Three Video Content Tips to Humanize Your Brand

Block that spam.

This describes the attitudes of today’s consumers. 80% of consumers say they mistrust half of all advertising, wearied by the half-truths and junk ads assaulting them daily.

Today’s marketing, sometimes called “The End of Control,” marks a revolt against technology-driven ads and marketing messages. People block them from inboxes, browsers, and social media feeds. They’ve disconnected landlines and screened robo-calls, rejecting nearly all that’s left.

The answer?

Humanized marketing that adds human-to-human (H2H) elements across all touch points a customer has with your business.

People crave inspiring experiences and authentic interactions with others.

You know that establishment in your neighborhood where people greet you by name, know your favorite special, ask about your hobbies, or offer amenities that make your day? That’s H2H at its best.

While you can’t touch everyone physically, video is one of your next best options. Globally, according to 2018 survey, 54% of consumers say they prefer to see video from a brand or business they support over other types of content. Through video, you can increase H2H contact and continually reimagine your business, demonstrating expertise, and sharing a vision in consistent, personable ways.

Intel harnessed this influence during a five-part “Meet the Makers” series, highlighting relatable stories of people around the world who used Intel products to create amazing experiences and new technology.

In one video, a 13-year-old named Shubham Banerjee shared how he used the technology to prototype and build an affordable braille printer to help blind people learn to read. By exposing viewers to inspirational technology stories, Intel sparked interest in a way product-centric advertising never could.

Want to grow your video presence and put humanized marketing in front of your viewers? YouTube strategist Trena Little has several content tips to help you grow your video niche:

Just Get Started.

Most people think they can’t do videos.

Perhaps they think they don’t have the right equipment, or don’t have a video strategy, “figured out.” Little says you don’t have to be an expert: “What people really connect with is when someone is just two or three steps ahead of them,” she said.

Remember, even when you know a little, it’s more than someone who knows next to nothing about a topic. Also, perfect backgrounds or cameras are non-essentials. “Just start posting videos!” Little says. After all, you have to start somewhere to get data to build on.

Mix it Up.

There are three main types of videos you can use: discoverable content (like tutorials and how-to videos), sales videos (featuring products, solutions, or directions to your landing page), and community videos (which connect with your audience even through things that don’t directly involve your business.

Remember, your goal isn’t primarily to sell products. Your “win” is establishing credibility and building relationships. Check out Android’s “Friends Furever” video for inspiration – this was the most shared video ad of 2015!

Hone Your Hook.

People don’t want to buy your product; they want to buy your solutions!

And they want to watch stories of people who understand their challenges. Little says it’s critically important to start videos strong. If you don’t address someone’s pain point or drive curiosity in the first 10 seconds, people will move on. Unpredictable story outcomes keep people engaged, as do value pitches and emotional words like “secrets” and “hacks.” Content that empowers the consumer is some of the most effective marketing you can generate.

Want to personalize your message and make your brand more human? You don’t have to be an expert in video to try combining it with your print marketing strategy. Stretch yourself today and give video content a try!

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Keep Things Real with Four Animated Design Tricks

While you may not be able to launch a 3D billboard and party-train campaign, you can to stop traffic with 3D elements and hot design trends from 2019.

Here are four animated styles with practical examples to try in your next printed piece.

Three-Dimensional Designs

3D works seem to be everywhere right now: entire compositions that have so much depth, you can’t help but reach out and touch them.

Examples include 3D typography (that works with any kind of font rendering), metallic 3D pipes pulsing with neon electricity, or effervescent 3D poster compositions that jump off the page and make it impossible to look elsewhere.

Asymmetrical Layouts

While rigid designs have been standard for several years, layouts that break free from the predictable grid are now soaring in popularity.

Asymmetrical balance results from using unequal visual weight on each side of your page. For example, one side might contain a dominant element, which is balanced by lesser focal points or light elements on the other.

Asymmetrical balance is more dynamic and interesting. It evokes feelings of modernism, movement, vitality, and curiosity as viewers pause to peruse the design. Box elements within a page, stepped or tabbed layering, or the powerful use of negative space are all strategies for creating products that feel more customized and alive.

