Monday, March 19, 2018

Advertising Question of the Week - How Do I Pick the Best Images for My Website?

When you meet someone, what’s the first thing you remember? 

Unless they have a particularly noteworthy voice (Fran Drescher), an unusual name (Umbrella McGillicuddy), or a strange odor (enchiladas), chances are when you meet someone for the first time, you remember something VISUAL.

Visuals are a big component of what makes up a first impression. So you might want to ponder this:

What Visual First Impression Does Your Website Make?

Unlike that drunk uncle at every family holiday gathering, your website does not have the luxury of making an impression by noisily kicking over a chair while running naked through the kitchen. Thus, it relies strongly on visuals to make that first impression. 

Yes, your website must stand on the power of its content. But if the images are shoddy, who’s gonna bother with the content? Are you going to buy a Tesla from a guy in a polyester leisure suit? 

Maybe you would. Especially if you have a fondness for leisure suits. Or polyester. But you get the point. The images you use on your website are going to be a reflection of your company, service, brand and product. They’re going to send out a message. 

So if you want that message to say, “I’m awesome,” rather than “I am so NOT awesome,” consider the following when picking out your images.

1. Be Sure They Can Relate

This basically means that your images should be relevant. But not to the point of hackneyed over-kill. 

We’re going to assume that if you’re at the point where you’re selling a product or service on your website, you’ve done the footwork to determine your audience. So now you want to be sure your images relate to them.

For example, if you’re selling hiking boots, you’re targeting the hearty woodsy types. Thus, you’re not going to have a photo of happy office dwellers high-fiving after winning that big account. 


But what might be less obvious is the need to avoid too many
clichĂ©s -  images of nothing but rugged trails, good looking people with big sweaters, mossy logs, log cabins, logs on fire -  and to focus on other details in your images that appeal to the different subgroups of your audience. What’s appealing to a man in terms of hiking boots is going to be different for a woman or a child. Even if it’s subtle.

So don’t ignore them.

2. Make Your Images Energetic

Not cheerleader energetic. That’s annoying. But generally speaking, you’ll want to choose active images over passive ones. Unless you’re selling sleep aids. Or harps.

So how do you know if an image is energetic? 

It’s going to have a vibrant and vital color scheme, sharp images and some sizzle. A little crackling. It’s going to inspire your visitor to take action rather than veg on the couch and contemplate their navels. 

And if you’re posting multiple images such as albums, slide shows or galleries, avoid overpopulating with every possible image. Stick with the active images.

3. Don’t Underestimate the Value of Uniqueness

Uniqueness may not have been something you wanted to be branded with in high school. This is not the case with your website images. 

By unique, we don’t mean campy high school movie weird and quirky. Napoleon Dynamite is probably not the best candidate to sell your goods. 

We’re talking images that aren’t likely to show up on a competitor’s website. Or even a non-competitor’s website. Ideally, it’s only on YOUR website.

Website designers are all too familiar with the S-word. Stock photo. 

And if stock photos are all that your budget allows, it’s not going to ruin you. But when conducting a search, dig deeper into the results rather than settling on an image on the first few pages. They’re much less likely to be used on other sites that way. 

Even better, use your smartphone to grab some of your own images. Or if you have the funds, employ the services of a professional photographer.  

4. They Need to Be A Rep for Your Brand

And one big consideration is color. 

Not only does color promote brand recognition, but color also has deep psychological connections. For example, red can illicit a sense of power and excitement (McDonald’s), while blue denotes determination, ambition, and goals (IBM). 

If you’ve got a highly recognizable logo and color palette, stick with the dominant colors in your brand for your website images. Every successful advertising firm knows the importance of consistency. Consistency builds trust. And trust sells.  

But your brand goes beyond your color palette and logo. It’s rather like a person. So just what kind of person is your brand?

Bold? Aggressive? Cheerful? Funny? Happy? Sleepy? Sneezy? Doc?

Think of your website as a person you want to introduce to the world. What images will best capture that person?  

5. And Yes, Size Does Matter

The most important thing to remember is that you can always decrease the size of large image and retain its quality. But try increasing the size of a smaller image and you won’t have the same luck. Eventually you’ll have a pixelated cryptic mess. 

Still, as we all know, bigger isn’t always better. Using too large an image can negatively impact your website’s performance by slowing it down. So you’ll have to find the balance.

Determining size also matters because you’ll need to find files that will work within those specifications. They’ll also need to work effectively across various devices and screen sizes. So think about it.

