Thursday, December 17, 2015

A 'Holiday Wish' for You and Your Brand

“Happy Holidays!”

Two simple words, but they pack a lot of meaning. At the end of the year, when our nerves are perhaps a little frayed and we might be wondering what is going on in this topsy-turvy world of ours, just the sound of that cheerful phrase can make us feel better.

canton-ohio-sign-companyAs much as we enjoy hearing those words, we also enjoy saying them to someone else. And, unlike other seasons of the year, we get to wish one another happy holidays for two or three weeks or more. When else during the calendar year do we get to experience so much friendliness and good cheer? And between total strangers, no less?

Branding isn’t quite that simple, but the idea is the same. What is it you’re trying to communicate to people? Can your message be conveyed with as much clarity and simplicity, while making people feel good about your product or service? Consider these can’t-miss slogans:

·         Just do it.
·         Have it your way.
·         Better ingredients, better pizza.
·         It’s finger-lickin’ good.
·         Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.

Those are just a few famous slogans we all recognize and can instantly associate with their respective brands. While your business may not lend itself to summarizing your brand in so few words, the lesson is clear: sometimes, less is more.

In our business at Creative Source, we regularly remind our clients that signs and banners are no place for long messages and lots of unnecessary words. It’s crucial to keep your message short and to the point. The shorter and more to the point, the better.

As a new year approaches, it’s a good time to think ahead to how you’ll spread the word about your company. What can you say to fill your customers and prospects with good cheer about your brand?

Whatever you come up with, keep it short, simple, and on point. Strive to make it memorable.

So...Happy Holidays. Happy New Year. And Happy Branding!

MIKE BOYD is president of Creative Source, a Canton, Ohio sign company.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Can't Create? Collaborate!

When we started Creative Source two decades ago, we came from a corporate marketing background. That experience helped us forge important relationships in the business community—not only with the creative directors and graphic designers at area advertising agencies, but also with our colleagues in other corporate marketing departments.

business-collaborationThat’s still an important ingredient to our business success today. We promote signs, displays and printing as our primary product line, and people come to us when they need those things. But over the years we’ve also said we offer creative marketing solutions—and we do that by working in collaboration with our clients, vendors, and marketing partners.

The key to coming up with those solutions is listening. Clients tell us what they want. Vendors tell us what they can do to help provide the products and services that will help us do our job better. And marketing partners—graphic designers, business consultants, PR pros and other communication experts—provide us with perspectives we might otherwise overlook. In other words, they make us better at what we do.

The old adage “two heads are better than one” is true. When you combine your talent and experience with that of others, it makes for more effective problem solving. Not only that, it energizes you and gets the creative juices flowing.

In the corporate world, management often promotes team-building as a way for staff members to be more effective. That’s collaboration. If it works internally, it stands to reason that it will work externally, too, when we team up with other businesses and industry professionals.

At one point in my career, I was content to go to work every day, disappear into my work area, and do my thing. I was comfortable with my surroundings and my responsibilities, and didn’t see the need to expand beyond that. Today, however, that concept makes me uncomfortable! In order to truly move forward, innovate, and be creative, it’s important to grow in knowledge and increase our capabilities.

The quickest path to greater achievement is through collaboration. If you’ve hit a creative roadblock in your thinking, try going outside of your comfort zone by seeking the input and advice of someone on the outside. You’ll expand your horizons and strengthen relationships in the business community that will enhance your productivity, both now and in the future.

MIKE BOYD is president of Creative Source. Clients looking for sign companies in Canton, Ohio and the surrounding region look to Mike and his staff for creative marketing solutions.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Through the Ups and Downs, Keep Moving Forward

Recently the U.S. stock market experienced another wild week. This time, the DOW Jones industrial average plunged more than 500 points in one day after news broke that the Chinese stock market had faltered and their economy had slowed.

Within days, however, U.S. stocks rebounded, and the market stabilized. Before it did, some began to wonder if we were in for the kind of crash that would return America to the days of the Great Depression.

A friend of mine asked me what I thought, and I was surprised by my answer—but not really. “I try not to think about it,” I said. And I meant it. Let me explain.

If there’s any one thing I’ve learned about business—any one thing that has become my mantra—it’s this: Keep your head down, and keep moving forward.

