Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Internet and Your Kids - In Time For Christmas

SDOC is getting ready to go on hiatus for Christmas and the New Year.  But we're not on vacation - I'm working to continue projects in progress and I'm still fielding calls from current and future clients.  But this time of year, parents have to step away from the keyboard and focus on their children.

Some of you out there are buying computers for your kids this year.  I'll be doing the same in just a couple of years myself.  It is neither possible, nor even advisable to avoid teaching the use of technology to children.  It's an essential skill, just like the "Three R's" of a few decades back.  Teaching technology is not just about controlling a mouse or using a keyboard - even touch-typing.  It's also learning about life and how to make good decisions.

Years ago, we learned about "stranger danger" and how not to talk to strangers, how adults should ask for help from other adults, rather than from children, and how you don't take a ride from someone you don't know.  When I was in Kindergarten, we read a book called "Nancy and the Nice Bad Man" which taught a very graphic lesson about what can happen when a child takes a ride from a stranger. 

What makes navigating technology more challenging is that today, the "nice bad man" is coming right into our homes through our computer screens.  The danger is greater because without a physical presence, the threat doesn't seem real:  whether it is bullying, extortion, or even just stealing your login information and wreaking havoc on your Facebook page.  The perp isn't just your neighborhood "Chester" that all the parents warn their children to stay away from.  Perps can come from any city, town, or village on the globe - and they do, if you've gotten any 419 email scams lately.

Most of all, technology is just as new to parents as it is to children and it's constantly changing.  Parents have to learn for themselves not to get burned before they can warn their children, or monitor their online activity.

This week I had the pleasure of making a new acquaintance through my LinkedIn profile (see how easy it is to make contacts and why it's necessary to be careful?!) who runs a blog on Internet safety guidelines for parents.  Mary Kay Hoal is the COO of YourSphere - social networking for kids.  In addition to being a safe place for children to learn about communicating via the internet, the blog section provides some timely news on how to keep your kids safe and to help them avoid content you don't think they are ready for.  Before deciding whether and how much to allow your children to use the Internet, get familiar with some procedures and software to make safety easier to maintain.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
From Adrienne Duncan
Owner, SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Small Business Saturday, Close to Home

American Express promoted this past Saturday as "Small Business Saturday", where they encouraged the public to patronize small businesses as opposed to larger corporations.

In a large urban area like Atlanta, shopping between small businesses and large corporations is not necessarily an "either/or" proposition.  Each has its own purpose and place and each fills different needs.  For example, large corporations can provide jobs for those who don't want to be entrepreneurs.  In addition, about every large corporation you can name started out as a single person or a handful of people creating a small business.  Coca-Cola and McDonalds are the first to come to mind.  Coca-Cola began as a pharmacist stirring a big pot of essential oils and sugar syrup over a campfire in his backyard.  So I guess you could say that the most recognized corporation in the world began as a home-based business!

But small local businesses are tied directly to the community where they reside.  They have a greater impact on the local tax base and are often owned by a local resident.  The financial circle is very small and money stays concentrated in the community when their shops are patronized.

Recently I completed a very simple billboard-style project for a local Dunwoody businesswoman.  Susan B Renegar is an HR professional and CPA who has created her own business in accounting for other small businesses in the area.  She has very low overhead, so her prices are much more affordable to other entrepreneurs than larger Perimeter- or Buckhead-based firms.  Plus she's easy to get to:  Dunwoody traffic is no picnic, but you don't have to join the GA 400 parking lot either!

When you are looking for goods or services close to home, please consider the local entrepreneur when shopping.  You may find a hidden gem that is more geared toward your needs and shares your civic goals.

Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce

Monday, November 15, 2010

Logos & Branding - A Practical Analysis

A few weeks ago, the City of Dunwoody unveiled a new series of logos created by contractor Sky Design.
The City has learned a few hard lessons about branding and logo implementation in the process.

  • Just because you spend a lot of money on it, doesn't mean that everyone will love it.  Dunwoody joined the club with The Gap and Tropicana brands who redesigned their logo image and got their heads handed to them by their customers.  The Gap just abandoned the new effort (even though it was very stylish) and Tropicana is trying to work in their new logo identity with the old one.  It happens - you research, you conduct surveys and focus groups, you wear out your font file and your color wheel, and come up with a design that SHOULD be effective.  Then your PR person is issuing statements when your creation falls flat on its face. 

  • Google is your best friend.  Pay attention!  The original tagline for the city was "Smart People - Smart Place".  Sounds good, right?  The City of Plano Economic Development Board thought so too.  They used it first.  To add insult to injury, the tagline showed up on an internet search.  Trademarked or not, there was going to be a conflict.  Plano was on the phone to Dunwoody in about a day.  It's not worth the hassle to use a tagline that's been claimed elsewhere.  The new tagline is "Smart People - Smart City".

  • Large design firms with a lot of experience may sometimes cannibalize other designs. Even inadvertently.  The initial reaction on the local blogosphere was that the original logo looked too similar to both the Walmart and E-Trade logos.  Someone with WAY too much time on their hands lampooned that idea, as major newspapers commented on it.  Could be a coincidence but if the public sees a similarity it doesn't matter.  Others commented that even the unveiling video shown at the Music Festival was recycled from another presentation for another corporation.  Recycling happens.  Can you get away with it?  How lucky do you feel?

  • There may be more issues on the horizon.  The City government teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention & Visitors Bureau to create variations of the main city logo to create a sense of "unity". 

    Here's the problem:  there's a line between being "unified" and being "identical".  When elements of several designs are too similar - either in fonts, taglines, or structural elements of a website, etc - it gives the impression that each design represents a different division or department of the same entity.  The Chamber and CVB are NOT the City government.  They are totally independent of the City.  But the logos indicate they are part and parcel of the City government.  The City ultimately dictated the branding for two independent organizations.  The Chamber and CVB are going to have a major issue clarifying their identities as such.

    "OK, wise-guy, what would YOU do?"

    The rest of this post is purely hypothetical as the decisions have been made and the City, CVB and Chamber are all going forward with what was created.  All images below are copyrighted and may not be duplicated or used elsewhere.

    Scenario 1 - working with the original City logo.
    First, I wouldn't duplicate the logo or taglines for the Chamber or CVB.  They need their own unique identity, just like the PCID.  However, to indicate that several organizations are playing a part in building up the new city an additional logo or icon would be created, with elements of the original for consistency.  This icon could be used on websites, stationery, or brochures to indicate that partnership.  And not just the CVB or Chamber either.  There are a lot of organizations within Dunwoody that are part of its success, including the Preservation Trust, the Kiwanis, Rotary Club, Optimists, homeowner associations, political parties, the Marcus JCC and a slew of houses of worship.
    Here's the general idea:

    Scenario 2 - back to the drawing board.
    Here's another vision of a City logo and civic parternship icon that doesn't compare to Walmart or E-Trade and the tagline passed the Google test.
    The graphic elements are a stylized star; reflecting the new beginning the city had at incorporation in 2008.  The tagline is not only open to new businesses that may establish here, but also to current residents and commuting workers.  Now that Dunwoody is its own city, the population is going to have to advance its interests, even when they're not all in agreement.

    And here's the "partnership" generic logo that other city groups could use to indicate their part in supporting the City.  Note the rearrangement of the graphic element above.  It's consistent with the City logo identity, but the graphic layout and the text indicate a different purpose.

    Branding costs money, time, effort, experience, and expertise.  But no matter how much planning goes into it, a new brand launch is almost always a gamble.