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Why it’s important to “Get a seat at the table”

By Blog

We’ve all heard that it’s important for a sales rep to develop a relationship with a client. We’ve been told that our goal should be to “get a seat at the table” while the client is in the process of developing their marketing plan. This advice was demonstrated to me during a recent conversation with Dan Plomin, General Manager, VCG Division here at Westamerica Communications.

One of Dan’s recent projects is a perfect example of how moving beyond sales and into project management is beneficial for both the client and your company.

As I walked with Dan through the Anaheim Convention Center the day before the opening of BlizzCon, I was blown away. There on the walls, hanging from the ceiling, standing in the walkways, behind the stages, and all around the arena was the culmination of weeks of production activities that had taken place at Westamerica.

What is BlizzCon?

For the uninitiated, here’s a brief intro to BlizzCon. Imagine a convention center and arena filled with video game fans. The convention is held by Blizzard Entertainment to promote its major franchises likeOverwatch, which, in a little over a year, surpassed $1 billion in revenue to make it the fastest growing franchise in Blizzard history.

In addition, among the 35,000+ fans, are cosplay actors dressed as their favorite video game characters. There’s also an e-sports event that rivals any major sporting event. The 2017 Overwatch World Cupcompetition was played in the arena at the Anaheim Convention center. Teams from around the world including Australia, Canada, China, France, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States were there to compete for over $280,000 in prize money.

Now add to this all the fans of video games like World of WarcraftStarCraftDiabloHearthstone, and dozens of other games and you can imagine what it was like when Dan and I walked through the convention center.


A Seat at the Table

While Dan was working with the event marketers at Blizzard Entertainment they mentioned they wanted to create an immersive environment for the attendees. One of their ideas centered on creating an environment from their StarCraft franchise.

Joeyray’s Bar is featured in the StarCraft game and the team wanted to find a way to recreate the bar at the convention center. In the image of the game (refer to photo) you can see that the bar and the walls are made of wood. Dan suggested using real wood to create the right feel for the environment.

Using one of the wide format printers that we have at Westamerica, Dan and our team of technicians printed four-foot by eight-foot sheets of balsa wood with the graphics provided by Blizzard. Once the wood panels were installed, some creative lighting was added, along with a few bottles of alcohol and the next thing you know StarCraft fans were able to enjoy a drink at Joeyray’s Bar.

Welcome to Overwatch

The corridor leading from the Anaheim Convention Center to the arena, where the Overwatch World Cup was to be played, provided another way to add to the immersive experience of the event. Westamerica created orange accent pieces on the walls of the corridor. We created canvas gallery wrapped prints and 3-D logos out of PVC that hung on the walls. These elements created such an ambiance and immersive feel that many of the attendees, instead of simply walking through the corridor, actually hung out in the area.

Develop a Relationship with the Client

Dan’s longstanding relationship with the team at Blizzard is based on partnership, service, and dependability. For example, just days, and sometimes hours, before the opening of the convention, the event director can count on Dan and the team at Westamerica to create a needed piece. It’s not unusual for Dan to receive last-minute phone calls asking for changes in a particular piece due to a stage configuration change or the need to decorate a VIP room. Whatever they need Dan, with the help of the talented team back at Westamerica, is able to provide the product.

Another extremely important part of the relationship developed between Dan and Blizzard is the understanding that many of these projects contain sensitive information. Whether signs, posters, set pieces, wall accents, or 3-D logos they must be secure. The announcement of new games and products must be kept under wraps until the day of the event.

To be a successful sales executive, it’s imperative that you develop a good relationship with the client. Dan didn’t simply quote the cost of printing 10,000 posters. His relationship with Blizzard Entertainment allowed him to offer suggestions and provide valuable input on their projects. This relationship has developed over time. And it has been nourished through his knowledge of the printing industry, the equipment available to him through Westamerica, and the new and innovative products available from our strategic partners.

I’m very proud of the work that Dan and the team at Westamerica provide to clients like Blizzard Entertainment.

group meeting discussion

Just because you can…should you?

By Blog

The CMO should put their energies against the key strategic efforts of the company and eliminate tactical distractions.

Earlier this year the Coca Cola’s CMO retired. What happened next was unexpected. The company decided NOT to hire a new one!

Imagine a company like Coca-Cola not having a CMO. Really? What is driving this thinking and the elimination of this (seemingly) important position?

The company has decided to move all of the marketing functions under a new position entitled “Chief Growth Officer”. This new CGO is responsible for global marketing, customer and commercial leadership and Strategy.

Is Marketing losing credibility in the C-suite?

The pace of change has increased pressures in the marketing space, and for all those managing marketing departments. And CEOs are noticing.

A recent article published by Harvard Business Review claimed that four out of five (80%) CEOs are “unimpressed” with their CMO.

The CMO role has always been a high turnover position. But 80%?!

