Website Branding & Research: MG Lomb Advertising
Creative Services Website
B2B & B2C
Animation & Multimedia
Brief. Your website IS YOU … it IS your company. To your customers, there’s no marketing, advertising, building, or presentation that is more you, than your website. MG Lomb’s website IS our agency. It’s who we are. As its Creative Director, our website reflects my creative vision for the agency. As MG Lomb’s creative leader, our website also represents the culmination of my personal creative vision, and my knowledge and experience in the creative industry. For MGLomb.com … I was the Client. No one could compromise the quality, direction and outcome. And because this is what I do professionally, MGLomb.com is everything a successful website should be. One additional thought … this website could never have been built without the amazing talent, abilities, knowledge and tireless efforts of my team. Their dedication to seeing this project through, and the pride they all took in their work, was nothing short of extraordinary.
This is why I’ve selected MGLomb.com for a case study. This is one of the most useful case studies from MG Lomb you’ll read. By example, it explains how to get the best possible creative, from any agency. Such as, a website that is not compromised. You’ll benefit from a better understanding of how an agency can give you the best work possible.
Analyzing Our Website Need
MG Lomb’s website was OLD. Really old. And should have been redeveloped sooner. But the agency was busy and growing, with staff working to capacity with no time to spare. But we were also losing opportunities. MG Lomb builds websites – for our clients. We build custom, high-quality, professionally branded websites. Yet we had an old looking, unresponsive, outdated website. Our clients noticed – not good. The most important marketing and advertising tool of our business was being neglected, because we were too busy (we’re betting you’re familiar with this scenario).
What kind of website did MG Lomb need? A great one. Website options are innumerable, especially in the creative field. But just one type of website would be right for us. Which type? Only research could answer that question. Our need, MG Lomb’s need, was the same as most our clients’; be better than the competition, be clear and easy to read, and successfully convey our capabilities and strengths. But what differed was, MG Lomb required a website that shows our creative talent, our deep industry knowledge, and advanced technical website aptitude, all this while exciting our visitors to “WOW!” Follow?
What would it take? We’re the experts, but you may wonder … What does it take to build a great website? As mentioned, “research” is important, but a wide range of professional skills, creative leadership, and an experienced team are the foundation. One person alone cannot build a professional website. It takes a team of skilled professionals. What does that team look like? Below, I’ve listed the skills our website required; not every website requires all of these skills. But under my Creative Direction I assigned no fewer than seven experienced designers and developers, and myself. These included:
- Creative Director
- Project Manager
- Art Director
- Frontend Web Developer
- Backend Web Developer
- Motion Graphics Specialist
- 3D Animator
This is a typical website development team … although simpler websites require fewer staff. At MG Lomb, these are all in-house staff and skills. But aside from the right team, what else makes a website great? I cannot stress this point enough … creative leadership and vision. In the creative services industry this is called Creative Direction.
Creative Direction is essential for most every creative project – but especially websites. If you want a GREAT website, you’re going to need an experienced Creative Director on your project. So what does a Creative Director do? This is the most advanced creative position a designer can have. A Creative Director … is the creative maestro, the creative GC (general contractor), the creative litigating attorney, the creative Warren Buffet, the creative strategist (you get the point). The Creative Director “is” where the best ideas come from. They’re also the person who makes sure the production team meets the targeted creative vision. A Creative Director is who makes your website great.
An important note: Creative Direction is an added expense, but worth it. I’ve invested far more hours into MG Lomb’s website, than for most client projects, because I was not restricted by an insufficient Creative Direction budget. This is a key area where clients tend to be shortsighted, and cut their budgets. Cutting Creative Direction to save money is like asking a fan to “write a chapter in J.K. Rowling’s next book”. Everyone will notice the difference, and it will be no different with your website.
Step 2 – Research
Research. A critical step in website development – often neglected – is market research, specifically competitor benchmarking. Barely twenty percent of MG Lomb’s clients engage in some form of market research, a service performed by MG Lomb, prior to their website project. As this was our own website, we’d never even consider neglecting research. I will firmly state … “Without the competitor research done by our Creative Director, and Senior Project Manager, MG Lomb’s website would never have been successful.”
What was researched:
- Best of web competitions
- Competitors (over 30 reviewed)
- Competitor Tiers (3): (1) Largest and widest geographical reach, (2) mid-sized, (3) small / boutique
- Approach to market & strategies
- Written content: style of writing, amount of content
- Portfolios, Samples and Demo Reels
- Construction and technical functionality
This was research done “in and for our own industry”. Think about that. We work in our industry every day. We’re experts at what we do. Yet we understand that we needed to have our thumbs on the pulse of what is going on, in the broadest most current and comprehensive way. When we create “your” website, how could we possibly know all of this without research? And if we know it’s critical for our industry, why would it not be important for yours? This is why research should not be minimized in importance, and certainly not neglected.
