Posts Tagged ‘branding’

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Designing the future.

March 1, 2011

Last week I had the privilege to sit down and talk creative strategy, critical thinking, and innovative ideas with two junior visual communications classes at the Herron School of Art.

A close friend of mine from high school, Professor Jeff Tzucker (wow, does that sound funny) invited me in to “critique” the work his and Marcia Stone’s students were presenting this week to their clients. They had all been separated into groups, “small agencies”, and were paired with real clients looking to re-brand, in some cases launch a brand, and get their message out.

I got a little of what I expected and a whole lot of the unexpected. I expected to see creativity in visual form. And I did. There was some serious eye candy. I expected to see some students fighting the internal struggles of what to do and how to do it. Check. And I expected to feel the fun and excitement of being back in a college setting. Check there too. I witnessed a Cheez-It run, a tub’o’animal crackers, and lots of amazingly cool style. I was thankful, unlike my college and fraternity experience I was not overcome by the smell of cheap whiskey and waffles. (That will be a blog for another time.)

What I didn’t expect to encounter was the unbelievable amount of strategic thinking and prepping before the designs were created. These students knew their intended audience, they understood their client and clients’ personalities, and they knew their creative vision would only be worth it’s salt…if it worked hard to achieve a measurable result.

This is an obvious reflection of Jeff and Marcia’s guidance but also that young, fresh, and curious mind working hard to discover, process, and digest information. It always seems that no matter how many times I step back in the classroom, I always leave feeling refreshed myself. And thankful that I have pursued a career in an industry that changes daily and critical and strategic thinking is a must.

The future is bright for our industry.  With young people like the ones at Herron, there will certainly be no shortage of ideas, innovation, and intelligence joining the creative landscape in the next couple of years.

“You see things; and say, “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and say, “Why not?”
George Bernard Shaw

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Content is king.

February 9, 2011

Being in the advertising and communications world, I often get asked by my family and friends what advertising I like the most and why. To me, it is much more than clever post work, a new technology, or a catchy jingle. And whether I am reading a blog, watching a TV spot (right who does that anymore), tweeting, or even looking at brand packaging on my favorite beverage, content is king.

This past Super Bowl is no exception. Sure I liked the Volkswagen Darth Vader spot and the Doritos finger licker, but for the most part, they all fell short. They weren’t clever, they didn’t make me think, laugh, or remotely want to buy what they are selling. And in the economic market we are still cruising through and the fact the world is moving more towards mobile and 140 characters or less thinking, I wanted short, sweet, and smart content.

With QR Codes, interactive video, and social media continuing to take its place in the communication du jour space, I am excited and a little concerned.

I don’t want to see effort ruined by poor writing, bad creative, and content best left in a trash can all because of the rush to try something new. Don’t excite me by putting a QR Code on your business card only to send me to your contact information…AGAIN. Don’t tease me with a great tweet and then drive me to a page that looks like I should be on a VIC-20 (young readers click the link, your flash drive has more memory.)

All in all the things we remember, enjoy, engage with, and ultimately own are because we made a connection with the content. There was something that stirred a response in us that made us take action.

What are some great or not-so-great examples you have seen recently?

 

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When one door closes, it’s good to have the master key to the rest of the house.

January 24, 2011

I had something happen to me for the first time in my life. I was given my walking papers due to re-structuring and re-focusing at work on November 30th. For more than twelve years in the ad agency business, I was always on the other side and learned early about survivor’s guilt, making myself marketable, and staying grounded, driven, and positive.

And yet this time it got me. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally. I am not embarrassed or ashamed I was let go. I’d like to think my ego hasn’t grown so much that I can’t admit the truth. I simply didn’t have a specific PR foundation and background to warrant keeping a tenured advertising guy on staff. Kudos to my former boss for recognizing he and his agency needed to change and get back to their roots. I also appreciate the way in which I was let go. They did some things for me they didn’t have to and that took the stress out of these past seven weeks, especially over the holidays.

And in there lies the one thing they didn’t intend to give me, that was the greatest gift.

I spent more than six weeks at home with my two kids, my wife when she wasn’t at work, and friends and family, all over the holiday season.

I danced with my daughter in her room to songs we didn’t know, I was there to ride through the sleepless nights as my son got his first two teeth, I was able to help be Santa with my wife, and I grew an even deeper appreciation for the countless friends and family who reached out to me with support.

