Monthly Archives: July 2011

Rules of Mobile Mayhem: Things to Remember as You Plan a Mobile Presence

I recently came across a video of poet and storyteller Rives presenting his poem “If I Controlled the Internet” at TEDSalon 2006.

My, how things have changed in 5 years. 2006 was pre-iPhone, back when the likes of RIM were still on top and Apple was clambering for market share while expanding its retail presence. With the recent news of RIM’s planned layoffs to “reshape” into a company better fitted to handle the upcoming release of new BlackBerry handhelds, changes in the marketplace over the last 5 years have muddied the waters for organizations hoping to market their products or services.

Utterly Orange has previously covered the difficulties associated with mobile marketing or application development due to the complicated marketplace, and there are some lessons to be learned. Consider these concepts as your plan your mobile presence:

#1 Innovation Wins
RIM is dying, slowly losing market share point by point, and it has no one else to blame but itself. It provided a functional product with marginal innovation. RIM geared its product toward business use, ignoring consumer-side impulses.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg, or in this case, the smartphone or the mobile functions? Mobile functions cover a broad range of features, from mobile applications to mobile-friendly websites to carrier-side, location-aware services that tie in with SMS. We know that the analysts and cell carriers planned the growth of the mobile market, and the proof was in the ramp up to the bigger and faster mobile data connections we sort of have today, but was it the smartphone or the pipes that came first? Answer: iPhone. Yeah, yeah. We hear you––the iPhone isn’t the answer to every question, but user understanding and subsequent adoption is a tremendously large part of the success of a new product. Add some level of innovation to the mix, and you have a recipe for massive growth––or at least it has looked that way over the last 5 years with the iPhone and iPad. Now both devices were and are not perfect by any means. Both have critical features that are still missing, and some design and user interface choices give the edge to some of their competitors.

Twitter and Foursquare had no competitors before each started as a tiny start-up. A creative idea coupled with a powerful, functional mobile device helped expand the adoption of both applications. Regardless, the bar was raised with the release of iOS and its intuitive features. Innovation won and keeps winning as judged by Android’s taking top seat as the leading mobile operating system.
Keep innovation in mind as you consider the right mix of mobile functions for your marketing (and communications) efforts. Providing something new or innovative captures attention and stands out from the tumultuous sea of marketing attempts that users deal with every day via multiple mediums.

#2 Do It Right
Google “failed mobile marketing.” You will find hundreds of examples from the blogosphere, media, and trade journals of failures in mobile marketing. From the ever present QR that points to a company’s non-mobile-friendly homepage to “follow us” with the bird and blue F slapped below all new advertising and marketing collateral, failed use of new mobile functions is prevalent.

Do it right, meaning hire the right people or look at the leaders and users of these mobile functions inside your organization to help you get oriented. None of these mobile functions are inherently complicated. Once you begin to hone your ideas, you may want to bring in stronger firepower, but leverage your resources––whether they be inside or outside––to get the key people up to speed on what constitutes the successful use of these powerful mobile features and avoid what could be an #epicfail.

The disadvantage of waiting to enter the mobile arena this late is that so many have already created mobile functions that are totally awesome. Users know what to expect and can sniff out amateur efforts quickly. Missing the mark on the execution of a mobile effort can spell long-term negative effects for your brand.

#3 Follow the Data
Good news: the Internet gives you a lot of data about your customers. A well-set up website can give you insight into how your customers interact with your existing web presence. Dive deep into the areas of your analytic platform that provide details on mobile traffic, network properties, and browser capabilities. For example, mobile traffic can give you an idea of the percentage of users who access your website via mobile browsers.

Additionally, use existing contact points to determine how existing users interact with your web presence. Ask them their preferences. Remember, users with mobile devices are looking for an intuitive, easy-to-use mobile function that makes their lives easier or simplifies an existing process that they complete with your organization. If you are considering developing a mobile app and can’t decide between iOS, Android, BlackBerry, or some flavor of Windows for smartphones, spend some time in your analytic platform and look at the device types used. Follow your data to make an innovative mobile function and do it right.

