Welcome To The BLG (Biggest Little Group)


For the past six years, I’ve dedicated myself to the craft of branding in all its elaborate definitions and executions.  SmartBrand (and this blog we’ve called SmartBrandBlog,has been my passion and focus throughout those years, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with truly talented people for some amazing clients.  Throughout my experience, it became apparent that my clients really all wanted one thing: a single source, turnkey effort for their communications through marketing, advertising, pr, web and social channels.

The problem was, quite frankly, within the term “brand” itself.  For me,  a “brand” is your business and personal communications strategy.  The same kind of detailed planning and strategy a competent attorney or accountant would bring to your business; you need for your integrated communications as well.  Branding is  strategic planning, competitive positioning and creative consistency that lives in every aspect of your business, from both personal and business perspectives.

Where does your brand reside?  Not on a well designed piece of paper;  but in the minds and hearts of your customers and prospects.  Their perception is really your brand, and not simply how you want to be perceived.  Branding is, at its very core, about building your own community of loyal fans and participants: people who love what you do; and why you do it.  Branding is so much more than graphic arts, media, or photography – yet it is at the core of all those, and so much more.

As a collaboratively structured company, SmartBrand assembled a pool of amazing freelance teams to meet client’s goals and needs; and we were pretty darn successful at it.  Still, the many individual interpretations of the term “brand” simply didn’t communicate the scope of our work and focus to a majority of our client roster.

Which leads me here today to BLG (Biggest Little Group).  A new, fresh, small, talented agency that singularly addresses and solves your brand’s communication needs.  A full service, turn-key, kick-butt group of professionals who have already worked together as partners.

I hope you’ll continue to check back with our blogsite as we talk about the many people, places, events and images we help our clients create and celebrate.  And certainly, please return to contribute to the love we feel for this amazing community – our Biggest Little City In The World.

Because you, the good people, amazing places, engaging events and lively discussions of northern Nevada – are at the very core of our agency brand.

Look At Me!


When a friend posted this on Facebook, we couldn’t help but think it was so clever and engaging, that our readers would really like it as well.

The inspiration of this video comes from Todd Alcott’s poem, “Television”.  Enjoy!

WordPress Marketer’s Blog Roundup


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We’re fortunate to be included in a collective of bloggers on WordPress that concentrate their efforts on marketing reviews and ideas.  Here’s a quick recap of some of their latest (and greatest) updates:

* Brady’s Crew has some 50 great ideas from Time Magazine on how to improve your website.

* Dave Knox over at Hard Knox Life has some compelling ideas on why corporations should integrate social media into their communication mix using Motrin as a good example.

* Rick Leibling takes time with Junta42′s content marketing list, and notes Eyecube is growing in readership.

* Francis Anderson takes a quick look at Dido and Elf Yourself.

* Groves Media survived hell week with a round-up about manic Christians, Google, Crunched Celebs and Dead Parrots!

* Jax Rants investigates a really cool Sweet Spots site by Nike.

* Liquid Architecture shares some insights about the gaming community’s reaction to President-elect Obama.

* Marketing Integrity’s new site location rethinks church marketing, and it’s role in growing participation.

* Micha Solomon give props to Elite Media’s truly elite sales rep and process.

* Nicola Davis shows us something really interesting – AC DC’s innovative music video in an excel spreadsheet!

* Octagon First Call makes a really good point for brand communication, using XBOX as an example.

* Online Marketer Blog is offering a free e-book for download about writing holiday donation emails.  Take time to read it…great advice.

* Share Media’s Matt Hames takes note of Motrin’s social media response challenge, and the importance of context over content.  Something’s obviously up with Motrin…this is the second time the brand is on our radar.

* And finally, Weather Pattern’s shares the experince of getting a free future edition of the New York Times.

This roundup is just a sampling of the great ongoing work these bloggers passionately cover.  Please take time to read them, and share their insights and information with those you know might enjoy them as well.

Your Brand Probably Sucks


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The term “brand” continues to have a good deal of misinterpretation and misinformation attached to it – even today as it’s become part of our common daily conversation.  Many, if not most, brands today are not truly brands – they’re simply nice logos attached to products.

Martin Lindstrom, author of Brand Fast Trackers, tapped into Brand Connections’ CEO & Founder Brian Martin about every marketer’s holy grail – consumers’ innermost thoughts.  In his latest book “Buyology – Truth Lies About Why We Buy” Martin cleverly connected over 2,000 people to brain scans in a scientific effort to really determine exactly how different products affect the brain.  Measuring the subject’s pleasure centers in an effort to prove his “smash your brand” theory.  Martin’s theory is that brands continue to retain their value – even when devoid of logos or other clues which consumer’s instinctively recognize.

