As social and political issues overwhelm the media, companies are working harder than ever to cut through the clamor and grab the attention of their desired consumers. Interestingly, this cacophony has led to the liberation of graphic design. Visual marketing and advertising trends soaring in popularity are perhaps best characterized by a feeling of daring independence — strict structures are crumbling, wacky effects reign supreme and colors are flashier and louder than ever!. Graphic designers seem to have gone back to their roots as artists, experimenting and mutating previously worn-out practices.

Let’s explore some of these trends that, in some ways, are giving voice to the myriad emotions felt by many around the world.

Distorted effects
Think overlapping images, multiple light sources and “glitching” photos. Known as distorted effects, these design features are coloring everything from movie posters to retail advertisements. The result is a gritty image that can feel dark and somewhat ominous. However, when paired with bright colors it can exude a modern, edgy appeal.

Creative use of negative space

Even the use of negative space — the blank area surrounding an object — is being elevated in 2018. Negative space is often hailed as the most important part of an image, and traditionally it has been used to draw viewers to a focal point. However, graphic designers are once again flipping the script on this institution. Now, we’re seeing images merge with negative space to create a secondary feature that not only attracts the eye, but also inspires the imagination.

Broken, or cropped typography

Utilizing negative space has also proved popular in typography. It’s tough to erase parts of letters, or space them far apart and on multiple lines, while maintaining readability. When utilized correctly, however, the treatment can entice viewers to take a little more time and absorb the piece. The effect is futuristic and can be worth the risk when applied in the right context.

Bright colors and gradients

This year, muted colors are being shoved to the side by vibrant, bold palettes that shout for attention. We see this visual particularly being used in gradients, with colors gradually transforming and shifting into each other. Designers are also using this effect to incorporate various shapes and textures, creating an interesting visual that can benefit companies with a playful, lively brand personality.

Although these trends certainly won’t work for all businesses or industries, brands looking to garner attention can benefit by giving their designers freedom to break away from the traditional mold and draw outside the lines, both literally and figuratively. However, companies also need to evaluate the longevity of these trends and whether they fit with their mission, vision and values.

Are you contemplating a visual refresh? Give us a call and let’s talk.

 

 

 

 

When we hear from a client who refers to us as their partner, we take it personally. That’s because a true partnership infers ideals and concepts we value. To us, partnership means:
  • Effective collaboration with constructive give and take. Client insights into their own businesses and markets are prized pieces of the puzzle when creating high-return campaigns. Likewise, our insights into marketing techniques and trends are necessary to complete the picture. It takes both perspectives.
  • Respect for each other’s unique skills and knowledge. Good partners have complementary talents and mutual admiration.
  • Open exchange of ideas and concerns. It is important that strong opinions not go unexpressed. Healthy exchange is the cornerstone of creative conversation.
  • Support for each other’s success. True partnerships are a bond that buoys each participant to be better.
  • Help through challenges. Problem-solving is a team sport, and effective partnerships are a catalyst for resolution.
  • Reliability and trust. Knowing you can depend on your partner to come through reduces anxiety and enables you to concentrate on your own duties and workload.
  • Responsible use of resources and respect for each other’s time. The best partnerships stand firmly on integrity and consideration.
  • Shared passion and commitment to achieving goals. Excitement and dedication fuel mutual success.
  • Being each other’s champion. Everybody needs a steadfast friend – and cheerleader.
  • Truth in all things. Partnerships require honesty. It’s critical that all participants work with the truth – and the same truth – for any endeavor to be successful.
Most importantly for us is being the type of partner the individual client needs, working to create the specific relationship that brings the most value to them. There’s a lot involved, but also a lot to gain in building a lasting partnership.

Your company is suddenly mired in a negative situation with potentially serious repercussions. While a chill grasps your heart, a slew of questions assault your brain. What’s your first step? Who are the decision makers? When and how should you respond to the media? Who should do it? Then what?

Most organizations likely will be confronted with some sort of a crisis communications challenge, whether internally or externally. With thorough preparation and an efficient response, however, you will be able to shape the appropriate, successfully navigate challenging times and maybe even come out the better for it.

