Category: Branding & Identity


Your Need For Serious Fun Explained

The Oishii team just finished up an exciting week at Comic-Con! And while work brought us to San Diego for the usually artful cross-promotional programming, costuming and fantasy fetes, (Check out our latest promo done for TBS for Conan and his amazing full week of live #ConanCon) we like the play time too. Like most attendees, there’s more to Comic-Con than cosplay, interactive mise-en-scenes and celebrity hero panels.

Comic-Con is an adventure, it’s what can be called play with a purpose.

Wait, what? What is play with a purpose you may be asking yourself?

We adults, even creative professionals, have lost a strong sense of play in our lives.  According to David Whitebread at the University of Cambridge, the traits of playfulness, qualities of mischievousness or curiosity,  have played critical roles in human evolution.  Along with language, culture, and technology, says Whitebread, play has shaped and honed our problem-solving skills and thinking skills.  With every achievement, whether in philosophy, mathematics, art, engineering or economics, people toiled and may have had loads of fun too.

In our increasingly complicated world, with distractions everywhere, it’s not hard to see how we might need to tap into our the play in our evolutionary bones.


But it’s not so simple; we can’t just frolic around the office, giggle our way through meetings.  Play’s got serious social and individual biases to overcome.  At the individual level, we adults don’t know how to integrate play into our identities, it wasn’t taught, encouraged beyond playgrounds. There are no “rules” for play on the road to adulthood.  In fact, the quintessential mark of adulthood means leaving behind childish qualities of excessive playfulness.  Play really drops out of our lives and thinking in our professional ventures. We adults measure must ourselves through the lenses of professional accomplishments and work.  Play becomes trivial and without purpose.  Play happens on the other side of our packed work schedules, beyond the world of responsibilities. As the work worshiping Victorians liked to say, we earn play through hard work. For us post-industrial workaholic types, play is for those seeking to relive their childhoods. It’s more suited for the whimsical minded millennial types at the Brooklyn adult preschool.

But the truth is, we’ve lost sight of play and its dynamics, its role in our survival.   We need to develop an integrated and practical sense of play; an altogether new way of thinking that allows us to problem-solve, innovate and dream up novel ideas and solutions. Play can help us tap into our best human selves.

Play keeps us curious and full of wonder.

In the mid twentieth century, influential pediatrician Benjamin Spock championed for the seriousness of kids’ play. Play for Spock gave kids confidence and skills to climb the ladder of intellectual development. Disguised as fun, kids learned key life lessons for their complicated adult lives.

With the help of recent research science, creativity studies and neuroscience, we’re beginning to quantify and understand the workings of the qualities of playfulness. It’s getting close to possible to see and measure the effects of playfulness in our brains.  According to a recent German study of 3000 subjects, researchers found that subjects who used the traits of playfulness showed higher levels of performance on a variety of tests than those with less playful traits.  Under the right conditions, a dose of play helped people solve complex problems, find compatible romantic partners and turn monotonous work tasks into interesting ones. While the study represents an emerging field of study, it nonetheless confirms what every fidgety, doodling day dreamer knows: play activates senses and piques awareness. Play is a tool for taking in and sorting information and it helps us process and churn through our brains and bodies. Play starts curiosity which can open up doorways for seeing and observing.  Our brains churn and process with play in altogether new ways. That’s play at its most practical and inspiring.

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This research confirms what many in business see as the foundations of innovation.  Companies and leaders are measured in part by ambition and hubris. How far an individual, teams and a company are willing to dream, aspire and stretch themselves.  Ambition requires among many traits the qualities playfulness, roguishness, whimsy and a can-do spirit.  And play is a good trait as any to give companies the push to innovate or even stop stagnating, gain some competitive space.  Take the Microsoft PC hardware business for example.  Microsoft has suffered many public failures against innovating behemoth Apple. And while Apple chased mobile products, Microsoft has been quietly letting loose armies of visionaries and design thinking types across its product lines.  Surely Microsoft won’t be ready to compete anytime soon, but their investment and fresh if not radical approach hint at what it’s capable of in the future.

The idea of playfulness works at a global level too. Aren’t the traits of play, inventiveness and creative thinking part of what the world most admires about America and American entrepreneurialism? Our “creative competitiveness” and ability to innovate across business, in media and entertainment, manufacturing and technology rest on this notion of dreamers restlessly chasing ideas, connecting and innovating and in the process solving the world’s ever increasing complex social and business problems.  When Elon Musk waxes poetic of his desire for commercial space travel to Mars, he’s tapping into his strong sense of play for his business but also for the rest of us, his decision to “change the rules of Space travel” is meant to pique our curiosity in our otherwise firmly earth bound lives.

