Marketing

Using Illustration to Cut Through Visual Clutter.

brushOff-ink-250When  Julia and I first began discussing this topic, we were determined to take an illustration vs. photography approach. But the more research I did, the less I wanted to talk about photography. It’s not a competition, really, but rather a matter of making a choice based on which form will best accomplish your marketing objectives.

The Illustration Edge

According to the AIGA, the professional association for design, here’s what illustration can do for you: “Illustration can provide a unique sensibility to certain projects. Illustration brings spontaneity, freshness and a unique point of view to the design of content. It helps to communicate both simple and complex messages while enhancing a design through the unique vision and skill of the selected illustrator.”

“A Rationale for the Use of Illustration” published by Creativebusiness.com, offers further insight by noting that the new way of communicating in an age of tech-driven sameness is often the least technical and most unusual. Illustration cuts through today’s visual clutter to get ideas and products noticed. Illustration can:

  • Provide the best solution to a problem. There often is no better way to capture and manipulate emotion, atmosphere, flavor and mood to validate an idea or maximize a product’s allure.
  • Offer more flexibility. Reality has distinct limitations, but illustration can give personality and form to intangible ideas and concepts for which there are no practical photographic solutions. Think about:
    • Presenting products not yet built
    • Bringing back people and events long past
    • Revealing hidden sections
    • Communicating products that are in the works
    • Adding, moving or eliminating surroundings
    • Emphasizing details
  • Reduce costs. Not only are there a growing number of stock illustration sites, but also keep in mind that virtually 100 percent of the costs of a commissioned illustration go directly into the creativity. There aren’t always travel costs, elaborate sets and other costs often incurred with a custom photo shoot.

If you’re considering stock—or just want to get inspired by the great illustrative styles that are out there—check out these sites:

http://www.hireanillustrator.com
http://www.behance.com
http://www.istockphoto.com
http://www.veer.com
http://www.gettyimages.com

When working directly with illustrators, we recommend creating a standard form that outlines your licensing requirements. For example, having a contract that says, “We pay $X for Y license for Z time or Q medium,” makes it really easy to accept because the illustrator knows how much, for what, for how long and where.

Illustration Meets Technology

Keep in mind that illustrators haven’t been lost in a time warp. In fact, many illustrators use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and other programs to create artwork that may include photography and other graphic elements. Ben Heine, a Brussels-based artist, combines photography and illustration to generate interesting images and new spaces that are comic, fun and a surreal. A new visual concept invented by Heine in 2010, the “Pencil vs. Camera” series encourages an expanded view of an otherwise normal subject. This technique has many possibilities for use in advertising, packaging and graphic communications.

Technology can also be used to animate illustrations in order to tell a story or convey an idea. Animated GIFs are a way to add animation to email campaigns (with caveats for newer versions of Outlook*) and Flash banners can be used in many magazine websites.**


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This banner ad for Prinova is a perfect example of using illustration to creatively communicate how customers can use Prinova’s ingredients in their food manufacturing solutions. Photography also would not have worked as well to introduce the new company tagline. If you’re reading this from a smart phone, the backup JPG is displayed.

Remember that Original Artwork Belongs to the Illustrator

AIGA points out that an artist’s copyright is owned by the artist and is protected by the 1976 Copyright Act from the moment it is created. This protection covers the work for the artist’s lifetime plus 70 years. If agreed to in writing, the copyright may be assigned elsewhere, usually for an additional fee.

But original artwork is provided only temporarily to licensees for reproduction. Even the purchase of “exclusive rights” represents rights to reproduce the artwork only. The original illustration remains the property of the illustrator unless it is purchased explicitly and separately from the rights.

Original artwork also cannot be changed without the creator’s approval. Changes to an illustrator’s work must be made by the illustrator, unless you secure permission from the illustrator first. Many people are simply not aware of this law and unintentionally violate it. Please take the time to learn the rules of the road.

Call an Illustrator Today

There you have it—lots of reasons to incorporate more illustration into your communications.  So get moving. Or do I have to draw you a picture?

By Larry Bauer

*Outlook 2007/2010/2013 and Windows Mobile 7 will display the first frame of an animated GIF so keep that in mind when building animations for email use. Most other email apps will indeed take advantage of the full animation.
**While Flash is often an accepted format for website advertising, always provide a backup JPG in the event that users are viewing the website without Flash, such as via iPhones or iPads.

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.

Creating the Right Internal & External Recession Impressions.

