Surviving Instagram in 2018

Instagram has over 800+ million engaged monthly users. The photo-sharing platform is on track to hit a billion users this year, and currently boasts an estimated $100 billion market value. And while it falls behind its parent company, Facebook, in size and value, it outpaces Facebook’s engagement rates by over 15%.

While using Instagram may seem as simple as posting an image and calling it a day, the Instagram algorithm plays an important role in determining what each person sees when they open their phone. These parameters are an ever-changing puzzle, but if you understand how to leverage the rules you can take your Instagram—and your business—to the next level.

You won’t reach 100% of your audience. 

As a baseline, Instagram puts your content in front of a (somewhat) random grouping of users that make up 10% of your following. From there, it’s a race to get as much engagement as possible in the shortest amount of time. If your post shows an early burst of engagement, the algorithm determines that it’s content relevant to your audience, and puts it in front of more people. How do you get those infuriatingly necessary bursts of engagement? Read on.

Golden hour isn’t just for sunsetsBy posting at peak traffic periods, you increase the chances that your engaged followers will be online and ready to give your post the boost it needs to climb higher on the feeds of your followers. Users who regularly interact with your content are prioritized in the first 10%, so make sure you’re playing into their schedules. Trampoline’s prime posting time is Saturday at 1:00 pm, followed closely by Sundays at 2:00 pm. As a rule, weekday posts are optimal around 4:00 pm.

How do you know when prime posting time is? For the average user it’s as easy as trial and error. A safe bet for most accounts is early afternoon or late evening; times when people are taking a break or unwinding after a long day. Avoid the morning or right after the work day ends, people are traveling and not on their phones. Hopefully.

Shadowbanning; not as scary as it sounds. Ever wish you could put someone on mute? Instagram went ahead and did it. Shadowbanning is Instagram’s way of dealing with accounts that they consider spam. It’s a temporary ban that stops your content from appearing in search results and on most of your followers feed, a measure that the algorithm thinks will improve the average user’s experience. Engagement drops off dramatically, new followers will slow to a stop. Luckily, many of the ways you can avoid shadowbanning are also great for engagement (coincidence? Think not.), read on to find out more.

Think those hashtags through. The beauty and the nuanced headache of the new algorithm (which will probably have changed by the time I finish writing this) is the key role that hashtags now play. The days of engagement pods, purchased followers, and bots are screeching to a halt, and in their place rises the era of savvy hashtag leveraging. Where hashtags like #like4like #instagood #photography used to be a safe bet for legions of bot likes, now the only thing they’ll accomplish is a quick and silent shadowban on your account. A few quick hashtag tips below:

  • Five is plenty, less is better. Five relevant and well considered hashtags will do far more for your post than 30 irrelevant ones. The average amount of hashtags on posts made by accounts with over 100k followers is just two.
  • Don’t reuse hashtags too often. Want to gram something with #graphicdesign 12 days in a row? Instagram will flag that as spam, earning you a shadowban. 
  • There is strength in (small) numbers. Whatever you do, do not use hashtags that have over a million existing posts. There are few quicker ways to get shadowbanned, and by using a collection of hashtags with depths of 5,000–500,000 existing posts you drastically increase your chances of being seen in a search.
  • Don’t put hashtags in the comments. If you’ve been on Instagram in the last year, you’ve seen users commenting on their own posts with lists of hashtags. There’s logic in this approach—relegating the hashtags out of the caption and into the comments cleans up your post, diminishing the risk of a “read more” scenario. Starting in January of 2018, Instagram no longer includes images hashtagged in the comments in the search feature. All your hard work putting together strategic hashtag groups ends up wasted unless you keep them in the caption.

Engagement goes both ways. The best way to drive engagement is to engage in-kind. Spending an hour or so each day interacting with your followers through likes and comments is essential to a well-rounded social presence. While likes are great for getting the burst you need to climb the feed, genuine comments are even more valuable. In an effort to cut down on bot comments, the algorithm has deemed comments less than four words to be spam comments which don’t count toward engagement in a valuable way. If your followers are commenting less than four words, it’s no big deal, you can boost your own engagement numbers by replying back to them within the first hour with a four-or-more reply. Bonus points if your reply facilitates a conversation in your comment section. YOU get a comment, YOU get a comment, EVERYBODY GETS A COMMENT!

