Category Archives: Branding

Why you can’t always call a Spade a Spade

Names are very personal, everyone has one.  Either the name our parents gave us when we were born, the one a woman takes sometimes when she gets married, or the one you legally change it to for other reasons.  Either way everyone has a name they go by.  But sometimes, your name is not your name.

As we know, corporations also have names.  It’s not too uncommon for corporations to use the same name as the person who founded it.

  • The Walt Disney Company
  • Tony Roma’s
  • Charles Schwab
  • Eddie Bauer
  • Estée Lauder
  • Hugo Boss
  • John Deere
  • Johnnie Walker
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Liz Claiborne
  • Kate Spade

Let me tell you the story about Kate Spade, Liz Claiborne and Neiman Marcus.

The person Kate Spade’s real name today is “Katherine Noel Frances Valentine Brosnahan Spade”.  When she was born in 1962 her parents named her” Katherine Noel Brosnahan”

After graduating from Arizona State in 1985 she moved in with Andy Spade (brother of actor and comic David Spade).

In January 1993, Kate Brosnahan and Andy Spade launched the New York–based design company “kate spade handbags”. The next year Kate and Andy were married but she never legally changed her name to take on her husband’s last name.

Kate Spade Handbags, as the name implies, initially sold handbags, but eventually extended to clothing, jewelry, shoes, stationery, eyewear, baby items, fragrances, tabletop, bedding and gifts.

In 1996, the Kate Spade brand opened its first boutique, a 400-square-foot shop located in Manhattan’s trendy SoHo district, and moved its headquarters into a 10,000-square-foot space in West 25th Street.

In 1999, Neiman Marcus purchased 56% of the Kate Spade, the company.  In October 2006, the company purchased all minority interest for approximately $59.4 million.

Neiman Marcus, the company, was founded in 1907 by Herbert Marcus, his sister Carrie Marcus Neiman and her husband Al Neiman.  Today, Neiman Marcus Group is owned by two private equity firms, Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus.

Neiman Marcus then sold the Kate Spade label for $124 million in 2006 to Liz Claiborne Inc., which was later renamed to Fifth & Pacific.

Liz Claiborne, the person, launched her own design company, Liz Claiborne Inc., in 1976. It was an immediate success, with sales of $2 million in 1976 and $23 million in 1978. Liz Claiborne Inc. went public in 1981 and made the Fortune 500 list in 1986 with retail sales of $1.2 billion.

In February 2014, Fifth & Pacific, now owned by Liz Claiborne Inc. changed its name back to Kate Spade & Company.

In 2016, Kate Spade, the person, wanted to go back into business a collection of luxury footwear and handbags.  She sold the rights to her name, Kate Spade back in 1999 so she called the new company Frances Valentine named after two of her family members and she legally changed her name from Katherine Noel Brosnahan to Katherine Noel Frances Valentine Brosnahan Spade.

She recently went into a Kate Spade store in New York to buy a gift for her daughter Frances Beatrix Spade.  When the sales clerk asked if she wanted to be on their mailing list she just smiled. Her daughter said, “mom tell her”.  Kate politely told the clerk that she was sure she was already on it.


A Brand New You

For the past 35 years I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the best designers in the country to bring some of the best brands in the world to life.  I had the privilege to work with Saul Bass when he designed the identity for The Getty Museum, Wolf Owens when they re-designed Aol, Debra Sussman when she designed the new identity for The Gas Company and Siegel & Gale when they designed the identity for the Port of Long Beach.

I’ve also been proud to have been selected by some of America’s leading brands to manage the printing part of their identity programs.  Brands such as Toyota, Edison, Activision Blizzard, Occidental Petroleum, Fluor and Paul Hastings along with thousands of others.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that brands are more than just logos, they represent the personality of the company.

Marcus Bartlett, creative director for UTA Brand Studio, recently illustrated for me the difference between marketing, advertising, public relations and branding.  He explained it this way:

A man walks into a bar and goes up to a beautiful girl and tells her “I’m a great lover”. –that’s marketing.

marketingA man walks into a bar and tells everyone in the room “I’m a great lover, I’m a great lover, I’m a great lover” – that’s advertising.

advertisingA man walks into a bar and he goes up to an attractive girl and offers her $100 to go around telling her friends “Trust me. He’s a great lover” – that’s public relations.

public relationsBut when a man walks into a bar and a girl walks up to him and says “I understand you’re a great lover” – that’s branding.


