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Archive for June, 2007


It’s Friday and I have a ton of things to do before the weekend hits… but I didn’t want to finish out the week before posting one more little bit of marketing goodness. John Moore – over at Brand Autopsy – gave me exactly what I was looking for, and it’s this:

“Astonish employees and they will, in turn, astonish customers.”

Simple enough, right? (So how come so many companies only remember to do something for their employees around Christmas time, or when they’ve had a decent quarter?)

We aren’t talking about a $25 gift certificate to Blockbuster, or your choice of a company pen, T-shirt or flashlight.

The term John used is “astonish,” which implies a little more effort and attention than just giving your employees an empty token of “gratitude” that is as bland as it is… kind of insulting.

Note to all department managers: If you’re going to reward your staff with T-shirts, make them the types of T-shirts that you want your employees to actually get excited about. (Hire a hot local graphic designer to design something unique or fun or cool . It’s cheaper than you think.)

But enough about T-shirts. We’re talking about “astonishing” your employees – not merley giving them a perfunctory nod, which is exactly what the folks at Macintosh did recently when they surprised all of their US employees with a brand new iPhone.

In John’s words:

“Giving every full-time employee a $600 (retail value) iPhone is an astonishing act that will only help to feed the already vibrant evangelical corporate culture within Apple. (…)At Starbucks, we would also spend marketing money on employees. We knew if we could get Baristas jazzed, they would get customers jazzed.”

Think back to an experience you’ve had recently (or not so recently) when you walked into a store or dealt with someone who was absolutely in love with either their job or the company they worked for. How was your perception of that company affected by their enthusiasm? (How likely were you after that experience to a) recommend that business to friends and peers, and b) do business with that company again?)

Now think back to your last experience with a bored, apathetic grocery store cashier, or with an unqualified telephone customer service rep, or with a passive-aggressive waitress who REALLY needs a vacation. How different might your perception of that company be? How likely is it that you will make that business your first choice? How likely is it that you will speak well of this business and recommend it to friends?

All things being equal: Pricepoint, quality of the work or food or product, product performance, cool packaging, etc. – the quality of the experience surrounding human touch-points becomes primordial.

Two average grocery stores can have a radically different image or reputation based SOLELY on the way their employees behave. The same is true with any business in which people (employees) interact with other people (customers): Restaurants, banks, retail establishments, medical offices, auto mechanics shops, etc.

Employee behavior can be radically impacted by their managers’ positive or negative treatment.

Therefore, customer experience can be radically impacted by the way a company treats its employees:

Average treatment of employees = average customer experience.

Good treatment of employees = good customer experience.

Great treatment of employees = great customer experience.

… And so on.

So rather than tossing the occasional cheapo bone to your employees to maintain morale (or whatever,) start thinking of ways that you might make them feel special. Think of ways of rewarding them, or of saying “thank you,” or making them feel truly appreciated that kind of… well, stand out. Get them jazzed about working for you. Make them feel proud and excited and vibrant.

Every once and again, make them feel that they aren’t just easily replaced pawns.

Make them realize that you truly understand their value to the success of the brand they help shape in the public’s eye every single day.

The way you treat your employees is the way your customers will be treated.

Have a great weekend, everyone. ;)

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Guy Kawasaki spent some time with The Myths Of Innovation and The Art of Project Management author Scott Berkun, recently, and the highlights of the conversation they had can be found on Guy’s blog. Below are a few pertinent textbites.

Perhaps you’re a project manager, designer, or a creative working for an organization that may not always understand the value of original ideas – or may not be willing to accept the risks that come with being a market/industry leader. Perhaps you are a manager or department leader in charge of a few very creative people but don’t always know how to hold on to them, or how to recruit them. Or perhaps you are a business leader who understands the power of innovation but doesn’t know how to foster a culture of innovation within your organization. Either way, Scott is probably someone you should spend time with. (I’m sure he’ll let you buy him a beer, but reading his books will be a good start.)

Here a good place to start:


Guy: Where do inventors and innovators get their ideas?

Scott: I teach a creative thinking course at the University of Washington, and the foundation is that ideas are combinations of other ideas. People who earn the label “creative” are really just people who come up with more combinations of ideas, find interesting ones faster, and are willing to try them out. The problem is most schools and organizations train us out of the habits.

Guy: What the toughest challenge that an innovator faces?

Scott: It’s different for every innovator, but the one that crushes many is how bored the rest of the world was by their ideas. Finding support, whether emotional, financial, or intellectual, for a big new idea is very hard and depends on skills that have nothing to do with intellectual prowess or creative ability. That’s a killer for many would-be geniuses: they have to spend way more time persuading and convincing others as they do inventing, and they don’t have the skills or emotional endurance for it.

Guy: Why do innovators face such rejection and negativity?

Scott: It’s human nature—we protect ourselves from change. We like to think we’re progressive, but every wave of innovation has been much slower than we’re told. The telegraph, the telephone, the PC, and the internet all took decades to develop from ideas into things ordinary people used. As a species we’re threatened by change and it takes a long time to convince people to change their behavior, or part with their money.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Have a great Thursday, everyone. ;)

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Today is Tony’s last day in office.

I always thought he looked a whole lot like Kevin Costner.

Maybe Tony wasn’t perfect, but he brought a lot of energy, cool and class to Downing Street, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

Tony, you’ll be sorely missed. :)

BBC coverage

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This, from AdPulp‘s David Burn:

“Scott Donaton, Publisher of Advertising Age, wanted sparks to fly from the panel he moderated in Cannes last week. Instead, he could barely muster enough smoke to smudge an industry wallowing in denial.

‘Here’s what we learned at the high-powered Cannes Debate panel on agency reinvention, which I moderated during last week’s International Advertising Festival: next to nothing.

‘Here’s what that means: The ad business has a bigger problem than it realizes. Because its leaders refuse to share real learnings and best practices, or to discuss the frustrations they face in reinventing their legacy businesses, there’s little chance of harnessing their collective wisdom to benefit the industry. Which means each player within it has to keep trying to figure it out on their own. That’s a shame.’

