Getting Up Close and Personal – The Importance of Consumer Data Collection

Here’s the deal, we all love being made feel special, we love feeling cared about, we love being paid attention to. It’s human nature, no shame in it.

So, what does this mean for you as a company?

It means that whether marketing your brand, product or service, great content is no longer merely creative or informational or unique. Great content is all those things with another secret ingredient, PERSONALIZATION.

So now, what does getting personal mean for your marketing?

It means that your content needs to be personalized and contextually relevant in order to engage your consumers. To get there, you’ll need to identify who your target audience is and truly get to know them. This means taking the time to gather consumer data. In addition to the obvious demographics questions such as age, gender, income strata etc., dig deeper – find out what they value, their lifestyle choices, their decision making process etc. Once you have this data, be sure to integrate the findings into your content creation process.

You might now be wondering, why go through all this trouble?

Well, it goes back to the opening paragraph – human nature. We love feeling special. We are more likely to form emotional connections and loyalty to brands that resonate with us on a personal level. The marketing space is filled with noise and in order to stand out, your brand should always send out a message that you understand and care about what your consumers want. When people recognize their wants and needs being fulfilled by your brand, they’ll keep coming back. Keep in mind that it costs a lot more to acquire new customers than to retain old ones.

So, main takeaways:

Consumer data is the name of the game. That is the key to getting to know your audience. Utilize that key to roll out content that will reach your consumers on a personal level.

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The Revamp of MUM – How It Changed IH Concepts

We don’t mean to toot our own horn but we’re very proud of the work we did on the Madison-Area Urban Ministry (MUM) project and wanted to share our journey with you! As a results-oriented company, we were thrilled when, a year ago, Executive Director Linda Ketcham shared the impact that our work on her website had on her organization.

First things first, what is MUM, you might ask? MUM is a non-profit interfaith organization dedicated to helping people impacted by the criminal justice system. They have helped over 9,000 individuals and have a recidivism rate of under 5%.

While they were doing a great job on their own, they wanted to know how they could be making an even stronger impact, and so they came to us. One of their biggest challenges was figuring out how to stand out to the public in order to increase donations. Given that they compete against 1.5 million other non-profits for donations, cutting through all that noise was definitely a hurdle. In addition to that, MUM was also looking to increase their retention rates for online donors, which at the time stood at 25%.

We at IHC love everything they stand for and was more than excited to take this project on! We took whole picture design marketing approach. We began with making information easy to find on their website. Recognizing that users today are often in a time crunch, we restructured the website layout making commonly sought out information readily accessible. By doing so, MUM’s engagement increased by 30 times!

Next we looked at incorporating several call to actions on their website such as including a “Donate Now” icon. You’d be surprised by what a huge difference the smallest of changes can make. In this case, not to brag or anything, but it increased donations by 800%! (okay, maybe we’re bragging a little, but hey, we take pride in our work!)

Throughout the entire website restructure process, we made sure to integrate their brand identity into the designs. We at IHC wanted to make sure users browsing through their site had every opportunity to connect on an emotional level with MUM. We also wanted MUM to be unique in order to stand out and truly make an impact.

What made this project so special to us was that it was validation that we had something great up our sleeve. Since then, we create principles for doing a website an named it IH5 Web, which has produced success with our other clients as well. Working with MUM showed us how important it is to create marketing collateral to build a brand for clients as opposed to just a short term fix. We’ll also be taking this a step further by launching our IH5 Mobile and IH5 Branding principles set to launch later this year, and we’re excited to achieve great things with it!

When designing your website, be sure to keep the big picture in mind!

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The Design-Dos of 2017

Ever noticed how outdated trends that we swore we’d never be caught dead in eventually creep back into our lives? Well, design trends are subject to the same fate. In the past few years, graphic designers have shied away from bold, loud layouts and turned to minimalism. However, as we welcome 2017, we’re seeing a circle back to more vibrancy. With some help from Venngage, here are some tips that will help you jump on board the design train:

1. Think loud, think bright

Many brands have fallen into the comfort of utilizing safe, neutral, easy to digest colors to connect with consumers. However, now that the market is so saturated with such styles, it’s hard to stand out. Instead of staying with the herd, be fun again, get out there with some loud and bright colors! Your graphics will not only stand out, but will also be more memorable!

