The Branding Spectrum: From Poo Faces to Facebook

8 07 2015

How’s that for a headline? And yet we’re not being overly provocative here – the last week has seen some of the most over-the-top (or under-the-bottom, to be 100% accurate) and under-the-radar branding campaigns go viral, at least in the ad trades.

First, Facebook rolled out a logo “refresh” that only font wonks noticed until Facebook had to point it out – the company, now allegedly valued higher than Walmart, dropped the Klavika font it started with in 2005 to a custom, in-house designed font still used on the familiar blue background.

According to Adweek, “the new typeface is an attempt to ‘modernize’ the logo and make it appear more ‘friendly and approachable,’ says Josh Higgins, Facebook’s creative director. Higgins also noted that Facebook explored many options but ultimately landed on updating its logo instead of redesigning it completely.”

Compare for yourself:



How many of Facebook’s reported 1.44 billion monthly active users noticed? Our guess would be next to none, but probably more that those who noticed Google’s two-pixel logo tweak a year ago May. Yes, you read that right. Two pixels – and Reddit users actually noticed, and Gizmodo reported on it.

And now for the Pampers spot that took the bronze Lion in Film at Cannes, and a silver and a bronze in Film Craft. Entitled “Pooface,” it is a medley of babies’ faces, filmed in slow motion (400 fps) as they fill their diapers, set to Strauss’ “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” and produced by Saatchi & Saatchi London. After 75 seconds of steadily reddening, highly occupied faces, there is a hashtag #pooface, a shot of a beautifully lit box of Pampers Sensitives wipes, and a final message “Don’t fear the mess.


This clip has been viewed over 600,000 times at the writing of this post, and has spawned articles in all the ad trades, as well as comparisons to a 2012 Australian ad for Mamia diapers with an operatic score. It won a Clio.

Whether the creatives at Saatchi were influenced by the Aussie ad or not, the spot is brilliant – and no one I’ve shared it with was able to sit through it without laughing out loud.

The point here is that getting the buzz going about your brand often resides at the extreme ends of the spectrum, and not so much in the middle. We all need to think out of the nappy.


15 Days of Fame Into Less Than 4 Minutes

30 05 2014

Getting marketing and PR mileage out of an event can take some ingenuity. Big, splashy events with celebrities, music, celebrations, food – and sometimes all of the above – have a certain built-in traction that makes the job a bit easier. But what do you do when you’re marketing something that is still an intangible – a residential project that won’t be completed until January 2015, with no floor plans, no pre-leasing, no artist’s conceptions available for another couple of months? By painting a huge public art mural that takes 15 days. There are milestones you can get the media to cover and the public to take interest in: that first dash of color on the bricks, and the final touches when it is complete.

But then it’s over. How do you remind people of the scope, of the breadth, of the magnitude – and then show it to those who never even knew it was happening? And keep it out there to continually show prospective residents, the ultimate reason the investment was made in the first place?

Time lapse photography and a drone.

The final result is a video that is sharable, portable, and allowed the artist, the client, the city, and fans to make it a viral gift that keeps on giving. Credit where credit is due: Artist — Tristan Eaton and his killer team; Time Lapse — Gregory Dillard of Grapeseeker Motion Graphics; 7,000 square feet of “Canvas” — Ram Real Estate/Alexander Lofts.

We Got Married!

19 07 2012
The New Alchemy Logo

The New Alchemy Logo

Okay, not really. But that’s how George K. Regan put it when describing our relationship last week. He’s the Chairman and Founder of Regan Communications Group (RCG), one of the largest privately held public relations agencies in the United States, and Alchemy merged with RCG in late June. The firm is headquartered in Boston, and has offices in New York City (at 75 Rockefeller Plaza, no less), Cape Cod, Providence, Hartford, and we’ll be heading up its South Florida operation. We’re going to move our stuff into RCG’s existing offices, which means Steve and I will have to get up and walk out of our respective offices to have our next girly slapfight.

“We’re proud to welcome Alchemy as a member of the Regan Communications family,” George said in the official press releases, which were picked up by the New York Times, the Boston Herald, PR Week, and more. “Alchemy’s expertise in advertising and marketing will help Regan Communications service the business communities of Florida in ways that our competitors in the marketplace cannot. We have grown to become a one-stop communications solution for clients in New England, New York, Florida, and nationwide.”

Steve Owens, partner | creative director

Steve Owens, partner | creative director

I added my own two cents: “We feel that we have found the right partner at the right time in Regan Communications,” said Kelly Owens, co-founder of Alchemy Communications Group.  “This partnership will allow us to continue to grow and offer new services including crisis communications, event management, and in-house video capabilities while also receiving the strongest support and unparalleled expertise from one of the country’s most well-respected agencies. We couldn’t be more excited about our future together.”

Kelly Owens, partner | editorial director

Kelly Owens | editorial director

We even went and had pictures taken — that’s how serious it is. We stay behind the cameras, thank you very much, so this was a real moment. Thanks to Dana Hoff for the snaps.

