Let’s Get This Straight, You Didn’t Create a BRAND

One of the most challenging and elusive aspects of building a business is creating this thing called a “brand.” It’s not like a machine where you can just write a check and it gets “installed” next week. You can’t go to a website and choose the type of brand you want from a menu – and check out. That being said, if this were possible, the people least likely to ever build a brand for their business are those who’d select the “Standard Brand” over the “Premium Brand,” given a choice.

You can’t even hire a service provider or marketing company to create a brand. At least, not without your company’s full participation and adherence to what the “brand experts” tell you to do. (For example, we could help you create a brand, but it’s like trying to lose 30 pounds with a trainer and never following the meal plan – the pounds aren’t coming off.)

Creating a brand is an incredibly detail-oriented, and carefully curated process that is only validated… let me repeat… ONLY VALIDATED by your customers. What does that mean? It means that your customers will be the ones to say if you created a brand. Not you. You’re probably saying, “You mean to tell me, all the money we paid that marketing firm to “brand” our new product didn’t actually create a brand?” If you’re Unilever Corporation and your customers are still asking the clerk at Wal-Mart what aisle they can find cotton swabs, instead of Q-tips – then yes, you didn’t create a brand. If you’re 10 year old nephew doesn’t shame you for not yet upgrading to the iPhone 6 (like mine did today) – then yes, you didn’t create a brand.

If your customers don’t promote, defend and obsess over you – then yes, you didn’t create a brand.

If you are just like everyone else, but with a fancy new whiz-bang-whatchamacallit – then yes, you didn’t create a brand.

My feelings on branding are summed up in this simple litmus test: “Create a company that people want to do business with, before they even know what you do.” That’s what we did at Hotcards. Our customers validate this ALL THE TIME. They often times refer to Postcards and Business cards as “Hotcards.” As in, “I’d like to buy 5,000 Hotcards.” We have to ask them to be more specific – because you certainly don’t want to end up with 6” x 10” business cards! Try stuffing that in your wallet. I recall being sent a picture from my friend judging a high school business plan competition in Ohio. Each one of the students put on their list of marketing tactics, “Distribute Hotcards.”

When people start calling products like postcards, flyers and brochures (products hundreds of years old) by your company name – then my friend, you’ve created a BRAND!

Below are a few more examples of customers telling us… “You created a brand!” Including the group of ladies wearing our shirts and taking photos wearing Hotcards oven mitts (how they even got their hands on our mitts, I don’t know!). Then there’s Eddie Griffin holding a box of Hotcards with oven mitts. And how about the dude on Twitter spreading his love for our cooling station?! It’s humbling to see this stuff!

These are brand validations. You can’t fake ‘em... and you can’t buy ‘em. We’ll talk about some of the ways Hotcards created this “movement” in future posts.


Hotcards Girls Mitts 

Eddie Griffin Hotcards

Hotcards Cooling Station


The Brochure Given Out by Ebola

Every company has to have a brochure. Yet, Ebola isn’t really up to speed yet with "his" brochure because, well, his fame came suddenly this time around and he just wasn’t prepared.

Be Prepared with Marketing Materials

When you land yourself on worldwide television nightly, as Ebola has, be prepared before it happens. Nothing is worse than having your name and information given out all day long on every television station in the world, day after day, and not having a single piece of positive marketing material ready. Ebola is that victim, as the media caught him with his pants down. The best exposure anyone can ever dream of getting and Ebola had zip, nada, not a thing to hand out. How to stop Ebola is a mystery! Why? Because Ebola doesn’t have a brochure, that’s why. It has been weeks and still, Ebola doesn’t have a brochure! So, even with the best coverage the world can give him, he still is not up to speed with his marketing material.

Brochure Printing and 23-Hour Turn-Around

Soon the world’s best physicians and scientists will gather to try to figure out how to handle this virus. We can only hope that Ebola gives us a call to do his brochure before that happens. We can do a full color brochure with numerous folding options. Maybe he would want something in a glossy color to really offset his work. We can do matte coated, also, so, no worries. But time is running out for Ebola and he needs to give us a call. We can do a 23-hour turnaround, if he has his art ready and knows what he wants to put in the brochure. The clock is ticking, though.