Image Source: Robert Berki

2. Bold is the name of the game

When it comes to typography, it doesn’t need to be in-your-face, but you do want to grab your audience’s attention at first glance in order to get them to read your content. It takes a lot more today than it did a decade ago to get a viewer’s attention. Especially in this age where everyone seems to be in a time crunch, you NEED to be BOLD to get their attention. This transition that Celestial made is a great example!

3. Google’s got you

Two words, Google fonts. Well, for starters, they’re free. And as if that wasn’t enough, they’re some of the most versatile and easy to use fonts out there. You’ll never have to work too hard to find fonts that look great together. They also tend to mesh well with your blogs or websites. To top it off, Google Fonts are universal across multiple platforms, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

4. Keep it real

Yes, there are some great stock photos out there. However, let’s not forget about branding. Whatever you put out there represents your company’s identity. Be the company that cared enough to create original photographs. Readers will recognize the authenticity and respond to it.

5. Back to the drawing board – literally

In this age of consumerism, brands face the challenge of cutting though the noise of their competitors and truly connecting with their customers. Nothing says genuine like a hand drawn graphic. It separates you from the pack and can also be that first step for a more personal connection.

Image Source: Design Mantic

6. Minimalism with a twist

When we say minimalism here, we don’t mean your standard greyscale, safe, neutral tones. We do mean keeping the essence of your graphics simple enough, but with bold and fresh pops of color. In other words, the layout shouldn’t be busy, but it should also by no means be dull.

7. GIFs, GIFs, GIFs

If pictures speak a thousand words, then animated GIFs would speak a million. From a technical standpoint, they’re great as they don’t require any special software to run and have small file sizes. From a branding standpoint, it catches the viewers’ eyes and are far more expressive than text and ordinary images. Because of data concerns, you’d want to be careful not to overdo it, but they’re a great alternative to still graphics every once in a while.

That got your attention, didn’t it?

8. Play with Duotones

Who says two vibrant colors don’t go together? Sometimes, all you need to do is find a couple of colors that complement each other to bring your graphics to life. Duotone layouts can get tricky in terms of designing, but the final product will be well worth your time. It brings originality to your website and draws people in!

As 2017 rolls along, we invite you to roll with these trends. Break free from the overly clean, white layouts and bring color and vibrancy back into your designing! Let this be the year to make bold choices for your branding!

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5 Things to Consider When Building a Mobile Website

Admit it.

We’re all guilty of it.

Say it with me.


Yes, we love scrolling through our social media, or responding to emails through our phones. However, in this technologically driven age, mobile devices offer us much more. Almost anything that can be done on a computer can be done on our smartphones. Think online shopping, research for services or anything under the sun.

The bottom line is, if your mobile website is not optimized, your company is losing a huge chunk of customers. Users today expect a fully functional mobile website, without which, they wonder, “Are they even still in business?” On top of that, as of April 21st 2015, Google, recognizing that they make up 50% of mobile searches, made it a requirement for all websites to go mobile.

With all that being said, here are 5 tips your mobile website simply cannot do without:

1. Info should be immediate

Users are typically on their mobile devices when they are on the go or in a time crunch. What this means for you is that your mobile web should be able to deliver all its essential information, appropriate content and functions at a glance. Oftentimes, when users struggle to navigate through the web, they give up and seek what they need elsewhere. This is equivalent to a customer leaving a store empty handed and frustrated because they could not locate what they were looking for.

2. Make essential info a priority

Say you just landed in Boston for a last minute trip. All you want is to find a hotel and call it a night, so you start browsing on your phone. Wouldn’t it be great if all the information you needed was right there without having to navigate in frustration? Users today do not have the luxury of sifting through piles of information. Pinpoint the information that your user would need or want, and give them that, and only that.

