, and fully integrate social media to personally connect with the audience.
Founded in 2003, DC Prep was established as a public charter school in order to bring exemplary academics and character development education to more than 3,000 preschool, elementary, and middle school students. DC Prep has a firm commitment to not only improve performance of low-income, minority students, but to also equip them with the skills needed for the rigors of higher education.
Are you whip smart, passionate, and frankly, a little kooky? You may just be a Grafite in the making. Our superstar team is looking to beef up our artillery of talent in various departments. Take a look at our current openings. Who knows? You may be a prefect fit!
- Senior Account Executive
- Interactive Project Manager
- Biz Dev and Marketing Manager
Check out the full job descriptions HERE.
Also, we are always on the lookout for budding design talent. So, if you’re on the hunt for that awesome internship, send your resume and work samples to email@example.com.
Grafik’s Branding Work Propels JK Moving Services to be Recognized Among the 2012 REBRAND 100 Global Awards WinnersPosted by Teddi Alyce Segal | News, Clients, Branding, Awards | No Comments
March 20, 2012—Grafik is pleased to announce that its branding work for client JK Moving Services has placed it among one of the world’s most effective rebrands in the eighth annual REBRAND 100 ® Global Awards. This recognition is the highest recognition for excellence in brand repositioning, and is the first and most respected global program of its kind. Grafik’s rebrand of JK Moving Services encompasses an effort that touches every facet of the brand from corporate mantra, to logo and visual identity, and every execution where the brand lives (e.g., moving trucks to uniforms to corporate website and brochures).
“Many projects had big ideas expressed elegantly through all methods of engagement—language, visuals, sound, etc.” said Shashi Caan, Founding Principal, The Collective US and UK and 2012 juror. Each year, an international and multidisciplinary mix of industry experts convenes to jury this annual competition. They consider “before” and “after” representations of brand transformations with written summaries and supporting elements that showcase integration of social media and mobile engagement.
“It is gratifying to be among the nation’s most recognized branding establishments,” said Judy Kirpich, founder and CEO of Grafik, and the strategic lead of the JK Moving Services account. “We’ve spent a decade focusing on strategic branding. It informs everything we do.”
According to the team at REBRANDTM, a small consulting firm or brand had as much opportunity to be selected as did global organizations with exponentially greater budgets since the name and size of the brand strategists are hidden from jurors during their review process. Emphasis was on executed strategy that made an emotional connection and met the stated objectives and needs of the identified target audience and prospects.
“Grafik Marketing Communications armed themselves with solid research and customer testimonials before embarking on a one-year rebranding program for JK Moving,” said Charles Kuhn, Founder, President and CEO, JK Moving Services. “They completely reorganized our brand architecture and rolled out a powerful new corporate mantra that resonated with every division and facet of the company.”
The 2012 winners represented over 28 countries and 34 industries. They ranged from One Foundation (Global Ethics Ltd), Pfizer, National Music Centre (Canada), Merck Millipore, and Cisco. In addition to in-house teams, small agencies, and representatives of multinational corporations and nonprofits, competing firms included Interbrand, SNK, Lippincott, Siegel+Gale, and Brandient.
About Grafik: Founded in 1978, Grafik is an award-winning strategic marketing communications firm located in Alexandria, VA, specializing in brand and creative development across traditional and digital media. Current clients include: U.S. Census, Honda North America, EYA, Convergent Wealth Advisors, Global Automakers, Prostate Cancer Foundation, and DC Prep.
About JK Moving Services: For over 30 years, JK Moving Services (JKmoving.com) has provided local, long distance, and international relocation services to a variety of commercial, residential, and government clients. Headquartered in Sterling, Virginia, the company maintains a full-time, professionally trained staff of relocation and move management experts committed to providing the highest level of customer care.
About REBRAND™ and the REBRAND 100® Global Awards: REBRAND is the world’s leading resource for effective brand transformations. The REBRAND 100 Global Awards is the first and most respected recognition for repositioned brands. Featured in such media as The Wall Street Journal, CNNMoney, Bloomberg Businessweek, various magazines and books, the annual competition has entry deadlines in late September. The full 2012 winners showcase is at www.rebrand.com.
