What's-in-a-brand

What’s in a Brand?

What's-in-a-brand

As an advertising expert, I examine and study brands. Like a moth to a flame, my radar sounds whenever I see the word “brand”. I look at that brand with a technical eye: the design, the usage of collateral genius that is taken (and missed) for messaging, and brand flair.

But as a consumer, I experience brands the same way everyone else does and I can’t help but see what the public sees, and more importantly, feels. This feeling is the true branding experience.

With this thought in mind, I am amazed by the mass of agencies and design shops offering “branding” as a code word for “design”.  Some even take it so far as to brand themselves as the “Branding Masters” when all they are really doing is selling design.

A brand is to be experienced. The brand experience is what the consumer takes away, remembers, shares and recalls for their next purchasing decision.

Take for instance a recent experience I had with Delta Airlines. Delta no doubt has a recognizable brand, they advertise with plenty of consistency and have all the matching collateral any company could possibly need. But when I think of Delta, I don’t think of a logo or an entertaining safety briefing video attempting humor, I think of the 47-hour travel delay and refusal of proper compensation. I think about the experience of never reaching my final destination. This is now the Delta brand to me, despite millions upon millions of dollars spent in branding.

Think about the last good experience you had with a company. Did you walk away thankful for their logo or were you more aware of their customer service? Similarly, their brochure and website design, or the value of their product? Will you buy them again because they have a great uniform or because you like the way you feel in the midst of your consumer experience? Sure, the design elements can enhance this experience, but the reality is most consumers don’t know the difference between one designers argument on “good design” vs. another’s argument on “the right font”.

The consumer wants an experience. “Is that Helvetica?” is never heard from a customer looking for a better burger and smiling service.

A branding process should be a 360-degree inside-out experience. I always tell clients that it doesn’t matter how great we make you look, the reality is that making you look good isn’t very hard for any marketing or ad agency worth a dime. Designers are plentiful and just about everyone knows a good one (remember most consumers don’t know the difference between good and great as judged by an art school professor). What matters is what is happening inside of what I call your “Four Walls”. I can’t help you sell your product with growth if you have dirty bathrooms and surly wait staff. That is why we look at brands with a complete process.

 

  • What do you really sell?

HINT: It is almost never what your product actually is because the customers of today can almost always get it elsewhere

  • What do your customers really want?

HINT: You may think you know, but it takes research to find out

  • Are you telling them about your company by focusing on what you love about yourself or by what your customers love about you?

HINT: Nine times out of ten, a company is more impressed by it’s own history and factoids more than the customer is

  • Does your staff buy into the messaging and do their actions speak louder than words about your brand?

HINT: Having a manual that says your brand is efficient when you hire people who appear lazy doesn’t make you an efficient brand

  • What is your expected user experience/perception and does your brand message (including all points of contact and service) take advantage of opportunities to reach customers to grow this perception?

HINT: Understand that the consumer’s perception of your brand is likely very different than your perception of your own brand, sometimes, you’re just too close to see what they see

  • What is your smoking gun? What is truly different about your brand experience vs. your competition and why do your customers care?

HINT: Just because you do something “cool” doesn’t mean your target market will be moved to buy from you

 

Don’t look to an agency offering to “brand you”. Look to a group who brands you through examples and experiences, trains your staff, immerses itself in your culture and repurposes your messaging to effectively reach your audience in a way they will buy from you.

 

Jenn Greacen

Executive Director

WHEELS

The Clear Agency May Be The Coolest But We’re Not Staying Put

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Upon receiving the creative accolade of ‘Coolest Office Space,’ a local developer and businessman approached our agency with a creative undertaking unlike those we are usually faced with. Quint Noordstar, Tropical Smoothie owner and property investor, commissioned Clear to bring our “coolness” to his building as a part of a community redevelopment initiative for the Grand Central District of St. Petersburg.

Our agency is upgrading creating another eye-popping space just a few blocks from our prior award-winning loft. The blank canvas; includes a two story loft, a New Orleans style oversized balcony, a “backyard” patio, fireplace, kitchen, en suite offices with bath and shower, gym, fully equipped in-house production studio, private entrance and an impressive staircase. Our creative minds will start from scratch abiding by only two rules: no “hired” professional decorators and no duplication of what we created prior.

During the office build out, our team is keeping the needs of clients at the forefront of our mind, designing a space that will inspire and stimulate the work we create while staying true to our ever-present creative yet casual culture. Included in the build out will be the addition of a dedicated space for “Studio C”, our agency’s in-house video and photography studio.

Property owner Quint Noordstar said that he knew our agency was the right fit for the space after seeing our work and personally getting to know our principles. In just a few weeks, he is already impressed with what our agency has already done.

“We can’t wait to see what it will reflect when completed and look forward to having their creative additions in our neighborhood”, said Noordstar.

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“Show, Don’t Tell”

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Experiential marketing takes your ad, message, or promotion and supercharges it by engaging the consumer, prospective buyer or customer with an immersed brand experience.

