Archive for the ‘ Brand Identity ’ Category

Is “Re-branding” the New Buzz Word?

We hear the term “re-branding” thrown around a lot lately. It seems if everyone is trying desperately, in a fast-moving society, to stay fresh and yet stay true to their history at the same time. Most recently – YMCA to Y; Tropicana logo change; and let’s not forget about the Gap logo debacle.

The Gap change came in early October of this year. The president of Gap Brand North America for the last three years stated, “We chose this (new) design as it’s more contemporary and current. It honors our heritage through the blue box while still taking it forward.” – Sound familiar?

Gap did a soft launch of their new logo and wanted feedback from their loyal customers, so they introduced it through social media. And, did they get feedback! Received so negatively and with such a backslash, it resulted in 1,094 comments from one of their Facebook postings alone.

Creatively, many felt it took a couple steps back and, well…fell flat on its face. The “generic” look that so many companies are trying to achieve didn’t work for Gap. For many, their goal is to make their brand modern and clean, but when executed incorrectly, the result is a generic and drab look. Modern should not equal generic. Gap has now gone back to their old logo.

This got us thinking…when exactly is the right time to re-brand and why? In Gap’s case, they wanted a new logo to reflect the evolution of their clothing line and multiple modern stores. However, what other reasons are there to re-brand? Take our company, evok advertising, for example. We are actually in the process of a re-brand ourselves. So, why the change for us?

Scott Disbennett, creative director and agency partner, said, “Opposed to a national brand that has spent millions focusing on consumer perception, we don’t carry the same iconic weight. We are a mid-size agency that prides ourselves on staying abreast of new technology and new brands, while staying cutting edge, so being current is actually part of the brand. Also, we focus most, if not all, of our marketing efforts B2B so to many, this new logo will be their first experience with our brand. We aren’t facing the challenges that a national consumer brand might face.”

Larry Meador, our agency’s managing partner, addressed evok’s re-brand by stating, “While the old ‘EVOK’ worked well when we were trying to shout our name out there, we have always had a core belief that we should be behind the scenes, behind our clients’ victories, and although just a minor change, going from upper case to lower case with our logo reinforces that belief.”

So, if wondering whether you should re-brand your company, you may want to consider the following criteria. If you can answer yes to most of the items below, maybe it’s time?

Re-brand IF:

  1. New ownership, new partner
  2. A new highly regarded business practice (such as being green, etc.)
  3. Offering new products or services that will move you to a different segment of your market
  4. If your branding was poorly designed when your company was young
  5. New location, if that greatly impacts your business

So, the question remains to re-brand or not re-brand?  Well, the simple answer is, consider the brand! For our agency, yes it made sense. For KFC and the Y (formerly YMCA), yes, maybe? But, maybe not so much for Tropicana and The Gap. If you are responding to consumer input, yes! Remember, the purpose of re-branding is to keep your current clients and customers, but also attract new ones.

Long live the Coppertone baby!

Sponsorships – One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Sponsorships are an easy, friendly way to expand brand awareness among the local community. And there are usually so many enticing options but proceed with caution, for not all of them are the ideal events to sponsor. To begin with, your company has a brand. And that brand, above all, has a personality that makes it unique and is the backbone to how you are perceived by consumers. Having a brand personality helps to humanize your company, which in turn influences consumers’ decisions on whether or not to allow your brand to become a part of their daily lives. Your brand’s image also helps in considering how you evoke your message onto consumers. Keeping that consistent, cohesive image is key to maintaining, and reaching or converting new consumers. The sponsorship you decide upon should match your company’s personality and values.

As an advertising agency, it is our job to keep this brand intact and in line to its true character, unless your brand is going through an identity crisis and desperately needs a whole new brand identity – but that’s a whole different story for another time. The events you sponsor should reflect who you are, what you support, your values, ideals and beliefs. Not to mention, the other sponsors alongside you in the event can also contribute to how your company is perceived in the community—good or bad.

When considering sponsoring an event (or even celebrity endorsements), remember…

Does the event:

–       fit your brand’s overall personality?

–       match your company’s values?

–       have a loyal following?

