Virtual Events – An Evolution


Pandemic aside, there’s no denying that events have changed substantially in recent years. As we plan for the year ahead, we are tasked with reimagining our events to fit the current circumstances. Organizations have been forced to restructure or cancel them entirely. We have quickly had to learn how to effectively turn in-person events into virtual ones. Learning how other organizations have tackled this challenge can offer valuable insights.


Walks, Runs & Rides

This fall we have seen annual walks, runs, and rides take a never-imagined virtual approach.  And with surprising success!


Lauren Holmes, the events manager for our client Boston Medical Center provided us with insight on how she was able to ensure that her team was still able to participate in the Rodman Ride for Kids. Team BMC has participated in The Ride since 2009 and they weren’t  about to let the opportunity to raise money in support of various pediatric programs slip by this year. The Rodman Ride successfully transformed the event into a virtual one where participants could bike, run, swim or choose their own adventure.


Holmes said, “We approached this ride similarly to how we have in past years, recruiting captains from our pediatric programs to help recruit other riders and raise funds for the programs they work in. Since these captains are very busy running pediatric programs in a hospital during COVID, we were worried that they might not have the bandwidth to add something else to their plates. However, we are happy to say that we saw many riders come back again this year, as well as several new additions. The Rodman Ride did a great job of incentivizing riders, which is crucial for a virtual event, and we tried to add excitement to that with some team specific incentives as well.” Participants secured their sponsors and set their own goals while Lauren and her event team made sure that everyone was able to participate with or without a bike, by adding options to choose from such as running, walking, doing lunges, yoga, or even baking cookies. Staying true to ride rituals, the team coordinators also sent out team performance shirts (designed by HGX!) for the participants to wear and sell.


Organizations like BMC have refused to let the pandemic stand in the way of meeting their charity goals. Holmes added that “The Rodman Ride also removed the fundraising minimum expectation this year, which put less of a burden on participants. Overall we are happy with this year’s results and we’ve been able to raise over $95,000 for BMC Pediatrics to date!” Reinventing how the ride was done posed some challenges for the organizers, but it paid off in more ways than imagined.


Top 10 tips and takeaways:

Though virtual events will never completely replace in-person experiences, they do remedy the gap. Here are our top ten tips and takeaways:


  1. Make it personal: In the absence of true face-to-face engagement, creating online event guides and individualized support for each participant can help. Online guides will outline what participants should expect.
  2. Build excitement: Combat ‘zoom fatigue’ with pre-mailers and interactive online components such as a website or an app. Pre-mailers will help ramp up the excitement in the days leading up to the event. Interactive components across platforms, such as a social media scavenger hunt or a twitter campaign can keep participants engaged during the event.
  3. Ensure accessibility: Make sure to send out clear instructions for logging on and navigating interactive elements. Make it as simple and snag-free as possible so you keep them engaged and coming back.
  4. Create a social media page: The page should be specific to the event. Use it for promotion and to keep everyone informed and engaged leading up to, during and after the event. It will also serve as a way to create a lasting ‘legacy’.
  5. Assign team captains: Those who have participated in the past and who can rally and inspire a team tend to make great advocates and team leaders.
  6. Provide options: Make sure to provide lots of different activity options to choose from so there are as few barriers to participation as possible.
  7. Give a team jersey: Send everyone team apparel to wear while doing their activities, just as they would if the event was in person. Branded team gear fosters unity and camaraderie and promotes your event long after it is over.
  8. Incentivize participants: Offer an incentive for referring friends and colleagues by using specially selected commemorative branded merchandise as the reward.
  9. Reward milestones: Set goals and milestones and reward people for reaching them by using social shoutouts and badges to recognize fund raising levels.
  10. Implement post-event touchpoints: Don’t miss the opportunity to keep the momentum going. Use social media to stay engaged, for example, ask participants to post a picture sharing a key takeaway from the event or wearing branded team merchandise. Make sure to create a unique hashtag they can use.


Learn more about Team BMC here.

The Resurgence of Direct Mail Marketing

Direct mail is making a comeback - and for good reason!

Given the dominance of the online sector, digital marketing has become a ubiquitous practice in the modern era. Gone are the days of mailboxes stuffed with magazines, envelopes, and packages. Instead, the onus has shifted towards targeting consumer’s e-mail and social media feeds. Is this still the best way to actively engage people with your brand’s message today?


