Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pantone Announces Color of the Year 2012

According to Pantone, you’ll be dancing into the New Year with this energetic reddish orange. Pantone, the global color authority for the past 50 years, announced their Color of the Year for 2012: PANTONE® 17-1463 Tangerine Tango, a vibrant, enticing hue. Tangerine Tango is a high-spirited reddish orange emanating energy and determination.

“Sophisticated but at the same time dramatic and seductive, Tangerine Tango is an orange with a lot of depth to it,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “Reminiscent of the radiant shadings of a sunset, Tangerine Tango marries the vivaciousness and adrenaline rush of red with the friendliness and warmth of yellow, to form a high-visibility, magnetic hue that emanates heat and energy.”

In the past few years, orange has become more popular among graphic designers and consumers. The PANTONE® Fashion Color Report Spring 2012 features fashion designers whose spring collections include designs in this vivacious orange. Among them are Tommy Hilfiger, Nanette Lepore, Elie Tahari, Adrienne Vittadini, and Cynthia Steffe by Shaun Kearney.

Pantone recently partnered with Sephora, the leading perfume and cosmetic retailer, to create the first Color of the Year cosmetic collection. It is an extraordinary assimilation of beauty products that include eye shadow, lipstick, lip gloss, nail polish and accessories. The limited edition collection will be available in the US in March 2012.

Tangerine Tango is showing up in interior spaces with energy and pizzazz. It can also be seen on appliances, personal electronics, paint colors and home accessories adding that unexpected pop of color. 

About the PANTONE Color of the Year (from www.pantone.com)
The color of the year selection is a very thoughtful process. To arrive at the selection, Pantone quite literally combs the world looking for color influences. This can include the entertainment industry and films that are in production, traveling art collections, hot new artists, popular travel destinations and other socio-economic conditions. Influences may also stem from technology, availability of new textures and effects that impact color, and even upcoming sports events that capture worldwide attention.

For more than a decade, Pantone’s Color of the Year has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home and industrial design, as well as product packaging and graphic design. 

Click http://bit.ly/ny49Fy for more about The PANTONE® Fashion Color Report Spring 2012.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Identity

When we opened our business in 1995, we had a tiny office, a small staff and a few big ideas about how to distinguish ourselves. Since then, we’ve expanded our facility, upgraded equipment, added an exciting array of complimentary services and increased our staff. Big changes made possible by keeping one thing the same: our commitment to creative excellence and our clients’ success.

We’re more than just a printer. As such, we felt that the name of our newsletter should reflect the new identity of our company. We are proud to introduce the inaugural issue of CreativeBrief. You might be wondering, what is a creative brief? A creative brief is outlined instructions for work to be done by the creative team (that’s us).

We hope you enjoy this issue of CreativeBrief and we’d like to hear from you. We publish this for you, our client, so we want to know what you think about our newsletter, how we can improve it, what you like and what you don’t like, topics you’d like to see, etc. Connect with us on Facebook, message us on LinkedIn or Twitter, email us or just pick up the phone and give us a call. We would love to hear from you!

Q&A: What Is Social Media?

Defining social media and its use and effectiveness for business is an evolving topic. In May 2011, Heidi Cohen, a self-described actionable marketing expert and owner of Riverside Marketing Strategies, gave this definition of social media:

Social media are the platforms that enable the interactive web by engaging users to participate in, comment on and create content as means of communicating with their social graph, other users and the public. Social media has the following characteristics:

  • Encompasses wide variety of content formats including text, video, photographs, audio, PDF and PowerPoint. Many social media make use of these options by allowing more than one content alternative.
  • Involves different levels of engagement by participants who can create or comment on social media networks.
  • Allows interactions to cross one or more platforms through social sharing, e-mail and feeds.
  • Facilitates enhanced speed and breadth of information dissemination.
  • Provides for one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many communications.
  • Enables communication to take place in real time or asynchronously over time.
  • Is device indifferent. It can take place via a computer (including laptops and netbooks), tablets (including iPads, iTouch and others) and mobile phones (particularly smartphones).
  • Extends engagement by creating real-time online events, extending online interactions offline, or augmenting live events online.

Act Now

In marketing, a sense of urgency is a device to give readers a reason to respond quickly. When reading an advertisement, people have a tendency to procrastinate – to put the advertisement aside and consider it later. A sense of urgency helps overcome this tendency by providing a reason to
act immediately.

There are two common ways to create a sense of urgency: offer a reward for prompt action, or assess a penalty for not acting. Some examples of a reward include a free gift for responding or a bonus with purchase; an example of a penalty is a limited supply of the product or service being offered or a sale that lasts for a defined period of time.

