Monday, October 15, 2012

Bricolage - Pulling a large rabbit out of a small hat by the power of branding

"Just Do It." Chances are, you know the company behind this statement. Images of sports shoes and apparel, swooshes, and athletes fill your mind. More importantly, though, you know what the tagline implies. "Just Do It" is now a cultural idea, a way of life, a representation of athletic effort, of competition, of sweat and grit and determination to push one's body to its limits.

Stephen Nachmanovitch, famed author, lecturer, and improvisational violinist, discusses the French word bricolage in his book, Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, and equates it to what engineers call elegance, or a system in which something with a very complicated nature is diluted into a simpler representation. Bricolage may produce "a single line of thought [that] has a great many implications and outcomes."*

Nachmanovitch would label the creators of Nike's famous tagline as "creative chemists." He writes that through the process of bricolage, "we take the ordinary materials in our hands [in this case three small words and a period] and turn them into new living matter - the 'green gold' of the alchemists."**

Just as Nike's brand image is elegantly found in "Just Do It," all great brands are birthed from, bathed in, and interwoven with bricolage (e.g. the Rolex crown, Apple's bitten apple, Ferrari's red.) The goal of the master brand strategist is leveraging simple tools to attain complex feelings - i.e. gut reactions to a company that is forever etched in the consumer's mind. Just as "Beethoven crafted his own music, to an amazing extent, of nothing but scales,"* so the medium of our art, whether a logo, tagline, brochure, or website, works within the wholethrough the process of bricolage—to create something far more powerful, the "green gold" of all commerce and industry: the memorable brand.

*p. 86, Nachmanovitch, Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art 
**p.87, Nachmanovitch, Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Letter from the Editor: Tell Your Story

Dear Friends,

In previous SweetSpot newsletters, we featured the five branding disciplines…differentiation, collaboration, innovation, validation, and cultivation. While we could expound on each of these very important aspects of branding more, the bottom-line is always about storytelling.

From birth, children of every culture hear stories told by parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, books, and more. Why? Because stories connect us together. Sharing them bridges generations, all the while teaching, entertaining, and bonding. It's even been said that the importance of stories in our lives ranks somewhere between nourishment and shelter. 1

Because stories are easy to remember and illustrative, they build stronger emotional bonds between people and parties. This is true of branding stories as well, which is a viable marketing method, proven to build customer loyalty.

An authentic brand story...

  • makes the brand memorable,
  • differentiates it as desirable,
  • breathes life into it,
  • creates a distinctive competitive advantage,
  • motivates the target market, and
  • positions the company as visionary.

So, the question we always ask our clients is, "What is your brand story?" (Take a look at our article "Brand Legend: Do you have it?" for inspiration and successful brand lores.) Ultimately, our goal is to help them emotionally connect with their customers and provide a memorable experience that will build loyalty. 

Here's to telling great stories!
Bridget Hornsby

Hornsby Brand Design

1: Price, Reynolds (1978). A Palpable God, New York:Atheneum, p.3.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Brand Legend: Do you have it?

As champagne is to Champagne, France, so is Scotch Whiskey to Scotland. There's only one true Scotch whiskey and in Scotland, it's just called “whiskey,” for there is no other substitute for the folks in the Highlands, therefore, there is no need for the regional adjective.

In examining their marketing story we can learn an important lesson from the passion behind this unique blend of water, barley, yeast and fire. Do they use language? Yes. Do they exploit exclusivity? Yes. Do they tout the uniqueness of the terrain? Yes. But the BIG lesson is in the legend.

Legend provides strength, mystery, and validity for brand marketers. Some brand examples include Coca-Cola's unique formula, Colonel Sander's secret herbs and spices, or the one and only P&G's floating Ivory soap made from a formula discovered by accident.

The use of legend is even more potent with Scotch makers as the unique flavor is credited to both the ingredients and the individual size and shape of the vats in which the whiskey ferments. Even with replacement vats, some distilleries stay true to form as they replicate the original vats from more than 200 years ago, down to the cracks and dents. Such is the power of the legend in Scotland.

One legendary example is the exercise of a 300-year-old tradition believed to be the secret to Glendfiddich Whiskey's smooth taste. Glenfiddich Distillery hires a Scottish bagpiper to play to the casks of whiskey. This legend wins Scotch brand loyalists from around the world...a brand marketer's dream accomplishment. In fact, some sobering facts regarding the marketing success of Scotch is that it is enjoyed in more than 150 countries worldwide, and, since 2006, global shipments have exceeded 1 billion bottles. Even the English golfer Horace Hutchinson expresses typical British sentiments saying, “We borrowed golf from Scotland as we borrowed whiskey. Not because it is Scottish, but because it is good.”

