Life Imitates Art, Imitating Life

Mad Men Heinz Blog Thumb

Where the line between what is and isn’t real on TV, the internet, and especially in advertising, has been blurred beyond recognition, we’ve finally come full circle. It’s hard to believe that it took this long for such an occurrence to take place. But low and behold, it finally has. And in the most glorious of ways.

Last week, the advertising world took an interesting turn when Heinz, the classic condiment connoisseurs, chose to run an ad campaign echoed practically verbatim from a fake ad campaign created for a TV drama. In what seems to be a half marketing/half PR stunt, Heinz proposed their latest marketing effort: a series of ads originally pitched on an episode of the show Mad Men.

While we (of course) have to admit it isn’t really at all that far-fetched, it is indeed, a fantastic example of life imitating art, imitating life. In 2007, AMC introduced us to the world of advertising as it was perceived in the 1960’s. It wasn’t just a drama, it was an in-depth look into what was the burgeoning world of Madison Avenue in its heyday. Though while the companies were real, the ad pitches were merely script.

For those who watched the show, they’re sure to remember the infamous pitch presented by Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce darling Don Draper. He and artist Stan Rizzo boldly suggested a campaign in which the product they’re selling is never shown.

Pass the Heinz Ad
Heinz/David Agency

The spots featured close-ups of french fries, a cheeseburger, and a cut of steak against a simple white background adorned with the phrase “Pass the Heinz.” It was one of many very good ad campaigns the show presented not from the actual history of advertising, but rather from the minds of the show’s writers.

While the fictional Heinz execs from the days of yore initially passed on the campaign, the more open minded real execs of today are finally running with it nearly 50 years after Draper’s initial presentation would’ve taken place.

David Miami, who currently represents Heinz, pitched the idea with a clever marketing ploy – accrediting the original founders of the SCDP advertising firm, as well as Mad Men writers Matthew Weiner and Erin Levy. They can be seen in the campaign credits provided to Adweek (who originally reported the story), cleverly presented in vintage typewritten copy as they might have been in 1968.

The campaign is sure to be a hit with Mad Men fans, who’s premiere will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary this summer.

The ads can currently be seen on billboards in Times Square, Vanity Fair, The New York Post, and, much to the chagrin of Mad Men purists, social media. Your move, art.

Pass the Heinz Cheeseburger
Heinz/David Agency
Pass the Heinz Steak
Heinz/David Agency

The Courage to Create Is a Beacon of Hope


In a time when hate sometimes seems more evident than kindness, it’s important to cherish the moments light is greater than darkness in your community.

For Paducah, KY, last month that light was shown through unity in a common goal: to build a

To create this jungle gym for growth, something had to happen.


Someone had to have the courage to create; to look at a blank lot and imagine what it could be. Imagine how it could benefit a neighborhood and unify a community.

The Rotary Club of Paducah alongside the City of Paducah came together and had the courage to imagine the possibilities and take action to create.

To create something, to inspire, to simply play… that takes courage. Why? Because it makes you vulnerable. You’re setting yourself up for possible failure or great triumph.

And great triumph was what this city saw when it came together.

In one week, more than 1,700 volunteers from Paducah and the surrounding area united on this one lot to create, so local kids could have a safe place to simply have fun.

“We only had days with all of the volunteers, with all of the materials here…We had to make it happen in that window of time and we did,” John Williams, Jr., former president of the Paducah Rotary Club, said.

This newly built playground provides kids from three different neighborhoods a place to play. But, unbeknownst to them, they’re developing skills. They’re learning how to appreciate the outdoors, they’re being challenged by their peers to use their imagination, and they’re learning how to interact with one another.

“The lesson here is that we can do this. We can come together for big, positive, forward looking things,” Williams said.

It could have stayed an empty lot. It could be filled with overgrown weeds right in the heart of the city. But, instead, those with Paducah pride stepped forward, came together as one for a common goal: building a beautiful park for the next generation.

Let this one instance of courage propel us forward to continue showing kindness, and being the instigators of innovation and change.

This event was more than building a playground. It was about building up a community, becoming an inspiration to all those with big ideas for making our city remarkable.

