STAMP OUT MUMBLING, MUTTERING, SHOUTING, AND SLURRING

By Mark Welsh

No offense to most brand voices but you wouldn’t want to sit next to them at a dinner party.

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Bland, monotonous, and frequently drunk, this cacophony of droning dullards suffers from what Doctors call “Generic Voice Syndrome.” Talk about a squandered opportunity to forge a valuable connection with their audiences. They should be flogged and banned from dinner parties for life.
Brand voice is a powerful communicator of a company’s personality.  Done right it slices through the clutter to win hearts and minds. Done wrong it sends everyone rushing for earplugs.  Prefer the winning of hearts and minds strategy? Clear your throat and take my advice on how to...
 

TEACH YOUR BRAND VOICE TO SING
in 5 tuneful steps

 

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Note: All examples are culled from recent Mark Welsh Creative projects and collaborations.

1. WORK ON YOUR PERSONALITY
Despite abundant evidence to the contrary you can’t have a voice without a personality. 
Brands are like people, memorable or forgettable depending on their personality.  Define your key attributes and use these to shape a personality and voice that people like and remember.  
TuneCore is the world’s premium music distribution company. For the global brand guide Mark distilled the brand personality into 5 attributes  

TuneCore global brand guide / attributes .  See more

TuneCore global brand guide / attributes. See more

2. READ YOUR AUDIENCE
Look to your own audience for brand voice inspiration, not at your competitors. 
Get to the heart and mind of the matter. Learn what drives and inspires your audience, listen to how they talk, and craft a distinctive voice that actually connects with their dreams and beliefs.  
Mark Welsh Creative developed a voice for TuneCore that mirrors the brand personality (above) and taps into the emotional mindset of independent musicians.

TuneCore / awareness campaign.   See more   Photography  Martin Crook    

TuneCore / awareness campaign.  See more 
Photography Martin Crook
 

3. BE COHERENT
A confident brand voice migrates from platform-to-platform with nary a hiccup or belch.  

Keep your voice consistent across all facets of your communications, from website and manifesto to social media, print, video, and even business cards.  
In collaboration with Design Army, Mark gave the fashion optical company, Georgetown Optician a witty and irreverent voice with strong calls to action.  From the award-winning video campaign to the company's Instagram, website, and print campaigns, the brand combines bold, provocative language and great design to catch the eye and hold it.  

Georgetown Optician / Instagram campaign  Agency Design Army

Georgetown Optician / Instagram campaign
Agency Design Army

Georgetown Optician / website, social media, print Agency Design Army   

Georgetown Optician / website, social media, print
Agency Design Army
 

PARTY LIKE AN OPTICIAN
Georgetown Optician / Instagram campaign
Agency Design Army

4. WATCH YOUR TONE
Tone is what makes people like us, or not.
 
Decide what your brand tone is and isn’t – witty vs. funny, earnest vs. ironic, warm vs. cool - and cement it in your brand guide.  
Net Generation is the USTA’s new youth tennis platform. As part of an initiative to grow tennis at the grass roots level, MWC developed a welcoming, empowering, inclusive, and heroic brand tone that speaks to a broad audience of schools, P.E. providers, and coaches nationwide.

USTA Net Generation / print, website, social media

USTA Net Generation / print, website, social media

5.  SPEAK UP! 
Small company or behemoth brand, use bold, provocative language to catch and hold the eye. 
Cafiero Select is a NYC homeware store and design firm with an ironic, irreverent voice. The company’s marketing comprises social media and e-mail. As guest editor Mark developed a topical and controversial newsletter that offers tips on surviving Apocalyptic times with “Armageddon chic” décor.   

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Mark Welsh is an experienced writer/brand builder who specializes in identity and voice. He has devised distinct brand voices for Jonathan Adler, Bloomingdale’s, Sephora, POPSUGAR, west elm, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and many more. 
 


7 THINGS TO DO WITH THE (ANNOYINGLY HEFTY) RH CATALOG

By Mark Welsh

The latest RH catalog hit New York city last week, and by “hit” I mean mercilessly clobbered. 

Weighing in at hefty 325 pounds (or thereabouts) this unappealingly shrink wrapped collection of 5 “source books” prompted shrieks of “Oh no they didn’t!” at Post Offices from the Battery to the Bronx and filled New York’s emergency rooms with sprained and (even more than usually) disgruntled mail carriers.  Nursing a wrist injury and a grudge, my dedicated mail lady Connie summed up the feelings of many as she tossed letters into slots with the precision of a carnival knife thrower.  “I signed up to deliver mail through sleet, snow, and hail, she huffed.  “No one ever mentioned the  Mother@#$%&^% RH catalog”.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m an ardent fan of catalogs and have written literally hundreds for clients including Bloomingdale’s, Joe Fresh, west elm, and Ann Taylor – a sprinkling of which I’ve included here for purely self-promotional purposes.

