Creatives: Beware of Your First Job

Beware-Creatives

Unless you weld your inner creative compass on true north, your first real job might be the crappiest thing that happens to your career. Right now student work fills your portfolio. That’s what you have to show, and, fair or not, that’s the crux of an agency’s hiring decision. No, it’s not your GPA, a sweet note from your mom, or anything else (unless you were incarcerated) on your resume. We care about you as a person and what makes you tick, but awesome work makes us slobber like dogs.

So here’s the rub. If your work is crap, only crappy ad agencies will hire you. Or an okay agency will hire you to clean their stables. Same thing, right? After a stint at that crappy agency, what will you have in your portfolio? More crap. So you won’t be any closer to working in a place that does great work than you were as a student.

This isn’t why you endured four (or five) years of school, is it?

You know great work when you see it, so don’t interview with crappy agencies. It’s not worth any salary, or the blackening of your soul to take a crappy job.

So now what to do? Ben Shahn would say, “Get a job in a potato field.” I’d say take a quick bartending course. Or, do something that’s useful that won’t freeze dry your creative juices. Of course, you’ll want to continue your education, soaking up cool work, reading, and plugging into an internship or two.

Meanwhile, your real job will be working on and improving your portfolio, and getting feedback on it from anyone in the field you respect.

Take time to steep yourself in great work online and off. Read. Try to understand something new. Reverse engineer work you like. How did they get the idea? Why was this design chosen? How does it make you feel? Challenge yourself with made-up assignments. Design campaigns for your favorite products and services. Try media you haven’t explored before. Learn code.

Let your non mixologist friends toil away in the stables, while you build a killer portfolio and get a real job!

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Only Someone Like You Can Change Your Mind

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Do you think your product or service is a tough sell? You won’t after reading this.

Try selling acceptance of gay marriage to voters who oppose it. That’s exactly what a study conducted by 100 gay and 100 straight canvassers did in Los Angeles County.

They interviewed 976 voters on their doorsteps about their attitudes toward gay marriage.

At the start of each session, the interviewee rated their acceptance of gay marriage on a scale of 1 to 10. Afterwards, they asked for another rating of 1 to 10. One of the main findings was that gay canvassers, who disclosed their sexual orientation, were five times more successful at selling  gay marriage than their straight counterparts.

I listened to some of the tapes. The canvassers were not trying to convince or desperately sell their point-of-view. They mainly listened to their fears and apprehensions, and shared their own life experience.

Follow-ups at 3, 6 and 9 months showed that the voters who spoke with gay canvassers were much more likely to maintain their opinion on the 1 to 10 scale. Other members of the household who just listened to the interviews also scored high on the scale. But conversations with straight canvassers tended to revert to their original views.

The explanation for the disparity between the two groups illustrates how we might think or bolster our opinions on marketing. The L.A. County study doesn’t answer that question, but that won’t deter me from speculating.

Get Real. Talk to Consumers.

We all chant the “voice of the consumer” mantra, but how many people in your company have actually talked to one? How can your brand be authentic if you don’t have on-going conversations with consumers? Real ones, in person, instead of social media.

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)  generally talk to groups, not individuals. And, for the most part, their loyalty can be bought, and consumers know it. So how effective are they? A recent study of physicians, who are notoriously slow to adopt new technologies, found that they would more readily embrace when presented by a peer.

Are we broadcasting more than we’re listening? If we’re listening, are we empathizing?

The L.A. County study also underscores the power of virility, and the potential impact of a single person. Are your employees believers in your brand? Do they get the message? Can they talk about it? If they do, they are your greatest assets. If not, you could find yourself in a world of hurt.

And lastly, do your people genuinely share common ground with your customers?

So where does listening fall into your marketing plan? Is it stories from salespeople in the field, or the annual focus group? What this study suggests to me is that we need to spend much more time in the trenches with consumers and less time riding our desks.

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Will Your Advertising Work without Integrity?

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Only 4% of Americans believe that the marketing and advertising industry acts with integrity, according to a 2015 study by the 4As entitled “Sex, Lies and News.”

News is beyond my purview, so let’s start with sex. Consumers who see sex in advertising say it cheapens products and makes them question the creative abilities of the advertising agency. Who knew?

Don’t feel too badly about the lack of integrity thing, because the U.S. Congress only has 2% more credibility points than the marketing industry.

I’d say that makes consumers pretty astute.

So what happened? With social media, review sites and easy access to information, the baloney churned out by agencies has been exposed, if not blown up.

