June 18, 2013
So, where was I? Oh yes, logos and the incredibly important role they play in how the world sees the companies they represent.
The first step is asking for help. Thankfully The Marketing Machine is ready and able to help you launch your logo development project. Following is a brief description of the approach we take to helping you arrive at the logo that best portrays the essence of your brand.
1) Discovery – We’ll ask you to fill out a questionnaire that’s intended to reveal many of the fundamental characteristics of your company. After reviewing the completed questionnaire, we’ll interview you about everything from your brand’s personality to your market, competition, target audience and products/services.
2) Development & Strategy – From the information gleaned during the Discovery phase, we’ll create a creative brief that we’ll review with you before creative development begins. This step is essential in ensuring that we’ve plotted a clear, accurate path.
3) Creative Concepting & Logo Design – Using the creative brief as a map, our creative team begins researching, brainstorming and gathering inspiration that will ultimately lead them to a few worthy concepts that we feel represent your brand.
4) Finalizing Logo Design – We’ll meet with you to unveil and explain the rationale for each concept. We expect you to take 2-3 days to consider the options, and once we have your feedback, we’ll incorporate any tweaks and send back for your approval.
5) Once we’ve arrived at an approved logo, you’ll receive a logo CD as well as access to your logo files via our website library.
Ultimately, our strategy for creating successful logos is tried and true, so if you find yourself in need of a new or fresh logo, just remember the first step…
Once you have a logo, you’ll probably need to decide what to do with it. Have no fear…we’re here to assist in establishing an overall look-and-feel for any identity & marketing materials you may require. View our check list!
June 13, 2013
We’ve all heard a lot about content marketing over the past few years — that is, producing and sharing relevant informational content as a means of staying in front of, and ideally engaging with, prospects/customers. It costs money, takes time, and in the face of an ever-rising flood of internet pages, it can sometimes feel like you’re a kid spitting in the Atlantic.
Maybe that’s why many business leaders still question why anyone would choose to put more than a token investment into this “passive” approach vs. straight-up selling.
But here’s the thing: People are always on the lookout for answers to their problems, for good ideas that can make work and life better, for people and companies they want to do business with. They search online, they search in the store, they ask people they know. Thanks to good marketing, referrals and convenient “shares” online, they even find brilliant ideas they weren’t looking for at all.
All of this falls under the broad term “content marketing.” We believe content marketing — with the proper strategy and monitoring — is a necessary piece of the marketing mix. So after reading a recent helpful article by Joe Polizzi (we don’t know him, only his work, BTW), called “Measuring the impact of your content marketing strategy: the pyramid approach,” we thought we’d pass it along. He presents a very easy-to-follow method of using available data to directly guide and measure efforts to achieve a very specific goal (in his example, it’s “increase leads 10% with no increased cost” — nice!).
Apart from the strategy itself, these two phrases are worth keeping in mind:
- “A year from now, what’s different?”
- “Content is a promise to your customers–make sure you don’t break it!”
Wherever your business, products or services cross paths with prospects and customers, at some level, you’re marketing. You need an organized system for keeping track of what you’re doing, as well as what’s working, so you can drop anything that’s a waste of time and money and double down on what’s pulling. This tiered approach is one tool that may help; if you’ve got another one you’d like to share, we’d all love to know about it!
June 05, 2013
Everyone likes logos…they’re graphic and interesting, and very, very personal. So why do we like them so much? And what does it take to make one great?
A great logo is simple, clean, memorable, distinctive and appealing to its target audience. A common mistake in amateur logo design is attempting to have a logo accomplish too much, graphically or verbally. When it comes to logo design (as in every aspect of design), less is more. In other words, once you’ve arrived at a logo that successfully communicates your brand personality and message, stop.
Consider the following brands: Nike, Apple, Audi, Mercedes, the Olympic Games and VW. (You’re probably picturing their icons right now!) They don’t need words because their icons are immediately recognizable. And then there are Google, Disney, Exxon, HBO, Ford, Intel and FedEx – all just as powerful without the need for icons.
Logos don’t always start out successfully. Some of these companies have evolved their branding over the years to stay current or to appeal to a changing audience. See examples of branding evolution here. For instance, Apple started with a cluttered mess of a logo, but over time they rebranded, eventually arriving at their current, incredibly recognizable and successful “apple”.