The last day of panel sessions kicked off with a heated, albeit nerdy, discussion. With representatives from Tumblr and Facebook present, two platforms that have clearly mastered the mobile platform, I was anxious to hear about how one should evaluate the appropriate mobile execution for their client. Instead, the session got off to a pretty technical debate about native/web hybrid vs. 100% mobile web, with representatives on the panel sitting firmly in one camp or the other. But before I dig into the specifics, it’s important to outline the four different solutions that were discussed:
- Native Application – An application written specifically for the device operating system (OS). It is not cross-platform and it requires you to install and upgrade. Example: Mint.com iPhone app
- Native/Web Hybrid – An application written specifically for the device OS that relies on native elements like navigation, settings, etc., but employs web services to provide dynamic content experiences. Example: Facebook, Tumblr
- Locally Rendered HTML – An application that requires installation, but locally renders HTML and stylesheets to provide a dynamic, web-like experience. Example: Flipboard, New York Times
- Mobile Web – More specifically, HTML5. Site requires you to access through the browser application or shortcut icon, but uses HTML5 to create a custom for mobile experience, all using the browser’s built-in display functionality.
And while the panel did not land firmly on one side or the other, they did offer pros and cons to each which I thought I’d share, rather than taking a position (since honestly, I’m still not 100% sure which way I’d lean).
Native / Web Hybrid
- Pro: Allows you to take advantage of the best of both worlds. You can access the native widgets for each OS, but also provide dynamic content.
- Pro: You can easily monetize your app by listing it in the Apple app store.
- Con: Given the native application shell, creating a native/web hybrid has a slightly higher barrier to entry since it requires a programmer familiar with the iOS code.
- Con: Requires a specific content strategy.
- Pro: Programming a mobile site can be achieved by most developers. A much lower barrier to entry compared to the note above for hybrids.
- Pro: Mobile web allows for the use of HTML5 and responsive layouts and can take advantage of the same content applied for tablets and web, even if just a portion of it.
- Pro: Gets around some of the restrictions imposed by the Apple app store.
- Con: On the flip side, a mobile website is much harder to monetize… at the moment.
So, I think the key takeaway is that there are many ways to take your content to the mobile device, but understanding what your business strategy is, what content you want to share, and who your audience is will greatly influence which way you go. I think the one point everyone agrees on is that brands can no longer sit on the sidelines; a mobile presence is required for all brands.
Pinterest Explained: Q&A with Co-Founder Ben Silbermann
Practically a full house, we attended a great Q&A session with Ben Silbermann, the man behind Pinterest led by entrepreneur/investor/blogger Chris Dixon. It was an hour conversation where Ben talked freely about his aspirations and inspirations and his goals for the future development of his fasted-growing social media service.
What I really enjoyed listening to was how he walked us through his personal journey from when he started at Google up to the his company’s success today. He always reinforced how important it was to stay focus even through rough times and keep yourself surrounded with the people who are passionate for the right reasons.
Some other interesting points he made:
- His core inspiration for starting Pinterest came from simply how he saw life—as a world of collections.
- His team worked through the usability of his site all on paper.
- He strongly believes that you show that you have put as much time into the product as you expect out of your user.
- His goal is to never try and out perform his clone competitors. His focus is always on creating the best product.
- And at the end of the day in addition to developing Pinterest, his team is the most exciting thing he’s building these days.
The last session of the day and of our entire SXSW excursion discussed the usual obstacles faced when using a Facebook brand page as a customer service tool. This panel was certainly a popular one as it was a packed house and it had every right to be with equally (if not more) popular panelists Mark Williams of LiveWorld, Bryan Person of Social Dynamx, Eric Ludwig of Rosetta Stone, and Molly DeMaagd of AT&T. From tips on how to handle difficult customer inquiries or how to deal with the new Facebook Timeline format, the well-spoken speakers shared some of their insights on the best use this social channel in handling customer inquiries.
Here are some of their best points:
- Constantly look at efficiency tools & staffing capacity and needs on a daily basis. Time is of the essence so make sure you are as efficient and well-staffed as possible
- When taking the conversation off-line, do it in a matter that doesn’t stifle the conversation. Stay human & transparent.
