Client Services Best Practices

Today’s marketing world is a bizarre, eccentric land. You have your right brainers trying to play nice with your left brainers. There are the creative directors who think so far out the box, you may think you live on separate planets. There’s the “brand police,” whose job is literally to make our lives harder. And of course, the account coordinators who have no concept of realistic timing.

While we may not understand why [place annoying coworker’s name here] insists on [insert said coworker’s most annoying tendency], we all have one thing in common. And that my creative and strategic thinkers, is that we work to serve. Whether your job is in-house, at an agency, or even freelance, client service is what makes our world go around. If our clients aren’t happy, we aren’t doing our jobs.

To better serve your clients, here are the top three tips for exceptional client service:

1. Anticipate the Learning Curve
If you have minimal to no experience with a new project, anticipate the amount of learning you will need to do before you can become informed. Being uninformed on a project makes it very difficult to be proactive with the client. If you do not come off as an expert, your client will not be confident in the work you’re producing. And ultimately, you will not be confident in the end result of the project. Being uninformed can also overwhelm project management time and resources.

2. Always Have a Big Idea
It’s important to have a big idea to ladder all initiatives up to when working with a client. If you’re piecemealing tasks or not prioritizing or strategizing to accomplish an end goal, your efforts are ultimately fragmented. Work should never be random or not results-oriented. Know what the goals of the project are before you begin, strategize a plan to achieve those goals, and always ladder all tasks up to the big idea or end goal.

3. Know Your Audience
This tip is two-fold. Knowing the target audience of the project is key. It’s important to get smart on who you are trying to reach before wasting your time or client resources. This is especially important with niche audiences.

Knowing your client is important in any project. There should be a designated project lead who should also be relationship building with the client. This will lead to a more cohesive relationship, more trust in new ideas, and more understanding should any issues arise.

These best practices will also enable you to do your best work, taking your skills to the next level. The outcome and an essential element of your job is to make your clients’ lives easer.

Everything Advertisers Need to Know about Marketing to Gen Y

It’s really quite simple: In order to be successful in the 21st century, a brand must offer meaning and purpose in consumers’ lives. A Gen Y has seen all the tricks, and knows the fancy words that advertisers use to sell products. They aren’t enthralled by the tricks, and quite frankly it irritates them. The days of advertisements relentlessly fighting for consumers’ attention are long gone. To a Gen Y, a well thought-out and brilliantly constructed ad is one that conveys impact and resonates important values. This generation must be targeted with an authentic approach. According to Umair Haque, Harvard Business Review, “The next global economy isn’t just about stuff, it’s about human lives.” 

Emphasize Social, Focus on Impact

Keep in mind that Gen Y has grown up with technology, so they are very comfortable with change. When marketing to generation Y, remember they adapt well and are constantly evolving alongside new technology that benefits their lives. Since they accept that their world is constantly changing, they tend to work well collaboratively and seek to make a difference. Because they are very tech savvy, they are always finding ways to work smarter, make life easier and keep in touch longer. They wish to see products that not only make a difference on a global scale, but make their lives more meaningful as well.

Virgin is a great example of a company that targets the young and hip generation Y. By way of social media, Virgin offers sales promotions, creates brand awareness and can be directly contacted by customers. By successfully cornering all spectrums of the market, Virgin has focused their marketing campaigns on innovation and disruptive marketing. Due to the diverse and independent nature of the business, disruption is the heart of Virgin Media’s marketing strategy. They aim to create impact, so it’s much less about quantity, than it is quality. Virgin’s disruptive approach is incredibly important in jarring people’s behaviors and cutting through the mass media to take on competitors.

Informed companies, such as Virgin, will learn to manipulate social media to follow cultural trends, as well as monitor their brand identity. This new wave of social will give brands the opportunity to see how consumers perceive them, and whether the brand message is received or lost in translation.

