How to Build a Better Presentation

We’ve all seen ‘em. We’ve all sat through ‘em. Chances are, you’ve had to build ‘em. They are the bane of our existence, but a necessary evil to making sales calls, kicking off new initiatives, or reporting progress on projects. They are the much-dreaded PowerPoint presentation.

Let’s face it—creating presentations that are exciting and engaging is difficult, if not impossible, and depending upon the subject matter. While it is hard to appeal to everyone in the room and grab their full attention, remembering these techniques can help you build a better, more powerful presentation.

Step 1: Cause a commotion without all the motion.

Avoid PreziFor several years users have revolted against Microsoft PowerPoint, the de-facto standard in presentation software. Whether this is because of its ubiquity throughout the business world; its limitations; or because people’s attention spans are drawn to whatever is new and shiny, is anyone’s guess. People have grown accustomed to hating PowerPoint. I think that this has more to do with the ways in which people are using it, not with the product itself.

Recently, a lot of our clients have been asking us about Prezi, a web-based tool that incorporates animation and motion to deliver a presentation. Besides having a subscription-based pricing model in which you have to rent the software (which starts at $60 per year for basic use and is then priced per user for larger teams and unlimited use), the big issue with Prezi is that all of the presentations that I have seen look the same.

It is hard to customize Prezi templates to brand guidelines, or insert background elements into the look and feel. The biggest complaint I have, however, is with the movement and animation that is incorporated into every transition—if on a large screen, motion sickness can (and does!) occur. People are using the flashiness of Prezi to substitute substance with visual effects.

Step 2: Keep it simple, silly!

Ideal PresentationsCreating a powerful presentation depends on content that is clear, concise, and compelling to the audience. You should be able to make your presentation in thirty minutes or less, and by using fewer than 20 slides. Each slide should not be overloaded with too much information; three to four talking points per slide (short phrases or sentences) will help direct the presentation and keep people’s attention.


Using “rich media” in a presentation, whether graphics, stock images or illustrations, or even audio clips, can enhance viewer’s attentiveness to your presentation. Remember that brevity is essential: video clips should be no more than :20–:30 seconds in length, and audio the same length.

Step 3: Keep them focused on you, not the screen.

How many presentations have you been to where you ultimately found yourself checking email or social media feeds because you were bored out of your mind, or the presenter was not interesting? The best presentations are the ones that keep your audience engaged.

One way to engage with your audience is to move around. Look people directly in the eyes, and don’t read directly from your slides. Simply preparing by reading through your talking points from each slide will help you know what to say, and when.

Finally, avoid putting all of your content on each slide: viewers will simply read ahead and then tune out. You want them to be focused on you, not the screen.

Step 4: Make it professional.

The final part of a successful presentation is how it looks onscreen, and if it is consistent with your brand. To that end, be sure to use master slide templates that incorporate your logo, color palette, and other brand elements. Even graphics such as bar or pie charts should look like they are part of your brand.

Animations and motion, while neat visual effects, are very distracting to a presentation. Instead of focusing on what you are saying, the audience may become mesmerized by what is going on behind you onscreen. The most complex animation that we use is “Appear,” which helps reveal talking points one by one, instead of all at once; guiding the discussion and preventing reading ahead.

If all else fails, call in the professionals.

Professional designers, in addition to creating background slide templates, are able to distill complex information into simple visuals that anyone can understand. They can clean up and modify those generic looking Excel pie charts into graphics that match your brand standards. And, by utilizing their experience with other types of clients’ presentations, designers are able to offer a unique perspective on your presentation.

By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand & Creative Strategy

Carolina Blues.

Carolina Blues. They didn't win the title, but their brand did.

North Carolina fans might be singing the blues after losing the title game of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, but they can still stand proud as one of collegiate athletics’ most powerful brands. That’s because when they take the court, the UNC Tar Heels don uniforms that are instantly recognizable with their distinct blue color.

Other brands “own” colors within the marketplace. In soda, Coca Cola owns red, in shipping UPS owns brown, and in telecommunications T-Mobile owns magenta. No other collegiate teams (or brands) come to mind when you think of Carolina Blue, the light blue that is “not powder blue… not baby blue, either,” according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

‘So what’s the big deal?’ you might ask. The big deal is that just last year a new standard “Carolina Blue” was established (Pantone® 542) for the entire University (gasp!), and one that matches the uniforms of UNC’s basketball team. While the “new” color might seem like a very subtle shift from the old (Pantone® 278), the reason for the change has to do with how students, alumni and fans experience the brand across different media—from online and mobile devices to ultra high definition television.


