Category Archives: Branding

West Michigan & The Hardware Store – Take a Walk Down the Aisle

Hardware StoreMaybe you only visit your small local one, or perhaps you prefer the big box one, whichever type of hardware store you choose you’d be able to find an interesting array of West Michigan made products. With West Michigan’s manufacturing footprint, it is only logical that there are many local businesses that are filling the shelves at hardware stores. So lets take a nice virtual trip through a hardware store and see what we can find.

Usually the most brightly lit part of the store is the paint section. Although this company isn’t actually selling consumers anything, they have quite the presence at the paint counter. X-Rite is a company that produces color measurement equipment and software. They manufacture paint matching equipment called spectrophotometers (spectro), allowing hardware stores and paint stores to match the color of anything a consumer brings in, giving you a can of paint in the exact same color of your sample. So next time you are at a paint counter take a look around and see if you can spot the spectro.

Now, the one thing that you always need MITmore of and never have enough of are tools. Hardware stores are the perfect spot to add to your collection or get that one tool you just need to finish your project. Luckily Michigan Industrial Tools based in Grand Rapids produces over 2,000 different types of tools under 3 sub brands  – Tekton, Maxcraft, and Workshop. I will also have to say that I am quite the fan of their logo with how they still worked in an “I” and a “T” in the “M”, very subtle but well done.

Another company with a lot of sub-brands is National Nail Corporation in Wyoming. Although they do offer numerous nails, the company is really staking themselves on the following two sub-brands – CAMO Fasteners and Stinger Cap Systems. The CAMO Fasteners system is a way to screw down lumber decking without having the screws showing, a hidden screw system (the video showcases it quite nicely.) Stinger Caps is a new way of attaching insulation wrap on new construction which seems a lot easier than a nail hammer.

Since we just got done talking about decks and hidden fastening systems, we might as well go to the lumber yard. Universal Forest Products based in Grand Rapids, produces lumber for decking, and almost every other use, in additUniversal-Forest-Products-Inc.ion to a wide range of other wood based products. If you have any more questions you might as well spend some time playing around in their little city program here.

hexarmor-logoPerhaps these two should go hand in hand. We have Grand Rapids based Hexarmor who produces gloves, armbands, and other apparel for personal protection against cuts, punctures, and other injuries. Their technology is a competitor of Kevlar and they have been getting into similar industries, and their focus is on protecting people. Klever Innovations located in Grand Haven developed a new type of box cutter called the Klever Cutter. This box cutter was created in response to 9/11 because the traditional box cutter being used as a weapon. The group that founded Klever Cutter set up to create a product that would open boxes, but would not cut the anyone, or damage the goods inside the box. So with the Klever Cutter you wouldn’t need a pair of Hexarmor gloves now would you?

Shuffling over to the home improvement area, we have some redundancy with the following two products Quick Door Hanger and EZ-Hang, (though if I had been “klever” I would have worked both of these companies into my last post). Both these products allow for quick, easy and plumb door installations. Quick Door Hanger is produced by Express Products located in Grandville. The EZ-Hang door is based in Hesperia. Express Products also produces the Fix-A-Kink product that helps fixed kinked hoses. It seems that they have found quite the niche with home improvement products for consumers.

Alright logograbber75we made it through the store, now its time to checkout. But even the checkout aisle has a few impulse items for us to look at. Especially in the fall and winter season you will be seeing many displays for hand warmers like Grabber (not at all fond of the name) based in Grand Rapids. There is an extensive write up in Rapid Growth about how they are more than just hand warmers and how the company got started.

Lastly, who couldn’t use a pair of new shades, that is where Global Vision of Byron Center comes in. They are a wholesaler of sunglasses, safety glasses, and goggles which are perfect for the hardware store. Interesting side note, apparently both Global Vision and Grabbers have the same marketing person – Matt Pickel. Someone needs to update their website.

We finally got out of the store, except now we have a cart full of stuff that we didn’t come in here to buy. Oh well that is how it usually works anyways.  So what did I miss? Do we need to go to the home and garden section next?

HUGE Annoyance

I have a radio in my car.  No tape deck, no CD player, and no aux jack… so in my daily commutes I get stuck listening to radio.  With the West Michigan radio options already quite lacking, I struggle to entertain myself when a program I am listening to goes on commercial break.  There is often a lot of dial switching going on.

