Graphic Design Production—30 Years of Advancement

Written by Gerald Hillman | April 14, 2014 2:58 pm


As a production manager, I  find myself thinking about how much the design production process has changed over the years.  Often,  while speaking to a new printer, our conversation goes from how we used to do things to how they are done today. We once prepared art and had a unique pre-printing process in the 1980s. Now we use digital artwork and computer design programs with computer software for plate preparation. This shift in technology has changed the design production process as a whole.

In the late 1980s, while working as a lithographic stripper and plate maker in a small print shop, I would be handed negative and positive film to burn images, using a strong light, onto a light sensitive polychrome plate for the printing press. These pieces of film were produced from stat cameras that took an exact size picture of paste-up artwork—also known as a mechanical. A keyliner or paste-up artist carefully pieced together a mechanical by hand, using a photographic paper.

Back then, if a typo was found or the client needed text changes, we were required to produce new text on a phototypesetting machine that printed to photographic paper. The paste-up artist would then cut the new paper and re-paste it onto the mechanical. This was part of the laborious process of producing printable art and making edits when text or photographic changes were added to the already lengthy process.

One of my printers commented how they needed up to seven weeks in advance for a finished printed piece. Even with the incredible advancements in computer software design for text and photo editing, nearly every print project becomes a rush order to meet the client’s deadline.

It’s clearly evident how the advancements in computer technology allow imaginative professionals to raise their creative standards in text and photography layout.  With more time now to deliver client approved artwork to a printer, the process is more efficient. Even making edits from a printer’s proof can be made in a matter of minutes. A new print’s ready file is produced and uploaded to the printer within a few hours. The ultimate beneficiaries of these many technological advancements are our clients. What changes and advancements have you noticed in graphic artwork over the past 30 years?

My Favorite Search Marketing Questions

Written by David Kragel | April 8, 2014 1:25 pm

A New Question to Consider


“Do websites even need SEO anymore?”

The question struck me as odd. In my six years working within search marketing, this was the first time somebody had posed the question to me in a serious manner.

The phrase “SEO is dead” is mostly a punch line within the search marketing community, as marketing professionals of all stripes have pronounced the death of SEO as far back as when Google rolled out its “I’m Feeling Lucky” button.

But, as the lines between search marketing, content marketing and social media blur even further, it’s harder to know when one web marketing strategy starts and another ends. After all, with the changes Google has made to its algorithm over the past two years, don’t websites merely need good content nowadays to succeed?

In a word…no.

As long as people use search engines to find good content, there will be search marketing. Search marketing teaches us which keywords and questions our target audience is commonly searching; it informs what technical site changes must be made in order to become more “Google friendly;” perhaps most importantly, it’s search marketing that enables people to find that beautiful content you’ve spent so much time and effort crafting. Experience teaches us that building good content is simply not enough.

How Your Answer is Just as Significant as the Answer Itself
The question was perfectly valid, and in thinking through my answer to that question, I was reminded (as everyone in the marketing world is) that not only is it important what your answer to the question is, but also, just as important is how you answer it.

For the sake of making my point (and to pass along some funny), here are some other questions that folks in the search marketing world will quickly identify with, along with some answers that may (or may not) be helpful:

Question 1: “I’ve been doing organic search for almost a whole month. Why don’t I see any results?”

  1. Did you try hitting refresh on your search results? Sometimes you have to hit “enter” four or five times before a search engine will take your search seriously.
  2. Did you personally notify Google that you’ve made changes to your site? Oh, you haven’t? Don’t worry. Just type, “Dear Google, I’ve made changes to my site” in the search bar and once you achieve the results, remember to search the phrase “thank you.”
  3. Organic search activities can commonly take three to eight months to see the full effects, because search engines take their time in making sure they deliver the best quality results. That said, the benefit of organic search is that the results tend to be long-lasting and is the best way to improve a site’s natural growth.

Question 2: “I just did a Google search and don’t see my ad anywhere. What are you doing to fix this?”

  1. Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do because if Google has stopped showing your ad, it’s most likely the result of a personal vendetta. Have you privately or publicly said anything negative about Google lately? Be honest.
  2. I bet one of your competitors stealthily kept clicking on your ad and has used up the budget. Oh well. Better luck tomorrow.
  3. If you’re not seeing your ad at any given time, it most likely means that you either caught the ad out of Google’s normal ad rotation, or that your daily budget has already been met for the day and the ad will no longer keep showing for today. This ensures that we hit our target budget accordingly.

