Archive for the ‘Corporate Identity’ Category

Blast from the Past – Steve Jobs on Working with Paul Rand

June 24, 2010

I was meeting with Mayor Miller of Oneonta, NY and he mentioned having known Paul Rand from a previous career which had me do a fresh search on this famous designer and I stumbled on this Video which I found extremely interesting and relevant. It has me re-thinking about how we do things around here and how we communicate with clients.


The Business of Being Branded

December 30, 2009


I recently spoke to a group of franchise owners in New York. They had some interesting comments about the franchise business. Long story short, they did not make owning a single franchise sound too appealing.

The owners went into detail covering everything from fees, contracts, decorating to advertising and marketing.

This got me thinking: What is it you are buying when you invest in a franchise? I’m sure there are much more elaborate answers, however I believe you are getting four primary things.

1. Processes and Systems
2. Marketing and Advertising

3. Bulk Buying Power 

4. Branding

Most successful non-franchises have the first three covered  but branding seems to be what usually falls short with most non-franchise businesses.

Why is branding so important?
Because people buy what they are comfortable with. Think about it, the last time you went to a Subway sub shop was it because the food is so incredible or was it simply because you knew what to expect at a Subway? Did the awkward deli next door with the 400 meat posters in the window leave you a bit more cautious?


People are inherently afraid of the unknown; they stick with the familiar. Branding with good design builds a comfort level for consumers. Even if the brand is unknown, a professional logo, graphics and presentation create familiarity and give an idea of what your experience may be.

Philosophically, the concept is unfortunate because it removes new experiences from the life equation — and new experiences are what we remember the best. For example, you clearly remember that pizza place you went to on vacation four years ago but you cannot recall your 412th experience at Pizza Hut a week ago.

So, why does branding usually fall short?
Because owners have trouble understanding branding’s value. People consider the brand to be part of marketing and advertising, however this is incorrect. The brand is the organization, its definition, its heart and soul, the gut feeling someone has about Subway, McDonalds, Disney, GE and all the others. The marketing is what communicates the brand to the public.

Many business owners have trouble understanding brand because the ROI is not directly quantifiable. How much will I get back if I spend X on branding and there is no direct answer to this question, and clients don’t like that. Unfortunately here at GrafiQa, we often separate clients into the ones who understand brand and the ones who don’t because our experience shows that education on brand importance only works with some.

We believe the brand is even more important than the product or service itself because it truly is the product or service.  The organizations that have brand or are lucky enough to stumble upon a brand can have exponential success.

Franchise fees to start up a location can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, the agreements are ironclad and leave you very little room if things don’t work out like you planned.

But if you successfully put together the right combination of process, marketing and branding, a franchise may be unnecessary. It could even be more of a burden than anything else. If you can establish the processes, have a feel for marketing and can build a strong brand you may be better off on your own. And one day, you may be the franchiser instead of the franchisee.

Twitter Analysis of Budweiser vs. Magic Hat

February 25, 2009

It’s interesting to see how companies of various sizes are handling Social Media and e-Marketing as part of their Brand Management strategies.

One small part of this that I always pay attention to is how they react – or don’t react – to Twitter activity about them. (If you’re not familiar with Twitter, click here or here.)

For example….

I like to homebrew beer and also try to taste as many different microbrews from small breweries around the country. (From our neck of the woods, I’m a fan of Saranac, Ithaca, and Ommegang, among others).

While I usually stick to the smaller guys, I’ve been curious for the last few months hearing Budweiser’s endless plugs for its new American Ale on NPR and This American Life. So I finally picked up some at the Giant by my house over the weekend. For the record, I enjoyed it – though for my follow-up beverage, I switched over the Magic Hat‘s Roxy Roll seasonal brew, which is a personal favorite.

Budweiser may have the fancy packaging and Super Bowl ads, but Magic Hat leads a Tribe.

