How the Crowd Might Save Don Draper and the Agencies Lauren Nelson | July 6th, 2016

In the days of Don Draper, things were different. Day drinking and sexual harassment were acceptable, yes, but so was the idea that creative work was to be acquired under very specific circumstances. You had your account men and your creatives. You bought and sold stories. Charm was your most valuable currency, and the exchange rate for client dollars was glorious. Not a bad time to be alive, assuming you were a straight white man.

 

 

Things have changed a bit since then. Add computers into the marketing mix and supercharge things with the internet, and suddenly Don’s tendency to slur during afternoon meetings is the least of his problems. It’s no longer SCDP versus CGC, but SCDP versus a number of 3 man boutique shops, recent college grads with undervalued design degrees, and your 64 year old neighbor who taught herself Photoshop between soaps. Pretty stories mean nothing without the numbers to back them up, and those once lofty retainers are scoffed at by companies who hire unpaid interns to manage their social media marketing.

 

 

In this brave new world, is it any surprise that people have been proclaiming the ad agency dead for years now?

Obviously, those proclamations aren’t entirely fair. There are still heavy hitters in the agency world, but many of them have struggled to keep pace with innovation driven by the breakneck pace of technological expansion. Even smaller, more nimble agencies have found themselves in a position where managing overhead is a challenge. So while rumors of the ad agency’s demise have been grossly exaggerated, their health isn’t exactly picture perfect, either.

The resulting kerfuffle is benefiting no one. Agencies are spending so much time and so many resources on trying to keep up with the relentless pace of digital innovation that their overhead is ballooning while their revenue is eroding. Companies, in the meantime, are playing Russian roulette with their brands by cobbling together piecemeal marketing through freelancers without any kind of strategic guidance. Everyone loses in that scenario.

That’s where the crowd comes into play.

Maintaining an in-house creative staff is expensive and laborious. With the crowd, you get access to a creative pool many times larger than anything you could tap in-house for a fraction of the cost. While strategic creatives are still necessary to make sure the crowd is effectively utilized, it’s far less expensive to hire one strategist than four designers… forget about 186,000 of them.

And before the tired debate about the principle of it all, remember that it’s not like this is a new idea. It’s just a more efficient and productive approach to a practice that’s been around for decades. As Blogmutt Director of Marketing Patrick Armitage writes for MarketingLand:

Agencies crowdsourced work long before the word “crowdsourcing” even existed. It was called “freelance.” But freelancers are notoriously hit-or-miss. What’s more, if an agency found a freelancer, the relationship dynamics, payment, scheduling and freelancer’s needs changed each time.

Crowdsourcing platforms have started to put structure around a motivated, talented workforce available and capable of helping agencies.

Major brands have already figured this out. It’s the agencies playing catch-up that still have some learning to do.

Such an approach benefits creatives, as well. Crowdsourcing platforms like crowdSPRING offer a place where work opportunities are consolidated, minimizing time spent sourcing and applying for opportunities through other avenues that may or may not turn out to be legit. It also offers more payment security than something you might find on Craigslist. On top of that, work on crowdsourcing sites can open the door to ongoing work with a given brand by helping you build relationships and giving you a place to park your portfolio.

And companies win big here, too. If an agency works with a crowdsourcing platform, they get a chance to consider a much wider array of creative proposals from people who specialize in specific types of projects. That means an agency’s client gets the cutting edge deliverables necessary to perform under the guidance of those who know the game better than anyone else at a far more comfortable price point. No more Russian roulette.

The future is always uncertain, and technology is going to keep throwing curve balls at us, but one thing is for sure: if agencies don’t figure out a way to adapt to this volatile terrain, they’ll find themselves shuttering their doors sooner rather than later. They need not be at odds with the crowd. In fact, it may just be that the crowd saves them in the end.

I feel like Don would see something romantic in that.

 

Want to Win Millennials? Understand Marketing in the Experience Economy Lauren Nelson | July 6th, 2016

Love ’em or hate ’em, Millennials are here to stay, and they’re a different breed of consumer than those of days gone by. They grew up with the internet. Maybe they vaguely remember the sultry tones of the AOL dial up, but just barely. They processed their teen angst in texts tapped out on smartphones and punctuated by emoji that may or may not be seeped in innuendo. They get their news on Twitter and their kicks on YouTube. They’re more likely to frequent Amazon than they are the mall, more likely to peruse Craigslist or Ebay than a garage sale. They’ve traded in suits and cubicles for flip flops and remote work.

