illustration

grab bag blog

This is where I talk about my work, my discoveries, my creative process, and the ins and outs of marketing in the arts.

Why Discounts and Sales Alone Never Work

November 6, 2017

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content marketing, wisdom

If I hand you a picture of a delicious-looking steak dinner and tell you that if you buy it now, it’s 40% off, how likely are you to jump on that deal?

What if I put the meal right in front of you, so you can see it and smell it and hear the fresh-from the grill sizzle? I take you into the kitchen and show you how it was prepared and let you meet the chef. I walk you through the garden where the food was grown. Then I bring you back to the meal and tell you the price. Are you going to buy it now?

The first tactic is traditional, old, stodgy marketing. It’s a commercial of a car on a highway with an attractive lease offer. The second tactic is content marketing.

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Why Clients Want To Do Your Job For You

July 20, 2017

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freelance life, wisdom

We can all agree: overly controlling clients are the worst. How many bosses or clients have we collectively had who tried to design something for us by giving us overly prescriptive briefs or feedback? Who told us where to place elements, how large to make them, what colors and fonts to use? Or as a marketer (who is a designer of communication), how many times has a boss dictated a message or a visual element to you and told you to just implement it as-is? Sooner or later, we all run into these bosses.

Cartoon: Controlling bossesDesign is a deceptive profession. It takes a lot of training and practice and insight to know how to do it well. It involves knowing how not just to be aesthetically pleasing, but how to communicate information in the most effective way possible. We aren’t assembly line workers. We aren’t mindless pixel-pushers. We are designers and marketers. The skills for which we are hired call for good judgment. Real design is a hard skill learned from training and experience.

But before we just blame our employers for being stupid and controlling, let’s look at our roll in this problem. We do a lot of our work alone, at our computers, in our heads, in silence. All of the research and experimentation and iteration work happens below the surface, and the only thing others see are the final drafts or finished pieces. We don’t communicate how we do the work to others.

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Goldilocks Solutions

December 14, 2016

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wisdom
This isn’t much of a secret, but I love movies. I love the experience of movies: the big screen, being immersed in a storytelling experience.

So when I moved into a new condo this summer, it seemed a great opportunity to upgrade my TV to something big and immersive. I’d had the same 32″ TV for the past ten years (and it is still going strong, props to Samsung), so I was ready for a big change. I did my homework. I researched new TVs to understand UHD, 4K displays, screen sizes and viewing distances, refresh rates — all of it. Everyone online said nobody ever regrets going too big, only too small. So I grabbed a deal on a 55″ screen and had it promptly delivered and set up.

I returned it several days later.

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The Sacrifice of Travel Drawing

November 15, 2016

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art & sketches, wisdom
Sketch of the Sicilian countrysideSicilian countryside. Ciancana, Italy. (Click any image to view larger.)

How often do you take time to really look at something or someone, to observe and study what makes them tick below the surface? We spend so much time rushing from place to place, and between them we distract ourselves with work or listening to music or reading. And then we wonder why it is becoming harder and harder to generate ideas with depth and meaning.

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The Power of Mistakes

April 21, 2016

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wisdom

A mistake is a sign of weakness in our culture. Whenever a popular figure screws up or says something wrong, they are vilified and shamed. When we make mistakes in the workplace, customers get mad, potential money gets lost, and people yell. Is it any wonder that we’re scared to death of making the slightest error?

Mic DropThere is a myth among us that artists and geniuses create perfection instantly, that inspired beauty leaps directly from imagination to reality. This myth persists because nobody ever sees the process or the screw ups. Creating an amazing piece of art happens by iteration. Artists create something, look at what isn’t working, and then try again. We create models and sketches and rehearsals and rough drafts. We experiment and throw away what isn’t working, replacing it with something hopefully better. Mistakes are the most valuable part of the learning process as long as we view them as experiments and not moral failings.

I’ve received many “Oops” emails from major companies because something wasn’t working right on their website or they advertised something incorrectly. This past April Fools Day, Google rolled out a prank called “Mic Drop” that backfired on them. Some people got mad. Very mad. But rather than implode, Google used this event as a learning opportunity and shared it with their customers.

“At Google we have a culture of sharing what we learned when things go wrong, and we want to share these learnings with you” they wrote on their blog.

They admitted their mistakes upfront, apologized, explained how they would do better in the future, and moved on. You couldn’t ask for a better response to a screw up.

So don’t be ashamed of mistakes. Nobody is interesting if you are perfect. If we make mistakes in our marketing efforts, use them to learn how to improve. Even better, use them as an opportunity to let your audience see your company as made up of real people who, like them, sometimes have “oops” days.

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