Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Cassell’s Hamburgers is something of a Cinderella story.

Founder Al Cassell launched the iconic lunch counter in Los Angeles in 1948. Famous for grinding beef daily, Al’s passion for great burgers and homemade mayonnaise lived for years. But by 2012, struggling owners decided to sell off Cassell’s rights, recipes, and equipment. It seems there was no magic touch that could save this beauty.

Jingbo Lou had other ideas.

As a Chinese exchange student, Lou came to the U.S. to study at the University of Southern California and developed a passion for architectural restoration that grew out curiosity for American culture:

“As an immigrant to this country, my very big task is to learn the culture,” Lou says. “I really fell in love with the history.”

J Lou put this love to work bringing Cassell’s back to life in a salvaged, crumbling 1920s inn called the Hotel Normandie. J Lou recognized a hotel/restaurant combo was a chance to cater to the nostalgia of many Californians.

And he was spot on.

Since Cassell’s reopening in 2014, the business has topped many “best of” lists and expanded into Downtown LA and a LAX location in Terminal 1.

Why such phenomenal success? Because emotions sell.

Emotions Win Customers

Brands build loyalty because emotions win customers!

While you may believe your decisions are rational, most choices are actually controlled by your intuitive (emotional) mind. Studies show that people rely on the heart, rather than on logic, to make decisions. Douglass Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, says this:

“The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”

Brands put emotional marketing in play by focusing more on the needs and passions of customers instead of on the unique product benefits their products bring.

For example, Pampers exalts healthy, well-rested infants instead of dry baby bottoms. Nike inspires people to overcome limitations instead of highlighting superior shoe quality. Harley sells people freedom without limits rather than offering a mode of transportation. And Cassell’s Hamburgers offers people a return to simpler days, including original chairs, tables, signage, and original menus hanging on the wall.

Want to enhance the emotional message your brand brings? Brand marketers suggest starting with steps like these:

  • Treat prospects as people rather than buyers
  • Give people multiple chances or channels to try or become familiar with your products
  • Use ads with identity messages that motivate or move people
  • Create a shared community among purchasers
  • Inspire users to have dreams
  • Offer messages that give people an experience, not just information

Create stories that allow your company to be part of people’s lives and appeal to every aspect of your customers’ personalities: their ego, needs, dreams, or general emotional state.

These connections can happen through music, artworks, logos, signage, slogans, sport, or anything that really ‘speaks to your customers.

Above all, emotional branding seeks to build lifelong partnerships between a business and its customers. Once someone is emotionally captured by a brand, they are more likely to stay loyal for decades.

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Looking to energize your base or drum up new leads?

A new year is a great time to refresh your marketing matrix. Whether you’ve been in business for two months or for 20 years, creating awareness and interest is always a current challenge. Here are four areas to tweak as you build a competitive edge this year.

1. Know Your Audience.

Who are your ideal customers? What are their challenges or the goals you can help them achieve?

Revisit your buyer persona regularly and make sure you’re still clear on who you want to reach. These profiles can be used to segment your list and to personalize your latest pitch.

Knowing your audience also means examining whether you’re hitting your target. Are you sharing information that your prospects are actually hearing? Re-examine your media strategy and conduct regular database purging.

If you’ve been neglecting your database, your communication will be skewed as well. Successful marketing relies on data-driven decisions, so ensure your contacts are current.

2. Employ User-Centric Content.

In an increasingly individualized market, blanket sales pitches have lost momentum.

If you want to gain trust from your network, make it your goal to reach people in a more personal way.

How?

Position yourself as a giver, a helper, or an equipper in your print marketing. Use content that is insightful, entertaining, and easy for your prospects to apply.

3. Move From Keyboard to Camera.

Hubspot recently found 72% of people prefer video when they want to learn about a product or service.

With the dominance of YouTube and social media, the explosion of visual content is bound to continue. Our brain processes images 60 times faster than words, and humans are naturally drawn to narratives and stories.

Why not share more of your story through video?

Whether it’s quick bursts (think Snapchat, Instagram Stories, or Facebook Live) or a professionally edited piece for your website, video content will keep you connecting in ways that are real and relevant to this generation.