Following are some core principles of crisis communications. The biggest takeaway, however, is this: Be prepared. That is, don’t wait for a disaster to strike. Look deep into the organization, acknowledge vulnerabilities and honestly confront them. Time-consuming? Yes. Painful? Most certainly? Necessary? Absolutely.

C – Choose the Right Tools
While the resources you employ will differ with each situation, make sure you always have: a core team of leaders to vet strategies, share insight and provide approvals; established communications channels and methods through which you’ll relay messages to internal and/or external audiences; and a messaging document approved by leadership and stakeholders. Other tools, such as support resources for staff, can be added as necessitated by the crisis.

R – Reveal the Facts
Before you act, you need to assess the particular situation to fully understand the crisis at hand. Knowledge is power, and gathering intelligence is crucial to your success. Fully understanding the facts, the players involved and any outside influences will help you objectively create meaningful conversation and collaboration. Once the facts are gathered, you’ll need to develop a communications strategy to address the issue in a timely manner.

I – Instill Trust and Tell the Truth
Demonstrating your ability to objectively listen and make informed decisions in a crisis communications situation will develop trust, both within your organization and with the public. If you respect each internal and external stakeholder’s position and perception of the situation, you are more likely to resolve the issue in an expedient and proficient manner. This also will ensure that you address all concerns and offer timely, effective and valid solutions that will cultivate sustainable results.

You don’t have to share every irrelevant detail, but what you say must be the truth. If you don’t know what that truth is yet, say so. Don’t guess. There’s usually no going back once you’ve said the wrong thing – intentionally or unintentionally.

S – Streamline Processes
Crises easily can get worse, so you’ll need to act fast. Make sure every step of your reaction plan is concise, clear and detailed. Each person involved should be aware of his or her responsibilities, the actions they need to take, to whom they will report and whom they should or shouldn’t contact. Checklists are an efficient way to keep team members on track. Craft your media responses in advance, even if the chance of reporter inquiries is small; if the issue does make it into the spotlight, you’ll be able to respond quickly and consistently.

I – Institute Change
Your job isn’t over when the media moves on to the next story. Crises test core organizational responses, procedures and culture, and it’s a communicator’s job to help drive transformational growth. Debrief after the event to address and identify issues that emerged. Consider alternative scenarios and establish effective action plans that address weaknesses.

S – Sustain Confidence
As an organization, it’s important to follow through on promises made during a crisis. Committing to needed change and effectively communicating it to the audiences involved can instill trust and restore confidence in your company.

There is so much more involved, of course, and so many specifics among the generalities.

Preparing for, and learning from, crisis communications situations benefit us as professional communicators, leaders and team members in any organization. Though crises always will impose an element of chaos, preparation and a solid communications plan provide the anchor you need to make the right decisions and create the groundwork to sustain the conversation and continuously grow.

Contact us for additional insight into how your organization can successfully and effectively manage crisis situations.

SARASOTA, FL (February 1, 2018) – The Greater Sarasota Coaches Alliance is hosting “Learn, Grow and Create Sustainable Change with Crisis Communications” a presentation by Joseph S. Grano, Jr., president and founder of Next-Mark, LLC. Grano will discuss crisis communications planning in the context of business and professional coaching. The event is Monday, February 19, 2018, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., at The Bijou Café, 1287 1st St, Sarasota. Guests can register to attend at https://greatersarasotacoaches.com/programs

Crises are inevitable. Every organization at some point will be confronted with a crisis communications challenge, whether internal or external. Ultimately, it’s our ability to manage and navigate through this challenge that will define us as leaders. Whether you’re a coach, consultant, or business professional, you will benefit from this presentation.

With more than 25 years of comprehensive marketing, business development and public relations experience, Grano has held key executive management positions in healthcare, technology and financial services. He also served as director of marketing at two large public health systems and vice president of marketing at two health information companies. He is the president and founder of Next-Mark, LLC, a marketing solutions company that provides marketing, creative strategy and communications solutions to businesses throughout the U.S. and internationally.

