Our own Mike Gastin and Jonathan Daggar recently presented at DrupalCamp WNY. The open-source content management system (CMS) was the focus during this 2-day informational event for Drupal users, designers, developers, and content pros.
Mike sat on the panel that presented "Selling Drupal". He focused on the strategic business issues that drive the planning, design and development of websites. His talk focused on the importance of understanding client needs first, before specifying the technology solution. You can read more of Mike's thoughts on understanding needs and solving problems here.
Jon presented "No, Seriously, I’m Just Getting Started With Drupal". Jon is anything but a Drupal beginner, so his depth of knowledge played a key role in helping attendees new to Drupal come away better equipped to leverage the web publishing platform.
With Mike and Jon in the house, Bob Wright Creative had a nice presence at DrupalCamp WNY. We're looking forward to the next Camp. Thanks guys, for helping make the world a better place one website at a time.
Congratulations to Greg Chambery, Owner/Administrator at client company The Maplewood. Greg recently made a guest appearance on "the CEO Hour" where he, along with attorney Kevin Cooman, discussed financial and legal issues pertaining to long-term nursing care.
For me, an interesting take-away is the level to which The Maplewood dedicates itself to innovation within the ever-changing long-term care operating environment. This is especially impressive when we consider the ripple effect Baby Boomers will soon have. Don't get me wrong, I love my parents, aunts and uncles! But, it seems that commitment to innovation will be key as the demands of this sizable demographic are felt.
Greg's participation in this forum also illustrates The Maplewood's commitment to being a valuable resource not only to its residents and family members, but to the greater community as well.
With your first step inside The Maplewood in Webster, New York, one thing becomes abundantly clear - the nature of long-term and rehabilitation care has changed. The Maplewood's foundation of innovative clinical care is housed within a model that is focused on hospitality, not institutional confines. The Maplewood feels more like a resort, and less like a nursing home. With this in mind, we set out to deliver a new website that captures the unique nature of the Maplewood brand. "Distinctly Different" is a key pillar of The Maplewood - one that informs every aspect of the website. As the central hub for Maplewood information, family members, residents, professional community, and staff all benefit from a rich presentation of valuable content. Highlights include photo slideshows, in-depth information, "Get to Know" videos, and a growing blog presence. Soon to be launched will be an audio podcast series to help listeners make informed decisions around long-term and rehabilitation care. Many thanks go to Maplewood's owner/administrator, Greg Chambery, for having the vision and commitment to developing a site of this nature. We invite you to visit www.MaplewoodNursingHome.com, and lend us your feedback.
We're adding to our design team and are on the look-out for a graphic designer.
The following is some info on the position and the kind of person we're looking for. Also, take a look at our guiding principle to make sure you resonate with why we get out of bed every day.
Bob Wright Creative is in search of a talented designer for an entry-to-mid-level position within our close-knit team. Our collaborative environment offers an excellent atmosphere in which to create and grow.
The ideal candidate is a talented problem solver that is well organized, highly motivated and detail-oriented. Some work experience in the design field is preferred. Talent, drive and work ethic are crucial.
- Concept development and design
- Client interaction
- InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator work for a variety of projects.
- Both thrive in a collaborative environment and work effectively independently
- Can handle multiple projects and deadlines simultaneously
- Proficiency with InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop is required.
- Flash, Powerpoint and web development skills a plus.
- Knowledge and experience in both print and web design is required.
- Ability to conduct research, analyze and problem solve.
- Organized, self-starter
- Illustration skills a plus
I met with one of my client's senior management team today and something amazing happened.
A little backstory
We meet once a month to review PR opportunities. None of the people in the room are responsible for marketing, all of them overseeing one of the various departments in my client's company.
The meetings go alright. We churn through an agenda that I had inherited, looking for upcoming events that we can publicize and story ideas that we can pitch.
Actually, the monthly meeting was a dog. We did our duty, but it was not a good spend of everybody's time.
What to do?
My client and I agreed that the time was not well spent and that we needed to shift gears. We hashed some ideas around and decided the best plan was to back up and get his team more engaged in the overall marketing process. They needed context. They needed to be able to understand what direction we're taking their marketing and how they fit into it.
Talking fast to make it fit
So, today I spent an hour and a half taking the team through the three main areas of work that I've been focused on for their company: strategic, tactical and operational.
I shared the steps we went through in developing the strategic plan, the findings and the strategies. I shared the positioning work we did and the rationale behind it. I shared the branding that we've been developing and how it tied into the strategic work and positioning. We covered the overall tactical plan and how we're in the process of operationalizing their marketing function.
We covered a lot of info in a short period of time.
After I was done something amazing happened: they started getting excited about the opportunities and challenges before their company and they started to share some excellent ideas—not just PR ideas, but marketing ideas.
They were really good ideas, too, because they had context for the first time. The team started to understand how they each fit into the company's marketing strategy and that unlocked their expertise and creativity. It was quite dramatic.
If your company's marketing team is comprised of non-marketing professionals, take time to give everyone context. Don't just share with them what you did but share why you did it—the thinking behind your approach.
