Thursday, December 15, 2016

Website Design Is So Trendy

Part Two - Website Design

December 25th is almost here and for some of us this means the goose is getting fat and it’s time to put a penny in the old man’s hat. Actually, it probably doesn’t mean that for any of us.

But whatever your reality this early December, the end of the year seems to be a time to reflect. And while we hope you’re reflecting on the good things in life rather than how you behaved at the office holiday party, at LeDuc Creative, we’ve been reflecting lately on areas where we took a different approach in 2016 to better serve our clients. 

The first area was SEO. We covered it in our last riveting post entitled, Let’s Talk Turkey about 2016.

So it only makes sense that the second area would be website design. Because once the SEO gets the visitors to the site, we had to determine what it would take to get them to stay. And we had to not only know what worked, but know what worked specifically in 2016.

There were more than a few trends that needed to be considered in designing websites this past year.

-The Proliferation of User Interface Patterns
Problems with user interface have created responsive web design that has left a lot of sites looking the same. While similarities aren’t a bad thing, we had to find new and challenging ways to make sites stand out while still avoiding difficulties with user interface.

Among some of the patterns and techniques our designers are familiar with are the hamburger menu, account registration, the long scroll, card layouts and the use of hero images.

-Rich Animations
There’s a right way and a not so right way to use animations. They are generally thought of in terms of two groups:

Large scale which include effects like parallax scrolling and pop-up notifications and are used as a primary interaction tool to have more impact on users.  
Small scale which include spinners, hover tools and loading bars, but don’t require any user input.

Our designers consider carefully whether the animation technique they use - from spinners to hovering to background to whatever - enhances the client’s site’s story elements and personality rather than serve as a distraction.

We engage in micro-interactions all day long. It happened the last time you “liked” something on Facebook or set the timer on your phone.

Micro-interactions are an important part of nearly every digital design project in that they add a human element. To design any website these days without some sort of element for user interaction is almost as rare as a log having deep thoughts.

They are also key in helping with communicating a status or bit of feedback, seeing the result of an action and assisting the user manipulate something.

-Material Design
In 2015, Google launched its new style language, Material Design. It was followed by Material Design Lite which was better suited toward web design. Our designers ate it up.

Material Design uses shadow effects and the concepts of movement and depth to create clean and modern designs that appear more realistic to the user.

It doesn’t rely on any particular framework so it allows the designers to use a bunch of front-end tools (not to be confused with front-end loaders) in creating their sites. Another plus - when it comes to code, it’s pretty lightweight.

-Responsive Design

Responsive web is among the most popular because it’s a relatively simple and cost-efficient way for businesses to build a fully-functional mobile-friendly site. If it’s not executed properly though, then performance suffers. Performance is important to the user experience, but also to Google.

Since it’s become necessary to keep page weight down, responsive design is very compatible with minimalism. With all of this in play, responsive web design is becoming less of a trend and more of a regular practice.

-Flat Design

Flat design isn’t new. It’s been around for a while and is compatible with other trends such as minimalism, responsive web design and Material Design.

Some of the techniques designers are incorporating in flat design are long shadows, vibrant color schemes, simply typography, ghost buttons and minimalism.
Ultimately, it’s important to know the trends, but to remember that they’re just additional tools for designers. At LeDuc Creative, we are well versed in the latest trends, but know that the biggest rule for website design is not to follow trends just because they’re the thing” at the moment. (Unfortunately, not all of the designers apply this rule to fashion.)

So while making websites more device friendly was a trend relevant to our clients like Lynn Foley Law, What’s Cooking Ann Arbor and J&M Strategic Consulting, on the other side of that coin we produced a Manufacturing Day video for Wenzel. And while that may sound old-school, it turned out to be a great asset for them.

There’s something to be said for old-school and tradition. And we will address that specific topic in the third post on our series 2016-The Year That Was. (It’s not really called that.) It will also be our final post for 2016.

