Monthly Archives March 2012

Practicing “Switch Craft” in Modern Marketing

The fact is, most consumer categories today are share grabs: Consumer Packaged Goods categories are not growth engines; apparel remains tough at best; even tech – from mobile phones to tablets – is focused on constant innovation or feature bundling to defend position and even cannibalize its own (the New iPad was just introduced, even though the iPad2 is but a toddler).

In this prolonged economic downturn it makes sense that today’s winning marketers really understand how to keep loyal customers from switching and how to get potential switchers to switch to them. They know the buttons to push and the buttons not to. Below, we highlight five success factors in driving business value – it’s a combination of art and science – that we affectionately call “Switch Craft.”

Creating Irresistiblility
In creating a truly must-buy proposition, you need to instill a degree of emotional – even financial – tension. Create so much desire and need that if the buyer opts out, the person feels guilty about letting a “once in a life time” opportunity get away.

To this point, for our client Rothschild Kids, a 100-plus year-old coat company, we recently held a 75% off weekend blow out sale on winter coats. The price/value was so hot that the sales far exceeded any of our expectations. PLEASE NOTE: If you are thinking it doesn’t take a genius to give it away, we couldn’t agree more. But we did liquidate inventory, drive cash flow, and get buzz that primes us for the spring season.

Mobile’s Point of Disruption
Everyone has a built-in way they navigate buying things at retail or online. The “point of sale” is not only one of the constantly studied and analyzed parts of commercial marketing, it’s also one of the most dynamic. The use of mobile/shopping apps has been nothing short of game changing in how people operate when shopping. Smart phones have enabled marketers to “disrupt” behavioral patterns by informing customers and providing real time choice – when the customer is already “hot, if not bothered.”

Being Real Human
Making everything emotional isn’t the point, but relating to and engaging deep emotional sentiment has always been a big thread of great marketing. Empathy today has almost become a buzzword, but “persona-fying” the individuals you are trying to engage is very helpful in imagining walking in or out of their shoes. And, we love the “what if” exercise as part of creating a grounded behavioral understanding of the human experience/persona.

In the Iterative Analysis
The opportunity to use data, measurement and real-time feedback loops to change early and if needed, often, is the way marketing works today. From search to social, all digital messaging and reach media is aligned to a continuous improvement model like never before. Keyword, algorithmic (Facebook has truly figured out how to push “like minded” ads!) and overall search optimization is finally the rocket science marketers used to moan they needed in the Nielsen-as-only-game-in-town days. Remember the saying (and I paraphrase), “Fifty percent of my advertising is working, I just don’t know which fifty percent”? It’s gone for good!

Relevancy is Currency
Because of the rolled-up analytics of Google search ads or Facebook page ads there is nothing haphazard about the commercial engagement. Ultra targeted and thinly sliced around interest and behavior- not random or demography centered- is why both companies have created near historic valuations. In commercial match-making if you can be relevant, you can get people to love you… a lot!

Given my favorite childhood show was “Bewitched”- my daughter is named after Samantha Stevens and her husband, Darren was an Ad guy working for an apparent two man shop McMann and Tate (McMann was really never seen!) I believe we in marketing today are playing with the combination of dark arts and illuminating science in profoundly new and magical ways. Who would have thunk it!

 

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Interview: Richard Gottlieb of Global Toy Experts

Scratch an architect and you will find a former Lego fanatic. In fact it both impedes (think the lack of women in the hard sciences) and speeds (again think of Lego) children into what they will study in college and turn into careers.

If you are in the toy industry, then you probably know Richard Gottlieb. As CEO of Global Toy Experts, he is a well-known toy industry expert with years of toy industry experience in helping small, medium and large toy manufacturers increase their market share.

He frequently speaks at toy industry conferences, and was named Ambassador to the United States for the Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany. In recognition of his prominence in the toy industry, Richard is member of the National Toy Hall of Fame voting committee. We spoke to Richard about the growth of tech in the toy industry and his passion: challenging the gender bias in the toy industry.

Flightpath: How important is the tech toy category for the toy industry?

Richard Gottlieb: Moore’s Echo is a law that, when it was first pronounced, said that whatever is cutting edge technology will be a toy in 20 years.  It is now down to about 7 years and dropping rapidly (that is according to my contacts at the MIT Media Lab).  When you consider that the cost difference between domestic drones and toy drones is negligible you realize that there is a blurring between what is a toy and what is not.

Flightpath: Have tech toys changed the way children play?

Richard Gottlieb: It has allowed adults to play like children (think iPhones and iPads) and children to play like adults (think LeapPad explorer which is for all extents and purposes an iPad for three year olds).

Flightpath: Do the toys we play with as children play a role in the paths men and women take in careers?  

Richard Gottlieb: Absolutely.  Scratch an architect and you will find a former Lego fanatic.  In fact it both impedes (think the lack of women in the hard sciences) and speeds (again think of Lego) children into what they will study in college and turn into careers.

Flightpath: Tech toys for adults seem to be still marketed to men. How are tech toys created for children marketed?  

Richard Gottlieb:It is actually the most gender blind segment.   Unlike toy ads and merchandising, there is little in the way of gender identification via color and license.

