Monthly Archives: March 2012

Mobile Trends 2012

The use of mobile devices continues to grow as an extension of our work and social life. Here are some mobile trends:

1. Location-Based Services (LBS): The big buzz at SXSW was about geo-location apps, including Highlight, a “social discovery” app that sells itself as a “fun, simple way to learn more about the people around you,” and Glancee––both of these apps notify you when people with common friends or interests are located near you … and yes, this does seem creepy to me.

3. Mobile Commerce: As of February, there were more smartphones in American hands than basic cell phones, and if this trend persists, mobile commerce will continue to grow at an impressive rate. It is predicted that mobile commerce will grow almost 74% next year.

4. Near-Field Communication (NFC): Predicted to be the replacement for the QR code, NFC will become very important in 2012, allowing information to be uploaded to your mobile device with a wave of the device over a transmitter. Contactless payments will also become prominent this year. In the not-too-distant future, we could be swiping our mobile devices at subway stations or bus stops instead of carrying around MetroCards.

5. Object Recognition: Snapping a picture of an item could soon give you the information you need, including nearby stores with it on sale. This could be extremely helpful for the visually impaired––for example, when a customer is shopping in a supermarket, he or she could aim a smartphone at an item and the phone could say what it is.

Author: Susan Hallinan

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Vanguard Direct Expands Into Mobile With Mobile Hires

Vanguard Direct provides both creative and technology solutions.  As a company, we’re ever evolving and our success is based on listening to our clients’ needs and building the resources and capabilities to address those needs.  What’s more, we remain committed to growing in the digital and mobile space.

VANGUARD DIRECT EXPANDS INTO MOBILE WITH NEW HIRES
New York, March 29, 2012 — Vanguard Direct, a leader in communications solutions, announced today that it has expanded its firepower in the digital and mobile space by bringing in four new mobile- and tablet-oriented associates.

The new team includes Dana Farbo, Thomas Miller, Nomi Kaplan, and Ken Palen, — all formerly of Imano Inc.

In his new role as DIRECTOR OF NEW MEDIA, DANA FARBO, a leader and innovator in web campaigns, dynamic content delivery, and digital publishing, brings his expertise in mobile and a strong marketing background to the company’s proven client service model.

THOMAS MILLER, as CREATIVE DIRECTOR, NEW MEDIA, will combine his background in magazine design and publishing with in-depth knowledge of custom mobile development solutions for smartphones and tablets, helping the company’s design team bridge the gap between conventional print and the age of the iPad.

As a CREATIVE PROJECT MANAGER, NOMI KAPLAN will bring freshness and new insights to day-to-day client communication, and will help to bring mobile and web solutions to the table alongside traditional technologies. And KEN PALEN, coming in as SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE, NEW MEDIA, is
engaged in the cutting edge world of iPhone, iPad, and Android app design and development, helping customers enhance their communications, training and customer engagement efforts.

“This talent set clearly supports our new brand positioning,” said Robert O’Connell, Vanguard Direct President, “and not only helps Vanguard grow in the digital and mobile space, but will allow us to introduce state-of-the-art digital and mobile projects in order to grow and support current and prospective clients.”

Adds Director of Technology Services Preeti Sharma, “Bringing this team into the fold will further strengthen our ability to make powerful and compelling advances with mobile/tablet and creative services.”

Vanguard Direct, Inc., “The Take Charge People,” is the go-to agency for communications solutions. With 160+ employees, this privately held company was founded in 1976, is headquartered in New York, and has offices in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

Vanguard Direct was ranked fourth in the nation for marketing communication industry distributors in 2011. Profession affiliations include: American Marketing Association, PSDA, AIGA, NAPL, Direct Marketing Association (DMA), and PODi — The Digital Printing Initiative. Industries served include healthcare, finance, education, retail, and government.

SPECIALTIES
Marketing, technology services, software and website development, data and database management, creative, graphic design, production, distribution.

MEDIA CONTACT
Paul Wry
212.736.0770 ext. 172
paul@vanguarddirect.com

Click below for the full press release.
Vanguard Direct Press Release 3.29.12

Only Read This If You’re Really Creative

I’ve casually commented to close friends how the best ideas I’ve ever had have come when I’m in the bathroom. They’ve come in the form of creative solutions, conflict resolutions, or sometimes just better ways to be more efficient at a particular task. Yes, I owe a lot to my small bladder.

For years now, people have pondered over the creative geniuses of the world and asked where good ideas come from. What is it about these special people that gives them this ability? In Jonah Lehrer’s new book Imagine: How Creativity Works, as described by an article in The Economist, he argues that creativity lies in the potential nature of everyone. That, in fact, creativity is not a lofty gift held by a few. Instead, those who have a strong sense of the problem, those fully vested in the situation, will have the best possibility of finding a creative solution. (I’d argue that it also helps to spend a lot of time in the bathroom.)

Creativity comes to us in a variety of ways. The key seems to be the “freshness factor.” The freshness factor, a term I invented while clipping my fingernails, suggests that the best ideas come to us when we approach a problem from any perspective that is not current, relative, or the norm.

