Archive for the ‘strategy’ Category

Imagine having Bob Dylan as your brand’s spokesman.  For cents on the dollar.

Display advertising on the mobile web–or in-app mobile advertising–provides some of the richest opportunities for marketers to connect with consumers.

Here’s a mobile ad that converted me recently. And here’s why it worked:

photo1. Personalized to me based on a recent mobile search

2. Location-aware with a map to help me connect when I’m on-the-go

3. Strong call to action with the option to call (without expanding the ad)

4. Creative content connection thru Pandora internet radio (to which I’m addicted)

5. User review star rating authenticates quality via UGC/third party

This ad caught my attention initially because I was intrigued by a Dylan song I hadn’t heard before, on a station that was curated by a friend (bonus social connection~!).

This plumbing supply store gets two thumbs up for smarter, faster mobile advertising.

boxng_glovesRegardless of the medium, content will always rule. We’ve heard that in some form or another a lot over the years and it still holds true. My kids are still of the age where I read to them almost nightly. I’ve read lots of new (to me) books and some of them are good. But what I really get a kick out of is reading things I remember from my own childhood. I love it because it brings back a rush of memories and sometimes emotion. It’s just fun to see my own kids really dig something that I remember and love from decades ago. It’s not the wrapper or cover that it comes in, it’s the story, the pictures, the content that is special.

With the emergence of new technology and our focus on new uses and applications, I still find that the things that provide me the best, most interesting content are what I gravitate to. I have a bunch of apps that provide utility and those are great and useful things. Some are just tools, but some provide great and useful content, it just so happens that it’s served up on my phone, not in a book or on a web site. Presentation is important and making the content viewable and useful is paramount to the success of just about anything. However, beautifully designed or crafted things (TV spots, web sites, emails you name it) that are void of substantive and meaningful content, content that tells a story or connects in some, way just don’t last. We watched the original Star Wars trilogy recently in our house and that has really stood the test of time. Some of the special effects are dated (although still holding their own) but the story is just solid. The kids had no idea that the first movie is now 34 years old, they didn’t care. They were entranced by the characters, the story and the idea of it.

In advertising we talk of telling stories and content strategies. We talk about “breaking through” and having staying power. All of those things are true but the root of how to achieve those things is content. It can be a video, a game, an app for your phone or an article, blog post or Tweet, the form is far less important than the content. Sometimes the form is part of the story – or at least adds to it and that’s great too. That’s where innovation really comes in.  A few of us were reviewing some old design documents and came across a series of template designs for a client from 12 years ago. We chuckled at the design some and pretty much laughed at the names we gave the templates, but you know what, that product, that program was a huge success and the content was the reason. The designs were fine at the time and the blending of how the content was displayed was more than serviceable, but we sold that thing like hotcakes. I recall that the feedback was because of the usefulness of what was there. It was simple, easy to use but the content carried the day.

Keep working and pushing the user experience. Make it work for the consumer. That is incredibly important. But also make sure that the content is given its due as well. Take time to think through what you want to say, how you want to say and what you want people to do, feel or say after consuming it. Technology is the conduit but the content is what connects.

Working in healthcare can feel less than sexy at times. When it comes to digital, CPG brands get to have all the fun. Old Spice and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese are lighting up the social and viral highways, while healthcare brands (more often than not) stick to their professional, authoritative knitting. The fact is, there is more than one way to be successful in social media, and it all starts with establishing key objectives.

Making Boring Sexy

Making Boring Sexy: Social Media and Healthcare


A few years ago, psychologist Aric Sigman went out on a limb when he stated that the use of Facebook could lead to increased health problems. His theory was that the increased isolationism created by digital media could affect the immune system, possibly leading to heart disease, stroke and even cancer. What he didn’t take into account was the fact that many people are using Facebook as a cathartic outlet to help alleviate their own stress as sufferers or friends and family of sufferers.




Boxing promoters get paid big bucks for a reason–and it’s not to manage the bout. It’s to get people to the main event. 

Most websites get lousy traffic because all the effort is put into the site and people forget about promotion. And if there is promotion–it’s typically a few wildly-thrown punches that never land, with no sustained strategy beyond that. Draw your own crowd with these website promotion best practices:


Eric Trow recently wrote an article for MediaPost’s “Marketing: Health” series.  What follows below is the full article, however if you’d like to view or comment on the MediaPost article you can view that here: http://bit.ly/fNkcSk.

I snore. Or so I’ve been told. And just to be sure I know to take that seriously, healthcare professionals and marketers of health-related products continue to reach out to me with warnings that snoring is a sign of a whole host of serious medical conditions. But, frankly, it’s mostly lost on me. After all, I sleep pretty soundly. I’m no more tired during the day than any other hard-working professional my age (at least I have myself convinced of that). And I have no symptoms of any co-morbidity that could compromise my health (that’s my self-diagnosis).



This is the first in a two-part series rethinking what it takes to make a best-in-class website.

