Category: Contest

The Promise of Crowdsourced Design is Broken. So Let’s Fix It.

This is a stream-of-consciousness post. Given my history with stuff like this I’m probably about to upset a whole lot of people. So, apologies in advance.

And with that… here goes nothing…

I’ve long been on record as supporting the concept of crowdsourced design. The good folks at crowdSPRING interviewed me about it for their newsletter a few years back. And even after being called everything from immoral to a “slavemaster,” to this day I’m still a strong supporter of the crowdsourcing concept.

It’s just becoming a lot harder to support it in practice.

I’ve worked with hundreds of designers over about a dozen crowdsourced projects, spending many thousands of dollars, and in most cases ended up with highly effective work. My current project with crowdSPRING is likely to be a success as well. After only a few days and about 25 entries (many of which are strong conceptually or technically) I know the project and ultimately one of my clients will end up getting a design that helps them measurably improve their business. We’ll get there, however, despite the system that has been set up to support crowdsourcing rather than because of it.

I’ve never really struggled with the moral issues that many design professionals seem to have with the concept of crowdsourcing. In an ideal world the process of crowdsourcing should provide real value in both directions. In the case of design, the ‘client’ receives creative work – a tangible thing. The ‘winning’ designer usually receives some sort of monetary compensation, the actual amount of which is immaterial since the winning designer knows the best-case outcome so they are deeming it worthwhile.

The moral challenge for me doesn’t come from the concept at all. It comes from the way commercial crowdsourcing providers execute the concept in the real world. Those who do not receive the big payout at the end of the project aren’t given any compensation at all, even if their efforts were critical in helping the winner get the idea that ultimately resulted in payment. And that to me is a travesty.

Everyone who participates and adds value deserves compensation of some sort. To say that they all must be paid in cash, though, is short-sighted. Some clients can offer visibility (though admittedly most that offer this have no visibility to offer,) others bring advice, self-esteem, skills development, or other less tangible assets that are no less valuable than cash in the right situation.

My current thinking is that those who participate and don’t add value should still have the opportunity for compensation – but that compensation should be in the form of the opportunity for skills development or candid critique. If someone takes the time to submit concepts that are way off base then it is the responsibility of the client to tell them what’s wrong and (if known) how it might be fixed. It’s also the client’s responsibility to let a designer know when any future effort on their part is likely to be wasted effort. Unfortunately, outside of my own projects I haven’t heard a single designer say that this was something they’d encountered.

The reason I’m writing this post is because some of the value I’d always assumed I was providing was in the form of the very detailed critiques I give to every designer – be they astoundingly talented or misguided neophyte. The promise of crowdsourcing is that I (as the surrogate client) have the ability to share information with the crowd, and that the crowd can learn from my original request and from all of the follow-on advice that I give to each designer.

But crowdSPRING’s customer service informed me yesterday that critiques should only be accessible to each individual designer and denied my request to enable all designers to see all critiques, citing fairness to creatives that come up with good ideas and the likelihood of copycat work. (There IS an option to allow some people to see all comments, but those granted access are forbidden from participating in the design part.)

Here’s the problem with this policy. It turns the power of the crowd into the weakness of a long line of individuals being served, bakery-like, one-by-one and without knowledge or understanding of what’s happening before, after, or around them. The five to twenty-five minutes I spend on each critique is read once and only once rather than helping dozens or hundreds of designers understand how to make their own designs stronger and more likely to result in compensation. It also means that I, as the client, will get designs that better fit my specifications. It’s as though we’re throwing out all the benefits of working with a crowd.

I’m doing what I can to work within and without the existing crowdsourcing provider structure. Putting aside money (however insignificant) to reward those that add value but don’t get the big payday, taking time to provider serious reviews that help designers develop their skills, and publicly praising those designers who show tremendous insight or execution… It’s not a perfect solution by any means, but the last time I suggested we actually rebuild crowdsourcing the way it should actually be built all I heard was crickets.

