January 2014

Top Posts of 2013

2014-01-22T16:52:40+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , , |

Happy New Year!

As we look forward to creating new content in 2014, it’s fun and helpful to look back and see which posts from 2013 you found most interesting.

Check out the top 8 most-read posts below!

1. Branding vs. Marketing: What’s the Difference?

This “Point-Counterpoint” article from our Crackerjack Marketing Series touches on the key differences (and similarities) between marketing and branding.

2. Tips to Drive Sales At Your Location With In-Store Events

One of the best ways to build awareness, excitement and traffic to a new location is through a grand opening event. Check out this article for our top tips on how to succeed.

3. 275 Most Common Marketing & Communication Venues

This extensive list will help you think outside the box in your next strategy and brainstorming meeting. There are more ways to reach people than eMail or an ad in the newspaper!

4. How Valuable Are Loyalty Programs?

If you’re thinking about launching a customer loyalty program this year, this article is a must-read.

5. What Are The Key Components to Include in a Brand Style Guide?

Depending on the size of your business, your Brand Style Guide might be a few pages or heavy textbook. Regardless of the guide’s size, make sure to include these key components!

6. Why is a Brand Style Guide Important?

Amongst other things, a Brand Style Guide ensures that each employee (from the CEO to the new intern) knows the proper way to represent the brand via various communication channels. It’s the “voice” and look and feel of your brand.

7. Take Your Audience On a Hero’s Journey

After reading Nancy Duarte’s Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences, Paul shares his tips on how to make your next presentation more like a great story.

8. 3 Simple Decision-Making Tools

Have some big (or small) decisions to make in the near future? Consider consulting one of our handy dandy decision making tools to make your life a little easier!

In 2014, we’ll continue to provide you with relevant, helpful and interesting articles to help you succeed and stay inspired. Stay tuned!

February 2013

January 2013

What are Key Components to Include in a Brand Style Guide?

2013-01-24T13:59:22+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , , |

POINT: Paul Williams

There are two types of information that may be included in a Brand Style Guide. I’m going to refer to the entire package of tools as Brand Identity & Standards Guide. The first type of information has to do with the brand identity elements – logo, color scheme, font usage, etc… The second documents corporate guidelines – mission, values, etc…

Based on your company size, you may have some or all of these bits of formally documented. If your company is smaller, this information may only live in the brains of the founder and the person who does your design work. (more…)

October 2010

National Trademark Expo: Oct 15/16 Washington DC

2010-10-12T19:35:53+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

One of the benefits of living near the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is you get to bump into celebrities.

For example, today – just outside our neighborhood Starbucks – we saw T. Markey!

T. Markey Logo

I wonder if he has a girlfriend named Brandy?

He was walking the neighborhood to build awareness of the National Trademark Expo event taking place this Friday, Oct. 15 and Saturday Oct. 16 at the USPTO campus in Alexandria, VA. (600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, VA)

The event is designed to build awareness of the role and importance of trademarks in the global economy.

I’ll have to attend the event and report back to you…

At this moment, mascots making personal appearances include…

  • The Berenstain Bears,
  • Dippin’ Dots,
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog,
  • Curious George,
  • The Man in the Yellow Hat,
  • Cat in the Hat,
  • Lorax,
  • Crayola Crayons’ mascot “Tip”,
  • Betty Boop,
  • Dennis the Menace,
  • Popeye and Olive Oyl,
  • Pilsbury’s Doughboy,
  • Hershey’s Kisses,
  • Hershey’s Reese’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups,
  • Hershey’s chocolate bar,
  • Sprout,
  • 5-hour Energy bottle character,
  • GEICO’s Gecko,
  • Chick-Fil-A’s cow, and
  • Spuddy Buddy character.

May 2010

Seattle’s Best Coffee Announces Cart, But Where’s The Horse?

2010-05-14T17:39:24+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

On Wednesday May 12th, Seattle’s Best Coffee, announced the beginning of their “brand transformation” with a new logo that (as they put it) matches their “optimist outlook and simplified approach to great coffee experiences.”

Over the next months and years, they plan to “show up in new ways and different places. Places where great coffee should be.”

This tactic is premature and not customer-ready.

Starbucks purchased Seattle’s Best in 2003. It was positioned in press releases as a way to offer coffee lovers a different taste profile than what Starbucks offers.