The new focus? Customer Experience

The Financial Brand highlighted a Forrester Research report in their recent posting which concludes that CMOs must redirect their budgets and focus from traditional advertising spending into the following areas of focus:

  • Driving consumer affinity and eliminating attrition
  • Aligning the institution’s loyalty programs with consumer expectations
  • Decoding analytics and digital platforms to create scalable consumer experiences
  • Updating marketing technology to enable the company to deliver more personalized consumer experiences

Clearly, the role of marketing is being redefined. How can you get it all done? How can you scale along with the increased areas of focus and importance?

Forrester says, “Outsource execution, but keep strategy in-house”

It’s no secret there has been a growth of in-house marketing support over the past 10 years. Many departments look like an agency with full creative teams. In many cases, this has moved the marketing function in some organizations from a strategic role to an increasingly tactical role. According to the article, this is the opposite of where marketing’s focus should be directed.

Why? Because today a good deal of marketing’s time and attention is focused on managing activities that can be completed by others.

Forrester says that these activities should be outsourced so time and attention can be spent on the big picture and developing integrated cross-channel strategies.

Just because you can do the job yourself, does it mean you should?

With 2018 just weeks away it’s a good time to think about things you want to start doing as well as some of the things you want to stop doing. Which things can you rely on others to do for you? There are a lot of things in life that you should leave to others. Like changing your own oil.

Outsourcing some of your marketing execution just makes sense, leaving you to conduct the strategic activities that only you can complete.

Are you changing your own oil?

Years ago, many of us used to faithfully perform a ritual every time our car traveled another 3,000 miles. We’d change our car’s oil.

On a good day, changing your oil was a minimum of a couple of hours of your time. Who does this anymore?

Details are messy…and time-consuming

Even those of us who know how to change our car’s oil, don’t!

Why? Because we can take the car to any of a number of oil change centers located within a couple miles of our house and have the whole thing finished in 20 minutes. They have the equipment and know how. And, they do it for about the same price that it would cost you to do the job yourself…not including the value of your time.

In this new reality, it’s time to reconsider which items you should be spending your time on, and which ones no longer really matter.

Stop doing some things. Start doing others.

Now is the time to refocus the energies of your marketing team. Are you spending time and money on the things that leverage the company’s opportunities? When you look at your budget, how much of it is spent against the consumer versus on in-house production expenses?

Where are those dollars (both expenditures in programs and human capital) going to do the most good?

How you assess these activities and their respective budgetary implications will influence the role that marketing will play today and in the future of your organization.

Five Marketing Plan Priorities for 2018

Five Marketing Plan Priorities for 2018

By Blog

Like it or not another year is coming to an end. That means along with the coming new year a new marketing plan must be created. Will you dust off last year’s and simply change some of the dates and elements? Or, will you take a step back and really assess what’s happening within your business, identify the key attributes and opportunities that will lead to your success?

Demands on Marketing Outstrip Human Capacity to Manage

One thing I’ve heard in numerous discussions with the marketing community is we seem to be reaching a level of process magnitude and complexity that approaches the outer limits of our ability to manage.

We’re creating a machine-based process with programmed responses and best-fit solutions delivered in a nanosecond to a faceless public. We call it marketing automation and it is progress.

Smaller companies that haven’t embraced a marketing automation system can’t begin to stay ahead of the demands that increasing digital interaction is putting on a traditional system. If you are going to compete in the digital landscape you have to go all in on the tools to be effective.

Remember when voicemail systems were first introduced? I’m dating myself but I remember hanging up with one phone call and finding two or three calls that I missed that were waiting for a return call. You just couldn’t get ahead.

The capacity for our ability to manage has been exceeded in the digital space without a cyber-assistant.

1.   Artificial Intelligence – Your friend in the digital age!

That means that organizations must rely more on Artificial Intelligence and expert systems to manage the influx of requests and resource needs. The artificial intelligence solutions range from smart systems that capture customer service information and learn responses or solve problems, to a simple marketing automation system that programs sales requests and follows up to consummate a sale.

2.   Humanize and Personalize – It’s all about me.

While the world has increasingly become more “efficient” and “process driven” an opportunity to differentiate lies in the ability to humanize and personalize every experience.

When emojis first showed up in the digital space we scratched our heads wondering why they were needed. Now we see we have a tool to convey context and intent in conjunction with a written word. Emojis create smiles and memories well beyond what words alone can do especially with the short attention spans we experience today.

Consumers are expecting to see personalization in use in today’s marketing environment as a matter of course. Rarely do we see a credible provider addressing a customer in an unfamiliar manner.

Print and digital communication can now both deliver highly personalized communications that leverage stored meaningful data.

3.   Write It Well – No Spam on this menu.

The quantity of words being pushed out to the consumer is growing by double digits. In 2011 the US was responsible for over 200 Billion texts per month! We have a deluge of content unleashed upon mankind. More words with fewer people reading them.

In a sea of words, you want to ensure that the quality of your content is at the highest level possible. Content factories are pushing out more low-quality content that’s more driven by SEO than educating or communicating well with the reader.