Then there are the start-up companies that tend to rush the process and often settle for something mediocre (or worse)…maybe they had a tight budget and tried to design something themselves, or perhaps they didn’t really take the time to think about their brand personality and target audience.
Or maybe they simply needed the right marketing partner to help guide them through the process.
We urge every business, whether you’re considering a rebrand or need a spanking new logo, to consider your logo development as a critical investment in your future success. Your logo will set the tone for the entire branding campaign, as well as how your customers will perceive you. This is the time for some soul-searching…what’s the company’s personality? How does it stand apart in the market? An experienced marketing agency can assist you in answering these questions and help with extensive research on your company’s target audience and competition.
Check back soon for “Logos Rock! – Part II” to see how The Marketing Machine can help with your logo development process.
May 13, 2013
The Marketing Machine just passed its 15-year anniversary. That’s a pretty big marker! When I launched TMM back in 1998, I wanted to give small businesses a resource for helping them build and maintain consistent marketing efforts—to turn their marketing into a “machine.” I had a few personal goals too, of course, specifically to create an environment for doing what I like to do, while being able to have control over my time. In the early years, I was also in a pretty serious original rock band, and my professional focus was on helping others grow their businesses, not on growing mine. It was about deep relationships and organic growth vs. high volume.
Eventually my emphasis shifted more to the business; the band gradually disbanded. I found myself increasingly motivated by client challenges; helping their businesses grow was (and is) endlessly exciting and rewarding and I wanted to do more with that. As the 10-year mark approached, however, I realized a hard truth: Being a largely one-man operation meant I kept bumping up against absolute, finite capacity. I realized growth—being able to help more clients—would mean adding people.
That was the start of what I think of as TMM 2.0, a period of growth for the agency, as well as for me as a business owner. One very positive change was that we introduced systems that became an important part of how we work each day. There was a learning curve for all of us, but it’s definitely been for the best.
We also explored some different models for growth: Growth by merger and growth through volume. I formed a partnership with a client, and eventually we joined forces with several related service providers. We experienced the constant tug of war between rapidly increasing volume—and constantly racing to find the staff and other resources to be able to deliver on promises! That was a crazy time, and it didn’t take long for me to know hyper growth was not for us. Volume and fast growth were inconsistent with the strongest and most rewarding aspect of how we delivered on client needs: Growing deep relationships.
Now, over one year into “TMM 3.0,” I can clearly see that we’ve successfully navigated another transition, taking what was good from each phase to create a hybrid agency model that’s the best of all worlds. This has made it possible to serve larger clients in a wide variety of fields including healthcare, software and other B2B products, as well as non-profits. We’ve found (and continue to look for) strong team members who share my original successful approach, including excellent customer care, a straight-dealing approach and creativity with a purpose. We can easily flex with growth and client needs. We have strong systems in place to help us deliver the same consistent, positive experience to all clients—and also to increase our efficiency so we’re more profitable yet very competitively priced.
We’re always in pursuit of ways to get better, of course, but today the whole TMM team and I are excited by our clients and the work we’re doing with them. I thank each of our current and past clients (including some of you who’ve been with me from the very beginning), for your trust and business over the years. Looking forward, the future looks bright!
May 08, 2013
In the wake of the Boston bombings, there was an immediate need for people to show their support. Many turned to social media to post their feelings, their outrage at what had happened…others chose to use not words, but symbols. One of the ones I noticed immediately was the “Boston Strong” depicted as the “B” icon used by the Boston Red Sox™ and the word “strong”. Suddenly, this icon no longer stood for Boston Red Sox alone, but the entire city of Boston and all its people. Including those who weren’t even baseball fans… That “B” suddenly symbolized the “underdog”, the team cursed for 86 years, who finally triumphed; the city that would not give up until the people responsible for these crimes were captured.
