Sunday, May 4, 2014

8 Essentials for Effective Brand Storytelling

Effective brand stories engage people in ways that drive real business results. 

According to Bernie Thiel, a marketing consultant and partner at the firm Corporate Narratives Group, effective brand stories possess these characteristics:

Relevance – Show that you know your audience - what inspires them as well as their needs and struggles.

Credibility – Leveraging your leadership and expertise gives consumers qualified reason to listen and learn ... and act with trust. 

Compelling – Artful selling touches the consumer's head and heart.

Persuasiveness – An effective brand story is like an informative trail that leads the reader to an enticing, actionable conclusion.

Timeliness – This goes hand-in-hand with relevance.  Evergreen stories may inform, but they don’t trigger immediate action.

Understandable – Don’t let creativity bury your pitch.  Have a clear story line with coherent messages and defined action points.

Informative – Great brand stories educate and cultivate consumers. 

Authenticity – Fakes reveal themselves and in marketing deception is a brand killer. Brand stories offer opportunities to share what’s real and worthwhile about a product, brand or parent company.

I’ve only paraphrased Thiel’s points so check out his excellent post published in Brand Strategy Insider

Friday, April 25, 2014

Google Street Views juxtaposed with historical paintings unite past and present

I admire a well-crafted visual that speaks volumes. Check out this series by British collage artist Halley Docherty, whose images create a fascinating moment in time travel by superimposing historical paintings onto present day Google Street Views.
Painting: Night view of Saruwaka Street (1856) by Utagawa Hiroshige. Photo: This view south in Asakusa, Tokyo, is in an area nearly destroyed in 1923, by the Great Kanto earthquake. Photograph: Halley Docherty

Painting: La Modiste Sur Les Champs-Élysées (1889) by Jean Béraud. Photograph: Halley Docherty

Painting: A Regatta on the Grand Canal (c.1740) by Canaletto. Photograph: Halley Docherty

Painting: The 9th of November, 1888 by William Logsdail (1890) A Lord Mayor's Procession passes through Bank Junction. On the left side of the canvas is The Old Bank of England, shown here 50 years before demolition. Photograph: shystone/Reddit

See images from the London series

See images from the Global series 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

5 Cool Photo Editing Apps

If you use a smartphone or tablet to take commercial photos, the editors at Business News Daily suggest these photo editing apps for iOS and Android available free or in premium versions at app stores.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Designed for on-the-go photo editing, Adobe Photoshop Express is an entry-level photo editing app that offers a handful of features for quick edits and automatic fixes. Basic editing tools include crop, rotate, flip and red eye removal. You can also enhance photos using slide controls to adjust clarity, contrast, tint, exposure, temperature and more. 

Adobe Photoshop Express can be downloaded for free at the Apple App Store and Google Play marketplace. In-app purchases deliver additional features, such as the Looks pack for additional filters and the Nose Reduction pack to remove grains and speckling. 


Acquired by Google in 2012, Snapseed is a free iOS and Android app that offers a slew of professional-level photo editing features. To polish photos, the Auto Correct feature enhances colors, exposure and contrast in a single tap. The Tune Image feature tweaks brightness, shadows, white balance, saturation and other effects, and the Selective Adjust feature also lets you highlight and focus specific objects or areas. Other features include frames, texture and tone adjustment, and sharing via email, Google+ and more. 

Photo Editor by Aviary

Photo Editor by Aviary is a full-featured photo- editing app for iOS and Android devices. In addition to being able to adjust photo quality — clarity, color correction, contrast, brightness, temperature and the like — Aviary lets users easily enhance and truly personalize their photos. Aviary also features a set of Cosmetic Tools, which gets rid of flaws and blemishes, whitens teeth, and removes red eye.


Camera+ is a powerful photo editing app equipped with several tools to transform images into works of art. One of Camera+'s standout features is the Clarity function — in one tap, Clarity corrects colors, adjusts contrast and brightness, and enhances details to bring life to dull, washed-out photos. 

Other features include digital flash to brighten dark photos; scene modes to create true-to-life photos based on your environment; brushing and layered effects; and borders and captions to for a personalized touch. Camera+ also comes with standard photo editing tools, such as rotation and cropping.  

Camera+ also syncs with iCloud, so you can easily take and edit photos between iCloud-enabled devices. 

Camera+ costs $1.99 for the iPhone and $4.99 for the iPad.


