I couldn’t be writing this blog post at a more interesting time. I’m right in the middle of the busiest month of the year for me. It’s been a hectic week so I’m left much more sleep deprived than usual; I’m emotionally preparing myself to be with my family this weekend for my father’s birthday who passed away last year; and, I just had my first car accident EVER coming into work this morning (I’m still a little shaken up, but I’m not injured). Even for a self-professed optimist, it would be quite difficult to stay positive and not get a little frustrated.
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfD2xyOWm6UThe newest campaign from Oreo captured my attention last Sunday night when the anthem spot (a 90-second commercial) aired during Mad Men. The infectious tune has played in my head for almost a week now. And when I don’t hear it in my brain, my wife is actually singing it out loud.
So what is it about this campaign that’s so brilliant? Well, for one, it’s well executed. The Martin Agency has married smart lyrics and happy melody with vibrant animation. It’s impossible not to smile when you watch the commercials.
At first, I was somewhat amused to see who was endorsing me for the different skills that I put up on my LinkedIn page. But soon, that amusement turned to bewilderment. If someone endorses me, do I have to endorse them back? What if I don’t really think their work is worth endorsing? What if I do not know them or have not worked with them? Is it bad behavior or poor manners not to re-endorse someone? What if I get endorsed by someone who has not worked with me in 10-15 years; is the endorsement really worth anything? Read More
Google “hottest woman ever” and you will see a picture of Jena, my buddy Eric Weaver‘s wife. Jena is definitely hot, but this is only her passport photo and still it’s usually the first Google search result. Check it out here or just search “hottest woman ever” on Google.
Eric is SVP Social Strategy & Intelligence at IPG Mediabrands. He posted this image of Jena on Flickr in 2005 and frequently refers to it in speaking engagements to make the point that Google loves engagement. Read More
The CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, was proud that his company had hit over 1 billion hours of video watching in one month. He posted a congratulatory note on his personal Facebook account praising his team for his hard work, and that 43 word message resulted in a slap on the hand from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) saying that he broke the Regulation Fair Disclosure act that requires a company to disclose information to all investors at the same time. While he has over 200,000 followers on his personal Facebook page, it is not an official corporate sanctioned page—and the 1 billion hour record could have been deemed insider information. However, if he had followed up his casual praise with a press release on the company page, all would be well. Read More
April Fools’ Day: a day to celebrate a bit of lighthearted fun. To some, it’s just another day; to many, it’s an afterthought; but then there are those select few dedicated souls who await this day all year with eager anticipation, spending weeks (or months) plotting the perfect practical joke. To those, we commend you for your efforts, and thank you for providing the rest of us with a source of entertainment to brighten up the workday. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite pranks from this year: Read More
With Grafik’s help, DC Prep’s mission of bridging the educational divide in Washington, DC was put to the forefront with the launch of their new website, www.dcprep.org. Since its inception, Grafik’s work with DC Prep has been comprehensive, spanning all aspects of the school’s communication channels from strategic positioning to brand identity development to two versions of the DC Prep website. In the website’s most recent evolution, our goal was to better serve current parents, support teacher recruiting efforts, and provide potential parents with the information they need to enroll their children. To properly motivate their targets, we felt it important to highlight their awards and academic achievements, provide a rational, streamlined information architecture, surface prominent calls-to-action, showcase vibrant photography that visually demonstrate life at DC Prep, and fully integrate social media to personally connect with the audience.
Founded in 2003, DC Prep was established as a public charter school in order to bring exemplary academics and character development education to more than 3,000 preschool, elementary, and middle school students. DC Prep has a firm commitment to not only improve performance of low-income, minority students, but to also equip them with the skills needed for the rigors of higher education.
The last day of panel sessions kicked off with a heated, albeit nerdy, discussion. With representatives from Tumblr and Facebook present, two platforms that have clearly mastered the mobile platform, I was anxious to hear about how one should evaluate the appropriate mobile execution for their client. Instead, the session got off to a pretty technical debate about native/web hybrid vs. 100% mobile web, with representatives on the panel sitting firmly in one camp or the other. But before I dig into the specifics, it’s important to outline the four different solutions that were discussed:
- Native Application – An application written specifically for the device operating system (OS). It is not cross-platform and it requires you to install and upgrade. Example: Mint.com iPhone app
- Native/Web Hybrid – An application written specifically for the device OS that relies on native elements like navigation, settings, etc., but employs web services to provide dynamic content experiences. Example: Facebook, Tumblr
- Locally Rendered HTML – An application that requires installation, but locally renders HTML and stylesheets to provide a dynamic, web-like experience. Example: Flipboard, New York Times
- Mobile Web – More specifically, HTML5. Site requires you to access through the browser application or shortcut icon, but uses HTML5 to create a custom for mobile experience, all using the browser’s built-in display functionality.
