All posts by Sheri Nicholson

Senior Creative Strategist

Choosing Visual Elements that Drive Impact

Optimization is a word that marketers overuse. Put simply, it means we try and then test, rework and try again. Like medicine, marketing is a practice, and one that is finely honed over time.

On the first day of a campaign, any great marketer has put a lot of thought into audience segments, content artifacts and visuals. They’ve described, in painstaking detail, just how the campaign will go to market, launch, and convert. Landing pages or sections of a website have been built to collect and inspire action for users. This level of detail can’t be overlooked whenever a campaign is crafted, otherwise the conversions we all hope will come surely fall short.

But how does one know when a marketing effort requires new creative? At Advance 360, we often say that gut isn’t a strategy. Just because you feel that a piece of creative isn’t effective doesn’t make it so.

No campaign is ever as inefficient as it is on day one.

Ideas about Changing Creative to Entice Engagement

CONTRAST

Consider using animation to highlight certain portions of the imagery or text. In this example, the ad’s behavior draws the eye and entices more interaction. In this case, the example is around casting for a local theatre’s upcoming performance. Notice how the ad, in the first position, is largely black and white. While appealing, it is positively illuminated when changing color. The contrast in the before and after views as well as in the difference surrounding the content is engaging and enticing.

ORIGINAL CREATIVE

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purplerosetheater_300x250_20150728_AT Choosing Visual Elements that Drive Impact

optimized ad with animation

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USE OF TRANSPARENCY

In this initial set of creative ad units our designer captured the concept of “a transparent experience.” Our clients were hopeful for units that truly told a story of building trust with their organization. They wanted their ad units to speak the way they spoke, and illustrated the many ways that they were available to talk. In this case, the artist chose white and pale grey as a way to illustrate this.

As this campaign progressed to a place wherein it was clear that clients understood and accepted this transparency as part of the brand, the use of transparent panels was a natural next step. Lacing multicolored, ombre panels over and behind the subject matter created a new, more colorful take on the ad units and the experience.

ORIGINAL CREATIVE

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sellersautogroup_300x250_20150724_Pre1 Choosing Visual Elements that Drive Impact
sellersautogroup_300x250_20150724_Pre2 Choosing Visual Elements that Drive Impact

OPTIMIZED CREATIVE

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sellersbuickgmc_20160811_300x250_2 Choosing Visual Elements that Drive Impact
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SPACIAL DISRUPTION

When building material to live online, we must keep in mind the native space and how the web world is built. Crafted to fit together like building blocks, with one bumping up to the next in repeated grids, ad units can begin to look like wallpaper. Consider any design element that disrupts that concept, creating negative space to be interruptive to the eye.

DESIGN FOR THE AUDIENCE

Baby Boomers prefer more “meat” in their advertisements, and are not hindered by greater detail. Millennials, by contrast, prefer modern looks with a great deal of negative space. Generation Z needs us to break up swaths of text with icons, graphics, or images with a greater frequency than any generation that came before them. We don’t need to buy an ad space and display a single ad unit anymore. Split your audience types, and serve each their own ads.

ASSESSMENTS BEFORE OPTIMIZING CREATIVE

Review the campaign’s performance. Is it pacing properly to achieve the number of impressions needed to create lift?

Are the audience segments well refined? Too broad and you aren’t maximizing your spend — instead wasting marketing dollars, hopeful that the wrong audience will engage.

Are you properly identifying behaviors that indicate a consumer is ready for more? In the engagement phase, use pixels wisely to remessage those that are already raising their hands.

Don’t concentrate on clicks. A solid CTR is a great thing to have, especially since true attribution is so rare. But don’t rely on this metric as the sole proof that a campaign is working. If organic traffic is noticeably up, your campaign is creating the awareness you desire, even if it isn’t seen in the direct click through.

These optimizations aren’t the only ones that should be considered. But these small adjustments in a design strategy can garner big results. Don’t adjust too frequently, or you won’t know when changed direction created impact. But don’t miss out on the chance to optimize creative for better performance.

