Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mail Preparation Standards Changing - AGAIN!

First-Class Mail and Standard Mail Machinable Letters will have a pricing change going into affect on May 11th.

The mail preparation standards for First Class Mail and Standard Mail must now meet all the standards for automation letters, except for the bar code requirement. This change will enable the USPS to process more machinable mail on automated letter sorting machines, especially unenveloped mail such as booklets and folded self-mailers.

The changes include:
- All folded self mailers and booklets mailed at machinable prices must be sealed with tabs, tape, glue spots, or glue lines. Follow the tabbing instructions posted in the Quick Service Guide 201b, Using Tabs, wafer Seals, and Glue Spots.

- The maximum weight for machinable and automation letter-sized booklets and folded self-mailers is 3 ounces.

- Letters closed with staples and letters without closures are nonmachinable and eligible only for nonmachinable prices.

Rest assured, the AGC Fulfillment Yields Interest Mailing Department is adept at quickly responding to the changing needs of the USPS. If you have any questions or if you are concerned about a piece you are currently working on please email us.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

4-Steps to Improved One-to-One Marketing

Marketers are taking a pragmatic view of the recession due to customer anxiety, reduced spending, slow complex selling cycles and more. However, research shows that online marketing is effective, so marketers increasingly need to find new ways to optimize their online and offline activities.
What's crucial is pinpointing the individual customer so precisely that they feel they're being offered a service rather than a sell. With budgets under pressure, the range of activities will be limited, so a much greater focus will be placed on retention and development of existing customers. High-value customers must be singled out, along with those with the greatest potential for upselling. Such one-to-one marketing has traditionally been difficult to achieve -- segmentation can be expensive and last year's data is less valuable if a significant percentage of database contacts has changed.

The good news is that marketing technology has advanced to make one-to-one marketing real, without necessitating more time and costs for new research. Four key areas can be addressed by these technological advances and innovative marketers may find among them ways in which they can turbo-charge their existing resources.

1. Targeting
Targeting is critical, as it's essential to identify, distinguish and reach customers. Rather than re-populating databases, software can help build a customer picture by drawing on data in various formats and from different locations and channels. Integration with data mining tools makes it possible to perform complex customer analysis, segmentation, and profiling, while detailed browsing behavior gives a view of customer needs and preferences.

2. Messaging
Messaging captivates a customer's attention. Irrelevant messages won't garner a second glance. With the right technology, you can customize a message's text, graphics, et al., at an individual level. Personalization is taken to new heights when thousands of different offers are based on customer attributes and business rules.

3. Timing
Timing is everything. It's possible to pinpoint more than ever the right moment to communicate to customers. Through analyzing customer behavior and events, marketers can detect when customers are likely to be most receptive to offers, or when they're at risk of leaving. Not only can technology monitor risk points, but it can be used to analyze unusual patterns in customer behavior.

As such, marketers have valid reasons to contact customers, be it with opportunities to provide advice or new offers, or to prevent customer loss. By signaling when a customer is most likely to respond to a communication, technology can increase cross-sell opportunities and improve customer satisfaction.

4. Personalized messages
Delivering personalized messages whenever customers connect with a company is powerful. If customers feel that the contact with your organization is not just a one-way process, their receptiveness will increase greatly. Today's interactive marketing technology allows marketers to bring together all forms of marketing communications from scheduled campaigns, event-driven programs, and real-time conversations with customers across multiple channels -- from electronic and print to face-to-face and telephone.

A coordinated approach enables marketers to reach individual customers at the right time with the best offer on their preferred channel. An integrated approach not only builds loyalty, but brings immediate benefits in terms of response rate and ROI.

Success in 2009 and beyond is about making the best use of limited resources. While it's widely accepted that companies should market harder in a recession to be better placed for the economic recovery, not all have the means or conviction to follow this through in the form of increased marketing budgets.

Marketers who can truly get to know their customers will find that the framework they develop will serve two purposes: to maintain and develop the existing customer base now; and grow it when the economic climate becomes rosier.


Plantable Papers? Yes, It's True!

Although they've been around for awhile primarily serving the "crafts" industry, plantable papers are now available for offset printing.

Plantable Papers are handmade, "tree-free", recycled sheets of paper with wildflower seeds embedded in them. Commonly used for invitations, bookmarks, tags, and announcements, after use, you simply plant the paper in a sun drenched area, spread a thin layer of moist soil on the paper and keep the area moist during germination. In about 6-8 weeks your paper will begin to grow!

For more information:
Botanical PaperWorks
Plantable Paper
Plantable Seed Paper
Green Field Paper

New Book Celebrating the Eco-Movement "Green Graphic Design"

A new book Green Graphic Design is celebrating the Eco-Movement with style and grace.

Can a graphic designer be a catalyst for positive change? Breaking down the concept of "green design" step-by-step, respected industry leader Brian Dougherty captures the ability of designers to communicate, persuade, and ultimately spread a socially and ecologically responsible message to both consumers and corporations. Green Graphic Design reframes the way designers can think about the work they create, while remaining focused on cost constraints and corporate identity. Simple, eco-innovative changes are demonstrated in all phases of the design process, including:

Picking projects • Strategizing with clients • Building strong green brands Choosing materials for manufacture and shipping • Picking ink and paper • Binding • Working with clients to foster transparency and corporate social responsibility

Fully illustrated and packed with case studies demonstrating green design in practice, this reference guide explains and inspires. It includes a "sustainability scorecard" and a complete glossary of key terms and resources to ensure that anyone in the design field can implement practical green solutions. Green Graphic Design is an indispensable resource for graphic designers ready to look to the future of their business and the environment.

Published January 2009 by Allworth Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Battle Between Art & the Algorithm

"...It's a world of perfect targeting. Optimization. Zero wastage. Absolute utility. Total accountability...What could possibly be wrong with all this? In this new world where relevance -- of information, of entertainment, of advertising, even of new social contacts -- is increasing by the atomically measured second, all powered by the extraordinary power of the Almighty Algorithm, what are we losing?