What will it take for Paducah, KY to be remarkable? What will it take for your business to be

To participate in the continuous process of innovation and growth. Never allowing ourselves to feel too old to have a little fun playing. Let’s be willing to play which is simply a free mind in motion, propelling us forward to create something worth remarking about.

Let our courage to create be the beacon of hope we all need to see.

**Innovations Branding House was proud to partner with the Rotary Club of Paducah on this community project.  At Innovations we love to play; feeding our creativity and encouraging each other’s innovative thinking. Partnering with Rotary on this project was just a way for us to help our community do the same. This is the culture we’ve cultivated because we know that’s the process for growth, both personally and in business.

NCAA Tournament: Bracket by Brand


It is that time of year when sports lovers are treated to non-stop games for 12 hour stretches, and the dreams of hundreds of college athletes and fans come to courts across the country.

Equally as exciting for the rest of the population is the opportunity to fill out a bracket and prove their prowess in predictability.

Many offices hold bracket contests as team building exercises and bragging-right opportunities. But, we, at Innovations Branding House, do not.

Most of us are not really sports people. But there are a few in the office who live for the gauntlet run that is basketball in March.

With a little convincing, we eventually all joined in and made some blind selections based on whatever criteria we deemed fit:

-mascot names

-coin flips

-school colors

-whichever was easier to write

Basically, anything goes.

That led to this thought: How would your brand rank on a tournament bracket?

The Credentials

A lot of times, your potential customers are going to make their decision based on perception alone. They may choose, or not choose, your business after just visiting your website or scrolling through your reviews on Facebook.

While their decisions may not be well informed, that first impression really can be a deal breaker when they weigh their options.

So how do you begin to analyze a sports team by their brand? The first thing I would consider would be their identity and reputation. Does the team stand out? And why? A high academic rating would be a positive. Being known for a scandal would be a negative.

How do they look? Is their logo recognizable and synonymous with their identity? Do their colors complement their image? Universities are brands when you think about it. Their primary goal is to attract students (business) and put out the best possible product (education).

We applied this train of thought to the teams playing in the tournament, weighing heavily on brand equity as perceived by the (probably biased) members of the office.


How Does Your Brand Matchup?

A potential customer may apply the same type of analysis when they are looking for a product or service. It is important to ask yourself, “How do I stack up against my competition?”

Is your message clear and cohesive? Is your website functional and informative? Is your logo recognizable? Do your marketing efforts tie these things together?

These questions are important to consider because they will be the questions your potential customers will subconsciously ask themselves when they weigh you against your competition.

When attracting new customers, this will be all they have to go on to make their decision. And sometimes, that’s all it takes to make someone choose a 16 seed over a 1 seed.


Who Did We Choose?  Our Four Finalists:

The University of Kansas: The Jayhawks took the top spot in their corner of the bracket. Their iconic “Jayhawk” logo is easily recognizable and has been their mascot since the early 1900s. Their current logo has been in use since 1946, and there is absolutely no reason to change it.

Yale University: As far as collegiate reputations go, it’s hard to top Yale. The Ivy League school founded in 1701 is instinctively referred to as one of the top schools for academics. So, you could say they have a reputation. They also have their own typeface.

Michigan State University: Their green “Sparty” logo is simple, yet dynamic. The same can be said for their official tagline “Spartans Will,” which they say “communicates our value and purpose in a common language.” They also have an entire website dedicated to the MSU brand.

University of Kentucky: The Wildcats of the Bluegrass State have a rich and successful athletic history dating back to the Civil War.  And while “Kentucky Blue” isn’t an official color, it is the official blood type of their strong and loyal following, which can be seen via their many, many, many, fansites.


How far would your brand go?

Workplace Culture Must Be Intentional



Fact: Low levels of employee satisfaction negatively affect business growth and a business’ ability to attract top-tier talent.

Fact: Companies can promote high levels of employee satisfaction by nurturing a healthy workplace culture.

Fact: Cultivating a positive workplace culture takes work.

Fact: Therefore, workplace culture must be intentional.


The Public Likes Transparency

Businesses are no longer exclusively marketing the products and services they sell.

While products and services are obviously still vital, the number of companies selling those same commodities has skyrocketed.

So how do customers choose from their numerous options? Customers choose companies based on the intangibles – the quality of relationship a company is willing to build with them.

