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Zodiac Marketer: Taurus

Our next zodiac sign is Taurus: birthdays between April 20 – May 20.

Taurus is an earth sign with the following strengths: reliable, patient, practical, devoted, responsible and stable.  Many of these are strengths that businesses are looking for in a marketing agency, or any partnership for that matter. We’ll also take a look at Taurus’ weaknesses: stubborn, possessive and uncompromising. Some of these are no-no’s in marketing, yet some may be useful in small quantities.

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Reliability in Marketing

Let’s face it, being reliable is a must in ANY business. What does reliability in marketing look like? Meeting deadlines and staying within budget. If you foresee an over-budget project or missing a deadline, reliability is communicating that in a timely manner. Being available when a client needs you gives them the ability to rely on you. We sometimes say that there’s no such thing as a “marketing emergency,” but when a client’s website goes down, reliability is being there to help them get it back up and running, as quickly as possible, with no qualms. This also goes for a new launch. If a client has an aggressive deadline, reliability will reach that deadline—every time.

Patience in Marketing

From personal relationships to business, patience can be useful in many aspects of life.. It’s especially useful in the marketing world, where campaigns are often more about visibility and recognition and can take weeks or even months to yield results. In the case of a website SEO campaign or a digital advertising campaign, patience is needed to analyze. The more data you have to analyze, the better you will be able to project, extrapolate and adjust your ads accordingly. Consider websites themselves and the large amount of time you need to invest in them, especially if your content is extensive. Patience will pay off with large websites, because you want to make sure to spend the time needed to stay organized. If you fail to do this, the project can become a disaster!

Responsibility in Marketing

First and foremost, marketers have a responsibility to our clients. We have a responsibility to ensure that we remain true to their brand when executing campaigns. We have a responsibility to deliver our projects on time and within budget. But we also have a great responsibility, as any business does, to the planet and to do what we can to work in a way that is respectful to our resources. We do simple things, like work from home when we can, or cancel all those magazine subscriptions that often go unread. We don’t print emails when we don’t need to and we use digital notebooks as often as possible (sometimes you just have to write on paper, but we do so consciously!). We turn off our monitors, computers and lights when we leave the office.

Avoid: Being Uncompromising in Marketing

Now, there are times when you need to stand your ground and defend a great idea. And then there are times when you just have to let go! All of us marketers think that we know what’s best for the client (and frankly, we often do), but if they just can’t live with something that you think is great, you have to let go. If you don’t, the client may end up unhappy, unable to get that one little detail off their mind or the timeline may be extended and you’ll miss your deadline. Either way, use your business brain over your creative brain and be professional when you surrender.

As marketers, we work with a variety of businesses, so we encounter many business situations – soft skills like those described above are necessary. We are constantly developing these skills so that we can better serve our clients in this creative, strategic space. Get in touch with us if you need our expertise in design or branding!

Build Top of Mind Awareness With an E-Newsletter

enews_newsSome things never change, even in the fluid online world. One thing that we have always thought important, and will always believe in, is the e-newsletter. A few years ago we wrote the below article – “Build Top of Mind Awareness With an E-Newsletter,” and we still think the information in this article is useful – probably more than ever.

In a market driven by meaningful content, producing an e-newsletter with solid articles that help your customers and prospects is one of the best ways to build the relationships that will foster trust in your brand. There is no question – content is king, and if you position yourself as an expert by creating good content, you will win the trust of clients and prospects.

There are some kinds of businesses that are a part of their customers’ weekly, if not daily routine—grocery stores, drycleaners, and gas stations to name a few. Other companies, such as clothing and hardware stores or even restaurants, also typically attract mostly repeat business. As long as these operations offer competitive prices, good service, and are conveniently located (with no new arrival in the market appearing significantly better on any of those points), customer loyalty should remain fairly strong. But how can businesses instill loyalty when clients may need their services on an annual basis at best, or perhaps only a few times during an entire lifetime? This is the common situation for many professional service providers such as attorneys, CPAs, medical specialists, IT solution providers, or architects to name a few. An e-newsletter may be an economical and effective way to maintain top-of-mind awareness with prospective clients during those long stretches between having a need for the provider’s services.

