The next time you visit Structural Graphics online you’ll discover a hip one-stop design shop with a (big) passion for dimensional paper design.
The company recently overhauled their site with all new designs, images and content. The resulting template is bright, fresh and modern.
"The goal of the redesign was to provide users with ease of navigation, inspiration to our clients and prospects, and to portray a sense of community around our designers, paper engineers and also our community in Essex," says Heather Ertel, director of marketing.
The niche marketing and design shop is located in Essex, Connecticut, a town noted as "The Perfect Small American Town” in Norm Crampton's “The 100 Best Small Towns in America", and listed as a destination in the travel guide, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die”.
The redesign successfully exhibits Structural Graphics’ marketing and design work in a bigger way. Large photographs and image galleries pepper the site – giving users an up-close-and-personal view of the incredible and 3 dimensional design projects Structural Graphics is known for doing.
"We wanted to give people a sense of who we are. Our goal was to portray our work with bigger photography, more image galleries and to categorize our capabilities, not just by application, but by use; so visitors could start to have an understanding of the various ways they can use the work we put together," Ertel explains.
Structural Graphic’s new website not only shows that they do amazing things with paper design, but that they know how to incorporate that medium with today’s technology – from web keys and personal URLS to QR & AR codes – to drive traffic online too.
Among the site’s new features are in-house designer biographies to help people learn more about Structural Graphics’ creative department, and a new "My Lightbox" application, which allows users to save their favorite products for inspiration or future use. The site also integrates with social media, so sharing is easy on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
For Structural Graphics, the new website is a step towards reinvigorating the beauty of paper design. "All things old are new again. Interesting printmaking techniques are making a resurgence and people are seeing the beauty of [paper again]," Ertel says.
Our friends at Fold Factory gave us a nod in their weekly e-blast for our "Telescoping Folder", a two-pull paper design that reveals loads of great content.
See a video explaining this incredible paper design technology for direct mailers below.
Direct mail has been called a lot of things, but one thing marketers can't say is that it doesn't adapt to change.
On the contrary, Structural Graphics, a Connecticut-based marketing and design shop, has done plenty to demonstrate how easily it can combine its print resources with today's technology; ultimately growing businesses with an interest in brand awareness, lead generation, retention, and loyalty.
The real question is, are marketers changing just as easily? While you ponder on that...
Structural Graphics has made a name for itself through amazing paper design and marketing services. Their campaigns have served many renown businesses like Victoria Secret, Marc Jacobs, Volkswagen and American Express.
What they've managed to pull off quite well is a healthy integration between brilliant paper design and technology.
"Ultimately, we want to be the driving force to technology. You can create a website, but you still need to drive them there. Sending them something in print is a great way to do that," says Structural Graphics' Director of Marketing, Heather Ertel.
Technology in Direct Mail
The web drivers that design shops like Structural Graphics employ lead customers to personalized digital content direct from print and promotional pieces. The exchange creates customer interaction, which holds more weight in memory and meaning to the consumer and the brand.
There are several types of web drivers out there; web keys (they look like small thumb drives), quick response and augmented reality codes (QR & AR codes), and personalized URLS are a few that have adapted print marketing to its digital counterpart.
How do these devices work?
Web keys look like flash drives, but unlike flash drives, they have little room for data. They serve only as a guide that connects to the user's web browser and directs them to a personalized URL.
QR codes look a lot like UPC barcodes, but hold much more information (like links and geo-data). Users access the content stored in the codes through smartphones, which have free software applications that scan and interpret the data.
QR codes generally direct users to a website. There are several online QR generators that can easily and quickly create a code based on a URL. These codes can then be incorporated into the design of a print piece.
AR Codes work similarly to a QR code except that they don't direct users to a landing page; instead, the content appears as a live graphic or multimedia that simulates the activity happening in the print piece. For example, a print promotion for a knee device could include an AR code that shows a three dimensional demonstration of the medical device in action.
Personalized URLs are trackable URLs that have the recipients name in the web address and direct them to a custom webpage, authenticating the information for that recipient.
So what does this mean?
As interest in letterpress and paper design resurges, marketers can confidently integrate print marketing into their digital strategies. These measurable integrated campaigns can help grow a business' customer base and promote products and services. They also give marketers a chance to showcase their business' design and marketing creativity.
Use your brand's personality to engage consumers with your marketing campaigns.