- Investigate how your fans engage before dedicating attention to a certain channel on your strategy. You don’t want to misdirect resources.
- When staffing customer service social teams, writing skills and passion for what the company is about are crucial.
- When you personify your brand page, make sure you follow the “feelings not facts” philosophy.
The morning got off to an early, but energetic start with a great discussion about the future of the tablet, led by Brian Burke from Smashing Ideas Inc. The topics of discussion ranged from a consumers unwillingness to purchase apps to the advantages offered to the web experience by the more intimate tablet interface. The key question on everyone’s mind, and quite honestly, one that our clients ask when considering taking their brand to the tablet, is what makes the tablet experience different than that from the web? Why should they consider a unique tablet experience when their website displays “just fine” on the tablet? And if you spend any time on the tablet, the answer is quite simple: the tablet plays a much more intimate role in your user’s life than their computer does. The tablet encourages the user to use gestural actions. Consuming content requires you to use your whole arm, which activates more neurons than clicking a mouse. The tablet encourages you to invite the content you are consuming into your personal space. And the panel theorizes that as we get more and more used to engaging with brands on a tablet device, we will begin to reject controls that separate us from the content we are trying to consume. But if there is one key takeaway from this session, it happens to be a philosophy that I believe in very passionately: when designing an experience for the tablet, don’t get sidetracked by stats. Instead, think about the role the device is playing in your audience’s life when they are consuming your content. Are they at their local Starbucks? Are they on their couch late at night? Or, while we may not want to think about it, are they in the bathroom? Regardless of what the answer to that question is, create a tablet experience that complements the “how” and “where,” not just the “why.”
The purpose of this session was supposedly to discuss “alternative” channels of content distribution, and given the savvy level of many attending SXSW, I believe we all assumed that channels other than Facebook and Twitter would be discussed (sad that many of us consider Facebook and Twitter “mainstream”). However, the panelists themselves represented major brands (AmEx, Warner Bros and Smirnoff Diageo) who actually still DO consider Facebook and Twitter alternative to the web and traditional forms of media. And given the relative success American Express Go Social and the fact that movies can be made or broken through social media, Amex and WB had a few nuggets that I thought were worth passing along to you:
- The loyalty marketing world is not shifting to digital rewards. Instead, it’s using the digital platform to extend their offering.
- The beauty of the digital reward is that for the first time, brands can actually engage their audience and quickly enable that audience to influence others.
- When developing your social loyalty program, you cannot forget that it’s a journey, and you may make a mistake along the way. That’s OK.
- Don’t ask for ROI to justify that journey. It’s a crutch for the fearful. What is the ROI that marketers are getting from bus backs or mass transit campaigns? And did your client ask you for an ROI then?
As a digital marketer, the last bullet hit home more than any other statement made during the discussion. Why? Because as a digital marketer, you are accustomed to tracking every touch point and sometimes, the data can be scary. It’s that fear that may stifle innovation, when in reality, if that same data had been available for offline tactics, some of the more brilliant marketing campaigns may have never come to be.
This session discussed how brands have evolved into taking on the role of publishers as they embrace the broadcasting capacity of social media channels. This panel was of particular interest of mine because I specifically wanted to hear the insights of panelist Sarah Smith who is the Director of Online Operations at Facebook. Other panelists included EB Boyd a reporter at Fast Company, Kevin Barenblat CEO of Context Optional, Justin Merickle VP of Marketing at Efficient Frontier, and Halle Hutchinson Senior Director of Brand Marketing at Expedia.com. The point that resonated most with me is how they all agreed that the definition of a good ad has greatly changed. Before, the more distracting and attention grabbing an ad is, the better. Now, the more an ad seamlessly integrates itself within customers stories and overall social “talk” or chatter, the better. Smith stressed this notion while giving Facebook’s Sponsored Stories as an example of branded messaging assimilating itself with friend’s stories. With this shift in marketing and advertising, the skills of the staff has to appropriately shift as well. More and more are marketing professionals being required to possess reporting skills in order to meet the demands of daily content generation.
