Graphic Jam Spreading the Word on Branding
Graphic Jam Spreading the Word on Branding is an E-Newsletter
written for Natural Products and other companies who want to know
how to make their brand matter more to the people they want to reach.
Authenticity vs Reality            Know the difference.  Your customers do.

Something truly authentic is hard to find these days, but when you do, it comes with the papers to prove it. And, there's nothing vague or uncertain about the definition:  "Genuine.  Having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence.  Verified.  Entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience.  Reliable.  Trustworthy."


Reality though is a very different animal, subject to viewpoint, and therefore much harder to define.  To get an idea, read this definition copied from Wikipedia: "Reality" could alternatively refer (1) only to what is in the present, or (2) only to what is in the present and past, or (3) only to what is in the present and future, or (4) to what is in all of the present past and future, but it is always contrasted with what is not so included, as being not real, so the term is somewhat ambiguous in its contradictory usages."   


And it only gets worse, read on.


Reality has left the building.

Right behind Elvis.  It's original meaning has been stripped and reduced to describing the lowest form of entertainment on TV today. "Reality" shows are on every channel. There is even a [Fox] Reality Channel.  MTV's current lineup contains shows titled "I used to be FAT",  "16 and Pregnant" and the ridiculously named "True Life".  Do they really expect us to believe that what we are seeing is "real" life despite the fact that the we know the cast has been auditioned, cameras and crews are always present, and the content is scripted and edited?


MTV Reality Shows 

Virtual is the new Real.

Behind the screens of our computers is the digital world, where everything is virtual. There is so much on the net, in fact, that you can expect to find anything that exists - yet the accuracy or relevance of what we do find is always in question. It's a big job sorting through all the choices to find the right person, product or service. If you Google "TJ Miller" you'll get about 2.1 million results. Change that to "Thomas" Miller and it jumps to over 37 million. Can you find me?

Reality bites.

Just ask Tiger Woods, BP or Toyota.  With Facebook, Twitter and YouTube any mistake made by a public figure or company becomes a headline in nanoseconds and quickly spreads to the millions of us who are already on the computer.  Talk about transparency, today we are all living in glass houses. 

The consumer is king.

The individual consumer, advocate or fan has total access and therefore control of public information and their perception of reality -- good/bad, real/fake, meaningful or irrelevant. Today's consumer has less to spend and little tolerance for hyped claims and ads that can't live up to their promises.

So what were the Coal Industry and KFC thinking when they launched these campaigns?......

The coal industry's reality . . . 

The nation's coal industry has spent $18 million so far on television
spots touting coal's abundance and the efforts being made to clean up
this fuel, a major emitter of the greenhouse gases that are changing the
earth's climate. The industry is working on the next wave of innovation, 
including carbon sequestration to capture carbon dioxide emissions and
prevent their release.

The trouble, environmentalists say, is that the coal industry's marketing
campaign has left Americans with the impression that such "clean coal"
technology already exists. Such a breakthrough has yet to be developed
and may never be at a cost that makes economic sense.
Coal Industry ad

And the reality of "Clean Coal"

Academy Award winners Joel and Ethan Coen, known for their grimly comic portrayals of human nature, are now poking fun at the coal industry.

The film making brothers have directed a TV spot for an environmental
coalition that's trying to demolish the notion that there's anything clean
about so-called clean coal.
Coen Brothers Reality Coalition ad
Another ad shows a worker standing in the middle of an empty desert while he shows you around the imaginary "clean coal" plant -- since no such plant exists -- a point that the cola industry should disclose in their messages to the public -- unless they are deliberately trying to mislead us.  You think?

The Reality of Deception

[highlights from Bob Garfield's blog on]

Kentucky Fried Chicken, immortalized in some of the most stunningly dishonest marketing efforts of the past 10 years, by first trying to pass off "deep fried" as "slow-cooked." Then, in what at the time seemed like the lowest of the low, it positioned its menu as health food, bringing FTC action against the chain:

"KFC ... is fully aware of our nation's struggle with obesity, yet has cynically attempted to exploit a massive health problem through deceptive advertising. Companies should not be allowed to benefit monetarily from this kind of deception, especially where the health and safety of consumers are compromised."

Now, the chain's latest outrage is a promotion with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, in which 50 cents is donated to the foundation for every special pink bucket of chicken purchased -- that is, for every 20 grams of sodium, every 2,500 calories, every 120 grams of fat in KFC's smallest pail.
KFC Pink Buckets
Whoa. How low can you go?  This is naked "pinkwashing," a bid to buy "health" credits through its association with Komen.  For it to raise money on the back of the kind of diet linked to heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity is beneath contempt.

