Client Showcase: Calendar to Promote Early Literacy

We were delighted to partner with Umatilla County Special Library District to develop a calendar to help promote literacy in young children, since this is a cause we care about.

We identified a local artist who agreed to develop custom illustrations that brought to life the client's desired monthly themes. Every spread features not only this colorful and playful artwork and calendar, but recommended authors and activities to promote literacy among children. The calendar will be used for parents, teachers and caregivers as they help children develop language skills.

One can still make the case for the practicality of a calendar—even in an age of technology—because of its ability to be present in a home or office over an entire year. What other printed piece has this longevity?

Not only does a calendar have duration and presence, it can offer the chance to inspire and teach while still fulfilling that work-horse role as a calendar.

Building Physician Practices: Success Stories

For more than two decades we’ve worked with physicians to build their practices, and this experience has helped us create a formula for driving patients to a new practice—which accelerates the revenue stream needed to sustain them. Using our proprietary methods, we’ve been able to track up to 57 new patients per month which can be linked back to a very modest investment in advertising. One practice resulted in a 25% increase in hospital surgical cases—just two months after the campaign was launched. (We know this because this practice was already in business when they hired us, and the volumes went up after the campaign launched.)

It’s good to use a mix of advertising media—and fine-tuning this over the years has helped us devise an optimal mix for launching a physician practice. The best results occur:

  • Where there’s sufficient market demand for the specialty
  • When the physicians have good patient relationships
  • When the physicians and hospital have a strong partnership

Even without this, it’s possible to accelerate patient volumes through marketing—but when all of variables above align, the growth can be stunning.

Ad Envy: Mt. Sinai Medical Center

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This ad created by DeVito/Verdi was featured in Communication Arts Advertising Annual Volume 51. Here are some reasons we think it works:

  1. An effective use of white space draws your eye to the important elements on the page.
  2. Although it doesn’t use the typical photos of smiling doctors and patients, it’s still clear this is a health care ad because of the prominence of the words “Doctor” and “Hospital.” Also this ad boldly breaks two design guidelines—avoid centering text and using all capital letters—but in this case, you can see that ignoring these rules makes for a very striking composition.
  3. The ad is suggestive of a joke, and uses that to get our attention. It then juxtaposes the joke into a serious topic, and makes us want to read more.

But we have to ask what you think about the use of this particular image. How does it play into the overall ad’s effectiveness?

It's pretty. But can it sell?

When  a project finally gets to the design stage we explore and create with  an eye towards selling. We weigh every image, every color choice, every  typography choice to see if it says, conveys, evokes and depicts exactly  what it must in order to persuade.

More  ideas than not get tossed aside in our relentless pursuit of the best  idea. This delightful little video shows an insider’s view of this  process of creating, discarding and arriving at just the right place—the  place that powerfully sells an idea or product.

Words,  pictures, colors—these form the framework of every communicator’s  toolbox. The final test is not whether it’s beautiful (though we do love  that), but whether it influences the target audience’s decision to try,  buy, engage, support or give.

What ideas have you seen that should have been discarded because they didn’t pass the “sell well” test?

Showcase: Scholarship Worksheet Keeps it Simple

Walla Walla University’s new scholarship program gives students instant feedback on what they’re eligible for—and has proven to be an important part of their marketing successes.

When they asked us to develop a simple piece to communicate this complicated message—we recommended an interactive visual piece that is available in print and on-line (click here to view the online version).

Very often, a visual is the best way to convey complex information quickly.

Building Better Facebook Pages

Lauren Fisher advises those managing Facebook pages to write for the news feed, not your wall.

When you write an update for your Facebook page, the update will most likely appear on the page’s wall by default. It can be confusing however, to consider that the wall is not the place where 99 percent of your fans will see the update. Though a link or ad will lead some people straight to the wall, your existing fans will see the update in their news feed.

Remember to include links in your update if you want to drive the reader to a specific page—and don’t reference something that won’t appear in the news feed. For example, telling them to “Check out our tab on the side” is out of context for people seeing this update in their news feed.

To see all 8 of her tips, go to http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/43066.aspx.