Culinary School Cooks up New Enrollments

THE RUNDOWN

A culinary school provides hands on training and a simulated work-like environment to prepare students with the skills, techniques and professionalism to achieve life long career goals. The center offers courses in hotel operations and commercial cooking and catering. The school enjoys a fairly steady enrollment due to their work with government assistance programs to help provide veterans and the disabled with the skills to achieve and maintain a rewarding career.

THE CHALLENGE

The success of the culinary school’s programs with their current government assistance clientele encouraged them to extend their program offerings for general enrollment. The center believed they could expand the impact of their programs by allowing more people the opportunity to learn and grow in the hospitality field. With a goal of increasing new student enrollment by 10 – 15 students per session, the school turned to Advance 360 because of our reputation for excellence, credibility of our expertise and data, and our team infrastructure to fully support and monitor their digital marketing efforts.

THE STRATEGY

The Advance 360 digital team worked closely with the client to identify the types of student prospects to target and the most relevant geographies to reach them. With two locations in the New York metropolitan area, the digital team focused on the 5 boroughs of New York and developed a multi-channel strategy to connect with the optimal audience including Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Facebook Lead Generation, and Display Remessaging. As the campaigns became established, the strategy was expanded to include Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and TrueView Video.

SEM (paid search) campaign to drive leads and conversions. The Advance 360 search team developed an exhaustive list of relevant search terms/keywords to connect with potential students with an interest in hospitality, cooking and culinary education. Naturally, with the vast number of general consumer searches for cooking-related topics, the search team also implemented an extensive list of negative keywords such as bakery, demonstration and celebrity chef names, for example, to maximize the search budget and prevent budget loss due to incompatible appearances on search result pages.

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CulinarySchool-icon-FBthumbsup Culinary School Cooks up New Enrollments

Facebook Lead Generation ads extend brand awareness with a call to action. Facebook lead ads were targeted to Veterans to inform them of the government assistance programs as well as recent high school students who are just starting to think about a career path, and people specifically interested in a culinary career. Lead generation ads delivered prospect information immediately to the client’s email and CRM.

Display Remessaging ads reinforce the brand message and offer to recent website visitors. Among potential students that came to the school’s website via organic or paid marketing efforts to learn more about their programs, visitors that did not convert were served additional digital display messaging to keep the client top of mind and encourage conversion.

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SEO (organic search) expertise strengthens client’s website to improve organic rankings on search pages. The search team reviewed the client’s website and updated existing titles and descriptions with optimized content. They created a unique page for Veterans with fresh content and optimized images. The team also reworked and optimized their Google Business listings and helped to get their blog page functioning.

TrueView Video can provide the most engaging level of messaging to connect with an audience. What better way to highlight the school’s facilities, meet faculty, glimpse classes in action and hear from satisfied graduates to make a lasting impression on prospective students?

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THE RESULTS

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ROI OVER 400%

per month on average

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Average 120 leads per month

Search & Facebook campaigns drove a high number of actionable leads to the client.

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56% Video View Rate

TrueView Video campaign garnered a 56% view rate which is over 2X the industry standard.

SEM 6% conversion rate

Client campaign conversion rate exceeded the education industry average by 77%

12-15 new students per
enrollment period

Campaigns achieved the client’s goal of 10-15 new students per session

Know Your Audience

Generational Differences Should Change Your Marketing

Understanding the influences our audiences have in their lives and psyche are crucial to user experience. While you needn’t know every detail, you must have an understanding of generational differences, beyond the cursory understanding provided by the media. Choose your words based on your audience, and your connections will be more real.

B-Gen-header-1tradb Know Your Audience

KNOWN AS: Veterans, Silent, Moral Authority, Radio Babies, The Forgotten Generation

CHARACTERISTICS: Raised by parents that just survived the great depression. Experienced hard times while growing up which were followed by times of prosperity. They’re influenced by… WWII, Korean War, Great Depression, New Deal, Rise on Corporations, and The Space Age.

