Some people like to put their brand identity on business cards and letterhead, others prefer choppers. That’s right—choppers. One of our partners, Aaron Equipment, got a custom branded bike from Orange County Choppers and appeared on their TLC show American Choppers. The bike now sits proudly at their Bensenville headquarters. Of course, after visiting their office and seeing the bike, we had to take pictures. And who wouldn’t? This is really a great example of creative marketing—getting your brand out there by connecting with your audience on their interests. Now that summer is in full swing in Chicago and the festivals have taken over the weekends, it’s a perfect time to get creative with your marketing. And “creative” could be anything from a custom chopper to a clever sidewalk chalk stencil. If you need a little help brainstorming some creative marketing ideas, let Sandstorm Design give you hand!
Your logo is not your brand. This is a common refrain from designers that combats the common misconception that all you need for a brand is a logo. Our Creative Director, Janna Fiester, shared an article with the rest of the team recently that talked about building an unforgettable brand outside of the logo. It makes a great point that we wholeheartedly agree with. Now this doesn’t mean the logo isn’t important (it is!), but there are definitely other factors to consider when it comes to your brand identity—copy being one of them.
A recognizable voice and tone is as important to the brand identity as the logo. Think about Allstate, for example. You always know an ad is theirs long before you see their logo. That’s the brand in the copy. On your web site, blog, brochure and other marketing materials, the copywriting should capture your differentiator in the marketplace. Your content should reflect any marketing objectives and initiatives currently in place. (Are you reaching out to new audiences or offering new services? Is your voice changing to speak more directly to these new objectives?) And, of course, the voice and tone should be consistent.
To insure we build a complete brand, our copywriters are vital members of the marketing and creative teams here at Sandstorm Design. They work directly with designers during the branding phases, giving each company’s unique identity a unified presence—in the visual elements, the marketing copywriting, and everything in between.
MIT has challenged students all over the world to give their best elevator pitch with the YouPitch Contest. This is the first year they've taken the elevator pitch competition to YouTube, requiring students to upload 60-second elevator pitches to compete to win $2000 and international glory. The winner was announced on Facebook, and will receive their award at the grand finale show on May 11 at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium.
So, what makes an elevator pitch good enough to win a contest—or for many of us, good enough to win business? First off, it should be conversational. It should clearly point out the need you are filling, the competitive solution you are offering, and how the solution will be carried out. And it should be short, sweet, and to the point. The student competition at MIT called for 60-second pitches. At Sandstorm Design, we do ours in 30… but maybe our elevators are just faster here in Chicago!
You never know what opportunities could be opened with the right pitch. Whether the challenge is a competition or a new client, this part of marketing is always fun and exciting. Learn more about our take on marketing strategy.
Check out our favorite marketing elevator pitches from MIT’s YouPitch contest:
The ad campaign setup consists of what seems to be three simple steps. But as the user moves through the experience, what initially felt simple becomes rigid and constrictive when trying to make changes, update, or delete.
The top three key items LinkedIn Ads could fix to improve usability and the user experience:
- No delete? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve heard this complaint within other areas of LinkedIn before, so I wasn't surprised to find it in LinkedIn Ads. Once created, there is no way to delete an ad campaign or ad variation. You can hide them, but not delete them. Users should always be allowed to delete anything they create (just make them confirm it's really what they want to do).
- No “Save” option. If you leave the ad campaign setup process at any time, LinkedIn saves everything you started. This is great, except they don’t tell you they’re going to do that. So if you leave before finalizing a campaign, you would assume you're losing what you started. Upon coming back to find it's still there—you might be surprised, and also annoyed you didn't know it would be saved in the first place. If the functionality is there, tell the users upfront so they can plan for it.
- Cannot add new ad variations. I love that LinkedIn gives users 15 ad variations per campaign. But after you go through the initial three steps, there’s no way to come back and simply “Add a new variation.” You have to use a workaround where you duplicate an existing variation and just make changes to that. Users should never have to use a workaround for something that should be basic functionality. In fact, they should never have to use a workaround, period.
Despite my rant here, I love LinkedIn, and am very pleased to see it growing so much (100 million members as of March 2011!). As they grow, usability and the user experience is definitely something they'll want to put more focus on. For now though, these few items would make a nice improvement.
Don't forget to follow our usability and user experience design agency on LinkedIn!