See ya there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Let’s Talk Turkey about 2016. Part One - SEO.

Thanksgiving is almost here and the December holidays are just around the corner.

The year is drawing to an end and we’re inching ever closer toward the beginning of 2017.

Though this is not a startling realization, it did get us thinking about the year that was 2016 at LeDuc Creative.

Because we always have one foot (or some other singular body part) in advertising, we couldn’t help but think about the changes we experienced this past year. Good changes. Changes that made us a better agency. We also thought about fuzzy things like ducklings, which are cute but ultimately irrelevant to this post.

At any rate, when John LeDuc first ventured into running an ad business over 35 years ago, things were a lot different.

The internet was in its packet switching infancy and a couple of years away from being an actual usable thing. It would be quite some time before it would reach adulthood. (Of course, with all of the infantile behavior on the internet, one could argue it still hasn’t.)

The world of advertising then was of the traditional print/broadcast/billboard ilk. It obviously wasn’t called traditional then. After all, we’re talking about a time when direct mail was considered cutting edge. Which is a little hilarious.

But here we are 35 years later and our battle cry at LeDuc Creative is, “We’re not new to this.”

We call it a battle cry because although we have vast experience in traditional advertising, we know there’s a certain fierceness required to survive in the current and constantly changing landscape of today’s marketing and advertising. And we vow to stay out ahead of it - for our clients and for ourselves.

At LeDuc Creative, we must always consider what tactical moves to make in order to be holistic in our approach to get success for our clients.

So the first move we made in 2016 was focusing on SEO.

SEO is the name of the game these days. And the game is getting our clients results. In case you didn’t already know, SEO stands for search engine optimization and though that may sound like some Star-Trekian acronym for achieving warp speed, it’s really pretty simple. SEO is basically a measurable, repeatable process that is used to signal search engines that certain pages are worthy of being shown in Googles index.

And Google’s where it’s at, y’all.

That’s why this year we added a certified Google AdWords Expert to the team.

We call her our superstar. And not because she’s shaped like a star. (She isn’t.) But because her expertise adds so much to creating powerful and effective SEO.

Google works from an algorithm that gives websites scores based on the quality of the site, how many sites link to it and how trustworthy it is. And our superstar expert helps us create SEO savvy content that is relevant and gives our clients’ sites a higher score. A higher score means higher billing on a search. And higher billing means more visibility.

Some of her other superstar duties include:

        Conducting keyword research to create a list of keyword phrases on which the client bids
        Creating Adwords Ads that will run on Google Search, Google Display Partners sites (if desired) and on mobile devices (if desired)
        Testing different ads using various headlines and ad copy
        Managing bids
        Revealing what keywords were entered into Google Search that resulted in an ad being displayed
        Telling clients how many times visitors clicked on an ad, which ad was clicked on, and which keyword got the ad displayed
        Working with clients to create targeted landing pages for each of their Adwords Ad Groups
        Keeping John LeDuc in line

Okay, that last one isn’t really a part of her AdWords duties, although she does it well. Still, through her tireless efforts with SEO and AdWords, LeDuc Creative was able to generate more leads for our clients. A lot more leads.

And in the case of Feed Lease Corporation, those leads came at an exponential rate, accounting for some pretty happy guys over there. And when they’re happy, we’re happy.

Yep. Getting on board the SEO train was definitely a game changer. But we didn’t stop there.

There were two other areas where making changes really benefitted our clients.  One of them was also forward thinking, but the other one - not so much.  And this is a good thing.

Wanna know how we upped the ante on website design in 2016? Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

At LeDuc Creative, Gratitude Is Our Jam Year Round

At LeDuc Creative, Gratitude Is Our Jam Year Round

“I feel a very unusual sensation - if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude.”
                     -Benjamin Disraeli

Yep. It’s November. That means less daylight and more carbs. And with Thanksgiving around the corner, that means, well, even more carbs. But November has also become the traditional time for “giving thanks.”

