September 23rd, 2011
It’s a fact. We all take print for granted. After all, it’s been the world’s number one communication medium for so long we tend to overlook its impact and power.
That oversight can be fatal to a marketing campaign, product launch or branding initiative that is trying to connect with people. People trust print. They feel comfortable using it, they can’t fast forward past it or empty their email box with a simple click.
The past two years, in response to a slow economy, I’ve seen many companies cut print from their marketing, which in turn, cuts their ROI. The Direct Mail Association found that U.S. advertisers spend $167 per person in direct mail marketing to earn $2,095 worth of goods per person. That’s a ROI of 13 to 1.
So, when it comes to building your brand’s message,
we can’t argue these simple facts:
Printing is for keeps.
Who’s minding your message when the screen fades to black? Electronic content comes and goes and when it disappears, so is your marketing initiative. Print, on the other hand, is here for the long run. Think about magazine pass-along rates. They range as high as two to three persons per issue, giving advertisers double and triple bonuses on their marketing investments.
Printing can be consumed anywhere.
Long after the iPad is drained, people will still be reading what you send them in print. Print is the ultimate in portability and playability. There are no compatibility issues, no batteries to charge, hard drives to power up and screen glare is not an issue. Print is always there…ready to instruct, inform and entertain.
Print makes an emotional connection.
Using thoughtful design and messaging, print draws the eye in and new types of papers and substrates create the desire to touch and feel. You can’t get much closer than that. Print enhances your product or service, giving it an emotional appeal and a tangible dimension that no electronic media can impart.
Print is credible.
The phrase, “get it down on paper” has never been more meaningful. Having communication you can hold in your hand, examine, share and keep in a safe place provides reassurance that no bit-and-byte medium can match. Although we all love the speed of the internet, its fleeting nature also makes you wonder, “Am I getting the fast shuffle here? And where’d I read that?” Conversely, the ink-on-paper medium is more believable. Print is tangible. Print is real. Print is timeless and print is focused.
Print is green.
I think it’s a myth that print is bad for the environment. Compared to what? With the speed at which technology is moving, a computer’s average life is about three years, before we want the next best thing. In fact, in the next five years, about a billion computers around the world will be discarded. Planned obsolescence, of course, but where is all that unwanted technology going? It’s called e-waste and it’s not good. So, is sending an email more “earth-friendly” today? The printing industry has never been more environmentally responsible – with FSC certification and the use of soy based inks and recycled paper. I’m not sure the tech industry has even started to address the magnitude of the footprint they are creating.
Essentially, what I’m saying is, “Print has been the world’s favorite medium since a little known monk asked Guttenberg: “How much do you want for that Bible?” Print surrounds us and we cannot ignore the power it holds in making authentic and meaningful connections with our consumer. Today it is about knowing your audience and using all mediums for your marketing and branding strategies. If only I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “Let’s just connect with our consumers via an e-blast. No printing, paper or postage costs, and in times like these we have to watch our bottom line.” I just say to that person, “Well, most certainly, that is if you think it’s OK to invite your Grandmother to your wedding via email.”
©2006, The Print Council, Washington, DC, www.theprintcouncil.org
August 10th, 2010
Over the years, gift cards have become a staple for most retailers. People love giving them, getting them and using them. They have become more and more customized and utilized…as incentives, bonus gifts and marketing tools.
But, is your gift card program working as hard as it can for you? What does it say about your brand? Does it say… “Let me buy you lunch? You’re funny! Or dude…wake up, and get some coffee?” And, what if you give cash, what does that say? Basically, it says you didn’t shop.
So, with this in mind, what can your gift card do to say “I’m better than cash,” at time of purchase, at time of giving and at time of use? As a retailer, you need to focus on these three key transactions to make sure you are getting the most return on your gift card program.
At time of purchase
The gift card marketplace is a crowded environment. A shopper spends an average of 30 seconds there, finding that right card. Those 30 seconds are valuable time for you to make an impression and rise above the clutter. Your gift cards are mini billboards. Not novels. They must make a play on emotion and compete on simplicity.
At time of giving
A simple yet emotional connection comes into play here as well. An effective gift card carries a clear message about its benefits and the relationship between the giver and the receiver. When giving a crisp $20 bill, the receiver gets the message that the giver cares…but only $20 worth. When someone gives a gift card, the receiver should feel, “This is better than cash, because the person who gave this to me actually thought about me and knows what I like.”