With higher resolution and increasing quality screens, we can see every minute detail of a game, from the expressions on the players’ faces to their sweat-soaked jerseys (which, incidentally, changes the color even more). We can even notice the discrepancies between the color of UNC’s uniforms and the color of fans’ shirts and face paint. Dean Smith, the legendary UNC basketball coach, noticed that his players’ uniforms looked washed out and gray on the very first color television sets, so he had them made in a more vivid color. Consistent color matters, particularly to a brand with such a rich heritage and history.

While it pains me to write an article about North Carolina (myself being a Jayhawk from the Roy Williams era of KU basketball), how the Tar Heels have adapted their blue to meet the needs of different media and viewing experiences is an excellent case study in the importance of color (and its consistent application) in branding.

By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand and Creative Strategy

Average Bowl 50

The biggest game of the year with the highest number of viewers, Super Bowl 50. Fifty years of football champions and product advertisements. The Super Bowl is known as much for its commercial advertising as it is for its football. Whether or not someone tuned into the game for the commercials or the game, the trend of viewers’ preference has dramatically changed, but what’s causing this?

In short, millennials. According to HuffPost/YouGov poll, 26 percent of young Americans said the “best part of the broadcast” is the ads. The NFL is getting a reputation as the “No Fun League” because touchdown celebrations like these

are penalized when every other sport is allowed celebrations like these:

Even golf allows for bigger celebrations. Most players celebrate to get their fans hyped and excited for their teams. Still, one quarter of millennials find pro football to be “boring” while the older generations still prefer the on-field action to advertisements.

However, as one of the largest mass communication opportunities, major brands create entertaining and compelling commercials. The ads are made for “the big game” but fall short of being suitable for any memorable moments past the next day. The NFL and CBS are aware of the large number of viewers for which they charge accordingly. This year, 2016, a 30-second commercial slot hit an all time high at $5 million. The increase in slot advertisement has gotten out of control and some major brands like Gatorade, Reebok, Nike, Ford, and Chevy decided  against having an advertisement in this year’s Super Bowl.

Although the price tag of advertisement is extremely high, it’s not likely the reason corporate titans are considering it the deterrent of the “big game,” but because, in part, of the internet-inspired atomization. Super Bowl advertising hitmaker, John Immesoete says, “There’s a lot of other places to spend your money that are more targeted, and a lot of admen like to do it like that.” Immesoete is known for his hit ads for Budweiser and other big name companies. This erosion of big advertisers means the Super Bowl features a shallower pool of creative talent adept in crafting ads that can appeal to multiple generations and demographic groups. Also contributing to the lack of creative talent in advertisements is common household devices with TiVo, DVR, and services like Netflix which make ordinary TV ads easily avoidable.

Companies noticing the trend of ads being passed is a big reason to believe it’s not worth the money to hire and develop talent. To complicate matters, the same social media and 24-hour news cycle have turned advertising into a niche business. This has increased the scrutiny of Super Bowl ads. While the payoffs of good advertisements are positive, with more of the tools needed to achieve that, companies’ desires to invest have diminished and the costs of failure have increased.

“You become a lightning rod for controversy, Immesoete said. “Now the risk is so high, people get cold feet.”

Business professors, Tim Calkin and Derek Rucker, from Northwestern University made similar claims in a HuffPost blog. They noted it’s also hard for a brand to stand out in such a crowded field of competitors. In 2015, there were 71 national spots, not including network and local promo spots. Immesoete still thinks many of the brands sitting out of the big game and those who’ve booked less airtime are making a mistake. There is, however, one brand plenty of people did not miss seeing, GoDaddy, and its commercials. The strange didn’t stay away with GoDaddy, Mountain Dew introduced “Puppy Monkey Baby” and confused a lot of viewers. Even scarred some with an image not to be forgotten anytime soon.

While a lasting effect is ideal for companies, a lot of viewers don’t remember the brand associated with the creature.

With the day-to-day business being affected by the trend set by millennials, the advertising is not playing to a big quality of millennial behavior: nostalgia. Katy Perry figured it out for her halftime performance by bringing back rapper Missy Elliott. Being nostalgic is not exclusive to Super Bowl advertisements, McDonald’s rebooted the hamburglar, Coke brought Surge back and Crystal Pepsi saw shelves again for the first time in 20 years. According to Jamie Gutfreund, CMO at agency Deep Focus, “Nostalgia brings back that lovely, fuzzy feeling about how good things were back in the day.”

People want to relive that feeling and brands know they can trigger those emotions in their consumers. Does anyone remember E*Trade commercials with the baby? How about any of these “greatest” Super Bowl ads?

