feels like home

Have you ever walked into a store and just not liked the vibe? It’s not that any of the products were not of good quality or that the store was disorganized and dirty. The atmosphere just wasn’t inviting or spectacularly pleasing to the eye. So what did you do? After about thirty-five seconds of feeling a little uncomfortable, you turned around and walked right out of the door.

We’ve probably all done this. But what many businesses fail to grasp about their website is that potential customers have the same experience when they first visit a site. Your website is a direct representation of your business. Whether you have a store on the ground or not, you want your website to be inviting and user friendly. Users should want to browse your site without feeling confused, lost, or frustrated. Just like your business on the ground is all about the customer, your website is all about the user. This concept is called UX or, the user experience.

Award winning creative director Shawn Borsky once said, "At the end of the day it is how the user remembers the experience. Focus on key experiences." This concept is important when designing a website. Though the world is practically run by the internet, many businesses still don’t invest their money or time in looking as professional online as they do on the ground. Today the internet has become the housing ground to many potential customers; it has become the first point of contact, and it is up to you to create an experience that will draw them in.

Many businesses don’t have the in house capabilities to create a website. This is where a creative agency can work with your team and bring your website to the next level. You want your site to evoke emotion. For example, if you are an animal shelter, you want each page to create a need and sense of urgency in the user so they adopt an animal. If you are a business that sells a high tech device, you want to look sharp, build trust, and really induce awe for your product. The feeling your potential customer or user gets when visiting your site is what will keep them coming back or have them turning around and walking out the door.

Welcome your users with open arms into your world. Create a space that will keep them coming back and give them your brand experience through your website.


a wolf in sheep's clothing

More than just the truth in advertising laws.

Persuasion and temptation. Two tactics that advertisers and marketers use. Some use it wisely and some use it slyly… and some might say that those two uses are interchangeable. But a wolf is still a wolf even if it wears wool!

There is a line between using a product’s positive attributes, (Whether that be words or visuals presented in enticing ways), to help your audience feel that they can’t do without this wonderful item, and using exaggerated or outright false claims. This line is often interpreted as a gray area, where frequently, it is hard to tell whether the advertiser intentionally mislead the audience, or if perhaps the audience’s interpretation or assumptions are just incorrect. Sometimes, a single word can change the intended message of the advertisement from an honest assertion to a fraudulent claim. Something as simple as saying "can" (a potential result) rather than "will" (a promised result) makes a big difference when it comes to building your brand’s trust and generating loyal customers.

We’ve all seen the ads that show beautiful, sexy people in beautiful settings. These ads work by playing with the psychology of consumers. Many times these people and places have nothing to do with the actual product they are selling. It’s a physiological tactic, make the consumer believe that if they purchase or consume this product they will be perceived in this way… beautiful, sexy, popular, etc... While no actual untruth may have been told, the intentions of these ads fall back into that "gray" area. Is the company just using a popular figure or fad to promote their product? Or, are they insinuating that you will have these same results upon use of their product? A classic example that many people have seen is the use of a famous figure to promote at-home hair dye. You know, the box color you find at the grocery store. The celebrity and their shining locks tout the wonder of whichever brand is paying for their face, and viewers flock to the stores to get hair "like that". When in all real likelihood, the color we’re all seeing is the result of hours in a stylists chair. A lie of omission, is still a lie. A wolf in wool, feathers, or a meat dress, is still a wolf.

Have you ever purchased a product that sold itself to you with an; it "will" claim… it will fix, change or solve a perceived problem? But, when you received it, it "won’t" or "doesn't"? If so, it’s probably true that you no longer trust that brand. And it’s highly doubtful that you would purchase from them again, without at least some serious hesitation. It is no secret the general attitude toward our consumer centered economy is "buyer beware", but one could argue that it is the burden of the advertiser, to prove to the consumer, that their brand or product can be trusted. Because, once that trust is broken, given other options, the buyer will move on.

While all advertising uses the art of persuasion, some use it with truth and others use it with less than noble intentions. When it comes to your advertising and branding be sure that the story you tell is not a work of fiction… tell the truth. It’s fine to say "it’s the most luscious red color," as long as it is actually red and not pink. But if you say it’s unbreakable and it breaks… you can bet that’s a customer lost and rest assured, they will tell everyone they know! The result is not only lost customers but lost trust in your brand.

