Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A toast for raising the bar

You've probably attended a business-to-business trade show, right? You wore your comfortable shoes, walked several miles and saw lots of presentations that likely featured one or more of the following:
  • technical displays of software or hardware
  • overproduced, overly long video or (ugh!) PowerPoint presentations (given by hired talent that looks good and speaks well, but doesn't have a clue about the what's being displayed)
  •  booths long on freebies, give-aways, and if you're at a non-US trade show, often lots of food and drink.
And you probably don't remember much about what was being shown, do you? But just when you think you've seen it all, along comes a new way to engage audiences at a trade show.  Take a look at the video below. The real beauty is that it surprises with its novelty, but connects because it's very well-conceived, written, and performed. It's the unique mash-up of digital, analog, humor, informational, and personal elements that make this a winner.

Looks effortless, doesn't it? Behind the scenes, though, we know that hundreds (and hundreds) of hours and thousands of dollars (or Swedish krona) were required to pull this together. But when the trade show is packed up and done, we think that the audience who saw this presentation is far more likely to remember the message and be personally influenced by than by any ol' PowerPoint or booth giveaways.

Marketing communications productions like this raise the bar for all of us. I'll drink to that. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Who's leading the (leasing) charge?

On March 21st, this article from the WSJ tells us that Google and other digital giants and giant-wannabes are leasing large amounts of office space in cities world wide. And they're looking at the lower cost space that's available outside of the traditional California base for so many web firms.

And they're finding - and leasing - a lot of space in. . . Pittsburgh. That's all well and good, but who in Cleveland is heading up a concerted, integrated campaign to put our region's vacant assets in front of Google?

Please tell us that someone in the CLE is coordinating a well-planned, nicely integrated approach for making this happen.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It’s Hip to be Square (and small)

Chalk it up to a delayed validation of the 1987 observation of Huey Lewis and the News. Lately, content providers and graphic designers agree that indeed, it is “Hip to be Square.”

Up until about 1995, when it came to the form factor of collateral material, the big decision that marcom professionals and other content providers needed to make: landscape or portrait? For most marcommers, especially those in B2B, easy-to-use and easy-to-create meant meeting standards and expectations. You always wanted to meet standards; of printing presses and paper inventory as well as envelope and file folder size. For the longest time, 8 ½” x 11”, either as a single sheet or folded from a larger sheet, was the de facto standard. If you felt a little rebellious, then you might print landscape, and damn the cost and extra time needed to produce.Woo hoo.

Along came digital publishing and the rectangular window we used to shape content was reinforced. Computer screens are rectangular, of course, although they’re oriented landscape. As a result, the integration  between collateral that is printed and what's shown on a screen is rotated 90 degrees - and no matter what you do, PDFs of most online documents are unfriendly. And even as “digital” increasingly means “mobile,” the rectangle still rules on smart phones and tablets.

Lately, though, a trend has emerged, at least on print collateral. Hip is now squarer – and smaller. Since our audience has so much content to choose from, we all need to differentiate what we create. One way to invite readers is with “smaller” (in size) print items. The small, square form factor sends a “go ahead, pick me up” message. The trend has been helped along by printers that have advanced in producing non-standard sizes without breaking the budget or the project time frame. Using a sheet-fed digital press, a printer can produce a small, square document two-up on a 13” x 19” sheet, trim, fold, and bind pretty quickly, at a reasonable added cost. The result is a piece that stands out from the rectangular crowd.

Case in point is this piece I picked up at Cleveland State University. By the way, it's refreshing to see the effect that effective, professionally produced content can have on an organization. Lots of good marcom work being produced at CSU over the last few years – a big upgrade. From highway billboards to web to print to canvas wrapped posters to table tents in the cafeteria, all of it is consistent without being cookie-cutter (not an easy feat over the long haul). Pleasing, creative design, cross-media integration of the main “Engage” message – and clearly a belief in investing in quality photography (what a concept! Actually hire a professional who can produced well-composed photos!). All well done.
And this piece can’t match the perfect square shape of an LP sleeve or CD-music case, this piece is more of a square than a digest-sized rectangle. At 5½” x 7”, it’s a distinctive, pleasing size; not quite square, but small.

So if you want to stand out, just consider that square - and small - is the new hip.

(NOTE: click here to listen to the song  – and watch a vinyl record spin, so I guess it
really is a music video; a unique mash-up, to be sure).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The failure of failure

The digital age has not only it possible to try multiple approaches and solutions  – from a competitive standpoint, it's made it a necessity. Since it often costs little or nothing to quickly try multiple ways to create new products or services, others may stumble upon a better solution by virtue of simply trying new and different ways - lots of them.

Clearly, however, some level of failure is unacceptable. At an amazing City Club Friday Forum held late in 2011, the director of the National Institute of Health (NIH) talked of the wonder of modern bioscience - and the frustration of not being able to do more. Dr. Francis Collins, a former Clevelander, is the lead guy at the NIH, the nation's lead agency for directing the highest levels of medical research. Listen to the audio clip and you'll hear someone who is centered on the target of how we must get better at making mistakes - and better at not making them again.

After all, technology allows us to quickly create and edit words, shoot multiple images from multiple camera sources, create multiple pharmaceutical compounds and test them on multiple disease models, and other tactics to find an answer, make a million, or cure a disease. But if we don't use same similar digital technology (advanced and predictive analytics, performance intelligence, etc.) to also improve our success rate, we will continue to move faster and faster, but we won't get much more successful, either.    

The attached media link (at the top of the page) takes you to a one minute audio clip from the event. NOTE: the audio level is low, so turn up your speakers.

If you'd like to see the complete Forum, including video, click here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Nouveau gorille

Begin a conversation in your non-native language and you  face a risk. Too awkward and unskilled? Maybe the natives will enjoy amusement, if only privately, at your expense. And if you seem too proficient, then you'll likely be hit with a barrage of phrases, slang, and technical terms that may find you wishing you had relied on expressions, body language -- and having others try to speak your language ( or maybe that cafe in Paris has an English menu after all).  Although wishing for mediocrity is never a noble notion, AJ Hyland of Hyland Software recently explained that success brings on its own unique challenges- here's why.

Hyland Software is the largest software company in the Cleveland area, and one of the fastest growing companies in the region. Hyland has nearly 1400 employees who help organizations around the world manage the vast amount of content that is created everyday and stored by governments, medical centers, Fortune 1000 companies - every type of customer. Name a continent, an industry or an application and chances are that Hyland has a presence. And chances are that compared with a few years ago, Hyland's market presence is now more like that of a gorilla, and less like the wall flower it was when it first entered the content management room.

 Hyland's CEO touched on this very topic when at recent executive lunch meeting he remarked at how different it is to be the "disrupter" in a market versus the "gorilla." It's easy to assume that it's more fun - and easier - to be one of the biggest players in the market. What most of us don't realize is that the skill sets and disposition required change dramatically. The leader of even the biggest "gorilla" organization needs to create a sense of urgency, educate on how we care about customers, continually create a leadership team, manage channel partners and channel conflicts- all while fending off challengers who would have been indifferent to you in the past.

 So as you move from your role as "niche ankle biter" to "gorilla," remember that even as the financial rewards increase, the challenges increase, too - and often change. When you become the gorilla, remember what got you there because you'll need to think like both a disrupter - and a gorilla - at the same time.

To download an MP3 of the entire luncheon panel, which also includes
Steve Potash from Overdrive, click here.