I’d agree with Lindstrom’s suggestion that the vast majority of today’s consumers are so overwhelmed and jaded by year’s of a barrage of commercials that they now guard themselves when they perceive traditional advertising messaging and collateral.  In that environment, subliminal messaging is far less invasive, and achieves a much higher degree of positive response.

Lindstrom weigh in: “[Marketers] have become so rational,” with their “better-for less” positioning  “it is such a short-term way of building brands.”

To the point, he’s noted that visuals (yes, your logo) is last in the list of sensory importance:  “We’ve learned that the most powerful sense when we’re building brands and selling brands is not the sense of sight, it’s the sense of sound, followed by the sense of taste, touch & smell, then followed by the sense of sight.”

The combination of all five sensory experiences is the goal of marketer’s everywhere – and too often we forget the experience of the brand while concentrating on the imagery and positioning of it.

The challenge may be to take your personal perspective of the brand you know and love aside, and allow others to give you honest (perhaps even painful) feedback about what your brand truly means to them.  Then, reposition the elements of the brand to address those common perceptions.  You may be surprised to learn what your customers and prospects truly feel about it, and how your current brand is, or isn’t working as you’d believed.

Perception is reality – especially in today’s barrage of messaging.  Do you really know how you’re being perceived?  In today’s more-than-challenging market, getting in touch with the reality of your brand, and taking a hard look at the many facets of it (including your logo) may be the difference between survival and financial ruin.  Don’t take your brand for granted – you may well be the worst person to truly identify it’s real value and viability.

Religion And Advertising Just Don’t Mix


American Humanist Association's
American Humanist Association

At first, I had a difficult time wondering why, for any reason, someone would launch a $40,000.00 ad campaign that asks: “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”  Was this some sort of sarcastic reference to one of my favorite holiday songs?  Or a pitch from an obscure religious group of some sort?
The American Humanist Association, a Washington-based group, has entered into the yearly battle between commercialism and the true meaning of Christmas – but for the first time, in a very public way.
“We are trying to reach our audience, and sometimes in order to reach an audience, everybody has to hear you,” said Fred Edwords, spokesman for the humanist group. “Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion.”
The ads and posters include a link to a site with the purpose of connecting like-minded individuals in the D.C. region.
The actual proof, however, may well reside within the polled responses to the campaign provided by AOL:
celebrate
results
Clearly, the majority of respondents say they participate in Christmas, and nearly as clearly, the ad campaign isn’t appreciated by a wide majority of respondents.
Edwords continued to support the campaign by noting that its propose isn’t to argue the existence of God, or change anyone’s opionions, although “we are trying to plant a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people’s minds.”
Whatever your position, the campaign doesn’t seem to be changing any behavior or attitudes toward God or the holidays.  To me, it only helps to illustrate that religion and advertising simply aren’t compatible mates.
What’s your opinion on the campaign?

Inside CRM’s 50 Social Sites List


Social-Media/Social-Bookmarking Sites:

  1. Reddit: Upload stories and articles on reddit to drive traffic to your site or blog. Submit items often so that you’ll gain a more loyal following and increase your presence on the site.
  2. Digg: Digg has a huge following online because of its optimum usability. Visitors can submit and browse articles in categories like technology, business, entertainment, sports and more.
  3. Del.icio.us: Social bookmark your way to better business with sites like del.icio.us, which invite users to organize and publicize interesting items through tagging and networking.
  4. StumbleUpon: You’ll open your online presence up to a whole new audience just by adding the StumbleUpon toolbar to your browser and “channel surf[ing] the Web. You’ll “connect with friends and share your discoveries,” as well as “meet people that have similar interests.”
  5. Technorati: If you want to increase your blog’s readership, consider registering it with Technorati, a network of blogs and writers that lists top stories in categories like Business, Entertainment and Technology.
  6. Ning: After hanging around the same social networks for a while, you may feel inspired to create your own, where you can bring together clients, vendors, customers and co-workers in a confidential, secure corner of the Web. Ning lets users design free social networks that they can share with anyone.
  7. Squidoo: According to Squidoo, “everyone’s an expert on something. Share your knowledge!” Share your industry’s secrets by answering questions and designing a profile page to help other members.
  8. Furl: Make Furl “your personal Web file” by bookmarking great sites and sharing them with other users by recommending links, commenting on articles and utilizing other fantastic features.
  9. Tubearoo: This video network works like other social-bookmarking sites, except that it focuses on uploaded videos. Businesses can create and upload tutorials, commentaries and interviews with industry insiders to promote their own services.
  10. WikiHow: Create a how-to guide or tutorial on wikiHow to share your company’s services with the public for free.
  11. YouTube: From the fashion industry to Capitol Hill, everyone has a video floating around on YouTube. Shoot a behind-the-scenes video from your company’s latest commercial or event to give customers and clients an idea of what you do each day.
  12. Ma.gnolia: Share your favorite sites with friends, colleagues and clients by organizing your bookmarks with Ma.gnolia. Clients will appreciate both your Internet-savviness and your ability to stay current and organized.

