What is a brand? More than just a product itself, a brand is the overall identity that a product, service, or company takes on in the minds of its current and potential customers. It is this intangible quality of brands that can make them difficult to understand.
Three design experts presented their branding tips at a recent design event at the Rasmussen College Brooklyn Park, MN college campus. Pollywog Inc. executives John Stucker and Devon Thomas Treadwell, and John Eastman of Edge Advertising and Eastman Design presented their branding tips and insights on June 2, 2011, as a part of the School of Technology and Design's new lecture series: File>New. During this unique design and branding presentation, the guest speakers dove into the underpinnings of brands and strategic naming.
Branding Tips from the Design Event
Stucker, Treadwell, and Eastman spent about an hour sharing their branding knowledge with the 100+ member audience who attended both in person and virtually through video streaming service, Justin.TV. After the presentations, School of Technology and Design instructor John Mindiola III moderated questions from the audience.
Key branding tips from the speakers:
- In order to be effective, brands must gain our attention. To gain our attention, brands require novelty and relevance
- Brands must also be memorable to be succesful. We remember things based on connections, emotions and meaning
- A good brand name takes into account the brand's promise to its customers and its main differentiators from its competitors
- Many brand names fail because those that do the naming don't consider the implications of a bad name. Which name worked better in this case: gravitationally totally collapsed object or black hole?
- There are branding challenges with both internal brands (the human resources department, for example) and with external brands (example, an entire company)
- Personal branding is the next big thing in branding
Overall, the Brooklyn Park design event was a huge success. Rasmussen College would like to thank our speakers and audience for attending the branding tips lecture, the first in many design events to come. The next File>New event is coming up later this summer at the Brooklyn Park campus. Be sure to follow Rasmussen College on Facebook and Twitter to receive the latest details when they become available.
The video, presentation, and transcript are available below at your convenience.
Branding Tips Video Presentation
Branding Tips Presentation Slides on Slideshare.net
John Mindiola III: Well, everyone, thank you for joining us tonight. My name is John Mindiola III. I'm on the Multimedia faculty in the School of Tech and Design at Rasmussen College. I know some of you all in here already know that. Online viewers, hello. Thank you for attending online. We are very excited tonight to kick off a brand new design lecture series featuring three great individuals in the industry. They are John Stucker and Devon Thomas Treadwell from Pollywog Incorporated, downtown, and John Eastman, Creative Director for Edge Advertising.
We're very excited, especially for everyone online. We're broadcasting this via Justin.tv. Obviously you know that. We'll be tweeting during the event. You can use the hashtag #RasDesign. Also, if you don't want to tweet, you can use the chat on Justin.tv to sign in and create a free account. If you're in the room here, just write your questions down on the little note cards provided, and at the end we'll get to those questions. Another way, if you're online, just email rasdesignrasmussen.edu, or connect to us on Facebook at the extremely long URL, /RasmussenTechDesign.
I'll introduce John and Devon real quickly, and I'm going to read this so I don't screw up. Again, they're the founding principals at Pollywog, a full service naming and branding agency. Under their unique patent pending methodology, every step of the brand creation process has evolved resulting in brands with maximum power. This new way of creating brands eliminates guesswork and provides brands with everything they need to start strong. We're very pleased and honored to have them here tonight. Let's give them a warm welcome.
John Stucker: All right. Thank you everybody, and thank you, John, for that beautiful introduction and thanks so much for inviting us here tonight. Thanks to all you guys for coming out and for everybody who's following us online. We are going to be talking about brand names. The title of this presentation is "Fail: Why Most Brand Names Suck and How Yours Can Be Great."
Again, I'm John Stucker, and this is Devon Thomas Treadwell. We are the principals of Pollywog. We're Pollywog because we work with brands in their formative stages. We do naming and brand creation, everything from brand strategy through visual brand identity, design, and brand launch. A core part of our business is naming, so that's what we're going to be talking about with you here today.
So first of all, we want to look at how names can make a difference. Can anybody tell me what this is called?
Audience Member: Black hole.
John Stucker: Okay. I did not hear. Can we move that up a little bit so we get the bottom of the projector on the screen? Thanks. It's just cutting off on the bottom. Okay.
The name I was looking for was gravitationally totally collapsed object. This is a phenomenon in space that was discovered in 1917, and when it was discovered, the scientists who found out about it gave it this catchy moniker, and nobody outside of the astrophysics community really cared very much. It wasn't until 1967 when another physicist started calling them black holes that anybody really paid much attention outside the scientific community. But once this name was used, it all of a sudden became very interesting to everyone, so much so that it created stories, even full length movies. There actually was a Disney movie called "The Black Hole".
Really, this illustrates the power of a name. Gravitationally totally collapsed object is an incredibly boring name. It's very descriptive, but as far as catching attention, it's terrible, and that's why nobody really paid much attention to it. But black hole is much simpler. It's something that we can understand. It engages us on an emotional level. So that's why it draws us in. So, a good name can really make the difference in getting lay people interested in scientific phenomena. It can also make the difference in business. Strong brand names make more money.
One example is the company Logitech. You guys are probably familiar with the computer peripheral manufacturer. They had a scanner that they created in the year 2000, which they imaginatively titled Scanner2000, and the sales were tepid. They decided to just rename it ScanMan. They just changed the name on the packaging, and without any addition advertising or marketing efforts, sales doubled in 18 months. So they created a name that was more human, that connected with people better, and it had a significant effect.
