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The Omni – Channel Marketing and User Experience Connection

I’ve been hearing and reading quite a bit about Omni – Channel Marketing of late and it’s great that companies and brands are embracing the ethos behind the term to make their products and services more connected, open and oriented towards the individual. For this reason I feel it must then share and indeed integrate with many aspects of user experience online. This article aims to summarise my thoughts on how UX approaches and the principles of UX contribute to effective Omni – Channel Marketing.

What is Omni – Channel Marketing?

Okay, so firstly it is a bit of a new buzzword or phrase (to describe something not new in real terms) and perhaps overused, along with the related but different Multi – Channel Marketing term. Omni – Channel marketing though as a strategy marketing activity helps to define the marketing decisions that are driven by the choices that consumers have in how they engage a brand. It is in my opinion best thought of and understood, as being – how brands enable their clients and consumers to use these multiple and connected channels to engage with them. Unfortunately, when it comes to omni-channel and multi-device marketing, consumers today are way ahead of most brand marketers.

A good quote to educate brands on the motivation and main benefit of this approach to marketing can be found by Kevin P. Nichols of Sapient Nitro who says


“An omni-channel approach empowers you to create robust, personalised experiences. This ensures your content solutions have a longer shelf life and extended reach.” Kevin P. Nichols, Global Lead, Content Strategy, Sapient Nitro

Is Omni – Channel not just Multi – Channel marketing re-badged?

No, it’s related of course but a different approach. Multi-Channel, whilst driven by consumer habits is an operational set of tactics related to how a retailer allows a user to fulfil a transaction of conversion across each unique channel it owns or resides on. Omni-channel, marketing is much more aligned to seeing, empathising and realising the experience by walking in the shoes of the customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, and consistent. Simply put, omni-channel is multi-channel done right! And that’s where my interest in the UX relationship and synergy was inspired from.

How Does UX play a role?

We all know that User Experience is a range of carefully timed, implemented and managed strategic online usability and navigation tactics aimed at ultimately improving the online experience for unique sets of users; helping them fulfil their tasks in the context an online branded solution. As a result, in my view, UX practices of information hierarchy, user – journey mapping, persona development, persona validation, device and contextual testing and more, MUST be aligned to the Omni Channel experiences of customers, and thus the marketers aligned to this process – to truly make them worthwhile in today’s world. Here are 5 key activities, part of the UX process that can play a key role in, or provide key learnings in Omni – Channel Marketing activities and tactics

  1. Be a customer

Research, select, search, add to basket, purchase. Go through the same journeys that your customers do (analytics, or research if you have it) or may take. As with all good UX, if possible, these tests should be performed by externaland internal testers. Tests should be focussed on barrier identification and removal as well as delighting users. Importantly, this process must be and feel authentic to the user and be task focussed, not instructive at a granular level, to ensure a natural and organic journey and approach taken by the user.

2. Measure

UX practitioners cannot be deemed to be performing their role with the necessary diligence if data does not play a central role in the ongoing development of the digital platform. With Omni – Channel marketing data needs to become super granular and identify with the individual NOT the data set.

Of course there is personal and then there is invasive use of this personal data as marketing outpits and that’s the challenge of marketing, content and UX, to be more of the former and less of the latter. Julie Bernard of Macy’s summed things up well at last year’s Data Driven Marketing conference:

“We can now measure success in terms of the response of real people over time, in addition to measuring individual campaigns.  We have enough data at the customer level to see how she interacts both online and in the store, so we can tailor messaging and offers to her appropriately by channel. We strive to balance the use of customer data to inform content relevancy with the use of consumer insights to ensure that the relevancy is coupled with a sense of discovery and inspiration.”

Ux has the task here of making sense of these data sets and importantly helping to shape the right subsequent experience that gives the user what they want, expect, and adds personal value; not repetition across the multi – channel journeys.

  1. Segment Your Audiences

Understanding the customer (user) and being able to create tailored experiences, journeys and desired outputs for these groups and individuals is the fundamental foundation of and describes the persona development phase of a UX project. With regards to omni – channel marketing this information and segmentation process is central to the omni – channel experiences. By understanding, hypothesising and validating the persona’s created as part of UX, we can extend this out to creating strategies around omni – channel marketing to suit their specific wants, needs and behaviours. For example if you are a designer boutique clothing retailer females between the ages of 25 and 45, you may determine that they are more likely to buy based on the designer or brand. If you then subsequently are marketing to that audience, you might highlight the brand names heavily in your online advertising, SEO and nurturing strategy.

  1. Keep Content Focussed on User Journeys and Use Cases

Content and messaging is key. If a customer has previously engaged or purchased your product, you probably want to consider that in your marketing. If a customer has put something into a cart, but hasn’t yet purchased, use your content to reference that intent. UX brings with its activities these “user stories” and as part of an agile process mirrored against different persona’s and their unique goals it can continually help shape the content process, as well as the key calls to actions and functions they may desire.

Brands that do this well are those that understand your previous browsing and purchasing decisions and for example send personalised emails referencing previous purchases, and recommending complementary products. This type of content and messaging makes consumers feel personally spoken to, and helps drive much higher engagement, loyalty, and purchases.

5. “Listen and Respond” across user’s preferred Channels/Devices

More and more often, people will now use multiple devices during a single transactional process. Omni – Channel Marketeers need to be aware of the multi – dimensional processes of the user and make sure they able to listen and respond to these interactions. For example, an e-commerce retailer should strive to preserve items in a cart across devices – if you add an item to your mobile shopping cart, it should still be in your shopping cart when you log in on your desktop computer.

