marketing

Conference Swag & Promotional Merch Recommendations

It’s almost 2020… people are drowning in stuff, the planet is drowning in plastic, and no one needs more logo-printed:

  • plastic water bottles or cups

  • stress balls

  • toys

  • crappy knock-off lip balm

  • tote bags

  • USB drives

  • spirals/journals/notepads

  • keychains

  • eyeglass cleaners

  • pop sockets

But from a marketing perspective, you still need giveaways for your trade show booths, conferences, and award shows though, right?!

Our first recommendation for conference swag is to MAKE IT USEFUL, otherwise you’re just spending a fortune on trash.

What’s in demand now:

  • Consumable product samples or snacks (much appreciated by attendees – it’s your job to make your brand memorable when they come get ‘em!)

  • Stainless steel straws (either singles or kits, with or without carrying case, brush, etc.)

  • Portable bamboo utensil sets (typically with a roll-up wrap to store them in your purse or bag)

  • Glass, ceramic, or double-walled metal tumblers and bottles (expensive but cool; and we wavered on including this one because we don’t need any more of these either)

  • Wireless anything (bluetooth speakers, phone chargers, headsets/headphones; for high-end events only because otherwise, in order to make it inexpensive enough for a giveaway, it’s likely not high-quality, and will eventually become trash)

These tried & true conference favorites are not sexy, but people are likely to keep and use:

  • Pens/pencils

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Tissue packs for pocket/purse

  • Webcam covers

(though we don’t love that most of these items are plastic)

Our #1 Recommendation:

Sponsor an Experience!

  • device charging station

  • water bottle filling station

  • coffee bar

  • chair massage station

Your brand will be associated with something truly helpful in a clutch situation and “if you wrap the event in your branding, there’s a good chance your target customer will remember that experience” long after a tote bag would end up in a landfill somewhere, says Fast Company. We couldn’t agree more!

Read more here: “It’s time to stop spending billions on cheap conference swag

Relevant Social Media Platforms for Your Brand

Maintaining a social media presence is a lot of work. Crafting the right content and messaging takes precious time, but if you’re posting to the wrong channels for your audience, the best messaging in the world won’t do much to help grow your business or sell your product.

To find the right fit for your brand, ask:

  • Who is our target audience?

  • Is our target audience using this platform?

  • If so, how are they using it, and how often?

  • What opportunities are available for our brand on this platform?

  • Are other businesses like ours using this platform effectively?

  • Does this platform fit our brand image?

  • What adverse implications could possibly be inferred about our brand if we were to maintain a presence on this platform?


TOP Social Media Platforms to Consider:

Facebook - If you’ve been in business for longer than five minutes, you likely have a facebook page for your brand. Facebook is the largest platform around, with more than two billion monthly users, more than 65 million businesses maintaining pages, and more than six million advertisers. Facebook is great for sharing written messages, photos, graphics, videos, live videos, and stories. But since it’s such a saturated channel, beware of the ever-changing algorithm and see our blog “Getting Seen on Facebook” for more details about what kind of content they currently prioritize.

Messenger - This is the popular messaging app owned by facebook, and while you might not think of a messaging service as a social media opportunity for your business, hear us out: you can can advertise here, use chatbots for customer service, or send newsletters to your followers, etc. Here’s a great article with some ideas for using Messenger in your marketing plan.

instagram-logo-social-media-channels-to-consider-for-your-brand.png

Instagram - This photo and video sharing social media platform is ALSO now owned by facebook. It’s great for sharing photos, videos, stories, and live videos, and like facebook, it provides you with post analytics and the ability to schedule content posts using third-party social media schedulers. Here’s a complete guide to marketing on instagram.

Twitter - Twitter is a microblogging site that allows users to post short messages, photos, and links. It’s great for following news, large brands, and big events in real-time, making it wildly effective for certain industries, yet a completely irrelevant presence for other types of businesses.

YouTube - This video sharing platform, owned by Google, is where users watch a BILLION hours of videos every day. It’s the second-biggest social media site (after facebook) and also the second largest search engine after Google. Video has become ever more important on social media (and make sure to use captions because up to 85% of video is watched without sound on). Read up on YouTube SEO here.

