Tag: "advertising"

No, You May Not Have This Tasty, Tasty Apple.

I understand that everyone loves the Apple brand for its vibrancy, simplicity, and power. I really do. It’s a kickass brand, so it’s not surprising. But… Please don’t ask me to build you a brand ‘just like Apple’ unless Steve Jobs’ ghost is already on board to lead it. Because that’s what it’d take to make it work.

Look… Contrary to what most of the branding and advertising industry shouts at customers, the job of a great branding team is not to give you the brand that you want. Our job is to give you a brand with which you can succeed. Asking for a brand that looks like Apple may be an effective short-hand way to convey an aesthetic that you find appealing, but the whole underlying structure from which brands are actually built is overlooked in the process. Worse, the chances that what you and your staff find aesthetically appealing and what will bring a positive change in the behavior of your intended audience being the same are nearly nil.

What made Apple… well, Apple… was the insight, effort, and execution of Jobs, Wozniak, and their team. The name and logo they chose didn’t cause their success; the verbal and visible brand was a direct result of the unique qualities of the organization’s leadership expressed nearly to perfection. They changed the behavior of hundreds of millions of consumers around the globe by genuinely understanding who Apple was, delivering a product that could only come from such people, and communicating both their thinking and performance in a way that seemed to both illuminate and prove their difference. Or as I would normally put it, they used something very like Gandhi’s Pyramid. If you want to honor their brand or have similar successes then I’d advise you stop trying to copy the result of their efforts or the current state of their brand and start duplicating the effort and unique insights that led to it.

Making you look like Apple isn’t that hard. (Just ask Samsung.) But creating a lasting and valuable brand as unique and genuine as Apple from your own values and actions should actually result in a brand that in the end isn’t much like Apple at all.

 

The Painful Truth about Working With Stokefire, And How To Fail While Doing It.

Posted by Tate Linden

Arthritis Campaign by The Classic Partnership Advertising

Arthritis Campaign by The Classic Partnership Advertising

The truth about working with Stokefire? It often sucks.

I mean it.

Working with Stokefire is frequently extremely painful. Intentionally so. There’s a core belief at this firm that we can’t ensure a brand’s greatness until we have proven that it can withstand immense pressure. As our regular readers might recall, the philosophy supporting our work is structured around a quote from Gandhi, and though he may never have directly said as much, I personally believe that if Gandhi hadn’t gone through the painful challenges that he did he wouldn’t have made such an impact on the world. His philosophies would never have been tested and found to be powerful and effective. While we’re not known for putting our clients under the sorts of extreme pressures over which Gandhi triumphed, we are pretty damn good at making clients uncomfortable and even angry when it’s called for. And, for what it’s worth, it’s almost always called for.

A brand built by staying in your happy place may be fun, but it won’t help get you through the challenges that real organizations face during a crisis. My firm has had great success earning accounts that a little shop like ours “had no right to even pitch” (as one of our competitors put it) by going after that pain, and warning our prospective clients in advance that we’re here to cause harm but that the end result will be a battle tested brand that will get them where they want to go. We’ve had clients Google, Motorola, Charles Schwab, Heinz, the US Department of Defense, and the entirety of the US concrete industry. C’mon people; you must admit that our little shop in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia doesn’t seem like it should be able to even get business cards from the people that work at the agencies that land clients like those. (And candidly, we tend not to get those business cards. The people who work in the big agencies are not my biggest fans, from what I can tell.)

We don’t surprise clients with the bad stuff after they sign. No. We tell ‘em the first time we see them. Pretty much open the door and say, “You know, working with us is pretty much going to suck for you, right?” And then we tell them all the stuff they’re going to hate about working with us.

Among the things we cover are all the decisions and actions that they’ll want to make or take that we tell them in advance are off the table if they want to have a chance at a successful project. That list is about a dozen items long – and every one of the items has at some point caused more than one of our projects to end up less effective than it should have been. Clients are still able to go against the advice, but must acknowledge that in so doing our team is entitled to make changes to timeline, budget, and/or scope, or goals to compensate.

For the first time – that I can remember, anyhow – I’m sharing about half of this this list with the world, reworded in such a way that it might be Internet-ably digestible.

SIX EASY WAYS TO FAIL AT BRANDING:

Method 1: Avoid Risk, (Because Not Doing So Is So Gosh Darn Risky.)

Without risk you won’t get noticed. Without notice you can’t engage. Without engagement you can’t achieve any meaningful organizational goals, except perhaps downsizing, which you really don’t need our help with.

