Big Advertising Ideas For a Small Budget

When advertising on a budget, seeing successful multi-million dollar advertising campaigns can be a bit discouraging. Not all businesses can afford television commercials, radio or billboard ads. Smaller businesses often rely on free advertising methods, like social media, to project their promotional messages. Even if you’re advertising on a small budget, or even no budget at all, that doesn’t mean that your advertising effectiveness has to be small too!

Never underestimate word of mouth.

Don’t neglect the power of word of mouth advertising. Word of mouth is spread by brand ambassadors after they’ve had a good experience, or brand detractors if they’ve had a bad one. Positive WOM advertising can occur by simply going above and beyond for consumers, giving them a reason to talk or encouraging them to tell a friend about the business. Offering “refer a friend” deals can help with this. The more friends that are referred, the more word spreads about the company.


Don’t be intimidated by big advertising spenders!

WOM is especially important because there is more trust in this type of advertising. Which are you the most likely to put your faith in, a television commercial about a great new restaurant in town, or a family member recommending you this great new restaurant in town? Word of mouth is more trustworthy than other traditional ads, but that doesn’t always refer to face-to-face chit-chat with friends or family. Whether it’s on social media, forums or comments on a website, a lot of word-of-mouth occurs online. In fact, this WOM marketing has been claimed to be the most important form of marketing and advertising. Utilize the convenience of social media to generate buzz. Understand what exactly your customers like about you, find something unique about the business that you can talk about and keep the customer engaged online. Your ambassadors will do the rest.

Participate within the community.

Getting involved with the people that reside within the business’s community is a great opportunity to get exposure. Fun runs, golf tournaments, or any other well-publicized community event is perfect for a business to get involved and get the company name out there. You can additionally volunteer your services or products for particular events. Not only does volunteering give you a positive image, but it also gives you necessary exposure.

If you choose to sponsor and event, you can bring free samples, informational brochures and business cards that can generate brand recognition and raise awareness about the business. For some sponsorships, your company name and/or logo will be put on display or on advertisements for the event itself. There are plenty of opportunities to spread the word. Talking about and sharing events that your company participates in on social media can show others that you’re more than just a business, you’re a part of their community.

Don’t be afraid to campaign.

Creating an advertisement is one thing, but campaigns? You might be thinking that advertising campaigns equals big spending, but that’s not the case. If you already read Creative Outlet‘s previous article on outstanding hashtag campaigns, you know that campaigning doesn’t have to mean shoveling out a ton of money. Figuring out the perfect hashtag, tagline or big idea for a social media campaign can lead to great success for a business who doesn’t have much budget for advertising. Once you’ve chosen a big idea to campaign, be sure to incorporate it in all of your social media posts. Repetition in a campaign is important. The best part about social media campaigns is that it’s easy to use even if you don’t have much time for it. Outlets like Facebook allow you to schedule posts ahead of time so that you can be on time even when you’re busy. Try using Hootsuite if you operate several social media outlets. Hootsuite lets you schedule and post on all social platforms simultaneously, and is an excellent tool for campaigning.

Keeping the consumer engaged and informed through WOM and social media marketing can be a great benefit to any business, big or small. So, having a short advertising budget doesn’t mean that the effectiveness of your advertising efforts come up short as well. With social media, making a big splash in the giant social media sphere is possible for anyone, you just need to show that you’re worth talking about. Great communication is key to not just gain new customers, but brand loyal ambassadors that can help you generate positive buzz for your business.

Back-to-School Selling Ideas

September is just around the corner, and so is back-to-school shopping. Backpacks, pens, pencils and other various supplies are sought out in preparation for the first day of classes, which is an excellent opportunity for advertisers and marketers. Back-to-school selling and advertising for big businesses like Target reach amounts as high as $150 million in ad spending, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend just as much to have a successful back-to-school season. Whether or not you’re in the school supply business, there are still plenty things to do during this big shopping period.

Books and backpacks

School supplies aren’t the only things to advertise for back-to-school selling!

Advertise healthy eating habits.

Being healthy and aware of the foods that are put in our bodies is becoming a big concern for consumers, and they concern for their kid’s health as well. Grocery stores can blog or post recipes for healthy back-to-school lunches, even using newspapers to advertise healthy snack options that can be found in their shop. They can also set up displays for easy to pack meals and recipe cards in-store, ensuring that kids and adults alike can eat nutritious sack lunches. College students can also be targeted by advertising deals on pre-packaged items or bundles that are both healthy and affordable for them. Even advertise foods and recipes that don’t require cooking and are appropriate for dorm living. Show consumers that you don’t have to spend big bucks to enjoy a healthy meal!

