Digital v. Offset Printing

Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY! Remember the radio commercials where the announcer would start off speaking very loudly, with the last “Sunday” being yelled at you? Well, that type of marketing works for some – others find humorous or emotional marketing to be more effective. Print marketing is the same way. Some folks don’t really care how well the piece is designed, what colors are used, or whether there is white space that allows your message to breathe. (I won’t go into whether Comic Sans or Papyrus fonts are used… that is for another blog entry.) I’m here to tell you that print marketing really does matter, and it is an extension of your company’s perception. How do you want your customers/potential customers to perceive your business? Are you in business to make the world a better place, or just make a buck?


So, what is the difference between Digital vs. Offset Printing, and what are they?
Offset printing (otherwise known as traditional printing) is the printing technique in which the inked image is transferred (or “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. Digital printing (which has been referred to as a glorified color copy but is really much more than that today) is a method in which digital based content is applied directly to a surface (usually, but not limited to, paper).

Digital Printing
Digital printing began to receive a wider acceptance in the commercial printing world in the late 1990’s (remember the “indigo”?). There are no metal plates required, making low quantities and quicker turnaround times feasible – even as quickly as same day. The unique ability that digital printing has is that it allows you to have variable data. This includes not only text, but graphics as well, which can be customized PER PIECE for a personal marketing experience.

Digital Pros

  • quicker turnaround with less setup
  • cost effective for lower quantities (typically less than 500)
  • allows for variable data and graphics
  • less expensive for smaller quantities
  • hard copy proof is exactly what the finished piece will look like

Digital Cons

  • sometimes give you streaks from toner lines in solid areas
  • ink is baked on top of paper and will crack when folded
  • limited paper stock sizes, textures and colors
  • consistent color accuracy typically not available

Offset Printing
Offset printing has a strong command of the industry mainly due to the control of color. Have you ever heard of “Coca-Cola Red”? Well, there is good reason for that. The Coca-Cola Company uses a very specific ink formula (known as a “spot” color) that allows consistency whenever their red is printed. Yes, it costs more, but the color of their red is just as important as their mark. Offset printing quality is also superior, allowing you to not only have different line screens that produce sharp results, but also a much wider variety of substrates (paper stocks) that can allow your per-piece cost to be much cheaper in higher quantities. Offset printing is really the only option for large quantities since the presses can print around 18,000 sheets per hour.

Offset Pros

  • superior quality with sharper images
  • printers can match any color exactly – around the world
  • allows for spot (Pantone) colors for exact color matching
  • liquid ink is absorbed into paper and reacts better when folded
  • larger size sheet sizes – up to 38×50
  • cost per piece is much lower with larger quantities

Offset Cons

  • setup can much longer (plates, proofs and drying)
  • proof is provided on exact paper stock or accurate representation when specialty paper is used
  • variable data capabilities cannot match digital

So, why did I write on this?
The designer part of me always chooses the quality side of printing. It takes a lot of time and effort to come up with a good design and strong message, so the delivery should be just as powerful. The former-business-owner side of me might choose cheap materials to maximize profits. But at what expense? The rule for me is “will this piece ever be printed again, or is it part of family of printed items?” If the answer is yes, then the reprint needs to match the original perfectly – mainly in brand colors and logo. There is nothing worse that having a series of newsletters or postcards come to your mailbox that you happen to save, and realizing that the colors don’t match between them. Believe me, people notice.

Most folks take time to make sure their socks match when they leave the house each day, and check the mirror to make sure things are in place. Well, your marketing materials should reflect that same image. If you don’t really care about things that personify your character, then by all means, go for the cheapest/fastest every time.

With digital printing, colors can shift depending on whether it’s raining. Humidity can greatly affect the technology and give you different results from a piece that was printed a week or month ago. If you ever plan to have a piece reprinted, the odds of you getting the colors to match the original set of materials are almost zero. It’s like making a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy. The quality will only get worse each time.

p.s. Please, please, please don’t ever get your business cards digitally printed. It screams “I’m cheap and I don’t care, now what can I do for your business”. Just poke me in the eye and get it over with!