The most common way to avoid risk is to look at the industry and figure out what everyone else is saying and doing, and then find a designer who can mash it all together into something resembling a brand image. No need to hire a strategist because the work is already done! Go to the website of any competitor, then just cut, paste, and BAM! You just saved all sorts of time, effort, and money. Go ask for a raise.

Method 2: Insist on Consensus for the Wrong Things.

It’s critical to come to consensus about the goals for the organization and the brand, but when it comes to whether or not people like the resulting work we actually find positive consensus to be an indicator that the work isn’t as powerful as it needs to be. One thing that every great brand has in common? Someone out there absolutely hates it. We’re actually pretty pleased that most of the time there’s someone out there that truly despises our work, though often as not it’s the competition that screams the loudest.

Method 3: Keep the Decision Makers Out of the Process.

Keeping the decision makers out of the creative and strategic process is like making a baker’s favorite cake without access to the baker, and without access to the baker’s closet of ingredients or recipes. No matter what you come up with there’s little chance that that the baker will approve it because the result won’t match the recipe to which you never had access in the first place. If a decision maker is too busy or important to participate then they should delegate authority to someone who has the time and interest required to get it right.

Method 4: Demand that the Purpose of the Organization or Brand Include the Word, “AND.”

“And” is the bane of singularly effective brands and strategies. The moment you require a proverbial bullet to hit both the primary target and a second (or third, or twelfth) one you’ve made what should’ve been a relatively straight-forward shot into one that is effectively impossible. This is not to say you can’t hit all the targets, but the chances are better that you’ll end up winging them rather than nailing the center of any.

Method 5: Change Requirements or Assumptions Upon Which Work Was Based But Leave The Resulting Work Unchanged.

It’s like telling that aforementioned cook to prepare a meal for a meat-lover, then upon delivery of the delectable meat-infused foods being told that they made a typo and meant to say that the eater was vegan. There is no option except to restart from the step right before the assumption was made. The moment the assumptions in place are changed the work that resulted from the old ones either must be thrown out, or used for some other purpose. No matter how delicious that TurDuckEn may be, the first instinct should never be, “Well, maybe we can still use it if we just add more vegetables.”

Method 6: Keep the Project Hidden from Staff, Clients, and Stakeholders Until It’s Done.

Done right, the result of a strategic rebranding process should seem like you’ve scraped off a battered (or poorly chosen) coat of paint to reveal the beautifully crafted bones of the original structure that had been hidden before. That’s very hard to do if you don’t have any first-hand knowledge of the people who helped to build it in the first place, and those that live there now. Imagine coming home and finding someone you don’t know has repainted and repositioned everything in your home without asking for your permission or input, and then stuck you with the bill. Oh. And they appear to reeeeealy like pink. It’s likely you’ll find that the work covered up everything you loved about your home. That’s what happens when an employee comes in one day with new logos and mottos spread all over the office. It’s seen as “just another marketing thing” instead of what should be a powerful tool for helping the organization get where it needs to go.

No matter how risky you might think trying to engage existing staff or clients in the process might be, that’s nothing compared to the backlash that can occur when you try to sneak one over on them, or aren’t completely transparent with the reason for a change.

You may notice that almost all of these methods that lead to failure involve some sort of attempt to overtly or covertly avoid risk. Having leadership stay out of the process means that they’re not to be blamed for the direction the project has taken, requiring consensus spreads blame so that individuals can duck risk, having multiple goals means there’s no risk of alienating anyone, allowing assumptions to change without consequence means no one will have to risk their employment by asking for more funding, and keeping stakeholders in the dark means that we don’t risk blowing the project schedule by letting in rabble that could turn the whole thing to a muddled mess.

We’re not unique when it comes to recognizing that risk is a critical ingredient in a successful brand. Most agencies acknowledge this now – but I think the extent to which we’ve codified the ways risk avoidance can creep back into a supposedly risky position is less common. If you’ve got stories to share on risk avoidance or acceptance gone wrong I’d love to hear about ‘em.

When it comes to branding and strategy choices, I’m finding that almost every time the right choice for the client is the one that makes them the most nervous. Not in an “anyone who would do this is an idiot” way, but in a “can we really do that? Because no one in our industry would ever in a million years try something like it” sense. Which is kind of the point. Any retrenching towards what’s comfortable and familiar results in an avalanche of undone decisions that turn brand positioning and strategy into a mishmash of platitudes that no one finds objectionable and never gets mentioned outside of annual executive strategy sessions.