Open Compositions

Ready to throw off decaying designs of the past?

For years, illustrators have put frames around design elements, encasing them in boxes, frames, and in strict order. Today, viewers crave open, airy designs which seem to offer only part of the whole picture.

Allow your layouts to embrace white space with elements that feel loosely connected or even chaotic. Play with composition to make each part look like it’s continuing off the page to infinity. This allows viewers to engage with your image, using their imagination to wonder what else is out there.

Duotones and Gradients

In the 90s, gradients were a popular way to add color and depth to designs.

They came back in a big way in 2018, enhancing flat designs, adding color overlays to photos, and adding texture to backgrounds of all kinds. Gradients, or “color transitions,” are a gradual blending from one color to two or three others, blending similar colors (like different shades of blue) or completing contrasting colors (like purple and red). Gradients can be bold or subtle, modern or rustic, the focal point or the background. They can be used in logos, packaging, business cards, or photo overlays.

Find your favorite color schemes and go to town, because the energy of these stunning color transitions can elevate the vivacity of any design.

It’s an exciting time for design, especially when technology continues to allow us to push the limits. Have fun experimenting and make 2019 a year to look your best in print!

Effortless: Three Tips to Boost the “Cool” Factor of Your Designs

Fashionable. Admirable. Timeless.

If you were to define cool, what words would you use?

Cool is just . . . cool.

In some sense, even describing what makes something cool can diminish its appeal. But in print and design, nothing is more appealing than cool.

What Makes a Brand Cool?

How do you add this edge to set your products apart?

To find out, marketing scholars Caleb Warren and Margaret C. Campbell carried out six experiments comparing consumer products, coolness ratings, and participant reactions.

In their research, Warren and Campbell discovered a relationship between the qualities of coolness and autonomy, finding designs perceived as cool were those that radiated autonomy in a socially acceptable way. Cool things tend to go a step beyond “stylish” things, so cool designs often push the boundaries of style. Think normative styles like jeans – but add excessive grunge rips. Or ordinary 1950s T-shirts – but add packs of cigarettes rolled into the sleeve.

Coolness is not an inherent quality, but rather a social construct. If coolness comes from stretching limits, one of the keys to cool designs is knowing your niche and understanding what customers perceive to be unconventional. As Warren & Campbell conclude: “objects and people are cool only to the extent that others consider them cool.”

Bringing Coolness to Life

Looking to push the boundaries in a way that’s meaningful to your customers? Here are three ways to set your designs apart:

1. Define the Gap in Your Market.

Look beyond your design to the people you are designing for.

What brands, social values, or fashion cues motivate them? Look at products your customers typically buy and find the “gap” between current designs and those that are too intense or extreme.

To design in the gap, add a bold twist to the colors, fonts, or ideas that might typically interest them. Wrapping paper company Gift Couture saw a gap in the market for wrapping paper “sets,” so they created a series of themed papers that coordinated together, like the Cheeseburger set (bun, meat, lettuce, and tomato wrapping papers) the steak set (raw meat and cutting board style designs), and the pizza set (pizza paper with a coordinating pizza box).

2. Bring Magic to the Mundane.

Cool people or concepts have a flow, grace, or character all their own.

Cool things often appear effortless (though they rarely are), so how do you add this sense of simplicity to your work?

Seek authenticity that focuses more on a core concept or idea than on the perfected final outcome. For a photographer, this might mean focusing on the moment, not the shot. For an advertiser, this might mean expressing character irrespective of the norms, beliefs, or expectations of others. For a designer, this might mean using minimalist designs, stark angles, or unfiltered photos one might generally reject.  

3. Re-purpose the Old.

Sometimes the best designs are a twist on history.

Awaken inspiration for what WILL be cool by looking to what HAS been cool! From refinished wood to vintage art deco backdrops, sometimes the coolest things to come around are those that have been around.

Designs nodding to the past evoke nostalgia and spark a profound emotional response. And cool designs don’t just reproduce old styles; they recreate them in arresting new ways.

