Oz: The Great and Powerful?

The Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz Wizardspends all his time pressing buttons and pushing levers to make his message powerful. Some people run away scared, while others respond with swift obedience. How does the wizard know if he is being effective? When he told Dorothy to kill the Wicked Witch of the East, he didn’t take her word for it – he required proof. He required the broom stick.

As marketers, we might believe that our message is reaching our audience, but we won’t really know the impact unless we have the proof to back it up. In the digital marketing space, that proof comes in the form of a ridiculous amount of data. When working with emerging media, the website often acts as the hub. Because audiences from a variety of marketing tactics are all converging on this one digital space, tons of data is generated. These are just a few analytical tools based on some common goals.

GOAL: INCREASE WEBSITE CONVERSIONS
Google Analytics [Funnels]

In Google Analytics, a funnel is the set of steps or page views a visitor takes to achieve a goal, like completing a sale or filling out a contact form. By tracking a funnel, you can see drop off points and determine what needs to be fixed. For example, on an e-commerce site, a funnel might be the shopping cart, payment page, and confirmation page. If a lot of traffic drops off on the payment page, there could be an issue with the payment page, or it could mean that visitors are leaving to go in search of a coupon. A large number of completed funnels indicate some level of success.

GOAL: INCREASE WEBSITE ENGAGEMENT
Eye Tracking/Heatmaps

Eye tracking and heat mapping tools offer insights into customer interaction with the website. While funnels provide an overview of pages users visit in sequence, eye and click tracking offer a more detailed view of actual user experience. Data collected by this type of tool would pinpoint areas on the website that are potential stumbling blocks to actual sales, and could assist with page layout to ensure key information is accessible and visible to users. An easy, free way to do this is by installing the analytics extension on Google Chrome. 

GOAL: IDENTIFY AREAS FOR EXPANSION
Google Analytics [Audience Segmentation]

Data related to visitor locations can help when determining new locations to open. If a lot of visitors from one area are searching the site only to discover there are no store locations nearby, a feasibility study might need to be completed to determine if it would be a good location for growth. Similarly, large percentages of users accessing the site via mobile device could indicate a need for responsive design (you should have this anyway), or a mobile app.

There a thousand more analytics and tools. I would suggest you read 8 KPIs Your Content Marketing Measurement Should Include for a quick list of measurements you might find useful. For continuing insights, I would suggest following Avinash Kaushik’s blog.

Storytelling: These Things Must Be Done Delicately… Or You Hurt the Spell

When we talk about the Wizard of Oz, what do you think of? If you’re like me, your mind recalls images of Dorothy in blue and white gingham linking arms with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion singing, “We’re off to see the wizard”. You’re probably aware that before Judy Garland graced the screen in 1939 and dazzled audiences with a melodic “Somewhere over the rainbow”, L. Frank Baum published a book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” in 1900.

While the book was highly successful by its own right, it has since taken a back seat to the film. Though the book features incredible illustrations, the visual effects and music of the film bring the story to life in a way Baum could never have imagined. The connection the audience feels to the main characters is strong; like the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion are dear friends. The film is so popular, it is said to have been viewed by more people, more times than any other movie ever made.

What, then, can brands learn about telling their story in a way that will be truly impactful? It is not enough to talk about a brand’s history or future goals, a brand has to engage their audience by telling their story as if they are a friend sharing stories and experiences. One brand that does this well is Starbucks.

A few weeks ago, Starbucks launched 30-second spots that advocate face-to-face conversations rather than relying solely on digital communication. Last week, they one-upped themselves with a short film “Meet me at Starbucks”.

AdWeek posted an article about the video. In it, Nudd explains, “The feel-good theme is ‘Meet me at Starbucks,’ and the centerpiece—a five-minute-plus mini documentary by 72andSunny—shows people doing just that. It was culled from 220 hours of footage filmed in a single 24-hour period in 59 Starbucks stores… in 28 countries by 39 local filmmakers and 10 local photographers.”