But do we really need to receive all 5 at once?  Talk about incite bad will among 99 pound weaklings, 6th floor walk-up dwellers, and trees. 

Without further ado or adon't here are my...

7 HIGHLY EFFECTIVE, HIGHLY SUSPECT THINGS TO DO WITH THE HIGHLY ANNOYING RH CATALOG

1. 

COMMIT THE PERFECT CRIME.  Bludgeon your annoying neighbor with his/her copy – and shred the evidence. 

2.

ASSIST A LITTLE PERSON.  Bind copies together with duct tape to create booster seats, platform shoes, and steps.

3.

STOCK YOUR OFF-THE-GRID OUTHOUSE.  Who needs a composting loo when you’ve got 468 pages of free TP?

4.

GO FOR THE INSURANCE MONEY.  Turn our the lights and “accidentally” trip over your catalog.  You’ll be surprised what a bruised knee and a good lawyer will net you.  (Approximate 30G).

5.

CALM YOUR NERVES.  Paper walls with the catalog’s greige, ecru, and burlap-hued pages and fall instantly into deep taupe sleep. 

6.  

TAKE A FIELD TRIP.  Introduce your catalogs to their ancient tree forebears and watch them weep inky tears. 

7.

RETURN TO SENDER UNOPENED.  Or better yet, drop it off at your local RH store and let them deal with it. 

IF EVERYONE'S A CREATIVE DIRECTOR, WHO'S DOING THE DISHES?

By Mark Welsh

I was doing a spot of low-impact networking this week when an embryo walked up to me and gave me his business card. Though he was barely old enough to walk or talk - let alone drink - his card read, "Creative Director". Perhaps the curl of my lip gave me away, but he gathered I wasn't all that impressed and shuffled sullenly back into his stroller.   

Back when I was a slip of a copywriter with little more than an afro and a spare typewriter ribbon, the words "Creative Director" instilled equal measures admiration, envy, respect, and fear. Backed by decades of experience, great taste, and the ability to inspire a motley crue of hungover copywriters and art directors, they were brilliant talents and equally great characters.  Think Don Draper, minus the brooding. 

During my Ogilvy days my favorites included an Englishman with a lustrous flop of silver hair who wore custom-made silk dentist-shirts;  an intimidating lesbian straight out of an Otto Dix painting who compulsively applied lip gloss every 5 minutes; and (by far my favorite) Ross Sutherland, a fellow New Zealander with great wit who'd accost uptight account executives in crowded elevators and loudly whisper, "Ken, you're a very attractive man. Don't think I didn't notice", just to watch them wince and squirm.

So, in a world where every man and his dogwalker is laying claim to being a Creative Director, what qualities should you look for -in addition to an impressive business card?

 

businesscard

 

A CREATIVE DIRECTOR...

  • INSPIRES GREATNESS. (Or at least very good-ness)   
  • MINES GLIMMERING NUGGETS OF BRILLIANCE.  And helps finesse and polish them to perfection.  
  • STICKS TO THE PLOT.  Especially when others wheel wildly off it.  
  • KNOWS A GOOD IDEA when he/she "adapts" one.
  • CUTS OFF THE BEER AND WINE before the late night thinking goes south
  • IS WITHHOLDING WITH PRAISE.  Until it's deserved; a mindblowing concept in 2014.  
  • MAKES IT LOOK INCREDIBLY EASY

P.S. I clawed my way to Ogilvy CD status at the ripe age of 33, but after years wasted in focus groups I returned to what I love most; copywriting, developing brand voices, and typing 'til my fingers are raw.  

Feel free to drop me a line to see how we might work together. 

LAZY, INDIFFERENT, OR JUST FRENCH? NEW AIR FRANCE ADS.

By Mark Welsh

WHEN I BEGAN AS A COPYWRITER AT OGILVY AND MATHER, THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS ASIAN MODELS. This was Australia in the early '80's, so there was no such thing as black models either.  Fast forward 30 years to the behemoth economy that is China, and suddenly it's a whole new kettle of bibimbap.  Blessed with faces that both reflect and hypnotize the world's fastest growing luxury market, Asian models are now raking in the yen, yuan and (hard won) won*.  They're so omnipresent that you can't swing a cat at Milk Studios without hitting Liu Wen or Tao Okamoto.  Which makes the casting choices in the new Air France ad campaign even more dumbfoundingly dumb. 

Riffing on the travel poster style of the 30's, each ad depicts different models styled to represent Air France destinations; a stoned blonde for San Francisco...a Botticelli-style temptress for Italy...an African American in dazzling sequins for New York...

