The 2014 Political Season is here. Print is more relevant than ever!
If there are a few things that political candidates of all stripes can agree upon, it's a fondness for their own names and for winning elections. And as we appear set once again to enter the "silly season" that is political campaigning, we can be assured that the barrage of direct mail pieces, postcards, brochures, signs, flyers, t-shits and assorted other political printed matter is soon to be falling like rain.
It's all about building name recognition and engaging in persuasion, with every last candidate staking out a selling proposition that, while not necessarily unique, he or she perceives to be one which will gain them the highest percentage of the voting electorate. And this season is a mother lode for the printing business, which is none too eager to avail itself of the largesse brought on by this ceaseless need for political matter.
The aim of a political campaign is to introduce and then familiarize people with their candidate, be this by carpet-bombing entire neighborhoods or precincts with flyers and signage, or by sending focused political printing to people who've been identified as being supportive of what their candidate stands for.
It is an endless process to operate a political campaign, but the lion's share of printing for a campaign is done far ahead of the election, with sizes and types of printed matter being chosen by political consultants who have varying levels of expertise in such matters.
The overall volume of printed campaign material has grown in recent decades along with an increase in political awareness. And while the various technological innovations based on the Internet are being employed, political printing still rules the roost. Placing a direct mail piece in front of voters still holds sway over the less tactile benefits of emails or other cyber-transmissions - even if it just merits a passing glance before heading into the rubbish.
And political printing is making advances, with features such as embedded sound chips as a means of engaging with voters, as well as URL's to websites highlighting a candidate's positions on various issues as well as their voting records, - a means of keeping voters engaged and informed. In election season, you'll notice a blizzard of printed material ranging from political flyers to bumper stickers competing for your attention and encouraging your active participation in the voting process.
But, as always, it still comes down to an individual's conscious decision to vote.
We’ve all had our fair share of wine tastings and beer tastings. It’s a pretty standard thing to do in Cleveland. But what about a vodka tasting? Well, here’s your chance!
Hotcards, partnering with Contrast High and Scene Magazine, is hosting the VODKA tasting party this Friday night in Downtown Cleveland! $25 gets you admission to the event and art gallery, complimentary vodka-infused snacks and ten drink tickets. As if that wasn’t perfect enough, ticket sales benefit The Dancing Wheels Company and School, an organization that celebrates the art of movement and the human spirit.
The shenanigans are going down at the Hotcards headquarters, inside the RED Space at 2400 Superior Avenue from 8-midnight. Tickets can be purchased online at http://scenevodka.brownpapertickets.com. As Hotcards CEO John Gadd promises, “The only thing you can predict about our events, is they'll amaze you.” Come out, Cleveland—this is a night you definitely don’t want to miss.
The Cleveland Food Bank and Brick by Brick are scheduled to receive $10,000 in combined proceeds from the now famous Hotcards Burn, an event that set 21 people on fire in Cleveland's Flats on October 19th, to successfully break the Guinness World Record for the “Most People Performing Full Body Burns." The donation ceremony will take place at 10:00am on Thursday, October 31st, at Hotcards World Headquarters, 2400 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44114. John Gadd, CEO of Hotcards and presenting sponsors, Scot Lowry, CEO of Fathom and Ken Lanci, CEO of Consolidated Solutions will award the charities. The media is invited to attend.
About Hotcards.com – The Epic Renaissance of a Cleveland Icon:
As Margaret Meade once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Hotcards.com changed the way people buy print in Cleveland, as well as around the world. They helped revolutionize an industry that’s so commonplace – people consume it like air. They now feel it’s time to do more, go bigger, make a dent in the universe. Welcome to the new Hotcards – it’s time to Become Known™.
September 25, 2013 – CLEVELAND, OHIO – Just after sunset on October 19 2013, Cleveland-based print & design company Hotcards will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for “The Most People Performing Full Body Burns” in Cleveland’s Flats district, all while throwing a giant spectator party at Shooters and raising money for a good cause. Hotcards’ never-ending love for the “burning river” city is on display as they seek to unite & ignite Cleveland.
Hotcards has a new goal: to reinvent the printing industry. Just wait and see what we have to announce to the world over the next couple months! Seriously, you've got to come back and visit. As we prepare for this epic journey, we first needed to snag a new office to hold the ever-growing DreamTeam. As they say, Happy Team = Happy Customers! Also, if you don’t already, make it a point to “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter (@hotcards) and Instagram (@hotcards)!
Actually, M-Bossed put together a whole week of Hotcards!
Recently, our excellent friend Ryan McAbee over at M-Bossed asked me if I’d be interested in talking to him about how Hotcards uses social media to promote our printing services. He had some great questions, which I responded to with many a noble sentiment on the ability of social media to connect us and create online communities that parallel the communities we develop in our own neighborhoods and cities.
Actually, M-Bossed put together a whole week of Hotcards!
Recently, our excellent friend Ryan McAbee over at M-Bossed asked me if I’d be interested in talking to him about how Hotcards uses social media to promote our printing services. He had some great questions, which I responded to with many a noble sentiment on the ability of social media to connect us and create online communities that parallel the communities we develop in our own neighborhoods and cities.
At a time when printers are supposed to be packing up their things quietly and going home, we got some pretty amazing news. Last week, ICIC (Initiative for a Competitive Inner City) and Bloomberg BusinessWeek ranked Hotcards as 38th on a list of the 100 Fastest-Growing Inner City Businesses in America. They threw a big party for us in Boston, we got to mix it up with other winners from all over the country, and listen to some pretty amazing speakers.
"Business must find a way to engage positively in society, but this will not happen as long as it sees its social agenda as separate from its core business agenda."
- Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business School
Some cool facts on the Inner City 100:
"Collectively, the top 100 inner city businesses employ 10,700 employees and have created more than 6,300 new jobs between 2004 and 2008. Individually, the median Inner City 100 Company's revenues were $6.6 million. This year's winners have a median employee turnover rate of less than 8 percent and 96 percent of them provide health insurance to their workers."