 

 

And after fighting their way through the recession that greeted them at the gates of adulthood, they’re ready to spend. Just don’t expect them to spend like their parents and grandparents did. No, this generation is solidifying the dominance of the Experience Economy.

The term “Experience Economy” references a burgeoning marketplace where consumers seek experiences over products. Ownership is not central to consumer satisfaction in this world; the value derived, sensations felt, and memories created from use of a product or service are of greater importance.

There’s been much written about the disruptive emergence of the Experience Economy over the past six years. It’s been blamed for low home and car sales, floundering brick and mortar retailers, and a stumbling manufacturing industry. It’s been cast as a house of cards built on the shifting sands of trends and fads. It’s been maligned as the insidious influence of fickle youngsters.

But if we’re being fair, a great deal of this consternation misses the mark. Though the Experience Economy is most thoroughly embraced by Millennials, they aren’t the only generation eschewing traditional consumer purchasing patterns. The Experience Economy is not the offspring of their young coddled minds, but of rapidly evolving technologies in an economically fraught scene that makes material accumulation impractical.

Most importantly, the rise of the Experience Economy is nothing new. We’ve always had an Experience Economy. Every product, event, and service transaction in history has been an experiential transaction in some way, shape, or form.

Think about it.

Think about the fancy restaurant you take  your date to in an effort to impress her. Think about the dentist you take your kids to because he puts them at ease in the chair. Think about the band you see every single time they come to town because they put on a damn good show.

Now think about the restaurant you never went back to after waiting over an hour for cold food to arrive. Think about the doctor whose poor bedside manner made you seek out a second opinion. Think about that band whose albums you love but whose concerts you pass on because they’re so boring on stage.

It’s always been about the experience. What’s different now is that our understanding of the consumer experience has shifted. It’s not just about how clean the store is or how big the staff smiles or how long the product lasts. It’s about the brand itself in a way that we’ve never seen before. Between websites and social media and mobile apps, brands have become more dynamic and tangible, and the consumer’s relationship with that brand has become part of the experiential transaction. This shift is particularly pronounced among Millennials because their attentions are concentrated in these digital spaces.

Which leaves us with both good and bad news. The good news is that this so called “dawn” of the Experience Economy is really just natural evolution in the face of economic and technological shifts to which companies of all shapes and sizes can adapt if they so choose. The bad news is that this adaptation is easier said than done, and requires some significant creative muscle.

How can you help your business survive thrive through this transition? Well, if you’re trying to cultivate a good experience, satisfying each of the five senses (as best you can in a digital context) is a good place to start.

Sight

We all know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but we also know that we all do it anyway.

In the digital era, this is especially true. Millennials, in particular, have little patience for a poorly designed or slow website. They’re unimpressed by a Twitter account that is purely self-promotional. They snicker at marketing attempts that look like they belong on a 1990’s used car commercial. Invest in your aesthetic with sound design and strategy, because you last season knockoff quality is not going to suffice with this crowd.

Smell

Millennials have grown up skeptical. They’re more likely to troll an email from a Nigerian prince asking for money than they are to fall for the scam. They’re also more likely to raise an eyebrow if what you’re promising seems too good to be true. If you’re going to pass the sniff test, you need to make sure that the content you use to promote your goods or services is as real as it is engaging. Marketing is just a promise, and Millennials have been burned too many times to enter a relationship with your brand from a position of trust. So walk the walk. If you’re going to claim that your headphones provide the best audio experience in the world, for instance, pair it with a rating that says as much or some data that explains the science behind your superior wares.

Hearing

It used to be that “word of mouth” was a sort of ambiguous, vague element of a brand’s story. There was no controlling or really monitoring it in any quantifiable manner. It just was. But in an era where no one goes to a restaurant without looking it up on Yelp or Urban Spoon, word of mouth is far more tactile than it was before Millennials bounced onto the scene.

Make sure you’re monitoring your brand’s digital reputation. A few well-placed reviews slamming your brand, a hit piece about your company’s practices, or an insidious hashtag can do a lot of damage. Stay on top of things and stay responsive.

