December 18, 20141 Comment

A Dunny holiday with the creative team

Every agency has their own way of celebrating the close of a successful year. Some agencies have a holiday dinner. Other agencies take the team bowling. This year the creative team at Jacobs & Clevenger decided to do something a little different. This year we decided to create alter egos to share at our creative lunch. Here's how it all went down:

  1. Everyone draws an unmarked box containing a Dunny figure.
  2. Open the box in private to see which Dunny figure you received.
  3. Create an alter ego for your Dunny figure.
  4. Come up with a backstory for your alter ego to display at the creative lunch using any medium you want.
  5. Don't share which Dunny you picked until the creative lunch.

As team building exercises for creative types go, this was one of the most original concepts I had ever been part of.

Creating El Guapo

Over the next few weeks, I began developing out the backstory of my Dunny alter ego. I decided to name him El Guapo, the Design Vigilante. El Guapo is part of the millenial generation, and as such uses social media to convey his thoughts on design and marketing. To further develop El Guapo, I created a website (, a Twitter handle (@designvigilante) and a Vine channel to help bring him to interactive life.

Usually for a project like this, I would wait til the day of the presentation and just make up some off the cuff story. But this time I was really inspired by my Dunny. The more time I spent creating his back story, the further i wanted to take it. It also got me very curious to see how other members of the team would present their alter ego.

The alter egos revealed

After a few weeks of preparation, the day of the creative team holiday lunch arrived. As I looked around the table, it was clear that some of my colleagues were as excited as I was to reveal their alter ego. A few looked like they might want to crawl under the table though. Thankfully we started off with some appetizers and a round of liquid courage to ease everyone into the Dunny presentation.

Randy Dunny Alter Ego Illustration

One by one the creative team revealed their alter egos. The mediums used were all different and original. Presentations ranged from using sign language with a haiku, to creating a storyboard about how their Dunny inspired the creation of Daft Punk. One person illustrated coloring book handouts for the group, while another team member sang the Frito Bandito song.

The most ironic thing, though, was how many of the Dunny's actually matched the personality of the person who picked it. Remember, this was a random drawing where you didn't know which Dunny you received until you opened the box. This activity allowed everyone to really relax and let their non-work-focused personalities come through.

Saying goodbye to 2014

After our alter ego unveiling it was time for the most important part of the outing: ordering food. The rest of the time was spent reminiscing about the highs and lows of the year, and talking about what we hoped to achieve as a group in 2015. And of course ordering another round to toast our successes.

Here's to hoping you had as much fun with your team as I did mine this holiday season. See you all in 2015!

March 4, 2014No Comments

Ellen’s Oscar selfie direct marketing to Millenials

If you were one of the 43 million people watching the Oscar's this Sunday, you no doubt witnessed the celebrity selfie tweeted round the world. During the 86th Academy Awards, host Ellen DeGeneres snapped a group photo of several celebrities, and then posted the photo to Twitter. She then challenged the audience and viewers to see if they could get the most retweets ever on Twitter. And what do you know, her efforts paid off. Twitter received so much traffic that it's service was temporarily suspended. The tweet itself surpassed the current retweet title holder, which was President Obama’s 2012 election victory tweet.

While some might consider this just a publicity stunt for Samsung or mere Twitter fun among fans, I view this as a smart, unconventional direct marketing campaign from host DeGeneres. After all, direct marketing is about delivering relevant content to a targeted audience with a call-to-action that drives measurable response. And here's how Ellen did just that.

1.) Create the offer.
The offer, in this case, was pretty straightforward: Let's create the most retweeted tweet ever. Ellen stated a very specific message and repeated it multiple times for clarity to the audience. The offer here is allowing the audience to feel like they are taking part in an endeavor with celebrities. That's a pretty enticing offer. Direct marketers know that having a carefully crafted offer impacts the response rate with your audience.

2.) Know the target audience.
For over a decade, the Academy Committee has been trying to draw in a younger viewer demographic. By issuing a challenge through Twitter, they targeted the ever coveted 18-29 year old (Millenial) demographic. Part of what makes direct marketing so successful is knowing who your target audience is.

