15 Affordable, Innovative Ways To Get Graphic Design Talent On A Budget

In today’s world, it’s more challenging than ever for businesses to cut through the noise and content that exists online and promote their own products or services. Having a great marketing campaign helps reach those customers and pull them in, but to do so, you have to have a professional, eye-catching graphic design.

Forbes Agency Council

For smaller companies or startups, graphic design costs might be out of reach, but there are many other ways to get affordable, innovative designs on a tight marketing budget. Below, 15 Forbes Agency Council members offered their best tips for finding high-quality graphic designs on a budget.

1. Start With A Vision

Creativity can happen anywhere. What’s important is vision. Once you have a vision, aligning with graphic design is all in meeting someone. It’s valuable to build a brand identity so any derivative creative work can reflect the true nature of the brand. Whether you use a service like Canva or Picmonkey or find a freelancer, always remain consistent in the pieces that make your brand stand out. – Ashlee Piga, Lotus Digital

2. Use Candid Shots

The humanity of a brand or the noble purpose it serves can rally communities to support a shared mission. Commodity services and products will have a hard time gaining this type of traction. I have also learned that homegrown pictures and candid shots often gain more engagement than those of high polish. So sometimes a little “real” can go a long way. – Joe Becker, twelvenote

3. Connect With Freelance Designers

Expand your team by simply adding freelance designers! Websites like Upwork.com are a great way to connect with talented designers at a much more affordable rate. Another unique way to tap into the design world is with services like logomyway.com, where you can run a logo contest and gather logo ideas from experienced designers. – Nate Reusser, Reusser Design

4. Find An Agency Creative Team

Using crowdsourcing sites like Fiverr or 99designs can be a mixed bag — you get access to many creatives for fairly competitive rates, but getting revisions can be challenging, especially down the road once work is complete. I’d recommend finding an agency creative team willing to take on projects. You know they’ll stand behind it and continue to support you down the road. – Dan Kahn, Kahn Media, Inc.

5. Work With Community Colleges

Community colleges are a great, untapped resource for accessing affordable top talent. For those colleges that offer technical and work skills development like MiraCosta College in San Diego, CA, they strive to connect students with industry partners so it would be a very easy ask. Given the geographic proximity, it would be a real win-win for students and businesses to connect through the college. – Crystal Sargent, Invested Advisors

6. Try Visual Communication

Good design doesn’t need to be expensive. The experiential design needs to be clever, and its usually produced iteratively through contextual exercises, user testing and best practices. The original design that extends company authenticity, voice and tonality is a key to staying on brand. Visual communication is one of the easiest ways to connect to the user base and create user experiences. – Goran Paun, ArtVersion

7. Contact A Local Marketing Association

The American Marketing Association is national and has a presence in numerous cities and on college campuses. They would be a good source of information and likely provide member referrals and other suggestions — even if you’re not a current member. There are also many talented freelancers, depending on your need, so post your requirements on LinkedIn. – Megan Devine, d.trio marketing group

8. Get Pre-Approved Concepts Through RFPs

Submitting a Request For Proposals (RFP) to a group of designers will make sure that not only are your interests aligned but that you will be getting the best talent for your budget. With pre-approved concepts from the RFP process, there wouldn’t be as much time spent brainstorming, but rather going straight to campaign execution. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

9. Hire A Professional Designer

The best way to get top-notch, professional graphic design is to do it with a professional designer. There is no other way around it. Fitting it on a tight marketing budget requires staging: creating a tailored brand book reflecting small business values and key moments first and leveraging existing automated design services to develop creative variations for social, display web and mobile after. – Oksana Matviichuk, Performics

10. Collaborate With Technical Schools

If you want to save money on design work, consider building a relationship with your local university or technical school. You can provide learning opportunities for design students and bring a fresh look to your collateral work. Instructors are frequently looking for real-world opportunities for their students and will appreciate the exposure to actual business situations. – Sara Steever, Paulsen

11. Hire Someone Part-Time

Before investing in graphic design, I’d look at internal marketing support. Small businesses need to start with a marketing manager as they’re essential for helping brands see the bigger picture and make strategic decisions on investments. I’d then recommend the brand hire a part-time graphic designer to save on freelance fees, invest in the team and set the foundation by developing brand assets. – Kathryn Strachan, Copy House

12. Rely On Free Services Like Canva

Canva is a great tool because it provides pre-sized documents, tons of templates and all of the necessities to make a brand’s logo and iconography stand out. Canva is free to sign up and very user-friendly. Though there is a premium version available for a fee, the program also has free templates that you can use and plug in your own information, or just use as inspiration. – Durée Ross, Durée & Company, Inc.

13. Draw Inspiration From Fans

Asking fans and followers to participate in a #FanArtFriday about your brand is a great way to bring some life to your feeds and give young artists some exposure and love. You never know, you might find a graphic talent in your price range among those dedicated fans! – Samantha Reynolds, ECHO Storytelling Agency

14. Leverage White-Label Agency Partners

Companies without the budget to hire a full-time graphic designer can leverage freelance graphic designers or white-label agency partners to deliver professional graphic design. Typically, these projects can be as-needed, depending on the number of deliverables you need in a given timeframe. This approach will help you save on costs while still delivering high-quality results. – Elyse Flynn Meyer, Prism Global Marketing Solutions

15. Develop A Creative Collective

We have a creative collective through the production studio within our agency where we provide packs of graphics on a monthly or quarterly basis. Freelancers are also a great way to go. There are a ton of libraries like Creative Market, Envato Elements and others that have templates too. – Vix Reitano, Agency 6B

How 10 Agencies Are Adapting To Recent Market Shifts

Business leaders expect to make many difficult decisions to help their companies succeed. What they can’t anticipate, however, are the actual market shifts their organizations will inevitably face.

Forbes Agency Council

Unforeseen circumstances—such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation or even the ever-growing social awareness of a younger generation of consumers—can present real-time challenges that companies must address quickly and in the right way to ensure their continued survival.

Below, members of Forbes Agency Council explore different ways agencies are adapting their outreach and offerings to better accommodate market shifts in 2022.