More than that: steer the conversation. An effective content marketing strategy that leverages a myriad of social channels to distribute content and actively curate a brand’s image can help overwhelm chatter in the background. While it’s important to have a good defense in place in this game we call business, it’s even more important to make sure your offense is on point.

 

Touch

The internet has made it easy to do business with a brand without ever directly interacting with another human being. For the introverts among us, it’s a dream come true. But for brands, this reality presents some distinctive challenges. Like the sales person fretfully debating whether or not to approach the woman with the “I want to talk to the manager” haircut on the floor of a store to offer assistance, brands find themselves walking a fine line when it comes to digital touch points with customers.

You don’t want to be absent, but you don’t want to be irritating, either. As a rule of thumb, touch points should facilitate and inform first and foremost. Each touch should provide value to the customer in some way, shape, or form. Confirm an order, offer assistance if they abandon an order, inform them of a new service that compliments a past order. Keep your touch points relevant, and the line becomes easier to walk.

Taste

Ever bite into something that was delectable for the first few seconds but left a bitter, chalky taste in your mouth once you’d swallowed? You don’t want that for your brand. You want customers walking away from each engagement satisfied both with their purchase and their experience. The best way to make sure that’s happening is to consistently seek out feedback. Post-purchase surveys are not universally completed, but even partial capture can give you insight into where things are going right and where they’re going wrong. It can also give you an opportunity to rectify things if something didn’t work out the way a customer had hoped before it becomes a problem for you in the hearing category. This information, paired with data about return customers and abandoned purchases, lets you continually improve until the flavor is just right.

BONUS: The SIXTH Sense

Still, Millennials are not some homogenous audience. There is no perfect recipe for capturing their business. All you can do is keep striving to be better. More than anything, Millennials appreciate commitment to progress. Dedicate yourself to that, and you put yourself in a position to sit with the cool kids.

 

Kevin Durant Could Teach Businesses a Thing or Two Lauren Nelson | July 5th, 2016

American eyes might have been turned skyward last night as colorful explosions put the stars to shame, but the real fireworks this weekend were going off in the world of the NBA. Kevin Durant, former star of the Oklahoma City Thunder, announced that he would be leaving the city where he made his name to play for the Golden State Warriors, and people had some feelings about it.

 

 

This is apparently a big deal to those who love basketball. OKC fans are devastated and angry. Warrior fans are crowing. Some fans are excited about the rise of “super teams” while others bemoan eroding competitiveness in the regular season. There are those who think Durant should have been more loyal. There are those who think he’s not getting nearly as much flak as Lebron did for making a similar choice. And on and on and on it goes…

Personally, the last time I cared about basketball was when Jordan did Space Jam, and I’d probably have had a rough time picking Durant out of a lineup before this. That said, the Durant drama holds a few valuable lessons for businesses looking to up their game.

For starters, the man’s motives are something to which we should all aspire. Much has been said about money and fame and how it all might have influenced Durant’s decision to leave. But he was pretty clear about why he made his choice, saying:

The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth.

And really, that’s a solid method for impact calculus no matter what line of work you’re in. Will this help your company grow into something stronger and more competitive? Will this help your brand develop into something that makes you proud? If your answers are yes, then the choice you’re contemplating is probably going to push you in the right direction.

But it’s about more than Durant as an individual. He was a superstar in OKC, and that stardom has staying power. But he’s also joining a team full of brightly shining stars who just made an appearance in the Finals. And as Harvey Araton writes for the New York Times, this is reflective of a burgeoning trend in the league. Rather than build a brand around one superstar, franchises are finally looking to build collectives of talented people who make each other better. He explains:

By the turn of the century, no two (much less three or four) stars could coexist in one city. The best players deigned to have their own teams and could be happy only as the Jordans of their fiefs.

Allen Iverson couldn’t share with anyone in Philadelphia. Charlotte wasn’t big enough for Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson. In Minnesota, Stephon Marbury couldn’t handle making less money than Kevin Garnett. In Toronto, Tracy McGrady wanted no part of being Scottie Pippen to Vince Carter’s Jordan.

Even in Los Angeles, while winning three straight titles with the Lakers, O’Neal and Kobe Bryant could not peacefully coexist. It wasn’t the best of N.B.A. times, but now the brand names are drawn to one another, sharing the burden of expectation along with the ball.

