Effective Marketing Communications Doesn’t Come in a Jar, Bottle or Can

November 7, 2007

I received  an incredibly funny video from a graphic designer partner of mine yesterday. Certainly it pokes fun at the things that clients say to make marketing professionals crazy but more importantly it drives home the point that if creating compelling marketing materials and programs was easy, there would be no need for professionals. Bigger, brighter and shinier only attracts attention sometimes and it doesn’t create sales. If it did, all you would have to do is click on this link and new business would show up on your doorstep. If you believe that, you have been watching way too much late night television.

Now sit back and prepare to laugh!


The Bloglines Plumber Wins My Vote for Creativity

May 24, 2007

When I visited bloglines today I was greeted by the Bloglines Plumber.

Bloglines Plumber

Not only is this the funniest thing that I’ve seen all day but it is an amazingly creative solution to a problem that website owners have every day.

Albeit most websites don’t go down once they have been live but how many times have you visited a site to see the “under contruction” message. Mostly these just frustrate me. This one made me laugh and I wanted to share it with every one I know.

So this relatively inexpensive effort won them good will, good PR and repeat visitors. How hard was that?


Are Networks like DIY and HGTV Hurting Professionals Outside the Design Industry?

May 22, 2007

Whether you’re spending your evenings watching Design on a Dime or This Old House, it seems that most everyone I know has caught the home improvement television bug. Certainly the traffic at Lowe’s and Home Depot supports this budding interest. Despite what you my think, my interior design and decorating clients tell me that all this sudden interest is actually great for their business. What most enthusiastic home decorators quickly learn is that they have neither the skill nor the patience for tackling those projects that look so simple on TV and so they quickly turn to a professional.

Interestingly enough, these same people who are hiring professionals to update their homes can’t seem to put away their DIY attitude when it comes to promoting their business and it pains me to see what this ends up costing them.

Designing Your Own Logo

Logo design can be an extremely complicated process.  While there are some really neat tools out there to help you start the job yourself, I think most businesses should ultimately invest in a professional designer. Nonetheless I continue to encounter professionals who balk at the idea that their corporate identity could cost them somewhere between $300 and $3000. Instead these high paid professionals (many of them who bill in excess of $200/hour) willingly spend half their day fiddling with a pseudo-design application to come up with a mediocre idea.

4 hours x $200/hour = $800

Better idea: Spend an hour looking at on-line portfolios or with a DIY tool them hire a pro to complete the job.

1 hour x $200/hour + 4 hours x $100/hour = $600 and a much better looking logo! 

Printing Your Own Marketing Materials

Dell is making a killing on ink cartridges when these same folks decide that print on demand is an easy substitute for traditional offset. You’ll recognize them when you go to a professional association meeting and they pass you a business card that has perforations on the edge. They may have even paid big bucks to design the card but cut corners (literally) by printing it at home.

4 color cartridges x $75/each = $300 + 1 box perforated business card stock x $30 = $330

Plus time spent printing the cards minus business lost because you look cheap = $????

Better Idea: Send your cards to a local printer who is hungry for your business and wants you to be happy. Perhaps you even met him at that networking event.

1000 4-color process business cards printed on 100# coated cover ~ $175

Order Your Printing On-line

When they figure out how much ink cartridges really cost (ask my buddies at Cartridge World), exploring on-line gang-run printing businesses makes sense. Unfortunately this is still treacherous water as many people don’t understand enough about the advantages of digital vs. off-set printing to know which process is best for their particular need. It’s painful to see these folks take beautifully (and often professionally designed) pieces and have them butchered by some cheap on-line service.

Solution: Start by ordering only simple pieces from on-line services. Like business cards and envelopes. Pick a service that allows you to specify your PMS color, permits your designer to upload files in multiple design formats (Microsoft Publisher is not a design application) and has a phone number on their website where you can call if you have questions.

