Artists We’re Crushing On: Designer Appreciation Part 7

amazing designers to follow

We have the utmost respect for the crafters, letter-makers, and inspiration shakers out there. In this ongoing visual series, we wanted to give due props to the artists, creators, and designers we’ve taken note of lately. Thanks for making stuff beautiful!

Natalia Maca

Instagram: @natalia.maca

Natalia Maca is a UK-based digital “illustrator, designer, and explorer.” With an Instagram channel that’s super easy on the eyes, we’ve been visiting over and over to get a glimpse of the cool and muted palette of her work. Natalia specializes in editorial illustration, publishing, advertising and T-shirt design, and she tends to have a slightly surreal look to her many amazing projects.

Andrea (Mky)

Instagram: @i.am.mky

We’re big fans of anyone that can take simple words and turn them into a work of art – for wordsmiths, it’s like the perfect two-fer. Romanian designer Mky’s specialty is in crafting incredibly stunning logo design and lettering. With cute fonts, design accents, and color choices, she’s got a great style that really has a voice of its own.

José Parlá

Instagram: @joseparla

José Parlá is a fairly well-known graffiti artist, street artist, and muralist that we’ve been keeping up with. His use of cotton candy color schemes, fluffy paint swatches, minimalistic detail and dreamlike style, we wish we could hire him to paint up our office walls. For now, we’ll just visit his Instagram page to get daily motivation that inspires a deep breath.

Katie Daisy

Instagram: @katiedaisy_artist

Katie Daisy’s name is perhaps the most perfect name matchup in history. With her passion for painting large, vibrant wildflowers and other bits and pieces of nature, she certainly lives up to the name. With beautiful detail and often large-scale works, Katie’s paintings make you feel as though you’re in a crisp and clean meadow.

Juliana Horner

Instagram: @claropsyche / @vesperucca

Who said makeup art wasn’t inspirational? Juliana Horner’s bright, color-popping makeup looks are the refreshing boost we need in the morning. While never able to replace the energy burst that coffee brings, her innovative and creative makeup looks are bold, daring, and absolutely beautiful. Also, how does she do those seamless lines?!

 

What artists, designers, or creatives are you into right now? Let us know in the comments below. You can also see all of our other designer shout-outs here!

7 Brand Voice Exercises to Keep Your Business Healthy

Brand Voice exercises

Every time your company puts something out into the world, it’s using its voice; every social media post, every video clip, every press release, every website tweak. What you do with that brand voice, and especially what its voice sounds like, is one of the biggest things you can do for the prolonged health of your brand.

Defining your brand isn’t an easy task – neither is developing the brand voice around it. Truthfully, it’s best come at from an all-hands-on-deck perspective in a lot of cases. Those who are closest to the core values and mission of the company will have a genuine interest in creating a brand voice that’s powerful, positive, and productive.

There’s a lot you can do to help identify your brand voice or take another look if things are feeling stale. Here are just some of the best exercises we’ve used and recommended over the years of consulting to develop and maximize the reach of your brand voice.

1. Build marketing personas

This should be a no-brainer, but we’re mentioning it for all of the kids in the back of the class. Before you can figure out what your brand voice should be, you have to have a foundation for understanding who you are trying to talk to – your customers. We’re talking doing the research and assigning a personality to each major audience segment; make illustrations of each one if you need to better visualize. The more you can personify each “type” of consumer that wants what you’re selling, the easier it is to develop the type of voice and messaging that resonates with them.

2. Hold a descriptor brainstorm

Hear us out, these types of brainstorms are actually really fun – think of it like a really specific improv session in your conference room. For this exercise, everyone participating should have something to write with/on, and a timer should be set to about 10-15 minutes. The object here is to come up with as many adjectives you can that accurately describe your brand. Then, everyone can compare to see where descriptors and ideas overlap.

Go through the list and stop on each word, asking yourselves questions such as:

  • Is this the most suitable word for the idea we want to convey?
  • Is there another word which better describes this idea?
  • Does our audience perceive us this way?

Set aside a solid afternoon for this activity, and make sure your whiteboard markers are all ready to go.

3. Make a list of words that should NEVER describe your brand

Somewhat complementary to the exercise above, once you identify the words that you want to be associated with your brand, you should also identify words that you don’t… and then never, ever use them. As a good rule of thumb, we like to consider using this Mad-Libs-style sentence to help weed out the bad descriptors:

[Your brand] is always ______ and [your brand] is never _______.

