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design & marketing blog

Straightforward design, marketing, and technical advice for making your marketing communications more effective.

Avoid Site Monkeys

February 14th, 2007

Imagine driving down the freeway…you see a billboard with a message about an accountant specializing in international business, just what you’ve been looking for! As you start to read a few sentences at 70 mph, a giant helium-filled monkey that’s anchored in place next to the billboard begins clashing it’s synthetic cymbals while cables retract and expand it’s eyelids. Hey look there’s some sort of logo on the monkey’s shirt for the accounting firm….too late, you’ve sped by the sign.

Site MonkeyAs ridiculous as this example sounds, it’s exactly what happens many times on websites. We find a site in a Google search that looks like it might be what we’re after, but on its front page were confronted by too many snippets of ambiguous information and distractions and no clear statements of what this site is about.

One of the most ludicrous distracting features that I’ve seen recently is “SitePal.” A zombie-like animated talking head that speaks in slow broken computer generated speech…”Welcome (octave lower) to our Website (two octaves higher) Please mouse over my (pause) face to make me talk. What’s even creepier is that on some versions the characters head slightly bobbles and it’s eyes cross as it attempts to follow your mouse movements.

Having some sort of animated or technical feature on a site can be tempting for its novelty factor. But just because something can be done does not mean that it should be done. Research has consistently shown that superfluous elements are often detrimental to the overall communication and persuasion goals of web sites. For
access to solid research on the topic visit the  Stanford Web Credibility ResearchOpens in new window site or, in keeping with the theme of efficient communication, check out the all-time classic, Don’t Make Me Think, by Steve Krug.

iPhone Delivers Upon Market Need

January 12th, 2007

Once again, Apple has circumvented the status quo by developing the world’s most advanced mobile device, the iPhone. Unlike the OCR driven Blackberry or the stencil managed Windows device, the iPhone combines value-added features such as a fully functional Web browser, an advanced and functional MP3 player (iPod), and a true touch screen platform, which allows users the freedom from stencil-driven bondage.

So why is this iPhone device relevant to a marketing blog? Simply from the standpoint that Apple has revolutionized the mobile market in one swoop by satisfying a true market need, namely to develop a user-friendly hand held device that facilitates efficient and easy communication.

Unlike the Blackberry I currently carry, the iPhone provides the user a true interface for instantaneous communication via a phone, Web platform, and SMS texting. Plus, the iPhone only has one button, which has completely simplified the arduous process of data entry on mobile technology … no more stencils, no more miniature keyboards, no more gadgetry features that literally take weeks to figure out; the iPhone has enhanced userability through exceptional design. Trust me, as soon as my T-Mobile contract expires, I’ll be running to the Cingular store that very day so as to move away from the soon-to-be RIM paperweight.

So as professionals, what can we take away from Apple’s example? Namely, to not get caught up in product commoditization, but to strive to deliver on a true market need. Steve Job’s innovative leadership was simply a product of assessing what the ultimate aim is in mobile technology, namely convenience and functionality, and delivering upon it. As a result, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony Ericcson were all caught off guard and have been scrambling over the past week to formulate a response.

Congratulations Boise State!

January 2nd, 2007

BSU, Hollywood aint got nothing on you. Surreal is a word that probably gets overused, but there’s nothing else that comes close to describing the iconic American-dream spectacle that BSU put on for us in their defeat of the Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl last night. Action, suspense, horror, and drama…it had it all—and then some. They say that truth is stranger than fiction, in the case of the Fiesta Bowl truth is exponentially more exhilarating than any screenplay that could ever be imagined.

If for some reason you missed the Fiesta bowl, stop what your doing and take a look at the amazing highlights of this game. Whether you’re a football fan or not has no relevance. If you’ve got a pulse, just a brief skim of the highlights will be guaranteed to quicken it. Here are few quotes from the sports world to give you a flavor:

“It’ll go down as one of the best college football games in history…an instant classic” – FOX News

“…it gives the game a legitimate case for being considered the greatest game of all-time … not just the greatest bowl game. As far as sheer excitement goes, it’s hard to vote against it. And 20 years from now this could be seen as one of the most important games ever…”
»Read full article
Pete Fiutak, CollegeFootballNews.com

“How do you sum up one of the most remarkable endings any of us will ever be fortunate enough to see? How do you sum up one of the most exciting bowl games ever contested? And how do you sum up what will one day be viewed as one of the most significant moments in the history of college football?”
»Read full article
– Stewart Mandel, Sports Illustrated

“…a dizzying, riveting, back-and-forth game that will be remembered as one of the most exciting in college football history.”
»Read full article
– Pete Thamel, New York Times

“At the end of a game unlike any college football has ever witnessed, two of the great female icons in American culture staged a harmonic, hypnotic, borderline hallucinogenic convergence. Boise State introduced Cinderella to Lady Liberty.”
»Read full article -Pat Forde, ESPN

So what does Boise State winning the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma, a revered bastion of college football, have to do with marketing? Plenty, but I’ll let RisingLine principal, and BSU fan extraordinaire, Erik Warilia comment on that when he returns from Phoenix later this week. Until then, let me just say thank you Broncos for one of the most inspiring demonstrations of dedication and passion that have ever been seen in the history of sports.

Real Word of Mouth Marketing

December 14th, 2006

The Washington Post reported Tuesday about the FTC’s ruling to “Unmask Word-of-Mouth Marketing.” The FTC is on target in my opinion. But the implication that the scams mentioned in the article are somehow representative of word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) is misleading. The very premise and power behind WOMM is that it’s unbiased and credible. We all know that the traditional advertising spin is often quite the opposite.

As the FTC’s ruling highlights, we’re still going to deal with a segment of society that tries to beat the system. Old marketing habits may die hard, but they won’t last long in this new era of open consumer communication that’s been
enabled largely from technology like blogs. Sony Ericsson, for example, may fool a few people with their shills but they will never build a significant customer-led marketing campaign with such gimmicks. The average consumer can communicate too well now.

Idaho businesses should by no means shy away from WOMM because of this misconstrued portrayal. Like the other WOMM advocates in the Treasure Valley, RisingLine promotes marketing strategies for organizations that have proven
themselves by already developing a contingency of legitimate client advocates. We prefer to use the term customer evangelist to describe WOMM because it emphasizes the element of unsolicited motivation to share a good experience with a friend or acquaintance. A completely different concept than the shenanigans the FTC has associated with WOMM.

The important thing to understand is that true WOMM is simply encouraging honest referrals from friend to friend and it remains the most credible and cost effective means of promotion for any business or product.

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