Replacing Your PR Firm

Keith Ferrazzi (in one of my favorite books, Never Eat Lunch Alone) proclaims that all business owners should do their own PR because nobody knows their business better. While I agree with his point the reality is that most successful business owners do not have the time or know-how to call down on reporters, analysts and bloggers to make their pitch.

Does this mean they shouldn’t try to talk to the press? Absolutely not, they should just get some help planning, messaging and pre-pitching and then make themselves readily available for those timely interview opportunities.

I see fewer DIYers in the PR space and more executives who think that if they pay their PR firm enough, it will just happen. Not true. PR is a partnership. Companies with the most successful PR campaigns are those that make themselves available for interviews and are open to talking about their business. How do they find time? I suspect these are the same folks who let somebody else design their logo and order their printing. 🙂


Protecting Your Image with a Corporate Style Guide

April 19, 2007

Whether they are buying new window treatments for your home or logo-branded premium items in their corporate colors, individuals as well as marketing professionals invest heavily in setting their style and promoting their brand. Yet often our best efforts are sabotaged by well-meaning spouses who bring home tacky Barcaloungers and rogue sales people who design their own postcards using PowerPoint. You can always hide that chair in the basement but once 500 postcards with your logo printed in lime green hit the desks of your best customers there is no taking them back.

Magazines and newspapers rely on style books (like AP) to set the guidelines for how reporters and copywriters should groom their content. Businesses large and small can take a tip from this premise and create their own style guide. A style guide doesn’t have to be lengthy or complex but should provide employees and business partners with standards for presenting your corporate image.

First explain the correct colors for your logo. Red comes in many shades but when you provide the RGB, PMS and CMYK combinations you eliminate mistakes made by graphic and web designers as well as printers.

Next, if you have different logos for different products or services, spell out which logo is to used where and by whom. Don’t assume that people know or will use the right one. Further, it pays to specify not only which logo to use but how and where it should be positioned in juxtaposition to other logos and elements on the page or screen.

Further, if you want all of your written communications to appear in palatino linotype then spell it out because Microsoft Word defaults to times new roman. (Better yet, consider creating a new Letter template or a new normal.DOT file.)

If you want all phone numbers to be formatted as 888.555.1212 instead of (888) 555-1212, then you need to specify that, too.

Of course the list here could be endless and it all really depends on your business. Fortunately a style guide can and should be a living breathing document that you change as your business grows. If you’d like to preview a few examples to gather ideas about what you might include and learn ways to present the information, check out these:

http://www.bcbsnc.com/inside/style-guide/

http://www.brandsoftheworld.com/guidelines/Onvoy.pdf


How Much Should You Pay for a Logo?

March 30, 2007

Logo design is truly an art yet talented designers can rarely make a living designing them. Unfortunately many people have the misconception that (1) graphic designers are also mind readers and (2) that every graphic designer has an enormous collection of clip art, fonts and photographs expertly archived on their laptop that they will happily share for a few Andrew Jacksons. Not true.

Over time I have learned to sit across the table new clients and explain, without flinching, that their “something simple” logo will run somewhere between $300 and $3000. As I have also come to find that this is not often well received, Cathy Lessing of Lessing DesignWorks and I have started pushing clients to some of the DIY tools. 

DIY logo design tools are fabulous for helping clients get a head start. You can play with dozens and sometimes hundreds of symbols, test gobs of fonts and experiment with a palette of colors. And while you may not come up with that perfect solution, ultimately you will learn a lot about your preferences for type treatments vs. actual innovative logo designs and you’ll reap the rewards in the time you save working with an actual professional designer on your ultimate concept.

Here’s an example that I created this evening in less than 15 minutes on LogoMaker:

Sure I could have incorporated one of the hundreds of PR and Marketing images they suggested but when it got right down to it, I thought this was a really cool font so I went with a plain (OK not so plain) type treatment. Now I’ve got something that I can share with a graphic designer and ask him (or her) to help me do much more.