Working with an Agency, Part 1: Why?

For many companies, be they brands, small businesses or corporate enterprises, hiring out for creative services is a tricky proposition. Immediate negative thoughts may come to mind, such as losing control of your project, having to explain your services to non-experts, dealing with feedback, timing, quality control and, of course, staying on budget. But, none of those negative thoughts need to become issues when you know what to expect, how to prepare and when to start.

We work with a variety of clients, from retailers to brand families to family-owned brands and service providers. Some have in-house design teams and massive organizational charts, while others can fit their entire organization around our conference table. The point is that everyone needs help from time to time, and the challenges they face are often similar.

Why Work with an Agency?

Experience
One of the hallmarks of a good creative agency is a diverse team, one that includes seasoned leadership paired with a team of multidisciplinary artists and account people. This buys you a blend of experience and energy, all of which should be engaged in your project. The senior team knows their way around ideas, direction and holistic strategy. The multidisciplinary artists and account teams are the jet fuel for your project. And who doesn’t want more energy, technical input and wide-open creativity on your project?

Talent
It goes without saying that agencies aren’t the only place you’ll find amazing talent. Talent is everywhere. What is true of agencies is that they have access to a wider net of award-winning, diverse talent. For instance, your creative team may have mad digital or social media skills. But, are they award-winning package designers, logo designers, photographers, videographers, animators, copywriters and art directors?

Perspective
It may seem counterintuitive that a team of non-experts in your product or service area can be just what you need to sell it, but that’s often the case. Skilled creative teams are exposed to a variety of clients, products and platforms, giving them a curiosity that’s incredibly rich and valuable. Likewise, creative teams are unbiased and unburdened by historical, structural and other corporate quicksand that can burden even the most passionate internal teams.

Efficiency
Most creative agencies are masters at mobilizing resources. Any agency that has been around for a while has developed an organizational structure that allows for expansion when needed. Likewise, agencies are bound by deadlines and schedules and are masters of time management and speed.

If any of the above feels like familiar struggles, consider reaching out to a creative team for a consult or proposal. One thing is guaranteed, you will move the ball further and faster with help.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll talk about the specific types of projects and initiatives that benefit from the help of a creative team. Following that, we’ll discuss best practices and advice for optimizing your creative agency relationship.

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My Private Brands Sustainability Summit: Lessons & Highlights

In case you missed it, sustainability isn’t just a Whole Foods thing anymore. Look around, and you’ll quickly see that a majority of global brands are adjusting to match evolving consumer attitudes towards environmental and social justice. There’s a bit of a chicken and egg effect happening here, with some companies and consumers leading and others following, but the end result is the same: sustainability goals matter.

Enter the My Private Brands 2020 Sustainability Summit, which brings together retail executives, creatives leaders and sustainability influencers to discuss the challenges, trends and opportunities facing private brands around the world. The Sustainability Summit was virtual, of course, and, in keeping with the many pivotal events of 2020, it offered a timely perspective on the many ways that people, packaging and products are shaping the future of private brands.

The Summit focused on three topics: Sustainable Packaging, Ethical Sourcing and Authentic Marketing. Speakers included private label leaders from BJ’s Wholesale, Sobeys, Family Dollar and Boxed. While the discussions and round tables were largely focused on the grocery industry, the insight and lessons resonate across the retail spectrum. The key takeaways are:

  • Sustainable Packaging, Ethical Sourcing and Authentic Marketing are the key benchmarks of sustainable brand strategy. They are equally important and interconnected. You can’t develop one without revealing opportunities in another.
  • Sustainable strategy starts with defining what sustainability means to your brand. From there, you can manage expectations throughout your supply chain and communicate honestly with your consumers.
  • Consumer awareness and expectations for sustainable packaging are growing. It’s time to get creative about how we transport products. Ask yourself why your packaging outlasts your product. What does that say about your product and your brand values?
  • Sustainability is a responsibility, not a luxury. Even brands serving low-income communities are finding creative ways to bring sustainability to their shoppers.
  • Marketing and social media are raising the bar for ethical sourcing. To have a successful approach to ethical and sustainable sourcing, you must prioritize empathy and experience.

As always, we like to focus on the good news and practical advice. Sustainability is here to stay (pun intended), but it needn’t cause a panic. When it comes to sustainability strategy for our clients, we consider it our obligation to know what’s relevant and to always be on the lookout for opportunities, obligations and obvious upgrades. Sometimes, evolution is the best approach, along with a little competition. Not all brands can afford revolution, nor should they.

Attention to Detail

We’re all adults, here. We’re all really busy. We get it, the tyranny of the urgent is more urgent than ever. But, let’s take a minute and talk about that misspelling on your website. Then, let’s talk about that grammatical hiccup on your packaging. It’s just not okay. There are a lot of really smart people selling really great products, and still they manage to sabotage themselves with seemingly minor, completely avoidable, terrible typos.

This may seem like a generalization, but it’s not. Perhaps it’s the impermanence of digital media that has so many companies throwing information up online without proofing it. After all, you can always change it, right? But how many people will see that you misspelled one of your own products before you catch the mistake yourself? What does it say about your brand quality? What’s that? Quality is one of your brand values? Uh-oh.

In the pre-digital world when all collateral came off a press, mistakes cost instant money. People took them seriously, and everyone had red pens at the ready. Now, mistakes are harder to quantify, and they cost credibility, which costs more in the long run.

Listen, this blog post isn’t meant to preach, and we know that no one tunes in to hear a sermon on grammar. The point is, we’re here to help. Spelling and grammar aren’t universal skills, but they are universal standards. For that reason, Porchlight has incorporated proofing into our process from the beginning. It’s a commitment so important to us that even the biggest fire drills get put under the microscope.

When you have the confidence that comes with true attention to detail, and proofing is part of your process, mistakes can be eliminated. Meanwhile, quality becomes a characteristic of your brand that permeates everything you produce, from the footer on your website to the engineering of your product.