1. Shifting To Digital Marketing Techniques

In the B2B space, more and more decision makers are becoming younger and younger. So there is a huge shift from traditional marketing techniques to digital marketing techniques in the B2B space that is far outpacing the B2C space. – Scott Miraglia, Elevation Marketing

2. Deepening Social Impact Through Partnerships

We have doubled down on our paid digital service offerings and deepened our partnership with our sister agency, Ethos Giving, which focuses on supporting companies to do good in the world through social impact efforts. – Nathan Miller, Miller Ink, Inc.

3. Developing Systems For Attribution And Visibility

Working heavily in a B2B/software as a service space, we’ve had to adapt to this industry expecting and needing attribution and data visibility in terms of revenue impact. Clients need to see the true revenue or customer impact from every effort—even trickle-down ROI from upper-funnel channels. We’ve had to develop data services that build out the systems to do this at scale and go beyond just pure ads execution. – Brian Walker, Statwax

4. Ensuring Evolving Employee Needs Are Met

An agency or brand must constantly be adapting and evolving with market trends, from employee needs such as remote work and work-life balance to the physical machinery and tech platforms that will ensure they can perform their jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

5. Focusing More Heavily On Paid Media And E-Commerce

Over the past five years or so, we have adapted to market needs by focusing more heavily on paid media and e-commerce. While we were built on SEO, pivoting has been necessary in order to drive results faster. These two channels allow for greater flexibility when it comes to dealing with short attention spans and growing competition. All demographics want valuable information fast, so these channels bridge the gap. – Bernard May, National Positions

6. Offering A Full-Service Experience Within A Campaign

We’ve always offered a full-service experience, with strategy, content creation and platform management included. Now, we’re focused on that experience within a campaign. We know that all of our ideal clients need landing pages, transaction (checkout or sign-up) pages and content to funnel leads through, so we designed packages and programs around that. – Vix Reitano, Agency 6B

7. Constantly Tracking Where Consumer Attention Resides

We are constantly adapting as we work in the social media space. We have one North Star, and that is to ensure that we understand where consumer attention resides. Recently, for example, consumer attention shifted away from platforms such as Facebook and moved to TikTok. Attention shifts all the time, but if you track where attention is, you can smartly adapt your offerings and channels. – Aliza Freud, SheSpeaks, Inc.

8. Keeping Up With Current Events, Industry News And Platform Updates

We have adapted to market demographic shifts by remaining informed of current events, industry news and platform updates. This keeps us aware of where our clients’ customers spend time and the content they engage with. For example, we onboarded a client who had a primary audience segment of 15- to 20-year-olds, so our team recommended a 20% budget reallocation from Facebook Ads to Snapchat Ads. – Tellef Lundevall, Accelerated Digital Media

9. Paying Attention To Target Clients’ New Pain Points

We have paid attention to the new issues and problems our target clients are experiencing, with most of them being in the creation of video content and/or making sense of TikTok. With that understanding, we have not only developed services that help educate our audience as to best practices but have also created services that would help alleviate these concerns. Open your eyes. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

10. Grouping People Into Audience Segments By Behavior

We are shifting away from grouping people into audience segments by demographics. Instead, we are focusing on how people behave, such as their stage in the sales cycle or propensity to convert. By integrating first-party customer relationship management data with media performance and site engagement data, we can run our own analyses to determine how to group and target individuals beyond just their demographic info. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures

Where 2022 Ad Spend Is Going (And How To Get Ahead Of The Trends)

There is a multitude of factors to consider and important decisions to make when creating an advertising budget. Aside from choosing the right channels and tactics to meet their own strategic goals, a brand must take the state of its industry as well as the latest marketing and advertising trends into account to create ad campaigns that will stand up against those of its competitors.

Brands don’t want to jump on any old bandwagon or social platform without a good reason to do so, and this year, they’ll once again be seeking the right avenues to reach their target markets. From diversifying with an integrated multichannel approach to doubling down in a specific medium such as digital, television, print or social, the options are endless.

With their insight into where ad dollars are being spent in real time, the members of Forbes Agency Council can forecast where brands will be spending their budgets this year. See their predictions below, along with good ways for brands to get ahead of these trends.

Forbes Agency Council

1. Digital Marketing To More ‘Connected’ Consumers

Digital marketing is something that cannot be ignored! The pandemic has made people even more connected to their devices with the demands of remote work and staying in touch with family and friends. This shift has made digital marketing a great vehicle to get your brand noticed by your target consumer in a cost-effective manner. – Thomas Morganelli, Centipede Digital

2. Connected TV Ads Informed By First-Party Data

Where your media dollars are spent really depends on your marketing goals. One area where we see continued growth is connected TV. There is real power that comes with the ability to serve up video on the big screen in your target’s living room. Combine that opportunity with the strength of first-party data, and it’s clear why CTV offers opportunities unavailable on other marketing channels. – Jonathan Schwartz, Bullseye Strategy

3. Online And Offline Platforms With Consistent Media Availability

Ad dollars will continue to increase on digital platforms that are optimizing their ad strategies, such as TikTok. There will be a continuous amount of spending on offline platforms that follow the supply-and-demand curve, where media availability is consistent. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

4. Higher-Funnel Digital Efforts With Advanced Tracking

Ad dollars will be spent in digital, but more specifically in higher-funnel efforts where advanced tracking and attribution are now showing true impact and ROI. Think about over-the-top content, streaming video, audio and more, which were once stuck measuring impressions or maybe view-throughs. Agencies implementing better tracking systems will be able to show the trickle-down effect of these higher-funnel efforts and get better buy-in for a full-funnel digital investment. – Brian Walker, Statwax

5. Niche Targeting Via OTT And CTV

I see a switch from spend on social and search to a surge in OTT and CTV advertising. With the level of understanding of these mediums growing, the barriers to entry are not so high now. For companies with the right level of budget, both OTT and CTV present fantastic growth opportunities and the ability to reach new markets in this increasingly niched-out world. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

6. Digital And Social Media Advertising Strategies

Ad dollars will definitely be best spent this year on digital and social media. Brands can get ahead by starting to implement result-driven social media advertising strategies. There are more users on social media than ever before, and platforms such as Facebook and Instagram give businesses the opportunity to yield a considerable return on ad spend and stay profitable year-round. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc

7. Small-Budget Programmatic Buying On CTV

2022 will see lots of ad dollars move into the CTV space. Many major brands will take their first steps into CTV, especially as they discover how effectively smaller budgets can operate in this less-crowded space. With programmatic buying and audience-targeting tools, it’s possible to make a big splash in CTV, and I expect we’ll see lots of 2022’s ad dollars migrating in this direction. – Jason Wulfsohn, AUDIENCEX

8. The Right Social Media Platforms For Narrow Targets

The growing addiction to social media in all the age groups and interest groups makes social media the best place for marketing investment. Social media ads allow for narrow targeting, which helps increase brand awareness among the target audience, and thus conversions. Agencies should identify the right social media platforms for their clients and develop a focused marketing plan to exploit this trend. – Ajay Prasad, GMR Web Team

9. Specific Content And Content Creators

While the easy answer is “digital,” I think “content” is more accurate. Forget about which screen, or even which delivery method, will be dominant—consumers are becoming more tied to specific content and content creators. This is a meaningful shift in consumer behavior and an opportunity for agile and innovative marketers to find their audiences. – Andrea Palmer, Publicis Health Media (PHM)

10. Video Content Designed For Omnichannel Use

Designing campaign creative for omnichannel use—with a focus on video through CTV and linear TV—is key. Our in-house production company and agency-owned studios allow us to quickly create video, and this is something all agencies should consider. Even out-of-home placements can leverage video more in 2022. Video content is the 2022 campaign anchor. – Vix Reitano, Agency 6B

11. Inbound Marketing Technologies

It depends on the audience. The goal of digital marketing is to get the right message to the right potential client at the right time. The best way to do that is to utilize the marketing technology that most clearly communicates ROI. I believe that inbound marketing technologies that show the full buyer’s journey are where ad dollars should be spent. – Christopher Carr, Farotech

12. Increased CTV Ad Spend Across All Industries

While spend by channel typically varies by industry, we expect a surge in CTV spending from brands across all industries. While many marketers are shifting spend away from linear TV, we expect investment to come from digital channels, as CTV offers the sophisticated targeting of programmatic advertising with a comparable reach to linear TV for a much lower cost. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures

13. Product Placement In Streaming Content

Marketers and agencies are increasing their interest in product placement in streaming content on platforms such as Netflix, Amazon and HBO Max. This is driven by the fact that they themselves sat watching hundreds of hours of streaming episodes and films over the course of the pandemic, none of which included traditional advertising. – Stacy Jones, Hollywood Branded

‘Table Stakes’ For Marketers: 15 Things To Budget For In 2022

Every year there are new tactics, channels for reaching consumers and methods of converting them to consider when devising a marketing strategy. While you may want to double down on efforts that saw great results last year, there may be other items that should be incorporated into this year’s marketing budget to gain the most traction for your brand and help fuel its growth.

Forbes Agency Council

The experts of Forbes Agency Council stay up to date on the latest movements, concepts and trends having an impact in the marketplace. Here, they share what “table stakes” look like for marketers in 2022. See some of the key elements they believe should be accounted for in every brand’s marketing budget in 2022 below.

1. A Balance Between Lower- And Higher-Funnel Campaigns

With indoor shopping on a continual decline, brands are subsequently experiencing a drop-off in the brand equity in-store experiences provide. Looking forward, I anticipate brands will attempt to stem the decline by developing an impressive budget-balancing act between higher-funnel brand awareness and mid- and lower-funnel campaigns that emphasize immediate conversions. – Jason Wulfsohn, AUDIENCEX

2. New Channel/Tactic Testing

Include a budget piece solely for new channel/tactic testing that is not held to the same revenue key performance indicators—so if the test fails, it won’t tank the overall marketing ROI. Having a budget that frees the marketing team to test new audience segments, try the next up-and-coming social channels and experiment with new ad creatives while increasing the volume of actionable data is key to scaling in a fast-moving ads environment. – Brian Walker, Statwax

3. Digital And Social Media Advertising

A marketing budget should consist of mostly digital and social media allocations in 2022. Social media advertising allows businesses to predictably generate profit from ad campaigns on a regular basis. The “table stakes” range from a few thousand dollars per month in ad spend for small businesses all the way to tens of thousands, and even several hundred thousand, per month for large enterprises. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc

4. Investments In The Strongest Conversion-Based Traffic Sources

The best budget allocation should always focus on supporting your strongest conversion-based traffic sources. While growth and trying new things are always important, a business should always have a strong understanding of where their audience is converting from in the highest numbers and invest accordingly. – David Kley, Web Design and Company

5. ‘Content That Converts’

We call it “Content that Converts”—creative assets, strategic storytelling and product personification need to be part of the marketing investment in 2022. Data, connectors for internal tech stacks and tech stack refinement should also be high. Most marketers don’t touch that. However, we do, because all “strategy” talk is pure fantasy until we know what’s driving revenue. – Vix Reitano, Agency 6B

6. Artificial Intelligence Tools

It is very clear that how brands use artificial intelligence will make all the difference in the ways people make their purchases in 2022. As more AI is built into platforms, life is changing for the marketing world. Those who do not know how to make the adjustments with the new tools will perish. – Jon James, Ignited Results

7. Client Retention Initiatives

Plan quarterly to ensure your team has the resources to adjust quickly to market shifts and client needs. Evaluate marketing technology investments often to ensure they are delivering on their KPIs. Invest in current clients. New business is essential, but current clients can provide a lifeline during market shifts. Don’t underestimate the value of client retention when you’re planning for 2022. – Steve Ohanians, WebEnertia

8. Partnerships And Placements That Build Brand Reputation

Smart marketers will focus on building brand reputation far more than just brand awareness. Today, consumers want brands that not only have a story behind what they stand for but also legitimacy from being endorsed by what are seen as credible sources. This can include social influencer partnerships, strategic partnerships with other entities and product placement in popular content. – Stacy Jones, Hollywood Branded

