Pharma Web Branding, Part 3 – J&J

This is the third in a series on home page design for pharma companies (an industry where I have a lot of interest and involvement). Today – J&J. A company with many admirable qualities. Though, the home page is not necessarily one of them!

The Johnson & Johnson home page simply has too much going on. The immediate visceral reaction is one of being overwhelmed – there are so many features and sections that the effect is not to draw in, but repel.

Furthermore, there is a poor use of space, as a large open white field is left unused to the right (not shown in the graphic below), which is assuming smaller monitor sizes than perhaps the vast majority of the population now uses. Therefore, the site feels even more “cramped” than it should due to a compressed layout.


This is what I’d call a “working” interface – that is, you’re going to be working to find what it is you want! Now J&J is a big, multi-faceted company, with a bunch of operating companies, and that makes the challenge of an intuitive interface even tougher. But a jumble is not the answer.

What would I do differently? The one thing that ties of all J&J together is its (rightly renowned) Credo, and I’d make that the dominant feature in the site, since that is a key J&J corporate differentiator. Right now, it’s referenced in a section to the left – I’d make it front-and-center, and have different sections of it show up on a rotating basis. Then, as a key “storytelling” part of the site, I’d feature different ways – both internally (with employees) and externally (with clients) – that the Credo has had its impact. One well-known instance is the Tylenol recall of days past.

Because there are so many audiences, operating companies, and products, I think I’d want to create a sophisticated navigation widget that starts with the question, What are you looking for? Then, based on some main choices and sub-choices (to pinpoint who the user is, what therapeutic area or product they want to know about, etc.) the user would be directed to one or more relevant destinations.

I’d also break up the main page into “main theme” centers – Investor Center, Career Center, Company Center, Product Center, News Center, Community Center – and more logically range many of the choices now scattered all over the home page into sub-pages for each center.

There are many good information streams here. The big gap is confusing arrangement. With some creative information design, this site could be a whole lot more appealing.

Some Great Branding Posts this Morning

Head on over to John Moore’s Brand Autopsy site for a very interesting article, with links, about Wal-Mart’s perceived brand difficulties (from a “leaked” brand positioning report).

Then, from Mike Wagner’s Own Your Brand, a striking tale about how one broken brand promise can have very immediate, negative, multiplied consequences.

Logo Trends – Take a Look

Very cool spot to see the latest trends in logo design (LogoLounge). You can also see the trends from past years. Pretty neat stuff!

Here’s another interesting site. If you know of other good “let’s look at logos” sites, please add them to the comments!

Getting it Done

I have a new post up on the Small Business Branding site, focusing on a new marketing campaign by Citi (“Let’s Get it Done”). Your comments and insights would be welcome…

Blogroll Updated After Long Neglect

After putting together the Marketing Bloggers portal, which contains over 100 feeds from bloggers spanning the marketing/branding/advertising field, I realized that I had thoroughly neglected my own blogroll on StickyFigure. Some of you have kindly linked to me, and I have been negligent in reciprocating – mea culpa!

So, as of today, here’s my updated list of blogs I turn to most often for inspiration and instruction (and a few good laughs!):

Brains on Fire

Brand Autopsy

Brand Corral

Brand Flakes for Breakfast

Branding Strategy Insider

(this space left intentionally blank) BrandingWire

Chaos Scenario

Chris Brown’s Branding and Marketing Blog

CK’s Blog

Conversation Agent



Coudal Partners

Customers Rock!

Dave Young’s Branding Blog

Diva Marketing

Drew’s Marketing Minute

Duct Tape Marketing

Greg Verdino

Guy Kawasaki

Jaffe Juice

L&G Business Solutions

Logic and Emotion

Made to Stick

Marketing Profs: Daily Fix

Marketing Technology (Douglas Karr)



My 2 Cents


One Reader at a Time

Personal Branding (William Arruda)

Servant of Chaos

Seth Godin

Small Business Branding (where I also enjoy contributing!)