When times are good, don’t take them for granted. Keep moving forward. Likewise, when times get tough, don’t spend time worrying. Keep moving forward.

In my experience, that’s how things get done. Always be selling. Always be serving. Always be providing customers with a superior product at a fair price.

I’ve written before about the recession of 2008 and 2009, and how it nearly devastated our company. At one point, we lost 70 percent of our largest client’s business—not through anything we did, but simply because they thought they could save money by doing the work in-house.

We could have given up, and gone under. Instead, we adjusted the way we operated, and kept moving forward. Within three years we had more than replaced the business we’d lost.

There was no magic formula. We just kept selling. We kept moving forward. We kept believing that we could deliver what nobody else could. And it worked. Our business not only rebounded, it grew.

So, when the stock market dropped over fears of what was happening in China, and then rebounded and adjusted itself, we did what we always do; we kept moving forward.

Maybe it’s a little bold to say we ignored it completely. We’re only human, after all. But you can’t fault us for trying.

I like what one investment strategist said in the aftermath: Business fundamentals are more powerful than fear.

So control the things you can. Keep moving forward, always be selling, and always provide a superior product or service at a fair price.

It’ll get you through the tough times, and help you appreciate the good times, as well.

MIKE BOYD is president of Creative Source. Clients looking for sign companies in Canton, Ohio
and the surrounding region look to Mike and his staff for creative marketing solutions.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Brand Integrity: How Remaining Consistent With Your Message Will Help You Stand Out

branding-canton-ohioOne of the things we talk about on our company website is “maintaining the integrity of your brand.”

Brand integrity is important to any business. It begins with a corporate philosophy, and is reflected in everything a company says or does. That’s why messages need to be consistent, no matter what the medium.

For example, when customers come to us at Creative Source, our goal is help them present their message in a big, bold way. We do it with signs, displays and large-format print products that are designed to grab—and hold—people’s attention. In the process, we encourage clients to consider the purpose, location, message, use of name, logo, color and other important considerations that will make their message stand out and get results. All of those things are driven by one thing: their brand.

The same holds true with any other form of marketing—brochures, websites, advertisements and more. Branding is everything.

At its core, it comes down to your primary message. Some call it your position. It’s who you are, what you are, and, most important, why you are.

In sales, they call it your “elevator speech.” If you were to get on an elevator with someone and they asked what you do, what would you say—understanding that you may only have 30 seconds or less to say it? That’s your elevator speech. That’s your “why.” That’s your brand.

In my case, I describe how people say things to me like “We’ve always wanted to,” or What if we could,” and then fill in the blank with an idea. I respond by explaining how we can help make it a reality. That’s what we’re all about: Turning big ideas into bold presentations. (You can read my elevator speech at the end of this article.)

Earlier in my career I worked for the marketing department of a national retail chain. After my partners and I launched Creative Source, we narrowed our focus to signs and displays. That change in perspective has taught me a lot about how best to communicate your message. The fewer words you have to work with, the more efficient you have to be.

If you haven’t done it for a while, take a moment to consider your brand. What’s the essence of your message? What’s your elevator speech? Even better, if you came to us and asked us to communicate your brand on a sign, what would it say?

That’s who you are, what you are, and why you are. In business, that’s where it all begins.


POSTSCRIPT: Here’s my actual elevator speech, which I’ve used when introducing myself at meetings or in front of groups. I would welcome your feedback in the comments section below, or by email at

We've always wanted to... We had this idea... What if we could...
These are the things we hear from our clients.

"Hi, I'm Mike Boyd with Creative Source. We're experts in the sign, display and printing industry. We've been particularly successful working with ad agencies, designers and in-house marketing departments.

"Many of our clients come to us because they're struggling to keep their branding, or their clients' branding, looking picture perfect, or they're looking for something fresh, different or unique—something that stands out.

"Again, I'm Mike Boyd with Creative Source. The next time you're looking to turn a big idea into a bold presentation...we can do that!"