Find the Sweet Spot

Cool designs understand their consumers’ tastes and hit the sweet spot between the ordinary and the unconventional.

From the unique to the unexpected, when you appear effortless, incorporate the past, and design one step beyond the norm, it will give you an edge an set your products apart.

Affordable Offline Marketing for Your Small Business

Do you have a small business that could use a revenue boost?

Most marketing strategies are crafted around costly advertising campaigns, but there are many free or affordable tactics you can use to grow your business at any stage.

Here are a few offline marketing fundamentals to get you started, no matter how small your budget!

1. Take part in local events.

Sales are based on relationships, and relationships require connection.

Network in proactive ways by attending or taking part in local events. Get to know other small business owners and have your business card or flyer ready; you never know when the opportunity will present itself!

2. Create customized stickers or labels.

It’s not just a kid thing – people truly enjoy stickers!

Create a colorful custom sticker and pass them out anywhere your target users might be. Stickers and labels can be used on car windows, water bottles, notebooks, and more.

3. Start a simple rewards system.

One of the easiest ways to boost your profits is by offering current customers a loyalty incentive.

If you have repeat customers or need subscription/service renewals to succeed, you can print loyalty punch cards, start a digital point-tracking system, or mail coupons to customers who make a baseline purchase with your business.

4. Offer demonstrations.

Life is more fun when you try new things.

If you wanted to learn yoga, woodworking, or the violin, would you learn by watching or by trying? Participation is an essential way to engage the body, mind, and emotions of your prospects.

Brainstorm ways you can combine learning and doing through presentations. Whether it’s giving samples, making online teaching videos, or offering live demonstrations at an industry event, engage your customers by getting them involved.

5. Launch cross promotions.

Is there some way you can build rapport between your business and another firm?

Work with another entrepreneur to offer giveaways, contests, or product discounts. During one holiday, GameStop and PayLess shoes partnered on a cross-promotional campaign. Shoppers at the video game retailer received register coupons for the shoe store, while shoppers at PayLess got discount coupons for GameStop. Because many of their stores are in close proximity, it was a winning strategy for both retailers. Cross promotions can include joint mailings, coupon partnerships, shared booth space, or promoting each other through social media. 

6. Spread the word.

Got flyers? Door hangers and sell sheets? Looking to share the love? Go classic and canvas your area.

Pound the pavement and leave your print materials on porches, doorknobs, windows, cars, and more. Leave your business cards on restaurant tables, at coffee shops, in libraries, or even on mirrors. If you’re feeling brave, do some cold calling after you canvas and ask if you can share some follow up info.

7. Perfect your pitch.

What do you sell? What problem can you solve? If you can’t explain yourself in a single sentence, then you have a problem.

Like a great campaign slogan, an elevator pitch should summarize your business, product, or service in a concise, convincing fashion. YOU are your best advertisement, so have a short, convincing statement ready to introduce your business to new customers or colleagues any moment the opportunity is at hand!

A Building Block for the Future

Most of these tactics are inexpensive, but they do take time and effort.

Remember, results won’t come immediately, but boosting your name now can increase your revenue and enable you to cast a larger net in the future. Give us a call or visit our website to chat about affordable printed resources you can add to your offline marketing arsenal today.  

5 Customer Service Phrases to Avoid (and What to Say Instead)

In May of 2018, Barbara Carroll ordered three cartons of toilet paper from Amazon. The order total: $88.17. The shipping charges? $7,455.

Carroll wasn’t overly concerned, as Amazon typically takes great care of its customers. But in this case, Carroll complained to Amazon six times and even wrote a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos. After every complaint, she received a form letter explaining a refund was impossible because the delivery arrived on time and undamaged. It wasn’t until Carroll notified a local television station (and the story went viral) that Amazon took action. Months later, she was finally reimbursed.

While this case is extreme, every company has its share of customer service flops. In some situations, the problem is no communication. In other cases, it’s inconsiderate attitudes.

Want to steer your team toward positivity? Here are five customer services phrases to avoid.

1. “No” (or) “I can’t help you with that.”