Early in the twentieth-century Modern art provocateur Henri Matisse, said, “creative people are curious, flexible, persistent and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.”    Matisse was writing at a time when the modern art world, controlled by traditionalists, rejected his style and techniques as outlandish and a threat to accepted norms in realistic painting.  His hunches only reinforce what dynamics playing out in psychology, technology, and business every day. To harness playfulness is to open up the senses, get curious and follow hunches into the unknown.  Play shakes up our senses, prompts us to see and ask new questions. Play can reframe our perspectives.

So, go out, have some play, dress up and dream big at Comic-Con and beyond!



photos courtesy of Oishii Creative, Tedd Kelly @unsplash


















Break Your Creative Bubble




zachary-nelson-192289 (1)Oishii’s Kate Canada Obregon was recently asked to talk about diversity for The Drum News. As you might expect from Oishii, she challenged peers to break creative conceptual bubbles, the safe zones for creating content for audiences. Audiences are tired of safe and simple recycled creative. Whether a creative advertising campaign or brand visual refresh, audiences want new ways of seeing their world.  Telling good stories means stepping into the many shades, values and geographies and telling our collective history. We’re not talking art or design that speaks from on high, tucked away in a museum. A successful promo can act as a window into the ways we are  bound together under a community, country, politics and culture while giving an unexpected burst of inspiration. Audiences will continue to ignore commercial creative work unless it can satisfy. inspire and sustain.  Here’s to crafting the art between story and design, telling poignant and diverse stories for us all.



Mary Tyler Moore And Broad Girls: Why Culture Always Needs Funny, Strong Women



Broad City

This week saw the season finale of two different series about women whose story arcs have been surprising, fresh and appealing, not because they’re shocking in their bad behavior, but in how realistic it is, especially to a Millennial audience that desperately craves authenticity. HBO’s Girls and Comedy Central’s Broad City may not be on-air ratings smashes, but you can be sure that their target audience is binging — perhaps on their laptops or with their parent’s HBO Go passwords; most likely with a second screen in hand, but they are tuning in for the kind of authentic, experience-driven content that marketers should take note of.

Even as ad sales models are shifting in our ever-changing industry, audiences will always be drawn to television, so long as the content feels culturally relevant and speaks directly to them.

Forty years ago, America’s Sweetheart on the small screen was Mary Tyler Moore, a traditionally beautiful good girl, who’d risen to fame playing the eternally patient wife to Dick Van Dyke on his title show, before being granted her own namesake series, which lasted seven seasons and won, at the time, a record-breaking 29 Emmys. From 1970 to 1977,
The Mary Tyler Moore Show appealed to a wide audience of women, especially those who were young and working full-time, because it was one of the first shows to portray an independent, childless working woman who, on top of everything, was succeeding. Mary was smart, driven, hard-working, kind and gorgeous. She had the career, a love life on her terms and strong female friendships, to boot. Mary had it all.

But where Mary succeeded — in both her fictional life and the very real network ratings — by being aspirational, creating something today that appeals to this generation of young working women must be approached differently. Instead of searching for role models, today’s Millennials want authentic and complicated, experience-driven characters.

Which is why the girls of Broad City and the broads of Girls are so appealing to this generation.

They defy inherited expectations about career, clothes and relationships. Which isn’t to say  Abbi and Ilana are dismissive of looking good and having glossy ideal lives, they certainly want careers and love. In their sketch comedy humour is used to hilariously pick apart these expectations.

Unlike Mary, none of them are in truly successful careers, relationships or even necessarily well-dressed. On Broad City, Abbi, the straight-laced of the two, is desperately trying to work her way up at a SoulCycle stand-in that doesn’t fully embrace her, while Ilana, her sexually fluid, polyamorous best friend drifts from job to job as she’s asked to leave each of them. They drink, they get high, and they navigate dating in the era of Tinder and “Hookup Culture” in a way that all feels fresh, and, most importantly, real.

It’s no coincidencegirls that both series were developed by their stars, who took their real-life experiences to parlay them into fictional versions of themselves. In Girls, show creator and star Lena Dunham’s main character, Hannah’s, friendships are as dramatic, if not more than her romantic relationships, something Dunham has said was important to portray in contrast to shows like Sex in the City, which had previously set the standard for portrayals of female friendships among young working women.

Says Dunham, “I kind of also felt like it was aspirational about friendship… for me, that kind of friendship is elusive. I feel like a lot of the female relationships I see on TV or in movies are in some way free of the kind of jealousy and anxiety and posturing that has been such a huge part of my female friendships, which I hope lessens a little bit with age.”