By doing so, you'll help them understand the big picture, how they fit and what unique piece they have to offer. You'll get much better contributions from the team and who knows, you might even have that "Ah Ha!" idea that's been eluding you.
The following link is a great little article with a five minute audio piece on Google's preference for original content when ranking sites. It tells the story of an online retalier that got killed when Google recently changed its ranking criteria and what he's doing about it.
Here's a clip from the article on what happened:
Immediately, Lieberman pulled up his traffic numbers. He found that two-thirds of his customers had disappeared.
"As days went by, and I saw that dip in the graph was holding — and it was a cliff — it was really a shocking drop," he says. "My first reaction was not to panic, try to find articles related to this Panda update. What is it about?"
Gap's actions over the last week expose some deep problems—problems that even great design can't fix.
The new Gap logo is old news. If you've been following their marketing train wreck you know that after getting tarred and feathered by the online community they backtracked by announcing they would crowdsource their brand in hopes of finding an identity that really gets the job done.
Besides the fact that their agency who created the new logo, Laird+Partners, must feel pretty unhappy and that Gap's management must be under intense shareholder scrutiny, the idea that a crowd is the solution is just wrong.
For the uninitiated, crowdsourcing is a problem-solving and production model that broadcasts a challenge to the public, asking it to put the power of a distributed network to work. It's been a hot topic ever since Wired's Jeff Howe coined the term in 2006.
I'm all about the idea of distributed networks and leveraging the power of thousands to get a job done. In fact, I love open source software, like Drupal's awesome CMS. It's a great example of a type of crowdsourcing as people all over the world work to make Drupal better, fixing problems, collaborating and generally delivering an awesome solution.
But, the people working on Drupal are all programming experts; they’re specialists. There are no good natured retired factory workers with a little spare time hacking code—unless of course they know code! If you're working on Drupal you're a programmer.
Gap's proposed solution is to throw the doors open to anyone with MS Paint. Forget any qualifications, experience or skills. Gap says they think you can fix their brand, and that's troubling on two levels.
First, does Gap disrespect their brand so much that they are willing to let just anyone work on it? Can a company that does hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, all based on its brand, actually just throw that brand out to the crowd and think that's responsible brand management? Forget the fact that a huge corporation that makes millions of dollars is asking hundreds of thousands of people to work for free. What makes Gap think the masses can fix their failure? Why don’t they understand that they need the help of experts?
Second, is Gap is really being sincere in asking the crowd for help? If they respect their brand and they know they need the help of experts, then they don't really think the crowd will have the right answer. Crowdsourching is just a PR ploy; manipulation to put a good face on a really stupid move and to get everyone to just shut up. If they don't expect the crowd, their customers, to have the right answer, then why insult them by asking for help? And let’s face it, if they really believed in crowdsourcning they'd put all their clothing designs up for grabs.
Gap does not respect its brand or its customers. They have a problem that runs much deeper than a design or marketing issue. They've got a leadership problem. I don't care how good a design solution is, paid or crowdsourced, great design can't fix a lack of integrity or broken leadership.
What's going on with Gap? Their seemingly new identity looks like it belongs to Initech. New logo or a late April Fool's joke?
It looks like Gap has redesigned its identity, as it showed up on the Gap website without as much as a press release.
What do you think?
Honestly, I don't get it. It's cold and corporate. It reminds me of lifeless putty desk accessories and lunch out of the vending machine under florescent lights. This is supposed to be a consumer fashion brand! Where's the energy and life?
Here's the old logo, which at least had some personality.
It's still not clear who did this work, if it's the new company brand or what's really going on. I'll do some sleuthing and update this post as I learn more. Leave a comment and let us know what you think of the identity.
Update 11:20 PM 10/06/10: There's speculation that this new logo could be a PR stunt to help boost Gap's lagging sales. Gap has not been responding to any media inquiries at this stage. Read this Ad Age article for more info.
Update 8:00 AM 10/07/10: And the people pile on. A new account has opened on Twitter purporting to be the new Gap logo. Follow @gaplogo for a humorous string of comments and arguments in defense of the logo. Its bio reads, "I have feelings too, jerks"!
Still no word if the new logo is a PR stunt or a misguided rebrand.
Update 7 PM 10/07/10: Mashable reports Gap is asking its Facebook fans to design the new logo. Wow. A multimillion dollar brand and you're going to hand it off to the crowd after your effort is greeted with widespread criticism. Who's in charge over there?
Update: 10:00 PM 10/07/10: Gap President North America, Marka Hansen talks! Link to her statement on HuffPo here. Read it and decide for yourself. Sounds like a lil bit 'o BS to me. I think Gap was completely surprised by the hostile response to their new brand and they're scrambling to fix the problem. I predict Marka will be looking for a new job in six months or less.
We often think of branding as a complex exercise, requiring lots of time and money to do right. But, you can make your brand powerful and effective for a few bucks. You can also destroy it for just as cheap.
