Material Design: Teaching you to brand like Google?



For a few years, ‘flat’ has been the reigning buzzword in the design world. Clean, sharp lines with little shading or drop shadow paired with simple vectors and plenty of white space have provided a respite from the once popular ‘3D’ look of the early 2000’s. But now, a new, Google-created buzzword is shaking up design blogs across the web: Material Design. Intended to create a unique visual language that will easily translate for Google products across all digital platforms, Material Design is being heralded by many as “Flat 2.0”. But it’s not necessarily the design that is making these bold colors, simple graphics and large typography stand apart from the crowd.


Beyond Brand Standards

Visually, the difference between ‘flat design’ and Material Design may not be all that noticeable unless you’re a designer. But unlike flat design, Material Design’s purpose extends beyond simply creating a visually appealing design. This streamlined, exacting design style is meant to create a cohesive experience for the end user, much like a set of Brand Standards. However, unlike a conventional set of Brand Standards, Material Design allows for an unprecedented level of creativity within the brand. This creates an exciting range of design that keeps the user engaged while cementing brand recognition. This unique design style and consistency across every program and platform is making their interface more than an interface, it is now a vital part of the company’s brand.


Yes, you can brand like Google.

You may not have the reach or the design team that Google has at their disposal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take some of the principles Google has introduced with Material Design and apply them to your own marketing efforts.


Intentional Design

Balancing form and function isn’t enough in the modern design era. One of the main takeaways from Material Design is that form has become function. Gone are the days of design elements that just look cool, especially in the world of web design. The mainstay of intentional design is a focus on usability. Questions like ‘does every aspect of this page serve a function?’ and ‘is this graphic universally relatable’ should be at the forefront of all design decisions.



A strong set of Branding Standards is key to keeping your marketing team on track and presenting a united brand. However, are those same standards crippling your team’s creativity? Material Design’s standards are, at first glance, extreme. But, that structure is crafted to allow for an unprecedented level of creativity because Google has taken ownership of a specific design style. You may not be ready to develop your company’s own version of Material Design, but by shifting your focus from enforcing a certain set of colors, typefaces and photos, to taking ownership of a certain design style and fostering new ideas within that style, you will be able to emulate the Material Design approach.



If there’s one thing Google understands and capitalizes on better than most, it’s their understanding that consumers are surrounded with advertising and branding efforts 24/7. Audiences have become so desensitized to advertising that flashy design and a catchy tagline is essentially lost on a large portion of them. But, a beautiful, identifiable interface that provides information or services to a user? That will hold their attention in a world where attention spans are rapidly dwindling. You may not be offering email service, or cloud storage like Google, but consider your blogs, social media efforts, newsletters, even your website. How easily can your user find what they’re looking for? How are you reinforcing your brand without a tagline or logo?

Regardless of company size, the lessons learned from Google can be invaluable for staying at the cutting edge of your own industry’s branding!


"Story" (CC BY 2.0) by  DaveBleasdale

It’s Time to Tell a Story.


"Story" (CC BY 2.0) by  DaveBleasdale

“Story” (CC BY 2.0) by  DaveBleasdale


It’s a question that has haunted marketers for generations, and seems to have only been amplified in the oversaturated digital age – how do you get your consumer to stop and pay attention to what your post or tweet has to say? Even better, how do you convince the people scrolling through their newsfeed on their lunch break to spend precious moments clicking through to your content? The answer is something we thought we left behind in Kindergarten – Story Time. Whether they’re buying a home or picking a face wash, your social audience wants to hear a story not a sales pitch. And in an era where consumers can cherry pick the brands they allow in their newsfeed, the only way to successfully engage them is to give them what they’re looking for.

There’s nothing new about storytelling as a marketing tactic. Fans of Don Draper in Mad Men know that his storytelling abilities were selling everything from cigarettes, to shirts, to cars, to his own persona back when the only tweets came from birds. And his real life counterpart David Ogilvy used that same story telling to create some of today’s best-known brands. But as storytelling makes its resurgence, instead of a 30 second radio spot, a man in an eye-patch, or the tagline on a print campaign, your story needs to be able to stand up to critique and stand out among its competition. To be truly successful, your story needs to be cohesive and Individual, while also being simple yet substantial across multiple platforms.



