Helpful articles about Design, Marketing and Print


In this digital age we’re all obsessed with driving traffic. Our twitter feed, part of our ‘must have’ social media presence, drives traffic to our website; we seek out likes on facebook.

We’re all part of the urgent rush of brand polishing and placement on what we sometimes forget is the ‘worldwide’ web.

How does our brand awareness work when, if like me only 56% of my twitter audience is based in an area it makes sense for me to trade in?

I get that we live in an era of online ordering and delivery has become free shipping but for a business that doesn’t offer ecommerce is it worth cultivating that level of awareness?

I understand the AIDA marketing model but how does it actually help me in real terms when people are aware of my business in America?

True their re-tweet might make its way back across the pond and raise my profile amongst some of their UK followers but it’s all a bit random and haphazard isn’t it?

The mantra Location, Location, Location was first coined in the Chicago Tribune in 1926, but it carried great importance long before that amongst business owners.

Way back in the day, before the internet existed indeed before the telephone had made great inroads into popular use, the usual or only method of advertising other than word of mouth (referral) was print.

Be it on a sandwich board, billboard or a handbill the one thing that was of paramount importance was the location of the business, not just the street address but the location.

trafficIt was usual to see a business give its address as Fred Bloggs, cabinet maker, 19 Main Road, ‘next to the Town Hall’.

This was the only method of ‘driving traffic’ and if there was another cabinet maker in town you didn’t want any confusion.

Business was a local affair; your catchment area was defined by how far your message travelled and how many customers lived near enough to visit your premises. Your reputation and your well advertised location were key to your success.

Strangely or maybe not so, Google have over recent years been playing with their algorithms and the way their search results are displayed.

Way back in the day when the internet was shiny and Google only had ambitions to own our thoughts, if you searched for tumble dryers without location the majority of your results were American based so, we got into the habit of adding uk, you got way less results but at least there was a chance you could buy one without importing it.

One consistent is, then as now you were very unlikely to look beyond the first page of results that your search engine turned up.

The thing is now, with the mobile view of a search you only get three results and they are underneath the paid advertising, they are however marked on the map and there is the ever useful direction button, there is also the Google review score.

Although desk top searches are still growing month on month mobile is outstripping them with Google confirming in October 2015 that over 50% of searches worldwide were carried out on a mobile device.

Interestingly, like a lot of twitter users I have found myself being most active during the local ‘hour’ sessions, such as ‘#LancashireHour’ when I know that people viewing the hash tag are likely to be geographically in the area it makes sense for me to do business in.

95% of smart phone users say they use local search (1) with 88% of them saying they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (2) add to that word of mouth referrals travelling very quickly on twitter and it’s almost like things have gone full circle and our location and reputation go a long way to determining the success of a ‘local’ business.


I can hear some of you remonstrating that I have trivialised, or maybe localised a very important issue, and it’s true there are many things to consider one of which is supply chain.

I may not trade in Europe, but do my customers? If the answer to this is yes, then obviously you have to understand the issues facing your client should the ‘leave’ vote win, they may have a contingency plan, or more likely they have no real handle on what will happen going forward, how can anyone? It’s never happened before.

There are also many other future ramifications awaiting the result of June’s referendum, but that’s the thing with the future it’s open to prediction but by the very nature of it unknowable.

Meanwhile whilst you’re waiting for all that future dust to settle here is something worthwhile for you to be getting on with, ensure you turn up in local searches by visiting Google my business here!. Make sure everything is filled in and correct. I know that sounds a little patronising however we are by nature busy people but by spending a little time here you will get far better results, add opening hours, logos and photographs.

Categorize your business correctly but don’t fall into the trap of attempting to cover too many categories as Google specifically warns against this, the more complete your listing the better Google will like you.

Remember – Fred Bloggs, cabinet maker, 19 Main Road, ‘next to the Town Hall’.

The next thing to do is to actively ask your customers to leave Google reviews of their experience when trading with you, if you’re doing your stuff right you should get some of the coveted five star ones.