3.) Have a clear call-to-action.
The call-to-action in this case was simple: login to Twitter and retweet the post. Twitter is easily accessible from any smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. Once online, all one has to do is hit the retweet icon. In direct marketing, having a clear call-to-action with multiple ways to respond is paramount to a successful campaign.

4.) Increase response with incentive.
To create the most retweeted tweet ever is no small endeavor. In direct marketing, incentives are used to create a sense of urgency, in order to increase response. Posing this challenge in the middle of a live broadcast creates an incentive for the audience to act immediately, in order to see the results before the end of the show. It's like creating a built in "offer ends soon."

5.) Measure the results.
Measuring results is key in direct marketing. After all if you don't have results, how can you rank your success? In this situation, it was easy to see the results of the campaign. Twitter actually shut down, due to the volume of response from the audience. Once the smoke cleared, the numbers showed that over 1.3 million people retweeted the now infamous selfie. That's almost double the amount of retweets that President Obama's 2012 election victory tweet received. I think it's safe to say that Ellen's campaign was a success.

What I'm trying to highlight in this little case study, is that direct marketing can be implemented through different media for the millenial generation. There is still a mindset that direct marketing is equivalent to direct mail. This is simply not true. Direct marketing works through a variety of channels. Ellen just may be ahead of the direct marketing curve. Well played Ellen. Well played.

February 19, 2014No Comments

Beat Chiberia with integrated campaigns

If you're living in Chicago, you've no doubt become acquainted with the phenomenon known as "Chiberia." Subzero temperatures, powerful wind chills, and inch upon inch of snow, have bared down on the city since December. Needless to say this has impacted many industries and their productivity. However, direct marketers who utilize integrated campaigns can still flourish during this weather debacle.

Direct marketing is all about delivering relevant information to a targeted audience in order to gain a measurable response. By developing integrated campaigns, direct marketers can deliver this information through multiple channels to drive response.

Think about your experience during Chiberia. It's cold and miserable outside. Either you're braving the elements to make it into the office, or if you're lucky, telecommuting from home. Either way, you're probably not in the best mood to sift through your inbox, or the pile of mail on your desk.

This is where direct marketing efforts can break through. Utilizing direct marketing best practices such as personalization, since of urgency, unique layout/design, etc. allow communications to stand out from the pack. Integrated campaigns increase the success of this by targeting the audience through multiple channels. For example, sending a direct mail campaign in conjunction with an email campaign increases the likelihood of your audience opening your communication.

Multiple means of communication are just the beginning of an integrated campaign though. You want your audience to respond, but how? Having a mail-in form or a phone number to call is great, but let's take it a step further, and drive your audience to a PURL or landing page branded with your campaign creative. The reason behind this, is that it provides a more detailed informational bridge for your audience. This can help increase the likelihood of follow-through action from your audience. PURLs are effective because they take personalization further that a traditional landing page. PURLs may include personal information such as customer name, offer code, account number, address, etc. It all depends on the data you have available. If a lack of compelling data is an issue, a traditional campaign branded landing page works just as well.

Inevitably, a number of people will fall off from taking the final action after visiting the PURL or landing page. Maybe they're running home before the snow gets worse, and they don't want to miss their train. Or maybe they weren't ready to take action at that time. Whatever the case, wouldn't it be great to give subtle reminders about the page they just visited? Incorporating retargeted banner ads into your integrated campaigns can do just that. Retargeted banner ads appear on other web pages, once a person has visited your web page and left without taking action. Retargeted banner ads are a great way to remind an audience about the offer they just left, and drive them back to your web page.

So there you have it. By using integrated campaigns, you've communicated to your audience through multiple channels, and provided an informative and personalized way to respond. And they didn't have to get out into the cold to do it. That makes you a Chiberia hero. The example listed above is just one idea of what an integrated campaign can look like. What other channels can you think of to incorporate into your integrated campaigns?