Flightpath: This past holiday season we saw some backlash including the YouTube video of a little girl questioning the gender specific marketing strategy of the toy industry while standing in the pink toy aisle. Do you see evidence of a change coming when it comes to gender specific toy marketing?

Richard Gottlieb: Hamleys, the world’s most venerated toy store, recently announced it was doing away with gender based signage and merchandising.

Toys R Us told me that due to the seminar I did with them on gender and toys they increased the number of girls depicted in their Christmas toy catalog.

Email Marketing: Building Your Email List

All email campaigns start with a subscriber list. With email marketing so popular, most of us are on at least a few of theses lists. You may even be wondering how to build one of your own. Of course, there are plenty of ways, both bad and good, to do this.

This is part of a series of blog posts aimed at raising awareness of email marketing, its advantages, and its best practices — from designing your first eblast to deploying your newsletter to millions of customer inboxes, and beyond.

All email campaigns start with a subscriber list. With email marketing so popular, most of us are on at least a few of theses lists. You may even be wondering how to build one of your own. Of course, there are plenty of ways, both bad and good, to do this. As I mentioned in my last post (“Email Marketing: More Relevant Than Ever”), federal law requires the informed consent of all your email recipients.

So, if you can’t just buy a list from marketers, what are you supposed to do? You make one from scratch. With the right tools and tricks at your disposal, you won’t just have a simple subscriber list, you’ll have a fully engaged email legion of fans for your brand.

Mailing Lists Callouts

Got a popular website? Build a mailing list component. Make it highly visible. Going “above the fold” increases the chances people will happen upon it. Also, make it easy to use. Place as few fields in the component as possible. In the snapshot below, Groupon has a large, intuitive, and simple mailing list callout. The user has to only designate an email address and a city and they’re in. No difficult questions, no invasive requests, no intimidating forms that send their users running for the hills.

By contrast, the Steve Madden mailing list below feels like you’re filling out a tax form.

Social Media and Email

There’s been a lot of talk of social media competing with email as the dominant form of digital communication. In reality, the two are better complements than rivals. If you have a Facebook fan page or Twitter feed with a lot of followers, use it as a platform to encourage them to sign up for your eblasts and enewsletters.

You can even use emails to drive your mailing lists. Include “forward to a friend” links in your enewsletters. Give calls to action to sign up for your list in your company’s email signatures.

Offline Methods

Get in the habit of bringing up your mailing list in 1-on-1 conversations and phone calls with business contacts, but be tactful. In your pitch, make it clear what special offers or value they’re going to get out of your emails. It couldn’t hurt to incentivize them with a free gift upon signing up. For networking events, put a link on your business card to your company’s email signup page.

Welcome Emails

Once you win over email recipients, make them feel valued. Send them a welcome email, thanking them for signing up. Use it as an opportunity to better acquaint your clients and future customers with the goods and services you offer. And of course, let them know what’s in store for them in terms of email content.

And Once You Get Your List…

Email represents another channel to keep the conversation going with customers and/or clients, but once you have them, don’t take your recipients for granted. It only takes one click of the “Spam” button in their email client to end the conversation for good. If you want to keep your subscribers on your list, it is also important to have meaningful, engaging, relevant content for them. Catch my next blog post for best practices on email campaign content.

Interview: Meghan Cross of StyleCaster

StyleCaster recently had a makeover enhancing their news site and social hub for the fashion and beauty community. We interviewed Meghan Cross, Director of Communications, about the new layout, trends and the philosophy behind StyleCaster as told by their fearless leader Ari Goldberg “At one time, content was king; but today, conversation is king.”

Back in the day you couldn’t wait until the latest issue of Vogue to come to your door step, find out trends for the upcoming season and plan accordingly for your fashion and beauty acquisitions.  Nowadays, it just seems like you can get up to the minute news, trends and fads within seconds, catching yourself saying, “Ugh, that was so 20 seconds ago. I’m all about neon right now!”

Meet one of the morning reads in the Flightpath office: StyleCaster.  Their mission? Bring “Style to the People.”  The site has undergone a recent makeover allowing the style community to easily interact with each other, bloggers and editorial staff, taking the power of content and conversation to the next level with a visual layout inspired by Tumblr and Pinterest. Flightpath recently checked in with Meghan Cross, Director of Communications at StyleCaster, to discuss the new and improved Stylecaster and how the site has become a social hub for the fashion and beauty community.

Flightpath: How did StyleCaster come about? Was there a specific inspiration, or a void you recognized in the online space?

Meghan Cross: Since day one, StyleCaster’s mission has been to bring Style to the People. What this means is, we empower people who are enthusiastic about style by giving them a platform where they can not only read content about the latest trends, but they can also be active members of the conversation.

Flightpath: What makes StyleCaster stand out from other sites?

Meghan Cross: With the new site that we launched last week, StyleCaster has become the first place where you can share and discover style alongside premium editorial content. People worldwide now have the opportunity to engage with everyone from bloggers and thought-leaders to designers and retailers in one style-centric environment: StyleCaster.com.

