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How to be Unignorable

We have a running joke at every agency brainstorm meeting. At the point it gets quiet, when everyone is deep in thought on how to solve a challenging marketing problem, I slap the table and say. “I’ve got it! We get a guy dressed up in a costume and have him wave a sign at motorists driving by.” It never fails to get an improvised response. And a few eye-rolls.

Most marketers understand how hard it is to “cut through the clutter.” It the old days, before the internet, we used to say the average person experiences over 500 “ads” a day. That would include the usual radio, television, billboard and print advertising. But it would also include logos and signs one encounters in a daily walk or drive. Today we would have to include the 147 average emails we receive each day and the average 32 hours a month we spend online (I’m sure you spend much more time than that).

A recent survey by Oracle found that folks are now “dual screening.” In other words, they are watching TV and checking their phone. They are doing work on their computer and texting their honey. They are Twittering and Facebooking at the same time. Essentially, we are multitasking both at work and at home and whenever we can.

Which means advertisers have about 30 seconds to command our attention.

Are you still reading this?

The obvious solution to this problem is to be as loud and crazy as possible. At least within the norms of social acceptance. But as we all know, when everyone shouts, no one is listening. We counsel a different approach that is simple in strategy and offers a return on investment. And it’s deceptively simple:

1. Change the conversation

2. Be authentic

3. Engage deeply

The trick, of course, is in doing it just right. But let us elucidate further.

Changing the conversation means to avoid the cliches the rest of your competitors use every day. This requires thinking differently. It also requires thinking like a leader. And you don’t have to be the market leader or the sales leader to be a thought leader. Don’t play the game, change the game—and you will win. Just as we did with the Oregon Humane Society.

When is comes to being authentic, we advise brands to do a little navel gazing, or at least allow us to do it for you. It requires a discipline of recovering your core values and making sure your mission and vision are relevant for internal and external audiences alike. Naturally, we assume that your product or service is worth promoting. Because if it isn’t, the best marketing partner in the world can’t help you. We did exactly that for Pendleton Whisky.

It’s easier now than ever to engage with audiences on a macro and micro level. At the same time. But our belief is that you need to think about how to engage with your customers emotionally. This requires the ability to communicate on a human to human level, to provoke a response and to evoke a sense of personality. How can you go the extra mile to treat your customers as human beings instead of an ATM machine? Can you get more personal? See how we did that for Umpqua Bank.

From here you can choose a host of tactics to implement this strategy. Social Media. Public Relations. Digital advertising. The list goes on and on. But if you follow this framework you will succeed in being unignorable for a very long time. And you won’t need a guy on the street in a costume with a sign pointing to your business.

Would you like some specific examples? Download our brochure, “Be Unignorable,” to see how we created excellent results for clients such as Umpqua Bank, Tillamook Cheese, Benchmade Knives, Omega Morgan and more.

Do you have Infinite Game?

Most likely, you are playing a finite game. And if you are, you are short sighted.

Finite games are about beating the competition. They want to end with a clear winner. Infinite games want to continue forever. They are inclusive and collaborative. They are win-win.

Finite games have clear rules. You play within strict boundaries. Infinite games change the rules over time. They are more creative. The goal is to continue the game forever.

The idea comes from game theory. And it has the potential to inform business, politics and your personal life as well. Philosopher and theologian James P. Carse extended the idea to include all aspects of life in his book, “Finite and Infinite Games, A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility.”

Wikipedia describes the theory and practice:

“Finite games have a definite beginning and ending. They are performed with the goal of winning. A finite game is resolved within the context of its rules, with a winner of the contest being declared and receiving a victory. The rules exist to ensure the game is finite. Examples are debates, sports, receiving a degree from an educational institution, belonging to a society, or engaging in war. Beginning to participate in a finite game requires conscious thought, and is voluntary; continued participation in a round of the game is involuntary. Even exiting the game early must be provided for by the rules. This may be likened to a zero-sum game (though not all finite games are zero sum, in that the sum of positive outcomes can vary).

