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IQ Spotlight: Corrie Smith, Sr. Account Director

Corrie IQ Spotlight

IQ is made up of a bunch of rockstars that make incredible work for our clients everyday. We want to give you a glimpse of what it’s like to work in IQ, so every other Friday we’re going to interview an IQ-er and let you get to know them better.

For the official record, what is your name and your title at IQ?

My name is Corrie Smith and I am the Sr. Account Director at IQ.

What gets you the most excited in your life, aside from your work at IQ?

My family gets me the most excited. So I spend a lot of time doing things with my husband, we actually golf a lot. I also love to play with my dogs, we have two boston terriers, Vern and Sadie, they’re the best! And my FitBit! I am obsessed with my FitBit!

What was your first job?

My very first job was at Outback Steakhouse, I started out as a hostess at 16 and worked there through college over 9 years and made my way to manager. And my first job after college was in medical sales. I actually stayed in the medical area for a while because it was so interesting to me, even the agency I was with prior to IQ was a boutique medical agency.

Tell me about the moment you knew this was the direction you wanted to pursue professionally.

When I was in medical sales I was eventually managing a team of 14 sales people and I really started paying attention to the collateral and materials you need to build rapport and make a sale. So I started getting more interested in the marketing side of sales, and creating collateral that was targeted to both doctors and to patients so they could be better informed advocates of their health. So then I started working with a boutique medical agency that was focused on patient advocacy work. And to keep growing I knew I needed to move to an agency with a multi-industry clientele.

What does “Creative Intelligence” mean to you?

To me, “Creative Intelligence” means that when a client comes to us with a need that they get the strategy that IQ focuses on with consumer decision journeys and research, to guide the creative so that it’s not just pretty, it’s powerful and backed in research and can be proved with ROI results.

At what age do you feel like you finally became an adult?

I think the time I felt the most confident and knowing who I am and being comfortable with it was probably at 34. But if you ask me this tomorrow I might say that I still haven’t figured it out.

Quickfire:

Pudding or Jello?

Pudding.

Beach or pool?

Pool.

Crushed ice or cubed ice?

Crushed.

Kindle or paperback?

Both! It depends on how quickly I want a book or if it’s a favorite I like to reread in an old paperback.

Bright colors or neutral colors?

Neutral.

Now you know a little more about Corrie Smith!

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  • 04.09.15

4 Keys of a Go-2-Market Plan

In today’s complex marketplace what a brand does is as important as how it does it. Without the right plan, the best creative is worthless.

This short deck outlines the 4 keys of a validated, actionable go-2-market plan.

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#GoGreen with IQ this April!

#GoGreen April

This month at IQ we’re thinking about Spring and our environment and how we can make our office greener. Whether it’s starting an office recycling program or even bringing in some fresh green plants into your office, there are so many ways you can make your workplace sustainable. A lot of tips to go green can even boost employee productivity, too! So this month we’re sharing some ways we #GoGreen in the IQ office!

We will be sharing original articles here and in our other social media channels (TwitterFacebookTumblr, and LinkedIn). We’ll also be sharing other articles and links that inspire us in making our workplace more green.

So keep an eye out for the #GoGreen hashtag as we join in the conversation on going green!

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6 Ways Financial Institutions Can Simplify Copy

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6 Ways Financial Institutions Can Simplify Copy

Simplify Financial Copy

Finance isn’t simple. Unless you’re armed with a handy jargon cheat sheet, ‘Compound Interest’ and ‘The Rule of 72’ just sound like bad action movies. So for those of us who can’t leave a tip without a calculator, pinpointing something like the appropriate amount for a home equity line of credit can be overwhelming. What does this mean for financial institutions in our digital world? Consumers are searching for straightforward content, and whoever has easy-to-understand copy wins.

How can financial institutions simplify their copy? 

1.  Jargon-proof your copy.

Nothing scares a consumer more than confusion. Believe it or not, not everyone knows the difference between APY and APR, especially millennials as they age into the market for mortgages, car loans and other financial products. Spelling out acronyms and offering short definitions can be the difference between closing the tab and clicking “open account.” Vanguard spells out exchange-traded funds on first mention, rather than simply saying ETFs. Then, they give an overview of what this means as well as how to choose which is right for you. By skipping the technical language, brands can build trust.

