Buffalo, a city in renaissance


Photo ©DJI_Phantom

Photo ©DJI_Phantom

I’ve been doing contract marketing and communications for D’Youville College, a short walk from the Allentown neighborhood where I used to live in the 90s in Buffalo. It’s a lovely city, a place I thoroughly enjoyed during my time there and would welcome the opportunity to move back should one arise. I’ve been back many times since living there and every year it keeps getting better and better.

There’s a rugged individualism, a blue-collar toughness ingrained in the people and spirit of Buffalo, New York. A sense of perseverance, grit, and determination has served the city through the best and worst of times until present day where the City of Good Neighbors is experiencing an explosion of business, youth, and good press.

Buffalo has been showing up on many top ten lists in the past couple years. Number one city for staycations (Thrillist), favorite big cities with small-town hearts (Travel and Leisure), most affordable city to live in (Forbes). Second best city to relocate (Best Places), third best food city in the world (Travel and Leisure), fifth best city to celebrate New Year’s Eve (Wallet Hub), a ninth-best city for college graduates (Value Penguin), tenth happiest city to work (Forbes) and so on.

The New York Times called Buffalo “a role model for resurgence,” Toronto Star “shocked and awed by the rebirth of Buffalo,” The Washington Post “new vitality [is] giving the once-gritty city wings,” The Village Voice to the young professionals “forget Brooklyn. It’s all about Buffalo now.” Katie Couric for Yahoo News even proclaimed Buffalo was “full of #Buffalolove” during a recent.

Buffalo’s growth rate for those 25-34 years of age is seventh in the U.S., close behind often more hyped cities such as Houston, Nashville, and Portland, Oregon. While many upstate New York cities have been hemorrhaging the creative class, Buffalo has been doing something most the rust belt has failed to do, not only keep young adults but attract them to the city and welcome them with jobs and a nightlife.


With a strong job market, year-over-year growth, low unemployment rate, and wages and incomes on the rise, Buffalo has reason to not only attract deserved attention, but itself to be optimistic. The recipe for success in keeping a metro area vital lies in specific areas such as low cost of living, providing well-paying opportunities, and giving those with disposable income a variety of ways to spend their hard-earned money, of which Buffalo has plenty to offer.

Along Lake Erie lies a beautiful renovated waterfront full or parks, museums, restaurants, breweries, even an ice skating rink. Various districts such as Elmwood, Allentown, and Chippewa feature boutiques, bookstores, swank bars, eateries, nightclubs plus feature live music for every person’s taste ranging from rock to jazz, and country. Speaking of tastes, Buffalo is a city for food lovers ranked internationally as a food destination, the Taste of Buffalo held every July is considered one of the largest in the world drawing over one million people


The list of sites, sounds, and places is long; world-class contemporary Albright-Knox Gallery, free summer Shakespeare performances in Delaware Park – designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted who designed no less than six other parks around Buffalo, and some of the most famous houses built by Frank Lloyd Wright. Buffalo offers mainstays of any major city, from the Buffalo Zoo to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, various acting and cultural groups, some affiliated with the six major institutions of higher learning in the city.

If one is into sports, minor league baseball’s Buffalo Bisons play in downtown, those wishing to see Major League Baseball need only travel an hour and a half to see the Toronto Blue Jays. The Buffalo Sabres are the city’s National Hockey League team, and who can forget the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills, with tentative plans on building a major athletic and sports village next to downtown along Lake Erie,

The backbone to much of Buffalo’s success is the attractive retro feeling of a city steeped in history. In many ways, previous Buffalo’s financial failings have helped it succeed today. During the 80s and 90s, it was so cash-strapped during a period where other cities were able to tear down old large brick factories built to stand the test of time, Buffalo’s historic buildings were saved.



Buffalo: Old Money Infused with New Money

A century ago Buffalo had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States as one of the largest transportation and manufacturing cities in North America. When railroads and water withered as the major arteries for moving goods and materials and as steel, grain, textiles, automotive, and production went elsewhere, much of the wealth accumulated along with the families who acquired it stayed in the area.

