Are you considering an image refresh for your company? Rebranding can benefit organizations of all sizes, signifying evolution and intent. Whether you want to change the perception of your brand, attract a new audience or simply increase sales, make sure your efforts are strategic. Although image updates can be time-intensive and costly, if executed correctly your efforts will pay off in the long run. Before you rush into a rebrand, it’s important to ask yourself these questions:

Is your target market changing?

Stagnant sales often lead companies to turn their attention to new audiences, leading to a necessary image refresh. Old Spice is a great example of how rebranding can peak interest in a new demographic. Traditionally seen as a brand for older customers, Old Spice launched a marketing campaign featuring Isaiah Mustafa. The ads were amusing, quippy and somewhat strange — appealing to the humor of a much different generation. As a result, the campaign went viral, sales spiked and younger consumers began reaching for Old Spice.

Have your offerings expanded?

As your company grows, it will undoubtedly begin expanding its offerings to increase revenue. Does your current message and branding reflect this growth? Your image should evolve to demonstrate the company’s focus and inform both new and existing customers.

Does your aesthetic look outdated?

Consider the evolution of design in all aspects of society, from clothing styles to interior design trends. We even have a “color of the year” that inspires designers everywhere, until a new shade kicks it out of the top spot 12 months later. The point? Aesthetics change and your brand can quickly appear outdated if it doesn’t evolve. Consider Taco Bell’s growth from a logo sporting bright colors and exaggerated fonts to a more on-trend, minimal style. The company recognized that their brand was obsolete and opted for a refresh.

Will a rebrand fit into a larger strategic plan?

Rebranding is more than simply changing your logo. Take a critical look at your messaging, website, outreach, buyer persona, brand personality, internal communications strategy and organizational goals. These all have to align with your new visual strategy for a rebrand to be successful. Consistency across mediums and messaging is key!

So before you launch headfirst into a rebrand, do your research. Or better yet, let us do it for you! Give us a call to see if crafting a fresh identity is the right move your company.

  

If there’s one form of business communication that has stood the test of time and made an easy transition into the Digital Age, it’s the newsletter. In a world ruled by new technologies, it may be hard to imagine how it has survived as a content distribution channel. Yet, it remains a content marketer’s favorite medium and serves as a key tool in your digital marketing arsenal.
Not convinced? Below we have put together five reasons you should consider joining the successful businesses that have used their expertise and thoughtful content to make valuable connections with clients and prospects through the power of the email newsletter.
1. That ROI Thing
 Email marketing is the absolute easiest, fastest and cheapest way to get your organization in front of people who matter. One study, in fact, found that for every $1 spent on email marketing, $44 is made in return, Email Newsletters pull their weight in this type of cost-effective outreach by being able to address issues, solve problems and educate, creating a community of readers and building trust.
2. Elite Positioning
With the right information in it, a digital newsletter can position you as the thought leader among like businesses or within an industry. You become the authority readers go to source when they have questions or are seeking solutions. And, significantly, you’re the one they refer to friends, family and others. Once you get someone on your list, you’re already preaching to the choir – to people open to building a relationship with you.
3. Long Engagements
Statistics show how that email newsletter readers spend 80-percent more time on its host site – a significant commitment in this day and age. And, once your digital newsletter is opened and read, the user may just stick around to see what else is there. Links within the newsletter also build on the interest you’ve created, by redirecting readers to other site sections and adding weight to your value story.
4. Identity Heft
Digital communication is hands down the timelier format for news, updates and announcements. Email newsletters, by virtue of their ease and immediacy, enable you to speak to your target audience about who you are now, with up-to-date insight into what is happening with your organization, brand identity, values and philosophy.
5. It Isn’t Over When It’s Over
Once you’ve sold a consumer something or provided a needed service, you’ve completed more than just a transaction. You’ve shown that your marketing has worked, and you have gotten to know the individual a little better. Digital analytics offered by some email marketing platforms can also help you further hone and customize your newsletter so you may zero in on the appropriate target audience.
These points represent just some of the many “whys” of adding digital newsletters to your marketing mix. As for the “hows,” you’ll need strong, compelling, on-brand content written in a professional, yet personal, way. The document should be visually compelling, as well, without being overdone. There are other fine points of technology and tracking, but, all in all, your digital newsletter can be the best – and fastest – way to build relationships, your brand and your business.

Today, the compilation of accurate data about customers and competitors is an indispensable tool for any organization. We understand that the process of conducting market research can often appear overwhelming, however, the dividends it yields are priceless. With that being said, here are five reasons why market research is a must for business success.

  1. It Elevates your Messaging and Communication

All too often, companies find themselves talking at consumers rather than to them. There’s a big difference. Market research is an invaluable and effective way to test concepts and key messages to evaluate those customers and prospects relate to best. With this information in hand, you can create content that resonates and determine how best to get that content to the people who matter.

  1. It Can Optimize Your Brand Strategy and Positioning 

Every company’s goal is to position itself uniquely in the marketplace in a way that puts them ahead of the competition. Quantitative and qualitative marketing research can be used to identify where your brand is positioned compared to your competitors, what metrics you should be tracking over time and what brand benefits matter most to your target market.

