Google Rolls Out New Penguin Update to Core Algorithm Lauren Nelson | September 27th, 2016

Image Source: Search Engine Roundtable

Did you see your analytics go haywire earlier this week as a result of Google’s latest algorithm updates?

No? Join the club.

Google confirmed that they rolled out the latest Penguin update to their core algorithm on September 23rd. Those paying close attention saw evidence that the rollout might have come a little bit earlier, but even then, the evidence isn’t necessarily super persuasive.

As Barry Schwartz wrote over at Search Engine Roundtable:

Everyone is asking me, did anyone see a recovery from the September 23, 2016 launch date of Penguin 4.0 and the truthful answer, at least as of what I’ve read through hundreds of forum posts in the past four/five days is that no – no one really saw any significant or even small impact from the Penguin 4.0 update.

Normally with Penguin updates/refreshes, the Black Hat World and other black hat forums go nuts with charts. This one did not, there is a thread with one black hat mocking and trolling everyone, but the charts are fake. No one here is saying they saw a hit on or after the 23rd.

In other words, not too much of a shakeup. At least… not yet.

See, that’s the thing about this update. Google announced that the shift would make Penguin real-time, which means that Google will no longer announce Penguin updates. Pair that with the fact that this Penguin update has probably not taken full effect yet (it’s “rolling out”), and there’s still plenty of time for things to get interesting.

Only time will tell, but it does underscore the volatility of SEO best practices and the most practical advice there is for improving your page rank: create good content. That’s what Google is trying to prioritize in the first place with their algorithm evolution.

How Arnold Palmer Changed the Athlete Influencer Game Lauren Nelson | September 27th, 2016




Image Source: Arnold Palmer Design

Maybe you knew him for his legendary golf game. Maybe you knew him for the deliciously crisp beverage that bears his name. Or maybe you’re a marketing geek like me, and you’re mourning the loss of the original athlete influencer.

The world lost another titan on Sunday with the passing of Arnold Palmer. The pro golfer’s accolades were many, with seven major titles under his belt and scores of other smaller championships to his credit. But while he made over $7 million on his golf career, he brought in more than fifty times that off the course. Why? Because he was a master marketer.

Palmer was the original client of notorious sports marketing agent Mark McCormack, and working with him, Palmer was able to secure countless sponsorships throughout his life. His friendly demeanor and plain-spoken nature were endearing, and brands associated with him were sure to receive a boost. He was so in demand that when a contract ended, competitors would pop up offering to pay him more. For instance, an early deal with Qantas Airlines became a much bigger deal with United Airlines. Everyone wanted a piece of Palmer.

In today’s world, that might not seem surprising. You’re not really an athletic superstar until you have a sponsorship or two to your credit. But what makes Palmer’s career as an influencer remarkable is that he was the first to really make it work. We’re talking 30 years before Michael Jordan was credited with  changing the game. Companies were willing to take those risks because Palmer had proven it could pay off.

He also demonstrated that athletes could do more than swing a club and pose for pictures. Take, for instance, the gross miscalculation made by Wilson back in the 1960’s. Palmer was trying to renegotiate a promotional contract with the company. In recognition of the fact that his career could be sidelined in a heartbeat by an injury and out of concern for the security of his family, Palmer asked that Wilson include in the new contract payment for a life insurance policy. It should have been a no-brainer for Wilson given Palmer’s superstar status, but as the Wall Street Journal writes:

James Cooney, the company’s chief executive, decreed that no golfer was going to get something most of his executives didn’t even receive. Cooney was essentially betting that a sensible young father like Palmer wasn’t going to risk the security of his wife and children.

Palmer called his bluff. The life-insurance policy was his line in the sand, the measure of whether this company that supposedly cared so much about him actually respected him as a professional. And so he turned down two decades of guaranteed millions, choosing instead to play out his Wilson contract until he could launch his own company—the Arnold Palmer Golf Co., which began as a club manufacturer, but quickly expanded into clothing, equipment, instructional videos and nearly every other product associated with the sport these days.

In doing so, he became the first modern sports entrepreneur.

Yes, Palmer definitely raised the stakes for athlete influencers. But unlike some athletes today (*cough*cough* lookin’ at you, Lochte *cough*cough*), Palmer always understood the value of a brand, and worked hard to maintain the integrity of his own throughout his life. As a result, the brand equity behind his name never lost its oomph. As recently as 2014, he was able to prove in a court of law that the use of his image on goods sold was an infringement on his brand and rights. Why? Because it still packs a punch to this day.