Ralph Wilson, the previous owner of the Buffalo Bills, set up a $1-Billion dollar foundation. Jeffrey Gundlach gave $42.5 million to The Albright-Knox Gallery. The University of Buffalo received two individual donations totaling over $70 million within the past five years. A million here and a million there has been given by individuals to help jumpstart community centers, parks, cultural and entertainment areas in the past two years.

Families with long-held net worth have provided the backbone of private funding helping develop downtown, the waterfront, and in pockets of the city. Individual donors who’ve lived through the good, bad, and now highly optimistic times for the City of Buffalo have created opportunities giving in amounts that pale almost every city in Upstate New York.

The infusion of both old and new money has helped the Buffalo renaissance both get off the ground and continue at a rapid pace. It’s one factor that separates Buffalo’s success story over cities like Syracuse, Rochester, Utica, Binghamton, or Albany, all were doing well economically a century ago, never none had the level of personal wealth on a scale Buffalo had in the past.”

Buffalo has had an infusion of millions in private and public money helping fund downtown projects. Beautiful old brick warehouses and the one rundown waterfront have been renovated into prime loft living spaces, breweries, cafes, and hosting now hundreds of small businesses making Buffalo one of the few upstate cities that is buzzing with blocks of life after business hours.

Photo ©Joe Cascio

Photo ©Joe Cascio

Business-wise the once blue collar Buffalo has attracted high-tech, healthcare, and white-collar industries with businesses hiring thousands of employees to live and work downtown. Tesla and Panasonic spent over a $250 million on a solar panel factory expected to be up and running in Spring 2017 employing nearly 1,500 in the area.

The John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital and University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Science have added to Buffalo’s new skyline, the first new buildings in almost a half-century. Both campuses employ over 15,000 people total and are surrounded by construction cranes raising new shiny glass buildings with floors already leased to corporations and businesses, all relocating into the heart of Buffalo, bringing hundreds of new jobs inside the city.

If luck can be defined by being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right thing to do, Buffalo is lucky. More than that, Buffalo as it did in the past has the location, history, and people with follow through. Buffalo’s DIY spirit has helped create an upward spiral in both mindset and economically. If one hasn’t visited in the past decade, they may be surprised at all Buffalo has to offer, why it’s becoming one of the most desirable cities to live in the country.

It’s certainly a city where I desire to move, live, and contribute to along with my family. Should the stars align, that just might happen.

Time passages (2.5 years)

Hudson, Elizabeth, Emerson, and Colin (me).

Hudson, Elizabeth, Emerson, and Colin (me).

the best infographic of the worst clients

The good folks at toggl [disclosure: Fan and user, but this would be funny regardless) came up with a fantastic page for people and agencies who deal with [dun dun dun-dah] terrible clients – framed by way of pirates. Because of course, pirates.

It gave me chuckles while cringing at the horrors. I’ve dealt with every single one of the scenarios in my career several times over, be it as a freelancer, running an agency, to even internal teams where the client is in essence your own organization.

Yes, it reading it was laughter along the lines of ‘it wouldn’t be so funny if it wasn’t so true.’


all the worst clients in one graphic

Toggl‘s page about terrible clients isn’t just a yuck-it-up graphic however, scroll past and they have eight really good insights that detail situations with clients one may get into, and how to potentially maneuver for the best win-win scenario.

I’ll add, if you’re a freelancer or small agency and NOT tracking your time – stop doing that! Now. Toggl and many other time tracking tools have free versions if you’re poor, if you have a little scratch there’s a very good chance the software you buy for business is a write off. Win-win.

You’d be surprised at how much time it truly takes for projects, valuable time, time that if you don’t know what you’re doing with it, you can’t get the most out of it. Proper time tracking, plus honesty, can back up why you have to charge what you charge to do what you (hopefully) love. It also enables you to understand the time projects take so you can plan accordingly in the future or where to address need for help or what to prioritize.

All credit to brilliant Mart Virkus who has made other brilliant infographics for Toggl and seen elsewhere around the web.

what you learn from a big wheel race

Me and my Cheering Section

Recently I was “volunteered” by my wife to ride in a big wheel race for a charity benefitting our children’s day school. I was reluctant at first, being somewhat competitive, I like to assess my odds of winning before signing up for anything. The entire concept of racing children’s big wheels brought up more questions than answers, but being a good sport I am game for anything. For those unaware as I was, full grown adults race children’s big wheels, sometimes down hills, other times in a parking lot, the incongruous spectacle amuses onlookers, at to me that appears to be the draw. Pretty much the only information available when I was signed up: Standardized children’s big wheel to be ordered and delivered before the race, a parking lot at a local brewery.

