Stone Age, Bronze Age, Information Age. . .Creative Age. In an era of relentless and innovative change, we hope our generation’s legacy is defined by the way we shared knowledge, created ideas and made a positive impact on society through technology.
Creative strategy and technology are vital to Birk.Creative’s clients, and we were fortunate to find ourselves squarely at the crossroads of the Information and Creative Ages with our work for the State of Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC). We’ve helped ensure that the alcohol- and tobacco-related information the agency collects and provides is accessible and consistently delivered through an easy-to-use, content- and graphics-rich mobile-compatible website.
Reaching Multiple Audiences
When it comes to alcohol and tobacco use, the ILCC is responsible for reaching out to multiple audiences: manufacturers, distributors, retailers and the public at large. In the past, this outreach was conducted almost exclusively through printed communications and an outdated website.
In order to reach this diverse and multifaceted audience, Birk.Creative (formerly Birkdesign) worked closely with the ILCC to create a unique and easy-to-recognize branding system that includes a logo, clear messaging, an easy-to-navigate interactive and mobile Sharepoint website, and educational content posted on social media. In addition, Birk.Creative trained ILCC staff on social media usage and tactics to drive public engagement and create more intimacy, how to create consistent visual branding in communications and how to keep the content on the website up to date for the varying audiences.
“Each of these groups needs to have access to information that will inform its day-to-day thoughts and actions,” says Ted Penesis, education manager at the ILCC. “When I speak to people of any age, everyone responds differently. Some respond to scare tactics and some respond to information; our goal is to effectively communicate with all of those audiences, and now we have something for everyone.
“We can thank Birk.Creative and CEO JinJa Birkenbeuel for helping us set up the overall framework whereby we can reach all types of people,” continues Penesis. “We want to influence everyone, especially parents and younger folks, many of whom spend a large part of their day on their smartphones. Our website and social media are key to doing so. For example, we need to convince parents that letting their kids drink at home isn’t normal, and that in fact nine out of 10 parents believe it’s abnormal. We need to be sure this message reaches those who are able to take action, and to do so, we need to make sure this positive social message reaches all parents. They are the primary source of information for their kids. They set the example their children will follow.”
Penesis and the ILCC are working to set that example through campaigns like “Talk It Up!” and “Your Actions Matter,” a program being replicated in states from Florida to Alaska. Their message comes down to this: Preventing underage drinking is everyone’s problem.
While the main audience for the ILCC website consists of licensees looking to obtain or renew a liquor license or find legal information, the goal is to make education a key component of the website and accessible to the entire community. “Besides parents, we’re not focusing on any one group,” says Penesis. “Parents are a group that we know can change behaviors. We’re also targeting community organizations and local government officials.”
Making Information Accessible
The recently completed redesign of the ILCC website was geared, first and foremost, to making information accessible to both frequent and infrequent users of the website. “Previously, we had hundreds of links on the home page, and new users of the website had a difficult time accessing needed information,” says Penesis. “Now, thanks to a lot of hard work by our team and the folks at Birk.Creative, our website is intuitive and user-friendly. It’s mobile compatible. It’s bright and colorful. All of our users, from distributors and retailers to the general population, can access the information they need to help effect positive change in their communities across Illinois.
“It’s exciting and a long time coming. We’ve been getting nothing but positive reviews on the website. Everyone is saying they really love it,” says Penesis. “People will be on the website and call us to tell us what they’re looking for, and while we’re on the phone, they’ll say, ‘Wait, I found it!’ I think as more of our online visitors become accustomed to the change, they’ll appreciate it without comparing it to what we had in the past.”
Using Design To Convey A Message
When it comes to the branding on which the ILCC website is based, it really does all start with a logo. “Birk.Creative designed our new logo,” says Penesis. “They took our input and created both the logo and the new design. We didn’t have an identifier previously that set us apart from other Illinois state agencies.”
Using a visual reference to a liquor bottle in the logo was controversial, but the ILCC bears liquor as part of its name and mission, so it makes good sense, says Penesis. “The bottle in the logo communicates what we do. I think it’s a great logo.”
Reaching A Wide Audience With Public Service Announcements (PSA) and Training Videos
You’ve heard the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.”According to Penesis, this is why the ILCC has put an emphasis on creating educational videos that reach out both to industry trainees, who need to understand that selling alcohol and tobacco comes with great responsibility, and to the general public, who need to understand the consequences of underage and irresponsible drinking. With the new content-rich website, videos and PSA radio spots are prominently displayed and accessible.
“One of the things we’re trying to do with the training videos is to eliminate misunderstanding as to what our program is all about,” says Penesis. “There is a lot of misinformation among distributors and retailers about BASSET (Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training).
“[BASSET is] eventually going to be a requirement for all servers, bouncers and bartenders in Cook County. It’s a three-hour training class; that’s all we’re talking about. We want to make it more standardized and make a three-year renewal period a requirement.”
The videos are a way to dispel misunderstanding as to what BASSET is all about. For instance: “Not only does [BASSET] help you stay in business from a licensing standpoint, it’s also a good business practice and good for your bottom line,” says Penesis. “Even though it can lead to more people coming into your store, it’s not about making money. Rather, it’s about protecting your community.”
The BASSET training video is about protecting all communities, thus its availability in Spanish. “We’re seeing a lot of Spanish-speaking people getting their first jobs in the liquor industry with English as their second language,” says Penesis. “We’re also working to translate the training into Mandarin, Farsi and Polish. Having BASSET in multiple languages is a priority when it comes to our trainers and our materials.”
At Birk.Creative, our number-one goal is to solve problems for our customers so they can have a positive impact on their customers. Let Birk.Creative reimagine and relaunch your business branding and presence. Contact JinJa Birkenbeuel at info(at)birkdesign.com today.