Palmer only ranks as #6 on the list of all time greatest golfers. He might not be the most successful athlete influencer of all time, and he certainly wasn’t the highest paid. But he started a revolution that has left an indelible mark on the world of marketing, and for that, he will always be the champ.

How $10 and the iPhone 7 Earned This Startup 1.5 Million Visitors in a Day Nick Bowersox | September 26th, 2016

iPhone 7

Image credit: Apple

When Apple held their Special Event keynote on September 7th, their live video stream garnered the highest-ever video traffic for an Apple event. In the days following the announcement, almost every technology publication, blogger, and influencer posted some kind of content related to the new iPhone. The phone’s release took over the news cycle again 9 days later, with reviews, guides, and commentary dominating the front page of most news outlets and technology websites.

Apple’s press domination comes as no surprise to anyone. Overwhelming coverage of Apple’s new release has occurred yearly since they announced the first iPhone in 2007, and now some startups are using the inevitable #NewiPhone trending topic as a platform to launch their own media blitzes.

One company, in particular, stood out during this year’s iPhone release by using unconventional tactics for major results.

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: ironmike Audree | September 22nd, 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 ironmike. Check out more great work on ironmike’s profile page.

Nicely done, ironmike, nicely done!



Is Canva the Company That Will Disrupt the Design World? Not Quite Lauren Nelson | September 20th, 2016



Canva, the graphic design platform promoting itself as tool that empowers the world to design, is not new. It launched in 2013 with $3 million in seed money from American and Australian investors, and offers a series of templates intended to make good design easier to execute and more accessible. It’s a nice concept, which is probably why it’s grown astronomically.

As Forbes reports:

Canva, the Sydney, Australia-based online graphic design platform, raised a new $15 million round of funding, the company announced on Wednesday.

The latest funding valued the startup at $345 million, more than double the company’s $165 million valuation a year ago. Canva’s latest round was led by Sydney-based Blackbird Ventures and Silicon Valley-based Felicis Ventures, the same firms that funded Canva’s separate $15 million round a year ago. To date, Canva has raised about $42 million, the company said. Among Canva’s investors are actor Owen Wilson, Google Maps cofounder Lars Rasmussen and 500 Startups founding partner Dave McClure.

Impressive stuff, right? But the question surrounding Canva has been whether or not it has the potential to disrupt the design world in the way it intended. Part of its origin story was that CEO Melanie Perkins was teaching graphic design and realized that her students were struggling to understand basic concepts. This tool was her answer.

But is it really the answer for those seeking to do design on their own? And what kind of answer is it in the end?

Read the rest of this post »

How FX Marketing President Stephanie Gibbons Stuck the American Horror Story Promotional Landing Lauren Nelson | September 20th, 2016

You might not be an American Horror Story fan. I wouldn’t blame you. The extravagant horror anthology from Ryan Murphy is at turns decadent, grotesque, and terrifying, and that’s not for everyone. But even if the scary stuff isn’t your thing, you should definitely be a fan of FX President of Marketing Stephanie Gibbons after the way she tackled the show’s most recent marketing campaign.

AHS recently aired its season 6 premiere after spending months confusing its loyal audience. In years prior, each season came with a subtitle that indicated what theme the anthology would follow in the episodes to come, including “Coven,” “Freak Show,” and “Hotel.” But going into season 6, creator Ryan Murphy wanted to do something different, especially given the significance of the number 6 in creepy crawly spaces of inquiry. So this time around, there was no subtitle. What’s more, there were to be no direct hints at the content of the season at all, and no confirmation from FX or the show runners about who had been cast. Viewers were simply going to have to wait.




This certainly created a delicious tension for fans of the show, but presented Gibbons with a unique challenge: how do you promote something without promoting what it is? Marketing is typically an exercise in depicting the value proposition of a commodity, service, or experience, so what happens when you’re not allowed to tell your audience what that value will be? These questions were particularly potent given the rise of horror and pseudo-horror competitors to AHS in the past couple of years.

Read the rest of this post »

Elements of a Great Unboxing Experience Jason Byer | September 16th, 2016

If you have a new product, customers are cautious right from the beginning. This is what your customers are thinking before the package ever shows up:

Will it arrive broken?
Will the instructions be adequate?
Will they send the right color?
Are my credit card details stored safely?
Will it arrive late?
Will I have to fight with a customer service rep to explain the “no questions asked” exchange?

By the time UPS drops off the package, your newly acquired customer is an emotional powder keg just expecting something to go wrong.

Fortunately, you can ease this emotion and create positive feelings toward your brand with an exciting unboxing experience.

