January 2014

“What Great Brands Do” Virtual Book Tour

2014-01-28T16:55:45+00:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , |

What_Great_Brands_DoToday is Day 2 of the virtual book tour featuring What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest by Denise Lee Yohn.

Author and Customer Loyalty expert Jackie Huba kicked the tour off on Monday at her site with:

Tuesday (today) Phil Gerbyshak posted a great video interview with Denise. Check it out…

Here is the tour schedule for the rest of the week!

We hope you follow along!

May 2013

March 2013

Does the Personality of a Brand Need to Be Reflective in All Marketing Activities?

2014-08-24T15:19:00+00:00 Categories: Crackerjack Marketer, SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

POINT: Paul Williams

A brand, doing its job well, shows personality in all it does, not just marketing.

The way they greet customers. The wording on their packaging. The way they answer the phone. All should show that personality.

Problems arise when brands do things that are not congruent with their perceived personality. (more…)

5 Great WordPress Theme Sites For Your Website

2013-03-02T12:20:45+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , , |

Gone are the days where you have to pay a designer each time you wish to update your website. And, WordPress (the free content management system) is so easy to use with easy to install themes… you may not need a designer at all.

WordPress is the content management system – the code that controls publishing your content. Themes change the look and feel of the site and add different functionality. A theme may include a simple color scheme or may have 100s of customization options – from color scheme, product slide show, shopping cart, etc.

WordPress is Open Source which means two things. (1) It is free. (2) It is built and improved by a community.

Free makes some people nervous. “You get what you pay for,” is the worry. The beauty of BIG open source projects is, instead of a small team or committee, you have thousands or millions of eyes looking for fixes and improvements.

Themes range from free to “premium” (which means they cost). Pricing for premium themes can range from $10 to hundreds of dollars. (Although I haven’t seen a theme for more than $145 or so).

5 Great Premium WordPress Theme Sites

With all that background, here are the sites to check out in exploring WordPress themes for your site. Most of these offer themes by a range of designers and developers.

[fancy_list style=”star_list”]

  • Mojo Themes
    Mojo Themes has over 400 themes classified by types of sites ranging from blog, business, commerce, magazine, restaurant, and more.
  • StudioPress
    Over 40 themes to choose from, each priced from $80 to $100, organized by: category, features, and layout.
  • MySiteMyWay
    Mysitemyway offers 9 in-house designed themes. In fact, Idea Sandbox is built on their Construct theme.
  • WooThemes
    WooThemes has a great collection of more than 80 themes. Themes start at $70. (Buying 1 theme allows you 2 bonus downloads).
  • YOOthemes
    Not to be confused with Woothemes, YOOthemes has some pretty neat offerings with options.


3 Things To Do To Prepare For Your New Site

When we help companies prepare to launch a site there are three things we ask them to do:

  1. Work on the words
    Think about the things potential customers want and need to know. Key sections are:

    • What we do – tell me what you do, why do we need your services/products.
    • About us – tell us who you are, what you believe in.
    • Our offerings – what do you do, what don’t you do?
    • Contact us – how do we reach you if we want to learn more or buy from you?
  2. What do you NOT want the site to look like?
    Get a good idea of what you do NOT want in a website. Save bookmarks or screenshots of sites you don’t like. Sometimes it is easier to get what you want with focus on what isn’t desired.
  3. What DO you want the site to look like?
    Save bookmarks and screenshots of sites you like and love.

Theme Selection Tips

We have a few more tips that may help with your choice…
Try Before You Buy
Most themes allow a live demonstration where you can see what it looks like live. Click on the menus in the demo to see sample blog article pages, product landing pages, sample gallery pages, etc. Many allow you to adjust colors and styles right then-and-there to get a sense of how customizable they are.