About Next-Mark

Next-Mark was founded in 2005 to help client organizations reach their full potential

through marketing success. Breaking away from the constraints of traditional marketing service organizations, the Next-Mark team facilitates new conversations about their client brands by integrating experience, analytics and innovation to develop strategic marketing solutions and meet clients’ individual needs. Next-Mark focuses on internationally and nationally recognized brands along with growing companies across a broad spectrum of categories, including healthcare, hospitality and entertainment, technology, retail, real estate, environmental, marine products and tourism, among others. With clients from Alaska to the Netherlands, its roster includes industry leaders such as LexisNexis, Elsevier, Nuance Communications, Cinebistro, Cobb Luxury Theatres, Yarnall Moving and Storage, Coldwell Banker, California Pizza Kitchen, CitySide Apartments, Bainbridge Financial, Paragon Solutions, Medecision, among many others. For more information, visit their website at www.next-mark.com.

About the Greater Sarasota Coaches Alliance

The GSCA is a community of professionals dedicated to the use of coaching approaches in their work. If you are looking for a coach or want to know more about how coaching can help you create a more satisfying personal or career life, our monthly luncheon series will introduce you to coaching topics and concepts. Everyone is welcome to explore what coaching can mean for you. For more information, visit their website at: www.greatersarasotacoaches.com

 

 

Welcome to 2018!

A new year is always a time of reflection and an opportunity for rededication. Thirteen years ago a leap of faith became a business as Next-Mark, a different type of marketing communications company, emerged. Drawing heavily on our extensive experience and deep understanding of the business world, we created a truly solutions-based organization founded on best practices that aligned with our clients’ needs.

Here are a few thoughts on our business experiences from the year past and some foresight for the year ahead.

True Wisdom is Knowing What You Don’t Know

Socrates said it; we adhere to it. That’s why we stick to our core competencies – strategic marketing and planning, creative strategy and execution, digital marketing, public relations and social media. We play to those strengths as we act as a true collaborative partner with our clients. 

Commitment Requires Flexibility

We shape and develop client relationships for the long haul. We stick with our partners through thick and thin, understanding the dynamics of their business cycles and maximizing their resources. Equally significant is the role we play in sustaining their long-term vision, helping them stay on course and navigate through the occasional obstacle.

We Collaborate with our Clients for Their Enduring Success

We are extremely fortunate to serve diverse clientele. Whether they’re a $5 billion global enterprise or a small business in our neighborhood, our clients have one thing in common; the desire to develop deep roots in their industry and an appreciation of our role. This enables us to leverage what we have learned guiding brands and establishing marketing best practices on national, regional and local levels.

Winning in Business is a Team Sport

For us, this means careful collaboration with clients and heavy reliance on our own strong base of talented and experienced staff. We work hard to recruit and retain highly skilled individuals who bring unique talent and tenacity to the table.

Just Do it

Smaller businesses need to recognize that they don’t have to be a global leader, like Nike, to be a “brand.” What they require is simply something that differentiates their product, service or organization from the competition and the means to drive that message to the right audiences in the right way. That’s where we come in. We help our clients be good stewards of their intellectual property and purveyors of their brand, while assuring alignment with their value proposition and profit model.

It’s All About the Story

Our overriding goal for each client is to spark meaningful conversations about their brands, and with each bit of content or visual asset we develop, their stories become our own. Our success and our clients’ are thus inextricably linked – and more powerful for the partnership.

We invite you to scroll through our new Online LookBook to see a snapshot of our work as well as our extensive scope of services.

Contact us to begin that powerful conversation that will reinvigorate your brand and connect you with your audience. 

For many, the year’s end evokes a time of reflection, renewal and reinvention. As we weigh what we did right and what we could have done better, learning from missteps and owning them, we can work to rebuild or strengthen a foundation for sustainable success.

As professional marketers, strategic planners and digital communications experts, however, we know that such self-analysis is not enough. It also requires foresight and a knowledge of what’s to come and what it may mean for the individual person or organization.

Think of this stage as surfing. You study the water, using your knowledge and experience to detect any submerged dangers and then calculate when to stand up and get in front of the new wave(s) that will deliver you safely to shore.

