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The Allied Group is New England's leading provider of Printing, Kitting, Mailing and Fulfillment services. Our blog authors have backgrounds in Sales, Marketing, IT, Production and Operations and post useful tips, trends, news and opinions in our industry and beyond. We know you'll find something you enjoy. Most of all, be sure to jump into the conversation!

Orange you glad I didn't say mauve?

And the winner is ... ORANGE!  Yep, It's going to be a tangerine trees and marmalade skies kind of a year since Pantone picks orange as the top hue for 2012 - and not a moment too soon either.
(See below from 'Today Style'
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The world doesn't need more gray, and the blues are covered, too. What consumers need is a jolt - a shot of energy and boldness, all of which comes from Tangerine Tango, the reddish-orange hue that Pantone has announced as its top color for 2012.

"There's the element of encouragementwith orange,  it's building on the ideas of courage and action - it's that we want to move on to better things. I think it would be a disservice to go with a relaxed, soothing color now," said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, the research division of Pantone Inc. which creates color standards every year.

“Sophisticated but at the same time dramatic and seductive, Tangerine Tango is an orange with a lot of depth to it,” said Eiseman,  “It marries the vivaciousness and adrenaline rush of red with the friendliness and warmth of yellow, to form a high-visibility, magnetic hue that emanates heat and energy.”

"Consumer spending is a big player in reviving the economy and it needs adrenaline," said Eiseman. "Orange is a more urgent call to action than last year's hot-pink hue Honeysuckle, which was also supposed to channel cheerfulness coupled with nostalgia.

The annual forecast for 2012's dominant color takes into consideration what Pantone thinks shoppers want and need. Those are influenced by the designer runways, fabric shows, news events, pop culture and consumer habits. "Part of what we do is look at the zeitgeist," Eiseman explained. "We have to look at everything in the world around us. It's not an arbitrary choice."

"Color is really emotion," says Beth Eckerstrom, director of trend and product development at Crate and Barrel. "Everyone thinks it's a physical thing, but it's really emotion."
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So there you have it. Don't forget to consider orange and The Allied Group as you plan your marketing and communication strategies for 2012. I know I'm ready for a little boldness, energy and a move toward warm and brighter things ... how about you?!

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Help Those with Opposing Viewpoints Listen to the Facts

“Why Won’t People Listen to Good Ideas?” discussed research showing that those with strongly ingrained views won't mentally process sound evidence presented by the other side. Is there anything we can do to encourage our colleagues to consider solid facts we raise?

First, it’s important to understand why many won’t listen. One reason became apparent in a series of studies starting in 1959. Eminent social psychologist Dr. Elliot Aronson explains that research began in a southern town deeply divided over racial segregation. Most today clearly recognize the evils of apartheid, but in 1959 it was a burning issue, particularly in the South. Researchers selected people with strong feelings for or against segregation. Then they presented a series of arguments on both sides of the issue. Some were plausible, others were lame.  A survey on the points each recalled was telling. People remembered the logical arguments supporting their position and the illogical arguments that backed the opposing view. 

A number of follow up studies produced similar results. The answer was clear.  People ignored or quickly forgot points that might prove their opinion wrong. They focused on the opposition’s lame arguments because these strengthened their position.  This phenomenon is called Confirmation Bias. Seeking the right answer took a back seat to proving they were right. The highly respected Dr. Aronson explains:

During the past half-century, social psychologists have discovered that one of the most powerful determinants of human behavior stems from our need to preserve a stable, positive self-image.  Most of us want to believe that we are reasonable, decent folks who make wise decisions, do not behave immorally and have integrity. 

Thus, when confronted with factual information that might show us mistaken or foolish, we automatically tend to ignore or dismiss it, focusing instead on any piece of data that might prove us right. 

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2012...it's here

Another new year....What cliche shall I use? Perhaps a comment about how fast the years go by or maybe a list of new years resolutions that will be broken by February?

Instead, I believe the best course of action is to stick with something that has a history of success... so I am pleased to announce that The Allied Group will continue to innovate and be a thought-leader in our market space for 2012.

We have always tried to differentiate ourselves from the “traditional business model”. So... in that same spirit, I would like to introduce two new coming attractions in 2012 that add to our diverse line of products and services:

First: we are going to offer a completely integrated, multi-channel marketing solution which expands our value equation to include output and measurement of social media and mobile technology.

Second: we are launching a digital asset management solution which will help our clients with the all-important task of “protecting your brand”.

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Marketing Playoffs: Not One and Done

For those interested in pro football, you are at "peak season" for yourself - playoff time! For the next three weekends, the top teams in the NFL square off for the right to play in the Super Bowl first Sunday of February. This is the most intense time of the season for coaches, players, and, yes, the fans. Why the intensity? Because these games are all single elimination - you lose, your season is over - "One and Done" is a term often applied to these playoffs.

