A Bottle Opener that Reopens Businesses.

Every December, we send out a gift to thank our clients, stretch our creativity, and capture the zeitgeist. We often try to mix humor with pointed observations of the marketing and communications industry. This has included everything from a Binge TV Guide to a Vacation in a Bucket. This year was different.

For over 20 years, Frank. Strategic Marketing has called Historic Ellicott City home. A quaint mill town founded in 1772 and home to the first train station in the country, the community is a mosaic of history, artistic expression, nature, and Americana.

On the night of July 30, 2016, six inches of rain fell within two hours, causing a devastating flood that killed two people, gutted buildings, ripped away parts of Main Street, and swept cars into the Patapsco River. While our agency was spared, many of our friends and fellow businesses were not as fortunate. Even now, five months later, buildings along Main Street remain boarded up, storefronts closed, foot traffic sparse, and the town’s future uncertain.

This holiday season, we’ve focused our creative energy on helping to rebuild Ellicott City one nail at a time. Engraved railroad spikes fashioned into bottle openers and housed in custom die cut, laser-etched honeycomb packaging, have been designed to commemorate the restoration efforts of 2016 that will continue well into the new year. For each spike sent, we have contributed to the Ellicott City Partnership’s flood recovery fund (

While the spike represents the town’s rich history, the bottle-opening feature represents the celebration of triumph over adversity. As 2016 draws to a close, we intend to crack open a beverage and raise a glass to the challenges of 2016 that have been met with determination and creativity.

Cheers from everyone at Frank.



Integrated Event Marketing Campaigns: Envision, Evoke, Evolve.

Event professionals in charge of annual tradeshows face a great challenge … how to keep attendees and exhibitors from thinking, “Same show, different year”. Many choose to simply create a new theme image and then use it repeatedly on every piece of communication as well as on the show floor. Attendees and exhibitors are bombarded with this same image throughout the year and, as a result, indifference sets in and both audiences completely tune out.

It takes so much more than just a theme image to keep your show fresh. This is a challenge we work with on a daily basis. One of our clients is the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) and their annual event, HPBExpo, is North America’s largest indoor-outdoor living showcase featuring the latest innovations in grills, outdoor furniture, fireplaces, lighting and everything in between. For the past four years, we’ve been tasked to help HPBExpo build upon its status and appeal to past and potential exhibitors and attendees … and for the past four years with great results, the solution has been to create an integrated campaign that evolves with the generation of each piece of communication.

For this year’s campaign for HPBExpo in New Orleans (a 2016 Gold Addy Award Winner), our creative team established the general look and feel that centered around the city’s unique, rich culture with an initial print campaign. We did this knowing that the campaign would evolve, so instead of settling on one keystone image, we created a design framework upon which each future piece was built.

2016 HPBExpo "New Orleans" Ads

Four advertisements each containing a headline that speaks to the unique culture of New Orleans combined with key messaging of the show.

These first ads were headline-driven with custom typography designed to echo the flourishes of the French Quarter’s wrought iron balconies. The headlines and the color palettes were tailored to each audience: a flood of brand colors mixed with distressed textures for exhibitors and a lighter, cleaner look for attendees that played on the draw of New Orleans as both an historical and fun travel destination.

As the campaign evolved into the website, exhibitor prospectus, attendee registration brochure and direct mail, we began to bring iconic New Orleans images such as Mardi Gras masks and crawfish to the forefront. By turning to these visuals and changing the headlines and copy on each piece, we were able to keep the campaign fresh and target messaging for specific audiences. Additional pieces included digital ads, e-mail templates, videos featuring animated icons and onsite signage. With such a variety of visuals and copy, HPBExpo’s target was hit each time with dynamic pieces that maintained the balance of newness and a cohesive voice while driving home the message and the HPBExpo 2016 brand.

This image illustrates the evolution of the campaign message through the use of several different homepage slider images.

HPBExpo 2016 Mobile Website

HPBExpo 2016 Exhibitor Overview Brochure

HPBExpo 2016 Exhibitor Overview Brochure

HPBExpo 2016 Registration Open Direct Mail

HPBExpo 2016 Registration Open Direct Mail

HBPExpo 2016 Registration Brochure

HBPExpo 2016 Registration Brochure

HPBExpo 2016 New Product Pavilion Direct Mail

HPBExpo 2016 New Product Pavilion Direct Mail

HPBE 2016 Email Campaign

HPBE 2016 Email Campaign

HPBExpo 2016 banner ads

HPBExpo 2016 banner ads

HPBExpo 2016 signage

HPBExpo 2016 signage

Frank. Laws of Event Marketing.

