Grow Creativity with the Brainstorming Strategies of Walt Disney

From Tarzan’s treehouse to the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Disney’s creative team has spent decades constructing fantasy lands depicted in Disney movies.

Bringing dreams to life is Disney’s business, and its empire spans 11 theme parks, a town, four cruise ships, dozens of hotels, and many waterparks and restaurants that help guests experience the happiest place on Earth.

The dreamers, or “Imagineers” at Disney are the brains behind the vision. Peter Rummell, who served as chairman of the Imagineers for 12 years, said creativity doesn’t just happen. It has to be engineered:

“It is a process and if you don’t understand that and if you sit around and wait for the lightning bolt, you’re not going to be very productive.”

Walt Disney himself was a master of creative thinking and brainstorming. Not only was he talented in discovering ideas, he knew how to convert possibilities into reality. One associate said this about Disney:

“There were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler. You never knew which one was coming to the meeting.”

Disney’s Strategic Brainstorming Techniques

Over time, Walt’s team used his own attributes for guiding thoughts to build parallel thinking in groups, while at the same time generating concepts, critiquing ideas, and solving problems.

NLP expert Robert Dilts helped bring the technique to life, like this:

  • Four parts of a room were set up for different thinking methods: imagining, planning, critiquing, and for stepping outside the concept. Arranging a physical space for each mindset prepared teams to switch from one thinking mode to another.
  • Teams gathered with a target objective: an innovation to brainstorm, a problem to solve, or a process to improve. While dreamers practiced unhindered green light thinking, planners used red light critiques to define the how, the timeline, or the plan.
  • Meanwhile, critics and the concept overseers analyzed weaknesses of the plan, defining missing elements, gaps in the process, or obstacles to address.

Rotating between spaces allowed teams to transition from unhindered passion to logical plans. Impossible ideas weren’t immediately squashed. And through this defined creative process, teams could generate solid creative ideas with an action plan to apply it.

Unlock Creativity in Your Team

Though Peter Rummell has since moved on from the Imagineers, he says his time at Disney taught him three valuable lessons for guiding teams in creative thinking:

1. Entertain ideas from everyone.

“I think one of the major lessons I learned was that despite the hierarchy of an organization, an idea can come from anywhere.”

Top leaders should be willing to listen and younger team members should be encouraged that everyone has a voice.

2. Build an eclectic team.

“An accountant sitting next to a poet is a really good idea,” Rummell said.

High IQs are not pre-requisites to creative success. When teams are full of variety, often the least likely people can generate the best concepts. Varying skill sets help to energize the best ideas and to round out gaps in the plan.

3. Vet even the strangest ideas.

When Rummell’s team was brainstorming waterpark ideas, they were totally stalled.

“We didn’t want to do another Pirates of the Caribbean or some Caribbean island,” Rummell said. “We were trying to figure out what would be fun or different.”

Everything sounded silly until someone left for the bathroom and walked by a cubicle decorated in snowstorms. Though the idea of a freak Florida snowstorm sounded ridiculous, eventually the idea became “Blizzard Beach,” the theme of an entire waterpark in Orlando.

Creativity doesn’t just happen, so get resourceful and create some new brainstorming processes of your own. When you’re ready to roll out new concepts, we’ll help you bring them to life in print!

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How Emotions Win Customers

Diverse people holding emoticonCassell’s Hamburgers is something of a Cinderella story.

Founder Al Cassell launched the iconic lunch counter in Los Angeles in 1948. Famous for grinding beef daily, Al’s passion for great burgers and homemade mayonnaise lived for years. But by 2012, struggling owners decided to sell off Cassell’s rights, recipes, and equipment. It seems there was no magic touch that could save this beauty.

Jingbo Lou had other ideas.

As a Chinese exchange student, Lou came to the U.S. to study at the University of Southern California and developed a passion for architectural restoration that grew out curiosity for American culture:

“As an immigrant to this country, my very big task is to learn the culture,” Lou says. “I really fell in love with the history.”

J Lou put this love to work bringing Cassell’s back to life in a salvaged, crumbling 1920s inn called the Hotel Normandie. J Lou recognized a hotel/restaurant combo was a chance to cater to the nostalgia of many Californians.

And he was spot on.

Since Cassell’s reopening in 2014, the business has topped many “best of” lists and expanded into Downtown LA and a LAX location in Terminal 1.

Why such phenomenal success? Because emotions sell.

Emotions Win Customers

Brands build loyalty because emotions win customers!

While you may believe your decisions are rational, most choices are actually controlled by your intuitive (emotional) mind. Studies show that people rely on the heart, rather than on logic, to make decisions. Douglass Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, says this:

“The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”

Brands put emotional marketing in play by focusing more on the needs and passions of customers instead of on the unique product benefits their products bring.

