5 Cool Gift Ideas for Creative Professionals

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! While some people stress over gift-giving, we enjoy the process of finding the perfect gifts for everyone on our list. (It even sharpens our marketing skills!)

Danbo Santa Claus by Takashi Hososhima via CC BY-SA 2.0

Danbo Santa Claus by Takashi Hososhima via CC BY-SA 2.0 http://bit.ly/2gWkJS8

If you’re buying for a creative professional, check out our ideas for the mad men or women in your life.

Moleskine Notebooks
Creatives love notebooks, and these are the cream of the crop. Of course you don’t have to buy Moleskine, but they do offer special, themed and creativity styles along with personalization. Looking to splurge? Consider the Smart Writing Set.

Starbucks (or enter favorite coffee shop here) Gift Card
Coffee shops are a second home or office for creatives. There’s just something about the atmosphere that gets the juices flowing. A Starbucks gift card is a charger for a creative and may lead to a breakthrough that changes your recipient’s life. Remember to take some credit if that happens!

Cool Travel Mug / Coffee Mug 
Notice that we said cool. Creative types are typically coffee fans, so they need a cool travel mug when they’re on the go and a traditional mug at home or in the office. Think about your recipient’s tastes — favorite shows, authors, teams, movies — and don’t forget about the aforementioned coffee shop. Pick up some cool swag from your recipient’s favorite coffee shop and include a gift card. Win-win!

Active Lifestyle Accessories 
Maybe it’s the constant brain activity or coffee consumption, but creative types are usually active people. Whether it’s bicycling, running, hiking or globe-trotting, your recipient probably has a favorite active or outdoor activity. Whatever it is, there’s plenty of equipment and accessories that fit in a variety of budgets.

Bring the Juice
If coffee shops are chargers for creatives, then they’ll need plenty of battery power for their electronics. Mobile chargers are a must for creative professionals, because they’re always on the move and take their gadgets with them. Keep their specific needs and tastes in mind (along with your budget), and find the item that’s perfect for the creative guy or gal in your life.

Bonus: Vacation
If you really want to splurge, every creative professional we know would love a vacation! It doesn’t have to be grand; book a night at a nice hotel or a quick weekend getaway. Give a break from the routine with an experience your recipient will always remember — a spa day, sky diving adventure, swimming with sharks expedition or a trip to your recipient’s favorite author’s museum or hometown.

What ideas would you add?

Do you enjoy the gift-giving process or does it stress you out?

p.s. If you’re still stuck on what to buy the creative person in your life, let us know. We’d be happy to help you out with some suggestions — no strings attached!

p.s.s. Is your creative professional overwhelmed with work? Perhaps our marketing, writing or social media services would help. We do offer gift certificates!

CCC’s CCO (Chief Creative Officer),
Jaime

Let’s chat (about gifts for creatives, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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4 Retro Ways to Connect with Modern Audiences

Everywhere we look lately, from entertainment to business, what’s old is new again. Well established franchises are selling out movie theaters, the toy aisle is straight out of the eighties and businesses everywhere are turning back the clock to stand out in this fast-paced, digital world.

Clearly Conveyed Communications -- We give you a voice.

How can you go retro to connect with customers and grow your business today?

Make it personal with a handwritten note. When you receive a handwritten note, card or letter, it feels more personal. The recipient will appreciate that you took the time to put your thoughts on paper. The next time you want to thank a loyal customer or employee, don’t send an email. Jot down why you appreciate the recipient and how much you value the relationship, job he’s doing, etc. A little writing will go a long way!

How House of Cards is Winning the Marketing Game

Develop long-term relationships. Relationship marketing is a buzzword today, but the concept is straight out of a bygone era. Take the time to get to know your clients and employees, business partners and vendors. Let them know you’re in it for the long haul, not just a short-term sale. People want to do business with people they trust and that takes time to develop.

Give your audience your undivided attention. Viewers loved the alcohol carts in offices on Mad Men, but many of them missed the point. The ad men (and few women) would sit down and spend time with their clients when they stopped in. They weren’t too busy running from meeting to meeting to listen to their clients’ challenges and concerns. Many creative solutions were born over Old Fashioneds with no outside interruptions.