This is where the UX tactics / relationship is once again vital to the Omni channel mix for the organisation. They need to try and continually optimise these channels to aid conversion at any stage, build intelligence and flexibility into their interfaces to help continually personalise and contextualise the experience in real time.

In Conclusion

From a personal perspective, the key learning from writing this article is that for me it is another example of how marketing now needs to continually go beyond traditional awareness and product and promotion activities. The brands that win are the ones that give their audiences what they expect, when they want it, in the correct format and not only that, delivering a user experience that is intuitive, conversion oriented and strengthens the brand.

Online Brand Sentiment
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Tips for Managing Online Brand Sentiment

Love, hate, frustration, happiness, security, excitement, satisfaction desire, apprehension, impatience. A  small selection of common emotions that we feel pretty much every day, as we go about our lives. Many of these emotions are felt and experienced as we interact with hundreds of brands throughout the day. Perhaps it’s the steaming hot coffee and service of Starbucks in the morning, making you feel satisfied, or the feeling of desire of the latest 7 series BMW,  as you take the bus home from work, through to the painfully complicated payment system for something you wish to buy online, leaving you frustrated and angry.

The power of social media channels has created a new world of venting and consumer voice.  For example with a Product recall—you can sure there’s more than one blog post about it. And then there is disappointing customer service? A quick mention of the brand shared with a few thousand followers won’t go unnoticed.

This last point is what I aim to bring a bit of focus to in this article; how do brand managers and online marketeers really get to understand the diverse and highly fluctuating landscape of ‘real – time’ customer sentiment with regards to their brand online, what tools do they use to uncover these feelings from their online consumers, but perhaps most importantly, how can this insight and tracking ability be used effectively to drive strategic thinking to tackle the issues or build on successes?

Quality vs Quantity

Playing the numbers game on visits, shares, re-tweets and mentions online is what Katie Delahaye Paine, author of Measure What Matters: Online Tools For Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement, and Key Relationships,  says are  to quote “quantity” or “vanity metrics.”

She says that if we look at numbers only, it can give us a false sense of hope that our content is generating leads for our brand or business. With sentiment analysis, we dig deeper and look at “quality metrics”.

“Quality metrics include opinions, feelings, satisfaction ratings, the quality of shares, comments, re-tweets, replies, ratings or conversations, as well as the overall quality of engagement over time. The benefit of this measurement and analysis is that it can help uncover and drive learnings from the key aspects of your brand;  awareness, appeal, service, and content and allow you to uncover the positive, negative or indifferent aspects of your brand being shared online and importantly react to it.”

Of course, the overall quantitative analytics packages are hugely important, but used in isolation can be highly misleading in terms of online brand engagement.

So… How Does it Work?

Sentiment analysis platforms are like all other online data mining systems, they are based on bespoke algorithms. In this case it’s algorithms which recognise certain words as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’, letting you know if your brand is being adored or floored.  If someone tweets using the word “awful”, “disappointing” etc. then the sentiment analysis will assign that post as ‘negative’.  You can get problems though if someone uses sarcasm or irony as the tone…  most tools, takes everything at face value.

It is commonly known for the term “opinion mining.” Opinion mining aims to determine how a certain person or group reacts to a topic they are being referred to. They react because they are either interested or involved.

Social media monitoring tools, some of which will be discussed below, generally have a high level of customisation in their search terms, and provide flexibility in the number of different things you can search for at the same time.  This means that often you’ll be able to monitor your competitors too if you want to, and compare how their sentiment measures up.

In this video, Claudio Pinhanez , Senior Manager at IBM Research Brazil, talks about sentiment analysis in social media and explains why we should analyze data and how we can explore it. He uses the World Cup in Brazil that has just passed as an example citing interesting examples of  a team, player or the country of Brazil’s brand image, amongst other interesting scenarios.

Sentiment Analysis Tools

Many tools are out there to be utilised by brands. Using the right tools in a dedicated fashion, with adequate time and budget assigned to investment in regular “online listening and monitoring” will help you gather, analyze, and manage conversations about your brand. This can then provide real insights and learnings on the levels of engagement your content marketing efforts are generating and the general online reputation you are creating online via content that your audiences are creating. So, below are just 4 0f the dozens of tools (ranging from basic, to comprehensive) that I have looked into to see how they may help provide value with regards to online sentiment analysis and their respective ability to provide valuable insight.

 1. Social Mention

This is basically the social media equivalent to Google Alerts; a useful tool that allows you to track mentions for keywords that you will have pre-defined in video, blogs, Q&A, hash tags and even podcasts. It also indicates if mentions are positive, negative, or neutral.

When Mention spots that somebody talks about you or your brand you can instantly see this through one of their apps (Web, Desktop, iPhone or Android).  Alternatively you can get daily summary alerts which shows you the mentions for a particular day.

It is good at tracking what people say about you or your business online to allow for instant or well timed responses, to avoid escalation procedures. Visit site.

2. Trackur

Trackur is another relatively comprehensive online monitoring tool that enables users to track a wide range of keywords, issues across mainstream and social monitoring. The ability to see the influence of the content creators around your brand too is a good advantage with Trackur, to enable you to gauge the importance of a response (if any).

Whilst being quite a clunky and unrefined user experience, it has a powerful analytics engine and it’s customization features allows it to be white labelled for end user, agency and reseller contexts. Visit site.