The two key drivers for buying Seattle’s Best discussed within Starbucks were:

  • For their food service business, and
  • To have a sister brand – of a lower tier – that would allow Starbucks (the corporation) to open in sites not suitable for the Starbucks brand. (Keep Starbucks positioned as premium, yet don’t lose business in those other spaces.)

Other than opening in Border’s bookstore locations, Seattle’s Best hasn’t done much during the past seven years.

And, each time one of those “second tier” locations became available, a Starbucks was built instead.

This has also helped to create a situation where consumers no longer see the gap of service / experience / quality between Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s / McCafĂ©.

One of the original intentions was to not broadcast Seattle’s Best as a sub-brand of Starbucks… Rather to leave them perceived as separate and even, competitors.

Other than making Starbucks seem even BIGGER and intent on taking over the world – there isn’t much value in promoting Seattle’s Best connected with Starbucks. So it makes no sense why Seattle’s Best is being promoted with the tagline:

“The next big thing from Starbucks isn’t Starbucks.”

Unfortunately, more than anything, Seattle’s Best is showing us what NOT to do.

What’s Confusing

  • Why Should Customers Care? Other than a landing page, a new logo, and a homemade video – there are no other changes. Especially none that benefit customers.
  • Seattle’s Best has killed their own thunder. When they do make a meaningful change, it will be expected versus a surprise. They will “owe it to us” versus surprise and delight us.
  • The ‘hope it goes viral’ video featuring Seattle’s Best employees breaking into the bell tower of Starbucks headquarters and covering up the Starbucks siren logo with the new Seattle’s Best logo doesn’t make any sense.

    Covering up the old logo with a new logo is what businesses do when one business buys another.

    Based on this tactic – to the average consumer – it appears Seattle’s Best has purchased Starbucks.

  • [Starbucks Bought By Seattle’s Best?]

  • Why is Seattle’s Best being promoted as “the next big thing from Starbucks?” What good does it do to promote Seattle’s Best as a Starbucks product?

    Seattle’s Best was recently launched at the coffee brand at SUBWAY sandwich shops. The ads feature the old logo. It would seem to make sense to wait to launch Seattle’s Best in SUBWAY until after the brand transformation? Especially with exposure Seattle’s Best is getting of the old log in SUBWAY ads.

What To Do Differently

Seattle’s Best has no news now. Stop trying to generate buzz and excitement for something that doesn’t yet exist.

  1. Make changes that benefit customers. (A spiffy logo is not a customer benefit). Do something new, different, or better than now:
    • Better product,
    • Better prices,
    • Better environment,
    • Better service…
  2. Relaunch this new, different, better at all locations on one day. Surprise customers – like an overnight beauty make-over.

    I visit my Seattle’s Best location today and BAM! – there is a new logo on the building exterior, new menu boards, new cups, new logo on products, on the aprons, new ads, and SUBWAY locations change as well. All this unveiled the same day – all at once. Wow!

    THAT is a brand transformation!

    Instead, they’re are doing it piece-meal. Instead of a beauty make-over, we have to watch them slowly grow out their hair… So slow, will we care that it is happening (and I quote) “over the next months and years.”

  3. Until there is anything truly newsworthy to share – keep this information internal .

    • Focus on getting buy-in and participation from your franchise team.
    • Get your employees on-board and excited.
    • Focus on whatever it is that is going to make you better than you were – other than a new logo.

What do you think?

September 2009

Balancing Unity And Variety:
Branding Lesson From Classical Music

2017-03-01T11:56:21+00:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , |

Unity promotes cohesiveness. Variety creates interest.

A business lesson taken from classical music.

Ultimately, all composition comes down to a balance between unity and variety.

Too much unity, too much of the same thing, leads to boredom. But, too much variety leads to chaos.

This sentiment is attributed to Russian composer Igor Stravinski by music commentator Rob Kapilow.

While this reference was about music composition, it just as easily applies to your brand, your products and services, the way your office is run, or your blog content.


You need the unity – sameness – to have a theme. Something people can depend on. Something they trust.

  • A consistent message, the same look, the same quality, ongoing standards. Safety that can be relied upon. Service that is always the same.

But, too much consistency can become tedious.


Variety will stimulate and keep interest.

  • New designs. Upgraded versions. Additional features. Better, faster, stronger, friendlier…

However, too much variety too often – and you will seem disorganized and may create confusion.

