If you watch television, use the post office, have a checking account, buy gasoline, or enjoy modern art, you’ve seen their work. Driven by research and pure instinct, the duo is responsible for a library’s worth of abstract marks and recognizable logotypes that continue to withstand the test of time.
In this video the unassuming pair go on record about the formative years, their staying power, and what they bring to the highly competitive table of corporate communications and graphic design.
After a Penn Railroad train ran off the rails, PR pioneer Ivy Lee gained the upper hand over reporters covering the story with a subtle account of the accident that minimized the reputational damage to his client.
Public Relations Born When A Train Derails
The modern era of managed information began with a succinct press release written by a former newsman on behalf of his industrial client, a northeastern railroad that had just suffered a derailment resulting in multiple deaths. To be sure, ten eyewitnesses if asked to describe the accident would have ten different accounts of the exact same facts. But the one that made it into the New York Times that day is the only one that counts.
The first press release of the modern era was crafted in 1906 by Ivy Lee, one of public relation’s original founders, for his client the Pennsylvania Railroad. Following a derailment that resulted in multiple deaths, Lee arranged for reporters to be transported to the accident scene – under his watchful eye – and at the same time released an account of what happened, complete with asides, misinformation, and human interest.
The Power of The Press Release Is Established
What ran in the paper that day wasn’t Fake News, but it wasn’t a totally objective, unbiased account of what actually happened either. It was a subjective report presented as an objective story on behalf of a client in exchange for income.
#FakeNews isn’t a new concept. Public relations is, among other things, an extension of the psychology of people, and towards that end is best known as a communications tool that can shift public opinion from Point A to Point B while operating beneath the radar.
How You Interpret News Isn’t Always Transparent
Like any profession its goals aren’t always in everyone’s best interest. Lowlights include the extensive campaigns, often presented as news, that promoted smoking, especially when the marketing goal was to convert women’s attitudes towards the habit.
All news is not created equally, and the modern concept of so-called Fake News is somewhat of an oxymoron. News that’s fake by definition isn’t news at all — it’s propaganda.
In a consumer culture we seldom come to a conclusion strictly on merit, as opposed to being nudged in ways subtle enough as to escape detection as a motivating factor for any particular decision that is made. Ford? Or Chevy? What’s your choice?
When it comes to promoting a business, particularly a restaurant, nothing is more critical than the brand logotype. Getting it right goes a long, long way towards making an impression on a distracted public that sees thousands of visuals on a daily basis.
To be successful, a corporate mark requires design integrity, repetition in the marketplace, and a connection to the goods or services it represents. Whether abstract or literal, the Nikes, Apples, and Coca-Colas of the business world rely on a recognizable visual that connotes quality and trust.
Emoticon, Meet Emoji
Looking at the before and after (above left) of IHOP’s haircut and a shave, it’s difficult to imagine how the approval process resulted in what struck one reviewer as a “sinister” smile beneath the word mark.
It’s arguably more legible, but only slightly, and that’s about where it starts and ends.
The IHOP acronym, in case some may have forgotten, stands for International House of Pancakes. But that’s not what I see when I try to decipher the new and improved visual. Emoticon, meet emoji.
HOW Design recently interviewed Siegel+Gale, a New York based branding agency known for their standout work, on the recent spate of chain restaurant logo overhauls. For anyone who follows corporate design, the candid remarks by the agency’s designers are for the most part an indictment of the perils of lackluster graphics.
A couple of things stand out in this collection of shareholder dependent corporate eateries. First, it’s more than okay to overhaul the corporate brand on an as needed basis. Nothing says stay away like an aged, dated, and most importantly irrelevant logotype. Second, once having decided on a freshening, make sure you’re just not slipping sideways.
Design updates should – probably – include references to historical looks that over time successfully represented a company to its public. But don’t let fear of letting go put up unnecessary barriers to a truly fresh, inspired interpretation that acknowledges the past while extending the future. Bon appétit!