Millennials defy our expectation. Their lives are complicated, messy, exciting and unique. They don’t want to be spoken down to, they don’t even want our encouragement; they want to see themselves, or at least recognizable version of themselves, in their entertainment and even marketing. And as the business of television and how we reach our audiences continues to change, now, more than ever, content of any type has to be more than just marketable and engaging. It has to be real.


Clarity Builds Strength: How Brand Transparency Builds Consumer Loyalty


Reviewing their inspiration board. Via CNBC.

We loved working with the Flex Watch founders and their investor, Marcus Lemonis, on a recent episode of this season’s CNBC’s series “The Profit.” When we met with team Flex, our role was simple — re-aligning the brand, which was faced with a tangle of confusing advertising and slumping sales. Like many businesses, Flex launched strong, but lost its way in the clutter of market competition. When they launched in 2010, the company, whose tagline is “Time to Make a Difference,” had a clear vision and purpose-driven direction. They offered 10 colors of watches, donating 10% of the profits to 10 set charities. A straightforward and well-defined approach that saw strong company growth for the first two years. But as Flex caved to market pressure and begun expanding their offerings to include more expensive items and redirecting their market to a newer “hip” consumer base, sales began to falter.


Flex Watches pitching Flip Flop Shop. Via CNBC.

As the episode showed, the team struggled to find solutions; however, with renewed focus and outside help, the team was able to connect back with its authentic, essential brand, telling its story with purpose.

The Flex team problems aren’t unique. Losing sight of brand story and an overarching vision and mission aren’t just the problems of early days of frenetic start-ups, they can happen at any stage of growth. Take for instance, behemoth brand McDonald’s. With weak sales and sluggish growth, the fast food giant needed a way to re-shape public perceptions. With the launch of the global digital campaign, “Our Food Your Questions,” the company hopes to remind customers of its original brand promise of quality fast food. Will today’s nutrition-smart eater trust the brand to deliver its promise? It’s probably too soon to tell. But we can generalize that messaging reminders and repeats of brand values or promises do not pivot a brand for growth or spark nutrition, dietary or food conversations the public cares about.


Marcus Lemonis and the Flex Watches team. Via CNBC.

Some companies align brand, story and message tightly, gaining competitive advantage without sacrificing history, essence and identity. Southwest Airlines, for example, has built its brand around trust from its niche origins as a low-cost air carrier. By positioning itself outside the mainstream largess of other commercial airlines, the company has developed loyalty and trust while also using brand story to broaden conversations beyond ticket prices. With its “Transfarency” campaign, Southwest adds layers into its brand history while leading a conversation people want and care about.  

These case studies illuminate the importance of aligning brand fundamentals. Cast your brand story too far away from your vision, mission, values, and personality, and you’ll soon lose your place with audiences. Maybe McDonald’s can afford a “do-over” in the public’s mind, but not all companies have unlimited talent, money, and resources to create a cultural reinvention. Besides, consumers today tend to see right through such messaging-cum-brand story. Athletic clothing line Lululemon has yet to regain the trust of its once passionate brand loyalists. Once its CEO lashed out at his target consumers about the “right” kind of bodies fitting into its yoga pants — poof! He went all the way “downward dog” and lost brand trust (and his job), while the company’s stock and its brand story took a hefty hit and has never fully recovered.

That’s because we’re living in an age of brand transparency. Consumers expect a real partnership with companies, more than marketing. It means doing research and matching core brand offerings to what consumers want, need and value. They’ll buy from you so long as you make their lives better, even a teensy weensy bit. It means giving consumers key information about the brand, company, and products, which is often achieved through the brand personality. It’s giving a peek into not just how the business “works,” but long exchanges with the values and passions of the founders and the company. And if this isn’t authentic or genuine or transparent, like the Flex Watches before their brand pivot episode, you’ll find yourself adrift amidst the competition.


‘Tis The Season to Form a Connection

Ah, the holidays. The shopping lists have been made, the plane tickets have been booked. Even Christmas carols are starting to get some airplay. But, for those of us working in branding and marketing, perhaps what’s most ubiquitous about the holiday season is the plethora of emotional branding that’s rolled out this time of year. But don’t get us wrong, although it can be a bit schmaltzy when it feels forced, if you’ve given your brand a clear, emotionally resonant narrative, it can be very compelling.