Well, these shifts are triggering a smoothing out in our experiences, prompting a reduction in serendipity and introducing a spooky predictability to many facets of our lives. It's becoming clear that ultra relevance comes with a hidden price. Because if everything's relevant, then nothing's unexpected, and if nothing's unexpected, then nothing surprises you, and if nothing surprises you, then that's a strange, neutralized, vanilla kind of life to lead. Think John Anderton meets Truman Burbank.

We're talking about the end of surprise...And right there is the opportunity for marketing: to deliver not just relevance, but revelation..." - Ben Malbon

We believe this is the opportunity for the marketing and communications industry.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day Everyone!

As we celebrate Mother Earth and all her complexities and necessities, it is appropriate to look back over the past year and see how we have minimized our impact and helped our clients minimize their impact on the environment.

The desire for "green products" continues to grow (no pun intended!) and while marketers are faced with more pressure to meet these growing demands, it is important that we refrain from green washing (side note: earlier this week I came across a study conducted by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing regarding greenwashing, while I didn't post about it, I did tweet about it @VisitAGC with a link to read the full study) .

There are many ways to "balance our environmental. social and economic needs and impacts" and making smart choices about the companies you choose to partner with is one of them. AGC has implemented several practices to assist you.

~ AGC is certified to both the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Our initial certification was September 2007. In 2007, we were the first commercial printing facility in the state of Ohio to receive dual-certification.

~ All of our "house sheets" are either Forest Stewardship Council certified or Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified. This means, even if you don't specify an environmental sheet; we're using it. In addition, there is no cost to add the FSC or SFI label to your printed communication.

~ AGC exclusively uses Soy- and Vegetable- based Inks and Varnishes. This also means, even if you don't specify an eco-friendly ink; we're using it. Additionally, there is no cost to add the EcoSmart, EcoPride or Soy Ink logo to your printed communication. We've been using Soy- and Vegetable-based Inks and Varnishes exclusively since 2003. While the choice is environmentally preferable, our initial decision was for the health and safety of our employees. Additionally, pieces printed with eco-friendly inks are easier to de-ink and recycle (see earlier post about DeInking Digital Printing).

~ As many of you are familiar, AGC is the publisher of 52 Weeks 52 Works, the desk calendar featuring Northeast Ohio area artists. The 2009 edition won a National Award for Green/Sustainability Marketing. The entire calendar was produced with a neutral impact on the environment! The press release and production notes are available, please email us if you'd like a copy.

~ At AGC's commercial printing facility, Sustainable Print Solutions, we actively recycle our paper waste, printing plates, waste inks and solvents.

~ AGC's design team, The Creative Advantage, is trained to maximize the printed sheet to minimize waste during production.

~ AGC's Fulfillment Yields Interest mailing team can help you maintain a clean, up-to-date mailing list to help you reduce your direct-mail's environmental impact.

These are just a few of things we're doing to minimize our impact. As we look forward to 2010 we hope this list will continue to grow with more innovative and eco-friendly solutions.

For more information, or if you'd like to share any ideas to help us improve upon our eco-initiatives please post your comments or email us.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

4 Reasons Social Media Marketing Fails

And to keep the conversation rolling, we'll play devil's advocate and present a study that has found how Social Media Marketing Fails to deliver on it's promise. At the Web 2.0 Expo in early April a panel was assembled to discuss why "Social Media Marketing Fails". They outlined four key reasons why social media fails to deliver and proposed solutions to strengthen it. The panelists included: Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang, Altimeter Group's founder Charlene Li, and Peter Kim, an enterprise social-technology researcher.

1. "Social media doesn't match up with our corporate culture."
Social media participation requires change management, Li told the crowd, adding that any effective change management process takes years. Marketers often expect social initiatives to work right away -- and that's rarely how things pan out. Owyang said that social media involves a different model, one that most corporations aren't familiar with: It's a transformation from the classic top-down business model with the CEO at the top to a "bottom-up bubbling" with customers driving ideas and actions.

The transformation won't happen overnight -- especially if senior management isn't involved. "If you want cultural change, you have to get the big guns involved," Li said. "And the only way they'll see this working is if it's aligned to corporate goals."

Kim posed the question of whether it's a good idea for an organization to appoint a chief social officer to take on the pains and sole responsibility of social media marketing. Li said no. The burdens, she said, should essentially be collective and no one particular person should own social media. "That's the most thing dangerous to do, [to say] 'It's not my problem, it's someone else's,' " she said. "It's everyone's responsibility."

2. "My social media marketing campaigns aren't working."
"The biggest problem is using the word 'campaigns,'" Li emphasized. "This is not a campaign - it's a relationship with a customer." Owyang pointed out that a campaign implies a short-term effort. Social media, he said, needs to be long-term. Without long-term goals for social media, projects end up looking like interactive marketing with a social presence. With that in mind, Li brought up companies that often have Facebook fan pages that resemble press releases. The information is vapid and unchanging and there's little conversation.

For conversation to occur, Li said marketers must recognize a shift from "interruptions" to "collaborations." Kim expanded on that notion saying businesses need to change relationships not only with customers but with employees and external constituents, as well. "The way organizations are structured ... and the way they relate in an ecosystem has to be transformed in how we build relationships," he said.

3. "I don't know how to measure this stuff."
Kim said this is probably the biggest fail for marketers in general. Owyang agreed saying that most marketers are measuring social media incorrectly. "They are focusing on the measurements of yesteryear with click-throughs and page views," he said. Yet conversations are occurring in places where those metrics aren't available like on Facebook or on external blogs. "You don't have access to server logs on Facebook or blogs where the conversation spreads," he said. "Even if you have that, it's not effective enough to tell you what's happening."

Owyang relayed that things like page views and the number of comments don't measure emotion or the depth of discussion. He provided a nice automotive example of marketing metrics. "Measuring based on a dashboard is typically the way marketers measure," he said. They look at basic stats. "Instead," he said, "you should be measuring based on your GPS system -- it tells you where have you been, where are you now, and where you are going." In other words, Marketers need to begin listening, rather than just recording numbers.