Not sure why the logo is cracking

Occasionally, I stumble upon WBBL 107.3  and if it’s in the afternoon I get to hear the HUGE (Bill Simonson) show… and I don’t like what I hear.  Maybe its the voice, or the whole on-air persona of all-knowing and talking down to callers of the show.  But those are minor things to what I really dislike… the constant barrage of sponsorships of everything, and all the ads that HUGE lends his voice over talents for.  It’s a constant to hear  Huge’s voice during the show, and throughout the whole commercial break.  Here is a small sampling of some of the advertisements that Huge does, and some of the sponsorships that I have heard:

Sponsored by The Ledger

Show sponsors include:

It’s a HUGE Deal!

For a casual listener it seems like there is a mandate that advertisers must use the voice of Bill Simonson in their radio ads or else.  Or perhaps that booming voice just helps in tough talking people to buy product xyz.  I know that a lot of radio shows do provide voice over services, but on the HUGE Show the percentage of those types of ads is vastly above and beyond what other shows do. Additionally, The Huge Show also goes over the top with having everything associated with the show sponsored like an inbox, or a website, or the phone lines… and then the constant reinforcement of this sponsor is out of control.

Sponsored by The Ledger on Twitter

Luckily, I am not the only one who feels this way, check out one of the more interesting blogs I have come across called Beeotch of The Day which seems to be run by someone in the Grand Rapids radio business.  Bill Simonson was twice nominated for Beeotch of The Day… once for his over use of sponsors and voice over ads , and nominated for the second time for just being plain lousy in the Radio rankings, and even getting bested by the other sports radio show in town on 96.1.  Furthermore, in reading over some of the MLive comments that were made on this story about the Free Beer and Hot Wings Show imitating and poking fun at Bill Simonson, many people also share similarly negative thoughts of HUGE, and notably commenter Thirdplanet who wrote the following “The reason this is so funny is because it is all so true. The Huge show is like one 3 hour commercial and apparently Huge will endorse anything. ”

Photo sponsored by The Ledger on Facebook

Lastly, what bugs me about Huge is that his Amway Inbox can be reached through his “State Wide” email address, and “State Wide” website.  “State Wide” email addresses and websites are available to anyone globally… so stop saying it, it sounds stupid, and makes you sound even more ridiculous.

Just listen to his show, and count the number of ads, and sponsors, its HUGE!

Out of curiosity is it cheaper usually to have a company produce its own commercial or to hire an on-air personality to do the radio spot?

The Miller’s

Having driven down Main Street in Zeeland before, I never paid much attention to some of the businesses located on the east stretch of the road by Chicago Drive.  Then one day, while driving down Main Street, it hit me- Herman & Howard Miller!  These two similarly named businesses are located right across the street from one another.  I thought it was quite peculiar that the Herman Miller facility is located on the north side of Main Street at address number 855, and Howard Miller is located directly across from Herman Miller on the south side of Main Street at address number 860.  I even took a photo (amazing right).

Obviously, I had to research this  connection and come up with some wild theories on how this curious arrangement came to be.  I even had the “Brothers from Other Mothers” blog title developed (I guess the Miller’s will do).  But this all came crashing down, as soon as I read the following line from Wikipedia– “Howard Miller Clock Company was founded in 1926 as the Herman Miller Clock Company division of office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller. It was spun off in 1937 and re-named, under the leadership of Herman Miller’s son Howard C. Miller.”  Digging into Herman Miller’s company history page they had a slightly different version of events, namely D.J. Dupree, the president of Herman Miller and son-in-law to Herman Miller, and brother-in-law to Howard Miller, spun off the company to Howard.   I should also mention that the companies are no longer affiliated with each other.

Sad to say but I am mildly disappointed, I was hoping for some more drama.  My great title, and all my wild theories went out the door, like pure coincidence, dueling brothers, extreme Herman Miller fanboy, or overly aggressive salesman trying to right the coattails of the Miller name and all along it was just pure nepotism (or was it), though maybe there was some dueling brothers-in-law back story.

Herman Miller Logo

But at least it makes sense.  Naturally having a company division spun off and close in proximity to the headquarters was beneficial back in the 1920s and 30s.  It would be interesting to learn more on why the Howard Miller was spun off.

Besides the same last names and H first names, and locations, there are some other similarities between the companies with their logos.  The rounded valley in the Herman Miller logo, and the rounded parts of the bottom and top of the U shaped parts that for the H in the Howard Miller logo.

