If You’re Not Laughing, You’re Not Working Hard Enough

man laughing while working on computer

Thoughts on Humor in the Workplace

Business is serious stuff. There’s no time for humor. That’s for people who just don’t understand how important it is to stay focused on the bottom line.

Get to work! Work harder!! Work longer!!! Produce more!!!! What are you doing out of your seat? IF YOU’RE LAUGHING, YOU’RE NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH!

Managers and leaders that operate with this mindset are truly out of touch with human nature. Business can be a pressure cooker. It needs a release valve to let out the steam when the pressure becomes too great.

That’s how I look at humor in the workplace. It is the release valve. It’s an essential part of producing the greatest stew, while not blowing up the kettle.

Everyone needs a release. Yes, business is serious. But so is life. Humans are strong, resilient, and dedicated…until they hit their ultimate pressure point. Then they stop! They need time to recover, to relax, to release the pressure.

Some managers recognize this but choose to work their staff hard until the pressure is strongly apparent, and the alarms go off, warning them that the kettle is about to burst. Then they take a break to release the pressure. I guess for some types of businesses, this works. But I believe in a creative environment such as Photonics, it’s best to continually release some pressure, so it never reaches the destructive point of alarm.

I believe that a daily dose of humor in the workplace is beneficial. It helps people stay fresh. It reduces stress. It helps clear minds so we can think creatively and produce great work. It’s healthier, and it creates a more balanced and enjoyable work experience for staff and managers alike.

So, as a longtime business owner and manager, I say “IF WE’RE NOT LAUGHING, WE’RE NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH!”

Case Study: How To Build Brand Awareness with an Organic Twitter Campaign

twitter social media while drinking coffee

When one of our B2B clients came to us with the task of creating brand awareness at an international event without a physical presence, we had to get creative. We had to brainstorm quickly and on a tight budget.

This international event is one of the biggest international trade shows for the industrial automation and robotics industry. With new competitors starting to come out of the woodwork, our client wanted to make sure they had a presence without spending the bulk of their yearly marketing budget to attend in person, advertise in multiple languages, or reserve a space and build an exhibit.

After some brainstorming, our initial plan was to run a social media campaign during the week of this international trade show. During our research, we learned the event’s hashtag had already started to gain traction on Twitter and that many of the industry leaders had a large presence on the platform. Because of this, Twitter became our primary focus, followed by LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn is a great platform for B2B opportunities and Facebook would help build both credibility and additional brand awareness.

One big hurdle stood in our way! The client’s social media presence had been MIA for over 6 months and their following was small and inactive. Their platforms had been used very minimally (we’re talking about a total of 15 posts across all platforms combined). How could we use social media to generate a buzz about our client and their product if there was no one listening to us?

We needed much more than a week-long social media blitz into the void. We needed to make sure our client was visible first. Our solution was to create an 8-week social media campaign leading up to the blitz during the week of the show. During those 8 weeks, we focused on building a following for our client by doing the following:

  • Crafting consistent content with a voice that fit our client’s clean and professional brand
  • Posting daily on the Twitter platform
  • Daily engagement
  • Targeting followers and attendees of the trade show
  • Building a genuine Twitter following
  • Consistent posts on other platforms with 2-3 posts per week

As soon as the campaign kicked off, we began to see immediate growth in our client’s following. Being active and engaging with potential customers and industry leaders on a daily basis helped to create a buzz and an awareness around the brand. Did you know B2B and B2C audiences need to come into contact with a brand approximately six times before engaging? This shows the importance of consistency! With a 259% organic growth rate in their following across all platforms before the event even took place, we set ourselves up for a great week of engagement and awareness throughout the show. We also saw a rise in followers and views on YouTube, a platform that wasn’t even a focus within our strategy.

Both our social media campaign and strategy for brand awareness were a success! After the international show, our client’s following has continued to grow and has become a prominent account within the industry. Consistency and engagement are key in organic social media campaigns. This proved true once again, even with a target audience on the opposite side of the globe!