VALUES: honor, compliance, sacrifice, dedication, hard work, good attitude, attendance, practical knowledge, loyalty

Looking for recognition and respect for their experience, value placed on history/ traditions, job security and stability, reputation, defined rules and policies, with adherence to the same, integrity and a willingness to act.

COMMUNICATION WITH TRADITIONALISTS

  • Be discrete
  • Show respect for their age/experience (address formally)
  • Use good grammar andmanners, absolutely noprofanity, dramatically limit slang
  • Deliver your message basedon history and traditionswhenever possible
  • Present your story in a formal, logical manner
  • Don’t waste their time
  • Use inclusive language (we, us)
  • Focus-words not body language
  • Be slow to “warm up”
  • Whenever possible, use hand written notes, less email, and more personal interaction
B-Gen-header-2bb2 Know Your Audience

KNOWN AS: “Me” Generation, Moral Authority

CHARACTERISTICS: They question everything and are slow to trust. They handle crisis well. Ambitious, anti-establishment, competent, idealistic, and live to work. They dislike conflict. Often challenging the authority of Traditionalists, and are judgmental if others disagree. Highest divorce rate and 2nd marriages in history. They’re influenced by… Civil Rights, Vietnam War, Sexual Revolution, Cold War, Space Travel.

VALUES: family loyalty, involvement, personal gratification, personal growth.

Post War Babies who grew up to be radicals of the 70’s and yuppies of the 80’s, “The American Dream” was promised to them as children and they actively pursue it. As a result they are sometimes viewed as materialistic or ambitious.

COMMUNICATION WITH BABY BOOMERS

  • Be diplomatic
  • Communicate in person whenever possible
  • Speak openly and directly
  • Use body language to communicate
  • Present options (this group responds to flexibility)
  • Use electronic communications as well as face to face (direct)
  • Learn what is important to them such as values, priorities, or opinions
  • Answer questions thoroughly and expect to be pressed for details
  • Avoid manipulative/controlling language
  • This group will respond to your “personal touch”
  • Get consensus. This group wants to be included, without you may cause offense
  • Establish a friendly rapport
  • OK to use first names
B-Gen-header-3genx Know Your Audience

KNOWN AS: Gen X, Xers, The Doer, Post Boomers, 13th Generation

CHARACTERISTICS: This is a group of dynamic young leaders with an appreciation for cutting edge systems/technology. They are forward thinking in company environments, and flexible in scheduling. They value input on merit, not age or seniority. They’re influenced by… Watergate, Energy Crisis, Single Parents, First Generation of Latchkey Kids, Y2K, Activism, Corporate Downsizing, End of Cold War, and Increasing Divorce Rates.

VALUES: balance, diversity, entrepreneurial spirit, fun.

They are educated and have high job expectations. Independent, informal, and lack organizational loyalty. They are pragmatists that seek life balance and self-reliance. This group is unimpressed with authority and skeptical of “institutions.”

COMMUNICATION WITH GENERATION X

  • Be direct
  • Be immediate
  • Use straight talk, and present facts
  • Use email as the # 1 tool
  • Learn their language and speak it
  • Use informal communication style
  • Speak in short sound-bytes
  • Share information immediately and often
  • This generation has the potential to bridge the generation gap between the youngest and oldest workers
  • Don’t micro manage them, but rather manage details on their behalf
  • Avoid buzz words and jargon
  • Tie your message to “results”
B-Gen-header-4m2-1 Know Your Audience

KNOWN AS: Generation Y, Gen Y, Generation Next, Echo Boomers, Chief Friendship Officers, 24/7s

CHARACTERISTICS: They value achievement and civic duty, and are confident, avid consumers. They are extremely competitive, and are the most educated generation. They are optimistic and value instant gratification. Eager to spend, ambitious, but not focused. Have been indulged, “me first” attitude, and politically savvy. They have a strong sense of entitlement. They’re influenced by… Their coming of age during a period of economic expansion, who were kept extremely busy as children.

