Archive for the ‘Marketing your Business’ Category

Caribou’s clever in-store social marketing

June 7, 2010
Caribou Stick Notes display

Caribou's example of low-tech social networking

Visiting the Caribou Coffee in Duluth’s Canal Park location this weekend, I spotted a highly effective, low-tech method of social networking: sticky notes.

With the phrase “What do you stay awake for?” printed on each little slip of paper, customers enthusiastically filled in the blank space. The sticky notes revealed a cross section of Caribou customers: teenagers, tourists, lovers, business owners, mothers and children. Their responses were surprisingly thoughtful, many of which spurred “conversation” from one sticky note to the next. In the age of Twitter and Facebook, it was wonderful to see these handwritten forms of expression that revealed much more about the author’s personality than pixels could ever do.

Should your business consider this type of promotion?

Caribou comments up close

A closer look at some of the comments.

To decide, let’s take a look at how Caribou benefits from their promotion. First, for a minimal cost of designing and printing sticky notes, Caribou created a promotion that:

1) Builds a dialogue between the company and their customers. This type of dialogue can build a sense of good will and customer loyalty. Clients feel listened to and achieve a sense of community with other Caribou customers.

2) Provides valuable information about their audiences. This information could be used to create future advertisements, Facebook conversations, or in-store promotions that resonate with their target audiences.

3) Provides a satisfying distraction while customers wait for their beverages.

4) Provides the foundation for an online social media campaign. Should Caribou wish to take the campaign online, they have a simple model that’s already been tested for sparking conversation, that they can implement on Facebook and Twitter.

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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.

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!

Our 100th Blog Post!

March 30, 2010

Mix Creative's 100th Blog Post

With this, our 100th blog post, it feels appropriate to reflect on the effect blogging has had on our business here at Mix Creative.

I began blogging on a regular basis in the fall of 2008, after attending the Creative Freelancer conference in Chicago Illinois. Several guest lecturers at the conference, including Ilise Benun, Peleg Top, and Colleen Wainwright, spoke of the power of blogging to establish yourself as an expert and increase your search engine optimization (SEO). What I didn’t realize was how much more I would get out of blogging. Here’s a sample:

  • Getting Published. Readers of my blog have requested to reprint posts to their own blogs or in their e-newsletters, widening our company’s exposure. Mix blog articles have been adapted for the Women in Networking Connect e-newsletter, and others appear on the blog site of Overnight Prints.
  • Speaking Engagments. Something I never expected from blogging—sharing my knowledge through my blog has directly contributed to me being asked to be a guest speaker at several events, including: a Women In Networking SparkHer event and annual conference, Tech Networking event and webinar from Modern Inconveniences, and to the Freelance Design Business class at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
  • Material for the Mix E-Newsletter, >the mixer. Often, a blog post will inspire content for our company’s e-newsletter. Although I generally adapt the article for the shorter e-newsletter format, having a source of content has been a huge time-saver!
  • A place to easily post e-newsletter archives. Simply creating a page for an e-newsletter archive on my blog, then adding a link to the online archive has made this monthly function quick and effortless. Not only that, but it’s accessible to blog readers, who may not be e-newsletter subscribers.
  • Fun and personal growth. Ok, this one is definitely something I didn’t expect: writing and posting articles on my blog is just plain fun! It gives me an opportunity to take a break from design, it puts a voice to my opinions, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment. And then there’s the blog stats…addicting! It’s fun to see which posts get a lot of reads, and tracking the increase in blog hits over time. And here’s a fun thing: last week I received a call from San Diego, California asking for more information about something I’d written in the post, Beyond the Trifold: How to Make Your Brochure Stand Out in the Crowd, (our most popular post).

Looking forward, my goals for my blog are to: 1) increase the number of hits by increasing the amount of entries and providing consistently relevant content, 2) Encourage readers to comment more, and 3) Promote the blog more at networking events, online, and through social media.

Thank you to all of our readers, whether you’re a one-time visitor or check back frequently! Want to stay up on recent posts? Click the “subscribe” button in the upper right. You’ll get a short e-mail synopsis of current entries.

Any thoughts about blogging or suggestions for our blog? Please leave a comment below! Remember, blog comments are searchable by web browsers, and can increase your personal SEO ranking.

Thanks!

Katrina Hase,
Principal of Mix Creative

Two Marketing Bits

March 11, 2010

Two articles in this morning’s paper caught my eye as examples of good marketing.

The first, Target Coupons Go Mobile, highlights the use of smart phones to download coupons to use in-store. Unlike a paper coupon, this technology gives Target a new layer of information and interaction with its audiences. Information, because customers must either text Target (providing cell phone information) or visit their website (providing server information) about its audiences. Interaction, because the customer has another touch point with the company when it visits the website.