Flightpath: How would you describe the StyleCaster community?

Meghan Cross: The StyleCaster community is a growing group of 2.5 million unique monthly visitors who are engaged, plugged-in, and ready to talk style. They Tweet, Like, Digg, Pin, Poke, Check-in, and – most importantly – check-out what [others are] sharing on StyleCaster. And depending on what they think of those StyleCaster submissions, they Love.

Flightpath: You’re not only the “one stop shop for fashionistas,” but for beauty junkies as well with Beauty High.  Was that in the works from the beginning or was there a demand for more coverage in beauty?

Meghan Cross: StyleCaster introduced Beauty High about a year ago when we realized the appetite for it within our community. Fortunately, StyleCaster’s extremely insightful beauty team was able to create so much compelling content and conversation within the past year that Beauty High has now taken a digitally viral life of its own.

Flightpath: How did social media help you take the site(s) to the next level?

Meghan Cross: From the get-go, our savvy social media guru made sure to leverage our alert Twitter following to build brand awareness and drive readers to Beauty High, through everyday tweets via @StyleCaster as well as our weekly #StyleChat. Every Wednesday at 3pm ET, @StyleCaster hosts a virtual office hours to help you answer all of your style questions, using the hashtag #StyleChat. Given the success of this weekly dialogue (we’ve had everyone from @Bergdorfs and @JBrandJeans to @WhiteGirlProblems co-host!), we have @BeautyHigh kick off their own #BeautyChat this past Friday. Definitely jump in this week for fun tips and tidbits.

Flightpath: You recently held the State of Style summit – can you tell us about it and what you’ve learned from it?  Will you be holding more summits in the future?

Meghan Cross: Sure! StyleCaster held the inaugural State of Style Summit at 92YTribeca on February 7th, just in time to kick off New York Fashion Week. We worked closely with 92Y and Ford Motor Company to provide the counterpoint narrative to Fashion Week. The Summit united the industry’s most inspiring tastemakers, including Lauren Bush, Rebecca Minkoff, one of my professional role models, Tom Florio, and even my former Cornell Professor Van Dyk Lewis, in order to advance the conversation around new media and style. What we learned was that the industry needs a platform to converse. Both consumers and thought-leaders have a true appetite for open dialogues over one-way content. Believe it or not, we planned the entire event in 60 days, so it was exciting to say the least. And given the positively humbling feedback, we will most certainly hold our second semi-annual State of Style Summit in time to kick off September’s Fashion Week.

Flightpath: What is important for both brands and sites to understand about using new media to their advantage?

Meghan Cross: StyleCaster’s fearless leader Ari Goldberg always says, “At one time, content was king; but today, conversation is king.” This gem of a one-liner is what StyleCaster sleeps and breathes when we work with brands, bloggers, fellow publishers, and – of course – the everyday style enthusiast. The goal of StyleCaster’s new platform is to be the homepage of style, where you can have a sophisticated dialogue, with a tone set by our expert editors.

Flightpath: Do you see style and beauty as a breakout social media leader? Like what the automotive category was to television?

Meghan Cross: Style and beauty are visual industries, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the success of Instagram, Pinterest, StyleCaster’s recent launch, and even Facebook tagging, [it’s that] we all love some imagery. Online tools become viral phenomena if they’re visually-inclined, especially if they help us share pictures of the springtime neons our friends are wearing.

Flightpath: Thoughts on Pinterest, the Fancy or other similar user curated photo communities?  Seems like everyone has a heightened style IQ and are only getting more intelligent all the time.

Meghan Cross: That’s definitely the point! Communities where you can share your flare are what empower people to become experts, especially when there’s editorial content to set the tone for the conversation. What I like most about the new StyleCaster.com is that all submissions are ranked by popularity, as decided upon by everyone, so you can really determine what sticks in the style community in a very tangible way.

Flightpath: Where do you fit in with this trend? What does it mean to the style industry as a whole?

Meghan Cross: The front seat at Fashion Week is no longer a coveted spot where one person can sit and set the trends. Susie Q in Idaho with a huge Twitter following can just as easily convince her friends that floral denim is the next best thing. That’s what StyleCaster and Style to the People is all about!

Flightpath: What do you love most about being in the style/beauty business?

Meghan Cross: There is so much budding creativity buzzing about the business – from visual gurus and stylists to designers and every editor in between – that I’m constantly stimulated and entertained. (Plus, at StyleCaster’s HQ, I’m always surrounded by experts who can give me some very helpful tips on a far-too-regular basis!)

Interview: Meghan Cross of StyleCaster

StyleCaster recently had a makeover enhancing their news site and social hub for the fashion and beauty community. We interviewed Meghan Cross, Director of Communications, about the new layout, trends and the philosophy behind StyleCaster as told by their fearless leader Ari Goldberg “At one time, content was king; but today, conversation is king.”

Back in the day you couldn’t wait until the latest issue of Vogue to come to your door step, find out trends for the upcoming season and plan accordingly for your fashion and beauty acquisitions.  Nowadays, it just seems like you can get up to the minute news, trends and fads within seconds, catching yourself saying, “Ugh, that was so 20 seconds ago. I’m all about neon right now!”