And while the panel did not land firmly on one side or the other, they did offer pros and cons to each which I thought I’d share, rather than taking a position (since honestly, I’m still not 100% sure which way I’d lean).
Native / Web Hybrid
- Pro: Allows you to take advantage of the best of both worlds. You can access the native widgets for each OS, but also provide dynamic content.
- Pro: You can easily monetize your app by listing it in the Apple app store.
- Con: Given the native application shell, creating a native/web hybrid has a slightly higher barrier to entry since it requires a programmer familiar with the iOS code.
- Con: Requires a specific content strategy.
- Pro: Programming a mobile site can be achieved by most developers. A much lower barrier to entry compared to the note above for hybrids.
- Pro: Mobile web allows for the use of HTML5 and responsive layouts and can take advantage of the same content applied for tablets and web, even if just a portion of it.
- Pro: Gets around some of the restrictions imposed by the Apple app store.
- Con: On the flip side, a mobile website is much harder to monetize… at the moment.
So, I think the key takeaway is that there are many ways to take your content to the mobile device, but understanding what your business strategy is, what content you want to share, and who your audience is will greatly influence which way you go. I think the one point everyone agrees on is that brands can no longer sit on the sidelines; a mobile presence is required for all brands.
Pinterest Explained: Q&A with Co-Founder Ben Silbermann
Practically a full house, we attended a great Q&A session with Ben Silbermann, the man behind Pinterest led by entrepreneur/investor/blogger Chris Dixon. It was an hour conversation where Ben talked freely about his aspirations and inspirations and his goals for the future development of his fasted-growing social media service.
What I really enjoyed listening to was how he walked us through his personal journey from when he started at Google up to the his company’s success today. He always reinforced how important it was to stay focus even through rough times and keep yourself surrounded with the people who are passionate for the right reasons.
Some other interesting points he made:
- His core inspiration for starting Pinterest came from simply how he saw life—as a world of collections.
- His team worked through the usability of his site all on paper.
- He strongly believes that you show that you have put as much time into the product as you expect out of your user.
- His goal is to never try and out perform his clone competitors. His focus is always on creating the best product.
- And at the end of the day in addition to developing Pinterest, his team is the most exciting thing he’s building these days.
The last session of the day and of our entire SXSW excursion discussed the usual obstacles faced when using a Facebook brand page as a customer service tool. This panel was certainly a popular one as it was a packed house and it had every right to be with equally (if not more) popular panelists Mark Williams of LiveWorld, Bryan Person of Social Dynamx, Eric Ludwig of Rosetta Stone, and Molly DeMaagd of AT&T. From tips on how to handle difficult customer inquiries or how to deal with the new Facebook Timeline format, the well-spoken speakers shared some of their insights on the best use this social channel in handling customer inquiries.
Here are some of their best points:
- Constantly look at efficiency tools & staffing capacity and needs on a daily basis. Time is of the essence so make sure you are as efficient and well-staffed as possible
- When taking the conversation off-line, do it in a matter that doesn’t stifle the conversation. Stay human & transparent.
- Investigate how your fans engage before dedicating attention to a certain channel on your strategy. You don’t want to misdirect resources.
- When staffing customer service social teams, writing skills and passion for what the company is about are crucial.
- When you personify your brand page, make sure you follow the “feelings not facts” philosophy.
The morning got off to an early, but energetic start with a great discussion about the future of the tablet, led by Brian Burke from Smashing Ideas Inc. The topics of discussion ranged from a consumers unwillingness to purchase apps to the advantages offered to the web experience by the more intimate tablet interface. The key question on everyone’s mind, and quite honestly, one that our clients ask when considering taking their brand to the tablet, is what makes the tablet experience different than that from the web? Why should they consider a unique tablet experience when their website displays “just fine” on the tablet? And if you spend any time on the tablet, the answer is quite simple: the tablet plays a much more intimate role in your user’s life than their computer does. The tablet encourages the user to use gestural actions. Consuming content requires you to use your whole arm, which activates more neurons than clicking a mouse. The tablet encourages you to invite the content you are consuming into your personal space. And the panel theorizes that as we get more and more used to engaging with brands on a tablet device, we will begin to reject controls that separate us from the content we are trying to consume. But if there is one key takeaway from this session, it happens to be a philosophy that I believe in very passionately: when designing an experience for the tablet, don’t get sidetracked by stats. Instead, think about the role the device is playing in your audience’s life when they are consuming your content. Are they at their local Starbucks? Are they on their couch late at night? Or, while we may not want to think about it, are they in the bathroom? Regardless of what the answer to that question is, create a tablet experience that complements the “how” and “where,” not just the “why.”