Mad Men: Master Storytelling In Any Era

Embrace paper in the digital age. In an age of email and the cloud, using paper is one way to grab recipients’ waning attention. Feature direct mail in your next marketing campaign, and reorder your physical business cards. In fact, go old school — embossing, engraving, bold lettering and colors set off with white space — to stand out from your competition. Going all digital removes your audience’s sense of touch, which limits their sensory experience while interacting with your brand.

In Summary

Handwritten notes, developing long-term relationships, giving your undivided attention and embracing paper will help you connect with today’s audiences. Don’t be afraid to be different, even if that means being inspired by a bygone era.

We’re grabbing our fedoras to head out for Old Fashioneds and Vodka Martinis with clients. Care to join us?

Embracing the future with help from the past,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about building relationships, your communications needs or otherwise):
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2015: Storytelling, Platelets & Facebook, Oh My!

2015: what a long, strange road it’s been.

Our visitors and views climbed for the 4th straight year!

Thank you for visiting the CCC blog this year! We’re excited to see an increase in visitors and views for the 4th straight year, each year of our existence.

We publish a wide range of content and that showed in the diversity of our most viewed posts in 2015.

Our top 5 posts as voted by your eyeballs:

  1. The Psychology of Color: Following Guides or Going With Your Gut?
  2. To Give or Not To Give…
  3. 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Facebook
  4. Kindness in the Workplace: A Guide for Your Organization
  5. Mad Men: Master Storytelling In Any Era

Bonus: Things I Carry: Pen and Paper (missed the top 5 by 1 view)

As wide-ranging as our content is, it all leads back to our four main categories: marketing, writing, social media and personal reflection (including entrepreneurship/small business).

Our fourth most viewed post this year was written by one of our contributors, Carol Preibis from Ahh the Simple Life. If you would like to contribute an article (or series), check out our guest blogger invite.

We’ve had contributors from all over the world, just like our audience. Here are the top 5 countries that read our blog:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Brazil
  4. India
  5. Canada

How did our visitors find us? Search engines refer most of our traffic, although social media plays a role too. Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook all sent readers to our front door.

We look at analytics to help us craft future content, but we’d love to hear from you! Are there any subjects that you’d love to see an article on in 2016? How about follow-ups to any articles you’ve read? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or contact us to make your voice heard.

Chime in on 2015 (and beyond)!

What was your favorite article or series on the CCC blog?
What country do you join us from?
How did you first find the CCC blog?
What topic(s) would you like to see covered in 2016?
How will you ring in the New Year?

As we count down toward the ball drop, enjoy one of my favorite memories of last year.

In 2016, may we all be champions.

Happy New Year!
Jaime

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Essential Guide To Creating A Memorable Brand For Your Small Business

Branding is all about resonating with your target audience. If you want to cut through the incessant chatter of the online world or make an impact in the offline world, then your brand needs to say a lot about you.

But how do you go about creating a brand that both reflects what you do and that forms a connection with your customers? For small and mid-sized businesses on a budget, it’s a tough job. So we’ve put together this guide to help you find some answers.

Branding by EdgeThreeSixty via CC BY 2.0

Ask yourself who you are

Be honest about your business and who you are. While some companies, such as legal firms and funeral homes, should stick with a serious or solemn image, others can go with a more lighthearted, cheeky or even humorous approach.

This is where small businesses have an advantage. We can position ourselves as local companies who are helping our local economies while battling corporate behemoths who are sending profits far away. This ‘us vs. them’ message can work well; check out the Brew Dog story for inspiration.

“Every brand has a story, and your story is integral to your success.”

Get your target audience right

To create a successful brand, you have to know who you are talking to, so researching your market is an essential part of the process. Find out who your customers are, what they do, and where they live.

Also, look at what they like and what encourages them to respond. What are their fears, hopes and dreams? Once you have learned enough about your target audience(s), you can create a tone of voice that connects with them.


Be consistent

Great branding is consistent. When people see your business, they should know exactly what to expect. So it’s important to reflect the same brand message throughout your organization. Make sure that employees, partners and anyone else spreading your message are using your tone of voice. Look at managed print services that can keep your marketing materials consistent. Give people what they expect, and they will continue to trust and work with you.


Be yourself

As a small business, you face disadvantages when competing against a national or global company. Don’t try to copy their branding and positioning, because you don’t have their resources to achieve the same results.

