August 21st, 2012
Clearly, constantly fresh website content is a traffic magnet. You’ve seen the reports and read the case studies. Just as clear, oftentimes painfully so, is the fact that creating that content is difficult. It’s certainly difficult to keep it up over time, long enough to truly have an effect. But what if someone could break it down for you and tell you how you could leap over that hurdle and start to really make an impact? Here are three activities you can begin today — your blog is waiting!
I recently read a post by Adam T. Sutton on the MarketingSherpa Blog highlighting results from the new MarketingSherpa 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report — SEO Edition. Based on the responses of SEO marketers, it appears that content creation is critically effective when organizations harness search engine optimization to realize business objectives. With 50% of these marketers agreeing that content creation is “very effective” and another 42% saying it’s “somewhat effective” it is clear that, as the author states, “SEO thrives on content.”
Equally notable is the struggle that these organizations are up against when it comes to exactly that — content creation. Marketers readily place this tactic, “one of the most difficult tactics to execute,” according to Sutton, in the top three most-difficult SEO tactics. In order, and from the same MarketingSherpa report, the most-difficult tactics are: external link building, content creation, and blogging.
With this in mind it’s refreshing to find that some marketers are tackling this issue head-on and with great results. Sutton notes the success of Marcus Sheridan, CEO of River Pools & Spas, one of the largest pool installers in the U.S. and currently owner of the most visited swimming pool website in the world, a product of strategic inbound and content marketing methods. He also showcases three tactics Sheridan suggests for cultivating a traffic-generating blog and highly effective site.
While these tactics may, at first read, appear to be more appropriate for a small to medium commercial business, I began to think about how other organizations might benefit from this approach. How could your business — or your clients’ business — begin to grow using content creation tactics like these? See what you think:
Tactic 1 | Answer prospects’ questions
First, gather everyone in your company and ask them to list the top questions they’ve received from prospective customers. Write down a list of 50. Those questions are the titles of your first 50 blog posts.
Tactic 2 | No, really answer their questions
Some companies are afraid to answer questions about price or to directly compare their products to alternatives (which is another popular question). Sheridan urged companies to overcome their discomfort. Prospective customers are asking these questions, regardless. Who would you rather have answering them?
Tactic 3 | Two posts per week for six months
Once you gather questions from your team, keep everyone involved. Get them excited about writing a blog post to answer a question. Divide the work across the company and set a strict schedule.
“If you set 50 titles and you do two per week, then you have 25 weeks’ worth of blog content. Within that six months time, everything will start to change for that company and that business and the traffic they’re starting to get on their website.”
– Marcus Sheridan, CEO, River Pools & Spas
March 10th, 2011
In my previous post, “The Rise of The Citysumer – Part 1” (appearing on Talent Zoo Media blog, Beneath the Brand) we took a look at how the increasing consumption taking place in urban settings and “Citysumers” who play a critical role in how markets and brands act and react. These experienced and sophisticated urbanites will demand brands that show some personality, loosen up, and embrace urban culture.
Trendwatching.com, a leading consumer trends firm, notes that many brands are already delighting Citysumers around the world. In the eight areas highlighted, where do you see opportunities for the brands you represent? Are there other success stories that you can share?
Opportunity 1: Celebrate Urban Pride
- Fragrances are a popular way to capture a city’s essence. Fashion brand DKNY released a fragrance “Love from New York for Women.” Beverly Hills created their own line of three scents that are meant to “evoke what life is like for the Beverly Hills woman.”
- The Absolut Cities Series first launched in New Orleans, when the brand developed a special mango and black pepper blend inspired by the city. The taste of Boston saw the brand launch a black tea and elderflower vodka that has a backdrop reminiscent of Fenway Park’s Green Monster, while 2010′s Absolut Brooklyn was a red apple and ginger flavored vodka with a Spike Lee-designed brownstone themed bottle.
- In August 2010, Starbucks announced the launch of a new range of ultra-premium, single-origin coffees that will be only available in limited quantities in metropolitan markets including: New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Miami.
