Posts Tagged "user experience"


3 Ways Voice and Tone Influence Brand Perception

It's all in your voice and tone

“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

We’ve all heard this adage before. While it may serve a purpose in personal communication, it’s just not true for brands. As a brand what you say is just as important as how you say it. And since most brand communication is written, you’ve got to account for a lack of vocal and facial nuance with what you’re saying, too.

Every brand has a style guide, and just as important as having branded logos and colors is having a brand voice and tone document. This document will help you figure out how to express the brand’s values and thinking in written communication on websites, emails, social posts, and more. Voice and tone are two distinct aspects of verbal and written expression that impact how a brand’s audience perceives them.

A brand’s “voice” is much like a person’s “voice.” It’s how they speak, the words they use and the order of phrases that communicate a feeling or message.

A brand’s tone, just like a person’s, changes subtly depending on the topic. A brand may use more slang or be more energetic on social media, but more straightforward on an email or a landing page.

Let’s look at an example of how the voice stays consistent while the tone shifts with circumstance:

How a brand interacts with their audience on social media on 4th of July is going to look a lot different from how they do on Memorial Day. Why? Because 4th of July is a day of patriotic celebration, and Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died while serving our country. You wouldn’t want to share a post for Memorial Day with the cheerful exuberance you would expect in a 4th of July post. If you did that, you risk alienating the members of your audience who have ties to the military.

Clearly the tone is just as important as the voice in these kind of posts, and both are equally likely to influence the way an audience views a brand. Here are some things to keep in mind when thinking of how to use your brand’s voice and tone to positively influence your audience:

1. Pinpoint what you want to talk about as a brand.

Understanding what topics you want to talk about as a brand is a great first step. These topics should relate back to the brand’s values. You can incorporate the brand values into your writing on these topics. This is a great way to reinforce who your brand is and what the brand stands for.

2. Understand the words that evoke your brand values to your audience.

You know who your brand is, but are you showing your audience who you are as a brand? To find out what your audience thinks of you, you can use social listening to analyze what words or phrases your audience uses to describe you. Using emotionally evocative language is a simple way to impact how your audience sees you. If your audience sees you as glib when you’re going for lighthearted, take a moment to look at the language you’re using as a brand and find ways to keep it playful but sincere.

3. Treat your audience like a part of your team.

You want your audience to become fans and advocates of your brand. You don’t want your audience to feel like they’re being condescended. Share tips, but don’t write in a way that makes your brand sound superior. This can be the simple difference between saying “You may know _____ but did you know _____?” versus “here is every little thing about ______.”  Encourage your audience to create and share their own content with your social media accounts by writing posts that have a personal touch. If your audience feels like you’re creating a community, they are more likely to feel connected to your brand and be involved with your social accounts.

Ultimately as a brand what you say and how you say it impacts how your audience sees you and relates to you. By creating a clear voice and tone guide for your brand you can understand how your audience sees you. As well, you can have a positive influence on their future interactions with your brand on your website, via email and social networks.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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Twitter: Now With Ocean-Breeze Long Form!


Twitter: Now With Ocean-Breeze Long Form!

Twitter's Long Form Announcement

According to Recode Twitter is releasing a new product that will allow users and brands to publish content that exceed the current 140 character limit of the native Twitter timeline.

Most of the Internet including yours truly originally took this news to mean the Twitter timeline we love would become a bloated mess. And from a user perspective we expected this feature would drive us away. The current Twitter timeline isn’t built or designed for long form. It would take forever to scroll through someone’s late-night alcohol-fueled post-breakup novella. Let alone a verbose poorly written brand statement about their most recent social media gaff.

But this is not the case according to that article. This will be a new product possibly akin to the recently released Moments. We are betting this new feature, like Moments, will be accessible via Twitter’s mobile apps and desktop.

But long form on Twitter is exciting to think about from a marketing point of view. When your strategic research is founded in proven best practices, long form Twitter could be a marketer’s and brand’s dream come true. We will have a new and exciting way to reach users, fans, and followers that is less limiting; allowing us to craft more engaging stories and inspire deeper consumer actions.

You might be asking, “But why is Twitter doing this?”

The 1985 Global System for Mobile Communication set the character limits on text messages at 160 characters. When Twitter launched in 2006, they set the limit at 140 leaving 20 characters for the username. This allowed the tweet to be delivered in one complete text message rather than multiple messages.

But the mobile technology we use every day has evolved far past those early days and Twitter needs to grow to help people (and advertisers) tell their story and share more information. For example, Twitter made a play on native texting earlier this year when they removed the character limitations in Direct Messages.

At the end of the day Twitter is a publically traded company with shareholders to please. Twitter has a highly vested interest in making its platforms and products are more engaging to stimulate its lagging growth and increase use to turn a profit for their investors.

So here is the 140 million dollar question. Will long form Twitter increase engagement and the user base? Probably. At least when the feature is first launched. But we have to also remember that other social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn have had the long form corner of the social web locked up for a long time.

Need help with your social strategy? Let us know how IQ can help you!

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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?

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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Presentation: 10 Key Ingredients of a Modern Brand Website

At the center of an integrated marketing ecosystem (I hate that word too, but it works) is the brand website. But it still amazes me how many brands don’t get what it has to do. This deck tells the story.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us


Delayed Gratification and the Fear of the Future

Delayed Gratification and the Fear of the Future

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 himself 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!

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us


How to Calculate ROI for Customer Experience

How to Calculate ROI for Customer Experience

If you’re a marketer, you hear the term customer experience a lot. It’s a convenient catch phrase for all the experiences that a consumer has with a brand from awareness to advocacy and it’s the product of user experience design (UX) work, which focuses on creating superior customer experiences.