And now I am happily part of the team at The Momentum Group, a small, very cool shop in Broad Ripple doing some amazing things in the branding, digital, social, and traditional advertising space. I have certainly found a home.

So as I look back on my career already, one thing always rides true. No matter what, under any circumstances, sell yourself short by changing who you are, how you conduct yourself, and not treating others with respect. Because as I have just found out, sometimes the unexpected can turn into the greatest gift.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
Maria Robinson


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How about a little customer service?

November 30, 2010

Working in the communications field for more than a decade, there are a couple of questions we always get asked. Can you make the logo bigger? What is my ROI? I don’t have a budget, how much will it cost? Is this going to work? And the list goes on and on.

All of those questions are legitimate (ok the logo one is a bit tiresome) but no matter what the answer is, it all comes back to what kind of experience your customers are having that makes them want to buy more.

You could make the best tacos on the planet but when you treat your customers like an irritation, you might as well be spitting in their guacamole.

All the time, effort, money, and strategies put into market research, development, and product launches means nothing when your customers feel slighted. I am a big fan of Nordstrom. I like their store offerings but more importantly I like the way I am treated when I am there. People actually look and then act like they want to help. I’ll even take it a step farther and say that they want to work with people. Wow, what a concept.

It always makes me laugh (after I have cursed like an Irish Hurling Captain – great sport by the way) when people working registers, serving tables, or in an actual “customer service department” roll their eyes in disgust when a paying customer, with a lot of choices, comes into their sacred territory. Here is an idea, work the stockroom, wash dishes, or stay at home typing online ads for money. You are not only saying a lot about yourself, but also ruining the culture of those around you and the integrity of your company’s brand.

So as we shop, eat, and drink our way through another holiday season, take a look around and start to really see who gets it. I already have a couple of places that I won’t be visiting again.

What good or bad customer experiences have you already had this holiday season?

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The era of disposable content

August 4, 2010

Years ago I would have cringed at the thought of spending, time, and money on any communications tool, tactic, or strategy that would literally be old news within a day.

But here I sit, engaged, enlightened, and excited about the development and acceptance of disposable content, specifically video. Right now video has gone from high production, high dollars to hi res, low budget and yet more impact. Video has simply become more accessible.

How? Why? Because when done right, it still delivers your message to an audience with moving pictures, audio, and post-production quality that pulls people into an emotional, instructional, or informational story. And when used on websites, social media, or mobile devices, short hits of purposeful video can be a very powerful tool.

What is the other key to the above scenario? People are accustomed to seeing change frequently and are more locked in on the message than if your video was shot by a crew of 15 rather than two young guys on a mission and a vision. Plus my cell phone takes better pics and videos than my first digital camera and camcorder.

So put your message in motion and reap the rewards.

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What I learned from LeBron

July 9, 2010

First let me start by saying I believe everyone is entitled to switch careers, positions, companies, etc., depending on their needs and wants. Athletes shouldn’t be any different. However the way in which we do things is important.

As much fun as it would be to have our industry reflect the professional sports world, thankfully it doesn’t. I wasn’t courted as a sophomore Ball State student by the biggest agencies in the US to come out early and sign on with millions of dollars to bring my talents. I didn’t come to Hetrick from my previous employer because I felt I could add more Addy’s to the trophy case. And last week after I wrote a strategic brief and was walking to lunch downtown I wasn’t flooded by people telling me, “I am a HUGE fan. The way you articulated the client’s point of difference and audience segmentation was sick.” (Ok, I did buy the intern lunch for saying that in a crowd of people.)

My point is, I will never know what it is like to piss a whole city off (at least I hope not) or have the stress of millions of expectations set upon me from people I will never meet. But what I do know is that my reputation or  “brand” if you will, would take such a huge hit from showing such an arrogant, selfish, and narcissistic approach to leaving a current employer that I would have a hard time finding work again.

We all have reasons for why we leave. Some sound or feel more noble possibly, but either way the way we treat people, show respect, and hold ourselves accountable for moving forward is every bit as important as the work we leave behind.

So “King” Lebron, let’s see if karma hits you where it hurts. And let’s also see if the King moniker has an odd effect much like Elvis and Michael. I guess if LeBron has an amusement park in Miami and starts putting peanut butter on his Cuban sandwiches we’ll know.

What do you all think?