9. The Ability To Uncover And Act On Data-Backed Insights

As competition to earn consumer attention continues to surge, the best marketers will continue to invest in their ability to uncover and act on data-backed insights. The main difference between “good” and “great” marketing will be a brand’s ability to harness actionable insights from both internal and external sources to better understand their target consumers and outmaneuver competitors. – Charlie Grinnell, RightMetric

10. A Mix That Aligns With Target Audience, Goals And Timing

How you set a marketing budget varies based on the size of the business, goals, channels, tactics and other factors. The Small Business Administration recommends that businesses generating under $5 million in revenue dedicate 7% to 8% of their gross revenues to their total marketing budget. In my experience, if you’re launching a new product or going into a new market, that can scale up to 20%. The marketing mix needs to align with your target audience, goals and timing. – Jason Wilson, Strategy, LLC

11. Conversion-Based Testing Of All Campaign Initiatives

Marketing budgets in 2022 need to account for the entirety of the marketing funnel rather than focusing so heavily on the top-of-funnel awareness and attraction portion. Neglecting to budget for conversion-based testing of all campaign initiatives is going to make “table stakes” way off balance. To know when to go “all in,” you must be willing to understand your opponents and their weaknesses. – Bernard May, National Positions

12. A Well-Rounded, Omnichannel Mix Of Platforms

A well-rounded, omnichannel mix, consisting of digital, social and streaming/over-the-top media platforms, will be more important than ever. There will also be a broader offline approach to ensure brands will reach their consumers wherever they are through various forms of content. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

13. An Integrated, Multichannel Strategy That Includes Video

Your marketing budget should focus on activities that work together in an integrated way, thus creating more thrust overall. You should not put all of your eggs in any one basket. Make sure to have a multichannel strategy that utilizes social media, digital advertising, public relations, SEO, email marketing, reputation management and so on. But put aside money for video—this is a must in 2022! – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

14. Data-Engineering Solutions To Pull In Nontraditional And Offline Metrics

As data continues to disappear due to an increased emphasis on data privacy on digital platforms, optimizing toward in-platform metrics will no longer be sufficient. To gain a competitive edge and break through the clutter, it will be crucial for marketers to invest in data-engineering solutions to pull in nontraditional and offline metrics, such as product margins and in-store foot traffic. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures

15. Alignment Between Organic And Paid Strategies

Table stakes for marketers in 2022 should consist of prospecting investments on paid search and paid social. An area that occasionally gets less focus is organic social. Investing in organic social is crucial to ensure the strategy is aligned with a company’s brand, specifically its paid media and website strategy. Organic alignment is essential to building the trust and interest of relevant audiences. – Tellef Lundevall, Accelerated Digital Media

The Super Bowl Ad Themes Agency Experts Expect To See In 2022

The Super Bowl isn’t just a big day for football fans—it’s also a pop culture event that draws the interest of people who have no affinity for the sport, due in no small part to the notoriously creative Super Bowl ads. The day after the big game, it’s just as common for viewers to discuss the commercials they saw (and the brands that ran them) as it is for them to talk about the match itself.

Forbes Agency Council

Of course, many ads were centered around the global pandemic last year. But will the theme remain the same in 2022, or will brands take other routes to connect with their audiences? Below, 14 experts from Forbes Agency Council discuss some of the themes and concepts they expect to see in this year’s Super Bowl ads.

1. Adventure, Growth And Expanding Past Boundaries

Some of the overarching themes to Super Bowl ads this year are going to be adventure, growth and pushing yourself to expand past your boundaries. We’ve been in a lockdown for two years, with people busting at the seams to get out and experience life and live. Brands and the people behind them feel the same—and they’re ready to help fuel the adventure. – Stacy Jones, Hollywood Branded

2. Community And Inclusion

You can bet there will be a pervading theme of community and inclusion. We’ve already seen an immense reorientation toward equity in commercials and media over the last year. Brands want to demonstrate that they’re progressive, human and focused on bringing people together during times of division and contention. – Lion Shirdan, UPRISE Management

3. Cute And Comedic Themes

It’s all about standing out, but I don’t see many companies going the controversial route this time around. With our culture, I feel many (who can afford the ad spend) will play it safe and resort to cute ads (insert: puppies) or something emotional. The ones who want to get the most attention, though, will integrate celebrities into their ads and go the comedy route—and be able to reuse it! – Zack Teperman, ZTPR

4. ‘Live Your Best Life’

Now is the time to “live your best life.” The last two years have forced people to put their lives on pause, sacrificing personal enjoyment to protect their physical and financial health. As the pandemic continues to recede, consumers are now ready to take that trip, buy that car, host that party and make up for lost time. – Stefan Pollack, The Pollack Group

5. A Return To Ourselves

This year’s ads in the Super Bowl are going to be showing us how to live life to the fullest. Since our lives have been flipped upside down these past two years, we are looking for ways to feel ourselves again and create memories that feel normal. Commercials will show and encourage us to continue to find and add that zest we’ve been missing back into our lives. – Marilyn Cowley, PREM – PR & Social

6. A ‘Wide Open’ Array Of Content

This year is much different than last year. While Covid remains prevalent, brands feel more comfortable pushing the envelope again. I think we will see a combination of serious and hilarious ads. I expect to see travel, electric vehicles, the restaurant industry’s reemergence, talent and recruiting, and possibly even name, image, likeness (NIL) content, per the NCAA’s new policy. It should be wide open. – Dean Trevelino, Trevelino/Keller

7. Corporate Social Responsibility

Brands this year may focus on their corporate social responsibility and how they are not only benefiting their consumers’ lives and making them better, but also bettering the world. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

8. A Mix Of Normalcy, ‘America Strong’ And Lighthearted Fun

Big brands jumped on the Super-Bowl ad train early this year, since most sat out last year due to uncertainties brought on by the pandemic. We will see ads from Weather-Tech, TurboTax, Toyota, Nissan, Anheuser-Busch and cryptocurrency exchange platform FTX. The messaging this year will be mixed between getting back to normal, “America strong” and some lightheartedness. – Thomas Morganelli, Centipede Digital

