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Why the New Tennessee State Logo is a Bargain at $46,000

New TN Logo


Okay, right from the start, here’s the deal: I don’t like Tennessee’s new state logo. I’m sorry to say it.

Now, generally, I don’t comment on such things. I’m in the business myself, and I don’t make a practice of running around critiquing the work of my colleagues. Having said that, I do still have a “personal aesthetic.” I simply respond to things that I see just like everyone else, and I don’t like the new logo (I confess here, as well, that I don’t like two-letter state abbreviations either, but that’s another matter).

Having said that, I think my colleagues at GS&F should keep every penny they earned in doing this project. Allow me to elaborate.

GS&F spent 9 months working with 23 state departments and hundreds of state employees and governor’s office staffers to arrive at what has been characterized as “something a fifth-grader could make.” Maybe that’s true. Maybe not. But it discounts something very important. It’s called process. And the process is perhaps the most valuable, if regrettably mostly invisible, part of developing organizational identity systems.

Mark Twain once said, “I would have written a shorter letter if I had had more time.”

Developing a new identity for an organization as complex as a state government requires a laser focus on making that identity simple, easy to use, easily reproducible at multiple sizes in multiple media (from paper to computer screens), and easily recognizable by hundreds of thousands of users.

Under that criteria, this logo is incredibly successful.

I know how this project likely went. It’s a plum assignment. My firm would’ve loved to have been invited to bid. And you know what? We likely would’ve discounted our fee just to be a part of it. It’s a big deal, in my opinion, and I am certain GS&F didn’t go into this lightly.

So, you’re hired. You get into the heart of it. You do “discovery.” You spend hours and hours interviewing the “stakeholders” – the people who use the logo on a daily basis. The legislators, commissioners, administrative assistants, the pressmen who actually print the letterhead, the governor himself. You identify the problems with it. You collect all of the printed pieces on which the logo is used and you make printouts of its use online. You also collect materials where the logo has been misused and distorted. Maybe you post all of that to a big wall in your conference room so you can see it all at once. You call in your entire staff to discuss it, pick it apart, make suggestions. You write on the wall. You make notes on post-its. Taken together, it’s massive. Hundreds of pieces of material, from forms to glossy brochures to website landing pages.

That part of the process alone is a ton of time. And you put your best people on it, because – you know – it’s for your great State of Tennessee, and you want to do a great job. And you put a good number of people on it. And those people bill by the hour, because you’re in the business of creative intelligence. You sell know-how. Intuition. You sell your brain and your experience. It’s partly art and partly science. And some of it is plain old luck. It’s a bit of alchemy that is sometimes hard to explain unless you’re in it.

Then you get into ideation. You throw out ideas. You sketch. You look at other state logos. You critique the work. You revise your first assumptions. You sketch again. You invite people to look at your ideas. They love some and hate others. They like combinations of some. They don’t like that font. They think one’s too simple. Another’s too complicated. Somebody’s brother-in-law likes another color better. Yes, it’s largely subjective, but it’s also made a bit more objective because it’s informed by a lifetime of collaboration with other clients doing the same kind of thing.

You start over – again. This cycle can continue almost indefinitely, back and forth between agency and client.

You’re only at month 4 and you’ve burned through roughly 5 times the budget you agreed to.

Let’s do the math.

Let’s say you put 10 agency staffers on the project (5 designers, 3 account people, 2 principals) and they each put in a very conservative 10 hours per week. They do that for 36 weeks (9 months). At an industry average fully-burdened (taxes, insurance, rent, expenses) aggregate hourly rate of $150/hour, that would equal $540,000. Is it worth that? Of course not, but that’s why $46,000 is a bargain.

Forget the hours. What’s the value of that logo? Will it save the state many times its cost in how it provides continuity across a complex and diverse organization over the next decade and beyond? Absolutely.

When we go to a restaurant and order a $30 steak and eat it, when presented the bill do we say to the waiter, “You know, I don’t think that steak is worth $30. I could’ve cooked that steak at home. I’ll give you $5 for it.” No, we don’t.

There’s an old story about Pablo Picasso bumping into a woman on the street in Paris. She was so excited to meet one of her heroes. She asked him, sheepishly, “Mr. Picasso, I’ve wanted to meet you all my life. I love your art. I’ve always dreamt of having you draw a portrait of me. Would you?” He said, “Of course, madam!”

He pulled a notebook and pencil from his coat pocket and began to sketch. After about 10 minutes of sketching furiously, he showed the final portrait to the woman. “Oh my goodness! This is so beautiful! It’s just as I imagined. What do I owe you?”

Picasso replied, “$10,000.” “$10,000?!” the woman said, aghast. “How in the world is this worth $10,000 when it took you only 10 minutes?”

Picasso replied, “Because it actually took me a lifetime plus 10 minutes.”

GS&F didn’t push the “logo button” on the computer to generate the new state logo. They invested a lifetime of experience and charged a fair price for what was likely much more time than they had estimated. They generated value.

Keep the $46,000, GS&F. You earned it. And please forgive me for saying that I don’t like the logo. It will probably grow on me.


Chuck Morris is founder and principal of Morris Creative Group LLC, a 25-year-old Knoxville-based marketing and branding firm.

