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Pinstripe Bookshelf: Creative Quest

I have never considered myself a creative person – at least in the traditional sense. I’m not a writer, designer, photographer, painter, songwriter or chef. In my career, I rely on my creative problem-solving abilities, and the “I know it when I see it” side of creativity when directing marketing projects, but I’ve always admired truly creative people. Those who create.

In my efforts to cultivate creativity, I often listen to podcasts and pick up the latest books on the subject like The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Cutmull.

I’ve found my new favorite. Questlove’s Creative Quest.

I have been a fan of Questlove for a long time. Most people know him as the leader and drummer of the hip hop band, The Roots. In addition to their role on The Tonight Show, he has written several books including a memoir, has the most encyclopedic knowledge of music, has designed products, teaches, and is apparently quite the foodie. He’s one of the people I’d invite to my celebrity dinner party.

Creative Quest is an insightful journey through the creative process and the work of being a creator. Through personal stories and those of his famous creative friends, Quest covers finding inspiration, overcoming blocks, and honing the tools to not only be more creative, but to create better work. He thoughtfully explains the value of finding great mentors and building a creative network, and perhaps most importantly for artists, how to deal with criticism which can be “destructive to the creative ego.”

The first step in creating is re-creating – making a version of something that already exists. The first time I saw The Roots play a popular song with classroom instruments on The Tonight Show (I think it was Call Me Maybe back in 2013), I thought “how fun! how creative!” and with the millions of views these videos get on YouTube, I’m sure they’ve introduced new music to a lot of new listeners by making the songs fun and approachable. My favorite is the Sesame Street theme song.

One of the book’s insights that really hit me is the notion that we don’t know how to be bored anymore. We have access to entertainment in the palm of our hands 24/7. We’ve lost the ability to be quiet with ourselves and embrace boredom, which “represents pure, undiluted time in all of its repetitive, redundant, monotonous splendor.” Wow. What a concept.

I was also struck by a study he references that indicated that the more rested and alert a person was, the LESS creative they were at their task. When the mind is sharp, it is less likely to be creative. Huh. And all this time I’ve been defending my eight hours a night!

I am so glad I decided to get the audio version of this book as Questlove provides thoroughly entertaining narration that had me laughing out loud in my car. I can’t remember the last audio book that I ‘highlighted’ the pages of (pausing and making notes on my phone so I could go back to those sections). One of my favorite lines was when he told a story about D’Angleo and his songwriting, saying, “If you x-rayed his creativity you would find those songs in there glowing from his bones.” What a visual!

Everyone who will listen to me has heard my recommendation of this book. If you are traditionally creative or, like me, wish you could sharpen that skill, I encourage you to download the audio and treat yourself to some tools and inspiration. With a few chuckles on the side.

After you’ve listened, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Enjoy!
Ginger

 

More is Not Merrier in the Marketing Creative Process

How many people should have input into the creative aspects of a marketing message? Is that too difficult a question to ask? Let’s see. We’ll start at the point after we’re committed to a project and we have a clear objective in mind. Now let’s invite people until we get everyone we need.

Start with a project manager. That’s the person who will see that the final product remains true to the original objective. Honestly, she or he will be more of a traffic cop than anything else, but that’s still an important function. You may need someone to say, “It’s okay to think outside the box, but at least be able to see the box.” (1)

Many copywriters and designers (graphic artists, web builders, video- editors … etc.) would subtract the project manager and put the number back at one—meaning themselves with the writer or designer only along to take their direction. They’re all equally vital, though, so we’ll include copy writer, designer and project manager. (3)

The next person we’ll add to the ideal creative group is a “brand champion” for the organization. She or he will make sure concept and execution stay consistent with the company’s identity and that the work delivers a consistent, over-arching value proposition. (4)

Finally, in many cases, we have someone who knows and understands the audience. This key person ensures messaging is on target and that the likeliest reaction will be the one that’s desired. Sometimes the project manager or brand champion serves this role, but we’ll include that person here to complete our team. (5)

That’s five. Were you expecting more? Possibly there could be, if the project has a lot of components and there’s more work to be done than a small team could handle. But, really, five people handling creative development is usually all you need. Now you could have fewer, when there’s a talented, very knowledgeable person fulfilling multiple roles. On the whole, though, five is good … and those few people need to stay in their lanes and communicate well and often!

After the creative team presents its work, an ultimate decision maker ought to grade the work as pass-fail. Maybe, but only maybe, this individual can suggest a tweak here or there, but usually it’s better to trust the judgement of paid professionals. To the extent that others must be involved, let them focus on considerations such as ROI and opportunity costs, or whether statements are factual and should be made public.