Customers and clients want to put a face to a brand, and then get to know those faces.

And who are the faces of those relationships and your brand? Your employees.

Clients want to see happy employees. They want to see people who enjoy their work and find it meaningful.

If a customer perceives that an employee isn’t happy in their role, then the customer may start to think that working with your company won’t be such a joyride, either.


Job Seekers Seek a Healthy Work Culture

People want to like their coworkers and jobs. Healthy work relationships go a long way toward overall work satisfaction.

You can’t put a price on happiness and job satisfaction. You can’t calculate the ROI of happy employees.

Perspective employees may even go so far as to decline a job because of the perceived company culture or lack thereof.

A positive work culture is tough to fake, and it’s rarely accidental.


Company Culture is Vital to Retaining Clients and Talent

While creating a company culture takes work, it’s not impossible.

  1. Provide opportunities for growth up and over. Does one of your technicians want to try out sales? Let him try it out for a one day a week.

How often do your employees talk to one another? How often do you talk to your employees? Are any of those conversations on non-work-related topics?

If no one is talking to each other naturally, how efficient do you think essential work communication is?

  1. Provide opportunities for a little bit of camaraderie.

Your employees are your most valuable assets. Even the most upbeat of your staff can be worn down by working day in and day out in a negative environment.

  1. Most importantly, listen to your employees – both to what they’re saying and to what they’re not saying. People perform best when they understand the point of what they’re doing and how their work helps reach specific, company goals.

Be perceptive of those intangibles.


Workplace culture must be intentional. Owners and management need to constantly evaluate their team’s dynamic and be on the lookout for ways to continually improve it.

Company culture leads to company growth, and neither one is accidental. Grow your business on purpose.


Innovations Turns 15



We wouldn’t say that Innovations is old … It’s experienced.

We have seen a lot throughout our decade and a half of practice, and as a result our company has grown and bettered itself every day.

But why does it even matter?

We’ve Seen Ghosts of Businesses Past

We were in business through the downfalls of iconic brands such as Circuit City and Hummer.

In 2007, Circuit City fired 3,400 of its highest paid employees. While that decision isn’t the sole reason Circuit City is no longer around, it certainly played its part.

Hummer vehicles boasted a trendy appearance and a horrifying 10 miles to the gallon. By 2010, the brand proved that edgy looks can’t compensate for outrageous gas mileage.

Thanks to seeing these lessons unfold in real time, we remember to constantly push our own creativity, value our team and focus on building quality work for our clients.


We’ve Ridden the Tidal Wave of Technology

Since our inception coincided with the beginning of a new millennium, it’s only right that Innovations has grown up with technology.

Our company saw the creation of the Apple iPod and iPhone, and watched as VCRs and floppy disks were replaced with DVD and players and USB flash drives, and then by Blu-ray players and digital storage.

Innovations also saw the rise of social media that have shaped our current culture. We were putting in hours before anyone had ever heard of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Now, our team uses all of them daily!


Practice Makes Perfect

No, we’re not saying we’re perfect. But you get the idea. The Innovations team has the knowledge and skills to handle anything our clients throw at us.

Our company has weathered the tests of 15 years – specialty clients, technology shifts and minor scrapes included.

After 15 years, our agency is healthy and intact.

After 15 years, our team is still excited to learn about new software, technology and better ways to grow our clients’ businesses.

After 15 years, we are still the best marketing partner for your company in the business.


New Innovations Website Prompts Online Treasure Hunt!


We’ve spent weeks crafting our ideal Innovations Branding House website. With all final touches complete, the new site is ready to go live, and we’d like you to help us celebrate. Embedded within the site is a sort of online treasure hunt. Simply find the secret link, and you could receive a $100 cash prize!

Want more details? We thought you might.

Unfortunately, we can’t give away too much information.  It would only spoil the surprise. Imagine the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you finally uncover the secret!

This special link could literally be hiding anywhere within the site – on any of the web pages and under any of the images, graphics, or clickable text. Basically, if you see something to click, you might as well give it a try!

The contest begins on Tuesday, December 10, at 12:00 PM CST and ends on Thursday, December 12, at 12:00 PM CST. Once the contest ends, we’ll draw one name at random to receive $100 cash!

