Crafting Imagery — Choose Your Own Adventure

Colin Dutton's wonderful article regarding "reading photographs."

This is a lovely article. This same article could be used to speak to graphic designers, user-interface developers or copyrighters. We get bogged down with the notion that we must skim; take at face value; judge and digest. More often than not I see, even my own child not allowing herself to see past what's being served up. My father, a fine artist, and I had endless discussions regarding abstract and representational work and what delivers a more 'direct' message. The point here (IMHO) is that if you allow yourself to go past the surface level, then the medium (w/e it is) can reveal more than its first impression.


A touch more than Symbology:


Here's a thoughtful presentation that discusses eye movement in design by author ANUJ MALHOTRA.


User interface follows many of the same directional philosophy as outlined in the article above. That said, you as the designer need to take additional care in delivering the "interactive" attributes to your user. This is where the "intuitive" nature of UI/UX come into play, and where many designers fall short.

Posted on November 15, 2017 and filed under Design, Interactive, Trends.

All The Email Tips Your Assistant Isn't Using

^ Your face when you see what's been sent out to all your customer base ^

^ Your face when you see what's been sent out to all your customer base ^

Spam Assassin and blacklisted words –
Many email servers will look for specific blacklisted words that are utilized by spam services. When these are seen in subject lines or redundant within the content, they are often blacklisted and you will not be allowed to publish on that server again. Avoid the following words and offer styles:

  • Free, BOGO, %, 
  • Act now, For limited time
  • Subject lines and Pre-headers that utilize sexually oriented, pornographic, hate related and or profanity

Emoji’s
Use emojis in your subject line! Whether to accent specific words or make them part of your call to action (CTA). Experian noted that fifty-six percent of brands using emoji in their email subject lines had a higher unique open rate.

Preheaders —
Nothing gives your reader more piece of mind that you do not spam than a solid preheater. This supports the valuable context of your subject line and can help your open rate.

Scripted Personalization –
Email services offering <inserted name> personalized subject lines are 25% + more likely to be opened.

Content priority —
Use sectional layouts to break up your content and priority — make sure that your primary call to action is listed closer to the top, and then as you descend do so in the matter of importance.

The "Inverted Pyramid" (see example below) –
When laying out your primary CTA utilize the inverted pyramid, structuring the elements of your email so they work together to draw the reader to your CTA, such as a button, video or hyperlink.

^ Click for Enlargement ^

Dimension –
Your email width should be a minimum of 640 pixels, with a maximum of 800 prior to a background color. While I've only outlined width here, my suggestion would be to ensure that the email is not so lengthy as to overstep its intent.

File Size –
Ensure that any large JPEG has been compressed properly to maximize file size.

Alt Text – 
Many email servers still publish an email in text format prior to an HTML format. Therefore, if you want to ensure that you have text in the place of imagery, allowing Alt Text to display in its place.

Hyperlink all images –
If the reader touches any graphic on an email it should be redirected to a location of your choosing. Therefore, take the time to ensure that you have hyperlinked any image to be forwarded to a destination based upon your campaign or messaging.

Negative Space – 
This design principle is simply adding ample white space (or colored “negative space”) around the elements, both text, and images allowing the reader to discern one section from another.

Mobile-friendly –

  • Keep your subject line short
  • Use preheader text
  • Use minimal body copy
  • 16pt sized font usage is a good size for mobile viewing
  • Ensure that your images are large enough to see (I'm a particular advocate of square formatting as well).
  • Place a minimum of two CTA Buttons with in an email, one after your inverted pyramid design, and one at the bottom of your content, prior to your social media icons.
  • Ensure that any CTA buttons are a color that will stand out in contrast to the primary tones used an email.

Video & Animation –
While many of the newer email services allow you to embed video, older lists and legacy email applications often do not. Therefore, my suggestion is always to put an animated GIF in the place of a video and link to the location of the video within the GIF.

While it's not an actual video, readers are more apt to click through to see the real video, than simply using a static image.

While it's not an actual video, readers are more apt to click through to see the real video, than simply using a static image.

A/B Test –
If your email services offer A/B testing of subject lines or body content, ensure that you utilize this. There are an array of metrics that you should keep your eye on to ensure maximum open rate such as:

  • Does your audience prefer shorter or longer subject lines?
  • Do you have any successful trigger words/emojis? (e.g. "Awesome" "Immediately" etc.)
  • Heat mapping your emails will show you where your readers are apt to click on the page. Over the course of several emails, you'll begin to see useful patterns and redundancies. 
  • The emotional tone of the email content
  • Types of photography chosen

Social Media Icons –
Always be sure to include social media icons to your social graph, in the footer of your email. Additionally, a way to bolster interest in a specific channel is to get a graphic (such as an Instagram photo) that came from that particular channel and link the image to it.

Contact & Feedback –
Creating a contact link is one thing, but often readers assume it is simply to engage in a course of action with the content. While feedback links are often seen as a more passive way of communicating one's opinion but not committing to the content. Lines of communication are extremely important and worthy of aggregate.