Fortunately your marketing does not have to be One and Done. The Allied Group defines marketing as "The combination of strategic plans and specific tactical actions done intentionally and consistently to influence the perceptions of a target audience or individual buyer to create, maintain, or grow revenue."

In other words, you have to find the right mix of strategy and tactics for your own marketing program. There is no magic pill or secret potion that is the answer for everyone. Your mix of strategy and tactics will be dictated by some combination of your industry, your company's goals, and you company's internal resources. If the prospects in your business are buying one way, that might be completely different than the business next door. You need to assess your landscape yourself or hire a top direct marketing agency to assess the market and offer advice. Life Science Marketing will be different than Higher Education Marketing, which will be different from Healthcare Marketing.

Once you assess and determine the plan for you, now we are back to the One and Done concept - i.e., don't get caught up that it will be successful right out of the gate. Whereas NFL teams must win NOW or be done, marketing plans should be flexible and leave some room for changes "on the fly." If you are thinking you have one great idea that will answer all the marketing questions, you could be in for a disappointing year.

So, over the next three weekends,root on your favorite team, enjoy the NFL playoffs and all the intensity of the games . . . but leave the inflexible, rigid "One and Done" concept out of your 2012 marketing plans!

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Change Requires Escape Velocity

Think about change for a moment. Change is a word and a concept that often immobilizes even the most goal-oriented, determined and successful business development professionals among us.

Think of a happy circumstance you are experiencing right now or the flush of pride over some recent accomplishment. The reality is that something had to change for you to create and enjoy the new experience.

In physics, escape velocity refers to the speed needed to “break free” from a gravitational field. A rocket ship leaving the surface of the earth requires about 11.2 kilometers per second (km/s) of velocity to counteract the effects of gravity. Interestingly, the further away you get from the source of gravity, the less energy is required to “pull away”.

All objects on the Earth have the same escape velocity. But, what is different is the amount of energy needed to accelerate objects of greater mass to achieve escape velocity.

In just the same way, to change any circumstance in our life, we must have sufficient thrust and constant momentum to break free of the conditions that are keeping us in their hold and not allowing us to discover something new. Just like the Earth’s gravity, we have habits and slips in our forward momentum that keep us locked in place. Just like the rocket ship, we must have some required minimum amount of acceleration to move us toward our hoped for destination.

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It's a New Year...Now What?

It's a New Year...Now What?

As 2012 comes in like a lamb, at least in the Northeast, the question is will it go out the same way? Or have we got some lion yet to come?

Forget about the resolutions, what are you going to do to make sure your roar is heard and you make your presence known in the marketplace? Building an integrated marketing communications campaign would be a great place to start! Sure it isn't as sexy as losing weight or maybe as altruistic as ending hunger or promoting world peace, but it's got one thing that those others don't: you can do it!

Any top direct marketing agency can talk about integrated marketing services or "multi-channel", or "cross-media", or whatever word or phrase you want to call it. At The Allied Group, we're uniquely positioned and qualified to build comprehensive acquisition programs. Rooted in tradition, The Allied Group has been building print campaigns for business development initiatives for over 60 years! Leveraging print with digital, social and mobile media has become our specialty.

If you truly are looking to accomplish big things in 2012 and are tired of the same old results since the economy tanked in 2008/09, we should talk. Marketing communication strategies are only as effective as your ability to get something out the door. 2012 is going to be about less talking and more doing! Are you going to be a lamb or a lion?

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Why Won’t People Listen to Good Ideas?

Executives frequently have to persuade others to agree and act on their point of view. At times that can prove extremely difficult. Senior managers may want to include an important new initiative in the organization’s priorities for the coming year. IT executives have to agree on the most efficient way to manage company data as well as evaluate, purchase, implement and customize software that will run day to day operations.  Senior marketers are required to come up with marketing strategies to achieve company goals and evaluate plans for individual campaigns. 

In each case, the key players involved must agree. But at times that can be extremely hard to achieve. Sometimes it seems that people just won’t listen to good ideas. Researchers have carefully studied this phenomenon using controlled scientific experiments. The results may surprise you.

Why can’t they see the point?

Social psychologist Lee Ross’ research led him to conclude that people often express what he calls “naive realism.” Each person assumes that they perceive events as they really are. Eminent social psychologist Dr. Elliot Aronson explains that since we are sure we recognize reality, our tendency is to assume that others who are reasonable should be able to see things our way. If they don’t, we assume that they aren’t reasonable. But are we ourselves always able to see the facts clearly?

NBC news reported on a study done on “seeing the facts” in the political arena. During the 2004 presidential race between George W. Bush and John Kerry, Drew Westen, Director of Clinical Psychology at Emory University conducted a study using functional MRI (fMRI) equipment. This machine allows researchers to monitor blood flow to different parts of the brain, revealing how people’s minds react to various situations.  One study found, for example, that the brain area normally involved in reading did not activate when those coping with dyslexia attempted to read. Another neural region tried to do the job for which it was not equipped (like star quarterbacks Tom Brady or Drew Brees playing nose tackle).

