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Showcase Your Branding in Photography: Use a Gradient Map for a Duotone Effect

We get a lot of requests for colorization work on customers’ images, so we like to keep tabs on photography techniques both old and new. Way back in 2015 we blogged about converting images to black and white, and how to use a gradient map to achieve a rich effect. For the purposes of that conversation we were using it to maximize just two colors, but you can use more than two.

We like the idea of using branding to customize a great—or even not-so-great—piece of photography. If your business has only two branding colors, that’s fine, you can add white and/or black to get some depth in your image. Having said that, there are a lot of really cool duotones out there. So if your two corporate colors are of high contrast, rock and roll! It’ll be that much easier to get a stunning image with minimal effort.

Just as a technical consideration, the artwork you’ll end up should be suitable for either web or print. However, it’s good practice to check with the folks who will be producing your piece before going through the trouble of colorizing an image. They may have some advice on how to set up your color space. And of course, it’s a good idea to work on a copy of your photo in case it doesn’t come out the way you want and you wish to start over.

The Humble Beginnings…

Logo with three colors, four if you count white.
As is, this image lacks that “Wow!” factor.

The logo for this home-brew supplier doesn’t complement this unremarkable photo of Yellowstone Park at all. The challenge is how to integrate them into a unique piece of art. With a little effort and some experimentation, we should end up with handsome corporate note cards, or a design for a Christmas card they can send to their friends, customers, and business associates.

You’ll want to find out what colors you’re dealing with, so consult your corporate branding guidelines and look for the Pantone Matching Systems (PMS) numbers or CMYK formulas. In this case, we have a brick red, a charcoal grey, and a gold. They don’t really have PMS designations, but that’s okay. We could make them spot colors and name them GJ Red, GJ Grey, etc. if we needed to, depending on how it’ll be produced.

The Magic

The artist created a gradient map layer (on the right, highlighted in blue in the layers panel), and plugged in the three colors plus white. She moved the sliders around in the gradient editor (box on the left with all the colors in it), to experiment with the positioning and relationships between the individual hues. You can slide those little “stops” right past each other and see the colors in the image shifting in real time. The magic is in how the shades blend into each other. In one case she tried just the grey and the gold with white, and while the result is pretty, it didn’t fit the bill. Incidentally, you can save each iteration as a “new document” in the history pane, then move on to the next.

This looks a little too apocalyptic for our purposes.
That much “gold” snow is just off-putting, though the sky is pretty.
This has a nice drama to it.
Attractive, but feels more Southwestern than Northwestern.

The Prestige

It bears noting that the result is actually a tri-tone, but is usually referred to as duotone. Whether you have your in-house graphic team work on it, or send us your photo and logo, the possibilities are exciting—such a compact and elegant form of business communication.

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Meaningful Marketing in 2019

Let’s Make Personal Business Connections Again

Making that sincere connection is always important. We nurture it in our private lives enough to include it in our business activities, though it’s not always clear how it should manifest in the latter. Getting it right is the challenge, particularly as technology makes us feel more in touch. We’ve gotten good at mastering the ever-evolving opportunities in the social media-sphere. But how is that really coming along?

Many words have been tapped out examining whether or not technology is doing the opposite of its intent. Is the digital connection replacing crucial human contact? We don’t know the answer, but we like ruminating on it because it gives us a chance to toss around some ideas.

Does Your Average Customer Interaction Have That One-on-One Feel?

If you run a business you understand the value of collaboration. Your enterprise has a lot of moving parts, and you rely on many other personalities—consultants, experts, maybe even a guru—to keep things humming along, and so you can focus on what you’re good at. Thanks to mass communication, business now utilizes customer feedback more widely than before things like beta testing and online user reviews. You don’t simply pour some tonic in a bottle, slap a label on it, then tell your customers why they need it. To give your business a fighting chance, you find out what flavor of tonic they’re looking for, or even what shape bottle they’d prefer. In short, you listen to your customers.

Obviously, every business is a little different, so these tips come in broad terms. But reaching out with personalized communications and assuring your customers you value their feedback fosters trust. This article that caught our eye delves into tapping the customer’s emotions, which heads in the right direction, but it can get a little manipulative if not handled with care. We’re suggesting building that relationship of trust with business practices that say, “Hey, we heard you, and this is what we’re doing to better serve you.” We’re  thinking in a more targeted way than those sweeping advertisements—which, face it, are all about the business. We’re talking about capturing attention based on a core shared principle, or a personal promise or guarantee—which becomes about the customer and her needs.

