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Intern Appreciation Party

December 15, 2009

This past Friday we had a celebration for our interns who have worked so hard over the past semester(s) to help make our work great. We are so thankful for their dedicated service and will miss them very much.

Below are some photos of the trivia game we played during the event. Enjoy!


Building Your Own Pyramid

December 11, 2009

The Ictus Pyramid

STEPHANIE WINIARSKI, Marketing Associate

Last month we took a look back at what will shortly become the old slogan of the Ictus Initiative. Now it’s time we look at the other half of the soon to be old Ictus brand – the logo.

A logo is typically defined as the graphic element that constitutes a commercial brand. The graphic element of the former Ictus logo is an extremely recognizable symbol, a pyramid. The pyramid was both a logical and natural choice to choice to use as the symbol of the Ictus Initiative because our goal is to build each one of our clients their own customized pyramid.

But what exactly does building your own pyramid mean?

Take a look at the structure of a pyramid. The base is always the widest part, and as you move up, the width of the structure continues to get smaller until you reach the apex of the pyramid. In the Ictus pyramid, the client is the base of the pyramid because they provide the foundation for the entire project. They client is the expert in their field; they are the product. Without them, there is nothing to build off of.

After the foundation of the pyramid, that’s where we come in. The first person to lend a hand in the shaping of every pyramid is Paige, who comes in to develop and define the content that will build the pyramid. After Paige, each member of the Ictus team then adds his or her own layer to the pyramid. Naomi adds her part to the pyramid when a client needs a web page with an eye catching and innovative layout. If a client needs to construct a marketing campaign, Stewart enters the process. Add in a few more personalized layers by George, Derek, and Matt, and each client now has a sturdy, strong, and successful pyramid. We use our team and resources to take you from the bottom of the pyramid to the top, so that you are at the peak of your career.

So if we still believe in this philosophy of building your own pyramid, then why are we getting rid of the current pyramid logo?

The way the pyramid is divided into segments makes it seem like there are fixed steps each client must take to reach the top, and that’s not always true. Instead, each client has his or her own steps and path that are as unique as they are. The pyramid will still be featured in our new logo, but instead of a concrete symbol, you’ll see an abstract representation of the pyramid. This abstract pyramid represents the many different ways in which the Ictus Initiative can build the pyramid that is perfect for you.

What’s in a name?

December 8, 2009

DEREK MCIVER, Public Relations

Tick, tock!

Yes, our firm has an uncommon name. The Ictus Initiative. That’s OK, though – lots of companies have names that don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. If I didn’t know any better, I would expect Apple to be a fruit vendor, Adobe to build houses out of clay, and Amazon to protect our world’s most precious rainforest. And those are just the A-s! The thing is – our name actually fits us perfectly. So long as one understands its meaning, it’s easy to see why “The Ictus Initiative” truly suits the work we do.

The “initiative” half is pretty easy to understand, but what is that word before it – Ictus? According to my good friend Merriam-Webster, the word “Ictus” derives from the Latin icere “to strike,” and means “the recurring stress or beat in a rhythmic or metrical series of sounds.”

Of course, we’ve extended the meaning to go beyond its literal musical definition. To us, an ictus represents a pulse, and, more specifically, the pulses of our clients’ careers. In many cases, we engage in partnerships with our clients in order to resuscitate a certain element of their professional lives. If not, we are charged with amplifying their pulses by bringing attention to them and to their expertise. We increase their professional pulse rates and re-energize their careers so that they can move onto the next level of success.

As we rebrand, maybe it would make sense to change my job title to “Career Cardiologist.” We will be getting new business cards soon, after all…

Branding Hint: Be Yourself

December 4, 2009

"At long last, popularity will be mine..."

STEWART K KELLY, Marketing Strategy

Many firms see rebranding as an opportunity to transform how they are viewed by people in their marketplace. But if you hear someone influential in your organization say “we need to become more hip,” it’s time to get very worried indeed.

