- Tony Quin
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We’ve all heard of the experiment that was done in the 60’s where kids were promised big treats, but only if they didn’t eat the yummy marshmallow sitting in front of them. The researchers were testing the degree to which kids could delay gratification in order to receive a greater reward in the future.
The kids didn’t do very well, and since then our increasingly instant gratification world has left many with the impression that perhaps our culture suffers from a lack of self-control.
An article in the New York Times last Sunday outlined recent studies that seem to point to a different reason why people opt for short-term rewards vs. the promise in the future. The research points to our uncertainty of the future as a key influence in decision-making.
The basic idea is a bird in the hand is real, but who knows what could happen if you go for the two in the bush. This reflects our universal experience of the unpredictability and uncertainty of the future.
For example, if you arrive at a train platform and it is packed with people, do you assume that the train is likely to arrive soon or that it has been delayed? Without more data, many would be influenced by the unpredictability of life and some might opt for a cab rather than an undefined wait. On the other hand, a simple clock showing when the next train was due would take all the uncertainty out of the situation.
In another version of the marshmallow experiment, two groups of kids were promised a reward from a researcher for not eating the marshmallow. In one group, before the experiment started the researcher demonstrated behavior that showed he was unreliable, in the other group the researcher showed to be completely reliable. The kids with the unreliable researcher waited 3 minutes before eating the marshmallow, the kids with the reliable researcher waited 12 minutes.
All of this got me thinking about behaviors brands ask of consumers such as filling out forms, watching videos and so on. In so many instances we require a consumer to do something based on the promise of something that will (or more likely may) happen in the future.
All too often, consumers do not know when it will happen, how long they will have to wait, or what will happen while they are waiting. I can easily see this feeding that fundamental sense of future uncertainty that the researchers talk about.
So, how as marketers can we bring a sense of certainty to these interactions?
One answer is to tell people how long things are going to take. We can also tell them exactly what is going to happen while they are waiting.
It’s clear that before consumers invest time in an action or an activity they go through a risk or reward calculation. If the uncertainty of the future is a part of their calculation, it’s up to us to come up with ways to minimize its effect.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment section below!
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Just like your stock portfolio needs to be rebalanced when market conditions change, you need to take a hard look at your media and channel mix in your 2014 marketing plan.
Discussions of mix have usually been about how to distribute media dollars among channels, but you need to look at channels holistically and include all costs, not just purchased media. With the continuous behavioral and attitudinal shifts of consumers, seeing your go to market plan as an integrated ecosystem is more important than ever.
1. If your channel mix does not reflect target audience behavior
Hopefully you know how your target audience uses media channels and when and where they are most receptive to brand interactions. You would be surprised how many marketers start by picking a channel without that knowledge.
Suffice it to say that the way consumers of all ages and types discover, explore, and evaluate products and services today is completely different to the way it used to be. You must therefore use a data driven, evidence based approach to determining your channel mix.
2. Because channels need to be weighted to reflect the dynamics of the Consumer Decision Journey
The difficult, but essential, challenge for a brand is to insert itself into the Consumer Decision Journey*. Your channel mix should reflect a comprehensive understanding of when and where people can and should be influenced. These are the inflection points where you should concentrate your resources. (*McKinsey & Co.)
3. The budget in a particular channel is insufficient to rise above competitive noise
A common mistake is not having an appropriate budget to achieve the mission. TV is a typical example of where budgets are often insufficient to accomplish minimum reach and frequency goals.
To use a war analogy, don’t split your army unless it is larger than your opponent, and concentrate your force on a narrow front for maximum impact.
4. You’re trying to win everything
You probably have short-term goals, but building a brand is a marathon not a sprint. So look at all the channels where your target audience is congregating and start with the areas that are uncontested by your competition. Then only select those that you can afford to do effectively (see previous point).
5. Because too much of your budget only has short-term equity
So much of marketing spend is ephemeral. So look for marketing investments that have long term value for the brand. For example, instead of buying banner ads, invest in evergreen content that can be used for search and syndication.
Over time these marketing investments will become the fabric of your brand’s marketing ecosystem.
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In the recent annual “Trust in Advertising” report for 2013 from Nielsen, we learned:
“Brand websites are now the second most trusted form of advertising, second only to recommendations from people I know”.
This is a clarion call to all marketers to get their website up to scratch or risk becoming irrelevant to the modern consumer. To that end, here is a list of the 10 most important elements of a good brand website today.
A website only works if it’s built on comprehensive strategy. Your strategy is the iceberg under the surface that keeps the whole thing afloat. If you don’t do this work you will not get a site that cultivates and converts prospects, you will get a brochure.
