TAG! You’re It!

Meet Andy Erickson!  Andy!

Andy is our Lead Web Developer and understands things many earth lifeforms can’t even begin to comprehend. We ask him questions about what a developer even means and more importantly, which character in Star Wars he would be.

If you weren’t a developer and somehow became a superhero, whose superpowers would you choose to wield when Thanos and his army of minions invade Earth?  

Being a bald man, I feel the need to give love to the few bald superheroes out there, so I’d have to choose the powers of Professor X. Not only does he look good, the mind control would come in handy also.

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For people who don’t understand what a developer does, how would you put it in layman’s terms for people trying to comprehend what you do?

A developer basically takes a visual design, and uses coding and programming languages to translate it into what you will use and interact with on the internet.

Matrix

If you could create the ultimate band/group of people to play together living or dead, who would be in your dream group and why?

I would have loved to hear what Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan would have done together. Mostly because Bob picked up where Woody left off, and seeing them grow together would have been wild.

What do you enjoy about programming? Do you like it for the sake of creating or the challenge or both?

The thing I enjoy most about programming is solving the puzzle of how to get everything to work. I’m a sucker for puzzles, and one with so many parts and variables excites me.

If you could have Jack Nicholson (your favorite actor) be in any movie during his prime, what would it be?  (It can’t be Over The Top)

You know what would have been fun to see Jack as? Dumbledore in all the Harry Potter movies.

Jack

You have been at TAG for quite a few years now, any projects that you are particularly proud of or especially enjoyed working on?

I’ve always had a lot of fun working on multiple versions of the Hungry Hobo website. We’ve always been able to push the limits in terms of design and development on those, and they came out really cool.

If you could be any character in the Star Wars galaxy, who would you choose and why? (excluding Jar Jar Binks, no one wants that Andy)

I totally would want to be Lando Calrissian because he’s suave, charming, and wears a cape.

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What is your favorite part about working at TAG?

I love working in a creative collaborative environment, and that the work we produce benefits from that.

 

Is Your Website a Litigation Risk?

In 2018, 2,285 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) web accessibility related lawsuits were filed, which is up over 181% from 2017 which had 814. The impact of disability is radically changed on the web because the web removes barriers to communication and interaction that many people with disabilities face. When websites, applications, technologies or tools are poorly designed, they can create barriers that exclude certain people from utilizing the web.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) made it clear that the ADA’s mandate reaches the goods and services provided by public accommodations using Internet websites. With this mandate many businesses sites will be non-compliant, leaving them open to lawsuits. Nearly 1 in 5 people in America are considered disabled which is a huge audience of people that can’t properly view your website.

Compliance is an issue that we have barely scraped the surface of in the US. The fact of the matter is that many large companies have already been sued for neglecting website compliance. Many suits have been filed within the last few years with settlement agreements that range greatly. A lawsuit concerning the Target Corporation has already cost them $6,000,000! It’s best to be ahead of the proverbial curve and ensure that your website is compliant.apple-apple-device-design-285814

Website compliance is an issue that will be taking precedent in the next few years. Many large companies already have been sued over compliance, including Target, H&R Block, Pizza Hut and 1-800 Flowers to name a few. These cases may only be the beginning of an onslaught of website accessibility cases, in the years to come. Aside from the legality benefit, a compliant website also offers additional advantages as well including:

Increases Target Audience- Nearly 1 in 5 people in the United States have disabilities ranging from sight, hearing, physical and cognitive. Offering a website that can be navigated by people with any disability opens more demographics, showing your company is committed to diversifying.

Improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO)- Enhancing functionality and usability on your site can aware you a higher ranking by search engines which includes Google, when your site is crawled.

Help Your Reputation- Having a compliant website shows the public and customers that everyone is valuable to your company, because it allows everyone to view it regardless of what disability they might possess.