With Love,


Is Looking Back an Olympic Sport?

[If So, I’ve Got a Gold Medal Today]

Can you believe the Atlanta Olympic Games were held 20 years ago? I guess I can’t deny the length of time any longer. My previous agency won the bid to design and produce the daily newspaper for the athletes,


called The Daily Olympian.  As the art director, I was responsible foroverseeing the design team, driving the layout and keeping us on schedule while photographers brought in amazing images from all over town. Meanwhile, the stable of writers worked feverishly with the editors to provide engaging stories of each day’s events. The pace was brutal, with little room for error; but it was fun, rewarding and unforgettable.

During those 35 straight 12 – 18 hour days, I learned a few things about myself… and life in general, that you may find entertaining. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. A Mac in a PC Box is still a Mac
The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) requested our order for the equipment we needed to publish the Daily Olympian every day. We would be producing it 100% on computers, which was relatively revolutionary at the time . When ACOG saw that we wanted Macintosh Computers to do the layout for the the Daily Olympian, they panicked a little — IBM was the sponsor for the Games. So, they directed us to accomplish our task on IBM PCs! Keep in mind, this was 1996, and Quark Xpress on a PC was just not a reliable option (although better than PageMaker!). So after some serious convincing, ACOG relented and said that we could use Macs, but put them in IBM PC “boxes” – to prevent a sponsor walking through the newsroom and seeing an Apple Computer logo anywhere. We considered that, and ended up determining that even just the screen view would give it away, and that it probably made the most sense to just keep the Macs out of sight. Whew… thank you, Lord! We got approval to use the Macs, but it felt like we were real “renegades.

2. I used to drive as fast as the Internet.My shift began around noon and ended roughly 12 hours later, as the last file was being transmitted via modem to the web printer in Stone Mountain. That process took about 45 minutes per spread. I lived in Lilburn at the time; so about 12:30 a.m., I would leave the Inforum building downtown, with a hard copy print out, and four SyQuest disks (remember those?). I would arrive at the print company 30 minutes later, and we would wait 15 – 20 minutes for everything to come through the internet! They output film, pulled proofs and plates and did a print run of 30,000 or so. As I drove in my convertible, I often imagined those files being transmitted through the cables above my head. Man, that was fast!

 3. What happens when a truck hits a building?
Almost everyone has a story of the night that bomb went off at Centennial Olympic Park. The newsroom was on the top floor in the building across the street! I was handing my coworker Rich a marked-up copy of the Daily Olympian, and my arm was resting across the top of the cubicle wall. Suddenly the whole building shook. For a second I thought that a semi truck must have hit one of the building supports in the loading dock.  Rich and I ran out into the atrium, and saw a couple of security guards running toward an exit. We went up on the roof, and heard sirens as we watched people running every direction like ants on the streets below. There were areas where large groups congregated; and it took a few moments to realize they were surrounding the injured, trying to help them as hordes ran past, exiting the park. We took a few pictures (we were, after all a newspaper), and then Rich and I were questioned, and the building was locked down until almost 5 a.m. The next day, the “authorities” confiscated our film, and went through the computer hard drives to make sure we had NO photos of the incident. It was pretty spooky. On to lighter stuff…

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4. I can drink a lot of Coke when it’s free…
Coca-Cola was a sponsor, and throughout the ACOG headquarters there were soda fountains that only required a swipe of your badge to get a free Coke product. Enough said…

5. French is 20% longer than English.
French is the official language of the Olympic Games. So every article, cut line and date had to be written, proofed and laid out in both English and French. The trick was making sure the layout worked with French adding an extra column. Those outspoken French! Hmpfff!

6. The opening ceremonies are cool, even without the athletes attending.
One of my favorite memories was going to the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremonies. It gave the reporters and photographers a trial run to see where they would be able to observe and take pictures, as well as giving the performers an opportunity to experience the feeling of a full stadium before the actual ceremony. It was incredible. As the flag bearers walked in, each country’s name was announced. All that was missing were the athletes. Luckily, we enjoyed the pictures from the real ceremony the following night as they came through the newsroom for the inaugural edition of the Daily Olympian.

