Archive for the ‘Random’ Category

Finding Inspiration in Sandy’s Devastation

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

The week of Hurricane Sandy was one full of lessons for us - lessons about life, community and the bottomless inspiration of American entrepreneurship.

It started at 10:30am monday - before the rains had even started - when a huge tree came down across our road and driveway we lost power, phone, internet and cable. (It’s still out 6 days later as I write this but with a Verizon MiFi and an 18kw generator we’re not complaining too much). Like most, we figured we’d laugh our way through the storm posting to FaceBook and generally hoping for the best.

Then came lesson one - The Fragility of Life. About 11pm monday night as we fell asleep we began getting text messages that two boys in our daughter’s middle school had been killed when a tree came down on their house. The joking was over. The lack of power inconsequential. We slept in the basement, hugging our kids as the wind howled and prayed for the other families. As we woke to the devastation around us, there was an overwhelming sense of fragility - both of life - and our connections to the outside world. By that evening cell phone coverage was lost.

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In the days that followed came lesson two - The Spirit of Community. We attended the wake of both boys at a nearby funeral home. Our kids had never been through a wake before and they had trouble processing what it all meant as hundreds of family members and friends waited in line in the cold and rain to meet the families and hold them briefly. The grace displayed by the boys’ mothers was indescribable. Many of our daughter’s teachers came by to offer hugs. In the end, we explained that THIS is what it all means - community coming together to support and offer hope.

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This morning we had our third lesson - the Inspiration of American Entrepreneurship. At 9am today we joined dozens of others from the community at the home of our friends Mary and Ernie in Croton Falls, NY. In 2010 their wireless phone retail business closed down. Nearly broke, and with 4 young kids to support, they moved into a rented house and began seeking social services. Ernie managed to land a sales job and asked Mary to make some of her homemade granola bars to sustain him at work. The bars were a hit with his co-workers and pretty soon the kitchen had become an assembly line with the entire family helping to bake and package Lola Granola Bars (http://www.lolagranolabar.com).  Mary began selling them to local grocery stores and delis.  Pretty soon they were getting calls from big chains like Whole Foods.

Today Lola Granola Bars was featured on an episode of The Food Channel - so we all came by to watch the show and celebrate! Soon they will be transferring production of their formula to an all natural facility in Syracuse NY - finally freeing up Mary’s kitchen! - but they plan to expand into offices here in Croton Falls and possibly add as many as 100 jobs to the local community. They thanked the town for its support during their own hard times and opened their own home to everyone for bagels, coffee - and granola bars! As the event wound down, Ernie packed up the truck with 1000+ bars they were donating to the Westchester Food Bank. It was an amazing display of how a little luck, hard work, and hope can take a family from desperation to television in just two years. Lola Granola is an incredible story and is destined to become an incredible brand.

So as I sit here trying to wrap my head around the week’s events I feel incredibly lucky - lucky to have my house and family - and lucky to be part of this incredible community of North Salem and Croton Falls NY. But also incredibly hopeful - and faithful - that no matter what happens we Americans always find a way to make it through, perhaps battered, but stronger than we were before.

~ JPL

And Now It’s a Power Trio!

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

36377_407414993279_2959156_nFor almost 10 years Idea-ware has made great “music” as a two-partner duo with a collection of amazing backup singers.  But in 2012 we added a 3rd core member on the “bass” - both literally (for a DC band called Left on Lincoln) and figuratively - laying down the brand rhythm for our clients….

A veteran brand architect and in-demand wordsmith, Steve Goodwin has helped businesses and organizations of all sizes forge strong bonds with their audiences by creating compelling brands and well-crafted messages. Over nearly two decades in the advertising and marketing agency world, he’s built successful brands and campaigns for such business leaders as Motorola, General Dynamics, Bob Evans Restaurant Group, Philips Electronics, Unisys, and SAIC. On the not-for-profit side, Steve’s clients have included the National Restaurant Association, the American Dental Education Association, the American Nurses Association and the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, among others.

Spend five minutes with Steve and two things become immediately obvious: his incredible way with words and his passion for building brand foundations based on a company’s honest and true “essence.”

“For me, it all comes down to the power of words to create an authentic and unique image of my clients and their products and services… an image that helps them earn a special place in the hearts and minds of their various audiences,” says Steve. “It’s what I’ve devoted my career to: helping businesses uncover, articulate and leverage their best and most enduring qualities. When I saw that same devotion in JP and George, I knew we were meant to work together.”