Meet one of the morning reads in the Flightpath office: StyleCaster.  Their mission? Bring “Style to the People.”  The site has undergone a recent makeover allowing the style community to easily interact with each other, bloggers and editorial staff, taking the power of content and conversation to the next level with a visual layout inspired by Tumblr and Pinterest. Flightpath recently checked in with Meghan Cross, Director of Communications at StyleCaster, to discuss the new and improved Stylecaster and how the site has become a social hub for the fashion and beauty community.

Flightpath: How did StyleCaster come about? Was there a specific inspiration, or a void you recognized in the online space?

Meghan Cross: Since day one, StyleCaster’s mission has been to bring Style to the People. What this means is, we empower people who are enthusiastic about style by giving them a platform where they can not only read content about the latest trends, but they can also be active members of the conversation.

Flightpath: What makes StyleCaster stand out from other sites?

Meghan Cross: With the new site that we launched last week, StyleCaster has become the first place where you can share and discover style alongside premium editorial content. People worldwide now have the opportunity to engage with everyone from bloggers and thought-leaders to designers and retailers in one style-centric environment: StyleCaster.com.

Flightpath: How would you describe the StyleCaster community?

Meghan Cross: The StyleCaster community is a growing group of 2.5 million unique monthly visitors who are engaged, plugged-in, and ready to talk style. They Tweet, Like, Digg, Pin, Poke, Check-in, and – most importantly – check-out what [others are] sharing on StyleCaster. And depending on what they think of those StyleCaster submissions, they Love.

Flightpath: You’re not only the “one stop shop for fashionistas,” but for beauty junkies as well with Beauty High.  Was that in the works from the beginning or was there a demand for more coverage in beauty?

Meghan Cross: StyleCaster introduced Beauty High about a year ago when we realized the appetite for it within our community. Fortunately, StyleCaster’s extremely insightful beauty team was able to create so much compelling content and conversation within the past year that Beauty High has now taken a digitally viral life of its own.

Flightpath: How did social media help you take the site(s) to the next level?

Meghan Cross: From the get-go, our savvy social media guru made sure to leverage our alert Twitter following to build brand awareness and drive readers to Beauty High, through everyday tweets via @StyleCaster as well as our weekly #StyleChat. Every Wednesday at 3pm ET, @StyleCaster hosts a virtual office hours to help you answer all of your style questions, using the hashtag #StyleChat. Given the success of this weekly dialogue (we’ve had everyone from @Bergdorfs and @JBrandJeans to @WhiteGirlProblems co-host!), we have @BeautyHigh kick off their own #BeautyChat this past Friday. Definitely jump in this week for fun tips and tidbits.

Flightpath: You recently held the State of Style summit – can you tell us about it and what you’ve learned from it?  Will you be holding more summits in the future?

Meghan Cross: Sure! StyleCaster held the inaugural State of Style Summit at 92YTribeca on February 7th, just in time to kick off New York Fashion Week. We worked closely with 92Y and Ford Motor Company to provide the counterpoint narrative to Fashion Week. The Summit united the industry’s most inspiring tastemakers, including Lauren Bush, Rebecca Minkoff, one of my professional role models, Tom Florio, and even my former Cornell Professor Van Dyk Lewis, in order to advance the conversation around new media and style. What we learned was that the industry needs a platform to converse. Both consumers and thought-leaders have a true appetite for open dialogues over one-way content. Believe it or not, we planned the entire event in 60 days, so it was exciting to say the least. And given the positively humbling feedback, we will most certainly hold our second semi-annual State of Style Summit in time to kick off September’s Fashion Week.

Flightpath: What is important for both brands and sites to understand about using new media to their advantage?

Meghan Cross: StyleCaster’s fearless leader Ari Goldberg always says, “At one time, content was king; but today, conversation is king.” This gem of a one-liner is what StyleCaster sleeps and breathes when we work with brands, bloggers, fellow publishers, and – of course – the everyday style enthusiast. The goal of StyleCaster’s new platform is to be the homepage of style, where you can have a sophisticated dialogue, with a tone set by our expert editors.

Flightpath: Do you see style and beauty as a breakout social media leader? Like what the automotive category was to television?

Meghan Cross: Style and beauty are visual industries, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the success of Instagram, Pinterest, StyleCaster’s recent launch, and even Facebook tagging, [it’s that] we all love some imagery. Online tools become viral phenomena if they’re visually-inclined, especially if they help us share pictures of the springtime neons our friends are wearing.

Flightpath: Thoughts on Pinterest, the Fancy or other similar user curated photo communities?  Seems like everyone has a heightened style IQ and are only getting more intelligent all the time.

Meghan Cross: That’s definitely the point! Communities where you can share your flare are what empower people to become experts, especially when there’s editorial content to set the tone for the conversation. What I like most about the new StyleCaster.com is that all submissions are ranked by popularity, as decided upon by everyone, so you can really determine what sticks in the style community in a very tangible way.

Flightpath: Where do you fit in with this trend? What does it mean to the style industry as a whole?