LinkedIn - The most popular business-oriented social networking site, LinkedIn is great for entrepreneurs looking to boost their professional networks or reach out to B2B clients. Read LinkedIn for Business: The Ultimate Marketing Guide.

snapchat-logo-social-media-channels-to-consider-for-your-brand.jpg

Snapchat - Like Twitter, Snapchat will prove to be a wildly effective platform for certain industries, and completely irrelevant for others. It’s definitely a beneficial arena for companies marketing to younger users and moms of school-age kids and teens. Adding place filters folks can use when they’re nearby is a great idea for events and businesses that rely on maintaining their cool-factor. Read more about advertising opportunities on Snapchat.

Pinterest - This platform allows users to create and keep track of different boards where they can save photos and content from a variety of sources online. Businesses can use it to post products and promote blog posts – a must for “makers” and retail. How to make Pinterest work for your business.

Yelp - Known for hosting reviews of local brick-and-mortar businesses (with an emphasis on dining), you can create a business profile and interact with customers through commenting.

WhatsApp - This messaging app has been building up its business platform to now include a business profile, where you can provide customer support and share updates with customers about their purchases. It is starting to feel like a good fit for retail and big business. Hear directly from companies using WhatsApp here.

tiktok-logo-social-media-channels-to-consider-for-your-brand.png

TikTok - Relatively new on the scene, TikTok has taken over as the place to reach the notoriously difficult-to-market-to Gen Z, which is becoming more important as they gain a stronger foothold in the economy. Unlike Instagram, TikTok generally rejects polished, high-quality content. “As such, it has earned a reputation as a casual platform where users feel comfortable expressing themselves,” says Business News Daily. Additional info on TikTok’s marketing opportunities can be found here.

We’re Here to help

Let Green Apple Lane craft a plan for your social media presence, create your content and messaging, or completely outsource your social media management to us – we’re here to help.

My Past Life in Design

high-school-newspaper.jpg

The Beginning

Sometimes new clients ask about my design background, whether I have a specialty, or how I came to do what I do. I think of myself as a Jane of all trades (I won’t even delve into all the jobs and industries I’ve worked in that weren’t design-related), but I’ve been a graphic designer since working on my high school newspaper.

In ‘97-’98 we were still using the paste-up method for sending our school newspaper to press. Our layout software didn’t allow us to insert a photo on the page, so we’d just include a big open box that fit within the article. Then, on the printout of the final page, we’d use a wax pencil to label each box A, B, C, etc. and we’d paperclip ACTUAL PHOTOS to the page with corresponding labels of A, B, C, etc. written on the back, along with the percentage the photo should be sized within the box (there was a special tool to help us do the math). If the photo had to be cropped, we used another tool and made those corner crop marks on the front in wax pencil. We had a makeshift lightbox (pictured above with yours truly) and the photography/photojournalism room was right next door, which conveniently included a huge darkroom.

High-school-newspaper2.jpg

My sophomore year in high school, while attending a conference-style event at the University of Texas at Austin where newspaper and yearbook staff from high schools all over Texas came together, I decided that was where I would go to school and journalism/design was what I wanted to do forever.

Laura at the first-ever ACL fest in Austin, 2002.

Laura at the first-ever ACL fest in Austin, 2002.

AUSTIN

I did indeed go on to attend UT Austin for four and a half years, and during that time, I secured my first internship at Celebrate Austin magazine, which was an annual visitor’s guide placed in hotel rooms all over Central Texas (actually, it still is!). Since we had a small staff, I got to wear a lot of hats: writer, designer, photographer, copyeditor, and more. I remember when we had to design an ad for an advertiser, I would be the one to physically drive to the advertiser, pick up their zip disk (!!) or CD of logo files and photos to be used (or worse, pick up an actual business card or large professional photograph of their product so we could SCAN them… and then I’d have to personally return it all, too). I got paid in reimbursed mileage, advertising trade, and fancy lunches where I learned how to order and eat sushi after proclaiming “Sure, I love sushi!” The trade gift certificates ensured my roommate and I actually got to have a social life since we had zero dollars, no furniture in our living or dining room, and ate things like spinach sandwiches and Tuna Helper on the regular. In future years at Celebrate Austin, I did get paid a nominal hourly rate. Another benefit (if you are 19, which I was) was that I was able to secure press passes to any concert I wanted (including the inaugural Austin City Limits Music Festival), provided I brought back a roll of film from the show. Since it was an annual publication, however, production staff was only needed half the year, so every other semester I would try and find different internship opportunities which included working at the short-lived dot-com Citysearch, and the famed Texas Monthly magazine as an assistant to the assistant of the publisher.