I can’t help but smile at this scenario. We work in an industry dedicated to passing off utter bullshit as something wholesome and worthy of the customer’s time. Then we go to fancy gatherings in France to celebrate our best bullshit from the preceeding year. Meanwhile the emperor stands alone and naked. Personlly, I’m glad. The brave and the few will move forward from this low point and create better work. As it should be. As for the rest, who really cares?”
Pow. Which raises a pretty serious question I find myself asking on a quasi-daily basis: How do you change a culture (within a company or an entire industry) that a) doesn’t want to change, or b) knows it should change but isn’t willing to actually do what it takes to make it happen?
I am reminded of the old saying: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”
*sigh*

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FYI: There’s a cool little e-book for all of you design addicts out there: “Thought Leadership By Design,” by Nate Burgos. It’s a great compilation of quotations about design, so you can easily infect yourself – or others – with some design-inspired insights. Good stuff. Here are some sample bits and pieces from the book:
“When it comes to innovation, business has much to learn from
design. The philosophy in design shops is ‘try it, prototype it, and improve
it.’ Designers learn by doing. The style of thinking in traditional firms is
largely inductive – proving that something actually operates – and deductive -
proving that something must be. Design shops add abductive reasoning to
the fray – which involves suggesting that something may be, and
reaching out to explore it.”
– Roger Martin
“Now, where I believe ‘user experience’ is still valuable
is indescribing an emergent quality of product development. A product or
service can have good or bad user experience. But it’s foolish to
think that the user experience can be owned by any one group in an
organization – it’s a result of of the accumulation of actions taken by an
organization.”
– Peter Merholtz
User-Centered Design means understanding what your users
need, how they think, and how they behave – and incorporating that understanding
into every aspect of your process.”
– Jesse James Garrett
Have a great Tuesday, everyone. ;)

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The idea flower


Brilliant graphic put together by the folks over at Logic+Emotion. Check out the full post here.

Personally, I would have represented the customers family as the rain and sunshine rather than part of the root, but other than that, I like the concept a whole lot. Nicely done.

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Today’s brilliant quote comes from Mr. Bob Dylan, via the meme huffer blog:

“Don’t be afraid not to follow the herd – because where the herd’s gone, the food is already eaten.”

Double-negatives aside, Bob is right: Following the herd is just about the least profitable business model in existence… Yet, sadly, it is by far the most common.

We touched on this concept in the “The Brand Erosion Spiral of Doom” a couple of days ago: Waiting for your competitors to come up with the great ideas and then getting onboard is not a good way to build a strong brand for yourself, or capture much market share.

If you aren’t already finding your own lush pastures, maybe it’s time you stopped settling for someone else’s scraps. Do something different. Take chances every once in a while. Innovate. Put original ideas into action. Try something new. Do something.

Get there first – or at least be among the first.

Life is too short – and green pastures are in far too short supply – for anyone, you included, to waste your time following the herd. It might seem like the safe thing to do, but trust me: It’s a hard living, fighting over someone else’s scraps, and in the long term, there’s absolutely no future in it.

None.

Unless you like going hungry.

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Via the SwampFox Insights blog:

“The majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%.”

—Dr. Paul Polak, International Development Enterprises

The man has a point.

Check out this brilliant website.

A lot of people don’t think of “design” as being all that important, because our daily interactions with “design” are limited to gadgets like the iPod or the latest pair of Oakley sunglasses, or maybe a faucet or something. Maybe we think of design when it comes to cars and clothes and furniture. But smart design can also save thousands of lives every day. Yes, something as seemingly superfluous as “design” can change the world. (Starting with the first tool, taking a detour via the wheel, and fast-forwarding to the millions of things we now take for granted, like the plasma TV, the hybrid automobile, the artificial heart, and even the ubiquitous bottle of Coca Cola.

If you aren’t the humanitarian type and couldn’t care less about saving lives, bear in mind that design can also create entirely new markets. (We just talked about getting there before the herd, so your ears should be perking up just about now.)

How can smart design can create new markets? According to this recent article in the New York Times entitled “Design That Solves Problems for the World’s Poor” (annoying subscription required):

“A billion customers in the world, are waiting for a $2 pair of eyeglasses, a $10 solar lantern and a $100 house.”

For starters.

That’s something to think about. Not in terms of exploitation, but in terms of wealth and opportunity creation. (The development of the easy-to-use, virtually crunch-proof windup $100 laptop – specifically designed to introduce computers and the internet to 3rd world children – is probably among the most ambitious of these types of endeavors, but also a great example of how we can start to create opportunity in regions of the world in which mere survival is still the order of the day.)

While everyone else is trying to appeal to the richest 10%, maybe, just maybe, the real opportunities are elsewhere. Maybe the time to get into these markets is before they even exist. The seeds are being planted now. The herd is starting to gather. Maybe by the time the market exists and the pastures are green and lush, you’ll find yourself in the back again. Maybe you’ll kick yourself in the butt for not having made a move sooner. (History repeats itself.)

What if you could create one of the most lucrative companies of the 21st century AND save tens of thousands of lives at the same time? What if you really could be enormously successful AND help save the world all in one fell swoop? What if you could have your cake and eat it too?

Don’t even approach the problem from a humanitarian standpoint if you don’t want to. Approach it from a business standpoint. Here’s the problem you need to solve: 90% of the planet’s population wants something that they probably can’t get very easily. All you have to do is figure out what that is, how much they’re willing to pay for it, and how to get it to them. It could be a mode of transportation. It could be a light source. It could be a sanitary product. It could be food. It could be a garment. It could be knowledge. It could be something as simple as a tougher bicycle wheel. It could be anything.

There is no single answer. There are probably thousands upon thousands. And that’s exciting.

Whatever it is, it could also have applications right here, where the richest 10% of the world population lives and eats and shops 24/7/365.

It might even be a better option than trying to become the next Google.

Food for thought.

So… what are you working on right now?

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Every company I’ve ever worked with (or for) that shifted its focus from innovation and market leadership to playing it safe and letting their competitors take chances with new technologies, designs or business endeavors saw their brands erode faster than beach-front property in a hurricane.

The pattern is always the same:

1) Decide that innovation is too risky or costly or time-consuming.
2) Settle into a reactive – follow-the-leader – mode. Let other companies innovate and test the market for you.
3) Find yourself playing catch-up (get used to being 6-18 months behind the market leaders for all product releases and rolling out new services). Lose relevance.
4) Within two years, watch your sales drop, your contract renewals crumble, and your margins erode.
5) Realize that the most direct effect of brand erosion is finding yourself having to compete at lower pricepoints (i.e. against those pesky asian imports).
5) Start discounting products and services to compete against second and third-tiered “competitors” you never had to worry about before.
6) To reduce costs, part ways with your best vendors and settle for cheaper ones.
7) Outsource manufacturing and/or other business functions – like customer service – to a lower bidder (usually overseas somewhere).
8) Start having to deal with lower and/or inconsistent quality: More returns, more complaints, increased costs of doing business – further margin erosion.
9) Start having to deal with inconsistent deliveries, back-orders, etc.
10) Erosion in customer satisfaction = erosion in customer referrals = erosion in customer retention.
11) Increase advertising and PR budget to counterbalance negative image and try to regain market share.
12) End up spending more on useless Marketing and PR than on actually building a better company.
13) After a few years of steady brand erosion, get suckered into spending tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to update your logo and tagline in an effort to re-brand yourself.