It’s 2013 and your target audience is getting hit by every marketing medium under the sun. From social media, web, TV, newspaper and mail, consumers are barraged with “Buy Now” “Save More” and “One Day Only” at an alarming, and often exhausting, rate.
So why should marketers care about all this? Well, because their strategy is just one of hundreds that consumers see every day. In 2012, Consumer Reports reported that at least 247 ads were seen each day by consumers. With so many promotional messages, consumers have begun tuning out these messages, and unless marketers can find a way to breakthrough all that clutter, their campaigns will fall on deaf ears, and glossed over eyes.
So what do you do about it? Get a personality. Yes, it can be that simple. The best way to stand out from all that competition is to be drastically different from them. Here’s how:
Show your people.
Show consumers who you are. Feature your best people, your new people, and anyone else on your team who can put a voice and a face to your brand. Help your consumers see that your company isn’t just a machine wanting something from them. Instead, demonstrate how your company is like them, how your mission is a benefit to them, and how the people behind the scenes are working to make their life easier and better.
In this day and age there are so many great ways to engage consumers. Of course social media is a part of that, but direct mail campaigns are also incredible at inciting responses from consumers. Direct mail goes beyond one-dimensional postcards. Today’s technology has enhanced direct mail; pieces now include impressive sensory enhancements like audio, pop-up design and light modules. They feature personal URL’s, or custom web landing pages based on your customer’s interests and previous interactions with your business, and web keys that encourage consumers to visit specific pages of your website. All of these techniques engage consumers through impressionable marketing campaigns that are hard to ignore.
Marketing is all about reaching out to people and the best way to become a people person is to drop the stuffy corporate tone. People connect better with wit, sarcasm, and humor because that’s how we are in real life. It’s easier to build rapport with consumers when authenticity is the rule of thumb.
Do your marketing campaigns have personality? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Image courtesy: www.flickr.com/photos/jaaronfarr.
Last week, Bruce Foster, a renowned paper engineer, graphic designer and illustrator spent a day with the Structural Graphics team at their Essex, CT headquarters, enthralling them with a sampling of his incredible body of published pop-up designs.
Some of Foster's most notable work includes pop-up designs for the set of the Disney film, Enchanted and among many published titles, a book for the Harry Potter movie series entitled, Harry Potter, A Pop-Up Book.
Structural Graphics came to know Foster last year when he was commissioned by a major New York City-based advertising agency to design two complex pop-ups in high profile coffee table books for an international real estate developer. Seeking a production partner for the dimensional inserts, he reached out to Structural Graphics, and together we collaborated to bring the project to market.
Foster's love affair with paper began when he was a young painter with an eye for sculpture. After studying art in college, he began a career in graphic design with an interest in 3D design concepts. Foster spent years in packaging and trade design until he was able to explore dimensional design more fully when a 3D project for Minute Maid Foods led to freelance opportunities with major clients. Since then, Foster has been sharing his pop-up design talents in books, film, promotional print campaigns and art exhibitions around the world, including an upcoming visit to Seoul, South Korea to speak and lead workshops.
"Pop-up is whole different thing," says Foster. "It's a theater inside of a book. The paper itself becomes the actor on the stage."
Foster's process for creating begins with a few pencil sketches, allowing him to test the ideas he imagines in his mind. He works closely with the text and builds his cinema, spending hours with paper, scissors and glue as he constructs dummy designs that are eventually approved by collaborators and shipped off to a printer who produces the publication.
Structural Graphics employs its own staff of paper engineers like Foster who create memorable and meaningful experiences for consumers with dimensional designs. The effect is worthwhile, since 57 percent of 25 to 34 year-olds have made a purchase as a result of a direct mail offer according to an ExactTarget 2012 channel preference survey.
"Paper is still a wonderful medium," Foster concludes. "Three dimensional design elicits something magical in the viewer. It's important to keep that going."
His most recent projects include America's National Parks, a pop-up book inspired by a shared interest in the outdoors with Publisher and writer Don Compton. A portion of the sales will go toward the National Parks Conservation Association. Foster is also working on game board designs for Hasbro Games, one of the biggest toy makers in the world.
Learn more about Bruce Foster at paperpops.com.
I was once on my way back from a marketing presentation across the state, when I stumbled upon a cute little vintage boutique called Brazen Betties down the street from my work site. I couldn’t stop myself from perusing the eclectic handmade jewelry and vintage clothing inside.
As I stood in front of a mirror admiring a feathered, handmade hair accessory, the owner Julia Sloan walked up to me exclaiming how nicely the colors complimented my hair and told me to keep it, no charge. I was completely blown away.