Improve Website Usability- Make your web pages easy to comprehend, this allows everyone, disabled or not, to find what they need quickly. Your website will likely convert more leads, because users will trust they can find the content they need quickly.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a series of guidelines that are recognized by the Department of Justice. These guidelines are organized into three levels (A, AA, AAA) with similar types of accessibility features in each with AAA having the highest standards. For most, the objective is to satisfy Level AA guidelines, however some government agencies or nonprofits that cater to a larger impaired audience may work towards satisfying many of the AAA guidelines.

Companies will continue expanding their activism and investment into issues that matter to employees, customers and communities. Taking a proactive stance to website accessibility is the best way to ensure that you avoid potential lawsuits and improve aspects of your website. TAG can provide you with a website audit, giving you detailed information on key aspects of where your website is failing and assist you in creating a site that is compliant. For information regarding website design and functionality visit our website for more information and register for our Website Compliance seminar as well!

Defining Brand Identity with Design

Building a brand is a huge task in and of itself but being able to communicate your brand identity across multiple mediums can enhance the overall experience for the user. Graphics applied to a physical space allow a company to communicate their brand without having to say a word to customers or clients.

Environmental graphics can play a huge role in your brand. Your lobby space is a high foot traffic area, and you must consider visitors perception of your business. Imagery can be instrumental in the telling of your brand story through colors and engaging content.

TAG has helped define and redesign several projects for clients including refreshing and integrating a company’s brand identity though environmental graphics and identity design.

TAG

TAG experienced flooding in our lobby area, which resulted in the physical space needing to be redone. The team turned tragedy into triumph and completely redesigned and redefined the space. The goal of redesigning the lobby space was to create an area that is welcoming and comfortable to guests, but also to illustrate TAG’s brand design and identity. Graphically the piece showcases a timeline of TAG’s history to our clients but expresses our brand identity through a high trafficked area. The graphic features a mosaic of words and images that fit together like a puzzle, many of which carry meaning and are symbolic moments in TAG’s history. The space is extremely unique and has become a great conversation starter as clients and visitors want to learn more!TAG Lobby

Two Rivers Financial Group

When TAG originally designed Two Rivers Financial Group’s brand identity, it started with understanding the business and history as well as where they wanted their future to go. This led TAG to creating a brand that features hand-painted watercolor graphics which we developed in-house. The watercolor was meant to be a friendly visual approach tying directly to the reference of the water in the name. Simultaneously, we developed the positioning statement for the bank division “My Neighborhood. My Bank.” This was used to emphasize the local approach taken by Two Rivers in how they conduct their business and treat their valued customers. We crafted their annual report covering 2018, to feature both the brand look of watercolor graphics, and the local, community-involved focus of the report. TAG’s VP of Design Services Brian Buckles hand-painted the watercolor landscape scenes of key communities that Two Rivers Financial Group serves, resulting in a well-received and brilliantly designed annual report.

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L&W Bedding

Another client, L&W Bedding required a brand refresh which offered a unique challenge to the TAG team. L&W Bedding makes high-quality mattresses which are all made locally right here in the Quad Cities. The owner of L&W Bedding, John Wheatley, is such a part of his business that you often can find him sitting behind a sewing machine, stitching together the next mattress. Their existing brand identity did not communicate the hand-crafted and high-quality approach to mattress making that they offer. TAG’s approach was to redesign their logo, creating a graphic with a stitched look that is as unique as the business, but also redesigning the store’s interior and exterior signs to reflect the uniqueness of the business. The signage was created to help guide customers into and through the store, attention-grabbing floor graphics and delivery vehicle wraps. TAG’s recommendations were well received, and the in-store experience became a whole new environment. All the elements came together, forming a cohesive visual language and brand identity that consumers were able to retain with ease.

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Everyone’s brand is unique and can be translated through a variety of mediums. Your brand is your business, the essence of who and what you stand for. It is important that you communicate that effectively to your customers. To efficiently utilize and voice your brand, you must communicate it through multiple facets of media. Design can be an effective tool in giving your office an inviting look into your company’s brand identity. Let TAG help you redefine your brand and show people who you really are. Contact us here to get started.