No matter what happens in June no Son of France will ever local search you on his smart phone with a view to nipping round and making a purchase, however you can be sure that many hundreds of ‘local’ folk are doing that right now.

And I never mentioned Agincourt once.

A moment on the lips…

…a lifetime on the hips!

An excellent marketing piece should have that power and energy; the moment in the hand should convert to time in the mind.

I’m not suggesting that a mail shot can create the same desire in your target market as chocolate or cream cakes nor will it make them gain weight, but good marketing should trigger the senses because that helps us make memories.

And memorable marketing is the gift that keeps on giving.

A standard printed piece of marketing collateral will rely heavily on colour to create an impression which is a great start, because the eye is no slouch and can see somewhere in the region of seven million colours. So the range hue and balance of the colours you choose will all be seen and hopefully create a pleasant experience.

Will this along with your carefully selected font and call to action make the piece truly memorable? Is it likely that a few days later the person who received the piece will bring it up in conversation? thereby giving your marketing a second bounce; will they keep it to show others? In short will it start conversations such as –

“Look what I got in the mail the other day”

Unless your call to action or offer is incredible then it is unlikely to have generated enough emotion for the recipient to do little more than glance at it, if they have no interest in your product or the service you offer that glance will probably last for only a second then your lovingly crafted message is in the bin.

It’s this kind of reaction that makes us question the value of mailing our target market, often people will turn to cheaper methods of contact such as emailers or flyers, looking for the cheapest way to get their message to as many people as possible.

However, let’s consider a couple of salient facts here, 82% of direct mail are opened as opposed to only 29% of an email campaign.

So right from the off direct mail works, in a high percentage of cases the envelope is opened and at least a cursory glance is given to the marketing collateral it contains.

This is your moment on the lips! Or your ‘time in hand’ and the quality and uniqueness of your marketing will determine for how long.

Touch is another powerful sense, we have been feeling our way around since we were babies learning what was hot or cold or downright pleasant. We are tactile creatures with each hand containing in the region of a hundred thousand nerves but they are not infallible, a classic example of this is when washing on the line is either cold? Or damp? Sometimes our brain struggles with the information provided by our senses.

This can work to our advantage in the brief window of ‘time in the hand’ add our dimensional ink and it mimics the surface of the printed image so you can feel the grain of the wood, the skin of the orange or even the blades of grass.

The dimensional ink also gives a 3D effect to the appearance of your work. Now you have had much longer in the hand. The eye has worked its way over the 3D; the feel of the piece is being explored. Your message is now being observed and your marketing is working the brain much harder.


Let’s say we add a scented coating to the mix, so the scent of fresh mown grass mixes with the feel of the blades of grass. We have between five and six million cells that carry out our smelling function so when we engage those as well, we have a sensory overload that may very well result in someone saying

“Hey take a look at what I got in the mail the other day”

Why don’t you come down and see our world of communication, a cup of tea and biscuits included.

‘You can’t see the wood for the trees’!

Is a phrase that is used to describe cluttered situations. We often use this when we want to emphasise the level of information we have around a choice, when we are sorting the ‘wheat from the chaff’.

Although we may be dealing with something in a cerebral way we still turn to visualisation to describe the process we are going through.

This is because our brains like pictures and wants to visualise what it’s dealing with. If I ask you not to think of a red elephant, it’s almost certain that this image will pop into your head, even though red elephants aren’t common!

So our brains are good with images but how much of what we look at, do we actually see?

I don’t mean notice I mean actually see.

Another phrase often heard when describing finding the solution to a complex problem is ‘It suddenly jumped out at me’, again drawing on a visual description to communicate our experience.

A small experiment

Go and stand in front of the nearest mirror stare at your eyes, then without moving your head flick your eyes from left to right, or right to left, flick them all around in randomness!

Ok so you’re back – did you ever see your eyes move?

Strange, you’re looking in a mirror directly at your eyes but you never see them move – when you stop moving them there they are just staring right back at you. However at no point did you experience not being able to see.


