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FIVE WAYS TO BREAK CREATIVE BLOCK DURING A PANDEMIC

We’ve all been there. Staring at blank sketch pads or empty Word Docs, trying to fight through the inability to deliver something unique and inspiring; only to come up short, questioning our own abilities and purpose in life. Of course, I’m talking about creative block. Something that every creative goes through. And I mean EVERY creative. Most of the time, creative blocks can be solved by getting away from your desk and walking a few feet to another creative’s area to see what amazing things they are doing to get you motivated and inspired. But in a pandemic, when we are all working from home and your creative space is limited to your couch or small desk you have crammed in a corner of your house, the luxury of talking to another creative human isn’t at your fingertips like it once was. So, here are my five tips to breaking creative block during a pandemic:

  1. Go for a walk.

Ok, so this is an easy one. It’s usually number one on most lists and for good reason. Getting away from your workspace, taking in some fresh air and getting that heart rate up can do wonders for your mental health and head space. And since we are all confined to our own personal living spaces from the time we wake up until the time we fall asleep, it makes even more sense to get out of the house or apartment. Just be sure to mask-up when you do so.

Pro tip: If going for a walk is already a part of your daily routine, then try taking a different route. Maybe give yourself a small scavenger hunt to do on your walk-try counting the number of Pittsburgh themed bumper stickers you see on people’s cars as they pass by. If you’re going to physically get away from your workspace, then it only makes sense to mentally get away as well.

  1. Take a nap.

Every once and awhile the mind just gets overworked and needs to recharge, or sometimes you really took advantage of tip #1 and need to stare at the back of your eyelids for 20 minutes. What better place to take a nap then in your own environment, where you’re used to sawing logs anyway? Trust me, you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to tackle all the creative challenges that are thrown your way.

  1. Think like a child.

Watching a child solve a problem or discover something new for the first time is quite sight to see. You can see that lightbulb go off and the astonishment in their eye. That’s because they are learning something new for the first time — with no previous life experience guiding their expectations. Seasoned creatives can learn a lot of from this.  Over the course of our careers, we’ve inherently built in short-cuts and habits that make our process faster and more efficient. And while that may work most of the time, it robs creatives and clients of exploring a truly creative idea and approach to solving a problem. Now, I know most of the people who are reading this are already pulling their hair out trying to manage kids and school at home; but try and be patient and put your observation cap on. So next time you’re up against that creative block, ask yourself: “Am I just going through motions like I always do, or am I looking at this problem like it’s something I’ve never seen before in my life?”

  1. Write a blog post.

This one requires a little bit of explanation. As a graphic designer and photographer, I come from the art side of the advertising business. I’m not a writer and have never claimed to be good with words. Writing a blog post is something I absolutely dread. That said, performing a task that’s not in your repertoire is a great way to exercise a different part of your brain. This goes for all creatives. On the flipside, if you’re a writer and have that creative block, try and design a logo. See, not that easy, is it??

  1. Delegate

If you’re a seasoned veteran, you’ll love this one. If all hope is lost and you’ve explored tips 1-4 and are still coming up empty, just delegate and pass off the project to a younger creative in the agency.  Don’t bother to tell them your struggles or avenues you’ve explored and failed. Let them figure it out and save the day. Just be sure to park your ego and the next time the whole team is on a Zoom call, be sure to call them out and give them the full credit they deserve.

 

 

 

 

 

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Utilize marketing software for LinkedIn to broaden outreach and improve quality of interaction

As the leading American business and employment-oriented online service, there is no better place to reach out for new business than on LinkedIn.

There are many ways to approach a marketing campaign or an outreach initiative on LinkedIn. Some methods are better than others and this depends on you or your company’s situation and objective.

Regardless of your circumstance, marketing software specifically designed for LinkedIn can assist your efforts through automation tools.

There are many software extensions that can be downloaded to streamline your outreach and improve the quality of contact.

Software capabilities include but are not limited to the ability to mass connect request with an attached message and mass message to your connections. Yes, you can mass message already on LinkedIn but only to current connections. Additionally, you can pay for Message Ads but that will cost you $00.80 per message. Another limitation of manual messaging is that you cannot personalize a mass message. With automation software, essential information such as name, position, company, etc. can be formulated into a message, so there is no need to manually change this yourself.

Mass messaging manually can lead to your account getting suspended for spam. If LinkedIn detects mass outreach your account will most likely be suspended without prior notice. With automated tools, you can delete pending connection requests and messages or put them on hold until a later date to avoid any type of suspension.

Other more notable capabilities include automated contact profile visits and automated endorsements of your connections’ skills.

