Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's not you. It's me.

Dear Blog,

I owe you an apology. I have been neglecting you. And your sister Twitter. And digital cousins LinkedIn and lots of others.

It's true that I have spent more time with Facebook. She's light and fun, and a lot less demanding. But even Facebook has been getting ignored. I've been seeing other media. Non-digital media, like drawing and painting. On paper and canvas. They're actually old flames, and I kind of like them. They're comfortable and well, to be honest, a little more sensual. 

But I'm back. And with a new website!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Let Your Customers Feel You

It's Christmas in July -- the time of year when a lot of businesses start planning their holiday card. Increasingly, and usually as a cost-saving effort, many firms opt to send e-cards. To me, this says they cared enough to do the minimum, even if it was costly. I'm going out on a limb here by saying that people don't like these. I don't know anyone who'd prefer to get an e-card over a real card for their birthday (see proof below).

Why E-cards Are Not a Good Idea

When they were new, e-cards were cool. But the bar today online is high. You're competing with hundreds of multi-media extravaganzas just a click away. For something to be compelling, it has to be either really really smart, really funny, or really interesting. And even then, even though your clip might be fun to watch, after a week of competing click-thru links to articles, photos and YouTube videos, will it stand out? Will it be memorable?

Hint: Do What No One Else Is Doing

A handwritten, personalized card stands to have greater impact than a $20,000 interactive video. Of course this takes time. But a sentence and a signature is a minimum expression to someone who may be helping to put your kids through college. No business should throw away the opportunity to literally touch its clients and prospects at a time when it will be well received.


To test the card preference theory, send me your birthdate and and I'll send you an e-card on your special day. Or if you prefer, a custom hand-made greeting card (which I must limit to one birthday per month). Touch me: dennis@goris.com

Copyright 2010, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thumbnails at Work

Imagine that you hire a tile setter to retile your bathroom. And you have him spend the whole day laying out and grouting a pattern of his choosing based on a brief discussion in the morning. Then at the end of the day he presents you with the finished product. The pattern is precise and the craftsmanship is stunning. But something isn't right. There are four white tiles in a row followed by a black one. You thought it would be the other way around, and consider this pattern bad luck. He must tear it out and start over. If only he'd have spent a few minutes sketching out the design, you could both have been (literally) on the same page. 

It's hard to envision a situation where this would happen, but it seems to be the norm in graphic design world. Designers routinely spend hours digitally rendering, refining and tweaking beautiful, elegant things. The problem arises when the design direction, no matter how awesomely executed, just isn't right. Often this means a day is wasted. And the everyone, not least of all the designer, is frustrated.  

I'm pretty sure our designers sometimes get annoyed about this, but we have a have a "sketch rule" in our shop. That means the designers sketch out their ideas on paper before executing anything on the computer. When you sketch, you are thinking, and solving a problem. And putting those ideas directly on a page without being encumbered by software, fonts or whatever other distractions are coming across your screen. I love, love, love what computers can do, but they shouldn't be used at this stage. That's for later, when you know what kind of pattern you're going for at the end of the day.

Sketching. It's fast, fun and anybody can do it. And it will save you a lot of money.

Copyright 2010, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Line Up Folks...Single File!
Copyright 2010, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pictures Trump Words

When you get an email or Facebook post about a cool video, article or website, what do you do?

A.) Read the whole message and then decide whether to click through.
B.) Read the subject line and then click on through
C.) Just click the link.

In an imprecise survey, my conclusion is that most people go with "C" and just click on the link. And they are more likely to do so if it has a picture. 

It's no secret that people don't want to read things, especially when there's a good chance that they are seeing them on a three-inch smartphone screen. We want the quick hit, the photo we can forward, or better, the video we can link to before everyone else does. And this almost always involves an image -- the more compelling, the better. None of this is a revelation, but it bodes well for designers, photographers, videographers and other visual thinkers. 

The key to success in social media? My money is on pictures...the new currency. But for me, it's always been that way.

Copyright 2010, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Low tech, High impact.

I saw this poster for a missing row boat nailed to a public bulletin board in Annapolis, MD. The drawing and written note were such a charming contrast to the computer generated notices that it stopped me. I almost took it, but didn't want to affect the outcome for the person looking for his boat. Hope he found it.

Copyright 2010, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Like it? Get Used to it!

I'm always fascinated by how others handle rebranding projects. It's been especially fun to watch how a mega company like Starbucks is launching the rebranding of "Seattle's Best Coffee" and the controversy the new logo has whipped up. 

A lot of feedback came from a Seattle Times poll which was at best, a superficial "do you like this" runoff. 73% of respondents clicked the "they should try again" button. The Times did a disservice by focusing solely on the logo. Starbucks launched a whole new identity for this brand, not just a logo. 

When you look at the logo out of context, it's easy to say "I don't like it" or "it's too cold." But then look at it on a cup. Imagine that cup in people's hands and it has "across the room" or "across the street" appeal. It becomes something very different. And then you can see how they thought this through.

If Starbucks wanted to differentiate the "Seattle's Best" brand from themselves, they did a good job. It's opposite of Starbucks green. It may not be warm and friendly, but that's not what you expect from the fast food drive through. It's clean and modern, and it's headed to a Burger King near you. That's part of Starbucks' plan for world dominance.