For example, Pampers exalts healthy, well-rested infants instead of dry baby bottoms. Nike inspires people to overcome limitations instead of highlighting superior shoe quality. Harley sells people freedom without limits rather than offering a mode of transportation. And Cassell’s Hamburgers offers people a return to simpler days, including original chairs, tables, signage, and original menus hanging on the wall.

Want to enhance the emotional message your brand brings? Brand marketers suggest starting with steps like these:

  • Treat prospects as people rather than buyers
  • Give people multiple chances or channels to try or become familiar with your products
  • Use ads with identity messages that motivate or move people
  • Create a shared community among purchasers
  • Inspire users to have dreams
  • Offer messages that give people an experience, not just information

Create stories that allow your company to be part of people’s lives and appeal to every aspect of your customers’ personalities: their ego, needs, dreams, or general emotional state.

These connections can happen through music, artworks, logos, signage, slogans, sport, or anything that really ‘speaks to your customers.

Above all, emotional branding seeks to build lifelong partnerships between a business and its customers. Once someone is emotionally captured by a brand, they are more likely to stay loyal for decades.

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Four Ways to Market Smarter in 2019

Looking to energize your base or drum up new leads?

A new year is a great time to refresh your marketing matrix. Whether you’ve been in business for two months or for 20 years, creating awareness and interest is always a current challenge. Here are four areas to tweak as you build a competitive edge this year.

1. Know Your Audience.

Who are your ideal customers? What are their challenges or the goals you can help them achieve?

Revisit your buyer persona regularly and make sure you’re still clear on who you want to reach. These profiles can be used to segment your list and to personalize your latest pitch.

Knowing your audience also means examining whether you’re hitting your target. Are you sharing information that your prospects are actually hearing? Re-examine your media strategy and conduct regular database purging.

If you’ve been neglecting your database, your communication will be skewed as well. Successful marketing relies on data-driven decisions, so ensure your contacts are current.

2. Employ User-Centric Content.

In an increasingly individualized market, blanket sales pitches have lost momentum.

If you want to gain trust from your network, make it your goal to reach people in a more personal way.

How?

Position yourself as a giver, a helper, or an equipper in your print marketing. Use content that is insightful, entertaining, and easy for your prospects to apply.

3. Move From Keyboard to Camera.

Hubspot recently found 72% of people prefer video when they want to learn about a product or service.

With the dominance of YouTube and social media, the explosion of visual content is bound to continue. Our brain processes images 60 times faster than words, and humans are naturally drawn to narratives and stories.

Why not share more of your story through video?

Whether it’s quick bursts (think Snapchat, Instagram Stories, or Facebook Live) or a professionally edited piece for your website, video content will keep you connecting in ways that are real and relevant to this generation.

As you grow, look to connect your online and offline presence. One example: ask a leading question on your direct mailer and have them scan a QR code or use a personalized landing page (PURL).

4. Lighten Your Load Through Marketing Automation.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t do it all.

A great deal of effort can be saved through automation software, which expands your reach and boosts your efficiency.

Marketing automation allows you to identify warm leads and nurture prospects with highly personalized content that meets users at every stage of their customer journey. This can lighten your administrative load, provide an excellent return on your investment, and generate significant new revenue.

Automation software is especially effective in transforming traffic to leads and prospects to customers. Automated content is tailored to consumers based on how they interact with your company, growing their trust in you and making them much more likely to buy.

A recent Salesforce study found that 67% of marketing leaders use marketing automation of some kind, and this number is expected to grow significantly in years to come.

Keep in Shape

Your customers will change and evolve, and so will your business.

As people change, your job is to understand how your customers want to buy and to make it easy for them to do it!

Keep your marketing in high gear as you find new ways to streamline data, boost engagement, and improve the customer experience of each person you serve.

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Use Self-Mailers to Boost Your Visibility

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Looking to target prospects with confident, eye-catching designs?

Consider a self-mailer that you send through the U.S. Postal Service’s EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) program. This cost-effective marketing solution helps you target individual zip codes or carrier routes for a significantly reduced cost.

What is a Self-Mailer?

A self-mailer is something that can be mailed without an envelope, including anything from a simple postcard to an elaborate booklet.

Self-mailers are a great medium for stunning photos and eye-catching graphics. While e-mail inboxes are currently overflowing, physical mailboxes are not. A splashy, bold design holds great potential to be seen and shared!

A superb self-mailer can have several advantages over envelope mailings:

1. Self-mailers cost less.

Self-mailers are simple: often, they have just one sheet of paper (no need to stuff envelopes or match the contents of your letter with its packaging). Postage can be cheaper for a self-mailer, especially when you use postcards or fold-over flyers.

2. Self-mailers are more likely to be seen, remembered, or shared.

While envelope mailings are typically opened and read by just one person, self-mailers are often passed along to others or laid in visible places like the kitchen counter. Coupons or event invitations are placed on the fridge or in strategic visible locations. The bold graphics and easy accessibility of self-mailers can help people remember your message long after it’s been sent.