Because of this shift in marketing strategy, disruptive marketing will most likely be the way of the future. Industries should consider these “disruptions” as a way to best market their brands in the coming years, in order to capitalize on potential opportunities. Disruptive advertising allows for interaction and involvement, a key value held by this generation.

Be Up Front & Honest: Play Tricks & You’re Out

As for characteristics of Gen Y, they tend to be less loyal to a corporate culture, and more skeptical of what’s behind the curtain. They have a strong sense of entitlement, and are not shy when asking questions. After watching their parent’s work hard and struggle to balance work and play, they place great emphasis on maintaining a steady balance of both. They hold strong values for honesty, and appreciate brands that don’t try and trick them. There’s no need to be flashy to get their attention, just be sincere. As an example, brands like Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign speak loud to this generation. Therefore, simply calling a product or an experience a luxury doesn’t necessarily make it so. Gen Y has learned that regulation is important, and that the people who can influence the market need to be held to higher accountability.

Interaction is Key, But Not Without an Impactful Connection

Gen Y is much more accepting of differences in culture and ethnicity than past generations. They place strong emphasis on social interaction and because of this, they stay interconnected at all hours of the day. They embrace differences and accept change, rather than sidestepping clashing viewpoints. Since interaction in one of the fundamental values for Gen Y, there is a dire need for technology to be the link to communication. This being said, mobile is on an exponential increase, leaving the ways of traditional communication behind. Redbull is a company that has successfully targeted a niche market by way of interacting and creating disruption in the market. Redbull focuses primarily on entertainment by directing marketing efforts towards live streaming videos and promotional events. They rely heavily on digital marketing campaigns backed by niche targeting to empower consumers and build brand authenticity.

With technology always advancing, smartphones and tablets have started a new wave of interacting with brands. Social is here to stay, since it has become the direct link between businesses and consumers. Consumers today (especially Gen Y) expect to communicate directly, whether it’s with brands, celebrities or professional athletes. Because of this new trend, Redbull employs social media in order to interact and engage consumers.

Millennial drivers use mobile phones 2.5 times more than non-Millennials when car shopping, and auto brands are turning to digital, social media, and car-sharing to lure them in. Ford’s partnership with Zipcar on college campuses has helped the brand gain a 2% market share in this segment.” – eMarketer

Be The Change They Wish To See

A word of advice, don’t try too hard. This generation has seen it all before and doesn’t feel compelled to conform to social norms. Being raised by Boomers taught them to look for ways to change the world, and not to except it for face value. Gen Y is very ambitious. They have learned to question virtually everything, sometimes being referred to as “generation why.” This generation will drive a whole new way of doing business; one that brakes free from traditional boundaries and embraces new technologies, flexibility and adaptability.

This generation has seen both sides of the spectrum; advertising that tries too hard, hoping for shock value or the complete opposite, where it’s sadly “completely lame”. Businesses now face the biggest challenge of how to brand and market effectively to this new generation. When marketing to Gen Y, remember they want life made easier, they seek quicker responses, faster connections, and simpler processes. Therefore, brands that make life better are the ones thriving.

Think of one brand that has been around since 1886 and is still just as popular today as it was back then… if you’re thinking Coca-Cola, you’re right! Not only does Coca-Cola have brand loyalty from happy customers, they also stand for values sought worldwide – happiness. Coca-Cola is a brand that generation Y can appreciate, since it is committed to empowering people and making a better brand for tomorrow. Coca-Cola focuses its marketing campaigns around key words like, “sharing”, and “happiness” that unite people, by representing a brand image dedicated to improving quality of life.

3 Reasons Why a Graphic Designer Should Create Your Logo

For the same reason that you wouldn’t show up to a job interview in flip-flops and a t-shirt (I hope), a logo shouldn’t look like it was an after-thought or low-priority item. It’s simple: A logo is a first impression. 

Nothing breaks my heart like a business that has relied on stock logos to represent their company. They all come to learn (whether directly or indirectly) that the benefit of an “inexpensive” logo certainly doesn’t outweigh the costs: a chronic case of lack-luster customer appeal and a non-memorable, generic brand image. Just another company… not a brand.