Li contended that although it's tough to know what to measure with social media, you have to measure against other marketing metrics -- otherwise, it's going to get cut from the budget.

4. "I'm not sure social media matters, anyway."
Owyang made an interesting point in reference to the Motrin Mom ordeal that exploded on Twitter and the blogoshere in November 2008. For kicks, he asked the crowd who hadn't heard of the Motrin Mom occurrence -- a marketing campaign that infuriated moms and blew up on Twitter. Surprisingly, many attendees hadn't heard of the controversy. Owyang made the statement that despite the temporary reputation tarnish, the kerfuffle, essentially drew more people to Motrin's Web site and led to more searches for the brand. Did it lead to fewer purchases of Motrin pain reliever? Probably not. Li stated that at the core of Motrin Mom is the fact that Motrin didn't respond in a timely manner. What's important is that customers wanted to engage with Motrin at the time of outrage, but they couldn't.

The Motrin Mom campaign can be written off as a "social media fail," but that might not be a terrible thing for the brand. In fact, Owyang pointed out Dell's tremendous success now in social media, which essentially sprouted from many failed attempts. It's been a similar strategy for mega-brand Wal-Mart, as well, Li added. Wal-Mart, she said, has kept at it for years, picking itself up after failures and coming ahead stronger with its buyer blogs and mom communities. Kim summed it up by saying that social media might not have the implications on a brand that one would expect -- but it will -- and soon.

Within the conversation of social media fails, Owyang revealed what he sees to be as three main ways organizations interact with social media:

The "tire": Social media comes from the edges of the company and is authentic because there are key stakeholders who are interested and invested in furthering social media efforts. However, Owyang said, one side of the tire has no idea what the other side of the tire is thinking or doing -- and that can be a problem.

The "tower": This approach occurs when management wants to centralize social media. On the upside, this means that employees will have common strategies and resources. However, it "tends to look like rehashed press releases," Owyang said. It's not authentic and customers can tell.

The "hub-and-spoke" model: This is when people from different parts of the organization come together under a centralized goal, but they all link out to different business groups. It's cross-functional, yet not exactly centralized.

Source: Destination CRM. To contact the editors, please email

Top Social Media for Marketers: Twitter, Blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook

"An overwhelming majority (88%) of marketers say they are using some form of social media to market their business, though 72% of those using it say they have only been at it a few months or less, according to a social media study by Michael Stelzner, sponsored by the upcoming Social Media Success Summit 2009.

The study found that Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and Facebook - in that order - are the top four social media tools used by marketers, writes Marketing Charts.

The research also included an analysis of nearly 700 open-ended responses, which revealed the top-three questions marketers are asking about social media:

What are the best tactics to use?
How to do I measure the effectiveness of social media?
Where do I start?
When asked if they used social media for marketing purposes, 88% said they are employing some form of it. Business owners are more likely to use social media marketing (90+%) than employees working for a company that is not their own (81%), and respondents ages 30-39 are most likely to use social media marketing (92.8%), the study found. 72% say they have either just started or have been using social media for a few months.

The survey found that there is a direct relationship between how long marketers have been using social media and their weekly time commitment. For people just beginning, the median weekly time commitment is two hours per week. For those who have been at it for months, the median jumps to 10 hours per week. For those who report social media marketing use for years, the median is 20+ hours each week.

Respondents report that the #1 benefit of social media marketing is gaining attention for the business, and 81% say their social media efforts have generated exposure for their businesses.

Improving traffic and growing marketing lists is the second major benefit, followed by building new partnerships. At least two in three participants found that increased traffic occurred with as little as 6 hours a week invested, while those who have been doing this for years reported better results. Owners of small businesses (2 - 100 employees) are more likely than others to report benefits.

More than half of participants say a major benefit is the resultant rise in search engine rankings that often comes with increased efforts.

Though about one in two found social media generated qualified leads, only about one in three said social media marketing helped close business, though this percentage was higher (61.6%) among those who had been using social media for longer periods of time.

By a wide margin, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and Facebook are the top four social media tools used by marketers, with Twitter in first place."

Source: Media Buyer Planner

Monday, April 20, 2009

100 Great Resources for Design Inspiration

Here is a great list of resources to inspire your creativity. Thanks to Mashable - The Social Media Guide for the list:

Veer: Ideas - A huge idea gallery from stock photography company Veer formatted as a blog and including news and updates from the company itself.

Delicious CSS - A CSS web design gallery that was founded because of the lack of features for tracking design ideas on traditional social bookmarking sites. Categorizes sites in useful ways (such as by color) in ways that traditional social bookmarking sites don’t.

Raster - A regularly-updated gallery of photography and art with collections broken into “chapters.” Founded in 2001, its only goal is to provide inspirational images from a collective of creative minds.

CSS Galaxy - A very simple French gallery of CSS website designs that selects sites based on their standards-compliance, technique, coherent graphic design, and aesthetic.

CSS Uber Clean - A gallery of exceptional CSS-based designs. The sites featured all contain simple, minimalist, super-clean designs.

deviantART- A gallery for all types of artwork, both traditional and digital, that serves as an excellent source of inspiration for all kinds of projects. Just be careful not to get sucked in and spend three days looking through it when you have deadlines to meet!

muse - A collection of some of the best commercial artwork out there. Includes interviews with the artists who create the designs that reveal what their inspiration was.

Behance Network - Features a gallery of all kinds of creative projects including illustration, music, web design, typography, photography and more.

Depthcore - An international collective of modern art and digital media that releases chapters every three or four months featuring work contributed by members.

Designflavr - A gallery featuring all kinds of artwork and design including Flash websites, CSS websites, vector art, advertising, abstract design, photo manipulation, and more.

Web Creme - A web design gallery with more than 330 pages of great designs. Search the archives by the month a design was featured or by color.