At time of use
This is the time to tell your deeper story. To work your brand into the experience of using that gift card. When you do that, you build brand equity, brand loyalty and grow your customer base.
You can stand out from the sea of plastic with a smart yet simple gift card program. Just remember these four essential guidelines:
- Win on Usefulness. Make it better and easier to use than cash.
- Win on Message. Communicate more efficiently and succinctly,
at the right times.
- Win on Design. Make your designs speak to the recipient,
invoking the giver’s thoughtfulness.
- Win on Brand. The best gift card is a gift card that isn’t just a gift,
it’s a brand experience.
July 9th, 2010
Whoever thought we’d be able to measure our branding efforts by tweets and posts? Well, the social media revolution is upon us and it’s the biggest change in the way our world communicates, connects and works since the industrial revolution. And I feel it’s an opportunity to measure the effectiveness of a brand via social media statistics.
Before the Internet, if a customer in New York raved about your company, a customer in Los Angeles would never know. Now, thanks to social media sites like Twitter.com, if a customer in New York enjoys your product they can “tweet” and the world will know – in five minutes. Just think of how this instant word-of-mouth advertising can boost your business.
There’s no doubt that social media has become the new tool for effective business marketing and sales. Between Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and many others, the world is instantaneously connected. Traditional advertising models are diminishing as word of mouth becomes as easy as a click. The reason is that people naturally trust someone without a bias rather than a company seeking money. Sure, you might think your product is fantastic, but if three people tweet about how much they dislike it — you’ve got a problem. However, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you get your company involved, social media can do wonders for your business.
Using social media gives your company an identity beyond the capabilities of traditional advertising. In a way, it brings back the nostalgia of wandering into a shop and being greeted by the smiling owner instead of some faceless clerk. Social media allows you to put a face to your company again, which in turn builds customer trust. If a customer trusts you, they’ll do business with you. And now you can easily measure that trust, with numbers.
The old advertising model was to broadcast a signal over and over until it was firmly implanted in the customer’s mind. Social media embraces ever-changing, two-way interaction. Find out what they’re looking for. Engage with them. Effective social media requires that you stop thinking about your customers as wallets and start thinking about them as friends. Or, as we say, HAUS guests.
In my 21 years of experience, I have always struggled with how branding can be measured in a way that advertising methods are measured. I think social media is now our solution for measuring the success of a brand. The stats you can track and chart are truly amazing and our word-of-mouth can now be documented – which in turn builds business.
The social media revolution is here in full force with more than 400 million active users on Facebook alone. Almost every corporation (big and small) has joined in and set up accounts to converse with customers. If you stick with the traditional method of advertising, you find yourself left behind.
Joining the revolution will increase your company’s visibility and ensure that you’re around for the long haul. So, start making friends now, because no one can ever have too many friends.
January 25th, 2010
Recently, IMAGEHAUS stepped out of our every day routine and challenged ourselves to become even better at what we do. The result was the creation of Hi-Industries, a new company that will develop products focusing on elevating a moment into a memory. Our primary goals in this initiative were to provide us frontline insight into the obstacles clients deal with everyday and to learn about the power of social media. This real-life experience of what it is like to walk in our clients’ shoes has already made us smarter. Our first product is Toast-its, wraps for wine bottles that replace ordinary wine bags and greeting cards. IMAGEHAUS created 25 designs (available at toast-its.com ) that uncork your compliments, letting your gift of wine speak to any occasion.
Through much discovery, research and gut, we realized Toast-its would be popular if we could reach the desired audience. Additionally, we knew the product had a good balance between Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Experience (ROE). After all, it is not a new idea, but a smart improvement of an old stand-by—giving the gift of wine.
Strategically, we decided that we would use only social media to reach the target audience. The day after we launched the site, I posted a message about Toast-its including a link on my personal Facebook page and the entire team at IMAGEHAUS followed suit—driving all of our friends and family to the site. That same day, we started to receive orders. Our next step was to launch a campaign of Facebook Ads. This is where having a simple niche product proved to have a ton of value as it was easy to identify the potential Toast-its audience. We started by targeting fans of wine publications and home entertainment. Later that week we released an eBlast to our IMAGEHAUS contact list. At this point we have spent next to zero dollars and, in the first two weeks after launch, we achieved an average daily spend of $46.00 from a product with a unit retail price of $3.99.
