Blue-ribbon panels

Heard a news report this morning – yet another government “blue-ribbon panel” giving its recommendations.

Question: why aren’t there ever any orange-ribbon panels? Or brown-ribbon committees? I know, I know – blue-ribbon creates the impression in our minds (justified or not!), of high quality, stellar qualifications, select expertise, authority, etc. I guess if I was elected to serve on such a panel, I wouldn’t want the branding of a “mauve-ribbon” group.

Just asking…

Wall Street Journal re-design

Yesterday, the WSJ implemented their latest major re-design. They changed a lot of things – a new custom-made typeface (nice), new sections and layout, new graphics, etc.

However, one of the biggest changes is that they “narrowed” the size of the paper, as others have recently done. It is now 5 columns across, so actual page size is smaller, and therefore the content per page is less.

And this leads me to my main first impression of the new format – it just doesn’t “feel” right. Call me petty, but one thing that really bothered me was that I was turning the pages too fast for a Wall Street Journal – I’d glance at any given 2-page spread, often see little of interest, and quickly (as if it was a copy of USA Today) be moving on to the next page. The proportion of ad space vs. news/analysis per page spread seemed out of whack. My experience with the WSJ over the years is that you go through slowly and deliberately, because there is a lot of substance per page.

OK, maybe I’ll get used to it, and it’s just a passing reaction to something new. I’m a fairly conservative person (one reason I read the WSJ, after all!) and don’t always immediately react positively to change. And I do appreciate the efforts the paper makes to modernize and improve. But it is remarkable to me that the most powerful impression about this new format, for me, was “feel” of the pages – size, and speed of turning. It’s interesting, how many contextual attachments we can develop around a product/brand, and what impact a change can have…

The T-shirt test

On a number of occasions in my writing, I’ve referenced how a brand has “got” me when I will gladly display the logo on a hat, t-shirt, mug, etc.

Seth Godin apparently uses the same metric.

It’s really pretty simple. I’ve either proud of my connection to your company and what it offers, or not. The T-shirt is my vote. What higher compliment could a company seek?

Sell by screaming??

My rational self doesn’t like this.

But my emotional side thinks it’s JUST GREAT!!!

The message in advertising is irrelevant, new research shows

So the message doesn’t matter in advertising, anywhere near as much as the emotional content? That certainly explains a lot of advertising I’ve seen. Does it also explain Howard Dean’s outburst in Iowa, along with a lot of other political nonsense?

Packaging H2O

Now, be honest – if you were around and semi-conscious 25 years ago – could you have foreseen the market for selling the most abundant substance on our planet? But now, it’s no longer good enough to have a story about some semi-exotic remote spring – no, water is a fashion statement.

Take a fascinating look at the packaging of H2O at the Aqua Store. Many new ways to separate you from your dollars, for the sake of stylish water containers. Although I despise the whole idea, nonetheless, some of these implementations are pretty cool-looking – if I had my choice, I guess I’d just as soon sip (sorry – perform re-hydration therapy) from the Voss or the Qvarzia bottles.

Bottles like this, with sensuous curves, are a great draw when there’s really nothing to distinguish the contents. Water is water, no matter how much mystique these folks try to wrap around it.

This Sofia rose wine is another great example. Someone gave us a bottle of this…the wine was not memorable, but I did not want to part with the bottle! Effective branding involves all the senses – especially when the product itself is not particularly distinguished.

Light one up

Bristol Myers Squibb has come up with a very interesting and effective HIV awareness/fund-raising site.

Actually, BMS is donating the funds – you “light” a virtual candle on the site, and they donate a dollar. Clicking on other candles brings up personal stories about HIV.

On my pharma training blog (, I’ve mentioned the need for more companies to show a positive face in light of all the negativity about Big Pharma. This is a good step in that direction.

From a web design perspective, it’s relatively easy to just throw up information on a site – and sometimes, that’s about how appealing it is! This more creative method weaves stories and corporate good will with user interaction, and a memorable metaphor, to leave a positive impression. Nicely done.

Brand ahoy!

If I was the packaging manufacturer, I’d be all over this opportunity!

Shipping container breaks up at sea, Doritos wash up on shore, still fresh and crispy.

Residents flock to gather edible goodies after they are lost at sea.

Couldn’t pay for a better marketing opportunity!

Full story, with other pix, here.

Do you have Branding on the Brain?

Apparently, Yes, according to this recently released study.

