September 6, 2017No Comments

Nostalgia marketing takes on Hollywood

One of the things I hear asked a lot as a designer is "what's the next big thing?" Clients, account teams, and fellow designers all want to be a part of the next big trend or, when possible, want to influence the next big trend. It makes sense of course. No one in an the marketing/ad agency industry wants to be considered stale or behind the times. But sometimes in order to go forward we have to go back. Nostalgia marketing taps into that.

Nostalgia design and marketing never really go out of style. At any given time one brand or another is running a campaign tapping in the power of nostalgia. Why? Because Nostalgia makes us feel good. It takes us back to a time that we have positive associations with. And if done correctly, it allows brands to tap into the trust of the consumer.

So here's the thing: I am guilty of being sucked in by good nostalgia marketing this year. And it has been female celebrities that have been the biggest culprits. Let's take a look at some of the best nostalgia design/marketing so far in 2017.

Highs in the 80s

Atomic Blonde Poster

Atomic Blonde Poster

This year Charlize Theron blew up the office with her hit film Atomic Blonde. (See what i did there?) Being a child of the 80s the film and design has resonated with me the most. Everything from the styling of the main character, to colors and type treatments, to the music choice in the first online trailers, captured the feeling of the 80s. Even before I knew the setting of the movie is in Berlin 1989, I was already drawn in by the nostalgia created by the marketing materials.

From the first time I saw the theatrical poster, I was immediately pulled in. The neon colors, the graffiti background and the styling of the typeface resonated with me. My interest was piqued before I even knew what the film was about. This in term made me checkout the online trailer. The music selected immediately brought me back to my love for 80s action films. I must have watched the trailer 4 times in a row, each time getting more and more hyped for the film, but also enjoying the emotional high that it created. And then at the end of the trailer: then animation of the film title. The graffiti paint. The neon lights. I was hooked.

The marketing materials for Atomic Blonde did what nostalgia marketing is supposed to do: invoke positive memories and gained my trust in the brand. Even without knowing anything about the film, I was ready to purchase tickets, download the soundtrack, recommend it to friends, whatever, as long as I got to be a part of this marketing experience. Well played Ms. Theron and team. Well played.

Greased Lighting in a Bottle

Miley Cyrus Younger Now

Miley Cyrus Younger Now

Ok so not technically Hollywood but very Hollywood adjacent.

Miley Cyrus has said recently that she is trying to tone done her previous pop image in order to try and appeal to more conservative music listeners. Take one look at her new album cover, and it's clear she's trying to tap into the nostalgia of the 50s. This may not be a bad move as many Repuplicans fondly remember the 50s as a time when the economy (and babies) were booming, men still wore suits to work, the U.S. wasn't at war, and family values were strong. I mean if you were a heterosexual, white male, it was a good time to be alive (said with much sarcasm).

However, Ms. Cyrus isn't necessarily tapping into the wholesome, poodle skirt, soda shop vibe of the 50s. The leather jacket and pants combined with the shot of her from behind, and her greaser hair styling harken more to the sexy vibe reminiscent of films like Grease and Rebel Without a Cause. Still the sex is toned down when compared with her previous work.

The vibrant colors give a sense of youthfulness, while still managing to feel vintage. The detailing on the outfit is reminiscent of early country music costumes (think rhinestone cowboy). The handling of the album begs to be compared with the logo treatment for Grease.

Overall, Miley Cyrus is hitting all the right nostalgia notes.

Big Reels Keep on Turning

Proud Mary promotional art

Proud Mary promotional art

This next entry decides to not even try and be subtle in its use of nostalgia marketing. The film: Proud Mary starring Taraji P. Henson. Bam, right off the bat they hit you with that title. The film takes it's name from the iconic Tina Turner cover of the 70's. A fact made more obvious once you watch the movie's trailer.

Then there's the movie poster. The silhouette of the femme fatale, surrounded by hues of orange and gold, while piercing through the delicate font curls from the film title. You can't help but look at it and think of the iconic Pam Grier in Foxy Brown.

After seeing this design, you better believe I was strolling to Proud Mary on my work commute.

So of course I'm thinking, "Ok this is going to be a kickass superheroine adventure set against the backdrop of the 70s." Well not entirely. After reading more about the film's synopsis, turns out this film takes place in modern day.