Utilize the valuable tool that is Stories. There has never been a better time to use the Instagram Stories feature. Instagram has positioned itself as one of the most valuable tools on the market for businesses, and Stories are more important than you may think for keeping your engagement numbers up. The new algorithm rewards accounts for posting stories, so dust off that iPhone and get to boomaranging!

  • Temporary by design, permanent by choice. The introduction of the Story Highlights feature took stories from a 24 hour blip to a permanent feed of dynamic content. Take your audience on a tour of your office, show them the behind-the-scenes process, or let your staff take the Story for the day and give a birds eye view of what it’s like to be part of the team. Want to feature a glimpse of everyone on the set of a video? Let it live for 24 hours. Want to give a tutorial that explains the basics of logo design? Save it to your Highlights—your followers and your engagement will thank you. 
  • People will watch, and that matters. Instagram Stories don’t live in a vacuum from the rest of your account. More stories equals more engagement, which in turn equals a higher placement on the feed.  
  • Prioritize interactivity. Tools like polls and hashtags allow you to get more engagement from each audience member, utilize them!
  • It’s all trackable. Like every other aspect of Instagram, Stories are trackable. Experiment with different tactics and styles and keep track of the swipe-through rate for each. You’ll be amazed by how much of what you thought was boring content is actually engaging, and vice versa.

Post it and leave it alone. One of the easiest ways to ruin your feed positioning is to edit your post in the first 24 hours. Making any changes to the caption will automatically kick you back to the bottom of your audience’s feed. You have two options if you spot a typo: ignore it and pray everyone else does too, or delete the post and repost it with the edits. Third option: proofread.

The Price of Admission

Free of Charge! Live Music! Open Bar! 

These are a few qualifiers that never fail to draw a crowd. The first makes the wallet of a casual event goer happy and the second assures them they’ll be entertained (for free), while the third sets them up to crack open that very same wallet for other goodies.

I can confidently say that every one of the above exclamations has enticed me into an event of questionable interest.

Catch the eye of a stranger (and pique the interest of those who already support the product):

Events marketed by Trampoline are usually hosted by one of our clients. They have a brand that we need to reinforce, a clientele of their own to consider, and a regular means of sharing information. The point of event marketing is to reinvigorate the interest of those people and draw in newcomers.

One of our favorite ways to do this? Create new artwork for the event.

The best place to start is with the brand standards already being used by the event host and visuals centered around the theme of the event. From there, take creative risks – cultivate a sense of excitement. Build the information into an image, use a custom type treatment, or get outrageous with the size, color and/or content of your advertising. Find that inspiration and capture it to create something conceptual and new. You’ve got to stop those busy feet, eyes, and thumbs

The digital world, am I right?

I like to ask myself, “would I want this poster on my wall?” It’s rare that an advertisement stops me on my lunch break, but doesn’t make me interested in the event.

Create a unique experience:

When making weekend plans there is often simply too much to do. Life gets busy, so the audience has to be made to feel like the event is worthwhile.

What’s different? What’s new?

Event advertisements are constantly battling with movie releases, show posters and happy hour at the local watering hole. A fundraiser with music can be the same night as a good concert, but if that concert is presented as just another performance and that fundraiser seems like a one-time, can’t-miss event, decisions can be influenced. For this to occur there needs to be something about the event that stands out. Catchy naming, killer photography, and original art can go a long way.

Depending on the frequency of an event, the “unique” element can be tricky. This creates the necessity for consistency on top of captivation. If your event is going to happen with any degree of regularity, then it needs to have elements that make it special, and become a system onto themselves. Create a recurring poster style. If there will be multiple dates, give it different colors than the brand family. If there are different colors, make the fireworks those colors too.

Put that logo on some s#!t:

Repeat impressions. Repeat impressions. I repeat, impressions.

When the mark is made and the event announced, take that mark and slap it on everything you can. The strategy and planning of event marketing materials only carry so much weight. Good old fashioned exposure is your best friend.