Those are some nice figures, particularly if you're in the printing industry, and particularly, particularly, if you're from Cleveland. These days, all we hear are the stories about how the recession is crushing our industry and our city. But the truth is much more complex, and positive, than that.
Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the other winners fell into the IT, green business, or green technology categories. However, there were a few other printers on the list, proving, if nothing else, that…hmm…printers and inner cities go hand in hand? Simply by default, a lot of printing houses are located in "inner city areas." For a young person starting a print and design business, the space is there, and the price is right.
But in the end, success or failure comes down to a question of community. A printer can't survive, and a city can't survive, unless other small businesses, organizations, and social services survive along with it. Community creates commerce, and vice-versa. So while it's great to get our names on a list, we're not exactly surprised that our industry, or our city, is capable of great things. In fact, we like to think of ourselves as a sign of the times, and a sign of things to come.
As ICIC President and CEO, Mary Kay Leonard, put it, "We are delighted to celebrate businesses like Hotcards that are playing a critical role in revitalizing America's urban communities. Through their achievements, the Inner City 100 winning companies exemplify America's remarkable potential and the road to future economic recovery. These extraordinary companies demonstrate the market possibilities that exist within our inner cities. If we can leverage these possibilities, we can create jobs, income, and wealth for local residents and produce the next chapter of American innovation and opportunity."
So here's to Cleveland! And to the next chapter, available, let's hope, online and in print.
If you follow the Hotcards' blog, then you know that the team around here does a lot of cool stuff. In an interview we did a while back with graphic designer Glen Infante, he told us all about a side project of his, LeBron2010. For the last two years, Glen, and other RealCavsFans, have been trying to raise enough money to have a giant banner of LeBron James printed and posted in Cleveland. The message: keep LeBron in Cleveland and on the Cavs!
Finally, after a ton of fundraising and a ton of work, the banner/billboard went up last week on the side of Nick's Sports Corner. But it didn't go up easy!
A while ago, Hotcards received a very nice email from Richard Darrell, the founder of BitRebels.com. BitRebels is a site that brings together all the coolest stuff on the internet into one place, and in Richard's explorations as curator of web awesome, he came across Hotcards.
Richard was kind enough to call Hotcards.com a "strong and interesting website" and he asked if we'd like to do an interview that would take a behind-the-scenes look at what makes us so super-cool. The results of that interview are now available for your viewing pleasure.
Of course, along with all this interview-y goodness, during the process we also got involved in BitRebels' Epic Giveaway. We were just one of many companies who contributed free products and services to the giveaway (the list was nothing short of epic, as advertised), but somehow those fine folks at BitRebels managed to give it all away.
We'll be following up with more details on the Hotcards winners, so stay tuned!
Check it out, gang! Our friends over at BitRebels – a website about all kinds of cool stuff – are holding their very first EPIC GIVEAWAY. Tons of businesses have devoted things like webhosting, software, design tools, and print services to the giveaway.
Hotcards (look for ID #P15) has contributed some of the greatest prizes, if I do say so myself. Enter to win:
Make a sweet comment that explains why you deserve to win a given item, such as, "I need those 5000 postcards to promote my online business to a local audience!" or "I need those 5000 business cards because my kid just finished college and now he needs a job."
Twitter about the Giveaway.
Add a link about the Giveaway to your site to increase your chances of winning!
The deadline to enter is January 23rd – Saturday! – so get over to BitRebels and throw your hat in the ring for some FREE printing from Hotcards ASAP!
This post has been way, way too long in coming. Ever since the start of the new year (what was that, like two weeks ago now!), I’ve been dying to share the super exciting news that the Hotcards blog made it on to the M-Bossed list of Top 10 Print Blogs!
M-Bossed is, itself, a fantastic blog about print media, run by the always insightful Ryan McAbee. Check out a few of his recents commentaries on CES, and why printers should be getting involved, here and here.
Thanks for the shout-out, Ryan. And thanks for putting us above PrintCEO. It’s always nice to be at the top of a list!
Priorities sometimes change during a recession. A business philosophy can start to take hold that says: people aren't buying, therefore customer service is no longer priority number 1. But an experience we had this week at Hotcards proves that there's still a lot of positive energy and great business being done out there.
Recently, we printed 8000 postcards for OlsenZiegler Realty, as part of a direct mail real estate postcard campaign. It was our second time printer for Cleveland-based OlsenZiegler, and Chris Olsen was so pleased with our service that he posted a very nice blog about Hotcards on ActiveRain, a busy online real estate network.
In Olsen's words:
"I have done a lot of comparisons of direct mail full-color printers over the years and I have found this company so far to be the best in terms of price and turnaround… I highly recommend HotCards.com and hope you are as happy with their cost, service, price and turnaround time as I have been."
Not only is it nice to get such a great review, it's downright edifying to see our friends in the real estate industry doing well, and to see that great business relationships still happen in a down economy.
Thanks, Chris! And best success with your postcard campaign!
This Saturday, September 12th, marked the 2009 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Since 1994, the Susan G. Komen Northeast Ohio Affiliate has raised $15 million in support of finding a cure for breast cancer. And most of that money has come from the truly amazing, inspiring Race for the Cure held in Cleveland every year.
Every day, Hotcards' designers are hard at work putting together posters, flyers, business cards, apparel designs, and other sweet print art and marketing collateral for those of our customers in the know. And now you can take a look at all the great stuff they've been creating lately right here, at InHousePixels.
InHousePixels showcases the print design work happening at Hotcards, but that's not all. It's also full of videos covering the latest wacky pranks being pulled around the office (otherwise known as INTERN BLOG), and has lots of cool links to the portfolios and blogs of the design team. I might be a little biased, but I don't think I'm too far off in saying that InHousePixels is very likely the greatest print design blog in the history of the internet.
