Archive for February 2019

Expert Advice for Classy Custom Labels

February 22, 2019

In today’s visually-oriented market, brand persona is everything.

Strong, simple visuals go a long way toward giving you a rock-solid image to stand tall above competitors and to capture customer attention.

While companies work hard to shape outbound marketing, they can easily overlook options for the packaging and presentation of their products. Even simple tweaks can go a long way in making your brand shine!

Custom printed labels can offer a durable, stunning accent to your product or printing. But there are many variables when it comes to printing labels. From the right materials to laminate finishing, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Here are a few tricks we’ve learned over the years to help you craft labels to heighten brand appeal.

Less is More.

When it comes to labels, it’s important for your message to connect immediately.

When a label has complex fonts or busy designs, it can be difficult for readers to engage with your product. Keep your designs, images, and borders clean and simple for maximum user experience. If you post nutrition facts, make them as concise and reader-friendly as possible. Non-standard shapes or labels that match your package size are a great way to bring precision and flair.

Color is King.

Want to stop them in their tracks?

Colors command attention and make your message sing.

Try splashes of color against neutral backgrounds, or complementary colors that bring depth and warmth. If your label intends to communicate flavors, seek to pair colors that carry these natural associates (like greens for lime or orange for citrus).

As you design label colors, your goal is to help users find or associate with your product more easily. If you already have a branded color scheme, use this as your prominent theme. Colors help customers recognize your product and feel secure when they purchase in the future.

Fonts Rule.

Nothing says sleek like a perfectly sketched font.

Work to find the right balance of clean and clever. If a font is too generic, it will be easily missed. If it’s too wild, it may be hard to read or seem silly. Stick to a font you’ve branded your company with, or use two fonts (max) to keep your label coherent and easy to read.

Experiment with font pairings: consider a headline that’s bold and condensed with a copy that’s light or vertically stretched. Or try an all-caps serif with an italicized sans serif to compliment. Test your font pairings on volunteers or gather feedback from artistic friends before finalizing a design.

Consistency Counts.

Labels help you build a personality.

What message will you send? What ideas do you hope to convey?

Keep your labels consistent with your brand identity, looking for distinct features you can highlight or graphics that illustrate your story. 19 Crimes Wines uses an interactive “Living Labels” app to allow each wine to unveil a mystery. Fieldwork Brewing uses blown up oceanside photos for its Island Time Sour Ales. Fit Buns High Protein Bread comes in a box that makes the pastries look like a ripped dude’s abdominal “6-pack.” The label also conveniently features a free fitness center coupon inside. Also, remember to keep your contact information accessible so customers can visit your website or contact you with feedback.

Let’s face it: in the marketplace, beauty is often skin deep.

Your label is a representation of the things you’ve worked hard to build, so go the distance to make your brand stick. Need ideas to get you started? From hangtags to custom adhesives, we’re your one-stop shop for creative label options!

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Four Exercises to Fuel Your Design Innovation

February 12, 2019

Even the most brilliant creators need new fuel from time to time.

If you’re feeling stifled or uninspired (or you just want to have fun!) consider some of these creative “sparks” from designer Jim Krause to ignite fresh perspective in your monthly routine.

Exercise: Make a puddle of ink. Blow the ink around using a straw. Consider layering different colors of ink and using different kinds of paper. To mix things up, repeat this exercise but start the puddle of ink on an existing picture—a landscape, a silhouette, a cultural icon.

Takeaway: Creating things that create themselves reminds us that art is fun and beauty can arise from unexpected places.

Exercise: Choose a subject and create 25 thumbnail icons that depict its message and its meaning. If that’s too easy, try 50 or 100. Start with basic sketches and transition into graphic design or photos. Consider different line weights, shaded and filled areas, or combinations of geometric shapes.

Takeaway: Forcing yourself to sketch the same thing in different ways can build and broaden your artistic muscle. The next time you work on a concept, fill a full page with icon sketch versions of it before you settle on your design of choice.

Exercise: When was the last time you took out a paintbrush? Still-life portraits are a tangible way to sharpen your skills, especially when you combine objects of various shapes and textures in interesting arrangements (think eggs in a bowl surrounded by glass spice bottles on a bustled cloth napkin).

Takeaway: Still-life paintings are like eating your carrots: they’re good for you and increase your appreciation of texture. Painting helps you learn to see forms and colors, which makes you a more effective artist in any field.

Exercise: Begin with a blank piece of paper. Make a mark using the media of your choice (India ink, acrylic paint, and toothbrush, sketching pencils, chalk). The next mark you make will be a reaction to the first mark. This can be a new mark, a line, shading, fillers, or finishes. The goal here is not to “plan” what you’re going to draw but to practice progressive art by following one element to another (like a group of people taking turns adding sentences to a narrative). Your goal is not to create a thing of beauty, but simply to flow. If the results are pleasing, that’s fine. If not, that’ s ok too.

