Expect to See More Artfully Designed Vehicle Wraps

Epson wrap on Bugatti Veyron autoDESIGNERS. If you were asked to design graphics to wrap one of the most expensive sports cars in the world would you put logos for Epson and SkinzWraps on the hood? Didn’t think so.

But that’s not the point. What’s interesting about this project is that it demonstrates that vehicle wraps aren’t just for posting advertising graphics on buses, trucks, and delivery vans anymore.  In the not-too-distant future, owners of luxury cars might hire designers to produce more artistic wraps to personalize their own prized vehicles.

At least that’s what the makers of printers and wrapping materials are suggesting. At the SEMA 2010 expo for sellers of automotive specialty performance products, Epson America, Avery, and Skinzwrap joined forces to design, print, and install this wrap on a Bugatti Veyron worth an estimated $1.7 million.

“Designing and applying a wrap to an automotive masterpiece like the Bugatti Veyron requires the ultimate degree of skill and concentration, the right material, and the best printing technology imaginable,” commented Peter Salaverry, CEO, Skinzwrap. This project was printed on Avery’s MPI Supercast 1005 media and output on an Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 printer. It took seven days to complete the design, print the wrap, and apply it to the car.

Most importantly, at the end of the show the car was transformed back to its original design.

Of course this isn’t the first time a high-end luxury car has been wrapped in custom graphics. In July, the seventeenth BMW Art Car, designed by artist Jeff Koons, took part in the 24 Hours of LeMans race. As part of his creative process, the Koons collected images of race cars, related graphics, vibrant colors, speed and explosions. The digitally printed graphics were designed to evoke power, motion, and bursting energy and give the car a dynamic appearance even when it’s standing still.

Jeff Koons designed the graphics for this 2010 BMW-GT2 Art Car ©BMW
Image of Koons BMW Art Car
The rear view of the 2010 BMW GT2 Art Car suggests a burst of speed. ©BMW

The BMW Art Car project started in 1975 when French racecar driver Hervé Poulain commissioned American artist and friend Alexander Calder to paint the first BMW Art Car.  Other BMW Art Cars have been designed by artists such as David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol and exhibited in the museums such as the Louvre, the Guggenheim Museums, the Shanghai Art Museum.

Another indication that custom-decorated vehicles might be gaining traction was Original Wraps’ launch of a new program that allows auto manufacturers, car dealers, and automotive retailers to offer an on-demand vehicle customization program.  Ford Motor Company offers the service through fordcustomgraphics.com. MINI USA offers the program through MINI Motoring Graphics.

So, yes! We’ve seen plenty of commercial vehicles customized with imaginative branding and advertising graphics. Now, let’s see what happens when more designers get involved in customizing personal-use vehicles.

Editorial Excellence Can Help Marketers Escape Content Chaos

Content Rules Book CoverWRITERS. A new book entitled “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business” could ultimately open up some fresh opportunities for freelance writers and other creative professionals.

The book was written by two experts in content marketing:  Ann Handley, chief content officer of marketingprofs.com and C.C. Handley, founder of digitaldads.com.

The basic premise of “Content Rules” is that publishing useful content is a good way for companies to build relationships with their customers.  As the book’s promo copy explains, “Today, you have an unprecedented opportunity to create a treasury of free, easy-to-use, almost infinitely customizable content that tells the story of your product and your business, and positions you as an expert people will want to do business with.”

However, because so many companies are jumping on the content-publishing bandwagon, content is rapidly becoming a commodity.

As consumers, we can all see some of the “content chaos” arising from the wider adoption of content marketing. Sure, some of this content can be very helpful. But so much of it seems semi-coherent, superficial, and self-serving. Few companies seem to take the time to consider what type of content their customers would find most enlightening.

In a webinar introducing their book, Handley and Chapman describe the phenomenon this way: “Content marketing is like sex in high school: Everyone claims they are doing it, but few are doing it well.”

They believe content marketing is worth the commitment, noting that “Killer content can earn attention, create trust, establish credibility and authority, and convert visitors and browsers into buyers.”

The book reinforces a fact that many stressed-out, overworked marketing pros have just begun to fully recognize:  Producing a steady stream of consistently good content can be more difficult and time-consuming than it looks.