You have to look for a unique aspect of your business that differentiates you from your competition and let people know what that is. If they beat you on price, then offer value-added services that they can’t possibly match. There will be many things that you can do better than the big players, so figuring those out — and promoting them — is vital to your brand.

Related reading: Mad Men: Master Storytelling in Any Era


Don’t concentrate on winning new customers

Of course, bringing on new customers is always important, but as a small business it’s important to put more energy into retention. Your current clients are the people who buy from you already — and will be likely to buy more in the near future.

If you offer excellent service and forge long-lasting relationships with your current clients, you’ll grow your brand more than spending all of your time chasing potential new customers.

Related reading: Branding is a Feeling, Not a Noun

Do you want to create a memorable brand for your small business? Check out our other branding posts for tips and tricks or get in touch. We’d love to help you tell your brand story.

We give brands a voice,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about your brand, the art of branding or otherwise):
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A Nation Full of Dreamers: Who inspired you?

Today would have been Sally Ride’s 64th birthday. She’s widely known as the first American woman in space, no doubt inspiring millions to dream big and shoot for the stars (literally).

Sally Ride's 64th birthday

Not as widely known is her work on Earth, educating millions of kids in science, especially girls and minorities. As someone who broke barriers, Ride, a physicist, wanted non-traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students to know that they could succeed in these fields too.

Most of us have someone who inspired us to do what we do. It could be a family friend or well-known individual in your field. We asked CCC Facebook fans what book transported them to a defining moment or event in their life, and Missy Radecki, an RN and Associate Professor of Nursing, gave a tremendous response.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly….published in 1997, memoir by journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby editor of French Elle. He had a stroke at the age of 43, woke 20 days later and had locked in syndrome, he wrote the book by blinking. It gave me insight into being a patient and how he saw his nurses….I was moved by it and was the cornerstone of how I treated my patients.”

That question was inspired by a book I read while in college, A Big Life (in advertising). The author, Mary Wells Lawrence, rose through the ranks in the advertising world and ended up owning her own agency when few women made it past the secretary pool. The Mad Men finale triggered memories of reading this book, which is set during the same era, and encouraged me to pull it from my office book shelves.

When I read this book, I was pursuing a degree in advertising, so Lawrence’s message of success hit home. Despite ad agencies still being male-dominated, I knew I could survive and even thrive on Madison Ave, just like she (and Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway) did. It was a bonus when I discovered that Lawrence hails from Ohio, just like yours truly.

So thank you, Mary Wells Lawrence, for living your big life (in advertising) and inspiring a fellow Ohioan to follow in your footsteps. Maybe one day I’ll get there.

Who fueled your dreams?   

p.s. Another great book by a woman who excelled during the ‘Mad Men’ era of advertising is Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the ’60s and Beyond by Jane Maas.

Living a big life,
Jaime

Let’s chat (on advertising, dreams or otherwise):
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Twitter’s ‘Retweet With Comment’ Feature Changes The Conversation

Last night, it hit me: Twitter’s retweet with comment feature is a game-changer. I was excited about it before, even though it didn’t make our Q1 social media updates a few weeks ago. (Ed. Note: It has been added!) But I didn’t grasp how much of an effect it would have.

Last night, I was watching my favorite show, Mad Men, while following the #MadMen hashtag. Talking to people all over the world and experiencing a show from other peoples’ points of view while it’s airing takes your experience to another level. (It deepens your emotional connection with the characters and encourages you to watch the show live, but that’s another blog post.) I enjoyed reading others’ tweets and gained a new perspective on some of the characters’ actions and scenes.

And that’s when it hit me. I loved seeing people add their own insight to others’ thoughts and contributing to the conversation. While browsing the hashtag stream, I could instantly view a conversation instead of only seeing a reply or straight retweet (because there usually wasn’t room to comment on a retweet before). Previously, you would have to click to view the conversation, interrupting your stream (and experience). Now it’s all right in front of you waiting to be viewed and shared.

What’s the big deal? Engagement. As brands (and people), we all want other people to engage with us. That’s why this update is so big. Retweeting a tweet with an added comment increases impressions and engagement, including followers. Check out the analytics on two tweets I retweeted and added a comment to during the show. My reach and engagement is much higher than if I had simply retweeted these tweets, because I was able to add information for my audience.

Retweets with comments drive engagement!

Retweets with comments drive impressions and engagement over straight retweets.

