An Honest Smuggler

kirkLong ago, James the smuggler was leading a donkey with large bundles of straw on its back. An experienced border inspector spotted James coming toward the border. “Stop, sir. What is your business here?” he asked James. “I am an honest smuggler,” James replied with a smile. “Well, I need to search those straw bundles. If I find something, you are required to pay a border fee,” the border agent said. “No problem,” James replied. “You won’t find anything in those bundles.”

The inspector searched the straw thoroughly but couldn’t find anything. He was suspicious, yet he let James pass the border. The next day, James came to the border again with his straw-carrying donkey. The border agent thought “I’ll get him for sure this time,” as he thoroughly searched the straw, James’ clothing, and the donkey’s harness. But once again he came up empty-handed and let James pass. This happened again and again for many years.

After the border inspector retired, he ran into James and asked, “It’s been driving me crazy for years… I must know what you were smuggling across the border!” James simply smiled at him and said, “donkeys.”

Here’s the way I see it: The only thing predictable about life is its unpredictability. Give us a call if you’d like help ensuring your marketing efforts don’t feel like marketing.

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The Risk of Over Designing

IN GRAPHIC DESIGN, LESS REALLY IS MORE

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Simplicity is often seen, but it’s a concept that is not easily explained. For some graphic designers, it’s second nature. For others, it involves much forethought. Today’s designers are trending toward more simple, clutter-free designs, as they return to simplicity. Here are some examples of how the traditional theme of less is more is used:

Advertising
Not only can simple ads grab attention, but their short and to the point messages are also easier to comprehend. The concept of “less is more” is especially effective when writing ad copy.

Catalogs and Brochures
Catalogs and brochures are expected to be a vast source of information, yet readers appreciate when they are simplified, organized, and easy to read and comprehend. Simplicity is often its own reward since it encourages increased use.

Packaging
Like a poster, a package needs to attract the eye within seconds of its initial viewing. In recent years, shelves have been jammed with products whose designers have attempted to out-design one another. This gives simple package designs featuring primary colors, bold copy, white space, and clean design the ability to effectively break through the clutter.

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Identity
Not only do logos convey the personality of a company, but they also offer a memorable impression. Simple designs that incorporate a company’s complex ideas are the root of a logo’s power.

One of the perks of being a designer is the ability to develop a personality or character for a company or product. For designers, simplicity means a return to basics, but not at the expense of creative design.

The Art of Time-Blocking: A Simple Tip to Revolutionize Your Productivity

ThinkstockPhotos-610773854.jpgMost people just aren’t that good at multitasking. Trying to remain focused (and organized) is one of the most significant time wasters, especially in the life of a business professional. When you try to do too many things at the same time, you become a “Jack of all Trades, Master of None.” Just when you’re trying to get work done on that big project, another email comes in that you have to respond to. You hop over to your email client and suddenly the phone is ringing, or you realize that you have to proof a new design before it heads out the door. It’s maddening.

Thankfully, there is a better way. By adopting the fine art of time-blocking, you may have just found the simple, yet effective technique you’ve been looking for to unlock a bold new era of productivity in both your personal and professional life.

What is Time-Blocking?

At its core, time-blocking is the idea that you should segment your day into clearly defined (and strictly adhered to) blocks of productivity. Organize the tasks you need to complete by category and set aside a specific amount of time for those categories each day.

If you feel like you’re spending an unfortunate amount of time responding to emails every day at the expense of everything else, set aside 9:00 am to 10:00 am every morning to just focus on emails. Devote every ounce of your attention to this one task and when it’s over, move onto the next one. Outside of the occasional emergency, don’t respond to emails for the rest of the day. Get it done, and then move on.

The Benefits

The beauty of time-blocking falls into two distinct categories. First, it’s an incredibly effective way to eliminate distraction. Instead of trying to divide your attention between ten little tasks, it’s almost like you’re tackling just one big one (i.e. emails, and nothing more). Not only do you get those initial tasks done faster, but the ultimate quality of your output is also much higher because you’re no longer trying to do too many things at once.

Next, time-blocking is also an excellent way to build up a strong sense of momentum that will carry you through the rest of your day. As you begin to move from block to block, you’ll constantly be surprised by just how much you’re getting done. This wave of productivity (not to mention the wave of euphoria) builds on itself, driving things home towards the finish line (and the end of the work day).

Success Comes When You Look Ahead

Another one of the keys to success regarding time-blocking is a little bit of forward thinking. This isn’t something you can make up on the fly. You need to consider the types of tasks you need to do each day and what you have to get done by week’s end. Look ahead a little bit and make a list of your top priorities. Then, separate those into categories and get down to business.

Remember, it’s important to be honest with yourself. Time-blocking won’t suddenly create an extra hour in your day, but it will help you make better use of the hours you already have. If you try to add too many things to your list to the point where it becomes unrealistic, you’ll end up working against your goal and not towards it. You’ll quickly begin to feel overwhelmed, which is something that you do not want.