This panel discussion consisted of three panel speakers: Dan Roam from Digital Roam, Inc., Jessica Hagy from Creative Mercenary, and Sunni Brown from sunnibrown.com. The topic of the panel dealt with how more and more companies are reinforcing the whiteboard culture because of the benefits that visual language can bring into a presentation or sales’s pitch.
As a designer it’s important to be able to sketch out our ideas, but what I learned from this discussion was a how important a simple sketch can be in expressing any idea regardless if you can draw or not. It has been proven that drawing or using simple visuals to articulate even the most complex concepts such as mathematical equations can improve your thinking. Surprisingly, you’ll also even remember it longer that if someone said it. In addition to the talk, they walked us through a few quick tutorials that taught us to take a simple statements and rapidly transform it into a visual displays .
Overall, here are few tips to remember:
- Visual language is not meant to be beautiful. If you’re stuck, start by drawing a circle.
- Do not judge your drawing skills. The point is not to be perfect.
- Create as sense of confidence. To be smart is to “see.” There’s nothing more to it.
I chose this session because more and more of our clients are asking for video. Presented by Tim Washer, senior marketing manager of Cisco, this talk was one of the more entertaining presentations so far. His work has appeared in Advertising Age and AdWeek and The New York Times and he has also a comedy writer/actor, and credits include Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, SNL and the The Onion Sports Network.
Along with sharing some of his favorite videos that he wrote and produced, Washer mentions some great advice and rules on how to go about bringing humor into our own videos. Here were a few examples:
- Humor can be a wonderful way to simplify your message. Start simple and sometimes you have to fight to be simple.
- Bringing humor in B2B videos can be successful because it’s unexpected.
- Identify your natural employee storytellers and arm them with the ability to create shareable content.
- Don’t talk about the product.
- Always try and evoke a positive emotion.
- Humanize your brand.
- Humor is like giving a gift to your audience.
- Look into nearby film schools to resource out video if your budget is tight.
- One of the strongest connection we can make with another human is to make them laugh.
- Finding a key editor is important but finding an editor that can edit humor is essential.
The glorious Austin sun decided to grace us with its presence on Sunday which made running around the city from panel to talk to session a lot more enjoyable. The Grafik team continued their live-tweet and live-blogging coverage, but in case you missed it, here is a rundown of what we attended and our key takeaways:
By far one of the best panels Brad has attended in his two years at SXSW, Jimmy Fallon hosted a panel consisting of Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport at Nike, Andrew Wilson, Executive VP of EA Sports, and even an Olympic gold medalist! The purpose of pulling together such an interesting group of people was to discuss how technology is evolving how consumers engage with sports, using real life examples ranging from the use of Nike+ while you workout or the incorporation of live stats into video game play. Some of the key takeaways included:
- Technology has broken down barriers, making information that was only available to elite athletes available to the every day athlete.
- Technology is influencing real life. Manchester City youth soccer players are required to play FIFA on the EA console to learn team strategy and tactics.
- For Nike to grow, they must evolve from being just a product company to becoming a service company, and Nike+ is leading the way.
Between the foot race contested between Jimmy Fallon and an audience member, and several questions from black level Nike+ members, it’s safe to say that this panel go-er felt slightly out of shape and in desperate need of the new Nike Fuel Band!
Based on just reading the title, you may ask why I would attend this panel? Planned Parenthood Federation of America is known to have it’s own share of controversy and they’ve utilized social tools for crisis management. All the five panelists were involved with the “Stand Up for Planned Parenthood” campaign which targeted the negative reproductive healthcare conversation that erupted in the House of Representatives last year. There’s an balancing act between the right information/message and timeliness when tweeting on behalf of an organization or brand, especially during a high-pressure situation. Here are some of the top tips/insightful quotes the panelists gave:
- Inform and educate as much as you can. When it’s your issue or cause, it’s easy to believe that others know and care as much you do. That isn’t always true
- Get control of your message early. Old instinct is to wait to respond, but new media doesn’t wait.
- Because a crisis may require an all hands on deck responding, EVERYBODY in an organization should know social media social media.