IN THE WORKPLACE THEY ARE:

  • Goal Oriented.
  • Prefer diversity, technology, informality and fun.
  • Expect to influence the terms and conditions of their workplace.
  • Have a work ethic that does not mandate 10 hour days.
  • Have high expectations of bosses and managers to be mentors.
  • Want long term work relationships, but on their own terms.

This group believes that because of technology, they can work flexibly anytime, anyplace and that they should be evaluated on work product, not how, when or where it was done.

COMMUNICATION WITH MILLENNIALS

  • Be polite
  • Use positive, respectful, motivational, electronic communication style (cell phones, email, IM, text)
  • Communicate in person if the message is very important
  • Use email and voice mail as #1 tools
  • Don’t talk down-they will resent it, and you
  • Show respect through language and they will respect you
  • Use action verbs
  • Use language to portray visual pictures
  • Be humorous – show you are human
  • Be careful about the words you use and the way you say it (they are not good at personal communication because of technical ways of communicating)
  • Be positive
  • This group prefers to learn in networks, teams using multimedia while being entertained and excited

How 10 Minutes of Research Changed Manufacturer’s Product Offerings

Where did your last brilliant business idea come from? Was it an aha moment, an epiphany … or was it from something you read or saw that sparked your idea?

Our Lawn and Garden client had been selling trellises online and in big box retail locations. These products performed satisfactorily in those retail locations, and the search volume around these items supported those sales.

Digital Campaign Performance vs Sales

B-ResearchOfferings-graph-trellis1 How 10 Minutes of Research Changed Manufacturer’s Product Offerings
B-ResearchOfferings-graph-trellis2 How 10 Minutes of Research Changed Manufacturer’s Product Offerings

But what about similar products? How do they compare?  With a quick review of the search volumes for “lattice,” we quickly discovered that the combined search quantities were three times that of “trellis.”

Our client had both the materials and the capabilities already in place to manufacture this product. With upcoming annual sales meetings, our client used our market research and data to help bolster their pitch for adding lattices to the repertoire of products carried by retailers and distributors. The jury is still out on the final outcome, but it is a shining example of how sales and marketing can align to drive strategy and key decisions.

Real World Example: Traffic, Conversions, and Sales

What’s most important: Site Traffic, Site Conversions, or Sales Dollars? Trick question. Separate but equal, each of these outcomes is inter-dependent.

This graph shows the actual performance for three of our client’s product lines.

Digital Campaign Performance vs Sales

B-SearchVSales-graph2 Real World Example: Traffic, Conversions, and Sales

Starting with picnic tables, the search volume is significant. At first glance at the search results alone, it appears this is a product collection in need of supportive advertising and additional attention. But if you look a little closer, the actual site conversions for this product are low, along with the percentage of total sales generated by picnic tables. This isn’t where we should be investing our client’s marketing dollars.

In contrast, the fencing products generated a similar amount of search volume, but accounted for a much larger share of actual conversions, site sessions (research!) and sales. In fact, for a similar search volume, the sales are more than 60% higher than that of picnic tables. This indicates that the return on the paid search investment is more than 13 times that of picnic tables. Knowing this, should we consider whether a change in the spend will increase the return percentage? Could we spend less and see similar results?

In lawn and garden, our spend hasn’t generated the sales we’d hope to see. This might indicate that an optimization in our keywords is necessary, that our geographies should be reviewed, or that our content should be analyzed for SEO value.

What does your analysis tell you about your own business?

Real World Example: Developing Conversions Online, and Testing your Theories

When we’re working with Business to Business companies, we think about site conversions differently. While the goal is to generate sales for the items our client manufactures, our B2B clients are selling to the seller of their goods, rather than the end user. As their agency, our job is to help them generate interest and measure the effectiveness of their marketing. One of the ways we do this is by using exit links.