The idea is that Starbucks is not just about the coffee; it is about people and community. Starbucks is a meeting place. The story is not encouraging the viewer to buy anything or asking them to stop by, but assuming that you already do. It is showcasing the stories of the customers and the interactions that happen at every location, every day.

What other brands do you feel are telling their story in innovative ways?

Related readingIn early 2013, NPR published a brief history of the book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. It is a good summary of the history and timeline of the book and its adaptations, including the film.

Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking

Content vs. Conversation – which is king? With blogs, social media, and viral marketing, should marketers focus their time generating a ton of content for these various mediums, or should they focus more on the conversations that arise? Surely the answer is both, but in our reduced-budgets, resource-limited world, where should marketers really spend their time? Let’s take a look at both sides before deciding.

Content is King

The content camp believes that generating regular, consistent content is the most important function of a social media marketing strategy. If you do not have content, you do not have anything to talk about. If you do not have regular content that readers can depend on, you will alienate them.

In 1996, Bill Gates predicted “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet… Those who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products—a marketplace of content”. In 2014, content is easily generated by anyone with access to the Internet. Blogs have exploded along with social media – the uploading and sharing of ideas is normal and expected. Last year, Twitter reported they generate 500 million tweets per day, and that number is growing. Consumers expect brands to compete for their attention by generating relevant, engaging content on a regular basis.  Mashable’s infographic provides some statistics about content marketing that are relevant to this conversation.

Conversation is King

On the other side, those who believe that conversation is king believe that in the social media space, content is just something to talk about, while the conversation that arises is what is important.

When Bill Gates made his prediction in 1996, great content was scarce. Today, with the social mediascarecrow explosion, content is everywhere. Two years ago we were closing in on 200 million blogs worldwide. The problem is that this content is not always relevant, engaging, or even dependable. As the Scarecrow said in the Wizard of Oz, “Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking”. The conversation camp believes that content needs to be engaging to be of value, otherwise it is just advertising. By generating content that spurs conversation, a brand can truly begin dialoguing with their customers and take advantage of the most effective type of marketing – word of mouth or viral marketing.

What do you think? Who reigns in this kingdom: Content or Conversation?

Beer, chihuahuas and cars (oh my!)

Films like Wizard of Oz leave a mark on our lives. It has been around for 75 years and yet an obsessed appreciative lady still uses it as a theme for her blog.

From time to time a piece of advertising comes along on the television, in a magazine, or on the computer that sticks with us, too. I recall Budweiser’s “Whassup” campaign and the Taco Bell Chihuahua (Yo quiero Taco bell!). Of course, you can’t forget the 1959 Volkswagon ad that launched the brand and is still discussed in marketing classes today.

Think_Small 

Today, marketers are spending more time developing short videos instead of 30-second commercials in hopes of engaging in viral marketing and leaving a lasting impression. These range from 2-minute comedies like this one:

To 6-minute dramas like this:

Or even a full mini-series on Hulu like Chipotle’s Farmed and Dangerous.

Often in these films, brands or products are advertised very subtly. In the case of Newcastle’s video, the brand was even shown in a negative light – very different from traditional advertising. These spots aren’t shown on television, but instead are shared on social media, blogs, and online news pages like Buzzfeed or Mashable.

How do you feel about marketers using short films for brand awareness and generating buzz? Would you prefer to see more of these videos, or do you like the traditional television ad that is short and to the point?

Digital advertising: Relevant information or the hard sell?

Have you noticed how frequently you are exposed to digital advertising? It seems constant. When I turn on my kindle, I see an ad. My Facebook and twitter streams are inundated. I can’t even click play on a YouTube video without being forced to watch a sponsored message first. Forget email. Advertisers are literally everywhere. 