- Have a plan. Everyone in the organization should be on the same page. It’s very difficult to do constant checks in during a crisis so make sure the entire team know the messaging and stick to it.
This session was a packed house as it attracted people from branding, social media, video production, marketing, journalism as well as both online and offline strategists. In the advent of social media, any one person has numerous channels and platforms to consume content, whatever that type of content may be. This session focused on the importance of maintaining authentic voice across the different venues of content. Coming into this talk I defined an authentic social voice as a transparent one that stays true to the brand it represents. I still believe in that definition, but panelist Sean Amos, Founder/Managing Partner of Amos Content Group also expressed different angle to the definition. He said “a beer company and it’s beer-drinking customers share beer as a common interest. However, it’s likely that there are other common interests. Identifying those interests and speaking to them in line with your brand is what authenticity is.” I agree with Amos. Social media is a two-way channel and finding a way to actively listen to your audience and learning what they need and want, before engaging is an “authentic” way of communicating on behalf of a brand.
This panel discussion dealt with how the rise of mobile photography was effecting our creativity and what it now meant in this post photography era. The panel was composed of four diverse individuals—an associate professor of New Media from Berkeley, a curator of photography for the Library of Congress, and the founder and CEO of Instagram.
Overall, the panel was in agreement that mass of photography may at times appear mundane and thoughtless, but we are indeed in a golden age of storytelling. As Vernas Curtis (curator from the Library of Congress) puts it, “the mundane helps capture our world today. This mass collection of photography will serve as a form of documentation when we look back in history on things such as what we buy, eat and drink. This very act of personal expression is important in knowing who we are as people now more than being artsy. Applications such as Instagram will not only helps us see more of the world, it allows us to share it with the rest of the world.” Kevin Systrom (founder of Instagram) also adds that his company is constantly looking at ways to apply value to this documentation with building off new technology. Richard Koci Hernandez (the associate professor from Berkely and journalist photographer) is also a big fan of Instagram and encouraged us to use it, but also quickly advices and points out to the crowd, “it’s not about what we keep, but what we throw away.” And Mila interpreted this as, even if the world has gone camera-mad and we can photograph everything we want at anytime, it’s also good to filter through our photos and keep what we really feel is worth keeping. This editing process is still a very important aspect in your creative process.
When it came to question and answer time, an interesting question was directed to Kevin Systrom from Instagram, “which brands are using instagram successfully?” He quickly listed the brands below. We’re looking forward to see how some of their best practices could apply to some our clients.
And finally to top it off, Koci Hernandez ended the session where he hooked up his iPhone to the screen and walked us through a quick tutorial of how he creates some of his photos and showed us some of the cool apps he was using.
Day one of SXSW was certainly an interesting one for the Grafik team. And while nature and other circumstances prevented the team from picking up our registration badges and attending the handful of panels for the day, we had a busy day nonetheless. Here’s a little summary of how our day went:
8:00 am – Rise and shine! The team is up and ready for the day. The plan is to head out at 11:45 thinking we will get our registration badges, have lunch and make the 2:00 pm panels. Boy, were we ambitious.
9:00 am – Will go grocery shopping in the afternoon. Rely on host’s espresso machine (which took us a while to figure out) to hold us over till we can grab breakfast downtown.
10:45 am – Mila calls a cab. And even though we rented a house five minutes from downtown (driving), freak thunderstorms prevented us from walking there, so alternative transportation is required.
11:30 am – No sign of the cab.
12:00 pm – Still no sign of cab. Mila follows up and the cab company reports that it will be another hour. We busy ourselves by attending to our normal Grafik obligations.
12:30 pm – Hunger sets in. We start snacking on leftover M&M’s that were purchased from the airport the night before. 2:00 pm panel is more than likely not going to happen.
1:30 pm – Still no sign of our cab and the ladies’ toilet backs up.
1:35 pm – No plunger in the house. According to landlord, “this has never happened before”.
1:45 pm – I walk over to borrow plunger from neighbor. Awesome, right?
2:30 pm – Break open a box of Wheat Thins discovered in pantry and make executive decision that a rental car is required if we are to actually participate in SXSW.