We get a lot of RFPs for website redesigns. All of them are well-intentioned. Some are granular in detail. Others are more “big picture.”  Some have a clear sense of what they want to achieve. Others haven’t a clue. Some are so procurement-driven they feel like a tax audit.  But they all say “website redesign.” And whenever I see or hear this phrase—website redesign—it conjures up the same image:

Five years ago, I got a note from a former client who had just moved into a new job. I printed it out and put it up on the wall, because it challenged the conventional wisdom of what it takes to truly be best-in-class.


A website overhaul is expensive, time consuming, and requires an enormous commitment from a client and the partner they choose to help them lead it. So with all that’s at stake, why redesign when you can realign? It may sound academic, but there are several critical distinctions.

A redesigned site:

is driven by a creative brief

understands the target

aesthetics first, then content

focuses on form

starts with design mock-ups

pleases mgmt in the short term

A realigned site:

is driven by business objectives

unlocks the key consumer insight

content strategy before aesthetics

focuses on form and function

starts with an idea

accomplishes business and user objectives

More after the jump.



SXSW Interactive wrapped up last week, and it was a worthwhile trip - despite the long lines and filled-to-capacity panels. And while a lot of great ideas were discussed, this year, as most years at SXSW, certain themes kept appearing again and again.

Brand Agility.

“Agility beats perfection” – this was a phrase mentioned more than once at SXSW this year. It means that marketers must be equipped to react quickly to, and participate meaningfully with, the changing wants, needs and behaviors of consumers. Spending a lot of time meticulously crafting a message slows you down in today’s media environment. Try something and see if it works. If not, then learn and adapt and try something else. Consider a marketing “playbook” rather than a marketing plan. Also referred to as “real time marketing”, the idea of brands remaining nimble and acting both reactively and proactively to their consumers was probably the dominant theme at this year’s conference.

Branded Content.

Brands as publishers, brands as media and brands as software developers. While brands have spent the past several decades mainly renting space in the media to spread their message, it’s time to move beyond that. Consumers now expect brands to create content in order to win their repeat attention. As the amount of information that floods us increases exponentially, content developed by brands provides a way to connect more effectively to those consumers who share your brand’s interests and values.

The Gamification…of Everything.

The term “gamification” and the principles behind it made its way repeatedly into the discussions at SXSW this year, with whole presentations dedicated to the subject. Basically, it’s about adding a layer of fun and engagement to your marketing to motivate people to interact with your brand on an ongoing basis. Anything from awareness, education, customer acquisition and loyalty can be shaped and improved by game mechanics – motivating human behavior by adding challenges, choices, goals and rewards that make people care about your marketing. According to one keynote presenter, the last 10 years have been about building the social layer on brand communication. The next ten years will be about building the game layer.

The iPad.

Just as smartphones have done, the iPad (and those other tablets) are evolving the way people use technology. There is something familiar about tablets, but there is also something very new. And as the popularity of these devices rapidly increases we will need to account for them in the way that we plan, conceptualize, design and develop our digital content. A recurring theme at this year’s SXSW was an exploration of just how to do that.

And one more thing worth mentioning…

SXSW Interactive is definitely no longer just “Spring Break for Geeks.” The tech set was there, but they weren’t alone. There were a lot, and I mean a lot, of attendees from agencies, marketing departments and brands in Austin this year. The business world is hungry for insights and knowledge about how to use digital more effectively, it seems, and it flocked to SXSW en masse this year to find them.

Referral Traffic - Social Media vs. GoogleRecently it’s been reported that, for a number of popular web sites, social media now drives more traffic than Google.

Presumably, if that’s true for the sites listed in the report, brands like Comedy Central, Etsy, NFL.com and Netflix, then it’s probably true for a lot of other web sites. And beyond links to specific URLs, it could be a sign that traffic other pages featuring products, not just specific web sites, could be shifting from Google and other search engines toward social media.

That’s interesting and all, but what does it mean? And why does it matter, really? Here are a few thoughts:

1. Social media referrals demonstrate the power of influencers.

The power of influencers in driving traffic

With the rise of the web and search engines, consumers have been given the unprecedented ability to seek out what they want, when they want it. But search is a solitary pursuit – no one else but the search engine is involved. And marketers using search as a traffic driving tool are really only reaching people one at a time. But in social media, referrals are often more, well, social. They are part of conversations, often among large groups of people. So for each person that offers a link to your brand as part of a conversation, or status update, or “Like”, dozens, hundreds or thousands of people can see it. That person becomes a potential influencer who can spread the word about your brand pretty quickly and effectively.

2. Links from social media often comes with endorsement.

Endorsement in Social Media

Whether stated explicitly or suggested, links in social media often come with some form of endorsement. Perhaps it’s one friend suggesting a product to another. Or someone expressing enthusiasm for a brand in a status update. Or someone else sharing a link to digital content on Facebook or Twitter, along with comments like “This video rocks”, “I love these” or “I want one”. It could even be expert or peer-to-peer advice on a discussion forum or within a blog. An objective viewpoint recommending your content or your product has a far more personal touch, and potentially more influence, than a list of search results.

