Is Your Website From Another Decade?

Have you looked at your website with an outside perspective? Most of the new websites we’ve designed and developed have come about as a company leader has looked at their site and thought, “Wow…it’s been 5 years since we did anything new on our site…and it’s looking a little dated…and acting a little antiquated.”  So, how do you know if your website is the equivalent of a flip phone, vs. a smart phone? How do you know if your site looks and acts like it’s from a different decade?

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Here are a few things to check your site against, that might help indicate if, “it’s time for a change.”

Is your website responsive?  As of last fall, Pew Research shows 64% of American adults own a smart phone that they’re pretty fond of. Many of us check our phones or tablets whether or not we hear a ping. You’re likely using it to check your e-mail, Fantasy football and surf the web too. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it could be turning off some of your customers. In addition, Google’s new algorithm is penalizing non-mobile sites whose customers are searching for them from a mobile device.

Is your website easy to navigate?  It’s important to have a strong architecture with your audience in mind. Your website should be easy-to-use and navigate without causing users frustration. Your website is a reflection of your organization and should share the same professional image you do in the office. Think of it as your lobby! More people are likely see your website than your front door.

How is your page ranking in search engine results?  Redesigning your website will bring you into the 21st century and will help boost your search engine results! A site built with new best practices can help your page rank. In addition, it will implement new web functionalities, like blogs and videos, that will also benefit your search engine results.

Is your website copyright from 2015?  Every website has a copyright at the bottom — what’s yours?©2009?  ©2001?  Savvy folks will notice that your site is likely untouched since the date of that copyright. That’s probably not a good impression.

Are your social media links integrated?  Social media marketing is a growing effort for businesses and brands of all sizes. If you’re using social media marketing, make sure your website reflects that. Did you know that social media link integration can help improve your ranking in search results? It also makes your brand or business more visible to your customers as those buttons are universally recognizable.

And last but not least, if your visible hit counter is showing, your website might be from the 1990s!

But don’t worry. If you’re not feeling good about your site, contact us, and we’ll be happy to provide you with some thoughts on what to prioritize, so you can get it up to date.

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When one of our client’s products boasts grilling moister meats with the wood-fired taste you crave, we couldn’t wait try it!

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Introducing the Kamado Joe ceramic grill. It features a flexible Divide & Conquer cooking system so you can grill more (of everything) at once. Their competitors are “green with envy” as each Joe comes with all the accessories you need to grill, smoke and sear. We’re not kidding, every Joe comes with a rolling stand, exterior shelves for extra space and a slide out ash drawer! An added bonus to the already impressive list of “Joe-isms” is its ability to cook just about anything.

They say, “Nobody likes a piece of meat that resembles a hockey puck,” and we have to agree. Nothing beats a juicy burger with all the fixins’ on a summer afternoon. To test out our new grill-friend, we threw on some burgers & brats, buns and kabobs. Team members each brought their favorite summer side dish to complete our spread.

Here are a few of our team’s winning recipes:
• Even Better the Second Time Around: Hillbilly Baked Beans
• Tastes Like Summer: Petite Midori Cakes
• Gone in the Flip of a Spatula: Corn Casserole
• Can’t Beet This Vegetarian Option: Fruit & Veggie Kabobs 
• Most Pinterest-ing: Mac & Cheese

We’re believers. We enjoyed the experience of using the Kamado Joe grill. The act of lighting the charcoal and tasting the woodsy flavor of flame-grilled burgers and brats was utopia… “Joetopia” even. It was easy to clean and perfect for cooking for a dozen people at once. Let’s just say, this isn’t your average Joe kind of grill. If you’re looking for a better grilling experience, we highly recommend Kamado Joe.

A big thank you to our Grill Master, Steve, for feeding the troops!

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We, We, We All the Way Home

Have you ever noticed how often advertisers talk about themselves? Rather than focusing on what they can do for their prospective customers, it seems to be a common practice to toot your own horn (all the way home).