Question 3: “Why aren’t I number one in Google search results?”

  1. To keep things fresh, search engines are now doing what’s known as ‘reverse results,’ so technically if you appear last, you’re actually number one.
  2. We think AltaVista is primed to make a comeback and are more focused on getting you to rank in that one instead. (To help with this, please tell your friends to use AltaVista so we can double its use.)
  3. Being shown at the top of natural search results is exciting to see, but we believe rankings serve as evidence of activity and should not be confused with results. There are hundreds of factors at play when it comes to organic search results, many of which are outside of a website’s control, so our goal as a search partner is to maximize the volume and quality of organic search traffic from a variety of possible searches, rather than focus on a single keyword.

More Search Questions We Like


Kidding aside, we really do love it when our clients ask questions. It means they’re engaged with the campaign and, as part of that relationship, we take it upon ourselves to inform the client as much as possible about our search philosophy and how that will impact their results. That can lead to some great questions on the part of the client. Here are three of our favorite:

“How much should I be spending on search marketing?”
What the person is really asking is, “What can search really do for me?” It’s an indication that the client is focused on what matters most in marketing: leads. As we prove that the program is working, the budget question shifts from “How much do I need to spend?” to “How much can I spend?” It’s a question of opportunity.


“What am I doing wrong?”

We love this question, because it’s an honest admission that things could be better. The best search marketing campaigns are the result of a healthy relationship between client and search partner, and as the campaign progresses, we’ll naturally find more opportunity for change and growth.


“What are you doing for my budget?”

Any search company worth their salt should be happy to answer this question because it opens the door to a conversation about activity and where we’d like to go next. Activity matters, and the focus should always come back to leads and how that specific activity will drive more value over time, because we feel that search marketing should be viewed the same way as any other marketing effort – by ROI. In the end, every marketing initiative is measured by the simplest of questions: “What did we get in return from that investment?”


And that, in my opinion, is the most important search question everyone should be asking.

Finding Familiarity in the Search World – 3 Simple Tips For Your Adwords Campaign

Written by Jared Graves | March 31, 2014 5:27 pm

Dice resting on stock listings

Not too long ago the world of Search Marketing, SEO and PPC were all a mystery. Adjusting to the new environment and working with the tools and platforms was a bit overwhelming. I met this challenge by pulling from my experience with strategy and tactic games.

Growing up we had the standard games, but rolling a die or drawing a card to see who could move around a board quicker never really appealed to me. At age 9, I was taught how to play Axis & Allies, which is a WWII-based strategy game. I caught on fairly quickly, and I enjoyed the challenge of learning all the aspects of the game. In the same way, I’ve enjoyed the process of learning the various dimensions of search marketing and picking up the new versions and editions of this game.

Now, with a little more than a year of exposure, I have had the opportunity to digest a large portion of search, but there is always a new problem to solve, a new trend to learn or a new tactic to try. The biggest appeal to me in the Search Marketing arena is PPC campaigns. While PPC does not bring long-term value, I appreciate the data and instant results that it provides. I like being able to quickly confirm what works and what does not, while continuously tweaking settings and trying new tactics. Much like the game I grew up with, platforms like Google Adwords are always rolling out new editions or changing the rule book.

With that in mind here are three simple tactics for you to try to get more out of your Adwords Campaign in 2014.

  1. Ad Extensions- In October of last year, Google changed the rulebook and updated their Ad Rank Formula for Adwords. If you are not using ad extensions, you might be missing some big opportunities, and – even worse – you may be helping your competitors. It’s more than just a nice option to try, it’s a vital tool to add to your campaign.
  2. Mobile Ads- Almost 50% of mobile phone users now use their phones as their primary Internet source.  It’s time to embrace the increasing importance of mobile marketing. After the roll out of Enhanced Campaigns last year, ads have become smarter. Try adding mobile optimized ads. Try different variations of your ad copy and call to action and see how they appear on a mobile device. If you were using your mobile device to find information, what would you want to see? Start there, and keep it simple.
  3. Tracking- Make sure you can properly track leads. I actually read an article a couple months ago that mentioned only 20% of marketing decisions are based on validated test results. I was shocked. Get out of the 80%. Establish goals in Google Analytics. Set up phone tracking. If recordings are available, take advantage of that data. In addition to having the opportunity to qualify leads, you may identify issues in your sales process or gain valuable insights into the language your customers are using. Know your customers so you can reach them and engage them.