At the risk of being garish, get that thing out there. If there is an ad, resize it for Instagram, Facebook, the newspaper, a web slider, a poster for bulletin boards, you name it. SWAG(Stuff We All Get), collectibles, stickers, apparel, and advertising that can also be sold as art are fantastic ways to add a little extra incentive to attend, while also giving your event recognizability. An event t-shirt that people want to wear after the fact is guerrilla marketing gold. A beer glass with a logo is going to remind guests about next year’s event every time they pour a cold one.

That beautiful poster? Now it’s on my wall, wonder what next year’s will be?

The above are just a few things to consider when creating marketing materials for an event. There are more and many things that can be done from visual, strategic, and incentive standpoints to draw crowds to your fundraiser, special evening, concert or trivia night. So long as you make the materials as fun as the event, you can’t miss.

If none of the above is working, just open the bar.

Resolve to Be Your Brand

As the calendar flips from December to January, the internet fills with articles on critiques, primers, and how-tos about branding. If the articles work for you, high-five. If they don’t, it’s ok. Here’s a small contribution from us and if you are a tl;dr type:

You are your brand, not the guy pontificating on LinkedIn or the x,y,z experts.
Decide who you are, what you want, and make sure other people understand that.

We like to say, “We’re with the brand.” It’s a little bit playful and also very true. Like the people who’ve committed to trekking, trucking, or thumbing across the country to follow they’re favorite bands, we match pace with our brands. Weaving through glades at Attitash or walking the halls at Glens Falls Hospital, traipsing through hop fields and boning up on the periodic table.

Our approach to creating, supporting, or strengthening a brand will always be rooted in really getting to know it. We also retain an outsider perspective because even the most focused among us can fall victim to forgetting how things look and feel for someone outside of the brand.

Personal Brand

On Brand

Corporate Brand

The phrases are real, the potential is significant, and the power is yours. Your definition of your brand and your execution are completely up to you. It’s important to consider things from the outside in, which is why getting outside help can be productive. It’s a little like the friend you know will say, “Yeah, navy isn’t your color.” That said getting too wrapped up in how people say it must be done can ultimately do more harm than good.

Our advice to you is in 2018 be proud of your brand—play with it, own it, and share it.

You have 215,000 new friend requests.

Here at Trampoline, we create a lot of content. How much content? Check out our “30 Days of Logos” series on Instagram. It’s easy to share rebrands and video clips on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but it’s harder to condense what we do for social media down to 1920 by 1080. Our work for Warren County Tourism has been a case study in growth and maintaining long term success. As our three-year contract comes to a close, we’re taking a moment to reflect on our time with @LakeGeorgeArea.

In the summer of 2015, we jumped at the chance to apply our take on the region we call home. Warren County tasked Trampoline to increase their online footprint, drive traffic to their sites, and add followers. Our solution was to push high quality content with a consistent brand voice on a regular basis. Rather than telling people to come visit, we wanted to show them exactly why a trip to the Lake George Area was worth their time and money.

Pinpointing the Lake George Area audience was one of the most important factors in content creation. On Facebook, the average fan is a 35-44 year-old woman from New York State, likely from a rural area. The average Instagram follower is a 25 year-old woman from an urban center in the Northeast. The average Warren County Twitter follower? A 25-34 year-old Republican woman who is married, owns a home and has a household income from $150,000-199,999. Oh, and she only buys name brand. Details like this may seem insignificant, but they paint a picture of what content we need to be creating, boosting and strategically placing across our channels to optimize engagement.
For Facebook, we took a family-focused approach. Blog posts about back to school fun and lists of family-friendly weekend events filled our followers’ feeds. Our audience was more than happy to pitch in, often commenting their own recommendations and fond memories. Blog posts, image sets and Facebook contests kept people engaged on a daily basis, but it was the video content that stood out as a clear audience favorite. Our video depicting Warren County Events even won the County a 2017 Telly Award!

Instagram was a different case altogether. Where videos and images with text overlays went viral with the older Facebook audience, they only saw a small trickle of likes from young Instagram users. This audience clearly wanted an escape. They didn’t want to see other people having fun or to read a list of everything happening in the region, they wanted an attention grabbing image, free from the context of someone else’s vacation.

