Designing a visual experience as a form of content marketing

A duck on a ledge says what?

happy duck

I took this photo after reading this Mashable article which discusses, in part, how “visual storytelling” is an emerging marketing trend. What’s the story behind the duck? Did I, via the duck picture, add to the narrative of this Norwegian brand? With the debut and popularity of Pinterest and Instagram, brands are rethinking their presence and how they deliver an experience based around sharable visual imagery.

In addition to discussing this marketing trend, the Mashable article delved into the overall issue of “designed experience”. The article discussed many of the benefits of incorporating “designed experience” and “web beautification” principles into app development and marketing. Yet the article offered little guidance on how to kick-start such an initiative. Luckily, I found this research which offers such guidance. Key take-aways include:

  • Understand that effective personas describe a mentality and behavior not an actual person, they are archetypes
  • Personas do not equate to market segmentation but define attitudes and behaviors and, thus, help designers in generating ideas and solutions
  • Effective personas focus on a single purpose (effective apps do so too)

Finally, the research article points out that when applying personas in the design process, product/service developers and managers should develop a task flow for a particular persona. This task flow is a critical step in the process because it defines user engagement points and an optimal sequence of steps a user may take. If designers/developers understand the optimal sequence of tasks, they can improve design elements to make it easier for users to accomplish tasks; this equates to a better experience.

Social media and Obama victory

The New York Times has a great read on how Obama embraced social media to help win the election.

Thomas Jefferson used newspapers to win the presidency, F.D.R. used radio to change the way he governed, J.F.K. was the first president to understand television…Senator Barack Obama understood that you could use the Web to lower the cost of building a political brand.

Consider the following:

3,099,323 supporters and 527,783 wall messages on an Obama Facebook page.

136,083 subscribers on an Obama YouTube channel.

This user-generated Obama video has 11,696,725 views as of this posting (and is this a good, bad, or neutral brand impression? Does it matter?):

An interesting theory raised in the New York Times article is that by embracing and using social media’s power to organize and influence–and help raise $600 million–traditional party foundations have been irrevocably shaken, if not permanently altered. Similarly, it seems to me that many firms today are in a place where the political parties were pre-Obama: comfortably employing “tried and true” models to promote, build, sustain, and manage their brands.

Yes, entities like Trulia, Zillow, etc, injected much needed creativity and transparency into the historically balkanized and feudal-like operations of the real estate industry. But the industry has now largely absorbed the impact these entities had and is now challenging them in certain ways (e.g., by demanding accountability in terms of lead quality and conversion as opposed to just click volumes). However, it’s social media that will change the foundations of the real estate industry, just like it did in the recent presidential campaign.

Further, what’s brilliant about social media is that in and of itself it’s transparent. You want the inside scoop on Obama’s strategy? It’s no secret, really, because you can just see what his team put together. That is, you can model your own social media strategy on Obama’s (e.g., look at how the Obama team structured its Facebook page and YouTube channel) and deduce what strategic choices were made by studying the tactics employed. For more strategies, I encourage you to also visit Owyang’s blog.

Measuring marketing influence

This research paper by Deloitte is an excellent summary of important considerations firms should make when re-valuing their marketing team’s contributions. The gist of the article is that it’s incumbent upon firms to set up a marketing measurement scorecard that accounts for the systemic impact marketing expenditures have on the bottom line.

The paper argues that the measurement system needs to go beyond typical CRM-system level reporting (i.e., moving beyond just measuring ROI as the primary indicator of marketing performance) and align with overall company strategy, account for competitive influences on a product or service’s marketplace success or failure, eliminate silos between separate business units, and measure across product development and roll-out lifecycles.