Computer-generated logos simply can’t propel a brand through the competition to impact their target audience.

That’s why I’m here: to exemplify the benefits of a graphic designer. Just like the smile on my face or style of my hair says a lot about my personality and attitude, brand logo designs represent the brands’ personas. Logo and brand are inalienably associated with each other. A logo must be striking, memorable, and iconic; logos lead to an emotional connection that attracts and inspires consumers. And the best way to attract humans? A human-designed logo.

Consider the following reasons for why designing a brand logo that is customized and unique to the industry, and to your brand, is invaluable.

Reason #1: Your First Impression Matters

Not only should a logo be creative and intriguing, it should represent all of the elements of your company. Your logo is a symbol that characterizes and describes your brand by incorporating the theme and nature of the business, and its mission and vision.

Why, exactly, is a stock generated logo costly to your company? The aforementioned description of logo “must’s” is a tall order to be answered by five one-way questions prompted by a stock-logo site. A good graphic designer does a lot of research, and asks a lot of questions: they think about best-in-class brands, the psychology of the design, perform a target market analysis, and seek elements of differentiation. Most importantly, you’re able to talk to them, and give the designer a feel for what your brand “is,” which can then be refined through rounds of logo choices to generate the absolute perfect logo. Technology is great, but people still crave an emotional connection, which calls for a graphic designer who understands.

A strong designer will assimilate a comprehensive strategy for a logo that will differentiate your company from its competitors. Well-developed logos are captivating and sophisticated, and communicate your value proposition without saying a word. In order to achieve those ends, there is no replacement for a conversation between brand and designer.

 Reason #2: There’s More Than Meets the Eye

In order for a logo to be strong and impactful, it must catalyze the correct interpretation. Quite often, logos are misinterpreted because the link between business and logo is misunderstood. This is where strong creative skills are fundamental to design: there’s much more to a logo than meets the eye.

A graphic designer spends the majority of their time researching concepts and developing ideas before they even embark on creating a symbol. The designer incorporates psychology into every element of the logo. Behind each shape, color, position, font, size, layout, and combination – there is a reason. A designer designs logos in order to achieve the emotional impact of your brand.

A quick dose of professional logo design potential: Sharp straight lines will create a more succinct and disruptive interpretation, while circles and smooth curves create a much softer, lighthearted, and airy impression. Blue ignites trust and loyalty, and red typically radiates energy and confidence. Some fonts have a corporate feel, some are fun, and some are both. Others are inviting, or symbolize premium and refined brands. And still, others are traditional, modern, or smart, and everywhere in between. These few elements are only the beginning of the power that a designer has to personify your brand. Design is a language, and the computer program is not the translator.

Reason #3: Less is ALWAYS More

Although a logo must accurately represent a company, conceptual creativity is fundamental. If you’re a locksmith, maybe a symbol of a lock or key isn’t the right symbol for you. The question to ask is what makes you different from the rest of the industry? The most powerful logos today are simplistic and clean cut, yet indescribably impactful. Think about the Nike, Apple, or Disney logo: the idea is simple, but the message is strong.

Oftentimes, companies have so many great ideas, and they want all of those ideas to be represented in their logo… DON’T DO IT. The first step is an attractive and appealing logo: pristine, sharp, unique, and something that is emotionally synonymous with your brand identity. Then, the association between brand and logo can form: less is more. The logo doesn’t need to be cluttered or overwhelming, for risk of being forgotten or misunderstood. The best way to communicate brand personal and value is through a creative and conceptual logo that is artistic, inspired, and in effect, powerful.

Now before the list gets too long, feel free to reach out for more logo-chat. We’d love to hear your perspectives and goals.

My Mobile Visits Increased! Wait. Do I Need A Mobile Website Now?