Prior to his agency experience, Steve held a variety of marketing and editorial leadership positions in the technology and publishing sectors. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Writing from Hamilton College, where he began the life-long affair with Ultimate Frisbee that led him to the U.S. National Ultimate Team and a World Championship. Steve and his wife Susan - a senior mediator with the U.S. Department of the Interior - live just outside of Washington in Arlington, Virginia, with their two incredibly rowdy sons, known affectionately to all as “the savages.”

With Steve on board, we’re gearing up for a future dedicated to crafting the types of authentic and differentiated foundational stories and messages that help our clients make lasting - and profitable - connections with their customers, employees, partners, investors and others.

A Technology Brand Built on Love

Friday, August 24th, 2012

g-tec-100211-online-love-3p-300x1981When launching their businesses, most tech entrepreneurs devote the lion’s share of their time and energy to building their technology and creating a business model for selling it. Getting pricing, product, sales and service operations in place is the priority and everything else – including brand – takes a back seat. As a result, many companies hit the market with fabulous technology but virtually nothing to differentiate them – or their offerings – in a vast sea of competitors.

A Different(iated) Approach

Jon Lieberman, a veteran tech entrepreneur, came to idea-ware this year with a different approach in mind. Jon planned to launch his new venture - itopia - in the rapidly growing “cloud computing” space and knew from past experience the vital importance of a strong and differentiated brand in an industry where everyone has access to the same basic technology. Jon asked idea-ware to help him create a brand that would capture the imagination of seed-round investors, attract strategic partners, and lead to a fast start within key market segments.

So we conducted our brand discovery process – a “brand articulation session” with Jon and his key internal team members, in-depth interviews with select customers and partners, and a thorough audit of the competitive landscape – and set to work creating a brand platform that captured the unique nature of itopia, including the messages, images and overall brand story that would connect on an emotional level with customers, prospects, partners and employees alike.

“Love” Is in the Air

While all cloud computing vendors talk about features and benefits, few actually take the time to humanize their impact… to capture and articulate how they affect people’s lives in real and meaningful ways. Together with Jon, we recognized this opportunity early on and positioned itopia as a company whose cloud-based IT services are so easy-to-use and worry-free (compared to traditional, rigid IT infrastructures) that it will fundamentally improve the relationship that each person in an organization has with information technology. Whether you’re a CEO, IT manager, or simply an end-user, itopia is going to make everything about computing so easy that you’ll fall in love with IT again.

From Zero to 100 in 90 Days

The story connected immediately and powerfully when tested with a variety of audience types and became the foundation of the itopia brand, infused in all external-facing materials, including website, collateral and sales and investor presentations. Just 90 days after engaging idea-ware, Jon was able to host his first board meeting and wow investors with a comprehensive, market-ready brand framework and identity that further solidified their support and engagement.

As Jon puts it: “idea-ware helped us create a brand, a story, and an identity that strike an emotional chord and have created real, meaningful separation in a rapidly emerging marketplace. Their ability to articulate the messages and visuals around a grand vision in a way that transcends ‘features and benefits’ is incredible. They built us a foundation that far too few startups take the time to lay down…and I know from experience how essential that is.”

Defining a Brand That Redefines Work

Monday, July 30th, 2012

crowd-computing-systems-150-56Crowd Control Software came to us this Spring looking for a way to capture their story in a brand that was as big as the idea behind their software. CrowdControl was operating at the intersection of several huge technology trends: crowd sourcing, big data and artificial intelligence. Always eager to uncover big stories around technology, we took up the challenge.

We started with a half-day “brand articulation workshop” session in NYC that brought together CrowdControl’s management team as well as select board members and investors. We explored the technology and strategy behind their software but also the values and stories behind the company and the way it thinks and operates. We combined the findings from that session with a series of in-depth customer interviews and comprehensive competitive analysis to craft a brand platform that perfectly captured the story behind the company and how it was fundamentally different from competitors.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Story

The story we ended up capturing was not just about a software company harnessing the power of crowd sourcing and aritifcial intelligence to make companies more efficient at handling big data and complex business processes. It was bigger. Much bigger. It became a story about pushing the boundaries of collaboration between and and machine - each learning from the other, each getting smarter, faster and more efficient as a result, and, in the process, fundamentally changing the nature of what it means to “get work done.”

This big idea perfectly captured the vision and mission of the company’s founders and put CrowdControl head and shoulders above others in the emerging space. It also led to change in the company name: it’s now known as Crowd Computing Systems.

Andy Bethurum, Crowd Computing System’s VP of Sales and Marketing had this to say about the experience of working with us: “Idea-ware really brought a professional, well-discplined and creative approach to helping us build our messaging framework. As a startup in a fast-moving market, we knew it was critical to come out with a strong foundation and a unique story that was bigger than just the technology. The brand platform and tagline idea-ware crafted for us - ‘Changing the Way the World Works’ - accomplished that perfectly and has allowed us to roll out products and messaging with confidence, knowing that they are always authentic and on-brand.”

