Tag Archives: Marketing

Defining User Experience Within Audience Development

UXinAD

Audience Development requires a different perspective on User Experience. Traditionally, User Experience relates to what the user or customer will experience when interacting with a product, but the key factor of Audience Development extends the idea to a larger conceit of the experience from all touch-points with a brand or product – what we refer to as Brand Experience. Kieron Leppard of SapientNitro posted an Evolution of UX presentation on SlideShare four years ago and, while a strong layout of the basics, it is outdated because of it’s pure focus on the User Experience design within the product and not all touch-points of opportunity within an Audience Development strategy.

Those touch-points that Audience Development factors in are; product, marketing, partnerships, customer service, overall brand, and whatever else makes sense for the particular company. Additionally, these touch-points aren’t considered to be one-way outbound features but enabling two-way communications that builds the bridge between company and audience. This strategy allows for the entire relationship to be fluid and authentic, because without it, consumers start to question the efficacy of the company/brand. Another benefit that many overlook in this strategy is the value to the employees within that corporate culture. With the clear strategic direction and understanding of how everything truly relates to each other, ambiguity and bad decisions can be left at the door.

We’ve all seen examples of the disconnects in the bigger UX picture:

  • A consumer is intrigued to sample a product after being pitched one thing, only to find a product that doesn’t match the promise.
  • Products come out hailing themselves as new and improved, yet are less appetizing to the consumer – even with strong feedback channels, the consumers are often left out of the equation.
  • Receiving bad customer service after completing a purchase on a site with a fabulous user interface.
  • A restaurant with great tasting and well-priced food, but horrible service.
  • Being on a email list for a beloved-brand – only to be bombarded with communications that are too frequent, not relevant, or even worse, both.
  • Original Content is produced and pushed out to try to broaden the audience, but only proceeds to confuse the loyal existing audience.

For companies/brands to be successful in the future, a strong emphasis on an holistic user experience is imperative to Audience Development. One can no longer develop product and then clean their hands figuring that it’s up to others to market it or relate to the customers – that will only lead to disconnects. From first-hand knowledge of a number of our clients who have come to us after falling into the trap of disconnected product; their businesses either struggled greatly to take-off, flat-lined or dipped because of such pervading methods. In many cases, the clients maintained deep insights about their audience (even developing open communication relationships with them) and understood the concept of the full user experience, but couldn’t determine how to address the disconnects effectively with limited or, sadly, wasted resources without taking a beat to delve into the possibilities afforded through proper Audience Development. Once you can look at User Experience as more than just a sum of it’s parts, a path to success and the ability to turn your audience into a tribe will come into focus.

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Sound Strategy Can Leverage Fumbles Into Wins For Smart Companies

Fumble Recovery

Too often, sports fans get upset when their opponent wins by way of a fumble recovery or one good play that enables a close victory. They exhort, “they were lucky!’ Or, “it was just a lucky bounce.” But the real truth is that the opposing team was just well prepared.  How many times are there balls up in the air for people to pounce on – only to see the ball fumbled out of play? How many times have people been faced with an opportunity, but aren’t prepared to walk through the door and take it? How many times have companies had a chance to gain a huge client, but aren’t prepared to deliver the right proposal in the allotted time? Just like the fumble recovery, preparation and strategy are much stronger determinants of wins than luck.  Gord Hotchkiss nails this ideal directly in his post about strategy on MediaPost. The thing is, he still attributes the element of luck in relation to success when the real truth is that sound strategy allows companies to create the element of “luck” by acting quickly and decisively due to preparation.

The truth is, strategy has been prepared and looked at in the wrong way for quite a long time. They are often set in absolutes with no room for flexibility or agility. They are often created by people who are too close to the product or don’t have the time to take a step back and evaluate their place in the market appropriately. And, perhaps most importantly, they don’t place the intended audience at the core of their considerations.

Creating a strategy with an eye toward what the audience is looking for and allowing for flexibility provides a key foundation that enables all members of the team to fluidly evaluate what’s going on in the environment and make moves or decisions that are based on the strategic core. It also provides the insights for the correct questions to ask when trying to determine whether that bright shiny object is the right direction or a complete waste of resources.

Once a proper strategy has been set in place, the fun’s not over. The team has to be fully educated on the thoughts and ideology behind it so that they may act on it without hesitation. There needs to be a clear understanding how it fits within the company’s ideals and mission – for if it’s not clear, maybe you need to dig back into building the strategy. All of this leads into strong leadership that enables the team to best capitalize on opportunity.