  1. It Fosters Better Decision Making

In today’s rapidly shifting market landscape, the ability to make effective data-driven decisions is crucial for all business operations. Having the right information at your fingertips can help you go forward with confidence, validating what you know to be true and minimizing the risk of getting it wrong.

  1. You Gain Better Insight on Target Customers

 One of the biggest returns you get from effective market research is that it compels you to actively listen and to engage with your customers on a personal level. This in turn enables you to more accurately assess their needs and identify potential holes in customer satisfaction so you can make necessary adjustments to better serve them. Significantly, when you can communicate at this level, it shows you not only know your customers and prospects but you also respect them, not wasting their time with incessant and unnecessary communications.

  1. It Allows You to Remain Relevant and Future Focused

You may be familiar with the phrase “adapt or perish.” This can certainly apply to businesses and brands, as well as individuals. Conducting regular market research helps ensure that your brand stands the test of time, looking past short-term gain and evolving as necessary to survive and prosper.

In the modern global market, marketing research is not only useful but essential. Put it at the top of your marketing to-do list. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did.

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.

It’s easy to focus solely on external marketing — after all, businesses need to satisfy current customers and garner new clients to remain profitable. However, internal communication is paramount to engage personnel, stimulate positive behaviors and support marketing objectives with other audiences.  Here are a few reasons why employee communication is more important than ever:

Aligns Messaging

Think of everyone who works for your company as an unofficial spokesperson; the knowledge they share can help fuel sales or improve experiences for customers. This is particularly important in large, service-oriented companies where employees of all levels continually interact with clients (think of a hospital or chain of coffee shops). When employees are informed and engaged, they are more likely to be positive brand ambassadors. They’ll speak highly of your organization, share exciting information with friends, families and customers, and help advance communications goals.

Retains Talent

The days of employees staying at one job for 20+ years are over. Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce and research shows that they are nearly three times more likely to switch companies than any other age group. Avoid costly turnover and boost retention with strategic internal communication efforts.

Here are a few ways to engage your employees, help them feel emotionally connected to their work and ensure they will stick around for the long run. As always, strategies and tools will vary depending on the size of your organization.

  • Maintain an employee intranet with news and updates
  • Develop a printed publication featuring employee accomplishments and impact
  • Send out a regular newsletter with need-to-know information
  • Create recognition programs that connect employees with leadership

Garners Fresh Ideas and Perspectives

Use internal communication tools to invite feedback from your workforce. When you encourage employees to voice their opinions anonymously, you’re able to validate direction and use their responses as an important step in the research process. Whether you’re testing messaging, trying out a new website feature or deciding which topics to focus on in a publication, establishing a dialogue with your employees is a great way to encourage collaboration.

When executed strategically, internal communication can help advance organizational objectives and equip employees with the information they require to remain connected and devoted to your company. Do you need help launching an employee communications program? Let us help you get started!

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “graphic design”? Perhaps your favorite band’s album cover or an elaborate Coca-Cola ad comes to mind? The field of design is a vast realm of concepting, creating and composing visual stories that catch the viewer’s attention. When executed flawlessly, design is thought-provoking and action-inducing – ensuring a seamless transition from aesthetic identity to message strategy. Thus, the value of strategic design cannot be understated.

How is design strategic?

To marketing professionals and graphic designers, there is a distinction between something that is simply aesthetically appealing and a piece that elevates the company’s objectives. However, design is often seen as merely an aesthetic routine – make something look pretty and it will generate interest. How many times can you remember the general appearance of an advertisement, but you can’t recall which product or service it was highlighting? Design needs to do more than just look good. It has to support the company’s offerings, messaging, goals and identity. While it’s often challenging, companies need to separate themselves from their personal preferences and focus solely on strategy and the people they’re trying to reach.

When a company emphasizes strategic design, merging creativity with business objectives, the results are astounding. A study by the Design Management Institute showed that companies who emphasize the importance of visual marketing outperformed the S&P by 211%. Transforming design into a strategic tool is essential to differentiate brands from their competitors and drive customer decision-making.

What is the process?

Incorporating business strategy into the design process can take more time, but the payoff is exponential.

  • Research: Analyzing competitors, trends, company history, touchpoints and markets is the crucial first step of any campaign. Of course, an in-depth understanding of business goals, messaging and objectives is also integral to success.
  • Create: I’ve always believed in starting with a design that’s entirely out of the box. Incorporating strategy into design doesn’t mean that it has to be boring. Go to the outer edges of your creativity – you might just stumble upon something breathtaking.
  • Simplify: A famous quote from Coco Chanel comes to mind: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” The same concept applies to designing – peel back layers of design and strip away superfluous elements that will distract from the message. Simplicity is the secret to great visuals.
  • Test: Go beyond the standard internal approval process and test your design on potential customers to eliminate bias. Most of the time, you’ll need to reframe and test again.