Worry not, digital advertising should continue to be a mainstay in your marketing strategy. However, as we shift into a virtual world on account of the pandemic, many are experiencing digital advertising fatigue. Consumers are so inundated with advertisements across multiple platforms that they’ve become somewhat immune to it. Think of how often you skip through a YouTube ad or scroll past a targeted post.


Enter direct mail, which is making a comeback- and for good reasons! This seemingly antiquated marketing strategy is becoming an increasingly effective tool for brand engagement. Our clients are finding that dimensional direct mail engages consumers in a meaningful way in the absence of face-to-face marketing. Direct mail is a personalized, experiential approach that provides an excellent opportunity for people to reconnect with your brand. It yields fantastic results and response rates, making it the perfect tool to integrate with your digital marketing campaigns.


Direct Mail Kits: More Effective Than Digital Marketing?

Curated, dimensional direct mail is created specifically for experiential marketing. Designed by HGX based on client goals, campaigns focus on kits that reach customers or employees wherever they are – home or office. Colorful, classy, scented, loud, or just plain fun, these packages evoke excitement. Most importantly, they provide incentives for people to take action and reconnect with your brand.


After all, who doesn’t love getting a package in the mail? Although digital marketing has dominated the industry, direct mail is a powerful tool to reach people because it makes them feel good. It can be difficult to make your brand stand out amidst the noise of ‘digital clutter.’ Receiving direct mail allows customers to connect with your brand through a tangible experience. Further, recipients can’t overlook direct mail as easily as online advertising.


Even so, adopting a direct mail strategy doesn’t mean you have to forego your digital marketing agenda. Combining the personalized experience of direct mail with an online marketing campaign can create a powerful marketing mix. Consider this sample approach for an effective mailing campaign:


Touchpoint 1: The client is sent a piece of personalized direct mail that incentivizes them to visit your website or take the next step.

Touchpoint 2: Client visits the website and directly interacts with the desired component of the webpage

Touchpoint 3: The client is sent another direct mail piece that thanks them for their action


Though this campaign can be implemented from an entirely digital approach, utilizing direct mail elevates the intended recipient’s experience while boosting your results.

Social media can also prove effective in strategically integrating direct mail and digital marketing. Many users, especially younger groups, are apt to post their curated ‘gift’ on their social media feed. If your mailer reaches a user with a large following you can earn your brand some extra media exposure. Encouraging a high-profile user to share their direct mail with their followers makes the experience both individualized and universal. Be sure to include a thank you note to the influencer for their part.




Is it worth it to invest in direct mail marketing?

The pandemic has created a new world where we lack our usual points of connection. In the absence of tradeshows and events, direct mail allows you to put your brand directly in your clients and prospects hands. Clients are tapping into the power of direct mail and finding that it boasts impressive returns. Approximately 90% of direct mail gets opened, ensuring that your brand ends up in the customer’s hands. What’s more, 75% of people can recall a brand after receiving direct mail, compared to 44% brand recognition with email.


Employing direct mail for your brand doesn’t have to break the bank either. Opportunities for face-to-face marketing remain limited if not obsolete for the foreseeable future, leaving product budgets in limbo. Our clients are repurposing marketing dollars that would typically be used for in-person events to fund direct mail campaigns.


Overall, direct mail has an equally impressive return on investment at a median of 29%. Consumers are more likely to engage with direct mail because it’s creative, memorable, and personalized. It transcends the capabilities of digital marketing by being tangible and multisensory. Most importantly, direct mail has been utilized much less frequently in the digital age. That means your brand has less to compete within the consumer’s mailbox. Pairing curated direct mail with digital marketing can help your brand receive the undivided attention it deserves.


If you’re aiming for a B2B approach, sales kits can help strengthen existing partnerships. Or, if you’re gearing towards a B2C approach, direct mail can help consumers reconnect with your brand in a refreshing way. No matter what your goals are, implementing a direct mail strategy is an essential step in the right direction for your brand.





Debbie Nierman, Founder and CCO, HGX Creative

SBA, Small Business Genius, Neil Patel


Demystifying Reusable Face Masks

As businesses and communities look to come back to an altered reality, there is no scenario that doesn’t include extensive face mask usage for the foreseeable future.

