Category Archives: Branding and print opportunities

5 Tips: What Designers Know About Designing Mailers

Too often considerable resources are spent on the marketing literature, and yet the decision as to how it will be presented to your target market is made by the mailroom.    It is the mailer, and not the literature inside, that is on the front line speaking volumes about the quality of your firm.  Here are five great design tips that will enable your mailer to work as hard as your marketing materials:

1.  Paperboard mailers are exceptionally print friendly (unlike bubble mailers, boxes, and Tyvek envelopes).  So get bold about using that space to your company’s advantage.  Put your logo, your branding statement or icon, and even “Follow us on Twitter!”.   A generic approach is best if you anticipate that the mailer will have multiple uses.

2.  Alternatively, design your mailer specifically to create excitement about what’s inside.  For example:  “Your samples are here!” or “Valuable conference materials for Expo 2011!” .  This ensures your package gets opened first, rather than the recipient discovering it on their own only once they’ve opened it.

3.  Put business on the back, branding on the front.  In other words, put your mailing label on the back side of the mailer where the flap closes so that you have a full canvas on the front side to let your branding and marketing message shine.

4.   Putting your mailer in the mail will put your beautifully printed mailer through its paces, so avoid printing it in a dark color end to end (a.k.a. “full bleed).  If the mailer’s corners get bruised in any way, the white fibers in the paperboard will appear and distract the eye from the overall look of the package.

5.  QR Codes are all the range on billboards these days, so why not think of your mailer as a giant billboard for your company that just happens to be delivered to your client’s mailbox? Add a QR code to your mailer to tie your offline marketing efforts to your online ones.  You could feature a video of your CEO thanking your customer for their business!

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com

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5 Tips: What Designers Know about Great Presentation Folders

Award-winning folder featuring pearlized linen, blind embossment, and 2-color spot

How do you design a standout presentation folder?  Designers have several tricks of the trade – what I call “special effects” – that you can use to create something really special for your company. Even better, an extraordinary folder doesn’t need to cost you any more than an ordinary one.

These tips will help you attain presentation folder greatness.

  1. Treat the interior space of the folder as valuable real estate.  Your documents may cover up this space before your client removes them from the folder… then voilà!  Feature your client list, testimonials or marketing copy.*
  2. Finish the folder… aqueous finish that is.  Aqueous finish seals in the color printed on blank stock.  Many pocket folders are finished with glossy finish by default, but you have options.  The color can be sealed with an aqueous finish – gloss, satin, or matte – just like house paint.  Or you can go for UV Gloss with a super shiny finish.  Conversely, if you’ve chosen a dark folder color, consider a satin finish to reduce signs of fingerprinting.  Just be sure the finish fits the personality of your business.  Travel industry?  Gloss.  Insurance?  Matte.
  3. Add sparkle to your folder design with UV spot.  Folder designers are very familiar with using embossment or foil stamping to make a logo pop.  But consider UV spot for a more modern look.  It can add high gloss shine in a precise place, like right on top of your logo.  And finish the folder underneath in matte aqueous for the strongest contrast.
  4. Create texture using linen stocks or embossment to add interest and perceived value, particularly if you have a conservative color palette.  Or dress up your look with a pearlized linen (which is FSC-certified, too).
  5. If your corporate colors are dark (see Brand Building Great Presentation Folder Design story) and you want a guaranteed crack-free finish, check out Xtreme Coated Cover paper stock.  It’s the only paper I know of with a crack-free guarantee.

* If you use a tint of your PMS color plus the PMS color itself, you can create nice contrast while still running a one-color job…which can save you money.

This article is part of a series on great presentation folder design featured on the Conformer Products’ Blog.

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com

5 Tips: How to Pick Paper Stock for Presentation Folders

Selecting paper stock is one of the toughest – yet most critical – decisions when ordering presentation folders.  Paper choice affects the perceived value of your firm. It determines how the ink gets absorbed and the final effect produced on your folder.

