BoyDog Design
Design and more…

I received a phone call out of the blue – a local company wanted me to meet with them, asap, about their advertising. I did a little online research and went through the local paper to get a feel for them, their competition, and what I might expect.

I had a total of two meetings with this company. The first was rushed, unfocused and full of expectations. I was supposed to take the tidbits of information that were thrown at me and turn them into a fully viable campaign. To top it all off, I was not allowed (in their minds) to charge for any of the pre-production costs. That would include coming up with a concept, working on a mutually acceptable concept to fruition and then the time it would take to develop the ads associated with that concept. According to the owner, he felt that these steps were of no value to him and so he wasn’t obliged to pay for them. Every internal early warning system of impending peril sounded the alarm at this point.

Research has always been my starting point. I can’t do your product or service justice if I don’t understand exactly what you offer and how you fit in among your competition. I probably appeared to be a nag at this point because my main focus was developing the best approach to their advertising which required as much information as they could give me.

Days later, without warning, it was requested that I come in again for another meeting, asap. We sat down at the table and I was asked to “show me what you’ve got”. Poof!!! It was expected that I would produce for them the proverbial “rabbit out of the hat”.  They actually expected me to hand over a full campaign. Done. Ready to submit.

So here is my advice for anyone wishing to engage a professional designer, copywriter, etc. Do not expect successful results from inadequate preparation. There is a saying that comes to mind in regard to advertising, “Garbage goes in – Garbage comes out”. (Yes, I cleaned that up quite a bit…) If you’re not prepared to become a partner with your professional, then don’t waste your time and theirs. If you can’t understand that their time is worth as much as yours you shouldn’t expect much of anything to come out of any meeting.

You see – Advertising is NOT Magic! It’s a skill set based on education (through research), planning, and implementation utilizing skills which require the expenditure of time. Taking short cuts in any one of those will result in a faulty presentation focused on the wrong market with a shoddy appearance. Everyone involved in the advertising process hopes for success. The client looks for a positive return on his investment and the creative team wants to fulfill the obligation they accepted when they won the account.

If you recognize a part of yourself in the demon in this tale you should know that you can always change your point of view. Start looking at your creative team as vital participants in your success. Enjoy their expertise and learn to profit from it. Respect their talents and be prepared to pay for them. If you’re on a creative team, always remember that your first priority is to supply your client with the best you can do. Respect your client’s time and his budget. It’s all about teamwork.

I just added a new page –  “My Library” –  I have a great collection of books. They come in handy when you need inspiration or a helping hand. I’ll keep adding to my lists as my library grows. I hope you find these books helpful.

Do you ever have difficulty getting your point across? Have you ever received the following responses to your attempt to communicate? “I see what you’re saying…” “I get it, loud and clear…” “What a touching story…” We all receive information through a dominant sense.

Some of us are more receptive to visual stimulation. Communication would be most effective using visual media – color, photos, video, and movement. Then there are those who receive information through sound. They listen with focus and can perceive every inflection in a voice. It’s imperative that the sound of your presentation match the information you wish to pass along. And finally there are people who feel what you’re trying to communicate. They internalize information and translate it into an emotion. For them a rich dialogue filled with descriptions that translate emotion would work best.

It might seem that knowing this would make your job more difficult. Actually it’s to your advantage to recognize that you need to communicate on multiple levels through multiple media. Without this knowledge you could easily be cutting out an important sector of your market. An avoidable disconnect simply because you haven’t supplied the proper medium of communication. Your message won’t be effective if it can’t be seen, heard, or felt.

When developing a marketing plan, an advertising campaign, collateral materials, or your brand’s image it’s imperative that you incorporate all of the senses. Utilize the media that’s available to you to reach out to everyone. There is no set rule to follow. You will need to review the way you currently approach your market and critique the way you communicate. Is there something for everybody?

By carefully constructing your communication to be seen, heard, and felt you will reach every sense with clarity and comprehension. A sight oriented ad will imprint vivid images with your corresponding message. A well spoken presentation with the correct inflection and tone will influence the sound dominant person. An emotionally rich and descriptive ad, brochure, or commercial allows someone to feel your message. All senses will be receptive and the dominant sense will aid in comprehension and retention. The outcome should be more successful communication that requires less explanation and is processed and retained with greater impact.

I ask you now to think about this… See if you get it. Do you hear what I’m saying? Do you feel how important this can be when communicating with your target market?