Over sandwiches and soda, our Technology and Usability Director Michael Hartman talked to the team about new possibilities Drupal 7 features open up and how we can use them to continue to provide exceptional content management solutions. We were inspired enough to keep discussing Drupal long after the last bite had been eaten. In fact, we're still talking Drupal this and Drupal that. And the conversation isn't likely to end anytime soon!
It has been an amazing week for our development team at DrupalCon Chicago 2011. We absorbed Dries Buytaert’s keynote, mingled with other Drupal 7 developers, danced to a song about Drupal (not kidding!), and attended session after session on topics like theming, design, user experience, implementation and configuration. We had a blast and learned a lot!
We’re so proud that Chicago got to host the Drupal conference this year. And we’re so grateful to all those who made DrupalCon Chicago a success. Most of all, we’re looking forward to the future of Drupal, which is only looking brighter and brighter!
Check out our pictures from DrupalCon Chicago!
Back in September, Kevin Thau, Twitter’s VP for business and corporate development, announced that Twitter is not a social network. This got a lot of buzz in the blog (and micro-blog) community, but clearing up the labeling of Twitter is most relevant for people not familiar with it. They're the ones who don't know what it is. And if you come into it with a social network/Facebook mindset, you’ll only get frustrated and feel disappointed. Only Facebook can do Facebook. You have to approach this part of your social media strategy with a Twitter mindset.
So, what is the Twitter mindset? What do you DO on Twitter? It's very simple:
- Share – Facebook is about sharing who you are, Twitter is about sharing what you’ve found. Use bitly, tinyurl or any of the other little link web sites to share the articles, blogs and web sites you like, and add a little comment about why.
- Reply – While it might not be a social network, Twitter is a social place. Engage in conversation. It’s fun and easy!
- Retweet – If you simply want to pass along a tweet you found interesting without adding a comment, click the retweet option. You can also retweet the traditional way, by copying and pasting it, and adding “RT @(insert author’s username)” in front. In the few characters that are left, add your own commentary.
The best advice is to just dive in. Once you see how others are tweeting, you’ll get it. And don’t forget to follow our Chicago marketing firm @SandstormDesign!
Twitter has reached almost 200 million accounts, and has just added its seventh language – Korean. As Twitter expands worldwide, so does the opportunity for you to grow your business just as far.
Twitter will become increasing vital for networking and maintaining relationships with your overseas contacts, just as well those in the States. On top of that, it offers another valuable (and free) avenue for marketing your brand online (in seven languages, perhaps?). As you know, we kind of have a thing for marketing and branding.
If your company doesn’t already have an account, get one. And if you have one but you’re not using it, start now. If there were ever a time to jump on a bandwagon, this is it.
They say you learn something new everyday. And today we learned quite a bit from our Technology and Usability Director, Michael Hartman, who shared some key takeaways from a ‘Putting Research into Practice’ training seminar by Human Factors International, Inc. One of the most intriguing findings was from a study by Tractinskya, Cokhavia, Kirschenbauma, and Sharfib (2006) where participants made a split second decision (500 milliseconds) about the attractiveness of a web site.
Turns out the average attractiveness ratings stayed about the same when the exposure time was extended to 10 seconds. This means users’ impressions about a web site’s aesthetics are made in less than a second. They don’t really change their mind after more time on the site. We all know how important first impressions are. Which is why aesthetics are extremely critical if you want a user to stay on your web site for, well, more than a second. If you ever need a little help with your website design, you know who to call.
2010 was a spectacular year for Sandstorm! At the beginning of the year our office space grew, and as the year went on, so did our staff. In 2011, we’re anticipating even more growth for this Chicago marketing firm.
And the Sandstorm staff is looking forward to another type of growth – we’re hoping to grow some healthier personal habits! I asked around the office for the Sandstormers’ New Year’s Resolutions, and from the results, it looks like we’re a pretty health conscious bunch. Here are the resolutions:
- Surround myself with positive people
- Drop 5% body fat
- Stop eating high fructose corn syrup
- Eat better and be nicer
- Run on the treadmill every week
- Cook more home cooked meals
- Read new books, one classic novel, one work of fiction, and one fluff read
- Eat more organic food and less pizza
So, with salad on our plates, gym shoes on our feet, books in our bags and smiles on our faces, we at Sandstorm Design wish you a very Happy New Year!