With coupons already available at Target.com, through direct mail, and in newspaper circulars, the mobile program is just another way to engage their clients; each method likely to appeal to another segment of their audiences.

The second article, Panera to post calorie counts to the  menu board, shows an innovative strategy to differentiate this restaurant chain in a crowded marketplace. The first chain restaurant to take this step, Panera—already in a class of its own for offering healthy, fresh food— is further establishing itself as diet-friendly and socially-responsible—a message likely to resonate well with female audiences.

What’s the take-home message from these examples?

  1. Find new ways to interact with your target audiences and drive traffic to your website
  2. Use multiple strategies to connect with different segments of your audience
  3. Try something new and trendy, then make a PR push to create buzz around your company
  4. Take bold steps to differentiate your company from its competitors
  5. Consider a socially-responsible strategy to connect on an emotional level with your audiences

Marketing the GoGirl

February 17, 2010

Yesterday morning I came across an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about an—er—implement that allows women to urinate standing up. It’s being marketed as a GoGirl, a pocket-sized piece of silicone that slips into a container in your purse and gives women the ability to discreetly take care of business when conditions are less than desirable.

Now, I realize you may be thinking, “This is an odd thing to write about on a marketing and graphic design blog!” but hang in there. The back story of the GoGirl is what interests me.

Turns out the product is currently in its first rebrand, being led by Sarah Dillon, a market researcher by trade. Sarah saw the potential in the product, but given her background, approached the business opportunity strategically, enlisting focus groups to learn about the product’s potential in the marketplace. Clearly, the research paid off. Everything about the product appears to be crafted to appeal to active women: its size, the price, the name, the package design, and even the tagline: “Don’t take life sitting down.” They aggressively market the product to women who are literally “on the go”: at festivals, fairs and womens’ expos, and take advantage of non-traditional marketing mediums such as sponsoring races, Facebook and other internet marketing.

Photo by Neal St. Anthony, Star Tribune; "Go Girl sales director Jan Edman, center, and President Sarah Dillon in front of an advertisement for their product. They project that the Hopkins-based company will produce more than 1 million units this year and achieve $15 million in revenue by 2013."

Clearly, Sarah Dillon understands women, and has put together a marketing and branding package to sell an unusual product to the masses. Which is more than can be said for the first incarnation of the GoGirl.

Originally designed by Dr. Jim Block and dubbed “FemMed”, the product never went anywhere. The name and appearance was far too clinical, and didn’t appeal to women’s lifestyles. Now, as GoGirl, the product has the brand and marketing strategy in place to reach its target audiences and turn a profit. So: same product + understanding of target audiences + good marketing strategy = successful outcome.

I love this story because it really speaks to the power of the process we follow here at Mix Creative. When we get to know a new client, we go through a branding process that explores audiences, competitors, product features and benefits, the brand description and story, and the tone; then we use that to strategically design visual elements of the brand and determine the best route for marketing the company’s product or services. The result? Success in the marketplace.

So, Sarah Dillon, for getting it right, let me say, “You GoGirl!”

(tee hee, couldn’t resist)

Holiday promotions

November 10, 2009

Considering sending a holiday promotion? Here are some tips and resources to get the ideas flowing!

Take advantage of holiday specials. Just this week, I’ve received several holiday specials on printing alone. Here’s just a sampling:

  • For one more week, you can order 30 custom printed holiday cards for the price of 20 at http://www.overnightprints.com. Use coupon code: GC1895.
  • Create your own hand-made cards, place holders, gift tags and more with rubber stamps and all the trimmings from Paper Source. Receive free shipping on orders over $100 through November 15. Enter code: SHIP100
  • Make a photo book of a client’s project! Custom photo books at Shutterfly start from $12.99. Get free shipping on orders of $25 or more until 11/30/09. Enter code: HOLIDAY25

Consider a sending a New Year’s promotion. Companies do a lot of goal-setting and budget planning in the New Year. A well-timed and clever promotion can get attention without getting lost among mounds of holiday cards.

Or, send a Thanksgiving card. A hand written “thank you” goes a long way in creating a memorable impression with clients.

Explore other media. Try creating a fun holiday video or animated e-card to share with your clients.

As with every marketing endeavor, make sure you create a look and feel that speaks to your target audiences and is consistent with your brand standards. Take the time to craft your message and design your piece.

 

(re)Communicating Your Capabilities

September 15, 2009

Recently I spoke with a marketing colleague of mine who expressed frustration that a long-time client had been talking to other agencies to develop a new website and e-mail marketing. Having been their agency of record for all of their print marketing and advertising, my colleague expressed to the client his confusion.

“Oh, you can do websites?” was the client’s response.

It seems that in their business interactions, the client had come to think of my colleague as a go-to person for print and advertising. Comfortable in that role, my colleague had neglected to mention his full capabilities, of which websites and email marketing were also strengths.

