Category Archives: Creativity

Why video marketing sells and how to use it in your business

video camera

As marketers, we engage our customers and prospects through a number of channels, including video marketing. Videos are an excellent way to promote your business because they engage people in a way that isn’t possible with static content.

What’s the market for online video? Consider these statistics:

  • Viewers spend 100 percent more time on pages that contain videos, according to MarketingSherpa.
  • Seventy-five percent of executives told Forbes they watch business-related videos every week. Of those, 65 percent visit a marketer’s website after viewing a video and 50 percent went on to make a purchase for their business.
  • Globally, online video traffic will be 79 percent of all consumer Internet traffic by 2018, according to Cisco.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most mileage from your video marketing:

Consider all types of video content, including these options:

  • Customer testimonials create confidence and trust in your brand
  • Tutorials and demos show how your products work and reinforce their value
  • Interviews and big announcements convey important information with impact

1. Keep it short and sweet – 30 seconds to two minutes, tops. Be sure to fill that time with engaging content. If you don’t grab their attention quickly, they’ll go back to watching cute cat videos on YouTube.

2. Stick to a budget. You can create a compelling message without expensive equipment and high-end production. Keep it polished though, because you want to leave them with a good impression of your business.

3. Plan for publishing. Posting the video on your website is a no-brainer. Think about where you’ll put it before you shoot the video because you may need to create space for it. Possible places include your home page, product pages, the “about us” section, on your blog or on a page that only has videos. You’ll probably also want to upload it to video streaming sites, such as YouTube and Vimeo, and share it through social media channels.

If you’re having trouble imagining the possibilities, check out these videos for some ideas. Still stuck? Here’s another video that will get your creative juices flowing.

Do you watch videos from other businesses? What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.

4 tips to lure your audience with holiday marketing


The end of the year is almost here, but you’ve still got time to design and implement a holiday marketing message. The most effective holiday campaigns feature content that is engaging and fun. Try these actionable ideas to put the sparkle in your holiday marketing:

1. Have a plan. Set goals for specific strategies and content. What theme will you use? Will you share your message electronically or by mail? Will you include a company photo? For example, you can share a group photo of your staff posing in the office with festive decorations. Be sure to include a caption.

2. Thank them. The holiday season is a great time to thank your customers for their business and share your plans for the coming year. Tell them how much their relationship means to you or just wish them many more satisfied years.

3. Capture all activities. Take lots of pictures at your company parties, gift drives and other events and post them in your newsletter and on social media. Whether you’re donating time at a local hospital or adopting a highway, you can post pictures of employees helping out and volunteering in the community. Traffic on social media sites increases during the holidays, offering a great opportunity to be seen.

4. Give gifts. Everyone loves getting gifts during the holidays and your customers are no different. Try personalizing your gift, such as inviting your employees to share favorite recipes, and include them in a company cookbook that you send to customers.

Have fun with it, but whatever you do, make sure your message and pictures will resonate with your audience.

What’s your favorite holiday marketing campaign? What made it a success? Let us know in the comments below.

Time ‘2 lern some grammer?’ #wordcrimes

word crimes, grammar, proofreading

Heralded as the original pop song parody artist, “Weird Al” has proved his worth yet again, as songs from his summer 2014 album, “Mandatory Fun,” have out-classed thousands of independent YouTube parodies of this year’s top hits. My personal favorite, “Word Crimes,” exposes “Weird Al’s” grammar-loving nature, while avoiding the easier and potentially offensive angles used by many independent parodies of this year’s controversial hit, “Blurred Lines,” by Robin Thicke and featuring artists T.I. and Pharrell Williams.

It’s not surprising that “Weird Al” has a penchant for grammar, as he’s shown time and time again that he knows how to manipulate song lyrics to fit predetermined music – and make it funny. That talent requires a sophisticated understanding of language, including many of the common problem areas that he mentions in “Word Crimes.”