Pro tip: A focus group suggested that most people wish all mobile websites had a hamburger menu (link) for navigation.

3. Create effective clickables

Maximize ease – when you’re on the go, you’d probably rather click onto a phone number rather than copy paste it onto your dial pad. The same goes for information such as emails and directions. Instead of subjecting users through the copy paste inconvenience, clickables eliminates frustration by helping users to avoid misclicks and by minimizing walls of text which could be confusing under time constraints.

94% of users prefer having phone numbers, emails and addresses to be clickable. Of those 94% of users, 50% of them would actually leave the site to find another with clickables.

Convinced yet?

4. Minimize load time and data

This one might seem obvious, but we’ll emphasize it anyway. To put it into perspective, you could potentially lose 73% of your customers if your mobile website fails to load in a timely manner. And what do we mean by “a timely manner”? Well, 83% of users expect a 3 second load or faster. Mobile data is also still a user concern. While it is necessary to make a mobile website visually appealing, be mindful of data draining elements such as graphics and videos. If you can do without them, you might want to.

5. Think design and branding

What do Apple, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola have in common? Consistent branding which has earned them global recognition. When designing anything that represents your company, be it web or print, design with your brand in mind. Creating brand consistency makes for a more recognizable company which could then increase client base. It also shows more credibility. It shows that your company has a strong sense of identity and ultimately increases your perceived value amongst clients.

Before running off to create that mobile website, here’s one last thing to keep in mind: Your website is just one part of your marketing effort. Look at the whole picture.

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Cherish Time with Loved Ones: How Apple Tied Products to Their Message

Christmas lights, homemade ornaments, and family members joined together singing Christmas songs. What sounds like a perfect holiday card also describes the 2015 Apple Holiday Christmas ad.

The ad opens with Stevie Wonder and blues singer Andra Day performing Stevie Wonder’s 1967, “Someday at Christmas.” In the beginning of the commercial, Stevie Wonder is seen utilizing the Voiceover Accessibility feature on a MacBook laptop. As the song continues, the scene of a festive, holiday living room with people decorating the Christmas tree plays out in the background. As the scene plays out there is a quick glimpse of an Apple Watch.

Throughout this commercial the references made to Apple products are surprisingly few. The few glimpses, however, are exceptionally clever and well placed. By taking this approach Apple sends an even more powerful message. Referencing both the Voiceover and the Apple watch without making them the main focus of the commercial showcases the confidence Apple has for their brand and products. Additionally, by shifting the focus of the product Apple has put the emphasis on what we should all be thinking of this holiday season—spending time with family and loved ones.

While spending time with family and loved ones over the holidays, many of us have special traditions we take part in. In the commercial, the family came together decorating the Christmas tree and singing Christmas songs. Although somewhat less traditional, every year my family bakes a mass amount of Christmas sweets and then watches multiple Christmas movies. Whether singing Christmas tunes together or throwing baking flour across the kitchen, this year let us all take Apple’s lead and focus this season on our family and loved ones.

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Opening Your Heart: Apple’s Holiday Message to All

2016image Living in seclusion, away from everyone, a man is desperate to be a part of the community and share in the holiday joy. Apple’s 2016 holiday commercial, titled ‘Frankie’s Holiday’, depicts Frankenstein as he seeks to find acceptance.

Heading into town, Frankenstein is met with looks of shock and horror. He heads under a large Christmas tree with festive lights draped around his neck and begins singing the tune “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays.” Embarrassment creeps in as one of the bulbs dangling around his neck goes out. A little girl from the crowd reaches to fix the bulb. She then leads the surrounding villagers to join in with the carol. Frankenstein finally feels accepted and like he’s a part of the community.

Apple admirably makes this heart-warming message the focus of the commercial and only subtly shows Apple products throughout. This message of acceptance is an important reminder to take with us, especially when our society is constantly placing the emphasis on differences. Rather than be separated by our differences we must all come together as a community, spreading love and acceptance.