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Looking Beyond COVID-19

Let’s face it, we’re all inundated with newsadvice and opinions about the COVID19 crisis, sharing and circulating the same conversations of uncertainty over and over again. While we continue to do our part in getting through this pandemic, we think it’s time to look past this shut-down and start to plan for the permanent changes that it will leave in its wake. For those of us in the marketing communications industry, here are just a few considerations to think about: 

  • Productivity will drop 
    • An increase in the remote workforce will have a negative effect on productivity. While technology has worked wonders, it comes with limitations and frustrations 
    • Workforce healthcare will become a greater priority. Improvements and new policies will be implemented at the expense of productivity. 
  • IT will expand 
    • Information technology, connectivitycybersecurity and cloud services will play an even greater role as more business is conducted remotely.    
  • Advertising budgets will grow 
    • As business conferences, off-sites and tradeshows shrink in both number and size, their budgets will get reallocated to proven marketing and advertising efforts.  
    • Travel will also be curtained, again freeing up funds for alternate ways to reach customers.                                      
    • Digital advertising will see an even greater rise in utility. 
    •  Video marketing will get a boost. If sales teams can’t reach out and touch customers in person, video might be the next best thing.
  • Business calendars will be reworked 
    • When tradeshows and other large conferences are rescheduled, they will be planned for the summer and fall, away from flu season and potential future epidemics. 
  • Video communications will evolve 
    • Training a remote workforce will require more video content, both as a real-time messaging vehicle and as pre-produced presentations. 
    • Television and digital video advertising will be driven by more direct messaging and creative motion graphics and less by high production value, crewing and travel 
    • Less video shooting will necessitate content provided by knowledge leaders and subject matter experts.   
    • Media Training for executive leadership and middle managers will become commonplace. 
  • Change equals opportunity 
    • This too shall pass. When the dust settles, the economy will spring back—we hope sooner rather than later. Organizations will be in much better shape if they adapt and innovate.   
  • simple handshake will take on a whole new meaning 
    • Shaking hands will truly be a sign of trust and confidence. 

 

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7 Things I’ve Learned Since June 18th

Here’s a list of some things I’ve learned during my 112 days as an Apple Box Studios employee:

    1. Community is Key
      • Apple Box Studios is a collaborative, creative environment that boosts my productivity. We also keep beers in the conference room fridge–super cool.
    2. Boutique is Better
      • The opportunities and responsibilities I have gained thus far are attributed to ABS’s hands-on work approach. Because of this, I was part of an on-site client meeting my second day of work.
    3. I Needed an “Office Sweater”
      • You know… that sweater hanging on your chair just in case the office gets too cold.
    4. Never Leave Your Desk Without Paper and a Pen
      • Taking notes continues after college!
    5. Adapt to the Situation
      • I learned within the first few weeks that projects are always changing, and helping to coordinate those projects requires flexibility. This is still an area of improvement for me, but every day it gets easier.
    6. You’re Never Too Young to Save for Retirement
      • If I’m being honest, my dad probably told me this at age 14 but now I am actually saving for retirement. Only 40 more years to save!
    7. The Most Important Lesson
      • I still don’t know the answers to everything and I’m constantly learning. I have learned something from every member of Apple Box Studios and their willingness to teach is what makes this job so awesome.

 

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Ready for Game Day

At Apple Box Studios, we embrace video as a means of storytelling.  In the digital age, it’s as vital as ever.  And one of the most interesting elements is the many shapes and forms it can take.  Aspects like production value, budget and creative execution can all play a heavy hand in the end product.  An incredible representation of this was on full display by the NFL, as all 32 teams were tasked with creating a social media video to promote their 2019 schedule.  There is something for every imagination here and it’s a great exercise in creativity to see the various executions.  If you have some time, sit back and enjoy.

(Obviously the Steelers are listed first)

 

 

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2018 in Review: A Busy, Challenging & Well-traveled Year

2018 was another whirlwind year for us here at Apple Box Studios.  We continued to strengthen our relationships with many of our existing clients and forged new partnerships with some exciting companies along the way.  One constant theme remained – our relentless effort to provide our clients with bold, compelling and creative solutions.  From planning, writing, designing, programming and measuring on both external and internal communication initiatives, we remain a full-service agency with top-tier branding, writing and design as our core competency.  Looking to the future, we will be placing a new and robust emphasis on video marketing as it continues to grow rapidly. So with 2019 in full swing, here’s a fun look back at 2018 (cue the sentimental music…)

January February March April May June July August September October November December

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We recently came across an article in Ad Age about the future of small advertising agencies and we’re happy to report—the future looks bright. The article’s key take-away: “small agencies are at an advantage due to three major innovations that are increasingly changing the future of advertising—speed, specialization and the rise of the creative.” Let’s take them one at a time.

Speed. Responsiveness. Service—call it what you wish—time is everything in business and smaller ad agencies are better equipped to ramp up a project, react to market opportunities and provide hands-on service to their clients.  Smaller ad agencies are usually hungrier and out to prove themselves.