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...and then suddenly - like the food poisoning one gets from eating Duane Reade sushi - two white girls appear, be-wigged and made up to represent Tokyo and Peking.  

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My liver-spotted Scottish granny looks more Asian than this, and she's been dead for 20 years.  

Qu'est-ce que cela, Air France?  Was Du Juan already booked?  Had Fei Fei Sun gotten hit by the Avian flu? Did the harried Creative Director at Air France's ad agency say, "We don't have the budget for another girl; just slap some Asian makeup and a wig on those Ukrainian chicks".  Probably.  

Call me literal, call me pedantic, or just call me to ensure such glaring faux pas don't occur in your advertising, catalogs, or brand books. 

*South Korean won only.  

RESILIENT? CANNY? WILDLY ATTRACTIVE? YOU MIGHT BE A NEW ZEALANDER.

By Mark Welsh

New Zealand's geographical remoteness has made Kiwis an inventive, resilient, canny, and most of all, highly attractive lot. (Did I mention that I'm one?). I've called New York city home for 30 years, but my dark heart still swells with pride whenever a Kiwi triumphs over the country's incovenient location, just left of the earth's sink hole. Lorde winning a Grammy for song of the year.  Dame Kiri te Kanawa discussing claret with Lord Grantham in a Downton Abbey cameo.  The few halcyon days when Team New Zealand looked like they were going to take home the America's Cup. (Let's not revisit that particular pain).  Add to this much abbreviated list of super-achieving Kiwis the inventive, canny, resilient, and yes, highly attractive fashion designer, KAREN WALKER (below left). Her label shows each season at New York fashion week but she runs her global empire from the relative sanity and safety of New Zealand.

No fool in the marketing department, Ms. Walker's ad campaigns stand out for all the right reasons, combining arresting portraits of unexpected models with socially relevant messages. Eschewing younger (and no doubt more expensive) models, the brand's 2013 eyewear campaign featured portraits by Advanced Style blogger Ari Seth Cohen of (really) Grande Dames wearing (really) fabulous eyewear.  Despite the difference in our genders, and to a lesser extent our ages, I wanted a pair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For spring 2014, the brand partnered with the United Nations' ETHICAL FASHION INITIATIVE to make screen-printed pouches for eyeglasses. (EFI creates and supports the work of artisan groups in Kenya). To help raise EFI's visibility Ms. Walker made (another) synchronistic modeling choice, turning the spotlight on the Kenyan artisans who cut, sewed, and screen-printed her eyeglass pouches and enlisting them as the campaign's models.  

Photography: DEREK HENDERSON. (And yes, he's also a Kiwi).

A IS FOR AMY WHO FELL DOWN THE STAIRS

By Mark Welsh

Today is Edward Gorey's birthday.  For those of you born after me, (take a number), Gorey was the author and illustrator of darkly surreal masterpieces like , "The Epileptic Bicycle", "The Unstrung Harp", and my favorite, "The Gashlycrumb Tinies", the darkest most twisted A-Z you'll ever read.  Back when I was a be-afro'd young copywriter, I once spied Mr. Gorey parading down Fifth Avenue - the very emodiment of one of his characters - in a floor-length Russian sable coat.  I was instantly smitten.  His wicked wit and dastardly rhymes are the wings beneath my words.  Or some such. 

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A signed Gorey print from "The Remembered Visit" 1979, (below) is the only decor in my otherwise decor-free workspace. The copy reads: DRUSILLA WAS TOLD SHE WAS GOING TO MEET A WONDERFUL MAN WHO HAD BEEN OR DONE SOMETHING LOFTY AND CULTURED IN THE DIM PAST.  Pure absurdism. My favorite kind. 

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"The Gashlycrumb Tinies" A-Z (below)

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CURRY WITH YOUR COMMES DES GARCONS?

When Dover Street Market, the conceptual retail store in London announced the opening of a New York outpost in my gritty neighborhood, I almost fell off my pouf.  Why would Rei Kawakubo, the visionary Dover Street and Commes des Garcons designer open shop in a neighborhood the New York Times recently deemed "Manhattan's least fashionable"?


Did she find the mix of sari shops, curry restaurants, and Pakistani cab drivers irresistible?  Was the proximity to Kalustyans, the middle eastern spice shop on 28th and Lex, too alluring to pass up?  Or had she cannily anticipated that the mentally deranged inmates at nearby Bellevue hospital were the only ones willing to drop 10G on a Spring 2014 Commes des Garcons hula-hoop dress?

I suspect that while the bizarre location (and mentally deranged neighbors) appealed to the inscrutable Ms. Kawakubo, it was the gorgeous buliding that sealed the deal.  A grand neo-classical style structure from 1909, the marble columned beauty was - apropos enough - the home to the school of Applied Design for women.