Consumers come to your site in order to accomplish something. Identify what those things are and then execute the most important ones better than anyone else. Whether someone is there to explore your offerings or accomplish a task, your job is to make the experience easy and worthwhile. This is where modern user experience (UX) techniques are invaluable. They help you craft a site that unfolds effortlessly in a compelling, personalized experience. That’s what it takes today to convert prospects and strengthen bonds with your existing community.
Social interactions and content bring your brand credibility, activate your community and amplify your brand. They attract search through SEO and include everything social from simple integration to ratings and reviews. While companies used to shy away from the associated risks, the lack of social not only sends a negative perceptual message, but means you have less influence over the conversation.
Search Engine Optimization makes your website, and more importantly the content within it, findable. It’s an art and a science. Every page and every piece of content needs to be optimized to your maximum advantage. That means keeping up with the latest search engine developments like Google Hummingbird, which recently changed the game again. SEO is cheaper marketing when compared to just about everything else you do. So remember every time someone discovers your content through search, it is one cost-per-click you don’t have to buy with AdWords.
Analytics are not the same as metrics. Metrics tell you how you’ve already done, but analytics tell you what to do next. The many analytics packages you can buy will actually feed you metrics, albeit in an easy to consume form. What they don’t do is tell you what those metrics mean, and what you should do as a result of them. This is the work of the analyst and where the rubber meets the road.
These software platforms provide the missing link between your marketing and sales. There are many options now, and as a result these technologies have become inexpensive and much easier to integrate. They allow you to track the activity of individual customers, and in many cases prospects, not only on your website, but also across the digital spectrum, including email, blogs, search and social media. They are especially important if you have a large database of customers and prospects with email addresses. They enable personalized, automated email marketing and integrate with many CRM systems.
If you have an integrated marketing strategy, then most people coming to your website probably enter at a landing page. This is because landing pages allow you to tailor a visitor’s first impression based on their point of origin. Personal relevance is one of the key elements of persuasion and tailored landing pages are how you begin a compelling personalized experience.
Soon, most people will view your site on a mobile device of some kind. Your site should be designed to work optimally on every mobile device. This means you have to navigate whether to use Responsive web design, which creates a web experience that adapts to the device it is being viewed on, or to create native apps for different device platforms, which unlike responsive sites allow you to use the built-in capabilities of the phone. Either way you need to offer a flawless mobile experience that fits what the user will be doing.
The experience of your website should reflect your brand’s attitude towards customer service, which is a key consideration for consumers. You are either an easy brand to work with or not. Your customer service capabilities should therefore be built into your site from instant chat to intuitive search.
Last but not least comes content. Content is the lynchpin of modern marketing in digital channels, and your website is just a vehicle for organizing and presenting it. Consumers have figured out that they are no longer a captive audience for advertising.
So instead they are looking for content that makes them smarter and/or entertains them. That content can be a video, an article, or even an interactive tool. In the end, however, it is how you are being judged. Therefore, it’s not good enough to just tick the box.
If your content is not compelling, engaging, valuable and original, people will ignore it. If you do everything else right, content will still be the difference between success and failure. It is what search engines will value and will activate your social networks. It will be the basis of a relationship started and the trust that is cultivated. Once you have the infrastructure of your marketing ecosystem in place, of which your website is a key piece, an ongoing flow of content will become the fuel that ignites the brand engine and keeps it running.
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Google has done it again.
You might remember a blog post I wrote titled “The 4 SEO Trends Every Marketer Needs to Know.” That list isn’t outdated, but there are some important new updates you should know about since Google just released its Hummingbird update — and it’s a big deal.
It’s so big in fact, that Google reports that it has affected 90% of all searches worldwide. To put that in perspective, Panda affected less than 10%.
Basically, the purpose of Hummingbird is to evolve how Google understands the context around a query and how it serves information based on that query. Google is banking on the fact that in the near future most searches will be done on mobile devices, and a lot of those will be done by voice instead of by text.
A user “asking” Google a question will look different than typing it. You might search for a location by voice asking Google, “Where is the White House.” The result isn’t a link to a website with that information. Google now tells you the address and provides a map without having to click once.
This is a great experience for the user. Information is easy to get and easy to consume. For website owners, however, there is potential for this update to decrease referral rates because users won’t always need to click through to a website providing that information.
Google is scraping information and displaying it on their website. An example is found in Google displaying sports data. Instead of having to click over to mlb.com, I can see the Atlanta Braves 2013 record right in the search results:
Hummingbird is an investment in what Google calls the Knowledge Graph, the ability to map the relationships between words and even previous searches to understand the context of a query. It helps Google understand pronouns and articles in searches.
For example, if you searched “Who is Chipper Jones” you would receive basic information about him in the results. And eventually, although it isn’t working for me now, you’ll be able to search “when did he retire” and Google will understand that “he” refers to Chipper Jones.