As you grow, look to connect your online and offline presence. One example: ask a leading question on your direct mailer and have them scan a QR code or use a personalized landing page (PURL). 

4. Lighten Your Load Through Marketing Automation.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t do it all.

A great deal of effort can be saved through automation software, which expands your reach and boosts your efficiency.

Marketing automation allows you to identify warm leads and nurture prospects with highly personalized content that meets users at every stage of their customer journey. This can lighten your administrative load, provide an excellent return on your investment, and generate significant new revenue.

Automation software is especially effective in transforming traffic to leads and prospects to customers. Automated content is tailored to consumers based on how they interact with your company, growing their trust in you and making them much more likely to buy.

A recent Salesforce study found that 67% of marketing leaders use marketing automation of some kind, and this number is expected to grow significantly in years to come.

Keep in Shape

Your customers will change and evolve, and so will your business.

As people change, your job is to understand how your customers want to buy and to make it easy for them to do it!

Keep your marketing in high gear as you find new ways to streamline data, boost engagement, and improve the customer experience of each person you serve.

Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post has a bone to pick with millennials and their bad manners. Consider one technology-related example:

“Last week I watched in horror as a 20-something girl carefully snapped a photo of a basket of onions,” said Oleksinski. “But we weren’t at a serene farm or the Marché d’Aligre in Paris — we were crammed into the Columbus Circle Whole Foods. Thousands of customers were streaming through the aisle trying to grab some garlic for their dinners, and Little Miss Annie Leibovitz was blocking traffic to get some artsy snaps of nightshades. Will she print out these photos? Nope. A pile of white spheres under fluorescent light is even too dull for Instagram. Next time, Annie, take a breath and think about where you are . . . Pay for your brie wrap and vamoose.”

Etiquette is Part of Your Brand

Oleksinski isn’t alone. Modern professionals are finding a suffocating relationship with technology has left them oblivious to social basics their elders took for granted.

Presentation, both personal and professional, is a key to showing who you are. And etiquette training of all kinds is making a resurgence for millennials.

“Etiquette is so much a part of your brand,” said Rachel Isgar, a Phoenix-based etiquette coach and author. “Just a few improvements can help your career.”  

People respond to people, and poor manners may mean a hindered partnership, a missed promotion, or a collapsed deal. Companies like Beaumont Etiquette, which runs a marquee “finishing program” in the Plaza Hotel of Manhattan, have recognized a unique need for social training in the modern generation.

For $125, a participant can take part in a two-hour group session that teaches courtesy gestures, personal hygiene, and a range of soft skills conducive to successful socializing.

“Even if it was not something you were taught as a child, anyone can learn to have good etiquette, and it’s up to you to teach yourself,” founder Myka Meiers said. “I think, sadly, people become very self-involved . . . and forget about others. What I wish these people could learn is that by spending just a little time each day making someone else happy and spreading kindness, even the smallest gesture, their lives could be so much more fulfilled.”

Meiers says honoring others includes everything from table manners to Twitter posts. Just as we once taught people to “think before you speak,” how much more crucial should it be to “think before you post?”

“If you don’t want your grandmother or your boss to read it, don’t post it,” Meiers said. “Once it’s on the web, it’s out there for good.” 

Want to curb your own bad behavior? Consider ten smartphone tips for starters:  

  1. Never ignore those you’re with to make a call or text.
  2. Apologize to your guest if you need to respond to an important message.
  3. Never leave your ringer on in quiet places.  
  4. Never use offensive language while using your phone in public.
  5. Don’t post work-related complaints on social media.
  6. Don’t photograph everything.
  7. Never post on social media while you’re under the influence.
  8. Don’t place your phone on the table during meetings.
  9. Don’t text people about work outside of normal office hours.
  10. Don’t dehumanize cashiers by using your phone while someone serves you.

Daniel Post-Senning, co-author of the 19th edition of “Emily Post’s Etiquette: Manners for Today,” says ultimately good manners are about putting others first, whether that’s online or at a dinner party. While social customs change, manners are timeless:

“Manners are really reflections of core principles,” Daniel says. “Consideration, respect and honesty.”

