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Can Hashtags Help Your Brand?

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Hashtags. We see them everywhere – in Twitter posts, on Facebook, Instagram, and even on screen during TV commercials. While some may find them entertaining, hashtags can be used to find and connect with your target audience, generate conversation, and build your brand on social media sites.

When creating your own hashtag, how do you use them to help brand awareness?

For starters, keep them short and sweet. Turning a hashtag into a complete sentence doesn’t help your brand. The trick is to be unique; think of a phrase people will use when referencing your business. It’s also a good idea to avoid a hashtag that may have more than one meaning – that could get lost very easily in the social media space.

Like most marketing strategies, your hashtag should evoke an emotion and leave a lasting impression with your audience, otherwise they aren’t motivated to share. Make your audience laugh, cry or even just feel inspired. A play on words, joke, or a phrase with a good cadence will be easier for users to relate to.

Most of all, you want to keep your hashtag consistent with your brand. How does your audience view you over social media? Are you somewhat formal with your posts? If so, a slapstick type hashtag might not fit your public image. You can find ways to be clever and creative no matter what type of business you’re representing.

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Are You Still Avoiding Responsive Website Design?

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Maybe you think your web developers are making up reasons to redo your website. But if your current site is not mobile-friendly you’d better take heed. Responsive design is not a “passing phase.” It’s quickly become as high a priority as having a website itself and could make or break your business. Why?

Convince and Convert says that, depending on your audience and industry vertical, mobile users could account for up to 70% of your email opens. Furthermore, the typical smartphone user today checks their device an average of 150 times per day.

Google announced earlier this year that mobile searches now exceed searches done on a PC (desktop or laptop).

“But my website is fine just the way it is.”

The cost to have a website that is not responsive is steep. Google followed up their mobile stats with an announcement that they are rolling out new algorithms that change rank for (and that means penalize or downrank) sites that aren’t optimized for mobile.  This means that if your site is not optimized your ranking will drop to favor search results that include mobile-friendly sites.

Consumers are really impatient today. Research reveals that webmasters have a window of 7 seconds to capture users’ attention before they click away. To make matters worse, 73% of mobile web users say they’ve quickly abandoned a site that took too long to load on their phone or tablet. If users can’t get the information they’re seeking within those 7 seconds they are going to the next site, which could very well be your competitor!

From attracting new customers that otherwise would’ve bounced from your site to keeping your existing customer base happy, there’s no denying the value of a clean, effective responsive design.

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What’s Hampering Your Mobile Content?

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Mobile devices are quickly evolving beyond smartphones and tablets into smartwatches, fitness trackers, and more; recently 1 to 1 Media reported that marketers are still struggling with the same issue: delivering compelling content on mobile devices.

Ned Newhouse, executive director of mobile and native at Condé Nast, stated that, “If you buy an ad, it should be seen, but please make sure the ad you’re going to post is worth my time. We don’t have banner blindness–we have bad creative.”

Capturing people’s attention today is harder than ever. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span of a human being dropped to eight seconds in 2013, down four seconds from a study done in 2000. That is one second less than the attention span of a goldfish.

Adding to the challengers are device fragmentation, a lack of standardized mobile measurements, and a growing concern for privacy. This year, 37 percent of respondents to a mobile survey cited privacy as a very important issue compared to 22 percent who said the same in 2013.

And as screens get smaller, marketers and publishers must find more direct ways to communicate. People need to scan chunked information to get caught up, not read lengthy ads that must be scrolled or clicked to get the full story.

The solution to compelling mobile content is not easy; you have to use key data to find a balance between creativity and conversion.

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Keeping Stock of the Basics

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It’s so easy to be mesmerized by all the shiny digital capabilities of marketing these days. Animations, ads that follow you around the web, personalized messages, geotargeting, behavioral targeting… but these campaigns have no magic power if you forget the basics. It doesn’t matter how fancy your creative is or what a new app can do, you cannot lose sight of the cornerstone principles that make advertising work.

For example, it’s easy to forget the one-message rule. Blog Notions recently shared that most people have a tendency to want to shove many marketing messages into a single ad out of fear that they might never get another shot at the audience. Naturally, an ineffective creates this outcome, a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

Remember to ask the golden question: if someone could only remember one thing from this – what would I want them to retain? Now – write to emphasize that one point and nothing more.