Likewise, I also see a lot more similarities between Herman Miller logo with Motorola’s.  When I was new to the area I was always curious on why Motorola had such a huge presence in West Michigan (stupid, stupid, stupid).

Motorola

Read more about Howard Miller history here, and Herman Miller history here.

I wonder if they each have their own softball teams with the Zeeland Rec league, maybe that’s where the (most likely imagined) bad blood is.

Holland’s Creative Crass?

Well at least the name is an accurate description of the location of studio.  The front of the building is on the north side of 17th Street, and this Gallery & Studio is the “backside” of the building facing out onto 16th Street.  Here is a picture of the location. It is right behind WayCup Cafe.

Company Name Juggling in Grand Rapids

Local marketing firm Steketee Greiner Company (SGC) is now Agent X. SGC merged with an “experiential marketing agency” based in Chicago, called Agent X. They decided to retain the Agent X name, but reviewing the company’s history, the name switch should come as no surprise.

The company started in 2004 with Fiaba Creative located in Saugatuck. In 2007 Fiaba changed their name to Context MG. Context MG then moved to downtown Grand Rapids in January 2009. Sometime in 2009 (my guess is late summer) Context MG decided to change their name once again. This time the firm became SGC. SGC was named after the two founders Brian Steketee and David Greiner. This name was retained for about 1.5 years. Then in August 2010 SGC launched a new company called Catalyst SGC.

I understand the possible need to re-name a company when an acquisition or merger has happened, but 4 names over 7 years?. Often times companies want to either keep the stronger brand, or adapt names to retain the best from both companies, or even create a whole new name. But the only acquisition/merger, I could find was the most recent one between SGC and Agent X. The other 3 name changes were just new names. It must be difficult to build a brand, image, and clientele with one name, and then switch names and have to create or try to retain the brand, image again. Not to mention how confusing this could be for clients, and how expensive re-branding is for the firm (create new collateral, letterheads, redesign website, etc).  I wonder what the clients think of this name juggling.

But then again maybe this blogger should keep his mouth shut regarding changing names… West Michigan Business Blog is still transitioning to The Ledger.

The Rise and Fall of Spearia

Part 1

Never have I seen a company just come out of nowhere and have such a far reaching presence in such a short period of time like SpeariaSpearia was founded by Danny Beckett Jr. in 2007 in Belmont as a web & marketing development company.  The company at its height employed about 15 professionals in a variety of positions, and produced over a hundred website projects for their clients.  In September 2009 Spearia moved into a two-floor, 8,000-square-foot facility at 2934 West River Drive NE in Comstock Park, which they renovated for $500,000.

Just by announcing this move along Spearia started to get a load of press from local media. And this trend only continued when they announced Comstock 09, an event Spearia created to help celebrate their new office.  So what was Comstock 09?  Here is a list:

  • Two professional motocross shows
  • Music – free performances by Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys, The Concussions, Nobody’s Business and Funktion
  • Hot dog eating contest
  • A wide variety of free children’s activities in Dwight Lydell Park.  Kids can bring their own bikes and ride behind the professional motocross bikers from Fifth Third Ballpark down White Pine Trail to the park
  • Water balloon fight
  • Face-painting
  • Moon walk
  • Special appearances by Miss Michigan and the Whitecaps’ mascot, Crash
  • Food vendors and a beer tent

So all this sounds extremely cool, but once again Spearia was spending money.  According to this article Beckett was putting $50,000 of his own money into the event, and was also hunting for sponsors to help defray the costs of such a massive event.  In fact after the event I began hearing rumors of vendors who helped with the event were not paid for the services they provided to Spearia.  Of course rumors are rumors but looking at the tale events unfold in the past year it looks like there might be some truth to the rumors (more of that to come).

But since Comstock 09, Spearia just pushed on ahead with even more events, sponsorships and just general spending money.  For example – the Spearia team has (or had) a fleet of vehicles at their disposal like:

All these vehicles could not be cheap and maintaining the vehicles as well could be costly.

But there is even more. Did you know that Spearia also was a part of the following:

I understand that community involvement is really important for a company, and building a brand through this could be a huge benefit.  But I would love to find out how effective these campaigns/sponsorships really were.  What was the Return On Investment (ROI) with all these activities and did they bring in any new business?  How much money was spent on these events, that could have been used to reinvest in the company (new resources, new employees)?  How far did some of these activities stretch away from their core business.  Why on earth would a marketing and web development company decide to purchase an RV retrofit it, and do a custom painting on the outside, and then go drive people around ArtPrize?  How does this make sense (they even served pizza and drinks and had a magician on board)?  Granted they did charge $15 per ticket and the proceeds were donated to WMCAT, but still wouldn’t your time, money and resources do much better if they were invested elsewhere?

