Fun, intelligent, charming and strong? What’s your character?
For years, we have been talking about branding in the sense of graphic designed marketing collateral and website developments. We forget to talk about what goes on behind the scenes to help enhance those pieces and bring companies to life. In the case of Spanish Schoolhouse, a Spanish immersion Preschool and Kindergarten school with 13 locations throughout Texas, they needed to bring themselves to life! When choosing a place to send your children, you want to connect with them. Your children are the most valuable gems you will ever possess in your lifetime. Yes, this is where I want to share a picture of my little Princess, but I’ll refrain from doing that, as this is a business blog. Such constraint! If you are a parent, you have or have had those exact feelings. Needless to say, Spanish Schoolhouse is the perfect example of where just pretty graphics aren’t going to work on selling to their clients. They needed something that would connect with their parents and students.
El Periquito Azul has been the mascot of SSH for years. He is a cute little guy that sits in the classrooms and the kids can take turns taking him home with them. Children LOVE stuffed animals and imaginary games, so this is absolutely perfect for them. Now, what do we do with turning that stuffed animal into the official mascot throughout their branding? I’m in favor of having this stuffed parrot photo bomb every photo we take and use of the children, but that might be overkill! Instead, we now have this fluffy guy vectorized into a character logo. But…is that enough? NOOOOO! El Periquito Azul needs to be brought to life!
As a child, I remember getting my first Barbie. She was this beautiful doll with one costume. To me, she was just Barbie. Then, all of a sudden, as a kid you start getting different outfits for Barbie and different hair styles, and soon, Barbie has a life of her own in your playroom, where she changes to go to the mall, changes to go to the beach, and so forth. This is the point, where Barbie came to life! She became my friend. No, I won’t admit to imaginary friends, but Barbie wasn’t imaginary. Barbie was special. She made me feel like I cared about her. I wanted her to be put away properly by sitting on a shelf, so she could watch what goes on. She would put on pajamas before bedtime. Now, picture doing that for your mascot or logo character of your company…did it just come to life in your mind?
For El Periquito Azul to come to life, we thought of the top few marketing pieces SSH uses. First, we always have summer camps! We need a fun loving summer parrot…how about tropical to imagine him on vacation! We definitely need a back to school parrot, so maybe a backpack and pile of books? For Christmas cards, I don’t know why El Periquito Azul can’t wear a Santa hat and wish everyone Felices Fiestas! There are many other places for our mascot friend to join us, but we’ll start here.
Vectoring a logo or character can take a lot of time, and as with websites, you don’t start the time consuming tasks until all designs are approved. That’s where our sketching comes in. Finding Stephen and getting him on our team was a dream come true, as not many people have the skillset he has to freehand sketch and to vectorize what he sketches. On the right, you’ll see some of the original sketches sent to Spanish Schoolhouse. Actually, this was after a round or two, and they are almost finalized here. The two right images are the back to school ones, showing the difference with a hat on him and with tennis shoes. Aren’t his shoes just adorable? What was decided was that we all liked the shoes, but not wearing a hat, so they got mixed together. Step one here is just about done, and we move into turning him into a real vector character that can be used anywhere in print or online media.
A vector file of your logo or character is the most valuable file you can possess in your business brand kit. Not only is it the branding of your company, but it is the raw file that can be turned into ANY file type somebody needs. A vector file is based on a series of points and lines instead of pixels. This makes your logo design very scalable and crisp. Vectorizing is a special skill that not everyone possesses. That’s not a bad thing, as we can’t all do everything. Stephen is our special tool that happens to be an amazing sketch artist and vectorizer. When creating logos, this is definitely a tool we need in our belt!
This can’t be a “how-to” blog, as we can’t simply teach you how to vector a character. Heck, half the the graphic designers out there can’t vector a character. Below, however, you’ll see how we turned El Periquito Azul into a living mascot for Spanish Schoolhouse. These are just a few of his new looks, but you never know where you’ll see him pop up! He might be on his way to school, and might be on vacation, but he’s definitely staying in the hearts of the SSH parents and students, where a simple mascot has gotten his wings!