In light of this information, consider for a moment what legends exist around your brand. Is it your history? A unique process that differentiates your product? An idiosyncratic detail that might seem strangely laughable today? The BIG question is how can you merchandise those in such a way that starts to build a legend around YOUR brand?

Trends: The Math of Khan

3,000 lessons online. Six million visitors monthly. Viewership of a half a billion. A two-year-old, not-for-profit service with a staff of 32. What is it? It's the “Math of Khan” and more. It's Khan Academy online on a mission to offer “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.”

According to USA Today reporter, Marco R. della Cava, Sal Khan's educational videos span the gamut from algebra to French history and are “sparking a revolution” in education, prompting numerous teachers to use his class. Cava offers an example in Suney Park, a sixth-grade math teacher who is among the converted, quoting her as saying, “I had my doubts, but now I feel like the conductor of an orchestra, and if I have to tell the violins to go on with their stuff while I help the brass catch up, I can do that....I couldn’t go back to the regular way of teaching.”

Even Microsoft founder, Bill Gates touts the videos: “At 3,000 lessons online, Sal’s personal ability as a teacher is remarkable,” and “Bringing this kind of creativity and new assessment tools for teachers could make a profoundly positive difference in education.”

Quitting his position two years ago as a hedge fund manager, Sal devoted himself to Khan Academy. Cava reports that Sal recruited Google's first hired employee and programming ace, Craig Silverstein, to successfully launch the academy. “Search was a bit like where we’re at with Khan Academy,” says Craig. “There was a lot out there, and it was just a matter of helping people find what they needed fast.” His goal is to “make the site’s user experience more intuitive” and interactive.

What does Sal have to say of the project? “I teach the way that I wish I was taught. The lectures are coming from me, an actual human being who is fascinated by the world around him.”

With the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere, all of's resources are available to anyone — student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or (as stated on the website) “a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology.” The best part? Khan Academy's materials and resources are available completely free of charge.

Case Study: Kodak. Can geography feed failure?

Kodak failed partly because it “couldn’t escape the intellectual limitations of geography,” reports Rich Karlgaard in the Wall Street Journal (1/13/12). “When you study the history of great American companies that stumbled and failed, or only partially recovered,” Rich writes, “you see how difficult it is to overcome the mind-set of your immediate surroundings. Businesses located in places where success is the norm, and innovation is built into the ecology, have a better chance of fixing themselves.”

That would be locales like Silicon Valley, and not Kodak’s hometown of Rochester, New York, says Rich. The reason, he says, is that it’s easier to lay off people in Silicon Valley because there are plenty of other places nearby where they can find new jobs. If Kodak laid off people the way, say, Intel did, “the impact on a small city and the multiplier effect of lost jobs, all at once, would have been a civic disaster.” Not that Kodak’s “slow bleed” hasn’t “turned out to be a civic disaster” for Rochester, anyway.

Rich says that the Route 128 corridor, outside Boston, is another example of how geography can feed failure. Wang and Digital Equipment Corporation once prospered there, but in the early 1990s they went under. Rich says it’s because “Digital’s founder Ken Olsen and Wang’s founder An Wang…were stubbornly resistant to personal computers. Together, they cast a kind of deep-rooted code of silent resistance over the region: PCs must never be mentioned!” IBM survived, Rich suggests, because, being based outside New York City it had “zero tolerance for this “code” … The world might be flat,” writes Rich, “but innovation and adaptation remain local.”

Go Negative with “positive controversy”!

In the report “Blog, Blogger, and the Firm: Can Negative Employee Posts Lead to Positive Outcomes?” researchers discovered that moderately negative posts make corporate blogs more credible and also increase readership, which in turn offers more exposure to positive posts.

In general, readers expect business blogs to be predictably positive and boring. These posts make their blogs more of a public relations and marketing tool than an open forum. But, add some constructive criticism and/or critical commentary to the mix and suddenly you have a recipe for some honest and open dialog about the company’s products and/or services.

For example, let’s say that your company markets automobile parts online, and an employee notices that shipments, because of an archaic, supply chain practice, are being delayed. Instead of choosing to handle the situation in-house you decide to run with a post about this issue-- and any additional commentary that is spurs -- all in the spirit of improving your customer service.

