Following a Client on Instagram, Not Just LinkedIn

Clients. We know ‘em. We love ‘em. But if we asked you how many kids Bob has, would you know the answer?

At AC&C, the importance of client management goes far beyond completing tasks and providing strategic value. When you think of successful client management you probably think of providing weekly reports, following up, showing up to meetings on time and prepared, and planning their annual Christmas gift. Sure those things are nice, but they’re expected from you and it may even make you feel like a robot.

Take the opportunity to pour some oil on your tin body and start thinking of your clients as people too. Here are 4 simple rules I stand by when developing a relationship with a client:

1. Be Open and Bold

Marketing is fun and creative. We get the opportunity to come to work every day with a fresh, new perspective. Don’t hold back on the new and creative ways to market their business, be bold in your recommendations.

2. Developing Trust

We treat our clients as real partners. They trust our account team with very important tasks and confidential information. Trust didn’t just happen though. They trust us because they have come to know Ali and our team personally, and vice versa.

3. Celebrate Big and Small Wins

Is your client having a big life event happening? Did your marketing campaign bring in brand new leads? Send them a note, take them out to lunch for their birthday, and bring them their favorite coffee order every now and then.

4. Let’s Get to Business (in five minutes)

Every meeting doesn’t have to jump right into a lengthy agenda. Give yourself time to catch up on life with your client and allow them to share updates on what’s been going on with them in their personal and professional life. Your agenda will wait for you.

Working alongside each one of my clients is truly what I look forward to most. All of our clients and their respecting businesses are different, so we shouldn’t treat them all the same either. Invest the time to get to know them and then continue to produce perfect work with each task they entrust you with.

BRB, I have a lunch date with a client friend in 10 minutes!

How Storytelling Informs Design

In this saturated marketing industry, everyone is trying to do the same thing: tell a story.

Whether you’re designing a poster for a non-profit event or creating an Instagram post about your new coffee shop, everyone is sharing their story with others. The way you visually design that story can make all the difference between someone engaging with your message or completely ignoring it.

Storytelling is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “the activity of telling or writing stories.” Simple enough, but how you tell that story is incredibly important, and that’s what graphic design is all about! Most importantly, storytelling informs graphic design by presenting the challenge to communicate your message through visuals rather than through written or spoken mediums.

Let’s take a walk on the “Successful Storytelling” beach, shall we? To highlight the awesome food growers in our area who are members of HeyTurlock, I created the “#SupportLocal” campaign which ran through the month of September – the peak of Farmer’s Market season. As the lead content creator at HeyTurlock, I was both writer and graphic designer for this campaign, making the planning process more streamlined.

Blog header designed by Nick Lazar for HeyTurlock

What’s the Story?

The very first thing to do when starting a new design is to establish your goal(s). How do you want people to feel? What do you want people to know? What do you want them to do? For example, the goal of the #SupportLocal campaign was to celebrate the local farmers and artisans in Turlock and promote a sense of unity in the community. No matter what I was going to design, it had to all go back to this central narrative.

Draw People In

The best way to get people interested in your story is to entice them with your visuals. People will keep scrolling through their feed if your artwork isn’t eye-catching. I chose to incorporate minimal text in the graphics, but just enough for them to stop scrolling and dig for more information. The warm color palette and enticing visuals of fruit also add intrigue to the campaign.

Authenticity is Key

People love stories that are relatable and accessible. In a world where everyone can filter and edit their appearance to perfection, more organic and imperfect images stand out. Because of this, illustration is becoming a trend in design for several brands, and I chose to apply that to the #SupportLocal campaign. Hand drawing the fruit illustrations in my sketchbook, then scanning them into my computer to manipulate gave the whole campaign a textured and authentic feel that conveyed the ‘home-grown’ feeling I wanted people to identify with.