Pleasing Arrangement

Think first and foremost about what impression the arrangement of your products within the packaging says about the effort that went into the delivery. I mean, really, what sort of “handling” did your customer pay for in those shipping and handling fees?

Does your product have a cold, unexciting utilitarian feel?


That image screams “mass produced and shipped without care for the customer on the other end.” It brings to mind an operation more concerned with margins and penny pinching than pride in a product and dedication to the customer.

Not sure there’s another way? Consider Trunk Club. The service promises personally selected ensembles curated by seasoned stylists for each individual customer. Though the clothing they select for the customer is indubitably plucked from a pre-established array of options, you never feel that way when you open the box. Ever.


That packing tells the customer, “This is for you, from us.” Much more impressive and reassuring than one your average shipment.

Something Extra

When packing up your product, consider adding something small that was never on the purchase description. It doesn’t have to be anything huge — just something little that the customer wasn’t expecting.

Gameklip is an example of how this can bring a smile to your customer’s face. hen Gameklip shipped its Kickstarter they added smarties to each delivery.


The impact here was two-fold, as the inexpensive treat brought a lot of online attention from people who weren’t expecting the extra treat. So not only were the customers happier with what they received for what was literally extra fractions of a penny per order, but the company’s brand equity got a boost from the reaction.


Who doesn’t like a laugh? Plus, if you’re looking to put your customers at easy about whether or not they can trust you right out of the gates, making them giggle or at least crack a smile is a good way to do that. It’s hard to raise a skeptical eyebrow when you’re grinning ear to ear. Seriously — just try it.

So give your customers a reason to smile. You know who does a great job on this note? Dollar Shave Club


Their packaging is pretty minimalist, but they make up for it by including fun quips on every delivery. It definitely makes what’s ultimately a pretty simplistic business model more appealing.

Easy Open

Nothing is worse than getting excited for your product and then struggling to open the package. That sort of experience can make the customer grumpy before they ever get to the product, and nobody wants that.

Amazon gets this. The Amazon Kindle Paper White boasts an incredibly easy to open box, which means their customers get to enjoy their newest gadget quickly. That’s always a win.


Ready to Use

Ease of access doesn’t stop at the packaging though. Three little words can also dampen the excitement: “some assembly required.” Whenever possible, try to ship your product so that it’s ready to use straight away.

And it’s not just assembly. Especially in the world of tech products, having to wait for a charge to be able to play with your purchase is the biggest pain in the butt.

Apple is a great example of a company that avoids that headache altogether. The company is famous for their pre-charged phones that allow customers to start raving straight away.


Does your product need batteries or other accessories to live up to its promise immediately? Try to take care of that for the customer prior to shipping.

The point is that if your unboxing experience is hindered by packing or packaging, you’re only doing your brand and your customer’s a disservice. On the other hand, a solid experience can help bolster customer satisfaction before they even touch your product, which is only going to boost your brand equity. You only get one first impression. Make it count.

And if your “unboxing” experience needs some work, our packaging design creatives are ready and waiting to help.

Fresh from the SPRING: smarikaahuja Audree | September 15th, 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 presentation project.

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

Nicely done, smarikaahuja, nicely done!


crowdSPRING Community Gives Back with Branding for Global Sanitation Non-Profit gather Lauren Nelson | September 13th, 2016

At crowdSPRING, we feel very fortunate to participate in such a vibrant community of talented creatives. It’s the work we do as a collective that makes the greatest impact. But we also value our broader, global community, and feel it’s important to make an impact there, as well.

That’s part of why we launched our Give Back program back in 2008. The crowdSPRING creatives agreed to offer up their services on a voluntary basis to worthy non-profits and charitable groups at no cost to the organizations, while we agreed to waive all fees and assist in the setup and promotion of their projects. The idea was that if branding and marketing matter, and these organizations are doing good work, we wanted to contribute in the best way we could. Thus, the Give Back program was born.

And we’re thrilled to announce that the crowdSPRING community’s next Give Back project is to brand UK non-profit gather. This group is working to make sure underprivileged communities across the world have access to something folks in many Western nations take for granted: a toilet.


An Ever Growing Health Crisis

In many developing nations, sanitation systems are in a woeful state at best and entirely absent at worst, particularly in more remote areas. It is estimated that 2.6 billion people — more than one third of the world’s population — do not have sufficient access to a working toilet. This is often directly linked to lack of infrastructure and clean water sources, and the consequences can be dire, particularly for children. As many as 5,000 kids worldwide die everyday from diseases and conditions linked to this inadequacy.