A few of the problems he calls out are:

  • Less vs. fewer
  • It’s vs. its
  • Syntax
  • Dangling participles
  • Homophones
  • Whom vs. who
  • Good vs. well
  • Irony vs. coincidence
  • Figurative vs. literal

While a little bit of “Weird Al” goes a long way for me, I appreciate that he can inject a little grammar lesson into pop culture – you never know what will stick.

Are you surprised “Weird Al” has a thing for wording? Tell us why – or why not – in the comments below.

Watch the official video here.


Storytelling: It’s not just for kids!

cute kid

Storytelling and public relations go hand-in-hand. It’s a huge part of what we do. How do you tell your story in a compelling way? It’s difficult to explain what makes a story “sellable,” but there are many ways to tell a great story. Whether you’re pitching to the media or selling your marketing director on a new campaign idea, you must present your case in a way that resonates with your audience.

Using suspense is one way to intrigue your audience. Don’t give away all the answers right away. Build your case and leave some key points for the end of your pitch. Wrap up your presentation with a strong closing argument and your audience will be happy to hear the answers.

Another strategy is to use emotion to convince your audience. Have you seen the commercials that feature pets that look after us and make our lives better? Do they stick with you? If so, it might be because they tug at your heartstrings, and for a moment, you slow down and connect, whether with a memory or with the characters involved.

Those feelings and situations connect us because so many of us can relate to those stories. We want to stick around until the end in hopes of a happy ending. Don’t be afraid to connect with your audience by adding emotional elements to your pitch.

What do you think is the key to telling a great story? Share your tips in the comments below.

The value of a great illustration

Illustration is one of the most effective tools for enhancing designs, but marketers and clients often overlook it. They’re missing a great opportunity. When used effectively, illustration is one of the best ways to give your marketing materials a unique personality and make them stand out from the crowd.

Consider this Tiffany & Co. campaign. Illustrator Minna May adds so much charm and life to the company’s marketing materials. In turn, the entire campaign has a solid identity.


The Pollenize website also demonstrates a great way of using illustration. Instead of using predictable photographs of the candidate, the designer chose stylized illustrations of trains, planes, buses and other vehicles to infuse the site with personality.

A few other notable campaigns that use illustrations effectively include:







The next time you’re starting a marketing campaign, consider using an eye-catching illustration to grab your audience’s attention.

What do you like about illustrations? Have you used them in your marketing? Let us know in the comments below.

5 tips for better brainstorming

blocksBrainstorming is an excellent tool when it comes to generating creative ideas and solutions. Below are a few of our top tips for successful brainstorming:

1. Set the scene. When deciding where to hold your next brainstorming meeting,choose a comfortable, well-lit environment. Remove all distractions and ask that you not be interrupted.

2. Gather a diverse group. Like-minded people are less likely to generate a broad range of ideas than people with different thinking styles. If possible, include people you wouldn’t ordinarily invite. A fresh point of view is extremely valuable. If people aren’t used to working together, try a warm-up exercise to help make everyone comfortable.

3. Use a visual tool. Before starting the meeting, appoint one person to write down ideas. Use a whiteboard or large sheet of paper to write down any and all suggestions. Use diagrams to connect and arrange ideas. As brainstorming slows, revisit and develop popular themes.

4. Encourage wild and half-baked ideas. Be sure to keep an open mind, even when it comes to ideas that may seem silly. These ideas are often the most creative and you can always scale them back to fit the project. Withholding judgment also allows everyone to feel free to participate.

5. Build on the ideas of others. Brainstorming isn’t just for generating new ideas. More importantly, it’s about combining and extending ideas. When discussing emerging themes, encourage the group to flesh out the ideas and build on what the participants suggested.

Good luck with your brainstorming! What prompted your most successful brainstorming sessions? Let us know in the comments below.

Does a certain work environment create better ideas?