Twitter social media case study infographic

Advantages of Hiring a Full-Service Marketing Firm

marketing group team working together

When starting a new business or considering rebranding a company, it is typical to feel overwhelmed with where to start when it comes to a marketing strategy. Hiring a full-service marketing firm has many advantages that will streamline your marketing efforts and knowing these advantages is the first step in choosing the right firm for your company.

Seamless Branding

Outsourcing your marketing needs to a single firm that offers all the services needed to grow your company will minimize miscommunication about your brand and your goals for that brand. Because your chosen firm will be creating everything from your website to online advertisements to print ads, your brand and your voice will remain consistent across all mediums.


Full-service means that a firm has the experience and expertise to manage all aspects of marketing – web development, graphic design, ad placement, ROI, and more. This means that they will be able to better create a cohesive strategy and later analyze that strategy, with their knowledge of SEO and SEM. Their experience in all these sectors has helped them to develop proven strategies and the means to reach your goals.


With clients in all different niches, a firm of this level has built many connections that will help them to market your brand in the perfect avenue, both locally and globally. If you took on your company’s marketing internally or relied on a firm that only focuses on web design to manage your ad placements, for instance, you would have to start from scratch in the advertising world. A full-service firm has already spent years building relationships in the industry and this will be a great advantage for your company.

Time and Money

If your company doesn’t already have it’s own in-house marketing team, a full-service firm is the best option. They manage multiple clients and their time is dedicated solely to marketing, therefore they will have the experience to know exactly what and how much can be accomplished with your company’s budget. They will also eliminate the overwhelming task of hiring and coordinating with a variety of different contractors, small agencies, and freelancers to handle all the various sectors of marketing, leaving you to do what you do best.

Working with a full-service marketing firm like Photonics Inc. will provide your company assistance with branding, strategy, web development and design, app development, ad design and placement, SEO, SEM, ROI, and more. Allowing a single team to take on all of these needs will guarantee a consistent brand and strategy that will convert into sales.

Are You An “Expert”? Don’t Worry. It’s Only Temporary.

man thinking and looking at mood board work

I’ve been told that to get noticed on LinkedIn, I need to write and post an article so I can be perceived as an “expert” in my industry. Well, to be honest, I struggle with being perceived as an expert in anything, because I’ve come to understand that expertise is relative to your audience, your time, and your place…and it’s only temporary.

I’ve been in the graphic design and branding industry my entire 40-year career, having started out as a pre-computer era designer, fresh out of school, top of my class, and the Gold Key Award Winner. (Not sure what that was for.) Did that make me an expert? I sure thought so. I was really impressed with myself… Until I got a job at a local design firm where I was introduced to true design, illustration, and packaging experts.

These people were extremely talented! And I looked up to those creatives that mastered the fine art of magic marker renderings and type indication.  Oh, how expertly the production folks produced colored tissue overlays to call out detailed instructions for the printer. They were truly graphic design “experts”. (If you even know what I’m referring to, you may have been an expert in that era as well.)

In time, I too mastered the art of marker renderings, type specification, photo indication, and putting together a well-engineered paste-up. As well as a host of other now antiquated skills. At that time, I felt I had reached “expert” status in the graphic design industry. I was really impressed with myself.

But that status was quickly null and void when computers became the standard tool for artwork development. Suddenly, the “expertise” that I worked so hard to develop was suddenly no longer relevant. (Wow! Not sure why, but I kind of miss the smell of magic markers and rubber cement.)

After a few years, I decided to move into an Account Executive position. I managed the relationship with our largest client, one of the most dominant CPG companies in the world, working on packaging for their largest and most recognized brand. Our company became one of the largest design firms in our region.

We became experts in the early years of computerized packaging art development. I felt that I was becoming a process expert in packaging design-through-print in this new digital era. It was exciting. It was new. And it was cutting edge. And because of my developing knowledge and perceived expertise, I became a partner and VP/General Manager of the company. 