What if we translated our online lives to real life? Let’s take a step further and imagine what Dorothy’s journey would have been like if she were in an online environment. Oz_ads copy

When Dorothy landed in Oz, she likely would have received a notification from Shopkick that Target was nearby and she should check-in. After their song and dance, the Lollipop Guild would have presented Dorothy with a coupon to save 10% off her next lollipop purchase. What about scarecrow? Before his monologue and song about needing a brain, he would have presented a message from Monsanto, and the tin man would have been covered in Valvoline logos. The Cowardly Lion would have held up ASPCA’s phone number and a picture of a sad puppy while Sarah McLaughlin played in the background. Once entering the Emerald City, sales people selling timeshares, emerald jewelry, and ruby red boots would likely have accosted Dorothy. Even the Wicked Witch might have spouted off a quick sales pitch for Proactive, complete with before and after photos, as she melted.

Google’s (and others) intimate knowledge about our behaviors provide opportunities for advertisers to customize messages based on geography, purchase history, online behavior, and all sorts of various demographics and psychographics. I have to admit, it’s pretty cool when a coupon is delivered to my mobile device after I check in at a restaurant, but most ads I encounter are not relevant. Are today’s marketers taking advantage of targeted behavioral advertising that is actually helpful? Or simply looking for a way to interrupt our day in hopes they’ll capture a few seconds of our time?

Why do we accept intrusive ads in our digital lives when similar tactics in real life seem ludicrous? What can we do to encourage better behavior from online advertisers?

  

Related reading: The Huffington Post recently wrote a story about how AdBlock Plus has developed a manifesto in hopes of putting an end to intrusive ads blinking and interrupting in a desperate attempt to capture someone’s attention. Instead, they are encouraging acceptable ads that are not annoying; do not disrupt; are transparent; are effective without shouting, and relevant. Unfortunately, marketers are finding new ways around ad blocking software, so AdBlock’s efforts may not be enough.

“We’re not in Kansas any more”: The art of making a good first impression

 

Pretend for just a moment that Oz, the city over the rainbow, is a website. If you were to stumble into this city/website, what would your first impression be?

For Dorthy, it was wide-eyed awe and exclamation, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.” For viewers in 1939, when they first glimpsed the city in its full techni-color glory, it, too, was a response of awe and wonder. While most businesses aren’t going for an awed response, they are looking for a response that makes customers want to spend more time there. It is in this, that we can pull some lessons from Oz that applies to corporate websites today.

Color and imagery

It takes less than a second for a user to make a first impression of your website. It is important to select colors and images that draw the user in. Typeface and color contrast are important for readability. I am sure you can think of at least one website you have visited that demonstrates the importance of careful color selection.

Navigation

What if Glinda and the munchkins didn’t tell Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road and just left her to stumble about trying to find the Emerald City on her own? Some websites do just that by not using a proper navigation menu, or by forgetting to include a home link. Make sure that users are able to navigate around your website easily without solely relying on the back button.

Interactivity

On Dorothy’s journey, she interacted with all kinds of interesting characters, which made her journey more meaningful. Regardless of your website goals, interactivity is crucial for engaging with the user and giving them reason to continue exploring your site. Interactivity includes links, videos, blogs, comments, forms, etc.

Responsive design

I want to take a moment to touch on responsive design. I don’t know how to tie this concept to the Wizard of Oz, but it important that corporate websites consider responsive design. Users access the Internet from a variety of devices and you will want your brand represented well on all devices.

 

If you want to read more on this topics, check out these terrifying statistics about the importance of website design, and get 5 tips for ensuring your website makes a good impression

 

3 Clicks Away

In 1939 when Dorothy embarked on her journey, there was no Internet, no social media, no iPhones. She had to rely on her Tumblr_maktcq5bci1r7qhgbo1_500knowledge, instincts, wits, and the kindness of strangers. What if Dorothy was dropped into Oz today? How would the story have unfolded if Dorothy had an iPhone with access to google maps and twitter?