That's right. This sleek and sexy nostalgia marketing lured me in with it's 70s inspired promise, and didn't even have the decency to buy me popcorn first. But hey if Taraji P. Henson is the lead, how can I refuse?

December 15, 2014No Comments

5 digital marketing trends for 2015

As 2014 draws to a close, businesses begin to evaluate their marketing plan for the coming year and which agencies are best suited to help them achieve their goals. With technology continuously changing at the speed of light, agencies that know how to traverse the digital landscape will be standing in the forefront of 2015. As with every new year there will undoubtedly come a wave of fads and trends for the marketing community. Below are a list of 5 digital marketing trends to watch out for in 2015.

Content marketing 2.0

For the past few years agencies have been telling their clients to get on board with content marketing. Content marketing has become a channel most businesses know they need to invest in. In fact a recent survey found that 83% of B2B marketers use content marketing. The problem though is that many businesses don't have a documented content marketing strategy. In 2015, content marketing will evolve to focus on areas such as:

  • A documented strategy with content marketing as a sustainable and measurable channel
  • Attention to ROI
  • Integration of content marketing through all channels
  • How to distribute content efficiently and more importantly economically
  • Looking holistically at the digital experience of distributed content, as well as incorporating more supporting videos, graphics and images

Think mobile first

One area in digital marketing that continues to grow year after year is mobile. Businesses can no longer ignore the mobile market place. With over 61% of adults in the United State owning a smartphone, businesses have to think mobile first in order to remain competitive. Mobile versions of websites are being replaced by responsive websites or mobile apps. Mobile open rates for email have grown 180% in last three years. If you're not creating mobile optimized emails, you're not offering an optimized experience for your target audience to engage with.

Evolution of data in digital marketing

More and more consumers expect brands to know who they are when communicating with them. And digital marketers know this. In fact, 78% of marketers today believe that data-driven marketing via digital channels is the path to new growth. However, it's not enough to just put a person's first name in the salutation of an email. This practice has become so standard that it provides little differentiation from a form letter. Expect to see an evolution in digital marketing of how both quantitative and qualitative data is used to provide a more customizable and personalized experience for a targeted audience. Think triggered emails with customized content based on a users previous behavior. Or driving your audience to PURLs with variable information based on where they are in the purchase cycle. Collecting data and using it in a relevant, targeted, personalized way will allow marketers to stay competitive in the digital environment.

Meet your Marketing Technologist

In order to be nimble in the ever-changing digital marketing environment, it is important to have people on your marketing team who understand digital technology. In 2015, expect to see the title "Digital Technologist" pop up. These people are not just thinking about digital marketing. They understand the technologies that are out there to make digital marketing effective. These individuals know about the latest mobile device view port standards, are up to date on banner ad guidelines for social media and mobile, and are testing out the latest IOS before you get your first cup of coffee. Competitive agencies will incorporate these people seamlessly into their marketing teams.

Video steps up relevancy to content marketing

Video is still one of the most effective ways to reach an audience and create engagement with a brand. Currently YouTube receives more than 1 billion unique visitors a month. Thanks to HTML5 video players, Vine, Vimeo and YouTube, it's never been easier to access video across both mobile and desktop devices. Expect digital marketers to experiment with ways to incorporate video into their content marketing efforts to increase visibility, as well as, provide context around content.

In a nutshell, exciting things will be happening with digital marketing in 2015. Are you prepared for 2015? What digital marketing trends/fads do you think will develop in the coming year?

August 12, 2014No Comments

Understanding online display ads

Online display ads have been around since the early 90's. Since then the internet has evolved dramatically. In the early years, online display ads were a guaranteed way to drive traffic to your product or website. Today however, online display ads face challenges such as overcoming "banner ad blindness," and competing with search engine marketing (SEM) and native advertising. Though they may not have the same impact as they once did, online display ads are still an integral part of an integrated marketing campaign.

Types of online display ads

There are several different types of online display ads. Below are examples and a brief description of each format.

Rich media ads

Rich media online display ad example
Click to see example.