Choose Responsive Themes
The newest themes “responds” by resizing itself for easy viewing. People aren’t just looking at websites on their desktop computers. They are using laptops, tablets, and smartphones. A responsive theme adjusts itself to look great on all these devices.
We’re tired of hearing about search engine optimization (SEO). Snake Oil Salesmen salespeople and marketers are scaring people into spending money on elaborate SEO optimization and tricky ways to drive traffic to your site to “show up first” in the search engines.Most premium themes do most of the things that are needed to make your content easily visible and findable by search engines.

The REAL secret to get picked up by search engines is to provide fresh articles and content on a regular basis. Information your target audience wants and needs. Gaining a reputation as the provider of that type of content will get others to link to you. These are the things that get you found.

Finally, if anybody offers to sell you “loads of link-backs” from fake sites they have created to simulate popularity… RUN AWAY! You want quality, not quantity.

Well, we offered more than simple a list of sites, but we hope this short guide is useful for you!

January 2013

October 2012

Global Virtual Tasting Creates Chilean Wine Brand Ambassadors

2017-03-01T11:56:04+00:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Last Wednesday I participated in the Wines of Chile Blogger Tasting: A Chilean Terroir Master Class, a virtual tasting sponsored by Wines of Chile and organized by their agency, the thomas collective.

This genius marketing event was a two hour virtual event featuring 12 bottles of four distinct grape varietals lead by Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer live from Santiago, Chile with 12 winemakers from Chile’s most prestigious regions. With 25+ wine writers and bloggers online and a few in person in Santiago with the group, a word of mouth fleet was created that evening.

Many virtual tastings are done regularly, but this one was different than others I’ve participated in. Here’s why…

The Planning

Over a month in advance, the agency reached out for interest in participating. Then a few weeks out, a thorough kit arrived with all the tools we needed. The week prior to the event, we received a detailed instruction email on how to participate and to ensure we received our kits. Keys to success!

The Tools

An incredible toolkit arrived at our door a week in advance…a full case of Chilean wine! Who doesn’t love to receive that in the mail!

It wasn’t just a box of wine. It was a surprise when you opened it…designed just for us…the Live from Santiago Terroir Master Class kit. Twelve bottles of wine nicely packed, and a kit for the evening with tasting sheets for each round of the four tastings and a one pager on each wine.

The Event

Most virtual tastings are simply a gathering on Twitter. This one was held on Adobe Connect with video…thus the LIVE from Santiago. In addition to the Master Sommelier lead, they had ALL 12 winemakers in attendance to speak to their wine. Thus two hours was needed. Those who read the pre-instructions were all ready to participate with wines chilled, glasses, tasting sheets, etc…

The set up in Santiago was very cool. From a hotel with a tasting bar, host Fred sat on one side and invited each the winemakers up in groups of three during their wine round…Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Fred introduced each wine and the winemaker shared with us the tasting of the wine, details about it and specifics about their winery and region. We followed along via our tasting sheet, the video, the spec sheet and chatting with other participants.

Having done the tasting solo, I was left with LOTS of wine to share with friends. Word of mouth at work, I gave a friend 4 bottles to share with her friends. Then I went to a friends’ house for dinner the next evening and shared all remaining 8 bottles with 6 more friends. That’s lots of additional exposure and tasting ambassadors.

Cheers to Wines of Chile and the thomas collective for creating a best in class virtual marketing event.

Have you hosted or participated in any best in class virtual events?


September 2012

The Marketing Power of a Simple T-Shirt

2017-03-01T11:56:06+00:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

by Shannon Jones

This weekend I was reminded of the power of a simple, inexpensive and easy marketing tool … the t-shirt.
At last month’s Wine Bloggers Conference in Oregon, we visited Willamette Valley Vineyards. Willamette is the name of Oregon’s main wine region or AVA – American Viticultural Area. And it’s a name that’s often mis-pronounced. As Willamette Valley Vineyards bares the names, they’ve taken it upon themselves to educate the world on it’s pronunciation through a t-shirt they sell and use that says … “It’s Willamette Dammit!” Once you read it, you’ll smile and never pronounce Willamette wrong again.

Willamette Valley Vineyards gave all the wine writers visiting (over 100 in total) t-shirts along with a sample bottle of their delicious Pinot Noir.