Opportunity 2: Enabling Urban Encounters
- Geomium is an iPhone app launched in September 2010 in London that informs the user of where their friends are and what events are on in their area. It also helps them discover local bars, restaurants, and places of interest.
- Gowalla curates content for select cities via City Pages, providing a display of popular places, what’s “hot now,” and highlights from a variety of venue categories (e.g. best burgers, best coffee).
- In May 2010, Yahoo bought Indonesian social networking service Koprol that allows users to connect based on location. Mobile users can post a 200-character status message and use the site as a positioning service without the need for a GPS receiver. Once logged in, users can see other members who are in the same location.
Opportunity 3: Enriching The Urban Canvas
- In July 2010, Volvo London’s Starlite Urban Drive-In featured a full-sized, outdoor screen along with 25 preparked Volvo cars ready for patrons’ viewing, reminiscing, and snacking pleasure.
- Adidas has added Hamburg to their Urban Art Guide, following the success of their iPhone travel app that guides users around Berlin’s best graffiti spots.
- Snickers hosts festivals of youth street culture in various cities across Russia and Mexico. “Snickers Urbania” features nearly all major areas of street culture: extreme sports, graffiti, breakdancing, beatbox and freestyle. It encourages young people to express themselves and their talent.
Opportunity 4: Pushing The Urban Envelope
- In July 2010, Calvin Klein posted a large QR code across two billboard locations in New York City. Passersby who used their smart phones to capture the QR code were then shown a 40-second ad featuring model Lara Stone.
- Also in July 2010, Mini Cooper launched an interactive billboard campaign in the red light district of Hamburg, featuring the back of a Mini with an automated S&M whip hanging over the back that could be triggered to “spank” the vehicle.
- Spanish-based boutique hotel chain, Axel Hotels, partnered with New York-based Parkview Developers to launch a resort in New York targeted at the gay community. The resort, called Out NYC Urban Resort, will have an Axel Hotel, a spa, several restaurants and bars, stores and a dance club.
Opportunity 5: Go Eco-Urban
- US-based Urban Green Energy launched a wind turbine called eddy GT. The product boasts a special vertical axis design that enables power to be generated without making much noise and regardless of wind direction. The turbine was specifically designed for city rooftop use.
- Japanese car manufacturer Mitsubishi has partnered with appliance chain Yamada Denki to sell its i-MiEV electric vehicle from 17 stores within the Tokyo area. Mitsubishi has sold 3,000 i-MiEVs in Japan since sales began in April 2010, but is hoping to boost these figures by taking the vehicle in-store.
- A prototype of an environmentally friendly black cab was unveiled in London in Summer 2010. It runs on a hydrogen fuel cell system, converting hydrogen into electricity with the only emission being water vapor. The plan is to have 150 of these cabs running on the road in time for the Olympic Games in 2012.
Opportunity 6: Urban Escape
Brands that take Citysumers temporarily out of the city and into peace and quiet—away from crowds, noise, concrete, and foul air—will find innovation pays off nicely.
- Meine Ernte, a German agricultural start-up, is offering couples and families the opportunity to rent plots of land for farming vegetables near six of the largest cities in the country, including Frankfurt and Bonn. Tools and advice from an expert farmer are included.
Opportunity 7: Urban Transcendence
For those Citysumers unable to escape, how about bringing peace and quiet, greenery, and other rural qualities to the city?
- Property developer The Albanese Organization announced its collaboration with Holton Farms to deliver fresh, local produce to the residents of its properties in New York every week.
Opportunity 8: To Buy Or Not To Buy
- New York’s Department of Transportation’s partnership with Zipcar to share hybrid cars between employees and the public.
- SoBi, the first public bike share system where the authorization, tracking and security systems are attached to the bicycle itself.
- Snapgoods enables NYC residents to rent other people’s belongings, while Rent the Runway allows women to rent designer dresses (with same-day delivery available in NYC).