And so on, and so forth. The pattern is ALWAYS the same.


So… be careful. Don’t assume that innovation and great ideas are too expensive to develop or to complicated to put into action. That kind of thinking is not an option. Don’t settle for being reactive when you should be proactive. Don’t just hire people who will manage workloads: Hire people who will give you an edge over the rest of your industry. Change your mindset. Redefine your purpose.

Drive your company’s evolution – Not next week or next quarter, or next year, but today. With your next project meeting. With your next marketing campaign. With your next design. With your next hire.

It isn’t all that hard. It starts with the decision to just be better.

So just be better.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone. ;)

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From the Brains On Fire blog:

It’s a question we get asked a lot, “Do you have experience working with (fill in the blank)?” Banks or the automotive industry or restaurants or whatever. And I’m not saying it’s a bad question to ask. But I think how creative companies handle the answer is the important part.

As a company, we’ve been around for more than two decades, closing in on three. And in that time, we’ve worked with many, many different companies in many, many different industries and because of that, we have more experience in some industries than others. But I would argue that in some cases, not having any experience in a particular industry can actually be an asset. That’s right, it can be a good thing.

Often you’ll find that after a while, creative companies that specialize in one particular industry stop questioning everything. They think they already have the answers after just a glance. And, even worse, all of their work starts to look the same. I’ve seen this happen with creative companies that specialize in higher education and motor sports, to name a few.

The downside of not having experience is that you have to learn a lot. Nuances. Industry celebs and personalities. The ins-and-outs.

The upside, though, is that you get to approach this new world with a child-like innocence. There are no preconceived notions. No biases. You get to question everything, especially the “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” answers. And as an identity company, we consider this to be a good thing. A great thing, as a matter of fact.

So don’t let the experience question make you stumble. While a lot of people are afraid of it, you can actually use it to your advantage…and then you just have to deliver on it.

I couldn’t agree more.

I have noticed recently that some of the local “marketing” firms (some design websites, others develop collateral like brochures and catalogs… and some do both) have begun to “specialize” in certain areas. Real Estate, for example. It’s actually getting to the point where everything – from layouts to photography to fonts – is indistinguishable from one development to the next, and from one firm to the next, for that matter.

Nothing stands out anymore.

None of the work is all that enticing… which means that the clients aren’t getting their money’s worth.

The work may be pretty in some cases, and the photography may be pretty fly, but it’s all starting to look and feel like copies of copies of copies of copies of copies.

It’s all become very cookie-cutter.

And I can imagine what kinds of conversations are going on between these firms and their clients:

Client: “Hey (firm), can you put something together for (project XYZ)? Just do the same thing you did last time, only… you know. Different. But not too different.”

Great. Change the color scheme, throw in some new photography and architectural art, tweak the bullet points, and voila.

The automotive “experts” are just as bad. Every piece designed for a car dealership looks like the hundreds that came before it. Don’t even get me started on grocery stores, restaurants, and most retailers.

Because they’ve done it hundreds of times before, and for dozens of clients, they become specialists in “real estate marketing” or “grocery store marketing” or whatever. And their stuff sucks. It’s stale. It’s beyond derivative.

And that makes it grossly ineffective.

Still, the reflex for many companies is to continue to call upon these firms to produce yet another bland and forgettable campaign. Why? Because they market themselves as having a lot of experience in a specific industry, the logical conclusion to be drawn is that because of that specific experience, they are the most qualified to get the best results. That is the sort of flawed logic that gets businesses in trouble.

To be fair, I see the death of creativity in my own work when I get sucked into a particular niche for too long: There are only so many triathlon/cycling/running-related clients I can work with before the work I put out all starts to look or feel or sound the same. It isn’t an issue of talent or lack thereof. It’s an issue of inspiration and curiosity and freshness. Just like a financial portfolio, a Marketer’s creative portfolio must be as diversified as possible in order to be remain effective.

As a marketer or a creative, if your job is to help people discover a product or a brand, you have to go through the process of discovery yourself. The excitement of this discovery has to be fresh in your mind. You have to come from a position of relative ignorance in order to be able to ask the right questions. (The questions that someone who lives in that world or industry hasn’t thought to ask in years, if ever.) If you spend too much time hanging out in the same place, your creativity becomes stagnant. You start to run out of ideas. Your work starts looking bland.

Creating great work for clients can’t just be a business process: Fill in the blanks. Select color & font. Plug in images. Print. It shouldn’t feel routine. Ever.

On our end (F360), the last thing we want is to land another gym or personal trainer. We already have several on our client list, and we value the work we do for them way too much to start gravitating towards a specialization in that market. The same goes with sports apparel, business services, and medical offices. (But hey, we’re still relatively innocent and fresh when it comes to banks and restaurants, so feel free to bring it on next month when we open the books again and start taking on new projects and clients!) ;D

The point is that as young and small as we are as a company, we already understand that our value to our clients comes from our ability to approach every project with fresh ideas. Specialization would be the death of us, as it is the death of great creative work for any agency, firm or studio. I’m not sure why so many firms haven’t really figured that out. (Maybe it’s because there seems to be an endless supply of businesses out there that don’t know any better and fall into the “market specialist” trap.)

Know-how and the ability to do do the same thing over and over and over again with a consistent level of performance is great if you’re assembling widgets in a production plant, or if you’re processing insurance claims. It’s also great if you’re a cashier at Wal-Mart or a bean counter on a farm or an auto mechanic or maybe even a cosmetic surgeon. It isn’t so great when your job is to help your client stand out and be noticed. When your job is to help them get curb appeal, or sex appeal, or whatever kind of appeal. Why? Because when the quality and effectiveness of your work depend on your ability to continually re-invent both your visual style and your copywriting style in order to enhance the way that your clients interact with the public, you cannot get sucked into a cycle of derivative repetition.

It doesn’t really matter how many brochures for hotels or hospitals or car dealerships, or home builders you’ve designed. If that is primarily what you do, if that is primarily what you have been doing for the last few years, you’re already on auto-pilot. You are simply serving the same dish over and over again to a different clientelle. It may have been the best dish in the world once, but now that everyone’s had a taste, it’s as good as dead.