For marketers, the knowledge graph is probably the update’s biggest change. Since the Penguin and Panda updates, Google has been slowly evolving its algorithm to prioritize the user over the search bot. Rather than stuffing a webpage full of keywords or a website full of random content, Google wants content creators to publish content that benefits the user.
With Hummingbird, keyword stuffing is dead. Now that the algorithm understands context, content producers have to focus on providing valuable content.
With Panda, the emphasis was put on creating unique content. With Hummingbird, it’s all about creating unique, useful, and authoritative content.
Answer questions with your content (provide value) and find a way to position your authors as authorities on your topic.
In addition to the knowledge graph, Hummingbird puts a lot of emphasis on the author. Author Rank is a way for Google to identify experts according to the volume of content produced by that person and how widely it is shared. Most importantly here is its direct tie to Google+. Although Google denies the correlation of +1s on Google+ and page rank, a strong presence on Google+ has been shown to dramatically increase the discoverability of your content.
To start building expertise in your category, there are a couple things you should do immediately:
When Hummingbird was released there was a lot of fear in the marketing community that it would undercut content marketing efforts, especially in regards to keyword research. Google is encrypting individual keywords so that site owners will no longer be able to see what keywords are referring traffic to their sites. That isn’t a big deal because keywords are less important now than they were a year ago.
With that said, keyword research to understand how people search in a category and who is competing for those same users is still very important. We just won’t have access to individual data going forward.
Now more than ever, it’s time to invest in understanding the needs and behaviors of the consumers you are trying to reach if you want your content to be discoverable in search. If you understand what consumers need, how they talk, and how they find information, your content will continue to rank well.
What do you think? Let me know in the comment section.
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The big merger announcement of Omnicom and Publicis focuses squarely on the data side of the marketing business, specifically the use of data to target advertising and messaging. While this promises huge opportunities for brands to spend their media money more effectively, it doesn’t speak to the other big shift in the marketing world. That shift is the evolution of the consumer decision journey, a concept originated by McKinsey.
The consumer’s path to making a purchase and what happens after has been inexorably changed by technology. Consumers still consume advertising, but only as a part of many influences that determine who gets the sale. This is now a game of content, user experience and customer service, as well as advertising.
So while spending client media dollars more effectively is an attractive prospect for brands, they will need even better soft skills, such as strategy and creative, to succeed. This will be even more important with medium and smaller sized brands which cannot just throw media money at consumers like the big brands, but are forced to produce smarter more creative marketing in order to win.
Everyone’s talking about big data, but why should it be part of your brand marketing and how do you use it?
Is it that “big data is a pointless marketing term” as some marketers believe, or is there real value if you know how to extract it?
According to this latest piece from Econsultancy, the value comes if you know how to incorporate big data into your team process. They cite five ways to do this:
Sure all the data streams coming in to marketers can deliver a more fleshed out picture of consumer behavior, but the trick is what you do with it.
Some say all you need is cool new marketing software that sifts through all that data and magically business will sky rocket. But while good software may be important, the key is having a marketing organization that is focused on using the data to get actionable insights. Those insights then tell us how to create winning engagements at each step in the consumer journey.
At IQ, we map the consumer journey for each persona and then develop a plan to Connect, Cultivate, and Convert consumers along the way. Data is important, but it’s only part of the success formula you need in today’s super complex marketplace.
For a 50,000 foot look at how the journey and data fits into the new marketing model, view The 3Cs – Connect, Cultivate, Convert
If you’ve been following my series on YouTube, you’ve already heard me harp on the importance of creating content specifically for the YouTube community rather than just re-purposing ads created for TV. With Google’s announcement at Cannes Lions that it’s expanding its partner program to include advertisers, it is reinforcing that imperative.
The YouTube Partner Program has been for quite some time a way for content creators to improve production value, reach more people, and monetize their content on a huge platform. So, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to allow advertisers in unless Google is trying to encourage the production of higher quality, YouTube-centric content.
Anthony Ha at TechCrunch writes:
“…Google seems to be encouraging businesses to create advertising that’s designed specifically for the video site, rather than just repackaging existing TV ads and video content. Those kinds of custom campaigns could potentially be more lucrative for YouTube and its content partners.”
So, what exactly does this YouTube-centric content look like? Let’s take a look at a few great examples:
Display Ads Can Be Entertaining
First (and probably one of my favorites despite its age), is the Desperados Experience: Breakthrough. Although it isn’t live anymore, you can see how deeply interactive the ad was, inviting the user to participate directly in the ad.
What is interesting about this ad is that it is really just a flash ad like any other banner ad you find around the Web. But it is more interesting because it was made for a specific channel and gave users an entertaining way to interact with the brand instead of simply pushing its message on users.