February 18th, 2011
The hopeless romantics went for chocolates and flowers. The lovestruck went for oysters and champagne. The singles went anywhere the other two were not. And NYC Health went mobile.
The New York Health Department celebrated National Condom Awareness Day (also known as Valentine’s Day) by launching NYC Condom Finder, a free smartphone app available for the iPhone and Android OS and designed to locate the five nearest New York City venues that distribute free NYC Condoms. With nearly 1,000 locations throughout one of the world’s most populous cities, free condoms are almost certainly within walking distance.
In addition to geo-locating the nearest condom, the app also provides specific directions to each venue, the hours of operation for each location, the types of safer sex products available and helpful tips on condom usage.
“The NYC Condom Finder is a useful tool to ensure that New Yorkers have access to free condoms wherever they are in the city,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner.
New York City’s free condom initiative began in 1971 when the Health Department started distributing male condoms through its STD clinics. Over the last 40 years, the NYC Condom program has distributed condoms in 3,000 public venues citywide (i.e., community-based organizations, clubs, restaurants), released the country’s first municipally branded condom, and most recently, launched an NYC Condom Facebook Page followed by an online NYC Condom wrapper design contest last year.
January 31st, 2011
Inspired by recent best-of, top-ten, and year-wrap-up articles and blog posts, I wanted to share a sampling of international brands telling some great stories. These are, by no means, the beginning and end of great work (you won’t see the Old Spice or Most Interesting Man In The World here) but there is a wonderful way of telling a story that makes these ads—and the brands they are speaking for—quite memorable.
I’ve found myself gravitating toward the work of UK agencies of late—they’re doing great work in both pixels and print—and perhaps missed something in the work done by other firms in other locales. Regardless, I now have a deeper roster of go-to reels for a much-needed break, a laugh or thought-provoking pause, and maybe most important, inspirational storytelling.
Enjoy. Then share what’s inspired you in the last year, last week, or just this morning. Sharing stories is universal. And brands need us to tell their stories now more than ever.
Swimming Pool | Frolic Dog Biscuits | CLM BBDO, France
Miss Penny | ING Direct | Euro RSCG, Brussels
International Shipping | Federal Express | DDB, Brazil
Planemob | Germanwings | Lukas Lindemann Rosinski, Germany
The World’s Biggest Signpost | Nokia | Farfar, Sweden
Middle England | Dixons Group | M&C Saatchi, London
Greedy Grandma | Spies Travel Agency | Robert/Boisen & Like-Minded, Denmark
January 14th, 2011
Imagine you’re sitting around with a group of colleagues, taking a break and talking about what you’re working on, what you wish you were working on. The conversation is more freeform jam than academic discourse and one topic taps and turns into another. Your thoughts are going a mile a minute and there you are without something to jot down the gems that are whizzing by.
I recently found myself having a similar experience with a small, inexpensive paperback book entitled, Digital Advertising: Past, Present, and Future. The collection of essays charts the past and predicts the future of “what we used to call the advertising industry.” Asking and answering questions like “What did we learn from the 12KB banner?” and “What does the agency of the future look like?” the contributors offer insights and ideas on what we’ve built and what we might be in the process of creating — if we’re creating at all.
More a survey and overview than in-depth and technical piece, this book reminds those of us in the industry just how far we’ve come in the last couple of decades. If you were there building ads in the beginning, you’ll appreciate Matt Powell’s “When the 12 KB GIF Banner Was King.” Patrick Gardner’s “When Sweden Rules the World” lays out the seven values that make that country’s digital advertising (and quality of life in general) successful, enviable in most cases. And wrapping up the collection is Daniele Fiandaca’s “Agency of the Future” which details the ten characteristics common to all successful agencies in the decade to come.