Expanding Your Nonprofit Identity: HAVlife™

Understanding your nonprofit’s brand identity is key when telling people what your organization is and its mission. Effectively marketing your non-profit and showcasing its identity gets your message out to more people, allowing for wider reach. You want to reach as many people as possible, and updating your web presence, utilizing social media and public relation events, you can start to gain a following.Havlife_Golf_Outing_Poster

TAG has assisted HAVlife™, an organization aimed at Preventing Lost Potential™ in youth ages 10 – 15, in crafting its brand identity and expressing how important the nonprofit’s mission is. TAG approached crafting an identity reflecting the nonprofit’s mission and resources it offers to students. By giving HAVlife™ a platform and web presence, it would be easier to showcase the organization and its mission.

Designing the HAVlife™ website, TAG clearly defines the HAVlife™ brand with a playful and unique user experience, while showing exactly what the mission is. Featuring videos of students pursuing their passions of artistry, athletics and music, the mission shines through. The site also includes the corresponding chapter pages of the HAVlife™ organization which include Dubuque and Johnson County. Each of these pages feature their own donation buttons and events corresponding to the area.

Havlife_MSO_PosterMarketing your nonprofit across various forms of media is also a necessity. TAG utilized digital design by creating Snapchat filters and digital media, including Facebook and Twitter, to market HAVlife™ to different audiences. Consistently posting and showing people that your organization is active in the community will expand your audience.

Presenting your nonprofit through public relations and hosting fundraisers is a great way to engage people. HAVlife™ hosts several annual fundraising events including the Martini Shake Off™ and a Golf Outing. These events have grown exponentially over the years, with the 2019 Martini Shake Off raising over $65,000 for local community organizations aimed at Preventing Lost Potential™.

If you are interested in learning now the TAG team can help market your nonprofit’s mission, contact us here.

TAG! You’re It!

Meet Zach O’Connell! ZO_3

Zach recently celebrated his two-year anniversary at TAG and has been creating inventive designs and eating oatmeal every morning but today, we ask him about his creative process and other thought-provoking questions.

If you had to describe yourself using a kitchen utensil, what would you be and why?

I am a knife because of how sharp I am.

What helps you get into that creative space to design?

I am most creative when I am able to really focus on what I’m doing with a clear mind, so I will do things like go on a walk during my lunch break to help me get into that space. I also do a lot of sketching quickly, get a lot of ideas out before taking it to the computer.

You have a time machine. You can go back to any time period to have dinner and conversation with 3 people. Who are they and why?

First, I would pick Walt Disney to hear about the humble beginnings of what has become a massive company.

Second, I would pick one of my ancestors like my great great grandfather because I don’t know really anything about them and it would be interesting to learn more about where I come from.

Third, Steve Jobs, because I could hear about the early days of Apple, but more importantly, I hope he would be able to tell me about the early days of Pixar as well.

Tell me one thing about design that everyone outside of that world might not understand?

How valuable it is.  A lot of work goes into making things look good and function well, and it can have a massive impact on how we interact with the world around us.

You find yourself trapped in the board game Jumanji, do you think you survive or is it Game Over? giphy

Am I allowed to watch the movie before entering the game, so I can remember how to get out? Regardless, I’ll make it out.

What are your 3 favorite projects you have worked on at TAG? 

Three of my favorite projects I’ve worked on are: Logo and website design for Smokestack, packaging re-design for Hungry Hobo, and I still think it’s cool when I see Genesis buses driving around town with artwork I created on them.

When is your ideal bed time?

I used to be a pretty devoted 11:00 pm guy, but recently I have been getting up earlier and have transitioned to more of a 10:00 pm person (sometimes it’s more like 9:30. Teenage me would be shocked).

Finally, what is your favorite part about working at TAG?  

My favorite part about working at TAG is getting to be creative with a great team every day!

TAG Expands Service Line Offerings

TAG Expands Service Line Offerings

 

Davenport, Iowa – The region’s most comprehensive marketing and communications services provider is expanding its client offerings. TAG has established a Public Relations/Public Affairs practice within the agency. In making the announcement, TAG Chief Executive Officer, Mike Vondran says, “Focus on new, ‘break-through’ digital marketing tactics has ignited TAG’s success and client growth in recent years. But, it also has distracted many TAG clients from more traditional, ‘tried-and-true’ marketing activities. By offering a ‘one-stop-shopping’ solution, our clients will now benefit from a more coordinated and highly effective marketing program.”