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The reimagined interior with its central glass elevator is stunning, and the seven floors of (ruthlessly edited) Commes des Garcons, Alaia, Prada, Junya Watanabe etc. is the stuff fashion freaks lose their marbles over.  

And the green tea cake at the store's Rose Bakery sure beats the pants off the dubious shrink wrapped banana cake at the local Korean market.  
So, does the arrival of Dover Street Market signal the beginning of Curry Hill's great gentrification? Local retailers including Curry in a Hurry, Momokawa japanese restaurant (incredible shabu shabu), and an early morning hooker idling outside Little Michael deli on Lex, all report a slight uptick in business.  Though "Young Choice Nails", perhaps the filthiest nail salon in the city, said that business was slow - as usual. 
 

TITLE TATTLE

I'm a huge fan of titles.  Not the hoity toity Downton Abbey type title (though "His Excellency The Right Honorable Lord Welsh" has a nice ring to it), but titles that fade up on screen. You can't be a lazy viewer when titles are involved.  At the risk of getting chapped lips, they implore you to read them - or lose the plot.

When I first saw Director Wes Anderson's masterful use of titles in "The Royal Tennenbaums" I was smitten.  So you can imagine my delight when Creative Director and fellow title lover, Pum Lefebure at Design Army, invited me to create a story using titles for a swimsuit video she'd shot for designer, Karla Colletto (below) 

 

 

 

P.S. In addition to looking gorgeous, the multi-talented model Zinta juggles, contorts, and rides a monocycle, tricks she picked up in the Russian circus.

a tempest over a tusk

Top model, Angela Lindvall, was caught red-handed at Nairobi airport recently with an elephant tusk tucked into her luggage.  When asked how it came into her posession, the high-cheek boned beauty, explained, "I was holding onto it to keep my balance during a shoot, and the elephant sneezed and then believe it or not the just just fell off.  It was a classic case of Finders Keepers."  Officials chose not to believe it, and sentenced her to 24 hours community service, cleaning out the elephant cage at the Nairobi zoo.  Hurry Home, Angela. 

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SHE WAS UP A CREEK WITHOUT A PADDLE. SHE WAS ALSO WITHOUT FEET

Impish, shrimpish model, Audrey Marnay got much less/more than she bargained for when she signed on to shoot the Spring '11 Longchamp campaign with Patrick Demarchelier.  Allegedly, fellow shrimp model and former face of the brand, Kate Moss, became so enraged at the idea of being replaced by Marnay, she contracted famously foul tempered thug and hitwoman Naomi Campbell to "get rid of 'er". After negotiating payent in "big, shiny diamonds; not those fucking dirty ones that South African bloke gave me", Campbell put her evil plan into action. Following a hearty breakfast of cigarettes, crunchy cellphone-parts and a recently employed Latina maid, Campbell boarded "Uncle Phil's" jet for the 5 day flight to deepest, darkest Papua New Guinea - location of the Longchamp shoot.  Upon landing, Campbell went right to work - burning villages, throwing flat screen televisions at the local tribespeople and bribing and berating cannibals to do her evil bidding.  The cannibals leapt at the work, delighted to be paid in "extremely rare and valuable dirty stones".  In rapid succession, Campbell's cannibals snatched Marnay from the hair and makeup trailer, gnawed off both her feet, stuck her upright in a dug out canoe and set her adrift with nothing but a Longchamp handbag (stuffed with tissue paper) and a thoroughly pissed off look on her face.  But every cloud has a silver lining.  On the way to the New Guinea airport, Naomi's armored tank was forced off the road by a rival cannibal gang and she was roasted on a spit and eaten.

 

The art of creating desire, by Tom Ford

The only thing I clearly remember from the blur that was Fashion week is “the black silk pantsuit” in Tom Ford’s blindingly well orchestrated show on Tuesday.   And I haven’t even seen it. 

After a six year absence from the field, Mr. Ford catapulted himself back to the top by employing one of the oldest marketing tricks in the book.  In a week of instant, constant, unremitting access he did the unthinkable and the brilliant.  He withheld all photos, relying instead on descriptions (i.e. words) alone to give each outfit magic.  God love him.  By denying entrance to all but house photographer, Terry Richardson, Mr Ford not only created the most talked about, least seen show of the week (only 130 guests were invited), he also taught every marketer and his Mother (that’d be me) a deft lesson in how to create desire. No doubt every outfit he showed is already spoken for sight unseen.  

Annoyingly the pant suit doesn't come in a 40 long. 

NYT's Cathy Horyn's contraband picture of Beyonce, fresh from the Tom Ford runway.