Daily Archives: February 13, 2009

How does color affect us


Our personal and cultural associations affect our experience of color. Colors are seen as warm or cool mainly because of long-held (and often universal) associations. Yellow, orange and red are associated with the heat of sun and fire; blue, green and violet with the coolness of leaves, sea and the sky. Warm colors seem closer to the viewer than cool colors, but vivid cool colors can overwhelm light and subtle warm colors. Using warm colors for foreground and cool colors for background enhances the perception of depth.

Although red, yellow and orange are in general considered high-arousal colors and blue, green and most violets are low-arousal hues, the brilliance, darkness and lightness of a color can alter the psychological message. While a light blue-green appears to be tranquil, wet and cool, a brilliant turquoise, often associated with a lush tropical ocean setting, will be more exciting to the eye. The psychological association of a color is often more meaningful than the visual experience.

Colors act upon the body as well as the mind. Red has been shown to stimulate the senses and raise the blood pressure, while blue has the opposite effect and calms the mind.

People will actually gamble more and make riskier bets when seated under a red light as opposed to a blue light. That’s why Las Vegas is the city of red neon.

For most people, one of the first decisions of the day concerns color harmony. What am I going to wear? This question is answered not only by choosing a style and fabric appropriate to the season, but by making the right color choices. And it goes on from there. Whether you’re designing a new kitchen, wrapping a present or creating a bar chart, the colors you choose greatly affect your final results.

How often have you caught your breath at the sight of a flowerbed in full bloom? Most likely the gardener has arranged the flowers according to their color for extra vibrancy. Have you ever seen a movie in which a coordinated color scheme helps the film create a world unto itself? With a little knowledge of good color relationships, you can make colors work better for you in your business graphics and other applications.

Color is light and light is energy. Scientists have found that actual physiological changes take place in human beings when they are exposed to certain colors. Colors can stimulate, excite, depress, tranquilize, increase appetite and create a feeling of warmth or coolness. This is known as chromodynamics.


An executive for a paint company received complaints from workers in a blue office that the office was too cold. When the offices were painted a warm peach, the sweaters came off even though the temperature had not changed.

The illusions discussed below will show you that sometimes combinations of colors can deceive the viewer, sometimes in ways that work to your advantage. They can also cause unfortunate effects in your graphics, so be sure to watch out for these little traps.

Sometimes colors affect each other in unexpected ways. For example, most colors, when placed next to their complements, produce vibrating, electric effects. Other colors, in the right combinations, seem quite different from what you’d expect.

The most striking color illusions are those where identical colors, when surrounded by different backgrounds, appear to be different from each other. In a related effect, different colors can appear to be the same color when surrounded by certain backgrounds.

When you look at a colored object, your brain determines its color in the context of the surrounding colors.


In this picture, the two bows are the same color, but because the surrounding areas are strikingly different in contrast, it seems to our eyes that they are different. Keep this effect in mind when creating graphics where color matching is critical. If you attempt to match your corporation’s official colors, you may find that even if you achieve an exact match, it may look wrong in context.

In the same way that one color can appear different in different surroundings, two similar colors may appear to be identical under some conditions. Even though the two symbols are actually slightly different tones, the contrasting backgrounds cause our brains to think that they are the same color. This effect is harder to control, but be aware of it because it can affect your graphics in hidden ways.

The feeling you get when looking at bright complementary colors next to each other is a vibrating or pulsing effect. It seems that the colors are pulling away from each other. It’s caused by an effect called color fatiguing. When one color strikes a portion of the retina long enough, the optic nerve begins sending confused signals to the brain. This confusion is intensified by the complementaries.

Mixing brilliant complementary colors gets attention, but it should be used with restraint. The effect is disconcerting and can make your eyes feel like they’ve been shaken around.


If you want to use complementary colors without causing discomfort, you can outline each of the colors with a thin neutral white, gray or black line. The outlines separate the two colors, which helps your brain keep them separated.

When two very similar colors touch in an image, both colors appear to wash out and become indistinct. This is because the borders between the colors are difficult to distinguish and your brain blurs the colors together.


If you outline each of the colors with a thin neutral white, gray or black line, the colors become easier to distinguish. This is called the stained glass technique and is a way to reduce this blurring of the colors.

Find more out about color at Pantone.com

Keeping Kids Safe Online

Let’s face it the internet is a great educational and entertaining resource our kids can benefit from exploring, but there are areas we don’t want them to travel too! Setting some clear guidelines and rules upfront will help you feel more comfortable and keep them safer.

Visit www.netsmartz.org to download safety pledges that are geared to specific age ranges, print them and review them with the children and young adults you know. Outlining what you expect and having them sign the agreement to follow the safe practices will provide accountability, especially if you post the printed, signed document right by the computer they will surf on!