Professional-Networking Sites:

  1. LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a popular networking site where alumni, business associates, recent graduates and other professionals connect online.
  2. Ecademy: Ecademy prides itself on “connecting business people” through its online network, blog and message-board chats, as well as its premier BlackStar membership program, which awards exclusive benefits.
  3. Ryze: Ryze lets members organize contacts and friends; upcoming events; and even job, real-estate and roommate classifieds.
  4. YorZ: This networking site doubles as a job site. Members can post openings for free to attract quality candidates.
  5. Xing: An account with networking site Xing can “open doors to thousands of companies.” Use the professional contact manager to organize your new friends and colleagues, and take advantage of the Business Accelerator application to “find experts at the click of a button, market yourself in a professional context [and] open up new sales channels.”
  6. Facebook: Facebook is no longer just for college kids who want to post their party pics. Businesses vie for advertising opportunities, event promotion and more on this social-networking site.
  7. Care2: Care2 isn’t just a networking community for professionals: It’s touted as “the global network for organizations and people who Care2 make a difference.” If your business is making efforts to go green, let others know by becoming a presence on this site.
  8. Gather: This networking community is made up of members who think. Browse categories concerning books, health, money, news and more to ignite discussions on politics, business and entertainment. This will help your company tap into its target audience and find out what they want.
  9. MEETin.org: Once you’ve acquired a group of contacts in your city by networking on MEETin.org, organize an event so that you can meet face-to-face.
  10. Tribe: Cities like Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, New York and Chicago have unique online communities on tribe. Users can search for favorite restaurants, events, clubs and more.
  11. Ziggs: Ziggs is “organizing and connecting people in a professional way.” Join groups and make contacts through your Ziggs account to increase your company’s presence online and further your own personal career.
  12. Plaxo: Join Plaxo to organize your contacts and stay updated with feeds from Digg, Amazon.com, del.icio.us and more.
  13. NetParty: If you want to attract young professionals in cities like Boston, Dallas, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Orlando Fla., create an account with the networking site NetParty. You’ll be able to connect with qualified, up-and-coming professionals online, then meet them at a real-life happy-hour event where you can pass out business cards, pitch new job openings and more.
  14. Networking For Professionals: Networking For Professionals is another online community that combines the Internet with special events in the real world. Post photos, videos, résumés and clips on your online profile while you meet new business contacts.

Niche Social-Media Sites:

  1. Pixel Groovy: Web workers will love Pixel Groovy, an open-source site that lets members submit and rate tutorials for Web 2.0, email and online-marketing issues.
  2. Mixx: Mixx prides itself on being “your link to the Web content that really matters.” Submit and rate stories, photos and news to drive traffic to your own site. You’ll also meet others with similar interests.
  3. Tweako: Gadget-minded computer geeks can network with each other on Tweako, a site that promotes information sharing for the technologically savvy.
  4. Small Business Brief: When members post entrepreneur-related articles, a photo and a link to their profile appear, gaining you valuable exposure and legitimacy online.
  5. Sphinn: Sphinn is an online forum and networking site for the Internet marketing crowd. Upload articles and guides from your blog to create interest in your own company or connect with other professionals for form new contacts.
  6. BuzzFlash.net: This one-stop news resource is great for businesses that want to contribute articles on a variety of subjects, from the environment to politics to health.
  7. HubSpot: HubSpot is another news site aimed at connecting business professionals.
  8. SEO TAGG: Stay on top of news from the Web marketing and SEO (search-engine optimization) industries by becoming an active member of this online community.

