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Published by Elizabeth Godfrey , July 18th, 2017
Why Creative Matters
A great creative team should be engaged in all aspects of your business, from your overall brand, print and digital content marketing pieces, and internal communications right down to your actual product or services. Though businesses often need little convincing to see the ROI for the latest technology, design is still considered difficult to quantify and “isolate as a function.” While it is true that creative cannot be broken down into a measurement of output, there are ways to identify what makes it valuable.
 
Understanding the Investment.
We are all consumers. Though we might not consciously know why we like some package designs more than others, chances are we have heard about the impact product packaging plays. Research shows that improving your product is a great first step that compounds your return when combined with good creative. Design goes hand-in-hand with good customer service and a quality product, especially as more customers engage with your company through digital materials. But if you have the best product – that speaks for itself, right? Not anymore.
 
As technology continues to advance and the growth in online shopping expands the global economy, superior products and customer service are no longer enough to separate you from the competition which is fiercer than ever now. Research has shown that those who come top in sales do so through design-driven initiatives.
 
Design Management Institute (DMI) is a membership organization that brings together design thought leaders across industries worldwide. They strive to both define good design and quantify the return on investment. DMI, in conjunction with Motiv Strategies, developed the dmi: Design Value Index to examine the performance outcomes of 15 design-centered, publicly traded US businesses in relation to the S&P 500. The dmi: Design Value Index quantified the ROI of design in terms of sales, profits, market share growth, and market valuation and determined definitively that those who invest in good creative show substantial advantages over those who do not. In fact, over a period of three years, these companies outperformed the S&P in excess of 200% each year.
 
Marketing experts and business leaders have no doubt that investing in good creative delivers the greatest ROI – design increases profits, company value, and is the surest way to outperform the competition. Investing in creative has tangible, long-term benefits as the importance of design and the strategic advantage it offers is unlikely to go away in the near future. What’s more, potential customers often judge your creative design, and your brand, before they ever experience your product.
 
 
What is Design?
Design is more than logos and color schemes. Good design is an investment that leads to greater profits. It is a creative solution to your problems that relies on function as much as aesthetics. The science is there. We are hardwired to process images far faster than we can process the written word. Visuals grab our attention. Yet good design isn’t just about aesthetics. It is a direct connection to your customers that helps lead them in the right direction.
 
Your website is your business digitized. Without investing in a creative team that understands how to develop an engaging design as well as a user-friendly interface you cannot expect to see a compelling ROI. Content may be king, but without a good design no one will stick around long enough to read even the most compelling copy. Furthermore, while a good product will keep your customers coming back, engaging and effective design of all your sales elements will help customers remember you and make them more likely to recommend your company to others.
 
Businesses who had:
Adapted from the Design Council
 
The Design Council UK is recognized internationally as an authority on strategic design. The non-profit organization has spent 70 years championing the value of creative and sees design as a social responsibility as it is used to solve real world problems no matter how big or how small. The organization’s “Value of Design Factfinder Report,” determined that “businesses that see design as integral are more than twice as likely as others to see rapid growth.”
 
OffWhite has spent more than 30 years providing creative solutions to clients in a wide array of industries. We have seen first-hand the value our meticulous design brings to these businesses. Let us map your problems and develop strategic solutions that are backed by research, innovative thinking, and a true understanding of who you are and what your company can do. Contact Bill White or Abby Spung at 800.606.1610 to see how a design-centered approach can set you apart from the competition.
 
 
 
Published by Russell Cooper, June 29th, 2017
Leadership for Growth
In my first article of this series, I suggested that growth is the exception, not the rule, in business affairs. Over the last 25 years, I have come to see how leadership makes all the difference in the world. We all have first-hand knowledge of one organization or another where stagnation, if not decline, is the hallmark. Then, the ship turns and fortunes rise with relative growth and prosperity.

The most perplexing cases are those where many of the environmental factors did not seem to change radically. The available markets were about the same, the economy was about the same, state of technology was about the same - why even most of the employees, customers, and competitors were the same! The only significant change was a new leadership structure - a few key individuals - that encountered the same set of circumstances and decided to set a new course. As the old saying goes: Personnel is Policy.