According to a recent survey cited by Handley and Chapman in Content Rules, the biggest content marketing challenges are:

  • Producing engaging content (36%)
  • Producing enough content (21%)
  • Budget to produce content (20%)
  • Lack of C-level buy-in (11%)
  • Producing a variety of content (9%)

Thus, experienced writers and other creative professionals can offer to alleviate some of the burden. But this tactic will only work if you can suggest how you can help advance the most commonly identified organizational goals for content marketing:

  • Brand awareness (78%)
  • Consumer retention/awareness (69%)
  • Lead generation (63%)
  • Website traffic (55%)
  • Thought leadership (52%)
  • Sales (51%)
  • Lead nurturing (37%)

You might want to read the book, so you can see the type of advice Handley and Chapman are giving to marketing pros.  For example, they discuss the art of storytelling and science to journalism to develop content that people will care about. They also talk about the need to find an authentic voice and create the type of bold content that prospects and customers will want to share with others.   Readers of Content Rules can learn how to:

  • Define content-strategy goals.
  • Get to the meat of the message by using practical, common-sense language.
  • Integrate searchable words without sounding contrived.
  • Create a publishing schedule for creating different kinds and types of content at once.

To see content-marketing at its best, check out marketingprofs.com and subscribe to their Marketing Profs Today daily newletters. Even if you’re not a marketing pro yourself, you can get some practical tips that can either help you market yourself as a creative pro, or better understand what marketing professionals are trying to accomplish with various forms of communications.

In the online Marketing Profs University, you can listen to the free webinar that Handley and Chapman presented on Dec. 3, 2010.

Content Rules: How to Create the Right Kind of Content

You can replay the broadcast, listen to a podcast, or download the webinar slides and a list of answers to questions raised after the webinar.

The book is available for $11.99 as a Google eBook. Or, you can order a 242-page hardcopy version from Wiley.com, Amazon.com, or BarnesandNoble.com

Links:

“Content Rules”: Google e-book format

Hardcopy book

Wiley.com

Amazon.com

BarnesandNoble.com

Tablet Computers Are Here to Stay

More than 80 suppliers introduced tablet computers at the 2010 Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Illustration: SF Chronicle

For some reason, I like reading statistics that predict how fast certain markets for various types of technology will grow. With all of the media hype that surrounds hot-selling new products such as the iPad, it’s easy to lose sight of how long it might actually take for significant disruptive shifts in to occur in the market.

As creative professionals, the question we need to consider is: How long will it take for this hot new technology to “cross the chasm” from the relatively small pool of early adopters and evangelists to the large bulk of mainstream users?

According to a Content Insider report I received from PR pro Andy Marken, tablet computers will indeed be everywhere in the years ahead. He describes tablets as “the third screen” for business and personal computing, effectively filling a gap that supposedly was going to be filled by the heavily hyped netbook computers.

At the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Andy reports that more than 80 new tablet computers were introduced. With a few exceptions, he says most looked like flimsy knock-offs. Plus, the tablets all featured different mixes of functionality.

Although prices for non-Apple tablets are expected to fall below $500 by the end of the first quarter of 2011, the challenge for consumers who want to buy a tablet right now will be to determine which companies will survive the inevitable consolidation. Although the market for media tablets is expected to grow quickly, it probably won’t be nearly big enough to support so many different models.

Here are a few other clarifying tidbits gleaned from Andy’s report.

