The Art of Storytelling

Not only has Mike created some of the most memorable American brands over the years but he has also written stories for iconic American magazines documenting countless adventures, popular culture and the world of art around us. Click images to view samples.

Building Legendary Brands

To accept that a brand idea—rather than a simple logo—can drive a communications program, requests a radical change in thinking. Strong brand ideas do not just happen. They result from a future-oriented, strategic visionary process led by innovative communication teams. Brands are the basis for a sustainable marketing and merchandising advantage for organizations. Design projects which involve visual identity are more than a one-shot deal. They are long-term graphic investments. An advertising campaign can have a life span of several months, publication design can last the lifetime of the publication, packaging is rarely changed, and then only subtly. Corporate identity programs can continue on for decades.

To build a brand, you need a good brand strategist that is:
– creative in proposing communications solutions
– well-versed in alternative media
– excellent in execution, particularly in developing themes and visual imagery
– an objective voice in client matters


Recently, Advertising Age, a key advertising trade magazine, interviewed corporate leaders of the country's most successful brands (Coke, McDonald’s, etc.) and asked them “What does a brand do?” Their answers can be summarized as follows:
–    provides an umbrella under which products are sold and introduced
–    is the identity of the company
–    reassures customers
–    defends against competition
–    maintains or builds market share
–    enhances the value of a company to the financial community

These same executives agree that managing a brand inconsistently and producing weak communications will diffuse the power and effectiveness of a successful brand. Better integration and improvements in marketing and corporate identity efforts enhance and maintain a brand’s value.


“. . . A symbol can be a powerful influence because it can be controlled and can have extremely strong associations.”   
    –   David A. Baker, Professor University of California

There are three dimensions of a brand:

1. Perceived Quality
Within the creation of the symbol and all elements of a branding campaign, perceived quality is the defining point of differentiation. Perceived quality is usually at the heart of what customers are buying and reflects a measure of value that spreads over all elements of the brand like a fine aroma. Ultimately, multiple visual extensions of the brand will support the overall brand name. Among all qualities associated with brands, only perceived quality has been linked to financial performance. Anyone can duplicate ingredients. Consumers may not know how best to judge quality. They need the right visual clues. A metaphor or visual image can help consumers see the context in the right way.

2. Awareness   
Awareness of your brand ensures high recall among loyal customers. A great brand communicates perceived customer acceptance.

3. Association
There is a need to make sure that investments in quality are communicated graphically to all customers, the new and the soon to be loyal. Consumers rarely have all of the information necessary to make a rational and objective judgment of quality. They may also lack the time and motivation to process it. They will rely on graphic clues to communicate quality.

Our ideal job is to understand, create and cohesively manage all the dimensions, elements and components which communicate our client’s brand image. We have found that the key qualities in the creation of a successful brand include:

Consistency - The key to strong brands is maintaining consistency. We execute comprehensive, multilevel communications programs that are exactly on target with the identity we create. A graphic identification program only works if it is applied consistently. Every element that is printed, painted, molded, sewn, stamped, woven, projected, broadcast, or flown is a unit in the collective memory of your audience. The more the elements complement one another, the stronger the memory units become. The more diverse they are, the more exceptions there are; the more variations there are, the weaker the identity becomes. All the applications need not look exactly the same, as if stamped from a cookie-cutter, but they should have at least a family resemblance.

Durability - We position brands with what we shamelessly call brilliant but timeless durability. We consider the long-term and create brands differently than we would the more perishable kinds of work, such as advertising or packaging. We think about image, layout, and even color a little differently than we normally would. We create an identity and position that will endure.

Flexibility - A brand identity must have flexibility. It often must be able to function as an umbrella linking many products, and it has to have strength to work as an endorsement, to work in many sizes.

Loyalty - A brand works in context with other graphics. A brand is the link, the connection. Consumers latch onto that and develop brand loyalties. As a reputation is built up over time, the brand becomes extremely important, more so than the individual products. A brand certainly has to be memorable—there has to be certain boldness to it.

When we approach a creative problem, we look for more than design, more than advertising, and we search for the big idea. Big ideas usually cut through traditions and break rules. Like the big idea of our Jurassic Park logo. Big ideas aren’t always so big, like the simplicity of the Levi’s 501 brand name we created. But rule-breaking ideas are the first ones to die in a large organization. We have found that we have to be especially disciplined to keep them alive and well managed.