3. Social media traffic is driven by personal knowledge.

Search engines really know very little about you, other than the keywords of your search and perhaps your location. But in an online social setting, interests, situation and even personality, are factors in the referral process. Whether is it a friend sharing a link, or as part of a conversation, or even as a Facebook ad served up based on keywords in a user’s profile, the link has more personal relevance because it takes into account the interests and personalities of the sharer or the viewer. Particularly in online conversations, referrals are more relevant because live people, not search algorithms, have incorporated them into the context of their conversations. A real person has offered the information, so the level of trust in the link increases.

So what should marketers do about this?

It’s clear that social media is growing as an increasingly powerful tool to drive traffic to many brands. For marketers, an obvious first step is to be present in the social web. If you aren’t there, then there isn’t a lot you can do to help drive traffic.

But beyond that, marketers need to really begin to concentrate on Social Media Optimization, or SMO. Much the same way that brands have been focusing on SEO – search engine optimization – over the past decade or so, SMO needs to become a mainstay of a brand’s marketing mix. Now. Otherwise, traffic from social sites is left entirely up to chance.

Coca-Cola Push Play Status Update

Whether or not your brand is ready to participate fully in the conversations of the social web, it’s hard to ignore social media as a traffic driver. And as a traffic driver, it’s time for brands to begin taking it as seriously as search. Who knows? For your brand, it could be even more important than Google. Imagine that.

The more time a visitor spends on your site, the more likely she is to buy. Carts experience the highest drop-off in the first two or three pages visitors see. Once they’re into the process, drop-off rates decline precipitously. To improve conversion rate, focus on providing relevant and persuasive content based on understanding visitor intent. Persuade on every page. Link pages together, in a step-by step-fashion, to guide visitors through the buying process. Hold their hands, and anticipate their every move. Make them feel comfortable and in control.

Here’s a list of eCommerce best practices we’ve curated from some recent reading:

1. Reduce the number of steps in the process. Combine the logical steps first (shipping and billing address information as an example). But don’t make brevity a goal in it of itself. Once the user completes the first page, they are invested in the process. Long forms at the front end result in higher abandonment rates. But once the user completes they first page, they are more likely to finish the job.

2. Manage the user’s expectations. Always let the user know where they are. Add visual process indicators to the checkout procedure. In addition, use headlines and breadcrumb navigation to show shoppers where they are. Page elements like large text headings and subheadings can help customers establish which page they are on and what the topic of the page is. Breadcrumb navigation helps customers establish how deep they are within the site structure and what is available to view before and after. Breadcrumbs and page headings have SEO benefits as well. If the process takes longer than 5 minutes, consider telling the user that as a courtesy.

3. Give them someone to call. Keep contact information prominent and include it on each page. Place a customer service phone number in a clearly visible location with the text “Prefer to order by phone?” to help decrease cart abandonment. Sites that provide this assurance perform better than those that don’t.

4. Let users easily modify contents. Keep the contents of the cart accessible and easy to find, so they can be changed along the way. Don’t just provide a link back to the cart. Visually show the cart–and its contents–at every step during the path to purchase.

5. Don’t require registration to checkout. This is difficult for some stores to implement because of the architecture their cart is built upon. However, if you have the ability to offer what is often called a “guest checkout” feature, you should do so.

6. Make the experience social. Incorporate user reviews through a tool like BazaarVoice. Products are 10% more likely to be purchased when accompanied by a user review. Port those reviews to your Facebook page and to retailer sites. Use Facebook Connect to make the process even more social. In addition, remember users when they come back. When someone returns—even as a guest—their cart should be waiting for them.  And don’t forget to remind users of abandoned carts via email or through your CRM program.

7. Make error messages clear. Red is the most common color for error messages. Target is a one color brand and still uses red in its error messages. Blue text with an alert icon could work just as well. Look at a couple different options and test them.

8. Clearly display your security and trust seals. Customer privacy concerns are paramount. Provide this assurance.

9. Only cross sell relevant products. Cross sell before the checkout process and after items have been added to the cart. Grouping products, showing related items and cross selling is important for customers and helps lower shopping cart abandonment rates.

10. Test, measure and refine. To a certain extent, every experience is unique. Test different combinations. Study user behavior. See which ones produce the best results. And make small changes based on what you learn.

Resources (these guys deserve all the credit)
• http://www.clickz.com/2245891
• http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/03/23/designing-for-the-user-experience-in-ecommerce/
• http://www.grokdotcom.com/2008/02/26/amazon-shopping-cart/
• http://www.getelastic.com/measuring-cross-sell-success/
• http://www.ecommnewz.com/2009/07/22/decrease-cart-abandonment-with-a-sturctured-checkout-process/
• http://www.searchmarketingstandard.com/tackling-the-shopping-cart-abandonment-rate
• http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/05/28/12-tips-for-designing-an-excellent-checkout-process/
• http://econsultancy.com/blog/1828-ten-ways-to-improve-online-checkouts
• http://www.elated.com/articles/10-ways-to-improve-your-store-checkout/