The greatest setback for any brand or product is a loss of trust. The most trusted brands are ones that go above and beyond the truth in advertising laws to show their customer or consumer that they care about them and about their brand and it’s integrity. These advertisers know consumers have run into a few wolves and they are willing to bare it all, to shear down and prove they are sheep. Keep your messages simple and truthful and consumers will come back because you’ve either met or exceeded their expectations. Don't stray from your principles and get taken by the wolves. Under promise and over deliver, and soon the wolves will give themselves away

how to maximize your return
from working with a creative agency?

You may have other similar questions like: “When do I need to involve a designer or an agency in the process?” or “What can they really help me with?”

There is a common misconception about designers, that we are just graphic artists and creatives who make things “look good.” When it comes to involving a creative agency, it seems like an afterthought to many. The idea that after everything is done, then it’s then time to find someone to give the product a quick, professional facelift. If you do go looking for a facelift, you’re likely to get a better look on the outside, but you’ll be missing out on the chance to the witness miraculous power of good design.

Involving designers in the early stages of a project will maximize your return. Contrary to the belief that designers are only an asset to the visual part of the project, some of the most valuable things you can gain are their brainpower and problem solving skills. A great creative agency has unique perspectives and communication insight that will add value to your project in unexpected ways. Not only do they see the details at execution level, they also see the greater picture of the project, its desired outcome and common goal.

Have an open heart and mind when you choose to engage with a designer or creative agency. It’s normal to go to an agency with certain ideas or expectations in mind, a commercial for example — but what you actually need is a channel to communicate with the public about your event, product or service. As creative thinkers and problem solvers, designers can guide you through this process. Working with a designer, you’ll find strategies to achieve your goal — sometimes in ways which you may not have thought of! You’ll be pleasantly surprised that there are more possibilities than you may have expected.

Let designers and creatives get to know you and your business. What creative agencies can supply is not only the technical support to visualize your brand or product, but the expertise to get your consumer’s attention. It may be surprising to see how involved creatives can get when starting a new project. Good designers and creatives will want to know about your industry, your company, your corporate culture, your market and your goals. Understanding the broader context of your needs enables designers to create an effective communications solution — in sync with your objectives and tailored to engage your audience.

We are problem solvers, artists, and storytellers. We are ready to help.

the ‘miracle’ is in the mix

Public relations has always been perceived as a relatively open field. With the advent and wide adoption of social media, public relations has changed forever and is more flexible than it has ever been.

At its core, public relations is about generating interest and media exposure for a specific topic, organization or company. Successful public relations strategies present information in an interesting way, attracting the attention of media outlets and engaging public interest. For many years, the most effective way to distribute this information was through traditional outlets such as broadcast and print media. Over the last decade, the concept of media -- what was once neatly contained and fairly black and white (excuse the pun) -- is now a vibrant, vast and borderless ocean of information.

In stark contrast to the days where radio, television and print publications were the dominant modes of distribution -- today the majority of people access and interact with media via smartphone or computer. Large segments of the population get their news and information from social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. When news is breaking, social media typically outpaces traditional outlets by minutes, hours or even days. As a result, people are relying less on traditional media and more on information shared by friends. Thanks to social media, individuals are acting as media outlets every time they share news with their followers. It’s impossible to ignore the growing influence of social media on communication.

In the realm of social media, what is now referred to as "inbound marketing", is no different than what public relations professionals have been doing with traditional media for decades. The variables are the same: information and audience -- the only difference is the outlet. It is time for public relations professionals to view social media for what it really is, an arm and extension of public relations -- another means to communicate with the public, to generate interest and gain exposure.

Although social media has only recently come into its own as a recognized form of media, this does not undermine the relevance of traditional outlets. Broadcast and print are still essential components of a solid communications strategy. When combined as part of a targeted media mix, it is possible to leverage both "new" and "old" outlets to their greatest potential -- and work your own "PR Miracle" of sorts.

respect the brand

As consumers, brands provide us the luxury of choice. For every product or service we engage with – from bottled water to automobiles – we are presented with a vast collection of brands for consideration.

Even with the range of brand choices at our disposal, consumer behavior indicates that a majority of us engage in some form of brand preference. When we are in the market for a product or service, most of us have a specific brand that we prefer above others and ultimately perceive as being of higher value or quality. This tendency to select a specific brand over time is so strong that research into buying patterns suggests that even in the presence of marketing tactics and advertising media, consumers purchase a single brand of beer, cola or butter the majority of the time. Take a moment to reflect on your own purchasing behavior... do you see any patterns? Are you more likely to reach for Organic Valley over Land O Lakes butter at the grocery store?