Have you noticed a huge jump in mobile visits to your website? You’re not alone. Now, everyone walks around with at least an iPhone, Blackberry, or Android phone— and it’s likely they are also sporting an iPad, Surface, or Galaxy tablet.

Let’s face it: mobile has taken over. We live in a world where you can scan and email a PDF, digitally deposit a check, video chat, and “like” all of your friends’ Facebook statuses—while sitting in traffic (not that we condone banking or Facebook’ing while driving).

When presenting monthly search marketing reports, I’m often asked “I see this jump in mobile traffic—does this mean I need a mobile website?” To best answer this question, I recommend pulling out your iPhone and visiting your website. How does it look? Do the images load properly? Does the content appear readable? Are links clickable? And most importantly, is the user able to navigate the site and complete the desired action (download, form, purchase, etc.)? If not, then the answer is very clear: yes, you do need a web design for mobile devices.

Recently, there have been some mobile design & development buzzwords, predominantly “mobile first” and “responsive web design”, which may, or may not, be best for your needs. Here is what you need to know about the new mobile trends:

Responsive Web Design

With responsive web design, your website adapts to the viewing platform. For example, you will have your desktop version, then, when you visit the website from your mobile device, the design will reconfigure for the viewing dimensions. Some benefits of responsive design include: one source code to manage, and, since the design adapts to the screen size, it is already compatible with the next wave of mobile devices.

Mobile First

There are some websites that, without any doubt, most of their traffic is going to come in from mobile devices. For that reason, the mobile web design is of the utmost importance, more so than even the desktop design. With mobile first, the website is designed for mobile initially—then a desktop version is designed to complement.

If you’re looking to stay competitive in any market, then a web design for mobile devices should be at the top of your priority list. If you would to talk to a mobile web design & development expert about your mobile design options, contact Sparxoo today.

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Sparxoo Says: Your Brand Culture Matters

Zappos founder Tony Hsieh has it right, noting that building a brand has changed dramatically over the past 50 years.  “It used to be that a few people got together in a room, decided what the brand positioning was going to be, and then spent a lot of money buying advertising telling people what their brand was. And if you were able to spend enough money, then you were able to build your brand.  It’s a very different world today. With the Internet connecting everyone together, companies are becoming more and more transparent whether they like it or not.”

Indeed, two keys to building an exceptional organization for the long-term are 1) a great team, and 2) a strong brand built from the inside out.  The two are intricately linked via organizational culture and organizational values that can best be defined as brand culture.  Excellence at the organization’s core is an enabling foundation on which the organization can expand, stretch, and adapt, all while maintaining cohesion.

The Sparxoo Culture

At Sparxoo, we are not just an advertising agency that specializes in branding and digital marketing.  There are hundreds of agencies that can make that basic claim.  We are more.  We are a collection of thinkers and artists who passionately conceive of disruptive ideas and creatively apply ideas into action.  We call ourselves “The Xoo,” an innovative place where diverse perspectives and dynamic talents can truly shine through.

To achieve the workplace of the future, it is key to pull from the up-and-coming workforce—Millennials. These are tomorrow’s leaders; and individuals who are vital to achieve the energy and dynamism to create innovation and generate creativity.

There are many articles written on how to attract Millennials to the workplace.  One such article sums it up well: “Millennials are pushing the envelope a step further, and are asking employers to go beyond traditional compensation and benefits to create an environment that is creative, challenging, team-oriented, fun, and financially rewarding.”

At Sparxoo, we attract Millennials and pay homage to several of Zappos’ core values.  In particular, two of Zappos’ core values emphasize the ethos of teamwork and collaboration in an organization:

  • Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

Within a collaborative team environment, Zappos also prioritizes individuals to continually learn and excel while applying passion to get results.

  • Pursue Growth and Learning
  • Be Passionate and Determined
  • Deliver WOW through Service

In 2012, the Sparxoo team formalized the basic elements of our brand culture by establishing core values to guide our organization.  In developing the core of the Sparxoo culture, our goal was to empower talented individuals to excel in a collaborative and fun environment. Our five core values, as listed below, are a simple, yet powerful expression of who we are today and tomorrow.