In it to win it, I spent weeks before the race, altering my normal workout routine at the gym trying to simulate what it might be like riding a child’s big wheel focusing on the stationary recumbent bike. To ensure I would be in the right mindset, I moved the exercise equipment’s seat impossibly close to the pedals, my knees sticking out at awkward angles; babies in the womb have more room to stretch. Figuring the race would be over quickly, I programmed the machine’s settings for two minutes at maximum resistance where it felt like I was trying to pedal up a vertical wall, then two minutes at half resistance to give a breather of sorts, before the machine would go back trying to get me to push up a mountain. Even on the display of lights mere inches from my face, it looked like I was headed for a cliff, then ride on top of one, then falling off, only to hit an impossibly high wall again and again.

It was apparent glancing around how bewildered people were to this spectacle – a grown man, apparently torturing himself, or a performance artist perhaps, practicing human origami saunters in contorting himself in a contraption, to some it appeared more a form of torture than tedious exercise. A young woman on an elliptical machine almost fell off it trying to figure out what my deal was. Two older men on a treadmill kept glancing over their shoulders, back at their mindless morning TV shows, then back to me again. One morning a couple occupied two of the three recumbent bikes, chatting, having a loverly conversation until this six feet tall man walks up, says “good morning,” then proceeds to grind the seat as far forward as possible, cram himself between the seat back and handlebars, nose inches from front display panel, knees out almost touching the gentleman on the bike next to me. Going about setting the machine to essentially must have appeared to be on and off, then pedaling like a mad man. “I’m in training” I yelled over the music in my headphones to the couple after I turned to meet their stares. Much like the others, they too would move further away, many I noted altering their own morning routines, choosing machines far away from the recumbent bicycles.

The day our official standardized children’s big wheels arrived it was like Christmas, but such high hopes dashed upon opening the box. “Some assembly required” was an understatement, ruining the immediate sense of instant gratification. Using a hammer whether the instructions called for it or not I went about putting it together. Some parts would slam into place, never to be taken apart if you made a mistake, there were screws that once you were done sloppily screwing them in through irregular pre-cut holes, regardless of the angle, that’s where they’d be stay for all of eternity. Finally I stood back and looked at chariot, the winning race tricycle. I decided not to put all the Finding Dory stickers on it as that was one of two options of trike, the other being Frozen-themed, that one I had to let it go.

I couldn’t help notice that the big wheel for the race seemed to be made with cheaper materials and workmanship than the Radio Flyer brand of big wheel we had gotten our eldest three years prior. Comparing the two even visually one looked sturdy, almost a throwback to the days of yore when things were built with metal later rusting and acquiring sharp sharp edges though use, cutting their young riders as god intended. The older big wheel harkened of a more simple, fun time when childhood had more danger, and danger is good for children. This modern big wheel was made thin cheap plastic, flimsy molding, the only part of any substance was it’s metal rod they gave you for a rear axel, but even that was so small in diameter a kitten with opposable thumbs could bend it as if at a young feline strongest cat competition. For a brief moment thought “maybe I could ride my eldest son’s big wheel?” Alas, where some races are BYOBW (Bring Your Own Big Wheel), this was a standardized affair. I’d have to live with this Kia Sorrento version big wheel and keep my son’s Mercedes of big wheels home.

Ages 3-8, weight limit 70 pounds, meaning I'm 5 times as old and 2.5 times too heavy.

Wait, they’re serious?

Upon snapping the rear seat into two large peg holes, I noted the instructions said “weight limit 70 pounds,” or 32 kilograms if you’re anywhere but the US. “Is that give-or-take a hundred” ran through my mind, at least, I hoped it was an error, maybe based on a guess at a Chinese factory, especially as I’m well over twice that figure.

