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Stand out

How well do you tell your story?

What does your unique (brand) story say about you?

Branding was once all about the fine art of telling people what you do, who you are and what differentiates you, your company and your product or service from the competition. Now we live in a world of brands like Patagonia, Sonos, Slack, DropBox, Philips, Cisco and LinkedIn.

Stories make us human. They are relatable. They engage prospects on a personal level. We hear them and naturally relate them to our own lives in some way causing us to have an emotional reaction. How, what and where we communicate directly impacts what customers think, feel and do about your business. Do they try, buy and tell their friends, or do they ignore? When we craft a powerful brand story and share those key messages in a relatable way across all aspects of our marketing, we are letting people know what we are about – what we stand for, why we do what we do and who we do it for, so THEY can decide how being associated with our products and services will make them feel. They form their own opinions and they decide.

No doubt that if you’re even remotely interested in this subject you have noticed dozens of articles written about crafting your brand “story.” Try Googling “brand story,” and over five million results show up. Even more if you Google “what is branding.”

So, why the interest in something that many small to mid-size businesses assume that they already fully understand, don’t need, can’t afford or all of the above? Remember that your brand speaks volumes. It’s an increasingly complex, crowded and noisy world out there. Without a well-defined brand story, you are just another face in the crowd competing for customers, clients and attention.

How long has branding been around?

Actual branding has been around for hundreds of years, although the concept has changed and morphed into what it is today. Social media and the continual rise of the Internet are driving the next stage of branding as consumers clamor to participate with companies.  Customers spend an exorbitant time on their phones and in social media. If you are not where your customers are, you don’t exist. Companies are also scrambling to build an active and loyal customer base. Search engine optimization, viral marketing, outsourced delivery and branding now allow small and medium-sized businesses to gain visibility without spending a fortune on advertising and infrastructure. However, it’s your brand that connects the dots.

Why is branding important for your business?

Crafting a brand story is the first step for new and emerging companies, a new product launch or a rebranding effort being done by a well-established brand to gain and retain recognition. It is, in essence, the sum of people’s perception of a company’s purpose, their customer service, marketing, messaging and reputation. If done well, you’ll set building blocks in place that allow your business to thrive. Your procurable clients will show up simply because they like what you stand for, what you do and the story you share.

Many businesses, however, concentrate on explaining what they do, product features, benefits and services while never stating why they do it. The “why” is what makes an emotional connection with the people who matter the most to your business – your clients and customers. Keep in mind that your brand story can:

  • Make you memorable
  • Lend credibility
  • Build a unified brand
  • Start conversations
  • Build a loyal customer base
  • Drive profitability

… and so much more.

Your story communicates your vision for how you believe the world should be, and naturally attracts those who believe what you believe.

How to craft your brand story

Branding is a vital (and often overlooked) component when differentiating your business from your competition and establishing yourself as a leader in your industry. Just like running a successful business takes hard work, so does creating and maintaining a healthy brand.

Your brand story can generate results and increase the perceived value of your product or service. Your brand can earn the loyalty of your customers or clients and communicate your purpose and vision. Some of the largest and most successful companies in the world have heartfelt stories that instill meaning into what they do, such as Coca-Cola, Nike or Google themselves. Each has become an industry icon because of their brand identity. Instead of just another “me too” brand, they have risen above the crowd all because people remember a good story.

The good news for smaller businesses is that a brand story doesn’t have to be expensive, but it will take some effort on your part. Since people will buy products or services from a brand that appears trustworthy and legitimate, you will want to be sure your brand story is polished and authentic and worth sharing.

What’s the next step?

A great brand story is what draws in your audience and peaks their interest. It makes an emotional connection and elicits a response that compels them to want to connect and be associated with what the brand stands for. Your brand story is your corporate strategy. It’s the springboard for everything else. For many small and medium-sized businesses just getting started is the hard part. We’re here to help. At HGX Creative, we work with businesses that are in the startup, restart or refresh stage of their business life cycle when they typically begin to form, rebuild or rejuvenate their brand and need our assistance to bring it all together.

We are not only qualified, but we’ve walked in your shoes, and we’ve “been there, done that” many times, both for ourselves and for our clients. Now, we’re partnering with Alexis Kopikis, founder of Alexify, to improve our techniques for crafting a compelling strategic narrative that resonates with your customers as part of the brand development and brand building work we do. Alexis has more than 20 years of strategic storytelling and has worked with more than 40 companies crafting messaging that captures attention, builds loyalty and establishes core positioning.

