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IQ Spotlight: Tricia Gillentine, Art Director

IQ-er Spotlight: Tricia Gillentine

IQ is made up of a bunch of rockstars that make incredible work for our clients everyday. We want to give you a glimpse of what it’s like to work in IQ, so every other Friday we’re going to interview an IQ-er and let you get to know them better.

Alright, let’s get this started. For the super-official record what is your name, and what is your title here at IQ?

My name is Tricia Gillentine, and I am an Art Director here at IQ.

Tell me about the moment you knew this was the direction you wanted to pursue professionally?

I knew what I wanted to be before I knew the name for it. I knew that I wanted to do creative work. But it wasn’t until I was about to graduate from college that I realized what an Art Director actually was… I found a magazine called CMYK and discovered one of the portfolio schools here in Atlanta. So I moved to Atlanta to go to Creative Circus and now, several steps later in my career adventure, here I am.

What brings you the most joy in your day-to-day work here at IQ?

My Co-workers. Is that cheesy? I love just feeding off the energy here. Although, I have to say though I enjoy, but am also completely weirded out by the wildlife here. There have been two snake encounters, a vulture that just hangs out on our porch all day, and at least one lizard rescue.

What do you enjoy most about working with a new client?

I love the new design challenges it brings. It often sparks new ideas and teaches me about industries that otherwise wouldn’t know anything about.

What is your favorite current design trend?

I’m really loving the movement back to hand-type.

What does “Creative Intelligence” mean to you?

I think it means making work that people will stop and look at because it’s beautiful, but then they’ll have that “A-ha!” moment while looking at it, like “oh, that was really smart” or “oh yeah, that totally makes sense.” Brains and beauty.

Now it’s time for the quick-fire questions. I’m going to ask you a series of either-or questions and you give me your first response. First one: Apple or Android?

Apple.

Unicorn or Narwhal?

Oh gosh, that’s a really tough one! Hmm. Narwhal, for sure. They’re like the unicorns of the sea!

Coca-Cola or Pepsi?

Neither. I don’t participate in carbonation, actually.

Pen or pencil?

Pen. Always. Especially the really inky ones, they’re the best.

Would you rather go see live theatre or a live concert?

Theatre play!

So now you know a little bit more about Tricia Gillentine!

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IQ Typography Challenge: Candy IQ

IQ brings #KNOWvember to you

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IQ Typography Challenge!

We have given the IQ Creative Team a Typography Challenge to tease their brains and push their boundaries.

The rules: find or create “IQ” in an image. Whether it’s a photo or Photoshop or Illustrator or hand drawn, we want to celebrate creative all the ways you can find and create something when you set your mind to it!

The November 5th entry is from Carol Montoto, Associate Creative Director and Eric Beatty, Art Director. I give you Candy IQ:

IQ Typography Challenge - Candy IQ

 

The November 12th entry is from Jay Littman, Design Intern. I give you Brainteaser IQ:

Brainteaser IQ for Type Challenge

 

The November 26th entry is from Carol Montoto, Associate Creative Director, and inspired by the work of Paul Rand. I give you Eye-Q:

Eye-Q

The December 3rd entry is from Jay Littman, Design Intern. I give you IQ in Chartreuse:

IQ chartreuse

The December 3rd entry is from Carol Montoto, Associate Creative Director, and Sarah Giarratana, Copywriter. I give you Waffle IQ:

Carol & Sarah's Waffle IQ

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  • 11.04.14

Mobile First Website Design

by Jay Littman

Mobile First

When it comes to responsive design, the concept of mobile first is not a new one. It was first coined by Luke Wroblewski (LukeW) in 2009.  However, as time goes on, it only becomes more apparent how important designing with mobile in mind will continue to be.

As of February of this year, Americans use tablets, phones, and other mobile devices 55 percent of the time they go online.  At IQ, we’re no strangers to responsive projects. We want to ensure that this huge portion of our clients’ traffic is able to access their sites without anything breaking. But we do have internal debates over which should come first: desktop design or mobile?

I tend to vote for mobile first. We know designing for mobile is important, but why design for mobile first? There’s several reasons to explore:

1. Forced Focus

Designing mobile first forces you to focus. Because when designing for mobile, you want the quickest loading time possible. That means cutting out anything unnecessary to the user experience, paring down a site hierarchy to the essentials, and keeping the core purpose of a site as the only content left standing.  Designing for mobile first requires designing the simplest, quickest method to get the user to what they want from your site. Then, in desktop versions, expanding upon that design while keeping those core functions top of mind.