Goldzilla is a brand that we created as a pro bono project, working with a nonprofit group called "Rescue a Golden of Minnesota." What they do is they rescue golden retrievers and find homes for them. They had an annual picnic that they had just titled the RAGOM Picnic that had been going on for a few years, and really the only people who knew about it were people within the organization. But still, it was a fundraising event for them.
They really wanted to make more off of this, and they wanted to draw in more of the public, draw in all golden retriever owners and enthusiasts. So we worked with them and developed this new brand, Goldzilla. The reason for that is because it is the largest golden retriever event in the Upper Midwest, and we believe the nation. The effect that it had for them was that they tripled their fundraising from this event just from implementing this brand.
So we know that names that are strong can have an effect, whether it's in making science more accessible, making more money, whether it's for a for-profit business or a non- profit organization. But why is that? To find the answers to why some names work better and some names really work poorly, we look to the brain science that's been done with how we absorb names and brands. Devon's going to take us through that.
Devon Treadwell: John, I hate to interrupt, but we have some builds coming up, and we're not going to see the builds unless we're in presentation view. So I think we're okay with not cutting off the bottom on the rest of these slides. Sorry about the interruption there.
There's a lot about how the brain works that we don't understand, but because of all this research that's been done in the last 10, 20, 30 years, there's a lot that we do know for sure. With replicated peer reviewed studies, we have some sound science that says this is a fact about how the brain works. One of the things we do know for sure about the brain is that we don't pay attention to boring things, and you as students probably know this better than anybody. So what do we pay attention to? Novelty, stimuli that are unusual, unpredictable, or distinctive, that's what gets our attention.
These essential truths about how the brain works can be applied to branding, and I'm going to explain to you as we go along how we do that. So the lesson that branders can learn from this is different is good. Familiar is risky. If you're familiar, you risk being ignored. An example of this, think back to the '80s if you were alive at the time. Apple Computer came on the scene, and they said we're going to have the world's first personal computer. They came into a competitive situation where the other companies that sold computers were very technical sounding, very scientific, impersonal, clinical sounding. They said, "Our computer is for people. It's for use in the home." They chose a brand name that was very distinctive for the time, Apple, and it got a lot of attention.
What else do we pay attention to? Relevance. We are more interested in things that we find important to us. So for branders, what does that mean? Know who you're talking to and know what they want. Here's a great example of knowing who you're talking to and knowing what they want. When game consoles were first developed, they were really about the single gamer playing by themselves. Through their research, Nintendo realized that what families want is the ability to play together. So they developed the console that was technologically capable of doing that, to have two, three, four players playing at once, and they gave it the name Wii. This resonated very quickly with the market, and Nintendo captured a huge share of the market because of this need out there and the fact that it was very relevant to families who wanted to play together.
What do we remember? Remember that brand effectiveness is about impact and memorability. You need to have impact, you need to stand out, but you also need to be remembered. So what do we remember? We remember connections. Memory is enhanced by creating associations between ideas. Let me give you an example of that in just a minute. But for branders, for more memorability, what you want is to create a name that evokes an idea outside of the obvious functionality of what you're selling.
For example, Bumblebee is a personal assistant business that we branded for an entrepreneur who came to us originally with the name The PA4U. She knew that was a weak name, and when you look at it, there's not a lot of connections you get from it. It almost looks like a random selection of letters. It's clear what she was going, but it had no other connections. So we created the brand Bumblebee for her, and right away you think of this little bee flitting from flower to flower. You think of high industry. You think of busy as a bee. Lots of little connections that you can make around that brand, and that helps it be more memorable.
What else do we remember? Emotions. The brain remembers emotional components and experience more than any other aspect. Emotion causes the brain to release dopamine, and that actually helps you encode a memory. That's why when there's a really powerfully emotional event, like 9/11, the death of a family member, you remember where you were. That's because of literally the chemical reactions in the brain. Now we can't probably hope to have a brand as powerful as 9/11, but we can try to leverage this learning by creating brand names that have emotion in them.
For example, these two jobs databases. I can remember when I first heard of Monster. I was standing in a hallway at an agency I was working at, and someone said, "Have you checked Monster?" We were all trying to get out. CareerBuilder, I cannot say the same thing. Monster stirs emotions. It's big, it's scary, it's powerful, it's negative, and yet, what they were going for with the brand is exactly that power. We have the power. We have a huge database. CareerBuilder, very straightforward, very descriptive, evokes practically no emotion at all.
Finally, what do we remember? Meaning. The more meaning something has, the more memorable it becomes. What we can learn from this as branders is that names rich with multiple allusions offer more opportunities to find personal connections and meaning. An example of this, these two SUVs - Cayenne versus Touareg. Cayenne is made by Porsche. When I hear that word, I think of spicy, fun, hot. I might even think of eating peppers in Mexico. When you have multiple allusions in a name, you enable your listener to go to all those places, and that helps it to be more memorable. Touareg, does anybody know what a Touareg is?
Audience Member: An SUV.
Devon Treadwell: Yeah. It's actually something else. Do you know where the word came from?
Audience Member: No.
Devon Treadwell: No? Okay. It's actually the name of a nomadic tribe in Africa, and now you know. But without that understanding of what the word means, there's no meaning to you, and so that name is easily forgotten. There are a lot of ways that branders are creating names without meaning. The foreign word that not enough people know is one way. Legerity is an English word, but not enough people know what that means, so that's easily forgettable. Amgen is what we call a train wreck, where you take a syllable from one word, a syllable from another, and you smash them together. Cision is what we call a Latinette [SP]. It's a Greek or a Latin root, but without the full word it doesn't have enough meaning. I don't know whether they're going for incision or decision or precision.