2. Show real-life examples.

Consumers want to know, “What exactly is in this for me?” Often, financial services can seem abstract or uniform compared to services offered by other institutions. By helping the consumer see real-life use, it’s easier to establish need. For example, Simple doesn’t say, “We track spending in your checking account.” They say, “Goals and Safe-to-Spend go hand in hand to help you control and understand spending while making sure you have enough to pay the bills-and maybe even save up for something special.” That way, the reader doesn’t just see a digital service — they see secure rent and a fridge full of groceries.

3. Keep it short and sweet.

Big chunks of text can make simple copy seem complex. Be sure to cut empty copy and see what can be said in fewer words. Break up copy with more paragraphs and punctuation. Splitting sentences doesn’t always save space, but it does improve readability. That’s why Mint’s website reads, “Bills? Paid. Don’t miss a bill again. See and pay your bills on one place.” That’s much better than “With the ability to view bills and make payments on the same website, you’ll be less likely to incur late payment fees,” right?

4. Just come out and say it.

Honesty is the fastest route to credibility. If consumers feel like they need a microscope to spot the difference between services, the choice won’t be made with confidence. After all, value can’t be built if consumers aren’t sure what a service is. While Gateway Bank offers multiple checking accounts, each is identifiable through simple headlines and copy that explains which account best suits different life stages and needs. Because “people who just want the basics” have different needs than teachers or retirees.

5. Get personal.

In 2013, Pew Research Center reported that 51 percent of Americans chose online banking over in-store. This means less representatives sharing brand values and walking customers through financial processes. And you know what? A human touch brings simplicity to difficult or new processes. Incorporate personality reflective of a brand’s voice and tone, and offer additional help through straightforward calls to action. GoBank adds personality to copy with short lines like “Psst… you can also find free nearby ATMs with our mobile app.” Personality can lighten financial copy, as well as encourage consumers to follow along to the next step.

6. Speak the customers’ language.

Not only does speaking the customers’ language help readers understand copy, it boosts search optimization. By using phrases customers are already searching for, you can better drive traffic to your online content. Google Hummingbird picks up on conversational queries, like “How do I open a bank account?” So think about how customers speak and ask questions, then provide copy to match. To give users the most accurate search results, pinpoint which pages should use which keywords and phrases. Don’t overuse them — over-optimizing your content does more damage than it does good.

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Every Brand Needs a Playbook

Creating a brand's playbook

An Evidence Based Approach

Marketing has become a very complicated game. On every play there are thousands of possible permutations and like chess you have to not only win the moment, but also make it part of the bigger strategy. It’s not easy because there are so many things to consider, from the sheer number of channels and influences, to the behavior of the independent minded, digitally savvy consumer. Trying to do it by gut, or even experience, alone is just not possible anymore. That’s why brands need an evidence-based approach to marketing planning.

First Things First

There a number of steps to developing a plan, each building on the other, but to begin you need to gather all the intelligence you can find. This includes data and insights on barriers and opportunities inside your company, the category, the competition and the target consumer. It also includes doing a health check on the brand position, reviewing the lead process, if any, the conversion process and the role of technology; internal and external. Then with, hopefully, target audience segmentation and personas in hand, you should conduct a competitive analysis, use social listening to see what your targets are talking about, and analyze search patterns to glimpse what they are actually doing.

Mind the Gaps

Normally companies already have lots of this information, as well as Attitude & Usage research, sales and geographical data and so on. The idea is to synthesize all this data into insights and direction. But first you should determine the gaps in your knowledge, where you need additional understanding, and decide how critical it is to fill those gaps. Often stakeholder interviews, across the organization, from sales to the executive suite, are a fast way to fill in knowledge gaps, identify what is important internally and as an important bonus, get buy-in for the planning process.