Even if a customer makes an impossible request, it’s your responsibility to care for them and to steer them toward a solution.

Alternatives to try:

“This feels like an issue which might be out of my control, but let me double check . . .”

“That’s not my area of expertise, but I want to connect you with someone who can help.”

2. “I don’t know” (or) “You need to check with someone else.”

If you can’t solve a problem, be as helpful as possible. Rather than abandoning someone mid-stream, work with them to find an answer.

Alternatives to try:

“I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

“I’m not sure, but I’d be happy to look into that.”

3. “Ok, calm down.”

When diffusing a tense situation, telling someone to calm down usually frustrates them more. Instead, communicate empathy and turn the focus from the problem to the solution.

Alternatives to try:

“I understand how this must have upset you, and I’ll get on it immediately.”

“That would frustrate me too.”

“I’m sorry for this inconvenience. Let me help you with that right away.”

4. “I don’t understand the issue.”

People who are upset find uncertainty even more frustrating. If you’re struggling to connect, clarify the issue or soften your request.

Alternatives to try:

“OK, so let me clarify…”

“What I’m hearing is [ISSUE], is that correct?

“If it’s not too much of a problem, I would ask you to be a bit more specific…”

5. “I’m going to put you on hold.”

Time is valuable, so don’t assume you can extend a service call without asking permission. If you do have someone hold, check back with a status update if they’ve waited longer than two minutes.

Alternatives to try:

“I understand your issue and if it’s ok, I’m going to ask you to hold on while I check on a solution.”

“The problem you’re describing is rather peculiar, so if you have a minute, I’d like to put you on hold while I check with my supervisor.”

“I’ll get right on it. If it’s ok, I’d like to look into this today and call back to you once I resolve this.”

Ultimately, customer service is not about the right words but the right attitudes. Remember, the biggest customer service frustration question is “why isn’t this as important to you as it is to me?” As you handle issues, address the person behind the problem. Communicate with compassion, empathy, and enthusiasm, and you will find your way through many sticky situations.

Inspire Consumers Through Action-Oriented Catalogs

In the late ’90s, Scott Kerslake was working at an infotech company in California, while passionately surfing and cycling on the side.

During long bike rides with friends, Kerslake noticed a trend: women complaining about a lack of fashionable female sportswear. Women wanted durable athletic wear that also looked cute on everyday outings.

Kerslake didn’t hesitate. He quit his job, raised $700,000 in capital, and started a women’s athletic clothing company called Athleta. By early 2018, Athleta had been purchased by Gap and its sales grew more than 25 percent every year since 2012.

Athleta attributes this success to a thriving online and catalog-based business model: as early as 2007, Athleta was shipping out 21 million catalogs with $37 million in sales.

Catalogs may seem like an outdated way to grab shoppers, but Athleta has maintained retail footing by using action-packed spreads (ladies trekking up mountains, paddle boarding across bays, and demonstrating impressive flexibility in yoga pants) and by focusing on racial and generational diversity to inspire a wide range of women:

“We’re not like, ‘Oh, it’s all about millennials.’ We aren’t chasing them,” says Nancy Green, Athleta’s CEO. “We inspire [women] to keep living this full, healthy, active, rich life, no matter what her body type is, no matter her age.”

In the catalogs, this looks like leggings, swimsuits, hoodies, and capri pants. In sales, it looks like $1 billion in annual sales in 2018.

Why Catalogs Still Work

Ready to give catalogs or booklets a second look for your marketing mix?

You should.

Studies from the Data & Marketing Association have shown that the response rate for catalogs has increased in recent years partially because millennials enjoy catalogs:

“Millennials stand out a bit higher than other generations in terms of engaging with mail,” said Neil O’Keefe, the association’s senior vice president of marketing and content. “It’s unique to the generation that hasn’t experienced the amount of mail of past generations.”

O’Keefe says this curiosity drives a higher level of curiosity and sales than digital marketing.

“Millennials are very engaged by imagery, and the catalog really allows that to stand out. So, the response rate there is very different than what you would experience with a display ad, even an email. The response rate for a printed piece has been on the rise.”