Not every strategy and tactic will be a winner for your campaign, but the three above tips should help bring you closer to your goals. If you would like to learn more about SEO or see what we can do for you, contact Oxiem today.

Is it time to shake things up or get back to the basics?

Written by Katy Reeve | March 26, 2014 9:46 am


Sometimes you need to look at what you are doing – in life or business – and decide that it’s time to shake things up. Now might be the time to blow the dust off, put yourself out there, take a few risks and get outside of your comfort zone. If what you are doing isn’t getting you where you want to be, consider shaking things up.


However, it might be just as accurate to say that when you are trying something new, different or what others are doing, it may not be working either. This might be a time to get back to the basics; what makes you happy, brings in customers or just feels right.


In my personal case, though, it was a little of both. As a proud Kent State grad, born and raised in northeast Ohio, I felt the need to shake things up about 10 years ago and head west. I did about 10 minutes of research and decided I should move to Phoenix with its young professional atmosphere, healthy job market and abundance of sunshine. I found a healthcare public relations job in five minutes (that’s an exaggeration, but really it was two days after arriving) and started building a new and exciting life in the desert.


Fast-forward eight years. I realized this method, while successful at gaining what I wanted and needed at 22, a jump-start to my career, a wonderful husband and amazing experiences you should have in your early-twenties, it was time to shake things up again and get back to basics – in my case that meant physically getting back to Ohio.


Other than the fact that the February timing meant I was relocating from sunny Phoenix to Columbus, Ohio at the tail end of one of the worst winter ever, everything seemed to work out flawlessly (or as flawlessly as driving across country with two large dogs during late-January can be).


There are times when you get to a point when whatever you are doing needs a change. The path you are currently on may have worked or been necessary previously, but now it is time to alter your strategy to get to the next place. Change doesn’t always mean new, cutting-edge or trendy. But, knowing when it’s time for a change and resisting the urge to fight the need for change can bring about great results. Even if that change means moving across the country, to the place you always called “home” anyway.


Do you need to shake things up and have a change of pace? Join me at Upward Brand Interactions to work with the most innovative minds in content, interactive, SEO and creative as an account manager in the Dayton or Cleveland area that will lead our clients upward.

Two for One – Agency Lessons and Raising Twins

Written by Erin Rogers | March 18, 2014 10:23 am


From the moment I found out I was having twins (okay, a little while after the tears of panic dried up), I started approaching this life-changing event like my job… as a project manager. Deep down I figured I was probably kidding myself, but a little part of me was hoping that some of the things I’d learned along the way in agency life—all of the planning, brief moments of creativity and ongoing client management—might miraculously come in handy. Looking back at my first year of multiples motherhood, I wasn’t entirely wrong.

While appearing very similar on the surface, smaller clients have very different ways of telling me what they want, when I’m getting it right and how they feel when I’m way off the mark. As we’ve gotten to know each other, I’ve picked up on those queues. If they could talk, I know which one would prefer a phone call vs. an email.

There are some very important agency life lessons that I apply with my two little girls every day. Here are just a few.


Don’t underestimate what you can accomplish in 15 minutes.

Work requires that I think of my entire day in 15-minute increments and billable or non-billable hours. While this shackle can sometimes be REALLY annoying, I’ll admit it’s sometimes helpful in keeping me focused and more productive.

When all the mommy duties are doubled, schedules are your only hope for survival. This 15-minute mindset can come in handy, and it is all it takes to get two kids in the tub, scrubbed, myself brushed and mascara-ed while they splash around a little (hey, we have some fun here!), toweled, dressed and back to playing. This didn’t happen overnight, mind you, but here we are.

So yes, if I have 15 minutes before my next client meeting, I WILL go ahead and proof that brochure, comment on those latest video edits and update that budgeting spreadsheet.