When design is paramount to business strategy and intertwined in messaging, objectives and market approach, it becomes a powerful tool. Companies who learn to develop a culture that sees design as more than simply an aesthetic medium will reap powerful results.

Is it time for you to re-evaluate the use of design in your marketing strategy? Call us and let’s get started.

Providing valuable, digestible content to consumers in order to build brand affinity is hardly a new marketing device, so why are some marketers struggling to craft killer content and effective creative assets?

While it may differ from marketer to marketer, one of the key problems we see is related to organization and planning. Part of the problem lies in the fact that many organizations lack a standardized framework, one that breaks content development into clearly defined stages of completion.

Thus, below we have outlined five important steps every marketer should take when developing a new piece of content.

  1. Start with a Creative Brief

Crucial for the beginning of a new project, especially if there are multiple parties involved, a clearly organized creative brief is quintessential to the success of every new content project. Not only does it ensure everyone is on the same page, but once approved this then will become a working document that provides guidance to all parties on the overall communications objective of the asset being developed.

  1. Develop an Outline

Once you have a creative brief that is approved by all parties, you can then provide a copy outline to include an overview by section with bullets along with other salient points, fact-based items and other content that should be included.

  1. Complete a Working draft

After a copy outline is developed, a working draft is then completed, and sent to internal or external reviewers for feedback. This draft might include multiple options for headlines, copy points and the overall content layout direction.

  1. Begin the Editing Phase

Any good content marketer knows that editing is a critical part of the process. Thus, once you have feedback on the working draft, it is important to then to work with the client through a few rounds of edits (we recommend no more than three) until approval is reached.

  1. End with a Visual Context Review

If you are adding graphic elements to the content asset, this is the last step. Once the approved draft is in design, we recommend then smoothing out the overall copy in a design context for flow and fit within the designed asset.

Need help with your content strategy? We would love to assist. Give us a call at 941.929.3104 or visit our website.

In the ever-evolving design industry, the distinction between website programmers and graphic designers is slowly becoming increasingly hazy. While classically trained designers such as myself may not be expected to crank out a website design in between developing collateral and guiding brand direction, the need to expand our base of knowledge has become imperative if we want to remain relevant.

Understanding the foundational principles of web design will help you collaborate more seamlessly with programmers and create stunning, user-friendly online spaces. Read on for some advice about working with developers and getting started in the coding world.

Learn the basics of HTML, CSS and Javascript

Getting your hands dirty in the world of programming is the most important tip I can provide. A foundational knowledge of programming can work wonders as well as save significant time when collaborating with a seasoned web developer. You’ll also more thoroughly understand how websites function and can then tailor your design accordingly. There are plenty of free or inexpensive coding tutorials on sites like Lynda.com, Codecademy and even YouTube. The information and applications are readily available; it’s up to you to take the first step.

Learn to communicate with programmers

Programmers and designers speak different “languages” when constructing a website. Programmers typically speak in terms of the coding and rules/guidelines in which a website is governed, while designers on the other hand, usually speak in terms of aesthetics. In order for ideas and direction to be conveyed between the two, there needs to be a clear understanding of the other’s language. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web and offers technical specifications and guidelines. Familiarize yourself with these web standards and you’ll be able to give, and take, direction more effectively.

Monitor and research current website trends

Website design changes quickly and constantly. What may have been trendy a few years ago might look dated and perhaps even ridiculous now. Remember those website backgrounds with flying toasters from the early-to-mid 90s? Or the glittery social media graphics from the early 2000s? A simple Google search of current website design trends will offer information about what is currently popular and perhaps spark some inspiration for the website you’re designing. But make sure you always prioritize functionality; if users can’t find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, even the most beautifully designed website will lose valuable traffic.

Work with programmers directly

Communication is key for most professions and design is one of them. When you’re in the midst of website creation, speaking directly to a programmer can save time and spare you of some of the frustration from the process. A website is never designed and programmed exactly the way it should be on the first go. The bulk of website development involves a lot of back and forth, as designers often need to edit and tweak the design to fit within certain website guidelines. If you’re working with an account manager or client, explain that this direct communication is vital for project efficiency. They’re sure to understand and connect the two of you.

Research thoroughly when choosing a partner

When possible, research potential development companies before launching a project. Development companies vary dramatically in size and pricing, and consequently can alter the timeline of the proposed website launch as well as associated costs. Some companies charge by the project while others charge by the hour. Some are single person shops while others have large teams. You should also be fully aware of the company’s locations and the consequential time zone differences. Having worked with both local and international programmers, I can say that time zones can dramatically affect the entire process of website development. If you work with programmers on the other side of the world, you will run into roadblocks due to work schedules. Before you commit, gather as much information about the company as possible.

Creating a website is a complicated and lengthy process, but one that is highly fulfilling; there’s something special about carving out an entirely new space in the online world. Equip yourself with the correct knowledge and tools, and you’re on the path to becoming a great design partner.  

On the other hand, if you don’t have the time or resources to create a website — let us do it for you! Contact us to get started.

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.