Tag : logo

110: Rebranding Strategies from Super Bowl Commercials

Two of my favorite commercial’s from the 2014 Super Bowl had something in common.

One commercial used self-deprecating humor with 1980’s icons.
The other hired a movie director to shoot an abbreviated action movie scene.

Radio Shack made an established one-liner come to life. “The 80’s called. They wanted their [insert item] back.”

Jaguar leveraged a subtle movie trope and used a white car in a dark ad.

What one point were both the Radio Shack and Jaguar commercials—two very different brands with very different ads—trying to make?

“We’re not who you think we are.”

Both had the same goal: change their respective brand’s engrained perceptions. Radio Shack had been wearing a pocket protector long before Best Buy took its lunch money, broke its soldering gun, and stuffed it in a locker. Jaguar had been showing people it’s yearbooks from the 1960’s, while yelling at Audi to get off its lawn.

Both now wanted you to know that they aren’t old, that they aren’t has beens. Both brands needed to tell you that they aren’t just evolving; they are going in a new direction.

Together, these two strategies encompass the most common ways that brands reinvent themselves. Radios Shack courageously showed you their past in order to contrast and give context to their future. In contrast, Jaguar grabbed a dramatic car from its garage and hoped its raspy exhaust note and some movie villains would wipe your memory of Jaguar’s recent AARP street cred.

Entrepreneurs ask me about how to “phase in our new look,” usually after a logo change, merger, or other important mile marker event. My answer to that question is twofold:

  1. Make the transition period no longer than six months—hopefully shorter.”
  2. Develop as many of the new media templates as you can before launching the new look, so that as many matching media pieces as possible can launch simultaneously. (This requires patience and self-control. If you’re like me, the secret proves a tough one to keep.)

For an auction company, it might be easier to transition a brand than it is for most other businesses, because—in addition to company promotion—auction marketers generate a lot of media to promote their sale merchandise. So, it’s relatively easy to distribute a large quantity of quick impressions for a new company image in a compressed period of time. Also, every once in a while, an auction company will get a premium asset to sell that will make a high-visibility campaign on which to start a new brand look—for that clean break.

Consumers who buy at auction are primarily shopping for specific items. Their search for that item draws them to photos and online mentions of that asset category, specific items, or distinctive attributes. As long as those assets remain the primary emphasis in auction campaign advertising, the brand image should be happening in the periphery, anyway. So, a style makeover—while seemingly abrupt to the advertiser—will not be jarring for the consumer.

Whether you’re showing a new era for an established company or just wowing people with new capabilities to replace old perceptions, don’t linger in the limbo between brands. Go boldly toward your new image.

When my pastor and his wife told their country church that they were changing the brand, 75% of people (including family members) left the congregation. Becoming a church that made unchurched folks feel welcomed meant making some church attenders feel uncomfortable. Candidly, every once in a while, I still get uncomfortable when my spiritual mentors challenge me to extend grace like God does—even when there are lots of positive peer pressure at what is now a megachurch.

Changing the dress code or the music style or the Bible translation from those of a traditional church can make you a contemporary church. Moving away from programs and dogmas and denominational jingoism can make you a culturally-relevant church. But I’m thankful that my spiritual mentors didn’t stop there—where form can still trump function.

Successful church happens when Christians don’t hold ownership of their local assembly—when it’s bigger than a brand, when we’re evangelists instead of multi-level marketers. When outsiders feel at home while still challenged by Scripture, growth can’t help but happen. Where there’s growth, there’s life. Often, life requires the death of an old thing for a new thing to sprout. Old things like the way church used to be.

56: Survival of the Fittest Marketers

Business EvolutionLast Saturday, I had the privilege of reviewing senior portfolios at Liberty University, the largest of the four major colleges in the greater Lynchburg area. Of the 39 portfolios to be judged, I was assigned eleven.

Sequestered in a small conference room, one at a time with each student, I had them give me a tour of their work—what they were proud to show and why, what they felt needed to be reworked. I’ve got to tell you, a couple or three of these “kids” had work as good or better than mine (and I’ve got a 10-year head start on them). I wish I could show you their work. I left there (1) impressed by the next decade of talent to be unleashed on businesses who need branding help and (2) thankful I left college when I did in the job market I did.

