Strange Things Are Afoot

Circle K announced a rebrand a few weeks ago and it’s pretty walk-by-ably forgettable. It epitomizes the cheap, convenient, average everyday milk toast motherfucker kind of branding chains like this dream about having, because why have a little bit of quirk and nuance when you can be the most bland thing on the planet? I don’t really know what else to say about it other than it looks exactly like the kind of logo the group below would force their designers to make for them.

But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is the absurd way they tried to justify it. The video below takes the classic “look this logo is made from a bunch of circles and golden spirals” diagram to an entirely new level of pure bullshit. They try to show how the new Circle-K brand just naturally fell out of the alignment of their other four properties, but it’s obvious to anyone with eyes it’s just complete nonsense. Give it a look and tell me you don’t want to die after seeing this.

Working to Win Awards is a Losing Strategy

Over the last few years I’ve noticed a steady increase in my industry friends talking about ‘award winning work’. Whether it’s an increased emphasis on winning awards, specialty projects contrived to catch the eye of judges or new management brought in specifically to boost creative output to award winning heights, the problems inherent to this kind of thinking are many and unnecessary.

When you work to win awards you do a disservice to your clients. The work starts to skew toward meeting the needs of the agency over the needs of your client partners. Budgets can quickly dry up, scopes can become unwieldy and client patience begins to wain.

It’s an unattainable yardstick. When “that isn’t an award winning idea” becomes the beginning and end of a critique you neuter your creatives. Creativity, and by extension creative work, is an abstract endeavor at best and that’s why we have creative briefs. Without the creative brief there isn’t a way for the un-indoctrinated to judge the validity of an idea. When a presentation misses the mark briefs provides a reference point to go back to. “It’s not award winning” doesn’t provide that.

It suggests there is only one way to judge the success or failure of a project. Just because a piece of work didn’t win an award doesn’t mean that it didn’t move the needle for the client, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t good and it doesn’t mean (most importantly in my opinion) that the client didn’t love it.

For these reasons, at BIKLOPS we try not to focus on awards. Instead of using awards as your starting point, maybe try following these basic rules instead:

1. solve the problem
2. solve it beautifully
3. solve the problem of where to put all your awards

Seriously though, that’s really it. If you’re solving the problem and doing it in a way that you can be proud of, you’ve already won.

Burn the Mission Statement

“We must all efficiently
Operationalize our strategies
Invest in world-class technology
And leverage our core competencies
In order to holistically administrate
Exceptional synergy”—Weird Al Mission Statement

Remember your last job? I bet you do. Remember your coworkers? Your duties there? Do you remember what your ex-employer at large did or made? Yes? Well of course you do. Now, do you remember that company’s Mission Statement? I doubt it.

The reason is obvious—mission statements suck. They rarely say anything worth saying and almost never do what a mission should do: to give you a reason to show up in the morning.

Give them a Mission

Burn your mission statement; starting today you’re simply on a mission. You must feel compelled to complete your mission, not bored to death by the sound of it. You must feel like you and only you can make sure it happens—you must have a feeling of ownership. A great mission isn’t a string of buzzwords some higher-up vomited out one afternoon: it’s your company’s purpose. A mission gives an organization meaning. A bad mission statement on the other hand can make a company meaningless.

“Mission statements used to have a purpose. The purpose was to force management to make hard decisions about what the company stood for. A hard decision means giving up one thing to get another.”—Seth Godin

Mission Impossible

A good mission is aspirational, transformative. Frodo and Sam must carry the ring an impossible distance through impossible obstacles. It takes faith, and strength and determination to get there.

For Your Eyes Only

Most mission statements are so generic they could be easily swapped between companies and no one would even notice. Do you “provide exceptional customer service”? Well so does your competition. A good mission is not only aspirational but it’s singular. One of Nike’s axioms is ‘evolve immediately.’ It’s not just catchy—it defines Nike.

Wave A Banner

At BIKLOPS our mission is both simple and forever challenging: MAKE IT RAD.

Simple, not easy.

Engagement is meaningless

A few moments ago I scrolled through some generic buzzfeed article. “10 whatevers you just have to whatever!” or something like that. I clicked the link as a sort of automatic response, just lazily clicking for no reason, and I scrolled through the entire article without reading a word, just scanning for images and not thinking.

I imagine simultaneously at Buzzfeed headquarters intrepid intern Bobby Workshard peered over the surface of his comically oversized iPhone 6 and exclaimed to his boss “We did it again! 100% engagement sir! A click and a full scroll-through….so uh, can we talk about that promotion?” I envision at this point they high five, or probably fist-bump.