4. Talk about core values (again and again and again)

Not trying to beat a dead horse if identifying your core values is something that’s already been handled as a company, but going back to that conversation never hurts. If anything, talking altogether as a company or leadership team about the brand’s core values can help to figure out how your brand voice should be structured.

Beyond adjectives and descriptors like the brand voice exercises above, discussing as a team what the values are of your company is critical to defining (and refining) a voice. For each question, give your team up to 5 minutes to write down thoughts and answers. Then, have everyone share their responses and discuss them.

5. Fill in the blanks on some key questions

Having prompts during brand voice exercises is a great way to get your creative juices and strategic caps moving. Spend some time filling in the blanks on sentences such as…

  • I want my brand to make people feel _______.
  • I want people to think ” _______” when they come into contact with my brand.
  • I want to try to follow the steps of the brand voice of _______.
  • I don’t like brand voices that sound _______.
  • Interacting with customers makes me feel _______.

6. Develop tone and language

This cheat sheet from the friends at Brandfolder is also a handy way to start figuring out what you want your brand voice to be, according to personality, language, tone, and overall purpose. Here’s an example of a filled out version that defines every section in 4-5 different words, descriptors or phrases.

7. Go deep in social media

When you’re feeling stuck, another great brand voice exercise is to go straight to the source on the places where you have access to your customers – social media channels. Using social listening and social analytics tools, go and locate the people in your audience (or potential audience) on social media to monitor what and how they are engaging with things. Also, take the opportunity to find brands that you resonate with or that you want to emulate in some way on social – gathering up this list and spending some time figuring out WHY they resonate with you and your brand will make all the difference.

Do you have any brand voice exercises that you’ve tried out in the past? Let us know on Twitter, we’d love to chat!

How Effective Are Case Studies for B2B Marketing?

Case Studies for B2B Marketing

In the vast expanse that is content marketing, B2B is a particular kind of beast to wrangle. Between newsletters, on-site articles, informative videos, eBooks, and other types of content, some businesses struggle to figure out which are their most valuable efforts. Case studies for B2B marketing combine equal parts storytelling, data, and design, to convey how products/services have benefitted a particular customer. When done well, they can be so engaging you’ll forget you’re reading a traditionally “dense” piece of content.

New Research: The Most Effective Content Tool is B2B Case Studies

We’re not just making this stuff up. Case studies have been proven to be an incredible marketing tool for many, many companies operating in a B2B space. Some recent research helps put things into perspective a bit more:

  1. The LinkedIn Technology Marketing Group surveyed more than 600 B2B marketing professionals about the current state of content marketing, with results showing that case studies dominate the #1 spot as the most effective format.
  2. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 71% of B2B content marketers use case studies as a content tool for driving engagement and sales.

Because they are, in essence, a nice summary of your achievements, direct testimonials, and endorsements, case studies can be an easy-to-digest way to convey how awesome your business is. Potential customers definitely take notice, too.

Your average B2B buyer is no dummy – they are educated, self-sufficient, and like to do their research on what kind of value they’ll get from a service before putting down the company credit card. If they see your well-designed case studies (especially if you have a case study for each industry segment that you cater to), it can sway a decision in the right direction much better than other types of content marketing, like social media.

Our Best Tips for Creating B2B Case Studies

We’re big into doing content marketing well, case studies included – and have created a variety of client case studies in B2B spaces over the years, earning us some first-hand knowledge on what makes one great. Here are some best practices and tips for building effective, engaging, value-driven B2B case studies:

  • Send your customer a Q&A in survey form, so they can fill out their responses at their own convenience, and you’ll have their direct quotes already in the bag.
  • High-resolution logos and images ALWAYS matter.
  • Real testimonials are good as gold – show them off well!
  • Don’t use it as an opportunity to brag about yourself; you should be bragging about your customer.
  • Use numbers, but tell a story – in the end, it’s about connecting humans to your business.
  • Provide real, quantifiable results and metrics that can show (in numbers) how effective your company is.
  • Keep things as concise as you can, and remember that you’re not writing out a full eBook on the matter.
  • Use stunning visuals, graphs, and charts to help convey data in an eye-catching way.
  • Boil it all down to a one-page PDF if you can – they are more easy to read and share around.
  • Use as much real language as you can, avoiding over-promotional copy that screams “marketing!”
  • Make them easy to find, and link to them where you can in your other on-site content pieces to increase the SEO value.
  • DON’T FORGET YOUR CALL TO ACTION. What’s this all for, anyway?