The holiday act of compassion shown by the little girl to Frankenstein is the perfect example of how we can bring this message to life. The more we accept and appreciate all those around us, the more successful and fulfilled we will be as a whole. This holiday season cherish time spent with family and loved ones, and also remember to put all differences aside. Following the message Apple leaves us with, “Open your heart to everyone.”

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Closed on Black Friday: How Some Businesses are Breaking the Cycle


Every year, time between Halloween and New Year rushes past in almost a blur.  Christmas music appears on the radio before Halloween candy even has the chance to make it off the shelves.  In the middle of this busy season, Thanksgiving and its meaning seem to get lost in the mix.  People no longer use this holiday to enjoy a mountain a food, the annual NFL Thanksgiving football game, or most importantly, quality time with loved ones.  Instead, the holiday has now become a day to prepare for Christmas.

The most stressful part of preparing for Christmas is often trying to find that perfect gift for your secret Santa pair, your devoted mom, or even your best friend.  Over time, many retailers have worked to capitalize on this mounting pressure that only grows around Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving, which is a time to remember what people are thankful for, has now become synonymous with the retail holiday known as Black Friday.

Black Friday is a shopping day known for its massive deals, large crowds, and early store opening hours.  Retailers have slowly moved opening hours a little earlier with each passing year.  Unfortunately, many stores have even started opening on Thanksgiving Day, which overshadows this valuable family holiday with consumerism.  These retailers, opening their doors at these early hours have taken Thanksgiving away from their employees. These employees who are forced to go to work are missing what Thanksgiving is truly about, family and thankfulness.

This year MadCat, a local Madison business, is taking a stand.  MadCat will close for Thanksgiving and Black Friday.  By doing this they are recognizing that they value their employees and are giving them the opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones.  These are values that fall precisely in line with what Thanksgiving is all about.  Additionally, MadCat is highlighting their core values as a brand and business by displaying true respect and appreciation for their employees.  This in turn, has resulted in much praise from the Madison community.   Fortunately, other companies are making this change as well.

REI, a national outdoor retailer, will be closing for Black Friday and Thanksgiving.  They are encouraging people to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends.  REI’s message is another perfect example of a company representing their brand in a commendable manner.  REI is supporting a love for the outdoors, family time, and appreciation for their employees.

While MadCat and REI are fully acknowledging the deserved importance and values of Thanksgiving, other businesses are also making positive changes.  More than 50 retailers will be closed for Thanksgiving Day this year.  The list includes big box retailers like Nordstrom, Dillard’s, and Costco.  They will, however, still open bright and early in time for Black Friday crowds.

This progress is a step in the right direction and a positive message for what the future could hold.  Everyone should support businesses that make the brave decision to close for Thanksgiving.  One of the strongest elements of a successful brand is the message.  A company’s brand encompasses so much more than simply a logo, color scheme, or name.  As mentioned in our IH Concepts Branding Presentation, “it explains how people identify and support you, while being a representation of yourself as a company.”

Let us all show support to the businesses who have represented themselves though their commendable messages this holiday season.  None of us want to see loved ones missing from the dining room table on Thanksgiving, even if it is crazy Aunt Gertrud. This year spend the holidays surrounded by loved ones, remembering the true significance of Thanksgiving- family and thankfulness.  

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Show Your Why: What to Do To Build Trust With Your Customers

final-bluetangradients Passion. Family. Education. Love. Too often business owners forget to answer the most important question- why? Why is their business special? Why provide this particular service? Why keep going? Why choose us? As a business owner, showing your why and understanding your why is so vital to being successful. Customers appreciate when business owners have a deeper reason for creating a business.

Consider Avant Gardening, a woman-owned landscaping business that was recently named as one of Dane County’s top ten small businesses, Doing It Right”. Their “why” is nature. This business has a passion for nature’s beauty that is contagious. While customers may not initially be drawn to a company because of a business’s passion for nature, it is an inevitable discovery. Everything about Avant Gardening reflects this core value including their messaging and branding.