Hey, What’s Your Story?

Ever been to a party or a networking event and wound up talking to someone who just couldn’t hit the conversational ball back? Ever met someone who did a lot of talking without ever really saying anything meaningful or interesting? How about getting cornered by someone who always turned the conversation back to them? The point here isn’t to disparage any one type of person or personality but instead to ask this: If you were at a party, would you want to talk to your brand?

Brands often exist in a bubble that includes their team, the competition and various buyer personas. Brand strategy and language often come from a series of dotted lines connecting these three buckets. This is a perfectly rational and functional way to think, and it worked for years. Focus on one bucket and develop a campaign for that. Focus on another bucket and develop a new campaign for that. The problem with this approach is that with each new goal, there is almost inevitably a return to the beginning required to develop new material. And, with each retelling of your company, product and differentiation, companies expose inconsistencies in their brand identity.

The solution is to focus on your brand story. Think back to the dinner party or networking event and imagine everyone there is a brand. Consider everything that led up to your brand arriving at that event. Don’t skip to the sales pitch. No one opens up a conversation with, “Will you sit next to me at dinner?” Likewise, no one starts a conversation with, “I have a great personality, and I’m way more fun than that guy over there.” What makes someone intriguing and charming is their life experience, their motivation, and their relatability and interest in others.

Like any creative endeavor, a brand story is part truth and part fiction. The truth comes from your product, your people and your reputation. The fiction comes in weaving those aspects together into an imaginative arc that connects the past, present and future. Also, like any creative endeavor, a brand story includes tension and resolution, mission and struggle. A well-crafted brand story integrates a sense of purpose that kicks the vague, old-fashioned mission statement in the pants.

The amount of imagination required obviously depends on your brand, evolution and history. If you’re Patagonia or Warby Parker, the intrigue is preloaded. If you’re a brand with a less-heroic backstory, you will benefit from hiring a good narrator. Regardless, your story is your tool for telling the world who you are, what you do, what you stand for, where you’ve been and where you’re going. Most importantly, your story reveals how you relate to others and helps others relate to you.

The significance of brand stories is becoming more and more critical as the transition to a digital world increases in speed. Companies are finding themselves quickly navigating the social/digital world without a good road map. Consumers are quick to see through brands that are simply talking a lot without saying anything. Consumers are turning away from brands that simply talk about themselves. Meanwhile, there are brands that have a good story, have an equally solid voice, and are churning out content that is organic, authentic and popular.

This week, take a minute and think about your brand. Is it benefitting a little too much from social distancing? Or, is it ready to own the party and make some friends?

Essential Tools for Succeeding in eCommerce

Here’s a bit of news that’s not really new: The way we shop has changed. You knew that, right? You probably also know that we’re six months into a global pandemic that has most people working from home, dining in and shopping almost entirely online. The growth of eCommerce is not news. Nor is the fact that more and more people are relying on eCommerce for all of their retail needs. What is news, however, is the fact that those brands that aren’t developing compelling, competitive digital assets will be left behind.

Prior to 2020, a lot of home improvement brands focused a lot of their marketing efforts on the physical retail experience and enjoying the benefits that come with it: optimized shelf presence, limited competition, branded packaging, in-store merchandising and POP, and skilled sales associates. While these things are certainly not going away, they are undoubtedly taking up a lot less space on the growth pie chart.

Online retail has long been a secondary channel for certain retail industries, and home improvement is one of these. Now, as shoppers are staying out of stores and doing more research and buying online, it’s critical for brands to look closely at how they appear online. Consider for a moment that all the benefits of the physical retail experience were non-existent. Shelf presence has been replaced by a search algorithm. Competition is global and growing. Packaging is a thumbnail. In-store merchandising has been replaced by social media ads. And reviews are the new sales associate.

In this new reality, what would you need to communicate your product’s quality and performance? How would you demonstrate its ease of use, size and distinctive features? How would you tell your brand story and communicate your expertise and commitment to customer service?

If you answered “bullet points” to any of the above questions, then you’re lucky but wrong. More likely, you’re among the many who have ordered something online, and upon arrival realized that it’s either a miniature or magnified version of what you anticipated. The correct answer to all the questions above is photography and video. Online shoppers have come to expect it, and brands must invest in it because the new eCommerce landscape demands compelling digital content and an immersive brand experience.

What is compelling digital content and immersive virtual brand experience? Digital assets and brand experiences can take a variety of different directions. The key is to determine what is most authentic to your brand personality, what is most effective for your product and what are the limitations of your online retailer.

Here are five easy ways to boost your online sales and brand recognition using video and photography:

  1. Product Demonstrations
    A good demo goes a long way, especially if you’re selling a product in the home improvement industry where there’s no guarantee that your consumer is familiar with the product or the larger category. Product demos should communicate what the product does, how easily it operates, and demonstrate its many features and benefits. Product demos have quickly become an essential for most online retailers, including Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart and Amazon. Product demos can help cut down on product returns, which is a piece of data very near and dear to your online merchant. REI has streamlined the online demo, taking technical gear and presenting it in a consistent, repeatable and effective way.
  2. Product Reviews
    Product reviews are best suited for a non-retail channel such as YouTube or Vimeo. Product reviews can be designed to compare your product to the competition. They can also take the form of solicited content from online influencers. Consider this video from popular online car enthusiast ChrisFix, in which he tests and proves the effectiveness of Lucas Deep Clean. This video received 1.5 million views and includes a link to buy the Lucas product at Amazon.com. For what it’s worth, Amazon’s home improvement presence is continuing to grow.
  3. Also, YouTube is the second most popular search engine.

    Here’s another type of product review. This video testimonial for Equinox Louvered Roofs is featured on their website and was filmed, in part, in our office.