Audience Member: Indecision.
Devon Treadwell: Indecision. Good one. Then there's a whole category of nonsense names that sprang up. We call them Web 2.0 names. Doostang is a good example of that. Does anybody know what Doostang is? You would never guess. It is actually a professional networking site that's a competitor to LinkedIn.
So, obviously, we don't want to create names that don't have meaning. How do we ensure that the names that we do create, the brands that we do create are meaningful? For that, we have to go through a process. Before we actually start coming up with names, we need to lay a foundation to make sure we know directionally where we were going, and that's what we call positioning. John's going to explain what that is.
John Stucker: All right. So the importance of positioning is really twofold. What we need to do is make sure that we are creating a brand that is relevant to the audience, as Devon already mentioned. The other aspect of it is making sure that we're creating names for that brand that really connect with what the brand is about.
So, to illustrate that, we're going to use a case study example. We did a project for the Animal Humane Society, and they were creating a spay and neuter veterinary service for low-income pet owners. We look at a number of questions when we're developing a positioning, but two of the most important are: What's your promise? In other words, what is it that you're offering to your audience? Secondly, what makes it different from your competitors? What is that key difference?
So those answers for this particular project were, what's your promise? Now you can afford the high quality spay and neuter services for your pet that will save pet lives by preventing unwanted litters. This was something that they knew from research was very important to people who couldn't afford veterinary services. They were very troubled by their animals having pets that had to be put to sleep. Then, what makes you different from your competitors? Because the service is subsidized by donations, which allows it to have lower cost and therefore be more accessible.
So the name that we finally came to through a lot of exploration and presenting a number of options to the client, and finally deciding that this was the best name option to connect with all of this - This Kind of Cut. The cut obviously getting to the actual surgery and providing some trigger, some emotion. We feel a little twinge when we hear that, and we know it's associated with spay and neuter services. But kindest, associating with the donations and also the fact that it is low cost and also that it allows us to save pet lives by not having unwanted litters. Then we've got a literary connection, for those of you who have studied Shakespeare, actually coming from a turn on the unkindest cut of all.
So when we are generating names, we come up with a lot of ideas. Usually, we're looking at hundreds to thousands of names to get to a single brand name on a project. Over the course of this, we often come up with a lot of names that have power that fulfill a lot of those rules in brain science for being able to get attention and be memorable, but if they don't fit the positioning, they're not something that we can use. So some of the ones that we came up with on this project were fun but had problems.
So, Budget Cut. Obviously, it has connections. It's a low cost service, but it doesn't communicate that this is a high quality veterinary service. There's nothing low budget about the quality of this service. It's just that it's subsidized that makes it less expensive. Queen of Spayeds. Again, connections to things beyond what this is about. Things that make it interesting, but we're doing neutering as well as spaying, so it didn't really provide that umbrella. Queen sort of elevated it to something that doesn't sound like it's low cost.
Alter Boys. Obviously, this one is a lot of fun, but it has a connection. It's always great to have connections outside of what the brand is really about, but this one connecting to religious ideas really didn't have anything connected to what the brand was about.
One of our favorites was Womb Raider. Obviously, very powerful, really too powerful for this. It sounds too violent, and again it's specific to females, so it has a couple of strikes against it. F-Stop. We're really talking about the net effect of this service, but obviously referencing profanity, not really in keeping with Animal Humane Society's brand image. They were just getting this now on the other side of the room here. Finally Neutorious. Again, a lot of fun, memorable, but it is only connecting with neutering and not spaying.
So really, these are names that our clients never even saw, because we had to reject them for not fitting the positioning. We did present the clients with a number of names, but you guys actually are the first people to see these other than Pollywog. So they can be a lot of fun and they can have a lot of things going for them in terms of brain science and being attention getting and memorable, but if they don't have that connection to the positioning, they can't be successful.
So just to recap what we've talked about. The brain pays attention to novelty and relevance. The brain remembers connections, emotions, and meaning. To be effective, names need to fit a solid brand positioning.
So, why do so many brand names suck? We often ask ourselves this, and it really comes from a lot of factors. One is that a lot of people who are doing naming don't know about the brain science that's been done and how naming can use those factors that have been established, and we can develop names that actually connect with what we're looking for. Another aspect of it is that, a lot of times, people don't think that naming should be difficult, and a lot of times naming isn't difficult.
How many people in this room have named a pet? Can I see a show of hands? Okay. It's got to be pretty much everybody, right? We name stuff all the time. We give our friends nicknames. We name our pets. We name our kids. So it's something that we feel like we should be able to do, and at a lot of times it doesn't matter whether a name has power or not. Really the only criteria is whether we like the name or not.
That's fine unless you're naming a business. When that comes into play, then there is another level of criteria that really needs to be looked at. Some of the outcomes of not paying attention to things like the brain science aspects lead to names that suck, and sometimes they suck because they're boring. This is a lot of the cases. Gravitationally totally collapsed object is a great example of that. But the more fun ones are the ones that have unintended meanings that really supersede what the namers were going for. So we're going to leave you with us some epic naming fails here that we think are hilarious.
So we're guessing this was the founder's name, but it took on a little bit different meaning. The Kum & Go. This is actually a really successful gas station chain. What's that?
Audience Member: You don't forget it.
John Stucker: Exactly. You don't forget it. It's memorable, but it's for all the wrong reasons. It actually has worked on a business level for these guys. But we wonder about how many people want to say, "Yeah, I work at the Kum & Go." Going there is funny. That's where I'd get my gas. This just seems like a terrible idea.