The experience led me to not only buy one other item that day, but more in the future, and I have since shared her business with my friends on Facebook and now here in this blog. Her expression of gratitude -- stemming from her appreciation that I visited her business -- kindled in me a kindness and loyalty to her that hasn’t been forgotten, even though this experience happened well over a year ago.
When you think of marketing, does gratitude play into your strategy? Not only does gratitude encourage businesses to provide better service to their customers but it plays an important part in the bigger concept of relationship marketing, which emphasizes customer loyalty and retainment.
Learn to express your company's gratitude with these three components that can easily be incorporated into your marketing plan.
Retain Customers by Celebrating Their Engagement
Studies in relationship marketing show that by doing something nice for your customers, you increase the chances of that kindness being reciprocated back.
Encourage loyalty by showing your audience you appreciate them. Send a creative pop-up card honoring the one year anniversary of their first purchase, or a special, customized email to acknowledge the day they joined your email list; or give them a special shout-out on your Facebook or Twitter page when they join your audience. The world is a busy place with a lot of choices, so acknowledge their effort by letting them know you’ve paid attention to their engagement.
Find milestones to honor your customer and show them you care and you’ll increase your chances of securing a lasting relationship.
Give Awesome Stuff to Promote Your Business
Not everything you give your customer should be for sale. Offer information, tools, and resources to help your customer make informed decisions about products or services, or topics that are relevant to what they are seeking. Give them free samples of your products so they can explore your business; even better get feedback from their experience so you can find ways to improve services. Prove to them that you care about what they think and give them information that reinforces the advantages of doing business with you versus your competitors.
Create Unforgettable Customer Interactions
In a research report prepared for American Express, surveys showed that two thirds of consumers are willing to pay more at a business that takes care of their needs and exceeds their expectations. Demonstrate the quality of your service by eschewing protocol in favor of giving something a little more personal to your customer.
Enter the handwritten note.
Remember when people used to send cards? In this digital age, many businesses have forgotten the value of personalized print materials. This offers an advantage to savvy marketers because a simple handwritten note to your customer during the holidays or on their birthday can make a lasting impression.
Find unique ways to reward your customer and customize their experience by taking the time to be grateful for their business. After all, without the customer, where would your business be?
What do you think about gratitude in marketing? Tell us in the comments below.
Image above courtesy greatergood.berkeley.edu.
Structural Graphics is kicking off a month of awesomeness with a series of posts to help marketers breakthrough the clutter of their competition with insightful posts about what makes marketers, well, awesome.
This week's post is all about innovation. One of the most distinctive traits of an awesome marketer is the ability to be innovative. Innovation helps marketers set their businesses apart from the competition, gets people excited about the company or brand, and makes waves in the industry.
Let's take a look at how some big companies are using innovation to keep their audiences engaged.
Awesome Marketers Skew Reality and Fantasy
Americans love to interact with their entertainment. It's why 24.75 billion dollars went to the gaming industry in 2011 according to a 2012 Entertainment Software Association report, and the top selling game of 2011 was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, a game that positions players as soldiers on extreme military missions.
With an increasing interest in entertainment that feels like real life, it's not surprising that some of the best marketing campaigns are the ones that bring fantasy right to your doorstep, like HBO did a few weeks ago to promote the premier of Game of Thrones. In early March, New York Times readers opened up a weekday edition to find the shadow of a dragon flying overhead with accompanying fake articles inspired by the show's plot. The ad got fans talking, creating a buzz on Twitter:
Similiarly, when ad agency, Leo Burnett Toronto created an zombie billboard at the Toronto Union Station for the premiere of Walking Dead fans got excited. The agency took it a step further by sawing off zombie fingers to countdown the mid-season premiere and sending them to fans who took pictures with the billboard and posted them on Twitter. This person even made a gif.
In both cases HBO and AMC created a buzz by cleverly interrupting our daily life with something fantastical, and it made people happy and eager to start watching their favorite shows again.
Awesome Markerters Personify Their Brand
Case in point: Allstate Insurance Company. Allstate has the right ingredients in its Mayhem TV ads featuring a smooth-talking, rugged, sneering guy destined to make your life hell. In some episodes he’s a deer, a bad GPS or a blown out water heater and in others he’s a torrential downpour standing over your car’s open sunroof with a garden house.