Since our launch one month ago, these efforts, small as they may be, generated the following results: featured on 19 design/lifestyle blogs; found by and featured on Jasmere.com (a site dedicated to gaining national exposure for lesser-known specialty items); and listed on The Dieline as number 1 package design for the week ending 1/15/2010. Lastly, will be featured this Thursday, 1/28/2010, on Daily Candy, the leading trusted resource for the best new products and activities that reaches over 3 million subscribers.
The biggest insight I got from this experience is, when it comes to effective online social media marketing, you will have the most success if you make sure you are talking with your audience, not at them. It is not about selling, but more about sharing. Sharing a good idea, a solution to everyday problems. By making an impact on someone’s life. Which brings us back to the word of mouth being one of the most powerful and cost effective ways to increase brand awareness. It makes ROE as important, if not more important, as ROI.
January 21st, 2010
When it comes to change, the online world is often the first to adapt.
As a matter of comparison, look at the progression of traditional businesses over the last century. The physical store model still exists, big box retailers are still using the same basic store design, and distribution networks, while significantly more efficient, still run using the same basic principles.
Then look at the online world. In the space of ten years, the entire landscape of online business has changed. In 1999, the most powerful online properties were owned by major software companies and those that had a head start in the online world. Today, Google, a company that is not even fifteen years old, is the biggest brand in the world. As a microcosm of commerce, the online world moves much more rapidly than any offline industry.
With the recent move towards open social media platforms, marketers are left with a new question: where will the next turn be? For years, internet marketing was about banner ads and pop-up commercials. This was a version of the traditional, outbound marketing model. Inbound marketing is the next step in the evolution. It is about connecting with users directly and building communities. Social media is not yet fully developed and the next few years will bring many changes and developments. I feel these four changes could stand apart from the others.
Social media will make marketers more accountable.
There is a certain risk that comes with giving everyone the power to broadcast their thoughts and feelings about you, your business, or your product. For great companies, it’s something to embrace—they have people marketing for them, a dedicated following, and a long-term solution. For marketers that get by on deception, it is certainly not good. If social media changes one thing, it will be accountability. When anyone can publicly post their opinion of your business, priorities change. It is no longer about the short-term profit but about long-term perception and greater customer satisfaction.
Consumers will gain more power, and smart companies will embrace it.
The power dynamic is rapidly shifting between company and customer. Twenty years ago, the only way to get a message out was to invest in direct advertising and mass media. Now, all it takes is a post on a message board and a public message on Twitter by your customer. Smart companies are embracing the low cost of communications and are encouraging their customers to talk about them whenever possible.
The truly remarkable will outlast the big and standard.
Mass media allowed large companies to bully the small into compliance. Without a big advertising budget, it was impossible to communicate, and without that communication, the market leaders set the terms. Now, a more important currency than size is remarkableness. Businesses that attract attention naturally can coast by on free exposure, while large companies lacking innovation are at a permanent cost disadvantage.
Viral will take on a new meaning.
Today, viral means something that spreads throughout a few million people quickly, allowing a company to piggyback on exposure and generate free marketing. 20,000,000 views isn’t viral. Not for long. Social media is spreading wider, and, as more people become connected, the value of a great viral marketing campaign will swell exponentially.
We all know that the oldest form of advertising is word of mouth. What I find most interesting is how we as a society have found a way to come full circle, albeit much faster and on a much larger scale. I say it is time to embrace it, and start getting back to our authentic selves.
November 3rd, 2009
Brands with that “stand-apart appeal” don’t just happen. They’re built, one experience at a time. And every touchpoint you have with your customer is an opportunity to make an impression and create an experience.
One essential way to make an impression is through your digital experience—a.k.a. your website. And, with the belief that every customer touchpoint is an opportunity to make an impression, IMAGEHAUS is entering into the digital experience world.
The web is an environment of expression, choice and endless possibilities. Customers are quick to click, often faster than they think. Based on that virtual experience, they form an impression of your brand.
As in any relationship, the first impression of your online brand gives customers a perception of what your company and products will be like. Will they be smart, helpful—or frustrating? Does this first impression reinforce the single thought that defines your brand? Simply, clearly and personally? What value does your point of differentiation bring to your customer?
Your answers to these questions are key in establishing your brand and carrying out a memorable, positive brand experience. With the sea of websites out there today, your site now has to do and be more. A well-branded site begs your customer to engage in conversation. It listens, learns, and then leads by addressing their needs—first. It asks the right questions and gives the best answers.