This got me thinking: How does an icon take on epic proportions, and why? Icons are logos or parts of logos that, after many years of recognition, can stand alone without the name of the company alongside it. An icon can only stand alone if its audience has trust in the brand and can identify with the logo as a symbol of that brand. I’m a Yankees™ fan, so for me that Boston Red Sox “B” is a symbol of my rival, of a team that will always come to play hard, and can beat us on any given day due to their talent, their heart and the city standing behind them! Legendary teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are easily recognizable by their iconic symbols. There is much history and emotion attached to those symbols…they are no longer simply icons; they moved up to symbolic status when the emotion and history came into play.
Another example of an “image” becoming a symbol of more than it originally stood for is the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. I lived in Arlington, VA, when I first got out of college, right across the highway from the Iwo Jima Memorial. Initially for me, this was a statue of a moment in history to which I had no emotional relation. However, when the twin towers fell on 9/11 and there was a photo of the firemen raising the flag in the rubble, I suddenly recalled the Iwo Jima statue and it became a symbol for hope, a beacon of light in an otherwise hopeless situation. I was emotionally attached. That symbol was so recognizable to me that as I was driving to Washington, DC, years later, I saw a new building at the Marine Core Base Quantico come towering out of the tree tops. I immediately knew that it had been modeled after Iwo Jima…I just felt it.
One final example of a brand that started as an icon drawn by a contest winner (who was paid a measly $75) and became an international symbol for great athletics and athletes worldwide: Nike®.No longer do we need to see the word Nike – the swoosh alone commands our recognition and respect. Not just for its products, but for those athletes that have given their hearts and souls to the games in which they compete. Nike has hand fed us the emotion we need to relate to its brand through its spokespeople: the athletes. One who comes to mind is Michael Jordan. Nike is synonymous with Jordan and athletes like him.
When we are approached at our agency to develop branding for a company, we don’t stop and think that one day it might become a symbol for something far greater, but there is always that chance. This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to take the time to create a solid, appropriate brand, both with the mark and the marketing of it. This pays off by both cultivating a trust with the brand’s audience and a path that could one day lead to brand recognition of epic proportions! View a few branding examples from our recent portfolio.
April 24, 2013
Creativity is a joy. And sometimes it’s worse than pulling teeth. In our business, where at some level creativity is always connected to a timeline, we can’t afford to leave creative thinking to chance, so each of us has developed a few strategies for helping to blast through creative blocks. We’re often asked how we come up with new ideas, and what we do when the well runs dry, so we thought we’d share our techniques—and also invite you to share your own!
Enjoy the drive.
Drive time is a big favorite. Whether humming along to the radio, reflecting on designs that pass our lines of sight, or reviewing ideas in that blessed solitude between destinations, the meditative quality of driving is the go-to zone for many of us.
Take advantage of your “off” times.
While we hear a lot about scheduling our serious thinking for the time of day when we’re most clear headed and productive, many of us find that our best “Ah-ha” moments come during our “off-schedule” musings (so our night owls might get their breakthrough in their morning shower). The secret to using this strategy seems to be filling your active mind with the data, and then letting the subconscious work its magic.
Pump up the volume.
Yes, that’s right. Though sportsters we’re not, a top-scoring creativity spark around here comes from physical activity—taking a walk, squeezing a ball, playing with the dog, salsa dancing. It seems to effectively double-team our staff: Not only does the activity give us a clear break from our high-intensity work, but the activity boosts blood flow to our brains and re-energizes us from head to toe.
OK, so this one might be cheating a bit, but seriously, the #1 way we keep the pump primed is by both individually and collaboratively focusing on the source of the problem at hand. We’re not aiming for creativity for its own sake; we’re here to deliver an idea with purpose, whether it’s to solve a communication problem, bring a brand to life or create a market opportunity. Imagining the “better way” for tomorrow starts by really understanding where we are today.
OK, so those are our Top 4; how about yours? Please share… some days even we need an extra boost!
And if you still want more, check out this recent post on the The Wall Street Journal’s site offering “Tactics to Spark Creativity.”
March 27, 2013
Just like a brand, a brochure should be as unique as the company it’s representing. A simple trifold or “rack” brochure just will not do anymore. You have to stand out in a crowd, not just in what you say or how you say it, but in how your brochure looks and how it’s packaged. I’m not saying a rack brochure is out of the question in all cases, especially if there is a display rack that it must fit into, but don’t let the container be your guide.