According to Vondran, this new TAG specialty practice is a response to growing client recognition of the value of broader, coordinated customer outreach beyond the ‘social-sphere.’ Services provided by the new practice include general interest media and trade press relations, government affairs and advocacy, guerilla marketing and special events. “These tactics influence and strengthen brand image when employed in conjunction with additional web-based and social media marketing,” Vondran adds.

TAG’s Public Relations/Public Affairs practice is led by TAG Senior Vice President, Ken Croken, who joined the firm earlier this year. Croken served as Chief Marketing Officer at Genesis Health System. He previously led the consumer technology practice at Edelman PR Worldwide in New York City and was the corporate communications “lead” for the global government industry marketing division of IBM Corporation in Washington, D.C.

Commenting on the announcement, Croken says, “While the marketing and sales landscape has changed dramatically over the past 25 years, one key principle has not. Comprehensive and relentless brand management is critical to consumer preference and business success. New trends and shifting circumstances only underscore the imperative of a ‘go-to-market’ strategy that employs all effective tactics, not just the most recent.”



TAG, established in 1990, began with a firm foundation in broadcast production and media. Since then we’ve evolved to meet the needs of our clients and build their brands.
TAG provides web design and development, social media marketing, video production, SEO, public relations, public affairs and much more. We invest in the stories and success of our clients and meet every challenge with creative thinking and enthusiasm. For more information visit www.tagteam.agency.

Humanizing your Digital Strategy

Screen-Shot-2013-07-24-at-3.25.44-PMWe tend to trust our friends more than a business or a brand. So when your friend tells you something about a brand, you’re more likely to believe what they’re telling you rather than when a brand makes a claim. So how do you make your brand more trustworthy? How do we humanize our digital strategies?

Talk like a Person!
Shift your thinking and adjust your messaging to be more relationship focused rather than “salesy”.  Talking to your followers in a way that is not a sales pitch or corporate jargon is much more interesting to them, and they’re more likely to engage with you.

Usabilla reports that 79 percent of digital marketers will increase their content marketing budget in 2016, and 60 percent of marketers see the biggest challenge as producing engaging content. If you’re simply a mobile sales pitch, you’re going to annoy your followers and end up losing customers in the long run. Advertising a sale or a special offer gets some engagement at first, but too much sales talk will annoy your audience.

Interact with People
Respond to questions and comments from your followers. Better yet, ask them to engage with you by posing a question or asking for their input! According to Usabilla, 56 percent of customers are more likely to buy when given a personalized experience. And when someone responds to you, be sure you let them know that you’re reading their input by commenting on it, liking it or favoriting their response. This is a great way to start a real conversation that feels human-to-human rather than human-to-brand.

Show off your Team and Workspace
Your audience wants to be able to put a face to the words they read on your social platforms or your website. Take pictures or produce videos and webinars where your employees can show off their personalities. Visual content is 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content according to Kissmetrics. Give your followers a glimpse into your working world and let them feel like they’re getting a behind-the-scenes tour. Doing this makes your followers feel closer to you, and will make them want to get to know your brand more.

Be Authentic and Transparent
Be mindful that all of your messaging should reflect your brand values to create authenticity. And if you make a mistake, whether it’s something little or something big, just come clean about it. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. Humanize your brand by not covering these things up, but by owning your mistakes.

Your followers want to have a conversation with a person, not necessarily a business or a brand.  You can improve your digital strategy by making engagement with your followers feel like they’re talking with a friend, rather than a business. For more information on how to humanize your digital strategy, give the experts at TAG a call or visit us online!

Here’s how social media affects the customer service experience

What holiday shopping feels like
What holiday shopping feels like. Via weloveit20.tumblr.com.