  • Tablets fill the gap between smartphones, which have 4-inch screens, and notebook computers that have 13 to 15-inch screens.
  • Tablets are not a new category. They have been around for awhile (either as tablet PCs or eReaders), but Apple caused interest in tablets to soar by introducing a new type of tablet computer, called the “media tablet.”
  • Media tablets are distinguished by their color displays (5- to 14-inch screens), touchscreen interfaces, mobile operating systems, longer battery life, and WiFi or cellular connectivity.
  • In 2010, 82.6% of the media tablets sold used Apple’s iOS. The others used Android. Analysts expect that the operating system spectrum will grow this year, but that Apple will continue to dominate.
  • In 2010, 581.5 million portable devices were sold worldwide. Of these, 52% were smart phones, 38.9% were notebook computers, and 3.2% were media tablets. The other 5.9% were other types of connected devices.
  • All of the mobile device categories will expand over the next few years. By 2014, analysts at IDC expect 1.07 billion portable devices to be sold worldwide, with media tablets accounting for 10.4% of that number compared to 49.2% for smart phones and 36.7% for notebooks.
  • Initial buyers of media tablets are encountering issues similar to those experienced by the first buyers of netbook computers: they can’t do everything you need for daily work. For example, media tablets may be great for web surfing, showing photos and presentations, or taking notes at meetings. But media tablets aren’t your best choice for producing PowerPoint presentations, editing photos, typing documents, making calls, reading books, or holding large volumes of materials needed for business or school.
  • The media tablet won’t replace other devices, but will become one more device you carry and use regularly. For example, in your backpack, you find yourself toting around four devices: a smart phone, media tablet, notebook computer, and eReader.
  • Have you noticed? People use media tablets differently than other portable devices. Most of us keep our smartphones close, even when showing photos or videos. Notebook users also hold onto their devices, even when turning it around to show you a PowerPoint presentation or slideshow. But people will gladly shove their media tablet into your hands so you can hold it yourself while browsing through photos, playing a game, or watching a video.

Thanks, Andy for sharing your insights through The Content Insider reports. I met Andy Marken at the Seybold San Francisco Conferences in the late 1990s when the dot.com boom was in full swing. So many wild, new technology concepts were being introduced at those conferences, it made my head spin. As a specialist in PR for technology firms, Andy always understood the value of providing clarity and perspective first.

Chart showing growth of media tablets, tablet PCs, and mini-notebooks
IDC’s growth projections for media and tablet PCs are attracting a slew of device manufacturers.

3D Printing Provider Says a Million-Dollar Product Is Just a Good Design Away

DESIGNERS. Two trendspotting organizations—Trend Hunter and JWT Intelligence—have predicted that 3D printing (aka “tangible printing”) will be one of those technologies that could really take off in 2011.

3D Printed Vase
At Shapeways.com, everyone can make, buy, or sell their own products in more than a dozen different materials, including metal and glass with various finishes.

In a blog post on TechCruch, Joris Peels of the i-materialise 3D printing service predicts that the hardware and software will become more affordable and at least five new 3D printing startups aimed at consumers will be launched this year.

Peels even goes so far to predict that a designer will earn revenues of over $1 million with a single 3D printed product (not a prototype) in 2011. Peels says several designers have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars selling 3D printed items ranging from chairs to jewelry.

He predicts that as “As many designers get more knowledgeable about the 3D printing process, and media coverage increases, a million-dollar hit is only one good design away.”

In September, Shapeways.com, the personalized-production company started by Royal Philips Electronics in The Netherlands, announced that it will be moving its headquarters to New York. As of September, the company was 3D printing more than 10,000 unique products each month, an increase from only 600 products per month in January, 2009. The Shapeways.com online community has more than 50,000 members and more than 1,000 shops, with some shop owners earning more than $1,000 per month selling their customizable products directly to consumers.

If you’re not yet familiar with 3D printing and how it can be used, check out three sites of companies that offer 3D printing or product-fabrication services.

i-materialise

Shapeways

Ponoko

New Forms of Books Mentioned on JWT List of 100 Things to Watch in 2011

JWT LogoWRITERS. When the global marketing-communications agency JWT released its list of 100 Things to Watch in 2011, many items related to the ongoing digitization of content on various media platforms, mass customization, and the rise of microbusiness. According to the JWT report, “Books will take new forms, entertainment will go transmedia, and journalists will become entrepreneurial.”

Writers can use the JWT list as a rich source of cutting-edge story ideas. But several items on the list suggest new formats for publishing content as well as new types of clients for freelance writing.

Here are a few of the items on the list that caught my eye. (You can download the complete 110-page report from www.JWTIntelligence.com)

Breaking the Book

Now that the market for e-books has taken off, JWT expects to see a rethinking of the book format. For example, we might see an iTunes-like market for single chapters of travel guides, anthologies, or textbooks.  Professional writers will be encouraged to fill the niche between magazine articles and books. And, we might also see more serialized works through apps that send subscribers a chapter a week.

