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design & marketing blog

Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

Branding with Authenticity and Emotion

February 8th, 2017

Here are a couple great examples of brilliant marketing for mundane products. Take a look at the examples below to see how authenticity and emotion emphasize the fundamental benefits of a product and create a unique and lasting impression. Note that in these examples the actual product is featured little or none.

Seat belts

Chewing gum

Frappe Free Web Design

December 11th, 2016

One of the biggest ROI killing design blunders for any product or publication is over complexity, and Websites seem to be one of the most common offenders.

The term usability is used in Web design jargon as the attribute of how easily understandable and navigable a site is, and how readily it meets its target visitors’ needs. Almost without exception, each of the millions of Web sites in cyberspace are designed for very specific tasks for a narrowly defined group of people.

Osterizer GalaxieYour primary goal as a site owner is to provide a completely intuitive experience for your visiting prospects. In spite of this obvious goal often simplicity becomes lost in unnecessary clutter. When this happens visitors become confused and confused visitors, according to research, tend to make a hasty retreat.

I ran across a great example of usability in design recently when my ancient Osterizer Galaxie Blender broke. While it had provided many years of satisfactory service, it was always a source of mystery and anxiety to me. I just needed it to perform one simple task—blend. But each time I went to use it I had to wonder at all the buttons on the front:

Chop (Off) – Grate (Off) – Grind (Off) – Stir – Puree – Whip – Mix – Blend – Frappe – Liquefy

Am I doing this wrong? Should I be Puree’ing or Frappé’ing this protein shake. And does it matter which off button I push, why are there three? Just for good measure, I would randomly use all the buttons on different
occasions—all with no noticeable difference to my concoction.

Osterizer BeehiveIn browsing for a replacement, I came across the polar opposite of the Osterizer  Galaxie—the Oster Classic Beehive. There’s just one switch on the whole thing and that tne switch does just what I need without having to stop and think about which button to push and why.

While blenders and Web sites don’t have much in common, the design principle illustrated by Osterizer’s two extremes make great litmus tests for the usability of our own sites.

Now the Beehive looks much cooler than my old Galaxie, I no longer have to hide my blender from guests come over. But the most important thing about well designed
products or Web sites is not looks (although good design naturally lends itself to better aesthetics) it’s about making the value you offer clear and easy to implement.

I mentioned Steve Krug probably too much, but I know of no who does a better job of explaining the foundational principles of usability and helping people really “get” what it takes (and doesn’t take) to create an effective revenue producing Web site. If you’re the owner, manager, or administrator of a site I implore you to get your hands on a copy of his classic book, Don’t Make Me Thinklink opens in new window.

Logo Size

November 1st, 2016

There is a tendency to want a logo displayed as large as possible in marketing collateral. While it might be tempting to think the bigger the logo the bigger impression you’ll make,  in fact the opposite is true.

Our minds are subconsciously conditioned to give more prestige and credibility to brands the smaller their logo is displayed.  There are always exceptions, but almost all the best known brands display their logo quite small. Especially in certain mediums like Web and Email.

Take a look at almost any Fortune 100 company’s website, here are a few quick examples:

So, if you want your branding to communicate more prestige and credibility, quit trying so hard and tap into the subconscious consensus that smaller logos mean bigger brands.

Search Engine Optimization

October 11th, 2016

Do you want new customers to find your website using search engines?

For website owners this question may trigger a primal response similar to what a drug addict feels when asked if they would like a fix. Yes! Give it to me now!!

It’s a very enticing concept—hire someone to apply special coding to a website and watch it start drawing in new customers. There is a large number of unscrupulous SEO solicitors looking to capitalize on this myth . . you may have seen their spam touting their “proprietary” methods to get your site placed at the top of Google.

This can create a dangerous scenario—a compulsive, sometimes panicked, desire to use the Web to grow a business, and a whole slew of information-age carpetbaggers looking to capitalize on the situation.

The best way to protect yourself from wasting money, and learn how to develop a SEO strategy that really works, is to take some time to understand SEO. It’s not hard to understand and it’s not a secret; Google for example freely shares the criteria they use to index and rank sites.

It’s also important to discard any notion that there is a quick-fix SEO solution out there waiting to be found. Many people’s understanding of “search engine optimization” has been built on a very appealing and popular misconception that we refer to as the “Field of Dreams” syndrome.

The Field of Dreams syndrome

The 1989 movie was about a novice farmer who becomes convinced by a mysterious voice that he is supposed to construct a baseball diamond in his corn field that is somehow the path to his personal enlightenment and success in life. The memorable mantra of the mysterious voice was, “If you build it, he will come.”

The real plot being played out today in business is remarkably similar with the mysterious voice being wishful thinking and misinformation. The appeal becomes overwhelming and rational thought is blurred . . . “If we just build a website optimized for search engines customers will come.” Part of the appeal of this fallacy is that it provides a clear simple solution to a pressing need that exists in a technical realm that many are intimidated by. The problem with this approach is that, just like the movie, it’s fiction.

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