General Social-Media Sites:

  1. Wikipedia: Besides creating your own business reference page on Wikipedia, you can connect with other users on Wikipedia’s Community Portal and at the village pump, where you’ll find conscientious professionals enthusiastic about news, business, research and more.
  2. Newsvine: Feature top employees by uploading their articles, studies or other news-related items to this site. A free account will also get you your own column and access to the Newsvine community.
  3. 43 Things: This site bills itself as “the world’s most popular online goal setting community.” By publicizing your company’s goals and ambitions, you’ll gain a following of customers, investors and promoters who cheer you on as you achieve success.
  4. Wetpaint: If you’re tired of blogs and generic Web sites, create your own wiki with Wetpaint to reach your audience and increase your company’s presence online. You can easily organize articles, contact information, photos and other information to promote your business.
  5. Frappr: Embed a Frappr map and guestbook into your company’s Web page so that you can pinpoint exactly how users find your site, discover in real-time what they have to say about your company profile and services, and create an “interactive, fun and engaging” spot for visitors.
  6. Yahoo! Answers: Start fielding Yahoo! users’ questions with this social-media Q&A service. Search for questions in your particular areas of expertise by clicking categories like Business & Finance, Health, News & Events and more. If you continue to dole out useful advice and link your answer to your company’s Web page, you’ll quickly gain a new following of curious customers.

Job Sites:

  1. CareerBuilder.com: Reach millions of candidates by posting jobs on this must-visit site.
  2. The Wall Street Journal’s CareerJournal: The Wall Street Journal’s CareerJournal attracts well-educated professionals who are at the top of their game. Post a job or search résumés here.
  3. CollegeRecruiter.com: If your firm wants to hire promising entry-level employees, check CollegeRecuriter.com for candidates with college degrees.
  4. Monster: Post often to separate your business from all the other big companies that use this site to advertise job openings.
  5. Sologig: Top freelancers and contractors post résumés and look for work on this popular site.
  6. AllFreelance.com: This site “offers self-employed small business owners links to freelance & work at home job boards, self-promotion tips” and more.
  7. Freelance Switch Job Listings: Freelance Switch is the freelancer’s online mecca and boasts articles, resource toolboxes, valuable tips and a job board.
  8. GoFreelance: Employers looking to boost their vendor base should check GoFreelance for professionals in the writing, design, editing and Web industries.
  9. Yahoo! Hot Jobs: This site is often one of the first places that job seekers visit. Post open opportunities and check out informative articles and guides to gain insight on the hiring and interviewing process.
  10. Guru.com: Build your company’s repertoire with top freelancing professionals by advertising projects on this site, otherwise known as “the world’s largest online service marketplace.”

AT&T Plans For Your “Internet Meter” Fees


AT&T

AT&T

In what I would call a dubious development from the “Death Star” of communication providers, AT&T has confirmed that it has quietly begun “bandwidth metering trials” here in Reno, Nevada.  Obviously, this is the first move in metering studies to establish the development of higher pay service tiers beyond what consumers currently pay for monthly web access currently.

AT&T says it is conducting the market trial “to evaluate a usage-based model that could potentially help address today’s trend of explosive bandwidth usage”.  More to the point, similar trials will likely be launched in other markets by the end of 2008.

Perfect timing from what many have considered the “T-1000″ of communication corporations.

And now, starting on  Nov. 1, 2008,  AT&T’s High Speed Internet customers in Reno have been receiving a bandwidth usage amount report -  from between 20 gigabytes to 150 gigabytes.

“Once they’re a part of the trial, customers will receive a one-month grace period the first time usage is exceeded,” the carrier explained. “Thereafter, customers will be charged $1 for every gigabyte over their determined usage amount.”

So there it is America, yet another way that corporate America looks to gain profits on the backs of a struggling economic downturn, and worse yet, economically challenged consumers.  A PR nightmare designed to identify and charge what AT&T claims is a small group of customers who are using the majority of bandwidth on its network. The carrier has said almost 50 percent of total bandwidth is used by just five percent of customers.

To “help customers gauge their usage”, AT&T will provide trial customers with a bandwidth measuring tool. This “tool”  will notify customers least 60 days ahead of any overage charges. Even more helpful, AT&T promises to be even more helpful by “proactively letting customers know each time they reach 80 percent of their usage amount”. “We will not terminate service due to customer usage,” said AT&T.

AT&T has hinted that some type of usage-based model, “for those customers who have abnormally high usage patterns, seemed inevitable.”

Like the advent of VOIP for long distance service, this is the first step in monetizing internet based on usage.  While I’d agree that the corporation must maintain a financial model that provides its stockholders with a secure future, metering and charging for usage based on volume, and not service type is not the answer.

What do you think about these latest developments by the nation’s largest communication company?

Pepsi’s 5 Month Logo Revision


Pepsi Brand Image History

Pepsi Brand Image History

Remaking an icon take approximately 5 months in Pepsi terms.  Not a long time in my opinion for a major international brand that’s been in existence since 1898 which started out as “Brad’s Drink”.