We specialize in Event Marketing.


We’ve got it down to a science (specifically Eventology®). And just like Newton’s Laws of Motion, the Frank. Laws of Event Marketing outline the forces at work when developing marketing and communications for your event. Whether you’re trying to defy the gravitational pull of attendance, boost your brand, or magnetically attract exhibitors, we have a unique approach to solving complex event marketing challenges.

01. Strategy Informs All Creative.

We don’t make pretty wallpaper. We tell laser-focused narratives that get inside of your target audience’s heads.

CEDIA 2014 "Hyperchange" Campaign

Over-sized registration brochure and 3 of 6 ads.


02. Re-Invent Your Event Every Time.

Intrigue and inspire your audience. It’s the only way to defy “Been There, Done That” and increase the chances of them coming again.

HPBExpo Campaigns from 2013 to 2015

HPBExpo Campaigns from 2013 to 2015


03. Segment & Target Your Audience.

One size rarely fits all. Nor does one message.

2015 ABExpo Show Email Campaign and Collateral

2015 ABExpo Show Email Campaign and Collateral


04. Speak in a Consistent Voice.

From the Exhibitor Prospectus to the show floor signage, every touchpoint should speak to the Brand.

APTA Expo Direct Mail Pieces

Exhibitor Prospectus & Sponsorship Opportunities Brochure


05. We are not a Vendor.

We work with you to offer solutions, not fulfill deliverables. You don’t ask a scientist for rocket fuel, you ask for the moon.

AeroDef 2013 Exhibitor Prospectus

AeroDef 2013 Exhibitor Prospectus


We’d love to discuss how we can apply the Frank. Laws of Event Marketing to your event and build momentum for the future.

Surviving and Thriving The ‘Vacation Season’

As the weather heats up and the Dog Days of summer start barking, employees turn their attention to vacation and family. But for directors, managers, and team leaders the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day can be filled with anxiety. The tension only increases as they wonder how they will accomplish their yearly goals while short on staff.

So how do you drive progress for the businesslike fall months if the summer months are about beaches and road trips?

Every year that question drives managers crazy.

But the answer may be right in front of you. Most managers may not realize it, but they have a personnel solution available to them that has already been vetted, chosen, and negotiated. This solution includes people who are expert in many crucial business and marketing functions, and expert in dealing with your organization’s own quirks and idiosyncrasies.

Of course, we mean your marketing agency.

When you think about it your agency can be the perfect resource for summertime supplemental personnel. They already have an in-house team that you can lean on when your employees take their well-deserved breaks.

First, most marketing firms are filled with professionals from multiple disciplines. Typically they are rich in talent: Strategists, organizational experts, graphic designers, writers, public relations professionals and others can often be found under your partner-agency’s roof.

The personnel at your agency aren’t merely experts in some professional skill they are also usually expert at understanding you. Because they are typically as entrenched in your business as your own people are, working shoulder to shoulder with your staff all year long. They understand the nuances of your design standards, nomenclature, approval process, and key players in a way that no ‘contract’ employee could.

This specialized knowledge not only makes your agency personnel the highest quality resource you can turn to in the summer, but it also makes them a value choice. If you hire a contract employee you can spend all summer paying them just to get up to speed on the things your agency people already know by rote.

For instance, a graphic designer hired through a temp or personnel firm or some other source, will have to spend expensive billable hours learning about you before they can productively do your work. They cannot create anything of value until they first understand your philosophies and key messages. To that point you should have a “Style Guide,” prepared by your agency. This important deliverable explains the finer points of your brand to any designer or writer who needs to work within its strictures. By pointing out details such as your typography choices and sizes, color palettes, acceptable photo and illustration options and much more, it will save a lot of time and ensure productive work. If you don’t already have a style guide, you should ask your marketing firm to develop one.

A style guide will help any designer work more productively for you, but the graphic design specialists at your marketing agency are likely to be the same people who created your design standards to begin with. That’s what makes them such a seamless fit.

When your agency artist sits down to do your summer work, there is little that they do not already know about how it should be done. They have an expert’s understanding of you and your organization so they are free to create and elevate your brand, not waste valuable time figuring out what might be minimally acceptable to you.

