Biggest Sale Of The Year Has Arrived!!

Ponoko Black Friday Banner-01

This is it – our biggest sale for all of 2015!

Your chance to make something new, something a little crazy, or to stock up on your favorites.

You get 35% off the making cost of all laser cutting orders placed between 12:01am Black Friday November 27th 2015 and 11:59pm Cyber Monday November 30th 2015.

This special offer is good for one laser cutting order from your USA or NZ Free Personal Factory account only, and cannot be used in conjunction with any other vouchers or promotions. The usual costs for materials, shippings, speed upgrades, samples and showroom orders apply as normal.

To make it happen just enter this coupon code at checkout – E3RFAQ.

Go wild makers!

Maker Story: Bandynami

How A Maker Used Ponoko to Crowdfund Their Idea.


We took the chance to talk to Jerry Barccia, creator of The Bandynami, about his experience getting from idea to completed product using & Ponoko.

How did you get started designing and making your own products?

“I began to dabble with 3D software and third-party bureaus while a design student, about 2006. I thought it was magic – sending out a laser cut or 3D computer file (nothing) and in the mail, the objects appears (something). I could then mold and recast as many of “the thing” as I wanted. Incredible!
As the technology advanced on the hardware and the prices of software became more reasonable, prototyping whatever was in my head became much easier. With the advent of crowdfunding and its growing popularity, I knew it was time to revisit every single “make” idea I’ve ever had. The wall of ‘gatekeepers’ involved in creating and bringing products to the masses shrunk considerably enough to climb over.”

What was the inspiration behind Bandynami?

“As part of a design course at the School of Visual Arts, we were tasked to redesign something on our desk: simple stationary items for beginners’ intro to 3D. I have a lot of art supplies, some as thin and long like an expensive watercolor brush, some thick and nubby oil pastels, and Japanese brush pens that I prefer to store downward (so the nibs stay fresh). I’ve also inadvertantly stabbed myself (more than enough times) with a quill pen nib because I can’t see what’s hiding in all my organizer-bins.
The project went well and it was surprising what you could fit into the prototype without it falling over or breaking. It took two years for my balsa wood prototype to finally implode.”

What led to you try Ponoko?

“I tried Ponoko because of the laser cutting choices and options. I didn’t find comprable speed, service and material choices anywhere else. 3D prints of the Bandynami couldn’t withstand the pressure of the rubber bands, and would bow and buckle. Monolithic ABS FDM printed models worked great, but it wasn’t something I could easily reproduce for a reasonable cost and the resolution just wasn’t really dazzling yet.
I wanted to experiment with different rigid materials and different colors representative of the final product. Ponoko allowed me to do all that, with great articles to help someone like me, who at the time didn’t know what ‘kerf’ meant.”


Can you tell us about the process of making and selling with CrowdSupply & Ponoko ? How is this different from your process before Ponoko/CrowdSupply?

“I feel it is very important to showcase your ideas and let people interact with them. For example, while at the 2015 Bay Area Maker Faire I met a member of the Crowdsupply team, who explained their philosophy. They have been great – it is a leaner, very curated experience meant to get the thing you made into the hands of like-minded people who want one, and they have an open-source spirit that applies even to something as ‘analog’ as a ‘Modern Pencil Cup.’

The Crowdsupply campaign is actually my second crowdfunding attempt. At the time of this writing it is 64% funded with 24 days left, so I’m very optimistic. I felt kind of lost in a sea of many, many ideas in other crowdfunding platforms, and working alone, I made pretty much every crowdfunding mistake you could make. I knew was the right home because of the help and the spirit of their other projects.”


How long did it take to go from: 1) idea to design; 2) design to prototype; 3) prototype to final piece;

“I’ve dabbled with this project on and off for years trying to create a mix and match design using 3D prints I could easily recast in resin. Then I found Ponoko, and once I decided on simple box joinery and acrylic it took me a matter of days (literally) to have exactly what I wanted from Ponoko. In the prototyping phase I nested different sized Bandynamis within each other to maximize output from the P3 template. This helped me nail the correct size for using regular office #33 rubber bands.”

What are the top things you love about Ponoko? Why?

“From the ease of uploading my files to opening up the box that says ‘Yippee’ on it – the experience of making on Ponoko really is one of a kind. Also, whenever I have to prototype something, for a personal project or for work, it’s the first place I think of.”

What’s next for Bandynami? Any projects on the horizon / new ideas / Next steps?

“More Exhibitions. More Maker Faires and Gift Shows. Input from others just keeps making the concept better. A particularly great look comes over people’s faces when they pass by and realize what it does, and how, and their level of excitement over the object is very encouraging.
I’d like to take Bandynami into different colors, materials and sizes. I like the idea of stamped metal, ceramic, sustainable wood veneers, or even stronger injection molded ABS plastic. I was surprised how many kids were into it at the Bay Area Maker Faire, so perhaps it has life as a ‘looming toy’ – something I heard repeatedly.”


What advice do you want to give to other folks trying to get started making products with Ponoko (or laser cutting 3D printing in general)?

“My advice would to just keep experimenting. Don’t give up. You don’t have to be a trained engineer. You will eventually figure it out. If two pieces don’t fit, alter it and try again until they do. Use the forums – someone else most likely has had your exact problem.

Make sure what you are making is something that YOU want, or are making specifically for someone you know, and NOT what you think other people would want or buy. Bandynami didn’t ‘work’ until I made it for me, and only me, and not because I was trying to ‘sell it’ to Staples or something like that.

There is no global ‘pencil cup’ problem to be solved. I needed a solution to the way I worked and I have it now (many actually) thanks to Ponoko. Anyone else can access it and modify it to their needs if they too find it useful.
Work with others to expand your thinking and challenge your assumptions. Most importantly, display your wares somewhere – anywhere – people can interact with them. Feedback from actual people opens wonderfully surprising lines of thought.”


Are your pencil cups available for sale anywhere else I should mention besides crowdsupply? Or anything else we should mention in general?

“ is the best source to purchase a kit ready to go. I will also make the plans available, for free, here on Ponoko very soon.”

If you’d like to be featured for a future maker story get in touch with us via We’re always looking to showcase the talent of our makers on our blog.

#HolidaySales Tip #9: A gift in time is worth nine


In our last blog, we saw the importance of getting your social media messaging right during the holiday season. But while words are important, as a retailer your gestures during the holiday season speak as much and as often about your business. And during this busy season, the most important gesture you need to extend to your customers is punctuality. Over the course of this blog, we’ll examine the simple tips and tricks you need to bear in mind to ensure everyone has a surprise waiting for them at the right time during the holidays.

Don’t promise what your courier can’t deliver


As a seller, it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking as many orders as you can during the holiday season. But you have to consider this – every order you take is a promise you make to a trusting consumer. And if you fail to deliver on even one promise, you’ve ruined someone’s holiday gifting plans. Not just that, you’ve potentially set yourself up for a shellacking on social media because while all lapses in delivery are bad, having one during the holidays is especially intolerable.

But there is a way around this. If you keep customer expectations in check, you ensure they remain happy with your delivery schedules. Also, you need to find the cut off date for popular couriers like UPS and work backwards from that date when accepting orders. In most cases, the last day UPS will deliver a package is Christmas Eve, since Christmas Day is a holiday across services.