Back-to-school in style.

School supplies aren’t the only thing that students are spending their money on in preparation for classes, they’re also looking to re-vamp their wardrobes. Last year, students were predicted to spend an average of $231.30 on clothes and $124.46 on shoes, compared to an average of $101.18 on school supplies. Advertise rewards for “Super Student” sales by encouraging them to bring in report cards with good grades for discounts on clothing items. Hair stylists and barber shops can do the same by advertising for back-to-school haircuts. Stylists can also create YouTube videos or blogs on quick and easy hairstyles to do on the first day of school.

Target deal-hunting college students.

Between student loans, book fees and school supplies college students are often on a bit of a budget. Any store can target college students by advertising a 15% off discounts when presenting their school ID. Book stores can advertise back-to-school book deals or rentals, and even discounts on purchases over a certain amount. Shops that sell cleaning products can advertise bundle deals on cleaning supplies to keep their dorm rooms clean. Advertising college student rewards programs that run beyond the back-to-school selling period can also be helpful for college students no matter what business you run.

Play the teacher’s pet.

Students aren’t the only ones who back-to-school shop. Target educators by advertising teachers-only discount cards for school supplies during the back-to-school season. Book stores can advertise top-selling books for each school subject. For shops that don’t sell school supplies, try advertising deals and specials just for teachers during the first month of school.

Parents need pampering, too! 

Don’t forget about the hard-working parents this season! Since their schedules are likely to change with their children back at school, it’s high-time that they get to treat themselves. Salons can give discounts during school hours that parents can take advantage of while the kids are away. Restaurants can advertise more mid-day specials and meal options. Gyms can jump in and advertise free fitness classes during the day for parents as well. Additionally, dog kennels, walkers and groomers can promote deals for parents that depended on the kids to care for their pets while at work.

No matter what the business is, everyone can hop on the back-to-school selling craze. Special deals for students, parents and teachers can be beneficial for everyone during this huge buying season. Just don’t forget these important targets for this shopping season!

How Images Can Improve Your SEO

With millions of websites available in the internet, it’s crucial for many businesses to get noticed in the World Wide Web. So, many utilize SEO, or search engine optimization, to help their website come up first on a Google search. However, did you know that using images on your websites and blogs can help with SEO? Here are a few useful tips to help utilize your images for better SEO.

Young woman looking at pet insurance on laptop

Don’t forget about images for improving the SEO ranking for your websites and blogs.

Make sure the image file size is small.

Not only do fast-loading websites ensure that a user spends more time on it, but loading time is also taken into consideration when determining website ranking. Google, like many internet users, value websites that are quick to load . To help with this, make sure that all images that are used are saved on the smallest file size possible, without sacrificing the quality, of course. Do note that simply letting the browser resize the image, or resizing the image once it’s uploaded is not the same thing, the file size will still remain the same.

Create the right file name.

Almost everything goes into consideration when it comes to SEO rankings. Yes, even your file names! Before you upload a photo to a website or blog, make sure that the file name itself is related to what the content is about. Google isn’t likely to understand what “Image01234.png” is, so pick certain keywords that correspond to the page that it’s being uploaded to.

Captions are key.

If the file name is important to SEO, it should come to no surprise that image captions play a role as well. Write captions for images using keywords that correspond with the keywords in the image file name and article or page text. Additionally, captions are important for persuading readers to keep on reading since images are one of the first things that the reader’s eyes will drift to. So, choose your words wisely!

Use keywords in the alt-text.

Alt-text is the alternative html text used for an image that tells the browser what the image is. It’s often the text that you see when the image cannot load. So, it’s important that web browsers can recognize the image using keywords in the alt-text. To do this, you need to change the image’s tag in the text editor.

For example, the tag will look something like this:

<img src="barking-dog.jpg" />

Depending on what you’ve named your image will determine what’s after “img src”. To add the alt-text tag, type “alt=” into the tag, followed by similar keywords.

Here’s what the end result would look like:

<img src="barking-dog.jpg" alt="Barking Dog" />

Use images in context.

Search engines assess the text that surrounds an image to figure out what’s important about that page. So, any image that’s used should not only have the right title and file name, but it needs to be related to the text. Keywords in the surrounding text should match the keywords used in the caption, alt-text and file name. To put it simply, the picture needs to be relevant to the page. Don’t use pictures of cats if your page is talking about dogs.