Guerrilla Marketing 101

Chances are you’ve seen examples of guerrilla marketing on the Internet, but you may not have known that this type of marketing had its own name. Guerrilla marketing is an unconventional form of marketing that ties together energy and imagination to grab the public’s attention in unexpected ways. It is typically cheaper than traditional forms of marketing and is great for generating word-of-mouth. The term was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book “Guerrilla Advertising.” The name stems from guerrilla warfare, in which soldiers use unconventional tactics to meet objectives.

There are a lot of different types of guerrilla marketing and we have included a list of some of the most interesting.

Ambient Marketing

This is probably the most popular and most recognized type of guerrilla marketing. This is when companies advertise in unconventional places. Some examples include escalators, park benches, cross walks, door handles, etc. The possibilities really are endless. We have included some of our favorites in the slideshow below.

Undercover/Stealth Marketing

In this method, consumers are introduced to and informed about a product or service in a way that does not seem like advertising. Agents act as everyday people who show products to other people who have no idea they are being advertised to. Sony used this technique back in 2002 to help push one of their cellphones, which was among the first to have a camera. They placed actors in ten major cities who then acted as tourists and asked strangers to take pictures of them. The actors handed the strangers their cellphones rather than cameras, and talked all about the new features of the phones. While this may have been a little devious, this campaign helped this phone become one of the best-selling phones that year. We’ve included a short clip below of this campaign in action.


 Grassroots Marketing

The advertiser targets a small, specific group of people in hopes that they will then share the message to a larger group. A successful campaign relies on the personal connection rather than broadcasting a message hoping the target audience is paying attention. It helps to think of grassroots marketing as a ripple effect.

Guerrilla marketing can be a great way to increase brand recall because the techniques used are so different. If you want to check out some more examples, click here.

LinkedIn Showcase Pages for Dummies

LinkedIn has a feature called “Showcase Pages”, and they can be one of your company page’s best friends if used correctly. But before we talk about how to use them, let’s first talk about what they are.

Showcase pages are a way for companies to highlight a specific brand or product of their company. For example, Microsoft has their company page on LinkedIn, but Microsoft offers a wide range of products. So rather than sharing information for each one of their products on their company page, they have created showcase pages to reduce the clutter in their followers’ newsfeed. If you’re a big fan of Microsoft Office, but don’t care for their Surface tablets, you can follow their Office page and you won’t have to see posts relating to Surface. This is a great way for business to reach distinct audience segments.

Microsoft’s LinkedIn Page

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Microsoft’s Showcase Pages

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Microsoft Office’s Showcase Page

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As you can see, these showcase pages are essentially subpages within the company page, and each company can have up to ten different showcase pages active at one time.

They are most useful for:

  • Product announcements
  • Industry news
  • Links to blog posts
  • Targeted audiences who need specific messaging
  • Companies with many different products

Showcase pages aren’t great for smaller companies for a few different reasons:

  • Your showcase page will start out at 0 followers, meaning you have to rebuild your entire following.
  • Since the showcase pages are separate from the company page, you will have to update them all separately, ultimately doubling your time spent on managing your LinkedIn pages.

Showcase pages can benefit your business greatly because of the ability to deliver messages to specific targets, but aren’t the best idea for small-to-mid sized companies who don’t have the resources to update all the pages independently.

Creating the perfect LinkedIn company page

The High Cost of Doing Nothing About Your Marketing

High Cost.

High Cost.

I recently met with a very smart businessperson who told me she had decided that instead of moving forward with the marketing strategy we had discussed, she was going to do nothing. I said, “That’s interesting. What are you going to do instead?”

She repeated, “I’m going to do nothing. Literally, nothing. I think we need to wait and see how things continue to go this year, and we have some competing needs for the marketing funds we had set aside. I think we’re going to divert the funds to some equipment purchases.”

I left her office dumbfounded.

Now, perhaps my proposal was more than she expected (though we had discussed budget up front), or maybe the timeframe for accomplishing the goals we had defined together was longer than she wanted, but I think she just ended up not wanting to do the hard work of marketing her company.

If you think marketing is as simple as finding the right agency, or finding some kind of magic bullet, you’re wrong. Doing the work of marketing is hard, just like most things that are worthwhile. It is a full-time job. And yes, it costs money. Sometimes, a good deal of money.

But, I absolutely believe this: the cost of doing nothing is far greater, and I’ve seen it. It’s a goofy analogy, but it’s like being dehydrated. By the time you feel thirsty, your body is likely already dehydrated.

By the time your sales reports start to point to a decline, it may indeed be too late for marketing to do anything to save you.

Marketing is about consistency over time. Consistent positioning. Consistent messaging. Consistent visual identity. Consistent effort. It is a 24/7 job, and today, it’s made even more difficult by all of the “digital noise” out there.

Today’s tools of marketing automation and inbound marketing can help with the load, but the hard work must still be done by you (hopefully along with some results-oriented help from your agency partner).

Want your marketing to win you new customers and new revenue? You’ve got to do the work.

10 SEO Mistakes To Avoid During Your Next Website Redesign

Website redesign and improvement is a major part of any modern company’s strategy to reach a wider audience, generate more leads, and conduct more business. While many companies shift their attention to their website’s aesthetic aspects in order to become more user-friendly, there are less-glamorous facets of improving your website. A lot of emphasis has been placed on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) over the past few years. Although the way SEO is approached is constantly changing, it remains an integral part of attracting customers to your business. After all, your company’s website may blow your competitors out of the water, but if no one can find your website, it doesn’t matter.
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