A List of Your Products or Services

A brochure is very handy for your customers. It lists all of your services and gives what benefits a potential customer will receive from those services. Your customer can pop it in their shopping bag and take it home with them in order give it to a friend or to cherish it always. They are like a very large business card that spells out all that you do and what you charge. It does all of this in a very pretty way, or in Ebola’s case, not so pretty. However, Ebola has yet to call to order his brochure and other marketing materials, so it is a bit of a non-issue. At this point, our staff is whispering they are happy he hasn’t dropped in personally.

Your Brochure and Marketing Materials

Hotcards.com will be happy to put together the whole package for you of business cards, letterhead, flyers along with your brochure. It is everything you need to startup your business. Use our website to put in your order or just give us a call. If you know Ebola, let him know we can do this for him, also, with a 23-hour turn around, but tell him just use the website and not stop by the office. For some reason, our staff is not anxious to meet this guy.


Ebola Brochure 

Calendar Ideas to Print for Your Hilarious Free Calendars

Of course, you want your giveaway calendar that you print to be way cooler than that other guy’s. You know that guy. He’s that guy that is always kissing up to the boss and gets the great sales bonuses because of it. Yeah, “that guy.” It is time to totally outdo that guy with spectacular free calendars that feature your name and phone number for your clients. You don’t have to buy a lame stock calendar. Print a cool calendar. Give them away for free. Bury “that guy” in sales this year.

The Calendar from Hell

Okay, maybe not a calendar from Hell, exactly, more like graveyard. How about your free calendars featuring zombies this year? Every month features a zombie in a new and interesting pose in print. February is a month for Valentines and zombies like to hook up, too! Pose your zombies proposing marriage or loving a tasty bite of human flesh with hearts all around. A possible feature for May is a pin-up zombie in a sexy little number because of the warmer weather. Who doesn’t love zombies? Everyone love zombies! When your clients’ friends see your print calendar, they’ll want one also. So, now your contact information is in your clients’ friend’s hands, too! And in the hands of the friends of their friends!

Calendar of The Armadillo’s Hunt

The crafty armadillo, yeah, is the animal no human ever seems to be able to catch. He simply must have his own hunting calendar. Put into print armadillos posing with a backyard full of holes or holding a human by the ankle as the human screams and tries to get away. For August, print an armadillo laughing hysterically as a human tippy-toes around the yard with a rifle looking for him. Think Wil E. Coyote. This is a sure winner in the southern states for free calendars.

Garbage Men in Print

What client wouldn’t love their very own Garbage Men of the Month in print? What a page turner! Of course, November being the month of Thanksgiving would have to feature little turkeys on his boxers while he hangs spread eagle from the back of his garbage collection truck. January being one of the coldest months would certainly feature our favorite guy posing buck naked in a fur coat that he clearly found in someone’s can at the curb. The ladies will be begging you for more free calendars to pass along to their friends.

Free Calendars of Holy Bacon

Become everyone’s hero by giving free calendars this year featuring everyone’s sacred food: BACON. Have November feature a bacon wrapped turkey. For June feature a gal in a bacon bikini at the beach! In December you simply must have a bacon Santa. Under a bacon tree, have a load of packages of bacon for presents! Don’t forget the bacon bows, now! Even the vegetarians will beg for more free calendars for their friends.

How to Get Your Calendar in Print

Yeah, it is definitely time to beat “that guy” at his own game. Print your calendar now for the 2015 year. Get a head start on handing out your free calendars and Hotcards.com will do them up right for you. The look on that guy’s face when you get the big bonus will be priceless. Yeah, totally priceless, it doesn’t even need bacon. Wait! Everything needs bacon!


A Piece of Paper That Folds Itself into a Robot

Imagine a group of flat sheets being sent into space, and then organizing themselves into a satellite. It really seems like some low-budget 1950's science fiction movie. Except for the fact that it'll actually be available. Eventually. As last week saw the world's first robot to fold itself and start working without human interaction.

A team at Harvard and MIT created the self-folding robot, inspired by the complex 3-D shapes constructable with origami which were recently published in the journal Science.

Sam Felton, a graduate student at Harvard University, says that the robot is made from composite paper, a bendable circuit board and uses the toy, Shrinky Dinks. When heated, the sheet shrinks into small, hard forms. These materials allow for the quick construction of cheap robots, but eventually, Felton said, better materials will help people build objects in places that are more difficult to reach.

The self-folding robot that they created is kind of modest, but the future applications for the technology are virtually endless. Imagine, if you will, a flat robot being sent into a collapsed building to assemble and perform its function?

