The Most Powerful Influencers

We love a lot of things about this job. At the top of the list is learning something new that pushes us to a different perspective.

Often that “tah-dah” moment comes in service of helping our clients, whether we’re learning about their industry to build strategy, researching a subject for a piece of content, or checking out design trends before a branding assignment begins.

Over the years, we’ve learned hundreds of things that have changed our perspective, yet one thing continues to ring true: the most powerful influencers are clarity, simplicity, and authenticity.

We were reminded of this recently when we were working on an article about mindfulness and technology for a client. While researching the piece, we learned about two new mobile phones — Palm and Light Phone 2 — that are designed to do what Alexander Graham Bell intended the telephone to do back in 1874 — communicate.

Clear, simple, authentic.

Disruption is destructive

Somewhere between 1874 and today … Okay, somewhere between when the first advertising agency opened and today … creatives started thinking that “disruption” was the way to help their clients get noticed. Be loud. Be big. Be brash.

Listen, any creative will blow anything up to get noticed. It’s in our nature. And sometimes, sure, the only way to get a client noticed in these noisy days is to go big.

From our earliest days, we’ve done our best to avoid that type of creative, mainly because we believe most consumers are numb to flash.

Any of you that have visited Times Square have seen this in person. How long did you stare at the huge screens, bright lights, and oversized billboards? Not long, right? It’s just way too much stimulus to be a useful tool. Potential customers aren’t so much turned off by your brand’s message as they are unable to find your brand’s message — what a waste.

A better way (we think)

It’s harder to find a way to authentically connect with a potential customer with a smart strategy, beautiful photography, arresting design, and inspirational copy.

The photo to the right was taken last summer when my family was walking through the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. My son, who is currently enamored with all things punk rock, stopped and stared at this Magritte (The Discovery of Fire) painting for a fair amount of time (relative to the attention span of a 10-year-old boy). I don’t know why I took this photo, but his immersion struck me.

That got me thinking about what we do here.

This painting isn’t huge. The colors aren’t wild. The image itself is modest. But the idea is huge, and the concept is engaging.

Proof Point — Branding

The rebrand and relaunch of Everi is one of our agency’s proof points as it relates to clarity, simplicity, and authenticity in branding.

One of the first things civilians (non-marketing/branding people) see in a logo is the color. Many of Everi’s competitors were some combination of red, white, and blue, so we knew that those were the colors to avoid. Plus, we knew that Everi was taking a more elevated position in a casino — creating exciting games for players as well as providing solid financial tools for casinos — and that following the crowd wasn’t an option.

We went purple to symbolize royalty and to be unique in the industry. Then we picked complementary colors but always made sure that purple was the lead color.

As for the shape of the actual mark, we needed it to stand out on a casino floor. The final logo won the day because it’s unique in the industry while fitting in, the hidden imagery added intrigue, and the form of the ‘E’ is bold.

The Everi logo is strong without being obvious, and the color scheme is classic without being garish.

Here’s some unsolicited feedback we heard recently: “When I first saw it, I knew it was genius because it was like nothing else out there.”

Proof Point — Communications

The North Face is one of the best known outdoor brands on the planet. Their branding and advertising do a fantastic job of showing off where you can go and what you can do in North Face gear. Our task was to bring that message home to store associates to help them help their customers.

For this print newsletter, we didn’t need to brag about the brand. We needed to bring the brand to life. So, we proposed and executed a handful of articles about the people working in the stores. Where did they like to hike? What was their craziest rafting trip? Where should visitors go when they came to their area?

Then we asked the Store Operations team to put a face behind their initiatives — rather than handing down corporate directives, let’s interview someone who’s doing a great job executing the plan.

As for the design, we wanted it to look like a magazine that the associates would read in their free time. We had access to amazing brand photography, and used it, as well as some great photography from the company’s associates.

The combination of both created a piece that was engaging and informative. We stopped ‘em long enough so that they could learn about their fellow associates and how the company wanted them to perform.

Proof Point: Social Media

This is a tad tricky since our friends over at the big blue F are changing how commercial posts are going to show up in civilian feeds.

Essentially, Facebook will be down-ranking spammy links and upgrading content that is worthwhile to that specific user to maintain a quality user experience. This is how Facebook describes the ranking updates: “…the Page links that are surfaced to people will be ones they find worth their time — and the friend posts will be from friends people want to hear from most.”

For page links, this will be determined by factors including the post type, whose posting it and the engagement it’s received. The friend posts that will be appearing higher in the newsfeed include friends that you are tagged in the same place with most often, tagged in photos with, and whose photos you are consistently reacting and commenting on.

These ranking updates mean that marketers must focus on creating quality content (as always) and engagement.

Our position on social is that it’s there for us to show the faces behind the company, enabling us to make sure customers know that actual human beings power businesses. Yes, there are times when we need to express expertise through social channels, but our experience shows that it’s more interesting (and therefore more clickable) when we have people involved in the post.

We have two clients right now where we’re experimenting (the other name of the game in social) with different types of posts.

Biro & Sons is a legacy silversmith company in San Francisco. They work on amazing heirloom pieces, design and craft cool trophies, and create all sorts of items for use in religious ceremonies. We’ve used before and after photographs to show off that work on their social accounts. But, one of the most successful posts we’ve done for them was when we featured one of their longtime employees in a post.

Compass Made is a contract manufacturer that services the transportation, semiconductor, and many other industries. We’re helping them with credibility marketing (more on that in a later post), where we detail the company’s experience and expertise. We have an extensive library of product and process images, but it’s hard to build an emotional connection to a machine. We’ve found that when we show people in the posts that it becomes attractive to our audience.

The Final(ish) thought

That brings us back to the phone — pretty sure we’re gonna order one of those things this weekend — and it’s most basic promise: communication. While we’ve always done our best to strip away artifice from our work, we’re redoubling our efforts to deliver messaging with simplicity and clarity to help our clients become noteworthy.

That’s all. Thanks for reading.

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