Nov 30

The new project triangle of marketing and web development

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   I’m sure you’re familiar with the project triangle: fast, cheap, or good, where you have to pick two.  It’s fairly ubiquitous; heck, it even hung in Stump’s Supper Club when I worked there in college.

Project Triangle

But with good marketing and web development projects the conversation should be about rushed, inexpensive, and perfect instead.

Fast vs. rushed: All good marketers will get you what you need as fast as they can.  But if you need it yesterday, that’s an issue of rush services.

Cheap vs. inexpensive: Cheap isn’t a word you want associated with your marketing and web development.  But inexpensive – that’s different!  We all want what we need to be inexpensive.

Good vs. perfect: Again, good marketers and web developers will deliver good work all the time.  Perfect, on the other hand, takes your project to a higher level and consequently requires a higher level of service.

So there you have it, the new project triangle of marketing and web development – and graphic design, copywriting, resumes, and all other professional creative services.  Rushed, inexpensive, or perfect.  Which two are most important to you?

Mar 01

Pick your focus: positive or negative

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   The other morning in the shower I happened to notice something about my shampoo and conditioner bottles that I think is significant.

While most products’ marketing messages focus on the positive, hair care product messaging focuses squarely on the negative.

Diet pills proclaim, “We will shed those pounds!” not “You’re fat, you really should take these pills.” Magazines advertise that they’ll help you get more organized, find the perfect outfit, or date like a pro – not that you’re hopeless in these departments without them.

But the hair care bottles advertise their contents for “weak, lifeless, or dull hair” and say they are “lengthening for hard-to-grow hair.”

Wouldn’t it be more customer-friendly to say something like, “Luxurious formula for the length and sheen you crave,” rather than, “Hey you with the pathetic mop, over here!”

Apr 30

Social media: Not the Holy Grail, but a good tool to have.

A recent University of South Florida study determined that millennials are not “friending” or “tweeting” about companies and brands like marketers thought they were.  This is going to sound strange coming from marketers, but we’re not surprised.

More and more, people are using social media to promote their products or services.  Think about it: Do you use Twitter to post about your business or area of expertise?  Does your business have a Facebook page – or do you wish it did?

But let’s face it, college kids don’t interact with social media this way.  Their lives involve sleeping, going to class, and having fun.  And they like social networks because they help them with the ladder.

So naturally “interacting” with brands is a big part of that, right?  Wrong.  Do you yearn to spend your free time that way?  Sure, some people do, but not most.  We have lives full of things to do and people to see.

The point is that “social media” has its applications, but it’s not the Holy Grail of marketing.  It’s a tool you can use in your marketing program, which must be based first and foremost on identifying your target market and reaching out to them.

Thanks to Megan Hendricks for bringing this article to our attention.

Jan 30

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Or, a tale of two logos.

Two recent news items about companies that changed their brand identity got us thinking about the necessity of such changes.

One is Pepsi’s new logo.  Greeted with some admiration but mostly angry backlash over the million-dollar budget that produced a logo only slightly different than its predecessor, the new logo begs the question, Was this necessary?

The other is the new Tropicana packaging, which was also met with dismay by consumers and industry folks alike.

Interestingly, both of these projects were done by Arnell Group, and we’re really curious to know one thing: Did they ask Pepsi and Tropicana customers if they wanted a brand redesign?

To our thinking, both new product identities look generified and are in no way improvements over what had been in use for years.  But it doesn’t matter what we think, as design professionals.  What matters is what we think as customers – us and the millions of other Pepsi and Tropicana customers.  And we think Arnell Group didn’t bother to find out.

All too often companies want to change their look, get a new website, or update their logo “just because.”  Because they’re tired of looking at it.  Because their competition did.  Or because their ad agency suggested it.

But none of these are good reasons.  And in fact there is only one good reason to undertake such a task: Because your customers want it.

We’re all guilty of putting the cart before the horse and charging down Marketing Lane without first getting the input and approval of our customers.  Lucky for us smaller businesses such moves are rarely disastrous, because we can easily change back and don’t have a client base of millions to potentially piss off.  And make no mistake, people are emotionally invested in their favorite brands and get mighty pissed off about changes to them!

Regardless, now is a good time to re-learn the lessons of “look before you leap” and “if it’s not broken don’t’ fix it.”  And lucky for us, we can learn these lesson vicariously through Pepsi and Tropicana, rather than first-hand.

Sep 30

Are You Stealing Your Logo?

This is a straight-shooting message about intellectual property rights by Maria Marsala, reprinted with permission.  She says it perfectly, so we’ll let her do her thing.  Enjoy!


Are You Stealing Your Logo?
by Maria Marsala, Elevating Your Business

It’s scary to me, the number of business owners who don’t know much about the laws regarding the work that other contractors are doing for them.

Do you know, for instance, that you do not own much of the work others do for you!  I’m referring to copywriters, graphic artists, web designers, photographers, etc., those who create things for you, your business or even a non-profit organization “own the rights to them.”  Yes, the logo they create for you, they own.  Didn’t realize that?  Even a contract a lawyer creates for you – you can’t just give to a friend to use!  Read on.

It’s the law.  Read more about a recent lawsuit won by a photographer who recently won $1.32 million in a copyright-infringement lawsuit.