Out running errands this weekend, 3,000 miles away from Oregon, I was wearing the t-shirt and it sparked conversation with six people…about the name, the region and the wine. That’s six people newly educated on Oregon wine, the Willamette Valley and Willamette Valley Vineyards.

Imagine this happening with all 100 wine writers, even by just wearing the t-shirt once a month. That’s some great word-of-mouth marketing generated for very little investment. All because of a clever t-shirt.

Another tool for your marketing toolbox.

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 / McCafé.

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.

April 2009

Chris Gash, Talented Illustrator Of Idea Sandbox Site – Part 2 of 2

2009-10-06T13:28:35+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

This is Part 2 of a 2-Part article about illustrator, Chris Gash. (ChrisGash.com) Part 1 posted yesterday. Chris is one of the talented people who helped me re-design the Idea Sandbox website.

Chris was kind enough to answer some questions about his style, approach, and work. I hope you enjoy the discussion…

What lead you to pursue this retro style illustration?

It was never a consideration, it was just what I did. I don’t recall the first time I thought ‘I want to do that’, but I guess it’s from reading comics, the illustrations in the ads, my parents dragging me to garage sales as a kid and always being surrounded by old things and consequently, old illustration.

30s, 40s, 50s illustration, whether you like it stylistically or not, is traditional, good figurative drawing. And I think that’s part of why it’s still hanging around in illustration, and partly I think because there’s a familiarity to it that people respond to on some level, either sincerely or ironically, like macaroni and cheese.

How do you create your work? It looks as if you use the old school pencil, brush and ink? (And I love it). Do you do draw and ink on paper, scan and color on computer?

Pencil sketches, ink the drawing, scan it and color it in Photoshop. I used to watercolor everything, but as deadlines got tighter I had to adapt in order to take more assignments. It was a flat style of color so the difference is negligible in print, especially newsprint. At first it was a practical decision, but I actually like the possibilities Photoshop opened up. I still paint in my sketchbook, but that’s about it.

How much bigger is your original artwork than what typically gets printed? Same? Much bigger?

When I used to paint the illustrations I did them anywhere from 150 to 200% larger. I also inked exclusively with a brush at that point and that required a larger size original. Now I do them at most 125% and use a combination of pens and brushes.

What artists inspire or have inspired you?

It’s been different at different times.  When I was a student it was the countless nameless illustrators of old advertisements.

TinTin and the European ‘clear line’ illustrators were big for me for a long time too,

Tintin Artwork

Joost Swarte,

Swarte Artwork

Serge Clerc,

Clerc Artwork

Ted Benoit.

Benoit Artwork

Daniel Torres is another big one,

Torres Artwork

and whoa, Dan DeCarlo, I love that guy,

DeCarlo Artwork
DeCarlo was also the illustrator of the Archie Comics series

and Reginald Mount, I wish I could find more of his work.

Mount Artwork

I was Steven Guarnaccia’s assistant for years and his work had a big impact on me as well, he’s a great illustrator and designer.

Guarnaccia Artwork

As a student I loved all the guys who worked in a retro style,
Mike Klein and

Klein Artwork

Mark Matcho especially, they are both so good.

Matcho Artwork

And Christoph Niemann, good grief, they should put his brain in the Smithsonian, for my money, that’s as good as ideas get.

Niemann Artwork

If I tried to list all the comics guys and contemporary illustrators I love or am jealous of, we’d be here all day.

What am I missing that you think people should know?

I tend to avoid long-term projects. I love editorial illustration because of the pace, nail a good idea, draw it, move on. I think I need it to move along like that.

I am perpetually working on 2 kids books that I swore to finish this year, a cartoon strip that is NC-17, and a series of animations of various footrests called Ottoman Empire.  When you’re alone all the time, strange things seem like really good ideas…

Thank you Chris for your time, and for your art!

The images selected were pieces I found on the internet while researching the artists, they don’t necessarily reflect the pieces that Chris specifically likes. All artwork is © by the respective artists.