Designing Calm in Chaos: Stress Management Tips for Crunch Times

There’s nothing like a crunch at a design firm. An all-hands-on-deck time when the entire team is hard at work trying to meet deadlines that are, frankly, nuts. It’s a time of tension. You can tell because your lower back has been screaming at you for days, no matter how expensive and ergonomic your chair might be. 


We wrote last week about how to cope with inevitable lulls.


Well, the lull’s over and your firm is deep, deep in the weeds! These are the times you look forward to and dread in equal parts. As deadlines loom, pressure mounts, and creativity is put to the test, stress can take its toll on both individuals and teams. 


So here’s a blog about dealing with the inevitable tension that comes with being a busy human with an active brain at a design firm working overtime.


Let’s cope with the stress!


Mental tension manifests itself in many physical ways. From stiff necks and joints and stomach aches brought on by stress eating, or forgetting to eat entirely. 


As much as you feel like a brain in a jar at the moment, it’s important not to neglect your body. Stand up and stretch often to increase blood flow and pop a few joints back into place. You know you’re doing good work here, but no work is so important that you must feel compelled to sacrifice your physical well-being in the process. 


Stand up, reach for the ceiling, grab your toes, run around the house. However you shake out the cobwebs, physical activity has the power to rejuvenate and pull focus. 


After all, it’s not really stretching – it’s self-care. 

Break It Up

When you’re staring at the next big job, don’t view it as a singular, daunting mountain you have to climb. Instead, view the mountain as a series of hills and boulders. Mentally break the larger task into smaller ones and take it apart piece by piece. By doing so, you’ll also be lowering your level of stress with regard to the project at hand. 


It may seem like a silly approach, but it just about always works. Allowing your mind to focus on individual tasks contributing to a whole also allows you to relax and approach your crunch period with more clarity of vision.


This is especially helpful if you don’t perform as well under pressure. 

Reward Yourself

Allowing yourself little breaks for completing tasks will give you something to strive for and look forward to. A time to breathe and refocus your energies at opportune moments will break up potential monotony and get you back to work with renewed energy. 


A cup of coffee or tea and a moment of fresh air will give your busy, tired mind time to relax and prepare to conquer the next task. 


And practicing healthy time-management will serve as a reminder that you are in control of your work day, in spite of the crunch you find yourself in. 

Reach Out

We know this one can be hard, but open communication with your team is necessary. Nobody likes to admit when they need help, but sometimes, well, we do! Keeping your team close, even if you’re remote, is of paramount importance when it comes to accomplishing daunting tasks. 


And reaching out for help or advice isn’t a sign of weakness. Quite the opposite. Knowing your limitations and expressing a willingness to approach challenges collectively is what a team is supposed to do! 


Prioritizing and delegating tasks to the right people will ease the crunch for your firm as a whole.

Keep Tabs On You

Finally, understanding your emotions, and where they’re coming from, can be a deciding factor in whether you sink or swim during a crunch. 


Impostor Syndrome is an acute feeling that you don’t belong in your current role, despite all evidence to the contrary. You’re great at your job, there’s a reason they put you there, yet you still feel like you’re faking it! 


It’s important to call those negative emotions what they are: total bullshit. 


If you’re finding yourself in a tougher than usual emotional place during crunch periods, take a step back and examine the underlying reasons. Most of the time, it’s just your insecurities talking.


Tough deadlines can be incredibly stressful, but they aren’t insurmountable and they definitely aren’t a reason to sacrifice your physical and emotional well-being.


Focus on what really matters, take care of yourself. Crunch times are difficult at the best of times, so developing stress management techniques is essential. 


The work will still be there when you get back, but it might not feel so bad this time. 


Barbie’s Cinematic Sensation: The Epitome of Marketing Brilliance

She’s been a powerful cultural mover and shaker for 64 years, only growing in popularity for each new generation of little girls. You know her, you love her, or you hate her…


And, after all this time, success, and world conquering, 2023 just might be the year of Barbie. 


And it’s all thanks to a blockbuster movie and one of the most clever, powerful marketing campaigns we’ve seen in a long time.


The Barbie movie itself already comes with its fair share of bonafides. From Margot Robbie in the title role, Ryan Gosling as her ever-constant boyfriend Ken, and even Will Ferrell as the CEO of Mattel, this cast is stacked. On top of that there’s Greta Gerwig, a writer/director with an already stellar track record for unique, entertaining films. 


Pair that level of pedigree with a stunning marketing machine and you’ve got yourself a cultural juggernaut!


So let’s pick it apart a bit and see how marketing genius  turned a movie into a phenomenon. 


For starters, everybody knows Barbie. No matter how you feel about her, she’s everywhere, and it’s been that way forever. Little Generation Alpha girls have her in their toy boxes, and their grandmothers remember playing with her too! People know Barbie. They know her dresses, her Dream House, her beach cruiser. They know her friends. They know her story. They’ve been following her subtle evolution for years.


With Hollywood’s current fixation with relying heavily on existing intellectual property, it’s almost surprising they took so long to get to Barbie.


