My AIGA compatriot Patrick Fredrickson has a keen eye for interesting articles. He sent this one by Cassie Kozyrkov from the Harvard Business Review:
While I don’t entirely agree with her approach, I like this quote: “If I see no additional data beyond what I’ve already seen, what will I do?”
We are such natural pattern seekers, yet it gets us in trouble as often as it helps us. Especially in our complex society where you can impose patterns on so much randomness that you can almost justify any position.
Learning to stay open (to change, to reality) and present (so you can see) is a lifetime practice. Hard as hell for us sad little primates looking over our shoulders for the saber-toothed cats as we try to spot the edible berries among the poison ones. Pareidolia is our natural talent and propensity. Staying Zen, maintaining perspective and playing god is hard work.
But if we are going to be effective as marketers, designers, human beings, we need to see things with few preconceptions and a whole lot of empathy. Keeping an open mind in the face of new data is a good first step.
We just finished a tiny storybook about the Santa Monica Education Foundation. They’re central to the fantastic public education that Santa Monica provides, supporting libraries, science programs, athletics and especially all the arts. Poor kids, rich kids, everyone has access.
We’ve worked with, and alongside, the Ed Foundation for about 10 years now, and we wanted to share some of that with their other supporters. So we created this little book.
It’s pretty. And pretty cool. Seems to make people smile.
If you’re curious to see what’s inside, you can download your very own PDF right here.
If you like it, please share it. And if you do, let me know in a comment and I’ll send you a luggage tag like the one in the photo. Makes it really easy to spot your bag!
(Don’t worry. Your info won’t go public. All comments are screened and nobody’s email appears unless they want it to.)
That’s how much money we helped raise for scholarships at the seventh annual COPi Cup Invitational Tournament at Pebble Beach. ($223,785 to be perfectly accurate.)
The fundraiser was conceived by our philanthropic client Philip Frengs, the CEO of Legistics, Inc. (That’s Phil in the salmon-colored pants, driving one straight toward the green, just like he does with his charities.)
Named after his firm’s forerunner the COPi Companies, the COPi Cup is a 2-day event celebrating “Camaraderie, Competition and Charity”. It was created to fund scholarships for underserved kids who are often the first members of their families to attend college.
This financial assistance is provided by the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation, but eligibility is not about competitive performance or athletic scholarships. Instead, through their involvement with SCGA Junior, these high schoolers become eligible for aid based on their leadership skills, their academic achievement, their committed participation and their mentorship to younger golfers.
FreeAssociates handles the marketing and information materials, the physical event setup — signs, banners, audio-visuals, etc. — and helps coordinate the actual event. It’s exciting to be so deeply involved in creating the participants’ experience, especially for such a worthy cause.
And spending time in stunning Pebble Beach is pretty nice, too!
5.8 million Americans are victims of Alzheimer’s disease. That translates to about 24 million family members. Maybe more. One of those sufferers is Mimi Frengs, our client’s wife, who was diagnosed with the early onset form at 59.
Her husband Phil Frengs decided to do something about it. He thought maybe he could turn his and others’ love of car racing into something that could change lives.
His idea: for the race at Laguna Seca, California, take those giant sponsor logos off the car and replace them with the names of Alzheimer’s sufferers. At $250 to honor your loved one, it gives exposure to the problem while raising funds for both the care and the cure.
Racing to End Alzheimer’s now has 8,500 Facebook followers. We’ve gotten celebrity support from golf champion Rickie Fowler and CBS’s Jim Nantz. And we’ve raised over $140,000 so far. To add to the success, last year our BMW, covered with names, won the season championship, creating even more buzz.
This year we’re racing an Audi RS3, and the names will be added all season long, not just at Laguna Seca. Corporate co-sponsors are on board with matching funds, and we’re looking to add at least another $150,000 to the Racing to End Alzheimer’s Foundation — 100% of which is distributed to our charity partners.
You can learn more here.
Why is it so damn scary to ask for referrals?
What if you don’t get them? Is it because people don’t like you? Because you’re lousy at your job? Because people are afraid themselves, with their own reputation on the line? Is it because they’re lazy? Because they’re afraid you might get too busy to work for them? Maybe they just don’t know anyone else like themselves who needs what you do?
We create so many stories in our heads, all of which end with “….so I suck. I’ll never work again. I’m gonna die.”
Letting the lizard run the show
Our lizard brain has a hard time differentiating between the fear of crossing a street full of fast-moving traffic, and the fear of being rejected. It thinks any perceived threat can kill us.
Sometimes fear is helpful. But more often it’s just a waste of time — and of our lives (same thing).
I was lucky enough over the weekend to be a guest at a writer’s group where Erica Jong (the author of Fear of Flying) shared some of her creative process. She talked a lot about getting out of your own way as a writer. About self-acceptance and honoring your own thoughts, and your own talent.
The truth is, we are most afraid of ourselves, of that voice in our heads. (Yeah, the one that just said, “What voice?”) Our own judgments are the harshest. Especially if we’re good at what we do.
So if we feel like a fraud, then of course we’re afraid to ask for a referral. We’re afraid we’ll be found out.
It’s not just you
And it wouldn’t surprise me if the people we are asking to let a colleague know about us feel a little bit the same way. Maybe their friend will discover they’re not so smart. Maybe it won’t work out, and they’ll feel ashamed, embarrassed or stupid.
But guess what? Asking for a referral won’t kill us. Being rejected won’t kill us.
Sure, “No” feels terrible and terrifying. Unless it’s a way to learn. To get to “Yes”.
“Yes, you’re right. We’re not a good fit. Let me point you to someone else who might be.”