Takeaway: This exercise teaches the artist to rely on instinct: to react or flow rather than to plan and control. The best art can be born out of spontaneity.

Tend Your Roots

Creating is like breathing: it brings energy and life! If you only create what you’re “told” to do, you will stagnate. Tend your roots by cultivating the passions and interests that nourish your artistic core. As you pursue creative expressions outside your job or career, originality will flow in your profession as well.

Now that your designs are really singing, find high impact print options that won’t shock your budget. Want to talk cost-effective wow factors like thermography, high shine coatings, or alternative bleed options? Give us a call!

Team Collaboration Transforms Customer Service

February 8, 2019

T-Mobile touts itself as “America’s Fastest Unlimited Network.”

In a fiercely competitive market, T-Mobile knows one of its most crucial responsibilities is to bring pleasurable customer support to the millions who call their helpline each month. While traditionally its call service center resembled a factory floor (cubicles brimming with reps donning headsets), T-Mobile has dedicated the past decade to reinventing its service sector.

Today when you enter a T-Mobile contact center, you’ll find reps sitting together in shared pods as they collaborate to solve customer issues as a “Team of Experts,” or TEX. TEX teams include cross-functional groups of 47 people who serve named customer accounts in a specific market. Each team has a point leader, four coaches, and eight technology specialists. Customers no longer wade through a “call tree” but have immediate access to a dedicated, reliable team. Teams are so connected to their service region that they follow the daily news in this area and decorate their pods accordingly (like a Lego replica of the Golden Gate bridge).

“We’re constantly talking about what’s happening there,” said a senior rep whose team serves San Diego. “I’ve never been to San Diego, but I know what’s going on in the local news, where the best place is for fish tacos, and what the surf report looks like for the next few days.”

Now a team in Chattanooga is responsible for 120,000 customers in Detroit, and a Charleston team responds to suburban Philadelphia. This collaboration allows each service team to operate like a small business, with members laboring together to increase performance. As a result, employee turnover has decreased by 48%. T-Mobile now boasts its lowest “cost to serve” ratio in company history (down 13% since 2016) and has been ranked the number one wireless company for service by Nielsen for the past 24 months.

Together Everyone Achieves More

Team collaboration fuels innovation and provides consistent service for your customers.

Does your team have a sense of enthusiasm or shared DNA that brings measurable results? T-Mobile started with four questions:

  • Are our customers happier?
  • Are they staying with us longer?
  • Are we deepening our relationship with them?
  • Are we making their service experience low-effort?

Embracing a team-service focus brings your clients more effective answers. Reps develop more authentic relationships with clients, which means they can improve their everyday service functions. And this ultimately enhances the product or service you offer. A superior output prompts higher customer loyalty, increased sales, and better word-of-mouth for your business.

Here are three tips to help you improve customer service teamwork:

Clearly State the Team Objectives

Teams can’t move fluidly until everyone knows what the “win” is.

Highlight Team Performance

Regularly communicate achievements, challenges, and specific goals. As progress is celebrated, motivation and unity increases.

Create a Sense of Belonging

While T-Mobile’s traditional customer-service managers only measured individual performance, today compensation is variably weighted according to both individual and team performance.

Teams use collaboration software to resolve calls and alert each other of escalating issues (like regional power outages). From this ownership mindset to a wholesale transformation of the factory floor, customer care vice president Callie Field says team unity has empowered everyone to do more:

“If all you ask people to do is bring down their handle time, they can do that. But if you empower them to do more—to think like a small-business owner who is focused on the customer’s happiness and the strategic management of their P&L—they can do that too. And they’ll do it really well if you give them the tools and get out of their way.”

Target Local Consumers with Event Sponsorship

February 5, 2019

Corporate sponsorship is one of the most effective marketing channels, but most businesses haven’t tried it.

What is event sponsorship and why should you consider it? From a 5K road race to a good old-fashioned neighborhood picnic, companies that get outside their walls can make a huge splash in the community.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Businesses that rely on local support understand that their company will grow primarily through the support of its neighbors.

How do you engage your neighbors?

By being a good neighbor! Put a face on your business by sponsoring a baseball league, hosting community events on your lawn, or by mobilizing your city to benefit a beloved charity.

