Friday, November 27, 2009

Bon Vivant!

Many great opportunities arise in the design business we play a central role assisting our clients with conversations that engage their various audiences both old and young. We often enter into opportunities that require visuals. Visuals come in many forms photographs, illustrations, iconic marks, symbols or logos. The business of commercial illustration has evolved with the advent of new technologies specifically software programs like 3D MAX and Maya. The level of realism that illustrators achieve today is remarkable. Visuals and words plus engineering combine all the essential ingredients to making information meaningful.

In my quest for realism and the personification of inhuman objects long before online technologies I went on a pursuit some years back prior to 1995. I met an extraordinary individual Francesco Santalucia. I needed someone who could turn produce into mascots. This was a project for a client’s umbrella organization. Their membership includes produce growers from across the country. This association wanted to launch a kids outreach campaign. We found Francesco in Montreal as a result of his pages in a large hard cover illustrator’s promotional publication. He had the right skills to bring carrots, apples and other earthly vegetables to life. The intent was to make these vegetable products into animated characters that would appeal to young children. The project was a smash hit Francesco's illustration created more demand from children across Canada joining the club then the client envisioned or expected. A great metric and fabulous outcome promoting healthy eating to youngsters while being educated about nutrition.

Francesco was at the office today, we engaged him to render a high realism Maya animated sequence for our documentary film production that is nearing completion. He came to Ottawa to review the details and creative direction with the film director and director of photography (DOP). The relationship lives on and I'm thrilled to have Francesco back on assignment for our clients.

Lasting business relationships contribute to making the business vital. The projects we complete on behalf of our clients bring constant reminders of the upside of collaborating toward positive outcomes and driving the company success. Having dynamic people part of the program is that much more rewarding.

Times shared with Francesco have been great his fabulous work over the last couple of decades enshrined positive memories. His work stands as testament to someone who has unmatched passion achieving excellence in his craft. I believe his core brand is capturing children’s imagination through extraordinary skill in rendering ideas. Check out his site to get the picture.

We’ve become friends. His insight and counsel on matters of business have been great. His creativity, wisdom, and genuine magnetic style and inspirational spirit is evident in his craft and abundant in his personality. I look forward to continuing great times ahead launching brilliant visuals for our clients knowing and collaborating with Francesco Santalucia.

Smoking good Cuban cigars, drinking fine wine and enjoying remarkable dinners with this bon vivant has contributed to enriching many experiences personally and professionally.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Organizational Diagnosis for Brand Management

For effective brand building to be accomplished the first important stage is understanding our clients unique organizational structure. Looking at the organization from the perspective of how all its various parts, constituents and stakeholders align to ensure a properly functioning enterprise is essential step one.

We cannot provide useful counsel on brand for internal audiences or others if we fail to see the unique profile of organizational structure. In retrospect some large organizations like federal departments have expansive profiles with whole communities of employees working interdependently toward defined mandates. Our engagement with Service Canada gave us a genuine understanding of the unique attributes of large scale brand programs. We have engaged with Not for Profits that have a volunteer base who comprise of a core group of stakeholders. This same organization has board oversight, with a CEO who also deals with governance from public regulatory officials, the clients “customers” are accredited organizations registered and legally obliged to utilize our client under the regulatory regime. Other parties contribute to the functioning of the organization all of this toward ensuring outcomes and advancement of the Not for Profits organizational goal. I use this specific example to define for readers the degree to which we have to respond and carefully navigate with all the players toward successful outcomes in brand leadership. The example provided is not unique when entering into new business models and lack of understanding of the make up of the organization prior to launching into brand management is at the consultant’s peril.

A good cross section of clients engage us with less complex management and stakeholder profiles but frequently we do diagnostic assessments of organizational structure and dynamic prior to getting down to essential planning and strategy. We are prepared then to sell the “change”, which is why we’re being paid the big bucks in the brand business. From the outside this missive I hope will provide some context for how our task as experts in brand can have some serious logjams and potential barriers. In most cases the client has aligned the organization as a whole and informed the team that something new is underway this creates less resistance to our involvement in leading the charge.

But here is the scoop or the post point. We encounter new opportunities monthly and annually. The cumulative net advantage from moving from one client on to the next client working on a continuum of brand engagements has been extraordinary. Factor the learning and diagnostic focus done for one company and what you gain from studying that model. Take that over many companies over a decade and you begin to appreciate the big advantage you bring as an expert dealing in complex brand management programs. The understanding and investment as a result of diagnosis of business models over years in the field affords the brand consultant unequalled depth by comparison to staff members or those who have not touched on the variety and expanse of opportunities. The brand consultant’s wealth of experience, great depth and understanding of unique and different business models provides significant advantage to the client who is interested in distinctive, well-defined brand leadership models for their organization.

