Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ways That AI Does (and Will) Affect Marketing

Nearly every industry uses artificial intelligence - marketing not withstanding. But here’s the thing. 

Most AI in Marketing Pretty Subtle 

It’s generally not the stuff of RoboCop. 

For instance:

  • Google uses an AI system to interpret a whole gaggle of search queries.
  • Through product recommendations, sentiment analysis, image and voice recognition, AI has the potential to allow social networks to improve at scale.
  • The Grid is an AI platform that uses image recognition and cropping, algorithmic palette and typography selection to effectively automate web design.
  • The use of AI to analyze credit/debit card usage patterns and device access helps to prevent fraud and data breaches. 
  • Content can be generated using structured data which allows the automatic generation of news articles from information like financial reports. 
  • AI can analyze thousands of factors allowing the matching of broad patterns of customer behavior to those of individual members. This allows for a more personalized experience.

You’re bored. We get it. This is dull, dull, dull. 

There are plenty of other marketing areas affected by AI, including speech and language recognition, ad targeting, predictive customer service, sales forecasting, the list goes on ad nauseam. But you get the point. So we’ll spare you the snooze fest.   

Sure, Some AI Has A Little More Swagger 

There is a hotel line that has incorporated concierge
robots who interact with guests and answer their questions in an ever so welcoming and helpful manner.

Or if you walk into a certain outdoor clothing store to buy a jacket, you might be greeted by a bot who asks where and when you will be using the jacket so that it can couple that information with weather predictions and other data to help you select the best jacket. No more asking, “does this come in ochre?”

And the more these bots interact with people, the more they seem to “learn.” Which, if you’re of a certain age, is sorta creepy. But whatever.

What’s the Future of AI in Marketing?

Marketers strive to understand their customers and take them on a journey. As AI becomes more prominent, they’ll need to address customers’ fears and concerns about AI.  

This is especially true pertaining to privacy concerns.

And when it comes to creating brand value, advocacy and collaborative issues, marketers must consider the importance of emotional connections. Consumer behavior is driven by hundreds of emotional motivators that affect customer value. 

As of now, AI is not capable of emotion. And AI and machine learning still need people to improve their accuracy and to train algorithms properly.

So what does the future hold? Hard to say.

You could always ask Siri and Alexa.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Question of the Week: Does Grammar Really Matter in Online Advertising?

Over a half century ago, there was a highly controversial ad campaign that went like this: ”Winston tastes good like a cigarette should".   

The controversy had nothing to do whatsoever with the
product being advertised. After all, in the 1950s, smoking cigarettes was the remedy for everything from stilling a surgeon’s unsteady hands to being chronically uncool.

Rather, the issue was the use of non-standard grammar. So preposterous was this grammatical travesty that Walter Cronkite refused to read the line on the air. 

And yet, the campaign was highly successful.

So Does That Mean You Can Go Ahead and Call Anarchy on Grammar Rules?

Well, that depends.

In spite of how grammar has been casually tossed aside in news stories and nearly exiled from much of social media, there are still some places where proper grammar matters. 

Like, say, when your brand’s expectation is competence. Then it matters.

For instance, if you’re advertising for a law firm, potential clients want to know that the person representing them is learned and experienced. It’s one thing to connect with clients once you’ve attained them - like using a little transparent language to better relate to a client who hails from a one-pony town deep in Appalachia. It’s another thing altogether to advertise as the attorneys to contact, “When your life is got all tore up.” 

Okay. That was a hyperbolic example of how it matters. Sometimes.  

Because if you have a more playful brand, it’s a different story. If your product is cheese puffs or novelty t-shirts, for instance, you’re going to have some serious wiggle room when it comes to grammar. The guy in the “I’m with Stupid” t-shirt eating Cheetos for breakfast probably doesn’t care if you’ve earned a master’s degree in English.

Chances are, your product/service likely falls somewhere between practicing law and peddling puffed corn products. So how, pray tell, do you know how much leeway you have with grammar? 

