Category Archives: Advertising

The Most Important Brand You Never Think Of

I admit I have not given this blog the attention it needed over the past year.  Needless to say school has kept me very busy. Plus, I’ve got some very exciting projects I’m working on outside the world of academia that I’ve been focusing on.  Either way, as we reach the end of the semester I’m reminded that my time here is growing short.  Soon enough I will be back in the thick of finishing my final semester and trying to get a job.  I thought I would share an article I wrote last year about this time that was published on IHAVEANIDEA.  You can link to the online article here or read it below.  Its never too early to start polishing up the personal brand!

There is no escaping it.  This tech-ed up world we’re living in has made dodging the marketer’s message nearly impossible.  So much so, that as consumers we are all growing increasingly complacent to the onslaught of branded messaging we confront on a daily basis.  As a student of the VCU Brandcenter, a microcosm of self-proclaimed brand junkies, the experience may be slightly different.

We love this stuff.  Probably too much.

I remember well the first assignment I received in a course on brand engagement.  At the professor’s instruction, I was to record in a journal every brand that I consciously engaged with during one single day.  Simple, right?  My mind was fried by the time I polished off my Cheerio’s.  There I sat, on my Ikea couch, watching a TV series on Netflix, streamed via Roku, on my Panasonic television, while checking email on my iPhone and devouring a bowl of Big G cereal.  All before 8 AM.  And while I thought I was being particularly clever recognizing all this hardcore brand engagement, I was amazed to see my list of brands dwarfed by many of my fanatical peers.  I think the winning list included nearly 200 brands.  In one day.

While the Brandcenter may represent somewhat of an anomaly in that regard, it’s in the context of this observation that I can’t help but express some surprise at how infrequently people consider themselves among the most important brands in their life.

Whether we like it or not, we all act as our own personal brand.  And much like the popular brands we all love (and love to hate), the things we do and say are often trumped by how others perceive us.  It may seem unfair but that’s the way it works.  Don’t think you’re that petty?  Well, examine your own purchasing behavior and you may see similar patterns.  How many times have you been torn between products and chosen the one wrapped in sexier packaging?  Are you more willing to take a risk on a new product because of its cool logo or recognizable brand?  Of course you are.  We all are.

Managing a brand is hard work and requires a high level of commitment.  One advantage that we, as individuals, have over corporate brands is agility.  If you’re unhappy with your current brand, simply change it.  It can be as simple as minding your wardrobe, tweaking your vocabulary or reinvigorating that limp handshake.  Obviously these small transformations represent the most basic of personal branding tactics.  However, implementing a more strategic branding initiative doesn’t have to be as complex as it seems.  Look at world famous brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, and Levi’s – sure they have brand values.  A brand voice.  An essence.  And while all of this may feel very intangible on the surface, each of these brands are rooted in something very real.  A passion and dedication to their respective craft that transcends the product itself.

This same concept can be applied with equal magnitude to shaping your own brand.  Find your passions, what you want to stand for and inject them with your own personality.  Be fluid.  Be flexible.  These things change over time and your brand should evolve in parallel.  Just keep in mind that there is no right answer and no real risk.  No ROI to track.  No shareholders to please. Just you: an army of one.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the annual recruiting event for graduating Brandcenter students.  It is attended by hundreds of the world’s top ad agencies on the hunt for the industry’s hottest young talent.  It was truly something to behold.  For two days, the school was transformed into a gallery of brilliant personal branding.  I didn’t see a thing that wasn’t astonishingly unique and creative.  The Brandcenter Class of 2012 set the bar high – not only for future graduates of the Brandcenter, but for personal brands everywhere.

So whether you count yourself among the graduates plunging into the workforce for the first time this May, or those simply trying to ignite and propel a prosperous career, know that the secret to success may be more manageable than you thought.  I’ve found that the best way to be treated like a junior is to act like one.  If you want to be perceived as a professional you can just as easily be one of those, too.  But that’s the beauty of being your own brand manager; you call the shots.

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Saatchi & Saatchi

Saatchi & Saatchi recently opened a new office space in Bangkok Thailand and it looks really cool.  One of the big perks in my mind of working for ad agencies are the incredibly creative spaces available to work in.  It would be hard not to find inspiration working in an office like this.  Very cool.