Sin No More: Avoiding Common Typographic Errors Part 1

  1. Two spaces between sentences. Your keyboarding teacher not only taught you how to type, but also how to sin. Once upon a time, typewriters used a monospaced typeface. Since all of the letters were the same width, it became customary to add an extra space at the end of a sentence to call attention to a new sentence. This was never the practice of professional typesetters, who always used one space. (If you're a doubting Thomas, go find an old book and see for yourself.) Since most typefaces on our computers vary in width, unsightly gaps appear if two spaces are used. Repent of this since by using only one space.  
  2. Failing to kern display type. Nothing bellows "I'm an amateur!" quite like display type that hasn't been properly kerned. Unseemly gaps can impede readability by distracting the reader. The kerning tables of some typefaces are great, but the human eye is divine. Adjust the spacing between letters and assuage your guilt.
  3. Using a hyphen instead of an en dash. A dash (hyphen) is great for a hyphenated word, but an en dash can be used to indicate a range of numbers or a duration of time instead of the word "to": the 8–10 Commandments, not 8-10 Commandments.  

—From "Thou Shalt Not" by Jim Godfrey, published in the July 2011 issue of How magazine.

Department of War or Defense: Words Matter

From 1789 until 1947 the department responsible for the operation of the United States Army was called the War Department. In 1947, it was renamed the Department of Defense.

Play along with us on this little turn of words, if you will, and ask yourself which you’d rather support with your tax dollars: a war department? Or a department of defense?

See the different feelings these two names for the same thing evoke? It’s much easier to rally support for defense then war. And so we see yet another example of how much a word matters in evoking a desired response.

What words in your business might need rethinking?

Pick Easy-to-Read Typefaces for Body Copy

We read words by shapes—not individual characters—and our reading has a natural rhythm. An alphabet such as Futura Light (below, top) with widely varying character widths disrupts this rhythm—making it harder to read.

When designing printed material, select a body text typeface with similar character widths. Your readers will thank you.  

From Before & After Magazine, What's the Right Typeface for Text

Eight Reasons to Celebrate Your Company’s Anniversaries

CMBell Company was in Los Angeles at White Memorial Medical Center last week to begin work on the planning for their Centennial

CMBell Company was in Los Angeles at White Memorial Medical Center last week to begin work on the planning for their Centennial

A company anniversary provides an opportunity to breathe new life into your organization—to offer a kind of oasis in the press of daily work. A strategically planned anniversary celebration can:

  1. Recognize the people who make your success possible

  2. Deepen bonds with your community, customers and staff

  3. Inspire deeper engagement

  4. Infuse the workplace with meaning

  5. Shift internal focus from problems to achievements

  6. Reinforce your culture, mission and values

  7. Attract positive press

  8. Provide a foundation for casting vision for the future

There’s no rule about which anniversaries you should celebrate. Whether it’s f a 15th (ours, next year), a 20th, or a 100th, these occasions provide valuable time for reflection and celebration—both of which yield subtle but important fruits in the work place.

2011 Web Trends: Part 2

Our last post highlighted some trends in Web design for 2011. We continue that here.

Adventurous Domain Names—The common .com is going out of style. Look for more creative addresses like .me or which is becoming more common for blogs or portfolios or .us for business pages.

Quick Response Codes—You may have noticed these appearing on business cards, ads, billboards, etc. This is one trend that has a multitude of uses and doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon. Here are some cool uses for a QR code: 

  1. Put a QR code on the back of your business card so people can easily visit your website.
  2. Place a QR code on ads or store fronts so that smartphone users can access special offers, coupons or giveaways.
  3. Use QR codes on T-shirts so you can be a walking promotion for whatever it is you are wanting to promote.
  4. QR codes can also be used to make phone calls or send texts when scanned. Think of all the possibilities with this one!

Thumbnail Design—Thanks to Google's new thumbnail browsing you no longer have to click through to see the contents of a website, so expect your site to be judged based on a thumbnail as users become more acquainted with this new way of browsing. This poses a problem for Flash sites because that part of your design will not display in the preview.