What’s the difference between a brand and your reputation?  Your brand is someone saying “I understand you’re a great lover” and your reputation confirms it.  Your brand is what you want others to say about you and your reputation validates that.

Branding; it all started with

When ranchers needed a way to know whose cow was whose they branded them.  Then, during the industrial revolution product manufacturers needed a way to let the public know whose soup was whose and whose caramel colored soda was whose so they branded them.  The results were Coca-Cola and Campbell Soup among hundreds of others.  Then in advertising’s golden age of the 1060’s J. Walter Thompson attached personalities to brands with slogans like “it’s the real thing” and “mmm mmm good”.


In the early 1970’s brands began to attach feeling and emotion to them.  What Mad Men fan could forget the final episode when Don Draper dreams up the emotional ad for Coca-Cola “I want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony”.

By the 1980’s brands had become a valuable asset of a company.  What else could explain the fact that in 1988 Phillip Morris bought Kraft Foods for 6 times what Kraft was worth on paper.kraft


As one example of how valuable brands can be, consider the story of Grey Goose Vodka.


In 1996 Sidney Frank, a 60-year-old German Spirits distributor, started with a story about a vodka he called Grey Goose.  The story was how French artisans crafted fine vodka in their fields over generations to come up with the perfect purist vodka on earth.  What Frank did next was brilliant, he priced his new vodka twice as much as the other brands that were then on the market.  Instead of selling Grey Goose for around $17.00 a bottle like everyone else, Frank priced his vodka at $30.00 a bottle.

grey goose best

But in order for the public to buy his more expensive vodka he had to have someone else, an expert, tell the world that Grey Goose was the best.  So he started entering his vodka into contest after contest until he finally won.  He then took out full page ads in the Wall Street Journal in 1998 stating that The Beverage Institute of Chicago voted Grey Goose Vodka the “World’s Best Tasting Vodka”.  The public believed it and sales took off.

Eight years later, in 2006, Sidney Frank sold Grey Goose to Bacardi for $2 billion dollars.  But sadly, Frank never got to enjoy his riches for long, he died one week after the deal closed while flying on his private jet to New York City.



Every year the New York branding company Interbrand publishes their “Top 100 Brands of the World”.  In 2015 those brands were:

  1. Apple
  2. Google
  3. Coca-Cola
  4. Microsoft
  5. IBM

Today, according to Interbrand, brands need to move with the speed of life.  Since we are exposed to thousands of brands every day, brands need to live in micro-moments that weave into our lives as we live them. The top brands today are customer centric in the “age of you”.


By now you may be asking yourself, what is my brand? 

What is the promise I’m making to my customers? 

Is it “I’m the best tax attorney in California”? 

Is it “We make our customers rich”?

Be honest with yourself, does your reputation support your claim? 

Have you always saved your clients money on their taxes? 

Have you never lost a dime for any of your clients?

Remember, your brand is about relevancy and differentiation and your reputation is about legitimacy.

What does yours say about you?

Why did we merge?

For the past 25 years I have personally known Monte Justesen and David Overgaard.  I have always found them to be of the high moral character, honest, trustworthy, and caring individuals who work with integrity.  These values make up the culture of Stuart F. Cooper.  These are also the values that I hold dear in my life and are reflected in my organization as well.

Don Burdge, Monte Justesen, Dave Overgaard

For the last year, I have been secretly searching for a perfect fit for our firm and last October I hit gold.  Monte and Dave came to table willing to work together to make both of our companies stronger by merging together.  This gives Dave and me equal interest in the new organization while providing Monte an exit strategy from his company.

Our customers are no longer buying letterheads and envelopes as they once were.  Gradually, over the years, we have become primarily a business card printer and this merger means we will now be able to expand our product line to Burdge’s customers.  Cooper clients will be able to gain the expertise we have in our web-to-print solutions and in working with design and branding firms on corporate identity systems.

Last year when I was president of the Printing Industry Association of Southern California I learned that 10 years ago there were 38,000 printing companies in the country.  Today there are only 28,000 and that number is expected to continue to shrink.  I did not Burdge to simply shrink and fade away.  So, the other option was to find a way to offer other products and services.  This economy, as bad as it is, can offer some unique opportunities for those of us willing to look for creative solutions.  That is what Dave and I have done.

