What brands (and their designers) can learn from stationers:
Having spent most of the last decade working for branding and corporate design firms, the world of personal invitation design is still pretty new to me. Prior to joining Two Paperdolls I can honestly say I didn’t give “stationers” the respect they deserve. I would guess I am not alone in that sentiment.
As brands are trying to become more personal, they could learn a lot from the process of designing a custom invitation. I know I have. With that in mind I asked Jennifer James (JJ), one of the social designers here at TPD for some help. Jennifer’s comments are marked (JJ), and mine are (GA).
1. Listen to the individual.
JJ: Our success in producing breathtaking invitations has everything to do with listening to our clients talk about their vision for their upcoming event. The invitation (or save the date) is the first glimpse guests get, and the first hint as to what kind of event they can expect. By understanding the impression our client wants to make, we are able to design accordingly and set the tone for them. One of my favorite reactions from our social clients is when they tell me they didn’t even know what they wanted, until they saw what we designed for them. That tells me that we listened to their ideas and priorities from the beginning.
GA: The most successful brands have a pulse on their core constituency. The logistics of finding that pulse is nearly impossible. The result is a brand with an empty strategy that revolves around assumptions instead truth. We have specifically addressed this common pothole in our brand development process. We now spend a significant number of hours talking with our clients’ customers. We hang out at their stores, and with their employees. Brands are always generating opinions from people both internally and externally. It has become extremely important for us hear those opinions and weigh them against each other, before we can find the truth.
What systems are in place for you to get feedback directly from your customers?
2. “Custom” means more than plugging your name into an existing template.
JJ: Some of our most loved invitations are products of our clients’ confidence in us as designers and storytellers. Sure, TPD has a decade of invitations to reference as a starting point, but we’d rather create something unique to each client. Invitations like these, all started with the understanding that our clients have unique stories that got them to this point in their lives, and that should be celebrated. It’s this “personalization” that stirs up excitement and anticipation in our clients’ guests.
GA: When that personal attention is applied to a brand, we can create the same excitement and anticipation in their customer base. A few years ago Wilkes University ran an ad campaign that got a lot of attention. The campaign targeted individual high school students. They wrote the names of seniors huge on billboards and bought ad space in mall kiosks outside stores of where a potential student worked. The theory was that by focusing on a handful of students others would naturally follow. It was a little risky, but according to this video applications are up by 11%.
What would it look like to customizing your brand’s messaging directly to your loyal customers?
3. Your time is an investment.
JJ: The reward for investing time into our truly personal invitation/event design is twofold. The initial goal–to stir excitement, set the tone, and announce a unique celebration–is met when the client reviews rounds of proofs, then sees their finished product. Then, that happy client mails out the product of our creative process and craftsmanship to 100+ invited guests. Many of our clients are referred to us after asking their host where they got their invitations made, because they are clearly one-of-a-kind, and many people don’t even realize how extravagant, personal, and amazing invitations can be. So, our time spent perfecting the design of their invitation and meticulously constructing each one, is well spent because we want to make an unforgettable impression on our clients’ guests.
The same idea applies to our corporate clients, who always make a great impression when handing a potential customer a letterpress business card. The quality of an invitation (or corporate stationery) tell your audience what to expect from your event (or brand.)
GA: Analytics has become a leading piece to our measurement device. But there is one analytic that I am more interested than the rest—time spent on site. Although it doesn’t measure conversion, or if a customer’s time was happy or frustrating, but if we are creating experiences that our customers feel comfortable in why wouldn’t they want to hang out for a while? Aren’t you more likely to talk more often about something we spend a lot of time with than something we visit occasionally?
Are we making a place where people want to be, a product that our customers enjoy using? How can we equip our brand experiences for efficiency and for enjoyment?