Archive for May, 2010

Is magazine marketing right for your business?

May 25, 2010

Yesterday, while purchasing sandals for my son at Famous Footwear, the cashier handed me a magazine with my receipt, saying, “And here’s a free fitness magazine to thank you for your purchase today.”

“Cool!” I thought. Something for nothing is always a neat thing. And in this case, the brightly-designed and aptly named (Mind Body Sole) magazine seemed to be something right up my alley. The cover beckoned me to flip it open, with headlines like:

  • INSIDE >>>Exclusive Savings Offers
  • Tone up for Summer!
  • Comfort Food Makeovers
  • A Pizza Diet? Is it for real?

Inside the 60 page rag I found strong graphics, good photography and well-written articles peppered with ads for athletic shoes—brands all found at Famous Footwear. Genius.

Famous Footwear took a risk to spend the money to design, edit and print this magazine. One that, in my opinion, paid off. How?

  1. The articles were well-written and edited and provided content of value (and relevance) to their readers.
  2. The design looked professional and reinforced Famous Footwear’s brand elements.
  3. The product ads reinforced Famous Footwear’s product lines (and allowed the vendors themselves to present their products within their own brand campaigns).
  4. The magazine connected with the readers beyond the experience of buying shoes, building brand loyalty.
  5. The magazine drove readers to their website, allowing additional opportunities to interact with (and collect data) about their customers.
  6. The magazine included a special offer, to entice current customers into becoming repeat customers.

So is magazine marketing right for you? Before you jump in, beware of the following:

  • Creating a magazine isn’t cheap. To do it right, you’ll absolutely need a graphic designer/creative director, editor, copywriters, photographers, models, stock  photography, a sales representative, and project manager.
  • Publishing your own magazine takes time. Don’t expect it to happen in a couple of weeks. Depending on the content, you’ll need several months for planning and writing, a month for design and layout, and several weeks for printing/proofing. If you’re planning to publish more than one magazine, come up with an editorial calendar and production schedule to keep it on track. Note of caution: be careful not to call it a quarterly if you won’t follow through and publish it on a quarterly basis—you’ll lose faith with readers and advertisers.
  • The quality of the magazine should please your vendors. Vendors can help offset the cost of producing and printing a magazine, but if the end product doesn’t result in a return on their investment, you may end up harming that relationship. Make sure your magazine is created professionally, to a level that meets or exceeds the quality of your vendor’s ads.
  • You’ll need a plan for distribution. Consider whether you’ll send your magazine via direct mail, hand it out in stores, or rely on a third-party distributor to help it “get out there.” You’ll also need to decide if you’ll charge readers or make it a free publication.
  • Your content should be of value to your readers. Although it’s tempting to fill the magazine with plugs for your business, this should not be the focus of the content. Readers are savvy! They’ll quickly toss a magazine that feels like a big advertisement. Instead, focus on quality, relevant articles that connect with readers in way that fits the lifestyle message of your brand. They’ll get it. Trust me.

In summary, a magazine could be a great resource for your business—and your vendors—to connect with target audiences when done well. Not quite ready to commit? Consider a four or eight-page booklet or online brochure instead—they’re a great way to showcase your brand and your products without the huge page count.

As always, at Mix Creative we’re happy to talk with you about your magazine, booklet or any project! Contact us at 612-226-5717 or email us to chat about your project.

Designing for the Times: Changing Design Formats

May 18, 2010

This morning I’m thinking back on projects I’ve completed in the last few years, and it’s made me realize that part of being a graphic designer is constantly learning and adapting to accommodate the huge variety of media available for presenting our clients’ brands.

It wasn’t too long ago that a designer went to school and studied print, with maybe some schooling in television or animation. Then came this new-fangled category of new media, which largely meant websites and interactive CD-ROMS (remember those) and later, DVD interface design.