CSS Remix - A gallery of beautiful CSS designs where you can sort designs by what’s popular or up-and-coming.

Typechart - A gallery of typography for the web with CSS styles included. You can search available styles by font, emphasis (whether something is bold, italic, etc.), type size (heading, body, etc.) and more. Also lets you compare Windows ClearType rendering and Apple font rendering.

CreativeDepart - A gallery of design, art, photography, and more with its own inspiring design. Their goal is to increase awareness of the designs they love to open up more avenues to the creators they admire. You can also submit designs you’d like to see become a part of the site.

CSS Mania - Another CSS gallery with more than 13,000 sites and a blog. View galleries by month or by topic (associations, media, web developers, blogging, etc.) - A gallery featuring more than 10,000 website screenshots. Offers an RSS feed for keeping up with the best new website designs online.

One Page Love - An awesome collection of single-page websites. Covers portfolios, applications, and even temporary landing pages with enough information to help a visitor make an appropriate decision. Also includes searchable tags for finding
inspiration from similar sites.

Design Snack - Features two different galleries, one for XHTML/CSS designs and one for Flash. You can browse designs by color or category.

Design Shack - A searchable CSS gallery with more than 1700 designs that lets you browse by category (such as blog, magazine, photography, design, etc.), layout, or color.

eduStyle - Designing websites for educational institutions is sometimes more challenging due to the volume of information and the intended audiences (after all, it has to appeal to current students, prospective students, parents, professors, alumni, etc.). This site has a huge gallery of college and university websites sorted by categories and tags, and also features articles on design and other resources.

COLOURlovers - A community-based color gallery that includes colors, palettes, news, and real-world design examples. Members get points for being active participants in the community.

Faveup - A gallery of logos, business cards, flash and CSS websites where you can vote for your favorites. One of Faveup’s main purposes is to provide inspiration to designers and to showcase and provide links to great designs.

CSSclip - Sort websites by color or look at the Best of 2009 websites. The site also includes news and other resources for designers.

InspirationKing - Another gallery that started as a personal resource before going public. Offers an RSS feed and features a number of well-known websites in its design gallery.

Ads of the World - Check out print, TV, radio, online, outdoor and other types of advertisements from all over the world to get inspiration for both online and offline design projects.

Design Flood - Vote on a scale of 1-9 on the sites featured in this gallery or just browse for new ideas. All the sites featured are handpicked for being unique and well-designed.

Darkeye - Web design gallery where you can search by color or keyword. You can also browse recent submissions, most viewed, and highest rated sites, and you can vote and leave comments on featured designs.

TextureKing - More than 300 textures divided up by category—grunge, plaster, rust, wood, glass, and more. You can then download the textures as free stock photos.

The Cool Hunter - A gallery of all things awesome, including architecture, design, stores, and more based in Australia. The site serves as a celebration of modern creativity in all its forms and is a global hub for everything cool, innovative, original, and thoughtful. - A judged site that features six of the best and most unique CSS designs on the web every month. Viewers can then vote and the highest-ranked site each month wins $25.

CSS Import - A CSS gallery with more than 2,000 sites featured. They offer RSS feeds for the full gallery and for just the notable entries. The biggest drawback to the site is that the archives are only organized by date.

csstux - A huge collection of websites with browsable archives. There is no search feature on the site, so while designs are tagged with categories, there’s no effective way to find designs tagged a certain way. - View graphic design, photography, web design, digital art, and industrial art galleries. Each category has subcategories to further refine your search.

CSSArtillery - Great standards-compliant CSS sites from all over the web. The site is browsable by category and subcategory and also offers RSS and Twitter feeds.

One Pixel Army - A collection of sites perfect for finding inspiration or direction in your own designs. All the sites featured are handpicked by the site owner as excellent sources of inspiration.

Splench - A gallery in a blog format that makes browsing easy. You can view sites by color or search by keyword. An RSS feed is also available.

Website Design Awards - Features some of the best designs on the web with a focus on interactivity, usability, creativity, and originality.

CSS Design Yorkshire - A gallery of more than 2,500 CSS website designs that also has monthly featured websites. All of the designs featured are by designers in the Yorkshire region and all sites are built with good semantic xhtml.

CSSMoon - View web design galleries by category—education, business, portfolios, medical, and more. The coolest part about this site is the header, which allows you to browse sites in a similar way to browsing album covers on the iPhone.

css {imagine} - A huge gallery with a blog that features outstanding designs and other useful posts. They normally showcase ten designs each month, though some months they share additional sites if there are tons of excellent submissions.

Pattern Tap - One of my favorite resources for web design inspiration. View the way other sites handle specific elements such as 404 Pages, Backgrounds, Calendars, Contact Forms, and more.

PageCrush - A place where designers from all over the world can post their best work and where others can go to find inspiration.

The Photography Showcase - View and rate photos of a variety of subjects. The tag cloud makes finding exactly what you’re looking for easy and the site offers a widget you can add to your own site.

Stylegala - Though currently going in a new direction, this site has an amazing gallery of CSS website designs, as well as a forum, resources, and feature articles. - A web design gallery site that also includes podcasts, resources, interviews, news, and more. They also offer an RSS feed and you can follow them on Twitter for regular updates. The sites featured are tagged and can be rated on a scale of 1-10.

CSS Scoop - View and rate CSS designs and check out the blog for web design articles covering a variety of topics. RSS feeds are provided for both the gallery and the blog (”The Scoop”).

Beautifully - A regularly-updated gallery of beautiful websites. They also offer weekly web design news roundups and RSS feeds for the gallery, news, and resources.

DiVine CSS - A gallery that features blog designs, CSS, Flash, e-commerce sites and more. Sites are selected by the team of graphic designers, web designers, programmers and developers behind DiVine CSS.

Light on Dark - A gallery of nothing but websites with dark backgrounds and light-colored text. This can be one of the hardest design styles to pull off, so studying successful sites that employ this style is a good place to start. - A CSS and general web design gallery with browsable categories. Sites featured are excellent examples of innovative and creative uses and are web standards compliant.