Let’s look at it this way. The online experience is like that first dance back in high school—communication between two people, defined by action. If you don’t know how to lead your customer, they will move on to the next dance partner. And if you trip and step on their feet, the dance becomes rather painful. They get frustrated and leave. However, if you lead with confidence, purpose and personality, your customer will move in step with you and believe in you. And, believing leads to trust—the most essential dance step in building a strong brand.
We help our clients’ customers gain that belief and trust with solid answers to these 4 key questions:
Differentiation: What is the advantage of your brand over the competition?
Relevance: How do you add value to the customer’s experience?
Credibility: What is the single thought that defines your brand?
Compliance: How do you ensure brand consistency in look and feel, personality, voice and tone?
Often, people come to us and think they need a logo, a tagline, or the “look and feel” of a website. A brand is so much more than just components. Simply stated, a brand is the perception of your company based on the expectation of value.
Online, this expectation is formed more intimately through individual experiences. To be effective, your branding needs to make a strong first impression and provide a memorable, pleasant experience. An experience that will compel them to act now and far into the digital future.
October 19th, 2009
The following is from an article in the Fall 2009 Issue of the Scoop, a publication of Open Arms of Minnesota (www.openarmsmn.org).
A longtime friend of Open Arms, Jay Miller was kind when he delicately hinted that perhaps our look was a bit outdated. Given our exciting capital campaign, our expansion to serve more people, our programs in Africa and our bold future, Jay suggested that our existing identity fell short of expressing the real scope of our work. Lucky for us, Jay generously offered the services of his design firm, IMAGEHAUS (www.imagehaus.net), to create and help implement a new brand identity for Open Arms that we’re launching with this issue of Scoop.
Since 2000, the IMAGEHAUS Giving Program has donated more that $2 million in creative services to nonprofit organizations that help people in need. Open Arms is forever grateful to be the beneficiary of nearly $121,000 in services from this worthwhile community-service effort.
The IMAGEHAUS experts are known for taking the time to thoroughly understand an organization before beginning the design process. The results of their extensive analysis determined what they call our “Brand DNA.” Our DNA informs the fresh look and message that will help expand our reach and attract new supporters. Thank you to Jay Miller and his talented creative team.
September 30th, 2009
We’ve all been there. Standing amidst a sea of choices for something as simple as hand soap. Anti-bacterial or antimicrobial? Foamy or liquid? Lavender or sun-kissed orange? Dermatologist tested or kid friendly? There are so many options, your brain starts to short-circuit a bit.
Customer choice has long been a dependable strategy in business success principles. The theory is that the more choices you give your customers, the more likely they’ll buy. However, recent research shows that too many choices actually hinder instead of help…fatiguing their brains and causing them to freeze and flee—empty-handed.
“Making decisions takes work,” says Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. There are over 200 varieties of biscuits, soups and cereals alone at our supermarkets. When consumers were asked to compare chocolate chip cookies from a jar of ten and a jar of two, the jar with two cookies scored higher than the jar with ten. Although the cookies were identical, the choice from the small range was perceived as more valuable, desirable and attractive.
“Clearly there are costs to having too much choice,” says Kathleen Vohs, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota. In her years of studying the effect of choice on consumers, she says too many choices leads to “decision fatigue,” which makes even pleasant choices mentally draining.
When customers are faced with option overload, they feel paralyzed because it’s harder to make that “informed” decision. This also leads to buyer’s remorse as the variety offered is a reason for consumers to be unhappy with the decision they made. Many people would rather not choose than make a complicated choice.
So what’s a business to do?
Create a “less is more strategy.” Be selective with your offerings and don’t overwhelm with too many choices. In a study on jams, researchers offered either a selection of 6 or 24 flavors. When 24 jam flavors were offered, only 3% of customers walked away with a purchase. When 6 jam flavors were offered, over 30% of customers bought jam. Lesson learned—reducing the amount of choice can be a simple, cost-effective way to increase inventory turnover and up sales.
When working with Schmidty’s, a salon for men, IMAGEHAUS put this strategy to work. We narrowed their five different facials for men down to one and facial sales increased by 42%. They also reduced the cost of inventory they needed to have on hand.
Choice is an effective marketing tool that requires balance and fine-tuning. In today’s economy, companies and consumers are being forced to make “more of less” every day, making this balancing act a very important consideration. A consideration that just might make the difference in your bottom line.
Variety may be the spice of life, but overdoing it can be too much for most to handle.
