Archive of ‘strategy’ category

How Podcast Ads Influence Like CIA Interrogators

There are plenty of reasons to like podcast advertising. One reason that might be known to interrogators but not obvious to the rest of us is the podcast audience’s state of mind while consuming content and its vulnerability to suggestion.

Podcast ad revenue

Spending on podcast advertising continues to grow at a blistering pace. According to IAB, ad revenue growth jumped from $69 million among the largest companies surveyed in 2015 to $119 million in 2016 and a forecasted $220 million in 2017.

podcast ad revenue growth chart
It’s not too difficult to see why podcasting is a hot market. Advertisers are seeing the value in the direct relationship between host and listeners. With production costs low compared to other mediums, there are shows dedicated to very niche topics, with hosts passionate about their material. That makes them an influencer with that community, with credibility and remarkable recommendation power.  Compared to digital display ads, podcasting offers a much less competitive landscape that’s naturally ad-blocker resistant.

Podcast Exercisers

In addition to these benefits, podcasts are unique because of the setting they’re consumed in. Subscribers often listen while doing other activities, including exercising. Distance runners, weight lifters and all kinds of athletes that train in long stretches need something to pass the time and podcasts are a wonderful solution. The reason that’s important to advertisers is that physical fatigue can bring down our mental defenses and make us more likely to be influenced by suggestion.
According to an article published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, individuals that are fatigued show a greater susceptibility to yielding to leading questions. This is one of the reasons that intense interrogations are often preceded by periods of sleep deprivation.  Taken too far, this technique is so successful it can lead to false confessions.  During an intense workout, podcast listeners are more likely to be convinced and influenced by effective ad messaging.

Application

The interrogator analogy paints an alarming picture with advertisers playing the role of brain-washer. But our malleability during physical training can be empowering for the listener too.  If you’re having a hard time making a positive change, physical exertion may be a catalyst for internalization when combined with audio messages.
The idea of inserting persuasive messaging during physical work is nothing new. Drill sergeants and football coaches have been using the tactics forever, repeating their favorite mantras while their target audience sweats. And judging by college football TV it works; just listen to athlete interviews and count the number of internalized messages that are dredged up when put on the spot.
Brands that advertise on a podcast that’s consumed while exercising now get their turn to play coach.

What Your Browse Page Says About Your E-Commerce Brand

Shopping or browse pages tend to be the domain of the usability team, with utility and efficiency being the primary goals for optimization. There’s good reason for this as conveying the important product attributes can help users make purchasing choices, guiding them down the sales funnel. And click through rate to the product’s detail page is a critical performance indicator. But the browse page can also be an opportunity to deliver and reinforce value statements about your brand too. Visual clues on the product listings deliver brand messages with repetition, which aids in comprehension and recall.

Have a look at this browse page for Red Wing work boots.

They have codes that indicate the features of each pair of boots in relation to workplace needs. Filtering options include insulation against electricity, waterproofing, etc. Besides helping a customer navigate the site, displaying these product attributes sends a message to users that this brand is serious about work and their boots are purpose-built for the task. Visitors get this information at a glance, without having to read.

Compare to another shoe site NikeID, that is more geared toward the fashion-conscious and those the like to express a unique personality.

This site allows for color personalization and notes each product that is eligible for the feature. The addition of color wheels to each product image reinforces their brand’s commitment to co-creation and personalization.

The outdoor retailer REI uses a different browse page template for their outlet versus their main store. Here is their main store’s listing of jackets.

The outlet “REI Garage” displays products in a similar way but emphasizes the bargains by using strike-through pricing and calculating the percentage savings.

Because they’re delivering a different message in their outlet, they use a different template.

Messages can extend beyond the products to include store policies and content marketing. Bulk Reef Supply serves the DIY reefing community and has invested heavily in tutorial and product review videos. They add value to customers by offering lots of helpful guidance and infuse their product listings with visual cues to remind visitors that help is available.

In addition to badges, product images themselves provide an opportunity to lay out value drivers. In this case SCOTTeVEST offers an ‘x-ray’ of their apparel on mouseover. Besides being somewhat functional for browsing, it delivers the idea that you can carry a lot of stuff in these closes without looking bulky, which is the center of their value proposition.

The fact that these visual brand messages are native and repetitive is the key to this opportunity. Product listing pages with 50 or more products listed at a time offer a chance to drum key attributes into visitors’ heads as they scroll, in a way that feels natural.

Tactics for delivering brand statements are often at odds with usability tools designed with utility in mind. But the browse page for a product catalog offer a rare chance to do both in the same place.

Free Ad Impressions Through Mnemonics

Frequency is a key element of campaign design, especially in retargeting efforts. Multiple touches usually do better than one-off messages. But additional impressions will increase the rate of spend too. It’s a balancing act to find an efficient rate of spend and a satisfactory return on investment.