 

I recently heard a radio commercial for a local hospital and counted the word “we” 16 times. That’s right, 16 times in a 60-second commercial! I noticed that never once, not once, did they mention their audience, “you.” It was a very self-motivated commercial and I’m not really surprised. Oftentimes in healthcare promotions, the hospitals are shown talking about themselves and their accomplishments, not the lives of their patients. Let’s think about this. Is it really all that bad to boast about your accreditations or high customer satisfaction ratings? No. As consumers, we need to know what businesses are selling and what makes them better than their competitors. But there’s a better way to tell that story so your customer stops to listen to it.

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As an example of shifting focus to the consumer, I’ll use two hospitals.  We rebranded North Fulton Hospital under the tagline, “We Specialize in You.”  It shifts the focus immediately from what the hospital does, to the beneficiary — the patient. It’s very customer-centric, and it allows the staff at the hospital to keep their focus on the patient as they “live the brand.”

 

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When we rebranded Spalding Regional Hospital in Griffin, the focus on improvements that the hospital had made internally was part of their new brand. The teaser campaign was “We’re Not Your County Hospital Anymore” but it was quickly followed up with the tagline, “Change for the Better,” which was a call-to-action for the community to “change” as well as a notice that the hospital itself had “changed for the better.” Note it didn’t say, “We have Changed for the Better.”

 

Next time you’re listening to a commercial or looking at a print ad, pay attention to what the advertiser is saying. If they have a bad case of the “we-wes,” then they’re probably not interested in connecting with you.

 

At Marbury Creative Group, we fill in the gap between companies and all the great things they have to talk about; and their customer—who has no time to listen to great things and just wants to know, “how can you help me?” We want to help you turn those we-wes into me-mes.

 

Have you heard any we-ally good commercials lately? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter.

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A Noteworthy Thought on Typing in a Meeting

When taking notes in a meeting, what do you reach for: your notepad and pencil or your iPad?

As an ad guy who loves his Apple tools, you might be surprised by my answer. I take notes on a notepad 98% of the time. My notes give me visual cues – from placement and size of words on the page, to actual doodles – each reinforcing a specific point. Sometimes I wonder if our clients fear I’m behind the times when I pull out my trusty ruled notepad. I always have my iPad in case we want to look at something online, or take a photo. But a week later when we get the “OK” to start the project, I go back to that trusty ruled notepad and review my notes. I can recall my ideas immediately as if it was an hour ago that we met. My biggest problem now is trying to remember where I put the notepad!

So what’s the official word?

A recent report from Princeton University shows that the pen is mightier than the keyboard (in most instances).  Although some studies go as far to say that typing is destroying your memory, we think it’s safe to say, there are perks to each, no matter what page you’re on.

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1B62CSY

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1B62CSY

Besides the potential distractions that tech note-tools add to the equation, you might be less likely to retain what you’re writing. For instance, most electronic note-takers end up transcribing the conversation verbatim, rather than making note of key information or important takeaways. On the flipside, electronic note-takers were able to recall factual information but lacked on overall concept recollection. They could not remember the intent of the person speaking.

Traditional note-takers generally pay more attention to the conversation and make note of specific points and key information, later recalling the overall concept and big picture more clearly and better than electronic note-takers.

So how do you take notes? I’m currently exploring note-taking apps that allow me to write and save from my iPad. Any suggestions? Share your thoughts with me below or find us on Facebook.

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Room for Improv-ement

Earlier this year, RBM of Alpharetta asked us to create a unique TV campaign that would help them stand out from other car dealerships. Our goal was to forgo the typical approach, you know the salesman standing next to shiny new cars as numbers fly out toward the viewer with a list of hyped-up benefits and promises. RBM of Alpharetta offers a unique take on the “customer experience” and “test drive experience” that consistently earns them high marks. But rather than use the straight testimonial approach, we wanted something more interesting and entertaining… “real life written.”

We developed a few concepts and presented them to the client. Then, we drafted scripts and storyboards for final approval.