The same is true of your agency writers. As the people who craft, shape and hone your messages all year, they have valuable institutional knowledge such as your industry, vocabulary, target market and context.

Your marketing agency’s writers do not have to struggle to sound like you in ads, brochures or videos that are being created over the summer. They are your voice for all four seasons.

When it comes to advancing your long-term marketing goals over the summer, familiar agency faces can be a real relief. Your agency strategists have usually shaped your goals all year long. At the very least, they have worked with you to meet the daily objectives in your master plan.

Finally, utilizing agency personnel over the summer is about much more than the individuals you’ll utilize, no matter how talented they may be. It is about teamwork. Your agency professionals know each other and you and your people know them. They have methods of working seamlessly together with each other and with you that’s simply invaluable.

So let your professionals go on the vacations they require and deserve. You don’t have to worry about their absences. Utilizing your agency resources well over the summer can ensure that your people recharge their batteries even while the machine of progress grinds on.

Business and the Artist.

Every year in the sweltering heat of mid-July the city of Baltimore hosts a giant love fest for the creative arts called ArtScape.

With the venerable Maryland Institute College of Art looming over all, thousands of festival goers traverse the steaming streets of Bolton Hill where various ‘booths’ are set up to sell everything from barbecued meats to hand-crafted glass figurines.

This year, as we went from booth to booth, examining the paintings, posters, pottery, and other creations, we couldn’t help but think about the nature of art and its changing place in the business world.

As a marketing firm we do not sell art. We create art that sells. In that way our motivations are vastly different than the fine artist who fashions his products to express his emotions or worldview.

But much like the fine artist we sweat and labor over the tiniest details to create one-of-a-kind objects.

That’s a stark contrast to current trends in marketing where creativity is reduced more and more to dropping stock photography into design templates. In a sense it’s anti-creative since it is more about conformity than imagination. We all know the supposed advantages of this method, chiefly ease-of-use and/or lack of expense.

But what’s lost?

The goal in marketing, of course, has always been to stand out. The brands that could establish their values and show consistent traits were the ones that were ultimately successful with the public. Some, such as Coca Cola or Apple, at times, even inspired the public. These, of course, were the most successful brands.

Creating new things from the ground up requires skill, hard work and much attention. But that dedication can pay off in gratifying and profitable ways. It can have a powerful positive affect on your business.

One of the smallest investments you can make in your brand is in the old-fashioned printed business card. Even in this advanced age there is nothing like it when it comes to creating an immediate and lasting impression.

One client we know achieved this by going backwards in time. Instead of utilizing the latest, most modernized printing methods, they chose to have their card printed on a press using raised type.

Very old school.

This type of printing literally impresses the letters into the paper instead of merely showing an image on the surface. It creates a tactile experience that is as satisfying to touch as it is beautiful to see.

When this client recently embarked on a new business meeting, the look and feel of the card dominated the early conversation. The prospect admired the creativity of the card and wanted to know more about the choices that led to such an outstanding final product. Needless to say, the prospect, much impressed, requested a proposal. The first impression the card created set the tone for the meeting and its triumphal outcome.

Stories like that one never get old to us. Perhaps that’s why we obsess over things that other people may not even realize are important.

We are painstaking because we want our work products to be eye-catching, memorable and worthwhile. We want others to think about our work long after they’ve encountered it.

We don’t dwell on the differences between ourselves and fine artists. We admire the fine artist and strive to harness their passion but for very practical ends. We create images and impressions that must build brands, sell products, motivate memberships and inspire actions.

We know there are some who are cynical about our industry. (We watch Mad Men, too.) But commercial art is an important profession. It helps companies and organizations put their best foot forward so that they can sell, employ and succeed.

Commoditizing creative work, making everything pre-determined and applying it to the rigid rules of a template allows everyone to look professional if only they are all willing to look the same.

And how could that possibly be good business?

As ArtScape so beautifully reminded us, the key word in creative is create.

In today’s business world, there is still plenty of room for the hard work of standing out.

ArtScape logo

credit: Photo by Leslie Furlong

© Photo by Leslie Furlong

Eventology: The Science of Event Marketing

At the heart of Frank, we believe in strategically driven creative that powers campaigns. Informed messaging. Targeted audiences. Resonant takeaways. Trackable performance. All paired with unexpected concepts, stunning visuals, and dynamic copy. And we apply this to our own projects as well – the Eventology Campaign is a prime example.