  4. Brand Vignettes
    Brand Vignettes can be a great tool for online marketing as shoppers wade through the vastness of the competition and look for something relatable and familiar to grab hold of. Brand vignettes are meant to reveal the who and why behind your products. No matter how impersonal your product may be, it’s personal to the person buying it. They want to know that it’s worth their money and time, and that it’s not simply a soulless transaction. Here’s a great example from Andersen Windows.
  5. Product Launch
    If you have a new product or a new line of products, you know that you have to sell those products twice: once to the merchant and again to the consumer. A product launch video can help give you traction with both audiences. Likewise, if you sell to the trade, a product launch video can give your audience a powerful tool to persuade their audience. In 2019, Porchlight worked with hansgrohe to produce a series of launch videos for their new Joleena line.
  6. Static Imagery
    Last, but not least, professional photography should be considered as a price-of-entry cost for online marketing content. A picture is not only worth a thousand words, but it’s the most efficient way to communicate product quality, features and performance. Quality visuals will help with search rankings and cut down on costly returns. Working with a professional photographer is key as these pros can ensure that the product quality is accurately represented, that various products and settings appear consistent, and that you have the right file types for the channel you’re using. Porchlight recently worked with Eco Cork Foam to support its online sales at homedepot.com through photography.

Wherever you are in your online retail transition, we can help. Let’s start with a conversation about where you are and where you want to go.

Good News for the Home Improvement Industry

2020 is shaping up to be a year we’ll never forget, though most of the world might prefer to move on and celebrate New Year’s early. It’s been a year of loss, a year of confusion, a year of dissociation. But the news isn’t all bad. In fact, there’s a lot of promising financial news about the way the home improvement industry is weathering the pandemic. To put it another way, our industry is doing just fine.

Recently, the Home Improvement Research Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to home improvement research, published June data related to the industry. They referred to home improvement as a bright spot in the U.S. economy. According to HIRI, “The housing and home improvement market has done much better than most and is expected to recover, moving back to 2019 levels in 2021.”(1) According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report, home improvement led the traditional retail sales sector with a 22.6% increase in year-over-year sales.(3)

The reasons for this are fairly obvious: The pandemic has presented homeowners with two very precious tools, time and proximity. People are spending a lot more time at home surrounded by potential projects, and the pandemic has presented them with a lot more time to act.

In June of this year, Consumer Specialists, a research and consulting firm specializing in home improvement-related industries, conducted a survey of over 600 homeowners in order to better understand the reasons behind the home improvement resilience. They found that 57% of homeowners completed a home improvement project between March and May. Of those, 66.9% reported having more time. Half of homeowners cited their time at home as giving them a greater awareness of things that needed doing.(2, 3)

Add to this the ongoing trend in home improvement that is driven by the growth of home sales, the age of the U.S. housing stock and the surge of homeownership among millennials.(4) We certainly can’t discount the huge influence of social media and online publishing that is making home décor, home improvement, and DIY projects more accessible and visible than ever before.

The good news, friends, is that none of the above conditions is expected to change anytime soon. People may have less money in their pockets, but they have something equally valuable, which is time and initiative. Let’s be careful not to let this opportunity slip by. There may never be a better time to enhance your product’s positioning, brand and packaging. The interest is there. Is your product ready?

 

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Jessica’s 3-Year Workaversary

For 3 great years, Jessica Moore has shared her Adobe tips, impersonations and legendary fishing stories with the team at Porchlight. We think she’s pretty special, here’s why…

How does the team describe her?
She’s quick-witted, sarcastic and pretty damn funny. She’s wicked smart, talented, ambitious, focused and detail oriented. She’s also a good person, supportive, generous and kind.
In other words:

  1. We consider cancelling happy hour when she can’t come.
  2. We all want to sit next to her in the office.
  3. We all feel lucky to know her.

What do we wish she could teach us?
How to fish, shoot pool, stay calm and think, juggle projects, troubleshoot everything and more Adobe shortcuts.

What her boss, Greg Corey, has to say about Jessica.
Every team needs a teacher, and Jessica is that for our team. She has a positive, open attitude towards learning. She never hesitates to jump in and learn something new on her own and she’s equally willing to teach others.

What does Jessica want people to know about Porchlight?
Everyone at Porchlight has some niche talent, skill, or knowledge in a specific program or medium. We’re all very open to asking for help from each other, giving help to each other and teaching each other. I’ve learned something unexpected and valuable from every person on our team.

Got a favorite project, Jessica?
Working on the SANYDEPOT website gave me a chance to get out of my comfort zone (structural design) and work in a medium and with software that I knew less about (website design). Being able to work hand-in-hand with coworkers who had more experience helped me to learn along the way. I was able to create a website from beginning to end, art direct the on-site equipment photoshoot and even drive an excavator (high point).

What’s something you love doing or wish you could do more of?
I love structural design, a.k.a. playing with cardboard boxes. I really enjoy figuring out how something folds, glues, and prints and looking for ways to make it unique.

Make it Pop: Tips for Effective Packaging Design

Today’s shelves are stocked chock-full of products. And get this: It takes only four seconds for someone to decide if they’re going to take your product home. That’s why your product’s got to pop (off the shelf and into the shopping cart). Check out these tips for effective packaging, straight from our design team:

  1. Keep it Simple. Simple design is memorable design, which will keep people coming back for more. Simple is also easier to describe. Let’s say a mom sends her son to the store to buy your product. The easier it is for her to describe the packaging, the easier it will be for him to spot your product. This saves the consumer valuable shopping time.
  2. Do it Differently. Take what your competition is doing in a different direction. If their design palette is marked by muted tones, try a touch of brightness. Their typography tight and trim? Then test out a handwritten look. Don’t be shy. It’s all about experimentation, so go ahead and have fun. If you’re enjoying yourself, chances are so will your consumers.
  3. Create a Feeling. Your packaging does more than just hold your product; it creates a connection. So consider a design that makes your consumers feel something. If your brand focuses on nostalgia, you could incorporate black and white imagery. Calmness? Think soft tones and rounded letters.