What we learned. First, that our agency must succinctly position itself to the markets we wish to serve. To be more specific … From the broader field of research, we selected three competitors as baseline benchmarks: (1) Big agency with offices in multiple countries, (2) Boutique agency with cool and unique style, (3) Specialized agency with superior strength in one practice. All three were great examples. All three were completely different, attracting completely different clients. And all three looked absolutely unique. We liked bits and pieces of them all. And this is what research is all about. Not only does it tell you the truth about what’s going on out there … it helps you decide who YOU want to be. And THAT is biggest challenge of building a new website … deciding who you want and need to be.
- Big agency with offices in multiple countries. MG Lomb works with clients in many countries, but we’ve no offices outside the U.S. That said .. we do compete with agencies who do. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, “Know your enemy”. Due to our research, what we learned from Big agency, was: They utilize a highly-sophisticated business-focused approach to clients, accented by creative. Their approach is business first, driven primarily by textual content, while only supported by creative. They clearly know who their customers are, what they’re looking for, and they’ve adjusted their approach (website) to their markets accordingly. MG Lomb learned from their website how we’d approach those same clients, how MG Lomb (being smaller) is a sensible alternative, to an agency that’s more expensive, because of their size and overhead. We learned how to accurately position ourselves to those clients. Our resulting market position being that these clients are more important to MG Lomb, than to the Big agency, because they might get the Big agency’s B-team. At MG Lomb they would only get our A-team. This is a result of our research.
- Boutique agency with cool and unique style. Our second competitor benchmark (Boutique agency) is a small agency, smaller than MG Lomb, with an award winning website. Their creative was unique, and of high quality. But their text, and subsequent approach to market, was insufficient and amateurish. What we took away from the Boutique agency, is large viewer oriented services imagery, and tastefully animated interactive elements, delighting their visitors. Additionally, both the Boutique agency and the Big agency integrated a metropolitan persona. Our team had identified this as a critical weak point … a capabilities perception problem … this based on being located in a small city market (i.e. If you’re located in a small city, you must not be talented enough). This research resulted in MG Lomb’s new “global / explore” campaign and subsequent interactive functionality, on MG Lomb’s new homepage. Some negatives of the Boutique agency were also useful. Although the simplicity of their services segmentation is appealing, their lack of services description left us feeling they are good at graphics only – and lacking the sophisticated business acumen required for complex campaign development. This helped to shape MG Lomb’s new written content approach.
- Specialized agency with superior strength in one practice. Our third competitor benchmark (Specialized agency) is a medium-sized agency, similar to MG Lomb, with award winning video credits. Their website utilized large full screen video and imagery. As MG Lomb offers three distinctive services, this example was helpful. Also derived from the third benchmark, was a current and effective style for video demo reel. As this agency has numerous video production awards, their perspective was useful and relevant.
Competitor Analysis Summary. MG Lomb’s website would not have looked or functioned, as it does now, without this research. It would not have been nearly as successful. To our clients … MG Lomb would have never even considered omitting competitive research, prior to redeveloping our website. And, like you, we already know our field. Yet the majority of clients decide not to spend on research. To summarize: Websites are a company’s most important marketing and advertising tool. Invest in it accordingly, and don’t overlook the critical importance of research as part of your website project. More often than not, research will make a new website more effective.
Step 3 – Strategy
Strategic Plan. Market research provides the clear, fact-based knowledge, of what needed to be addressed. It tells us how our competitors are going to market, and it provides numerous examples to benchmark from. But research doesn’t tell you how to position yourself. That answer, comes as a result of meeting with your executive leadership team, and making hard decisions.
Who develops website strategy? That depends. With client work MG Lomb “might” develop the strategy. But we might not – it all depends on your budget, and your interest in being in charge. Think of it like a home renovation. A general contractor (GC) manages all the skilled trades people. Because of a GC’s experience, they guide your decisions. But, if you have a lot of free time, and you don’t mind trying someone else’s occupation, you can GC your home renovation yourself. Not the smartest decision, for most people. But with website development, many otherwise smart professionals decide it’s something they can do (Hint: This scenario usually works out about the same as if you GC your home renovation). Recommended: Let the Creative Director do their job. For this case study, a key point is … MG Lomb’s Creative Director performed as recommended herein – and the results were superior because of this.