Be that as it may, we’re grateful every day of the year for our clients. So then why are we mentioning it now? Well, we’re not completely immune to the cliché.

But November is also the time our clients consider their marketing plan for 2017. Over the decades we’ve acquired a lot of great clients and are thankful when they make the decision to stay with us year after year. And since we’ve been at this for over 35 years that means some of our clients have been with us a long long time. Like, the lifetime of a cockatiel.

We’re not new to this.

Our creative and administrative endeavors run the gamut from traditional print, billboard and broadcast platforms, through the most current digital and social media marketing. And we have clients in a wide range of industries.

One of our longest standing clients is Feed Lease Corporation, who’ve been a part of us since the beginning. The experts at Feed Lease have been designing and building premium quality, high performance automated press feeding systems and equipment since 1969.

In the early days, most of our work with Feed Lease was in the form of product catalogs and flyers, as this was the advertising du jour for manufacturing businesses at that time. But times they were a changin’. The climate of advertising was beginning to shift. As their company grew, their marketing needs began to change. So we developed print ads that would work in conjunction with the newly-formed internet. The result was potential customers both calling and opting for the email contact list and a subsequent spike in web traffic. In the mean time, they developed more of a presence as keynote speakers for PrecisionMetalforming Association events.

As the years passed, we knew that if Feed Lease was going to continue with its success, they needed more than just a presence on their website and at their industry events. We needed to boost their presence in the newest platform - that of social media. So we did. By incorporating our expert design, knowledge of applicable social media platforms and utilizing our in-house Google AdWords writing expert and management team to contribute fresh and relevant content, we were able to significantly build and strengthen their brand, drive conversions and increase their presence.

All of that equals more business.

We remain grateful to Feed Lease and to all of our clients for recognizing us as the agile and forward thinking marketing and advertising agency that we are. And yeah. While we embrace traditional advertising and still use it where needed, we know that the innovation needed to drive a company’s success comes from staying current and keeping an eye on the future.

As you look ahead to your 2017 marketing plan, see how we can make your life easier and help your company grow. For us, 2017 means the addition of new services, new information and a new website  - all of which will contribute to a bright intellectual thought process. We’d love to include you on our list of clients for whom we’re grateful.

Happy a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The LeDuc 2017 Strategy - Moving Forward Requires Forward Thinking

At the risk of overstating the obvious, it’s nearly impossible to make progress if you’re standing still. Even harder if you’re moving backward.

Heading into 2017, we are well aware that we are moving. And we are moving forward and faster than ever before. You might even say faster than a burp in a dust storm. Then again, you might not. In any case, we know the importance of not just embracing new ideologies, but creating them. It really isn’t enough to be just up-to-date these days. So our 2017 strategy calls for thinking beyond this.

And we’ve got plans in place.

One of our new services is providing our clients with in-house Google AdWords writing and management by our own Certified Google AdWords Expert. This program enables businesses to set their budget for advertising and pay only when people click the ads. The service is by and large focused on keywords.

We’ve also added market research software designed specifically for LeDuc Creative. The software gives us access to comprehensive geographical, financial, and demographical information. It will assist us in developing budgets and proposals that are relevant to the company. This applies to both our current clients, as well as those we hope to pitch. Whether they’re local, national, international, or inter-galactic. (Okay, that last one might be a touch ambitious.)

And another thing - we’re big on fact checking. We’re noticing more and more sites that regularly have to commit valuable space to retractions. This is space where they could be posting information about promotions, special offers or videos of squirrels on waterskis. (Really only relevant if they sell waterskis. Or squirrels.) We believe in honesty, transparency, and getting the facts straight the first time. No spin doctors here.

See, we’re not in this just to make a pretty website or an eye-grabbing emailer. We drive the success of our clients. And we do it in a way that’s thoughtful, thorough, energetic and fun.

Yeah, fun. Because along with listening, understanding, advising, brainstorming and adding the new intellectual currency of researching, fact-checking and AdWords, we’re going to keep having a good time.