A rich media ad typically contains either images and/or video and encourages user interaction. Key distinctions of a rich media ad:

  • The file size is over 40k
  • It has multiple click-through options/areas
  • Includes multiple levels of content (i.e. polls, twitter feed, video, etc.)
  • Requires counter or timer tracking
  • Uses HTML5 or multiple SWFs for functionality (i.e. expanding, peel back, floating, etc.)

Rich media ads are a great way to engage users and measure multiple actions such as closings, openings, click-throughs, and repeat plays. However, they do present a few challenges. The biggest drawback to rich media ads is that if they use Flash, they are not viewable on mobile devices. Another drawback is that the some users don't appreciate the intrusiveness of the ads.

Animated ads

Adding animation to an online display ad can greatly increase engagement with your audience. Keep in mind that simply having animation does not guarantee an up-tick in response. Your animation should work with and draw attention to your call-to-action. With that said, there are three types of animated online display ads: Flash, HTML5 or animated GIFs.


Flash online display ad
Click to see example.

Flash ads use images and video to create animated features which are then exported as an SWF video file. Unlike rich media ads, the animation is contained to the dimensions of the display ad and allow only one click-through action. File size restrictions for Flash display ads are usually capped at 40k. While Flash ads offer smooth animation and encourage engagement, they are not supported on mobile devices or any browser with Flash disabled.


HTML5 online display ad
Click to see example.

HTML5 ads are creeping up more often in online advertising campaigns. HTML5 ads are generally either programmed ads that rely on JQuery or Javascript to create animation, and then served through an iframe, or they use the video tag to play video ads. The benefits of a HTML5 online display ad include:

  • Multiple areas for user interaction (i.e. multiple links, slide show)
  • Smaller file size
  • Supported on mobile devices

Though still new to the online marketing arena, HTML5 ads show a lot of potential for marketers.

Animated GIFs

PG&E animated GIF online display ad

Animated GIF ads have seen a resurgence in the last few years. With Flash not being supported on mobile phones, animated GIFs have stepped in to fill that void. For most ad campaigns, the extent of animation used can be handled by an animated GIF. Since the file size for most online display ads is 40k, keep in mind these things when creating an animated GIF:

  • Use gradients sparingly
  • The less colors in your design, the smaller the file size
  • Allow 3-5 seconds for frames with pertinent information
  • Keep animations simple

Static ads

Static online display ad example
Static online display ads are just what they sound like: they have no animation. While not as glamorous as rich media or animated ads, static banner ads rely on the content and call-to-action to deliver success. Because the ads need no animation, things like gradients and multiple colors impact file size less.

Which online display ad is right for you?

As you can see, there are several options available for online display ads. Each option has its pros and cons. As with every marketing campaign, it is important to do your research and know your audience. Does your product warrant the robust use of a rich media ad? Is most of your audience using mobile devices to view web content? Is the purpose of the ad to provide awareness or to engage your customer. And most importantly: what is your budget? Knowing the answers to these questions will help determine the online display ad format that is right for you.

August 7, 2014No Comments

Where’s the marketing for Truvada PrEP?

Have you heard about Truvada PrEP? Recently, the antiretroviral medication has made the rounds through several news and social media outlets causing controversy and debate, especially among the gay community.

On July 16, 2012, the FDA approved the use of the medication Truvada as part of an individual's HIV prevention strategy. More commonly known as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), research has shown Truvada can reduce the risk of HIV transmission between 92 and 99% if the regiment is adhered to daily. The medical community has such faith in the effectiveness of the drug that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) added PrEP to its HIV prevention guidelines in May 2014. In July, WHO (World Health Organization) publicly urged all men who have sex with men to use PrEP as part of their HIV prevention regimen.

So here's what we have:

  • A product that claims to offer a solution to a global medical problem.
  • It's backed by some of the most respected health organizations in the United States.
  • It's been on the market since 2012.
  • We know the pharmaceutical industry is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Based on this, wouldn't you expect to see advertising for Truvada PrEP popping up everywhere? Yet there has been little to no traditional marketing done for Truvada PrEP. So my question as a direct marketer is this: where is the marketing campaign? I believe the answer to this question is two-fold.