~ JPL

Brand & Culture: Opposite Sides of The Same Coin

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

tribal-leadership“Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast” - Peter Drucker

This summer, as a group we decided to read Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan.  Most would consider the book to be about leadership and organizational culture - we took away from it some powerful thinking about the role and impact to brands.

Tribal Leadership is based in the belief that humans naturally (and sometimes unknowingly) congregate in tribes of 20-150 people.These tribes, and the people within them, tend to group together based on one of 5 stages:

Stage 1 Tribes most of us will never experience.  They are people grouping together purely for survival and violence is prevalent.  Prison is an example.  The motto they all share is “life sucks”

Stage 2 Tribes we have all experienced - at the DMV, at airport security, and at the Post Office. They are one step removed from violence - but not far from it - thus the phrase “going postal”.  Their shared belief is that “my life sucks. Other people are doing ok, but ‘the man’ has got me down”.

Stage 3 Tribes are the vast majority of groups and organizations - 50-60%.  The motto of their people is “I’m Great” (and by implication - “you’re not”).  They are characterized by highly successful executives that take credit for the results even if their people did all the work. The relationships are all hub and spoke - “you two work together but cc: me on everything.  They could be as clownish as Donald Trump or as distinguished as 3 world class surgeons in a hospital - each at the peak of their game - but competing with one another for alpha status.  A huge industry of books and self-help content exists for these tribes covering everything from Time Management to Leadership.  But at some point many people in these tribes recognize that despite their success they are unfulfilled.  And they start to wonder why.  They begin to recognize that what will make them fulfilled is something larger than themselves, their own skills.

Stage 4 Tribes are those that have the motto “We’re Great” (and by implication - “they’re not”)  They are found in companies where everyone is on the same page, aligned by a common set of core values, and a noble cause or reason for being that is bigger than any one person.  These organizations are “self led” - people come to work each day knowing exactly what to do and why.  The relationships are mostly “triads” groups of three collaborating with others.  They possess a culture of leadership rather than management - leadership at every level, not just top down.  They are more creative, more productive, more profitable and far more fun - than their stage 3 peers and they have less politics, less turnover, less customer churn.  They look to destroy their industry competitors, and sometimes those in other industries as well.  And more often than not, they do.  They are maybe 25% of organizations in the world

Stage 5 Tribes have the motto “Life’s Great”.  They are the polar opposite of Stage 1 Tribes. They share all the benefits and characteristics of Stage 4 Tribes with one exception:  they’re not out to destroy another company or industry. They are simply here to save humanity or make the world a better place.  They tend to be very small tribes, and exist for brief periods of time.  The teams that developed the first iPhone for example.  Or the employees of Amgen pharmaceuticals in the early 2000’s who would answered the question “who is your biggest competitor” by answering “cancer’  It wasn’t another employee, another company or even another industry.  Every Amgen employee woke up every day to save the world from cancer. Period.

Tribal Leadership shows how to identify the stage of any tribe just by listening to how they speak, and how to move your organization up this tribal ladder.  It explains how to unleash greatness through culture. The kind of greatness seen by Apple - who has retail employees paid $40,000 a year happily selling $2,000,000 worth of product without commission - or Zappos who built a billion dollar shoe store purely with a culture of service and almost no marketing.  It should be required reading for ANYONE in business.  And I promise you after reading it you will never look at a co-worker or company the same again.

So what does any of this have to do with brand?

Well, the lessons of Tribal Leadership made us realize that Brand and Culture are flip sides of the same coin.  Where many agencies focus on developing brand and messaging that drives the external marketing, few pay attention to how that brand and message can be used to nurture the internal culture as well.  Idea-ware has always looked to capture our clients brands in stories that resonate with customers and the media.  What Tribal Leadership made us understand is that we can apply the same messages and stories internally - not as bland, meaningless Core Values posters on the walls - but infused into recruiting programs, sales trainings, employee incentive programs, even compensation - and put into values-embedded stories and corporate folklore that every employee knows and that define for them why they come to work every day.

This is leading us to re-imagine the role of a brand and the approach of a brand agency.  This is brand as the foundation of both marketing as well as culture.  It has infused new understanding into our work and why we get up every day.  And it’s going to change everything here at Idea-ware.  Stay tuned…

The Power of Language

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

In an age where no one has time to read anything longer than 140 characters, magazines are now displayed in glass tablets rather than paper, and videos on YouTube or TED win get more attention that the NYTimes Bestseller list, it’s refreshing to actually sit down and hold a book in your hands. It’s even more refreshing when the books are all aboutthe power of words and language. Recently I finished reading two books that brought to life the incredible power of words to change the world and how we perceive it with profound implications for brands.