You have exactly 48 hours to find the secret link. We have total faith in you.

Let the search begin!

Todd Duff’s Radio Interview – Part 3: The Importance of Knowing your Consumer


Our company’s owner and CEO, Todd Duff, was recently interviewed on Bristol Broadcasting’s LifeTalk 1450 AM out of Paducah, Kentucky. If you happened to miss this event, don’t fear. We’ll be bringing you coverage of his interview throughout separate blog installments.

#3 – The Importance of Knowing Your Consumer

In the third portion of the radio show, Todd talks about the importance of understanding your customers and appealing to them. Below are a few key items from the interview.

If your business has recently gotten a bad reputation, new marketing may not be the solution. Don’t get a new logo or completely redesign your branding.  Instead, start looking inward to your company culture.  Make sure the people that you’ve employed actually want to be there. If these people enjoy what they’re doing, it’ll show to customers on the outside and make for a more positive brand image.

The marketing industry changes quickly, especially with continued advancement of technology. One thing that’s become increasingly apparent is the need for great content. Rather than screaming your generic message out to the public and interrupting people, find a way to provide more personalized value. Give the audience something that helps them while positioning your company as an expert within the industry.

Social media is a wonderful tool for all brands, but it can be especially helpful to small businesses that are struggling with their marketing presence. One thing that makes this tool so special is the two-way conversation it creates. You’re able to actually listen to consumer thoughts and respond in real time. It may take some effort on your part, but customers will definitely share their opinions and ideas. “When people know you’re listening, they’ll respond.”

Todd continues by saying that in regards to social media reach, it’s important “to have the right people looking instead of a lot of people looking”.

Learn what type of content to post by learning more about your consumers. For instance, choose five of your best customers and ask to interview them individually. Maybe even take them out to lunch. Ask each of those five people some basic lifestyle questions.

How do they typically spend the day? What are some of their pain points or daily issues? What is their first source for information?  What do they value most? From there, create some basic buyer personas that tell you more about the target audience you’re trying to reach.

You can hear the full audio version of this interview segment below.


Above is Patrick White of White Financial Group and Life Talk’s audio technician during the interview with Todd Duff.

We’d like to extend a special thank you to everyone at Life Talk 1450 AM for having Todd on the show!


Todd Duff’s Radio Interview – Part 1: About Todd

Our company’s owner and CEO, Todd Duff, was recently interviewed on Bristol Broadcasting’s LifeTalk 1450 AM out of Paducah, Kentucky. If you happened to miss this event, don’t fear. We’ll be bringing you coverage of his interview throughout separate blog installments.

#1 – About Todd

In the first portion of the radio show, Todd introduced himself, describing his background and entrepreneurial beginnings.

Todd understood the concept of capitalism even at a young age. He had the typical childhood lemonade stand, but his story goes even further. Growing up near a railroad track, Todd soon learned the effects of placing pennies on the tracks.

Each afternoon, he’d put new pennies on the railroad tracks and collect their flattened remains the following morning. When he arrived at school, he would turn a quick profit by selling the coins to classmates for 25 cents each. Teachers soon caught on to his scheme, and Todd was forced to shut down the business.  That wouldn’t dampen his spirits, though.

Acquiring both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Murray State University, Todd would later go on to teach for six years at his alma mater.  The initial concept for Innovations Branding House began approximately 14 years ago. After getting married, Todd spent his first summer going door-to-door to various businesses in Murray.

He explained to them why they needed a website. One man finally gave in and offered Todd his first website gig. There was just one problem. Todd didn’t know the first thing about constructing a website. He sought out the advice of a faculty member from Murray State’s graphic design department.

Using a computer that he and his dad built from scratch, Todd started designing websites in the back room of his apartment. Over time, he gained more experience and began to assemble a skilled team of employees. Today, Innovations Branding House helps a variety of clients by growing their businesses.

“As we go, we find clients that have more needs related to growing their business.  If it’s a need that doesn’t relate to growing their business, we kind of stay out of it.”

You can hear the full audio version of this interview segment below.

Above is Patrick White of White Financial Group and Life Talk’s audio technician during the interview with Todd Duff.

We’d like to extend a special thank you to everyone at Life Talk 1450 AM for having Todd on the show!



