What a Change of Pace Can Teach You

Catherine KoniecznyIt is my last day interning at Clear Blue, my evaluations are done, I am whittling away at my last to-do list, and I find myself reflecting on what a wonderful experience I have been able to have.

When I first arrived here I was not entirely sure what to expect, at the time I did not think that my experience had prepared me for the immensely creative environment that I had jumped into, and I worried if I would be accepted. Looking back now, I am glad say those fears were unwarranted. The culture at Clear Blue has been nothing but welcoming and nurturing.

The best insight I have gained at Clear Blue has been through seeing our President, Robin Konieczny, work first-hand. It can be very easy to only epitomize a person through their title, and say that business owners are apathetic and statuesque. But when you engage the person a much more impassioned and devoted picture is painted. I was astounded to see how much creative work happened after hours; Robin always seemed to be “on”. Even in very social situations you could see the gears turning, thinking of how Clear Blue’s skills could be used to help others.

The art of promoting your resources and capabilities to others is a skill I will never again take for granted. Since my last internship was in government, it was all too easy to presume that our services would always be in demand, there is much more to be learned from having to seek out new business opportunities.

On the other side of the table, I was thrilled how much my research skills were appreciated. I underestimated just how much of it I would be doing, looking up potential clients, new product details, and best practices; a far cry from county GDPs and government budgets. Everyone encouraged me to use my own insight to find resources and provide input where I could.

At the end of the day, when I shut down my computer and clear out my drawer, I will be sad to say goodbye to Robin, Addison, and Mandy. I do not know if I will be able to find another group of colorful personalities that are as determined to see me successful and happy but I am grateful for the time I have had with them.

Catherine K. – 2014 Summer Intern (Catherine’s LinkedIn)

 

 

 

 

 

Branding: Victim of Semantics and Naitveté?

In a recent survey of 100 advertising/marketing agency websites, 64 of them equated Branding to a new logo or tagline. Only a handful correctly identified Branding as a discipline to increase the market value of a company beyond its book value. And fewer still seemed to consider the fact that effective Brand Management belongs to the C-Suite as much as it belongs to R&D, HR, Operations and oh, yes, marketing.

The industry’s confusion over the meaning of “Branding” seems to have even Wikipedia confused. Enter “Branding” into Wikipedia and it will take you to a “disambiguation page.” Evidently the term, Branding, has such a variety of definitions that Wikipedia attempts to resolve the “ambiguity” by listing the many conflicts on a single page.

Clearly, the discipline of Branding suffers from semantics.

Unfortunately, it also seems to suffer from a bit of naiveté. If most agencies think: “Branding = logo + tagline,” then the discipline of Branding as a systematic and robust methodology for increasing the value of a company from within is sadly underutilized. As a result, the prosperity of the company, its employees and stakeholders are likely compromised as well.

At the other end of the spectrum, sophisticated CEO’s and stakeholders recognize that a company’s brand is the only asset that does not depreciate. Buildings crumble, machinery ages and even patents expire, but a properly maintained brand can actually gain value year after year.*

For both B2B and B2C brands, the rewards for deliberate and powerful Branding can be huge. Consider Coca-Cola and IBM, top ranking B2C and B2B companies, respectively. By two separate surveys published recently, Coca-Cola was valued around $79 million US dollars by both, whereas IBM was valued at $79 million by one and $112 million by the other. Keep in mind, these numbers do not include any other assets like physical property or inventory and both valuations have increased from $3 to $12 million over the previous year.**

So what’s a CEO and Marketing Director to do to capture non-depreciating value like this? Brand Value is a tricky combination of tangibles like price premiums, and intangibles like consumer goodwill. Clearly, a Brand’s customers (B2B and B2C) have a considerable role in the Brand’s success and ultimate value. So, yes, powerful Branding benefits from customer understanding and segmentation, but must never be enslaved by it.

The smart C-suite engages in scrutiny to deeply understand the company’s competitive Brand Position as well as its driving Brand Purpose and the Pillars that support its Brand Promise. The result is an internal foundation of “Who We Are” and “Who We Serve” that can, and should, drive every decision in the company: innovation, international expansion, channel and distribution, social media and even marketing. The company that helps every employee in every department embrace “Who We Are” and “Who We Serve” will efficiently and powerfully win its customers and their wallets.

Commitment to focused Branding belongs to every department in the company. At Clear Blue, we have seen focused Branding initiatives driven from R&D and the C-suite as well as the marketing department. When a Brand Launch, update or refresh is successful, everyone in every department holds themselves accountable for building Brand Value. With consistency and persistence, companies like this can regularly impact their bottom line with a strong Branding initiative alone.

