Friday, March 28, 2014

Filmmaker George Lucas: Great Illustrators Tell a Grand Story in a Single Frame

                                                                                                              Illustration by N.C Wyeth

Fascinating CBS Early Show interview with filmmaker George Lucas who said great American illustrators, including Maxfield Parrish, NC Wyeth and Norman Rockwell, inspired him to make movies. He talks about his admiration for illustrators and how they portray a rich and moving story in just a single image. As a youth Lucas aspired to become an illustrator - a dream dashed by his pragmatic father. But come to think of it, don't you see an illustrator's eye in his films? 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Brilliant Branding: How 60's Ad Legend Mary Wells Launched Braniff and Changed the Airline Industry

Move over Mad Men. During the 60's (and for decades more) Mary Wells Lawrence was Madison Avenue's leading lady - famous for big ideas that got people talking and buying. She and other luminaries of her day, like Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy, and Leo Burnett, were masters at commercial storytelling and it's worth rediscovering their work.

Case in point: Look at what Ms. Wells Lawrence did for the 1968 launch of Braniff International, then an unknown airline in an industry of bland carriers. 

First she teamed up with famed architect Alexander Girard; together they convinced Braniff's brass to paint each plane a bright acid hue. 

She then brought in Italian couturier Emilio Pucci to design ultra-mod uniforms for the crew, and used edgy decorators to produce chic space-age passenger terminals and aircraft cabins. 

From all of this (and more) she went on to spin advertising and publicity gold. 

Braniff debuted with a stunning ad campaign that heralded 'The End of the Plain Plane,' and indeed it was. Other carriers raced to slick themselves up, but Braniff did it first - and best. 

Braniff's launch was wrapped around a mammoth brand story - and it was integrated marketing way ahead of its time.

To get a sense of what Madison Avenue was really like back in the 60's, check out Mary Wells Lawrence's 2002 memoir, 'A Big Life in Advertising'. Also, check out Braniff's mind-blowing "End of the Plain Plane" TV spots.

Now that U.S. airlines are profitable again and with passenger satisfaction at an all-time low, perhaps it's time for airline marketers to study Braniff's playbook - or better yet, give Mary a call. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

5 Brand Story Essentials

Can you tell your brand story in under a minute? Of course you can (and indeed you should) with a pitch that's pithy, punchy and persuasive. Follow these steps to nail your message: 
1. Pain Relief: Zero in on the prickly sore spot your brand can relieve right now
2. Promise: In one sentence state your solution in "consumer speak" (no marketing jargon!)
3. Qualification:  In two bullet points or less, say why should we should believe you?
4. Relevance:  Put your pitch in context. What scenarios will your audience relate to? 
5. Dramatization:  Think carefully about your brand's voice. Are you friendly, funny or authoritative? Are you appealing to logic, fear or passion?  How might you tell your story visually, without words or sound? What sound bite or tagline will effectively brand your takeaway message? 
Madison Avenue used to churn out brilliant brand stories, like this classic commercial video for VW Beetle that sold frugality as mainstream chic. 


Good story in Fast Company about the value creative-minded people bring to the workplace - and not just for creative positions.  Author Bret Morstad, a successful food entrepreneur, makes the point that many creative thinkers are natural problem solvers - with an uncommon ability to see opportunities and challenges in unconventional ways. 

He adds that it's a mistake to assume that someone with, say a background in art or writing or music, would not do well in a non-creative role. Creative thinkers have a unique fluidity that lets them stretch their talent in unexpected ways - often with outstanding results. 

Peter Schultz, former CEO of Porsche, summed this up in a few words: "Hire character. Train skill." 

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Whole Foods Market does a brilliant job marketing via social media.

Grocery shopping as a topic can be deadly boring. Food talk can become heavy and preachy when it’s tied to issues like nutrition, health, worker rights or eco-friendly farming. Yet, Whole Foods embraces all of these and more - and does so in ways that are fascinating – even fun. How? Through upbeat, visually-driven storytelling.

Indeed, most of the company's posts are mini stories about a product, recipe, employee news, or issue. Presented with an appealing photo, some compelling copy, and a link to richer content archived on Whole Foods blog, each post aims to educate and inspire customers to shop, eat, and live really well.

Not that there’s not a lot of selling going on; every post is a sales pitch, after all. However, Whole Foods' style of selling is decidedly soft – consistently so across its social network that includes Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google +, YouTube, and more. 

The company does a great job tailoring its stories to each platform's strength. Let's look at how Whole Foods does this on Facebook:

Color, color everywhere 

Facebook itself is a pretty bland environment, which makes scrolling down a colorless timeline awfully tedious. That's not a problem for the 1.4 million fans who visit Whole Foods' main Facebook page for its vivid stream of posts featuring products, recipes, tips, news, promotions, and more. Photos are always intriguing and very colorful - so sharp and detailed they almost pop off the page. 

The same holds for posts that feature punchy graphic design. These posts catch your eye and then your imagination.  

Eye and appetite appeal 

You won't see slick advertising shots here. Food photos have easy-breezy eye appeal like what you'd see on a foodie blog. Recipes are meticulously styled, so every image is beautiful and appetizing. A short narrative gets you thinking, "Gee, I should make that." One click takes you to a related story or video on the company's blog that shows you how. Now that's integrated marketing.

"New on Aisle 5 ..."

Package shots are usually taken right in a Whole Foods store, not a studio. This post promoting a new bagged popcorn was shot smack in the snacks aisle. Yep, we like the package design alright - and seeing the photographer's hand adds a nice real-time touch. The accompanying story tells us this product contains Fair Trade ingredients - a Whole Foods mandate. Makes you feel good - and a bit hungry.   

Eye-grabbing Infographics 

Infographics on Whole Foods' timeline do double-duty, combining how-to tips with visual pizzazz. Case in point: This clever infographic teaches you how to cut a mango in 3 easy steps. Click on it and you land on a blog feature with mango recipes and more serving tips. Anyone who hasn't tried mangoes before certainly has good reason now. 

Visual Stories Sell Hard, Softly

Old-school TV and print advertising is relentlessly intrusive and self-serving. Marketing via social media requires a softer, more personal and engaging approach. Whole Foods succeeds at this by posting real, uplifting, and compelling stories that educate customers and get them excited about trying new foods, and eating foods that are tastier and healthier. 

Importantly, once you become a Whole Foods fan you won't feel much like grocery shopping anywhere else, right?

Job done. 

The next post in this series will look at how Whole Foods Market tells stories in pictures curated on Pinterest. 
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