CSS Dance - A web design gallery showcasing appealing site design with a rating system. They offer an RSS feed of new additions and you can follow them on Twitter.

CSS Mix - Gallery sortable by color or category and with a rating system and RSS feed. Members can also view sites that are still pending for addition.

CSS Nature - A gallery featuring only green, eco, and organic websites. They also offer open source templates and the ability to comment and rate designs.

Web Designer Wall - The Trends category on Web Designer Wall has amazing showcases of web design elements and complete sites.

Web Design Ledger - The inspiration category on this blog has tons of places to go for inspiration and showcases beautiful examples of all kinds of design.

Computerlove - A social platform and blog for finding inspiration and sharing your work. They offer design news as well and ways to promote yourself as a designer.

Design is Kinky - A blog featuring new designs and artwork from all over the world. They’ve been around for more than 10 years, making them one of the older design blogs/sites on the net.

DFCKR - Tracks design news and resources and highlights up and coming illustrators and designers. Their archives are browsable by recent entries, date, and category.

You the Designer - Posts featuring examples of excellent design across the web and beyond put together by a freelance graphic designer.

Think Vitamin - A blog for web designers and developers that includes some great design galleries and articles. The site is put together by Carsonified, the same company that produces the Future of Web Design and Future of Web Apps conferences.

Vandelay Design - Features multiple posts showcasing great designs for inspiration. The blog itself is produced by a web design company in an effort to make their site more useful than just the standard portfolio site.

Design Shard - Blog featuring inspiration for print and web design, with a pretty inspiring design itself. It also features other resources for designers, including free photoshop textures and brushes.

I Love Typography - Great inspiration for anyone trying to find just the right font, this site showcases fonts and typography in the world around us, from road signs and shampoo bottles to billboards and posters.

Noupe - Posts offering collections of design elements for inspiration along with tutorials, icons, showcases, and more. Noupe’s goal is to help designers create more engaging websites and functional interfaces.

Six Revisions - Posts covering all kinds of design topics and including a variety of sources of inspiration and useful tools. Includes practical information for modern web designers.

Design Reviver - Offers a variety of articles, including showcases of great design and design elements. They also include tutorials, free downloads, and articles covering anything related to web design.

fadtastic - A multi-author blog covering trends in web design with some great showcase posts. Posts cover trends in web graphics, typography, and more.

Design Melt Down - Covers all sorts of design elements and trends, broken down into chapters. Includes color usage, principles of design, site types and more, all illustrated with real-world examples.

Fuel Your Creativity - A brilliant design blog with some amazing articles in their inspiration section. They tout themselves as the place to go when you’re having one of those “I’m-going-to-implode-if-I-don’t-get-an-idea-soon” moments.

Typographica - A blog featuring typography news, resources and more. They feature mostly print materials that display excellent use of typography, though inspiration could be drawn from here for both print and web applications. Their handpicked font collections showcase the best fonts each year (four years are currently available, 2004-2007).

Phirebrush - Online magazine and art group offering monthly issues that feature user submissions of photography, artwork, writing, and more.

Multilink Magazine - A free PDF magazine that has issues released on an irregular schedule as they’re ready with variable content.

GizMag - A PDF magazine that features photography, illustration, design, sculpture and more, as well as interviews with artists.

Destructed - A PDF magazine featuring art and design with themed issues that can be downloaded for free. Each quarterly issue features a unique art- and design-related topic.

delve - A free, experimental design magazine with archives available online that features photography, design, illustration and other visual arts.

ROOTmagazine - Features graphic design, illustration, photography, video, audio and other content from everybody willing to exhibit.

RevolutionArt Magazine - Magazine focusing on art as well as culture with over 70,000 subscribers. They cover the arts, modeling, music and more and consider themselves a massive worldwide propaganda machine for making people think about global messages.

Artz Mania - A downloadable design magazine featuring international artists and designers that started in January of ‘07. They showcase designs by artists and designers from all over the world distributed on a platform that’s accessible to people from all walks of life.

encore - A flip-book format online art & design magazine with a very slick interface. They focus on art, design, and film and track down innovative products, events, trends, and artists from around the globe each month.

Castle Illustrative Magazine - A free PDF magazine full of work by “creative nerds.” They put out regular issues focused on free illustration and design. Back issues are available on the website.

Anti - A digital magazine showcasing outstanding art and design content. Eight issues are currently available for free download.

Blanket Magazine - A free PDF magazine covering all areas of art, design, and photography. Each issue also features humorous stories and informative interviews.

Proteus Mag - Features photography, painting, sculpture, graphic designs, fashion designs, and more in a free PDF magazine.

bitFUUL magazine - A PDF magazine that covers all aspects of art and design including music, photography, writing, and art.

WAG - Features “works-in-progress” in art, expression, literature, and more. They aim to be available in paper for some editions, though for the most part they are a screen magazine.

ruby mag - An art magazine that aims to promote different artists to the world. More than thirty back issues are available on the website.

Phase Collective - A downloadable digital magazine that’s currently undergoing a changeover to a blog format. Back issues are still available for download.

TXTnein - A free art magazine available in PDF, Flash or executable files for both PC and Mac. Submissions are open to graphic designers, photographers and artists from all over the world.

File - Online photography magazine with a focus on unexpected treatment of subjects. Photographs that treat their subjects with alternate takes, odd angles, and unconventional observations.

Computer Arts - An online magazine that includes a gallery, forums, creative directory, news and more. The creator of the site, Future, publishes more than 100 consumer magazines worldwide.

JPG Magazine - An online magazine devoted to photography with themed issues. Visitors to the site can vote on photos for upcoming issues. They have open themes where photographers can submit work and which may or may not be featured in future issues.

CMYK design - A collection of photos of print designs. This is definitely the pool to look at if you’re looking for inspiration for package or marketing materials design.