CBC and other gordongroup Online Enterprise Solutions

Chatting about Social Media

Bruce Spurr unfortunately social media is not the only venue for this type of "alien" reaction to new ideas. We've had several gg clients have similar trouble with branding (consistency across the organization) and creating/mainting new web publishing standards (writing style/multimedia usage, language, and many other issues).

It constantly amazes me that organizations consistently making decisions from fear. Foundational to the precepts of the strategy paradox - an organization acting out of fear fails slowly, while one acting with aggressive positive intention can fail spectacularly OR succeed spectacularly. People would rather "mitigate risk" by failing slowly then taking a chance possibly succeeding. This mentality is becoming more and more common in our society as we seek the immediate gratification (doing nothing means nothing bad happens now).

We do the best we can to help them move in the right direction, but at the end of the day, you cannot force anyone to act.

Robert Chitty Bruce, "fear" certainly drives inhibition and places a lag on leadership in specific areas. Lag presents opportunity for experts to offer solutions to close gaps and support more successful outcomes. I agree as well with your point that social media like brand management is often given much lower priority then other functions in organizations. ie: Financials capital expenditures on assets other staffed functions. My assessment is as follows: Social Media is an emerging brand building tool that has derailed traditional forms of marketing. The transformation has driven much uncertainty people hear more about major failure like mainstream newspapers crashing due to a migration of advertisers out of these formats then best practices and outcomes within online communities. This has people questioning the upside to social media and its stability and suitability for their investments. The good news is we know the younger generation is not phased about any of this and have become practitioners across the board. On the other point about brand management. Clients have to make considerable investment in upholding their brand. I look at what is diluting that effort from my perspective it comes down to shopping to consultants on term basis under the watchful eyes of transparency and tender /procurement. Unfortunately all the good work you produce can get turfed by the next service provider who comes knocking with their low pricing model or limited appreciation of all the value you've put in place. Your Brand Management Champion today leaves and you may very well not have the benefit of that same alignment with the replacement. Many factors come into play. As you know when we partner with our clients we have the most success.

Barb White, The Social Media Boomer Throughout history there has been a resistance to change. Nowadays changes happen so quickly that businesses that do not embrace the changes will find themselves left behind saying 'What happened'

Robert Chitty Barb, I'm interested in your opinion on what the single greatest tactic is to gain "value" through social media.
What is really working effectively in terms of people's efforts and their return on this social media investment. Where is cash being generated for example?

Barb White, The Social Media BoomerA great question Robert. I think that the most important tactic is to have a strategy plan and stick to it. Which social networking sites do your target market hang out? What questions and needs to they have? There is plenty of money being made on social media, but it is being made when people concentrate their efforts rather than spreading ... 

Brad Reason @Robert, people seem to think using social media generates money. It's a common misconception, because there's many 'social media gurus and experts' feeding you false info.
Social media is part network building, part customer back-n-forth communication, part promotion, and part web-presence building and company branding.

Time = money. Social Media is time, and very little money. If you invest the time building your network, your network becomes clients, projects, contracts, and sales.

Robert Chitty Barb, Thanks for your response! We have an opportunity to present a Social Media Primer to specific audiences both youth and business. I can anticipate people wanting to get to the ROI question.
I like how you have distilled the steps very helpful.

Robert Chitty Brad, This new paradigm Social Media is taken on incredible dare I say HYPE. I think people may overlook key elements of successful brand building attempting to decipher the meaning of all of this. For example who is in charge of the Social Media out reach what is the HR management of the media? Is it basic admin. duties or is it with IT or is is with the wordsmith or the CEO. Do the people in charge understand the organizations brand have they got a identity framework thats rock solid and persuasive about their value proposition that everyone agrees on and that will effectively support their brand building. What's the story people want to tell their communities of interest. This has to be factored in as Time and effort=cost. After all isn't this just one component of a variety of brand leadership procedures that need to be managed. I agree with your point that making money from this as a immediate gratification could be leading people to false hopes.. I am grateful for your response to this thread. RWC

Brad Reason I fully agree with you Robert. What you've pointed out is what separates the professionals from the amateurs.
Joe Schmoe with 20000 contacts, a group page, a fan page, and constant status updates is not a social media marketing professional.

