Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What's Your Battle Cry?

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photo by Dave Pearson
I saw this question brazenly scrawled across the back window of a high schooler's car the other day. What a great question!

When my partners and I at re:sound creative talk with our clients about branding, we like to talk about fans and advocates rather than just customers. Die-hard loyalty can only come from an experience that resonates intimately with your followers. And that can only happen when you truly know and understand what makes your company or product remarkable.

This question seems like a great one to begin to answer in that discovery process.

So what gets your customers excited to jump into the fray with you for the long haul?

What's your (brand's) battle cry?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Social media giveaways: a better way?

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We've all seen it: 'Tweet this and win a free iPad!' or 'Sign-up for 50%-off!' or 'Follow us on Facebook and get a free meal!'

Social media is rife with promotions and giveaways as business after business tries to build a list of followers and beef up their social network presence.

At one level, this makes perfect sense. In order to make a sale you need potential customers who are following your tweets, posts, and calls-to-action. And what better way to get that attention than to give some stuff away...well, at least for the price of a 'like' or a 'follow' or an email address.

And it works. At least it works in getting you lots of new followers.

Whether they really turn into customers is a whole other story.

This pattern of giving things away or steep discounts and coupons to indiscriminately gain followers only teaches these potential customers one thing: you're all about free and discounts. You are building a brand reputation and a bad one at that.

But I've been thinking: is this really what social media is all about? Gaining followers, pushing news, putting out the occasional PR fire, only to have your brand image lessened?

The power of social networks, for businesses, is the die-hard customers you already have. When Susie talks passionately on Facebook about the new shoes she bought from her favorite brand, she's influencing her friends and followers to a much greater degree than any ad campaign or giveaway promotion ever could. She is your evangelist. And people take much more stock in a friend or respected colleague's advice than the marketing manager's or sales rep's.

And what's even better is that with the data you have access to, you can find out who these people are. It's certainly not perfect yet: Twitter is a smorgasbord of real people, marketers, and bots; Facebook has the lock-down on a lot of data; and LinkedIn...well, we're all still trying to figure out how to use LinkedIn. But there's still people talking about their favorite experiences and brands.

So what if there was a better way to do giveaways?

I'm still figuring this one out but what if you did something very different. Rather than give away things to attract new followers, what if you rewarded your best customers for their social conversations about your products.

And don't announce it. Just do it.

Find Joe and Gabby talking about this great experience they had with your product. Give them both a freebie for next time.

No fanfare, no press release, no blog post. Let them talk about it. Do this enough times with enough passion and good faith, with your truly passionate customers, and they will dish out the praise.

I'm already seeing a glimmer of this with the new service at They are attempting to gather data on people's public social profiles to find out what they're influential about and then allow brands to give out cool stuff and unique experiences for those people to try and hopefully talk about.

But I don't see why you have to wait for Klout. The data is there. You just have to have the guts to do things different than the rest of the pack.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Two Sides of Cool (or a Lesson from Miles Davis)

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'What's the ROI on Cool?' is the question Joe Rinaldi (from Happy Cog) asked recently. He questions the desire of creative agencies and their clients to output work that wins awards and has a high 'cool factor' at the cost of usability and business effectiveness.

For the most part, I agree. Making something just to be flashy, hip, and trendy but that negates basic usability—and ultimately doesn't solve the users problem—is not what building great products is all about.

But there is a flip side to this coin of cool.

For those who tout usability over all else there is a slippery slope waiting dump them into the pit of bland. Doing things the same way they've always been done just because they work does not delight anyone (see yesterday's post for more on the importance of delighting your customers).

Delight is essential to good business. If your customers find your product or site accessible and easy to use to solve the problem you want to help them with—that's wonderful! You've got a good product.

But its not a cool product just because it works. A cool product is one that delights. It has to resonate with the user and hopefully causes them to fall in love with all that you do.

So how do you get to cool?

Let's take a lesson from the father of cool: Miles Davis. Why do we think Miles is cool? Because he forged his own trail; he innovated at the cost of popularity.

Miles was at the forefront of jazz, in the thick of the Bebop movement of the 40's. Bebop was new and hip. It was trendy. And it was certainly all about flash—fast, up-tempo and all about how well you could out-solo your contemporaries.

Miles quit all of that (which is part of what made him cool). He (with piano man, Bill Evans) took jazz in a completely different direction into what they called modal jazz. They slowed it down, got emotional, and made it sensual, all while placing a high importance on improvisation. They completely bucked the trends of the time in the jazz scene. And it struck a chord with many. He is by far most known for his modal jazz sound.