The next basic rule is budgeting! You cannot be consistent in your message without a plan and a budget. It used to be with print media that a minimum three-insertion commitment was recommended to reap any branding benefits whatsoever. Now, with instant digital campaigns, we’ve lost sight of that. Try this website, place a banner ad for one week over here, do an eFlyer… at best, it will be hit or miss with these efforts. A plan helps you stay on course, even when you’re short-handed or swamped. Marketing is not something you do when your business slows down or you lose a client.

One last basic principle to adhere to is keeping your current customers as your primary audience. Don’t be so quick to chase after new prospective clients when you have loyal ones willing to bring you new revenue because they are happy with your service.  Set aside part of your budget and plan to keep wooing your current clients and let them know why they chose you.

Over to you – what marketing basics do you keep stock of? Share by commenting below!

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Should You Focus on Creative or Strategy?


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Blog Notions recently weighed in on the age-old tug of war: should your advertising design be creative and pretty or focus on the sales message?

Honestly, both are true. Your marketing materials do need to be visually appealing but your message must be compelling in order to create a cohesive sales strategy.

From a creative standpoint, be consistent with the look and feel of all your creative elements so they align with and link back to your brand without making your customers do any guesswork.

No matter what the medium is, your design still needs to be attention grabbing and stand out from your competitors. Give your design an edge.

On the strategic side of the coin, stop committing the universal marketing sin: too much copy. Don’t try to tell the whole marketing story in one design piece. Cut your copy in half, maybe even in half again! Focus on your core message and make it powerful.

Conversely, while keeping your core message intact, change your creative frequently. If your customers get bored with seeing the same ad over and over you will become invisible.

Don’t forget to tailor your message to how your product or service is going to enhance the life of your buyer. It’s still a “what’s in it for me” society, and your marketing message must address this while still illustrating your credibility. The best equation for this is the 80/20 rule… make your message 80% about the customer and you’ll get results.

Success in today’s landscape is not about pretty design OR a strong sales message, it’s about finding the balance and making it work. If you need help finding that balance, we can help!

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Web Advertising 2014 – ALL About the Image

ideaviews imagePinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Buzzfeed…. some of the most popular new social media platforms and websites of 2013 are pointing towards a new trend in web ads for 2014.  Sources ranging from to blogs like that found on all agree, image driven advertising, especially image driven branded content will reign supreme in the New Year.

Why? The answer will sound familiar to anyone who deals with consumers on or off the web. They’re busier than ever and they show no sign of slowing down.  This means that your target market is unlikely to stay on a web page just for an ad with bullet copy and a lackluster stock shot. In an age where no one is going to give your ad attention, successful ads reach out and grab it.

Another driving force behind this change in ad style is the ubiquity of websites, blogs and social media platforms that offer space for long form copy and the information that was once necessary to pack in print and digital ads. It’s become instinct for today’s consumer to click through an ad that interests them, so those information packed ads are no longer essential to a campaign’s success.

Think of it this way, if you’re on a page with a banner ad that  mostly features copy about a builder in your area has recently added 2 new 3 bedroom floorplans with luxury features to his plans for an exclusive condo tower, all accompanied by a small picture of the tower, you may click through, or you may not.  That ad gave you plenty of information, why go find out more? If you’re seriously interested in the condo, you can just Google it later. You hit refresh and a second banner ad comes up with an artistic illustration of a woman getting out of a high-end car on a city street with a tagline “Elegance. Coming 2014” and the builder’s logo in a corner. Chances are, you would be more inclined to click through.  Both ads are selling the same product, and both are technically well done. But there’s almost an air of mystery about that second ad and even if you’re not in the market for a luxury condo, you may want click through, just to find out what that “Elegance” really is.

From an ROI standpoint, creative, visually appealing ads that intentionally withhold information from the consumer could boost your click through rate. Make sure the information they’re looking for is easily discoverable once they click through, and you may find that your audience is more willing to click through an ad that keeps them guessing than one that tells them everything.

All signs point to 2014 being the year of the image driven ad, so, as we move towards January, what are you designing? 


Creative Ways to Boost Your Blog

Are you stuck in a rut with your Blog? If you’re getting kind of bored with your blog, then certainly your readers are too.