The first public inkling that something was amiss came when the company’s letter to dealers popped up on the brand’s product online forum. That was January 16, less than a year out from the 2014 official public launch and just a few months into production of the reverse sit-in trike designed to take on BRP’s sit-on Spyder.
slingshot parked for safety repairs
Considering the daily barrage at the time of global and constant publicity concerning GM’s failure to clearly and promptly address their otherwise miniscule ignition switch fatal defect, or the ongoing problems of Japan’s Takata Corporation, supplier of proven lethal airbags to the automotive industry, the approach taken by at least two powersport dealer website management firms to allow Polaris’ fledgling Slingshot to remain in their dealer client’s main banner rotator is puzzling to say the least.
Those dealership content management contractors are well paid on the their promise of providing vigilant oversight, facilitating manufacturer communications, and lightning quick content updates to franchisees usually ill-equipped to oversee the day-to-day front end needs of online marketing. Or not.
crisis management – crucial for credibility
Taken together with the lack of transparency by the manufacturer, Polaris, and it’s a perfect example of a communications misfire from the top down that’s disappointing at the very least, lending further credence to the industry’s ongoing need for professional communication managers with the knowledge, skill, and authority to manage the occasional crisis. Consumers deserve better for a three-wheeled product that tops out at nearly $30,000.
Florida’s Pinellas County is the most densely populated county in the state. It’s also the smallest, but that has never affected its ability to draw tourists from around the globe, intent on visiting world-class beaches from Caladisi Island State Park on the northern end to Fort Desoto County Park guarding the entrance to Tampa Bay.
With gas prices at their lowest level in years, an economy that’s on the rebound for the first time in years, and a brutal winter that continues to lash the northeast, convincing northerners to turn their wanderlust into momentum and head south isn’t a heavy lift.
The edgy “WinterBlows” campaign plants irresistible (and guaranteed to have lines forming for selfies) faux snowmen on the sidewalks displaying sandwich boards headlined “Sunshine or bust!” and the WinterBlows.com URL.
Is it working? I’d have to say yes, considering how congested the main two-lane north-south beach artery, Gulf Boulevard, has become in recent days. There’s nothing that can match a smart, well executed, marketing solution.
Like every other area of corporate communications, from PR to advertising, the social in social media is the leading influencer effecting the creative upgrade.
finding new media outlets
For GE, that means taking advantage of previously untapped platforms like late night talk, boosting “Fallonventions” on the Jimmy Fallon Show to demonstrate the brand’s human side.
Others describe the new approach as moving from data to gut, and doing what connects emotionally. United States Gypsum (USG), hardly a warm and fuzzy candidate for storytelling, did just that in their “It’s Your World” ad series.
With user experience driving this new approach, the goal is to connect potential buyers using content that explains a brand’s product in an engaging and educational manner. How well that will work with traditional buyers used to making dollars and cents decisions based on bottom line performance will determine B-to-B creative in a way that could be hugely transformative.
And if its proven effective in the long run over traditional methods, the need for involving creative direction that’s familiar with social media will be paramount.
Ogilvy Social describes how brand reach plummeted after Facebook hit the brakes on organic.
Brands, Markets, Budgets Strategy
Once not so very long ago, retail business had a narrow choice of media for advertising and marketing; the Yellow Pages, newspapers, and broadcast. Depending on the size of the market, a newspaper or two may have offered competitive rates, along with radio and t.v. But unless your business was cars, clothes, furniture or groceries, it was pretty much hit or miss.
As broadband began rolling out there was a brief moment when print was cruising laid back at altitude while digital media was taxiing for takeoff. Didn’t last long. Overnight, print and the public airwaves found themselves powerless to head off the rush to the exits by marketers chasing the promise of free forever online homesteads. Woot. Continue reading →
Will Gay Wears Yellow Shoes At Helm of Disney In-House Creative
What’s it like to head up the in-house shop in charge of Disney messaging? For Yellow Shoes creative director Will Gay, it’s just another day in the candy store, where his clients include Disney Parks, Adventures by Disney, Disney Vacation Club, Disney Cruise Line and Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa.