“Infinite games, on the other hand, do not have a knowable beginning or ending. They are played with the goal of continuing play and sometimes with a purpose of bringing more players into the game. An infinite game continues to play, for the sake of play. If the game is approaching resolution because of the rules of play, the rules must be changed to allow continued play. The rules exist to ensure the game is infinite. The only known example is life. Beginning to participate in an infinite game may be involuntary, in that it doesn’t require conscious thought. Continuing participation in the current round of game-play is voluntary. “It is an invariable principle of all play, finite and infinite, that whoever plays, plays freely” If you think about it, most businesses and individuals are playing a finite game. You achieve a goal and then move on to the next. You want to beat the competition and win the game. But life isn’t like that. We are involved in an ongoing series of events that arguably, continue even when we aren’t “playing the game.”

An example might be the “War on Terror.” Most wars have a beginning, a middle and an end. But with the war on terror, there is no nation or person to either completely subdue or surrender to. It’s not a finite game. It’s an infinite game. And once you reframe this game, you begin to look for multiple solutions, instead of just a handful.

Let’s look at the business world; Amazon is playing an infinite game. The rest of the world is only now catching up to the idea that Amazon wishes to control all of commerce — not just to sell books. The difference between Microsoft and Apple is a study in infinite and finite games. One is playing the infinite game, and one is not. I’m sure you have figured out which is which.

Once you begin thinking about this concept, it opens a new door to the world. One of infinite possibility. Where you can rewrite the rules as you go. And contribute to the ongoing story of our existence.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather play in the infinite game.

What’s Your Story?

When I was a child, around the age of one and a half, my mother would put me in a playpen while she did chores around the house. At the same time, she had the TV on for background noise. And at that time of day, she was watching soap operas. Naturally, a little boy of 18 months paid no attention to the programming. As my mother tells it, I would be happily banging my toys together and rattling my cage while General Hospital was playing. That is until the commercials came on. During the entire commercial break, I stood transfixed as each mini story passed the screen. And when the show came back on, I went back to chewing my toys.

Because of that, mom always knew I would become an adman.

This story is a nice example of the power of story. I could have given you personal stats on where I went to school, how many years I’ve been in the business or the types of clients I’ve worked for, but you won’t remember any of that. However, you will recall a story. Because as many psychologists and anthropologists have documented, human beings are wired for stories.

And now research shows that a good story can increase the value of a product, service or brand. Take a look at the graphic below. Clearly, a good yarn can increase perceived value. It is part of the human condition to be empathetic, to want to be emotionally involved in the theater of the mind. And when we do become involved, we also become attached.

Stories get better results.

Is your brand dynamic?

Our client Omega Morgan has been with us for seven years. In that time, the company has made constant ongoing changes to serve the market. And of course, we have helped them along the way.

Recently, Omega Morgan introduced a new crane service to augment their specialized heavy rigging, machinery moving, and millwright & industrial services. And our marketing communications were able to run right along with them. We incorporated their new service line into their website and all of their marketing materials. Including a logo specific to the new line that echoes the parent Omega Morgan logo.

That’s how we roll.

If you would like to educate yourself on this highly specialized service, we encourage you to hop on over to OmegaMorgan.com to learn a little bit about how big industry keeps moving thanks to folks like Omega Morgan. If you had a fascination of dump trucks and backhoes when you were a kid, you’ll enjoy seeing how Omega Morgan moves bridges, ships, transformers and sensitive machines for high-tech industry.

We really geek out on it.

Following our own advice. With Direct Mail.

Marketing agencies of all stripes implore their clients to promote, promote, promote. But few of them actually follow through on their own advice. Well, we think that’s just a little bit hypocritical. So we try to market ourselves in the most appropriate way for a consulting firm such as ours. In the past, we have sponsored drivetime on OPB radio, participated in trade shows, used digital display advertising, hosted open house events, gave speaking engagements, told stories in the press, and we’ve even decorated the front of our building (which may have given us the best results so far). For 2017 we are initiating a direct mail campaign. Why? Because it cuts through the clutter. It turns out people like getting something in the mail—as long as it is an entertaining and thought-provoking piece. What we created was a mailer that challenges our prospects to be “Unignorable.” The piece itself is unignorable because it highlights a few of our greatest successes and we personalized the mailer each time. We expect great results.

