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How a brand warrior feels

How a brand warrior feels

Be grateful I’m not calling myself a ‘brand guru’. I’m not, and don’t profess to be.    However, I wear my ‘brand warrior’ hat with pride.

Where did this brand thing start?

In the early days of proofreading, my biggest client was Microsoft. The marketing manager hired me to get consistency across all channels: print advertising, digital, sales brochures, case studies, white papers and anything else they had going. Much of the copy came straight from the USA and part of my job was to make it more Australian in tone and spelling.

My second-biggest client was Adobe (mainly digital, via MercerBell) and then came American Express (sales letters, print advertising and in-house training manuals), MasterCard (MercerBell again) and Telstra, to name a few.

All of the above brands are rigorous about protecting their trademark, especially on their products. I spent time getting to know the brands and trademarks as soon as I started working on their product or service.

So where does ‘brand warrior’ come into the picture?
I’ve been working on the Microsoft brand (not with the same comprehensive brief as when I started) for longer than have most of the product managers. If there’s a dispute about a trademark use, I’m often the go-to person. Although I don’t work for some of the brands any more, I am still working on their behalf. If I’m proofing, for example, a piece of copy for a client and the copy mentions ‘an excel spreadsheet’, I’ll change it to the correct “Microsoft® Office Excel® spreadsheet’. Same goes for ‘your flash file’. That gets upgraded to ‘Adobe® Flash® file’.

Why bother?
By doing this, I’m not only helping clients and former clients protect their brands, but also, I’m making sure that my current client doesn’t get reprimanded for incorrect use of a product or brand name. I don’t get paid by Microsoft or Adobe but, in my mind, all my clients are once and future clients so I need them to be successful. Part of that is helping them to protect their brand, product or service.

My diligence also shows my current client that I’m serious about brand values and they can trust me with their own brand.

How do you manage brands? Are you still loyal to past clients? I’d love to hear how you manage.

If you’d like me to make sure that your brand is presented in the way it’s supposed to be, please contact me.

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The year was 1994 and it was a Saturday morning. I was happily reading the weekend papers and had skipped to the weekend magazine. A major airline had a double-page spread that read:

Left-hand page: [airline] flies to [xx] destintions in [xx] countries. (26 pt)

Right-hand page: [Country’s] favourite airline. (110 pt)

I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I had a friend who worked on that particular account.

The following Monday, I called him to confirm that the agency still had the airline account.
Him: “Yes, we do.”
Me: “Maybe not for much longer. Have you seen the weekend magazine ad?”

My friend said that the art director had come to him about this ad, saying it didn’t look right. He saw immediately that the tag line was missing the possessive apostrophe…but everyone, including the client, missed the ‘a’ in ‘destinations’.

On the strength of that pick-up, I got an introduction to the head of direct marketing. (I wrote letters…this is back in the days before email…to all the senior agency people who worked on that account but only the DM manager got in touch.)

We decided that, as I didn’t have formal experience, the agency would give me a trial. My first job was to proof all three frequent flyer brochures, check for typos and that we had all our Bronze, Silver and Gold references in the right brochure. Luckily for me, there were several errors so the art director and the copywriter understood that I could be useful and not a threat.

The rest, as they say, is history. I can trace every job I’ve ever had to that first engagement. As people changed agencies, or formed their own, they’d take me along. The DM manager left to form his own agency, as did the art director. Those agencies win awards regularly and I still work for them both occasionally.

What happened to the airline account and the agency? Well, not too long afterwards, the agency lost the account, along with three other major accounts, and then imploded. It was taken over by an international agency and limps along. Today I checked their website, only to see “gloriously purile” as a tag line for one client. Another ad is a direct copy of an ad created for a similar client by the agency for which I worked back in the 1980s.

A good proofreader does so much more than pick up a typo or three. As a proofreader, I regard myself more as a quality controller. When I proofread a document, I work with my editor hat on as well. Not only do I look for the obvious, but also, I check all the links, check spellings of personal and company names and make sure that everything makes sense. With my brand warrior hat, I make sure we use the appropriate trademarks (particularly important for major brands such as Microsoft, MasterCard and Adobe, all of whom I’ve worked for in the past). With my copywriting hat on, I optimise copy for search engines and offer alternative copy if I think it’s warranted.

The arrogance of the agency with the airline account led to their downfall. I’m not saying I could have stopped the rot, just that the lack of interest in my services was indicative of their lack of understanding of quality control.

How did you get your first proofreading or editing job? Do you still have relationships with colleagues from back then?

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