A Simple Definition
Branding has meant many things through the years, starting with the mark that was put on cattle to identify who owned it. But, today, at its most basic level, a company’s brand has come to mean it’s personality. Your brand is who you are; fun, capable, smart, quick, intimate, global, inexpensive, rude, difficult. These are the kinds of traits that make up a brand; traits that ultimately create a personality that the marketplace associates with your company.
In a minute I’m going to share five things you can do for next to nothing that will build your brand. But, first I’ll share two recent experiences with you; one bad and one good.
Last week it was our creative director's birthday, so a few of us went out to get lunch together. We walked over to a local gourmet pizza place, sat down and put our orders in. Everyone, except for me, ordered a pizza. I got a salad.
Eventually the pizzas came out, but no salad. Before I had a chance to ask about it the waitress darted away. I figured the salad would be out any minute. Boy, was I wrong.
Over the next 30 minutes I asked a few times if my food was coming out soon. Each time I was assured it was almost ready. In fact, one time our waitress said it was up she just needed to go get it from the chef. Then she disappeared for ten minutes and, alas, my salad did not emerge from the kitchen.
It eventually came, way late. No explanation, no apology, no discount. Nothing. I was not happy. I was ignored, embarrassed and lied to over a $12 salad. I will never go back to that place and spending money. Never take my family there, never take a client there and never meet a friend there. They lost their good will and reputation, not to mention hundreds of dollars in future sales for 12 bucks!
This weekend I was working on my personal web site when I noticed the server was incredibly slow. I host all our domains, personal and business, with Media Temple. I quickly checked their status page to see if there was an issue, but that would not load either. Uh oh!
I shot off a quick note on Twitter asking if any other Media Temple sites were having trouble. Within minutes the issue seemed to resolve itself. A Media Temple person responded to my Tweet apologizing for any inconveniences and let me know they had the issue sorted. Nice. Then, I got a private message from the same person thanking me for my business and asking me if I’d like any Media Temple ‘swag’.
After giving him my shirt size and mailing address he let me know that a package with free gifts was on its way. Now that’s cool!
I’ve been with Media Temple for years and spend about $100 a month with them. I expect an issue once in a while, because that’s the nature of the technology behind the internet. Even though I’ve always liked their service, the free swag, which I bet costs about the same $12 as the aforementioned salad, further cements my loyalty to Media Temple.
Five Easy Things You Can Do
So now that I’ve shared two examples of how real companies have either broken or built their brand for $12 let’s look at five simple things you can do for your business.
1. Keep sight of the big picture
It’s easy to loose sight of the big picture. Reduced staff, tighter budgets, demanding customers and market pressures all conspire to make us forget about the big picture and to focus on whatever tactical issue is in front of us at the moment.
Why do you do what you do? Why is your company in business? What problems do you solve and what value do you provide? Why do people do business with you? What needs are they trying to meet and what expectations do they have? Make every decision with the big picture in mind. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.
2. Empower your people
Your frontline staff need to be empowered to fix problems. They are the ones who see the problems first hand. They deal with your customers, serve them, engage them. They need both the authority and encouragement to fix problems.
In my recent restaurant experience how would I have felt if the waitress came out quickly and said, “Sir, the kitchen is having some trouble getting your salad ready on time. I’m going to make sure you are not charged for it and I’d like to offer you a complimentary drink or something else on the menu.”? I may not have become a raving fan, but I would have been pretty impressed and surely would have given them a second chance.
3. Listen and respond
Your customers are talking. It used to be pretty hard to listen. You had to hire a market research firm to conduct focus groups and expensive customer surveys. Those days are gone. Social media has made these conversations public. Monitoring Twitter, engaging customers on Facebook and keeping an ear to the ground on the internet via Google Alerts has made it quite easy to listen. People are talking about you, you just have to take the time to hear what they’re saying.
Of course, listening is only half the game. You need to respond. That’s the beauty of social media: it allows a two way interchange, a relationship. See this recent interaction I had with Wegmans for a great example of a company who is listening and responding.
4. Make it personal
When you engage a customer, make it personal. Don’t just send out a form letter with a coupon. Engage them on an intimate level. Even huge companies can do this now via social media. Direct message, refer to people by their name, talk about the problem together and how you’re going to fix it. Companies used to want to put forward a big corporate image. These days we all want to deal with people. So, wether you’re Wal-Mart, GE or Joe’s Shoe Shine, we want to deal with individuals, just like us.
Connect with your customer, its not that hard to do. A little personal attention goes a long way. A phone call or a Twitter conversation only needs to take a few minutes and the impact is far deeper than a form letter from your marketing department with some coupons stuffed in for good measure.
5. Get your team aligned
All of the above points don’t work unless you’ve got your team aligned on the important characteristics of your brand. What are your core values? What is your brand promise? Your team should know these by heart. That way, when they are empowered and they are listening and responding on a personal level, they are doing it in a way that fits your company and its brand.
That's it. Five easy things that are virtually free, but will powerfully impact your brand. They may seem simple but many companies ignore them. As my salad story illustrates, they do so at their own cost. Start improving your brand today!