And the best way to tap into a clear narrative that your audience is most likely to relate to is to incorporate what cultural shifts they may be experiencing at this time. As I wrote about in my recent piece for MediaPost, “Cultural Strategy: Why Brands Need To Know Their Changing Audiences:”

Today’s audience is craving a real connection, and authentic stories that represent the changing demographics of the American landscape are one of the most powerful way to establish that connection. Stories tap into the emotions we all share. Stories are universal ways of telling our personal view from the individual and tying it all up with what’s going on in the city, country and globe. Our job is to create stories of possibility and resonance.  

And, what better time than the holidays, when so many of us are joining our families and loved ones, than to tap into that bond. Afterall, Family Values and Excitement of Discovery are just two of the 16 “hot button marketing” topics that appeal to consumer’s emotions to draw a response. Studies have shown that forging this type of emotional connection is a more effective measure of advertising effectiveness than traditional means, such as ad recall.

So, this winter, no matter what holidays you or your brand are celebrating, make the most of the season by forging a real emotional connection with your audience. If you need any more inspiration, then check out some of the most popular holiday ads of all time.


Taking Sports Branding Strategy Off The Field

As we’ve said before, we’re big believers in finding inspiration outside your comfort zone, using each new project to stretch our creative boundaries and imaginations while learning new skills and concepts. While Oishii is certainly no stranger to the world of sports branding, strategy and design, we were thrilled when PromaxBDA’s Brief recently gave us the opportunity to reflect on what that competitive landscape can teach marketers in all areas of entertainment.

Head over to Brief to read our take on how the world of sports can help guide your branding playbook.


What’s Your 30-Second Story?

In 2001, when BMW debuted its series of short films, The Hire, helmed by Hollywood directors including Guy Ritchie and Ang Lee and starring Clive Owen, customers and press alike went wild. The series set a benchmark for branded content and spurred the conversation about the importance of storytelling in advertising. At approximately 10 minutes each, the eight films exemplified the future of brand partnerships and the symbiotic relationship between advertising and entertainment; however, they weren’t seen as examples any brand could emulate. They should have been.

What drew people to The Hire and what makes it so memorable more than a decade later, wasn’t just the production values or the A-list talent, it was that at it’s heart, it was dynamic, engaging storytelling. Even if you don’t have the luxury of BMW’s budget and schedule for that project, anyone can tell a good story. And when you’re building storytelling into your ad campaigns, via branded content, promos or commercials, whether you’re selling cars, detergent or television, you need to keep in mind the four basic principles of storytelling: descriptive character, clear goal, meaningful conflict and a resolution that teaches a lesson.

Good storytelling isn’t about the length of the story, it’s about servicing these four core elements to create an engaging scenario. Novelists, screenwriters and even comic book scribes know that for a successful story, you can’t leave any one out. We need a character to identity with, whose viewpoint takes us through the action — for BMW, it’s Clive Owen, aka The Hire; a goal to show us what we desire and are striving for — a quick getaway in luxury, comfort and style; the introduction of conflict to make a case for our product — eccentric baddies in fast hot rods are chasing him; and finally, a resolution that teaches us that if a BMW can service a wheelman for hire, think what it can do for you.

Too often, brands devote their precious air-time to listing features or touting their position over the competition as stand-alone mini-segments of an already brief spot, when these selling points could be integrated into the narrative. Anyone can say a product is amazing, but if you tell your audience the story of your product, while offering a display of its worth, it’s going to emotionally resonate with them, even if you’ve only got 30 seconds.

To further illustrate this, let’s make up something far less action- (and budget-) packed — a detergent ad: A harried working mom (descriptive character) is prepping for her big dinner party (clear goal), when one of the kids accidentally spills juice down her cocktail dress (meaningful conflict). But, she is a savvy protagonist who uses our detergent client’s stain remover and gets the stain out just in time for the party (resolution with a clear lesson to always have our client’s brand on-hand.) It has a beginning, middle and end, showcases the consumer’s need and how the brand will fulfill it, all with no box-reading voiceover or side-by-side real-time stain removal comparisons needed.

As Jon Hamm (no, the other one), said in Adweek, “The most powerful way to persuade someone of your idea is by uniting the idea with an emotion. It’s indisputable that the best way to do that is by telling a compelling story.” It’s something BMW understood all those years ago, you may have great brand attributes, but it’s presenting them through the four storytelling principles that will tell your most compelling and memorable story possible.


Everyone Solves Design Problems

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

We’ve covered the importance of a brain trust and the ideal creative-centric leaders and their empowered teams. Now it’s time to get to the problems: how designers and design thinkers apply their skills.

A talented art director or designer can deliver amazing boards for a pitch, but what’s the thinking behind them? Do they solve a brand need? What are brands? Do they anticipate the future? Is it stunning but blind to its own purpose?

