Posts Tagged 'Michael Thibodeau'

A new Touchstone, at a bookstore near you!

I am very pleased, delighted and happy to share with you the new colophon we created for Touchstone books.

the new Touchstone colophon

The new Touchstone colophon

But first, a little story about how we worked with the Publisher, Stacy Creamer and the Associate Publisher David Falk.

Touchstone Fireside Publishing is an imprint of Simon & Schuster.  They publish people like Lance Armstrong, Rick Springfield, Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo and Philippa Gregory.    They came to us with a question — how to better manage their imprint branding since “Touchstone Fireside” is rather a mouthful.  Both Touchstone and Fireside had been the trade paperback imprints of Simon & Schuster. One focused on fiction and the other was non-fiction.  Eventually they expanded from paperbacks into hardcover — at the same time that other Simon & Schuster hardcover imprints were migrating into paperbacks.

While each name had its individual colophon, on corporate communications they were mashed together like this:

Touchstone/Fireside old logo

Touchstone/Fireside old logo

Stacy and David  wanted to consolidate into a single name and a single logo to make life less confusing authors, for booksellers, for agents, for consumers and even for themselves.  As you see above, they had 2 names, then “A Division of Simon & Schuster” and then a different font for the corporate endorsement, “A CBS Company.”

Here’s what the old Touchstone logo reminded me of:



We explored the two metaphors — touchstones and firesides (along with the fireplace implement) — to see how they would fit with Stacy Creamer’s vision and the types of books they would be publishing in the future.

A fireside is home, comfort, warmth, country-side, a bit of a sleepy afternoon curled up in a large chair with a book in your lap.  Rather Jane Austen-ish.

A touchstone is a benchmark of excellence by which all else is compared.  It is a place you return to again and again to align yourself.  It is rather like the north star, a way of finding what is true.

Those are two very different metaphorical ways of viewing books and the act of reading.  Stacy clearly saw the future of the imprint aligned with Touchstones of excellence rather than an afternoon nap in the living room before a crackling log.

Once it was decided to consolidate under the Touchstone name, we began the design process.  We looked a variety of approaches.  Some were more literal than others.  Some more suggestive.  Here is also a situation where you can reinforce the name through a literal touchstone or you can expand the associations by being more…metaphorical about the metaphor.  (Is that correct English?)

The final direction (under Michael Thibodeau’s direction, of course!) was the design you see at the top of this post.  The speed, the sense of direction and purpose, the reaching for a star, the guiding star, the soaring all contribute to the metaphor of excellence, of the standard by which all will be met.

Here is the new story of the renewed imprint:

The new Touchstone story, pg 1

The new Touchstone story pg 1

The new Touchstone story, pg 2

The new Touchstone story, pg 2

So now you have the whole story!

Selling a million books! – or – creating the new Touchstone Books colophon

It’s been a lot of fun working with the folks at Touchstone/Fireside books on their rebranding, including the publisher Stacy Creamer and associate publisher David Falk.

During the process I learned a bit about printing and publishing that I had never heard before.  In publishing a logo is called a colophon.  It’s history traces back to the times of private printers in 15th century Europe.  Not surprisingly, it is also known as a printer’s mark.

There is something talismanic about a book colophon.  A symbol, a calling.  Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time looking at those talismans on the spines of books.  A by-product of a life surrounded by books — everything from working at a used book depot to working for J.D. Salinger’s literary agent, to my graduate degree in creative writing and my own fiction writing.  Right or wrong, I  judge a book not by its cover but by the colophon on the cover.  The 3 fish of FSG.  The borzoi dog of Alfred A. Knopf.  And the Penguin.

Farrar Straus & Giroux colophon

W.A. Dwiggins created many versions of the Knopf borzoi colophon.

Borzoi colophon by W.A. Dwiggins

Paul Rand did a borzoi colophon, too:

Borzoi colophon by Paul Rand

And a more recent one by Triboro Design.

Borzoi colophon by Triboro Design

It is wonderful to trace how the colophons of Knopf have gone in so many directions and yet maintained their integrity and coherence.

There’s something here at branding people can discover.  Many of us in corporate identity and brand are sticklers about consistency, consistency, consistency in applying logos and designs.  When a design like the London 2012 Olympics comes out, with multiple variations, it violates this sense of consistency.  But Knopf beat everyone to this game years ago!

You can read more about the history of the borzoi here.  Did you know that Khalil Gibran created one of the borzoi colophons?

In the early 1990s I was at a dinner in honor of Peter Smith.  During his thanking the University for the honor, he explain that as a child he wanted to be a Penguin when he grew up.  That desire to be a Penguin led him to became a writer and involved with the arts — he is Director Emeritus of Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center of the Arts and former Dean of Columbia’s School of the Arts.  Ah, what a wonderful statement!  When I grow up I want to be a Penguin!  (Actually I am partially a Penguin, since they’ve included my writing in The Bruce Springsteen Reader).

Penguin colophon by E. P. Young

Here’s the anthology of writings about Springsteen which included my short fiction piece, “Asbury Park”:

Penguin anthology including my short fiction

A couple of days ago Stacy Creamer, the publisher of Touchstone, unofficially introduced the new Touchstone colophon on Facebook.  I’ll post it here when there’s a more official launch, along with some comments from Michael Thibodeau about where he drew his inspiration for the colophon.  We’ll also put up something more official on our company website.

I am expecting that the new colophon will be on millions and millions of book spines come this fall!  No pressure, Stacy and David!

Brands come and go but a portfolio is forever

One of the great and also sad parts of branding is the constant change.  Nothing in marketing is permanent.  The market dynamics, changes in consumer tastes, companies eating companies, all of these and more contribute to a continuously shifting brandscape.

