What Will Learned About Marketing

In a recent article written by Katie Carroll, veteran actor Will Smith  spoke about a marketing epiphany that came through, of all people, his 15-year old daughter Willow who has been on a world-tour promoting her hit “Whip My Hair.”

While in Cannes, France recently, Mr. Smith commented that he remembered back in the 80’s and 90’s when he was obsessed with winning.  “I found myself promoting something because I wanted to win, versus promoting something because I believed it was helpful.”  He continued, “I started to taste global blood.  My focus shifted from artistry to winning.”

His confession shows a great deal of clarity and wisdom and hits on a central notion that marketers confront…are you producing to win at any cost or to satisfy a spirit of excellence in your craft? Which do you think will win the most success?

While on the tour, Willow decided that she was ready to go home–and shaved her hair to make the point!  No matter what her Dad could say, she was done. As he said, “There was no sales pitch I could make to her because she didn’t want it.”  That’s when he had his “Aha” moment…the great big idea…the epiphany…“selling, marketing, creating cannot be about me.”

“The lesson for marketers is clear: If you’re not listening to your audience, your promotions will fall on deaf ears.”



Aren’t There Laws Against Spam?

spam-keyGlad you asked!  Way back in 2003 a federal anti-spam law went into effect in the United States. It’s known as the CAN-SPAM Act.  The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 16, 2003, established the United States’ first national standard for the sending of commercial e-mail and requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce its provisions.

This Act regulates, to some extent:

  • Commercial email,
  • Establishes requirements for commercial messages,
  • Gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and
  • Spells out tough penalties for violations.

While it obviously didn’t stop spam, it did make it illegal and hopefully, ultimately, less attractive to spammers (like I said, we can only hope!).

There are also many other laws and regulations around the world surrounding electronic marketing. If you live or work in Canada, or mail to folks who do, you’ll want to be sure to collect and catalog express consent as outlined in the new Canadian Anti-Spam Laws (CASL) as well.

*&#! SPAM

We’ve had email a long time now, aren’t there supposed to be laws against sending spam?

img-spamYes, in January 2004 a federal anti-spam law went in to effect in the U.S titled the CAN-SPAM Act and it:

  • Regulates commercial email
  • Establishes requirements for commercial messages
  • Gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and
  • Spells out the penalties for violations.

While this obviously hasn’t done a thing to stop spam, it did make it illegal and a step in the right direction.

Design Rules!

What I mean by this article’s title is that there are rules to great design and they matter.  While breaking the rules in art can be a good thing and has been known to produce some fabulous and innovative compositions, for the most part, you need to at least be aware of “best practices” first before heading into this delicate territory!no

Here’s some basic rules designed to guide you away from some of the more common mistakes.

  1. Use Consistent Fonts:  In the same way you carefully consider your campaign/brand’s color palette, you should also think about font families.  Fonts evoke “feelings” just like colors or imagery. Prevailing wisdom is to limit a composition to a maximum of 2-3 fonts.  When selecting fonts, try to chose those that compliment each other. Check out this Design School article for more on the topic!
  2. Don’t Use Display Fonts for Body Copy:  Using display fonts in the body copy defeats the purpose of using display fonts!  They should stand out and be different than the body copy.  Usually display fonts are larger, bolder, and/or a bit more flamboyant that body copy.  But, if it’s used too much and inappropriately, the copy just becomes that much harder for the reader to comprehend.
  3. Please, Be Aware of Color Clashing:  Color clashing is where two colors together create either a muddy effect or a strange ‘vibration’ when read.  Might be an excellent effect if working on a museum art project but when creating marketing graphics, online or off, clear communications is key and that should always involve an easy readability factor.
  4. White Space IS NOT Empty Space:  When there’s too many visual elements on a page, your eye has difficulty focusing on anything.  Contrastingly, white space (when used correctly) can help to focus a viewer on exactly the important part(s) of a page…successfully delivering important messages.
  5. Don’t Follow Design Trends:  Hello?  They’re trends!  By their nature, a trendy design will trend itself right out of vogue and then you’re stuck with a site that looks dated much before it’s time!  Web sites and supporting marketing campaigns require too much time and energy to have to re-do before its natural life-cycle is met.

Google’s “Mobilegeddon” Has Arrived!

Google's Mobilegeddon Update

If you’ve spent time working to improve your Web site’s organic rank status with Google, you’ve probably learned about algorithms and are aware that Google makes small changes to its algorithms fairly often over the course of a year without impacting established rank structures too much.

The BIG new is that today Google released an update, widely referred to by the press and industry folk alike as “Mobilegeddon,”  that’s meant to significantly change things!  They’ve decided to push the World-Wide Web of sites to resolving better on mobile phones where (starting this year) 50% of searches occur.

Starting today Google plans to penalize sites that are not responsive to mobile/tablet devices.

The “Mobilegeddon” update will give a significant boost to mobile-friendly sites leaving those not-so-friendly sites so far down in mobile search results that, for all intents and purposes, it’ll disappear.

Responsive Web sites (like my own www.silvana.net) are built with code that detects which device (iPhone, iPad, laptop, desktop) is calling it and literally changes the layout to tailor to that particular landscape.  While being responsive isn’t the ONLY thing a site needs to rank well, it has become a very heavily weighted criteria.

As I mentioned, there’s been lots of press about this, here’s a good Wall Street Journal article explaining things titled, Websites Prep for Google’s “Mobilegeddon.”