Stephen Cannon became president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz in 2012. Though he was convinced about the quality of his cars, he recognized the success of his brand was rooted in the kindness of his people.

Cannon understood that the company, the true essence of Mercedes-Benz, was embodied by the people who sold and serviced the cars, including how generously they behaved.

“Every encounter with the brand must be as extraordinary as the machine itself,” Cannon said.

Cannon believed almost every touchpoint of the brand involved a personal encounter with a human being in a dealership. Representatives could act in ways that were memorable and honoring, or repetitive and dismissive. This was a grand vision, but how could Cannon impart a culture of connection and compassion to 23,000 employees at dealerships nationwide?

 “There is no scientific process, no algorithm, to inspire a salesperson or a service person to do something extraordinary,” Cannon said. “The only way you get there is to educate people, excite them, incite them. Give them permission to rise to the occasion when the occasion to do something arises. This is not about following instructions. It’s about taking a leap of faith.”

Kindness is Contagious

In this leap of faith, Cannon challenged dealers and employees to perpetuate a grassroots movement that scattered kindness like a contagion.

This included spontaneous acts of generosity, like a dealer who noticed a buyer’s birthday on his closing documents and included a personalized cake when the customer came for the car. Or for a woman who panicked over a flat tire on the way to her son’s graduation. When mechanics could not locate a replacement tire for her model, the service manager jacked up the showroom model, removed one of its tires, and sent this mom on her way in a flash.

 “We have so many stories like this,” Cannon says. “They’re about people going out of their way because they care enough to do something special.”

Beyond encouraging “extra mile” efforts, companies can build a culture of kindness in three areas:

Giving Back to the Community

Businesses that sponsor volunteer days enjoy team building, civic pride, and a more personal investment in their neighbors.

Today a growing number of companies participate in a one-for-one model: for every product sold, they give one matching item (or dollar amount) to a person in need. Or for every hour an employee volunteers, a matching dollar donation can be given as well. For example, Microsoft employees serving as Boy Scout leaders can simultaneously “bank” corporate dollars into scout scholarship accounts for those in need.

Offer Employee Autonomy

If you want generous employees, healthy working conditions are essential.

Younger people especially enjoy working for companies that allow flex scheduling, remote working options, or some ability to shape their physical environment. When employees feel empowered, they generate better results. When you convey a sense of trust in your employees, they’ll perform beyond expectations.

Build Personal Ownership

It is more natural for employees to show kindness if they are motivated by pride in what they do.

When Mercedes-Benz realized that nearly 70 percent of its front-line employees had never driven a car out of the dealership, the company put 800 new cars in the field, offering 48 hours of fun to each staff member. People drove their daughters for sweet 16 parties, chaperoned grandma on her 90th birthday, and snapped selfies to chronicle the adventure.

“The reactions were out of this world,” said general manager Harry Hynekamp said. “Sure, people got to know the cars very well. But the biggest piece was the pride piece.”

In the past, ideas of “virtual work” might have included colleagues from a different country or visions of mysterious IT specialists who hacked your computer by day and only crept out at night.

Today, virtual work is woven into the fabric of our experience. Remote working is essentially using technology to conduct business, often with nearby colleagues. This may include:

  • Using e-mail or IM to conduct business with nearby colleagues (in your city or down your hallway)
  • Multi-site meetings involving video-conferencing or simulcast options
  • Flex-scheduling that allows employees to work part of the week from home

Virtual work is on the rise: a 2017 Gallup report found 43% percent of Americans work remotely to some degree. Fifty-six percent of software startups worldwide have outsourced their work (contributing to the demand for remote workers) and, according to research by Gartner, organizations that embrace remote working will increase employee retention rates by 10%.

While there are many advantages to enhanced technology, there are unique difficulties to overcome. Whether you’re keeping a team accountable or sharing instructions (but can’t point at someone’s computer screen over their shoulder), the demand for good communication has significantly increased!

Productive Virtual Relationships

What communication skills will you need to succeed in remote working relationships?

