The Limited Downsides of Flat Design

flat design switch

The last 3 years have seen numerous companies follow a trend and make a dramatic switch to flat design in their attempts to revamp their brand. From Netflix to Google and more, the big players are all making the move to a style that is generating a lot of attention, and while flat design merely seems a trend at the moment, I think it’s here to stay. The benefits that come with the simplicity of flat design are simply too numerous to ignore. In fact, they are so numerous and have been written about so often that it’s made me think that maybe it’s time that someone look at at the negatives, and that’s what this post is going to be. Now, this is not to say that I don’t personally prefer flat design, because I do. I just think it would be interesting to see the other side of things. So, before we move on, it’s important to realize what flat design is. “Flat design,” overall, is just a buzzword that encompasses a wide range of more specific elements, but at the core it really means that your design focuses more on the content and interaction instead on decorative elements which try to mimic the real world.  By taking this approach, flat design set’s a lot of bandwidth and design resources free to use for more important things like meaningful animations that help the user understand context or big and beautiful images that help to tell a story. It also gives the designer much more time to think about those things. But again, there are negative that come with every positive.

Cons of Flat Design

  • It’s Trendy

The thing that comes with trends is that you never know how long a trend will last. I stated earlier that I think flat design is here to stay, but I’m no psychic so I cannot say for sure that it will. Already we are beginning to see more of a move from purely flat design to almost flat design or flat design using long shadows. If you reinvent your website or app frequently, trendy design may be for you. If you want a website that has a long shelf life, consider something a little less “in the moment.”

  • Usability Concerns

When it comes to designing complex user experiences and interfaces, flat design can sometimes actually be too flat and look uninteresting. Not all users are comfortable with the style of an interface and don’t always know what or where to click, so if your design elements fall too flat this could create major usability issues. An analysis by the Norman Nielsen Group found that flat design styles can hinder usability because users don’t always know what is clickable. Further, flat design projects tend to include less “information density” in an effort to keep it simple.

  • Color Palettes Can be Tough to Match

The more colors you use in a project, the tougher it can be to match them properly. Creating a harmonious color palette is a challenge on its own, and can be even more challenging when you add four, five or more colors. Designers who create the most successful flat color palettes tend to stick to a uniform look in terms of saturation and brightness so color choices look intentional.

  • Weak Typography Becomes More Obvious

Just as flat design helps create a focus on good typography, it can really make bad typography stand out as well. (Just look at all the flack Apple received after previewing iOS 7 with an ultra-thin primary typeface.) Flat design is very unforgiving when it comes to boldness. Every choice has some degree of drama, making it hard to hide weak typography. If you are not comfortable pairing or selecting fonts, flat design may not be the best option.

  • It Can Look Too Simple

Depending on the use, flat design has been called “too simple” by some.It can be difficult to convey a complicated visual message in flat design.The other argument against flat design is the simplicity of user-interface tools. Proponents of skeuomorphic design say embellishments that add a sense of realism make tools easy to use. Frankly, it depends on the context.Visual hierarchy can also be a concern with super-simple interface designs. What is most important? How do you emphasis it visually?

  • Some Decoration Can be Good

Not all decoration is bad. Flat design truly limits the number of tricks you can use if you want the project to be truly flat.

Axe Body Spray: A Hilarious Lesson in Good Marketing

Axe Body Spray

With millions of dollars on the table it’s easy to see why we, as marketers, go to such incredible lengths to learn everything we can about the consumer. It’s all about working the right angles to get move product into the hands of the target demographic. It may not always be pretty or politically correct, but hey, if it works, you don’t really see people complaining too often. At least, that’s usually the case. Sometimes it works a little too well though, which it seems was the case with Axe body spray that I recently read about.

I’m sure by 2016 you’re familiar with the hazy cloud that wafts off  of every middle school boy that bathes in Axe body spray. If not, consider yourself lucky. Apparently, in a conversation between author, Martin Linstrom, and Unilever executive, David Cousino, Cousino revealed a hilarious and somewhat shocking secret about what they did to figure out who to target with Axe body spray when it was first developed. To begin with, Unilever broke down men into six separate groups based on how men pursue women. (where do you fit, boys?)

The Predator: That guy who shows up at college house parties years after he’s graduated with the intention of taking advantage of some poor drunk girl. He probably brags about things he may or may not have, doing things he probably hasn’t done, and a luxurious job he probably came up with during all the free time he spends at his parents’ house.

Natural Talent: This guy is sharp as a razor and a pure athlete. He doesn’t need to do much to find a girl that likes him with confidence exuding from every pore.