With these packaging design tips in mind, consumers are bound to pick your product off the shelf, time and time again.

To learn more about Porchlight and what we’re all about, contact us. Come on, don’t be a stranger.

Our Top 5 Proofreading Tips

Proofreading isn’t the most exciting part of the design process, and it’s definitely not the most fun. But it is one of the most important steps we take to produce consistent, impressive work for our clients. Because Porchlight is a design agency, the proofreading process for our projects involves a few more steps than just looking for the traditional grammar, spelling and punctuation errors found in text documents. When we proof a project, we look for all of those things, plus design-centric errors like incorrect alignment and use of wrong colors. Whatever pieces you proofread, the goal should be the same: produce clear, concise, correct work.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” – Mark Twain

Twain meant that something as small as one incorrect word can change the entire meaning of a piece of work, and we have to agree with him. Let’s say you create the most mind-blowingly awesome packaging re-design for a famous shoe company. If you misspell the name of the shoe brand or use an incorrect color on the packaging, both the client and the potential customers’ eyes will gravitate to that mistake, which undermines all your hard work with one huge, tiny error.

Here are our top 5 tips for proofreading everything from documents to design projects:

  1. Use a Hard Copy. Print your project and run through the text and/or design elements one by one. For large portions of text, hold a ruler under each line as you review to help keep you focused.
  2. Take Notes. As you go along, you may see certain problems or errors appear multiple times. Write these “chronic problems” down so you can address those issues when you move on to Tip #3.
  3. Review Multiple Times. Check once for spelling, once for punctuation, once for sentence structure (if applicable), then read through looking for any “chronic problems” you wrote down previously.
  4. Don’t Trust the Original Author. Even if you wrote the original copy for the document or design piece, don’t trust what’s written. Double-check every fact, figure, address and proper name. (A quick Google search can be your best friend here.) If you’re proofing a piece of design work, look for websites and phone numbers. Call the numbers and visit the websites to be sure they lead you to the right place.
  5. Take Breaks. Your eyes will thank you if you give them a rest, especially on large documents and design pieces.

Bonus Tip:
No one is perfect. You’re bound to miss something the first few times you read through your document or design piece. Ask a friend or coworker to be your second set of eyes. While you take a break, have them review whatever you’re proofreading. They’ll almost always catch something you missed!

3 Simple Questions to Define A/B Testing

Have you ever been stuck with a tough decision between two great options? A/B testing could be the solution you’ve been searching for to making the best choice. Though it might seem self-explanatory, let’s cover three key questions and answers to fully explain A/B testing.

What is A/B testing?
A/B testing is used to compare two versions of a marketing and advertising component using a specific measurement to define success. For a clear example, many use A/B testing on their website’s homepage by testing variations of headlines, fonts, switching up calls-to-action (think “Click here!” versus “Try it now!”), and experimenting with graphics or images to see which one users click on or gravitate to more. By using this type of testing, you can see which variation has a better conversion rate and reaches the goal you seek.

What can you test?
At Porchlight, we are currently using online A/B testing for ads, emails and website design. However, you can use this type of research for nearly anything that can be changed and split into two unique variables, including graphics, more long-form copy and linking—just make sure you’re concentrating on the big-picture focus to avoid wasting time.

Why is it important?
A/B testing is one of the most effective ways to figure out the best online strategy tailored to your business’ needs. Instead of blindly measuring your marketing efforts, A/B testing can make your promotions and designs more lucrative and successful by specifically showing what website visitors, subscribers, etc. want to see. Knowing what works and what doesn’t for your audience is invaluable when creating marketing materials.

When A/B testing, always remember:

  • Skip jumping to conclusions—consider what certain results truly mean and if they are worth changing what you already have to produce results.
  • To make sure your A/B testing software is accurate, run some A/A testing the same variable and ensure accuracy when you introduce the B component.
  • Don’t stop at just one. While it may be difficult to analyze results in the beginning, when it comes to increasing your conversation rates (and in turn, impressed customers and increased sales), it’s best to keep going!

Interested in learning more? Follow Porchlight on Facebook and LinkedIn for more insights and then contact us to dive in.

The Producer’s Guide to Nailing a Photoshoot

Photographers aren’t the only ones who make a pretty picture possible. Editorial and lifestyle producers work behind the scenes to get things done that you might not even think of. Here’s a snapshot of what to expect on set:

First, you’ve got to pick the perfect photoshoot location. You may have to register for permits (yes, that’s permits with an ‘s’) and hire security. This could range from 2-3 guards to a whole team of policemen, blockades and all.

Now, it’s time to charge your phone. With a lengthy list that includes the photographer, their assistants, art director, creative director, prop/set designer, stylists, makeup artists and talent – you’ll be doing a lot of over-the-phone coordinating.

As for finding the right talent, casting calls can take weeks of planning, sometimes longer (seriously). Once you’ve got your model, you and your crew pull together outfits, create sets and buy props.

Budgeting. Yep, that’s your job, too. You decide how many crew members to hire and what food to serve – two meals a day, plus enough snacks and beverages to keep everybody happy, even vegans!

Timing is super important. If the client wants a shot of the sun setting on the beach, you’ve got to schedule everything else around this moment. Miss it, and your photo’s gone.

Our biggest tip? Be prepared because not everyone else will be. Bring extra sunscreen, a first aid kit and anything else to make the shoot run smooth. To learn more about what Porchlight has to offer, contact us. For news, updates and insights into the creative agency world, follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

How to Market to Different Shoppers

With summer in full swing, it can be hard to take your mind off of cool drinks by the pool, let alone delve into marketing strategies catering to various types of shoppers. Here are a few tips to effectively market digitally and traditionally to common shopper types. Or, feel free to use it to help find out what type of shopper you are. Whether loved or loathed, shopping is an occurrence in nearly every person’s life. Don’t miss out on the chance to market to them.

