Monday, December 9, 2013

Woodstock Public Library branding

The old logo

The Woodstock Public Library was a great gig. Client Amy Raff had a great understanding of her organization, which makes our job a lot easier. Still, we did an entire branding identity campaign for them, met and talked and filled out our special questionnaires and talked some more and finally a theme emerged: the library provides services. All kinds of things pointed to that as the main theme of what they did.

Having thus identified their brand essence, it just took a tiny twist to understand what their brand personality should be. Instead of stopping at 'service' we went one step further and translated it what that meant for the library's clientele: access. Access to books and ideas and thoughts and like-minded individuals. Access to readings and craft sessions and the internet. Access, access, access. Everything that the library offered could be summed up under the conceptual umbrella of "access." Well, the client loved this idea and so we started executing.

Most clients need advertising: print and radio and sometimes tv. The library only needed a logo. For now. Our first step is to take a look at the competitive environment. Woodstock and environs have, as you'd expect, some nice logos and some crummy ones. A popular thing around town is to use the elements from the 1969 music festival for things bearing the Woodstock name. We were not interested in that.

We wanted something original and ownable, not something derivative and evocative of a music melee that happened 50 miles away.

So we started thinking about how to represent the concept of access with an image and/or maybe an image and a tag line. As a starting point, we thought about a door. It nicely represented the big brand idea of access. Also, the library was currently using a lovely illustration of the front of its building in its materials and there was a door in it. So we took a look and it looked pretty good. Combined with a tag line about access, it could be a sweet little logo for our sweet little library.

Well, we liked the door idea and so put pencil to paper to see what happened (something fun always does) and we started thinking about open books as another nice (and certainly apt) representation of the idea of 'access.' And we started thinking about combining the books and doors and slapping a fun type treatment on there. Well, some of the doodles are below.

We wondered if the open door could be made to look like a big "W" or if the open book could.

We experimented a little with the fun combination of letters 'W', 'P', and 'L'.

We pursued that direction a little bit and while it looked real good, it didn't really relate to 'access' directly. 

Oh sure, we could slap on a tagline to add the thought of access, but for now, we were looking for the something a little more organic and so we forged on. We liked the door, which, it turned out, with a little perspective, could be made to be kinda 'W' shaped or even fit inside of a big block 'W'. Here below are some of the sketches:

Once we had the big 'W' shape, it seemed like we could really just put anything inside of it, a door, an open book, anything. Also, one of the client's mandates had been that the logo be iconic and ubiquitous. Now the latter is largely a question of media placement . . . 

. . . but the former is a matter of design and that big 'W' was already starting to feel iconic. We pixelated the pages from the book in a nod to the digital era, cut off the type a little, in order to make it more unique and ownable and bam! we had the logo below. (Which we love!)

Next, we came up with about a hundred tag lines to help express the idea of access and we finally we all agreed on this one: "open doors, opening minds". Here's the new logo with the new tag line. Iconic and nicely representing the brand. (If we do say so ourselves.)

Business cards:


And that's all she wrote! We were well paid for our efforts and can't wait to see the logo all around town. Its first uses are going to be in fundraising letters and come-ons for a capital construction campaign, and naturally, we've got lots of ideas of how to make a splash with that, but, sadly, the library already has a fundraising person working on those questions. We're just happy to do our part and hope that, very soon, the library will stand for 'access' in the minds of everyone around.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I wanna send a letter to drum up business . . .

Went down to the city the other day to talk to our headhunter, Marie, about drumming up some freelance work. She said "no problem" and then asked if we'd be interested in helping the boss write a letter to send out to prospective clients.

Well, the boss came in, the big cheese, the head honcho, the guy with his name on the door and it turns out he's a most excellent guy and we totally hit it off. In addition, we successfully talked him out of sending a letter and into doing something a little bit more noteworthy.

Our point of view on this is pretty simple: your target audience gets a lot of letters exhorting them to use this service or that and, honestly, their assistants, the people who open the letters, don't even read them. So don't waste a second writing a letter to try to reach and persuade them. Just don't.

Well, the honcho bought our argument and away we went to the drawing board to create an ad that would drum up some business. We pitched him on doing a top to bottom branding of his company, complete with in-house and out-of-house image research, but he just wanted an ad, so that's what we did. A few of them. And some other stuff too.