So… I’m listening again. Are you ready to build a crowdsourcing solution that actually adds value for everyone involved instead of just the provider? Because if you are then I’m ready to lead the effort. And if you aren’t? Maybe take a moment and ask yourself what it is that you’re resisting. And if you’re willing to share your reasons for resisting I’d love to hear them.

That’s it; ramble over. Will your response be be crickets or pitchforks? (Because I’m not holding my breath for a parade.)

Our Favorite Award, Ever

Posted by:
Tate Linden

We don’t spend much time pulling together entries for stuff like ADDYs and OBIEs. As a small shop we just don’t have the manpower, and most award programs don’t seem to factor in the impact of the work on the business or industry. We’ve been humbled on more than one occasion (and not in a good way) by having a campaign that earned tens of millions of dollars for our client pushed aside as the award-giving panel instead honored creative use of props and 3D techniques that resulted in… pretty much nothing as far as we could tell.

Heck, our most significant awards have come from client-submitted entries. At this point we’ve pretty much given up submitting our own stuff.

So it was a bit of a surprise when a heavy box arrived via FedEx from Canada yesterday.

Inside was an ornately wrapped 4×6… chunk of engineered wood. Affixed to the front of the unquestionably cool and creatively presented log is a colorfully inscribed explanation:

PEER RECOGNITION AWARD
for your outstanding contribution
to construction marketing

The inscription went on to list our firm’s name and our work for the Portland Cement Association as the recipient of the award.

This was already pretty cool, but since we couldn’t remember applying for the award we were thankful that a letter was also provided. Here’s the text:

OBJECT: Construction Marketing Peer Recognition Award

Greetings,

We feel the remarkable branding work your agency has done for the Portland Cement Association – think harder. concrete. – has gone well beyond the scope of a simple client assignment.

The brilliant concept, extensive work on the typography and flawless execution show exceptional creativity. The brand’s “making of” video shows that an extraordinary amount of effort and commitment was required to turn what may seem at first like a simple signature into truly exceptional work.

In recognition of your outstanding contribution to the field of Construction Marketing, I am pleased to award you with the very first Peer Recognition Award. May your work inspire other agencies and designers to search for innovation as you have.

The letter was signed by the Principal of Domicile Experts, a marketing and communications firm in Quebec.

It feels genuine, heartfelt, and more meaningful than any award we or our clients have ever received for our work. While we’re not humbled by it, we are unquestionably honored. And we’re pleased that we produced something that not only worked for our clients, but got some talented folks up North motivated enough to compellingly tell us that they appreciate and recognize good work.

Thanks to Phil and team for making this holiday season a bit more special for us. What a great way to wrap up the year!

The next time anyone from Domicile Experts is in the DC area the first pint is on us. Seriously.

DARPA Wins Logo Award, Stealthily

2011 MarCom Award Winner

We just learned that our DARPA logo work received an Honorable Mention from the MarCom Awards. We’re surprised and honored by the recognition. We figured that without seeing the logo in action (e.g., transitioning from on-white to on-black as is shown in the video below) it’d get lost in the herd.

It didn’t, and for that we’re giving thanks. Though we can’t seem to find any mention of the award online…

Congratulations to DARPA, and to the members of Stokefire’s very own design team:

Graphic Designer: Jonelly Sharp
Art Director: Randy Rodriguez
Art Director: Kaitlyn Wells
Creative Director: Tate Linden

Want to see the story behind the brand identity and the challenge we faced? Check out this live markup narrated by the boss:

 

Other live markups have been done for The Stokefire Logo and Think Harder. Concrete.

 

A Concrete Win for PCA and Stokefire Branding & Advertising Agency

Sorry to all for not posting this great Portland Cement Association PR on our site earlier. Was a bit of a flurry yesterday. Here’s the official release: A Concrete Win for PCA and Stokefire Branding & Advertising Agency. It looks pretty spiffy in PRWeb’s format – or you can see it awkwardly formatted below.

DC-area agency makes concrete front-page news and earns client top honors from 2011 CWA Marketing Communications Awards.

This billboard was viewed by hundreds of thousands of frustrated commuters during asphalt repaving.

A Billboard from PCA’s Award-Winning Campaign

“Forty-eight hours after the billboard posted, concrete was on the front page of the region’s major newspapers.”

Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) October 05, 2011

Stokefire Branding & Advertising Agency today announced that its work on behalf of the Portland Cement Association (PCA) has won the 2011 BEST OVERALL Marketing Communications Award as judged by the Construction Writers Association (CWA). This marks the first time a non-profit industry association has earned top honors in a contest typically dominated by commercial industry titans. PCA will receive the award at CWA’s Grand Awards Dinner in San Antonio, Texas on October 25, 2011.

“We are honored by CWA’s recognition and excited that the concrete brand and campaign developed by Stokefire’s creative team served the needs of our membership so well,” said Bruce McIntosh, PCA’s Vice President of Communications. “This campaign quickly allowed us to become part of critical infrastructure conversations, and ultimately led to new concrete and cement projects for our members.”

“PCA needed to provoke a change in behavior,” said Tate Linden, Stokefire’s President and Chief Creative. “Politely knocking at the door of opportunity hadn’t opened it, so we gave the industry another way through. PCA’s top-notch team delivered in a big way once the door was opened, converting opportunity into tangible results.”

CWA’s judges lauded the multifaceted national effort targeting wide-ranging audiences including public works officials, consulting engineers, city and county officials, and even taxpayers and the motoring public. Stokefire delivered campaign strategy and creative execution across print, web, outdoor, clothing, and trade-show elements. In awarding top honors to PCA, judges cited the all-around strength of the campaign, from the design detail and copywriting effectiveness to the broader strategic approach and key media placement.

A strategically placed billboard component above an asphalt repaving project received specific praise from the panel. Forty-eight hours after the billboard posted, concrete was on the front page of the region’s major newspapers, had earned favorable stories on CBS TV News and Public Radio, and had generated buzz on blogs, bulletin boards and Twitter. More importantly, PCA’s leaders were granted access to key infrastructure decision-makers, leading to the true measure of the campaign’s success – tangible new business.

About Stokefire Branding & Advertising:

Stokefire has secretly branded and advertised stuff from its hideout in the Washington DC metro area since 2005. The Stokefire team develops award-winning strategic brands and advertising campaigns that change behavior and get results. The agency has quietly established a diverse client list that includes Heinz, Charles Schwab, Discovery Communications and the US Department of Defense.

About the Portland Cement Association:

Based in Skokie, Ill., the Portland Cement Association represents cement companies in the United States and Canada. It conducts market development, engineering, research, education, and public affairs programs. More information on PCA programs is available at http://www.cement.org.

About the CWA Marketing Communications Awards:

For over a decade the Construction Writers Association has recognized the top marketing and communications work from around the globe. Previous CWA Marketing Communications awards have honored work for megabrands like Caterpillar, Bobcat, John Deere, and Volvo. The CWA, founded in 1958, is a non-profit, non-partisan, international organization that provides a forum for journalism, photography, marketing, and communications professionals in all segments of the construction industry.

###

That’s it!

Congrats to PCA on the 2011 CWA BEST OVERALL Marketing award. Many, many, thanks to Bruce, Patti, Doug, Brian and the rest of the PCA team for giving us the opportunity, for giving our strategists and creatives great information to work with, and for executing flawlessly after the campaign launched. Without every ounce of opportunity, trust, and execution none of this would’ve happened.

Our PCA Work Named “Best Overall” by Construction Industry

Yep. The Portland Cement Association received top honors in the industry for our strategic and creative work on their Hey Asphalt campaign that included the advertisement above amongst other elements such as billboards, trade ads, and websites. How cool is that?

No, wait. Don’t answer that. Allow me.

Ahem. It’s VERY FREAKING COOL! Fist-bumps all around!

Our own press release will hit in the next day or so, but until then you can chew on CWA’s broad release:

CWA Names Winners of 2011 Marketing Communications and Website & Electronic Communications Awards

Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:30am EDT

CHICAGO, IL, Sep 29 (MARKET WIRE) —

The Construction Writers Association (CWA) announces the 2011 winners of
its annual Marketing Communications Awards and Website & Electronic
Communications Awards. The awards will be presented at a grand awards
dinner on October 25 during the 2011 CWA Annual Conference, CONNECTED
2011, in San Antonio.

