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The Allasso Group’s Corporate Branding Redesign

As I write this we’re knee-deep in a complete redesign… new logo, business cards, stationary, and most significantly, a new website.  My good friend and branding/ corporate identity design consultant, Robbie de Villiers, is doing the design work.  And why not? He’s the absolute best to work with and this is his sweet spot. And as one of our “cadre” of consultants, he wants our image to reflect his skill set.

Because our primary work product transforms our clients business, Robbie focused on communicating the concept of “change & transformation” and delivered an abstract butterfly for the logo-the quintessential image to communicate change. After a few back-and-forth’s, the color palette was quickly settled.

 Then it was on to picking the font (having designed many fonts, Robbie is a MASTER at this) & then quickly on to what our  stationary would look like:

Then the business card:

And now we’re working on the website.  Most of the copy is written, including submissions from the other consultants. The work in process looks like this, including my live Twitter feed in the right-hand column (/dnagallo):

The most amazing thing about it all is it reminds me of the feeling I had when I was 10 after I got a new pair of sneakers. I was certain I could run faster & jump higher. EVERYTHING is better.  I find myself rejuvenated in all areas of life – some completely unrelated! My entire countenance has changed for the better.  Good design & good marketing communications will do that for a business. 

This reminds me of when we were working on the Mentor product logo & branding in 1996. No matter what we did and how we visualized the brand, we kept coming up short. The team leader was focused on the wrong attributes & we lived with an inferior logo for a few years. I still remember when John Hall, my 1st premium quality/off-the-hook talented Design Director came back with the mock-ups that approximated what we were working so hard to articulate… we all went crazy! The room exploded with energy as we came up with the last bits and tweaks.  That logo wound up winning an award at some 1998/99 advertising association’s annual awards contest for best product logo of the year (though I can’t for the life of me recall which year or which association!).  

The victory delivered an important lesson: great deliverables come from talented individuals working in a team environment that are free to collaborate and explore the boundaries within the properly defined parameters. The real keys are accurately defining the requirements & then learning how to develop an environment conducive to creative collaboration (hint: show respect for each teammember).

Hopefully, the new website will be ready to launch before the end of May & it will properly communicate the benefits of working with The Allasso Group. Right now I’m feeling pretty good about it.

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An Introduction…

Remember New Wave?

I’m a lifelong entrepreneur, born with enough musical ability to have toured w/ a band in earlier days, but not quite enough to make it a career.  At 25 years old, with a combination of creativity, youthful exuberance, a passion for business and $15,000 I borrowed from family, I started my first company in 1985 – producing corporate marketing communications (renting A/V equipment, producing video, executive presentations, producing/staging major corporate events, etc.).

I was fortunate to have a father-in-law in the computer business and he convinced me IT would drive the direction of business. So by 1987 I was using PCs to create Marketing Communications content for clients… Within a few years we were producing the earliest interactive multimedia sales tools.

In 1991 I began serving Fortune 100 clients as a Communications Consultant for major IPOs & Debt Offerings… consulting and producing offerings for the biggest names in business – Duracell, Owens-Illinois and every other KKR deal, Ronald Perlman’s Revlon and more, a GM-Hughes Electronics offering, privatizations for companies in Italy and Argentina, deals in Mexico, etc.  From 1990 through 1996 we produced more than 200 deals.  I personally worked with the largest clients, spending significant time on private planes with senior management teams.  I learned so much about how to/how not to run a business on these 3 to 4 week tours throughout Europe and the US while observing the various CEOs, CFO’s, Senior Investment Banking executives and Venture Partners.

By ’92 I began grappling with a major short-coming for the companies we served – they shared a challenge communicating top level strategy and direction to a dispersed employee population.  This wrestling sowed the seeds of a new product I called Mentor®, which turned into a new product category in the eLearning sector, now called Electronic Performance Support System, or EPSS. Mentor streamed multimedia content over networks directly to any desktop to deliver… just what you need to know, just when you need to know it. Everyone’s using the concept now, to varying degrees of success, but back then… streaming content over networks at a scant 2Kbps was unheard of… Using audio at work? A major sales hurdle! Using multimedia as a strategic business tool? Ridiculous!  Mentor’s breakthrough came when I focused on selling its business value to CTO’s, COO’s & CFO’s because in initial deployments for the ealriest Knowledge Management System for KPMG, Mentor tripled system usage, eliminated training costs, proved to speed enterprise deployments and reduced Help Desk calls up to 40% – all of this translated intoa massive ROI.

Mentor was birthed as a business communications tool, not learning courseware. So even though it was categorized as a subset of eLearning, traditional learning companies did not understand its effectiveness. By 1996 my father-in-law joined the company and turned the Mentor concept into a fully fleshed out product we could leverage to sell content licenses of major enterprise software and as a custom service offering. Our first major deal was building a Mentor for Lotus Notes for IBMs internal deployment where we also negotiated a reseller agreement, leveraging IBM’s market reach to access the Notes market, and it built from there. We wound up selling over 14 million product licenses and building custom Mentors serving over 40 million users in both B2B & B2C markets.

Feb 2002. Press pic for a contest we sponsored with Entrepreneur Magazine.

The trajectory of the Mentor product was pretty straight forward.  The company I founded to make it all happen? Far from it. 

Growth outpaced cash flow, process pains from business acquisitions, “Angel” investors turned devilish – complete with Boardroom backstabbing and massive personal stock dilution all resulting in an investor-forced company sale, followed by massive growth, a parent company’s bankruptcy, a buy-back, VC investment… a huge fall-off after September 11 terrorist attacks, 30 months of casf flow-bleeding and downsizing, a “mercy” sale and, finally, a departure in April 2006 and consulting work ever since.

A wild ride. And that’s the short version.

So many lessons learned—most, the hard way.  Lots of future topics to explore…