So again, we're guessing this was probably the initials of the founder. Yeah, to get all the way to putting that on a sign and not realize that that's really wrong, I don't get it.
Finally, one of our favorites. Yes. Analtech is a real company, and yes they are serious, and no it doesn't have anything to do with what you're thinking about. Actually, it's a business that even reading their website I couldn't understand. They create some kind of film product, and they have a reason for their name. I believe it has to do with breaking up those first syllables, the "An" and the "al" and putting it together with tech. I believe it is a train wreck name, but we think that any name that starts with anal is probably not a great idea.
So, thank you very much for your time today. It's been great talking with you. I think we're taking questions after. John? Okay, great. Thanks everybody.
John Mindiola III: Thank you, John and Devon. I didn't expect it to be so humorous, but I'm glad that it was. There is a lot of that I'll never forget. I used to live in Iowa, and Kum & Go's are as prevalent as BP's are here. It just speaks a lot about Iowa unfortunately.
All right. Our next speaker is John Eastman, as you can see in the slide here. Let's see how deep I am. Okay. He's a Creative Director of Edge Advertising in Plymouth, Minnesota. Again, I'm going to read so I don't screw this up. I want to give him all the credit he deserves. Award winning graphic designer, art director, 20 years of industry experience. In 2010, he joined the team at Edge Advertising as a Creative Director. Edge is a support agency for manufacturers and distributors of aftermarket motorsport parts. John is responsible for the conception and development of print and electronic marketing collateral with an emphasis on the Harley Davidson/V-Twin aftermarket. So let's give a warm welcome for John Eastman.
John Eastman: Hi everybody. First of all, I'd like to thank John for inviting me, and I want to get an idea of who I'm talking to. Who's students? And faculty? A couple faculty. Are we designers, tech people, what do we kind of have going here? Everybody. The whole world. Okay. So, what I'm going to do is just give you my point of view on this whole branding thing. When John came to me and talked to me about this, I was like, okay. Let me try and figure out what you want me to say, because it puts a lot of elephants in the room in my perspective.
To me, as a visual communicator and a creative director . . . first of all, let me just back up a minute and say that I've been doing this for 20 years and I've been doing it in a lot of different industries. Where I'm at now at Edge, I started in November of last year. So I've only been doing this particular job for a short time. I was at a company called VI for 11 years, and VI deals with a lot of internal communications and a lot of incentive programs. So I did a lot of working with internal communications and internal branding. Then I worked freelance for a while, and I'm going to show you examples of that as well.
So branding in my perspective is one of those words and one of those ideas that I think has become almost like Kleenex in our industry in a lot of ways. People don't really know exactly what it is. When you say branding someone, they think of naming, they think of logos, and they think of visual treatment. To me, branding is much bigger than that. Branding is an overall essence of image. What does your brand say about you? It goes way beyond anything visual or even naming. However, starting with a great name, we don't want to butcher that as graphic designers, and that's kind of where my challenge is. Looking at that Analtech image was funny, because if you looked at the image beyond just the name, the graphic itself, I don't want to go into detail, but think back and look at that and let your mind wander, because it was even more funny.
So anyway, every piece that you work on is a branding opportunity, and that's something I take a look at when I work on something. But right now, I think we face new challenges as communicators in the sense that we're dealing with a bigger world beyond just what we're putting out there. You're dealing with a post-modern generation who is Facebook, Twitter, online. So everything is constantly changing and evolving, and if you put something out there that's not true to your brand, people are going to hear about it right away, and they're going to start bashing you or bashing your brand, and the brand is going to fail. Even if it could be the most awesome name, the most awesome treatment, if you're not backing it up with the image, it's just not going to work.
Okay. So, one of the challenges that I've dealt with is internal versus external. When you're working with a corporation, a lot of the times you'll deal with clients that are, for example, HR. The examples I'm going to show you are HR, Human Resources examples. What they'll do is they'll come to you and they'll say, "Hey, I want to do this communications campaign to my internal people." They may or may not want to follow the internal brand or the brand that is for the corporation. If they do, it's making them stay with that brand and not butchering it. If they don't, it's taking them away from the brand and making sure that they're cohesive with some kind of messaging that's around the audience.
So the first example I have here is something I worked on just last year for Rosemont Incorporated. Rosemont Incorporated is a technology company, and they came to my client. I was freelancing at the time. They asked us to develop a brand for their HR department. They wanted to get across several different messages.
What they had done is they had merged the department from two or three different departments into one, and they had all these different messages across the board that really weren't cohesive. They had an idea of where they wanted to go, but they had this PowerPoint. They had this pillar system that looked like a Greek column, and it was just this real mess of triangles. Everything was all over the place visually. You had no idea what you were talking about or seeing when you're looking at it. So, what we wanted to do was take a step back and say, first of all, how close do you want to be to the Rosemont brand? The Rosemont brand is very clean, it's very techy. It's got a real sophisticated look to it. It's very human oriented, and it has visuals.
So they said, "We don't want to necessarily stay with that. We want to make sure we have our own brand internally." So what we did is we developed this system here. What you're looking at is the overarching message of "We are Rosemont." That was their main message they wanted to get across, but they wanted to get that across with these different pillars, if you will, of community impact, developing employees, and planning for the future. What they had originally was this thumbprint graphic, which is the middle one on the bottom there. They had this that they had used before and said, "We want that thumbprint to kind of continue. What do we do with that? We want to make sure that continues."
