Drinking from the fire hose.

April 14, 2011

Lately I have been paying particular attention to the relationship between the speed at which technology changes versus the average person’s ability to comprehend (or care) and this quote sort of summed it up:

“I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my telephone. My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my telephone.” — Bjarne Stroustrup, Danish computer scientist

It seems that once I step outside the advertising arena where most of us in some form or fashion practically live on our computers, iPhones, iPads or some other electronic device, there is a huge disconnect or I don’t care attitude out there. Many feel that everything is changing so fast it is impossible to keep up, so why try? And I think the greatest challenge to us in the Biz is to keep in mind that everyone is not as tethered to technology as we might be. There are days I feel I am drinking from the technology fire hose… and I live, eat and breathe this stuff.

This has been a huge topic of discussion here at the agency and I have even done some informal research. I have asked over 400 people this question about web site navigation: If you  are on page twelve of a website and want to get back to the home page and there is no Home button, what do you do? (The answer to this question is at the bottom of this post.) Only two people have given me the correct answer, a programmer for IBM and my 10-year-old nephew.

And this is just the most trivial (and almost absurd) example. Last week I wrote about Popcodes. The US hasn’t even fully embraced QR Codes and there’s something new out to replace it. One day everyone on Twitter is extolling the virtues of a new app for geo-positioning and the next week the same people say it sucks and that some new app is better. Now don’t get me wrong. I am in favor of advancements in technology. I am an early adopter of most technology and as I mentioned, live in this arena and struggle to keep up.

So here’s my question: Are the developers of all this wonderful technology paying attention to Joe Q. Public’s ability to keep up or are they all talking (and developing) for themselves? Will there be a technology backlash in the near future because of this?

Let me know what you think and how you are keeping up. Oh yeah, The web navigation answer I promised is: on nine out of ten sites, if you click on the logo, it will take you back to the home page.

The Top Five Benefits of Using Online Video

April 8, 2011

Just when you thought you understood QR Codes, up pops Popcodes.

March 29, 2011

What are Popcodes? The basic premise is as simple as a QR Code; snap a picture on your mobile device, get extra content. QR codes direct you to content, but it’s a more passive experience. For example, McDonald’s in Japan is using QR codes on the side of burger boxes that direct you to a web page displaying nutritional information. QR codes can also take you to a secondary site to play a video.

However, with Popcode, the experience is more interactive. Popcode shows the camera picture on your smartphone’s screen just like when you go to take a photo. But that is where Popcode takes the content to a whole new level of viewer involvement.

Popcode is embedded with Augmented Reality technology or AR. So when you view a picture or poster with AR content, it comes to life on the smartphone’s screen – the app adds extra content as if it were actually there in the world around you.

The developers with Popcode put together this short video to help show how Popcode works. By the way, both the Popcode mobile app and the Popcode Developer Kit are free to download and use.

The Importance of SEO

March 24, 2011

If you build it, they will come. That’s a great concept, but it doesn’t ring true when you are building your company website. You can create the most wonderful, engaging site with all the bells and whistles, widgets and apps, but if no one knows about it, you’re really just talking to yourself. With all that’s available now online, the more you’ll find that the buzz word (or buzz acronym, in this case) SEO becomes an essential part of your online strategy.

Through SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, you are basically taking steps to make your site easier to find online; the easier it is for search engines to find the site, the more likely it is to be visited.

For example, you are looking for a bakery in Louisville, Kentucky. You go to Google, type in bakery Louisville Kentucky in the search bar and you get 120,000 results — that’s countless pages of results. If you are a bakery owner in Louisville, you will want to be within the first few of those pages. Studies show that the average consumer only scans the first three pages of search results — that means millions of sites aren’t getting viewed.

There are many ways to optimize your site through both paid (ads) and organic means — the most important and initial step is to create good, relevant content that is directly related to your business and you need to update the content at least once a month. A search engine such as Google or Yahoo! won’t keep viewing a page that never changes.

Here are a few easy steps to better SEO:

  1. Submit your site: This is a simple process of going to search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, typing in your URL, and giving a brief description. Search Engines can’t search your site without knowing it’s out there. See how simple this is with Google by clicking here.
  2. Link it up: It’s a bit of a popularity contest – the more links (or backlinks) you have on the web bringing users to your website, the more your site is viewed as a reliable resource, the better chances you will rank high with search engines.
  3. Expand your scope with social media: Social marketing tools such as Twitter, a blog or a Facebook business page allows the chance to reach an interested audience who may not be aware of your website, much less your company. Offer up some information that is of value to them and guide them to your website with links.
  4. Consult a professional when creating your site: Much of what search engines look for is incorporated into the infrastructure of your site. Web designers are trained to know the keywords to incorporate and how to manipulate code and data to bring about the best search results.

