It’s Easy To Do Nothing…

I have written in the past about how satisfying it is to do something new. To go out and create your destiny. What may have been mentioned in between the lines is how difficult that type of activity can be. It's easy to do nothing and watch life roll by.

Case in point, my latest adventure is rewiring my 1956 Ford Fairlane. Let it be known, I have never, ever wired, or even thought I about wiring a car. An entire car.

After three months of soldering terminals, following the wiring diagram, getting help from friends, and reading the instructions, I was ready to put the car back together. Heck, even taking the gauge pod off the dash was a challenge! We tested all the circuits fixed a few minor grounding issues and ready to put the final assembly back on. The light switch on the dash, just above the key switch has been in and out a couple of times during this procedure. I was getting pretty good at using the needle nose pliers in place of a special tool to install the light switch bezel.

It was all in, and before I bolted the gauge pod in, one final test to make sure the connections are live. I plug in the positive cable on the battery in the trunk, go to the key switch, turn the key and I see a spark under the dash. Hmm. I thought, I pull the dash panel out and inspect, nothing, turn the key again and the dash lights go on. YEAH!

Then I heard the pop, sizzle, and screech as the cabin filled with white smoke!

I ran to the trunk turned off the battery, grabbed the fire extinguisher, stood at the ready as the smoke clears, I realize there was no fire.

Whew! But what happened?

I have to say, it was pretty exciting to know that this months long project was finally over and I can get back in and mash down on the right pedal. My emotional state ran from excitement and joy to utter disappointment, anger, fear and depression. All I could think was about all this work I have done and now back to square one. I told my wife that I can easily go from anger, upset to being grateful and proud that I did the right thing in a time of panic to turn off the power source. It is easy to be angry and upset, but that can lead you down a spiral that would be difficult to come out of. I must, MUST stay in the grateful and proud space in my mind.

This my friends, is the lesson in this long story. A lesson on why, exactly WHY we do things we have never done before, to see things differently, to allow our minds to go into a creative space. A space that allows us to solve problems before they arrive, and have the knowledge to take care of the problem in the event it happens. Sure it's difficult, but we are not leaves in the stream. We are mighty oaks. Oaks that can withstand these emotional tidal waves. To know in an instant what is best to do. We learn from these instances not only about the task at hand, but how we react. How we respond. This is how we learn to act under pressure. How we solve complex issues and if we can't foresee a problem, at least we will have a contingency plan.

What near catastrophic thing have you encountered? How has that event prepared you for unforeseen circumstances?

Oh, so what happened? Apparently the carrier for the light switch was just touching the Ignition terminal on the key switch, shorting it out and causing a ton of power to go through the 10awg Ignition wire from the starter solenoid to the key switch. Fortunately, the casing on the Ron Francis Wiring and the quick action to kill the power saved from a total melt down.

Let’s Hear YOUR Declaration!


We start every summer with a celebration of our Declaration of Independence. This got me thinking, what is my Declaration? I imagine the founding fathers creating a document with such passion and testament to what they believed was right.

240 years later, the Declaration continues to guide us through an uncertain future. A set of principles which we rely on in our day to day decision making. It is the guide to our values. We stand for it, we fight for it, we struggle for it. The Declaration is a map. A map for society, for community, for civilization.

Blacktop Branding's Strategic Marketing Map is designed to guide your company with purpose, unique value proposition, vision and theme. Essentially, it helps to define your Declaration. Request a copy here.

TC_1976I was a teenager 40 years ago, in 1976. The bicentennial was a huge thing for me. My room was decorated in red, white and blue. I was fortunate to travel the United States that summer with 100 other teenagers. We circled the continent stopping at all the historic landmarks we learned about in school. The Grand Canyon, Kennedy Space Center, Castillo de San Marcos, Monticello, Washington DC, and more. 22 States in about 6 weeks.

The trip made history real for me. It opened up my world. I truly believed that it allowed me to see more than just myself, it opened a door to self-awareness, to see my place in the world. It was a coming of age.

I declare to use my past experiences to build value for my clients and collaborators. "Allow Yourself To Be, A Vehicle of Creativity."

The Secret to Getting Ahead is to Get Started

Get There


I saw this post from Elaina, a student of mine, on social media the other day. I felt proud that this young lady is wise beyond years and inspires so many people with her social media posts.

The other day I was making a presentation at her alma mater. The topic was Idea Generation. We were discussing breaking through blocks. Writers block in particular. Most of the time blocks are put up right from the beginning. I remember writing reports for school, and getting started was always the hardest part. Then I figured it out. You don't have to start at the beginning. Just start writing, extemporaneously, as you are quickly scribbling down notes, there comes the AHA! moment. "That is where I should start this!" and continue writing. Editing as you go along. 

It's sorta like building a jig-saw puzzle. You can't start by taking the first piece out of the box and putting it in the right place. You have to dump the box on the table and start moving around all the pieces, till you find that one that you can start from.

