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Branding, Not Blanding

A deeper dive into our book, Brand Identity Essentials.

This presentation is from a webinar we conducted for RGD in Canada, which builds on our book, Brand Identity Essentials.

Full transcript:

Thank you very much for your interest in this webinar today. I hope I have some information that will be useful to you and that it will be well worth your while during this hour. I titled this talk Branding not Blanding. It's may be just a simple play on words but I think that we've come to develop a point of view about developing brands for companies having done so for nearly 20 years and how a lot of brand initiatives in my mind don’t go far enough, and there is an opportunity I believe for brand builders, brand managers, designers, people in this space to go farther. What we have been spending the last several years of our practice doing is developing methodologies, approaches to go after that very question.

A lot of this talk is based on a book that my colleagues and I wrote and was published in 2010, called Brand Identity Essentials. This book was a hard cover book. It's been now in paperback and translated into some different languages and is available in all the usual places. Two years later, we developed an iPad version that's available on the Apple store and built on the ideas from the book. The book of some limitations regarding page count and format and the publisher had certain expectations. Really what I'm talking about today is the thinking from the book that have evolved in terms of the iPad version but also these days, much of those ideas we continue to explore on our website which is not unique to us but certainly it's a thing that we have been just continuing to think about as we work through these issues in a conceptual way but also with our client engagements.

The premise of the book in many respects, our publisher had actually contacted us and asked if we would be interested in writing a book about brand design and one of my first questions when I was asked was whether they wanted a book about logos or they wanted a book about brands and frankly they didn’t entirely know. They weren’t sure. They said, well write the book you want to write. So we did, but I think in many respects we took it upon ourselves to try to address this issue about the relationship between logos and brands. We feel that logos and brands, that those words are used interchangeably and that they really shouldn’t be, that they're very different things and a lot of discussions led to this illustration which is in the front matter of the book and has been serving as a touchdown for us to this process.

I think you might have a logo … Is it like the tip of the iceberg right? That's saying it is visible but pokes out of the water. There are some things that you see. The brand, of course, is this much larger thing that happens underneath. The publisher, the book was actually as part of a series of different design guides, and they had this, I'm sure was a marketing mechanism in some respects, there were 100 things to do this or that. There were a 100 essential elements for developing brands, and that was the premise of the text originally, and we took on the assignment to develop 100 items that we felt would be useful for brand builders and designers as they worked through brand problems.

This is the list, and I won’t obviously repeat through all of them, but this is what the table of contents in the book. Being systemic thinkers and people that like to solve these kinds of problems, it is difficult in some ways for us to just come up with 100 random things without having some structure or way of grouping these together in a way that would make some sense. It didn’t take us long as we were thinking through the original text to come up with these three buckets. This just served as kind of a way to think about brand building and has served as a guide for a lot of our client work today, but you can think about it on three levels. I think that one hand there is a graphic identity which is the physical form and you could think about that as a logo or logo type.
There are aspects of the physical graphic identity, and you can describe those things, and you can talk about their character and think about them qualitatively and figure out how to create a better image for a client or the company you work for. That's in many ways separate, I think, from identity programs which are real... sometimes there are additive elements, sometimes it's the way the graphic identity is applied, but it really gets into of a pattern of use. In many respects, I think that the brand standards, brand guidelines very much fit in this middle category often where you're trying to illustrate do's and don’t's and to help other users perhaps execute on brand initiatives.

The third level is brand identity. In [inaudible 00:06:00] I think what it comes down to is the meaning behind the brand which gets increasingly abstract if you think about it as you move from the left to the right. You could also think about it in some respects as like small, medium, large regarding the scale of the problem although the buying works in the other way where you much more often deal with the physical form than you deal with the brand meaning. This was a lens through we can start to view the original text of the book and as a way to organize our thinking and organize the way we develop brand programs today.

As you can see this was talking about the list of 100 items and immediately started to group them. We started taking each of one these topics and grouping them into 3's. At least just from an internal workflow standpoint as a way to take 100 individual items and group them into 33 chunks which 33 times 3 would give us 99. The 100th we had we had the idea of keeping it simple which I think is always good advice in any design scenario. These 33 chunks led us to these 33 things which we have found to be a useful dialog. In some respects, a 100 is too many. It's a very useful way to blow out and unpack a particular topic, but it's a little hard to get your head wrapped around or remember easily.

