Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday card smorgasbord

Every year, just before Hallowe'en, we start getting calls from clients wanting to rush to press with their holiday cards. This year was no exception. Here below (we still think "herebelow" should be one word) is an assortment of holiday cards we've done for one of them. Enjoy, and happy holidays to each and every one of youse.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The top 10 subject lines of all time

Nah. Just trying to get your attention, that's all. But here's our theory: the very best email marketing is top 10 list stuff.  People love the top 10 lists. Or top 5 list. Or even, in this case, the top 1 list:


You just read it.

Now, I think you get our point.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Make it about them

Reading through this morning's emails from my assortment of marketing experts, we came across a theme, one idea that has appeared in so many of these "articles". (Seriously, the content marketing is getting a little bit cumbersome these days.) It's the idea that you shouldn't make the story you tell all about your product. You need to make it about your customer. Make the customer the hero. Now this brings up old Rosser Reeve's fabulous and timeless USP concept, naturally, (the basic format of which is "if you buy this product, you will get this unique and meaningful benefit.") but it also brought to mind "The smart growth manifesto" that we posted about a few years ago. We revisited, we re-loved, we've reposted. Re-enjoy:

The smart growth manifesto
Tired of looking backwards and finding, each week, something new upon which to hang the blame for our current economic woes?  Look forward for a sec with Umair Haque of the Havas Media Lab, as he lays down a road map for Capitalism 2.0:  The Smart Growth Manifesto.  Its basic pillars are:

1. Outcomes, not income.
2. Connections, not transactions.
3. People, not product.
4. Creativity, not productivity.

Read the whole short thought-starter of a piece right here: http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/haque/2009/01/davos_discussing_a_depression.html

Monday, November 5, 2012

Someguy did this.

 AKA Brian Singer. The Coke/Pepsi analogy has been used a lot this election cycle by people disgruntled by this lousy two-party system of ours. "Someguy" went out and made it real. You can see his site here: http://www.iamsomeguy.com/

Friday, November 2, 2012

Viral schmiral redux

One thing we never promise to create for a client is a viral video.  Who the hell knows what is going to 'go viral' and what is not?  Not us - people find a crazy variety of things to be wildly fascinating, some of which we might not even find to be mildly fascinating.  

This beautifully executed video below has a paltry 20,000 hits on YouTube while the laughing farting cat has 1.7 million.  We love them both, of course, but might have put our money on the wrong horse in this race to engage the masses.  Don't get us wrong here: we're not saying that marketers shouldn't try to create a super contagious message, we're just saying that the best bet to make on going viral is to get a money back guarantee from anyone who promises they're gonna do it for you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Constant okayness?

A slow(ish) day at the office allowed us a fun personal(ish) project -- art directing this interesting quotation from Pema Chödrön. (Just in case you're wondering is she really truly all that badass, yes, she has TWO umlauts in her last name.) Soon, we'll be taking our massive digital file to our new, hot-shit local analog letterpress people to have it printed/pressed/molded onto a piece of impossibly thick paper. Can't wait. Call us if you want one, we just might share. (click on the image to see it bigger.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pascal Baes

Way back in the day. Early 90's perhaps. This guy was making the coolest videos we'd ever seen. The Paramount Hotel used him in for a series of commercials, which can be seen on this page from the now defunct Yellow House production company, which is now part of or known as DogAndPony. Enjoy thsi short non-commercial film, "Come back to factory". It's what we used to call video art and it's still impossibly cool stuff:


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Send your email marketing between 8 and 9!

MarketingProfs.com recently reported on a study from email marketing company GetResponse.com. Here's what they found: The study found that 23.63% of all email opens occur within the first hour after delivery. Within the second hour after delivery, the results drop by half.

 The top engagement times for email are as follows: in the mornings, 8 AM to 9 AM both for opens and click-throughs; and in the afternoons, 3 PM to 8 PM for opens, and 3 PM and 4 PM for click-throughs.

Monday, October 22, 2012


One of the nice things about volunteer design work is that we usually (not always, mind you) get to do something that we think is cool. This year, the local elementary school's fall festival was adding a bunch of new games and a new attitude and wanted a poster to reflect it. The upside down leaf is a fine symbol for fall, simple and clean, so we adopted it as one of our two design constants that we used throughout a series of posters relating to the event. The other was the autumnal color bar on the left of each poster. 