I introduced the students to Roger Von Oech's "Whack Pack" cards which accompany his hit book "Whack On The Side Of The Head". In each example of thinking differently in problem solving, I shared examples of his Four Roles of the Creative Process

Download a FREE copy of the Four Roles of the Creative Process Here.

The roles are diagrammed as a circle with the four roles split in two main areas: Play and Work. This is one circle where you may go back and forward as you become the Explorer, Artist, Judge and Warrior.

The first two roles (Explorer and Artist) are in the play-time. The final two roles (Judge and Warrior) are in work-time. It is most important to PLAY when being the Explorer and Artist. In PLAY we do not make judgements, ideas are neither good or bad, but ideas. A very Zen way of thinking. You gather ideas as the Explorer, and you manipulate the ideas as the Artist. Without any judgement as to what you are doing.

"Impossible!" You say.

True. We are human.

The key is to question those judgements. Recognize when you are making an assumption. Ask the opposite. Change the rules. PLAY. 

At some point you will have the manipulated ideas figured out. We move to work and play the Judge role. You review the manipulated ideas and ask how they are solving the problem at hand. You make a case for the outcome. When the ideas are completely justified, we play the Warrior Role. We fight for the idea, no matter what it takes, we battle on. Without question. We are confident because we used the process that this idea is the best solution for the challenge. We create a paradigm shift. We WORKED.

And it all happened because we started.

When you are ready to get started. I am here to add the fuel. 
Tony Colombini • 949-584-5669 •

Dig Deep


Last week I had the opportunity to review some student's portfolio's for the AIGA/OC. It has been a while since I have been involved in the design community in such a way. It was very rewarding. I saw a couple of student's who reminded me of when I was in their shoes, 25 years ago.

I asked each student what they were passionate about. Most knew right away. When asked, I shared a bit about my history, how I struggled to find a niche, or a specialty. I remember how scary it was to break away as a designer for everyone, and focus on a specific industry, or specialty. I shared how, with a specialty comes expert status. You dig real deep. You have to immerse yourself in that industry culture. You have to be one of them, speak their language and know who their customers are. With that specialty, you gain a unique attribute that can be very valuable to the industry.

We are not here to make pretty pictures, but to create value for our clients. We are "COMMERCIAL" artists. The result has to create an effect on the bottom line. When that result is proven, there is no question about cost. 

That was for the students.

How are you digging deep?As a professional in your industry, complacency is easy to fall in to. How are you digging deep to create the value your company and industry needs to lead and succeed?


Notes from Recent Online Marketing Seminars

I recently attended three different marketing seminars focused around online marketing. The first was sponsored by Constant Contact, which was a good overview of e-mail, and social media marketing. There was a special guest at Faststart Studio; Benny Luo from NextShark who shared his Facebook marketing tips and at a recent OCMA Luncheon, Scott Rogers from Mercantile Mobile Marketing focused on text messaging.

Here are my notes as a conglomeration of these seminars. I hope you find them useful in your marketing.

First thing, what is your goal with digital marketing? Is it to drive traffic to your website, to boost online sales? Each of us has a different purpose for marketing online. What is your goal in digital marketing? The good news is that everything is measurable, so you can define what works and capitalize on its structure. The bad news is, everything is measurable and you can become overwhelmed by the data.

I suggest you focus on driving traffic to your own site. Algorithms can change on social sites and such where you don’t own or have any control over the content or structure. However, sites such as Facebook are weary of the links going away from their site, and therefore have changed the viewing of blatant external links.

So let’s start with your website.

Google Analytics. Obtain a Google Adwords account. You may not use Adwords, but without the account you cannot find the most common keywords people are using when searching for your product, service or site. If you have a website which is subscription based, such as an online magazine, consider a Google Adsense account and allow Google to place ads on your site which you get referral money.

Before I get into the social media or e-mail channels we should talk a bit about content.


  • Use intriguing shots or behind the scenes photos.
  • Be dramatic! Emphasize a key element in the image.
  • Review the image for contrast and clarity. Make it really small, like the size of a postage stamp to see if the image is clear as a thumbnail.
  • Include a person in the photo. Happy, smiling people get more click throughs.

Copy – The words or verbiage.

  • What’s your story? Why are you unique? Inspiring? Problem Solving?
  • Use outrageous titles in your posts, however, be sure to back up the outrageous claim in the content.
  • Know this, most people will gloss-over the copy and not read it all. Make it understandable in the gloss-over. Bullet Points, bold sub-titles, like the stuff I am doing here.
  • Write about what people want to read. Who is everyone talking about? Who should they be talking about? Etc.
  • Start a controversy. Pit two opposing ideas against each other. The purpose is to start a conversation. This allows people a way to share the content.
  • “What’s In It For Me?” Tell them. Give them ideas to take home and use.
  • Define your small group that you can empower to share the content.

E-mail Marketing
From Boomers to Millennials E-mail is still the most trusted platform for messaging.