2. Smaller Real Estate, Bigger Design Challenge

One of the key elements of designing for mobile, and also possibly the most intimidating, is that space is limited on a phone screen. Mobile design is the tiny NYC apartment where you end up using the oven for storage if you don’t plan for your small space. But if you do plan ahead, you can end up with a space that is streamlined and incredibly elegant. I will admit that this is not an easy endeavor, but your designs will be better for it.

3. Enhancements versus Degradation

Let’s get a bit technical. When you design for desktop first, it means loading all of the content that would be seen on the largest platform and then reducing it to the mobile version. The trouble is your user already had to wait for all that content to load on their smartphone before they can get to the mobile version of the site… if they indeed waited and didn’t just close the page out to find something else. Designing for mobile first means allows a minimal amount of content to load first, streamlining the experience. This is a lot faster and means your site gets enhancements as it moves up to desktop, instead of degradations of content when moving down to mobile.

These are some of the things we consider when beginning a website design project here at IQ. This method may help you find a few ways to improve your user experience all over, not just on mobile. So on your next site design project, try starting with mobile first and see where this aspect of creative intelligence takes you.

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Publicis buys Sapient in quest to sell the dream

Publicis Sapient Merger Deal

The Publicis Sapient deal announced this morning is part of a trend that has agencies becoming consultants and consultants becoming agencies.  In Sapient, Publicis is buying a technology consultancy with deep technology capabilities across the spectrum of all business activity. This makes sense if Publicis has a vision of itself, not just as a collection of ad agencies, but as a 21st century business consultant; helping companies change the fundamental ways they do business in the digital age. I don’t think they are alone in this vision.

Back in 2002 IBM decided to shift their focus to being essentially a business change and performance consultant. So they bought Price Waterhouse consulting and then a few years later sold their PC business to the Chinese. In 2009 the huge consultant Accenture launched Accenture Interactive with P&G as it’s first client and has continued to buy advertising and design firms around the globe, and WPP is buying business and digital consultants, the latest being Cognifide earlier this year.

All these moves spring from the way that digital is forcing companies to rethink everything they do from product development to marketing and customer service. In the recent Nielson Trust in Advertising report, consumers cited brand websites, which Sapient has made many of, being second only to “recommendations from people I know” for advertising trust. Websites have not been considered advertising, but in the digital age their importance is just another indicator that the lines are blurring between advertising, marketing, service and product.

Feeding all this change is not just the digital consumer, but also the desire of companies to turn their business into a predictable machine. This is being stimulated by the promise that all this business consulting, the systems, data, and models, will reduce risk and increase certainty; every CEO’s dream. But it’s not so simple, because this new approach requires a complacent consumer and unless anyone hasn’t noticed digital consumers are anything but complacent, especially in their own defense. Consumers are not only much faster to adopt new technologies than brands, but they are also less credulous, less tolerant of manipulation, and more sensitive to privacy issues today. That could throw a wrench in the grand plans of these super consultant/agencies as they try to help companies re-take their position as the manipulators in chief.

The good news for mid-sized companies, which probably cannot afford to not hire Accenture anyway, is that they need not fear losing a competitive edge to their larger competitors. Building a brand’s digital ecosystem designed to connect, cultivate and convert consumers, is now I believe accessible to most mid-sized companies for the first time, and while data plays it’s part, success comes more from connecting the pieces intelligently rather than overlaying some massive data crunching system. In fact I think that companies with more nimble cultures, which can react faster to consumer needs and marketplace opportunities, will have an even greater opportunity for success than those that try to build machines to control the unruly digital consumer.

 

 

 

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IQ brings #KNOWvember to you.

IQ social #KNOWvember

November is here with its fall-to-winter weather and colorful foliage and here at IQ we’re kicking off #KNOWvember. We’re celebrating creative intelligence in all its forms, especially continued learning and development. We will be sharing original articles here on the blog and in our other social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and LinkedIn). We’ll also be sharing other articles and links that flex our brain muscles. So keep an eye out for the #KNOWvember hashtag as we share things that fuel our creative intelligence.

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Before we knock “native advertising,” let’s talk about doing it right.