After all, there’s no crying in advertising. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

LeDuc Creative Adds Kara Grupe to Enhance Social Media Strategies and Communication.

For Immediate Release
Contact: John LeDuc, President, LeDuc Creative Co.

PH: (734) 769-9453

Ann Arbor, MI. May 2016. LeDuc Creative Company, a full-service marketing and advertising agency recently announced the addition of Kara Grupe as their new PR and Social Media Manager.

As an early adopter of social media, Grupe brings the passion and analytical understanding of the platforms, tools and channels required to strategically promote LeDuc Creative’s clients with a
prominent online presence. Her research and analytical abilities have helped increase the ranking positions of many clients and help them continue to establish themselves in their chosen industries.

Grupe’s previous experience as a horseback riding instructor and Equestrian Director have also given her a unique teaching perspective and problem solving abilities, enabling her to bring an individual and creative approach to any situation as seen in her success managing the various accounts at LeDuc Creative.


About LeDuc Creative
Based in Ann Arbor for more than 35 years, LeDuc Creative has been providing our clients with high
quality and effective marketing and advertising throughout many diverse industries, from medical and manufacturing to academic institutions.

Our full range of services include traditional, digital and social strategies combined with attentive,
analytical thinking, and are implemented based on the individual needs of our clients to deliver better
results and a higher ROI.

For more information on the full creative and tactical capabilities of LeDuc Creative, call (734) 769-9453 or visit us on the web at:

Monday, August 15, 2016

So… What’s The Plan? It's Time to Craft Your Marketing Strategy for 2017.

So… What’s The Plan?

There are those who say life is what happens while you’re busy planning. The idea being that we need to play more and plan less.

That’s a nice thought, but not terribly effective when it comes to running a business.

At LeDuc Creative Company, we understand the importance of solid planning in order to achieve success. In fact, we come together as a group every Thursday at noon to have a little lunch, talk strategy and make a plan for the coming week or quarter.

And then - and this is the important part - we execute that plan. Because even the best laid plan is nothing without action.

As we head toward the autumn of 2016, we’re taking a good hard look at analytics, strategy and planning for 2017. For our agency, sure. But even more so for our clients. After all, they rely on us for their bread and butter (assuming they’re not gluten free or lactose intolerant) so it’s vital we analyze and plan for every aspect of advertising we do for them.

Our team is currently working with each client to create a strategy based on their individual needs. We believe that now is the time to analyze and put into action their plan not only for the remainder of this year, but well into 2017.

We’ve been recently inspired by one of our own clients, Mark Van Sumeren,  the Managing Director at Health Industry Advisor.

Mark published a book entitled A "Trip" To Strategic Leadership: A Heavy-Handed CEO's Journey of Self-Discovery and the Principles of Strategy and it has been a valuable resource for us in our own strategizing.

Through the character of Bill Ellis, a fictional character who’s all too real, he tells the story of a frustrated CEO who is well aware that for all of his strategizing, something is terribly amiss and his company is failing. The book follows his journey toward saving his company.  

Van Sumeren says, “My purpose is to convey several principles of strategic leadership, as well as an accelerated process of strategy formulation. These lessons are equally applicable to public and private companies, charitable and for-profit organizations, and large and small enterprises.”

In this new climate of advertising, there are far more avenues and options for marketing and advertising than ever before.

Recently, Proctor & Gamble reviewed their own marketing plan and realized that despite all of the hype, advertising on Facebook was not as effective in generating business as they’d anticipated. As a result, they cut back their spending in that area and made several significant changes in their online advertising strategies.

Are they using this extra money to engineer the direct piping of cleaning products into homes? Or having them delivered by special Proctor & Gamble drones? Who knows.

Whatever the case, when working to achieve the best results for our own clients, we want to be sure we’ve left no stone unturned.

Whether that’s social media, SEO, traditional marketing or any other of a myriad of marketing venues. We’ll even do sky writing, if that’s what’ll give you the most bang for your buck (which is unlikely).