These 33 times the 3, the graphic identity programs and brand identity, it was a way to start thinking through these topics in a broader kind of a way. We started thinking about them as … these promised to be quite useful, and I'm sure that you all practitioners who are working in the brand space, these are some of the terms that you use. We found it to be helpful to start to define what these things are and use them as in a sense a toolkit, and I think very often clients for sure but also sometimes designers sometimes lack the vocabulary to describe what they're doing, and I think it becomes increasingly important to be able to do so. Starting to think about things like really these are levers or tools that … you think about how is imagery being used in a particular implantation? How is color being used? In what ways is dimension or contrast being used and what are the reasons for doing it one way or the other?

We find it very helpful to just for even as I say clients sometimes, that if you've ever been on the end of a presentation where the client simply doesn’t like something and they can’t quite articulate why. Sometimes getting into providing some basic terminology for why they might … why you disapprove something or how it justifies the recommendation you're making as a designer. Thinking about things like dimension, contrast, shape, how is shape used? What kind of symbols is being used? How is typography used? How is the writing or the broader story? Order and variation I think is a huge topic as it gets into especially implementation.

There have been a whole lot of other things, and in some respects, there's a bit of a … there's a sequence of these as well which I'll get into in a moment but as you get into things that are a little bit more abstract by personalization or the psychology behind how you're pursuing your work, the process in which you get there, the production issues, especially increasingly digital [inaudible 00:10:00] trends and being cognizant of trends but not as to immediately following them, right? Shortcuts are for media, multiples as to rest of multiple brands, intellectual property.

Documentation is it matching grand standards; you're very much about documentation and then as you get to these even higher order issues like the evolution of a brand or how it relates to the product competition.

What role originality plays for humor it with. Idealism, there's a lot of idealism sometimes in brand building list as sensitive, but you truly think about that more discreetly and how often you think is idealism authenticity, how committed are people to their ideas, what role strategy plays. Research has become a big part of our practice today for sure, and I would like to say customer touchpoints and more broadly what inspires these ideas in the first place. These 33 concepts are may be somewhat evident, but I think it's … we find it to be a useful starting place of vocabulary for talking about these kinds of issues and then last but certainly not least is the idea of simplicity.

If you take those 33 ideas and you put them into a chart with the three ideas I had mentioned earlier graphic identity, identity programs and brand identity. It creates a kind of matrix some of you who may have gone to our website, we've had a download a single page, a different version of this but the basic idea of trying to think about the scenarios of this in a sense small, medium and large issues. Graphic identity, identity programs, brand identity across the idea of imagery, color, dimension, shape, contrast, things like that. You can imagine, this little exercise is a way to start thinking about how does imagery play out in the graphic identity and how does it play out in a program and how does it relate to the broader brand.

It allows it gives you again, just kind of, we had hoped anyway, a set of tools as a way to think about these problems which I think can … they can be kind of … they get a little abstract for sometimes designers but clients too and is a way to start building a vocabulary a way to think about it in a more systemic way that can lead to better explanations of the work. As you move from the left to the right on the chart, moving from certainly Graphic identity to brand identity, you're moving from things that are more concrete to things that are more abstract. As we move from the idea of what color is the logo to how does color relate to the brand, these are different levels of an issue in a sense, and while it's not as explicit in the book and some respect this is how we started to build on beyond the book on first the iPad and now this sort of a content ever since.

The sequence of the book is not self-evident in the book, but it does move from kind of a similar way from more concrete ideas to more abstract ideas. As you move from imagery, color, and dimension into the ideas of things like idealism, authenticity and commitments, these are a little bit more conceptual ideas and thinking through this matrix in this way; it’s led us to start thinking about this chart a little bit differently. What's going on here is that there is … I've started to use a little bit of a color scheme as you may be able to see to help link related ideas. In some respects, there's a little bit of the small, medium, large on the left just like there is across the top. It isn’t to say they're the same and then also I would be quick to say that it's not like a perfect split necessarily between there are three groups of 11 on the left and how those … those lines get a little fuzzy.