I thought I would be heading straight to NYC after college, but even after a successful recruiting trip with Texas Advertising Group (some of us shown here at an NYC reception) all the companies we met with were on a hiring freeze in 2002, the city still reeling from 9/11. So I headed west instead.

I thought I would be heading straight to NYC after college, but even after a successful recruiting trip with Texas Advertising Group (some of us shown here at an NYC reception) all the companies we met with were on a hiring freeze in 2002, the city still reeling from 9/11. So I headed west instead.

Vegas

My Celebrate Austin publisher’s best friend was a department head at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and though I’d never been to Vegas before, I accepted her offer after a phone interview, and packed my bags in 2003. After a 10-month stint (and a lot of fun) at Caesars, I felt settled and comfortable in Las Vegas, and wanted to get back to design. I found a job as a graphic designer at Recharger magazine, a publication serving the worldwide toner and inkjet cartridge remanufacturing industry. It’s not glamorous, but it is/was a huge industry, as we were able to fill hundreds of pages on a monthly basis, plus a quarterly bonus publication, and host a massive annual trade show at Mandalay Bay. We even began reproducing each monthly magazine into digital editions in Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese as well. Adding trade show materials to my resume, using stock art for the first time, working with layouts in foreign languages, and transitioning from Quark to InDesign were all skills I developed here, for which I am grateful.

Freelance

In between things over the years, I freelanced a bit. I laid out newsletters for personal stylists, created postcards for artists to promote their work, and designed magazine ads as a contractor for various publications.

Dallas

After getting married and moving back to Texas, I found a new job working at Club Marketing Services. We worked directly with brands large and small to merchandise and promote their products in retail environments. We also worked on developing private label product packaging and created buyer presentations to get new products picked up by large retailers. We worked with professional food stylists to shoot products in-house and I added package design and project management to my repertoire.

When CMS announced their intention to shutter their Dallas location and focus all efforts on growing their Bentonville, AR office, I knew I didn’t want to relocate again. I thought it was the perfect time to jump ship and go into business for myself, and I started a monthly magazine for tween & teen girls in the DFW area. It was short-lived because, you know, the whole impending doom of the economy circa 2007-2008, so that was fun.

After Metro Girl, I landed in the role of Art Director at Texas Lawyer, a weekly regional newspaper (plus quarterly magazine inserts, 14 legal books a year, production of the Dallas Bar Association newsletter, and more). I learned so much from this position and stayed here for three and a half years. Over that time, my family continued to grow, life became more chaotic, and I needed to be closer to home and more available than the position could allow.

MG.jpg
TX-lawyer.jpg

Building a Custom Life

Finally, my second foray into solopreneurship and my last stop before Green Apple Lane was owning and operating a design brand offering completely custom wedding stationery. For over nine years, we produced extremely high-end, award-winning work that was featured in many publications. I developed watercolor and calligraphy skills (and even taught lettering classes for a while), and I enjoyed working with some of the finest specialty printers in the area for foil, letterpress, and embossing. I dusted off my rusty etiquette knowledge, and addressed and stuffed more envelopes than a person normally sends in a lifetime. While working on these fancy invitation suites, I was also working with businesses on their websites, logos, and promotional materials, building up a B2B client roster and eventually creating Green Apple Lane as a separate design brand/company. Once I felt like I had enough business from business, I quietly ducked out of wedding-land, but I’ll always be proud of this gorgeous work.