3. Google Alerts

This ‘old school’ alert mechanism is the ultimate hands off experience when it comes to online reputation monitoring. It is often overlooked in many online discussions around sentiment or online reputation monitoring and analysis. As a big fan of its simplicity and the nature of its email (or online reader) alerts I see it has having some great advantages.

  • It’s free
  • It’s fast
  • You can monitor things you wouldn’t always think of as obvious beyond the brand mentions such as buyer behaviour, site security / spam and content distribution.

Whilst alerts clogging up your inbox may not be the ideal scenario for most people, a good tip is to set the ‘Deliver to’option as feeds that way you get all these alerts in Google Reader and can setup different folders for different alert types. One not to be ignored and usually it is used alongside a dedicated tool, rather than stand alone.  Visit site.

4.  Meltwater

Meltwater’s stand out feature is that it uses use low-level crowdsourcing to enable it to catch irony and sarcasm. Melt water actually employ people to read sample data and assign it a sentiment rating.  These ratings are then used to update the algorithm in the hope that it will identify the sentiment more accurately.  As a result, Melt water claims that its automated analysis is up to 80% – well ahead of the standard 50 – 60% accuracy that others claim to have.

Another great advantage of this platform is that it does’t limit the amount of results you have access to. Other tools such as social mention offer a certain number of results per month for a certain price, but this has limitations at times where the brand or product is in the spotlight and suddenly the posts increase by a factor of 50 – leaving the company having to pay extra to see those results.

Meltwater by contrast  lets you have all the data that’s out there and it really powerful, but is one of the more expensive tools on the market at over £7k per year. Visit Site

From Insight to Action

These small selection of tools, from the dozens available in the marketplace, all provide great power in the form of data mining and providing insight on audiences emotions towards your brand, product or service.  As can be seen from this very small selection, each tool can provide numerical evidence of sentiment and semantic web data and others also have the advantage of rating the importance. Like all big data activities, the real challenge is defining the why, what, who and when. Why are we measuring this in the first place, what tool(s) are we going to do use and what will we do with the data, when are we going to take this action and who is going to do it? Below are some tips on helping to answer these questions and enabling sentiment analysis to form part of your digital strategy.

1. Define it’s Importance

Don’t invest based on the tools being there and needing used, invest on the need based on the online following you have and the outbound content. If you have a very low online audience and your online footprint relatively small for example, the timing of an investment in sentiment analysis, almongst a tiny audience, could be questioned.

2. Set KPI’s

Without KPI’s set you’ll never really know if you are meeting your goals. Of course you can be loose in saying you want to increase overall positive sentiment over time, but this then doesn’t then feed back adequately enough into the investment in time, people, software and other resources. KPI’s should be set that relate to data returned on specific content posts, campaign sentiment, brand sentiment, mentions etc etc, individually and in combination and importantly linked to other analytics to include traffic sources, conversions and product / content views based on the sentiment around the specific content. Importantly like all KPI’s these need to be adjusted based on learnings, resource availability, your competitors activities and your own content trends.

3. Share the Sentiment

It may well be the task of an online marketing or brand manager to run the reports and setup the configuration, but it must be the responsibility of the organisation as a whole to have visibility of and know what online and offline activities may be contributing to the emotions being presented by the online audiences. For example an online retailer could be getting negative comments on online customer service off the back of a team profile feature online. Written responses or addressing these concerns online can only do so much; the root of the problem may lie deeper in people and processes.

4. Beware of Comparisons 

In today’s world consumers love to compare online and this extends to their and other consumers’ opinion, not only on price or product features, When comparing one brand with another,people will often express something along the lines of “I love company X but hate company Y” or “company X’s blue widget is so much better than company Y’s”. Under analysis, this could produce a neutral result as the negative sentiment cancels out the positive, when in fact there was a clear expression of positive sentiment about company X and negative sentiment about the other. Being able to spot and disentangle these kinds of issues at the data processing stage is important to establish a robust foundation for the sentiment analysis.

5. Analytical Minds

Sentiment analysis, like any data or semantic web analysis for that matter, is not straightforward and without proper analytical minds, is open to substantial mis-interpretations and subsequent poor decision-making. Online content producers are the ones taking action from sentiment and in fact their content has likely been the catalyst for sentiment ranges, along with other behaviours, but are online marketers the best people, or person equipped to analyse sentiment, amongst other things? If you have the luxury in your business, think carefully about the distinction of analysis and marketing. Even a marketeer with fantastic analytical skills may be too close to, or be unwilling to accept change to his or her content activities, to truly drive change the changes required. It is also vital that this analysis does not site in isolation and is monitored alongside other data collection and analysis tools including Google Analytics, E-CRM packages and Facebook Insights etc.

6. Test and Refine

Content Marketers around the globe will all likely agree that the same pieces of content read or shared by similar audiences do not always produce similar results. A/B split testing has shown this in contexts of conversion and online behaviour and audience diversity and a range of factors, many of which we’ll never truly be able to be understand due to the granularity involved in reaching the behaviour of each individual will always show trends different from what we imagine. With a strategy that has sentiment improvement at its core, you should invest time in testing, analyzing and refining your messaging to over time understand what really drives lasting change. Reverting back to point 3, this can also drive change elsewhere in the organisation if the sentiment is directed towards an offline context.

So, in conclusion, sentiment analysis can help you gain insight into so much about how consumers feel about your brand, your campaign, your product and your service. There are lots of tools that can help and the choice is really important depending on your business, your time, your budget and resources. Most importantly though it’s essential to think about the right steps to taking action to this sentiment and thinking strategically about how you can actually improve, maintain or change this sentiment over time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is UX the New Branding?