Creative Social is a collective founded by Fiandaca and Mark Chalmers and dedicated to inspiring the industry, promoting the industry, educating the industry, and having fun doing while doing so. With twice yearly meetings at different worldwide locales, a small group of pioneers in creative and business collaborate and catalyze movement and change. With the publication of Digital Advertising: Past, Present, and Future—with related blogs and social media events—we all have the opportunity to sit down and listen to these thinkers and makers. We can begin to think about things anew and, quite possibly, take those thoughts into our lunch rooms, lounges, studios, and offices and spark up more conversation. Pick up a great read and start creating your agency of the future now.
December 17th, 2010
trendwatching.com, a London-based, independent trend firm, recently published their December 2010 brief detailing consumer trends for 2011. They choose to examine eleven trends, which I’ve abbreviated and commented on below.
See how these trends impact your brand today and in the future. Are you already taking advantage of these changes? Are you ready in the very near future? How will you be moving the needle in the new year?
1 | RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
In 2011, expect companies to monitor consumers’ public moods and act upon them with random acts of kindness as social networks enable brands to know what’s going on (or not going on, as the case may be) in consumers’ lives. Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare posts and check-ins will become beacons for those who may need a boost. These consumers will be looking for authenticity, but as the two examples below illustrate, some brands already deliver the goods:
Interflora, a flower delivery service, brightens up the lives of Twitter users by sending them flowers. Twitter monitoring finds users that might need cheering up and when found, a tweet and a surprise bouquet arrive to do the trick.
KLM Royal Dutch Airline’s location-based initiative surprises passengers at the airport with personalized gifts. Using Foursquare check-ins, a “Surprise Team” learns who is flying, a few more details about a particular passenger, determines an appropriate gift and then delivers it before their flight.
2 | URBANOMICS
“Today, half the world’s population—3 billion people—lives in urban areas. Close to 180,000 people move into cities daily, adding roughly 60 million new urban dwellers each year.” (Source: Intuit, October 2010)
Viewed as more daring, more experienced, and more likely to try out new products and services, brands will find more opportunities with urban consumers as they gravitate toward experiences targeted to their wants, needs, and desires. Hometown pride is put into overdrive as campaigns set their sights on very localized messaging.
3 | PRICING PANDEMONIUM
Trendwatch.com notes that “mobile devices increasingly enable consumers to find or receive dynamic deals right at the point of sale, or to compare prices online.”
The smartphone has changed the coupon forever, and in 2011 it will be hard to beat the always-on, always-available point-of-purchase positives of mobile commerce as saving is smart and sexy again. Keep an eye on or, better yet, get your brands into group buying, member sales, flash sales, local discounts and dynamic pricing. With more than two billion online consumers flexing their buying muscles there’s more reason than ever to encourage and engage them.
4 | MADE FOR CHINA (IF NOT BRIC)
As geopolitical and economic power shifts, watch as “Western” brands launch new products or new brands in emerging markets. Following the money won’t simply be enough, but brands that tap into a bit of local flavor and exclusivity will reap the rewards of recognizing new consumers and reacting to their specific drives.
Brands that are reaching out and resonating with localized messages and products:
• Levi’s dENIZEN jeans
• Luxe brands Dior and Hermés
• BMW, Honda, Nissan and GM
5 | ONLINE STATUS SYMBOLS
Showing off one’s connectedness will remain an important sign of status and cool in 2011. And the brands that offer these signs and symbols to customers, online and in the “real world,” will not only assist consumers in their display but will also begin to bridge both worlds.
Tweets are applied to tangible items, pulling the virtual/online content creation into consumers’ lives and those of their friends. Everything from books and household items (see my recent Talent Zoo post on Tweetwrap) to wearables can be processed in minutes and in your hands in days.
Foursquare check-ins turn into badges such as the Supermayor badge (awarded when someone is mayor of 10 different places at once), the Entourage badge (awarded when checking in with 10 friends), and even the “Baggage Handler” badge (awarded when checking in at an airport with words along the lines of “TSA,” “touch,” or “Don’t touch my junk!”).