–       help expand your company’s brand awareness?

–       target your ideal demographic? Or expand upon (reaching minority groups)?

–       support any local charities? (Emotion is a big factor for consumers when choosing/supporting a brand)

–       offer potential press coverage?

–       have a fair cost?

–       give you added value opportunities?

And of course, does the sponsorship fit within your advertising/marketing budget?

The beauty of advertising is that rules are almost always broken and taking calculated risks are a common part of our ever-changing world. Sometimes, a completely ‘different’ type of event that doesn’t match your identity, might just give you the edge you need to turn heads, or tap into a new demo in the community. For example, our client, a Memphis law firm recently sponsored a local motorcycle rally. A strange combination until you make the connection between motorcycle crashes and the need to hire a qualified experienced accident attorney, one who now has top of mind awareness.

Sponsorships are both an investment into your brand for exposure, but also help position your company as providing a selfless deed – a company lending a helping hand to cover costs that make these events possible – and consumers appreciate that.

Bottom line: Your brand personality is what makes you, well…you. It is what has led consumers to form a relationship and will attract new ones as well. That consistent image is what your public expects and appreciates.

Put Ethnography Science Behind Your Strategy

We are sure that most of you out there have said at one time or another, “I would love to be a fly on that wall!” There’s no denying our inherent desire to know what other people are really saying and thinking—without having to admit you are just dying to know things you shouldn’t or couldn’t. Whoever said that ignorance is bliss, might rewrite that common cliché and replace “bliss” with “blind.”

Well, now being noisy can be a good thing, in fact, it can be very insightful and rewarding. As strategic marketers and brand builders, the team at EVOK knows that the more research you use to create a message, campaign or idea, the better success rate you will have. It’s too risky to put all your eggs in an “I had this idea, who knows, it might work” basket. No, there’s too much competition and influence. You must have an arsenal gleaned from a recon mission. So, how do we search for this useful information in the field? How do we conduct a detailed survey of the characteristics of a specific market segment? It’s not a secret and you don’t have to be incognito to benefit from this tuned-in, on the wall approach. The writing on the wall points to ethnography.

Ethnography is a qualitative research method often used in social sciences but has shown great value to the world of marketing. It goes beyond the normal settings of the traditional focus groups by taking research to the core where it matters most, an individual’s everyday life. Ethnographers observe, interview and videotape people in the their everyday lives: where they work, live, shop and play. And the reason it has such value is because it overcomes the artificial nature of surveys and their standard Q&A format, which depend on self-reporting, skewed grouped results and the researcher’s frame of reference. And, ultimately, ethnographic research reveals the unspoken cultural and social patterns that shape consumer behavior. Wow, dare I say, “That’s something to buzz about? Well, at least that’s what the fly said.”

Knowing how to provoke the desired behavior is key to building a brand…and that specific brand’s following. It is the consumer’s behavior as to whether or not they decided to choose your brand over another. What Ethnography can do is provide insight into how a consumer interacts with your brand – how they feel about it, when they use it and why did they chose it. These findings can lead the way to a communication strategy that can incorporate traditional and non-traditional tactics. These tactics allow the consumer to experience and embrace your product or service when and where it is relevant to them.

Not all Ethnography marketing studies are created equal. Nor are they for everyone. It is an ideal approach to use when:

  • Launching/developing a new product
  • Developing a brand position
  • Creating up-front exploratory work (when the objective to is renovate, revive or reposition a brand)
  • A guide to understand how a consumer uses a product or service in the context of his or her daily life
  • Observing consumer behavior first-hand is critical versus asking for recall after-the-fact
  • The audience is hard-to-reach (e.g. teenagers, moms with babies, the affluent); or as a complement to more traditional qualitative (focus groups) or quantitative (usage and attitude studies) approaches.

Still not exactly sure when or how to use ethnography? How about in the morning on an empty stomach? EVOK uses the following example from General Mills.

When breakfast is and isn’t breakfast anymore.