Have you ever wondered why certain types of businesses seem to always advertise with the same style? Each approaching their market with the same information presented in the same way. In advertising success is rewarded with duplication. The mindset is if it worked for them it will work for us. There is tremendous pressure to insure success in a campaign. Unfortunately, that logic will only get you so far. Always following and never leading sets you up to perpetually be “Number Two” at best and “Just Another One” at worst.

Part of building brand strength is differentiating your product or service from your competition. What makes you relevant to your market? Why you and not them? Leadership in your sector of the market will result in greater brand stature. Stature is demonstrated by the consumer’s response.

There is no need to step away from tried and true media. If it is working for you it would be foolish not to incorporate it in your overall plan. But, you owe it to your bottomline to explore new approaches to reach your market. Think less about what everyone else is doing and focus solely on your message and the avenues available to you to express it.

Try New Media

For many small businesses the local newspaper seems like the way to go. It’s the medium that’s stood the test of time. Print media is losing its market share. More and more the digital world is colliding head-on with print media, offering the same information at a lower cost if not for free. Step out of that comfort zone and see what web-based advertising and e-mail can do for you.

Change Your Voice

Try a different approach. If you’ve always flaunted the value of your product or service maybe now is the time to shine a light on the quality, availablility, expandablility, reliablility, as well as other traits you haven’t brought to the spotlight.

Reevaluate Your Market

Maybe now is the time to focus on a niche market. A market you speak directly to and therefore have your message received with more impact. Take a good look at your current market and see if you find a segment that’s at a tipping point. Perhaps a little more attention and information will win them over to your product.

Court An As Yet Untapped Market

If you take the time to examine who is, will, and could be interested in what you offer you may come across an entirely new customer base you’ve overlooked. People are always discovering things, things they didn’t know they wanted before, things they never thought would be useful, products and services they’ve simply overlooked. It may have been your message or your presentation. It may have been your price or your availability. Time spent reviewing your current focus may surprise you with a new source of revenue.

Tweak A Product’s Look Or Presentation

It amazes me how successful a new look can be in sparking interest in a long-running product. Redesigning packaging, updating a logo, new literature, changing colors and fonts – all of these require a second look. Suddenly your product appears fresh and requires renewed interest. Just walk down any supermarket aisle and check out the packaging. The products are the same. But their look has changed and now you are drawn to items you would have passed by before. Seriously, the next time you go to a store and find your eye drawn to a product take the time to be conscious of what alerted you to that item. If it’s a new look take the time to analyse the changes. Remember what it looked like the last time you noticed it. These responses happen so quickly we are almost oblivious to them.

Find A New Partner In Your Supply Chain

Whether you’re a one shop business or a chain of stores, whether you work freelance or have a group of people working with you, whether you sell one product or many, you can always benefit by expanding your availability. Seek partnerships that will expand the availability of your product or service, broaden the recognition of what your offer, or alleviate your production expenses.

After exploring the resources I’ve outlined above, be mindful of what will work for you. Put together a plan of action and don’t fear becoming what your market wants. Expanding your reach, reinventing your voice and presentation, and economizing in the production of your product or service should result in a growing bottomline. It’s important that you remember that whether you continue on the same path or decide to make changes, never promise more than you can deliver.

Judging from the popularity of GPS technology, I’d say we are a world that wants to know exactly where we’re going. So why is it that when your marketing plan is involved you haven’t set a destination? Without a map to a specific destination you can’t blame anyone but yourself if you don’t arrive where you want to be.

It’s always surprising for me to find out that a client hasn’t taken the time to prepare a marketing plan. Whether monthly, quarterly, or yearly, you need to know what you plan to do and what you hope the outcome will be.

Let’s run through some scenarios:

1 – A company is noticing a drop in sales and only then decides that they need to make some changes. They have no marketing plan and only advertise as they can afford it and in the same media. Their first inclination is to blame their advertisng for not resulting in more sales. Of course, they haven’t set any goals and they haven’t paid particular attention to the quality of the ads they’ve put out. I’d say they brought their current fiscal condition on themselves. Without a planned approach to marketing your product or service you will never know if your goals are being met, you will not have the flexibility to make adjustments during the year to fit a specific need, and you will not be able to rest the blame solely on your advertising.