Credit: Neil Patel

Credit: Neil Patel

That’s if you’re paying for additional impressions. It works better if you can get them for free.

While adding external impressions will increase costs, mental repetitions are free. By developing creative specifically designed to enhance recall, you can increase the returns on your campaigns without breaking the budget.

Mental recall by design

There are myriad techniques for improving recall including classic advertising tactics like repetition and setting slogans to music. For more creative ideas, and to get the most drastic effects, we can look to memory champions and the mnemonics they use.

Each year the top mental performers in the US gather to compete in the USA Memory Championships. Performing feats of memorization such as recalling entire blocks of poetry upon a single exposure to it and committing hundreds of digits of random numbers to memory, they use mental tricks to help enhance recall. Our target audiences may not be focused on memorizing details but we can still employ some of the techniques used.

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There are a lot of techniques that competitors use to store and recall large amounts of random information. One of the popular and effective is the Method of Ioci or constructing a mind palace.  A mind palace is a mental image of a fictional place that contains rooms and other structure features that you can place items within. By leaving memorable items to trigger you memory within your palace, you can evoke memories by walking through your palace.

For example your palace may contain a kitchen, a pantry and a dining room among other rooms. To recall a 3 of clubs and 5 of hearts when memorizing a deck of cards, you might place 3 cavemen at the dining table, arguing about dinner. (Cavemen carry clubs.) They could be eating their favorite artichoke dip (fave = five, artichoke = hearts). And the story goes on from there as you walk from room to room through your palace.

According to memory experts the key to selecting effective characters and events is making them remarkable and out of the ordinary. The more absurd or emotional or personal the events the better. So cavemen are better than golfers because you don’t see them every day and artichoke dip is better for me than candy conversation hearts because I happen to actually like it. Those valentine hearts are nasty.

We can borrow that best practice for memory by using familiar settings in the creative, incorporating absurdities and using known personal preferences. Create visual ads that accomplish this by incorporating visuals that crazy, personal or emotional, or all three.

Absurd visuals

This one’s easy. Just make your creative a little more bizarre to add more potential for recall. You don’t have to go all the way to deranged, just make it something you don’t see every day.

Here’s a well put together ad campaign from Mutual Jewelers Insurance.

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It takes what could be a mundane topic in insurance coverage and ads an absurd twist: a ring stealing crab. This campaign gets bonus points for using animated display ads, which grab attention, and for adding absurd words as well as visuals. There are a series of ads that each use an obscure vocabulary to describe the theft, with alliteration to boot. “Criminal crustaceans” and “beach bandits” are memorable because they’re unusual and kind of weird.

Emotion

Adding emotion doesn’t have to mean making people weep or being overly serious. Your ad should evoke a feeling, the stronger the better, to boost memorability.

This image from Granite Gear is actually from their Instagram feed but is a good example of tapping into the emotions of the target audience.

granite-gear

The image is paired with the copy “Hang on summer, don’t leave just yet…”. Every backpacker knows the bittersweet feeling of summer winding down. Plus the image itself shows why summer is worth savoring. It depicts one of the rewards of a long hike: a peaceful sunrise after a good night’s rest in the tent. This makes good use of an emotional reaction unique to the target audience rather than going for a completely syrupy ad to try and make general consumers misty eyed.

The notorious Puppy Monkey Baby Super Bowl ad combined emotion (repulsion) with absurdity and got double the recall. But don’t let the desire to boost the stickiness of the ad overtake the brand message you’re trying to convey. It is possible to overdo it.

Personal meaning

Memory champs incorporate their own meaningful spaces and memories into their palaces. Experiences unique to you are more likely to be recalled when referenced externally. If you’ve ever caught a whiff of a unique smell from your hometown’s factory or a special dish your mom used to make when you were young, you know how it can take you back to a host of memories.

It can be a challenge to pinpoint personal settings since everyone’s experience is unique. But you can work with experiences that are shared by your community, your experiences unique to a profession or your geography. SCUBA diving enthusiasts probably all remember the feeling of getting their certification card in the mail or downloading their underwater photos from their camera after a dive. If you are a real estate agent you probably know how it feels to cash a commission check on a hard-earned sale, memorable because of the hurdles overcome. And people within a local community probably have memories attached to the local landmarks that are popular within the area.

Spire Credit Union is squarely focused on the Midwest, and the Twin Cities in particular. Their storytelling ads are peppered with landmarks and any local will instantly recognize. This helps their brand connect as ‘one of us’ but it also helps their message stick. The next time someone in the neighborhood walks by a building or vista featured in an ad, it has the potential to trigger recall.

