Category: Ad Industry

Early Stage Branding – Ignore at Your Own Peril Part 1


Early Stage Branding

In this two-part series, we examine the importance of early stage branding, strategy and promotion for startups.

by Hayley Raynes

Recently we pitched branding, marketing strategy and promotion to the founder of a tech startup who had achieved some initial success in his industry. The man was skeptical. While he conceded that branding is important, he didn’t think it was necessary at such an early stage in his business’s development.

Of course we jumped at the chance to convince him otherwise, because we know that early stage branding is the best and most important kind and that, without strategy and promotion, the risk of failure goes up exponentially. Thankfully, after stating our case, we convinced him to move forward with a strategic branding effort as soon as possible. But it made us realize that his is probably not the only startup out there holding off on this critical aspect of business development. That’s why we decided to put this article together to explain:

-Why it’s of vital importance to begin branding efforts as early as possible.

-Why it’s important to have a strategic plan that fits seamlessly into a business’s overall goals.

-Why hiring a team of experts will save time, money and potential disaster.

“Know Thyself”

            Inscription in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi

In order to effectively communicate who you are to your target market, you have to actually know who you are. And while most businesses think they know, we can’t tell you how many times we’ve started asking fundamental questions regarding operations, budgets, forward strategy, key markets and company goals only to get the following answer: “Let me get back to you on that one.”

Developing and positioning a brand to reflect a company’s identity, speak to the right people at the right time and send the right message communicated in the right tone requires that business operators know their company and know their audience inside and out. This means being able to articulate—on demand—the business’s mission, culture and values. The earlier a company tackles this hurdle, the better. Because it’s one thing to have the next game-changing technology—it’s another thing altogether to actually position that technology to change the game.

“You may delay, but time will not.”

            Benjamin Franklin

You have the product; you have your key people; you have an opportunity to present your product to an investor that could catapult your business into the stratosphere.

But wait. You don’t have any marketing materials. Crap!

Quick. You need a logo—one that can see you through at least the next three to five years. You need a tagline, too—something that sums up who you are in 10 words or less. Oh no, they’re asking for a website? You can’t show them that mess your niece threw together after securing your domain. What about a brochure? A business card? Heck, you’re going to need something—anything that makes you look like you’re actually working out of an office, rather than the garage.

More than 33 billion dollars was handed out by venture capitalists in 2013 in the U.S. alone. But getting a piece of that capital is not just a matter of standing in line with your hand out. You’ve got to wow the crowd. Have you been on Kickstarter lately? If so, you may have noticed these wooden map guys. They run a simple business—selling wall art in the form of machine-cut wooden maps. They had a modest financial goal—$7,500 for equipment that will help them expand their product line. As of this writing, they have raised $15,697 and earned a feature on the Kickstarter discovery page. Small potatoes, sure, but relatively speaking, they are killing it. And here’s why: They look legit. They’ve got a website, a YouTube video, professional photography, a blog (though they could post more often)—the works. The result? The world of (Kickstarter) finance takes them seriously.

And think about it, if this kind of complete marketing package was necessary to convince the average Kickstarter funder to throw them five bucks, imagine what kind of game you’re gonna need to get in with the big VC firms, angel investors and private equity seed financiers.

Still not convinced? Don’t take it from us; check out point three in Paul Jackson’s Entrepreneur article about how to secure funding from a VC firm.

Because here’s the deal, branding is campaigning. Branding is shaking hands and kissing babies (metaphorically speaking). Branding is persuasion. It’s convincing people to like you, to support you, to promote you, to be loyal to you. There are other choices out there—good, dare we say great, choices. It’s your brand’s job to convince customers—whether they are investors or end users—that you are the best choice, now and in the future. And everyone knows the first rule of politics is: “Control the message.”

You see, in the absence of a brand, your audience—whether they are investors or customers—will create one, because not caring about the brand is branding. Appearing not to have a budget for branding, is branding. Cheesy, thrown-together-at-the-last-minute branding materials is branding. Would you go to a job interview (outside of Silicon Valley)with your tie askance, shirt untucked, bed-headed and furry-toothed? If so, that’s probably why you’re reading this in your PJ’s at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday, instead of working. Image matters.

And from our side, branding early just makes the whole process a heck of a lot easier. Because if we are involved from the beginning, we won’t have to spend a ton of our time (and your money) undoing the damage of your “non-branding” efforts. Scrubbing an image from the hearts and minds of investors and consumers can take a long time—time you just don’t have in today’s competitive marketplace.

Like what we’re saying? Stay tuned for part two in our series on early stage branding, strategy and promotion…



The Good, Bad & Ugly of 2014 Super Bowl Ads


It’s time for the 5th annual installment of our popular(ish) critique of the year’s Super Bowl ads. Unless your license plate says “Washington” on it, this was about the most boring football game of the season, which means that this year’s ads had an even bigger entertainment challenge than normal. So were they up for it? Were they good enough to entertain us from the single-sided butchery that was happening on the field?

Let’s see.

The Best

Car Companies

This year, car companies led the field with the best ads of the big game.

Volkswagen’s “Wings” commercial was excellent. I get shivers down my spine imagining the client meeting where someone from Volkswagen’s agency sat in front of a marketing VP and said, “So, then at the end, when a car hits 200,000 miles, a rainbow comes out of his butt.” I’ll happily buy a round for the creative team at Argonaut for convincing a client to let them run that ad on national television. I’ll buy a second one for managing to keep the ad on message and suggest that an average Jetta could really make it 200,000 miles.