In Dr. Westen’s study, staunch Republicans and Democrats heard contradictory statements  released by Bush or Kerry on important issues while monitored by the fMRI equipment. When hearing their own candidate’s points, supporters’ brain regions involved in reasoning and emotion lit up. They paid close attention and liked what they heard. But when listening to the opposing candidate, the reaction was quite different. "We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," the researcher reported. People paid little attention to a viewpoint that contradicted their own. According to NBC, “The test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not rationally be discounted, Westen and his colleagues say…The study points to a total lack of reason in political decision-making.”

That’s a scary finding. And if people whose minds are made up can discount or ignore inconvenient facts in a crucial matter like national leadership, what hope do we have of winning colleagues to our point of view on company initiatives, enterprise software or marketing strategies? Fortunately, research has not only revealed human biases, but some helpful approaches for overcoming them as well. Stay tuned.

The Allied Group is a full service fulfillment and marketing communications company that provides marketing and marketing support as well as transactional document programs to companies in the insurance, benefits administration and financial services sectors.

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What's Trending 8

What's Trending 8

Yaaahoooo! Let's get right into it...here's "what's trending" according to Yahoo:

Kim Kardashian. Kim Kardashian and the entire Kardashian clan don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, despite the boycott efforts against them. In fact, the Keeping Up With The Kardashians star will be raking in a cool $600,000 just to host a New Year's Eve party in Las Vegas! Now that's a way to make a living!

Katy Pery. Katy Perry and Russell Brand are reportedly having 'problems' in their marriage and have been spending 'time apart'. Hmm, didn't know she was married. And I don't even know who Russell Brand is.

Packers fan's ex-boyfriend called out with a sign. A spurned Green Bay Packers fan came up with an interesting way to call out her now-ex-boyfriend - she made a sign at the Sunday night (Dec. 25) football game between the Packers and the Chicago Bears, which caught the eye of the camera man. The sign read, "My cheating ex boyfriend is watching from couch instead." I did actually see this live and it was pretty funny.

Well this "what's trending" series may seem to dip in and out of relevancy and significance. But, again, as a top direct marketing agency building and implementing marketing communication strategies for a whide array of clients in many industries, I find it helpful to have some understanding of pop culture. I will admit that this is certainly "light" stuff, but many times these topics can contribute to building a successful integrated marketing communications campaign.

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Make the Slow Week a "Planning" Week

This week is a coveted week for many folks. The week between Christmas and New Years is a vacation week for many - in fact, for those who are working it is usually a bit slower since many of our colleagues are not around. For many it becomes a chance to "catch up" on piles of mail, email, or other paperwork that was not done "when it was supposed to."

Looking ahead to next year (really, next week) is also a typical activity for this week. For those of us in business know that the "race for revenue" starts back up once the calendar changes to January. If your revenue for this past year hit your expectations, good for you! If your revenue was down from what you expected, maybe not so good. Either way, you will have little time to either celebrate or commiserate over your results. Don't look know but 2011 is leaving and here comes 2012!

Are you planning ahead for next year? Are you ready to surpass goals from 2011? What are the priorities for the next year?

Do you have enough "irons in the fire" to generate the sales revenue you want? Do you need one of the lead generation agencies to help you? Do you have enough business development professional services to keep your pipeline filled? What will you do to increase your sales presence next year?

Hand in hand with sales is your marketing . . . is your "homegrown" system to market your company in line with what you might get from a top direct marketing agency? Do you have enough promotional product ideas to keep your name in front of clients and prospects?

Then behind the scenes . . . how are the operations looking? Need any help with your supply chain management strategies? Is your shipping fulfillment plans ready for the next year?

Bottom line, the calendar might read this to be the last weak of 2011 but for many of us, this should be the "first" week of 2012!

What are you doing this week to plan for 2012?

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Meatloaf Got it Wrong...continued

Retain. With retention rates at all time lows and customer loyalty harder to come by, it is important to prove your value to your customer on an on-going basis. In the “good old days”, we could get by on being just good enough. But in the 21st Century, performance is not a nice to have but a must-have in order to keep your customers for the long haul.

Picture a stool. You can be supported quite comfortably on one that has three legs. But have you ever tried to support yourself for any length of time on a stool that only has two legs? If you have great marketing that helps you find customers and a great sales effort that helps you get customers but an inadequate customer service effort that does not allow you to keep what you’ve gained, then what have you got? Or, if you have good sales production and convert most of your opportunities and good customer service and keep almost all that you earn but marketing does not drive enough opportunities to sustain your organization, what have you got? A one or two-legged stool will only get you so far.

Meatloaf was wrong. Two out of three is not enough. If you only have two pieces of the business development puzzle that work, eventually, you might not be eating anything but meatloaf for dinner.

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