As a rule, I shy away from 8.5 x 11 bi-fold brochures, or the slim-line tri-fold brochures…too typical, too expected. Just because it CAN be that size doesn’t mean it SHOULD be that size. Instead, take into consideration how the brochure is going to be used: mailed, handed out, displayed for others to pick up. Also think about what the best package will be for that brochure so that it makes the biggest impact on its audience.
Say you’re doing a brochure for a mechanic…what if you put all your brochure information into an 8-page car-manual size brochure instead of the 4-page letter size? It instantly says car because it feels like a manual; then with some great design to offset your message, your brochure becomes something memorable, not just “another brochure” from a mechanic. The longer your target audience lingers on that marketing piece, the better chance you have of them reading it, and maybe even keeping it.
A very important part of the overall packaging of a brochure is the paper it’s printed on: maybe uncoated, rough paper for a grassroots outfit, or glossy, coated (and photography-heavy) for a new spa. The paper gives it the feel, the design gives it the look and the size, shape and folds help package it all up for that perfect presentation.
Ultimately that is the goal, of course; to have your audience absorb your message and then keep your brochure around to reference any information they might need, or just to visually remind them of you every time they see it. A brochure is a very important piece of marketing that many lump together with their collateral needs. “I’ll need a logo, business cards, letterhead, envelopes and a brochure.” Although a brochure is a bigger piece that tells people who you are, it shouldn’t be a standard collateral item; it should be a well-thought-out marketing marvel.
So next time you think, “I just need a brochure,” remember your company is not “just” another company; it’s unique and all the important marketing materials that represent it should be too.
View our brochure portfolio for more examples of our brochure design.
March 07, 2013
Direct marketing (or sending marketing messages to prospects and customers individually by mail, email or even door-to-door), can be very cost-effective in the right circumstances. Email marketing has been hot for the past few years, but lately we’ve seen an increased interest in direct mail. Newbies to the medium are asking two excellent questions: Would direct mail be a good medium for us to test? And if so, what’s the most cost-effective way to do that? So let’s talk about it.
The truth is direct mail is very effective… in the right circumstances.
Spend money to make money?
Well…sometimes. In terms of the per-person, out-of-pocket cost, direct mail can really pack a whollop: $1 and up is not uncommon (compare that to relative pennies for print, online and even TV). Consider a few recent scenarios:
• We recently coordinated a 3-step B2B campaign for one client with around a $7-per-piece budget for 300 pieces (yes, $21 per prospect, and that’s not including creative development costs), but when the return could be in the hundreds of thousands, it’s a drop in the bucket if they get just one customer per mailing.
• We developed a B2C campaign, a self-mailer that directs people to a landing page, that ran about $1 per piece for 6400 pieces (plus a small investment in the web page). The average return for a new customer just the first time (not counting future spend), however, is $250, so a response rate of anything over 0.4% (26 people) will earn their money back. And these customers tend to be repeat buyers, so you can see how this begins to reap big rewards.
The right choice for the right circumstances
There are many circumstances that might coincide to make direct marketing by mail the right choice for you, but here’s a useful checklist to help you decide whether you should investigate further:
• Mailing lists exist for the target audience you want to reach; this is make it or break it. If you mail to an untargeted list, you’re really flushing it.
• The value of the customer—meaning the transactions they’ll have with you over time (a.k.a., their lifetime value)—will deliver a satisfactory ROI.
• You have sufficient cash flow to afford to invest today in an effective mailing effort that will generate its greatest rewards over time.
If you can check off all of these, direct mail might fit well into your marketing efforts.
Squeezing more out of your mailings
First, make this one element in a larger marketing and communications strategy—like our self-mailer that also linked to a specific landing page related to the mail piece’s messaging. That’s because, while you might get a good number of responses to your “one-shot” mailing, today’s savvy consumers expect to have options. You’ll satisfy them better, and squeeze far more out of every dollar you invest, if you help them get as much information as they need, and encourage them to take action every step along the way.
Second, think about creating a mail piece that you can use more than once as new customers enter the market. In an area like Raleigh-Durham, where we do most of our business, that’s tracking at somewhere in the neighborhood of well over 300,000 new people in the past 10 years, or 40% growth, and since some people will have moved away, too, your overall customer pool may be seriously in flux!