So, what made this commercial different from others? We went “off the book” to cast improvisational actors, instead of traditional actors through talent agencies. You see, improv actors are talented quick-thinkers, trained to come up with ideas on the spot. They take a “real situation” and make it even more interesting. We knew these talented storytellers would only add to our concept.

Our concept consisted of two people taking a test drive at the dealership. When we cast the improvisational actors, we asked each actor to read through the script a few times, and then cut loose and have some fun with it. After hearing their takes, we enhanced the script, and got final approval.

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During filming, we got what we all agreed to in the can. Then once again, directed the improv actors to try a few different situations, such as playing different roles or approaching the spot with a different attitude. That provided us with some “magical lines and expressions” that we were able to incorporate, which gave the viewer an extra smile.

Click here to watch the commercial.  At the end, look closely for our favorite improv piece where the wife wants to take the test drive. Working with improv actors really complemented the concept. While we had to cut a few lines to add it, out client agrees that it was definitely worth it.

The next time you’re looking for a fresh approach to a radio or television commercial, let us know. We’ll give improv a try with your brand and help you tell it better.

Why We Hate “Quality”—and How to Craft a Better Tagline

Hello, there! We’re the Marbury Creative Group from Duluth, Georgia.

And we hate “quality.”

Isn’t that the most over-used word in the English language? It’s been used so frequently in company taglines that it no longer has any meaning. Telling your audience that your product, or your business, is “quality” doesn’t tell them anything about what your business DOES. And you need to tell your audience what you do, so they’ll want to work with you!

So now that we’ve got that off our chests, we’d like to point out a few features of a well-crafted tagline:

A good tagline should be an extension or representation of your brand. 

• SHORT:

It should be the shortest number of words you can use to intrigue a listener to want to know more about your company. 3 to 5 words are ideal.

• CLEAR:

Upon hearing the tagline, the listener should get a sense of the culture of the brand.

• UNIQUE:

A good tagline helps differentiate the company within their industry.

• MEMORABLE:

Like we say with all branding, it’s got to be memorable.

• TRUE:

It needs to be a statement that is true and effective within the marketing plan of the brand.

• NOT. THREE. WORDS.

It should be a single “sentence or thought,” not three separate thoughts. It’s awfully tempting to use 3 words with a period between each of them, but don’t do it. It does nothing but throw out three features of your brand without making a compelling argument for your brand.

• NOT QUALITY

And please, please don’t use buzzy words like “quality,” “superior,” “we save more,” or “the difference is our people.”

Need a couple of good—and bad—examples?

Synovus: The Bank of Here

Synovus Bank’s evocative tagline, “The Bank of Here,” allows the viewer to create their own scenario about their money. Want to take a flight? Build a business? Financially support your grandpa? Synovus Bank is here to help. A helpful, caring corporate culture is established. And the tagline is supported by a beautifully produced and shot commercial replete with appealing images that reinforce the message.

Atlanta Toyota: The Name Says it ALL

Atlanta Toyota’s tagline has the opposite effect. The name doesn’t say it all. It doesn’t tell you what the corporate culture is, or what the brand can do for you. It doesn’t tell you that their vehicles get great gas mileage, that their service department will go the extra mile, or that their salespeople are fair and square when it comes to getting you the best deal possible for your new ride. The name says that it’s in Atlanta and it’s Toyota. Missed opportunity.

So the next time you hear a salesman or business owner describe their product as “quality,” tell them it’s not! Tell them they’re better than that, and your friends at Marbury Creative Group can help. Because… you know…we hate “quality.”

What Magic Makes a Good Radio Spot?