Plan to ‘Fail Forward’ with Social Media

March 17, 2011

The social media landscape is a bit like the Wild West: little or no rules, changes every day and no exact model that definitely works for every situation. Because of this, many companies need to constantly experiment with social media with the understanding that not every strategy will work for them. Twitter may work for one company, but not for another. But if you don’t try you will never find the best social media venue for your organization. Anything that doesn’t work is a step in finding what will; hence the concept of ‘failing forward’.

It takes a lot of time and effort to create the content needed to catch your audience’s attention. Some corporate marketers have estimated it takes almost twice the time to implement and manage a social media campaign than it would for traditional media. As I discussed in a recent blog post, social media does cost less to execute, as much as 90% less on a cost per impression basis than traditional media, but the organizational cost of manpower and time are significantly greater. And the reality is – many of them fail.

Additionally, the key benefit of social media is its ability to facilitate engagement with niche markets. Broadcasting a message to the masses is much easier than finding and actively engaging with your most promising prospects.

So, how do you get your company on the right track for social media success? David Vinjamuri, a contributing writer with Ad Age, suggests five steps:

  1. Build a constituency. Find colleagues who see the necessity to engage in social media.
  2. Find your communicators. Identify the people who will engage customers.
  3. Plot your strategy.  Will you run a small test to prove success or jump in?
  4. Structure for storytelling. Create an organization that can tell stories seamlessly across platforms.
  5. Get ready to fail. Most social media programs fail. But some are big winners. Succeed by using a portfolio strategy and adjusting quickly.

The first step is finding the right person or team of people to manage the social endeavors – it takes the mindset of a PR professional with the skills of a top marketer. Five characteristics of great social media communications include:

  • Great storytelling
  • Technical fluency with social media
  • Comfort with the unknown
  • Smart risk taking
  • Strong collaboration

Organizations need to allocate significant time and energy to be actively creating and distributing content but they need to be resilient enough to know that many efforts will fizzle rather than sizzle.

All work and no play… time to play.

March 9, 2011

While I generally want to keep our blog about insights into advertising and marketing business, this came across my desk and I thought maybe a little fun would be in order.

You’re sitting at your desk and you get a call from someone asking you a very basic question. While you are still on the phone, you enter a few logical key words into a Google search and are able to provide the answer immediately. BAM – a ten second exchange. It seems so simple, but even now, not everyone is in the habit of online searches. I believe it’s a time issue – why take the time to search when there’s a (perceived) expert sitting in the next office? We still need that human interaction and it’s ingrained in our daily work habits.

Well, I want to share an online application for those people who just can’t Google for themselves. It’s called Let Me Google that for you - a sarcastic reply to those sometimes annoying requests. Say someone calls and asks you who painted the Mona Lisa? When you are done rolling your eyes you go to the site, which appears as the Google home page, type in “Who painted the Mona Lisa?” into the search bar and hit the “Google Search” button. Instead of going to the search results, the site generates a custom URL of which you copy and paste into an email to the requestor in response to their question. The result looks like this: CLICK HERE.

Try this out – it’s fun and it may stop people from asking you questions when the can easily find they answers themselves. Have fun and send us any interesting experiences you have with the site.

Traditional Media is driving Social Media.

March 3, 2011

Back a few years ago with the introduction of social media, we all read the headlines in the trades predicting the demise of traditional media. We did see some devastating after effects with  a few of the newspapers, the loss of some of our favorite magazine titles and substantial dips in annual advertising spend on TV and radio networks (though a large percentage of this decline was a result of the failing economy). As we’ve witnessed the settling of social media, it is now evident that it will not drive a stake in the heart of traditional media. Instead, social media can enhance it.

While traditional media still has the strong characteristic of reaching the masses, social media has allowed traditional media something they’ve not been able to achieve: the ability to effectively interact with the consumer and allow dialogue. Previously, advertisers used TV (a one way medium) to drive traffic to bricks and mortar locations – now it drives the masses to websites, Facebook business pages or to check in with Foursquare to further their interaction with the brand. QR (Quick Response) codes are appearing in magazines and on billboards more so to enhance the consumer’s experience and to provide a greater amount of information than 30-seconds of TV, radio or a page in a magazine.