Community development events show you are invested in your region and you enjoy its people. Here are some fun examples of how firms have made this a reality:

  • Budweiser helps sponsor the annual “duck” tape festival in Avon, Ohio. With music, brews, fashion shows, and family-friendly movies, the three-day event draws more than 60,000 people from around the world to see taped parade floats and a playful tapestry of taped costume creations.
  • McDonald’s and Pizza Hut sponsor “the Chicken Show” in Wayne, Nebraska, which features a “national cluck-off” and the world’s largest chicken dance celebration.
  • In 2016 Pretty Pampers Beauty Essex hosted a charity event that offered affordable and luxurious experiences while raising money for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Local spas teamed up to provide steeply discounted services like massages and facials so donors could relax and unwind. Between sessions, guests could shop boutique vendor stalls featuring local clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, and home decor.

Hosting or sponsoring an event can help your business demonstrate its commitment to community involvement, philanthropy, and family fun. Of those local businesses who get involved in a community event, 80% said they were satisfied with the results and many reaped tangible benefits like features in local newspapers, tags in citywide blogs, promotional newsletter highlights, and social media selfies!

Events spread your name in print through T-shirts, prizes, water bottles, and giant displays, and photos of real people in action. This prompts word-of-mouth marketing that simply can’t be captured elsewhere. In 2016-2017, companies who used local events saw sales increase by an average of 14 percent.

Use Corporate Events to Spread the Love

How can your business get started in spreading some cheer?

Sponsor a charity event or contest, host a sales or promo booth at a community festival, promote an on-site event, or allow your customers to nominate recipients of a “give-back” incentive you sponsor for your city. Sponsorship doesn’t always have to be monetary: you can also look for ways to volunteer branded items, free service from your company, or concessions donations for a city-wide festival.

Want to multiply your marketing dollars and make a lasting impact? A micro-market event focus can bring better results and spread the love. When companies support issues they care about, they gain greater trust and loyalty from patrons. And that investment is sure to yield great returns!

Etiquette Training for a New Generation

February 1, 2019

Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post has a bone to pick with millennials and their bad manners. Consider one technology-related example:

“Last week I watched in horror as a 20-something girl carefully snapped a photo of a basket of onions,” said Oleksinski. “But we weren’t at a serene farm or the Marché d’Aligre in Paris — we were crammed into the Columbus Circle Whole Foods. Thousands of customers were streaming through the aisle trying to grab some garlic for their dinners, and Little Miss Annie Leibovitz was blocking traffic to get some artsy snaps of nightshades. Will she print out these photos? Nope. A pile of white spheres under fluorescent light is even too dull for Instagram. Next time, Annie, take a breath and think about where you are . . . Pay for your brie wrap and vamoose.”

Etiquette is Part of Your Brand

Oleksinski isn’t alone. Modern professionals are finding a suffocating relationship with technology has left them oblivious to social basics their elders took for granted.

Presentation, both personal and professional, is a key to showing who you are. And etiquette training of all kinds is making a resurgence for millennials.

“Etiquette is so much a part of your brand,” said Rachel Isgar, a Phoenix-based etiquette coach and author. “Just a few improvements can help your career.”

People respond to people, and poor manners may mean a hindered partnership, a missed promotion, or a collapsed deal. Companies like Beaumont Etiquette, which runs a marquee “finishing program” in the Plaza Hotel of Manhattan, have recognized a unique need for social training in the modern generation.

For $125, a participant can take part in a two-hour group session that teaches courtesy gestures, personal hygiene, and a range of soft skills conducive to successful socializing.

“Even if it was not something you were taught as a child, anyone can learn to have good etiquette, and it’s up to you to teach yourself,” founder Myka Meiers said. “I think, sadly, people become very self-involved . . . and forget about others. What I wish these people could learn is that by spending just a little time each day making someone else happy and spreading kindness, even the smallest gesture, their lives could be so much more fulfilled.”

Meiers says honoring others includes everything from table manners to Twitter posts. Just as we once taught people to “think before you speak,” how much more crucial should it be to “think before you post?”

“If you don’t want your grandmother or your boss to read it, don’t post it,” Meiers said. “Once it’s on the web, it’s out there for good.”

Want to curb your own bad behavior? Consider ten smartphone tips for starters:

  1. Never ignore those you’re with to make a call or text
  2. Apologize to your guest if you need to respond to an important message.
  3. Never leave your ringer on in quiet places.
  4. Never use offensive language while using your phone in public.
  5. Don’t post work-related complaints on social media
  6. Don’t photograph everything
  7. Never post on social media while you’re under the influence.
  8. Don’t place your phone on the table during meetings.
  9. Don’t text people about work outside of normal office hours.
  10. Don’t dehumanize cashiers by using your phone while someone serves you.

Daniel Post-Senning, co-author of the 19th edition of “Emily Post’s Etiquette: Manners for Today,” says ultimately good manners are about putting others first, whether that’s online or at a dinner party. While social customs change, manners are timeless:

“Manners are really reflections of core principles,” Daniel says. “Consideration, respect and honesty.”