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The corporate image.

Eroding customer loyalty forces companies to focus on identity and image--with new and old tools.

It used to be that corporations interested in building a new image--or upgrading the old image--could go to their ad agency, rework the logo and update the advertising slogan.

No more. Eroding brand loyalty and interest-group politics have forced corporations interested in refurbishing their image to embark on sophisticated campaigns involving public relations, product and image advertising and new sales and marketing materials. Increasingly, video is becoming a major tool for corporate image and identity campaigns, and interactive computer-driven video may well be the wave of the future for corporate image.

"When a corporation sets out to change an image, that's a very big thing to do," says David Smith of Creative Street, an Indianapolis corporate communications firm. "It takes a lot of integrated activities with a long-range plan."

Image work is much more than just running an ad campaign, he continues. "It's saying, 'how do we want to be seen in the marketplace?' If you have a product in the marketplace, you have an image, whether you know it or not. Image is part of and should be part of everything that you do, every communication that there is. It's something that should permeate your culture."

"Every piece of communication to the consumer out there should be orchestrated, so it all speaks with the same tone of voice," agrees Al Samuelson, director of creative services at Keller-Crescent Co. in Evansville. Changes should be made with great care, he adds. "The company already has been in business and has an image in place, and presumably it's working even if it's not up to full speed. You have to take into consideration the past and incorporate it into the future."

"Clients today are looking for a presentation that concisely captures the uniqueness of their corporate personality, mission and vision," says Joe Ellsworth, founder and president of Rainbow Productions in Evansville. Ellsworth, a veteran of public and commercial television, was a documentary filmmaker before starting Rainbow in 1981. Today, the video-production house has 12 people on staff.

"The didactic approach is dying," Ellsworth says, adding that Rainbow does corporate image work for a number of clients, including Alcoa, Atlas Van Lines, Motorola and American General Finance. "The image presentation should be woven into a story that becomes part of corporate lore. Video effects for their own sake are passe, and strong concepts and writing are more important than ever."

Vaughn Hickman, a 25-year veteran of the Indianapolis advertising-agency scene, cautions that corporate identity and corporate image "are not one and the same, although they're frequently referred to as such."

Hickman, president of Indianapolis-based KDH Communications, a 10-person shop, describes corporate identity as "a collection of all visual communications material that targets internal and external publics." Good corporate identity, examples of which include RCA's Nipper, McDonald's golden arches and the big blue initials of IBM, is "planned, memorable and reflective," he says.

Corporate image is more subtle. Hickman describes it as "the idea of someone or something held by those internal and external publics. Unlike corporate identity, image is intangible and involves subjective, individual perspective. Image is how people feel, and the confusion can be minimized if one views corporate identity as the tangible expression of an intangible corporate image."

One campaign that Hickman worked on was the introduction of the Olive Garden Italian restaurant to the Indianapolis market. The chain restaurant's owners, General Mills of Minneapolis, wanted to position the restaurant as a fun, family restaurant that would be a good corporate citizen in the community. Hickman's strategy was to create and reinforce the image through a proactive, highly localized media-relations program, charity sponsorships and educational programs.

Today, Olive Garden is perceived as a neighborhood Italian restaurant at its 13 Hoosier locations. Guest counts for the state are consistently in the upper national percentiles.

Public perception also was an issue that concerned Showbiz Pizza, a Keller-Crescent client. The agency helped the restaurant chain promote itself more as an entertainment venue than a pizza place. While it serves pizza, the majority of its customers visit more because of its games, rides and shows, and that is what the chain's current marketing focuses on.

"It's a place--as the ad says--'where a kid can be a kid,'" Samuelson says. "That defines what the experience is." One side benefit of the entertainment-spot image is that Showbiz hasn't had to participate in the fierce pizza price battle involving chains such as Little Ceasar's, Pizza Hut and Domino's. It may cost a bit more to eat at Showbiz, but customers feel it's worth the cost because of the entertainment value that the image campaign promotes.

Erosion of brand loyalty is driving much of the new emphasis on image and identity in corporate advertising. "Brands are attempting to hold onto their customers," explains Mike Griffin, president of Griffin & Boyle in Chesterton. A full-service agency with 30 employees and $12 million to $15 million in annual billings, Griffin & Boyle works with numerous clients in Northern Indiana and Chicago, including the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Cubs, NIPSCO Industries and USX.

"There's a tendency to believe that so many companies have spent so much money to promote products that the mentality has been to get the product into the consumer's hands, and they'll buy it," Griffin says. "That second part is not necessarily true."

Griffin notes that as a backlash to conventional wisdom, "clients are looking at re-establishing their image in the marketplace. We call it an image-bank concept."

Griffin thinks agencies will be involved in a great deal more image and identity advertising in the next several years. "They have to do something a little bit different," he adds. "For example, our job is to convince people they're making the right decision when they buy the Chicago Tribune. Companies are finding competition so tight that they have to do image and identity campaigns. Brand erosion means a constant battle to create and maintain customers."

Like the rest of Americans, Hoosiers are part of the MTV generation. Increasingly, people are getting their information from the visual medium, and corporations have been quick to adapt to the new technologies.

