Our Blog

Jul 27

At Cleveland Design, the majority of our clients have been with us for 10 plus years. We have never been an agency that shows up, does a project, then disappears to hunt for the next new client. We develop client relationships that stand the test of time – through leadership changes, mergers and acquisitions, budget cuts and now… a global pandemic!

How we at Cleveland Design build trust with clients and turn that trust into lasting relationships:

Open communication

Developing trust starts with honest and open communication, and great communication starts with listening. Learning about the client, company, culture and brand is the first step in setting a solid foundation for a trusting relationship. While gaining knowledge in all areas is important, getting to know our client is the key that makes it all work. We learn about their issues and needs, their successes and failures, and their overall long-term goals. Also important is understanding their role in the company, and how that figures into the hierarchy of workflow and approvals. This is essential because it affects and supports their day-to-day decision making processes. While opening that line of communication with a client, we keep in mind this is a two-way street. We share with them our own mission and goals – people like to learn about each other!

Adapt to their work style and company culture

Cleveland Design is based in Boston, but we are doing graphic design projects for clients all over the world. Accommodating different time zones is a given for us, but adapting to a client’s work style and company culture is invaluable. This goes beyond knowing the brand and its mission. It drills down into the understanding of other work cultures around the globe as well as individual work styles. We build trust by accommodating and adapting our own work style to theirs. We want our clients in Europe to feel just as confident in our relationship as our clients in Boston.

Educate and share knowledge

We don’t assume a client understands the expertise and knowledge we bring to the table. They hire us for our skills, but we sometimes find they may not fully realize all of the services we offer, or the processes needed to implement solutions for their goals. During this phase it is as important for us to share the breadth of our knowledge and insight. Additionally, with new clients, we can find ourselves in a position of not knowing the intricacies of their markets and goals. Listening, and learning about their business creates the foundation that allows us to develop a true partnership. Embracing this exchange of information leads to better workflow, open communication, and a successful execution of the overall plan.

Go the extra mile

We find engaging with clients at every level of service is a great way to expand our offerings while giving them confidence that all of their needs will be taken care of. Offering services to help round out an entire campaign builds cohesiveness and trust. That trust helps the client feel they can depend on our team to be a true partner moving forward. It also ensures that all touchpoints of the brand we are helping build are implemented successfully.

Be personable

There is nothing taboo about getting to know clients on a personal level. At Cleveland Design we encourage doing so, and it has been a key factor in building trusting, long-term client relationships. With these client-based friendships, of course, we are cognizant of making the friendship level appropriate. We wouldn’t expect to show up at their backyard bbq, but knowing a bit about how their day is going, was their commute awful, how is the home schooling of their kids working out, creates a communication tone that shows we see them as individuals and not just the company they work for. Empathy is a powerful trust builder, and it allows us to adjust how we interpret and implement solutions with our clients.

At Cleveland Design, we consider our clients to be our most valuable asset. We appreciate the relationships we have successfully created by building trust and embracing open communication. Not only are we hired to do what we love, we have formed lasting relationships with people we love working with for years to come.

Topics: Business Management Tags: client relationships
Aug 01
August 2020 Calendar

"The globe thistle attracts so many visitors as it stands taller than most other flowers in my garden. Not only is the color just a beautiful shade of purple, but the flower itself is a major food source for so many flying creatures. It’s relaxing to just sit and watch all the activity."

Jonathan Cleveland

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

"Summer just feels like boating season for so many people, and of course July always feels like a red, white and blue type of month. I combined the boat, colors, and aerial view with a fun wake pattern to bring it all together and represent the perfect July day."

Jonathan Cleveland

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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
Jun 23

Over the past few years there has been a rise in the number of companies creating in-house agencies. The latest report from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), found that 78% of marketers have some type of in-house agency, an increase from 58% in 2013 and 42% in 2008.

This growth reflects the pros of having an in-house agency. These include cost control, efficiency, knowledge of brand, and rapid turnaround—essential in the today’s fast-moving, content-driven marketing landscape. In addition to creative services, many companies now see the value of having data analytics, content creation, media strategy, and digital marketing under one umbrella, all focused on supporting the brand.

There are some cons to the in-house agency approach, centered around talent and creativity. The same ANA study identified some challenges, including managing workflow, delivering great creative, and talent retention. Keeping internal talent energized and motivated to deliver innovative creative and content can be tough when the team is working on the same brand every day. By contrast, external agencies thrive on serving multiple brands that expose them to new ideas, innovative creative, and a variety of business cultures.

If 78% of marketers report having some type of in-house agency, where does that leave us? No matter the size of your agency, the collective “we” of independent agencies can find these statistics daunting. We learn of an inside connection, or potential pitch, and do our research and then find out there is an internal agency and our entire mindset changes. Are they looking for support work on mundane projects? Or are they looking for expertise? Will the internal team control us or will we be given an opportunity to demonstrate our talents? At Cleveland Design, we have answered yes to all of these questions in the past.

The good news is the same ANA report showed that traditional agencies remain important, as 90% of marketers surveyed say they still work with external shops. About two-thirds of our clients have a large internal agency. We are often brought in on campaigns for various reasons, but the client seeking a different mindset, expertise, or new creative viewpoint seems to be a few of the top reasons. Contrary to what some studies suggest, clients often find us more budget-friendly and quicker than the internal agency. I don’t think this reflects on the talent of the internal agency, but rather on the workload they have been given, which can often be overwhelming. In our experience, the “blended model,” combining the capabilities of both in-house and external agencies, delivers results that are more solid and ensures the marketing strategy is more fulfilled. It benefits everyone involved—especially the brand.

"Today’s success is built on the flexibility to leverage both in-house and agency expertise to build and sustain the needed creativity. Great results come when the brand remains dedicated to that right mindset of innovation and broad capabilities."

– Patty Stone, former EVP at Weber Shandwick

For small, medium, and even large external agencies, the blending must go both ways. The “Full-Service Agency” or everything “Under One Roof” is sort of the little white lie of every agency. No one does everything and if they do, then they become the jack of all trades and master of none. Just as an in-house agency needs to bring in top talent for help, so do we. At Cleveland Design we have found that bringing in talent with specialized expertise is a huge plus. They can round out our team and provide the ability to deliver the services needed for a project, without having to pay for a full-time staff member whose expertise we may not need every month of the year. The pool of excellent consultants and freelancers out there is a great resource to strengthen a team when specialty services are needed. Being confident in what you can deliver for your client is always the end goal and having a team of senior talent brings that confidence.

What we have learned in the past from being part of a blended agency is to be super nimble and able to deliver great work. Becoming knowledgeable in the brand is a must. And yes, sometimes the project or campaign the client has brought you in on is a bit mundane and doesn’t reflect the potential of your talent. But it’s your opportunity to do a great job and demonstrate your talents, which often leads to being invited for a great project to work on in the future. Big ideas, expertise, and specialty services will always be needed and it’s our job to bring it and blend it in.

Topics: Business Management Tags: agency
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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With Calendar:

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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 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
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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With Calendar:

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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

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