But what about the wisdom of crowds? Isn’t it true that the more eyes that are on a project, the more likely something will be discovered that needs changing. Plus, good ideas can come from anywhere, so let’s give lots of people a voice, right? Um, no. Here are excellent reasons why too many cooks make an unpalatable meal:

  • Lack of responsibility – One reason involving many people in any project usually results in declining quality is diffusion of responsibility. When one or two people are going to have to answer for an outcome, they’ll give it their best effort. Conversely, it’s a lot easier for a bunch of people to shrug off failure as not their fault.
  • Subjectivitis – That may not be real word, but marketing professionals certainly know the disease! (An example would be insisting on a model wearing a green cap rather than blue when company colors are green AND blue.) The signature illness of frustrated creatives, subjectivitis can deliver the death of a thousand cuts to any project—especially if the afflicted is too high on the food chain to be rightfully ignored or over-ruled.
  • Worry warts – Expanding the creative input group too much will inevitably bring in the person who wonders—frequently and aloud—what such-and-such higher up will think. Here’s the thing: such-and-such higher up is NOT the target audience! A worry wart’s entire contribution to the creative process is making good people second-guess themselves. This is counter-productive and should be avoided at all costs.
  • Mission creep – The more people involved with a marketing project, the more likely someone will want their pet interest addressed in the messaging. Soon, rather than a concise message crafted for a specific audience, you’ll have multiple thoughts competing for attention. And because copy and imagery needs to reinforce a single message to be most effective, the result ends up an ugly Frankenstein’s monster of mixed parts.
  • Proving worth – This happens when people realize they have no business being involved in the creative process, yet feel pressured to contribute. Sadly, they are dragged into a meeting or sent an email in which they’re asked their thoughts. To get back to their real duties, they’re compelled to offer the first thing off the top of their heads, after which some other poor soul is forced to take their half-baked ideas seriously.
  • Off script – This is when we bring someone into the creative process late who has her or his own ideas, quirks and sensibilities and really couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks. Such people either need to be involved at the very beginning of the process—before it goes to the creative team—or they should be kept out completely.

This might be the point you thought we’d back off that five number and hedge our bet. But, no, we’ve thought this through and experienced the repercussions of all of these downfalls. Keep in mind, there are plenty of other jobs associated with marketing for all the folks outside the creative process. For instance, someone needs to analyze the results of every campaign. Others can choose where ads will run and how often. There are surveys and focus groups to be conducted … all sorts of things. But you shouldn’t have your CFO doubling as a creative director any more than you would have your graphic artist making decisions about acquisitions and mergers.

Spotlight: Kokolakis Logo Design, Head Shots, Video and Stationery

kokolakis contracting stationery_news

Kokolakis Contracting is one of those clients that we just can’t wait to see. We realized this when we did head shots with a whole group of the Tarpon Springs office staff, including president Joe Kokolakis, at the beautiful old Florida Brewing Co. building (currently home of the Swope Rodante law firm) in Ybor City. We had a blast! Afterwards, the whole group went out to dinner and insisted that we come along. I guess that makes us part of the family.

head shots

President Joseph Kokolakis portrait.

That was a great start to the relationship, in which we have re-envisioned their logo, created new stationery, completed head shots and currently we are working on a video for their new website, coming soon. We didn’t print the safety vests and hard hats, but as you can see in the photo above, they look great!

First we tackled the logo. They wanted to keep the same general idea but just update and modernize the logo. So, we took the original logo and reinvented it. The main thing that we really wanted everyone to buy into was a new, more modern color palette. It was definitely a departure from their old logo and the industry in general, but we thought it looked great with the bold lines of their logo and font. In the end, we won – they chose the bold color palette over the traditional blues and grays. They seem very happy with their choice and are certainly emblazoning it upon everything they can.

logo design

kokolakis contracting logo design

Once we completed the logo, stationery was next. They chose a fairly classic look, and used Moo.com to print some of the business cards. These cards are super thick and have a beautiful orange-red layer in the center that you can see from the side of the card – the perfect complement to their bold card design. We printed the stationery in spot color with local printer, Lightning, because that orange-red just needed to be “spot” on. It was a tough color to match digitally and we wanted it to really pop and be true to their brand.

This was a really great project to work on and we are proud of the results, plus we added a cool group of people to our list of friends. Many thanks to J. Kokolakis for a great experience.

Shoot us an email if you need help with head shots, video, new logo, and print work. We would love to help make your company look sharp.