These tips will make sure you select the right stuff before you’re stuck with the wrong thing all year long.

  1. Choose the right paper weight.  I recommend 14 point; a 12 point paper stock weight risks feeling too flimsy, and 18 point paper is overkill.
  2. Invest your budgeted dollars in quality paper stock.  To get the best bang for your buck, choose one of the papers that your printer buys in bulk.  If you’re set on something specific, choose a pocket folder provider that already carries it as a stock paper.  If you’re placing a sizable order, your paper can be easily and reasonably sourced.
  3. Know the difference between C1S and C2S, especially if you’re considering print on both sides of your presentation folder.  C1S is “Coated One Side” and C2S is “Coated Two Sides,” with the former costing less than the latter.  Uncoated paper absorbs ink differently than coated paper, and it has a matte appearance.  If you want your folder to have a consistent finish throughout,  go with C2S paper.
  4. Pick an FSC- or SFI-certified paper.  FSC is Forest Stewardship Council, and SFI is Sustainable Forestry Initiative.  Both organizations ensure that your paper stock comes from sustainably harvested forests.
  5. Honor the investment you’ve made in your company.  Your print ads, and your social media campaign.  Don’t stick your logo on a cheap folder, or you will cheapen the very thing your customer puts his hands on…with your name on it.

This article is part of a series on great presentation folder design featured on the Conformer Products’ Blog.

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com

5 Tips: Could Your Presentation Folder Work Harder to Build Your Brand? (You Betcha.)

Brand building means consistently delivering your brand message to your target market whenever your consumer encounters your brand.  Your presentation folder is a key touchpoint between your brand and your consumer:  displaying your proposal, delivering your product samples, or introducing your services for the first time.

These tips will convert your workhorse marketing tool – your presentation folder – into a great brand statement.

  1. Use your corporate colors boldly. If you don’t have a corporate color palette, enlist a graphic designer to select one or two colors from the Pantone Matching System (PMS). The Pantone guide is the definitive international reference for selecting, matching and controlling ink colors. Using PMS colors will enable you to specify “your colors” by number for every print job.
  2. Flood coat your paper stock with one PMS color and then use your second PMS color as an accent.  Perhaps flood coat the interior (Side 2) of your folder so the pockets are the first PMS color, and the back panels are in the second PMS color.
  3. Don’t stop at your company logo.  A folder gives you lots of opportunity to integrate the company tag line or a corporate visual image that represents your brand.
  4. Bridge your offline and online marketing efforts.  If you are using in YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the like, feature these icons on the folder holding your marketing literature.
  5. A busy design can kill a folder’s versatility, so tread lightly.  Think of the folder as gift wrap.  You want it to say “open me,” but don’t let the packaging overwhelm the gift inside.  You want the literature inside to do most of the talking.

This article is first in a series on great presentation folder design featured on the Conformer Products’ Blog.

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com

Hall of Fame #2: Oscar Envelope Praised by Tom Hanks

Despite my criticism of the official 83rd annual Academy Awards ill-fitted envelope (Hall of Shame #12), I would be remiss if I didn’t call attention to Tom Hanks’s envelope comment at the top of the Oscars show.

“These envelopes are works of art themselves,” said Hanks before awarding Wally Pfister with the Best Cinematography award.

No wonder he’s known as Hollywood’s Nicest Guy.

The envelope was characteristically Oscar gold, embossed with a beaux arts pattern and a faux wax seal closure.  It was fancy, just like all those dresses on the red carpet.  What the Oscar producers don’t know about proper envelope construction, they do know about branding.   They recognize that the envelope is one of the biggest elements of anticipation and dare I say, drama of the Academy Awards:  “And the winner is…. (Envelope)!”

So I’d like to thank Tom Hanks and the Academy for letting the world know the importance of a good envelope.  And we’d be happy to do a consult next year so that their envelope works as good as it looks.

