It’s No Secret: Working With Great Brands Satiates Your Soul

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Anyone who works in a creative field knows the feeling. The one that slowly buzzes throughout your body after you’ve finished a project that you’re truly proud of. Whether it’s acting, designing, writing or making sculptures out of popsicle sticks, you’re filled with pride and you bask in that warm glow of accomplishment.

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But then, you submit your work to your boss/ client/ colleague/ popsicle judge, hoping they’ll share in your sparkly enthusiasm.

They don’t.

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They don’t like the way you performed that scene. Or the way your red logo is “TOO red.” Or how you described something in your script. Or the brand of popsicles you went with.

You feel deflated, just like Tom Brady’s fooseball. (Sorry, too soon?)

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But you realize that maybe your work wasn’t well-received because your boss/ client/ colleague/ popsicle judge doesn’t quite “get” it. Or maybe they’re afraid to do something different. Or perhaps they’re hesitant to let a little personality shine through. They probably hate taking risks.

Then there are the kind of brands that you always hope to work with, like Secret Squirrel.

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They’re a local family-owned business that makes incredible cold brewed coffee.

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And they’ve got an inspirational story.

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Owners Trevor and Rebecca Smith are the epitome of successful entrepreneurs.

These self-proclaimed coffee lovers would often experiment with different ways of creating and enjoying their favorite drink. The duo built Secret Squirrel from the ground up and embarked on a grassroots marketing campaign. They began selling their products at a local farmers market and quickly developed a community of cold brew loyalists.

Now Secret Squirrel is partnered with the largest independent natural foods distributor and just rolled out a new line of dairy-based drinks. (Yummy Hint Alert: stay tuned…more recipes are in the works.)

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I had the pleasure of working with Secret Squirrel recently, and I admire them for a myriad of reasons.

Trevor and Rebecca have created a great, approachable brand that invites people to be a part of their world.

They don’t hide behind an anonymous corporate wall.

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Their website is a welcoming digital experience with fun facts, pretty pics, and a rad recipe section, complete with boozy brew beverages!

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And they absolutely love interacting with their customers.

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Best of all, they clearly have a spectacular sense of humor.

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Oh, and their coffee is downright delish!

It’s so refreshing to see brands like Secret Squirrel. I know that as they expand and grow their empire, they will continue to be an inspiration to people like me, and to other businesses. I’ll drink to that!

Design For My Dimes

A couple months ago, I decided it was time to grow up. No, not to get married, have kids, or start a savings account.

Time to learn how to cook.

<DUN DUN DUN>

First on the list: buy fresh fruits, veggies, and proteins.

Next: how the f*ck do I turn on the oven?

After that: grab Band Aids for when I slice off my fingertip. Stupid knife.

So…It’s been a rocky road. (And not the yummy ice cream kind.) But I’m mayyyyybe slowly getting better.

Thing is, once I started buying more groceries, I started paying closer attention to which brands and products would make it into my basket.

For certain things that I’ve been purchasing for a long time (laundry detergent, paper towels, dish soap) I always buy the same brand. Probably because I’ve been buying that brand forever, so my brain automatically tells me to reach for those familiar logos.

But for stuff that I’d never bought – tofu, greek yogurt. olive oil, veggie burgers – grabbing those items from the shelf became a whole new experience. Which brand should I buy? We’re so inundated with choices that I couldn’t even make one. I’d stand in the yogurt aisle, slack-jawed, and probably drooling, with not a clue in the world….

Wait a sec…that one looks cute. I like how the package is shaped. And that shade of blue is super pretty. Congratulations, Muller, you’re coming home with me.

And now for tofu…OMG that one has a little thought bubble informing me that it’s extra firm. You’re extra adorable. And getting tossed into my cart extra quickly.

Finally, I meander over to the olive oil aisle.

Crap, that’s a lot of oil. Hmmm…

Hey, that logo looks nice. It’s green, and has a little plant leaf thingie. Which means it’s healthy. And the name is Simple Truth, which means I can easily trust them! Yep, Simple Truth Olive Oil, you’re the chosen one.

Basically, it all comes down to package & logo design. An aesthetically pleasing layout and color palette will catch my eye and hold my attention.

A solid design can be the difference between me pulling out my debit card, or putting my wallet away. Several months ago, I galloped into the hot sauce store by The Grove, and scanned the endless little bottles for my new spicy mealtime companion.

YUMMINESS. So much yumminess.

YUMMINESS. So much yumminess.

Most of the labels were cartoony and corny, some were plain and boring, some were outstanding, and a few were downright terrible. One particular bottle made me pause – the shoddy label looked like it’d been designed with crayon or colored pencil, the font was nearly impossible to read, and the paper was tearing at the edges. It depressed me.

Think about it – if this company took such little pride in making a first impression on their customers, would they put a lot of effort into the actual hot sauce itself? I’m dubious. Pass. I bought 6 other bottles from brands I’d never heard of, but all of them had beautiful labels.

I’m betting most people don’t even realize how much time and effort actually go into designing packages and logos. There’s a whole psychology behind it. A purpose. It’s the best way to get your product noticed when it’s drowning in a stadium of competition among grocery shelves.

Especially when there’s a sexpot smiling at me, inviting me into his arms.

Now Watch This: Battle Of The Ads

I recently had a conversation with a friend that went something like this:

Friend: OMG I love this commercial.

Me: Which one?

Friend: The one with the cute guy in the suit. He’s sitting with kindergarten kids, and that adorable little girl competes for Cutest Kid.

Me: Oh yeah! T-mobile.

Friend: No, it’s AT&T.

Me: You sure? I’m pretty sure it’s T-mobile.

Friend: Actually, I’m not sure.

Me: Me neither. Let’s get whiskey.

Yes, please.

I pondered this exchange for a couple of days. I found it interesting that we both adored the commercial but couldn’t easily recall the service being advertised.

In today’s vortex of advertisement overload, it’s difficult to cut through the clutter and get your product or service noticed. Companies sink lots of time, money, and resources into making sure their message reaches your eyeballs and eardrums. But if I can’t remember what you are advertising, does it really matter if I loved the commercial?

Hmmm.

Then there’s ads that I’m absolutely obsessed with. These are my top 3 favorites of all time.

Free Credit Report:

Education Connection:

Juicy Fruit:

But…this also raises a good question. Even though I die for these commercials, have I ever visited freecreditreport.com or educationconnection.com? No. Do I ever chew Juicy Fruit? Hell no.

If I wanted a free credit report, I’d email my mom’s accountant for a favor. If I wanted info about a crappy education, I’d go to ITTtech.com. If I wanted gross gum that loses its flavor after 2 seconds, I’d grab a pack of Big Red.

So even if your ad cuts through the clutter and I love your commercial, have you really won the battle? I suppose you could argue that you’re creating “brand recognition” and maybe one day, I’ll purchase your icky chemical chew or useless credit services because you’re “top of mind.” And who knows…maybe I will.

But for now, unless your ad features cats, Christina Hendricks, or a catchy jingle, I’m tuning out.