Now, the client's competition is not just the other recruiting firms, it's also the online job boards and, increasingly, LinkedIn. The job boards are a little impersonal and so is LinkedIn; headhunters, on the other hand, do all of their real business face-to-face. They meet with the clients, they meet with the candidates, they make a match. They are much more like old time matchmakers, while the job sites are akin to online dating sites like or

So with all that in mind, we started our look at their branding with a look at their logo. Here's what it was:

And here's what we wanted it to be: (click on any of the images on this page to view them bigger)

Seems sensible enough. If your major benefit is the human touch and actual face-to-face contact, why not try to include that information in your communications. Starting with your logo.

Well, the logo idea got dinged, but we still had a couple of fun ad ideas. The best of them highlighted people's ability to exaggerate themselves online, something that is an impossibility in person. For this ad, we created a tri-fold mailing piece that would go out in a branded envelope featuring their new logo. (Still hopeful we could sell it.) When removed from the envelope, the piece showed a person typing their specs onto their laptop. When unfolded once, it showed that the person doing the typing, though literally matching the specs, was actually a very different kind of person. When unfolded again, it showed a bar graph we'd made that highlighted attrition rates amongst employees hired through O'Hare and through other channels.

Here below are the two rough options we created to visually display the quantitative information the client had on attrition: 

Well, this mailer was popular, but not enough so to build a consensus amongst everyone in the office, so it got dinged too and we sent out our one last idea, stolen from a circa 1979 poster that was very popular back in the day:

Created by a student at UVA, Tom Shadyac, the poster was wildly popular and right on the money. Shadyac went on to fame and fortune in Hollywood (more here). And, following in the footsteps of so many other advertising greats, we stole the idea. Got theft? Our version is here below:

Yeah, that's right, we stole a photo of Bradley Cooper, too. Well, we really really liked this idea and so we sent it off to the client. Never heard back. Sent another email asking again how he liked it. Never heard back. So finally, guessing that perhaps he was sick of all the hoop-la, and just wanted his damn letter, we wrote the letter. It turned out nice; here it is:

So we sent it out, our proposal for a one-sheet mailer, and it was something really really close to a letter idea he originally wanted, and when we finally heard from him, he said, "great copy, whoever wrote is a genius, but I like the other idea better." Well, that was music to our ears and so off we went, producing and revising and getting approval signatures and all the fun stuff that goes into actually making an ad. We considered using stock photography and illustration (below) . . . .

. . . . but in the end we decided to cast and shoot it ourselves. Right here in Woodstock. One call to uber-makher Abbe Aronson of Abbe Does It and we had ourselves an amazing photographer, Franco Vogt, and a handsome and perfect model, local luminary and illustrator extraordinaire Jason O'Malley.

And before too long, we had our first, finished and approved ad:

And not too long after that, the client asked for a few more. 

The client hopes this campaign will help them sign up a few more small to medium sized agencies. While there's no way of knowing for sure how these direct mailers will do, we hope that they'll be successful in engaging the target audience (250 or so ad agency HR folks) and we expect that, at the very least, they'll certainly a lot more successful than a short note on letterhead.

Other details

• The posters are 17 x 11", suitable for hanging on the refrigerator in the common area of each agency.

• Instead of folding, we recommended sending the posters out in 2" diameter mailing tubes, so they'll arrive at their destinations not looking like all the other direct mail.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Feel good food case study

By and large, we, here at Woodstock Organic Concepts, like to swoop in and come up with the BIG IDEA, thus saving the day and leaving everybody marveling at our creative genius. Once in a while, the client comes up with the big idea, executes it better than we ever could and our main task is to just keep outta the way of progress and figure out how we can take credit. This is one of those stories.

Mary Anne and Richard run Blue Mountain Bistro-to-go and Blue Mountain Catering. It's an upscale catering business and upscale retail store (mostly take-away business) on ever busy route 28 near Woodstock. They're both very creative people with good insights into their business and what it stands for. When we first started working on their branding, they had more good ideas than you could shake a stick at, all of them true to their brand.

But they didn't have a clear focus. There were too delicious canap├ęs to choose from and so they kept them all.


Turns out they didn't have a mission statement either. So I sent them a questionnaire full of thought-provoking stuff and each of the three of us filled it out for their business and before long, we had a swell mission statement that could be the foundation of creating a strong brand. (see our white paper on mission statements here.) Here's what we came up with:

Sweet, right? Each of them, independently, noted prominently that they wanted to help make the community and the world a better place. Beautiful.