All in all, it was a tremendous experience — one of the most demanding and stressful projects I have ever worked on, as well as one of the most rewarding.

If you have Olympic memories, please share them!




Part of my job as Senior Art Director, is to be very particular about the visual details of any client work that goes through our agency. Among these details is discerning the subtle (or not so subtle) nuances of good and bad TYPOGRAPHY. For me, this attention to detail with letters extends beyond the “Nine-to-Five,” and manifests itself in everyday life outside the office. Take this image, for example:

Bad kerningI’m sitting at a traffic light, and I happen to glance down at the road and see the word “ONL Y” painted on the road in front of me. Even if you aren’t among those with a keen sense for design, you may notice something troublesome about that “yuuuuge” space between the “L” and the “Y.” It just doesn’t feel right..and that poor little “Y’ looks so lonely. This spacial oversight creates an interruption to the eye and causes the reader to subconsciously pause (especially when reading large fields of text, or a headline or sign). This egregious mistake is called BAD KERNING. As an art director, nothing gets under my skin more than poorly-kerned text. Certainly I don’t expect state road workers to be graphic designers, but good typography is not esoteric, reserved only for those with advanced art degrees. All of us are vulnerable to suffering from bad design as it stirs up an odd sense of discomfort. A well-designed logo, ad or billboard — even painted on asphalt— has gestalt! This is when all the elements are working well together, giving the viewer a sense of completion and wholeness. So…I just had to snap a picture of the road to make my point for this blog post. You don’t have to be Claude Garamond or Hermann Zapf to realize something is amiss with that road “sign.”

When I was in school, there were no computers, and we had to hand set all our text with presstype (you know, those rub-off galleys of type) — frequently even had to draw it out by hand. My typography professor at UGA, Ron Arnholm (who incidentally designed the font used for all the University signage on campus), gave an assignment in which we were challenged to create 50 DIFFERENT book cover designs—for Rand Paul’s Designing with Type—all hand lettered. The trick was that we could only use one font…Helvetica. Talk about a tedious task! However, I do believe working through this project forced me to explore the spaces and shapes in that single typeface intimately, and I gained a great appreciation for what truly well-designed typography involves.

Entire books are written on the subjects of designing with type; and, for design nerds like me, there is so much more to the world of typography than just letters on a page…or pavement. So the next time you are at the mall, driving by a billboard, or looking at a menu, see if you notice how the design of the typography makes you feel. I am sure I’m not the ONL Y one.


HOW Design Live 2016 Recap

On the weekend of May 21st, Marbury Creative Group (MCG) designers, John, Carol, and I, enjoyed two days at HOW Design Live 2016. Filled with breakout sessions, keynotes, and workshops, HOW Design Live is five days of creative inspiration and practical application to refuel designers’ passion for their work. (from And boy did we leave refueled.

Before I tell y’all how wonderful the conference was and some of the fabulous things we learned, I would like to start off by saying that I am not a morning person. Especially on the weekends. I was up Saturday AND Sunday at 5:30am – which is 2.5 hours earlier than my Monday – Friday schedule! Though my eyelids felt glued shut, I was so excited to go explore Atlanta, meet new colleagues, learn from creative leaders, and experience HOW that even the early mornings were worth it.

John, Carol, and I covered a lot of ground in just 2 days. We sat in 6 keynotes covering topics like technology and the future of design, designing globally, and a conversation between Debbie Millman and Chip Kidd about Chip’s personal journey though life as a designer. We also interacted with industry colleagues in breakout sessions covering topics like design tips and tricks, management, package design, creative thinking, and much more. Luckily the designers at MCG have varied design interests, so we were able to divide and conquer session topics to learn as much as possible—and there was plenty to learn!