Marriage Material: Here you have the sweet guy with manners that knows how to be respectful when it counts. He’s also humble and comfortable in his own skin. This is the guy girls want to bring home to the folks.

Always the Friend: Similar to Mr. marriage material, he’s a pretty sweet guy, but he somehow always manages to hit the wall when it comes to his romantic pursuits.

The  Insecure Novice: This guy has no idea what he’s doing when it comes to the ladies. This is your “feels like a bag of sand” man that makes a normal conversation something awkward and uncomfortable. He’s probably most often referred to as a geek or a nerd, or in today’s lingo, a neckbeard.

The Enthusiastic Novice: Finally you have the guy who has no idea what he’s doing, but never stops trying and always tries to improve his game. You’ve got to respect the hustle.

So, after breaking down half of the human population into 6 broad groups, Unilever had to make the decision of which one to pedal their product to. Like any good marketer would do, they chose to go with the insecure novice because out of all of them, these guys probably needed the most help with the ladies, and were the most likely to purchase a product that appeared to mask their nerdy insecurities. Simple logic here isn’t it? “These guys can’t get women, so lets advertise a product that shows guys like them using Axe and being swarmed by perfect 10s.” Love it.

The next step in the equation was making the commercials. The Axe TV ads, as I mentioned/made fun of  above, showed guys being swarmed by women or simply having a lot of women around them, wanting them, simply because they used Axe and were now irresistible. Apparently this method of advertising Axe came after research showed that the ultimate male fantasy is to be irresistible to multiple beautiful women at the same time, a thought that no one had ever come up with before.

All sarcasm aside, what happened next was truly remarkable. Axe became the number 1 selling deodorant brand in a very short span of time. However, every rose has its thorn. Axe actually became so successful so quickly that it became associated with the “Insecure Novices” that it was being advertised to, and they had to backpedal to dig themselves out of the loser rut. On top of this, it also became associated with terrible smelling middle and high schoolers who would drench themselves in the stuff and later have to be taken to the hospital as well as more negative press as some school districts began to crack down on the brands use and ban it.  (I’m seriously wondering how much axe it takes to have to be taken to a hospital.) Moving forward, the brand began to dial it back a bit and started to broaden its target market.

All in all, despite the setbacks, axe has continued to see success as a brand and is a shining example of hilarious but outstanding marketing. As the adage goes: Sex sells. It was true then. It’s true now. And for Axe, it will continue to be true well into the future as they continue to take advantage of mens’ sexual fantasies.



The Basics of Brand Positioning.

brand positioning

A brand is an amalgam of beliefs and concepts. These beliefs are most often formed by messages a brand delivers. That being said, positioning a brand becomes an easy to understand concept whereby  you identify who needs to hear what.  It becomes a matter of creating a message about your brand that people can relate to and by identifying what you need to tell them.  You can also create an overarching message about your brand – for example, Audi – Truth in Engineering.

To position a brand, you have to identify the stakeholders that make your business succeed. This overarching term is used to describe multiple niche groups including employees, investors, vendors, customers, government, regulators or media for example. Each of those stakeholder groups forms an opinion about your brand and is a link in the chain that forms your position and identity.You can shape that opinion by using targeted messaging. Carry those messages through taking advantage of social media, speaking engagements, hosting events, and publishing white papers; there are many ways to get your message delivered to your stakeholders.

Over time, as your brand matures, the perception of your brand in the mind of your target audience will become more consistent, building brand equity. This is crucial to running a business that people trust in the long term. All brands change their positioning as their needs change over time and as their business  evolves. Sometimes, when a brand has strong brand equity, they are forced by their publics to change their messaging and to evolve as a business. If you can’t evolve, you’ll lose your business entirely.

Take McDonald’s. Health freaks seek and find completely different messages about McDonald’s than the average person does who enjoys McDonald’s. Over the past few years, the health messages outweighed McDonald’s brand messages, through the organic food craze, Supersize Me, shows like the Biggest Loser and people like Jamie Oliver. They challenged McDonald’s to be transparent about their food making practices and to bring in healthier options. In turn, the franchise was forced to change its brand positioning to the point that it revamped their menu to allow healthy substitutions in kids meals, added a plethora of salad options, and started listing the nutritional values of all of their food on their in-store menus for all to see.