Just like branding standards, the story you’re telling through your social media efforts is a large part of your company’s hallmark. Taking a measured approach to all aspects of your social posts – think longform content, images, graphics, post language, and video – will create a recognizable brand that your fans will seek out. And, taking that brand ‘offline’ to incorporate with print and other traditional advertising efforts will only serve to bolster your story.



It’s not enough to have a story to tell, that story needs to be individual. Think back to your brand statement – what is it that makes your brand so unique? As long as it’s authentic and inoffensive, social media is the best place to push your brand to the hilt. The nature of social media is such that you don’t necessarily need to worry about your story having a broad, all-encompassing appeal – be over-the-top about who you are, and you’ll engage the audience who is looking for exactly what you’re offering, and it’s likely they’ll attract others like them to follow you too.


Substance and Simplicity

Not every brand is going to have a heart warming (or wrenching), story to tell. But, every brand can craft a substantial story that makes engaging with the page worth the user’s while. Don’t just make up a story you think will sound good – users will see straight through that. Instead, think of your strongest sales pitch and ask yourself how that sales pitch came to be. Now you might just have the basis of your story. And keep in mind that social media has curtailed the consumer’s attention span, so while there needs to be some depth to your story, the overall theme of the story should be simple to catch, even when the user is scrolling through a feed.


If you’re looking to tell your story on social, let Idea Associates help! Click here to visit our website!



Johan Blomström [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Why and How to Use Cinemagraphs in Your Marketing Campaign

Waving reeds cinemagraph

Johan Blomström [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Now that GIFs are the stuff of redditor reactions and Facebook Comment strings, what is the next step for the design-savvy marketer looking to use an eye-catching moving image? It’s called the Cinemagraph. Though the term may sound like the name of a course at your local Liberal Arts school, it’s actually a fairly simple file format that garners a lot of attention for your brand. Remember the moving photos in the Harry Potter series? A cinemagraph is kind of like that, except you don’t need to be a wizard to put them to work for you.

In its most basic definition, a cinemagraph is a still photograph with some minor, repeated movement that appears on a loop, creating something akin to an animation, though most of the photo is still.  What’s so interesting about the Cinemagraph is that at first glance it often doesn’t seem to be anything special, viewers assume they’re looking at a still photo, a short video clip, or an animation, but something seems just ‘off’ enough to catch the eye. For example, look at the image in the header of this article, it’s just a nice stock photo of some tall grasses on the shoreline at sunrise, right? Look again, and focus on the two tall reeds to the right. No, you’re not seeing things, yes, they are moving, and yes, that is a cinemagraph.  So, it’s cool, and it’s new, but how and why would you use a cinemagraph in your marketing strategy?


For some marketers, ‘It’s New and Cool’ is enough to get you to give it a try, but if you need a little more convincing, let’s take another look at that header photo example from earlier. Whether you saw the movement or the stillness first, in the first split second you probably wrote it off as either a photo or a GIF, right? But, then you noticed that only part of the image was moving. This caused you to study it a little further and spend a little more time looking at the image. Now imagine that’s a cinemagraph of one of your new homes with just the curtains swaying in the breeze on an online ad. Your potential buyer is scrolling, largely ignoring both the static ads and the GIF ads on either side of the article they’re reading until the slight movement of those curtains makes them stop and take a closer look (mostly to make sure they’re not seeing things). Except, they’re not just looking at a photo, they’re studying your ad with your logo, URL, and phone number all front and center. When was the last time you stopped and studied a 3-flip GIF ad? And if that isn’t enough to convince you, take a look at this case study from Flixels where more than 5 times the number of people clicked through the Cinemagraph ad as did the still ad. 



While they’re probably too subtle for a digital billboard, cinemagraphs lend themselves to effective use across most digital platforms.

            Social Media

If there’s any place that’s perfectly suited to ‘new’ and ‘cool’, it’s social media. And since almost all platforms now support GIFs (the file format behind cinemagraphs), your next boosted Facebook or Instagram post may do exceptionally well with a little bit of movement in the picture. Plus, if users think they’re seeing things, they might just stop scrolling so fast!

            Digital Display Ads

As we established earlier, these moving images are extremely effective at making your digital display ads stand out, and in a world where people are becoming more and more likely to just ignore anything but the article they’re reading, they may just be the boost your campaign needs.