It’s human nature to categorize the things around us. Gestalt psychologists demonstrated this phenomenon well through visual tests that show how we perceptually organize the world around us. Their results described an overarching principle of pragnänz, which is that the simplest and most stable interpretations of the world around us are favored. Neuroscientists have documented these brain short-cuts even at the cellular level, showing that the branches on brain cells are trimmed away over time to strengthen some brain pathways over others.

The lesson here? If you want your clients to change their perception of your company’s capabilities, you’re going to have to retrain their brains. Here are three simple strategies:

  1. Talk to your client about your capabilities. Ok, this one seems like a no-brainer. But think about it, when is the last time you integrated a little advertisement for your other services into a conversation with your client? One strategy: use an example of how you created a solution in similar situation with another client. Expand on the different services you provided.
  2. Try an email footer. Communications guru Colleen Wainwright suggested changing up your email footer frequently as a tool for self promotion. Try something like: “Did you know we can create _______ for you? Call us for more information.”
  3. Share examples. Shapco Printing in Minneapolis does a great job of communicating their capabilities by sending examples every few months or so of a piece that was printed using their equipment, accompanied by a letter highlighting their capabilities. You can try this too, by sending examples of your work—printed or electronically—to your clients, with a personal note that includes a detail about the project.

Since we’re working against brain chemistry here, it’s a good idea to make communication about your capabilities an ongoing activity. Just think: someday there may be a brain pathway out there dedicated to your business!

In Praise of Print

August 11, 2009

INVEST IN PRINTING AND PAPERS TO MAKE THE RIGHT IMPRESSION

In the past five years, social media combined with online and digital printing have leveled the playing field for businesses, allowing small businesses unprecedented access to tools once reserved for large corporations.

Take for example the business card. In the past, large companies had blank business card shells printed on specialized paper with one or two Pantone inks that they printed periodically with deserving employees’ names. Today, with printing prices and required quantities much lower than the past, new cards can be printed in full color for  just about anyone or any thing, from calling cards to angel cards, or even multiple cards for different parts of a business.

So what’s the harm in that?

Well, to use the sports analogy from earlier: with a more level playing field comes… more players. And with more players comes more competition.

“But I’ve hired an ace design firm! Isn’t that good enough?” you may ask.

Of course, good design goes a long way toward defining your company and standing out in a crowded marketplace. But if you want to go all the way, you’ll want to spend some money on how your brand is presented in print. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Consider the paper it’s printed on. Think about it. When you hand a card to someone, wouldn’t you like them to notice the quality of paper right away? Consider printing on FSC-certified papers. Far from the dull, grainy papers of the past, these green “goddesses” now offer bright whites, textures, weights, sheens, and colors that fit your business. Ask your designer to see paper swatch books for your next project—you’re likely to be surprised by how paper selection can take your design to the next level.
  2. Create a piece to “die” for. Created on the press using a metal plate with sharp edges called a “die”, unique shapes and cut-outs enhance your brand message while creating interest. Consider a postcard cut in the shape of your product or logo. Or a pocket folder with pockets that mimic the curve of your logo. Or maybe a cut-out shape that has a playful presence on either side of a business card. Often rejected for their additional cost, die cuts may well be worth the expense.
  3. Make key images shine. Recently I received a direct mail piece from a major retailer that caught my eye. Printed on  matte, white paper, the models (and product) practically bounced off the page with a glossy varnish. Called a “spot varnish,” the technique packed a visual punch that kept me interested.

These tips may seem ill-timed in a scaled-back economy, where saving money is on everyone’s mind. But consider the benefit: quality papers, inks, cuts, and varnishes send the message that your business is as strong as ever, inspiring confidence in your company and signaling to clients that they are worth the expense.

For more ideas about how special printing techniques and papers can enhance your brand image, contact Mix Creative.

MetroIBA Jumpstart Twitter Training

August 11, 2009

Interested in learning how to grow your business using Twitter? Learn from an expert at the following Metro Independent Business Alliance (MetroIBA) training:

MetroIBA Jumpstart Twitter Training
August 26 8-9:30am or September 16 at 8:00. Choose the best time for you.
Register here.

Learn how to grow your business using Twitter in this working session with Zack Steven, social media pioneer and co-founder of BuyTheChange.com and LocalTweeps.com. You will create or enhance your Twitter profile, learn how to connect with new and existing customers and practice posting updates and sending messages. You’ll also get insight into Twitter terminology, best practices for businesses and time-saving resources.

$35 MetroIBA members, $55 non-members
Zack’s regular price for this class is $199.
Preregistration Required. Register now here.

Space is limited to 16 participants for each class, so register ASAP. 12 Laptops provided—BYO Laptop if you have one with wireless.

Classes are at the WomenVenture computer lab,
2324 University Avenue West, Suite 120 St. Paul, MN.