It really shouldn’t be a surprise that something embedded in memory, particularly if it has positive associations, should show up in a functional MRI scan. But is there a bizarre business opportunity here – running people through fMRIs to validate branding effectiveness??

Equal: Packets of sweet fun

Scott Ginsberg writes about his discovery of some great design on Equal packets – here’s a way to take something forgettably mundane and make it stand out! It’s a shame that more companies don’t come up with creative ways to grab attention and make themselves memorable. These small packets are billboard space, and this is a great way to use it…unlike our friends at UPS, and many others.

Copywriter for 141 Worldwide in Chicago (that came up with this campaign): Alma (a.k.a. Marketing Mommy).

Personal Branding

Time magazine recently ran an article on the topic of “Personal Branding”. I’m a major believer in this idea. Actually, we all have a “brand” image that we project, and that others hold in their minds about us. The only question is, are deliberate about it, or not? Identifying the core traits, perspectives, and capabilities that make us who we are is critical if we are to be rightly “positioned” in the minds of our audience. One of the things I enjoy most is sitting down with people, rapidly distilling down what their strengths and desires are, and then brainstorming what directions to take based on their core identity.

I’ve subscribed to William Arruda‘s newsletter on Personal Branding for quite a while (he is featured in the Time article). Despite the less-than-optimal design of his website, he’s apparently doing quite well. Good for him – as long as personal branding exercises are based on authenticity and transparency, this approach can only do good.

The three-cent bill

We all know not to expect to see a legitimate three-dollar bill. Last week, however, I was amused and amazed to receive a three-cent bill.

My former long-distance provider, recently replaced by a more comprehensive phone plan from a local provider, decided, as a final act of goodwill and corporate wisdom, to send along an afterthought last bill for…3 cents. That’s $0.03. And that’s really cheesy. Just call it “brand stupid”.

This bill, likely to have a major impact on quarterly earnings reports for Wall Street, was for one day’s worth of “Interstate Services Fee”, apparently incurred during the window of time of my cancellation. Now, I know they have to charge these fees. But can’t someone with just a touch of common sense develop an algorithm that says, essentially, that any charge like this of under (let’s say) $10.00 really costs more to bill and collect than the amount itself? Let alone the lost good will?

For years, I had no problem with this provider. I was happy with the service and the billing. But what will be my final memory of them? That’s right – a 3 cent bill. All brand equity lost, for 3 cents. Who knows what it cost them internally to generate and process this invoice – AND, I’m also being asked to spend 13 times the amount of the bill for the postage to send it in!

So, in response, I am sending along 3 pennies taped to a 3×5 card. And if I somehow fail to remember to put postage on the envelope, so that it arrives postage due, that would certainly be poetic justice.

That’s my 3 cents worth…


Looks like I’m going to have to buy this book, based on the Table of Contents, and this post about brand names. Marty Neumeier is definitely on the same wavelength!

Hat Tip: Brand Autopsy

Pleasant diversion

In my daily travels through the series of tubes that make up the Internet, one of my favorite stops has become Book of Joe. From a branding perspective, the value proposition is simple – Joe the blogging anesthesiologist consistently finds and consolidates an eclectic array of stuff on his site for the rest of us to enjoy. Everything from leading-edge medical articles to strange new appliances to who-knows-what-else, part of the appeal is…well, you just don’t know what is happening over at BoJ today.

JoeJoe keeps the brand image very minimalistic – a tiny, grainy picture on the upper right hand corner that could be him or just might be his second cousin, and then the daily diet of articles and links. No Google sponsored links. No blinking banners. Just a fresh jolt of Joe, delivered daily, nicely flavored with a dash of self-deprecating personality.

So, after you pour your cup of joe today, check out what’s brewing at Book of Joe as you sip!

Sweet logo

I confess, I don’t usually like logos with this format. But the colors and shapes just work right on this one…the logo “feels” professional, modern, and friendly all at once.

Update: AIMA Atlanta recently changed the logo (I like the old one better), but the new website has one of the best implementations of a “talking head” avatar that I’ve seen!

Some brand stories

Newsweek has a nice little slideshow on successful (smaller) brands that have quickly become household names. Of these, I use LinkedIn and Firefox (and very happy with both of those), and occasionally Craigslist…but I love the imagery shown for POM Wonderful juice.

While we’re looking at billboards…

Hysterical. Done for the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Taboo no more?

Todd Wasserman over at Brandweek talks about efforts to “loosen up” use of the formerly sacred logo. I think this can be effective in time-limited, narrow circumstances – otherwise, brand chaos can ensue.


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