It's almost dizzy-making to contemplate where technology is heading.

Types of Designers to Avoid

There are innumerable reasons for not hiring a particular designer, but these we can reduce to warning bells which can typically warn an employer (or contract employer) that a particular designer will be more trouble than he, or she is worth. LUCKILY, Hotcards doesn't have any of these types of designers, which means you're pretty much assured an awesome experience if you hire us to handle your next design project! (Shameless plug ;)

The Deity - designers of this type simply can't do any wrong. Everything that they do is like manna from heaven, regardless of what your impression of it is. Arrogant doesn't quite cut it, as that's a personality flaw that can be overcome if there's adequate talent on display.This is more akin to a kind of deluded arrogance that is inexplicable. Certainly not someone who you'd like to collaborate with given a choice.

The Safe-player - These are designers who don't stand out much. They have basic skills and usually produce okay work, but they're not likely to engage in much risk-taking. Clients often avoid hiring such designers because they'd rather hire a designer who has the ability to produce something we haven't seen before.

The Perfectionist - Perfectionist designers tend toward being obsessive about their work. And while this can be an admirable quality in a designer, it can prove to be a challenge in working with them. They sometimes ignore instructions and prefer to do things according to what their will tells them to do, and their flawless style can also lead them to believe that they're superior to other designers. Worst of all, they have a hard time ever finishing a project, because it's never perfect!

The Turtle - designers of this type are generally nervous wrecks who envision negative feedback from clients before they've even presented. Designers like this completely lack confidence in their abilities, and as a result, frequently hide underneath their shells, like turtles. Their lack of self-esteem deters employees from hiring them.

The Hoarder - This type of designer collects multiple projects at the same time. They forget to set priorities and often have many work-related, freelance and personal projects at the same time. These designers have no balance and need to work on their time management. They tend to deliver projects late and the quality of their work is often dubious due to their lack of focus.

The Copycat - A designer of this type tends to surf the net for inspiration. Everything that he or she does marks the stamp of looking brutally familiar. Perhaps not all lifted per se, but at least heavily borrowed. You want to avoid such designers as complete originality is not in their bag of tricks.

The Pretentious - Designers of this type are show-offs. They love bragging about skills that they don't actually possess, but they can "talk the talk" and "dress the part" even if they can't produce high quality work. People often avoid working with this type of designer because they're essentially poseurs.

The Slug - These designers are the "lazy" type. They tend to get very sluggish, and this is the main reason why their projects are often delayed. The opposite of a "flash" designer who breezes through projects without missing deadlines or even finishing ahead of time. Being a slug isn't so bad as long as good work is ultimately produced, but clients often avoid this type simply because of their inability to meet deadlines and their tendency to waste money.

The Soloist - Designers of this type are lousy collaborators, although working on a collaborative project. They generally see their own work as being superior to that of other designers, and they usually don't listen to feedback. Instead of attracting clients, they tend to drive them further away.

The Flash - A designer of this type is a fast worker. They deliver projects quickly, often ahead of deadlines and present to clients on time. Although being a fast worker is generally a plus, clients often avoid hiring them because in their rush to completion, they often produce substandard work.


It's that time of the year when the perpetual act of political campaigning pushes into hyper-drive in advance of the fall elections, so that means Hotcards must again do its part in cheerleading the process. Like virtually any printing business, we're up to our ears in direct mail pieces and lawn signs this time of the year, and naturally we have our favorite mediums. In fact, we'll go out on a limb and state that we think direct mail pieces are the most sensible thing a candidate can employ. And employ often! That's our suggestion anyway.

Now, it does depend on how much attention is paid to creation of the thing. A slothfully-created, black and white piece of campaign literature isn't gonna sway anyone but the candidate's mother. But a well-put-together, four color piece which at least takes a stab at persuasion is more than likely to be a home run. It may be a two run homer when the opponent has an insurmountable lead, but that's not a failure of the direct mail piece. It ostensibly did its job.

Now, you might be thinking this isn't the slickest way to pursue young voters... but guess again! A 2011 study by TRU shows that 65 percent of Millennials (those born after 1985) say they prefer to read something on paper. Remember—there are more than 100 million Millennials in the U.S.! Besides that, how many times do people have to note how infrequently and erratically they vote anyway, before people cease casting their lots with them? You want people who vote en masse, you want old and middle-aged people, as well as Millennials. No medium serves as a guarantee that all intended targets of a piece of campaign literature will read it, but direct mail does rather well in this regard. There are lots of academic studies out there that show political direct mail works, and there are campaigns and organizations that run tests that show that political direct mail can have a statistically significant impact.