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com

‘Fringe’ Case Study: Social Media Really Works!

A Good Sign

I’ll be honest with you.  Product placement has never been in our marketing plans.  I mean, product placement is for soft drinks, laptops, and running shoes.  Right?

But our ongoing social media outreach, coupled with product placement, turned out to be an incredibly effective marketing combination.  Since so many of us are still trying to figure out how to use social media tools effectively to build business, I thought you might be interested in hearing our own success story this week.

As you may know, the Conformer mailer was featured at length in the opening sequence of “Fringe” last Friday on the Fox television network. Had the media exposure stopped there, the “Fringe” product placement probably wouldn’t have influenced a single sale.  That’s where social media made all the difference.  Here’s what we did next:

  • We used Hulu to create a tightly edited version of Conformer’s appearance, creating an efficient way to showcase our Hollywood moment.
  • Then I updated the Conformer blog on our lucky break and added an easy click to our video clip.
  • Our blog automatically streams to our LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, so all of our connections heard about the story first.  We have a clever link at the bottom of every Conformer employee’s email signature that features our blog stories, so our video clip showed up there, too.
  • Our PR firm wrote a press release, which alerted trade magazines and our favorite bloggers.  Our story got picked up online in places we’re still discovering, allowing us to reach people who have never heard of Conformer before.
  • A personalized email was sent to friends, colleagues, clients, and interested parties and we encouraged them to share with friends.
  • On our home page, we showcased the video spot on a peel-back corner of our website, which we know through Google Analytics is one of our most-clicked web pages.
  • We shared many of these tools with our strategic partners who collaborate with us to bring Conformer to the marketplace. This enables our “Fringe” fame to go viral among their customer base.   And some even featured our video clip at the weekly sales meeting to fire up the reps.
  • We used a URL shortener called bit.ly to create a tidy way to communicate the link and also allows us to track clicks.   https://conformerinc.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/fox-networks-fringe-gives-conformer-15-seconds-of-fame/ became http://bit.ly/dHthFD.  This shortened URL prints nicely on a sticker, now placed on all Conformer samples.
  • And of course, we’re writing stories like this one and sending them in our monthly enewsletter in case you may have missed all of the hullabaloo from last week.

So how many “Fringe” viewers from that first Friday night called us after seeing our product placement?  Zero.  How many people contacted us after our social media campaign?  A LOT…and they’re sales inquiries.  Our blog and website traffic is way up and continues to stay up (thanks to viral marketing), which conveniently improves our Google search rankings.

Many thanks to Bill Tignanelli at Admore, the “Fringe” television fan who alerted us, and to all of you for fueling our viral campaign.  (Now please, send this to a friend!)

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com

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Fresh Eyes

I try not to burden my soul too much with New Year’s resolutions. Rather, I see the new year as a way to see things with fresh eyes. It doesn’t hurt that New Year’s forces me to push back from my desk for a few days, clear my head and think fresh thoughts.

Perhaps that’s why so many of us go into organization mode in January. We view our surroundings with fresh eyes and see that things could be different, better.

January’s Fresh Eyes are a gift to inventors like us at Conformer. We are innovative 365 days of the year, but some days are easier than others.

Fresh Eyes can be a force for positive change, rather than tired New Year’s resolutions. When was the last time you took a fresh look at your sales kit, for example? Does your presentation folder limp along, or is it actually making a positive contribution to the overall impression on your customers? When you send out a package, use your fresh eyes to determine whether you are making the best eco-friendly packaging choice that, again, makes a positive contribution not only to the Earth, but also to your brand and to your customer.

And speaking of brand, I often turn to Branding Strategy Insider, brought to you by my Hallmark mentor Brad Van Auken and his smart new business partner, Derrick Daye, whenever I need some fresh-eyed inspiration.

So no resolutions for me this year… I will inspire myself to go to the gym, I swear!

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com