But never fear, design nation of the world. We're not here to take all the glory. We'd love to put your work up on InHousePixels, too! (With full credit, of course!) Send in your designs/sketches/projects/videos, and we'll throw them up on the front page. We're hoping that you'd like to get to know us as much as we'd like to get to know you!
Interviews with printers who use social media – like us!
Over the last year, having a presence in the social media marketplace has become pretty darn important to those of us in the printing industry. For the thoughts and insights of seven different printers (including Hotcards) on the subject, check out this great piece on PrintCEO, put together by Gail Nickel-Kailing.
My favorite quote in the article comes near the beginning, where marketing expert Seth Godin says,
"Social media, it turns out, isn't about aggregating audiences so you can yell at them about the junk you want to sell. Social media, in fact, is a basic human need, revealed digitally online. We want to be connected, to make a difference, to matter, to be missed."
This isn't just my favorite quote from the article, but probably one of my all-time favorite insights into social media. It shows that the worst thing you can do is get out there and push people, advertise aggressively, and focus on trying to create sales rather than relationships. Things like Facebook and Twitter are so popular because they harness our human impulse to share ourselves. But when someone tries to take advantage of that for commercial reasons, it can, at best, be annoying, and at worse, actually hurt people's feelings by making them feel manipulated or taken advantage of. And that’s some bad PR.
Read the article on PrintCEO. It's lovely and heartening to see how hip many printers are to this subject.
Every second piece of news about printing over the last couple of months has been about the death of print journalism – namely, newspapers, but also magazines, trade publications, and even the sacred BOOK. All this hubbub isn't unjustified. Just on Friday, Denver's oldest newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News, put out its last print edition.
However, there seems to be this assumption flying around in the subtext of all the talk that if newspapers die, the rest of the print industry is bound – nay, perhaps even obliged – to go down, like some sort of incidental Titanic string quartet, with the ship.
This is simply not the case.
The question, in my mind, is not how commercial printing will survive the death of newsprint, but, dare I say, how it stands benefit.
Cleveland news channel WKYC came by the Hotcards head office this week to talk to us about the printing business. Check out the resulting article and news story here.
The story turned out great. They interviewed a bunch of people, and everybody was very professional and NOT at all nervous. And they covered all the stuff that’s cool about Hotcards.
They talked about how we got started, when Columbus had an idea for a better printing business, and how he built it with no help from bank loans or borrowed startup capital.
They talked about our green printing efforts, and showcased our sweet water-saving plate processor. (NB: in the video clip, Columbus says the processor uses only 15 gallons of water a week, but the article accidentally quotes him as saying 15 gallons a month. Just a typo, folks.)
The story also mentions that we’re a union print shop, which is a bigger deal nowadays than it used to be. There are fewer and fewer union printers in the U.S. every year, which can be a problem for political campaigns and unionized and government business, all of which depend on union printers for their printing needs.
One thing I thought was pretty funny was that the story said, “Hotcards is a union shop, but…the company respects and supports the total person.” I don’t know what the prevailing opinion of unions is these days, but respect and support of every employee is what unionizing is all about!
Finally, and MOST importantly, of course, they gave a shout out to the website, which brought a tear of happiness to mine eye. Thanks to all the site visitors and customers out there who help to make Hotcards as awesomely newsworthy as we are!
Oh, and while you’re watching the video, see if you can spot me in the background!
Back in the office after an extended holiday weekend. This is a weird time of year. There's just a few full color printing days between the Christmas holiday (if you do, indeed, celebrate that sort of thing), and New Year's (which I truly hope that you do celebrate).
It can be a hard time to get things accomplished. You're burnt out from Christmas, but excited for the big party yet to come. To keep your spirits up and your energy focused, here's an inspiring picture from the team at Hotcards. Design experts that we are, we all just showed up on Christmas Eve dressed like this, I swear!
As a green printer, you’re always asking yourself, what can I do OUTSIDE of the office to make a difference? We sent out these little guys to our nearest and dearest friends/customers this year because there’s nothing like making the world a bit greener, one tree at a time.
This baby conifer can be planted in your yard, or in a pot so that it can be brought in the house during the holiday season as a living Christmas tree!
Feel free to take pictures of your new little buddy as he grows and send them to Hotcards.com. We’ll post the images up on this blog so that everyone can see the trees doing their green thing!
Over the last couple of months, we've been doing just a little, tiny bit of greeting card printing. Businesses, charities, and even the occasional family send out, oh, bazillions of cards during the holiday season, some designed by spirited individuals, some carefully assembled by crack design teams.
But, of course, the most important cards sent out every year are those sent by celebrities. In 2007, we showcased the best, and the worst, of celebrity greeting card printing, and it was such a hit we're doing it again in 2008.
As you know, we print all kinds of different things at Hotcards. Not just postcards and business cards, but stuff like pocket folders, stickers, and vehicle wraps. Now, rumor has it that we might be getting embroiled in some very cool apparel printing and design.
What you may not know is that we're kind of fashion experts around here, which means our apparel is going to be the super hotness. And to prove it, Christmas Eve around Hotcards is going to be a showcase of serious style:
What worked last year, and what will work in 2009.
Often, commercial printing involves being part of a large-scale branding effort. Our print design and web design departments also need to stay up to date on the latest trends. So when Advertising Age came out with its list of brand winners from 2008, it seemed like the perfect time to do a little trend tracking...
Doesn’t it make you want to print with Hotcards? (I know it does!)
Check it out! Columbus’ Forty Under 40 profile is featured on the front page of Crain’s Cleveland today! Nice!
Especially nice since the forty rising stars chosen by Crain’s are listed alphabetically, which means a full color printer with the last name of Woodruff is a long scroll from the top of the page – but one click away off the front page!
Things are pretty exciting around Hotcards today. For one thing, Columbus’ profile in Crain’s Top Forty Under 40 has been published – article AND video. Check it out here.