In 2017, the same filter heavy shots that received rave reviews in 2015 were the worst performers. High resolution images of sweeping mountain views and saturated sunsets far outperformed images showing people. Instagram, which as a platform has gained over 300 million users since the Warren County account began in 2015, is one of the most dynamic accounts in the Lake George Area suite.


With Twitter we found that the fast paced nature of the platform made it perfect for letting our audience know about the events happening in the area. Although not conducive to in-depth copy, 140 characters is a perfect amount to tell people what’s going on and where.

Living in Warren County gave us the distinct advantage. We drive, bike, hike and ski in the region on a daily basis. As a creative agency, we have the skillset to generate organic content with our audience in mind. Living our lives, camera in hand, has allowed us to create a library of active, first-person material.

 

The Results
Warren County gave us the broad goal of driving growth on their sites. By all accounts, we’ve surpassed this goal with an average fan growth of 2,645.6% across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Over the course of our contract with the Tourism Department, their Facebook likes have increased by 3,322.4%, with the account on track to surpass 300,000 likes before the end of 2018. The increase in audience engagement (likes, comments and messages) is even more staggering, sitting at 88,064% over the last two and a half years.

Instagram followers have increased by 4,245.8%, with audience engagement up  21,101%. 2017 alone saw the @lakegeorgearea account reach follower milestones of 4, 5 and 6 thousand.

Twitter experienced slower growth than Facebook and Instagram, with a 368.6% increase in fans. With Twitter’s growth as a platform flatlining in the past three years, we consider our success on the site a testament to the quality of the content being pushed.


The numbers are impressive enough on their own, but more so when you realize that for every like, there’s a real person engaging with Warren County. To put the numbers in context, the Census Bureau cited the population of the county as 65,707 in 2016. The combined total followers for Warren County social media is over 3.67 times larger than the county’s population.

What Next
Successful social media management is a balance between analytics and instinct. In the daily battle to reach wider audiences, having the ability to create content is perhaps a smaller factor than having the knowledge to get that content in front of the correct audience. While we couldn’t have anticipated the level of success we experienced with Warren County Tourism, we weren’t altogether surprised. Through strategic planning, regular analysis and a willingness to adapt, we’ve seen results and learned valuable lessons, preparing us for many years of social media management ahead.

Making Payroll in the Gig Economy

There’s a thing that happens in our studio. Inevitably, someone ends up dressing like a coworker. We all point and laugh. Knowing that next time it might be us. With an ad agency in the Adirondacks, there’s bound to be repeat flannel.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

This anecdote illustrates that our shop is full of creative professionals, every day. Some of us have worked side-by-side for 15 years, others have contributed for 15 months. We look out for each other, riff off of one another and rely on the strengths of our cohorts.

Our studio is 3,000 square feet of open space, dedicated to design, production and concept sessions.

The staff trades barbs, album reviews and Stranger Things commentary as we tackle communication campaigns for clients.

The partners arrive with groceries and everyone works together to fill up the fridge and stash chips in cupboards. What does any of this have to do with business? Why should you care that a designer is setting type while crunching on agency-bought Doritos?

Camaraderie, culture and support make for better ideas, that’s why.

Stability helps to create an environment where concepts can flourish. These people are familiar, they’re regular. Each talented in their individual ways, that contribute to what we do as a team.

Why risk it?

At creative conferences and in business pubs, we’ve seen the gig economy celebrated. The flexibility of low overhead, the freedom to dodge and weave around process as it suits.

The gigpreneurs guffaw and hook their thumbs at agencies like we’re all wearing the same outfit.

Lunch & Learn at Staci’s station.

“Why would you pay for that office space? I have meetings in cafés. No rent.”

“Why pay all those people when you could contract out?”

It’s a fair question, and a tough one to argue, from a savings standpoint.

Then again—soloists are, by nature, accustomed to a singular perspective. The benefits of staff and space are seen from a client’s viewpoint: where issues of timing, volume, and consistency are every bit as important as design.

Back when we started out, the advice was “Be brave enough to hire people who are better than you.” Now it seems to be “Make sure you have them fill out this W9 form.”

