Slip Slidin’ Away

At Cronin Creative, we love the collaborative process of building powerful brands with our clients. After creating something strong, authentic, and unique to that client in their chosen market, we always stress the importance of maintaining that brand, keeping vigilant watch on every element of the messaging, every contact with every customer.

All too often, over time, that last piece of advice winds up being underplayed or even ignored. From a branding point of view, this can be a fatal mistake. Writing in Forbes magazine, author/branding consultant William Arruda summed it up as the difference between a promise made and a promise that’s actually delivered.

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Freeway Branding

We hit the open road this year for our vacation trip to Rhode Island – two long days of driving to our favorite beach. As hard as I tried to leave work behind me, taking the freeway north turned out to be a non-stop branding barrage.

The usual fuel-and-fast-food-ahead signs, cluttered with the familiar logos, were one thing. But the real branding geniuses of the road are the trucking companies. Somewhere along the way, someone figured out that those semi-trailers are good for more than just hauling stuff from here to there. They also serve as billboards, their messages repeated ad infinitum as we made our way north. But – and here’s the catch – you don’t just pass them by like those old school, static billboards. No, these billboards roll right along with you!

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Most entrepreneurs and business owners have contemplated the much-discussed distinction between working “on” their business as opposed to working “in” their business. With all the things you do, all the multi-tasks you perform working in your business day to day, it’s difficult to find that time to work on it, to gain some genuine clarity and perspective, and reflect on those all-important, long-range plans and decisions.

As we prepare to take our first vacation in way too long, I’m realizing there’s a third option – we’ll call it “floating above” your business. When the daily grind fogs your mind and obscures your focus, it’s okay – in fact it’s essential – that you simply step away. It might be for an hour, for a day, or (in my case!) a week at the beach. Whatever it takes.

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Paper Trail

Last week I joined some of my fellow Nashville-area designers on a day trip to the Domtar Paper Mill in Hawesville, Kentucky. With our guide, genial Domtar regional rep Jason Abernathy, we got a first-hand look at how paper is made. In a nutshell, I was blown away. This humongous facility on the Ohio River operates 24/7, producing a giant (and I mean giant) roll of paper about every 20 minutes. Domtar prides themselves on their sustainable practices, from forestry all the way through the milling process, so it was an inspiring and fascinating day.

I happen to be something of a paper connoisseur. I love everything about the stuff, from the look, to the texture, to the feel of it between my fingers. In fact, in just a couple of feels I can usually give you the name of the paper in question. So I listen with interest to the debate as to whether paper is “going away.” It’s not. But, like the vinyl record, paper is slowly but surely being relegated to a more rarefied, specialized place.

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The Inside Story

“Whatever you believe about yourself on the inside is what you will manifest on the outside.”

Whoever originated that maxim probably wasn’t thinking about branding, but he or she could have been. While many spiritual practices have a version of this statement at their very heart, the lesson is relevant to any company wanting to establish an authentic, sustainable brand in an overcrowded market.

In her book, “What Great Brands Do,” author Denise Lee Yohn details seven key principles that are implemented by the world’s most successful brands. She tackles the first and most important of the seven in the books’s first chapter, “Great Brands Start Inside,”.

Research tells us that staffers at most businesses think of branding as the purview of the marketing department, but successful companies know that a powerful, authentic brand is rooted in the DNA, the very culture of the company.

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