At that point, I can honestly say I felt I was an expert in my line of business. I was very impressed with myself. Well, at least until we formed a strategic alliance with another, much larger and more creative global branding firm.

This company had a huge pool of creative talent in offices around the globe. They provided truly broad-reaching expertise in the design and branding fields that our much smaller company could not offer. In a fleeting moment, I once again went from feeling like an expert to feeling like a novice, new to the global experience.

But I worked hard to gain new experience competing in this new arena, and managed design initiatives nationally and globally. I felt I was starting to re-build expert status, and I started to feel impressed with myself again. But, after a five-year successful alliance, we sold out to that larger company, and I eventually was put out to pasture at the ripe old age of 45, with a few other “experts” from our original company.

(It’s funny that in today’s world, you can be perceived as an expert one day…and unimpressive the next. It depends on your audience, your time, and your place. Need I say again? Expertise is only temporary.)

Over the years, I moved on to other general management and ownership positions, where I continued to hone new skills and experiences to complement those that I had gained in the earlier part of my career. I developed new creative and operational management experience, and I was ready for new challenges.

Two years ago I joined Photonics, a 29-year-old full-service creative design and marketing firm, with a strong emphasis on digital and web development. My role is to help grow the company through new business and organizational development strategies and activities.

We have awesome web design and development capabilities, which will require more learning for me. Much like at the beginning, and throughout my career, I am once again a novice, this time on the digital of the design industry. And again, I am in awe of my associates who are experts at what they do. And I continue to learn every day.

We have developed expertise in brand and marketing strategy, social media, and other areas so that we can provide a broader base of services to our clients. Our talent pool consists of true experts. And we will continue to hone our expertise in these areas and others as we continue to grow. We know we must because expertise is only temporary.

So, I ask myself, “Am I an expert?” I believe my eclectic experience in design, account management, general management, and business ownership has prepared me well for this position with Photonics.

I’ve been fortunate to have experienced much more than most people in our industry. I’ve enjoyed many successes, felt the pain that comes with failure, and am appreciative of the knowledge that I’ve gained through both. And…I still thoroughly enjoy this industry and the part I play in it today.

Am I an “expert”? Who’s to say? One thing for sure, I don’t get too impressed with myself any longer, because I know that title is only temporary.

Tom Hutchinson is Development Director for Photonics, a 28-year-old Cincinnati based full service creative and interactive agency. Photonics started out in the early days of computerization, concentrating primarily on photo imagery and computerized illustration. Today Photonics is listed as one of largest web design companies in Cincinnati, Ohio and continues its tradition of developing and maintaining timely and relevant expertise.

If you’d like to start a dialog with Tom and Photonics, contact him at thutchinson@photonics-inc.com.

The Future of Web and Design Agencies

freelancers working on laptops

We came across an interesting article a few weeks ago that we wanted to share. It’s about the future of agencies in our digitally connected world. Because of technology, we can connect anytime, anywhere. Not surprisingly, many people are choosing to work outside of the typical nine-to-five office environment. They are investing time and energy in themselves and their talents, becoming experts in numerous facets of marketing, technology, programming, and communications.

process gear animation

Clients are now calling for teams consisting of an infinitely diverse list of specialists. To hire these folks full-time, when you may only need them on a single project, is both counterproductive and costly. Additionally, many of these specialists want to remain independent from an “agency.” Trading in the traditional route of scaling a business by hiring more employees, agencies are forming networks of contracted experts who can “coalesce into flexible project teams to cooperate on specific projects. Combing skills and resources, they then disband once the project is complete.” In other words, it’s incredibly beneficial for the client if you collaborate with specialists on a project-by-project basis, delivering what’s needed to get the job done right.