Once a business has established a core value or “why,” branding and marketing becomes easier. Graphic design firms visually translate a business’s “why” into a stunning design. We often find our first step when working with a client is to figure out a business’s why. Whether it be through colors, logos, or websites, graphic design is meant to continually remind customers of a business’s main purpose.

If a business owner fails to understand their core reason, it is possible for mixed messages and branding. Customers may become confused about expectations which can lead to unsuccessful service. In contrast, a business that has a good understanding of their why tends to have a more successful business.

In order for a business to truly be successful, not only do they have to have the business capability, but they need a “why”. Whether it be a reason such as a passion for nature, a drive to support family, a desire to educate, or a deeper need to spread love, business that “show their why” will be more successful.

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Food Cart Takeaways: A Potential Contender in the App Store

foodcartblogphoto Growing up in rural Wisconsin, you notice some differences once you visit the big city of Madison: constant traffic, large crowds, and food carts. They’re everywhere downtown, especially on the capital square. The hustle and bustle of a bigger city helps food carts thrive, since speedy food and convenience are a necessity to eat during a busy schedule. I was hungry and curious, so I decided to check out Food Cart Night at the Henry Vilas Zoo.

I don’t remember the name of the food cart I chose, but I know it served excellent Mexican food. The taco I had was amazing, and the menu was pretty lengthy given the limited space the food cart had. The park was packed that warm summer Tuesday, and the demand for food cart goodies was impressive. There was a line of people waiting, but an order came out every couple minutes or so—except for mine. The cashier lost about five orders and backed up the entire process, with my taco in the middle of that screw-up. It took the workers about 20 minutes to figure out they were missing orders, and another 10 or so to finally get my food done properly. I didn’t want to wait over 30 minutes for a taco, but I couldn’t exactly leave; I was trapped.

My experience might not have been the average food cart meal, but it did make me wonder if there was a faster way to get service. The expected target market for food carts are people on the go who need speed and convenience, so maybe businesses could speed things up with an app? Given the success of last month’s survey on restaurant app expectations, IH Concepts decided to conduct one about food cart apps as well. We weren’t sure how people would respond to the experimental concept, but I thought there might be some questions worth asking.

From our survey of 32 adults, we found that a majority (87%) had eaten at Madison food carts before, but most of them (93%) had never used a food cart app. Apparently I had been a part of a small group that hadn’t eaten at one before, but I’m glad I finally experienced it. I was glad to see, however, that survey takers agreed with me about my extreme wait time. When asked how long they’d be willing to wait for food from a food cart, less than 10% of survey takers said they’d wait longer than 10 minutes. This shows that speed is necessary for a food cart to keep customers happy.

Survey takers were asked what features they expected to see in a food cart app, and the results were fairly straightforward:

• Menu: 100%
• Location: 96.5%
• Deals: 82.7%
• Contact Information: 65.8%
• Online Ordering: 62.0%

Having a menu on an app isn’t optional anymore, and given the mobility of food carts, location is necessary too. Our survey results showed a higher desire for online ordering than I expected there would be, and that’s a good thing. Currently, I don’t know of any food carts that offer online orders, so this shows a need for a service that isn’t available yet.

Besides basic app functions, we asked our survey takers what additional services they’d like to see in a food cart app. Their main requests were:

• Live tracking
• Online payment
• Ratings
• Reviews
• Schedule

If you want to engage customers, it’s important to listen to their ideas and meet their needs. Within Madison, where the food carts thrive, a lot of people live a life constantly on the move. To meet their extremely busy schedules, their suggestions like “live tracking”, “online payment”, and “schedule” would be very helpful. That way customers could go directly to your business (if you’re a business owner) instead of spending time searching and potentially going somewhere else.

If food carts want to keep up with the expectations of our current society, it might be time to upgrade to having their own apps. Most food carts do have a social media presence or a website, but that information can be hard to track down. An app, however, could easily display all of the information that our survey takers are looking for with the ease of a mobile-friendly design.

