Branding

Postcard Design Webinar for Ripon Printers.

Don’t dismiss postcards as low-end, low-value promotions for companies that can’t afford anything else. Postcards can certainly be used to attract high-value buyers, promote sales and offer coupons, even change the narrative surrounding your brand.

In this one-hour webinar, you’ll learn about:

Design postcards with an edge.

  • Understanding postcard design building blocks
  • Incorporating content elements (including photo-personalization) into your design
  • Designing postcards to support your business goals
  • Exploring creative substrates
  • And using metrics to improve your design solutions

Catalog Cover Design Webinar Created for Ripon Printers.

Your catalog cover demands more time and resources than any other page for one simple reason: consumers judge your catalog by its cover. That’s your big opportunity to build excitement and expectations for what’s inside.

In this webinar, you’ll learn about:

  • Maximizing use of both front AND back covers
  • Building the brand experience with your cover
  • Making photography vs. illustration decisions for covers
  • Applying special marketing techniques like personalization and QR codes
  • And utilizing a list of do’s and don’ts for cover text

You can also download the followup Q&A document that contains additional info and links.

“White” Paper Doesn’t Mean Generic.

cainyCastor-250Creating a successful white paper isn’t just about the content. The content is in fact worthless if:

  • The paper doesn’t support the brand,
  • It’s too hard to read,
  • Your credibility is lacking because the paper looks amateurish, and
  • Your charts or graphics are boring.

I dare say most white papers are not tackling new theories or topics. And in a highly competitive situation, who are your prospects going to believe? The guy in the rumpled suit or the guy whose shirt is pressed, shoes polished and handshake firm? Likewise, a rumpled and amateurish white paper will not engender trust.

Here are five design guidelines for creating highly functioning and trustworthy white papers:

  1. Keep it readable:Readability is created by a combination of design tactics that take your specific content and audience into account.Choice of typeface is top on the list. While all computers have Arial available, a smarter choice for readability of long passages would be a face with a larger x-height. For example, for readability of lengthy white papers on screen, Verdana or Georgia are two excellent options. For readability on paper, Myriad Pro or Garamond may work well. Serif typefaces are usually more readable than sans serif, but you also have to weight that difference with your brand’s needs. Of course, there are thousands of typefaces available and your corporate brand style guide may also govern the ones you use.Bigger is not always better when it comes to sizing type. That said, there are many designers who adhere to the school of tiny type. Use a designer who understands the nuances of type size as it relates to your content, writing style, typeface selection and most importantly, the needs or your target demographic. Striking the right balance in size means ensuring readers can easily read your paper without squinting and that your type isn’t so large that they can’t see the forest for the trees.

    Also consider line length and line spacing. Line lengths that are too short cause too much hyphenation and make reading a choppy venture. Lines that are too long make it difficult for the mind’s eye to track from the end of one line to the beginning of the next. To optimize reading speed, designers have for years been using the 66-72 characters per line rule. Generally speaking, this rule continues to work very well but again, is dependent on your white paper’s specific needs. Papers with lots of very long words may require a slightly longer line length. Just try reading a James Joyce novel with a short line length—painfully slow.

    Line spacing also affects the ability of the mind’s eye to read quickly. Spacing that is too much or too little will slow the reader down, getting your message embedded later rather than sooner. Line spacing is also interdependent on typeface selection and average word length.

    Keeping your white paper readable at maximum warp speed is a fine balance between many factors.

  2. Look professional: Good design will pre-sell your white paper and ultimately, you.Not realizing this and acting on it will place you in the league of second bests or the do-not-consider group. It’s really not any different than showing up at an interview in a freshly pressed suit, shoes polished, hair in place, teeth clean and nails trimmed.Likewise, if your white paper looks like it was created in Microsoft Word, it will compete poorly against a competitor’s paper that is branded, polished, neat and professional. There are many design nuances that Microsoft Word or Publisher lack but a good designer trained in traditional typographic techniques can provide.
  3. Be interesting: Being lively and interesting will get you more attention than the party bore.Don’t think that the term ‘white paper’ means you can’t use color or interesting graphics. White paper doesn’t refer to the overall design of your paper, and you’re doing your brand and your customer or prospect a disservice by not making your paper visually interesting.Now I don’t mean embellish your paper with fancy dingbats and doodads that don’t add value. Good design is not about decoration. Make sure all your graphics are working hard for the content and/or the brand image. And do something to stand out. Don’t be boring.
  4. Design for the distribution method:Good white papers will be shared digitally among peers.If your white paper is being distributed via email, be careful to adhere to the email marketing laws in the country of distribution, don’t use spam triggers, do apply permission-based marketing techniques and make it easy to share by including forward links.If your paper is a downloadable PDF, recipients are more likely to print it before reading. So make sure you design it to be most readable printed from an inkjet printer.