Example of a Kenyan shared pit latrine
Image Source:


Luckily, great strides have been made in technology that is bringing access to clean water and toilets to areas. It’s becoming more affordable and easier to build. But the problem has been scaling. As communities consolidate and grow, their sanitation and waste management needs are growing, too, in both size and sophistication. And while rudimentary solutions are certainly an improvement over no access to all to such resources, the more efficient and effective solution is one that provides for long-term and far reaching access.

In order for that to happen, the brilliant minds tackling the issue need access to data. And that’s where gather comes in.


Enabling Sanitation Solutions

The non-profit launched earlier this year with the goal of finding an effective way to build toilets and waste management systems to serve the most marginalized people. As they got down to business, though, they found that a lack of centralized information on existing infrastructure and resources was a major handicap to durable progress.

“In March, we met with more than 25 sanitation providers in Kenya and Uganda, and discovered that this lack of data was a universal problem,” explains gather Co-Director John Peter Archer. “That was when we decided to pivot away from toilet construction towards building an online platform.”

And that’s exactly what they’re doing: gathering data, people and ideas to improve urban sanitation.


toileteffect-photo-kidsOrganizing efforts to bring clean water access is crucial.
Image source: gather


Collaborating with the world’s most renown mapping organizations, leading sanitation providers, pioneering data scientists, and luminaries at Google, gather is developing a platform that will provide users with accurate maps pinpointing the location and functionality of individual toilets, layered with key data on communities, infrastructure and health concerns. The system will allow allow sanitation providers, regulators and funders to contribute and access vital information for the improvement and expansion of their services, enabling effective planning and progress tracking as they seek to extend sanitation and waste management access to under-served communities.

What gather needs now is branding that will allow them to take things to the next level.


Designing a Way Forward

To give them the image they’ll need to build their community and attract financial support, gather has launched a logo design project on crowdSPRING under the Give Back program. They’re looking for a logo to represent a dynamic, trustworthy organization looking to disrupt global sanitation efforts through empowerment, and we can think of no better group of talented professionals to tackle this challenge than the crowdSPRING creatives.

As is the case with all crowdSPRING projects, participation in this is absolutely voluntary. There are no monetary awards for winners of this logo design project, but crowdSPRING will spotlight the winning submissions and offer the opportunity for those creatives to suggest other non-profits for the next Give Back project. This is our way of making a difference, and we can’t wait to see what you come up with!


Click Here to View the gather Logo Design Project


We encourage everyone to find ways to help worthy causes and others in need. Thank you – from our entire community!

Design Lessons from a Pizza Craving Lauren Nelson | September 12th, 2016

It’s just about lunchtime around Chicago, which means our minds are, inevitably, turning to food. Lots of food. Glorious food. And for this particular crowdSPRINGer, pizza is sounding pretty good right now.

But because we tend to think a lot about design at crowdSPRING (duh), I found my mind wandering to random design questions related to pizza. You might not think a slice of pie has much to do with design, but as my hunger-fueled research has revealed, you would be very wrong.

Design questions start at the product level: what shape the shape of the pizza be?

For the majority of us, we think of pizza as a round pie. That’s pretty common, and is partially derived from tradition. The origins of pizza can be traced back over 1000 years, when the delicious dish used flatbread as a crust. They didn’t have the luxury of choosing shapes for the bread, and round sort of became the default. Some alternatives, like Sicilian pizza, are square shaped, but it’s certainly not the norm.

And then you have a super tricky product design issue: is it better to cut the pizza into squares or triangles?

On the one hand, triangles are pretty much the default. There are good reasons for this: it’s faster to cut the pizza that way, it’s easier to handle, it’s quicker to eat, and most round foods (think cake, cheese, etc.) are cut the same way.

On the other hand, you will find people who adamantly believe that cutting a pizza into squares is the only way to go. They claim it provides greater portion control, greater access to a wider variety of topping combinations, and a good way to avoid the soggy, greasy middle of the pie.

In some cases, the type of pizza being created plays a major factor in this question. A Chicago deep dish pizza, for instance, is not going to be served in small squares. A thin crust, on the other hand, is far less likely to be sliced into triangles. It just depends.

And once you get past the product design, you’ve got packaging design to consider. Most of us are used to the traditional cardboard box we see everywhere today, but that wasn’t always the default method. As self-proclaimed pizzaholic Scott Wiener writes over at Serious Eats:

In the early 1800’s, bakers were using copper containers to transport small breads and pizzas on the street. They often employed their sons to cart these stufas (literally stoves) around the neighborhood in hope of selling the scraps for some extra change. It was kind of like Newsies, but with much less singing and dancing. Unlike today’s model of made-to-order pizza delivered hot and fresh to your door, stufa boys were hawking pre-made pies. Stufas kept the pizzas warm, as copper has high heat dissipation capabilities. They also had pointed lids with covered vents to help manage steam exhaust. Brilliant!