Some of it is just gut instinct. Particularly if you know your customers pretty well.  

But You Can Also Use A/B Testing 

If you’re working with something like AdWords, you can test out several variations. It will become apparent what converts the best. With its ridiculous wealth of data - clearly in the top 1% - that’s the luxury of online advertising. 

So to break it down, the rules of grammar in online advertising refer more to the rules and structures of your brand, rather than those dictated by Strunk and White.  

Some Brands Have Strict Reference Guides, While Others Are More Chill

The overriding idea with copy for any brand is to keep things conversational - provided those conversations aren’t laden with a haunting disregard for grammar. Finding the right voice for your brand starts with powerful copy. 

And powerful copy has substance - entertaining content, engaging stories, utility, things of that sort. Maybe some dancing robots. So substance should be the primary focus. Then tackle grammar. 

Unless your demographic is a convention of Strunks and Whites. To which we say, we're so sorry. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Question of the Week: Do Mission, Vision and Value Statements Matter?

Yes. They do. Particularly if your goal is to be successful. And we’re assuming it is.

The statements aren’t fail-safe in having a successful business, of course. Nothing is.

And there will always be companies that have gotten by without them. Just not companies you’d recognize by name - such as Amazon, Wells Fargo or LEGO, for example. Because they all have them.

But do you really need all three?

Well, at the very least, you want a mission statement. And once you have your mission statement, the vision and value statements are just natural extensions from the mission statement. Like growing two more arms. But not as painful.

So What’s the Difference between a Mission, Vision and Value Statement?

So glad you asked. Let’s break it down.

The Mission Statement 

Answers the question, “What do we do?”

Nearly every successful business would agree having a mission statement is crucial. Writing a mission statement requires you to identify your company’s winning idea - its special sauce. What makes it stand out from the rest. And while you’re busy answering the what of what you do, you also need to consider who you’re doing it for, how you’re doing it, and why.

All of this then needs to be developed from the customer’s perspective and filtered down into a concise statement of business strategy. So that means the words need to be refined and polished and rewritten until your mission statement expresses your ideas, measures and desired result. All of this requires some serious introspection into your company. 

With introspection comes integrity, humility and determination. And these just happen to be among the key elements for success

The Vision Statement

Answers the question, “Why are we here?” 

Not in the existential sort of way though. You have to go somewhere else for that.

But once you’ve got your mission statement, it makes sense
to explore a vision statement. This requires you to figure out what you, your customers and your shareholders will value most about how your company will achieve the aforementioned mission.

You’ll also have to think about what impact your company wants to have within the organization. The words for your vision statement should give a real sense of your company’s purpose. 

And your employees will like this because they’ll know they’re part of something cool. Happy employees are part of a successful business. 

The Values Statement

Answers the question, “Who are we?”

You could also rephrase this to, “How do we carry out our mission?” 

Look, you’ve come this far with the mission and vision statement. It only serves you at this point to contemplate your company’s ideology. 

What are the values you hold sacred? What are the core values that won’t change over time (regardless of what’s currently trending or going viral)? Having this written will help you connect with customers who share these values. 

So How Do Mission, Vision and Value Statements Help?

G.I. Joe put it best when he said, “Knowing is half the battle.” And sometimes, running a business can feel like a real battle.

But knowing what you’re about, how you want to be seen, and how you’ll impact others is a recipe for success. 

Find ways to involve as many people in the whole mission/vision/values process, each member of the organization can take ownership. Then bring in a writer who can craft statements that reflect the diversity of your organization. It’ll go the distance in pulling everyone together in your organization. 

And there’s serious strength in solidarity.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

5 Elements of Great Copywriting

What do copywriters do when not sparring with art directors or contemplating some existential crisis over a demitasse of espresso/glass of wine/tumbler of absinthe?

Those who are experiencing any sort of success as copywriters are doing at least some, if not all, of the following things:

1. Drawing You in with a Story

A story fascinates. And provided it’s not an epic tome, it can be a powerful tool.