Meghan Cross: The front seat at Fashion Week is no longer a coveted spot where one person can sit and set the trends. Susie Q in Idaho with a huge Twitter following can just as easily convince her friends that floral denim is the next best thing. That’s what StyleCaster and Style to the People is all about!

Flightpath: What do you love most about being in the style/beauty business?

Meghan Cross: There is so much budding creativity buzzing about the business – from visual gurus and stylists to designers and every editor in between – that I’m constantly stimulated and entertained. (Plus, at StyleCaster’s HQ, I’m always surrounded by experts who can give me some very helpful tips on a far-too-regular basis!)

Top 7 Things to Do at SXSW (That You Would Never Do at Home)

While the Flightpath team was hard at work going to sessions and networking at the SXSW Interactive conference, we assigned one Flightpath correspondent to concentrate on the other opportunities at SXSW. The ones you probably will not see covered in Mashable, Engadget or the New York Times. The fun ones.

While the Flightpath team was hard at work going to sessions and networking at the SXSW Interactive conference, we assigned one Flightpath correspondent to concentrate on the other opportunities at SXSW. The ones you probably will not see covered in Mashable, Engadget or the New York Times. The fun ones.

Our Fearless Fun Correspondent, Cavol Forbes, was assigned to find 7 opportunities to break out of the role of “agency person at a conference” and go a little crazy.

Here is Cavol’s list of Top 7 Things to Do at SXSW Because There is No Way You Would Ever Do Them at Home:

Ride a Mechanical Bull: It’s Texas, after all. Tip: keep it classy and wear a blazer while riding. One on-looker commented, “You rode that bull elegantly.” Warning: your co-workers will document this and before you know it, your embarrassing moment has gone viral company-wide.


Crowd Surf: Not just for rock stars and athletes anymore. If you’re going to crowd surf, you’ll have to sign a waiver. Don’t read it, just sign; it’ll scare you away.

Go Stemware-Optional: In Austin, the barkeeps (they’re called barkeeps there) are nice and will often offer free booze. Accept at all times! Whenever possible, drink directly from the bottle. While this is not common practice in New York City, in Austin this is perfectly acceptable.


Be the Only One Dancing: People will point, laugh and take pictures. Note: Liquid courage strongly recommended.


Bum a Cigar from a Stranger: In Austin, it’s best to embrace every opportunity you have to be a cowboy for a minute. This extends to manly activities like smoking cigars. However, don’t inhale. You’ll regret it.


Go to a Roller Derby: When you see a sign for a roller derby, it’s best to walk in acting like a regular. Tip to acting like a regular: Don’t be shocked when the roller ref yells “Pillow Fight!” and two women try to smother each other with pillows. Just stomp and cheer for the woman who wins. Tip: You will know who wins because she is the one still breathing.


Eat Street Meat: Hot dog carts in New York are for tourists and construction workers. In Austin, you are a tourist, so eat up and let your co-workers take pictures of you doing it.

How to Design Web Sites and Products for Women – SXSW Session Recap

A tactical mistake that brands and agencies make when marketing products to women online is to take a regular website and “shrink it and pink it”. This means there is little product info, and stereotypes are resorted to which can insult women and alienate men.

Walking through the halls of SXSW its hard not to notice that most attendees are male, since men still outnumber women in tech. This extends to the experience women have on the web. SXSW we attended a really interesting panel by Brad Nunnally and Jessica Ivins titled “Designing Experiences for Women.” In which they discussed how to create web sites for women and how to create products for women.

Women make up 58% of e-commerce shoppers and 80% of online purchases. So it is important to consider how women use sites and products when marketing to them. However, when brands and agencies are tasked with designing a site or launching a product for women there are some classic mistakes that are made.

Case in point, the iPad. Though now it is a household name, we were reminded of all the feminine hygiene jokes that arose when women first heard the name iPad. The presenters questioned whether Apple considered female users or even talked to any woman when developing the name for their new tablet.

A tactical mistake that brands and agencies make when marketing products to women online is to take a regular website and “shrink it and pink it”. This means there is little product info, and stereotypes are resorted to which can insult women and alienate men.

Products that could be used by either gender are marketed to ladies by taking the same product and turning it and it’s accompanying website pink. For instance, Dell made a micro site to sell laptops to women. According to the copy on the site, women could use this laptop to calculate calories, count carbs and look up recipes. The site’s design scheme was also predominately pink. The panel pointed out that not only is this resorting to stereotypes about women, but would alienate men who may want to buy the product.

When designing a site to promote a product for a male audience, the pendulum swings the other way. Brands and agencies have a tendency to “overmanify” sites and marketing campaigns that promote products for men.

For instance, Dr. Pepper 10 is a low calorie soda. In order to market to men the commercial are “overmanified” with phrases like “10 manly calories” and boldly declarations that the soda is “not for women.”

The presenters pointed out that women make up the vast majority of diet soda drinkers and this approach will alienate them, as well as men who may feel the messaging is too stereotypical. They suggested a more gender-neutral approach, which would have wider appeal.