The Impulse Buyer. They’ll buy what looks good and feels right at the time on the whim.

Tip: Grab their attention with eye-catching visual design in-store. Showcase the product as a recommendation as something they need. Great packaging is an impulse buyer’s dream. You can also appeal to this shopper by being first in search. An impulse buyer may search for a product online, click the first option and buy it right on the spot.

The List-Maker. Can also be categorized as need-based. They have specific intentions, and getting them away from them is no easy feat.

Tip: While many people make lists when heading into the store, things can get complicated when they aren’t sure which product to choose. According to the Google Shopper Marketing Agency Council and M/A/R/C Research, 84% of smartphone-wielding shoppers use their phones to help them shop and make decisions within the store. When your product shows up in a search, you’re on your way to getting on their prized list. Need-based customers can turn into loyal customers once they realize your product meets their needs.

The Bargain Hunter. Their decisions are made on price rather than a shiny new object. The better the markdown, the more likely they are to purchase.

Tip: Advertise your sales with compelling newspaper and online ads. Also use social media to announce sales, and even consider directly targeting your followers and asking them to share your products on Facebook or Twitter. If you’re just starting to build your customer base, try offering introductory rates or discounts to first-time customers.

The Devotee. You can’t break them away from their favorite brand, store or website—they buy everything there and probably always will.

Tip: Geo-targeted ads can be sent to shoppers in a specific location, like their favorite store. If you’re looking to sway this shopper, get in their store of choice and aim to stand out with a compelling offer or content. While they may be loyal to the store, if your product is truly differentiated and brings the shopper more value, you have a shot at replacing their favorite brand.

The Browser. They have no specific needs, but rather seek products they want or convince themselves they need. Similar to the impulse buyer.

Tip: Advertise effectively on social media—think Facebook ads, a consistent presence on Twitter and expertly designed pins on Pinterest. This type of shopper can stumble upon your product at any time, so it’s important to have a presence. Online advertisements and striking in-store displays are also your friend.

Remember: This is just a short introduction. The patterns of shoppers are fascinating and worth the examination. Contact us to learn more and be sure to follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

What Can You Learn from Shopping Your Own Product?

How many other marketing and advertising mediums are placed within inches from the competition? Not many. Retail packaging, however, lives side-by-side with its marketing rivals.

Typically, indecisive shoppers hold a product in their hand while scanning other possible options and comparing brand recognition, features, benefits and price. All of this happens in about 15-20 seconds. There is a small window of opportunity to convince a customer to put your product in their basket. While it’s great to stand out and be different, in the world of packaging, it’s sometimes beneficial to have “me, too” features alongside key features that differentiate your product, especially if you’re a new brand without a lot of recognition.

A simple walk through a retail store can give you a ton of valuable information such as what type of structure you should consider; what features do your competitors call out; and what are the sales associates saying about the category. Packaging structure plays a large role in your customer’s decision–making process. If all of your competition is in bags and you decide on a box, your product could be missed simply because you were overlooked as not being part of the category mix. Knowing what the customers have come to expect is key.

Communicating features and benefits in a category that has a lot of competitors can be tricky. Everyone understands the values of what a 60-watt, 75-watt and 100-watt light bulb means. However, if you are packaging a new LED light bulb, you’ll want to shout “lumens”. But how is a consumer going to compare an 800-lumen to a 75-watt bulb? They aren’t. Unless you tell them about it on the packaging.

While walking the retail environment, be sure to ask an associate for information and or feedback on that particular industry. In some cases, they will be able to tell you what is selling and why. Associates are big influencers of the buying decision and understanding what they are saying about your product should not be taken lightly.

Package design should begin at the shelf. Reviewing the competition and shopping your own product in a store environment can’t be substituted. Simply viewing a new package design on a computer screen or even a really nice color print can’t tell you how your packaging really speaks to consumers.

All About Greg

7 things you need to know about the founder of Porchlight.

  1. He lives and breathes home improvement.
    If you’ve been in Greg’s office, you know that there’s a framed orange apron on the wall. His time as an art director at The Home Depot was not a blip. It was the foundation for his career and is a part of his identity.
  2. He’s a doting father and adoring husband.
    Greg and his wife, Amber, have two energetic young kids. If you see him, be sure to ask Greg about the green marker art on his Apple wireless keyboard. A few of us are lucky enough to have known him before he had kids. Back then, he had less gray hair and showed up for happy hour.
  3. He’s a discerning business owner.
    Even though there are jobs he might want to take on for free, Greg’s priority is doing the right thing for Porchlight, which includes our clients and our team. He’s frugal, pragmatic and future-driven. He’s often quoted around the office saying with regards to client work, “Work like your time is your money, not the client’s.”
  4. He’s a packaging pack rat (a package rat?).
    Greg often shows up to work with empty containers, shipping boxes, wrappers, you name it. It’s usually on Mondays, after he’s been on a “store walk” or shopping. His appreciation for packaging design is endless, and he’s not afraid to share it.
  5. He can’t spell.
    That’s okay. He’s a discerning business owner and has surrounded himself with people who can spell.
  6. He doesn’t show up for happy hour nearly as often as we wish he did.
    See #2 above.
  7. He’s not just our boss, he’s our leader and friend.
    See above, all of the above.

To Work for Free or Not to Work for Free

Preparing speculative (a.k.a. “spec”) work for new business is a common practice in the agency world. In the design world, however, there is a rising tide for abolishing spec work with entire websites devoted to just saying “NO!” to spec work. Normally, the scenario is for a client to send out Requests for Proposals, or RFPs, to various agencies asking them to submit their work/ideas in exchange for the opportunity to win the ongoing business. Some call this “pre-work” and with good reason, as interested agencies research, brainstorm and produce creative work in preparation for the pitch. And all of this with no guarantee of getting the business. The client listens and reviews each pitch and awards one agency with future business. In most cases, the other agencies go home with nothing.