Sometimes 15 minutes takes two hours. Plan for the unexpected.

I don’t care how well-thought-out my timelines are or how many promises I’ve made to clients that we’ll “have that to you by end of business,” life with twins has reminded me, when possible, to give myself some cushion. Sometimes someone poops in the tub. One time they both did. Sometimes what should be a 15 minute design revision takes two hours because a computer crashes. If I anticipate that it COULD happen, I’m not as frazzled if it DOES happen.

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When you have multiple “clients,” don’t be surprised that one can’t wait to run while the other would be happy crawling forever.

One of my girls has always been in a hurry. She’s probably the reason they surprised us 9 weeks early. The other has always been much more laid back – approaching each new stage cautiously and thoughtfully. And that’s okay. My job is to be encouraging, not pushy. Provide options. Some clients will be ready to take risks, while others would prefer a tried-and-true route. Respect that. Understand why. There are times when running isn’t the smartest route.


In a bottle or a sippy cup, milk is still milk. I just need to get them to drink it.

One of the things you let go of quickly in surviving twins is the desire, in your quest for efficiency, to have everyone doing the same thing at the same time in the same way. I shouldn’t have been surprised when one baby grabbed the first sippy cup ever presented to her and carried on without missing a beat. On the other hand, the other looked at me like I’d grown three heads and had killed her best friend. Basically, she refused to drink out of it for more than a month. While I didn’t want a counter full of bottles AND sippy cups, I was reminded that presentation matters.

When showing creative work to clients, consider their personality and how they prefer to work. One can be perfectly happy making decisions off of a 8.5×11 printout, while others need a grand unveiling. The work we’re showing is the same. But, how we package it or explain it can determine whether or not they buy.


It’s easier to do with a team.

There is no way I’d have survived this first year without my husband. Parents of singletons… you know how when your baby wakes up, you feed them, change them, get them back to sleep and then go back to bed? Having twins is a lot like that. Only you don’t go back to bed. Because there is another one that now needs those EXACT. SAME. THINGS. Done with the second baby? The other is ready to start all over again.

We tried shifts, so while one worked their butt off, the other got a solid stretch of sleep. Then we tried the team approach. We missed out on some sleep, but we were actually happier. We didn’t feel so alone, we had someone to commiserate with when our “clients” were being unreasonable, and we came up with some great ideas at 3 a.m. for making things better. We had different ways of doing things, but it always got done.



In agency life, your work is never really done. As soon as one big project is over, the other is just starting. And while a designer, a copywriter, a project manager and an account executive all have very different perspectives and ways of approaching a client project, our best ideas usually come from working together, not in silos. And let’s face it, some days we’re just tired. When you can’t be awesome all the time and you’re not thinking clearly, it’s nice to know you have your team to back you up, step in and pick up your slack.


We don’t stay in this business because it’s easy. Some days we wonder why we even bother and if we’re even making a difference. But as my girls have reminded me, the hard work does pay off, and nothing feels better than when your client smiles.

Is Your Marketing Being Friend-Zoned?

Written by Andy Sharpe | March 11, 2014 10:06 am


I am no stranger to the concept of being “friend-zoned.” I am now happily and miraculously married, but prior to finding the one… let’s just say my friend-zone card had some holes punched in it. Being a well-intentioned, somewhat geeky guy it was hard to compete with the studly, more confident and popular fellas. Somehow, I think this relates to the B2B marketing world.


We mainly work with small- to medium-sized B2B clients who tend to be a little more conservative and don’t have the resources of larger brands…in a way, they are sort of the underdogs. Often, our clients will say things like, “We want to look like Apple.” Like my non-existent high school dating life, our clients find themselves wishing they could be like the star quarterback that gets all the girls. Smaller companies that do amazing things can feel intimidated by the impressive marketing efforts they see from larger brands. Instead of being themselves and simply telling their story, they overcompensate, try too hard and ultimately… get friend-zoned.


As a designer, my job is to tell visual stories and create solutions. Us creative types are incredibly passionate about what we do. We really hope to be allowed to do beautiful work that will present our clients in a way that stands out (in a good way). In thinking about the design of your marketing materials, simplicity is a key factor in keeping you out of the friend-zone and making your prospects want to take things to the next level.


