Bad Design

I am in the midst of writing a proposal; I won't give too much away, but the client is located in Greenwich, CT. For those of you that don't know, Greenwich is a very, very, VERY upscale community--one of the wealthiest not only in the state of Connecticut, but in the entire country.

In my proposals, I always do a bit of research on the prospective client's local competitors. And to my surprise, this particular business's local competitors had websites that were, well--to put it quite frankly--bad. Really bad. Like 1998 bad.

It really made me think: here you are, with a business in one of the wealthiest areas in the country, and this is how you are marketing yourself? I don't know much about these businesses--for all I know they could be very successful. But if I was looking for this particular type of company, and I had the money to spend, these people had better wow me. And upon viewing their websites, my first impression was "wow," alright; just not that kind of "wow."

I'm not saying that you have to go out and spend tens of thousands of dollars for a hot-looking website with all the bells and whistles, but I am saying be smart about it. My prospective client expressed a desire for a classy, upscale website--as well they should, as that's who the target demographic is.

Look at who you're marketing to, and look at what you're marketing with. If your website looks dated, it might be time for a redesign. Check out your local competitors, see what you're working against.

I highly doubt that the people of Greenwich are shopping at the dollar store; why make them feel like they are?


Update: Ad Rants

As I was driving on 95 North the other day, I noticed that my favorite billboard has been changed! BMW of Bridgeport is proving that their bad ad sense isn't affecting their sales at all by changing their ill-concieved "From up here I can see BMW of Bridgeport," to a much more sales-friendly message: #1 BMW Dealership in Connecticut/New England/Northeast (something like that--I was driving, so I didn't get a good look at the geographical range).

However, the guy is still perched on top of the billboard--AND he now boasts a "We're # 1!" foam finger.

While I still can't appreciate that guy sitting up there, the foam finger did make me giggle. Oh well, baby steps, I suppose.


Advertising Rants

One of my biggest pet peeves is poor advertising. Not poorly designed, necessarily--although that doesn't rank very high on my list--I'm talking about poorly executed. I came across two examples of this today.

Driving north on 95 this afternoon, I came across this billboard:

The message is simple: look at these 3 very different people who share the same surname! Where else but in America would you find that!

The problem is what I take away from it: Homer Simpson, OK, that's fine, I can dig it. But Jessica Simpson is perhaps better known for her bra size--and not being bright enough to figure out the difference between chicken and tuna--than for her marginal singing talent (and believe me, talent is used very loosely here). And OJ... I know, I know, he was once a great football player, he won the Heisman Trophy; but unfortunately, that's not what he's famous for today. He's got that nasty little car chase/murder trial/"If I did do it" book.

So this is what we're bragging about in America?

The campaign somewhat works with other people/places/things: Wall Street, Bourbon Street, Sesame Street; Superman, Superbowl, Super Sized... But the whole Simpson idea was, let's face it, a pretty bad one.

The other poorly executed billboard was not much farther up the road. This one was for BMW of Bridgeport, and, as Mattio will attest, irks me to no end.

When I think of BMW, I think high end. They are a luxury car, and that's how they market themselves--except in this instance. The billboard is simple; it says "From up here, I can see BMW of Bridgeport." Then, sitting on top of the sign, there's a 3D model of a man... looking towards Fairfield.

See, BMW of Bridgeport is located in the heart of, you guessed it, Bridgeport (the name kind of gives it away). But the billboard is on 95 north facing Fairfield. So the model either needs to be turned around, or he's got to have some Exorcism-like neck moves in order to see the dealership. Actually, he's really looking towards Mercedes Benz of Fairfield; perhaps something BMW should have thought about.

So not only is it a completely misleading ad; but it's not doing anything to sell this car. This beautiful, luxurious, expensive car. Instead, to me, it's selling the view of the billboard. I can see where whoever thought this idea up might think that they're selling proximity ("Hey, you're really close to BMW of Bridgeport! Just keep driving in the opposite direction of where our billboard tells you!"), but the whole package just doesn't work.

Boo, boo, boo, all around.


Recommended: The Guy Not Taken

I am a fierce reader. If the book is that good (and there have been many that are), I will stay up all night to finish it. But lately, I have had less and less time to read. With 2 kids, various activities, school meetings, and of course, my own business, spare time is few and far between. And so unfortunately, reading has taken a hit.