Social Media Marketing

Strategic Public Relations


The Brand Builder

The Branding Blog

The Lonely Marketer

The Name Inspector

The Origin of Brands

The Power to Connect (Todd And)

The Viral Garden

Whisper Brand

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Give Me a Break, Sheikh

There it was, on the back page of the first section of this morning’s Wall Street Journal.

A very colorful, visually “grabby” full-page ad from a sheikh announcing his new foundation. Now I don’t know how much it cost to put a full-page ad in the WSJ, but I do know that if the goal was to actually communicate valuable information, then every dollar was wasted.

Here is what the ad says:

10 Billion Dollars

Contributing to the Development of Knowledge and Culture

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the establishment of his foundation with an endowment of 10 billion dollars, focusing on human development in the region. The foundation will facilitate and promote knowledge creation and dissemination, and will nurture future leaders, providing them with equal opportunities with the aim of building a knowledge-based society.


Based on the “information” contained in this boast self-aggrandizing commercial full-page ad, I now have no answers, but I do have an awful lot of questions. To wit:

1. “human development” – what does that mean?

2. “the region” – what region?

3. “knowledge creation and dissemination” – that could mean one hundred things, not all of them good. What is it?

4. “future leaders” – of what sort?

5. “equal opportunities” – for whom?

6. “knowledge-based society” – such as? Which knowledge?

7. “culture” – not all cultures are to be applauded. What culture is to be developed here?

Not to be crass or cynical, but this foundation could be doing anything from establishing classical schooling opportunities for underprivileged females throughout the Middle East, to training and knowledge-equipping terrorist leaders in Afghanistan. Or anything in between. I’d really like to know what “knowledge” and “development” is being envisioned in whatever “region” this is. And this full-page ad miserably fails to communicate that.

Let’s face it – post 9/11, Arab leaders have a tough audience here in the U.S. It’s a real branding/marketing problem. This kind of nebulous language won’t score any P.R. points. If this foundation were to forthrightly speak of combating terrorist brainwashing and anti-everyone-but-us hate education with some very concrete initiatives to create a more civilized society, I’d be all ears. Particularly if it was followed with action. As it is, all I see is a clumsy marketing effort for the sheikh to promote himself with his (I assume) oil riches, and dodge any specifics. Sorry – that’s a non-starter.

I went to the URL specified to see if more light was to be gained. Nope – more high-sounding generalities.sheikh_web.jpg

You know, sometimes I just don’t get it. Why would anyone spend such money to say…nothing?

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Behind the Curtain

Drew McLellan recently posted a photo that captures something less “formal” about himself, based on the meme started by David Airey, encouraging bloggers to let others see more of the “face behind the blog.”

As one who grew up in New England, my default setting is to generally have a curtain between my professional and personal lives. But I feel a little Toto pulling at the curtain, so what the hey – it is, after all, the Share Economy

Right now, outside of work, a whole bunch of my time and effort goes into being a husband and father, as well as maintaining/improving our home. The other 16.5 minutes of “me” time per week goes to…well, let’s hope I can resurrect those hobbies some day in the future!

Here are my two “middle” sons (#3 & 4 out of 5) on a recent father/son retreat:


Most mornings, my Fiver hops up into my lap at precisely 7 am for a “Big Kitty” story with Dad, who has generally been up already for 1-2 hours but looks pretty bedraggled still:



The boys get their looks from the Lovely and Talented Queen, whose mother will be glad to tell you where she got HER looks from!


We’ve spent the last 7 years slowly and steadily improving our little Eden in North Jersey. We’re amateurs, but we enjoy creating an English garden feel, and I have particularly enjoyed building stone walls.back-of-house.jpg


Someday, I hope to find more time to take scenic pictures. Two of these shots were from a glorious morning heading to the hospital the day after our fifth son was born; the other from a recent visit to a lake that had a bit too much rain to process!ml_reflect1b.jpg



My dream is to eventually live with my bride on a lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, in a house big enough to accommodate a steady stream of visitors (and, Lord willing, a large number of grandchildren – eventually!)