Growth and change are sometimes treated as two separate subjects in business, but I would suggest they are one and the same. More obvious shifts in leadership can occur when new blood is brought in from outside the organization. But sometimes change in fortunes can also arise from within moribund firms.

Stagnation can lead to frustration, and when that reaches a breaking point, individuals, ideas, and agendas - heretofore not understood, considered too junior, or believed to be too costly or risky - are given an opportunity to be tested. If growth is to become the order of the day, a firm must look beyond traditional structures and promotion pathways of personnel. Interestingly enough, over the years, it’s at junctures such as these that many of OffWhite’s clients have first turned to us for assistance. New directions and strategies often require fresh insights and new tools.   

What drives one leadership team to seek growth and success, when other managements remain satisfied with simply coasting? We rarely have to look beyond the usual suspects of human nature – fame, control, or financial reward. The simple reality is that growth affords more publicity and profit to share than merely existing year after year. But truly remarkable leaders create objectives and incentives that align their entire organizations to the mission and its success. This is critical to harnessing what may have previously been idle talent, passion and commitment within the ranks.

The job of the leader has its essentials - creating a consensus of vision, developing the appropriate supporting strategies, recruiting and organizing the talent to execute these strategies, and marshalling the needed resources. Nowhere are these responsibilities more important than when a new growth trajectory is embarked upon. One other responsibility stands out here - the ability to communicate, internally and outwardly, the truth of how things will be different than in the past. It’s for reasons such as these that OffWhite assists clients to not only explain what they do, but how and why they do it.

Growth can be achieved by a variety of means - entering new markets, creating service components, marketing and licensing agreements, new product development, etc. Regardless of method, what is important is that old Peter Drucker gem: "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it."
 
Skeptics of growth exist in every organization; the leader needs to define larger markets and smaller shares as a starting point. Developing and selling new products is always more difficult than doing so with those that already exist; the leader needs to break out the measurement of the relative success of the growth strategies and project the expected future impact. New initiatives must be over-weighted early on with regard to incentives and reward; if this appears a departure from traditional expectations, leadership must make the case that something larger is at stake.
 
Finally, unlike managing a longstanding, stable business, successfully leading new growth initiatives requires a creative understanding of critical paths, key milestones, and important tipping points; this is because timing resource commitments, and aligning the returns from them, will be unfamiliar territory for much of the organization.

Sometimes, growth requires heroic efforts of its leaders, but this can be overblown too. More often than not, what is really called for is creativity and thoughtfulness, determination and perseverance, and the ability to communicate with, and motivate, others. It is best undertaken with a serious, yet cheerful disposition. I suppose a little luck never hurt.

If you find yourself in a new position, charged with engineering growth for your organization, and need to take stock of inherited marketing practices, or simply seek a new partner to support your efforts, consider giving OffWhite an opportunity to explain its services and past results. For more information, contact Bill White or Russell Cooper at 800-606-1610.
 
 
 
Published by Russell Cooper, April 27th, 2017
Innovation for Growth Planning Session
 
If growth - driven by new products and services - were the natural state of business affairs, the economy would grow more than 2% per year. In fact, you might say that simple inflation of prices accounts for this level and real growth this last decade has been next to nil. In 2016, Robert Gordon’s monumental study, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, provided ample documentation of how most of the necessities, conveniences, and productivity enhancers of our modern life were invented and developed more than 70 years ago. Efforts since - with the exception of computing and media - have largely been just window dressing. Planes fly at the same speed they did in 1957.
 
My first, eye-opening encounter with the inability of your average business to invent, grow, and change was my involvement with an industrial retention association in Cleveland during the mid 2000s. This was a group of family businesses and smaller divisions of corporations - largely long established and employing 25-200 employees. There were no start-ups in the group. Many were single product or service firms. Sadly, most seemed a few generations removed from the inspiration and energy that created them. As a sizeable portion of these firms were experiencing declining fortunes at the time, the association organized workshops and group discussions to address growth issues; launching e-commerce, overseas expansion, new product development, or starting service arms. To my astonishment, the general consensus was to "wait out the recession and business levels will return to normal."
 
Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. In the mid-1990s, I worked at Emerson Electric and participated in their growth planning cycle, which culminated each year with a one- or two-day growth conference for each division. Leading up to this, Engineering and Marketing teams would invest months investigating how to squeeze out new variations of existing products, or finding new applications for existing offerings. Given the time, effort, and results, it was taking a sledgehammer to a nail. But you damn well knew that growth beyond inflation levels was expected. In 30 years, I have rarely encountered such a commitment in the many businesses I have come to know. Most don’t have the discipline for it. Does yours?
 
In order to develop and launch new products and services, a firm must have ideas and ambitions. More precisely, the critical few individuals who innovate and lead within the firm must have these. Organizational vision and commitment to planning and marketing are also required, otherwise ideas and ambition cannot flourish.
 
There are a variety of approaches to achieve business growth through new products and service offerings. Many times, your ambitions are augmented by factors outside your control or knowledge. John Rockefeller had a superhuman fixation on making kerosene cheap and safe for the masses, in hopes of extending the hours of the day with light. He was hugely successful early on to be sure. But the success and wealth of Standard Oil would have been limited without the advent of the automobile and its insatiable thirst for gasoline some 30 years into these efforts. The readiness to address new opportunities was the greatest factor.
 
At other times, the larger growth may lay beyond your original scope for an idea.It was recently reported that tens of thousands of traditional retail stores - both independent and large national chains - will close this year and next. Do we really believe that Amazon had this in mind as a primary goal of its business 15 or 20 years ago? Its early business model was based on channel to market innovation, and it proved to be a wrecking ball for the likes of Borders and Barnes and Noble, not to mention the devastation visited upon local independent booksellers. In these early days of success, management consultants urged the firm to stay true to its niche and fundamentals and harvest the fruits of this innovation. Luckily for the future utility and convenience of the vast consuming public, once the concept was mastered, Amazon invested heavily in expanding this vision into new products and markets.
 
But innovation is not enough on its own. Gone are the days of the world beating a path to your door for a better product or service; the ever-shrinking global marketplace is too crowded and competitive. This is why OffWhite is increasingly emphasizing to its clients the importance of successfully launching new products and services. For 32 years, our firm has specialized in making complex and technical concepts more understandable. Where are such services more important than with introducing new products or reaching new markets?
 
 
In a series of blogs throughout this year, OffWhite will share its experiences, suggesting strategies and tactics that help to insure success, warn of common mistakes, obstacles and risks, and make light of how we can help you reach your goals for sustainable growth. For more information, Contact Russell Cooper at 800-606-1610.  
 
 
 
Published by Abby Spung , October 13th, 2016
Business Relationship
 
Investing in an outside agency to grow your business through integrated marketing often means a rather large investment. Yet more than money and a few weeks or months of work go into this investment. Like a marriage, the continued success depends on more than the wedding—more than a one-time expense.
 
Making a commitment to redesign your brand, website or launch a new company is exciting. You get to shop around to find the best people to support your vision and make your special day (the launch day, of course) the most memorable and rewarding.
 
While the launch day does represent the culmination of your hard work, it also represents the first day of your new bright and promising future. As long as you have a continuing plan.
 
The Endgame
For OffWhite, and many similar agencies, the goal in working with a client is to eventually step out of the picture and let them take over management of their brand. While planning for eventualities like retirement are a given in a partnership like marriage, this level of forward thinking is not always the norm when businesses partner with a marketing agency.
 
Many companies don’t want to invest in a corporate standards manual, brand book or curriculum development because they fail to see the value. However, if they experience any turnover, something that is almost always a certainty, they have nothing that explains to new hires how to do the work.
 
What You Can Do
With the intention of saving money or minimizing expense, many companies hire a marketing coordinator who has exposure to many facets of what we do, like graphic design, video production and marketing. This usually creates minimal overhead for the company as just one person oversees a variety of marketing areas. Yet these cost savings are not without issue.
 
