Tag: "marketing"

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 

The Top 5 Reasons I Hate Your Damn List.

Posted by:
Tate Linden

Yep. I’ve had it. My incoming tweet-stream and my Google Reader are stuffed with “The Top Five Reasons To X” and “The Ten Must-Do Activities If You Want To Be Y”.  They’re shared by re-tweeters and bloggers with such frequency that if there was actual business value in the stream somewhere (and I’m not promising that there is) it scrolls by in a blur of numbers and canned advice before I’ve had a chance to notice it.

But I can’t control the path of the river without first understanding its flow. So with that in mind, I’m plugging my nose, writing my own list, releasing it downstream, and letting the current take it where it may.

And so… Here it is… The Top Five Reasons I Hate Your Damn List.

  1. They’re usually just simplistic link-bait.
    The last time I saw a tip-list not manufactured (effectively or not) to go viral was… Actually, I can’t remember. They all tend to link to famous people known to be active on social media, or talk about whatever seems to capture the day’s zeitgeist, like seven ways to meet Justin Bieber (virtually always) or the three things you didn’t know about Evelyn Lozada (on this particular day.)
  2. They’re self-promotional.
    Like USA Today’s college site telling you the five things you should be doing RIGHT NOW to get into grad school. It’s written by a guy who makes a living helping thousands of people get into grad school. And what’s this? Number five says:Ask for help. There are so many resources out there – websites, books, admissions consultants – and it can be dizzying. […] But you must be willing to reach out and ask for help when you need it.

    Subtle. Especially with that helpful link to the site offering the services in the bio. Hmph. We at Stokefire ensure that our exceptionally talented staff doesn’t stoop so low.

  3.  They’re regurgitated
    While there might be a single gem of an idea that we haven’t seen before, most of the list is made up of stuff available elsewhere. Look at enough lists on similar topics and you end up reading the same stuff everywhere. The the thousands of lists of reasons to tweet, how many actual powerful and new ideas are really there? And are you willing to read through the 25,000+ ideas in those lists of 5 or 10 “reasons to tweet” to find the few crumbs you didn’t know before?
  4. They’re arbitrary
    Especially when you read especially when you consider lists of reasons to engage in some activity or how-to lists that start with the words, “The Top” and are usually followed by a number from three to ten. I’m fairly certain that most of those lists didn’t use a formula of any kind to figure out what order those lists should go in or what bits of information deserve to be shared.
  5. They’re irresponsible
    Using a list removes all responsibility from the list-maker. It’s usually just a random list of bromides from which people seeking help can pick and choose stuff to try. It’s ignorance disguised as expertise. Enough with the suggestions disguised as answers, people! We don’t need lists, we need systems and arguments that work.

That’s it.

It’s time to admit that lists – as effective as they are at getting people to look at your site – are pretty damn ineffective at actually helping people understand topics meaningfully, or improve their situation in any way.

It’s also time to admit that, as with almost every list out there, this one is simplistic, self-promotional, regurgitated, arbitrary and irresponsible. And other than instinctual Google searches performed as I wrote this I didn’t research a single bit of it.

If I’ve done the math right I’ll get a billion hits by tomorrow. And a comment or two from Guy Kawasaki, natch.

But definitely not Justin Bieber, nude. Because that wouldn’t be cool.

Want more? Because I rant about other stuff, too. Like strategic designacronymsbrand naming, creative evaluation, name generators, ranting with a purpose, pre-made brands, and political branding to name a slew.

Marketing – Paper, Ink & Integrity, Too!

Posted By:

I am generally the one to answer the phone at the small-but-feisty Stokefire.  The other day our account rep called from an office supply vendor.  It didn’t go so well.  As a little background… we never asked for an Account Rep – this person is self-appointed or other-appointed. That’s fine.  But in an earlier call with said account rep he unsubtly told me that his main purpose was to do all he could to “get more business out of us.”  Well, talk like that puts a person on alert, you know?  Mr. AR is being abundantly clear that his mission is to solve HIS problem (sell more stuff), and he’s trying to incite me to join in this mission.  He’s not doing it by trying to understand my problems and help solve them, but rather just tosses perks my way that he thinks would “incentivize” me.  Ugh.

Fast forward to the recent call.  This time I barely had to say anything in the first few minutes.  Mr. AR proceeded to recite my shopping habits on behalf of Stokefire – location, volume, types of products, etc.  Now am I being oversensitive, or is this just a little unseemly?  Sure, I know lots of companies have the inside scoop on our detailed spending patterns, but isn’t it just a bit crass to bluntly expose it all in the first few moments of conversation?  Would it not be more shrewd to utilize the information gained without being so explicit?