June 18th, 2009
What defines who you are as a person? What guides you on how you choose to act as a corporate citizen? I obviously can’t answer those questions for you, but I can share what guides us at IMAGEHAUS to help make this world a better place to live, work and play.
Compassion. Creativity. Candor. Courage. The 4Cs. These values have been the foundation IMAGEHAUS has been building upon since I started my own design consultancy back in 2000. In order to be distinctively different, I made a strong commitment to provide $1M in creative services for organizations rich in these values — the 4Cs. I made this commitment by making it part of our marketing plan, with the ultimate goal of building brand awareness and my network, while at the same time helping those in need.
Many people questioned my sanity when I told them my plan — a plan that today has amounted to 35% of our total revenue. I see it differently. How else would I have received the gift of knowing so many wonderful people in a huge community like the Twin Cities as I do today? How can I put a price on these genuine relationships?
So, why did I choose these four words to guide our HAUS? The “why” comes from “how” each one comes to life here at IMAGEHAUS.
Compassion: to understand, in your hearts, the suffering of others and then do something about it. No matter how big or small.
Creativity: to transcend traditional ideas into meaningful solutions and put the power of design to work.
Candor: to be candid, free from bias and filled with honesty and clarity in attitude and speech. Expanding audiences and clarifying the vital messages that compel people to care, to listen, and to act.
Courage: to remain true to our convictions, leading us to act based on our beliefs. To create impact, especially in spite of criticism.
With the 4Cs in place for 10 years now, we surpassed our fiscal goal by giving $1.8M in creative services to date. (We surpass our emotional goal every day.) Those 4Cs are now becoming Foresee, The IMAGEHAUS Giving Program — our ongoing way of paying it forward.
I knew this would be a long-term investment. It would build over time into something bigger than we imagined. And I knew it would help tell the story of a distinctively different design firm, called IMAGEHAUS.
Something that could not be foreseen has recently happened on the personal front. I was selected as one of the top 20 men in One Man Minneapolis, a competition that will select one man who best represents the best of the Twin Cities from the perspective of community involvement. I am honored, to say the least, for receiving this recognition for giving back — based on the 4Cs that sparked the creation of IMAGEHAUS 10 years ago.
Thanks for listening to our story. We would love to hear yours.
June 4th, 2009
Your image is a first impression that, if pleasing, leads to a second, a third and ideally a lifetime of positive experiences. Whether we’re talking about ourselves as human beings or as company leaders, the same principle applies.
Creating an image that distinctively communicates the essence of your company is vital, yet it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes research, strategy, insight and the foresight of seeing your brand as a long-term investment rather than a short-term expense.
So where do you begin? Try this right-brain exercise to start the discovery process.
Pretend your company is a person. What do you see? What is it wearing? Does it say, “Hi,” “Hello,” or “Hey dude, what’s up?” Is it male or female? What kind of car does it drive? How about its personality? Sense of humor? Buttoned-up or laid back? What do others say about this person? Who talks with this person the most? What do they want to know? Why?
That personality is your company’s brand. Determining your brand and creating promotional materials that are in line with that personality is what establishes the obvious difference between the amateurs who get lost in the crowd and the professionals who stand out and succeed.
Today, a brand is much more than a logo. It is everything from the words you put on paper to the message on your voice mail. Every opportunity to communicate with your audience must be true to your brand. Inconsistency causes confusion and leads to brand disloyalty. It’s like having multiple personalities and the customer won’t know what or who to expect.
To help you create a strong brand, take a look at a few tried-and-true tips:
It would be unimaginable for people to build a 30-story building without a blueprint, so why why would you try to build a company without one? Without a strategic blueprint, you leave the interpretation of your brand to your customer. Your brand needs to be controlled so you can navigate it through ever-changing trends and markets.
- Know your target audience.
Put yourself in their shoes and get inside their heads. The better you know your audience, the more effective you will be in communicating and connecting with them. Their wants and needs help drive your brand. By digging deeper your can hit on an emotional tie that leads to brand loyalty.
- Make sure your employees are true to your brand.
Educate them, excite them, show them exactly how their actions and interactions affect the company brand. No matter where they work in the company, everything they do says something about who your company is.
Whatever it takes to make your brand a true champion, the foundation is built on a well-planned brand strategy. Remember, develop your brand DNA, know your audience, and ensure that every employee communicates your brand.
It takes an investment of time and money but, in the end, it makes the difference.