As any teenager will tell you, you can’t just decide to become hip. You either are or you aren’t.

The secret to branding is not to conjure a false image to force people to change their minds about you. It’s about building on the positive characteristics you already have.

A nice recent example of this phenomenon was the advertising tiff between Apple and Microsoft. With its Mac guy, Apple gave us a personification of its brand: confident, relaxed, cool, and a little self-righteous. Microsoft’s PC guy was represented as the opposite: geeky, dithering, and defensive.

Of course Microsoft got all upset about this perceived insult. But was it really an insult? What’s wrong with being a geek? There are far more dithering geeks in the world than there are urbane young chaps. Who do you think Microsoft’s target market (i.e. the rest of us) identifies with more? As most commentators now agree, Apple actually did Microsoft a favor.

If Microsoft had a really smart marketing team on board, they would have played up this gift from Apple. Geeky is good, and more important, it is who they really are. Instead, they spent millions fumbling around with celebrities and other peripheral stuff.

If you want a successful brand, tap into who you really are, and run with it.

Life After Sports

November 25, 2009

BRANDON GILSON, Sports Marketing Associate

Our client base has become more diverse as we’ve expanded into new fields, and we’re publicizing more than just authors, speakers, and business executives. As we rebrand, “Life After Sports” has come to play an important role in our business: we’re working with retired professional athletes on their careers after sports to help them plan for their futures. This new piece of the company gives us the ability to help these experts have their voices and messages heard, whether it’s through aggressive promotion of their sport or creating wellness facilities for current athletes.

Sports are a central component in today’s society and the best athletes are revered as celebrities. The question is, where will these athletes go and what will they do when they retire from their sport? Here at Ictus, our mission is the same: to work with our clients and help them achieve greater recognition in their fields. Naturally, then, working with former athletes to help them have their expert voices heard plays to our strengths.

In many cases, when athletes retire they want their messages to be heard worldwide. That’s where we come in. Having spent most of their working lives as professional athletes, their expertise comes from their games, and in most cases has only been applied on the field. Yet many don’t realize the extraordinary stories they hold and how they can use those stories to inspire others. One client, for instance, overcame great odds to participate in two Olympic Games. Not only can his story translate to students, professionals, and others looking for success in their own “games,” but it can also be leveraged to bring awareness to his oft-overlooked sport and show that it brings new challenges (and opportunities) that other athletes don’t even have to consider. Another client, a former NFL player, realized while playing football that being mentally prepared to play was as important (maybe even more important) than physical readiness, but found that his training didn’t cater to that important need. After his football career he studied meditation and other eastern teachings, and now seeks to share that wisdom with other working athletes.

Our job for these athletes, then, is the same as it has always been: to package their stories and bring awareness to them. The rebranding of Ictus has everything to do with our new direction. Our path is the same, but with the newest aspect of the company, Life After Sports, it’s just become a wider road.

Rebranding: building on to our identity, not re-establishing it

November 23, 2009

Derek McIver, Public Relations

In “Principles of corporate rebranding,” (European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 42, No. 5/6, 2008, pp. 537-552), authors Bill Merrilees and Dale Miller of Griffith University in Gold Coast, Australia, continually refer to the need for a revised brand to “meet core brand values yet [become] relevant to contemporary needs.” Rebranding, then, isn’t a total transformation. If it were, the process would start with a clean slate. For so many years, Paige and George, all of us, and all of our predecessors have worked hard to build a company our clients and partners can trust. And by all accounts, they do. So to ignore that idea would be suicidal. For us, something that has been consistent throughout Ictus’ growth and the establishment of that brand is the orange pyramid logo – no doubt a symbol that our stakeholders recognize and trust. Therefore, we cannot throw it out altogether; we need to build on that idea, which is why Naomi (and everyone) is keeping its essence in the front of her mind when redesigning it. But, while the new logo needs to relate that idea, it needs to become, as the authors say, more relevant to contemporary needs.