_____

That’s it…I’m out of practice on this whole blogging thing, but I’ve got some more stuff I’d like to share in the coming days and weeks, so here’s to hoping I can continue to bring it back to life.  Thanks to my Twitter followers who helped nudge me back on the hamster wheel. You can find me being my own bad self at @Thingnamer or tune into to the business-esque chatterings of the team (and me) at @Stokefire.

 

Don Draper Tells It Like It Is. And So Should You.

It’s come to the point that I can’t turn on the TV anymore without feeling the need to talk back to the commercials. “No, drinking your product will not make me able to dunk a basketball!” or “IF YOUR PRICES ARE SO GOOD SHOULD’NT YOU BE SHARING THEM RATHER THAN JUST SCREAMING ABOUT THEIR GENERAL LOWNESS?”

Mad Men’s writers got it right, I think:

Peggy Olsen: [Presenting an idea to Don] We thought that Samsonite is this very rare element, this mythical substance, the hardest on earth, and we see and adventurer leaping through a cave…

Don Draper: Is this a substance much like bullsh*t?

Amen, fictional brother.

One reason the campaigns we develop for our clients have been so effective is that we don’t start by trying to create something that doesn’t exist. Our very first task is to take out the shovel and dig through the piles of marketing that have built up over time so we can uncover the true foundation of the brand.

Every great and lasting brand was built on a foundation of compelling truth.

If you’re not successful yet? Start digging until the BS is gone rather than trying to throw more crap at the problem hoping to cover it up.

If you are successful at selling a lie? I suppose you should enjoy it, because I don’t know when it’ll happen, but at some point you’re going to collapse. Count on it. BP, Madoff, and Enron all thought they could get away with it – as did countless others. And all of them eventually get proven wrong.

This month’s happenings at Stokefire Headquarters

September – October 2011

You’re probably wondering – what happened to the weekly happenings? Well here’s the simple answer – we’re busy, VERY busy. We know – the economy sucks, so what could we possibly be so busy with? Well I can’t exactly tell you (it’s a secret), but I can tell you that we’ve been having a blast making messes, taking photos (we may have even seen a ghost or two), and smashing things with a hammer – all for a client project. Oh and our boss Tate Linden has been writing blogs like crazy, he’s a fan of Gandhi if you haven’t noticed *wink*.

We’ve also been photographing more of our work – if you didn’t see our last website update we launched all of our client work, but that doesn’t mean we’re done. We are continuing to update our pictures and results from all of our projects. There has been a lot of media going around too – we won an award for our work on the Think Harder. Concrete brand for PCA. (If you look close, you can see Tate sporting the brand above!)

Video mark-ups #3, 4, and 5 are all in the works, so you’ll be able to see them coming out very soon. We already completed our mark-up video on the Stokefire logo (#1) and the Think Harder. Concrete brand (#2), so we’re pretty darn excited to have more on the way.

We of course can’t forget about our client work either. We’re working on advertisements, logos and a whole lot of strategy. Tate has also been off on a few speaking gigs, getting people all psyched-up about brand alignment. With all this stuff going on, we’ll be putting out the Stokefire Bellows (our newsletter) very shortly, so keep your eyes peeled.

Get More:
Posts involving Gandhi
Tate Linden: Speaker Extraordinaire
Stokefire’s Classic Rants

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.

Happenings in Advertising, Branding, and Design

1. Oh Netflix – What are you doing to us! Netflix’s Attempt at ‘Transparency’ Angers Consumers, Hurts Brand. Take a look at their new name and logo. (via Ad Age) (via Brand New)

2. OXY had a design overhaul, is that all they did? (via The Dieline)

3. Ben and Jerry’s won’t back down: Schweddy Balls Leaves Sour Taste in Conservative Group’s Mouth AFA slams Ben & Jerry’s. )What do you think of their new flavor? (via Adweek)

4. Nextel rebrands - X Connects the Spot (via Brand New)

5. BBH Rebrands British Airways in Grand New Campaign Ads debut new tagline: ‘To fly. To serve’ (via Adweek)

6. The colors you choose for your brand show personality and emotion - IBM represents it all. IBM Billboard Changes Color Based on Your Clothing (via Adweek)

7. Barefoot Wine presents a poster made completely out of rubbish: “One Beach” (documentary) (via Creative Review)

8. Esurance Taps Leo Burnett (via Adweek)

9. Maggie Gyllenhaal Does First-Ever Latte ‘Got Milk?‘ Ad.

10. A little something for all the designers out there: Josef Müller-Brockmann: Principal Of The Swiss School (via Noupe)

11. The evolution of the advertising executive infographic – Where do you think you stand? (via Adverblog)

Get More:

Thoughts on Advertising 
Thoughts on Branding
Thoughts on Design
Thoughts on Creativity

