What’s a trade show for anyway?

Business conference, trade show, industry event, whatever you call it, taking the time from your busy workday to feed your brain, inspire your creativity or meet your colleagues often seems self-indulgent. But I ask you – is it really?

Yes, I have ulterior motives for this post. Visual Media Alliance’s annual conference is next Thursday, April 26 in San Francisco! Called “Unveiled”, it will focus on the magic of design and marketing technology. People have been telling us all year how they look forward to this event. When they saw the programming they were inspired by the breath and relevancy of the subject matter and anxious to get updated on all the quickly evolving technologies available for marketers, designers, and communicators of all sorts.

It’s about this time every year that we ask the question: Will we have enough space? Did we select the right speakers? Exhibitor? Location? Date?

Have you looked at the line up? Does it resonate for you? Have you figured out how to convince your boss (even if it’s you) that the one-day investment will be paid back quickly with inspired creativity, new perspectives, productivity and knowledge? So what if you have a good time along the way. That’s one of the tricks of a great education – making it fun!

Please share your thoughts and join us next week. www.visualmedia012.com


Today is my Birthday and I’m Still Wondering!

My SmartPhone and I recharge each night, together in my bedroom. She sits strategically placed on my night table, soothing me to sleep with a few rounds of Words with Friends, or a good book, or even a few Facebook updates. She’s available to wake me on time, inform me on the latest breaking news tragedies, help me know how to dress for the upcoming weather, even take a quick phone call along with what seems like infinite other mission critical functions I can’t handle without her.

This morning she woke me before the alarm, with buzz, buzz-buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz. It must have started around 3 or 4 in the morning, undoubtedly when many of my east coast friends and family were rising and being reminded that it’s my day today via Facebook.

I love being remembered, even if they had to be reminded. I love that they took time to send me good wishes. I’m not quite so good at it myself. Later today I’ll count how many birthday wishes I received and be able to quantitatively measure my friendship worth.

But this blog is about marketing. As I lay in bed this morning, finally realizing what all the buzz was about, I began to wonder where this would lead. I wondered if my favorite products will be buzzing me at any hour of the day or night as the robo-calls do today. Will they send me birthday presents instead of birthday wishes or just their own wishes for me to shop at their store on my special day? Will I feel loved and remembered as I do when my friends check in? I assume I can opt-out of certain communications but will it work as well as the DoNot-Call list?

I love my personal, hand-held, walking, talking, informing, personal assistant. And I am a marketer. Just wondering!

Happy Birthday in advance and belated to all of you whom I’ve missed or will miss in the coming year!

What Matters in Marketing: an interview with Rick Mathieson, author of THE ON-DEMAND BRAND

We recently interviewed Rick Mathieson, author of THE  ON-DEMAND BRAND and speaker at the upcoming VisualMedia012 conference. His insights are provocative.  I’m looking forward to his session discussing Top Trends to Capitalize on Now.

Rick Mathieson

Rick Mathieson

VMA  What are some digital marketing trends discussed in the book?
RM The list you mention are among many trends explored in the book – as well as trends within trends, some that have been evolving over the last few years, and some that are just now gaining traction. From those trends, the book explores strategies for using them most effectively. In fact, a major element of the book is the contention that trends in and of themselves don’t matter. In advertising agencies and marketing operations throughout the land, if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: “We need to do X (insert your own trend or marketing buzzword here).” Or, “We need a social media/mobile marketing/branded entertainment strategy.” Not because it has any bearing on the business at hand, but rather, because X is the cool thing to do. Never mind that these trends are about specific channels of communication. It’s like saying, “We need a brochure strategy.” Or “We need a TV commercial strategy.” And sometimes we as marketers get too focused on what’s hot and hip, instead of what can make a major impact on our clients’ businesses. The book is focused on 10 key rules or principles for taking a strategic approach to sparking innovation in the ways we marketing and sell our products to consumers. These principles are applicable for social media, mobile marketing and any number of digital marketing channels and platforms we know and use today – as well as those five years from now that haven’t even been dreamed up yet. And all of these principles are predicated on the first: Insight Comes Before Inspiration. True innovation rarely comes from some really cool idea or a me-too approach to digital. Only by truly understanding our customers – who they are, how they use digital technology and what kind of experiences they want and demand from the brands they know and trust – can we then create blockbuster brand experiences that move our businesses forward.

VMA Do you think that a “digital” marketing campaign must embrace more than one channel?

RM It depends, but in general, I’d say that consumers don’t just engage with one form of experience, channel or platform. The best digital work is integrated with everything else a brand is doing, in what we call “traditional” and “digital” marketing. In fact, I like to say that there is no “old media” or “new media” anymore. There’s just “media.” And it’s our jobs as marketers to figure out the right mix of elements that are best going to reach our target consumers where they live.

VMA  Please explain advergames and cite an example.

RM Advergames can mean a few different things – popular games that have been re-skinned to promote a brand, and games built from the ground up to promote the brand and drive home its value proposition. I prefer the latter – and am amazed just how powerful they can be in clutter busting. According to ABI Research, consumers are likely to spend an average of 12 minutes with a branded game. We have a hard time getting consumers to sit still for a 30-second TV spot. But they will engage with games to a startling degree. In my opinion, games can’t just exist for the fun of it. They need to communicate a brand’s value proposition in a very clear way. Axe deodorant and body wash created a fun game called “Let’s Get Dirty,” whereby you control a couple as they embrace and they start to roll. They roll across the lawn. They roll across the flowerbeds. They roll across ice cream cones. They even roll across other people. The whole idea of the game is to get the couple as dirty as possible – so they end up showering together with Axe shower gel. I know, not right for every sentiment, but perfect for this irreverent brand’s target demographic. One of my favorite examples comes from my own work. One of our clients, a network security company called SonicWALL came to us asking for ideas for fun ways to promote the brand. We came up with a game that used a TSA-style conveyer belt to represent the enterprise network. You had to scan things going through the network – letting the right stuff pass, and zapping the wrong stuff. At each new level, the convey belt goes faster and faster, and then there are multiple conveyor belts to significate the extend enterprise. Eventually, everything goes so fast that you fail. And that’s the idea – we say that in the real world, network security is just fun and games. And the only way to do it right is through this new set of solutions from SonicWALL. We made it where you could challenge others to see who does better, and share wins on Facebook and elsewhere. In its first six months, the game was played tens of thousands of times and resulted in 1,200 highly- qualified, very valuable leads. It’s also an example that shows that these kinds of consumer activities can make a major difference for B2B brands. We sometimes forget that business people are indeed people. And the same strategies and tactics that work for B2C can be especially powerful in B2B.