9. Vaccine Safety And The Future Of Meta

Based on what’s been on people’s minds this year, I expect to see advertisements about the future of Meta and/or the reliability of the Facebook platform. The other series of ads I expect to see will come from companies such as Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson, reinforcing the effectiveness of the vaccines and how they helped America to return to normal after the pandemic. – Marc Hardgrove, The HOTH

10. Authentic, Wholesome Content

In a time where seriousness and sadness have seemed to be themes for the past two years, we can expect to see lighthearted, comedic and wholesome ads. Bigger brands will attempt to create an authentic connection with consumers, and controversial topics will be left out. – Katie Schibler Conn, KSA Marketing

11. More Emotional, Human Types Of Ads

I think we’ll see a continuation of the themes of the past few years, with fewer humorous commercials and more emotional, human types of ads. I think there will still be a mix of funny ads and emotional ads, but I think we’ll see more companies attempting to address the emotional strain and political division nearly every American is feeling right now. – Jeremy Jackson, SKY Marketing Consultants, LLC

12. A Focus On Reconnecting

I expect to see a focus on our ability to gather together once again. What I hope to see is brands taking that idea one step further to explore what that concept really means, not just what it represents on a basic level. To best accomplish this, brands and agencies must dive into real stories and user-generated content to rediscover how people will now choose to connect with the world around them. – Annette Sally, Blue Sky Agency

13. The Promise Of A Brighter Day Ahead

The last two years have been incredibly hard for so many people. We just want to put it behind us and lean into a new future that holds so much more promise. I would expect the big winners to be brands that focus on a positive future filled with health, wealth and strong family connections. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

14. Crypto Advertising

I expect to see a lot more advertising focused on cryptocurrency being the future and leveraging the “FOMO” (fear of missing out) of not buying now. Advertising for crypto is beginning to become less restricted, and these companies have a lot of money to play with. We have already seen FTX doing commercials with Tom Brady, and we will likely see more of the same from its competitors during the Super Bowl. – Tellef Lundevall, Accelerated Digital Media

10 Original Case Study Ideas For Converting Tech-Savvy Audiences

Case studies are tried-and-true tools that businesses use to convince prospects to buy their products or services. When it comes to selling to tech-savvy customers in any industry, case studies have long been integral to providing potential customers with the information they need to make a purchase decision.

Forbes Agency Council

However, to effectively engage the most tech-savvy prospects, a case study must be designed and presented with the specific audience’s level of understanding and objectives in mind. Taking a nontraditional approach to creating case studies may help to capture the interest of tech-focused audiences. Here, members of Forbes Agency Council explore 10 original and effective ways to inform prospects about the technological benefits of a product or service and lead them toward conversion.

1. Let Your Customer Speak

Everyone is used to carefully worded case studies written by a marketer trying to sell the product or service. Flip it around and have a satisfied customer tell an authentic story in their own words. Have them speak in the same language that your new prospects do and proactively answer their anticipated questions. Capture that on video, and you’re sure to surprise prospects. – Jim Heininger, Dixon|James & Rebranding Experts

2. Make The Customer The Hero

Make the customer the hero of your case studies, not your company. When prospects read a case study, they view themselves in the role of your customer, not the agency. If you make the case study about yourself, not only will they fail to identify with the content, but they will also think that you are more concerned with your own success than that of your clients. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

3. Make Case Studies Available In A Variety Of Formats

Case studies are business-generation tools. I do not get to decide where my prospects are consuming content; they do. I therefore need to make a case study available in whatever format they choose to consume it. This means that my case study must be available in print, on YouTube, as a PDF or in any other format the people I want to reach are consuming. – Brook Shepard, Mason Interactive

4. Use A Video Capture System To Highlight Your Case Study

I’ve been using Loom for a variety of show-and-tell kinds of conversations where an email or print piece can’t express the concepts or ideas sufficiently. I’d recommend using Loom or another video capture system to highlight your case study and actually walk prospects through a demo via video. – Jason Wilson, Strategy, LLC

5. Tell The Story Through Images Or Video With Voice-Over

Telling the story of a case study through a rotating carousel of images or video with voice-over would be an effective way to portray the success of the study and keep the tech-savvy consumer or prospective client engaged. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

6. Show The Results In A Video Format

When we build our case studies, we like to show the results in a video format. Think of it as a 15-second commercial. We then take this same piece of content and post it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Then, I will build remarketing audiences based on the video views. I like to make sure every piece of content is getting the maximum opportunity to drive conversions. – Jerry Kelly, Marketing 360®

7. Personalize Case Studies By Making Them Interactive

Marketing today is about personalization. Therefore, case studies—which are a natural extension of marketing—really need to be similarly tailored. By this I mean put the reader or viewer in charge of what they consume. Make the case studies interactive by allowing them to choose which aspects of the case study they see in whatever order they choose. Let them build it however they want to consume it. – Hamish Anderson, Three Piece Marketing

8. Use A Video Testimonial Created By A Client

Using a video testimonial created by a current or previous client could be an original idea for a nontraditional way to present a case study. Having them outline the benefits of your product or service firsthand is invaluable. While written case studies often aren’t very engaging, it’s easy to convey key points in a relatable way with video content. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR

9. Supplement The Traditional Model With A Video

A video case study to accompany the traditional problem/solution model can be a great way to show off your clients’ product. This added visual element speaks much louder than static words and pictures and allows prospects to get a better idea of what the client does and how they achieve customer goals. The videos can then be shortened and repurposed for additional engaging social media content. – Michelle Abdow, Market Mentors, LLC

10. Integrate Forum-Like Functionality Into Case Studies

Combine case studies with forum-like functionality. That is, on case study pages, provide links to Discord channels, Slack communities and other conversational tools intended to enrich the reader experience. These tools will boost reader engagement and lead to better conversations with potential prospects. – Bobby Steinbach, MeanPug Digital

Nine Big Don’ts For Pulling Off A Marketing Stunt

Marketing stunts can garner a lot of attention in the media and among consumers, but if they’re not planned and executed properly, it might not be the kind of attention companies are seeking.

A “stunt” is, by definition, a daring move. Any brand that wants to pull off a successful one as part of a broader marketing campaign must make sure the event is surprising and compelling enough to capture interest without alienating consumers or rubbing them the wrong way.