The Simple Steps to Increasing Social Media Engagement

social media

Social Media: Fans, Friends, and Followers

Growing a following on social media is a major component of running a business. It’s a major source of interest that tends to lend towards lead conversion, so it’s important that you do it correctly or else risk being dead in the water. It can be an intimidating process, but that’s only if you look at it from the wrong perspective: treating it purely as a business tool. This follows the philosopher, Kant‘s, categorical imperative  which dictates that you should not treat people as a means to an end but rather as an end in themselves. Put more simply, in real life you do not try to make friends simply so that you may use them to satisfy some other need but that you try to make friends because you want them to be your friend. Social media is no different if you go about it the right way. Rather than approach it as a way to build your business your should approach it as a way to relate to others and give to them what you get back. That being said, here are a few tips that will ensure you are able to build successful social media channels going forward.

Win the first impression battle

What are you doing to make their first 30 seconds on your platform useful and worth their attention? If you can’t answer this question, you need to start here. First impressions are everything.

Be human

Humanize your brand. Realize that your brand is everything about you from what you tweet to how you respond to comments on Facebook. Don’t hide your employees. Let them shine and be a living, breathing representation of your brand. People don’t want to have a conversation with a cold corporate account.

Be patient yet persistent

You aren’t going to capture your community overnight or on the first day you launch any social media site. Building and launching an integrated online community takes time. Give yourself and your team the time to do it right. Have patience and persistence. Practice different methods of attracting new followers with A/B testing. Slow down, work hard, and do it right, and at the end of the game you’ll be the winner, guaranteed.

Teach them

What knowledge can you share with them that will make them smarter? How can your knowledge drive real efficiency in their life or business? Share your best stuff, not just the same old same old you wrote two years ago that is over used and over sold, by everyone everywhere.

Connect emotionally

Make them feel. If you want to grab my attention on social media, make me laugh. Make me cry. Make me feel something, anything. When I have a super busy day managing our clients’ account, and I am replying to posts I have no choice due to the amount of them and time constraints but to choose where and when I am going to respond. It is an easy choice for me. I respond to the people who grab my attention. The people who are nice, who make me feel good. The people who are genuine. The people who make me laugh, playing the emotional card. Take this example and flip the script. You should be the one grabbing attention by making people feel good, by making them laugh, etc.

Focus on relationships

The life of social media is people. People like you and me. People who laugh, cry, get mad, go crazy, get married, divorced, have kids, lose family members, win jobs, lose jobs, get promotions, win new clients, get new opportunities, have fun, play hard and work hard. Offer value to the people in your community with a goal of building real relationships. Offer value and knowledge so that those relationships become cemented and so that new connections are lured into wanting to start a relationship with you.

Inspire them

Inspire your communities to connect with you with a foundational goal of achieving their objectives. Inspire … Connect …Achieve. To do this you must know their objectives and goals. You must know them. When you know your audience then you can know how you can help them be better. How can you help them learn? How can you help them go faster? Work smarter? Be smarter? Share more valuable information with their colleagues, clients, partners and friends? Figure these answers out and use them to help.


Make it easy

People want to connect. They don’t want to be spammed at every opportunity. Give them an opportunity to engage with you, your brand, and your team and not the other way around. Be available. Open up your comment stream on your blog. Listen and be relevant and responsive.


The most important thing you can do to create a positive engagement is to listen carefully. Listen with a goal to understand. Bottom line, listen more than you talk. You’ll be amazed how much you can learn about your audience when you shut up and listen, similar to real life. In summary, building a positive social media community engagement is very similar to making friends. Keep it simple and be genuine.

10 Lessons in Startup Marketing




So you started a business and you’ve got a product, but don’t know how to go about marketing it to your community? Let us help.


1. Marketing is about making people want you before they need you. The truth is, less than 1% of the population is in the market for what you probably sell right now. With the exception of paid search, reaching people who want what you sell right now is like playing the lottery. You’re just trying to get lucky. The right way to go about marketing is to start influencing people’s decisions long before they need to make them.

2. The best way to tell a great story is to be a great story. Creating a bar that revolves around being  a dog park is a more effective way to make people believe you’re a fun and dog-loving bar than merely telling people you allow dogs. Actions will always speak louder than words. When you make this actionable, you’ll appreciate just how much marketing influence you actually posses.

3. You’re probably talking people out of doing business with you. The main goal of any marketing endeavor is to get new customers through the proverbial door. But we can assume everyone, including already existing customers, that calls you, emails you or walks in your door is looking for a reason to do business with you. Keep old customers in mind when developing marketing strategies by generating incentive for them to return such as rewards programs while also looking ahead. Also, ask yourself the following questions: What is your closing rate? How can you improve it? This opportunity is neglected far too often.

