One of the most interesting things about working at a “small shop” is that everyone tends to have a range of responsibilities and interests that extend past their job description. If you’re good at something, you’ll likely get a chance to do it.
This also tends to come up in how we hire new team members: we look for people who have diverse experience and interests, who show initiative in making things happen (even if it’s a little outside the parameters of their role), and who value collaboration in all things.
Everyone has a voice, so we want to make sure we bring in people who have good ideas—and who listen (and get excited) when other people come up with them, too.
Right now, we’re in the midst of hiring two key positions to fill out our team: a Brand Strategist, and a Designer.
In the time since we’ve been on the hunt, we’ve learned a few things (well, we kind of already knew…):
(And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s why we’ve been around for 32 years.)
We’re “system thinkers”: we make sure everything we create—from top to bottom web projects for financial companies, to postcards targeting potential applicants of a summer high school program—strengthens our clients’ brands. If the visual elements don’t jive with their other communications… if the message doesn’t ring true to the organization and their goals… if you can’t point to where it “moves the needle”… well, we’re wasting an opportunity.
To us, a “brand” isn’t a logo or a tagline or an eye-catching color you choose. A brand lives in the hearts and minds of an organization’s constituents: it hinges on how people perceive them and what they do, both in the context of the communications they create, and what others are saying (in the press, via social media, through word of mouth… and beyond.)
And no matter how big or small an organization might be, they are only so much in control of their brand—which means that at the moments when they are in control, they need to do a great job of sharing who they are.
That’s where we come in…
We’re seeking a Designer who makes beautiful things—beautiful things that do what they’re meant to do, within functional, smart, compelling systems. You will work on a wide range of projects—across an equally wide range of clients, both for- and nonprofit—in print and electronic formats, from worldwide brand identity systems to multi-year capital campaigns. Versatility is a must (if you couldn’t tell already!)
… then we’d love to talk to you. Scroll down to learn how to get in touch!
We’re seeking a Brand Strategist who sees both the forest and the trees: you understand how brands are created, maintained, and loved, and how every aspect of an organization’s communications can reflect and strengthen that brand. You’ve ideally worked with both for- and nonprofit organizations (because we do!), and see each one of your clients as a unique, complex entity with their own needs and goals. In fact, you’ve thrown out all your cookie cutters… because you haven’t used them in years.
This isn’t an “account exec” position or a “brand manager” position or a “project manager” position, though all of those things are wrapped in to what you’ll do with our team.
… we’d love to talk to you. Our ideal candidate has 5+ years experience in and around branding, business and communication strategy, marketing, and website development. Experience in nonprofit marketing and fundraising wouldn’t hurt, either.
Ready to join us? We’d love to meet you—and we think we’re pretty fun to work with, too.
Please send your resume (directed clearly to one of the positions above) and some words about who you are and why you’re interested in being a part of our team to Human Resources, Sametz Blackstone Associates, 40 West Newton Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02118. You can also email hrATsametzDOTcom (no phone calls, please!)
The best people to invite to a dinner party? Great storytellers.
The thing that brilliant novelists are that okay novelists are not? Great storytellers.
The best people to be stuck next to on an 8-hour train ride? Great storytellers.
The thing that virtuoso directors are that leaves a movie playing in the back of your mind, long after the last reel? Great storytellers.
Oh… and the thing your brand needs more of?
Great storytellers internally — who communicate using ideas and images that resonate, instead of relying on corporate-speak — get everyone in your organization excited about what you’re going to do next.
Great storytellers externally — who bolster your value by sharing their positive experiences in passionate and public ways — spread the word in a manner that those around them are genuinely inclined to trust.
Great storytellers at the marketing helm — who convey your offerings by crafting a compelling narrative, instead of another pitch or a tagline — generate genuine curiosity and desire in your potential customers.
Great storytellers from the top down — who motivate with something more visionary than a list of your Q4 strategic business goals — advance the kind of mission-driven culture that leads to uncommon success.
Great storytellers from the front lines — who can tell you who your customers truly are and what they truly need because they’ve met them, and they care — keep everyone focused on the real reason you’re doing what you do… and the right way to do it.