The annual awards spotlight superior communications efforts by
construction-related individuals, corporations, associations, advertising
agency/PR firms and publications. The Marketing Communications Awards are
evaluated on editorial content, graphic design and effectiveness in
achieving stated goals. 

"The CWA Marketing Communications Award honorees are selected from a
highly competitive pool of submissions from talented professionals across
the country," said Aaron Chusid, chairman of the Marketing Communications
Awards committee.

    The 2011 CWA Marketing Communications Awards winners are:

--  Portland Cement Association, Best Overall-Other
--  Performance Marketing, Best Print-Ad
--  ARTBA, Best Radio-Ad Campaign
--  WSP Flack & Kurtz, Direct Mail Campaign, Best Corporate
    Communication
--  Marketing Strategies & Solutions, Best PR-Special Event

The Website & Electronic Communications Awards are evaluated on
content, design, effective technology aspects and meeting stated
objectives. 

"Effective websites and electronic communications continue to increase in
importance for manufacturers, dealers, contractors, associations and
publications in the construction industry," said Patti Flesher,
chairwoman of the Website and Electronic Communications Awards committee.
"The CWA awards provide industry-wide recognition for work that
successfully engages an online audience."

    The 2011 CWA Website & Electronic Communications Awards winner is:

--  HardHatChat.com, Blog Category

The Construction Writers Association (CWA), founded in 1958, is a
non-profit, non-partisan, international organization that provides a
forum for journalism, photography, marketing, and communications
professionals in all segments of the construction industry to connect
with other professionals and enhance skills through education. Visit our
website at www.constructionwriters.org. Join us on LinkedIn, Facebook,
and Twitter.

For more information contact:
Deborah Hodges
Construction Writers Association
1-773-687-8726
info@constructionwriters.org 

Copyright 2011, Market Wire, All rights reserved.

-0-

Congrats to Bruce, Patti, Brian, Doug, Aris and the rest of the PCA team. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have an appointment with some bubbly.

Can creativity be “crowd-sourced”?

The good folks at Genius Rocket and Tapatap are trying to find out.

I spent an hour fiddling with their tools last night and figured I’d see if a naming pro had a prayer when up against the masses (where the masses seem to have the vote…)

So far my skills (note the lack of “z” on the end of that word) seem to be lacking in the eyes of the horde.  (You can search Tapatap for user name “tateiam” and you’ll find the rest of my quick brainstorm.)  Feel free to pile on the negativity…

I can take it.

Here’s a quickie I did for a campaign by Mervis Diamonds that is going to run in The Onion:

CupSize.jpg

Perhaps this is why we normally take three months to do a job and not 5 minutes?

Whales Need Names? A Contested Blog Post.

Want to have an impact on the environment and help whales, too?  This post is probably not going to be of interest to you.

This blog used to be filled with a common type of post – mostly containing diatribes written by me that railed on naming contests as ineffective, divisive, and generally rife with suckitude. 

Well, a new dawn in naming contests has arrived.

More than 11,000 possible whale names
were submitted but we are now down to the last 30 possible whale
names…which ones will be given to the wonderful humpback whales
currently travelling on the Great Whale Trail?

Choose your favourite name from among the 30 below and hit the submit button at the bottom of the page. You can only vote once but you can ask as many friends to vote as you like.

Due to popular demand, the voting has been extended until the 7th of December 2007 at 17:00 Amsterdam time. So vote now and get all your friends to vote too.

Here’s the list of names we’re given to choose from:

Any of those stand out to you?

What do YOU think the results were?

Amazingly, I’m not against this sort of contest.  What’s the harm in giving a whale with a stupid name?  Not much – it’ll get press in the short term and people will remember the event for a while.  It keeps the contest sponsor in the news for a bit.  It’s a lot like naming a baby panda – it gives a normally quiet entity like a zoo the ability to create interest with almost no investment in marketing. 

It’s short term, it’s low risk… it’s bubblegum marketing.  You chew it for a minute or two and spit it out after its done its job.  