Incorporate Your Story into Your Design

Remember that the overall goal of graphic design is to convey a message. Yes, you should make it stand out, but make sure your design has elements that tie back to your story. Since the message of this campaign was to support local food growers, I chose to hand letter the campaign title and make it the central focus of the design. The illustrations all frame the main message of the campaign, showing that supporting local industries is fun and inviting.

Pro Tip: Ask a coworker who isn’t on the project to take a look at your artwork. Unbiased feedback always gives you a good grasp on the success of your work.

Read the HeyTurlock #SupportLocal blog post here!

Pre-Production: The Importance of a Shot List

By Phil Short, Video Director

Video has no doubt become the most engaging and effective method of storytelling that people and businesses use to convey a message to viewers. With so many videos being made and content being shared, a lot of businesses are trying to figure out how to do it themselves.

The process of video production can be a daunting one. A production can arguably be as simple as someone with a smartphone shooting a quick vlog post in their bedroom to as complex as a movie set in Hollywood. The differences between those levels of production are vast but one thing that all successful video productions should be doing is spending the necessary time in the pre-production phase. One of the most vital steps of pre-production is a shot list.

A shot list is typically put together after you have finalized your script or at least some kind of vision board that allows you to decide what footage you need to capture to tell your story, and at its simplest form is a checklist for production. It includes information that instructs the production crew of all the details they need to know to get the right shot, at the right location, with the right equipment and also in the most efficient order.

Let’s break down the components of a basic shot list and along the way, discuss the benefits of each so you can decide what information you might want to use on your next project.

Scene/Shot/Take Numbers Not all productions will require you to label your shot list via scene, shot and take number, but this can be extremely helpful to keep everything organized through the life of the production. This naming convention can then be integrated with your import/log process of the footage after the shoot and no matter who ends up handling the post-production, there will be no question what each and every video clip is and what order it is intended to be edited in.

Location Including the location of each preferred shot in your shot list can help divide up your production day(s) in the most efficient way possible. Let’s say your story starts outside at a park, then moves to a coffee shop, then ends up back at the park. The shot list order should always be organized around the best way to capture the best version of each shot and in the most efficient order for production. This will allow less set up and strike time for the crew, fewer instances of traveling between locations, and helps to consider all variables related to the location of each shot.

Talent Who will be on camera? Similar to location, knowing who will be on camera can be a variable used to decide shot order. This will also be used to create the call-times for talent.

Interior/Exterior Specifying whether a shot is occurring inside or outside is very helpful in determining what gear will be needed to bring on set. Specifying time of day can help in considering the amount of sunlight that will be available during production, which is a very important factor when shooting outdoors than indoors, for instance.

Shot Size/Framing Now we’re getting into the fun stuff.  How will you want to frame the shot? Wide shot? Mid-close? Over the shoulder? Outlining the framing of each shot before you’re on set can save huge amounts of time during the shoot and can really position you for success during the editing process. I prefer to think of the most pivotal shots in the story and outline the framing of those first, then work around those shots to move into and out of those pivotal frames.

Equipment For low-budget productions, the equipment can be as simple as an iPhone, but outlining any specific equipment that is required for each shot can help organize what needs to be prepped and packed along for the shoot. You don’t want to be the reason why a shoot is delayed because no one brought the necessary camera or piece of lighting gear. It can add up very quickly in production costs for simply not planning appropriately. A comprehensive shot list can do wonders when creating your gear list, so don’t skip this step!

Duration Including the expected length of a shot can have a large effect on the equipment that is required for the shoot. Many shots are 2-5 seconds long, but others can be a static interview set up that lasts as long as an hour.

Sound Depending on the size of your crew, detailing sound requirements will indicate to the sound engineer whether or not the subject on camera or the scene itself needs to have the production audio captured and what kind of gear will be required. This will also be important to know if it needs to be “quiet on the set” for audio isolation purposes of a given shot. Sound quality is often neglected with low-budget productions and can have a dramatic negative effect on the overall viewing experience of your content. Go the extra mile when it comes to capturing quality sound, and you won’t regret it.

