About the Author:Craig Williamsis the Creative Director and Graphic Designer of his eponymous brand, The Craig Williams. He's been a prolific and productive professional creating success across a wide range of brands, from consumer to tech; from financial to pharma; from entertainment to retail.
As someone in the branding and marketing space I find it imperative to attend conferences that showcase individuals that have moved the needle in our industry. Not only to glean a little insight from those I know to learn how they tick but more so to be challenged and understand viewpoints from another perspective …when both happen I really leave the building with my batteries charged.
Now, I could go on and on about the speakers, why the moved the needle, the books they’ve written, etc. For those reading this, I encourage looking into those you may not know. But I’d like to briefly tell you what I took away from each, so this doesn’t turn into something so longwinded our ADD society will pass this over ... (if they have even made it this far).
Ryan Holiday + the Impossibility of Being Everything to Everyone
The morning started off with Ryan Holiday, author of numerous marketing books focusing on subjects from how to nudge your audience to straight out agitate them. He spoke for nearly an hour where he hopscotched through many of his usual topics but then focused his attention on a start-up called Burbn, a mobile “check-in” app (similar to FourSquare, I guess) that had amongst a myriad of features a really cool camera interface with all sorts of amazing filters.
The app was tested in San Fransisco but struggled to gain any real traction, so they tested the hell out of it. The consensus from their users is that above all, what drew them into using it was the amazing camera feature. So instead of using the remainder of their investment capital trying to cram down the throats of their demo a “check-in” app that already existed they repackaged and rebranded it Instagram.
For this story, I thought how it’s important for us to remember that we can’t be everything to everyone, although we feel we want to be (I think it holds true on an individual level as well as corporate). This is also a lesson that testing is important as long as we aren’t rigging the process and that we must closely listen to what our target audiences are wanting from us. Even if it is only 10 percent of what we want to give them.
Alina Wheeler + Speaking from the Soul
The Mother of the Brand Brief (and author of “Designing Brand Identity”), Alina Wheeler followed with a warm presentation of the power of branding and how it must speak from the soul. I liken it to a choir of many voices that may not have to sing all of the exact same notes but must sing in harmony. There are many stakeholders and touchpoints that all must be sung to.
I found her presentation to be a well-articulated voice of reason for problems I face in many of my own projects. As a graphic designer by trade, we often are asked to decorate … to make something “pretty.” I found Alina’s message inspiring to where it makes me a bit more confident in trying to assert my objective of creating a voice for my client's company that can speak when no one but the visual identity is there to speak for them. There truly are business objectives to be met and that all the marketing voices have to sing the mantra of our clients.
Mark Schaefer + How it Gets Processed
Mark Schaefer, author of “The Content Code” proceeded with an entertaining discussion on the alarming amount of content we inadvertently consume daily. The question he poses; how do we process it? That brought to mind a course I took in grad school at Pratt where an instructor showed us a photo of Times Square, in it, there were hundreds of billboards and logos.
The instructor showed it to us for a second or two then flipped to a blank screen and asked us what we could recall from it. Most of the class shouted out logos they immediately recognized; i.e., McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and the likes … but that was it. I relate this to the message Mark was sharing. In a slide he shared, he stated 70 percent of people are more likely to make a purchase based on a friend's recommendation. So really, all this content being hurled at us and is falling by the wayside (which is proven by the decline of effectiveness in Facebook advertising, since now user's news feeds are blowing up, most no longer being viewed because of the volume). We are ignoring all this data and marketing until something can be proven to us. People’s B.S. meters are at an all-tim
Mark then followed with a story of a client of his at Mirabeau Wine in France, where he and owner and founder Stephan Cronk (a South Londoner in origin) began creating blog and video posts promoting his vineyard. In the first few video posts, they declined to reshoot some of the awkwardness that occurred in hopes for viewers to dismiss inherent perceptions of snobbery and to create an authentic perception of his persona and brand. Magic happened though in video post #222 when he demonstrated how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew.
What followed was a 2,000 percent audience growth, new customers thought the globe and his sales doubled. They successfully created a trustworthy yet humble and approachable personality people could follow (and be recommended to) that not only informed them about their product but gave them tips and tricks that were beneficial beyond their own product. They successfully shot past the noise by creating something for everyone that drinks wine, not only those that drink Mirabeau wine. By doing so all that watched now have some sort of respect for their brand by doing so.
Kristen Brown + Attitude is Everything
Kristen Brown concluded the conference by having us rock out to Prince and participate in “laughter yoga.” As a stoic northern Minnesotan,
I struggle to laugh at things that are actually funny … yet laugh at nothing at all. She then followed with a heartbreaking personal story where she found herself without direction…I’ll save the details because if you can see or hear her speak, do it!
Through a series of very interactive lessons with everyone who attended she managed to unite us, but more so lift spirits higher … which honestly was hard to do given the previous speakers. With these lessons, she demonstrated that communication begins with you and the attitude you bring to any situation personally and professional. Positive thinking can help you succeed.
She then ended with another quick “laughter yoga” session…which unsurprisingly was a bit easier this time.
Leighton Interactive + One Squared
In conclusion, I thank Leighton Interactive for bringing Ryan Holiday and Alina Wheeler, two people I am familiar with, to hear them speak and glean some wisdom, but also Mark Shaefer and Kristen Brown, two I was unfamiliar with to learn and be surprised by.
All I can say is that this past April at the One Squared Conference in downtown Minneapolis, I definitely left the building with inspired and batteries charged.