Whether you’re e-mailing your colleague across the table or uploading blueprints to a design specialist in another time zone, here are some guidelines to grow your skills:

Establish Rules of Engagement

When working face-to-face, the style of communication evolves naturally.

You don’t barge through a door when it is shut or get offended if someone pauses after you ask a question. But since we lose non-verbal cues in remote working, it’s important to establish connection guidelines. Your team should discuss what technology you will use, how often to correspond, and the preferred method of communication. If one person enjoys e-mail but another sends 10 texts per hour, tension can build quickly. A multi-tasking supervisor may prefer to connect once a day, while a project manager might want hourly updates. If you’re not sure where to begin, ask your team:

  •    What time of the day is best to catch you?
  •    What times are off limits?
  •    Is it ever ok to send a text message?
  •    What is the best way to share files?
  •    How should we connect offline if confusion arises?
  •    How will we eliminate lost or duplicated work?

Build Trust

Before starting a project, it’s important for colleagues to establish a foundation.

To build relational trust, have one face-to-face (or video-conference) meeting to gain confidence in each other. Include simple social elements (questions that are sincere but not overly personal), share some of your own interests and career aspirations, and let a friendship develop naturally.

When colleagues work remotely, they’re not as confident that you are looking out for their best interests. Seek to affirm good work or have a little fun, even just light-hearted online banter.

Demonstrate Competence

Take the initiative in giving regular progress updates, completing projects on time, or voicing questions and concerns before they spiral out of control.

Without nonverbal cues, silence can be damaging, so respond to e-mails quickly and honestly, even if you need more time to resolve an issue. Restate questions in your own words to ensure you are understanding any problems and be honest if you feel someone is hindering the workflow of your team.

Maintaining strong, productive virtual relationships takes extra tact and attention, but these contacts can lead to years of fruitfulness. Sow seeds of intentionality now and enjoy a high yield in years to come.

Looking to target prospects with confident, eye-catching designs?

Consider a self-mailer that you send through the U.S. Postal Service’s EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) program. This cost-effective marketing solution helps you target individual zip codes or carrier routes for a significantly reduced cost.

What is a Self-Mailer?

A self-mailer is something that can be mailed without an envelope, including anything from a simple postcard to an elaborate booklet.

Self-mailers are a great medium for stunning photos and eye-catching graphics. While e-mail inboxes are currently overflowing, physical mailboxes are not. A splashy, bold design holds great potential to be seen and shared!

A superb self-mailer can have several advantages over envelope mailings:

1. Self-mailers cost less.

Self-mailers are simple: often, they have just one sheet of paper (no need to stuff envelopes or match the contents of your letter with its packaging). Postage can be cheaper for a self-mailer, especially when you use postcards or fold-over flyers.

2. Self-mailers are more likely to be seen, remembered, or shared.

While envelope mailings are typically opened and read by just one person, self-mailers are often passed along to others or laid in visible places like the kitchen counter. Coupons or event invitations are placed on the fridge or in strategic visible locations. The bold graphics and easy accessibility of self-mailers can help people remember your message long after it’s been sent.

3. Self-mailers help you connect with loyal customers.

Whether you’re promoting an event or sending product notifications, targeting previous customers can dramatically increase response rates. Self-mailers send a personal message in a vibrant, practical package.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Self-mailers can be used as postcards offering discounts on home maintenance and repairs, as fold-over letters from community leaders, as fundraising pieces from non-profits, as brochures and pamphlets, or even for product inventory catalogs.

These flexible products bring a clean design, a clear message, and concrete results. Looking for EDDM tips or for full graphic design services for your mailer? We’ve got years of experience and we’re just a phone call away. Give us a call today!

A farmer had a litter of puppies for sale. As he was driving the last nail into his advertising yard sign, he felt a tug at his overalls. “Mister,” said a boy at his feet, “I want to buy a puppy.”

“Well,” said the farmer, “These puppies come from fine parents and cost lots of money. How much do you have?”

The boy dropped his head momentarily, then drew several coins from his pocket. “I don’t have much, but is this enough to take a look?”

