Honesty in Advertising

In this culture obsessed on winning, it’s hard for anyone to accept second place anymore. Only the “idol” gets the record contract. Only the champions get the parade. Somehow, we’ve managed to convince ourselves “if you ain’t first, you’re last,” to quote Will Ferrell’s character from “Talladega Nights.”

Unfortunately, many brands have taken the same approach. Marketers feel it’s shameful not to be the best and they shudder at the thought of mentioning a competing brand could do something better.

But that’s just not reality. Consumers crave honesty so they can make their own decision based on the information.

Tapping the truth is exactly how Avis positioned itself so successfully years ago with its “We Try Harder” campaign. They knew they weren’t going to beat Hertz and they embraced second place with open arms.

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”
-Honest Abe

We see it happen when a company has multiple brands within one category, too.

Take paper towels, for example. Georgia-Pacific offers a “premium” product with Brawny® paper towels but also offers a “basic” alternative with Sparkle® paper towels. That’s why Kerri the Sparkle® Fairy speaks straight to value in the television commercials.

Maxwell House is taking a similar course after a solid decade of explosive growth by competitors in the gourmet coffee café industry. The hundred-year-old company had a big question. If they couldn’t compete with fair-trade, hours-fresh, hand-roasted, freshly ground java, what could they offer?

The answer was just good coffee. Not great. Not amazing. Not a unique coffee experience. Just good. Refreshingly and honestly good.

So whatever happened to good? We’ll have to see how it all percolates.





Nick Gebhardt is associate creative director for KCG. His responsibilities include the management of the copywriting and proofreading team, as well as the overall generation of marketing and advertising concepts across media. He finds creative collaboration particularly rewarding, drawing on 13 years of experience as a copywriter in digital and traditional agencies across the Southeast. Outside of work, Nick plays bass guitar, writes short stories and chases his 3-year-old boy around his home in suburban Atlanta.

You Are Your Brand Whether You Like It or Not

I recently participated in a Respectful Workplace training session and there are some good parallels between poor brand interaction and a harassment incident – the offender, the offended and the observer. Whether you realize it or not, you have a huge influence on the impression customers have on your brand. Specifically, the important responsibility you have as an ambassador of your brand.

Here’s a hypothetical situation to help illustrate my point:

Bill is a sales manager for a company. He has been with the company for years and has a great reputation both internally and externally with customers. He’s a great employee and is someone who consistently adds value.

One afternoon, at the end of a long week of sales calls, Bill and a co-worker are wrapping up a customer visit at their retail location. As they are leaving, someone asks them where to find an item in the store. Bill answers, “Sorry, we don’t work here” and continues out of the store, ready to begin his weekend and put the challenges of the week behind him.

“It is often the case not what the brand stands for, but what consumers perceive the brand stands for.”
-Sudio Sudarsan

It’s easy to see who the offender, the offended and the observer are. Bill obviously is the offender. He probably did not think much about this interaction, it had been a long week and he was tired. Really, no one might blame him for this. However, since he was wearing his company-branded shirt, it has an impact on the brand. Instead of being helpful and finding someone who could assist the customer, Bill gave the impression his brand was not helpful and only cared about itself.

The customer asking the question is the offended. While they might not truly be offended and also might not have thought much about it, there was a brand impression delivered and an opinion formed. This unhelpful interaction will have an impact on the brand.

Bill’s co-worker is the observer in this situation and has a responsibility to speak up. Hopefully, the co-worker has the awareness to see the interaction happening in real time and can address the situation right then and there, turning a potentially negative brand impression into a positive one.

This example exaggerates a brand interaction situation, but think of it in the context of your day during a phone call, an email or a customer lunch. All of these interactions have an impact on your brand and influence how your brand is perceived. And while it might not always be at the top of mind, it should always be in the back of your mind, guiding your words and actions.

Charlie_WellsHaving worked in marketing for more than seven years, Charlie Wells enjoys the challenge of brand strategy, particularly pulling insights from customers and consumers to develop smart, effective work. Between stints in advertising, he spent a total of five years in the restaurant business managing and running different establishments. When Charlie is not at his desk at KCG, he enjoys kayaking, camping and losing video games to his 5-year-old son and newborn daughter.

Tiger Doesn’t Talk Features

Boring TV spots will never increase brand affinity. Why? Because TV is a medium meant to entertain. I don’t want to hear the product features. Don’t show me the long list of specs. A brand spot on television needs to move me.