Speaking to over 75 Ad Fed Tampa Bay members and guests, Gay recalled his beginnings as an art director and his fascination with how completely the Wonderful World of Disney, an NBC network pioneer in the early days of broadcast television, engaged the audience.
“I realized that what the audience was watching was just one big infomercial, and then it dawned on me that if people can be entertained they’ll forget they’re being advertised to,” a connection made as he studied how Walt Disney approached the marketing challenge.
Yellow Shoes the agency was the solution to a problem the various Disney brands – which includes eight theme parks – were having running their campaigns independently of each other. The agency’s name reflects the color of the footwear of Disney’s most famous icon, Mickey Mouse.
Gay’s biggest success, the recent Free The Goat campaign, was powered by Disney’s highly developed network of bloggers, a healthy portion of social media, and a popular Twitter #freethegoat hashtag that’s still popping up. The goal, aside from driving attendance, was to directly channel user involvement and to capture the unique metrics of a devoted consumer.
I planned my pickup to coincide with a local account pitch that morning, and was relieved at the lack of cars in the parking lot, indicating a short wait time. Their new branch office was a pleasant blend of refreshing graphics and smiling faces.
Waving their ad in my hand I walked towards the receptionist to claim my prize and was surprised when the only interaction was her announcement that instead of the promised five seedlings the promo was limited to two. Still very much worth the effort. To me, if not marketing.
Because that’s where my point-of-contact began and ended. Directed to the box of pine lifts bagged and ready for retrieval behind her desk, I grabbed my reward for showing up and left just as quickly as I entered. No registration kiosk, form, or social media signup. No harvesting of email or local address. Not even a card drop. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience, far from it. Just a big surprise from the standpoint of someone who sees opportunity unfulfilled.
On my own I grabbed their services brochure from the take-away wall board on the way out, but in the meantime this well intentioned promo fell surprisingly short on the followup.
Alternative fitness clothing manufacturer Lululemon’s troubles multiplied following one of the more colorful product glitches to make headlines. The Vancouver lifestyle darling’s line of yoga pants was revealed – yes – to have a manufacturing defect apparant only during down dog, a position that due to the fabric stretching across the wearer’s butt caused a sheer effect that revealed everything to whoever was behind the owner of said pants.
Meanwhile, drugstore chain giant CVS suffered major shots across the bow as a result of a particularly heavy-handed employee health policy that went viral. In order to access the company’s health insurance lowest rates, workers have to submit to a screening for obesity, hypertension, glucose, and several other tags that can signal problems.
problems of their own making
Both companies stumbled right out of the gate. Their failure to either forsee or immediately correct course is unfortunately all too typical of a corporate culture that continues to ignore how brand reputation is affected in the age of social media.
Despite increasingly common examples of how the medium can be leveraged for a positive result regardless of whether news is good or bad, simply ignoring the problem or trying to hammer an alternative outcome despite popular sentiment doesn’t work.
flash pants and worker shame linked to brands reps
For CVS, by far the more effective approach would be to offer employees free or discounted membership in a fitness facility, rather than exacting a two-bit nickel and dime penalty forcing workers to wear the “unhealthy” cone of shame. How does that motivate? If you’re obese, it’s usually no surprise.
For Lululemon, whose corporate rep is usually massaged by a themematic yoga chant as opposed to any heavy lifting, they stuttered and stammered before finally issuing a recall of the pricey flash pants with wording that bore an uncomfortable resemblance to the lame not-an-apology that begins with, “If we’ve offended anyone…”. But not until after the horse had floated over the dam trying to clean up the milk spilt.
3 steps to social management
Be Prepared – have a team in place and empowered
Be Alert – to what’s happening in real time
Be Responsive – to the message that is, not the message you want