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Selling Content to Your Boss

how to sell content to your boss

Everyone is talking about content. Marketers are besieged with content advice, tools and strategies, but in the end the basic challenge is to sell the whole idea of investing in content to your boss. Easier said than done. Here are some of the basic arguments:

The Last Mile

Much of those investments in digital technology that your company has already made have just laid down the tracks to deliver content. A website or a Facebook page is only as good as its content. Every piece of your brand ecosystem is only a vehicle to deliver content because it’s the part of the system that actually touches consumers and intrigues, inspires, and compels them to action. In a world where traditional approaches seem to have lost much of their sway, content is still one of the few ways brands can influence attitudes and perceptions. If not content then what? More paid advertising?

The Real Challenge

The content challenge, simply stated, is to deliver the right content, at the right moment to the right consumer.  In other words exactly the right kind of engagement for that viewer, context, and moment in time. And because consumers form their attitudes about brands based on the cumulative impression of many touches, it is vital that each content experience be designed to work in concert with multiple interactions before and after.

No Accident

That doesn’t happen accidentally. It’s the work of Content Strategy, which illuminates the dynamics of each interaction, and instructs a brand as to “what to say” and “how to say it” in each instance. When combined with Journey Mapping, which reveals “where” to engage and “when”, a brand gets a plan for how to build a content delivery system that has the maximum influence on their consumers.

Fresh

Figuring out the right recipe for content at each interaction point, however, is not enough, and this is where the conversation with your boss might get difficult. Content has to stay fresh because it goes stale very fast, especially since consumers are all voracious content guzzlers, and in our ADHD world, always running off to the next new thing. So the goal is to deliver a steady stream of fresh content across all the relevant channels.

Top-of-Mind

The basic idea is to not only have brand preference before consumers become ready-to-buy, but critically to be top-of-mind WHEN they become ready-to-buy. There are only three ways to be there at that magic moment: 1. Buy lots of advertising; 2. Develop a database of all your prospects and mail them regularly; or 3. Make sure your content is always where it needs to be. It’s an easy choice. Advertising is expensive and losing its influence, and it takes a long time to build an effective database. Content, on the other hand, costs less than media and has great influence on consumers.  It’s a big shift, however, from a focus on investing in the delivery of your message to a focus on investing in the message itself.

The Hard Sell

Companies are in the business of making whatever it is they make, not content, so it can be hard to explain to senior management that they need to be in the content business. On the one hand it seems like a big financial commitment without a directly measurable ROI, and on the other, it is often a large cultural shift for a company to move from the old, familiar marketing model to becoming a content factory. The truth is very few companies can do it internally; it’s just too different, which is why agencies like mine step in.

Getting your boss to commit to a content based approach can, therefore, be hard, but like all moments in business and life that require change and foresight, some smart people and companies will grab the opportunity at the expense of their less enlightened competition. For those with the vision, content will put them front and center when prospects become “ready to buy”. For those that can’t make the shift, their options may dwindle to increasingly ineffective paid media and the hope that their competition is equally resistant to change.

 

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  • 09.17.14

Budgeting 2015 – The Essentials

marketing budget done wisely

Since digital channels are where so many interactions happen, brands need to make sure they have the essential digital technology pieces in place.  These include:

website / mobile / blogs / social / email / search / content / ratings & reviews / marketing automation / analytics / commerce

While almost every brand probably needs a website, the exact recipe should be determined by the right strategy work, as we discussed in this recent post: 5 Steps to a Defensible 2015 Marketing Budget.

The idea is that modern marketing is circular not linear. You never come to a dead end and everything connects and supports everything else in the brand ecosystem.  In order to do that you need to have certain technology pieces of the puzzle in place before you jump to tactics.

You probably already have a website. It’s should be the core of your ecosystem. This is where you are free to cultivate and convert to the best of your ability. But all websites are not created equal. A modern marketing websites should:

  1. Have landing pages that are customized by where viewers come from.
  2. Tell a persuasive brand story customized to each viewer’s interests.
  3. Attract search with content designed for SEO.
  4. Enable advocacy with content and social media.
  5. Use Responsive design to enable viewing on any mobile device.
  6. Identify visitors and deliver relevant content.
  7. Produce comprehensive activity analytics.
  8. Enable speedy marketing updates with a flexible CMS.

These are the basics of a modern brand website. The key, however, is in how you execute them. You messaging, branding, content, design and user experience are all the product of your strategy work, without which your site may not resonate with consumers or produce the leads and conversions you hope for. Whatever the ingredients, the fundamental idea is that your digital marketing infrastructure should enable you to execute and adapt quickly and easily.

Advertising and acquisition tactics alone rarely close the deal anymore.  Consumers, B2C and B2B, need to do research, evaluate, talk with friends and peers, and be cultivated. It’s a complex soup of influences and interactions. The good news is that it can be mapped and understood, so that armed with that knowledge you can deliver the right message to the right person at exactly the right time. In order to do that, however, you need to have some essential mechanical pieces of the puzzle in place first.

