Resolutions for 2016

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After a busy first half of December and a nice long break for the second half, I came back to work this week excited for the new year!  The break gave me some time away from the daily routine to really evaluate my marketing strategy. It allowed me to find new inspiration and open my eyes to a bigger picture.  Before the work ramps up again, I would like to take some time to put some goals down on paper (so to speak) and start the new year on the right track!

  1. Nail Down Processes
    2015 was a year of adjustments and re-calibration – adjusting to the new position, learning my way around the internal structure of the company, A/B testing, re-calibrating and then more testing.  Jumping from project to project, my goal was just to keep up!  Instead of working more this year, I want to work smarter.  Now that I have a better understanding of the ebb and flow, the key players, and the internal processes, it is about putting processes in place that make my work easier.  It is also about having a stronger and more complete strategy that will guide all marketing activities.
  2. Putting Mobile First
    Mobile has already overtaken desktop in local search – I’ve known that for quite some time.  This past year, my Google Analytics and email dashboards more than proved this to me.  Now it’s time to make sure the mobile-first thinking is applied not just to the website but to emails, search ads, display ads and everything in between.
  3. Simplify the Customer Experience
    Attention spans are getting shorter and consumers are faced with information overload that clutter their ability to make decisions.  It’s a fine balance, deciding on how much information to put.  In 2016, my goal is to simplify the customer experience – by using single call to actions that clearly lead to the next stage of the funnel, by clearly labeling actions and defining the next steps.
  4. Refining Segmentation
    Email marketing plays a significant role in our overall marketing strategy.  Beyond using email to communicate with our customers and staying top of mind, this year I want to take our emails to the next level and use them to build and cultivate relationships with our audience.  Segmentation, customization and personalization will be a top priority for me.  This will definitely mean more work for me but hey, if I get #1 figured out, this shouldn’t be a problem ;)
  5. Reporting
    Tracking, monitoring and reporting are so important – it’s your feedback from your customers. But when the work ramps up, somehow the reporting always end up at the bottom of my to-do list.  This is dangerous and I risk losing touch with what my customers care about and making assumptions that are not based on fact.  I know this and my goal this year is to delve deeper into analytics so that I can have a deeper understanding of what my customers want.

I believe all of these ‘resolutions’ are achievable and I plan on tackling them all in 2016 because ultimately, they will just make me a better marketer!  Have you set any marketing ‘resolutions’ for the new year?  I would be interested in knowing what your goals are for this coming year.

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The 2016 Pirelli Calendar and Staying on Top of Cultural Changes

Yao

Earlier this week, the 2016 Pirelli calendar made the news for its radical departure from past years’ editions.  It’s not so much marketing news but I wanted to recognize the impact of the change they made this year to the calendar.

The Pirelli calendar has always been known for its choice of models and overtly sexy photo shoots.  Over the years, the calendar has featured Hollywood stars and “IT” models of the moment in the fashion industry.  Not only that, the women were always dressed and posed provocatively (if not topless altogether).

This year however, photographer Annie Leibovitz took a major departure with her set of photographs for the 2016 caelndar.  Instead of selecting fashion models or actresses, Leibovitz selected a group of accomplished women, all with significant contributions to their name.  The 2016 calendar features Serena Williams, a top ranked tennis player, American author Fran Lebowitz, businesswoman Mellody Hobson, humanitarian Yao Chen amongst others.

As well, gone are the beaches and the exotic locales! The 2016 set were all shot in black and white in a studio. All the models were photographed in their element, looking strong, majestic and authentic.

In fact, I would even say they were sexy!

Pirelli is just one of many companies that have recognized the need to recognize strength in women.  Strength, not just as in physical strength but their intellect, their courage to ‘lean in’ and their willingness to break barriers.  These companies have listened to their consumers, felt the shift in expectations and have risen to meet them.

With one photo shoot, the 140 year-old tire manufacturer showed that they could still be relevant.  After all, women are capable of bringing so much more to the table than being subjects in a photo shoot set of pretend reality!

Companies that have not recognized this monumental shift are faced with harsh consequences.  (See most recently, Bic’s attempt to market to women with their sexist ad).  Today’s consumers are very tough critics afterall!  So, from a marketing perspective, companies must stay in tune with public perception and recognize these shifts in culture. Yes, culture does evolve all the time which means that as organizations, you have to be in tune with what your customers care about and what they are talking about.