4:00 pm – After instructing cab company we would need transportation back to airport and rental cars, the cab arrives within 10 minutes (think double fare).
4:15 – 4:45pm – Sit in traffic from rain-caused accident.
5:00 pm – Rent our wheels for the duration of our stay.
5:10pm – Grab breakfast/lunch/dinner and proceed to Walmart for groceries. We had learned lesson. Supplies were warranted.
5:45 pm – Visit Starbucks for first time for much-needed coffee.
6:00 pm – Drive through downtown to get our bearings.
6:30 pm – Arrive back at the house. To our chagrin, rain is still pouring and we start discussing if we attend any events at night.
6:30 – 9:00pm – Snack, check work email, nap, and veg.
9:00 pm – We eventually decide to stay in for the evening and have a few SXSW friends over to our house.
10:00pm-12:30am – Entertain friends.
1:15am – Call it a day (night).
We can’t wait for Saturday and will summarize our adventures on the blog tomorrow! Until then, please follow our adventures at www.grafik.com/sxsw!
One of the questions that we often have to address with new clients is how they are organized…brand architecture is the fancy word. Some clients are comfortable spinning off new companies when they develop a new product or look to expand horizontally to a new business sector—a House of Brands. Others create business units that operate independently but must conform to a corporate set of brand guidelines—a Master Brand. Understanding which branding model a company should choose is based on many factors. There may be good reasons to launch different companies if they are making competing products. A House of Brands is an expensive proposition since each new company has to be marketed independently. With a House of Brands if one company fails, or has a bad reputation, it only takes down that entity and does not tarnish the parent company. With a House of Brands, if something untoward happens to one business sector, it may have an adverse effect on the whole company.
Glancing at the New York Times last week I saw a wonderful example illustrating Pepsico‘s House of Brands. I, for one, had no idea that Pepsico owned Gatorade or Starbucks—two signature brands that have very different brand personalities. And certainly the wholesomeness that is part of Quaker’s brand might conflict with the junk food identity that is Cheetos. There are many good reasons to keep them separate.
A different perspective is told in an article that ran in the New York Times on January 6 on the new BMW slogan. BMW is the classic example used to illustrate a Master Brand. Rather than promote many different car models, BMW promotes one. Recently they launched new brand advertising. The article notes, “The new advertising depicts the BMW as the “ultimate driving machine,” whatever the model. The tagline has been used continuously by BMW since it was created in 1975. This of course is significantly cheaper than having to support all of the different brands that Pepsico supports. But Master Brands do have challenges. As Renée Richardson Gosline, an assistant professor of marketing at MIT Sloan School of Management, notes, “a campaign that emphasizes a consistent brand essence is powerful, but BMW has to keep in mind that luxury consumers seek distinction, even within the brand. So, along with the egalitarian message that all BMWs are ‘ultimate driving machines,’ BMW has to make owners of different models each feel special as well, by building relationships with the owners of each model.”
Choosing whether to adopt a House of Brands versus a Master Brand should not be made by default. While brand architecture is not always looked at, it is critical and will effect everything a corporation decides from mergers and acquisitions to naming conventions. At the very least, determining a company’s organizational structure should be a mandatory part of any brand exercise.
We are very proud of our new work for retail training giant, MOHR Retail, the company that has trained the staff of household brands including T.J. Maxx, New Balance, and Verizon Wireless, in its 30 years in business. Through a discovery process that included a brand audit, interviews, and a competitive review, we were able to define four brand pillars that helped establish a clear strategy for the web redesign. The site focuses on the importance of MOHR Retail’s trainings by using the main messaging area to promote the core attributes that set them apart from other training programs. Our brand study also made it evident that a name change would reinforce their expertise in the retail space and MOHR Access—became MOHR Retail. Brand strategy always guides design at Grafik—and that is why clients like Michael Patrick of MOHR Retail have this to say about working with Grafik.
“We are all so proud of what you have created. Thank you for listening, bringing your expertise, and translating our vision into reality. The site shows us in the best possible light. It communicates that we are a leader in retail training, offer fresh and important insights, and are a substantial organization that is ready to handle the full range of needs retailers may have. If this doesn’t grow our brand and drive business, I’m not sure what would. We made the right decision when we chose Grafik!” —Michael Patrick, Founder & President, MOHR Retail.