For another thing, the Crain’s reception for this year’s inductees is tonight, which means a bunch of people are going to be saying nice things and making a big deal about our head boss-guy, just like we do all day around Hotcards!
It’s nice for people to have a chance to get to know Columbus better. For example, maybe you didn’t know that Columbus is an avid cyclist. In the coming year, we’re hoping to do a lot of printing for cycling organizations and retailers. It’s definitely an industry that does a lot of bold, exciting full color printing, and that’s what Hotcards does best!
As usual, we’re also excited about doing lots of work with local businesses, especially when that printing helps to promote what a truly vibrant, fun, and eclectic city Cleveland is. Anyway, you can hear Columbus talk all about it in the Crain’s video spotlight.
I’ll post some links to event photos and other cool stuff once they’re up on the Crain’s website. Stay tuned!
Check it out! Your very own, beloved blogger (that's me!) has got a guest post on print design tips for web designers up at Design Shard. If you've never been to Design Shard, have a look. It's a consistently interesting and beautifully done design and inspiration blog. And they're entered in the Wordpress Coolest Blog Competition, so vote them up if they get into the finals!
Every year, Crain’s Cleveland produces a feature called Forty Under 40, an all-star list of young players in Ohio’s business community. And this year, Hotcards’ very own head boss-guy, Columbus Woodruff, is on the list.
The issue of Crain’s containing this feature comes out November 17th. In-depth profiles of these rising stars in business will also be on the Crain’s website, along with photos and video.
In fact, Columbus just spent an afternoon with Crain’s doing the photo-shoot and getting some video recorded. I’m sure he was very charming and insightful, as usual.
While he was there, he also got interviewed for an unrelated piece being done on political printing and campaign advertising which, as you may know, is a particular specialty of ours here at Hotcards.
Looking over the list of last year’s featured businesspeople, I’ve got to wonder if any of them are as involved in Cleveland’s business community as Columbus. The cool thing about running a printing business is that you get connected with stores, clubs, restaurants, teams, musicians, and other organizations all over your city. It’s a fact: everyone needs printing!
In other words, if you want to meet somebody, ask Columbus.
Maybe you’d like to meet someone he’s done free print and print design work for, just because he doesn’t like to see his fav locals with ugly print collateral.
Or maybe you’d like to meet some of the musicians and club owners he’s been doing business with since his early days as a promoter.
Or how about some of the unions, politicians, and political organizations that we print for on a regular basis? Or some of the biggest names in sports? Or artists, publishers, designers, chefs, people with very long titles…
Okay, so Columbus might not introduce YOU to these people, but he could. If he wanted to.
The Crain’s feature doesn’t come out in print for another month, but until then, I’m inviting all of you to put your favorite stories about Columbus up here in this comment thread. Or make a video and put it up on the Hotcards YouTube Channel.
What does Columbus do that makes him one of the most attention-grabbing, savvy, and stylin’-est young businesspeople in Ohio? You tell me!
It’s never too early to get special event print promotions underway.
Y’know how during the holidays, all the advertising and promotion of holiday events and sales comes out WAY too early, and it’s kind of annoying? Well, imagine being the people that have to prepare those print ads and promotions to come out as early as they do!
If a company is planning promotions or events for Halloween, they’ve already got to have their print designs ready to send to the printer, like, now, today! After you go through prepress and shipping, you’ll only have a week or two to advertise, and the party will be over before you know it.
If you're stuck for ideas, check out our feature article on planning print advertising for Halloween.
September 2008 is now widely considered to have been the toughest month for the U.S. economy since the Great Depression. But does this mean businesses are spending less on print advertising? Nope. In face, many major brands are ramping up their ad campaigns, and looking to change their image.
In times of economic uncertainty, people stop caring about high-end luxuries, brand names, and eco-friendly products. As the economic climate shifts, they start looking for those big posters and banners that say "Save Money!" "Huge Sale!" and "2-For-1 Deals!"
In response, many brands, stores, and businesses are having to completely revamp their web, TV, and print advertising to compete for the attention of those thrifty consumers. Instead of talking about 'going green' and planning an extravagant holiday season, advertisers need to align brands with low costs and special discounts.
Maybe that's why, at a time when the stock market is struggling, Wal-Mart's stocks, and sales, are up. They've got a special line of $10 toys coming out for the Christmas season, but the massive retail chain doesn't have to do much rebranding to position itself as THE place to go for cheap everything. You know that if you need a jug of milk, a bike tire, and a beanbag chair, and you only have twenty bucks, you can always go to Wal-Mart.
Another industry that wins during tough times is the state lottery system. It's a simple equation - the more people worry about money, the more they want to win big. It wasn't too long ago that lotteries were advertising to those who wanted to in all of life's luxuries. Now the targets of lottery print advertising, like billboards and subway ads, are people who just want a little financial security.
You can always count on state lotteries to come up with innovative print design, but in general, economic downswing is not great news for print designers. Print advertising that screams 'CHEAP' is not the kind of print advertising that wins awards. You need to draw attention with bright colors, oversized fonts, and other elements that are design no-nos, as a rule. And worst of all, the best way to say 'CHEAP,' is to look cheap.
After a great summer, Hotcards is saying goodbye to Wan, our awesome print design intern. Along with creating some great full color print advertising designs for Hotcards customers, Wan also got Hotcards video blogging off the ground.
Here’s Wan’s goodbye video, to remind y’all of the good times:
And check out some of Wan’s full color print designs, because they’re pretty cool, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of the like in the future.
The coolest thing on a stick to happen to summer since popsicles.
The summer’s on. I’ve been hitting some outdoor music and theatre festival, and even on sweltering days, people are out in droves enjoying the sunshine. Most of us turn to the shade and cool beverages provided by beer tents to escape the heat, but that doesn’t always cut it.
The coolest trend of the summer? Fan printing! At large public events, businesses are handing out simple fan shapes, glued to wooden handles and printed with their business name and information.