So, our challenge was, let's take a step back and say, "Okay. If you want to keep the thumbprint going, how can you do that visually throughout your entire brand, this message we want to get across?" So, what came to us is the human element. So, we said, "Okay, we're going to use the hand and expand upon that into your graphic message." So the next step was to look at the community. The hand has the fingers, so therefore we expanded it to the hand. Then finally the future, we added the plant element into the graphic to show the future. We then applied a graphic color scheme to each different pillar, so depending on what they were talking about, they could visually quickly reference that.
They were like, "Great. We've got this whole system set up. Now, let's put pictures in there. Let's put images in there. Let's do this, and this," and just junk it up. We're like, "Wait a minute. Take a step back. What we want to do is we want to get this brand out there. We want to make this message cohesive to your audience. It's a brand new thing you're showing to your employees. It's going to be up all over the room, and it's going to be something they've never seen before. How do we make sure they understand what they're going to see?"
What you're looking at here is the poster series, which went out first. What we wanted to do is really get across this icon based system. So we created the poster series to go out to really talk to a single headline graphic treatment that told the story of each of the different pillars. Impacting your community, value your employees, and plan for the future. Getting those main messages is as important as the overall "We are Rosemont" message. So now moving forward, what they would see whenever anything came up along the lines of this treatment, they would be able to see these graphics, these elements, these colors, and understand that going forward. So, what we have here is a cohesive brand message that tries to stay focused on and not get lost in the details of their overall HR thinking. Because if you've ever dealt with HR, they tend to get too much into the details, and they don't really take a step back and say, "You have people who just want to know what you're trying to tell them in a brief, succinct way."
So our next example. This one is for a food service company. Unfortunately, I can't tell you the name because of confidentiality. You might be able to figure it out as you look through the graphics. I'm not going to say anything. Basically, what this is for is a large, global corporation, and this particular client, again was an HR department, but they wanted to deal with sticking really closely to the corporate brand. They came to us and they said, "We want to . . ." They called it branding their lobby. Now, as a designer, I'm like, "How can you brand a lobby?" I'm like, "That doesn't really make sense to you." I'm like, "Do you want to get a message out to your audience using your lobby as the palate graphically?"
To them, it was decorating. To me, it was looking at it more as an opportunity to tell a story. So what was our story? Our story here was their employees. They had already had a campaign they used with different images of their employees around the world. So we had this space. When you walk into the lobby doors, immediately to the right you had these large faces. These were all employees of the company that had individual stories. Then along the graphic words you're looking at are the different job functions that are done throughout the company. So a person walking in immediately gets a sense of community, a sense of culture, and a sense of diversity, which is what they wanted to portray, and that is their brand essence they put out to the world.
Another thing they put out to the world is a sense of global. So in the lobby as you walked in - unfortunately I don't have a shot of the whole thing here - but basically you walk in, and this is immediately to the left. So you see the large graphics on the right, the images, and to the left you have this rotunda area you look down upon. We had the challenge of how to work with this wall. What we ended up doing was doing a large global map and then putting in keywords that were part of their brand message, pulled it right out of their overall marketing campaigns and mission statements, and used images of their services around the world. You can see on the sides there, we applied the word "welcome" in different languages.
So, what you've got is a sense of individual and a sense of global in the same area. So you're speaking to employees. You're speaking to potential customers. You're also speaking to potential employees, because what another challenge was, this was the place where a new employee would walk in the door. A potential hire would walk in, and they wanted to give them a sense for what's it like to work for this company? How am I going to feel when I'm here? What are they all about? We try to tell that story and give that brand message, if you will, in a real succinct way that gave them this.
The next piece we did beyond this, which I don't have an image of, unfortunately, was the interview rooms themselves. Took them back down to the individual level. So the images you saw of the large heads in the main lobby, we took those same images and repeated them in the interview rooms, one per room, and told that person's story in the room. So it took you from a sense of individual, global, back down to individual, and it kind of completed the circle, if you will, for this message. But what it did is it really stayed with their brand. So an external/internal brand here was cohesive. It wasn't a separate message.
One of the challenges I've had throughout the years is trying to get a client or customer to understand that. You can't just butcher the brand, visually or with a name or with anything, because you're going to water it down and it's going to become something that is not consistent. It's a challenge for me as a designer to make sure that they understand that, because if they don't, then I haven't done my job. You've just got to try. Then the other challenge that I've had is taking that brand, if you will . . . someone wrote a brand guideline, for example, an actual design guideline. It's seeing how far you can push it. So the designers around that are listening, your job, your challenge is to take what is written as a brand guideline and see how far you can take it without destroying the message. So it's kind of a challenge both ways.
So, now we're going to move on to what I'm doing now and a little bit about what Edge does. As John said, we're a support agency. So basically, we're owned by a large corporation, and our corporation does product distribution for the motorsports industry as well as we own a few brands in the motorsports industry. I primarily work on a brand called Drag Specialties, and Drag Specialties is twofold. They have dual branding here, because it's a product and it's a service. So my challenge as a creative director is to try and get a cohesive message for Drag across both those channels, which can be challenging, because my internal audience doesn't always understand that, and my internal audience is the owner of the corporation who's owned it for 50 years. That's one of those things that you're kind of up against.
First example here is an ad that's been done for a product. So this is for clutch plates, and those designers in the room, if you can make clutch plates look sexy, more power to you. But when I first started there, all the different ads that were done for the brand, for the products, there was somewhat of a look and a cohesiveness for them, but they didn't have anything consistent about them. So what I tried to do is take a step back and, first of all, create a visual look for the year or two years and create an overall message that was strong and keeping it consistent throughout the different ads.