3. Self-mailers help you connect with loyal customers.

Whether you’re promoting an event or sending product notifications, targeting previous customers can dramatically increase response rates. Self-mailers send a personal message in a vibrant, practical package.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Self-mailers can be used as postcards offering discounts on home maintenance and repairs, as fold-over letters from community leaders, as fundraising pieces from non-profits, as brochures and pamphlets, or even for product inventory catalogs.

These flexible products bring a clean design, a clear message, and concrete results. Looking for EDDM tips or for full graphic design services for your mailer? We’ve got years of experience and we’re just a phone call away. Give us a call today!

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Print: Use Faces to Command Viewer Attention

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Did you know that humans are the only primates with eyes that contain a white sclera around the dark iris and the pupil?

Consequently, unlike our animal counterparts, we have the ability and tendency to follow each other’s eye gaze, to pinpoint precisely what someone is focusing on, and even to read into the emotion behind a viewer’s eye. This also gives us an innate ability to sense when we’re being looked at or to hastily avert our gaze in awkward moments.

Eye contact plays a crucial role in human communication, and faces have an incredible ability to command a viewer’s attention.

Imagine yourself walking down a busy street in a large city where you don’t know anyone. Suddenly, among a sea of faces, you spy a family member. Among hundreds of people, you can immediately recognize one individual and you have a strong emotional response.

Why is this experience so powerful?

Scientist Nancy Kanwisher identified a special part of the brain called the fusiform face area (FFA). The FFA allows faces to bypass the brain’s usual interpretive channels and helps us identify faces more quickly than objects. Because the FFA is so close to the brain’s emotional center (called the amygdala), the time lapse between recognition and response is nearly non-existent.

Faces Add Impact in Marketing

How does this play into marketing and print? First, it’s important to recognize the impact of faces so we can prioritize them in design.

Research by Catherine Mondloch (1999) shows that newborn babies less than an hour old prefer looking at something that has facial features. Humans prefer humans, and people buy from people! It would be careless to overlook these statistics while continually deferring to inanimate objects. When you’re looking to add that personal touch to your marketing mix, remember faces can help you to:

Connect With People

Large, faceless corporations feel cold and manipulative.

Putting faces on your brand allows people to connect with your audience in a way they can relate to. As you position faces in your ads, remember eyes looking right at people will have the greatest emotional impact, because the eyes are the most significant part of the face.

Create Curiosity

If a face on your poster is gazing toward another spot or product in the margin, people will also tend to track toward that area.

Emotions can be carried from a subject to a viewer as you set a tone within your design. The emotion in the faces you display can draw people to linger at your design or to be drawn deeper into the message.

Cultivate Trust

People react to a photo on a page faster than any other design element, and seeing the people behind a business can establish credibility very quickly.

You can use faces to cultivate trust by using staff profiles on your website, facial photos in welcome displays or high traffic areas, or by utilizing brochures that include testimonials and photos from real customers. If viewers can relate to the people enjoying your product they will automatically build positive associations.

When used properly, the use of people and faces can help you connect with people, create curiosity, and cultivate trust.  Bypass resistance and build connections through the magnetic power of people!

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The Ideal Length for Tweets, Facebook Posts, and More

You’ve taken the time to collect your thoughts. You’ve carefully outlined your ideas, your theme, and the overall tone you’d like to communicate. Wouldn’t it be nice if people actually read it?

Better make it quick!

Generation Z, born after 1996, is already emerging from the shadow of millennials. Making up a quarter of the U.S. population, they will account for 40 percent of all consumers by 2020. Gen Z processes content faster than other generation, especially considering most can sort through piles of information using four screens simultaneously.

Although their options seem limitless, their time is finite. Gen Z consumers have an average browsing attention span of eight seconds (as compared to twelve seconds for millennials).

Make Every Word Count

As lead time decreases, efficiency must increase.

How do you evaluate the “right” speed for sharing? Research has answers! Here are some research-based guidelines on the ideal length for Tweets, Facebook and blog posts, headlines, and e-mails.

Twitter

Twitter allows a maximum of 280 characters, and your posts should resemble the same type of short and sweet chirp you might hear from a bird.

The essence of Twitter is its commitment to bite-sized, sharable comments. What is the ideal length of a tweet?

Research by Buddy Media shows 100 characters is the engagement sweet spot for a tweet. This analysis saw a spike in retweets among those between 71-100 characters (so-called “medium” length tweets). These posts have enough characters for the original poster to share something substantial and for a person sharing (or re-tweeting) to add commentary as well.

Facebook

Exactly what size is a 40-character post?

