Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mobile Search is on the Rise- Optimize Now!

Google is the number one search engine, with consumers entering search queries across all devices.  In the next year, it is predicted that mobile search will surpass desktop search.  With mobile as the go-to device, marketers need to optimize their search in order to maximize effectiveness on desktop and mobile.
First, consumers using mobile are usually searching differently than they would on desktop.  Consumers often use mobile devices for research and comparison shopping.  Other information that is immediately valuable are store hours, directions, and a phone numbers.  Google has enhanced search features called ad extensions that allow marketers to deliver the most relevant information to consumers.  These extensions increase the size of the ad, taking up more space on the page and usually generate higher CTRs than ads without extensions.  Extensions can include extra links to different pages of the sites, directions right in the ad, or click-to-call functionality.  This New York and Company ad has all three extensions, giving consumers everything they need with one click. 
Last fall, Google announced that ad extensions would factor into the ad rank algorithm, making them crucial for paid search success.  Recently, Google announced the second line of ad copy will often be replaced by an extension in mobile search ads.  See the example below.  This change will require marketers to look at their paid search copy for mobile and make any changes necessary to lead with the strongest copy in the first line or shorten overall ad text.  Marketers optimizing copy for mobile and using ad extensions will see the best paid search performance. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

An Open Invitation to Play Candy Crush

Social media networks are extremely popular and people are spending a lot of time engaging with content across different platforms.  Facebook is the largest player, with more than one billion people actively using it each month.  American users specifically spend an average of 40 minutes per day on Facebook.  Other than surfing the newsfeed, how are consumers spending their time on the platform?

They are playing games!  In a study performed at the end of 2014, Facebook found that roughly a quarter of all its active users, or 375 million people, play at least one Facebook-connected game in an average month.  No wonder I get an invitation to play Candy Crush at least once a week.  I don’t play any games (so I’m in the 75%) and if you send me an invitation to play Candy Crush, I will defriend you.  Does anyone else feel the same?

Nevertheless, the number of users playing Facebook-connected games has grown tremendously over the last few years.  Gaming apps encourage users to spend more time on the social platform, offer additional sharing opportunities, and of course, more ad opportunities.  One unique format that Facebook offers advertisers is incentivized views.  That means gamers have the choice to watch a branded video in exchange for virtual currency or Facebook credits.  Consumers are more likely to engage with the content if they are rewarded, right?  It begs the question of whether these “views” are quality or not.  If the user is rewarded after they watch, are they more likely to be engaged during the video or are they just waiting for it to be over?  I’ve seen research on both sides.  

What do you think?  Have you ever watched a video in exchange for a reward?  Tell us if you were engaged or can at least remember the brand.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Leveraging the Interactivity of Social Media

Since the emergence of social media, communication between brands and consumers has changed.  Social media is the platform that gives consumers the power to take a story, image, or video and increase its reach tenfold.  It’s the platform for them to speak directly to the brands they love in real time and get a response.  It’s the platform for consumers to express their loyalty to a brand to their friends and family through shared posts and hashtags. 

Not all content leads to buzz-worthy sharing.  Many factors contribute to sharable content, even beyond the content itself.  The time of day, day of the week, length of post, and format (image, video, text) are all variables that impact how the content will be received.  When it comes to the content, the most sharable content is when it evokes certain emotions, like awe or anger.  Other viral content that is more interactive includes quizzes or lists.

Social platforms are also great for brands.  Marketers can engage their consumers with two-way dialogue.  They can use the social platform for crowdsourcing, taking consumer opinions and using the feedback to make improvements.  Consumers appreciate being heard and crowdsourcing is a great way for marketers to receive valuable insights from their customers.  Have you ever given feedback to a brand?  Chances are you only interact with brands you are passionate about and communicating with them through social media only makes the brand-consumer relationship stronger.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Advergames: Providing Valuable Content or Deceptive Brand Messaging?

Advergames are online games used to advertise products, brands, or organizations across a brand’s digital and social properties.  Over the last few years, marketers have explored the different ways to create content.  The phrase “content is king” is still alive and well as marketers have assumed the role of publisher, creating more than just brand messaging to communication with its audience.  Content has been created in the form of articles, images, and videos.  These formats can be engaged with, but don’t involve the same level of commitment as a game, which brings us to the advergame.  The average time spent with an advergame is 7– 30 minutes!  That is significantly longer than other forms of advertising and even native placements.  Why wouldn’t all brands create advergames to engage consumers and integrate some subtle brand messaging?  Here are some brands that have created advergames: Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, Lucky Charms, Sour Patch Kids, Starbucks, and Expedia.

