Sunday, August 31, 2008

Speaking to SMEI-Madison

I'm looking forward to speaking to the Madison chapter of Sales & Marketing Executives International. They've invited me to kick-off their 2008-2009 season. We'll be talking about the value of involving stakeholders in your creative and brand development. Why not use creativity to connect people... it works to your advantage! If you're in the area, register and come down to The Madison Club. Bring your questions. I'll stay late.
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Color Speaks

Color provides information, brings immediate comprehension, creates an identity, evokes emotions and explains products --- often with little help from text or other components of the materials.

Messages sent internationally may become "lost in translation," but this can be avoided through carefully chosen colors. Colors communicate in ways that transcend verbal boundaries, sending messages to audiences previously unreachable. This is especially true for internet-based endeavors and products, where anyone in the world can access your materials.

Even when people can understand what you say to them, people often doubt the truth of the words you say. There is a natural tendency, however, to trust what a color says to you. On a subconscious level, colors speak volumes and never lie, making them a communicator's very dear friend. This trust, in turn, can be used to move people in one direction or another, sparking emotions, actions and purchases.

Color should serve as a main method of message transmission, not as a feature to embellish text and logos. Color choice should be a part of an integrated design process. We do not interpret the world as black and white, which is why color ads seem more realistic and inviting to target audiences.

Black and white are obviously useful, and have their own time and place, but all colors come down to context and content. People advertise to sell a product or service, and each message is unique. The color combinations chosen to sell these messages should be equally original and meaningful. Finding the right fit between what people want to say, and how they should say it is an invaluable skill.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Proper Color Enhances Processing

Monica S. Castelhano (Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst) and John M. Henderson (Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland) published some interesting research demonstrating the power of proper color. They tested various scenes to see how quickly people processed the "gist" of it and then whether that processing was enhanced purely by the use of color or it it was the use of "proper color." They tested abnormally colored blurry scenes, normally colored scenes and monochrome blurry scenes. The results? Proper color matters.

Our brains register the colors in the pictures and link the colors to our expectations of how it should be. Colors supplement and strengthen the structural information we absorb. In 42 milliseconds, our eyes can receive an image and send it to our brains. Our brains can then manipulate this information, and activate schemas that rely on a network of stereotypes that help us make sense of it all. Color, in effect, allows our brains to be more efficient and allows us to function better and react faster in any environments we may find ourselves. Hooray for color --- and for psychology.
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Friday, August 22, 2008

Drive Your Reader

Your choices of colors and placements influence your reader's reading. There is an order underlying how we process information and design.
  • People are drawn from dark to light areas and from large to small objects.
  • Image position determines where the reader goes next.
  • Captions and callouts captivate.
We didn't make this stuff up nor did we do the original (and ongoing) research. But we do study it, use it and share it for others to improve how they connect with their reader(s).
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Envelope Eye Patterns

When people receive mail, they typically do four things in a very specific order:

1. they look at their name
2. they notice the sender's name
3. they check the type of postage
4. they flip the envelope over

They don't spend time thinking about it, but if you do then you can use the envelope to your advantage. Combine it with the knowledge that size and color matter and your next envelope could become a powerful tool for communicating your message.
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Common Credibility

Great brands have brand champions who find common threads that are pulled from the organization's mission and strategic framework. They connect them to the targeted audience and the intended outcome. Such alignment promotes the organization's credibility, particularly when it reaches out to different types of stakeholders.
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Quotable Quote

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." -- Leonardo Da Vinci
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

PowerPoint 1-2-3

1. Target for no more than 15 words on a slide -- think quality, not quantity.

2. Use the slide to reinforce your main point and to serve as your backdrop -- please don't read to the screen.

3. When a slide lacks value or insight, delete it -- did you really miss it during your practice run?
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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Embrace A Different Process

The strategic planning process is as valuable as the resulting documents -- perhaps moreso. A well-constructed and well-facilitated process brings leadership together for constructive conversations. It removes the element of competition. It reduces fear or uncertainty about the volume of post-it notes you can or cannot generate in a defined period of time. An engaging process that sparks reflection, supports conflict and drives toward a practical outcome actually encourages strategic thinking and generates discussion. Through these discussions, people decide upon an aim and a pathway to achieve it. They connect and align around a purpose. They have breakthroughs on elements of the business that will never even make it into the strategic plan. They key, however, is a non-traditional process and a facilitator with an open mind, contagious energy and a gift for listening, distilling and laughing.
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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tasteful Takes Talent

Assertions that taste and aesthetic sense count for very little in direct response are nothing more than excuses. Perhaps for poor creative talent, perhaps lack of knowledge about the target audience, perhaps laziness or a focus on nothing more than squeezing billable hours.

When coming from a creative team, it reflects a poor understanding of their purpose (to advance the objective of the client by connecting with stakeholders to move a desired action). When coming from a consultant, it reflects ignorance that de-values the power of effective creative problem-solving and talented designers. When coming from a client/organization, it indicates they haven't worked with the right creative professionals or don't care enough about the outcome to invest in an effective solution up-front.

It's sad, really, that people are ready to sacrifice taste and aesthetics because it is more of a challenge to make something tasteful and effective than it is to make it ugly. A good conversation? Yes. A sad state of affairs? You bet.
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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Business + Branding

Business drives branding; branding builds business. "If a company does not have a good business strategy, there is no way to develop a good branding strategy and all the elements that will need to be designed and executed to get it out into the world," says RitaSue Siegel. That business strategy hinges on strategic thinking, practical planning and razor sharp focus on what needs to be done so that scarce resources (and they always are) can set about making it happen.
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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Old School Principles Drive New School Twist

David Kiley's article on Ford Motor Company (The Fight for Ford's Future) offers some good insights about brand building strategy that also apply for strategic thinking and practical planning. The same old strategies aren't going to work in an evolving world but some old school principles still hold power:
  • Bring people into the (creative) process.
  • Generate commitment by being clear and consistent.
  • Be disciplined and stay focused.
  • Edit.
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