MIKE BOYD is president of Creative Source. Clients looking for sign companies in Canton, Ohio
and the surrounding region look to Mike and his staff for creative marketing solutions.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How Volunteer Community Service Can Help You and Your Business Stand Out

Recently I had the honor of being the chairperson of the Field of Heroes, an annual event conducted by the Rotary Club of Jackson Township. It takes place over the Memorial Day weekend and features the placement of more than 1,000 American flags on the township safety center lawn. The flags are sponsored by area residents who wish to honor a military veteran, safety officer, or other hero in their lives.

Mike Boyd served as chairperson of the
2015 Jackson Township Field of Heroes
The Field of Heroes is a regal and inspiring display. It has a dramatic impact on visitors. And it involves people who represent a true cross-section of the community.

Because of that, I noticed along the way that my volunteer service was having a direct, positive impact on my business. Here I was, being put in touch with community leaders and key volunteers on a daily basis. They came to my office, or attended meetings in our conference room, or were otherwise made well aware of who I am and what I do. As that happened, they became acquainted with our company and learned more about the products and services we provide.

Was chairing such a major community event a lot of hard work? Absolutely. Did it consume a great deal of my time? Yes, it did. And that’s fine; volunteerism is one of the great things that drives our country and our communities. We serve because we want to help, not because we expect to get anything out of it. As I mentioned, it was an honor to chair the Field of Heroes, and I felt privileged to do so.

Of course, anyone who has volunteered in their community will tell you how they benefited personally from their service, and received something in return. Typically, it’s a new perspective, or a greater sense of appreciation after seeing what others may be experiencing. During the Field of Heroes, I saw how much it meant to people to have the opportunity to express appreciation for those individuals who had made a difference in their lives. It lifted my spirits and reminded me that we all have much to be thankful for.

Since the event concluded, my volunteer service has had a tangible effect on our company, as well.  People continue to thank me, weeks later. Others have called to place orders, or have stopped in to invite bids from us on projects they’re working on. In some cases, these are people who didn’t know much about me or my business just a few weeks or months ago.

I’ve written before about how important it is to get out of our comfort zones, to try new things or to involve ourselves in community activities. It’s benefited me personally on a number of occasions. In addition to the Field of Heroes, I’m active with our local Rotary Club and serve on the board of the Canton Advertising Federation. Our company has helped dozens of charities promote their organizations and events. Not only have they provided us with the chance to be of service, they’ve offered us numerous opportunities for networking with organizations and individuals who later became customers.

Without question, we all volunteer in the community because we believe in the causes we’re helping, and because it’s the right thing to do. But don’t overlook the fact that the right thing can also be the beneficial thing for your company. What you give in time and service will often come back to you many times over in business or career opportunities.

MIKE BOYD is president of Creative Source. Clients looking for sign companies in Canton, Ohio
and the surrounding region look to Mike and his staff for creative marketing solutions.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What's Your Excuse?

Recently we were contacted by three different organizations—Jackson Township, The Repository, and AultCare. They all needed signs and banners, and for the same reason: They’re celebrating anniversaries.

AultCare 30th Anniversary banners on display
AultCare, a Canton-based health insurance company, is 30 years old. Meanwhile, Canton’s daily newspaper, The Repository, and neighboring Jackson Township are each celebrating their 200th year of existence.

So we went to work assisting them with the graphics and displays they needed to commemorate their respective milestones.

What about you? What’s your excuse? By that I mean, what might provide you with a good excuse for celebrating a milestone of your own? Are you overlooking anything that, with a little planning and creativity, you could be celebrating?

It doesn’t have to be a major anniversary, either. After all, we don’t just celebrate our milestone wedding anniversaries. We celebrate every year. Any reason to celebrate is a good one.

A colleague of mine told me the story of how he went to work years ago for a small university, which at the time was 44 years old. He suggested to the president that, rather than just wait for their 50th anniversary, they go ahead and celebrate the 45th as well. The president thought it was odd, but gave the okay, and it turned out to be a smart move. They received widespread media coverage, hosted luncheons and banquets for the community, had a concert series, and raised awareness (and money) for the university.

Look for an anniversary or other event to commemorate, and make a splash. Banners and signs are just one element, but an important one, because they increase visibility with the public and with your staff. So make your plans, carry them out, and have a party. Any excuse is a good one, especially where anniversaries and other milestones are concerned. 

