April 9, 2014No Comments

How good design gave safe sex a facelift

As designers, we are often tasked with breathing new life into an old message. This usually requires copious amounts of coffee, sleepless nights and a large scrap heap of failed concepts. Finding a design solution for an already established message is no easy task. You have to look at the history of previous creative (what worked, what didn't work), your target audience, current design trends, and then find a new way to break through to your audience. Once you find the creative solution though, it's fun to see an old message learn a new trick.

I'm ON campaign design by Frost*

Frost* design was recently faced with this challenge. The Australian LGBTI health organization ACON was looking to give new life to a familiar message: using safe sex practices to end HIV. This is a message that is still relevant today, but has a danger of being overlooked and tuned out. Looking for a fresh approach, they worked with Frost* design to develop engaging outdoor display ads to correspond with their "Ending HIV" campaign. The "I'm ON" display ads are designed to primarily target gay men. The creative solution built off the direct and modern design of the "Ending HIV" campaign, but infused with humor and bold statements. The simplicity of the design allows the ads to quickly convey the main message of safe sex through condom usage, and secondarily provide a way to get more information. The bold and light-hearted tone of the message, helps to engage gay men who have seen and heard it all before, and are tired of hearing a preachier message.

For Frost*, the hard work has paid off. Not only has the campaign been successful for ACON, but it is currently featured in Communication Art's 2014 Interactive annual, as a standout campaign. For a print campaign to get featured in an interactive annual, they must have done something right.

Giving old messaging a new facelift is part of the daily grind for most designers. What recent reinvented campaigns have captured your attention? Where do you look for inspiration when re-designing a campaign?

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 25, 2014No Comments

Lessons learned from 10 years in design

Birthdays. A reminder that another year has gone by, and you are another year older. If you're like me, your birthday is a time for reflecting on the events of previous years and contemplating the things you hope to accomplish in the coming year. As I thought about my 32nd birthday, I realized it has been 10 years since I first set out on my career path as a graphic designer. Wow a decade in the design industry. It's been a very fun, and at times trying, ride. The lessons I've learned and the experiences I've had, have made it all worthwhile.

With 10 years under my belt, I thought I might share some of the insights I've learned along the way.

Critique is not criticism
As a designer, you learn that everyone has an opinion of your work. While this can at times be frustrating, one of the best lessons I learned was how to take critique. When you've spent hours crafting a design for a client, you can get a little too close to your work to be objective. Allowing feedback from others gives you a fresh perspective on your work, and possibly leads to design solutions you hadn't thought of. Listen without ego, and use critique to help better your work. I believe that the difference between critique and criticism, is that critique analyzes a project and offers solutions to any potential challenges, while criticism is personal opinion focused on a perceived negative element without offering solutions. As a designer, it is good to know the difference so that you can effectively give and receive good critique.

Don't get lost in translation
When dealing with clients, one of the hats you wear is that of interpreter. It's up to you to interpret their ideas and give them life. And let's be honest, there will be times when you feel like they are speaking another language. Knowing how to communicate is essential. A designer has to know how to interpret what the client is asking for and in turn communicate that back to the client. There will be times when they say they want green when they mean teal. Modern when they mean conservative. And it's up to you to decipher all of this and present a complete and compelling design solution.

Play well with others
A graphic designer is never an island. Throughout your career you will work with others. This includes developers, printers, clients, creative directors, and production artists to name a few. Even as a freelance designer, you will find yourself engaging with people. It is in your best interest to know how to work well with others. No one enjoys working with a diva. All it takes is a bad review from a client or vendor, and your reputation is in danger. Do yourself a favor, and keep your mouth (and ego) in check. Think first before a sarcastic remark or aggressive tone comes out of your mouth or through an email. People do business with people they know and get along with. Even though you may be the most talented designer in the city, no one will work with you if there's a perception of being a difficult designer.

Stay relevant
Technology, styles and trends are constantly changing. In order to have a long career in the design industry, you need to be aware of the things impacting your field. Stay up-to-date on current design events and trends. Engage with other creatives in your field. Go to seminars or enroll in a class. Get out of your comfort zone and learn a new technique. You want to be relevant in order to be competitive. Because that 20-something your company just hired is gunning for your job (I know because I was that 20 something lol). While experience is always important, if you can't speak to what's happening now, you'll find yourself left behind.

Always be ready for inspiration
Every designer has their own unique style of design. As you continue to gain experience, it's easy to rely on the same bag of tricks over and over again. While I encourage every designer to develop their own aesthetic, keep your eyes open and allow new inspiration to challenge you. Don't fall into a pattern of complacency. Pick up that square peg and find a new way of fitting it into that round hole. After all, at our core we are artists. And one of the best parts of being an artist is seeing the world in a different way than it is presented.

Now that my first 10 years in design are behind me, I'm excited to see what the next 10 has in store. After all, I plan to still be in my 30's by then.

What lessons have you learned from years of experience in your field? Are you still inspired?

November 19, 2013No Comments

This Movember, support your Mo Bros

Have you noticed the increase in mustaches in your community? It could be that you have moved into an undisclosed hipster location. Or you could be witnessing the multitude of men supporting Movember. Movember is the month formerly known as November, dedicated to raising awareness and funds for men’s health. The key areas of focus are prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental healh issues.

Movember is a great example of a grass roots marketing effort that has grown significantly over the years. Social media plays a key role in building awareness and raising donations. Movember began with 30 Mo Bros in Melbourne, Australia back in 2003. As of 2012, those Mo Bros have grown to over 1 million Mo's, with the mustache becoming the face of men's health awareness. And it's not just men who are getting involved. Women, or Mo Sistas, are also championing the cause.

I know that November is typically a time when many charities are seeking your help and contribution. However, I ask you to take a moment to think about the men in your life and how important they are to you. 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime. That's a scary statistic. I encourage you to get involved with Movember. One way is by donating to a registered Mo Bro or Mo Sista. If you don't know one, I have two of my friends who are currently sporting a stache and accepting donations. Not only are they rockstar kickball players, but they have killer mustaches. You can visit their pages below to donate:

Chris Rinere
Eddie Campione

You can also go to us.movember.com to learn more about the organization, men's health information, and find schedules of events in your area.

So men, the next time you see a bro with a stylish stache, stop and take a moment to think about your health. Are you doing everything you can to keep healthy and live longer (women are kicking our buts in this btw)?

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

Let's connect.

© Justin Herren 2022 | Creative strategist + design lead