Hotchkiss provides an extremely gratifying illustration of the ROI value in the following:

Let’s imagine that two companies, A & B, both launched this year with $10 million in sales. Over the next 20 years, both companies were subject to the same rhythms — positive and negative — of the marketplace. But, because of superior leadership and management, Company A was able to more effectively capitalize on opportunity, giving it a 14% advantage over Company B. In 2035, what would be the impact of that 14% edge?  It’s not insignificant. Company B would have grown in sales to $21 million, with growth of just over 100%. But Company A would have sales of almost $290 million. It would be almost 14 times the size of Company B!

Smart strategy (and strong leadership) doesn’t dissolve the need for luck, but it does provide that preparation and foundation for the leveraging of whatever comes your way to turn a possible fumble into a win.

VidCon Teases Keys to Engagement in a Shifting Marketplace

John Green Presenting the VidCon 2015 Industry Opening Keynote

John Green Presenting the VidCon 2015 Industry Opening Keynote

Attending a conference like VidCon can wear a person out – especially if the person is not the predominant target. With the majority of attendees being teens and pre-teens that are exceedingly enthusiastic about the YouTube celebrities, it’s far to easy to overlook what is truly special and energizing about this movement.  Vulture’s Bryan Moylan attempted to do this and, while he did capture some solid elements, they were nowhere near what the reality was in the Anaheim Convention Center. By actually attending VidCon, there are no promises that an older generation will completely “get” what’s going on. But, the sooner everyone realizes that the motivations of the majority generation of VidCon attendees is drastically different than the generations that came before, we’ll be quicker to get into the media innovations that will truly make a difference in the future.

One would think that being a part of the Industry Track – the most expensive entry – would count as being a bona-fide member… The thing is, being away from the groups of Creators and Community meant more than being on a different floor physically – it meant being in a different thought process of why people would want to participate in mediums that are so self-celebratory. Even though John Green (VidCon Co-Founder as well as the writer of Fault In Our Stars and a business partner with his brother, Hank, in starting VidCon as well as a burgeoning video/content industry) mentioned in his Industry Track Opening Keynote that only 18% of their company’s revenues came from advertising revenue, so many of the following tracks allayed the conceit that, somehow, we need to figure out how to work the traditional forms of media into this new phenomenon.

Attending VidCon confirms that the traditional media conceit will absolutely not work among this crowd, nor any crowd/generation beyond it. Certainly, there were numerous speakers that tipped their hat to a need for change in the way big business is done. We all know that it is easier and/or quicker to promulgate change when you are not really a part of big business (yet), but it was disheartening to hear from some brand people about how they needed to break into the content and disrupt the movement that is disrupting the norm. It just isn’t gonna happen.

Vulture’s Moylan does capture some essence from afar as it relates to the community that this community is a part of – one of shared experiences among large crowds that, without the internet and the new mediums, they would have not had the opportunity to connect with. Absolutely, there are chances to expand upon social good and education in addition to entertain. You just can’t overlook what this movement is writing the book on – true audience development.

As long as we keep our way-we’ve-always-done-it hats on, they are all looking to be movie stars. Take those hats off and we see it for what it is – people using a medium to build and foster audiences in ways that couldn’t be done previously. The most important thing to Creators – at first, at least – is gaining and fostering their audience. With relatively basic, YouTube-integrated products, they are more successfully doing what large brands with huge amounts of data and resources aren’t even aware that they need to do.  In the same way that Creators are working exhaustively to build an empire that they have no idea where it will lead them, the Community is looking to support and look up to those who put themselves forward in authentic ways.

Brian Solis of Altimeter put it succinctly when he said that traditional media’s challenge is in, “figuring out Attention Spans and Engagement”.  A huge, flourishing community is already on their way to determining what draws their attention and engages them. We just need to step in the room, stop projecting our beliefs and, just observe. We’ll hopefully get the point soon enough…

Navigating the Space Between Idea and Verb

There have been many companies that have launched and succeeded (or failed) who would have dreamed of their company name or product becoming a commonly used noun, or even better, a verb.  People refer to facial tissues as Kleenex, soda pop as Coke and, within the past decade, taken on Google as a verb meaning “to search.”  Google can have a hard time coming to grips with the use of their product as a verb – as shown in this Google blog entry from 2006 – but becoming the next verb is the Taj Mahal and driving force within many start-ups.  The problem is, most don’t realize the factors necessary to make the transition from Idea to Verb a reality.