So what’s your strategy for the rest of this year? We’d love to hear about it… and offer you our input.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

At LeDuc Creative, We’re Not “Quitting Social Media”. We’re Changing Our Perspective.

In the fictional ad world of Mad Men, the debonaire Don Draper stunned its denizens with the decision to “quit tobacco.”  At a time when a one- or two-pack per day habit was standard, it was a revolutionary move. The agency stood to lose a lot of revenue.

The Don Draper character was the perfect vehicle for the metaphor of change. And changes were ahead for the 1960s world of advertising. Big changes.

These days, there is very little if anything left of the legacy of those 1960s chain-smoking Madison Avenue execs. The modern world of advertising has quite a different climate.

Many view the substantial force behind this new climate as the addition of social media and its ability to constantly change the landscape. (What’s new at 6:00pm can be old by 6:05pm).

But has social media really replaced traditional marketing/advertising?

With social media’s goliath presence, marketing professionals like us have felt pressure to shift the focus of our business from traditional marketing to a more social media based platform. As if traditional marketing should be relegated to the same resting place as traditional photography.

At LeDuc Creative, we know that’s just not the case.

Don’t believe us? Just ask Pepsi. At one point, they chose to reallocate their entire advertising budget from television ads to social media. The result? They lost a lot of money and dropped to third place in market share. It was a costly experiment.

We see advertising as an art. Within that artistic skill set is the ability to discern what will give the customer the best and most promising results. That knowledge comes from decades of experience; the kind of experience we have.

From designing logos and websites to developing branding unique to each client, we know great marketing begins with great design and writing. The kind of work that has  the power to move and elicit an emotional response and subsequent action. These are the elements of traditional marketing and they are timeless.

This is not to say, of course, that we see no use for social media in the business world. It has tremendous value. Facebook, for example, performs well as a business directory listing and as a way to stay in touch with our company fans and clients. But for companies who operate on business to business sales, how often does Facebook directly generate sales leads?

When you get right down to it, it’s not a matter of traditional marketing vs. social media. They are really playing in two different fields. (And arguably two different games.) 

LeDuc Creative will continue to do what we do best - provide the most thoughtful, high quality and effective advertising based on the individual needs of each client - whether the marketing angle is traditional, digital or a combination of the two.

So of course we’re not “quitting social media”. We’re just stepping back, taking a different perspective and shifting our focus back to the foundations of marketing and advertising to move our clients forward.

After all, that’s our passion.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Good, The Bad And The Just Plain Out There - The Mysterious World Of Websites

The Good, The Bad And The Just Plain Out There - 
The Mysterious World Of Websites

Here’s the thing.

Creating an effective website is not rocket science. (Unless you work in rocket science.) Run a search on the magical internetwebtube and you’ll find countless posts and articles on how to do it.

It doesn’t seem that hard, right? It isn’t. The following link bears this out with many examples.

And YET, with all of this available information, there still exists a staggering number of websites that are simply awful. Unless, of course, you enjoy the following:

- Images and animations reminiscent of hallucinogenic-induced paranoia.
- Incoherent design, low-quality graphics and unreadable fonts that look like they were rendered by a third-grader.
- Key information buried deeper than your darkest secret.
- Difficult navigational structures that would make driving a Hummer on a tight rope easy by comparison.
- Unconventional colors that cross that thin line between “outside the box” and “irritating”.
- A lack of mobile compatibility.

Whatever the case, the world of websites is a wildly diverse one. A website can be a company’s best asset. It can also be its worst. And sometimes, websites are just plain out there.

It makes one wonder if they really want traffic. By deeming themselves immune to what works, they are immune to getting business as well.

#1. Learn your best marketing technique.

Is it search engine optimization, social media, pay-per-click advertising, PR or something else? Once you get a handle on which technique has the lowest cost-per-acquisition, i.e. how much you’ll have to spend to get the customer, you’ve got a solid foundation.