I left HOW Design Live with a notebook filled with notes and inspiration and excitement to get back to my computer and get to designing! Here are 2 of my favorite nuggets of inspiration:

1. How to shut your monkey
Danny Gregory came up with the idea of your monkey. Your monkey (commonly known as your inner critic) is that nagging voice inside you head that says you aren’t good enough. That color isn’t right. What were you thinking when you came up with that idea and concept!? Why in the world would you ever use that typeface in that layout?

We all have it. It is something designers and creatives struggle with daily. I learned how to shut my monkey – to control that inner critic of mine and get more done with out that nagging voice!

2. Adobe apps are awesome!!
I attended a session with Justin Seeley who works at, an online tool for designers to learn how do use the Adobe programs. He introduced us to all the cool features of Adobe Creative suite and showed us that Adobe has some amazing apps that help designers take their design to the next level. Creating patterns, brushes, capturing color pallets in an environment, and so much more. We can start layouts on the go and finishing them on the computers.

By the end of the weekend I was exhausted, but it was totally worth waking up early! I am so appreciative of Rob and Shelly for giving the designers this amazing opportunity to develop as designers. Thanks to HOW, the MCG Studio is even more energized to serve our clients with industry-leading techniques and new ideas creative strategies!



When to say “I do.”

In the early days of any business, owners find themselves forced to wear many different hats… sales, finance, human resources, and marketing to name a few. But as an organization grows, the owner and/or their internal team quickly realize there are not enough hours in the day, nor do they have the ability to deliver the level of attention needed in each of these functional areas.

Recently, we’ve been meeting with business owners and marketing folks at companies that find themselves in exactly this transitional period — they’ve outgrown their internal capacity to deliver and are facing the reality of adding to the expense column by hiring outside professional services. So, just when is it the right time to hire an advertising agency for a growing business?

This is such a great question. And it’s a decision most struggle to make at some point in the life of a business. Unfortunately, there is no “one decision fits all” answer. But here are a few things to consider as you evaluate your company’s specific needs:

Money: It’s true. Ad agencies cost money. But it’s crucial to look at this new expense as an investment in your business. And like all investments, you are correct to expect a return on these dollars. Before hiring any ad agency, make sure you have a good understanding of how they bill, what they bill, and what analytics they will provide that shows the value received for the money spent. Some portion of your investment is certainly brand building in nature, and as such, is difficult to quantify with a measurable ROI; however, most tactical initiatives can and should report on the success of the tactic.

Time: You have heard the expression “time is money.” What would your business gain from you being able to focus all of your attention on your “real” job? And have you considered the dollar value/impact potential on the business of having that opportunity? Partnering with an ad agency can free up valuable hours needed to maintain an effective marketing program, thereby allowing you and your team to be more focused on increasing sales, building relationships with customers, or targeting new markets.

Creativity: Perhaps the single greatest value an ad agency brings to your business is creativity and impact on your message. Many businesses find the outside perspective and competitive research capabilities of an ad agency bring a refreshed focus to your business’ unique selling points. Much too often, businesses get lost in using industry jargon, or trying to be all things to all people. Having an outside perspective helps focus the message and gives your business a strong voice in the market.

Yes, the leap to partnering with an advertising agency requires a financial line item investment that, up to this point, you have done without. But the payoff from this investment, if executed correctly, will be well worth the dollars. Finding a partner for your business allows you to benefit from the focused attention of trained marketing professionals, while freeing up you and your internal staff to focus on business development and delivering on your brand promise. This will pay dividends and ensure your company’s continued growth and success.


HTTPS isn’t just for security anymore

You’ve probably seen many websites display HTTPS instead of an HTTP in their domain address. Previously, we often saw it with the larger e-commerce sites accepting credit cards and it provided a sense of security. The “S” stands for…you guessed it…secure (HTTPS -Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure). It means all communications between the website and your browser are encrypted. So it’s safer to transmit data!

It’s an easy process to convert your site from HTTP to HTTPS. You simply need an SSL certificate. When installed and activated on your web

server, the HTTPS protocol allows for secure connections. You need to ensure your web provider purchases the correct SSL certificate (since all are not created equal) but the point is, it’s an easy process that we can provide. It requires minimal cost and can have a large impact. Most of our clients have already converted to HTTPS simply to guarantee their customers feel that level of security, especially if their site transfers ANY information.