I’m not suggesting you only retweet on Twitter, but this phenomenon makes sense. Social media is all about getting social with others no matter how hard we try to prove otherwise. Twitter’s retweet with comment feature allows us to engage with others while adding our own insight. It combines the best of both worlds: engagement and original content.

This update is almost as epic as Peggy’s entrance into her new employer last night — drunk, donning shades indoors and enjoying a smoke. Yet another way to change the conversation….

Join the Conversation on the Retweet with Comment Feature

Have you used the retweet with comment feature?

Will this feature encourage you to retweet more?

Are you on Twitter more, less or the same as you were a year ago?

p.s. We’d love to hear from you on Twitter! Tweet us @jaimeshine with your thoughts on this update, Twitter in general or anything else you have on your mind.

CCC’s Tweeting Queen,
Jaime

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Mad Men: Master Storytelling In Any Era

“Everyone has a story to tell. It only goes in one direction: forward.”                                                                         -Don Draper

And Mad Men, the popular drama about the advertising world (and life) in the 1960s from AMC, has told its story well. In its own way, with some detours of course. But isn’t that life?

Sorry, CCC will be out of the office on Sunday evening -- watching Mad Men!

As an advertising major (and disciple), I love this show because of its attention to detail. Everything — the ads they create, the most minor set props (Tab, anyone?) and the lifestyles depicted are true to the time period the show is set in. (Just ask real-life Mad Woman Jane Maas.)

Even AMC’s social media marketing is on point. Take the above out of office that you can create on the Mad Men Facebook page. Pick your favorite character, decide what you’ll be doing (brainstorming a new ad, meeting with the creative team or going on a date) and fill in your name to let your connections know that you’ll be tied up on Sunday evenings. Genius.

Furthermore, the Mad Men voice is consistent wherever you hear it. Watch the show, scroll through its tweets or check out pictures on its Facebook page. AMC remembers that the brand is set in the 60s and acts accordingly, even down to the words it chooses. Want to rub elbows with Don and Peggy? Don’t sign up for the show’s newsletter; join the Mad Men Social Club. Looking to enjoy the next episode with friends? Check out the Cocktail Guide. Still not enough? Get the Mad Men Birchbox, male or female version.

AMC has stayed true to the brand it created while taking advantage of more modern marketing options, like social media, brand partnerships and email marketing. That’s why it’s so important to understand your brand’s voice, so you can present a consistent presence across platforms, marketing vehicles and generations.

Now make yourself a martini, put your feet up and enjoy storytelling at its finest.

Tell Your Story

What brand is your favorite storyteller?

Would you work at Sterling, Cooper & Pryce?

Who’s your favorite Mad Men character?

Editor’s Note: Different bat time, same bat channel. The CCC blog will now publish on Mondays and Thursdays. Don’t want to miss a post? Click on the subscribe button to the right of this post’s title. Thanks for reading!

A Mad Woman at heart,
Jaime

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Advertising: Do You Watch?

Are you a fan of ads? In the age of TIVO and DVRs, you’re probably thinking that’s not even relevant anymore. But I’m talking about all types of advertisements, from magazine and online ads to billboards and yes, television. I came across an article on the ‘winners’ of Olympic advertising, so this subject came to mind.

Would you advertise here? I would.
Photo credit: I Do Reviews

As an advertising major, I probably tend to pay attention to advertising more than most. In past training sessions on the effectiveness of advertising, I would ask attendees the one day of the year when folks actually watch TV for the ads. Normally someone would interject “the Super Bowl!” which is what I was looking for. While an ardent football fan, I do look forward to the ads as well, as sometimes the game itself isn’t exactly entertaining (unless you’re a fan of the winning team, of course). I did always find it interesting that most of the attendees’ favorite ads didn’t make them think of the advertiser. An expensive way to just make someone laugh, no?

The Man. The Myth. The Legend. Don Draper.
Photo credit: FOLLOWINGTHEBUZZ

With the success of Mad Men, it seems like advertising has become a little more popular again (thanks, Don Draper). However, I’m curious as to whether people are actually paying attention to it or just watching this entertaining TV show.

So, back to my original question. Do you pay attention to advertising?


What’s your favorite ad? Or advertiser? By the way, if you’re interested in the article I mentioned at the beginning of my post, here you go.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Jaime