Face masks have quickly grown to be among the top consumer items right now for a very good reason. They will likely be a part of our regular society and culture as we get back to a new sense of normalcy. So how can you be sure you, your employees, clients, and your community are protected? And how do we navigate this fast-paced, very important product category under these circumstances and confidently make good buying decisions?

We’ve been attending webinars and sampling every possible consumer mask that’s been introduced by our manufacturers over the past 30 days so we can bring you the most current and best options as they become available. We’ll continue to dive deep into this product category amongst others and share what we learn along the way.

Although the main focus of this article is reusable face masks, I want to remind our clients and readers how important it is that the N95 Respirator masks, which are NIOSH certified and FDA approved, are reserved for our medical front line. This mask, as noted by its name, has a 95% filtration rating, meaning it is designed to filter out at least 95% of airborne particles including large and small particles. It is considered PPE and the best medical grade mask available at this time for the protection of the men and women treating COVID-19 patients.

Consumers and businesses are being flooded with numerous offerings. There are DIY options and beautiful hand-crafted styles on sites like Etsy, as well as big and boutique brands working to fill the enormous need. In fact, I bought myself this one about five weeks ago. There’s no shortage of reusable mask options hitting the market right now. But there is a shortage of good quality, fair priced, CDC compliant masks.


The CDC requires that cloth face coverings should ­–


Not all Masks are Created Equal

The team at HGX creative has been tirelessly testing and confirming the effectiveness and usability of multiple mask styles. Branded face masks are new to all of us including most of the manufacturers making them, so we have spent the past few weeks washing, wearing and dissecting a number of styles. In addition to the CDC requirements we included some of our own testing criteria and for now, we’ve settled on our top two picks below that rated BEST on a good, better, best scale. We suspect things will change as product development continues to improve and fashion turns the face mask into a trendy apparel category. We’ll keep you updated!


Triple Layer Face Mask with 3D Contouring

Minimum Quantity: 24       Price Range: $14 - $7      HGX Rating: BEST

3 Layer Contoured Face Mask

3 WORDS: sturdy, snug and comfortable

FIT: choice of elastic ear loops, tie back or over the head elastic

LAYERS: 2 outer 100% lightweight polyester; 1 inner, 100% unbleached cotton


LAUNDERING: warm water, gentle cycle, hang to dry or tumble dry low



FABRIC: poly cotton


SIZING: adult & youth

CUSTOMIZATION: full color, full-bleed, custom design on front side; white elastic fittings, natural colored cotton inside

NOTABLE FEATURES: fits snug but not too tight, easy to breath, 3D contouring allows for a good amount of room between the face and fabric

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA, Haiti, Dominican Republic (determined at time of order based on capacity)



Double Layer Adjustable Face Mask with Filter Pocket

Minimum Quantity: 12       Price Range: $20 - $12    HGX Rating: BEST

Double Layer Reusable Face Mask

3 WORDS: soft, lightweight, comfortable

FIT: adjustable elastic ear loops

LAYERS: two poly-cotton layers + one filter when added to the pocket

BREATHABILITY: very good, best with filter inserted

LAUNDERING: machine wash warm water, gentle cycle, hang to dry

COMFORT: Best, even better when the filter is inserted


FABRIC: poly cotton

FILTER: yes, built-in filter pocket

SIZING: adult & youth

CUSTOMIZATION: full color, full-bleed, custom design on front side; choice of black or white elastic ear loops, white interior

NOTABLE FEATURES: great coverage, snug but not tight, easy to adjust and very comfortable


EXTRAS: comes with an aluminum adhesive strip on the nose for a tighter seal (replaceable) + 4 PM 2.5 filters



I am scheduling video conferences for anyone interested in seeing the fit and features of each.

If you’d like to set one up with me please email or call 508-405-4506. I’ll show you the difference between those we wouldn’t wear and aren’t offering, and the ones that made our final cut and why.


All in a Name - Why it’s Important to Protect your Company’s Identity


Your company’s name and logo are an important part of the identity of your brand and business. Whether you are newly formed, or a company that’s well established — if you are investing in advertising you should ensure you’ve properly secured your business name so no one else can use it. Registering your trademark is crucial in notifying others that your company’s name, logo, tagline, etc. are your property. It gives you the exclusive right to use them in connection with your services or products. Applying for a trademark protects your original ideas from being used by someone else.