Placing the big wheel down on our cement driveway for the first time I sat upon it. “This was even more cramped than the bikes at the gym,” I thought. I strained to get my feet past the handlebars, unlike the gym’s recumbent bike, to reach the big wheel’s pedals meant bending my knees awkwardly around or even over handlebars, contorted in such a way to get leverage seemed all but impossible. As if that weren’t enough of an issue, I realized the entire rear of the bike, which was really the not-adult width seat containing the axle within, sagged under my 185 pounds. Both rear wheels in fact now bent inward, their inside highest point of circumference rubbing against my leg as if my hips as if a ten speed bike’s brakes were stuck on, rubbing on the rims. In this case my hips are the rims.

Despite the pain shooting from my legs, knees, and ankles, forcing them into a position they were not meant for, all in order to get both feet to the front, I started to push the pedals. Nothing. I pushed a little harder with my ungainly legs bent, still nothing, just feet slipping occasionally off the pedals. No movement at all until finally the front wheel spun a little, then a bit more, and would keep on spinning while the bike stayed stationary. The front wheel, its tread made of hard flat plastic, may spin, but the bike with my weight wouldn’t budge on the concrete. Moving to the grass got the same if not worse results. As transportation, the big wheel is an even worse lawnmower.

I tried to rock forward and back, figured maybe if I got it going I could start pedaling. Our backyard has a slope, so I tried starting at the top of it. After contorting, I pushed off with an arm reaching behind me off the seat. Awkwardly down the hill I went where things went from bad to worse. The steering column of cheap thin plastic started to bend as I tried to steer, a process made difficult what with my legs going almost over then handlebars in a feeble attempt to reach the front pedals. No closer to getting the bike in motion under my own power, I sat at the bottom of our backyard in the grass, hips hurting where the inside of the rear tires were rubbing their way through the sides of my shorts bruising my hips. I sat there, trying to formulate a different plan.

At this point, the only big wheel that was in motion was my mind. “Maybe if I bought a rubberizing spray compound,” I thought, “I could rubberize the front wheel, then maybe it’d get traction. Better yet, if I drilled a small hole in the plastic wheel itself, it might probably hold water, or perhaps sand. A heavy front wheel, it would not only get traction but turning would be enhanced if I could bolster this steering column. Maybe wrap my feet in electrical tape around pedals to keep them from slipping off. Yeah, now we’re talking!” I thought.

I started getting excited on how I could MacGyver this big wheel into a lean, mean, front-wheel-heavy racing machine, but before I went too crazy tinkering, reached out to the race organizers about modifications to our big wheels. I was told, other than decorations, there could be no mods to the dynamics of the big wheel, mine, as the others, had to be stock condition, no rubberizing the wheel, weighing it, or attaching my feet to it.

For a couple days, I sat in the driveway on the big wheel, looking thinking, trying to figure out how to make this work, the bike’s plastic frame with small metal rear axel bent under my body weight, wheels touching my hips, legs awkwardly bent up and almost over the handlebars. Occasionally I’d even try in an act of futility, hoping anything could happen if I pedal like the wind just maybe… alas, the definition of crazy really is doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result. It would not go.

After some time sitting even if I found the most crooked lawyer I wasn’t breaking the laws of physics. My tall frame could not move this toy forward with all my weight on it. Near the end of the driveway I got up, kneeled on the big wheel like it a chariot, and kicked one leg out, as the other knee was down on the seat. I kick pushed and kick pushed and started to go faster and faster whipping around the house zooming up to the kitchen door.

That’s when it hit me, what exactly are the rules for the person riding the big wheel? Were there any rules for riding the big wheel? So I contacted the race organizers these same questions. The rules for riding the big wheel were simply:

All three wheels must stay firming on the ground.

Wait, that’s it? What about pedaling? Nope. What about sitting on the big wheel? Nope. Three wheels on the ground, that’s it. The sadness lifted, a new determination overcome me, a plan, sure-fire and perfect emerged.