Don’t Be Too Needy

In marketing your business, there is a tendency to want every bit of information in every marketing piece. Small- and medium-sized businesses run on smaller budgets than large brands, so when they do an ad campaign, brochure, website, etc., they want to cram in every detail about the business and really get a “bang for their buck.” Marketing materials really exist to flirt and cause people to want to pursue a deeper relationship. It is said that content is king…but only when it is the content that people care about. Do 37 partner logos, an overwhelming amount of copy and images of all your products need to be in a single ad or would a simple, targeted, well-thought-out visual and smart message be more effective? Like the guy who sends 400, “What are doing? I miss you,” text messages a day, your marketing efforts can get you friend-zoned.

Keep Some Mystery

Design is driven by a concept and built up of elements. There is a temptation to combine all the different ideas and all of the elements into one piece. Designers come up with multiple design options and elements to choose from, but they are often meant to exist as separate thoughts. These can be great ideas on their own, but often through the process they get combined and Frankensteined until a few good, possible options get combined and turn into one, ugly monster of a final product. Don’t be married to multiple ideas. Strip down and arrive at the one idea that best serves the need. Like a bad episode of Hoarders, marketing efforts become like the stiff, dead cats found under the fifty empty cereal boxes we just can’t bring ourselves to get rid of. Cut the clutter, keep some mystery and don’t use up all the romanticism at once.

Don’t Be Predictable

We all know what is expected in marketing materials. We know what a safe design looks like. When you think of a “brochure” something immediately comes to mind…same with a website or an ad, etc. We know what we can crank out to safely please the CEOs, Presidents, Marketing Directors and all the various other decision makers in the process. Does this safety engage your potential customers or is it just predictable? Does it look like everything else in the industry? Take some risks. Think of a simple, defined story you want to tell about your brand, and be open to telling that story in a totally different way than you have in the past.


Rethink your marketing. Are you too needy and predictable? Be yourself. Tell the stories of your brand in clear, simple, memorable ways and gain relationships. Stay out of the friend-zone.

The Instant Now, On-Demand

Written by Chris Fry | March 4, 2014 4:18 pm

I hate computers. In fact, I hate any electronic device that promises improved performance, faster download times, breathtaking capabilities, a more productive workflow and any other number of turbo-tastic descriptive phrases. I hate them all. Seems wrong doesn’t it?

In 1997, I was on the verge of completing my graphic design education. My portfolio deadlines were so tight that I decided I needed a computer to help get my projects done in time. So I buy my first Apple. It boasts a blazing fast 300MHz G3 processor and a whopping 128Mb of RAM. I was in awe of its raw power. Even my modem was fast – taking me to the Internet at 56K per second. Remember that sound? When the Internet had a sound? (It’s going through your head right now isn’t it.) That sound made you wait 30 seconds to even to hear the words “You’ve got mail!” 30 seconds?! What a waste of time! These days I get irritated when my 18Mbps connection takes 3 seconds to load a site. And sadly, I know I am not alone.

These devices have seduced us all. They get faster and more powerful. Their capabilities constantly surpass our expectations. And they offer the world at our very fingertips. We can quickly connect to whomever we want and navigate to whatever video, song, book, document or information we could possibly imagine. We can have it all instantly. Or can we?

Our need for instant gratification has persistently invaded every aspect of our lives. Fast food, on-demand TV, next-day shipping (truthfully, that last one is still a little slow at times), the list goes on. However, the need for instant corrupts our personal lives as well as our business lives. The obsession for getting stuff when we want it drives us to no end and as a result, damages the quality of the things we do.

As a designer, I constantly struggle with that fickle mistress – creativity. It comes and goes as it pleases. It marches to the beat of its own drum, and I never know what it may have in-store for me. It depends on the phase of the moon – I think. But business, these days, waits for no one. What should take 10 hours was needed in 2. And why wait for tomorrow, when it can be done today? So instead of nurturing and developing creativity, we rush it. We push it. We cause it to be a shell of what it could be.

How many times have you completed a project just to find out that it is wrong? Just to find out that it missed the mark. Just to find out that you have time to do it right…the second time. What were the reasons? Time constraints? Budget constraints? Poor planning? It couldn’t be any of those because now you have to come up with a plan to do it over again, which takes more time, which eats into more of the budget…you see where this is going don’t you? Did the push to get it done now override the steps needed to make it great?