Chevy’s two truck ads also deserve a special mention. Before their Super Bowl spots, the automaker’s “A man and his truck” campaign was completely uninspired. It was the same “drive a Chevy and be a manly cowboy” tune they’ve been singing for the past few decades. But, “A man, his truck and an aroused cow” takes things in a whole new direction. No one expects Chevy to take a chance on advertising that might make viewers uncomfortable, so they deserve recognition for taking a risk and pulling it off. Their “Life” commercial was a genuinely sweet counterpoint to the merciless thrashing happening in MetLife Stadium.

The clever offroading Smart Car spot was Sarah’s favorite, and Jeep and Kia did a good job of respectively reinforcing and changing perceptions of their brands. Audi’s Doberhuahua was a big winner in our office, being picked by Sydnee, Roni and Hayley, giving it the most “favorite” votes of any spot.

As relatively obscure luxury brands, Maserati and Jaguar both ran very good branding spots that should help 5 Series and S-Class shoppers at least take a second look before they hand over their large wads of cash to BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Even Kia’s Morpheus ad made me stop and think, “Huh, maybe it would be nice to ride around in a Kia.” That’s something I’ve never ever thought before.

The only real exception to the whole bunch of good and great Super Bowl car ads was Hyundai’s “Nice”. It wasn’t necessarily bad, just boring. Proof that paying celebrities to be in your ad isn’t the secret to advertising success. Oh, and Chrysler’s Bob Dylan spot, which was so boring that I forgot about it until just now. Bob Dylan’s a legend. His commercial wasn’t legendary.

Other Standouts

Dorito’s Time Machine was on both Mike and Carl’s lists of favorites, and Mike and Sydnee both like Stephen Colbert splitting open his head for Pistachios. Also, does anyone know how Pistachios™ became a brand? Are almonds going to spend $4 million on a spot next year? Will walnuts start an intensive social media campaign in the fall? What about legumes? When will lima beans get a trademark?

Mike, who’s no fan of Bud Light, admitted that Ian’s adventures just might be enough to get him to drink one. I don’t know what more you could ask from a $4 million spot. He also liked Duracell’s very inspirational Derrick Coleman spot. I agree, though I’m not sure it will influence my battery choices next time I’m buying double-As at Costco.

Coca-Cola deserves recognition for knowing that its multilingual “America the Beautiful” commercial would enrage our country’s racist nut-jobs, and choosing to run it anyway. Check out Atlanta news anchor Brenda Wood’s monologue on the topic if you’re still not sure which side of the nut-jobbery fence you’re settling on.

Mixed Reviews

Sarah and Mustafa are wonderful people, but I totally disagree with them when it comes to Greek yogurt advertising.  I hope we’ll be able to stay friends. Oikos’s Full House reunion got Mustafa right in the nostalgia, but I thought it was too forced, and didn’t really say anything about the product it was trying to sell.

On the other hand, I thought Chobani’s rampaging grizzly was great, but Sarah picked it as her least favorite for being “random and pointless”. I guess Chobani’s messaging wasn’t as clear as I thought. It’s also worth noting that about five years ago, no one in America had Greek yogurt in their fridge, and Sunday we watched at least $8 million worth of advertising for it during the country’s biggest television event.

I’m also on the losing side of intra-office opinions on Tebow for T-Mobile. I love to see a celebrity make fun of themselves, and before now, I’ve never seen Tim be anything but sincere. Mike thought it was a good idea, poorly executed. Carl thought it was straight-up awful.

Mike was also conflicted about Radio Shack being called by the 80s. He felt it was a good spot, but in his own words, “Too bad a commercial can’t actually get me to their terrible store.”

The Worst

Here’s a line I could copy and paste into every Super Bowl roundup we’ve ever written. “GoDaddy’s commercial was awful.” Like my hero Richard Sherman once said, “When you pick a sorry registrar like GoDaddy, that’s the result you’re going to get.” Or something to that effect.

At least this year the GoDaddy commercials were slightly less awful than normal, and managed more inclusiveness by objectifying both men and women. That’s progress.

Mike’s uncontested pick for the worst ads of the 2014 Super Bowl went to Budweiser’s A Hero’s Welcome and Puppy Love spots. Don’t get me wrong, every veteran deserves a parade like the one they threw for Chuck Nadd, and interspecies friendships are adorable. But as Mike put it, “in advertising, using war veterans and puppies is cheating.”

Weigh In

Think we got it wrong? Didn’t give GoDaddy a fair chance? Totally misinterpreted the meaning of Tim Tebow? Then tell us in a comment, or leave us a nasty message on Facebook. We’re adults, we can take it.

The (Hard) Life of Alex


Alex's hard life

Life Can Be Hard on Our Account Managers

We’re often accused of having, to put it bluntly, too much fun at Echo-Factory.  Today, we’re here to put those fears to rest.  In fact, just the other week our very own account manager, Alex Dunstan, took time out of his busy work schedule to perform a valuable public service.  Namely: racing around the Chuckwalla Valley Raceway on several brand new motorcycles, and telling us which was his favorite.

Alex performed this bit of selfless drudgery on behalf of Motorcycle USA, in the service of their “2014 Triple-Cylinder Street Bike Shootout.”  He endured literally hours of testing the latest 3-cylinder sportbikes from Triumph, MV Agusta and Yamaha.

After tireless testing and serious deliberation, Alex chose the Triumph Street Triple 675 as his top pick in the category.  You’ll have to head over to Motorcycle USA and read the article to find out why.

Ron Burgundy & Durangos: Coming Clean


Everything is great about Dodge’s Durango ad campaign featuring Will Ferrell, including Ron Burgundy coming clean on Conan.

Somewhere in Detroit an executive let their agency take a risk, and with Durango sales up 59% since the campaign started, I think it’s safe to say that it was a risk worth taking.