Do you think advergames are a good form of content?  While I think most are harmless, some are subtly marketing unhealthy food to children.  Children spend about an hour each month playing advergames and are 77% more likely to visit pages with advergames and spend 88% more time on those sites.  The bright colors and entertaining images appeal to children, but they don’t understand that it is an advertisement.  Children are easily influenced by the things they see around them.  While the FCC has some restrictions on marketing to children that apply to traditional media, digital media regulations are less defined.  Some food companies have chosen to feature healthy foods in their advergames, but many still market unhealthy choices.  Does the product or brand in the advergame make a difference on whether or not you would want your child exposed to them?  Or are all advergames concerning for their ability to unsuspectingly advertise to children?           

Monday, September 15, 2014

Multi-Screen Viewing: Growth in Online Video

Over the last few years, marketing has evolved tremendously.   Traditional mass media has shifted to digital targeted media.  Although the way we communicate with brands has shifted, the essential elements of traditional media are still alive and thriving.  As of 2013, time spent with digital (including online and mobile) has surpassed time spent with TV, by just under 40 minutes.  Even so, the time we spend with TV is significant.  TV gives us the whole package- sight, sound, and motion.  We enjoy watching movies, TV shows, documentaries, news, sports, and special events on our large flat screen TVs.  As the increase in time spent with digital increases, we are no less interested in that same content, but are choosing to watch it elsewhere. 

Consumers are taking their video viewing online.  Time spent per day with digital video has increased over 800% in the last four years.  Consumers can purchase smart TVs, stream through devices like Apple TV or Roku, or access content through their cable provider on their laptops and smartphones.  Consumers are not only taking their traditional video needs online, but they are engaging with short-form video content as well.  YouTube is the second largest search engine and everyday over 100 million internet users watch an online video.  So what is important about this shift in video viewing for marketers?  That’s right, more ad opportunities.

Video ads see 3x higher CTRs than standard banner ads and usually appear in a less cluttered environment.  Video ads are accomplishing two advertising goals.  First, they generate awareness by reaching a large audience with a cost-effective CPM.  Second, they generate traffic at a higher rate than other digital ad formats.   Due to the increase in video advertising, ad views have spiked over the last year and will continue to grow.  As the industry evolves and content remains “king”, online video and video advertising is going to part a larger role in marketer’s budgets and digital strategies.   

Saturday, September 6, 2014

360 Web Design

A brand website is usually the first place consumers go to learn more about a company.  While brands have many properties, such as social pages or blogs, a brand website is the most basic, yet complex marketing tool.  Consumers expect brands to have websites and they expect the site to reflect the same brand image as in-store and across other platforms.  Designing a website requires integrating many factors, from color selection to content models.  These days, it takes site visitors less than two-tenths of a second to form a first opinion about a site.  That means brands need to have a visually appealing site that will keep users engaged beyond that initial second. 

In order to build a quality, engaging site, marketers need to make the site visually appealing on the outside and functional on the inside.  Aspects of the site that are consumer facing include colors, fonts, format, images, and content.  Consumers need intuitive design and easy navigation.  They want to visit the site, engage, and leave without feeling frustrated.  When sites are too cluttered or have difficult navigation, it leaves consumers a negative opinion of the brand.

Websites not only have to be appealing to the consumer, but the backend design must be high quality as well.  For example, building a responsive site with SEO in mind is going to increase site visits.  Incorporating SEO at the start of a design will increase performance within search results, enabling more consumers to find the site.  Responsive design is a must as mobile and tablet adoption increases.  Responsive design allows the consumer to view the same content, formatted automatically for the best view across desktop, tablet, and mobile.

                Designing a site while considering both the front-end and back-end components will result in a quality, functional website.  The user experience is extremely important, but needs the back-end to function correctly as well so both parts can work together to deliver the best performance.   

Monday, September 1, 2014

Shift to Total Market Strategy: Integration over Segmentation

Marketing is most effective when the messaging, format, and device are targeted to the right audience, at the right time, on the right platform.  The shift from traditional media to digital media generated a shift from mass media to targeted media.  Mass media had one message and pushed it out to the general market.  Digital (and emerging media) allows for more relevant, targeted messaging.  While the evolution of digital devices has transformed the ways brands communicate, the audience is transforming as well.

                Based on the US census, racial and ethnic minorities make up about half of children under the age of five.  Within the next five years, it’s projected that minorities will make up more than half of children under eighteen.  This rapid expansion of minorities is signaling to brands to reanalyze marketing strategies and rethink communications.

                Multicultural marketing is a buzz word that is popping up in every marketer’s boardroom.  Previously, multicultural marketing has been an afterthought or a separate initiative during key time periods, such as Black History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month.  With the shift in population growth, marketers can’t ignore the demographic trends any longer if they wish to be successful.  Rather than an afterthought or a separate, isolated initiative, multicultural marketing needs to be built into all aspects of everything a marketer does.  It’s projected that by 2043, minorities will become the majority in the US.  In order to have a total market strategy, marketers need to develop integrated marketing strategies, strategically targeted to market segments.