Top Pinstripe Blog Posts of 2016

tampa marketing firm
We have enjoyed a tremendous year at Pinstripe! One thing we really enjoy is sharing information about creating great marketing and communications to grow your business. Throughout 2016, we have written hundreds of articles, and it’s always interesting to see what pieces you like most. Our most popular posts are always our client spotlights – you really like to learn about some of our favorite people! Features about Pinstripe projects and case studies also generate a lot of readership. But the ones that prove most valuable are the ‘how to’ articles – so in case you missed one, or just want a refresher, here are the top 15 articles of 2016!

 

15. Logo Design and Corporate Identity Manuals

The history of graphic design is extensive and can be traced back hundreds of years. For the sake of this article, we are going to focus on graphic design as it was forming during the industrial era, and how the appearance and growth of corporations affected one aspect of graphic design in particular – logos.

 

14. Do You Have Your Elevator Speech Ready?

You and a stranger are standing in a hotel lobby waiting for an elevator. He has the appearance of a fine, upstanding chap and you’re in an affable mood so you comment on what a nice day it is. He’s welcoming of conversation. Additional pleasantries ensue, followed by introductions and the customary handshake. The elevator finally arrives and just as you and your new friend step inside, he asks about your business.

It’s time for the ‘elevator speech.’

 

13. Trade Shows: To Participate or Not … That’s the Last Question

At some point, you may hear of a trade show for your industry and entertain the notion of attending. The immediate question is whether such an excursion would be a worthwhile investment of time, effort and money.  Reaching that determination will require carefully considered answers to several other questions, first.

 

12.The Physics of Marketing

People may tell you that marketing is “more art than science.” And at first blush, this assertion seems valid. Consider the stimulating imagery and compelling prose that accompanies a typical advertising campaign. However, when it comes to attracting and keeping customers, we should take instruction from Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion.

 

11. Proposals – Advice from the Selection Committee

Recently, Pinstripe Marketing attended a webinar hosted by the Society of Marketing Professionals (SMPS) Tampa Bay called “Secrets of the Selection Process,” by Gary Coover. The course was designed to enlighten us about creating a proposal as well as presenting the proposal to the selection committee, and we came away with a few great tips that we thought we would share.

 

10. How to Leave an Effective Voicemail Message

When trying to reach someone, having to leave a voicemail (VM) message can be very frustrating. The exercise is especially tiresome if you’re in sales—leaving message after message with little hope of a callback. Pessimistically you go through the motions; repeating words you’ve said countless times before.

 

9. Social Media Superhero: Tips for Curating Social Content

Social media accounts for businesses are now the norm rather than the exception, so keeping up-to-date with your posts is something that must be done on a regular basis. We understand that this is time-consuming and is yet another item to add to your to-do list, but below are some tips for streamlining the process and keeping your content interesting and fresh.

 

8. Online Marketing: 5 Things That Most Smart People Don’t Know

Online marketing is one of those things that’s easy to start, but difficult to do correctly. That’s because the internet makes it easy for people with little or no experience to present themselves as experts and give lots of bad advice. It’s bad enough when this bad advice doesn’t produce results, but in many cases, it can even harm your business for the long term. Just like with medical and legal decisions, it’s not what you know about marketing that gets you in trouble—it’s what you don’t know. These tips will help you avoid making some of the common marketing mistakes that a lot of smart people make simply because they followed bad advice from someone who presented themselves as an expert.

 

7. Copy vs. Graphics: Bickering Spouses of Advertising?

In this age of social media, viral videos and search engine optimization (SEO), the role of imagery and copy in marketing is like ever-present background noise. And yet from billboards to websites, the healthy marriage of copy and graphics is almost always a critical component in the successful execution of promotional efforts.

 

6. The Importance of a Trademark Search

A trademark is a name, word or logo used to indicate the source of a product or service. While a “trademark” technically refers to a brand used on goods and products (e.g., coffee, sneakers, jewelry), a “service mark” refers to a brand used in connection with services (e.g., restaurant services, insurance services, accounting services). Almost every company imaginable has a trademark or service mark – either the name of the company advertised to the public or the name of its product.

 

5. Writing a Compelling Biography

If it hasn’t already happened—don’t be surprised one day to have someone ask you for your bio (e.g. short biography). Employers often want them for the “About Us” or “Our Professionals” sections of their web sites. Bios may be needed for a press release announcing an important new hire. Meeting planners ask for bios of important guests or speakers at conventions and conferences. If you have your vital information on hand and ready to go at a moment’s notice, you’ll earn the sincere appreciation of a lot of people … and may save yourself some embarrassment.

