A thoughtful media kit for a thoughtful company.

Brian Thompson of Black & Essington is thoughtful. He’s thoughtful in his career moves, in his educational moves and in his business. This thoughtfulness is what makes him so very good at what he does; advising other businesses about their strategies, their procedures and practices, and their best next steps.

Brian needed a media kit but realized that most of his prospective clients and referral partners are investigating him digitally first – and almost exclusively. But that shouldn’t mean a basic, plain, boring document – how thoughtful is that?

Tweaking his copy just a bit and encouraging a slightly more forceful sell, we designed a lovely 9-page media kit inspired by his website that details what Black & Essington does, how Brian does it and how he can help small to mid-size business grow in a positive, controllable manner. The imagery in the piece reflects his connection with Chicagoland and his workshop and seminar work and includes testimonials of satisfied clients. Visitors to his website can download the piece to view, to email or to print.

Today, rather than extensive, beautifully designed packages that are snail-mailed, media kits tend to be digital pdfs. Instantly downloadable, these kits are faster, easier and less expensive. However, they should still be beautifully – and thoughtfully – designed.

When your small to mid-size business needs help – with sales, with strategies or with management techniques, call Brian Thompson at Black & Essington at 815-557-1734 or email by clicking here.

Pathetic. Absolutely Pathetic.

Apparently, David’s Bridal is marketing very heavily to Bridezillas.

You know, those women obsessed with a wedding and not a marriage. Those women who’ve been on the prowl for a groom and not a husband. Those women who want to get married to satisfy their own goals, not to create a real partnership. THOSE women.

This new commercial is enough to turn the stomach of any viewer who has thought that this new bride culture has gotten completely out of hand, over-the-top and just plain ridiculous. It encourages women on the edge of silliness to fully indulge, because that man standing at the altar will just go right along with it anyway. David’s Bridal said so!

As a mother, I shudder when I see this commercial. I certainly don’t want my daughter to think that a wedding is all about the bride. I want her to understand that a wedding is just a celebration of the start of your marriage, your partnership, your walk through life, hand-in-hand with another person who understands your very soul.

And if some woman were to treat my son like he was “just a cog in this big machine,” I’d be the one that jumped to my feet when the officiant asked if anyone had an objection to the union. 

Marketing Materials For A Urology Practice. Finally.

Sometimes, reality sets recommended procedures on its ears. The urology practice of Drs. Uppuluri, Patel and Chavin has been successful and well-recommended for many years, yet they didn’t have a logo, a slogan, a website or even a name, generally the first things a business is tasked with creating.

For a long time, that worked. Now, it was changing.

Recommended to us by a local hospital’s Medical Staff Development Director, Dr. Chavin laid out the problem. Prospective patients, he knew, are now doing more and more research on the web before scheduling any procedures, making any appointments, or even choosing a physician. Even when a primary care doctor recommends a specialist, patients are checking them out thoroughly before making a phone call. Patients want to see their doctors’ faces before meeting them. They want to read CVs. They want to know that the physician they are selecting really knows his or her stuff – and they want to feel a bond before they ever shake hands. Dr. Chavin knew that, even considering the practice’s stellar reputation, in this fast-changing digital world, they had to get out there – and fast.

Smart man.

As there were no existing marketing materials, we asked alot of questions about the philosophy of the practice, the style of the physicians, their specialities, their reputations, their attitudes about patient care and their goals for their patients – and for the practice. We read through CVs. We investigated online reviews of each doctor. We talked about preferences in colors, styles and themes.

The doctors selected the name Chicago South Suburban Urology and we went to town. First, we designed and presented a variety of logo directions, then began to refine, redesign and then arrived at the logo you see above, a stylized illustration of exactly what concerns a urologist. Simple and clear, in a clean blue that can be used digitally, in print, on lab coats and office uniforms and on promotional products. We also wrote their slogan, which truly exemplifies CSSU’s philosophy.

We designed and wrote the website; again simple, clear and very easy to navigate. It’s chock-full of information already, with more to come as we continue. We researched and investigated all things urology to write the copy, with the doctors giving us input and edits as necessary.

Now, a web search helps locate the entire practice quickly. Patients can use the website as a resource for all their urological challenges and they can become better acquainted with all medical professionals right online.