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Pep Talk Wednesday: Elizabeth Gilbert on Fear & Authenticity

BigMagic

If you haven’t watched Marie Forleo’s interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, it is definitely worth a watch (especially if you are in the creative fields!) The interview talks about the ideas that are shared in Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic. I watched the interview for the first time a few nights ago and have not been able to stop thinking about it.  There were so many gems and great take-aways.

If you are short on time (the full interview is 47 minutes long), here are my personal take-aways. The video is included below too if you want to watch.

Fear as a Necessary Companion

Gilbert talks about the idea of fear being a necessary companion in any creative process and also life in general. Fear is what keeps us safe and alive but at the same time, it is often also what holds us back from pursuing our creative ventures. So instead of trying to conquer fear or ‘to punch it in the face’, what we should be doing instead is to embrace fear and to bring them along for the ride – just make sure they are in the backseat.  Creativity is all about uncertainty so when your fears speak, you have to just say, “Thank you for how much for how much you care about me. Your services are not needed here, because I’m just writing a poem!”

Creativity will always provoke fear because it asks you to enter into a realm of uncertain outcome. – Elizabeth Gilbert

On Originality and Authenticity

As a marketer, I often have this (irrational) fear of running out of original ideas or not being original enough.  I’ve dismissed many ideas this way – with a simple “it’s probably been done before”. In fact, it has probably been done before but you are allowed to add to the pile.  I guess the beauty of marketing is that ideas can be recycled – as long as you put your own spin to them.  I guess that is called finding inspiration!

On Living a Creative Life

Living creatively requires commitment.  Every pursuit, no matter how glamorous it may seem, comes with a ‘shit sandwich’.  Gilbert says this in her new book, Big Magic, “Finding your true purpose is really about deciding which flavour of shit sandwich you’re really in for.”  Every venture will come with ups and downs, it may pay the bills or it may not. But if it is what you love, despite all the ups and downs, then stick to it, do what you have to and don’t quit.  Luckily for me, my creative outlet does pay the bills.  But all the same, my biggest take-away here is that the road to creativity is not a smooth ride.  Creativity takes dedication and a willingness to try, to venture outside of the box and to not fear failure. There will be days when ideas don’t come easily but it is the price to pay for all the good ideas to follow. Not every idea will turn into a viral campaign but it is the persistence and commitment to innovate that counts.

 

Here is the video.  I can’t wait to pick up a copy of Big Magic!

 

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Generation Z

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If you are still trying to figure out how to market to Generation Y, now would be a good time for you to move on to Generation Z. Being in the education sector myself, the idea of marketing to this next generation of consumers has been on my mind a lot lately.

Generation Z generally refers to those born in the late 1990’s – which means that the first cohorts have now reached the age of majority.  US Census predicts Gen Z will ultimately reach close to 80 million, which means that by 2020, they will account for 40% of all consumers.

Much like the previous generation (known as Gen Y or ‘Millennials’), this generation will grow up around technology and most likely be even more tech-savvy as a whole.  This will influence the way they communicate, how they interact with one another and with brands and how quickly they process information.

Every year, Beloit College (Wisconsin) produces the Beloit College Mindset List, a list that examines the ‘cultural touchstones that shape the lives of the students entering college’ that Fall.

“The Class of 2019 will enter college with high technology an increasing factor in how and even what they learn. They will encounter difficult discussions about privilege, race, and sexual assault on campus. They may think of the ‘last century’ as the twentieth, not the nineteenth, so they will need ever wider perspectives about the burgeoning mass of information that will be heading their way. And they will need a keen ability to decipher what is the same and what has changed with respect to many of these issues.” – Charles Westerberg, Director of the Liberal Arts in Practice Center and Brannon-Ballard Professor of Sociology at Beloit College

I can imagine how such a list would be helpful to professors, instructors and educators so that they can better connect with their students.  Especially for this generation of shortened attention spans, 24/7 connectivity and instant messaging, educators will have to make sure they remain relatable and relevant.