Nostalgia works, because millennials have a stronger affinity to the sentiment than previous generations. Nostalgia not only evokes better times and a sense of belonging, but also makes younger consumers feel more fashionable. This is not a new tool but perhaps it is a forgotten one. With a majority of the game’s viewers being millennials and the rest being Generation X and baby boomers, advertisers should go back to trends that produced buzz and printed t-shirts. Many viewers tune in for the best TV commercials because this is the one time people want to watch commercials.

However, with the current trend of advertisements becoming less like entertainment and encouragement, and more like sleep aid alternatives, companies may only have another year or two to turn it around. The NFL and CBS should also be concerned because unless there is a change in commercial concepts, viewers may turn the channel to alternatives during a break, like the Puppy Bowl instead of watching the commercials. This will decrease viewer data and make the There is a new trend that is successful: the greater cause. Colgate’s commercial about
“Every Drop Counts” sends the message to preserve water by brushing your teeth with the water off.

Last year, “Like a girl” was a big hit amongst viewers because it empowered women instead of objectifying them.

Coca Cola is one of the largest, most consistent companies to “Share Love. Share a Smile. Share a Coke.” Coke entertains viewers with graphics (including turning bottles of Coke in a vending machine into an animated world) and plays on heart strings.

Who could forget about the polar bears.

The past few Super Bowls have been accompanied by more and more disappointing commercials with only a handful of good ones. Formerly known as the greatest commercials of the year, are beginning to lose their touch…quickly. Millennials are nostalgic with many things and maybe advertisers should follow their lead in remembering “the good ol days.”

Dua, Tanya. “Why Millennials Are Afflicted with ‘early-onset Nostalgia’ – Digiday.” Digiday. Digiday, 14 June 2015. Web. 9 Feb. 2016.

Marans, Daniel. “Why Some Top Companies Decided Super Bowl Ads Aren’t Worth It.” Huffington Post. HuffPost Sports, 5 Feb. 2016. Web. 9 Feb. 2016.

Spies-Gans, Juliet. “Millennials Are Watching The Super Bowl For The Commercials, Not The Game.” Huffington Post. HuffPost Sports, 4 Feb. 2016. Web. 9 Feb. 2016.

Videos belong to their respective owners as found on YouTube. Clips belong to rightful owners and companies, Indicia does not claim to have any ownership in the video or the content therein.

How to Tell a Good (Brand) Story

Good brands tell stories. In order for your product or service to remain at top of mind, the stories you tell must not only be relevant to, but also connect emotionally with, its target audience. It turns out that telling an effective story involves knowing how people think.

Daniel Kahneman Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman is a renowned psychologist, whose work has earned him a Nobel Prize in economics. In his book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” he examines how our minds work, observing that we think in two modes. We are “fast” thinkers most of the time, making quick, intuitive judgments and rapid-fire decisions based on minimal amounts of information. The “slow” thinking part of our brain, however, is more thoughtful and rational, and is responsible for memory. Based on his research, using the following tactics will allow you to develop a more memorable narrative for your brand:

1. Use simple language that anyone can understand.

Resist the urge to include a lot of technical jargon and acronyms. Using a lot of big words will not only make people feel as though they are being talked down to, it is a signal of poor intelligence and questionable credibility.

2. Don’t get lost in the details.

Having a lot of numbers or facts to back up your argument might be good for a dissertation or court argument, but not if you are trying to sell your brand. “The amount and quality of the data on which the story is based are largely irrelevant,” says Kahneman.

3. Don’t focus on length, focus on key points and the ending.

We typically don’t remember everything we read, but we can recall key points and the conclusions reached if a story is well written. Pacing the story so that highlighted information is sprinkled throughout the content, and then ending with a strong argument, will help keep the key benefits of your product or service at top of mind for your customers.

4. Color is key—especially for key information.

According to research, bright blue and red are more believable to readers. Using color can highlight important information that you want readers to remember about the brand. Avoid using green, yellow, or pale blue—they are harder to read.

5. Stories are most memorable when they use good prose.

Verses that rhyme or incorporate alliteration are easier to remember. Think of all the jingles from television commercials that get stuck in your head. Although they are annoying, you have a tendency to remember the product or brand that they are for.


The tactics above will help shape the perception of your brand in the mind of customers. For more thoughts about the importance of telling good brand stories, please see some of my other posts, such as “How to Make Customers Love Your Brand”, and “Successful Brands Tell Stories”.