What will it take to master the marketing waves in 2018? Here are a few important considerations as we look to a New Year of trends, strategies and tactics.

1. A Strategic Mindset: This is critical to marketing success. A strategic mindset is more than rhetoric; it encompasses a disciplined approach to every aspect of what we do as professional marketing communicators. This means we must assess every initiative, tactic or campaign from a strategic perspective that looks not only at the bigger picture but also creates a positive and sustainable difference.

2. Ability To Ride The Transformative Digital Groundswell: Yes, digital is here to stay. However, we still need to recharge our digital efforts and continually refresh our digital know-how to embrace the next surge of digital tools.

3. Creative That Is Bold And Measurable: We need to move beyond being a steward of creativity to become a purveyor of ideas that not only go beyond creative exposure but also are measurable, creating new insights into a business. As professional marketers, we have a fiduciary responsibility to not only nurture the creative process but also build creative that truly moves the needle.

4. Real And Consistent Metrics: The reality is that we all value metrics as a compass for our results and overall direction. However, it may be time to refocus our efforts on optimizing our metrics to focus on a clearer measurement of our overall success. There is a lot of valuable information at our fingertips, and we must make the best use of it all.

5. Social Media Measured By Engagement, Not Raw Numbers: We must think beyond “likes” and emojis to consider the long-term engagement we want to cultivate within our sphere of influence. To do this effectively, we must provide candid, respecting opinions and create opportunities for open dialogue.

6. Street-Level Promotion: Of course, digital marketing activities are important, but are your products/services understood at street level? Is there a passion for your brand that transcends a transaction and builds a fundamental understanding? Be street level. A marketing plan must resonate on Main Street as much as in the virtual world.

7. An Advocate Of Your Brand Promise: Don’t just be a purveyor of your product or service. A brand’s marketing must connect with the consumer both functionally and emotionally to truly differentiate it from competitors.

8. Public Relations: Good ol’ PR is still critical if done well. This means taking every opportunity — from new hires to big changes — to deliver real news that helps keep your company top of mind and build relationships both with consumers and media outlets.

9. Valuable Content: Content marketing is a powerful tool. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues.

10. Thought Leadership: Thought leadership is at the core of every message and should be part of a company’s DNA. Positioning a company or its leadership as an expert in its industry dovetails with effective content marketing to solidify image and open doors to consumers.

This is the time to clear out any cobwebs and shake off any obstructions to needed change (“We’ve always done it this way”) and marketing creativity (“Management will never go for this”). It’s also the time to ramp up excitement for what no doubt will be another significant year in marketing communications.

This article authored by Joseph Grano appeared on Forbes.com

Since 2005, Next-Mark has been shaping strategic marketing communications solutions to illuminate our clients’ missions, transform brands and create dynamic success. And with every asset we develop; from websites to white papers, our clients’ stories become our own.

As a full-service marketing communications and public relations agency, we’re proud to work with a wide array of organizations. Our expertise and experience helps our clients seamlessly navigate challenging markets and stand out among the crowd. We thrive in this diverse environment, knowing that each project we tackle shapes our journey and sets up our clients for powerful results. We invite you to scroll through our new Online LookBook to see a snapshot of our work and our extensive scope of services.

Unlike many marketing disciplines, professional healthcare marketers have a unique opportunity that extends beyond traditional marketing strategies and tactics. Healthcare marketing communications campaigns may very well change – or even save – a life.

With this opportunity comes an important and profound responsibility. Healthcare marketers must embrace this responsibility and align their efforts with the mission of their healthcare organization. Creativity, innovation and metrics all matter to healthcare marketers, but they must be motivated by the values of the institutions they represent.

If you’re a healthcare marketer, here are some things you must consider:

Know your mission. It’s critical to understand your healthcare organization’s mission and how it translates to your marketing communications strategy. Every message you curate and every campaign you lead should be driven by purpose and a true sense of responsibility for the people who are cared for or work at the healthcare organization you represent. It is critical to understand how your mission impacts lives and builds a connection to your audience.