We will work hand in hand to ensure that you have the information you need to embrace and understand the value in creating a compelling brand to capture market attention and compete in today’s marketplace. Why stand alone, when you can stand head and shoulders above the rest? Your story begins here.

Marketers, we can’t hide from the GDPR.

We can’t beat it so we might as well get onboard. Here’s what you need to know.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sounds complicated – even the abbreviation is a mouthful. And while GDPR is mainly a European set of regulations, companies in the U.S. will begin to feel the impact soon after it goes into effect in May of 2018.

What is GDPR?

The rules were created because legislators believe regular people needed to have more control of their personal data. Additionally, the regulatory guidelines for businesses had not been updated since the time Yahoo! was all the rage and AIM was the cool thing to do. GDPR is meant to give businesses and the general public a more even playing field in the digital arena.

The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, believes that more trust is needed in the digital economy. The EC thinks that trust can be won by providing online consumers with greater control and more information over how and when their data is used.

An important point to note: GDPR does not only apply to businesses that are in the EU (and Britain) – it applies to any company that does business within the EU. Facebook, Twitter and Google, for example, are all having to rework their business processes. There are steep fines and other very bad outcomes for businesses which operate in or around the EU that are guilty of noncompliance.

How will GDPR impact U.S. marketing?

There are many compliance issues surrounding GDPR, but the three main ones marketing managers need to know are data permission, data focus and data access.

Data permission

Data permission is how you collect someone’s personal information in return for promotional material, such as email opt-ins. Moving forward, you cannot assume that the user is willing to be contacted – they now have to opt-in to be contacted, in a specific, informed, freely given, and unambiguous way, through a transparent, affirmative action. Basically, they need to click a radio dial that clearly states they agree to be contacted.

Data focus

When collecting user data, GDPR states that your company has to justify what kinds of personal data you are collecting. So instead of compiling as much information as possible, you should only collect what you can prove that you need in order to do business with that consumer. Or: just collect the very specific data you must have in order to do business, and nothing else.

Data access

The right to be forgotten has been one of the leading talking points when developing the GDPR. In a nutshell, users need to be able to access and remove their data easily.

Who will GDPR impact?

Every business doing business digitally, from a small mom-and-pop shop to giants like Google and every kind of business in between that even thinks about shipping to the EU will be affected by GDPR. No matter how small or large your business is, if you are not in compliance, then you could face fines.

Criteria a business has to meet and not be fined include:

  • Ability to demonstrate compliance.
  • A legal basis for processing.
  • Following and in compliance with special conditions when processing certain categories.
  • Proper records keeping.
  • Proper processing of personal data.
  • Increased and opt-in consent for the use of personal data.
  • Notification of a breach of personal data within 72 hours.
  • Appointment of a data protection officer, or DPO.
  • The right to data portability for all users.
  • Data protection by design and default.

The EU will monitor and enforce the GDPR by member state, so each country that is part of the EU will enforce and regulate their laws individually. If a business is based in the US, but ships or does business in the EU, they should speak with a specialist to see how they could be affected.

Fines and implications for failure to comply with GDPR include:

  • Administrative intervention.
  • 10 million euros or two percent of global revenue (whichever is highest).
  • 20 million euros or four percent of global revenue (whichever is highest).
  • Any necessary compliance-related action as decided by the EC.

Here is a short, easy-to-follow checklist to be in compliance for GDPR before it goes into effect. If you’re unsure how it will affect your business, reach out to a specialist at HGX Creative today!

How to be GDPR compliant:

  • Gain consent before contacting an individual or using their data.
  • Give all your consumers a right to be forgotten.
  • Be as transparent as possible.
  • Begin auditing your mailing list now.
  • Review and revise the process you use to collect personal data.
  • Develop a more succinct content marketing strategy.
  • Train your salespeople to share content on social media platforms, rather than via email.
  • Understand the data you’ve been collecting and adapt as necessary.
  • Update your privacy statement

