Filter me this…

January 31, 2013 — Lulu Carter

Social media platforms have begun to undermine conventional marketing strategies for traditional brands as Twitter feeds and YouTube parodies deconstruct and redefine their meaning via the almighty “world of mouth.” Where brand truisms were once decided over an afternoon Scotch with Don Draper, today we find ourselves belaboring over an Instagram hashtag to understand how it has so quickly re-purposed our brand essence without us. Not only must brands now continually keep tabs on their consumers but also on their clear and purposeful messaging across media platforms. If not, they risk having little impact or relevance, no matter how timely their Facebook responses or photo updates.

And what about the influence of social media on our own personal brands? The same rules seem to apply.

The way corporate brands have sought to convey consistent messaging is similar to the way many millennials have begun to convey their own personal brands. And social media platforms have only fueled our desire to build social capital. The Web is no longer a place where anonymity rules or boorish alter egos come out to play. We now live in it and our identities have become bound and defined by it. Case in point: consider […]

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Learning to Fly: Principles of Innovation

January 24, 2013 — Andrew Heller

A recent trip to Kitty Hawk proved to be a lesson on how pioneering inventors make their innovations real. The Wright Brothers changed the course of history. Through insight, mechanical ingenuity and sheer determination, they brought people into the realm of flight. The world got smaller the day they flew.

Here are 6 key takeaways from Wrights’ innovations for any marketer:

1. Be Driven, Not Intimidated Orville and Wilbur were not the only ones who were working on powered flight. Many had come before them, and contemporaries had raced to see who could figure it all out first. Early pioneers also had to experiment with (and on) their new equipment themselves. Failure often meant death. Get it wrong once and you might not get a second chance. But rather than be intimidated by these consequences, the Wrights drew more fuel for their fire, giving their work an urgency to help other would-be aviators. Failure is more than “not an option;” it’s a motivator.

2. Build On What You Know Orville and Wilbur’s fascination with flight began as children with a wind-up toy helicopter. They later made their living building bicycles, giving them a skill set in manufacturing, mechanics and fabrication. They also became self-sufficient, often building […]

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It’s a jungle gym out there

January 15, 2013 — Eliza Sadler

SoulCycle, Reebok, Equinox… Oh, My!

So New Year’s came and went—as did our resolutions. I think we can all begrudgingly confess to having put more gym time on our lists. It’s the redheaded stepchild of all resolutions. Most loathe the thought of including it but feel obligated to anyway. Yet, year after year, while resolutions have stayed the same, the gyms have changed.

In New York City—a place once synonymous with prohibition, Studio 54, Times Square strip clubs and overall indulgence—gyms were a rarity. Today, they’re no longer just for the fitness obsessed. They say more about us than Facebook, LinkedIn or OkCupid.

Choosing a gym is about as personal as choosing a doctor or church. No longer just an experiential brand, gyms have become your personal brand. They shape how you wake up in the morning and how you go to bed at night. You loathe it. You love it. You pay your dues. And you keep coming back.

When I first moved to NYC as a naïve, spirited and broke college grad, I envied those who held the magical card that granted them access through the glamorous entryways of Equinox, Health & Racquet, Reebok Club and Soho House. […]

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A Brand New Year’s Resolution

January 9, 2013 — Ted Bachman

It’s 2013, and time to set those New Year’s resolutions. But why stop at the individual ones? Every brand, whether a mom-and-pop store or a Fortune 500 company, should also be setting goals for the new year. So even if you fail to cut down on the red meat and hit the gym, at least your brand has a fighting chance to succeed with the following five resolutions:


1. Lose Weight and Get Fit

Even brands can get love handles. But unfortunately, theirs aren’t the type that can hide behind a winter sweater. So this year, do something about it. Pick up your Shake Weights and start Jazzercising!

Start by imagining your ideal brand body image, the core of what your brand stands for. Then take a look in the mirror and get rid of everything else that doesn’t reinforce that image. Do away with embellishments on your graphics, cut down on bloated sub-brands and hit the stair stepper to whittle down claims and messaging communication.


2. Organize your Home

Like a newly purchased, vacant home, your brand starts off empty and clean. Over time, however, clutter builds and rooms get disorganized (maybe you’ve even put an addition […]

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The NCAA and the Tricky World of Trademarks

December 21, 2012 — Rachel Bernard

If you haven’t heard of Johnny Manziel yet, you will. On December 8th, the 20 year-old from Texas A&M became the first freshman in college football history to win the Heisman Trophy. In a country where football is a religion, the kid with an arm of steel and a heart of gold represents a salvation for a sport still reeling from the aftermath of the Penn State tragedy, and the public controversies surrounding on-field concussions. Manziel represents a return to a squeaky clean Friday Night Lights brand of ball. His Aggie fans have even nicknamed him Johnny Football for goodness sake! It doesn’t get any more squeaky clean than that. And everyone wants a piece of the Johnny Football brand— from the NCAA to the university to the sport’s marketing machine at large. But who will win?

In November of 2011 the Johnny Football name was registered for trademark with the USPTO office for a variety of goods and services. Was it registered to Johnny himself? Nope. It was registered to Kenneth R. Reynolds Family Investments, an entity that appears to be attempting to pirate the trademark by taking advantage of an opportunity NCAA bylaws provide. The NCAA strictly forbids student-athletes […]

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A Luxury Brand Gets a Good Rap

December 6, 2012 — Joshua Books

Kanye West is a lot of things: self-centered pop icon, hip-hop groundbreaker, Taylor Swift hater, boo of Kim K. And who can leave “fashion visionary” off that list?