  • Use a reputable e-mail service provider when sending mass e-mails.
  • Obey the CAN-SPAM Act and send ONLY to opt-in subscribers.
  • Include a call to action and repeat it. Join, Share, Visit…
  • Don’t give too many options to the reader Make it easy.
  • Structure as a conversation. Use conversational tone in the copy.
  • Save a list of readers (people who have clicked on your e-mail links) as a separate contact list to send targeted calls to action. This is your main tribe to empower to share.
  • Check Auto Response notes and Welcome E-Mail for conversational tone.

Mobile Marketing
The use of mobile devices has grown exponentially in the past couple of years. More and more people are using mobile devices INSTEAD OF desktop to access the web.

  • Make sure your website is “Responsive” where it is optimized for viewing on smart phones, tablets and desktop systems.
  • SMS reaches every phone with text up to 160 characters uses text
  • MMS unlimited text and 40 sec. video uses phone number
  • OTT (Over The Top) App Based Messaging.
  • Must get written permission to market by text. “Text JOIN to 1234 is allowed by the TCPA or enter text on a website. The call to action must disclose why they are getting your info.
  • Add a way to cancel. STOP, END, QUIT, CANCEL, UNSUBSCRIBE are 5 words to unsubscribe.
  • Message every 7-10 days is 6-8 times more effective than more frequent messaging.

Social Media Marketing
The landscape for social media is always changing and the rules, which the sites use to showcase your content also change as mentioned earlier. Optimize your brand messaging with these tips.


  • Customize your page with consistent branding with your website. Cover photo can have a call to action.
  • Make sure your profile picture is clear at the smallest of sizes.
  • Customize the App bar at the top to show the most important three apps such as Events or E-mail Sign-up.
  • Include your web link in the top part of the About info so it can be seen without clicking on it.
  • Photo Album posts get more engagement, almost twice as many as a simple word post.
  • Boost Key Posts – use Facebook Ads to help stimulate traffic.
  • Post a photo, THEN add your external link in either the description or in a comment.


The only note I have on Twitter is to use the # option to search for conversations your audience may be interested in. For example, if you are looking for conversations in Autocross. Type #autocross and find the dialog and interests in the media.

83% of LinkedIn users are B2B Marketers. If you are looking to communicate directly to other businesses, this is the platform for you.
Company Pages have changed where they are retiring the Products and Services tabs on April 14th. LinkedIn suggests you use either the Company Updates or Showcase Pages for promoting your Products and Services.

  • Company Updates appear on your Company Pages AND in followers’ feeds in every device.
  • Showcase Pages were built specifically to highlight a particular brand or product line. They make it easy to build a dedicated community for ongoing conversation, and followers know to expect news about the product or services.

 Other Tools
There are a couple of suggestions for managing these social media networks. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, are a couple of programs for scheduling and managing your posts. Be strategic about the scheduling. Look at when your audience is online in the various platforms.
Nutshell Mail is a Social Media Monitor that sends the updates to your e-mail inbox in one, scheduled send.

In Conclusion
There are many ways to market your company’s product or services online and if they sound easy, they are however they are also time consuming. Don’t think that marketing online is free. There is an expense in time, resources. As you can see with the example on Facebook, the free lunch is over, you will need to “boost” or “enhance” your post with pay-per-click advertising.

If you would like some more detail on navigating through this overwhelming landscape give me a call, I’d be happy to help you out.
— Tony Colombini, Creative Director, Blacktop Media Network, 949-584-5669

Why Blacktop Branding?

We brought Doris over to the Lucky 7 booth at SEMA to help them out.

I was recently asked by a client, why should I hire Blacktop Branding? – I replied:

Now is the time to take advantage of this challenging business climate, to ramp up your brand awareness as a leader in your niche, an expert in your field. Blacktop Branding has the strategic plan you need.

A lifetime automotive enthusiast with over 25 years of marketing collateral design, Blacktop Branding creative director; Tony Colombini has combined his passions to help build brands for some of the nation’s oldest and largest automotive aftermarket manufacturers. Most recently as Marketing Director for a vintage piston manufacturer, Tony used the company’s 95 year history as fodder to build pride in the brand with a consistent use of color, typography and design elements. Previously, as Art Director for a large automotive aftermarket mail order, catalog company and mannufacturer, Tony directed a team, which built consumer awareness through television programming, product integration and a strategic online social media presence.

And now it’s your turn. Tony has once again struck out on his own to help you build your brand awareness to your suppliers, media, employees and past, current and future customers. We will start by sharing the pride you must feel after enduring this challenging business climate, and the pride in your people and customers who have helped you along the way.

Now is the time for brand consistency. We’ve noticed that in this past couple of years, companies have re-invented themselves in many ways trying to capture that little piece of the market. It is now time to evaluate the return of such endeavors and build some brand consistency. To target your focus to the core and let the fringe follow. Blacktop Branding is here to bring your brand image together and focus on critical markets. From a builders perspective; We’ll explore your frame and discover the work you’ve done in the recent past, so we can build-up on the chassis to strengthen the drive train, add the performance goodies and be at the front of your heat for all to follow.

Take a look at our “Expert Services” to learn how we will contribute to YOUR success!

Still thinking? Take a look at our References.