The first book - The Thee Laws of Performance (http://www.amazon.com/The-Three-Laws-Performance-Organization/dp/0470195592) - Introduces the concept of a “default future” and how every person, family, team and organization has one. It’s the future that is already written in our subconscious beliefs and the actions that spring forth from them. It then goes into explaining the power of declarative language to create an alternative future. It turns out words matter even more than we thought. A short 5 min video by the author Dave Logan is a quick introduction for those without time to read the whole thing (there we go again!)

The second book - The Answer to How is Yes (http://www.amazon.com/The-Answer-How-Is-Yes/dp/1576751686) - describes how we all begin life as “idealistic” artists – willing to try anything, unafraid to fail.  However, as we age and become more “wise” we lose that idealism and become more practical.  At that point when we begin to dream about something again – quitting our job and opening a restaurant, or writing a novel – the natural tendency is to ask “how?”  “How will make that work?”  “How will I survive?”  How becomes code for all the practical considerations that - while important – often kill the idealism and the dream.  So the author suggests the answer to “how” questions is simply to say “yes”.  Ultimately, if the dream or ideal is important enough we will FIND a way without killing the idea at birth.  As creative advocates this resonates with us deeply as it’s very common to see great ideas shot down in the face of “practical considerations”.  Simply saying “yes” opens the door to finding a better way to address both the creative ideal and the practical consideration and undoubtedly yields a better result.   It’s amazing what the simple word “yes” can accomplish and it’s another great example of the power of language.

We’re mining the concepts in both of these books to help our clients understand that their marketing and identity have a default future too and how we can use powerful language to change that future and how prospects and clients perceive them.
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WIN Sponsorship Update

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

ŸlogoSo it’s been several months now that we have been a sponsor of WIN and the collaboration continues to expand.  The events have been fantastic – allowing us to connect with interesting startups from Scotland, Israel, UK, South Africa and Japan as well as investors here in NYC and beyond.
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But more importantly we’ve become a key part of the WIN marketing team assisting with the website and blog and even becoming defacto reporter at the events.  The sample below shows how we had some fun providing a custom soundtrack, video editing and of course all important “on air” personality! ;-)

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Idea-ware Redesigns Mediacom Business

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

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Mediacom is country’s 8th largest cable system operator.  Like many cable MSOs offering the triple play of voice, video and broadband Mediacom is extending its network and services to businesses across its service footprint.  The company wanted to update it’s business website (http://business.mediacomcable.com/) to build stronger connections to business prospects and customers throughout its service region and turned to Idea-ware and our partners wedü and Compass Intelligence to provide the creative, technical and strategic expertise needed to launch a world-class business cable website.
ŸCollaborating with the visionary marketing leaders at Mediacom we worked as a team to design a new user interface that was simple and easy to use - just like Mediacom’s services!  The new interface included an innovative, transparent, “discovery” layer that pops up to allows users to access service maps, calculate savings, identify their most pressing business needs and then generate a custom list of service recommendations.

The new site also seamlessly connects users with 100+ local reps who have their own profiles on the site and case study videos highlighting their relationships with local firms.  This allows Mediacom to capitalize on their strong local presence and build much more personal connections in each local market - something competitors are not known for.

Build Brand, Build Equity

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

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11 months ago we began a re-messaging exercise for Voxel.net.  The goal was to help them position themselves in the crowded cloud computing space with a story that was unique and would stand out. The “fabric” identity we developed for them did the trick, capturing the benefits of their flexible & technology agnostic operating philosophy - in a way that no other provider could.

The result?  9 months after we introduced the new identity Voxel caught the attention of Internap, one of the nation’s largest network providers seeking a cloud infrastructure provider that would help transform it into full service IT infrastructure provider.  And yesterday Voxel announced it had agreed to be acquired by Internap for $30M!

On the call today with investors the firms CTO Raj Dutt was quoted as saying “This isn’t about one product or one piece of code as much as it is about stitching together the right kind of fabric,”

Ÿ We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

Happy Holidays from Idea-ware!

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

For any business - coming up with a memorable holiday greeting can be a stressful challenge.  For a creative agency, especially so.  Not only do you need to fit that project into a busy year-end schedule but the expectation for “creativity” is especially high.  It is after all – our job!

ŸOf course sometimes you can’t control the creative muse and try as you might nothing seems to feel right.  So what do you do?   ŸWell sometimes, if you step away and reflect on what REALLY matters you find the answer right under your nose.  Or in this case…our ears.

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