"About 80 percent of our business is corporate," says Kim Sanders of Sanders & Co. in Indianapolis. A full-service video production house, Sanders has 25 people on staff and handles video production, interactive video and multimedia presentations.

"We've done a boat load of stuff," Sanders says. "We've done a lot of work for Eli Lilly. We helped them introduce Lorabid. Right now, we're working with the Simons on the Circle Centre Mall."

Laura Boyle, an account executive with Telematrix, another Indianapolis-based video production house, says her firm is also primarily corporate in its focus. Telematrix is increasingly branching into interactive video. "It's a new medium that will attract attention," Boyle explains. "We can do a marketing piece with an image piece built in, plus a customer survey."

The interactive video allows potential customers to answer questions posed by the video, and tracks the responses by computer. Telematrix is currently putting together a gas-awareness interactive video for Citizens Gas & Coke Utility in Indianapolis.

The interactive video "will ask the viewer questions about gas use throughout,"

Boyle says. "Everything that they respond to gives us information for fine-tuning the campaign."

Rob Cowin, director of marketing for The Production Studio in Fort Wayne, notes that when his clients use video for image and identity, "you're not selling anything. You're positioning yourself in the marketplace."

Cowin calls image videos "the communications links to past customers and to potential customers." He notes that The Production Studio does periodic video updates for Lincoln National Life Insurance Co., and one recent video for Advanced Machine & Tool was translated into four languages.

Cowin cautions that the cost of doing video covers a wide range. "We never dictate to corporations how much to spend," he says. "It's the story we write about them that makes a viewer feel good about that company." He adds that costs for a six-to eight-minute video can run anywhere from $2,500 to $30,000.

One Indianapolis client that has increasingly augmented its image and identity with video productions in recent years is St. Vincent Hospitals & Health Services. Marty Rugh, director of marketing and corporate communications for the hospital, has a complete audio-visual division reporting to her, including still photographers, videographers and medical illustrators. Her department also handles the hospital's internal television station and teleconferencing facilities. The hospital works closely with Sanders & Co. on video productions.

One special video project is dubbed "Care 2001," and it concerns the complexities of medical care today. "We used a real strong visual," she says, "and we took that show on the road, mostly for health professionals."

Rugh adds that St. Vincent is beginning to explore the use of interactive video, initially for a pilot program in the hospital's surgery department. Plans are in the works to install 25 monitors in an interactive room on the hospital's ground floor.

The Humana hospital corporation in Louisville also used video to affect its image, with the help of Creative Street. "They felt they had an image that was high-tech, but not necessarily warm enough," says Smith. "We decided we needed to add high-touch to high-tech. We tried to help them by giving them a face." Creative Street produced half-hour videos that focused on the people of Humana and the care they provide.

The Indianapolis company was called upon again to help Humana respond to an ABC-TV newsmagazine story that portrayed the company in a bad light. Creative Street came back with advertisements that were a natural extension of the warm, human image their earlier videos had conveyed. "We located success stories that they had with patients," Smith says. "We did slice-of-life vignettes that ran throughout all of their markets. It really caught fire and began to work for them."

Given the technological revolution that has led to interactive video and computer graphics, there still seems to be a place for some of the old standbys when it comes to image and identity.

Corporations still have the need to avail themselves of the more mundane image and identity services like updating logos and slogans. And that's where the importance of research comes in.

"We have to research competitive logos and identities, styles, colors and the like," says Ronald Jackson of Communico, with offices in Indianapolis and Elkhart. "And a lot of times, clients don't think that's important."

Jackson, whose agency has annual billings of more than $25 million, says he starts with research when a client wants to update a logo. That can involve sifting through dozens of marks and typefaces and presenting the results to the client. "You've got to talk to a client to find out what they like and dislike. It's just like fitting them with a suit of clothes."

Jackson says his firm has done "hundreds and hundreds of logos." He adds that the cost can run anywhere from $1,000 to $40,000, and the process can last from a few months to a year. Once the logo is selected, then it has to be applied to myriad usages, like signage, forms and stationery.

Thom Villing of Villing & Co., a $5 million full-service agency with 13 employees in Mishawaka, notes that a logo upgrade "creates a public-relations opportunity, too. We've dealt with a number of clients on logo design, and when they do go through a name change, we also handle the PR side."

Corporate image and identity also create a need for other sophisticated agency services. Erik Johnson of Indianapolis-based Borshoff Johnson & Co. specializes in strategic counseling for corporate clients interested in polishing their image.

"It's what we enjoy the most," says Johnson, a partner with Myra Borshoff in an agency employing 15. "We're working with a firm right now to rebuild their relations in the community."

One Hoosier firm with a national clientele is Evansville-based Fire House. The 2-and-a-half-year-old agency also has offices in Princeton, N.J. and Atlanta, Ga. According to agency executive Ronald Bonger, Fire House is primarily a pharmaceutical agency focusing on marketing communications. The firm's main client is Bristol-Myers.

"We are extensively involved in products," Bonger says. At a time when pharmaceutical products are under increasing fire for pricing, image and identity become all-important. "We play up the benefits of the products and do a cost analysis," Bonger says. "We show how the product doesn't really cost as much as the public thinks it does."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Curtis Magazine Group, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:image-building services to Indiana firms by video service companies
Author:Beck, Bill
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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