Not all of this information may be required for your shot list, especially if you aren’t working on a movie set. But the next time you’re thinking about starting any kind of video, think through your project and come up with a shot list when preparing for your production date(s). You’ll find that the fewer details you have to be thinking about on the shoot day, the more you’ll be able to actually be in the moment on set and be sure that you captured every scene, shot, and take.

80/20: A Process for Tasty Results!

By Hannah Chance, Lead Graphic Designer

If you swing by our office on any given day, chances are you’ll hear someone say, “Remember the 80/20 rule!” Usually, it’s right before we start a project, and it’s to remind ourselves of this: Plan and think before putting all the pieces together.

Think of it this way: You’re making dinner and the recipe says it will take one hour to prep and cook. Now you wouldn’t just take all of the unmeasured ingredients, dump them into a skillet and wait an hour, would you? Nope! There are vegetables to chop, meat to season, and sauce to be made. Without taking the necessary steps, nothing would cook properly, ingredients would be added at the wrong time, and the meal would not taste or look as intended. Bottom line? Gross.

In hindsight, the recipe probably called for 40 minutes of prep time and 20 minutes of actual cooking. You would sort out which ingredients belong to which group, chop, season, sauté, and mix accordingly. What you get when you take the time to prep is a delicious, ready-to-eat meal.

Design must begin with prep. When it comes to a new project, the 80% part of the design process begins with a conversation with the Account Team to review the creative brief. We walk through the purpose and final goal of the project. From there, we decide on a creative direction that will fit all the requirements. Sometimes we exchange questions: Does it need to be a bigger document? Where will it exist and for how long? Does it all align with the client’s overall purpose? We brainstorm, sketch, and iterate, iterate, iterate until we are ready to refine to the final stages.

The 20% portion is when I head to my computer with a load of information, sketches, and clear direction for putting it all together. This is the beautiful moment when content and form merge. It moves swiftly because we have done all of the prepping. This is ALL a part of the #designprocess. Brainstorming is key to a successful outcome. You can defend the result because every piece has a purpose and a reason.

Think. Brainstorm. Have good ideas. Have ideas in general! Get it all out of your head and onto paper. Refer back to the strategy. Question if it all makes sense. Come up with a million more ideas. Edit, edit, edit. Aha! Things make sense! Time to make it come to life.

The next time you have a project, consider taking the 80/20 approach before you get overwhelmed with the task at hand. Take a step back, look at the ingredients, prep them, ask questions, make lists, sketch it out, pop the product into the oven, and voilà! You have an AC&C casserole! Is anyone else suddenly super hungry?

Rebrand, Reuse, Recycle: Why Your Business Needs to Change

Whoever said that in order to foster a strong relationship with your audience your brand must never change, didn’t understand the advantages of brand evolvement.

There are numerous reasons as to why revamping a brand is beneficial. For starters, colors, and fonts that were once upon a time popular go out of style and eventually look outdated. This is unappealing to the audience and makes the company look out of touch.

Following that point, change is good, we believe that a brand must always reflect your company values and products or services you offer. It’s your lens and perspective in the world.

An example of a company that knocked it out of the park with their rebrand is Tender Greens. As a restaurant whose brand identity is heavily associated with sustainability and homegrown cuisine, their original logo did convey that their food was organic and healthy but it wasn’t an accurate representation of their menu that went further than just salads. (Not to mention that artificial lettuce illustration and non-organic handwritten font.)

Old Tender Greens Logo

Pentagram, the agency responsible for their new logo explains how the “g” design is expressed, “The treatment of the ‘g’ helps shift the focus away from the name as a whole and puts the emphasis on the food, where it should be.” Their new logo now incorporates a modern, bold font with the “g” evoking a pan and plate, implying how their food is prepared.