Don’t think such an attitudinal evolution didn’t factor into the league’s growth in popularity and the enormous television revenue increases that stretched the salary cap and allowed the Warriors to pursue Durant.

Say what you will about what this trend does to competitive balance in the league, but Araton is right. This new trend is good business for the NBA. The tactic is also good for businesses that don’t involve hoops and balls.

A single superstar is not going to be enough to help you take home the title. A group of superstars who grate on each other aren’t going to put points on the board. What you need is a team of superstars with varied strengths and complimentary communication styles. Invest in attracting and retaining such talent, and you, too, could be in the running for a championship ring.

Love him or loathe him, Durant will be donning a Warriors jersey next time he steps out onto the court. Over that, we have no control. What we can control, though, is whether or not we learn from the debacle. Taking these lessons to heart makes it much more likely you’ll get the slam dunk.

Weekend Reads: Game Change Lauren Nelson | July 1st, 2016

It’s the end of another week. Maybe you’re wrapping up your workday. Maybe you’ve got a few more hours left. Maybe you’re scowling at your screen because it’s not really a weekend for you (we’re sorry). Regardless, we’re bringing you some grade A intellectual stimulation because we’re awesome like that.

 

And because everyone needs a laugh on a Friday….

 

Live it up this weekend, folks! And if you’re celebrating stateside, have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!

Stop Freaking Out About the Facebook News Feed Changes Lauren Nelson | July 1st, 2016

It’s Facebook’s world. We’re just posting in it.

Never has that been more clear to businesses than with the recent explanation of Facebook’s News Feed priorities. The company announced several small tweaks to their algorithms yesterday that will likely impact the reach of pages, though such tweaks are not really that surprising. They’re part of a larger trend in algorithm shifts meant to reflect what Facebook sees as the “core values” of the News Feed. Here’s the breakdown.

 

  • Friends and family come first. Connection with loved ones is sort of the cornerstone of the platform, so perhaps it’s not too surprising that they’ll be trying to place content from people you engage with most toward the top of your feed.
  • Facebook’s News Feed is intended to both inform and entertain. As such, a person’s feed, based on their engagement with content over time, should become saturated with posts that are relevant to their lives and likely to prompt further engagement.
  • Though it’s good to giggle, Facebook will be working to filter out “spammy” and “sensationalist” content in an effort to give users a higher quality News Feed experience.

 

On face, none of this is really shocking. Like we said, these ideas have long been in play when it comes to Facebook’s News Feed algorithms. The reason the announcement is significant is that it’s the first of its kind, and its prominence paired with its ambiguity has some on edge for a number of reasons.

 

 

What will this really mean for our News Feeds? What will it do to business pages? How will it impact business social marketing strategy? And, most importantly: how can I help my business succeed under such shifting algorithms?

Fortunately, we have a few tips for you.

Drop the Clickbait

There is a never-ending library of articles out there teaching you how to create eminently clickable and shareable headlines. We’re talking “15 reasons” for anything under the sun and Upworthy-esque “you won’t believe” proclamations and templated promises with carefully constructed “edginess.” And for years now, that sort of strategy has worked. People respond to it.

But if Facebook is going to start culling out content they see as “spammy” or “sensational,” an ounce of caution might prevent a pound of pain down the line. We don’t know for sure how they’ll flag such content. Will it be user driven? Will the algorithm be programmed to recognize red flags in titles? Until we have a better idea of what’s going on, more creative and distinctive titles for your content is likely a safe bet.

Work Multiple Content Distribution Avenues

For the longest time, content marketing focused on distributing content from the company that was hosted on a company’s website. It wasn’t a bad idea. After all, this gave the company maximum control over content and presentation while generating fresh material crafted to improve SEO. And to be entirely fair, that sort of content marketing is still important.

But we don’t know what Facebook intends when they talk about creating a more “informative” News Feed. Will they start giving content from sources widely acknowledged as “credible” better placement in the timeline? Let’s say a consulting firm writes about the importance of social media security and someone at Fast Company does the same, and each article is shared by a different person on your friends list. Would the Fast Company piece be boosted by the algorithm?