#2. Skip the dog and pony show and get some solid design.

Dancing hot dogs and flashing lights won’t do the job; unless the job is to induce acid reflux and seizures. Hire design professionals who can tailor your site to focus on a few key features from which the majority of your customers will benefit.

#3. Have answers readily available to your visitor’s questions.

Is this the right place?  
How long has your business thrived?
Are you affordable?
How can I be sure your product or services are any good?
Where can I learn more about your services and company?
How do I contact you?

#4. By the same token, know the answers to your own questions.

Don’t make the visitor think. Thinking hurts. If you’re selling a product, convince them to buy and make it easy for them. If you offer a service, let them know how and why they can benefit from it.

Do you want them to:
Call you? E-mail you? Sign-up for something? Buy your product online?

#5. Give your visitors choices for staying connected.

Determine the preferred forms of communication and give your visitors a means to stay connected: e-mail, a blog, Twitter, Facebook, RSS Feeds, smoke signals, etc. Cater to the market that best reaches them so they’ll want to come back.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Hey, who invited that boring Google+ kid to the party?
On June 28th of this year, Google+ will be five years old. 

There are those who will acknowledge this milestone. Many, if not most, will largely ignore it. And then some will write yet another post explaining why Google+ should just die already.

Rather harsh words to wield at a five-year-old.

But not entirely unjustified.

Perhaps for social media junkies, the late arrival of Google+ to the party felt like the guest with that “special” something whose arrival everyone awaits. But for the rest of us, it felt more like Google+ crashed the party.  And then it didn’t even bother to bring anything. (Not even a token bag of chips.)

Of course, fans of Google+ would disagree. Listed below are some of what they deem “special” features:

1. Google+ has an impact on personalized search results so that if someone follows you, or follows someone who shares/reshares/+1s your content, then that content will show up higher in the search results.

2. With the circle functionality, you can group your contacts into personalized categories (circles) and then share content in only the circles where it’s relevant. You are also able to share circles with colleagues and then they can create circles based on those contacts. Other platforms can’t do that. (Neh neh, boo boo.)

3.  Google+ is interest driven. This makes it easier to find others that share similar interests so that when you connect with them, you already have things in common. And with the built-in tool called Hangouts on Air, you get the power of Google Search and YouTube helping you get found on the Internet.

4. With Google+, you can turn up or down the volume on certain streams so if the topic of a circle interests you more than another, you can turn up the volume on that one so that you’ll get more posts from that category. 

5. There are fewer distractions from ads, thus placing the focus on content. (Take that, Facebook.) Plus, Google+ posts are less prone to being lost in the noise, when compared to something like Twitter

Well, okay.

These may well be valid points. Circles are nice. Who hasn’t dreamt of turning up the volume on one? (Except maybe everyone.) And most of the rest sounds viable, though frankly I don’t see Twitter and Google+ attending the same party, let alone hanging out together. I mean, Twitter is twice Google+’s age.  And not much of a talker.

What it all boils down to is that these features just aren’t “special” enough for most of us.

We’re already stretched in all directions trying to maintain the current social media platforms into which we’ve weaved our lives, egos and TMI. And Google+ isn’t offering anything outstanding or different to justify our getting on board with yet another. According to critics of this platform, its design updates have actually done less to improve it. The mobile experience is lacking, which is a huge drawback. And despite its moniker, Google+ does NOT drive all SEO.   

And then Google took nepotism to a whole new level in 2013 when they upset the YouTube community by requiring people to have a Google+ account to comment on what was once a wide-open site for self-expression. They have since admitted defeat and require only a regular Google account now, but this did nothing to parley favor for Google+.  Rather, it positioned their legacy/love child as a spoiled brat that tries to gain popularity through bullying tactics and pulling rank. It’s just that sort of behavior that keeps one from getting invited to parties. And inspires hateful rants.

Google+ feels not just like another platform, but another thing to maintain and another thing to do. It’s simply too little, too late.