Find problems early!

KeepCalmSaveIn the Web design business (similar to the construction industry), time is money.  That’s why you’ll always find that professionals place such an emphasis early in the project life cycle on creating a strategy or game plan for the work.  It pays to find problems early!

Some interesting statistics to consider:

  • It’s just 1x the cost to make changes to your Web site project during the planning/strategy/design phase.
  • It rapidly goes up to 5x cost to make those same changes during the development/coding phase.
  • That’s right, it sky-rockets to 25x cost to make changes when the site is mostly complete and undergoing formal testing pre-publication.

You can’t afford NOT to find problems early!

Researchers at Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Hughes Aircraft, TRW, and other organizations have found that purging an error by the beginning of a construction (in our case, at the beginning of a Website project) allows re-work to be done 10 to 100 times less expensively than when it’s done in the last part of the process, during system test, or after release.

User-Centered Design: Where It’s At!

Are you enthusiastic about Interactive Design like I am?  User-Centered Design is the process I use to help achieve the best results possible in a Web design project.  But, what is it?

User-centered design (UCD) is a design philosophy that puts the user of a product, application, or experience, at the center of the design process.

planThe three basic principles behind UCD are:

  1. Early focus on users and their tasks.
  2. Evaluation and measurement of product usage.
  3. Iterated design.

Articulated in an overview piece by Patrick McNeil, the UCD process/flow starts with the (1) Definition of a project where one assesses project scale, generates documentation like site maps, determine content inventory, and the like.  Once the site is defined, it’s then possible to develop  a (2)  Concept.  This is where we interpret the documentation to develop solutions.  A shift occurs from listening to problem solving including building wireframes and user testing.

Once the concept is in place, the project moves next to (3) Design. A design deliverable consists of fonts, colors and interface elements that together communicate the essence of a visual brand for the Web.

With design approvals in place, the next step is to (4) Develop or code the project according to the plan and design with the final step being (5) Deployment.  This exact process is always applied (sometimes easier/sometimes harder to achieve depending on variables) to success.

As a result of asking the right questions and some quite serious listening/note-taking, here’s some expected take aways:

  • Having a clear description of the project
  • A plan for what’s to be built
  • A detailed understanding of the intended user
  • A vision for how the product/site will be used
  • Tangible assets a team can share!

As Peter says, “UCD boils down to seeking meaningful design insights over random acts of design.”

Giving Away the Store? What Your Apps Know.

An assortment of Android apps have requested mobile device locations every three minutes on average over a two-week period (works out to over 6,000 requests), according to new research by the Wall Street Journal’s Elizabeth Dwoskin.


In her recent article regarding attitudes toward the research, How Your Apps Can Track You, I learned the following very interesting tidbits:

  • 91% of Americans have anxiety about privacy online.
  • 91% of those polled said they have anxiety about losing control of their personal data.
  • 86% said they have made efforts to mask their online footprint.

When people learned that they could receive nudges or notifications to learn how often companies like Facebook, The Weather Channel, or Groupon track you, it was overwhelmingly received.  Most, after seeing the data, have restricted permissions.


Bye-bye Internet Explorer. Hello Chrome!

wsj-browser-graphAccording to a Buzzfeed article published recently, IE used to enjoy 80% market share in the US – but after some other faster browsers were released, it actually became a subject of mockery.

News is, Microsoft has decided to discontinue Internet Explorer (IE) and is planning to introduce a new browser  for its Windows 10 platform instead.

The new browser is named Spartan and is expected to be bundled with desktop/mobile versions of Windows 10.  From a developers point of view, this is really pretty good news.  Web site and electronic media developers need to be concerned with which browser types the majority of consumers use because the Web sites we build need to respond very well in those environments for years to come.

Not surprisingly, Google’s Chrome browsers are now the most popular in the U.S., surpassing Internet Explorer.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently in an article titled, Google Passes Microsoft in U.S. Browser Market Share, “Google’s Chrome and Android browsers had 31.8% share in April, up from around 26% the prior year, Adobe said. Internet Explorer had 30.9% share, down from roughly 37% a year ago…On mobile devices, Apple’s Safari is by far the most popular, with 59% of searches, reflecting the strength of Apple’s iPhone.

But Google is first overall, because Internet Explorer has little share on mobile devices, and Safari has little share on PCs.”


Alas… it’s Bendgate!

It’s reassuring to know that I’m just like everybody else out there because the bending iPhone 6 Plus story (subject of my blog post just yesterday) has gone viral.  Apparently many, many, many people everywhere found this an interesting read (on an otherwise uninteresting day).  And, not surprisingly, Apple’s stock price has declined in lock step… ouch… you can read more about it in the article, Apple Gets Bent!apple

Meanwhile, Apple, Inc.’s stepped up quickly to say something about it themselves!  And a good thing too.   They defended the phones integrity by saying the, “new iPhones are made from a custom grade of anodized aluminum, which is tempered for extra strength. Apple said the phones also feature stainless steel and titanium inserts to reinforce high-stress locations.”  And, the video I posted does look like that’s the case too.  After all, there’s no way they didn’t test for the occurrence of the phone’s durability under the stress of pant-pocket sitting…that would be negligent!

Also, as was wisely noted today, one could drop the phone and break it just as easily!  Abuse is abuse.  Most can agree,  reasonable care is required in the handling of most electronics (including iPhones).

Hum, maybe Apple’s next industry-leading innovation should be a truly bend-able iPhone?