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John
Sandstorm takes Hermes Gold for Accuity ad

Sandstorm Design was honored with a gold statuette at the 2018 Hermes Creative Awards. The award was presented to Sandstorm for its impactful print ad for Accuity’s payments data products. This year’s award winners were announced by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP), which hosts the annual Hermes Creative Awards competition.

Sandstorm’s breakthrough ad was targeted at professionals at financial technology companies who develop products for the payments industry. The ad dramatizes the catastrophic consequences of choosing the wrong provider of payments data, and created an industry stir when introduced at the annual global Money 20/20 conference.

Accuity Ad - Fintech

The Hermes Creative Awards are an annual international competition recognizing and celebrating the messengers and creators of traditional and emerging media. Entries are judged by the AMCP, an international organization consisting of thousands of creative professionals. Marketing materials across a wide range of categories are submitted by corporate marketing and communication departments, advertising agencies, PR firms, graphic design shops, production companies, and web and digital creators.

This blog was posted by John on June 19, 2018.
John Rausch

About the Author

John Rausch

Over his 25 years in the advertising industry, John has produced award-winning work for many B2C and B2B clients. He is a passionate believer in the power of the brand and brings a strategic approach to every piece of creative.

John
Hermes Platinum Award

The Hermes Creative Awards has honored Sandstorm Design with a platinum award for the agency’s redesign of the CLR Brands® website. The 2018 award winners were announced by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP), which administers the annual Hermes Creative Awards international competition.

Sandstorm’s reconstruction of the CLR Brands® website—which showcases CLR® and Tarn-X®, two of America’s favorite household cleaning products—delivered a clean, intuitive design and a significantly upgraded user experience. The site was built on the Kentico EMS platform, which enables enhanced integrated marketing automation, site searchability and personalization.

Kentico named the CLR Brands® website one of its top 10 sites for June 2018.

The Hermes Creative Awards recognize the messengers and creators of traditional and emerging media. The annual competition is judged by the AMCP, an international organization consisting of thousands of creative professionals. Entries are received from corporate marketing and communication departments, advertising agencies, PR firms, graphic design shops, production companies, and web and digital creators.

This blog was posted by John on June 19, 2018.
John Rausch

About the Author

John Rausch

Over his 25 years in the advertising industry, John has produced award-winning work for many B2C and B2B clients. He is a passionate believer in the power of the brand and brings a strategic approach to every piece of creative.

John

It’s hard to create remarkable brand experiences without an inspiring insight into the user. I’ve always considered user insights to be the single most important component of a creative brief, and it’s no surprise that it’s also the most challenging component to develop.

The process of uncovering a meaningful insight starts with understanding the user. You need to know your audience well beyond the demographics. How does he think? What does she feel? Not just about your product or service, but about the category?

It’s critical to understand the difference between an observation (a demonstrable fact about your product/service and your user—the “what”) and an insight (recognizing what motivates them—the “why”). It takes time and effort to sort through the more obvious observations to reveal the insight.

But it’s time and effort well spent. Properly developed and crafted, an insight serves as the inspirational launch pad for creative development, providing the illuminating Aha! that makes the message resonant and meaningful.

The best insights address the solution, not the product/service. As the old saying goes, people don’t want eighth-inch drill bits; they want eighth-inch holes.

What are other elements of a great user insight?

  • It illuminates the user more than the product or service
  • It applies to the category more than the brand
  • It’s single-minded and can be simply stated
  • It’s about the universal and eternal, rather than the trendy

Let’s look at a handful of acclaimed campaigns and the insights that spawned them.

Dove: “Real Beauty”

The insight: Women—who come in all shapes and sizes—had become increasingly exasperated with the narrow portrayal of female beauty in the media.

The research that revealed this insight led to the creation of a breakthrough marketing strategy: “To make women feel comfortable in the skin they are in, to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety.” The campaign built on this strategy looked like nothing the industry had seen before. The launch of the campaign received substantial media coverage from mainstream news broadcasts and publications, as well as talk shows and women’s magazines. Parent company Unilever has estimated the media coverage to be worth more than 30 times the purchased media.