As a marketing and PR consultancy, we are constantly responding to the events going on around us. Whether we’re exploring stories’ various angles, or deciding between blasting information to journalists’ emails or through posting it on YouTube, and even settling on which font is most appropriate for a client’s webpage, we are looking at everything in three dimensions. Our current logo, however, is flat. Apart from a discreet gradient, it has little movement. Certainly, our clients’ contemporary needs would, in a way, be ignored if we continued to use it. More importantly, potential new clients might not be sold on the breadth and quality of our services based on our current logo alone. So, in Naomi’s new designs, that “3-D” idea is being expressed. If we look at the world in multi-dimensional terms, why shouldn’t our logo reflect that?

Another bit that hasn’t gotten a lot of play on this blog (and, regretfully, in the office discussions either) is the question of our tagline. Right now, there’s even a question about what our tagline actually is: both “Publicizing Authors, Speakers, and Business Executives” and “On the Air, On the Web, and On the Street” appear on most of our promotional materials, but there isn’t a strong consensus on which to call our official tagline. That, in itself, is a problem, but what’s more significant is that neither of those lines adequately express the full range of services we offer, nor the mood of our highly creative company.

The first identifies three types of people we serve, but what about the others? For example, athletes are becoming a core part of our clientele, but why aren’t they addressed? And the second line, “On the Air, On the Web, and On the Street” is OK, but doesn’t it really emphasize only the PR work we do? It ignores some of our most fundamental functions like all of the important content development stuff we do. One of the taglines I’ve proposed is “You know it, we show it.” That, to me, will appeal to any expert (which, broadly defined, is what every single one of our clients is) who wants their message to be heard.

So, I’m convinced that Merrilees and Miller would be satisfied with our work so far. Corporate rebranding, defined by them, is “the disjunction or change between an initially formulated corporate brand and a new formulation.” Our process has expressed that because we’re building on ideas that have always been a part of this company. We are just re-formulating the brand that was already developed through the years of hard work that came before now.


Image credit: “Mad About Shanghai” blog

The Tricky Business of Rebranding

November 20, 2009


Here’s the dirty little secret of rebranding: it’s not always popular.

The truth is, people fear change. And when an established brand undergoes a face-lift, the gut reaction is often a combination of nostalgia and anger. Companies that wish to revamp their image are thus caught at a crossroads, simultaneously hoping to keep their brand current without alienating their loyal customers.

Nowhere is this more true than in professional sports, where brand loyalty isn’t just a corporate buzzword – it’s a prerequisite for fandom. Numerous sports teams have taken the plunge and overhauled their logo and uniforms, with mixed results. The Buffalo Sabres ditched their long-time logo, a charging bull over two crossed swords, in favor of a stylized animal that didn’t sit well with fans. Ten years later, they went even further in stylizing the logo, but their latest attempt was even less popular. In the eyes of the team’s loyal fans, the classic and powerful logo of their franchise’s storied past had been replaced by… a banana slug.

That’s not to say that a team can’t rebrand successfully. At the beginning of the 2008 season, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays dropped the “Devil” from their name, ditched their teal uniforms, and replaced their manta ray logo with a simple sunshine theme. It was a smashing success, in large part because it coincided with an astonishing turnaround in the franchise’s fortunes – they went from perennial cellar-dweller to a World Series berth in one year. It also helped that the old brand wasn’t very good to begin with – the uniforms were ugly, the logo uninspiring. The new brand was more notable for what it wasn’t, and that was just fine with the fans.

This all gets to a larger point: changing an established brand can be a tricky thing, and it’s hard to tell when you’re bringing much-needed modernization and when you’re just messing with a classic. Why has Coca-Cola endured for so long while Pepsi gets a new logo every decade? Why is Jack Daniels’ simple, rustic label design so enduring? Why is it that the Detroit Red Wings’ winged wheel logo is superior to anything conceived by a design firm in the last 30 years?

I’m not a graphic designer, but I still know a classic when I see it. Perhaps the goal of every rebranding is to create exactly that – a classic that no one will want to rebrand.