The result is poorly produced arguments, illogical conclusions, and generally unsatisfying stories. Without a commitment to quality, your brand can suffer as you lose credibility with your customers and prospects. Take a good objective look at your content to ensure it meets today’s more rigorous standards.

4.   Market the Experience – A higher calling for retail companies.

Increasingly, the consumer is replacing many of their shopping experiences with automated ordering, subscription services, and low engagement activities. When you can order an entire wardrobe as a subscription and have it sent to you on a weekly basis, it creates an unmet need for experiential fulfillment to fill that space.

Today consumers want to experience life and events. With extra time on their hands and fewer of the mundane chores of life being handled by autopay subscription services, point and click fulfillment, even car purchasing (being delivered to your door!) – there is little joy left in the act of just shopping. To many, it’s becoming a chore that can be easily completed from your desktop.

That means each interaction with you as a product or service provider must become “an experience worthy of a selfie and a posting on Facebook.” Consumers are loath to engage in the mundane. If your product or service doesn’t deliver a memorable experience they will avoid the interaction.

Build a focus on education, insight, consultative support while you continue to work towards creating a holistic relationship. Examples of this include:

  • Restaurants – building more entertainment and uniqueness into the dining experience. It’s not enough to have good food anymore as consumers can order a restaurant quality meal delivered to their home, or even assemble it themselves.
  • Banking providers, there should be a greater focus on education and planning support that enhance the consumer’s long-term financial health.
  • Healthcare providers should be conducting wellness seminars and providing instruction for better living. When are we going to see a medical facility open a fitness center?

5.   They’re Not Dead Yet – Don’t ignore the Boomer segment.

As the age of the marketing community steadily decreases it’s easy to believe that the world revolves around the Millennial and a declining importance for the Boomer generation.

While the Boomer generation is declining and will continue to do so, they still represent the largest purchasing power in the US today. It’s estimated that the Millennial segment will have a total purchasing power of over $200B in 2018. but the Boomer Generation is projected at 8 times that amount worldwide!

As a marketer, it’s important to know that many Boomers don’t see themselves riding off into the sunset. They are anxious to drink up life with both hands while they live into their 80s and 90s. They have more disposable income, more time available and are as active as many halve their age. Marketers should factor this important target into their conversation and be mindful of the differences in the communication strategies and methods between the two groups.

Maintain your sanity during the marketing planning process and keep these priorities in mind. If you need some extra help, download the Westamerica Marketing Planner free from Westamerica at

Corporate Fintech Solutions

Corporate Fintech Solutions Must Also Reflect Investment in Human Capital

By Blog

A big focus of major firms today is the question of “Fintech” and how to either better compete with a digital-only provider or how to integrate a timesaving, consumer-friendly financial services platform into your traditional financial services business.

Fintech is a modern day gold rush. The investment capital into the Fintech space continues to grow.

Consumer Digital Solutions –Predominantly High Tech; Low Touch

We know that for most digital transactions, consumers like the efficiency and convenience that are at their fingertips. Simple transactions like picking out groceries, or ordering from a menu really don’t require a heavy lift. We have even become comfortable buying airline tickets, and reserving and paying for hotel rooms and rental cars from the convenience of a website or app.

But What About Financial Services?

From the time that the ATM was introduced in 1969, financial firms embraced technology that extended their service capability and provided user convenience. Today there are over 3.5 Million ATMs worldwide. The ATM replaced the fairly simple activity of withdrawing money from your account, making deposits and simple transfers. These lower-complexity transactions were high tech and low touch, a winning combination for something so straightforward.

In fact, the cast of Saturday Night Live parodied the triviality of bank transactions in the classic comedy spot, “CitiWide Change Bank.”

Click below to see this classic spot:

Winning Fintech Solutions – High Tech; High Touch

As the range of Fintech solutions grows, the barrier to market success will come from trying to solve problems that fail to take into account the human side of this equation. A high tech, high touch service platform will be necessary for those transactions that require conversation, consultation, and coordination with a knowledgeable individual.

Our Experience in a Digital Lending Platform

Over the past nine years, our firm has partnered with a Fintech firm, CUneXus to deliver consumer-lending solutions to the financial industry. This platform is now installed in 65 firms throughout the US at institutions sized from $250MM to an excess of $10B.

In the early stages of The Loan Generator, we identified several things that needed to happen for adoption:

  1. Consumers needed to be educated on the new tools that were available (allowing them to select from pre-approved loan offers)
  2. Consumers needed an explanation on how to interact with this new process
  3. Consumers needed to have ready access to support staff to assist in completing the transaction

With our model, after the completion of the transaction (high tech), the consumer identified the time and method for a follow-up call with the representative (high touch).

In some cases of high-transaction products like credit cards where consumers understand the product and the process more clearly, very little consumer follow up interaction takes place (low touch).

The Role of Human Capital in Fintech Evolution

While we can see that simple transaction activity, like making change, deposits, and even some loans will not require highly-skilled back-end support, other solutions will. Using our experience with the Loan Generator System we have found that there are two primary benefits that have been delivered to those that use our platform: Incremental Loan Volume and Profits, and Streamlined Loan Processing. 