This means you need to have a store order deadline planned according to that date. You also need to take into account the mode of shipping – Ground, One Day, Two Day, Three Day and Next Day. To avoid any confusion and to ensure the onus of placing orders in time lies with the customer, you need to do two things:


  1. Ensure you word your cut off dates properly: Be extra specific in your cut off dates on your store and checkout pages. The format should be something like this – “Order by <day> on or before <time> to receive your order by <date> via <courier name>. When listing the time be sure to include all variations (EST/Central/Pacific) to avoid any miscommunication.
  2. List all the deadlines from your courier: While your store deadlines help you plan for stock and packaging at your end, listing the courier’s deadlines closes the loop on final delivery and ensures customers make the relevant choice depending on when they decide to place their order. For instance, here are some deadlines for UPS which you could incorporate into your site’s shopping page:
  • -December 17 – Last day to order items using Standard Ground Shipping.
  • -December 19 – Last day to order items using 3 Day Shipping.
  • -December 22 – Last day to order items using Two-Day Shipping.
  • -December 23 – Last day to order items (by 2pm) using One Day Shipping

It pays to keep USPS in mind too


While the option of courier may make perfect sense for many products in your range, there might be certain products, which just don’t need fancy packaging.

Also, in many cases the cost of shipping smaller items by courier actually increases the overall cost of the item, making it a bit prohibitive to order. And sometimes, when you just need to send a package across town or maybe even deliver it down the street, you don’t need a courier just to get it right.

For all these instances, you can (and should) safely rely on USPS. Not only are they a cheaper alternative across the U.S., but also may be able to bring down the overall cost of shipping for many items, thus making your product line-up even more appealing.

However just like UPS, there are deadlines you have to adhere to with USPS too. To make it easier for you, here’s a list, which you can republish on your site:

Mail-by Dates (Domestic Services)


Dec. 15 – Standard Post: Ground service for less-than-urgent deliveries and oversized packages.

Dec. 19 – First Class Mail: Service for standard-sized, single-piece envelopes and small packages weighing up to 13 ounces with delivery in 3 business days or less.

Dec. 21 – Priority Mail: Domestic service in 1, 2, or 3 business days based on where your package starts and where it’s being sent, variety of Flat Rate options.

Dec. 23 – Priority Mail Express: Fastest domestic service, guaranteed overnight scheduled delivery to most locations. Some restrictions and exceptions do apply. Also, please note Priority Mail Express postage refund eligibility is adjusted for shipments mailed Dec. 22 through Dec. 25.

While it’s unlikely you’ll use USPS to ship packages internationally, they do offer this service for the holidays. Here’s what the international shipping schedule looks like:

Mail-by Dates (International Services)

This handy chart shows you exactly how long your package will take to be delivered based on both the location and type of shipping being chosen. However, when mailing and shipping internationally, customers must also remember to follow the necessary customs guidelines.


International Mail Addressed To Global Express Guaranteed® (GXG)*** Priority Mail Express International™ (PMEI) Priority Mail International® (PMI) First-Class Package International Service™ (FCPIS)
Africa Dec-21 Dec-8 Dec-1 Dec-1
Asia/Pacific Rim Dec-19 Dec-15 Dec-8 Dec-8
Australia/New Zealand Dec-19 Dec-15 Dec-8 Dec-8
Canada Dec-22 Dec-17 Dec-11 Dec-8
Caribbean Dec-21 Dec-15 Dec-11 Dec-8
Central & South America Dec-21 Dec-11 Dec-1 Dec-1
Mexico Dec-22 Dec-15 Dec-8 Dec-8
Europe Dec-21 Dec-15 Dec-11 Dec-8
Middle East Dec-19 Dec-15 Dec-11 Dec-8

***GXG Notes: 1) Cut off date does not take into account time needed for customs clearance. 2) Should allocate extra transit day(s) for delivery outside major cities.

Stock up on supplies to make things easier


This may not sound like a shipping tip per se, but during the manic rush of the holiday season…every little bit matters. And any time you can save in the order-packing-shipping process can prove to be a real asset to your business.

Rather than scramble for packing supplies during the holiday rush, it’s a good idea to stock up on them ahead of time. As an added convenience, USPS offers a wide variety of shipping supplies in multiple sizes at local Post Offices and online on their website.

In fact, some supplies, such as Priority Mail products, can also be delivered to the sender free of charge. Shipping supplies available online and at local Post Offices include:

  • Priority Mail boxes: Complimentary with Priority Mail shipping service.
  • Priority Mail non-padded Envelopes: Complimentary with Priority Mail shipping service.
  • ReadyPost Boxes: Beginning at $4.29.
  • ReadyPost Bubble Mailers: beginning at $1.79.
  • ReadyPost Clear Packing Tape: $3.29.

In addition to being a time saving tactic, using the options available from USPS can hep bring down your shipping costs too. In our final part of this series, we’ll be looking at keeping customers informed on stock and new arrivals though the holidays, so that you can maximise sales this season.

#HolidaySales Tip #8: A Happy Fan Leads To A Successful Brand.

In our last blog of the series, we saw the importance of planning your retail production cycle to ensure a smooth selling process during the holidays. But, stocking up on products in only half the battle. You also have to focus on grabbing the attention of the right audience through your social media channels.  

While there are many aspects to building a successful social campaign, we’ll be focusing on how to engage your fans during the holiday season.

Make Them Feel Special

The holiday season is when literally hundreds of brands start pawing at customers trying to get their attention. This means customers develop an even more acute filter to drown out the noise from most brands.

At this time, any brand which takes a break from ‘selling’ and focuses on making the customer feel special will not only stand out from the crowd but instantly gain favour with customers.

Best of all, you don’t have to use incentives to achieve this. A simple but genuine token of gratitude or holiday cheer is enough to get you noticed. Since you already have a database of customers, you can start by sending out a holiday greeting card with a personalised message.

Consider adding a company photo in a festive theme to let your customers see the faces behind the brand they like. If you have the time and the correct information, a postcard or small letter in the mail is a good way to get past the digital distractions of other brands and make sure customers remember you. To ensure, this offline activity resonates with your social presence, create a hashtag and ask users to upload a photo with their personalised letter to your Facebook page or Twitter handle.

You could also consider creating a small ‘thank-you’ item from your catalogue and sending them out to customers. Again, to help this tie back to your social campaign for the holiday season, ask customers to send in positive experiences they’ve had with your brand and reward each of the entries with this ‘thank-you’ item.

Lastly, you could also engage customers by using their pictures in a special way across your social media. Ask them to send your holiday themed pictures of themselves (preferably posing with your products too) and create an exclusive gallery of these images. Maybe even (with their permission) use them on your site as the backdrop for the holiday season campaign.

Give Them The Inside Scoop


Every customer wants to enjoy special treatment from they brands they like. If you can make them feel like they have an inside track on the best deals, customers are likelier to spend more money on your brand, simply because they feel privileged.

One of the critical ways to achieve this is by being a little more attentive on milestone days during the holiday season (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Boxing Day). On these days, every customer is scouring the web for bigger, better deals. Show your fans you value their commitment to your brand by offering them exclusive invite-only deals. Give them advanced access to the sale before it opens to the public. Maybe even let them reserve a few items a day ahead.