Simple name recognition is good way to initially differentiate your business from others in your market. But more importantly, an e-newsletter emphasizes the expertise that’s available from professionals at your company.

The greatest challenge associated with producing any e-newsletter – one distributed via email – is getting an audience to read it. And even when a recipient originally made a conscious decision to request the newsletter, it’s not unusual for that person to soon find himself deleting the communication unread, marking it as spam, or taking the final step of asking to removed from the subscription list.

Here are few dos and don’ts that will help maintain reader interest in an e-newsletter from a professional service organization.

Do offer news the reader can use. For instance, attorneys might offer tips as to what to do when starting a business and accountants could point out frequently overlooked tax deductions. Make the articles memorable, pithy and to the point.

Don’t make the publication just another advertisement. In fact, it will enhance the credibility of your e-newsletter if you don’t overtly “sell” anything at all. While articles can address issues that readers may be facing as well as the available solutions, avoid talking about your own company’s specific offerings. Consumers are savvy. If they read about a problem in your newsletter, they’ll assume you have a product or service to meet their needs.

Do make it plain that you’re local. People are more open to information that comes from a “neighbor.” Work references to area landmarks or events into the various articles. As silly as it may seem, people enjoying saying to themselves, “I know where that is.” Referring to local places and events will make your business seem less abstract to potential customers.

Don’t pontificate. A “message” from the company president or CEO is generally bad enough as a reader turn-off, but it may be forgivable if that message offers the “news you can use” component mentioned earlier. Observations about the state of the union, environmental policy, what’s wrong with kids today, or any other topic outside of the author’s professional expertise however, is a definite no-no.

Do keep it brief. While you may have articles that link to your Web site for more additional (non sales) information, the amount of content visible at first glance, should not take up much more room than one screen length. The format should also make it easy for the reader to scan for topics of interest, and quickly glean the facts.

Don’t overload your readers. Make sure the people to whom you send your newsletter have a reasonable chance of being interested in the information you’re providing. And your total number of broadcast communications (the e-newsletter plus any other announcements, alerts, sales promotions, etc.) should appear in their inboxes no more frequently than twice a month. Once a month or once every three months is probably often enough for your newsletter to make an impact without becoming an unread annoyance.

Do encourage reader interactivity. Solicit and make it easy for your audience to provide feedback about your newsletter. Not only is this good PR but their ideas could very well have great merit and can enhance your publication. Also make it easy for audience members to introduce people they know to your newsletter. And finally, make it easy for readers to unsubscribe if they wish to do so.

Do create a series of articles for your newsletter either with a fun or business theme. For example, this year we are running a series of articles with tips for best practices in SEO, and last year we ran a series with the overarching theme relating Wonder Woman (our President’s favorite comic character) to marketing. We’ve seen great enthusiasm for the fun themes so we decided to keep it going with a Zodiac Marketing series this year. We expect that people will enjoy this series as well! As far as the SEO tips series they contain actionable items that any business person or marketing executive can apply to their routine.

Properly executed and written with your audience’s interests in mind, an e-newsletter can help keep your business in the minds of potential customers for that specific moment when they may need your services. Pinstripe can help create a template as well as content for your e-newsletter – get in touch if you need help with launching yours.

Re-Branding To-Do’s and Pitfalls

“A brand should strive to own a word in the minds of the consumer.”  It’s one of the key messages in Al and Laura Ries’ book, 22 Immutable Laws of Branding.  I use this gem in every marketing and branding presentation I give, using national examples (Volvo, FedEx, Nordstrom) and a few locals (Beef O’Brady’s, Beltz & Ruth, and Dr. Monticciolo). The idea of owning a word can be applied to personal branding, as well as large corporate branding. Small-to-midsize business owners may also get the opportunity to name a new product or service. It could be a resalable white-label offering from a vendor or something developed entirely in-house. Regardless of its origins, businesses and individuals should invest considerable care in coming up with a worthy moniker, otherwise the new offering may never get a fair reception from potential consumers.