It’s ironic that everyone is racing to make their brands more authentic, when the public thinks we’re lying to them. What happened? I’d say our work has turned into 50 Shades of Fudging It. The reasons are plentiful:

  • Pressure internally and externally from clients to amp up claims and language.
  • The misperception that we work in a Mad Men Style la-la land, which encourages us to take poetic/artistic license.
  • Other brands are lying, so we need to lie just to keep up.
  • We’re kidding ourselves that we know the consumer. And why is that? We believe that research has all the answers.
  • And finally, I think it’s laziness. We don’t fact check, consult multiple sources, go out in the field and interview consumers, and we take our clients’ word for it.

If authenticity is the benchmark now, how do we turn this around?

  1. Hire journalists. They’ve been trained to search for truth, and a lot of them are unemployed.
  2. Use facts instead of adjectives. Prove that a product or service works in the way you’ve claimed, or don’t make the claim. The last line in most pharmaceutical ads is “may cause death.” This is very disturbing. At least give me the Vegas line on surviving.
  3. Understand that great branding is based on reality, communicating it, and integrating it throughout a company. When advertising is more enticing than the consumer experience, watch out. You’re about to take a hit in the integrity category. BP has a beautiful tree-hugging logo, but it sure doesn’t make them environmentalists.
  4. Use facts in advertising, and, when you can, cite your sources. And give credit and links anytime you borrow anything you didn’t produce.
  5. Know that consumers are way smarter than we think. We need to get closer to them. The annual focus group isn’t enough. We need resources to get to know and observe them.

Aren’t these just common sense ideas? Then let’s make it an industry goal to body slam Congress in 2015.

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Hammered Mint Julep: A Smashing Derby Cocktail

Ideopia's Ben Singleton with Mint Julep

Whether you’re off to the races or watching the Kentucky Derby at home, you can bet on Ideopia’s Hammered Mint Julep. Watch Ideopia’s PR pro/mixologist, Ben Singleton, craft this ‘ole standby. Odds are, you’ll love it! The hammer? Optional.

The Hammered Mint Julep Recipe

  • 1.5 teaspoons Demerara sugar
  • 7 mint leaves or so
  • 2.5 ounces bourbon
  • ½ cup crushed ice (it’s hammer time!)
  • ¼ cup club soda

Gently muddle sugar with mint leaves. Mix in bourbon and let it percolate for five minutes. Add crushed ice and top with club soda. Garnish with mint, if you’re feeling fancy. Cheers!

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11 Ways to Increase Signups from Your Landing Pages

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Whether you’re hawking a new menu for your restaurant, or building an email list for prospective car buyers, landing pages are your friend. They’re designed to turn web visitors into prospects by capturing email addresses and other handy information.

You can push traffic to a landing page with brute force marketing dollars. But converting that traffic to usable email addresses and leads is part science and part voodoo. There are a ton of variables in play, like font, size, form field sizes, label placement, colors, copy, layout. And that’s just for starters, so our first piece of advice is to refine landing pages through A/B testing.

Fortunately, a lot of geeky research has given us best practices to get started. Here’s our top 11 list.

1. Write concise headlines that clearly state the offer and tell the visitor what to do. “Download a Free Guide to Purchasing Your First Home Without Regret.” Is this headline longer than usual? Yes. But it gives the visitor all the needed information to make a decision to download the white paper quickly.

2. Resist the urge to be “clever.” It’s a difficult and humbling lesson for us writers, who, on most days, are paid for our wit and silly puns, i.e. “Home is Where the Hearth Is.”

3. Make sure that design, language and visuals are consistent across all the promotional platforms. Otherwise, your visitor will experience a disconnect (read: loss of trust) and drop your page like a hot tater.

4. In general, don’t use offers that aren’t directly related to the information you’re trying to sell. Aside from possible legal and ethical issues, you’ll also receive a bunch of junk signups from people more interested in winning an Apple® watch than seeing the resolution of your new ultrasound.

5. As comedian Sam Kinison said, “Tell me what to do, and I will do it.” The same holds true for call-to-action (CTA) buttons. “Submit” is meaningless. Be clear and direct, “Download our free white paper.” Or restate the benefit, “Save on Maintenance. Send my eBook.”

6. Form design is a graduate degree unto itself.  Key tips: label the form fields precisely. “Full Name” not “Name,” and for an address, specify which one: practice, or home. Again, this isn’t the place to be clever.

7. Design tip: Line up form labels on top of the form fields, not to the left. There art plenty of articles about the technical design aspects of form design. For inspiration, though, I love Smashing Magazine’s overview of some of the best and most creative.

8. With at least 40% of your traffic visiting by phone, mobile compatibility for landing pages is an absolute must. Otherwise, you’re missing an important chunk of your audience, and quite possibly taking a SEO hit from Google.