In many cases traditional media is serving to open the door for a campaign message, driving consumers to the Internet to seal the deal. When planned effectively, traditional and social media work hand-in-hand to deliver an enriching experience with the brand and create a well-rounded campaign. Social media should be viewed as an additional channel to provide the consumer information about a product or service, not a replacement.

Advertising and PR; there’s a difference.

February 22, 2011

I often hear people interchange the words Public Relations and Advertising as if they were the same profession and I can see where the lines are easily crossed by those not in the industry. One of my past colleagues described the difference in a grossly simplified, yet easy to understand analogy:

PR educates that the best way to get from point A to point B is to drive a car. Advertising tells you the car needs to be a particular brand.

Though these two industries share the common goal of educating an audience to achieve a communicative goal, they are very different in their approach. The goal of a PR professional is to achieve publicity by way of media sources. They use press conferences, press releases and personal calls, etc., to generate interest in a client’s story. The information released by means of public relations tells all the pertinent information in an upfront manner. Creativity in public relations is finding that hook that will resonate with the publishers, editors and news directors to make them want to pick up the story.

Through advertising, however, you have total creative control over how a message is crafted and your tools include creative copy, photos, illustrations, design, sound and motion. You are paying for space to reach a desired and specific audience – you have guarantees that the message will be communicated. Consumers know they are being sold to; advertising needs to have a high level of creativity to solicit a response. Advertising can craft wording with a sense of urgency, like “Call Today” or “Act Now” whereas PR presents the facts.

Public Relations and Advertising need to work hand-in-hand within your marketing mix, but they have different strategic purposes – they are not the same, but are definitely related.

Get your head in ‘the Cloud’

February 16, 2011

Imagine your next computer has an unlimited amount of space. All the music, videos, TV shows, work files and artwork you want — no limit. And you can access all this from any computer or even your cell phone, lightning fast. And your new computer costs less than $200.

Welcome to Cloud Computing — this is the future.

Actually, you’ve probably been using The Cloud and didn’t even know it. Facebook is a prime example. You upload photos, videos and words to Facebook and it stores them. That’s a simple version of Cloud Computing. Web-based back-up systems are another example of The Cloud. It’s like a giant hard drive of which everyone has a section (probably rents a section for a small monthly fee). With a password, you will be able to access this giant hard drive and work on any file; the same as you do now with your current computer. Your new computer (and even your smartphone) will simply be a means to access The Cloud — no files, no software on your computer. It’s all in The Cloud. Did I mention that this is the future? It’s probably three–to–five years away from universal use.

Of course, we are only on the leading edge right now of Cloud Computing and there are still a lot of potential bugs that need to be worked out: security, bandwidth and universal high-speed Internet access to name a few. However, they will work out the details and some day in the near future ‘Having your head in The Cloud’ will have a whole new meaning.

Consistency in your advertising campaign.

February 8, 2011

If I had that silver bullet that solved all the advertising needs of my clients, you’d be reading my book and I would be sunning myself on a beach on a remote island. Let me tell you right here and now, THERE IS NO SILVER BULLET. Despite what some people say, there is no one medium that will address all of your marketing needs, not one TV station that can deliver all of the audience you need to reach, nor will one newspaper ad make for a successful promotion (generally speaking, of course). And the new onslaught of social media venues (that seems to grow everyday) only adds to the media options, and sometimes confusion.

There are many ways to skin a cat,  when developing a campaign – there are many avenues that can lead you to your desired outcome. Advertising professionals will research all the options available to custom-fit a direct route to take in promoting your brand, but the true key to advertising is consistency.

If you create a plan, stick to it. Don’t change your message in mid-promotion, don’t lose sight of your primary audience and don’t pull a media campaign one week after the initial launch. I recently read some research stating that 60% of prospects need to hear a message 3-to-5 times on average for it to register, 4-to-7  times for them to fully recall the message and identify the product. Sure, adjustments can be made here or there along the way, but major changes in your promotion will confuse your client. Remember, you will live and breathe your campaign every day and will grow tired of it before the public. See your campaigns through to the end and then evaluate the effectiveness. Plant the seed and stand back and give it a chance to grow.

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