Frequently asked questions

  1. How will EU regulators enforce the GDPR on American companies?
    First, if your business has a European-based physical presence, the GDPR can be enforced directly. However, the GDPR states that if your business is selling or interacting with customers in the EU, you must have an EU-based representative.The EU will use international law to enforce cooperation with the GDPR. The U.S. and EU law enforcement agencies have a long history of collaboration, and the EU can fine a U.S. company for violating the GDPR – and the U.S. federal authorities will help enforce that fine.
  2. How can the EU fine me if I’m in America?
    The EU has many agreements in place, such as the U.S. Privacy Shield data sharing agreement, and the EU can issue complaints and fines against U.S. companies. If a U.S. company violates the GDPR, the country in the EU that is enforcing it can just file the fine and complaint, and the U.S. authorities will levy it against the business.
  3. What if I don’t pay the GDPR fine?
    If you don’t pay the fine, the EU can cite your business, cut off your ability to transfer data in that country, and levy steeper fines. Additionally, with current favorable EU-U.S. cooperation conditions, the U.S. could step in and force your business to pay the fine.
  4. How can the EU tell if I violated the GDPR?
    Agencies set up in countries that are upholding the GDPR have full investigative power to ask the controller and processor of any business operating within the EU to provide any information the agency thinks is relevant. To begin with, the company will be in the “suspicion of a violation” category, and if they take prompt steps to rectify the situation, then most companies will get a warning.However, if a violation has been confirmed, the agency can issue reprimands, order the company to bring their practices into compliance, and order the deletion of any data that’s in violation. If previous warnings and orders have been ignored, more severe measures are enforceable. These measures include a ban on processing in the EU, a suspicion of data to or from the country, and fines.
  5. How soon after a breach do I need to get into compliance?
    Within 72 hours of becoming aware of a breach of GDPR regulations, the company is required to notify authorities, the subjects of the data breach, and the regulating body where it happened. (For example, if personal information was hacked into and stolen in Ireland, you’d have to notify the Ireland GDPR agency.)

HGX Creative Places in Leading International Awards Program – 2017 Communicator Awards

HGX Creative Places in Leading International Awards Program – 2017 Communicator Awards

Out of more than 6,000 submissions from all over the world, HGX Creative is named an Award of Distinction winner in the 2017 Communicator Awards® competition for its creative work for New England Dairy Promotion Board.

“We are always proud to be recognized for our creativity, and winning a Communicator Award of Distinction is an honor,” says Debbie Nierman, Founder and Chief Creative Officer at HGX Creative. We really enjoy the work we do with the New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC).  We’re fortunate to be part of such an important effort and to work so closely with a team of experts responsible for working with dairy brands, retailers, state government and farmers to create promotions, programs and events that promote their region’s high quality dairy products and help people better understand where their milk comes from. This award is a testament to what we do. The results NEDFC gets from the work we do is why we do it.”

The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program recognizing big ideas in marketing and communications. Founded over two decades ago, The Communicator Awards receives over 6,000 entries from companies and agencies of all sizes, making it one of the largest awards of its kind in the world. The Communicator Awards honors work that transcends innovation and craft – work that made a lasting impact, providing an equal chance of winning to all entrants regardless of company or agency size and project budget.

Please visit communicatorawards.com

Logo design

How one company put its logo to work and boosted revenue by 10% a year

HotelTonight has one of the best logos we’ve seen in a long time – simple yet extremely smart. And it doesn’t just look good, it works! The simple lowercase “h” design was purposefully created to look like a bed and what’s even more clever is how they’re using it to impact the metrics of the business in terms of the results.

HotelTonight is an app that helps users find last-minute details on hotel rooms in three taps. These bookings are generally non-refundable. Prior to the development of the new bookings interface, HotelTonight was experiencing unintentional bookings of about two in every 1,000. Complaints and time spent processing refunds were at an all time high. HT began to look for a design solution, hoping that a clearer user interface would stop the confusion for customers and bolster the company’s bottom line. And it found one.

HotelTonight engineer Ray Lillywhite came up with the solution to make the elongated “h” logo a slide bar that users have to trace their finger along to book a hotel. Because of this, accidental bookings dropped, and non-completion of the booking process dropped by 75 percent, according to Fast Company Design. The non-measurable results can’t be ignored either. It’s memorable and different from what’s out there, making it certain to capture mindshare.

This kind of integration of logo and UI is part of a larger trend—logos aren’t just logos anymore. For HotelTonight, the logo doubles as an unlocking mechanism for booking a hotel room. Both are more than just a visual system. They extend the brand beyond the surface-level identity and turn it into a functional tool for the user—a key to the future of branding.

Image: via HotelTonight  |  Article adapted from Multiple sources including fastcodesign.com; Katherine Schwab


Athleisure Apparel: No Longer Just for the Gym

Fashion-forward workout gear has moved beyond the barbell, eluded the elliptical and transcended the treadmill – becoming a wardrobe staple for those who prefer casual comfort all day long.