Walter Cronkite owns the word trust.

Walter Cronkite became an American icon when he took over the CBS Evening News in 1962.  Known for his slow, steady, authoritative delivery and his unerring standards of responsible and ethical journalism, Walter’s voice is associated with the country’s most significant events of two decades. He ended each broadcast with his trademark, “And that’s the way it is,” except when it followed an opinion.

These days, it’s hard to imagine opinion or commentary that isn’t delivered as news.

Uncle Walter died in 2009 at the age of 92, an owner of the word trust.  And I don’t think anyone will ever take it from him.

The important part of owning a word is that it has to be true. You can’t just say your product is safe. You can’t just say it will be there overnight. You can’t just say you’re fair and balanced. It has to be true.

Mistakes Were Made.

From a strictly business perspective, there are a number of errors marketers sometimes make when naming the things they want to sell. Below are five whoppers to avoid, as demonstrated by companies that were big enough to know better.

Enamored of a concept. Consider a couple of naming failures from the haircare product manufacturer, Clairol, in the early 80s. First came, ‘Look of Buttermilk’ shampoo. Quite understandably, consumers didn’t know what buttermilk hair should look like, and weren’t willing to find out. Not to be deterred, three years later Clairol gave us ‘Touch of Yogurt’ shampoo with equally disastrous results. Fortunately, the company abandoned the sensory-appeal concept before potentially presenting the buying public with the ‘Smell of Cheese.’

Key takeaway – We’ve all been guilty of coming up with creative ideas that we love like children—expecting others to love them as well. Unfortunately, sometimes the baby is ugly, and when it comes to our creative concepts we may have to listen and accept the bitter truth.

 

Poorly represents the product. If you had told someone, “I just ordered Qwikster,” would he or she have clue what you meant? Probably not. Nor would it have helped had you said, “Netflix Qwikster,” especially since that name referred to the much, much slower DVD-by-mail movie-rental service rather than the company’s streaming video.

Key takeaway – While people expect a little exaggeration in marketing, they won’t tolerate outright lying, so be sure to avoid misleading or misrepresentative names.

 

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Ginger’s favorite joke

Tiresomely “clever.” Have you ever known someone who has a favorite joke, quip or pun… and they never miss an opportunity to throw it into a conversation? In reality, the half-life on “being clever” is pretty short. Consider, for example, Ralston-Purina’s Freakies cereal (1972 – 76). The commercials were chuckle-worthy (once), but would you want to admit actually eating the cereal? And how many times could you have stood hearing your kid sing the theme song at breakfast?

Key takeaway – You want to give your offerings a name that will last a lifetime. So unless silliness is part of your brand identity, don’t sacrifice a descriptive or allusive title in favor of a novelty name that your customers can’t take seriously.

Ego-driven. A brand is about the company, but a product or service should be about promising to satisfy the consumer. Therefore, it’s generally best not to name it after the business owner or family member, as that comes across as a bit egotistical and provides no clue as to the product’s value proposition. For our example, look at (probably) the most famous product failure of all time: The Edsel. Named after Henry Ford’s son, this automobile had a lot of problems—starting with a high price and not particularly well-made—but such shortcomings have never been a problem for Italian sports cars. So instead, ask yourself, who would want to drive an Edsel?

Key takeaway – Names that are meaningful to you may carry no significance at all to your customers, and they may even be a bit put off ordering the ‘Bobby Jr. Special’ when they are with their own little Michael.