Budweiser may have the fancy packaging and Super Bowl ads,but Magic Hat leads a Tribe.

Then I posted my comments about Budweiser and Magic Hat on Twitter.

When I checked in a day or two later to see if I had any new Twitter Followers, I was excited to see that Magic Hat was following me. They earned an even more loyal fan. Seth Godin would say I’m in their Tribe now.

I heard nothing from Budweiser. Now, I’m still impressed that their new beer wasn’t bad. But they missed an opportunity to permission market to me.

The point? Sometimes small, nimble, authentic companies do a better job of working new Social Media and e-Marketing tools than giant corporations that spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars every year on marketing. And, in today’s marketplace, that’s a smarter and wiser investment of time and resources.


February 10, 2009

Marketing today isn’t usually about a product. Or direct sales. Or traditional advertising.

Those can be important – but they’re not what good marketing is about.

Good marketing is about Expertise. Expertise goes hand-in-hand with being Unique.

Being an Expert in your field makes you Unique. Because most people trying to market what you’re trying to market probably aren’t Experts at what they do. They’re probably just trying to sell, sell, sell.

But knowing your industry inside-out, having a track record of success, knowing the players and the tools; that allows you to sell yourself (or your company or not-for-profit) as something your prospects or clients can’t get anywhere else.

Being a Genius is great. But being an Expert is better.

Being a Genius is great. But being an Expert is better.

Newman Development Group are Experts at developing and redeveloping land for a variety of uses. They know how to navigate the legal and municipal challenges, work through construction, get stores open, and everything in between.

eni are experts are Experts at providing wellness services to businesses and corporations. They provide ways for their clients to have happier and more productive employees.

The Northeast Classic Car Museum has more fantastic antique and classic cars that any other public museum in a dozen states. And they have a staff and volunteers who know those cars and their stories like no one else. They even blog about it.

Being an expert gives you a leg up on the competition because it eliminates most of those competitors.

So, ask yourself, am I an expert?

Burning Permission ESPN-style

December 20, 2008

I’m out of the norm at GrafiQa. I love sports. Really, really love ’em.

The NY Mets dominate my April through September (I’d be happier if it was April through October but it just doesn’t seem meant to be lately). It made 14 year old Bijoy’s decade when they located their AA team, the Binghamton Mets, in my hometown in 1992.

Sadly for me, the Cincinnati Bengals dominate my – well, not very long each fall since they perpetually stink.

Anyway, I get ESPN The Magazine because I read several days a week and want to get the latest baseball buzz in the middle of winter by seeing the pay-section Rumor Central (to see what #5 starter the Mets will settle on). Along with signing up for The Insider, I get a subscription to The Magazine.

I received my latest issue today. It’s all about how EVERY BOWL GAME MATTERS (as in college football bowl games).


Now, I’m not a huge fan of college football. But I’m such a sports dork that I know what games matter and what don’t. Just about every b0wl game DOESN’T MATTER because of the asinine BCS system.

I also watch enough SportsCenter to know that ESPN carries nine million bowl games over the next few weeks.

So it’s clear to me as a professional marketer that The Magazine is pushing for ratings – not pushing to interest me as a sports reader.

That’s disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong – I understand that ESPN (and ABC, it’s parent company; and Disney, ABC’s parent company) are crazy serious marketers.

I just hate that my guilty pleasure on such a base level has been tarnished. The stuff I want to read about because it’s important in the sports world has been encroached on by less meaningless stuff that ESPN wants to promote for ratings.

Whoever is in charge of ESPN The Magazine is burning the rest of ESPN’s Permission with me.

Does your brand inspire a crush?

January 15, 2008

Remember middle school? Sure you do – it was that agonizing few years when everyone was growing too much or too little or just plain wrong. And hairy.

Your body was flooded with hormones and all the itinerant mood swings and cravings and irrational outbursts. It was like being pregnant without all the presents and bed rest.

