Event Recap: Zag! 2015 Brand Workshop

zag 2015

What do Tennessee river barges, the Swedish real estate market, a New Zealand design firm and a Utah nonprofit health co-op have in common? They were all represented—along with many other industries—at the inaugural AIGA Santa Barbara Zag! 2015 brand workshop with Marty Neumeier.

A small group of CEOs, brand managers and creative professionals descended on Casa Las Palmas in Santa Barbara to learn the principles of brand strategy from a master of the process. Marty led the group through his seventeen steps of brand differentiation, as each attendee presented the problems of creating a brand from scratch or transforming an existing (and sometimes entrenched) brand.

Marty’s workshop stuck closely to the ideas outlined in Zag, his bestselling 2007 book on brand strategy; “onliness” statements, the “competition of clutter,” and the “intrusiveness death spiral” all made appearances over the three-day session. Questions like “what wave are you riding,” “who loves you,” “how do you spread the word,” and “what makes you the ‘only?’” hit hard in quick succession, provoking substantial thought and discussion.

If you’ve read Zag, then all of this “radical differentiation strategy” is familiar, but the great benefits of this particular workshop were 1) getting direct help applying these principles from the person who compiled and contextualized them, and 2) collaborating with peers experiencing similar problems, while observing how Marty worked with every other student on their brands.

The group frequently touched on issues affecting several of their represented organizations or companies—winning and keeping customers, the benefits and drawbacks of longevity, and getting organizational leadership support—issues which proved to be remarkably similar despite the differing industries and professions represented. Indeed the best benefit of a giant brainstorm session like this was the variety of brains present, allowing a fresh and objective exchange of ideas and solutions.

It wasn’t completely perfect—Santa Barbara had 81-degree weather the previous week, though American attendees fleeing the winter back east didn’t seem to mind the weekend clouds—but the first AIGA SB Zag! workshop proved to be an overall success, and there were even rumors of a sequel in 2016.

Thanks to Marty for sharing his wisdom, event coordinator Patty Devlin-Driskel for pulling it all together, and our AIGA SB volunteer board and membership for assistance in a pinch. Last but not least, thanks to our inaugural Zag! class of 2015:

Jaleena Ball (Ingram Barge Co.), Mark Bauman (McKesson Health Solutions), Doru Bere (Dreambox Creative), James Branham (Annullo Inc.), Hailey Emerson and Laura Strong (Arches Health Plan), Irene Hoffman (Irene Hoffman Design+Advertising), Sherry Hoffman ((M)Arch Studio), Jennie Jacobs (Sansum Clinic), Inna Knysheva (Polycom), Cya Nelson (Cyan Design Studio), Marti Ogram (Riptide IO), Eric Petersen (Mission Web Marketing), Julie Samson (SBCC), Paula Schaefer (Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens), Casey Thomas (SmartWool), Thomas Von Krusenstjerna (Paradigm), and Reuben Woods (Woods Creative Agency).

Photos by Marianne Cothern, Keir DuBois, Nicki Gauthier, and Jennie Jacobs.

By Keir DuBois
Published February 27, 2015
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