 

Clueless (What were they thinking!?!). Back around 2001, Bosch Siemens Hausgeraete, a subsidiary of global conglomerate Siemens AG, filed applications with the US Patent & Trademark Office to use the name, Zyklon, across a range of home products, including gas ovens. If that name rings a bell, perhaps you recognize Zyklon B as the poison gas used on Holocaust victims in Nazi concentration camps. Making matters worse, Siemens is widely alleged to have taken advantage of slave labor supplied by the evil German regime during WWII. Siemens said they wanted the name in conjunction with their line of vacuum cleaners which uses cyclonic technology. (Zyklon is German for cyclone.) Honest mistake or not, the company wisely gave up the idea.

Key takeaway – Step outside your inner circle—whether that’s the people you work with or friends and family—and consult thoughtful, knowledgeable people at large about your potential naming ideas. Or at least do a Google search! Note that in terms of product quality, the aforementioned products weren’t especially terrible. And if the product is good enough, it may even survive a bad name. (For example, Nad’s for Men—a hair removal cream—has been around quite a while.) But why bring your new product or service into this world saddled with an inherent disadvantage? Remember, a rose by any other name may indeed smell as sweet. But if it’s called a Farkenglart, chances are that no one will go near it to find out.

If you want to own a name and brand the way Walter Cronkite did, honesty is your greatest tool. If you’ve recently gone through a rebrand, we’d love to hear more about your experience, and if you’re thinking about rebranding, get in touch with us. We’ve ushered Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike through the process with great success.

 

Zodiac Marketer: Aries

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Our next zodiac sign is Aries: birthdays between March 21 – April 19.

Aries is a fire sign with the following strengths: courage, determination, confidence, enthusiasm, optimism, honesty and passion. As with Pisces, there are plenty of Aries traits that apply directly to marketing. We’ll also take a look at Aries’ weaknesses: impatience, moodiness, short temperament, impulsive and aggressive. Some of these are definite no-no’s in marketing and bad for business as a whole.

Courage in Marketing

Some of the best advertisements and marketing campaigns are incredibly bold and, quite frankly, take a lot of courage to execute. Enter an agency brainstorming session and you may hear some off the wall ideas being tossed around. Sometimes it’s the gutsiest, most implausible idea that ends up being the winner! As a creative, you have to be willing to push the envelope and try something new to stand out from the crowd.

Confidence in Marketing

Confidence is essential in any profession, but in marketing—this ever-changing industry with state-of-the-art technologies, popular culture, and creative trends—you have to exercise extra confidence in your campaigns and business choices in general. One of the best ways to maintain confidence in the marketing world is to educate yourself. Staying on top of creative and technology trends, or knowing about them, is a step in the right direction. Finding a great application or software that you tested and decided to fully integrate into your workflow is even better. You can use and test technologies to be able to recommend these beneficial products to your audience, your clients, and your colleagues. This positions you as a cutting-edge industry leader.

At the same time, having confidence in the creative aspect of your work is essential. When a business is considering hiring a marketing agency or when you are pitching a new idea for a campaign to your vice president, you want to have confidence in your idea and your ability to execute that idea. If you don’t, there are a dozen others who know their design ability is incredible and worthy. If you want someone to have enough confidence in your work to hire you, you first must demonstrate confidence.

Enthusiasm in Marketing

It’s difficult to market a product that you don’t feel connected to at least in some way. Enthusiasm for what you’re selling, whether it’s advertising or marketing, gives an authenticity to the work you do—without it, your copy may feel forced, the creative may wilt, and your interaction with the client or audience will feel fake. And, if you can be passionate about what you’re marketing, even better—you’re sure to create amazing campaigns that excite your audience.

Avoid: Impatience in Marketing

As the first sign of the zodiac, Aries often have a tendency to be impulsive and rush out to be first. However, great design doesn’t happen overnight and neither does great copywriting, or really, any element of marketing. Of course, there’s the occasional fluke where you get that winning idea in the shower, but don’t bank on those ideas.