The Quarterly Audit: Why It’s Always Good to Give Your Print Collateral a Once-Over a Few Times a Year

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An opportunity that far too many people don’t take advantage of is the idea of a quarterly audit. Don’t worry; it has nothing to do with your taxes. Instead, it’s a process that you should go through a few times a year that provides you a chance to re-assess and re-evaluate. It’s a time where you force yourself to stop and think “This print mailer was designed in January, and it worked great in January. It’s April, now. What needs to change?”

Stop and Smell the Roses

When performing an audit of your print marketing materials, make a list of everything that has changed since the last time you had the chance to re-evaluate things. How have your business goals shifted in the last few months? Have you accomplished more or less than you thought you were going to at this point? What does your average customer look like today, as opposed to three months ago? How have your campaigns been performing?

If you can provide business-specific answers to questions like these, you create for yourself a valuable context that you can then use to make the right, actionable decisions regarding things like design and distribution moving forward. What you’re doing is taking a process typically completed at the end of the year, looking backward and seeing what worked and what didn’t, and then forcing yourself to do it as often as you can.

Trends and Best Practices

Another reason why the idea of the quarterly audit is so important is that, by and large, the world of print marketing is changing rapidly. New technologies, techniques, tips and best practices are emerging all the time. Taking the time to go back over everything you’ve done so far a few times a year gives you a chance to incorporate all of this into your workflow as soon as you can.

Think about it this way: maybe you designed new buyer personas in January with an aim towards attracting a different type of customer. You’ve produced everything with those buyer personas in mind, trying to maintain a consistent voice across all collateral. If things aren’t working quite right and need some tweaking, would you rather know in April or wait until December?

In the end, what you’re doing is strengthening your foundation. Many people use January 1 as a great chance for a “fresh start.” It’s a time where you stop and think about where you are, where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there. If you do this multiple times per year, however, it puts you in a much better position to be responsive to both internal and external changing factors. Above all else, it’s an opportunity to make sure that you’re still headed down the path that was important to you on January 1, if that path is still important to you at all.

Take a Lesson from Disney

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If you visit any one of the Disney Corporation’s facilities, you have experienced a phenomenon they call “Onstage and Backstage.” It’s quite a simple concept, and one that Disney has definitely perfected. The “Onstage” area refers to anywhere that guests may roam freely, while “Backstage” is where the cast members (employees) travel from one part of the park to another, take “Disney-free” breaks, and get into costume. For Disney, the separation between onstage and backstage is essential in maintaining the magical feel of their facilities.

Your company most likely has a similar onstage (customer area) and backstage (production area) structure. And while your employees may not use your “backstage” area to don their Mickey or Minnie Mouse costumes, there are things that go on behind the scenes that most of your customers are not privileged to see.

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That is, of course, unless you offer to take your customers on a tour of your facility. At most Disney facilities, visitors can take a ride backstage to see some of the inner workings of the magical world. The same can be done at your business. Allowing your customers a peek at the inner workings of your company and introducing them to your staff will improve your relationship with them. And, showing them any impressive machinery or workflow systems you have in place will increase their confidence in the work you do for them.

Take a lesson from the Disney Corporation and see what kind of response you get from offering backstage tours of your company. You may be surprised to see how many people would be interested in getting to know your company better, and the effect their knowledge can have on furthering your relationship with them.

Broken

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The next time you’re feeling broken or in despair, remember this.

In Japanese culture, when an object is broken it is often repaired by bonding the pieces back together with gold. The flaw then becomes a unique part of the piece’s past that only adds to its beautiful story. The broken pieces of your life make you who you are. And that is more valuable than anything in the world.

Here’s the way I see it: Elizabeth Edwards said it best, “She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.”

Tips to Create a Zap-Free Zone

REDUCE STATIC ELECTRICITY IN YOUR HOME OR OFFICE

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While the chances of you being injured from static electricity while using electronics (such as a computer, phone, or other office equipment) are very low, static discharge is not only shocking, but it could damage or shorten the life of your electronics. Here are a few tips to reduce static electricity in your home or office:

  • Climate control is important. If you do not have a humidification unit built into your HVAC system, consider using a humidifier to increase indoor humidity, especially during colder months.
  • Try an anti-static carpet spray, which essentially adds tiny particulates and conductive substances to carpet fibers to help in dissipating static charges.
  • Consider placing anti-static mats in places with high static, such as carpeted work areas.
  • Plug your devices into surge protectors, which limit the voltage supplied to an electric device by either blocking or shorting to ground any unwanted voltages above a safe threshold.

If you’re looking for creative marketing ideas that are sure to shock your competitors, give us a call today at 856.429.0715!