Everything you mentioned above is now a new factor. Traditional marketing and branding now needs to be combined with new media, social media, social marketing.
Perhaps its the same people that once were your marketing department... but probably not... It takes a intelligent savvy mind that understands what it means to represent a company professionally as well as understand the concepts of marketing, advertising, and promotion.

take for example, your average company that's been around for 50 years. they have a marketing department. If that marketing team has not brought social media marketing to the table yet, it's time to bring in fresh meat to add them to the team.

Some of it is 'hype' ... but isn't all advertising and promotion 'hype' in the first place? The fact that so many people are believing this 'hype' that social media is working... it has to make you think there's validity to it.

Look past the 'what are you doing?' question on twitter. and look past the 'I have 1000 friends on facebook'
Each of these social media outlets are accessories, tools, extensions of where your brand and company can go.
And most of these tools are free... Why not use them.. and use them wisely.

If you'd like to take a peek at my facebook page, or my linkedin page, or my blog... you may get an example as to how I have used social media effectively to create revenue.
And I'm just one example, doing one niche form of talent. Social media is available for anyone, any company, offering anything.....
and the professionals, who know how to utilize, while making a company look the way it should, are the ones finding the success.

Robert Chitty Brad, I will throw you my linked iN and Friend on FB invites. 
I like the straight goods approach.

Barb White, The Social Media Boomer Brad I totally agree with you, re the new 'guru's of social media, and the large money making claims.It is possible to make money from social media, but for the business world it's more about embracing a new form of marketing and communication. It is becoming an important aspect of marketing and branding, but is not the whole picture. Businesses need to get away from push advertising, and get back to relationship marketing and selling, as well as more transparent communication when things don't go as planned.

Brad Reason Personally, I love social media marketing 100x more than traditional marketing. I used to have to listen to print newspaper sales people try to sell me 5 lines of space for $500.. then hear about how they can 'hook me up'... or I had to listen to BS stats from sales people about why it's so important for me to have my blurb in a magazine.

Now, it's about creating your own worth, connecting with other like-minded people in the same boat who are also creating their own worth, and then supporting each other, finding ways to help, support, and pay it forward. Helping people feels like such a wonderful way to advertise and marketing. It's a great feeling helping out a company that is also wanting to help you out at the same time.

Now, I don't need to listen to bunk stats, and why I need an ad in the sunday paper from a salesman. Now I can send out a message 'hey I need help' and have thousands of people respond with 'I'll help'... meanwhile I can also shout out 'hey, I'm willing to help' and have a thousand people reply, 'hey, I need help'

The money flow and profit is indirect, but the exposure and reputation is very direct. Having a great online presence with a cohesive force of other quality people online is a monumental asset to have.

Robert Chitty Brad, Hey I need help on my blog..
Hope your Online time is prosperous!...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Digitize or Acidify

Books bring knowledge to people. Books contribute to our individual identity and our country's identity. I enjoy having books in our various shelving around the house they anchor our interior living environment with memories, art, stories and other rich and meaningful effects. My boy’s room is a youth library he got the reading gene in his elementary years through structured reading at home and careful support at his school he loves books we’ve helped by investing in his collection. (Chapter’s binging and withdrawal is a dangerous and sometimes costly addiction) Libraries, Archives and Universities as well Community groups and other organizations all stock books in various scales of order. A quick glance at an individual’s book collection confirms much about that person’s individual brand. The same is true for corporate libraries or a nation's collection. Books are part of our extended identity they personify who we are today and offer rich meaning about our past.

The Save a Page Campaign that we’ve developed in partnership with our clients from Canadiana is another extraordinary opportunity that makes coming to gordongroup rewarding. We’re performing an integral role on an important challenge facing Canadians. The challenge we have is the prevention of losing core elements of our national ethos as Canadians due to books falling apart and disintegrating. When books age they suffer from a kind of book cancer known as acidification. The good news is we‘ve entered into a new economic reality. Richard Florida defines it as the creative class where design and innovation married with technology led by people with vision is opening new opportunities. The transition is well underway and much of the workplace horizon has shifted. Books can be saved with a commitment to digitization. Google of course is the king of digitization. The movement to Digitize in Canada is comprised of many people including influential individuals in the Library, Museum and Archival arena. As well a groundswell of focus is building by people in many other sectors. All of this commitment is underway to protect Canada’s heritage through digitization activities. This notion of digitization is a large mandate that reaches across Canada. The intent is to put people to work conducting scanning and preserving activities in a deliberate and managed effort. This sizable task will define an important segment of the labour market in the years ahead.