6 | WELLTHY
Good health, the ultimate “badge,” will be even more important to consumers as they look to brands to aid them in improving their well-being. With an estimated 500 million people worldwide expected to use mobile healthcare applications by 2015 (Source: Research2Guidance, November 2010), it appears that smartphones will be key in porting these brand messages to consumers actively engaged in health related activities.
trendwatch.com notes the brands that are already delivering on this:
The Strollometer tracks speed, distance traveled, time spent exercising and speeds. A website stores data and displays results.
Sleep On It tracks sleeping patterns and lets users track duration and quality of sleep, naps, and mood to chart health and quality of life.
Motion-sensing game controllers by Microsoft and Sony use new technology to detect users’ movements during gameplay, enhancing the gaming experience and adding a health and fitness component.
7 | SOCIAL-LITES AND TWINSUMERS
As technology and networks further enable consumers to create, collect, and distribute comments and content on the brands they love (or feel otherwise toward), 2011 will see the continued growth of online word-of-mouth. The folks at trendwatch.com define these active and actively consuming users “Twinsumers… those with similar consumption patterns, likes and dislikes and are hence valuable sources for recommendations on what to buy and experience.” The “Social-Lites” are described as those actively engaged in building their personal brand and see the curation of opinions and other types of content as the currency necessary to their online existence.
What can brands do to leverage this trend? Create engaging content that begs to be shared. How should brands do this? Know the consumer, especially those whose identity is built on the sharing of highly engaging and relevant content, and interact with them in a respectful, real, and transparent way.
8 | EMERGING GENEROSITY
86% of global consumers believe that businesses need to place equal weight on society’s interests and business interests (Source: Edelman, November 2010). As younger consumers continue to give, they expect that their generosity will be mirrored by the brands that they buy.
According to trendwatch.com, any brand doing well will be expected to give transparently, with absolutely no excuses.
9 | PLANNED SPONTANEITY
Say what?! You read that right.
Watch more and more consumers sign up for services (the “planned”) that enable connection at a moment’s notice (the “spontaneity”). Location-based tools plus ubiquitous text-enabled and smart phones make this sharing even easier for those who want it now and want others to know about it. Here are two brands that are doing just that:
Geomium takes data from local review sites like Yelp, pairs it with social information, and allows users discover nearby friends, events, and deals.
Unsocial connects people in the same profession or industry using a location-based platform, membership database, and a “People” button to display colleagues nearby.
10 | ECO SUPERIOR
Sustainable products won’t be enough to sway consumers in 2011. With early adopters and eco-assertive consumer numbers flattening, brands will need to be green and good. Mainstream consumers will demand superior quality and value in addition to “green” designs and features. Brands will need to step up and deliver to a much more skeptical marketplace.
trendwatch.com also suggests that we’ll continue to see a trend that started in 2010: forced intervention. As federal, state, and local regulations in the U.S. take effect, we could see consumers confronted with a no-choice option and a change in behavior could be dictated by law instead of the marketplace. We are already seeing that in the San Francisco Bay Area (Northern California) as state and local laws are forcing change in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
11 | OWNER-LESS
As consumers crave and collect more things, the need to “own” is not as important as the desire for the experience. Everything, from jewelry and handbags to gadgets and cars, has been available to consumers on a “borrowing” basis. As urban consumers’ influence grows, we may see more brands responding to these space-limited but experimental and adventurous “buyers.”
Zipcar showed us that automobile ownership was not a requirement for getting around on the roads and we’re already seeing start-ups demostrate this with other means of transport—scooters, vans, and bicycle sharing, for example. We will also continue to see the sharing of transportation, durable goods, and even housing between consumers as well. As trendwatch.com notes, “2011 could be the year when sharing and renting really tips into mainstream consumer consciousness.”
December 1st, 2010
Ikea and agency, Forsman & Bodenfors of Sweden, are at it again as they reinvent their annual Ikea Wardrobe campaign. I recently posted on the group’s creative campaign to sell kitchen appliances via coffee table cookbooks; in this campaign they’ve turned everyday household storage into fashion show knockout.