This has been accomplished with little impact on headcount.

It appears that the net impact on the number of people has not changed. The efficiency of the program combined with the volume increases has been a net wash on the human side of the equation.

The program drives loan profit without adding support staff.

However, it does mean that the people now supporting the program will have to learn some new skills in conjunction with the changing environment. For instance, processors might now be talking about their consumer’s current lending offer but may also be asked about the other loans that are available to them. They now may need to be able to discuss these options and alternatives more consultatively and with a front-facing mindset than in the past. In this model, we bypass the loan officer and direct the fulfillment efforts right down to the processor.

While we may be reducing the in-person connection at the start of the loan process, the process itself can continue to be highly consultative and supportive as needed. Different loans will require different levels of support. And, different consumers will likely have a greater reliance on available support.

Any Fintech solution should be flexible enough to provide this capability.

You should expect that some technology solutions will save you both labor costs and deliver transaction savings. However, you should also strive to maintain the important personal (high touch) links and relationships that you have with your consumer and train your people accordingly.

To do otherwise will only push them to your competitors.


Personalized Marketing Doesn’t Have to be Scary

By Blog

Whether you call it one-to-one marketing, individualized marketing, or personalized marketing, the ability to use variable data to connect with your current or prospective clients in a personal way can be rewarding.

Leveraging data analysis and digital technology to deliver individualized messages and products is a great way to connect with consumers. Of course, you have to be careful in the way you use that data. I’m sure we all remember the New York Times article from 2012 that outlined how Target used predictive analytics and data to determine that a high school girl was pregnant before her own parents knew.

Scary or Great Marketing?

The scary part of Target’s personalized marketing effort back in 2012 was the way they used the data to create a coupon book that was composed completely of pregnancy-related coupons thus making the consumer feel they were being tracked. Since that time Target and other companies have learned to create an experience for the consumer that does not feel so intrusive. A coupon book today is usually peppered with a variety of coupons with some targeted towards the intended consumer.

Back in 2011, Coca-Cola used personalized marketing to grab consumer’s attention down under in Australia. Their “Share a Coke” campaign has since expanded to other countries, including the U.S. and now includes college football team bottles, Major League Baseball bottles, and Major League Soccer personalized bottles.

The difference between the 2012 Target personalized campaign and the 2011 Coca-Cola campaign is that one made the consumer feel uncomfortable about the data that had been collected and the other invited the consumer to participate in the experience. It’s the difference between being helpful and being watched.

Variable Data Gone Wrong

In 2015, Nutella tried a personalized labeling campaignwhere they used variable data and allowed consumers to create their own labels. Let’s just say that sometimes you need to be cautious about whom you allow around the computer keyboard. The public decided that they’d have some fun at Nutella’s expense. The images I’ve included here are a few of the labels that are “safe for work.” You can only imagine what some of the other labels looked like.

Personalization and Variable Data Success

Ford Motor Company has seen great success with personalization in their extended service contract sales materials. A recent data-driven self-mailer increased sales 35.7%. Ford included 12 variable data points that increased the relevance of the mailer to the consumer. Some of the data points included:

  • Type of truck
  • Recipients Name
  • Year of vehicle
  • Warranty expiration date
  • Gender image

These direct mail pieces from Ford Motor Company walked the fine line between “scary” data collection and helpful data usage.

Creative Package Design

Here at Westamerica Communications, we put together a “scary” package to share with our current customers. We didn’t use data to scare our clients with all the information we’ve collected instead we created a Halloween personalized promotional package.

The personalization went beyond the use of our client’s name on the package. We also included information about us. Each candy bar included the sales rep’s name, phone number, and email. That way the client will have the rep’s contact information readily available. So, the next time they’re looking for package design in Orange County the client need look no further than the candy bar on their desk.

Personalization can be used in a variety of ways to engage customers. Creative use of data can be entertaining, helpful, and promotional. Whether used in coupons, direct mail or creative packaging, the use of variable data to create a more personalized experience for your clients will result in a more effective marketing campaign.

Producer-Oriented Marketing

The Producer-Oriented Model of Marketing

By Blog

Since the 1950s marketers have followed the producer-oriented model of marketing. This model is commonly referred to as the 4Ps: product, placement, price, and promotion. Some marketers have expanded on this model. I’ve seen references to 5, 6, or even 8 Ps. I’d like to add my own “P” to the list.

I believe, due to the ever-expanding list of products found on today’s store shelves, packaging should be added to the list.

You may say that packaging falls under the promotion section of the producer-oriented model. I’d say, that with the ever-growing design, print, and finishing capabilities available to brands today, packaging needs a category all to itself.

The History of Package Design

As long as humans have been buying, selling and trading goods there has been a need for packaging. If you were part of a hunter and gatherer society, you may have kept the nuts and berries you collected in a gourd or a hollowed out piece of wood. You could then transport your goods and exchange them with other individuals you came into contact with.

