Unintended Message

December 17, 2012

by Dan Ward

By all means, insurance company Zurich should celebrate its 100th anniversary today. It’s an impressive milestone for a solid company.

But let’s not celebrate the failure to edit banner ad copy in the wake of Friday’s tragic mass shooting in Newtown, CT.

Nearly every news site in America is leading with stories and photos from Newtown, so “Today we celebrate” is not the best message to send at the top of a news home page. In the case of The Wall Street Journal, the banner ad ran above a photo of a hearse. The image is jarring, and certainly does not send the message that Zurich intended.


As communicators and marketers, our job is not just to sell products and services, but also to protect the reputation of the companies and clients we serve. Sometimes that means making last-minute changes to advertising and communications plans based on events that are outside of our control.

How Tina Fey Can Improve Your Brainstorming Sessions

November 23, 2012

by Kim Taylor

Last weekend during a road trip with friends I read Tina Fey’s book, “Bossypants.”  Hidden on the pages between the stories of her childhood and her days at “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” were her Rules of Improvisation.  And, since I have no plans to leave C&P for a career in stand up, I thought it’d be fun to apply these rules to a brainstorming session.

Let’s take a look:

Rules of Improv

“1. Agree. If your improv partner launches a set with “Freeze, I have a gun,”* you don’t break it to him that it’s really just his fingers he’s pointing at you. IF you do that, you’ve just ruined it for everybody. Agree to play by the rules just set forth. He is holding a gun.

First Rule of Brainstorming:  There are no bad ideas.  In other words, when an idea is presented during your brainstorming session, agree.

“2. And … ? Once you agree to agree, it’s not enough to just say “I acknowledge you hold a gun.” That doesn’t get us anywhere, does it? Agree, and then add something of your own. “Freeze, I have a gun.” “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!*

Maybe it’s not the best idea, but what if you employ the “and …” tactic?  Will it help develop the idea further or flesh it out more?

“3. Make statements. If all you do is ask your improv partner questions, you’re not contributing. “Why are you holding a gun?” Doesn’t cut it. Be bold.

Effective brainstorming is all about participation.  Make a statement.  Believe it.  How else will you convince others it’s an idea worth presenting to a client?

“4. There are no mistakes. Your partner misinterprets your setup? You don’t break the scene by stopping to explain and start over. You roll with it. There is no wrong.

See No. 1 and the first rule of brainstorming.

So, thanks, Tina, this part of your book was even more enlightening than learning what it was like to grow up as a wide-hipped, sarcastic Greek girl with short hair permed on top.


July 31, 2012

by Roger Pynn

I so wish I had coined Dow Chemical’s word “Solutionism.”  Dow’s “Solutionism. The New Optimism.” makes for brilliant positioning and each new effort to build the company’s brand as one providing solutions just seems to get better.

As a worldwide Olympics partner, Dow created a fun and meaningful commercial titled “Hopeful” just for the Olympics as part of its ongoing campaign to tell the story of how the company provides solutions for agriculture, energy, infrastructure & transportation and consumers and their lifestyles.

The full campaign is great storytelling.  It is inspiring and clearly aimed at the public’s aspirations.  Sometimes a theme just resonates broadly across society and I think this one does.  This blogger for a Kansas City home renovations company saw some of her work in Dow’s tag line and “began smiling.”

Advertising Age raved about this spot that tells the story of a transportation solution.  In fact, you’ll find links to Dow solutionism stories all over the Web.

This isn’t just about advertising or PR.  It really is about rebranding.  Dow will always be a chemical company, and chemicals aren’t necessarily something we all like or relate to … but solutions are something else.

The Best Communications Tool for Customer Service

December 5, 2011

by Kerry Martin

No one likes to be inconvenienced, especially at the airport.  When you come to a place that is supposed to facilitate travel, it’s irritating to be shuffled around through alternate gates and detours because the airport is under renovation.

It is here—when passengers have been awake for hours on end, flights have been delayed and people’s patience runs thin—that customer service needs to go above and beyond its normal function.  And sometimes a barricade’s message of “Please pardon our dust” just doesn’t cut it.

As I was traveling through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the obstructions around the terminal caught my eye and stuck out in my mind as a brilliant strategy to allay passengers’ annoyance.  LAX took the opportunity to use clever branding messages to make fun of the necessary blockades:

Through the campaign “Re:LAX It’s All Good,” the airport takes an “LA state-of-mind” approach to spoof those pesky airport construction signs. What’s more, they made me laugh more than they made me grumble.

To me, humor is always the best communications tool to deal with customers (especially jet-lagged ones).

Marketing & Promotion: Which of These Ideas Work?

August 11, 2011

by Kim Taylor

This week, two new campaigns caught my eye.

The first:  a promotion from Domino’s Pizza reviving the ever-popular Noid character from the 80s in a game on their Facebook page.  Players of The Noid’s Super Pizza Shootout compete to win coupons for one of more than 10,000 free pizzas.

Why this works:

Even though the game launched during a week when all ‘the world seems to be bashing remakes of “Dirty Dancing” and “Footloose,” Domino’s proves that putting a new twist on an old campaign can work.  The Noid is fun, light-hearted and celebrating his fictional 25th birthday.

The second: Gap’s new food truck, “Pico de Gap.” Presumably piggybacking on the food truck craze, which, while relatively new to Orlando, has been fairly active in California (the Gap’s home state) for some time now.

Pico de Gap is promoting the brand’s ‘1969: L.A. and Beyond’ campaign, literally taking their campaign to the streets. Tacos are $1.69 and come with a coupon for Gap’s denim.

What do you think? Did the Gap nail it on this one?

Even though I think it’s clever, I don’t get the connection. When I think of “mi amigos,” my first thought isn’t exactly pre-washed denim. Nor have I ever been walking through the Gap and had a sudden urge for a taco.

So, what do you think? What are some examples of promotions you’ve seen recently that work or don’t work?

Who Invented the Light Bulb?

February 11, 2011

by Dionne Aiken

In “light” of today’s Google doodle, one question comes to mind: who really invented the light bulb?!

There’s an endless amount of information on the Web to help answer this question:



And once you start digging, you’ll notice the names of other contributors like Humphrey Davy, Joseph Wilson Swan, Lewis Howard Latimer and William David Coolidge just to name a few.

Joseph Swan's light bulb 1878 (left) - Thomas Edison’s light bulb 1879 (right)

In the race to perfect the light bulb, amidst patent feuds, lawsuits and successions of failed attempts, it becomes unclear as to where proper credit is due for this “bright idea.”  It does shed some light however on one thing:  It took more than just one person.  The end product we’ve come to know today is actually the end result of a multitude of revisions and collaborated efforts from many inventors, physicists and scientists.  It was revolutionized and improved upon over time – each discovery building off of findings from the previous.

There is a great deal to learn from the invention of the light bulb and the power of collaboration in building upon and improving new ideas.  We learn that all the time in our team brainstorming and creative problem-solving process.  The possibilities are endless and far greater than what one person can accomplish.

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