So, that’s a peek behind the StickyFigure curtain here in Boonton, NJ. What about you?

A Little Friday Fun

From one of my favorite marketing campaigns.

It’s amazing how much you can differentiate yourself in an undistinguished business with a little humor.

Go to their site and you’ll see what I mean…

Have a great weekend!

Latest Posts from Small Business Branding blog

I’ve been contributing to the Small Business Branding blog for – I guess – almost 2 months now. The site has a growing lineup of marketing bloggers, and the content keeps getting better and better.

Some of my more recent posts:

Re-branding Chrysler: How would you re-brand this “in transition” company if you had the chance?

How to be Unremarkable: Five ways NOT to stand out from the crowd (wherein you’ll see my more cynical side in full bloom!)

Are you Telling your Brand Story?: The power of storytelling in promoting your brand.

Other active contributors to the blog include:

Drew McLellan

Krishna De

Yaro Starek

Danielle Rodgers

Kevin Levi

Ed Roach

Nick Rice

Robert Kingston

Andy LaPointe

Brad Williamson

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News and Improved

The Marketing Bloggers portal now has a new tab, with feeds from various marketing News outlets (not necessarily bloggers).

Just go to the site, and scroll on over to the right, just before the “About” page.

Did you know that the portal now has over 110 feeds? For folks involved in Branding, Marketing, Advertising, Social Media, PR, and related fields, it’s the place to go for up-to-the-minute info!

Names: Bad, Bad, Bad

From the fine folks over at NameWire, a great post on bad brand names (The Bad Hair Days of Product Naming).

Building a “LifeNet”

Very interesting article from Success magazine, by a hard-driving entrepreneur who came to recognize the incredible value of a personal/professional network in building success. Highly recommended read!

9,496 Days and Counting

That includes six February 29ths (leap years). 1,352 Monday mornings. 227,904 hourly trips out of the cuckoo clock.

Today, my bride and I have been married for exactly 26 years. This July will be my first blogging anniversary – a wonderful milestone! But it pales in comparison to knowing and loving my best friend for over a quarter century.

Sandy has put up with an awful lot, at times wondering whether the clock or something else was cuckoo! The jury’s still out, but my guess is both…

So, what’s the “secret” to a long-lasting marriage? Well, there isn’t just one. However, Drew McLellan’s post on Be a Drip certainly taps into one main theme. Businesses, and marriages, grow by the slow and steady drip of regular, consistent communication. Most nights (now that the weather is good!), we still take a walk, hold hands, and talk. Marital blog posting and comments, if you will…

I hope to write/blog/communicate/promote for the rest of my life. And if I’m able to pull that off, one major reason is a wonderful woman who sticks by me. For the rest of our lives.

(image credit: Flickr)

Pharma Web Branding, Part 2 – GlaxoSmithKline

In my continuing series on how pharmaceutical companies engage the public with their brand on their website homepages, this week we’ll take a look at (last week was Pfizer’s turn!)

gsk-logo.jpgGlaxo became a Top-5 pharma company through a merger strategy. SmithKline Beecham joined Glaxo Wellcome to create…well, you know the tale. Merger mouthful. Most people now find it easier to refer to the company as “Glaxo” or as “GSK” – my bias is well-known about munging together a bunch of legacy names to come up with a run-on-sentence for a name.

And, I will admit, that when the merger occurred and the new GSK logo was unveiled, I found it to be an underwhelming moment in marketing. My first impression: an orange guitar pick. And to this day, that is all I see.

Turning to the public website, in the browser title bar we see this tagline: “Improving health and quality of life.” As with so many pharma companies, absolutely bland, obvious, and non-distinguishing. That phrase could be used about bottled water, vitamins, exercise machines, and a book on therapeutic massage. Sigh.

Nonetheless, the website itself has some reasonably engaging design features. Unlike Pfizer’s, panned last week for trying to say too much, the current GSK site presents a compelling “story” front-and-center: The Menace of Malaria. The two brief blurbs, with accompanying graphics (the mosquito is very effective), draw the reader in to explore further. By focusing on ONE thing that GSK is actively working on, the site makes it easier to dig in.