If being a free agent is so great, why, I wonder, do so many virtual creative companies take great pains to appear as robust agencies, with a deep bench of talent?

Halloween 2017

There are freelancers, and LLCs that are true to their size. Partnerships who don’t misrepresent themselves as more than a dynamic duo. There’s something confident and wonderful about that. Those who are successful, and selective, have had the talent and dedication to take a client to market and rise to the deadlines.

At Trampoline, having dedicated pros to the left and right of us is inspiration to do better. It’s a push. You celebrate wins together, and when a difficult situation arises, there’s support.

There’s always more inspiration to be found, though. And so, we happily announce the addition of Mikaela Shea as Marketing Production Specialist. Mikaela’s creative path has been a Long Trail that winds from Burlington, Vermont, through Purchase College and television networks to Glens Falls. She’ll help to manage the design workload, and see projects through production, packaging and merchandising.

Summer Favorites; Beverage Edition

It’s no secret that the staff here at Trampoline enjoy a good drink or two. So much so that we’ve dedicated a significant chunk of our working lives to them. Visit the office and you’ll find a well stocked fridge, bar, kegerator, and coffee pot. Catch our team on the weekend enjoying a variety of alcohol related pastimes, from brewing beer (Staci is our fearless leader in this regard) to jamming out at a local watering hole. It’s safe to say we take our fluids very seriously.

For most of us, the competition for our beverage of the summer was stiff, no pun intended. The following list is a collection of drinks, artwork, and thoughts on what it means to be refreshed in the summer months. Pour yourself a beverage of your choice (we don’t judge!), sit back, and pick our brains.


Allison
:

My favorite summer drink is kind of a cheat answer because it involves two of my all time favorite drinks: gin and champagne. Mix those two with some lemon juice and simple syrup and you get my favorite cocktail: the French 75. It’s fizzy and botanical and just plain delightful. Drink it pinky up!

Rob_Blog_1

Rob:

Oh G and T, Oh G and T,

You are the summer drink for me,

You’ve got the lime, you’ve got the bubbles,

Have 1 (to 10) and forget about your troubles,

Its fresh and crisp and easy to sip,

Great for a back porch or a boat trip,

Oh G and T, Oh G and T, the summer drink for me

Is it 5 o’clock? Alas, I long for thee

John:

Call me old fashioned, but I’m a fan of an ice-cold beer – preferably a strong IPA — after a long work week. It helps when your client, Druthers, serves up one of your favorites — the All-In IPA. A close second to IPAs are wheat ales like UFO, Hoegaarden or Allagash White. Unlike some craft beer connoisseurs, I won’t turn my nose up at a Bud Light or a cold PBR on a hot day! Hoo-ray Beer!

1stCup

Amanda:

My favorite drink is always my first drink. Which, in the summer, means at dawn. Yes, I’m deviating from the largely alcoholic list, but the truth is that coffee will never let me down-iced or hot, espresso or straight joe. The sensation of that first sip, no, even before that, the anticipation of the first sip, feeling the mug in my hands, smelling the sharp aroma and feeling the warmth from the pot, it is exquisite.

The perfect cup has cream, not creamer, thick, white, and ideally poured from a glass vessel. Not much sugar, but enough to stir a couple of times with a small spoon, the clinking of metal on ceramic priming me for the sensation of that first sip.

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Derek:

My fave summer sipper/slammer is also non-alcholic (surprise), as seen in a creative brief.

SummerBev-9PinPeach copy

Leslie:

My favorite summer beverage is refreshing and crisp with New York State apples and a hint of sweet: Peach! and more Peach! This cider pairs great with lakefront and adventure, two pups in the water and humans tagging along with their thirst-quenchers. Cheers to never-ending summers and Nine Pin Specialty Peach Tea Ciders!

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Sean:

In a home with three pre-teens…you drink what’s available.

I could fill a steamer trunk with Capri Sun™ straw wrappers.

Beerscape

Oliver:

The Uinta Detour double IPA packs a delicious punch, and sends me deep into aromatic memories of a Rocky Mountain Pine Forest on a warm summers day. Both me and Uinta were made in Salt Lake City, Utah, and appreciate the allure of a refreshing brew paired with a big mountain view. The Detour is my go-to companion for any summer adventure.