Lehrer supports this idea by talking about a company that is generating ideas and creating new products all the time: 3M. 3M, like Google, has a reputation for being progressive in the way it thinks about thinking. It has become the third-most innovative company in the world simply because of the emphasis it puts on employees taking time away from a problem. Those who work for 3M are often found wandering around and playing games. “This is because interrupting work with a relaxing activity lets the mind turn inward, where it can subconsciously puzzle over subtle meanings and connections,” writes The Economist reviewer. Believe it or not, our brains work quite hard when we daydream—an idea that seems counterintuitive.

CBS’s The Big Bang Theory was just pronounced the No. 1 show in syndication among viewers under 50, and because of this, TBS has become the No. 1 cable network with an average of 3 million viewers per BBT episode. The show is notorious for using real-life theoretical physics despite the average viewer understanding less than 5% of the math. In one episode, the character Sheldon is stuck on a physics problem. He decides that, rather than continue to unsuccessfully focus all his energies on the problem, he will instead do mundane activities. After a brief stint busing at The Cheesecake Factory, he discovers the answer he was looking for.

Not only do we find creativity by stepping away and redirecting our focus, but we also find it when we bring in outside minds and take risks. In marketing, it’s often the person who has no inside attachment to a project that we should rely on for that objective perspective. True, he or she may not have a sense of the client’s desires, but that outsider’s view may bring forth the unconventional idea that could lead to a better way of solving the problem.

If you work in advertising, a simple way of accomplishing this is by rotating your designers. So often we think it makes the most sense to have a designer or writer work with the same brand. Intuitively it makes sense—have the person who knows the brand the best work on the project. The reality is that people get drained. Ideas become stale. 3M requires its engineers to rotate constantly from department to department. This is also why companies who hire young, innovative thinkers tend to be ahead of the curve in terms of productivity and ideas. The naïveté of younger generations “comes with creative advantages,” Mr. Lehrer writes––experience and custom can get in the way of ideas.

You’ve probably noticed, or been a part of, large groups of friends who have a killer dynamic but often have little in common. In Imagine, Lehrer also talks about how bringing in varying perspectives, be they cultural or ethnic, can enhance an idea. It’s important, however, to recognize that group brainstorming sessions are actually a poor way of coming up with ideas. In its most effective form, brainstorming should involve separating and then coming together again to discuss ideas. The dynamic of the group will certainly play a large part when the group reforms.

I came across a great quote in my research for this post. William James wrote, “Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.” Simply put, constantly challenge yourself to approach situations without a preconceived notion of what to do next. Just because it’s been done one way for years past, doesn’t mean a better way doesn’t exist.

So. Maybe we all have the ability to come up with that one, great, big idea. Maybe creativity is nothing more than finding an answer in a way that incorporates a freshness factor. Genius, it seems, can be had by all. As for me, I’ll be puzzling my own genius in a private space; I think you know the one I mean.

Author: Eric Swenson

HP Delivers Seven New Digital Presses, but One Steals the Show!

A printing-related announcement from Israel is not something your local news conglomerate would cover, but to me it was the best news I’ve heard in a while! Two weeks ago, HP Indigo announced it will debut a 29″ Indigo seven-color digital press this May at Drupa (the world’s largest printing equipment exhibition, held in Düsseldorf). What this means in short is that any traditional commercial printing application can be reproduced digitally on this machine. If you follow the link above, you will also find that HP will be introducing six additional presses to its lineup along with the new 29″ Indigo.

Maybe I’m alone in this quest for a larger-format digital press, but I doubt it. Over and over again I find myself returning to traditional sheet-fed offset equipment because of the size restrictions of current digital equipment. Pocket folders, six-page brochures, oversized posters––the list goes on. Well, look no further––HP and Indigo have created a product that can (and I think will) take traditional offset off the market.

The HP Indigo 10000 Press is not just any digital press. It touts Indigo’s seven-color, mineral-oil based liquid toner system that can provide a much larger color gamut than the traditional four-color process. You have a choice of the standard four-color process, a six-color process, or even a seven-color process with the addition of white ink. Or, for the brand police out there (provided you have an Indigo ink mixing station) you can custom mix any non-metallic PMS color to make the most impact while dealing with a brand color.

It’s the innovation and commitment to quality that HP and Indigo have that keep them at the forefront of the market. They heard the cries for help and have delivered a product that no one thought was even possible. Now I just can’t wait to get my hands on the first press on US soil.

Author: T. John Mehl

Customer Service: A Not-So-Great Experience

Image from insurancemarketinghq.com

This is a little story about not-so-great customer service. A friend of mine recently had a bad customer service experience with a cable company. Because I am a good friend, I stood there and listened to her complain for about half an hour.