One other art directorial note here: sometimes when we get a long list of items to include in a printed piece, we like to treat that list as a design element rather than a list with bullet points or dashes or what-have-you. That's what we did here with the list of activities one could play at the fall fest. We think it not only looks great, but also is actually more inviting to read than a plain old stack of stuff.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Woodstock Film Festival

Well, the film festival has left town and with it the last glance of the season of impossibly hip movie and city types gracing the sidewalks and eateries of Woodstock. This year, after the umpteenth person mentioned that we should really do the poster art, we decided to share the creation we made for the film fest a few years back. It still looks good: Overlook mountain adorned with the famous sign, slightly jiggered for our needs:

Friday, October 19, 2012

What is branding? (or: the lazy KY)

What is branding?

Branding is the act of burning a letter-based design onto the side of livestock with a hot iron stamp.

It’s also the creation of an important, intellectual and emotional connection between a product or service and the consumer who may use it.

But let's stick to the cattle kind of branding for a while, because our pal Jim from Missouri explained it to us not too long ago and it seemed to present a lot of useful parallels for the modern day concept of "consumer" branding. Both leave indelible marks, both require a certain amount of skill to do just right, are easy to do wrong, and can be incredibly useful to protect or create profits.

Behold below an instructional image from the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association "Texas Brand Registration" page on "How to design a brand".

Front and center in this lovely chart we can find the Woodstock Organic Concepts rule #1 for creating a consumer brand: keep it simple. Complication equals confusion and let's not forget the words of the infamous cattleman Oscar Wilde, who said: "to define is to limit". The more we define the brand with needless complexities, the more we have defined it into a narrow corner. Pigeonholed our cow, so to speak. Not a good idea. Simplicity in the branding will allow for complexity in the messaging later, if that's really what we need.

Now let's look at the painting below: "The lazy K Y", by Charles Marion Russell. Look closely and you'll see a brand on the steer. The "K" is on its side so it's called a "lazy K" and the "Y" is to the right or below it so it's read second.  The brand is, as the title of the painting says: the lazy KY.

This brand, the lazy K Y, happens to be a really good brand. Why do you think? Here's what Jim from Missouri told us:

Well, for starters, it nicely embodies rule #1: it's simple -- a "K" on its side and a "Y". Not complicated in the least. Secondly, the letters are not easily transformed into different letters by the addition of lines. Here's what we mean . . . take the letter "F" for example, burned onto the side of a hypothetical cow. A cattle rustler could, with the simple addition of a short arced line, transform the "F" into a "P". A branding design flaw. A vulnerability. In the same way, an "I" could be easily turned into a "T" or a "V" into a Lazy "A". (an upside down "A"). Not good at all, but it brings us to . . . 

Branding rule #2: make it ownable for you and not ownable by your competition. Now this is a great rule but there are a lot of ways to do it. One way is to cultivate your brand's honest eccentricities, i.e., what is it that your brand has that your competition does not. Kent cigarettes famous "Micronite filter" from the Mad Men days or Ivory soap's "99 44/100% pure", which is still in use today. No competitive brand can make those claims, as opposed to, say, Nike sportswear company's claim "Just do it." Those 3 words, so well-owned by Nike, could actually be used by lots of different companies: "Weight watchers . . . Just do it!", your local car wash or bowling alley, and "Trojan" to name a few. It's just not inherently ownable.  BUT!!! Nike has spent a gadjillion dollars connecting those words and the thoughts behind them to their company. And now they really and truly own that sentiment. So that's another way to own it: burn it into people's heads with repetition on a large scale.

So back to the lazy K Y, it's a brand identity that could be put on anything: a cow, a horse, a barn, a ring, a t-shirt, a print ad. It's versatile. Which brings us to branding rule #3: it should work everywhere -- in all media and for every story your company needs to tell. The brand part is the umbrella under which all your communications can comfortably fit. If you're Volvo and you need to introduce consumers to a new car, you can tell them about the engine and the suspension and the chassis and the interior and you can discuss how all those important elements add to the overall safety of the vehicle, that is, you can discuss them all under the umbrella of "safety".

But the branding here goes both ways: the micro feeds the macro and vice versa. The details support the umbrella, which in turn shades the details. It's what we here at Woodstock Organic Concepts have dubbed a "reinforcing branding loop": the details validate the overarching brand idea which validates the details and so on ad infinitum. And ad nauseum, too: it works in all media: print, radio, tv, web, outdoor, etc. WHEN it's executed just right.