What was MG Lomb’s resulting website strategy? Every company needs to decide who they are now, and how they want to be perceived for the next five years (you never design for who you used to be … you may not even design for the business you are today … rather the one you aspire to be.) Our research helped us to identify our weak points, our strengths, and provided examples of how MG Lomb might position ourselves to our clients. Again, without this research, our being positioned for the best possible customer perception would have been impossible. MG Lomb’s resulting strategy is boiled down to: Clearly defined services; an emphasis on superior creative and technical abilities; and a focus on our global experience. By firmly establishing our market position, we were able to adopt an approach to market that exceeds our clients’ expectations. NOTE: Strategy for the new MGLomb.com was developed by Michael Lomb (Creative Director) and Josephine Burgos (Senior Project Manager / Art Director).
Step 4 – Superior Creative
With strategy established, now we could focus on making it cool.
Better than the competition. Whatever you do as a business, we all aspire to some advantage over our competitors; better price, superior quality, broader capabilities, etc. In MG Lomb’s case … Superior creative is one of the cornerstones of our market strategy. To make that case to our clients, we needed to “be the proof.” In other words … if MG Lomb is the best choice, then MG Lomb’s own website better be that good.
Three Creative Services. During our research and strategy efforts, MG Lomb narrowed our services offering into three categories. These were selected upon MG Lomb’s strengths, market potential, and experience. Further, it was established that each service category would require its own unique “campaign” (and tagline) to help make a personal connection with the customers wanting to procure our services.
Inspiring our Clients. As stated, each service warranted its own unique campaign. By way of research and strategy, Michael and Josephine focused on creating three unique and inspiring campaigns. Required were: Specifically refined naming of the services categories; Superior imagery (full screen) for each, and professional taglines, all designed to connect personally with each vertical. Michael and Josephine were responsible for the primary image selection and campaign strategy, jointly, with Michael writing copy, services titles, and taglines. (lower case formatting is intentional)
- creative & branding. market awareness + smart creative = BRAND DOMINANCE
- web, SEO & social. where creative & technical merge into AWESOME
- video & animation. creating reality with IMAGINATION
Critical importance of our three services campaigns. We’ve only a split second to capture our clients’ attention. Few things are more effective at capturing and inspiring, than the right, large, photographic image. This is how MG Lomb elected to inspire our clients. With each services campaign, Josephine and I sought an image that would perfectly represent who MG Lomb is, and what we can do for our clients.
Creating our services campaigns. Beyond “making a website” we created three, distinctive, services campaigns, each supported by primary images. That is creative work – not website development. And it was critical to the outcome and success. Campaign development is NOT easy, and we are extremely selective. As it evolved … Josephine initially presented a close up image of a suit and tie, with color pencils in the suit pocket. We agreed the image had strong potential, due to its creative and playful composition, serious business side, and relate to the agency’s tagline Tying it all together. Next, late one night and a bit loopy, we started drawing images on the tie (as designers will do). This is when our new website (and brand program) finally took form.
3 captivating images … Based upon our initial campaign concept, we began searching for other campaign images appropriate for our second and third verticals. The second campaign image (web, SEO & social) was found quickly; a top-down view of an office table, flanked by young professionals. This image already included numerous marketing and sales oriented hand-sketches, on top of the photo – like our tie image. So it met our “playful yet professional” idea. Yet the third campaign image, for video & animation, was frustratingly difficult to find. After some deep reflection about what really makes our video and animation services unique, we sensibly formed a basis on which our image was selected. MG Lomb, by way of animation, makes complex, abstract, technical things … human, and real. My thought was, we needed an image that showed a virtual machine, a robot, interacting with something human and delicate. By this concept, we found the image of a sleek chrome, black and white robot … and to it, we added the delicate blue butterfly. Remember … this wasn’t just “picking out a picture.” This was the development of three “new campaigns” one for each critically important vertical. The care, thought and effort that went into each effort was extensive and significant.
Interactive delight. Something else we took from our market research, is that website interactivity was becoming more prevalent. It gives visitors a sense of participation and connection. Done right – interactivity delights visitors. By adding interactivity, our branded website experience grew one step further. Applied to our suit and tie image (creative and branding services) we added an animated color “scribble” on the tie, using color pencils from the image (this was cool). When activated, all the color pencils uniquely draw on the tie. This is Creative Direction. From there, we added skulls and crossbones to the tie, smileys, and more. To the web, SEO and social image, we added an interactive Pac-Man pie chart, and dancing stick figures. For the video and 3D campaign, we made a butterfly take flight from a robot’s finger, and fly across the screen. This progression took us from facts, to ideas, to execution … and finally, to effective implementation.