What you can do if you create such work.  All my clients want long-standing clients.  So as part of the initial consultation, they tell every client about this law.  Some even give them an article on the subject during the initial contact.

Why?  Because a majority of the business owners don’t know anything about this and the size of the business doesn’t matter (see below).

Include this in your contract.  Offer to sell clients the rights by charging an additional fee if the client wants the “rights.”

What can business owners do?  Know the laws around the work that others are doing for you.  Not knowing won’t get you off the hook.  Ask the questions “Will I own the rights to use this?” and “Can I change this and use it any way I want including allowing someone else to use it?”  If you don’t own the rights, and someone creates a logo for your website, you can’t put that logo on your stationary or change it — size, colors etc. – unless you own the rights.

Even large companies don’t know all about the laws.  A multi-million mega dollar training/coaching company that I worked for a few years ago had the best photos and graphics in their eNewsletter.  After contacting them to learn their source, I learned that they were stealing the photos from all over the Internet!  I told them so and unsubscribed from the newsletter.

© 2007 Maria Marsala, a former Wall Street Fortune 300 executive, is a business therapist, author and speaker.  She helps small business owners earn more, work smarter, create profit by producing services/informational products, and live great lives.  Receive  FREE Business Tools.

Dec 10

Worst Buy

Here at the Studios we are, like any business, inundated with direct mail on a daily basis.  Most of it goes in the trash.  But from time to time, we’ll hold on to a piece if it seems particularly effective or memorable.  We have quite a collection, and it serves as a good source of ideas and inspiration.

We also take note of particularly bad mailings.  Case in point, we recently received a mailing from Best Buy for Business.  This is what the envelope looked like:

Because the exterior looked so low-budget, we initially thought a not-so-savvy company had—in an act of sheer brilliance—decided to call themselves “Best Buy.”  Hey, why not, it’s obviously a pretty good name.  Just ask Bust Buy.

But once we looked inside, we knew it was actually from Best Buy, the national chain.  Apparently, the company has no style guide, and no problem with staffers/franchisees/etc. sending horrible mailings that only serve to make Best Buy look…well, more like “Worst Buy.”

Here’s a look at the letter itself:

It actually came as a photocopy of what looked like a letter that had been (poorly) prepared with a typewriter.  There was no date or signature block.  The text was crooked on the page and contained only an oblique description of what Best Buy for Business actually is.

If the corporate business card and obligatory club card key chain had not been in the envelope, we would have suspected fraud, like one of those Namibian “please for help from an orphaned billionaire” spam e-mail messages we get from time to time.

Hey Best Buy, listen up: It’s called brand identity, and when you allow stuff like this to circulate, you’re basically giving up on it.  This kind of direct mail would be bad enough had it come from Zed’s Repair Shop.  From a nationwide technology retailer, it is unforgivable.

Aug 30

To tweet or not to tweet – that is the question, right?

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   Everyone’s talking about Twitter, and it seems like everyone is tweeting: friends, associates, even the Weather Channel make regular tweets about topics ranging from useful to downright silly.

So what should you do?  Take a look at the pros and cons, then decide for yourself.

• It’s pretty easy; at 140 characters per tweet you really can’t put too much time into it
• It makes it easy to stay in touch with clients
• It’s good brain exercise to figure out how to say something in 140 characters or less
• It’s good exposure for you and your company
• You’ll get to hear directly from clients, giving you valuable feedback

• People can see what you’re up to, even if – and sometimes especially if – you don’t want them to
• It can be too personal if you don’t keep the focus on your business
• It can be a security breach if you tweet the wrong information
• In all likelihood you will not get clients from tweeting, but will build brand awareness

But no matter what, don’t start tweeting just because it seems as though the whole world is giving updates on whether their teeth are brushed yet.  But definitely DO secure your name and your business name.  Even if you decide Twitter isn’t a good use of your time, that doesn’t mean someone else won’t!

Jun 30

What reminds us…

With our new, stronger focus on brand strategy we’re combing the Internet for brand resources and have found some great sites, like It’s a forum for rebranding case studies and programs, and they have “the first and only global awards program to recognize the world’s most effective brand transformations.” If you’re at all interested in rebranding you should check it out.

Among the many useful tidbits on their website is the article “The Top 20 Mistakes Marketers Make When Rebranding – And How to Avoid Them.” It’s available here.

The most relevant take-away from this article for us is how much the potential mistakes you can make in a rebranding project are applicable to all creative services work. Here are a few.

Don’t work via strategy by committee. In our experience this always slows things to a snail’s pace and often causes the project to never end. To address this we include a Project Team section in our Creative Brief, which gives clients a chance to decide at the beginning who will work on the project.

Navigating without a plan. This ties in directly with the Creative Brief, which they say is essential to keep everyone focused as the project progresses.

Clinging to history. ReBrand says don’t hold on to assumptions made when the original brand was established, as they may no longer be relevant in today’s marketplace. This is true not just for rebranding, but any business actions you take. And in truth, to all of life – assumptions are killers!

For us, the benefit of this piece was how it reminded us that best practices are just that – the best way to approach for many of the services we offer. It’s good to know we’re on track with many things, remember which areas we need to work on, and be reminded to adhere to smart practices at all times.