Another strength of the lazy K Y brand is that when it's executed, it's not likely to become confusing. Just suppose you're burning that brand onto your cow and you hold the iron in place a little too long or maybe the cow's hide is wet and the lines you intended spread out and fill in in ways you didn't intend. Well, in the case of the KY, those lines are not likely to touch, so they're not likely to be confusing. They radiate out from their centers and are easily recognizable. Which brings us to branding rule #4: make it clear. This will help you to avoid creating confusion in the minds of consumers when things go well and even when things don't. You can probably guess by now why the lazy QO might be confusing. Beware of traps like that.

To review: simple, ownable, versatile and clear. These are the elements of good branding. (As we've identified so far.) Piece of cake. Now let's look at some examples. In the marketing arena, not the livestock arena. Who are the companies that elicit an immediate visceral reaction just when you hear their name or see their logo? -- Apple. Volvo. Nike. Starbucks. Google. To name a few. Not surprisingly these companies, these brands, beyond creating an emotional connection, have backed it up with an intellectual underpinning: smart, safe, striving, delicious, helpful (respectively). This combination of appeal to both emotion and intellect creates the simplest, most versatile, clearest, and most ownable branding.

It's something that every company, big or small, should have to help them communicate most effectively with their clients. It's the difference between generic and premium.  Between "that'll do" and "I've gotta have it". It's the difference between a product and a brand.

Branding, as the landing page of our site puts it, is the speciality of Woodstock Organic Concepts: "helping clients to better understand and leverage their inherent strengths in an increasingly competitive marketplace." Let us help you create your brand. It's what we do.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Email creative case study

After the post below about email marketing, we were cajoled into sharing some of our creative in this arena.  All of the work went out through Constant Contact, unless otherwise noted and most of the CC templates included links to registration forms and donate now buttons and whatnot. As soon as we get the quantitative info from the client, we'll share that too.

Our simple rule for email creative, a great image (not too large) and fun copy. Click on this link to see a big batch of e-creative and let us know how we did: http://woodstockorganicconceptscasestudies.blogspot.com/2012/10/creative-case-study.html

Friday, September 28, 2012

Our primer on email marketing

Well, we just finished doing a big email marketing campaign for a client and so, as it always goes, we get a bunch of inquiries from other clients, current and potential, asking us how to work this very effective media. Well, taking our own advice (see #6 below), we've posted our email response here. We'll tweet it later.

A dozen tips for a successful email campaign

1) Have a great list

You could buy or borrow a list, but the best names on your email list are the ones of people who have actually asked to be there. Make sure your website, your blog and your social media all offer an opportunity for people to sign up for email news. Likewise whenever you’re out in the real world, at conferences or trade shows or anywhere you might go.  Also, don’t forget that your emails themselves may be forwarded around, so always include a sign up link in the email itself.

2) Create content, borrow content, make it relevant

Content is king. Tell a story or, preferably, use a real anecdote that is going to be helpful to your target. Illustrate how your goods or services solved a problem or increased sales, as seen here or here.

Use client success stories, testimonials, relevant content found on the web, and so on and so on . . . take it (with proper attribution of course) and use it and make it make sense for your clients, as seen here.

3) Make it “about them” rather than “about us”

Your company should be seen as a problem solver, not as a shill. Your readers don’t really care about your company unless it can solve some of their problems. Keep this in mind always.

4) Pull them in deeper

Creating hyperlinks that lead your readers away from your email actually helps build long term loyalty. In each email, try to include one link that leads outside of your company (click here) and one that leads inside, to your website or blog, for example.

5) Make a record, create a library, be the expert. Blog.

A blog allows you to create a permanent record of all your success stories in one easy to use, searchable location. Use it frequently and it will make you look like the expert you actually are. Every email should include a passive link or an active redirection to your blog.

6) Repurpose, reuse, reach more

If you wrote it for email, maybe it could be a blog post.  If you wrote it for your blog, maybe you should tweet it, if you tweeted it, you should probably pop it up on facebook.

And if it’s worth doing all that, it’s even more worth doing it all again. Reach and frequency are the classic measures of advertising media, but for some reason these days, many people don’t think to send their message out more than once.

In fact, reposting in any format can increase reach by up to 50%. Think about how you personally use social media: you’re on at a particular time of the day, day after day. If someone posts updates during the times you’re not there, you might just miss them.

7) Find content from within

Invite all your employees to blog about your goods or services and how they work in real world situations for real world users. There are no better experts than your own employees. Let your customers hear from them -- many of the questions your clients or potential clients might have about your goods and services will be answered in this way.

Mine these posts as a source of email content.


Keep It Simple, Make It Fun. If you have a more complicated story to tell, tell it after the jump with a link so that your readers won’t get bogged down with it unless they want to.