Allstate’s SVP of Marketing, Lisa Cochrane said in Adweek, "We’re talking about value in an entirely new way," she says. "With so many advertising messages focusing on convenience and price, consumers had been lulled into thinking of insurance as a commodity. We had to disrupt the conversation but do it in a respectful way."
That recipe has definitely increased Allstate's consumer engagement; Mayhem’s Facebook page has garnered 1.5 million fans and Allstate now has over 6 million video views on YouTube.
Awesome Marketers Are One with the Times
Awesome marketers know that the industry is always changing, so they stay on top of trends and figure out new ways to connect with their audience.
The folks over at Volkswagon are well aware that many consumers record their favorite shows on DVR and fast forward through commercials. So in an attempt to reach as many viewers as possible the company developed a “slowmercial”, or TV ad that can be seen at both normal and fast speeds. Volkswagon estimates that the slowmercial will have 50% more impact than their traditional commericals. It’s currently only airing in Belgium, so we'll have to wait and see how that works out for US audiences.
This innovative approach demonstrates the creativity of the company as well as it’s understanding of its audience.
Have you been blown away by any creative and innovative marketing campaigns lately? Share them with us in the comments below.
Maybe it’s Pinterest, or Facebook. Or both. The 2012 Social Media Report states that U.S. audiences are spending more time online each year, and social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn are big time consumers of their attention.
In the United States, over 170 million people use social media. It's become something we all share. Savvy marketers are seeing the opportunity in this and incorporating social networking into their overall marketing strategies.
With so many networks to choose from, how do you figure out where your business needs to be? Below, are outlines of four of the biggest social networks with a brief summation of how these applications might be used for business.
Facebook – a storyteller
Businesses can leverage Facebook to tell their stories. This network is a great place to communicate personality, share behind-the-scenes details, as well as products and services. Through updates, photo albums and savvy use of Pages, businesses can build a stronger connection to their fanbase.
The image above shows an example of a business (Disney) using Facebook’s Milestone feature to highlight a key moment in its history. Milestones are large, highlighted updates that let businesses share significant moments like historical events and anniversaries with fans while adding visual diversity to the Page layout.
Features like these establish a very interactive and fun way for consumers to learn about businesses, often leading them to share with their friends.
Twitter - filtered tweets lend insight
Businesses eager to engage with their customers will find the realtime conversations on Twitter engaging and insightful. The ability to search through tweets based on specific keywords can offer lots of insights on your customers wants and needs.
Marketers curious to see what people are saying about a certain topic (including their company) can type a relevant term into the Twitter search bar and browse filtered results. Below is an example of a query for 'print marketing':
From this one search, you can learn what companies are using print marketing in creative ways, tips on how to use Google Analytics to enhance your print marketing, and an article explaining why major companies feel print marketing is important.
Filtered search makes it easier for businesses to find relevant information to share with their followers and more easily engage with them in topics that relate to their mission.
Pinterest - great tool for retail
The real benefit of Pinterest seems to be seen in the retail sector. The pinboard style of the website encourages its mostly-female demographic to create visual wishlists targeted towards items in the fashion, beauty and health industries. An added benefit to businesses is the built-in pricing capabilities.
According to a recent Pew study a smaller, older demographic of users – about 16% – are on Pinterest and over age 50.
Recent changes to the site include a sleeker, larger layout, the ability to drag images to boards, and suggestions for pins you might like.
Visual arts organizations and museums can also use the site’s visual focus to share artwork from exhibitions with followers.
Google+ - improving search
According to the site, "Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful". Google+ supports this mission by giving Google users more diverse and authentic information in search.
Google+ integrates business page activity into search results, giving businesses more control over what populates in Google search and enabling customers to see and follow the latest news and information about their business.
Google+ pages add depth to search queries; not only do users find out critical info about a business like location and contact information, but a particular status update might further encourage them to engage and support a business.
For instance the search results for Coca Cola, above, also dislpay a status update on their page with information about an upcoming hangout, or video chat, with a super fan.
LinkedIn is different from networks like Pinterest because it’s not the venue to post products and pricing to make sales. 79% of LinkedIn users are age 35 or older and they comprise a network of learners converging to discuss topics related to their industry and profession.
Businesses can benefit by setting up pages and sharing resources but what's really valuable are LinkedIn groups, which give employees a chance to promote their business through group interactions. By answering questions and creating thoughtful topics that relate to target consumers, businesses can promote themselves while also getting a heads up on potential leads.