Ironically, an original definition of “Brand,” before the notion of a trademark ever evolved, is perhaps the best: “to indelibly impress on the memory of.” When HR, R&D, Operations, and everyone in your company consistently and powerfully make an indelible impression on your audiences, you are well on your way to a Brand Value that will make your ownership proud and your competitors nervous.

* Steve McKee, “Power Branding”

** Interbrand 2013 Best Global Brands and Millward Brown 2013 BrandZ Top 100

See this article published on Robin’s LinkedIn.

Party like it’s 1998!

The food is gone and the confetti has been swept up…sadly, the party’s over. Clear Blue’s Sweet 16 was a huge success! We had the best time celebrating with friends, family, clients and partners. Congrats to the lucky few who walked away with prizes from our raffle! To all that were able to attend, and those who sent flowers, cards and gifts, we cannot thank you enough for being a part of our special day. Without your support, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Good wine, good laughs and good people made the evening a great kick-off to a holiday weekend. Cheers to many more years to come!

Logo Redesign: More than meets the eye.

The marketing industry is continuously evolving. In order to stay on top, companies are often faced with a Visual Identity redesign. This includes the possibility of redesigning their logo to better fit small digital venues or presenting the Brand to consumers in a refreshing new way.

We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly across this branding strategy. Some logo redesigns are wildly successful across audiences, while others are a flop that can cause the company serious backlash.

We cannot stress enough the importance of the research and planning that go on behind the curtain of this process. The decision to do a logo redesign is not always an easy one, many factors come into play that are often overlooked or underestimated:

Brand Equity - How recognizable is your current logo? What parts of your logo are most recognizable and shouldn’t change? Do the gains outweigh the costs of a logo update?
Messaging – Does your logo currently portray the right personality and quality to your consumers? Would a logo update better represent your Brand as it stands today?
Testing - Are your new ideas the right direction for your company, or are your consumers attached to what you currently have? Can a logo update help you communicate a substantial shift within the company?
Listen - to your audience, pay close attention to the competitive landscape.

In years past, Clear Blue has been granted the opportunity to redesign logos for companies including Levelor, Char-Broil, Double Cooler, Bondera, Saber Grills and EquiFirst. When faced with this important branding strategy, Clear Blue has the tools and experience to ensure that your investment gives full return.

Ready for your close-up?

Your name is searched. Your profile is viewed. We read left to right, top to bottom, and inevitably my eye is drawn straight to that top left corner. Are you giving off the best first impression possible with your profile photo?

Today’s society runs off of instant results and we want that quick glance, ‘give me what I need right away’ type of answers. What can I grab from your profile photo in an instant? Are you friendly? Professional? Confident? A smile and well-thought wardrobe choice goes a long way. Put yourself in the shoes of someone wanting to do business with you. A poorly composed, pixilated, and poorly cropped photo quickly defers visitors from your page. This photo sets the expectation of how much effort you put into yourself and the work you do.

DO’s:
SMILE. This makes people feel more invited to get to know you. Make sure you’re looking engaged and not too posed or flat.
Make it a headshot. Keep in mind the size of this photo changes when it becomes a thumbnail on a homepage or when your name is searched. You should be able to clearly see your face at any size.
Be conservative. Wear solid colors, nothing flashy, and something you would want to be wearing seeing a colleague.

DON’Ts:
‘Selfies’. We all know what this word means –have someone take a quality, well lit, retouched photo of you.
No image. This is a deal-breaker folks. No one does business with imaginary people.
Distractions. By this I mean no sunglasses on, half of people’s faces/bodies on the sides, open space from cropping, etc.

The size of your photo is emphasized on the page, special attention should be paid to pose, wardrobe and facial expression. Clear Blue feels strongly about presenting themselves and their clients to be the best they can be. We have even held a few mini photo shoots in-house to provide clients and colleagues with new headshots! Make sure you’re starting off on the right foot as you use these tips and show the best possible you on social networking sites.

A change of scenery

Summer is here and things are heating up. What are you doing to prepare your home for the season? The home decorators in us recognize that with the change of seasons comes with a chance to change up the scenery. Clear Blue has its fair share of experience with home décor, and we are always excited to share our favorite tips and trends. Our tip for revamping your home this summer is to check out Hunter and Casablanca ceiling fans. The first and the finest in the world, Hunter and Casablanca offer you a refreshing way to add beauty and comfort to your home.

Clear Blue’s clientele has included companies in the tile, window treatments, outdoor cooking, furniture, DIY tools, home & food storage as well as lawn and garden. Most recently Clear Blue has developed a great relationship with The Hunter Fan Company, we even have a fan in our office. How’s that for commitment?