 

A little effort for a big return

Utilizing 3rd party organizations to power retargeting ads can be a great way to get feet wet and to leverage advanced segmenting tools. It’s tempting to also outsource the development of the ads themselves too. Take care not to accept the basic templated ad shells that are available out of the box. If you go beyond brand colors and logo as the extent of your customization, you have the chance to multiply the effectiveness of your campaign by leveraging mnemonics, just like a champion mental athlete.

 

Add flesh to personas with cookies

User persona poster by Chase Oliver

User persona poster by Chase Oliver

User personas are great tools for focusing messaging and keeping your users’ motivations at the forefront when developing content and products. A classic way of displaying a user persona internally is through a visual poster that can be hung on a wall. To add more color, and to make things more practical, you can pull the profile off of the wall and onto the screen with web advertising.

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The interest map

To start, create a new user profile on your OS. This will make it easy to switch profiles and not contaminate one group of data with another.

Then, start creating a digital footprint with your user’s pain points in mind. In the fictional example of Mary Manning, she’s a middle aged real estate agent who lives in Nashville. Based on her user persona, she may visit sites about marketing, look at products that she can use in her real estate career and of course do some social networking.

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Creating click streams that advertisers will tap into will take some work. Spread the task over days or weeks to build a robust click stream. To make it easier for them to identify and target your persona, make sure to fill out profiles with the big data collectors like Facebook and Twitter. Retargeting campaigns are especially prevalent on the web so visit some content and product sites that may have a budget to lure you back. If you click on a web advertisement to begin a visit, you’re more likely to be tracked and put into a retargeting bucket.

Viewing the Results

After ‘Mary’ has made her interests and shopping patterns known, you can start to see how her world is impacted by other advertisements, providing great context for your own messaging strategy. Browsing general interest sites like local news pages and weather forecasts should start to reveal which companies are spending money to reach your ideal users.

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After spending some time walking in Mary’s shoes, you might be surprised to learn which companies are dominating her attention, especially if they are not a direct competitor for your product or service.

Treat your personas’ digital footprints as assets, updating the stream once in a while. Then you can tap into a live picture of her world any time you need to, and get a real picture of her potential experience online, based on real (virtual) world conditions.

 

 

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Keeping an eye on the competition without following the herd

When it comes to competitive analysis, it’s relatively easy to see what happening out there but a lot harder to know what to do about it. Skipping the hard part can lead to limited benefits or outright bad decision making.

Lemmings falling off a cliff

Here are some examples of the varying degrees of thoughtfulness that can be given after recognizing what a competitor is up to, and the implications.

Blind following: A direct competitor is doing this, therefore we should do it too. Observing what a company is trying usually affords no insight into results. Even when there are results offered as part of an interview or case study, consider the source carefully. They are often presented to paint the sunniest picture possible.

The best case outcome when chasing companies in your market is to match their functionality but to be behind on timing. There may be a time and a place to follow but in the long term it’s a losing strategy. The trouble is that when you see your direct competition doing something enviable it’s hard to resist the desire to duplicate it, especially when you can see the potential so tangibly.

Another option is to out-do the competition’s idea. This is easier said than done but if you pull it off you’ll not only put yourself in a great position but also nullify the competitor’s effort to some degree. In most cases it’s not enough to be incrementally better than the first mover though. You’ve got to cover the topic at hand or address the need in the marketplace so well that there’s no question who did it best and to make it difficult for the next company to outdo your effort.

A better option would be looking for relevant companies in non-competitive industries. If a company is innovating outside of your marketplace, copying and adapting their idea is a great strategy. The extra effort required is to see how the principles involved translate to you and your industry before diving in.

Another way to use competitive intelligence without following the pack blindly is to copy the strategy but vary the tactics. If you can diagnose the reason why your competition is doing a certain thing you can evaluate it and, if it fits for you, gain a shortcut to generating successful ideas.

For example if you sold Halloween costumes and sought mentions to improve your SEO strength, you might observe your competition offering free family-friendly costumes to mommy bloggers for them to review. They are engaging with publishers within the industry in order to encourage coverage and to generate links and social mentions. For your company, you might find the best way to utilize that strategy is to reach out to bloggers to ask them to collaborate on a ‘best of’ list of costumes to be published on your site. Potentially the collaborators would be credited within the article, offering an incentive for them to promote the piece. It’s still engaging with publishers to encourage coverage but finding a different way to get there.

Finally, you can use research on the competition to figure out what not to do. We are all looking for a Blue Ocean Strategy, or the chance to carve our a niche and dominate at what we do best. If you look at what your archival is doing you can better understand their positioning strategy. Sometimes the best response is to run in a different direction. If they are staking their claim to a territory you’re not interested in, you can take steps to distinguish yourself from their position.

With a little thoughtfulness, competitive analysis can be a great tool for business planning. The key is resisting the lazy temptation to copy first and ask questions later.