Way back when Apple was developing their earphones for the iPhone 5, they shared this story:

Apple engineers asked more than 600 people to test over 100 iterations of the Apple EarPods. Testers ran on treadmills in extreme heat and extreme cold. They performed various cardio workouts. They were even asked to shake their heads side to side, up and down. The result: Apple EarPods provide stronger protection from sweat and water, and they’re remarkably stable in the ear. Which means they stay in, even when you’re on the go.

Such a heartwarming tale. 

Maybe not. But it does provide a solid visual. You could just see the sweaty testers in the gym shaking their heads to test the stability of the earphones. 

And then you imagined that one guy on the treadmill in the red shirt who got annoyed when one of the ear buds from the
blonde woman on the neighboring treadmill nailed him directly in the left eye - but who later did a graceful jump off the bench press when Apple at last succeeded in their venture and a rainbow of balloons fell from the ceiling.

That might be a little specific. 

But the point is, you did picture something. And next time you’re looking for ear pods, you’ll remember that graceful jump. Or the balloons. Or whatever.

2. Tilting Your Perspective

Every story has a whole slew of angles. All the copywriter has to do is find the one that resonates with the audience. It takes some detective work sometimes, but it’s totally do-able.

Yet, there’s such a wealth of blah blah blah in advertising and marketing messages that we’ve become terribly adept at blocking out the vast majority of them. So why does this happen so much?

Well, either A) the copywriter rolled his/her eyes, took the target head on and didn’t bother to ask, “why does it matter?” or B) the copywriter took the time to write a stunning piece that broke down the reader’s guard with an unexpected edgy approach, which the client immediately vetoed because s/he “didn’t get it.” 

Okay. So it’s not really that cut and dry.

The true answer probably lies somewhere on the spectrum between those two options. But the copywriter’s primary job is to find the larger story behind the message. Making the client to get it is something else altogether. 

3. Listening

Quiz time! Do you think this business will be successful? (It’s another gym analogy.) 

A family is gearing up to launch a gym in an area already saturated with gyms. And these are gyms have classes, smoothie bars, personal trainers, specialty spas and Olympic sized fountain-of-youth swimming pools. These gyms get a workout just going head-to-head with one another in this seriously competitive industry. How is the family going to compete? 

By not offering ANY of those amenities.

Seem like a solid plan? If you said no, you’re wrong. It’s rock solid. And we’re going to tell you why. Mostly because we unfairly left out one really important aspect of the story:

The family took the time to grasp an understanding of its core audience. 

Before launching its new gym, they listened to their primary market of gym-goers. Yeah, people liked the luxury gyms and especially Dirk, the message therapist. But they didn’t like the expensive rates and complicated contracts. 

So the family decided to simplify. They found a large target audience in those who wanted to go to the gym to, well… workout. You know. Get in. Get out. Call it a day.

And the copy in both its launch campaign and across its marketing materials reflected that sentiment. 

What are we trying to say here? 

We’ll let Copyblogger's Robert Bruce break it down for you: 

"Humble yourself and truly serve your audience, listen to their needs and desires, listen to the language they use. If you listen carefully, your audience can eventually give you everything you need, including much of your copy. Get out of their way.”

And by all means, get out of your own way.

4. Persuading You with Problems

What are the features and specifications of a product or service? You can spew them out as a string of cold, hard facts - a particularly effective tactic if you’re conducting a sleep study.

Another option?

Keep readers engaged by presenting features as solutions to their problems. For example:

“Another brilliant feature of the Cute  Raccoon Sweater? It’s reversible to a Squirrel Sweater. That means you need only pack one rodent-themed sweater for that weekend away!”

Sure. It might not be a big problem. Or even real one. Because honestly, who packs two rodent-themed sweaters for a weekend getaway?

So try this one on for size instead: 

“New noise-canceling technology on the transistor radio reduces background noise. So when you hold it up to your ear in a loud room, you’ll hear what matters most - music and news from the 1960s.”

You get the point. 