What Are Your Website Images Saying?

You don’t want them talking smack about you. That isn’t going to do wonders for your reputation. Or your revenue. 

But if you’re not sure what they’re saying, you can always seek help from experts in the field who can guide you in the right direction and get your website images doing what they need to be doing…

Talking you up. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Advertising Question of the Week - What “Tricks” Do Supermarkets Use to Market Their Merchandise?

Humans are such sensory creatures. Take a gander at the pretty, shiny tomatoes above. Don’t you want to touch them? Look at how easily you're strung along by your senses - like a love-sick teenager. We all are. And, like a love-sick teenager, it’s pathetic at times. 

Yet, experienced advertisers and, even more so, the wizards of merchandise marketing know how to use this liability to turn a profit. And they’ve been doing it a long time.

Sound, smell, color, light, touch, taste, temperature and even moisture are all managed in an effort to make you want to first, buy, and then second, to stick around. They’re keenly aware that these stimuli can drive even the most serious recovering shopaholic to spend.

Merchandise Marketers Know All the Tricks of the Trade  

And it doesn’t stop with just sensory manipulation. They’ve got psychology on their side too. Not just with shopaholics either.

Because even if you liken a grocery trip to oral surgery, you’ve likely been taken - at least to some degree - by these tactics. Because they’re THAT good.

Read on to see if you’ve been bamboozled. (You have.)

1. Turn, Turn, Turn

This one falls on the psychology side. Because, as it turns out, humans are also very psychological creatures. Which is also a little pathetic at times.

Anyhow, it’s a fact that when people are blindfolded, they walk in circlesAnd since those of us in the U.S. drive on the right, most people tend to walk in a circle that turns to the right. (Those in the UK and Japan tend to turn left when blindfolded.) So what does this have to do with grocery stores?

Well, in spite of the belief that people would prefer to move in a straight line, this blindfolded circle-walking shows that they naturally prefer to turn. Armed with this knowledge, stores will give you a reason to turn by blocking the center of the front end with checkout stands. They literally bait you into a big right turn which is comforting… in some strange way. Silly humans.

2. Grocery Store Smells

We’re talking about the good ones, of course.

This would be the scent of fresh-cut flowers when you first walk in, or that of freshly ground espresso from the coffee bar. As you venture further into the store, you might catch a whiff of freshly-baked bread from the bakery. And once your stomach starts banging around down there clamoring for food, the warm smell of rotisserie chicken gets you all in a tizzy. 

Soon you’re transformed into believing you’re walking through a warm, healthy and fragrant haven that five minutes before was the grocery store. What a nice place to spend the rest of the day and a good chunk of your money.  

3. Supersize the Cart

Grocery store carts are getting larger. In fact, in recent years,
carts at Whole Foods have almost doubled in size. And it’s not from all that healthy food. It’s simple psychology again. (If there is such a thing.) A giant cart compels you to buy more, while a half-empty cart makes it appear you’re missing something.

4. Cross Marketing 

Those potato chips are normally $3.99 but you’re getting them for $1.99 with a coupon. You’re really stickin’ it to the man! 

But you’re also feeling hungry from the smell of the rotisserie chicken in your giant cart and just plain excited after all those right turns. This heightened state has convinced you that you MUST have the special caramelized onion dip sitting right there with those chips. It’s $3.99. So much for saving with that coupon.

Oh, and don’t forget the soda - conveniently located next to all of those salty snacks. While you’re there, you might as well pick up some tortilla chips, queso dip and salsa. Nuts would be good too. No half-empty cart for you.

5. Listen to the Music

There’s almost nothing worse than being exposed to music that you don’t like and trapped in that space. You know this firsthand if you’ve ever been to a state fair or have a teenager at home. It makes you want to run screaming.

That’s why stores tend to choose easy-listening music such as one might hear in the lobby of an office building. Or the dayroom of the psych ward. It invites you to stay around for a while. Though by choice. 

6. Free Food for the Kids 

You have to grocery shop. And you have to do it with your kids.

Your kids might turn up their noses at fruit when offered at home. But when they’re at the store and free to pluck an apple or banana from a basket at their eye level, they’re suddenly all about that fruit.

It’s a win-win for everyone. The kids don’t pitch a fit and start whining to go home. The parents are pleased because their kids are eating fruit. And since they now have more time to shop, the stores are happy. It’s like the supermarket version of world peace. 

7. POP Displays

Point of purchase is that captive zone by the registers. Marketing specialists take advantage of this. 