However Miles would do this again and again in his career, creating new genres of music, with little regard for how the mass public—or even how his jazz contemporaries—would respond.

The Miles Davis Cool is an attitude. It's a way of life. It's not caring what the crowd of sheep is doing and forging your own trail.

For your product to be cool, the essence of your brand, the core of your company has to have this attitude: willing to put it all on the line in order to do things infinitely better and infinitely more delightful. Push boundaries; question everything; poke this; pull that; surprise and delight.

If you just want to make money, quit the talk about being cool. But if you want to rock the world, create culture, make people fall in love with you, change people's lives: forge your own trail.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Incredible Tessellated Paper Sculptures

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I am seriously digging these paper sculptures by Matthew Shlian (and available from the Ghostly Store).

Anyone have $200 they want to gift me?

Is yours a delightful business

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You can't just have the 'best' product, you must delight your customers.

Surprise us. 
Give us something new, unique, original, different, special; something we haven't even dreamt of yet. It can be the same basic thing as what I already have—a universal remote, for example—but do it in a way that is vastly different than any other. Nobody buys the paintings by the guy who paints exactly like Picasso.

Pay attention to the details.
Let every interaction be a joy. From your product's design, to your packaging, to your website, to your advertising, to the way you answer the phone, let us be amazed by your relentless delight at every level.

Keep it simple.
Don't bog me down in endless feature lists and a swiss-army-knife-of-uses that won't ever fit in my pocket. And don't assume that the loudest of us, your customers, really knows what's best for the next iteration. We may say we want more choices: steaks, salads, and fried mac-and-cheese but will that kill the simplistic joy of eating just burgers?

Make it intuitive.
Can a child figure it out? Or is there a user manual the size of my King James Bible? I'll read a 1000+ pages if it deals with the eternal destiny of my soul. If it's on how to use my sound system, you've failed.

Be kind.
You can be funny, sarcastic, serious, up-tight, wound-up, crazy-go-nuts, or downright stupid—whatever fits your brand. You can paper-maché it over with great design and flashy PR, but if you're not kind, watch us all eventually walk away.

Do the stuff that sucks.
Take out the trash. Clean the restroom. Train your staff. Answer phone calls. Be nice to the nasty guy returning your product because he broke it. We all know business is not all fun-and-games. Show us that you can do the un-fun stuff. And please do it without us seeing you cringe.

There's a million ways to delight your customers. Find them. Do them. Consistently. We will love you for it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Word to Email Marketers

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Dear Email Marketing Managers,

Please write subject lines that reflect the true content of your email.

If you want to say 'Great News!' then take a moment to think before you press 'launch': What other kinds of emails might I get that would say 'Great News!' in the subject line? Perhaps a baby announcement from a dear friend, or an engagement announcement from a relative, or even an offer letter from a potential employer. These would all certainly be classified as great news.

Your monthly announcement of your newsletter being available online, however, is not great news.

It's news—though the fact you say the same thing every month gives me pause to even accept that—and it's possibly even good news (if I were in love with your newsletter—which I'm not) but it is certainly not great.

Don't lie to me.

It leaves me disappointed, frustrated, and with a nasty taste in my mouth that the latest trendy, breath-freshening gum/mint/spray/mind-trick won't fix.

If you truly do have great news I'm all for having you send an email my way to let me know. But it better be truly great news. Like once-in-a-lifetime great—or at least once-every-couple-years great. Why don't you save your 'Great News!' subject line for one of those emails.


Friday, July 01, 2011

Switching it up with a new job.

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In about 2 weeks I'll be hanging up my printer's smock and putting on a blue beanie.

Yep, I'm officially leaving R and R Images. I've been there for over 5 years and learned a ton about graphic design, printing, marketing, branding, and all sorts of stuff while working on a multitude of different projects for a lot of great clients with a bunch of great coworkers. I am truly thankful to Rod Key and the whole R and R Images crew for such a great experience and the opportunity to grow as a design professional.

But all good things must come to end. And it's time for me to move on to something new.

In a couple weeks I'll be joining the Cardinal Path design team as a user experience designer. It's definitely a big change (from lots of designing for print to lots of designing for the web) but I'm super excited to learn a whole lot more about the digital side of marketing. Plus I'll be learning from and working with a whole bunch of experts in data analytics and web marketing.

I'm excited!