A couple hours before the race I drove to an empty parking lot, pulled the big wheel from the trunk, set it on the pavement then, kneeling on the big wheel with one knee down, started kicking with my more dominant leg behind me. Faster and faster I went the length of a parking lot, cutting and partly sliding around a 90-degree bend where the lot had a grassy island, racing back the other direction. I did this several times, getting more confident and skilled, the front plasticky wheel sliding a bit out from underneath, steering column barely not folding, making another turn, completely a loop in a rough oval on patchy asphalt. The thin axel metal axel was bending to the point the wheels were touching the seat, rubbing and scuffing, but even with this braking effect, I could go fast, or fast enough. At this point, I figured two things:

  1. I was going to win this race with this new method
  2. I was probably the only contestant aware the rules of riding the big wheel. Advantage, me.
While I intentionally went with a sort-of steampunk cheap chariot driver motif, Jon went as Elsa's shower curtain.

We’re professionals.

2:30 PM, it’s race time and I line up with the rest of the competitors at a haphazard starting line, a seam in the pavement. I glanced to see the others unsure on how they were going to ride their big wheels. My plan was to sit down and act as if I was going to ride it, throw the others off, I did not want to give away there was a better way. Raised was the starting gun, I sat as the others did, awkwardly on their big wheels, tension filled the air. POP! We’re off! Rather, I’m off. In one fast motion I sprang up from sitting, slammed one knee down onto the seat and one leg kicked back, rocketing me forward. If and/or how the other big wheel racers reacted is still a matter of mystery, I was too focused to look back or look at the crowd that gathered, but knew I was far out ahead. I concentrated, made a sharp left, an 180-degree turn, then another left for the finish line, focusing on not falling over or lifting a wheel from the pavement.

At the moment I exited the last turn, the finish line mere feet away, I finally looked back to see almost every contestant barely off the starting line except one, a small woman, perhaps 110 or fewer pounds, who actually unlike me could not only fit on and not crush the bike, she could pedal too. She wasn’t gaining per se, part of me thought I should slow down to make it close, but then thought “nah,” all but diving across the finish line.

High fives to my support team, a kiss from my wife, low fives from my two boys. “That was GREAT!” I thought, I crushed the competition, everything went to plan! “Hold up,” said the race officials, “we’re going to do best two out of three.” “YES!!!” I heard a other competitors say before my “WHAT?” thought aloud. Best two out of three was never in the rules, then again, the rules seemed to be arbitrary at this point, so who am I to call them out?

super hero cape fluffer

Cape fluffing provided by the always adorable Stephana, who likes me even though I don’t know any lyrics from Frozen.

At this point I’m nervous, after all, everyone knows my secret sauce, it’s not required to be sitting and trying to pedal the bike like a demented circus clown. This time I need to flat-out run pushing the bike. I’m a pretty fast person, but am I that fast? And what of my bike with its rear wheels rubbing the seat, my front forks bent so it doesn’t steer, it’s like racing with a busted up horse. The first race I wasn’t very nervous, in fact, confident, now everybody knows they don’t need to sit because of my antics, what if someone runs faster or worse, I crash.

The next fastest person was most likely my friend Jon, who in fact was training for a half-marathon on top of being in the big wheel race for which, unlike me, he never contorted himself to gaping-mouth stares at the gym like I did, he didn’t know my suffering for the sport, he was simply competitive in a cool manner for which, I envied him. Half-marathon shape I’m not, but I used to be a sprinter. If sitting squished in a recumbent bike pedaling up the face of a cliff for two minutes is doable for a month, maybe I still have the advantage, or so I hoped.

Again we lined our bikes up at the starting groove of pavement, this time, me just taking a knee, no pretense, others did the same. The starter lifted his pistol, just as the gun popped I see something coming at me out of the corner of my eye, instinctively reacting, I dodge forward and away from whatever it was. I’m off like a bullet to the sound of the starter’s fake gun, this time running, hunched over the very little (from my perspective) big wheel, trying to keep all three worn and pocketed plastic wheels on the broken asphalt surface.

This is why you don't cheat.

This is why you don’t cheat.

I take the first corner, then the second, and upon the third and last corner notice, this time, there are people running as well, closer, but not enough of a threat, I jog out of breath across the finish line. Glancing back I see Jon had gone down at the starting line. Apparently, the object coming at me was him in an attempt to tackle me. He lunging as the pistol went off, trying to take me out of the action, but missed and in the process skinning his leg pretty badly. There’s a big difference between trying to cheat, and trying to win. Three wheels on the ground are going for gold, knocking a person down isn’t just cheating, if there were a big wheel race in the Olympics that would be an automatic disqualification.