Children’s E-Books

JWT predicts a rise in the number of children’s e-books for color-enabled screens, such as the iPad and Nook Color. These dynamic storybooks will enable children to switch from text to educational games and graphics. The JWT report notes that “Traditional children’s publishers such as Random House and HarperCollins have jumped on the bandwagon, as have startups.” Ruckus Media expects to have 26 children’s e-book apps in 2011, with 75 more in the works.

Entrepreneurial Journalism

The next generation of journalists is being trained to launch their own enterprises by pulling together traditional journalism with business and technology. For example, the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York is offering a two-year master’s program in which students can study media across all platforms: digital, broadcast, and print. Courses in the program focus on the business of managing media and the study and creation of new media business models. The school also offers a certificate in entrepreneurial journalism for midcareer journalists who have worked in the traditional, mainstream media and understand they need new skills.

Long-Form Content

As blog posts and news items have shrunk to fit our attention spans, JWT trendspotters believe the novelty of long-form journalism will stand out and more readers will turn to mobile devices, e-readers, and computers to access it. JWT cites innovations such as Longform.org, Longreads, Instapaper, and Treesaver.

Storied Products

As consumers look for a personal connection to brands, expect to see more companies play up the people and stories behind their products. It could be everyday employees, the people who produce the ingredients, or the owners of small businesses.

Transmedia Producers

Transmedia is defined as “the art of communicating messages, themes, and story lines to mass audiences through the strategically planned use of multiple transmedia platforms.” The Producers Guild of America describes the job of transmedia producer as overseeing a project’s long-term planning, development, production, and/or maintenance of narrative continuity across multiple platforms, and the creation of original storylines for new platforms.

Digital Downtime

Because so many items on the JWT list seemed techno-centric, I was pleased to see that JWT’s director of trendspotting Ann Mack expects a bit of a backlash against all things digital. She notes that “To balance our growing immersion in the digital world, people will increasingly embrace face-to-face gatherings and digital downtime.”

Digital downtime is described as “mindful breaks from digital input, intended to relieve stress and foster creativity.”

Sales and Marketing Execs Are From Mars; Creative Pros Are From Venus

By Eileen Fritsch

Book Cover The Creative ProfessionalFive years ago, Emmis Books sent me a review copy of “The Creative Professional: A Survival Guide for the Business World” by Howard J. Blumenthal. It was billed as “a book to help right-brained people survive in left-brained world.” The press release noted the same personality traits that give certain people a creative edge can also cause turbulence in a corporate atmosphere.

That statement grabbed my attention because the editors, writers, art directors, and photographers I worked with on magazines seemed increasingly at odds with the publishers, sales reps, and bean counters who set our budgets and marketing strategies.

In 2005, the painful, disruptive transition from print to online media was just beginning to ramp up. Our editorial staffs were already lean. It didn’t help that our art and editorial budgets were slashed even further as print-advertising buyers began diverting big chunks of budgets to developing websites, internal databases for email marketing, and emerging forms of online media.

We stopped hiring photographers, illustrators, and freelance writers. We started using cheap stock photography and more advertorial-like feature stories freely supplied by PR agencies. To make matters worse, every staff writer and designer was expected to produce more content—including websites, books, conference workbooks, and promotional materials.

As the quality of our work began to suffer, the creative pros started complaining. Some of us passionately believed that short-sighted business decisions were undermining the overall quality and value of our editorial products. And we predicted it wouldn’t take long for readers (and potential future advertisers) to notice.

Blumenthal’s book helped me understand why it was perfectly natural for the creative pros on the staff to feel so argumentative. The book also explains why business people consider creative pros difficult to manage.  While our innate ability to think and see things differently can be a great asset to businesses seeking innovative solutions to new problems, business-focused people don’t always see it the same way.

For example, traditional business people see their mission as generating profits. They consider sales as the most important aspect of any business.

Conversely, creative professionals generate value (which is far more difficult to quantify than quarterly profits). Creative pros see business as a holistic system and believe sales will succeed if the entire system works properly.