Constant Connection / Life Stream—In our quest to make the internet more personable, we have taken to sharing all aspects of our lives online. Expect to see more integrated live feeds on websites such as the site below.

2011 Web Trends: Part 1

While Web design is always evolving, we're seeing these trends in 2011:

Simple Color Schemes—It's popular to use only two or three colors in your site design and then use a lot of shades or tints.

Mobile Ready—Forecasters are predicting that smartphones will outsell personal computers this year, so it's becoming increasingly important to design with mobile viewing in mind.

Design for Touch Screens, Not Mice—Now that more and more people are using smartphones or iPads for their browsing, traditional means of navigation such as drop-down menus may not work so well in these new mediums.

Depth Perception—Layer objects, drop shadows and other 3D effects to create dimension in your site.

Large Photographic Backgrounds—Large, high quality photos are becoming more popular. Arresting photos capture attention quickly and draw your viewer into your site.

Color Counsel: A Monochromatic Scheme Can Be Chic

A  monochromatic color scheme uses shades (created by adding black to a  color) and tints (created by adding white) of a single color resulting  in a clean and elegant look. This color palette is soothing to the eyes  and works especially well with green or blue hues. It is easy to get  right and has a sense of authority to it. The primary color can also be  used with neutral colors like black, white or gray.

The only downfall to a monochromatic color scheme is that it lacks the  contrast of a complementary color scheme and is not as vibrant. But  don't be afraid to try this when you're wanting a sophisticated but  cost-effective look.

How to Avoid Death by PowerPoint

Keep it Simple

PowerPoint slides shouldn't steal the show—nor should they be a complete script for the presenter. They are meant to emphasize your key points in a visual way.

To give your point emphasis, float it in a sea of white space. Remember that the less information you put on your slide, the more clearly your message will come across to your audience.

Resist the temptation to resort to slide after slide with bullet points, also—since studies suggest that this format is one of the fastest ways to lose your audience.

For example,  look at these two slides from a presentation by João Paulo Alves on simplicity:

See how powerful white space can be.

If you are trying to communicate too much visually, simplify your message in order to communicate your key points.

We'd like to hear your thoughts on great presentations you've seen—or on how you're improving your own presentations.

Selling or Telling: Make Your Company an Information Destination

We’re not ready to suggest that selling isn’t still an important part of any business’s marketing efforts, but we also recognize that in the age of information, there’s untapped power in becoming a destination for trusted information.

Consumers are hungry for good information, and have the means to find it. Although we want coupons for free coffee and discounts from our favorite retailer—we are equally or more hungry for the most definitive, recent information on our topic of choice.

If you’re seeing social media as a way to “talk at” your consumers, you won’t likely build a robust following. But if you consistently deliver the trustworthy information they’re hungry for, they’ll be back for more. If they come to see you as a trusted source of information, this will develop a stronger bond than a sales message can.

According to a Constant Contact blog , roughly 78% of consumers prefer to get company information from helpful articles instead of an ad, and 61% of those are more likely to buy as a result of receiving this content.

Making content that benefits the consumer instead of selling yourself is a winning strategy. But don’t be discouraged by this. Take small steps towards this goal, and remember it takes time to move into an entirely new paradigm.

What are your most trusted sources for information?

Seven Things to Do Now to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Facebook Page

  1. Publish status updates or major stories in the morning. If you publish between 11 am and 4 pm your content may go unnoticed due to the heavy traffic by other users.
  2. Tag your friends when you post a note, so they see a message on their wall and are more likely to read it. Unfortunately you can only tag 30 people at a time. If you post multiple notes in order to tag more than 30 people, make sure to delete the duplicated posts in your news feed so you don't look like a spammer.
  3. Encourage interaction from your fans. Invite conversation, create contests, post interesting status updates and encourage check-ins.
  4. Share interesting links and encourage people to comment, but be sure to post the whole link instead of a short link because it's 300 percent more likely to get clicked on.
  5. Thursday is the best day of the week to get the most visibility for a Facebook post.
  6. Facebook may be the best platform for making a video go viral due to its ease of embedding media.
  7. Remember AIDA—Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

Visit Ragan.com for more social media tips.