You could also use your existing fans to drive more traffic in-store during the holiday season. As the rush of the season begins to build up, you could hold in-store previews of some of the limited edition items you plan to sell during the holidays.

Alternatively, you could combine online and offline purchasing by giving your fans a discount for your online store when they drop by your physical store and make a purchase.

As always, use these face-to-face interactions with your fans to build valuable content for your social channels especially Facebook and Instagram. You can also leverage these interactions to gather valuable feedback from customers who use your brand regularly.

Pander To Their Needs

While you must spend time building goodwill with your fans, you must also make the time to focus specifically on their needs during the holiday season. For starters, all your fans will be sweeping the web for gifting ideas. This is a perfect opportunity for you to capitalise on a genuine need and demonstrate value to your loyal customers beyond just your product line.

Start by creating a content series on gift ideas. This could be anything from a blog post with ideas to just a tweet of something quirky to add as a stocking stuffer. But be careful. If you use this opportunity only to promote your own products, you look like you’re advertising rather than being helpful. So, make sure you think outside of your own products for gift ideas.

Don’t be afraid to think laterally. The holidays are as much about food as it is about gifts. See if there are ways, you can incorporate recipes or food tips into your social calendar. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or divert too much from your core brand. But even just a few well-placed mentions of food around the holidays (eggnog, Christmas pudding, Christmas cookies) adds a little holiday warmth to your brand tone and goes a long way in helping fans make a more personal connection.

Finally, think practically. One of the most fun tasks around the holidays is decorating. Yet, it can quickly become the most daunting as well (just ask anyone who’s had to untangle a string of fairy lights). If you can offer practical, easy-to-accomplish decorating tips, you are bound to be a hit with your fans. Again, you don’t have to go too deep into the subject, just enough to keep it useful yet light-hearted.

If there is a way, you can help fans find what they are looking for, outside of just shopping you will instantly be seen as a brand that cares. And in turn, that perception actually leads to more sales.

Keep The Conversation Going

The holiday season is probably the noisiest time across social media. And asking brands to actually ‘talk more’ may seem counterintuitive. But if you have fans that care about your brand, they actually want to hear more from you around the holidays but only as long as it’s engaging and relevant.

One way to keep a healthy conversation going is to build a bank of rich posts. Maintain a good mix of visual and video based posts. Try to find interesting ways to merge your product line into the holiday theme (for example, you could try setting up a Christmas tree featuring your product line as the decorations).

Also, be adventurous. Around the holiday season, most brands tend to follow a similar festive colour palette and after a few days of browsing, many consumers develop a blind spot for such blanket messaging.

If you’re looking to escape this trap, don’t just stick to churning out content to fill your calendar for the holiday season. Experiment with channels such as SnapChat and even Periscope to add a sense of quirkiness to your messaging in this season.

 Also, make sure to schedule your posts in advance. Whether its blogs, Facebook or twitter posts, make sure you get a head start on writing them, right now. While your campaign calendar organizes the big picture of how your promotions and blog posts interact, create a separate social media content calendar to track your posts across all of your social media channels.

And as you form your calendar, don’t be afraid to repurpose social posts across your various channels. Use the time leading up to the holiday season to perfect the content and voice of your posts, as well as plan optimal timing. The more you do now, the more you can focus your social media efforts on responding to customers once the holiday season is in full swing.

Be sure to add reviews to product pages. This may not sound like a conversation channel, but around the holidays it certainly can become one. As a brand, consumers don’t always have to talk to you to get an informed opinion. Sometimes, they need to hear from other customers too. In fact, according to BazaarVoice, 71 percent of consumers change their perception of a brand after seeing how they respond to reviews.

And if your fans write you good reviews, you can leverage that as social currency across your other social media channels. Conversely, if you receive negative reviews, you can turn a successful resolution of the issue into a social media story.

Reviews also act as a great litmus test to let you know which products are doing well (and are likely to do well through the holiday season). It also lets you find the squeaky wheels in your inventory and adjust your shelf space accordingly in near real-time.

Consider Giving Back To The Community


The holiday season is a season of giving, even for retailers. Consider a charity or cause you can donate a percentage of your revenue to for a portion of the holiday season.

Since nearly 90% of consumers say they would switch to a charitable brand given similar price and quality, it is likely worth it for your business. Once you pick a cause, look for opportunities to add a social spin to your efforts and encourage your followers to share your posts with special promotions.

In conclusion, remember that it costs more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. And existing customers serve a dual purpose of buying your products and being brand advocates. But in order to achieve that, you have to make them feel valued and appreciate their efforts on an on-going basis.

This goodwill from loyal customers goes a long way in steering newer customers towards your brand during the already crowded holiday season.  Now that we’re getting closer to the holiday season kick off, look out for our next blog on making sure you’re on top of all your production and delivery deadlines.

#HolidaySales Tip #7: Don’t Reinvent The Wheel To Get More Sales


It’s an idea that strikes every retailer around the holidays – to invent something so unique that customers just have to flock to stores to buy it.

But like we saw in our previous blog on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, getting a share of people’s already fragmented attention isn’t always a linear path; especially around the holidays. What’s worse, in the time you take to get your ‘killer idea’ through, you tend to lose customers who simply get impatient during the holidays and just shop elsewhere in the meantime.

Here are some of the merits of working in seasonal batches over trying to develop one-of-a-kind products.

Novelty Fades Faster Than You Imagine

The era of mobile digital has fundamentally changed the way we shop.

Shopping used to be a straightforward experience – walk into a store, browse and buy. But as confirmed in Nielsen’s U.S. Digital Consumer Report, it’s a completely different story today.

Now before the salesperson starts their sales pitch, people are already turned to their phone for ‘expert’ opinions. From price comparisons, research on complementary items, referring to lists, reading online reviews and using online coupons, you are light years ahead in the decision curve the minute you step into the store.


Adding to this, a Google executive said, “More Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.” Overall, the company also acknowledged in Q4 2014, US mobile queries (tablets + smartphones) were roughly 29 percent of total search volumes across the entire industry.

What this means is people are constantly discovering novelties. It’s practically being thrown at them every minute! In such a constant rush of the ‘instantly new’, your new product idea faces two challenges:

It May Not Make The Cut
This may sound like a harsh pill to swallow but in the race to the holidays better this pill than impending losses after the season ends. Sure, your new product idea may be great on paper; it might even look cool and have some interesting utility. But all three factors (concept, design and utility) are completely subjective. While you may consider your idea a winner (and there’s no reason why you wouldn’t) but customers may be enamoured by something shinier, something more unique or simply something quirkier than your newest idea. 

Its Novelty May Not Last

This is a genuine problem faced by every product during the holiday season. Even established products that have shown promise during the year may not be hot sellers during the holiday season. But unlike your new idea, no additional time would have been lost in design and production, thus allowing the seller to shift focus to another product that is showing more demand.

New Is Good. Cheap Is Better.

The long-standing debate on this subject has led to polarising opinions. On the one hand, there are artisanal craftsmen and handmade goods creators who feel that a price tag alone is not enough to sway customers during the holiday season. On the other hand, sellers with larger inventories and robust distribution networks are convinced a strategic drop in prices during the holiday season is guaranteed to win them a better share-of-wallet.

