Valspar is on point with #ColorForAll campaign

Check out this short video featuring colorblind individuals who are able to see colors for the first time. It’s a feel-good piece, but more than that, it’s a great example of effective content marketing by Valspar paints.

Content marketing has become a buzzword that brands have latched onto as the age of Google and social media have flipped the traditional advertising model. Where brand communication was once a one-way megaphone through which they could reach customers, they must now also position themselves to be found by them.

The two-pronged strategic response to this change is:

1) Strengthen your SEO (search engine optimization)practices that help consumers literally find you

2) Create content that will be be liked and shared by your target audience.

Some brands have checked their content marketing box by hosting a blog and keeping their Facebook and Twitter feeds active. But the days of easy gains from social media are over. If you want to stand out from the cacophony of brands vying for attention, you have to raise the bar on creativity and quality. Brands have to think about what really makes people care.

Valspar nailed it with this project. Instead of telling you all about their paint products, they’ve partnered with EnChroma, a company that creates lenses to correct colorblindness. They’ve told a story about people who have been given a new way to see the world because of color. This demonstrates a company that understands its brand and its relevance in the lives of people.

The video is extremely sharable, regardless of whether I have any vested interest in paint. They’ve created what feels like a non-profit advocacy campaign within a for-profit business. It even has its own website.

The goal here isn’t necessarily to drive visitors to the Valspar site—though it surely will. The real goal is to increase the brand’s name awareness and engage audiences in a story brought to you by Valspar. Next time you are preparing to lay a new coat on your bedroom wall, you’ll already have a distant emotional connection with the brand.

This project took time. They had a strategy, planned it out, and executed excellently. It’s impact will be worth a thousand blog posts. Bravo, Valspar!

Valspar is on point with #ColorForAll campaign

Why your marketing efforts are backward

If you own a company, there is a temptation to treat marketing the same way you buy office supplies. You go to someone who has design software or—heaven forbid—you buy one yourself, and dial up a quick advertisement to tell people all about your products and services. Done. Box checked.

Not so fast. If you’re that focused on efficiency, you could have wasted money much easier by lighting it on fire. It’d be more entertaining anyway.

In fact, when it comes to marketing, there really must be a balance between “get it done” efficiency and “do it right” effectiveness. Most of the hard work happens before a designer ever touches a sketchbook or a mouse. Effectiveness thinking (versus efficiency thinking) requires a whole different set of questions:

– What defines us, and what are we trying to accomplish?
– What is our audience looking for?
– How many possible routes could we take to connect the dots?
– What unseen problems should we anticipate?
– Will our strategy still make sense a year or two down the road?

These questions and plenty more like them are the stuff of good business, which happens to be much of the same stuff that makes good marketing. They help you see your target, so when you’re ready to fire, you’re more likely to hit it.

The first step in a marketing strategy isn’t what your logo should look like, or how to start up a Facebook page. Set your social media strategy aside for the moment and focus on the message you need to convey, and why customers should care about you enough to stop what they are doing and give you their time, attention, and possibly their money.

Back in my art classes in high school, my sculpture teacher would always say “measure twice, cut once.” It’s a common saying, of course, but so easy to forget. If you take good measure of exactly what you are trying to accomplish, and what your real challenges are, you are much better positioned to get the results you are looking for. Maximum impact with minimal efforts. That, after all, is what being truly efficient is all about.

Why your marketing efforts are backward

Less really is more.

Back in high school, I received a bit of sage advice from one of my studio art teachers. Mine was a magnet school with a special arts program for aspiring creative types, so teachers were more like professors, and a senior portfolio was expected to rival that of a third-year college student. My own portfolio garnered a scholarship for one semester at Houston’s prestigious Glassell School of Art—an extension of the Museum of Fine Arts.

Guiding me on presentation, this teacher advised that I not try to show all of my work. Instead, I should limit my portfolio to a handful of my very best pieces.

Years later, my boss had a very similar approach, though his language was somewhat more crude: “It’s time to kill some babies,” he’d say. This was his figurative way of expressing that the moment called for making tough decisions about what to keep and what to cut, even when it hurt to cut anything at all.

There are certainly things that are better with more. We are programmed to want more, but most of the time it’s really the quality—not the quantity—that matters.  When it comes to design, as in life, the magic is in figuring out how to balance your efforts so you are doing fewer things, but you are doing them better.

Why less is more in design
Design is about guiding the audience to information and emotion that produces a reaction. The human brain can only take in so much at once, so the more you try to accomplish, the less impact each element will carry. If your website homepage shows 20 links “above the fold,” the average person will look at a few of them and move on. If your advertisement has 4 photos and just as many paragraphs of copy, the core message will be diluted. If your product has too many buttons and switches, it is too overwhelming for the user.

LessIsMoreBy getting rid of clutter that just isn’t necessary, you gain the clarity needed to direct the user’s attention to what really matters.

How to reduce when it all seems important
Maybe you’ve eliminated the “clutter” and realized you still need a lot of buttons to handle multi-functionality, and your website really has lots of helpful information that you want people to find. Great! All the more reason to make it user-friendly. It may be hard, but sometimes you have to kill some babies.

Here is a helpful 4-step exercise:

1) Set a rather arbitrary and uncomfortably low number of acceptable items.
2) Outline your needs from most critical to least.
3) Explore ways that you could make it work if you really had to.
4) Go ahead and add back in one or two things that would make the greatest improvement.

What you will find is that some of the things that seem important really are not, and there are more innovative ways to simplify information and solve problems. In the end, you will have a product that is less demanding on the end user, but also more compelling, because it stays true to what is important instead of distracting attention to less critical matters.

Apply this to life
The principle works in other areas of life. Do you feel like you have too many projects to do any of them well? Do you spend too much time on things that aren’t very important to you in the long-run? Too much junk in the house that could probably find a better home—including the trashcan?

Start by prioritizing your life with some serious questioning. What is really important to you? What do you want to accomplish this year, or over the next 5 or 10 years? How do you want to be remembered by friends and family when you’re not around?

Look at the things that currently take up time, money and space in your life and see how they line up to your short- and long-term goals. It will suddenly be clear that some things are demanding far more than they are actually worth, and it’s time to free up that energy for other things.

You can practice on your closet. Eliminate every article of clothing that doesn’t make you feel excellent, and when you shop for more, limit new purchases to things that meet the same strict criteria. Stop wasting time deciding between 50 shirts every day, when you don’t love most of them. You’ll get your time and sanity back, and still know that you look your best every day. Even if your clothes cost a little more now, you’ll know it is money well-spent.

I’m telling you, folks. Quality over quantity.

Less really is more.