The Problem With Numbers

When brands are just starting out they’re often advised to create content. Any content. The idea from a marketing bean-counter’s perspective is that any like is a good like, any email signup a good email signup. And from a pure numbers perspective they’re right. If you have 0 followers and you gain 1 follower you’ve just increased your reach by infinity%. Damn does that look good at the quarterly meeting. The problem is these followers are ultimately useless. They don’t like you or what you’re doing, they like pithy top 10 lists. So unless your company, like Buzzfeed, manufactures top 10 lists you quickly find yourself with a broad, but shallow reach. You’re not talking to people that really love what you do, you’re not talking to your heroes or becoming anyone’s hero. You’re simply feeding the tired internet lab rats their shot of sugar and it feels great for both parties, but only for a moment.

Impact not Engagement

If you could chose between a 1,000 more “likes” or truly impacting a handful of people which would you chose? Let’s say the things others are not. Let’s create the previously unseen. We’re both sitting in front of the quickest, most accessible publishing tool ever created—let’s make something memorable with it. If we start creating truly original work, and trash the clickbait, you won’t believe what happens next!

[clickToTweet tweet=”If we start creating truly original work, and trash the clickbait, you won’t believe what happens next!” quote=”If we start creating truly original work, and trash the clickbait, you won’t believe what happens next!”]

The 10 forbidden, face-meltingly horrible things clients (sometimes) want.

Just a small list of things that make us cringe. We love making beautiful things, and it hurts our souls when we can’t. However, a little education can go a long way, and we always try to educate our clients whenever possible.

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The case for a new economy.

Last Friday I ventured out to my first ever Creative Mornings, a nation-wide design-centric lecture series. I found myself completely inspired by the talk I heard there by Jennifer Armbrust, the former owner of Motel and the current brains behind Armbrust & Co and PORT.

Armbrust’s concept is a rather earth-shattering one: is the western economy non-sustainable, and if so, what will replace it? She proposes that business and money in America is largely defined by masculine ideas of power: a system of winners and losers with an ever-shrinking number of winners at the top and an ever-increasing base of “losers” at the bottom. What if this atrophying system was replaced by an economy of feminine ideals? A way of doing business that is more inclusive, cooperative?

 

My mind is still reeling from the questions presented in this talk. I hope you’ll find time to check it out! (And if you’re a cheater it gets down to brass tacks starting at 8:18)

 

 

Binder Clips are the Best!

I use binder clips for everything and wanted to share some of my favorite uses.

You’re not a CEO. Stop saying you are.

 

At BIKLOPS, we work primarily with new and mid-stage businesses—in annoying biz-speak, SMBs. Thanks to a huge rise in entrepreneurship in Kansas City and a couple of great startup clients, 2014 was the ‘year of the startup’ at BIKLOPS. We worked with a half-dozen start-ups, met dozens more and found ourselves designing, strategizing and consulting for a lot of newborn companies.

The work was fun. We met a lot of smart innovators that I hope to work with again. We also met a lot of “CEO”s. A lot. The title felt a little off and off-putting. To quote The Kernel’s Milo Yiannopoulos, “What, precisely, are founders of a company with no revenue, a handful of staff and possibly even no funding the chief executive of?” The self-appointed title was telling: founders are taking a huge risk, and afraid of failure, they often wrap themselves up in the emperor’s clothes. CEO feels successful—and the appearance of success breeds real success, right? Well, yes and no.

Nice hairpiece, buddy.

There’s a solid business reason to avoid the “CEO trap”—this is the age of the authentic brand and you’re telling a lie. People can smell it. Other businesses and investors can smell it—and I’ll let you on to a little secret: being honest about your company and your role is an advantage. Potentially a big one.

Think of it this way—there are two potential audiences for your service or product: the people that would like to hire the services of a big company manned by a “CEO” and the people that would like the services of a hungry entrepreneur—an alternative to the slow-moving dinosaurs they’re currently working with. That unnecessary title just alienated those open-minded, CEO-hating rebels that respect a “business owner,” an “entrepreneur”. To make a long story short: it’s best to earn it before you claim it. You’ll benefit and feel more honest. It’s a win-win.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Being honest about your company and your role is an advantage. Potentially a big one.” quote=”Being honest about your company and your role is an advantage. Potentially a big one.”]

All My Friends Hate Advertising

Hate is a strong word for a reason. But seriously, all my friends hate advertising.