While neither side of the debate is wrong, one does tend to be more accurate than the other – customers are looking for the best deals around the holidays and to a certain extent will compromise on the ‘latest’ deal for the most cost-efficient one. This hypothesis is also being tested out by some of the bigger retailers, including Amazon itself. The retail monolith is so convinced that price will be the deciding factor that it has taken a punt on the idea in perhaps the unlikeliest market of all – electronics.

Right now, Amazon is selling its cheapest tablet ever at just $49 and offering them as a six-pack! In fact, to offset how ludicrous this offer sounds, it’s even throwing in the sixth tablet, free.

Now while smaller sellers shouldn’t (and couldn’t) use this example as a benchmark, there is one thing to learn from this example – the willingness to experiment with pricing.

Have A Frank Chat With Your Vendors


Setting up your inventory for the holiday season is all about being able to have the right products at the right time. There are different ways to figure out which items from your inventory during the year will make an impact to your holiday sales (we’ve discussed this in detail in our first blog of this series).

But once you have sorted out which products you want to push, the next step is to talk to your vendors to understand the production cycle for each of those items. This includes having a discussion about:

Time For Production
During the year, getting your supplies restocked may be a bit more relaxed. That’s because you have time to move those items off your shelves and you’re not competing with too many other offers at the time. But during the holidays, every day matters. So, even if a certain item seems popular but takes a longer time to produce than an item, which is slightly less popular, opt for the faster item.

Variants In Design
In case the items you’ve chosen come in multiple variants, take a long hard look at each variant and evaluate if you need to produce each of them at the same quantity you would through the year. For instance, clothing should always be produced in all its colour ways since people prefer choice when it comes to things they wear. But if you are producing a phone cover, you don’t have to offer it in say 12 colours. Just pick the top 3 or 5 highest selling ones and focus your production cycle on those items.

Speciality Items
There will always be certain items on your list, which are complicated to produce, but are too popular to ignore. Discuss these items with your vendor and see how you can shift around schedules to fit more of these items into your next production run.

Multiple Commitments
You have to understand and accommodate for the fact that your production vendor (especially if they are based in China) will be dealing with multiple sellers’ schedules before the holiday season. Be frank and ask them to give you a realistic time estimate for your shipment, based on their other commitments.

If any of these factors run into a roadblock, be prepared with a Plan B or an alternate vendor who can take the load. Also, it’s prudent to keep one or two smaller vendors on standby to take over your production schedule just in case something goes wrong with your primary vendor.

Account For Extra Shipping Time


This feels a bit counterintuitive – why should shipping during the holidays take longer? Given the extra demand, shouldn’t it be as fast if not faster? In theory, this is correct. But the on-ground reality is vastly different. The pre-holiday season rush is perhaps the most telling on most major logistics and delivery companies with literally millions of shipments being generated and moved at approximately the same time of the year.

This makes it natural for certain shipments to be delayed, misdirected and in the worst-case scenario, misplaced by the cargo companies. While shipping may seem like it has little to do with the actual production, it still accounts for time. It therefore has to be added to the production equation and thus product decisions have to be varied accordingly.

What’s Next?

Now that you have a better understanding of managing your production runs for the holiday season, it’s time to get the word out to your followers on social. In our next blog, we’ll look at how to reach out to customers on social media.

In the meantime, just remember that picking the right products to manufacture is as important as selling them during the holiday season. And by optimising every minute of the manufacturing process, you give yourself more time to focus on selling and thus maximising your returns.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #22

Laser Cut Pop Up Text


It makes sense that with many promotional products and messaging items, the choice of typography plays a major role in whether your messaging gets through to people. One way to literally stand out from the crowd can be to create something that looks interesting and encourages a simple physical interaction, all within the text itself.

This eye-catching example of 3D text with a difference came from the forward-thinking fashionistas at Anthropologie. The event invitation would have looked appropriately refined and stylish printed onto white card, if only a more traditional approach had been taken. However, the simple transformation of laser cutting a portion of the font outline completely changes how the recipient reads the message. Each word can be folded out to stand proud from the surface, making perspective, light and shadow all contribute to a more memorable sensorial experience.

Could your corporate messaging take on a whole new impact using the Ponoko Personal Factory? Let us know in the comments below. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

Let’s Talk Ideas

Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

Free Design & Quote »

How To Help Your Client Launch a Kickstarter Campaign

Head off Crowdfunding questions with these useful tips and resources


Crowdfunding campaigns give entrepreneurs, artists and businesses a unique opportunity to test the viability of their ideas. Yet for many, the thought of running a Kickstarter campaign can be a daunting prospect.

So how can you help de-mystify the process, and give your client the tools and support they need to embrace all that Kickstarter has to offer? Let’s take a look at some of the contributing factors that enable campaigns to reach – and indeed exceed – their funding goals.

Choosing the right platform
The first question to ask is whether or not this method of raising funds is actually suitable for your business proposal. Each crowdfunding platform has its quirks and benefits, and in the example of Kickstarter, many submissions do not even pass the approval phase. It is well worth taking the time to identify which crowdfunding option best suits your business model and potential project outcome.

Don’t be dazzled by dollar signs – just because there are campaigns raising millions of dollars does not mean that every campaign will be an overwhelming success. For the majority of campaigns, a few thousand or even just a few hundred dollars over the target amount can be a big deal.

Be prepared to work hard
Although crowdfunding has been shown to be surprisingly lucrative for some, successful outcomes are not guaranteed. It takes more than just having a bright idea; you have to know your project very well and be prepared to put time into every stage of the funding process. Understand that for every hour you spend (and there will be many!) on preparing the campaign, there will be just as much time required to maintain and promote the project through to completion. Yet even then, your task doesn’t end when the countdown stops. Assuming you are sitting on a pile of money after a successful campaign, you will need to get moving on production and manage the distribution of rewards to your backers.

There is a misconception that a crowdfunded campaign is something that can be done on the side, in your downtime or on the weekends. This is simply not true… one thing that all successful campaigns have in common, regardless of funding levels or project outcomes, is that the campaign itself was a full-time commitment.

There is a strong social media component to the Kickstarter process, with communication and personal interaction playing a large role in backer satisfaction. It can help to remind yourself that Kickstarter is not an online store, even though some backers continue to treat it like one. Integral to successful campaigns is the way people love to feel like they are involved in making things happen. This is a different consumer experience than traditional online shopping, and with careful planning you can use that to your advantage. Choose a variety of rewards including smaller contributions that can help keep people interested in your progress, even if they aren’t in a position to commit larger amounts of money during the campaign. These potential future customers can become informal brand ambassadors through their own social media activity, expanding your reach before the campaign reaches its conclusion.

Be realistic
Not all campaigns are successful, and that is ok. The reasons why a campaign does not reach its funding goals can be quite varied, and are sometimes just as mysterious as to why other campaigns dramatically exceed expectations. When setting up a crowdfunding campaign, plan out how you will navigate through both failure and success, so that your business can continue to evolve beyond the campaign timeline.