Don’t you just love change? If not…stop reading this post! You don’t want to know that Facebook is going to force all business fan pages into the new timeline layout. On March 30th, all pages will be converted, whether they are ready or not. So, if you don’t like change…don’t get on your Facebook fan page after March 30th! Yes, you can do nothing about it…however, if you spend a little time, or hire a company to help you out, your fan page will make you look like a rock star! I’ll admit, I wasn’t happy about the change at first. We had just made an awesome welcome page that automatically came up with you come to our page. That’s not relevant anymore. After being upset, I decided to look more into it and see why the change is happening. What I’ll do here is briefly tell you what the changes are and why they are awesome, along with how to get going on your page.
Why Timeline is Awesome:
Before Timeline, there was only a 10% chance a fan would come back to your page for anything. They just see your posts on their news feed. Timeline is designed differently to help engage your fans and get them more involved. If you ask me, it’s almost like an individual website within Facebook. Here are some new additions:
- You now have the ability to pin a post to the top of your page. If you have one about an event, or anything else you want to be noticed, you can pin it to the top of your page, and it will stay there for a week. It keeps your most important info right in front of your targets.
- You now have the ability to send messages and chat directly with your fans! This might be my favorite new addition.
- While nobody can choose their landing page anymore, you get to have a huge cover image to show off your brand. This cover image reminds me of a website homepage. How do you want to be portrayed. Check ours out at www.facebook.com/visionarymarketing. Have fun with it and brand yourself!
- And last, but not least, notice the navigation below the cover photo. Just like you always could, you can have individual pages with different information. Before, however, your pages were hidden on the left of your screen. Now, they are up front and will guide your fans where you want them to go. Great for more interaction!
How to Do Your Own Page:
While there are tons of tutorials online, I’ll just go over the main key points on what you should do before March 30th.
First, and foremost, make sure your cover photo is taken care of. You want to make it 851 px x 315 px. Brand yourself, so have fun with it. However, you might want to follow Facebook’s guidelines:
- No price or purchase information. Do not include discounts, sale pricing, etc. Make sure you follow, or if you get reported by 1 fan, you will be reviewed, and the page will be taken down by Facebook.
- Do not include contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page’s About section.
- Do not include references to user interface elements, such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features.
- No calls to action, like “Get it Now” or “Share with Friends”
Might have too many guidelines, but they are wanting a uniform NON-SALESY look and feel to Facebook. You can include everything on your page, just not in your cover. It’s not good for business anyway, as the fastest way to lose a fan is to always sell to them via social media.
As you see on our page, we have a services tab and an open mic (blog) tab. Get creative! If you have a blog, you might as well have it there. Think of this as your website…what are the most important parts of your business to incorporate into your social media. You can change these tabs anytime, so go ahead and get creative. If you don’t know how to create a tab, there’s an app for that! One that I used that is very popular is Involver. They have some basic free ones, that are great, like the blog one. Then, make an image and change it in the settings for a nice navigation look!
If you aren’t the type to go and make your own Facebook Timeline, go ahead and give us a call. We are doing this for a very affordable price right now to make sure our clients and fans have their best foot forward. I hope you got something from my long-winded post here. If you have any questions, let me know!
“Organizations cannot afford not to be listening to what is being said about them, or interacting with their customers in the space where they are spending their time and, increasingly, their money too.” ~ Malcolm Alder, KPMG’s Economy Practice, KPMG in Australia
As I was a shy child (way long time ago), I think I would have cringed at the idea of social media when I was in high school and college. There is something about hiding that still appeals to me today. I could only imagine if parents could have checked up on me in college by viewing my Facebook pictures. Whew…thanks goodness I made it through before cell phones to call home regularly and before social media to track my every move.
Now, however, as a business owner, social media is my friend. I might have gotten addicted to Facebook for my personal life too, but that’s a whole different topic! As a business owner, I know I need to stay fresh in the eyes of my clients and prospects. We need to portray our company in the personality that we want to be known by, and leave that ever so sought after first impression. I’ll admit, I didn’t want that additional task to add to my list of duties, or the list of a team member’s duties. We are all working hard over here, but somewhere…time had to be found!