 
GreenAppleLane_SocialMediaLogo2.png
 

Green Apple Lane

I remember, as a teenager, perusing the bargain bin at Barnes & Noble and buying not only an Entrepreneurship start-up book endorsed by Forbes, but also 1001 Home-Based Business Ideas or something like that, zeroing in on the whole “Desktop Publishing” (what graphic design used to be called) career section… I’m not sure those are normal choices for a teen, but then again, it’s not like we had Twilight or Harry Potter in the 90s. And now for all that dreaming, learning, and growing, I am doing what I always wanted since I was 15, and I am happier than I have ever been.

Getting Seen on Facebook

facebook_algorithm_cover.jpg

It has become trickier than ever to ensure your brand’s content is being seen on Facebook. In 2018, Facebook began prioritizing “meaningful interactions” from friends and family over brand-generated content, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying, “You’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see […] should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

To give your content the best shot at being seen, engage using Facebook’s most valuable behaviors (from social media scheduling platform Hootsuite):

Comments

The algorithm prioritizes active interactions like commenting and sharing over passive interactions like likes and click-throughs — the idea being that actions requiring more effort on the part of the user are of higher quality and thus more meaningful. Rather than passively scrolling through the News Feed and occasionally pausing to “like” a photo or an article, Facebook wants users to be inspired to engage in conversations with each other.

This means brands should create quality content focused on sparking conversations between users. Try including questions in your posts, or writing about timely, relevant topics that users are sure to have an opinion on. The point is, users will be more likely to see your Facebook posts if their friends and family are commenting on it.

The algorithm not only favors comments, but also replies to comments. These signal that a piece of content is inspiring conversation between users.

Reactions

If a user takes the time to hit the “love” icon vs. the “like” icon, your content will receive a minor boost in the News Feed. Just as in life, “loving” is a more valued emotional signal than “liking.”

The same goes for all Facebook’s reactions: Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry. Facebook wants to see those “active” emotions.

Use Messenger

If a user shares a piece of content to their wall, that’s great, but it’s even better if they take the time to send it to a friend (or a group of friends) over Facebook messenger.

Engagement on Shares

While sharing a post is a pretty “active” interaction compared to most, simply getting shares is not enough. Your post must be shared and get engagement on that share to be prioritized in the algorithm.

Tips to increase organic reach on Facebook:

  • DO create quality content that resonates with your audience! This is the single most important piece of advice in this list. Everything about “meaningful interactions” boils down to creating quality content that people actually want to see.

  • DO use video & live video. People linger over a video post five times longer than at a static post. Video is not only good at capturing attention, it’s better at inspiring action, too.

  • DO use a clear call-to-action so that the audience knows how to engage, whether that’s liking, commenting, or clicking through your ad. Where relevant, ask a question that can be answered with a like or comment.

  • Don’t post engagement bait like “COMMENT here if you love puppies!” It’s spammy and will get you demoted.

  • Use high quality visuals: Skip low res, blurry, stock-quality images.

  • Keep copy direct: Short and sweet copy is always best.

  • Optimize for mobile: 88% of people use Facebook on mobile.

  • Limit text in visuals: Use Facebook’s Image Text Check tool to ensure your image passes the test.

  • Target the right audience: Facebook allows advertisers to target audiences based on their location, behaviour, demographics, connections, and interests.

  • Time strategically: Running ads at the right time will have a positive impact on your ad’s performance.

And finally…

If you’re attempting to target a younger audience, you might want to consider some of the data from this article: “44% of people aged 18 to 29 said they deleted the Facebook app from their phones in the last year.”

That doesn’t mean they’re deleting their accounts, but it does mean they’re going to engage less often and less consistently.

Let’s talk about which social media platforms are best for your brand and audience!

Packaging News

We have been so excited to write this blog since the start of the year – there is so much packaging news to share and it feels like companies are getting more and more innovative every day (truly it feels like we hear about a new product once a week and keep editing this post, but it’s time to finish… for now)!