While waiting for my flight at Reagan National Airport, I happened to look up and experience one of the most striking technology campaigns I’ve seen in a while. The Smarter Planet campaign, designed by Ogilvy Paris for IBM, employs a collection of simple yet sophisticated illustrations by Noma Bar titled Outcomes. His work precisely uses shapes, form, and negative space showcasing his skills as an artist, illustrator, and designer. The resulting images are deceivingly simple and often require an extra moment to see the meaning within. I only wished I had taken a photo of the actual display at the airport, however the images below should give you a good idea.
The Smithsonian announced this weekend that they are launching a new brand line, “Seriously Amazing.” Before you read any further, in the interest of complete disclosure, you should know that Grafik has worked with the Smithsonian on many of their initiatives including the branding of the National Museum of the American Indian, and a brand exercise for the Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Center. And we have had a beef over the years, on behalf of all of the excellent branding firms in Washington, D.C., that we are never invited to the dance. So in the context of having a large chip on my shoulder, I have to say that the new tagline for the Smithsonian is really pretty good—excellent in fact. The firm called in for the assignment is a well-known branding agency in NYC, London, and Dubai Wolff Olins and branding museums and international institutions is their specialty.
A news item in the Washington Post on Sunday shows that Wolff Olins spent the time to research, and get input from many of the museum directors and board members. As a pre-eminently political beast it must have been a huge endeavor to interview all of the people necessary to build consensus for the new line—one that costs $1 million dollars. It seems they hit the nail right on the head, getting a huge round of applause when they launched the brand last week.
I personally like “Seriously Amazing” as it taps into the research as well as the vast store of treasures that are held by all of the museums making up the Institution. Known for years as the “Nation’s Attic,” the new tagline has a more forward direction. It remains to be seen how the mark will play out in future fundraising and the awareness building campaign.
Job well done, Wolff Olins! Oh, and a note to self: Every time the Smithsonian cries poor to our local D.C. agencies, we should think of the tagline’s million dollar price tag and refuse to do their work on a pro bono basis.
Driving home from work the other day I was listening to NPR and heard a story about a battle between Chick-fil-A and a small Vermont T-shirt manufacturer who is producing T-shirts saying “Eat More Kale.” Chick-fil-A owns the tagline “Eat Mor Chikin” and, indeed, the corporation has done a splendid job advertising their fast food chicken restaurants through the Eat Mor Chikin campaign. It seems that the T-shirt manufacturer, Bo Muller-Moore, has been doing a booming business producing “Eat More Kale” shirts out of a studio above his garage and has enough orders to support himself. He decided it would be wise to apply for a trademark for “Eat More Kale” and was confronted by a cease and desist letter from the chicken guys. In a statement, Chick-fil-A said, “We must legally protect and defend our “Eat mor chikin” trademark in order to maintain rights to the slogan.”
Laws regarding trademark and patent infringement are complex, which is why we always tell our clients to consult with their own trademark lawyers or use one of ours. But one test of trademark infringement is whether there would be confusion in the marketplace or whether the existing brand equity would be diluted. Muller-Moore’s lawyer commented in a New York Times article, “There’s no one out there that’s going to come forward and say, ‘I thought I was buying a Chick-fil-A product but I got this T-shirt.” Add to that the fact that the food chain does not have a franchise operating in Vermont so there is even less chance for confusion.
Can a company or brand own words exclusively? Clearly many wonderful campaigns have been copied such as the Got Milk? campaign that I wrote about several weeks ago. Harley Davidson has copyrighted the sound of their motorcycle—and no other motorcycle or bike can use the same sound. But can you hold a copyright to the words “Eat More”? I did a quick search on Google to see how many “Eat More” campaigns and ads there have been. Witness just a few.
Clearly there have been many campaigns that have used the the words “Eat More.” And it is equally clear that Chick-fil-A has done a superb job of imprinting their brand through their deft ad campaign. So what has been accomplished and what are the effects of this lawsuit? Well, Eat More Kale has gotten way more publicity than they ever thought possible, getting national coverage in the NY Times and an NPR spot. Muller-Moore has tapped social media and drew incredible support from Facebook followers, both a former and the present governors of Vermont, and a groundswell of kale lovers nationally.
