when it snows it pours

pinellas-cty-tourism.png

Selfie Marketing Pitch Popular

Florida’s Pinellas County is the most densely populated county in the state. It’s also the smallest, but that has never affected its ability to draw tourists from around the globe, intent on visiting world-class beaches from Caladisi Island State Park on the northern end to Fort Desoto County Park guarding the entrance to Tampa Bay.

With gas prices at their lowest level in years, an economy that’s on the rebound for the first time in years, and a brutal winter that continues to lash the northeast, convincing northerners to turn their wanderlust into momentum and head south isn’t a heavy lift.

Will Winter Ever End?

Nonetheless, Pinellas County’s marketing arm, Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, came up with a rock solid bit of creative when they launched a campaign centered around a family of nomadic snowmen who began showing up in slush and dirty snow blanketed New York and Chicago.

The edgy “WinterBlows” campaign plants irresistible (and guaranteed to have lines forming for selfies) faux snowmen on the sidewalks displaying sandwich boards headlined “Sunshine or bust!” and the WinterBlows.com URL.

Is it working? I’d have to say yes, considering how congested the main two-lane north-south beach artery, Gulf Boulevard, has become in recent days. There’s nothing that can match a smart, well executed, marketing solution.

b-to-b needs softer approach

Improve B-to-B With Creative Storytelling

b-to-b gets a creative makeover

The January issue of Advertising Age takes a look at B-to-B marketing as brands continue to sort out what works and what doesn’t for industrial communications in the digitized age.

The conclusion is that brands can’t rely any longer on a business marketing process that doesn’t address the issue of  “wonderful storytelling,” according to GE global creative director Andy Goldberg. In other words, the old way of sexing up a page from a parts catalog and hoping it flies are long gone.

Like every other area of corporate communications, from PR to advertising, the social in social media is the leading influencer effecting the creative upgrade.

finding new media outlets

For GE, that means taking advantage of previously untapped platforms like late night talk, boosting “Fallonventions” on the Jimmy Fallon Show to demonstrate the brand’s human side.

Others describe the new approach as moving from data to gut, and doing what connects emotionally. United States Gypsum (USG), hardly a warm and fuzzy candidate for storytelling, did just that in their “It’s Your World” ad series.

With user experience driving this new approach, the goal is to connect potential buyers using content that explains a brand’s product in an engaging and educational manner. How well that will work with traditional buyers used to making dollars and cents decisions based on bottom line performance will determine B-to-B creative in a way that could be hugely transformative.

And if its proven effective in the long run over traditional methods, the need for involving creative direction that’s familiar with social media will be paramount.

orlando (really) likes powersports

Ducati joins growing list of OEMs to display

photo ©2014 john siebenthaler

Powersports Market On Road To Recovery

It’s been nearly a decade since the economic meltdown of the mid-’00s dealt a way harsh wakeup call to a party the powersports community thought would never stop.

The Everest-like growth curve many believed/hoped/wished would go on forever collapsed like a 3-pack a day smoker on an Ironman swim-bike-run.

It’s against that backdrop that last week’s second annual AIMExpo powersports trade and consumer show in Orlando, in just its second year, seems to have planted their flag firmly atop the carcass of the once invincible Dealernews Dealer Expo, whose looming Chicago in December winter wonderland reincarnation of the event brand they once owned outright, seems now officially and forever dead in the court of public opinion. Continue reading

converting ms word glop to dreamweaver html

in Dreamweaver, edit>paste special

How-To: Copying Word Docs Into Dreamweaver HTML

Dreamweaver isn’t the worst environment for composing long copy, but it’s far from being the most comfortable. Text editing programs, including BBEdit, Text Wrangler, any plain vanilla text  or word processing application, OpenOffice, and the most user installed editing app, Microsoft Word, are usually better suited to the task.

While Word is my least favorite creative application, it’s the one I usually turn to when composing long copy for my web sites.