And there is absolutely no value in that. None. Zip. Nada.

And shame on your clients for not knowing any better.

When it comes to businesses whose job it is to develop effective creative, what you want them to specialize in isn’t your industry or business. What you want them to specialize in is asking the right questions. Having the ability to immerse themselves into your world. Quickly understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are. Translating what makes you unique and relevant into ideas and campaigns that will actually generate business for you. And doing so with panache and skill, and razor-sharp precision.

Trust me when I tell you that the last thing you need is a brochure or catalog or website that is almost indistinguishable from your competitors’.

That should be a no-brainer, but not everyone gets it.

I guess maybe the reason why this post may have turned into a rant is that seeing bad print ads, boring catalogs and poorly designed websites makes me sad. No… it makes me angry. Well… both. And here’s why:

I just went into a fantastic restaurant last week and finally discovered how great it was. I mean… I LOVE it. The food, the service, the setting – the price even – are all great. But it took me two years to finally try it out it because its print ads and website SUCK. I knew where it was. I had an understanding of what it did. I drove by it several times per week. But its marketing actually made me put off going there.

Let me say this again: Its marketing (print ads) were so bad, that they actually turned me off from the place.

That’s pretty bad.

The lesson: Average websites, business cards, catalogs, brochures, event posters, press releases, packaging, print ads, radio ads and TV ads can and do actually hurt businesses. Bad ones can even kill businesses before they ever have a chance to get off the ground.

There are several business like this in my zipcode: Great little businesses. Remarkable in many ways. In spite of the great WOM they generate, their lousy ads put people off. Which makes me wonder – You can sue a doctor, a plumber or a lawyer for negligence, but you can’t sue a Marketer for hurting their clients by creating crappy ads and boring websites? Tsssk.

Marketing, PR, Advertising and Branding professionals who produce boring cookie-cutter work and proclaim themselves “nitch” marketers or “specialty” marketers very often end up hurting their clients. And silly hypothetical lawsuits aside, that is something worth getting angry about. Very angry.

So the point of this post is this: Next time you’re in the market for a new website, a new brochure, a new print ad or a new marketing campaign, think twice before hiring the guy who has done the exact same type of work for at least a dozen clients in your industry. Yeah, he may have “experience” with your market, but experience working with your competitors is completely irrelevant in this line of work. Chances are that he won’t contribute anything remarkable to your brand, and that isn’t good.

Some of the most brilliant and effective marketing-related work I have seen in my short career has come from project teams with broad market experience rather than deep experience in a specific field. We aren’t talking about Sales management here. This is a completely different kind of animal – one fed by a cross-pollination of ideas and market cultures, combined with an eagerness to discover and assimilate every aspect of the client and his/her universe.

Cross-pollination of styles and ideas and cultures. Fresh points of view. Excitement. Those are the things you should be looking for in a Marketing firm. Great work doesn’t come from having spent twenty years doing the exact same thing over and over again. It comes from having spent twenty years producing great, original, groundbreaking, exciting work across a BROAD range of industries and markets.

It comes from not having allowed yourself to get pigeon-holed into a single industry.

I once worked for a company whose engineers and sales people had been trying to solve a problem for close to thirty years. These were smart people. No one in their industry had as much experience as they did. Not collectively or individually. They were their industry’s heart and soul. Yet, they could not solve this problem… and they had all but given up on ever solving it.

Then they hired a marketing guy with zero engineering skills, and almost no experience with their industry. One day, he tackled their problem by asking a simple question: “Hey, why don’t we try doing XYZ?”

Lo and behold, XYZ worked.

Thirty years and all of the experience in the world: Zero.

New guy with a fresh outlook: Score.

Remarkable, groundbreaking and enormously successful campaigns usually come from new guys with fresh outlooks – not the old guys who’ve been sitting at the same desk, talking to the same people, and parking their car in the same spot for thirty years.

I won’t go as far as to say that industry-specific experience is overrated, but… well… in some cases – like selecting a marketing firm – yeah,it kind of is.

Have a great Monday, everyone. ;)

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From Seth Godin’s blog this week:

Have you ever been at a banquet or in a boutique or at a concert or a meeting or a company where the vibe was incredibly positive?

I think you know what I mean. A time and place where there was an overflow of positive energy. You felt surrounded by possibility, or people who believed in you, or just felt like buying (or eating, or talking) a lot.

The vibe changes everything. It’s a place you want to work, or a restaurant you want to come back to. (…)

If vibe is so important, why does it sound flaky to worry about it? Who’s in charge of the vibe at your place? Could it be better? A lot better?

Changing the vibe isn’t always possible, but most of us rarely try. From physical layout to organization to what leaders say and do… it matters. Sometimes, it’s all that matters.

VP of Vibe. I like the sound of that.

I was on a photoshoot last week, and one of the technicians working on the shoot was verbally assaulted by one of the clients. In front of everyone. It was brutal. We separated them and made sure to keep them apart for the rest of the shoot, but the damage was done.

Three hours later, that technician was still unhappy, and it showed. His ability to do his job well had been hindered. It took him longer than usual to do anything. His mind wasn’t on his work. He had a hard time focusing. He clearly didn’t want to be there anymore. The vibe around the set – and around him and the client – was heavy and uncomfortable. Everyone was affected. The talent, the technicians, the photographer, the clients, the bystanders. Everyone. It took a lot of work and a lot of time for us to get the flow of the shoot back to where it should have been from the start.

Negativity and conflict kill the vibe. A tyrannical boss kills the vibe. Boredom kills the vibe. Lousy working conditions kill the vibe. Not being empowered to do your job kills the vibe. Rude customers or clients kill the vibe.

If enthusiasm and excitement are contagious (and they are), so is negativity.

One of my clients, a sporting goods retailer in downtown Greenville, has fostered a great vibe and manages to set a standard when it comes to cocooning every visitor with positive energy and enthusiasm. Although the business is purely retail – which means salaries aren’t exactly great – the store attracts its fair share of talent. If I told you that people are lining up to work there, I would be exaggerating… but not by a lot.

Because people are seduced by the vibe of the place, they like hanging out there… and by default, they like to buy things there – which is, of course, good for business. They also like to bring their friends and family there, and they, in turn, become customers and friends of the store. The store doesn’t do anything special. Sure, the music is always pretty cool. The blend of space-age sports technologies and fabrics with antique furniture is pretty dope. And even the bathroom is legendary for its decor – so much so that it is going to be featured in the Greenville News in the next week or so. But the glue that holds it all together is the employees. These folks have a sense of ownership when it comes to the environment they cultivate and are responsible for. That ownership blends workplace and lifestyle. It creates an ecosystem that spreads their enthusiasm, excitement and optimism to everyone who walks in.