In the end, I made the family proud, I entertained the audience (mostly), won a little swag, and having sort-of fixed the big wheel we have one for each child.

A valuable takeaway is learn ALL the rules BEFORE you start doing anything, look for ways you can achieve goals in unorthodox ways that go beyond doing the expected if you must follow the rules, and train and prepare like every big wheel race matters.

Also if there ever is an olympic big wheel event? I’m totally qualified to represent the country.

boys on big wheels

big data getting bigger by the minute

How much data is generated every minute? Obviously the short answer is A LOT! Domo put it together in an infographic. From videos to GIFs, emoji-filled tweets and messages, and beyond.

Staggering to think, it’s increasing and changing how and where the data sources come from all the time. Only four years ago 48 hours of YouTube was uploaded every second, now it’s 400 hours every second. Email’s sent and it’s use has slowed with the rise of collaborative apps like Slack. Four years ago things such as Snapchat and Tinder were merely ideas. Much has changed in how much data is created in four years, a lot more will change by 2020.

Undoubtedly the pioneers of the internet had no idea what would become of their theories when applied, certainly not that people would be slapping hearts and video snippets sent through iMessage.

how much data is produced every minute

great people, great cause

For the last two years I’ve had the honor and privilege of art-directing a calendar, sales of which fund the Mary Alice Beatty Scholarship for young woman looking to go into the aviation or aeronautics.

It takes months to produce the final product; lining up talent, stylists, locations, people, planes, and hoping for the best out of mother nature. Sometimes the harder the project, along with the value added to people’s lives for putting blood, sweat, and tears into it, are worth more than the money or accolades. It’s great to have another calendar done, printed, ready for it’s big reveal and for sale (last year’s sold out), and to be already ramping up planning next year’s locations, talent, and people.

For more on the calendar, beautifully photographed with women not only modeling, but role models in their own right, visit The Southern Museum of Flight website.

Mary Alice Beatty Scholarship Calendar


great question for a branding creative professional

Einstein Think Different Apple adA recent Q&A led to a fantastic question when sizing up a branding person, one I’d not given or heard before:

“What’s your favorite brand and why?”

Further clarification, it could be a brand you’ve developed, worked on, or simply one your admire.

Here is why this is, in my humble option, is brilliant: It gives person asking the question insight on how the person they’re chatting with thinks about brand creative, what is their process, their logic, what type of fit they may have within the organization.

Mind you, there is no right or wrong answer per se, choosing a brand one admires may be a personal choice, not necessarily how they see the world. If one were interviewing a creative, this question is many times better than the standard “tell me about a difficult time you [insert person, project, etc.]…” or using situational behavioral questions. Creatives develop ideas from intangibles not easily categorized, from a combination of experience and intuition, this doesn’t often have a pat answer of why “sales of X went from Y to Z.” If those sales were based on an ad campaign or a rebranding based on an idea, it’s hard to quantify that. Most great brands were arrived at not following formula, but from instinct, so to ask how a branding person sees their own or other brands gives an insight of why you want them in your corner.

I’ll take it a step further and say, if you’re reviewing agencies to work with for your company or organization, it also may be of great insight to ask them what brands they admire, again, not necessarily ones they’ve worked on, to see how their minds work, and to give you a sense if you want to work for them or not.

It’s a brilliant question if one is in marketing, branding, design, advertising, or really any career where crafting and perfecting a brand and it’s management is a large part of the focus gaining potentially fantastic insight.