Of necessity, for a major pharmaceutical company, there are many links and potential destinations, and this site does a pretty good job using smaller navigational areas to direct the users to various areas of interest. The drop-down boxes toward the bottom right are a particularly effective way to give choices without an overwhelming, in-your-face list. Since there are so many choices, it might be a good idea to use simple rollover technology to provide brief snippets of information when people mouse-over the menu items (for instance, why would I want to take the survey?)

Below the graphic shown here are some other helpful links, including recent news releases, Quick Links, up-to-the-minute stock prices, and an RSS feed for newsreaders (every company should be doing this nowadays).

Yes, the site is a bit busy, and the type quite small in many places, but for a company this size, it’s difficult to know what to leave out on the home page. GSK has done an admirable job making a large amount of information accessible without it being overwhelming.

Sweet Success

From an article in Entrepreneur magazine (print, not yet on-line) with the above title:

cake-shells.jpgWhen Lori Karmel bought We Take the Cake, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida bakery with lackluster sales, she wasted no time turning it around. Her strategy: Amp up its image…She set out to add what she calls the “wow” factor. “We had very high-quality cake, but our image just didn’t match,” says Karmel.

She brought in a cake designer to create eye-catching edible works of art. Now the cakes are shaped like everything from designer handbags to skateboards. “The design grabs people’s attention,” says Karmel. “Then they taste it and are hooked.”


You can see how this plays out on their nicely designed website.

Let’s face it, cake is (by and large) a commodity. However, make it an individualized, multi-sensory experience, and it becomes something else entirely. A success story.

How to Make Friends and Influence Bloggers

wordpress-logo.jpgIn the middle of last year, when launching my new business, I decided to use WordPress to host my initial blog ( I had used another service in the past but was very impressed with WordPress, and have enjoyed it for many months.

Soon I launched a second blog (which evolved into, focusing on branding and marketing.

Then a personal blog.

Then, since I was posting on my other blogs about “after hours” interests such as wine, food, music, etc. I decided to bring all that together onto yet another blog (It’s a Pleasure).

I launched a few others that, not surprisingly, due to limits of time, I just haven’t maintained.

I noticed that some of my clients weren’t clear on everything that I could do, so I then also created what amounted to static web pages, still using WordPress, to help give overviews in a non-blog-centric way. Hey, if you’re using a great platform, use it to the max!

A professional volunteer group I work with needed a blog. That was a no-brainer. And, I’m now looking at a more extensive web presence for that group – using WordPress, of course.

My church needed a change of website platform. You guessed it. And a future blog coming also.

I’m working with a bunch of other branding/marketing bloggers on a collaborative blog project (to be unveiled shortly!), and of course, WordPress was about to play a central role there as well.

I’d become a WordPress power-user, at least by volume! A WordPress advocate and evangelist. Until one day last week. When all my blogging activity stopped cold.

Why? I attempted to login, and saw this shocking notice: Account Suspended.

I fired off an e-mail for an explanation, and much to my surprise, got an incredibly rapid response. I didn’t like the answer (but the customer service response time was phenomenal)!

At this point, I had so many blogs that I guess it looked suspicious. Of course, my professional blogs were cross-linked. And so there was an appearance that I was misusing the platform to generate traffic through SEO strategies of creating self-referential links (against the Terms of Service). Naturally, I was angered and upset, although, upon reflection, I fully understood how someone at WP could, at a quick glance, arrive at that conclusion.

So, I wrote back a rather long explanation of what I was doing, and how I was using the platform. As all blogging addicts would, I went through the weekend with an undercurrent of anxiety, locked out from updating my blogs, and preparing for what I feared could be an unpleasant battle to gain restored access to my blogs.

Imagine my relief, and gladness, to get this message early Monday morning:

Hi Steve,
Thanks for explaining everything – the blogs are back and awaiting you.


So, WordPress (and Mark), you have restored not only my blogs, but my faith in your company. Your customer service has exceeded my expectations, and, as is obvious from this post, I am once again an advocate and evangelist. WordPress rocks!

