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May 14
Content marketing: when sharing beats selling

The term “content marketing” is a term that has gained increased currency in recent years. But it’s more than just a buzzword. Indeed, content marketing has become an important part of the marketing mix for many B2B companies, including a number of Cleveland Design clients.

But what exactly is content marketing and how does it help organizations achieve their business goals? To answer those questions and to explore how content marketing can work for you, we spoke to our resident writer, Andy Paul.

Let’s start with the basics. What is content marketing?

Put simply, it is a marketing approach that involves delivering to customers and prospects content that is relevant, meaningful and useful to them. This content is not focused on “selling” the reader on your product or service, but rather on nurturing interest and/or trust in your brand, creating a connection that ultimately will lead to sales and foster brand loyalty.

Why the increased focus on content marketing now?

Today, the customer is in the driver seat. Bombarded by a continuous stream of marketing messages, people have developed well-honed filters to weed out sales messages—except those from brands they identify with and trust. At the same time, they have an insatiable appetite for content that entertains or educates about topics that interest them. This is true for both consumer and business audiences, because people are people. Content marketing is designed to satisfy this appetite, positioning the brand as a reliable source of engaging and useful information.

How does content marketing fit into the overall marketing strategy?

In most cases, content marketing is considered a “top of funnel” (capturing new prospects) or “middle of the funnel” (nurturing prospects) activity. This is distinct from “bottom of the funnel” marketing focused on conversion. But a well-managed content marketing strategy is also valuable for maintaining customer relationships after conversion. As people keep coming back for quality content, their relationship with the brand is reinforced. So it’s really an ongoing process.

Can you give an example of a content marketing strategy in practice?

Absolutely. Our clients CompuMark, Derwent and MarkMonitor, all part of Clarivate Analytics, have robust content marketing campaigns. These brands all serve intellectual property (IP) professionals and brand owners, who work in a complex landscape of continually evolving market, technology and regulatory dynamics. Cleveland Design has partnered with them to create an integrated program of content—including articles, webinars and reports—that help these IP professionals keep pace with their changing landscape and gain knowledge they can use to serve their companies and clients more effectively. In many cases, content is gleaned from interviews we conduct with our clients’ customers, then turning their insights into engaging learning experiences that focus on sharing—not selling.

The consumers of this content walk away with new knowledge and insights... and a stronger sense of Clarivate as a trusted source of valuable information. Both parties win.

How do you know when a content marketing strategy is successful?

It’s important to recognize that content marketing isn’t a “one shot” deal; it’s an ongoing approach to connecting with your audience that must be sustained over time. Tracking downloads of content and analyzing that information against lead generation data can give you a good sense of which types of content are delivering business value over time.

For marketers focused on the number of “impressions” they are achieving, attracting more than 600 attendees to a webinar and keeping their attention for an hour—as a recent CompuMark webinar did—is strong evidence that you’re on the right track.

What’s the key to creating effective content?

Three words: Know your audience. What are they curious about? What are they worried about? What new shifts in business or technology do they need to learn about to avoid falling behind? Are there new market opportunities they may be missing out on? Most conscientious business people are hungry for this information—as long as it delivers what it promises.

And don’t forget the visual aspects. No matter what media you’re reaching them with, do you have graphics and design that bring the content to life? Studies have shown that people consume visual information much quicker than written text—and remember it far longer.

Content marketing is all about giving your audience something of value in order to gain their interest, their trust and, ultimately, their business. If you’re selling today, you need to be sharing, too.

Ready to make content marketing a productive part of your marketing mix?
Let’s talk.

Topics: Marketing Tags: copywriting, content, marketing
Jun 01
June 2020 Calendar

Summer is just around the corner, and this month's artwork gets us in the mood. Diana Morales, the designer for this month's calendar, says "I wanted to design a calendar that captured the beauty and grace of jellyfish. I have always been fascinated by the vibrant colors of their bioluminescence and the graceful flow of their tentacles in the ocean. It is so peaceful and elegant."