From AMC theaters to Burger King, Starbucks plans to roll out Seattle's Best in over 30,000 locations. Like it or not, it looks like we're about to see a whole lot more of the red cup.

Copyright 2010, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Finally Get Twitter

I haven't written much about social media, but I've read a whole lot about it. Mostly on Twitter links to blogs where it seems like every person in the media profession is now a "social media expert." I've come to the conclusion that social media is really another name for what a lot of regular people are already doing organically, and what a lot of media professionals are trying to get control of. Just watch teenagers on their phones for ten minutes. 

The thing is, you can have some influence, but you can't control social media. It's people chattering, talking to friends over the fence, the phone, and at the water cooler. Only now they have the tools to talk to a whole lot more people. And a lot faster. Someone likes a restaurant (or not) and Tweets about it or posts a message on Facebook. The restaurant stands to reap more customers through this "word of mouth" or depending on the situation, lose them in one swipe. United Airlines can throw millions into PR and social media, but they can't control the one pissed off traveler, smart phone in hand, who's flight was cancelled, and is just looking for something to Tweet about. People have to tell the truth. If you're not authentic, you'll be exposed and gutted and grilled for dinner. That's social media at work. 

We're in the middle of a huge shift in the media world. We're watching a change in who controls the message. No one knows how it will all shake out, but it's fascinating to watch (and participate in). Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others might be here in five or ten years. Or maybe not. They might be replaced with the next thing. But social media is here to stay. Gossip and chatter is human nature. And the public will save us from the "experts."

Copyright 2010, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Monday, May 10, 2010

An Analog World

Want to listen to some Jazz music? The invitation came from an elderly neighbor on a muggy Spring night a couple of years ago. He was in his very late 90s, and his wife had died a few months earlier. He was always kind of dapper, often wearing bow ties and resembling a smaller version of KFC's Colonel Sanders. For years, he walked the neighborhood, usually in the evenings with his wife, before her health deteriorated.

So I went down the street to his house to listen to his music. As I walked up his porch steps from the street, I could hear blaring from one of those furniture sized, 1960s vintage "hi-fi" stereos. It was too loud for him to hear my knocking so I walked in. He was playing big band music, oblivious to the fact that the player speed was set at 45 rpm for a 33 rpm record. There was a speedy quirkiness to the sound that can be described as both fun and creepy. I switched it to the correct speed as he came out into the living room from his kitchen, offering me Oreos from a package. It occurred to me that this had probably become his normal dinner fare since his wife passed. We listened to a few records, and he told me about what he did before he retired. He had worked as specialist in archival paper for the federal government. Which as someone with a deep background in print design, I found fascinating. When I got home I thought about how paper was going the way of vinyl records and becoming obsolete in the digital world. It seemed that way for most things you can hold in your hands. As the Summer wore on, when I did see him out walking--which was less often, he seemed to be increasingly confused about where he was. Late one night he walked into my kitchen through the side door thinking he was home. I escorted him to his house a few doors away.

He's gone now, but I thought about him this week while going through a trove of old LP records -- classics from the late 60s through the 70s. When I found them, I thought I'd rip them into my iTunes collection, maybe burn some to CDs, then get rid of the cumbersome collection of 12 inch albums. I got a USB turntable -- a device designed to digitize old records, so you can make CDs, put them on your iPod, ect. It came with software that magically removes the pops and cracks from the records. But, as I started to play and record the old Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Elton John and others, those imperfections became part of the sound that made them unique.

The real value in the old records isn't just in the music. It's in the anticipation of those first few seconds of scratchiness after you drop the needle onto the vinyl. And the pops and cracks that come at different times on every record. And the square foot of artwork that envelops each. The songs aren't just file names for code on a hard drive. They're physical impressions etched in vinyl. Digital media is great. It's crisp. It's precise. It's clean. You can play it, send it, share it and copy it. You can do anything you want with it. Except hold it in your hands.

Copyright 2010, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Please Pass the Clarity!

One way I strive to make sense and add control to my world is by clarifying what I hear -- from the people I interact with to the messages I hear and read throughout the day. There are constant examples of unclear or ambiguous messages all around us:

Editorials and News--Blurring the Lines

Forget about FOX News. Why does the rest of the news media try and attach reasons to the stock market's performance? The Yahoo headline read: "Stocks tumble as investors worry about nervous consumers." The only fact in that headline is that stocks tumbled. The rest is an editorial. What if they did this with other news? I fear it's just a matter of time.

Encode a Name--and Make it More "Memorable"

This ia one of my favorites. Why does the federal government make up a name for something as well coined as swine flu and call it H1N1? It's hard for me to even type that. It uses the same technique of mixing numerals with letters that security experts advise using to make up hard to crack passwords.

Can You Be a Little More Ambiguous?

I had to do a double-take with this bumper sticker. It's from the 08 election, but still out there. At first glance, I read it as a pro Obama sticker -- but there's a disconnect with the words. It wasn't clear whether the message is for or against Obama. One could read it two ways. "Bark Obama" as a negative suggests he is a dog. "Unleash change" can go both ways as well. Unleashing a dog might be good. Or bad, depending on the dog. And whether it's even a dog. Either way, it's a wasted effort.

Copyright 2010, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.