Basically, they changed her promotional plan without notifying her. No email, phone call, letter––even a text would have worked. Nothing. They charged her double the price without checking if she wished to continue with the new pricing for her plan. My friend called and, realizing she wouldn’t win the battle of keeping the current pricing, agreed to pay more than she used to (and let the cable company know she was not happy about this). To make the situation worse, in the course of the next three days, she ended up spending almost four hours on the phone with various customer representatives because her new bill never displayed correctly when she tried logging in to pay. They ended up overcharging her, and when my friend called in––again––to try to fix the situation, she realized her account was set up for Auto Pay. The company had saved my friend’s credit card information without her permission and charged her automatically. Realizing that she has been charged twice and then having to check all the statements for the credit cards she used to pay cable bills––as if her life isn’t complicated enough––made her furious.

She called, complained, said she was going to switch service providers. And what did the cable company do? Well, yes, they said they were sorry. But in this case was this enough? I personally think they should have had done a little more, especially after her threat to switch providers. I understand the customer might not always be right, but in this case one little incentive could have made my friend happy. Switching cable companies might not be thrilling, but if you are angry and disappointed with customer service, you are bound to leave. Of course, you might say things like “I don’t want to do business with you any longer,” but deep inside you truly hope they will offer you something––beg you to stay––because you are a valuable customer. Just like in a relationship. Sometimes you get angry and say that you no longer want to be with that person, but you hope to be chased. You want to feel important. Customers like to feel good about themselves.

Show that you care, apologize, and give customers a reason to hold onto you. And they will. “I am sorry” is not always enough. At least it wasn’t in this case. What do you think?

Author: Marina Kaljaj

Online and Social Checkup: The Full Three

Twice a year we change our clocks to abide by the controversial daylight savings time, at which time we are told to change our smoke detector batteries. Once a year in October, retailers, television networks, nonprofits, and average citizens blanket the world in pink to bring attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Heck, there is even Movember, during which men grow facial hair to raise awareness of men’s health issues, which competes with the likes of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). All of these events bring annual attention to a particular topic and call people to action, whether it be changing one’s batteries, getting screened for cancer, growing a mustache, or writing a novel. While the safety of our humble abodes and family health will always be paramount, we should not neglect our online and social health.

In a time when some employers are asking for social log-ins during the hiring process and many companies use social media to vet employees or learn more about vendors or business partners, why not take time to run your online and social checkup? Go ahead, Google yourself––I’ll wait. What did you find? A public-facing LinkedIn profile, tweets, press releases, or embarrassing photos? Depending on your celebrity and the uniqueness of your first and last names, you may have some heavy competition for the top results. For instance, if you shared a full name with an English soccer star (with a pretty sweet theme song), you would have to add several search operators like the minus sign (-soccer, -football, -athlete) to eliminate any online content associated with the soccer star to finally get a result relevant to you in particular.

Here is your prescription:

  1. Google yourself. Examine the search results and add search operators to eliminate the noise to get to the good stuff. Either way, clip the results to your Evernote notebook, or if you must, print out the results and store in a file folder hidden, unsearchable, in some dreaded physical file cabinet. Regardless of your storage preference, keep note of what changes over time.
  2. Social profile review. Depending on your search results and your social media account settings, you may find profile details, posts, or other details strewn around the net for anyone to pilfer, exploit, mock, or fact-check. Make a list of the profiles that are easily found through search engine activity. Then dive down into each account settings page by platform to determine what content you want to limit access to and how to limit that content.
  3. Ask the tough question, what is your brand? Other people are, or will be at some point in the near future, using your online/social presence (or lack thereof) to vet you for something or learn about the brand called “you.” What does a Google search, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, blog, or Facebook account portray about who you are? A smattering of personal info or interests may make you seem more approachable and human if that is the message you want to portray. Your “brand” can and will change as your personal and professional lives progress, but during those different stages in your life, what persona does your social presence promote? Complete a brain dump (mind map) of what makes your brand unique, then hone your social presence to fit the brand that you want others to see.

Competing with the likes of Movember and NaNoWriMo is difficult, but how about this? Regardless of what you do, about every 28 days you experience a full moon, and––except for those in extreme latitudes during summer months––this large, glowing rock in the sky should stand as a reminder to perform your social checkup. Twelve or so times per year isn’t a big investment. So every full moon, complete the three steps of the social checkup. Maybe you could even perform your checkup under the full moon––just find some moonlight with Wi-Fi and let the checkup begin. See you under the moon.

Author: John Carew

What is LTE?

After months of rumors, Apple introduced the new iPad. It has been upgraded in several ways and now has better resolution, a better camera, and is 4G- or LTE-compatible––but what is LTE or 4G? 4G stands for the fourth generation of cellular wireless standards, and LTE is short for Long Term Evolution. 4G LTE was launched in the United States in 2010 by Verizon and AT&T, and continues to roll out today. In the world of mobile devices, LTE means speed, games that zoom, and videos that play without hesitation by using radio waves, allowing for more data to be transferred than in a 3G network. To oversimplify the LTE network, think of LTE as a superhighway that allows information to travel efficiently. Phone calls are considered a high priority and are less likely to be dropped, while higher–data load files like videos and games would get dedicated lanes that allow the information to travel smoothly along the “highway.”

Author: Susan Hallinan