Transforming Pixels to Gold

Spending too much time looking at screens, a good digital strategy could be about getting everyone some fresh air. And there's some truth in that - because there's nothing appealing about the decomposition process that begins with long hours glued to a chair orchestrating some devious marketing plan to deceive a potential tribe of money throwing masses?

They'll seek your marketing and fund it - the end of postmodern marketing?

David Wall - Friday, April 09, 2010

Post what?

I read a research paper by Douglas Holt about advertising and Postmodernism.  Holt's takes us through how Postmodern brands by appearing not to care if people bought their products, influenced a whole lot of people to spend. 

A good visual example is the 90s Kate Moss ads - there's a clear disinterest for whatever brand she might be wearing. You can sense her apathy, even after the possible three way interlude (with two equally apathetic looking lads). 

So, with a skepticism of  the "hard sell" rampantly high, brands appearing disinterested were by default seen as more authentic. This is call the "anti-branding" branding and is still very much used today. 

Gladly we can thank Kate (not God - he's dead) and the overuse of "anti-branding" for making this technique cliche. So instead of pointing to a brand's authenticity - it makes them look fake.


Why a new strategy?

Apparently we're in the post-postmodern paradigm so advertisers really need a new set of tools. We're also in the era of social media, allowing just about anyone that hits the right social nerve to be heard by a very large uncontrollable audience. This has created a forced transparency on organizations.

The good news for business is there are options: 

  • Embrace and potentially capitalize on it
  • Curl up, shut the door and wait for it all to go away (although it could be a very long wait)

Choose to embrace?

Holt points to the "citizen brand"  - that finds social authenticity by actively contributing to society. This is not just about our brands being accountable, but about how much they contribute on a social, cultural or even creative level - becoming a new measure of a brand's authenticity.

The interesting thing is it's actually a very powerful way to create attention, brand advocacy and a lot of sales. There's a couple of recent inspiring TED talks that illustrate this point well.

The power of uplifting stage-change

This is explained well by David Logan's ideas on tribal leadership. He spends a lot of time figuring out how key decisions are being made in corporate environments. Things get done based on the belief systems of groups that Logan calls "tribes". He breaks these belief systems into 5 stages from a "life sucks" angst to a free minded value-orientated "life is great" enthusiasm.

When a tribe moves closer to "life is great" this inspires direct action and an abundance of creativity, innovation and results such as exponential sales. When tribes move towards "life sucks", stagnation and fear-based environments persist. Tribal leaders direct the tribe and are agents of stage change. Here uplifting is not about overdosing on positivity, but expanding beliefs systems that inspire action, energy and produce prosperity.

The economy of experience

I'm typing on a computer and you're probably looking at one now. This couch I'm sitting on and this TV in front of me - all manufactured with a particular human intent in mind - to provide entertainment, comfort, shelter etc. etc. The fact that the majority of things that make up our modern lives are so manufactured, it's no wonder there's a market for authentic experiences. 

So, in an over-saturated market, our experience differentiates one brand's offering from countless others. Joseph Pine talks about this in terms of company's achieving the  "real real"  - true to themselves and are what they say they are. This is how a company creates experiences of authenticity for consumers. Put in another way, when a brand's offering takes our mundane, everyday experiences and transforms it to something else, something renewing or inspiring - not only does it stand out but we're more than willing to pay top dollar for. 

Uplifting experiences

What if a company created highly differentiated brand experiences that brings people to a "life is great" mentality? Brand advocacy would shoot through the roof and so would profits. 

Say this brand's offering is authentic (true to itself) wouldn't it's marketing need to reflect this (are what they say they are)? So the "real real" marketing practice would also need to be creating transformative (stage-changing) experiences.

Free transformative experiences

From the consumers side, marketing is free (it comes out of the company's pocket) and if that company's marketing is creating transformative experiences, an interesting thing happens - people start seeking marketing. There's no push with this style of marketing - it's all pull and that makes a lot of sense because it's uplifting, transforming and free!

What about the bottom line?

I subscribe to a lot of "internet guru" emails who seem to love talking about "the law of reciprocity". It's basic premise is this: when you give something of value, you'll receive not only equal value but a lot more. Others call it "positive guilt"  - I get  a lot of cool stuff from you for free, so I'll soon feel obliged to give back and even show my appreciation for your kindness by giving more.