But that’s not where the magic stops…


Barbie isn’t just for kids anymore. 

Feel like staying in a life size Barbie Dream House in Malibu? It’s listed on AirBNB, and just got a brand new makeover. 


On top of that, you can purchase official Barbie luggage, toiletries, XBox controllers and rollerblades. The marketing takeover, rumored to have cost upwards of $100 million USD, and extravagant production design, has even led to a global shortage of pink paint. This has amounted to more than 100 brand partnerships in any area that seems remotely fitting, from apparel to frozen yogurt. And it’s working!


We’re not kidding!


And adults are living for it. Maybe it’s the post-pandemic desire to finally share an experience with each other, but people are getting in on this in ways not seen in quite some time. 


And that includes a great example of counterprogramming. 


See, Barbie just so happens to be coming out on the exact same day as Christopher Nolan’s latest epic, Oppenheimer. His biopic of the brilliant, conflicted mastermind behind the creation of the atomic bomb is, in many ways, the diametric opposite of Barbie’s sunny, fanciful storytelling. And the studios seized upon this contrast, planted the seeds in social media, and watched the public take it and run with it. 


So much so that the event has been christened…

Fans are turning the dual release into a double feature event, and having fun with the differences between the two films on the way. A quick Instagram search lets you know you’ve stumbled upon the meme of the summer.


Barbie has yet another job: social media influencer. 


Elsewhere, when it comes to marketing the Barbie movie more is more. From autograph signings at malls and beachside resorts, to the return of iconic Barbie fashions, both life-size and plasticine, it’s a nonstop barrage of marketing magic and, for once, we all seem to be on the same page. Brand partnerships have turned out events like popups, cruises and events all over the world. 


In fact, more has been written about the marketing of Barbie than on the film itself! 


It seems that, if there is a way to market the Barbie movie, it’s been utilized, put out into the world, and promoted by news outlets looking for something big. 


The final trailer’s tagline says it all: “If you love Barbie, this movie is for you. If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you.”


Barbie is for everyone, and the filmmakers have endeavored to reach as large an audience as possible with a postmodern wink, while also staying true to the simple, childish joy of playing with dolls. It’ll be a tightrope walk to say the least, but one that millions of people all around the world are excited to see.


And that’s all thanks to pulling out the stops on every kind of marketing wizardry you can think of (and a bottomless budget to match.)

Surviving the Lull: How Your Business Can Benefit During the Slow Season

The lull comes for us all.


You’ve been riding high on a wave of sustained growth and business opportunity, but now that yearly cooling off period is upon you and you’re not sure what to do with yourself. If your company has been around a few years, you probably know when to expect it. Since we’re a branding and design firm in Dubai, we’re well familiar with the occasional business dropoff. You’re not alone here! 


Every fiscal year has slow points: those times when your agency just isn’t pulling in the business you’re used to. For whatever reason, be it holidays or changing seasons, you just don’t have as much on the docket as you’re used to and maybe it’s making you a little concerned and stir crazy.


Well, first of all, rest easy in the knowledge that business will pick up again.


In the meantime, how can your business benefit from the added free time? How do you use your free time wisely?


Here are some good ideas…


Customer Profiling

We’ve said it before and we’ll surely say it again: Clearly understanding your target market and customer is a huge step in the right direction, and one you should always be taking. Profiling your customers by age range, demographics, income, family, and company will ensure you’re pinpointing their needs with consistent accuracy. 


A keen understanding of your customers means you won’t have to constantly be second guessing your approach to them or their needs. You’ll be able to focus on what’s important to them rather than constantly wondering what’s important to them. 


And once you’ve got that down, now is a great time to focus on…


Increased Marketing

With a lull in your more lucrative business, it’s the right time to get your business seen by as many people as possible. Consider more social media avenues that engage potential clients, as well as targeted advertising that can hone in on customers with precision. 


Consider new approaches to email marketing that make existing clients want to open your newsletters rather than trash them. Tailor your messaging to highlight the benefits of your products or services during the slow season.


As you’re building up your marketing impression, you should also…


Get Ready for Peak

While you’re waiting to catch the next big wave, take advantage of the time between to prepare for it. If you’re well prepared to maximize your revenue and productivity, you won’t have to worry so much about it all turning into a total shitshow when business is booming. The last thing you need during a crunch period is a machine that is slowly grinding to a halt while the gears fall off. 


Make sure your staff is trained up and ready for action, and audit your process to look for pain points and inconsistencies. The slowdown could be the best thing for your business if you’re getting prepared for the crazier time that’s coming. 


In that same mindset, it’s always a good idea to…


Trim the Fat

Are there currently areas where your business is bleeding money with little or no result? Now is the time to nip those trouble spots in the bud, not when you’re too busy to devote time to it. Evaluate your processes, identify areas for improvement, and implement changes that can reduce costs or enhance productivity. 


We’re not talking about a mass layoff here, simply seizing the opportunity to refocus where needed so your business is more well-prepared for future growth. 