5. Promoting Readability

And the way it does this is with short and broken sentences
that would make your high-school English teacher cringe. It’s grammatical anarchy.

But so be it.

See? We started that last sentence with But. And we just started this one with And. Both of which are red-pen worthy offenses in high school.

But we’re not talking about high school. We’re talking about 
sales copy. And it should be succinct and easy to read.

You might be saying, “But you said to tell a story earlier. And that requires, like, full-on sentences.” We’re still standing by that. When it has a purpose. If it isn’t going to make the ad memorable, forget it. Why bog readers down with unnecessary content?

These days, people are busy. They’re moving fast. On the go. 

Short sentences are much easier and more enjoyable to read than long sentences that lack spirit and personality. In fact, we might have JUST lost you at “short sentences.”  

Plus, short sentences have rhythm. 

Bringing it back around to Apple, they’re big fans of one-word sentences:

“All-new Lightning connector. Smaller. Smarter. Durable. Reversible.”

Hear the staccato rhythm? There is nothing toe-tapping about the grammatically correct version -  All-new Lightning connector: smaller, smarter, durable, and reversible. (It just slithered off a cliff.)

Rule of thumb for copywriters - keep copy under 12 words per sentence on average.

Short and sweet, y’all.

So Now You Know

The life of a copywriter is not all glitter, glamour and lime light. Clearly it’s none of those things. Because, let’s be honest, writing sales copy isn’t making great strides in making the world a better place. 

But if it’s good enough, it might just stick in someone’s head long enough to make the sale. And for clients, that’s what matters.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Question of the Week: Why Are My Customers Not Staying Engaged?

Ever been in a floundering relationship where your partner eventually ends it by saying, “It’s not you, it’s me.”? 

Well, this isn’t like that. At all. This time it IS you.

You and your customers are in a relationship. Yeah, it might be one-sided in terms of the customers ALWAYS getting what they want, when they want it, where they want it and how they want it. In a personal relationship, this dynamic would send you to a therapist. Or divorce court. 

But this is how the business-customer relationship thrives. 

Providing Great Customer Service Is Not Optional

It’s become a pre-requisite for doing business. So if your customers aren’t sending you flowers or writing you love songs any more, you need to focus on optimizing your customer service.

Establishing a superior brand experience is awesome. But it doesn’t end once you get the customers. The “superior” component of the experience also means keeping them. And like most relationships, it takes work. It’s worth it though. Emotionally engaged customers are three times more likely to recommend a product and be a repeat buyer.

So where do you begin?

Remember that customer engagement is about relating with your customers as fellow members of the human race. (At least, most of them.) So start by looking at your actions.

Certain Behaviors Could Be Affecting Your Customer Engagement

Think about times you’ve been poorly treated by a company. Did you find yourself thinking, “I would never treat a customer that way.” 

Of course you wouldn’t. Not consciously. But turn the mirror back on yourself and take a look at where you might be stumbling. 

Here are five ways businesses consistently lose customer engagement.

1. Talking At Customers

Your customers don’t want a constant “But wait, there’s more!” sales pitch. And if you’re forever engaged with the hard sell, that’s what you’re giving them. 

Rather than talk at them, talk TO them. 

2. Insufficient Explanation

If you are merely supplying a product or service to your customer, then wiping your hands clean and loudly announcing, “My work is DONE here!” then cut it out.

Aside from being needlessly dramatic, it’s also not cool to assume that just providing a product or service is sufficient. Customers have spent their hard-earned cash and want to know how to get the best out of your product or service.

3. Not Engaging Past Initial Sale

It’s called the Wham, Bam, Thank You, Ma’am (or Sir) Principle. Okay, it’s not. But it doesn’t matter because nobody likes it.

4. TMI

Too much information. You know what happens when you bombard your customers with untimely and irrelevant information? You give them carte blanche to actively ignore you.

5. Keeping Secrets

The absolute best way to eliminate any possibility of building long-term trust is to keep secrets from your customers. Transparency is the name of the game.  