The truth is that we have zero idea, but it can’t hurt to hedge your bets by publishing on a variety of platforms, like Linkedin and Medium, or seeking out publishing opportunities with media organizations. There were already folks encouraging such tactics before Facebook made their announcement. Now seems as good a time as ever to give it a shot.

Focus on the Visual

It’s already well-known that visual content is liked, commented on, and shared at a much greater frequency than any other kind of content. Between April and November of last year, Facebook viewership of videos jumped from 4 billion videos a day to 8 billion. Infographics are liked and shared three times as much as any other type of content on the platform. Photos, memes, and quote cards aren’t far behind in the race. In other words, practicing a visual social media strategy has always been a good idea.

That said, a strong visual content calendar is now more important than ever. In a world where business content is less likely to show up at the top of a News Feed, putting out content that is likely to be shared by the friends and family members that are at the top is the best way to make sure your company’s name, brand identity, and ideas are getting in front of the widest audience possible. And if page content isn’t going to be prioritized as frequently as it used to, even when it’s getting shared by a person’s friends, then you definitely want to make sure you’ve got some strong graphic design game going on.

Keep Calm and Keep It Moving

Don’t freak out. Sure, that’s easier said than done, but really — don’t. We all tend to freak out a bit anytime Facebook announces… well, anything, really… and it never does anyone any good. Most of the time there was nothing worth freaking out over in the first place.

The important thing to remember here is that while tactics might need adjusting, your guiding principles of social media marketing have not changed. The goal is still authentic brand engagement. So keep doing what you do best. Be yourself.

15 Reasons Businesses Should Be Celebrating #SocialMediaDay Lauren Nelson | June 30th, 2016

Happy Social Media Day, everyone! Who’s ready to party like a minor MySpace celebrity circa 2004?

Party Hardy

In all seriousness though, it’s a day worth observing. Launched in 2010 by Mashable, the digital holiday was all about acknowledging what has since become a nearly ubiquitous part of our daily lives. As Mashable explained way back then:

Social media has changed our lives. It has not only changed the way we communicate, but the way we connect with one another, consume our news, conduct our work, organize our lives, and much more. So why not celebrate?

Since then, the holiday has grown, with great emphasis put on how social media has contributed to social movements, education, and entertainment. There are meetups across the globe and just as many threads of associated chatter on — appropriately — social media to discuss the impact of our favorite platforms on our lives.

But we’d be remiss to not address the ways in which social media has changed the game for businesses. Why do we love social media? Let us count the ways:

1. It lets us to get to know our customers in a way that wasn’t possible before… even if it is TMI sometimes.

2. It allows us talk directly to our customers in a more efficient and dynamic manner. Those conversations spur greater brand recognition and loyalty.

3. It gives us an outlet for the laughing baby videos that would otherwise be constrained to office email chains.

4. It’s offered us a concise means of curating conversation with hashtags that connect us with people we’d otherwise never know.

5. It’s totally transformed the way we all interact with video, democratizing marketing mediums that were once dominated by the heaviest spenders.

6. It saved us from SMS marketing gaining major prominence, for which everyone should be grateful.

7. It helped us find more meaningful ways to determine which content is working for us than Google’s algorithms.

8. It validated our vanity and made it socially acceptable by letting selfies become a thing.

9. It reminded us that weird brands are often some of the best brands.

10. It made us better by opening us up to direct public critique when the echo chamber in the office doesn’t save us from ourselves.

11. It shrunk this big ol’ world by creating communities that span the globe.

12. It found a way to bring talent from all over to the table for offices without boundaries.

13. It created a hive of business minds that learn and grow from one another.

14. It facilitated a smorgasbord of rich visual content that keeps us inspired and hungry.

15. It taught us how to have fun as marketers again.

We could probably keep going, but we won’t keep you from your festivities any longer. Go forth. Make merry. Be social.

The Problem is the Advertising, Not the Ad Blocker Lauren Nelson | June 30th, 2016

Media companies and publishers are mad. Like, really mad. Well, maybe more nervous than mad, but certainly angry enough to sound a lot like digital geriatrics shaking their fists at the ad blocking kids running up and down their site.

Their agitation is understandable. After all, the clever little extensions that give the rest of us a faster, cleaner, less irritating web experience are eating away at ROI for advertisers and revenue for publishers. They’re begging us to turn them off. Some have guilt trip popups to cajole the visitor into making an exception to their ad free browsing experience for them. Some wall off their content from those who refuse to see the ads. Just earlier this month, New York Times Company CEO Mark Thompson said they were moving toward a similar approach, defending the move by declaring, “No one who refuses to contribute to the creation of high quality journalism has the right to consume it.”