Journey Mapping

All this data and knowledge becomes inputs for the next phase; Journey Mapping. This critically important step is based on the Mckinsey Consumer Decision Journey model introduced in 2009. Its job is to map consumer behavior at the key steps of awareness, evaluation, conversion, post purchase and loyalty. It tells us what each segment of consumers is thinking, doing and feeling at each juncture; it also identifies barriers, distribution requirements, brand role and more. Usually conducted as a collaborative workshop, Journey Mapping brings marketers together with key stakeholders and subject matter experts, to answer the key questions of “When” and “Where” to connect with consumers, and the role and purpose of channels at the different stages of the journey. Of course it is invaluable to talk to consumers too if time and budget allow.

Mighty Messaging

Building on Journey Mapping is Content Strategy, which is focused on answering the other two key questions “What to say” and “How to say it” at each touch point. The objective is to determine the most relevant and impactful messaging that can be presented to each consumer at each interaction.  That messaging needs to be relevant to the persona and their stage of the journey, while also being designed to contribute to a cumulative brand impression. At the same time messaging must be delivered in a way that is right for the context of the interaction; a video on a phone, for example, might be perfect or completely wrong depending on where someone is likely to view it and what he or she might be doing at the time.

Making the Cut

By this stage of the process you will have identified many potential tactics that address “where, when, what and how”.  But since budgets and time are always limited, you need to make choices based on each tactic’s ability to achieve business goals. Tactics are therefore reviewed for how they are projected to deliver on business objectives within time, resource, difficulty and ROI requirements and those that make the cut go into The Playbook. This is a prioritized action plan, typically covering 12-18 months, made up of the most effective and efficient tactics that you have determined will together achieve your business goals for the period. With it you know what marketing tactics need to be executed when, what performance they are projected to deliver, over what period of time, at what cost and at what difficulty level.

Less Guesswork

The Playbook is the culmination of a comprehensive evidence-based strategic process that takes the guesswork out of this complex process and gives senior management and the marketing team the confidence they need that their marketing plans will accomplish their business goals. While experience alone might have worked in simpler times, it’s just too risky today, which is why the Playbook will give a brand a much higher chance of success vs. reacting, improvising or just going on gut.

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IQ Spotlight: Sarah Giarratana, Copywriter

IQ Spotlight Sarah G

IQ is made up of a bunch of rockstars that make incredible work for our clients everyday. We want to give you a glimpse of what it’s like to work in IQ, so every other Friday we’re going to interview an IQ-er and let you get to know them better.

For the official record, what is your name and your title at IQ?

My name is Sarah Giarratana and I’m a Copywriter.

What’s your superpower?

Probably being empathetic? I try to be really in tune with how other people feel, and I try to live my life empathy first.

What have you learned from the people you’ve worked with at IQ?

I think learning to stop overwriting. I know that sounds so simple, but learning how to work with designers and UX-ers to optimize text has helped. When the design and the copy are balanced it makes the experience of whatever we’re creating so much better.

Tell me about the moment you knew this was the direction you wanted to pursue professionally.

I actually started out interning in project management. But I found out that I was really a terrible PM. But I found some great mentors who shared their secrets of copywriting with me. And I just kept learning and writing copy and getting better, and now I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I like the advertising industry, and I love watching how communication has changed and the role of a copywriter is becoming more of a content creation role, and that keeps me challenged and motivated.

What does “Creative Intelligence” mean to you?

The “Intelligence” is the cake itself, and “Creative” is the icing. They can exist separately, but when they come together they make a beautiful cake. And let’s face it, cake is delicious. That being said sometimes you just need a spoon and a tub full of icing. Right, my creative peeps?

Do you have a personal motto?

I think it’s tied between what I said earlier about living “Empathy first” and also “positivity is self-fulfilling.” Even when life gets hard, I find that when I choose positivity, it chooses me back.

Quickfire:

Spring or Fall?

Fall.

Comedy or Mystery?

Drama.

Freckles or Dimples?

Both.

Questions: Asking or Answering?

Asking. Definitely asking.

Picnic or Restaurant?

Restaurant.

Now you know a little more about Sarah Giarratana!

