August 3rd, 2011 | Glenda Rissman
When planning a new creative initiative, you know the importance of aligning the visuals, and messaging to your marketing and strategic objectives. But how can you assess if your creative partner understands those goals and – more critically – has the ability to translate them into action?
This is no idle question. Improperly executed programs can do more than damage your brand integrity. They can also weaken customer loyalty. Although checks and balances exist to ensure creative executions support strategic objectives, many companies still frequently approve and distribute questionable executions. So where’s the disconnect? Why do some marketing managers inadvertently green light designs that could harm their company’s image?
Although there are several answers to that question, sometimes it comes down to this: companies rely on the executions presented by their creative partner, even when those executions may be off-target, off-brand or simply sub-standard.
This happens most frequently when companies begin work with a new creative partner. Despite competitive RFPs and careful assessment of portfolios, companies still often select firms that lack the ability, know-how or capacity to fulfill their needs. Whether you’re selecting a new firm or reviewing the quality of your existing firm’s work, you need to:
1. Understand the project’s history.
The question is not whether the creative resonates with you; it’s whether it fulfilled that specific client’s objectives. That means beautiful visuals alone aren’t enough. Creative firms can’t deliver solutions that align with your visual identity and messaging guidelines if they don’t have a complete understanding of your strategic objectives. This largely explains why speculative work rarely allows companies to gauge a creative partner’s underlying ability.
2. Ascertain that the creative partner can deliver on your needs.
Although strategic workshops and creative processes can be important introductory tools, the creative partner you select must have the requisite expertise to translate the information you share into tangible results. Do they have proven experience bringing corporate visions to life? Can they perform beyond your expected baseline?
3. Select a creative partner with the skills to analyze gut reactions.
Does your creative partner know how to elicit a response that reflects your organization? Do they understand the overall industry landscape? Have they analyzed what your competitors are doing? Do they have the finger on the pulse of creative innovation? Do they follow best practices in the design world and from different media?
4. Assess if the solution represents the organization’s culture or essence.
Is it targeted to the appropriate audience? Does it reflect the company’s character attributes? Is it properly differentiated? Does it evoke a specific spirit or mood? Is it aspirational?
5. Take intangible elements into account.
Is the execution both creatively fresh and capable of withstanding the test of time? Is it thought provoking? Irreverent? Immediate without being too trendy? Beyond the norm? Or perhaps pared down to something so simple that it evokes surprise or delight?
While there is no foolproof process for assessing and selecting the ideal creative partner, asking yourself these questions gives you a basis to begin objectively analyzing something that, by its nature, can be abstract and immeasurable. This checklist should help to raise the bar on creative executions across the board.
February 9th, 2011 | Peter Scott
There is a current trend where shortly after, or sometimes even before, they are made official an organization’s new identity and brand collateral takes a beating in the public domain. New branding efforts have provoked emotional responses in the past. For example the “new Coke” fiasco of 1985, when a massive negative public reaction occurred in response to Coke’s unsolicited reformulation of their popular soft drink flavour. There have been other public outcries since, but the recent flurry of public brand-bashing has reached new heights with the helping hand of social media. Notable big brands GAP and Tropicana have bowed to public pressure and more locally the University of Waterloo has been targeted. Each example illustrates very different fumbles in the branding process, all resulting with unwanted PR, and in some cases, requiring a complete reversal of the initiative.
Why the fuss?
I doubt that there is one universal reason, but social media isn’t the culprit – it just makes it easier and faster to get a response out to the public and the media. Granted, we as consumers are all reticent of change to some degree. Some of the examples above seem to have been launched in a manner that might not have helped with consumer adoption. Sensitivity to brand heritage, equity, nostalgia and longevity all play into the potential reaction to newly launched brands. An inclusive process is often sought in rebranding engagements and while this can help to manage public response through the involvement of major stakeholders, it often results in a watered-down design that rarely does its job to differentiate the organization in a crowded marketplace.
What to do?