For the past four days, I’ve been reflecting on my own senior portfolio and my journey since then, literally 2,000 different project folders/campaigns—mostly in the auction industry. I’m embarrassed to look through my D-ring binders full of the direct mail pieces of the last decade of my career, especially the first half of the collection. I would even shy from showing my designer peers some of the pieces for which I’ve won national awards.

Tonight I pulled out my senior college portfolio and thumbed through its pages. The nostalgia of that belongs on a different blog, but let me say that my time in the auction industry has honed the core principles of how I design.

So, since this article is about us (not just me), what can we all learn from my 5.5 hours in a conference room?

Don’t stop evolving.

In the peripheral, we know that culture and technology are in permanent flux. Progress—the constant movement—has become normative. It’s hard to remember life before the Internet. I don’t know what I did before my iPhone. Email and facebook are built into the rhythm of my daily life; texting and tweeting have lost their new car smell. The various media I help clients coordinate per auction is a longer list than it was five years ago—even two years ago.

That trajectory won’t change.

In an industry where the average age literally qualifies for an AARP card, it’s easy to make habitual the successful tactics of the past. But the audience has changed. The media they use to find things to buy has diversified and multiplied. The competition for auctioneers now includes self-helpers and retailers. The buyer base required to achieve market value often requires bidders from foreign markets.

The question is not, “Am I adapting?” It’s, “Am I adapting at the same speed as the market?”

It’s not a question of whether you should have a Facebook account but how you immerse yourself in it. It’s not whether you have online bidding but how you broaden the buyer base that’s on the other end of it. It’s not whether you have color brochures but how precisely you can target to whom it mails. It’s not whether you get designations and continuing education but how much you absorb and implement.

It’s not about the brand image the locals trust. It’s about updating and expanding that brand to include a new generation, a wider buyer base. And it’s not about whether you have a logo; it’s about what that logo communicates. It’s not about having an email list but whether your emails interest those who receive them. It’s not about the auction anymore. It’s about what you’re selling. It’s not good enough to measure yourself against the industry; we must measure ourself against the marketplace.

So, can you chart the changes in your service? Can you articulate why your strategies have changed. Are they changing?

The balance of consistency vs. creativity has dramatically changed since I entered both the design and auction industries The filter through which I look at branding has evolved even in the 7.5 years biplane productions has had a hangar. The tasks I include in my service packages have increased, while my focus has narrowed. The way I organize my workflow, finances, and thoughts looks different now than it did a few years ago. (I could be specific, if we had more time here.)

How ’bout you? What’s your metric for relevance? Do you measure success or growth? There’s a difference. If you don’t see the difference, please move out of the HOV lane. Your faster competitors hate using the right lane to pass.

I cringe when I look back at some of the things I used to think about God and say on his behalf. I was jacked—straight up. I had a personal relationship with my Creator, but it was shadowed by philosophies and tradition, insecurities and ignorance.

But rather than focus on the regret over waisted spiritual interactions and who I may have pushed farther from God, I choose to look at the mile markers of progress from that place. The way I express gratitude to and feel affection from God has expanded. The way I approach heaven in prayer has been profoundly rethought. I’ve substituted new filters through which to view the church, culture, and my own introspection.

Our relationship with Christ is often compared to marriage. I’m a few months from my tenth anniversary. The way Crystal and I relate and the depth of our knowledge of each other has evolved greatly since the days I carried her backpack to class. It’s a constant adjustment, a gradual education. We’re better at marriage and better people for it.

Much of organized, Western religion is set up to get to a place, a set of parameters—walls in which to build and conserve a faith. But if you look at Jesus’ personal ministry, you’ll see a constant walking, a journey beside people. That personal evolution with our eternal love still works the same way. If our faith looks the same as it did a year ago, we’re dying. If we aren’t seeing new aspects of our love (not just new facts from the Bible), we’re losing touch with our lover. If we define our spiritual life solely by correct theology or a list of accomplishments—instead of what the Holy Spirit has recently whispered into our souls—we are in atrophy and of less and less value as salt and light in a lost world.

[footer]Image(s) used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2010[/footer]

“Just Shrink the Logo to Get Everything to Fit.”