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PaulaYou get the gist.

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Staci:

Bell’s Oberon

When our Communications and Media Specialist Megan asked what my favorite beverage is, it took me about three days to really wrap my mind around it. You see, I take my beer very seriously. My husband and I are homebrewers, plus I’m 4 months pregnant, so I wax nostalgic about the memory of it quite frequently.

Bell’s Oberon is my favorite Summer beer. It’s an American Pale Wheat Ale: a limited release with a smooth, citrus taste and fruity aroma. It has a brightly-colored, funky sun label design that draws me in, too. Brewed in the great mitten state, it takes me back to my Michigan roots. It wasn’t always readily available here in New York, so when I discovered that they started distributing here, I was excited.

Oberon is a great beer for a backyard barbecue, a camping trip, or a nice dinner out with friends. Now, if only Bell’s would release a clone recipe so I could brew some myself, I’d be thrilled.

Cheers!

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Megan:

I’ve been trying for a long time to be a beer person. As a brand spankin’ new college graduate, I have a special place in my heart/liver for $2 Busch Lattes and Natty Light pints (Busch Light and Natural Light respectively, for those with anything resembling self-respect). Craft beer is a staple in the office, with packaging (and samples!) coming in and out faster than you can pay your bar tab.

But honestly? If I’m ordering myself a drink in the summer, expect it to be mixed.

There, I said it.

It’s summer, it’s warm, it’s the only time of the year that it’s acceptable to sit outside under an umbrella with a nacho in one hand and something cold and fruity in the other. Does this make me less “chill”? More high maintenance? Do I care? Ask me again after a few refills.

It’s Up to You

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People like to give advice, sometimes it’s a gift, other times it’s predictably hot air. 

Specialize in something.

Establish your niche.

Narrow your focus.

Stay in your lane.

The tricky part of navigating life, relationships, and the marketplace is to know when to listen, when to nod politely, and when to trust your instinct. Over the course of our nearly fourteen years in business we have heard a lot of advice, some we quote greatly for its evergreen brilliance. 

“If it doesn’t work, kill it quick.”

“If you don’t love it, don’t show it.”

“That’s not how the internet works.”

There are other moments we look back on and realize we should have listened to our gut. This is a long-winded way of saying that no one knows what’s best for you, but you. Have some fun. We guarantee that when you enjoy what you are doing and who you are doing it with, it comes through in the final product. 

Listen, keep what works, and move along.

Building a tower of TP for Morcon at the Wood Theater in advance of the Adirondack Theatre Festival‘s production of  The Boy in the Bathroom .

The Luxury of Pickiness

Picky

Selective

Discerning

Choosy

Overparticular

Opinionated

Fickle

As we all participate in the sprint/marathon/obstacle course for people’s attention the truth is that consumers, with very few exceptions, have the luxury of pickiness. They get to go full on House-Hunters-judgey and define their own expectations and reasoning.

 

the-nameisaubs-house-hunters-couple-i-need-a-heated-pool-3947825

They can tune you out, be drawn to new things by a fleeting sparkle, or even change their minds without explanation. Being sneaky, disingenuous, or half-hearted is no way to win someone over. So what the heck are you supposed to do when algorithms constantly change, ad rates soar, the market gets crowded, and something like a fidget spinner comes along and makes your product or service as appealing as week-old potato chips in a bag that wasn’t properly closed?

 

We would suggest that the first thing you do is laugh. We’re all misunderstood, burned, and wounded from time-to-time, and the stories are often amazing. Honestly, finding true love is hard and the pitfalls along the way are inevitable, brand love is every bit as tricky.

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If consumers are picky, let yourself be upbeat, undaunted, and unyielding in your offering of your service or product. Remember that what you offer is something of value, it serves a purpose, produces an emotion or an outcome that is desirable. When people try to define you in a way other than that, go back to center.

We sell candles—-> We deliver light.

We write copy—–> We bring stories to life.

We have cabins for rent—–> Your yet-to-be-made memories live here.