I think in general, as you move from more concrete things to more abstract you do start to think about how they relate to one another and this becomes a useful mechanism as a way to start implementing on the client projects and things that we have been using sort of since we authored the book and had been doing work ever since. Let me pause here for a moment and go to … and I'll come back to this but next I'd like to talk just a little bit about branding in general. If you think about that, there's a starting place that this sort of toolkit or the vocabulary.

Let me talk a little bit about brand development and the idea of branding versus branding if you will. I have found that far too many times certainly client expectations but also I think it's probably enhanced by consultants not pushing their clients far enough. Assuming that brand is a lot about looking deeper than yourself and trying to figure out your core values and the company's mission in a personal way. I don’t think that … it certainly is related to those things I believe, but I also believe that building a brand is a lot about perception in the marketplace and how giving customers a reason to choose that brand over some other brand. I've put this up here. This is the Google mission statement. This is what I found at least on the first page.

I think this kind of thing cracks me up because I think it's amazing how many companies we walk into and we may have had this same experience. If you walk into the lobby or the boardroom or some common place, there's some statement that says something along these lines. It says something about our work committed and our mission is to provide quality and unsurpassed customer service, something that reflects the founder's values and those kinds of things. Again these are very good things to have obviously, but they're core values and that there is a commitment to quality and so on but what I'd like to challenge our clients these days to do is to consider the fact that you could … most companies' mission statement at least the one that's now on the plaque on the wall is very easily interchangeable with just about any other company.

If you can take that plaque and run it across the street and put it on a different company, it's still basically applied, and you can take theirs and put it in your lobby and you have the same thing happen but may be that isn’t to say that that's the wrong mission statement, but it is to say that that's not really the greatest place to start thinking about a brand. I think that when … it's interesting because I think we’re not unlike a lot of other firms I'm sure regarding … even this afternoon I have an appointment with a client and them very much want to think about building the brand is just hammering it out with them in an afternoon as if that's even possible. I think very often when it comes to building a brand that's more unique; you need to get out of that boardroom.

First of all, it's got to go beyond this kind of pithy statement. It's also got to go beyond the other part of this which is of course not usually as quite as bold as the statement saying that we want to provide quality service. Sometimes it's also about bringing shareholder value which again it's kind of that's great, but I also think that the idea of bringing value to shareholders for a commercial entity is self-evident. I guess to me it's like a colleague of mine mentioned once, the idea that a company, that its mission is to provide value to the shareholders is like saying my mission in life is to eat food and drink water. It's kind of like that. That's survival.

The question and the question about strategy and strategy is one of these words that I like to laugh about sometimes because I started my career in the corporate world, spent a few years there before starting this firm and it's funny how the word strategy is turned around all the time. If you want the lunch committee to sound like it's an important lunch committee, just tack the word strategy on to it and say it's a strategic lunch committee. Strategy is something that has a lot to do with how you're going to achieve this. It's one thing you're so sure, shareholder value that's obvious, the question is how are you going to do that. I think brand can play a role.

A way to think about brand building and the way to not make it more about blanding and you know when I say bland, what happens is that if you are hired by a company or the company you're working for is working on their brand and if the beginning and end is all about trends riding this like we generally want to create good products or services and we have shareholder value return. That's not going to create a platform from which an interesting brand is created. The difference is that a good brand, a brand that you admire probably in your daily life either as a professional benchmark or even as a consumer, brand's that are different and better. Again, may be that's obvious but it's now how a lot of companies behave in the way they think about their brands and it's also not the way all firms or consultants that are trying to help them guide their services.

Different and better, what does that mean. First of all, it is useful to recognize that people like birds have a tendency to flock together. There is safety in numbers. Markets all tend to behave in a certain way, and it's can seem safe that way right and in fact there was a really good book that was written a few years ago called Different that talks a lot about this, how companies use the same language and behave a lot like each other and [inaudible 00:21:07] if you work as a consultant in different markets you recognize how much market A looks quite different than market B, but it was all the givens that market A takes as reality are very different than the ones that market B takes as reality.