Now, Thompson has a point. High quality journalism provides a public service, but it also costs money to produce, and ads have long been part of the funding mix. But attacking ad blockers as the problem instead of considering that the model itself might be broken is where he gets it wrong.

Thompson admitted that publishers have sort of screwed the pooch in the way they’ve gone about selling advertising space: it’s been too cluttered, too loud, too obnoxious. That’s only the tip of the iceberg, though. As we’ve written in the past, even when those ad blockers are switched off, more than 70% of visitors tune out the ads anyway. The fact of the matter is that traditional digital advertising space, whether ad blockers are a thing or not, is simply not as valuable as it used to be. Thompson and others in his camp are taking up arms for an already lost cause.

But there are other reasons this grandstanding is ill advised. Ad blockers aren’t just cleaning up the ad-saturated aesthetic of a website. They also can cut load times by as much as half on some websites, which matters a lot when shorter load times can halve your bounce rate and increase your conversions by more than 25%. In other words, by standing by an already faltering business model in the name of revenue protection, these companies may unwittingly be sacrificing more durable revenue streams in the long term.

The call to action from Thompson also ignores one of the biggest benefits of ad blockers: protection from infection. As the Columbia Journalism Review explains:

Thompson did not say one word in his keynote address about the significant security benefits of ad blockers, which is ironic, because his paper was one of several news organizations that served its users ransomware—a particularly vicious form of malware that encrypts the contents of your computer and forces you to pay the perpetrators a ransom in bitcoin to unlock it—through its ad networks just a few months ago. Several major news sites—including the Times, the BBC, and AOL—had their ad networks hijacked by criminal hackers who attempted to install ransomware on readers’ computers.

Advertising networks have served malware onto the computers of unwitting news readers over and over in the past couple years. Ads on Forbes, for example, attacked their readers in January, right after the magazine forced readers to disable ad-blocking software to view its popular annual “30 Under 30” feature. As Engadget reported, “visitors were immediately served with pop-under malware, primed to infect their computers, and likely silently steal passwords, personal data and banking information.” It wasn’t the first time this had happened at Forbes, either. And it’s not just in the US. A couple months ago, almost every major news site in the Netherlands served malware through its ads to its users.

You can bet this problem is only going to get worse. According to a 2015 study, malware served by advertising networks tripled between June 2015 and February 2015. So the longer people wait to install an ad blocker, the more vulnerable they become.

In other words, Thompson is missing the forest for the trees, as are the advertisers lining up behind him. As they cling to the vestiges of a failing model, they ignore the user experience and ask their audience to put themselves at risk. That’s not exactly sound business practice.

Instead of attacking ad blockers, we should be focusing on how to connect marketers and their audiences in ways that are less obtrusive and precarious. Find ways to join the conversation instead of speaking over it. Native advertising. Co-sponsored content. Webinars. The possibilities are limitless.

Get creative. Or get a creative at crowdSPRING to help you get it right.

Fresh from the SPRING: L3golas Audree | June 30th, 2016

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this logo project.

Let us start the slow clap for L3golas. Check out more great work on L3golas’ profile page.

Nicely done, L3golas , nicely done!

FFTS-L3golas

 

Why We Should Be Teaching Kids the Language of Design Lauren Nelson | June 29th, 2016

Let’s face it: the U.S. has been behind the curve when it comes to the study of languages for… well, too long to calculate at this point. While their European and Asian counterparts learn multiple languages before heading off to higher education, the American students find delayed instruction in languages other than English until middle school at the earliest in some cases, with most high schools requiring a meager two years of foreign language study for a student to receive their diploma.

Despite concerted efforts to change that trend over the last couple of decades, there’s been only minimal progress. But as technology has transformed the world around us, there’s been an new push to have our kids learn different languages. These languages come without feminine and masculine nouns or accents that baffle the average high schooler. No, these languages are used by tech companies the world over who are all too eager to hire the best and brightest young and fluent minds they can find. I am speaking, of course, of the push for teaching our kids how to code.