(I’m actually surprised that we don’t see “Stephen Colbert” or perhaps “Bababooey” in the list…)

Now… imagine if this had been your company you were naming.  How’d you like to be the Mister Splashy Pants bar and grill?  (Okay… that might actually be fun…)  The Mister Spashy Pants Mortuary, maybe?  Imagine trying to find the CEO to run that company…

Hat tip to Jeffry Pilcher for reeling this in.

Dems Make a Wrong Turn.

Unbe-infixing-lievable.


I just read on POPwink (a couple days too late) that the Dems are looking to come up with a new bumper sticker. I had no idea.


You should read Michael’s post over there, and I must agree that his judgement (that the ones they’ve come up with are “hideous”) is spot on.


The choices they’ve laid out for us are:

  • W IS OUT – Send the Right Wing with Him
  • NO REPUBLICANS LEFT BEHIND IN D.C.
  • What Have Republicans Done For You Lately?
  • 2006 Was Just the Beginning. More Dems in ’08

Ouch. Y’all already know I dislike naming contest and such, so I won’t go into that here.


Is the left wing in such a state that they have to recycle old concepts? Two of the four are just reworking old slogans “No Child Left Behind” and “What Have You Done For Me Lately.” One uses a visual key to link W (as in Bush) to Wing (as in right) but seems to ignore the fact that the left has a wing too. The last option seems to endorse doing whatever we did in ’06… but somehow doing it better.


None of them seem catchy. None of ‘em seem smart. None of ‘em speak to me (as one of the centrists that typically decide elections.) None of them take advantage of the location of the message (a bumper.) None of them are memorable (without having to recall either right wing rhetoric or bad pop songs.) These are conversation enders rather than conversation starters.


But what if you could fix that? What if you had a phrase that sounded catchy, implied at least a bit of intellect, could speak to disaffected centrists, used language that mixed well with the bumper medium, and could be used by talking heads as a conversation starter?


I think it’s possible.


Something like “The Right Turn Is Left” ™(sm)(c)(etc…) above a contextualizing message such as “Democrats for ___________” (where the blank is a platform cause) or “Vote Democtratic in ’08″ seems to fit the bill.


It throws wordplay, logic, message, direction, context, mnemonics and all sorts of good stuff (like the fact that this is a “Googlenope” as I write this) at the reader without preaching about “W” or gloating about 2006…


…and you can almost hear people chanting it at the Democratic Convention if you listen hard enough.


(Added bonus – the logical Republican response “The Right Turn is Right” or “The Left Turn Is Left” loses all of the power and wit that the use of the conflicting statement brings. It’s a hard slogan to fight effectively.)


Anyone else think there’s a better option?

Naming for the short term?

Oh, cute! A whale naming contest!


The local CBS affilliate is having a contest to name a mother and calf that have gotten lost up the Sacramento river. Cool right?


Right.


Except as I seem to recall, many of these whales that wander up rivers tend not to live to see the ocean again.


On the plus side, there’s not much at stake here with the names. Whales probably don’t care – or know – what we call them. On the down side we’re going to have a whole bunch of little kids following Bonnie and Clyde – or whatever their names will be – and I don’t know how easily they’ll believe the whales went to live on the farm with the pet dog.


So we’re naming two animals that may be doing their best to off themselves for some reason. Let’s make it a fun story for the kiddies!


Whee!


Interested in a better story about dying or dead whales? This one is my all time favorite. And it may just be the first story to ever use “Splud” to describe the sound of a whale exploding. After you read Dave Barry’s version I encourage you to watch the video – especially the 30 seconds following the explosion.


Bring the family!

We win! We win!

Someone – we’re not quite sure who it is that runs the Ubernamer site – rated our blog’s name as better than two of the sites we think are the bee’s knees – NameWire and Wordlab.


We’re glad someone online likes the name. We’d heard a bit of disappointment from the masses when we moved away from Stoked Brands and the “Poking brands with sticks just to see what happens” line. One benefit of the change is that when we tell people the name of our blog they either blush or break out laughing. Or both. (We’ve had a bunch of requests to make tee-shirts and just haven’t had the time to do it right. When you ask a namer to put something in print you’re going to have to be patient!)