9. The objective of a landing page is to encourage visitors to follow a path to the call-to-action. Anything that gets in the way of that visually should be hacked out.

10. Use an A/B test on all the elements of the landing page. Start small, e.g. testing two versions of the landing page, or the color of your CTA buttons. For further information about anything related to user interface, read articles by Jakob Nielsen at the Nielsen/Norman Group.

11. Agencies and in-house groups alike tend to obsess about conversion rates. That’s okay, but the ultimate metric is the number of qualified prospects converted. The secret is to repel people who you know aren’t qualified.

For example, your event to educate health club owners about your product could be perceived as an invitation to fitness buffs. Try crafting a message like, “Knowledge is more important in health club success than muscles.”

That’ll send them running for the door.

Learn more about email marketing, marketing automation and web development services at Ideopia.com/Services.

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Right Message. Choppy Delivery.

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How you deliver a message is just as important as the message itself. Just ask Doug Hughes, a 61 year-old retired postman from Florida. Hughes’s mission was to deliver letters to all 532 members of congress regarding the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision about campaign financing.

A rural letter carrier in Florida since 2003, Hughes didn’t trust his former comrades to deliver the mail. Instead, he took it upon himself to pilot a one-seater gyrocopter and landed on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building.

Hughes found himself in a world of hurt he could have avoided by heeding Marshall’s McLuhan’s insight: “The medium is the message.” He confused the medium, the gyrocopter, for the message. The ensuing media coverage sucked the air out of anything Hughes had to say. All of it was about the breach of White House security, the flight that even NORAD couldn’t detect, and endless hand wringing by security consultants.

So heads up, fellow marketers. We make this mistake every day. We lavish attention on “the message,” but we delegate or ignore the delivery medium.

Media is like a package that wraps up your precious communication or product. The result determines how you interact and feel about the content. Subtract the packaging and gold foil from Godiva, for example, and it would taste like chocolate byproduct. The type of envelope you choose for a direct mail effort might be more important than the brochure inside.

Similarly, if you’re using the same video on TV as pre-roll on YouTube, you might as well put a down payment on a gyrocopter.

I admire Hughes. He lost his son to suicide, which undoubtedly clouded his judgment. But I still have a soft spot for creative forms of protest that aren’t violent or destructive.  For all the trouble, though, I do wish Hughes’ message had been delivered.

“The Medium is the Message.” Tattoo it on your chest.

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Ideopia Reforests the Planet, One Print Job at a Time

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Cincinnati, Ohio (April 21, 2015) – Ideopia, a B2B and B2C integrated marketing agency, celebrates its 25th year in the advertising business by launching the Treebie Initiative, a program designed to replace trees for every print project completed by the agency for its clients.

For every print job ordered by a client, Ideopia makes a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Cincinnati Nature Center or Great Parks of Hamilton County. The client is then presented with a Treebie award, printed on 100% post-consumer fiber, with earth-friendly toner instead of ink, and processed chlorine free. The awards are suitable for hanging on the official Dano the Squirrel Treebie Display Peg.

Treebies Package

Ideopia Copywriter Eric House and Designer Emily Babel were the driving force behind the Treebie idea, and stewarded the project through from concept to completion.

“Any time we can make cool work and help the environment in a big way, that’s a win in my book,” said House. “It feels even better to support these great organizations, and pass Treebies along to our clients, friends and families.”

Giving back to the community has always been a part of Ideopia’s DNA, long before Corporate Social Responsibility was a buzzword,” said Bill Abramovitz, CEO and Creative Director. “We’ve been involved in projects from helping keep at-risk students in high school so they graduate, to making home ownership a possibility for lower income families. We’ve built marketing campaigns for agencies that provide services for critically ill children and helped non-profits with programs that make it possible for low-income students to earn college credits right in their own neighborhood. We even created a video game to raise awareness of the necessity of having pets spayed or neutered.”

More information on Treebie and an infographic on the Treebie Effect available at www.ideopia.com/eco/

About Ideopia

Founded in 1990, Ideopia is a B2B and B2C integrated marketing agency that partners with clients to achieve long-term goals through interactive marketing, web development, social media, public relations and advertising. Ideopia recently announced the creation of its new medical division, designed to meet the specific demands of companies in the medical and healthcare fields.

Headquartered in Cincinnati but lives in the cloud at www.ideopia.com and www.IdeopiaMedical.com

For behind-the-scenes photos of how Treebie came to life, check out our facebook page at www.Facebook.com/ideopia.

