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Past Lives

My friend Abu Noaman (CEO of Elliance) says that I have "lived many lives."  Some days it certainly seems that way.  The good news, though, is that I've done a lot of stuff, and gained a lot of valuable (if painful) experience, resulting in lessons that I can pass on to my students and others.  Four notable things stand out in my work life:

My partners George Bond, Dennis Moran, and I started TheBrandingGroup to do all of the original branding for FreeMarkets (now Ariba).  As time went on, almost exclusively through referrals, we worked on other startups as well as more established businesses.  Dennis' website has some great images of the work we did for Blue HammockCombineNetMeakem Becker Venture CapitalPNC Equity PartnersPNC Mezzanine CapitalQuantapointRight Hand Manager SoftwareSEEC, and Thermosafe, as well as other projects that illustrate what an excellent designer he is.

And people were kind enough to say some nice things about us:

 "I would recommend you guys to anyone."

- Glen Meakem, Founder & CEO, FreeMarkets
 "These guys are the real deal."

- Sam Kinney, Founder, FreeMarkets, CEO, Right Hand Manager Software
 "Mellon Ventures has and will continue to recommend TheBrandingGroup to our portfolio companies with enthusiasm."

- Mark E. Downs, VP, Mellon Ventures, Inc.
 "TheBrandingGroup's approach has been holistic, very strategic, customer-focused, and value-oriented.  They understood our challenges, but more important, they understood our opportunities."

- Herb Conner, Chairman of the Board, WQED Multimedia

iBrand was started by my friend (and former Ketchum SVP and Director of Account Management) Mark Hurst and I back in 1997, when most people weren't thinking about branding much at all, let alone "interactive" branding (that's what the "i" stands for.).  Our first assignment was for Nabisco Lifesavers and we helped a brand double in revenues within three months.  More assignments came from Nabisco, and soon, many others.  And there were some nice things that people said about us, too:

 "iBrand worked as a true partner to help us think broadly and strategically about our brand.  They pushed us to investigate new directions for the brand and helped excite us about the growth possibilities."

- Olan Beam, VP Business Development, Sara Lee Corporation
 "You guys did a great job for us. These were questions we needed to have answered and you gave us exactly what we were looking for, and more."

- Kip Condron, COO, Mellon Financial Corporation
 "They will do anything to make the brand happen."

- Beverly Glasure, Product Manager, Nabisco Lifesavers
 "iBrand did extraordinary work in helping the University of Scranton to clarify its image and to articulate the message.  As a result of iBrand's savvy advice, the University has seen a marked increase in interest in its programs...and a gratifying heightening of its profile in the media."

- Joseph J. McShane, S.J., President, University of Scranton

While I was Creative Director at Ketchum, Bill Shenck, then Vice Chairman of PNC Bank, told me that he thought I was either the most strategic creative director or the most creative strategic thinker he'd ever met (blush). I thought it would be interesting to start a company that focused on combining creative thinking with strategic discipline, so I put together a business plan and asked 18 former clients (from CEO level to Marketing Managers) and colleagues to comment. They were insightful, honest and at times brutal. And IdeaLab came out of it. Clients included Blue Cross, EDMC, Victoria's Secret, and others. Eventually, I sold the company.  But not before people said some nice things:

 "It's fairly rare for us to envision a future past one to two years. IdeaLab kept us focused on the future, not buried in today's details."

- Mark Uminski, Director of Business Development, Cellular One Corporation
 "Interesting and appealing."

- Bill Johnson, President & CEO, Star-Kist Foods
 "Very stimulating. It began to solidify the different parts of Adopt-a-Child."

- Lois London, Adopt-a-Child, Inc.
 "Well constructed and stimulating."

- Brian Ruder, Area Vice President, H.J. Heinz Company

I started at Ketchum as a copywriter (my first real job), and 15 years later (with a couple of stops at other agencies on the way) became Executive Creative Director of the Headquarters Office (that's me in the back, fourth from left, with the other office heads and creative directors. Note how great my hair looks. Sigh. Back in The Day.)  I worked on everything from candy to the space shuttle, and got to know some of the best people in my life there. Ketchum was the 15th largest ad agency in the world, and our clients included Digital Equipment Corp., Heinz, Hanes, PNC Bank, Rockwell International and many more, including:  


After I left, Ketchum was broken apart and sold off in pieces, most of it going to the Omnicom Group.  To the best of my knowledge, there was no causal relationship.