One of the benefits of the consultant is to be able to the point that out to market A and B. I think it's also useful to recognize how there was a certain set of behaviors and a certain set of assumptions and part of it when markets are usually defined by obviously the product or service they're offering and the distribution and so on but it's interesting too because they all read the same, by definition the same trade magazines, they all show up to the same trade shows. They work on their websites, for example; they look at their product offering. They very often look at all of their competitors and start to think about; they are trying to get how basically … be competitive and have the least parity with their competition. That's obviously those are useful things to do, but it's also useful to recognize that the companies that you and I may admire and certainly that our clients admire are the ones that behave differently.

That takes some bravery. It takes … but certainly, companies that have built brands that we all look at and hold those benchmarks are ones that are different and in that respect the idea of building a brand is about getting different. Saying this is not a success. Even if it's qualitatively and nice, let's say aesthetic or design but it's not any different than anything else out there, it's not necessarily a very useful mechanism for brand building. Thinking about what does getting different look like is a useful question in trying to challenge clients to do that is job number 1 if you're a brand consultant.

Now, I don’t think we can fault our clients or necessarily ourselves always in this. There are broader factors that work here in that we've written articles about some of this, done other webinars and things and I won’t go into a lot of detail here but, there is a general trend going on behind the scenes if you think about it. There's a history of saying this and part of brand development, in general, has become more of a topic of discussion for many is that we're emerging out of the industrial era. We all know this. There's a lot that's been written about, the industrial era and how we're emerging into or may slowly into the knowledge area but I think it's worth also noting you think about some of the biggest companies that came out of the industrial era have images very, that tickles me a little bit about how.

You think about the names of these companies, General Motors, General Mills, General Electric or even Standard Oil. The key to the industrial era is that we were coming out of an era of scarcity which is to say, it wasn’t a matter of choosing which car to buy. It was a question of do you have a car or do you not have a car. In that context, it was fine to have a brand in the sense that it was saying well if you want a car, we're the General Motor car company so that you can buy the car from us. It was a fairly straightforward transaction. Compare that to brands that have emerged in the last several decades that have a very different character. That are more of a product of the knowledge era where the question for Nike, for example, wasn’t the matter of do I have shoes or do I not have shoes; it was a question of which shoes do I want to buy.

It has less to do with scarcity and has more to do with choice. Brands like Nike and Starbucks, and Walmart and Apple instead of having a very generic meaning or general meaning for the whole category, basically labeling the category, they had a very specific meaning that is very intentional and very deliberately different than others that are playing in the same category.

I think that looking at those kinds of brands retroactively is easier than actually changing your company, but I think that there are companies that are increasingly starting to acknowledge those kinds of differences and I have certainly found certainly in my career that partly guiding due to the Internet and the free flow of information today. Even though a lot of markets still cluster together like flocks of birds, it is true that there are more and more companies that are more willing to start thinking about benchmarks that are outside of their category.

Whereas I would say before the Internet before, again which is the hallmark of the knowledge era, company would just generally have less knowledge in a sense so they'd be more likely to benchmark their neighbors or their immediate competitors and call it good whereas now how many of your clients and I certainly have many who have stated they want to be like Apple or they want to be like Starbucks or they want to be which is … and it doesn’t … and I say these are companies that are not in the consumer electronics business or not in the coffee business. They've nothing to do with that, but they have started to have a different kind of paradigm of experience, and they're hoping to achieve that.

How as a brand builder do you help them do that? There's a model that I was introduced to a few years ago that I have found to be very, very useful in lot of respects in my company and it's this idea of there a hierarchy of decision making where starting at the top there is this general idea of philosophy which is what is guiding, how do you make choices in a broad sense, where am I coming from, what kind of mind set do I have, which relates to the idea of principles. What principles do I apply as a result of my philosophy and then what practice, what do I do in practice? What do I do everyday that is reflective of those principles? I found this to be a useful way to start dissecting some of the ideas that I was introducing earlier.