CSSU is a perfect example of how a successful business needs to continuously evolve to stay successful. Together, we took a well-regarded but very traditional practice and brought it into modern times.

Stop. Because I’m Crying Again.

Sniff, sniff, snuffle.

Oh my goodness.

What a twist, what a change of heart, what a positive message after all! I truly hope that you were able to experience this commercial, a true-meaning-of-Christmas gift from Apple.

A teenager, seemingly glued to his phone, seemingly bored out of his mind by this family Christmas gathering, is in fact creating a most marvelous gift to celebrate the love he gets and gives, but, at this awkward age, just can’t express (I’m tearing up now just thinking about it – are you?).

My 20-year-old daughter, infinitely better at snark than sentiment, stops everything to watch this commercial. She sits in a veil of tears and exclaims, “Look how he really loves his family! It’s so beautiful!” Her friends, a lovely, lively but logical bunch, also stop and watch and sigh and cry. My husband murmurs, “Well, isn’t that nice?” My whole family room is awash in happy tears when this commercial airs.

Apple has hit the goldmine of marketing here. They have bonded the product with the audience, they have shown its benefits and they have made you want an iPhone, so you can make such an incredible gift yourself. There are only smiles here, only positive associations, only warm, happy feelings, an affirmation that Apple can make your life better.

With all this embedded in our psyches, I’m thinking Apple will have a very happy new year.

Hoping YOU have a very happy new year too!

Please. Make It Stop.

Gawd help us.

 

If you’ve watched any television this holiday season, you’ve been subjected to this commercial, or some version of it. And odds are, you’ve cringed.

Social media is atwitter (get it?) with “I’ll never buy a Honda” and “Honda, these are the most annoying commercials ever” and “I was thinking about buying a Honda but that commercial killed it for me. Toyota, here I come” — all because of Michael Bolton. Turns out he doesn’t necessarily appeal to Honda’s chief purchasing demographic.

The smart marketers at Honda know that. I’m sure they meant this whole campaign ironically – they meant it to be aggravating and maddening and over-the-top and downright annoying. They are delighted at the outpouring of exasperation and displeasure.

Because everyone is talking about these commercials. Everyone is deriding Honda’s decision to use Annoying Man for its Songperson this holiday season. At my annual holiday gathering with girlfriends, “Honda” was mentioned over and over and over as women clutched at their hair and wished laryngitis upon Michael Bolton. Facebook is covered with nasty memes. As horrible and dreadful and awful as this Honda commercial is, it put Honda in the shining spotlight this Christmas.

But it is horrible and dreadful and awful and there is absolutely no solid reason for that. Advertising that is memorable, creates a buzz and makes people talk shouldn’t be uber annoying. That truly defeats the purpose.

A positive message, something that makes people feel good about the product and its benefits is always always always a better choice. Those good feelings create a happy bond with the audience and positivity just lasts longer, meaning the happy audience turns into a happy customer, which is exactly what truly good marketing is supposed to do.

Who’s In Love With Your Brand?

Ovaltine and IBM

A few months ago, I was in the grocery store, considering which hot chocolate flavoring to purchase. Usually, I’m a Hersey’s syrup kind of gal, but for some reason, I was in the coffee and tea aisle, with Nestle’s Quik in one hand and Ovaltine in the other, reading the labels for sugar, sodium and fat contents.

A woman in her late 50’s was trying to pass and I murmured “excuse me” and stepped toward the shelf. She saw what I was holding and said, “Oh, buy the Ovaltine.” I smiled at her in return. Encouraged, she said dreamily, “Ovaltine means so much to me. When I was little, I had terrible trouble sleeping because I was ill for a long time. Every night, my mom would make me a hot mug of Ovaltine and read to me until I fell asleep. Ovaltine makes me think of my mom and the way she helped me.” Her face was far-away, lost in nostalgia, thinking of long-ago bedtime stories, a mug of hot chocolate to soothe an ailing child, and most of all, her mother’s beautiful, patient expression of love. For her, that’s what Ovaltine is all about.

Well, of course I bought the Ovaltine.

Later that week, someone mentioned IBM, saying something about “Big Blue” and how that might just be the most internationally-recognized, powerful brand on the planet.

And that’s when it struck me full force, like a bag of quarters in the kisser; while brands have a carefully constructed and communicated message managed by their internal and external partners, for many people, that message has nothing to do with their own perception of the organization.