9) Write a good headline!!!

Even the Nigerian 419 scammers know this much. 

10) Send test emails

Send them to friends on Macs and friends on PC’s. Send them to androids and iphones. Make sure your email (and any included images) works in all formats.

11) Analyze, repeat, delete

Most mass email programs (such as Constant Contact, MailChimp or iContact) allow you to see how your various emails are performing. Without feedback, there can be no learning. Pay attention to what’s working or not and soon enough, you’ll develop a nice feel for email marketing.

12) Update your great list

Take care to delete those who have asked to be removed, delete duplicates, add new contacts. Update it after every single mailing; it’ll be best for everyone.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Well, a friend of a friend put us in touch with the proprietor of this cool start-up that restores vintage tube amplifiers. They needed a logo for their name: Vintage Vacuum Audio.  We did a whole bunch of logos, generated free hand and in photoshop. Many of them really nice work. And then, casting about the world of high-end audio refurbishment, we saw a sine curve on an oscilloscope and lo and behold! there it was: VVA. Right there in the fancy equipment used to repair the fancy equipment. We love it when luck checks in to the creative process.

Just the frackin' facts, ma'am

When the Catskill Mountainkeeper came knocking on our door looking for an anti-fracking campaign, we'd already seen lawn signs all over the state, most of them making a not-too-clever-but-still-kinda-effective play on the similarity between the words "frack" and "fuck." And so naturally, we wanted to do something different. 
The facts about fracking, the ACTUAL facts are fairly disturbing from an environmental point of view. The question is how to get them out there in an impactful way. That's where Cheltenham bold hd comes in handy. It's the font used on New York Times headlines. Automatically adds an air of authority to the facts. And for media, we took it out of the front yards and into a medium that imparts a little more authority: billboards.

But wait! Don't stop there! Who's gonna sign off the ads? If these were "signed" by the Catskill Mountainkeeper, people might automatically write them off as mere tree-hugging cry-baby propaganda. So we created the US Energy Commission.  DOT ORG! A website that would have explained more of the actual facts about fracking's environmental impact.

And that's it, a slightly subversive campaign to win friends and influence people. Or at least it woulda been. Our contact at the Catskill Mountainkeeper org didn't like it for some reason that we can no longer remember. And it died a lonely death only to live on in the annals of ads we wished we'd done.

Dr. John

We don't usually go in for spec. work, but the opportunity to pitch some website ideas for Dr. John was just too evocative to pass up. We came up with two ideas, both pretty fun, but judge for yourself. The top one would be a sculptural object -- an old apothecary/voodoo cabinet with live buttons throughout, and the bottom one is a flowchart mapping the many worlds the good Dr. inhabits.

Brownie branding mini-case study

Once in a while we get called in to help with a name. It almost always spills over into logo and branding. Cause, really, what's in a name?  The world of successful consumer brands with crappy names is huge. Smucker's even made a whole ad campaign (complete with SNL parody) on THIS VERY TOPIC years ago.

However, in this case, the existing name represented a missed opportunity. The name that came into our office was "Sweet girl brownie company." We felt that "sweet" was a wasted word since "brownie" already connotes sweetness. So we changed the name to Happy girl brownie company, feeling that "happy", a word describing emotions, added something to the story rather than just fluffing up what's already there.

The client also had an illustration they'd found online that they liked. A cute, big-eyed girl who would be their spokes model.  We liked it well enough and sent them off to an illustrator to make it their own.

In the meantime, we mocked it up as a potential label on brown paper and kinda dug the way it looked. Then we found a kid's drawing lying around the office and we all fell straight in love with it -- it resonated so deeply with the innocent bliss of eating a brownie. We loved it, the client loved it. Now let's see how it flies.

Well, we did it again. We weren't going to, but this was the 60th anniversary and all, so when the fine folks at WAAM called to ask us to produce this concert again, we kinda couldn't say no. And, as often happens, we ended up well rewarded for our involvement.

To begin with, the talent. Ooooooh, the talent.  Jazz legend Karl Berger agreed to perform and Cage biographer and iconic art critic Kay Larson agreed to speak.  Honest to goodness, what a treat to get such heavyweights involved. In a FREE concert!!

If you want to read more about it, click on the alphabetical press release here. Otherwise, just take our word for it: it was freakin' awesome and we were sincerely honored to be involved.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

More theatre posters!

We love doing the theatre posters, especially when it means free tickets.  Here below are two posters for Waiting for Godot, in which fearless leader plays a tyrannical slave driver.  No comment.