One of my favorite examples of using TV to build love for a brand is Nike’s most recent golf commercial. Here’s the spot.

There is a reason this video has more than 10 million views and it’s not complex; it’s simply entertaining. PGA TOUR golfers Tiger Woods and Rory McElroy didn’t mention anything about how Nike’s engineers “thinned the driver face to increase the MOI to drive the ball farther.” A VO wasn’t speaking over the action explaining how the “all-new perimeter weighting of the irons helps hit the ball straighter on off-center strikes.” In this fun competition featuring some great one-liners, Tiger and Rory show how the products could benefit my game (if they are good enough for the best in the world, they are good enough for me).

“Dude, is that your real hair?”
-Tiger Woods
Nike Golf commercial

The effectiveness of this spot to reinforce Nike’s brand in golf (and well beyond the sports world) became apparent quickly. After a just a few airings, millions flocked to the Internet to watch it, share it, and then watch it again and again. Talk about bang for your buck!

So what if a viewer is interested in getting the details? What if they thirst for the product specs or side-by-side comparisons? That’s where the website and point-of-purchase come in to complement the brand.

As an avid golfer, when I’m in the market for new clubs I know exactly where to find specific product information and benefits. I’ll search out this information online and while I’m at a golf store. But for me, Nike is going to have the edge when I’m making my purchase decision because of TV spots like these.

A thirty-second spot is just too short to tell me a bunch of specs that I won’t remember. But because Nike shared their attention-grabbing, entertaining story with me, I’ll remember their clubs could help me with my game.

Well played Nike, well played.



Hoppock's Beautiful Mug


Justin Hoppock, account director extraordinaire, works out of our Atlanta office in the Georgia-Pacific building. As an AD, Justin works with a number of Koch company marketing teams to develop communication strategies and bring them to life. Even though he has a passion for TV commercials, Justin spends most of his time outside hiking in North Georgia, dropping bombs on the softball field or missing short putts on the golf course.

Everyone’s a Little Bit Creative

In the ad world, I hear it all the time from our clients. It’s the most excessive and misused phrase and it’s said repeatedly. What is this phrase that boggles my mind? “I’m not creative.” Yep, that’s right. What I hear most from clients is the declaration that they’re not creative and we’re the only possible ones who can be. True, it’s our middle name, but creativity is broad and far-reaching. So I have a dirty little secret to share with you: EVERYONE IS CREATIVE. And don’t think for one minute that me encouraging you to admit your newly, rediscovered talent will suddenly put me and my team out of a job. It’s in everyone’s best interest that you realize something you’ve had all along. Creativity opens your mind and heart.

Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can. –Danny Kaye

I’ve never met a single person that isn’t creative. Sure, our team here may have creative ideas, creative designs and creative last names – ahem… McCool! But each and every one of you is creative. For example, the HR recruiter down the halls makes the most beautiful and delicious cupcakes, the MBM® consultant next door teaches yoga, the INVISTA systems analyst sings like a bird in the church praise team and the receptionist over on the 3rd floor paints and has had her artwork in the White House.

Creativity has no limits. It has no rules. There are no boxes you have to color inside. There are no specific colors you have to use, language you have to speak or uniform you have to wear. It lives in you. Have you ever read a poem, sang a song, crocheted a scarf or baked a cake? If you live and breathe, you are creative. Give yourself some credit for being a member of this beautiful, creative world. Then give yourself permission to create. Here are some easy things you can do to explore and unleash your creative side.

1) Go for a walk – OBSERVE. What do you see? What do you smell? Where does your mind wander? Look at something for longer than 5 seconds. How does it reveal itself to you?
2) READ. Ah, the lost art of reading something that is more than 140 characters! Think about the setting, the characters and the background. Lose yourself for a moment and just enjoy the journey you’re being handed.
3) WRITE. With a pen and a piece of paper. Not a keyboard or tablet. Jot down what you did today, what you wished you had done, what you want to tell your family. Or even just write down your grocery list. Then, doodle on it.
4) REMEMBER. What did you do when you were a kid for fun? Did you draw, run, dance, bike, paint, color, sing or play? We all did something. Try one of those things again. It’s okay, really. I won’t tell anyone or post your sweet moves on YouTube.