A sense of urgency works by creating scarcity – the reader must act by a given deadline. The sense of urgency can be undermined if the deadline or other conditions are not strictly enforced.

Writing That Sells: A Guide To Effective Copywriting


If everything begins with a sale, then we are all selling something to somebody. Some of us are selling products or services for cash, while others (such as charitable organizations) are selling the idea that their cause is worthy of support. Even people who offer things for free are selling something – that what they are providing is useful.

Copywriting Services
Copywriting is an essential element of any sales or marketing effort, regardless of the medium chosen to deliver it. Here are some typical projects that benefit from copywriting:
  • Printed sales material: brochure, display ad, direct mail campaign, product description, sales letters
  • Printed informational material: case study, white paper, newsletter article
  • Websites: landing and inner pages, SEO content
  • Social media: blogging, Facebook, tweets
Besides creating original material, copywriting services may also include proofreading and editing of existing text. Proofreading checks for spelling, grammar and sentence structure – the basic elements that readers use to judge the quality of the writing. Editing looks at context and syntax – the elements that improve or hinder the reader’s comprehension of the text. Neither proofreading nor editing includes rewriting, though. 

Effective Copywriting

Direct response copywriting – using the written or spoken word to get people to take some form of action – requires the same skills when used for traditional media (print, television, radio) or new media (websites and social media).
When we are selling, communication with our audience is grounded in the mechanics of the sales process. One enduring description of the sales process is summarized by the acronym AIDA: get the reader’s attention; engage his interest; create desire to own; and provoke action.
AIDA describes the four phases buyers follow when accepting a new idea or purchasing a new product. Here is a way to apply AIDA to a copywriting project:
  • Attention: Use a compelling headline to attract the reader’s attention. Then use a subhead to reinforce the headline, and an illustration or photograph for emphasis.
  • Interest: Develop interest beginning with the first sentence of the body copy. Its sole purpose is to get the reader to read the next sentence. So focus on benefits to the reader rather than features of the product or service.
  • Desire: Use the second and subsequent paragraphs to elaborate on benefits and describe how the product or service will solve a problem or enhance the reader’s life. Aim for a logical progression of benefits that ends with the reader concluding “I must have this.”
  • Action: The final paragraph is the call to action – it tells the reader what to do next. Add a final thought as a P.S. to further stimulate desire and action.

Compelling Content Is Based On Knowledge
Before you begin writing, it is important to understand the target market, the benefits the product or service brings to the target market, and what motivates the buying decision. Very large corporations or businesses find these answers with research, focus groups and other techniques outside the budget of a small business or local non profit organization.

So then, how can you get the information you need? An excellent way is to ask your top customers. Most businesses follow the Pareto Principle, better known as the 80-20 Rule. As applied to business, the Pareto Principle states that 80% of sales come from 20% of customers, making the task of surveying customers a lot more manageable. Here is what you want to learn from a combination of survey questions and what you already know about your customers:
  • What demographic characteristics do your customers share? For individuals, this could include age, marital status, household income, ethnicity, etc. For businesses and organizations, SIC code, annual sales, number of employees, etc.
  • What separates your product or service from those of your competitors? Look for measurable characteristics like better performance, more features and benefits, on time delivery, ease of ordering, etc.
  • What motivates your customers to buy? Is it convenience? Delivery time? Superior quality?
With the answers you are better prepared to write the copy to develop the interest and desire. You will also know what kind of an offer to make.
Copy That Sells
Using the AIDA approach means keeping the reader engaged from the headline all the way through to the call to action. This is best done by keeping the copy itself straightforward, focused and easy to understand. Here are some guidelines:
  • Keep the focus on the reader. An excellent test of this concept is to be sure the copy answers the reader’s question “what’s in it for me?” When you apply this test, it becomes instantly apparent why leading with benefits is more persuasive than a list of features. Made of titanium (a feature) is less persuasive than will last a lifetime (a benefit).
  • Use a topic sentence for each paragraph. A topic sentence is the theme or main idea for the paragraph and is usually the first or last sentence. All sentences in the paragraph support the topic sentence by providing evidence or a persuasive argument.
  • Present evidence. By citing accepted positions, research or statistics, you’ll be giving the reader more than your opinion and be building credibility. This is especially important if you are developing a new or counter intuitive idea.
  • Provide a specific offer. No matter what you are selling – a product, service or idea – it has to be specifically stated to be accepted. Without a clear, even bold offer, you risk the reader misinterpreting what you have said.
  • End with a summary. Restate the original benefits and remind the reader of the evidence you presented to support the benefit.
Don’t Settle For Bad Writing
Some people are natural writers – they intuitively know how to develop an idea that persuades others. That’s why people follow syndicated columnists and read editorials.