To see some examples of integrated campaigns check out the below links. (If you check out my portfolio, I worked on a few of these :-)):
Jacobs & Clevenger - Cruise Control
Jacobs & Clevenger - Friends and Family
Jacobs & Clevenger - Mercedes Benz
Jacobs & Clevenger - Renewals
Jacobs & Clevenger - Mobile Banking

August 23, 2013No Comments

Breaking through the email barrier

Every day, customers are inundated with dozens of emails flooding their inbox. Email is an essential touch point with customers. Whether its providing awareness, product updates, or new promotions, email is a fast, effective way to engage an audience. As a designer, you want to break through the inbox email barrier. That's why it's important to consider incorporating direct marketing techniques into your design.

Why use direct marketing methods in email? Aren't a good list and creative graphics enough?

True, a list is one of the key components to an effective campaign. However, it doesn't guarantee engagement. Strong visuals also help reinforce the message of an email, but they can't do all of the heavy lifting.

So how can direct marketing best practices be incorporated to help you break through the email barrier?

Brand it
Make sure your brand is recognized the moment your email is previewed. Place the logo in the header for instant recognition. Include fonts and buttons that are consistent with what is used on your website. Consumers want to know that your email is legitimate and brand recognition reinforces that.

Get personal
Customers like to know that you know who they are. Go beyond the standard name greeting. Include personalized information so that the customer knows your speaking directly to them. This could include product purchase history, model numbers, account information, how you first engaged them, etc. Personalization allows you to speak more directly to a customer and reinforces the authenticity of the communication.

Mobile optimization
According to Litmus, over 40% of customers view email on a mobile device. To keep consumers engaged, make sure your email is mobile ready. This can be accomplished by either designing a one column email layout, or a multi-column responsive email. Responsive design allows you to provide a different layout experience depending on device. Both options allow an email to be displayed in a one column format which is ideal for mobile devices. Responsive layouts have the added benefit of allowing a different format for desktop clients. For more on responsive email design, click here.

The power of three
Drive engagement with customers by focusing on one call-to-action at least three times. Multiple calls to action can confuse consumers. Focus on one single action and drive attention to it at least three times.

Button, button who's got the button?
Customers respond well to buttons. They let us know that an action needs to take place. They promote the call-to-action. Try to include at least one button in your design and make it obvious (color, size, etc.). For mobile optimized emails, you may want to consider repeating it twice, once toward the beginning and another towards the end.

Image isn't everything
While strong imagery can reinforce an email messaging, too many images can slow an emails performance. Of course it would be nice if everyone had the newest devices and stellar data service. The fact is, no one likes waiting for images to download to read an email, especially on their phone. Best rule of thumb is to try to keep images under 40k, to improve download speed.

Remember you want your email to not only be read, but to engage viewers. These tips can help drive engagement and break through the inbox email barrier. Check out this email template for Nokia that helped increase response with Nissan customers.

August 21, 2013No Comments

Design for direct marketing – it’s all about strategy.

Recently a fellow designer asked me, what is the difference between designing for a direct marketing agency versus a design house or ad agency? I have to be honest it was something I hadn't really thought about. After all, the fundamental elements of design don't actually change from industry to industry. As we continued our conversation, it occurred to me that the main difference is in the strategy of the design.

As an Interactive Art Director for a direct marketing agency, my design now centers heavily on strategy. While I always want to create things that are aesthetically pleasing, my primary objective is to make sure that my design delivers the strategy behind it. This requires me to consider things like:

  • How will this design work across multiple channels?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • How will this standout from other communications?
  • How will this drive a call-to-action?

Since direct marketing is based on measurable results, the creative has to work hard to drive engagement. The infographic below highlights a few tips to keep in the back of your mind when working on direct marketing projects.

Design strategy for direct marketing

12 Brilliant Direct Marketing Pieces You Have to See | Design Shack

August 13, 2013No Comments

Hey millennials! Direct marketing is not direct mail.