One more thing. Take a risk. Twitter was a risk, as was Foursquare, but the risk was taken and now they both are successful products. The overhead required to make a mobile function will vary dramatically, and the recession doesn’t help when scouring for some extra cash, but it’s still the Wild West in many ways. The risk could be wildly successful and bring your product or company to the forefront of the market.

What is your first step (or next step) in expanding your company’s mobile presence? Let us know your thoughts or questions via a comment and join the conversation.

Author: John Carew

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Ask the Vanguard Direct Creative Experts

Vanguard Direct takes responsibility for every aspect of your marketing communications. Our creative, account, and production teams combine their expertise to manage your project efficiently from start to finish. Everything we do addresses your objectives and strategies.

Vanguard’s Creative Services group follows a disciplined and coordinated approach to developing your communication programs and achieving your marketing goals. Our systematic approach helps us discover key components that differentiate your product or service in a crowded marketplace. Our award-winning design team works directly with you to develop attention-getting visual solutions that help connect with your audience and communicate your message with maximum impact and excitement. Whatever your design needs––brand identity, collateral design, promotional displays––our talented staff offers years of experience across multimedia applications including print, promotional, and interactive.

We asked our creative experts some key questions about how to successfully start and complete a creative project:

> How do you keep creative project costs in scope?

“This is one of the more difficult parts of the job—keeping edits down to a minimum. I think this depends on the client and how well you know them (and how they work). With some, you know that many rounds of edits can be expected and an estimate should reflect those extra rounds; some may appreciate the budget updates.”
– Susan Hallinan (Designer)

“The easiest way is to plan the budget and keep track of the progress of design time. For a large project, check costs every week; for small projects, check every day.”  – Kevin Green (Director of Creative Services)

“Preparation and communication––do your best to convey as much information at the beginning of the project as possible so that your design team really understands what you’re looking for. And insist on a creative brief––a written summary from your design team of what they understand the scope to be––so that everyone begins the project on the same page.”  
– Kara Damato
(Senior Designer)

“Write up a creative brief with as much detail as possible. This way, the client will not have any surprises after the project is almost done. When they approve the brief and the estimate, you can begin.”   – Vittoria Semproni (Designer)

“Vanguard Direct utilizes a web-based project cost–tracking software program. It enables our Creative Directors and Project Managers to monitor each project’s cost from inception through to the end product. Once a new creative project is opened in the system, an estimate is created based upon the client’s project parameters. Each project estimate has Task Categories ranging from Concept Development to Pre-Press, including many subcategories. The Creative Director estimating the project assigns hours and a dollar rate to each Task. Once the project begins, the employee enters his or her time daily into the specific Task, such as Concept Development: 4.0 hours, and so on. With that said, the Creative Director or Project Manager can look up any project in the system, at any time, and see exactly where that project’s cost status is daily. System-generated budget alerts via email serve as backup to keep the project budget on track. This is just one of the tools that Vanguard Direct uses to keep the project’s creative and production costs on track and within scope.” – Mark Dion (Creative Director)

 

> What type of content should I supply?

“If you’re providing copy, I recommend a Word document that has been edited and proofread, so it is as final as possible. If you’re providing images, the largest, highest resolution images you can get. This ensures the best-quality images in your printed piece. We generally use 300dpi images at actual size. If you can provide larger images, that gives us the flexibility to enlarge and crop if that works better for the design.” – Kara Damato (Senior Designer)

“Content that belongs to you or that you have the right to use.”
– Vittoria Semproni (Designer)

“Content is critical for a smooth project with reduced AA charges. If a PDF is supplied, the fonts should be embedded, there should be crop marks and bleed where applicable. The file should also be in the correct color space––no RGB.”
– Kevin Green (Director of Creative Services)

“Content depends on the audience and the way the information will be viewed. Web and mobile information would be written differently from a printed piece––web has a tendency to be short with many links, while printed pieces should be more of a linear read.”
– Susan Hallinan (Designer)

 

> How do you initiate a design?