Web Design - A pool of website screenshots with more than 7,000 items uploaded. There are examples of just about every kind of web design present, some with multiple screenshots available.

Experimental Graphic Design - A collection of more than 17,000 graphic design images that don’t necessarily fit traditional design conventions.

Poster Design - View more than 10,000 poster designs from all over the world. Great for inspiration whether you’re designing an actual poster or any other print or online project.

Design the Logo - A graphic design pool focused specifically on logo design. Features well-known logos as well as ones for lesser known brands and companies.

Graphic Design Magazines - A selection of photos from magazines focused on graphic design. Shows layouts and specific elements from magazines from all over the world.

Photo-Graphic Design - A pool of graphic designs revolving around the use of photos. Some items from the pool are very straight-forward examples of photo-based design while others are truly original and creative designs.

Catchy Colors - A pool of photos focused on eye-catching color with more than 1.3 million items. Pulling colors from photos is a great way to design a unique color palette for any design project.

flickr in full color - Another photo pool focused on brilliant use of color in photography. While there are only around 99,000 photos in this pool (as opposed to the 1.3 million in the previous pool), the quality of the images is outstanding.

Whew! Now that's a list!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Commodity vs. Artisanal - Starting a Conversation

Last night I had the great pleasure of seeing the simulcast World Premier of Beer Wars. The film was broadcast, via satellite, to 440 different theaters across America.

In America, size matters. The bigger you are, the more power you have, especially in the business world.

Director Anat Baron takes you on a no holds barred exploration of the U.S. beer industry that ultimately reveals the truth behind the label of your favorite beer. Told from an insider’s perspective, the film goes behind the scenes of the daily battles and all out wars that dominate one of America’s favorite industries.

Beer Wars begins as the corporate behemoths are being challenged by small, independent brewers who are shunning the status quo and creating innovative new beers. The story is told through 2 of these entrepreneurs - Sam and Rhonda - battling the might and tactics of Corporate America. We witness their struggle to achieve their American Dream in an industry dominated by powerful corporations unwilling to cede an inch.

This contemporary David and Goliath story is ultimately about keeping your integrity (and your family’s home) in the face of temptation. Beer Wars is a revealing and entertaining journey that provides unexpected and surprising turns and promises to change the world’s opinion on those infamous 99 bottles of beer on the wall.

So you might be asking, 'How does this relate to the mission of this blog?" Well, it's simple really...the preferences of consumers are changing. And changing for the better. For far too long the 'corporate behemoths' have been setting the bar (pretty low if you ask me) and using clever advertising to convince us that we want their product.

Consumers have started asking: where was this produced, what was used to produce it, who's behind the brand, how far did this travel to get to me, who's benefitting from the sale of this, who am I supporting if I purchase this, does this company's integrity align with mine, etc.

Choosing to partner with and patronize local businesses - from your local brewery (The Brew Kettle and Great Lakes Brewing Company), to our fabulous local restaurants (The Greenhouse Tavern and The Flying Fig), to your local bookstores (Loganberry Books and Blue Heron Bookstore) and your local marketing service provider, AGC - you're helping to create options in the marketplace, supporting the city we love and the people who live here, and assisting the next spirited entrepreneur get a little closer to their American Dream.

Supporting local, independently owned businesses leads to innovative, creative products, brought to you with care and enthusiasm. Next time you have the choice between a corporate behemoth or a small business, consider the questions above before making your purchase.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

POSTCARDS: Five Strategies for Postcard Marketing Success

Postcards can be a very cost-effective way to generate website traffic, announce upcoming events, provide advance notice, encourage customers to take action and make special offers and promotions... if you do it right.

1.) Make a Big First Impression.
People like getting postcards from friends and relatives. They don't like getting advertising mail. Make your postcard look at first glance like a message from a friend instead of like advertising. It creates a warm friendly reception for your postcard.

Remember that your postcards will often be delivered in a pile of other mail items so using attractive images and sizes that will stand out in the pile will help your message get noticed and read. As a bonus, think about making the face of your postcard something that might even be worthy of will help keep your message around a little longer while your prospective customer gets around to framing the image. Making the postcard usable as a "free print" is a little "good will" gesture that will also set you apart.

2.) Get Right to the Point.
Postcards get delivered in a format that's ready to read. Take advantage of this by making the biggest benefit you offer the first thing the reader sees. This will encourage them to want to read the rest of your postcard. Keep it simple. Be direct.

For example, state your biggest benefit as a headline at the top of your postcard ...or make it the first item on a bulleted list of benefits ...or highlight it in bold type if it's in the body of your postcard.

3.) Choose the Right Purpose.
Marketing postcards are most effective when they are used to generate website traffic or generate excitement and interest for "something to come". They are less effective for closing sales because they don't provide space for a detailed message.

Design your message to "sell" the reader on seeking more information instead of trying to close sales.

For example, don't include much (if any) actual information about the product or service you are selling on your postcard. Instead, promote the major benefit (or benefits) they provide. Then persuade the reader to visit your website or to take some other action to get more information from or respond to a source where you can close sales. On occasion, you may be able to get your customer to take more definitive action if the matter is time sensitive and they can benefit from acting immediately.

4.) Be Clear and Direct.
You have only a few seconds to get the reader's attention and to persuade them to take the action you want. So keep your message brief and make sure the reader can clearly understand with just a quick glance what action they should take.

For example, limit your postcard to just a few short sentences with blank lines between them. Reduce several sentences to a short bulleted list to save space and reading time.

Always end your postcard by telling the reader exactly what to do to get more details - and include a reason to do it immediately.

5.) Stimulate Fast Action.
Unless the postcard is being used as a teaser, just telling your reader how to get more information is not enough. Give them a reason to respond now or many will put your postcard aside to do later... then get involved with other things and never act.

For example, offer them a discounted price, a special bonus or some other benefit if they reply to your postcard by a deadline. Postcards are not new or high-tech. But that's not a reason to ignore them. They are relatively easy to create and distribute. They can generate a lot of interest and improve the response to your existing marketing programs for a very low-cost.