California Milk Processor Board: “Got Milk?”

The insight: People wait until they’re out of milk to realize that they should buy more.

During a consumer focus group on milk held 25 years ago, someone said, “The only time I even think about milk is when I run out of it." The insight revealed by that remark became the foundation for a campaign that entertainingly presented what might happen if you allowed yourself to run out of milk. The “Got Milk?” campaign achieved over 90 percent awareness in the U.S., and the tagline has been licensed to dairy boards across the nation.

Old Spice: “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”

The insight: Wives and girlfriends are more likely to buy men’s body wash than men are.

Consumer research revealed that for years Old Spice had aimed messaging for its body wash and hair care products at the wrong audience. The first commercial, featuring actor Isaiah Mustafa, was an overnight sensation and became a cultural phenomenon. Sales surpassed expectations and today Old Spice is the number one selling brand of body wash for men in the U.S.

At Sandstorm, our thoughtful, scientific approach to user research reveals illuminating insights on which effective brand strategies are built. For example:

Ensono: “Operate for Today. Optimize for Tomorrow”

The insight: Chief information officers are looking for resources to help them not just keep the data center running, but deliver strategic innovations that drive revenue.

Extensive primary and secondary research revealed how the role of our user, the CIO, was evolving. CIOs were increasingly being expected to make strategic contributions in the boardroom, moving from a traditional “build-and-feed” model to a construct that could be described as “dream and direct.” We developed a brand campaign for our client Ensono (which provides IT infrastructure management outsourcing) that positioned Ensono as “the company that dreams,” helping CIOs address their current needs and deliver on tomorrow’s objectives.

We developed the new name and brand identity for Ensono, designed and developed its new website and created an expansive portfolio of marketing materials. In one year, the site saw a 703 percent increase in total page views, an 859 percent hike in unique visitors and a 955 percent increase in lead form submissions!

We’d be delighted to help you find the unexpected user insights that deliver an enhanced brand experience. Contact us today to get started.

This blog was posted by John on May 18, 2017.
John Rausch

About the Author

John Rausch

Over his 25 years in the advertising industry, John has produced award-winning work for many B2C and B2B clients. He is a passionate believer in the power of the brand and brings a strategic approach to every piece of creative.

John
Creative Boot Camp

Each year, some of the sharpest thinkers you’re likely to meet gather at Chicago’s Columbia College for a high-stakes advertising competition. They’re not professional strategists, copywriters and art directors—they’re college students taking part in The One Club’s Creative Boot Camp, and their work is insightful and inspired.

I know this firsthand because, along with Janna Fiester (Executive Creative Director here at Sandstorm), I was a mentor and judge at this year’s Creative Boot Camp. The annual event is presented by The One Club, the non-profit organization devoted to elevating creative work in the advertising industry. One of the missions of The One Club is to educate and inspire students of the business, and the Creative Boot Camp gives collegians the opportunity to work in teams to develop a multi-media marketing campaign.

Seventeen teams—comprised of students from Columbia, DePaul, Harper and other area schools—worked closely together for three days to develop campaigns for Kraft American Cheese Singles. Serving as mentors, Janna and I (along with a handful of other Chicago ad professionals) moved from team to team answering questions, resolving conflicts and sharing our perspectives.

You could really sense the passion each team had for their work,” recalls Janna. “These were college students who had never met before being assigned to their Creative Boot Camp team. The research and strategy development they were doing to provide a foundation for the creative work was truly amazing.”

The teams worked around the clock on their campaigns and, on the fourth day, formally presented their work to a panel of judges comprised of Janna and me and four other ad executives. Each team presented its research, strategy and creative rationale for campaigns that spanned TV, print, social media, point-of-purchase and field marketing.

At the conclusion of the presentations, the judges selected the top three teams, each of which received a year’s membership in The One Club. The members of the first-place team were also awarded interviews at Leo Burnett, the agency which sponsored the event.

“It was an amazing experience,” says Janna, “and throughout the four days, the students were incredibly appreciative of the time and expertise we were sharing with them.” And while I concur with her assessment, I have to say that we got back at least as much as we gave.

We can’t wait til next year, when we get to do it all over again.