Since pretty much everyone checks their mail on their phone these days, simplicity is key. Cinemagraphs are more engaging than pictures, and more user friendly than videos or full moving GIFs, so why not add one to your next email campaign?


If you’re looking to make an impression with your website, a relevant cinemagraph may just do the trick. Just be sure to use them sparingly (not one per page, maybe one per site) and design around them so that they take center stage!

What do you think of cinemagraphs? Will you be working one (or a few) in to your next marketing plan? Let us know!


A Social Presence Doesn’t Make You ‘Cool’ Anymore…


This March, Twitter turned 10 years old. That means for the past decade people have been churning out 148 character messages to the world expressing everything from their personal opinions to advertising messages. On average 6,000 of those tweets are sent per second and all of those tweets are stored in an archive at the Library of Congress. But, two years before the little blue bird became synonymous with hashtags and shorthand, Facebook, now the number one social media network in the world,  was introduced. Tipping the scales at 1.1 Billion users in the early days of 2016, the social giant is the 3rd most popular website in the world, second only to Google and Youtube. Colloquially, the question ‘Are you on Social?’ has become ‘Where are you on Social?’. In short, social media isn’t just a novelty anymore. It pervades almost every aspect of the modern lifestyle, from elections to grocery shopping.

So, we hate to break it to you, but a social media presence doesn’t make you cool anymore, it makes you relevant. If your client or customer can’t find you on their phone, tablet, or computer before they’ve set foot in your establishment or met you face to face, you’ve already lost them. As Dionne Lew states in her article Why Leaders Really, Really Need To Care About Social Media, “These people (consumers, voters) expect to find you in social not because you’re cutting edge, but just as we presume we’ll find inventory on shelves.” So, even if you’re still successful without ever having logged on to a social network, refusing a social media strategy is refusing business, from many different angles.

If you work it right – adding in the correct targeting and popular hashtags – social media will help you reach your target audience. Those users will then like your page, and ideally click through to your website or give you a call. This is the most basic function of a business’ social media presence and it’s not too different from display advertising, though it is generally more cost-effective and an easier way to track leads. But, what you may not be taking into consideration is that social media goes above and beyond an advertising tool. 

From valuable PR and client communication to attracting potential investors, a social media presence keeps you from missing out on opportunities you may not even know you were missing. A social profile becomes like a ‘face’ for your company, it helps you to build trust with your current clients, becomes a resource for leads researching a potential purchase in your industry, and allows unprecedented communication with prospective clients. Social media also becomes ‘owned media’ – a way for your business to position itself as an authority in your field, while also announcing company achievements and milestones that don’t need to be picked up by a local news outlet. If you’re looking to grow or attract new investors, keep in mind that Cogent Research has proven that 90% of high net-worth investor groups utilize social media research to inform their personal investment decisions.

Not every company needs to be on every platform out there. A targeted and logical approach is the best approach, but if you are looking to grow your business and attract or retain new clients and investors, your Social Media efforts should be much more than an afterthought. 


The Simple Guide to Real Estate SEO (Part 1)

SEO for Real Estate

SEO Guide For Real Estate Number 1

What is SEO?

Search engines are the biggest source of traffic for most websites. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a ranking process by which a website is found through search engines like, Google, Bing, and Yahoo!.

Colorful SEO graphic

The higher a site is ranked on a search engine’s results page, and the more it appears in a search results list, the more “natural” or “organic” visitors that site will receive from search engine users.

#Fact: According to The National Association of Realtor’s, over 90% of buyers start their real estate search online.



Understanding Google Search

Google navigates the web by crawling; that is, following links from page to page, then sorts the page by content and other factors and ranks the results using over 20 factors. The most important are:

        • Site and page quality
        • Freshness
        • Safe search (A feature that acts as an automated filter for potentially offensive content)
        • User context (A Google algorithm that bases search results on the context as well as keywords used)SEO_Search_Engine_Graphic

#Fact: Google outranks all other search engines globally with a market share of 65% on desktop, and between 94% on mobile & tablet.




What does SEO DO?

Simply put, SEO gets businesses leads. But not just any leads, qualified leads.

Potential Buyers and renters in general are searching for certain types of properties in specific markets. When they perform online searches, you want them to find your site at the top of the results page.

SEO for real estate


The real estate market can be a complicated one to promote online as most websites tend to be large due to the high level of functionality and “searchability” that is required to meet the needs of its audiences.


