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Not a Brand Guru

By Joe Miller | March 29, 2018



I am not a brand guru. I don’t claim to stand at branding’s burnished edge. Our offices don’t overlook Madison Avenue, or the Thames. I don’t sit in an Eames chair, or play ping-pong in the office. (That would be cool, though…)

From where I sit in our gritty brick building, this Healthy Branding thing feels completely right. Brand therapy, you could call it. And treatment, with ongoing counseling and a plan.

You see, most of our clients help people every day. It’s their for-real mission. They have many consumers but aren’t consumer brands. Their audiences include C-Suite execs, homeless people, insurance companies, addicts, government agencies, schizophrenics, private equity, managed care organizations, PTSD sufferers, staff members, Veterans, physicians, donors, counselors, foundations…

Money on Mistakes

They can’t pour money on mistakes. They can’t afford to be New Coke or Crystal Pepsi. Or Blackberry. Or ‘Just Say No‘.

These are heartland organizations, laboring with love and passion, working where most of us would not even walk. It helps that some of us know this path, understand what they do, and recognize who they help. We know the neighborhood.

When an organization works with us through the healthy branding process, they trust us to help them figure out who they are and what makes them special. We employ that special-ness to help them focus, unify, grow, and become more sustainable as an organization. So they can keep doing the work they do.

Guru in My Mind

Being considered a brand guru doesn’t matter. And the cutting edge is not always a healthy place to be. Experience has taught me that getting it right matters more. So if I work in relative obscurity but succeed in helping the organizations I work with become healthier and better known, I am a contributor of solutions. That’s a lot easier to live with than being a guru.




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Joe Miller

Joe delivers copy, generates concepts, and helps determine strategy. He’s been doing it since 1991 when he started working with a small downtown Cleveland marketing firm. Joe joined the designRoom team as a freelance writer in 1993. He has an annoying knack for finding the core of a problem and the heart of a solution. He also makes the best coffee in the office. In early 2008 he joined the Marketing & Communications team at the Ohio Lottery. While there, Joe led the team that developed and implemented the Lottery’s first-ever social media initiative and crafted the Ohio Policy and Procedures and Terms of Use that guided all the Lottery’s social media involvement. In addition, he created a Winners are Everywhere campaign and managed the creative agency responsible for its implementation. Joe is also a professional musician and educator and occasional composer. He’s the Jazz Trumpet faculty and Jazz Combo conductor at Cleveland State University and has performed all over the world.

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