Some Tools To Consider

That Forbes article mentions technology, which of course is always an important aspect of any successful enterprise, but it’s worth noting that ‘technology’ comes in many forms. Papyrus, cave walls, iron oxide, and charcoal are all technologies of a sort. Having said that, as we roll into 2019, here are a few of the many facets of our business’ personas we might be able to maximize or just freshen up:

  • “About Us” Page: When was the last time you updated it? Has your company changed management structure? Is it too long? Does it really speak to your current and potential customers? This can be a great repository for little seeds of information about your organization when the content there is true to form and well-crafted.
  • Facebook Cover Image: “Above the fold” is valuable real estate. Many designers will argue that a great image is the number one best way to present your products or services, that text is unnecessary. Others favor a text/image combination to deliver a compelling message. Ultimately, you’ll decide if a tagline or contact info, or other text makes sense for your cover image. You can also load it with a slideshow or video. This blog post is from 2017, but the 7 tips are well-thought out and still hold true today in our humble opinion.
  • Handwritten Correspondence: If you’ve been relying on email and other digital media for a while, maybe it’s time to upgrade to the ultimate personal communication—Thank You notes and seasonal printed greetings—the original technology. Use these to remind your customers of your contact information, or just to acknowledge their contribution to your business.

It’s all about technologies putting us in touch with our friends in the business community, and keeping us connected. Of course, none of this replaces a job well done, but it’s nice to know these personal touches are running in the background while we’re busy doing what we’re good at.

 

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The Power of Paper Holiday Cards and Print Marketing

Your Business will Make an Impression with Real Paper Holiday Cards

I’m a designer by trade, but I’ve recently spent some time in the book publishing industry as well. When I found myself among these noble, literary traditionalists in 2011, the ‘digital revolution’ was well under way, and publishing houses were abuzz with speculation and even a bit of hand-wringing about the future of the printed tome. At the time, I’d been working in printing for close to ten years, and even I wondered if print was indeed rasping. Publishers were busy adapting their products and workflows to accommodate the e-reader, the hand-held device, and eventually, the tablet. The transition wasn’t too painful, but it was a necessary toil, and by 2014, as we collectively waited for the other shoe as they say, e-book sales began to level off and print editions ticked back up again. This after some years of decline following the 2007 launch of the Kindle garnered sighs of relief all around, and mine was not just for the paperbacks. I was thrilled to have been vindicated in my belief that print marketing—the ever artful greeting card included—and its impact could not be replaced by ones and zeroes.

Some Praise for the Digital Revolution

Reducing paper waste in any office environment is a good thing, I’m sure we can all agree. It’s simple enough for a company to establish guidelines for what needs a paper trail and what doesn’t. Supply and storage costs can be spared when we shift our notions about what actually requires a hard copy. While we’ve been doing this—while we’ve been altering our perspective on what should be printed, it seems we’ve rediscovered the artistry of printing technology, thus demanding the best from both media.

The Deeper Impression of Print

Research has shown that printed marketing (direct mail, for instance) is easier on the brain than digital advertising—requires less cognitive effort. This extremely brief article points to a deeper emotional impression with something that you actually hold in your hand. Therein lies the key. I’ve sent a sum total of three e-greetings in my entire life. Back in ’06, I thought they were adorable. But they don’t feel the same, to send as well as to receive. Something you can touch is more personal. It’s yours, you can put it in your pocket and count it among your possessions. Web ads have their usefulness, but in the end are mere flickers of light.

The Impression of Paper Holiday Cards

Greeting ‘scrolls’ and handmade paper cards were being exchanged as early as the 14th century at least, as this fantastic four minute video will attest.

Fast-forward about 600 years and it seemed it was all over for Santa and Cupid, and for the artists who would render them. I started receiving e-cards in the early 2000s from family members who lived out of state. Those communications were quickly forgotten, but every year during the holidays, I get a fresh giggle when I remember a Christmas card my uncle once sent me that featured “Tater tots with their eyes all aglow.” I’m not kidding, and I know it’s hokey as heck, but the little photo of crispy spud treats with googly eyes and endearing grins hand-drawn onto them made an impression that has lasted almost 30 years.

The Planet Also Likes Your Card

It didn’t take long for the results of the digital revolution’s impact, for good or ill, on the environment to come back as data points. Those who pay attention to such things found that digital communication comes with its own set of complications, environmentally speaking, in the form of electricity consumption and CO2 emissions. Early cries of ‘Go digital, go green’ were well-intentioned but just plain false, and now constitute ‘green-washing.’ It turns out, a more targeted  demand for paper products, (packaging, fine printing, etc.) in conjunction with measured application of digital media for communication creates incentives for effective forest management. Again, it’s all about utilizing both technologies to their utmost potential. Bottom line: printed marketing makes a strong emotional connection, so put it to work for your valued business communications. And enjoy browsing our extensive collection of holiday cards for business!

 

 

 

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Small Business Marketing – The Essential UTM Creator

If your responsibilities as a marketer include managing your company’s email or newsletter, then you know how important it is to also track the results from those campaigns using UTMs* – and a handy UTM creator will make your life easier. You may have links to several articles in your newsletter, or you may be using a call-to-action (CTA) to connect readers to your Facebook page or Instagram feed. Either way, you’ll want to track each CTA with unique UTM parameters, so that you know which items are of most interest in engaging your audience. (For you data-driven marketers out there, a UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) is simply a tag appended to the end of a link, which allows you to track specific campaigns and traffic sources in your Google Analytics account.) Many of you may already be creating UTMs, but struggle with building and keeping track of them in an organized way – at Cardphile, we sure did until now. We’ve just recently discovered this genius little UTM Creator and wanted to share it with you! You can even hook it up to your bit.ly account and it automatically generates and saves your new shortlinks to a spreadsheet.