You probably already know that your brand—your company’s public image—is way more than a logo. But you probably didn’t know that your logo can be more than a logo.


A professional logo is a great start. If you don’t have one, get one. Yesterday. But the logo “treatment,” its context in marketing materials, can magnify or diminish your logo’s impact.

Skyline Tent

Take this set of samples from Skyline Tent Company. It wasn’t enough to just put their logo on this postcard, magazine ad, and business card. They carefully placed this logo in identical locations and similar proportions. Their logo’s font is the same font in all of their ad text. The colors change to fit the mood of the pictures, but there’s no mistaking their corporate-looking brand that makes them seem some large franchised brand, even as a local small business.

It’s not enough to slap your logo on a piece. In fact, you can be hurting your public persona by branding inconsistency. (I see a lot of this in the auction industry; and I used to be a regular perpetrator of such malfeasance.)

See, “different” stands in your memory better than consistency. Right now, when you hear “David Letterman,” do you think “comedian” or “affair with staffers”? Now, most golf enthusiasts remember Greg Norman for a couple huge chokes more than his string of success as “The Shark.” For a time, Ford Explorers were more synonymous for “rollovers” than “category-leading sales.”

Using your logo flippantly won’t have such draconian effects, but it will separate you from a Fortune 500 feel. That perception of professionalism could be the deciding factor of who someone calls first about selling their property—you or your competitor.

In your local paper, ALWAYS keep your logo in the same place, the same size. If you can, keep the pictures, headlines, and auction times in the same place. On your brochures, brand the consistency of the layout itself. You might have different templates for your each size brochure or postcard, but they should all look like they go together. Your web site should match your marketing materials. Your fonts should transcend media. You should have on record your company colors in RGB, CMYK, and HTML.

You don’t have to exert OCD tendencies on your advertising. You could just cut your commission to get the work that would otherwise go to your better-branded competition.

As Christ followers, we can have one of two responses to our mistakes. We can hide and hypocrisize—and (try to) deceive ourselves and others. Or we can admit and air our errors, acknowledging to others that we stepped out of the Jesus path.

Even the “man after God’s own heart,” David, couldn’t live a consistent life. Why should we think we can? In our marriage with Jesus, we will have both Caribbean-vacation romance and overtime-at-work distance. The world wants to see authentic response to imperfection more than the opaque coating of rose-colored syrup.

I’m not saying we give up on the idea of consistency, just that we embrace our mistakes as learning experiences for us and others. Jesus’ reputation isn’t fragile; he’s not worried about his name. (A day’s coming when every soul that ever lived will get that right.) Rather than run cover for our bare sins, why don’t we embrace the mercy and grace that others need for their foibles and brokenness?

25: When Change Trumps Different

USA VoteDuring this odd election cycle, where the leading Presidential candidates go from joint appearances and platitudes to Internet attack ads, one thing has been easy to absorb: their mutual message. Oddly enough, the pair of opposing stumpers claim the same primary platform: change.

We should be accustomed to this by now as citizens in this system. Almost every election—at every government level—includes at least one candidate promising change. For me it’s become as cliché as, “This might be the most important election of our life time,” which we’ve seemed to have thresholded every four years since I was old enough to vote.

The thinking is that it will be easier to collect a majority of disgruntled voters than united, happy ones. At key tipping points in our nation’s history, this has been true—and maybe even needfully healthy. But more times than not, the incumbents—with their entrenched relational, governmental, and financial resources—overcome their challengers, often handily. They’ve got momentum, recognition, and a public track record that has usually been carefully honed.

So it is with your company’s public brand. You’ve been looking at the same pocket folders and proposals for five years; you have to proof your ads extra carefully, because they’re starting to all look mostly the same (to you). “It’s time for a change. We need something different.”

Before you call your nephew at community college to whip you up a new logo or hire some expensive metropolitan agency to give you five composite ideas of a new brochure template, ask yourself if your current materials look truly old or just too familiar.

See, your look has earned four-term Senator status in your marketplace. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on how you’ve served your market—or maybe how many times you’ve driven your logo while drunk or embezzled inconsistency into your newspaper ads.