So where is Spearia now?  Well look at their twitter account – not active since December 10th, 2010.  Look at their facebook account – not active since December 10th as well.  What exactly happened?

Watch the video below from Justin Vander Velde…it answers a lot of questions.
Switching Gears
from Justin Vander Velde on Vimeo. (Make sure you watch that video!)

Justin Vander Velde, a GVSU student along with his classmates Matt Dayton, Jake Dawson, and Andrea Wallace were doing a documentary on Spearia, and founder Danny Beckett,  for a class project.   The students were able to capture a captivating tale of the company,  through some interesting thoughts from Danny Beckett.  For me the video really got interesting at 5:27 mark, when they were speaking with Spearia employees about some of the challenges in working with an “Ideas” person, most likely alluding to Beckett.  Both employees phrased it well but seemed to imply that the company had little focus and was always jumping from one thing to another without much thought or analysis on how this would affect the business.   Jason Dodge, Project Manager, also caught the Justin off guard when he stated that he was no longer the Marketing Director, and that lead to a awkward exchange, which only makes you question what happened.  Then at the 6:45 mark, Beckett starts explaining that perhaps they did too much and that some of their events were “too huge”, and needed to be “more focused”, they “weren’t prepared” and had “lack of planning”.  They were “focused on the fun”, and in the end “relationships got broken” and “a lot of people we own money too.”  All these comments were related to the first event of Comstock 09.  If this was the case, then why did the company continue throwing all these other events?  The video also details that the directors lost touch with Beckett and only heard back from him 3 weeks later, and also noted in the film that Jason Dodge ended up leaving the company. Afterwards Justin and his classmates drove by the Spearia headquarters on West River Drive and filmed the empty building with a For Lease sign from DAR Development in the front window.  Also exposed during the video was that Spearia was looking for investors but ultimately the deal they had in place fell through.  Lastly, the filmmakers were able to contact Beckett and he basically stated that the company as it was known was no longer there, and he talks about his original vision and how it was just not the right vision.  I am still in shock about how honest and forthcoming Beckett was in regards to his business, and how aware he seemed of the company’s mistakes and shortcomings.  But just as baffling is why similar mistakes (in the form of extravagant events) kept on happening.

Per Beckett, Spearia’s vision was to be a “leading experience based creative firm” and he later stated that was a “false vision.”  Now I am not sure if it was a false vision, because being a “leading experience based creative firm” sounds like a great goal, but it just seems that the approach to get to that vision was flawed.  Focus on your product and your service, instead of worrying about making a big splash or being the company that everyone thinks is “cool” or that has a fleet of vehicles for tooling around town with.  Just focus on what you do, and do it well.  But the whole thing about owing people money and breaking relationships that part is not cool at all.  You have to pay who ever you do business with, vendors, banks, partners, whoever and by not doing so is one of the quickest and easiest ways to break relationships.  I can’t help but wonder if this story would have been different if Spearia used all their time, money, and resources on their company instead of “events” and community outreach.  Maybe all these extra activities soon became a weight to great to bear for Spearia.

Oh and I guess this did not help the whole Spearia money situation either – Someone hacking into their phone system and racking up over $20,000 in charges.

It’s just kind of a shame that West Michigan lost another company.  I am sure that Spearia employed lots of hardworking people who did their jobs well, but ultimately it looks like a multitude of decisions may have lead the company to unravel.

So did anyone work with or worked at Spearia?  How about go to the Free Lunch Fridays or any of their other events?  What are your thoughts?  What happened?

This is Part 1.
Part 2 – With insights from the filmmaker Justin Vander Velde is now posted.
I will have one more follow-up post with some insights from a former employee of Spearia.

For more reading and discussion on Spearia check out Urban Planet message board and the mlive – GR Press article on Danny Beckett.

Logo Critique – All Weather Seal


So this is the All Weather Seal logo.  The question is:

Is this a seal who does roofs or a seal that is promoting clubbing (which is apparently still going on in the arctic circle)?

You be the judge.

Oh and if you want to be depressed google Seal Clubbing for images.