With the right foundation, there are key tactics you can implement to get your site noticed. Stay tuned for Part 2 of The Simple Guide to Real Estate SEO.

2016 Trends

Top Ad & Marketing Trends to Dominate 2016


2016 TrendsIf the past few years have taught digital marketers anything, it’s that keeping up with effective Internet promotion techniques is no easy task as the online marketing and advertising industry grows increasingly complex.

A recent Gartner survey reveals that digital marketing is now the mainstream, and 98% of professionals say that online and offline marketing are merging. This creates a vibrant market in which consumer-led media habits dictate into which channels and formats advertising dollars should be funneled. Marketing experts predict these top trends will dominate the industry in 2016.

1.Digital ad spend will usurp search ad spend.

According to a recent eMarketer survey, digital display ad spending will eclipse search ad spending this year for the first time in the US. The categories of video, sponsorships, rich media and “banners and other” combined, will account for the largest share of digital spending at 47.9%— worth $32.17 billion.

2.Increased mobile functionality for websites.

According business2community.com, mobile traffic outpaced laptop and desktop traffic in several countries in 2015, including the US. It is not that the average time spent on desktop is decreasing per se, but that time spent on cell phones and other devices is rapidly increasing. This means that it’s important for companies to make sure they have incorporated effective mobile design into their site, while still providing regular updates for laptop and desktop preferences.

3.Video is critical to digital advertising success.

It is common knowledge that most marketers have already explored the power of uploading video ads to sites like YouTube and Facebook. Social platforms like Facebook are now using paid video ads, which are performing well enough for this to be a new standard in the marketing mix, says B2C. The numbers also show that video will command a large portion of ad spend allocated to digital in 2016 at 14.3%— up from 12.8% in 2015.

4. Major increase in paid reach for social media (bye-bye organic reach).

The world of social media is at the apex of a major change. Social giant Twitter Inc. has seen a stall in year-over-year growth in active users for the first time, and a significant drop in stock price. According the socialmediaexaminer.com, Twitter will create an algorithm that affects which tweets are seen in which streams, similar to Facebook’s EdgeRank, where only a portion of a pages’ audience are able to view content based on level of ad spend, and other social networks are to follow suit.

Experts predict that as networks adjust their algorithms, the only way brands can ensure they generate decent traffic is through social advertising.

5.Content marketing still reigns supreme.

Business2Community research shows that marketers still believe content marketing will have the greatest commercial impact for their businesses, even more so than paid, organic search marketing, and social combined.

Marketers are also “chasing” influencers as a way to acquire a larger customer base. Research suggests that there is a growing trend to get thought influencers and celebrities to mention or promote products, and it might grow faster then SEO, PPC ads, and content marketing collectively. Until then, content remains king as it retains its positive impact on bottom lines.

6. So does email marketing.

A recent AdWeek survey reveals that marketers still believe email marketing is a core pillar of their business. When ads and content marketing can get expensive and competitive, there seems to be comfort for most in having an email list. Experts expect a significant portion of paid, organic search and social media budgets to continue focusing on growing subscriber bases.


Like to add to the conversation? Feel free to comment below!


Are Millennials Re-defining the American Dream?

The housing buyer market is low, but not for reasons you may think.


The Millennial buyer market is a completely different market than that of Gen X, or even Boomer generations. Because of economic changes that have swept across the nation over the past two decades, consumer attitudes about homeownership have changed dramatically. Recent data from a Housing Opportunities and Market Experience Survey by the National Association of Realtors has intriguing findings to back this up.

The most interesting report findings reveal that the majority (88 percent) of U.S. households believe owning a home is a good financial decision. While a high percentage of households believe that owning a home is still a part of the American dream, just under half of all households (44 percent) still believe the economy is in a recession, even though the desire to own a home remains strong.

“It is all about perception,” states Sibet Freides, principal at Idea Associates. “Many people may not feel as economically successful today as others did in the past, and the general population needs to become more accepting that the US economy is growing at a slower, more even pace.”

In the renter segment, the majority of those who rent do want to own a home in the future, but feel that affordability is the biggest barrier between them and their dream home, according to survey findings. They also believe that America is still in a recession, and most don’t feel confident in their ability to obtain a mortgage.