Using Exit Links

Our client’s site offers plenty of great information on the products they manufacture. Photos, dimensions, and other details are readily available, along with where these items can be purchased. Enter the exit link: the spot where the consumer leaves the manufacturer’s site to purchase the item from their preferred retailer or find a distributor who carries it.

DIGITAL PERFORMANCE VS SALES

B-ExitLinks-Graph1 Real World Example: Developing Conversions Online, and Testing your Theories
B-ExitLinks-Graph2 Real World Example: Developing Conversions Online, and Testing your Theories

This graph identifies the sales volume found within each retailer, versus the percentage of times that site visitors on the manufacturer’s website clicked to each of these purchase locations. Retailers A, B, and C are no surprise. These are the largest, most well-known retailers for the industry. But the smaller distributors are outselling the pace of their exit link percentage. This might indicate an opportunity ripe for some strategic marketing in those areas, using co-op to generate a stronger partnership for the brand. Or, it might represent a consumer sentiment shift from big-box to small or independent retailer. Either way, this trend is something to watch, and should be used to confirm that the marketing activities are the right ones.

6 Reasons to Rebrand your Business

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You Have Changed, but Your Image Hasn’t

Life happens at a fast clip, and your brand matures with every deal. If your brand promise, products or services have changed in time but your brand hasn’t kept up, it may be time.

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B-rebrand-2i 6 Reasons to Rebrand your Business

You Aren't Memorable

Your potential customers see you frequently, but don’t remember your brand or worse, your mission.

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You Look Dated

Your choice of date-night clothing has changed since you graduated high school. If your brand has been around a long time and never shrugged off the bellbottoms, it’s time to refresh your wardrobe.

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B-rebrand-4i 6 Reasons to Rebrand your Business

Brand Promise Isn't Clear

Do you have a mantra? Do you stand for something? Do you have a shared mission? That should be evident visually to those that encounter your brand.

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Poor Sentiment

Your brand has poor consumer perception and needs to reinvent.

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B-rebrand-6i 6 Reasons to Rebrand your Business

New Competitors

When the competitive set changes dramatically, you need to choose: stick with what has worked, change, or simply refresh. “Updating” is not the same as “Start Over.”  Act in accordance with what reality is now, not what it once was.

Smarter Tomorrow than You Were Today

One of the most important marketing activities you will ever do is analyze data. Without it, your business decisions will be based on your gut, rather than real information.

For all of our clients, we always begin by understanding what the reality of the business is. What does the data say about sales, ideal customers, the frequency and size of the transaction. This is the kind of information necessary to create an effective marketing strategy. Marketing efforts are not everything though, we have to pay attention to the data and make optimizations accordingly.

For a Business to Business (B2B) client that manufactures custom cases (solid exteriors containing foam cut to specs of the objects to be carried as in photography or medical equipment), we established two layers of activities. First, we started with Paid Search, targeted to specific geographies surrounding their manufacturing locations. We then layered in display retargeting to increase frequency.

In B2B, lead generation is the key to new sales. Because these are businesses selling to other businesses who in turn sell to the end user, finding new clients can make a tremendous impact. Tracking how a new client came into the fold and adjusting to find more like them is key.

Each week, a report with the leads from the website are sent to the client with details on the keywords and location of user. Through this process, they will understand what is being searched to find their products, and make educated decisions about adjusting keywords, changing targeted geographies or budgeting by day of the week.

B-Optdata-Table Smarter Tomorrow than You Were Today

Our client then tracks the leads on their end and categorize them by industry type. Then, we cross-reference with different data points to determine where and how to make campaign optimizations. The first sizeable piece of closed business for our client was for a multi-year project amounting to more than $300,000!

Additionally, this information helps us change keywords we are using to drive business. An example of a change includes the removal of keywords related to military and guns. Because of the large market for gun case consumers, we determined that consumers using those keywords were primarily end users rather than business purchases. Thus, the keywords were eliminated from the campaign.