First of all, Dorothy would have never landed in Oz. A weather alert would have notified her of the impending twister so she could find safety. Second, a quick call to Auntie Em would have prevented Dorothy from searching the house rather than seeking shelter. But let’s assume for a moment that she still woke up in a strange land. Let’s also assume that Oz has quality LTE coverage. How would that journey have played out?

In today’s connectedness, the journey would have been less wondrous. Instead of finding help from Glinda the Good Witch, Dorothy would have only needed to rely on Siri. Siri would have told her how to get home and warned her to avoid talking scarecrows, tin men and especially lions. A quick text message to Auntie Em would have put her mind at ease. She would have documented her journey on Instagram and twitter and had proof that Oz did, indeed, exist. If she did find herself in the presence of the Great and Powerful Oz with a mission of destroying the Wicked Witch, a quick Google search could have provided instructions for completing the task. The journey would have been much less exciting, and much less a journey of self-discovery. When the entire world is just 3 clicks away, there is no reason to journey.

Pew Research conducted a study in 2012 that asked how millennials will be affected by their hyper-connected lives in the future. Almost half of respondents agreed with the statement that “They lack deep-thinking capabilities; they lack face-to-face social skills; they depend in unhealthy ways on the Internet and mobile devices to function.” Additionally, one participant commented “Young people accustomed to a diet of quick-fix information nuggets will be less likely to undertake deep, critical analysis of issues and challenging information. Shallow choices, an expectation of instant gratification, and a lack of patience are likely to be common results.”

Lauren Stiller, author of You Raised Us, Now Work With Us, said in a Fox Business article that Millennial-age workers are lacking communication skills. They communicate through technology, but interpersonal skills are “abbreviated and perfunctory”.

Is today’s connectedness hindering youth by negating the need for a journey? Is their desire for instant gratification preventing them from learning important lessons? Glinda didn’t immediately tell Dorothy how 3 clicks of her heels would complete her mission, believing the journey was more important than the destination.

What do you think? Does today’s connectivity help or hinder?

Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda, the Good Witch: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?
Glinda, the Good Witch: Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.

 

It’s Always Best to Start at the Beginning

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The last thing you remember is hitting your head. You wake up in a strange place with just one goal in mind: you want to go home. You aren’t sure how to get there since you don’t know where you are, and there’s paths leading in opposite directions. Luckily, someone wise intervenes and sets you off on a path that will lead you home. In order to get there, you have to embark on a long journey with winding roads, interesting characters and challenging encounters.

Start_at_the_beginningAs a business marketer, does your job ever feel this way? You have a vague idea of what you want to accomplish, but you aren’t sure how to get there. With 500 social media sites and endless other emerging media, how do you choose where to spend your time and resources? Like Glinda tells Dorothy before her journey down the yellow brick road, “It’s always best to start at the beginning”

The yellow brick road starts with objectives. What does your business want to accomplish with emerging technology? What do you have to offer potential customers? This infographic is a good place to start when evaluating today’s most popular social networks. Another good resource with pros and cons of each major social media network can be found here.

Some other things to consider:

  • A B2B marketer might not find a lot of value in Facebook, but should consider if LinkedIn is a good way to connect with their customers.
  • The Twitter audience likes to receive news as soon as it occurs, and the constantly refreshing format is great for disseminating information in real time, which is great for news outlets or businesses with a steady stream of new information.
  • Retail outlets looking to increase sales may find success in investing in mobile technologies with geo-targeted SMS discounts, or discounts for checking in on Facebook.
  • If your company employs experts in your industry, blogs can be the ideal way to share their insight with potential customers.

Determine your objectives, start with one or two methods, and do them well. Unresponsive Facebook pages and outdated blogs will only frustrate customers and cause them to find what they’re looking for elsewhere.

Whatever you choose, remember that Dorothy’s journey wasn’t simple, and if you try to take too many paths, you’ll have a hard time reaching your goal. If you start to feel overwhelmed, don’t forget to ask for help, and maybe sing a song. It worked for Dorothy.