Apparently my spending pattern revealed a gap – I was doing okay on paper and ink, but not so well on janitorial supplies. How strange to be assessed in this way!  I actually thought I was doing okay on all fronts – our office is stocked with what we need, and not stuffed with excess.  But the push was on.  Mr. AR did his darndest to convince me to purchase these products from his company.  It made no sense from my perspective.  So I said no, and eventually declined to pursue the conversation even further about my shopping strategies and future plans with respect to janitorial supplies.  It was getting… Dull.  Boring.  Exasperating.  He eventually thanked me for my honesty – hmmm… did he mean that?

At Stokefire we talk a lot about being “in alignment” as an organization (though it’s important for individuals, too).  Corporate “happiness” or integrity happens when the things we think, say, and do are consistent.  At Stokefire we know we have a valuable skill set that can help organizations solve problems with their identity, strategy and messaging.  Our starting focus is always on helping clarify the problem to be solved for a prospective client.  Once there we can assess whether or not we are the right fit to help solve that particular problem.  If the answer is “no” we let the prospective client know that and walk away from that potential business.

I have a great appreciation for that kind of organizational integrity.  It’s part of what made me glad to join the Stokefire team initially.  It is also what makes me a bit more sensitive to those whose approach comes across as primarily self-serving.

Et tu, Scott Tissue?

Posted By:

Remember when you wanted to change the TP roll and had to wrangle your finger around the cardboard center to push the spindle and remove it – all the while fearing a paper cut?  Well, fear no more.  Scott Tissue now generously offers a full half-inch of free-wheeling spindle clearance in their roll of TP.  Not for our good, actually – not to save our fingers from paper cuts, but for their good in the form of increased profits.

Yes, TP has joined the ranks of the incredible shrinking consumer products.  Have you noticed?  All sorts of products on the supermarket shelves have been getting smaller, while their prices stay the same or even go up!

I think we’ve all seen enough of the economy to know that things are, how shall we say… um, not so good.  Prices are going up; we know that.  But these product changes are allegedly trying to protect us from that fact.  So they start out offering less product for the same money.  But then, guess what – the price goes up anyway.  I, for one, would prefer to see honesty and straightforwardness in pricing.

Instead, in a seemingly deceitful way, packaging has been altered to prevent our noticing the changes unless we are specifically paying attention.  Some familiar jars now feature a hollowed out bottom, allowing less room for product. Other packages have been proportionately reduced so that you would not notice, unless you had the new package side by side with its larger predecessor.  My friend recently mentioned buying a half-gallon of ice cream.  I said “you know you’re only getting 3 pints now, right?”  (Yes, that’s a 25% reduction.)  My very-smart friend said, “Oh, I hadn’t noticed.”

Lots of product sizes have been tweaked.  The amounts may be small, but it’s annoying.  When your dinner recipe requires 2 cups of packaged something (16 oz), you’ll have to make due with 14.5 oz.  My favorite brand of OJ, “Simply Orange” – no longer contains “simply” a half-gallon.  No, the package now says: 1 quart, 1 pint, 11 fluid ounces.  What mental and visual noise!  My favorite pound package of coffee stepped down to 14.5 ounces, and then to 11.5.  Where will it stop?  I might as well leave my money on the shelf and walk away.  It feels like the net effect is the same.

Notice that no one is messing with milk.  It still comes in quarts, half-gallons, and gallons.  (Doesn’t that sound good?) Hurray for one piece of sanity!  It was probably too risky for milk distributors to go head-to-head with moms everywhere on something so basic.

The most disturbing part of all this to me is the sense that we are being duped.  Sometimes these changes occur with distracting new information about the product.  That makes me feel like I am the victim of an illusionist.  But wait – I haven’t paid my money to be entertained by an illusion.  I’ve paid to purchase a PRODUCT.  And I’d like the full amount of my product, please.

I’m surprised that Scott Tissue didn’t decide to accentuate the positive in narrowing their TP roll.  Can’t you see the ad campaign:  “Now, in new injury-reducing format!”  Yes, let’s get happy about that, and forget about the extra cash leaving our wallets.

Sometimes I just want to make a little noise about all this.  ‘Anybody with me?

What’s the point?  Let’s be smart consumers.  If your favorite brand is doing something you don’t like… switch!  Or let them know.  Rumor has it that talking to the right folks about their incredible shrinking products could yield you some cash-saving coupons.  That’s something, I guess.