We were excited to read this article, as Photonics has been moving toward this work model for the past year. Our Director of Development, Tom Hutchinson, and owner, Alan Brown, have begun pulling in experts to collaborate on specific projects. Our team delivers on our specialties while working alongside specialists who bring a separate set of skills to the project. We’re collaborating with amazing talent in the fields of social media, SEO, content creation, strategy, packaging, and more. We pull them in on specific projects based on a client’s need and maintain a relationship until another collaborative opportunity comes to the table. At the end of the day, this really helps the client. It’s been enlightening (and cost-effective) to watch this transformation within our company. While we appreciate our internal team of designers, programmers and project managers, we recognize the value in pulling additional specialists when needed. Instead of hiring more full-time employees, uncertain of how long we’ll need them, we’re focusing on building a network of experts outside of our four walls, who are available to collaborate when it benefits our clients.

In our fast-paced, digitally connected world, we’re moving toward the agency of the future.

One Day Campaign a Ten-Thousand Dollar Success

nonprofit housing kids looking over fence

One of my favorite aspects of working with nonprofit organizations to improve their marketing is that when we succeed, a lot of people win. Last year we partnered with one of our existing clients to create a new landing page that ended up raising more than $10,000 in a single day. Over-the-Rhine Community Housing (OTRCH) has been a wonderful client that originally approached us more than a year ago to build a new website. After we built and launched their new website in early 2016, they were excited about the new image that donors and the community were now seeing. In fact, they were so pleased that they wanted to create a special one-day campaign landing page.

Greater Cincinnati Nonprofit News recently featured an article about our successful partnership with OTRCH. We appreciate the article and will continue to help nonprofits succeed with their marketing!

For more than four decades, Over-the-Rhine Community Housing (OTRCH) has been providing a wide array of affordable and supportive housing options and life-changing programs to low-income residents in the OTR community. Last November the organization wanted to raise $10,000 for two of its resident service programs: Children’s Creative Corner and Women of Over-the-Rhine. The twist? They wanted to raise all the money in ONE day – on #GivingTuesday.

If you’re not familiar with #GivingTuesday, it’s a global day of giving fueled by social media. It’s celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and kicks off the charitable season when many focus on their end-of-year giving. Seeing this as an opportunity to raise significant funds in a short amount of time, Katherine Cunningham of OTRCH capitalized on #GivingTuesday in order to raise money and awareness for OTRCH.

“We did this by sharing photos, videos, and stories about participants on social media and through email leading up to the campaign,” Cunningham says. “Our goal for the day of #GivingTuesday was to have all of this information and a donation link easily accessible from the homepage of our website.”

Cunningham worked with Photonics, the web design and mobile app development studio in East Walnut Hills that built the OTRCH website. Cunningham knew the team at Photonics would be able to quickly design and build the web layout for her online campaign.

“I had some ideas for what I wanted the page to look like, but I wasn’t sure what was possible,” Cunningham recalls. “Photonics gave suggestions for how the page could be designed in a way that made all of the information clear and accessible.”

The #GivingTuesday campaign was a great success, raising $10,475 and engaging several new donors with OTRCH. Cunningham was ecstatic at the results and continues to work with Photonics to build on the organization’s end-of-year web success.

“When I meet with Photonics, [owner Alan Brown] and his team always helps us think of ways we can effectively reach our target audiences and asks important questions that I didn’t originally ask myself,” Cunningham says.

Original article available via GCNN.

Web Design Trends To Move Out of 2017

design trends moving out in 2017

Many people start the new year by making lofty goals or resolutions and by predicting what lies ahead. I have come across countless blogs about design trends for 2017. What’s good? What’s bad? What’s in? What’s out? These lists can sometimes be helpful, but they got me thinking about a few trends that I would like to pack up and move out of 2017.