Establish responsible thought leadership. Thought leadership in healthcare marketing goes far, wide and deep. Whether you’re promoting a subject matter expert or a C-suite leader within the healthcare space, you must be accountable for the persuasive message, creative intent and information presented. Content must then be disseminated through a cross section of channels that best align best with your publics. Whether it’s a blog, social media post or a comprehensive whitepaper, consider which medium will best drive optimal engagement with your targeted audience.

Empower creativity. Creativity is the cornerstone of any marketing communications effort, but in healthcare marketing, it comes with a unique and inherent responsibility. Before launching any marketing communications initiative, professional healthcare marketers must transcend the creative process to understand the breadth and scope of their message. Creativity is a useful tool, but one that should be employed only after measurable objectives and strategy are determined.

Demonstrate value. As organizations downsize and make challenging financial decisions, healthcare marketing is still core to the success of that organization’s mission. Whether it’s pharmaceuticals or publishing, when healthcare marketing budgets get cut there is a risk that it will impact the greater mission. Healthcare marketing leaders must work hard to sustain their budgets at all times, continuously communicate their purpose and demonstrate their value to better serve their market. It is important to manage healthcare marketing initiatives using metrics that clearly communicate the value of the project including projected ROI and other metrics.

Exercise your social voice with purpose. Social media is an invaluable tool in healthcare marketing. Your social voice must be accurate, current and reflect the mission of your organization. Your social conversation can bolster your market position and create new levels of engagement by providing the best information at the right time to your targeted audience.

Understand patient engagement. This is core to what you do. Take time to step away from your desk and interact with the patients and families you’re targeting with your messaging. A true, deep understanding of your audience will help you craft campaigns that successfully inform, educate and motivate patients to take action.

Understand your leadership role. Whether you are part of a large signature health system or a small practice, you must assume a leadership role. Your publics are not only looking for you to lead but to inspire them to take action.

In my more than 25 years of experience in all aspects of healthcare marketing communications, I have learned that healthcare marketing extends far beyond a job description. It’s a profound responsibility, anchored in purpose and accountability. Remaining true to your organization’s mission and connecting with your audience can help create lasting, potentially life-changing campaigns.

This article by Joseph Grano was published on Forbes.com.

Clearly, the retail industry is at a crossroads. From the compression of storefronts to the explosion of online options, retail marketers have never been more challenged and somewhat overwhelmed in developing viable marketing strategies and tactics that will resonate with retail consumers. Know-how, innovation and ideation don’t seem to be enough to change the retail marketing game in this ever-evolving climate. It’s time to do more than just check the box but to re-think, re-imagine redefine retail marketing.

Here is some re-thinking every retail marketing professional should entertain.

They’re not customers, they’re clients. It’s time to think of the retail consumer as more than another transactional notch in our marketing belt, but as clients with needs, wants and likes that we need to do more than satisfy, but build and maintain a renewed and trusted relationship with. Retail leader, Nordstrom has been a longtime proponent of this. They not only see a customer as a client, they build real relationships with throughout the retail experience and beyond.

It’s about the experience, Yes, online retail options provide convenience and service levels that satisfy many of the needs retail consumers, but retail clients still want to touch and feel. It’s time to think about the retail experience before anything else. What motivates a retail client to think beyond shopping to a retail excursion, which may include more than a purchase but the creation of a memory. This excursion may include a meal, a family activity, an event or another engagement that becomes a shareable moment. The retail experience has a lot more to do with the environment, the culture, the brand promise rather than just another day at the mall. When we look at the latest retail development projects, we are seeing new levels or innovation that includes more than a retail anchor but a combination of offerings under one retail space. Retail marketers must now provide marketing communications solutions that rise to this evolving physical space creating a renewed retail experience.

Integrate or perish. There now needs to be a new obsession with the traditional marketing mix that moves beyond our comfort zone, but to a newly defined professional marketing DNA. Integration needs to be an obsession where marketing communications is part of a fine-tuned ecosystem that unites all facets of marketing including customer service, advertising, social media, public relations, events, digital interface, mobile and more. This holistic approach will transcend traditional marketing tactics and create a new professional mindset and a re-tooled approach to all marketing efforts.