Thinking beyond traditional TV, print, and even the digital components such as social media that have become commonplace, Clear’s Touch Interactive puts your brand front and center and simply can’t be clicked over, fast forwarded beyond, or page-turned to avoid.

Marketing that takes your consumer from passively watching and hearing your brand’s message can ensure that your consumer doesn’t just skim over you brand when it is surrounded by dozens of others. When consumers can actually control and choose to be a part of your advertising, that is when the fun and creativity takes on a life of its own because it can appeal to all senses.  Street teams and brand ambassadors create a social element that even social media cannot match. Events that promote your brand not only allow consumers to try products and services, but generate conversation.

An astounding 95 percent of consumer respondents stated that participating in a recent event made them more inclined to purchase the products being promoted.

If you think about what your consumer really wants, they don’t want to read about your ice cream or watch others eating it on TV. Sure that will entice them to purchase it next to 15 other brands on the grocery store freezer aisle, but what will ensure that they buy your product and share an experience with it?

This brought us to our own experimental marketing mantra show-and-don’t-tell, and Touch Interactive creates that experience.

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The Space We’ve Created For Creating

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The Tampa Bay Business Journal searches the Tampa Bay area every year to discover the most innovative, eye-popping and “coolest” office space. This year, we rose above the rest. Located inside the historic McCrory building in downtown St. Pete, elevator doors open to a 4,000 square foot loft boasting Razor scooters, exposed brick walls, a hidden balcony and even a couple of four-legged team members. We call this space home.

Our office space was a labor of love that sprouted from the mind of our CEO Jenn Greacen. Her vision was simple–do what they do best–create! From affixing a “wood river” to the conference room ceiling, to hand-building the “cubes” in the offices.

The open floor plan offers more than a collaborative atmosphere, but a teaching environment as well. As part of our Clear Labs program, a 501(c)3, advertising students and interns perform under the direction of freelance designers and developers, becoming a business entity themselves, and in essence, a functioning agency within an agency. The space is open to freelancers at no charge, with the agreement that they will train our interns whose services can be utilized by businesses at an extremely discounted agency rate.

The office space does more than impress the eye; it represents everything The Clear Agency stands for. As a “tradigital” agency, Clear blends the digital age with traditional management and strategies. The loft is also true to its roots, a ‘five and dime’ store from the 1900s. Newly renovated, it has transformed into a modern workspace that is more than efficient for a busy advertising agency. This is where traditional fuses with modern innovations. Brick walls and classic wood floors juxtapose high-tech gadgets and Mac screens.

Our employees and interns view the space as a home away from home, making it an office space that the team doesn’t mind coming to every day. And that is pretty “cool”.

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Look Who’s Trending

Cheerios

Cheerios’ campaigns have always focused on being heart healthy by pulling at the heartstrings of its viewers.  In their latest commercial, the cereal brand features a biracial child and her interracial parents. While many fans cheered on the brand’s adorable approach at childhood concern, it received its fair share of jeers.

Comments on the companies Facebook and YouTube pages ranged from appreciation and praise to hate-filled rants, but the company refused to remove the video and various light-hearted parodies fired back at the racist critics.

For years ads have depicted the American family as black or white, Hispanic or Asian but never as a blended multicultural or racial family. By blending families, relationships and even businesses, people enjoy a different look and scope on opinions, customs and ideas.

The Clear Agency celebrates its blended and nutty family because we recognize that by pooling together different backgrounds and ideas, that we can provide the best service and resource to our clients.

Research has shown that the best performing teams are diverse ones. The muscle of diverse perspectives is so strong that diverse teams outpace non-diverse teams and have potential to outperform even more capable teams.

With a blended family of employees, interns and even a dog, from various cultures we give Cheerios two spoons up.

Google

Google vs. Mention

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As we know it, Google continues to set a prime example for making the world’s information easily accessible. More than ever, Google is growing with trends of today and even more so taking us into the future with previews of mind-blowing product such as Google Glass.

While pushing towards the future gives users a sense of reliability, what happens when the world’s largest search engine jumps so ahead that it leaves popular services like it’s own Google Alerts in the dust? Other alert services such as Mention have stepped into the playing field and are taking this fallback to an advantage.

Google Alerts

Originally established for monitoring news updates, Google Alerts now monitors the latest relevant Google results in both the web and news. Although utilized by businesses, the service can be as personal as tracking one’s favorite sport team to celebrity events. A friendly service to personal users and vital tool for businesses, its main attributes are that it is free, unlimited and sends alerts directly to the user’s email.

“Free and unlimited” may have placed Google Alerts above other alert services in the past, but recently there has been quite a buzz over the service’s lack of response. Over the past few months, users are complaining that the service has not been working and therefore have turned to other up-and-coming alert services like Mention.

Mention

Overreaching Google may seem impossible to some, but then again when a service isn’t working properly, opportunity arises for breathing room amongst competitors. Claiming to be a remodeled version of Google Alerts, Mention is becoming popular amongst more and more people for reasons beyond Google’s absence.