This is because the brain selectively blocks visual processing during eye movement, to avoid the distress of us experiencing temporary blindness it fills in the millisecond of lack of visual perception with the next thing you see.

This is what creates the illusion when magicians employ slight of hand, as they know if you follow their hands with your eyes, you can’t see the trick. It’s particularly impressive in close up magic, as you have no reason to move your head to ‘follow the action’.

The movement of the eyes is called a saccade (pronounced sah-COD) and the trick your mind pulls to fill in the gap is known as saccadic masking.

When you combine this with the fact that our brains are constantly looking for patterns – in fact they are wired to do so. For example, how often do you think random events are just a little to coincidental? Like when iTunes plays the same artist a couple of times over a few songs when you have selected shuffle.

The way our brain operates is the most vital element when considering the design of any marketing piece. Just as we carefully choose the words we use and our call to action, the placement of images font size and colour all are vital in getting a good response rate.

This goes for any medium be it print or screen, you can burn your marketing budget with bad design. It won’t matter how much you spend on your campaign – if it just simply doesn’t suit the mindset of the audience the response rate will be hampered.

A tip for you.

If you are approached to advertise in a magazine, journal or brochure and decide that it is a good vehicle for your brand, when you purchase your space insist on a right hand page. Remember where the eyes stop is what the brain sees the most.

If you want your marketing to hit home…then use a marketer who can manage the environment and get you the best results.

Roll up, Roll up!

harpers-circus-paradeWhen the carnival arrived in town in 1820’s America, it was, for the townsfolk one of the major events of the year. Everyone thronged the streets to watch the ‘carny’ parade into town.

The ‘grind men’ and the ‘outside talkers’ would walk in front of and beside the parade beguiling the locals with fantastic talk of the wonders to be found in this years “all new amazing show” all done to create an atmosphere of excitement and wonder, guaranteed to generate ‘alfalfa’.

In advance of the parade the ‘24 hour men’ would place the arrows that would lead to the field they would call home for a week, ensuring that every ‘mark’ in town could find their way to the ‘arch’.

They were amazing marketeers; in one stroll through a town they captured the imagination and therefore the disposable income of everyone. They hid their ‘ten-pointing’ ‘bally’ and ‘cake cutting’ from view by creating their own language that added mystery to the ease they separated folk from their hard earned dollars.

When you’re first to market this will work every time, you have literally no competitors.

After a while though, success breeds imitation.

Smaller travelling ‘carnies’ learned that just by changing the way the arrows pointed they could take full advantage of the marketing provided by the big annual fairs.

Ensuring that they captured a market share at their lesser show with a much smaller ‘midway’.

Were the ‘marks’ disappointed?

It didn’t matter.

By the time they had realized that there was no ‘magnetico man’ or ‘human lizard’ they had spent up and were on their way home with a goldfish that had cost the weeks housekeeping.

As often is the case, necessity gave birth to innovation and the bigger travelling shows invented the billboard to market their shows.

These huge hoardings placed at the point of heavy traffic of local folk, told you the name of the show, listed the delights and amazements to be found on their midway and had as a centerpiece a colourful image of the main attraction.

They used phrases that displayed their competitive advantage and their differentiation strategy; they also conveyed immediacy, urgency and energy.

  • ‘Never seen before’
  • ‘Not to be missed’
  • ‘Unique to this show’
  • ‘For this week only’
  • ‘Never to be seen here again’
  • ‘A once in a lifetime opportunity’
Marketing one on one.

You knew what they were, where they were and what to expect from the experience.

They soon followed this up with the practice of giving out handbills as the carny paraded through the town, small ‘half letter’ sized copies of the billboards.

Over time the ‘24 hour men’ who were no longer required to put the arrow signs in place were put to work walking through the town throughout the week wearing A boards with a mid sized version of the billboard.

Times have changed the world is faster, we all have more competition but the principles remain the same.


Create a brand.

Have a clear message.

Communicate your passion.

Then tell them again.

Then tell them once more.

It’s your passion that makes you unique.

Solve problems and improve their lives.

Ask how can I help.

Engage with marketeers who speak your language and can communicate your passion, bringing your brand to life.