Are you a great storyteller?
If the answer is “no”, don’t worry — you can learn to be.
Do you know what stories you should be telling?
If the answer is “no”, don’t worry — you can find them.
As with the funniest person at your dinner party, or a fantastic traveling companion, or those rare movies and books you can’t make yourself turn off or put down, great storytellers are remarkably unforgettable.
And that’s definitely something you want your brand to be.
One of the courses I was required to take in junior high (or ‘middle school’ as they call it now, and as I think they’ve always called it here in my newly adopted homeland) was simply called, ‘Electricity.’
I’m not sure why it required a special course, frankly — we discussed electricity in our science classes every year, and we’d all had some hair-raising times with the Van de Graaff Generator by the time we were in seventh grade (and don’t forget ‘The Electric Company’!)
(To this day, I am very handy with a light switch.)
Several times a week, we’d gather in a classroom to learn about charges and currents and magnetism and potential… and a bunch of other things I don’t remember. What does stand out in my memory (besides the experience of electrocuting myself once a month or so during experiments) is the discussion of series circuits versus parallel circuits.
Here’s the sum total of my understanding of this concept: in a series, the current through the components is the same, and the voltage across the components is all the voltages across each component, combined. In a parallel, however, the voltage across all the components is the same, and the total current is the sum of the currents through each component (okay, I got part of that from Wikipedia, but only because my explanation had the word “thingy”.)
The classic example that comes up when you discuss series versus parallel circuits is the type of ‘stringed lights’ many people put up during the winter run of holidays (and around here, usually take down in March (April? May??), when the snow melts):
These lights used to be based on series circuits. If one of the bulbs burnt out (thus eliminating a ‘component’), none of the bulbs would glow red or green. This, of course, was the cause of many a breakdown at the tops of frosty ladders, precariously balanced on roof edges — not to mention despairing sighs indoors when plug met outlet, and nothing happened except… dark.
Nowadays, many stringed lights are based on parallel circuits (which means a broken bulb only creates problems for obsessive-compulsive folks like me, who will notice the tiny dark spot before they see all the pretty lights.)
So why am I dragging you back to the seventh grade (and possible electrocution?)
I want to ask if your marketing plan is a series or parallel circuit.
Ideally, when you set up an integrated marketing plan, you spend some time to figure out where your potential and current users eyeballs and ears are, where they’re actually hanging out, and how they want to interact with you there. You figure out where to disseminate what content, and how often. Then you connect it all with consistent messaging, consistent visual elements, and a consistent level of output and response.
But what often happens — either because of the natural bent of the people implementing the plan, or the ease of a particular platform — is that focus ends up in one venue, and the lion’s share of time and attention ends up going there.
Maybe you’ve got an SEO nut in charge, and all their time goes into Google AdWords, and optimizing your site for the search engines. Maybe you’ve got a crack blogger who loves sharing ideas and facilitating discussion. Maybe you’ve got a social media junkie who loves to talk to your customers on Twitter, or post links to your Facebook group. Maybe you’ve got a PR pro who believes the key to success lies in getting a mention the New York Times.
And those are all good things. For now.
But what if your primary platform stops getting results? What if all the buzz and conversation aren’t translating into actual leads for your business? What if you discover a portion of your audience hanging out somewhere else — somewhere you haven’t even made a dent? What if the main keeper of your marketing torch moves up… or moves on?
Are you agile enough to transition to a new focus? Are you keeping an eye on the best marketing platforms for your industry — rather than just the ones you know best, or the ones where your favorite friends and colleagues are lurking? Are you responding to your community where they spend their time?
Or in other words, if a bulb burns out… will your plan still shine?
In the depths of one of our worst winters in decades, the Atlanta Symphony’s director of design joined us on Blackstone Square to collaborate on the new season’s subscription brochure.
The disruptive weather prolonged our collaboration, which bore fruit in the form of an evolved aesthetic for the Atlanta Symphony brand. The new brochure stays true to the guiding principles of the now 2-year-old brand re-launch, while developing and deploying new visual elements and a new approach to working within the symphony’s existing color palette.