If you lived in ancient Greece, you may have seen urns painted with images of vines heavy with grapes and you’d know that the urn contained wine.

The concept of branding dates to the late 1800s when products were shipped in wooden crates and “branded” with the manufacturer’s name. We’re talking about a custom-made branding iron heated and then used to burn the name of the company into the wood crate. This ensured that there would be no confusion between both the shippers and receivers of the products.

Manufacturers soon realized that while these branded wooden crates were in transport they were advertising and branding their product. As times change so, too, has package design and manufacturing.

Throughout history packaging’s primary purpose was to protect the product during transportation. The advances of machine produced products during the Industrial Revolution led to an increase in production and thus an increase in the number of products available to the consumer. Thus, today, packaging is called upon to do more, including differentiating one product from another.

Package Design and Manufacturing

Research shows that today’s consumers are faced with more than 20,000 choices within a 30-minute shopping session. Thus packaging is more important now than ever.

Brands need packaging that protects their product. At the same time that packaging must attract and inform consumers of the advantages of the product inside the package. And, in today’s connected world, the packaging needs to lead to an online experience.

For effective package design, it would be advantageous for a brand owner to work with a single source package manufacturer that can provide structural and digital design, email, web creative content, print and direct mail, and administrative support for a comprehensive marketing campaign.

For example, a single source package manufacturer will have an on-site structural design center that will assess the brand owner’s needs and build a one-of-a-kind custom solution unique to the brand’s product, message, and method of delivery.

The package manufacturer’s on-site structural design center should include high tech computer-aided design capabilities so the brand owner can actually see a prototype of the packaging long before it goes into final production. They will also be able to try different options and solutions to see which works best for their product.

More important than the equipment, the package manufacturer must have gifted structural designers that can take the concept from idea to fruition. This is where the magic happens. Clientsappreciate working with our talented structural design team here at Westamerica. Whether it’s a promotional kit, a retail display, a pop-up card, a custom product package – or anything in between, we make the process easy from start to finish. With our background in traditional printing, we create designs that are not just attention-getting, but also efficient and cost-effective to manufacture.

Using a single source package manufacturer for both design and manufacturing will ensure that the printing and finishing capabilities of the equipment will be exploited to the fullest. For brand owners who work with us here at Westamerica, this includes a variety of coating techniques, unusual and unique substrates like wood, plastic, and more. In this way, we provide a finished package with both form and function.

The Internet of Things and Packaging

In today’s connected world packaging can take consumers to places never dreamed of before. This is why a brand owner needs to work with a single source package manufacturer that can provide a consistent message on both the packaging and the online experience. This may include dedicated landing pages, email responses, or any number online possibilities that can connect consumers with brands through packaging or point of sale displays.

The next time you’re looking to take a new product to market and you’re reviewing the producer-oriented model of marketing be sure to remember that package design is an integral part of the marketing process.

Courtney Hay working

What’s the secret to your growth?

By Blog

“My greatest asset is that I was smart enough to surround myself with people who are smarter than me.”

Herb Zebrack, president of Lithographix, uttered these words in response to the question, “What’s the secret to your growth?”

I heard Herb make this statement years ago when I attended a Top Management Network event offered by the Printing Industries Association, Inc. of Southern California.

The event was held at Lithographix’s 250,000-square-foot facility in Los Angeles. What impressed me most was that Lithographix started out as a 1,600 square foot print shop. Right then I realized, Herb must know what he’s talking about.

During my tenure here at Westamerica Communications, I’ve done my best to surround myself with smart people.

Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you

One of the “smart people” I’ve surrounded myself with during the past 14 years is Courtney Hay, a graphic designer and Associate Art Director here at Westamerica Communications. I’ve been blessed to work with Courtney on some amazing projects.

Recently I had the chance to talk with Courtney about his life and how he became interested in print and graphic design.

When did you become interested in graphic design?

As a child, I had little awareness of what graphic design was. I did appreciate the art of comic books, illustrated children’s books and famous paintings. Growing up, I became more aware of the concept of commercial art but never thought about making a career of it.

I spent a lot of my childhood drawing and doodling. Over time I got pretty good at it. In fact, I got so good that I became known as the “go-to artist” at my school, Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, California. After attending the University of California, Irvine and pursuing a degree in Biological Sciences, I finally decided to turn to my passion of illustration and enrolled in a graphic design school.


Which designers do you like and which have influenced your work?

Growing up, I was a comic book fan and enjoyed the artistic works of Jack Kirby. He and Stan Lee co-created the Fantastic Four, X-Men, the Hulk, and others. I also enjoy the work of Steve Ditko. He also worked with Stan Lee to co-create Marvel’s Spider-Man and Doctor Strange.

I like the work of more recent comic book artists like Frank Miller, of Daredevil and Elektra fame. And, of course, I enjoy the work of comic book writer/artist, Alex Ross. Besides his comic book work, Ross also does commercial work, like me. He’s created DVD packaging art and magazine covers.