Repix lets you "remix" photos using a host of brushes that turns an iPhone, iPad or Android device into your own personal canvas. Using the tip of your finger, Repix's series of brushes lets you paint various decorations, effects, colors and artistic touches onto your images. 

In addition to style brushes, Repix features over a dozen design filters and a collection of frames to finish off your designs. Another plus: this app offers social media integration, enabling users to directly share photos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr, as well as email. 

Repix is available for free at the Apple App Store and Google Play Marketplace. Additional brushes and filters are also available via in-app purchases.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Billboard Effect: Sweeping Montage Puts a Human Face on Poverty in Rio’s Favelas

French photographer JR shoots provocative
black-and-white photos, enlarges them to 
billboard-size, then cuts and pastes 
them into sweeping narratives

Funny how the digital age has redefined terms like “billboard,” “cut and paste,” and “posting.” For our purposes here their meaning is strictly old-school and low-tech.  

JR is a young French photographer known for his provocative black-and-white photos, which he enlarges to billboard-size prints and then, working hurriedly under cover of night, cuts and illegally pastes them on large walls in public urban spaces.  Much of JR’s work makes a political statement, putting hauntingly real faces on serious social issues

For one project JR spent a year taking portraits of victimized women in Africa, Asia and South America. His goal was to showcase strong, courageous women struggling amid oppression and poverty. 

A profound example of this is JR's unauthorized 2008 “installation” in Rio de Janiero's infamous favela Morro da Providencia. These images are especially pertinent now as many favela residents are being evicted as part of Brazil's controversial "clean up" for the World Cup in June of this year and the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

Images such as these need no written explanation.
Their scale and presentation make his message 
disruptive and thought-provoking. 

While some of JR’s installations are done legally, 
many such as this one are hastily cut and 
pasted up under cover of night.

Listen to this audio interview and you will find JR downright genial. Frankly, I’d expected someone angry and radical, but then I realized that JR's images are in the voice of a warmly compassionate storyteller. His artistic process includes using harsh, authentic settings because they give his images impact, context and relevance. It's interesting that JR began as a Paris graffiti artist and then gravitated to the billboard-like platform favored by advertisers.

Beyond words. One image expresses outrage 
and empathy for residents struggling invisibly. 

JR’s work reminds me that a compelling story can be told simply in a style and format that may not require words, sound -- or links. 

Monday, April 7, 2014


Definitely worth a quick read:  Indiewire’s Q&A interview with Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment and a leading figure in the emerging field of transmedia storytelling. Among his transmedia credits are major projects, such as "Avatar," "Pirates of the Caribbean," and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." 

What is transmedia? In Gomez’s words, transmedia is about delivering a big story across various media platforms so that the totality provides a richer, more dynamic and multi-channel viewer experience. 
There’s one central story in the form of a film or a TV or web series, but it is enhanced through supplemental side stories told via a mix of channels, possibly including an interactive book, a video site, video game, blog, Facebook community, Twitter news feeds, Instagram and Pinterest galleries, mobile apps, and more.  
The challenge with transmedia lies in funding, planning, producing and then choreographing the release of all this extra content.  But for popular, high profile franchises it may be possible to monetize each story stream with media and commercial partnerships and in some cases subscription access to exclusive material. 
On a smaller scale, could brands use transmedia for marketing? It's an intriguing idea. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014


An artist's sketchbook can read like a personal journal. These pages got me thinking ... what a great approach for telling brand stories - in print or digitally. 

Who could resist spending time snooping around? 

The art is totally engaging and I especially like the way the copy is broken into bits and bites. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


So interesting, this recent story in Adweek about high-end e-commerce brands using print magazines and catalogs to drive deeper fan engagement. 

You can't beat digital media for its touch-and-go immediacy, but there is something undeniably special about a good glossy pub - the kind you hang on to for months and leisurely re-read many times. 

Glossy print is expensive to publish of course, but for some brands it can be a worthy investment. I've long admired American Express for its very upscale Departures magazine - available exclusively to Platnium Card and Centurion members. 

This pub is world-classy - superbly written, beautifully edited and art directed, printed on quality paper stock - and it delivers real reader value with news, tips and feature stories that make you want to buy, buy, buy ... using your Amex card. 

Plus, each issue is plump with ads that command attention on the printed page. These ads translate well on screen, too, since Departures' members-only online edition is plenty luxe. However, the feel and smell of fine paper make them seem a lot more personal, if not more memorable. 

Yes, print is still relevant.  Costly no doubt, but Amex seems to monetize it just fine. Let's see how new players such as Porter do. 

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