General Mills understood that the paradigm of the family breakfast was shifting, but didn’t know where it was going or how to respond. Researchers arrived at consumers’ homes at 6 a.m., armed with video cameras and the tools of ethnographic research, ready to study families during their morning rituals. “Breakfast” has become an individualized and intermittent series of snacks eaten up to 11:00 a.m. Yet it is still perceived as the most important meal of the day, so parents struggle to find the right foods for their children. Go-GURT portable yogurt for kids was just the answer. The product is healthy enough for moms to give to their kids any time of the day and is “cool” enough for kids to eat during their morning recess. In just two years, it captured 7% of the $2 billion yogurt market.

Since then, the total U.S. yogurt market has ballooned to more than $4 billion and Go-GURT has become a ubiquitous kid food product with a slew of imitators.

Ethnography can help marketers and brands overcome all language, age and geography barriers; just ask the fly on the wall, he’s scaled ‘em all.

Don’t Stop, Look & Listen, Repeat.

Sometimes it’s best not to trust your instincts when it comes to marketing, especially if your views are shortsighted. One sure fired way to go out of business is to act like you already are—by ceasing to communicate to your target via marketing efforts, events, articles, etc.

Let’s say for instance, we instructed you to think and act in the opposite direction of your gut? That is if your gut is telling you to hibernate and come out when you sniff the first hint of blooming business. If you’re a business owner, stop for a moment and think like your customer base. Or it might be more fitting to suggest that you think of the things you would like if you were a loyal, or even wayward customer. As we’ve mentioned in past Free Ad Candy entries, handshakes and handwork are making a comeback during this technically-driven, virtual age. It’s still considered good manners to send a handwritten note to a client. Or forward articles or tidbits of good advice you think they might find useful—like this Free Ad Candy, for example. Don’t worry. Just do something. Improvise. Get creative. Run with scissors. No, of course we’re kidding.

Run, don’t hide—keep your face out there. Both your marketing messages and your actual face. Network. Attend functions. Make calls. Reach out. Spread your word (and do it with joy—start by using terms like “Glee-conomy” instead of “Gloom-onomics”). Peddle your wares. Remind people you’re still doing business—and you’d like to be doing it for them. Maybe even at a discounted price. Maybe you’ll run into someone you can partner with on a project or event—and do a little bit more together instead of doing nothing alone.

Keep your messages moving through the marketplace and more likely than not, you will still have a place in the market. Perhaps your ad spend is smaller—just like some people’s shopping lists—but people are still buying products and engaging in both required and recreational products and services. Stay in their minds so they don’t wander somewhere else, like to your competitors’. Find out what matters most to your consumer and you might just discover a way to become relevant and necessary. If it’s poop you see, find a way to be toilet paper (or a pooper scooper…foreshadowing alert). Or garbage, be a trash bag. Murky waters, become a filtration system.

As business owners and consumers are adjusting, so are the employees, households and schedules. For example, let’s take Leslie, a stay-at-home mother of two small children, whose husband owns a business that he works very hard to keep running better and better. Often working into the late hours creating new opportunities for his shop and staff so they may all stick around during such tough times, Leslie’s husband doesn’t keep a nine-to-five schedule. Similarly, Leslie’s neighbors and friends’ neighbors have also taken to staying late, picking up extra shifts or even part-time jobs. All of this creative energy and busying oneself left something to be desired…for the pets, mail and plants of these uninhabited homes. Suffice it to say, Leslie found a way to capitalize on peoples’ needs during these stressful times by filling their pet sitting needs.

Take a lead from Leslie, adjust your offerings. Or even lower prices. Be flexible in what you’re willing to deliver and how you deliver it. But overall, keep your promises and you will keep your loyal customers. Everyone is making adjustments in an effort to survive—cutting back here, investigating alternatives over there—your business’s marketing, offerings, products and services need to follow suit (or better yet, be the one setting the example). Think about the cell phone—fifteen years ago, not many people had one—but today, everyone has a cell phone, a cell phone charger (for the house, the car, the airport), a cell phone case, clip and docking station, cleaning wipes, ring tones and rhinestones. More so, as the cell phone is a communication mechanism, there’s residual income to be made—be it two-year contracts, rollover minutes, family plans or pay-per-minute use. There are à la carte plans with texting, international calling, email, you name it. How can you go à la carte? Like Newton’s third law of motion, “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” If someone puts their hand out with a need to be filled, find a way to put something of value in said hand. Chances are they’ll reach out to you again and again. Listen carefully—can you hear your opportunity calling?