Marketers would do well to thoughtfully consider each network (and there are more out there) that can be used as a tool to enhance a business. Once you decide which network works best for your business, the biggest factors are whether you have the time and the staff to curate content and consistently share information with followers. A great approach to getting social is to pick just one or two networks to engage with and make those efforts successful before branching out.
How have you determined which social networks to use for your business? Share in the comments below.
I recently stumbled across this article on Hubspot by Kieran Flanagan, and it got me thinking about Google’s Panda update. I wondered what exactly it was, what happened recently and why it was important to me as a marketer.
Over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, Google performed its latest update to Panda, an algorithm initiated in early 2011, that changed the way Google populated search results on its famous search engine. It’s not clear to me now how many searches were affected by this recent update, but a look at the updates initiated since last year show that the percentage of searches affected are decreasing-- only 1.2% were affected this past January.
The Head of Google Webspam, Matt Cutts reported that further updates would not be announced since they will occur automatically with other updates.
So what's Panda about?
The initial Panda update in early 2011 affected nearly 12% of Google queries. The algorithm benefited Google’s users by pushing low quality content to the bottom of search results. This is how Google described it on their blog at the time:
"Google depends on the high-quality content created by wonderful websites around the world, and we do have a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem. Therefore, it is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does."
These are the two most significant qualifiers for low quality content:
- pages that rip-off content from other sites
- pages without real value (full of purchased links and advertisements) with no real content
Why is this important to marketers?
Google’s Panda update affects marketers directly because it corresponds to how users find their business online. Marketing and PR professionals must encompass digital channels in their marketing plans to increase visibility and outreach to target markets.
By knowing what kind of content the internet's most popular search engine (it recently took 67% of the market share) is looking to provide its users, marketers can strategize ways to gain the best visibility and grow their audience.
What to do now
The simplest and easiest solution is to provide rich, relevant information on your website. Here's how:
- add valuable information like statistics, examples and case studies
- avoid duplicating information (in its entirety) from other websites
- use applicable keywords; don't thoughtlessly litter your web pages without having relevant content to support them
Google is a critical web tool to help internet users find your business. It truly is a sign of the times to see Google evolving its process to provide value to the user's experience.
What actions have you taken to enhance your customer's experience as a result of the Panda updates? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Read more about Google Panda and other updates on the Google blog.
Yesterday concluded the five-day interactive portion of one of the biggest technology, film and music festivals of the year: SXSW in Austin, Texas. Twitter has been seriously buzzing with all kinds of awesome SXSW content, so naturally, this week’s post compiles some of the best tweets from business leaders, community managers, marketers, and designers who attended.
These lucky ducks spent the last week immersing themselves in workshops and events that will enhance and change our approach to marketing, design and technology. Here's what they had to share:
Over the last couple weeks there has been a lot of talk about 3D printing technology, especially since Burlesque dancer, model and actress, Deeta Von Teese stepped out in a 3D printed dress at Ace Hotel in New York and Wobbleworks far surpassed their Kickstarter goal to fund the first-ever 3D pen.
Entrepreneurs and designers are experimenting with print technology in new ways, which has excited buyers and proved that print is still a medium that attracts response. The print industry is resurging and bringing with it some awesome new toys.
Some messages never get old, which is why Heather's words resonate. Her message is simple: plan, plan, plan. Be organized, coordinate all your efforts thoughtfully, and get social.
Travis' message addresses why many business owners are afraid to participate in social media: they might lose control. It's true that by putting your brand out there you're opening yourself up naysayers, but in reality, you're actually gaining control because you can quickly respond to any negative feedback you might receive, thereby demonstrating your concern for your customer and the efficiency of your brand. Social engagement gives you a direct connection to your buyers, so you also open yourself up to more good feedback too.
Your advocates are loyal fans, customers, and employees who share your brand with their network. These people extend your audience and shed a positive light on your brand. They are authentic marketers who find value in your products or services and want to share them with their friends because they genuinely believe it will add more satisfaction to their lives. What's better marketing than that?
Any marketing you put out there should get to the heart of what you do and who you are. It should go back to your brands' mission statement, and the message you crafted when you created your marketing plan (you did do that, right?). That doesn't mean that you can't be clever, creative, or inventive, it just means that what you are saying should not be convoluted, and indiscernible to your buyers.
Good marketing involves some risk. Don't expect perfection from every idea you have, instead look for ways to learn from your endeavors and to keep striving once you've reached a goal. Then, set bigger goals to keep yourself inspired.
Did you attend SXSW? Have you been listening to the discussions about it online? Tell us what you think is cool in the comments below.