A good example is website design and development, which can be an incredibly heavy workload, even when you stay organized and precise. Patience is key during a process of this magnitude, and not just for the creators. You have to learn how to manage the expectations of your stakeholders, so they fully understand the amount of time you need to do your best work for them. It’s ok to compress a timeline here and there, but be realistic about your deadlines and don’t let an impatient person rush you. Rushing a set of design mockups into development is not going to produce great work, and you may end up revisiting the rushed piece and spending more time and money in the long run anyway.

Avoid: Moodiness in Marketing

This one applies to nearly every aspect of life, but it’s especially true in the marketing world where you may be dealing with tight deadlines, budgets, and stakeholders. We know that being moody in business is taboo. Sometimes personality matches between teammates, employees, clients and vendors are as important as the work itself.

Moodiness also hampers productivity and morale. So, if you or your colleagues have a stressful project load with tight deadlines and budgets, having a moody co-worker adds more unnecessary stress. Check your emotional status and leave the mood swings at home.

We hope that you can take some of the above recommendations and apply them to your business or marketing plan. Stay tuned for the next zodiac sign, headstrong Taurus!

10 Creative Website Trends (With Examples!) for 2019

Many brands, big and small, have been giving their websites a stylistic refresh. These little touches can be simple tweaks to their logo and typography or added design elements that attract more attention, like illustrations and animation. There’s a reason for doing this and it’s quite simple; users are attracted to good design.

It’s All about the User

Users respond better to a well-designed website. We all know this intuitively when we’re searching for something on the internet; we are more likely to stay on a great site for longer and finalize purchases when the site is well-designed. And design trends seem to change every couple years. The list below is our look into the 15 creative website trends for this year. Many of these will be in style for quite some time, just because of their user-friendly ways. So, we encourage you to read about them and see how your site measures up (examples included).

10 Creative Website Trends

  • Organic Shapes

Web pages usually have a grid structure with squares and rectangles that give a sense of stability, but can feel clunky, too. Organic shapes are irregular and asymmetrical, providing depth to make page elements stand out. These elements are drawn from nature itself and develop a visual flow.

  • Retro

Those styles from years past never went away—they went underground. Experimenting with nostalgia finds the juxtaposition between the old and new. For many young people, retro designs can feel new or unique. Retro design elements can make a brand standout.

  • Asymmetrical Layouts

Pages don’t have to be on a grid anymore. It’s easier to make them more asymmetrical and it’s becoming more common to see out there. This pushes the boundaries of design, which helps draw more attention.

  • Illustrations

Companies looking for depth to their design should take a serious look at 3D and iconoclastic illustrations. The creative potential illustration brings can extend a brand outside what their competition is doing.

  • More Video

Integrated video captures the audiences attention quicker than text. It also boosts SEO ratings, because users spend more time on the page. Video is strategic.

  • Overlapping Design Elements

Much like asymmetrical designs, overlapping elements can bring more emphasis to content on the page. It also makes pages look more three dimensional when boxes are layered.

  • Large Navigation

Experimentation with navigation isn’t a new thing. So, websites choosing to push the boundaries with their design should look at making their navigation very large and the focal point of their site.

  • Storytelling

Better writing, such as storytelling, will keep visitors on the page. This is also a strategic move. More companies are looking for an emotional response from their marketing and this is definitely a great way to get it.

  • Serif Fonts

The style, arrangement, or appearance of letters on the page matters. Serif fonts create elegant titles and sophisticated headlines. Some can be retro with a modern twist.

  • Screen-Dominating Text

The text does the talking. It’s a headline they can’t ignore. Much like large navigation, this design makes the message the focal point and it should also entice users to investigate.

This is not an exhaustive list. There are other design choices on the front end that draw users in, and on the back-end there are ways to enhance performance, such as programming and plugins. However, some of these backend adjustments tend to require complete overhauls, depending on your current developer’s method. Some of these are best to add when you are completely redesigning your website, which you should consider doing every 3-6 years.

Our examples above are supposed to spark your imagination, hopefully showing you a few tweaks that may increase traffic and conversions on your website. Let us know which ones are on your wish list.