Their logo not only reflects their company standards for locally sourced dishes but also incorporates their brand name in a clever way.

Tip: If you’re too intimidated to take the leap for a complete brand refresh, then start off with launching a campaign to test your limits. By doing something different with a temporary campaign, you can play with designs and find what works for you and your brand along the way.

Tender Green’s logo demonstrates that it’s okay to be playful with your brand. In fact, you have no choice but to think outside the box when consumers are floundered with advertisements left and right. Embrace change and keep pushing your brand forward!

In Praise of Old-Fashioned Media Relations

By Ali Cox

In the age of self-promotion, self-publishing, and self-everything, it’s rare to announce a new endeavor through the press. Over the course of my career, though, there have been a few special times when I’ve had the privilege of doing so.

I believe in journalism and public relations. I have a traditional PR background. In my younger days, I worked for the agencies Ketchum and Emanate and was part of the $21.5 million Series A announcement for the now-defunct Aereo TV.

But those experiences were 10 years ago — a lifetime when it comes to PR. Journalism has changed in that time, and PR has evolved tremendously, too. My employees might think I’m rambling about the good ol’ days here, but I’m not. I’m a marketer, and I love telling stories through many mediums.

One of those stories is that of First & Main. It’s a new restaurant in downtown Turlock, and it’s been a wonderful brand development project for AC&C. Our detailed project management has included social media content, a logo, a menu, signage design, and — of course — PR. In this case, we went the traditional route in addition to announcing the new restaurant via social media.

This project has reminded me of how much excellent journalism matters. I worked with Marijke Rowland from the Modesto Bee directly, as well as with reporters from the Turlock Journal. There is a time and place for professional journalism and PR practitioners to work hand in hand, and this restaurant is a stellar example of how the relationship can unfold beneficially. It’s been a pleasure to work with these news outlets and to serve as collaborators.

Of course, we’ll continue our work with First & Main on social media. That’s what savvy marketers do these days. But we’re grateful for the boost that traditional media has given this deserving restaurant, which promises to be a bedrock of downtown Turlock for years to come.

Learn more about First & Main through the Modesto Bee article and Turlock Journal article. Follow First & Main on Instagram @firstandmainturlock.

Why Gen Z is Your New Main Target

We’re all used to hearing about millennials and their stereotypes, but what about the up-and-coming Gen Z?

Generation Z (often abbreviated as Gen Z) is the demographic cohort that follows the millennial generation. Those who were born between 1995 and 2010 are typically referred to as Gen Z.

Fun fact: Gen Z is the largest generation yet with 61 million individuals in the United States ranging from ages 7 to 22 years, according to Bloomberg reports. In fact, they’re estimated to have a spending power of $143 billion each year.

Besides their spending power, there are three other major traits that set this generation apart: 1) Gen Z is the first to be considered “social media natives” who have only known iPhones, 2) they have always had access to the Internet and 3) they love video.

Gen Z is also considered to be curious, crave authenticity, and “want to be part of the solution and make a difference” as explained by Caitlin Mullen, author of “How Brands are Working to Capture Gen Z Dollars”. 

So why does this matter to us marketers?

Since Gen Z’s values are different than previous generations, their purchasing decisions are based more on personal principles and whether companies’ missions, goals, and values align with their own. “77 percent told Inmar Research they respond to advertisements that show people in real-life situations,” Mullen said.   

You should also take note that this generation’s go-to social media apps are Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube.

So what does that mean for us as content marketers who target Gen Z?

Since Gen Z has such a huge amount of power over our revenue stream and they consume information in a new way, our messaging has to cater to their interests and the mediums we use to advertise that message has to run through those outlets they spend the most time on. In other words, if we don’t revolutionize our advertising strategies to keep up with the new generation, we won’t see much of an ROI.

It is also important to keep in mind how this generation is making buying decisions when strategizing your next campaign. Tailor your messaging so that your service or product is conveyed as a relevant and positive addition to their life while keeping the authenticity alive.