After his infamous MTV Music Awards debacle involving Swift, Kanye wisely retreated from the scene, at least for a while, and moved to Rome to accept an internship with the fashion giant Fendi. It was a move that wasn’t completely unexpected. Kanye had already made a well-documented foray into fashion with sneaker design, launching the highly coveted Air Yeezy 1 and 2 for Nike, and later, inking a two-year deal with Louis Vuitton footwear.

But his biggest fashion coup came in the fall of 2011, when he enlisted internationally renowned Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci to design the album art for “Watch the Throne”, his much-hyped album collaboration with Jay-Z.


During the “Watch the Throne” Tour (I attended two different dates) Kanye and Jay-Z, both sported Givenchy tees designed by Tisci, who had also designed the concert sets and marketing collateral. These tees, featuring stars, bold type and Kanye’s distorted visage, couldn’t be farther from the streamlined $2,500 handbags for which Tisci has become known. Still, they inspired a […]

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Branding and American Utopianism

November 27, 2012 — Cindy Lord

As a girl I was a massive Wonder Woman fan. I was particularly entranced by the idea of the utopian Paradise Island – the girl-only home to Wonder Woman and her Amazon sisters. According to the Wonder Woman story there were no men allowed on Paradise Island, but I always imagined that they kept the men around, housed in pens, and just let them out to mow the lawn and fix stuff.

I am not alone in my fascination with utopias. It is actually an American phenomenon. We love the utopian ideal in this country. America was, early on, perceived as a utopian destination for Europeans – verdant, uncorrupted, and free. And America became a hotbed of utopian experimentation: Shakers, transcendentalists, socialists, free-sexers and free-thinkers.

It is partially the pro-utopian DNA in us that fuels our love affair with brands in this country. It is not a coincidence that the vast majority of the great global brands are American. Great brands, like utopians, offer the promise of an emotionally enriched, fundamentally better life – in other words, use this brand and your life will be better and different! For an Axe believer that means you can go from being a […]

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How to Innovate Like a Successful Startup

November 15, 2012 — Sandra Creamer


Twitter did it. So did Instagram and Fab. Some of the most successful technology startups in recent memory have one thing in common: They’ve applied principles of creativity, innovation and design to their process in order to arrive at a winning idea.

If you’re wondering what’s in these companies’ secret sauces, just know that the ingredients are exactly what we practice in the creative agency world. Here are some centered design principles used by recent Silicon Valley startups to turn their brands into huge successes.

#1. Don’t be afraid to create a beautiful experience.

Fab was originally a niche social networking site, but they later pivoted based on a single insight: People want beautiful design in their everyday lives.

The fact that we are multisensory creatures should be a lesson to brands: When developing a new idea, prioritizing how design can enhance the overall experience is key to success. This might encompass the website experience itself, or the presentation of that experience (e.g., the look, tone, and feel of any and all of the brands’ visual elements). Fab capitalized on this fact, as did Pinterest, and both became online sensations as a result.

Key takeaway: When thinking about how […]

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Celebrities VS. Billionaires 2012

November 6, 2012 — Rachel Kash

It’s Election Day – and frankly, thank goodness. I mean, could you possibly take one more day of all the mudslinging, badmouthing and overall bad sentiment perpetuated by this election? More than anything, I’ve been sort of fascinated by how the candidates have chosen to build their brands this election. From my point of view, what it’s boiled down to is a game of celebrities versus billionaires.

In one corner, we had Obama and his celebs. I’m not gonna deny that it was sort of exciting to get an email from Sarah Jessica Parker, and then from Beyonce, then one from Anna Wintour inviting me to have dinner at her house (“Hell yes!” would be my RSVP), then the one from her majesty Oprah, and lastly, from Julianne Moore, just a few days after she won the Emmy. Here they all were, writing me (seemingly) personal emails, urging me to “make my voice heard” and support President Obama for President.

It’s no secret that Hollywood is liberal, and that many of today’s hottest actors – Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna among them – have been working hard to see that Obama gets reelected. But while companies have […]

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Gas Station of the Future? Better Look the Other Way

October 26, 2012 — David Weinberger

Having worked on “Store of the Future” gas station projects all over the world, I often encounter similar professional scenarios: Clients have an existing network, an old design and a need to attract new consumers to get more out of their existing one. They all want “a store design,” “forecourt design,” “new food offer” or “site plan” that “needs to start rolling out next year but also will need to be relevant in 10 years.” In other words, they want a store of the future.

I love these projects. They are ambitious and necessary to help gas station companies and brands evolve. Reinvention is sometimes a goal, but moving the business is always a must. As creative director, one of the first things I aim to do is open a client’s eyes. After all, they may know their business inside and out and still not be students of the world. I caution them with this: “If you want to reinvent the idea of a gas station but all you look at are other gas stations, you’ll probably end up with a gas station.” For example, if we were organizing a best-in-class tour, we’d begin with visits to Wawa, Sheetz, Litro, Topaz and Repsol (that is, if we can make it around the world). But […]

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