There is a hierarchy of action as I mentioned. There is in some respects the idea of the graphic identity or the identity program, or the brand identity is the small medium to large, it's being reversed regarding how strategic decision is made. Starting at the top, there is this idea of the meaning or if you will, philosophy. In some respects, this is a big idea. What is fundamentally different about the way a brand is going to be presenting itself to the marketplace, what kinds of actions might it take, what is that company trying to do? What is the big idea? Which is a hard thing to do and there is a whole set of processes that a company may employ to do that.
This is the kind of thing that we consult a lot with our clients, but then the next level comes when once you make those kinds of important choices, though, what kinds of patterns emerge from that. They ideally would be different patterns. If we watch brands that we may admire, they take different actions and it's grounded in a different philosophy. They have a different idea as to how they're going to present themselves to the marketplace, and it goes well beyond the idea of just saying generically high-quality product and services or delivering shareholder value. They have decided new ways of how they're going to speed on that.

When it comes to down to things that you or I often see on the street or in these consumer markets or if you interact with the brand, there are these things, these formal things that happen in practice. They are examples of that pattern or that principle being applied in the daily lives of customers and the audiences that the brand is trying to reach. I feel that a lot of brand projects unfortunately start at the bottom and move to the top which is to say the frame of reference is like fixing the brand and usually and this is partly because of what these brand projects start with designers, practitioners that are that bottom layer very often and they are [inaudible 00:30:15] to fix the brand and they are working upstream which I think you can achieve a lot and I certainly have in my career, this way.

Although I think a better way frankly and what we are increasingly shifting to regarding our own business is leading with brand. The brand is far too often seen is a cosmetic affair and, I guess, I feel that wow it has a lot of cosmetic components. Starting to think about it from this philosophy at the top and moving down to principles in the practice areas is a much more effective way to start thinking about how to make a brand different or better than the competition.

If we think about those 33 concepts I walked through earlier that are the structure of the book, they too break out into these different, these categories and I started to use them as shorthand ways of starting to think through some of these problems. Starting at the top, this idea of the meaning or the philosophy thing, think about these things as categorically the kinds of issues you might be thinking about meaning the evolution of the brand and how [inaudible 00:31:30] competition or the originality, the way the idea was and some of these, they're just more conceptual issues that you can think through and then taking that a little bit further dealing from the matrix that the 3 across the top and the 33 on the left, starting to pull out essentially like a check list.

I'll admit to you this is imperfect. This is a work in progress, but I'm happy to share. I think that as you move from the top to the bottom, there are also things that you probably will adjust far less frequently. As you move toward the bottom, they happen more often. These little headlines that were developed as a result of comparing the three categories times the 33, generally the useful way to think about these are the issues you should be thinking about in that time frame. There's nothing magic about that but may be every 3 to 5 years. 3 to 5 is historically is the business planing cycle. I think it's become much shorter these days.

In any case, I just bolded a few of these just to guide attention to them, and some of these are probably better than others, but it's working toward a system that we can use. If you think about things like how is the brand evolving with customer needs, how are you building a competitive position, how are you being decisive and making tough choices, how are you working to own aesthetic and define the kind of brand spirit? How are you different and how are you shaping the meaning of your story, telling a story so thinking about these as tools as a lens through which you might address every 3 to 5 years is a checklist for the brand identity at this higher level.

The next level down relates to this idea, this pattern, identity programs, things like personal relation, the psychology, the processes, production and trends all of these things start to get into the vocabulary of how you start dealing with issues of how those the broader brand identity issues are applied and how the documented few things like brand standards, brand guides. Here too the idea of developing an identity program checklist, may be every 1 or 2 years. How often depends on how often the company is rethinking these things but the idea of planning for change, embracing constraints, finding ways to connect the dots, how to bend without breaking and delivering the experience, keeping your programs relevant. This is a real challenge, especially in digital spaces.
How to avoid reinventing the real? A big question for this area. You're aiming for distinctiveness which you're also trying to define the brand rules. A lot of it is about exercising discipline but also orchestrating some level of variation. Being mindful of how … what is the broader philosophy that's guiding these things but also what's the system that's being designed to execute on them. Then down on the formal level the practice area level, right? All the kind of basic design vocabulary things. Imagery, color, dimension, contrast, etc., and how that perhaps breaks down into a checklist. May be this is at least annually and in some practices, you might deal with this on every project, but certainly, you think about it regarding a broader pattern.