But if writing is not your strength, or if you lack experience in direct response copywriting, consider hiring a writer to do this work. As a skill, it is as important as good graphic design. Here at Creative Characters we can help you with copywriting, either with our staff or using outside resources. Contact Brigid at brigid@creativecharacters.com or (215) 923-2679 for more information.

Give A Little Magic This Holiday Season

These days you see QR codes everywhere! They’re popping up all over – on postcards, in magazines and newspapers, on real-estate signs and buildings, on plant stickers at Home Depot, as coupons on my mobile phone screen at Target and even t-shirts.

Businesses are starting to use QR Codes more and more in their marketing. Many use them in the same way they always have – to send prospective customers to their website. Well, this year is different. J.C. Penney has come up with a clever way to use QR Codes to make gift giving a touching experience for each shopper.

J.C.
Penney includes a “Santa Tag” sticker with every gift purchased until the end of the year. The sticker has a customized QR Code printed on it. When the purchaser scans the QR Code with their mobile phone, it prompts them to record a personal message to the recipient in their own voice. When the person receives the gift and scans the QR Code with their mobile phone, the personal message plays. Check this out this video from J.C. Penney.

For family and friends that live far away, receiving a gift like this will be amazing. J.C. Penney has created a new experience for their shoppers this season. The “Santa Tag” has created enthusiasm in consumers motivating them to shop at J.C. Penney.


How will you use QR codes to get consumers excited about shopping at your store this holiday season? 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Using New Media to Communicate

Scan Me!
The term old media and its companion legacy media refer to traditional ways of communicating with customers. Printers are generally considered to be a part of old media, along with other paper-based industries like newspapers, magazines, and books as well as radio, television and movies. In contrast, new media is digital and includes the Internet, websites, and most computer- based forms of communication.

New media is exciting because it brings new tools to the process of communicating with customers, tools like full-color digital printing, with highly personalized sales messages and interactive outreach. New media also empowers prospects and customers to quickly and easily find reliable information about products, services and vendors.

At Creative Characters, we present many ways to help you take advantage of new media to communicate with your customers and prospects. We recommend that you add these to your sales and marketing activities rather than replacing what you are already doing.

Have you heard of QR Codes?

One of the more exciting examples of new technology is the QR code. QR stands for Quick Response, aptly named because the contents of the code can be decoded at high speed by mobile devices including mobile phones equipped with a camera (smartphones), net books and laptop computers, desktop computers, cameras and televisions.

QR codes are the new way for customers and prospects to interact with you and your business. Among other things, they can reach a web page, a location (using geocodes) or obtain information about products and services. Add a QR code containing contact information to your business card and someone can add you to their contact list by reading the QR code with their cell phone or computer. Add a QR code to individual products on your web site and enable customers or prospects to download product details and a phone number for ordering, or link to a YouTube video.

QR codes can hold up to 7,089 characters. This ability to hold a great deal of information in a small space is what makes QR codes so valuable for sales and marketing. QR codes have been popular in Europe and Japan for years but are now gaining a tremendous amount of steam in the U.S. You could still be the first in your market niche to use them if you act quickly!

Google has already started using QR codes in their "Google Places" division and because of that the QR code is likely to become very important in search marketing. Google suggests that if your web site contains a QR code, search engines will see a new image and index it, and might in the future index the content in them.

Many mobile phones, including iPhone, Blackberry, Motorola Droid and any phone that runs on the Android operating system, have application software available for scanning QR codes. Some phones may have the app already installed on the phone; but if not, it can be easily downloaded and installed. It is usually a free app.

QR codes have other uses besides marketing material. An educational organization can direct people to reference or training materials. An online product catalog can use a QR code to provide complete product specifications. Retail locations can use QR codes to provide additional information- such as a restaurant providing nutritional information for items on the menu. Another prominent example is how Home Depot has utilized QR codes on the plastic stakes in plants. Instead of just the name of the plant and light requirements, the shopper can scan a QR code on the stake to get more information about the plant. Upon scanning, the QR code transports the shopper to a special mobile website for the plant containing information like planting tips, appropriate fertilizer, water frequency, pruning tips and more. A QR code on a direct mail piece can take the recipient directly to the web site of the business offering the product or service. QR codes can also dial a telephone number, start a pre-populated email,

Call us today for QR codes and digital printing

We invite you to call us to discuss how QR codes and digital printing can benefit your business or organization. We'll help you generate a QR code that is appropriate for your intended application and add it to business cards and marketing materials- either now, or at the next printing. After all, attracting prospects and beginning a dialogue with them is what building business is all about. Let us help you get more leads – call us today at 215-923-2679 or send me an email to learn more at brigid@creativecharacters.com.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Are You Ready for the Mobile Web?