Today’s designer must understand the ins and outs of designing for ever-evolving printing presses, digital billboards, competing browsers, and do-it-yourself-ers, just to name a few. Some designers select to work within a single medium, while others—like Mix Creative—keep adding to their skillset. Here’s a sampling of the variety of projects we’ve worked on in the last couple of years:

PRINT

  • Offset and Digitally-printed business cards
  • Direct mail (including personalized pieces)
  • Booklets, catalogs, and magazines
  • Bookmarks
  • Magnets
  • Bag stuffers
  • In-store and exterior signage
  • Print billboards
  • Brochures (offset and digital)
  • POP
  • Pocket folders and media kits
  • Print ads
  • Microsoft Word stationery, flier templates, forms, labels, etc.
  • Printed address labels
  • Envelopes
  • Package design
  • Tradeshow graphics
  • Notecards
  • Buttons

Social media avatars

Social media avatars created for a client

An html e-blast template

A custom Twitter Background

A custom Twitter background

DIGITAL

  • Desktop icons
  • Avatars
  • Email signatures
  • Custom Facebook pages
  • Custom Twitter backgrounds
  • Digital billboards
  • Profile images
  • Browser window icons
  • Websites
  • Custom blogs
  • Email stationery
  • Email newsletters
  • Fliers printed to pdf only
  • Email fliers
  • Email ads
  • Powerpoint presentations
  • Video graphics
  • Animated gifs

I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but hopefully you’re getting the idea: today’s designers are VERSATILE!

So, for all of you designers out there: what’s the most unusual product you’ve created in the last two years?

Good enough? Judging the quality of your own work.

May 12, 2010
A painting of Audrey Hepburn by Katrina Hase

The completed painting of Audrey Hepburn

Years ago, I sat in my painting class, laboring away to create a hyper-realistic painting of my idol, Audrey Hepburn. I struggled greatly in the beginning, trying to get the proportions correct with my sepia outlines so it wouldn’t look like a caricature or a hastily painted mural in some tacky restaurant. I built the painting up little by little, adding shadows, then pigments, then highlights. After a great amount of time and struggle, I stood back and looked at it and pronounced it completed.

That’s when my painting teacher, Felix Ampah, walked by. “Hmm…” he started, looking at my work and then at my photo I’d been referencing, “looks like there’s a lot more information in here”—he pointed to her cheek—”and here”—he swept his hand along the virtual Audrey’s lip and chin. “Much more to do!”, he concluded, my own Mr. Miyagi sending me back to work.

Feeling defeated, I examined the photo and my painting. Sure enough, there was more “information” there—subtle changes in the shadows and highlights within the areas he pointed out. I worked the rest of the class and the next filling in “the information” that had escaped my eye on the first round. And when the painting was really completed, I felt it was my best work yet.

The lesson I learned from this experience I carry with me today: when I think I’ve completed a design, it’s best to put it away for a bit, then come back to it with a critical eye. Sometimes it’s me that does the critique, and sometimes I send it to my design colleagues for feedback. More often than not, there’s something small that can be added or edited to improve the quality of my design. The little adjustments make a big difference in the quality of the concept, and ultimately in my clients’ satisfaction.

Lands’ End: Pros at marketing to women

May 5, 2010
Lands End Catalog

Lands' End proves it understands how to market to women.

Paging through a Lands’ End catalog, it’s clear that the folks at Lands’ End understand how to market to women. Products and descriptions reach three demographics of women, (for example: “Fit 1: Modern”, “Fit 2: Original”, and “Fit 3: Traditional”), and leave it to their readers to self-select a category. The different fit categories are clearly labeled and illustrated throughout the catalog, and are accompanied by images of women with different body shapes and ages.

The copy is helpful and non-condescending. It anticipates issues women are likely to have about their clothing, and addresses them directly. For example:

“Straps stay securely in place.”
“Wide waistband lies smoothly over sides — won’t dig in.”

The copy also understands what aesthetic qualities women are searching for:

“Adorable details make these modern tops as cute as they are comfortable.”

Graphics and typefaces are contemporary and readable and colors are fresh and allow the products to take center stage.

Overall, well done! Good job, Lands’ End!