But there is another benefit … SEO!  Google wants websites to be secure mainly because users like sites more when they FEEL and SEE they are secure. In addition, it means that the site is transporting data safely, which is always a good thing. In August of 2014, Google announced they would be giving minor boosts to sites that switch over to HTTPS.  As a result, websites that implemented this change have seen positive results over the past 2 years in search engine rankings. And, we all want to stay in Google’s good graces. So, we recommend switching over to HTTPS if you haven’t already and get an SEO boost, too. It’s killing two birds with one stone!

If you would like to learn more about making the switch to HTTPS, contact I promise, it’s much easier that you think!


UPDATE: Our New Year’s Resolutions

If a new year means a new you, you might relate to a few of our resolutions for 2016.  As we step further into the new year, these are a few things we want to keep top of mind!


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My resolution is to stop watching viral videos involving dogs that I know will make me cry. You know the kind… videos of dogs greeting their owners who just got home from war or biped puppies using a modified wheelchair for the first time. Failed. YouTube cry-fest 1/2/16.


I have a few resolutions for 2016. I will be nicer to my pets and feed them using fine china. I resolve to drink less beer than last year. I will stop making fun of people who like to use Comic Sans. I will safeguard my Blistex so it doesn’t end up in the dryer. And finally, if I win the lottery, I will give half my winnings to good causes. Failed. One load of laundry ruined 2/1/16


My new year’s resolution is to give a well-crafted response to anyone that messages me through Facebook to sell me something. Normally, I just don’t respond. But, in 2016, I am going to nicely let them know that I don’t want to buy their body building formula, body wrap or cosmetics. It’s annoying and simply makes me more likely to not buy something. Also, I resolve to give my sweet tooth more exercise this year by eating more candy! Succeeded. Still waiting on solicitation.


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My new year’s resolution is to only post positive or funny comments on Facebook. While we’re being hopeful, I give myself 6 weeks, tops! Failed 1/28/16


In 2016 I resolve to take up smoking and then to quit cold turkey. How hard can it be? Succeeded 1/2/16


My new year’s resolution is to keep a succulent alive. I am proud to say I found minor success with this in 2015 and hope by the end of this year, my thumb won’t be green with envy of the local plant supply store. Succeeded. But, we’re only two months in.


My new year’s resolution is always to commit to not committing to making new year’s resolutions. Does that count as a resolution? Shoot. Failed? Succeeded? 

Cheers to a new year with new opportunities to do great work with great people. They say sharing your resolutions can help hold you accountable. You can share your resolutions with us on Facebook or Twitter!


2015 in Review (From the Group’s Point of View)

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” – Hal Borland

We’re excited to see what 2016 has in store for our clients, company, and our neighborhood. Here’s what we’ll always remember from 2015.


During this year’s frigid winter, good Samaritans tied scarves and knit hats to trees in cities with homeless populations. Anyone in need could take the items to keep warm. I like any story of altruism; people just helping others.


All four of my kids, their three spouses, and my wife and granddaughter spent a week at the beach. It was awesome, particularly during a campfire in a full moon, making s’mores! It was awesome!!


Without question the most memorable event of 2015 for me personally was my 50th SURPRISE birthday party! My husband was planning it for at least 6 months and was in cahoots with Marbury folks to keep the deception going…even faking our company Christmas party to throw me off track! He booked a Beatles tribute band, cooked awesome food all by himself, made wine glass charms, designed the stage setup, coordinated with my out-of-town family to make sure those that could  would be there … and Whitney made amazing tickets and custom beer glass decals…  Every little detail was taken care of! I walked in to “All You Need is Love” playing with 90 of my friends waving little Union Jack flags, singing, and donning John Lennon’s signature round shades.  He even tried to get Sir Paul to send me a hand-written note. But the icing on the cake was the NEW CAR!!! I have to say I am one blessed lady with the most wonderful, loving husband in the world! God is Good!!