Because, you see, to me, IBM is not about computers. IBM is about my dad, who worked for that company his entire professional life.

Hearing “IBM” makes my nose instantly remember that Bud-Rollins aroma of WD-40, dry cleaning fluid and newspaper ink. I can really, truly smell it. I can see his felt hat appearing in the alley at the end of his walk home from the train, I can feel the wool of his suit as he gathered me for a hug. IBM is the heavy briefcase filled with tools, middle of the night departures when a machine went down and Christmas parties at the Museum of Science and Industry.

And the really crazy thing? When I called my brother and asked him what he thinks of when someone says “IBM”, he replied “Dad and that IBM smell, you know what I mean?” Yes, Rich, I know exactly what you mean. Our brand of IBM is all about love too.

So what does this all mean to you? It means, to certain individuals, your brand has nothing to do with your carefully constructed message. No matter how much you promote outstanding customer service, unless it really is, 100% of the time, there will be someone out there whose personal experience brands you as having horrible service. Your brand is influenced by your messages, but it is determined by your audience.

That’s why thinking and acting in terms of the brand, for absolutely every single person in your organization, is vitally important – 100% of the time.

 

Do you prefer Ovaltine or Hersey’s? The twentieth person to let me know gets a lifetime supply of their favorite!*

(Yep – that’s my dad in the photo above, Harold “Bud” Rollins, Senior Customer Engineer with a mad comb-over installing a 2470 terminal)

*Not really. But I will send you one bottle or can!

We Know Direct Mail Like Arborist Knows Ash From A Hole In The Ground

Ed Ritzema was really bummed about the lack of response in his direct mail efforts. He spent alot of money, mailed to alot of people and just didn’t see the return on his investment. He is passionate about saving ash trees from the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), now gaining ground faster and faster in the south and southwest suburbs. “People need to understand that I can save that heritage tree in their yard. The injections are cheaper and you get to KEEP YOUR TREE.”

 

Having lost two of my trees to this voracious invader before we could take steps to save them and feeling that pain, I couldn’t understand why people weren’t responding to his offering.

Then he showed me the card he was mailing.

OUCH.

The card was a hot mess of everything that Ed, a certified arborist, could possibly provide – including lawn care! Everything was just about the same size. There were multiple promotions and discounts offered. Recipients were completely confused about what this company did, why they should call and how 4 Seasons could help.

But the biggest barrier? Most people don’t know types of trees are planted on their lot!

So we created a mailer that zeroed in with laser-focus on Ed’s biggest mission – saving those white and green ash trees. The call to action is simple – Ed will identify every tree in your yard for free, no strings attached. There is information about the Ash Borer’s size, hole shape and symptoms, but the overriding push is that you can’t save a tree if you don’t even know what it is.

With Ed’s assistance with identifying about 10,000 homes in neighborhoods known to have EAB, we mailed even more cheaply than EveryDoorDirect by using postal route discounts. (Our mailing house ROCKS).

Ed’s phone started ringing and he’s now meeting new customers and saving their trees! Even better? Even if responders don’t have an ash tree, Ed has personally introduced himself, he’s now their expert resource. That homeowner now has a trusted arborist, one they can turn to for pruning, for emergency services – even for lawn care.

Interested in direct mail or other forms of response-driven advertising but oh so wary? Give us a call at 708-614-9766 or send us an email. We can help.

I personally recommend Ed because he’s worked on my trees.  I think of him as an Ent because he is indeed a Keeper of the Trees, deep in his heart. If you suspect you have the EAB, or just want to get to know your trees a little better, call Ed Ritzema at 708-371-5439 for a free tree identification!

Yes, Virginia, hot dogs do make dreams come true.

Some people dream of flying. Some dream of the Blackhawks winning another Stanley Cup. Some people dream of going to work in their underwear.

John Poulos dreamt of owning his own restaurant. A friendly little place, serving delicious hot sandwiches, ice cold soft drinks and, of course, Chicago-style hot dogs. John had the location, he had the plan, he had the recipes. He needed a logo.

He needed us.

He had a sketch, a concept of a smiling hot dog in a bun. We put our talents to work and designed the dog at just the right angle and weight, cooked up some in the office to get the color just right and began the face. We gave John a choice of eye styles, smiles, noses (with or without) and legs (with or without there too). We worked on getting the placement and treatment of the condiments exactly so (the mustard squiggle was a challenge, but we finally nailed it). We included several font choices – something easy to read yet a little unique, fun but not outright goofy.