Too many companies treat social media as a one-size fits all. If all companies don’t have the same marketing strategy for their business growth, then they shouldn’t have the same social media strategy either. What works for one company may not work for you. Sure, we can all take lessons from how social media giants like Chick-fil-a and Nike keep their information fresh, offer deals and promotions and keep their audience entertained. But when it comes down to it, you need to do what works for your company. What works for your clients and prospects. There is no one-size fits all strategy behind it.
Many more posts will be coming about social media, but first and foremost, make sure your social media plan incorporates the following key ingredients:
- Keep it Fresh! Your target audience is looking for fresh ideas and a source of knowledge. Make sure your plan incorporates a timeline of when you need to be thinking of new topics.
- Don’t Sell! There is nothing worse than following or liking a business and being sold to every day. Retail stores need to post sales and coupons, but most of us don’t. When a follower feels like they are being sold to because they like your page, they can simply unlike it as fast as they liked it. Remember, social media is NOT a direct sales tool. Yes, sales come from it, but they come from you building your brand and building a loyal following based on your perceived personality. Direct sales pieces bring in clients for a transactional deal. Social media brings them in for life!
- Quality NOT Quantity! There is a misinterpretation when it comes to staying in front of your followers. They aren’t on social media to follow only your company. They are on it for friendships, relationships and knowledge. Companies that post every day are very likely to get ALL of their posts hidden from being as bad as spam. Make sure what you post is interesting and targeted to your audience. Build loyalty versus annoyance!
When we work with our clients on social media, we’ll start by building a brand image. Then, we’ll work with the client on a social media strategy that is just for them. What’s their personality, and how can we portray it to make then stand out when somebody is looking for their product or service. When doing social media yourself, make sure to follow the simple rules above, and you’ll be on the right track! However…don’t take a break…social media doesn’t have downtime!
Last, but not least, I have to show you the best cartoon I’ve found on the effects of social media. Check it out below from Mashable!
After having lunch, I have food on my mind, so with that thought I would like to share about one of our personal clients that serves up some of the best pizza in town, Urban Crust! They are located in historic downtown Plano and offer a selection of gourmet wood-fired pizzas and specialty crafted drinks.
I always enjoy when they have new projects for us because that usually involves a meeting at the restaurant with a great lunch! Just thinking about it makes me hungry! (Shameless plug… you can get the Urban Lunch for only $8.90 and it includes a personal pizza or panini, cup of soup or Caesar salad, and a drink. GREAT DEAL!)
Evey month they have a new Pizza of the Month and Drink of the Month. This is definitely not your typical pizza place. Every specialty pizza is made up of the finest imported and local ingredients. Chef Salvatore has created some of the most delicious pizzas and entrees in town! One of my favorites is the Black & Blue pizza topped with basil pesto, sirloin, portobellos, caramelized onions, and bleu cheese.
Not only is the food great, but the location and atmosphere make for a great night out! The rooftop bar, 32 Degrees, is the perfect place to hang out with friends or enjoy a drink after work. Happy Hour specials are available through out the work week!
If you haven’t been, I encourage you to go check it out! Whether you’re looking for a good meal for the entire family, a special night out, work lunch, or just a place to chill, Urban Crust offers a ton of variety and food for all! To find out more, visit their website that we designed and built! You can find some of their specials and also see why we love working with them!
Helvetica is one the most popular and well-known typefaces. It was designed by Max Miedinger with Eduard Hoffmann in 1957. The video above is the trailer for the full length film called non other than Helvetica. The documentary looks at how type affects our daily lives. Design culture is all around us and most often times people are too busy to even notice.
Graphic designers and other people who are in the design industry understand the importance and the power of good typography. The font chosen for a logo or other marketing pieces can make or break the entire design. Of course there are thousands of fonts to choose from, so it is important to decide what personality or meaning you are wanting to convey to your audience as you are deciding on the look and feel of your design.