There is an undeniable consensus that we have a huge plastic problem and OVER half of all plastic pollution is from packaging. [source]

There is a movement to place more pressure on manufacturers to take back their packaging and let them deal with the burden of all the trash they’re producing to bring their products to market. For years, manufacturers of products with plastic packaging have actually touting their recyclability, but buzzwords like “recyclable” have begun to mean absolutely nothing (OK fine, it’s *something* - “recyclable” plastic gets one star). To even begin to make a dent, we have to stop producing the plastic in the first place because we have nowhere and no one to recycle it all. What we really need are products with compostable packaging or zero waste.

‘Loop’ is the kind of idea that gets me crazy excited

A coalition of giant brands is promising to change how we shop, with a new zero-waste platform. Loop will launch its first pilots this year: “While recycling is critically important, it is not going to solve waste at the root cause,” says Tom Szaky, CEO and cofounder of TerraCycle, a company that is known for recycling hard-to-recycle materials, and one of the partners behind the project.
– Fast Company [read more here]

loop-packaging-haagendazs.png

I’m not the only one excited… there’s even more Loop news here:

"By mid-May, products from Loop will initially be available online to customers in Paris … and … in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. TerraCycle is finalizing grocery partnerships in the U.S. and Toronto, adding distribution through London’s Tesco later this year, and targeting Tokyo in 2020. Loop will collect a refundable deposit that customers will get back when they return their containers. UPS will pick up the empties for no additional charge."

Tiny Products, Big Culprit: Health & Beauty Packaging

The HBC/HBA industry (health & beauty care/health & beauty aids) has huge strides to make in this area and some companies are already taking the lead.

Lush has a “naked” line of products with no packaging at all and they are gaining in popularity, buzz, and market share. “When we can’t eliminate packaging completely (like in the case of shower gels or gift boxes), we use only recycled, recyclable, reusable or compostable materials, like our post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and biodegradable bags.” Read more about their fresh take on packaging: When it Comes to Packaging, Less is More & Reduce Packaging Waste with Lush

Lush also accepts their pots back as well and will give you a free face mask when you bring in five (see 5 Pot Program).

Austin, Texas-based cosmetics company Everyday Minerals also takes back their empty packaging, and will send you a free full-size blush in exchange for 12 empties (plus, their makeup is vegan, sustainable, and cruelty-free too). Read more about the company’s values here.

goldenalmond6w_jar.jpg

The Dirty Business of Cleaning Products

Think about some of the biggest pieces of plastic you put in your recycling bin - laundry soap and other cleaning product bottles are probably some of the worst offenders.

Home cleaning product startup cleancult is selling its soaps and cleaners in milk cartons, which we think is really cool. (In fact, a LOT of things that are typically sold in plastic packaging could be sold in paper cartons. Find alternatives – they exist!)

cleancult-packaging-news.png
cleancult-packaging-cartons.jpg

This clothing tag is actually a dissolving detergent sample from Unilever; unfortunately it’s only being trialled in Beirut for now, but we love seeing out-of-the-box ideas like this and wouldn’t be surprised to see more things like this in the future.

So what does all this mean for design?

packaging-bar-code-design.jpg

There will be cost variations and printing limitations for manufacturers to consider when planning to switch packaging materials. Let’s face it: plastic is cheap and so are plastic labels - we don’t expect those to go away anytime soon. But we do expect to see a lot more brands make the move to paper, glass, and aluminum packaging.

Designers need to be aware of how their perfectly-picked colors will print on natural paper stock or cardboard vs. bleached white paper, or how the colors will need to be altered to achieve the desired effect on aluminum or metal. We’ve also been noticing folks having fun with their barcode shapes lately (Kodiak Cakes and Mother Beverage shown here).

MORE PACKAGING NEWS:

Eleven companies take major step towards a New Plastics Economy

Eleven leading brands, retailers, and packaging companies work towards 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 or earlier. Amcor, Ecover, evian, L’Oréal, Mars, M&S, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Walmart, and Werner & Mertz – together representing more than 6 million tonnes of plastic packaging per year.

The world’s largest packaged food company will ditch single-use plastic

Nestlé will say goodbye to straws beginning this year, and some plastic bottles by 2025, but hopefully we’ll see an even greater commitment from the company soon. Either way, when you produce as much plastic packaging as Nestlé, something is better than nothing for now.