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  • 09.15.14

5 Steps to a Defensible 2015 Marketing Budget

5 Steps to a Defensible 2015 Marketing Budget

Just the fact of being asked for specific budget numbers often makes marketers jump straight to tactics before they’ve developed the strategic foundation that should drive those tactics. Unfortunately if you haven’t done that work yet for 2015, it’s probably too late for your budget process. But either way it’s never too late to start doing it the right way.

The 5 steps to an effective, defensible marketing plan:

1.    Don’t Guess

The powers that be need to recognize that before you decide where, when and how to spend money, modern marketing requires some pretty sophisticated strategic planning. While your team’s instincts and experience are probably good, you’d be surprised how wrong gut decisions can be. The Connect, Cultivate, Convert model does a good job of explaining why this complex environment requires a formalized strategic approach.

2.    Do the basics

The foundation starts with traditional research and insights, like customer segmentation, competitive review and persona development. But it’s what comes next that really counts.

3.    Journey Mapping

You need to know what the key interaction points and influences are on the way to purchase, and then advocacy, for each target segment.  This tells you when and where to interact with each target segment, but it’s still not enough.

4.    Content Strategy

You also need to know what to say, and how to say it to each segment at each interaction point. This comes from the work of a Content Strategy.  It includes social media listening to discover what people are saying, and studying search activity to find out what people are doing. This work reveals the psychology of the consumer at each point in their journey and provides essential direction to creative messaging.

5.    Playbook

At this point you have a strategic plan, which includes who you are targeting, when and where you should engage, what you should say and how that messaging should be delivered, but you need one more thing. The final step is to translate all this strategy into an actionable plan.

The Playbook should:

·      Prioritize tactics based on their ability to deliver against goals
·      Lay out tactics in priority over time
·      Show how each tactic ladders up to the strategy
·      Provide budgets for each tactic.
·      Project ROI
·      Identify KPIs for performance measurement

Tactics should include campaign work to connect with new prospects, tactics to cultivate prospects and customers over time, and tactics to convert prospects into customers. Some tactics may be one-time, others may be evergreen and part of your on-going marketing infrastructure.

When you’ve taken these five steps you will really be ready for budget time. You will be able to tell your management exactly how much you need, why, and what the ROI will be. You will be able to explain how, in the context of corporate goals, you got to your strategy, how the tactics you recommend will accomplish the strategy and why you have prioritized certain tactics within the time period. You will be able to justify each tactic, why it makes sense and how it ladders up to the long-term vision for the brand.

You may not be quite ready to deliver, however, if you don’t have the right mechanics in place. In our digitally centric world these are mostly digital assets like an effective website.  These technology components, of what essentially becomes a brand ecosystem, enable you to consistently turn the activity you generate with advertising and marketing into sales and loyalty.  But that’s another post.

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Online Video Top Priority For Brands in 2015

Marketing Content Strat for VideoThe CMO Council’s latest report shows that the two top priorities for brands in the coming year will be social and online video.

Everyone has been focused on social for a while, of course, and it continues to be a fast-evolving space, but video is rapidly becoming the new challenge for brands–and an opportunity for competitive advantage. Compared to text, video is easier to consume, and, if used in the right context and at the right time, consumers prefer it to other types of messaging.

The value proposition for brands is irresistible:

• Instead of paying a network or TV station to deliver your video, you can make your video “findable” by people who are searching using SEO.

• Many of these videos should live on your Web site, so when you drive people there to see a video, they become the gateway into your entire sales story.

• Videos are also powerful with existing customers for upsell, cross-sell, and retention, and can be triggered with email and even by 1-2-1 sales.

• You can also use paid SEM, buying keywords to drive audience to your videos.

• You can, of course, buy preroll video ads just about anywhere, and use display ads to show or link to your videos

• Videos are also social currency and exactly what people like to share in social networks, so they should become a key component in your social strategy

The list of applications for video includes paid (purchased media) exposure, as well as earned (social/PR) and owned (Web site). But clearly it’s smart to exhaust the opportunities to get free exposure before putting your hand in your pocket.

The challenge is that just putting a video out there doesn’t cut it. To succeed, brands have to make the right videos, tailored for the target audience and context. However, many brands still don’t put the time and money into figuring out what videos they should make, what subjects they should address, what they should say, and how they should say it. And the truth is, video is not right for every situation; often, it is very wrong.