By: Ryan Hembree, Principal, Brand & Creative Strategy


5 Steps to Win the Naming Game


5 Steps to Winning the Naming GameNaming a product, service, or company is not an easy task—not only must you find a name that is appropriate, but you need to make sure that no one else is using it. It must be possible to get a website address (preferably a “.com”), that is as close to the brand name as possible, so that customers can find you online. Finally, it must be possible to legally protect the name and brand.

So how does one win the naming game? Following the five steps below will help:

  1. Avoid generic words, terms, or phrases.

Names that use generic words such as “elite,” “premier,” or “quality” are ubiquitous. Everybody says their product or service is the best, so customers are therefore skeptical of those claims. Likewise, patriotic terms used to stress the idea of your product or service being “made in America,” such as “United,” “Freedom,” or “American” are hard to protect legally.

  1. Be specific to the industry that you are in.

Names that give customers an idea of what type of product or service you provide, without being too literal, can be effective. Just like you wouldn’t want a pink or baby blue logo for a construction company, you want a name that is appropriate for customer expectations and perceptions of the industry.

  1. Do a quick online search to see if there are other names like it on the market

One of the fastest ways to find out if the brilliant name you have come up with is already being used is to perform a Google search. Simply type the name and see what comes up. If there are too many companies with that same name, or there is not a website address that is close to the name, try other ideas. Since most web browsers (and customers) will automatically add the suffix “.com” to any web search, avoid the temptation to use a “.biz,” “.org” or any other domain suffix.

  1. Contact an I.P. attorney to help you register the name.

Being able to protect your brand is important to running your business. You do not want other people in the same industry or geographic area using your name. Registering the name at a State and National level helps protect the name and brand.

According to Cheryl Burbach of Hovey Williams LP (as quoted in the August 14, 2015 Kansas City Business Journal, “The two most important aspects are whether the marks [and names] are similar in appearance and sound, and are the goods and services related. Because if they’re not related, there could be multiple trademark owners of the same trademark, but consumers won’t be confused because the goods are so different.”

  1. Keep it Simple.

Names that are short and with fewer syllables are easier to remember. It is possible to use a shortened name for your logo or brand mark (legally, all that is required is for the complete business name to appear somewhere on the letterhead or business cards; it could be in tiny print or off in the margins). If names are unusual (think “Indicia”), they also are more likely to be remembered. Finally, avoid the “law firm” approach to naming; either using all partners’ last names or abbreviating the name to an alphabet soup of letters is ineffective.

Following these five steps for choosing a brand name can help your product or service win the Name Game, as well as the hearts and minds of customers. Of course, we still recommend consulting with an I.P. attorney prior to doing any kind of marketing or creative work for the brand—at which time we would love the opportunity to work with you!


By: Ryan Hembree, Principal, Brand & Creative Strategy

Google Gets a New G

On September 1st, Google unveiled a new brand identity for its family of products and services. You may not have noticed, since the changes are relatively subtle, but for brand geeks like me, however, Google’s new brand is big news.

The Google Logo before and after September 1, 2015.

The new Google logo has been updated with a modern sans-serif typeface that is more clean and professional looking. The essence of the logo is the same… it utilizes the same color scheme, and when used for different products, the same recognizable icons. On first glance, it might be easy to miss the changes; after all, you use their search and communication tools to find information you are looking for, not paying attention to the logo. In this way, the new brand is not too distracting.

new Google G iconWhere the new Google brand becomes more apparent is in its application to the various products and services offered. GoogleMaps is probably the application that I use most behind search, and gone is the lowercase “g” that signified it. Replacing it is a much stronger and bolder “G” that is more pronounced, especially in the icon form.

While reaction to the new logo family has been mixed (an article by Sarah Larson in the New Yorker pans it as being untrustworthy and inauthentic), I for one think that it is a smart move. The reason why is simple: consistency of the brand across all media and applications.

Good Brands are designed with scalability in mind. At small sizes the lowercase g becomes illegible and resembles the number 8.

As we wear more smartwatches and other wearable devices with smaller and smaller screens, the old serif-based logo doesn’t work as well as the new uppercase “G.” And this fact, according to Google’s official blog, is exactly why they made the change:
“These days, people interact with Google products across many different platforms, apps and devices—sometimes all in a single day.…[and the new logo] reflects this reality and shows you when the Google magic is working for you, even on the tiniest screens.”

Google did not undertake a rebrand lightly. It was not because they felt like it was time for a change, or that they felt it was out of date. It was the result of the direction in which business is heading…and that path leads to smaller and more prevalent screens. The brand must work not only on desktop computers, tablets, and phones, but soon it will need to work in much smaller applications as well. The new Google brand is able to do just that.