There are 5.3 billion mobile web users. That’s 77 % of the world population! In the US, 25% of mobile web users are mobile-only.

There are 5,000+ web ready mobile devices on the market today. According to Nielsen, 1 in 2 Americans will have a smartphone by the end of 2011. And, there are 60 Million iPhones and iPads in use today.

Still think you don’t need a mobile site? 

What Will Mobile Do For My Business?
A mobile website will put your business at your clients and prospects fingertips! Engage clients and prospects, drive social media, link to videos, showcase products, provide one-touch calling, email and text, provide maps, capture leads, re-orders, inquires and so much more...

What’s the Difference?  

Just go to my desktop website on your smart phone to see for yourself – www.creativecharacters.com. Now you see the difference, right?

Desktop websites are not built to fit a small-scale display, like a mobile phone screen. As a result, customers waste time having to stretch and resize the screen, scroll all the way left or all the way right just to access your company’s information. A mobile site mirrors the look and feel of your company site, and provides the same, important content. With a mobile site there is no stretching and resizing and no scrolling all over the place because a mobile website is built to fit smaller displays.

In just minutes you can connect your business to the mobile world by creating engaging, interactive mobile specific content. Seamlessly generate, track, and utilize QR codes in your print collateral (business cards, direct mail, property signs, product packaging, etc.) to drive more clients and prospects to your mobile website. A mobile website ensures you look your best on over 5,000 mobile devices.

Go Mobile in Minutes!
Creative Characters provides the simplest way to take your business mobile. Manage your own content (never pay for changes). Add and delete pages as needed. Create and organize QR Codes to link your print collateral to the mobile web engaging your clients and prospects at the exact moment they’re interested.

The time is now, not in 6 months or a year, but right now. Contact Brigid, Marya, Justin or Sean today at 215-923-2679 or info@creativecharacters.com.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lorem Ipsum & The Quick Brown Fox

To get a clear visual of how a font looks, use a pangram – a sentence that uses all the letters of the alphabet. A familiar pangram is “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” A pangram can be set alone or repeated to create a block of type.

For a large amount of text, use nonsense words or Latin to examine the weight and style of the font. This technique is known as greeking and is a good way to approximate the overall feel of the type. A common form of nonsense text is known as lorem ipsum. Here's the typical lorem ipsum paragraph.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

What placeholder text do you use so you can see how the text fits or how a document will look in a certain font?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tips & Tricks: Two Spaces or One?

There are two holdovers from the days of typewriters that negatively affect the appearance of type in documents and on the web – the practice of putting two spaces after a period, and the use of underlining.

The use of two spaces after a period is due to typewriter fonts being monospaced. In a monospaced font, every letter takes up the same amount of space as every other. Putting two spaces after a period creates extra space and helps signal the reader that the sentence has ended. In contrast, a proportional font varies the space assigned to each letter, making words easier to read because the letters are closer together and making extra space after a period unnecessary. In fact, putting two spaces after a period in a proportional font can create a gap that is visually unappealing.

With typewriters, underlining was one of the few ways to create emphasis. Computer type has italics, bold or a different point size available to create emphasis. Also, avoid double emphasis – combining bold, italics or a larger point size with underlining – as it compromises the effect of the emphasis.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mobile Isn't A Trend, It's A New Era

If you haven't heard, Creative Characters has been hard at work all summer creating new ways for our customers to interact with their customers. I am pleased to announce that Creative Characters is now creating Mobile Websites and there's a really good reason why. Did you know that by 2012, over 85% of mobile devices will be web enabled? That's just 4 short months away!

Over half of all searches are done from a mobile phone. In fact, mobile search has grown an astounding 400% over the last year. The best part is that 1 in 3 mobile searches are local. And 59% of people visit the local store after searching it on the mobile web. Why? Because a mobile website enables customers to take action immediately.

Here are the 5 most important things that we consider when building a mobile site. Consider these tips for building a mobile website that works.
  1. Build a relevant mobile website; one with a focus and a purpose. 
  2. Make your mobile website easy to use with obvious ways to take action.
  3. Build a user experience that is useful and unique to mobile. Your mobile website shouldn't be an exact copy of your desktop website.
  4. Look at how your customers interact with your mobile website and adapt based on their experiences.
  5. Make your mobile website part of your marketing plan. 
If you haven't thought about creating a mobile website, the time is now. Creative Characters is creating outstanding, affordable mobile websites that drive customers to your door. Give me a call at 215-923-2679 or email me at brigid@creativecharacters.com to get your mobile website started today.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Social Media Confusion?