The purpose of this session was supposedly to discuss “alternative” channels of content distribution, and given the savvy level of many attending SXSW, I believe we all assumed that channels other than Facebook and Twitter would be discussed (sad that many of us consider Facebook and Twitter “mainstream”). However, the panelists themselves represented major brands (AmEx, Warner Bros and Smirnoff Diageo) who actually still DO consider Facebook and Twitter alternative to the web and traditional forms of media. And given the relative success American Express Go Social and the fact that movies can be made or broken through social media, Amex and WB had a few nuggets that I thought were worth passing along to you:
- The loyalty marketing world is not shifting to digital rewards. Instead, it’s using the digital platform to extend their offering.
- The beauty of the digital reward is that for the first time, brands can actually engage their audience and quickly enable that audience to influence others.
- When developing your social loyalty program, you cannot forget that it’s a journey, and you may make a mistake along the way. That’s OK.
- Don’t ask for ROI to justify that journey. It’s a crutch for the fearful. What is the ROI that marketers are getting from bus backs or mass transit campaigns? And did your client ask you for an ROI then?
As a digital marketer, the last bullet hit home more than any other statement made during the discussion. Why? Because as a digital marketer, you are accustomed to tracking every touch point and sometimes, the data can be scary. It’s that fear that may stifle innovation, when in reality, if that same data had been available for offline tactics, some of the more brilliant marketing campaigns may have never come to be.
This session discussed how brands have evolved into taking on the role of publishers as they embrace the broadcasting capacity of social media channels. This panel was of particular interest of mine because I specifically wanted to hear the insights of panelist Sarah Smith who is the Director of Online Operations at Facebook. Other panelists included EB Boyd a reporter at Fast Company, Kevin Barenblat CEO of Context Optional, Justin Merickle VP of Marketing at Efficient Frontier, and Halle Hutchinson Senior Director of Brand Marketing at Expedia.com. The point that resonated most with me is how they all agreed that the definition of a good ad has greatly changed. Before, the more distracting and attention grabbing an ad is, the better. Now, the more an ad seamlessly integrates itself within customers stories and overall social “talk” or chatter, the better. Smith stressed this notion while giving Facebook’s Sponsored Stories as an example of branded messaging assimilating itself with friend’s stories. With this shift in marketing and advertising, the skills of the staff has to appropriately shift as well. More and more are marketing professionals being required to possess reporting skills in order to meet the demands of daily content generation.
This panel discussion consisted of three panel speakers: Dan Roam from Digital Roam, Inc., Jessica Hagy from Creative Mercenary, and Sunni Brown from sunnibrown.com. The topic of the panel dealt with how more and more companies are reinforcing the whiteboard culture because of the benefits that visual language can bring into a presentation or sales’s pitch.
As a designer it’s important to be able to sketch out our ideas, but what I learned from this discussion was a how important a simple sketch can be in expressing any idea regardless if you can draw or not. It has been proven that drawing or using simple visuals to articulate even the most complex concepts such as mathematical equations can improve your thinking. Surprisingly, you’ll also even remember it longer that if someone said it. In addition to the talk, they walked us through a few quick tutorials that taught us to take a simple statements and rapidly transform it into a visual displays .
Overall, here are few tips to remember:
- Visual language is not meant to be beautiful. If you’re stuck, start by drawing a circle.
- Do not judge your drawing skills. The point is not to be perfect.
- Create as sense of confidence. To be smart is to “see.” There’s nothing more to it.
I chose this session because more and more of our clients are asking for video. Presented by Tim Washer, senior marketing manager of Cisco, this talk was one of the more entertaining presentations so far. His work has appeared in Advertising Age and AdWeek and The New York Times and he has also a comedy writer/actor, and credits include Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, SNL and the The Onion Sports Network.
Along with sharing some of his favorite videos that he wrote and produced, Washer mentions some great advice and rules on how to go about bringing humor into our own videos. Here were a few examples:
- Humor can be a wonderful way to simplify your message. Start simple and sometimes you have to fight to be simple.
- Bringing humor in B2B videos can be successful because it’s unexpected.
- Identify your natural employee storytellers and arm them with the ability to create shareable content.
- Don’t talk about the product.
- Always try and evoke a positive emotion.
- Humanize your brand.
- Humor is like giving a gift to your audience.
- Look into nearby film schools to resource out video if your budget is tight.
- One of the strongest connection we can make with another human is to make them laugh.
- Finding a key editor is important but finding an editor that can edit humor is essential.