One major takeaway from this is that keywords are incredibly important to SEO. Search engines take into consideration how relevant your page and images are for online searches through your keywords. However, although you may want to use one word to use for your page or blog, it’s very difficult for there to be SEO success for a page that only uses one unspecific word as a keyword. Try using specific, short phrases that can make the page more relevant in an online search. For example, if you’re writing a blog about owning dogs, don’t choose “dog” as your keyword. Instead, try using something like “dog training tips,” or more specific phrases that correspond to the topic the page is about. Keeping these elements in mind can ensure that imagery aids in your search engine relevance!

Free Moon Graphic

Today is Moon Day! The Moon silently orbits Earth from 238,900 miles away, illuminating us with light reflected from our Sun. Although the Moon seems bright most nights, it actually only reflects about 3-12% of the sunlight that hits it! Celebrate Earth’s only natural satellite with this free graphic!

SpaceshipMoon Display

FREE DOWNLOAD: (300dpi RGB jpg) (300dpi CMYK jpg)

Only available for free from July 20th, 2015 through July 27th, 2015.

Miss this free graphic? Search for it on Creative Outlet!

Top 5 Design Tips for Perfect Visual Hierarchy

Hierarchy is one of the most important elements that create a successful and cohesive design. It shows readers what’s important and also makes it easier for the eye to navigate. Here are a few quick tips and reminders for maintaining hierarchy in designs.

1. Order your fonts by size, style.

First things first, headlines should be bigger, bolder and eye-catching. More stylized fonts are appropriate for a headline. Unless you’re using a visual, you want the viewer’s eye to be drawn to the headline first. Placement should be above subheads and the body copy. The subhead and body copy should be at least 5-10 points smaller than the headline, depending on the font type. Most importantly, the font face for the subhead and body copy should be easy to read. Don’t vary the font size and type throughout the design, keep it organized so that the eye knows where to go.

Quick tip: Stick to a maximum of three font sizes and/or font types. Any more and the design will look inconsistent and can be hard to read and comprehend.

2. Use color for highlights.

The use of color can also create a hierarchy in a design by creating distinction between the important and less important stuff. Color can also help evoke certain emotions because they hold certain meanings. Try matching the headline color with visuals to show what’s important in the text. Just like the font size and style, try not to go overboard with bright colors because you don’t want to distract the reader. Additionally, pick colors that contrast with the background so that it’s easy to read.

Superstitious Ad

Varying font color and sizes can help create hierarchy in an ad design like this one.

3. Don’t neglect image size and placement.

The second you drop in an image, it becomes a core part of the design. Whether it’s simply a visual for an article or the backdrop to an entire design, placement and size is important, especially if you want the design to work across multiple platforms. Be sure that the placement of the image or multiple images are appropriate to were you want the reader’s eyes to wander. Other than the headline, images are going to be the first thing that the reader looks at.

Quick tip: If you’re using multiple images, try varying them in size and arrangement using a grid. It helps create a visual narrative.

4. Give them some breathing room.

If you want something to stand out, size is important, but let’s not forget what goes around it. Cluttered areas may draw the eye, but they may make it confusing or more difficult to read. Keeping a lot of negative space around a title, company name or logo can create the hierarchy without the clutter. Using a lot of negative space can even act as an alternative to size. A bolded text box around the title can be helpful and give the most important elements it’s own space.

5. Use a Z-Pattern.

A Z-Pattern is applicable to many types of ads and website designs. The point of the Z-Pattern is so that the eye moves from one corner of the design to the next, creating a Z formation. The most important elements of the design must be placed in the path of the Z, with the most important element being placed at the start, which would be the top left corner. There, you can put the headline, company name or whatever you believe is the most important. The bottom right corner is the “exit,” or where the reader is prompted to take action. Here, you can place icons for social media outlets, a phone number or another call to action.

Z-Pattern Example

See how the Z-Pattern leads the eye around a design.

Without hierarchy, a design is jumbled, cluttered and often difficult to read and understand. The important part of designing, especially when it comes to creating ads, is to grab the viewer’s attention and hold it. Creating hierarchy helps keeps the reader engaged and leads them around the design easily. Keeping these elements in mind when designing can help your design receive the right attention.