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Podcast Your Way to Niche Markets

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Podcasting, generally short audio only, or video programs, are enjoying resurgence. According to Edison Research, 39 million people listen to podcasts at least once a month. Increased smartphone usage figures into the equation.

Listen to Ideopia’s Blendercast Podcast at podcast.ideopia.com.

Podcasts, web, video and internet radio now join the automatic coffee maker as technologies that accommodate their schedules, and maximize free time. For marketers, podcasting opens up a plethora of new content sources: Audio versions of blog posts, excerpts from speeches, and even comments or questions from customers. While some podcasts achieve chart-topping status, like these top programs from 2015, the relatively low cost of podcasts makes them a viable option to communicate specialized content to niche markets. While one of your engineers may not be ready for prime time, she could be very effective talking to peers at other companies.

Chance are you already have all the technology you need to start podcasting: a good microphone, a computer, and if you’re a one-take wonder, you can skip downloading free sound editing equipment.

For more about the popularity of Internet radio, see our post in Blender.

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Website Analytics: Turn Flabby Numbers Into Customers

The hungry marketer Many years ago, a client called me at 7:30 a.m. “Your f…..g ads don’t work, you f……g a……..e.” In retrospect this is hilarious because his store wasn’t even open yet. Some people make the same snap judgments about websites based on top line data only. This information (see below) may flag a problem on the site, but it’s not the diagnosis. Now what? Say your car doesn’t start. The problem could be everything from a faulty ignition switch to a potato lodged in your tail pipe. We need to get under the hood and get dirty.

Typical dispaly of top line website data

These are topline numbers on your Google Analytics (GA) account’s home page. If you don’t drill down to understand what’s really going on, they can bite you in your rear part.

Top line numbers fluctuate due to many factors beyond your control, seasonality, popular soccer match, day of the week, or job postings on your website. The numbers go up, and they come down. And they will not tell you important dimensions about the size of your core audience, or the surge in traffic driven by social media.

So slap on a pair of coveralls, grab a wrench, and let’s do a deep dive on your website until we reach the core. As for the hard charging, results driven, monkey on your back, you’ll have a few more bananas to pitch at him.

Can you tell where the 300% increase in traffic dropped off?

Can you tell where the 300% increase in traffic dropped off?

Last October, Ideopia redesigned a website. Traffic growth was almost immediate. Eventually the growth slowed, but growth in visits continued to increase. Then boom! Traffic spiked over 300%. Champagne corks popped like gunfire at Ideopia. And yes, we were quick to point out this accomplishment to our client.

We poked underneath the traffic to find the mystery traffic.  And the bump wasn’t do to earned traffic at all.  By checking traffic sources, we found the culprit, an Adwords account that was running amok. While it’s nice to take the credit, our job here was to shut down the rogue Adwords account. And we did.

One reason website analytics get wonky is because they’re based on averages. For example: web traffic might go up, but pages per visit go down. Has your content broken down? That’s possible, but it also might be a slow download speed for your site.

Other and possibly deceitful metrics – time per visit, and pages per visit – are based on averages of all your site’s data, too. Now hear this:  There is no average visitor. One visitor might hit one page on your site. Another may visit a hundred making the average number of pages per visit 500. Again, we love to report the good news. But it’s not helpful for decision making. So lets take an example using Pareto’s 80/20 distribution. For the sake of this example, our website pulls in a whopping 100 visitors per month.

Traffic Segment A 

  • Web Traffic = 20
  • Average page views per visitor = 10
  • Total Pageviews = 200
  • Time per visit = 5 minutes

Example Segment B

  • Total  traffic = 80
  • Average page views per visitor = 1
  • Total Pageviews = 80
  • Average time per visit = 1 minute

Averaging A & B segments together yields the top line data you would see on your dashboard.

  • Total traffic = 100
  • Total  page views= 280
  • Average page views = 190
  • Average time per visit = 3 minutes

The point here is to show how averages misrepresent the values in both A & B segments. Knowing that we have 2.8 page views is useless. What’s interesting is that 20% of our traffic views 10 pages, and 80% account for 80 page views. See how unhelpful averages are? Depending on your objectives, you might be more concerned with core visitors, or overall traffic. If only you could determine what’s sticky for the core group, and what’s turning off the fringe visitors.

Well, you can with custom segments from Google Analytics. It’s a power tool for defining your key audience segments, and a component of decision making about content, user experience, and SEO.  The answers aren’t on top. Drill down, and start finding customers.

Find Customers in the Core

Use Google’s custom segments to define your target audience. Describe it by demographics (18-24), keywords from search, affinity categories like sports and gardening, and traffic sources, like social media or Adwords. The core is the group of visitors you want to tantalize with your content, capture their email addresses, and eventually contact them personally. This report shows engagement by comparing numbers of users in different time segments.