A new look. Cutting down on the energy bill. Yearning for a breeze on your face. It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy so create your own paradise and break out that umbrella and salt under a beautiful new ceiling fan.

3 Reasons Why Internal Brand Adoption Deserves the Spotlight

“Every decision every employee makes has an impact, small or large, on your brand, and what you do internally can bridge the gap between perception and reality, promise and delivery, credibility and hypocrisy.” – Steve McKee, Author of Power Branding; Leveraging the Success of the World’s Best Brands

Steve hit the nail right on the head with this quote from one of our favorite books. Internal Brand Adoption is one of the most crucial actions a company can take in order to ensure their brand reaches its full potential. However, it is often shoved backstage and not given the attention it deserves. Lately, Clear Blue has been dealing with the importance of internal brand adoption first hand. Our clients who focus on their internal team first, enjoy these benefits as a result:

  • Creates Brand Alignment. Your employees must understand, believe in, live, and deliver on your brand in order for your target audience to do the same.
  • Builds Employee Morale. When your employees have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in their daily interactions and know they play an important role in the success of the company, they become more productive and satisfied.
  • Brings the Brand to Life Internally. When your employees embrace the brand internally, they gain an emotional connection with the customer. This is then reflected in external efforts through better customer care, product development, and other positive brand experiences and benefits.

“The more you can ensure that the decisions that your people make through the course of each day are true to the essence of your brand, the better.” - Steve McKee

Don’t make the mistake of ignoring this very critical and beneficial process. It’s almost impossible to have successful branding to your external audience; start with the spotlight on your internal audience.

BAAAAHHH! It’s Spring!

The foodies here at Clear Blue welcome spring with winery visits, ice cream and lots of special foods.  Yes, our work on food accounts often means we can actually combine work and pleasure and when we come across a tasty treat, we like to share.  So our tip for foodies everywhere this spring is, Icelandic Lamb.  Forget everything you think you know about lamb and read on.

Iceland is relatively pollution free and the lambs range free, grazing on willow and berries in the cold clean land of glacier-fed springs and northern lights.  Sheep framing is a cultural heritage, rich with respect for the land and the animals, including the horses and sheepdogs that tend the sheep.  Spring lamb from Iceland is shipped all over the world to eager chefs who treasure the meat for its tenderness and mild flavor.

Visit www.icelandlamb.is to find recipes like: Basil and honey coated lamb crown roast with cumin black-eyed peas and basil pesto. Check out their website and new brochure – as you can see, they are proud of it. Cheers to you, Icelandic Lamb. Skál, baby!

Make your headline a head-turner.

Every day calls for a headline, whether you realize it or not. You might not have received the glory of coming up with the headline used on the latest ad produced, but you sure did knock putting a subject line on that email out of the park. Whether it’s social media, emails, blogs, press releases or ads, an effective headline is a must.

At Clear Blue, we are accustomed to spending hours upon hours, dishing out every version possible until we find the perfect fit. This effective statement is what captures your reader’s attention, enticing them to find out more of what you have to say. Here are our top three tips to accomplish just that:

1. Understand The Messaging – The more information you can gather around the key message and purpose of what is being presented, the more focused your headline can be. Convey that message or purpose in the headline so your reader’s clearly know the benefit to come from looking at your material.
2. Short And Sweet – Don’t put your audience to sleep before they reach the good stuff. Keep it simple and to the point, while at the same time grabbing their attention in an informative yet catchy way.
3. Write It Last – Put the main material on paper first, allowing you to flush out all the facts. Once the message is in front of you, creative opportunities for a killer headline can surface.

Keep these tips handy for when the opportunity presents itself, and let the creative juices flow as you work to find the perfect head-turning headline.

LiuGong shines at ConExpo

It’s a long way from home, but Clear Blue’s client, LiuGong Machinery Corporation of Liuzhou, China, showed no signs of jet lag at Las Vegas’ ConExpo 2014. ConExpo is one of the world’s largest conventions, held for the immense unveiling of the newest equipment, technology and products in the construction industry. LiuGong’s booth was a sight to see.

Account Executives, Addison Prophet and Mandy Shelton were the lucky attendees, helping to spread the news about LiuGong’s new Visual Identity. Clear Blue was chosen over 5 other agencies on 3 continents to create the VI which debuted in the form of booth graphics and collateral designs.

After a collaborative two-year process of research and development, the VI debut was a hit! Compliment after compliment and words of endorsement not only came from LiuGong North America team members and dealers, but representatives of competitor companies as well.

The overall trip was a huge success for both LiuGong and Clear Blue, making us even more proud to call them our client. Keep an eye out this month for LiuGong’s new Brand and Visual Identity launch!