In the design industry, no matter the client, confusing beauty or “beautification” with great design happens. Getting lost in the art doesn’t always solve a business problem. Asking teams to align best practices of design and art into specific client ‘business’ problems makes everyone less focused on the “wow” and more focused on, “A-ha, I didn’t think of that!”

All industries face their unique challenges. Educator George Kneller says “creativity . . . consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know.” This should be a guiding maxim for re-thinking problems. For us, problem-solving has to do with how viewers see, understand and interact with television. The problems are knotty and sometimes imposing –- intimidating, even.

And while television struggles with conspicuous cultural identity issues, audiences still value what the medium offers. So teams should stretch their minds and try to solve tactical day-to-day puzzles. Whether it’s through scheduled meetings or informal work sessions, it’s a good idea to congregate and talk about the state of the industry, from competitors to aspirations.

These sessions don’t need to be “guided,” but it helps to have a sense of the problem’s history and background. We pull out the “classic” on-air looks, the big wins and the failures. We talk about symbols and meanings, such as what a logo or a lower third is trying to project; but what problems are they trying to solve? Is it advertising or something else?

These are the juicy “knotty” problems that make us dig deep and grope our brains for answers. Creativity scholars’ value this sort of juicy problem-solving because the unconscious mind (where ideas are always churning) has a chain to connect with ideas, thoughts and visuals that they don’t always think to recall.

We believe creative workspaces and designers and design-thinkers are the best combinations of people and places, allowing us to effortlessly wander through problems in a process Grant McCracken calls “provocation.”

Creative companies are the best places to “pitch the tent” outside conventional business strategic thinking; and designers are very often artists who use their skills and talents to provoke not only their own work, but life on-air.

That’s how we #daretoinspire


Oishii Creative Interviews Vine Sensation Ian Padgham

At Oishii Creative, we believe design thinking can’t be constrained; it fuels innovation and helps us think big. In our Think Like A Tourist series, we explore life at the intersection of creativity, thinking and technology. We recently asked Vine artist sensation and Twitter animator/producer Ian Padgham about what inspires him, and how he makes six seconds feel so dramatic, engaging and big.

What artists or music inspires you in your work? Why?
Albrecht Dürer, M.C. Escher, Bill Watterson, Bob Ross.

When did you start working on the Vine platform? What attracted you to it?
The day it came out. I liked the ability to produce content immediately and share it just as fast. Nothing saps the creativity and joy out of a project like months of meetings and revisions.

How does Vine compare to other mediums?
While Vine is little more than animated GIFS with sound, there is something truly special about the platform. This is partly due to the community, and partly due to the fact that, at least initially, it was a production toolkit with incredibly limiting parameters. That has since changed, but I think the ethos of DIY ingenuity continues to set the tone.

Which project do you find most inspiring and creative?
Projects that have no precedent and no goal other than creating something delightful and different.

What inspires you as an artist? Where do you find your stories to capture/tell?
I’m not a huge fan of the word inspiration. It feels like it’s saying that something out there is giving us a hint of what is cool, like we need to find a muse that will show us the way. I think stories and ideas just come from letting our minds off their leashes and letting them roll around in the park.

In 2013, observers pointed out that Vine was built on “constraints.” It allows you make edits and stitch them together for a story. You’ve worked out Vine’s constraints and taken shots and motion into a new medium. What does your process look like?
It depends on the Vine. Some Vines I make up as I go along, literally letting the animation flow out frame by frame without forethought.


Color Coded Creativity: The “Six Kid Technique”

Imagination is what keeps marketing and brand work relevant and meaningful. Dreaming up new ideas, processes and applications isn’t merely a good skill, it’s increasingly a metric for your success. Can you see the world differently enough to write a story, design a product or execute a strategy? And if you are lucky enough to work for a company that invests in you – asking you to solve problems and innovate – then you’ll want to reacquaint yourself with the the “Six Kid Technique.” It’s our adaptation of the classic Six Hat Technique used by Edward de Bono. It’s simple and easy to use. Pull out the six color-coded kids during your next meeting. Use and apply all kids when working on a challenge.

The Six Kid Technique Spectrum



Use emotions to look at the situation. What do your feelings or impulses tell you about it?



Use facts, logic and objectivity to assess what’s in front of you. Make a list of all the facts.



Put on a smiley face and look at the bright side. With a positive view, make a list of what works and what can be accomplished.



Tap into your dark side. Make a list of what doesn’t work and which elements of the solution just can’t work.



Think laterally and then some. Imagine the situation in the most alternative and unconventional ways, then work backward.