2 – A company sets out with a marketing plan for the year and never sets goals. They have no focus on the return required of each aspect of their plan or the plan as a whole. Just because you took the time to write out a marketing plan and made sure the numbers were right for your budget does not ensure success. To truly measure your return on investment (yes, the perpetual ROI) you need to qualify what success will entail. Is it a dollar amount in sales? Is it building your brand? Is it focusing on local markets? Is it clearing out stock that’s been sitting around for too long? The qualifying event that represents success needs to be clear.

3 – A company sets out at the beginning of the year booking ads and registering for trade shows. They also decide to rework some literature and participate is a direct mail campaign. Sounds great. Sounds like they’ve got it all together. Oh, did I mention that they neglected to formalize their intentions in a marketing plan and, into the second quarter, they realize that company economics have shifted and they don’t have enough money to continue on their path. The most important part of their year is the third quarter when the majority of the trade shows they attend are scheduled. Now, they don’t know if they should attend or, if they do, if they’ll have the budget to do it the right way. They might have to forego revised literature and perhaps skip the pre-trade show direct mail campaign. Sounds like they’re in for some rough sailing.

It all could have been avoided if they had written out their marketing plan. Something tangible to review and adjust. If you have your plan in front of you with the costs clearly stated you allow yourself the luxury of adjustment. Your plan allows you to see what’s coming down the road. It allows you to make your way through rough spots during the year and still accomplish your goal. I’ve had to do it myself numerous times. Most often it’s due to a shrinking budget. It’s not an easy task, but it is doable. Your marketing plan will allow you to make educated adjustments instead of “shoot from the hip” decisions.

4 – Sometimes the hardest thing to do is try something different, something that has no proven results. There will be times when you need to think out of the box and make adjustments to your marketing plan. If a company doesn’t take the time to develop its plan it will make measuring the effectiveness of new choices a harder process. If you know that you want to add new media to the mix this year, you owe it to yourself to put it in a deliberate marketing plan in order to know if you’re reaching your goal. With a full-fledged plan you will be able to judge if the new media is working or not. If it needs a little tweaking. If it needs to be reinforced with even more coverage. You can document the effectiveness of your campaign and make the necessary changes if you know the who, what, where, when, why, and cost of everything in your marketing program.

It’s not too late to put your plan together. If you don’t have one yet, do it now. With the economic environment we’re all facing at the present time, it’s paramount that every business use every possible tool to ensure success. Dropping the ball by neglecting to develop a marketing plan is a foolish risk that noone can afford. All it takes is focus, time, and planning.

If you’ve spent any time at all viewing my website, it’s pretty obvious that my answer to that question is a resounding NO. Alas, there are many of you who just won’t allow yourself to jump in to the beautiful world of color. Maybe you think you’re going to make a mistake. Maybe you lack confidence in the effectiveness of color. Maybe you just never gave it much thought. Whatever the case, you owe it to yourself to explore the use of color in your marketing.

First off you need to recognize that colors influence individuals in a subjective way. Overall, colors have a distinctive connotation. It’s something that’s been passed down through time and we’ve all incorporated these views without realizing it. If I say – purple – do you think “royalty”. If I say – red – do you think “love”. And how about “black”? In the US black is associated with death, but in China, for example, white is associated with death. Keep that in mind if your business is international. You should be aware of the culturally assigned meanings to colors.

And going along with the subjective view of color, it’s apparent that we all see color a little differently. Some of us, not at all. For example, if you were working up a campaign for a senior audience, it’s best to maintain mid-hues because there is a gradual loss of perception in high contrast color combinations. For babies, their color perception develops gradually. Infants process color in the right side of their brain whereas adults process color in the left side. Babies see pure color compared to the translated color observed by adults. The reason for this is the introduction of language. Language is processed on the left side of our brains and as we connect the color to the word our perception changes. Cool, isn’t it?…

And if you can’t see color, that’s no excuse at all. I once had a graphic designer who worked with me and it was months before he confessed that he was color blind. He managed to do wonderful work by keeping his markers in a row. Somehow he knew what the color was provided it resided in a specific spot on his work area. He didn’t appreciate a practical job played on him some time after the revelation. Someone (who shall remain nameless) switched his markers around. Needless to say he was not amused.

Let’s not forget about trends in color. What’s IN one season will be OUT the next. Or so you are led to believe. For Spring 2009 lavender has been declared the IT  fashion color.
Pantone announced that the color of the year for 2009 is Mimosa

How about automobiles – what do the color choices tell us? Back in the 80’s the colors were combinations to invoke a luxurious expensive vibe. Not your basic blue, but a combo of colors to create a rich blue. And we all acknowledge the appeal of a red sports cars? Today, you’ll find that along with our desire for technology the colors used will have metalics added to create the illusion of techno relevance. I’m not making this up. You’re seeing what you crave.