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The Time is Now: Google’s Mobile Deadline

Google's Mobile Deadline

It’s here — Google has pulled out the guillotine for mobile organic search. This time, they’re not messing around.

For many years, marketers have pondered the implication of mobile site access and mobile search ranking results. Google is generally quick to respond to advancements in mobile technology that enhance the consumer’s online experience, and this is a clear-cut example of just that.

Content, content, content.

Google has always harped on the need for quality content versus quantities of “optimized” content. Whether its the Hummingbird update, Panda, Penguin, or whatever the next animal-named-algorithm they choose is, the goal is to identify higher quality content and eliminate what they deem low quality.

The delivery of quality content through search is not defined solely by Google itself, but through over a decade of research and consumer usage data to define what happens next. This time, what happens next is critical for all marketers.

According to ComScore’s January 2015 report, we’re far past the mobile versus desktop tipping point. This should be a wake up call for all brands and marketers.

ComScore January 2015 data

SEO is fun. It’s an always evolving, never stagnant, almost “game”-like adventure for copywriters, analytics professionals, digital marketers, and data geeks in general (like me).

But for too long, marketers have been focused on keywords with little attention paid to User Experience’s impact on SEO. Google doesn’t view them as totally exclusive — in fact in most cases, SEO and UX are complementary.

The magic is where UX and SEO meet in the middle.

Yes, you want to get users to the right web page or landing page through search, but if the page is not mobile-friendly or doesn’t meet the expectation of the user, then what’s point of optimizing for search?

At IQ, we utilize the “hub and spoke” marketing model. The brand website acts as the “hub” while the “spokes” are the content and channels driving to the website. If the hub is insufficient, the spoke suffers as well. If you throw in the rise of mobile use by consumers, you’ve got another wrench in the equation.

What if your customers can’t find what they need to because you’re not there in mobile search?

In the case of Google’s update on April 21st, many brand websites will suffer greatly in mobile organic search. And we can’t blame Google.

As technology has advanced, so have consumer expectations for mobile web experiences. With that advancement in consumer expectation, marketers are expected to meet them. Designing a responsive website can solve for that need easily.

Google’s made their decision on behalf of consumers — will your website live up to expectation or will it fall off the map on mobile?

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Your Facebook Page Likes Are Shrinking!

Shrinking Page Likes

There is actually zero cause for alarm; your Facebook fans are completely safe.  But Facebook is updating how they calculate the number of likes a page receives. In the near future Facebook will be removing the “like” of any person marked as deceased or originated from a deactivated account.

As Facebook points out; ”Removing inactive Facebook accounts from Page audience data gives businesses up-to-date insights on the people who actively follow their Page and makes it easier for businesses to find people like their followers through tools like lookalike audiences.”  This is a welcome change and one that will benefit your page in the long term. Additionally, you’ll save budget and time knowing you are only targeting correct audiences.  But with an improvement comes a little bit of short term pain. Due to this shift you will see a slight dip in the overall number of page likes.

Not that you should be focusing too much on page likes anyway. After all, the page like is likely dead. With organic reach being slashed to typically 1%; the page like has been reduced to a vanity metric. What matters is the content you are producing and the audiences you are targeting in your boosted posts.

Let us know how IQ can help you deliver better content to highly targeted social audiences.

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The End of Words?

End of Words -TQ

While the essence of a brand still involves a logo, a look, hopefully a differentiated position, and maybe even an enduring idea, it has become so much more thanks to technology and the new consumer. But while so much has changed, the fundamentals of the way people emotionally connect to other people, ideas, products and solutions are unchanged as they have been for eons. This is important to remember as we fight to stay connected to an always fast-evolving consumer. People haven’t changed. Our behavior may be new, but our motivations are ancient.

Simon Sinek talks about how brands need to answer the overarching question of why they do what they do. As he eloquently explains, money as an answer is not good enough. While “what” a brands does and “how” it does it is very important, according to Sinek, it is the brands that have a defining mission of some sort that have lasting resonance.