Trader Joe's plans to cut one million pounds of plastic from its stores as soon as possible

Milkmen are returning to London as millennials order glass milk bottles in a bid to slash plastic waste

Client Spotlight: Cloud Creative Events

We first began working with modern luxury wedding planner Cloud Creative Events a few years ago, the way we start working with many of our small business clients – on a single small project. She had created her own website, as many solopreneurs do, and got in touch with us for a little SEO treatment, which went really well.

As Cloud Creative has grown, we’ve implemented several short rounds of website improvements over the years to expand on the site’s content and reflect their growing team and portfolio.

In the last six months though, we’ve been working with Cloud Creative a lot more. Owner KC Cloud was ready to make some big moves, so in that time we have redesigned their logo, made several more website updates (especially to expand the portfolio and publicity pages), and we’ve also updated their pricing booklet and created new business cards for KC and her team – all without complicated and expensive design “packages” since we just track our time.

We couldn’t be more proud – take a look!


Updated Website:

cloudcreative-webdesign-weddingplanner-home.png
cloudcreative-webdesign-weddingplanner.png
cloudcreative-webdesign-weddingplanner-services.png

New Business Cards:

 
business-card-design-cloudcreative.jpg
 

Updated Pricing Booklet:

pricing-menu-design-cloudcreative.jpg

Client Spotlight: Lindsay's Art Cart

lindsaysartcart.png

When we were initially referred to Lindsay’s Art Cart by mutual friends and clients, the art-teacher-turned-small-business-owner said she was ready for her very first website. Up until then, her business, which offers private art parties and public art classes at various locations around Arlington, TX, had grown popular among friends of friends, and she would market the classes and parties by creating facebook events, and using the eventbrite plugin for merchant services. Lindsay already had a logo she loved but she needed a dedicated home on the web for class info and an event calendar she could populate with classes and parties so customers could register quickly and easily.

We went right to work on what turned out to be a ridiculously cute web design for Lindsay and her adorable Art Cart logo, which went live New Year’s Day 2018. Shortly afterward, we began working on promotional pieces for her first summer art camp for kids (2018), a t-shirt design, A-frame signage she could haul along with her to any venue, and more.

Last summer, we pitched another project to Lindsay: an ABC’s of Art Coloring Book which she positively LOVED. Together, we came up with the art mediums for each letter and with the help and creativity of our summer design interns, we launched the coloring book at the end of summer 2018, which can be purchased at several shops around town and also on her website. Lindsay said it was a dream come true!

As a result of what began with just a website, business is booming: so far in 2019, her revenue has increased 71%, with unique visitors to the site up 150%, and overall visits to the site up 167% (2019/2018). Some sessions of her 2019 summer art camp have already been sold out for weeks. Lindsay’s boundless energy and positivity are unmatched in the business world, so it is always a pleasure to work on projects for Lindsay’s Art Cart, and it is a joy to watch this business continue to grow and flourish – we can’t wait to see what comes next!

Client Spotlight: Devan Allen Campaign

It’s been years since we last blogged about Devan Allen and our design work on her personal projects in speaking, advocacy, and real estate, but not long after that, Devan discussed with us her next big endeavor: running for Tarrant County Commissioner.

We immediately hopped on board and began designing logo concepts, building her campaign website, and creating several social media graphics as well as signage for her campaign kickoff event.

Devan_DEM_TCC-01.jpg
Devan_webdesign-greenapplelane-devanallen copy.png

This was the largest campaign we worked on to-date, as Tarrant County has a population of just over 2 million (each commissioner represents roughly a quarter of the county, but that still requires a sizeable campaign)!

Devan always said, “We will not be outworked” throughout the campaign and she was absolutely right. We’re proud that she chose Green Apple Lane as the creative agency for her campaign branding, website, and graphics and we were overjoyed to witness the moment she won from the watch party at her campaign headquarters. We learned so much about big campaigns and the many rules and regulations required for political creative, and we’re so proud that the work was not only popular and well-received by the community, but successful in the end.