Something I’ve been thinking about for some time is the relationship between brand and user experience. I’ve come to realise that for me, when it comes to exposure in an online world, there really is little distinction and it’s hard to determine when one process starts and the other ends – or even if there are start or end points… Working as Digital Director for a brand consultancy, more often than I and my team are tasked with making a brand “come alive” or “get their story across” online. For me these client driven terms have some weight and value, but for me the key challenge for our digital team is making their “brand values, promises and customer expectations, clearly and appropriately experienced online“.

Branding Before Jesus

To help explore this new shift in branding, it’s important to explore the origins of brand. Staring in 2,000 BC there was branding, farmers’ cattle and livestock were branded physically and since then everything has had a “mark” “watermark” or “logo”. Of course since the industrial revolution, we all now understand that branding is not just a logo or graphical representation of a product or service; branding is the communication of features, benefits, lifestyle fit and the emotional connections it sparks with its audiences.

The big shift in recent years in branding has come about because of the internet, social media and connected consumers. Branding used to dovetail nicely into advertising and the brands that advertised the most, in the biggest and best way won. No matter how much we connect and have some kind of emotional brand connection with Coca Cola today in an internet ruled world, the hard work to establish a market leading brand was done in the 50’s – 90’s through massive, one way advertising spend. But now the playing field has levelled – advertising can only attract eyeballs – true brand affinity is harder and harder to achieve. That’s where online experience is a massive differentiator. Online experience is where the brand promise can be proven.

Branding in 2014

There is a bit of confusion as to what branding ‘actually’ means in 2014. I mean, the principles and ethos are the same, but it really has had to move with the times and clients demanding branding services must start to realise that their brand is “everything” about them and in a super – connected and socially driven world, it’s also everything about their online presence, behavior and the suitability of their customer online experience. Seth Godin puts it well.

Brand is a stand – in, a eupmism, a shortcut for a whole bunch of expectations, worldview connections, experiences and promised that a product or service makes, and these allow us to work our way through a word that has thirty thousand brands that we have to make decisions about every day.

Experience is Everything

The stand out word here for me is “experience” – experience is really the key differentiator online in such a competitive, consumer driven and connected world. Having an experience that matches the brand expectations set by the positioning, promises and expectations already built up by the product, advertising, editorial piece etc, is really what matters in terms of consumers and their brand connection. If you ask many UX professionals, they’ll say that they don’t work in branding, they work in experiences and may use “brand guidelines” supplied by the client or agency in the form of colours, typefaces and style guides.

For me UX professionals and in fact anyone involved in providing customer centric digital solutions, need to be branding experts. Everyone in the ‘online experience’ team, from the client, through to the web designer, content creators and project managers need to fully understand the brand values, the customers, their expectations and provide a suitable experience to match it. It doesn’t mean that the online experience has to be beautiful, quick, responsive, ultra detailed in content or rich, it simply has to match the brand; whether you are Coca Cola, Rolex or a local coffee shop. Sometimes good UX is ultra simple – 1 page, 1 function and lack of content. Sometimes it’s Amazon and their basic design, yet beautifully tailored, efficient and intuitive web and mobile experience – every scenario is unique.

Experience is brand perception

Experience is brand perception

I feel that businesses, when considering branding, should not treat their brand and their web experience and digital footprint as separate when it comes to considering their online representation of services or customer interaction. Quite the opposite needs to happen in my view; all the dots need to be super – connected and they need to realise that the online presence is much, much more than a new logo, new font and nice new branded imagery from an expensive photo shoot.

In this example diagram, courtesy of Steven Fisher in his presentation “UX – The New Brand Order.” we can really connect the brand promise, then the experience, which then leads to the real differentiator, which is the perception and value that a brand can bring.

Branding vs UX

So when we consider branding and user experience are they really separate elements? If you’re the consumer of a brand they most definitely are not. Consumers will become aware, consume, get recommendations of and first and foremost experience the sales process of a brand through so many different independent and connected online channels, both passively and actively. Consumers will also build brand affinity and in many ways can shape your brand by their interaction and their sharing behavior – turning what you wanted your brand to be known and valued for to be something else altogether.

Listen – Act – Improve 

We all are aware that good UX is not simply applying best practice; it’s researched, considered, tested and refined elements of content, functionality, accessibility, UI design and personalisation all weaving their way together into a suitable experience. Branding, in 2014 is really no different. Whether promoted or experienced online or offline, your brand is only as good as it’s ability to match expectations set by the positioning from the environment you present to customers to, how you talk to them, to how you signpost them in the right direction in an intuitive fashion and by how you service them pre – post and during a sales process.

The evolution of branding today is something not driven by a business, but shaped by how the consumer wants or needs your product to work individually for them, is a very real thing. Ultimately it will be this customer behavior, their expectations and the feedback you receive from their experience that will determine how well a brand survives. Unless a brand takes time to listen, act and improve continuously their online user experience, their brand will surely be doomed to failure of not meeting their customers expectations.

So to conclude and to re-iterate, for me branding and UX are extremely hard to treat as distinctly independent disciplines and I truly believe that UX could easily be described in many contexts as the “NEW Branding”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parallax Web Design for Engagement, Storytelling and Online Branding

We are all more aware than ever that web design styles are shifting  towards user experience as opposed user tasks and usability. Users demand to be engaged, entertained, educated and enticed into absorbing content online. Parallax web design, used in the right context, has the ability to deliver a really strong connection to an online brand experience, based on the interactivity of the website, the journey and the focus, realism and context given to the content or product.