Do you Always Need to Trademark?

There are circumstances in which you may not need to trademark. For example, if you own a small business that operates in one state and you don’t plan on expanding into other markets, you don’t necessarily have to register to trademark your name. You already have the right to use it in your market if you have registered your LLC or corporation with your individual state, which most businesses do. On the flip side, just because you have formed an LLC or corporation let’s say in MA, for example, doesn’t mean that no one else can use your business name in that state. They just can’t necessarily register it under the same name. If you don’t trademark your company name, you have no real legal claim to it. So, if you plan to expand your business into new markets, it’s wise to register your trademark.


In most circumstances, it seems wise to register to trademark your company identity. A no brainer, right? You would think, but we’ve seen companies fall victim to not protecting their name all too often. For instance, a client comes to us with a business name and logo they’ve been operating under for decades, but they’ve never taken the necessary steps to legally protect it, despite how successful they’ve become and how large they’ve grown. Or a client will initiate a full rebranding and realize when they go through the motions of trying to trademark their company name, logo or slogan, they can’t protect it. There could be another company in the same line of business using the name, or something similar trademarked already. It’s always a good idea to make sure you aren’t infringing on someone else’s trademark from the get-go, especially before investing in a campaign to rebrand.


Protect Your Business Assets When Going for a Rebrand

A story comes to mind whenever I’m advising a client on trademarking. We had just begun working with a new client on a brand identity project. During our first kick-off meeting with their team to go over the new product line and their company name (which they had come to us with), I asked if they had cleared the name and secured the trademark. The CEO assured me that they had done their research and the name came up clean. I suggested we run an official search before they began spending money with us. It was a significant financial marketing investment afterall. But they insisted they wanted us to proceed. They were $30K into the project when we had to pull the plug due to a conflict with the company name, and we had to scrap the work we’d done (not to mention the sizeable investment our client had already made). We had to find a new name, clear it, trademark it and redesign everything. It was an unfortunate circumstance that could have easily been avoided.


So how do we at HGX typically go about guiding our clients through trademarking their company mark? Here’s our process, step-by-step.



First we undergo a trademark knock-out search to identify if there are any conflicts that can be found that have the potential to prohibit us from obtaining trademark approval. We use various resources at a few different levels to search including (but not limited to) the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database. It is a low-cost preliminary step that can often identify issues BEFORE filing and spending the full fee to register. Search can take about 1 week to complete.


We review the findings acquired in the knock-out search with attorney assessment and professional opinion. Once we deem that the name, slogan or logo isn’t already being used, we move on to the next step.

STEP 3: 

We file with the USPTO. This is NOT a guarantee that it will or won’t pass, it simply means that we think it has a pretty good shot at securing Trademark. It can take up to 3-5 months to process and hear back from the patent office on whether the trademark has been approved or rejected. It’s important to note that once an application is filed, there is not a whole lot that can be changed. Sometimes our attorney can fix a trademark application with a simple phone call, or sometimes we have to completely re-file it. Also key is checking-in regularly with the USPTO to make sure our application is moving through the process as it should be.


If our trademark request is approved we have 6 months to file proof of use in the marketplace. We cannot guarantee that the USPTO will grant trademark ownership until we have received notice of approval. Any client working with us on brand identity development proceeds at their own risk until we receive trademark approval. We always recommend that we hold off on design and development of their brand identity until we reach this final stage of approval and the trademark has been assigned. You can guess how many clients are patient enough to wait (very few), but they are proceeding at their own risk!


Leave it to the Professionals

Filing a trademark application APPEARS to be a straightforward process of filling out online forms. However, anyone that isn't an attorney should NOT be assisting a company in filing a trademark application — whether on their own or through DIY legal sites.* Even if the trademark office does accept the filed forms and eventually approve the trademark, if it’s not filed by a professional, the application (or the issued registration) could have weaknesses should it ever come to enforcement/litigation. Someone that isn't aware of the law or what arguments will work can create a big mess.