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Without Calendar:

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View our Installation Guide for instructions on how to set this month's artwork as your background wallpaper.
Topics: Just for Fun Tags: calendar
May 01
May 2020 Calendar

With the current state of the world, self-care is more important than ever, and this month's artwork couldn't feel more appropriate. Diana Morales, the designer for this month's calendar, says "We all need to take a break now and then. I designed this calendar art to express my feelings of inner peace and personal growth after taking the time to relax and self-reflect." 

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View our Installation Guide for instructions on how to set this month's artwork as your background wallpaper.
Topics: Just for Fun Tags: calendar
Apr 27

A crucial step in building strong brands is creating a strong alignment between the visual and verbal elements of the brand. The brand imagery, color palette, icons, typeface, and brand voice must all work in concert to create a solid foundation for the brand.

Recently, we created a logo family for the Business Resource Group at Thomson Reuters for internal use across the enterprise. This involved developing six logos to represent distinct interest groups, while conforming to the corporate brand standards. We spoke with Cleveland Design Creative Director Jenny Daughters to get her thoughts on the challenges and solutions involved when creating "internal brands within a brand."

How do you balance conforming to corporate brand standards with creating distinct internal identities? How far can you push the brand?

That's the fundamental question when designing for a company with strong brand standards. First and foremost, you need to truly understand the corporate brand in order to push it. You need to understand the essential elements that cannot be pushed and where you can find opportunities for creativity. That comes from years of working with a client's brand. This experience enables me to "push until it breaks"—and then I can walk it back. So I can come up with something fresh and new, while still adhering to the core pillars of the brand.

These identities were created for multiple groups devoted to specific missions. How challenging was it to give each group its own identity?

When I started the project, I did so with a clear understanding that each group represented an issue or mission that employees are passionate about. At the same time, the logos had to function as part of a cohesive family. Dealing with this creative tension was the greatest challenge of this project. Each group had its own perspective, priorities and expectations. While acknowledging these, I needed to help them understand the overarching goal of creating a family within the brand standards, and the need to give me the freedom to do that.

During the discovery process, what influences did you consider for each group to make sure their visual identity represented their cause and interests?

At the outset of the project, I spent a great deal of time visiting each group's intranet page to research their legacy visual identities—often these varied from region to region. I also spent time reading their posts to immerse myself in their group's focus and ethos. This process was invaluable, giving me a deeper understanding of the mission and passion that animates each group's identity. This research, together with the project kickoff call, gave me a good jumping off point.

As a designer with an outside agency, what is the process of working with internal brand managers when working on projects like this? And how do you balance this with the requests from the end client?

I made it a priority to meet with the corporate brand manager at the beginning of the project to gain her perspective on how the internal logos I was creating should work within the corporate brand framework. This was extremely helpful, giving me clear sense of how far I could "push" the brand and where the "guardrails" were. Throughout the process of creating my designs, I shared them with the brand manager to get her feedback before showing them to the end client. This collaborative approach was extremely productive, enabling me to be creative while staying within the bounds of what was acceptable.

I think this experience demonstrated a key part of my role as an external designer—serving as a bridge between corporate brand management and the business groups we work for and with. I believe that cultivating a good working relationship with the brand team is essential. This project truly was a partnership and I felt like part of the Thomson Reuters team, while bringing a fresh, external perspective to the assignment.

As you look back on this project and seeing the success of the finished product, what takeaways stand out?

As a designer, I felt that the resulting logos were all successful designs, so that was very personally rewarding. It was also rewarding to look at the six logos and truly see a cohesive family, yet each design was distinct. It was particularly gratifying that brand management supported the finished logos 100 percent. And that the end client was so pleased with the result and with my guidance during the process. That felt great.