Forbes Agency Council

The members of Forbes Agency Council possess expert insights into what makes a stunt work and, perhaps even more importantly, what can make them tank. To learn what not to do, see their advice below regarding the biggest don’ts to be aware of when planning a marketing stunt.

1. Not Having A Contingency Plan

Not having a Plan B in place is the biggest faux pas when planning a marketing stunt. For example, if you’re doing an event outdoors, you need to factor in potential bad weather and definitely have a backup plan for the day. There’s nothing worse than canceling an event due to a poorly executed strategy and plan. Make sure that you have access to power, too, if you are doing an outdoor event. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR

2. Misrepresenting Sustainability Initiatives

Do not overpromise or underdeliver when it comes to sustainability announcements claiming to be aimed at stopping global warming. Consumers are informed enough to recognize greenwashing: PR spin attempting to convince the public an organization is environmentally friendly when it really is not. Consumers care about these issues and judge brands harshly if they’re found to misrepresent sustainability initiatives. – Jim Caruso, M1PR, Inc. d/b/a MediaFirst PR – Atlanta

3. Putting Your Brand Front And Center

The sheer intention of putting your brand front and center is the biggest “don’t” right now. In a world that feels fragile to many, consumers are demanding authenticity and purposeful campaigns. Slow initiatives are winning the game now. One example is the conscious beauty movement, which is making big waves through constant initiatives striving for healthy beauty. – Melanie Marten, The Coup

4. Launching A Stunt Around A Social Issue

Think twice before using a social issue in a marketing stunt. Time and again, companies have made big blunders while trying to craft stunts around various movements. For example, Burger King created an insensitive ad during Mental Health Awareness Month with its #feelyourway campaign, singling out its competition rather than being receptive to customer needs. Often, it’s better to opt for less risk in these scenarios. – Evan Nison, NisonCo

5. Not Having A Defined End Channel In Mind

One big “don’t” when it comes to pulling off a marketing stunt is launching one without a defined end channel in mind. When it comes to digital marketing, a campaign for TikTok should look entirely different than one for YouTube. The more your stunt aligns with current trends or formats that perform well on your desired channel, the better position you’ll be in to get the most out of your campaign. – Cam Wilkie, func.media

6. Expecting To See An Immediate Impact

Don’t assume your “stunt” will see an immediate impact. Be prepared to spend weeks or months after your stunt promoting reactions on social media. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing your return down the road. Payless Shoes’ Palessi stunt may have gotten early influencer traction, but the real payoff came much later when the story went viral—showing how fashion influencers were fooled. – Bernard May, National Positions

7. Failing To Ensure You Have The Final Say In Contests

When running stunts using votes, make sure you have a way to select a winner from the entries. Online communities can brigade polls and votes to be funny. For example, Taylor Swift once held a contest to do a concert at a school, and the winning entry was a school for deaf children. Make sure you have a way to have the final say on the winner if things get out of hand. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

8. Not Accurately Portraying The Brand Or Its Product Or Service

A big “don’t” in marketing is creating an advertising campaign that doesn’t accurately portray the brand or that inaccurately represents the results of the product or service. Stick to the tried-and-true attributes of your product that can be tested and validated by a number of sources, and then creatively market them with a jingle or dance that will keep your customers coming back. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

9. Failing To Confirm That The Stunt Won’t Violate Any Laws

Ten-plus years ago, we had just launched our marketing company, and we were located on a busy highway in Loveland, Colorado. To draw attention to our sign, we dressed up mannequins as superheroes. The payoff was huge, as we were branded “the superheroes of marketing.” We eventually had to take the mannequins down though, as it violated city ordinances. Rule of thumb: Check with your local government before your next stunt. – Jerry Kelly, Marketing 360®

14 Smart Ways Marketers And Advertisers Can Leverage AI In 2022

Leveraging artificial intelligence can help marketers predict consumer behavior and improve the buyer’s journey to create the most effective marketing strategies. Companies can lean on AI and machine learning to create more engaging content, analyze data to make better business decisions, automate customer support and more.

Forbes Agency Council

The use of AI in marketing is expected to increase in 2022 as more organizations seek ways to incorporate it into their processes to boost their advertising and marketing efforts. Here, 14 experts from Forbes Agency Council share some great ways that AI can assist industry leaders in marketing and advertising in the coming year.

1. To Optimize Media Buying And Lower Customer Acquisition Costs

AI can help optimize media buying and lower the cost of customer acquisition. With manual optimization becoming more difficult and resource-intensive, implementing AI and deep learning solutions to drive performance at scale can ensure that budgets are being spent as efficiently as possible. – Jeremy Fain, Cognitiv

2. To Drive Conversions Within Existing Mobile Messaging Programs

AI can be used to drive conversions within existing mobile messaging programs by equipping chatbots with natural language understanding capabilities that enable customers to ask questions and even transact, all within the messaging channel. Earlier in the buyer’s journey, brands can use AI to power acquisition campaigns with conversational advertising where customers click through to a live chat rather than to a brand website. – Matt Ramerman, Sinch for Marketing

3. To Make Campaign Optimization Recommendations

Deploy AI for tactical objectives by using it to make small but impactful campaign optimization decisions, including creative, placement and more. As AI systems don’t “care” about the nature of their inputs, they can make optimization recommendations with smaller and noisier datasets than humans. Shy away from using AI for strategic decision making, which requires understanding of the specific roles of different inputs. – Ajay Gupta, Stirista

4. To Automate Internal Tasks And Processes

While a lot of talk about AI is focused on using it within third-party systems, agencies should start thinking about ways that they can automate internal tasks and processes that are necessary for the company but not rewarding work for the employees doing it. Think of AI as a member of the team and find ways to utilize it in that way. – Greg Kihlstrom, GK5A

5. To Personalize The Online Customer Experience

An increasing number of customers expect a personalized online experience. Using AI chatbots, for instance, can push the conversion process along and increase customer engagement, which improves your understanding of what your customers need. When paired with employee contact, the client receives individualized attention and an improved experience. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions

6. To Anticipate Consumer Needs And Customer Buying Behavior

Using AI to anticipate consumer needs based on what they have done in the past is a great way to preempt sales data and forecast profitability in the year ahead. We can learn about a customer’s tendencies from their previous buying behavior and predict what they will do in the future. Leveraging AI to generate this information can help us target particular audiences at certain times of the year. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR

7. To Improve Processes And Results For Staff And Customers

There are quick, effective ways to use AI via software tools that leverage existing algorithms or build their own. Create a research initiative within your company to identify and test these tools. Put them to use and compare them against current methods or competing tools. You will learn a lot, such as how software might improve processes and results for your staff and customers. – Jim Caruso, M1PR, Inc. d/b/a MediaFirst PR – Atlanta

8. To Automate Service Center And Sales Center Workflows

Chatbots and artificial agents have come a long way, but they still have a ways to go. That said, I think this will be the year we truly see breakthroughs in the quality of service center and sales center AI flows. If those breakthroughs come, get ready for some seriously powerful automated tooling for sales and service. – Bobby Steinbach, MeanPug Digital

9. To Optimize Retargeting Efforts

AI can help with retargeting efforts for your initial marketing campaign by optimizing ads that generated the best response. Then, you can retarget the most engaged audience until conversion rates and revenues increase. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

10. To Identify New Audience Segments And Understand Brand Sentiment

Artificial Intelligence is an excellent tool to better leverage data insights and incorporate more automated analytics. By pooling customer data and information from ad campaigns, you can identify new audience segments and gain a deeper understanding of brand sentiment. AI can sift through massive amounts of data to reveal vital patterns that might otherwise remain hidden to human eyes. – Henry Kurkowski, One WiFi

11. To Assist In Content Creation

Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying AI copywriting apps are perfect, but from what I have seen, they are wonderful at creating first drafts of blog posts and long-form content. As you work with them, they get smarter, but you need the patience and writing skills to manage them. If you have both, they are a great timesaver and can help you pump out more content. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

12. To Maximize Your Ad Budget

Artificial intelligence is now being used by major ad platforms to help show ads to higher-intent audiences. Combining this AI with tools such as campaign budget optimization, dynamic bidding and dynamic creatives can help you maximize your ad budget while letting the AI do the heavy lifting for your ads. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

13. To Model CRM Data Into Customer Lookalikes

With the increasing loss of marketing data, companies must leverage their own data to understand and reach new customers by integrating customer relationship management data. Brands can use AI to model this data into customer lookalikes for the best accuracy and scale. This requires strong communication between marketing and sales teams, a regularly updated CRM system, and two-way integration with media platforms. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures

14. To Test And Optimize Paid Media Ad Campaigns

AI will be invaluable for testing and optimizing paid media ad campaigns in the coming year. With the ability (and need) to test a wide variety of ad variations, AI will be critical for pinpointing winners across all areas of search engine and social media advertising. There is a strong possibility that AI will also make “on demand” programmatic ad variations faster and simpler. – Bernard May, National Positions

15 Unique Applications Of AR In Advertising To Anticipate In 2022

Each year, augmented reality (AR) becomes increasingly more integrated with our everyday lives and experiences. Whether through interactive apps like Pokemon GO that blend reality with a fictional digital world, or through interior design apps that allow consumers to virtually create their dream living space, AR has become increasingly prevalent and shows no signs of slowing down.

Forbes Agency Council

In fact, many expect 2022 to bring even more unique uses for augmented reality, especially in the advertising and marketing space. Below, 15 Forbes Agency Council members share their predictions for an application of AR in advertising that they expect to see in the new year.

1. Immersive, On-Demand Experiences

Immersive on-demand experiences within advertising that combine the content with the programming. We can watch teams go into a huddle and sell breath mints through a well-placed ad at the same time. We can watch a reality dating show and provide advertising before and after voting on matchups. – Matt Wilson, Eastport Holdings

2. Virtual Clothes Fittings

I expect to see how shoes, pants, shirts and jackets 100% fit on my body while I’m walking, bending over, running or just lounging. Snap does this to an extent, but it’s more for the look and feel. I want to see how things fit. – Loren Baker, Foundation Digital

3. Augmented Reality Campaigns With Real Humans

I expect to see realistic augmented reality humans. We have seen lots of interesting and innovative campaigns. However, we have not seen an AR campaign with real humans. In order to do this, volumetric capturing is needed, which converts video into animated 3D. This is revolutionary and I expect to see a live stream done like this soon. Imagine having your favorite artist in front of you! – Azad Abbasi, Genius XR

4. Valuable Applications Of AR

In 2022, I really hope we stop seeing bad applications of AR. The entire industry still needs to do some research with users to figure out what actually drives value. “Trying” on clothes is an interesting idea. Home decor, outdoor space, anything where you need to see an object in a location is interesting. But it has to be valuable enough to go through the hassle. Value > Hassle. – Michael McFadden, eAccountable

5. A Hybridization Of XR Experiences

Augmented reality experiences will soon be tied to virtual reality experiences. With the latest announcements from Facebook regarding the Metaverse, people can begin to expect new software, tools and apps to be introduced into the VR world. I would anticipate seeing more hybridization of XR experiences in 2022. – Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC

6. Increased Interested In AR In The Recruiting Industry

I think AR could greatly benefit the recruiting industry. Imagine having a hiring or recruiting event in which subject matter experts can come to life off a physical display to explain benefits, employer culture, etc. Not everyone gets attention at an event like that, so companies lose quality candidates. This way, every event attendee is engaged. – Jeremy Jackson, SKY Marketing Consultants, LLC

7. Interactive Office Tours

With the parent organization of Facebook officially changing its name to Meta, we can all expect to see many exciting advancements in AR. One thing I would love to see is companies offering fully immersive tours of their offices and facilities to prospective job candidates. This will help candidates know exactly what to expect from the position. – Marc Hardgrove, The HOTH

8. More Companies Leveraging QR Codes

It’s easy to see how augmented reality has a place in digital advertising but now with the resurgence of QR codes, it has a place in direct mail as well. I’d expect to see more and more advertisers leveraging QR codes within direct mail to bring the consumer right into the experience. – Lori Paikin, NaviStone®