Often, examples of Parallax web design focus on product examples, such as Google’s Nexus 7 page, but I hope to show in this post that there are opportunities for other types of organisations such as B2B businesses or charities to use Parallax design for deeper engagement. The examples show that Parallax design can offer a more interactive version of infographics, better suited to communicating your core brand messages.

As Robert Yardy explains in his review of 2013, it’s an approach we’re seeing more often:

Parallax web design is a technique of using CSS to make different layers on the web page move at different rates. When a user scrolls down a page they will be presented with content, such as photos, videos, text etc coming in from different angles and not just all moving down the screen together.

Advantages of Parallax sites

Bring your brand to life

Parallex websites have a certain advantage over traditional websites in that they can provide a richness to a brand or product, difficult to execute via more traditional web design and build techniques. Branding online is less now about an identity and tone of voice, it’s about engagement with content and the appeal and connection to the specific audience groups.  Thisrunning shoe site from Puma for example creates a rich experience that delivers depth, realism, 360 degree product views and more for its shoe. More than that though it delivers a brand experience to users that Puma are innovative, have great content to share and are giving users the empowerment to discover their branded product in an interesting way.



Parallax design example 1

Can Make Complex Information Engaging and Accessible

The web should make life simpler for people, not more complex. Parallax, done well can make complex information, through it’s presentation, engaging and informative in bite size chunks. This website for the Council for Economic Education in the USA aims to inform students and stakeholders of the reality, risks, dangers and options available to them. There is lots of data on this website, related around key themes, and if presented in a more standard way, would probably not engage the user or ensure they take in the relevant information.

Parallax design example 2

Tells a Story

Another great execution that Parallax scrolling offers, is the ideal setting to tell your story in an engaging and interactive way. Let your visitors take control and let them walk through your story at their own pace. The different layers that respond differently to the scrolling behaviour can create a sense of depth and even allow for multiple story lines. This clever example, Every Last Drop creates a highly relatable narrative, allowing room scenery to assemble and disassemble around the protagonist. Timed to perfection, the embedded facts are easy to read and digest, and are supported by the dynamic environment created by the multiple layers.  

Parallax design example 3

Disadvantages of Parallax

Slow Page Load Times

Patience is not a virtue that too many people have in today’s online space. High saturation of broadband and quick to load optimised websites offer for many, a quick on-demand web experience. The bulk of images, css and JavaScript loading on one page can take a longer than ideal time to load, especially for that important “un-cached” first visit.

It’s Simply Bad for SEO

Parallax website design simply, is not SEO-friendly. Due to the nature of parallax websites, all or in some cases most of your site content exists on one single page. This means that you can miss the opportunity to define important meta data and title tags within the site, which are one of the most important factors in determining page rankings in your favourite search engine.

Traditional websites of course offer the opportunity to target keywords by using meta tags on individual pages which communicate with search engines to establish your page ranking and thus increase the page specific relevance to the user’s tailored search terms.

Additionally, in a parallax environment, we tend of see a trend for multiple H1 headings on the page, which compete with each other for the search engine crawler’s attention because they are on the same page. This does not help clearly establish what your site or page is about and ultimately hurts your page ranking.

It’s Not Ideal for a Responsive Experience

Parallax scrolling websites are difficult to design responsively. Normally, separate mobile specific website that offer a completely different experience to the user are created for mobile, due to software, hardware , browser and connectivity issues hindering the similar parallax experience being deployed. This may not necessarily be a bad thing, for the more task centric  mobile – user, but for brand consistency it is often a bit of a let down for the client and the customer! Not to mention this if you are in the client services industry, your client may not be happy with the added expense and administration requirements of creating a second “mobile only” version of their website.

What’s best for your brand?

It’s such a difficult question and the correct answer really does depend on the context and what role or roles your website plays in the brand journey for your customer, importantly in the marketplace and amongst the competitors you face.

To expand, if you are a new brand in the marketplace, that does not offer e-commerce or a specific online – centric function. nor has any immediate plans to; for your brand, awareness and emotional connection to the brand and what you stand for, is of utmost importance. With this in mind the storytelling, impactful and illustrative nature of parallax might just be right for you. It can be a head turner, an attention grabber and a brand – awareness vehicle well worth the investment.

In contrast if you are a company that needs a website to deliver high volume search traffic, online sales, requiring an intuitive, quick, responsive and highly accessible web experience for your user, then perhaps Parallax isn’t for you.

There is though room for Parallax to be a “part” of your digital media mix at some point in the customer communication journey with your brand. For instance, if you do not wish to use the website style for your main customer or consumer website, you may still have a strong wish or rationale to deliver a campaign, event, or specific product mini – site in this format; it may just be right for that niche purpose.

The key thing to bear in mind when it comes to using this style of website design and user experience, is to weight up the pro’s and con’s and decide if it’s right for you, most importantly in relation to your own sector, marketplace and amongst the competition. Perhaps most importantly and to conclude, do not try to find a place for parallax, simply because you like it. Start with your own business goals, the impact you may or may not have to make online and the specific online goals of your users before considering the most appropriate web experience.

Video Content Marketing Strategy for Brands

Tips for integrating video as part of content marketing

“The next big thing in content marketing is video,”


so said, nearly everyone in 2013.

Rather than attempt to convince you of this as a consumer of brands or a business, in this article I’d like to show and advise as to how as part of integrated content strategy, video content can work hard for you and deliver results.