As the design process progressed, we solicited feedback on the designs from the members of the six groups via online surveys. I got to read how my designs impacted employees. That was a rare treat, seeing how my work affected the employee experience. Everyone was positive about the designs. That made me feel good, that it was a job well done.

Topics: Business Management, Campaigns Tags: internal branding, logo design
Apr 06

On a day in early March I went grocery shopping and picked up a pack of Charmin Ultra Strong Mega Roll, the toilet paper I have become brand loyal to for a number of years. (I admit, I’m not a fan of the family of bears discussing their clean bums, but I still love the brand.) With the Mega Roll being the size of an award-winning cheese wheel at the Wisconsin state fair, I figured it would last a good while before I needed to purchase more. Little did I know the following weeks would see a run on toilet paper with little choice left for the consumer to even buy toilet paper or, almost worse yet, purchase a brand they are not loyal to. Any visit to the grocery store or online shopping in the past few weeks will tell you that it’s not just toilet paper; a number of other brand must-haves are missing as well. Absent are our favorite brand of pasta and sauce, laundry detergent, paper towels, cereal, cleaning products, crackers... the list goes on and on.

Like it or not, we are all currently participating in our own in-home brand focus group. With our favorites unavailable, we are consuming brands we would have never considered trying out before. Our new reality is based on needs and not wants.

I need toilet paper, but I want my Charmin.

Our purchasing needs are logical, but our wants are emotional. As marketers, we help to create a purchase based on a logical need. And at the same time, we are crafting messaging that creates an emotional want. One major aspect of building a brand is inspiring brand loyalty from the customer. Brands with a large loyal following can also reverse the above equation by creating a need. You love Apple. Did you need an iPhone or did you want one? That could be a chicken-or-egg question. Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95% of our purchase decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind. He also goes on to say that many consumers report handling competing brands and comparing prices at the point of purchase. However, observations of these same consumers often reveal that they don't even look at alternatives to the chosen brand.

Given this, it shows that brand loyalty has very little to do with price. But our current product choices feel a bit like a grab-what-you-can game, and cash in hand will not make you the winner. Maybe we should all enjoy the game and be open to experiencing a new brand based on our needs. By the time we return to a pre-crisis shopping pattern, we will have had the opportunity to experience other brands and have some solid results from our in-home brand focus group.

The Charmin is gone and it’s no place to be found. I’m giving AngelSoft three out of five stars. But waiting in the wings is the 7th Generation Unbleached Recycled toilet paper that resembles a small Duraflame log just waiting to be torched. I’m hesitant. I do embrace the same values as the 7th Generation brand – recycling, sustainability, and an equitable future for all (although I think the latter is putting a lot of pressure on a toilet paper). At this point I have no choice but to try it out, and if the product delivers and the brand sways me, I just may be kicking that family of bears out of the bathroom.

Topics: Marketing, News
Apr 01
April 2020 Calendar

With a nod to April showers, this month's calendar features an array of paper parasols being lifted to new heights! This month's designer, Jonathan Cleveland, says "The wind and rain of April can become dreary so I thought it would be fun to liven it up a bit and have the colorful parasols flying through the air against a backdrop of wind clouds represented in an Asian style."

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Without Calendar:

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View our Installation Guide for instructions on how to set this month's artwork as your background wallpaper.
Topics: Just for Fun Tags: calendar
Mar 25
The 8 essentials to include in your company's brand guide

Does your company need a brand guide? The short answer is yes. Brand guidelines are essential for establishing and maintaining consistency across all of your brand communications and touchpoints. Everyone involved in brand building, from designers to CEOs, will be glad you have one.

But just having a guide isn’t enough – you need to make sure it is complete so anyone using your brand can start creating a consistent look.

Here is a handy list of the 8 essential things you should include in your brand guide. This will not only help designers and marketers, but anyone creating content for your company.

1. Mission Statement

No matter the size of your company, a mission statement can help define your goals and what your brand stands for. Having a strong, clear mission statement will help guide you through creating the rest of your brand.