9 Hours of Graphic Design in 30 Seconds

The Story:

The graphic design process is usually quite fun. Having complete control to create something out of nothing is a liberating and practically unrestricted exercise for the right brain. However, just as most other things in life, it is very easy to get so close to a project that you begin to lose sight of that idea you had in your head from the start.

This happened to me a couple of weeks ago while creating a web design layout. I had nearly completed the layout, but something wasn’t quite right.

The layout had all of the elements the client had requested, so it wasn’t a matter of adding a logo design or graphics.I played with the font sizes and logo positioning, tweaked the colors, and removed things until I was basically left with a blank canvas. I tried again putting the pieces back in a different order, but to no avail. It still needed something else.

As a second-to-last ditch effort (the last being face-pounding my desk), I turned to my office compadre, John Tate. I asked him, “John, what am I missing here?!” He slowly swiveled his chair around and took a look at my screen. He studied it for about 15 seconds and casually replied, “Take the border off of that box there on top.”

He, then, turned just as slowly back around to his desk. It seemed like a disinterested response at first, but before I had time to even roll my eyes, one click of the mouse removed the border and revealed the answer. It wasn’t what was missing; it was what needed to be missing!

Pool Table

The Take Away:

It’s always great to have an extra set of eyes, to take a step back and hear an outsider’s perspective.

When you spend so much time staring deep into the monitor, moving pixels around, it’s easy to get too close and completely lose sight of the bigger picture.  Having that fresh set of eyes not only saved me from some tinkering time, but it also saved me from a broken keyboard and a forehead contusion.

If you’d like to discover more insights on the world of graphic design, pick up a free copy of our design branding kit!

Restoration of a 100-Year-Old Electric Coffee Grinder

If you know anything about our inbound marketing firm, you know that our entire team believes the coffee bean contains the lifeblood for creativity.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that when I found an old, non-functioning coffee grinder from the early 1900’s, we would restore it to its glory days and start grinding beans. This model is a Valley Electric Corp coffee grinder.

This photo shows how the machine was found. When plugged up, it would just hum with no motor rotation. The rust was very heavy on the lower brown area – so heavy that I would later have to take a side grinder and “re-shape” the metal in that spot because it was so pitted.

These original photos also helped me know where the black striping would be put back.

Here, we see the results from over an hour of grinding with a steel wire brush attached to a side grinder. YAY, lead paint! I was sure to use a full blown respirator and not just one of those “Asian Bird Flu deals“.

A few more hours of grinding…

You can see one of the worn-out wire brushes in the background of this shot.

The removed power switch from the back reveled the original paint color. I taped this off before painting the custom-mixed, red paint that would follow. This allowed me to remove the tape and see how close I was.

Lots of taping…

For painting, I used a Harbor Freight paint gun that hooks to an air compressor (20 fl. oz. HVLP Gravity Feed Spray Gun). For $14 you could literally throw it away after a project. The good news is, though, that I have run over 20 gallons through this thing in the last year, and it still works like a champ.

Once you get the hang of setting your pressure correctly, you can really cover a lot of space. This primer took 6 coats, and the old red paint base kept coming through. I just crossed my fingers and hoped the red would cover it.

This red was nowhere close to matching. It’s like candy apple meets fire engine. I mixed some black with it, and it looked better. I also did no sanding between coats, like one would do in automotive painting. It is a rough cast piece. To sand, clear coat, and polish the piece would show all the flaws in the casting and would not look authentic.

 …More taping. I eyeballed the earlier photos to determine where the black lines should go.


Three coats of black paint later and my favorite part, tape removal. It was like unwrapping a Christmas gift!

Another nice little surprise was the brass casing bolts that keep the motor in place. I also had to scrub this slide and re-shape it with a hammer to get it to function properly.

This grind adjustment dial was solid rust before polishing. Luckily, the numbers had not eroded away.

The motor was cleaned, and the shaft was wet sanded then polished to a high sheen. This allowed the adjustment knob to function properly by closing or opening the gap for coffee to fall between the burrs.

Grind testing…

And french press coffee making! Now we have one more weapon in our arsenal for caffeine intake.

If you are beginning the restoration of a classic coffee grinder like this one, don’t hesitate to email me with questions.