We’ve put together dozens of effective case studies in our days. If you have any questions or want any help getting one started, give us a shout!

Artists We’re Crushing On: Designer Appreciation Part 6

We have the utmost respect for the crafters, letter-makers, and inspiration shakers out there. In this ongoing visual series, we wanted to give due props to the artists, creators, and designers we’ve taken note of lately. Thanks for making stuff beautiful!

1. Julian Charrière

Julian Charrière is an artist that doesn’t shy away from sensitive subjects. Over the last few years, he has developed quite the reputation for taking on deep, environmental themes in his artwork; highlighting climate change and global warming in particular. For many projects, travel is necessary. Charrière journeyed as far as an iceberg in the Arctic Ocean to get the perfect photograph.

 

Check out his full website here: http://julian-charriere.net

We Are All Astronauts РJulian Charrière РCentre culturel suisse

2. Andrew Fairclough

Andrew Fairclough‘s illustration work is positively mesmerizing. With artistic beginnings in skate and snowboard graphic design, he has since worked with huge brands and continued to create incredibly detailed illustration pieces. Andrew has described his own work as being “inspired by mid-century spot illustrations and design as well as vintage sci-fi, comics, surrealism, DIY art culture, and the textural wonders of degraded print.”

 

Check out his full website here: https://www.behance.net/kindredstudio

3. Claire Newton

We stumbled upon Claire Newton‘s work while just dipping into #designer on Instagram. In a sea of mislabeled posts, her stunning watercolors stood out like an oasis. We’ve zeroed in on the beautifully vibrant palms, flowers, and other foliage in Newton’s watercolor repertoire, and equally enjoy her work with detailed patterns and geometric abstracts.

Check out her Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/clairenewtondesign/

4. Kelsey Amy

Okay, so custom kicks haven’t really been on our mind for quite some time, BUT, we might make an exception for these beauties. Kelsey Amy founded Shme Custom Kicks, a personalized shoe business that’s run completely online. Not only do we have respect for this entrepreneurial female power, we genuinely think the shoe designs are incredibly well done.

Check out their Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/kelshmeamy/


5. Mikey Burton

We’re a little obsessed with the 50’s inspired illustration style of Mikey Burton. Currently sporting the position of a part-time designer and illustrator at Designy Illustrator, Burton has been creating, winning awards, and generally killing the corporate art game. While we’re happy he’s making the big bucks working with big brands, we’ll never stop loving the monochromatic sketches and breakfast pins.

Check out his full website here: https://www.mikeyburton.com

What artists, designers, or creatives are you into right now? Let us know in the comments below. You can also see all of our other designer shout-outs here!

B2B Instagram Tips: How to Build Up Your Brand

B2B Instagram Tips

Instagram is soaring in popularity – with more than 800 million monthly users, it’s captured the attention of everyone from millennials to grandparents. Businesses and brands are also making their space on the powerhouse social platform, but there’s a lot of room for growth.

In a visually-focused channel that has typically catered to individuals and B2C brands up until this point, B2B brands are starting to test out an Instagram presence as well. With a well-crafted strategy in place that makes use of the platform’s integrated features – hashtags, tagged locations, and ad analytics – it’s possible for any business to make their presence known.

Via Sprout Social

If you’re representing a brand on Instagram and aren’t utilizing their Instagram for Business accounts, it’s time to make the change. Beyond giving you the ability to set up promotions, Instagram for Business allows you to access powerful analytics and insights, publish more meaningful contact information, and link directly to your Facebook page to get the most exposure possible. For B2B companies, making the most of these features can help to engage with and attract new customers.

Whether you’re just getting started with Instagram for Business or need some helpful hints from the pros on optimizing Instagram for B2B, HubSpot made a comprehensive guide of helpful, tactical tips to become wholly successful on the platform. Here’s a quick preview:

1. Use authentic, real-time user-generated content.

2. Go fast, and mix it up.

3. Get involved in your niche.

4. Make the most of the link in your bio.

5. Tell a story with every single post.

6. Stay away from vanity metrics.

Read into every insight and download the Instagram for Business guide on the HubSpot blog: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/expert-b2b-instagram-tips

Ready to try something new on Instagram for your business? Get in touch with us to get a plan going.