Glossary of terms used


Alfalfa –  Paper money.


Arch – main entrance. Marks queued here paying to get on the midway.


Arrow/24 Hour Man Arrow was a paper sign, consisting simply of a large (usually red) printed arrow, used to mark the route between towns. Taped to the posts of road signs by the ’24-hour man’ the day before the show moves. Can be placed in any orientation: straight-up arrows every few miles to let you know you’re on the right road, a single tilted arrow to warn of an upcoming turn, and two or three tilted arrows in a group to indicate where to turn.

Bally – In addition to its use in the sideshow sense, ‘bally’ might also refer to small prizes placed in boxes of candy as inducements to buy.

Cake – Money made by short-changing customers at ticket boxes.

Grind – In the “outside talker’s” spiel from a show front, the compelling and rhythmic verbal conclusion meant to move the patrons into the show. It differs from the opening bally, which is meant to get the attention of midway strollers and “build a tip”, or sell them on the show they can see. Also means to stay in the joint and work even though there’s almost no business.

Mark – A townsperson you see as a conspicuously easy victim. When a carny, often the ticket-seller, spotted a towny with a big bankroll, he would give him a friendly slap on the back leaving a chalk mark so other carnies would know that this customer had lots of money.

The Midway –  the game and sideshow area between the main ticket booth and the entrance to the big top, literally “midway” between the two.

Ten-Pointing – this cheat is for an age-and-weight guesser, with a mark probably in her mid-fifties to mid-sixties, to write “561” and cover either the 5 or the 1 when displaying the written guess, allowing him (with the game’s two-years-either-way spread) to win if she’s anywhere from 54 to 63.

orange inside appleOr…is your online identity consistent with your offline material? Does all of this accurately reflect the culture and philosophy of the business you run?

You can tell a lot about someone from their personality.

This is an old one liner but funny because of its truth.

Often when I look at the overall marketing presence of a business there seems to be multiple personalities at work. This isn’t surprising because there are often the voices of several marketeers/designers promoting your brand.

  • So the guy who did your website picked up on your outstanding customer service and that’s the main sales message online.
  • The folk who did your brochures ran with your recent investment in new equipment and the quality this brings to your product.
  • The people that handle your social media (or maybe you do this yourselves?) tweet about your cheap pricing strategy, and put offers on your Facebook page.

This is all good in isolation, after all some marketing is better than no marketing at all right?

Well no.

Everybody expects great customer service, why would anybody put up with anything less? However anyone dropping by your website would think you were trying to claim this as your Unique Selling Point!

We all demand and expect that the things we buy match our quality expectations; no one is going to buy something that isn’t fit for purpose, that won’t do the job. If your product is design centric then it goes without saying it must scream quality. This is merely expected by the buying public yet it is the focus and voice you give to your no doubt, beautifully printed quality brochure.

Then you use social media to fill your follower’s time lines up with how cheap your stuff is. Everybody expects value for money, and Google will soon tell them where to get it at the lowest cost. If you make price your USP you better be the cheapest, and unless you are a major national discount chain with huge buying power you are probably going to be undercut.

Avoid the trap of your marketing looking and sounding exactly the same as every other business in your sector. You will all have similar qualifications, belong to the same trade organisations; you’re all going to be using the same images, trade logos and all care equally for the environment. Each one of the websites/brochures will tell you they give value for money and that they provide a quality service so why will anyone choose you?

What do you do that will solve the problems that your potential customers have?

This is the message you should consistently use to market your business.

On every platform your marketing should look, feel and sound the same as you develop your brand.

Think less about you and more about your target market.

Use a marketing solutions provider that has experience in communicating across the marketing mix with authority and creativity.

Most importantly make sure they understand you and the unique solutions you provide.

img-direct-mail-mainthey cost a lot.

A first class letter now comes in at 60 pence and you need to cast your net wide and send out many thousands to reap a decent reward. That’s before you think about paying for the various skills and services that you need such as designers, printers, and mailing fulfilment houses.