It doesn’t have to be this way! With a few new ideas to boost your blog’s energy you can win back your blogging muse (and your audience!).

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Going Flat

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When Microsoft released the Zune back in 2006, most were skeptical about the new MP3 player, and rightfully so, just five years later, Microsoft announced the discontinuation of Zune Hardware. However, something about the much maligned iPod competitor stuck with audiences. Its simple, clean design. The Zune interface, unlike its more successful counterparts, was free of drop shadows, gradients, and Skeumorphism (the attempt to make something digital look like something physical e.g., the yellow “legal pad” in Apple’s Notes application).

Fast forward to today; with Google Now’s clean, flat design, whispers of Apple’s IOS7 interface being completely redesigned to remove all traces of drop shadows and gradients in favor of clean open design (sound familiar?) and Facebook’s recently released new News Feed that says “Goodbye to Clutter” with a completely flat and simplistic design, it’s clear that Flat Design is the thing. But why? When it is so easily associated with a failed product from a company that is still not cool enough to play with the big three?

As always, there are many speculations that could serve as an answer to that question, from perceived ease of scalability in the dawning of the age of reflexive design, to “it’s just another trend”. However, the easiest answer seems to be that it’s new, and most of these platforms haven’t seen “new” in a new.

But is it the future of design? Will we someday look at gradients and drop shadows the way we now look at the splashy typefaces and geometric patterns of the 80’s? Probably not.

Here’s why, flat design requires a few standards to make sure that the design “works”. First, it must be minimal. Most flat design eschews detailed graphics and pictures for simplistic, sometimes silhouetted or outline designs. This is not the kind of design that would lend itself well to image driven industries, from real estate, to fashion, to photography, and while certain flat design elements could be added to sites that are not totally “flat” the contrast between flat design and “non-flat” design can be a bit jarring. Also, flat design works best with bright or super saturated colors. These colors allow for a high level of contrast between the background color and the text/graphics that are almost invariably white or black. While these colors may appeal to some audiences, they lack universal appeal, and many professional audiences tend to find them jarring or too unconventional. Another problem many have with flat design is the overall casual message it sends to the consumer. Because of its retro feel, which is interpreted by most audiences to be less-than-serious, flat design does not easily lend itself to professional websites.

What is the ideal site for flat UI design? Well, tech-focused blogs and websites have been quick to adopt the trend, as well as advertising agencies, graphic design studios, and other creative businesses.  Sites (and apps!) with more creative audiences are more attracted to the trend than those with more professional or traditional audiences. Also, sites that encourage more user interaction, similar to a social media site, are favoring the flat design aesthetic as its clean look makes it easier for the user to identify what they are looking for.

Ultimately, like most design trends, the biggest determining factors in whether or not you should consider going flat are your preferences and your audience’s preferences. If you are a creative or progressive company with a similar audience, it may be worth considering a flat design update. However, if you have a more traditional or conservative business or mindset, it may be better to look to a redesign that reflects your company.

Invasive Advertising – is it Just Too Much?

I recently visited a website to view some creative samples – part of my normal market research ritual.  What ensued following rather disturbed me.

By now, you have pretty much experienced behavioral targeting – you go to a website to check something out and suddenly find ads for that particular website’s product or service “following” you around the Internet by appearing on other sites you visit.

Behavioral targeting has a creepy edge to it, but it’s mostly harmless. It doesn’t really disrupt your Internet experience, and unless you click to find out more, a few ads are the worst things you have to put up with.

This experience, however, was much more invasive and borderline stalker behavior. You see, I visited the site, viewed some samples, and did nothing more. I suddenly started receiving emails and phone calls thanking me for visiting the site and asking how he could be of further service.


I can see if I had filled out a contact form or voluntarily signed up for updates or a newsletter. I can see if I had offered my personal information in exchange for a free report. But I did none of these things.

Am I the only one that finds this a little bit over the edge?

I know at least Firefox now lets you opt out of tracking, which I will be employing immediately. I’m not sure if this is the new trend for online activity tracking or a unique marketing tactic that companies pay top dollar for. What I do know is that Gen Y won’t stand for such invasive attempts to win their business.

What do you think? Would you be bothered by a company that contacted you incessantly from a single website visit?