November 10th, 2013
“Most ads are dramatic… we want ours to be… traumatic.”
Toronto-based agency John St. is taking experiential brand marketing to the next level. Referencing real spots (see how many you recognize) and taking shots at clients and agency creatives alike, the video serves as both hilarious spoof and creepy self-promotion. Not sure where I’m at with it just yet.
And, yep, these are the same folks that brought Catvertising to our attention last year. Enjoy.
October 11th, 2013
iStock commissioned KRC Research to conduct a survey of 404 creatives across the US and UK from August 15 through August 24th, 2013.
September 30th, 2013
Interbrand.com released its “Best Global Brands 2013″ and, perhaps not surprising to those of us in technology, Apple and Google rank number one and two (in that order). As it turns out tech companies are well represented in the top ten, claiming six of those ten positions.
The annual survey reports on the research, analysis and ranking of company brand value. The top ten are shown above; the entire roster of 100 can be found on Interbrand’s brand view page.
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In describing their methodology and criteria for inclusion, Interbrand states, “We believe that a strong brand, regardless of the market in which it operates, drives improved business performance. It does this through its ability to influence customer choice and engender loyalty; to attract, retain, and motivate talent; and to lower the cost of financing. Our approach explicitly takes these factors into consideration.”
September 23rd, 2013
It’s been a busy time the last few weeks if you’re designing functional apps and websites for mobile, and particularly tablet, devices. And while there will always be new operating systems and resolutions to chase, researchers at the Nielsen Norman Group recently reminded us that it is usability and the user experience that should be our constant challenge and the reason for ever-improving the work that we do for brands and business alike.
Earlier last month Jakob Nielsen published “Tablet Usability,” the analysis and report from usability studies his firm conducted with tablet users and a deep roster of devices (representing Android, Apple, and Windows). On the whole the outcome was positive, with the determination that “tablet usability is reasonably solid” and “most websites are fairly usable on tablets.”
He did, however, mention four negatives or threats to tablet usability. They are:
Flat Design — The oversimplification of interface design coupled with the elimination of key surface identifiers can increase the instances of accidental activation. Sure, the deep wood grains, grooved knobs, and chrome-plated sliders were a bit much in the beginning, but it might be worthwhile to keep some of the tactile if only to telegraph to users what’s touchable and what’s not.
Improperly Rescaled Design — We’ve all opened these apps on our tablets, the ones with the less-than-optimal resolution, oversized buttons, and out-of-whack proportions. These are the phone apps that have been sized up for tablet use. These repurposed designs may appear to save time and money on the front end, but they’re pretty much guaranteed to cost in usability and satisfaction.
Poor Gestures — Start out with the fact that users don’t read, regardless of how concise and clear instructions might be. Then add low to no visibility into what users might have done, accidental or purposeful. It all adds up to a confusing experience that impacts app adoption and user experience.
Workflow Mismatch — Most users note web browsing as the top activity when asked how they use tablets. That helps to explain the challenge of workflow, when users are accustomed to moving back and forth between results and destination pages. When results are treated as temporary and back buttons are virtually non-existent users’ expectations of the browsing experience are disjointed and disappointing.
Are you currently designing for tablet users? Has your enterprise client equipped the sales force with devices or has your retail client adopted a mobile point-of-sale program? How has your approach to design changed? And is “user-centric” your starting point or eleventh-hour save?
This post also appears on TalentZoo.com.
September 19th, 2013
First we heard that Yahoo! was heading into a logo redesign and that we’d get to witness the process through a 30-day “reveal” of the concepts and contenders. That ordeal peaked when the final logo debuted — replacing the previous, near-decades old mark — and we got a blow-by-blow description of a mad weekend full of Bezier curves and tilted exclamation points.
Next we heard that Google had flattened their logotype, letting curious coders discover the “new” identity tucked within an Android programmers’ kit. Denials were made. Explanations given. And while we haven’t seen the new identity (colors changed too) replace the doodles we know and love, we may soon see a flat logo showing up in smaller spaces — think tablet-sized smartphones.