You’re stuck waiting in line. You’re tired and hungry. They know this is the perfect time to grab that shiny little overpriced bag of pretzels to tide you over so you don't start tearing into that rotisserie chicken like some crazed predator. 

8. Shelf Placement

It’s no secret that the products with the highest profit margin are at eye-level, while the lower-priced and more generic brands are on the bottom. Products at kid level are going to appeal to them - products that promise to explode in a sugary firecracker of cartoon color and dancing toys - #childsimagination. 

Then there are the aisles.

The most popular items are going to be located in the middle of the aisles. This will force you to walk past all sorts of things you don’t need while you’re bee-lining it to the Kraft Mac and Cheese.

So if you don’t get snagged into buying Hello Kitty Brillo Pads on the way there, you might end up with a jar of garlic stuffed olives that now seem absolutely essential. 

9. Other Tricks

Suffice it to say there are others. But we'll stop here. We suspect you get the point by now. And it’s this:

Merchandise Marketing Promotes More Sales

Supermarkets know this. And now you do too. 

But is it going to completely change how you shop? Yes. Just as long as you strip yourself of all your senses and free yourself of your own psychology. 

So then, no. Probably not.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

5 Ways to Get around Ad-Blocker Technology

With the advent of ad-blocker technology, are you starting to feel that doing online advertising is pointless?

It isn’t. 

It just means that advertising and marketing specialists have had to step up their game to get around this ad-blocking technology and figure out new ways to help their clients get the attention they need.

Ad-Blocking Technology Is Not the End of Online Advertising

And yes, there are ways to get around it. 

It doesn’t involve a treasure map or battle with an impressive show of sword play. Getting around ad-blocker technology requires more covert action. 

Here are five ways we’ve found are helpful:

1. Take Advantage of Content Marketing

You know what’s cool about content marketing? It’s not a honey badger. It’s neither pushy, nor aggressive, nor in your face.

Even so, mild-tempered content marketing is basically the original ad-blocker killer. And it’s stronger than ever. Not because it has mad street skills. It’s just that the simple act of providing valuable, useful and targeted content is really effective toward building authority, generating leads and increasing engagement and awareness of your brand

See, the thing with content is that it is de facto advertising. You keep on creating  and sharing interesting blog posts, infographics, videos, podcasts, and things of that ilk, and you’re essentially getting your product or service out there. And since it’s content, filters won’t filter and blockers won’t block. Yeah, haters may still hate, but there’s not much you can do about that.

But with interesting and worthwhile content that isn’t just fluff and filler, you’ll get known. You’ll be in the long game, without having to worry about how many clicks or conversions you get. Engage, connect and build relationships. That’s key. And soon enough, you’ll be advertising to your audience without their even realizing it. 

That’s some stealthy, ninja type stuff.

2. Get Involved with Influencer Marketing

Remember the popular kids in school? Maybe you were one. (We forgive you.)

Social media influencers are like those popular kids. In some cases, at least. They might be high profile VIPs whose celebrity alone gives their opinions an other worldly - and often undeserved - magnitude. If Taylor Swift or BeyoncĂ© starts wearing your bedazzled baseball hats, then her eight hundred million followers will want one too. 

On the other hand, influencers an also be the folks who have attained a solid social media following because they’re hardcore experts on a subject. These are more like the unpopular kids in school who knew a little too much about meteorological anomalies or Dungeons and Dragons. But in the case of social media,  admission of such knowledge gives them serious clout rather than merciless teasing on the bus or a wedgie. 

So to narrow it down, an influencer is a personality or content creator with a decent-sized following on a given platform. Influencer marketing is a partnership with these influencers to review, promote, or link to your content, brand, and products. And once again, since it’s content, it’s immune to ad-blocking.

How does one find the ideal influencer?

First, decide on the platform you want to use. For example, if you’re an expert in trading commodities, you’ll have better luck with LinkedIn than you would with Snapchat. Once you’ve got your platform, find someone with a large following who’s popular with your target audience and/or active in your industry. Think micro influencers - 50,000 followers or fewer. 

But look beyond just the number before you settle. You need
to check their post history too. Check for any racist, sexist or other objectionable material, so that your product or service isn’t inadvertently associated with the Orange Male Kitten Haters of America. Unless that’s your groove.

Once you’re cool with the potential influencer, start following them. Engage with their content and leave comments. Once you’ve established a presence, reach out to them either through email or a private direct message. Mention how a partnership would benefit both them and you.