At a recent press conference, Governor Peter Shulmin of Vermont noted, “If you think that Vermonters don’t understand the difference between kale and a chicken sandwich, we invite you to Vermont, and we’ll give you a lesson about the difference between a kale and a chicken,” Shumlin said. “There are some very distinct features that should be noticed in that difference. Kale is a vegetable; chickens are birds. Birds create manure; kale eats manure.”
What has the Chick-Fil-A brand gained—a tarnished reputation as a corporate bully that flies in the face of its humorous campaigns. How many people will look at the cows and think of the “Eat More Kale” controversy and leave with a bad taste in their mouths? With little possibility of confusion and not even one Chick-fil-A restaurant in Vermont, one has to wonder if this was a giant mistake by the Chick legal department with little thought how it might effect their brand. In this case their cease and desist order may have a real correlation to less counter orders. Governor Shumlin sent this message to Chick-fil-A, “Don’t mess with Vermont. Don’t mess with kale. And, Chick-fil-A, get out of the way because we are going to win this one.” (Source: NPR.org—Chicken Vs. Kale, Kirk Carapezza)
Okay. I freely admit that I love old packaging. My house is filled with thousands of antique tins, old boxes, and discarded packaging from days gone by. I notice packaging, so when Procter & Gamble decided to pump up the packaging and advertising for one of its oldest brands, Ivory soap, I was eager to see what change was in store.
The new campaign devised by Wieden+Kennedy is nothing short of brilliant. But the new packaging by Sterling Brands is uninspired. One has to wonder why their advertising agency did not show the new look on any of their ads, TV spots, or online placements. If you want to look at 125 years of Ivory soap packaging, Procter & Gamble has set up a Facebook page that shows all the different ways they have wrapped their pure white soap.
The most controversial aspect to their simple blue and white packaging was the Procter & Gamble logo which was thought to have ties to Satan.
For years urban legend maintained that the man in the logo was proof of the company’s ties to Satan. Supposedly the curlicues of the moon man’s beard was an array of 6’s and if you connect the dots with the 13 stars, three 6’s appear. The curlicues at the top of his head resembled the horns of a ram representing the false prophet. Eventually in 1985 the Procter and Gamble logo was taken off of Ivory soap. Over the years the Ivory logo has been modified and most recently Wieden+Kennedy modernized the wordmark. Tag lines have also changed and those in use over the years have included:
- Pure Clean. Pure Ivory.
- 99.44% Pure.
- So Pure it floats.
- Keep it pure, clean and simple
“Ivory is P&G’s oldest and most beloved brand, and while consumers relish in the nostalgia and heritage of the product, it’s time for a holistic reinvention of the brand as we work to touch and improve more consumers’ lives in more parts of the world more completely,” says Jay Sethi, Ivory brand manager. “We’ve answered the call for consumers wanting a ‘simple and clean’ solution and the most powerful aspect of Ivory still remains the simplicity of the product.” Lisa McTigue Pierce—Packaging Digest Oct. 4, 2011.
Karl Lieberman, creative director, Wieden+Kennedy, spoke about the new advertising. “Unlike a lot of other brands, Ivory has stayed true to its equity. It has remained the antithesis of the overly complicated—from its ingredients, packaging and advertising—it’s a throwback to an era where there wasn’t time for such things. And that’s what makes its new voice so refreshing.”
But while Ivory has remained a strong brand since 1879, competition in the soap category has changed. The Ivory brand has been running third to Dove and Dial. (Source: NY Times, Nov. 7, 2011). Product managers felt that with the increased consumer focus on cost savings during the recession years, it was a good time to promote the Ivory brand promise of “value and simplicity.” “Renée Richardson Gosline, an assistant professor of marketing at the MIT Sloan School of Management, also predicted the simplicity of Ivory and its campaign could appeal to consumers. However, she also questioned the absence of the new Ivory packaging in advertising. ‘If you’re proud of the packaging, show it off,’ she said.”