As the holidays approach, customers demand more and more of businesses, often becoming aggressive when products and services are not to their liking. If approached correctly, social media can be a blessing when it comes to soothing stressed consumers, providing an outlet for customer frustration as well as offering solutions to problems on both the customer and company end. This is a great chance to shine when it comes to customer service!

There are pros and cons to almost any tool these days, and social media is no different. Companies, businesses and organizations can leverage social media to their advantage when it comes to customer service but only if they are willing to take the risks and approach situations quickly, appropriately and accountably. Keep the season merry and bright with these considerations about social media.

 

It’s fast

The up side: Problems can be addressed more quickly, making customers feel valued and heard.

Organizations can immediately respond to notifications on social media channels, and it is in an organization’s best interest to do so. Especially when customer service phone lines are tied up or when offices are closed, social media is something that more and more customers are turning to in the event of an issue or emergency. Those quick responses garner customer respect and can smooth a few ruffled feathers before the conversation about their problem even begins.

The down side: The problems might not be able to be fixed as quickly as they are addressed.

Even when an organization representative can get back to a customer in record time, the customer’s issue itself may not be so easily resolved. Because their social media message received immediate attention, customers may then expect their problem will be fixed just as quickly, leaving them frustrated if that is not the case.

The take away: Extra lines of communication are always a good thing, enabling better feedback, understanding and a quick method of responding. Authentic replies build better good-will toward the organization which has the potential to offset frustrations that may arise. And, there’s a good chance the organization’s response can clear up the problem without further action, anyway!

 

It’s removed

The up side: It’s easier to be polite and organize your thoughts through text.

Written notes allow both the customer and the organization representative to plan out what they want to say, and frustrated tones are easier to leave out of text than speech. This means that the customer and the organization can have more productive conversations with less defensiveness.

The down side: Anonymity provides protection for bad manners, and some mediums (like Twitter) may be too limiting for thorough explanations.

Often, commenters will hide behind their keyboards as they sling insults and slanders at organizations or its members. There are some people that are more interested in tarnishing a reputation for past hurts than actually seeking a change in their service or product. In those cases, communication through social media offers few solutions beyond giving the customer the most positive impression possible.

Channels like Twitter that limit characters can also lead to misunderstandings as both parties try to appropriately abbreviate what they’re trying to say. It isn’t long before communicating through those social media channels feels more burdensome for both the customer and the organization than other methods of communicating, like a phone call or an email.

The take away: Always, always, always put your best foot forward in social media conversations. Manners, empathy and authenticity should shine through digital interaction—not irritation, condescension and apathy. If the organization reaches out with positivity, the customer will be more likely to respond in kind.

Use social media as a tool for starting a conversation—if the problem is too complex for the medium, offer other methods of communication such as a phone call, email or— depending on the organization—a face-to-face meeting. Organizations should use language that is accurate and precise but not confusing to the customer to ensure that the situation is handled appropriately and to both parties’ satisfaction.

 

It’s a public forum

The up side: Customers have the security of accountability on your part, and well-handled situations make the organization look good.

The promise of publicity helps to keep both customer and company honest in social media interactions, which means the customer may already be more relaxed than if he or she were to approach you over the phone or through contact forms. Organizations can take that natural security and turn it to their advantage by responding professionally, setting a precedent for the general audience about how they handle ALL forms of communication.

The down side: Bad reviews or organization mistakes can be broadcast to a wide audience and gain momentum.

If you build it, they will come. Once it’s clear that social media is an effective way to reach the organization, customers will jump on board, for better or for worse. Especially in the case of actual wrong-doing or fault on the part of a company or company representative, being called out on social media can snowball into a barrage of bad reviews and disparaging comments.

The take away: Organizations should respond publically to any queries on social media but promote a private method of communicating, like messaging, in order to have a more authentic conversation with the customer that is also less harmful to the organization brand. NEVER reveal a customer’s private information on a public medium or act rudely toward the customer. Your audience doesn’t know what may have happened in the past—make a good impression in the present.