The Aftermath of Trademark Approval

So you’ve made it through to the end and have been granted trademark approval, congrats! You can breathe easy, right? Not quite. Although the USPTO will ensure that no other party can register for your trademark, it’s up to you to protect your name or mark against unauthorized usage. So what can you do? If you have the resources, hire a professional to monitor the marketplace and ensure no one else is infringing on your trademark. If someone is using it, legal action may be taken which includes sending a cease and desist letter or filing a trademark infringement lawsuit. And besides monitoring to make sure no one is using your trademarked property, you must also make sure to file maintenance documents to prove that your trademark is still in use. At around the 5 or 6 year mark, proof of usage is crucial, as well as at around the 9 or 10 year mark.

Trademarking your company’s name, logo or intellectual property is important and more than just a formality. As you’re growing your business, think about your particular brand protection needs and make sure you take the right legal steps to enforce them.


*[Note: Online legal services don’t offer a ton of value even at the search phase since they only offer direct hit searches. For example “Battman” or “Starbucks” produce zero results even though both of these marks would be rejected by the trademark office since you can’t file anything that’s similar to an existing trademark. This is just one example of the inconsistencies of a site like this.]

Launching A New Website Is Not Enough

"If you build it, he will come." While that was true for an Iowan farmer building a baseball diamond in Field of Dreams, it is often not at all true for a business owner launching a new website. Companies that have never had a web presence rarely experience an influx of visitors. After investing copious time and energy into a website launch, it can be disheartening to not immediately have the phone ringing off the hook and an inbox full of new sales leads.

It takes a marketing strategy

We talk a lot about strategy and a new website is no exception. The internet is extremely crowded, and new websites are hard to find. Most people visit the same group of large sites, and a select handful of smaller sites that are specific to them. Rarely do they deviate from this habit.

Decades ago, all a business needed to do was put up a billboard or air a TV commercial to begin getting leads. Now, an audience must be carefully lured through the stages of awareness, interest, desire and action. A new website must be complemented by a complete digital marketing strategy in order to reach an audience.

The effort to find website visitors and turn them into leads is a marathon, not a sprint. In fact, in many ways creating and launching the site is the easy part! A strategy must be created in order to bring in web traffic through coordinated, useful, compelling content and multi-platform digital advertising.

It takes digging in and consistently implementing your strategy

Here are four tips for beginning to create a comprehensive digital marketing strategy.

  1. Know your audience. Who would be most interested in visiting your website? Where can they typically be found online? Once these questions have been answered, begin creating content targeted towards them and publishing it on the sites and social platforms where they are most likely to be found.
  2. Develop content. Create content for your company blog and social media channels, as well as evergreen content for the website. The content should include a clear call to action to visit the website or sign up for a newsletter. It should also be optimized for search engines, which can drive a significant amount of traffic to your site.
  3. Refine your website. Provide thoughtful explanations of how your product or service solves potential customers' pain points. As your customer base grows, ideally you will be serving them well enough to turn them into company evangelists. Ask for their feedback and use it on your website. As your content brings in new visitors, the positive opinions of current customers will entice them to learn more.
  4. Advertise online. While your organic efforts begin to take root, grow, and bear fruit over time, use digital advertising as a growth booster. Social media advertising can help expose your content to new audiences. Digital banner ads on other websites where potential customers like to visit can also help. Consider using paid content distribution services to help your content get more exposure.

It takes a specialist

That may sound like a lot of work - it is! But it is worth the effort, and you do not have to go it alone. With the help of an experienced marketing agency to help you plan, execute and analyze results, you can create a digital marketing strategy that will make people aware of who you are, pique their interest, cause them to desire your product or service, and eventually take action.

Dimensional direct mail can be well worth its weight


Nothing against flat mail, it’s just that Pretty Hot and Tempting (PHAT) mail, also known as lumpy mail and dimensional mail, has much more going for it. It can simultaneously appeal to emotions, trigger intrigue and look official or important making it irresistible to open. We’re talking about dimensional mail that screams "pay attention to me!"