The list offers a glimpse of what Generation Z is like- here are a few interesting facts:

  • Google was founded in 1998 so Gen Z has never known a world without the tech giant
    This offers a glimpse of the type of access to information that Gen Z has and how integrated Google can be in their lives. After all, Gen Z grew up with YouTube, Gmail, Google Talk / Hangout in their lives
  • Email as a way of communication
    Even more so than Gen Y, this generation grew up using email as a way of communication that is socially accepted (if not encouraged). Where as email was seen as a more informal way of communication, email has become the new ‘formal’. Texting and tweeting are now considered ‘informal’. So – if you are wanting to market to this audience, get ready to text… and be available around the clock!
  • Wi-Fi as an entitlement
    This generation has been the most connected generation to date. Wi-Fi, connectivity and access are to be expected and not seen as a luxury.
  • Access to the Internet
    Instead of parents having to encourage their kids to explore the ‘net’, modern day parents are now finding themselves having to limit access, sometimes even using it as leverage.
  • Cell Phones… in the Classroom
    Cell phones (which is now the same as a smart phone) have become so ubiquitous that teachers are now challenged with how to do deal with them in the classrooms. Lessons here is that it is probably better to incorporate them into the classroom rather than banning them.

Marketing to this generation will require an openness to communicating in different ways. Whether it is over text or on social media, there is an expectation of instantaneous response and interaction. One way marketing will fall on deaf ears.

Growing up in an age of information and sensory overload also means that this generation will be the most adept at filtering out unwanted messages.  To get through all the clutter, a brand will have to be authentic and relevant, taking care not to be too overt in its advertising.

Just like the Millennial generation, it can be easy to make assumptions about this generation – assuming they are socially-inept, entitled, and lazy.  In fact, this generation is turning out to be quite the opposite.  What the challenge will be for brands and employers is distinguishing between their online identities and who they are ‘in real life’ – offline.  Understanding this difference will be key for companies that want to be successful over the next decade.

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Talking About Tourism Marketing

One of my greatest passions (aside from marketing, of course) is travelling.  I love seeing new places, learning about other cultures and getting inspired by local marketing and advertising too. I am currently planning for my next adventure – in about a month’s time, we will be heading to beautiful Alaska!

When I research and plan my travel itineraries, I usually like to head over to the local tourism websites.  They are usually a great resource with planning tools and links to upcoming events, restaurants, must see hot spots and even promotions. In recent years, I’ve noticed so many non-profit tourism marketing organizations branch out from their website and venture into new digital mediums for their marketing.  From Instagram accounts to Vine videos, contests and even working with local bloggers to help highlight what their cities have to offer – from an outsider’s perspective, it definitely looks like a fun industry to be in!

I would say that the industry as a whole has really upped their game! Just take a look at the major difference in these 2 videos, created 4 years apart. Granted, they are not from the same organization but I think it depicts just how much the industry has grown in recent years!

This video from Tourism Jasper popped up in YouTube while I was searching for videos on Alaska. I say, ad dollars well spent there!


Title: Venture Beyond
Agency: Stormy Lake Consultants and C&B Advertising
Client: Tourism Jasper

The respective websites also tell a very different story.  The Travel Alaska site is a bit chunkier to use and researching on my phone proved to be difficult since many of the pages were text-heavy. The main focus was on Alaska’s natural beauty (no doubt what the majority of visitors are looking for). There were also many layers with a lot of information buried deeper into the site.  I wonder if many of the readers delved as far as I did (or if I was just a tad bit less patient than the average user… ;D )

Tourism Jasper Venture Beyond

On the other hand, the Tourism Jasper site was highly visual. The pictures highlighted not only of Jasper’s natural beauty but also the many other activities and experiences the destination had to offer.  It incorporated Instagram and benefited from the efforts spent on social media. While the site also presented a lot of information, there were fewer layers (and fewer clicks to get to information).  The site also made it very easy to connect with local vendors for accommodations, food and activities.

While I will be proceeding with my trip to Alaska, the exposure to the “Venture Beyond” video from Tourism Jasper has certainly opened my eyes to what Jasper has to offer.  It might be time to start exploring my own country!

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Ram Truck Targets the Elusive Female Truck Buyers

I saw this ad from Ram Trucks the other day – and it really blew me away.  It wasn’t so much the content of the ad but the fact that it was Ram Trucks targeting the female market. How very different and yet, awesome at the same time!  I think I am so conditioned to seeing truck ads with heavy rock music, rugged terrains, and trucks pulling something heavy that seeing this one really threw me in for a loop.  Picking up on the female empowerment theme, Ram Trucks does a good job of sending an inspirational message that is strong yet feminine.