 

Happenings in Advertising, Branding, and Design

1. It was a big thing on all of our minds this week and last week. Here’s a great way to remember the good times: Twin Tower Cameos (via The Inspiration Room)

2. It’s been a long time since the side braids! Real Wendy Takes Star Turn in Wendy’s Advertising  (via Ad Age)

3. Well Toyota is definitely being creepy. Excuse me while I stick my foot in your face. (via Adweek)

4. Everyone loves a rebrand, especially when just about EVERYTHING is included! Warburtons’ Complete Package (via Brand New)

5. Ever wonder who’s behind the scenes of some of those awesome movie websites, such as Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Mars needs Moms? It’s this guy: Andreas Shabelnikov - Check out an Interview with him (via Web Designer Depot)

6. Do you have stuff? We know you have stuff - Norton Talks About Stuff  (via The Inspiration Room)

7. How a little copywriting can go a long way: David Ogilvy Inspires Big Ad Gig Hopeful (via AgencySpy)

8. Hooray for celebrity advertising (maybe) - Jennifer Lopez Stries Alliance with Fiat (via Adweek)


Great Designs from a Great Week

1. Celadon rebrand
2. Pop-up Design Museum
3. Madison Sourdough | Lincoln | Liberty | Eagle


Get More:

Thoughts on Advertising 
Thoughts on Branding
Thoughts on Design
Thoughts on Creativity

Happenings in Advertising, Branding, and Design

1. WOW – It’s too bad the automatic laces don’t exist! Nike Auctions 1,500 Michael J. Fox ‘Back to the Future II’ Nike MAGs. (via Adweek)

2. Technology just keeps going and going and going! It’s amazing what we can do these days! An interactive table top and mirror. (via Adweek)

3. Play.com gets a new logo. Clean, simple and very friendly. (via Brand New)

4. Mercy Hospital once again gets a new brand – Double Crossed. Check out the more modern look.  (via Brand New)

5. Well I could use a little adventure and a new car! Ad of the Day: Dodge W+K hides three Dodge Journey’s across America. You find one, you keep it. (via Adweek)


In Other News:

Twins rock the Creative Industry - Pelle and Calle Sjoenell

Wieden + Kennedy named Digital Agency of the Year 2011

Celebrities Avoid .XXX Domain Naming and Branding, But What About the Rest of Us?

Get More:

Thoughts on Branding

Thoughts on Advertising 

Happenings in Advertising, Branding, and Design

1. A recent Levi’s ad has some what of a riot going on. So it get’s pulled? For just a flash of a riot scene? I don’t know about this one…  View the Blog  |  View the Ad  What do you think? (via PSFK)

2. Walmart seems to be like the energizer bunny. It just keeps going and going. The power of physical availability. (via The Brandgym Blog)

3. British Mall Presents 100 Years of East London Fashion in 100 Seconds. (via Adweek)

4. What a ladies man! I mean…Thursday’s Ad of the Day: Burger King & Anderson Silva. (via Adweek)

5. Twitter’s first real commercial. One word is needed. Crap.  (via Adweek)

6. Get a clue…or cloo? NBC’s Sleuth has been rebranded as Cloo. (via Brand New)

In Other News:

Jackson Hewitt Finds a New Lead Agency
IKEA donates to Kenya
Sony, Toshiba, Hitachi are to merge.

Get More:

Thoughts on Branding
Thoughts on Advertising 

Happenings in Advertising, Branding, and Design

1. Steve Jobs Resigns as CEO of Apple - It’s the only thing anyone seems to be able to talk about the last few days, I suppose it’s expected.  Lots of videos to watch! (via Mashable)

2. We’ve all been hearing about the new food-centric commercial(s) for Burger King, so here’s the McGarryBowen-Created Ad! (via Agency Spy)

3. Great comments from graphic design professionals! Grading Diet Coke’s Makeover Adweek asks the experts (via AdWeek)

4. Well what do you think? Should Heinken ‘fess up or should it be left alone? Shiner Cries ‘Ripoff’ at Heinken’s Billboard/Stage Hybrid (via Agency Spy)

5. Nice Guys finish last? Walgreens has New Store Brand Naming? Nice!  (via the Name Wire)

6. Burger King Leads ‘Time’ List of Creepiest Mascots - Enough said. (via AdWeek)

7. Old time ads vs. the new. Is the industry getting better at this? Banquet  in a Box (via AdWeek)

8. Web Pick of the Week: American Sabor  (via Communication Arts)

Thoughts on Rebranding
More on Advertising
All about Branding



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