So if the advertising and marketing becomes about creating highly differentiated stage-changing experiences for consumers, we might even see the situation where brand advocates "fund" such marketing experiences by buying the product/s.

Who's already moving in this direction?

I'm just going to pull a few from my very short term memory but there's a lot brands putting "experience" at the forefront of  their marketing. Stage-changing might not be at the forefront of these campaigns, but uplifting generally would be.

  • Volkswagen, Fun theory - replaced every day items fun versions of the same in a cityscape - to test the idea that fun changes the way we do things
  • McDonald's, Inner child - created a large scale McDonald's children's playground for adults in a cityscape
  • Coke, Open happiness - Non branded music video celebrating happiness - connection to Coke only found after an internet search
  • TED, Ideas that spread - the whole uplifting experience is what TED is all about: bringing together multidiciplinary thought leadership in one forum. It's "free" marketing is really the free content available online.

Some more WHAT IFs?

Potential ideas that came to mind while writing this.

What if...

  • An international brand creates a social media run competition inviting budding documentary film-makers to mark-out a virtual (global-reaching) logo and share doco-stories about people and places on the way (could be a Guinness Book of Records contender - biggest logo).
  • Some sort of telecommunications brand creates a tree style (3D) browsing connection application  - see who is near you that likes the same thing - combines mobile phone positioning technology with social media connections and your various interests / associations
  • A software brand creates user nurtured virtual tree ("The Self Tree") as an mobile app that grows in relation to a user's daily goals and intentions. Users can interact and see their trees in a virtual forest of others
  • An information brand  creates a social media voting space that enables people to tweet-vote on a policy by policy basis - about understanding the pulse of the people to affect change
  • A youth brand via a Facebook application enables users to build virtual artworks that identify themselves / groups - like a virtual graffiti tagging that could appear through online spaces or in virtual worlds like Second Life
  • A charity brand donates $1 for every 10 tweets that uses the brand name and a unique uplifting tagline
  • A major global brand social crowd sources everyone needed to produce a full-blown movie around an uplifting theme
  • A digital brand creates a dedicated online space for an impoverished person (i.e. homeless), so rather than begging for change that person gives printed flyers with a web address where people can hear his / her story - hopes / dreams / struggles and donate via Paypal (changing lives through digital!)

That paper by Douglas B Holt can be found here: http://www.lombard-media.lu/pdf/0308_brands.pdf

Why Neuroscience pushes brand marketing into the unconscious

David Wall - Thursday, April 01, 2010

It’s been a few months since I got through Martin Lindstrom’s book, Buyology. It came to my mind again recently in a conversation with a friend about movie product placement and subliminal advertising. What struck me was the idea a lot of common, even logical notions about marketing are often just way off the mark.

Take the example of the rotting cancerous body parts decorating cigarette boxes - you’d expect these images would make people think twice about buying cigarettes, right? A group of smokers selected by a market research company also had the same conclusion. They all ticked the right boxes that determined this to be a major deterrent but the results from fMRI scans showed something entirely different.

Anti smoking tactics trigger cravings Anti smoking tactics trigger cravings

These images where shown to actually activate the brain’s reward / pleasure pathways strengthening a smoker’s compulsion to smoke. It makes for a win-win situation for the tobacco companies - having anti tobacco lobbies funding advertising that triggers your desire to smoke!

So if the anti-smoking tactic is doing the reverse of what it sets out to do, would pictures of obese people on Big Mac wrappings help sell more burgers? It’s likely they wouldn’t, but I think that’s the point Lindstrom makes - even with all the raw data from market research, we’re still faced with a lot of assumptions about why certain marketing ideas work and others just don’t and it’s often those ‘common sense’ propositions that tend to get in the way of the truth locked inside our gray matter!

Don’t know, ask a Neuroscientist (in the making)…

The smokers reward highway The smoker's reward highway

I couldn’t find much explanation as to why those particular anti-tobacco images trigger cigarette cravings, so I spoke to a budding Neuroscientist about it. Her take was it was not so much the images’ disturbing content that’s important, but that those images trigger significant neural activity. It’s likely the parts of the brain responsible for addictive tendencies is already highly developed in heavy smokers, so to give an analogy - their neural pathways are more like open highways to the pleasure / reward centers than the normal suburban roads for other people.