Being progressive with your marketing tactics in order to reach (and convert!) Gen Z will help your clients stay ahead of the curve. #GenZ2020

Thumb vs Ad: Battling the New “Skip” Button with Millennials

As our world becomes more technologically advanced, advertising becomes more & more prevalent in our everyday lives. From a business perspective, understanding how to optimize the maximum bang for your business’s buck is essential for creating eye-catching advertising that converts and doesn’t fall prey to the thumb scroll.

Here are 3 steps to take when crafting a campaign that’s tailored to millennials:

Step 1: Be Authentic!

Think about how you navigate Facebook or Instagram. You scroll through your feed that’s filled with pictures and status updates from family and friends. If you saw an obvious advertisement come across your screen, you’d probably just keep exercising your thumb, but the best ads camouflage themselves authentically into your feed.

In order for a company to stop your thumb, their ad must not scream “I’m an ad!!”. It has to be creative enough to blend in with the newsfeed for someone to be captivated and grab their attention. It should look like something they normally see in their feed.

Step 2: Accessibility Do’s & Don’ts

Once you’ve earned the attention of the user, the ad has to be easily accessible for the user to remain interested.

DO:

  • Highlight the best parts of the product
  • Include a brief call-to-action
  • Keep the user wanting/looking for more information

DON’T:

  • Reveal too much about the offer
  • Add too many external links
  • Overwhelm your users

Step 3: Sell a Feeling, Not a Product

Remember that emotions drive our behavior and users associate how you make them feel with your brand, just like they do in their everyday lives with strangers. You’re more likely to ignite them to take action with an ad when appealing to the emotional part of their brain. For example, read the captions below and take note on how they make you feel.

Salesy Example:

New smoothie flavor is here, but only for a limited time. Come buy it!

Emotional Example:

Sip on this new smoothie flavor after soaking in the sun. You deserve it.

See? No one is convinced to buy something from a tin man, but they may be a little bit more inclined if you’re able to make them feel like they should buy it.

Follow these steps the next time you’re brainstorming an attention-grabbing ad and you’ll be on your way to creating a cult, rather than just a customer.

The Upside of Not Having A Clue About Ag

By Marvin Hooker, Account & Analytics Director

In this industry, you’ll find that most agencies have an area of expertise or a niche that they tend to cater to. At AC&C, we are definitely the Agriculture experts. This may seem like you have to have an ag background, come from an ag family, or know a lot about ag to join our agency…Fun fact – that’s not necessarily true! My name is Marvin and I am the Account and Analytics Director.

In my case, you could say I was raised on the asphalt and not on the soil or in an orchard, or vineyard…or any other name you can think of for an ag property. I grew up in a military household moving around from city to city. Moving made me curious and want to learn about each new city we ended up in.  This gave me some leverage when feeling out of place because I would ask a lot of questions. After all, having the curiosity and eagerness to learn are qualities we look for when hiring and they’re qualities that will lead to success in the long run.

Not having a clue about ag really piqued my interest to understand the industry, learn where our food came from, and get to know the people that grow it.

Not having a clue also inspired me to ask my boss a million questions about the industry. I wanted to know everything, and everything was new to me.

I wanted to know all of it. Anytime I got “car time” on the way to a meeting with the boss lady, Ali, I used to ask, “What kind of tree is that? What vegetables are growing there? How come there is so much water in that orchard?” Now I drive around town and catch myself saying things like, “Oh, those are almond trees…walnuts coming up on the left! I’m not sure what crop that is, but I’m going to find out. Look at those tomatoes growing!” I worked hard on educating myself about the industry so I would be confident when speaking with clients, and most importantly, understand their stories so we could tell it correctly.

I also remember being out on a video shoot in the middle of an almond orchard and asking our client about something on one of the almond trees. He said, “No one has ever asked me that question before.” It goes to show that even if you don’t have a clue about the topic at hand, don’t be afraid to ask all the questions!