While many people intuitively understand that customer experience is pretty important, however, they don’t always see the value of user experience design. Value is the keyword here because at some point you are probably going to have to justify an investment in UX.

For example, the ROI (return on investment) of the user experience for a website has been a comparatively easy to figure out in the digital world. You can value and compare the conversion rate before you redesign a website using UX and also afterwards. Improvements in simplicity and relevance invariably deliver better results, which can be easily measured. The calculation gets harder, however, when a brand has to consider investing in a unified customer experience strategy and execution.

Since people hop from channel to channel so quickly and frequently today, a brand can’t have a good experience in one place and a lousy experience in another, especially when all it takes is one difficult, inconsistent experience to damage all your good work.

A friend recently went into Home Depot looking for a sawhorse. After looking in vain and not finding anyone to help him, he went to Lowe’s and used a prominently displayed Product Finder to quickly find it. He then posted to Facebook that he was done with Home Depot and Lowes was now his vendor of choice. He has over 200 friends, so what’s the cost of that customer experience faux pas?

As Forrester says:

“A good user experience builds brand equity with every interaction, but a bad one can completely erode that equity on all levels. Worse, it can cause a customer to leave you for a competitor, never to return again.”

What brands clearly need is a unified experience that reflects an in-depth understanding of what the consumer is trying to accomplish, while at the same time differentiating the brand. The good news is that consumers still want relationships with brands; the bad news is that consumer standards are so much higher than ever before, and they no longer have patience for brands that don’t do their homework.

The work of user experience results in the design of all the interactions that a brand has with consumers. That includes interactions on websites, mobile apps, social channels, the telephone or in the store. Its purpose is to ensure that interactions not only succeed in their purpose, but reinforce the brand promise and identity. UX design must therefore be based on a comprehensive understanding of the consumer, the context and the category. That means starting with research, journey mapping, competitive analysis, content strategy and all the other foundational work that informs UX design.

It’s not cheap and it’s tempting to skip it, but according to numerous studies it costs 50-100 times the original investment to fix an experience that’s not working, to say nothing of the cost of repairing a broken brand perception.

Many would argue that the field of battle between brands now is not technology or even creative, but customer experience. However for many seeing the connection between a better customer experience and the UX work required to get there isn’t always clear.

A few of the numerous benefits great UX delivers includes more consumer engagement through increased conversion rates, ease of use, higher satisfaction and higher comprehension, better ROI from larger transactions, more lead identification, improved brand equity, higher customer retention, reduced costs from fewer redesigns, fewer errors, less maintenance, and less support.

Of course it would be terrific to have an easy ROI calculation that makes the business case for investments in UX. Some organizations claim that every dollar invested in UX delivers a return of 2-100 times, but in the end it is a very difficult calculation.

It’s akin to asking the value of a great advertising campaign versus one that’s just OK. We all know intuitively it can be huge, but how do you measure the value of originality in advance? Some might also point to the cultural orientation of a company as an indicator as to whether UX will be recognized as a value or not. Companies that have internalized a marketing culture, which are few, are more likely to see value vs. manufacturing and distribution oriented companies that often have a deep mistrust of marketing.

The bottom line is that in a world where consumers rule, great customer experience is table stakes for any serious player. That means taking a serious, systematic, scientific approach to getting there, which requires great UX.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment section below!

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us


The 10 Key Ingredients of a Modern Brand Website

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.

Focused UX

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 Integration

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.

Marketing Automation

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.

Landing Pages

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.

Customer Service

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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Responsive Web Design POV 2013

  • 05.06.13

Responsive Web Design POV 2013

Responsive Design

How can you design a site that works well at any screen size, keeps SEO and analytics under one URL, and requires less future maintenance?

Introducing…responsive web design. In very basic terms, a responsive design is one where the website adapts to the user’s screen size automatically by resizing images, videos, navigation, text, and more so that it fits nicely at any size.

Responsive design ensures that your content can flow into any device because you’re designing once for all platforms.

Our updated-for-2013 presentation answers the following questions:

  • What is it?
  • Why should you care?
  • What’s the design process?
  • Is it right for your site?

View the presentation below and contact us if you want more information! Click bottom right corner for full screen:

  • 03.19.13

#TalkIQ – Web Development

IQ Web Development

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 Thursday (3/21) from 1:00 – 2:00PM EST, Laurie Vitas, a lead developer at IQ, will answer any questions you have related to web development, responsive design, HTML, CSS, and more! This will be the first of a series of Q&A sessions over a range of topics.

Tweet @IQ_Agency with the hash tag #TalkIQ and you’ll receive a quick response from a true expert in the field!  


Frequently Asked Questions, Part 1/2: Bad for the user, bad for the architect

Frequently asked question
“FAQ” is an acronym for Frequently Asked Questions. An FAQ or “FAQs” are pages or entire sections of sites and forums devoted to topics that lots of people have problems with. The idea was a decent work-around in the burgeoning days of information architecture and search [1, 2], but the FAQ is now a total anachronism. It’s time to retire it altogether.

Yet the promise of the easy fix still seems to hold sway among the decision makers of institutions, regardless of the limitations of the FAQ. User Experience Architects and Information Architects do not generally advocate for the FAQ because, well, we know better ways of getting things done. It’s the managers and clients who make the final call, and although the influence of our expertise is often nullified by this power disparity, we bear perhaps a large part of the blame by not fully making the case against these things. We defer rather too hastily to the “well, if you’re going to do it” survival technique [3,4,5,6] that ultimately makes us die a little inside.

In this blog post and the one to follow, I discuss what I think are the fundamental weaknesses of the FAQ and how we as UXA/IA/EAs can reframe the argument.

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