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Chart of Imaginus Zoo logo concepts

Selling the Sizzle

Whether we like it or not, advertising continues to lure us with its charms. TV viewers often watch the Super Bowl as much for the ads as for the football game and made “Mad Men” a hit show. According to Advertising Age, the top 100 global advertisers spent more than $107 billion in 2009 to promote their products and services.

It’s all about emotion—satisfying a customer’s desires through carefully honed marketing campaigns and brand management in which advertising is just one part, according to Michael Tomlin, who teaches advertising in CSULB’s Marketing Department. He’s seen both sides of the business, working for firms including Disney and 20th Century Fox as well as for ad agencies serving major clients.

“I ask my students, ‘What campaigns do you like and why?’ Typically, the responses are, ‘It was humorous. I could relate to it. It didn’t take itself too seriously. The message was clear.’ Those are the things that consumers come away with.”

That’s why advertisers must be wise. During the dot.com boom, “A lot of companies took their very limited marketing and advertising budgets and threw them into the Super Bowl pool, not thinking that, ‘I’ve got $5 million to spend, of which I’m going to put $3 million into the Super Bowl campaign.’ That’s just buying the air time, not the production, so basically you’re spending all of your budget for one TV spot,” Tomlin said. “But what happens if it airs at the end of the game and it’s a blowout—how many people hang around to watch that?”

And how many ads are memorably entertaining, but you can’t remember what they’re selling?

“You can sometimes be too creative and you outthink yourself. I tell my students, ‘If it doesn’t have creativity, it lacks strategy, it lacks the right type of media delivery and lastly, it doesn’t have a flawless execution, then what good is it? It’s not going to accomplish its goals.’”

That’s why it takes a team of experts to come up with compelling marketing and branding.

For instance, the logo of electronics giant Samsung is a cool blue oval embedded with a modern typeface that owes its clean look in part to Sunook Park, who worked on the firm’s global branding and now is an associate professor of graphic design in the CSULB Art Department and oversees its Brand Workshop. He also is president of the Los Angeles firm ANDLAB, where he’s worked with a host of clients including Hyundai and Speedo.

Sketching on a laptop
Above, students in CSULB's Brand Workshop created a branding plan for the children's TV show Imaginus Zoo.

“The CSULB Brand Workshop is an interesting model,” he explained. “The students can experience exactly what happens in a typical company like ours that practices branding.” Park also is collaborating with marketing Professor Sam Min’s MBA students. “The art and design students have to understand about marketing, and the business and marketing students need to understand how to create their communications visually.”

Park said his creative process consists of three parts he calls “meaning,” “being” and “living.”

It’s the client’s customers who ultimately determine its products’ value, so the “meaning” phase starts with designers getting acquainted with clients. “What do they need to be known for? It’s primarily recognizing all the assets and defining where the value is,” then helping them narrow their focus, Park said. This includes researching the client’s current and potential customers, where they’re located, and what their likes and dislikes are.

“Then the visual process begins, and that’s the ‘being’ phase,” he said. “We try to name the entity and come up with tag lines and advertising slogans sometimes. Then, of course, we design a logo or a symbol that symbolizes this idea,” Park said. This results in three elements called the typography, color and visual elements palettes.

“The type is the voice of a brand,” he said. “The color is the skin of a brand and it represents emotion. A lot of professional institutions and businesses use blue because blue is calm and it communicates presence and stability. Blue and red color logos are dominant and the rest are shared.” Some brands are known by their color such as Coca Cola red, Tiffany blue and Caterpillar yellow.

“The visual palette is the gesture of the brand,” that combines type, color and design into a cohesive blend, he continued. “It’s the identifying factor of a brand. You should be able to spot this from far away, and when it’s done successfully, it should separate your brand from the others.” Clients receive a brand style guide outlining proper uses of logos, typography and graphics to help maintain consistency—a key element in preserving its identity.

“The last phase of this evolving process is ‘living,’” where the brand comes to life through its products, marketing materials and even store designs that reflect the image. See the CSULB Brand Workshop in action at http://art.csulb.edu/workshop.