Taylor Garries

Branding, Creative & Art Direction

Brand differentiation done really well

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The Alamo Drafthouse is an independent cinema chain in Texas that has a strict “no talking, no texting” policy. Recently a customer was ejected from the theatre (no refund was given) for repeatedly texting during the movie despite warnings. She called and left a long, rambling NSFW message detailing her experience. And then things took an awesome turn:

The theatre has turned it into a commercial!

It helps that the patron doesn’t come across very well, so she’s easy to dislike. The theatre pulls off this execution brilliantly.

You can’t watch it and not love the vibe you get from the theatre. A quick perusal of its Wikipedia page suggests that the cinema does a lot of other really interesting things to build the culture around its brand, and to separate itself from the competition. I would love to visit these guys—they seem to really have things figured out.


Now Hiring?

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I stumbled across this photo, and it made me chuckle. While whoever created the sign obviously had a sense of humour, I’m always amazed at how many organizations communicate with really poor English. My rule of thumb is that regardless of how “hip” you want your brand to be, always use full and proper English in all of your communications.



Rethinking Experience


At the Pica 2011 conference in Banff last month, I met an interesting man who was about to graduate from the UofA with a double major in industrial design and graphic design. We got along really well, talking for a couple of hours about how people think about a brand. Some of the most famous and well-liked brands have designed the entire experience—from end to end. I think that companies that really get things right design a very consistent and genuine experience.

Many brands, however, overlook the details, the touchpoints that really shape how the brand is perceived. The most influential touchpoints tend to get the least amount of attention. And it’s a shame, really.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately, but there are so few examples in my day-to-day life of brands getting this truly right. I was really tickled by this overview of a kindergarten in Japan though. These architects didn’t just built a new school, but stopped to consider the experience that the students would have. I love seeing this kind of work from innovative architects.



What if America wasn’t America?



I just came across this series of ads from the venerable Ad Council. I missed these ads when they first aired (in 2002?), probably because I watch very little network TV. They’re quite chilling, especially considering that the U.S. just extended the Patriot Act for an additional four years, which makes much of this discussion practical, not theoretical.

The noteworthy thing about these ads is that their use of mostly white “Christian” actors makes them seem ridiculous. Watch the church ad below and imagine it redone as a mosque instead. It really seems a lot more plausible now, doesn’t it? In fact, the same exercise applied to any of the ads works equally well to reveal our own prejudices.





The SR-71 is almost 50 years old, and still stunningly futuristic


Look at it. Just look at it. The SR-71 aircraft still makes me stare in slack-jawed wonder (and I’ve seen an F-117 in person).

Beautifully designed things can remain fresh-looking for incredibly long periods of time, if they’re truly exceptional. The SR-71, designed in the early 1960s by Kelly Johnson, is just one example. It was so fantastic of a design that twenty years later it still “inspired” many comic book imitations (X-Men, Transformers, and GI Joe, off the top of my head).

There are some other classic designs that really stand up over time:

The Barcelona Chair, designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1929 for the World’s Fair.

Levis 501 Denim Jeans, designed in 1857.

American Airlines logo, designed by Vignelli Associates in 1957.


Billboard vandalism or just social commentary?

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Click to see it in all its glory.

I stumbled across this collection of humourously defaced billboards and thought it was good enough to share.

The funny thing about outdoor media (like billboards) is that despite it being intended as a monologue, advertisers end up opening themselves up to some very public feedback, as we can see above.

Plus, advertisers also risk attacks from other outdoor media, as is the case in this example:

For more examples of the audience pushing back on advertisers in outdoor media, have a look at The Sharpie Image.


Are the Yellow Pages still relevant?



I came across this image a while ago, and it made me chuckle. I took a similar picture (albeit without the clever sign) a few years ago at my old office. The new phone books were delivered, and everyone was sort of nonplussed about the whole event. These giant books don’t mean much anymore, but no one is quite sure what to do with them. The volumes sat in a pile outside of every office for a few days before people started bringing them in because they looked bad just sitting in the hallway.

I recently spoke to a client about her ad in the phone book. She pays about $600/month, which is pretty small for the Yellow Pages but still got her the largest ad in her section. I challenged her to measure how many new clients she gets from this listing, so she tracked the numbers for three months. She found that she received, on average, about 3 new clients a month from the Yellow Pages. Each client brought in about $80. Therefore, she was spending $600 a month to get $240 of business. What was her number one source of new clients? People seeing her building or pylon signage.

Dropping Yellow Pages ads may not be for every business, but it’s certainly worth looking into.


Stunning skills in Tetris


I will never be as good at anything, as this guy is at Tetris. About five minutes in, the blocks actually turn invisible.


Selling a Volkswagon like it’s a Ronco



I absolutely love this demonstration. It reminds me of the kind of boardwalk-style pitches that Ron Popeil became famous for. Ad people tend to snicker at infomercials, but if executed properly, infomercials absolutely can drive sales.

Actually, it’s easy for those of us in the ad industry to get wrapped up in things like positive messaging and brand awareness. But for a lot of businesses, it’s a clever and passionate sales force that really generates customers.

Consider the following further reading:

Gladwell, Malcolm. What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures. New York: Back Bay /Little Brown, 2010. Print.

In one section of this book, Gladwell writes a really compelling profile on Ron Popeil that’s well worth reading. You’ll gain new respect for Popeil’s ability to create a product and sell the heck out of it. There’s a lot more to him than the Food Dehydrator and the Showtime Standard Rotisserie.


The Exorcist


A really clever little spot for XXXX (company name removed so as not to spoil the twist). This is the kind of fun work that inspires people to get into the industry. The kind of work that makes people in the industry shake their head at and say “I wish my clients would let me do work like that.”