The most important thing about the creative process is to enjoy it. Have fun. Go ahead. I GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO BE CREATIVE!





As the marketing director for KCG, Terri McCool is basically to blame for all the “goings-on” around here. From marketing strategy to brand development, Terri’s vision has propelled KCG to new heights. With more than 20 years of experience in marketing and advertising, Terri stays on top of the latest in the ad world by reading everything she can get her hands on and collaborating with her great team. When not at the office, her two teenagers keep her pretty busy. You can find her most days at a sporting event cheering on her son or starting a redecorating project at home.

The Official Sponsorship of Official Sponsorships

The ‘70s had disco. The ‘80s had Rubik’s Cubes. In the ‘90s, it was Starter® jackets and for the new millennium, it was Scientology.

But now that the “Twenty-Tens” are in full swing, an advertising trend is helping define the decade. No, it’s not the selfie. It’s the official sponsorship.

Since the turn of the century, businesses have become increasingly obsessed with visibility, and rightfully so. Where there’s visibility, there’s brand recognition. So corporations began to team up with other noticeable brands. With die-hard fan bases, huge TV ratings and specific all-sports networks, sports franchises are lightning rods for public attention. It’s a big pie (I’m guessing it’s Boston Cream) and corporations want a piece. That’s why their names and logos can be found plastered on press conference banners, more than three-quarters of NFL, NBA and MLB stadiums and, in soccer, on the front of each player’s jersey.

But now, companies are taking sponsorships to a whole new, and abstract, level. By advertising themselves as the official sponsors of pretty much anything and everything that’s not another brand.

Although not new to advertising, this trend became mainstream prior to the 2012 Summer Olympics. That’s when Proctor & Gamble came out with their advertising campaign touting themselves as the “Proud Sponsor of Moms.” Since then, marketers have hopped on the intangible train and some have done it better than others. Omaha Steaks has had success as the “Official Sponsor of Tailgating.” Transition Lenses is now the “Official Sponsor of Sightseeing.” Even Mutual of Omaha has become the “Proud Sponsor of Life’s Aha Moments” (whatever that means).

The most effective example of corporate sponsorship is the American Cancer Society (ACS) who now uses “The Official Sponsor of Birthdays” as their company tagline. This poignant message ties back to the mission of the ACS and serves as a rallying cry of their goal to save lives.

“Every year on your birthday, you get a chance to start new.”
-Sammy Hagar

Overall, these efforts have proven successful from two different angles. From an advertising standpoint, it puts a name with an action by giving the company a simple connection to concepts/ideas where consumers are emotionally invested. From a business view, being an official partner implies that the brand is an expert in that field.

As the ‘10s chug along with wrecking balls, frozen yogurt stores and our obsession with memes and gifs, remember, this is the decade of the official sponsorship. And we would know, because Koch Creative Group is the Official Sponsor of Awesome, Smart, Creative Stuff.





Ryan Schafer, copywriter at KCG, is responsible for the words you see, hear and feel in advertisements and marketing efforts. Along with being a language liaison, Ryan collaborates with other KCGers to generate creative concepts. While he’s been a professional copywriter since 2010, Ryan has actually been writing since he was 3 years old! When he’s not attending a wedding almost every weekend, Ryan can be found asleep, cheering on his beloved sports teams or belting out show tunes in his car.

We are All Consumers

Years before the term “business-to-business marketing” was even coined, President John F. Kennedy knew its secret.

“Consumers, by definition, include us all,” he said to Congress back in 1962.

Even today, in an age where technology turns just about everything instantly obsolete, the idea that we are all consumers endures — even for those of us consumers working in marketing who serve other consumers who also work in marketing. Or procurement. Or recruiting.  Or some other facet of business.

Inside many marketing, advertising and design agencies, a tremendous amount of energy is spent studying target markets, competitive data, pricing models and overall consumer behavior. Commercial artists then use this valuable research and insight to fashion integrated campaigns that hopefully resonate enough to prompt some form of action from the consumer.

So again, if we are all consumers, why wouldn’t we employ the same practices when we’re trying to sway John Q. Public to buy widgets as when we’re trying to convince Jane Q. Public, chief buyer for Acme Manufacturing, to buy trinkets so she can build her cogs?

The obvious answer would be that we should. But for some odd reason, the minute we see or hear “B2B” the mentality shifts. Rigidity reigns. Language tightens. The human connection is removed and replaced like a cold, heartless robot on an assembly line.