Do any of these behaviors sound familiar? If your friends or colleagues treated you this way, would you stick around? Why should your customer?

Here’s the nitty gritty: 

There Must Be Consistent Conversation to Keep Customers Engaged

And not the chirpy “Thank you for being a (some dark empire corporation) customer! We appreciate your business,” variety. That’s just lip service. And customers know when they’re being… serviced.

Consider the customer journey as one of frequent interactions. Whether they’re dealing with a service rep, a tech person or you personally, the level of satisfaction across the board must be consistent.

Getting a feel for when and how to best interact can be a challenge though. Let alone how to do it at scale. So you may want to consider a personalization engine. This software has the ability to trigger action based on a customer’s behavior and then learn from their interaction.

And finally, ask yourself this. Are your employees happy?

Happy Employees Go A Long Way Toward Having Satisfied Customers

Treat your employees well. Those who are highly productive, motivated and passionate will represent your company in a positive light. After all, they’re the ones who drive the customer experience. You’d be well advised to know who’s at the wheel.

And if all of the work involved in keeping customer engagement feels like too much these days, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can help. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Question of the Week: Should I Be Doing More Aggressive Advertising on My Website?


It might surprise you that we’re taking this stance. 

As advertising and marketing folks, you may have assumed we would jump up and belt out an affirmation that would rival even the most enthusiastic Gospel Church congregant. 

More aggressive advertising!? Well, hallelujah!  

But no. Why not? 

Because most of the aggressive marketing tactics that have been birthed in the past few years are a tremendous drag. And unless your goal is to deter traffic, you’ll want to avoid putting them on your website.

Such Aggressive Marketing Tactics Do More To Drive People Away

Honestly. And if there are users who enjoy visiting your site on a regular basis, how do you think they’ll respond to your adding aggressive marketing ploys?

A. They’ll really LOVE being bombarded. 
B. They’ll maybe tolerate being bombarded.
C. They’ll put a curse on the next three generations of your family.

If you circled A, you need to take off the rose-colored glasses. If you circled B, you’re at least a little more realistic. A little. If you circled C, your visitors might need some help with anger management, but are actually justified in their response. Because here’s the thing:   

Aggressive Advertising These Days Is Really Annoying

Let’s explore some of the particularly irritating tactics.

1. The Autoplay Video

Do you remember the first time you experienced one of these? It probably wasn’t as monumental in your memory as hearing about  something REALLY important - like the new caramel M&M’s. 

But if you were at work or in a quiet library, you were probably confused when a video was suddenly playing on your screen - sound included. And then everyone gave you the stink-eye. 

2. The Chock Full o’ Ads and Graphics Page

If you're a big fan of visiting a page that takes forever to load, and then revel in dealing with text that keeps jumping around while some new file loads and keeps rearranging the page, then this one is for you! 

The rest of us, i.e. the vast majority of the population, will take a pass. 

3. Slides

Taking a well-crafted article and breaking it into countless slides - purely in the interest of getting more clicks - is such an obvious tactic.  Particularly when there’s a banner ad on each slide and you have to scroll through to find the “Next” button. Forget that noise. 

4. Popups

Come on. 

One is bad enough. But more than one should be filed under Crimes Against Humanity. 

And Then There’s Passive-Aggressive Marketing

This involves the tactic of making you an offer, and then giving you the choice of “Yes” or “No,” except that the No part is followed by some absurd statement like:

  • No, I don’t like saving money.
  • No, I’d rather lose out on your wisdom.
  • No, I really enjoy sticking pencils into my eyes.

And more often than not, the offer is to be on their emailing list - which they seem to liken to being shortlisted for the Nobel Prize. It’s a weak form of psychological warfare, and it’s pretty insulting. 

So if your website isn’t as effective in soliciting sales as you want it to be, don’t drive people away with aggressive marketing tactics. That’s just plain counterproductive.

Is it underperforming because it’s out of date? Could it stand to be redesigned and rewritten with an SEO strategy in mind? That’s a much more logical place to start…