Often, when a logo—a brandmark—is designed it must later be “forward-fitted” for new, unforeseen applications that may arise. For each project, we should know the basic uses of the new brandmark from the start. Does it have to work on business cards, stationery and print materials, possibly trucks? Will it have to work locally, nationally or internationally? First it has to work in its most public forms; for instance, will it be seen most on bills, phones, labels, packaging, signage, online, or in advertising, print and film? The application stage can take one or two forms. Graphic standard manuals and/or hands-on implementation. Manuals used to be big binders, elaborately printed in small quantities at great expense; for many programs that is no longer necessary. Manuals can be created on computer and kept on disk. The big advantage here is control as well as less cost. Fewer people are required to implement the various elements, which simplifies the inevitable permutations and enhances the consistency of application.

The most strategic and logical position will not be worth implementing if a brilliant execution cannot be accomplished . . . executional magic. How you say it may be just as important as what you say. Demanding attention to details—symbols, type, color, layout, language, design, casting, color, camera work and direction—all the signs and symbols must be exactly right. Our reputation has been built on executional magic.

Mike Salisbury LLC was an innovator in the concept of fewer, better paid people for every dollar of billing. This management philosophy has been imitated by almost every major agency and creative service. It has proven correct. We are now the first creative source in history to have earned billions of dollars for clients without the burdens of being overweight and institutionalized.

Every business we deal with is a complex one, run, for the most part, by smart business people. Whether they look at design, marketing, advertising and merchandising as an investment or expense, the bottom line is the same. Money spent on advertising and design must get results and must be efficient. No waste. No fat. Mike Salisbury LLC understands and agrees with this point of view. We consider ourselves pretty fair business people also. We have been fortunate to be associated with a variety of very successful companies. In gaining that experience we've learned a lot about the things that work and the things that don't work. The following are some operational disciplines we believe in—because they work:

Evaluation and Criteria Development
We develop objective, core criteria that address each client’s strategic communication and imagery needs. We partner with our clients to develop a questionnaire that is typically organized using the following criteria:
–    Task (what are we trying to achieve?)
–    Positioning (how does/will the company stand out in the market?)
–    Response (what is the target supposed to do or think as a result of this work?)
–    Desired identity/personality (what are we trying to convey?)
–    The core (single most important work in the desired identity/personality)
–    Tone and manner (necessary tonal values)

Responsive Organization
We generate procedures and performance standards which are responsive to the needs of each client and the business/communications environment. In other words, what works for one client or publication or set of conditions may not be right for you; our creative process and management procedures must recognize this. It is essential that our service structure should be properly matched to each client.

Open Relationship
We encourage a completely open relationship with our clients. By that we mean we share all relevant and critical information. Obviously, nothing can be less productive than working with incomplete information.

Clear Functions and Responsibilities
We draft a comprehensive proposal that is tailored for each client. This document provides a clear understanding of our joint functions and responsibilities so we can communicate quickly and take action on problems as soon as they arise.
Independent Point of View
We believe strongly that as your creative source, we owe you a well thought out, independent point of view. That’s what you pay us for. We also think that as your idea store, we owe you our best creative effort every time.

Keep What Works
Before we recommend and develop concepts, we analyze what has been done in the past. We do not believe in throwing out everything and starting from scratch. It is important to understand what has worked, why it has worked, and then to build on it.

Management Involvement
We believes that our principal and creative director, Mike Salisbury, should be involved in creating solutions. He personally directs the concept, writes copy and designs. We don't send in rookies. Mike Salisbury's personal involvement ensures that the best person suited to your business works on your business. His level of experience in problem-solving means better and hopefully quicker solutions. That personal involvement also results in more effective working relationships with senior client management. His involvement is not an idle promise. It has been instrumental in building our clients’ business and our own. The reason for these disciplines is obvious—they exist purely to give us the coordination, control and flexibility to handle the business efficiently—to react fast, to turn projects around quickly, and to produce timely, effective design. The kind of problem solving design we have become famous for.
No matter how successful our creative, we're constantly trying to beat it, just as your competitors are doing. Our first brand building and advertising campaign for Gotcha Sportswear got our client 25 percent of the category. Our follow-up campaign put us over the 50 percent mark. We never rest on our laurels.

All of these ingredients built Mike Salisbury LLC and made it, we believe, the finest resource for the greatest creative solutions in marketing communications.