I must be honest here. Even though I “hate” them, our devices allow us to do incredible things. Ideas come to life quicker. We can share them with anyone at any time, enabling us to collaborate and make these ideas even bigger and brighter. But we have to learn to control the beast and not let it get the best of our impulse to get it done quickly just because we can. I’m not saying that every project needs to be mulled over with creative agony. Everyone huddled around the white board, brainstorming for that eureka moment. But sometimes, if we slow down and give it a second, great things can happen.


Agency Personality Types on the Job

Written by Crystal Olig | February 25, 2014 5:51 pm


My coworkers will hopefully not kill me for this post. But after more than five years in agency environments, I (hope I) can safely generalize about what works and what doesn’t when working with my colleagues. Everyone is an individual, but I’ll guarantee you’ll find more extroverted Account Managers and more introverted Developers.

Why do you care? Well if you work with any of these roles or a whole agency of folks, understanding the people behind the work goes a long way towards creating open and collaborative communication flow that leads to the best campaign or output. We’re all just people at heart.

The Developer

Developers are (surprise) very technically oriented. They think input and output, black and white, 1s and 0s. Seeing the gray area of marketing, when so much of development is the right way or not, is hard for them.

Top Tips for Working with Developers

  • Show don’t tell. Have you ever thought of how “over” and “under” can be interpreted on the 3D web? It could be vertically above or below as you scroll a page, or layers literally over or under each other. Taking screen shots, doing sketches or mockups, or even a short video of the piece of development you’d like to fix, will shave hours of back and forth off a dialog.
  • Focus on the problem to be solved, not the how. Common scenario, “Move the widget up and over, the graphic here and the banner here.” Instead, something like, “I’m afraid the call to action is not prominent enough. What could we do to help that?” Often specific directions can backfire, because that very clear set of directions, when followed, can cause a ripple effect of other issues. Let your developer be a consultant and a problem solver.
  • Plan for the unexpected. Building something on the web is like building a house. I asked in a recent seminar I gave, how many of the participants had led a website project. Nearly all hands went up. Then I asked, how many of those projects had been easy and launched on time? All hands down. Much like a physical building, there are layers upon layers of complexities, different specialists (your roofers, your plumber… I mean, your front-end dev, your UI team), and inputs required, and it’s a feat to get them all coordinated together. If you can plan for the unexpected, you will ensure you come out the hero.
  • Understand the difference between a little thing and a big thing. One of the key things I try to teach our project management team isn’t everything they’d need to know to be a developer, but how to understand context and scale. What can be small in print design (moving a column from the left to the right of the page) can be huge in web design and development. Most service organization work based on billable hours. If you don’t know if it is big or little, a great question to ask, is “How long would something like that take?”
  • Seek understanding of the result. Sometimes as marketers, we give ourselves a pass on the nerdy stuff. I’ve done it too, but I’ve learned that doesn’t lead to the best result. Technology is scary – heck, most marketers I know shy away from most science and math if we can help it – but today’s world is digital. We need to lead developers but to do that, we have to understand what we want and how we communicate. Developers love to talk about what they did and why. Let them.
  • Allow innovation. I’ll say this for every role we talk about today. By allowing autonomy with a purpose – clear direction and expectations – you can often get to something better together.

The Designer

Every designer I have ever met is an artist. His or her favorite medium isn’t always even digital – the art director at the magazine I worked at was a talented muralist who painted landscapes of ancient Greece in restaurants, and desert vistas in homes in Arizona.

Top Tips for Working with Designers

  • Remember it’s their art. When you talk to designers, realize they poured a little of their souls into what they designed for you.
  • Work hard to enunciate your vision or likes/dislikes. Even artists need inspiration, and they want to understand your point of view.  But if you just say, “I’ll know it when I see it,” they don’t have much to start from, and it usually takes longer to get you what you need.
  •  Phrase to memorize: “Could you show me another option?” If you’re displeased with a certain aspect of a design, it’s easier to get designers to continue their creative process, instead of shutting down one component entirely.
  • Respect the creative brief. Most creative types will go through an exercise with you where they ask all the critical questions about your market, tastes, branding, etc. This is crucial to get right and understand how this will play a part in the design. If you start out with a site meant for older adults, and later decide your target market is children of older adults, it can drastically change what a designer will do for you. Help them from going in circles by having a clear brief at the outset.
  • Be able to be convinced. Listening openly to why something was designed a certain way, versus simply reacting to what you see, is another great exercise. Most intelligent designers are great at explaining what a specific piece accomplishes.
  • Allow innovation. Bringing very specific directives is sometimes necessary, but when it isn’t, bring problems to solve. There may be something percolating that will be more and better than you’d dreamed – if you give a designer the room to innovate.