Don’t get it twisted. There’s no denying that’s a good idea. Period. Point blank. No caveats. But as we grow to accept these languages as worthy of study, we should also be willing to a language more fluid than those defined by binary code, unfamiliar alphabets, and dead speech patterns. There’s another language we need to be teaching our students these days: the language of design.

Put on your listening ears.

It’s impossible to say that “x” is the most important element of building and growing a business, but if we were to try to rank all the ingredients in such a recipe, design would most certainly be towards the top of the list. A poorly designed website will turn off potential customers faster than you can blink an eye. A poorly designed social profile will undercut your brand’s credibility and kneecap your attempts to build an audience. Poorly designed emails will do little to improve your conversion rates while diminishing your engaged audience. Poorly designed landing pages are close to useless. Poorly designed product packaging will sit in the shadows on a shelf.

Poor design sells nothing and can cost you everything. It doesn’t matter how fantastic your product or service might be. It doesn’t matter how eloquently you speak or write about the quality of what you have to offer. If you cannot present it in a compelling manner, you’ve already lost the game.

We’re not saying that every high school graduate should be able to design a perfect logo or website or any other creative asset. The truth of the matter is that, even with technical proficiency in the tools of the trade, not every mind is cut out for the world of design. It takes more than knowledge of the most recent version of the Adobe creative suite to be a successful designer.

But anyone entering the workforce should have a basic understanding of the principles of design. Whether those students go on to be CEOs, CFOs, COOs, or CMOs; whether they’re customer service wizards, superstar sales people, or human resource managers; whether they’re administrative assistants, system analysts, or accountants — understanding the significance of design and the various ways in which it plays a role in a company is important to the health of any company. Why?

Business Is Changing… and So Are Your Needs.

For starters, it’s part of success in a modern era. More and more, business leaders are realizing that any and every employee has the potential to transform a company. It doesn’t matter where you start or what your role is; any team member is capable of coming up with the next idea that will take the business to the next level. If those employees are empowered with an understanding of design, their ability to contribute is magnified. It offers a different dynamic to their thought process. Conceptualization starts to extend beyond decimal points and bottom lines. They start to realize that an inherent part of progress is creativity, and begin to incorporate, at a minimum, a respect for that need in their approach to innovation.

Mind. Blown. Or, it should be.

And even in a world where those people aren’t thinking in terms of pixels and brand standards, let’s be real: when has it ever hurt to have a workforce that’s been trained to think creatively?

Your Budget Needs a Reality Check

A rudimentary understanding of design also means you’re more likely to have consensus when it comes to resource allocation. Far too often, the first thing to go when the going gets tough is the budget for creatives. The common perception is that creative work is the fat when it comes time to go lean. That probably shouldn’t surprise us. Even in our schools, the arts are the first to go when times get tough. We teach ’em young to devalue that spark of creativity.

Seriously?

But when the creative budget is sacrificed, every other function is compromised. Your sales team has fewer resources. Your operations team, which frequently relies upon effective communication to keep the ship upright, finds themselves hamstrung by a stale pantry. And the makeshift efforts of the untrained who try to pick up the torch in the vacuum left by short-sighted cuts? They can do a lot of harm to the long-term health of a brand and that bottom line you value so dearly.

You're in over your head.

Creatives Are Already Mad As Hell

But perhaps most importantly, ensuring the next generation understands at least the basics of design just might help those in charge make better decisions about design by teaching them to trust designers. One of the most frustrating things for design professionals is when a client’s engagement or critique amounts to a shrug and personal preference. That has to be at least somewhat understandable, right? Imagine how you might feel, as an experienced plumber, if someone took a look at your handiwork and said, “Eh, I’m just not feeling it.”

UGGGHHHH

Don’t get us wrong: instinct and vision are indispensable in the business world, and decision makers should not feel beholden to designers. But if a seasoned designer is explaining your options along with the benefits and drawbacks of each potential choice, you’d do well to listen. They’ve spent a great deal of time honing their craft and learning from their experiences. They’re not talking because they enjoy the sound of their own voice.

Listening ears on, please.

And maybe, just maybe, in a world where design education is folded into our standard K-12 curriculum, that whole listening thing will become more common.

Let’s Get Our Act Together

Students today should be learning Spanish. And Mandarin. And German. And Russian. They should be studying HTML and CSS and PHP and SQL and Java and Python and C++ and beyond. But they should also be learning about design.

