Dave Hoffer, Associate Creative Director at frog design posted this video entitled Disruptive Realism.
Thinking beyond the art for art's sake, or social statement intentions—How about applying disruptive events, social engagements, customer engagements toward branded extensions?
More than advertising, let's connect with customers on meaningful and memorable levels—in ways that benefit, enlighten, excite, and inspire. More than just street sampling. More than just actors posing. Get to know your clients' customers, then dream up ideas to make them fall in love with the clients' brands.
A new sports drink? A new aspirational or challenger coffee brand? Create a portable café (like a bboxx) and take it around the country to sporting events, or other lifestyle event like a farmer's market. Give out free samples. Hire a musical trio for more ambiance. Video-document the experience; hand the camera to customers. The possibilities are endless. And it's organic and disruptive in positive ways that benefit brands, customers, and community.
Any positive, disruptive, brand experiences that resonated with you?
a conversation with peter knight
CG: Among the stories various companies tell to the marketplace, are ones about their corporate responsibility (CR), social responsibility, sustainability and citizenship. But many of these are laden with masses of data or top-heavy with detail, does this make sense?
PK: Data is important because it differentiates hard performance from soft assurances. But more vitally important to many groups is the nature and quality of the [top-line] corporate narrative. Because these people want to read the stories that are told [by and] about the company, not concentrate on all the metrics and supporting detail.
CG: Most of the reporting and messaging that’s done looks largely backward, like annuals do, at prior-year performance. But couldn't they do more heavy-lifting, both for themselves and for their audiences? Especially by being more, and more meaningfully – not just lightly – forward looking.
PK: Yes. A lot of companies have a big opportunity to use a CR report to show and discuss [for stakeholders] their road map for taking the business toward a higher plane of responsibility…and profitability.
It's a powerful but underused platform, one that could be far better leveraged to convey the company narrative; from its management to its vision. In a way that can go beyond [the limitations of] what’s possible with often hidebound and jargon-filled annual reports.
CG: What role should designers of CR reports, sites and other communications play beyond making content look and lay out well?
PK: It depends on the medium for the given messages, whether that’s on paper or the web or something in between, like PDFs. But regardless, good design is imperative. And, it must always be done with the understanding it’s just a tool to help convey information successfully, and not an end in itself. It should support but never trump the content.
Designers need, as well, to look carefully at each audience and each medium involved, and figure out the right visual styling for each. Because it can vary widely. Some audiences, for instance, are only interested in data and not in pictures.
Designers can also add value by helping clients define and differentiate the needs of given audiences, and by recommending the right channels to reach each of them.
CG: You believe the practice of communicating CR is still too immature. Why? And what growth agent is needed to mature it and improve all these stories and messages?
PK: Only when CR is taken more seriously by a large majority of the more important stakeholders in companies; only when they demand this kind of content – as I'm sure they will in time – will the whole exercise evolve. Right now, for most, this messaging is only a nice-to-have not a must-have.
As for improving these communications, my advice is look to an inspiration like George Orwell: stick to fundamentals. Write simply. Be direct. Be brave. Be adventurous.
CG: So why isn't the ‘Orwell Approach’ in wide use? If it would make companies’ stories of their responsibility all the more engaging and impactful?
PK: Because so many companies are spineless when it comes to corporate communications. They're terrified of breaking the mold. They benchmark furiously. Never want to step out of the fold. They retreat into soft assurances and old shibboleths, where they feel safe. That’s the tragedy of most forms of corporate communications.
CG: Paging the brave and adventurous out there...we need you.
CG: What useful things can companies, and the design, marketing and other consultants assisting them, learn or borrow from the corporate responsibility realm, to enlighten other parts of their business narratives?
PK: Talking straight. Corporate responsibility stories demand it, even though those who practice this straightforwardness are still in the minority. There's no question every company would benefit by it.
In addition to this, recognize that “negative” topics can actually enhance [through contrast and balance] the positive elements of a story.
CG: Do you also believe companies have a ‘responsibility’ to tell their audiences richer and more dynamic stories, ones aligned with readers’ needs? Versus giving people vacuum-sealed presentations that miss a sense of active listening [by the company], or lack the feeling of a desired kind of "conversation" or running dialogue happening between the lines.