(note: my one suggestion for improvement would be to contact the user in question in such a situation, seeking an explanation, instead of proceeding directly to an account suspension)

The Silent Revolution

A brief read, sponsored by the folks at ChangeThis, on the radical ideas of Peter Drucker, and how our business environment has forever changed. I especially enjoyed the concept of filling the “white space” of the marketplace. Take a few minutes and let your mind be stretched – highly recommended!

Zzzzzz…Oh, was that a Tagline?

The Wall Street Journal ran an article on Thursday about Lenovo’s new campaign to sell the Thinkpad laptop (Lenovo purchased the PC business from IBM a while back).

The thrust of the campaign is to show that the Thinkpad is tough and durable. OK, that’s a workable angle, I guess – although I wonder if that particular issue tops the list of concerns and aspirations for the majority of laptop buyers. But be that as it may…

Here’s the campaign tagline: “From the world’s best engineers come the world’s best engineered PCs” Zzzzzzzz….

Do people really want to own a PC because of engineering abstractions? Or because of how it looks, feels, runs applications, and makes me look when I use it?

That tagline is too long, too cold, and too narrow. For a certain small sub-group, it will have some appeal, but it’s DOA as far as aspiration and memorability (by the way, I should note that I’ve always loved Thinkpads. I don’t have one currently, but I’ve used a number of models in the past, and found them to be superb machines!)

What would I do differently? I’d use a simpler concept that can be applied broadly across many themes. For instance:


One word, but it says it all regarding Thinkpads. More features. More durability. More value for your money. And, yes, it prepares the buyer for the idea that you’ll pay more also. If I’m going to want a computer, I want…more. Not engineers.

(for my take on “engineer” advertising, in particular relating to cars, here is a previous post).

What do you think? Is engineering a good angle? How would you market Thinkpads?
(image credit)

A Weird Weekend Marketing Challenge

thingie.jpgWhat is it?

How would you brand it?

Then, how would you market it?

Let your imagination fly in the Comments!

(from the What is It? blog)

Disruptive Innovations

Great post by Rob Marsh over at Brand Story, about how companies enter the market and disrupt it with innovations that address unmet needs. Highly recommended!

Guy, Truemors, and Being…Stupid?

Guy Kawasaki today launched his new web 2.0 application, Truemors, which focuses on something important to all – well, to some – I guess to a few: rumors.

Taking a glance at the site, I can immediately conclude that it won’t be part of my daily diet (Guy’s blog, on the other hand, is a regular read).

However, I admire Guy, and I absolutely loved the WSJ column today (Marketing section, subscription required) in which Lee Gomes profiles Guy, tells of the low-cost start-up costs for this venture, and shows why Guy is a popular fellow. He is refreshingly candid, authentic, and really doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to prove anymore. The (nicely-crafted!) title of the article: In New Net Economy, Everyone Gets to be Stupid for 15 Minutes.

From the article:

    It’s obviously in the debt of several popular Web 2.0 sites, notably Twitter, where users post short updates about their current activities, or Digg, where readers vote for the stories they like best. As for rumors and gossip, the stock-in-trade at Truemors, they don’t now seem to be in short supply, World Wide Web-wise.

    But — and this may be the part of the episode with the biggest trend potential — Mr. Kawasaki responds to all such criticisms with a shrug, along with an explanation of the new economics of the Internet.

    Apparently, Web businesses now aren’t much harder to make than YouTube videos. Mr. Kawasaki says he has been working on Truemors for just three months. Because it uses free software, with programming done by a for-hire outfit in called Electric Pulp located in the high tech mecca of South Dakota, the costs are minimal. Mr. Kawasaki says to date, he has spent $12,000 on Truemors.

    Or, as he puts it, “During the dot-com bubble, you needed $5 million to do stupid ideas. Now you can do stupid ideas for 12 grand.”