Bryan Kramer, an author, social business strategist and CEO of a marketing firm himself, recently discussed this very subject in a article called There Is No More B2B or B2C: There Is Only Human to Human (H2H)1.

Kramer’s basic assumption is that we should communicate simply and genuinely, drawing upon the emotional nature of those multi-dimensional, immensely-complex organisms called human beings. Regardless if its for “B2B” or “B2C” reasons.

“Businesses do not have emotion. People do.
People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
People want to feel something.
People want to be included.
People want to understand.”
-Bryan Kramer

In other words, ditch the corporate buzzwords. Sure there are industry terms, and speaking the language shows mastery and authenticity, but corporate buzzwords don’t do anybody any good. In fact, if an agency is being evaluated by how well it can produce and execute creative ideas, wouldn’t choosing words, concepts and terminology that everyone is already tired of hearing show a fundamental lack of creativity?

In the end, we must “find the commonality in our humanity, and speak the language we’ve all been waiting for.”

At KCG, we couldn’t agree more.

1: http://socialmediatoday.com/bryan-kramer/2115561/there-no-more-b2b-or-b2c-it-s-human-human-h2h





Nick Gebhardt is associate creative director for KCG. His responsibilities include the management of the copywriting and proofreading team, as well as the overall generation of marketing and advertising concepts across media. He finds creative collaboration particularly rewarding, drawing on 13 years of experience as a copywriter in digital and traditional agencies across the Southeast. Outside of work, Nick plays bass guitar, writes short stories and chases his 2 1/2-year-old boy around his home in suburban Atlanta.

Marketing Goes “Boink”

Lessons from a little boy and his tiger about trust, taking risks, innovating and enjoying the ride.

Growing up, I always identified with the cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes. I probably still do to some extent. Their adventures taught me many important lessons about life. I learned about embracing the fleeting moments of joy, the pain and heartbreak that come with death, the importance of fostering a rich imagination and that despite the fact that I have a wife and two daughters, I will never understand what goes on inside a girl’s head.

Every day I have to get up and go to school. Nothing ever changes. It’s just school, school, school. But not today. Today, I go for the gusto. – Calvin

The longer I work in the digital marketing world, the more I have come to realize that Calvin and Hobbes is actually a fantastic metaphor for a healthy agency / client relationship.

The role a good digital agency is to innovate, to go careening down a hill like Calvin on his sled; not knowing exactly what waits for us at the bottom, only that it will be a new and exciting ride and that everyone will come out better for it on the other side. It’s the job of your agency to experiment with seemingly reckless abandon — we wouldn’t be much good to you if we didn’t.

Now, I’m not suggesting that an agency should just throw itself blindly down a hill with no idea of what’s at the bottom. You see, Calvin had Hobbes. Hobbes kept him focused. He reigned in Calvin’s wild ideas when necessary, asked if Calvin had run it by his mother (read: legal department) and then gleefully jumped on the back of the sled with him.

The best clients are the Hobbes to the agency’s Calvin. They expect the crazy ideas, and anything less is disappointing. But, the most important thing to remember about Calvin and Hobbes is how they always worked together. They were friends, partners and co-conspirators. They trusted each other implicitly. Sure, they disagreed from time to time, but they knew that each other’s best interests were always top of mind and they never really put themselves at risk. Sure, Calvin was the crazy one, but Hobbes was always there to encourage the crazy.

And Hobbes, like any engaged client, always kept Calvin on his toes. Calvin had to always be ready and never get comfortable. Because when an agency gets comfortable, they get complacent. That’s when the boring work happens. The work that may get the job done, but isn’t exciting anymore. Every agency requires a good pouncing every now and then.

“Everybody seeks happiness! Not me, though! That’s the difference between me and the rest of the world. Happiness isn’t good enough for me! I demand euphoria!” – Calvin

As Koch employees, we have all been challenged to innovate. To challenge the status quo, embrace change and redefine what the “best” is. Just like Calvin, we should all be striving for something better. Our leaders, and even more importantly, our customers expect it of us, even if it’s a little scary at first.

Which leads us to that scary hill known as digital marketing. It’s a landscape that’s constantly evolving. It’s not enough to just have a website or a Facebook page anymore. Every day, a new opportunity comes knocking and it’s up to us to innovate and stay ahead of the curve. In this ever-changing world of digital marketing, every business needs a trusted partner; Hobbes needs a Calvin to be successful.