PK: Some companies want to be more engaging. You can see this in the corporate responsibility blogs by McDonald’s, Intel, Sun Microsystems and others. But these are early days, and these blogs are suitably sanitized. Unfortunately, the willingness to put forward edgy, engaging stories -- even though it would be welcome and beneficial -- is outweighed by the perceived risk of litigation.
CG: How far away are we from truly enlightened or at least more enlightened stories in this area?
PK: Very far away. Especially since the dysfunctional economy is making it more difficult for companies to behave with integrity. Maybe the economic change we're going through will catalyze business to align its values more closely with those of society.
That said, never before has integrity been so high up on the scale of need than it is today.
CG: And I would add, never before has the integrity of companies’ stories themselves, and telling those stories responsibly, been more important – to everyone on the receiving end.
Thanks, Peter, for your good thoughts.
Colin Goedecke is a senior marketing writer and messaging strategist, with a 23-year history helping leading and emerging companies worldwide platform and tell their stories. Reaching More Responsible Communications is the 10th in a series of short thought pieces, to help creative groups and their clients communicate more wisely. Others can be found at www.tenowls.blogspot.com
Peter Knight is President of Context America, a leading US/UK corporate responsibility communications group, that advises some of the world’s most well-known businesses on CR strategy and content, www.econtext.co.uk He is also a former UK Environmental Journalist of the Year, and was a regular contributor to the Financial Times in the 1990s and 80s.
Now that initial the shock of the elaborate Arnell branding scheme [PDF] for Pepsi is over, it is time to consider the actual implications of the Work.
Many branding professionals (including myself) criticized Pepsi's product rebranding back in November '08. Incoming comments seemed to support disdain for the appearance of yet another Pepsi brand folly. And from the outset, the recently floated Arnell paper Breathtaking appeared preposterous and elaborate pretzel logic—further fueling the criticism.
Some people may or may not be crazy about the new bottles looking like ribbed condoms, but even if Arnell's foundations appear silly or contrived, some end results may have merit.
EVEN A BROKEN CLOCK IS RIGHT TWICE A DAY
The more we delve into this Pepsi brand work-in-progress from Arnell, the more it may warrant rethinking previous arguments against the new graphical marks—broken from a normal linear graphical identity in terms of both development method and graphical fruition.
I cannot speak to the existence of Pepsi Energy Fields or Feng Shui of the intrinsically Ying Yang -like Pepsi mark(s); or the relationship between the Earth's Magnetic Dynamics vs. gestalt of The Pepsi Globe Dynamics. Great googley moogley. But Arnell makes other interesting conclusions that may indeed be valid despite pointing to physical phenomena entirely unrelated to brand.
BACK INTO THE FUTURE
Leading the future incarnations of the product brands & marks based on self-altered trajectory? Getting ahead of the brand curve by altering the path, such as through a cosmic wormhole? Put another way, think about brands and marks in new ways; deal with modern branding challenges by reinventing when necessary. Anticipate future challenges. Nothing new here, really.
ADDRESSING TRIBAL MARKETS
Arnell's Pepsi Universe contains a near infinite variety of Pepsi product logo permutations. A few of them are below.
Brand fragments to address an increasingly splintered tribal marketplace? Multiple brand points of view for related products? Anticipating a future line of spinoff products equally as numerous? Pepsi now moves from a flat 2D approach to a three-dimensional outlook, with a three-dimensional graphical perspective to match—brand emoticons spun off from an existing brand theme. Now we're talking.
Arnell considered that there are people/ customers/ tribal markets with varying points of view, and rejected the mass-brand effort as no longer relevant. In effect, the new brand expression appears to be as much a part of the natural order as past/ current/ future natural states created by expanding universe Big Bang forces. The comparison may be nothing more than a metaphor, but is a powerful way to illustrate the natural forces of the modern marketplace trajectory. Tribal and nomadic.
CHANGE vs. STABILITY
Some brands may never change their outward identity by more than a hair every 10 years, and be just fine the way they are. Time-honored traditions, rock-solid and continuously embraced brands, equally as relevant now as they were 100 years ago.