3. Focus on User Experience

This one is pretty simple. 

There’s a clear cause and effect component to why people block ads in the first place. And it has to do with the how the ad is received by the viewer. 

Consumers are sick of intrusive advertising and being barraged with countless ads that lack substance. It’s overwhelming, irritating and rude. 

Focus instead on optimizing the user experience on your website. Give viewers the option to skip video ads, hide irrelevant ads or give a thumbs down to content they don't like. Bearing down hard on advertising isn’t working for anyone. Especially advertisers.

And the advent of ad-blocker is clear proof of that.

4. Use Native Advertising 

In the past, traditional online ads have sought to get attention in much the same way a child does. They jump, they wiggle, they bounce. They yell and have temper tantrums. In other words, they get noticed for being irritating.

And that’s their downfall. An attention-seeking child is exasperating. So are traditional ads. And because they ARE so easy to see, they’re easy to block and filter.

The native ad is the subdued child who knows how to mimic adults, blend in and play it cool (regardless of the psychological repercussions that might show up later). It mimics the digital environment that it’s in rather than pitching a fit. 

A native ad strives to NOT be an interruption to the user experience in any way. In fact, it’s trying to make you think it’s not an ad at all. The only way the viewer will know it’s an ad are the words “Sponsored” or “Promoted” that sit nearby.

When a viewer clicks a native ad, they’ll usually land on a page that looks and feels like a regular blog post or article. It’s interesting content that can easily be shared. Yet it still has a message. 

Within that content, there are features of the product or service that’s being promoted. There’s often a call-to-action to sign up for a newsletter or report.

All without being obtrusive and bossy, and without the aforementioned psychological repercussions.

5. Find a Loophole

Finally, we turn to technology.

And yes, the technology does now exist that allows for bypassing ad-blocking extensions. For the most part, this technology serves ads in a way that limits an ad blocker’s effectiveness. It will render ads according to Better Ads Standards guidelines and then re-insert them.

As with all technology, this isn’t a total fix.

Yeah, it’s viable for websites that want to keep ads visible to as much of their audience as possible. BUT, if a user turns off all of the ads with something like AdBlock Plus, these newly rendered ads aren’t gonna get through. So the battle of ad-blocking technology vs. ad-block-breaking technology continues - which sounds vaguely like the makings for a Dr. Seuss story. 

Work with Ad-Blocker, Rather Than Against It 

Advertising is like (nearly) everything else in that it’s
constantly evolving. 

But with online advertising in particular, the rate of evolution is exponential. What’s working one week may be obsolete the next. And it’s clear that intrusive, showy, repetitive ads are no longer effective. They are the first to be blocked. 

It’s also clear that, although the evolution of online advertising has been swift and unforgiving, there’s one thing that has remained ever strong. Engaging, valuable, worthwhile content. 

The sort with which ad-blocking technology has no beef.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Advertising Question of the Week - What’s the Best Way to Use My Smartphone for Product Photos?

When trying to make the most of your marketing efforts, you may want to save a few bucks. Who doesn’t? 

And if you spent hundreds of dollars on the newest smartphone, you might be tempted to use it for your product photos. But is it a good idea? 

Some folks - i.e. professional photographers - would say no. They’d say that you CANNOT use your smartphone to get professional product photos. They’ll tell you that there are some pretty big things that you can’t control on a smartphone - such as lighting, exposure, aperture/depth of field and white balance.

They’d be right. Technically, photos from your smartphone won’t be professional grade. 

But You Can Still Take Great Product Photos with Your Smartphone

And frankly, if you’re just starting out, or if your product isn’t particularly photogenic (like orthopedic shoes), “great” photos are all you need. Then you can spend your advertising dollars on more needful things like effective website design, powerful writing for said website, and pastries or other bribes for the designer and writer.

But since you’re not just slapping these photos up on the community bulletin board or your FB page, there are some things you need to think about when using your smartphone for product photos.

Ponder these:

1. Proper Lighting 

Stick with natural light. Not the harshness of direct sunlight, but rather diffused window light. It will bathe your product in a large, yet soft illuminating light. Experiment with different angles and positions for your product. Keep the shadows to a minimum.

And unless you’re partial to the pallor of malaria, steer clear of fluorescent light. Most don’t give a full color spectrum so photos taken in this light have a green tinge. Incandescent lights aren’t much better. They’re as harsh as sunlight. Or a mouth full of nails. Which all translates into, “no good.”