This isn’t just a great way to advertise your business – it’s a public service. Last weekend, I saw people fighting over these nifty print promotions at an outdoor theatre festival. Talk about printing as a gift!
As guests walked up the red carpet leading into the lobby at the beginning of the open house last weekend, a photographer snapping shots of them looking all glammed up greeted them. There was a velvet rope, an event sponsor background, and all the trimmings.
Little did guests know what Hotcards was about to do with their pictures...
I'm always saying that printing is a gift; now here's the proof.
At the Hotcards' open house, after all the food, and the music, the great giveaways and the, ahem, open bar, guests on their way out were given gift bags full of cool stuff – all of it full color printing.
What might immediately come to mind is a stack of flyers and brochures - not too exciting, but one of the most interesting things that the open house gift bag did was show the diversity of printing and print products. Hopefully, it even gave folks who do a lot of printing with us some ideas for their next big print promotion.
We were running around all day filling bags, as you can see, but by the end of the night, there wasn't one left!
On Friday, June 6th, we held a little open house event to show our appreciation for the employees, vendors, and customers that make Hotcards great! The who’s who of the full color printing world were in attendance, and we all had a blast!
It was so cool to meet and mingle with the many amazing people involved with Hotcards in some way. If I had to use one word to describe the event, it would be: DIVERSITY.
There is almost no business, professional, or demographic of society that doesn’t need full color printing at some point. Magazines and web designers, deejays and club owners, banks and museums – you name ‘em, they ate sushi together at the Hotcards open house.
Deep down in the distant past of every advertising hack and marketing guru lies a childhood dream of being a writer, an artist, a musician, or some other form of storyteller. In short, although we didn’t know it at the time, we dreamed of becoming a “creative.”
The unfortunate result, as Chief Marketing Strategist Bob Gilbreath points out in this month’s issue of AdAge, is that we somehow become members of one of the most despised professions on the planet. The typical media-savvy consumer sees advertising as tricky, manipulative, time-wasting, and worst, in the case of print advertising, an eyesore.
That being said, those of us involved in full color print design are pretty lucky. We often get to exert our creative talents in the development of concert posters, DVD covers, vehicle wraps, and event invitations – all pieces of media that straddle the fence between advertising and art.
However, in many ways the industry is floundering. The solution, according to Gilbreath, is “Marketing with Meaning.” Marketing with meaning strives to turn advertising into more than a shallow cash-grab. Instead of manipulating the audience, the goal becomes to interest, engage, educate, and build friendships.
To help further define this new era of marketing, Gilbreath has launched Marketingwithmeaning.com. I’m really excited about the site because this is a concept that I’ve been talking about doing with full color printing here on the Hotcards blog for a million years:
Don’t just advertise; make an offer to the consumer that is replete in value and significance.
Don’t try to trick the audience; share what is so fantastic about your subject matter with them.
Don’t pinpoint a target market; create a community.
To get in the right state of mind, try this visualization: You’re back in kindergarten and its show and tell day. You don’t realize it, but you possessed a marketing genius that all the think tanks and money in the world can’t product - the passion, enthusiasm and integrity of the utterly guileless.
Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that the ins and outs of effective marketing are complex, but we can begin with a principle desire to make a personal, genuine, and meaningful connection.
This is particularly simple for full color print advertisers because we get to offer consumers something tangible. As I pointed out a while ago in a Design Idea of the Week, Print Advertising Is A Gift. Design accordingly.
People often resent advertising because it’s emotionally painful to be tricked into caring about something that doesn’t care about you. Planning an upcoming full color printing promotion? Remove the scam factor; insert the little kid that has SO much to say about the things she loves, it’s not the entirety of marketing with meaning, but kinda like kindergarten, it’s a good start.
We’ve got 2000 billboards and banner ads to put up!
Okay, you got me. Maybe I have been looking for an excuse to use that quote in a blog post about banner printing. But to be fair, what blogger hasn’t?
Opening night for the new Indy movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, is a week away, and just in case you weren’t sure if it’s the movie event of the summer, take a look at the print collateral.
Paramount has launched a massive outdoor advertising campaign to hype its big summer blockbuster. Usually, giant billboards and print ads go up in Los Angeles, but this time, they decided to take the billboard domination tactic nationwide.
Paramount ad guy Steve Siskind attributes the strategy to Steven Spielberg, whom he quotes as saying, “I know they always do big billboards in L.A., but let’s do them all over.”
And he’s not talking a billboard here, a bit of banner printing there. He’s talking location domination, which means the indy brand takes over the ad space in a given area. Drive up Ventura Boulevard or La Brea Avenue in L.A., and you’ll see series of SIX consecutive, unique billboards that take you on a journey through, if not the film itself, than at least its advertising strategy.
Madison Square Garden in New York is similarly festooned on all sides with truly epic full color banner printing. The designs rely heavily on classic Indy-running-for-his-life images, as well as the franchise’s signature font.
However, sometimes the sheer size of the signage seems to render the recognizable lettering almost obscure, like the image of a face close-up, where a pore might be a crater on the moon. This begs the question – in the world of outdoor advertising, is there such a thing as too much of a good thing?
Bloggers and critics covering the banner printing story describe the campaign much like the film itself, with a mixture of awe and cynicism. The marketing scheme’s ultimate value will only be determined once the movie reviews begin to come in.
If it’s a hit, the massive ads will be remembered as fabulously prolific.
If it’s a dud, we’ll surely remember the jumbo full color banner printing as having been horrifically overdone.
Proving once again that printing is always political…
When sponsors like Coca-Cola and Samsung began to design their print advertising for the Olympic torch relay, you can bet they weren’t expecting to compete with wave after wave of protest signs, posters and banners from activists demonstrating against the Beijing Olympics.
But that's exactly what’s happening. At each torch relay point, companies that thought to get some nice visibility out of the usually harmonious Olympic event are now being crowded out of the picture, wasting thousands of dollars in ad revenue, at best.
