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design & marketing blog

Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

A Great Lesson in Communication

March 13th, 2012

This presentation from Colin Robertson at TED is one of the best demonstrations of concise and effective communication that I’ve ever seen.   It has great object lessons that can be applied to Web design and marketing communication in general.

Here are the main takeaways I got from the presentation:

  • He uses very few words, but the words he does use are the key messages of his presentation. So much of Web and print design would be much more effective with fewer but better chosen words.
  • It’s out of the ordinary (way out of the ordinary) and creates a unique memorable experience. How long will you remember this presentation?  How long would you have remembered it if he would of taken up the three minutes talking?
  • The nonverbal communication which comprised 99% of the message is “quality” in the sense that it’s professionally orchestrated. The effect would not of been nearly as powerful or long lasting if that level of effort wasn’t put into the production.  It’s the cumulative effect of many small details being done correctly. Same applies to Web design, overall quality is achieved by paying attention to many details which result in the cumulative effect of providing credibility to the message.
  • I think this is a very important point–a significant portion of the content was provided with collaboration from the audience.

Don’t write like an advertising writer

November 13th, 2009

I’m currently reading a book from 1938 entitled, “If You Want to Write” by Brenda Ueland. I was struck by how applicable her observation of business communication still is 70 years later; she writes:

Don’t write like an advertising writer . . . if you feel a thing the more simply you say it the better

Don’t write like an advertising writer…advertising companies hire the very brightest, wittiest young people to write for them. Not one single sentence of it is worth repeating. Why? Because it wasn’t meant. It was all written, not because the writer felt something and then said it (if you feel a thing the more simply you say it the better, the more effective), but because he tried to impress and inveigle people, convince them something is very fine about which he himself does not really care… (p 115)

I sense the anxiety many clients have when they put together the content for their Websites . . . they put themselves under some unrealistic expectation that their writing needs to sound “businesslike.” The problem with business sounding content is that it sounds way too much like a billion other Websites, brochures and magazine ads and is tuned out by the reader.

More than any other medium, the modern interactive Webpage is fertile ground for communication that is authentic. Most business owners and executives are typically much better qualified to provide this type of writing than anyone else . . . the most important to effective content writing is authenticity and passion.

Web 2.0 Marketing Strategy

August 1st, 2008

In a previous post post, I presented a definition of Web 2.0 as the widespread acceptance and use of technology that allows continually changing or active communication. The main points of the post were:

  • The most important aspect of Web 2.0 is not the technology itself, but rather the new culture of free and open communication that comes about because of technology.
  • The old era of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) that was supported through biased and untrustworthy advertising is past.
  • Web 2.0 technology has birthed a new era of caveat venditor (let the seller beware) since consumers are now able to communicate freely amongst themselves and provide unbiased feedback on sellers’ claims. Amazon.com is a prime example.

How can Web 2.0 help your business?

From a marketing perspective, the questions are simple:

  1. How can Web 2.0 help us reach more prospects,
  2. deliver a more effective message and
  3. decrease our message cost?

Is your business Web 2.0 compatible?

Again, the most vital element to success is not the technology itself, but rather the real value your business presently offers consumers. For those businesses who meet this criteria, Web 2.0 technology is tailor made to effectively assist in achieving the marketing goals mentioned above.

Bear with me as I give yet another Web 2.0 analogy. If I buy this 2006 ADR3 race car for $85k, its got the technological capability to win races. However, just because I buy the car does not make me competitive with professional drivers. Assuming I could con my way into entering a professional race, it would soon become apparent, when I crashed and burned on the first corner, that I was an amateur. The technology would do me little good if I did not posses the real ability to utilize its potential.

Likewise, the benefit that Web 2.0 technology can bring is directly proportional to some more fundamental aspects of your business, such as:

  • Do your current customers (not you, your employees, or executives) consider the products you offer to be truly unique and superior solutions?
  • Do you receive a significant portion of new business through referrals?
  • Is it easy for your prospects to understand your unique value proposition?
  • Is the leader of your business dedicated to establishing a front facing culture of transparency, honesty and direct communication with customers?
  • Do your employees understand and embrace this vision?

This by no means is a comprehensive list, but hopefully you get the idea. The more “yes” answers you can give to these types of questions the more potential your business has for excelling by implementing Web 2.0 technology and tactics.

For a more detailed look at how Web 2.0 technology can help you achieve your marketing goals you may want to check out our “Helping you achieve your goals” page.

What is Web 2.0?

May 29th, 2008

Web 2.0 is a term that has proliferated rapidly over the last few years. The term has become so popular that it’s now being used by about anyone for about anything (Web 2.0 Easter greeting card anyone?). For most businesses, it’s not necessary to understand Web 2.0 in much technical detail. What is important to understand are the massive social and business environment changes that the Web 2.0 phenomena is driving.

Web 2.0—The widespread acceptance and use of technology that allows continually changing or active communication.

Web 2.0—The Basics

Web 2.0 is simply the widespread acceptance and use of technology that allows continually changing or active communication. As you may be aware, some of the most common Web 2.0 applications are blogs, podcasts, Content Management Systems (CMS), social networking sites and user forums. Each of these technologies can be defined within Web 2.0 depending upon how they’re utilized. Technology is a prerequisite for Web 2.0, but it’s the widespread acceptance and use part of the definition that really matters.

Let the Buyer Beware

The most important aspect to Web 2.0, from my perspective, is that it has sparked a grassroots revolution by consumers. The era of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) progressively grew through the 20th century until we languished under a never ending stream of unbelievable advertising. Regardless of consumer protection laws, the reality was that we were largely forced to rely on the naturally biased advertising and promotional information provided by businesses.

The losers in this environment were of course the consumers, but also those businesses who truly did offer unique value and could not afford to carpet-bomb our televisions, magazines and mailboxes. Nor could a business offering real value do much in their advertising to show they were different, since their competitors would make the same claims.

Consumers who wanted unbiased information about a seller relied on personal referrals—the most unbiased and believable feedback available. They were limited however by the finite capacity of their own personal networks.

Let the Seller Beware

Web 2.0 has ignited a new era of caveat venditor (let the seller beware). The rapid change in the marketing nvironment is not due to legislation or litigation, but rather the widespread practice of consumers sharing unbiased
information about a sellers product to other customers and prospects.

A simple example can be seen with books. Outside of our friends’ recommendations, we’ve had to rely on the
publisher’s information or from the questionably neutral editorial reviews. Now, thanks to Amazon and others, we have access to a large and active community of other consumers who provide us their unbiased feedback. Of course this is not a perfect system, those with ulterior motives can post reviews but we can use common sense to evaluate the reviews collectively and form a more reliable conclusion about a product.

For example, if I were to rely on attractive cover and glowing editorial review for Deck Planner: 120 Outstanding Decks You Can Build I might convinced to buy this book. But when I look at relatively low rating by consumers and their mixed reviews, I opt for a better choice.

The important point to understand about Web 2.0 from a business perspective is that our products and services will increasingly be promoted or demoted in the marketplace by consumers, and that advertising and PR will continue to lose effectiveness. Consumers now have better choices of where to get information before making a purchase decision.

The Web 2.0 revolution is only bad news for those sellers who have gotten away with neglecting their customers. In my next post, we’ll explore some of the unprecedented opportunities and strategies for businesses offering true value.

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