So now, mission statement in hand, we proceeded to figure out a brand umbrella under which all of their Bistro to-go communications could exist. They already had advertising and signage and business cards and whatnot on a variety of ideas: "the life of the party", "every day's a celebration", "local ingredients", slow cooked fast food", "Mediterranean cooking style" and "feel good food." Well, it didn't take too much time to see that the biggest, broadest, funnest umbrella under which all of these thoughts could happily exist was "feel good food." All the other stuff seemed more like supporting points; there were so many of them, we put together a little flow chart to keep it straight (we're a company of visual thinkers, don'tcha know):

They had even previously connected the dots between what they do and the concept of "feel good food". From their website: 

FEEL GOOD FOOD – feels good when you BUY IT: because you know that you're buying something that's been hand selected by our chefs, been locally sourced, and handled with years of experience!

FEEL GOOD FOOD - feels good when you EAT IT: because we make everything from scratch, with the freshest herbs and spices, local farm produce when in season, and lots of love!
FEEL GOOD FOOD - feels good when you SHARE IT: because you know that your friends and family will love you for giving them food that really tastes good!

So a communications umbrella was born. (Okay, not really "born", more like picked out of the umbrella rack by the door).  The client loved the idea (it was theirs already anyway) of standing for "feel good food" and saw how it nicely encompassed all their other brand thoughts and they had a bunch of previously committed to magazine ad pages so we started executing immediately. 


Well, the idea on how to express "feel good food" for their take away business came to us right away: virtuosic, hand-made ads and signage drawing on the current craze for chalkboard art. Perfect. The chalk board is a classic fixture of bistros all over the world and it could be used in their store and in their ads and other materials. Beautifully executed chalk boards convey concepts such as "fun" and "home made", "locally crafted" and "friendly" - all of which nicely back up the idea of "feel good food." And when those three words are all over your store and in every communication you send out into the world, that doesn't hurt either. Chalk boards just like you see in so many places around the world, only better. Just like their food: nothing too unusual, just regular stuff done much better.

Our first ad was to promote the grand opening of their new bakery and it looked like this:

And for inside the new bakery, we did an actual chalkboard:

Now, we were feeling pretty fly about the whole thing when our client Mary Anne (who is an awesome artist, too) asked innocently if she could try one. "Sure", we said, well practiced at the art of humoring clients who want to try to do our job for us, "go ahead." And she did this:

Well, it's a funny feeling when you see your usefulness slip right out the door, but that's how we felt. Mary Anne knocked it out of the park. A beautifully masterful execution of our concept and, truth be told, better than we could do. 

Later, the local Jewish congregation was celebrating its Rabbi and she made this for the event:

Well, you know what they say: Give a client a fish, you've fed them for a day, teach a client to fish you've fed them for a lifetime. But if that client just happens to cook fish really really well and you're working on a barter arrangement, then it's not actually such a bad deal. 

Business cards, front and back:

Playing on the idea of the chalk board and writing and giving a nod to the fact that people write on business cards all the time, we used one of Mary Anne's pieces of art on the front of the business card and left space for people to "write something good" on the back. An execution built around a universal truth. Can't beat that.

Other ads and other ideas followed, all of them using the chalkboard to express the idea of feel good food, and we could go on and on about these interesting executional decisions, but the truth is, we're boring ourselves. So we'll save it for another day. Right now, we're gonna go get us some feel good food. Yum.


One of the other  interesting things we did for our wonderful client was to help them put their media ducks in a row. To do this, first we took a look at who their target currently is and who it should be.


Someone who lives a few towns away or across the river is simply not going to come get a panini from Bistro-to-go. So we winnowed it down and recommended to them that their target audience be defined as: people who pass by their store but don't stop in.  And if that's your target and you've got a big sign out front, then you already own the most perfect media for your message. We continue to recommend topical, on-message signage to delight their passers-by and draw them into the idea that Bistro-to-go serves feel good food. Which they do. Much to our delight.


They had been advertising their to-go business in regional publications and on a local, broad-reaching radio station. We moved around their advertising placement so that all of the broad-reaching media were advertising their catering business and so that their Bisto-to-go business was only being advertised in local media. Some of it, really, really local:

So, there's a short recap of our thinking for their to-go business; some day soon, we'll write about the branding and communications ideas we helped them make for their catering business -- separate but related.