Don’t be shy – a Kickstarter campaign is a lot to take on, and it is perfectly ok to seek out help. In fact, many services are popping up that enable a streamlining of each aspect of the campaign. Gathering and processing information beforehand will help to protect you from nasty surprises and also empower you to fully exploit successes and opportunities should they come your way. Here are a few to start you off:

The Ultimate Guide to Crowdfunding
Presented by Shopify, the ecommerce solution of choice for many successful campaigns. This thorough walkthrough over 23 chapters covers all the key considerations to be aware of before taking on your own Kickstarter campaign.

How To Make a Successful Kickstarter Campaign
Using the Pebble Watch as a case study, this detailed investigation looks at how a 24 year old guy’s project with a goal of $100,000 became a $10 million record-breaker.

Tools for Kickstarter: Planning Calculator
A handy tool from Reuben Pressman, you can generate a quick overview of whether your numbers will all stack up. The calculator also includes a valuable Incentives component that will help to resolve the allocation of backer rewards.

Social Media services: Backercamp
Communication and Marketing for your campaign will get a huge boost if you call in the experts to lend a hand.

Manage your Mail: Green Inbox
With so much content flooding your clients’ email and social media, direct personalised messaging gets through to people and saves you time.

Look your best on camera: Elevant Productions
The influence a refined video clip has on campaign success rates is huge. Get it right first time for maximum impact on the small screen.

Case Studies: Success Stories
Also from Shopify, this breakdown of eleven campaigns highlights what they did right and what they did wrong, providing many valuable insights.

Analysis and Infographics
In-depth analysis of campaign metrics, trends and a very handy infographic that helps to navigate The Untold Story behind Kickstarter Stats.

The task of setting realistic goals, achievable rewards and establishing effective communication with backers is often more complex than people first anticipate. By investing a little time in making the most of these resources, the entire campaign experience becomes a whole lot more manageable. Don’t underestimate the impact that thorough preparation can have. By approaching your campaign with the knowledge that you are prepared for any surprises that may pop up – whether they are positive or negative – you will be ready to rise to the challenge.

Are you using the Ponoko Personal Factory to produce rewards for a campaign? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll discuss the best way to help you reach your funding goals.

Moodlight, The Worlds Emotions On Your Desk


Another Ponoko customer has exceeded funding on kickstarter in record time! Conner, the maker of the Moodlight, had originally pledged to raise $935. Within 17 hours he had over achieved funding by 139%! The current total is at a whopping $3,323 with 14 days left to go! Where it will end? It appears the sky’s the limit.

The Moodlight changes colour depending on the aggregate emotions found online. A daily sample of 2,600,000 tweets are used to help determine what the mood is.


This is a great idea and would make a great tool for people who work in the world of Digital Media or Marketing, having a constant update of the emotion without having to stay connected to the twittersphere at all times.

134b7be9bf15182c00c7f55e123b5715_original 2

The beautiful Moodlight is constructed using 5.2mm Birch Veneer Core and 3mm Opal Acrylic from our US catalogue.


Head over to Kickstarter and take a look for yourself, and why not drop in a pledge while you’re there.

If you’ve got a gem of an idea and you’re looking for advice on how to make it a reality, check out the rest of the Ponoko site and feel free to ask us any questions.

#HolidaySales Tip #6: Breeze Through Black Friday & Cyber Monday


At first glance, the term ‘Black Friday’ has a slightly menacing ring to it, possibly the title to the latest horror zombie film. On the other hand, ‘Cyber Monday’ sounds like another name for Judgement Day from the Terminator series – a day when the machines finally take over the world. Thankfully, the truth is a lot less ominous but not entirely scare-free, if you’re a seller.

That’s because Black Friday signifies the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Held a day after the Thanksgiving holiday, this tradition dates back all the way to 1925 when Macy’s held its first Thanksgiving Day Parade. As for the name, that actually has a reason to make you smile – Black Friday is so named because business was said to be so brisk on this day that it actually pushed many retailers back into profit or into ‘the black’ as they say in business terms.

The term ‘Cyber Monday’ is a relatively new phrase, making its debut on November 28, 2005, in a press release entitled ‘Cyber Monday’. Since then though, it has come to signify a push by retailers and marketing companies alike to persuade people to shop online. And from one look at numbers, they clearly didn’t have to push very hard. In 2014, Cyber Monday online sales grew to a record $2.68 billion, compared with the previous year’s figures of $2.29 billion.

Right, now that we have the history out of the way…let’s move to the present. As we mentioned earlier, both Black Friday and Cyber Monday do bring with them a certain sense of apprehension for sellers because come these two days, people don’t just flock to buy stuff, they practically rampage to get ahead. And businesses need to do everything they can to batten down the hatches and prepare for this wave of customers.

Don’t wait to start planning

Just because the sale isn’t for a few weeks, doesn’t mean you can put planning off until later. If you hope to make the most of these two days, here are a few tips to bear in mind:

Customers start researching earlier than you might expect

The holiday season can be as stressful for a customer as it is for a seller. And when you add FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to the mix, you’re left with an anxious customer who starts scouring the web and stores to fill up his gifting list as early as he possibly can. In fact, according to research from NFR last year, every year , 40% of customers begin researching and doing their holiday shopping as early as October.


That’s why you need to prepare your holiday sales at least a month or two in advance. And as soon as you do, you should begin letting customers know so that those eager to get a head start on their shopping can begin making a beeline to your business. In fact, don’t be afraid to throw in a few gift ideas of your own. Ideas like these help push the procrastinators into shopping early.

Know exactly what your sale will look like

A holiday sale is not a piñata where you just throw in a bunch of items and let customers grab whatever they can when you open up the sale. You have to carefully consider which products to include based not just on their performance through the year but also based on which items might tend to be more popular around the holidays. One way to do this is by creating a ‘sales map’, which outlines your sale items, lists inventory for each of them and includes approximate shipping costs and delivery estimates.

Learn to create a contingency plan

Now, we don’t want you to imagine the worst, but planning for a few unexpected situations won’t hurt. For instance, what if your website goes down? Do you have social media messages in place to curb frustration and offer an alternate shopping route? What if your shipping company can’t deliver? Do you have an alternate company on standby? Is the email explaining the situation drafted and ready? Without plans like these, valuable hours are lost just reacting to the situation rather than responding to it. Always remember to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Be realistic in your ability to handle demand

There’s an iconic scene in the movie ‘Jingle All The Way’ where Schwarzenegger strolls over to the action figure stack and confidently picks up one, only to be blitzed by scores of other dads all scrambling to get their hands on one. While it was funny to see the brawny actor be tackled to the ground, being railroaded by customer demand during the holiday season isn’t as much of a laughing matter. To avoid it, here are a few simple precautions you need to take:

Test to ensure your website can handle a surge in traffic.

It happens to the best among us – too many simultaneous website request rush in at one time and boom! Your website comes crashing down. While this does take a LOT of traffic to happen, it doesn’t mean it won’t. Just to be sure, you should use tools such as or to ensure your site is robust enough to handle any spikes in traffic.

Test your brick and mortar store for demand surges too

If you or your team create your product yourselves, then you need to plan a new production schedule to cope with the demand on these two days. This may mean putting non-sale items on a temporary production freeze as a means to free up some time to put together the other items that are going on sale. Alternatively, you may need to ramp up production hours or start working on added production runs right away to keep stock in check.