Usually, your firm is best served by making only small adjustments to its marketing momentum. There is, however, a time for brand reform: when your company is

1) changing its focus
[Nissan to “shift_” (performance) theme]


2) growing into a new arena of specialization or, conversely, generalization
[BP (fuel) shield to bp (energy) sunflower]


3) adapting to the marketplace and/or culture
[Wal*Mart (dollar store white+navy look) to Walmart* (brighter, warmer, round-edges theme)]

4) changing ownership or management
[Mailbox, Etc. to UPS Store]


5) adjusting to its true identity
[BiPlane Productions (historic) to biplane (modern minimalism)]


Your clients and patrons vote with their business. You might be able to reinvent your firm with a Contract for America-size revamp. More than likely, though, you will win those votes the way Beltway insiders do: exploiting your establishment.

Even if that includes a hair piece.

I grew up in a faith system that prided itself on staying the same. While pastors and evangelists encouraged their listeners to grow in their relationship with God, that growth was barb-wire fenced with religious parameters [read: “tradition”] for what that had to look like.

Fast forward. I’m part of a church that has seen about 10% of its attendees (we don’t have membership) become Christ-followers within the past 18 months—a statistical anomaly in an American church. Serious life change explodes all around me: atheists becoming apologeticists, broken marriages being restored, addictions being broken. All this incredible change happens in an environment where conformity and uniformity are not even part of the discussion; there are no classes, no revival services, and no Sunday school with its prefab curricula.

I’ve been asked in group settings, “Where have you moved toward God in the past 30-90 days? Or what are you wrestling with God about?” The discussion is not about how to keep from sinning or maintain holiness and standing with God. It’s about our pursuit toward God, our movement and momentum—responding to the uncomfortable but rewarding promptings in our souls. It’s an inside out-change, not an outside-in one.

You can switch churches or swap religions, adjust priorities or guidelines, set some new resolutions or exchange value systems. But if you want positive, deep, and real change in your life, it starts by asking God to reveal himself to you—and then responding to him.

[footer]Stock image(s) used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

22: Bean Stalk Strategies

Golden EggI just returned from the National Auctioneers Association’s annual “Conference and Show.” The industry’s trade show seems to grow every year—both in cumulative square feet and in the size of individual booths. This summer, the largest players were the mega stations for franchise/referral/joint venture networks. One booth even had a sequestered conference room built into its structure.

The consolidation of the auction industry accelerates each year with more and bigger players vying for auctioneers’ memberships. And I count about as many doing it quietly as those advertising publicly.

It makes sense for some auctioneers: an intra-industry variation of “a rising tide lifts all boats.” What you lose in autonomy, you gain in support. The benefit of expanded branding offsets the cost of sharing. Proprietary knowledge gives way to synergy.

For those of you for whom this model isn’t a good fit, you can project the same image as these national entities. You can brand like a continent-covering giant.

Guard Your Look with Attention to Detail
Conglomerates keep their look incredibly consistent. Some (wisely) even send me style sheets—detailed guides for how to maintain their image. Your brand only roars when caged. So, examine every branded document, every web site, every article of clothing, and anything that can be seen with your company logo, information, or facility. Fonts, colors, layouts, logo treatment, white space—everything—needs to look like it was baked on the same cookie sheet.

Fake the Cooperative Budget
Big companies can afford to run big ads. You and/or your seller probably cannot. So, pole your bidders and especially your buyers. Record where they learned about your sale. After a dozen or twenty sales, compare notes. You could be shifting your ad dollars to the most receptive media (print or otherwise) whose consumers most engage your message. Determine your small pond; then dominate it.

Update Your Look
The seventies called. They’d like their style back. Study your logo. Does it illustrate your company’s personality or just its name? Does it look corporate or corn fed, creative or generic? Your ad and brochure templates communicate your brand as much as your logo. Are you still using clip art borders or gavels? Is the newspaper still designing your ads? Is the word, “auction,” still the largest element on your piece? It might be time to trade in that advertising leisure suit.

Win the Taste Test
Conglomerates pass everything through multiple layers of approval—at least at the outset of brand development. They grab people from outside their executive committee, their company, and even their industry to evaluate their direction. You can, too. Share your ideas over a business breakfast; have family reunion attendees vote on your look; pay a few different graphic designers (from different disciplines) for a billable hour of their respective time to critique for you.

