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.


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!

Just Hand It Over And We’ll Handle It All

You don’t have to start all over again to start all over again.

Dr. Kidanu Birhanu is a physician with decades of experience, with multiple fellowships, certificates and recognitions achieved (including one of USA Today’s Top Doctors in 2011). In shifting his practice to concentrate on weight loss, anti-aging and sexual health in both women and men, he needed our help. 

His first need was a name and slogan for this new focus. We brainstormed dozens of ideas and presented him with a list of about 8. From this list, Dr. Birhanu chose 3 that he felt completely comfortable with. We created a focus group of women within our networks, both business and personal, formulated a brief survey and got input, feedback and results to tally, analyze and confirm. The name “ReNewYou” won by a considerable margin. That affirmation build a foundation for Dr. Birhanu’s success. The slogan was also determined by research, worded in such a way as to inform viewers of the entire practice subtly, with professionalism.

We went to work on a logo, again presenting Dr. Birhanu with many options. His three selections went in front of our focus group, in different color formats, to ensure that what we were planning on putting out there really answered what patients would recognize and respond to. When the logo was identified, we put together his website, selecting images, designing and writing the copy.

We’ve also created business cards. As Dr. Birhanu begins to market his practice through seminars (we’ll help him there too), he can leave behind a wonderful resource with a long shelf life, a bookmark. We’re helping with social media construction and with content, working to build Dr. Birhanu a following (Please LIKE on this Facebook page!)

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

Do you know someone requiring design, advertising or marketing savvy, either starting from scratch or starting over again? Just forward this blog.

If you’re looking for a patient, thoughtful and attentive physician – who will really listen –  to help with general health and weight loss/bariatric surgery challenges, make an appointment with Dr. Birhanu via email or telephone, 708-229-1395.

Sometimes, It’s Best To Let The Client Do The Talking


“I just wanted to send you a quick note to say thank you for helping make our 2013 tax season a success. I was hesitant to implement another postcard campaign because I attempted one in 2010 which was not very successful. I did not like the postcard the company created…it was a little cheesy for the type of clients I wanted to attract.

However, the postcard you created has helped our firm create a professional image and attract higher quality tax clients. Everyone that came in with the postcard liked it. Majority of my new clients this tax season were a result of the postcard mailing.

I am considering another campaign this summer to promote financial planning and proactive tax planning. Thanks again for your assistance, it is much appreciated.”


While we stop blushing, you think about your next marketing outreach program. We can help!

Anyone you know looking for a unique image within corporate requirements? We provide design, advertising or marketing that fits that brand.

If you need accounting, tax planning or financial services, visit rkctaxcpa.com. We promise she’s as professional and accomplished as she is complimentary.

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.  

Chicago Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery gets a new updated look, keeping the (excellent) brand.

Waaaayyy back in 2009, we designed a (beautiful and effective) logo, business card, brochure and bio card for Dr. Gregory Primus, who was founding Chicago Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery in Tinley Park. Logo design is always an interesting journey and Dr. Primus was so smart about it, we actually wrote an article about that experience (click here if you’d like a copy).

Over the years, the practice has grown, added other physicians and specialists, physical therapy capabilities and more. It was time to update the mission materials, carefully protecting the established brand. We did not touch that logo and the design of all business cards remained the same.

We designed and wrote a new brochure; more “graphic”, contemporary, with bigger photographs and a little more flavor of the former Chicago Bear‘s favorite sport.

Because the clinic now conducts Saturday hours for orthopedic emergencies, we also designed and wrote an Urgent Care rack card, a piece that is chock-ful of information but very easy to distribute and, for parents, easy to hold onto.

The Chicago Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery continues to grow, now adding a chiropractic to the staff. Just as Dr. Primus is always there for torn ACLs and damaged rotator cuffs, we’ll continue to be there for him!

If you’d like to see the original materials we designed for Dr. Primus, click here.

Giving The Unforgettable Chef an unforgettable brand

The clients of Chef Tom Grotovsky think he is Unforgettable. He arrives in your home with menu planned and food, utensils and equipment all in hand. He prepares the food, creates a tablescape for you and your guests, simmers, sears and sautes. The gastronomic delight is elegantly served and paired with wine. You enjoy a leisurely gourmet meal in the comfort of your home, free to enjoy the wine, with no one waiting for you to leave so they can turn out the lights. And when you are finally finished? Your kitchen is in apple-pie order, as if the culinary experience appeared by magic.

Unforgettable, indeed.

Chef Tom also teaches cooking classes (he gave me a remarkable little tip about getting bits of eggshell out of batter that dramatically improved my chocolate chip cookies) and is happy to cook at charitable events.

Yes, Chef Tom is Unforgettable. But he needed an unforgettable corporate identity, from logo to business card, from website to coupons. Using black ink only to be cost-efficient and make printing a breeze, we designed a logo that is at once cerebral, elegant and “foodie”. The graphic conveys all those delicious bites, firmly entrenched in memory, and the calligraphic typeface is unexpected and refined.

We then created all the materials he needed to strengthen and build his brand. We even created a template that Chef Tom can use when he prints his custom menus for those dinner parties. Click here to see the website – and make sure you turn your sound up.

Then we had a real brainwave! As The Unforgettable Chef is a luxury item and our target is higher-income folks with a real appreciation for good food, we arranged with WBBM for The Unforgettable Chef Cooking Classes to be prizes for the daily Smart Quiz. The Unforgettable Chef was mentioned to thousands and thousands of listeners four times each morning for three days – with no funds spent on radio time!

Fireworks, Bands, Food & Summer Fun. All in one brochure.

Orland Hills has been using our design services for several years, both for their annual summer fest and their recreation catalogs. This year, Orland Hills named the fest “Party in the Park” and asked for a more mature design, something to attract adults to the bands, the food and the fireworks, while retaining a sense of family fun. We needed to convey a sense of excitement at first glance. 

We designed the logo, gold on a black background, filled with fireworks and tree canopys, grounded by a line of grass. Then we devised a funky, fun angular theme for the brochure, which walks the reader clearly through the three-day festival and the extensive schedule.

Mailing to thousands all over the region, the event was a huge success. I watched the fireworks and enjoyed them immensely!