I’m not interested in Word’s clunky “styling” gimmicks or to-be-avoided-at-all costs so-called HTML coding. I’m just looking for a comfortable writing environment and for that Word works out okay. (I’ve recently made the jump to Scrivener, which if you can navigate the well documented learning curve is absolutely the best environment to work in for writers everywhere. When finished, it compiles your work into a Word doc.)

On the other hand, Word’s formatting and styling quirks are a major pain if you try the most direct route of copy and paste to transfer the content into Dreamweaver. One reason is all the overhead metric garbage that comes along for the ride in a typical copy and paste scenario. Here’s how Dreamweaver solves that problem. (Word to InDesign uses an entirely different workflow: copy/paste, drag/drop, place. Lynda.com has a good intro tutorial here.) Continue reading

need social visuals? hire a designer!

Effective Design Doesn’t Happen Without Talent

graphic design is fundamental for great visual contentI can say with full confidence that every list ever posted promising content tips for improving your social media message, including blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, will include a requirement for “great visuals”. This post is typical, recognizing the need without acknowledging the talent required to produce art that motivates.

It’s not a heavy lift to reach that fundamental conclusion. It’s the how that usually ends up badly, as simple lip-service from the aesthetically challenged on what constitutes professional graphic design begins from a standpoint of basic ignorance of the subject.

Real guidance on achieving that lofty goal gets murky real fast. There’s very seldom a follow-up discussion on how compelling art is actually created, or how to make the subjective design judgements that are the essential DNA of an art or creative director’s job description.

One good place to start is with an appreciation for the differences between an illustrator and a designer. These are not interchangeable, even though they often overlap, and expertise in one area is no guarantee that talent carries over to the other.

It’s as if those great visuals so easily referenced as the mother’s milk of social media marketing are created with the wave of an intern’s magic kittens and string GIF wand, or by HR invoking a binding PNG spell, aided and abetted by Word’s draw extension.

The reality? Effective art isn’t an off-the-shelf commodity. It’s specialized talent that knows there’s never, ever a time to use Comic Sans if the goal is to be taken seriously. Or that Bevel and Emboss with Texture, added to a logotype of sorts sourced from an obscure MS Office font, doesn’t so much sing gloriously about brand originality as it cries out in all to painfully obvious embarrassment to everyone about the creator’s shortcomings.

Invest in Original Graphic Design for Great Results

MS Word art

Your friends won’t tell you, but I will: ugly doesn’t improve with time.

Within the context of social media, visuals are usually derived from photographs, illustrations, or a combination of the two. They can be used as is or modified, combined, or sampled and combined with type elements and shapes. This series of PRSA event promos I designed illustrates the point.

Colors can be shifted, shapes and objects distorted. The best visuals are unique to their specific environment, not warmed over leftovers. From social cover art and profile badges to press release supplements and web site assets, creative visual is not only desirable, but essential.

The Difference? Superior Engagement Versus Abandonment

And where are the sources for that exceptional visual content everyone is looking for? Begin with a creative director for concepts and execution. Art directors turn an idea into a finished product using various visuals, distinctive styles, and element arrangements. Pick a copywriter for a well turned phrase or snappy tagline that can catapult a campaign. Graphic designers. Illustrators. Photographers. Typographers. All play a strategic role in creating effective content of value.

So while everyone pretty much understands the role of visual content and what it brings to a message, greatness is achieved through actual talent and training, not just by proclaiming the task done and hoping for the best.

online newsroom publicity perks

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Small businesses can benefit from creating a unique online newsroom.

Invest In Online Assets For Longterm Dividends

As whats left of print media transitions into a hybrid that blends traditional content with digital distribution, private industry is likewise developing answers for inventing new channels of promotion and publicity. Read about how Coca-Cola is a leader in setting up and stocking unique content for both consumer and b2b consumption.

The need for effective strategies is best seen in the use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) as essential marketing disciplines. Both focus on the power of search to direct audiences inbound to content, and those same procedures are being successfully refined and funneled in the establishment of online newsrooms.