“The millennial hesitation to buy is not only financial, but lifestyle oriented as well. This demographic enjoys walkability, ease of services, and the social side of living in the city, so the majority are choosing to stay in-town and rent as opposed to moving to the suburbs where home prices are generally less expensive,” Freides enumerates.

In looking ahead to the next six months, survey findings reveal the trend that individuals who believe the recession is in an upswing will be more optimistic about not only owning a home, but home prices as well.

“Marketers will need to continue to find new ways to change the current perception of the modern renter/homebuyer, and, as the decision to go from renting to owning a home comes with significant lifestyle changes, developers will need to find different ways to appeal to their preferred lifestyle in order be successful,” she adds.


We would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment, share, like!

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Is the Next Generation Willing to Pay for Digital Content?

A recent Ad Age survey revealed that, contrary to popular belief, younger customers are more willing

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

to pay for digital content. Among customers younger than 26 in developed markets, 30% are already paying for some forms of digital video; 34% pay for digital music and 40% paid for games.

Success for media companies and ad agencies depends on understanding Generation #hashtag and its media preferences.

New age digital content should be both user-influenced and, in some aspects, user generated. A business must be successful at growing audiences and building businesses based on user engagement and contributions. Today’s hottest trend is native advertising; old-school banner ads may be on the decline.

Consumers do worry about privacy and how their data gets shared, however according to the survey they were much more willing to share data if the gatherer asked for permission. It actually doubled the number of consumers willing to share their data.

How should agencies use this data? Deep insight into consumer behavior is more critical than ever. Advertisers demand precise targeting and ROI measurement while online media stores depend on recommendations for the next purchase. Customer profiling and saved payment information at the ready is the best way to drive impulse purchases.

To read more about the Ad Age survey and the #hashtag generation, click here.


image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Location-Based Marketing is Taking Over

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Smartphones ownership has skyrocketed, and mobile technology will continue to grow to match demand, as consumers are moving toward mobile over PC. Marketers must evolve to meet this new way of life, and location based marketing is leading the way.

Mobile ordering means more than using an app to secure a pizza. Huffington Post says that Starbucks has already announced plans to roll out its new ordering app, which relies on a customer’s proximity to a store to allow customers to place orders and pay by mobile device.

In addition to ordering, retailers are adopting ways to push coupons to customers that are near their store. Many consumers have indicated that a coupon would be used more often if they received it near the store that offered it. This can also apply to stores or companies holding a big event like a grand opening; push notification technology can be combined with location-based apps to reach nearby customers.

GPS capabilities in phones are really shaping the location-based marketing landscape. Restaurants can announce to nearby potential patrons that a half price promotion is about to begin, or airlines can announce in real time that a flight has been delayed.

All of these things are offering companies ways to customize the consumer experience, and consumers, in turn, are coming to expect nothing less from brands. Companies like Uber and others are finding ways to turn this technology into convenient services for the user.

The only drawback as a business is finding a delicate balance so that privacy concerns don’t outweigh the potential. Consumers share that they feel uncomfortable having their in-store behavior tracked, yet still want mobile coupons from nearby retailers.

How do you find that balance? Share your thoughts below!

emotional brain

Emotional Video Ads Capture Your Brain

emotional brain

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Our brains are bombarded with messages by the minute. We spend so much time online and on our smart devices that we’ve become rather blind to standard ads, even when they are animated and flashing – competing for our attention. Are you familiar with “ad blocker” services on your computer? Our brains sort of have them, too.  So how can brands get through to their audience without completely stalking and invading them?

A Forrester Research analyst in New York believes that brands need to deliver emotional messages to accomplish this. Especially in the crowded mobile playing field.

Using the available digital data and targeting to reach a consumer who is interested in the product, you can make it past the filter in the brain that evaluates content and decides if it is relevant. But there is more to it than data analysis.

While video and image-based mobile experiences are expected to become more important in the years ahead, you cannot succumb solely to technology and forget your message. Advertising works when it has a high emotional appeal.

Video is the way for brands to make the most out of their message. Beyond TV media buys, brands can learn from YouTube celebrities – they build big audiences, but it’s the RELATIONSHIP with their audience that counts. By making recommendations and offering helpful tips, subscribers pay attention to everything you have to say.

Since the launch of Netflix in 2007, there has been a steady progression of new services and products in the video arena. The time is now for your brand to show that you are relatable and relevant, and your audience is waiting to see it. What’s your video marketing strategy to show them?