In the past much of this brand focus has been translated into the words a brand used in its adverting and communications. Words were the keys to a brand finding its place in the word. That’s why a positioning statement that could define a brand’s relative position in the consumer’s mind was considered so important for so long.  This focus on words was a reflection of the way companies distilled their ideas into communications and translated that in advertising. Of course sound and imagery was important too, but with fewer, simpler channels, words most often led the charge.

Fast forward to today and the electronic age in all its digital glory has ushered in a visual experience that has overwhelmed words. Screens surround the modern consumer, and screens scream out for images. Unlike words, and similar to music, images don’t need to be translated into meaning in the same way language does. We can look at an image or see a video and without any words feel the meaning. This direct consumption uses parts of our brain that are far older and more elemental than our higher thinking capabilities. Our immediate responses to imagery are, as a friend recently described, “reptilian,” appealing to elemental motivations of fear, desire, love and so on.

Now as I see more and more brands resort to imagery vs. words to communicate, the imagery being used naturally leans towards those that evoke emotional triggers. At the same time the digital camera has flooded the world with our own images of every second of our lives from cradle to grave. The result is a visual tsunami is already immersing us in a more sensory world. How it changes the marketers mission to influence consumers remains to be seen. Man has not led with images since the middle ages, before the advent of the printing press, and it will be one of the more important new dynamics for marketers to understand as we move beyond these early days of the new age of pictures.

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Part museum. Part zoo. All fun.

IQ team members earned bronze at the Adobe Creative Jam in Atlanta.

IQ entry Adobe Creative Jam

Two IQ team members, ACD Carol Montoto and Designer Aleena Khan, represented IQ at the Adobe Creative Jam last Thursday in Atlanta. The ‘Jam invited designers, illustrators and students from around Atlanta to go head-to-head in a competition to make something amazing using Adobe products. It also gathered a crowd of enthusiastic spectators who enjoyed snacks, drinks and speakers while the teamed worked.

Four speakers took the stage, including Aleena who shared some of her work done for the Museum of Design Atlanta. Guests were also invited to watch the teams as they worked in an open space. With floor-length glass windows, spectators could walk by and watch the teams work. Carol described the process as something between a zoo and a museum, in the funniest and best way.

To learn a little more about the experience, we sat down with Carol and Aleena with a few questions.

What was your favorite part of the ‘Jam?

ALEENA: Probably the peanut M&M’s. Also, meeting Adobe evangelists Paul Trani and Terry White, both of who create awesome and in-depth tutorials on Adobe products. (Everything I know I about InDesign I learned from Terry.)

You ended up designing a hilarious banana-themed wallpaper. Why?

CAROL: We were asked to use a Dr. Seuss quote about standing out as inspiration. From the quote about fitting in we saw people walking in the same direction, something redundant, like clones, like a pattern. So we thought, what has a pattern? Immediately, wallpaper came to mind. It wasn’t interesting to us to do a design without a function, so we decided to give it a function and made wallpaper. That spiraled and we took it one step further and just stuck it in ad for IKEA.

You were one of two teams who ended up with an advertisement. What’s the logic behind that?

ALEENA: We’re in advertising! And it only makes sense to do what we do best. We loved the idea of creating something useful, and a product for designers seemed like a great way to do that. Also we did whatever we had to do to incorporate bananas because why the hell not?

What team’s work did you admire most?

CAROL: The Moxie team that won did an amazing job with their illustrations. I was really impressed.

ALEENA: 22squared really put something amazing together, and it was clear they were both very talented at creating conceptual photo manipulations. The team was made up of Louie Zuniga and Mark Damiano.

How would you like to see Adobe’s Creative Jams grow?

ALEENA: To be honest, host it in the morning! When we’re all fresh.

CAROL: I would love to see them actually include writers. Even though they’re not using Photoshop, their work isn’t really possible without the Adobe products. They always work with a designer and art director. Aleena and I brainstormed a lot and it would have been wonderful to have a copywriter in brainstorm, because that’s not exclusive to just designers. It would have been fun to see how clever the stuff could have been. Pushing it beyond just the visual approach. Or for a different visual approach, they could invite photographers and retouchers. Really, it’s just great to see people from different fields get involved in the creative process.

 

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