So for here, clutch plates is pretty straightforward messaging, but every other ad that has to do any kind of product for the brand has the same look, the same feel, the same overall treatment. So when you're in the magazines, you see that and you know it. That's one of the very important things about any kind of brand messaging is to keep it consistent. I've said that a million times. So, this is what I did with the actual product. The other challenge is Drag is also a distributorship. So this particular ad is [inaudible 40:40]. On the top it says Old Style. That's the headline on this one.
But one of the things that we do is we use a motorcycle as the graphic element in the ads to help sell product. A lot of times, the client will get hung up on the product and not see the ad for what it really is, which is about the Drag brand. The previous ad was about the product. This one is about just the Drag brand and getting an overall feel out there to my audience. So on the other ad, I wanted to sell those clutch plates. On this ad, I want people to look at this bike and look at this ad and go, "Hey, Drag is a cool brand. They've got a lot of cool stuff, and I want to be part of that product."
The messaging here and the idea here is these ads usually run inside front magazine, front cover. So when I'm in the magazine, I open the magazine up, I see this image of this bike. I want to be able to be drawn in, look at that bike and go, "Hey, I want those cool handlebars," or, "I want that cool air cleaner. Where can I get those and know that Drag's my source?" That's what I want them to walk away with from this ad, not necessarily buy any individual item. So the problem and the challenge with these particular ads is that every bike is different. This is more of a graphic design thing, but my challenge here is I can't do every single ad identical like I can on the product ad. I have to try and create something that is visually appealing for this particular product but still stays consistent, so if you see another bike ad, it has the same look and feel.
The third challenge - this is almost like triple branding - is two brands on the same page, same ad. Python is the exhaust system that we work with, and so here we've got the Python brand, but it's also a Drag product that we actually own. It's a brand that Drag owns and distributes. So I'm dealing with a product, distributing, and an overall essence for what Python's brand is. So here in the series on this particular brand, we tried to keep a consistent look and feel for Python, but again keeping consistent throughout the Drag brand. So looking through these, the feeling, Drag is strong, Drag is clean, Drag is straightforward is still consistent, but each one has its own individual feel depending on what we're dealing with.
Okay. Finally, personal brand. You're all free to laugh at the next image I'm going to show you, because I'm going back in my time and show you what I started with personally as a designer as one of my earlier marketing pieces. You can laugh. I find it very humorous. It's very mauve. It's very '90s. It's something that I did back when I first started freelancing and working for myself back in the early '90s. I had to dig through my archives, and I was cracking up with I pulled it out. I'm thinking, what was I thinking, first of all, back in that day? I tried to present myself as jack of all trades. That's kind of what I ended up with. My career is a jack of all trades.
As a creative director, I do everything in my own particular function, but my essence started out doing a lot of different things, trying to be one of those guys that does everything. If I had it to do all over again, I probably would more focus down on something, drill down to what I really was the best at. But what's interesting is being a jack of all trades has allowed me to become a strategic thinker that is able to be that leader of a lot of different individuals that can do something better than I can.
So Eastman Design is my baby, and it's something that I started as my freelance thing. I'm like, okay, I'm a jack of all trades, and how does this evolve? Where I've come to today is a lot different. I think where I was at here was this busy, overthinking, trying to oversell myself, and now this is my website. So I've drilled it down to clean, simple, just straightforward. This is what I do, this is who I am, don't try and overthink it. That's my niece, by the way. Just be yourself.
I think that's what I want to leave you with is this message of personal brand. It's important that you portray an image out there in this industry of who you are, and don't be afraid to be that person, because I think a lot of mistakes, this is more for the students than anybody, when you're going out in the industry is to make sure you figure out who you are and don't be afraid to sell that. As an individual, I'm a designer, I'm a biker, I'm a father. I've got all these things going on, and I try and portray those in my job. The beauty of what I landed on after a lot of years is a job that allows me to be all those things, and you'll get there too. So thanks.
John Mindiola III: All right. Thank you, John, very much for that. There's a lot of Johns today. To keep track, when I was Facebooking and emailing everybody, I always put their last initial so I knew who was talking about what when I look back at old messages.
Are there any questions in the audience here? You can just say it out loud. No? All right. I know I have some questions. Maybe we can spur on some others. I don't know if you guys want to come up here all at the same time or whatever.
Can you speak on - John ended with personal branding - kind of the role of that, especially in today's economy which everyone is sick of hearing, but kind of how important that is and what can people do, there's a lot of students here, as far as getting out there and showing who they are without overselling, underselling, things like that. Just the different things they can do to capitalize on it. Any one of you can speak on this.
John Eastman: I think about a portfolio. I've taken a lot of portfolios over the years, and I think what I hate to see is someone who gives me a little bit of . . . let me step back. The best portfolio I ever saw, from a student in particular, was someone that took their thought process from beginning to end. It was one piece in the entire portfolio, but I got to see where she started, where she went, what her development was, and what her final product was. That was way more important to me as someone hiring her than someone who's showing me a bunch of finished work that was so-so.
If it's awesome, killer student work . . . my student work was shit, to be honest with you. I'm embarrassed by it today. But to see that thought process, that's important. It's more important to me as a creative director to be able to work with someone that I can give an idea to and they can expand on that or develop it. They could be a great graphic designer, and they could have a year to work on a project and came up with something awesome. I'm like, "That's cool. What can you do for me today?" That's what I want to know. I want to see how your brain works so I know what you can do for me in this much time.