Branding – Not just for first-timers [archive]

Posted By:
Tate Linden 

Even though we spend most of or time working with mid- to large-sized companies, we also work with many startups and small businesses. We’ve been asked a few times about whether or not the big-boys have to go through the same issues as the startups. Our answer: Yes. They go through all the hoops the startups do, and then they add more to address the existing brand identity, changes in the marketplace, changes in corporate policiy, and more.

This leads to two additional lines of questioning. First, why would a company ever need to go through branding after the first time? And second, does this mean that my company is going to have to do this whole thing again?

First part – Companies are rebranding every day, and most of ’em do it unintentionally. The ones that rebrand with intent are responding to changes in the market (like how KFC has over the last decades gone from a company that focused on Fried as a key part of their brand to one that never really mentions that their chicken is boiled in oil – until recently when they mentioned that it is boiled in oil, but that the oil is healthy.) So a change in the marketplace – like the public awareness of the unhealthiness of partially hydrogenated oils – can result in two rebrands, not just one. (The first was the name change, the second is the recent change in oils.) One wonders if a third rebrand will occur if they find a way to make fried food healthier than baked.

Companies intentionally rebrand to keep their brands current. This doesn’t mean they reinvent themselves completely – they usually just steer their brand to ensure that they still own the position in the market that was intended. An edgy brand must continually redefine what “edgy” is if they wish to be seen as on that edge. If they don’t then they’ll soon be seen as boring, staid, or dated. (On second thought, this might not be a great example – since staying on the edge may be a part of the original brand. Better, perhaps, would be a reevaluation of the effectiveness of staying on the edge.)

Unintentional rebranding is usually not good, but happens more often than intentional rebranding. Small companies often do this after they go through their initial branding process. They establish themselves as one thing when they launch, but don’t stay on message. Rather than being the best at what they do they lose control of their brand and become whatever will help them make the sale in the near term. This results in companies that start as vintage clothing stores specializing in 1960s apparel becoming generic used clothing stores, and then adding in a section of brand new mass-market imitation vintage clothes, and then a section with just regular new clothes. Even though it wasn’t a formal process the end result is a new brand… but one that doesn’t serve any real purpose. For an example, look at what Amazon.com has gone through in the last decade. They went from being the undisputed answer to the question “Where do I buy books online?” to being one of thousands of places that expect you to search for anything you could ever need. Along the way they went through selling just books, to books and music, to books, music, and retail items, to books, music, retail items, and used stuff, to books, music, retail items, used stuff, and services, to… well… everything. I certainly hope this wasn’t an intentional rebranding – because if it was it wasn’t very well thought out. Even Wal*Mart doesn’t sell everything (you can’t get industrial computer consultants from the big W.) How can you create a brand that encompasses every other brand on the planet? I suppose Amazon.com will let us know when they get there.

Enough companies rebrand every year to support a competition on the matter. Check out Rebrand – an organization that rewards the top 100 rebranding efforts of the year. You will note thatAmazon isn’t on their lists.

As for the second line of questioning: Is your company going to have to rebrand? If you wish to survive you must adapt. If you want to excel rather than just survive you need to anticipate adaptation. You need to be ready for it. So we suggest that you always keep your brand in mind and measure the effectiveness of your core identity. Every three to six months you should revisit your core to ensure that not only are you still living by the standard, you’re also following a standard that is still relevant.

When should you consider a rebrand? When your existing brand no longer has the impact or relevancy that it did when it was successful. That could be six months after you launch your company (if you didn’t correctly identify market trends) or fifty years later. The key is to be aware of the effectiveness of your brand and to be prepared to revisit it before your brand has lost its goodwill in the marketplace.

We’ll talk another time about how rebranding can be done without destroying the values and purpose of the company founders – and when it might be desirable to take the extreme step to just do a rip-and-replace and start over again.

See the original post

Happenings in advertising, branding and design


Amazon launched Kindle Textbook Rental (via Tech Crunch)

Have you heard the “Amazing Harry Potter Song“? (via Ad Week)

This Pantone campaign for Renfe, the railway company owned by the Spanish government, won a Silver Press Lion at Cannes 2011. (via The Inspiration Room)

Awesome Rube Goldberg inspired photography machine video. The real question is how long it took to actually create this video… (via The Inspiration Room)

Stephan Zirwes‘ aerial photography shows the real beauty of scale, pattern, grids, colour, texture and drama. (via Form Fifty Five)

Google growing like a weed indeed: “Hitwise Estimates Google+ Got 1.8 Million Visits Last Week And Grew 283 Percent”  (via Tech Crunch)

SavePaste, the collapsible toothpaste – never waste another drop of toothpaste. (via Fast Co. Design)