A successful rebranding must be deeply rooted in the organization’s business strategy and goals. Sounds pretty straightforward, but in execution it is anything but! It takes a rare skill to translate the essence of an organization and it’s asprirations in to a graphic and distinctive mark. Successful brands are not campaign driven – they need to withstand the test of time. You should include a proper cross-section of stakeholders throughout the process and ask specific questions when requesting feedback to help control the outcome. Finally, launch it in a way that best reflects the organization’s values after doing your due diligence to ensure your work is ownable. If you’ve done your job well, then you will be able to withstand the inevitable squawking that comes from inside and out.
February 3rd, 2011 | Janice Carter
Until recently, the term “collaborative consumption” was absent from my vocabulary. According to Wikipedia “The term collaborative consumption is used to describe the cultural and economic force away from ‘hyper-consumption’ to re-invented economic models of sharing, swapping, bartering, trading or renting that have been enabled by advances in social media and peer-to-peer online platforms.” Nominated by GOOD Magazine as “One Of The 15 Books You Should Have Read In 2010”, “What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption” presents a compelling case. Authors Roo Rogers and Rachel Botsman discuss the rise of car sharing, temporary room rentals, clothing swaps and social lending. I found it refreshing to read about real examples of these peer-to-peer marketplaces: zipcar, city car share, AirBnB, iStopOver, thredup, Lending Club and Zopa.
Since reading the book, I’ve become aware of collaborative consumption and started to notice other instances of the movement. For example, Alex Bogusky recently left advertising hot-shop Crispin Porter + Bogusky to build “COMMON.” It calls itself a “new capitalist brand” built on “transitioning from competitive advantage to collaborative advantage.”
Along similar lines, former Nike creative at Wieden+Kennedy and worldwide creative director at Ogilvy released a new book this month. “We First” explores how social media and emerging technologies bring brands and consumers together to build a more socially and economically prosperous world. Bogusky and “We First” strike me as trying too hard to be do-gooders, but I admire the premise and think they’re on to something.
April 30th, 2010 | Janice Carter
Today, Leslie Buck, designer of the iconic coffee cup dies at 87. If you were in New York, particularly before the advent of a certain coffee establishment with a green logo, his cup will likely look familiar to you. Even if you haven’t been to NY, you’ve likely spotted the java holder in “Law & Order”, “Sex & the City” and other NY-based TV shows and movies.
Buck, a refugee from then Czechoslovakia, introduced the cup in the 1960s. The graphics have since been slapped on t-shirts, mugs and tourist memorabilia. If imitation is a form of flattery, Buck should certainly be flattered.
Now, does this mean that the cup is well-designed? I don’t think the answer matters. I think the point is that the cup has become part of pop-culture. How many designers can say they’re leaving a legacy? The next time you’re in New York, grab a coffee in one of the old diners and remember Buck. He was happy to serve you.
April 20th, 2009 | Janice Carter
While on holiday, I found myself standing in front of The Power Plant and realized that it had been years since I visited this gallery. I walked in not knowing anything about the current exhibit and was immediately reminded of the exceptional work that this gallery continues to bring to the public.
The current exhibits are Lawrence Weiner’s The Other Side of a Cul-De-Sac and Carey Young’s Counter Offer. These are shows well worth the price of admission, especially Young’s.
Carey Young, through humour and wit, investigates the language of the corporate and legal world. The works are multi-disciplinary and audience participation is required for some of the pieces.
April 17th, 2009 | Peter Scott
A recent report in the NY Times presents an interesting dilemma for organizations and the management of their brands.
A “prank” video from two Domino’s Pizza employees shows them preparing delivery orders in various unsavoury ways. Despite the fact this is a really bad way to gain your 15 minutes of fame, the video received more than a million hits and the result is major damage to an otherwise strong and well-regarded brand. The article notes “References to the video were in five of the 12 results on the first page of Google search for Domino’s, and discussions about Domino’s had spread throughout Twitter”. Despite the two offenders being charged and admitting it was a fake, the Domino’s name was tarnished in record time. The brand will presumably rebound, but the adage that “no publicity is bad publicity” might need to be rethought.