They either have no respect for their customers or no idea how to search Twitter. Here just the top two of thousands in the same vein:

29nSNGL_:RT@heevin  Ultimate "do the ends really justify the means?" -- selling KFC (FRIED CHICKEN) to raise money for breast cancer?!        U can't make this shit up.

cantstopwinning  Wait, so you buy a bucket of KFC to fight breast cancer? What do you buy to fight obesity and heart disease?

I put KFC in the same bucket as the cigarette manufacturers -- their core product is flying against all the mandates from science, government and public health advocates -- and they will continue to search for any new marketing ploys to maintain their profit margins for as long as it's viable.

What a contrast to the way my Grandparents lived.

They grew a lot of their own food in their backyard gardens.
They composted in the 1930s. They didn't need to recycle, because
they threw almost nothing away -- saving and finding a new use for any
container - jars for canning & storage, cans for starter plants.

Now this was real:

Grandma Alma's coffee cake.

Grandma's Coffee Cake
A summer stay at their house meant waking up to the incredible smell of my Grandma's sour cream streusel coffee cakes baking in the oven - sometimes seven at a time -- baked in Sara Lee foil pans that she used over and over again for years.  The dough was raised to perfection by placing a linen cloth over each pan and setting them on the heat registers along the baseboards overnight.  She even made her own sour cream from the unpasteurized milk they had delivered in glass bottles, which she poured into "goody holes"-- impressions she made in the dough with her thumb.  Once peak baking temperature was reached, the sour cream would bubble up and mix with the streusel that was sprinkled over the top to create devastating little land mines for my sweet tooth.

Life was simpler than, with a lot less choice.  They never thought to question what was real -- growing or making something from scratch leaves little need for verification.

Life's big lessons.

My grandfather taught my father (who taught me) to buy the best
you could afford, take really good care of it, and keep it forever. 
Also, I learned a job isn't done at all until it's done right.

Here's two examples of companies built on doing it right:

5 Generations of Authenticity.

Try finding the ingredient list on any household cleaner -- chances are you won't.  Unless it's one of the products from SC Johnson, makers of Windex, pledge and Glade.  Last Thanksgiving, the company aired ads with CEO Fisk Johnson (the 5th generation to run the family-owned company), announcing their full disclosure of all the ingredients in all of their products. They even opened a website dedicated to the ingredient information, which includes a definition of each ingredient.

SC Johnson banner

"If we're really going to make progress on the environment," says Fisk,"we have to empower consumers to make more envirionmental choices.  We need to inform them first and this ingredient disclosure is a very logical next step."  SC Johnson also makes an eco-friendly line of products called Nature's Source.  And, they point out that they have always made their traditional products in ways that do the least harm to the health and safety of people and the environment.
SC Johnson family video
The way Fisk puts it, being family-owned carries a conscience and extra responsibility -- "with our family name on our products and the company, our family reputation is at stake -- if a publicly-owned company CEO screws up and damages the reputation of the company, they get a golden parachute and move on with their lives.  If that happens to us, I have to  look my family in the eye for the rest of my life."


One goal. One bag at a time.

My client Lisa Foster, founder of 1 bag at a time, has dedicated her life and created a business around one simple concept -- to reduce the environmental damage and waste from plastic bags by encouraging everyone to use reusable shopping bags. She might be the world's foremost authority on all things related to bags. And she shares most of that knowledge -- the social, environmental and health impact of plastic vs resuable bags, in-depth descriptions of the materials used in her products, even the fine points and advantages of the construction of her various specialty bags -- right on her website.
Lisa Foster of 1 Bag at a Time
No detail is overlooked.  It all matters to Lisa. "To some people, a bag is a bag.  But I'm a bag specialist.  I know what it takes to provide a bag that is clean, simple and honest,  That's why I care about everything connected with my products: the quality, the people who make my bags, the customers who order them, and the planet we all live in."
1 Bag at a Time banner
She believes in total transparency and verification of all standards for her company and her suppliers. And, she spells it out in her code of conduct:
"We believe in respect for all people and the environment. We believe in fair trade, in building trust through transparency, and in solving problems in a spirit of openness, mutual understanding, and respect." Cutting corners is not an option for Lisa.
1 Bag at a Time seasonal bags
So, designing and producing a product to such high standards can present it's challenges, as I found out while working on these holiday bags with Lisa.  Because she will only source from certain suppliers,  materials, inks and dyes that meet her specs, colors and printing processes can be limited. But in the end, her customers know that they are getting a safe, sustainably sourced & constructed bag for the best price available.

And if you care, that's what matters.

If it's real, they will know it.