It isn’t necessary to be like everyone else or to feel it’s a failure if you don’t appeal to all people. Be you and for the right people that will be more than enough.

Chemistry is the essence of communication

 

Chemistry does not happen in a vacuum, well, maybe high school chemistry does, it wasn’t my best subject. The chemistry I’m talking about is connection; the emotional or primal response people have to a person, place, or thing. It’s sensing as you walk into a place for the first time that you belong there. The voiceover in a commercial that makes you feel happy. The lines on a page that transcend ink on paper and instead become a battle cry or a love song.

Chemistry is the fuel in everything we do at Trampoline, because in the end getting market share isn’t about numbers it’s about hearts. Successful campaigns build loyalty and momentum, both of which are rooted in an emotional connection. It may be related to value or quality, but it is sustained by the relationship.

It’s ferreting out the words, colors, and placement that will allow an audience to feel the spark of connection, a literal pull to read more, get closer, and to commit. Keeping sight of the importance of chemistry is how we can let an idea we love or a font we think is beautiful be replaced by the elements that will mean the most to the gazes we want to hold. This is about us, as in more than one person, one agency, or one client.

A recent meeting at the studio to present creative had us crackling with anticipation. We had arduously pulled, poked, pared back, and refined a large project. At one point as the entire team was gathered around the table, Derek said, “You have too many wonderful things going on, we need to give a few of them more space to just be amazing.” He was right and we all knew it, but it was still daunting to edit. Hands grazed the paper, Staci said, “I just love what you’ve pulled out and how it feels.” We got quiet, Rob nodded. “I know you’re right, this is good. I can do that.” We stood around the table taking it all in and knowing that the changes would make it that much stronger.

“Chills. Gorgeous work,” and then murmurs of “beautiful” and “really great work” as we all walked back to our desks.

Sometimes I think it’s actually that struggle that is the best part, almost like a sub chemistry between the designers and writers. I believe that effort stays in the piece, invisible, but there.

As our friends from Double H reviewed the pages we waited. “It’s really…I love it.”

We laughed and exhaled and called for high-fives.

 

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Draplinspiration

Good designers know that there is always more to learn. It’s an interesting industry to be a part of, like a log rolling contest. The rules and methods are constantly changing, and designers are systematically challenging the status quo. You have to keep shifting your feet to keep up, otherwise you’ll end up in the drink.

One of the ways we do that is to learn from fellow designers. On Monday, four of our designers attended an intensive logo workshop at SUNY Adirondack with one of the greats, Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Company.

We filed into a tightly-packed classroom filled with computers, and waved hello to a few friendly designer colleagues and students who we recognized. The room buzzed with excited anticipation, wondering how many swear words and pearls of wisdom Mr. Draplin would bestow upon us.

Aaron Draplin running the design workshop.

Dressed in one of his signature trucker caps, full beard and sweat pants (he is a rockstar on the road, after all), he absorbed the energy in the room and began the workshop. He whizzed through Illustrator quick keys and stories about past clients as we fervently scribbled notes and sketches in our books. He told the story behind his work for President Obama and opened up his working files to show us how he works on a daily basis. “Don’t tweet this!” he’d proclaim, followed by “Keys to the kingdom!”

Aaron Draplin running the design workshop.

One of the most interesting anecdotes he shared was his journey from Michigan to Portland, Oregon. (He and Staci later shared a moment when they talked after the workshop and discovered that his mom hails from the same hometown that she does: Livonia, Michigan.)

Draplin's hand drawn map of Michigan.

After the workshop, the entire team sat in on his presentation—filled with the same heartwarming, hilarious and inspiring design stories, more swear words, and insight into the design industry.

Our team came away feeling inspired and refreshed, excited to have touched base with a designer we all admire. We laughed and shared, and came to work the next day with the tips we’d learned fresh in our minds.

Design is all about evolving, listening to the world, and moving people with the art we create. And when we learn and get inspired together, we benefit as a team. You see it in the work we produce. As he stated when he closed out the workshop, “I know this is going to sound really ‘Bob Ross-y’, but inspiration is infinite. Catalog those things around you.”

Draplin puts Rob in a headlock.

Joy-of-painting-Bob-Ross

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