 

Many smaller advertising agencies specialize in niche verticals or delivery channels, so it only makes sense to go small. Our specialties here at Apple Box Studios—healthcare marketing, tech start-up and employee communication. And let’s not forget about video production.

Finally, we come to creative—the great equalizer. A huge, game-changing idea can come from anywhere, not just a larger ad agency. We’ve always believed our creative stands up against any size agency. Ad Age makes it clear that advertisers are going where the ideas are. In other words—it’s the creative that counts.

If you’re thinking about going with a smaller advertising firm or already working with one, this is an article for you.  Enjoy.

You can read the full article here. 

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Templates < > Cookie Cutters

More and more template websites are out there to help the busy creative artist. To most people they symbolize a sort of short-cut to getting a project done. To the lazy, they are an easy path to not having to use the right half of your brain. But when it comes to Motion Graphic Templates (typically in After Effects), this could possibly cause more work for you than you think.

The best looking templates are not always the best assembled templates. The problem is, some templates are put together by 1 or 2 people, and those are usually the ones that have the least problems with the assembly. However, some are put together by teams of people working for companies that just crank these suckers out. And in many cases, several people could be assigned to one project. One composition could have as many as 5 or 6 sub-comps, making it difficult to navigate through the tangled mess, as well as make specific modifications. Usually, those type of templates are best used “out of the box”. In other words, if you want your video to look exactly like the demo (with the exception of the images and logos used), then they might work just fine. But don’t expect to modify them very easily. Others will work just fine if you want to customize it and kind of use it as a base starting point.

So how can you tell before you buy them? Well, unless you get familiar with the developer and their style of creating the templates, the answer is – you can’t. And usually you will end up $50-$60 in the hole before you find out. Not very practical.

If you are a motion graphics artist and you are reading this, you are either shaking your head in agreement or asking yourself “Well, what am I supposed to do then? How can I take advantage of using templates that look so appealing?” I’ll give you my advice, but it’s not something you are going to like. Are you ready? Here goes… Get better at using After Effects (or Motion). “What?” (you say). What I mean is, when you go to choose a template, never expect to use that template 100%. And if you need an element from that video (like an effect or a custom camera movement or look and feel), then great. By all means get the template. But again I warn you, after you buy the template, it’s very possible that in order to get the achieved look and feel you are after (based on the preview), you may have to do even MORE customizing than you planned. So… get better at the software so if and when that happens, you will know exactly what to do. And as an added bonus, you might start to rely less and less on the templates in the first place.

Now there’s some solid advice. Hey, I did warn you that you were probably NOT going to like it. Please don’t take this to mean that you should stay away from templates altogether, I just wanted you to know what you were getting into before you make the investment to begin with.

There is a happy ending to this. Any company or person who needs a video produced who thinks they can just buy a copy of After Effects and then buy a template to get the finished product they want in order to save a whole lot of money is probably going to get very frustrated very quickly and soon call in an expert to do the job. So in the end, having the templates out there to begin with is not necessarily taking money out of your pockets. And if you get good enough at working with them, it could actually put more money IN your pockets!

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Internal Communications v/s Human Resources: Are they the same?

The lines between Human Resource Management and Internal Communications is often blurred. Many companies see these as one in the same, while others have separate departments and/or employees for these functions. Both functions are engaging with the same audience (employees), so it makes sense that they work closely together.

Definition of Human Resources (HR) – The division of a company that is focused on activities relating to employees. These activities normally include recruiting and hiring new employees, orientation and training of current employees, employee benefits and retention.

Definition of Internal Communications (IC) – The way a company interacts/communicates with it’s people/employees and how they interact in return.

It’s critical that both departments be on the same page when it comes to policy, messaging, expectations and internal tactics. Communication is the KEY factor.  Internal Communications wants to communicate with every employee, and HR has access to a great deal of their vital information. Collaboration is a must.

In the end, when IC provides employees with ongoing vision, purpose and encouragement, HR is better equipped to support their employees and maintain a happy and healthy team! This in turn provides stability and success! All is right in the world.

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Brand Recognition and Success

Have you ever been in a conversation with a group of friends and someone says “that sounds like something Rachel would say”? Or maybe you’re driving in your car and hear a song come on and say to yourself “this sounds an awful lot like Taylor Swift”?

Well, effective branding and advertising work the same way. A brand should have its own voice—its own personality—and should be instantly recognizable. It is a strategically curated emotional expression of your value that lives in people’s hearts and minds. When done right, branding becomes a beautiful collaboration of design, writing and experience, all combining to produce a very specific feeling.

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, once said, “a brand isn’t a logo or a website, it’s what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” It’s that emotional “gut feeling” reaction a company can elicit from its customers. Photography, graphic design and copywriting are all elements that help support and build a brand, but in a nutshell, your brand is the set of perceptions people have about your company.

At the end of the day, marketing is the process that brings you the leads and sales but branding is the foundation upon which you build your reputation and customer loyalty.

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