Jump ahead 100 years and pizza starts to catch on in New York and other industrialized American cities. Legend has it that pizzas were being sold “to-go” rolled into a cone, wrapped in paper, and loosely tied with twine at Lombardi’s (America’s first licensed pizzeria). The small breads were often sold at room temperature and reheated on factory furnaces later in the day.

As Wiener explains, he biggest innovation in pizza packaging came from Dominos founder Tom Monaghan. The now ubiquitous pizza chain was focused on delivery as a means of company growth, which meant they needed to have packaging that could withstand delivery instead of sagging and growing flimsy during the ride. After a great deal of sweat, tears, and collaboration, they launched their new corrugated cardboard box design — the same design now used by pizza places around the world.

But, of course, the packaging design extends beyond the materials and construction. Especially in the delivery world, pizza boxes have been designed to advance branding goals. Sometimes it’s just the company’s logo. Sometimes, though, folks get ambitious. For instance, in 2015, Pizza Hut released a pizza box as a marketing stunt that went well beyond delivering some hot delicious food. As Business Insider reported:

Thinking that movie nights and pizza are a natural fit, Pizza Hut created a new cardboard pizza box that turns into a working movie projector powered by your smartphone.

It’s called the Blockbuster Box, and it was designed by Ogilvy Hong Kong for a Pizza Hut marketing stunt, according to The Verge.

The secret to each Blockbuster Box is the special pizza table that comes inside each box, which helps keep the center of the box from touching your pizza and is traditionally made of plastic. The pizza table inside the special Blockbuster Boxes, however, features a lens, which you can insert into the side of the box after you punch out the perforated hole.

Once you’ve inserted the lens into the side of the pizza box, you’ll then need a smartphone to power the experience. After you place your smartphone in the center of the Blockbuster Box, the lens will magnify your smartphone’s display and project it onto the wall.

Sometimes, though, what sounds like clever design can backfire. Dominos, for instance, came under fire in 2011 when they failed to realize that what they thought was a fun play on words was an echo of some very common and very gross words about consent in sex. As XO Jane reported:

A few months back, Domino’s Pizza released its new “Artisan” line of pizzas. While the name is something of an oxymoron, the “Artisan Pizzas” were intended to be a cut above the usual Domino fare. To that end, Domino’s pledged it wouldn’t accept any substitutions — something about the pies being expertly crafted, wouldn’t want to ruin the integrity of the flavors, so on and so forth. Bottom line: If you asked for substitutions on your Artisan Pizza, Domino’s would say “no.”While that’s all fine and good, we can’t help but feel that Domino’s should have rethought the advertising campaign that accompanied the new line of pizzas.

Ahhhh, what? No means yes? As the good folks at Shakesville, which originally found this ad, put it: “There is absolutely no way that the company can reasonably argue they didn’t understand the nonconsent implications of this phrase.”While the easy thing to do is say “hey, this is just a pizza ad” — and yea, it is — that’s too simple a response. When your pizza ad looks like it was ripped from a date rape apologist’s playbook, maybe it’s time to reconsider your strategy. Another idea? Stop trying to convince people mass-produced pizza is “artisan.”

But the point of this meandering story (outside of leveraging my preoccupation with my soon-to-arrive pizza for the greater good) is to highlight that design can and does play a role in almost every aspect of our lives… including the delicious ones.

It’s also to underscore the fact that design needs, solutions, and trends are constantly evolving. Even if you’re just talking pizza, there are still efforts being made to make things better. Take, for instance, a design created by Yu Kyung Ha, Won Min Jung & Kwon Young Hee: neat pizza fingers.



Image Source:


Instead of the standard single circular piece of cardboard, the pizza using this packaging design would sit on detachable pieces that can then be used to protect the hands from the grease that inevitably accompanies a great piece of pie. GENIUS, I SAY!

So keep dreaming, folks, no matter how conventional your space might be. Don’t settle for tired product design; seek out exemplary product design that will make the consumer’s experience with your product extraordinary. Don’t settle for boring packaging; find packaging design that will make a fantastic and memorable first impression. Change the world, one slice at a time.

And on that note, I bid you adieu. I’m pretty sure my pizza delivery guy just pulled up.


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