Star Power

No doubt I’m a huge fan of Nike and the great advertising content they are so well know for.  I recently caught a glimpse of the new campaign promoting the new Kobe shoe.  I have to say I’m a fan.  Not of Kobe, but I did like the commercials.  My heart will always bleed purple and orange for the Phoenix Suns so naturally I hate the Lakers.  With that said, Nike again finds a way to entertain, promote, and in some way show a very likable side to a few controversial celebs.  I think I may even lump Mr. Bryant into that category.  Really excellent use of start power in this campaign and I am sure this will prove what we have known all along – America loves to what athletes and musicians “act.”  Aziz in obviously great in these but I’ve been into him for years. Even before Parks & Rec.

Great writing in these spots.  Its funny to me how humor can be used to sell almost anything!  There is certainly a fine line between really smart creative humor and the “elbow to the ribs” kind of funny but Nike does a bang up job here in my opinion.  A few of my favorite lines from that last video:

“While I don’t understand most of anything Kobe is talking about…I want to.”

“What if I did stand-up in a Volcano?”

“I bought a planet.”

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this is me…

13 and a half hours into a typical day at the Brandcenter.

Been at school since 8:30 am, its now 10:00 pm.

Time to head home and keep working.

Am I crazy for enjoying this so much?!







Go Make Something

“Too many able, creative people have turned their time and talent to selling. Too few are doing the work on which all sales should be based: manufacture. It is not false flattery when I say to people in advertising that there are more interesting, able, and creative people in your business than any other business in America. I urge some of you to get out of the business of selling and into the business of producing… for God’s sake, go MAKE something.”

                    – Andy Rooney

Bad Ad Redesign

Life at the Brandcenter is officially full throttle.  I will do a post sometime soon about how awesome it is and some of the really cool things we have been doing.  In the meantime I wanted to share an assignment I created for a creative thinking class.  The idea is to find an ad that misses the mark or is in some way bad, then redesign it.

The ad I chose was from Lego.  In all fairness I don’t think this ever actually ran.

I’m a fan of Lego so I was disappointed to see them do something like this. I don’t think it was done in bad taste but this just isn’t a topic for Lego to tackle. I’m just glad they didn’t actually go for an image of the Twin Towers built as multi-colored Legos.

That would have been worse!

I get that they are trying to impress upon consumers that you can literally build anything with Legos. I agree. Thats a really attractive selling feature and something that a very broad demographic can associate with. This ad missed the mark and went after a very sensitive subject. There are a lot of very iconic structures that they could have done this with. Choosing a different landmark will get the same point across and will give Lego the freedom to add more personality to their advertisement.

I redesigned this print ad and came up with this…

Considering I am not an art director and have little visual design training I think it came out pretty well.  I tried to keep it true to the brand values, keep it light and fun, but still appeal to the older “lego architect”.

To be clear, these are built out of Legos.

The Chicago Dept. of Tourism may not be a fan but I think it is an improvement to Lego’s original ad.

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Outstanding Commercial of 2011

Those of you plugged into the advertising world are among the many abuzz about the Emmy nominees for Outstanding Commercial of 2011.  There were 6 nominees from some of the best agencies in the country.  Here are my 2 favorites…


I am a big fan of almost everything Wieden+Kennedy does.  This ad for Chrysler is no different.  Very powerful.  Very tough.  I think they captured the Motor City perfectly.


I had never seen this McDonald’s ad before but loved it!  Maybe it was the sweet Volvo wagon the guy was driving.  Or the fact that I can totally appreciate being in that situation.  Either way, well done TBWA/Chiat/DAY!


Check out the other nominees here and then vote for your favorite below.

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Cramer-Krasselt’s NYC Digs

I love the new Agency Digs series on Ad Age where they take outsiders into advertising agencies around the country.  Not only is it very cool to get a chance to see the different layouts and personalities of various agencies but it has been getting me really excited to start school again at the Brandcenter in a few weeks.

In this segment, Agency Digs takes us into Cramer-Krasselt’s new office in Manhattan.  CK is a fantastic agency and has offices in a number of cities, including my hometown of Phoenix. 

Tell me this doesn’t look like an awesome place to work…


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why I went into advertising…


I can think of quite a few people that would really benefit from applying these principles.

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Rapha Continental Movie – Exemplary Branding

This is how to build emotional connections with your brand…

If this doesnt inspire you to get out and experience life, check your pulse. 

The emotion of the movie almost overshadows having to cram your goodies into those shorts.


“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” 

– Henry David Thoreau

Excellent work Rapha on connecting with consumers in a way that is meaningful and true to the integrity of your brand!

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