Millennials may be particularly interested in catalogs, but they’re not alone. Hamilton Davison, president of the American Catalog Mailers Association, said half of all Americans order from catalogs even if they don’t immediately flip through them. U.S. Postal Service studies found that, after periodicals and bills, catalogs attract the most eyeballs, getting as much attention as personal correspondence.

“Catalogs come uninvited in the home, and yet they’re welcome,” Davison said.

To maximize your catalog impact, here are a few tips to consider:

Go Visual

The best catalogs are highly visual.

Environmental photography, imagery of products in real-life settings, and photos of people using your products are the most effective.

Organize for Sales

Place top-selling products on the outside edges of the page as readers typically start at the top right corner and sweep back toward the left.

Cross-sell between products with callouts, copy, or by putting products together on a page with companion discounts.

Simplify Ordering

Catalogs should give several options for purchasing, including toll-free numbers, websites, and even mail-in order forms that make it easier for customers to track preferences as they shop.

Highlight ordering options on every spread and make it easy for your customers to buy.

Catalog shoppers are often more valuable because they become brand enthusiasts that tend to spend more overall. Want to talk options? Give us a call or visit our website to get started!

Savvy Tips for the Best Stock Photo Selection

Image is everything.

Statistically speaking, compelling images average 94 percent more views, are three times more likely to be shared online, and significantly increase your likelihood of capturing new leads. Professional photos are a fantastic way to boost the impact of your brochure, booklet, or mailing. But if you’re planning to use a stock image, here’s some interesting info to consider.

A few years ago, the Marketing Experiments tested the performance of stock versus custom photos. They found that, when swapping a generic stock image of a woman with a photo of the ACTUAL founder (and a caption naming him), they saw a 35% increase in conversions. Later, the Nielsen Norman Group eye-tracking studies found that, when photos of “real” people were compared with stock photos, the stock photos were largely ignored. The conclusion? When it comes to design perception, humans seem to have a sixth sense for authenticity.

Unfortunately, most small businesses don’t have time to arrange for custom photos, and stock photos are the most convenient and cost-effective option.

How can you make stock photos more personal or effective in your publications? With the right eye and a few helpful tips, you can select stock photos that look more natural, professional and unique.

1. Use all your senses to evaluate photos.

What has a more powerful impact on you – a steaming plate of stir fry or a generic picture of a grocery aisle?

Texture and sensory cues in photos can whet appetites, evoke emotions, or awaken desire in your clients. When designing an event flyer or business brochure, look for photos with strong visual cues: a cuddly bathrobe, a sun-drenched field, a sinful piece of chocolate, or a brilliant vase of fresh flowers, for example. Sidestep photos that seem generic, dated, or bland to the senses.  

2. Avoid clichés.

Since the eye tends to ignore stock photos, search for images that are more personal and specific in focus. Some of the most over-used symbolic clichés include piggy banks (savings), plain light bulbs (ideas), crossroads (decisions), high fives (teamwork), or handshakes (business partnerships). Instead choose photos that show real action, stark color contrasts, facial close-ups, stunning landscapes, playful pets, or generational diversity.

3. Add extra search filters.

When searching for images, enter multiple keywords to narrow your focus.

The more personal your photo is, the more effective it will be, so make search tags as specific as possible. This can include anything from image orientation and aspect ratio to the number or people pictured and the activity they’re involved in. When setting search filters, try geographical landscapes, types of food, sports activities, board game names, alphabet letters, times of day, emotions, temperatures, and more. Long-tailed searches with multiple keywords can help you find images that scream authenticity.

4. Finish well.

Always choose the highest resolution available on the stock photos you purchase.

This will give you many options for zooming in or altering an image. Sometimes a single image can be cropped in unique ways to give you multiple photos while maintaining a cohesive theme for your layout. Resolutions higher than 300 PPI are essential for professional printings, though large-scale printings may vary. If you have questions on a specific question, just give us a call!

Images work best when they don’t look like stock photos, so work hard to avoid clichés, to arouse the senses, and to personalize your selections. Keep it creative and keep it real, and your designs are sure to stick!