Creativity, innovation, work environmentIn a TED talk from 2010, Steven Berlin Johnson discussed the origin of great ideas. He researched great innovations, including the theory of natural selection and satellite technology. Johnson concludes that, contrary to popular belief in “Aha!” or “Eureka!” moments, great ideas come into view slowly. Many may think that individual “flashes of brilliance” or “strokes of genius” lead to the best, innovative ideas, but it’s much more common, Johnson says, for social, informal conversations to put the pieces in place that will eventually connect to form that breakthrough concept.

For example, Johnson points out that an informal lunchtime conversation about Sputnik – granted, it was among physicists – led to a casual side project that evolved over time, eventually creating the GPS systems that most of us carry around today.

In the past 10 years or so, many companies seeking to create an atmosphere of innovative thinking have embraced the so-called “creative” or “open-concept” work environment. Maybe you let your office Ronald Reagan tear down all the cubicle walls. Your kitchen may resemble a trendy bar more than a place that you store your homemade sandwich. If you have beanbag chairs anywhere in your office, you know what I’m talking about.

Innovation and breakthrough thinking, however, will not come just from putting funky chairs in your lobby or a “kegerator” in your kitchen. Aside from having access to one another, employees need to have a relationship that extends slightly beyond prearranged meetings and conference calls. If your company is trying to foster the creativity that spurs innovation, employees should be comfortable taking time out during their days for casual conversation and following tangential trains of thought.

Johnson points out that, historically, innovation has come from connecting – not protecting – ideas. One idea or question can turn into a much larger and potentially breakthrough concept if it’s given the right environment and some room to grow.

Does your company do anything to encourage creative, innovative thinking? Let us know in the comments below.

Adventures in the wild, wild West (Side)

young scared woman in bed

Have you taken a risk and were surprised by the outcome?

Not anything crazy, but definitely an outside-your-wheelhouse moment?

It takes a lot of nerve to be vulnerable and put yourself out there. Who knows what could happen? It feels scary, but even if something goes haywire, you will still wake up tomorrow. The sun will still rise and the Earth will continue to spin.

But you’re afraid.

You’re afraid of the unknown, so you imagine a million what-if scenarios that may never come to pass. You’re afraid of failure and that relentless voice inside that says, “I told you so.” You’re afraid of giving up the devil you know for the one you don’t.

And staying in your safe zone has its benefits. You get a predictable (often boring) outcome. You’re reasonably safe from failure. You don’t have to deal with naysayers. So you hunker down and tell yourself you’re doing the right thing.

Not so fast.

It turns out that smart risks can be richly rewarding. You never know what you’ll discover along the way.

When people find out I bike to work through the city’s Big Bad West Side, they look at me like I have three feet sticking out of my head. Although my route is the road less traveled, drivers who bypass the city’s West Side every day are missing an eye-opening experience.

Take “K-Town,” for example. The 16-block area of North Lawndale is known for its streets that start with “K,” and it gets a bad rap for crime. But the flip side is that part of K-Town is on the National Register of Historic Places. The historic district features hidden treasures, including stunning commercial and residential architecture.

If flying buttresses, towering greystones and gleaming gargoyles aren’t your thing, maybe you’d prefer exquisite flowers, rare tropical plants and awe-inspiring trees. You’ll find this eye candy at the Garfield Park Conservatory, one of the largest and most impressive conservatories in the United States. It’s open year-round, and while admission is free, you won’t leave without putting something in the till.

Chicago Blackhawks fans probably know about Johnny’s IceHouse West, because it’s the team’s state-of-the-art practice venue. Adult and children’s leagues play there, too. The rink also offers ice skating lessons. I used to think the rink was a beer distributor, thanks to Icehouse from Miller Brewing Co. Tommy Hawk on the side of the building should have been a dead giveaway, but I didn’t notice that on my early commutes to work.

Two weeks ago, the kindness of strangers in the Not So Great part of town totally saved my rump. Leaving work, I faced such a nasty headwind, I felt like one of those cartoon characters running in place. It was mind-blowingly exhausting. Halfway home, I gave up and jumped on a bus.

