Design does more than look good. In the right hands, it can tell the story of the brand like no linear narrative can.

Image showing movable type from a printing case.
Image showing movable type from a printing case.
image: Photo by Raphael Schaller on Unsplash

“Storytelling” is one of those words. In marketing circles, it gets hauled out whenever someone wants to make what they’re doing sound more like art than business.

“She’s not a copywriter, she’s a brand storyteller.”

“What this ad really needs is some good storytelling.”

Or, in the worst case: “Hi, I’m Brad. I’m a brand storydoer!”

But there’s a reason why this word is used when marketers or creatives want to elevate what they’re talking about: the word storytelling has power.

We know what it means, and we know how it feels when we get lost in a really good…

Bad design happens, but rarely intentionally. So what drives well-intentioned designers to put bad UX into the world?

Mcmansions-3" by Dan Deluca is licensed under CC by 2.0 / color adjustments made from original.

We’ve all done it. We start a design with great intentions. We research. We listen to users. We identify insights, and we research some more. We talk to the other disciplines. We talk to the clients. And we design. We put in the hard work of iterating, implementing, QA-ing, and launching.

Then we look at the end result, and it is hard to recognize. Is this what we meant it to be? We reassure ourselves with excuses and reasons. And they’re good ones, usually. We tell ourselves and others, “in the original comp…” Sometimes, we even get complaints; the client…

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

Putting users first means prioritizing user goals over short-term, sales-driven goals. Even in these three common scenarios.

User focus is more important than ever. The integrity of content, including its truthfulness and motives, has never been under more scrutiny. How and why sites collect, protect and use data is finally being considered with the gravity it deserves, by regulators and individuals.

It seems, though, that instead of maximizing the value they provide to users, so many digital products subvert their experience and actually exploit or manipulate users. The irony, of course, is that no matter the business model, satisfied, repeat users are central to success and profit.

For ad-supported properties, reach, made up of new and repeat…

I’m excited to announce that I’ve joined Rebellion Design Co. as Managing Partner. Here’s what’s got me so excited.

Those who know me well know I don’t suffer the status quo easily. It’s perhaps a bit of stubbornness, and perhaps a bit of benign naïveté. But mostly, it’s because I think the worst reason to do something a certain way is because that’s the way it has always been done.

While I’m not known to be particularly rebellious, I don’t take norms for granted. Progress, change and innovation result from the efforts of individuals willing to go against the grain, ask why, and then work, think, and be different. This is more true than ever, these days.

And so…

Spoiler: These aren’t the hoodies you’re looking for.

Let’s face it: the user journey associated with digital ads sucks. It’s time to call in User Experience Designers to help where data and programmatic are failing marketers.

Remember the original banner ads? They were blinky, quirky, scrawny, made up of “web safe” colors, and had huge click-through rates of the magnitude that would make today’s marketers drool.

Well, digital advertising has changed a lot since then, including that click-through rate. From display to video, from social to content, from targeting to programmatic, digital placements have evolved significantly in both form and function. With the increase in sophistication of the marketer’s digital toolkit has come a greater complexity, more risks, more issues and lots of disconnected fixes from vendors.

The campaign creation process has evolved, too. That process…

Competitive pitches are the go-to for assigning agency responsibilities. As those responsibilities change, these reviews could be hurting clients and agencies as much as they help. What can be done?

Source: and

We all know that feeling. The email arrives. You open the PDF. You take it all in. And you rejoice. Like the intrepid assistant Janine Melnitz, who answers the Ghostbusters’ very first call, you feel like jumping up and yelling, “we got one!

Getting an RFP feels like this. Inspiring an almost giddy optimism, RFPs motivate teams with the prospect of new work, new opportunities, and, of course, new dollars. It’s not surprising: most companies in the professional services sector assume they’ll receive (and win) a number of lucrative RFPs in planning their revenue projections for a given fiscal year.

The apple of my eyes” by Travis Isaacs, used under CC by 2.0 / may be cropped from original.

The “Creative Agency” has a venerated heritage of using big ideas to persuade. It takes a lot more than that now, and the very nature of marketing strategy may need an overhaul.

“But will it work?”

That’s the question you never want to hear at the end of a creative presentation. It used to signal that perhaps not enough heartstrings were pulled in the creative, the jokes weren’t funny or, somehow, the creative just didn’t land with the client. Any of these would give a client pause, as it could mean it might not be effective.

But these days, it signals something more nefarious. It indicates that while the creative might be perfect in every way — hilarious, motivating, beautiful, and behavior-changing — it’s no guarantee that it will work.

As it…

Snapchat is partnering with Amazon to bring visual search based commerce, or AR-Commerce, to the intrepid messaging platform. Can it work? I tested it out.

Figure 1. Amazon’s app scan points attempt to create a search query via my iPhone’s camera.

Snapchat recently announced the pilot of an innovative visual shopping feature, in partnership with the uncontested leader in shopping experience innovation in the west, Amazon. Put simply, the intent of the feature is to allow you to buy any item that you see in a snap or photo with a tap or two, using its native camera and content features.

Sounds cool, right? I thought so too — in 2009.

Believe it or not, this is actually a feature that my team and I proposed to a client as an innovation play way back in 2009. We knew it would…

Creativity is taking a back seat to media and the video that gets put in it. It’s time to get back to real ideas.

As posted on Little Black Book

Contrary to what most people who know me think, I’m happy to be proven wrong. Really, I’m a realist and, in many cases, that means the color of the glasses through which I look at things is sometimes a color other than rose (or, I suppose, rosé in this case?)

So it seems I can be half-happy about being half-wrong in my week-old predictions about Cannes this year, now that the Lions have set off countless metal detectors en route to their new homes.

I thought Always’ “Like a Girl” would win. It did…

Brands already have a reputation.
Now their behavior can help improve it.

Increased velocity of communications — driven largely by technology, networked communications like social media and, of course, mobile devices — has created countless new trends, habits and, indeed, marketing opportunities.

However, one such marketing opportunity could actually be an evolution in marketing. And that’s the emergence of brand behavior. Not brand anthropomorphization (necessarily), but brand behavior: the things a brand does in the physical and digital worlds that add further meaning and color to what the brand is all about. In a way, consumers can get to know a brand better than ever.

Ken Kraemer

Managing Partner at Rebellion Design Co. In New York. Marketing leader, husband, dad, and person.

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