All of those questions can be answered with a good content strategy, which studies the consumer decision journey, the context, competition, and so on. Guessing is really not an option, and only when you have a content strategy to guide you should you move to creative and production.

For example, for one of IQ’s clients we learned that consumers were very uneducated about the buying process. So we researched via organic search to discover the top terms, especially long-tail searches, people used in the buying process. These led to videos designed to address those areas and questions, and which, through good SEO, would attract those searches. Since we know that Google favors videos in natural search results, these videos acted as a lead-generation tool, while, at the same time, filled out the brand story on the Web site and acted as content for marketing automation.

The idea is to make an effective video, but what works? Google considers “good” to be videos that are popular, based on such factors as how much people share your video, as well as how many links connect to it; the more popular, the higher the rank. So the objective is to make videos that your target audience find valuable and want to share. But why is one video more compelling than another? While there’s no simple answer, we do know that there are some general rules for what works, what doesn’t, and how to get it done.

Online, brands need a constant stream of compelling content to stay fresh and relevant to their consumers. The ability, therefore, to quickly create high-quality video on an ongoing basis at a reasonable cost is a key to making video online work. The trouble for many brands and their agencies is that making Web videos is not like making TV commercials. TV spots are produced only a couple of times a year, take months to make, and have very large budgets. They’re just too slow and too expensive for Web video.

As brands turn their focus to delivering fresh, relevant, and compelling online video, they will realize that it’s not as easy as checking a box. That means some will be better than others–some will succeed, while others will fail–but in the end isn’t that what competitive advantage is all about?

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Rethinking Amazon.com

Eric Beatty Amazon.com redesign

 

A quick note from Clark Moss, IQ’s Executive Creative Director:

Every now and again at the IQ office, spontaneous discussions break out about our “dream brands,” those specific companies that we would just love to work on. It seems everyone in the office has one, from a tech giant to a local bar, a brand name clothing store to a niche-market product manufacturer. To celebrate that, we’ve challenged ourselves to write, design, blog and create ideas around these dream companies. We’ll be sharing them over the next few months on the IQ Agency blog, so please enjoy this first one by Eric Beatty, one of our wonderful Art Directors.

Before I start I want to state that I know that Amazon.com has an amazing team of UX & digital designers, and I know they have reasoning behind each element of the page and it’s placement. The comp that I designed is a direction that I personally think improves the usability of the site.

The Problem with Amazon.com

Amazon.com recently came out with an underwhelming redesign of their homepage. Though it is better then it’s predecessor, it didn’t solve for the overall clutter that is on the homepage. Due to the clutter there is no system of hierarchy to guide the user down the page through the various sections. Instead the user comes to the page and feels overwhelmed, flooded with information and images to take in. I wanted to solve for this.

Amazon's status quo

My Solution

I wanted to get rid of the clutter and focus on the most important things on the homepage: navigation, featured content and suggested products. I also wanted to create a system of hierarchy with the content, breaking up the page with large blocks of featured content  with smaller blocks of suggested products so the user doesn’t get overwhelmed. Finally I wanted to create a space at the top that showcased Amazon’s featured products in the best way possible.

Amazon.com solution

Navigation

Amazon Nav bar redesign

I shrunk the nav, leaving only the most important items: Departments, Prime, Wish list, My Account, Cart & Search. Note that search is front and center, allowing for people to quickly and easily get to it, since this is likely the most used way to navigate the site.

Hero Slider

Amazon hero slider redesign

I made an eye catching, full width image hero slider that showcases each featured product in an emotional way. I noticed that the current hero pieces are small and feel more like ads than a featured section. I wanted to make sure this section shined because this is where Amazon gets to push select items.

Suggested Products

Amazon Suggested Products redesign

I wanted to update the “related to items you’ve viewed” with Amazon’s colors. I feel they don’t use their branded orange enough, and by popping it in every now and then we are able to reinforce the brand subtly through the site. I also gave new spacing to the products to let them breathe, and to give the eye an easier time to see each product.

Featured Products

Featured Amazon Products Redesign

I think it is important to break up the product suggestion section with hero items. This keeps the user from feeling overwhelmed looking at a mass of products. It also provides visual interest and does a nice job breaking up the page.

Note the right side bar didn’t change that much, I wanted to make sure that section remained dedicated to advertisement, that way this is a more realistic approach to the redesign.

Take a look at the project on my Behance for more information. What is your opinion of Amazon.com’s homepage?

 

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