The only problem was I couldn’t figure out how to work the contraption you’re supposed to place your bike into on the front of the bus. The impatient driver was yelling and pointing, but I couldn’t hear a word he said or understand his confusing hand signals. Maybe it had something to do with the wind roaring in my ears or the honking, cursing motorists stuck behind the diesel-belching beast.

A man waiting for another bus saw me struggling and took pity on me. He lifted my bike up onto the front rack, secured the measly looking tire-holder and sent me on my way. I thanked him profusely, but it felt inadequate. I’m not sure what I would have done had he not been there. The same thing happened when I got off the bus. I tried to wrestle my 50-pound steel Schwinn free without success. Yet another stranger came up and helped me.

See, there’s more to the West Side than you thought, so why not try it? Isn’t it better to go through life enjoying the ride rather than having a so-so experience and regretting what you didn’t do?

It’s not easy to conquer your fears. But envision what could happen if you let go and bust out of your rut every now and then. You might experience life. You might realize your dreams. You might even have fun along the way.

Now, if I could only overcome the terror of singing on open-mic night …

Have you taken a smart risk and done something that scared you? What convinced you to take the plunge? Were you successful? Share your story in the comments below.


Use humor sparingly in your marketing or the joke will be on you

SONY DSCHumor can help your marketing stand out from the crowd and show your company has a personality – if you do it right. Consider these tips before putting your brand on the line:

  1. Tailor messaging to a specific audience. What’s funny to one group of people might not be funny to another. Rather than using a scattershot approach, narrow your market and focus. For example, if you want to reach lawyers, use “insider” humor that would appeal to them. Here’s an example of a humorous, targeted ad.
  2. Show some personality, but not too much. The humor should be a good fit for the products and services you’re promoting.
  3. Keep it relevant. Don’t make your audience struggle to figure out what you’re promoting. Use humor to reinforce your message and brand, but don’t make them laugh so hard they forget who you are.
  4. Hire a pro. You might have a natural funny bone, but it’s still a good idea to rely on a professional when launching a humorous campaign. A pro will know what works best for your demographic and won’t offend or annoy your potential customers. If you can’t afford one, get a second opinion from someone outside your company in your target market.

The point of using humor in marketing is to be remembered. If you bring a smile to your customers’ faces, you’ll get even more mileage from your efforts. Use cute, tasteful, and lasting humor to engage your customers and they’ll keep coming back for more.

How have you used humor in your marketing? Let us in the comments below.

Short on cash? Cutting marketing will cost more than you think

LemonsWhen business is slow, everyone in the organization feels it — from the owner to the employees. Morale can go down the toilet and productivity often follows. The typical knee-jerk reaction is to halt discretionary spending, including marketing. Big mistake.

This shortsighted view will cost you a lot more over the long haul than you’ll save when marketing ends up on the cutting-room floor. Here’s why: Your competitors will continue promoting their companies, improving their market share and profits. Meanwhile, your business will fade into the background. How long do you think it would take to rebuild the momentum you had during good economic times? Are you willing to gamble on that?

Knowing what you should do doesn’t change the fact that your company is still struggling, so it’s time to get creative. Rather than eliminate your marketing budget, think about how you can leverage what you have. Consider these strategies:

  • Cross-sell your products and services to current customers.
  • Ask current customers for referrals. Referrals are an inexpensive way to generate leads.
  • Continue providing exceptional customer service. Above all, don’t sacrifice good service in bad times.
  • Involve all your employees in marketing. For example, encourage the sales team to add prospects to your mailing list.
  • Brainstorm ideas for repurposing previous marketing initiatives, such as ads, e-blasts, postcards and newsletters.

Rather than sacrifice marketing completely when business isn’t at its best, invent new ways to stay top of mind for prospects and customers — without breaking the bank.

How do you promote your company when sales are lagging? Let us know in the comments below.