And if all else fails and the font world seems too overwhelming, Helvetica is always a good choice! It is timeless, clean, and great for numerous types of uses because of its various forms and styles. You would be surprised how often this particular typeface pops up in your daily life – from companies you support, signage around your city, to federal income tax forms – Helvetica is all around you.
It’s Trade Show season! Yes, one of the most fun seasons of all, if you do it right. For most industries, we know trade shows are the necessary evil that get us a splurge of business in a quick amount of time. Worst case scenario is that you come home with lots of contacts that you need to follow up with, and a slight headache from attending too many of the cocktail hours they provide for attendees. I’ve actually heard people end a show with “What a waste of my time. I didn’t get any business.” Really? If that’s your opinion, please, please don’t sign up for another trade show. Or, do some research before you attend! RESEARCH HOW TO USE A TRADE SHOW TO YOUR ADVANTAGE! Exhibiting at trade shows isn’t cheap, so make sure you do it right the first time. I’m not going to say every show is amazing…but you have to make the most of it, and you will have at least a few contacts that will remember you and you can sell to them with a little follow up. The follow-up after a show is a whole different ball game, so today, we’ll stick to the most common pitfalls.
- Procrastinating! – Just because lots of people procrastinate, doesn’t mean you need to. Trust me, a trade show is not going to be as effective if you procrastinate! First, if you don’t get your booth reserved by the early registration date, you get to pay more. Not to mention, you’ll be having a leftover spot in the corner! Now, as you know we do graphic design, we can attest to how many people call us a week before a show for show materials. Hopefully, we can fit the graphics into our schedule in time to get it off to a printer and pay a rush fee. Don’t forget all of the rush fees for promotional products, too. And, without enough time to plan, effectiveness of your booth will NEVER be maximized!
- Over or Under Staffing Your Booth – Plan for the audience! If you have never exhibited at a specific show before, call another exhibitor to ask how fast the crowds come by. Typically, the show planner will promise many more attendees than will show, so get your info from another exhibitor. If you over staff your booth will look like too many people are wasting time. If under staffed, you will lose lots of business opportunities. Do some research here and try to get the number right for the show!
- Not Giving Yourself Enough Time to Set-Up – Oftentimes, exhibitors are given the evening before the show to set-up. Many exhibitors skip the set-up til the morning of the show. First, do you realize how much commotion is going on in the exhibit hall? It’s crazy in there. If you need to push a dolly, good luck getting it down an aisle the morning of the show. And, if you forgot one little item, you have no chance to go back and get it. When shows open, typically, there was a breakfast for attendees, and they pour in all at one time. An unprepared exhibitor will miss the largest rush of attendees by setting up too late. Make sure you are ready to go the second the show doors open, and you aren’t too worn out from last minute preparation!
- Ignoring Follow-Up – Before you exhibit at a show, you should already have a follow-up plan in place. Yes, I’m skipping this topic for another day, but the biggest mistake is to not be prepared for follow-up…huge loss of opportunity kinda makes the whole show worthless, doesn’t it?
A couple weeks ago, I was asked by a friend to help her son’s cub scout den earn their art badges. An art badge to me means “artist” and for some reason I barely even think of myself as an artist. I create everything on a computer, so I couldn’t possibly be an artist. Wow…where has my open mind gone? I was asked to talk to the boys about careers in art. After I got my open mind back, I had no problems thinking about careers in art. I actually had a problem stopping the list! We talked about a typical paint artist, book illustrators, graphic artists (me!), interior designers, architects, how chefs truly use artistic ability to design plates of food, and how basically everything you see was created by an artist in one way or another. Oh, and as they were 9 year old boys, we had to talk about video game designers, of course!
I’ve spoke to many organizations about marketing and websites, but this is my very first time with 9 year old kids. It was truly an honor to see such amazing gentlemen being raised. This boys were polite and respectful, which is more than we can say about most adults watching speakers…you know who you are! Needless to say, I’m proud to know that children are learning about different career paths at such a young age, and I’m proud to know we are going to have some amazing gentlemen in our future. Way to go parents!
