Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thinking Inside the Box is Harder

"We think outside the box" has become so cliche, that anyone who says it, doesn't. Imagine for a minute about what it means to think inside the box. 

If "the box" means constraints and business considerations like budgets, deadlines and brand identity, isn't it actually more of a challenge to be effective while thinking inside the box?

Copyright 2013, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Five-Step Brand Assessment You Can Do Right Now

For any organization, it's easy to to miss the forest for the trees in the day-to-day execution of messages. Here's one way to start putting your own brand into focus.

1. Take stock: Lay everything on the table -- from your website and social media presence to press releases, print collateral, mail and anything else you publish.

2. Make two lists: In list "A" include everything that looks and sounds like you, and that you think resonates with those you serve. Put everything else in list "B".

3. Discard list B.

4. Write a description of the message that list A sends. Describe the tone, voice, color, appropriateness and any other attributes you feel are important. Be honest.

5. Have someone else read it. If the description is generic, inconsistent, or not where you think it should be, then it's time for a closer look and a brand overhaul.

Copyright 2013, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Take the Creep Out of Your Brand

It all started well when you bought new dishes and silverware that reflect your taste and who you are today. But then, over time, things started happening. You found couple random coffee mugs in the dishwasher. And Some glasses imprinted with a conference theme appeared along with some soup spoons from who-knows-where. 

Brand creep is a lot like the mismatched dishes that creep into your cupboards. Sometimes you have to purge them. And polish up what you started with.

Copyright 2013, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Monday, August 5, 2013

It's Commodity Right? 
Except When It's Not.

A few years ago while signing vendor checks, an invoice from a new supplier stood out. It listed "paperclips." I hate to be the "bean counter" but this seemed irresponsible to me and I shot off an email to my team: "who ordered 400 paperclips for $45?"

One of my long-time employees (whom won't name but will just refer to as "Nicole") said: "Oh DG, those are for proposals." "You can buy 1,000 at Staples for $5" I replied. She showed me one of the tins of Italian paperclips. They were nice -- elegant. Almost like art objects of flat hammered brass wire shaped in a spiral. Nicole showed me a cover letter clipped to a proposal. "See now much better that looks DG?" She was right. Admittedly, up to that point I'd given little thought to paperclips, as the only differentiator was size. I'd seen them as a commodity until someone pointed to one that was different, nicer, and in this case, better.

When I shifted my focus from the cost to to the value these objects added, $45 seemed like a bargain. It's now five years later and we still have some. The cost that works out to $9 a year. Which is am amazing deal.

If you don't believe me, I'll send you one. 

Copyright 2013, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Does Your Organization Have 
10k T-shirt Syndrome?

Ever notice how race T-shirts are always covered on the back with sponsor logos?  And how none stand out? This is what happens with a lot of organizations including associations and nonprofits struggling with multiple programs and initiatives, all in competition for eyeballs.  

The solution is often a "carousel" of rotating messages on the homepage, a collage of images on the report cover, or advertisements with multiple logos branding the organization as, a lot of things. And in the end, nothing.

For many reasons -- largely political, this situation is almost impossible to avoid, especially for large organizations. But it can be minimized through planning that includes hierarchy of messages and good design.

Branding isn't a 10k race. It's a race for message clarity. The only organization sponsoring your organization should be... your organization. 

Copyright 2013, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Newspapers that thrive will be those that evolve to more than a printout of news published online the day before.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Marketing Buzz:
5 Branding Tips from the Cicadas
Experts tell us that they expect billions of cicadas to emerge soon, following 17 years underground. The cicadas demonstrate the impression that comes from consistency and delivering on a promise. When it comes to branding, we could learn a thing or two from them:

1. They sing a familiar song 

There's no mistaking that buzz. Even if you haven't you heard it in 17 years, it's etched in your brain like the theme music for "Seinfeld". Singing the same song is the best way to drive a message home.

2. Memorable colors 

Those beady red eyes might be a little scary, but every one of those little guys has 'em. And that's part of how we identify them. In the same way, your corporate colors are a key branding element for your organization.