Step 1: Visit effinamazing.com, click on “Get it” and follow the steps in the great instructional videos for a free trial (no affiliate marketing for us – we just like the tool). If you like it, it’s only $5/month or $50 for a whole year of unlimited use. That’s a bargain in our book.UTM creator tool for marketers

Step 2: Watch the videos, sign up and connect a gmail account (see our tips below), then grab the Effin Amazing UTM Builder extension from the Chrome Web Store and add to your Chrome toolbar. utm creator setup videos and support

Step 3: Connect it to your bit.ly account, set your presets and you’re off to the races!the essential UTM creator tool for marketers

A couple tips that have worked for us:

  1. Create a shared gmail account if you want multiple team members to have access to the same tool and saved google docs sheet.
  2. Consider re-using your shiny new UTMs for recurring items – like your logo header in a monthly newsletter for example.

*If you’re new to using UTMs – you’ll find a very thorough explanation about what they are, and how to use them to accurately track your referral traffic, by downloading this free ebook, The Ultimate Guide to UTMs, written by the folks at effinamazing.com (yeah, funny name but super helpful people).

We hope you’ll enjoy this great little time-saving tool. Let us know what you think!

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There’s Nothing Worse Than Bad Business Cards.

Need Professional Business Cards, Click Here
Professional looking business cards are a marketing must.

There are many things you can learn about a company by their business cards; identity, clarity and corporate image to name a few.

Nothing says you mean business more than an awesome business card. Cards that really work are the ones which need no introduction. The recipient knows what the company does before they are introduced and a lasting impression has been successfully set.

As a member of the design profession, I have a personal interest in how firms and individuals handle this. I’m not obsessed, but close. I have two groups of cards that I have been collecting—the great, well designed & printed business cards and the… not so great. Within a small circle, my collection has become known as my reference library, my house of cards! When the opportunity arises, I also like to track the progress a company is making over time. Although business cards are just a small piece of paper, they also seem to function as a corporate weather vane.

High quality business cards represent your firm when you’re no longer in the room – don’t let them say the wrong things about you!

Generally speaking, when times are tough, a lot of companies seem to cut back in the wrong areas. Nothing screams that your business is in trouble like cutting back on the quality of your business cards. That’s the equivalent of telling your staff that every day is casual Friday.

Recently, I had a meeting with representatives of a large corporation. The interesting thing about the meeting was that not only had they scaled back on their business card printing quality but on the paper quality as well since the last time we met. This struck me as odd, because “quality” was part of  their core mission statement. One could assume that this was probably a good example of someone within the organization looking for places to cut costs and thinking that targeting the business cards was a good option. Shortly after the meeting, the company publicly announced that they were in the middle of a reorganization and cut-backs. Because of their size, the cost “savings” realized by choosing flimsier business card stock and cheaper printing probably amounted to a somewhat substantial savings on one level. However, on another level, it telegraphed trouble and probably wasn’t the impression their front line sales people wanted to leave with their clients.

For fun, I’ve compiled a list of the Bottom 10, painfully obvious, business card infractions.

 Each one on the list has been well represented in my pile of memorable business cards – but for the wrong reasons.

1. Dog eared.
2. Thin paper.
3. Dirty.
4. Raised thermal printing—usually in black ink.
5. Your name written on someone else’s card.
6. More fonts used than on a ransom note.
7. Cliché clip art.
8. More text and contact information than a phone book—if you’re old enough to remember them.
9. Not using the second side for clear branding.
10. Random graphics that don’t support your brand or type of business.

So don’t do any of that. Send your business card files to Cardphile and we’ll make sure you end up with high quality, printed business cards that look great at a price that won’t hurt. (Online business card ordering available here in April.)

What are your business card pet peeves? Let us know what you like – we listen!

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4 Client Communication Tools That Work

The Professional Services Management Journal, PSMJ, can be a great resource for professional firms and their marketers. In particular, of course, we appreciated their mention of the value of the “two-minute” touch (including a hand written note to your clients).

In a nutshell:

  1. Schedule weekly calls for active projects.
  2. Assign one primary contact to pursue feedback.
  3. Ensure your project manager is keeping a to do list and checking things off.
  4. Make frequent “touches” – and a hand written note card is the perfect vehicle.

Goldilocks would approve—Cardphile has the perfect solution for your note card dilemma. Our custom, corporate logo note cards sport your own full color logo on the front, and are just the right size for a short note of thanks, appreciation or congratulation. We call them client communication tools, but you might call them business thank you cards.

Client Communication Materials