Example mission statements

Amazon: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.

LinkedIn: To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.

Kickstarter: To help bring creative projects to life.

2. Logo

This may seem obvious, but every set of brand guidelines should have logo standards. Rules need to be established not only for what is acceptable usage, but also what is unacceptable. It helps to include examples of both usage types to avoid any misinterpretations or confusion. Comprehensive guidelines for logo usage should include rules for placement, clear space, shape and proportion, size, and color.

3. Color Palette

One of the most common mistakes with color palettes is not providing the color breakdowns for both RGB (digital) and CMYK (print). Too often we see brand guidelines come through that only include one or the other. Print may not be as popular as it used to be, but every brand still needs to define its colors. You definitely don’t want to be using RGB colors for print or vice versa, as they will always come out looking different.

4. Typography

Font choices define your brand just as much as a logo or color palette. Think about your brand and choose a set of fonts that represents your brand personality. How do you know which fonts to choose? Increasingly, brand professionals are looking to theories of font psychology to determine how typeface choices affect a user’s perception of a brand. This can help you to decide which fonts are appropriate for your brand.

Is it okay to have more than one approved font? Yes. Some brands have two or three. If that’s the case, give specific rules and always show examples of how they should be used. For example, a headline font vs. body copy font. For extra points, you can even include a web safe font that can be used in digital formats when the branded font is unavailable, such as with HTML emails, websites, PowerPoints, etc.

5. Photography Style

With millions of stock images at our fingertips, it’s easy for people to choose photos that are not consistent with your brand. To minimize that risk, your guide should include some examples of the style of images that support your brand and get the right message across. Not sure what style you like or where to start? Digital Trends posted an excellent article about emerging trends in photography.

6. Iconography

Icons can be an important part of a brand’s visual identity, yet these are often overlooked with creating brand standards. Icons can add visual interest to a design and are a great way to illustrate complex concepts. But, similar to photography, there are many different styles of icons that usually fall within four main categories: outline, colored, flat and glyph. To ensure consistency of style and usage of icons, include specific examples and rules in your guide.

7. Tone of Voice

The style and tone of the written word can also be an important element of your brand. Here, too, it’s good idea to provide some guidance on your brand voice. Should it be confident and authoritative…or warm and nurturing? Much will depend on your business and the context in which you communicate with various audiences. Creating some basic guidelines and illustrating them with brief written examples (including examples of how not to sound) will help reinforce a consistent tone across all of your communications.

8. Templates & Examples

It’s always a good idea to include predesigned templates with a branding guide. Not only will this help keep people within the established rules, but it will also serve as a visual example of how the guide is interpreted. Here is a quick list of design templates every brand should have:

  • Reports (digital and print)
  • Email
  • Word document
  • PowerPoint presentation

Extra credit if you include examples of social media images, advertisements, exhibit booths and banners. The more examples you provide, the better established your brand’s visual design will be.

If you need help creating a new brand, refreshing an old one, or if you just feel that your current branding guidelines are insufficient, we can help! Contact us today to get started.

Topics: Business Management Tags: branding
Mar 01
March 2020 Calendar

Our March calendar features a dreamy image of magically floating in the light of an enormous moon. The moonlit visual is appropriate as we will be experiencing 2020's first supermoon on the 9th. Although ‘supermoon,' when the moon's orbit is at its closest point to Earth, is not an official astronomical term, it does conjure an image we all can relate to. Coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979, even he couldn't have predicted how the term would be embraced. Much like Richard's naming of this lunar event, it is important to consider how we choose to communicate events and information to our audiences. Well considered words and images are powerful tools to bring your brand to life.

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View our Installation Guide for instructions on how to set this month's artwork as your background wallpaper.
Topics: Just for Fun Tags: calendar
Feb 01
February 2020 Calendar

Our February calendar features one of Winter’s prized creations, the snowman. The making of a snowman, like any creative endeavor, takes planning and the right conditions. There is the anticipation of that ‘perfect snow,’ one that allows you to start with a small ball that will grow and grow as you push it and mold it into your greatest masterpiece!