This blog was posted by John on March 30, 2017.
John Rausch

About the Author

John Rausch

Over his 25 years in the advertising industry, John has produced award-winning work for many B2C and B2B clients. He is a passionate believer in the power of the brand and brings a strategic approach to every piece of creative.

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John
2017 Super Bowl Ads

Sunday’s Super Bowl game was one for the ages—unless, that is, you had money on the Atlanta Falcons, who found a way to squander a 25-point lead.

The evening’s commercials featured a kaleidoscope of celebrity cameos, a split-second glimpse of the Budweiser Clydesdales, and the following winners and losers:

Touchdowns

Avocados from Mexico’s “Avo Secrets” spot delivers a hysterical spoof of the Illuminati, poking fun at the secret society’s rituals and deflating its pomposity. The full-length version of the spot is literally laugh-out-loud funny.

“You don’t look like you’re from around here” is the line that opens Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” spot. The 60-second ad, which tracks Adolphus Busch’s long journey to America, served up one of the evening’s defter political statements on immigration.

Even more moving was “The Journey Begins” from 84 Lumber, which follows a mother and daughter making the daunting trek from Mexico to the United States. Broadcaster Fox had refused to air the original version of the spot, which ended with the pair arriving at a monolithic border wall. 84 Lumber ran a modified version of the spot during the game and invited viewers to visit its site to watch the full-length version, triggering so much traffic that the site crashed repeatedly throughout the evening.

“Go Further” charmingly demonstrated Ford’s commitment to innovation and its promise to help us “move through life faster, easier and better.” The spot provided the evening’s best soundtrack—Nina Simone’s civil rights anthem “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.”

Bai opens its spot with Christopher Walken solemnly intoning the lyrics to the ‘N Sync hit “Bye Bye Bye.” Justin Timberlake, clad in smoking jacket and ascot, delivers a silent but howlingly funny reaction. Perhaps the evening’s best use of a pop song to drive home the brand message.

John Malkovich is by turns furious, ingratiating and threatening as he seeks to wheedle the JohnMalkovich.com domain name from its owner in SquareSpace’s very funny spot that presents a memorable case for securing your domain name before it’s gone.

Packed with visual puns, TurboTax’s “Humpty Hospital” spot delivers an effective product demo amid the hilarity. When the yolk starts trickling, I dare you not to laugh. 

Fumbles

Skittles’ “Romance” ad was the latest in a long line of inane “people will do anything to eat (insert product name here)” spots. 

Kia’s “Hero’s Journey” ad, starring Melissa McCarthy, spent a glacier of money on special effects for a spot that, while aimed at the ecologically aware, actually belittled the efforts of environmentalists. 

In a commercial for Sprite, basketball superstar LeBron James refuses to tell us to drink Sprite. Sorry, LBJ—not very funny.

Need help telling your brand’s story? Sandstorm helps clients build their brands and develop the strategies to effectively deliver their stories to their target audiences. Let us help you today.

 

This blog was posted by John on February 7, 2017.
John Rausch

About the Author

John Rausch

Over his 25 years in the advertising industry, John has produced award-winning work for many B2C and B2B clients. He is a passionate believer in the power of the brand and brings a strategic approach to every piece of creative.

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John
content strategy, storytelling, science of storytelling, content marketing strategy

As more brands tap into the power of stories to transform their identities and elevate their market presence, content marketing strategies become ever more essential.

Smart companies make their brand story the cornerstone of their content marketing strategy, ensuring the content they create across all media is aligned to the right platforms and consistent with the brand narrative.

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make,” Seth Godin reminds us, “but about the stories you tell.”

And for good reason—stories are a powerful tool in human communication. From the tales of the hunt shared by our primitive forbears as they crouched around the fire, to the well-worn narratives we tell children at bedtime, stories provide an integral means of connecting.

But what is it about stories that makes them so powerful?

Research indicates that the human brain responds to the descriptive power of stories in deeply affecting ways, influencing both the sensory and motor cortex. To read a story—or have one told to us—is to feel an experience and synchronize our minds with the subject of the story.  

In a recent Princeton study, researchers call this synchronization neural coupling.