Why Images Are Crucial for Marketing Effectiveness

Marketing outlets like blogs or social media require a little more than just a great headline and copy. We live in a time where nearly everyone has a smartphone and have the ability to play photographer and share what they’ve captured. We are part of a visual culture, and some would much rather swipe through photographs than read a whole article. Imagery is found to be an important element in getting more engagement online. Great images on blogs or Facebook posts can increase traffic and allow a for you and your followers to communicate visually, or simply just draw the eye to a post. Here are a few reasons imagery is an excellent addition to your content marketing.

Marketing Images

Whether you use stock images or photos you’ve taken yourself, your content marketing can benefit from them.

People are attracted to imagery.

Other than having an awesome headline, images attached to posts or articles are actually what attracts readers. In fact, posts that include images are 94% more likely to be viewed than posts without images because our eyes are simply drawn to them first. Additionally, Facebook posts that include photos have a 37% engagement rate, the highest user engagement than any other type of Facebook post. Yes, even video! Increase engagement and readership with social media posts and blogs by including high-quality imagery and graphics.

We are also attracted to imagery because humans connect more emotionally with photographs. Pictures allow viewers to make quicker decisions about whether or not they wish to buy something because images are easier to process than text. For example, posting a photo on Facebook of a customer using a new product, or showing the product in context to where it’s normally used will probably lead to more views and purchases than a simple photo or description of the product.

Photographs increase SEO value for blogs.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is an important element for online business traffic. Imagery can help your rankings on the Google results page, and that’s why many businesses rely on social media and content marketing for SEO. Images can emphasize topics on blogs by relating to a specific keyword or words within the article. Linking specific keywords related to the blog title onto an image link or caption can turn that picture into your secret SEO weapon. Climb the ranks of Google results by using imagery that reflects your blog message.

Images are ideal for social media sharing.

As previously mentioned, images lead to more engagement than any other content on the web. Because images are so attractive to consumers, they are easier to spot and easier to share. So, what makes an image shareable? Original content. Try using images that include motivational quotes relevant to your brand, how-to’s, fun facts, tips or any other content that the consumer can use. These images are easy to process and quick to respond to. If you’re creating these yourself, use easy to read fonts and attractive colors, perhaps your company colors or fonts. For whatever you choose to do, one important thing to remember is to be consistent with posting original image content. Consistency leads to more engagement.

Photos allow you to enhance your brand/company.


Marketing with photos of people helps create trust between the brand and the consumer.

Showcase company events that you host or put an employee in the spotlight to let people get to know your brand on a more personal level. Share pictures of the business headquarters or any fun happenings that occur in the break room. Images of employees will make the company seem more trustworthy and the viewer more comfortable with doing business with you. If you sell goods, show off products with product glamour shots or images of customers using the product in context. Be artistic and let your company creativity shine with the photos you use. Be sure to be consistent with incorporating the brand logo or colors into the images you share.

Quick tips for marketing with images:

  • Use high-quality stock photos like the ones provided by Creative Outlet to make your posts look professional. The superior quality of the photos will also make it easier to grab attention and save you the time of taking them yourself or hiring somebody else to take them.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Images can be used to paint a picture without using copy. Choose imagery that tells a story so that your posts won’t need to be overrun with text.
  • Infographics can be a challenge to create, but they allow for an easier understanding of data and research. Infographics are an excellent, colorful way to illustrate trends without boring the readers, and are excellent for social media sharing. They’re engaging and informative without needing any additional copy.
  • Product images are a must, especially for business websites. Show future clients what you have to offer so that they are able to compare products. Include multiple views and angles of a product as well.
  • Writing a long article? Break up the large blocks of text with images that are relevant to the subject. The pictures will give the reader a break and keep the article visually stimulating.
  • Choose images with human faces. Not only does it create a more emotional connection with viewers, but it makes readers more comfortable, this is especially so if it’s an image of a CEO or employee of the company. It shows the faces behind the business.

Images are important when it comes to grabbing someone’s attention in marketing. So be sure to remember that image quality is crucial and that readers need a little extra something with text or blog posts. Keep these tips in mind so that you and your business can adapt to our visual culture. Adapt to the visual culture so your business can get noticed.

1-Minute Workshop: Swirling Sun

Quick Cover - Banner

Creating a Swirling Sun in Adobe® Illustrator® 10

Swirling Sun Step 1

Step 1

In this workshop, you’ll learn how to create a fun swirling sun icon using the Pen tool and the Spiral tool. Begin by selecting the Rectangle tool and drawing a long, thin rectangle. Next, add points to the rectangle and adjust them to create a rough look.