So really, you can go to all the Knights of Columbus Pancake Breakfasts you like and plaster your electoral district with billboards, but there's nothing as simple and persuasive as dropping a direct mail piece in the voters' mailboxes. Of course, it would probably be sensible to do all of the above. Your opponent probably will.


Political mailing 

Logos with a Stench of Ripoffery

It's a sad day indeed when individuals purloin the hard work of others and present it as their own work.Call it desperation, a lack of pride, or cases of shameless hackery on parade - but the net result is the same: Representing another's work as your own. For shame, I say. Why did you get into this line of work to begin with if not for the satisfaction of work well done? It kind of makes one's skin crawl a little, but now, without further ado, shameful logo rip-offings, courtesy of the logo rip off catchers at Logothief.com.

It was noble of the offending sushi bar designer to white out some details in the sushi bar design they ripped off. The logo is testimony to the lack of freshness in the place, however.

Sushi logo

 There's just no way in heck that two people pull this visual image out of the atmosphere. Sometimes great minds do think alike, but this ain't one of those times. Pure, shameless, ripoffery.

harrolds logo 

Maries. Aventino One in English. The other in Italian. You can say one good thing about the Maries logo: At least they purloined it from a disparate culture. You almost have to wonder who the habitue of both spots is who noticed this blatant rip off:

Maries logo


Hey, at least the purported rip off artist in this instance put the logo on an angle and added a star. So they tried to make it their own, even though anyone who glances at both logos know exactly what they did:

z logo 

This could be a case of great minds thinking alike, but it ain't very likely, plus, it's much more fun to point the finger at people for stealing. So, stealing. Stolen. Ripped off design. For shame:

car logo 

This image is so dreadful that it's a minor miracle that anyone bothered ripping it off. But they did, so take a bow schlocky coffee image thieves:


 And what to say about this one? Someone horked their turdblossoms! It's hard to deny the similarities here, though to these cynical eyes, the ripped off version seems like an improvement. And as a general matter, that's not what one usually looks for in judging rippoffery:

 rip off logo


They're Weird, But These T-shirts Actually Have a Point, Usually.

The world is positively swimming in people who see themselves as t-shirt designers/ illustrators. Ads for their puntastic-abominations are everywhere on the internet, and in most cases, the stuff is pretty much... well, you get it. One exception is a chap from Malaysia by the name of Chow Hon Lam aka Flying Mouse, who lets people have it with both barrels when he unleashes a t-shirt design. There's an element of absurdity as there pretty much always is with this stuff, but the concepts and illustrations go farther than the usual pun stuff. They're pretty funny!


 Tshirt 1


Tshirt 2


Tshirt 3


Tshirt 4


Tshirt 5 


 Tshirt 6


 Tshirt 7


 tshirt 8






A Traveling Retroprospectus of Poster-Like Objects

It's time once again to ooh and ahh at the lovely posters that designers hath made. Yes, the National Poster Retroprospectus is here. Well, maybe not where you are, but it is worming its way around the country. No word on just how many of the posters were fabricated simply to fish for such acclaim, but does that even matter? They've been made, and now they're being celebrated. In all, there will be 300 posters on display crafted by luminary artists and designers. (Who do you consider the most famous poster designer? Maybe Shepard Fairey?) Here are some of the posters that will be on display at the NPR.


 Poster 2


Poster 3


Poster 4


Poster 5


 Poster 6


Poster 6 







Will Phermone Infused Business Cards Get Me Dates?

AXE, the men's care line that has dutifully portrayed its users in commercials as being relentlessly pursued by scads of hot women, has taken a subtle and interesting turn by passing out pheromone business cards to its employees. It certainly seems like a lunatic concept, but AXE is betting on their employees being somewhat irresistible. One can only hope, I suppose. For real business cards that rely on one's charm to be irresistible to the lady folk, there's a nice batch of them ready and waiting for you here at Hotcards. These work for women, too. No guarantees that members of the opposite sex will be tearing off your clothing comes with the order, though. You'll have to rely on your own charms for that :)

 Axe Business Cards 1

 Axe Business Cards 2