John Stucker: I would agree. I have a design background too, and one of the things also to remember is that, like John mentioned, is that is it's a spectrum, your entire career. You have to start someplace, and you'll end up someplace very different. You kind of need to own where you're at and know that you may be showing someone something that isn't necessarily that impressive to them. It may not be something that they would present to clients, but if you are able to show a thought process and also show your conceptual work. Don't just show design, don't just show the gloss. This is kind of a balance between advertising and design, but if you can show beyond just the aesthetics, the idea and the concept and something novel, that can be really powerful.
John Mindiola III: Awesome, thank you. Any questions out there? Yes.
Audience Member: We probably have a lot of students in the room who aren't in the design world, so from your experiences, what are the pathways or people you've seen in positions that didn't have a design background, but they're really successful in branding or advertising or marketing?
John Stucker: So, like what kind of . . .
Audience Member: I assume we probably have some business students in the room or students who are studying a degree that they think, "Oh, I have to be a graphic designer to get into that world." Can you speak to that maybe from personal experience?
John Stucker: Yeah. Especially in advertising, you can come into that from a lot of different places. It's often your life experience and the perspective that you develop. It's really a facility with ideas. You don't necessarily have to be able to draw. There are loads of art directors out there who can do nothing but chicken scratch. But that's okay, because they don't need to be the illustrator. Like John was saying, you can have people to do those specific things who are excellent at that. There are illustrators out there who all they do is illustrate because they're fantastic at that, but they don't come up with the ideas.
Especially if you're wanting to get into advertising, that's a field where just a broad base of knowledge and a facility with coming up with ideas quickly is really, really the most useful thing. Then, as far as people who are in business or in any other field, just to remember that everything that you learn is going to be helpful to you in some way at some point. There's so much in business today that people are recognizing the importance of design in everything. Both graphic design and product design. They're realizing that branding encompasses everything about the company, from the look, the logo, the lobby, to the way their people answer the phones. There are so many different aspects of this, and it connects to so many different things that, one, you can take a lot of paths to get into an industry like this, and two, anything that you're able to learn about this industry can be helpful in a lot of other industries.
Audience Member: Question for each of the three panelists. What is your favorite brand, either logo or name or both, and what do you notice that the average person wouldn't notice about it that makes it so great?
John Mindiola III: Wow. That's a great question.
John Eastman: Mine is Harley Davidson. Because I ride one, and I think for me, it's a brand that goes beyond just a logo. It's a lifestyle. You see a Harley Davidson and you see the logo and you see the essence of it, and you get a sense for something right away. I think they have been able to capture that. I think Nike has been able to capture that. I think Coca-Cola has been able to capture that. These are brands that have been around forever, and those are the ones that have taken that message. It's changed, it's evolved, but it's never wavered from who they are.
John Stucker: I think I would have to say my all-time favorite brand is Apple. I love that we used that example today, because one of the things that's amazing about Apple is that they got such an amazing sense of branding for technologists, for engineers way before people were branding that kind of company in that way. I think they really advanced the overall field of branding. Back then, I don't think the word branding was even used. But coming up with the name Apple and taking that radical stance in such a stodgy, up until that point, industry and recognizing that they were coming at this from a different angle. They were all about personal computing.
Really, innovation goes through everything that they did. They had the idea to make computers personal, not something that you just use at work. So that's why they created that name. They wanted the name of their computers to be accessible. They didn't want it to be cold and clinical and abstract. They wanted it to be very human, and they wanted it to be something that you would feel comfortable with having in your home. The education angle was great, too. The Apple for the teacher thing. We don't really know how early it was that they recognized that they really wanted to focus on the educational market. But it was in the '80s, very soon after they were founded that they really started pushing their computers into schools.
So their name works in a lot of different ways, incredible innovation back at that point, and then ultimately through applying amazing design standards to every product that they put out. The thing I love the most about Apple is that they are really, really gutsy about putting things on the market that people don't know they want yet. When you ask them if they want it even, they might say, "Mm, nah, I don't think I'd have a use for that." iPad is a fantastic example. I was even among the people who thought, "'You know, we've got iPhones, we've got laptops. Do we really need tablets? Are people really going to buy this?" It's just ridiculous how that products has taken off. So yeah, I admire Apple on a lot of different levels.
Devon Treadwell: I have to say my favorite brand is a bit tarnished these days, but pre-Best Buy Geek Squad. Before Geek Squad got bought out by Best Buy, it had a very, very unusual and distinctive and gutsy and quirky brand. Early Geek Squad days, they used to drive around in vintage cars. They were not even all the same model of car, and then they went to Volkswagens that were painted like police cars. They had a dress code. You had to wear high-water pants. You had to wear a white shirt with a pocket protector.
They owned the pejorative geek, and that's what I loved about the early brand. They were just fearless about owning that geek word and translating that into computer expertise. Unfortunately, since it's been acquired by Best Buy, it's lost a lot of that personality, which I think is pretty typical with big corporations, tend to get watered down. But pre-Best Buy Geek Squad was an awesome brand.
John Mindiola III: Thank you. Can't argue with any of those. Any other questions that we have out there? Yes.
Audience Member: So, I don't know exactly how many brands there are out there, but there are probably like a billion or more. So when you're designing or coming up with a logo or a name, how do you deal with copyright infringement and stuff like that? Like avoiding that kind of thing?
John Stucker: That is a huge issue in naming. It is the biggest obstacle to creating names that we can use. The trademark situation is ridiculous. It was one of the things that we were going to have in this presentation, but left out for time's sake. There are 1.6 million trademarks in the U.S.
Devon Treadwell: Live trademarks.