GoogleVerb

In the case of Google, they came to be when there were numerous search engines and within a few years, the others had fallen by the wayside due to Google’s solid product.  Bing is now the only one close and a lot of the reasons for their still being around is marketing and integration with the operating system that is most prevalent around the world.  As seen in the blog entry, Google itself was not so keen on becoming a verb unless it was specifically about the use of the product itself. Either way, pre-verb, the seemingly most important thing to Google was to become the single best service available and that is the thing that most people who strive to be a verb overlook.

Striving to be included in Websters or some other dictionary means that you’re missing the point.  Certainly, such an inclusion would mean you’ve done something right, but it shouldn’t be the goal. Whenever a client asks for this, I have the same response as we’ve all had when asked by someone to create something viral.  In both cases, the importance should be placed on creating the best product possible and hoping that the winds blow the right way to create the perfect storm that allows your creation to become viral – or a verb. If the expectation that largess and notoriety will come from a strong marketing or publicity campaign, then there must be consideration for the fact that audiences have changed over the years. The main change in the audience is that they expect delivery on promise.  If they don’t get it, they will run. If a company pushes to become anything more than a solid product, people will run.

Much of the navigation between the time of the idea and the possibility of becoming a verb requires a lot of smart, strategic thinking and damn fine product development. Without those actions, you’re destined to be lost in space.

Aside

The growth and breadth of items showcased annually at CES has led to the attendance of more than sellers of electronics – it’s caused an ever-growing onslaught of entertainment marketing folks to jet over to Vegas. Wayne Friedman of MediaPost … Continue reading

Navigating The Cost Of Innovation

It’s a new year and we are all on the continued lookout for things new and innovative. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2014) kicks off every year with many promises of innovation and they often deliver. Walking those halls provides a course in one way to look at innovation – which we’ll delve further into later. Many companies claim that they place an emphasis on innovation – and to a point, they are delivering – but when it comes specifically to marketing and buzz generation, companies set themselves up to fail in the innovation category.

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Sure.  They may execute a campaign that utilizes a new technology or create a video that goes viral and generates an insane amount of views. They might even develop marketing product that revolutionizes the industry or makes use of an existing product in ways nobody thought of before. But when it really comes down to it, most companies fail when bringing innovation to their marketing because they don’t plan or spend in the right way that lends to cost-savings down the road.

It would seem clear in the writings on this blog that I am all for marketing innovation and have pulled off some executions that I am quite proud of.  The buzz and impressions they generated were phenomenal and have often brought on follow-up coverage in the press. But they could have been better.  Many innovative marketing products could be better if they were not treated as the end-all product that is oft copied, but as something that builds upon itself.

Innovation done correctly is built with future iterations in mind so that products and development can be built on or added on cost-effectively. Too often, those new product are developed for one execution and then, upon its success, they do not allow for augmentation – forcing companies and their vendors to start from scratch.

Numerous factors lead to innovation that is not cost-effective.  Sometimes, it is due to a lack of vision or strategic planning – you were only looking to do this one creative vision and didn’t think how it could be used or grown beyond that.  Others, it might be due to a company’s determination to support ongoing innovation expenditures. And then sometimes, products just don’t work out.

All of those factors, and more, are reasonable explanations for the waste of money but they don’t need to be.

It really comes down to the ability to have the long-term vision and communicate objectives well. With the right executives supporting the long-term innovation play – where a specific near-term ROI may not happen – the environment can be ripe for marketing success for quarters and years to come.

Here’s how you do it.

Again, think more than one step ahead. Auto manufacturers build concept cars with the full knowledge that the car as a whole might not make it to the dealer, but components like auto-parking most likely will.  With that vision toward the future derivatives, even an unsuccessful campaign is not a waste of money. Be thinking of what components might be re-used in the future and make sure your team and vendors build those elements accordingly.

You need smoke and mirrors to be a component of your innovation process – and not in a devious way. Going back to the CES reference, you might think of innovation as putting the cart before the horse.  What might surprise many is that a lot of the hyper-cool technologies shown at CES are not real or ready for prime-time. Sometimes features are faked in to prove the concept. Other instances show content that is not optimal or canned to showcase a technology. An example of this is the content that is shown on 4K monitors.  No broadcaster is filming in 4K yet and they started showing those monitors two years ago with dummy content to show clarity. What they did was build an environment of hype that pointed to a vision of what the future could be – with no true revenue stream to show for it immediately. Be prepared to create assets that just show off what you are planning to do in order to effectively communicate expectations within the company.

