The Matrix



Our agency recently compiled a matrix of the services we offer. Why?  Because we learned that even some of our longest-running clients and closest media partners weren’t aware of everything we do.

Now, I’ve been with Staples for a long time. Just over 14 years, actually. And even I was surprised by the matrix. From focus groups to restroom advertising, we really do-do it all. Pun intended, because I started looking back at all the crazy things I’ve been part of for the sake of getting the job done. The types of things that won’t make the matrix because, chances are, we’ll never have to do them again.

For me, one of the strangest by-far was to put on my swim suit one chilly autumn morning, jump into the pool at Greenfield Park, and help corral hundreds of piles of plastic dog doo for a photo shoot. Let me tell you something about plastic dog doo and water, every little movement creates a tsunami that sends plastic dog doo scattering like they’re little motorboats. It was everywhere. And this particular morning, it was my job to use my 6-ft wingspan to keep these little bombs in the vicinity of where they needed to be.

Like I said, this is the kind of stuff that won’t make the matrix. If it did, it would be right under “Website Hosting” and be called: “Weird Stuff We’d Rather Not Talk About. Ever.”  But if it means getting the perfect photo of a little girl going down a waterslide into a pool filled with water that’s been polluted by lawn fertilizer and dog doo, we’ll do it.

By God we really do-do it all.

Don’t Be Scary


Spiders, heights, and public speaking – oh, my! Or maybe it’s enclosed spaces, dogs, and the dentist’s office. For me, it’s centipedes and… [deep breath]… clowns. Everybody has at least one terrible personal fear, but there are things that scare us professionally and as consumers, as well.

Thousands of area businesses have websites these days, and many utilize social media, too. While it’s important to have these outlets to engage with prospective and current customers, it’s equally important to use these tools wisely. For customers, a sloppy online presentation is like spiders, public speaking, and clowns all rolled into one – SCARY!

How do you make sure you’re not scaring away business? Start by covering the basics:

– Spelling

– Punctuation

– Grammar

– Nice-looking pictures

It’s not that error-free copy is so impressive. It’s just that copy errors can be very off-putting. Save the text message language for text messages (unless they’re business-related texts).

The same goes for pictures. A photo of your company’s mascot can make for a good first impression, unless it’s blurry, pixelated, or has a big “PROOF” watermark in the middle of it. Find some nice pictures of your business, or better yet, hire someone who knows what they’re doing to take some new ones.

Also, keep your information current. You wouldn’t submit a résumé with nothing but your high school babysitting and lawn mowing gigs listed, would you? Your contact information, list of employees and clients, and case studies should all reflect what’s happening at your business right now. Make updates as often as they happen, not as often as you feel like doing them.

If you struggle with these types of things, we’ll be happy to help. Our writers and graphic artists are serious about quality presentation, and they can help you to put your best (and least scary) face forward!

“Google Gesture” Student Concept Video Delights Then Disappoints Web Audiences



Let’s touch on some awesome, albeit “fake,” technology! Let’s also touch on how “fake” marketing might also lead to some pretty fascinating technological advancement. Based on my research, the “Google Gesture” program involves an app that strives to help people understand sign language in real-time with the help of a wearable wristband that analyzes muscle movements made when signing in a process known as electromyography. The movements read by the wristband would then, in theory, be communicated to the app and translated into audible words pretty much instantaneously.

Sounds neat, right? However, the concept video that went viral on the web was actually created by marketing students at Berghs School of Communication in Sweden and, as stated in a follow-up article put out by Mashable, “The concept isn’t real, but the thinking behind it is smart: an app that can translate sign language into speech, with the help of a wearable wristband. The video was filmed by students at Berghs School of Communication and is presented as though it was developed by Google.”

The concept video is fabulous and would serve as a wonderful marketing tool. It tactfully addresses the needs that Google Gesture technology would meet and introduces the profound impact such technology would have on the communication abilities of many individuals around the world. After watching the video, I felt deeply moved; I understood the technology, respected the mission of Google behind the technology, and would certainly support its further development and widespread use.

The video does a fine job of outlining scientific information in some pretty basic terms and with strong graphic representation. It also nicely plays on the heart strings of people everywhere by addressing the human condition, and specifically, our need to communicate with one another. As stated by Ludwig Hallstensson, a member of the team that dreamt up the concept and put together the promotional video, “Sure, new technologies are really cool, but it is first when they are interacting with humans in a way that they solve real problems [that] they get interesting. When this is achieved, you can communicate in [a] way that makes people listen and care about them, not only thinking it is cool.”

So, although the concept video nor the product are actually real, much can be gained from taking a look at what some creative young people not only envisioned, but also successfully marketed. While the product doesn’t currently exist, the video was so touching that I sincerely wish it did! And so do many others who expressed sadness and frustration at learning the product is not currently in existence. But hey, given the positive social media coverage resulting from the concept video, and subsequent uproar as interested parties learned the product doesn’t yet exist, I imagine Google may soon take heed, turn some dreams into reality, and positively impact society in the process.

You can watch the Google Gesture concept video here:

Let me know your thoughts on both the fictitious product and the concept video in a comment below!

Getting to Know Staples Marketing – Part Two



It’s time for the employees of Staples Marketing to answer another survey question! To recap, in my last blog post I asked everyone in the office to tell me what song is the most played on their iPod. Not only did I find a couple new songs I really like, but I learned a little bit about each of my coworkers. This time, I asked another question I feel can give us some good insight into everyone’s unique interests and personalities.

Question #2: If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you like to meet?

