A Color Story: A Guide to Building Color Palettes

Julie Johnson here, Social Stylate’s Graphic Designer. This month I’m taking a break from spinning scary tales of online advertising click trackers in favor of some good old-fashioned color theory. When I approach a project one of my first three questions will be about color. Color selection gives your piece its identity. Naturally, when the question of palette comes up, the response is often emotion based. We tend to know “what” we want our colors to say. Over my career I’ve had plenty of these exchanges:

Designer: Do you have a color palette in mind?

Client: Something punchy! Va va voom! Like, pow! You know?

I’ll never hold it against a client for coming to a graphic design project meeting without a composed palette. After all, as a designer, that’s what I’m here for! Whether it be a logo, an event poster, a pamphlet, a business card, or a website, our color choices give projects their personality. I’m here to help bridge the gap between “what” we want our colors to say and “how” to get them to say it! Here’s a basic guide to working a color palette for your piece:

Step 1: Get emotional – define the “what”

Define that vibe! In the exchange above, the Client is well on their way. Most folks know intrinsically “what” they want their piece to say. If you’re not sure, write down a list of words to describe your event/piece/business that the piece is for (e.g. cheerful, holiday, joy, comfort, warm, cozy, family).

Step 2: Choose your hues based on the “what”

Take that “what” and assign some color hues to it. Was your “what” energetic and exciting? Let’s do warm colors like reds, oranges, and yellows! Were you going for something serene and relaxed? Go for greens and blues! You don’t have to be specific at this stage – focus on hue, that is, simply the base color. We will get into tones in a bit.

Step 3: Apply some theory

Now that you have some hues picked out, refine them by applying some theory! You may be wondering “do these hues work well together?” Good news! Someone has already done that work for you! You can decide to create an analogous palette (colors that are adjacent on the color wheel), complementary (opposite sides of the color wheel), or another configuration. There are many possible configurations in color theory (we’re sticking with simple here), and they will help take the guesswork out of color harmonizing. Get started with the examples below:

Step 4: Tone it up (or down)!

Now that you’ve finalized your base hues and configuration, go back to those “what” items you defined in step one to inform your tones, shades, and tints. This is a fancy way of saying adding white, black, or gray to your existing hues. Keeping it bright? Maybe you don’t need to add any neutrals to your hues at all! Want to soften things up? Tint it up by adding some white to the hues to get a pastel palette. To go for something deeper and moodier, add in a little shade with black. If you want to desaturate or “muddy up” your colors a bit, add gray. Keep it uniform though!

Keep in mind that this is a simplified, high-level guide to get you started. We could fill a book on color theory and palettes (and plenty of talented individuals have!). Hopefully, these steps will give you some confidence to approach your next project!

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Content Queens: Why It’s All About Video Ads Online

Content Is Queen - Marketing Trend: Online Video Ads - Social Stylate

Video Advertising Shows No Sign Of Slowing Down

Happy Holidays! Julia Johnson here, Social Stylate’s Graphic Designer. Last month we spilled the secrets of advanced advertising and the creepy tricks they use to find their audiences (and companies pay lots of money to buy information on your browsing history through your IP-addressed devices). I’m back this month to dive into how those advertisements are designed from a content perspective. Once they have your IP address in their cookie-dropping crosshairs, why are they throwing more video advertisements in front of you than ever?

You may have noticed that the online ads you see today are mostly in video format (Facebook users will certainly notice this!). Publishers have been growing their video advertising business for the past decade. Back in the day (well, ten years ago), static banner ads were king: a 300×250-pixel billboard vying for your attention like a tiny billboard. Why the shift? Video advertisements hold the viewer’s attention much longer and can be required viewing before video content the user actually wants to watch. More time with your eyeballs equals more ad revenue! Combine that with the sophisticated analytics tools available to publishers and agencies and advertisers have more insight than ever into what their ad money is getting them. Remember those cookies that ads are dropping on your browser to make them reappear on other networks? Well, they’re nabbing some other info while they’re at it. When a video ad populates on the page it’s snapping all sorts of data – what percent of the video you’re watching, whether or not you’re clicking, hovering, and whether that ad is actually resulting in a sale of their product (yes, they can track that entire path, and it’s known as conversion).

Not only has there been a seismic shift in the type of ads you’re seeing, but these ads are increasingly engineered to hold your attention. Have you ever watched a funny video only to find out it was an ad?

