All Aboard

Most business owners are very familiar with the “elevator pitch,” that short, succinct description of your company that you should be able to deliver in the time it takes to travel between floors on an elevator.

Over the years, working with various business coaches and mentors, I’ve received conflicting advice about the effectiveness of this brand-building technique. Where one advisor stresses the importance of committing a short, impactful speech to memory, another counters with a “throw out your elevator speech and just be yourself” mantra. While I can relate to both sides of this debate, a recent presentation from sales training veteran Tim Shaver made a very convincing case for the power of memorization.

At the most recent installment of the Nashville Area Chamber’s “Business Studio” series, Shaver related the compelling story of a business owner whose elevator-speech obsession led to his company’s first big breakthrough. With only nine employees, the firm was marketing what was then a new and cutting edge product – large screen TVs. All nine employee were required to completely commit that short speech to memory, to the point where it flowed as naturally as breathing.

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Living Large

I consider myself lucky to have grown up in a big, rambling house full of artists. As a kid, I’d shadow my stepmother and stepsister as they headed out for an afternoon of painting. I’d sometimes work on my own sketches and paintings, but I was just as happy to sit and watch them craft their beautiful watercolor miracles, with marshes and boats as their models. I was drawn to their process and to their focus. The whole thing was fascinating to me.

Here in Nashville, with outdoor, hand-painted murals going up all over town, I’m reminded of those days. Numerous groups and projects have come together to bring some world-class artists to town. Their murals bring a creative vitality and a sense of community pride to every corner of the city. They also afford all of us the opportunity to experience the vicarious pleasure of seeing the artist bring his or her vision to life in real time.

A recent New York Times article tells the story of Brooklyn-based Colossal Media. Created for major brands like Coca-Cola, Adidas and Spotify, Colossal’s hand-painted murals are as much about the painstaking (and costly) process as they are about the product they’re pitching. The aim is to establish authentic relationships with customers that appreciate handmade work created by genuine artists and craftsmen. But Colossal takes things a step further, bringing this age-old medium boldly into the present, filming the entire process and giving their clients time-lapsed videos to promote on social media.

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Pushing 100

It’s been about two years since we made the commitment to begin blogging for our business on a weekly basis. At the time, it seemed like a tall order. How could we get all this work done, keep our clients happy, and still make the time to come up with something compelling to blog about every week?

I’m here to report that, yes, it’s been challenging, and okay, we did miss a couple of weeks along the way. But having reached that magic number – blog #100 (you’re reading it!) – we took a pause to reflect on the process and the results.

First of all, we can say without hesitation that the investment of time and energy required to hit 100 has paid off. As opposed to pushing – going on about what makes our company different and better than the competition, we’ve utilized the power of attraction, offering free content that spoke to the problems and concerns our clients and potential clients face, along with some insights and possible solutions. Happily, they responded with thoughtful feedback, creative projects, and quality referrals.

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Hitting The Mark

When building or refurbishing your company’s brand, a key element to consider is your logo. As your primary consumer-facing image, the importance of the right logo, or “mark,” as it is also known, cannot be overstated. Brands are a lot like people. They want to be recognized, acknowledged and appreciated, and they want to be heard. Your logo is the “face” of your brand.

In recent articles in Fortune magazine and, some expert voices weighed in on the past, present, and future of the logo. For British brand strategist Rebecca Battman, the shapes, colors and images that make up your logo are far less important than the attitudes and behaviors of your business – the value, the quality, and the unique point of view behind the mark.

“A logo is a simple and functional signpost to help people find and identify your business,” Battman says. “But for a logo to be successful, the company behind it must be a respected and trusted brand.”

In the overcrowded digital space, with people carrying thousands of logos on the smartphone in their pocket, the importance of a dynamic, eye-catching mark has grown exponentially. Noted logo designer Michael Bierut of Pentagram is excited with the ways the digital space is changing how people relate to logos.

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Getting Write To The Point

As a graphic designer, I spend most of my day staring at the screen of my iMac, working on one project or another. But before I ever sit down at the computer, I sketch out my ideas using my trusty pencil and good old-fashioned tracing paper. Sketching allows me to try out lots of ideas and variations, to clear out the clutter in my brain until I arrive at concepts worthy of further exploration. I always stress to my designers and interns how important the pencil is to the creative process.

An article in this week’s New York Times Magazine (January 14, 2018) spotlights this most basic of tools in an article entitled, “Inside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories.” The story presents a loving homage to this small, but essential appliance. Christopher Payne’s arty, detailed photographs of the small Jersey City factory detail the handcrafting that goes into the pencil-making process. The graphic quality of the article’s accompanying photographs play to the simple, powerful lines created by pencils, be they words, notes, doodles, sketches or full-blown framed pieces of art.

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