Layout Madness –
Be careful not to have too many fonts or style variations on your layout. It's obnoxious and has the uncanny ability to make your messaging come across and amateurish. Only, BOLD items that are impactful, and match your TEXT colors to fall in lockstep with your brand or main image.

^ Click to Enlarge – if you want your eyes to bleed ^

Posted on September 5, 2017 and filed under Advertising, Brand, Content, Process.

10-Steps to help you name your Podcast?

Make sure it "has legs", meaning a concept that's flexible enough to grow and change while maintaining your messaging. People often pigeon-hole their brand right out of the gate. They find that in a year, they want to sell products too, or create a community around the idea but it's just called "The XYZ Podcast" and doesn't make much sense anymore. Therefore my recommendations would be the following:

  1. What are your goals for the show or the brand? Core values? 
  2. Are you family friendly? Who is your core demo?
  3. Ensure that you can get the URL (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) of the same name.
  4. Think about the show/brand’s “voice” through before your start
  5. Are you lead by a personality? “The Jane Doe Podcast” or are you something more open-ended?
  6. Determine your audience categories - sports, fashion, politics, opinion, etc.
  7. Is this a business model? How? Why? Who? Bigger picture, does it have modularity to grow beyond the podcast product?
  8. What are the names of other podcasts within your vertical? What do they do right? What do you they do wrong? How do you want to differentiate yourself?
  9. Once you have a name you THINK you like, create a test group of peers to kick the name around and see if it means the same thing to them as you have intended for the show. The “Red Bird” Podcast could be about bird watching, baseball or any number of things.
  10. Once you’ve decided on a name, swoop down and do a social media land grab: Get the Facebook Page; Twitter Handle; Facebook Community Group (leave it unpublished until it feels like there’s real activity going on internally); Instagram Account and any related social accounts that you think will be necessary to support the directives. 

Take time to fill your social with “LIKES” and podcast with ratings before you start REALLY pushing it out there with a real marketing effort. People are often reluctant to start with something new, fearing that it must not be good or that it might not have staying power. People take their digital time-share seriously and they don’t want to make an investment in something that they don’t feel is gaining momentum.

Have you ever started a Podcast or community that failed out of the gate?

Posted on June 14, 2017 and filed under Brand, Content, Process.

The New Bias In Media Placement

These days your advertising works harder and harder at messaging an even mildly willing consumer. There are so many factors at work with the American consumer:

  • They don't believe anything you pitch
  • They don't want to be sold
  • Their loyalty lasts as long as the battery life
  • They desire credibility over longevity
  • They judge you by the company you keep

The last of these points is critical. "Media Bias" in journalism is defined as: "... the bias or perceived bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. The term "media bias" implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening the standards of journalism, rather than the perspective of an individual journalist or article. The direction and degree of media bias in various countries is widely disputed."

The reason that this is important? Well, channels, networks and even advertisers within those syndicates are now perceived (if even mildly) to align themselves with their positions.

Think "FOX NEWS" ... for many the first thing that comes to mind is FOX News, the GOP and by extension their conservative political positions. And yet the FOX owns FS1 which draws popularity from extreme sports and shock-jock personalities.

Think "The Weather Channel" ... for many they think a channel that you click over to, to see if you're about to be killed by a tornado or find out if will rain on your trip to Cancun. That said it's also a consortium made up of The Blackstone Group, Bain Capital, and NBCUniversal and produces an array of original content and positioning types.

Think "Lifetime" ... for many husbands you think "oh no, another movie about a crappy fiancé that meets the perfect match who moves in on the same street!" But did you also know that this channel now owns the rights to the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL)? Therefore, if you're a marketing professional the same channel you may have thought of as a square peg in a round hole might be the perfect match given the alignment.

This is all part of your media mix and for those of you who manage this placement you realize matching the correct show(s) and timing to best match the interests of your consumer demographic and buying propensities. What you MIGHT NOT be taking into consideration is the perceived bias, media and or otherwise, that might hang around the neck of that channel. More and more people are simply cutting cable altogether. That mentality makes those that DO still have it even more discerning about the content that they watch. Therefore, if you're trying to sync up with that perfect fit for your consumer, ask yourself "would they skip this channel altogether based on the collective PERCIEVED bias of content?"

Many reading this will fight me that buying during Wheel of Fortune will close in on a boomer demo or ESPN on males from blah-to-blah age. I'm not saying that's horseshit. I'm saying that with an on-demand world, there's no reason to settle. Therefore, if you feel that your product or service might not be in lockstep with the PERCEPTION of a channel, perceptions such as:

  • Political positioning
  • Content ratings
  • Predominance of content/show style
  • Female vs. Male domination of content
  • Language propensity (Spanish, English and or European)
  • Race, Religion or Theology

Take all of these into consideration before making a hefty investment into a media segment. 

RECOMMENDATION:

Buy online within the network and channel. Seed your brand, product or messaging and see if you begin to move the needle. This way your media spend is exponentially fractionalized and provides a solid test bed for a television purchase. The last point, if you're using a media buyer/placement firm, insist that they take you through the schedule and connect the dots to your end consumer. If they can't, you need to cut the cord or make them go back to the drawing board.