When designing for women avoid myths, stereotypes, and assumptions. One myth is that women do not play video games. The truth is that 75% of casual gamers are women. They tend to be less likely to play a game all day than men, seeking shorter gaming experiences especially on mobile devices.

To avoid stereotypes- check if your site passes the Buchannan test. Do the site images feature women outside of the home? Are images restricted to women in a mother role? Are women featured doing yoga?  Then that is a fail.

By focusing on other activities, brands and agencies can make a stronger connection with women. Stock images of women laughing while they eat salad are just not relatable. Brands and agencies also frequently feature women smiling while doing yoga when promoting an active lifestyle or healthy living brand, women are less likely to be featured playing golf, tennis or running.

Another common myth is that women only take care of children. Women take care of many people other than children. By making social sharing prominent on a site, this encourages sharing of site information. Women take on a care giving role with adult parents, siblings, co-workers and friends.  They are often researching products and services for others than themselves. Women do not just stay at home with children all day, even if a woman is a stay at home mom she has connections and activities outside of the home. Women will relate to sites that feature women in all the roles they assume, including but not limited to motherhood.

For instance, women often use social sharing to send potential purchases to spouses and friends for approval before they finalize a purchase. By making social sharing prominent on a site, sales increase.

Agencies and brands should put themselves in the shoes of their user. Even if the user is of the opposite gender.

The presenters also discussed visible vs. transparent design. Visible design is obviously geared towards one gender. Such a site can have a gender specific color scheme and copy without worrying about alienating the other gender, since the product is only used by one gender.

The panel used the Gillette Venus razor for women as an example. The product was specifically designed to be used by women in the shower and on legs. The razor was not designed to be used by men for facial shaving, therefore the site’s feminine color scheme and design works.

Transparent design should be used to promote a product that may be used by either gender, even if it is typically used by one gender. Transparent design doesn’t overtly tout one gender. The panel put forward the example of the Nintendo Wii. This product was marketed in a gender-neutral fashion. The imagery includes women, men and children and has been a hit among families.

When designing for women, web developers and even product developers focus on color. Instead of turning a site pink, concentrate on creating a great user experience. Women have a low tolerance for bad design and will abandon a site that they find frustrating.

The panel explained that while men will spend time trying to “conquer” sites or products that take time to figure out, women will not because they are busier and spend more time taking care of others in their life.

Women are also more interested in product descriptions that are direct and inform her of what task the product accomplishes or what benefit it will have to her life or the lives of people she cares about, rather than a list of product specs. Craft product narrative around product features and user benefits instead of specs.

Answering the question, How to design products for women, is a tough one, but a fair one. Final thought from the panel: rather than making beer pink, ask women why they don’t drink beer then design against your findings.

 

SXSW Round-Up: Do QR Codes Really Suck?

QR codes: Just another over-exposed trend, or a meaningful part of cross-platform marketing strategy? I went to a SXSW Interactive presentation called “11 Reason Why QR Codes Suck” to find out.

QR codes: Just another over-exposed trend, or a meaningful part of cross-platform marketing strategy? There’s been no shortage of backlash since QR codes first started popping up everywhere from magazine ads to in-store displays and even outdoor billboards. Is the criticism justified, are QR codes just in their infancy, or is there already value to be found in using them smartly?

To find out, I attended a seminar at the 2012 SXSW Interactive conference titled, “11 Reason Why QR Codes Suck.” It was conducted by David Wachs of Cellit.com, a mobile marketing company, as an extension of his widely-shared blog post of the same name. Here’s what I found out:

  • QR codes were invented 20 years ago by Toyota to keep track of inventory on car parts (see our previous post, “Shazam Ads Succeed Where QR Codes Fail”).
  • Americans still don’t know what QR codes are. Want proof? Check out Pictures of People Scanning QR Codes on Tumblr.  Wachs quoted an independent study of QR code awareness among college students with smart phones. Here are the top findings from that study:
    • Most didn’t know what a QR code was or have a QR reader installed
    • Many thought just taking a picture would do it
    • QR codes often don’t work
    • They take too long. By the way, “QR” stands for “Quick Response”
  • There wasn’t much opposition to the statement that “QR codes suck” from other attendees. Though one person noted it’s not QRs that suck, but frequently their execution. That segued into an open discussion referencing epic QR fails; there are tons out there, but my favorites are listed in “10 Funniest QR Code Fails” from Mashable.
  •  Here are some of the most typical blunders:
    •  QRs in silly places, like areas with no data coverage, on moving vehicles (accident waiting to happen) or on billboards on highways (another accident waiting to happen).
    • QRs for the sake of having a QR, because that’s what others are doing. If your QR code only takes the user to your home page, just write out the URL. That way at least there’s an extra opportunity to reference the brand name.
    • QRs that direct people to non-mobile optimized web pages. That’s just kind of rude.
    • QRs that take up too much real estate. Marketers know how difficult it is to communicate your message without enough space. QR codes have to be sized based on how far away you expect users to be. If you’re putting a QR on a billboard, the QR may end up being the largest thing on it. Is it worth it?
  • A new critique (at least to me) on Wachs’ list was,  “QR codes stop people from being mobile.” Let’s face it, people typically don’t stop in their tracks to read ads on the street. You have a few seconds to grab the user’s attention and drive home some messaging. To scan a QR, you’ve gotta first stop, get your phone out, launch the app and then scan before you’re mobile again.