Radio is HARD, but it’s one of our favorite mediums to work with. If radio spots are done right, they can get a lot of attention. Done wrong, they add to the noise, or worse, become super-annoying. There’s a shining example of this conundrum running in the Atlanta market right now…

An interesting radio ad began running last month for Great Clips hair salons. The premise is that the stylist and customer are having a conversation about a haircut, but their voices are “auto-tuned” like changing gears — sounding like NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne’s no. 5 Chevrolet SS in the final lap at Atlanta Motor Speedway. About two weeks later, a second radio spot debuted, where an announcer (in a typical, “announcer-y” voice) stated something along these lines: “We apologize for the ads we ran a couple of weeks ago. We had some feedback like, ‘if I hear this ad again, I’ll never go back into a Great Clips.’ Well, we just want you to know we heard you!” The sentiments were evident across social media:

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We often get asked, “What makes a magical radio spot?” by prospective and current clients. While the client’s needs may vary, here are a few universal truths in radio advertising to consider.

All day long people are talking “at us” and giving us information about THEM, so when a radio spot does that, it blends in with all the other noise. But if you create a scene in a radio spot, it stands out from the other stuff that’s on the radio. Radio is ”theater of the mind.” It’s about creating a scene for the listener. Listeners will develop a picture in their head when you’re giving them enough audio cues. You might have a doctor and a patient having a conversation, and you can get creative with that. How large is the office-do you hear an echo? Is the doctor rolling around-does the stool squeak? Are there animals in the room? Is the product serious or funny? Humor works, by the way, but you have to be careful not to go too far or it can be annoying—just like the Great Clips spot that’s discussed above.

This quote from Tom Shane may tell it better. At an advertising awards ceremony several years ago, Tom Shane (of the Shane Company jewelry fame) was asked why he didn’t do TV advertising. He said, “When I’m showing you a brilliant diamond, you’re limited by what you SEE on TV. But if I’m telling you that at Shane Co. we have the most brilliant diamonds, you will picture the most brilliant diamond you can think of in your mind.” In other words, the listener is responsible for coming up with a visual of your product that’s positive and relevant to them. And if you verbally relay that image correctly, they’ll attribute that image to your brand.

Find the balance between production/voice/copywriting. Sometimes, a spot can be too perfect or uniform, which takes away from the message. For example, there are current radio spots for an Atlanta furniture company that scream all their information at you and it’s pretty hard to understand what the announcer is saying. The tone decreases the impact of the message. There’s also a lingerie company spot that includes a conversation between two salespeople talking about the product for 30 seconds — but the sound quality sounds like it could have been produced in an elevator. The right voice talent, with good writing and production values, will create a radio spot that’s memorable in more ways than one. Then there’s the infamous jingle… well, that is another topic altogether, and perhaps one that we’ll leave for another day….

So what radio ads have you found unforgettable—in a good or bad way? Leave your comments here, or on Facebook or via Twitter!

 

Meetings of the Minds: 3 Takeaways from the 2014 HOW Design Conference

Earlier this year, Art Director Carol Armitage had an opportunity to attend the HOW Design Conference in Boston, MA. It was a great opportunity for Carol to learn from some of the brightest minds in the design business. In her own words, here are her biggest takeaways from the conference.

The whole event was very well organized, and there were some really great presenters. I tried to attend a wide variety of sessions that would be most applicable to my job and our company. If I were to pare it down, I think the MOST helpful to me overall was the “Responsive Web Design” seminar, which went over how to use Adobe Edge Tools: Edge Animate, Edge Code, Edge Reflow and Edge Inspect. Because we are being asked more and more by clients to design sites for mobile devices, it was very helpful to see what’s out there to aid us in meeting those requests. I am not a developer–that is a very specialized field–but in order to do the best design for the web, it’s imperative for us as designers and art directors to have some basic knowledge of how our work will translate from desktop to different devices.

Probably the most inspiring of the sessions I attended was “Perfectly Imperfect,” presented by Dana Tanamachi-Williams, a “Texas-bred, Brooklyn-based graphic designer and letterer who enjoys living a quiet life and working with her hands.”