  1. Be visionary
  2. Be collaborative
  3. Be passionate
  4. Be innovative
  5. Be badass

The Sparxoo Brand in Action

Our brand culture plays an important role in guiding and inspiring the team as we continue to grow.  I see our brand culture in action every day through the following types of behaviors, which are aligned with our brand values.

Visionary:  The first step in achieving our brand vision to be the preferred Florida-based agency is to have an all-star team.  We’re off to a great start (take a look at our Dream Team Advertising Agency). As a growing company, elements of our brand vision are constantly evolving.  We believe that we can best serve our clients through integrated marketing with an emphasis on building strong brands and winning the digital channel.  We embrace change as we deepen our expertise and add new services (don’t look now, but we have search marketing and public relations experts in house).

Collaboration:  From branding projects to website projects to digital marketing projects, collaboration among our experts is vital.  Through the exchange of ideas, we are able to deliver more powerful solutions and achieve greater impact for our clients.

Passionate:  Artists are very passionate.  And so are coding ninjas.  We fuel passion by empowering our talent to explore their passions.  While other agencies may keep team members “on the clock,” we are flexible in allowing the creative process to unfold.  We avoid squashing passion at all costs.

Innovative:  One of our clients recently said, “The reason I am hiring Sparxoo is because you stretch beyond the ordinary.  I want you to be uncomfortable in one of your brand explorations.  Try something completely different.”  Of course, our creative team was thrilled to have freedom to explore, and the results were phenomenal.

Badass:  One part weird, two parts fun, and three parts fearless.  At the Xoo, we like to have fun and we like to stand out.

The Future of Our Brand Culture

A strong brand culture can have magnetic appeal in attracting other talented individuals, as well as clients.  As a team that has doubled in size in the past year (and will likely double again before the end of 2014), a strong brand culture is vital to our long-term success.

To maximize the likelihood of long-term success, brand culture needs to be enabled by organizational leaders, and activated by all team members.  Our leadership believes in the power of brand culture (see related article on why a Company’s CEO brand matters).  And today’s team lives the brand.  We are proactively taking the following three steps to ensure that tomorrow’s Sparxoo brand culture is just as positively powerful as today’s.

  1. Hire to Culture.  As branding experts, we know that brand culture isn’t owned by the marketing department.  It is integrated from leadership to the most junior team member.  During the interview process, we now test for brand culture fit to ensure that we aren’t just selecting talented candidates, but selecting candidates that will be well aligned with, and contribute to our culture.
  2. Learning is Fun.  To date, we mostly have impromptu, fun gatherings to talk about our vision and values over healthy pizza, coffee, and even board games.  Using basic interactive exercises such as “each person pick one word to describe Sparxoo,” we have helped build a common vocabulary and understanding about the Sparxoo culture.  We have avoided dry novels about our brand, and instead opted for more creative expressions of our brand culture to better engage the full team.  As the team expands, we will continue to have these impromptu gatherings and add to our list of creative exercises to further foster our culture.
  3. Evolve through Healthy Tension.  Sometimes frustration and conflict can be healthy.  For example, we recently realigned several processes for greater project effectiveness based on challenges presented on a client project.  Likewise, we will periodically find that our values need to be updated to reflect tomorrow’s Sparxoo.  For example, today we recognize that two important values are missing from our ethos:  Be Fearless and Be First.  Be fearless is critical to further a culture of risk-taking and courage.  Be First is important because we recognize that second place is the biggest loser, and we want to be first choice for our clients.

At Sparxoo, we are brand experts who practice what we preach.  We believe that when brand culture is beautiful on the inside, then your brand will sparkle on the outside.  Our advice: be passionate and creative in building a brand culture that guides and inspires.  Take a peak at our branding agency services.  The Sparxoo team would love to energize your brand culture.