While trying to articulate how and what I do for clients to create or communicate successful brands, I realized that much of my methodology for branding comes from my belief system.

I help clients define what is authentic about their company and their
product or service. We then dig deeper to find the story in the brand. 
A brand doesn't need a slogan or tagline - but it does need a story -- you can't design a logo or build a brand until you know it and feel it. Something personal, unique and motivating.  What makes you different? What drives you? What are you passionate about?  I want their customers to see and hear that story behind the product or service.

Take a stand, and build your product or service on that.
Take the time to make it the best it can be, and tell everyone.

If it's real they will know it.  If it delights them, they'll buy it and tell their friends.  Really, it's that simple. 

The End  


Graphic Jam helps Natural Products and other companies find the story in their brand, then design it into their products and services so they can matter more to the people they want to reach.

For help finding the story in your brand,
Call me: 941 | 752-3121
Email me:
Visit our website:

Graphic Jam provides a wide range of creative services:
Brand Development  |  Identity  |  Logo Design  |  Name Generation      Package & Label Design  |  Brochures  |  Stationery                       Creative Advertising  |  Postcards  |  Invitations  |  Mailers    
Publication Design  |  Cover Design  |  Exhibits  |  POP  |  Posters        Trade Show & Event Marketing  |  Art & Creative Direction                   Custom Typography  |  Photo Enhancement

I'll talk to you next month with more on branding and natural products.

TJ signature
TJ Miller
Graphic Jam
(941) 752-3121
Graphic Jam Website
Watch the New Eight Minute Movie:
The Secret to Turning Consumers Green:
Just Shipped: POKE THE BOX
From the Source's Mouth:

Quick Links

Graphic Jam


Watch the New  Eight Minute Movie:

Citizens United Logo

The Story of Citizens

United v. FEC -- an exploration of the crisis of corporate influence in American democracy.  

To support the folks flexing their citizen muscle in Wisconsin, The Story of Stuff Project launched this video to highlight Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's relationship with the
Koch brothers --    the union-busting, climate-denying
poster children for everything that's wrong with Citizens

Koch Industries was one of the biggest contributors to the governor's election
campaign and gave over $1 million to support candidates
during the 2010 elections.

That probably helps to explain why Americans for
Prosperity, the Cato Institute and other Koch-funded
organizations were among the biggest boosters of
"corporate free speech" when the Supreme Court
was considering Citizens United v. FEC.

Watch the video:

Story of Stuff logo


The Secret to Turning Consumers Green:  


Washington Monument
Washington, D.C.  imposed a five-cent tax on every disposable bag, paper or plastic, handed out at any retail outlet in the city that sells food, candy or liquor, effective Jan 1.

But more important than the extra cost was something more subtle: No one got bags automatically anymore. Instead, shoppers had to ask for them -- right in front of their fellow customers.

The result?  Retail outlets that typically use 68 million disposable bags per quarter handed out 11 million bags in the first quarter of this year, according to the district's Office of Tax and Revenue.

That may help explain why volunteers for the city's annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup day in mid-April pulled 66% fewer plastic bags from the Anacostia River than they did last year.

Click Here
to read more from teh Wall Street Journal article Secrets to Turning Consumers Green.  

Just shipped:
by Seth Godin

Poke the Box
This is a small book with large type and only 84 pages -- long enough for Seth to drive home his point that everything needs a start.  I've read much of it already -- first day.  Excerpt:

"This is a manifesto about starting"

Starting a project, making a ruckus, taking what feels like a risk.

Not just "I'm starting to think about it" or "we're going to meet on this" or even "I filed a patent application ..."


Going beyond the point of no return.



Making something happen."  

Seth demands that we stop waiting for the road map and start drawing one instead.  We don't need anyone's permission to do something that is great, something that really matters.   


CAUTION: read this book at your own risk.  It can be scary to create something new for the world.


And wouldn't that be cool?  




From the Source's Mouth:

"You may think a free bag is free, but you are paying $98.80 each year in hidden costs for so-called "free bags."


"Retailers pay about two cents a piece for the bags they give away, but they charge higher prices for other products to make up for it.  Cities pay 17 cents per bag to clean them up off roadsides and to land fill them. 

Municipalities charge higher taxes to cover

these costs.


That's $0.19 per bag, that you are paying whether you know it or not.  At an average rate of 10 bags a week, that's 520 bags a year.  

Nineteen cents times 520 bags comes out to $98.80 a year that

we are all paying for so-called "free" bags!


Next time someone

offers you a free bag, think about it.  Paying just 99 cents for a reusable bag

that you can use for years makes cents!


-- Lisa Foster 

Founder & Owner

1 bag at a time.