Sunday, August 30, 2009

Anti-decorators unite.

Creative strategy is the elusive element in the marketing business model. Sometimes it's right in front of us. Other times it requires an extensive search party, GPS equipment, and state-of-the-art tracking devices to locate its whereabouts. Account executives and time sheets hate this part of the process. Either way, when the big idea comes together it's exhilarating (and hopefully sooner than later says our CFO).

The longer you work in this business, the more adept you get at making new conceptual connections faster. I tend to bombard myself with information which at some point surfaces and restructures into a cohesive thought. Though I'm an art director, I have no interest in designing something cool if it has no message or meaning. I've never wanted to be a "decorator." Today brand participation and connection are the end goals. Pretty pictures and sick graphic elements alone are not going to get that done. It's not so much the how, it's the why that matters most. However, it still should be cool. Just meaningfully cool. Here are some of the angles I start with (ever-changing and in no particular order):

1. Finding, embracing, and celebrating a core brand truth (good or bad, it's all in how you spin it)

2. Creating a sense of escapism

3. Connecting emotionally or through nostalgia (experiential experience)

4. Cultivating a belief system or "club" that people want to be part of

5. Anything that encourages brand participation, gets people talking, or works its way into pop culture. A stunt, an inside joke, a movement or initiative, a good deed, etc.

6. Whatever you think, think the opposite (Paul Arden says it best)

7. Work as a team. Copywriter meet art director and vice versa.

8. Procrastination, distraction, and reevaluation. Sounds odd, but sometimes you need to step away and come back. If I get locked into an idea too early, it's harder to change direction. Speaking of procrastination, I need to get back to what I'm working on and stop with the blogging.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Tell me a story.

This morning I was talking with our bleeding-edge senior copywriter about the collision of branding and storytelling. Is that story in your brand or brand in your story? It seems companies are tired of the business babble and ready to engage in more meaningful ways. Why not throw the audience right in the middle of an epic adventure, loosely associated with a brand? J Peterman is notorious for making seemingly uninteresting items into coveted treasures by rambling off tales of world intrigue. Dos Equis brilliantly aligns with the most interesting man in the world, who incidentally, lives vicariously through himself and knows how to speak French in Russian. I must admit, I'm a sucker for dead-pan third-party narration. Absurdity and suaveness, always an ideal combination. This campaign has turned standard frat-boy beer advertising on it's end.

Touting product features, dotting the i's, and crossing the t's only gets lost in the sea of safe marketing mediocrity. Big industry words are easy to ignore. Everyone's got the same product category features. And if they don't, they can easily attain them.

Check out Venables Bell & Parnters. AdPulp says their mission statement is "outstanding" and how they tell a brand story is pretty amazing as well.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Be the audience, or who the audience wants to be.

What do Apple and Harley Davidson have in common? The ability to cultivate unconditional brand loyalty. By aligning their vision with the people who are most passionate about their brand, or the so-called brand evangelists, these companies have established a relationship of evolving authenticity. People are emotionally invested in these companies, and their success. Of course, I'm a member of the Apple cult, but what about Harley?

"Notorious since 1903" sets the stage for mischief and mayhem. Carmichael Lynch plays up the renegade factor – even though most customers are affluent, middle-aged professionals (28% have never owned a motorcycle before and a large percentage are women*). Unapologetic. Rugged. Bold. There's an experiential lifestyle element that becomes part of the brand's mystique. The general public follows because they want to believe, just for a moment… that they are the carefree rebel surrounded only by open road and adventure. 

*Post inspiration and statistics from Do You Matter? How Great Design will Make People Love Your Company

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