Reconsider demographics. Not only do demographics matter, but they also provide insight into the heart of retail clients, yet the retail industry continues to be one-dimensional in their approach. Retail marketers need to refocus their efforts beyond what they perceive as their demographic sweet spot, but consider a psychographic approach that includes sources of motivation that transcends traditional demographic thinking. It’s time to understand what retail clients are passionate about and what they expect from each retail experience. Retail marketers now need to harvest emerging segments move beyond traditional demographic targeting.

Brands still matter. The retail revolution requires far more than a brand refresh but should include a brand audit that defines a new threshold for your brand promise. Beyond measuring brand recognition and other traditional brand metrics, its time to obsess about brand loyalty, you’re inherent brand promise and a timely examination of your brand’s perception in the marketplace. A brand audit is a re-examination of the inherent traits your brand possesses and how it does or does not resonate with your audience. The brand audit needs to be a 360 degree process that includes all of your internal and external publics benchmarking your current brand perception and then re-examining your brand on a regular basis.

Every day is a brand new day for retail marketing professionals, where talent, creativity and imagination will always prevail. If we make retail experiential, the best bricks and mortar or digital interface will only enhance the overall client experience and refocus the retail mindset to the next generation of consumers.

This article was published on Forbes.com, authored by Joseph Grano

Social media is here to stay. Not only does it empower your brand, it creates a sustainable, lasting conversation about your product or service. There are few in business today who won’t acknowledge the impact social media has made in marketing communications

However, the greatest challenge organizations are currently facing is the integration of social media into their overall marketing strategy. Whether it’s public relations, advertising, sales or any other marketing function, social media needs to be integrated in order to create a synergistic partnership with your overall marketing communications strategy. To do this, we must go beyond hashtags and routine postings to develop strategic positioning of social media in concert with your entire marketing communications plan.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Social media content must be transparent. It must be shared openly and visibly throughout your organization as it builds on your brand story to reach internal and external stakeholders. This simply means internal sharing of social media content and strategy which then builds stronger integration with your overall marketing strategy. Transparency will then not only build trust but create new levels of synergy for your marketing and social media.
  • Social media is not a subordinated marketing function. Social media should not be only one function within the marketing mix, like public relations or advertising. It must be an equal function among others, possessing its own sphere of influence, strategy and metrics. Social media will then be leverage with the same emphasis on strategy and business impact.
  • Social media must be integrated into every marketing decision. You can’t just “check the box” with social media – it takes planning, competency and seasoned management to maintain. When integrated, social media then becomes synergistic and builds on a holistic marketing approach. Many organizations prove that a coordinated approach to any business function will yield meaningful results.
  • Social media metrics must transcend likes and numbers of followers. Social media metrics must be built on true and sustainable engagement. We must transcend hashtags and inflated likes to those true followers who have an affinity for your brand. This is important in order to leverage social media to engage, converse and transact. Social media will then align with your brand loyalty, which will yield sustainable results.
  • Social media should not be an exception. For example, a well-known company recently wanted to make a large announcement and the social media team determined that they needed to place this announcement on social media first, without any regard to public relations or overall marketing communication strategy. In fact, this effort ended up costing the organization front-page exclusive coverage because it already had appeared on social media. It would have been better served to make this announcement coordinated with all marketing functions including strategic communications, sales and marketing, among others.
  • Social media content must not be developed in isolation. Social media messages built in a vacuum rarely resonate or have a long-term impact. This isolation has the potential of costing and defraying the overall value of your marketing communications initiatives. True social media synergy means building a consensus within your organization when formulating social media messaging and content. This can be accomplished by a more formal social media planning process, stronger internal planning around social media initiatives outside of the marketing communications team and prioritization of social media as measurable business function.

As social media has evolved, so must we. It’s not a fad or a trend – it is a marketing communications function that has a viable impact on your business. When every marketing function comes together, it creates an integrated synergistic marketing strategy. Leveraging your social media footprint across the marketing continuum will not only positively impact your brand awareness, but will build new business relationships.

This article was written by Next-Mark Founder and President and appeared on Forbes.com