The farmer paused reluctantly but before he could answer three puppies rolled out of the doghouse. One tiny, awkward pup hobbled behind. The boy’s eyes lit up. “I want that one,” he exclaimed, pointing to the runt. The man shook his head solemnly. “Son, that puppy will never be able to run and play like the others.”

The boy rolled up his trousers to reveal a steel brace running down both sides of one leg. “I do want that puppy. I don’t run too well myself, and he’ll need someone who understands him.”

That day the boy won the puppy because he moved the farmer’s heart. Why? Because empathy impacts people. Researchers define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions and to imagine how they might be thinking or feeling. Empathy is essential to human interactions because it allows us to connect in authentic ways and to offer helpful words, comfort, or assistance. Empathy is essential in every human interaction but is especially significant for those in customer service.

Empathy Begins with Real Listening

Would you like to be more successful in minimizing difficult situations or by helping customers overcome their hesitations as you’re trying to make a sale?

All empathy begins with real listening. As you listen with empathy, ask questions like:

  • “How is this situation affecting you?”
  • “Can you tell me more about _____?”
  • “What do you think would be your ideal outcome here?”

As a person processes, take care not to interrupt. While you may not be equipped to address their concerns, asking empathetic questions can shift your focus to listen more effectively, opening new lines of communication and diffusing tension so everyone can move forward.

Empathy involves reflective listening, using phrases that demonstrate your understanding. Phrases that show customers you are taking customers seriously might include:

  • “I can understand how frustrating it is when . . .”
  • “I see this is very complicated/upsetting.”
  • “I’m sorry to hear that and I’ll do my best to help.”

Pair Compassion with Action

As you communicate compassion, be ready to follow your words with action.

Take ownership of a situation by following up immediately, by referring it to a superior, or by positively addressing both the person and the problem. Phrases like, “ok, we can fix this,” or “let’s get this sorted out right away,” will reassure customers you’re taking ownership of the problem.

Action-based empathy also means thinking outside the box for large-scale change. Erin Henkel, portfolio director at the IDEO global design and innovation company, says often positive innovation begins with empathy:

“Effective companies need employees who constantly imagine themselves in the customer’s shoes. As they make the customer’s problems their own, they are better able to meet expectations, make necessary changes, and to retain customer loyalty for another day.”

Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is a hallmark of intelligent leadership and of excellent teamwork. Work hard to grow empathy and you will open new lines of communication, create greater understanding, and help everyone achieve common goals.

Print marketing is compelling, memorable, and engaging.

As people touch, hold, and even smell paper, they respond in a profoundly personal way.

While digital communication is booming, this has only enhanced the unique voice that print brings for any business. Millennials and Gen Z are very difficult crowds to reach digitally, with 63 percent using AdBlocker and 82 percent ignoring online banner ads. This trend toward tactile is stirring potential for many exciting creative opportunities.

Today, we’ll highlight four print marketing trends from 2018 to inspire you in the year to come.

Simplicity

The world is filled with chaos, and fundamentally, viewers long for a return to simplicity.

Minimalist designs offer the respite people crave. Minimalist designs include images with a clear, elegant purpose, maximizing white space and using layouts that are clean and authentic. Uncluttered visuals bring an honest, compelling point into focus in a quick and arresting way.

For years, TBWA Paris has been on a mission to advertise McDonald’s in the most minimalist ways possible. This started in 2013 with extreme close-up photos of food and followed with computer-icon-style pictograms featuring McDonald’s menu items reduced down to very spare illustrations. Many of these ads used no branding whatsoever: the point was that the food was so recognizable it didn’t need a label.

By 2017, McDonald’s had the food disappearing altogether, featuring top sellers like fries, McNuggets, or Big Mac cartons that were completely empty (apart from a few crumbs), because the food had already been devoured by famished customers.

Effective? Absolutely. These simple ads bypass the brain and go straight to the stomach.

Personalized Print Pieces

Print is already a highly personal medium, but advances in technology allow businesses to enjoy increased access to personalized posters, flyers, direct mail, and more.

If you want to impress, try gathering online data about customer preferences and include that in print.