As a small agency, we go back and forth about spec work. One argument is to do spec work in the hopes that we gain a larger account, and some great creative work would come our way. The other argument is to say, “No, we don’t do spec work.” In our opinion, there are several good reasons to say yes and to say no.

“Yes” Means “Maybe”
If we do the spec work and elect to participate in the pitch, we’re standing up and saying that we are willing to invest for the opportunity to have this client as a part of our portfolio. Of course, they would also need to fit the values that we seek from a new client. Furthermore, the outlined scope of the RFP would need to meet the overall value of the future business. Meaning, it may be free for the client, however, there are significant costs that need to be factored in. We invest time, manpower, printing and travel expenses. In short, how much are we willing to gamble to gain this future work, and is it even possible to recoup the upfront investment? In addition, could the new business bring the agency greater credibility or visibility? If we actually win the business, will that business lead us to additional business down the road?

“No” Means “No”
The second way we could look at this would be to say, “No, we don’t do work for free.” The main reason is that we can’t afford to work for free. Another good reason is capacity. Being lean means not having a lot of extra time to put towards non-billable work. We find it difficult to find time to work on our own brand. So, how can we find time to work on someone else’s brand for free? Another simple reason to say no… working for free in hope of future business is not common practice in other industries. Can you call several architects and ask them to draw up plans for your new home and then pick the best one to work with? How about requesting a few pizza joints to deliver a few samples for you to try before you buy?

In the end, we’ve done spec work before and may do it again if the client is a perfect fit. The goal for us as a small agency is to prove ourselves with our past work; however, if a client needs to see more from us and we are able to participate, we will.

Sustainability Design

We want to briefly discuss a few quick notes on sustainability design. The definition of sustainability is “conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.” This is a great definition, however, we like Nathan Shedroff’s definition from his book Design is the Problem: “Don’t do things today that make tomorrow worse.”

Design is the Problem

The challenge of sustainability is all around us. We mostly hear it as being “green” or “eco-friendly” and once upon a time, “reuse, reduce and recycle.” No matter what it is called, we should consider how our actions today affect tomorrow, just as Nathan’s definition suggests.

As packaging designers, we have the ability to suggest items that are good for the environment and strive for quality designs that will stand the test of time. We should use more energy upfront to create a design that will not need to be re-designed simply because of aesthetic reasons. Car models are a good example. In our opinion, the best cars are the models that have been around for awhile, like the Honda Accord or the Toyota 4Runner. Automakers are spending their time and energy refining these cars and not a lot of time re-designing a car to replace them.

Find some products that help our environment and think about recycling and reducing waste. At the same time, be somewhat cautious that it’s not only about buying green, because in most cases it’s better not to buy at all.

We’re nowhere near Catherine Mohr when it comes to being green, but it’s nice to know some people think about it at this level of detail. Enjoy!

Sustainability by Design

The Problem with Designing “Whatever you Want”

A few years back, we had an opportunity to hear Chip Kidd speak at the Portfolio Center here in Atlanta. One of the notes that we took away was his frustration with clients who told him to do whatever he wanted. For Kidd and for most designers we know, direction is part of the inspiration. What he called “blue sky” and what some call a “blank canvas” was just a pathway to inertia.

On the other side of the fence, some clients have a tendency to over-direct, making it difficult to be creative as they dictate your every move. Graphic designers need just enough direction to understand what the client is looking for. We need to know what success looks like. Beyond that point, graphic designers must have the freedom – a.k.a. trust – to move a bit to the left, a bit to the right, or even further away from center to solve the branding or design problem.

We believe one of our goals is to make a client look closely at their brand and consider new options that they may not have. We help to navigate the conversation, but the ultimate decision is up to the client. We find that most clients want change and will say they want change. They even love the changes that we present. But, when it comes time to making those changes, the actual decision is very difficult. In some cases, it’s so difficult they avoid pulling the trigger until some external circumstance intervenes, and we all know what happens when we make decisions under pressure.

“To do great work, you need a great client,” is a quote that most graphic designers have heard before. We find this very true. There are several things that can help make a great client, but one of the most important is building trust before, during and after the project. Without trust, your client may hesitate or not act at all.

Over the years, we’ve learned that when a client says, “Do whatever you want,” it simply means that they have no idea what they’re looking for. At the same time, we’ve learned that “Do whatever you want” can lead to a lot of wasted time and negative energy as we enter the design-by-elimination process, presenting idea after idea only to learn what the client doesn’t like. More slowly we suppose, we’re coming to realize that the tough conversations have to be had and indecision resolved upfront. After all, if we don’t begin a project on the same page as the client, how will we ever end up in a place where we’re all satisfied?

Perfecting the Packaging Versus the Product

Everyone has experienced what Larry David went through just trying to open a product. Packaging can be its own worst enemy.

Take potato chips, for example. Why do potato chips come in a bag? Is a bag really going to protect a fragile potato chip? It’s always surprising to open a bag of chips and find anything other than crumbles. The truth is that the majority of companies design their packaging well after the product has been developed. In most cases, this leaves very little time for any true innovation. Pringles is an exception. A large part of Pringles’ success is due to the clever collaboration between their product and its package. If more companies devoted resources to packaging innovation, it could have a huge impact on a product’s success.

One example of a company that made a successful change is Kimberly-Clark. The design team was tasked with helping increase sales for the Kleenex brand of facial tissue. Their team discovered through research that their sales were declining because Generation Y users were using toilet paper instead of Kleenex facial tissue. The Generation Y users said that the current rectangle tissue boxes reminded them of their grandmother and did nothing for their sense of fashion and décor. The design team changed the outdated rectangle box to an oval shape with several different patterns, colors and designs. The change was only to the structure. The product inside was the exact same. First introduced as a holiday promotion, the new designs sold out and the demand from retailers increased. Kleenex was charging $2 more per oval box and sold 9 to 1 in all age groups.