But if change you must, then by all means have at it with as much thought, art, and science poured over the mix until it looks like a brand renaissance—and that it does the job of re-engaging audiences. Whether Pepsi accomplishes re-engagement is another matter. Whether the deeper chasms of Pepsi's brand can reconnect is another matter still.
Your thoughts? Do you like the Pepsi product ID? Does the Arnell paper change your perception of the Pepsi brand?
a conversation with sebastian kaupert
CG: Sebastian, as a seasoned creative director and design educator, why do you believe “content drives everything?”
SK: Shaping the delivery of a message is no longer enough. The most enlightened designers bring a wholly fresh point-of-view. That’s the new price of entry: an original form and visual point-of-view around equally original and interesting content. This is what will engage and is engaging people; what will drive brand and business success now and into the future.
You have mainstream marketers today who 'sponsor' original art, entertainment and thought; and support creative endeavors of all kinds, somewhat like the Medicis did during the Renaissance. The quality and relevance of this content casts a welcome glow on their brands, and on the 'patrons' behind it.
Take L Studio, Lexus’ Internet channel and its bleeding-edge content. None of it has to do with cars or selling cars, but draws instead on and across art, entertainment, science and literature. The intent is to have the Lexus brand thought of more favorably.
The other big dynamic: the many millions of people who curate their own media diet. They go wherever they need to go in digital space to get messages. But only messages that are relevant, that make sense to them. Those that aren't relevant they pay no attention to.
CG: Are creative groups still living in an old paradigm? And where do social networks fit in?
SK: Yes, mostly groups resisting giving up their well-oiled but failing business models; and those unwilling or unable to evolve with our new paradigm. Consider Facebook: in December of 2008 it had 222 million members. Its demographic has gone from mainly young people to people of all ages and places. It’s a vital part of how a lot of us communicate and get information we're interested in. It's a valuable part of the media mix now, or should be. All marketers need to tune into these social networks,but only with customized, relevant and rich content; that’s well designed-and-delivered, in order to engage and compel audiences.
CG: How do creative professionals get their clients to this essential next dimension?
SK: They need to think of themselves as higher level program directors. They need to look beyond the creative brief, strategy, themes and goals, and also understand the conversations audiences are having with each other. It’s not about creating beautiful images and layouts or clever visual puns. It’s about inventing original stories and brand worlds that relate to those conversations, and intuitively express and validate a brand and its promise and experience; and do all this within a context not in a vacuum.
CG: What do you mean inventing "original stories?”
SK: I mean originality like the Japanese artist Murakami. Or Damien Hirst, who makes art from industrial materials, formaldehyde and dead animals in ways that both attract and repel, but ultimately engage, move us, make us talk.
It requires all of us as designers to rise to a next level of creativity and ingenuity; one that doesn't look for validation in focus groups, but begins and sustains a rich, real-world conversation; creates a new and worthwhile brand currency.
CG: What creative groups are already out front, thinking and working in this way?
SK: There are more and more that are breaking the old mold. Crispin Porter + Bogusky is one. Look at their work for Burger King, Ikea, Mini Cooper. Often it’s more an event than an expected campaign, and it creates starting points for conversations...that take on lives of their own.
Also Anomaly, which has the right business model to deliver this kind of compelling approach. A great example is outofyourleaguegirl.com for Converse. The paid-for media was just a small portion of the significant actual ‘distribution’ it achieved.
CG: Is B2B marketing a much different story than B2C?
SK: No. When you look at the most successful marketing in either category, you'll see it transcends all the usual statements about the product or service, and speaks to audiences’ real-life issues; seeks to inspire them where they live and work and think.
CG: So what about those who believe there’s nothing wrong with plain-vanilla marketing messages that are “well designed.” Are they out of synch?
SK: Yes, because this kind of marketing has little impact or credibility today; engages no one; builds no equity. Anyone selling this isn't serving their clients, or their own best interests. But some marketers and designers just don't know how (or why) to take any other path than the familiar one.
CG: How do you teach this to up-and-coming designers, like your students at Pratt?