But there were those kids – the one who glided effortlessly through adolescence. His hair was always perfect. She was funny and self-assured. They set the standard for successful Life in Middle School. And with an intoxicating mixture of admiration and envy, the rest of us all harbored crushes on them.

What does this have to do with marketing?

The other day, I was doing some research online and came across a business site that made me weak in the knees.

They had me from the About Page, which was far different than many business pages you find online. Instead of the usual chest-beating of “Who We Are,” “What We Do,” “Why We’re Better,” this page told me “Your needs are important,” “Here’s how we can help,” “These are the ways your life will improve.”

I love it when a business talks about me.

I also love it when a business shows personality, which this particular site did extremely well by inviting conversation and actually participating in that conversation via the company blog.

I didn’t just want to hire this company – I wanted to hang out with it. I wanted to be invited to its birthday party at the skating rink.

That’s a brand crush, and if your brand isn’t crushworthy to your audience, you’ll just get lost in the crowd.

Better living through brand

January 14, 2008

The big news this week for people in the marketing and advertising world is that Virginia Commonwealth University has changed the name of its venerable graduate program from Adcenter to Brandcenter.

The program is one of the most respected in the country for producing creative, innovative professionals in ever corner of the field.

But what exactly is the field? Is it advertising? Marketing? PR? Social media networking?

Yes. Plus much, much more, including the design of everything from your business cards and your office place to the way you communicate with clients and other members of your professional community.

In a word: Brand.

The day of launching an ad campaign is over. This is the era of brand.

According to Advertising Age:

“The scope of the school has grown, and the business is changing, so if we’re going to prepare people for that bigger and more complicated world that is branding today, it’s probably limiting to think about it just in advertising terms,” said Mike Hughes, president and creative director at Interpublic’s Martin Agency, Richmond, who is also a member of the Brandcenter’s board of directors.

What implication does this have for the average business?

Businesses of all sizes need to shed the ad mindset and get into the brand mindset.

Ad mindset: Telling your audience who you are.
Brand mindset: Listening to your audience’s definition of you, and responding to their needs.

Ad mindset: Short-term campaigns.
Brand mindset: Long-term strategies.

Ad mindset: Short-term gains.
Brand mindset: Long-term returns.

Ad mindset: Putting a good face on your business for the outside world.
Brand mindset: Understanding that if you build a good internal culture, your employees will become your biggest evangelists.

‘Marketing’ is just another word for “Storytelling’

September 20, 2007

After seeing the new Wal-Mart ad campaign, created by The Martin Agency based in Richmond, Va., I’m impressed.

Turning around the image of a corporation that everyone loves to hate (even if they simultaneously patronize it) was an unenviable task. How do you go about replacing the public image that your business is a behemoth with bad employee and community relations?

The Martin Agency – which is also responsible for the Geico “Caveman” ads – struck at the heart of what all good marketing should be: They told a story.

One ad features a family on a typical vacation. Clearly meant to tug at the fond childhood memories of parents (or childhood fantasies of what life should be like), the commercial follows a family of six as they load into the minivan for a road trip to Florida. But not without a quick stop at Wal-Mart. We see them stop at tourist traps. We see the kids getting on each other’s nerves. We see them making memories to last a lifetime.

Then we see these words:

“Wal-Mart saves the average family $2,500 a year. What will you do with your savings?”

The tag line is “Save Money. Live Better.”

Wow. That’s a story. It’s a story I want to be my story, even if I don’t particularly want to shop at Wal-Mart.
When it comes right down to it, all marketing is storytelling. Your business story may be that you came from humble beginnings and grew a fast-food empire to compete with McDonald’s. Your story may be that you love ice cream almost as much as you love peace, the environment and your employees.

Your story may be that little savings add up to once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Everything your business or organization puts into the world adds a line to the story – from something as simple as your business cards to something as complex as your employees’ satisfaction.

Good marketing helps you take charge and craft the story you want to tell.