Branding even the simplest products has also allowed companies to gain a more personal touch. For example, a local auto garage printed customized labels for its water bottles and offered complimentary water to customers while they waited.

Color

If you’ve ever painted a room, you know the significance even a slightly darker hue can bring. Color experts Pantone released color trends for 2018 with this advice:

  • If you want to look resourceful, employ blue and orange hues
  • If you want a playful tone, choose yellow
  • If you’re looking for something discreet, try pink
  • If you want more sophistication, choose gold

What if you want to reach a diverse crowd?

According to Pantone, rosy tones bring a palette that “reaches out and embraces many different cultures.” Pantone said in 2018, print marketing was trending away from pastels and toward bright, bold colors:

“Intense colors seem to be a natural application of our intense lifestyles and thought processes these days.”

Storytelling

Storytelling is not just for YouTube.

Print that tells a story can alleviate suspicion and make instant connections, especially with younger audiences.

A Spanish lollipop grabbed this edge with its “ant aversion” ad for Chupa Chups lollipops. While normally a company might bore viewers with guilt trips for sugar-free products, Chupa Chups chose a “visual story” to make their point.

In the print ad, a sticky sucker had been discarded on a rock slab near the lawn. Meanwhile, a triple-wide line of ants detoured around the candy, heading toward the grass. The headline, “It’s Sugar Free,” brought a resounding finale to this playful story.

Chupa Chups reminds us that print is at its best when it is used as an art. Use vibrant colors, minimalist designs, and personalized print pieces to grab their attention and tell your story this year.

Tis the season to be gifting!

What is a gift? A gift is not comprised merely of what is given, but of the thoughtfulness or care that is behind it. A gift is appreciation on wheels.

December is a great time to show your appreciation. Whether it’s seasonal incentives, end of the year bonuses, or a just a friendly reminder that you care, here are seven unique (but inexpensive) gifts that your customers or employees will love:

Favorite Flavors

If you have a small staff or a handful of VIP clients, dig up info on the hobby or flavor of their choice (coffee, chocolate, classical guitar) and personalize a basket to their delight.

Or if you know your friends enjoy golf, assemble a kit including items like towels, ball markers, balls, and tees. Use a stylish bag that can clip easily onto their golf bag. Or assemble a sports tote full of goodies featuring a college or professional team of their choice.

Touchscreen Gloves

Gloves are both a necessity and a perk, especially in the touchscreen generation.

Cold weather commutes can be significantly brightened by cozy, oh-so-convenient touchscreen gloves. Your friends can text, browse online, or shuffle music while enjoying this thoughtful gift.

Cord Organizer

Nothing is more frustrating than a stuck zipper. Or a knotted shoe.

Scratch that: nothing is worse than tangled earbuds that take forever to unwind! A branded cord organizer can keep their earbuds (and their sanity!) intact. Choose from a range of colors or upgrade with a set of customized earbuds as well.

Charity of Choice

They say people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Offer a gift that’s close to their heart! Ask what your client’s most cherished organization or non-profit is, and make a financial gift to this organization on their behalf.

Portable Power Bank

Today’s generation is on the run constantly.

Portable power banks allow users to store electrical energy and use it later, charging almost any USB connectable device (cameras, phones, portable speakers, tablets, and more). Great for airports, commuting, or hours “off the grid,” power banks are truly a gift that keeps on giving!

Bubble Umbrellas

Whether you walk to work or enjoy singing in the rain, bubble umbrellas are just plain fun!

Give a unique umbrella to protect your friends from rain and wind, covering their face but allowing them to see clearly as they stroll.

Coupon of the Month Club

Want to offer a unique twist this year?

Buy 12 gift card sleeves and label them with the months of the year. Whether you print custom coupons for your business or purchase a variety of gift cards from the community, there is no end to your creative options.

If you are gifting employees, consider paring coffee or restaurant gift cards with workday incentives (i.e. redeem for a half day off work one Friday this month, enjoy in-office chair massages on a staff reward day of the boss’s choice). Recipients can decide whether they’ll open all 12 envelopes immediately or enjoy a surprise per month in 2019.