We can easily identify a brand when we see it, and they exert a strong and measurable influence on our behavior – and ultimately our wallets. Interestingly enough, if you ask a random group of consumers, business owners and marketing professionals to describe what a brand is, you are unlikely to get an accurate consensus. For business owners and corporate stakeholders, a respected brand (or portfolio of brands) is essential to maintaining and growing a favorable share in a product or service's market. A favorable market share results in profits and growth, whereas a shrinking or unfavorable market share can result in negative growth and profit loss. With so much potential success or failure at stake, it is important to understand - and respect - the brand.

A brand does not exist as a single, concrete "thing." As consumers, we use logos, icons and colors to help us differentiate among – and identify – specific brands. While these visual elements form the tangible parts of a brand, they do not define or compose the entirety of it. A brand is the public image of a product or service – existing only as an idea – in the mind of the consumer. A brand represents the promise to fulfill a consumer need or expectation. Through consistent points of contact (logo, color, messaging) and positive experiences, consumers come to rely on and trust brands to meet their certain expectations. Trust builds brand equity, and brand equity translates to consumer preference and ultimately, brand loyalty.

Although companies cannot control or define what exactly their brand comes to represent in the mind of the consumer, with a cohesive brand strategy, they can influence how it is perceived and experienced. When executed correctly, strategic branding cultivates a consistent, and specific set of qualities and values associated with the brand, creating its unique personality or "image". A solid brand strategy precedes and underlies all marketing efforts. In action, branding is strategic – and marketing is tactical. Branding "pulls" consumers ("If you like what I stand for, and believe in me, buy me!"), whereas marketing "pushes" consumers, activating them to take action ("I'm here, this is what I do. Buy me!"). In the highly competitive marketplace, the absence of brand equity or a negative brand image can negate or neutralize the impact of even the largest of marketing budgets.

Marketing tactics, underpinned by strategic branding and consumer experience, provide the framework for building brand equity – a business or company's most valuable asset.

keep it simple smarty
simple design is smart design

Almost everyone knows the old adage "Keep it simple stupid ", but in today’s overstimulated, information overloaded world, simple is more than smart… it’s a necessity. Consumers aren’t stupid, they’re busy. You won’t be seen if you blend in with the chaos, you need to stand out from it… visually and verbally.

Simple doesn’t mean bland or boring, and it doesn’t mean that it’s not a complex task either. Creating an efficient, well-designed marketing piece that "works" is indeed a skill.

Keeping it simple is a balancing act… and keeping your consumer engaged can be tricky. From product packaging to print ads, too much content is distracting and obscures your message. Fill a product with excessive descriptions, graphics and things that go POP, and the consumer won’t be able to tell if they are buying shampoo or conditioner.

Fill a webpage with 3D graphics, flash animation, or a barrage of images and text and you’ll not only lose a potential client’s attention but you’ll also slow the page load, and turn off search engines. Too many bells and whistles also restrict the usability of your site on multiple screen sizes and mobile devices.

Fill any type of printed (or digital) advertising with paragraphs of copy, flashy graphics and color overload… and you’ll have the client turning the page to find a resting place for their eyes and mind. Of course, there’s some "must have" content… your product name and logo, concise descriptors. Icons are great too… but, finding the balance between too much or too little content can be a struggle.

For example, have you ever watched a television commercial and, while it may have been clever, you don’t remember what the commercial was selling? Or seen an ad in a magazine where you have to search for the name of the company or product? Driven by a billboard with an image that caught your attention but, by the time you pass by, you haven’t a clue whose ad it was? (You’ve only got a few seconds to convey your message.) That’s because these ads were off to a good start but lacked balance between information and interest.

If you feel like the concept of simplicity is too general to follow, try applying something like Coco Chanel’s famous quote regarding wearing accessories, "Once you've dressed, and before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off." Put all the things you think you want to "wear" into your communication. Then, take at least one thing off. You might not always strike the perfect balance, but you’ll quickly learn there are things in your marketing wardrobe that you can do without and look great.

Always remember what the goal of your communication is, what is its call to action? Keep it simple and you’ll not only be known for your style, but for your smarts too!

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