VMA Do these newer digital platforms like mobile marketing fit with older marketing media like TV, radio, print and direct mail?

RM Absolutely. For far too long we’ve equated mobile with “check ins” or mobile advertising. But the most powerful way to capitalize on mobile is to recognize that with mobile, everything becomes interactive. Our TV commercials become interactive. Our radio spots become interactive. Our print ads become interactive. Our direct mail becomes interactive. Our outdoor signage becomes interactive. Our storefronts become interactive. Our point-of-sale becomes interactive. Our product packaging becomes interactive. Even our products themselves become an interactive channel for engaging our customers in amazing new ways. And some of today’s most innovative marketers are capitalizing on this trend. They’re thinking bigger, bolder and far more bodaciously about their traditional campaigns enabled and empowered by mobile. Along the way they are super-charging the effectiveness and measurability of their traditional marketing channels. Along the way, they’re creating a level of consumer engagement that was previously simply unimaginable.

Augmented Reality And The Print Industry

by Lester Madden, Augmented Planet

Once in a while I get the odd augmented reality goody. Never a shiny new device from Apple or Google begging me to test their latest offering, but still the odd package works its way through the post.

Sappi Standard

Sappi Standard

This week the mail man brought me the Sappi Guide to Design and Print known as The Standard. The guide is a very well designed book aimed at designers and how they can include special effects in their printed works. The company behind the guide, Sappi bill themselves as a fine print company who have embraced both technology and augmented reality world.

Before I get to the augmented reality stuff, I have to say the book from Sappi is amazing. Each page in the guide focuses on a different type of special effect you can achieve with various printing techniques. This includes holograms and textured paper that enable you to feel a picture. One example of textured paper is an image of a footprint in the sand. Touching the picture you can feel the grains of sand beneath your fingers which adds a new dimension to what you are seeing. You can download a copy of the guide from the Sappi website here, but nothing is a substitute for holding it in your hands.

Anyway enough of that, what makes the book interesting from our perspective is augmented reality. Here Sappi have teamed up with Metaio to create a junaio browser experience for mobile user and a desktop experience. Both campaigns focus on a super hero called Super Dude who appears in 3D when you present the page to either your webcam or your mobile devices camera. Once Super Dude has appeared your goal is to keep him clear of trains, dinosaurs and whatever else superheroes need to avoid.

Combining augmented reality and print gives readers a totally unique experience as we have seen before, but it’s good to see it being embraced by the print industry, especially when a campaign is aimed at both mobile and desktop users. For some reason a lot of designers think it’s one or the other.

–Daniel Dejan will be presenting Standard #5 at the VisualMedia 012 conference April 26, in San Francisco.

Pet Your Printing

There is a new publication for the Northern California the visual media and graphics communications community. It’s been a long time coming. Indeed, I have often struggled when looking for such a vehicle in which to dialogue with my local peers and colleagues. Other than surfing the net which I readily admit to enjoy, I’ve missed the hold-it-in-your-hand, all-in-one-place, page-flipping, ink-smelling, quick-finding resource of past and future happenings in my local business world.

The first issue of Process Magazine, a collaborative effort of Jim Nissen, Switch Studios and Visual Media Alliancewill hit

Process Magazine


mailboxes throughout Northern California, this week. That is, real mail boxes, not email boxes. If you are fortunate enough to be among those special people on the mailing list you are in for a treat. The eye candy on the cover was created by the Bay Area’s own Michael Osborne, a well known designer and branding genius, President and Creative Director of the San Francisco based MOD/Michael Osborne Design, Inc. His design is a nod to his Hearts in San Francisco sculpture and his 2002 USPS Love stamp. Inside, we get to know Michael a little better as he answers questions about his work, his life, his life’s work.

Michael Osborne Heart Stamp

Michael Osborne Heart Stamp

But the cover is not eye-candy alone. As the title of this blog suggests, it’s irresistibly touchable. Printed by DOME Printing on 98# Topkote Gloss, the craftsmen at DOME applied Aqueous coating with Soft Touch technology to the entire sheet after the 4-c process and metallic silver printing, then high gloss spot UV was applied to the graphics which together make the magazine totally irresistible to curious fingers. Fingers, once finished caressing the luscious cover, are bound to flip open to the front page, in search of more wonders. And they won’t be disappointed. The inside front cover is a playful die cut foldout strategically located to “UNVEIL” the story of the upcoming VisualMedia012 conference with the mascot character in his Houdini-like manifestation. The event will appropriately explore the magic of technology as used in marketing today. This process will be discussed in Daniel Dejan’s seminar Special Effects in Printing & Finishing: Sappi’s Standard #5.

What a pleasure to absorb this creative, professional and REGIONAL publication. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the local design scene; review the many events I’ve missed and even a few I’ve attended; find out what else is coming up and where I need to be next; and finally, feel like I’m part something bigger than myself but not so big that I become irrelevant.