Stuart F. Cooper is in a 50,00 square foot building just 6 miles west of Burdge, just south of downtown LA, and they have plenty of room for Burdge employees.  Therefore we will be moving into their location throughout this month.  Our plan is to move each department when it is ready to go and, hopefully, by August 1st we will be moved in.   We don’t, however, plan on being in that location forever.  It is both Dave’s and my goal to move our new company back toward this business friendly area as soon as it is practical.

Arlen Alfson, Burdge plant manager for the past 22 years will still be involved in production, pre-press and IT.  Joe Lee will still be in accounting and Ruben Machado will be in customer service.  These three talented managers will be working side-by-side with their managers just as Dave and I will be working side-by-side.   Unfortunately we will not have room for every current employee.  Final decisions will be made by the end of this month.

Last month Dave and I met with the Louey/Rabino Design team.  They have agreed to create a new company name, logo and identity to take our company into the future.  We will unveil this new look and name at the end of summer.

It is important to Dave and to me that we come up with a new name.  The names Burdge and Cooper hold tremendous value to the marketplace and we do not want to lose that.  However it is very important that we create a new identity for the team of the talented individuals who we are.  Working together, under one name that will reflect the values of what we will be in the future.

Burdge and Stuart F. Cooper to Merge

LOS ANGELES, CA – July 1, 2010 – Two of Southern California’s venerable printing companies, Burdge Incorporated founded in 1923 and Stuart F. Cooper founded in 1929, announced their merger effective today.  Stuart F. Cooper is a primary supplier of engraved and printed products to law firms, accounting and consulting firms, corporations, and self-publishers while Burdge provides stationery and marketing material to corporations through a strong association with the graphic design community.

Combined, the firms will serve the printing needs of over 6,000 customers nationwide from their Los Angeles and Atlanta printing facilities.  Stuart F. Cooper acquired Atlanta based J.P. Stevens in 1997.  Stevens, founded in 1874, grew to become the South’s premier social stationery engraver and now serves the printing needs of the legal and professional community on the East Coast.

To Burdge’s client base, the merger with Stuart F. Cooper brings expertise in on-demand digital printing along with larger format six-color printing and a full bindery.  Cooper’s clients will gain the expertise Burdge has in its customized web-to-print solutions and their multi-process printing techniques.

Both firms have a reputation for producing high quality printed products, sometimes combining up to eight printing techniques on a single piece.  Products the companies produce include business cards, letterheads, envelopes, announcements, pleading paper, brochures, presentation folders, manuals, reports, directories, catalogs, books, greeting and holiday cards, personal stationery and digitally printed communications.  The printing industry has honored the two firms collectively with over 180 combined awards for printing excellence, more than any other printer in their niche.

Don Burdge, grandson of the founder of Burdge, Inc., will be the company’s president and CEO while Dave Overgaard, formally president of Stuart F. Cooper, will be the company’s chief operating officer.  Burdge graduated from USC in 1979 with a degree in public relations and after working for a short time in the advertising industry joined the family firm in the early 1980’s.  Overgaard graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1979 with a degree in Graphic Communications and has worked in the industry ever since.  Dave joined Stuart F. Cooper in 1981 and became its president in 2002.

For more information, along with details of the merger, please visit:

America online with Burdge

America Online, the original web portal, needed a new, fresh, brand identity when they spun off from Time Warner late last year.  The New York branding firm of Wolff Owens was tapped to create a unique look for Aol that incorporated numerous bold graphics representing Aol content in a fun palette of colors and designs.  Originally intended to empower web users to select Aol as their primary web portal, these same users can personalize their landing page with the graphic of their choosing.

In keeping with that same theme, Aol wanted to provide their employees with the ability to personalize their business cards.  In a nation-wide search they, and Wolff Owens, looked for a business partner that could accommodate their unique request.

Our programmers went to work on developing a way that Aol employees could choose amongst different graphic images to be mixed up within their box of business cards.  “Within a week our team came up with a working model demonstrating how the order site would work” according to Craig Nelson, Burdge Vice President of Corporate Sales.  “We were awarded the contract after showing how the site was able to process their order and based on the quality of the finished product.” according to Nelson.

Because of the unique Aol requirement of having a different image on every card, we selected the Xerox color digital printing process produce their cards.  Along with the business cards the same mix of graphic images was used for letterheads, sticky pads, note cards and other stationery items.