4. Win the heart and the mind will follow. Decisions aren’t made in the left brain. With every decision you take, every judgement you make, there is a battle between intuition, logic, and emotional response.According to Simon Sinek, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. You have to establish an emotional connection. Today, it’s all about Engagement Marketing. When people are shopping, who do they shop for? Themselves. Not for you, not for me. So you need to become their friend, and as a friend, you look out for their best interest. That  in and of itself is the basis of winning over the heart of a customer.

5. Get customer input. The endgame of any business endeavor is to to generate a profit and the only way to do this is to be a company that people want to give their hard earned cash to. So, what better way to become that company that to keep your ear to the ground and listen to what people are saying when they talk about your business? Granted, it won’t always be positive, and it might make you upset, but you should treat criticism as an opportunity for growth and fine tuning.

6. Don’t stop marketing once you’ve reach your sales goals. After someone makes a decision (either to buy from you or not) your agenda with them, technically, is stripped. What you do in these moments speaks significantly louder to people than what you do while trying to get a piece of their wallet. How about going above and beyond after the fact and creating an experience they can’t help but tell people about? “Hey, you’ll never believe what happened when __________.” This is easily accomplished through generating incentive through rewards programs, discounts, great customer service, and going above and beyond expectations.

7. Blog Blog Blog! It’s one of the easiest ways to be seen as an expert in your field and lets people know that there are real people behind your business who care about them, making it easier for people to relate and reciprocate. Creating your own content, no matter the medium allows you to control the conversation and free up new marketing channels.

8. Help people without asking for anything in return. This goes along with tip number 6. Going above and beyond and being altruistic is a quality that can never be overrated. Most people need to see you as a resource – someone who has something valuable to them before they choose to buy anything. You need to be the one who starts the conversation.

9. Fine tune where you need to be present. There are more types of marketing media out there than ever before and the field is only going to get more and more crowded. Jay Walker-Smith, President of advertising firm, Yankelovich, says, “we’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970’s to as many as 5,000 a day,” today. Just because a marketing tool or opportunity exists doesn’t mean you need it. It’s better to have one quality marketing campaign that to have 30 average ones. Do research on your target market and fine tune your efforts and opportunities to reach those people instead of wasting resources trying to be everywhere at once.

10. If you’re taking shortcuts, you’re bound to fail. Becoming successful only comes with hard work unless you’re born with a golden spoon in your mouth. There are no shortcuts in marketing. The less effort you put into your outreach, the less likely it is to be innovative, the more likely it will come across as artificial, and the more likely it is to be ignored. Creating things that gain and hold attention is difficult. That’s why it requires so much work to get right.

My Moving Nightmare: Good Marketing. Bad Product.



Straight out of the gates let me tell you that this week’s  post is going to be more of a rant and reflection on some of the things I’ve talked about of the last three weeks rather that a post in its own right. Over the last 3 days I’ve lived out a nightmare that most people over the age of 21 might be familiar with: moving. Moving is never fun. Either you, A, have to pack everything up yourself and coerce/bride your friends to help you with pizza and booze, or B., have to spend upwards of $500 dollars to get a moving company to do it for you. Then, on top of all that, if you’ve been living in an apartment you have to make sure the place is spotless or risk losing your deposit. Over the last 7 years of my life I’ve moved 4 times, all of them terrible. The first three times, I went for option A, bribing my friends with a celebratory afterparty and feeling guilty the whole time. I thought that was bad enough. The final time, which was finally finished early this morning (THANK YOU SWEET BABY JESUS!) I foolishly went with option B, and I regret avery single second of it. Here’s why:

Let go back a few weeks in the blog to when I discussed paid, earned, and owned media, focussing specifically on earned.

Simply put, earned media accounts for brand exposure your company has receive through word-of-mouth. Whether it’s the content of your website or your social media channels, your customer service reputation or community influence, earned media refers to the recognition you receive as a result. This often comes in the form of mentions in the press, reviews  and recommendations on sites such as Yelp and Glassdoor, shares on social media sites, content you post in collaboration with other companies and more. Some of the benefits of earned media are that it’s the most credible (because it comes unsolicited from people not connected to your business), it’s transparent, and its long lasting. However, there are a few negative trade offs such as you not being in control of it. Take a look at the trainwreck that used to be Amy’s Bakery. Negative press killed that business (Not that it wasn’t deserved). Earned media is usually at the top of the funnel for lead conversion and is what gets people initially interested in your company.