What is most striking about this ecosystem is the complete absence of even a trace of corporate culture. You won’t find any micromanaging bosses there. The workers don’t have to attend sales meetings or team-building clinics. They spend all day bonding with each other and customers. They spend all day being bluntly honest with their customers – something which earns the business a lot of respect in its community. They work hard, but they have fun. They learn something new every day. They tweak and re-tweak elements of the shopping experience every single day. The vibe is theirs to own. They are the custodians of the vibe, and the senior team members teach the newbies how to foster it and make it their own.

Compare that to the hundreds of businesses whose lobbies and hallways and meeting rooms I have walked through that made me wonder why anyone would want to work there. (I know: It pays the bills. Woohoo!)

Businesses that are engaging and fun to work for produce better results than businesses that no one likes working for. Their retention rates are much higher. Their productivity is higher. They don’t need to recruit anyone – as top quality prospects find them on their own. Their potential for innovation is greater. If people who work there are happy, their customers will also be happy.

Vibes are contagious.

So… Who is in charge of the vibe in your corporate offices? In your studio? In the lobby of your sales office? In your customer service department? In your stores? On your website?

Anyone? Anyone?

Would you entrust that vibe to the guy working in the cubicle next to yours? Or Janice, in accounting? Or Fred in Marketing? Or that guy with the stash of snickers bars in a jar, down in sub-level 3?

If, as a whole, your office isn’t really capable of creating a great vibe on its own, and frankly, if the leaders in your organization neither have the time nor the skill to do so either, the responsibility should fall on someone.

Sometimes, great vibes just happen. But only sometimes.

Perhaps the Marketing VP is best equipped to create a great vibe for you and your customers. Perhaps it’s the HR manager. Or one of your creative directors… or perhaps someone with a lot of flair for generating enthusiasm and creative atmospheres needs to get plucked from another position and have the duty assigned to them. Or perhaps you need to hire someone whose job it will be to create a rewarding, positive, engaging work environment for everyone. Someone who can help transfer a great internal vibe to your customers. Someone who can turn you into the new hot company on the block. The new it corp. The new standard of great customer experiences.

Sounds far-fetched? Maybe. But I like it.

The point is: Don’t overlook your vibe. It’s a huge part of your brand. And most companies are still blowing it off.

Have a great Thursday, everyone. ;)

Photo by Chris Wray McCann

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Check out these great bits of advice from Dave Lorenzo’s Career Intensity blog:

“Deciding: ‘Familiarize yourself with common decision-making errors—such as going along with a group choice to maintain cohesion. Watch for tendencies within yourself to commit such errors.’

Leaders make bold decisions. They see them through, and if they aren’t working out, they make new decisions. The worst thing you can do for your career is make no choices or let your choices be made for you. Taking a passive approach to your goals is unlikely to result in success. Even if you make a bad decision, it’s better to mess up and learn from it than to remain stagnant. Failures are great opportunities to learn more about yourself and the world. Move ahead by choosing wisely and boldly.”

(If you’re asking yourself… yeah, cool career advice, but… what does this have to do with branding, hold on. I’m getting to it.)

“It takes someone who believes in herself and her ideas to challenge the status quo. These are the people who shake things up and change them for the better. You don’t have to be contentious to challenge. The best way to suggest changes is not to bash the old ways, but to offer new and positive ideas.

If you are part of a team working on a project that you believe could be going more smoothly, step up and present your ideas. Most likely, everyone will be excited to approach the work from a new angle. And you will begin to earn a reputation for innovation.”

Still not catching on? Okay… Let’s try one more:

“In the famous words of Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”.

What separates the dazzling winners from everyone else is that they are able to envision a grand future. What turns them into winners is that they are able to leap into that future and do the hard work necessary to make it great.

Particularly for die-hard realists and people who have been trained (by parents, friends, or spouse) to be ‘responsible’ and ‘stable’, indulging in imagination can be difficult. For every idea that’s even mildly revolutionary, a little voice chimes in, ‘Impossible. You can’t do that. That’s stupid. It’ll never work.’ Quiet that voice and spend some time ruminating on your wild, far-out, fanciful ideas. Great leader do things that no one before them has done.”

Still no? Tsssk… Okay. I’ll give you a hint: Substitute “brand” for “career”. Everything that Dave so brilliantly recommends is exactly the kind of advice that you can put to good use in building strong brands – from ‘brand you’ to the next retail darling, iconic consumer good or dazzling web application.

Brands aren’t built in a vacuum. They aren’t built by functionaries. They do not thrive in stagnant bureaucracies. Brands are built by empowered visionaries. Brands are built on enthusiasm, conviction, and courage… Or they are doomed from the start.

You are the heart and soul of the brand you represent and serve. If you want your brand to be a market leader, you must be a leader in your job as well. Your qualities are your brand’s attributes. Your weaknesses are its flaws. Everything you are, everything you do, affects its success and future.

So… don’t ever let anyone turn you into a tool. Challenge everything. Question every assumption. Wage war on routine and bureaucracy. Accept no compromise…

… and read Dave’s blog. It’s a good one.

Les tags du jour: , , , .

photo by Chris Wray McCann.

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Welcome to the first BrandingWire challenge: The Coffee Company


You have been approached by a small coffee company in mid-America. They have a few retail stores, have been in business for 8 years, and are moderately successful – reasonably profitable, no debt – operations are funded out of steady cash flow. They roast their own beans on-site (and boy, does it smell wonderful!), their retail sites are wide-open, relaxed, and kind-of country-funky. Very strong local attachment to the company; little recognition outside of the geographical area (it’s a family operation but the owner is committed to doing whatever it takes to create a thriving business). Their brand name is OK but certainly not anything special. They have a lame tagline (Great coffee at great prices!) and no distinctive identity pieces. The logo looks like it came out of a branding bargain bin.

They want to grow, though they’re not entirely sure what is the most profitable path…more retail? Franchising? Mail-order? Corporate coffee service? Something new and unique? they have plenty of capacity to crank out more coffee beans, and can easily add more without undue financial strain if growth really takes off.

They sense the growing competition. Starbucks, of course. McDonald’s is upscaling their coffee. Caribou is going to move in 30 minutes away. Dunkin’ Donuts may be heading in their direction. How do they distinguish themselves?