It is often difficult to find someone who can do this and do it well. Because of the variety of mediums we manage it is hard to find someone who can handle all of that well, particularly at an entry level position. If a company does hire the right person, it is much easier to work with them and have everything set up properly to ensure the continued management of the brand. Yet because of the nature of this position, there’s typically a fair amount of turnover. How do companies then prevent the coordinator’s departure from degrading the business’ identity; does it leave with them?
 
If you develop a plan for the endgame and do so as early in your agency partnership as possible, you can prepare for turnover as well as what happens when you do finally part ways with an agency, which is really the nature of such relationships today. To know where you are going, you need to know where you have been. Investing in the a corporate standards manual or brand book also helps you track where you have been for the continued growth of your company. The exit strategy and your continued planning for success are just as, if not more, important than the initial project work completed by an agency – otherwise your investment gets lost.
 
What We Can Do
The model of just staying with an agency is not always feasible, particularly for smaller companies. When we work with clients we try to find a middle ground to develop templates that are sophisticated enough to represent the image they want to present but distilled to a level that someone of limited or varied expertise can do what they need to do in the files once we are out of the picture.
 
To do that successfully, however, we need to write a corporate standards manual or brand book that explains, without information overload, the step-by-step instructions of the process. This manual is the solution to the inevitable parting of ways between agency and business as well as any staff changes a company might see.
 
The Takeaway
Take the time to understand your investment and what its continuing value can be. As an agency, it becomes frustrating for us when we see shortsightedness and know we can’t do anything about it. Having an end plan is just as much an investment for us as it is for the client. It protects their investment and it protects our time because we can show through our portfolio that this is something we are still proud to have contributed to. If you do anything for your next marketing overhaul, come up with a road map. Just like you plan in life with a career, savings and retirement, you must consider the endgame.
 
Contact Abby Spung or Bill White at 800.606.1610 to see how we can help you plan for continued success.
 
 
 
Published by Bill White , August 21st, 2015
Inherent Stability in Digital Marketing
The first time I sat at the controls of a helicopter the pilot said “This is like a bumblebee; it’s not supposed to fly but it does.” The first time I sat at the controls of an airplane my pilot friend pushed the throttle forward and said “Don’t be afraid of it; it wants to fly”.  And it did.
 
The difference, I learned, was one of inherent stability. Properly designed, the airplane wants to fly. The helicopter does not. It has no inherent stability. You have to create it by managing collective and cyclic pitch, rotor speed and rudder controls.
 
This obtuse comparison is a perfect metaphor for managing the new algorithmic mysteries of search engine optimization to optimize page rankings and intelligent content enriched by metadata. A few years ago, if you wrote the copy and it was well done, readable and accurate, it would be understood. Inherent stability.
 
This is no longer good enough. Content marketing, according to industry expert Ann Rockley, “. . . is structurally rich, semantically aware and . . . automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable”.
 
As marketing people, we depend on the internet and digital marketing platforms to distribute our content as far and as high as it can go. Amid a crowded landscape, everyone has a message. The push to the top is brutal. Today, brute force and big bucks are no longer keys to success when it comes to showing up on search engines. We have to finesse our way into the equation using a combination of tools all related to content.
 
No matter what you call this new discipline – content optimization, intelligent content, whatever – there are good ways and useless ways to approach the balancing act. The good ways involve managing analytics, processing feedback, adjusting what we say on a website or in social media, and watching the impact of our changes as they propagate throughout cyberspace.
 
The days of writing good content and letting it fly are over. Good content doesn’t want to fly; it has to be flown, and the only inherent stability we can count on is the stability we create with hands-on control. Without expertise and a keen understanding of algorithms, traveling through the digital world can be a white knuckle experience.
 
Don’t try this at home. Find someone you can trust, work with them and enjoy the ride. Click here for more on Intelligent Content. To discuss how we can assist with the challenges you're facing with content optimization contact Jane Cirigliano or Bill White at 800-606-1610.
 
 
 
 
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Offenberger & White, Inc. (OffWhite) is an integrated marketing solutions company based in Marietta, Ohio, USA.
 
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