The latest instance of search engine soul-searching now shows up with a complete overhaul of the Bing logo. That’s right. The round edges and whimsy have been updated to sharper corners and product line compatibility. “Bing has typically been kind of curly, softer, so this fits much more with the modern kind of approach we’ve taken on some of the other logos,” says Microsoft’s Lawrence Ripsher, a design lead for Bing’s User Experiences.
So, why would the top search engines seemingly chase each other to win an identity race? How is it that the top three brands have come out with freshened up, and in one case completely new, logotypes? I’ve tried to think of another time, another niche, where this level of change has happened in such proximity. And I wonder what sparked the mass movement toward change.
A couple of things come to mind (and I’m curious to see what others think):
The infatuation with and application of flat design — supported by recent updates to mobile interfaces and pattern libraries — appears to have had influence on those designers responsible for corporate and product identity.
The migration to smaller screens — and, at last, the diminishing effect of print requirements on initiatives — seems to now drive more and more of the corporate and product branding that’s debuted this year.
And finally, a move toward the simplification of symbols looks to have finally curbed the tendency to throw everything at a design, particularly a design that represented so much and had the impact of brand and identity.
What do you think? Is it mere coincidence that the three top search players have lauded or leaked updated identities over the last few weeks? Or have we just witnessed a game, maybe a gamble, that used precious assets (logos and identity) as tokens or tablestakes?
This post also appears on TalentZoo.com.
August 13th, 2013
The current iteration of mlhaynesdesign.com started as an experiment in the design, development and maintenance of a blog-driven website. What began as a test of the cost-benefit ratio of content-driven marketing and optimization turned into a commitment to the weekly, and sometimes daily, care and feeding of a thriving web property. Gone was the simple portfolio site. In its place was a functional web app that demanded more and more.
It was a great tool that enabled me to talk intelligently to clients and colleagues about the need to redefine marketing, advertising and publishing. I had a perspective that few could claim and a point-of-view that was grounded in personal experience.
Now I’ve decided it’s time for the next iteration. It’s time to build a new website, another experiment. This time my intention is to focus keenly on user-centered research and strategy, device-agnostic design and collaborative content creation. It’s time for a change.
Transformation is good.
June 12th, 2013
ANNOUNCEMENT: The LMA Your Honor Awards program — recognizing excellence in legal marketing by promoting projects and programs that provide innovation and return on marketing dollar investment — awards the first place Advertising — Campaign honor to “IP for a New Age.” Additionally, the new firm website received Honorable Mention at the International 2013 Webby Awards.
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I always loved that phrase, and have a postcard somewhere around here with a great shot of a neon cowboy grinning above the illuminated type/art. A PR Director from a past life turned me on to it and it has stuck in my head ever since. She said it as “a Texas thing” and I believe her. And when it’s time to bring it out, it’s time.
Which brings me to a bit of good news and braggin’ stuff. Just heard that some great work — well, we ad and marketing folks sure thought so — will compete for the highest honors in the Legal Marketing Association’s annual competition. Now you may not be familiar with the “Your Honor Awards,” but with more than 200 entries this year there’s a lot of buzz and excitement around the event. Winners will be announced in April and we’ll see then how this trade group responds to an approach that took a real turn from leather-bound books, bronze scales and every kind of play on poor blind lady justice.
Cheers to forward-leaning marketing and messaging and creative that brings it home. May the best campaign win!
May 25th, 2013
There are so many online catalogs and product pages and all with a little something different. Videos, zoom and 360-degree views, reviews and comments, in addition to social media likes, pins and podcasts. With all these unique qualities there does appear to be a common set of attributes that sets successful (read converting) pages apart.