As a young designer fresh out of school, I assumed direct marketing only involved direct mail. For me, they were easily interchanged synonyms. In my mind direct marketing meant designing repetitive letters and postcards with little design aesthetic. Because of this, I shied away from positions with direct marketing agencies. I wanted to work for ad agencies or design studios where design was king. Develop high concept pieces with a catchy slogan. Look out "Just do it," I'm coming for you. Ah youth.

Having been in the design industry for over 7 years now, I've gained more insight. Had I known then what I know now, I wouldn't have passed on some earlier career experiences. So let me impart some wisdom to the millennial generation, who are just beginning their design career: Direct marketing is not direct mail.

Direct marketing is a method of marketing through advertising channels that involves:

  • Marketing directly to a specific customer or audience (target marketing).
  • Driving the customer to a call to action.
  • Tracking measurable response of the campaign.

Notice that I said "advertising channels." That's right millennial designers, not just one channel but a variety. Direct marketing is used in SMS, social media, email, video, banner ads, online tools, telemarketing, and of course, old faithful herself, direct mail. In fact, the most successful campaigns are integrated campaigns that directly market across multiple channels. This means, young creatives, that no matter what area of design you're interested in, direct marketing has a place for you.

Direct marketing offers more than various design avenues for designers. It's also a great tool for learning strategy. Since direct marketing relies on measurable results, you'll know how well your creative is reaching its intended audience, and where there's room for improvement. Understanding the strategy behind your design campaign will also set you apart from other designers.

Direct marketing also requires creatives to think outside the box. With so many messages hitting consumers every day, how do you stand out from the crowd? In direct marketing, designers are encouraged to come up with ideas and concepts that demand attention. Knowing how to problem solve and use innovation are essential skills that separate good creatives from great creatives. Direct marketing can help hone those skills.

While it may not be your ultimate career goal, I encourage the millennial generation of designers to give direct marketing a second look. It definitely has challenged me as a designer, and caused me to expand both my creative skills and marketing knowledge.

Check out the links below for examples of integrated, multichannel campaigns.

MBUSA Responsive Campaign - Jacobs & Clevenger
Honda Editorial Campaign - Jacobs & Clevenger
Cruise Control - Jacobs & Clevenger

July 17, 2013No Comments

Direct marketing and me

When I first began working at Jacobs & Clevenger I was, of course, nervous like any new hire would be. Not just because it was a new work environment, but because up until that moment I had had no experience in their core competency: direct marketing. Or so I thought.

Once I started to get the lay of the land as Interactive Art Director, I began noticing the best practices that the creative team were incorporating when approaching projects. I was relieved to see that most were practices I already used in my design. Strong and multiple calls to action? Check. Design that accentuates the messaging? Check.

Hmmm, so far so good. Then I thought maybe there's some secret methodology I was missing. Analyze ROI for the creative used? Yep. Track response rates? Of course. Measure the results of the campaign? Absolutely. So what exactly was I overlooking?

Then it hit me: I was an inherent direct marketer. Many of the tactics and methodologies I had employed in my previous experience were actually the lifeblood of J&C. In previous work experiences I had wandered why things like ROI, clear calls to action, etc were not high on the priority list, thinking surely this is "marketing 101". Now it all came together for me and I saw the difference between working for a direct marketing agency vs a marketing agency or design studio.

My personal philosophy for design has always been it doesn't matter how pretty your work is; if it's not engaging and driving a response, then it hasn't succeeded. So for me, direct marketing is a natural fit.

But isn't direct marketing just about making those bland, throw away cards that come in your mailbox? How does interactive fit into that?

One of the things that drew me to Jacobs & Clevenger is that they are an integrated or multi-channel marketing firm. PURLs, mail, landing pages, SMS, email, video, social name it. If we can create a measurable campaign, we can directly market through that channel. And that's where I come in. As Interactive Art Director, it is my job to incorporate the design of a campaign through multiple channels to consumers. And considering my personal philosophy, so far this has been a natural union.

Don't assume that designing for direct marketing is easy, however. I'll be touching on the challenges and solutions to this in a future article. Stay tuned.

Let's connect.

© Justin Herren 2022 | Creative strategist + design lead