Utilize communication and spin control. If innovation is treated solely as a magic force that nobody has insight into, it is doomed to fail in the long run.  Even the major technology companies that have super-secret labs share some of their developments internally and sometimes, even externally. Maintaining to others that you are doing really cool things under a shroud of mystery will only lead to further questions on the money that’s being spent. Conversely, communicating too much without conveying the ultimate vision can be almost as damaging.

Develop key KPIs to measure your success. Innovation is not an always win proposition. You may not find huge marketing numbers to point to a winner. Come up with those elements that prove its working.  Is it money saved on future campaigns?  Is it press coverage of your marketing products? Is it related to time-to-market for future products? Is it tied to sales? Brand recognition? Whatever it is, make sure that is known to your team and management. Without those clearly understood KPIs, you’re effectively spending a lot of money on illusion…

When all is said and done, there needs to be an environment or atmosphere that welcomes trial and error. Intrinsically, there is no other undertaking that comes across so much success and failure with few traditional methods of measuring both. It is those corporations and organizations that truly embrace innovation (and not just tout that they are innovative) who most consistently bring successful innovations to market.

Sometimes innovation can seem just outside your grasp (as an individual or an organization) but with vision, communication and execution, it will come back x-fold in marketing and anywhere else.

English Premier League On NBCSN About Content Or More?

NBC Sports Network was looking to make a splash when it launched English Premier League Football (Soccer) this past weekend and it seems like it did the trick.  While much of the build up was focused on whether the $250M per year was a sound investment, the payoff on the investment will rely on much more than the actual ratings of the televised matches. To me, the more interesting question is whether good content will draw viewers as much as engrained history does – will English Premier League draw viewers where Major League Soccer has not?

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To get the business side of things out of the way, here’s Cynopsis’ synopsis:

NBC Sports Group’s debut of the Premier League the on Saturday paid dividends for the sport as the league drew record ratings nationally. The triple-header on NBC and NBC Sports Network averaged a 0.5 rating overall, to mark a 67% spike over the equitable three opening Saturday games saw a year ago in 2012 (a 0.3 average). NBC’s telecast of Swansea City/Manchester United delivered a 0.8, the highest overnight rating in US history for a Premier League opening day matchup. On the local front, Washington, D.C. topped all U.S. markets for the game with a 2.2, followed by Tulsa, Austin, Seattle and Buffalo. Online, fans also streamed more than four million minutes of Premier League action via NBC Sports Live Extra.

Certainly, you can get caught up on the growth year-to-year, but the general public know where to find the opening day matchups last year? It was probably the mixture of NBC’s promotion and so many EPL clubs coming to the States to play exhibition matches. But, taking that at face value and the fact that there is more coverage this year than last, is just doubling a small baseline enough to make it a success?

As with other sports like Hockey or even Major League Soccer, there’s something to be said for generating large viewership for a population who may not have grown up with a sport.  We can safely say that the American population grew up with American Football, Baseball and Basketball. But, only a limited part of the country grew up with Hockey and barely any grew up with home-grown soccer.

While transplants to the US have deep affinities for their home teams – whether it be South American, Mexican or European leagues – will those not from the UK buy in to EPL? Will it be enough to generate 1/20th of the audience for the NFL to make it worthwhile? (The 1/20th figure is based on $5B per year the networks are paying the NFL from 2014-2022.) It may very well be enough.

Usually, with sports that have not been a part of someone’s life, people need to have a personal experience with it – perhaps attending a game or knowing fanatics of teams or the sport in general. Personally, I enjoy soccer, but it wasn’t until I was able to attend an EPL match that I was able to get excited enough about it. I certainly would not have tuned in to watch the Chelsea/Hull City opening weekend match while flying from LA to New York.

So, will NBC have to do something to generate even more excitement for the game, or are they happy with the numbers they might have and the awareness it might bring for the network?  It could be argued that the coverage leading up to opening was worth far more than $250M in marketing and awareness for the network. (Though it was odd to see an ad for Fox Sports 1 through DirecTV during the match…)

Or, will it be a boisterous cheer that the EPL fans are known for singing at the top of their lungs in stadiums ringing hollow?