“In terms of starting a design, I try to analyze all the information I have at hand: the creative brief, the client history, and the business objective. From there, I do research on my topic. For example, if the campaign is to sell used cars, I look up the definition of “used car” and what trends are happening in used car sales. I look up competitors’ advertising. Most of all, I do a lot of research, ranging from watching TV ads to looking at print ads in magazines and newspapers. I really immerse myself in my topic and the objective of the design.”
– Gia Lam (Senior Designer)

“A creative brief helps. Usually the information in a creative brief dictates design. A theme or message will give me the necessary parameters in which to construct a design based on what is written. If there is no creative brief, I rely on the text supplied by the client, as that sometimes gives me ideas for visuals.”
– Will Lovell (Graphic Production Artist)

“Either fill out a design order form or supply a creative strategic brief. This should be followed up with either a strategy meeting if we are doing a proposal or a start-up meeting if the job came in with a purchase order.”
– Kevin Green (Director of Creative Services)

“If you haven’t worked with the client before, you need to get a feeling for your client and their project. First ask them to provide you with designs they have seen out there, either competitors’ or just pieces they like. Usually clients will have pieces around that they like for one reason or another. The best way to begin a design is with information copy and photos if included in the job. You need to have a sense of their competition and who their target audience is.”
– Vittoria Semproni (Designer)

 

> What questions should I ask to ensure my design is what I want?

“I would ensure I have an agreed-to brief or even a simplified brief. I’d also ask to see 2–3 treatments of the proposed design before it is agreed to start.”
– Kevin Green (Director of Creative Services)

“Who is your audience? What is your budget? Do you have any materials we can use, e.g., photos, illustrations, etc.? What is your timeframe for the completion of this piece? Is this piece part of a series, or is it a stand-alone piece? Do you have a brand? Are there colors you use to identify your brand or typefaces? What other material have you done, and what does it look like? Do you have samples? Do you have a logo?”
– Vittoria Semproni (Designer)

 

Do you have any questions to ask our creative experts? Comment below, and we will feature your question in a future post!

Author: Stephanie Huston

Three Fun, Nontraditional Outdoor Ads: Vote For Your Favorite!

I’m always amazed by the creativity that abounds out there. I was having an in-depth conversation with a coworker about creativity and the amazing ideas that come from so many places. We were talking about a few favorites that came to mind. Here are three really fun outdoor/non-traditional pieces that stood out. Enjoy!

Is it possible to view this ad without laughing? The questions that come to my mind are: How much was the media cost for this? How do you get a city agency to agree to this? Costs and logistics aside, the idea is genius. I just hope it doesn’t distract the drivers too much!

An oldie, but a goodie. This ad, created by Draft FCB, made a ton of headlines. Be sure to check out the video below. The Oreo, placed on an elevator, replicated the action of dunking whenever the elevator returned to the ground floor. If my knowledge of New York locations can be trusted, it looks like the inside of the Manhattan Mall near Herald Square (a terrible mall, by the way, but a really fun ad to distract consumers from the lack of useful shops).

 

 

 

 

As much as I love this ad, I wonder what the original intent was. The Economist, a newsmagazine with a soft spot for free trade, limited government, and the highly intelligent, doesn’t make it super clear with this ad. Or maybe I just don’t get it. There’s certainly a cerebral sort of nod here, but the light bulb turning on typically represents a new idea. Is it suggesting that the person walking by the billboard is getting one from reading The Economist? Is it trying to say that The Economist is born from new ideas from readers like us? Or is it simply a metaphor for a magazine that is filled with new ideas? There is some uncertainty as to why the light bulb is blinking on. Then again, maybe its intent was for a simple peon like me to get lost in the possible translations. In which case, well played, The Economist, well played.

Author: Eric Swenson

Effective Communication Matters

Everything we do these days starts with communication and, for the most part, ends with it. Therefore, we need to recognize the importance of communicating effectively. Connecting with people is one of the biggest tasks for a leader, and the best methods of communication should not be ignored. Experts say that 7% of human communication comes from words, 38% is from a person’s tone of voice, and 55% comes from body language.

Context. The way you deliver the message. It matters most when it comes to leadership and meaningful connections. Also known as paralanguage, it is nonverbal communication, which can be broken down into a few categories: eye contact, gesticulations, posture, overall facial expression, and state of emotion (anger, fear, confidence, etc.). People interpret specific actions as having specific meanings, so it’s important to learn how to communicate skillfully.

