Is there still a “Chicago school” of branding?

There’s a (mediocre) cop show on Fox called The Chicago Code, which leaves pretty undefined what constitutes our “code,” or what makes it any different from the Noo Yawk Code, or the Los Angeles Code.  But I’ll bet it involves more slush.
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Maybe it refers to putting lawn chairs out on the street to hold your parking spot.  Or cornhole etiquette.
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For many years, it was thought that Chicago ad agencies were practitioners of a certain style of advertising and branding (we also had the original Don Draper, but that’s another story).  Think the Jolly Green Giant. Work that was exponent of down-to-earth values, heartiness, a tireless work ethic, honesty and unassumingness.
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For marketers in the new age, where the authenticity and almost familial notion of “branding” has taken hold, is there there still room for a “Chicago school?” Or is the globalization of culture, economics and media influences so pervasive there’s no room left for real regionalism?
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I’d argue there is. In fact, many Chicago agencies still offer a schematic approach and fundamental diligence that many of our clients don’t seem to be getting from other sources.  Having spent considerable time in L.A., I can tell you that 10-4 workdays and 2-hour lunches deliver a significantly different result in terms of the work: the originating mindset isn’t the same, so the style and delivery are different.  That doesn’t make it worse, or better — just different.
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Though, being from Chicago, I’ve got to think our way is better.
Especially in the world of B2B, prospects want to think they’re going to be working with smart, industrious, honest partners who aren’t about flash and flair, but about delivering absolute value for the dollar.  Sounds a lot to me like those old-hat traditional Midwestern virtues.
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So a marketer should consider branding that expresses their character asmuscularly and directly as possible, because there’s not a lot of time for nuance in this new mediascape.  Guidelines?
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  • Get your message, and a call-to-action that promises real value, in front of them as baldly as possible.
  • Avoid stylistic flourishes or flash (and Flash) for its own sake.
  • Cut to the heart of what you do…and how you serve and honor customers.
  • Resist any urge to broaden your message, soften the edges, or otherwise lose focus — when you stay tight and firm, you’ll drive interest and loyalty.
That’s old- school Chicago branding — and it’s perfect for the next century.

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