By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand & Creative Strategy

Nest’s Next Big Thing? Water Conservation in the home

Nest's Next Big Thing? Water Conservation in the Home


Did Tony Fadell (the founder and inventor of the Nest Thermostat) tip his hand when he recently wrote a story on the future of the Internet for the Wall Street Journal? In the article he discusses how humanity will all be connected, the devices we use will be connected (augmented reality), and that all of the data that exists will be cultivated and turned into more useful information that we can act upon.


According to Mr. Fadell in the article, “there’s plenty of data to pinpoint exactly how much water we use and what we use it for. But most of that information isn’t delivered to us in a way that makes it easy to use less. In the future, information will serve us better, allowing us to learn more about our behavior and see how we can improve.”


Nest Thermostat


Has Mr. Fadell offered us a glimpse into what is going on behind the scenes at the notoriously secretive Nest Labs (part of Google)? Is the next Nest product a device to monitor and inform us how much water we use at home? My bet is that it is.


Let’s just pretend for a moment that Nest is creating a “Nest Conserve” if you will. The name would make sense, as the Nest smoke and carbon dioxide detector is called the “Protect.” But where would it go within the home? What could it look like? Would it be a large device for our hot water heaters, or smaller gadgets that attach to the various faucets within the home?


Nest Protect


In my opinion, the thing that seems to make the most sense is that the Nest Conserve would address the biggest water uses people have: Irrigation (as would be necessary in California where there has been a substantial water shortage); Personal use (whether cooking, cleaning, flushing toilets, showering, etc.); and Appliance usage (dishwashers and laundry machines are the biggest culprits).


Imagine being able to know exactly how much water you use each day, and where you use it most? I would love a way to show my 8-year old daughter how much water she wastes when she takes a 20 minute shower (I mean really, how could such a little person take so long to clean? But I digress). I think the biggest problem with water usage is that people just don’t know how much they use. If they did, maybe they would use less.


I, for one, would welcome a Nest Conserve (or whatever they would call it). I have three of the Nest Protect smoke/CO2 detectors and have a couple of thermostats at my office. Nest has made complex devices simpler to use, and connected them in a way that makes it easy to understand the data. And that (understanding data to make more informed changes in behavior) is exactly what Mr. Fadell’s calls for in his article on the future.


By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand & Creative Strategy

Stop Talking, Start Listening: 5 Ways to Better Hear what Customers Want

Is Your Brand's Message Getting Through


Shhh. Can you hear that? Your customers are out there, talking to you, telling you what they want you to sell them. But can you hear them, or are you too busy talking?


The average adult uses 40,000 words per day, or five hours of continuous talking. Most brands do the same thing—they are never quiet long enough to find out about their customers’ needs, pain points, desires, hopes, or dreams.


Traditionally, advertising has encouraged bombarding potential customers with generic messages. Repetition is the name of the game—and while it is true that it may take 7 times of hearing a message before customers will pay attention, the truth of the matter is that they simply don’t care about your product or service. They are too overwhelmed in their daily lives and simply cannot pay attention. What’s worse, because they hear so many competing advertisers shouting at the top of their lungs, each one vying for attention, they have simply tuned everyone out.


Marketers will tell you that you must be more focused. By selecting a handful of your existing and most profitable customers, this approach takes a more laser-beam approach to communicating your product, service, or company’s message. It’s true that marketing is more effective, but the problem is that you are still talking over your customers (and sometimes even down to them), and not listening to what they really need. It pays to listen.


Some of the ways in which companies and brands can listen—really listen—to their customers is through the use of the following tactics.


1. Observe customers while they are purchasing or using your product or service. Where do they buy it? How do they buy? How are they using it?


2. Observe the other brands that are around your product or service. Certain types of retailers will cluster around each other because their target audiences are similar. What are the messages they are using to communicate?


3. Find out what customers are reading. No matter how niche a market you have, odds are you will find a few magazines that appeal to your target market where you can discover trends that are affecting them, as well as imagery and messaging that appeals to them. These publications already do a great amount of research into your target market, so why not use that to your advantage?


4. Send Surveys to find out what customers think. This can be done with prospective customers to find out what they are really looking for, or as a follow up to a previous purchase in order to find out how you can do better at providing the product or service.


5. Engage a third-party person or company to call and interview current and former customers about their perceptions and experiences using your brand. Their time is valuable, so keep these calls short, and ask no more than 5–6 questions. Open-ended questions will provide insight into their true thoughts, feelings and motivations, as well as spur further discussion.


By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand & Creative Strategy