Online News: Not The Same As Google News

Online newsrooms are a physical location unrelated to Google News’ rich snippet metatag aimed at specific categories and reserved for branded publications. Yet the preparation of materials for the online newsroom should include some of the same workflow that’s utilized in a Google News approach to pull marketing.

Online newsrooms are also a total departure from the commonly used and outdated drop down menu method of accessing company news and resources, which requires multiple steps before even reaching a starting point and focuses solely on archiving content, not repurposing.

Biggest Difference? An Adventure, Not An Archive

The contemporary onliine newsroom is designed as a visual destination separate from the main website. It’s a unique container offering an assortment of video, audio, text, visuals, and ready-to-wear social content – all delivered in an easy to use User Experience (UX) layout that puts a premium on interesting and engaging presentation to serve various forms of content that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Online Newsroom – Think Investment, Not Expense

Today’s news resource – and that includes all that PR brings to the mix – must deliver solid content quickly and easily to a wide audience with unique needs. Design, creative, IT, and marketing all have a part to play in the successful implentation of a modern online newsroom.

Design your online newsroom to make maximum use of visual breadcrumbs and cues to guide editors, researchers, writers, and curators in finding not just what they’re looking for, but what they need to accurately inform their audience about XYZ Company. Need help? Lets explore a solution custom tailered to fit your needs.

facebook says party’s over

Brand reach plummeted after Facebook hit the brakes on organic.

Ogilvy Social describes how brand reach plummeted after Facebook hit the brakes on organic.

Brands, Markets, Budgets Strategy

Once not so very long ago, retail business had a narrow choice of media for advertising and marketing; the Yellow Pages, newspapers, and broadcast. Depending on the size of the market, a newspaper or two may have offered competitive rates, along with radio and t.v. But unless your business was cars, clothes, furniture or groceries, it was pretty much hit or miss.

As broadband began rolling out there was a brief moment when print was cruising laid back at altitude while digital media was taxiing for takeoff. Didn’t last long. Overnight, print and the public airwaves found themselves powerless to head off the rush to the exits by marketers chasing the promise of free forever online homesteads. Woot. Continue reading

remembering jim hansen

My Jim Hansen Cycle World Trek Memory

I met legendary powersports media icon Jim Hansen for the first time at Cycle World Trek in 2007. He was easy to meet, easier to talk with, and appeared on this Trek riding one of the first Can-Am Spyders to hit the road.

He’d ridden up to Oakhurst, CA, the jumping off point for Trekkers before we headed 130 miles into the Sierra Nevadas for a few days of off-road riding in and around Huntington Lake. Jim swapped his three-wheeler for two and the Spyder was loaded into the event logistics box truck for transport to China Peak.

You might think that an invitation only gathering like Trek that collected some of the best known members of the powersports community would be blessed with insight, talent, resourcefulness, and ability. Um, not always.

video guide to changing a light bulb

Good news! Fewer than a dozen bikers were needed to unload this ride!

It was as if I was watching New Caledonia headhunters seeing their first helicopter. This video demonstrates the combined efforts of Cycle World editors and ad reps, powersports aftermarket manufacturing execs, agency account reps, and industry OEM department heads as they go about solving the ages-old riddle of the Sphinx – what’s the best way to unload a low-slung trike with nothing but a lift gate? Easy! Use a picnic table!

Keep in mind, the object in question weighs in the neighborhood of 700 pounds, give-take. Then count heads hovering to and fro like nervous elephant aunts surrounding an expecting new mother, anxiously waiting to welcome a newcomer to the herd.

you can learn a lot over lunch

In the brief time I knew Jim, he struck me as affable, curious, and capable. We shared the three-stool counter at Jone’s Store just outside Yosemite over lunch on Day One, exchanging small talk and chit-chat. Although his knowledge of the industry and its people was encyclopedic (and mine is anything but) ours was a comfortable conversation that only later would emerge from the background as a crossroads for me in my association with the industry.

Jim was awarded the annual Joe Parkhurst award during that year’s closing ceremony, an insider’s inside honor of respect.

He passed away April 11, 2014. I think he’d appreciate the humor he left behind.