Monthly Archive: October 2012

Keep It Simple, Make People Happy

Simple is hard to achieve. And when simple is achieved, it is not always appreciated for its elegance and beauty.

When it comes to brands and their myriad communications and offers, simple is also pretty rare. One reason for this is the number of people — many with strongly held convictions — that touch any given brand communications project. At Bonehook, we keep the teams small, but I’ve worked on projects in the past where two dozen or more people are involved. That’s not necessarily bad, it’s just tough to stay on point and reach consensus, without a ruthless or angelic leader on the job.

Steve Jobs may have been both. One thing is for certain, the products Apple brings to market are endowed with complexity, but from a user experience point of view, everything from the packaging to the interfaces are clean and simple. Not surprisingly, Apple ranked in the top ten for simplicity in a recent survey from global strategic branding firm Siegel+Gale.

According to Marketing Daily, the 6000 people surveyed do in fact appreciate simple. And Howard Belk, CEO and chief creative officer at Siegel+Gale, says that the results of his firm’s Global Brand Simplicity Index™ are not an idle exercise in semantics, as brands with a high simplicity score also enjoy strong revenue and stock performance.

He adds, “One of the findings year after year is that people equate complexity with lack of trustworthiness.” Interestingly, Facebook and social media as a category ranked poorly in the survey. Another category hurting for simplicity is travel, and insurance, banking, utilities and telecommunications, not surprisingly, are well down the list. On the other hand, internet search companies and quick service restaurants rank high for simplicity.

This is an area where I feel I might do well to take my own advise. People ask me what I do all the time. The simple answer is I am a writer. But that’s a simple line that rarely satisfies, because it fails to explain how I make a living (thanks to the built-in assumption that writers are hobbyists or starving, or both). Ergo, I have to add this gem: I work in advertising. Sadly, this additional answer also leads people to wrong conclusions. So, I say I run a brand studio with a specialty in content marketing.

What was I saying above about simple being hard to achieve?

Client Showcase #13

I am stoked to share with you this freshly-baked brand identity for TeeBoxx, a startup in the disc sports space.

Aaron Martin, the client here, is an old friend from Omaha, which is a lovely city, my hometown and a deep well when it comes to business development. In fact, this agency-client relationship was sparked at a Big Omaha after party in May of 2010.

Today, Aaron is a professional disc golfer and the Chief Marketing Officer of TeeBoxx, which is about to introduce a big new idea to support the players and the parks — in this case, to the 100 busiest municipal disc golf courses in the U.S. More details about the company and its particular offerings will be offered up soon.

Creatively speaking, this kind of opportunity is a bit uncommon. Not just because TeeBoxx is an action/alt-sports brand, although that helps! Aaron is a creative person (we met in an editing suite in 2002) and his two partners in TeeBoxx — one of whom is also a pro disc golfer — share his passion for raising the game.

Enter Hovercraft, a one-year old design firm here in Portland. We hired Hovercraft to make the brand come to life, and Ryan and Zack delivered an outstanding team-like look and feel, that now serves as the foundation for all the work to come.

Customer Service Is Client Service

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” -John Wanamaker

Ad agencies are not being all they can be, according to a new report.

Of course, agency consultants conduct studies of client satisfaction in order to gauge sentiment, but also as a way to drum up business for themselves. For instance, Avidan Strategies recently polled 1,900 business leaders in an online survey.

Dan and company conclude:

Corporate America is questioning the return on their advertising investment, and agencies continue to struggle to prove their value. There is an impatience for efficiency and effectiveness, and there are higher expectations of accountability. Agencies need to reevaluate their value proposition, and evolve their economic business model in ways that will strengthen the partnership with clients.

There’s a lot of talk today about reinventing agency models, and that’s fine. I like innovation. But our core work — the creation of brand-sponsored ideas and platforms for customer empowerment — remains the same.

The central problem of the day, from a MarCom perspective, is a decided lack of game-changing ideas (same as it ever was). All the reach in the world means nothing, when there’s no “there” there.

To make sure there is a compelling “there” there — every time — flip this prevailing concept on its head: Regardless of your position in the agency, stop seeing your job as client service and start seeing it as customer advocacy. This may seem obvious enough, but the reality is when we focus on what the client “wants to say,” we sometimes forget about what the prospect or customer “wants to hear.”