Listen what’s not being said. If all you think you’re hearing is doom and gloom, you might find yourself in the midst of a self-fulfilling prophesy. There are many ways to survive and prosper in a recession. Just like in a natural disaster or depression. You need to sharpen your intuition skills—because dumb luck is unlikely. If you started your own business, most likely you have what it takes to write the script of a pilot that can get picked up by the collective network and become a hit. Get out there and find out what the customers need now to survive. Think of an idea with legs—like our pet sitter mentioned above.

Take time to make future plans. Catch up on what’s been set aside for a slow, rainy day. Clean out the closet, recycle an idea, follow up with old customers, adjust your business plan, teach a class or take a class. Once things turn around, you’ll be ready to put your new plan of attack in motion. Write articles, write blogs, get people together for panel discussions or product & service exchanges. Working out a trade agreement can work—for complementary businesses. Keep things moving and business will gravitate toward you—especially if you stay positive. Attitude can play a big part in keeping customers. No one wants to be near the negative energy in any room—particularly if it’s their free will and money we’re talking about.

Repeat your own past effective behaviors, as well as some of the greats who survived bad times—you know, when things were really bad—like when disease, plague, war and famine were real, everyday fears, before global marketplaces, the Internet, free delivery and free will. Somehow we all made it to this point—with lots of advancements in technology, science, medicine, politics and the way we advertise the newfangled things we have to offer. How can you be the next advancement in a way of thinking, doing or buying?

So, to recap, we suggest you stay your own course or find a new one you can tread during such times. Don’t let your marketing efforts go dark overnight, as advertising doesn’t work one day after it hits the marketplace. Adjust both your way of thinking and the wares you offer. Think about what your customers really want and need now—find a way to deliver it—and you’ll still have customers to serve and a business to run. Stay connected, network and keep the lines of communication open with prospective business partners and customers.

Keep forging ahead and blaze new trails. Remember, don’t stop your advertising, public relations and marketing efforts—or you’ll essentially be stepping aside and allowing your competition to play through with your caddy, your clubs and your lucky ball. So, keep playing ball. We will bounce back.

“Non-traditional” Holiday Marketing

A few years back we began an initiative to maintain awareness of a brand using “non-traditional” holidays as the impetus for this outreach to their audience. To this day, the program continues with much success for our client—to the point that their clients wonder what we’ll do next.


It began with a traditional holiday card, singing the same ol’ sentiments, wishing their audience well for the holiday season and the new year. No sales pitch. No call to action, website or phone numbers.

It was expected. Probably hung in the doorway with all the others.

While fruit baskets, cookies, chocolate and other goodies took center stage. In all their holiday glory. Disappearing faster than your decision to re-gift that sleeveless holiday sweater, while the awareness lasted long enough to realize you wouldn’t get a second shot at that Harry & David gift basket.

Well, we couldn’t compete with such lavish gifts of well-wishery. We had a budget for a card. And direction from the client: “We’re doing a card.”

My problem is that we were just going along with what everyone else was doing. Getting lost in the surplus of snowmen, stars, holly and glitter. Taped to a doorway until our client’s sentiment was sent the way of file 13.


What I appreciated about the holiday card was that it wasn’t (directly) going after the sale. What if we just did it for another holiday? That alone would cut through the clutter. After all, who gets a card for Groundhog Day?

Basically our pitch to the client was pretty much as outlined above. Let’s pick another secular/unofficial holiday and execute on it. No hard sell. No call-to-action. But maybe a website [landing page].

So our little card for Groundhog Day was well received. A few “thank you” emails led to a series of cards produced that year, which translated to a bump in RFP submissions to the client. Nice. They noticed.

Now the client direction was “how can we take this to the next level.”

Yup. Music to my ears.

Push Play

Proposing another set of holidays, we prepared the client to take this initiative online. Now we could really implement a tracking mechanism, and offer more interaction with the brand. A veritable mix-tape of traditional printed cards driving traffic to a landing page, some e-cards to fill in and a dimensional mailing or two.