The Account or Project Manager

Talk about multitasking. Most AMs or PMs I know successfully juggle competing priorities from multiple clients every day, along with a robust calendar of meetings, status reports, high-level strategy and client firedrills. They live and die by their schedules – respect that and you’ll get everywhere.

Top Tips for Working with AMs/PMs

  • Be thoughtful and concise. If you are constantly changing your mind and directions, you’ll drive your team nuts – and we just want to do what’s best for you! Being thoughtful in your directions, whether that means gathering your thoughts before meetings, soliciting internal stakeholder feedback in advance, or asking for help to get those thoughts in order, will save everyone time and money.
  • No e-mail diarrhea. This may just be a personal pet peeve, but I hate one-word or one-line emails. Most agency managers deal with multiple clients on a daily basis and will love you forever if you can send one email a day with that day’s needs, feedback and next steps. The more organized you can be, the more efficient we can be with your projects.
  • Drive your vision. Your vision is so crucial to our success. We can make recommendations based on our knowledge of your market and vertical, but every company is in a unique place and your in-house team will always be full of subject matter experts. We need your opinions and directions  to keep us on track.
  • Be respectful and consistent with time. We know you’re busy, we get it. Being on time for our meetings, prepared for them and not cancelling at the last minute if you can help it, will give you more street cred with your AM than about anything else.
  • Be able to see the gray. So often, AMs are representing the hard work of everyone on their team. If you can listen to how a problem may have occurred or how a designer interpreted your need, you might be able to help the AM share back to their team what went wrong and ensure it doesn’t happen again. But if all you say is a black/white, “I love it” or “I hate it,” no one can learn.
  • Allow innovation. Maybe the AM is advocating for a design or development team. We hate to have to say no to our teams, but we understand if we do. Maybe the PM is challenging how you thought about executing a project, but they’ve done six projects like yours this year. Letting loose the reins a little can have splendid results.

In closing, we’re all just people. And we try to understand you, the client, too. We listen – what pressures you’re under, what competing needs your organization has that you have to piece through for us, whose boss is the hardest to impress. Even how many kids you have or what your hobbies are is fair game. We want to know who you are as a person, to help us do our best work for you.

Making My Mark On Brands

Written by Mike Savory | February 18, 2014 4:42 pm

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A brand mark is the proprietary symbol that visually conveys a brand’s identity. In short, it’s the little picture that accompanies text in a logo. Now that I’ve made you smarter, here’s how I go about creating a “mark”.

1. Think. What does the brand stand for? Many times I’ll make note of key words and phrases during the kickoff meeting that resonate with me. This simplifies the process of creating some sort of meaningful visual.

2. Sketch. Yes folks, I still sketch ideas. There can be more than a hundred of these little gems, limited only by time and my mental capacity.

3. Keep it simple. Be mindful of how the mark could potentially be used. Is it for the web, collateral or print? Who knows, but in the end it better be all things to all people. I often refer to a well-designed mark as a Johnny Cash song: simple, iconic and timeless. Johnny had a way of taking the complex and simplifying it to the bare essentials, like a good mark should.

4. Make it meaningful. There are many great examples out there like the FedEx logo with it’s hidden arrow or Amazon’s A-Z smiley face. How about Nike? Do you know what the “swoosh” is supposed to be? These are excellent examples of logo marks that have a story behind them. So look closely. Most people will only see the lady in the picture, but never the witch.

5. Illustrate. Scan a selection of these beauties into Adobe Illustrator, and see what shakes out. I predominantly use geometric shapes (pieces of circles and squares) when illustrating, which makes this process much easier and produces a more appealing, clean final product.