1.) It's in Gilead's best interest not to market Truvada PrEP

Using Truvada as part of a HIV prevention regimen has created a firestorm or controversy in the media and among the gay community. Both advocates and there detractors have been vocal about whether using Truvada will actually decrease new HIV infections, or encourage men who have sex with men to engage in more high-risk behaviors. By not rolling out a full advertising campaign and focusing more on awareness, Gilead may be positioning themselves to stay out of the crossfire.

There's also the 2010 ad that Gilead ran for Truvada as part of a campaign targeted to people who were HIV positive. The ad did not meet with FDA regulations, causing a bit of a PR snafu. While I'm sure they've learned from this mistake, Gilead may be a little shy to pull the trigger for another Truvada marketing campaign.

2.) Guerilla marketing is already in effect

#truvadawhore tshirt
The best thing Truvada PrEP has going for it now, is its word-of-mouth awareness. Thanks to social media, people are creating a dialogue about the drug, its uses, side effects, and whether they thinks its right or wrong for use with HIV prevention. Whether it has polarized people or left them feeling somewhere in the middle, people are talking, sharing resources and pushing the conversation further. One example is the "#TruvadaWhore" movement. The movement started online as a backlash to the thought that people on Truvada PrEP are simply engaging in higher risk sexual activities. The "#TruvadaWhore" campaign is just one example of how people have used social media and guerilla marketing to bring awareness. Continued online discussion has helped impact media outlets which are producing more stories on the topic. It has also encouraged individuals and organizations to host events focused on educating people about Truvada PrEP.

Does Truvada PrEP need traditional marketing?

So now that I've looked at the situation around Truvada PrEP's marketing, I'm left with a new question: Is a traditional marketing campaign necessary? The direct marketer in me wants to say "yes". As with any product, I feel that there are methods and tactics that can be implemented to increase awareness to a targeted demographic. I can already envision an integrated campaign with direct mail, email, banner ads, landing pages, social media posts, etc.

But maybe that's not what this movement needs. After all, this is a medication that deals with a personal choice about an individual's sexual habits. Maybe the key is to continue with guerilla style techniques that keep the dialogue and awareness going, like the recent YouTube videos from the CDC. Or maybe just by writing an article discussing the marketing efforts around Truvada PrEP ;-).

July 31, 2014No Comments

Flixel, cheap razors and more design inspirations

As graphic designers, it's important to know what's going on in our field. We have to keep current on new technologies, inventive campaigns and creative trends. Design inspiration is everywhere, and below are my creative picks for what inspired me this month.


I never thought I'd give America's Next Top Model credit for design inspiration. However, on cycle 20 of the show, Ms. Banks introduced Flixel as the new medium for showcasing the model's photograph. Flixels are credited as a new medium for "living photography." Essentially by using the Cinemegraph tool, you take footage of your subject as they pose with moving elements in the background. You then, highlight the still from the footage that you think is your best shot. Once your still is selected, you mask out the area that you want to see movement and let the footage keep playing in the background. The final product is then exported as an animated GIF or movie file. Flixels are meant to show subtle movements within still photograph.

Currently Flixels are used primarily on social media platforms like Tumblr and Instagram or for digital displays. I'm excited to try it out and see if this medium could be incorporated into online marketing materials such as banner ads or landing pages. Tyra Banks, thank you for this design inspiration.

Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club caught my attention several months ago. As with most marketing, timing is everything. I happened to be in the market for an affordable, quality razor and this just happened to pop up in my social media feed. After clicking the link, I was immediately drawn into the product by the clever marketing and design from the company.

First there's the design of the website. The website gives a feeling of masculinity and playfulness, but also alludes to the era of old school barber shops. The site also has fun with typography, utilizing various fonts and hierarchy. The colors are vibrant and inviting, giving additional life to the page.

From an online marketing standpoint, this site has a lot going for it. It's responsive which allows users to have a similar experience across platforms. It leads with a promotional video, that customers can share through social media. As research has shown, consumers enjoy watching online video ads and engaging with them (and I was no exception). The call to action for the site is bold and clear. The navigation is simple and prominent, providing a clean user experience, while also cross-promoting the additional products. The primary product is clearly showcased. An incentive referral program is mentioned to drive action. And finally, the site establishes legitimacy by showcasing the media outlets that have featured the product.