3. Exoskeletons are unmistakeable 

The cicadas may just have the most recognizable shape since the golden arches. and they're everywhere you look! A unique look may seem like a brand no-brainer, but it also has to be the right look.

4. They're consistent 

We know what to expect from the cicadas, and they deliver. Your customers and members should know what to expect from you, and know it when they see it. Every time.

5. There are soooooo many of them

Of course, one good way to be remembered is to be visible. You don't need to have "millions of impressions per acre". You just need to make the right impression, in the right place.

Copyright 2013, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Better Communication:
50 Insights, Rules, and Rants!

 This is a list of things I seem to say (or think) over and again. It covers thoughts and observations from time spent working on thousands of projects and campaigns for hundreds of clients on everything from creativity, design, approvals, and committees, to communication, strategy, branding, design, websites, process, and social media. It ranges from proven facts to  my own highly opinionated positions. I'd love to hear your thoughts about anything on the list.


1.  When presenting new ideas, do everything you can in advance to manage expectations about how what you are about to present is a solution, and eliminate the "I-don't-like-it" factor. 

2.  Take off the blinders of looking at your own stuff too much. Try looking at it from the eyes of your customers.

3. Don't assume everyone recognizes brilliant creative, otherwise everyone would be doing it. Sometimes the best takes selling.

4. Really good ideas often aren't recognized by anyone but their creator. That's why they must be "sold". Eliminate the "I-don't-like-it" factor by setting expectations in advance. Don't let them be dismissed out of hand based on a superficial reaction.

5. When it comes to compelling visual concepts, lack of imagination is never hidden by pretty.

6. Be open minded. don't dismiss an idea out of hand because you don't like it, which may have nothing to do with whether it's good for your business. Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it's bad.


7. A sure way to kill good creative is to email it in and just let the PDF speak for itself. 

8. Never give someone a copy of something they've just approved if they are about to get on a plane.


9. When it comes to idea creation, more heads are better. For approval, fewer is better.

10. It's better to have two or more people to create an idea than to have the same number approve it.

11. You can chip 20% off of really good idea for each person who has to approve it.

12. Inevitably someone will suggest a "montage." Which never works.


13. If you're writing B2B marketing copy, "you" is 10x better than "we."

14. When naming something, as close as you can get to one syllable is best.

15. AACS — Acronyms are communication stoppers. They make you stop — even for a second to decode them, and longer if you don't recognize them.

16. Acronyms are cumbersome enough as an organization name. Just plain silly when the name is dropped in a "rebranding" exercise.

17. Corporate technobabble doesn't make messages sound smarter -- more like it's trying to make up for lack of substance. 

18. No one reads the "letter from the president."

19. Everyone reads lists.


20. Don't confuse activity with progress. Websites, blogs, logos, ads, videos -- all great tactics. Just don't confuse them with strategy -- or results
21. A strategic plan is not the same as a marketing plan.


22. Print. Online. Social. Traditional. There are too many channels for your brand to fall apart by being inconsistent.

23. When you want to "change it up", ask yourself: are you bored with your organization's identity or just bored with your job?

24. Just because it has your logo, doesn't mean it's branded
25. Too many colors, logos or messages are a symptom of a brand in trouble.

26. The big branding challenge for nonprofits and associations is how to present fresh new content in a recognizable package.

27. It's nearly impossible to hide lack of imagination with pretty visuals, while not the same in reverse. Ideas matter.

28. Your brand isn't a fashion statement. It's what identifies and separates you from the pack, and there's no room for inconsistency.

29. Think of your trade show exhibit as a stage set for your brand -- It's not an ad or brochure. People don't read a lot.


30. Don't place type over photos or busy backgrounds. Often when this is done, an attempt is made to make it "pop more" by adding a drop shadow, or changing the color. Never works.

31. If you find yourself looking at a stock photo site for a concept, start over. Concepts don't come from searches, they come from thinking.

32. A lame concept is never improved by a polished execution.

33. If you're working with a creative person, tell them what the problem is rather than how to solve it. You'll both be happier with the results.