Photo: A collage of QR codes from SXSW 2012

In my opinion, most problems with the application of QR codes will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Blunders because of not enough thought (like QR codes in underground subways).
  2. Blunders because of too much thought (QR codes overcomplicating simple functions, like calls to action for “go to brand.com”).

If you’re a marketer using QR codes, ask yourself these few key questions now:

  • Does my target audience fall into the ideal demographic for QR code users (i.e., young smart phone users).
  • Is there a valuable pay off? Why should a user scan this code?
  • Is the ad going to run where it is fully accessible?
  • Would I scan it if this weren’t my ad?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, then say no to the QR for now.

SXSW Round-Up: Do QR Codes Really Suck?

QR codes: Just another over-exposed trend, or a meaningful part of cross-platform marketing strategy? I went to a SXSW Interactive presentation called “11 Reason Why QR Codes Suck” to find out.

QR codes: Just another over-exposed trend, or a meaningful part of cross-platform marketing strategy? There’s been no shortage of backlash since QR codes first started popping up everywhere from magazine ads to in-store displays and even outdoor billboards. Is the criticism justified, are QR codes just in their infancy, or is there already value to be found in using them smartly?

To find out, I attended a seminar at the 2012 SXSW Interactive conference titled, “11 Reason Why QR Codes Suck.” It was conducted by David Wachs of Cellit.com, a mobile marketing company, as an extension of his widely-shared blog post of the same name. Here’s what I found out:

  • QR codes were invented 20 years ago by Toyota to keep track of inventory on car parts (see our previous post, “Shazam Ads Succeed Where QR Codes Fail”).
  • Americans still don’t know what QR codes are. Want proof? Check out Pictures of People Scanning QR Codes on Tumblr.  Wachs quoted an independent study of QR code awareness among college students with smart phones. Here are the top findings from that study:
    • Most didn’t know what a QR code was or have a QR reader installed
    • Many thought just taking a picture would do it
    • QR codes often don’t work
    • They take too long. By the way, “QR” stands for “Quick Response”
  • There wasn’t much opposition to the statement that “QR codes suck” from other attendees. Though one person noted it’s not QRs that suck, but frequently their execution. That segued into an open discussion referencing epic QR fails; there are tons out there, but my favorites are listed in “10 Funniest QR Code Fails” from Mashable.
  •  Here are some of the most typical blunders:
    •  QRs in silly places, like areas with no data coverage, on moving vehicles (accident waiting to happen) or on billboards on highways (another accident waiting to happen).
    • QRs for the sake of having a QR, because that’s what others are doing. If your QR code only takes the user to your home page, just write out the URL. That way at least there’s an extra opportunity to reference the brand name.
    • QRs that direct people to non-mobile optimized web pages. That’s just kind of rude.
    • QRs that take up too much real estate. Marketers know how difficult it is to communicate your message without enough space. QR codes have to be sized based on how far away you expect users to be. If you’re putting a QR on a billboard, the QR may end up being the largest thing on it. Is it worth it?
  • A new critique (at least to me) on Wachs’ list was,  “QR codes stop people from being mobile.” Let’s face it, people typically don’t stop in their tracks to read ads on the street. You have a few seconds to grab the user’s attention and drive home some messaging. To scan a QR, you’ve gotta first stop, get your phone out, launch the app and then scan before you’re mobile again.

Photo: A collage of QR codes from SXSW 2012

In my opinion, most problems with the application of QR codes will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Blunders because of not enough thought (like QR codes in underground subways).
  2. Blunders because of too much thought (QR codes overcomplicating simple functions, like calls to action for “go to brand.com”).

If you’re a marketer using QR codes, ask yourself these few key questions now:

  • Does my target audience fall into the ideal demographic for QR code users (i.e., young smart phone users).
  • Is there a valuable pay off? Why should a user scan this code?
  • Is the ad going to run where it is fully accessible?
  • Would I scan it if this weren’t my ad?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, then say no to the QR for now.

The Redesign of Google from the Mouths of Those Who Led it

Prior to the summer of 2011, no one would have accused Google web products of having the most pleasing visual interface. We attended a deeply insightful SXSW session on their historic redesign. This is what we learned.

Prior to the summer of 2011, no one would have accused Google web products of having the cleanest or most pleasing visual interface. Several of us from Flightpath listened to a deeply insightful SXSW session about the historic summer 2011 redesign that affected nearly all of Google’s web products. We heard insight directly from the design leads from Search, Mail, Maps, and so on.