John Stucker: Yeah, live trademarks in the U.S, and another 3.5 million in the rest of the world. Just to give you an idea of that. 300,000 new trademarks were filed last year in the U.S. This may get into something else, but it's related. 42,000 new domain names are registered every day. So the prevalence of names in use out there is ridiculous, and it is one of the reason why naming is difficult. What we do to deal with that is we get to names that are a little bit outside what is expected.
So the way that we approach naming works both from a novelty standpoint with brain science, but it also helps us to get out beyond where most of the trademarks are in the industry that we're working in. But even so, the trademark situation is so crowded that we always have loads of names that we can't present to our client because there's very little chance that they'd ever be able to own it.
Devon Treadwell: One of the other things that you can do to improve your chances with trademark is to focus on your differentiator, creating a new brand. Make sure that it's different, and then you can name around that differentiator and find a lot more open trademark space, because there haven't been a lot of registrations in that same area.
John Mindiola III: Awesome. Any other questions? Yes.
Audience Member: You guys have mentioned imagery and brand naming and all these things. To stay true to time, imagery tends to change and trends tend to be set. What do you individually do to stay with those times or to set your own trends that stand out?
John Stucker: So, you mean creating brands that have a lasting quality to them?
Audience Member: Yeah. Or do you stay true to the time theme? Or do you try to jump the gun and maybe try [inaudible 59:50].
John Eastman: For me as a designer, I don't know if you noticed it, but 90% of my work is Helvetica. It's a strong font. It's the best font in the world. I'm sorry, I'm going to say it right now. You can argue with me all you want. As a designer, I stick with what I know, what I know works, and what's timeless. I try and make things . . . I've done things that are trendy and edgy and whatever you want to call it. But if I'm working with something like a mark or something like that, it's got to be super different or super clean, because if it's using, hey, someone just got this new true type font that's really cool and can barely be read and it's awesome and everybody's using it, in a year, you're going to be changing that logo, because no one's going to be able to read it, and they're going to get pissed off.
But if you're working with imagery or whatever and it's something that needs to last, make sure it's not the most trendy haircut or style. There are timeless looks out there for everything, and that's what I try to approach things at, using that imagery and that visual style when I'm working on something. I think that's the safest way. But at the same time, if you're working with a message, you want to make sure that whatever you're doing is with that message as well.
John Stucker: Yeah. I second that and say that when we were working on the visual representation of a brand, again, just like the naming, it's all coming from the positioning. So we want to stay true to what the brand is all about, what that personality is. When you do that, you're most likely going to be creating something that is not influenced by the fads or the trends so much as it is what the core of that brand is about. Then in that way, it always fits the brand.
John Mindiola III: Any more questions? Yes.
Audience Member: What the favorite part of your job?
John Stucker: Name generation.
Devon Treadwell: Being creative. Yeah, that's the best part. What John and I do, and probably to a large degree what John also does, is very right brain and left brain. We do a lot of strategic work before we start creative work, but then when the creative work kicks in, that's really why we keep doing what we do.
John Stucker: The specifically favorite part of what we do for me is when we actually hit on a name that we know is great. It is just so much fun to find the name that fits the brand perfectly and is powerful and is unexpected and we know is going to be unique in the industry. That aha moment is just really exciting.
Devon Treadwell: John makes this little sound. He goes, "Hah!" Then I know it sounds really good
John Stucker: Light bulb goes on. It's eureka.
John Eastman: For me, it's that development phase. It's that point to get to that idea. How am I going to get to the idea? Where am I at? What am I going to do with this? The execution part sometimes, but I'm at the point in my career where executing isn't as important to me as just getting to that idea and the strategy behind it and why we're doing this. Why is way more important to me at this point than how. Why are we doing this? What's it all about? How we're going to do it will come out of that.
John Mindiola III: Other questions? Yes.
Audience Member: This may be a little too didactic, but does a brand or a name have to tell what your company does?
Devon Treadwell: Not at all. No. We're looking for that connection that we talked about, and sometimes it's a metaphorical connection, like Pollywog being a developing thing. But you're better off with the brand situation, being what the branding glut that we have today, with the trademark situation being what we have today, you're better off not trying to say what you do, because that's what everyone else has done. So you want to stand out, and you want to find an available trademark. Make a bigger leap.
John Eastman: I'll give you a personal example. I've had Eastman Design as my own thing since 1989 or 1990. I started using it. It's my name. I can use that. It's legal. I've checked it. I trademarked it, whatever. I got a cease and desist letter from a company in New York that's in the pharmaceutical . . . I'm like, seriously? Really? They kept sending it. I finally sent it back and said, "I am not in your industry. I've had this name longer than you guys have been in business. Leave me alone." They said, "We reserve the right ..." Yeah, you reserved nothing. But because my name was on it, and they were Eastman something.
John Stucker: So historically, that's the way people named things. Back then, it was effective because you just had to tell people what you do. If you were a blacksmith, you were probably the only blacksmith in town, and you just said you were a blacksmith. Then when another one showed up on the other end of town, you named it geographically, and you said we're West End Blacksmiths. But now, we get 40,000 marketing messages hitting us every day. So that's why it's so important to recognize that the role of a brand name is to get your attention, to draw you in, and to make you remember it. Now then, we move on to where positioning comes in, which is it needs to have a connection to the brand. It doesn't have to describe what you do, but it has to be connected enough so that when you remember it, you remember what that organization was or that product was or service was.
Devon Treadwell: One of the things that we didn't have time to talk about today was some of the other verbal aspects of a brand. Beyond the name, there's often a generic descriptor line. Take Red Bull energy drink, for example. Red Bull is the brand, energy