Blumenthal admits that working with creative professionals “is no picnic.” Many managers don’t understand our nonlinear thought processes and what motivates us. Whereas many employees like the security of a paycheck, benefits, and sense of community, creative pros are typically driven by three other needs: 

  • the need to know, understand, and explore;
  • the need to constantly learn and improve our techniques and skills; and
  • the need to derive part of our self-image from our work.

So why do some creative people do well in a corporate environment while others struggle? Blumenthal says it’s not simply a matter of skill. He contends that “A creative professional who takes the time to understand the company’s operations and manages projects accordingly will be far more likely to win the business game than a creative who simple writes with talent and skill.”

In the book, Blumenthal lists seven key attributes as crucial to success:

  • a keen understanding of the marketplace
  • abundant self knowledge
  • the ability to engage others in your creative work
  • the right combination of integrity and cooperation
  • the willingness of others to work with you (based on track record, industry reputation, personality, and quality of the opportunity)
  • your ability to raise necessary resources and/or support

As Blumenthal puts it: “The creative process does not exist in a vacuum. Instead, you are part of a community. The way you behave as a member of that community will affect your success more profoundly than your ability to dance, juggle, sculpt, arrange the horn section, or any other skill-based endeavor.”

Much has changed since Blumenthal’s book was released.

Media channels and platforms for online marketing have multiplied. Print publications that failed to develop effective online strategies are being forced out of business. Corporate marketing managers are under tremendous pressure to do more with less, while producing measurable returns on every expenditure.  New forms of analytics have made it increasingly easy to pinpoint exactly which forms of communications are generating the most bang for the buck.   

Blumenthal’s book primarily focused on helping creative professionals succeed as full-time employees in a corporate environment. But he points out two other ways creative professionals can earn a living:

  • working for multiple clients; or
  • selling work to the public, either directly or through a publisher or distributor.

Happily, the transformation from print publishing to online publishing and communications has made it far easier for creative professionals to develop a broader base of clients and/or sell more of their work directly to the public.

However, if creative pros want to work with a broader base of clients or sell directly to the public, there is one big drawback. We must develop some of the sales and marketing skills and financial discipline that seem to come so naturally to the profit-minded left-brained business people.

Creative Careers Are Converging

By Eileen Fritsch

The reason this blog covers four creative professions is because it’s no longer enough to simply be a writer, photographer, designer or artist. Creative pros today must have at least some proficiency in some overlapping disciplines. It’s important that we understand what resources exist for updating and expanding some of these complementary skills.

Let me explain how I saw this convergence of creative professions come about.

When I started editing digital-printing trade magazines in the mid-1990s, our publishing company routinely hired freelance photographers, illustrators, writers, and graphic designers. Working on these collaborative teams of creative professionals was stimulating and exciting. The ideas and energy flowed.

Still, we each had a distinct role to play in the tightly scripted workflow that dictated our deadlines. Our workloads were fairly consistent and predictable from one issue to the next.

Changes started to occur in the early 2000s when the advertisers in our trade publications started redirecting some of their marketing funds toward website development and online media. As our magazine production budgets tightened up, everyone on the staff was asked to do more with less support from outsiders. So we started using more stock photography and free articles from consultants and PR agencies. Thus, the freelance writers and photographers we previously hired had to look elsewhere for assignments.

Some freelancers coped by diversifying their range of services and developing new skills.  For example, one of my most talented freelance writers taught himself HTML, Flash, Dreamweaver, and other software programs and started offering website development services.

Over the past 15 years, most creative professionals have faced similar challenges and recognized the need to cultivate a wider range of production and self-promotion skills.

Some of the most in-demand creative pros I have met have learned how to blog and write news releases, shoot and edit photographs, create slideshows and videos, present seminars, and design books, posters, and other materials. They are constantly learning, networking, and refining their services to adapt to the changing demands of the marketplace.

What I admire most about these successful pros is that they never lose sight of what really matters. Despite all the time and effort required to continually network and market themselves, the most in-demand creative pros steadfastly refuse to allow the quality of their art to slip. As much as they enjoy learning new skills, ultimately, they understand that their art is a core part of who they are, and is what will distinguish them in the marketplace.