Industry Commentary, Agency Initiatives and Inspiration

Where Does Inspiration for Our Agency’s Creativity Come From?

Creativity Jul 22, 2014 No Comments

The Age Old Question

A lot of clients ask us where we get our inspiration for our creative work. I could blather on and on with a bunch of BS about how we get our inspiration for design work from the way the wind blows through the leaves in the trees outside the office, or the manner in which the shadows from the duct work plays on the ceiling above my head, or even from the way the fish swim around the aquarium in the conference room. But you don’t have time for creative crap-sense.

To tell you the truth, the creativity for the work we do on our client’s brands comes from the strategic plan we develop to communicate your individual marketing goals.

A colleague once told me that, as an agency, we were not really “designers.” As you might imagine, that comment wasn’t well received, initially.

However, once explained, it became clear this was an obvious compliment related to our approach toward design which begins with a marketing strategy. I’d have to admit, we aren’t a bunch of fickle artists whose sole purpose in life is to change the way the world looks at color or views design.

Creating to Enhance the Client

As an agency, we don’t waste our client’s time and money developing creative intended to win us more design awards. We develop creative that is based on specific marketing goals, intended to generally engage, sometimes entertain, and always communicate the message of the brand itself.

Of course, we’ve never turned down awards. But we also don’t try to create pieces solely to enhance our portfolio, impress our peers, and convince prospective clients to work with us at the expense of the client paying for the work in the first place. In short, we develop creative that works for the brands that we work with. And, if I say so myself, we’ve been doing a helluva job of this for more than a decade.

Nurturing Strategic Graphic Artists

We don’t hire graphic artists. We hire strategic artists. Our strategic artists fully understand what it takes to build and maintain a brand.

If you’re looking for a angst-ridden, disaffected artist whose better-than attitude has them eschewing commercial graphic design, walk through the door of the nearest bar or restaurant. If you’re looking for a creative team focused first and foremost on your brand, product or service, look to an agency that hires that special, hybrid creative creature who can look at your project from both sides of the table — a “cool kid creative” who also knows how to wear a suit (or dress, depending on the day… :) )

Social Media: Welcome to the Hotel California. You Can Never Leave.

Online Marketing, Social Media Jun 30, 2014 No Comments

When Good Brands Do Bad Things

Why is it that so many brands do such a bad job with their Social Media campaigns? I believe it’s STILL primarily due to a fundamental lack of understanding of the medium as well as the lack of available internal resources.

The best way to ensure your Social Media campaign will fail is to jump in without a plan.

Make a Plan

Social Media, oftentimes considered to be a “Free” form of marketing, takes a lot more time and energy to do properly than most companies expect. Sometimes considered “fun” or perhaps even frivolous, as we know Social Media (when done right) can be a very powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. But it’s a tool that requires a great deal of attention. This is primarily why most small to mid-size brands fail at their own Social Media campaigns — so much to do, with so little time, and with the responsibility for social efforts falling to someone in the organization who’s already wearing too many hats.

Look Before You Leap

Many of our clients look to us for insights and direction on their Social Media campaigns. Sometimes they’re convinced they just ‘need to be doing something’, but they just don’t know what it is. Other times they just ‘want to get in as they don’t want to get left behind.’ It’s the “Everybody’s Doing It” (EDI) Syndrome. A small bit of wisdom shared by my grandmother multiple times as I was growing up (and perhaps by yours as well), was the question: “Would you jump off a bridge just because every one else was?”

The answer was obvious to me at the time. That was before I learned about bungee cords and base diving. But, I think grandma’s words of wisdom still apply today for some brands considering Social Media as a strategy.

Quality Takes Time

When it comes to Social Media and our clients, our advice is yes, you probably should be doing it.  And that it should be based on your marketing goals and a number of other factors, not simply because of you’ve got EDI (remember grandma from above?).  But if you’re not going to do it, you need to be doing it right or you probably shouldn’t be doing it at all. (Which is probably something else my grandmother told me. I learned a lot from that woman…)

Many brands think they’ll just start Tweeting tomorrow.  Posting Facebook updates and getting new “likes” immediately.  Or that they’ll check in with everyone everywhere via FourSquare.  And it’ll be great fun.  And who knows, it very well may.

The “Fun” Doesn’t Last Long

Some brand managers may even try this themselves for a couple weeks, until the Real World of their day-to-day interrupts and the tasks are handed off to Gloria the admin. Generally this strategy works more or less for about six months.  It’s about that time when it becomes painfully obvious that Gloria isn’t doing her own job or she’s spending too much time tracking down answers from absent executives to questions that all your new-found followers are asking. It’s around the 180-day mark when reality sets in.  When clients come to the conclusion that this Social Media thing is not all the “fun and frivolity” they thought it cracked up to be.  And that it requires way more time and resources than they’d ever expected. That’s when my phone rings again and we step in to help them out with the management of their communities.

Own Your Own Brand Online

As I always say, it’s not simply about taking ownership of your brand online by securing your company name and those of your products at any one of the 100s of social sites currently running. (And there are more springing up daily.) Of course, you do need to take steps to get full ownership of your brand. This means establishing accounts at top social sites.  But you also have to maintain these accounts. Once you decide to get in you need to have a clear plan for your activities that extends beyond your honeymoon with Social Media.

There is No Checkout Time

Social Media marketing. A virtual Hotel California. Once you check in you must stay engaged with your customers, keeping messaging and involvement consistent. They are going to expect it. So, before you decide to make your Social Media reservations, make sure you have the ability to handle (either internally, externally, or more likely a combination of both) whatever comes. With Social Media done right, you can live it up with your competition; there’s plenty of room. :)


Top 3 Essential Blogs About Blogging to Read with Your Morning O.J.

