Mark Trapp

The end of an era

It’s a new year, so that means things have to change, right? On January 31st, my long-term contract with Bear Brook and Brandopoly will end. After 7 years, I’m officially a free agent, looking for the next opportunity.

Coming to this milestone, I realized I haven’t really talked much about what I’ve done at Bear Brook, at least not directly. At its core, Bear Brook was a client services company: clients came to us with problems, and we figured out ways to solve them. This proved to be a weird situation for me when it came to self-promotion. Unlike a job where you sell a specific product, it felt weird (or many times, inappropriate) to talk about the work we completed. Did the client want the world to know what parts of the job we did? Would people who share my interests really care?

But now that I’m coming to the end of my run with Bear Brook, I feel comfortable talking about the broad strokes. First, I’ll talk a bit about what Bear Brook and Brandopoly were and then I’ll talk about my role there.

A brief history of Bear Brook and Brandopoly

Bear Brook, a company started by my father in 1984, was in the busines of entertainment and media marketing. If you were an entertainment or media company and needed help with, say, a promotional or marketing campaign, you’d come to Bear Brook and we’d help you with whatever it is you needed help with. Sometimes that meant a new website or marketing collateral, other times it could be coming up with a completely new brand strategy for a new initiative.

In 2002, Bear Brook started work on a product called Brandopoly. The idea behind it was that if you are a large corporation with a set brand strategy, you want to make sure everyone is using it. However, it can be very hard to enforce a branding if your organization is also de-centralized (think a TV network or a corporation split up into multiple offices across the country). What Brandopoly did was provide two things:

  1. A complete inventory of every possible marketing or promotional item a company would need for a specific brand
  2. A website that was easier and faster to use than Photoshop or InDesign to create branded materials.

The first thing, a complete inventory of all the possible marketing materials, helped ensure that the lack of materials wasn’t a barrier to using a brand. If, say, I’m a salesperson who needs a specific type of one sheet right away, but I don’t have one that’s branded correctly available, I’m either going to use older material or, worse, create one myself. By making sure every possible base was covered, those scenarios could be minimized. And Brandopoly would do it on an on-going basis: if you’re TV network and you need to get ready for the new fall season, Brandopoly would ensure you had everything you needed.

The second thing, having a system in place that was faster and easier to use than the alternatives, was essential to making sure people used the stuff available. If it’s easier for me to just mock something up in Photoshop than it is to use the branded materials, I’m not going to bother with the branded stuff.

The two aspects of Brandopoly allowed companies to get their branded stuff out in front of everybody quickly. Instead of waiting days to get the new branded materials, and hours to modify them for the specific use cases, teams would be able to create customized marketing materials with the correct branding within a few minutes. It was this ease of use that led to its quick adoption by some of the largest entertainment companies, including ABC and HBO.

You can find more information about Brandopoly in my write-up in the projects section.

My role

I originally joined Bear Brook after college as an IT manager, acting as the technical liaison for vendors and clients while being in charge of all of Bear Brook's on-site tech and Brandopoly's devops. Eventually, I took over the development of the Brandopoly product, releasing a version for small businesses in 2009 and a rewrite of the enterprise product in 2011, replacing the now-7-year-old code base and infrastructure to a more modern, modular system.1 I’ve continued to work on its development since then.

What’s next

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average time a person stays at a job is now 4.4 years, with most millennials (of which I am a part) expect to stay at any one job for less than 3 years. This January will be my 7th anniversary working for Bear Brook continuously: it’s time for a change.

I’m itching to apply my knowledge to new challenges. I have a few personal projects I’ll no doubt spend some time on over the next few months, and I plan on blogging a lot more, but if you, or someone you know, is looking for someone with my background, skills, and expertise, let’s talk.

  1. We were actually able to do this gradually without disruption to Brandopoly's clients: nobody even noticed until the end of the migration when we launched a new UI. 

Comments and feedback are welcome and appreciated. Need help on your next project? Let's talk.