To celebrate Premiere Speakers Bureau's 25th anniversary, we'll take you through some of the high points of history. We'll start with the story of our name in this interview with Premiere's founder, Duane Ward.
Brian Lord: Where did the name “Premiere Speakers Bureau” come from?
Duane Ward: For three months prior to our incorporation, we operated as “The Ward Group” (the name of my former PR Agency in Washington, DC). Not sure why, but I felt strongly about the name “Premiere”, so we officially incorporated on January 1, 1994 as Premiere Speakers Bureau.
Brian Lord: Why did you go with “Premiere” instead of “Premier”? Was it just a clever branding ploy, knowing your future employees would have to say “no, Premiere with an ‘e’” roughly 8 million times?
Duane Ward: Sorry about the extra “e”, but it does set us apart. Actually, our first employee (under The Ward Group) was Canadian and was quite a gifted wordsmith and colorful personality! Given the French influence of his Canadian life, he is actually the one who convinced me of the value of the extra “e” (more elegant/regal?) - hence, the name. If you’re ever bitter about stating that we are Premiere (with an e at the end), I can provide you with the personal cell phone number of the Canadian and you can express your “appreciation”. Oddly, Premier without the "e" now feels unfinished! At one point, we owned seven separate companies - all of which began with Premiere - with an e.
Brian Lord: What were the back-up names or other ideas you had?
Duane Ward: As a fan of The Roadrunner as a child, I always wanted to start a company named “Acme Brick Company”, but didn’t feel that to be appropriate for a speakers bureau (and the domain name was already taken)!
Brian Lord: Did you search to see if “PremiereSpeakers.com” was available, or was that even a thing in 1994? If so, how did you look it up since Google didn’t exist yet?
Duane Ward: Actually, my brother was very helpful in launching the first website - and he provided that research. This was prior to Godaddy.com and other commercial services available now and was a government-sanctioned database service named Network Solutions - the repository of all domain names at the time.
Brian Lord: Why has navy blue (almost) always Premiere’s color?
Duane Ward: I am just a blue guy! At least 2/3 of my clothes are blue. My first car was blue. My current car is blue. My college yearbook (of which I was the editor) was blue. The Ward Group logo was blue. I own blue furniture. All three of our offices have been predominately blue. I just love blue. In fact, specifically, Pantone 286 blue! I think the consistency of the use of blue has served as well, and I never tire of getting off the elevator on our floor to enjoy the many slabs of blue marble on the walls!
Brian Lord: What’s up with the one year Premiere went with that gawd-awful beige?
Duane Ward: Bad year. Even the Patriots lose the Super Bowl occasionally. The dreadful brown catalog was just a bad year for me. Actually, it was designed to be more grayish, but when it came off the press, it was definitely tan and brown. Thankfully, we survived.
Brian Lord: Would you say the 2006 beige color scheme was Premiere’s version of New Coke or Steve Jobs’ Lisa computer?
Duane Ward: Similar, but worse. We produced catalogs for 10 years. Just imagine a motorcade of nine new, shiny, black Mercedes - interrupted in the center by the “Truckster”, featured in Griswald Family Vacation to Wallyworld, replete with eight headlights, and Grandma’s rocking chair on the roof. (If you’re a millennial, click here https://imgur.com/gallery/QuD4v ) The brown catalog was our Truckster.
Brian Lord: What is the most fun branding piece you’ve designed while at Premiere?
Duane Ward: Actually, I have two favorites: First, in three of our 10 catalogs, we conducted a “phony speaker contest”. In each catalog was a very normal looking “speaker” with an absolutely ridiculous bio and book cover (“The Art of Almost Making It”, “Why Work When You Can Inherit?”, etc). Once the reader found the phony speaker, they registered their guess on our website to win a free trip to Hawaii. Two takeaways from the contests: 1. I’m pretty sure those catalogs were scoured more than others years - as in every page. 2. There was an inordinate number of “real/seasoned speakers” entered as phony speakers! Second, we produced a short series of fun videos (5 min or less), which can be viewed at: premierespeakers.com/videos (start viewing from bottom to catch the progression). Enjoy!
Brian Lord: What are you most proud of in terms of Premiere’s branding?
Duane Ward: Early on, we began “gifting” our clients with unique branded items. Our goal was to always send something that was too nice to ever throw away, so our logo is ever-present. A few gifts have been a very high-end umbrella, Bluetooth speaker, set of four mugs and stand, desk fan, passport holder….and many more…all of which included tasteful Premiere branding. I believe this has helped us retain clients through the years, because everywhere they look, they see Premiere! If you have not received a gift from us yet, you really should book at speaker thru Premiere Speakers Bureau and watch for the FEDEX truck!