With that in mind…


Train Up

You’ve got a great staff, but there’s no reason you can’t push them to even higher levels of success! During slow periods, investing in training for your employees is a great way to continue your upward momentum. 


Train your employees in other areas adjacent to their specialities to help foster a multi-faceted environment where your people can more ably assist each other during peak times. Having a professional, self-sufficient staff that is both confident and advanced will increase your retention and team spirit. 


They’ll know you care about them and be more inspired to give you their best work. 


Slow season is a great time to see what works and what doesn’t because you’ll actually have the opportunity to adjust accordingly! So don’t simply cross your arms, shake your head and worry. Seize this moment to optimize your business model, focus on pulling in new clients and prepare for when your business will pick up again.


Because it will. 


Don’t worry!

Nostalgia Marketing: Engaging Memories for Brand Success

Throwback Thursday is still a thing for a reason!


Remembering something from your past, the sounds, colors and smells, is never not going to be enticing. Nostalgia calls you back to the simpler times that live in your memories and makes you long for the past. The scratch of an old record, the taste of a Ring Pop, the sound of dial-up internet, the Ducktales theme song. As an adult, one little hint of your past can send you sailing back to those idyllic days of youth, when your worries were few and the days of fun and play went on and on. 


The raw, emotional potency of nostalgia makes it one of the strongest marketing tools around.


Hell, nostalgia is why Buzzfeed got so popular while also quizzing you on just how goddamn old you are! (The 80’s weren’t that long ago, were they?)


Nostalgia marketing is powerful, irresistible, and an approach that the best of design agencies take full advantage of any chance they get. By triggering fond memories and emotions from the past, brands can create deeper connections with their target audience, leading to increased engagement, brand loyalty, and ultimately, business success. People are always in search of a momentary escape, especially as we exit the tail end of a global pandemic, and a simpler time and place is often just the mental journey they’re looking for.


So let’s talk about how nostalgia marketing can turn their past into your future…


Branding Nostalgia

There is a very good reason some of your favorite brands haven’t changed their logo in, like, ever, or are returning to one from thirty years ago. Harkening back to simpler times, and sparking the consumer’s memory, can make a familiar brand feel like home to them. Choosing to engage in the retro, rather than the new and trending, has an emotional effect that’s almost impossible to ignore. When a brand throws back, be it through fonts, colors or vintage aesthetics, they become a magnet for customers who desire the familiar.


And let’s talk for a moment about memory. The human mind is perhaps the greatest wonder of evolution, but it’s not yet perfect. Your mind may choose to discard the listless boredom of childhood, or any hardships you may have faced, and paint a majority of your young experiences as positive.


 This is called adaptive forgetting. It’s why we always think it’d be a good idea to get back with that one terrible ex. Our minds actively turn bad memories from childhood to good, and studies have shown that this happens because our past informs our present. A great deal of who we are, and how we define ourselves, comes from memory.


So, really, our faulty computer is looking out for us after all! Invented optimism for the win!


Okay, digression over…


Trending Nostalgia

Calling back memories of old marketing trends is a great way to spark the nostalgic pull. For an example of this, look no further than Kodak. With the rapid advent of digital photography, traditional film cameras barely even had time to stand at the door and wave. But, in recent years, those fun disposable cameras you remember, the ones where every photo was kind of a surprise (why is my head missing?), have made an even more surprising comeback. What’s more, the instant camera has also returned in all its fun, blurry glory. The old becomes new again, thanks to strategic market research and a partnership with Forever 21.


Audience Nostalgia

If you’re going to plan a marketing campaign that hinges on the memories of your audience, you must first understand them, especially their age range. Additionally, account for their geographic location to key in to their specific nostalgia. A potential audience in Dubai will likely not have the same shared childhood memories as one in Los Angeles. What are your intended audience’s interests and hobbies? Does your product focus on the tech sector? Sports fans? Librarians with thick reading glasses? Get a handle on your people and then point the nostalgia right at them!


Company Nostalgia

This one is specific to companies that have been around for a while. All others may skip (for now.)


Your company may have a wealth of history that people may remember fondly, whether you agree with them or not, so why not capitalize on it? Reminding customers that you’ve been around awhile can go a long way toward turning their fond memories into future partnerships. You don’t have to live in the past, but it doesn’t hurt to look toward it from time to time. Pairing nostalgia with innovation


Involved Nostalgia

Pose questions on social media and in advertising that engage your customer nostalgia. Ask pointed questions related to your business and encourage them to recall nostalgic memories and experience related to your brand or niche. By actively engaging with your customers through nostalgia, your success can be twofold: You’re embracing their fond memories, while also giving them a taste of your humanity, something that companies can forget to do.


Ultimately, the decision to pursue nostalgia marketing will come down to whether or not you want to evoke positive feelings from your customers through memory. If you’re coming up on an anniversary or are seeking to rebrand, then nostalgia might be just the key to success you’ve been waiting for. 


By tapping into sentimentality and leveraging shared memories and experiences, brands can create a sense of familiarity, trust, and engagement.