See to support the movement…

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thoughts on Brand

For those who wish to grow their organization and get measurable results on their bottom line making a commitment to building the brand is a great way to get started. A central idea around how to define brand is thinking about the organization how ever big or small as an individual person. What is the organizations personality? We relate to one another based on character attributes. We attract others or repel others with the signals we send and the body language we exhibit. So using the metaphor of individual personality to define the organizations brand can be a starting point to establishing criteria for what your organization is all about. Look at other metaphors my wife’s dogs have two distinct “dog brands” the Daschund is yappy, small and elongated. And her Border collie is needy, passive and pack oriented. Distinct different brands of dogs some dogs share attributes and some dogs have very different attributes.
Organization brand can be distilled into meaningful constructs if we think of what the personality of the organization is all about. Clients who have engaged gordongroup benefit from our BLM system. BLM stands for Brand Leadership Model. We have developed tools that offer diagnostic assessment of organizational process as it relates to brand. This system helps to establish terms of reference on how to go forward with an effective platform or foundation for brand building. gordongroup looks at the following areas of brand related process.

1. Brand Management
2. The Identity Framework
3. Brand Architecture
4. Brand Building

These four modules effectively capture each key element or paradigm of an organizations brand. An organization with no investment in design standards or stewardship, or governance for that matter will have these conceptual modules in place but may not be leveraging them to build equity or drive investment.
On the contrary smart organizations understand clearly these elements and have made major commitment to foster, support, resource and protect their interests as it relates to these four modules. I’ll provide a brief synopsis on each of the four modules.

1. Brand Management, Successful brand management requires people or persons within the organization to put in place the proper administration to control the organizations brand. A central office charged with protecting the brand against threats, which may include rogue communication by well meaning stakeholders or poor design standard application or even inappropriate customer service. These are very limited examples essentially it’s the “people” tasked with executing and controlling the brand internally and externally out to various markets.
2. The Identity Framework is not the mission, values and vision. The Framework is a well thought out description of the organizations personality starting with the idea of what is the essence of the organization. Many other specific constructs make up the Identity Framework. These constructs are useful to know if you want to develop a meaningful framework to support your brand investment. Getting the framework right often determines the success of the brand. Ultimately the framework needs to be meaningful and persuasive. It also should differentiate. The visual Logo fits in here as part of the extended identity.
3. Brand Architecture, Organizations may have a Parent Brand and a variety of Sub brands or Component brands when planning a BLM one has to carefully diagnose the organization brand architecture to ensure the Parent Brand serves its market properly and is not downgraded by conflicting brands that may be in play. Each brand will need resources and backing to properly align in their market channels. We have seen recently organizations that allow organic growth of sub brands that blur the parent brands prominence and throw a new vector into the positioning of the parent diluting its preeminence resulting in lost equity. Brand Architecture is a critical module integral to many organizations.
4. Brand Building, this is the wide-open big terrain of how you intend to roll out your identity and create a following. Today Social Media has garnered a massive following. Organizations and Individuals create and upload social graphs online in turn use interface utilities to get their brand or personal message across. This effective and relatively inexpensive tactic has taken off and will continue to be an emerging brand building tool. Print is still around as is the telephone. Sponsor opportunities and endorsement opportunities are certainly worth a look. As well as basic networking and interpersonal conversation.

So build yourself a great brand and have fun doing it! Should you want gordongroup’s BLM White Paper modules please drop me a line.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Early this morning I found my way to the new Telfer School of Management building on University of Ottawa's Campus. gordongroup was invited to speak to students about brand, marketing and self promotion. This occasion allowed me to share some of my beliefs and ideas with others. gordongroup has had the good fortune to be partner to the University over the last few years. We started earlier on when we were engaged to do strategic work and launch a rebrand program to support raising the institutions profile. For people in the Ottawa region and beyond the phrase "Canada's University" is immediately recognizable. This apt tag line for a centre of learning excellence in the heart of the nations capital has contributed to building their brand in a meaningful way.

For the last two years we have acted as Agency of Record managing the Universities advertising outreach. Having the privilege to meet people who attend the University in support of their learning effort today was very rewarding for me. The format was arranged with approximately 2 hours of engaging conversation focussed on risk taking, differentiating, goal setting, defining our personal leadership attributes and other core ideas around getting ahead in life. These are shared themes among leaders. The emphasis may shift over time or we may look at these themes with different perspective but for those who strive to forge new ground and believe in making a difference these ideas certainly will support the pathway forward. Oh and one other important conversation point eliminate inhibition!

The profound, thoughtful questions raised demonstrated the passion and drive among the people I was introduced to. Being among people who extended to me a warm and intellectual reception was a privilege and honor. I'm thankful to everyone at gordongroup for the opportunity to represent them to various forums and outreach situations the combined effort of those who have contributed to the companies growth has made it what it is today. We look forward to continued good relations with...
..."Canada's University".