Bill Gates famously stated in 1996 that “content is king.” This mantra still holds true to content creators across the internet, and blurring the line between ad and content is definitely en vogue. The emergence of User Experience has played a role in this as well. Advertisements fashioned to look like actual content are in high demand not just because it’s a better user experience, but they actually stand a chance of entertaining their audience – and being remembered for it! That’s marketing gold! Some of the newest trends trim the ad down very short – down to six seconds long in some cases. Some believe that this is the future of digital video ads.

Whether you’re in front of a screen or not, advertisements whip around us every day, each one vying for a bit of our attention. Finding and courting a new customer is a very different game than it used to be with the emergence of digital analytics. For better or for worse, increased calibration to an audience’s preference shows no sign of slowing down. In the meantime, take some time to enjoy a little unplugged time with your favorite people. Happy Thanksgiving!

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I Know What You Shopped For Last Summer

Advanced Advertising: How Brands Are Finding Their Audience

Happy Halloween Season! Julia Johnson here, Social Stylate’s Graphic Designer. This month we’re feeling a chill down our spine, and it’s not just because of the crisp weather! I’m here to spill the secrets on how products you’re secretly (or not so secretly) checking out online are haunting your browser.

We’ve all experienced it: you’re checking out a cute new sweater (it’s Fall, after all!). You close the tab and move on to Facebook and, like some kind of internet ghost, the sweater reappears! Nestled into a Facebook ad, or a 300×250-pixel banner on a new tab, its siren song beckons you to take another look. It’s only been a few minutes! How does Facebook know?! Wait, is it Facebook? A sleuthing ad agency? Big Sweater? Have you ever wondered what sorcery is going on behind the scenes?

Well, you’re crazy and it’s a complete coincidence. Maybe you need a hobby. Happy Halloween.

Just kidding, it’s advanced advertising.

John Wanamaker, marketing pioneer and merchant extraordinaire of the early 20th century, famously stated: “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” With the emergence of the Internet, it didn’t take long for advertisers to monetize the square inches of the screens we look at every day. The original model of online advertising, much like Wanamaker’s method, mimicked that of billboards and magazine ads: place your ad where your demographic is most likely to see it. By today’s digital standards, this strategy is not only outdated but downright sloppy.

The data available for companies to locate their demographics and their shopping habits grow with every click. That same data is leveraged with sophisticated ad serving technology. Large companies purchase datasets of demographics (age, gender, household income, homeowners, pet owners…) collected through the IP addresses of their various devices (computers, tablets, phones) for targeting. The result is audience targeting with homing laser-level precision. On top of that, they can drop a cookie on your browser when you visit their site and now you’ve got a sweater ghost on your hands.

It’s a little freaky to think that a corporate entity is spending (lots of) money to get your demographic data. Before you grab your tin foil hat, know that your identity is never more to these companies than a literal number. That is, the IP addresses you’re browsing on. There is a slew of popular tools designed to identify and block trackers. The advertisers out there certainly know that knowledge is power, and it is for you too! Hopefully this tale of the advanced ad serving world wasn’t too scary. Don’t forget to clear your cookies and browser cache once in while. Happy Halloween!

 

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3 Email Marketing Tips

Are you a business owner who’s looking to refocus your marketing strategy? A great place to start is by creating a vibrant email presence. Email marketing is a personal and effective way to speak directly to your customers. Social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, are constantly changing their algorithms, so email is a great way to get right in front of your readers. Your customized message will be delivered directly to their inbox so they can refer to it whenever they want, and it won’t get lost in the mix of a busy news feed.

If you’re still on the fence, according to HubSpot, “86% of consumers would like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with at least monthly.” If they’ve purchased something from you in the past, there’s an excellent chance they want to be a repeat customer. Give them that opportunity by creating engaging emails!

Here are a few tips to get you on your way:

1. Keep emails 90% educational and 10% promotional. You have something unique to share with your customers and they want to hear it. Focus on what you can show, tell, or teach your readers and they’ll love you even more, then throw in that quick promotional bit at the end and don’t forget a call-to-action! A great example is Kirna Zabete (see below). They show their customers what’s new in the store, feature call-to-actions (“shop new arrivals”), and include a promotion.

Email Marketing - Example Email Blast - Kirna Zabete

2. KISS- Keep It Short & Sweet. If you give your customers just a hint of what you want to share, it will make them interested in finding out what else you have to offer (like the latest fall fashion

3. Experiment! Creating dynamic material can be your make-or-break email marketing moment. Don’t be afraid to shake it up and try something new.

There’s more to email marketing than this short list, so if you’re interested in learning about the rest of our tips, contact us! We’ll chat about marketing strategies and help you to grow your business into exactly what you’ve been working towards.

P.S. Take a peek at this blog post on “The Email Blast Done Well” from 2012. These brands are still nailing it in email marketing.

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