Article originally posted within AGC's e-newsletter, ePrint Tips.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Change = Opportunity (Everything is going digital!)

From iTunes, Netflix and eBay to Airline Tickets, Stock Trading and Banking - not to mention FaceBook, Twitter and Email - everything is going digital. And so is AGC!

While this shift in digital information may be perceived as a threat to traditional paper manufacturers and printing companies, we at AGC are not traditional. We enthusiastically support and promote the endless opportunities digital presents.

As Charles Darwin once said, "It is not the strongest of the species who survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change." (Thanks to my dear friend Rachel for bringing this quote to my attention while we were working on a project together.)

As stated in my earlier post regarding Williams-Sonoma, there are great risks associated with the abandonment of traditional media. And at every point during the execution of your marketing strategy it is important to consider your marketing mix and the opportunities vs. the threats of that mix (Marketing 101: SWOT Analysis - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats).

What's most important is to embrace the multitude of communication opportunities available (which can be overwhelming) and determine which group is right for you, your company, your brand, and your marketing strategy. The good news, AGC can help!

We will be hosting presentations in the upcoming weeks (for those interested) on the emerging technologies AGC will be offering to help you engage your digital audience. Email us if you'd like more information.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Williams Sonoma: A Cautionary Tale

"In the realm of "what did they think would happen?" Direct Magazine reports that William-Sonoma experienced a direct revenue drop of $264.7 million, or 15.9% in 2008, the same year it dropped its catalog circulation by more than 20%, from 393.2 million in 2007 to 313.7 million, and cut catalog page counts by more than 30%.

Catalog revenue itself fell to $356.6 million in 2008 from $560 million in 2007 (that's $203.4 million dollars in lost revenue!) while the catalog cutback reduced direct-to-consumer costs by just $45 million. The company circulated just under 314 million catalogs in 2008 and direct-to-consumer sales represented approximately 42% of its business.

Although Internet revenues represent a higher portion of company sales, they also slipped, from $1.1 billion to 1.03 billion, a fact in part attributable to the cut back in catalog mailings, according to the Direct report, which notes "The company is aware that decreasing its catalog circulation will have a negative effect on other channels. In a note within its filing, the company acknowledged 'approximately 40% of our company-wide non-gift registry Internet revenues are incremental to the direct-to-consumer channel and approximately 60% are driven by customers who recently received a catalog.' "

WOW! As an experienced shopper, I can personally attest, a majority (90-95%) of my online purchases are a direct result of a recent catalog mailing.

This is a perfect example of the need to focus on multi-channel marketing (see earlier post titled "Interactive Marketing Emerging at AGC"). Direct Mail feeds Website Traffic and hence revenues (period). There is far too many business' vying for our attention for marketers to think we will always just remember their business exists, however, when prompted with direct mail, we usually pay them a visit.

This is a tale worth considering when developing the strategy for your next marketing campaign.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Perspective on Marketing in a Recession

We needn’t tell you that business today isn’t what it used to be. And we don’t want to be presumptuous or oversell our ability to help make things better (or at least keep them from getting worse). But our years of marketing communications experience, including having been through similar conditions before, gives us a perspective we’d like to share.

Pare expenses, spare investments. It’s easy in a time when income declines and costs rise to want to cut back on everything not immediately essential. Need we say lack of discrimination can be risky?

Truth is, some activities, marketing communications among them, are only a temporary drain on resources. Because they are investments in generating future business, they have the potential of ultimately bringing in several times their outlay.

Right now is also a good time to be making such investments. The more the economy declines and competitors retrench, the greater the impact and potential rate of investment return (ROI).

So while scaling back some marcom activities might be appropriate, cutbacks shouldn’t be drastic. Too much too soon is not only penny-wise and pound-foolish now, it will make it more difficult and costly to regain market momentum and share later on.

Re-think strategies and tactics. We are not, however, recommending business as usual. Rather, this is the time for reviewing and modifying marketing communications plans and priorities.

Strategically, concentrate on short-term, hard objectives, the type more likely to generate immediate sales, not longer-term, soft ones, which are more effective in market positioning, branding, and share protection. This is also the time for focusing more on retaining existing customers (better immediate profitability), less on finding new ones (better future profitability). Also, when you should be spending less on growing your markets, more on making sure you at least maintain your share of existing markets.

Tactically, less focus on qualitative features and top-of-the-line products, more on quantitative features and products that can offer demonstrably better values. Also, appealing to the tendency of recession customers to be less inclined to experiment with unfamiliar products or suppliers, more likely to stick what they are familiar with. In short, modify your materials to accent familiarity, reliability, durability, safety, and performance.

Maintain visibility. There are three related points that have greater significance during a business recession.

The first is that customers forget just as rapidly. Without constant reminders they will fail to remember an organization, products, or features. And the cost of reestablishing awareness later is high. Simply, it is less expensive to maintain awareness than create it all over again.

The second point is that awareness is enhanced when materials are consistent in style and message. So any modifications in strategy and tactics must retain the same family appearance. This is not the time for a style change.
The third is that when activity falls below a certain level (the customer awareness threshold) the return on investment is so low as to not be worth doing.

Learn from history. It’s an old adage that those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. During a business slowdown we see this in three ways.

1) Organizations that make too few or too late adjustments to their marketing communications activities squander away scarce resources.
2) Those that cut back too drastically end up paying a heavy price in lost market momentum and share when business returns to normal.
3) Only those organizations that modify their strategies and tactics while continuing promotional activity weather a recession with the least damage.

It is well documented in business histories and case studies that organizations that maintain at least a moderate level of promotional activity during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, get the highest return on their investment, and stand to improve their market share when the recession ends.

We suspect you would like your organization to be in this category. And we’d like to help you get there.

