Friday, February 26, 2010

Get into characters.

Think about some of the most memorable marketing campaigns. Jack in the Box, Geico, Frosted Flakes, Joe Camel, RCA, Keebler, Kool-Aid, KFC, Energizer… we could keep going and going. This incomplete list spans industries, decades and audiences, yet each one of these campaigns has something in common: a character. And, silly as they may have been, those characters made products with no real differentiation in their market into a household name.

We would love to have seen the pitch for the Geico cavemen. And the one for the Energizer bunny. It probably went something like this:

“You see, we’ll have a pink bunny toy with a drum that just won’t stop because Energizer batteries last so long.”

Dead silence.

And we don’t blame that board room full of execs for being nervous about representing their line of batteries with a ridiculous toy. But more than that, we applaud them for giving it a shot and recognizing the potential that idea had. In fact, if that bunny were still around today, we bet it would have its own Twitter account and Facebook fan page, its own website and a project whereby consumers spot the bunny and submit their photos of it to the company’s Flickr account.

Marketing “mascots” are ripe for social media and perfect for today’s consumer, someone that wants to connect with their purchases and has a strong understanding of comedic irony. We’re not saying EVERY brand should have a mascot, but having one does provide ample opportunity for creating top-of-mind awareness for your brand without forcing a message down your audience’s throat. It would have been way less effective if Energizer had commercials showing dead batteries being replaced with new ones. Batteries are boring – they NEEDED a bunny.

If you’re considering a mascot for your brand or someone else’s keep the following tips in mind.

1. Create a likeable character. Your character doesn’t need to be perfect or embody every positive attribute you see in your company. It should be an overall good person/animal/alien/robot/whatever with a few flaws or struggles that add to its personality. Maybe the character isn’t the brightest or maybe it can’t run very fast or maybe it has a weakness for ice cream. In some way, your consumer must identify with it.

2. Develop the character as much as possible. Like we said, give it a Facebook page and a Twitter account… give it life! If you want your audience to connect, you have to make sure you’re reaching them in a multitude of ways. This is especially important for your company because your mascot can reach people in ways your company can’t.

3. Develop it some more! We created our Dr. Paid character for PFS Group, and he has an entire back story – and his own (fake) non-profit organization for cat obesity. We know that he loves bagels and also accounts receivables. Jack from Jack in the Box also has an extensive personality, and his triumphs and failures have been documented through clever advertising and social media. Jack essentially has nothing to do with burgers, but he is a major reason people love that restaurant.

4. Give it time. Don’t create a character and then get rid of it. Like people in real life, your customer will have to get to know your mascot, so don’t be discouraged if they don’t fall in love right away. If you actively exploit your mascot and promote him, the fans will come… and so will the revenue!

So, speaking of mascots, Black Sheep has one too. It’s… you guessed it… a black sheep. But this poor sheep doesn’t have a name! That’s where you come in. Help us name our sheep and in return you get a $100 Apple gift card AND a reserved place on our Black Sheep website (launching soon!). 

UPDATE: Some of our lovely followers pointed out that the Energizer Bunny does indeed have a Facebook page and Twitter account. Our point is again, proven. :) Thanks for the hint! 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What does Twitter have to do with Margaritas? Find out for yourself.

You’ve heard us proselytize the importance of Twitter since the inception of Black Sheep. Heck, Leader of the Flock Aimee Woodall has already been named 2nd most influential Houston Tweeter and ranked #5 in the advertising Shorty Awards, a Twitter-based contest held nationwide. No big. We’re kind of big nerds about the whole concept because we’ve seen how it can truly affect business and networking.

As it turns out, we are not the biggest nerds out there. At least as far as Twitter goes.

A Harvard Business Review blog discussing a new wave in Twitter, an ability to study Twitter data, has emerged, and its frickin’ cool. If we didn’t have so much work to do, we could probably play on these awesome programs all night, both for pleasure and for actual insight into trends, opinions and effective word choice.

For example, Twitter Venn takes three different search terms. We used salsa, Houston and restaurant (because we’re hungry), and surprisingly, while many people are using those terms individually, there is very little overlap. Why aren’t restaurants in Houston with great salsa talking about it? This is an important question! We then tried “margarita,” “salsa” and “chips” and got very similar results. In fact, only 3.1 tweets/day contained all three search terms. What? Someone needs to start discussing these topics. Now.

Then there’s Twitter Spectrum. This nifty little program takes two words and lists all the words commonly associated with those terms and also those words commonly associated with both. We chose “cocktail” and “wine,” and, as though it were a message sent from above, the middle terms (showing the most commonality) were “need” and “food.” EXACTLY.

Twitter Stream takes two terms and shows the frequency of two terms and their associated words over time. Again, for whatever reason, we chose “food” and “hungry.” The results showed a remarkable amount of “need” and “LOL” with peaks at about 5:30 pm. At this point, we are still hungry, not laughing about it, but still pretty amazed by these sites.