I’m VERY interested to see which of the above you relate to.  I have a theory about which of these 6 brand image iterations resonate – and with whom.  So please, let me know if you prefer one over the other, and I’ll gladly combine and report the results.

According to Frank Cooper, Pepsi’s VP-portfolio brands: “We felt like, as we move out of this traditional mass marketing and mass distribution era into today’s culture, there’s an opportunity to bring humanity back, both in terms of the design but also in the way we engage consumers,” he said. “By making the logo more dynamic and more alive … [it is] absolutely a huge step in the right direction.”

Pepsi has not disclosed what the revamp has cost, however some have estimated the figure to be in excess of $1 million. A logo redesign is, as you can imagine, just the beginning. Consider the expense in removing the old logo version as it appears while creating and distributing a wide variety of new collateral.

Omnicom’s Arnell Group already had a working relationship with Pepsi, having spearheaded a majority of the company’s packaging design.

So which of these logos (including the new one) really resonate with you?  And what do you think of the new one?

Mad Men In The Mirror


Who would have guessed when AMC debuted it’s first original weekly drama on July 19th, 2007 that they’d have such a hit on their roster.

The buzz quickly began to spread that this period piece focused on the constantly drinking, chain smoking, overtly sexist New York advertising agency in 1960 could be a commentary on our social structure of the period – and in my opinion, a social mirror of today’s similarities.

“Where the truth lies” is the series positioning tag line – and a poignant one at that.  The truth in the series is evident within the main plot, and more importantly, within the morality the character’s represent.  The male dominated advertising executives are ruthless, childish and unfaithful to their sense of selves, family, and greed – while maintaining a firm grip on the glass ceiling they support as ad men.

This glass ceiling was broken many years ago, as women were finally allowed to take their rightful place within the advertising agency business.  But like other minorities in the workplace, they aren’t always given their due worth or respect – even in today’s litigious society.  There is, (again… my opinion here) a firm grip on that same glass ceiling today – on the golf course, in the bar, other other male dominated environments.

I know several local and regional agencies that have women in the very top positions of the organization – but often as original developers of the firm, or having climbed the ranks.  With but a few exceptions, I can’t count many women executives that have started their own agency, and remain the leader today.  That in itself can be viewed as a sexist statement.

And so comes the poignant episode earlier this year as Don examined himself in the mirror.  Finally coming to face himself as his adoring daughter looked on. At that moment, he finally faces his past, and realizes the future he has created for himself – and the man in the mirror isn’t the man he should be.

Don simply can’t stand to look at himself any more.

What’s my point?  That even in today’s progressive society, with all our self-assuredness that we have achieved the equlity of sexes we so vehemently say we stand for – the truth is, there is much more work ahead to achieve that goal.  It’s time we took a look at ourselves – the groups we form, and the alliances we make, and take a good long look in the mirror like Don has done on the series.

We may not like what we see looking back, but there is time to change our self-image through action.

Reno Green Summit Outstanding Success


City of Reno Green Summit

City of Reno Green Summit

Reno’s Green Summit at the incredible new Joe Crowley Student Union on the beautiful University of Nevada campus couldn’t be seen as anything but a major success.

Reports are noting that close to 300 people spent the afternoon at the summit, filled with informational booths from a variety of vendors and organizations from around the region.  As a representative from our green social network, Project ecoBrand, I can tell you that the opportunity to connect with the other vendors and attendees was really welcomed and appreciated.

The display tables were provided free of charge by the City of Reno, who did an outstanding job planning, organizing, coordinating and executing this great City branded gathering.

The Reno Gazette-Journal noted “close to 50 people attended a session on recycling and plastic bags” – and the main session was filled to the brim with individuals who spent the afternoon connecting and learning more about how we can all become more eco-conscious in our daily lives – as well as providing much needed inspiration to our City leaders.
Jason Geddes, the city’s Energy Administrator, says he expects to present several options to Reno City Council on Oct. 23 for regulating plastic bags, as well as an update on recycling negotiations with Waste Management Inc., which collects trash locally.  Jason’s efforts should be applauded by us all.

I had the opportunity to connect directly with several City Council members, and spent a good deal of time talking about how the event might be made more effective and accessible to our community.  I can tell you, Reno is truly progressive when it comes to our environmentally consciousness – and it’s really inspiring to be part of that effort.

Stay tuned for more updates about the event, and Jason Geddes’ final report to the City of Reno.

In the meantime, I’d really welcome your comments and thoughts about the event.  Together, we can make this a core value to our community, while developing habits and systems that will protect our environment, and our children’s future.

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