At worse, sponsored banner and poster printing is being not crowded out, but showcased next to, and implicitly aligned with, highly politicized print designs created by protesters.
Often, the images on display are incredibly graphic, showing scenes of torture, or altering the Olympic logo by replacing the rings with handcuffs or skulls. It’s nothing short of a public relations nightmare for print advertisers.
The goal of a lot of election and political printing is similar to the goal of much of print advertising: appeal to a wide demographic. TRY NOT TO OFFEND ANYONE! That makes it easy to forget that in the past, print advertising has been the source of a great deal of contention. And sometimes, the ad doesn’t have to come from a political source to be politically controversial.
For the last year or so, Absolut Vodka has been running a creative advertising campaign around the theme, “In An Absolut World.” Print and television ads have been running all over the world, catering to the cultural zeitgeist of each unique nation with stories and images about what an Absolut, or ‘perfect’ world would look like.
However, maybe it’s impossible to appeal to every country in the world’s idea of perfection without offending another. In this case, Absolut ran a border-politics-tinged print ad in Mexico that crept into the consciousness of U.S. vodka drinkers, and now, all hell hath broken loose.
You’ve designed the print, now design the candidate!
I know you guys have been waiting for this for a long time, and at last, it’s here! Now, through Hotcards, you can design, order, and have printed your very own Presidential candidate! Why jump on someone else’s bandwagon? With our ‘print your own candidate’ technology, you can create your ideal frontrunner, all from the comfort of your own home.
How do we do it? The fact is that 3-D printing technology has evolved a lot since last you checked the internet. And since last you checked in with Hotcards, we grew weary of printing things that don’t walk or talk or campaign on the issues that really matter. So, we finally ordered ourselves up a 3-D printer.
Using a starch-based powder, or, if you prefer, granulated sugar, we can now print out a full-sized, 3-dimensional Presidential candidate, designed to your specifications. Then, by using a combination of natural dyes blessed by a voodoo priest, and good old-fashioned Frankenstein-style lightening bolt science, we actually BRING YOUR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TO LIFE – ready to campaign on Day 1.
The AFL-CIO might not be ready to endorse a Democratic nominee for President, but they sure know who they DON’T endorse – John McCain.
Today, the powerful labor organization launched a massive anti-McCain campaign entitle “McCain Revealed.” The campaign is geared towards informing union voters about McCain’s anti-worker record, paralleling his economic policies with those of President Bush.
The campaign will rely heavily on union print collateral, with direct mail campaigning and workplace leafleting taking up a chunk of the proposed $53 million dollar budget. Holy smokes, that’s a lot of postcards!
Another important facet of the campaign is this website, where you can go and read a comprehensive virtual booklet on exactly where McCain stands on a variety of policies. On the site, union members can also download PDFs for leaflets that can be independently printed and distributed.
Union members have already been spotted outside of McCain fundraising events with yellow, red, white, and blue rally signs saying, “It’s Time To Turn Around America.” McCain Revealed seems to be an evolution of this original campaign.
There’s a really nice post about the blog over at DesignNotes today. An excellent day for it, indeed, as we are thick into the Ohio Primary Elections! (Don't forget to votevotevote!) DesignNotes is a very cool blog that, “tries to see life filtered through design as opposed to placing design on a pedestal.” As soon as I saw those words, I knew that I was going to love Michael's blog! Definitely check it out, as he does some funny, insightful election coverage himself.
As you must know if you’ve ever read any of my posts around here, looking at design through the practical lens of the printer’s craft is what we are all about. What works in a given environment? What is affordable? What is good for the planet? What are people going to relate to in a meaningful way?
When print design, and design in general, becomes mired in abstraction, it forgets its purpose, which is to communicate meaningfully with a wide audience of different people. Of course, that’s never more important, in full color printing or in design, than to campaigns during election season.
Election campaign printing is a language and a conversation all its own, which is why it’s so worth listening to. Thanks for listening, Michael!
The streets of major Canadian cities were buzzing this week with speculation over a new viral print ad campaign. Banner printing and poster printing is being used to advertising a hot new 'pharmaceutical product' known as 'Obay.'
The ads spoof similar campaigns promoting new drugs that claim to solve all of life’s problems. The full color print ads can be seen mostly on bus stops and on buses, boasting tongue-in-cheek taglines like "My son had ideas of his own. Obay put a stop to that."
Obay is apparently geared towards parents who don’t want their kids starting to think for themselves. A knock at medications for ADD? At the advertising industry in general? Or maybe subversive public art – we have, after all, seen the term 'obey' used before, under its more conventional spelling, in the 'Obey Giant' street art campaign.
No one knew the truth. At first. Which made it interesting.
It was a busy weekend for print design and advertising. I could kick off this Monday by talking about the Superbowl ads, or about those scandal-inducing Abercrombie and Fitch billboards, but I think I’ll save those for later in the week, because something else seriously, seriously cool happened this weekend.
More and more, professional artists from all fields are coming out to show support for their favorite candidates, and the latest and greatest example of this comes from Will.i.am, the dude from the Black Eyed Peas. Will.i.am put together this wicked song and video based on the now-famous speech made by Barack Obama after the primary in New Hampshire.
Obama’s got a lot of design heft on his side; are your printing posters for your favorite candidate?
Super Tuesday is less than a week away. Moments ago, John Edwards dropped out of the race, as has the one-time Republican shoe-in, Rudy Giuliani. With the primary race starting to look something like Kid Nation for grown-ups (let’s call it Nation Nation, it’s time for voters to get serious about where this country is headed.
As you may have already guessed, all this political drama breaks down to the issue of poster printing (and isn’t that always the way?). The fact is that even before this election got tight and dirty, we were seeing a lot of individuals going out of their way, and spending their own time, money, and artistic skill, to support and promote their favorite candidates.
And no, this time, I’m not talking about Ron Paul. Today on Buzzfeed, I came across a great compilation of independent poster designs created in support of Barack Obama. Perhaps not surprisingly many of these designs look better than the stuff being put out by the campaign.