This Disney Parks Advertisement really stood out to me this year. I love seeing Disney characters so I know the joy kids of all ages having a down day would feel! This is uplifting in a world full of sad and hateful events.


My favorite event this year was The Power of Pink for North Fulton Hospital. We had so much fun! It started with the girls going to Dry Bar to get their hair done and then having champagne while we got ready. Then we went to go support the cancer survivors, and help raise money for this wonderful cause through a casino night. It was very inspiring to meet these amazing women! We get so busy doing the materials and branding for our clients, it was great to be there and be a part of it. It’s also a good reminder on WHY we do what we do.



In 2015, Sweden shifted to a 6-hour work day.* To this I say: “Heck-to-the-yeah!”


The celebration of an anniversary is always a wonderful thing. This past year, Marbury Creative Group celebrated its 5-year anniversary at the Glenn Hotel in downtown Atlanta. There was crazy traffic that day causing some folks to not make it. It took my wife, Penny, two hours to get to the party! From the decorations: a giant number 5 with photos from the last five years with an identical giant 5 for folks to sign, glowing table decorations with talk bubble on sticks with awesome facts about our customers and employees, a looping video with some of our past projects and of course the video skit of the employees overdubbed with children’s voices. Awesome view, awesome food, great music and a room full of wonderful people. It was a highlight of the year! It was an awesome event and I did not want the evening to end.


This past summer I milked a cow. While visiting my boyfriend’s family in Pennsylvania, I learned a little bit about farm life and even got to milk Sally!



Thanks to NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft, 2015 was year that science re-confirmed that Pluto is, in fact, a planet. Pluto was always a planet in my heart but it helps to have scientific evidence in arguments.




What moments in history or personally from 2015 will stick with you? Share yours with us on Facebook.

*Steve is seeking work sponsorship in Sweden, if anyone is looking for help, please contact us.


Our Christmas Memories

Christmas is a special time of year for many people and our Group is no exception. We’d like to share a few of our favorite Christmas memories!


For me, wonderful Christmas memories always involved my grandmother, Laura Marcy Askren. I think one of my favorites was going downtown to Rich’s with her to ride the Pink Pig. At the time, it was an enclosed suspension train, and not a regular “mini-train.” Then after the ride, “Nana” as we called her, would take us to the cafe in the store for lunch. My grandmother was the epitome of what a grandmother should be. She loved us all (me and each of my 5 siblings) and was very much involved in our lives. She always enjoyed scheduling fun things for us to do. I also fondly recall my sister and I going to her house to make fancy Christmas cookies every year. My favorites were the “stained glass” cookies that used sugar cookie base and melted Life Savers for the colored “glass.” She was an amazing baker and an overall excellent cook. I will always treasure the memories she made with us, and I miss her very much.




Every Christmas morning, we get up REALLY early and head out to my parents to celebrate Christmas with the family. Once Santa stopped stuffing our stockings, my sister and I made our own tradition, where we stuffed each other’s stockings each year. So, before everyone else wakes up, Nikki and I open our stockings together. Once the whole family is there, we start the fire in the living room and enjoy mimosas and breakfast together before doing presents. It’s so cozy and one of my favorite parts of Christmas!



I asked for a hamster EVERY Christmas for like, 4 years. I’d write it multiple times on my Christmas list so my parents would know how much I wanted one: HAMSTER, Tamagotchi, Skip-it, HAMSTER, Polly Pocket, Furbie, Troll doll, HAMSTER…you get the idea. Then one Christmas, I didn’t get the hamster. I never got the hamster.



Rob (Grab the tissues!)

We used to draw numbers to exchange gifts in elementary school. One year a friend of mine opened his, and stated, “A pair of socks?!? What kind of a stupid gift is this?”  Then the older boy who had been held back two times reluctantly piped up, “My mom made me bring those. She said she would be grateful if I got a new pair of socks.”  Even at age 8, it broke my heart. So, I told my Mom, and she got our church together, and on Christmas Eve, we took a carload of new clothes and toys to this boys’ home in the trailer park (back in the day you could ask the teacher for the address). I stayed in the car so that the kid would not be embarrassed, but I knew this is what God would want Christmas to be all about.