Interactive Global Home Page. (Explore) The decision to turn MG Lomb’s new homepage into a pseudo “global portfolio” was driven, in part, by the research we performed. Something we’d noticed that impacted us; all the agencies we’d selected for benchmarking had positioned themselves as metro, or global. Knowing our industry as we do, we realized, many clients have a preference for – or perceive credibility associated with – agencies located in larger cities. We’d experience this sort of prejudice first hand, with local clients telling us, “We expect lower rates from you, because you’re located here.” This always confounded us, as our clients include “not so local” companies, like SiriusXM Radio, Thermo Fisher Corp., Crayola, Fisher-Price, Belimed, Smith & Nephew, Mitsubishi, Parker Hannifin, etc. Not local. To address this, we adopted an international homepage strategy. And our navigation uses the word “Explore” to encourage visitors to see all the countries, states, and cities we’ve done work in. By rolling over and clicking the international images, you can see MG Lomb’s global reach and experience. It’s an effective way to make clear to our clients – new and old – MG Lomb is a sophisticated, globally focused, agency.
About Creative Direction
(Michael G. Lomb) As Creative Director, the MG Lomb website and branding project represents my best work. For over twenty years, I’ve practiced my creative trade. And for most of those years, it’s been my honor to mentor and employ artists from a wide range of fields and expertise. MG Lomb’s website and branding program precisely represents my work as an artist, as the agency’s creative leader.
For those who understand what a Creative Director does, you’ll need little explanation. But that’s uncommon. As Creative Director, it’s been my responsibility to establish this website’s creative foundation, the agency’s visual brand, our tone of communication, hipness and style, our written words, and those nuanced touches that make you say … wow! And from my immensely talented team, it was their labor to make my vision live, to do so at the apex of their abilities, with all their unique expertise. I’m privileged to represent an incredible team of amazing dedicated professionals, at MG Lomb.
With respect to this case study. The point is, your website is an immensely complex endeavor that goes far beyond being a simple task. And Creative Direction is instrumental to the outcome. A Creative Director’s time and rates are the most expensive at an agency. But as the saying goes … you’ll get what you pay for. My point is, if you rely on a skilled and experienced Creative Director, your odds of achieving a great website are really good. So reflect on the importance of this role, and include it accordingly. Reduce or eliminate this role, to reduce cost, and there’s a price you’ll pay. It will be in the form of a less effective website program.
Production & Implementation
As with any client project, implementation is performed by the production staff (described in Step 1). The production team was managed by MG Lomb’s Senior Production Manager, Josephine. Progress and development were continuously presented to Michael Lomb, to assure that the style and form of interactivity were meeting the standards he’d set. This is typical of any project using Creative Direction; it is a collaborative process, after all. And our production team always offers valuable ideas that may improve upon the originally specified creative, detailed by Creative Direction. Because the new MG Lomb website was an internal project, we had the luxury of “not counting hours,” and so we simply made it perfect.
Photography. Nearly every new website requires new photography, stock, custom or both. Our new website required a lot of new photos (stock and custom). For custom images, agencies typically reply on outside photographers, especially when it comes to higher-end images, like for our portrait photography work. Our team treated photography needs like we would any client project, and we hired a specialized portrait photographer. There are numerous other photos, but we’ve already discussed our use of stock photography.
Other Content. The rest of the MG Lomb website is highly stylized, with care paid to every detail of graphics and functionality. From menu to imagery, the entire site is a work of art. But, as websites go, it’s also fairly standard. About us, case studies, services … the text that defines us. Not to minimize the effort that went into crafting the text, imagery, and functionality, for the rest of the website. But to us, this web program is predominantly about promoting our brand and capabilities. Most of which is achieved by the home and landing pages alone. The experience we sought to create for our clients is achieved there. The rest is simply support data.
Expensive, by some people’s perspective. But if we’d have been addressing a high exposure consumer brand website – we’d have been right on target. Some of our client projects have rivaled this budget. While many other MG Lomb website projects are much smaller, both in scope and budget. That’s fine. We’re able to accommodate both large and small projects, simple and complex. But when considering your budget, and cost … don’t shortchange yourself. Your website is likely the most important marketing and advertising tool you own.
This website case study is intended to focus on ONE perspective of website development – specifically branding, and interactivity. It does also deal with research, creative direction, and provide insight into the approach an agency will take when unrestricted by budget or competing interests. MG Lomb has many other website related case studies, which address other questions you might have.
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