Another idea is the pleasure / reward centers of the brain being closely linked to the pain centers, work like a balance. A disturbing image that creates a level of pain (in this case emotional) would automatically trigger a pleasure seeking response to retain equilibrium.

Although whatever reasoning holds, the fact remains that all this stuff is happening before we’re even aware of it…

So if I’m not consciously making the buying decisions, then who is?

unconscious buying decisions? unconscious buying decisions?

Lindstrom points out how our buying decisions are far from conscious or even logical. Interestingly too, Neuroscience tells us that consciousness is but a fragment of the huge amount of information that our brains process at any given moment - evolved with efficiency in mind (ignore the pun), we can only focus on what our brains have already deemed 'necessary' for our awareness. And that little awareness we do have (from all the available sensory information) is further filtered through expectations. The human eye for example, has a very small focal point that perceives color and detail. Whereas the receptors responsible for peripheral vision are monochromatic and can't register the detail required, so one's memory and expectations fills in the blanks.

To demonstrate this how sharp (or not) our peripheral vision is, just watch this video:

It’s a little disconcerting knowing the very small drop in an ocean of our available sensory input is filtered by a whole host of automatic assumptions - and it’s all happening without our awareness involved. So the idea we’re making sound, objective decisions is at best flawed when our brains are only ever giving us part of the story!

If consciousness plays only a minor role, why not market to the unconscious?

With so much of the decision process happening under the surface, it’s a wonder why any marketing strategy bothers appealing to common logic such as with vendor comparisons or price busting etc. Though a lot of us will justify our buying decisions after the event with a whole host of logical arguments - probe a little deeper we’re likely hear: “I don’t know, it just felt right”, “I went with my gut feeling…” etc. and this all points to our logic’s dead end.

The problem is, the use of fMRIs or even EEGs (trade tools of Neuromarketing) is far from cheap, so if we’ve no other method to ‘hear’ the unconscious how do we communicate to it?

Dreams, myths and brands?

Consciousness only the tip of the iceberg? Consciousness only the tip of the iceberg?

It may help recognizing the language of the unconscious is basically symbolic. A symbol is metaphor loaded with individual (personal) and often universal (archetypal) meaning. An attention to our dreams will likely verse us well in this regard or at at least help us gain further insight into how symbols communicate meaning.

The interesting thing about symbols is that they’re not static, you can’t pin them down to one meaning with the “101 Dream Symbols” book in hand. They’re relevant to time, place and person and in that regard they’re transitional. On the other hand, when a symbol resonates with something archetypal, for example found within our age-old stories and myths, it becomes a source of cultural significance. By understanding how relevant (transitional) symbols such as brands can strongly resonate with archetypal or universal symbols, we may begin to learn how some brands trigger strong emotional connections and have the type of mass appeal that turn them into cultural icons.

Article by David Wall originally on Photolibrary News

Social Media Marketing - an Economy of Experience?

David Wall - Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Take the "media" out of social media and you're left with the word "social". It's easy to be tangled in metrics about what makes social media successful and overlook that simple point. Facebook and the like suit our present communication needs, so we use it. It works because connecting with people through social media is easy in a time starved and an otherwise disconnected daily existence.

How many of us find emailing someone next to us at work far easier (and quicker) than starting a conversation? It's often much simpler to say happy birthday to a close friend on a social network than sending a (paper) card - great for trees but not so good if you're trying to sell birthday cards…

Have a look at the huge growth rate of social media over the past few years - it takes about 10 seconds to watch the little blue dot representing Facebook.com bubble up and eclipse everything else in its path between 2006-2009. We'd expect a similar trend if the Interaction Consortium did a worldwide piece. The US, for example has internet users checking Facebook every 37 minutes, they post to Flickr 5 times a day, watch YouTube for 2.5 hrs a day and update Twitter every 3 hours… according to Razorfish.

But stats and technology aside, we're still in the realm of social significance. Whether a brand communicates outside or within social media, we need to question: does it provide value or hold any significance in our social exchanges? In other words, will anyone talk about it? Would anyone really care?