Blogging, Online Marketing, SEO Aug 18, 2013 2 Comments

Sweeten Your Daily Blog Juice

Roll out of bed. Fire up the laptop. Grab a glass of O.J. while you wait for it to power up. Give the dog a pat on the head. And a treat (or he’ll torment you until you do…). Then read the following refreshing blogs each morning.


It’s no secret how much we appreciate the insights of this prolific thought-leader from the land down under. If you haven’t heard of Jeff Bullas, you’ve been living under a rock. He pounds away at the keyboard faster than Usain Bolt doing the 100 meter. And Bullas does it all while upside down! (Get it?)

Bullas’ prolific writings are Numero Uno Essential reading for anyone into Blogging, Social Networking, Personal Branding, SEO, Advertising, Digital Media, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Product Innovation, Trends. And the list goes on. And on. He’s quickly become the “Blentor” (Blogging mentor) of our staff. Bullas is a can’t miss morning read who seems to have harnessed time travel, sending predictive communiques back to us from the future. Or maybe that’s just due to time zones, the rotation of the Earth and when our alarms wake us up.


Kristi Hines is obsessed with Blogging and Social Networking! Which is by no means a bad thing. Hines shares daily insight on How to Blog, Social Media, Self-promotion, Photography and a whole host of other topics. She’s also got a great line-up of guest writers who help her out every now and then. For those non-morning-folk, a nice, bright sunflower welcomes you to her site. What’s better to brighten a day than morning orange juice and flowers? You can find Hines bouncing around all over the net. But the best place to immerse yourself in her unique brand of insight is at her blog Incidentally, the name “Kikolani” pays homage to her grandmother Akiko.


The name of Burke’s site is a huge misnomer. Shonali Burke is far from UNlyrical. While we don’t know if she can sing, she definitely has a way with words. Having worked in professional marketing positions in both hemispheres, Burke approaches Blogging, Social Media, and Online Strategy with a finely cultivated world view. As one of Twitter’s most prolific Tweeters, she offers a refreshing daily complement of strategy, humor and compassion. Before you finish off the pulp in the bottom of your glass, check out this outstanding blog at Waxing Unlyrical. You’ll be more than happy you did. It’s guaranteed to sweeten your day.

Adspiration: Print – LG Solardom Oven, Y&R Sao Paulo

Advertising, Creativity, Graphic Design, Things That Inspire Us Aug 16, 2013 No Comments

Six Times Hotter. LG Solardom Oven.

Young & Rubicam, São Paulo, Brazil, turns up the creative heat in this series of print ads developed to introduce LG‘s new Solardom Oven. The campaign focuses on subject matter often not dared by some more conservative American agencies, causing this new campaign to quickly become a topic of some debate among industry insiders. The concept is straightforward. The illustrations are daring. And the message is clear. In Brazil they truly do like it hot.

MEAT. Six Times Hotter.
Young & Rubicam, São Paulo

MEAT. Six Times Hotter. LG Solardom Oven. Young & Rubicam, São Paulo

CHICKEN. Six Times Hotter.
Young & Rubicam, São Paulo

CHICKEN. Six Times Hotter. LG Solardom Oven. Young & Rubicam, São Paulo

FISH. Six Times Hotter.
Young & Rubicam, São Paulo

FISH. Six Times Hotter. LG Solardom Oven. Young & Rubicam, São Paulo

How Keywords Can Ruin Your Blog

Blogging, Online Marketing, SEO, Social Media Aug 11, 2013 No Comments

It May be Hard to Believe, but Keywords Can Hurt You

There’s lots of talk about when, where, why and how to include search engine keywords and key phrases in your blog posts. You’ve read post after post on this exact topic; they’re all over the Interwebs. Including keywords into blog posts is done, as we know, primarily in an effort to get search engines to rank the non-branded content of your website higher than that of someone (if not everyone) else’s website.

But when does the obsession with keywords reach the point of diminishing returns? There is one.

Use Your Words Wisely

Those of us with backgrounds in journalism, public relations, advertising and digital marketing completely understand the value and power of the written (or…in this case…typed) word. However, it’s likely that each of these professions will have a completely different take on the subject of words and how they are and/or should be used whenever and wherever they are used. It’s kind of like the English language; there are always plenty of exceptions to all of the rules.

Be Aware of Keywords

Words have and always will be a critical factor that affects everything that we do as an agency. And to ensure proper SEO and increase inbound links to your site, yes, every blogger should be aware of the need to, every now and then, include just that right sequence of these powerful little things when stringing together blog posts. However, you should never become obsessed with keywords over quality. The incessant desire to embed every possible search engine targeting phrase into your posts is going to hurt you in the end. Once you let this giant “Keyword Monster” control the flavor of your writing, you’ve lost the battle, David. Yes, that was a biblical reference for effect.

Only You Have the Power to Retain Readers

When it comes down to it, people reading your blog want informative, insightful and useful content. It’s the power of your knowledge, expertise, and honesty, combined with your ability to collect all these things together into a cohesive story that attracts readers to your blog, keeps them interested and keeps them coming back. The overall success of your blog posts are going to be based more on the quality of your writing and what you have to say. Once you start down the road of endlessly massaging your words merely to insert search engine friendly keywords so the robots find your site, your information is bound to suffer.

Keyword Obsession

Making a long story short, or perhaps even slightly longer…

Are keywords important to your blog posts? Yes.

Should you ruin the value of the information you offer on your blog with the obsessive editing of your thoughts merely to include a string of keywords so Google will rank you higher? No.

Editorial Quality Over Keyword Fanaticism

Make sure that you retain the quality of your information over the fanatical desire to include that just-right set of keywords. It’s the genuine quality of your posts that’s going to ensure you retain readers and gain the new ones you’re looking for.

Just write. Let the (key)words come naturally, and you’ll be better off.