For more information please contact Candice Champion, Vice President, or call 216-661-2550

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Paper Expert Releases Free eBook on Common Paper Myths

Sabine Lenz, founder and creator of PaperSpecs has released a free eBook titled Top Five Paper Myths Exposed. The eBook reveals common paper myths such as:

1.) How to determine is a No 1 sheet is really better than a No 2
2.) What it really means when a paper is a mill item
3.) Whether an ECF sheet is as good as a PCF or TCF sheet
4.) How to determine if a plain "recycled" sheet is goof enough
5.) The crucial distinction between a paper's brightness, whiteness and shade

PaperSpecs is a site dedicated to helping paper professionals stay current with new paper and paper trends. Download the free eBook today!

FSC Trademarks & Logo Use

There has been some recent confusion regarding FSC Trademarks and Logo Use.

In order to use any FSC Trademarks, including the FSC logo, initials "FSC" or phrase "Forest Stewardship Council" on a printed piece the printer must have chain-of-custody certification. On product logos are obtained from the FSC certified printer. Without this certification, no claims can be printed regarding the FSC-certified content of the paper.

For more information please contact FSC USA or AGC.

Deinking Digital Prints & Paper Recycling

Printing Digitally has many advantages such as reducing overprint (did you know AGC can print as few as 100 pieces and as many as 100,000+?), accuracy (if you maintain an accurate database), storage costs (did you know if you print a project with AGC we will store it for you at no cost?), and others.

Some digital printing processes also have clear disadvantages compared to conventional offset and gravure printing: They lack good deinkability in the paper mill. Even small amounts can have a big effect in the mixture that a paper mill processes every day.

Deinking is the key process in paper recycling. Hydrophobic (water-repellent) ink particles are separated from hydrophilic (water-wettable) fibers. This process has been developed for offset and gravure inks which are roughly more than 95% in the current recovered paper mixture.

Different printing processes can not be sorted apart manually or automatically which creates problems when they cannot be removed in the process and accumulate in the system. The accumulated ink particles attach to the paper fibers and stain the sheets (similar to a red sock getting mixed in with your whites) or worse yet, leave large dirt specs within the sheet. This leads to enormous amounts of energy and significant fiber losses.

If your organization supports the 3R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle you may want to reconsider a digitally run project. Contact AGC for more information.

3 Free Design Tools

1.) Loren Ipsum Generator
Free and in 32 languages, the Lorem Ipsum Generator will produce placeholder text of any length you want simply by specifiyng the number of paragraphs, words, bytes or lists.

2.) Font Identification
Save yourself hours of scrolling though a font manager or squinting at a type spec book with the free What the Font typeface identification service. Simply upload a decent-quality black and whie image containing type and this service will locate or the closest cousin to the font.

3.) Stock Photos
The Morgue File contains thousands of high-resoluton digital stock photos that are completely free for either public or corporate use. Search by keyword, phrase, author or date and then download at no charge.

This story was adapted from an article on 10 Free Online Design Tools for you. For the complete article visit PaperSpecs.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Direct Marketing & Customer Segmentation

The use of customer segmentation and data for better targeting, efficiency and ROI is a leading trend in direct marketing today. The more accurate and targeted the database, the higher the response rate. The higher the response rate, the better the marketer's ROI. The key is maintaining list hygiene and identifying market segmentation.

Market segmentation is the segmentation of markets into homogenous groups of customers, each of them reacting differently to promotion, communication, pricing and other variables of the marketing mix. Therefore, every segment can be addressed with an individually targeted marketing mix.

Typically marketing strategists consider the 4P's: Product, Price, Place, Promotion and possibly some additional "Ps" such People, Processes and Product Interest. When preparing your marketing strategy or marketing mix follow these steps:

Market Segmentation
1.) Identify the customer's needs and market segments
2.) Develop profiles of resulting market segments

Identify Target Markets
3.) Evaluate and rank each identified segment
4.) Select the best target segment or segments

5.) Identify the different advantages in each segment
6.) Develop and select positioning concepts to attract the identified segments

Marketing Planning
7.) Develop a marketing mix for each segment according to the chosen position (advertising, print, direct mail, interactive, social media, etc.)

Have you considered how best to position your message to address and satisfy customer needs?

Marketing Article in COSE Update by AGC

Check out the latest edition of COSE Update and enjoy the marketing article titled "Sustainable Communication Checklist" written by AGC!

Environmental issues have taken center stage over the past few years, and there is a “green” shift in the communications industry to minimize or neutralize environmental impact. A sustainable strategy, implemented correctly, will communicate your company’s environmental commitment to your target demographic and create more value to stakeholders.

Working collectively with your marketing firm or design agency to determine the most efficient use of your resources before, during and after production will help reduce the size of your footprint on the natural world.

When preparing your next marketing communication project ask yourself how you can be more environmentally conscious. Today, ‘green’ printing alternatives maintain the same or greater level of quality in comparison to traditional (non-eco-friendly) materials. In addition, a recent study conducted by the Centre for Sustainable Communications found printed communications has less of a carbon footprint than electronic communications, trading a renewable resource (trees) for a non-renewable resource (fossil fuels used in energy production).

Print can actually be more environmentally friendly than electronic media, but there are opportunities to make it even more so. We’ve developed a list of Best Practices for Sustainability in Your Communication Projects.

• Choose 100% post consumer waste (PCW) or 100% virgin FSC or SFI fiber. Virgin fiber coming from certified, sustainable forests has a softer impact on the carbon footprint then most recycled sheets.

• Choose paper that is processed chlorine free (PCF).

• Choose non-toxic soy- and vegetable- based inks and varnishes.

• Choose products and materials that are manufactured with renewable energy.

• Choose local materials

• Choose local vendors that utilize renewable energy (to save on transportation waste).

• Choose certified vendors that have been verified to offer Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative Chain-of-Custody.

• Choose to label your printed communication with the FSC or SFI logo. Use of these logos creates a positive image for your company.

• Choose a graphic design firm that adheres to sustainable practices and maximizes resource use.

• Choose to keep an open discussion with your team about project impact related questions.

Eco-friendly design can be cost-efficient, environmentally sensitive and beautiful.