The growing popularity of online video

Online video is big business and it’s visibility and the demand for it is statistically astounding. The Content Marketing Institute report the following stats to help paint a picture:

  • On-line video has increased eightfold in five years.
  • In 2016 the gigabyte equivalent of all the movies ever made in the history of film will move across networks every 3 minutes.
  • It will take 6million years to watch all the video that will uploaded in one month, in 2016.
  • Video will be 55% of all internet traffic by 2016.
  • Video on demand will triple by 2016.
  • Mobile video traffic will increase by eighteen times by 2016 (from 2011).

The key drivers encouraging video content marketing

Video is a great way to narrate stories, persuade prospects, impress your audience, and take your business to the next level. From a business perspective, it’s often difficult for companies and individuals to grasp the starting point of a strategy for using video within their own business. It helps to start with the purpose and  look at the key drivers for using online video for business, as part of a multi – dimensional content marketing strategy.  The main reasons to use video from your businesses perspective are:

  1. Customers buyers are becoming increasingly influenced by video.
  2. Marketers need more feedback about their content.
  3. The pressure to show content ROI is increasing.

With these reasons a very clear reality in 2013, it’s vital that businesses find the right video content to produce and distribute as part of a wider integrated content marketing strategy.

Video as a Marketing Tool

Simply put, videos are generally quicker and easier to digest than text-heavy content. Video also enables your brand’s content to stand out from the online clutter of text. The data backs this theory up: ROI Research reports user interactivity with content that incorporates video at twice the rate of other forms of content. Video content marketing is all about creating a memorable visual representation of your brand either through you or your customers, advocates or peers. To work well, you need to learn how to use this storytelling medium to be a key part of your content strategy. Here are some key tips to ensure success in video content marketing as part of your other tactics.

Key Video Tips:

Tip 1: Align with your brand

Branding involves clearly communicating your product or service offering and showing distinct differentiation across all customer touch-points. It is important to ensure your videos both clearly use your brand identity and key messages but perhaps more importantly support and build the brand through style, pace and quality. The best brand videos understand how the brand needs to communicate through video to match the essence of what the brand stands for. You only need to look at Nike and Red Bull for example to see how the videos match the brand proposition and position; perfectly. Another fantastic example of branded video content comes from B&Q who not only have on their video channel their excellent TV advertising, but cleverly used videos for DIY, providing tips and instructions. Real value that matches their customer – centric brand.

Tip 2: Use Video to Display or Demo Product

Content marketing often works best when it provides a window into the inner workings of a product or company. Traditional forms of marketing in the past would have shown product photographed alongside advertising led narrative to seduce the customer. Of course this still needs to happen to deliver an initial emotional response to a brand, product or service, but in age of heightened competition real differentiation can be heightened by product video and demonstration. When considering the best way to demonstrate your difference, think about how video can really help your audiences to see your product in action and ensure you plug it in to your product display on your web and social channels as part of your integrated content strategy. Ikea, do this really well and in the context of real environments their product videos feel very connected to real life.

Tip 3: Be Human

I a world of online shopping and many services being handled online or via the phone, there is often a disconnect between customer and consumer, and as humans we all crave that interaction. Even though technology has made our roles less face to face, video has an opportunity to allow people to see and understand the personalities within a business at a small or on a large scale. Steve Jobs and his apple keynote videos and guest presentations were a perfect example of how he, as a leader, and often rebellious, controversial character helped strengthen the apple brand and customer’s affinity for the head of the company.

Tip 4: Leverage Audience Generated Content

User generated content is a great way to deliver brand or product oriented content for your business. The quality, control and nature of these videos can be pain points for a brand but on the plus side, if done positively this authentic video content from fans and audiences can add significant value and indeed proof points of quality or the life enhancing nature of a product. Perhaps though, the key advantage of user generated video content for your brand is it’s vitality. Creators of content are much more likely to share their own content and their peers are more likely to then engage and re-share due to common friendships and online behaviours. This snowball effect often means that the success of the video can outreach company created brand videos. In order to encourage this an in incentive is often required; think creatively about what this could be. Finally, make sure you then use this user generated content to create a video or series of videos from this to show your true connection to your audiences or to help support the wider campaign.

One of the best examples of effective user generated content can be found from Coca Cola, and it’s decision to give its marketing creative brief to consumers in North America, Asia, and Latin America instead of a high-powered ad agency, as is the norm. An incredible quantity of content was created with more than 3,600 submissions including animation, illustration, film, and print advertising. Out of those 3,600, 10 of the highest quality were chosen and shown to creative directors and other ad professionals from around the world with one winning ad eventually shown. Surprisingly, the winning ad, “Happiness is in the Air,” was ranked in the top 10 percent of ads shown globally after its debut on Valentine’s Day during “American Idol,” proving that user-generated content can test very, very well.

Tip 5: Try Short Form Videos

Vine and Instagram video have proved increasingly popular from a brand perspective over the past year. These short videos stretch creative minds and the popularity of the platforms should be leveraged where possible if your audiences live there and you can encourage a folliowing. Companies such as GAP and Samsung have developed loyal followings on Vine and the nature of the videos allows the brands to be more creative and less “salesy” with their message, which in this day and age connects well with the majority of savvy audiences in 2013. Brands also account for 40 per cent of the 1,000 most-shared Instagram videos, according to data compiled by marketing technology company Unruly.

Integrating Video for Effective Content Marketing

On its own, video can deliver interest and engagement, but when not appropriately connected to your brand’s online content and marketing activities it has the danger of being isolated, not supportive of your brand and campaigns. Here are some key tactics to ensure you make video connected to and an important aspect of your content marketing activities.