SK: I start by helping them develop critical communication skills. I also push them to stretch their notion of creativity to include business thinking. Especially how to understand a client’s business, and marketing issues, and to see as their first and foremost goal solving those challenges.
CG: What distinguishes the best designers? What should clients look for? Or expect of them?
The best designers aren't distinguished by their design skills, but by their human skills: their capacity to listen, observe and analyze, and help create genuine connections that lead to lasting relationships.
This is what transforms our value as designers; and leads to entirely new insights and stories. This is what helps our clients succeed, in a marketplace where success revolves in an increasing way around the viral power of individuals' preferences. It cannot be bought, is has to be earned -- by the quality, originality and relevance of their stories, messages and other content.
CG: Thanks for your good thoughts, Sebastian.
Colin Goedecke is a senior marketing writer and messaging strategist, with a 23-year history helping leading and emerging companies worldwide platform and tell their stories. Content Drives Everything is the ninth in a series of short thought pieces, to help creative groups and their clients communicate more wisely. Others can be found at www.tenowls.blogpot.com
Sebastian Kaupert is an inspired thinker, creative director and design educator. His Brooklyn-based practice is Cradle Studios; his professional profile can be found at www.linkedin.com/in/sebastiankaupert
Gentlemen, we face a danger never before presented to us. Previously an unspoken act too cruel and horrible to mention, the cat is out of the bag. Everyman now faces... the Dog House. Check out the high-resolution video by clicking on the link below. OR, view the YouTube version, also below...
The message: If you can't get people to buy products by advertising the benefits—use guilt to invoke submission?
The origin: in 1850, American printer and artist Esther Howland was among the first to publish and sell Valentine's greetings in the United States—starting a Valentine's-branded tradition that popularized the Dog House for males ever since.
The gift: And yet, many of us realized then as now, that the simple connections and affections we have for one another are really the only gifts that matter. And all of the diamonds and gold in the world cannot match that.
Happy St. Valentine's Day!
Early last year, the Italian government requested design submissions in an effort to support Italy's worldwide marketing efforts. Landor Associates competed against 70 agencies to design a new visual ID to represent Italy as a worldwide travel destination.
The full article may be read in Landor's press release Landor Designs Logo to Promote Italy Worldwide. And the fruition of Landor's winning submission is below.
It's an interesting combination. The main typefaces are various weights of Futura, to provoke a modern vogue feeling. The human-esque green "t" is a little like an upside down Italian peninsula. The letter "i" is a Bodoni variation—and interestingly the Landor wordmark also has been a variation of the same Bodoni typeface for the past six decades.
So, I suppose, not only is there a little Italian in all of us, but also a little bit of Landor in Italy.
Is your brand or business story in excellent shape, inside and out? Diagnose how healthy, unwell or at risk it is, by giving it a proper check up, looking for telltale symptoms and treating issues including…
OVER OR UNDERWEIGHT?
Chubby or bloated stories put too much stress on readers’ systems. Slimmer is better. And those that are too thin – on character, or too slight on benefits – are even worse. Add calories and build more message mass; more muscle.
PRESSURE TOO HIGH?
When a story markets too hard, readers black out or back away. Don't force it: take care to convey thoughts and points in a low-or-no pressure way.
ACTIVE OR SLUGGISH?
Well worked-out stories move with vigor in the marketplace, and leave lethargic ones gasping for air. The best exercise programs include voice toning and rigorous editing.
HYDRATED OR DEHYDRATED?
Fluid stories are far more quenching than stories bone-dry in style or spirit.
Put all the right nutrients into a narrative, from premise and promise to relevance and openness, to enrich and energize audiences -- and satisfy their needs.
AND REMEMBER TO KEEP A FINGER ON THE PULSE
Actively observe the condition of your content, as internal and external realities change. And use a trained eye. It’s good preventive medicine.
Regular check ups will help ensure a story’s well being, and enhance the long-term fitness and vitality of the business.
Colin Goedecke is a senior marketing writer and messaging strategist, with a 23-year history helping leading and emerging companies worldwide platform and tell their stories. Reality Check Up is the eighth in a series of short thought pieces, to help creative groups and their clients communicate more wisely. Others can be found at www.tenowls.blogspot.com