This video made by Jesse Rosten is not only funny, but as a designer, I appreciate the pure creativity behind it. Of course, it is mocking today’s beauty standards, but like Rosten said in his comments about the video, “This commercial isn’t real, and neither are society’s standards of beauty.”
Rosten actually came up with the idea after watching an infomercial for a beauty product. He thought about how the before/after photo they used basically looked like it was only photoshopped and not real. The majority of photos that are seen in magazines have been edited. The models and the celebrities that grace the covers are of course beautiful and appear perfect, but they too have flaws just like the rest of us. It is definitely reassuring to know that they do not even look like that in real life.
Photoshop can do wonders for anyone! It’s true, all the things Fotoshop by Adobé does in the video are tools and techniques that can be used in Photoshop. Too bad this product does not exist in real life, otherwise, we all could look like super models with just a mere touch from the healing brush! But no, that would be too easy! We don’t want give any models a run for their money. Maybe one day, scientists will in fact create pro-pixel intensifying fauxtanical hydro-jargon microbead extract infused with nutritive volumizing technology and we all can look picture perfect!
INCREASE SALES…the top goal for most companies. Now, that’s a great goal for the sales department. However, when working with the marketing department, you need to make sure they have the creative license to establish objectives in reaching these goals. Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? However, the way those business goals translate into objectives, specifically with marketing, is the secret sauce that ultimately determines whether you succeed or blow another budget on creativity.
Turning Goals into Objectives
First and foremost, make sure you provide Marketing with the sales goals. Without translating that purpose into actionable marketing objectives that align the product attributes, brand assets and user needs, Marketing will most likely end up producing catchy taglines that message the benefits of the product or how to use it.
Meanwhile, the what, why and who have vanished into the interdepartmental abyss, leaving the business and consumer at the mercy of Marketing’s creative interpretation of best sellers.
Instead, at this critical stage, marketing teams need to formulate actionable objectives and working strategies in cooperation with those who set the goals, make the product and know the target audience.
If you had to create cooperation between everybody, start by stating the sentence that comprises these three phases:
- In order to (insert objective)
- We will (define a strategy)
- By (list creative tactics that solve the problem)
For example, if goal is to increase sales, an objective may be to drive performance of your best target customer while in the consideration state. The marketing team comes to this objective by conducting their research, identifying the best target audience and recognizing how target customers research products.
Now, drop those elements into the framework above you and you get: “In order to drive preference with suburban sale chasers during the consideration phase, we will activate the online voice of existing customers by creating a game that requires multiple reviews on Facebook and Yelp and that focuses on the reliability of the product.”
Voila! Now that’s a different answer than…”more marketing, more marketing.” More marketing doesn’t necessarily mean you will increase sales. More marketing means you need to research the proper channels and choose the appropriate strategies for your objectives. For many, social media and online strategies will be utilized. However, for some, that is still not the case on reaching the target audience. Figuring out the secret sauce is key to your success!
Originally written November 2010: Yep, you heard it…WE WON! OK, so we didn’t win for the best chili, but Visionary Marketing’s Chili in Paradise booth took 1st place in the Best Decorated Booth category. For a marketing agency, I feel like we won gold in the Olympics!
Each year, the Allen Rotary Club hosts the Allen Chili Cook-off in October or November. All proceeds go through the Rotary Club to some great local charities. I’ve had the privilege of being a Rotarian for a few years, and I started in this amazing club. Come to think of it…I got this event up and running for its first year in 2009. I’ve moved to a Plano club, but couldn’t be prouder of this one for the amazing job they do with such a great event for the community.
Kale and I are huge Jimmy Buffet fans, so how could we not go with this theme for our booth. Last year, we only took 2nd place, but we decided to spruce it up a little to take home the Gold! Yes, the margarita bottle was new this year. No way, was I coming in second twice! If it takes a large margarita bottle to win, then I’m game. If it takes a full service bar in my booth next year, I’m game with that too! Cheers to the VMD team for putting this together, and cheers to everyone else who participates in their local community!