Steelworkers design full color printing in support of their favorite candidate.
I’ll admit that I haven’t done much thinking about John Edwards over the course of this whole Primary campaign rollercoaster. His print designs have been much like his entire campaign – just fine, but overshadowed by the clash of the titans, Clinton and Obama.
However, I really like the way that Edwards has been handling the recent spate of seemingly nonstop bickering between the two Dem frontrunners. His whole "proud to represent the grown-up wing of the Democratic party" shtick is showing him to be both calmer and more lighthearted than I pegged him for. And since South Carolina is his much-loved home state, I have to say that I hope he kicks butt in the Primary tomorrow night – if only to prove to Hilary and Barack that they do need to "Grow Up."
And there are other reasons for the printing world to love John Edwards. For one thing, he’s consistently pulled out a fresh, new vehicle wrap for every state he’s visited. Check it out!
Some of the best union print designs we saw over the last couple of months...
Well, the AMPTP and the DGA have finally reached an agreement. The Director’s Guild of America managed to negotiate many, if not all, of the contract improvements that the WGA has been fighting for on the picket lines. This means that a similar offer may very well be in the works for writers, and the strike could be ending soon.
The breaking point seems to have come when Hollywood was forced to forgo the glitz and glamour of the Golden Globes. The event took on the air of a rushed press conference this year when SAG members refused to cross WGA picket lines to attend.
The DGA is quick to point out that their union could never have reached the agreement without the efforts of the WGA and SAG on the picket line on Globe night and every day for the last two months.
Even when things were looking grim, strike captains made sure that their efforts were visible, producing a tremendous amount of well-designed, full color union printing and strike literature. The sum of their efforts can be looked at as a how-to guide for future strike actions in all industries.
It's the most anticipated end-of-year list in the history of printing, counting down from 5 to number one!
5. DVDs Became a Necessary Part of Door-to-Door Print Advertising
During previous election seasons, we’ve seen our share of door-to-door election campaigning, but this year, if you opened your door to a canvasser, you might have received not only a booklet, but also a DVD. The DVDs are usually video versions of the booklet, effectively doubling points of voter contact in one smooth move. The future of campaigning, and advertising in general, in undoubtably multimedia, and some combinations remain fresh and unexpected.
4. The WGA Hit the Picket Line with Well-Designed Union Printing
As a writer, I was convinced that the first day of the WGA strike was just about the most exciting day of the year. A union of writers fighting for the future of their industry – wow! However, as a designer, I was convinced that the second day of the WGA strike was the most exciting of the year, as I began to see videos and images of union printing being raised on the picket line. The WGA chose bold black and red as its strike colors, kept its messages strong and simple, and left dynamic design space available on its print designs to emphasize the individuality of strikers. If the strike drags on week after week, it’s certainly not the fault of this well-designed print collateral. Good luck to the writers in 2008!
3. The Ron Paul Blimp
The Ron Paul Blimp wins the award for best political advertising stunt of the year – and it was done by independent supporters! I heard a rumor that the printing for the blimp was done panel by panel. It must have been a lot of work. And although this was the year of the vehicle wrap – with politicians changing bus wraps as often as they changed suits – the blimp blows ‘em all out of the water.
2. Political Printing and Holiday Printing Went to War
This year, the primary process was sped up, with the all-important caucus in Iowa happening on January 3rd. This meant that political printing had to go head-to-head with Christmas advertising for voter/shopper attention. Do we like our politics mixed with our festive occasions? Sources say, ‘hells no!’ Next election season, give us a break and focus on the greeting cards and other festive printing.
1. Green Printing Became the Industry Standard
There’s no doubt in my mind that the print industry high point of 2007 came when ecologically sustainable printing went for a niche trend to a central point of business. Sure, green printing has been around for a while, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the industry as a whole began to commit, wholeheartedly, to reducing its environmental footprint, and developing innovative solutions for the future of printing. Green printing goes mainstream – without a doubt no. 1 on our list!
A giant flying billboard bearing no political message may prove to be the most effective advertising campaign of this election season.
Print advertising was taken to a new level – roughly level with the clouds – this week by a for-profit company called Liberty Political Advertising. Liberty is working on a project known as the “Ron Paul Blimp.” The Blimp will fly over major cities for the next month, sporting massive Ron Paul advertising intended to get the word out about the blogosphere’s favorite Presidential Primary candidate.
The line between political printing and video begins to blur…
Over the last week, I’ve been poking around on the websites of Presidential primary candidates, both Democrat and Republican. I’ve been searching for more direct mail booklet designs to critique. What I’ve discovered is that, although not every candidate has a booklet PDF on their website, every candidate does have a ton of political print designs available for their supporters to buy and/or download.
It’s interesting to see how the internet – a medium that represents the frontier of communication, networking, and campaigning – isn’t working to reduce the amount of political printing we are seeing in this campaign, but rather to increase the range and distribution of print materials.
2007 is the year of the green Christmas – for the world of advertising, at least. Retailers across the globe are having green printing done in promotion of enviro-friendly gift giving this year – and that doesn’t mean giving money to charities in lieu of gifts.
Nope, the Christmas rage this season is organic fabrics, bags made from recycled bike tires, energy saver appliances, all-natural foods and spa products, and even environmentally friendly gifts for your 'green' pet. It’s all very trendy and beautiful, and it’s called eco-chic. You can bet the advertising for this season’s gift-of-choice is going to be a tad more tasteful than the year of Tickle Me Elmo.
There aren’t many things that are more fun than designing posters for full color printing!
Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s a sign of the times, but I’ve been noticing a proliferation of sweet poster design contests popping up all over the place. Maybe they’re inspired by all the creative designs we’ve been seeing on the WGA picket line? Or maybe America is just more into print design these days, since we’ve all been organizing events and political printing for our favorite candidates, right? Right?