For more on the efficacy of direct mail, check out this link. It really works.

Happy Place

A physical or psychological space, in which all worries escape you and you’re left feeling energized, warm and fuzzy. For us, a community event full of music, ink, and collaborative creation is just that.

Last month we hosted Happy Place in our downtown Portland office. Appropriately, the theme of the night was “happiness.” We rolled out long pieces of crisp, white paper and scattered pens, pencils, markers and brushes throughout. As the music began to play, we began drawing our perceptions of happiness. As the night went on, individual pieces started flowing into collaborative works, each with a unique blend of color and style.

The photos here archive the creations and show the wonderful community that made them possible.

Stay tuned for our next Happy Place events happening in February and April.

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How to Murder Your Brand #1.

Drinking the Social Media Kool-Aid

Today a meeting with a new client often takes a weird turn when the subject of social media comes up. We always talk about how brand strategy dictates all tactical media concerns; strategy comes first no matter the medium, outdoor, TV, PR, etc. And then our respected partner says, “What about social media? We need to get more likes.” Or, “Can we make a hashtag for Twitter?”

I’ve long felt that social media marketing is a scam perpetuated by social media sites like Facebook. And time is bearing out my intuition by this fact reported by Forrester Research:

“Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers. While the hype around social networks as a driver of influence in eCommerce continues to capture the attention of online executives, the truth is that social continues to struggle and registers as a barely negligible source of sales for either new or repeat buyers. In fact, fewer than 1% of transactions for both new and repeat shoppers could be traced back to trackable social links.” 

One of my favorite expressions about social media is, “I don’t want to be friends with Tide.” I don’t want to see Tide in my feed at all, whether it is on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Linkedin. That includes native advertising and just plain advertising as well. However, I will be friends with Via Chicago, owned by my buddy and associate Kevin Reynolds. They have 600 likes but the real draw is the food and the location. Tactically, social media is on the bottom of the list for marketing. As it should be.

How to be a brand hero: Make sure you have a strategy for your brand first and then consider how social media fits in with your business model. No one size fits all.

 

The Oregon Humane Society is a World Class Facility

In an excellent article on the Oregon Humane Society our client is lauded for their world class facility. But it isn’t the facility that gets good marks, it’s the overall organization that gets the nod by pulling all the details together into seamless organism focused not only on adoptions but also spaying and neutering, animal rescue, criminal investigations, legislation and advocacy. Here’s the money quote:

Very few shelters score 100%,  but the Oregon Humane Society has now scored 100% three times in as many scoring visits over a 10-year span.

The writer is very thorough regarding his assessment of the facility. It’s good to see citizen journalism is alive and well. Here’s the link.

How Silverton Health told the truth — like a good brand should

Our client, Silverton Health is a hospital system in Silverton, Oregon. When you think of hospitals it’s not long before lawsuits come to mind. Quality care shows glaring mistakes by contrast. Just this week Silverton had to admit that a mistake in maintenance procedures caused many people to be exposed to potential skin burns. Filters were not replaced on halogen lamps in the operating rooms of the system. Admitting this opened them up to potential litigation. Instead of covering it up, Silverton did the right thing and admitted the mistake openly in the press. They also took steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again—without firing a single person. In this age of the 24 hour news cycle and Monday morning punditry, Silverton went the way of leadership instead of fear. We give kudos to our client—especially the way it was managed with the press by the executive team. Doing good is good. Below is a quote from a recent Salem Statesman article on this subject.

Research has shown that hospitals that take part in early disclosure and communication when bad things happen actually do experience a decrease in litigation.

So, doing the right think, owning up to your mistakes and acting human instead of like a corporate behemoth is a good thing. Who knew?

What is a Modern Branding Agency?