Now let’s return to how color can make a difference in your marketing plan. Hopefully you all realize that color is part of your brand. Your logo, and everything else associated with your business that you use to communicate with your market should have a consistent color choice. Continuity is key. Without continuity recognition of your brand becomes more difficult. With it, you build your brand. You imbed your product or service in the minds of current and potential consumers. Every effort should be made to choose the appropriate color. What does it say about you?

I can give you a real life example of the impact of color. A few years back I was asked to develop advertising campaigns for laboratory equipment. In the biotech/pharmaceutical industries there isn’t room to stray from the facts. You are obligated to state the facts to enable the buyer to decide if your product is exactly what they need. You can’t fudge the facts, you can’t blow smoke, you can’t do anything that goes off-message. But, you want to stand out in the crowd. The predominant media choice was trade magazines. Going through them I couldn’t help but notice that all the ads looked alike. A headline, a photo, a description of the piece of equipment and maybe some specs. Pretty dry. I realized that the only thing I could change was the use of color and so that’s where I focused my attention. Over the next few months I incorporated color into the ads. A choice that didn’t go over too well in the beginning. Patience and repetition prevailed. Over time it was easy to recognize our ads. There was no doubt about it. And interestingly enough other things started to change. I was asked to design the control panels for lab equipment. I used color here too and soon our equipment had that spark of freshness and forward-thinking that was missing in the competition. Some time went by and eventually the use of color became a more accepted practise in designing lab equipment. Ask yourself, why should a lab technician have to stare at an uninspiring piece of equipment all day when they could just as well have something that’s pleasing to the eye in the room with them? It was a success story. The brand became strong, sales increased and now a 50-year old company was associated with building a quality product and developing trends.

Update: Great Article – “Color Therapy To Beat Recession Blues”

Increasingly the focus has turned to metrics to measure the success of a marketing plan. One of the aspects that’s up for review will be your database of leads. It seems more and more companies have become obsessed with the length of their database versus the quality of the leads they’ve collected. It’s easy to get off target when you feel the pressure to produce a list of current and potential customers to aim your message to. Think for a minute – what would be more beneficial to you as the person responsible for marketing and ultimately the company? An extensive database of names or businesses that might produce marginal results in generating sales or a smaller qualified database that would have a greater potential for ending in a successful sale? I know what my answer would be…

Let’s review some of the ways you might collect data and discuss the effectiveness of the resulting information.

1 – When people call your place of business inquiring about your product or service you ask for contact information. The very fact that they’ve initiated the call qualifies the lead.

2 – You cold call a list of people or businesses that were picked randomly based on area code or some other broad category. While this attempt might result in interest down the road, you would have greater success with calls made to individuals or businesses that already have some connection to your product or service. They use a competitors product, they work within the same industry, etc.

3 –  You send out direct mail pieces hoping for a good response. You even have a perforated section on the mailer hoping the recipient returns it with their contact information. I won’t discuss the effectiveness of this tactic right now, but if you do get a response that is definitly a qualified lead.

4 – You attend a tradeshow and you aggressively hand out business cards and accept business cards from everyone who passes by or is willing to stop for the exchange. You then catalog all of the information on those cards. If the tradeshow is industry related you, at least, have a related audience. If it’s a generic trade show, (Ex: Chamber of Commerce) attended by various trades, you’re less likely to connect with someone who has a direct interest in your product or service. I’m not saying you shouldn’t attend these shows, please do. Just keep your lead generation goal in mind when you’re there.

5 – You rely on passed along information from a third party who thinks that someone or some business might be interested in you. Unless they know for sure that there’s a definite need on the part of that lead for your specific product or service, you either will or will not have a qualified lead.

I think I’ve given you enough examples for you to see the process. The closer the connection to you and the lead regarding the fulfillment of their specific need the more qualified that lead becomes. It’s up to you to decide how you want to accumulate and process your leads. You can easily separate the information into categories of HOT, WARM, or COLD. Once you’ve set up your database, guard it. Don’t allow your hard earned information to find its way to your competitor. (Remember to BCC your e-mail communication!) Groom your database on a regular basis. Purge or move to another category the leads that no longer work or have changed in status. And always continue to add to your database. It can mean money in the bank because it’s your lifeline to your true target market.