Embrace White Space As Your Friend
Big players spend money on white space to show their size. You can edit your way to white space within the space you’re already paying to use. Simplify your message; insert margin into your templates; and let the internet do the heavy lifting.

Use the Buddy System
If you’re heading into a new geographical or market area and don’t have the budget to blast large announcements of your debut, it might be worth a portion of your commission to find an auction marketer who already is reputable in that area. Adding their logo to your advertising allows you to benefit from their brand investment. Using the media and mail lists that they recommend will save you from having to overspend on wide nets. Value their experience; their audience does.

You don’t have to have a big company’s budget to look like one. You don’t have to change your business model or name to set your local standard or dominate your niche. You can play the game by corporate rules and get corporate results.

The ranks of the “mega churches” seems to grow in number every year, as does their criticism. I go to a church that averages over 2,000 per Sunday and listen to podcasts from churches with 6,000-12,000 weekly attendees. But I grew up in churches from 40-120 people in multiple states.

I’m a fan of big churches, as long as they grow smaller as they grow larger. When the cellular/small group structure is encouraged, these kinds of churches can have a higher efficiency of outreach than the equivalent sum of many small congregations—along with the personal touch of those intimate assemblies. You can have a larger variety of cells that all support each other.

In our church, we’ve got Christ-centered discipleship, community, and/or outreach groups that are just for racquetballers, mountain bikers, canoers. We’ve got senior citizen circles and addiction-recovery pods, breakfast bible studies and skeptics/apologetics environments, life-stage in-home groups and exegetical clusters. Video production squads assist acting troupes. Bakers feed our serving teams. There’s a pack of folks who help you move, another that makes home repairs, another that supplies meals. We have serving teams that make church “work” fun and authentic.

The larger the body, the more specific God can assign the spiritual gifts and personalities that comprise it. Believers can find better ministry fits; unbelievers can be invited to a larger variety of outreaches with much better tailored approaches. It’s a win-win, as we wait for the ultimate mega-worship environment of heaven.

[footer]Stock image(s) used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2008[/footer]

Marketing Can’t Buy Brand Integrity

PilotYou’ve probably heard the adage, “Fake it ’til you make it.” I guess there’s some wisdom there, but I’ve never adhered to that. My mind multiplies that life approach until I get, Frank Abagnale Jr., the true life behind Catch Me If You Can.

Maybe I’m not a good faker. Maybe I don’t trust my acting skills, but I prefer the less poetic mantra of, “Project it, as you grow it.” The difference rests in more than semantics. Projection expands real elements to a grander vision. Faking covers inadequacies and welcomes falsely-acquired trust. It has its place, I guess, but not in ethical advertising.

Entrepreneurs regularly hire me to produce materials that put their companies in the best light. I’m glad to do that. I like helping Davids compete against Goliaths or even just other Davids. Stock photos and some good copy can go a long way, but they can’t make up for deficiency in the actual products or services rendered.

I can help a client magnify their commitment to professionalism, even on a low budget. I can illustrate a company’s growing and potential capabilities, even with a few pages—or less. I can exemplify a firm’s value, even with a short business history. But I can’t guarantee that their clients get what they’re expecting.

Marketing, at its intrinsic level, is brand building and management. Super advertising proves hollow when not supported by super service. So, the onus for successful marketing lands on both my best efforts and my clients’ execution.

My customers don’t have to be the best in their field, as long as they dominate their niche (no matter how small that niche has to be defined for them to dominate it). They don’t have to have the biggest staff or the highest-grossing sales record. As long as their clients feel well-served, even best-served, we’ve done it. The more of that we’ve strung together, the more indelible that public perception grows. That works both ways; it can kill you, if the shiny brand continually acquires tarnish from substandard devotion to reputation.

So, I tell people that biplane productions is a one-man show in my basement. I don’t hide that I subcontract tasks I can’t do best. And I sell hard the abilities I gratefully own. Perceived inequities between me and my competitors can be my advantage to the right clients. If not, those accounts would only be a strain for me anyway.