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The impressions you make can have a lasting effect on your career as well as the success of your marketing campaigns. Make a poor internal impression and you may never have the resources to succeed at the external part. Here’s a list of things you can do to make the best internal and external impressions.

Internal

  • Speak with true knowledge about your customers and markets.
  • Demonstrate your ability to capitalize on customer data.
  • Know your competitors intimately—strengths, vulnerabilities, etc.
  • Cut programs that don’t work—show no favoritism beyond positive results.
  • Reallocate money to the best performing channels.
  • Be able to cost justify more expensive channels that perform.
  • Make a solid case for automation and other investments that improve efficiencies.
  • Set and communicate short-, mid- and long-term goals—there will be a tomorrow.
  • Make your plans flexible—think best and worst case scenarios.
  • Collaborate with the team (accounting & operations people, too)—you’re all in this together.
  • Show a willingness to learn and adapt.
  • Communicate your program successes.

External

  • Show your customers that you identify with their situation.
  • Be less promotional and more personal.
  • Communicate how your products or services provide added value that will help them.
  • Make customers feel comfortable, safe and secure about their buying decisions.
  • Avoid price-cutting—it’s a losing strategy.
  • Combine data mining with personalization techniques to customize offers.
  • Pay attention to customer communication preferences—now is not the time to give anyone a reason to tune you out.
  • Integrate channels that make sense for your customers and your message.
  • Execute messages appropriately for each channel—integrated marketing isn’t one-size-fits all.
  • Make sure your print materials are environmentally responsible—people still care.
  • Invite customers to engage with you in more ways.
  • Get more mileage from your campaigns by incorporating pass-along and other techniques that get your customers working for you.

ChalksignInk. Digits. Chalk? Thumbs up to the owners of Limestone Coffee & Tea (Batavia, IL) for their chalk promotion during the community’s recent Windmill Fest. Located in a high-traffic area, the retailer posted a chalk-written sidewalk promotion for a free coffee or tea with any drink purchase if you bring a friend. And an entry-way promotion offered 10% off any frozen drink during the festival. The promotion is fun, nostalgic and very cost-effective.

By Larry Bauer

Using Creativity and Street Smarts to Survive a Recession.

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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

2009’s Top Ten Marketing Resolutions

  1. 10resolutions-4blog1Get out more—develop a social media plan. It’s relatively inexpensive and moves you into a fast developing marketing arena. To get up to speed, check out “Integrating Social Media”.
  2. Lose weight fast—clean your marketing database. If there were ever an incentive to improve accuracy and reduce excess pounds in your database, this is the year. And don’t forget about your email database, which can really pack on the pounds quickly.
  3. Reduce stress—get your brand’s assets organized. A study conducted a few years ago asserted that marketers spent approximately 30% of their time finding “stuff” — images, copy, documents, etc. There’s really no excuse with the wide range of asset management tools available.
  4. Reunite with old friends—spend more time with clients. We all know that the best source of new business is from existing customers, yet most companies continue to devote the largest share of marketing dollars to prospecting. This is the year to break bad habits.
  5. Quit smoking—smoke your competition instead. Nothing will get you further than developing true competitive differentiation. Commit to breaking free from “me too” products, services and marketing campaigns.
  6. Improve your finances—increase your marketing ROI. Justify your marketing expenditures with a measurable return on investment. Prove to your company’s executive management team that your marketing campaigns more than pay their own way.
  7. Help the environment—green your marketing program. Here’s the good news: You’ll likely save money in the process. Be sure to consider the entire marketing supply chain and make key vendors part of your environmental team.
  8. Serve others—develop a unique and timely product/service. There is opportunity in any market. Now is the time to show your ingenuity with a product or service that’s right for the times. Not launching anything new? Focus on showing how your products/services are clearly the best investment over the longer haul.
  9. Try something new—launch an innovative campaign. You need to break through the clutter more than ever, especially if you’re products/services fall into the discretionary spending category. Anyone can market through the good times when money is flowing, but next year presents an opportunity for you to separate yourself from the ordinary marketing folks.
  10. Save money—allocate your marketing budget more strategically. This approach is the opposite of being penny wise and pound foolish, which often happens during lean economic times. Spend more money where you can get the greatest return on your investment (like more dollars for a better booth space or page position) and cut the marginal stuff, even if it’s a personal favorite.

Looking for a Support Group?

Sticking to your marketing resolutions can be a tough, lonely road. MondoVox® Creative Group can provide all the strategic, tactical, creative and moral support you need to turn over a new marketing leaf. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz. Then relax, turn off the digital devices and enjoy a wonderful holiday season.

— by Larry Bauer