With 20 years of experience marketing for associations and their respective tradeshows, we developed Eventology – the science of event marketing – to showcase our approach in key marketing disciplines. Through a series of direct mail packages, we explore scientific metaphors for enhancing event marketing.


Eventology starts with Brandistry (the science of blending strategy and creative to generate an explosive reaction for your event’s brand). A single serving packet of coffee (it’s caffeine that gets us going early in the morning and late into the evenings) housed in a test tube served as the perfect metaphor for the chemistry behind high-energy brand awareness.

ceffee test tube


Eventology continues with Exhibotany (the cultivation of the right exhibitors for your event to flourish). A seed packet (filled with breath mints) drew the parallel between the principles of Botany and getting exhibitors rooted on the show floor thriving with face-to-face interaction.

seed packets and mints


Eventology also incorporates Attendology (the science of attracting an array of attendees and making your event numbers take flight). Just like ornithology (the study of birds), attracting a variety of attendees to your event requires an understanding of their complex needs and patterns. A candy-filled bird feeder accompanied by an “attendee-identifier manual” showcased our understanding of the many challenges event marketers face when attracting attendees to their show.



With systematic success and proven methods, Eventology continues to showcase Frank’s ability to enhance events across all industries. To learn more about Eventology and how Frank can improve your event, please contact us.



A Look at 2015 ADDY-Winning Work

Frank had a great time this year at the American Advertising Federation of Baltimore’s 2015 Addy Awards. We left the event with TWO Gold awards and Three Silver awards – strong showings in the Campaign and Self-Promotion categories.

Here’s a look at the projects that were honored:


  • 2014 CEDIA Hyper-Change Campaign

CEDIA 2014 Ads

  • Eventology Direct Mail Campaign*



  • 2015 HPBExpo Nashville Campaign

HPBE 2015 ads

  • RAPS Online University Campaign

RAPS  online learning ads

  • TV Binge Watching Holiday Mailer*

Frank Binge Watching TV Guide

The two starred projects mark our 6th and 7th Addy wins in the Self-Promotion category – something we’re very proud of. It’s easy to put our own campaigns on the back burner – after all, the cobbler’s children often go shoeless. But when we do get a chance to immerse ourselves in these projects, they tend to showcase our creativity very well by pushing the boundaries on concept, design, and production.

’Tis the Season – for Binge Watching

Now, we at Frank. know that the holidays are traditionally used as a time to air your grievances, marvel at the high electric bill, and open a copious amount of presents.

However, most of that will last you an afternoon (maybe an evening, tops). You’ll undoubtedly use the remaining time to cement a new tradition in this new era of media consumption… catching up on your favorite shows or discovering new ones.

It’s within this spirit that we created the TV Binge-Watching Guide.

Frank Binge Watching TV GuideCover Photo © Boris and Company

Based on our collective binge experience, we offer you these tried-and-true rules to employ around the real hearthstone of your living room, the television.

  • Ensure that everyone can see and hear to their eyes’ and ears’ content.
  • Be tougher than your favorite character.
  • Resist fueling your TV addiction on the sly.
  • Keep your pumpkin pie hole shut.
  • Focus on the small screen, not the very small screen.
  • Tame that itchy trigger finger.
  • Accommodate all just-one-more-episode requests.
  • Reign in your urges until the episode is over.

From all of us here at Frank. Strategic Marketing, we wish you a safe, restful and entertaining holiday season!

What it Takes – Responsive Website Development

With 60 percent of all digital traffic coming from mobile and tablet devices,1 a good way to make sure your audience maintains a positive impression of your brand is to develop a responsive website – a specially designed and developed site that appears differently based on the type of device it is viewed on (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).

A responsive design allows users on any device to have an optimal viewing experience – including easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling. When compared to siloed mobile-only and desktop-only sites, responsive sites allow for a cohesive brand experience across all devices.

These websites should be easily found, shared, quick-to-load, and have an infrastructure that is easy to maintain and build upon.

We’ve recently completed a responsive website for the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association for their annual tradeshow, HPBExpo.

The site was developed with a clear separation of content – between Attendee and Exhibitor – and large colorful blocks for other show highlights. The site also scales – a feature paramount to responsive design – so visitors, regardless of device, will recognize it as the official digital home of HPBExpo.

Another key strategy within development was accessing the site’s different user personas. Designing, while keeping the user experience in mind, allowed us to further clarify the sections of content and which areas of the site should be quickly accessible.