The All Day Everyday Project: ‎”Never stop learning.” Great personal project by German designer Hannes Beer featuring lots of great typography and inspiring quotes. (via How Design)

Apparently Brand New got a few calls this week of people wanting things back, like the “Internet, it wants its Hexagons Back” and apparently “Herb Lubalin called also and he wants his Typography Back” (via Brand New)

Gastrovet: Angry birds are now invading the world of advertising too… (via Ads of the World)

Apple Does Away With the MacBook (via Mashable)

Twitter TownHall “Reveals That GOP ‘Debates’ Require No More Than 140 Characters”  (via Fast Company)

Meet Your Newest Old Spice Guy: Fabio (Yes, That Fabio)  (via Ad Week)

Leeds-based Thompson Brand Partners has created a new identity for the UK’s National Railway Museum, the largest rail museum in the world (via Creative Review)


Happenings in advertising, branding and design

Finding The Common Link: Commonred Wants To Take The Awkward Out Of Networking (via TechCrunch)

Why Silicon Valley Can’t Sell Or, why luring big brands to platforms is its next big problem (via AdWeek)

Listen Up, Morons. Kenny Powers Is Now the CEO of K-Swiss (via AdWeek)

Levis new campaign: Go Forth in Berlin, includes street murals, a screen printing workshop, and a limited edition newspaper. (via The Inspiration Room)

Splashy Museum:  The National Maritime Museum (NMN) in Greenwich, England, one of the largest museums in the world on this theme and one of the most popular attractions in the UK, unveils a new brand. (via Brand New)

Supradyn for Challenged Eyes: “Without energy everything feels harder.” Campaign for Supradyn vitamin tablets won Silver Press Lion @ Cannes Int. Festival of Creativity. (via The Inspiration Room)

Bitmaps are so 2011: the internets were abuzz with mixed reviews about the new TechCrunch logo. How do you all feel about the new bitmap-inspired logo? (via Brand New)

SunSmart Cancer Council Western Australia: Clever interactive advertising giving out free 30+ sunscreen – “Cutting your sun exposure is easier than cutting out a skin cancer.” (via Ads of the World)

Dear Netflix, no thanks. (via make the logo bigger)

Breath Bird: New Twitter Client Lets Handicapped Users Tweet With Their Breath (via TechCrunch)

Mighty Artline Alters The Everyday: campaign for Mighty Artline: “Out of awareness comes change. The campaign is there to provoke thought, and show how a few strokes of the right Artline pen can lead to powerful expression, and ultimately change. Philosophical and deep indeed. The owls are not what they seem.” (via The Inspiration Room)

Simplicity wins yet again: Great campaign for Pasaka Cinema Theater. (via Ads of the World)

Happenings in advertising, branding and design


Adopt Design Practices into the Research Process: Our learning styles have immediate implications for visual communication and give us insight into the needs of end users. (via HOW Design)

Bing’s Decode with Jay-Z campaign, launched in 2010, was recognized with Gold at the One Show held in New York this last week. (via The Inspiration Room)

The children’s book “Go the F*** to Sleep” hit the No. 1 spot on Amazon.com’s best-seller list. (via Fast Co. Design)

The TEDx Buenos Aires, held in March 2011, was promoted in the streets by 50 taxi drivers (via The Inspiration Room)

30 Crazy Japanese Ads Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and yeah, that’s pretty much all you need to know… (via AdWeek)

Kickstarter’s Biggest Success Ever: Nano Wristbands Raise $1M, Jump To Apple Store (via Fast Co. Design)

Netflix Now The Largest Single Source of Internet Traffic In North America (via Tech Crunch)

Like a Virgin: The transformation process away from budget and towards a “full-service” airline and a rename to Virgin Australia. (via Brand New)

Sexy Underwear and Other Russian Beverage-Can Designs. Yes, really! (via AdWeek)

Tjareborg: Sunprime resorts are for adults only – Sure a lot of people wish they could just “cut out” their kids for a few days and relax…(via Ads of the World)

We agree, the weird Cadbury’s dancing monks are a total embarrassment (via AdWeek)

McDonalds Burger Roulette: an app that helps you find the right burger for your mouth? What is this world coming to… (via The Inspiration Room)

The AD Agency Bloodline – see how the “giants” of today came to be (via Luminurture)


Happenings in advertising, branding and design

A brief summary of (what we think are) note-worthy events happening in advertising, branding, brand strategy, design, marketing and technology for the week of 05/02 – 05/06.

How The Attack On Osama Bin Laden Was Live-Tweeted (via Fast Co. Design) – LINK!