The health and fitness craze that is sweeping the nation is apparent in the retail industry’s love of athleisure apparel. Athleisure is trending and will continue to grow and expand in 2017! It’s crossing over from the gym to everyday life. Athleisure clothing is predicted to become a fashion staple and go-to for not just the gym, but for the office as well, due to the many comfortable, sophisticated, fashion forward, and high quality level designs being offered. Trend experts are saying they expect athleisure to take over in 2017, and that it will be worn by everyone, especially women. Orange is expected to be the big color of 2017, as well as washed out and faded colors, as well as a return to neon. It’s the perfect mix of comfort, fashion and practicality, thus making it a hit for every setting and environment in one’s life. Athleisure is all the rage and in demand, so for your next incentive program, company store, sweeps & contest prizes or promotional giveaway, take a closer look at this hot and growing apparel category.

A modern spin on an oldie but goodie!

The Polaroid Snap Touch camera makes it fun and easy to snap, print, and share. Its built-in printer lets you share on the spot with high-quality, full color photos on adhesive-backed paper. Best of all, there’s no ink or toner cartridges to contend with. You can choose to print right away or later. You can also capture the moment in high-definition video. Customize your photos with borders, filters, and digital stickers. Bluetooth connectivity lets you connect to the Polaroid print app for more editing features.


  • 5″ LCD touchscreen viewfinder
  • Photobooth mode
  • Burst mode
  • Filters, borders, and digital stickers
  • Auto timer
  • Built-in selfie mirror
  • MicroSD card slot (up to 128GB)
  • Micro USB port
  • Microphone & speaker
  • Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Snap and print — no computer connections needed
  • 2×3” full color, waterproof prints using Zink® Zero Ink® Printing Technology
  • No Ink. No Hassles.™ — no ink cartridges or ribbons to throw away


Plush Pope Dolls and Branded Papal Merchandise

More than 200 items, including keychains, T-shirts and other apparel, tote bags, and glassware, will be available to commemorate the Philadelphia stop of Pope Francis’ first trip to the U.S for the World Meeting of Families Sept. 22 to 27, 2015. The Pope Francis plush doll has proven an early favorite, and the selection of rosaries is expected to be a big seller, according to Philly.com.

The papal-themed and faith-based merchandise will have items on sale from $5 to $500. Many of the items will display the World Meeting of Families logo, which features a family of figures inside the Liberty Bell that has a cross on the top.

Souvenirs will be sold online ahead of the pope’s arrival on the World of Families Meeting Web store. The memorabilia will also be sold at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and pop-up locations along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the pope’s visit, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Pope Francis will be in Philadelphia in late September. On Sept. 26, he will attend the closing of the World Meeting of Families, an international gathering for Catholics focused on strengthening family bonds; and on Sept. 27, he will host an outdoor Mass along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway that is expected to draw 2 million people. Up to 3 million people are expected throughout the week.

Instant Gratification – Just One Press Away

Could the Dash Button change the way we receive reorders from our clients for printed and promotional marketing material? We think so. Imagine a world where your favorite products are delivered to your front door with the press of a button. Smart, connected products have made what was once science fiction into a reality. It first began in our living rooms, smart televisions transformed the way we watch TV. Today, there is a printer on the market that automatically orders ink when running low. Brita has even developed a water pitcher that orders a new filter at the right time.

Last month, Amazon introduced what could arguably be one of the first high-profile “smart” promotional products — Amazon Dash Button. Dash Button is an internet-connected branded physical button that allows customers to order household items with a simple press of a button. Amazon has partnered with top household brands to deliver these free buttons to select Amazon Prime members.

As technology continues to advance and become more affordable, expect an array of connected smart products to enter the marketplace. We suspect that very soon, Dash Button type technology will make it’s way in to the promotional marketing world and soon, we’ll be talking with you about how we can help improve your marketing efforts with just the press of a button. Stay tuned for what’s next!


Adapted from PPAI Distributor Update April 2015

Food for thought

Make that tasteful food gift work for you long after the treats disappear

“A moment on the lips, forever on the hips.”

That’s what they say about delicious, not-so-good-for-you foods, but the same can’t be said for food gifts baskets and other edible holiday promotions you’re considering for clients this year.

There’s usually nothing “forever” about food gifts. Once the edible goodies sent to promote your brand or product are eaten, the message is mentally tossed even before that chocolate-smeared napkin hits the office trash can. What a shame, too — food gifts are the only items tapping into our sense of taste, one of the most powerful sensory experiences around.
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Let the Games Begin!

How do promotions, sweeps, and contests drive sales, increase loyalty and make your brand a winner? HGX’s latest promo to benefit Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) does all three.

Try it for yourself! Play the game at www.somawin.com until April 1.

This particular promo’s goal was not only to engage SOMA volunteers, fundraisers, athletes and their families to “like” SOMA’s Facebook page,…
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