Our very first Christmas together as a married couple, living in a brand new home, we decided to get a B-and-B tree (balled and burlapped – a tree sold with their roots in soil wrapped in burlap and tied with twine or wire). We drove to North Carolina and purchased a tree that was about 4 feet tall. The day after Christmas, we planted the White Pine in our front yard. Today, 26 years later, the tree is a little too big for us to decorate as we did the first couple of years since it is now about 30 feet tall. It’s fun to tell visitors to our home that the tree was our very first Christmas tree.




My favorite Christmas tradition is our yearly ornaments. When I was a baby, my babysitter made me a felt ornament with a picture of me that year and wrote the date on the back. My mom did this every year from then on and it is fun to pull them out every year and see how much I’ve changed. We are now doing this for my niece and I hope to continue this tradition!


Steve (Tearjerker alert!)

My daughter, Emma, then age 11, came to us and said she wanted to “adopt” a girl and her family for Christmas. She told us she didn’t want any gifts for Christmas, but instead wanted to spend the money that we would have spent on her, and allow her to go shopping for this family. How could you argue with that? So we went shopping and bought a bike, toys, clothes, diapers, and food gift cards — something for everyone in the family. We went as a family and presented everyone with our presents. They were extremely appreciative and had even cooked us an authentic Guatemalan dinner. But instead of us joining them around the table, they served us the meal as their special guests. They spoke very little English, but it was an amazing evening of fellowship. I was so proud of my daughter (how many kids would give up Christmas presents), and our family was so incredibly blessed by the experience.



One of my fondest Christmas memories was a very special gift from Santa. It was a goldfish that lived in a bubble gum machine-style tank. When you cranked the handle, the light turned on so I, er-the fish wouldn’t be afraid of the dark. In college, I tracked down another one of those tanks and proudly displayed it in my dorm room. 




When I was in elementary school my grandparents gave me a large chocolate-colored teddy bear for Christmas. I named him Brownie. I loved Brownie bear so much that his fur started getting very matted! The next summer I went to a weeklong sleep away camp and didn’t bring Brownie bear with me because he was too big. My mom mailed him to me so I was truly a happy camper!!



We hope you and your family make your own special memories this Christmas and every year there after. Share your favorites with us on Facebook and keep spreading the Christmas spirit!



Psychology of Christmas Music

Do you hear what I hear? The familiar seasonal sounds of Christmas music… since October.


Does music play a role in what you buy? There’s an obvious influx in shoppers during the holiday season, easily recognized by crowded parking lots and longer check out lines, but is music really to blame?

Let’s see what science has to say.

In 1982, a New York City grocery store did a study on the tempo of music and its effects on their customers’ shopping habits. The store played slower tempo music and found that customers spent significantly more time in the store than usual and bought on average 32% more, when compared to times when the store played faster tempo music. This is easily explained by our body’s reaction to fast versus slow music. When we hear faster music, we tend to pick up the pace.

The volume of music was similarly tested on another store’s customers. Would music played at a higher volume affect customers’ buying habits? In the 1960s, a field experiment was conducted. It determined that females exposed to loud music while shopping think less time has passed than actually has. Whether this lead to an increase in spending was not determined.

So, how would Christmas music affect seasonal spending? Would the presence of Christmas music playing in the background while you shop urge you to purchase more holiday-related items?

In general, Christmas music is nostalgic (at least until you’ve heard Jingle Bells for the umpteenth time). Nostalgia invigorates feelings of happiness, which can lead to budget bumps on the spot, something retailers don’t mind. And if you catch yourself singing along, the irritation associated with overplayed seasonal sounds suddenly disappears.

A very formal survey of the office revealed that 90% of the group believes that Christmas music does influence your holiday purchase decisions. The general theme: Christmas music offers a subtle cue of the season and it’s expectations (aka: shopping).

As Christmas rings closer, are you still excited to hear Christmas music? When do you think is too early to start playing Christmas music?

Share your thoughts with us on Facebook and Twitter.