A Razorfish survey puts it bluntly: "Consumers don't want conversation with brands - they want deals". We can just as easily say "…they want value". And it's easy to offer value in terms of deals - a discount / a "free coke and fries…" but when a product offers value just with an association to its brand - that's an exchange we're more than willing to pay for.

Speeding down this technological highway we're leaving commodities and services for experiences posts Laurel Papworth. Deals are great but in an "Experiential Economy" they're only as good as the experience we want out of them. Who would go for a 50% or even a 99% discount from a product that has 0% value to us? An experience that no one wants, even for free would have next to no takers (apart from a few freebie hunters).

"The best job in the world" is a prime example of the value of experience. The experience of typing on a keyboard is just that much better from a tropical beach bungalow than a crammed office - even with walls decorated with snow peaked mountains, climbers scaling cliffs, sail boats etc. above words like "leadership", "direction", "motivation" and "Freedom"…

The point is "real" experiences are what makes social waves. If the service or product offered are the best vehicles to these, they'll be big waves!

And the experiences don't even need to be direct - most of the time they're not. It's even easier for a brand to offer experience by association. Like the teenage boy branding himself with his favorite band, absorbing more of the lifestyle and experiences the band promotes the more paraphernalia he buys.

Hear more at Sydney Social Media Marketing 2010 Bootcamp - The Era of Marketing
Learn more from Laurel Papworth,Tourism Queensland Marketing Manager, Robyn Quinn (The best job in the world campaign) and other industry leaders at Sydney Social Media Marketing 2010 Bootcamp – The Era of Marketing

And talking about deals deals deals…
All friends of Photolibrary can take advantage of this special offer: Delegates will be entitled to a 15% DISCOUNT... we all love a good deal!

Posted via email from Transforming pixels to gold

stsooys tbh cya wknd wb??

David Wall - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I like Bourdieu. First he's got a very French sounding name that gives him instant philosophy street cred (first name is also Pierre) but that's not a good reason to like someone. A better reason is that he's said long ago that the purpose of a lot of what we do or say is to distinguish ourselves from others. We develop strange languages to isolate ourselves from other groups, while hardening the glue within our own group. We create 'secret' codes as a way to know if we're 'in' or 'out'. 

True, he talked about the privileged class trying to keep out the plebs who just don't get things like "high" art  (why wouldn't they get that when you put a urinal in a gallery, it becomes art?) but why not apply this to other tribes like kid's SMS language - what does "stsooys tbh cya wknd wb" mean and if you don't know you were probably born before Netscape was the choice browser.

So people are always going to create new spaces and new languages to distinguish themselves from everybody else and before this space reaches critical mass there's a bunch there already figuring out clever ways to get in and sell a lot of something. This is like adding more oil to the water and bound to disperse the congenial gathering fast - look at what happened to MySpace: more people on it, more marketing budget spent on it = less 'cool' / less the choice online communication platform. 

Now look at the business hype about using Twitter, is that good for Google Wave?

>Should we think less about the technology and more about why we are using it?

www.pixelalchemy.com.au holistic online marketing

How to make a killer email landing page

David Wall - Monday, October 12, 2009
The social media marketing landing page - YouTube and Twitter!

Got a high email click through rate, what now?

Here's an example of a campaign that's still in the pipeline (a few days from now till launch! & already gathering interest on social media). In the stock photo space there's a lot of "click to see this new gallery" type emails inundating the same audience (likely the same emails) over and again. So we really had to think of something a little left of field to get noticed.

Shout it out - NOT

Best to avoid the the whole interruption marketing thing - the whoever shouts the loudest will be heard approach (which doesn't really work online anyway). Try instead to make people curious, give them authentic (non-bias) information or make them laugh... 

The point is to be on your visitors' side. Don't try to win the argument with 100 points on why you're the best, instead be a guide - you want people to conclude things about your products and services on their own accord, making them leave your site as an advocate of your brand rather than leaving at point 5 afraid of the other 95 points they'd have to endure.