    If you are professionally printing your paper for snail-mail distribution, you must also consider the paper stock used and ideally, make sure it is ballpoint or pencil ready with healthy margins for jotting notes.

  5. Pay attention to details: If God and the devil are both in the details, then this is where you’d better spend some time.We all know of HR people who throw away any resumes with typos, punctuation and grammar errors. It’s one way to narrow the field to the real professionals. Ditto with thought leadership and design. If you don’t look buttoned up in terms of details, how will prospects trust you with the details of their business?

In terms of white paper design details, look out for these common mistakes:

  • Ditch those double spaces between sentences. It affects reading speed and isn’t necessary since we no longer use typewriters.
  • Be consistent with periods and commas. If you’re using a serial comma, stick with it.
  • Don’t break proper nouns at the end of a line, especially if the line length is long.
  • Watch for too many hyphenations, which also slow reading and just look like you don’t care.
  • Keep your bullets closer to their text than the line below them.
  • Use a grid to align your content perfectly so nothing looks out of place.
  • Consider balance of elements on a page. Look for triangulation of weight.
  • Use styles to keep content consistently formatted.
  • Use color appropriately and don’t overuse. This isn’t a flea market.
  • Consider how your document will be printed and if on an office inkjet, make sure key content doesn’t exceed printer margins.
  • Align table columns appropriately for the content. Align decimals on the decimal, for instance.

Skimpy Investments Deliver Skimpy Results.

Ultimately, good white paper design is about taking care of your prospects, making it easy for them to consider you. Yes, it’s a larger investment, but if that’s what gets you moved to the head of the pack, then that’s what you must do.

Remember, looking the part and being easy to understand shortens the distance to being considered a thought leader.

By Julia Moran Martz

Are You Creating the Right Recession Impression?

hawkerDawg-250Maybe it’s time to give yourself and your team a little pep talk. Get your facts straight. Know what you’re talking about. Create a results-oriented plan that will improve sales today and better position your company for tomorrow. You can do it. What’s more, you need to do it.

Going “dark” to your customers is exactly what your savvy competitors hope you will do. They recognize that there are opportunities in today’s economy. Just as importantly, they are thinking about the mid-term and long-term gains they can achieve—at your expense—by being more aggressive now.

Accountants Can Put You Out of Business.

Cutting marketing to the bone might satisfy the accounting department, but some financial people (and operations, too) often question whether marketing really sells products. A down economy is just an excuse to do what they’d like to do all of the time. It’s up to you to demonstrate that crippling marketing is a bad decision.

I’m always reminded of the story where William Wrigley is riding on a train and one of his colleagues asks him why, with a dominant market share, did he continue to promote his chewing gum so aggressively. “How fast do you think this train is going?” Wrigley asked. “I would say about 90-miles an hour,” the colleague responded. “Well then,” said Wrigley, “do you suggest we unhitch the engine?”

That’s an easier position in good times than bad, you might argue. But there is not one shred of evidence that cutting marketing during a downturn will help your organization. Consider these recession research studies:

  • Yankelovich/Harris
    Execs agree that seeing a company in a down market makes them feel more positive about the company and keeps them top-of-mind when making purchase decisions.
  • McGraw-Research Laboratory of Advertising Performance
    Study of 600 BtoB marketers found that those who maintained or increased advertising during a recession averaged sales growth of 275% over the preceding five years.
  • American Business Press
    Study revealed sales and profits could be maintained and increased in recession years and in the years following by those who maintain an aggressive posture while others become non-participants.
  • Harvard Business Review
    Report of 200 companies found that sales increases came from companies that advertised the most during the recessionary year.

Is It Too Late?

No, but depending upon your situation, you may need to regain the confidence of executive management. And you will almost definitely need to be creative with your budget and reallocate money to areas that will generate the most measurable results. You should focus on:

  • Adding Value. The last thing you want to do is engage in discount battles—especially with your top brands. Price cuts not only hurt current profitability, but they also can be difficult to escape later. A low price tends to become the expected price. Demonstrate instead that you identify with your customer’s challenges and build on values such as durability, security, ease-of-use and timesavings.
  • Selling More to Existing Customers. Returns are so much better and less expensive than prospecting. Increasing your share of customer through more frequent and/or larger purchases can do wonders for your bottom line.
  • Improving Data Mining. Whether you are selling to existing customers or prospecting, nothing will increase results more that instituting database marketing best practices. Get your data out of departmental silos and into a centralized database that offers a single view of each customer. Then you can begin adding sophistication through data appending, predictive modeling and many other techniques often overlooked or underutilized by even large companies.
  • Adding Marketing Automation. You can streamline your marketing program and improve results through marketing automation systems. Good ones will not only help you efficiently manage and execute campaigns, but will also provide the valuable reporting you need. With a recent CMO study indicating that 20 percent of executive-level marketers don’t track their marketing returns at all, there is plenty of room for improvement.
  • Integrating Multiple Channels. Anyone who is paying attention knows that the best returns come from campaigns that skillfully integrate multiple channels. Just make sure you commit your limited funds to the right channels. Consider what Gregg Ambach of Analytic Partners said in an article that appeared in the July 2009 issue of Deliver magazine: “(Digital) is incredibly efficient, because the cost per thousand is low. But it’s just not moving a lot of volume yet.” So be careful about being penny wise and pound foolish when allocating recession marketing dollars.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

MondoVox Creative Group can help you develop cost-effective, multi-channel marketing campaigns—from strategy through execution—that deliver measurable results. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

You can connect with Julia Moran Martz on LinkedIn. Or follow her on Twitter.

Using Creativity and Street Smarts to Survive a Recession.

broadwayDawg-250

Everyone’s hurting right now and while you’re thinking you need to cut back on sales training, marketing and R&D, your biggest, baddest competitors have likely already done just that. Which means you have a unique opportunity to enter a new market or expand your existing share while the big boys aren’t looking. This is exactly what companies like Clif Bar, Method Products, Inc. and The Wine Group are doing.

Be Frugal In Your Design Decisions.

A great example of frugal design innovation is the development of Recession Wines by The Wine Group last year. They took advantage of recessionary wine purchasing trends (you know, the one where consumers drink more and cheaper wine at home than out and about with their friends) and created a low-price competitor to Two-Buck Chuck by saving money via packaging design. Using cheaper synthetic corks and a lighter bottle saved enough money per unit to allow offering a price under $5. This is a great example of using design frugality to achieve the lower price without skimping on the quality of the actual product.

And thanks to the up front legwork achieved by Two-Buck Chuck, consumers know that cheap wine doesn’t have to taste like floor cleaner. So new brands like Recession Wines don’t have to spend money changing consumer attitudes, they can instead focus on developing a great product and getting it to market.

Be Creative And Limber.

Limber up and be ready to try new things or take on the category gorillas like Method Products, Inc. did during the dotcom bust.

In 2001, after the massive dotcom failures, investors were afraid and ready for anything that wasn’t founded on questionable technologies. Using a friendlier logo, a more humanist approach overall, better design and easier, faster to read text allowed Method to take on the likes of P&G and SC Johnson. Method’s more casual and honest approach also tied directly into the green product trends consumers were starting to buy. These creative approaches, combined with truly green products, allowed Method to a get there faster and connect more quickly and firmly with consumers. Most importantly, it allowed them to compete more affordably during a recession when the 800-pound gorillas were asleep.

Seek Opportunities To Steal.

Most of your competitors will be scaling back their marketing programs to cut costs. They’ll even be laying off the people that watch out for companies like yours. This is your chance to steal more of the spotlight, and it will cost less to do so during a recession. Ad rates can be more favorably negotiated. Ditto with vendor costs. And don’t forget, any customers you snag during this difficult time will still be your friends when the market recovers.

This is exactly what happened when Clif Bars entered the market in 1992 and challenged Powerbar, the industry front-runner. Powerbar owned the market; there was no serious competitor. But with a recession in play, the field leveled and Clif Bar stole the ball.

Taking more care to research the market and spending more time in R&D allowed Clif Bar to create a much better tasting product and enter through bike shops rather than grocery outlets. Couple this with vendors so desperate for a sale they’d risk doing business with a start-up, and Clif Bar was in business.

Don’t Wait For An Invitation.

Experts think the recession is starting to wane, which means you don’t have much time left. So stop wasting paper and pixels on fluff, and focus on more human-to-human, conversational tones. Adjust both your visual and verbal messages to your customers. Their needs have shifted and so too should your messages. Ensure you’re meeting consumers’ design needs whether it’s larger type for boomers or less costly production materials for the newly unemployed.

Think beyond traditional media by considering social media tools to more directly connect to your target market. During a recession, many consumers are at home, in front of their computers, communicating through social networking tools. You should be there, too.

And certainly don’t skimp on communicating superior quality during a recession. Especially with high-ticket items that consumers will be married to for years to come. This is a time when they’re going to be especially critical of cheaper durable goods that could be a waste of their hard-earned dollars.

And above all, innovate as if your life depended on it, because in a recession, your company’s life does. Now go out there and get scrappy, dang it!

By Julia Moran Martz