If you rely on a supplier, you need to have a frank chat with them to ensure they are able to cope with your increased supply requirements. Also, you need to double check on the delivery schedules to ensure there are no bottlenecks, which leave you with shelf stock but limited, inventory.

Don’t be afraid to get creative
Remember, on these two days there are literally thousands of brands competing for the attention of customers. If your brand hopes to stand out from this noise and make an impact, you have to leverage your creative skills. Here are some basic tips:

Build banners and hero images specifically for holiday sales


It’s a proven fact that people respond better to images. And during the holiday season, showing someone the perfect gifting idea is potentially the best way to lead to a sale. To achieve this, a well-designed and well-placed banner can often help do the trick. Try to use you product as much as possible and keep the copy crisp and to the point.

Another key area to focus on is the header image on your homepage. Given that it is the first thing customers see when they come to your site, it is a great place to grab those first few seconds of attention and guide them to your best-selling products.

And even if you aren’t able to design these banners or site headers yourself, there are plenty of free templates and resources available to help you. Or if you are really pressed for time, consider hiring a freelance designer to put together something creative.

Stay prepared by planning your ads ahead of time

Creativity is not a faucet that you can turn on minutes before you need it. Especially when you need to churn out something really unique and eye-catching for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s why it’s better to plan your banner and search ads ahead of time so that closer to the day, you can spend more time focusing on timing and placement.

It’s also important to remember that bids can get more expensive during the competitive holiday season depending on your niche. This means you may need to increase your bid price on certain keywords to increase visibility of your ads during this time. Now is also the best time to plan your holiday sale ad budgets as well.

Add suspense to your sale and try to build buzz

There’s little fun in just announcing your Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale. This simply lets people know that you are running a sale. But you haven’t given them a compelling reason to come.

Instead, what you can focus on is building anticipation. Start by sending out teaser emails, which offer snippet previews of what will be on sale. Use your social channels to post sneak peeks of your warehouse to show how much your overall stock is or how limited your stocks are for certain products (to drive home the ‘limited editions’ feel). By doing this, you retain top-of-mind recall for your brand and give customers something specific to look forward to at your sale.

Get down to the brass tacks of your website

Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now heavily driven by online traffic. This means your website is often the first place customers land. Given the high dependence on this medium, you need to optimize every pixel and squeeze the most value from every corner of your site, not just the shopping cart. Here’s how:

Design an easy-to-use website.

This may seem like stating the obvious. But if you’ve ever encountered a website that’s badly designed or difficult to use, there’s another Hollywood blockbuster which sums up your frustration at that point – Fast and Furious.

To get your website past this obvious stumbling block, here’s a list of the things you need to check for in your usability rundown:

How simple is the navigation? At this stage, you need to look at the design of individual navigational features such as menus, search boxes and sidebar widgets.

Is your site easy to read and understand? This includes every bit of text on your site from the product descriptions to the image text. You need to ensure you’ve used web-friendly fonts and that all necessary text is easy to zoom into. In terms of content, you must make sure all language is simple and the descriptions kept concise because a large percentage of your users will be reading the copy off a mobile device.

Are your design elements consistent? You need to check that all headers, subheads and body text are consistently designed in terms of colours and fonts. Each of these elements should also be placed in the right areas in order to maintain a consistent visual language. Also, they need to be the right size across the various pages of your site and adapt accordingly for different screens.

Is your website speed sufficient? This refers to the average time taken for a page to load on your website. If you have demo videos on your site, you need to check the load times for these too.

Is there a clear access to support? In the event that a visitor has a question, you need to ensure that he or she can easily contact your business for help. This is especially important during the holiday sale season when people have technical or aesthetic questions about your product simply because they are giving them as gifts.

Is your website user friendly? The simple act of being user friendly can have a significant impact on visitor retention. It also has a positive impact on conversion rates and even affects the overall size of checkout.

Keep optimizing your efforts

There is no magic bullet guaranteeing better sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The road to success lies in your ability to simultaneously run multiple aspects of your promotional machine and optimise at every stage. Here are some of the things you need to consider for this process:

Focus on creating abandoned cart emails

Shopping cart abandonment is very real and a very serious problem. Especially during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s because given the number of sites a consumers switch between during these two days, their attention span is severely limited and fickle. In fact, according to a report by Barilliance, the average cart abandonment rate during these two sale days was as high as 65% in 2014.

An easy way to short circuit this process is by setting up compelling abandoned cart emails. These emails are targeted based on the product (as much as possible) and offer clear, distinct reasons for them to come back and complete their purchase.

Keep testing your site and getting fresh feedback

Imagine being able to sit behind a potential customer as they navigate your site. Just think of all the wonderful insights you could glean from that process. But since it’s not possible to track down and physically monitor interaction with your site, the next best thing is to use a tool to do the job. One that we recommend is UserTesting. This tool lets you watch a random user go through your website and listen to their feedback. You can also get a video of the process in action. If you can repeat this process a few times, you may spot a few recurring kinks in your site and address them immediately before the sale days.

Get smarter results by using tracking pixels

If you use paid advertising such as Facebook Ads or Google Adwords, you should place retargeting pixels on your website so you can re-market to your holiday sale traffic. This may seem like digital stalking but on a day when every brand is out to get the most share of mind space and share of wallet, tracking pixels help you outsmart the competition.

Build with a ‘mobile first’ strategy in mind

IMG_3894 2

Consumers continuously shift between smartphones, desktops and tablets throughout the day. This means they expect their digital storefront and shopping cart to sync across all these devices. Proving this point, a 2014 IBM report claimed that mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic on Thanksgiving for the first time. Plus, according to Custora, Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend in 2014 saw over 26% of orders come through a mobile device. This means if your website isn’t fully set up for a seamless web experience, yow won’t just miss traffic, but revenue.

To minimize the chances of this happening, you need to begin by examining what your website’s UX looks like on a mobile device. You need to begin by ensuring your site is mobile optimised. Because as per a 2015 update by Google, websites that are not mobile optimised will actually be ranked lower by the search giant. Meaning that long before users decide your site is hard to navigate, they move on to your competition because they haven’t even found your site.

You also need to see if your mobile shopping experience is intuitive and leads customers to not just the right products, but also unobtrusively nudges them toward the products you want to push. Finally, you need to check the shopping cart experience to make sure the process is seamless and doesn’t have any glitches, which may lead to cart abandonment.

Mobile ecommerce revenue stood at $42.13 billion in 2014, and forecasts indicate that number could grow to $132.69 billion by 2018. By optimizing your site for mobile, you make it easier for customer to transition their shopping experience across devices and thus increase your chances of closing a sale.

Make social media matter in every way necessary

We now live in a world where consumers are more connected with the brands and the things they purchase, than ever before. The nerve centre of this interconnectedness is social media. But while connectivity is always a good boost for sales, sellers now have to be doubly careful to set the right level of customer expectation (especially on big days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and maintain full transparency during the process. Here’s some the key stepping-stones sellers need to tread to nail their social media efforts.

Build a spreadsheet to see the broader picture

Social media is not a one-trick pony. But just because there are multiple channels to choose from, it shouldn’t become a carousel either. To ensure you have the right marketing mix, make a spreadsheet of all the social channels you are present on and the ones you think you need to establish your presence on. Next, put down the number of hours you spend per channel on your active social accounts. Then put down an estimate of how much time you intend to spend on the new channels. This allows you to have a realistic overview of the time needed to maintain a successful social presence across channels. If the number looks too unrealistic given your other time commitments, then (take a deep breath) and consider dropping a few channels from your mix.