So, if you want a glossy brochure that matches your slick new web site or new logo, give me a call. If you want to tout that you lead your market or even your industry, give your prospects proof. A phenomenal reputation can trump fancy advertising. Married to stellar design, though, that brand integrity will stand almost unbeatable.

I know a lot of Christians who think the best way to illustrate God’s work in their lives is to hide their foibles, bury their questions, and sheath their insecurities. This approach, however, shares the same crippling nemesis as communism: sin-bent human nature. Where socialism breeds corruption; plastic Christianity builds toward hypocrisy or sensational failure.

So, why give the secular skeptic ammunition? Why not diffuse their criticism of the infallible with the evidence of our frailty? Why not show them that faith is a journey toward heaven’s perfection, instead of a fault-wiped facade? The longer we fake the holy life, the greater chasm the unbeliever perceives between their life and a Christ-led life—or worse yet, between the religious experience and the abundant relationship Christ offers.

The reality is that Jesus calls, at most, one step away from all of us—whether to the initiation of a personal relationship or to just a deeper enjoyment of the relationship we already have with him. I prefer to project where I want to be, while divulging to any onlookers that my intentions many times outpace my performance. Hopefully, that authenticity will lead to someone wanting what’s real in me.

[footer]Stock image(s) used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2008[/footer]

14: Extreme Makeover: Logo Edition

biplane productions introduces bold new branding!
biplane productions updates it’s logos, web site, and marketing materials to better reflect its brand position

why the change?

Back in 2002, I intentionally anchored biplane’s original logo and other imagery in early twentieth century colors, fonts, and motifs. The look intended to creatively combat the skepticism that a small firm, started by a 24-year-old can endure while trying to gain trust from an experienced industry.

Having overcome this inception period and attracted some of the industry’s influential members as clients, I felt comfortable re-branding the firm as I had envisioned originally: as a premium advertising studio.

With the validation of 90 state and national advertising awards and the Torraspapel international award, biplane had the hardware to match its claims. Between these awards, the 1,000+ auction campaigns completed, and multiple well-received seminars, biplane had built legs to support this bold branding.

After teaching corporate consistency as the primary means for brand building, I decided it was time to practice what I preached.

Unlike the old logo, this new logo’s dimensions and elements lend to consistent application to business cards & envelopes, marketing materials, apparel, signs, invoices (and other non-standard stationery), and web applications.

why now?

The process of reworking the logo and related media began several years ago and is finally culminating.

The first upgrade came with the “boarding pass” piece, which won the NAA’s award for best business brochure in 2004. Then came the overhauled biplaneproductions.com in 2007.

This coincided with the successful reception of AdverRyting, biplane‘s biweekly article about advertising concepts.

With biplane just passing its fifth birthday, this seemed a good time for commemoration and renewal. While I don’t expect this drastic of a rebuild every half decade, regular updates prove healthy; and rare seismic shifts prove sometimes necessary.

why this look?

Since most people remember the company as “biplane” more than by its complete name, I wanted to emphasize the part easiest to remember and most distinctive.

The abstract wings communicate the movement and symbol of a biplane and don’t overpower the logo fonts. The colors (one is metallic in print) represent a bolder, more modern palette. The fonts are universally available ones, which make transfer to multiple media easier and more consistent.

why outsourced design?

You might think it strange that a design firm (and a designer trained in logo design) would hire someone else to create their look, but it’s actually a fairly regular occurrence in the advertising industry.

It’d be very easy for such a process to tend to the myopic and even narcissistic tendencies of any business person—let alone designer. Introducing multiple designers, consultants, and peers into the exercise helped me better shape the intended perception.

biplane has been so busy doing what it does best—meeting client deadlines with quality materials—that time-intensive and creativity-draining tasks such as this one often take the back burner.

why logoworks?

biplane chose logoworks.com and their hundreds of competing and specialized freelance designers to design ten different concepts. From these, we were able to hone an image that matched the personality and ambitions of biplane. Their final product matched the vision I’d tried to sketch for over two years.

Their track record (former #66 on the Inc. 500), portfolio, and pricing couldn’t be matched. They delivered the files in the most professional manner I’ve ever seen, as they had for two of my clients in 2007. They truly gave biplane a product I couldn’t develop by myself.

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