Since we’ve recently put the finishing touches on the site’s content, we wanted to share the steps we took to ensure the project’s success.

animated UI tests

animated gif course: Mohamed Kerroudj

we studied standard user experience behaviors for mobile phone


The Planning Stage

Any web-related project can become a tremendous hurdle without proper planning; especially when considering the development of a new (custom built) responsive website. Taking into account web-safe fonts, infinite screen sizes for iPhones vs. Android phones, compatibility issues between Safari, IE, and Chrome etc., there are many areas that we addressed prior to design.

Planning upfront for how content will reorganize, menus will condense, and sliders will rotate ensured a smoother development cycle.

We also developed robust wireframes that outlined content, hierarchy, and other elements for every unique page of the site prior to design. The wireframes allowed the team and client to understand what the page would be displaying, which pages required special coding for graphs, tables, etc, and how certain menu functions would behave across devices. They also allowed us to establish consistent design elements carried across each site version.

The biggest component – aside from the design itself – of any website project is the content that will actually be presented. Content – for lack of a better word – is king, and a good portion of our planning dealt with organizing content based on the site’s user needs/personas. For example, accessing the site on a phone, you most likely just need the top level information; so, while all of the site’s content is accessible on the phone version of the site, we hide it behind a non-intrusive/intuitive menu in order to promote a more positive user experience,.

wireframe notes


Design Consistent

Our goal with this site was to develop only the highest caliber design solutions that would easily translate to other versions of the site – typically desktop, tablet, and phone.

Menus, subheads, and link static/hover/active states, were important considerations in design development, paying close attention to their behavior in various formats.

The desktop and tablet versions utilize similar elements, but the mobile is pared down – removing large blocks of text, rotating-sliders, or expansive images. In the age of scrolling Facebook News Feeds, responsive websites on mobile devices, and the information they feature must be concise. During this project, we found that the “above the fold” theory (all important information for a website should be restricted to the screen length of the visitor) is a myth, extensive use of mobile devices used to access sites have gotten consumers used to scrolling and hunting.

We actually started with the mobile version of the site first when designing, and built everything off of that solid foundation and strategy. In this way, we were able to remain consist and clearly define/highlight what would be relevant and beneficial for the user experience.

HPBExpo 2015 website redesign


Test, test, and test again

As mentioned previously, there are many variables to consider when developing a responsive website. These differences became immediately known when it came to testing. Our dedicated team blocked and tackled the various browsers, devices, and OS’ that a visitor to the site may be using. In addition, Google Analytics of the current HPBExpo site helped determine the top browsers and formats being used.

Multiple combinations of PC and Internet Browser, Phone and OS, were checked. We utilized a detailed testing document listing every asset a webpage might feature (side nav functionality, font styles (CSS), graphics interacting with text, etc.) and a space for notes, comments, or screenshots.

From the combined testing documents, it allowed us to track the bugs, make version exceptions, and make other pixel/padding adjustments to have the site view exactly as we intended.

Proper planning, superior design, and a keen attention to detail resulted in a successful final project. You can check out the HPBExpo website here

And if you’re interested in a responsive website of your own, well you know who to call.


Source for above stat.

Frank. Nabs First Place in IAEE’s Art of the Show… Twice!

Earlier this week we received word that TWO of our ad campaigns took home First Place IAEE 2014 Art of the Show Awards – the first for our HPBExpo 2015 campaign and another for our CEDIA EXPO 2014 campaign. IAEE is a competition that celebrates excellence in the marketing of trade shows and events, something in which Frank. has a lot of experience.

The IAEE 2014 Art of the Show competition had a total of 162 entries from 43 companies, 12 alone for our category of Print Advertising. We are very honored to be recognized by our Clients’ industry and value their appreciation of work well done.

HPBExpo 2015 Campaign

Developed by the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association, HPBExpo is the showcase for the latest products and services in the indoor-outdoor lifestyle industry. With the 2015 show taking place in Nashville, this campaign utilizes elements commonly seen around Music City USA, and ties products associated with the hearth, patio, and barbecue industries with traditional country music instruments.


CEDIA 2014 Campaign

The Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association’s (CEDIA) annual showcase of the latest and greatest in residential technology and trends, highlighted the ever-changing, ever-evolving marketplace through our marketing campaign. The campaign itself featured bold typography, and four main images, speaking to the different audiences of the event.