If all this fits your business profile, direct marketing using the mail might be just the ticket to pull in your next crop of new customers—and help you score big this year.
February 20, 2013
Some folks seem to have a bit of confusion when it comes to these terms and knowing how they differentiate. Fear not, we are going to clear that up. It might be best to give you Webster’s take on these two terms before breaking it down.
marketing is defined as:
1a: the act or process of selling or purchasing in a market
1b: the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service
2: an aggregate of functions involved in moving goods from producer to consumer
“marketing.” Merriam-Webster.com. 2013. http://www.merriam-webster.com (20 Feb 2013).
advertising is defined as:
1: the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements
2: advertisements (the magazine contains much advertising)
3: the business of preparing advertisements for publication or broadcast
“advertising.” Merriam-Webster.com. 2013. http://www.merriam-webster.com (20 Feb 2013).
In layman’s terms, advertising is how a company communicates its message to the public and connects producer to consumer, with the desired end result being a sale of goods, services or ideas. Advertising is just one piece of the marketing puzzle and it falls under one of the Four P’s (promotion) that comprise the “Marketing Mix”.
The 4 P’s of the Marketing Mix are:
1. Product - The good or service that is being offered.
2. Place - The good or service must be available to your target audience through physical stores, e-commerce (online shops), distributors or via catalog.
3. Promotion - Advertising the good or product to the public through avenues such as magazines, TV, billboards, websites, social media, etc.
4. Price - Competition and target audience are key factors in setting the price, it must be well-suited for the exchange of good or service being offered.
In addition to these four marketing basics, other components of marketing should be considered. Some of these are marketing research, competition, marketing strategies, budget, goals and market analysis… all of these help complete the all-encompassing idea of marketing.
The Marketing Mix is just one of many takes on the idea of marketing, but it is a great way to understand what the basic components of marketing are and how advertising fits in.
In conclusion, advertising is a very important key factor within the gamut of marketing, whereas marketing is the bigger picture and contains much more than just advertising.
February 06, 2013
Graphic design not only makes something look good, it organizes information to help deliver a message in the most impactful way possible. When you combine the right image, a well-written headline, professionally executed in a well-established package, then BOOM! The message hits its target. However, if any one of those parts is missed, the message will likely miss its target too. There’s a misconception that graphic design is just “pretty pictures,” but it’s actually presentation, organization and well-thought-out market concepts that deliver everything in one good-looking package.
In my career, I have had the opportunity to design for all business types and sizes, from big corporations down to small “mom & pop” shops. The one thing they all have in common is that they hired us to give them a consistent brand; a face that their audience would recognize every time they received or saw anything from them. So why is it that businesses are always wanting that solid brand foundation, but trying to find short cuts/low-cost measures to execute it the right way?
Branding isn’t limited to just a company logo. It means putting that logo on everything your company presents as theirs. And not just adding the logo to any old layout/design, but having that ad/email/brochure tie into the brand using the brand’s fonts, colors and remaining consistent with the graphic standards that your audience has been used to seeing. Consistency is the key to good branding, and graphic design is the key to consistency. Graphic design creates the structure for delivering your message, so that over time, your audience recognizes YOU in every message you deliver. Consistency creates confidence, assurance that you know the brand…predictability. If the client decides to execute their own thing, be it by another designer, an in-house creative or on their own without following the design previously established, their audience may lose trust in that brand.
Without this brand consistency, your audience won’t necessarily recognize you. In layman’s terms, it’s as if a friend gets their hair chopped off and colored, then dresses up in drag and shows up at your door expecting you to recognize them. You’ll certainly figure it out because it’s still them, but they look so different, you’re not sure who they are anymore!
Beauty is attractive, we all know that, and graphic design delivers beauty in order to attract the target audience. But in advertising, it’s not just about beauty; there is a very small window of time for an ad, email or website to grab the audience’s attention before they move onto the next thing. If they find something in that window of time that makes them look twice (a graphic, a headline), then they’ll stop to take in the message. A well-designed marketing piece helps the audience see past the graphics to the message, but it’s the appealing graphics that reel them in.