“Yes, it’s true you can’t afford us right now, but maybe we can work together in the future.”
“Yes, you already have an agency, but keep us in mind. Because things change.”
“Yes, we’re expensive, but we’re well worth it because of the impact we’ll have on your business.”
And really, it’s not so painful.
If I can just tell The Lizard to shut up so I can stay present, listen, serve and create it all works out just fine.
Lizard in traffic photo by Eric Anderson from Unsplash
I’ve had a passion for weird punctuation since I formed my first design partnership at age 24. Ron Blitzer and I argued over whether his name or mine should go first on our new letterhead. When I finally won, I typeset the firm’s name as Freeman:Blitzer Associates, with a colon in the middle gluing our two names together. It looked good and felt right, so we did it. And it was pretty distinctive.
My next partnership with Ken Farah resulted in a firm name that actually was a punctuation mark: Interrobang. I loved (and still love) the idea. What’s an interrobang? It’s an actual symbol that denotes an exclamatory, often rhetorical question — a question mark superimposed on an exclamation point, with a shared dot. (“WTF‽” is a perfect example. Who knew the phrase would attain such ubiquity, while the poor interrobang still struggles for recognition?) It was a question and answer in a single symbol: perfect for a marketing design firm. If you want to know more, Roman Mars did a fascinating podcast about the interrobang’s origins and use.
Then there was Josh Freeman/Associates where the pieces were stuck together with a slash. I thought this put the founder (yes, me) on an equal footing with my team. It said, “We’re all working together.” Two parts of the same whole. And that slash became a red, hand-drawn brushstroke, adding a touch of personal creativity to an otherwise corporate-looking graphic identity.
The ill-fated Freeman + Karten used the plus sign that’s now everywhere. It was pretty fresh in 1991, and indicated the synergistic combination of graphic + industrial design. Ours was a beautiful identity program, created by my partner Stuart Karten’s wife Vickie, who’s still one of the most talented designers I’ve ever worked with.
And finally there’s our current name with no punctuation — and no room for any. I took the space out of FreeAssociates, again to indicate the close connection between the company and our Associates, a group of free thinkers, freely associating to create wonderful work while freeing up their creativity — and more time for life — by working from their home offices.
Now I suppose I have to come up with a name that uses a semicolon.
Interrobang tattoo photo by Jeremy Keith ©2009
In working with some of our clients, I’ve found that, while the marketing team is all excited about a new brand or an update, the people down the line often aren’t.
Sure, there’s a little buzz initially. But the effort is almost entirely focused on communicating to customers or clients, and the folks who should live the brand every day are never fully on board. Budgets are allocated to get the word out — not in.
But “in” is where the magic happens. It’s where the brand comes to life, and it’s the real point of customer interaction.The receptionist needs to create the brand experience. The guys in the factory have to make things align with it. The customer service reps need to reinforce it. Everyone in the company should be the new brand.
Sound familiar? Then you might enjoy this little piece I wrote. And consider sharing it with whoever in your organization might want to address the problem. Hope it helps!
Working through your company’s positioning can be surprisingly difficult.
It’s like evaluating a photo of yourself. It’s a lot easier if someone else helps. Even if you’re a positioning expert.
For comparison and inspiration, we took a look at some samples from other, unnamed agencies. Like so many mission statements and similar declarations of organizational intention, most of these felt as though they could apply to a score of companies in our business. Some seemed more compelling to me, but too many made me think, “Yeah, I’ve heard that before.”
And then I remembered something important.
The goal is to find the ideas that resonate with you. That reflect your values.
It’s not that we’re 100% dissimilar from every single other firm or agency in the nation (much less the world). That’s unrealistic. But the thing that defines us is who we are and, hopefully, what we believe.
On OKCupid, there are dozens of possible people you could date — many of whom you could fall in love with and happily marry. But those dozens are just a tiny slice of the hundreds or thousands of people you may actually encounter in your life.
And what defines these few future hearthrobs is that their WHY is the same as yours. (For more on this see my post on Simon Sinek.)
So it seems this process hinges on becoming very clear about who you are. Then finding interesting, engaging ways of demonstrating your WHY so all those dates out there understand why they should have coffee with you.
This is true for almost every company. When you claim to be the “only” choice, your audience is insulted. And trust — the essence of your brand — is gone.
What you need is to be as different as you actually are. You need to be true to your WHY. Then others who believe in, or value, those same things, will swipe right. And you can get together to find out more.
Positioning. It can help your brand meet the love of its life.
The city of Gainesville, FL, is using a new buzzword to describe its decision not to use a logo and tagline. The term is “debranding” and Fast Company has reported it as a trend:
It’s an idea called “debranding,” where the focus is not on any logo, tagline, or visual effect. “Instead of brands, real people and real tones of voice will become the interface between consumers and products again,” writes Jasmine De Bruycker in Co.Design in 2016. “That’s the heart of debranding.”
Somehow, someone sounds mired in the idea that a brand is a logo — or a logo and a tagline.
In fact, a logo is a “holding tank” for people’s feelings about a company, or a city for that matter. It’s a convenient, visible repository for all the emotional connections we feel about the thing the logo represents. And those emotional connections? That’s the brand.
So Gainesville is, in fact, very much “branded,” and in a smart way. They are most definitely not trying to remove their identity. Instead, they’re working hard to create one.
They clearly have a strong style guide and a consistent graphic program. They have a voice. They have a core message. They understand who they’re talking to. That consistent style and tone becomes their logo. If they do this right, and consistently, they will be instantly identified, differentiated from other cities, and effective in their positioning.
And they’ll have a brand. A powerful one.