A Modern Branding Agency pays great attention to finding the core attributes of a brand by defining the essence, and then discerning how it looks, sounds, feels and even tastes across all media. This includes traditional advertising media and all forms of digital media: web, mobile, social, viral, videos, etc. We also think about how the brand exists in the natural world, having spent much time developing what we call “handshake marketing,” as well as display, retail, packaging, and various printed matter.

With apologies to Dr. Marshal McLuhan, the medium is merely the messenger. The right brand message transcends all media. No matter what it is.

Below is a list of services we provide to help you discover the essence of your brand. We’d be happy to discuss this with you further.

Strategic Communications Planning

Branding

Advertising

Graphic Design

Web Design

Public Relations

Media Planning

Social Media

Search Engine Marketing

Digital/Mobile Advertising

Handshake Marketing

(And one day, we’ll be working with Google Glass or maybe that direct-to-brain implant.)

Selected Awards & Honors

We don’t make ads to win awards, but sometimes it happens anyway. Here are some we’re especially proud of. For the full list, click here.

  • London International Awards: 2 Silver Radio, Oregon Coast Aquarium
  • PRSA Spotlight Award: Friedrich Air Conditioning “How Kühl is That?”
  • Effie: Oregon Humane Society, End Petlessness
  • Webby: Take Care Down There website, Planned Parenthood
  • The One Show Merit Award: Tillamook Cheese Radio
  • San Francisco World Spirits Competition: Gold Medal Packaging Design, Yazi Ginger Vodka
  • Communication Arts: Packaging Design, Pendleton Whiskey
  • Print Regional Annual: Poster Design, Oregon Humane Society
  • Archive: End Petlessness Campaign, Oregon Humane Society

The consumer is crowned king and queen. What they do with it is the next chapter of American advertising.

“Power is now in the hands of the consumer,” has been a common refrain in the advertising and social media world for 5 years now. This article in the New Yorker brings it more forward in our collective consciousness. People are empowered and they know it.

It’s harder than ever before to create a brand that is unhinged from the reality of your company. If you make a crappy product people are going to find out about it. Branding isn’t about rainbows and unicorns, it’s about being honest about who you are. Top to bottom, inside and out.

You can’t blame Yelp, Facebook or Consumer Reports for your business problems anymore

Is this the end of branding? I prefer to think of it as the beginning of humanity.

Here’s a little taste of the article by James Surowiecki

‘Today, consumers can read reams of research about whatever they want to buy. This started back with Consumer Reports, which did objective studies of products, and with J. D. Power’s quality rankings, which revealed what ordinary customers thought of the cars they’d bought. But what’s really weakened the power of brands is the Internet, which has given ordinary consumers easy access to expert reviews, user reviews, and detailed product data, in an array of categories. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that eighty per cent of consumers look at online reviews before making major purchases, and a host of studies have logged the strong influence those reviews have on the decisions people make. The rise of social media has accelerated the trend to an astonishing degree: a dud product can become a laughingstock in a matter of hours. In the old days, you might buy a Sony television set because you’d owned one before, or because you trusted the brand. Today, such considerations matter much less than reviews on Amazon and Engadget and CNET. As Simonson told me, “each product now has to prove itself on its own.”’

Benchmade Knife Company

Brand Spirit:  Striking in their grace

The Challenge:  Benchmade, a maker of premium knives, wanted to grow but was concerned that moving their production overseas would damage their reputation and sales. How do you launch a foreign-made, value-priced line of products for a premium brand without damaging the equity and prestige of the parent brand and company?

Insight:  Being handmade in the U.S. is integral to Benchmade’s perception as a premium brand. Any move downmarket by manufacturing overseas would have to be countered by a move up market.

Big Idea:  Create a portfolio of products that would allow for increased production overseas but wouldn’t hurt Benchmade’s reputation by maintaining an “equilibrium of premium.”

The Work:  We created a new product line structure that color-coded line extensions at price points both below and above Benchmade’s original range. Red represented the entry-level products produced overseas. Blue, the color that was already synonymous with Benchmade’s premium knives, and gold was for a new line of ultra-premium, limited-edition knives that counterbalanced the red line. We also created a black class for military and law enforcement products. Beyond our portfolio work, we rebranded Benchmade with a greater emphasis on the premium nature of their knives, then introduced the new products to consumers.