It isn’t necessarily the graphic identity is the logo, but it might be how that is contextualized or kept relevant. If you [inaudible 00:35:23] following the customers not competitors, design a timelessness, yet you're sticking with a good idea. I think sometimes change for its sake isn’t always great. How do you embody the strategy, big performance and trying to understand your customer which is probably why we're called Peopledesign, developing good filters for those things. On some level, you're trying to lay the foundation but also change things up. This is certainly inherent in the process.

In summary, I think this is a model for thinking about developing a toolkit and vocabulary. A lot about the brand building is about helping organizations become different and better not just trying to amplify their average message, helping them to be above average, helping them to be more different and being more different a lot of times is about deciding. You have to decide to be different. It's not just … it's a choice. It's not just something that any organization will ease into. Not being different is easier. Not changing is easier and then, of course, it's doing the hard work to be better.

There's a qualitative element there that I think that most people in the creative field certainly thrive on but being organized enough and developing a vocabulary for talking about these things is rather critical. The way we think about our work today is around the idea of 3 lenses which encapsulates this idea which is starting with what do we want our customers to think, and we call that finding focus. What do we want our customers to experience which is around creating alignment and then what needs to be done to create that experience which is the awe-inspiring action? Then it goes breaks down into different lenses like things and pixels and people. There are different types of ways to interact with the customer.

Above all else, keep it simple. I think that, and I hope I've done that here today. There's a lot of ideas may be even thrown around here, but the idea from my standpoint is to try to develop ways of explaining these things that make sense and can move a company forward so that you're developing brands that are different and better and not just bland.

Thank you. Shall I turn it over to some questions perhaps?


The questions are not part of the recording - our apologies!

Well, I think our main strategy is to get information that is outside of that boardroom as I mentioned. If you’ve been today, I'm certainly not immune to all the usual client pressures. This afternoon I'm going to a meeting with a company that truly believes that they are going to get all of the information that they need, they want to hammer this out in an hour or something and part of my objective at the meeting frankly is to try to convince them that I'd like to think we're smart people and they're smart people and we can roll up our sleeves and work together but even that's not going to solve the problem.

The bigger issue often is what is actually happening in the marketplace, so there is a competitive piece, what's happening in related markets that could start to shape your perception of these things, things are happening in totally different markets that are may be affecting the future path of our market and then also just customer research itself. Trying to understand, getting the voice of the customer to be front in center in the conversation is vital. In summary, I guess the main mechanism we've used to try to change the conversation is getting the perspective of the customer. Too often organizations operate on a historical assumption about what the customer thinks and they're very often wrong.

That's a good question. It's funny I just spoke to some college students here last week, and someone asked me a similar question about what was my favorite project. I don’t know I'm probably … it's hard to put my finger on. I had a few very rewarding experiences where you start to see the most traction or you feel like there is evidence of your work being implemented. I think part of that is may be the fact that I've been doing this I guess may be long enough that I used to get really, really excited about just my sense of the quality of the thing that I delivered but now I feel projects that seem to have more of an impact, I'm more proud of which isn’t to say those 2 things are opposed to one another, but I think that sometimes how rewarding it has more to do with what happens down the road.

We dealt with a lot of organizations that have had programs that have rolled things out globally and it's nice to see those things get traction but then on the other side of it, we dealt a local arts competition that's based here in Michigan that I had to say was probably the most locally public thing I've ever done, like the logo that we did was just literally everywhere. That's the fun experiences were. I think a lot of it means … I think most designers mostly what they're seeking is to have an impact and those are the efforts that I feel most rewarded by.

That's a good question. In fact, one of the chapters of our book gets into this multiples thing. I'll just mention a few things. One is I find it interesting that almost every company we talk to in the first meeting they always tend to think that their market and their company is way more complicated than every other market and the company they've ever encountered. There's always kind of this sense of like "Well, our market is complicated, and we're you know …" and again it's not to say that we refute that point, it's just that I think that they're very close to their problem and their challenges. A lot of markets are complicated, a lot of companies are complicated. I also think some companies, it gets into this mindset question, some companies embrace complexity. They start actually to enjoy it, but they don’t also realize the impact of that complexity.