9. GPS With AR Advertising

While independent, large organizations are deploying augmented reality solutions, I expect that large geographic directory services will begin incorporating AR advertising. Imagine, for example, using a map on your phone while walking to your destination. When you raise your phone, you see interactive experiences all around you from the other retailers, restaurants and companies on the way. – Douglas Karr, Highbridge

10. Full Product Demos

I expect to see full product demos that allow the consumer to test your product in real-time via augmented reality or an app available for download. This would help consumers “try before they buy” and help create a larger purchase conversion. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

11. A Combination Of The Real World And AR

I’ve always felt gaming has the biggest potential for augmented reality. I remember walking on the Santa Monica pier several years ago and one out of every three people were catching Pokemon with their phones. I think when you can overlay the real world with something fun, the advertising opportunities will be endless. People like native ads that have a natural flow to what they are doing. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

12. Location-Specific Augmented Reality

While social media platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat have increasingly leaned into AR advertising, geo-fenced experiences have still not been given much attention. However, as the world opens up to travel again in 2022, it is likely that we will witness a rise in location-specific augmented reality to drive in-store visits and more affordable experiential marketing campaigns. – Chris Martin, FlexMR

13. AR-Equipped Vehicle Sales

I expect to see more AR when it comes to vehicle sales. With vehicle pricing on the rise, consumers are going to want to experience the vehicle without needing to deal with dealerships. Imagine being able to take your phone, select the vehicle make and mode, and boom—there it is. You could walk around it, tap to open doors and even play with the gadgets inside. This reality is not far off. – Bernard May, National Positions

14. Integration With In-Person Events

One of the most common AR applications many people are familiar with is Google’s Street View. I anticipate an integration that will urge people in metropolitan areas to get out the door and to in-person events by prompting interaction each step of the way—perhaps even rewarding travelers or providing info in real-time about other event-goers as they get closer to the destination. – Evan Nison, NisonCo

15. Educational Interactions

One of the best that I have seen of augmented reality is all of the ways that education can be used to provide a better experience for students. That means allowing them to interact with all of their teachers and know that everything is being handled. – Jon James, Ignited Results

10 Smart Ways For New-To-Market Businesses To Establish Credibility

You’ve got a great idea, the funding you need to launch your new business and an abundance of passion. What you may not have is enough credibility with consumers in your target market to make a splash and generate the revenue you need to keep going. Helping consumers come to see a new-to-market business as a trusted, authoritative source of solutions for their problems is challenging for any entrepreneur or startup owner.

Forbes Agency Council

As leaders in the world of marketing, advertising and public relations, the members of Forbes Agency Council know the ins and outs of establishing credibility among target audiences. See their tips below to figure out the most effective and efficient path to earning the trust and confidence of your ideal buyers.

1. Create A Targeted Sponsorship

Create a targeted sponsorship and a social campaign to activate the sponsorship. Look to include leadership opportunities in the sponsorship, such as speaking at conferences, and links within your social campaign to relevant, supportive information. Couple this paid approach with PR, including guest editorials where appropriate. The key is frequency and authenticity. Don’t make claims you can’t support fully. – Brian Sullivan, Sullivan Branding

2. Weave Authenticity Into The Campaign

“Authenticity” is a word that is thrown around often. Authenticity is difficult to pinpoint, yet easy to spot when something is actually authentic. Consumers, especially young consumers, are experts at sniffing out when brands are not being authentic. The key to being authentic is twofold: First, embrace the brand vision and story to weave into the campaign, and then understand the audience culture to connect meaningfully. – Mario Carrasco, ThinkNow

3. Piggyback On Someone Else’s Platform

The easiest and most effective way to gain authority with your customers when you’re completely new to the market is to piggyback on someone else’s platform. If you can, get yourself invited to be a guest on someone’s podcast, or try to arrange a feature in someone else’s blog. This will help you build a following that you can grow later. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

4. Position The Brand In The Right Market Segments

Building credibility entails positioning a brand properly in the right market segments, with an emphasis on earned media channels. New brands should draw attention to a relatable market need and show how their products and services can help solve the problem. A core effort has to go into amplifying problem scenarios, highlighting their urgency and showing how a brand’s solutions can address them. – Lars Voedisch, PRecious Communications

5. Take A Surgical Approach To Traditional PR

One of the best ways for a brand to build its reputation as an authority is through traditional PR. By taking a behavioral approach and dissecting the community of journalists to identify those who are most likely to write about a particular topic, a brand can build a story roadmap of different aspects of their product to pitch them. This surgical approach to PR is among the most effective tactics. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave

6. Align Your Firm With Other Reputable Organizations

Go where your customers are and align your firm with other reputable organizations. Share your expertise at industry events and in key publications, especially on the local level. Get in front of your audience with earned or paid partnerships, such as by publishing your perspective or securing a speaking engagement. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures

7. Invest In Yourself And Your Knowledge

First, invest in yourself and your knowledge. Then, share your insights and show up every single day. Seek first to provide value and do meaningful and gracious work. Start with a generous spirit and share your knowledge, your network and your talent. A great recommendation is to read Tim Sanders’ book, Love Is The Killer App: How To Win Business And Influence Friends. – Jason Wilson, Strategy, LLC

8. Capitalize On Your Team’s Strengths

Build your credibility by capitalizing on your team members’ strengths. If you have an engaging social media manager, hone their skills to connect with potential clients across platforms. Are you working with skilled SEO professionals? Give them the right tools to create powerful, SEO-driven content. Be confident in your team’s ability, and let their creativity shine as you establish authority. – Evan Nison, NisonCo

9. Showcase A Customer’s Positive Experience With Your Brand

Showcasing a customer’s positive and authentic experience with your brand to display how it made that customer’s life better will gain your brand credibility and position you as a leader in the field. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

10. Know What You Bring That Your Competition Can’t Replicate

Know what you’re bringing to the table that your competition cannot replicate, also known as your differentiators. Is it your tech? Your creative prowess? Your specific team or niche? Go all-in on this angle when it comes to your content, guest articles, podcast interviews and more. Let your differentiators be your authority. – Bernard May, National Positions