Christina Mau – guest speaker for Print magazine’s Design with Relevancy; statistics from Roper’s May report.

One of the most important elements in packaging design can be the structure. There is an opportunity for home improvement companies to spend more development time on the structure of their packaging to give everyday items new appeal. Companies like Kimberly-Clark, Method and Dutch Boy Paint have already taken traditional products and placed them in non-traditional packaging to much success. One of the benefits of hiring a packaging design agency is their ability to think outside the box, to start with 2D art and create a tangible 3D package. The packaging structure can really help a product succeed or at least not upset the person who needs to open it.

2004 to Now: Peering Back at Porchlight’s Past

With 2020 in full swing, we’re taking a look back at Porchlight’s humble beginnings – from a homerun design shop to an eight-person strong studio. Our Creative Director and Porchlight’s Owner Greg Corey kicks things off with a quick Q&A.

Q: Why did you start Porchlight?
A: It was a no-brainer. I was working for Newell-Rubbermaid and juggling other freelance design gigs. I got so busy that I needed to hire other people to help me meet deadlines.

Q: So, it was just you in the beginning?
A: Yes, just me. I worked out of my house and replaced my college hand-me-down dining table with a beautiful Ikea desk and Mac. I wish I had pictures of that office. It would be nice to look back at how it all started.

Q: Who was Porchlight’s first client?
A: After Newell-Rubbermaid, my next consistent client was Big Time Products. They’re a vendor of Home Depot and manufacture Firm Grip Gloves.

Q: What is your biggest struggle as a business owner?
A: That’s a tough question because each day brings a new challenge. This is the only business I’ve ever owned, so sometimes I’m not sure if I’m doing it correctly. But if I had to pick one of the most difficult things to do, I’d say managing people. Business is about people, and people can be difficult.

Q: When it comes to the company, what are you most proud of?
A: I’m very proud that we’ve been steadily growing for the past 16 years, and even now it feels like we haven’t really hit our stride yet. It’s amazing, and sometimes I can’t believe it’s been this long.

To learn more about Porchlight and what we’re all about, shoot us an email.

Thinking About the Box – 3 Keys of Packaging Design

As designers, we are always trying to create the most appealing designs that we can. Our first thoughts are typically shape, color, typography and possibly the desire to use the latest printing techniques that would really make the packaging stand out. But when it comes to packaging, we need to think a lot deeper than aesthetics. With today’s instant access to comparison shopping data via our smartphones and social media, 60% of purchasing decisions are still made at shelf. With this kind of purchasing influence, packaging should not be taken lightly. With this in mind, there are at least three basic roles packaging should play.

  1. Provide Protection. One of the most important roles of packaging is to protect the product inside during shipping. Products are shipped from overseas manufacturers, across the country and from the store to the consumer’s home. At all costs, the product needs to arrive at its destination in perfect condition. Once the product is on the shelf, it needs protection from theft. The package should deter someone from easily walking out the door with the product in their pocket.
  2. Branding and Identification National brands have always understood the value of a strong brand. Store brands have not only caught up, in some cases they are forcing the national brands to compete for attention. Regardless, if your product is a national brand or a store brand, your packaging needs a brand presence that will justify its price.
  3. Marketing Not all packaging should look like Apple’s packaging even though we might want it to. In the world of Big-Box retailers and superstores, brands are not only competing for shelf space, they are competing with several other products that are very similar, all in the same space. Have you seen the light bulb aisle at Home Depot? Most brands don’t have the marketing and advertising dollars to promote their product like Apple does. We don’t really need several bullets on the iPod packaging to understand how it works. Yes, this also has a lot to do with product design as well, but you get our point. Some brands and several that we work with don’t have a marketing budget outside of their packaging. The packaging is their marketing budget. The goal for designers is to know just how much information is needed to make the critical point of difference. That could be features, benefits, warranty, third party endorsement, etc. As designers and especially packaging designers, we need to provide information.

These are just a few keys that packaging designers should consider. Of course, there are several more that can be implemented. Please feel free to let us know what you think or send us any questions that you might have.

UPC 101

What’s the one thing that all U.S. packaging designs have in common? A barcode. This seemingly random set of lines and numbers was invented by Norman Woodland and Bernard Silver and first used to scan a pack of Wrigley’s Gum in 1974.

Since barcodes are on every package we have designed, we thought we’d try to shed a bit of light on how they are universal, how much a barcode typically costs and what exactly do all those numbers mean.

Barcodes or Universal Product Codes (UPC) are assigned by GS1 US. The first step in receiving you own UPC is to fill out an application and join the GS1 as a member. Membership is not free. To become a member of GS1 and purchase only one barcode could cost about $250 with an annual renewal fee of around $50. These fees can vary depending on how many barcodes you need and the annual revenue that the product will produce.

After your application has been submitted, and you’ve paid your membership fees, you are then assigned a unique identification number. This unique identification number is normally the first six numbers of the barcode. The next set of six numbers typically identifies the product information and is determined by the manufacturer. The very last number is called a check digit. The check digit is calculated by a formula with the existing 11 numbers. This will ensure that the barcode scans correctly.

Today, barcodes have evolved into all kinds of shapes and sizes. Currently, 2D barcodes continue to find their way onto retail packaging and signs. These are sometimes referred to as QR codes or Quick Response codes and typically lead the reader to a website or video of some kind.

So, the next time you’re speeding through the self-checkout line, you can thank Norman Woodland.

How SEO & SEM Work Hand-in-Hand

Today, we’re covering an extremely important and much buzzed about topic: SEO and SEM. If you aren’t yet acquainted with these marketing practices, let today be your last day in the dark. In order to gain and retain clients, familiarizing yourself with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a must.