  • Create a branded YouTube or Vimeo Channel and cross promote through website, email signatures, business cards, other social channels
  • Embed click through on your youtube video to deliver the user to a key landing page where action can be taken
  • Ensue video sharing is encouraged and use incentives where appropriate to encourage shares across all of your brand’s other social channels
  • Integrate video into all social channels available to your brand
  • Widen your scope and awareness by investing in pre-roll video online to key demographics
  • Make sure to create or reference already established hash tags # on your videos, to help gain campaign discussion and aggregation
  • Use video in email marketing (that will link through to a website landing page). Simply having the indication of a video via email will drive up click through rates.
  • Ensure your video titles and descriptions are SEO friendly and that any inbound likes use keyword rich link anchors.

Finally, it’s worth noting that not all video needs to be expensive. It has already been discussed how short form videos can show authenticity and differentiation and also how user generated videos have the power to be highly effective.

It is worth though, making sure that your content marketing budget is appropriately proportioned as if video has the power to work for you, then you should make sure that it has the appropriate proportion of your budget as there can be no doubt that video has more power to differentiate, connect, visualize and share than any other online content form.

Lorem Ipsum

Please… NO MORE Lorem Ipsum.

Good old “Lorem – Ipsum”; the poly-filler or generic padding of web design. It’s a big part of what makes some web designers and web owners often skim over and ignore what a piece of design is trying to communicate, focussing instead on whether their logo is big enough, how lovely the button styles are, or how #amazeballs the parallax scrolling on the website is. As an advocate of the importance of appropriately and contextually used content, it says something different to to me. It says:

‘The content doesn’t matter very much. I’ll just use this space to represent some sample content. Those that see this right now or when it’s lively likely don’t care. I have no real idea how much content ,or in what format the company wishes to present this for their audiences.

A great design is only great if it delivers the content that matters in a clear and accessible way.  Designers need to consistently design their digital products centered on the content and facilitating the most interaction and engagement with that content. For me, content IS the heart of successful web and digital application design.

How can a digital designer get a feel for page design, user experience or interactivity without a sense of its purpose, the audience needs and what it is all attempting to communicate? Writing from my experience of working on web projects over the past  decade, I have seen many examples of the projects that end up getting the best results for my clients; they are the ones that are designed around the message, and not those that are designed first, before real content and focussed messaging becomes an afterthought; something to fill a gap, that might be ill – defined.

For many it is a different way of working, but through working at Mammoth and realising beforehand the importance of branding through content – it is now the first aspect of “design” we consider. It does demand that clients think harder about what users want from the website or service, and how their content can deliver it. It’s more effort, but that can only be a good thing.

So this is a plea for the end of Lorem Ipsum and why we all need to say no…

 Why using Lorem Ipsum will make your project fail.

  1. It shows a disrespect and lack of understanding of your audience and how they want to engage with your brand.
  2. Lorem Ipsum shows you are approaching the project the wrong way round. Always think content first.
  3. Designing the site around real content that answers genuine questions is what will get results for your site.
  4. It shows a lack of collaboration between designers and content creators – the best projects see copy, imagery, video and design working iteratively, hand in hand.
  5. It often shows you don’t have the central message clear from the start. If you don’t already have brand driver and the main story established then don’t design. You essentially have nothing clear and established to start with.
  6. Designing around the content helps refine the thinking about the best way to communicate it; not how “nice” the page looks. The project is stronger for it.
  7. The words on a page and the design of the page are inextricably linked. You can’t do either of them properly in isolation.
  8. Valuable content is everything to a successful strategy at any level; large or small – one dimensional or multi-dimensional. If you treat content as an afterthought, you will fail in a content rich, time short online user landscape.

Content is key, and before design starts it is important to create or streamline the content that needs to be communicated. The… what, why, how, for whom, by whom, when, where, how often, what next?” Once this thinking is done, streamlined, tested and is matched to the brand – content creation and online design can work iteratively and with cohesion. All for the good of the users and the business.

No more Lorem Ipsum.

Content Marketing: Building brand loyalty and lasting relationships

2013, if you haven’t realised it as yet, by the vast amount of attention it is grabbing, is the year of Content marketing . Study after study have shown that content marketing can turn the unaware into aware, the non-engaged into advocates and web browsers into customers. It does though require effort, resources and quality creators. To be successful, content marketing relies on sharing a regular dose of quality content and producing this takes a big investment in time; not to mention being creative with it.

What Could Content Marketing do for You?

Content marketing if done well helps you and your business build relationships with customers and stakeholders. Surely, that’s what it;s all about in today’s world. A quick sale or smash and grab approach to any sort of custom or engagement will not last. Nowadays with people continually engaged with digital and social content, making sure you’re part of that connection and engagement through content will put you on the right track to success.

Build Trust, Engagement and Relationships

Content marketing can ensure you and your businesses’ reputation is visible, enhanced and supportive of relationship building. It helps those that see your content get what you and your brand stands for,  allowing relationships to be built and puts the consumer in the mindset of how you or your products and services could enrich their lives.

Anything worth having takes effort. Content marketing is no exception. It won’t guarantee overnight success, but it is sustainable, scalable and in the digital world a cost effective option. Done well, it will build trusting relationships and in turn an amount of social media advocates acting as your own business development department (for free!).

In an E-Consultancy survey on content marketing in October 2012 the value companies were placing on it, was clear to see from some key outputs.

  • Over 90% of respondents believe that content marketing will become more important over the next 12 months.