So, here is our assignment. What are the right questions to ask as you think through a strategy? What potential growth opportunities do you think are best to explore and exploit? How would you position them against the competition? If you suggest a new name that might help accomplish much wider growth, what would you suggest? Tagline suggestions? PR and word-of-mouth opportunities and strategies/tactics? Customer experience ideas? What would we do to make this coffee company fly?

Boo-yah.

For starters, the last thing we need is another chain of coffee shops… unless it’s a very unique chain of coffee shops. The kind of chain of coffee shops that brings something worthwhile to the coffee enjoyment experience.

The BrandingWire team has been advised not to write a 30 page brief, so I will try to stick to a few starting points. These are some of the first questions I would pose:

1. What would make coffee fans want to shop here rather than at Starbucks, or at any other coffee chain? (Sub-question: What would make coffee fans want to keep shopping there six months, a year, and five years after the launch of each new location?)

2. Based on the first 8 stores, what do we know about our customers? Does anything make them different from folks who prefer Starbucks or other brands? Do they shop here because they don’t like Starbucks or because they prefer us to Starbucks. (There’s a difference.)

3. What is it about our stores that people truly love the most? Is it the aroma of the coffee? The country-funky atmosphere? The shopping experience? The packaging? The coffee cups? The music? The super friendly employees? The ordering process? The “no waiting lines” policy? (Don’t wait in line to buy your coffee – Take a number as you come in, go sample the vats of coffee beans or check out the gift baskets or read about the villages that produce the coffee while you wait, and we’ll call you.) Is it the tiny little cup of mocha-flavored ice-cream they hand your kids for free when you buy a cup? Is it the sense that by buying coffee here, they feel that they are part of something bigger – like… bringing economic and educational opportunities for the villages in Africa and South America that produce the beans?

3b. What is it about our stores that people don’t like so much? (What can we improve? What needs to change?)

4. Is there a story here, and what is it? One of the story arcs that customers may be interested in is the story of each bean: Where it came from. Who the farmers are. What happens to it before it becomes a cup of joe. Why our company does things this way instead of buying coffee in bulk and then just repackaging it. (More on that point towards the end of the post.)

5. How much traction does the current brand name actually have? In other words, would changing the name to achieve growth outside of the current region hurt the current stores? Will the change turn current fans off? (To find out, ask them. Create a website and in-store system to allow people to suggest new names, or tell us why we should or shouldn’t change the name.) Plan an unveiling of the new logo, etc. on a specific date. Make a big party out of it: Don’t make change bad. Invite all current customers and celebrate the company’s growth. Celebrate their patronage. Invite some of the farmers to attend and put them in front of the customers. Make the stories come alive and bridge the gap between consumers and farmers. Have a big coffee party. There’s a community here, so strengthen it. Use the story and the culture to help this community grow, both online and in the real world. Create bonds, and give people the tools to help them grow.

6. Get rid of that lousy tag line. (It isn’t a question.) ;D

7. Find out what about the true retail side of the business – people buying beans/ground beans and taking them home in bags – could be more unique and fun. Are there packaging opportunities? Are there custom labeling opportunities – like Jones Soda? What about allowing customers to mix their beans and create their own coffee blends?

8. Find ways to become the answer to Starbucks’ Starbucks-ness. I hate to use the term “authentic” because it’s overdone these days, but, well, for lack of a better term… remain authentic. Take advantage of the fact that you are already different and unique – dare I say remarkable? Keep things country-funky but focus on the absolute quality of the product.

9. Create a name and mark that are iconic. That people will recognize without the need for a tagline. Something simple and immediately understood. Unless the name and logo are already killer, this will probably require a change. What’s important to remember is this: Stand for something. Become the new evolution of coffee – blend superior quality, the coolest customer experience and social entrepreneurship all in one irresistible package. Now take that identity and create a worthy emblem for it.

10. Spruce up the online store. Make the online shopping fun and easy. Make the user interface more than a cookie-cutter shopping thing. Integrate the shopping experience and interesting tidbits about coffee. (More on that in the next paragraph.)

Become (or remain) more than just a coffee corp.

I would even go as far as to create little touch-screen booths in each store where people can find out the history of coffee, see where producers are, follow coffee shipping routes, and isolate the specific villages, trade routes and stores pertaining to our little coffee company. Identify organic farmers from non-organic farmers. Explain the difference. Educate, entertain, and help customers a) experience the story of our (their) coffee on their own terms, and b) become part of it. Become a sort of coffee knowledge emporium. Create the same user interface on the website.

Also, hold little clinics to teach people to use a French press, for example – or generally get the most enjoyment out of their coffee. Teach people how to store their coffee at home. Teach them to make great coffee and recognize a great coffee drink when they taste them. Just quick little 5-10 minute demos. Empower people with knowledge and know-how. Make them more than just consumers.

If none of this helps start conversations, I don’t know what will.

Well, that ought to get us started. :)

What do you guys think? These are very broad brush strokes, but did I miss anything major?

Read the rest of the commentary here.

Get more high voltage branding ideas at BrandingWire.com. Have a great Monday, everyone. ;)

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Abandon Yesterday

Great little Change Leadership conversation starter by Peter Drucker over at Branding Strategy Insider this week:

We do not hear much anymore about overcoming resistance to change, which 10 or 15 years ago was one of the most popular topics of management books and management seminars. Everybody has accepted by now that change is unavoidable. But that still implies that change is like death and taxes–it should be postponed as long as possible, and no change would be vastly preferable.

But in a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm. To be sure, it is painful and risky, and above all, it requires a great deal of very hard work. But unless an organization sees that its task is to lead change, that organization–whether a business, a university, or a hospital–will not survive. In a period of rapid structural change the only organizations that survive are the “change leaders.” It is therefore a central 21st-century challenge for management that its organization become a change leader.

In most cases, yep. Sadly, most business managers are too busy dealing with every-day business issues to help lead their companies towards their next evolution. Many organizations (especially manufacturing operations) tend to be culturally adverse to change. These types of organizations rarely create environments that are likely to produce or retain business leaders for whom change management is a normal day-to-day process. More importantly, these companies tend to get drawn into the death-by-pricepoint mentality: Rather than changing their ways, rather than investing in new designs, new technologies and new methodologies, they opt to seek out cheaper raw materials, cheaper manufacturing operations, cheaper packaging, and cheaper customer service/support, for example.

Unfortunately, there comes a point where the quality of a product drops below standard – whether that product is a pair of jeans, a computer, a car, a pair of running shoes, or plain old customer service.