This evolution of the visual system won’t, however, stop with the season brochure. We’re deep in the process of working with the Symphony to redesign their website; and much of what we discovered together while working on the season brochure has advanced the web design process. We’re looking forward to announcing the launch of the new site soon!
And still the brand grows! The Symphony is launching a label—ASO Media—to distribute its music. We’ve working with Rob and the rest of the Atlanta Symphony team to develop a special identifier for this new initiative, as well as an approach to the design of the music packaging itself.
There’ll be more to share on this story, so stay tuned!
I’ve always loved the idea of having a monogram and calling cards, and so a few years back, I decided to act on my desire. I created a bold, graphic monogram. It evokes eyes and owls, interaction and dynamism (or so I intended).
I combined the monogram with my contact information on a format slightly narrower than a standard business card. And I waited.
Eventually, the perfect opportunity arose. A generous printer added the card to the side of a job we were working on at the time. The job printed in silver and match orange on Eames Painter cover stock. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful substrate!
Around that time, I was also working on an update to my personal website… and decided to include the monogram as a key component in my new design.
I also created business cards to match the new site (since my calling cards were emphatically not about selling myself as an independent designer), and book plates to adorn my ever-expanding collection. My monogram was starting to feel like a logo, if not a personal brand.
Just a few months ago, my wife (known to everybody except the IRS as Carly) and I were vacationing in Belize, where we met a series of wonderful people—the kind of people we’d like to stay in touch with.
But it’s awkward to collect personal information on the beach or in the jungle. We weren’t carrying our phones or diaries. Fortunately, I usually have a few calling cards in my wallet. Unfortunately, they were my cards, not our cards. It was time for a merger.
Nine years ago, on January 25, 2002, I received an email from one of my colleagues entitled: “Celebrity Series—it’s a go.”
Our strategy team immediately embarked on several months of thoughtful research, followed by an exploration of initial design directions by our design team—including the development of a new identifier that accommodated different title sponsors over time (as well as no title sponsor in recent years). The resulting system has enabled Celebrity Series to build a brand that’s remained strong over the years.
Since the launch of the system in early 2003, the brand has evolved—each year the design team, in collaboration with our friends at Celebrity Series, endeavors to create a fresh look-and-feel for the upcoming season while staying true to the brand.
Fast-forward to March, 2011: We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve kicked off the design phase for the 2011–2012 season brochure. Venus Wan, the lead designer on this project for the past four years, is busy exploring the visual direction, while Director of Production Michael Eads is working on the production schedule and budget for the overall project.
Our team is excited to collaborate once again with Celebrity Series—and we look forward to delivering another great product in April!
If you happened to be on any social networks during the Super Bowl last night (GO PACKERS!), you probably noticed that the ads between plays got as much attention as the game itself.
And for good reason: the huge viewership of the Super Bowl renders these spots the most expensive ad buys of the year, with 30 seconds of prime eyeball time coming in at an estimated $3M. Every season, brands aim to outdo their previous efforts — and up the ante on one another.
Whether that results in the creation of a celebrity spoof with a social twist, an affectionate celebration of famous NFL fans, or a certain stock market-loving baby, advertisers will do whatever it takes to create buzz… and hopefully drive sales after the Lombardi is handed off to the winner.
When it came time to choose my favorite from the contenders, I was a little torn. And oddly enough — for someone who doesn’t own a car — my two top spots came from auto manufacturers.
Volkswagen’s “The Force” hit their demographic right between the eyes with an adorable mini-Darth Vader (who was actually unmasked the next morning on NBC’s Today Show):
All at once, they managed to target parents (the leading buyers of family-friendly sedans), kids, pop culture buffs, and Star Wars geeks. And because they released the ad on YouTube prior to the telecast, they’d already racked up 12 million views and 10,000 comments before the Green Bay won the coin toss.