This brand has a lot going for it: great design, marketing through multiple media channels, and creating a dialogue with its audience. Not only did Dollar Shave club offer me design inspiration, but they also converted me into a satisfied customer.

WebVisions Chicago Conference Website

I'm a sucker for a simple design aesthetic. Some might take that as an insult. However, I think it's a high compliment. As my mama used to say, it takes a lot of work to make something look simple. The layout and design for the WebVisions Chicago Conference website is no exception. I love the use of typography, flat graphics and neutral color palette. I'm not overwhelmed by content or flashy imagery. It's a quick, scannable read that let's me know what it is, when it is, and where to get more information. Sometimes as designers, we get sucked into a head space that everything needs bells and whistles. This is a great example of how all you need is good hierarchy, typography and a sense of balance to create a nice design.

Web Design Ledger: 20 Webdesign Infographics

Infographics have become increasingly popular over the past year. They present complex information in a quick, clear and scannable way. WDL recently compiled a list of 20 Webdesign infogrpahics, which offer great design inspiration. Each infographic design is unique and uses both flat and photo-realistic elements. Warning: there are 20 examples, so you may want to grab a cup of coffee and donut as you take it all in.

This month what helped drive your design inspiration?

June 13, 2014No Comments

How big brands are targeting Pride month 2014

In case you missed it, President Obama officially declared June as Pride month for the LGBT community. Although many states have celebrated LGBT Pride in June since the 1969 Stonewall riots, it's a bold step for the President to make an official proclamation. And it's not only the President who is bringing attention to Pride month. Big brands are making a statement by launching marketing campaigns targeting the LGBT audience during June.

Lucky Charms - #LuckyToBe

When you think of LGBT Pride, you may not immediately think of breakfast cereal. General Mills is changing that with their #LuckyToBe campaign. Using their iconic Lucky Charms as the face of the campaign, General Mills encourages people to tweet or post online reasons why they are proud using the hash-tag #LuckyToBe. The great thing about this campaign is that although it targets the LGBT community, it appeals to a broad audience. This helps increase awareness of the brand across multiple demographics.

Facebook - #PrideConnectsUs

Facebook feeling pride emoticon
Recently, Facebook added new emoticons for users to use when posting a status update. Just in time for Pride month, users now have the"feeling pride" emoticon to express how they feel. Facebook is also encouraging users to use the hashtag #PrideConnectsUs to help show their pride. While it may prove controversial, Facebook again has people engaging in a dialogue that other brands may shy away from. As they say, no press is bad press.

Macy's - Pride + Joy

Macy's Pride + Joy Pride Month campaign

For Pride month, Macy's teamed up with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to create their "Pride + Joy" campaign. It encourages customers to get involved with Pride month by either taking part in one of their in-store events or by taking action with HRC. As a tertiary message, customers are also reminded that Macy's can take care of all of their wedding registry needs. By teaming up with HRC, Macy's is able to add credibility to their involvement with the LGBT community.

YouTube and Google - #ProudToPlay

YouTube, along with parent company Google, launched their #ProudToPlay campaign targeted at reaching LGBT and ally athletes. The purpose of this campaign is to bring awareness of LGBT athletes in sports and to help end anti-LGBT bias. They also encourage users to upload their own videos about LGBT sports issues that YouTube will highlight over Pride month. Coming from two of the most trafficked websites in the world, this is a huge statement and it will be interesting to see the impact of the campaign.

Nike - #BeTrue Collection

Nike #BeTrue Collection
This year Nike produced a #BeTrue collection of apparel in support of Pride month. “We are a company committed to diversity, inclusion and unleashing human potential,” said Tim Hershey, Nike Vice President of Global Merchandising and Executive Chair of Nike’s LGBT & Friends Employee Network. Nike is also donating part of the proceeds from this collection to the LGBT Sports Coalition. A little charity goes a long way with consumers.

These are just a few of the brands who are taking notice of the LGBT market and deciding to target it directly. With Pride month getting such national recognition in 2014, what better time to establish or reinforce your brand with a niche audience. Which marketing campaigns do you think will shine this Pride month?