Consultant and former senior executive Steve Tobak has the following tips for effective message delivery:

  • Look people straight in the eye and really “see” them.
  • Be direct and genuine.
  • Remember that executive presence isn’t about power and domination.
  • Learn to be a storyteller.
  • Increase your self-awareness.

For more on this topic, please refer to Steve Tobak’s article on BNET.

Other factors that play roles in effective communication are:

  • Culture – Past experiences can be valuable in understanding something new.
  • Noise – Environmental noise could mess up the message delivery.
  • Perception – Talking too fast might affect the listener’s concentration.
  • Message – Focus on the big idea, not just the facts.
  • Environment – The lighting in the room could cause distraction.
  • Stress – Being stressed is not an option when trying to connect with others.
  • Ourselves – Ego and an air of superiority won’t get you far; focus on the person in front of you.

Do you have any stories to share on effective communication?

Author: Marina Kaljaj

Google+: Facebook’s Competitor, Plain and Simple

Google isn’t perfect––Buzz and Wave flopped. Although both Google and Facebook are supported by advertising, the companies’ origins may prove to be the deciding factor in the race for social media supremacy.

Stats Compared

Facebook Google+

Users

750,000,000 10,000,000*

Launched

February 2004 June 28, 2011

Ad Revenue

$1.86B (2010) $28.2B (2010)**

*Estimates reported by the media––no official numbers have been released by Google.
**-Total ad revenue for Google, including all Google products.

How It All Began
As the legend goes, Facebook started as a dorm room project at Harvard with Mark Zuckerberg and team. It was a techie way to view classmates in a dynamic personal directory format with functions for communicating. The platform quickly expanded beyond Harvard to other Ivy League schools, then to other universities, and ultimately to anyone with a valid email address over the age of 13. Google was the research project of two Stanford PhD students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and was based on an algorithm that used relationships between sites to determine page rank and search results. The algorithmic love child of two soon-to-be entrepreneurs was received as a fresh way to find content online. No one saw the full potential of either company. Fast forward to today: Both are powerhouses commanding the attention of millions of users’ eyeballs for a lot of time each day.

The Matchup
The big difference between Facebook and Google lies in their draw of new and returning users. Facebook attracts new users through the forces of human nature, specifically the desire to shout down a long hallway hoping people listen (i.e., the desire to communicate or, more specifically, to silently stalk or whine incessantly about mundane things). Most users come to Facebook to share, comment, play, stay connected, or some combination thereof. While eyes are glued to the blue and white goodness, advertisers pay to get their messages to you backed by the delightful demographic info that Facebook uses to target ads to users.

Google, on the other hand, built free tools––often some of the best free alternatives on the market––for its users and then built an advertising model around it. Stamped with the “do no evil” mantra and avoiding the missteps of the likes of Microsoft and Yahoo, Google’s free approach was refreshing and adopted by users of all types. Google has an audience of users who already use its core applications like Gmail, Google Calendar, Contacts, Picasa, Google Maps, Google Earth, etc., across multiple devices––from desktop to mobile to tablet. These users have Google accounts and already understand how the arsenal of Google products interacts. Adding social media to that arsenal is easy and natural. Instead of receiving an email or pushing notifications to a mobile device or Gmail account, you can receive notice of social interaction through the status bar now found at the top of many Google applications.

Facebook is continually adding new features. An underlying function of many of Facebook’s new bells and whistles has been to keep users on the site longer. Facebook users already spend an average of 14 minutes on the site per day, and the longer users stay, the more ad revenue Facebook earns. Facebook has added features like Chat, Games, and iFrames integration to its business pages, where companies can create engaging experiences that will keep users on Facebook instead of clicking out to other sites. Google, on the other hand, already has users coming to its sites daily to use core productivity applications like Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar. Those key productivity functions combine both business and personal use, and it is these overlapping reasons for visiting Google sites that is a massive advantage for Google.

Facebook has fumbled with privacy and security issues over the past five years, and limited differentiation between groups of “friends” makes sharing content complicated. Facebook added “Lists,” allowing users to combine groups of friends and share limited content, but the feature was added years after the start of the platform. The security and privacy settings for Facebook have been complicated from the beginning, and with each new release and update, the settings have become even more complicated. The average user may be sharing content with the world and have little knowledge of what he or she is sharing. Many argue that it is in the best interest of companies providing social tools to educate and protect their users’ privacy above all else. Facebook has failed its users again and again in terms of privacy, but it is Facebook’s failures and missteps that can guide Google+ toward larger user adoption.

