As many of you know, I am obsessed with Sharpies. They are much more than pens to me. They are self-expression accessories, if you will. They bring color, boldness and clarity to my life — both my lives, actually. Professional Life and Private (Mom) Life. I think with Sharpie, I create with Sharpie, I edit with Sharpie, I doodle with Sharpie, I label with Sharpie, I define with Sharpie.
Yes, I think Sharpie is fine. Ultra-fine! (Heh.) I also think Sharpie is smart, smart, smart. I’ve gushed about the brand blog before, I still hold it up as a model for powerful branded presence in the social media space. The presentation below (from SlideShare) provides a fabulous glimpse at how the Sharpie team does what they do. Kudos to Susan Wassel — or SharpieSusan, as she is known to her Twitter followers — who’s been the tireless force behind this work.
OK, I am officially never going to worry again — ever — that the presentations I write are too high-concept or academic. Thanks to my esteemed colleague Lee, I had a chance to behold the joy that is the Peter Arnell “Breathtaking” Design Brief for the Pepsi rebranding. (Check it out here.) This feels ever so slightly…high-concept and academic.
I’m inspired to try a new torture test — would any presentation I write hold up to ridicule if exposed online? It’s fine to be smart and provocative (and yes, sometimes strategic explication requires sophisticated diagramming and fancy-pants words), but a person can go too far.
All that said, I am a big admirer of much of Peter Arnell’s work. He is among many other things the man who gave us the iconic DKNY billboard that graced the Soho landscape for nearly two decades (see below). I was an assistant in Donna Karan’s office at that time (now there’s fodder for blog posts) and truly loved my work. I was 24 with my first Big City Job, working in the epicenter of this crazy company just beginning to explode with growth, serving a woman who can credibly be called one of the design geniuses of our time — and this billboard made me burst with pride every time I saw it.
It never felt like advertising. It was like Donna and Peter’s love letter to the city. For that alone I’d forgive Arnell the Pepsi/Golden Ratio/Mona Lisa silliness.
Ever been asked by your day-to-day client contact to distill the essence of a program concept you were trying to get approved, so they could in turn sell it up the line to their senior management? Chances are, you’ve been hit with the notorious “elevator speech” challenge. As in, “Hey agency, if I can’t sell this idea in the course of a 60 second elevator ride with my boss, than we won’t be able to secure those incremental funds you asked for…”
I recently found new inspiration for nailing elevator speeches at sociablemedia, the great site created by Cliff Atkinson, creator of the “Beyond Bullet Points” methodology.
Atkinson’s method centers on story-driven presentation creation, and if you visit his site you’ll find lots of downloadable goodies, including a template for setting the stage for the story that will fuel your presentation.
Which inspired me to think about the elevator speech differently. The next time you’ve got to come up with one, try this approach. It starts with the basic elements of any great story — protagonist, conflict and resolution.
Step #1: Put your client’s brand in the role of story protagonist.
Step #2: What conflict can this protagonist (brand) help resolve? Conflict arises from tension between two opposing forces, or from a fundamental imbalance. What imbalance does your protagonist have the credibility to address (e.g., the tension between an unmet consumer need and a gap in the marketplace)?
Step #3: What exactly is the protagonist (brand) doing to bring about resolution?
If you can answer those three questions, you might just have the solid outline of a good elevator speech.
Oh, and for great moments in cinematic elevator speech history, fast-forward to 5:52 in this clip to see Melanie Griffith working her magic on Phillip Bosco in Working Girl .
Safe to say the economy is the predominant force shaping our cultural conversation right now. And it’s interesting to watch the opposing currents of gloom-and-doom-hell in a handbag and yes-we-can-refresh-everything duke it out in popular discourse. I’m especially intrigued by the message cropping up somewhere between these two extremes about how great creativity arises in times of economic hardship. I’m inspired by that, and hungry to see examples of it in practice. After all, it’s hard to turn creativity from words into deeds when you’re trying to stay focused on the basics — which is priority #1 for anyone in business at the moment.
Still…desperately seeking inspiration! Which I found in the NY Times this weekend, in a piece on “distressed municipality” Braddock, PA and what Mayor John Fetterman is doing to turn the blighted community around. Maybe it’s because I’m a Pennsylvania girl and feeling particularly tender towards my home state post-Superbowl, but I was blown away by the story of Braddock and its maverick mayor. Fetterman sees poetry in the ruins of his “malignantly beautiful town,” and wants you to be part of its transformation. So he creates a website with his own money and puts out a call to action:
Large enough to matter. Small enough to impact. An unparalleled opportunity for the urban pioneer, artist or misfit to be part of a new, experimental effort.
Fetterman is on a mission to attract outside energy to his bankrupt town in hopes they’ll see it as a cheap, accessible laboratory for urban renewal. This guy is a maniac, and I mean that in all the best ways — bold, committed, visionary, passionate. Maybe a little insane — look at his arm and you’ll find the dates that Braddock citizens were murdered during his watch tatooed into his flesh. He’s also Harvard-educated and by the way, gets the power of well-designed website. In this image from www.15104.cc (the town site, named for the Braddock zip code), ruined row houses assume an almost gothic gravitas:
Talk about creativity borne of hardship. Makes my stupid writer’s block /inertia in face of looming client memo deadline seem pretty insignificant. Maybe I should tatoo client logos into my left arm, to stay focused and motivated?
I was breathless with excitement to learn last Friday that a) blogging guru Debbie Weil has actually read my blog and b) noticing my Sharpie fondness, she shared there is actually SHARPIE BLOG. I will confess — and you will think I’m deranged, I’m sure — that I welled up looking at this blog. Yes. A blog made me cry. There is a world of Sharpie Love out there that is rich and vibrant and vivid and creative … and I want to be a part of it!!
OK, that was Personal Me reaction. Professional Me was weeping, too, but with tears of envy. Let me tell you, this is one FINE branded blog. In fact, I plan to send it around to many clients — anyone wanting to create a blog in the name of a brand, with the intent of harnessing Web 2.0 consumer passion — click and learn!
Scandinavian Grace is a beautiful design gallery/cafe specializing in all things Scandinavian (as the name would suggest.) Their first location was in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn; last fall they dramatically upped the cool quotient of Ulster County, NY with their new location in Shokan. We’ve driven past it a dozen times on our way to our place just north in West Kill and finally made time to drop in over this past weekend. Why we waited so long, I don’t know. The 4500 sq foot former garage is filled with light, the wonderful smell of brewing coffee, and a lovingly curated selection of Scandinavian textiles, glassware, foods, toys and mid-century furniture. I was sorely tempted to load up on the following:
As it turns out, THIS is what we bought. My husband will eat these, not me. I do not eat fiskeboller — fish balls to you and me — no matter how retro-fabulous the packaging.
Best thing about Scandinavian Grace is not the stuff (which is spectacular) but the proprietors. Fredrik Larsson, one of the two owners, welcomed us in out of the frigid Catskills afternoon with a booming hello, interrupted a guy repairing his coffee maker to brew us our lattes, and gave my son candy and a pencil (trust me — you’d want this pencil. Pencils are cooler in Scandinavia.)
Fredrik and his partner James Anthony say on their site, “We love objects of artistic form and practical function that become a vital enrichment to daily living rather than mere status symbols.” Their shop and cafe are vivid demonstrations of this passion. In a time when lots of businesses have shut down on that stretch of Ulster County highway, I fervently hope the northern outpost of Scandinavian Grace makes it.
For more pictures, check out Kelley Hoffman’s great post at The Pipeline.