My second choice comes from the folks at Chrysler, who took a full two minutes of absurdly pricey airtime to tell a story that’s all too familiar to most Americans… but with a 180-degree switch in perspective:
For me, this spot was the standout of the night (even if more viewers chose the Doritos ad with the adorable pug smackdown as their first choice.)
Why? For three reasons:
1. It told a compelling story
Detroit was in rough shape before the auto industry bailouts, and while earnings have been up in recent months, they’re certainly not out of the woods yet. Across the country, the city itself has become a sort of shorthand reference for economic failure.
The ad acknowledges this heartbreaking reality up front — but it doesn’t stop there.
In the vein of Lemonade Detroit, it speaks of the community’s commitment to overcoming their difficulties, and the hope of an economic resurgence — led by the much-maligned auto industry. It celebrates what Detroit is capable of, instead of where they’re at right now.
By supporting this comeback, you become part of the story, too. And just in case you missed the message of economic resurrection, there’s a gospel choir waiting to sing you into the new era.
Even their tagline — “Imported From Detroit” — is a rallying cry for American ingenuity and patriotic purchases (and I can’t deny it gave me a thrill right to the core of my copywriter soul.)
No doubt it’s also a message that my friends (and Chrysler competitors) Scott Monty of Ford and Christopher Barger of GM, could get behind, as passionate voices and dedicated players in Detroit’s ongoing rebirth.
2. It affirmed Chrysler’s commitment to the values and personal brands of their established demographic
Chrysler isn’t known for being a chic or sexy brand. Your baby boomer or “Greatest Generation” dad is more likely to drive a Chrysler than anyone else you know — and to choose the middle-of-the-road comforts of an American mid-size over a foreign model (like a BMW or Audi, both of whom also did ad buys last night.)
The deft way the spot transcends traditional notions of luxury by aligning it with hard work is a perfect nod to that customer — and his values. A good car is something you earn, not just something you buy.
My grandfather put down cash for his automobiles. This ad would have spoken to him.
3. It made a play for a new demographic by aligning Chrysler’s brand with a youth-centric brand — without abandoning the values of their existing customer
As I wrote this post, an unnamed person over the age of 40 came into my office and watched the ad with me. He loved it, but had to confirm somewhat sheepishly who the “guy driving the car” was: Detroit’s own hip-hop hero, Eminem, who starred in a gritty portrait of the city eight years ago.
I’m not saying that no one over the age of 40 knows who Eminem is, but viewers in their teens, twenties, and thirties are undoubtedly those most likely to identify him on sight — and perhaps know he grew up in Warren (a economically depressed suburb of Detroit.) He’s a multi-millionaire now, but his hardscrabble roots are a consistent theme in his work.
By putting Eminem in the driver’s seat, Chrysler is doing two things: making a subtle, yet distinct play for the hip hop generation, and proposing a redefinition of what wealth and achievement might look like for kids growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Detroit — and anywhere else.
Still, there’s no obvious hip hop sound (though the insistent soundtrack is a take on Eminem’s own “Lose Yourself”) to startle anyone’s grandpa, and no bling tossed or bottles popped to turn the scene into a stereotypical picture of “making it rain.” Again, the focus is on earned luxury, not cash-flashing excess.
And they nailed it.
From the gritty narration to the noble urban imagery to the only words Eminem speaks — “This is the Motor City, and this is what we do” — this spot is a love letter to folks who aren’t getting a lot of love in this economy… which is exactly why it gets my pick for the top Super Bowl ad of the night.
What was your favorite spot? And why?
That’s exactly what Jay Ehret of The Marketing Spot and Power to the Small Business recently asked our own Director of Strategic Initiatives, Tamsen McMahon, along with two other marketing professionals, Kyle Lacy and Ken Briscoe.
This is the eighth roundtable-style discussion Jay has hosted at his small business blog, and as always, the participants offered some keen insights on the strategies and tools that would define marketing and set trends in the coming year.
Among other subjects, Tamsen addressed two major trends that will be on marketers’ minds in the months ahead:
You can check out the podcast (available on page, via iTunes or for download) at Jay’s blog here, including some highlighted quotes and ideas from each of the participants.