There is always a need for fast and convenient food. Providing customers with a tool that conveniently reduces wait time could meet this need, and could start a new trend for food carts apps. Think about the audience for food carts: on the go people who are on their phones constantly. An app could drive traffic to the business and start some word-of-mouth advertising when people discuss it, the first food cart app.

Your marketing strategy should adapt to reach your target market.

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Restaurant App Expectations: Why You Need An App to Stay Relevant Today

restaurantblogpic Last week I was sitting at my girlfriend’s house deciding which pizza(s) we should order (because who can get just one, right?). Being the savvy shopper I am, I opened up my Pizza Hut app and started searching through their deals, finally deciding on two $11 anything you want pizzas. I piled on ingredient after ingredient, watching my calorie-drizzled creations come to life in my palm-sized pizza shop. After approving my order, I selected my payment options and waited for the delivery driver—mission accomplished.

Now that we are a mobile culture, having a restaurant at the push of a button is convenient and saves time–something that no one has enough of. I believe that restaurant apps are becoming more and more of a necessity as our society continues to change. To gauge people’s thoughts on this, IH Concepts conducted a survey on restaurant apps and the expectations that come along with them. Of the 30 people surveyed, we found that 80% of them have used a restaurant app, which could show an increasing desire for convenience and mobile offers. Of that 80%, half of them use restaurant apps at least once a month. Most people don’t eat out every day, so having customers ordering food or looking at the menu on an app at least once a month isn’t too bad. If a restaurant can be one of those floating icons on someone’s phone, it’s a constant temptation and could lead to higher sales.

For fast food apps, 86% of the survey takers expect to see location, contact info, deals, and online ordering readily available. 100% of the survey participants said there should be a menu. These results show that within our survey, most of the app users want the ease of online ordering, and the ability to save money with online-only specials. The main reason I personally use restaurant apps is to snag deals, so the responses make sense to me. This data also suggests that people expect fast food restaurants to have apps, because they seem to desire all of these options being available.

Sit-down restaurant apps had different expectations from their fast food counterparts. From our survey, we found that most people (96%) want the location of the restaurant, and nearly 83% want contact information within the app. Since sit-down restaurants primarily offer slower, in-house meals, I’m not surprised that such a large percentage of people expected to see them. This time around, 72% of people wanted deals, and 62% expected online ordering to be available. This data can be taken one of two ways: online ordering is unnecessary for sit-down restaurants and their apps, or there is an untapped market for online ordering that more sit-down restaurants could utilize. For customers that want the quality of a sit-down restaurant meal but only have a small window of free time, online ordering could be the solution and may pull in a new audience.

We asked our survey takers what restaurant apps come to mind first, and unsurprisingly there were a lot of pizza joints. The main responses were Pizza Hut and Dominoes, so again the need for convenient food seems prominent. The other responses consisted of sandwich shops like Jimmy Johns and coffee shops like Starbucks. One thing all these apps have in common is online ordering, directly available through the app. It seems that for a restaurant app to be memorable or to be top of mind, the best bet is to be interactive with the customer via online ordering.

When asked what other features restaurant apps should offer, survey takers suggested:
• Reservation options
• Reviews
• Estimated delivery times
• Prices

Giving the customers a way to place reservations could be a large selling point for sit-down restaurant apps, especially for those busy weekends when you wait an hour or so to be seated regularly.

Businesses can’t be found on Google without a website, and the same goes with apps. If a business doesn’t have one, they could potentially miss out on a large target market. Apps are extremely relevant at the moment, and these are just a few things to consider if a restaurant is creating one:

• 68% of Americans currently own smart phones according to Pew Research in 2015.
• Restaurant apps need to meet people where they are, and millennials are on their smartphones.
• It’s not enough to have an app; mobile apps need to keep users engaged so they keep interacting with the app. This requires a strong marketing strategy.

And this doesn’t just apply to large businesses; small businesses can flourish with apps too. While restaurant chains are known for their apps, it isn’t an exclusive club; a small business needs to make a strong impression by being found in the App Store.

Stay tuned for our next blog, to show how a food cart can benefit from a mobile app.

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