Let’s put an end to these trends:

  • Excessively long scrolling pages. They just keep scrolling and scrolling, forcing the user to work really hard to find the information they are looking for. In our world full of people with short attention spans, why not utilize a more organized approach?
  • Flat design. While it’s good to keep the user/viewer focused on the important elements, it doesn’t hurt to have a little dimension. Nowadays, adding some dimension will probably help stand out from all the flat designs. At least Google is addressing this with their Material Design approach.
  • Scroll-jacking. What is this, you ask? Scroll-jacking basically means we replace native scrolling (what we’re used to) with targeted scrolling. So, when the user initiates a scroll, scroll-jacking takes them to an exact vertical point on the screen. This can really throw off your rhythm when looking at sites.
  • Mega-menus. Is it really necessary to have such an information-crowded site?
  • Native advertising. Crossing the line between ad content and editorial content can be dangerous. While I know this one really isn’t going away anytime soon, it begs the question of what can you trust anymore?

The Greater Good

cincinnati youth collaborative nonprofit marketing and website

One aspect of Photonics that separates it from the competition is its steadfast devotion to helping non-profits throughout Greater Cincinnati.

I, Alan Brown, have always believed that I have a duty to make an ongoing contribution to “The Greater Good.” It is a duty and a responsibility. For me, if I do nothing, I feel I’m contributing to the opposite.

This personal belief has influenced my business, and as a long-time business owner in Cincinnati, I always want to give back to the community that has helped create my livelihood. Photonics’ contribution to “The Greater Good” has largely been through our work with non-profits. All non-profits have needs, and many of those needs stem from not having enough resources to market themselves. That’s where Photonics fits in. We offer our services to non-profits at a reduced rate and do quite a bit of pro-bono work within the community.

There are many non-profits doing remarkable work and providing much-needed services and support to our community members who need it most. I love working with the leaders of these organizations to help them make a difference whether it is through their website, a marketing campaign, or a re-branding process. With the merry season of giving just around the corner, consider giving some of your own time or resources to local organizations. Here are just a few that we hold dear to our hearts at Photonics:

Cincinnati Youth Collaborative (CYC): CYC makes a significant difference in the lives of vulnerable young people in 2nd grade through college by providing a range of services designed to keep kids in school, prepared for college and career, and on the pathway to success. Photonics created a new website for CYC recently.

ReSource: ReSource’s mission is to build stronger nonprofits by distributing corporate donations, including excess goods such as furniture, personal care items and other products, to their member nonprofits. Photonics developed a new website for ReSource this year so they can continue to help area nonprofits succeed.

Congregation Beth Adam: Congregation Beth Adamis a unique community integrating Jewish tradition and humanistic principles. Photonics has worked with Congregation Beth Adam for many years on web development and graphic design services.

Thank you to these organizations and countless others who make a difference in our Cincinnati community day in and day out. We are honored to stand beside you and the good work that you do.

NOTE: As of 2018, ReSource joined ESCC to become the OneSource Center for Nonprofit Excellence.

Photonics Welcomes New Development Director

Tom Hutchinson Development Director at Photonics Inc.

It’s been a year of growth and a year of change for myself and everyone at Photonics. We embarked upon a rebranding process in February, which led to the launch of a new logo and website in June. I, Alan Brown, was eager to share that news and imagery with all of you, and now I have more exciting news to share. I recently hired a Director of Development to continue to push me and the team to the next level.

Tom Hutchinson and I met a while back when I was a photographer and he worked for a local design firm. Tom is a native to the design industry in Cincinnati and we recently reconnected through a mutual friend. This meeting proved to be beneficial for both of us, as Tom wanted to make a career change and I was ready to bring someone on board who could continue to push me outside of my comfort zone – something I don’t necessarily enjoy (who does?), but something that I know is necessary to grow our business.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Tom Hutchinson, or as most people call him, Hutch.

Alan: What do you hope to bring to the table at Photonics?
Hutch: I hope to bring a unique view of what Photonics can become. My experience is extremely unique, having been a vice president, general manager and business owner, I’ve been in the design industry for a while and have watched it react to new technology that’s constantly introduced. I’m excited to coordinate crossroads of sales and marketing to meet our end goals.