I think this situation is a good example of a “positive controversy” (constructive criticism). When a company permits moderate criticism of its policies, its products or its services, readership and public engagement go up. This makes a company’s blog more credible, and increases the chances that other postings will be read, shared, and commented upon.

However, the study also found that too many negative posts could “muddy the waters”, thereby reversing the positive reader reactions. We suggest keeping such “positive controversy” posts to around 15 percent.

The key here is diligence, perspective, balance -- and of course, editing. Obviously, you should weed-out the mean-spirited, non-constructive, or demeaning post. Also suggested in the study was to employ a policy of not restricting negative posts which is different than actively encouraging negative commentary.

The other advantage of “positive controversy” online, is the ability to spot potential problems perceived by employees and/or customers before they become major issues. By carefully encouraging constructive content on your company’s blog, you’ll earn trust, respect and most of all be building an authentic brand.

80% of all websites are not effective?!

A recent study conducted by Demandbase and Focus reported that 80 percent of all websites are not effective at servicing their customers. They said "With online experiences evolving at a burning pace, what was considered “best practice” 18 months ago, has dramatically changed. Websites that haven’t been touched since 2009 “look and feel” dated, and sites that are more than four years old are absolute dinosaurs. All sites lack something, whether it’s quality content, the latest technology, or thoughtful interaction concepts."

It’s one thing when you don’t know that your company website is under performing, but to know and do nothing is detrimental to your business and your future. Decide today to get serious about your business web presence and do what you need to do. And if you don’t know exactly what to do, we can help. Either way give us a call and we’ll point you in the right direction.

Quote of the Quarter

“Our time-pressed lives leave us too busy to fully assess whatever it is we want to buy, forcing us to turn to brands we already know and trust, that makes building a strong brand increasingly essential.”

--David Reibstein, Professor of Marketing, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Things that Make You Say, "Hmm"...

Acne cream is available and served a la carte...

Details, details, details...

Deal or no deal?

Brand Glossary—Learning the ABC's of Branding

Always Addressable Customer: An end-user who has the three following criteria:
  • Owns and uses at least 3 data connected devices
  • Accesses the Internet multiple times per day
  • Goes online from multiple physical locations (for example: home, work, in the car, and at the mall)
 According to Forrester Research, "These customers require marketers to think differently about their programs if they want to be effective. To 'Always Addressable Customers,' technology is simply how they live their lives and get stuff done. It means that you can now reach this ultra-connected audience wherever they are, and whenever they need it...But more importantly, now you can provide true service and value to your customers on demand. Research shows that more than a third of all U.S. online adults are already Always Addressable. But this is not an exclusively U.S. phenomenon. In fact, certain demographics in other parts of the world have even greater concentrations of Always Addressable Customers — and the trend is only accelerating."

Repositioning: Because many viable products are initiallly positioned with inadequate resources, repositioning a product through targeted and extensive communication can expand and alter an existing product brand awareness in the existing prospects' minds and/or reach a new market.

Share of Mind: Share of mind is the proportion of thought a consumer has about a particular product in relation to all the brands in its category. In market research, the share of mind can be measured in terms of a positive perception or by its depth when incorporating a company's market position in the research.

Top-of-Mind: Top-of-mind is the highest degree of share of mind, the brand that is named first in market surveys asking about products in a specific category. Obtaining top-of-mind among prospects requires a large share voice by a company in its category.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Letter from the Editor: Let Your Voice Be Heard

Dear Friend,

These are exciting times we live in. Digital marketing is moving at lightning speed. Social media is growing daily with Google+ and Pinterest snapping at the heels of Facebook and Twitter. (See “Pinterest Q&A” this month.) Increased Smart Phone usage is displacing desktop and laptop usage for online information. (See “Are you mobilized?” this month.) And Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing will have to reinvent themselves now that Siri has arrived.

Siri (Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface) on iPhone 4S lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more. Ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back. What a fantastic invention and the epitome of technological advancement. And as this technology gains momentum, you’ll begin to see “Intelligent Automated Assistants” on all platforms that respond to the user’s voice, allowing them to not only find locations, add to their calendar, find trivia answers, download coupons and specials, but also to purchase items online...all with YOUR voice and without a keyboard.

It’s still in its infancy; Siri’s features are limited to the iPhone 4S and its default applications, as well as some applications that seem to have preferred status (e.g., Google Maps, Yelp, Wikipedia, and Wolfram Alpha—Best Buy’s shopping app). So, for small businesses, it’s important to be where she is pulling information from -- and that is Google Maps and Yelp.