Following are some important points of review I have summarized from the a long list of safety tips posted on the netsmartz.org website. The site is a portal for educating adults and children on internet safety practices.

  • post clear and simple house rules right next to the monitor and review it periodically
  • check out your computer and service providers options for limited access to areas and content on the web.
  • kids should never enter their full name or any personal information. tlak to your children about what personal information is and why they should not share it online.
  • Adults should always make sure the web site is secure before entering any credit card information.
  • If children are in chat rooms or social networking sites let them know they should never meet with a person they first met “online” without a parent or adult guardian you approve of.
  • advise your kids not to respond to offensive or dangerous communications. Instruct your children to let you know right away if anything has scared them or made them feel confused or uncomfortable. Show them how to turn the monitor off. Assure them it was not their fault. Retrieve the offensive correspondence and report to law enforcement.
  • keep the computer in an open area of the home where children are not secluded.
  • keep informed on current scams and dangers and research resources regularly to learn the more about internet safety.
  • spend time with the kids online, let them show you what they enjoy doing and where they go.
  • there are child-friendly search engines available kids can use for research as well as chat rooms just for kids
  • be aware of other computers your child may be using and make sure the same home practices are supported everywhere.
  • use parent’s name for internet accounts with parents having the primary screenname, controlling passwords, and using blocking and/or filtering devices. If children choose screen names make sure they do not obviously identify them as a child.
  • Filtering and blocking software for your computer will help limit the websites kids can access. Check Netsmartz.com Resources page for more information.

Content provided from http://www.netsmartz.org/resources/pledge.htm

Check the site for the age ranges and discuss them with your young ones. Print out the agreements and place them in view of your kids when they are in front of the computer as a gentle reminder of the pledge all of you have taken.

Clarity with SWOT Analysis

During this changing business climate many companies are diversifying and others are closing their doors. Reinvention can stem from a need to increase revenue, a request to follow a new direction an industry has taken or a need to enhance skills in a niche sector.

It is important to evaluate how your company, product and services are going to weather the new way of doing business. Companies who will prosper in this changing environment will be those who are clear about who they are, who they serve, and what value they bring to the marketplace. One of the first steps in identifying the answers to these questions for my company was to complete a SWOT analysis. Getting key staff involved in some of the questions is beneficial too. Your staff are often the ones who have full insight of the daily functions and achievements of the company.

Once I honestly answered the questions my next step was to sit with my answers for a while. Some of you will get some ah-ha answers right away – others will get affirmations your company is on the right track. I found all of the above to be true. Whatever you do, don’t force the answers and don’t force a message that doesn’t fit.

Hopefully this practice will help you give you some clarification on your company direction. Keep ini mind, SWOT analysis can be helpful in many areas of your life. Along with the all encompassing business example posed here, SWOT analysis can help define your target market, your brand development, marketing, public relations and human resources approaches. Personally, it can help you with relationships and even home improvement plans – if you are that disciplined! If utilized regularly you may be amazed at the varied results you will get. Best of luck, have fun and stay connected to the big picture!

Download SWOT Analysis


If you plan to set time aside for a year end review, personally or professionally, visit our blog. In the most recent entry you can find some specific questions to get you started. Below enjoy another tip by another of our favorite coaches, Michael Neill – www.geniuscatalyst.com

Emma was struggling to keep her home-based business alive after about a year of very hard work and very limited profits. When she hired me to help her turn things around (or help her make peace with letting the business go), the first thing I did was introduce her to a thinking tool I use with many of my clients:

Imagine a robot who has been programmed with all the best business skills and business wisdom, but has no emotional circuitry whatsoever. No matter what is going on in your business, “Business Robot” will always make the decisions and take the actions that are most likely to lead to success both short and long-term.

Now imagine that Business Robot has been hired to run your company or take over your job for awhile – what would Business Robot do?

When I asked Emma, her first response was “he’d quit!” (Not sure why most people seem to make Business Robot a “boy-bot”, but they do!) After further questioning, she realized that in fact, the business was mostly on track – what had been troubling her was the pressure she’d been putting on herself to “make” it succeed more quickly.

A series of insights followed, including:

* Business Robot would institute a strict ABC priority policy and stick with it, not letting himself get caught up in other people’s sense of urgency

* Business Robot would work less hours, recognizing the value of focusing on work when at work and renewing energy and resources outside of working hours

* Business Robot would go through and do an 80/20 evaluation of which clients were bringing in the most money for the least effort and vice-versa – and then would use that information as a basis for prioritizing certain clients and “firing” others

Perhaps the biggest breakthrough she got from the exploration was when she realized that far from working harder or longer, Business Robot would hire an assistant to take care of the majority of the tasks she herself found so tiresome, leaving her free and energized to do the work that she loved and excelled at.