Garderob, which means “wardrobe” in English, was the hook for a media blitz announcing the annual campaign, the design competition that fed the event, the website that promoted that competition and the four-day event that showcased the 25 designers chosen to compete in the final fashion spectacle.
Tapping traditional and online media outlets, the campaign went above and beyond the promotion of inexpensive furniture to build a current and creative story around what it is we do with that furniture. The rich storytelling around a relatively plain, box-shaped storage unit enabled Ikea to position their brand into the rich lives of designers, fashionistas, and fashion-forward consumers in Stockholm and throughout Sweden.
Ultimately, the grand-prize winner was a young watchmaker, but the real winner was Ikea with more than 60 journalists reporting on the fashion event and more than 10,500 people attending that same event over four days.
November 15th, 2010
A new browser — built with social networking at the forefront — has come on the scene, and the folks from the “Netscape Mafia” are banking on the explosion of social media and our insatiable desire to be constantly connected through those networks.
A group of Netscape alumni founded and financed RockMelt, the company, and the release of their new browser comes 16 years after Netscape introduced the first commercial Internet browser.
“We think it is a fantastic time to build a company around a browser,” said Marc Andreessen, Netscape co-founder and principal financial backer through his venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz.
RockMelt, the browser, lets users experience the Web, especially the social Web, without the hassle of the back-and-forth toggling that other browsers require. Sure, tabs are great, and we’ve come quite adept at speeding in, out, and around our top picks, but imagine if you could do the same all more efficiently and with a much higher level of interconnectedness.
CEO Eric Vishria did just that.
“The thing that really led us to this was the observation that the typical Web user only visits five to seven unique websites,” he said. “Like they only visit a handful of websites and they visit them multiple times a day, basically going back polling for updates. And to us, the thing that didn’t make sense about that is it’s 2010 and the browser isn’t, like, intelligent enough to understand that I do the same thing 10 times a day — just to have that content ready and waiting for me. And that’s what we’ve tried to do here.”
Currently, users can “reserve a spot” on the beta list via their Facebook account. In the future, all users will be required to log in to Facebook as a gateway to the browser — the social’s baked right in. RockMelt joins a roster of also-rans in the browser game. Flock, released in 2003, has many of the same features but came out before social media hit big. Chrome, backed by Google and promoted to millions daily, has only eight percent market share.
I’ve got my beta and will be test-driving this browser, putting it through the paces to determine if I’m ready to change. What do you think? Would you make the change to a new and different browser if it made your social (media) life easier?
October 29th, 2010
MySpace recently began a complete overhaul not only to its visual identity and interface, but also to its positioning and focus. The transformation is expected to finish at the end of November, but site visitors now can see what’s in store through promotional copy content, screen shots, and videos spread across the home page and site like early holiday gifts.
Mashable posted a quick introduction and overview and promises to do more in-depth review and reporting over the next few days. Check out the screen shots at the end of the post.
I’ll be watching this closely as well, but not for the obvious reasons. Sure, I can appreciate how far they’ve moved the needle on identity — the new logo (see video below) is a breath of fresh air and sets an enthusiastic and aspirational tone. After five minutes, I already forgot what the old logo looked like. The modular, box-grid layout is current and percolates with possibility, but it’s the bold redirect from all things to all people to entertainment for Generation Y that intrigues me most.
MySpace once defined social networks, and in not-too short a time, they epitomized the past. The old, out-of-touch, and irrelevant past. In search of the shiny and new, legions of young adults, teens, and tweens ditched the tiled wallpaper, audio clips, favorite band stickers, and funky profile pictures to set up camp with Facebook. It wasn’t long before MySpace became shorthand for out of touch, kicked to the curb. You might expect a brand so forgotten simply to fade away.
Instead, we’ll witness the realignment and return of a leader in the category. Focusing exclusively on the 13- to 35-year-old demographic, MySpace will prove if they still have (or found in the interim) what it takes to be the “social entertainment destination.” Will new users believe? Will loyal users stay? Things could get very interesting come November. Stay tuned.
The New MySpace: An Introduction
The New MySpace Logo