It should be no surprise, that if growing up I was a comic book fan, that I’m also influenced by the pop art of Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, and Michael Bedard. All of their works have the feel of the comic books.

Lichtenstein’s use of dot patterns reminds me of the CMYK dots used to print color images on paper. When you print on newspaper stock, like that used in old comic books, you can see the dot patterns, if you look close enough.

I really like Haring’s use of primary colors and simple lines and shapes. And Bedard’s storybook characters have such a simple, clean look about them. And I love the way he can illustrate expression in the looks of the animal’s faces.

Did you go to school to train or was most of your training on the job?

I earned an Associates Degree at Platt College’s School of Graphic Design. However, about 85% what I know now I subsequently learned on the job.

What’s one of your favorite projects at Westamerica Communications and why?

I really enjoyed creating and designing the multi-page, magazine-style quarterly newsletter for Northwest Federal Credit Union, The Northwest Difference. I was given free rein and the adequate time needed to create a newsletter without the restrictions of set brand guidelines and styles. I enjoyed treating each newsletter article as separate projects and utilizing full, two-page spreads.

Have you worked on any cross-media projects? If so, what challenges did you face and how were they overcome?

We work on a lot of cross-media projects here at Westamerica. I usually participate in the print portion of the projects. It’s important in cross-media work to keep a consistent look with the print and online work. To make this possible, I take artwork I have created for print and convert it into JPEGs to be used online. I’ve also turned some of the print artwork into GIFs for use in online projects.

It’s very gratifying to work with other team members here at Westamerica on cross-media projects. It’s interesting to see how the print work I designed is then repurposed for the web.

Surround yourself with people that are fun, too

Much like some of the comic book heroes that Courtney enjoys, “by day” (or more accurately, 364 days a year) he’s a mild-mannered graphic designer. But one day each year – on Halloween – Courtney lets his wild alter-ego side out. He pulls out all the stops and is a home-crowd favorite perennial winner of our company Halloween costume contest.

Surrounding yourself with smart, creative, and fun people really helps your company run smoother. It’s great to collaborate and create projects that make you happy and your clients successful.

Red Car Color

You’ve Got the Look

By Blog

The Prince Estate, along with Pantone Color Institute™, announced earlier this month the creation of a standardized custom color to represent and honor the international icon, Prince. According to an article from CNN, Prince has been honored with his very own Pantone purple shade.

The article explained that Pantone had created a new color, Love Symbol #2. According to Laurie Pressman, Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute, the color was “inspired by Prince’s custom-made Yamaha purple piano.”

Pantone and its ink matching system date back even further than the roots of Westamerica Communications. Twelve years before my father opened the Printing Company Lawrence Herbert, Pantone’s founder, created a system to identify and match colors so they could be faithfully reproduced.

Here we are 40+ years later and I can still remember walking through my father’s shop and seeing Pantone books sitting on tables next to the printing presses. If you walk through our pressroom today you’ll find the latest editions of those books sitting right next to our presses.

To be “consistently replicated”

A quote from Pressman in the CNN article jumped out at me. She said. “Love Symbol #2 enables Prince’s unique purple shade to be consistently replicated and maintain the same iconic status as the man himself.”

Those words “consistently replicated” started me thinking about sea snails.

The meaning behind the color

For centuries the color purple has been associated with royalty. In large part, this is due to the expense associated with the dyes of the color itself. Until the mid-1800s the only way to produce the purple dye was to collect it from small sea snails* found off the coast of what is now modern-day Lebanon.

It was also difficult to dye the fabric in an even, consistent way. When the emperor ordered a toga or the queen ordered a purple gown you better make sure the colors were consistent and the product looked good.

The truth is, consistent color output, whether it be a Pantone color, CMYK, or any other color, across all devices and types of printing equipment may cause some operators sorrow and pain.

The ability to consistently replicate color

The Pantone system lists specific colors to mix together to create a certain Pantone color. For example, with Love Symbol #2, there are no CMYK values that can be mixed to create this color. If this color is to run on a press for a specific client the ink must be mixed by an ink technician, like our in-house technician Daniel. But this is only the beginning.

Once the ink is mixed it then must be applied to the substrate. This means you’re running it on an offset press like our new Komori GL640. But it takes more than a fancy new press to consistently reproduce accurate color across a brand owner’s multiple product lines.

The importance of training and certification

In order to create consistent color, your technicians must be trained and certificated. You can’t just “eyeball” color. Clients and brand owners have come to expect precision-quality color.

While offset presses, wide format printers or digital presses can’t be certified, your people can be. At Westamerica we’ve implemented G7 training. Our press operators and digital technicians have learned that controlling the tonality and gray balance of every press run to G7 specifications ensures consistency in the initial print run and in subsequent runs. Each additional run will have very similar visual appearance–even months or years later. And our G7 Professionals and G7 Experts qualify for G7 Master status on an annual basis.