This is great because there is new opportunity, energy, new ideas always being brought forward.  And it is sad because some of our creations inevitably disappear from the marketplace.

My musing on this was triggered by the news that Qwest is being acquired by CenturyLink.  Qwest was one of the brands I helped to create when I was at Bright Sun Consulting.  It was a tremendous success in the early years after launching.  And it was one of the few telecom brands created in the mid-1990s that is still around.

Ride The Light

Ride The Light

With the merger, there is a 50/50 chance that the Qwest brand will still be around.  But a more realistic scenario is that CenturyLink will become the corporate brand sooner or later.  There are times when the acquiring company adopts the brand of the acquired company (SBC acquired AT&T and rebranded as AT&T; Bank One and JP Morgan Chase).  But CenturyLink has a history of acquiring companies and rebranding them.

Longevity in this business means having a large portfolio of brands created and, inevitably, a portfolio of brands that were once stars and have now fallen to earth.  Even many of the designs of the great Paul Rand have been replaced over the years — 2 of them by our own Michael Thibodeau.

All is fair in the name of PROGRESS!  And, of course, reinventing marketing for today’s world.

Is branding like the emperor with no clothes?

Is branding like the emperor with no clothes?

Michael Thibodeau and I wrote an article about that a few months ago for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).  In case you missed the piece in their online magazine, I’m posting it here.


What role do luck, pluck and magic have in brand case studies?

Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading through a number of brand case studies.  Some were in books, some in journals, some in presentations.  They were developed by agencies, academics and corporate brand managers.  Many of the case studies were of the same brand — Apple and Harley-Davidson being among the most popular.

In every case study the set-up predetermined the outcome.  It seemed inevitable that the case would prove this point or that point.  

Comparing these case studies to the reality of my own experience, I was struck by the 20/20 hindsight clarity of the case studies.  As we all know, in real life these programs are not to neatly wrapped up with a ribbon.  They take unexpected turns.  Decisions are made for reasons of personal taste and nothing else.  Or else they are compromises.  Or the timing of a decision turned out to be better than anyone expected.

So I propose that all case studies should have a special section for what I call luck, pluck and magic.

Luck is just that.  Often luck is about the timing.  A great idea can fail if the market isn’t ready for it.  The happy accident of timing, the alignment of the stars.

Pluck is the willingness to take risks.  The executives at MSN showed extraordinary pluck when they selected the butterfly design.  Even with the market research validation, it was still a bold move for them.  Can you imagine the meeting in which they presented to Bill Gates and explained his internet offering was going to be a butterfly!  Pluck!

And magic. That is the inspiration that seems to come from nowhere.  It is not derivative.  It is not imitative.  If anything, it is inductive not deductive.   Let me try to say this another way.  Magic does not come from a process.  And it is not a matter of lucky timing.  It is the creative process at work.  Where did that MSN butterfly come from?  It fit perfectly with the strategy of Microsoft providing everyday amazement on the web.  But the metaphor came from a wellspring in the imagination of Michael Thibodeau.  

Can you imagine being shown a case study and the key decision turns out to have been made by the wife of the CEO?  It happens.  but it never shows up in the case studies.

So my modest proposal is for case studies to include luck, pluck and magic in their analysis.  The world is a messy place. Case studies that ignore the complexity leave important lessons untaught.

Reinventing marketing

Who will lead the way in reinventing marketing?

Only 16% of CMOs believe it will be their agencies!  Only 16% of  CMOs believe that their agencies are bringing the leadership necessary to look across all of marketing.

Frankly I was surprised that the number was even that high.  

And yet, there is every reason for agencies to be at the forefront in reinventing marketing.

Because they work across many different companies and industries, agencies are ideally situated to have a broad overview of marketing.  From this perspective they have the potential for reinventing marketing.  And because they are outsiders, in theory they can provide an objective and independent viewpoint that is not entwined with the internal politics and vested interests of any particular company.

CMOs don’t see it that way because their agencies don’t see it that way.

Most agencies have their own vested interests in the status quo of marketing.  The areas that they have an interest in reinventing is around new media and moving from short 30 second ads to longer forms such as online movies.  

We came across this in our many years of being on the agency side.  

When I was a SVP at BBDO, I recognized a marketing opportunity for our Gillette clients to support their efforts to get men to trade up from disposable razors to the Gillette Sensor XL.  I developed the marketing concept and brought it to the client because it was good for their business.  Back at the agency my effort was seen as a waste of time.  “Where is the advertising in this idea?” asked the head of the account group.  

And I found the same silo thinking at other types of agencies over the years.

In developing our method for reinventing marketing — Narrative Branding — Michael Thibodeau and I recognized the difficulty in getting an existing agency to adopt a whole new model.  You know the saying, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  The disruption for an existing agency would be too great.  That is why we started Verse Group.

The new new Pepsi logo?

There are some wonderful books that take a “what if” look at the world.  You know the kind of book, it imagines what if this happened instead of that?How would it change everything that came afterwards?  A good example is Philip Roth’s recent novel “The Plot Against American” in which he imagines that Charles Lindberg became President when WWII broke out.

In that spirit, I would like to share this story.

In the past few months the redesign of the Pepsi logo has been omnipresent.   At the same time there have been many  news stories in which people said that the new Pepsi logo is a rip-off of Obama’s logo.  Pepsi has adamantly denied it.  Peter Arnell, who’s company did the redesign, has adamantly denied it.

In musing on one of these articles, Michael Thibodeau — co-founder of Verse Group — imagined a “what if” scenario.  What if McCain won the Presidency?  What would the redesign of the Pepsi logo look in that alternative universe?  AdAge thought it was alternative enough to post it on their website.  Or you can just click on the picture below to make it larger .

Pepsi in a McCain world

Pepsi in a McCain world

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