Today’s Experiment:

1. Imagine that Business Robot has been brought in to run your company, take over your job, or manage your career – what would Business Robot do in the first week? What goals or targets would he set for the next month? Next quarter? Next year?

2. What longer-term vision would Business Robot create for you business or career?

3. Think of the biggest problem or sticking point you are facing in your work right now – what would Business Robot do in that situation?

The key to making this “thought-experiment” work for you is to realize that as Aristotle said, “a virtue is the mean between two vices”. Your goal is not to become more robotic – just to bring the wisdom of a mentally disciplined approach into balance with the wisdom of your very human heart.

Have fun, learn heaps, and happy exploring!

Micheal Neill

Copyright © 2008 Michael Neil. All Rights Reserved


You’re corporate brochures looks awesome! But how does it read? As a design firm we specialize in making your marketing items look good. We don’t just stop at how they look though. To maintain your professional image it is important for your text to be clean and accurate too.

We know it’s really about how cool it looks, but some people do still read! If your budget is limited and you are writing your own copy, make sure you get another set of eyes to proof it. One of the first rules to learn is you can’t proof your own work. As independent as some of us are, there are times when another person’s insight is critical. As the writer, or designer we are often too close to the work to notice what are sometimes blatant errors others see right away.

For your next project hire an editor or have a coworker proofread for you. If you are not familiar with the shorthand proofreaders use to mark up your text be sure to take a look at the graphic below developed by Dynamic Graphics Magazine. Print it out and keep it for reference when needed. Dynamic Graphics Magazine does a great job offering tips to all levels of publishers.


How many client proposals do you have out there right now?

Sometimes it seems like eons pass before a response comes in these days. There is a fine line between pestiness and persistence when following up with client project bids. Here are five tried-and-true techniques marketing guru, Ilise Benun, suggests to use to speed up the process:

1. Ask for a simple “yes” or “no.” Author and physician Evan Lipkis got silence from a reporter from Lady’s Home Journal after submitting an article idea. So he wrote a simple e-mail message that said, “Just give me a yes or no!” He got a 40-minute interview and a story in the magazine.
2. Put “Second Request” in the e-mail subject line. When faced with silence, Howard Stone, co-author of Too Young to Retire, sends the same e-mail message a week later with “Second Request” in the subject line.
3. Give them a deadline to respond. Some people only take action when a deadline is looming. So ask your prospects to respond by a certain date, even if that date is arbitrary.
4. Express concern. On a second or third try, express concern by saying “I hope you are all right.” This works especially well with people you know personally. It brings the interaction to a human level, reminds them that there’s a real person trying to reach them, and usually provokes a response.
5. Put them on auto-drip. Whether or not you have a deal pending, you should have an automated marketing tool in place to help keep your name in all your prospects’ minds. The three best ways to remind them of the service that you provide are with a monthly (or even quarterly) e-mail newsletter, a print newsletter, or a direct-mail postcard.

Read the full article at the link below:

Direct Mail

When it comes to direct mail, everything from your own competition to recipients’ busy schedules can work against you. We’ve gathered great advice on increasing the response to your direct mailer.

Know the specific objectives of your mailing. What measurable results are you seeking?

When scanning a direct mail letter, almost everyone will read a headline placed above the salutation, the first paragraph, the signature, the P.S., and any underlined, bold-faced or otherwise highlighted text. But don’t overdo it, or type effects lose their punch.

Photographs make a greater impact on recipients than drawings or art and increase their recall of your message.

Make sure your main message is on the cover of your brochure or on the outside of your envelope. The majority of recipients never make it past these points and will miss your main message if it’s buried inside.

Always put captions under photos. Captions have significantly higher readership than body copy.

Keep body text no smaller than 10 or 11 point, depending on your typeface and your audience’s vision and reading ability—it will increase readership.

Testimonials are invaluable. They make your offering more believable to new prospects. Solicit testimonials through your direct mail, if possible, for future mailings.

Make the benefits to the recipient very clear. Aside from the benefits of your product or service, perhaps you can offer a money-back guarantee, a toll-free support line, a price break, a free sample or trial, favorable payment terms or a perk for acting now.

Every element of your direct mailer, from envelope to response card, should restate your offer as well as your contact information.

Creating a sense of urgency increases response. Offer a special price or prize for a quick response, or make it clear why it’s important for the recipient to help your cause now. Indicate that only a limited number of offers are available.

A reply card will increase your response, as will an 800 response number.

The best direct mail pieces are all about the recipient, not about you. This is not the place to talk about your organization’s history or brag about your product. You’re trying to elicit a response, not educate.