So, we’ll keep you posted when we have our new contact info. We’re moving into the new space any minute; we need to find the time to actually do so! And thanks to everyone who has already called and emailed to say congrats.

Downtown Beauty Institution Debuts New Web Presence with Unique Video Productions

12 06 2012
The Cosmo & Company Home Page

The Cosmo & Company Home Page

When you’ve been a mainstay in the area’s salon industry for almost four decades, surprising your clientele is going to take something really…different. One thing Cosmo DiSchino has never feared is taking a risk. Ever since opened his original downtown West Palm Beach location after arriving from Boston’s famed Newbury Street, Cosmo has been the man behind the chair. He is the mastermind, the owner, the motivator, and the mentor at Cosmo & Company. Always on the leading edge where fashion and beauty fuse, Cosmo & Company caters to a diverse clientele ranging from those who have been loyal customers since the salon opened its doors in 1989, to bold-faced names who slip in for a private appointment during the social season and your favorite news anchors, to year-round residents of every age, profession, and style, from conservative to right-off-the-runway.

The home page J-Query slide show contains shots of the salon's employees

The home page J-Query slide show contains shots of the salon’s employees

So when Cosmo and his salon managers, Kathy Silver and Nadia DiSChino-Yazinka, realized it was time for the salon’s website to upgrade to match its new waterfront location on Flagler Drive overlooking Palm Beach, Cosmo already knew one element he wanted incorporated into the new site: videos. He envisioned each member of the staff recording a short intro so that visitors to the site who had never been to the salon could not only read bios on his 27 employees (as well as his own), but could also actually see more than just a still photo — they could see that person speaking directly to them, extending an invitation to come to the salon and avail themselves of whatever that person’s speciality might be.

When we sat down for our first creative meeting with Cosmo, we knew that we needed to capture the essence of what the wildly busy salon with the contemporary/elegant atmosphere is like and translate that into a visual representation for the website — but we also realized that we had some real personalities that would lend themselves to something more than 15- or 30-second video bios. We needed a website that was clean and bright, yet kinetic. We would address that in the color palette, the navigation, and by using a J-Query slide show that would create movement and the same sense of energy one feels in the salon.

We also realized we had a cast of characters — a variety of people who could sit down and do a true interview, resulting in longer-form clips that would really capture how unique Cosmo and the members of his “family” (as he calls them) are as people, some of them with decades of history at the salon. They had fabulous stories, interesting backgrounds, and distinct personalities that could be captured in a way that would allow someone to watch a video and say, “THAT’S the person who is going to understand me and what I want.”

On the "Our Team" page, each staffer's B&W picture turns to a larger color version as you roll over it

On the “Our Team” page, each staffer’s B&W picture turns to a larger color version as you roll over it

In a single-day shoot, Alchemy pulled together a team consisting of still photographer Dana Hoff, videographer Scott Zimmer of DreamShop Digital Arts and his second cameraman, with Steve shooting behind-the-scenes stills and directing, and Kelly acting as the day’s James Lipton, interviewing Cosmo and three other staffers for the long-form pieces, and lending support as the person off-camera each of the staff speaks to as they give their short biography, coaching them and offering encouragement.

“Even though it was just the Cosmo staff and our small crew, speaking into a camera lens can be daunting, no matter how easy you think it’s going to be,” Kelly says. “It’s just strangely awkward, so it helps to have someone standing right there next to the camera, blocking your view of the cameraman,  making it into a conversation, helping to keep it feeling casual and a bit less weird.”

At the end of each bio is a link to click that opens the person's short video bio

At the end of each bio is a link to click that opens the person’s short video bio

Going forward, the plan is to periodically shoot more of the longer video pieces, utilizing a mix of interviews and instructional/educational clips. Alchemy and its programming partner, Matt Kakuk at, created a YouTube channel for the salon where all of the Cosmo & Company clips were uploaded, and code written into the site to pull them back in for viewing either in Flash (in a separate area of the site) or HTML (so they can be viewed on smartphones).

“In order to capture the varietyof personalities in Cosmo’s salon, we took a candid approach to filming, using three cameras,” says Steve. “That gave us room in the edit to pull out some behind-the-scenes moments, sometimes catching the subject off guard, laughing, repeating their story because they flubbed a word or tripped over what they meant to say, or realizing that they were figeting. All of these things come together and are intercut with the final footage so you get a sense of them as real people — both as consummate professionals committed to their craft, and as individuals from different places with varied experiences and tremendous energy.”

The Flash video section is separate so that those viewing the website on an iPad or smartphone won't end up there accidentally

The Flash video section is separate so that those viewing the website on an iPad or smartphone won’t end up there accidentally

The site is also integrated with the salon’s back-end booking software, which allows patrons to schedule appointment and create custom gift cards right on the website. The custom Content Management Software developed by Matt Kakuk allows the salon’s manager, Nadia, to create a variety of specials (tied to holidays, product lines, specific services, or sale/clearance items), add before-and-after images to a style gallery, add new product lines to the “What’s in Store” section of the site, and make changes to virtually all of the site’s text and images. It’s a level of freedom from having to depend on outside help that was another of the salon’s goals.

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