A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Barack and Beyoncé

Snap7Over on the Huffington Post a few weeks ago Patrick Ruffini declared 2012 the Groupon Election.  Patrick’s basic premise is that due to campaigns’ increasingly sophisticated use of analytics, email asks and online promotions have come to resemble those run by companies such as Groupon.   The long winded campaign updates of 2008 have been replaced by  the “flash sales at the campaign store, sweepstakes, and urgent deadlines”  of 2012.  I think Patrick is dead on, and would encourage you to read his full piece

The slew of sweepstakes being run by the Obama campaign are the most obvious example of the trend Patrick identifies.  The concept is pretty simple.  Supporters are asked either to give for the chance to win a meeting with Obama and/or a celebrity supporter.  A deadline is set.  Emails are sent out.  A winner is announced.  Money is counted.

This tactic is obviously working, as the Obama campaign keeps going back to this particular well.  So far sweepstakes have been run with Bill Clinton,  George Clooney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Beyoncé Knowles and Jay-Z.  In addition to the celebrity-oriented stuff, the campaign has also run periodic chances to win a dinner with President Obama himself.  The Romney campaign is using the exact same tactic. Just today they launched an “On Board with Mitt” sweepstakes where supporters can enter to win a flight on the campaign plane. 

I’ve catalogued the various sweepstakes I’m aware of at the end of this email.  I’m positive I’ve missed some.

I have mixed feelings about the “Groupon Election” and these various sweepstakes.

As someone who works in the online communication field, I find what the campaigns are doing in 2012 exciting and smart. These promotions work, and I would be stupid not to incorporate some “Groupon Election” tactics into my own work.

As a citizen that is increasingly frustrated by politics and politicians, I find the development a bit depressing.  The appeals I’m getting in my inbox from all sides feel increasingly superficial and small. 

I think all the 2012 political campaigns could learn a bit from charity: water, whose September Campaign manages to use the same basic tactics while not neglecting a key ingredient: inspiration.


Five Great Donation Page Designs

If you ask most non-profits, charities and political campaigns what the number one priority for their online program is, the majority of them will tell you it is to raise money online.  Yet at the same time, most of these same organizations will admit to spending very little time thinking through the layout and design of their online donation pages.  Despite being one of the most important pages on any website, the design of the donation page is usually treated as an afterthought.

There are many reasons for this.  Many groups use pre-built forms provided by third-party donations platforms, so opportunities for customization are limited.  Organizations that do have the resources to develop custom designs often exhaust their energy on sexier design challenges such as the homepage.  The donation form is treated as something that can be sort of thrown in at the end as opposed to something that needs to be planned and designed.

As a result you see lots of huge organizations with boring, utilitarian donation pages like this and this and this.

I think this is an opportunity missed.

A compelling, easy-to-use donation page can dramatically increase your conversion rate, and this can have a big impact on your bottom line.    Just do the match.

Say you are raising $10,000 a month online, with 20% of the people who visit your donation page making a donation.  If you can up your conversion rate to 30% and the average donation stays the same, you’ll raise $15,000 a month instead of $10,000.  It can add up.

In an effort to provide some inspiration, following are five well designed donation pages that I would guess enjoy very good conversion rates.


How to Track Email Marketing Campaigns in Google Analytics

Having used Google Analytics since 2005, I can make a few definitive statements about the program:

  • It is an awesome, powerful tool.  There is a reason 50% of all sites use it.
  • It has a baffling user interface.   Some of its best features are hidden and hard to use.

One of the most useful tools in Analytics is the Campaign feature, which allows you to measure how much traffic is being driven by your email and social marketing efforts. 

While this seems like a really basic thing, in my experience most casual Analytics users aren’t aware of the feature, and don’t use it as a result.  Following is a quick explanation showing how to set up a campaign in Google Analytics manually, using a bulk email as an example.


10 Great Hotel Websites

At the Brick Factory, we respect good-looking websites of many kinds. It’s interesting to see how the purpose of the website changes the design of the site. Newspaper and magazine sites are very text-heavy. The college sites we mentioned on our blog a couple of months ago do a great job of displaying the identity of the school, showcasing the research their school has done, and incorporating other elements of school spirit that would be compelling for prospective students. Hotel sites seek to represent the sort of experience a person would have when staying there. These days, hotels rely more on their web presence than a travel agent’s recommendation to attract guests to their hotel. A website can make or break a booking for a hotel.

After reviewing the list of best hotels according to US News and World Report as well as Travel and Leisure, we identified ten of our favorites. These sites were simple enough to navigate but involved enough to grab one’s attention. They also did a great job of using photography to create an appealing advertisement of their accommodations.