Credit: Dana Tanamachi-Williams

Credit: Dana Tanamachi-Williams

Dana is a typographer who works primarily in chalk. Tanamachi is a trend setter. I’ve seen a LOT of her style being replicated in print and on the web, a phenomenon she refers to as “the copycat culture” of today’s design. But her philosophy is one of humility and growth by learning from one’s mistakes. She defines TEACHABILITY as a “willingness to learn, unlearn or re-learn”. She stresses encouraging others, and is particularly fond of the writings of Jon Acuff, who explains in his book Quitter that “anonymity allows you to make big, necessary mistakes without everyone watching you.” She attributes her great success to being able to work out the “kinks” while she was still an unknown. And she stresses the importance of “giving back”, asking the question “Because you have ________ (time, power, talent, skills, abilities…fill in the blank,) WHO is flourishing?” Giving of your gifts allows others to flourish. She is working on a new book titled D. I. Y. Type, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

I also attended a session called “How to be an Idea Witch Doctor”, presented by Stefan Mumaw.

 

A caricature of author Stefan Mumaw (credit: http://www.callahancreek.com/stefan-mumaw )

A caricature of author Stefan Mumaw (credit: http://www.callahancreek.com/stefan-mumaw )

Mumaw is the author of many books on boosting one’s creative proficiency. He started out the session asking us to design the “ultimate” baby stroller, with no constraints, and we built on that throughout the session. He says creativity is “problem-solving with relevance and novelty.” Oftentimes designers get stuck on projects, and can’t seem to work through to a solution, so he suggests we can be “Witch Doctors’” by casting 3 “spells”: 1- change the problem; 2-change the rules; and 3-change the answers. By putting restrictions on our creative thinking, we make ourselves MORE creative, which sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. One great avenue to getting a breakthrough is taking an idea to a level of utter absurdity, and then pull back from there. The session was hands-on, and lots of fun. I would love to have seen what the final results were on all the absurd baby stroller ideas from each participant. Mine was pretty ridiculous: a sleigh being pulled by an alligator with a hollowed-out boulder on the gator’s back for parents to sit in. LOL! Being a parent myself, there is NO WAY I’d see that as practical, but hey, Wilma Flintstone might have bought a stroller like that for Pebbles.

And lastly, I was struck by Bob Gill’s presentation, DESIGN as IDEA. 

Bob Gill caricature, credit: Bob Gill

Gill is one of the founding members of Fletcher, Forbes and Gill, which later became Pentagram.  He reminded me SO much of our own Bob Jones, with his shock of white hair, sense of humor and basic philosophy on advertising. He says, “The best way to get a visual is not to look for a visual image.” He says we need to “…eliminate culture. The next time you get a job, have no idea what it should look like-all ideas already there are put there by culture.” He gave the example of designing a logo for a dry cleaner by explaining, “…if you’re doing a logo for a dry cleaner, GO TO A DRY CLEANER, and stay there until you have something meaningful to say, and it will design itself!” He referenced the book Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher, in which Fletcher apparently never asked, “what do you want?” of a client, and then gave it to them. This segued into a Q&A portion of the talk where an attendee asked Gill if he had EVER given a client what they wanted. He replied: only once, for George Harrison on his Wonderwall album cover. Harrison had asked Gill to remove a brick from the wall dividing the two scenarios shown. At first he refused, but Harrison strongly protested, so Gill gave in. After all, he WAS George Harrison!

The "Wonderwall" album cover, designed by Bob Gill

The “Wonderwall” album cover, designed by Bob Gill

Stay tuned for more updates on the latest news in concepts and design in advertising and marketing right here! We’ll have breaking news and our own two cents on Facebook and Twitter, too. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s My (Ad Agency) Line, Part 3, and second verse: What Does an Art Director Do?

What's My Line from Logopedia

 

In our last blog we told you about two important facets of an Art Director’s job. Our Art Director, Carol, is tasked with beginning the search for the perfect visual imagery for a project, and being the guardian of standards for our client’s branding. In this post, we’ll talk about three more facets of Carol’s job—she’s our visionary, our guru of visual communication, and our personal puzzle-solver.

Pioneer of trends in visuals and technology.