34. If you're tempted to use more than one logo on anything, don't.

35. Designers care way more than you ever will about how it looks. So let them do their job.

36. Type should be black on white, white on black or as close in contrast to that as you can get if using colors.

37. When searching for a metaphor, don't ignore the obvious.


38. Social is the most natural media.

39. Social media should be Community based, Informative, thoughtful, entertaining and relevant. Or at least three of those.

40. Pictures are the currency of social media.

41. If someone calls themselves a social media guru, they aren't
42. Setting out to create "something viral" is like deciding to write a hit song.


43. Time it takes to create a website: 90% technology and architecture, and 10% graphic design.

44. Building a B2B website is a lot like building a house; it takes architects, builders, craftsmen and a good project manager. And the farther you get into it, the more expensive changes become.

45. Content is always the bottleneck in website production.


46. Always start a design with a sketch.

47. Most people wouldn't think of letting a contractor spend a day tiling your bathroom without a sketch. But businesses routinely think nothing of turning a graphic designer loose for a day without a plan.

48. When group thinking is required, it is best done face to face.

49. On work and telecommuting, it's important to understand the difference between creation (that requires collaboration) and production. Production by individuals is the only part that can can be more efficient when done at home.

50. With a good process, You can get extraordinary results from ordinary people.

Copyright 2013, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pick Your Metaphors Carefully

Enterprise Florida Inc., a public-private partnership apparently released a new "business brand" last week to promote commerce in Florida. And not everyone is happy about the message it sends, especially some women.

Everything is a metaphor -- especially when it comes to imagery in a logo. Hard to believe no one flagged a men's tie as potentially being off putting to about half the population.

Copyright 2013, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Five Design Practices that 
Make Me Cringe

I spend a lot of time reviewing designs for marketing communications. A good deal of that is spent polishing layouts to bring clarity to messages. Following are some things that come up over and over -- things done by both novices and experienced designers -- that can ruin a piece faster than you can say "my nephew can do it, he got PhotoShop for Christmas!" 

1. Make the words pop: Drop shadows on type

It sounds good in theory. The words aren't "popping" enough, so adding drop shadow will add to the contrast. The trouble is, this never works. It only adds busyness to something that for legibility should be crystal clear. If you think you need a drop shadow behind words, you've gotta bigger issue that hasn't been addressed properly (hint: it's the layout). The same is true for logos -- which you should never add anything to. Aside from the likely violation of graphic identity standards, it looks amateurish. 

2. Clutter it up a little: Running words over images

Few things clutter a layout quicker than running words over a busy photo or background. This is even worse when done with text type. As described in above, if you feel the need to do this, you have a layout problem that hasn't been thought through (like changing or relocating the photo). 

3. Color it up more: Color type on color backgrounds

Type should be black on white, white on black, or as close to that in contrast as you can get. The trouble comes when you start decreasing the contrast by making the background or the type a more neutral tone. It is even worse when you do it with both the type and the background. If you're temped to do this -— for any reason, don't. 

4. The 10k Race T shirt syndrome: More logos, more logos 

Ever notice how every 10k run or race feels compelled to print a T shirt with 100 logos on the back? And how they all compete with each other? And how none stand out? And how unattractive it is?  Don't do this with an ad. or brochure, or website, or anything. It might solve a political problem, but it will be at the expense of mucking up your message.

5. Homage to the committee: The dreaded montage 

"We can't focus on ONE thing when we have so many -- let's do a collage of images."  Ever see a collage on a book cover, or a magazine cover, or a poster -- that you remember? Did it have any impact? One good image is better than a dozen outstanding ones. 

It's about less 

These things all create confusion. When the goal is to bring clarity to your message, go toward simplicity. That's what gets people to read. It's not about adding more. 

Whether you're a designer or someone approving a designer's work, avoiding these practices is is guaranteed to make your work better. And if you're a corporate communications manager charged with producing a style manual, feel free to copy and paste this within.

Copyright 2013, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.