Alan: What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
Hutch: I played baseball/softball for 35 years, sang in a rock band for five years, then a wedding band for another five (or more) years after that. So, I’ll get on the stage and sing karaoke with no coaxing! Also, as a side business several years ago, I owned a cigar/martini bar in Montgomery, Ohio, with a life-long friend who I’ve known since Kindergarten. I like good beer, good bourbon and a good cigar on occasion with good friends.

Alan: You like to golf too, right?
Hutch: While not a great golfer, I enjoy the environment of a golf course. The sun always shines on a golf course. I’ve been fortunate enough to golf at some of the greatest golf courses in the country, including Pebble Beach.

Alan: Tell me about your family.
Hutch: My wife Bonnie and I have been married for almost 35 years. We have three kids and three grandkids, who always make me laugh. Everyone should be able to go back and see life through the grandkids’ eyes.

Alan: How would your family and friends describe you?
Hutch: They would tell you I’m a social butterfly. I try to fit a lot in with the little time we have. I’m a high energy guy, so that really helps me fit everything in. My close friends and family are so important to me, and I enjoy spending time with them.

I’m excited to introduce you to Hutch and welcome his high-energy to the table at Photonics! I know he’s going to bring a lot of new ideas and fresh energy to our thriving Victorian studio on Park Avenue.

Just a Guy with a Camera

Alan Brown Photographer and Owner of Photonics Inc. in newspaper

At my core, I am an artist. Long before Photonics existed, I, Alan Brown, was a guy with a camera and a passion for capturing unique stills, developing them in a dark room, and sharing the images with those around me. It’s a passion that took years to cultivate and it’s one that I still very much enjoy relishing in today.

Upon graduating from Syracuse University (in a year I will not mention), I began working for a commercial photography studio in Greater Cincinnati, eventually partnering with two photographers to start PhotoDesign. At PhotoDesign I photographed for a wide range of clients and was specifically interested in photographing people. Most of my work was done in the studio as I preferred being in control of the environment – everything from the lights to the backgrounds to angles took careful planning. Plus, it was always risky to leave the studio with our Cincinnati weather.

Alan Brown Photographer and Owner of Photonics Inc.

While at PhotoDesign I also specialized in creating special effect images for a wide range of advertising agencies, design studios, and corporations. My special effects often involved multiple images collaged together. There was no such thing as Photoshop, and computers had just barely been born, so I spent many hours handcrafting the unique images I wanted to create. As a perfectionist, I was always looking for a better way to do my special effects. When the Apple Mac came out, it looked like I might be able to use a computer to help me. I bought my first Mac in 1985 and the color Mac in 1989.

At this point, you could say, “And the rest is history.” That first Macintosh, which still sits in our studio today, allowed me to combine my love of art and photography with my curiosity for technology. I have always been interested in how technology can help further creative minds, and that computer allowed me to create images of which I had only dreamed. It also pushed me to open Photonics, formerly Photonics Graphics.

When I started this company, we worked with businesses and organizations in Cincinnati to develop graphics – logos, printed materials, illustrations. I often chased the latest technology, which gave me a competitive edge and the ability to react nimbly to each new wave of skills that were required by new products and ideas. When the internet was born, I correctly guessed that websites would eventually become a mainstay among our other offerings.

Fast forward a few years – 2016 is our 27th year of serving the Cincinnati community’s design needs. While our tools are a far cry from that first Macintosh, our desire to create incredible art has never wavered. I’m proud to work with my team of designers and developers to challenge the status quo and deliver work that we are proud to share in our community.

While we have moved away from photography as a service offering, I still enjoy pulling out my camera on special occasions, when my wife and I travel, or sometimes when the moment feels just right. My tagline on Instagram (@alanbrownone) is “Never a purist, always an explorer.”