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Without Calendar:

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View our Installation Guide for instructions on how to set this month's artwork as your background wallpaper.
Topics: Just for Fun Tags: calendar
Jan 29
2020 Tokyo Olympics

The official posters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have debuted. This exciting and diverse collection was created by fine artists, graphic designers, calligraphers, and photographers from Japan and beyond. There are 20 posters, including 12 representing the Olympics, and 8 representing the Paralympics.

Since 1912, when the first Olympic poster was created for Sweden, the Olympic Games have used official posters to promote and showcase to the world the special features of each quadrennial event.

I asked each member of the team at Cleveland Design to choose their favorite and write why they loved it. For me, it was a tough choice. The passion and creativity in each poster is abundant, and each speaks to a different perspective that collectively makes a single statement.

Below are our thoughts on the poster we each loved best.

Jonathan Cleveland

Horseback Archery, by painter Akira Yamaguchi

At first, I was drawn to the posters created by graphic artists, which of course would probably be expected of me. The ethereal yet incredibly powerful nature of the scenario presented here brings the representation of the Paralympics to a fulfilling level that I can’t unsee. At first view, it has a yamato-e (traditional Japanese painting) style to it with a twist of contemporary Samurai warrior. The muted tones of color are in stark contrast to the energy that the artist conveys. It has at once a traditional Japanese artistic style and a bold stamp of pop culture—and it’s just a beautiful piece of fine art. The determination and grit of the warrior Olympian just makes me want to cheer for a gold medal for all the competitors!

Jenny Daughters

Fly High!, By Shoko Kanazawa

I find this poster’s simplicity and elegance striking. I love its nod to Japanese tradition, yet it remains wholly contemporary. While it uses none of the typical iconography associated with the games (the rings, the torch, etc.) the dynamism in the calligraphy captures the energy and grace of the athletes so vividly. The gold foil background, which references the tradition of screen paintings, illuminates the characters and adds depth to the image. And the meaning of the characters—“Fly High”—seals the message like a one-two punch.

Diana Morales

The Sky above The Great Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa, By Hirohiko Araki

There are so many things I love about this poster—the art style, use of color, the history, its unique composition and the artist’s immense attention to detail. But my favorite part has to be how he lifted inspiration from Katsushika Hokusai's classic print, Under the Wave of Kanagawa. The wave is drawn beautifully and the way it flows seamlessly into the clouds is flawless. He took a piece of art from almost two centuries ago and made it relevant in today’s modern world. I love the cotton-candy pink against the flat indigo background. The athletes running through the clouds, high above the rest of the world, really captures the intensity and determination of the world’s top athletes. I could stare at this piece for hours and still see new details I had missed before. It really is a beautiful piece of art.

Lynn McNamee

PARALYMPIAN, By Goo Choki Par

The fractal nature of PARALYMPIAN’s elements drew my attention to this poster. Its kinetic energy with the pieces wanting to burst out, but somehow staying together in their forward motion, is inspiring. This is how I imagine an elite athlete must feel just prior to leaving the starting line. I also appreciate how fitting it is as a representation of a Paralympian with its seemingly broken pieces coming together to achieve power.

Andy Paul

Now it's your turn!, By Naoki Urasawa

As a fan of Japanese manga and graphic novels in general, I was immediately drawn to the stark drama of this poster. Devoid of color, it is packed with emotion. In a few frames, it captures simply and powerfully the focus, determination, and inner strength that are essential traits of every Olympic and Paralympic athlete. I can’t read the Japanese characters, but that’s not necessary; the personal story of an athlete in the tense seconds prior to competing with the world’s best is clear. It’s our turn—let’s go!


We would love to hear which posters you love! View all of the posters here.

Topics: Just for Fun Tags: poster

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