Check it out:

Title: Courage is Already Inside
Agency: The Richards Group
Client: Ram Trucks

Accompanied by a short caption “Have you ever thought you just didn’t have anything left in the tank? Well — you do. Guts. Glory. Ram.”, the ad is just so powerfully and thematically effective.

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Looking into this further, it seems that Ram Trucks also partnered with country singer Miranda Lambert to create this song (or ad?) released back in May titled “Roots and Wing”. “I am very inspired by what the Ram brand stands for — being who you are, working hard, staying true to your roots,” Lambert said in her press release for the song. “I wanted to write a song that would represent all of those things. ‘Roots and Wings’ is personal to me about where I come from and where I am going. The guys at Ram really made the lyrics come to life with the imagery and I hope it speaks to people the way it does to me.” Miranda Lambert is such a great fit for the brand – the perfect mix of country, home grown American roots, strength and mass appeal to cater to the female pickup buyers!


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10 Tips for Writing for Mobile – Post Mobileggedon

Now that we are a few months past ‘Mobileggedon’ – how did your sites fare with the algorithm update? Back in February, Google’s Webmaster Central blog made this announcement:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices. (Full blog post here)

Luckily, none of my sites were impacted greatly in the search results.  When I first heard of the news, I was a bit concerned about this ‘deadline’ / ‘ultimatum’.  When I thought more on it – it just makes plain sense!  If you don’t already have a mobile-friendly site set up, you are causing your customers so much hassle (and lots of unnecessary scrolling, zooming & wishing for tinier fingers).  On that note though, having a mobile-friendly site is not enough to ensure a pleasant site visit.  One of the important factors you have to consider is that content consumption is different on a mobile device.  If you haven’t already explore Thinking with Google’s research on Micro Moments, head over now for some great insight. In short, mobile search is more purposeful – the ‘Is-it-worth-it moments’ to ‘show-me-how moments’ to ‘ready-for-a-change moments’ are all ‘inspired moments’ that are mostly on-the-go.

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

If your business receives a lot of mobile search, you have to make sure the content on your site is mobile-friendly and conducive to the ‘moment’ your audience is conducting their search. A restaurant for example, might want to make their menu easily accessible on their website. Not only that, knowing site visitors might be visiting on their mobile devices, they might want to not make their menu a downloadable PDF file (just saying!) Here are a few more pointers on writing for mobile:

  1. Write a Compelling Headline – think of what your customers will be searching for and write headlines that satisfies their needs. This will draw them in to either make contact or dig deeper. Keep your headlines short – 55 characters or less as guideline.
  2. Use Sub Headlines – readers consumer content in chunks so guide them through the page with informative sub headlines. Even better if they make sense on their own!
  3. Deliver Content in Bite-Size Bits – each section under a sub headline should be concise as well!
  4. Make Your Content Skimmable – remember that smaller screens will make even the smallest paragraphs seem long winded.  After writing your content, edit and refine to make sure your content is as concise as it can be.  Use bullet lists, bolded or italicized text to bring focus to important points.
  5. Keep Your Most Important Information at the Top – according to Content Marketing Institute, users give 68% of their attention to the center and top half of a mobile page, and a full 86% to the upper two-third. Below that point, they tend to lose focus and concentration.
  6. Use Images Wisely – people love to look at pictures. When given a choice between images or text, most reader’s eyes will gravitate towards the images. Images also take up a lot of space (something you don’t have a lot of on mobile). So – before you add images alongside your text, think about whether it will be a distraction or enhancement to your content.
  7. Be as Concise as Possible –  Edit, edit and then edit some more! Writing for mobile is not just about using fewer words, it is about writing better. That means getting rid of unnecessary filler words and phrases.
  8. Leave Spaces Between Links – if you are adding links to your writing, be sure to leave enough room in between so that your users can accurately select the link they want. (Not all of us have tiny, delicate fingers…)
  9. Remember Your Keywords – SEO is still important, even if you are writing for mobile. Remember to include your keywords for SEO purposes.
  10. Don’t Rely on Design – with all the different phones we have out there, what is ‘above’ the fold on an iPhone 6 might not be in the same spot on a Samsung Galaxy. The point is, don’t rely on design to position your content where you want. It will be impossible to satisfy all the screen sizes out there!

If you haven’t thought about your mobile content – now is a great time to get started!

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