The saddest kind of company is the one which has an underlying culture of innovation – one where middle-managers have great ideas and their teams are enormously talented – but where the leaders (at the top) are adverse to change: “We’ve been doing it this way for fifty years. Why change anything now?” That’s a great way to force the great ideas out of an organization and foster an insipid yes-man culture.

Unless you happen to be an incredibly great restaurant or an opera house or an artisan of some sort… *sigh*.

Change leadership is not about digging up the next mucky layer of lowest bidders. It isn’t about finding even cheaper labor. It is not about cutting yet another corner. It is about improving processes. It is about improving designs. It is about doing things better and smarter. It is about instilling a culture of improvement and clever ideas and innovation within a company. It is about creating ecosystems in which great ideas can flourish – the kinds of ideas that give companies a competitive edge. Some may be ways to improve a product’s quality and utility while making it cheaper to produce. Some of it may be cost-neutral design improvements. Some of it may be understanding where resources are being wasted, and where they could be retasked.

Abandon yesterday: The first step for a change leader is to free up resources that are committed to maintaining things that no longer contribute to performance and no longer produce results. Maintaining yesterday is always difficult and extremely time-consuming. Maintaining yesterday always commits the institution’s scarcest and most valuable resources–and above all, its ablest people–to nonresults. Yet doing anything differently–let alone innovating–always creates unexpected difficulties. It demands leadership by people of high and proven ability. And if those people are committed to maintaining yesterday, they are simply not available to create tomorrow.

The first change policy, therefore, has to be organized abandonment. The change leader puts every product, every service, every process, every market, every distribution channel, every customer, and every end use on trial for its life. And the change leader does so on a regular schedule.

The question it has to ask–and ask seriously–is “If we did not do this already, would we, knowing what we now know, go into it?” If the answer is no, the reaction must not be “Let’s make another study.” The reaction must be “What do we do now?”

Read the entire post here. Good stuff. Have a great weekend, everyone. ;)

Photo by Chris Wray McCann.

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Whether we like it or not, the good old US of A is a brand. Our mark is the Stars & Stripes. Yep, that’s right. The United States of America, like France, like Switzerland, like Canada is a brand.

If you were to show an American flag to most people around the world in 1950 (except maybe Japan and Communist countries), you would probably get a very different reaction than you would now.

The US was basically the political equivalent of Superman or Captain America back then. The US had defeated the original axis of evil. The US, through NATO was protecting Western Europe from Soviet invasion. The US was dumping mucho dinero internationally to try and help rebuild Europe and other parts of the world that had been shattered during WWII. The US made the coolest cars. Had the coolest cigarettes, the strongest economy, the best commercial airliners, the most glamorous musicians and movie stars. The US was the bright shining light of 20th century civilization. It was the land of milk and honey.

Kinduv. But you get the drift.

Jump to 2007. Go around the world and show people an American flag and see what happens. The reaction won’t be the same as it was just two generations ago.

Now, the brandbuilder blog is not a political vehicle. I keep political topics and viewpoints out of the discussions we have here. So don’t assume that I am either pro-Bush or anti-Bush. My political views are irrelevant to this discussion. The point I am trying to make is that in sixty-some years, the image of the United States of America has not improved. Quite the contrary.

If you don’t agree with this statement, you live in La-La land. (And by that, maybe I mean Los Angeles. And by Los Angeles, maybe I mean the Los Angeles Sheriff’s office. More on that in a sec.)

I think it’s safe to say that the US has lost some traction when it comes to being a bright shining example for the world. Aside from the current administration’s lack of popularity, and the ill-fated war in Iraq, the US’s image isn’t being helped by the rampant alledged corruption surrounding companies like Enron, Halliburton, Tyco, etc. Golden parachutes, mass firings, and bankruptcies don’t help anyone feel all that great about the US either. The gap between the super-wealthy and the poor keeps growing.

Our obsession with wealth and materialism is reaching Roman proportions: While the super-rich become more and more irresponsibly extravagant, hundreds of thousands of middle-class Americans are slipping into poverty, thanks to the skyrocketing costs of healthcare, energy products, and interest rates.

None of this is healthy.

When people talk about the fall of the Roman Empire, one of the terms they invariably use is decadence. Perhaps a more relevant term may be inequity. Decadence, in and of itself, doesn’t destroy empires. Inequity does. When a) the have-nots outnumber the haves, b) the haves start acting like complete jackasses, and c) the haves start to appear to be above the law, bad things start to happen.

This is what starts revolutions in most countries.

The last thing the US needs is another Enron. Another Katrina. Another Rodney King case. Another golden parachute.

And another Paris Hilton get-out-of-jail-free card.

The word of the day, remember, is inequity.

What happened today in Los Angeles – and by that, I mean Paris Hilton’s release from jail, may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but this is precisely the sort of thing that a nation with an image problem doesn’t need.

I can guarantee that if I were pulled over by a traffic cop and failed a DUI test, my car would be towed and impounded, and I would be immediately booked. My second offense would not result in a warning or probation. My third would see my driving privileges permanently revoked, and I would be serving hard time. In a real jail. With real criminals.

And that would be fair.

Now… I don’t think that I would enjoy prison very much, so I make a point not to drink and drive. But more than my aversion for the prospect of forced prison sex with dudes named Ralph or Red Bone, the reason I don’t drive drunk is because I value human life. Not just my own, but other lives as well. The last thing I want to do is sideswipe a schoolbus, or get in a head-on collision with a family of six. I don’t want to hurt or kill anyone with my car and my bad judgment.

Let me say this again:

I don’t want to kill somebody’s mom.

I don’t want to kill or paralyze someone’s little girl.

I don’t even want to send Scruffy the family cat to the pet hospital.

So I don’t drink and drive.

Paris Hilton doesn’t seem to be on the same wavelength.

Which is why we have DUI laws – to make sure that people too dumb and selfish to understand that partying behind the wheel can destroy lives have an incentive not to kill innocent people.

Unfortunately, our strange fascination with self-destructive celebrities and the super wealthy seems to be affecting the good judgment of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, which should have been a lot more diligent about doing their job when it comes to the chronically DUI Paris Hilton: After way too many DUI traffic stops than necessary to finally force her to face jail time, those jackasses allowed her to leave her jail cell today and go home.

Don’t even get me started on the house arrest thing, and the ankle bracelet. She’s Paris Hilton. There’s no such thing as House Arrest for someone like her. She lives in a mansion!!!!!! Come on!!!!

Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t care what Paris Hilton does with herself. I really couldn’t give a flip. She can attend all the parties she wants, drink and snort coke as much as she wants, make as many accidental sex tapes as she wants, date rock stars and billionaire sons of trillionaires, and spend her endless fortune as she sees fit. Her decadence is completely irrelevant. To each his own. I sure as hell won’t judge her for wanting to have fun and live the life that she has chosen for herself.

But when Paris gets behind the wheel of her car after having one too many drinks, she becomes a criminal, and law enforcement agencies who cross paths with her have a responsibility to fulfill.

It was bad enough that it took as many traffic stops to finally have Paris face jail time. Already, the stench of inequity was in the air. But today, her release from jail after less than a week behind bars was like a giant kick to the huevos of the American Justice System.

It is very difficult to keep a society healthy when justice stops being blind. When the super-rich or the well-connected don’t have to answer to the same laws as the rest of the populace.

Believe it or not, the entire world is watching this moronic fiasco. This next step down a dangerous road towards self-destruction. They are watching the United States turn into a second-rate nation whose institutions now seem irreparably corrupt. (When an organization as powerful as the LAPD or the Los Angeles Sheriff’s office starts to cater to the whims of a washed-out billionaire party-girl who wanted to get out of jail, you know you’ve pretty-much hit rock bottom.)

What happened here? Did poor little Paris cry for her mommy? Did her shrink insist that she might have a anorexic relapse because of the stress? Was she losing too much weight eating prison food? Did her family’s lawyers threaten to sue?

I’m glad that we’ve officially entered an era of “if you’re rich enough, you don’t actually have to go to jail anymore.” At least we know where we all stand.

Paris Hilton’s case, however insignificant to important world events like wars and elections and famines and pandemics as it may be, is sadly symptomatic of the larger problems facing the United States in the coming years. As insignificant and ridiculous as it is, it is nonetheless a turning point in this country’s history – and in the way that the United States is seen by the other 6 billion people around the world.

Thanks for turning “The Land of Opportunity” into “The Land of Corruption.” That was sweet. Well done, everybody. We used to think that the corruption was mostly at very high corporate levels like… the Enrons of the world. Now we know it has made its way to the LA County Jail as well.

Good job. Really. I raise my glass to you, whomever you are.

In a very real way, Paris Hilton is a (pop) cultural icon specifically because she embodies so many elements of American culture today, both good and bad. She is rich. She is glamorous. She does whatever she pleases. And at the same time, she is a trainwreck of self-indulgence, ego, and immaturity.

Our fascination with Paris may very well be as narcissistic as she is. That’s kind of scary, when you think of it this way: Paris Hilton isn’t just selling fashion and burgers and magazines. She is also selling the downfall of the American brand to everyone with access to a TV or a newspaper or an internet terminal.

Paris Hilton is the poster girl for what is probably the end for Brand USA. She is Inequity’s Typhoid Mary. She is what’s left of Lady Liberty once you strip her of the dusty robes once threaded with the abandoned dreams of the Founding Fathers. She has replaced Superman and Captain America as the vessel for the new American identity. And that is scary as hell.

As a friend emailed me today:

“Paris Hilton is the charicature of American success — unbelievably rich, amazingly ignorant, moderately attractive after several surgeries, slutty, and self-destructive.”

I get goosebumps just reading that. Brand USA needs some serious help. What the hell happened?!

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So it’stime to let the cat out of the bag. A few co-conspirators and I have been working on a little behind-the-scene project lately, and since it’s about to finally launch… well… I will let Steve Woodruff – the mastermind behind the entire operation tell you all about it:

We’ve been working on something behind the scenes, and now it’s time to take the wraps off!

Next Monday will be the official launch of BrandingWire, which will provide a monthly jolt of powerful branding creativity to the marketing community. Read on to learn more…

What is BrandingWire? It’s a collaboration of high-profile branding and marketing pundits, who are banding together to tackle branding challenges and topics on a regular basis. We’ll take on one theme per month, and apply our combined creative energy to showcase how great branding gets done. We want to put forth Branding That Works!


Who is BrandingWire? The team of marketing experts making up the charter membership of BrandingWire includes:

Olivier Blanchard (that’s me!)
Becky Carroll
Derrick Daye
Kevin Dugan
Lewis Green
Ann Handley
Gavin Heaton
Martin Jelsema
Valeria Maltoni
Drew McLellan
Patrick Schaber
Steve Woodruff

As time goes on, we may invite other pundits to join our posse. It’s like herding cats just getting the “dazzling dozen” above on the same page! Just joking – there has been a sweet sense of unity of purpose and mutual deference, even in the midst of spirited discussion and (at times) diverging opinions. Exactly what you’d expect from a great group of collaborators, who are no slouches at their craft!

In fact, our first branding challenge was BrandingWire itself – developing the name, purpose statement, tagline, graphics, site design, workflow process…and we accomplished it all electronically (we never did end up having that conference call, did we?). All of which proves the point – a “virtual community” of creative marketers can, in fact, do branding.

Why BrandingWire? It’s simple – there’s a lot of bad branding out there, and it’s got to stop! Seriously, many of us see – and comment about on our individual blogs – examples of poorly-executed branding (we also commend the good stuff!). But now we want to showcase our talents and creativity by tackling challenges as a group – focusing our beams together – and try to promote better branding practices. Of course, we won’t hide the fact that for many of us, we hope that a spillover from BrandingWire will be new or increased business.

Allow me to dream for a few moments here. The old model of work, which our parents’ generation once knew, is dead. It’s no longer the case that you’re going to set down your roots in one company for decades, and that organization is going to “take care of you” for the long haul. No, the new model will increasingly move toward teams – even virtual teams – drawn together for projects demanding specific skill sets. And as we build our community and learn to work together, I can foresee that someone will call Lewis Green, and he feels confident that he can do 60% of the work – but Valeria Maltoni is the perfect resource for the other 40%. Or Chip Heath finishes one of his stellar talks, and an attendee comes up to him with a business challenge. He quickly concludes that this sounds like a combination of CK and Matt Dickman. And so it goes – the Collaborative Community supports each other, interlinks on projects, watches each others’ backs. Can we evolve to that? Why not?

OK, you had me at “Hello.” Where’s BrandingWire? Well, of course – BrandingWire.com. In the early part of each month, we will post our contributions on our individual blogs, with a “stub” and a link on the main site. Except this month, of course. To see the inaugural posting, you have to make a note to yourself to go to the site on our official launch date, Monday, June 11th. Also, for ease of viewing, there is a Pageflakes BrandingWire portal, where you’ll be able to see the participant blogs all in one view.

Pretty cool? You bet. Definitely check out our official launch on June 11th! You’re all invited.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone. ;)

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