What's your excuse?

MIKE BOYD is president of Creative Source. Clients looking for sign companies in Canton, Ohio
and the surrounding region look to Mike and his staff for creative marketing solutions.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Prepare to Stand Out (or, To Stand Out...Prepare!)

Jonah Sandler (L) with
Mike Boyd
Recently I had the opportunity to meet Jonah Sandler, CEO of Scene75 in Dayton, Ohio, which opened in 2012 to great fanfare as the largest indoor entertainment center in the United States.

That fanfare was no accident. It was the result of Sandler’s painstaking planning and carefully crafted marketing plan.

He documents the story in his book, Before the Doors Opened, which explains his journey from would-be corporate executive to innovative entrepreneur. His secret? Sandler used social media to create a viral campaign of word-of-mouth advertising, to the point that Scene75’s Facebook page had more than 20,000 likes before the business had even opened.

It’s a fascinating story. In fact, Jonah’s success with Facebook led to his being invited to speak at Facebook’s Global Sales Meeting in 2013, and to serve on their inaugural Small and Medium Business Council, advising Facebook on the development of its marketing tools.

What’s remarkable is that Jonah used Facebook posts and advertisements to promote his business for several weeks before he ever saw one customer walk through the door. He used those posts and ads to create interest and desire among potential customers, to the point that they were counting the days until Scene75 opened its doors.

Jonah’s story is a sterling example of how important it is to plan ahead, whether it’s in business or in life. Too often we allow ourselves to be tossed around by events that are out of our control, rather than creating our own plan and increasing our chances of success.

To truly stand out, we have to be willing to think and act differently than the rest of the crowd. That’s what Jonah did, and today’s he’s not only running Scene75, he’s busy scouting locations for additional indoor recreation centers. You can bet that, when he decides to expand, those new locations will benefit from the same planning and forward thinking that led to Scene75’s runaway success.

You can order Jonah’s book on It’s a quick read, only 80 pages. But it’s full of inspiration and wisdom. More important, it’s an example of what a difference planning and determination can make. I recommend it highly.

MIKE BOYD is president of Creative Source. Clients looking for sign companies in Canton, Ohio
and the surrounding region look to Mike and his staff for creative marketing solutions.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Brand Extension: Turn Your Brand Equity Into New Opportunties for Growth

Much has been said in the world of advertising and marketing over the past 30 years about the concept of brand or line extension. Articles have been written. Books have been sold. Reputations have been made.

First, a word about the concept. Brand extension, sometimes called line extension, is what happens when a company known for a product or service in one category expands into another. Recent examples include such historic brands as Barbasol and Dole. 

Barbasol's line extension increased market share (Perio, Inc.)
For example, over the past decade Barbasol added several variations to its original shave cream (left); eventually, one of those variations, Soothing Aloe, became the most popular. They also branded a new line of pre-shave and after shave lotions, natural extensions of its shaving products. Together with a rebranding in 2013, these moves solidified Barbasol's position of leadership in its product category. 

Likewise, Dole, once known primarily for its canned pineapple, expanded its brand to include such eventual favorites as fruit juice blends and frozen fruit bars. There are numerous other examples of strong brands becoming stronger through brand or line extension.

Even so, to some experts, extending a brand dilutes it. Yet others insist that a well-planned brand extension can lead to greater overall market share. The debate goes on.

For our business at Creative Source, we extended our brand by adding services. We began 20 years ago as a design shop, and for a while took on all sorts of projects. Gradually, we realized that our strength was the design and production of signs, banners and displays, and later we added large-format printing to our list of services.

Installation description from the Creative Source website
Most recently, we’ve taken to doing our own installations as well, adding a service that we believe guarantees the integrity of our work and helps strengthen our relationship with clients. Signs, displays, printing and installations; all are related, and all are integral to who we are as a company.

Brand extension, properly pursued, can open doors to new opportunities for your company. Rather than diminish your capabilities and cloud your identity, brand extension can magnify who you are and what you do. And that can make a significant difference in today’s crowded marketplace.

MIKE BOYD is president of Creative Source. Clients looking for sign companies in Canton, Ohio
and the surrounding region look to Mike and his staff for creative marketing solutions.