Invest in Useful Content
Another great use of YouTube is BBQGuys.com, a company that sells grills and other outdoor products. On its YouTube channel, the company provides quick tips for grilling success, content that apparently thousands of people find useful. Here’s just one example:
This is an example of a company that is investing in content as its primary marketing strategy. It provides useful information for its target audience and puts that content where it knows they will be searching.
Understand Consumer Culture
We all know that when ads resonate with consumers, they do well. Typically that means understanding what is going on with them culturally. Last summer, AARP created a response video to the season’s number 1 hit, “Call Me Maybe.”
Not only was this a smart play for AARP for gaining awareness because of the popularity of the song, it was also smart because music is a major driver of a large percentage of YouTube views. The video hit both popular culture and YouTube culture right where they meet.
YouTube is full of regular people who have risen to stardom by creating entertaining videos. In fact, it has been reported that some of the top YouTube stars are making six-figure salaries just by posting videos each week.
As they amass huge followings, it makes sense that brands would partner with them to promote their products. Not only does this ensure that your product gets in front of their fans, it is received well by consumers because the brand is borrowing the influencer’s legitimacy to earn their trust.
Whew! You made it through that video. I’ll admit, it isn’t something I find entertaining (I stopped watching at 2 minutes), but it has been viewed over 7 million times. That’s great news for Kraft who recognized the enormous popularity of the SMOSH Brothers.
This is the third and final part of our series on YouTube advertising.
Check out the rest of the series here:
I don’t pretend to be a savvy shopper, but when I dive wallet-first into the clearance section at The Gap, I tend to stock up on accessories in my favorite color — black. Why? It’s a universal truth that black goes with everything.
So does branded journalism. In the words of veteran digital content guru Ann Handley, “Content is the new black.”
Handley is right, branded journalism (also known as brand journalism or branded content) has caught on like a wildfire this year. From Tory Burch’s fantastic branded blog to Mint.com’s MintLife section, brands realize the value of consumer-facing content like articles, photos or videos, and are rushing to create some with the company name on it.
Why? For a lot of the reasons we discussed in the first post in this series and mainly because consumers are demanding it. As brands become more accessible to fans through social media, people want more from brands than their products and services. So much so, even Twitter is looking to hire a Head of News. That leads us to branded journalism.
But branded journalism breaks the natural order of business that advertisers, journalists and businesses have subscribed to for decades. This makes some people nervous, traditionalists angry and opportunists jumping on the branded content bandwagon faster than Baltimore fans during the last Super Bowl.
So that leaves the question, if you’re going to start creating content for a brand, be it a local business or a Fortune 500 company, what are the best practices? Better yet, how do you do it ethically?
Try these simple steps for better branded journalism:
1. Build a process
Journalistic content should be more than an article or blog post thrown together quickly. Create an editorial plan, support whatever content you create with strategy, edit it, review it with key company team members and a set time to distribute it via a medium that will reach your intended audience.
2. Share something valuable
Share something that your target market will respond to. For example, Home Depot’s YouTube page features an array of do-it-yourself garden tutorials. Completely different from Red Bull’s adrenalin-pumping YouTube page that offers an array of video features on the brand’s extreme athletes. Both give their fans journalistic content in the same medium, but do it completely different ways to reach separate audiences.
3. Know your boundaries
Producing journalistic content doesn’t equate to producing a Pulitzer winning news article, so stick to your industry and the topics surrounding it. Create content targeted at a company’s audience, on subjects related to your company’s industry. Find creative ways to make content relevant to trends and new stories without reporting the news.
4. Stick to the facts and cite your sources
People want transparency from their favorite brands. Always support your content with facts from experts and credible sources. Back up your claims with research, data or testimonials from credible experts that you mention by name.
5. Strike a balance
Don’t use branded journalism as an opportunity to knock a competitor’s product or service, use it as an opportunity to share valuable content. If needed, acknowledge competitors professionally when it’s appropriate. Focus instead on sharing real insight about a subject consumers are interested in.
6. List a byline
If possible, list the author or producer of a branded journalism piece. This gives your work credibility and gives audience members a face representing the brand to connect with. Melissa Lafsky Wall left her job at USA Today to head up content production at dating site How About We, where every article or column in the site’s Date Report section is credited with a byline.
7. Track results
Producing branded journalism is useless if it doesn’t reach the correct audience to support business goals. Use analytics to track your results and SEO to shape the strategy behind your content. This ensures that you don’t just produce quality branded journalism; you produce branded content that gets results.
We get asked a lot of questions by clients, friends, students, colleagues, you name it, so we want to bring our knowledge to the masses.
This Wednesday (4/17) from 1:00 – 2:00PM EST, Hagan Ramsey, digital strategist at IQ, will answer any questions you have related to social listening, campaign development, social strategy and more!