Back to the landing page... You'll notice the text about we're "trying something different... let us know what you think.." etc. This is intentional - there's no point confronting visitors especially if your asking for comments  - we want to be on their side and interested in their opinions. Shout "WE'RE SO GREAT" and you're bound to get a lot of people wanting to tell you the opposite - that's just a natural human compulsion to keep things balanced.

Doesn't a YouTube logo dilute your branding

We might also ask: "Doesn't the TV set logo distract us from the advert?" The truth this we're so 'branded' by brands all those nice little logos just fade into the background. The important thing is to provide something that engages people - a logo will not engage someone, most people won't even notice. But if you engage someone, you connect with them on some level that has relevance to their daily lives, then your little logo will start to look a lot "bigger" and might even get a click!

YouTube is a medium in itself, its a medium that speaks words like: social, quirky, new, experimental, young, authentic etc. So hence the choice of this medium. You will also find it on the email, again as a way to illicit clicks: http://monsoon.cmail1.com/t/r/e/hrziy/l/

And the Twitter thing…

It’s important to make it easy for users to share online content the way most people do this nowadays - using social media. The Add-This or Gigya plugins are most common - users can select from a huge range of social media sites to share the given page’s content. Although, the stats I’ve got points to the fact that the more sharing options you offer, the less likely people will share particularly if you require them make multiple clicks… Best to pick small number of sharing options most relevant to your users and make these obvious and as clear as possible (while not being too obvious to distract from the main message)

So on this example we’ve got a clear Twitter share option extended to function like a blog comment. It’s using Twitter search and updates with a little server side scripting. Not perfected just yet but its running well in bare bones. The idea here is to give a sense of community – it’s not the point worrying about baring you business to potential negative comments (there’s no moderation here) – if the content is half-decent a few negative comments will likely fire people up for more discussion – that’s really more online exposure!

On this note as this campaign is not out yet, get your comments in as in a few days an email is going out to 100k plus global list of ad agencies / design houses / corporate marketing teams – a good way to get your twitter profile out to the world! http://www.photolibrary.com/marketing/Monsoon/MonsoonImages.html

16,000 hits using Google adwords

David Wall - Monday, September 07, 2009
Winning the search game with a lot of hits

I'm just illustration the point with this title on the potential of using the right long-tail keyword even on paid search. I go on about this long-tail stuff all the time because it really is the untapped market that is available to us right now online.

In fact, niche markets as well as keywords will always be here. If you think about how people will always be doing or searching for something new - new and unique terms will always come into play. I guess those who find them first can capitalise on an early advantage... 

But before I get too esoteric, let me get to the point.

The 4 EASY steps, paid-search formula

  1. First focus on just a few good performing long-tail (niche) keywords. In the example below I'm using: "read novels online" (read this to find out how to determine strong long-tail keywords).
  2. Write a Google ad that solves a problem - i.e. the potential customer is usually searching on Google for a solution - bug them with irrelevance and they won't click on your ad!
  3. With a good ad, you'll need to be getting over at least 1.2% click through rate (CTR) for Google to start lowering the cost for each clicks your ad gets (cost per click - CPC). If it's under that change the ad copy or try a different keyword (unless you want to pay Google more than you have to).
  4. Google tells you the adverage daily cost per click - all you need to do is match this by manually capping your CPC everyday. Eventually you can get your keyword down to about 4 - 6 cents (if you're using good long-tail keywords).

So say you had a monthly budget of $1000 - at 6 cents a click if you do this right you'd expect 16,000 targeted visits to your website. This also means that on a small budget, say $15 - expect to get about 200 clicks!

Here's some proof

Check what difference lowering you CPC over a few weeks does to your clicks

The above was a launch campaign for Photos to GO stock photo site. I had a 3k montly budget for a limited time and was using a whole host of keywords - some long-tail others very competitive like "stock photography". On the 2nd month running I had a few competitive keywords dropped to focus on the long-tail words while lowing the cost per click for each. You can see the results - close to 3 times the amount.

Small budget for an up-and-coming author - I got 208 clicks for less than $13

The campaign above was done with 1 keyword only - "read books online". The last I checked that was a hot keyword (a lot of searches and low Google cost). I managed reduce the cost from about 30 cents to 2-3 cents a click with a couple of hundred impressions a day (average over period total was 7 cents). Quite nice when you think I was using a $20 free Google voucher!

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