Here are some examples:

Labor Day
This execution was created within a series of traditional “pop-up” printed cards. User opens the card and the interior comes to life, much like a children’s book. Dad is golfing in the backyard, Junior is jumping in the pool, Mom is getting burgers ready for the grill. A quick message from our client wishing them a relaxing long weekend and driving them to a landing page. The landing page mirrors the card, but plays on interaction. Click on Dad and get a mini-golf game, click on Junior for a swan dive or cannonball into the pool. All branded, and without any sales messaging. (We did provide a link to the client website)

halloweenpromoA dimensional piece was mailed about three weeks prior to the “holiday.” It consisted of an inflatable pumpkin and a sticker sheet with Jack O’Lantern eyes, noses and mouths. On the back of the pumpkin was our client’s logo and website link. Essentially, the audience had a few minutes of fun creating the custom pumpkin, then decorated their office with it (pumpkin facing “out” to show off their work) and ultimately stared at our client’s logo and website for about two weeks. (We even donated the overruns of stickers with some paper plates to a local school to do a fun Halloween craft)

Fourth of July
This execution was solely electronic, and featured an “asteroids”-style game where Uncle Sam shot down floating hot dogs. It kept high scores, and encouraged some friendly competition when emailed to a friend—and further developing our client’s email database.


The response was overwhelming by any effort. In reviewing analytics, some of the online “cards” resulted in engaging viewers with the brand for over 15 minutes. We heard some of the dimensional pieces had a shelf life of over two weeks—staying put on desks and shelves as conversation starters with associates of the addressee.The tracking mechanisms for each “mailing” were somewhat elementary (defined by budget and agency recommendation). We did see measurable results, to the tune of:

  • Increased inquiries about service offerings
  • More RFP submissions
  • Growth of indirect contacts within the vertical channel

Even a bump in correspondence with their audience, even if it’s only a “what am I getting for Arbor Day?”-type questions. I am comfortable saying we raised some awareness.

So we turned the ubiquitous holiday card into a program that returns more and more each time our client invests in it.

Here are some things to consider if you’d like to try something similar:

  • Skip the usual. Don’t do a postcard because that’s what you’d normally do
  • Timing is everything. Pick an unusual time of the year, a holiday, birthday, astrological division
  • What’s in it for them? Notice this doesn’t say “what’s in it for you?”—play down your product/service and turn up the volume on just saying “hi” or giving your audience something that is unrelated to your product/service
  • Theme. a common thread tying your efforts together help to build awareness from your audience. And this doesn’t mean because you put your widget on a “baseball card” that someone will want to collect them all. Perhaps each execution is pink, or square, electronic or dimensional…
  • Commit to the whole program. You may need to gain some momentum before you see results, so create a plan and stick to it. The first isn’t any good without the second and third.

Here’s some holidays we haven’t been able to work into our program, but sound like there’s a lot to work with:

  • No Pants Day – First Friday of May
  • International Talk Like a Pirate Day – September 19
  • National Ammo Day – November 19
  • Monkey Day – December 14

I love to hear your efforts, especially if it’s on one of the above!

Handwork vs. Technology

Recently we developed a campaign for a financial industry client that involved illustration as a foundation for the visual imagery and it got me thinking.

Thinking about how much we rely on technology as a tool for design, writing, even to read this blog.  Thinking about how much I appreciate “handwork.” Thinking of the time, talent and dedication it requires to create something with your hands.

That’s the reason I got into the world of advertising. Well, not directly. But my passion for illustration and fine arts led me down the path to art and creative direction.

I enjoyed the process of creation—the idea, the execution, the results. And the tools…oh the tools. Pencils, pens, erasers, papers, knives. Things that spray from cans. You had rulers, big tables to work on. And the stuff you created took hours upon hours until it was just right.

And it was YOURS. Even if you gave it away for an ad, a t-shirt or a book cover—You did it.

So now it’s hours and hours behind a box of knowledge. The glare from the screen. The hum of the cooling fans, slowly bringing you into a state of consciousness somewhere between jet lag and REM sleep.