Through neural coupling, a speaker and a listener share a story that allows their brains to interact dynamically. During the process of storytelling, similar brain activity occurs in both people simultaneously, affecting the same areas of the brain.

If the story is effectively told, the listener’s brain activity mirrors the speaker’s activity. Successful neural coupling produces greater comprehension, understanding, anticipation and receptivity.

The net effect of these qualities is trust. A storyteller can literally generate trust in the audience.

But how do you achieve this?

Here are a few characteristics of a compelling story:

  • It's true. Make truth the foundation of everything you create. Your marketing content should feature real people, real situations, genuine emotions and facts. It should explain, in terms people can relate to, how your brand adds value to the lives of your customers.
  • It's human. Even if your company sells to other companies, focus on how your products or services touch the lives of actual people. Empathy for the target is essential. When writing about people, be specific enough to be believable and universal enough to be relevant.
  • It's original. Your story should offer a fresh perspective: What's interesting about your brand? Why should people care?
  • It serves the customer. If your brand story comes off feeling corporate-centric, you’ve lost the target and may never get them back. People want to read about themselves—so make sure that’s what your brand story is all about.

A great story, expertly told, builds a strong bond with your audience. Incorporating storytelling into your content marketing strategy helps you make a powerful connection and deliver your message in a profoundly personal way.

Sandstorm helps clients develop content marketing strategies and write brand stories that resonate with target audiences and build the key elements that produce trust. Let us help you write yours.

This blog was posted by John on October 20, 2016.
John Rausch

About the Author

John Rausch

Over his 25 years in the advertising industry, John has produced award-winning work for many B2C and B2B clients. He is a passionate believer in the power of the brand and brings a strategic approach to every piece of creative.

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John
Friends watching the Super Bowl

By all accounts, Sunday’s Super Bowl game was a defensive masterpiece. On the offensive side of the ledger, the broadcast included commercials for toenail fungus and toilet envy, topped by a walking, talking intestine.

These shudder-inducing moments aside, the commercials of the 2016 Super Bowl offered tremendous range, from Colgate urging us to conserve water to Helen Mirren excoriating drunk drivers. Some of the evening’s highlights:

Best celebrity performance


T-Mobile’s “Restricted Bling” had Drake happily and self-deprecatingly agreeing to comic revisions of “Hotline Bling” offered up by attorneys representing a rival carrier. Every ad person was nodding in appreciation.

Honorable mention: Hyundai’s “Ryanville” spot, which transported us to a small town in which every person is a distractingly attractive Ryan Reynolds. “Can you give me a warning?” “Sure. Warning—here comes your ticket!”

Best use of a pop song


Heinz Ketchup’s “Stampede,” which had dozens of dachshunds dressed as hot dogs loping through a field to Harry Nilsson’s “Without You.” I dare you not to smile.

Honorable mention: a flock of sheep surreptitiously harmonizing Queen’s “Somebody to Love” in the Honda Ridgeline “A New Truck to Love” spot. Until this spot, no one had even heard of a truck-bed audio system.

Best use of a soft voice amid all the shouting


Jeep’s “Portraits” acknowledged the many people and moments that have shaped the brand’s 75-year history. The spot helps make Jeep’s story the story of America.

Honorable mention:Text Talk,” aired by NO MORE and the NFL, which aims to educate viewers of the warning signs of domestic violence and sexual assault. Quietly chilling.

Best use of a cultural icon


Snickers’ “Marilyn” spot, in which an irascible Willem Dafoe morphs into Marilyn Monroe on a movie set. Nice legs, Willem.

Honorable mention: The Hulk battling it out with Ant-Man for a can of Coke in the epic, city-shattering “A Mini Marvel.” Glad you two could finally get along.

I’ll spare you a review of the worst spots, which have to include the Steven Tyler Skittles sculpture and Liam Neeson scaring people into buying an LG OLED TV.

This blog was posted by John on February 8, 2016.
John Rausch

About the Author

John Rausch

Over his 25 years in the advertising industry, John has produced award-winning work for many B2C and B2B clients. He is a passionate believer in the power of the brand and brings a strategic approach to every piece of creative.

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