Shutters on the Beach


Sukho Thai




Four Seasons


Les Crayeres


St. Regis




The Little Nell


Sea Island


The Plaza


Trump Hotel

Logo Design Versus What’s In Our Budget

Last week stocklogos.com posted a listing of popular logos and revealed the cost of each. As I’m sure was the plan, the post successfully elicited the expected sentiments of disbelief. Or mine

That 2012 Olympics thing ran someone 625 grand. That seems perhaps excessive. New Zealand Banking Group at 15 mil? Pinch me I guess.

I have to admit the numbers really mean very little to me. Companies spend what they can. No one was hoodwinked here. Part of what designing a logo entails is justifying the cost. Several of these designers are the best in the business at this lost art form. The document that accompanied Pepsi’s latest logo ($1,000,000) was a laborious, bewildering masterpiece. Ten percent of the justification made sense (it’s a smiling face, basically), the remainder can be described as brilliantly rendered hogwash. I would have bought off on it as well. It’s a very smart logo. Another wildly successful logo is Nike’s mark. The company was brand new, so the logo was designed for 35 bucks in 1975. As a side note, my parents bought my first suit in 1975. It also cost $35 (and weighed 35 pounds).

Even though the costs here are relative, mostly (BP, what the hell?), I thought we could go through the designs and score them for success versus price tag.



Cost: $1,000,000
This is a big winner for me. I love the design, appreciate the insanity, yet curiously have Coke in my refrigerator. I’m sort of old though and fear change. And loud noises.



Cost: $15,000,000
15 million for a bank? If New Zealand’s banks are as angelic as ours, then I assume there were sufficient funds for this weird, healthcare-looking symbol. I’m not a fan of this effort. Congrats to the designers though on getting what I assume was a giant, novelty-sized cardboard check accompanied by balloons and New Zealand’s version of Ed McMahon.


Cost: $100,000,000
I like this logo and would have paid dearly for it. Dearly for me would have been 2 grand though. Landor Associates did the work in 2000, I just now read, and they seem like a pretty substantial group. The price is pretty outrageous though and sometimes the logo looks like a programmer left some html markup in the text.



Cost: $1,800,000
I’m guilty pretty sure I’ve borrowed this idea on more than one occasion, so it would be unfair to bad mouth this logo. It’s one of the most recognizable logos in the world, but to be honest, it’s just a redesign of the old italics logo. Still, well worth the money.



Cost: $211,000,000
This is a very complex and probably brilliant idea, perfectly rendered. It was purchased by a company that does not have a budget. Still, it just makes you shake your head and want to ride a bike to work. Except me, because I live far from work and am older, as I mentioned in the earlier Pepsi briefing up there.


Cost: $33,000
Paul Rand was a graphic design genius and is partly responsible for a lot of what you watched while your parents went out and left you with the “remote control baby-sitter”. Most of his work is absolutely inspired and this Enron logo is in that category. For 33 grand, this was a steal.


Cost: $95,000
Yeah, me neither. I had to look up what these games are. Then I got bored too, but I did see the branding statement and it’s a doozey. Sample:
The next ring of the brand identity, in an orange-gold – ‘Triumph Yellow’ from the CGF palette – that echoes the ore of the medals, represents the number of sports. It’s just over three quarters of the full circle.

Do yourself a favor and read the full screed. It’s adorable.



Cost: $0
I’m sure there’s an interesting as hell back story here…hold on…no. No there isn’t according to my second monitor. One of the founders threw it together. So, considering Google is profitable, as far as I know, this was a great buy.


Cost: $0
Another freebie. Frank Mason Robinson, a bookkeeper designed it and named it in the olden days, before branding statements were a thing.


Cost: $625,000
Bad logo. I don’t take joy in disparaging design work, but this one is a straight-up punch in the face. Ordinarily I would admit that I’ve designed worse at this point in the sentence, but no. That’s not happening today. Nothing about this garish pink fiasco makes sense.


Cost: $625,000
Landor Associates again, but this one works so well. I love this logo and in this version, the palette in particular. How Melbourne got this price tag through their Town Hall Meeting or whatever they do down there is a wonder though.


Cost: $100,000
There’s an interesting story behind the negotiations for this Paul Rand logo, but let’s instead focus on how it really sucks. You can’t hit every one out of the park, but deep down I believe Paul Rand might have been having some fun getting away with murder in this case. Evidence of his skills here.


Cost: $35
Another case of the new company getting their first logo for near nothing and never really needing a redesign. Maybe the most recognizable logo out there, it may will never need an update.

Nike Fun Fact: I owned the very first pair of Nikes and carried them around in the box, putting them on for sports, then re-boxing them. I had few friends.


Cost: $ 15
Artist Simon Oxley is an exceptionally gifted illustrator who drew and uploaded this bird to istockphoto. The Twitter nerds grabbed it up for 15 bucks and it became the logo (for a time). As someone who does this for a living, that’s the kind of heart-warming story that drives me to consider shoe sales.