Here are the insights and takeaways that we found the most fascinating:

  • For the very first time anywhere, Google presented comps to the public of an ill-fated, unknown major redesign from 2007
  • The 2011 redesign effort was jumpstarted by a simple IM early that year from Larry Page to the Creative Labs group in New York City, asking them to take stab at redesigning all of Google
  • That request netted a fast design effort, where the designers in New York were left on their own to develop a “concept car” of a unified visual language for all of Google’s web products
  • Interestingly enough, the ultimate finished redesign looked very similar to this very first “concept car”
  • In contrast to the 2007 redesign effort, where the deliverable was a long presentation with exposition and process explanation, the initial first creative in 2011 consisted solely of 10-12 “before and after comps” on 11×17 color printouts. The lesson here is not that every design presentation can solely be done through large printouts, but that you have to recognize and think through how best to present to a given stakeholder.  In this case, large printouts laid out on a table worked better when presenting to the top Google troika of Eric Schmitt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin
  • In April 2011, Larry Page gave the go-ahead for the redesign with a ridiculous goal of end-of-summer launch. So audacious was the goal that the project was likened internally to the “moonshot” in the sixties, and the project was given the code name “Kennedy”
  • The project was given #1 priority and trumped all new feature development across all affected products
  • Dropping support for older browsers was critical in successfully launching the redesign on time
  • While many design standards such as use of a consistent grid system were codified, elements like fonts have yet to be standardized for various reasons (latency of web fonts, unsupported foreign character sets, etc.)
  • An HTML/CSS Prototype was critical to collaborate with development. In fact, code would be culled from these prototypes to create an online, living style guide through which internal development teams could see interfaces and steal/grab CSS code. The individual product teams would in turn contribute additional elements back to this style guide
  • Through the help of this style guide, teams were able to give even internal tools the redesign treatment as well
  • It should come to no surprise to anyone that Google likes data.  But interestingly, they started much of the testing of the redesign with more qualitative tests. 80 trusted internal Google participants would be surveyed after seeing each comp for 10 seconds
  • Of course there was also plenty of quantitative research, much based around using, not shockingly, search data. The well-documented “test for the right blue link color” typified this
  • The redesigned Gmail was tested by way of “dog-fooding”: A forced launch for all company employees. The backlash was considerable, especially to the increased line spacing implemented, and was coined “Gmailageddon.”  The Google design team chose to be patient and acknowledge that much of initial resistance to the new design was due “change aversion”.  Over time, users eventually found more favor with the new design, though some design concessions were made regarding line spacing by way of introducing a line-spacing setting option
  • Given that the new design language made its mass introduction with the Google+ launch in June 2011, many mistakenly attribute the redesign as originating from the Google+ product. In fact, by April 2011, Google+ was nearly complete with an entirely different visual design and the Google+ team had to scramble to successfully integrate the new redesign language in time for their launch

It was not too long ago when the feeling about Google web products was that they work great, but look like sh!t. Both as a Google user (and who isn’t one?) and a designer, I am both appreciative and impressed by how the Google design team has elevated design to the forefront of Google web products.

How Google+ is Being Integrated With AdWords & Other Google Products

Google+ logo

With Google+, Google’s fledgling social network, one thing is clear: The search giant is determined to make it a success, incorporating Google+ into many of its other products and services that impact brands.

With Google+, Google’s fledgling social network, one thing is clear: The search giant is determined to make it a success, incorporating Google+ into many of its other products and services that impact brands. Whether this is a tactic to force Google+ adoption or a way to improve its other products is debatable, but ultimately, Google+ is becoming a part of several core Google services, and agencies must take note.

Google AdWords

When starting a campaign in AdWords, advertisers now have Google+ integration as an option.Google+ AdWords integrationIf you opt in to associating your ads with your Google+ page, any +1 click attributed to the ad will also count towards your Google+ brand page. As Google pushes Google+ to play more of a role in search, this could be a beneficial feature on both an SEM and SEO level. In the past, paid search and organic search were neatly separated; now, the line is blurring.

Google Organic Search

Google+ pages are slowly being included in organic search results in a special sidebar. Below is a screenshot of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) I received after searching for “music.”

Google+ SEOThis is valuable space dedicated solely to Google+ pages – having your page show up in these results could be a huge driver of traffic. Moreover, note the link at the bottom, which tells you how to get your page to appear there. It takes you here:

How to make your Google+ profile show in searchAgain, just as Google is enticing AdWords advertisers to use Google+, they’re doing so with brands here, banking that the extra visibility in search results will encourage adoption and usage. If it sticks, it could be a huge change to how we approach search.

Google Latitude

I know what you’re thinking: What the hell is Google Latitude? (That was the question I most received after inviting friends to join the service.) For those who don’t know – of which I suspect there are many – Latitude is Google’s Foursquare-esque app: go somewhere, check in. Recently, it was linked exclusively to Google+. This popped up on my Google+ profile, after a check-in at a local restaurant:Google Latitude info in Google+For Android users, a recent update to Google Latitude has added leaderboards, awarding users points for check-ins, with promised Google+ integration in the near future. What implications might this new game element on Latitude have on search, or the Google+ pages of places users are checking into?

Integration doesn’t end here, of course. We’ve seen Google+ functionality pop-up in Gmail, Google Maps and more. The lesson: while most of the industry has watched Google+ from a distance, excited by the high early adoption numbers but dismayed by the lack of usage, it may turn out to be an essential marketing tool. As Google continues to integrate Google+ across its product line – especially organic and paid search – it would be unwise to ignore the social network.