    With so little at stake, Mr. Kawasaki can afford to adopt a tone of almost cheerful agnosticism when fielding questions. Will Truemors have any redeeming social purpose? “The real answer is, ‘I don’t know,'” he replies. Will the things people read on Truemors be true? “As much as anything else they read on the Internet,” he says.

    Mention that he seems to not know a lot about how his business will shake out and Mr. Kawasaki lets you in on a little secret. “If you raise $2 million from VCs, you have to pretend like you ‘know’ all this stuff. The truth is whether it’s $12,000 or $2 million, you really don’t know. The only difference is what you think you can admit.”

Pharma Web Branding, Part 1 – Pfizer

I’ve spent a good portion of my career working with pharmaceutical companies on training and marketing initiatives, often including elements of web design.

Since a public website is a major opportunity to express one’s brand, I thought I’d examine the websites of a number of the larger pharma companies and critique how effectively they brand themselves – through logo, tagline, web interface structural design, and look/feel.

Today – Pfizer.

Pfizer has managed, over the last 10 years, to emerge as the largest pharmaceutical company through aggressive and disciplined marketing and sales (as well as strategic acquisitions). Their logo is well-known and is reasonably effective – the design is simple, easy on the eyes, and, if not inspired, certainly inoffensive. The current tagline, however – “Working for a healthier world” – is a snoozer. It could easily be swapped out with most of the other pharma taglines, all of which sound pretty much the same. They all tend to transmit the same safe themes – but I guess none of them would gain fans if they came out with “Medical Advances that Maximize Profits,” so we’re going to be stuck with the altruistic buzzwords.

The public website suffers from boring busy-ness. There is simply too much information up front. The interface uses the “Boxes and Bullet Points” structure, with so many choices that it does not draw in the visitor. This website is an attempt to give people the maximum number of destinations, but by putting Who We Are / What We Do / How We Help boxes (each with 4 choices underneath), ranged next to an imposing list of all their prescription products, visual overload is inevitable. The approach with this site design is: Here’s Pfizer! All of us! Take your pick! It’s a company-centric, not user-centric interface.

While the site does have some human faces, they don’t draw in, because the graphic is not being used to tell a story. It’s actually more of a boast (See? We help people who don’t have coverage!), which is a turn-off instead of a come-hither.

The use of color – particular, various shades of blue – is pretty boring, and the site does not cohere well on look/feel. It feels chopped-up instead of integrated. There’s no clear message, and no elements that really make me want to explore.

If I were to recommend a re-design for this site, I’d say bury the names of the medicines, and focus instead on the conditions treated. Put a patient story right up front. Figure out one or two main, engaging messages, and give them prominence. Find a way to have news and features, but not in the poorly formatted and tiresome list fashion shown at the bottom of the page. And change the navigation structure, so that choices can be made in a more natural sequence. The site needs an interface weight-loss program – simplicity is better than showing everything at once.

Thanks, Mom

…from a 40-something son who is glad to be part of your legacy!

(image credit)

The Best 2 Minutes You’ll Spend Today

If you haven’t yet seen the brief video clip of an autistic high school boy who gets his moment in the sun during a basketball game, then click here. It will be the best 2 minutes of your day – guaranteed!

The Most Ludicrous Product Ever

H2Om. Words fail me. Well, almost.

Somebody please tell me this is a joke. A bad dream, perhaps. A spoof – yes, please tell me it’s a spoof!

Water “infused with the power of positive energy through words, music, colors, symbols and you.”

A quote from the astonishingly silly website (which, by the way, is infused with misspellings, bad grammar, and laughable graphics) designed undoubtedly for those fresh from the lobotomy table:

    H2Om water with intention has revolutionized the bottled water industry by creating the world’s first vibrationally charged, interactive bottled water….We gratefully offer you an interactive invitation to drink in and resonate with the vibrational frequencies of Love, Perfect Health, Gratitude, Prosperity, Will Power, Joy and Peace.

This would have made a great April Fool’s Joke…I almost wish I had thought of it! Click around and chuckle. The best part is…I think these folks are serious! Why, they even have Kirlian photography to prove it!