I personally am not quite sure what Ubernamer is measuring when he scores the names in question, but we do feel that our name is just right for our target market – the inquisitive marketer, linguist, or even an employee of a company going through a rebranding who isn’t an expert, but has some exposure to the concepts or practice of naming and wants to know more. We’re not a source for consistent news in naming, we’re not here to help beginners create their own name – we’re here to give people a window into how namers think, how names are created, and what sorts of things can trip up (or make successful) the process.


There is a quote I’d like to address from the Ubernamer’s post:

So who wins this name war? Thingnamer. And yet, Thingnamer is not as interesting as, say Brandnama or, even, Brandaclaus. Learning: Portmanteau words work better as brand names. Not that any of that matters. At the end of the day, for whatever reason, all the three names being compared here have more clients than both Brandnama and Brandaclaus put together. Just goes to show, again, that a name is only a small part of the branding game. Unfortunately.

My thoughts:

  1. Thingnamer vs. Brandnama vs. Brandaclaus – We’re more partial to Thingnamer, but that may be because Thingnamer speaks to who we are and what we do more than the other two names. I could not possibly run a blog with either of the other names on it – Brandnama sounds like it’s too cool (I may play at being cool, but I’m a name geek at heart), and Brandaclaus has implications that don’t blend with who we are (we don’t run an elf sweat-shop, and our work is most certainly not provided for free.) That said, I feel strongly that both Brandnama and Brandaclaus have a place in the blogosphere – and perhaps even in the corporate world as naming companies. They’re going after different markets than Thingnamer/Stokefire does.
  2. And more on comparing names: One aspect of evaluating a name versus the competition is determining the strategic fit. I’m not able to adequately evaluate who Brandnama and Brandaclaus are going after or what their goals are. I only know my own. If you’ve ever been to one of my lectures or presentations you’ve heard me say this before, but I’ll put it in writing now: Yahoo is a pretty damn good name for a search engine. It is not, however, your best option for a funeral home. Thingnamer meets my needs and the needs of my target market better than any of the other names that have been mentioned. It is approachable, accessible to all generations, humorous, easy to spell and (based on our own proprietary scoring system) the best name we could find for what we wanted to do. Brandnama and Brandaclaus aren’t me. Even if the names are better (and I’ll leave that judgement to others) they wouldn’t address my personality, my desire to say things as they are, and my vocabulary.
  3. Portmanteau Words: We absolutely agree that there is a place for them in naming. They’re a tool we use and and evaluate when developing names. They are not, however, the balm that turns a bad name into a good one. Thingnamer as a name doesn’t break down into a portmanteau easily, and the full power of the name can only come across through the full presentation. “Thinamer” is a pretty crappy name. Oddly enough we’ve found that while using portmanteau words has the benefit of adding depth to a name, that depth is often gained at the cost of clarity and power. Not every portmanteau can be “SPORK” – which to us is nearly perfection for more reasons than we can list here.
  4. On client count: You have to start somewhere. Also, it may be that the market in which you operate (Dubai, in this case – I believe) may be influencing your success. I’m not sure how the market is over there – and I don’t know if writing in English helps your cause. We’ve worked on a single naming project in that area and had to develop a name in Hindi, not English.
  5. On names only being a small part of the branding game. We actually like this fact. If names were the only thing that mattered then the world of marketing and branding would be hugely dull. We enjoy being a part of this complex process that links brands to consumers. There’s far more of a challenge involved when you have to play nice with everyone else working on the brand. That’s just one of the reasons getting the right name can be a significant investment – and can take larger companies months or even years to develop. If it were easy we’d be out of a job…

That’s it. We wish the Ubernamer the best. Here’s to hoping that they can open up the naming market in Dubai. After our experience trying to learn the finer points of conversational Hindi we’ve decided that the languages spoken in the Middle East and Asian markets are just a bit too much to take on.


Tate Linden
Principal – Stokefire
703-778-9925



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