The glorious Austin sun decided to grace us with its presence on Sunday which made running around the city from panel to talk to session a lot more enjoyable. The Grafik team continued their live-tweet and live-blogging coverage, but in case you missed it, here is a rundown of what we attended and our key takeaways:
By far one of the best panels Brad has attended in his two years at SXSW, Jimmy Fallon hosted a panel consisting of Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport at Nike, Andrew Wilson, Executive VP of EA Sports, and even an Olympic gold medalist! The purpose of pulling together such an interesting group of people was to discuss how technology is evolving how consumers engage with sports, using real life examples ranging from the use of Nike+ while you workout or the incorporation of live stats into video game play. Some of the key takeaways included:
- Technology has broken down barriers, making information that was only available to elite athletes available to the every day athlete.
- Technology is influencing real life. Manchester City youth soccer players are required to play FIFA on the EA console to learn team strategy and tactics.
- For Nike to grow, they must evolve from being just a product company to becoming a service company, and Nike+ is leading the way.
Between the foot race contested between Jimmy Fallon and an audience member, and several questions from black level Nike+ members, it’s safe to say that this panel go-er felt slightly out of shape and in desperate need of the new Nike Fuel Band!
Based on just reading the title, you may ask why I would attend this panel? Planned Parenthood Federation of America is known to have it’s own share of controversy and they’ve utilized social tools for crisis management. All the five panelists were involved with the “Stand Up for Planned Parenthood” campaign which targeted the negative reproductive healthcare conversation that erupted in the House of Representatives last year. There’s an balancing act between the right information/message and timeliness when tweeting on behalf of an organization or brand, especially during a high-pressure situation. Here are some of the top tips/insightful quotes the panelists gave:
- Inform and educate as much as you can. When it’s your issue or cause, it’s easy to believe that others know and care as much you do. That isn’t always true
- Get control of your message early. Old instinct is to wait to respond, but new media doesn’t wait.
- Because a crisis may require an all hands on deck responding, EVERYBODY in an organization should know social media social media.
- Have a plan. Everyone in the organization should be on the same page. It’s very difficult to do constant checks in during a crisis so make sure the entire team know the messaging and stick to it.
This session was a packed house as it attracted people from branding, social media, video production, marketing, journalism as well as both online and offline strategists. In the advent of social media, any one person has numerous channels and platforms to consume content, whatever that type of content may be. This session focused on the importance of maintaining authentic voice across the different venues of content. Coming into this talk I defined an authentic social voice as a transparent one that stays true to the brand it represents. I still believe in that definition, but panelist Sean Amos, Founder/Managing Partner of Amos Content Group also expressed different angle to the definition. He said “a beer company and it’s beer-drinking customers share beer as a common interest. However, it’s likely that there are other common interests. Identifying those interests and speaking to them in line with your brand is what authenticity is.” I agree with Amos. Social media is a two-way channel and finding a way to actively listen to your audience and learning what they need and want, before engaging is an “authentic” way of communicating on behalf of a brand.
This panel discussion dealt with how the rise of mobile photography was effecting our creativity and what it now meant in this post photography era. The panel was composed of four diverse individuals—an associate professor of New Media from Berkeley, a curator of photography for the Library of Congress, and the founder and CEO of Instagram.
Overall, the panel was in agreement that mass of photography may at times appear mundane and thoughtless, but we are indeed in a golden age of storytelling. As Vernas Curtis (curator from the Library of Congress) puts it, “the mundane helps capture our world today. This mass collection of photography will serve as a form of documentation when we look back in history on things such as what we buy, eat and drink. This very act of personal expression is important in knowing who we are as people now more than being artsy. Applications such as Instagram will not only helps us see more of the world, it allows us to share it with the rest of the world.” Kevin Systrom (founder of Instagram) also adds that his company is constantly looking at ways to apply value to this documentation with building off new technology. Richard Koci Hernandez (the associate professor from Berkely and journalist photographer) is also a big fan of Instagram and encouraged us to use it, but also quickly advices and points out to the crowd, “it’s not about what we keep, but what we throw away.” And Mila interpreted this as, even if the world has gone camera-mad and we can photograph everything we want at anytime, it’s also good to filter through our photos and keep what we really feel is worth keeping. This editing process is still a very important aspect in your creative process.
When it came to question and answer time, an interesting question was directed to Kevin Systrom from Instagram, “which brands are using instagram successfully?” He quickly listed the brands below. We’re looking forward to see how some of their best practices could apply to some our clients.
And finally to top it off, Koci Hernandez ended the session where he hooked up his iPhone to the screen and walked us through a quick tutorial of how he creates some of his photos and showed us some of the cool apps he was using.