So beyond the dork factor, what’s in it for you? Well, if you have a business, it’s an interesting way to monitor public opinion. Type your business’ name and find out what pops up along with it – if it’s positive, great… if you have peaks and trends with the word “suck” and “loser,” well, you need to work on improving whatever it is you do. It’s also a nice way to gauge your Twitter presence. Keep in mind this is an international perspective, so you don’t need millions of dots on your Venn diagram. But, you can compare your rates to your competition’s or your Twitter idol’s and see how you match up. Furthermore, you can learn something new about your market. If you sell bananas to monkeys in Hawaii, plug those terms into these programs and notice the other terms that appear. If words like coconuts and chocolate pop up, and you’re NOT selling chocolate and coconut-covered bananas, you may be missing out. *

Explore these Twitter data sites and let us know what you think! Are they helpful to you? What did you learn? Share with us in the comments below!

*We don’t know for certain whether monkeys can eat chocolate, so please take caution! 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Black Sheep Identity Revealed!

Last fall we discussed some of the worst logos to hit the highway. Most of them were rebranded from older, more dated looks into something that looked like they were generated by robots. Inexcusable.
That being said, we know how difficult it can be to nail down an identity. Creating our logo design over the past few months has been exhausting! There were so many things we wanted to say with one little image: we like to create awareness through a handmade, grassroots approach, we’re edgy but not angry, we’re trendy, but here to stay… the list could go on and on. So many designs came through our door, but nothing said it all.
Until now. Drumroll please….


What we realized is that, like most other facets of marketing, to get what we want, we’re going to have to break a few rules. Even we would have never guessed pink.

Rule #1 – Logos should be something that last forever. True… sort of. Yes, you want to create something that has longevity, but that doesn’t mean it has to always stay the same. Take a hint from Google and AOL – they change their look up all the time to fit their mood, current project or for a little extra flair. So for our logo, we have several different fluorescent color options all available with or without the black box. The ability to change things up speaks to our dynamic, unpredictable nature.

Rule #2 – Logos should appeal to your audience. Wrong. Logos should appeal to the audience you want. Sure, we could have created something that looked like a financial institution or healthcare company, but that’s not what we are, and few companies of that persuasion are likely to be open to our progressive practices (even though they should be). Our philosophy is important to us, and we’re not trying to hide it. That’s why we chose fluorescent, punk-inspired colors, lots of black and an artistic design. We’re bold, we’re rebellious and we’re creative. Mission: accomplished.

Rule #3 – There are logos with icons and logos without icons – you can’t have both. Well we just did. Because we love our name and everything it stands for, we were pretty adamant about having a sheep icon. But, combining the sheep with the typeface was overwhelming and cumbersome, so we decided to create an icon and a typeface. Sometimes we use one, sometimes we use both (strategically). Whatevah, we do what we want.

So there you have it. Take risks and make sure your brand identity is just that – your business’ personality, not what other people want it to be. Next step: business cards. Just wait ‘till we show you what we have in store for those. Many of you have probably seen our “Lost sheep” temporary cards and appreciated the cleverness, but you ain’t seen nothing yet. Stay tuned!

PS: The next Shear Creativity Social Media Shin-dig is officially scheduled for March 10 at Beaver’s. Mark your calendars for a dam good time. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Flip the Dog: Black Sheep's Pet Cause

Sometimes what seems like a bad situation turns into something really positive. You don’t have to tell Black Sheep about that – we’re living proof. Last weekend another opportunity fell into our lap, and we couldn’t ignore the feeling that we had to do something.

Somebody one of us knows all too well had a dog. An adorable one-year-old Beagle who we’ll call Flip. And then this person decided she’d had enough with the dog. It ate her red lipstick. HORROR! Without even cleaning off the puppy, she took it to the animal shelter. She was done.

When we found out this had happened, we were devastated. Taking an animal to the pound is basically a death sentence. Knowing that no one in the company could take on another pet (we’re all animal lovers at maximum capacity), we decided to use our social media and PR powers for good and save this puppy… and help the animal shelter once and for all.

We decided to create Flip the Dog, an organization that essentially “flips” dogs.

We called the Rita B. Huff Animal Shelter where Flip resided and agreed to find Flip new ownership and help spread awareness about their cause in exchange for his life. Rita B. Huff is a great organization, and they’re passionate about helping animals, but they are overloaded with animals because they are in desperate need of a new shelter. Based on the numbers they receive, they need about 3.5 million dollars to create a new place to accommodate them. Right now, they have to put animals down at an alarming rate, and that makes us very, very sad.

So what can you do to help? First of all, check out these adorable pictures of Flip.

Then, spread the word as fast as you can and help us flip Flip. He is FREE to a good home and will be fixed on Tuesday, so please, if you’re considering a new pet, pick him.

Furthermore, if you’re feeling generous and need a “pet cause” of your own, get in touch with us and find out how you can help Flip the Dog, Rita B. Huff or another Houston-area animal shelter.

At Black Sheep, we’re rooting for the underdog.  

Follow Flip on Twitter at and on Facebook!