Have a mission for each social channel

Your brand needs are bound to change with every social channel. So, it’s a good idea to evaluate your messaging priority and brand objective for all your social media profiles individually. For example: your Instagram profile may be for sharing in-store customer interaction. Pinterest may be your online sale catalogue. And Facebook may be a mix of the two.

Last but not least, do a brand check

During a sale, a customer is looking at dozens of brands. To make sure your brand is not lost in the crowd or worse, giving out mixed messages across different social platforms, you need to ensure all your accounts speak the same language. This includes profile photos, cover photos, icons, bios and product descriptions.

In our next blog of the series, we’ll look at working in seasonal batches and getting your easy-to-ship products out the door faster. But for now, when it comes to planning for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, remember to plan ahead, stay consistent and adapt quickly. Do you have any tips for these big sale days?  Let us know in the comments below.

#HolidaySales Tip #5: Give Your Product Line Some Holiday Swag


Charm is a great tool for any retailer. In our last blog, we saw how it can be an effective tool to impress bloggers. But, where you really want to turn on the charm is with your customers during the holiday season. Bur rather than you doing all the talking, why not let your products speak for themselves? In today’s blog, we’ll see how you can use photography and product packaging to really entice your customers into making your line up their first choice for gifting during the holiday season.

Lights. Camera. Action.

When you look at the websites of major online retailers during the holiday season, the first thing to grab your eye is the clean look they achieve with every product shoot and the attention to detail on each product, no matter how small or cheap. With the huge access to tech we all have today, getting super-professional results doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Here are some simple tips you can follow to make your product line pop off the webpage on your site:

Gear up, but not too much


You need to choose your gear based on what you plan to shoot. Don’t go overboard with lenses and camera bodies. Remember this is still just a product shoot. Not National Geographic! A good place to start is with a mid zoom as then allow you to set up in one spot and then just zoom in. We also recommend getting a tripod because handheld can get tiring and tiring equals blurry after a while. When it comes to lenses, try go for one around f/35 or less. This will help blur out your background and compensate if your lighting isn’t great.  

Skip the background, stick to white

We’ve all seen these awesome product shots on Instagram where the product is made to fit into a pristine natural surrounding – maybe a tree, on a wooden table, up against a red brick wall. These shots are the exception and not the rule for two reasons:


  1. On Instagram, these pictures are a one-off and hence are easy to look at. But on your site, if every product sits against a different background, it will be a big visual distraction.
  2. It’s easy to find an appropriate background if you only have one or two products. But if you have multiple lines, you’ll quikcly run out of ‘natural’ surroundings to place them in. The result will be multiple products shot in awkward looking locations like this!

Try using a long white sheet of paper to create an ‘infinity backdrop’ look or use white pieces of cardboard to create a mini light box. Alternatively, you can also use black to offset any bright colored items. For the holidays, you can accentuate your product shoot with a few holiday themed items but make sure they don’t distract from the product itself.

Use bright lights, but in moderation

There’s a fine line between “Damn, I can’t even see it” and “well, what is it anyway?” Using too much light leads to a washed out effect on your product while too little light obscures the uniqueness (or even the shape) of your product.  When you light your product, aim for moderation. Choose a mix of ambient and synthetic lights. Try to ensure your product doesn’t develop any shadows (you can use a flash to fix this problem) and doesn’t look bigger or smaller than it actually is.  

First frame, then aim


Just because you’ve got a fancy digital camera, doesn’t mean you should take dozen of shots of each product and just slap every high-res one on your website. Instead take a minute to compose the shot before you click. Try to keep it simple, stay on the same angle and zoom in as much as possible. Also, avoid shooting from any angle which might distort the product or make it hard for the viewer to understand what they’re looking at.

Aim for the product, blur the background

When you shoot against a background (even just a plain white one), you want it to be out of focus just enough for your product to shine through. To achieve this effect, place your product just a bit in front of the background and set your camera to the widest aperture to absorb as much light as possible. This way, especially against a white background, your product gets a halo effect from the background and really shines out.

Start on the camera, end on the computer

Shooting the right images is only half the process when you’re trying to nail a good product shoot. Once you transfer your images to the computer, you get a sense for some of the finer things you may have missed or just not been able to capture – a bit of dust on the product, a small shadow in the corner, a flash spot. Luckily, with the help of technology, you no longer have to reshoot to correct these tiny imperfections. Using the right software, you can fix and even enhance each image and have it looking perfect for your catalogue.

The Sale Lies in the Detail

Photos alone are no guarantee of a sale. Without the right mix of shots, you could end up telling only half the product story. Also remember, when customers buy online, the product shots are filling in for their ability to pick up and examine your product carefully to their satisfaction. But this doesn’t mean overloading your website with images either, at the risk of ruining the mobile browsing experience. With that in mind, here are a few tips on getting the finer details right, after you’ve taken the right shots:   

Sell it from every angle

Photographs don’t just act as stand-ins for the real product. They carry with them vital visual information, which customers need to evaluate before they can make a decision. This includes decisions about color, size, weight, fit and even just general aesthetics. At a minimum, you should offer at least two views of the product (a front and side view). But research shows, the ideal number for e-commerce product images is around four views or five views. Any more and you risk annoying your customers.

Replicate the in-hand experience

There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes from being able to inspect a product from all angles in your hand. But replicating this would involve dozens of photos per product. What you can do instead is offer a 360-degree view of your product using multiple shots merged into one seamless gif image. This allows customers to thoroughly investigate your product and make a purchase decision only when they are fully satisfied.

Every colour and style needs highlighting


If you make a product in 16 colours and 10 textures, don’t imagine people will be able to visualize what your product will look like in every variant. Instead, take the time to photograph each variant and present it visually. Chances are once a customer sees your product in one specific variant; it might be all they need to convince them to buy your product.

Let customers pour over details

Some products always require a closer inspection for varying reasons. For instance, clothing needs finer inspection to examine texture and color. Handcrafted products need to be examined to inspect the finish. Even items that have been produced with a mould or through 3-D printing need to be examined for consistency. By taking high resolution pictures of your products, you allow customers to zoom in and get a clear idea of what they are about to buy and assure themselves your products are of the highest quality and free from defects.

If you tell it, let the pictures sell it

This is a simple rule of thumb. If you mention it in a tag line or in the product description, back up that information in at least on of the product pictures. For instance, if you describe how many pockets a bag has, show the pockets – from as many angles as necessary. This allows the customer to get a good sense of what your product could look like in a variety of situations and helps them imagine it as a part of their daily lifestyle.

Don’t Forget the Brand while Chasing Sales

While it is imperative to push for sales as much as you can during the holiday season, you must remember this quote “People don’t buy products. They buy brands”. If your sales rocket but it leaves your brand coming across as a pushy one, or worse still an ordinary off-the-shelf one, you may win the battle. But you’ll lose the war. To keep this from happening to your brand, here are some simple tips:  

Make consistency a priority

This may sound like an antithesis – how can you stand out and still stay consistent? Well, you can do it by aiming to stand apart from your competition but maintaining an internal standard of excellence and consistency. These include factors such as magnification, lighting, background and number of images per product. You might need to vary the number of images per product in case you have products of vastly varying sizes or types. But by and large try to stick with a set number.