One of the first things I would encourage them to do is not to try to be so complicated. In our chapter on multiples, we talk about how every brand, companies tend to be very willing these days to create little brands, and sub‑brands and divisions of brands and everybody has a logo, and I think fewer is often better. I think that trying to encourage some level of simplicity, not everything needs a brand, not everything needs a trademark name. That's one of the first things but then if that's not possible, or you don’t succeed in that regards, and it's certainly recast the multiple things into patterns, trying to just in some ways like what I tried to do here today with this information, trying to develop a framework so that it simplifies the experience if you're not literally simplifying or reducing the number but just ways of keeping it more simple.

I think that most people start seeking greater simplicity in their lives. They don’t want complexity. If complexity is something, you have to deal with find ways to make it more simple for the recipient.

Yes, although I guess I would probably say that has happened less often these days because we almost always start our conversations with the important thing is different and better. I think that I'll share a little anecdote about … I've been involved for a lot of website projects over the years and it is amazing to me how many companies in the first meeting will bring a big spreadsheet where they have done a lot of competitive benchmarking, and they have listed all the features and all the content, and they’ve added it all up together, and they hand it to us as if that's the starting place for the website. My response to that is you're telling me that if we achieve everything on your list if we do everything you're asking we'll be just as good as everybody else. Is that really what you want?

Similarly in terms of copying somebody's aesthetic or looking at their program and saying I just want that, I think trying to be consultative to them and just saying … admitting if another company is doing a really good job let's may be dissected that and using some of the vocabulary or some of the tools that I offered here today, this is the way to say what do you like about it. The truth is if that company is not like you, so we are different. We have to be different than that company, and if there are two companies out there that are doing the same thing, that's not necessarily going to help us and we have to figure out some way of distinguishing ourselves from that other entity, or else our money is just going to be … we're just going to be splitting … we're not giving the consumers a choice, and we're not going to be as effective. We'll just be … and if for no other reason, we'll be just seen as copying somebody else. [inaudible 00:46:11] smarter than that.

Right. That's a big question. I think that the … from my standpoint, the more we have been able to turn our front end processed into defined processes or defined projects with deliverables that I could without even … we're at the point where before I even talk to them, I can tell them what the deliverables would be in the first part. I don’t know their specifics but I have the framework for doing it, and this isn’t to say that we have a one size fits all but it is to say that your problem is not unlike many other companies' problems and that these are the general issues that we see and this is the way we go about it. To me, that's the definition of being an expert. The best paradigm I would encourage designers to think about is thinking themselves like they're a doctor or a surgeon. You wouldn’t want a surgeon to say, "Okay I'm going to get in there and cut you open and then improvise."

Ideally what you do is you deal with it in some way that there's a method. Each person and each project are very different. The sense of achieving to find that it becomes easier to justify a single price, in other words, a fee, a fixed fee arrangement for a fixed deliverable. I think that that is different as you move in farther downstream into production. Production types of issues have a lot of variables given the change orders and scope issues and things that can be more easily quantified and quantitatively different, so it becomes [inaudible 00:48:19] numbers gained regarding hours or numbers of things.

The big caveat I'll say is that almost all large organizations that I had dealt with in recent years have all moved towards funneling all of their projects through purchasing and dealing with purchasing is a whole other kettle of fish because even if I convince my client advocate let's say to accept a fixed fee for a type of project arrangement on the front end, at the end of the day, the purchasing people may want you to translate that into hourly rates because they're supposed to be doing due diligence on purchasing comparisons. That's a long-winded answer but it's possible to self-fix fee arrangements for the front end more often than the back end I believe although as I say with purchasing, all bets are off.

Only that I hope this was helpful and I would encourage, if people have more ideas about these things, I tend to be … I try to be pretty open with some of this kind of work and we try to publish a lot of these things on our website. If people have things that they would … feedback or input, I would certainly welcome but aside from that I appreciate your time and attention. I'm hoping that it was helpful!

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