By now I’ve been on more than three dozen shoots, ranging from interviews in an orchard, flying a drone over planting machines, harvesting tomatoes, going to Oregon to film cattle, and interviewing ag accountants in a bean field.

These days, I could talk about ag all day long, but I’ll save that for another blog post because the moral of this one is that you shouldn’t be afraid to try to join our team because you don’t have an ag background. Better yet, don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams at any agency because you feel like you don’t know enough about something. Shoot your shot and prove your worth. I did, and I’ve grown to love an industry that provides so much to our nation and meet so many genuine people who make it happen.

Ali Cox on Ag Marketing & Olympics to Digital Rage Podcast

Our CEO, Ali Cox, was recently featured on the podcast, Digital Rage, a show that covers topics concerning marketing and technology, hosted by Matt Ramage and Jeff Byer. On the podcast, Ali reminisced upon her experience as an Olympian and shared her insights on the Ag Marketing industry.

In 2004, Ali competed in the Olympics as a rower, in Athens, Greece, after making the women’s eight rowing boat.

“The Olympics were very hard, obviously. Training is typically six and a half days a week. It requires an extraordinary amount of teamwork, but then, also, a lot of independent grit and just confidence in yourself… ,” mentions Ali.

“It was an amazing team experience, and really has positioned me well for my career,” said Cox. As founder and CEO of Ali Cox & Company Marketing (AC&C), Ali mentions that her pivotal life experience has, in turn, translated to her position as CEO.

“How I run our business and our agency is with a team-first perspective. Most of our team members touch all of our work and work very collaboratively. We are there to support each other, and I think that really was cemented from rowing the Olympics,” says Ali.

Located in the heartland of California agriculture, AC&C serves a diverse group of farmers and growers in the area and provides them with the tools to keep their business thriving. We develop innovative marketing strategies for our clients, assist with grower relations through email marketing, and provide a full videography team to create compelling storytelling.

As a fifth-generation farmer, Ali chose to focus primarily on Ag marketing because she saw an opportunity and necessity to give cultivators a platform to share their experiences in the industry.

“We want growers to feel comfortable telling their stories. By nature, farmers are very gritty, confident, quiet, and hardworking,” explains Ali.

“It’s not first nature for them to go and tell their stories to the world. We work to help growers tell stories that are very authentic, based on whomever their audience is and understanding, right now, that audience is global.”

With the ever-changing technology in today’s world, AC&C also supports their clients with adapting to each new innovative tech that rolls out in the ag industry as well as the marketing industry. From smartphones to electronic moisture sensors, to privately owned weather stations, Ali knows the immense amount of modernization that is taking place in farming operations.

“California ag, in particular, is innovating very rapidly. While yes, we require a lot of resources to do our jobs, we, unapologetically, are moving, adopting, and adapting,” says Ali.

One case study that makes Ali proud is the Monte Vista Farming Company project.

“The CEO [Jonathan Hoff] is very innovative. He’s a younger CEO and steadfast advocate of ag and the California almond industry.”

Ali recalls a risk Hoff took when developing a new website with AC&C for his company. “I am so proud of that website…It really was Jonathan, the CEO, saying ‘Let’s just go for it, let’s do something different’”.

The risk paid off – Ali mentions that the Monte Vista Farming Company has developed strong relationships with partners because of their transparent and traceable process in the plant we took the same approach with their video and website strategy.

Ali credits Monte Vista Farming’s growth to their willingness to take a chance and be original. “Now, they’re so successful and growing their tonnage, and have deep relationships with their growers and customers.”

This courage to take strategic risks and mission to deliver authentic marketing campaigns has kind of become the secret sauce of our agency. Bon appétit!

Digital Rage issues new podcasts every week, highlighting the newest topics concerning marketing and technology. To listen to the full episode, click HERE.