We understand that in today’s climate many businesses are struggling to keep up with their marketing. Creative Characters team helps you break through the haze of Social Media and make sense of it all. We know that blogging just might not be your thing. And sitting around Facebooking people just doesn’t appeal to you. Twitter can be addictive. We get that. In fact, Social Media can derail your whole day, if you let it.

Our job is to help you choose the best social media management strategy for your business. We provide more value than an extra staff member, at a fraction of the cost. We work with you and your team. And we help you keep your costs down too.

Your business is completely unique, just like you. There is no “one size fits all”. With social media you could go on forever — the trick is to focus your efforts. We offer solutions and choices to fit your budget and your busy schedule.

We offer a free half hour consultation and review of your current efforts. And if you don’t have a Social Media presence and strategy, we will help you change that. Stake your claim in Social Media and give me a call today at (215) 923-2679 or brigid@creativecharacters.com

Still think Social Media is a fad? Check out this video. Then leave a comment to let me know what YOU think about Social Media. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Save a Tree: Print Your Emails


Have you ever seen that annoying little sentence at the bottom of emails that says "Please consider the environment before printing this email"? I am betting that you have. It wouldn't annoy me if it were true. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, you are doing more harm to the environment by not printing! Here are published opinions from an internationally renowned environmental activist, a forester and a tree farmer.

Greenpeace was founded on the belief that a few individuals can make a difference. For over 40 years, it's mission has been to protect and conserve the environment. Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, had this to say recently "Forestry is the most sustainable of all the primary industries that provide us with energy and materials. To address climate change we must use more trees, not less. Using trees sends a signal to the marketplace to grow more trees." Dr. Moore advocates that print is the renewable way a responsible world communicates.

Just last month, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal specifically about printing emails. It was authored by two men with first-hand knowledge about trees, recycling, environmental issues and forests. The authors are Carlton Owen and Chuck Leavell. Mr. Owen is the CEO of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. He is a forester and wildlife biologist. Mr. Leavell is a tree farmer, environmentalist, musician and author. To read their article, click http://on.wsj.com/gfs45H

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What Kind of Printing Do You Do?

Whenever I’m out in the community introducing myself and Creative Characters, I’m often asked, “What kind of printing do you do?” Here’s my answer: we print marketing and sales material – the items that all companies need to sell something to someone and we print functional forms and documents – the items that all companies need to do what they do, and .

Within that broad definition, we’ve developed particular expertise in printing effective marketing and sales materials as well as functional forms and documents for the medical, educational and nonprofit industries. Our expertise if based on understanding the role these items play in a particular industry, and this knowledge enables us to offer relevant, appropriate options and suggestions that you might not have considered. Sometimes we’ll offer a different product or service; sometimes we'll offer a different production method; sometimes we'll offer better pricing. 

What you can count on, without a doubt, is that we will listen carefully to your needs and recommend the solution that achieves your goal and fits your budget.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

7 Deadly Sins of Website Design

Why are there so many bad website designs today? Everyone sees them daily, and they make us all bleary eyed. It’s one thing for a 17 year old to design a headache-inducing intro for his band; it’s another thing entirely for your company's home page to look like the result of an explosion at the font factory.

Designing for different media is a challenge for graphic designers. Among other things, it requires the designer to think about the purpose of the design and how that design is being used by the reader/user. It's not okay to just make it "look pretty".  It has to achieve the desired results. 

Whether you are the designer or the designer's customer, you need to be aware of the things you should avoid when designing a website. Obvious things like spelling and grammar are a given. This short list comprises the seven most common mistakes web designers make. 
 
1. Don't choose text colors that do not contrast well with the background.
2. No flash. If Flash is used, it needs to be relevant to your company and easy to skip. Flash is not searchable, so your 90 second intro containing your company's value statement won't even be found.
3. Keep it short and sweet. Don't put too much on one page. Too much content on one page is overwhelming.
4. Confusing or clumsy navigation. Users should be able to see where they are and how they got there on every page of the site.
5. No music or sounds in the background. This is one of the most annoying things you can do.
6. Keep images and other content small so that the web page loads quickly. Your page should load within 4 seconds or less.
7. Be clear and concise. Have a focal point and make it easy to understand and follow. Your home page should get the point across quickly. Someone should be able to understand what your site is about in a few seconds.
Is your website guilty of any of these? Want professional help for your web site? Let Creative Characters help you plan your web site to be successful. Ring 215-923-2679 and ask for me, Brigid, or email me at brigid@creativecharacters.com. I would be delighted to speak with you.