Carol is the one who keeps us in the present by researching trends in web and print. Right now, “flat design” is hot on the web. In printed materials, Carol is seeing a lot of type-driven and typographic “lock ups” utilizing script fonts as a trend, with muted color palettes- a modern “retro” feel. Logos are one of her favorite things to design. “A good logo communicates the essence of a business in a clever and simple way,” she states. “Some of the best logos designed are the simplest. Take the Apple logo…they’ve taken it at step further from the original by removing the rainbow pattern…and now it’s simpler than ever. Love it!”

If necessary, use words….

Lots of companies think of themselves as ad agencies, but they’re really pumping out information and thinking, “if we get this information out there enough, people will buy it.” The result? Work that lacks emotion and a connection with the customer. These digital data shops don’t have an art director looking at what the design or layout is saying. They are not asking what’s being communicated visually. People that run companies are often analytical or numbers/data heavy, and they neglect to think about what’s being said visually. It’s similar to watching body language and responding to what you’re seeing. An art director helps create visual communication, which imparts emotional attachment, not just facts. That’s why an art director is essential if you want to TELL IT BETTER.

Making the pieces fit.

Sometimes a client’s just got a lot to say. Tons of messaging is necessary in one piece – and it’s up to the art director and his or her team to get it organized and into a hierarchy of what’s truly necessary to tell the story. Sometimes clients want pieces of two concepts (or worse, more) combined into one, and the art director has to work it out. Here’s an analogy for you—ever been to a restaurant and confronted with a massive, confusing menu? A good art director will whittle down the overwhelming choices and create a project that doesn’t have to work so hard to communicate its message. The adage “less is more” is true. As Carol says, “When you can’t take anything more away, you’ve achieved your goal. “

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Got questions? Good! Leave a comment here, or reach out to us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. 

What’s My (Ad Agency) Line: What Does an Art Director Do?

This month we delve into the duties of a Creative Director!

This month we delve into Part One of a two-part series on the duties of an Art Director!

Marbury Creative Group believes that good work is a team effort. So what does each member of our team do? Here is part one of the third post in our series that answers the burning question: “So what DO you do as a _____________ for Marbury Creative Group?”

 

What exactly DOES an art director do?

An Art Director establishes and leads the conceptual stylistic direction for design projects and staff, and ensures design integrity is maintained with all projects from concept to completion.

 

Beginning the search for the perfect visual imagery.

Brainstorming concepts is a group thing at Marbury Creative Group. Everyone participates in it. Everyone bounces ideas off each other. But once our Chief Creative Officer, Rob, solidifies and approves the concept, the process of creating visual images for the project begins. Rob discusses the concept with our Art Director, Carol, and the visual look begins to materialize.

 

Carol is really about the image, including the photo, texture, colors or font. The image sets the mood for the story we are telling. For example, when it comes to photography, Carol prefers to shoot and direct custom images, but in many cases, budget makes that option cost-prohibitive, so we then seek out the help of stock imagery to tell the story. Carol has a knack for finding photos that are spontaneous with a lot of open lighting — the less staged, the better. The more “believable.”

 

Once the actual medium of the visual image is decided, the team creates 2-3 concepts per job and Carol supervises the internal proofing process. She makes sure all the T’s are crossed, i’s are dotted, and that text, placement and font choice are perfect. Type kerning makes a big difference. It’s as important to know how much space to leave between letters when you’re creating a job, as the fonts that are used in the job. We LOVE fonts, and we talk about them a lot in a previous blog.

 

Guardian of standards.

Another aspect of Carol’s job includes making sure that critical stuff, like corporate branding, is in accordance with the client’s guidelines. She thinks about little things, like the space around the logo and tag lines—and big things, like using the correct color palette. She makes sure that the integrity of the brand is upheld. Carol is also the keeper of our standards. She’s constantly upholding our mission, and provides that necessary difference of opinion. As an art director, often she can see things visually that others can’t, and she pushes forward to keep us communicating correctly. Carol is one of the reasons so many of our clients are attracted to our work, and love the way it looks.

Want to learn more? Stay tuned for part 2 of our blog about the Art Director’s job duties! 

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