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Case study: connecting a national brand to its customers

19 Feb

I was approached late last year by the national debt consultancy, 4 Pillars, and asked to help them take their brand to a higher level.

I understand debt and the incredible stress that it brings to bear on you, so I felt I was the right person to do this job for them.

Additionally, 4 Pillars was the company that helped me re-structure my own debt, and they had done everything they said they would do. So I had a high degree of confidence in them as a business.

The Brand Intervention process kicks in.

First I conducted a Brand Evaluation, involving the owners, members of a franchise action committee, and other key stakeholders, to determine what brand positioning and messaging 4 Pillars could authentically own.

Then I weighed these findings against the competition, the brand’s current articulation and the customer’s experience and expectations.

My observation back to 4 Pillars was that their current brand promise wasn’t connecting strongly enough with their potential customers on an emotional level.

Debt takes over your life. It finds you wherever you are. There is no place to hide and you see debt everywhere you look.

Since 4 Pillars had already demonstrated to me, through my experience as a customer, that they understood where I was on an emotional level, and were able to help with that in addition to providing me with solutions, it was clear that the brand promise could authentically occupy a far more empathetic territory.

The Brand Interventionist Recommended

First, designer Alison Garrad and I looked at the logo. We wanted to make it more approachable, so we made a number of adjustments: switching to a different blue, differentiating the 4 from the Pillars to create a beat, moving from serif to sans serif and from upper case to upper/lower case.

4 Pillars logos

Advertising was just one of the tactics for lead generation recommended to 4 Pillars. But here the change was most dramatic.

We asked the business to move away from their existing advertising, exemplified below, which stressed tactics and outcomes upfront in the language of the business, and lacked polish.

4 Pillars old ad

Instead, we wanted to connect better with the potential customer on an emotional level.

What the advertising should do is speak to them in a language they understand. What they understand right now is that their debt has gradually, like a camel in a tent, taken over their lives, their thoughts, even their sleep.

Here are a few ads in the campaign.

seeing debt everywhere

debt follows you to bed

The owners have embraced this new positioning and are beginning to extend it across all their customer touchpoints.

They are now speaking in the language of their customers, always the right direction to head in!

 

Lightening the mood of the Brand Intervention logo

20 Jan

A couple of days ago I introduced my new logo. It generated a lot of commentary.

For some people, the logo glorified gun violence, and in the wake of Sandy Hook, there wasn’t much enthusiasm for the gun imagery.

Others gave it a thumbs-up, seeing in it the lampooning of a Tarantino-style archetype that was the intention.

The really astute pointed out that it was too far removed from who I am as a person and how I work. That argument right there convinced me that I needed to go back to the drawing board. Designer Neil Tran picked up on the public conversation, and went straight back at it. Yesterday he provided me with this new design.

logo Doug Brown brand intervention umbrella

It spoke to me right away.

Your opinions are important and I welcome them.

I’ve found this very public process to be invaluable. It brought home (my home this time) how critical it is for businesses to listen to the market and be prepared to respond and adapt.

True, you can’t have design by committee, and you certainly should never try to make everyone happy, because you can’t. But you can measure the feedback and determine if what you are doing – whatever it is – is going to meet your criteria for success.

So thanks for being part of the logo design team!

And for anyone who is lamenting the tonal shift from Tarantino to Mary Poppins, the truth is I was never that cool anyway.

Starting the New Year off with a bang

15 Jan

I’m thrilled for my first post of the year to be an introduction to my new brand and logo.

Oh, you’ve seen Brand Intervention winking away up there in the masthead for a few months now, but I needed a really cool logo to make it official.

logo for Doug Brown's Brand Intervention

I think my friend (and graphic design genius) Neil Tran killed this.

I’ll be following this up toot sweet with a new website and refreshed blog design.

Until then, it’s back to hunting down those brands that are making a hash of things – or doing it unreasonably well – and sharing my insights about them with you here.

Bang! We’re off…

 

Hostile aliens attack advertising agencies

10 Jul

Aliens attacking earth illustration

Poor advertising people.

First we have our ideas Frankensteined, and then hot on those heavy heels we are set upon by hostile Aliens.

An Alien is a suggestion that arrives unexpectedly from another universe. You don’t know quite what to do with it because you don’t understand it. It has domination and conquest on its mind.

A useful example: When I had a certain unnamed province-wide car dealership as a client, I presented a charming little spot that involved a couple dumping Slurpees in front of their truck in the summer and then driving gleefully back and forth over them – to suggest their impatience for winter to arrive. My clients – a boardroom full of them – nodded throughout the spot. When I was finished describing it, one of the gentlemen asked me why there wasn’t a dog in the spot. Why didn’t I think of it?

After all, he concluded, people like dogs.

Classic Alien attack.

The strategy is to cause a disabling crossover in your neurotransmitters, so that you are either rendered speechless and unable to mount a proper defence, or you counter-attack without thinking, and open yourself up to the full power of the Alien arsenal. I was young and callow and fell into the trap: “Well, hey, why not an elephant?’ I retorted. “People like elephants too!”

These days I would play the retort through my brain a few times before running an aggressive electrical impulse interference instead:

“How do we feel about your logo then? Perhaps a tad bigger?”

Mouthpiece

10 Feb

Here’s my vote for the best new company name and look in Victoria.

Mouthpiece Victoria PR company

Tartan alum Christine Gleed and Trisha Lees have joined forces to launch their own PR/Media relations/Issues management company, Mouthpiece.

Mouthpiece was rolled out in late 2011 with a corporate ID and website courtesy of the fantastically talented Neil Tran.

Christine Gleed of Mouthpiece

Trisha Lees of Mouthpiece

Christine and Trisha have already bagged a bunch of new clients and you should expect to hear plenty more from this duo as the year picks up steam.

After all, they didn’t name themselves Churchmouse!

Use words to nail a perfect idea

3 Feb

In my professional bios, I always state that I am still in hot pursuit of the perfect idea. I define perfection as simplicity, beauty and absolute executional relevance to the product.

Have I ever come close? Perhaps on two occasions, both print ads. Coincidentally, they shared a theme of being type-only ads where the words tell the visual story.

I was influenced in this regard by the legendary New York graphic designer Bob Gill, who loved type-only design and applied the concept of reductum ad infinitum with relish. He removed everything from his designs except what was essential to telling the story. His United Nations lunch series invitation inspires me still.

U.N. lunch invite by Bob Gill

Bob is 80 now and his website still crackles with energy and simplicity.

I came across these word-as-image examples and recognized in them not only the excellent logo of a fellow T-CAAN agency, Vancouver’s Elevator Strategy, but a number of executions which nail my definition of the perfect idea. Most of them would make memorable animated logos.

I loved Voyeur the best. Which was your favourite?

Amy C. Amy Do.

Amy fall down.

Son of the Morning Light

Just another guy with a camera

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