Apple LogoOh, and my answer, favorite brand is Apple, Inc. Specifically the clean design permeating everything from advertising to packaging, software to hardware functionally, during the company’s second rise to success under Steve Jobs from 1997 to circa 2012. As a firm believer in Albert Einstein’s interpretation of Occam’s Razor “Everything should be kept as simple as possible, but not simpler,” Apple embodied a brand that was clean, timeless, and where simplicity took precedent. Another way it’s put, making complex things is easy, making simple things is hard, what Apple did was in fact very challenging, but their extraordinarily difficult efforts paid off and to most the world, it looked easy, to us insiders, it was anything but.

iPod AdsWith Steve Jobs firmly at the helm they created magic. From TBWA/Chiat/Day – responsible for Think Different and iPod silhouette ad campaigns with their iconic simplicity – to their website, clean both from a design and a coding perspective – to the way a child can pick up an iPad and, within seconds, understand the basics of how they operate, Apple as an entity was a brand that, for a period of over a decade, seldom had hiccups. Everything they did, everything they focused on, had an attention to detail eliminating anything extraneous that didn’t matter to their products, packaging, advertising… everything. Make everything simple, make it beautiful, make everything timeless, and make it work. It was that level of attention which propelled them to one of the most valued brands in the world.

Their secret was brand management, execution, and excellence on every level. It’s what myself and the best brand creatives should wish to bring to the table with an organization as an employee or as an agency.

the brand experience – connected and enabled by technology

The interrelationship between consumers and brands are now multilevel, in fact one could suggest you put PR wheels in motion before the advertising. In reality it’s more like a Venn diagram of course with overlap, but you get the idea/point. So the best approach for any client and it’s agency for really almost any rollout would be taking one from the other and never forgetting the chain between which, really even as much as a decade ago, wasn’t much of a consideration. My how times have changed.

the brand experience

Grapico and the olden age of advertising

Recently commissioned to do a piece celebrating the soft drink Grapico’s centennial, a drink advertised in photographic records on the Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” introduced a century ago, for the Southern Museum of Flight currently celebrating it’s half-century mark. In order to replicate the type of advertising done in the early days of aviation the museum had the Grapico logo added to a Heath Parasol, a DIY airplane one ordered from the factory approximately 90 years ago. If you’re keeping track at home, that adds up to some 340 years of history, give or take an orbit around the sun.

What’s fascinating, as all advertising has been since my age was in the single-digits, makers of Grapico (there’s been several through the years) saw the potential of flight as a way of promoting their product. Around 1916 powered flight was a few years old, the Wright Brothers were still experimenting, WW I was raging across Europe, the first transatlantic flight hadn’t been made yet, Amelia Earhart had only just seen an airplane, never flown one.

Aviation a century ago was unique, mysterious, and perhaps a bit sexy in a daredevil way. Products since the early days of mass production in a post industrial revolution world clamored to get into the hearts and minds of America’s new class of disposable income consumers. What better way than on mysterious machines that were heavier-than-air? Advertising has been pervasive long before the Mad Men era, creation of this display is a reminder, stating in effect “it’s a new era of wonder, skies the limit, take Grapico along for the ride.” Love or hate advertising, coming up with the idea of putting the logo on a plane was brilliant.

Also of note, Grapico > Buffalo Rock > Pepsi. I can now officially say I’ve done work for both soda giants.

Grapico Heath Parasol airplane

how to foster an atmosphere of committed great employees

stop look collaborate

In the midst of a massive web redesign being undertaken almost entirely internally for a project many in an industry often outsources, I’m reminded of the power internal teams and why, in many instances, it’s better to use the talent you know than take the time and effort (money) to hunt down agencies who, in the end, may miss their mark.

If an organization has the resources – by which I mean time, talent, and technology – a competent, confident staff with proper leadership and vision, why spend copious amounts of money outside your organization to do something an internal team may do just as well. As an added bonus, when leadership is willing to take a chance entrusting an internal team to do an often outsourced project, that team becoming involved feels more respected and appreciated. Empowering your people to take responsibility for the organization’s brand creates a higher level of job satisfaction by creating a sense of ownership.

There may (or will) be headaches and bumps in the process when turning employees loose on large projects where they find themselves having to learn new skills, think on-the-fly, challenge themselves, work better together as a team, asking for help getting resources to get the job done. These are all very much worth it not only for them to grow as integral parts of your organization, but your organization will be that much better for taking the chance, you’re creating value all the way around.

Moira Cullen, Director of Global Design at The Hershey Company, said regarding the power of your staff, “internal creative teams [can] seize their insider advantage by using their deep knowledge of the brand, leveraging their strategic value.” You’ve hired some talented people, put them to the best use and, wherever possible, challenge them in meaningful ways.