Live To See Bin Laden Caught (via The Inspiration Room) – LINK!

The Human “Million Dollar Home Page” (via Ad La) – LINK!

Frog Loses Battle to Speech Bubbles (via Brand New) – LINK!

TV2 Farmen: Farmers (via I believe in advertising) – LINK!

Happy Birthday @thingnamer… (via Stokefire)- LINK!

Obama ‘Situation Room’ Photo Is Already Half Way To Becoming Flickr’s Most Viewed Pic (via TechCrunch) – LINK!

F*ck You. Pay Me: Getting Comfortable With Contracts [Video] (via PSFK) – LINK!

Platform helps brands find & thank their biggest online fans (via Springwise) – LINK!

Volkswagen Polo Makes a Great Beat-Boxing Partner (via AdWeek) – LINK!

Ndamukong Suh Motors Through Portland In A New Chrysler 300 (via AdPulp ) – LINK!

When April Shouldn’t Be Fooled.

Posted by:
Tate Linden

I’m all for humor in the workplace, and even shared publicly on behalf of organizations like Google, YouTube (which is basically also Google,) Starbucks (the unofficial fuel of Googlers), Toshiba (also, somehow related to Google, if we cared to keep up this farce,) and other upstanding brands.

People send around the best of the best and just about everyone loves it.

But what makes an organizational April Fools prank great for the organization is completely different than what makes it great as a prank. We like the prank aspect because it makes us laugh or it catches us off guard. Or maybe because it made someone other than ourselves look like an idiot.

Organizations both serious and playful can find successful ways to use April Fools to show what is important to them. Starbucks’ creating the drive-by coffee service shows that they understand what we want from them in an ideal world. It actually moves the brand forward. Toshiba having a 3-d monocle embraces the absurd levels to which technophiles will go (even when what they want is something that is[?] an impossibility.)

Much like great advertising, great organizational pranks should reinforce what is central to the brand. For Starbucks? Service is spot on. For Toshiba it’s unbelievably advanced technology. But what about something like our armed services? How does one play a prank that advances the brand of the “…group of rough men [and women] who stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.” ? (And yes, I do know that Winston wasn’t talking about ours, but still.)

Maybe it’s possible… But why would they try to do it?

Seems like the reason is to show that the brand is in touch with today’s potential recruits. If the military can show it’s cool enough to make fun of itself then maybe it can appeal to more of the young men and women who could potentially enlist. It’s PR that enhances recruiting. It gets the Army’s brand mentioned and distributed by and for the very people that the recruiters want to reach! Cool!

So why would anyone think that this is anything but brilliance? We’ve got thousands of recruiting candidates that were reminded of the Army when otherwise they’d just be thinking about pranks and playing Angry Birds on their smart phones!

Because it’s wrong.

And not just because we expect our rough men (and women) to be serious and proud. I’m pretty sure we all acknowledge that the people who protect us need to blow off steam on occasion. (Though I can imagine a few congressmen hypothetically railing against this “despicable waste of taxpayer money” as an example of what’s wrong with our government and armed forces today.)

What’s wrong is that the Army has, in an effort to attract recruits, diminished its own brand.

“The Army’s mission is to fight and win our Nation’s wars by providing prompt, sustained land dominance across the full range of military operations and spectrum of conflict in support of combatant commanders.”

I see nothing about fashionable headwear. I see nothing about pranks. I see nothing about PR efforts.

I do see a critically important aspect of our national defense.

The problem with PR that goes for the quick sale (or in this case – quick recruiting bump) is that it usually sacrifices the long-term equity of the brand to make that happen. (See Groupon and Burger King for examples of Crispin+Porter doing just that.) In this case the Army has invested time and money to show that they’re funny and perhaps that they’re fashionable enough to know that their current headwear isn’t particularly cool. With a mission statement that is built around concepts like “fight,” “dominance,” and “conflict” this prank actually works against the brand.

Think our men and women in uniform are now going to fight more fiercely, or that our enemies will be more easily dominated? Think our citizens will now respect the Army more now that they’ve endorsed an actual company and given them preferential placement over competitors like Wrangler, American West, and Atwood?

Yeah. I know. It’s a joke. And everyone has a right to be playful once in a while. Or lots in a while. Whatever.

Defending our nation is not funny.

Other people are perfectly welcome to make fun of the Army brand. It’s part of who we are as a Nation. It is not, however a part of who the Army is to make fun of their own mission directly or indirectly.

That said… at least they didn’t say “Mission Accomplished.”

Subscribe to our newsletter »