But a few weeks ago, in an ongoing effort to keep up with my health, I joined a gym. And being the multi-tasker that I am (that, and the machines get bor-ing after about ten minutes) I've started reading while I work out. Of course, in an ongoing effort to keep up with my finances, I have been going to the library; so it's not like I'm reading just-released best sellers. I have been fairly lucky, however, and have found a couple of books by familiar authors that I ended up really enjoying.

One of them was The Guy Not Taken, by one of my new favorites, Jennifer Weiner. It's a collection of short stories, some old and some new; all well-written and intriguing. But what really got me: at the end of the book, there was a little blurb about each one; when and why she had written each story.

A few years ago, Jennifer Weiner had come to the Fairfield Library on a publicity tour for her then-latest book Goodnight, Nobody. I had read and enjoyed her previous books, so I went. And it turns out, not only is Jennifer a talented writer, but she's a really cool person, and a really engaging speaker. She chatted with the crowd like we were a bunch of girlfriends she was catching up with; telling stories of her grandmother, and the movie that was coming out based on one of her books (In Her Shoes, starring--in her words--her new bff, Cameron Diaz). She wasn't stuck up at all, nor was she a jaded writer just going through the motions; each of her stories was funny and full of zest--I'd definitely recommend seeing her in person if you ever get the chance.

As for The Guy Not Taken, it's not just another chick lit book, as the title may lead you to believe; the stories are at once funny and sad, the characters come alive on the page and make you care about what happens to them. All in all, a great read.


Bravo, kate spade

Those who know me, know that I adore kate spade--handbags, shoes, accessories... the woman can do no wrong. So I found myself on katespade.com today--no, not shopping (I wish!), I was doing some research for a website I'm working on. No, really!

Anyway, I came across this section, called "Behind the Curtain." Of course, as it happens with the internet, I clicked through and imediately spent the next half hour or so lost in kate's world. It's such a great extension of the brand: what the kate spade design team is listening to, behind the ad campaign, upcoming events, projects, and my favorite, things we love. Things we love is a collage of photos linking to, well, things they love: a youtube clip of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, The Art Director's Club Young Guns, a book about primary colors (the actual colors, not the political satire). It was a refreshing change from my usual internet stops; I'm going to definitely check it out more to see how often it changes.

In related news, kate also sends out a monthly email, kate's favorites. In it, she lists a few of her favorite ks products: this month it's--among other things-- a wicker clutch (because "dinners al fresco are just around the corner. grab this clutch and head outdoors.”). Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for all things spade, but throwing that little quote in there makes me want the purse that much more--I can envision myself dining outdoors in a fabulous strapless dress, opening my cute little clutch to reapply my lipstick. Brilliant marketing.

Sidebar: A friend/client thought the "Favorites" was so brilliant, she's going to borrow the idea!

In both instances, kate spade has taken her brand and expanded it 2 completely different directions: one in which she sells her wares, the other which has little to do with the products she's selling, and more to do with the lifestyle that accompanies those products.

Bravo, ks.


The Portrait House

Last year, when I was getting my business off the ground, a client--Justin Marantz, of Imagine Imaging--and I found each other on craigslist. Normally, I'm not one to rave about clients found on craigslist, but Justin and his fiancée/business partner Mary have been the exception to the rule. They are delightful to work with, take marvelous photographs, and, as it turns out, they have a philanthropic side.

In the midst of the Imagine Imaging site redesign, Justin told me about the Portrait House--a bunch of photographers taking portraits to benefit Habitat for Humanity. He asked if I'd design the website, and I happily agreed--but only if he let me design the logo as well.

This is my first "official" pro-bono job; sure, I volunteer at my kids' schools, and I've done the whole school website/directory/various programs thing, but I've never had the opportunity to volunteer for a client. Justin just approved the logo the other day:

I spent the better part of today working on the website; I'm pretty excited about it. As I said before, Justin is a talented photographer, and I'm sure he'll have no problems meeting his goal. If you have a question about the Portrait House, or if you'd like to get involved, email Justin at justin@imagine-imaging.com.

In the meantime, I'm happy to lend my services to something that will make a difference.