The appearance and evolution of Siri gives good reason to pause, contemplate, and reevaluate your digital marketing strategy. Certainly something to think about. Let us know if we can help.





You may have noticed a new Internet buzzword lately as some of your friends on facebook are “liking” a new social medium: “Pinterest.”

So what is “Pinterest?”

Pinterest is a VISUAL social medium that acts like a bulletin board (called a “pinboard”) and allows users to “pin” their favorite photos, videos, and other virtual items. Each individual pinboard is thematic and categorized such as home decor, DIY, clothing, food, etc. This allows the user to organize their interests easily. 

The beauty of this medium is that it is inspiring and creatively driven. In fact, Pinterest's mission is to "connect everyone in the world through the 'things' they find interesting." User’s can share their pinterests on Facebook and Twitter, helping this social medium earn its place as one of the fastest growing social networks in the world, becoming one of the top 10 largest  with 11 million total visits per week.* 

So, how does it work?

Pinterest, like other social media, is membership-based and operates as an invitation-only site.  Those invitations can come from an existing user or directly from the Pinterest website by request. Also, a user can create an account by linking Pinterest to their Facebook or Twitter profile. Users add images to their pinboards through “pin it” or “follow me.” These images are usually from various blogs and e-commerce sites  with links back to the blog or site.

Who uses Pinterest?

68% of the users of Pinterest are women, 50% with children. The average annual household income is more than $100,000. Pinterest has 1.36 million visitors per day.**

What can it do for my business?

Good question! According to Wayfare, an ecommerce company, Pinterest shoppers spend 70% more than other customers and according to a PriceGrabber study, 21% of users have purchased items they saw first on Pinterest. This is a viable economic opportunity that's here to stay. 

An example of a successful pinterest marketing campaign is Ann Taylor Weddings. With an extensive offering of wedding ideas, brides-to-be can scroll through Ann Taylor’s pinboarded products and pin their favorite images and ideas for their own weddings. If the user wants a continuous feed, they can select “follow me,” which updates their pinboard as Ann Taylor adds more products. The engagement and reach multiplies with every “pin.” 

How do I integrate Pinterest with my company’s brand?

  1. Create an account: Like Facebook or Twitter, you can easily create an account for your brand that others can follow. Then through a quick search, start to follow Pinterest users that could be your brand advocates, and definitely follow those who have pinned items from your pinboard.
  2. Create boards: After you create your account you should start creating boards that can represent categories for you to pin items to. Remember that this is a VISUAL social medium so how your pins look is even more important than what you pin. It's not the recipe, but the photos of that delectable chocolate cake that makes people want to share with their followers and try them at home. It's not the clothing description, but how the clothing was photographed and styled that makes someone want to buy it.
  3. Incorporate it into other marketing efforts: Increase your engagement, reach, and ulitimately revenue through integration of a “pin it” button on your website, blog, and your other social media involvements. 

The ultimate conclusion is that "Pinning" can drive purchases. As expert digital brand builders, Modea, states:
“As marketers are scrambling to discover how to best leverage the new channel, one thing has become clear: The power of Pinterest lies in the fact that it transforms every one of its users into a personal curator of content at the click of a button. The visual nature and simple experience is a great fit for brands that want to be an organic part of their customer's social lives. Pinterest provokes a resurgence of web site referrals, which have been trending downward since the advent of other social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest is the new digital doorway to your brand and you're no longer the gatekeeper.”

What's the Bottom Line?  

If your target audience is the digitally involved (who isn't now-a-days?) and your brands are "pin-worthy" you should integrate Pinterest into your digital marketing strategy. But beware. It better LOOK great AND be useful! The "Pinterest effect" reminds us all of how important it is for marketers to focus on creativity, strong photography, and relevant content. Pinterest truly illustrates: "A picture is worth a thousand words.

*Sloan, Paul. "Pinterest: Crazy growth lands it as top 10 social site."
CNET News. 22 Dec 2011. Website.

** Modea Social Media Gurus. "Pinning = Winning | The Infographic."
Modea. 25 Feb 2012. Website.

Are you Mobilized?

As smart phone usage continues to grow, brands need to extend their communications. Get mobilized! Why? Because there's a huge opportunity to help build customer loyalty on this unique and compelling platform.