Although SEO and SEM are technically two separate things often used interchangeably, SEO can be best described as the ever-changing, somewhat fickle, but completely essential best friend of SEM. The term SEO represents the practices used to garner the most visitors to a website by way of appearing highest on a list of search engine results. Ways to utilize SEO on your website include, but are not limited to, create quality content (such as blogging on your company’s site), ensure fast page load times, and utilize meta descriptions/tags and search keywords. You can also increase your ranking on a search engine by having other sites link to you and increasing your online social presence.

To understand SEM, grasp the two essential components that encompass it: Pay Per Click (PPC) and Social Media Marketing. With PPC, advertisers pay a service (such as Google) a fee each time their advertisement is clicked in return for driving traffic to their website. Social Media Marketing should consist of creating a clear voice and brand for your company to interact with and market to potential and existing customers through social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Staying on top of social media pages, with a mix of personal interaction and PPC ads, increases brand loyalty and results in higher conversation rates.

There’s no need to make a choice between SEO and SEM, each have unique benefits that work hand-in-hand together to help your company’s online presence. You’ll be successful incorporating them into your business if you have an expertly designed website, produce amazing content (update it often) and have a strong social media presence.

For more insights and information on what Porchlight is all about, contact us or check us out on Facebook or LinkedIn for frequent updates.

What’s in a Name?

Have you ever seen a product or a brand name and wonder, “How in the heck did they come up with that name?” Naming a product or brand is always such a fun and creative process, but it takes a lot of effort and a little ingenuity to come up with a name that is truly unforgettable and marketable and also stands out from its competitors.

Many agencies’ first step towards naming is to produce a creative brief. This creates a solid foundation by learning about the who, what, where, and why questions that both the client and the agency must understand. After completing this process, you have successfully established a clear naming criterion to use as an evaluation tool during each remaining step of the naming process.

Next, the brainstorming initiates. Our creative minds start to work on generating a unique list of keywords, names, and images by exploring various avenues such as definitions and origins. Tools such as word association and mind mapping are implemented to help generate a solid first round of names. Never dismiss an idea and try to share all of your thoughts with fellow team members. You never know how one word can inspire another thought during a brainstorming session. Using techniques like changing a spelling, adding a suffix or a prefix, creating a compound word, or even blending two words together can help create the perfect name.

Once the brainstorming is complete, you have now selected names that you feel is a strong fit for your client’s product or brand. Now, you must evaluate each name with an open mind, and you will definitely develop a bit of anxiety as you start to ask:
“Is this strong enough?”
“Can people pronounce it easily?”
“Wait, is the domain available?”
“Is it easy to remember?”
“Is there anything negative associated with it?”
“Has this been trademarked already?

Always have back-up names to lessen the amount of stress. Run the back-up names through the same parameters to make it a viable option to present to your client. Naming isn’t easy, don’t let anyone fool you into thinking it is. But if you have a solid foundation and combine it with passion, vision and creativity, you can create an amazing name.

What are some of the most unique or memorable names that you like?

5 Tips for Successful Media Planning

Meticulous, successful media plans continuously reach your target audience in the most cost-efficient way possible. Be sure your next strategy is effective by putting a little extra preparation into your media plan with these easy tips.

  1. Keep realistic expectations in check. Dream big—we encourage it! However, it’s equally important to make sure your goals are as realistic as they are aspirational. Align marketing and media objectives so they work together towards achieving the same goal.
  2. Take a chance on new types of marketing. Much like the rest of life, variety is the spice of marketing. Just because a strategy has worked before doesn’t mean it needs to be done habitually. Study last year’s plan hard to determine your most effective advertising mediums and tweak it to produce better results.
  3. Be current. Along the same lines as the above, although you may be catering to the same audience as the last media plan you did for the brands at hand, things have likely changed. What does the audience love, watch, read and respect today? How can you connect what they do in the digital-focused world with tangible offline behaviors? Timeliness is truly everything in marketing.
  4. Check in frequently. For an annual media plan, a six-month milestone is not enough. When reviewing current statistics and numbers, ask yourself what can be done tomorrow to optimize your media plan and produce the best results. For a real-time example of checking in on the status of a media plan, using A/B testing can allow for a comparison of one element against another to see which excels in performance.
  5. Know what success looks like ahead of time. Implementing a system of measurement for success from the beginning is a great way of tracking accomplishments during the progression of your media plan. Bonus: You can compare your progress on your next go-round.

By applying these tips for media planning success, you can achieve the results you seek. For more tips like this, be sure to follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn. To learn more about media planning, contact us.

A Roadmap for Design

You can probably count on one hand the number of things you do without reading the instructions first – play a video game, set up a home theater, shampoo my hair, etc. Unless you’ve ever had to say to yourself, “Oooohhhh, I’m supposed to rinse first?” you can also probably handle a few things without any guidance. 99% percent of the time, however, we need to read all the details before trying to tackle something. And, yes, that fits the project management role at Porchlight quite nicely we must say.

Now whether we’re in the majority on this or not, we have no idea. Maybe most people enjoy trial by fire and would rather act first and think later. But in the world of design, we ask that you make sure to initially read and comprehend the creative brief. One thing we’ve learned in working with designers is that good ones appreciate solid creative direction, otherwise their work doesn’t relate to anything. The creative brief is this vital direction that helps rather than limits and goes a long way towards the overall success of the project.

Think of it like construction – you don’t start building a structure without a blueprint for what it should look like, right? It’s the same concept. Our brief, for instance, includes 11 straight-to-the-point questions such as “What would we like our target audience to think?” and “Are there any creative guidelines?” We then send it to the client for their review and tweak it as necessary until we finalize the creative objective. It’s a simple process, yet it’s so important.

So ask yourself – would you enjoy less hours wasted going in the wrong creative direction? What about knowing, right off the bat, the target audience for, say, the package you’re designing, as well as the most important messages to place on that package? With a proper creative brief, all of the details are laid out right in front of you. It’s up to you to figure out how to bring them to life and persuade the target audience.