It’s easy to see why the prospect of sending direct mail diminishes in attractiveness the more you think about it. True some mailing houses will offer discount on Royal Mail postage but how do you know that you are getting the best discounted rate available?

Another imponderable is

how do you know your mail is ever delivered?

If it was, did it reach the right person? Who read your beautifully designed marketing piece?

How do you know?

Well you could put a response code on, such as please quote ‘mail one’ when you ring. Then hope that whoever takes the call remembers to record the reference was used. Then analyse the data later, but not all ‘mail one’ callers will do business with you, some may just have called to complain that you sent them unsolicited mail.

So you have spent a lot of money had the stress, cost and inconvenience of transporting your mailer from the printers to the mailing house and you have little or no idea how successful your marketing has been. True you may see an unseasonal surge in business, a few people may comment on your campaign, but what is the return on investment? How much bang did you get for your buck?

There is another better way to carry out a direct mail campaign

Don’t cold call the whole country hoping to make a sale, target your marketing to the demographic of your ideal client. Hone in on a postcode you can service easily and cheaply.

Most importantly make sure your marketing piece has a clear call to action.

Engage with your market give them a reason to visit your web site or pick up a phone and call you.

It sounds simple but often I see direct mail that tells me

Bill’s Shoe Shop SELLS SHOES!

I get that, I understand that a shoe shop will indeed sell shoes. Why am I going to get my shoes there what is motivating me to engage with Bill?

Often nothing at all.

To make a mail piece work you have to generate interaction, the best way possible is to drive traffic to a web page. Give each mailer a Purl then give them a reason to visit and you the opportunity to engage with them. Using QR codes can increase your response rate dramatically.

24% of consumers in the 18 – 34 age range will scan a QR code, and the number of QR codes scanned rose 151 % year on year 2013/2014…Now imagine you have correctly analysed your market and you are using good pertinent clean data – your response rate should now be excellent.

Not only will you be engaging with your market, you’re collecting data to analyse the success of your campaign. You will know how much bang you got for your buck!

All helping you to Spend Less Sell More.

The Power of Black

Rich black, blue black, warm black, matt black, photo black, whatever happened to err… black?

The rise of digital print seems to have heralded a new era of blacks enough to suit any occasion and maybe even more than that – this new dawn of digital black has started appearing in files that are going to be printed conventionally (lithographically).

One thing many designers don’t realise is that Photoshop’s default black swatch is a CMYK mix of 91C/79M/62Y/97K. Apart from not producing the blackest black, (think more dark mud) the sheer amount of ink put down means your job will not dry properly, causing a sticky minefield; you also enter the world of potential miss-registration, or ‘blur’. The last thing you want your lovely design to be is unreadable, sticky and blurry!

In our humble opinion, Photoshop’s ‘rich black’ has no place in commercial lithography, if you have a large area of black which you want to be blacker than black, the best thing to do is ask your printer what levels will work best for your job. Usually a mix of 40% cyan and 100% black works best but any printer worth their salt will always be willing and on hand to have a chat to get you the results you want! There is a school of thought that prefers magenta, arguing that this produces a warmer black – we’d say it’s more of a ‘brown‘ black.

History lesson: Way back in the mists of time printers producing spot colour work used to add a knife of Victoria blue to a duct of black to give a richer denser black, they would also add an anti rub wax as the blue delayed the drying time and increased rubbing (marking). Printers called this midnight black and for a while ink manufacturers started selling it ready mixed.

Now, this bit is very important: when it comes to your (black) text, NEVER use anything but 100% black, all on it’s own. Keep to this rule and you’ll get perfect results every time.

cmyk vs black text

Top Tip: Handily, InDesign and Illustrator’s default black is 100% black, so if you keep Photoshop for your photos and use InDesign or Illustrator for your text and layouts you shouldn’t go far wrong.

I suppose what we’re trying to say here is ask your printer, they have been laying black on sheets of paper for a long time and will give you the best solution for your job.

All this talk of black and we have still to get round to the effects different stocks have on colour reproduction, drying times and finishing operations…