 

4. Tips for Hiring a Professional Photographer

At some point in our lives, we all need a professional photographer. Whether you need a photo for your web site, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, product shots for your business or photos for your wedding, there are some things that are best left to the pros. Here are some tips for hiring the right photographer for your business needs.

 

3. How to Sell a White Elephant

From time to time, we’ll find it necessary to sell something that might lead one to question the sanity of anyone who buys it. This could be a product, a service, or even an investment opportunity that’s missing readily apparent value. While a challenge, successfully unloading (or rather, locating a buyer), is often just a matter of looking at the offering a bit differently ourselves, and then getting a prospective customer to see it the same way.

 

2. Utilizing Nostalgia and Vernacular in Graphic Design

Graphic design as a promotional tool dates back to the 19th century, when the earliest form of graphic design relied solely on typography to make a point. During these early days, text, font style, and font size were the main vehicles of emphasis; you can see how designers started playing with different typefaces and boldness to draw attention to certain information. Over the years, as graphic design became more prominent, methods and styles evolved. People in the advertising industry began to experiment with different techniques to attract attention to products, as well as instill confidence in them and the companies that sold them.

 

And the most popular article of 2016 is…

1. What Makes a Business Card “Cool”?

If you’re someone whose work puts in you in contact with new people on a regular basis, you probably have a substantial supply of business cards. Doubtlessly, you also have a nice collection of business cards from the professionals you meet. Perhaps you’ve encountered one or two that caused you to pause and examine it more closely, thinking “Wow, that’s a cool card!”

 

Based on this list, it appears you’re just as nerdy as we are. 🙂

 

If you’d like to receive our articles right to your inbox, you can sign up here AND receive a complimentary copy of our Guide to Public Relations.

 

THANK YOU for giving us the opportunity to be a small part of your marketing initiatives. We wish you the very best for a healthy and prosperous 2017!

Pinstripe Brands Florida Nature Preserve Cemetery

funeral cemetery marketingIn May 2014, we were invited to visit a 40-acre parcel of what was formerly part of the J.B. Starkey Ranch to hear about an idea.

After attending a workshop at a national land conservation conference years earlier, Laura Starkey had an idea to develop a business model that would allow her to conserve natural lands while sharing the beauty of laura_and_frank_starkeyFlorida’s woods with residents and visitors – the same woods she grew up in and is dedicated to preserving. Heartwood Preserve would be a nature preserve and conservation cemetery – only the second in the state – to provide ‘green’ burial options.

Natural, or ‘green,’ burial is a safe and environmentally friendly practice that allows the body to return to the soil naturally by using biodegradable materials, and avoiding vaults and toxic embalming fluids. Conservation burial takes this practice a step further by burying in a nature preserve rather than a conventional cemetery, and utilizing a portion of the burial fee to help permanently protect the natural environment.

More than two years after that first walk in the woods, Heartwood Preserve is a reality.

The Pinstripe Marketing team had the pleasure of working with Laura to design the brand and create marketing tools that tell the story of natural burial and illustrate the beauty of the preserve she fought to protect.

The brand is, of course, inspired by nature. A hand-drawn pine cone referencing the thousands that drop from the long-leaf pines throughout the preserve serves as the iconic mark. The stationery package was printed on natural, FSC Certified, Green Seal certified, 30% recycled paper (minimum). The colors and texture throughout all marketing pieces are earthy and exude the beauty of Heartwood Preserve.

stationery suite design branding

branding logo design

logo design and professional services branding

The web site is a source of information about natural burial and for the Florida nature preserve as an asset for the community, available for enjoying the flora and fauna. It’s also the platform to show off the beauty of the preserve. The home page video, shot by nature documentary videographer, Jennifer Brown, draws the visitor in with stunning visuals of the pine trees, palmettos, flowers, and animals who call the preserve home. The photo gallery highlights the environment and events hosted at the preserve. The site, including font selections and simple navigation, was designed with a senior audience in mind.

website design website development

The brochure also features a brief introduction to the preserve and photography by Andrea Ragan. As a stand-alone piece for prospective families or as part of a comprehensive package for funeral directors, the brochure provides information about conservation burial and what loved ones can expect by selecting Heartwood Preserve as a final resting place.

brochure design printing

With all the elements for a great story, the Pinstripe public relations team is anxious to begin pitching the media about this beautiful new conservation cemetery and the Florida families who make arrangements to be buried among the long-leaf pines and palmettos.

For more information about Heartwood Preserve, visit the web site or stop by for a peaceful walk in the woods.

Contact a Pinstripe project manager to start developing your brand and marketing materials.

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