Experienced direct marketers have a magic cadre of words that increase response. These include: free, you, proven, safe, now, half-price, last chance, limited time only, announcing, easy, discover, guarantee, money, results, power(ful), immediately, exclusive, love, and learn.

Give a deadline, but one that allows for delays in mailing.

Work with a list broker to procure the perfect address list for your mailing. Contact the Direct Marketing Association at 212/768-7277 for a broker in your area. Lists are generally rented in lots of 1,000 names. For consumer lists, the cost is between $50 and $200. Business lists are usually more expensive.

To keep your mailing list clean, run it through the National Change of Address (NCOA) file. Call 800/707-2576 or see www.ncoa-processing.com for more information. You can also contact a non-USPS provider such as clean.list.com (800/454-0223).

What is your competition doing? Get on their mailing lists so that you can monitor their offers.

Schedule your mailings so they don’t get buried in the deluge of mail created by Christmas, Mother’s Day, and other holidays. The summer vacation season can also be a slow response period.

Hand-written notes, stickers, and other “personal touches” encourage action by conveying immediacy.

Run side-by-side tests of different variables—two different price points or two different formats, for instance—to random addresses in your mailing list to discover which pulls better. Only test one variable at a time, though, or you won’t know exactly which variable made a difference. Drop the two tests at the same time, or else timing will be introduced as another variable.

Before any direct mail piece is sent out, be sure you are ready to handle orders, payments, complaints, whatever.

Engage your recipient. Use stickers, scratch-off patches, and other devices that require the reader to complete—and therefore, spend more time with—the mailer.

Keep the math simple. Don’t make the recipient figure out special percentages for shipping, for example.

If you would like to incorporate direct mailers into your marketing package, Connection Group can help you connect with your customers. Please call or e-mail us today to discuss your options and ideas!

Stay connected with your address book…

All businesses can stand for some improvement. Sometimes we are too close to realize what could work better, or maybe we have a feeling but need the data to support our concerns.

Have you ever surveyed your email list? There are so many things you can learn from surveying your customers and prospects. From learning customer preference of your office hours to the services and products you offer you can learn what you are doing right as a company and where you can improve. With permission based email lists you may even have customers who have requested information on a specific area of your business. A quick survey to them can provide valuable feedback on how their questions were answered and what the results of their inquiry provided to them. Did they choose your product or service or did they choose your competitor and why?

Another popular use of email surveys is rating customer satisfaction after services have been provided. I love these surveys – even if I wasn’t happy with the delivery person or the time it took to complete the request, etc. I am more forgiving when I know the company is interested in my opinion and has taken the time to ask. Okay, so maybe some customers don’t use the feedback to improve – but your company will!

Seriously, when you survey your customers embrace their feedback! Make notes of the answers and view them as an opportunity to make direct changes that will improve customer satisfaction and therefore your bottom line. We recently composed a survey for a non-profit membership organization and we were amazed with the response we received. The results showed the Board of Directors a reinvention of the organizations’ program structure was necessary to keep membership interested and receiving value. The email survey campaign tracked responses and offered a pdf of the results to review. We composed direct questions to the members in this regard which helped us get clear answers to our most important questions. The results helped us target what needed addressed first.

For more information of the value of surveys read this excellent article on good reasons to survey your list.

Author Jeanne Jennings mentions surveymonkey.com as her email survey source of choice in the article. Connection Group has had good success with email surveys with surveymonkey.com also. There are other valid email survey companies out there too, just be sure they are not going to spam your list after you use them to produce a customer survey! If you have any questions or need help composing your questions, please contact us. We are here to help!

How well can you detect email and website fraud?

This is a quiz to test if you can accurately detect a fraudulent Web site or email. There are many fake login sites and emails with a virus disguised as an important message. This quiz is designed with examples of fake sites and real ones to show you what to look for and keep you from falling victim to scams. Unfortunately, there are new online scams created everyday, prepare yourself as best you can and pick up some of these tricks currently in practice.

Following are a couple of terms and definitions to familiarize yourself with:

In computing, phishing is an attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. An example of a phishing e-mail, one that’s disguised as an official e-mail from a fictional bank asking you to join or more often pretending to be from a real bank and asking for your information. The sender is attempting to trick the recipient into revealing their secure information by “confirming” it at the phisher’s Web site. The Web sites themselves are often very elaborate and real looking. PayPal, eBay and online banks are common targets.

Spamming is the abuse of electronic messaging systems used to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam and junk fax transmissions. Spam messages are often related to a scam and will most likely not be a free trip to Vegas or a million dollar check wired to your bank account from Prince MakeBelieve or whatever other great things are promised.

Quiz is currently down at the moment while we remodel the website – please check back soon!