Even though Google is the largest search engine, many alerts exist outside of the Googlesphere as well. Social media, image, and video alerts are the key benefits one is exposed to when using Mention over Google Alerts. A clean and easy interface that can be used through Android and Iphone apps are just a few things attracting previous Google Alert users.

The downside to this seemingly up-scaled service is that although a free version is offered, there are limits for those who do not purchase the upgraded premium plan. For free you are limited to three key words and 500 mentions per month. In addition to these limitations you are only able to view up to a month of history which is not a restriction when using Google. Those who wish to access the unlimited plan that offers more tracking must pay a price of $19.99 per month.

Hand in hand both have pros and cons, but the question to truly consider is whether Google Alerts has disappeared for good or will make a strong comeback with an updated version?

PEEPS-POST

Where do Peeps go after Easter?

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At The Clear Agency, we hate to see things go to waste-especially if it allows for a “sweet” competition. While eating bundles of leftover Peeps the day after Easter was tempting, Clear’s CEO Jenn Greacen had something up her sleeve to instill some friendly competition amongst her team.

The Rundown:
With a total of six team members and eight packages of Peeps, the group was divided: “The Peep Squad” v. “St. Peepersburg”. The main goal was to make creative use of these pastel treats and the competition was on! The pictures or videos would then be posted to Clear’s Facebook page for the public to vote on.

As Facebook revealed, the teams put their Peeps to completely different uses. The St. Peepersburg learned an interesting stat: enough Peeps are made each year to circle the globe twice! So, they loaded their Peeps into a remote-controlled truck to start this worldwide journey.

The Peep Squad chose a not-so-sweet way to make use of their Peeps by putting them to the test in a Peep Basketball video, launching the Peeps from the third floor of Clear’s balcony. The marshmallows came flying down onto Central Avenue with hopes of being caught in a basket below.

In the end, The Peep Squad won the competition, earning 31 Likes and 1 Share… but St. Peepersburg wouldn’t call it a loss, they would say it was those unfortunate Peeps that didn’t make it into the basket three stories below that really lost.

TOUCH-OTE-POST

Clear Touch Goes Over the Edge with St. Anthony’s Hospital Foundation

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On August 17, 2013, St. Petersburg will make history for the St. Anthony’s Hospital Foundation when 100 community leaders rappel 20 stories down One Progress Plaza, the tallest building in St. Petersburg during St. Anthony’s Over the Edge.

Not only will participants be taken to new heights, but brands will be able to feature their name, products and services during this two-day, thrill-seeking fundraiser. An event as high profile and eye-catching as Over the Edge demands an equally aggressive marketing plan. So, St. Anthony’s Hospital Foundation and Over the Edge engaged The Clear Agency and Clear Touch to take brands to new heights with experiential and non-traditional strategies.

The Clear Agency and Clear Touch invites you to take your brand to new heights!
• Showcase your brand to thousands with experiential marketing.
• Have your product used, promoted, worn and endorsed by the rappelers live and on-site!
• Expose your brand by taking advantage of our network of social streams, preparation events, advertising co-op and public relations surrounding this once-in-a-lifetime event!

TRADIGITAL-POST

Tra-Digital VS. Non-Tradigital

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Newspaper ads, radio spots and vintage tuxedos… we all love the sexiness and thrill of MadMen, but let’s face it, traditional advertising isn’t like it used to be. Don Drapers of the world have been replaced with analytical reporting tools. The question is no longer “How does my ad look?” but rather, “What was my CTR?” Newspaper ads, radio spots (and of course, vintage tuxedos) still deserve their due diligence, but as the industry evolves into the digital age, so must advertising professional.

Enter: the tra-digital agency.

At Clear, we understand and appreciate the benefit of traditional campaign management while progressing our strategies to fit the demands of the digital age. We’re not saying we won’t advertise in the newspaper, we’re just saying we’ll encourage you to buy a spot on their website, too! In every campaign we execute, be it product launch, brand advertisement or event promotion, we include a strong web and/or social aspect, helping our clients navigate the digital landscape while remaining true to our traditional roots…and that’s what makes The Clear Agency a tra-digital agency.

CLEAR-LABS-POST

Clear Labs

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At Clear, an ever-important goal of ours is to give back to our community. As a locally owned business, supporting fellow local businesses is also a core priority. Through Clear Labs, a 501(c)3, we merge these two passions.

As Tampa Bay’s advertising industry continues to grow, so does the number of youth who are interested in careers within our industry. Clear Labs allows us to help those currently in the industry and those looking to break into it. We recognize the challenges that less experienced professionals face in the job market today. So as part of our Clear Labs program, advertising students and interns perform under the direction of freelance designers and developers, who in turn, have access to work from our 4,000 square foot loft space at no charge.

In essence, this group of interns will become a business entity themselves, a functioning agency within an agency, being trained by tenured advertising professionals. Smaller businesses can then hire them as their “agency” at an extremely discounted agency rate.