After I signing the lease on my new apartment and letting the previous complex know I wouldn’t be renewing I began to take the steps necessary to ready myself for the move. The first step was seeking recommendations from both my current and previous complexes for moving companies who would pack and deliver everything in my apartment. Between the list of recommended from the two was a single shared preference for a company that I won’t bother listing, but long story short, I took the next logical step and did my own online research finding generally positive earned media across the board. Naturally, I decided I would use this company and made reservations, scheduling my itinerary for what would need to be done in terms of number of boxes needed, packing services, types of furniture to be moved, timeframe, etc. This was about a month ago. Fast forward to Monday morning, January 18, 2016 and entire the nightmare of a bad product not living up to the hype of good marketing and earned media. To start off with, I had prepared everything to be packed Sunday night and laid it all out in neat piles so that packing would be easier for the movers. I also called the moving company the morning of to confirm my order. My scheduled window for the movers to arrive and start packing was between 11:30AM and 2:30PM. Three hours is a ridiculous amount of time for an arrival window if you ask me, so imagine my frustration when the movers didn’t show up until 3:30 and casually brushed it off as if it was no big deal. Imagine my further frustration when they get up to my apartment and tell me that they didn’t know they would be packing all of my stuff as well as moving it. Granted, that last bit wasn’t their fault as we compared order tickets and they had clearly not been given the correct information on my order by whomever is responsible for delegating such things. From there things got worse. Because they didn’t know they were packing for me, they didn’t have boxes. Because they were an hour late “working another job that went over time,” they didn’t know if they had time to do mine because “the law prevents moving company employees from working more that 14 hours per day.” And because the universe usually finds a way to make things go from bad to worse, we had to wait an additional 30 minutes while the company manager slowly made his way to my apartment to inspect the situation and decide whether it could be done that day. Mind you, I had to be out by 4pm the next day when I had maids coming in to scrub the place down top to bottom. After it was decided that the job could be done, an additional 30 minutes passed while a second truck delivered the 40 boxes that I had originally requested. In that same time frame the cost of my move had to be recalculated from the original $550-$720 estimation to a new estimated range of $850-$1300 (JESUS CHRIST PEOPLE!). At this point I was too frustrated to care. I needed it to be done, so I grudgingly accepted my wallet’s fate 2 hours later. Would that that were the only hurdle along the way. In the 2 hours it took these guys to pack my stuff the tally of damaged items grew as follows: the legs of my antique dresser, a vase that a good friend of mine made specifically for me, 3 dishes, a wine glass (it’s supposed to be a set of four, not a set of three, you heathens), and my college diploma. Yep. you read that correctly. They dropped my framed diploma and the frame and glass broke in such a way that it ripped the actual paper. Lovely. So, now I have that to deal with. As if this weren’t bad enough, worse still was that I had to smile through it because I NEEDED it to be done ASAP. So, we get through this first bit and loading it all in the truck and it’s finally time to move it all to my storage unit (I’m couch surfing for 25 days while I wait for my new place to be readied. yay homelessness!). This part I can say went off without much of a hitch, probably because the movers were as tired of working as I was of watching after them to make sure no more of my stuff got damaged, and alas, 6 hours  and ~$1000 later, it was done and I was able to head to the nearest bar for a stiff drink. The lesson learned in my inebriated reflection? Something I talked about last week.

Marketing means nothing without a decent product. While the quality of his clothing line cannot be derived from simply watching DJ Khaled’s snapchat (which is why I bought a pair of his sandals. They’re super comfortable.), what cannot be argued is the vitality and success of his music. You can’t say you’re the best at something without having the proof to back it up and Khaled can do that. Over the last decade DJ Khaled has had anthem after anthem go platinum. These were all before he was on snapchat too. He is the living embodiment of what it means to have a top quality product before you can even start thinking of pitching it to the masses.

Let me repeat that for you. MARKETING MEANS NOTHING WITHOUT A DECENT PRODUCT! This company had everything going for them from a marketing standpoint: great online reviews on both Yelp and Google, top SEO results, fantastic word of mouth marketing from both my previous and current apartment complexes (I now feel like they get a cut for the referral), and seemingly good customer service…over the phone at least. So imagine the deep seeded disappointment I felt and continue to feel when the product/services I received failed to live up to everything that I had heard. This isn’t meant to smear the company in question, which is why I’ve refrained from naming them. Nor do I believe my experience is the standard at which they operate as is evidenced by the numerous positive reviews they have. It’s just meant to be an unfortunate anecdotal reflection on what i’ve been talking about over my last three posts.