A brand owner looking to produce a marketing campaign with print collateral created by offset press, signage created with a wide format printer and direct mail printed on a digital press using variable data, can be assured that, due to G7 training and certification, their project will receive the highest production quality possible.

So whether you’re looking to match the color of that Little Red Corvette or your Raspberry Beret, whether you’re using Pantone’s Love Symbol #2 or creating your colors using CMYK, making sure your colors are consistently replicated which requires trained and certified technicians.

Murex brandaris shell photo credit: Mehmet Atatur

father son fishing

Five Tips When You Go fishing for Business

By Blog

Every year providers come up with new and better ways…and marketers keep biting!

I grew up fishing with my dad and brother. When we were young my dad would take us to a stocked lake where the fish were very hungry and you paid for them by the pound. Nobody ever went home without a fish. It just didn’t happen.

As we grew, so did our appetites for more challenging fishing expeditions. We enjoyed lakes, rivers, streams and the deep sea. There were never any guarantees on those trips. We had to understand the fish we were after and then apply an appropriate strategy to have a chance to catch them.

We were always ready, willing and able to try new things, although we rarely had the money. New lures. New bait. Anything that would allow us to achieve the next level of “fish acquisition.”

Fishing for Business

And so it goes in business and marketing. New approaches are very enticing. Since it’s the marketer’s job to “catch” new business, it’s important to be assessing new methods and approaches.

There are plenty of new ideas to look at – new software for lead gen, activation, sell through and follow-up. In fact, it seems that the list of service providers is increasing exponentially.

However, before getting in water too deep with costly programs and commitments, make sure that the key fundamentals are covered.

Five fundamentals to make sure your fishing for business efforts are successful

1) Research

Learn as much as possible about the circumstances before you actually start fishing. It’s important to know what type of weather conditions you’ll face, the condition of the water, fish you are

pursuing, local tendencies, etc. You don’t just jump in the car and head to the lake. Well, you might but the results will suffer


Research is the important equalizer between what you think you know and what actually exists. How many times do we implement an initiative in the absence of research? I’d suggest the answer is “too many.” No matter how you define the right level of research for your situation, whether it is qualitative, quantitative or some of both, make sure not to miss this step.

With research, you can objectively determine what expectations might come from your efforts; an important step in fishing and in business.

2) The Right Technique

The “act” of fishing does take some practice. When I was a kid I had a 3-foot pole and a reel with a big push button on it to allow me to easily cast. My brother and I would go out in the backyard with a plastic weight and practice casting for what seemed like hours.

How does one master a marketing “technique?” To me, that means experience building skills in the key disciplines.

Building a campaign from the ground up and touching all the components
Understanding your campaign objectives and where they came from, your target market, the creative strategy and copy
Reviewing the results. There is no shortcut to learning
Becoming experienced requires that you actually experience things first hand. Becoming highly experienced means you have done something many, many times and your likelihood of positive results is greater because of it.

3) Location

Why is it that sometimes you’ll fish with the same bait in the same place on the same lake and one day you catch fish and the other you don’t? I’ve asked myself that many times while I pondered over sentiments like, “We had good luck here last year” or, “I’ve heard a report from the marina that they are biting over there.”

It’s natural to assume that our previous experiences, or the experiences of others, will lead to the same future results. That is often not the case. We shouldn’t make decisions out of convenience, or to save time, or necessarily because others are doing something.

Imagine your customers or prospects. Have they always been consistent and regular with their shopping, eating or other behavior? Somewhere along the way, we chose to treat them as if they have become predictable.

Consumers and businesses are anything but predictable. However, we often make the mistake of thinking that they are. We stop asking questions and stop challenging ourselves. We rely on our long-held beliefs, assumptions, or best guesses to decide where to interact with them and that can waste precious time and money.

Instead, we need to keep asking the question, “Where are they right now and what solution can I provide to make their situation better?”

4) Patience

How many times have we quit fishing just before we got that big strike? We’ll never know! When fishing, you want to move methodically towards your goal. Hurrying doesn’t help unless you are in a tournament. You want to make certain that you haven’t missed any opportunities. That you have given all the fish in that area the chance to consider your bait. Sometimes it takes more than one look at it before they bite.

Often our impatience is our own worst enemy. We forget that opportunity generally presents itself when our consistency intersects with an unmet need. When randomness is injected into the marketing mix, consumers become confused with your brand and your promise.

Consistency and tenacity will save the day.

And the most important of all the fundamentals—

5) The Right “Bait”

Like many fishermen whom each year get caught up with buying the latest equipment, new equipment isn’t a guarantee of better results. You can have the best equipment, along with a perfectly planned trip and conditions. However, if you have the wrong bait you will still come up empty handed.

Think about the approaches you are using as it relates to the types of “bait” you are serving up in your marketing efforts. The digital communication revolution is 10+ years old now. At this stage, most everyone is using email and social media to push their offers and messaging out. And guess what, the effectiveness has decreased.