Some statistics
  • College graduates (ages 18-35) and those with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more have stronger adoption rates to mobile and are more likely to use smart phones, but every major demographic group is showing growth in the use of mobile devices.
  • 46% of Americans use a smart phone as of February 2012. Two likely factors influencing this growth are: a) The cost of smart phones has gone down significantly and b) businesses are using tablets and mobile apps more for document sharing, and for easy communication with colleagues who are working remotely. Plus, employees are expected to have email and Internet access after hours and outside the office and the easiest way to do this is with mobile. This means that people who aren't necessarily young are adopting the technology as well.

Why should my brand mobilize?
  1. Customers are already on mobile. There is no need to convince consumers that this platform/channel is viable. This saves you both money and time.
  2. Unprecedented potential for access to your customers. Given that people take their smart phones everywhere and it's culturally acceptable to use them anytime, your brands can engage with your customers more frequently and more directly than ever before.
  3. Customers have physical/emotional attachments to their smart phones. When they download an app, they invite a brand into their personal space. With the right mobile experience, brands can become fixtures of an individual's daily routine. The brands that successfully enter this space are the ones that tailor their apps to the user's needs, likes, and behavior.
  4. It's interactive. Now-a-days customers seek conversation (hence the growth of FaceBook and Pinterest). Develop your brand's reputation as being both modern and tech-savvy and responsive to customer opinions. The interaction between your brand and your customer will offer invaluable insights into how you can serve them better and ultimately impact your bottom-line.

Get started Mobilizing today! Build a new mobile site, optimize an old one, and/or start a new campaign.

Fumble on the Ad Field?

Prime real estate is said to be untapped for beefy advertising revenues, research from Horizon Media concludes. The real estate? Jerseys…football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. The untapped revenue? $370 million.

Horizon Media valued the jersey real estate according to camera face time and “detections” and applied ad rates of each of the sports. In terms of detection, baseball wins the biggest nods with its close-ups of individuals such as pitchers, catchers, and batters and was calculated to provide more that 314,000 detections during a baseball season. Football, on the other hand, leans towards the distant overview camera shots of 22 players at once, making it rank last in the number of detections (28,560) during a season. However, because of its higher ad rates, football actually could generate more ad revenue, according to the report. Jersey valuation for the NFL? $231 million. The total jersey valuation breaks out in the other three sports as follows: MLB Baseball, $101 million plus; NBA, $31 million plus; NHL, $8 million plus.
Source: Left on, Terry. “Big 4 jersey rights value put at $370M.”Sports Business Journal. 4 Feb, 2011. Website.

Brand Glossary—Learning the ABC's of Branding


Brand Essence. The brand's promise expressed in one, no more than two, words. (More than two indicates a lack of focus.) For example, Nike=authentic athletics; Disney World=magical, Harley-Davidson=independent. Brand essences are most powerful when they answer a fundamental need or feeling a customer has.


Customer Relationship Management (CRM). A technological system or software that manages and traces a company’s relationship with its customers, clients, and sales prospects. It provides one-to-one customer service and personal contact between the company and the customer, thereby increasing the bond between the consumer and the brand.


Monolithic Brand. A "masterbrand" in which the parent company’s identity is the single brand name that dominates the product or service it offers, describing those product and services in generic terms. Individual products are nearly always identified by alpha or numeric signifiers. Companies like Heinz, Mercedes and BMW use these systems.

Things that make you say, "Hmm..."

Just the facts people. Just the facts...

Directionally challenged.

Does this mean no Monopoly, too?

Oh, to be a fly on the wall should this really happen...

Now remember kids...moderation please...

Apparently, no branding specialist was consulted...

The Creative Corner: Thinking Outside the Box...

Mission Possible: Assign a deadline. Atari, Inc. & Chuck-E-Cheese founder, Nolan Bushnell once said, "The ultimate inspiration is the deadline." It's the stress levels that usually accompany deadlines that produces focus and action. Deadlines require full attention with all encumbrances set aside, and that's the groundwork for creativity and success. What tight deadlines can you set?

Monday, April 2, 2012

CARTA designs win 2012 Addy Awards for Hornsby Brand Design

Hornsby Brand Design was awarded two regional Addy Awards presented by the Knoxville Advertising Federation at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Sat. night, Feb. 25, 2012. They were given in recognition of Hornsby Brand Design’s work for Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA), which included website and photography of Chattanooga's iconic Walnut Street bridge lit at night. More than 200 people were in attendance with more than 300 entries, providing tough competition.

Principal of Hornsby Brand Design, Chris Hornsby, said, “It was such an honor to have our work recognized by our peers. Our strength--creativity--was highlighted tonight. We’re very passionate about design, because we know it can really make a difference in the delivery of our client’s message.”

Visit CARTA's website.