The Blog and Pony Show

Archive for August, 2018

Schifino Lee - 11:47 am August 7, 2018

Who’s really writing your brand story?

Build your brand story the right way, and they will come.

3 tips to shift from brand storytelling to brand storybuliding

The idea of developing a brand story is probably very familiar to most of us.

Typically, we’ve been taught to reach our consumers by creating a unified brand story to generate interest and desire for our products or services. Tell them all about our fine brand attributes. Tell them why our brand will make them happier, smarter, stronger. If we just tell our brand story, they will follow along and eventually take action. Not so much the case today.

I recently attended a seminar from FilamentInc.* about this topic and was quite enlightened about our role as marketers when it comes to brand building. There’s a big brand revolution happening right in front of us every day, minute, second. Just look at your smart phone. Brand storytelling is shifting to brand storybuilding. And we aren’t necessarily the authors.

Our customers and clients are the ones evolving our brand stories – good or bad. With full access to our brand at all times online, they are truly the co-creators and co-owners of brands.

The difference between brand storytelling and brand storybuilding is like the difference between a scripted play and improv.

Our job at hand today is to make the consumer feel alive, engaged and part of our brand. Here are some ways you can start the shift from brand management to conversation management, and create successful brand co-ownership.

Be experimental, nimble and data sensitive

These three traits are fundamental in storybuilding to ensure a successful brand. Brandbuilding needs to be in a perpetual beat mode, meaning it’s okay for trial and error, strategy and creativity. It’s good to post something about your brand and get positive or negative feedback. It’s okay to try a kitschy video on Instagram — even if you have a serious offering — as long as that content connects with your defined target. By “lighting fires” within your branding, you can put ideas out there, listen to what takes hold, and then respond to fuel these fires. And it’s okay to have many fires going at once. You may be surprised to see which ones start spreading.

Integrate content, community and causes into your brand story’s ecosystem

Content should affect the brand experience versus just promoting the brand’s attributes. To create a true participatory brand experience, it’s important to ask a few questions to help you generate the right content such as:

  • What is your audience really interested in?
  • What ideas will build a bridge from those interests back to your brand?
  • Is this idea or content worth sharing? Will it generate conversation?

Next, shared causes between a brand and its consumers creates an extremely powerful connection and brand loyalty. Find your brand’s social mission and conviction, and share it, share it, share it. Airbnb’s mantra is “We believe travel is better when you experience it as an insider.” Creating a brand with an authentic message is one of the most magnetic elements to propel consumers to co-own and advocate for your brand.

Creating communities and interactions to build on your brand story is also essential, again through the plethora of social media and digital outlets. It’s about finding what interests your audience and engaging them in an authentic way. For Oreo, they came up with a natural, fun, interactive way to allow their customers to share their own creativity through an online campaign, #playwithoreo. It was a sweet win for consumer engagement because it built on the brand’s core essence, not to mention elevated cookies sales.

Deploy multi-pronged campaign themes

We all know Geico and their overarching brand promise of “15 minutes can save you 15% on car insurance.” Geico is a prime example of using multi-pronged themes to share and fuel this message. When you do this, it gives consumers fresh ideas and a fresh canvas to share their ideas related to these campaigns, in social and beyond. It creates engagement and interaction in different ways. Some people love the lizard, some hate it. Going beyond television advertising, the Caveman campaign had fans reacting to a caveman runway shoot with Maxim magazine and a dance app. It even generated a TV show audience.

It’s a bold new branding world out there with so many opportunities in social and digital to build a never-ending brand story. Let’s embrace it and rewrite the book.

*Original content and presentation from

Schifino Lee - 4:25 pm August 6, 2018

Tampa-based Advertising Agency Schifino Lee Celebrates 25 Years

Ben Lee and Paola Schifino


Schifino Lee Advertising + Branding will celebrate its 25th year in business on August 19, 2018. Founded in 1993 by Paola Schifino and Ben Lee, SL is one of the few advertising agencies in the Tampa Bay area to experience such longevity. The organization has nearly doubled its revenues since 2013 and continues to innovate and evolve with each challenge or success that it faces. But like most 25-year-olds, the agency has only just started to reach its full potential.

SL comes from entrepreneurial beginnings, launching from a spare bedroom in Ben Lee’s home with just one client. Through the years, the agency has found continued success in its longtime mantra, Innovate or Die. The SL team prides itself on a forward-thinking mentality and fearlessness towards new ideas and technologies.

“In the early 1990’s, most agencies in Tampa Bay were mainly focused on design and graphics. They weren’t offering creative solutions that were tied to deeper strategic thinking. We saw an opportunity where the local ad community wasn’t delivering, and we jumped on it,” said Schifino.

Of course, no company makes it 25 years without adversity and SL is no exception. Roughly a decade ago, the agency’s office experienced a major fire that destroyed its entire workspace. Luckily SL was an early adopter of cloud technology, and its client data and electronic assets were unharmed. The fire also enabled the agency to move into its current Bayshore Boulevard space with striking views of the water.

The strategy of Innovate or Die has proven faithful to the agency time and time again. SL was the first agency to introduce Business Networking division of AT&T to digital advertising methods in 1999, and it was also one of the first agencies in Tampa to use geo-fencing for ad targeting. Today its consumer-oriented clients are generating significant results using social influencer campaigns, internet-based delivery services, and GPS-based foot traffic studies.

Again, with an eye towards innovation in marketplace decision making, SL has evolved its management team to be majority female. In addition to co-founder Paola Schifino, four of the agency’s six departments are led by women. The agency has subsequently introduced a number of new initiatives that have resulted in increased employee satisfaction and strengthened client relationships.

SL looks towards the future with enthusiasm and optimism. “Seeing our clients and team members achieve their goals has always been a great source of pride for me,” said Lee. “This year we celebrate 25 years of imagination and innovation. The natural next question is, ‘What’s next?’ Our answer is 25 more.”