Take the time to create style sheets

While your product images need to pop, they also have to be consistent across your online catalog. This is where a bit of creative direction comes in. To ensure your images have a consistent tone and manner, you need to create a style sheet. This sheet needs to include details such as your preferred background for different types of products and the minimum and maximum lighting requirements. Also, if you have a preference or need a product shot from a particular angle every single time, make a note of this as well. The idea behind style sheets is that it frees you to outsource product imaging, without worrying about wild variations in the results.

Start building a brand image

Your product catalogue is not just a series of photographs. It is a collage that ultimately represents your personal brand. While it won’t happen overnight, you need to aim for a level of color, image and lighting consistency that can be replicated for every product you shoot. That way, when people browse the web looking for products you offer, your brand will be able to stand out from the competition and become a visual mnemonic that is recognized and accepted as one to trust.

Moving from Visual to Tactile


Once you have your product photography worked out, the next thing to imagine is the delivery of the product itself. And one of the key aspects of delivery is the packaging. If you’ve walked down the aisles of your local grocery store recently, you’ll see packaging as an industry keeps growing exponentially. And if someone cares enough about biscuits to invest in over 30 unique designs for packaging, surely you must see the importance of focusing your energy on getting packaging right for your product. Having said that, let’s dive a little deeper into the subject, shall we?

Start with What You Don’t Know

It’s easy to make assumptions about packaging based on one’s personal tastes. But while stark minimalism may appeal to you, perhaps your customers expect a little more energy and colour in their packaging, especially around the holiday season. Here are a few ways to keep assumptions at bay and prevent making a potentially expensive mistake this holiday season:

Research your customers

A good place to start is by observing your customers. Notice how long they spend with each item. Look for which items they are visually drawn to. Notice if they circle back around to certain items. Based on these factors, you’ll be able to make your first educated guesses on what kind of packaging will appeal to the customer. Also be sure to ask yourself if a certain product package is meant to bring new business or promote loyalty to your store.

Accept feedback from potential consumers

You may not have the budget (or the need, really) to set up a physical focus group just to test out your packaging designs. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek multiple opinions outside the limited set of people who have visited your store or purchased from you online. To do this, you can use services such as Survey Money to get quick results to key questions. Of course, what is a good ‘key question’? While there is no universal answer on this, there are a few things you should steer clear of. For starters, be careful not to lead the questioning towards an answer you would like to hear. Also, try to avoid friends and family from your survey. Their answers may be helpful, but they might also be too polite to tell you the truth.  Your mission is to get objective feedback which you can put into action when designing your packaging.

Don’t forget to scope out the competition

This may seem like a no-brainer (few things ever are when selling) but it pays to research your competition and even the overall category you’re selling into. Look for what has worked (and not worked) in the category over the last few years during the holiday season. What was their primary focus – Design? Portability? Durability? Now reexamine your choices and see which areas you need to improve on. Think about how your product will be displayed. Think of whether your packaging will help the product survive a fall or mishandling. And most importantly, during the holiday season how easy is your product to ship with the new packaging.

Build a Story, Not Just a Box


Good packaging is more than just an outer layer to peel through to get to your product. If done well, it can tell its own story, enhance the story around the product and if you are really creative, good packaging can even turn into its own product.

Take the consumer on a journey

If you consider your product your hero, then the marketing behind it is the story of that hero. And the book which carries this story to your customers is the packaging. To make sure this story is compelling, you need to study your competition’s stories told through their packaging so that you don’t repeat a story the customer has heard before or too often (think of the how words like “handmade”, “fine craftsmanship”, “unique” have become packaging cliches). Your packaging needs to tell a strong story that is both creative yet concise.  

Build a 2-second shelf story

This may sound harsh but customers really don’t spend as much time as you imagine looking at your product. In fact, it’s usually just a pithy two seconds before their attention shifts focus on to something else. And with the flurry of items screaming for their attention during the holiday season, this attention deficit only gets worse. Which means you need to pick a few key images and words to convey your product’s unique selling points. Your focus is to get the customer to pick up your product so that you have a few more minutes to convince them with a fuller story.   

Keep the name simple

This can be a particularly touchy subject. Naming a product is often a polarizing choice. You may be set on a name that resonates with you but may be hard to pronounce. Our advice? Ditch it. When naming your product, we suggest sticking to these simple rules a) Make sure it’s easy to pronounce. b) Make sure it fits easily on the packaging without cluttering up the design. c) Make it (as much as you can) memorable. If you choose to rename a few of your products around the holiday season, don’t get too clever with it.

Getting Down to the Brass Tacks

After all the research and planning, there’s still one last step involved – building the actual packaging itself. While this may seem like a straightforward job, it can prove to be the most complex part of it all. So to simplify the process, here’s some key considerations to bear in mind:

Learn to think in colour

Colour can be a powerful tool, which can vastly influence both perception and buying choices. When choosing colours around the holiday season, don’t just stick with the traditional red and green palette. Use colours complimentary to the season such as blue or white. And don’t be afraid to use your brand colours in conjunction with the holiday theme.

Build a focal point in the packaging

Your packaging has to stand out not just on your shop shelf, but on shared shelves (if you have a kiosk at other retail stores) and especially online. When a customer browses for a product during the holiday season, both online and offline, he is met with a rainbow of colour and shapes. You need to create a distinct focal point, which is instantly recognizable and unmistakeable for any other similar product.

Go for a handmade look

The holiday season brings with it a flood of packaged goods that are so similar in look and feel; you might imagine they all came off the same assembly line in some mega-factory. To get past this ubiquity, try to incorporate a handmade look into your packaging. Even if you can’t actually create something handmade, if you offer a handmade look, it can often provide enough visual relief to draw a customer’s attention and get them to pick it up.  

Get creative with materials and shapes

Remember, at the end of the day, packaging is meant to be tactile. Which means you need to focus on the in-hand experience as much as possible. Think of whether your product needs to have packaging that fits to its shape or perhaps it could live inside another shaped pack. Does your packaging have texture? Is it easy to pick up?

Build in functionality if possible

Customers like packaging that’s functional because of its added value, says Marianne Rosner Klimchuk, professor and associate chairwoman of the packaging design department at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Rather than create more waste, is there a way your packaging can be up-cycled once the product is removed?

Skip assumptions. Hire a designer.

With all this information at the ready, you might be tempted to assume you could just start designing your product packaging itself. And who knows, if you have access to a 3D printer, even make it yourself. But don’t. Good designers bring more to the process than just information. They come with the unique ability to blend their knowledge of colour, fonts and imaging into one cohesive design. They come with the experience of past projects and know what will and won’t work. But most of all, they have a specific sense of creativity which when allowed to flourish can take your product to the next level in both aesthetics and desirability.

In our next blog, we’ll look at how to push your well-designed product through the marketing maze of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For now, remember that building a product is only part of the process. How your product looks and how its packaging feels helps people decide if your product is worth buying. So remember to give both these tasks the attention they deserve.