The sentence you just read had 41 characters. That’s pretty brief! Research by global marketing influencer Jeff Bullas found that posts with 40 characters received the 86 percent higher engagement (including comments, shares, and “like” rates from viewers) than other posts. Can’t limit yourself to such blunt communication? Posts with 80 characters or fewer received 66 percent higher engagement. Minimize length and you’ll maximize reach!

Blog Posts

Medium is a blog platform that taps the brains of the world’s most insightful writers, thinkers, and storytellers.

When measuring content that performed best on their site, Medium found that an ideal blog post is around 1,600 words, meaning the post will engage people for about seven minutes. A photo-heavy post is better suited to around 980 words, and any blog post longer than 300 words should be filled with subheads to create enhanced readability or “skim layers” for viewers.

Headlines

“Bold and Brief is Best!”

According to KISSmetrics headline experts, six words is the ideal length for headlines.

Usability research reveals people don’t only scan body copy, they also skim headlines. Consequently, they tend to absorb only the first three words and the last three words of each headline.

Don’t want them to miss your point? Then don’t use any words in between!

Six-word headlines can be challenging, so Kissmetrics suggests that rather than stressing about length, just make every word count. Especially the first three and the last three!

E-mail Subject Lines

Can you boost the open rate for your e-mails by manipulating the subject length? A study released by Mailer found a slight bump in opens and clicks at a certain range of characters:

·        4–15 characters: 15.2% open; 3.1% click

·        16–27 characters: 11.6% open; 3.8% click

·        28–39 characters: 12.2% open; 4% click

·        40–50 characters: 11.9% open; 2.8% click

·        51+ characters: 10.4% open; 1.8% click

Mid-range subjects brought the highest response. Also, research found higher open rates for e-mail subjects that convey timely information, imply benefit for quick action, and avoid exaggeration (such as capitalized letters or exclamation points).

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Small Businesses Have a Big Reach

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A tiny, Ohio-based Vita-Mix corporation has been grinding and blending for 70 years.

Known for its high-powered, durable blending machines, “Vita-Mix” was coined with an emphasis on “vita,” meaning “life.” The company was born in 1921 when founder William Barnard, after helping a friend through a significant illness, realized the tremendous impact whole-food nutrition had on health. Simple Vitamix products evolved to industrial strength mixers that could puree raw foods, blend hot soup, grind grain, or knead bread dough.

Vitamix rarely sold products internationally before the late 1990s. But as sales slowed in the U.S., the third generation of Barnard family owners decided to go global. After hiring international sales manager James Smith, exports soared to 20 percent of yearly profits, growing hundreds of new jobs in the outskirts of Cleveland. “Exporting is the salvation of our standard of living and the security of our workers,” said Smith. “It makes me proud as heck.”

A Growing Reach

Vitamix is just one small business with a large global reach.

According to 2017 statistics from the Small Business Association, nearly all of U.S. exporters are small businesses. Small businesses exported $440 billion in 2015, from nearly 288,000 firms representing 97.6 percent of all exporting firms in America. Forty-eight percent of businesses said it took them just a few months of research before they started exporting, while 36 percent said it took them a month or several months to get started.

Small businesses that export report increased sales, diversified markets, and increased long-term stability. Vitamix CEO Jodi Berg said Vitamix now exports at award-winning levels to Europe, Asia, and Australia. But before that could happen her team had to disrupt a stable business plan with a new, global vision. Does she see herself as an entrepreneur who took risks?

“I don’t,” Berg said. “To make big things happen, you have to make big moves. But big moves don’t have to be risky. If you describe a risk taker as someone who takes big moves, I’ll be that. But we did our homework.

Four Remarkable Small Business Facts

While big business often dominates headlines, small businesses play a vital role in exporting products, creating jobs, and producing wealth for thousands of families.

Here are four remarkable facts about the big impact of small businesses:

1. Nearly all are small.

Small businesses make up the vast majority of companies in America, comprising 99.9 percent of all firms. Out of 29.6 million businesses, all but 19,000 are small!

2. Half are home-based.

A home-based business may have activity outside of the home, but it is operated primarily from the home.

Industries where home-based businesses dominate include information (70 percent), construction (68.2 percent), and professional, scientific, and technical services (65.3 percent).

3. Involve family and personal financing.

About one in five small businesses are family-owned, and 21.9 percent of small firms have used personal or family savings (versus business or banking loans) to resource expansion.

4. Durable.

The one-year survival rate for businesses hit 79.9 percent in 2016, the highest level since 2006.

About half of small businesses survive five years or longer, and one-third survive 10 years or more. The longer a company is in business, the more likely it is to stay in business.

According to the National Association of Small Businesses, entrepreneurs say economic uncertainty, health insurance costs, and a decline in customer spending or cash flow are the biggest challenges they face. Still, most business owners are fairly optimistic: 75 percent say they’re confident in their own business and its future.

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