Swirling Sun Step 2

Step 2

You are now going to create a custom brush using the rectangle shape you just created. First, open the Brush palette. Next, drag the rectangle onto the Brush palette. In the dialogue box, select Art Brush, then click OK. You will return to this custom brush in a few minutes.

Swirling Sun Step 3

Step 3

The next step is to create the shape of the sun. In the Tool palette, select the Spiral tool. Click on your screen to bring up the Spiral settings dialogue box. Adjust the settings to a decay of 80 with 17 line segments. Click OK.

Swirling Sun Step 4

Step 4

With the basic sun shape created, you may apply your custom brush. Select the spiral shape and click on the new brush in the Brush palette. This will apply the custom brush to the shape.

Swirling Sun Step 5

Step 5

To complete the sun, you need to add strokes of heat around the spiral shape. Select the Pen tool from the Tool palette and draw freehand lines around the spiral. You’re going for a loose, fun look, so the lines do not need to be perfect. One you have created lines around the sun, select each and apply the custom brush to it.

Swirling Sun Step 6

Step 6

To finish the effect, add color to the sun and the heat rays. This is a quick, fun method of creating illustrations and icons with a loose, sketch-like appearance.

Why Storytelling is Important for Branding

When consumers are exposed to hundreds and thousands of advertising messages a day, it becomes easy to tune out or make it difficult for advertisements to resonate and even harder to keep consumer attention. Can you recall 10 of the advertisements you’ve seen today? You might not be able to right away. We are a species of daydreamers, which makes it a real challenge for advertisers to create ads that resonate. How can brands hold the attention of so many wandering minds? The answer is in storytelling. The increase in content marketing, like blogging, and social media marketing has made it clear that storytelling is the best way to reach consumers.

Close up of an ink pen's nib

Storytelling helps consumers connect emotionally.

The personal touch that storytelling adds to branding and advertising makes it more relatable for consumers. Focusing on the brand’s story more than the actual promotion creates trust, which is important when many consumers generally don’t trust the ads they see. Today, more and more people are putting their trust in earned media like word-of-mouth or online consumer reviews than other forms of advertising. This means that consumers are more willing to buy a product or service if they share an emotional connection. Emotional connections in an advertisement increases the ads overall effectiveness because you’re more willing to pay attention to something that relates to your own experiences. Although advertising using data that says “75% of moms approve of this brand!” seems impressive, consumers are looking for a more human connection with a brand. For example, Extra‘s “Origami” tugs at the heartstrings by telling a heartwarming story between a father and daughter. Although the ad is still promoting Extra’s gum products, the ad focuses on how the relationship between the father and daughter grows with the product.

Our brains are more active when listening to a story.

Neuroscience has found that our brains are more active when reading a detailed story. Words that describe or the awaken the senses are more likely to elicit human reaction because our brains don’t make the distinction between what we’re reading/watching and what we’re actually experiencing. Our brains act as if we are a part of what we’re watching or reading, not standing by as a spectator. This helps brands turn their advertising into an experience for their target. Look at how Coke has turned the brand into a storytelling company by “selling an idea.” But that’s not all, our brains are less likely to wander when caught in an engrossing story. Our brains flip through about a hundred daydreams an hour, but with our thoughts tangled in the web of storytelling, our brains experience no daydreams. Stories awaken the “what’s going to happen next?” intrigue within us which, for advertisers, is incredibly important for holding the attention of viewers.

Storytelling portrays company values and goals.

While storytelling is great for emotionally connecting, it can also help reflect what a brand values. It helps the consumer get to know what the company is all about and helps consumers visualize the company’s goals. One company that did an excellent job with this is Chipotle Mexican Grill, who reflected their company value of producing sustainable, healthy and wholesome food products with their short film “The Scarecrow.” The Scarecrow, fed up with the way that companies manufacture foods, sets out on a quest to help “Cultivate a Better World.” Additionally, the film accompanies an app-based game that lets you play out the story yourself. Brands could show what they value the most with storytelling, even create characters like Chipotle did, to help emotionally engage their consumers with a story that portrays a simple message.

Storytelling gives us the power to connect with consumers through what we advertise. Stories can be portrayed in words, in pictures and in video, and on any advertising platform for any audience to connect to. We look for a human connection in everything, and storytelling makes a brand seem more human. A brand becomes more than a logo or a phrase, it becomes a living thing made up of values and ideas. It gives us the opportunity to show that a brand or product is more than just a brand or product – it’s an experience.