Rules of Engagement

A metric like engagement should make you swoon. On Google Analytics, it’s called “Engagement,” located under Behavior on the left-hand navigation. Let’s take the table below as an example, and say that we consider anyone who has made a visit of 180 seconds, or 3 minutes, to define a core visitor.

Which would you say are the most engaged visitors?

Which would you say are the most engaged visitors?

380 or 21% of visitors accounted for 6,116 or 56%, of page views lasting more than 3 minutes. According to our definition, this is the core audience. To refine further, choose from a slew of pre-configured reports to import into your accounts. Custom segment in hand, you’ll want to apply it to other reports in GA. Find out how much of your core audience visits from social media, and what platform. What pages are most appealing to this group? Who is performing what actions on your site.

Increasing Website ROI

While it’s fun to gloat over top line numbers, it can lead to rash decisions based on them, like trashing your existing site, revamping the home page, or stuffing copy for SEO. Keep in mind that your site still needs  to cater to the other 80%. They will become the new core, and fodder for content marketing programs. What are your top analytic tricks? Please add them to the comments.

Bill Abramovitz is CEO and Creative Director at Ideopia, a Massively Integrated Idea Company.

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10 Ways to Botch a Medical Device Launch

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Several years ago, we were asked to consult on the launch of a troubled medical device, one that had cost millions to develop. Our first step was to assess doctor demand for the product through qualitative and quantitative research. The results were stark and conclusive. Not one doctor in the study said they would purchase the device at any price. The launch and the product were scratched.

So why do launches of new medical devices fail? Are the products not innovative? Are they too expensive? Did you lift off too close to the holidays? Those are rarely the root cause, but our list below maps out some of the key troublemakers.

  1. Ignore the distributor, doctor and patient. Medical devices are rooted in science and engineering. But market acceptance is driven by consumer insight and education. Consult your distribution network, and doctors who you don’t pay as KOLs. Apply what you learn to products in development, and uncover the need for new devices.
  2. Let R&D propaganda drive the marketing. They’re undoubtedly jazzed about their new widget’s performance. But that doesn’t guarantee the market will feel the same way. Determining an effective strategy depends on finding out what the end user, or decision maker, values. Test the prototype with your target. Listen. Repeat.
  3. Starve the marketing. You only get to be new and shiny once. Make it count. Your new product needs sustained support not just for the launch period, but for months afterwards. And, you can’t do it with just journal advertising anymore. You must employ multiple tactics that work in sync in your sales funnel.
  4. Launch a bum product. Pushing a product out the door before it’s ready will cost you dearly. You’ll pay to make it right, the product will never reach its potential, and the damage to your brand will be exorbitant. You’ll pay all over again when your next product launch is greeted with skepticism.
  5. Underestimate the competitive response. If you’re lucky and your product is worthy, it should provoke jealousy, fear and hatred from your competitors. Assume that you have more leakers than the White House, and that your competition is preparing for your launch with the same intensity as you are. Prepare your sales force to counter the flak and misinformation. Otherwise, rumor becomes reality.
  6. Hype it ‘til you’re hoarse. New products rarely live up to their hype, which makes them ultimately disappointing. Again, think to the future, and consider the credibility of your next hype fest. If you want brand love, be authentic. Show it through the story of your product and the people who are passionate about it.
  7. Play games with the price. Introductory offers are a tell that every doctor, distributor and buyer recognizes as: A. You don’t have confidence in the value of the product. B. You consider the real price too expensive. Both of them will come back to bite you in the haunches when it’s time to deliver margin.
  8. Launch without adequate inventory. This seems obvious, but it happens. Especially when manufacturing, management or accounting don’t share your confidence in the product, and hesitate to invest in inventory. Your introduction may go flawlessly your reputation will never recover from the inability to deliver product. Instead, you’ll lose orders, and give competitors time to catch up.
  9. Ignore aesthetics and ergonomics. Too many new medical devices come out of the chute looking like science experiments. Your innovation might be brilliant, but leaving out details like smart design and ergonomics leave the end user with a “blah” instead of a “wow” experience.
  10. Don’t believe. Deep down, you know this new product is a goat. You don’t need to say a word. Your cynicism or fake enthusiasm will poison your sales force and customers. Maybe you do have a dud on your hands, but you, as the leader, should not cement its fate. Speak truth to power. Get another job. Bad products and bad launches reflect on you, too.

Learn more at our medical division website, Ideopia Medical Marketing.

People who read this post also read “Does your Healthcare Brand Have the Blues?”

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