Below is a short list of tools and features — plus visuals — that retailers should consider when building out ecommerce apps or redesigning online catalogs that need a conversion boost. In looking at what makes the difference these criteria stand out:
- User reviews — increasing sales by 18% on average
- Up-selling and cross-selling
- Large, hi-res images — leading to higher click-thru rates and conversions
- 360-degree views
- Big, bright calls-to-action — pointing clearly to next steps in the purchase flow
- Product videos — raising conversion rates by 160% when viewed by consumers
- Prominent delivery/returns information — lowering cart abandonment
- Detailed product descriptions — optimizing for both search engines and shoppers
- Availability information — lowering customer frustration and abandonment
April 13th, 2013
- Six out of 10 SMB websites in the U.S. are missing either a local or toll-free telephone number on the home page to contact the business.
- 74.7 percent of SMB websites lack an email link on their home page for consumers to contact the business.
- 65.7 percent of SMB websites lack a form-fill option to enable consumers to request information.
- 93.3 percent of SMB websites are not mobile compatible and will not render successfully on mobile devices or smartphones.
Ollie Bigler, CEO of Marketecture Inc., recently interpreted this data and authored “Six Reasons Your Website Will Fail,” a short-list of the shortcomings still demonstrated by SMB websites, contributing to the less-than-average online presence.
1 | Not Built Right (for Mobile Devices)
93.3% of SMB websites are not mobile-compatible and will not render successfully on mobile devices, including smartphones.
The gap is widening between consumer adoption of digital platforms and deficiencies in SMBs’ digital presence. As Internet-content consumption is fast moving away from desktops to portable devices, ensuring your website is optimized for the smaller screens of tablets and smartphones is critically important.
People will often be looking to access your site on the go, and ensuring your website is mobile compatible will help introduce your business to the rapidly growing mobile market.
2 | (Anti-)Social Media
80.5% of SMB websites have no social media links—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, foursquare, etc.
If you’re ever questioning your business’s lack of fans or followers, you probably haven’t connected your social media accounts to your website—potentially your biggest source of traffic to your social presence. Social marketing can be a powerful tool, but not if there’s no audience to engage with.
Ideally, when managing a part of your website (e.g. writing a blog post or adding a team member), your website content management software should be intelligent enough to automatically push that out through the social media sphere.
3 | E-Fail
74.7% of SMB websites lack an email link on their homepage for consumers to contact the business.
What is so convenient about email is its instant delivery and (often) instant gratification. But not having an email link on your homepage eliminates that convenience. Plus, think about the opportunities you’re missing: Questions from customers, or potential partnership opportunities from companies, don’t ever reach your inbox.
4 | (Lack of) Information, Please
65.7% of SMB websites lack a form-fill option to enable consumers to request information.
SMBs should build default information inquiry forms right into their site, but only one-third of them are taking that necessary and helpful step. Those forms need to be already connected to a CRM, an email system, and an ecommerce system so that the lead is not just being collected but also prepped for the SMB owner to communicate with in an effort to generate business via that lead.
5 | E.T. Can’t Phone Home
60% of SMB websites have no toll-free or local business phone number listed on the homepage.
Although email tends to be the preferred form of communication (and, as discussed, most SMBs don’t even have that information on their homepage), some questions are better answered by phone. Generating phone calls via your homepage makes customers feel comfortable, while not listing a phone number can cause questions of legitimacy to arise.
6 | SEO struggles
56.3% of SMB websites have no keyword info for search engine discovery.
If you have a website and no one can find it, does it really exist? A significant amount of your traffic will be the result of consumers’ finding it through search engines.
Keyword research and creation, on-site optimization, and off-site link building in industry directories and other relevant sites are all necessary elements for driving traffic to your website. Those tactics will help make your site search engine-friendly and improve your ranking, allowing your business to gain needed exposure.
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From MarketingProfs: “In July 2012, a Wells Fargo-Gallup Small Business Index survey found that 56% of SMBs plan to invest in new website or software in 2013. Why? Deep down, SMB owners know that their website isn’t working, but they don’t know how to fix it. The lack of a comprehensive software solution is forcing SMBs to cobble together their own multivendor system. Adapting to the increasingly Internet-based economy shouldn’t require SMB owners to be Internet and software experts. That is the job of solution providers.”