 

Customers should not be punished for reaching out to an organization, no matter what attitude that customer adopts. Make social media work for your customer service strategy by responding quickly and politely to questions, issues or complaints, and don’t forget to reward positive feedback with a “like” or a retweet! The audience will be taking note of how the organization reacts to these situations, so always stay professional in public and private interactions!

For more on TAG’s social strategy and best practices, visit our website!

Are you leading, but losing? Four reasons every CEO should go social

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Social media is the new normal. We utilize social platforms to connect with family and friends, but they have also fundamentally changed the way businesses communicate with consumers. However, while brands are embracing social media, many CEOs aren’t. So while you are effectively leading your organization, you might be losing when it comes to social.

A study by Weber Shandwick surveyed C-level executives about their CEO’s use of social platforms. Of those surveyed, 76 percent think it’s a good idea and want their CEO to be actively engaged in social media to help build business and establish trust in their industry. Take our advice (and your C-level executive’s!) and start engaging on social now!

Here are four reasons every CEO should embrace social media: to showcase innovation, communicate and build relationships, build your business’ reputation and see tangible results. 

Showcase innovation

Be the first to do it, and do it right – that’s innovation. Use social media as a platform to be seen as an innovative leader in your industry. Connect with other executives and groups on LinkedIn to share industry insights, company blogs and awards. Lead your marketing team to create a strategy for a LinkedIn business page and build up a base of followers who want to know more about YOUR company.

John Legare

Create a Twitter account that not only retweets company information but also shares interesting articles, engages people in conversation and even adds humor and personality to your work. Feel free to tag other businesses and create friendly competition in the Twittersphere.

Communicate and build relationships

Being socially active allows you to communicate while building relationships with key influencers, potential clients, your colleagues and your staff. When used effectively to connect, CEOs who use social media make their employees feel inspired, technologically advanced and proud to work for an employer who embraces the future of communication while giving their company a face and personality.

Social CEO - Benefits

Build your business’ reputation

In 2014, consumers make judgments about your business’ reputation based on what they find online, and 82 percent of consumers put more trust into a company whose CEO has a Twitter account. Does your company stand out as a leader? Adding social to your personal strategy allows you to spread more positive information about your business, become an innovative leader in your industry and cultivate a strategy to always be top of mind with your target demographic. After all, social media is where your prospects, employees, current customers and peers are looking for you.

Richard Branson

Connect and see results

Social media is a two-way conversation. Make sure you listen to what people are saying about you and your brand on social media. Ask questions, engage with and respond to your followers to create a meaningful connection that will lead to brand loyalty, new business and sales. Be your company’s secret social media sauce when it comes to sales by inspiring those following you.

Bill Gates

Over the next five years, trends predict that 50 percent more CEOs will be actively using social media. You can no longer sit on the sidelines – stand out as a leader with smart social today!
Follow our CEO Mike Vondran on Twitter @TAGMikeV and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn more about TAG’s social media marketing strategies and services.

*Studies and infographic from Weber Shandwick.

Account managers: How to maintain a relationship with clients

Dorie_Headshot

At TAG, none of our clients are the same. Industries range from steel manufacturing to an assisted living community, and products range from sports equipment to wine.

As an Account Manager, one of the first and most important things I learned early on in my career was the importance of having a strong, yet flexible communication style to understand their business and cater to each of our client’s desires and needs.

Where some clients prefer to take active partnerships with TAG – brainstorming alongside us to develop a strong advertising campaign, others rely on our expertise to develop a strategy and bring them our recommendations. Some, on the other hand, prefer to take a quick, get down to business approach where I deliver a quick, 1-2-3 review of the game plan and everybody breaks.

No matter their preference I put forth the same, unmatched TAG effort to listen to their concerns, educate them on the latest in advertising for their industry and communicate how our marketing efforts are affecting their sales.  Getting to know clients on a personal level and earning their trust is always the primary goal.

TAG is special because we go the extra mile. And it’s not just the Account Managers, it’s the whole TAG team fighting for their success. I maybe the forefront face, but it’s all of us coming up with ideas, solutions and concepts.

Dorie Arp-Benore, Account Manager