December 17, 2013No Comments

A few of my favorite campaigns

As 2013 comes to a close, it's time to look back at some of the most entertaining, creative, innovative and engaging marketing and advertising campaigns. In keeping with the seasonal spirit, I've pulled together a few of my favorite campaigns from 2013. These campaigns run the gamut from social media to print. Take a moment and see if they catch your attention as much as they did mine.

Show your Joe
One person's tacky is another person's entertainment. However you felt about this Kmart ad, you can't deny the buzz it created this holiday season.

Fresh Gigs
Does new underwear help you feel more productive? Well the minds at Fruit of the Loom seem to think so. In fact, if you're on LinkedIn and have started a new job, Fruit of the Loom wants to offer you free underwear. Why? "Because great-fitting underwear is the perfect way to start a fresh gig."

Fresh gig campaign

Water is life: Hashtag Killer
You've heard of groups trying to take the power of a word back, right? Well Water is Life decided to give new meaning to the infamous hash tag #firstworldproblems. Their campaign set out to give new meaning to the hash tag and draw attention to a real world problem: clean water shortage. Check out the case study below, and see how effective their campaign was.

Lowe's home tips
If you haven't heard of Vine yet, you may want to look it up. Lowe's has jumped on the Vine train and added several short how to, home improvement videos. I'll admit, I didn't think a hardware store would be keen to use this particular channel. However, I think this is a great way to reach the millennial audience.

GoGurt Smokey Eye
Ok, I'm not a GoGurt fan. I don't even have children to buy GoGurt for. But after seeing this commercial, I almost ran out and bout a case.

Pantone: Rain Edition
With minimal copy and striking photography, this ad brings focus to what the company is all about: color. Courtesy of Giuliano Lo Re and Matteo Gallinelli.

Pantone Rain Edition campaign

And this isn't even touching the Super Bowl ads. What campaigns impacted or caused you to take notice in 2013?

December 12, 2013No Comments

2014 digital marketing and design trends

2013 saw a number or popular and effective digital marketing and design trends. These trends include:

  • Responsive design
  • Flat UI
  • Retargeted banner ads
  • A focus on CMS and inbound marketing
  • Infographics
  • Big data

As 2013 comes to a close, it's time to look at the digital marketing and design trends that will impact 2014. Many of the trends from 2013 will continue to have influence in 2014. However, I would like to point out a few other areas that will be of interest in the coming year for digital marketers and designers.

1.) Analytic accountability
Clients are starting to take a look at agencies and the value that they offer. For many agencies, it is no longer enough that a clever or visually appealing campaign be provided. Clients want to see a return on investment. This could lead to more agencies implementing direct marketing best practices for measuring success and ROI. In order to stay competitive, agencies need to adapt their former business models to answer these client concerns.

2.) Think mobile first
Mobile technology continues to resonate with customers. More and more, customers are engaging with us digitally through either a smart phone or tablet device first. Desktop computers are no longer at the forefront of digital interaction. In 2014 it will be paramount that you think mobile, when tackling your digital strategy. Whether it's incorporating responsive design, single page websites or mobile friendly emails, digital marketers and designers can no longer afford to focus on desktop experience only.

3.) Content is king
If 2013 showed us anything, it's that consumers want relevant content. And search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo want to help them find it. In 2014, if you don't have a content marketing strategy, your efforts may wither on the vine.

4.) Get personal
Everyday, consumers are bombarded with thousands of messages. The key to breaking through to them is by using "big data" to personalize your marketing messages and efforts. Look into areas such as:

  • Retargeted banner ads
  • Personalized emails
  • Geo-targeting SMS
  • Social apps that use GPS

Consumers expect more from the brands they interact with, and personalization helps your message resonate.

5.) Less is more
With consumers struggling to get through all the content and messaging out there, design is becoming more streamlined and sleeker. Expect Flat UI design, single page websites, parallax scrolling and an emphasis on typography to continue to dominate in 2014.

6.) Radiant orchid
Pantone announced its 2014 color and the winner is: Radiant orchid. Expect to see this color popping up all over the digital landscape.

I'm sure there will be even more trends to spawn out of 2014. And true to their nature, some will be impactful and others will just fizzle. What digital marketing and design trends do you expect to see in 2014? What trends impacted you this year?

Let's connect.

© Justin Herren 2022 | Creative strategist + design lead