Google+ Circles vs. Facebook Friends

Let’s be honest, few people really have hundreds of friends if you define friend as someone close to you with whom you share personal thoughts or experiences. Many users with hundreds of friends (Facebook claims the average is 130 per user) would consider only a limited number among their close friends. Facebook doesn’t provide an intuitive way to share content with specific groups of people. Google+ is based on the concept of “Circles,” or groups of friends combined by any label the user chooses. By default, Google+ offers Friends, Acquaintances, Follows, and Family. With the ability to make your own circles, the sky is the limit, not only for sharing but for parsing the streams of content each circle shares in order to further connect with your contacts.

As Google+ increases its user base and Google+ “Entity Pages” (for businesses and brands) are introduced in the coming months, the competitive pressure from a different social media platform will make waves across the net. Facebook needs to adapt to the pressure, but based on its history, the adaptation will hinge on user adoption and innovative features, which Google has also proven itself capable of over the past 5 years. Hang on folks, it may be a wild ride, but why not join both and compare Google+ and Facebook for yourself? Now we must begin to think about whether to include a new platform in our social media mix…

Author: John Carew

Vanguard Direct Participates in Social Media Healthcare Forum

Last week, Vanguard Direct sent a member of Utterly Orange to a forum on Social Communications and Healthcare at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. This forum brought together a variety of people within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries as well as the agencies that work for them. Several case studies were presented, and roundtable discussions were held.

Each case study, introduced by the organization involved with each project, showcased how social communications were used to reach patients and consumers. Among the cases discussed were “How To Use Social Media to Engage with Physicians Online,” “Connecting Both Healthcare Professionals and Consumers Through Social Strategies,” and “Showcasing Sustainability Through Social Communications.”

During the presentations, a large video screen behind the presenters showed the live Twitter feed. The hashtag #bd1 was used for all tweets pertaining to the event. Audience members were able to engage with each other as well as the event organizers, discussing the presentations as they were happening.

The roundtable discussions were led by the presenters of the case studies. Our Vanguard representative sat in on discussions that included “Measuring/Monitoring Social Media” and “Social Communication for Hospitals.”

Vanguard Direct has a lot of experience with the healthcare industry, and this forum was an excellent way to learn more about how to help our customers navigate the ever-changing world of social media.

If you’re participating in social media, let us know what you think about the changing dynamics of this new medium and its impact in the Healthcare field- we’d like to hear from you!

Author: Dustin Hill

HP Introduces the T400 Inkjet Web Press

Back in March, HP introduced the newest addition to its line of high-speed inkjet web presses. The T400 is the first of its kind to offer a full-size web width of 42 inches. HP has again opened the door to opportunities that were never before available in the digital print industry. This fills the gap between where digital laser presses stopped and traditional offset presses began. Now quantities from 500 to 5,000––books with high page counts or direct mail applications, for example––are seen as perfect candidates for these machines.

Of course, these high-speed inkjet presses require a substantial investment in finishing equipment, but a traditional offset plant may already have invested in that equipment. The T400 is special in that it can deliver on a 42″ roll or split that web into two 21″ rolls to match most preexisting finishing equipment.

Since HP started installing its T200 and T300 high-speed inkjet presses in 2010, these presses have already printed 1.46 billion pages. Acclaimed print enthusiast Frank Romano, a man I was privileged to study under at Rochester Institute of Technology, has stated that this press is at the “top of the industry,” meaning that this is now the standard of print! Not to mention that in all aspects concerning speed, flexibility, and image quality, this press trumps all the competition.

It is additions like the T400 that will continue to keep the print industry alive and well. Being able to pair variable print with amazing speed is what will allow marketers and advertisers to target exactly who and what they want, when the time is relevant. I honestly can’t wait for the first opportunity that drives me to use this press; it will be a true joy to work with such spectacular innovation.

So, what opportunities do you see this machine opening up for you?

Author: John Mehl