What is the balance like at your company?

This post was inspired by Rob Kapilow’s “What Makes It Great” program. A podcast filmed at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts where he talks about Bach’s Italian Concerto, BWV 971.

September 2008

How To Use Bookmark Tags For Brand Insights

2009-01-03T11:40:20+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

Ever wonder what people associate with your company or brand? I do.

One measure is to examine the “key words” people use when they bookmark your website/blog.

Delicious is an online bookmarking service that allows users to label a site with tags meaningful for that user. By viewing how Delicious users have tagged your site, you can get an idea of how you’re perceived.

The pie chart below represents Idea Sandbox is perceived. These are the most common tags Delicious users have stuck on Idea Sandbox.

I don’t see the word “retail” or “retail marketing” on that list. I’d like to be associated with retail marketing. This means that I… (a) don’t convey that, (b) don’t talk about it enough, or (c) perhaps I *do* talk about it, but that’s not how Delicious users have used my site.

Important to note…these are not the tags I use to describe my posts or site (like what Technorati reports)… this is what you have labeled.

You can use the URL look-up tool on Delicious (http://delicious.com/url/), to see what tags people have labeled any website.

July 2008

What Is Burger King Thinking?

2016-02-18T20:17:51+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , |

At the airport yesterday afternoon, after pulling our luggage off the arrival carousel, we decided we needed a bite to eat. What the heck… let’s get something at Burger King.

Divvying up our food items revealed the “Veg City Airport” themed artwork on the Burger King paper tray liner.

Burger King is using the airport security screening metaphor – blocking bad people from getting through the gates – as a way to convey that they (Burger King) similarly screen for only quality ingredients.

But what the hell is going on in this picture?

First I saw a nervous looking onion.
Then I noticed it had its pants down.
Then I noticed the angry pickle… and then the examination glove?!

[click for larger image]

It seems that the Onion depicted in this image isn’t a quality ingredient. Yikes.

The Onion is standing in the middle of the airport with his pants around his ankles while an angry, brawny “pickle” slips on a examination glove in preparation for a body cavity search.

I’ve got so many questions.

In addition to Botox and anti-aging cream (to make itself look fresher than it actually is and try to sneak into Burger King’s ingredients)… Look at the collection of articles airport Pickle security has dumped out of the Onion’s bags… (i.e. Burger King has allowed the artist to depict in the cartoon artwork).
(I’ve zoomed in and flipped the images so they’d be easier to read)

“Wet Vegs” magazine? (featuring a topless large-breasted pickle licking her lips)

“Playveg” magazine… featuring a half-naked well-endowed carrot pepper.

And a copy of “Green and Horny” featuring a big-breasted, topless pickle.

I feel bad for the Onion. I get that it’s a “bad” vegetable… not the kind Burger King wants to serve… but this treatment is just humiliating.

Joking aside… is this the brand Burger King wants to be? The kind that features images of body cavity searches performed on an onion by a “Village People” pickle?

(notice resemblance to Village People character)

The artwork is part of a series called Veg City. There’s the Airport, Red Light District, Sniper, and two seasonal versions: New Year’s Eve and Halloween. These were created by the BBDO German agency called .start based in Munich, Germany. (Thanks Ads of the World for the links).

Please don’t misconstrue this post as supporting/creating “buzz” for a successful tactic by Burger King. (Unless, Burger King is positioning itself as the “Hooters” of fast food burgers). This Mad Magazine-style execution – while funny and clever – doesn’t fit the Burger King I’ve known.

What is Burger King thinking?

Via email, I’ve met the artist who illustrated this project, Christoph Hoppenbrock. He is quite talented. You can take a look at his work at Bildbauer.de.

September 2007

Life Cycles

2017-03-01T11:57:01+00:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: |

As stated about three-quarters of the way into your Marketing 101 book… Products, like people, have been viewed as having a life cycle. The product life cycle concept describes the stages a product goes through in the marketplace.

[click for larger view]

The life cycle diagram helps us remember products change over time and so should their supporting marketing strategies.

The above version of the life cycle diagram is particularly helpful as it not only shows the stages of the life cycle and the curve, but also the stages of six different decision making factors: Audience, Market, Sales, Competition, Business Focus, and Design Focus.

I recreated this illustration found in the book “Universal Principles of Design: 100 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design.”