Those “fishing” with digital media today may have forgotten how effective some of the old standbys like direct mail really are. In fact, they are more relevant now than any time in the last 10 years. Plus, if you get your offer right, people will find it irresistible – just like that hungry fish!

A fishing boat captain once told me, “Sometimes there is so much bait in the water, the fish can’t see yours.” Don’t be afraid to set yourself apart from the others using a different medium and a strong offer.

Marketing, like fishing, is an art. “Catching” new business requires work. There are no stocked ponds with a guaranteed catch. Remain consistent, patient and deliberate. Your catch will increase and you’ll have more fun too.

And don’t forget to use the right bait!


forklift product

New Technology For Designers And Marketers

By Blog, Consumer Experience

Rumors about the new iPhone are all over the Internet. Some say there’s a new physical design that will include curved glass, inductive charging, and there may even be a change in the iPhone’s biometric recognition sensor.

Google has been testing self-driving cars. In just seven months, from October 2016 to May of 2017, their fleet of self-driven cars logged over three million miles.

And then there’s Elon Musk who wants to relieve freeway congestion by building 30 layers of tunnels beneath the 105 freeway in Los Angeles. He’s already started digging in the SpaceX parking lot in Hawthorne, California.

Embracing New Technology and New Opportunities

In the past couple of years, there have been a number of new technologies that have helped designers and marketers reach and engage current and prospective clients. These may not be as flashy as the new technology offered from Apple, Google and Elon Musk, but we’ve incorporated these new technologies into the products and services we offer. Our latest addition will provide numerous opportunities and advantages to our design and marketing clients.

The New Komori GL640 H-UV Printing Press

Westamerica Communications has just installed a new Komori GL640 H-UV printing press. There are a number of benefits that designers and marketers will appreciate about our new press. These include:

•   Shorter Total Turnaround Time

•   Improved print quality of traditional substrates

•   Ability to print on unusual substrates

•   Eco-friendly

One of the first advantages clients will realize with the new Komori press is the ability to get jobs finished quicker. There are a couple of reasons for the decreased turn around time. One is obvious. The speed of the press is amazing. Its maximum printing speed is 16,500 sheets per hour.

The second reason for the quick turn around time has to do with the ultra-violet (UV) lights used with the UV inks and curing system. Turnaround time is dramatically shorter than with conventional printing because an inline process cures printed items instantly. As soon as one side of the sheet is printed we can immediately flip the stock over and run the back side without having to wait for the ink to dry. And, once the substrate is printed, it can be delivered to the finishing department for trimming, folding, die cutting, or whatever finishing operations need to be completed.

Improved print quality of traditional substrates

The second improvement that designers and marketers will like is the improved print quality with traditional substrates. Let’s say you want to print a job on uncoated stock. Up until now, your biggest problem was, what we in the industry call, dot gain.

Uncoated paper is porous which means that solvent based inks soak into the paper. The dot of ink that is printed on an uncoated sheet will be absorbed into the paper thus the dot of ink will expand creating a muddy look to the text and images.

With the H-UV inks and curing system on the Komori, the dot of ink is cured so quickly that the inks don’t soak into the paper but instead set on top of the sheet thus creating an image with more contrast, brighter colors, and a bigger color gamut.

And, when printing with coated stock, there are additional benefits to the new Komori press. When printing coated stock traditional press operators use anti-set-off spray powder to make an air gap between printed sheets of paper. This powder keeps the ink on the front of one sheet from transferring to the back of the next sheet.

With the Komori H-UV system the inks dry (cure) immediately, thus there is a reduction of paper spoilage and without the need for anti-set-off spray powder, the surface of printed items is smooth to the touch.

And wait until you see the high gloss finish on coated stock. It’s so beautiful there’s no need to use varnish.

Ability to print on unusual substrates

Have you ever wanted to impress your clients by using non-traditional substrates? Well, now you can. Imagine printing on plastics, wood veneer, or cardboard. The truth is, if we can run it through the press we can print on it.

The Eco-friendly features of our new press

The new press has environmental advantages over both conventional printing presses and other UV presses. First, conventional presses that use solvent based or soy-based inks emit volatile organic compounds (VOC).

According to an article in Printing Impressions magazine, “Since UV inks cure instantly when exposed to UV light, drying time is eliminated and no solvents are released or absorbed into the substrate, as is common with conventional inks. The UV process releases no VOCs making it much safer for operators and the environment.”

There are additional advantages to the Komori over other UV presses. The H-UV lamp head is an ozone free lamp that operates with higher efficiency and less heat. The amount of CO2 emissions from the Komori is one-fourth that of conventional UV curing systems.

And we’re talking about a big difference in power consumption. Without getting too deep into the specifications of the press, the power consumption of a conventional UV press versus the Komori H-UV system is reduced by 66%. This all leads to a smaller environmental footprint.

The news of a new Komori GL640 H-UV printing press installation at Westamerica Communications in Lake Forest, California may not make headlines like Elon Musk digging a hole in Hawthorne, California, but it’s a big move for us and our clients who will soon see the opportunities that are available from embracing this new technology.