The use of promotional products as an incentive to respond generated four times as many responses as a sales letter alone (PPAI 2017). People are bombarded with all sorts of electronic messaging, ads and offers. Direct mail isn’t as cluttered and it’s the only strategy that doesn’t rely on an evolving computer-generated algorithm to get your message in front of your target market. The Data & Marketing Association data backs it up: Large envelopes have a response rate of nearly 50 percent higher than that of letter-sized envelopes. Add some bulk to that envelope or include something that squishes, jiggles and even jingles, and you’ve made it near to impossible to be ignored.

The DMA tested neuro-marketing research in direct mail and found that three things ring true:
But what if your budget doesn’t allow for a beefed up dimensional mail piece?

We’ve got a solution for that. Add a ride-along. A ride-along is a light-weight promotional piece that doesn’t require additional postage. It fits inside the envelope you’re already planning to use and won’t impact your mail cost. For short money you can add SWAG that reinforces your marketing message and keeps your brand in front of the recipient. Promotional items like car magnets, tech tattoos and cleaning cloths can give you a great bang for your buck without blowing your budget.

Because it’s not lumpy and it doesn’t jiggle or jingle, don’t forget to let the recipient know there’s something in it for them if they take the time to open your mail piece. Bright colored envelopes catch the eye especially when it’s printed with “FREE” and an eye-catching description of what they get if they open the envelope.  You’re already printing the envelope with an address so including your call to action in the same print color shouldn’t increase your costs.

While dimensional mail comes in many different forms, don’t forget to focus on five core attributes that we’ve found exponentially increase ROI.

For more information on direct mail campaigns contact us.  508-405-4506

Sweepstakes and skills contest compliance

The internet has become so noisy that you have to broadcast a strong signal in order to be heard and noticed by potential customers. Amidst the clutter of GIFs and memes are attempts by innovative, engaging brands to connect with their audience in a meaningful way. Two popular, related methods of doing so are chance-based sweepstakes and skill-based contests.

Usually, the creative minds in marketing, sales or community outreach are the ones creating and running these promotions. Unfortunately, failure to consult with a legal team can result in many legal compliance issues being overlooked. If you are thinking about launching a skills contest or sweepstakes, there is a multitude of compliance issues for you to address. While all of this should be done with the assistance of your lawyer or legal team, you can make their job easier - and your results better - by being thoroughly prepared.

For helpful, easy-to-implement tips for defining your promotion, creating common documents, preparing for regulations and more: [PDF_form]

E-Newsletters are Regaining Popularity

With so many other ways to reach customers, many marketers and business owners wonder, is it still worth sending email? The short answer: Yes.

Although social media has been a dominant force in reaching audiences, e-newsletters are still gaining popularity due to the fact that users can look at the email at any time, giving it a longer “shelf life”.

There are several key factors to creating an email newsletter that people will actually read. Here are three.


Tuesday’s have the highest open rate of 19.9% and click through rate of 4.55%. It’s also known to be the most popular day to send emails. Consider circumventing the masses. (Source: Getresponse)

The first hour matters most. The highest open rate will be an hour after your send time, so it is important to keep this consistent so it can be part of your audience’s routine.

Pick a time & stick with it.  Consider what your audience is doing at certain times of the day based on their demographic and what you know about their work/personal time. Are they commuting, just getting to work, or are you sending it on the weekend? Choose wisely.


HGX Creative Places in Leading International Awards Program – 2017 Communicator Awards

Out of more than 6,000 submissions from all over the world, HGX Creative is named an Award of Distinction winner in the 2017 Communicator Awards® competition for its creative work for New England Dairy Promotion Board.

“We are always proud to be recognized for our creativity, and winning a Communicator Award of Distinction is an honor,” says Debbie Nierman, Founder and Chief Creative Officer at HGX Creative. We really enjoy the work we do with the New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC).  We’re fortunate to be part of such an important effort and to work so closely with a team of experts responsible for working with dairy brands, retailers, state government and farmers to create promotions, programs and events that promote their region’s high quality dairy products and help people better understand where their milk comes from. This award is a testament to what we do. The results NEDFC gets from the work we do is why we do it.”

The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program recognizing big ideas in marketing and communications. Founded over two decades ago, The Communicator Awards receives over 6,000 entries from companies and agencies of all sizes, making it one of the largest awards of its kind in the world. The Communicator Awards honors work that transcends innovation and craft – work that made a lasting impact, providing an equal chance of winning to all entrants regardless of company or agency size and project budget.

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