 

Friedrich Air Conditioning

The Challenge:  Friedrich Air Conditioning is well known in New York. In the finer buildings you’ll see their window and thru-the-wall air conditioners studding high-rise apartment buildings in Manhattan. The trouble is, cheap-labor manufacturers were gaining market share based on price. Friedrich’s response was to innovate by offering a well-made, price-competitive unit with an important new feature: the ability to change color to match your interior decor. The question to Leopold Ketel was: How do you market that?

Insight:  Friedrich’s dealer-customers and consumers believe in the heritage and reliability of the brand. Our job was to update the company to communicate reliability well into the future.

Big Idea:  Reinvigorate the entire brand to match their cool new line of air conditioners, signaling a change in the company from the inside out.

The Work:  We began with an updated brand look and feel, making the Friedrich badge on their new units contemporary and upscale. Our work on the brand extended to create an anthemic video to reintroduce dealers and employees to the heritage of Friedrich and express their vision for the future. We named the new units “Kühl” (the German equivalent of “cool”) and launched the brand with targeted lifestyle magazines and behavioral digital ads, flipped on during the hottest days of the year.

 

Pendleton Whisky

The Challenge:  Innovation is a potential revenue stream that can easily be overlooked.  Fortunately, our client Hood River Distillers realized that new product innovation was an important growth strategy when they asked us to create a new Canadian whisky brand for them.

Insight:   As we examined the category, we saw a huge opportunity — Crown Royal sat uncontested as the only premium Canadian whisky.  What’s more, Crown Royal was an exceptionally diffuse brand, appealing to communities ranging from cowboys, to NASCAR to hip-hop. Of these communities, we found Crown’s association with cowboys to be the most curious. Crown’s imagery of purple velvet and ostentatious gold crowns seemed categorically opposed to the stark and humble lifestyle embraced by cowboys.

Big Idea:  This insight refined our opportunity.  We knew that there was space to attack Crown at the top, and then we saw where Crown was most vulnerable. We had to create a premium whisky for cowboys.

The Work:  To keep our brand as authentic as possible, the famous Pendleton Round-Up in Pendleton, Oregon, became our inspiration. This choice gave our brand a sense of place, and eventually became its name. Everything about Pendleton Canadian Whisky, from packaging to its taste profile, was born from the tried and true Cowboy lifestyle found in Pendleton.

We were also responsible for the marketing around Pendleton Whisky’s launch and growth. For this, we used a community marketing approach that has more in common with Harley Davidson’s marketing than traditional spirits marketing. Rather than trying to appeal to everyone, our work was polarizing. It was only meant to resonate with a specific group. Just like with Harley, outsiders need not apply.

Our goal was to immerse ourselves in the cowboy community. We used real cowboys and cowgirls from Pendleton as models and shot ads and POS in the rodeo arena to achieve just that. And we were very successful. Cowboys from all over the West became our disciples, putting Pendleton Whisky patches on their hats and stickers on their trucks. As they traveled the circuit from Cheyenne to Oklahoma City, these cowboys worked as our brand ambassadors, proudly sharing Pendleton Whisky with their peers.

Results:  Since its launch, Pendleton Whisky has been one of the fastest-growing whiskies in the US, enjoying a compound annual growth rate of 82% during its first five years. Last year, Pendleton Whisky was asked to sponsor the National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas, which helped elevate its status to that of other iconic cowboy brands like Wrangler and Montana Silversmiths.

But more than just being a successful one-off brand, Pendleton Whisky allowed Hood River Distillers to develop an entirely new revenue stream with a portfolio of premium spirits. We developed two new brands for them, Yazi Ginger Vodka and Ullr Schnapps, both of which are growing quickly. And with the distribution leverage created by Pendleton, Hood River Distillers has also been able to become the US distributor of award-winning brands like Broker’s Gin and Cockspur Rum.