6. Apply color. Sounds simple huh? Do you know that floods of red can increase heart rate and blood pressure? Or that many financial institutions use navy blue to convey a more authoritative, conservative, dependable and professional feel to the consumer. Mind control. Am I a designer or your psychologist?

7. Choose a font. Varying from color, choosing a trendy font usually never lasts the test of time… that’s why they’re “trendy”. Know that a logo should last as long as the brand or you’ll be rereading this in a year or so.

8. Birth that baby! It’s both stressful and relieving to introduce your new bundle of joy to the world. Will everyone sing your praises or call your baby ugly? You’ll be the judge.

This Sounds Like a Job for Marketing!…Or Maybe Not.

Written by Scott Rogers | February 11, 2014 4:41 pm


When you are in the business of hospital marketing, your administration will often look to your department to solve problems relating to patient volume for just about any service line. This is especially true in larger, multi-hospital systems. While it is nice that administrations have faith in your ability to influence patients, unfortunately, the truth is you will often be called on to solve problems that marketing has very little ability to impact. Before developing or updating your marketing strategy in reaction to your CEO’s latest “urgent issue”, you should do some detective work and find out if you are actually being asked to fix one of these issues:

Physician Referral Issues


Very few service lines are truly consumer facing, meaning the consumer selects the hospital for a procedure prior to selecting a physician. More often, a patient will have a concerning issue or a symptom, and they make an appointment with either their primary care physician or a specialist. As of that moment, they are on track to have tests and treatments done at your hospital or at your competition. It is nearly impossible for all of the consumer-facing marketing in the word to overcome a trusted physician saying, “I think you should go here to have this test done,” or “I prefer to do that procedure at this hospital.”

If your administration has noticed a decrease in your patient volume, the first place the hospital should look is at your physician referral pipeline. Maybe there is a large volume primary care physician who had a fight with one of your primary cardiologists and is now referring patients to a competitor. Perhaps one of your heavily referring obstetricians went on maternity leave and only returned part time. These types of situations will significantly impact your patient volume, but it isn’t anything your marketing efforts can fix on their own.

Operational and Staffing Issues

The best marketing in the world can’t make up for an unreasonably long wait for a test or a procedure. No television ad for an oncology program will get patients in the door if you don’t have a simple, efficient patient intake process. A great online search marketing strategy for your cardiac program won’t do you any good if it doesn’t direct those potential patients to a physician who can see them quickly and is going to refer them further into your service line.

If you are in a multi-hospital network, do the service lines at each hospital cooperate for the greater success of the network, or are they each competing with each other? If they are competing, they will effectively negate your marketing efforts. Does it seem to take all day for a patient to get through your pre-admission testing process because you are understaffed? That impression will spread throughout your community of both patients and physicians, and they will start going elsewhere despite your best marketing efforts.

If any of these sound like problems you might have, you need to work with your service line directors and operational managers to see that these problems are corrected before you make a huge investment into a new marketing effort. Otherwise you will be wasting time, money and your credibility.

Data-Driven Solutions


How do you tell if your problem is one marketing can fix, and more importantly, how do you convince your CEO and Chief of Staff that the problem they are asking you to fix isn’t really with marketing? Look at your data. Your hospital will have the data to identify any problems in your physician referral stream. Find the people in your organization who manage that data and work with them to find the underlying cause to the change in your patient volume.

If you suspect an operational problem you need to look for soft data. Talk to your floor nurses, call center employees and lab technicians. They will be the first ones to hear patient complaints directly. Consider conducting a patient satisfaction survey or consumer impression survey that goes into more detail than the typical Press-Ganey survey. Finally, consider holding focus groups with both patients and non-patients. These can be expensive, but the depth of information they reveal can go a long way in identifying the root source of your marketing challenge.

Why is marketing so often asked to solve problems that really fall into these areas? I think it is because it is the easier path to take. It is easy to budget money for a television commercial touting the excellence of your cardiac program. It is easy to run a series of ads in your local newspaper announcing your new orthopedic surgeon. It is easy to promote your new linear accelerator. It is really hard to get the competing interests of your physicians, your facility managers, and your service line directors to align to address your root problems. How would you handle these issues, or how have you handled them in the past? We’d love to hear your healthcare marketing stories!