Now that the branding team was satisfied with the ordering process, and the look and feel of the products, we now has to satisfy the requirements of Aol procurement.  An XML integration was written so that all orders, placed from Aol offices around the globe, could be ordered, proofed, printed, shipped, tracked, and invoiced with only about 12 minutes of total human contact.   Using the tools now available to us we can drive out all the excess cost of delivering a high end printed product to our customers around the world.

“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” impressed with engraving

This week we received an order to produce the stationery package for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”.  The original Tonight Show identity system was designed in the 1960’s when Johnny Carson was the undisputed king of late night talk shows.  Last month, when NBC announced that they were giving Conan O’Brian the boot in favor of Jay Leno, The Tonight Show took the opportunity to re-brand their iconic look.

Leno looked to the Douglas Oliver Design Office in the recent past when he needed a new look for “The Jay Leno Show”.  Now that Jay was moving back to The Tonight Show it was time to come up with a fresh look.

Kyle Oliver, Douglas Oliver’s son, was tasked with developing the new look for the venerable show.  For the collateral he choose to print on Mohawk Superfine Ultra White paper with a color palette of black and dark green.  Most of the material is printed using the common offset printing process however, when it came to Jay’s own business card and their executive stationery, Kyle choose to engrave the black in order to enhance the products’ look and feel.

“Engraving is nicer and more memorable than regular printing” Kyle said, “one has a limited amount of time to make an impression and with an engraved card that impression is not only visual but tactile as well.”  Kyle went on to say that they were originally going to emboss the stationery but felt that embossing changed the shape of the paper too much.  By using engraving they were able to keep that “touch” feel to their stationery without changing the shape of the paper.

Jay Leno and his executive team will get their new stationery just in time to hand out cards to the first shows live audience.  I’m sure they’ll be impressed.

eMail Holiday Cards May Send the Wrong Message

I have been getting ready to send out our annual email reminder  to customers about ordering holiday cards this year.  In the past few weeks I’ve heard back from many customers who normally send holiday cards that upper management now is requesting that marketing send out eMail Holiday Cards instead of printed cards.

There is no doubt that eMail Holiday cards are less expensive to send than printed cards but what is the real cost of sending eMail cards?  I Googled this and found this article by “BIG” Mike McDaniel that sums it up pretty well.  Mike wrote:

Thinking about saving time and postage this Holiday season by sending your greetings by eMail? Don’t.

Using eMail will get the greeting delivered all right, but it might not be the message you want to convey. eMail is great for rapid communication.  eMail is terrific for business. eMail it is great for old friends to keep in touch. But eMail is a real flop when it comes to expressing genuine emotion or caring.

The sentiment expressed when you snail-mail a card, picked by you, addressed by you and signed by you cannot be duplicated on a color monitor.  Some people like to use the free electronic greeting cards that send an eMail message that points the recipient to a web page that has an animated greeting card, some artificial music, and an ad for a product! What feeling does that convey?

Think back to holidays past and the joy of opening cards and reading the handwritten messages. Now consider how you felt when the card was factory imprinted with the name or business of the sender, or worse, how you felt when your name was stickered on the front by a computer label.

I help people and businesses better understand and use eMail. With over 50 Billion eMail messages holiday greeting.  First, more than half of the people who use eMail still see only plain vanilla text. Newer and fancier eMail programs allow the reader to see fancy pages with color and photos, called HTML. But if you send an HTML encoded eMail message to a friend with plan vanilla text eMail, your message will be lost in lists of code and funny characters. I tell my audiences to stay away from eMail greetings at holiday time. traveling around the globe every day, there is not a lot of room for the flat emotion of an eMail

Send different sentiments to different friends, business associates and relatives. You may want to send a Happy Holidays card to those who might be offended at Merry Christmas. Whether you print or purchase your variety of greeting cards, choose ones that use the same size envelope. Take the time to add a personal note on every card, it will convey emotion and friendship so much more than just your signature.




The Post Office always wants you to mail early, but for best emotional results hold off until after the first of December. In 1860, the goal of the Pony Express was to get mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California in ten days. Not much has changed. Mail before December 10 or your snail-mail may not make it in time.

Convey your message of friendship, love and business communication in a very personal way this holiday by not using eMail for seasons greetings.