And whatever you do – don’t forget to back-up your files!

It happens all the time, well not ALL the time, but enough to be dam uncomfortable. As I indulge myself in everything current in graphic design I find that my brain will sometimes have difficulty handling all the information I’m trying to stuff in there. It’s part of my ODD – Obsessive Design Disorder. Instead of being satisfied with what I know and use on a regular basis, I’m always tempted by the latest software, script, photoshop technique, upgrade, update, device, you name it.

I am reminded of the episode of “Married with Children” when Al was trying to teach Kelly everything she could ever need to know about sports in order to be successful on a game show. At some point she was FULL and from that point on every new trivia item stuffed in her brain resulted in another item being lost forever. 

There are days when I’m trying to multi-task my way to oblivion. I’m working on a project while my mind is half focused on something new that I want to learn or use (usually for that project). There are no hours in that day for me. I only notice the time when my head starts to hurt, I look up from my computer and realize that my day is done along with my mental status. From that moment on all I hear is “wheeby geeby goobledy gook”. My hardrive is full and I need to remove something in order to get my head processing again. At least let it cool down so it’s running at the right speed again.

It doesn’t matter how many times I do this to myself, I know, given the oportunity I’m going to cram as much in my head as possible. It will be interesting to see if any of this helps me down the road as I age. I hear that if you use it you won’t lose it. At the rate I’m going my mental capacity should be exponentially greater when I’m 90 than it is now.

Sometimes I feel like I’m possessed – by DESIGN. I’ll be staring off into space, but I’m not disconnected. I’m staring at a poster, an ad, some combination of colors that I find fascinating, a commercial on t.v., a book cover, magazine article, really, just about anything these days. Let’s face it, we’re confronted by design each and every day. I doubt many of you (unless you’re a designer too) see and feel the nuances of type, color, design as intensely as some of us do.

I will see a commercial on t.v. and think to myself, “I know who did that.” Or I’ll be looking at something as simple as a menu and be fixated on the kerning of the type. I can’t help but scrutinize all things “media” that come my way. At the moment, I’m fascinated with the way media is the catalyst for human behavior.

I hope to bring some of what I observe to your attention in the future. Maybe you’ll see it my way/maybe you won’t. Ah, but that’s the beauty of design. It’s in the eyes of the beholder. What might work on me, will fall flat or be unnoticed by you. Let’s see if we both “get it”…

In the business world I’ve been taught that time is money. You need to get it done, get it done right, and get it done now. So, you’d think that maturity and experience would be a big plus. Hold on there… it’s not that simple.

I followed life’s path for me and when the time was right I decided to follow my passion – design. Life had decided that wouldn’t happen until I was “older”. So off I went to college, feeling that I would sort of stick out in the crowd. That notion was more in my head than in anyone else’s. While I was embraced by both students and faculty with the same warmth as if I was 20, when it came to the actual work that we were expected to produce I was a fossil. Not that I couldn’t produce work with a timely style and vibe, I could. There was this overwhelming focus on everything that came out of someone in their early twenties. It was like they had graphic gold flowing through their veins. I got the impression that all you had to do was take any one of their ideas and clean it up and bang – you had an award-winning piece. Whether an editorial page, an book cover, or an advertisement, youth-induced design was gold and mine was old. I still can’t quite wrap my head around that. 

Fast forward to the years after college and I’ve found that what you really need to focus on is good design and quality work. Nothing else. Of course you have to stay up on trends and you should always pay attention to the work of others. Both as a source of inspiration and to know when your idea isn’t as fresh as you thought it was. If I can convey the message I need to and wrap it in graphics that work for the viewer, I’ve done my job. If the message results in the return expected by the client, I’ve succeeded in my business. And, if people unrelated to the project happen to appreciate it too, what more can you ask for. 

The bottomline is to let go of all preconceived notions of what is “in” and what it “out”. Work to solve the problem which is how to execute your design so it fulfills the needs of your client (and hopefully it turns out to be something you’re proud of too). If you’re lucky enough to work with a client who will let you be an innovator, go for it. If you have to work within set parameters, do it. But do it with flare. As a professional designer you should be respected for your talents, your experience, and your understanding of the goal. Forget about how old the designer is and remember that you and your client have come together to solve a problem. How will you communicate with your market? How will you convey the message that needs to be heard? When the problem is successfully solved does it really matter if the designer is 20-something or not?