As we move in that direction, creative crowdsourcing sites like crowdSPRING offer you your best shot at getting the whole design thing right. Many minds, many concepts, many explanations of the opportunities presented, many opportunities to learn and grow and prosper as a company, and all on a budget that’s hard to turn down. It’s a winning proposition. Make it your secret weapon while the American education system catches up.

Given the country’s track record, it might take a while. But don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

Lessons from the New Netflix Logo Lauren Nelson | June 29th, 2016

Netflix made waves recently with the announcement of a new logo. The ever evolving company began refreshing their image last year with a modified version of their wordmark logo that ditched the kitschy, oversized drop shadow for a cleaner, crisper look. The new logo — a sharp, sophisticated lettermark — is the natural next step in this visual evolution.

new netflix logo

It’s a pretty boss logo, but more than that, it’s immensely strategic. As Mark Wilson writes:

Before this update, Netflix had been forced to cram all seven letters of its name onto social networks and the tiny icon of its iOS app. Its wide stance didn’t play in a box, and this full-word approach worked particularly poorly at small sizes. Replacing the word with one giant letter allows Netflix to compete better with everything else on your mobile screen.

The first thing you notice about that letter is that it isn’t the same “N” you’ll find in “Netflix” itself. It features a rounded bottom that gives a nod to the main logo, but letter itself pops from the page in 3-D. The letter is built from a single red ribbon, folded over itself with drop shadow.

What really strikes me is the success of this logo’s core visual metaphor. What is that ribbon? Is it a red carpet? Is it a celluloid film print? Is it the visualization of Netflix’s own stream, bouncing from them to servers to your own home? It could be all these things at once—not a bad metaphor for a company with astronomical ambition.

Companies can learn a lot from Netflix’s big win here. It’s not that their existing wordmark logo is bad or going anywhere. It’s that the company recognized that they might be able to boost brand recognition and portray a more digitally grown up image if they crafted a logo that was better suited for the avenues through which their audience engages them: the icon on their smart phone, the profile photo next to their Facebook status updates, the avatar next to their tweets. For Netflix, this meant boiling their wordmark logo down to a lettermark.

For those whose primary logo is already a lettermark, symbol, or emblem, such adaptation may not be of great concern. But for those whose primary logos are wordmarks or combination designs, going the Netflix route and finding a simpler design for use on appropriate platforms might be a smart play. In these cases, crowdsourcing design work can be invaluable.

It can be tempting to think that creative assistance isn’t needed to create such a simple derivation of your current logo, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, you could crop your logo down to a single letter, but that’s not going to achieve the same results as working with a creative to breathe life into a minimalist logo for web and mobile use. The Netflix lettermark, as Wilson points out, isn’t just the traditional “N” found on the Netflix wordmark. It’s entirely different while still feeling familiar, which is why it’s so striking.

And making something so simple remarkable? That’s hard work, especially for those close to their brand. That closeness can distort perspective, making it hard to envision anything beyond the familiar. As a result, in-house attempts to freshen or adapt a well-loved logo can sometimes yield flat creative that fails to rise to the occasion.

Crowdsourcing solves for all of that. With platforms like crowdSPRING, your needs are broadcast to an army of talented creatives itching to show you their best ideas. You have the opportunity to engage directly with designers to make sure the final product has that wow factor. And the best part? You don’t need a Netflix-sized budget to do it.

Join the crowd that's raving about the crowdSPRING Blog

Get our weekly digest of can't-miss content on how to take your brand to the next level.

Creative needs?

We've got 190,000 creative professionals ready to meet them. Take your project to the crowd!

Click to get started on

Free eBooks

interviews with graphic and web designers

12 Question Interviews with cS designers.
Get it »

contracts for graphic designers

Contracts for designers who hate contracts.
Get it »

contracts for software and website developers

Contracts for software developers who hate contracts. Get it »

About crowdSPRING

Tens of thousands of the world's best and most successful entrepreneurs, businesses, agencies and nonprofits rely on crowdSPRING for affordable and risk-free custom logo design, web design, a new company name or other writing and design services. More than 190,000 designers and writers work on crowdSPRING. We create designs and names people love. 100% guaranteed.

Learn more »