Since November 14th, transportation workers in France have been on strike. They are protesting pension cuts proposed by the new French President, Nicholas Sarkozy. As has happened with the WGA strike, other public sector unions have also called work stoppages, hoping to create enough chaos in France to force Sarkozy to meet their demands.
Although the media reports that striking has brought major French cities to a near standstill, it’s interesting to note that in France, only 8% of the workforce is unionized, compared to 12% here in the US. Perhaps this is what is prompting Sarkozy’s hardline stance of refusing to negotiate with strikers. The French President has been quoted as saying, “A small majority cannot be allowed to impose its law on the majority.”
With major strikes taking place on both sides of the ocean, we are given a rare opportunity to assess the use of union printing by strikers in America vs. strikers overseas.
Striking writers have better union printing, but is the Broadway shutdown mightier than the pen?
In New York, Local One, a union of Broadway stagehands (parent union: International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees), is on strike. The strike began Saturday when talks broke down between Local One and the League of American Theatres and Producers.
Last week, I was talking about how impressed I am with the union printing/handmade sign hybrids showing up on the WGA picket line. Today, I’m even more impressed, as smaller printed signs have begun to appear within the white space on the large WGA signs.
That’s right. People aren’t just drawing in their white spaces anymore, they’re actually having more union printing done to go in those spaces. This is being done in particular by unions that are out supporting the WGA, and want to display their union’s enthusiasm.
Today is Day 5 of the Writers Guild of America strike, and it’s amazing to see how numbers and support have swelled throughout the week. You can go on the WGA YouTube channel, and see video of literally hundreds of writers, actors, and producers carrying their union printing, chanting, and marching.
Union printing hits and misses on the WGA strikeline.
On the second day of the WGA strike, the issue of visibility is becoming central to strike politics, and that means the demand for fast, high quality union printing is enormous. The Writers Guild of America is not a huge union – with approximately 12, 000 members – and this shows at strike locations across the country where, at some times of day, little more than a dozen writers are walking the picket lines.
In the media, many observers are wondering how much impact ‘pencils down’ is actually going to have, and the small numbers at picket locations, particularly on the west coast, may be adding fuel to the fire. There are only a few videos showing footage of strikers up online at this point, but the overall impression is of something that is growing. Critics should wait and see what happens in the coming days before calling the game.
Writers strike for larger share of new media profits.
Today, the Writers Guild of America began picketing in support of their strike action. As always, it’s amazing to see how photo coverage of a union strike is defined by images of union printing. Already, I’ve seen pics of bold black and red union signs being unloaded by Strike Captains, and strike info flyers being handed out in front of picket areas.
So far, most of the signs we’ve seen have been a mixture of homemade and professional union printing. However, if the strike drags on, we’ll definitely start to see a majority of picket lines walking with the black and red union printing that is showing up in photos, if not yet pickets, early this morning.
Check back with us as they begin to turn up all over the site!
When we started doing the blog as a regular thing here at Hotcards, we weren’t really sure where it was going to go. But as it’s grown, it’s become obvious that this is the place to go for news. What’s new in print design? What’s going on in the printing industry? And, of course, what kind of print campaigns are those Presidential candidates running now?
All this stuff is fun, but it doesn’t leave a lot of room for just talking about printing and print design in general. Many of our customers have questions about the printing process itself, and about advertising, promotion, and how full color print design can be done most effectively.
For those in search of information, we’ve got our Featured Articles section, as well as the continuously updated Design Idea of the Week, but these sections don’t always help when you want answers to a specific question, right?
It’s for all these reasons that we’re going to start posting ideas and information specific to each and every product we print here at Hotcards. When you’re browsing through our full color printing products, you’ll be able to click on a Product Guide tab under each product, and find a bunch of cool and useful information about that product.
Extreme political printing angers nation; gives sheep a bad name.
Over the weekend, a political printing campaign sent shockwaves through Swiss politics and across the globe. Switzerland’s hard right ‘Swiss People’s Party’ launched a political campaign around a disturbing image of three white sheep standing on a Swiss flag, kicking a black sheep off of said flag. “Bringing Safety,” the sign reads.
First Hotcards update from the HOW Design Conference.
The conference got off to a great start today. Me and Shontal were up pretty early finding our spot and getting oriented. There are a lot of people here already. It looks like it’s going to be a crazy couple of days.
For those not in the know, the HOW Conference is a huge meetup of graphic designers from all over the world.
From June 10th to 13th, Hotcards is going to have a booth set up at the HOW Conference, hosted by the wonderful people at HOW Magazine. This year, the event is being held at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta. If you’re in the area, come on down to Booth 258 and say hi! We’d love to get to know you better.
One of the best things about print design is that it’s always well thought out, and ideally, its production is flawless.
Okay, I admit it. TV and internet does have something printed media doesn’t have – the ability to catch you off guard, and magnify and distort every slip-up, something we've been seeing a lot of recently in the media!
We're playing this election like it will be decided online. The question: will enthusiasm on the web translate into long lines at the polling stations?
This campaign season is a study in firsts. Candidates banking on the fact that voters are tired of the hidden agendas of rich old men. Campaign chairmen focusing resources on media that was thought to be irrelevant not a decade ago. An entire nation is counting on the fact that change is coming, but is it all just a game?
With campaign spending through the roof, you gotta wonder what the rest of the world does to keep the election campaign process under control.
I barely have time to stay on top of the news these days, what with the un-graceful fading of the Bush Administration in competition for air time with the election race. And with international news focused on the Middle East, it gets even harder to remember that there’s a whole big world out there, full of all kinds of news. But when I hear about a story that’s of a particularly interesting nature to printers, I just have to let y’all know about it. So check this out.
Politics. Power. Propaganda. Why can’t we all just get along? (And if we did, what would happen to the print industry?)
A funny little story came down the pipe this weekend from Glendora, California. To the untrained eye, it might seem like this tale is about grassroots politics, but for those of us in the industry, it’s all about printing.