After several rounds and lots of “Mr. Potato Head”-type rotations, John was perfectly pleased. The logo lights up his restaurant, decorates magnets and wallpapers his website. (We designed his menu board too).

Uninspired by your current marketing materials? Give us a call at 708-614-9766 or reply to this email. We can help.

Thank you to Denise Elser, who referred us to John and Yanni’s Dogs! Anyone you know making their dreams come true with a business of their own and requiring design, advertising or marketing savvy? Just forward this email.

And the next time you’re in Chicago on north Broadway, between Balmoral and Berwyn, stop in at Yanni’s Dogs. Grab a gyro, a chicken sandwich, a salad or a hot dog. And tell John that Rollins Palumbo sent you.

Tide: Merely in Step With the Times, or Waaaaaay Ahead?

 

The other day, my husband, relaxing after a hard day’s work with his newspaper and pipe, pulled me out of the kitchen where I was preparing his meat and potatoes while wearing a dress, high heels and a string of pearls and asked me to watch a commercial. (Can you find all that’s wrong in that sentence? Tide could!)

Seriously now, he did call my attention to the above commercial. He asked me to watch it, without commenting. So I did (difficult as that was for me to keep quiet). He then asked me my opinion.

“Well,” I said, “I think Dad is just a little short-sighted. Why can’t he wash this dress while she’s in the bathtub, or sleeping?” He gave me an eye roll and said, “And…?”

“And I think it’s wonderful that Tide is getting with the times. There are so many dads who do laundry.” (ironic because he was folding some of ours at the time) “I think it also addresses the stay-at-home dad phenomenon which continues to grow in our society. ‘Nicely done,’ I would say to Tide.”

My husband, an extremely savvy media consumer, then asked, “Would you think he’s gay?”

I was flabbergasted. Because I was projecting my own biases onto this commercial, I saw a dad fully involved in every aspect of raising his child, with an ambiguous wife somewhere in my subconscious.

But throw the idea of this dad being gay out there and WOW!

If that is your reality, your bias, the story stills meshes seamlessly. Because Tide didn’t define this family visually, your mind completes it in the most familiar way. You enjoy the story, you relate to the dad’s laundry woes, you accept his recommendation on solutions (which, by the way, is almost textbook “Marketing To Women” techniques). Tide becomes an important part of keeping your whole family clean, healthy and happy – no matter what your family looks like.

So I say again, “Nicely done!”

A perfect location deserves a “perfect” advertising campaign.

As my advertising hero Don Draper likes to ask, “What’s the benefit?” In my own marketing philosophy, I always add, “What makes the product unique?”

Sometimes, in marketing a town or a region to attract tourism dollars (“heads in beds” or “feets in sheets”), the tendency is to emphasize benefits that are very commonplace. You see hundreds of the same billboards across the nation; “Great food! Charming downtown! Historic landmarks!”

Don’t you see Don shaking his head right now (and probably pouring a glass of scotch)?

The Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) needed a new campaign for 2014 – and we needed to think about the unique benefits that could attract real dollars, across four entirely different markets; leisure, group tour, meetings and conventions, and sporting events.

We designed a campaign built around assets that can’t be found anywhere else in the whole U. S of A. and how those assets, as a matter of fact, make the Southland the right choice for these four markets.

For the leisure market, we emphasized the extensive (and yes, unique!) natural areas, forest preserves and outdoor activities, along with the largest outdoor sculpture park in the country. Group tour operators see the Southland as a perfect place to stay the night on cross country trips, with clean, safe hotels at a very reasonable cost. Sporting events also race to the Southland, with its plethora of facilities. Meeting planners like the newly-expanded Convention Center and Iron Oaks team building facility. The Southland’s biggest asset, applicable to all markets and emphasized as such, is its prime location, at the crossroads of America’s major interstates, both north-south and east-west. Free parking, highly beneficial and also unique, is strongly emphasized too.

The campaign includes QR codes unique to every publication, ensuring the CVB can track hits effectively, determining which magazine and guides are giving the most return on investment.

Unique benefits. Everyone has them. Make Don Draper proud and use them in your advertising.