Now I feel like I moved some stuff around on the screen. Set some type. Blah.  My Mac drew the perfect circle, I just told it how big I wanted it.

Technology has overtaken the true art of handwork.

Things are slick. And glossy. And exact.

Handwork Flourishes

Wall-to-wall handwork.

Yee-Haw Industries: Wall-to-wall handwork.

I recently took an unexpected trip to Knoxville, TN.  While there, I was hoping to get a few minutes to visit an old friend. Yee-Haw Industries. (I’m really not their friend… but I enjoy their work so much, their handwork, that I’d be their friend.)

Yee-Haw Industries  is primarily a letterpress printer—the “old” kind of printing with wood type, lead type, hand-cranked printing presses. Think old west meets deep south and they made a circus poster.

Old wooden floor. smells of  paper and ink and the solvent you clean the press blankets with. They had the big tables and the wood cabinets. Stuff made of cast iron.

I think the only need for electricity was for the coffee maker and the lights.

Cabinet after cabinet of lead and wood type.

Yee-Haw Industries: Cabinet after cabinet of lead and wood type.

Everything in there was done by hand.  It was a museum of fine art, design and typography with people touching the exhibits. It was wonderful.

You can see the skill, determination and passion in every print they create. The lines are rough. The ink is a little heavy here and a little light there. Technique, limitation of the process or human error? Who cares—I loved every minute detail of it.

And they OWN it. It’s THEIRS. The style, the techniques—even when they give it away for a poster or a note card, they did it.

Give Them a Hand

So I bring this back to that campaign we developed for the financial client.

Part of our pitch was that the (uniquely) illustrative nature of the campaign was representative of their  history, tradition and the relationships forged with their customers.  Like they did it back then. And do today. I explained (and truly believe) that the consumer will make an emotional connection through the illustration to the brand. And that ‘s (part of) the battle.

They liked it. It’s going to run. I think they saw through our dog and pony show  and made an emotional connection with the artwork. The handwork. It represented them and related to their audience.

And most of all, THEY could OWN it.

Have you noticed a return to handwork? Or has it never gone away? And, what is unique about your campaign—how do you OWN it?

I’d like to hear your responses.

What children’s programming taught me about advertising.

As a father of 13 month old twins and an imaginative five year old, I’m fortunate enough to be immersed in a perspective of discovery and creativity that only a child can possess.  And over the past five years I’ve shared the delight of children’s programming with my kids, realizing that I enjoy it not only for the time with my children, but for the inspiration they can provide to the creative adult.

(Judgemental commenters are thwarted here: I do not equate quality time with my children as sitting in front of the TV with them. But any time with them I do enjoy.)

So an article came out last week in Advertising Age Mediaworks about what I felt was my own little creative secret, “Yo Gabba Gabba!”—one of my favorites, uhh, my twins’ favorites.

I won’t elaborate on the details, you can find them here. But what I like is the simplicity of the concept. That I will tell you about. That’s what is inspiring.  And the two pitchmen in my head present it like this:

“So this tall hipster guy, dressed in a scandinavian track suit a la 1976, has this awesome boom box. A boom box that opens to reveal a collection of the best in Japanese-like collectible figurines, action figures if you will. And when he pulls the figures from their form-fitting foamy boom box case, and puts each of them into their own little environment on top of a table—they come to life. And teach your kids.”

That’s it. Action figures that come to life once you pull them out of their case.  I’d go on to tell you about the set, the guests,  etc., but here’s my take-away:

Keep it simple.

What happens to imaginary  friends when they’re not wanted anymore? They go here.

Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.  That simple. A foster home for imaginary friends.

Simple. Original. Yet anything goes. Have you ever seen a palm tree with lips, and speaks kinda like a chicken? Can you imagine one? Yes you can. How creative is that?

Perhaps it just needs to be that simple for kids to understand and become engaged. Then you can add the talking palm tree or the one-eyed alien (Muno is my fav).

You’re saying “So that’s how this translates to advertising.”

Simplicity in the idea provides a strong foundation for growing it. So let’s keep it simple.