Marketing is changing. This past holiday shopping season, mobile sales accounted for nearly 26 percent of all sales. That is an increase of 49 percent over the past year.1 Digital marketing and engagement, particularly in mobile, is here to stay and companies have to keep up. Companies must leap over the edge and embrace the technology to reach their customers where they are now.

So what does your digital marketing strategy look like? How is your company reaching out to the nearly 77 percent of consumers who research products and services on their mobile device?2

Koch Creative Group is uniquely positioned to understand your specific business needs. Whether its traditional marketing or digital, we are able to find the right mix of crazy ideas that accomplish your goals and still live up to high expectations.

“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…Let’s go exploring!” – Calvin

We’d love to get together and explore with you sometime. Give us a shout.

1. http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?1837
2. http://think.withgoogle.com/databoard/#lang=en-us&study=23&topic=62&dp=315



mosherAs KCG’s interactive director, Justin Mosher is responsible for anything with a pixel, from building websites to creating digital publications, and from crafting social media strategies to providing consulting services. With 10 years in the digital space, you’ll always find this self-admitted techie exploring the latest and greatest to find opportunities for our clients. After a long day behind computer screens, Justin looks forward to unplugging with a hearty beef stew and time with his wife and two girls.

What is branding?

To truly understand branding, explore how branding first came to be. The term “brand”  literally came from the mark cattlemen would put on their cattle to identify each heard to distinguish their unique position in their competitive marketplace (as a former cowboy, I love this). Anyone who has ever seen a John Wayne film understands how competitive the cattle market really was back in the day.

Examples of common cattle brands (some even with their own language) include:


That same concept of branding still exists today. The traditional cattle brand has been replaced with a logo and companies use them with the same purpose; replacing leather with media.

The difference today is how much more the word “brand” means. It’s no longer simply a mark to identify ownership. The brand is what you stand for as a company. It tells your unique story, it defines your competitive advantage, it reveals your personality and it inspires the masses. Hopefully.

The assumption above indicates the company controls the brand. Marty Neumeier offers a different opinion and shatters the mental model for most brand managers. In his book “Zag,” Mr. Neumeier writes:

What exactly is a brand? HINT: It’s not a company’s logo or advertising. Those things are controlled by the company. Instead, a brand is a customer’s gut feeling about a product, service or company.” He goes on, “It’s not what you say it is—it’s what THEY say it is. The best you can do is influence it.

When I first read this, I had to disagree. I mean, everything I knew about a brand was that the company had complete control and told us what the brand was.

But the more I thought about it, it started to make sense. I have my own feelings about what a brand is, based on personal experience and those feelings do not always jive with people with which I interact.

A great example of this occurred during my college marketing classes. The professor was playing a word association game, saying a brand name and asking the class to say the first thing that came to mind. When she said Mercedes, my immediate response was “crap.” The reason for this was personal experience—no, I did not own a Mercedes in college—but my dad owned one when I was in high school and that thing was in the shop more than it was in our garage. Needless to say, the professor was not impressed with my response, but it drove home Mr. Neumeier’s point.

The key phrase at the end of his excerpt is this: “The best you can do is influence it.” I completely agree and think it is the main differentiator between companies doing branding well and those doing it poorly.

Why should you care? Well, if the only thing a company can do is influence the brand, who do you think is responsible? Yes, you.

A company’s employees, the people on the front lines, are the ones who have the opportunity to influence the brand on an hourly basis. Your actions and behaviors are a constant reflection of the brand—from face-to-face interactions, to phone conversations, to emails—what you say and how you say it reflect back on the brand image. It might seem minor in the grand scheme of things, but it can have a profound effect on how your brand is perceived.

If you don’t know what your brand represents, ask your marketing manager. They should be able to help clearly visualize the brand. And then, it’s up to you to help live it out every hour of every day.

Charlie_Wells Working in marketing for over 7 years, Charlie Wells enjoys the challenge of brand strategy, particularly pulling insights from customers and consumers to develop smart, effective work. Between stints in advertising, he spent a total of 5 years in the restaurant business managing and running different establishments. When Charlie is not at his desk at KCG, he enjoys kayaking, camping and losing video games to his almost-5-year-old son.