Josh: Albert Einstein

Ryan: Hunter S. Thompson

Amy:  Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Laura M: Abraham Lincoln

Rick: My grandpa who passed away before I was born. [Benjamin Panten]

Traci: Andy Warhol

LauraD: Rainer Maria Rilke

Danny: Jerry Garcia

Katie: Bob Marley

Jenny: John Lennon

Steve: The list would include Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, and at the top of the list would be Jesus

Roe: Stevie Nicks

Erik: Ray Bradbury


Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for question #3!

Responsive Web Design 101

responsive-design-crop Four years after Ethan Marcotte coined the phrase in his seminal article on A List Apart, responsive design is recognized by web designers not as just the way of the future, but as an essential technique for the present. But while we designers all agree on this, we often fail at the most basic needs of any new technique: explanation and advocacy.

What is responsive web design?

If you’re still unclear on what responsive web design is after reading that first paragraph, it’s a perfect example of the way in which designers sometimes fall short. Responsive Web Design is the practice of designing a single website which intelligently adapts to various screen sizes. From this brief explanation, let me give a demonstration: we recently created a website for our client Host & Keane. If you pull it up on your smartphone or tablet, elements on the page reflow to maintain their hierarchy, but better fit on the different screen sizes. This is the core of this technique.

Why do it?

Now that we’ve got a clearer picture of what responsive design is, the question is: “why do this?” Well, first of all, when we build websites that are semantic, with a clear hierarchy, adding responsiveness to that isn’t incredibly difficult. Sure, it’s additional work, but if the site is well-built, it’s not overwhelming. So that’s “why not,” but again, “why?” The fact is, since modern smartphones came on the scene (ushered in by the iPhone in 2007) mobile web use has exploded. Even on our decidedly non-responsive agency website, over the past six months, nearly 50% of our traffic came from mobile visitors. Now you’re probably thinking, “Great! If your site is seeing such a high percentage of mobile traffic, clearly this technique isn’t necessary!” But the real picture isn’t so rosy. While desktop visitors on average spend nearly 3 minutes on our site, and visit 6.5 pages; mobile visitors seem to get quickly frustrated, as they leave (on average) before 30 seconds, visiting 1.3 pages. Now the Host & Keane site gets a lot less mobile visitors as a percentage of its total traffic, but of those it does get, they visit only slightly less pages than desktop visitors, and they spend time more in line with what desktop visitors do. As an agency, this is an area where we are constantly working to improve, but for the time being, I hope you’ll come away from this with a better understanding of what responsive design is, and why it’s necessary as a part of your web strategy.

Awards Are Nice, But Entering is Even Better

Choose-Your-Ride-001-croppedStaples Marketing recently won an American Advertising Federation award (formerly known as the ADDYs) at the national level for a project for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). We were the only Wisconsin agency to win at that level, for the work we did to help support WisDOT’s highway traffic safety campaign with the Choose Your Ride vehicle pictured above. We very often enter our work into industry awards competitions. So, very nice for us, but why devote the time and resources necessary to put together an entry?

We have discovered some very good reasons to put our work out there for judging amongst our peers. Here are some thoughts about why you might consider looking into entering a reputable awards program in your industry:
1. How are we doing? It’s nice to see how your work stacks up with others in your industry. Judges comments can be very insightful.
2. What was the journey? Putting together the entry itself puts the work into perspective: What were the objectives? What was our process? Did the results meet or exceed the objectives? The journey is sometimes MORE or AS important as the results.
3. What are other people doing? Whether you win or not, you will learn about new ideas, strategies, tactics that could be applicable to you or your customers. Or, could spark a completely innovative new product or service.
4. Yay, team! Everyone likes to get a certificate, medal or trophy. It’s a great way to build team and morale among employees.
5. Yay, clients! Clients/customers tend to like it when the work you did with them wins an award. It builds trust with all customers when they know that their vendor partner is an award winner.

Summer in Milwaukee



Milwaukee… one of the most underrated cities in the country. This is especially true come summer time. Summer in Milwaukee is a cultural and entertainment experience unlike any other. Having not been born and bred in Milwaukee, it was an exciting surprise to see such volume and variety of events happening in the city. Growing up in New York and Chicago, where there is constantly events going on, it was electrifying to see that in Milwaukee, and it gives me the sense of “home”.

Each weekend from June through Labor Day there is at least one major local event. From Irish Fest, to Bastille Days, to Festa Italiana… it’s hard to decide which to attend! These festivals draw large crowds and tourists from both near and far.

In particular, Milwaukee’s own late-June-into-Early-July Summerfest, also known as “The World’s Largest Music Festival” or “The Big Gig”, takes place along Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee. There are concerts to please people of all ages and musical tastes each day and night over the 11 day period. Summerfest goers flock from all over the country to hear their favorite bands play outdoors in a variety of band shells all along the lakefront.

While attending Summerfest, a visitor can experience a little taste of all Milwaukee has to offer. In addition to music, there are food stands and kiosks from the hottest Milwaukee restaurants and bars. Saz’s is a staple at Summerfest. The sampler platter of sour cream and chive fries along with the mozzarella sticks gives visitors a real taste of Wisconsin!

There are many other restaurants from Milwaukee including Water Street Brewery, AJ Bombers, Major Goolsby’s to name a few. Each of these showcase popular food items as well as locally brewed beer.

In addition to the great music and variety of food, Summerfest and all of other local festivals provide a great people watching atmosphere. The festivals attract tourists from all over the state and the country. My favorites of the summer include Bastille Days and Brady Street Days. Each offer a slightly different cultural and entertainment experience. Don’t hesitate to remind your friends and family, both local and out-of-towners, about all of the fun there is to be had at Milwaukee’s festivals!