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B-Optdata-stat2 Smarter Tomorrow than You Were Today

After making optimizations based on data, such as eliminating certain keywords/industries and implementing re-messaging, we increased Paid Search conversions by +160% in one month (compared to previous month), by increasing the conversion rate +140%! You can also see from the chart below that the percentage of new users closely matches the increase in users overall at approximately 30% month to month. Additionally, sessions to the site improved incrementally while bounce rate decreased by 70%; this traffic highlights that our clients were quality, interested parties. Without the data or assessment of the business that $300K sale may never have occurred and optimization opportunities would have been missed.

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When was the last time you said “Desktop?”

Written by Advance 360, this content was originally published in The Retail Jeweler.

Marketers obsess over “being there” for their consumers. Whether it’s share at the store shelf or share of voice on TV, these are metrics used to judge how present a brand actually is. But what about on a mobile device, where there are billions of products researched every day? Are you devoting the same amount of resources to your mobile marketing strategy and your brand’s role of being there whenever consumer’s needs arise?

B-RJ-MobileContent-article When was the last time you said “Desktop?”

60% of the time we are online, it’s on a mobile device.

Mobile devices overtook desktop and laptop in 2013. In fact, 60% of the time we are online, it’s on a mobile device. If your digital presence isn’t optimized for a smartphone, you’re not only behind, you are actively depleting your business. 84% of the population has a second device in hand while they are watching television. 65% check their phones within 15 minutes of rising each morning, and 87% of millennials have smartphones on their person 100% of the time. 75% of Facebook users are mobile-only. If you aren’t competing for attention in the digital space or have a mobile strategy, you should be.

Preparing your content for the mobile user isn’t difficult, but it does take thought. Mobile users want to learn, do, find, or buy something right now. Whether in the form of a search, an interaction with an app or visiting your site (or all of these), your content should answer the question they are asking.

Think bite-sized. While the user should be able to click to a lengthier or downloadable version of the bite-sized content, small and easily consumed is key. Try to focus on learn, do, or find to start. In the jewelry world, this could be a single graphic on cuts of stones, or an illustration about the 4C’s of diamonds. Consider lists, such as the five things to consider before buying a diamond, or six reasons to visit a custom designer.

Tie your bite-sized pieces together with larger artifacts that tell more of the story. For instance, a five minute video on choosing a gemstone could be placed on your business’s YouTube channel. A highly edited, “snippet” version of 0:15 seconds could be placed on Instagram, and another on Facebook, both linking to your online blog. Your website contains a short narrative on the same topic, with a link to the YouTube video for the full story. You crafted a few paragraphs, and a single video, but now these pieces are interwoven and amplify one another, creating an affordable tactic without an upfront cost.

Consistency counts. The stream of consciousness is impacted by frequency of message. We’ll all recall something after having seen it several times, so the look, layout and word choice matter. But most important is the consistent delivery of content. Once you’ve created a flow of valuable information for your clientele (and those not yet in your ecosystem), you’ll be the voice they seek out for advice, understanding or clarity. 93% of marketers choose social media, and 81% choose blogs. 76% use illustrations or photos, and 67% infographics. Remember that mixing up the media is a great way to generate more impact.

But most important, the content you generate and deliver via digital environments must keep your customer’s point of view in mind. This isn’t a commercial, it’s an offer of something valuable and unexpected. “Over time, marketers have developed theories about why consumers buy. Most of these err by viewing the consumer through the lens of the product. Marketers start with the features and benefits of a product and conduct consumer research to find matching needs and motivations,” Psychology Today reported. “Consumers do not have a Pavlovian response to products and to their marketing programs. Nor do the fundamentals of consumer behavior change to accommodate the latest innovation… An understanding of consumer purchase behavior must be based on knowledge of human emotion and include the paramount influence that emotions have on decision-making.”

In retail jewelry, content is the most cost-effective tool available. Surprise and delight your audience, with relevant information that keeps their needs in mind. Generate a steady stream of this material, and reap the rewards in your revenue.