  • Nearly three quarters (73%) of digital marketers agree that ‘brands are becoming publishers’.

  • Less than half of companies have dedicated budgets (34%) or individuals dedicated (46%) to content marketing.

  • Increased engagement is the most commonly cited objective for content marketers, with 52% of in-house marketers and 58% of agency marketers listing this as one of their top three business objectives.

McDonald’s… They’re Loving it.

Researching the best content driven campaigns I read about this “Our Food – Your Questions” campaign ran by McDonald’s Canada. I especially like it because it’s totally user-centric putting them in control of the initiating and response questions as they ask McDonald’s the questions.

Launched in June, the Our Food, Your Questions  program invites any Canadian to ask any question whatsoever about McDonald’s food on a special website. To ask a question, participants must connect with either Twitter or Facebook, providing social visibility and a ripple in the pond viral effect.

mcdonalds our foodSo far, more than 16,000 questions have been asked (they are getting 350 to 450 per day), and nearly 10,000 have been answered. The program scope is only around McDonald’s food, so questions about non-food topics are directed to other resources, and some questions are of course duplicates. But there’s no dodging the tough questions, and that’s the amazing thing about this program.

It could have been easy for them to say, “It’s too risky,” but this is just the type of marketing edge McDonald’s needed. It has all the qualities attractive to today’s consumer — engagement, great customer service, offering transparency (and thus building trust) — and does so on a platform that makes sense in today’s social age.

Content Marketing Types

Once you’ve decided that content marketing is worth pursuing (which it will have to be eventually) you need a plan of action. It is often easier for bigger companies; they have an advantage to when it comes to producing editorial-style content with a budget to research, edit, produce and respond to their content campaigns.

If you’re an SME and don’t have the budget to work with a professional, it’s important to make sure that the type of content you create is playing to your strengths. Think about these content types below to see what mix might work for you.

1. Blog posts and articles

A great way to gain credibility, spark opinion and build though leadership. Whatever industry you are in, you have expertise that your audience will be interested in hearing about. A blog filled with advice, ‘how-tos’, opinions and topics related from your industry can be a brilliant way to present and share your knowledge and connect with your audience. If you have a flair for writing, blog. There’s no excuse.

2. Video Content 

Video content is the most effective way to engage and get across information. If your brand is visual or you have stuff worth showing off to the human eye, get the camera out and start sharing. YouTube and Vimeo are great platforms to connect to a new audience and it is much easier than you think to put together a professional looking video. Vine, a new smartphone app allowing you to shoot and publish 6 second videos, built your way at once or via stop motion has allowed many brands and individuals to get even more creative and social with their video content.

3. Images and infographics

Graphic images and infographics can be a great way to share tips and tricks with your fans in a n engaging and highly accessible visual way. This kind of content is often much easier to share – which is a great thing as long as people know that your company created it in the first place! Make sure you put your company name and URL in the image/infographic somewhere.

4. Social

Independently, but best integrated to the above content types, social media is a fantastic way to stay connected and inform and respond to your audiences. At an individual level it can allow you to provide excellent levels of customer service, at a more holistic level it can attract fans, improve your SEO and enhance your brand by having engaging content and the ability for content to easily attain viral context.

Top Tips

1. Put together an editorial calendar or schedule

Your content marketing strategy will be much more successful if you are consistent with it. Set yourself a target for each week, and stick to it! Assign certain days of the week for certain content activities (allowing time for research).It can be a good idea to plan ideas for content in one go and add them to an editorial calendar or schedule. Don’t forget to be flexible as the environment and your customers can be unpredictable.

2. Collaborate

Creating quality content week after week can be difficult. Think about utilising your network, lifting some of the pressure and getting help. If you have a team of staff working within your business, consider spreading the responsibility for creating content. This also allows these people to become more engaged within the company and also this may be attractive brand enhancing element as users get to know the staff, who are also content creators.

3. Stay professional and on brand

This is so important. Being silent and not engaging online is not as bad as being off brand or unprofessional online with content. When you’re updating your business’ blog, or Twitter feed or Facebook page, it can be tempting to stray outside your area of interest. Take my advice; don’t do it! It’s vital to stay professional and on brand. A good way to do this is to set out from day one what topics and interests you are going to post about. Also ask your audiences what they wish to see and hear and get them to contribute. Getting your audience writing content for you is worth it’s weight in gold.

4. Stay Humble. Stay Persistant

It’s NOT possible to be an overnight success in the digital world. Look at any successful blogger or YouTube broadcaster, and you’ll likely find that they were creating and sharing content regularly for a long time before they received success. This will also be true of you and your business. It’s important to stay motivated and keep going, even if it feels like no one is paying attention at first. A moment may arrive that gains some traction and builds momentum for you, your business and your content. Experience will help you attain higher levels of impact and increased chances of traction amongst audiences.

In Summary…

No matter how big or small your company is, you have the ability to use the principles of this marketing strategy and use it to reach out and connect to your audience. They want it, crave it and have time for it, so there’s no excuse. Find the right mix of type, resource and timing and success can be only round the corner.

It’s important to plan and research before jumping in with both feet. Before you get started it’s important to think about what kind of content will best showcase your business’ brand, and what kind of topics and interests it will be most relevant for you to cover. What have your competitor’s done? Are there examples abroad that could be mirrored or tweaked to suit your business? Taking the time to put these thoughts together in a strategy will be much more beneficial in the long run than jumping right in with both feet into writing and creating any sort of content.

Keep engaging your audience with quality, on brand and timely content, and you’ll see the benefits.