2. Neutral Background

You’ll want to go with something soft, plain, neutral and free from clutter. You could remember this with the acronym SPNFFC. But that's unnecessarily complicated. So don’t do that.

Just stick with something simple that complements your product. To prevent distractions, white is recommended. You can use a sheet, cloth or board, for instance. 

If your product is on the smaller side, you could go with a piece of white paper on a flat surface. Or curve the farthest edge of that paper to create a small infinity cove.

3. Picking up Accessories 

These aren’t necessary. But they can help. 

If you have the less-than-steady hands of a non-surgeon,
consider a tripod for crisp and clear shots.  

Or you can attach different smartphone lenses to your
camera to get some seriously detailed macro shots. (In your free time, you can take way up-close photos of your eye. Or bugs.) 

And editing apps can make all the difference in post production. For example, you CAN get the effect of a high key image shot in your smartphone. You’ll just need to finish it in Lightroom or Photoshop. Rumor has it that the brush tool in Lightroom is pretty spiffy.

Ultimately, the thing to remember is this:

Keep Your Smartphone Product Photos Simple

Soft light. Simple background. Get everything you need in the frame, and nothing else. Consider a simple square format so you won’t need to crop the product or stretch the background.

The more you’re able to simplify the image, the less time you’ll spend in post production.

Then once your product takes off and starts establishing some visual street cred and the revenue starts flowing, maybe you’ll be able to hire a professional photographer for some real glamour shots. 

For your product, of course. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Advertising Question of the Week - What’s the Deal with 6-Second Ads?

For decades, brands have worked to tell their story in 30-second or 15-second ads. And while the creators of such ads found this challenging, those that embraced it were able to do so with success. 

But 6 seconds? Seriously?

You better believe it.

The 6-Second Ad Is Here

In fact, it’s been here for half a decade.

In 2013, Dunkin’ Donuts created some sugar-glazed buzz when it used a 6-second video for a Monday Night Football spot on ESPN. It wasn’t long before this extremely short form advertising was referred to as “snackable content.” Particularly apropos in the case of Dunkin’ Donuts. (“Donut hole content” was bantered about, but it wasn’t as catchy. No, not really.)

Still, the talk around the 6-second ad died down for a while. And back in 2013, the 30-second ad would continue to rule the roost - where it would hold court for a few more years. 

By 2014, only 29% of ads were of the 15-second variety. But by 2017, that number had climbed to 36%. As the long-winded and tired old 30-second ad is slowly passing the torch to the 15-second ad, that little whipper-snapper 6-second ad is coming up fast on its tail.  

Why the trend toward shorter formats? Well, in case you haven’t heard, science (an others) say that attention spans are waning. There seems always to be something oh-so-shiny just around the corner to vie for our attention. 

This is particularly true of the millennials.

A new study by comScore revealed that millennials lose interest in online ads that run any longer than 5 to 6 seconds. And since they’re a major marketing target, this make conditions rife for the further - and faster - evolution of the 6-second ad. They’re only expected to get bigger, bolder and better in 2018. Just not longer.

Here’s the thing:

When Done Well, 6-Second Ads Drive the Point Home 

Sound ridiculous? Click here to see what we mean. 

In fact, if you went to the above link and watched those ads, you might have noticed that YouTube has a whole slew of them - some of which you may have inadvertently viewed while waiting for the “Otter eats Doritos” video that took you there in the first place.

One talented creator of a 6-second ad is Maud Deitch, who works in Instagram’s creative department. Her incredibly powerful 6 seconds on the effects of global warming received honors at an event that recognizes great 6-second ads. 

“You can really get to a level of poignance and a level of human connection that you cannot get to even in a 15-second spot,” she says. “It’s because you sort of have to understand your subject matter, your medium, your production tools so much more intimately in order to make use of six seconds in an effective way. I think it’s one of the most important ad formats—if not the most important ad format—that we are going to see more of.”

And others agree. 

Creative folks originally thought the time constraint would not be enough to convey an emotional story. But it didn’t take long to recognize one important point:

You Don’t Need An Entire Story to Evoke Emotion 

And honestly, consumers these days don’t want the whole advertising story. That’s why they record shows so they can fast-forward through those longer ads. And if they’re not doing that, they’re looking at their phones during the commercials. Or changing the channel.

Those longer ads are causing commercial viewership and retention to take a hit. So the future of advertising - both online and on TV - relies not just on these 6-second ads, but on these ads being well-executed. 

Yeah, they may be short. But they’ve definitely got something to say.