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How to avoid wasted creative

by Jake Stigers / May 15, 2015

Hey—you know that commercial, the one where that guy says that thing? Yeah. That commercial is hi-LAR-i-ous.

What was it for again?

It happens all the time. Chevy makes an ad with a clever tagline about safety. Or was that Kia? Gap launches a print campaign featuring Whatshername in an unexpected celebrity role. Or was that Dunkin’ Donuts?

The creative is funny or unforgettable or even groundbreaking. But the brand behind it gets completely lost in all that clever navel-gazing.

I’ve been in advertising since the Internet wasn’t even a thing, and I’ve always been held under tight scrutiny to stay on brand. Every word I write has to ladder back to the featured product. Every metaphor or clever turn of phrase I use has to scream THIS IS WHO I AM AS A BRAND AND DON’T YOU FORGET ME.

Anything that loses sight of the brand is a punishable offense: 50 lashings with a Barilla noodle. Or was that an Olive Garden breadstick?

I know. Advertising is hard. Every concept has way more than the general public as an audience. It has to get the green light from a collection of creative directors, account people and clients with every round of revisions … all without losing sight of its core idea, its brilliant creative and the legions of consumers it’s trying to influence.

All those levels of review are supposed to act as a filter to purify the message and get it into lean, mean fighting shape. So how can a creative concept get so derailed from its branding in the process?

Fret not! Aside from never showing a creative concept to another human being, there are ways to proactively ensure your work stays solidly linked to its brand. To start, build your creative on a sturdy foundation of brand basics like fonts, colors, design elements, photography and turns of phrase. If relevant, incorporate bigger elements like jingles and actors in recurring roles. Use these elements early and often and they’ll become essential to your concept … and they’ll trigger brand awareness in everyone who sees your work.

And finally, do an occasional gut check as your creative comes to life. If it looks like it’s starting to stray down the wrong road, by all means say something. It’s better to redirect during the production process than after a concept is finished, paid for and launched.

Your brand is your life. It’s there to keep you on track and your products chiseled permanently in your customers’ minds. Sacrificing it on the altar of clever concepts isn’t good for anybody.

Generations of a Brand

by Morgen Mosbaugh / April 10, 2015

Growing up I discovered my parents had very different spending habits. Mom was always the bargain shopper. Her motto was, “more bang for your buck.” I specifically recall back-to-school shopping. My sister and I each got ‘X’ amount of money to spend—spend it on one shirt or spend it on multiple outfits—may the odds be ever in your favor.  

Dad, on the other hand, was all about the name brands. His mentality was, “you get what you pay for.” He was the type to buy his two year old her first pair of Nikes the minute she could walk.

Looking back now, I think they both taught me a valuable lesson. Does buying name brand pay off? Or do we buy products simply because of the name on the package?

Case Study 1: The poor college days
Q-Tips and ranch dressing. Essentials, right? It didn’t take me long to figure out that buying brand names mattered. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Generic just doesn’t cut it unless you want sore ears, or you prefer ranch that resembles milky water and tastes like week-old milk. Hidden Valley has a customer for life.

Case Study 2: The after college days—still poor
Clothes. Fifteen black tank tops later I have learned no one notices/cares about the little brand name symbol at the bottom of your shirt. Spending $18 on a tank top at Buckle when I can pay $4.99 at Target was ridiculous. Math was never my strong suit but even I can spot the logical purchase here.

Case Study 3: Growing up a tomboy—what made my parents and me poor
You name it, I played it. To this day, I still associate certain brands with certain sports. Take volleyball for instance. Shelves were stocked with Nike, Adidas and Asics shoes (all roughly the same quality and price point), but I went for the Mizunos. I felt like a volleyball player wearing Mizunos. I could jump higher and spike harder. Reflecting back now, the shoes probably didn’t give me any sort of competitive edge, but the social status and feeling that came with the brand was enough to win me over as a consumer.

Moral of the story, both of my parents were right (don’t tell them I admitted that). Some brands have earned their spot on the shelf, some simply exist and some have an unexplained feeling associated with them. Not everyone probably shares the same love for ranch as I do but whatever your special item is, I think we can all agree that sometimes it’s worth the few extra dollars.

So mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry for complaining about the off-brand, bagged cereal.
You were right. It does taste the same. 

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