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Tailoring the fundamentals of digital experiences

There’s a demographic that appreciates innovation for the sake of innovation. They are curious, adopt early and await the next release even as the latest is announced. They aren’t the only group with passion. There’s another cohort that values functionality more. Especially in designing for this later group it’s important to deliver utility through a pattern they already know and understand.

Increase adoption and ease of use through visual design patterns

This is the basis for designing based on intuitive use patterns. An intuitive use pattern is a set of actions, expectations or meanings users have come to associate with a given visual experience or functionality.

By appealing to the group that prioritizes functionality and utility, adoption is higher as it requires little or no training on the part of the users.

Though innovators need less of a push to adopt a new platform or tech, intuitive use is important for them too. Take the adopters who have begun using Apple Music. Formerly, users could skip ahead between songs on the main viewing screen. Now, they are required to swipe up before performing the same function. Until users “cracked the code” they were lost.

More complex functionality like the secret swipe should be included for power users but should not serve as a mainstay in the experience. This Apple Music feature exemplifies “losing the user.” It’s akin to creating an entirely new paradigm that may be innovative but feels at first impenetrable or confusing.

Embrace elegance in digital solution design

Elegance in design is much like creating a bespoke, or custom-tailored, suit. It is well-crafted and familiar. The difference? It’s perfectly sized to the wearer’s unique physical specifications. Details about the work emerge and become more beautiful over time as their useful simplicity is appreciated — the rise of the pant, the cut of the ankle length, where the sleeve hits at the wrist.

The best UI/UX creates the same feeling of comfort that users are cared for and operating in technology that feels uniquely designed for them. Nothing is overdone or gaudy. All is beautifully useful. The first experience with the design (or suit) feels familiar, but each time you revisit it, the experience improves and gradually the quality and details reveal themselves.

Maintain design composition through hierarchy

Hierarchy is one of the most important ways to guide a user through an experience using visuals. In short, hierarchy is making clear the primary, secondary and tertiary elements in the experience by assigning varying visual weights or prominence to each through color, size or placement. Not every component in the experience should be “turned up to full volume.” That’s confusing.

The very nature of responsive design introduced challenges to creating hierarchy within an experience, especially when viewed on smaller form factors. In creating hierarchy for the small screen, it’s important to strategically hide elements of the experience that aren’t immediately important, while at the same time making sure users know where to find them.

Leverage the meaning of color

Unlike designing a print piece, color is used to connote meaning in digital experiences, not simply aesthetics. Red is associated with the negative or “stopping.” Green is linked with positivity or “continuing.” Red is subtraction. Green is addition. Red is stop. Green is go. If the brand identity you are designing for includes either red or green, maintain it’s meaning but also include it throughout the rest of the experience where it won’t confuse the actions expected from users operating in the experience.

Manage customization options in crafting the user experience

Designing more conservatively is a way for teams to demonstrate skill mastery, much like cutting and crafting the bespoke suit. Avoid excessive customization options. They increase the development needed and by proxy the budget required to complete the work. Attempting to justify unnecessary composition may be a good indication to revisit and refine your understanding of your target audience, their motivations and needs.

The caveat? For experiences where users will spend a substantial amount of time accessing for prolonged stretches of time, customization is justified. Think accessing once a day or week versus use over multiple hours, during multiple days in a given week. In the case of prolonged use and to account for workflow preferences, the size of user form factors, health restrictions like carpal tunnel or poor eyesight, customization may be worth the additional budget and development needed.

The fundamentals of digital experiences matter

While the importance of maintaining intuitive use patterns in digital design can’t be packaged nicely into the pocket square of our metaphorical bespoke suit. One thing is sure, lean on what’s known to users, but make it feel elegant and intentional. That way they know thoughtful design grounds their experience. They will appreciate it. The first time it will feel familiar. Each successive time, the beauty in the details will emerge.

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How to Impress a Girl — Start a Tech Company

When I learned that our CEO was speaking about his professional journey at a leadership event, I had to attend as there was some genuine curiosity bubbling up in my head about Björn. I never heard the full story from him, only bits and pieces from others. Little did I know, I was going to be one of dozens of people dropping their jaws from the sincere shock of how he came to the US and created MentorMate.

Björn Stansvik came to the US with a stack of 200 resumes and had one goal, to find a sponsor.

Being that he only had a 90-day window to do so, he knew he needed to stand out, be strategic and find aFsOqs SQ company that could help him grow professionally. Hunt Technologies was the first company that caught his attention. He came into the job interview with a S.W.O.T. analysis and told them what they should do with their company and why they should hire him…pretty direct. While impressed with his ideas, they were not able to sponsor him and sent him on his way.

Björn didn’t stop there.

He took some time, conducted further research and put together an 80-page report (which they didn’t ask for.) He gave it to them as a gift, then asked for a volunteer position (no pay) with a computer and a desk. They gave in. For the next several weeks, he invited himself into meetings, spoke up whenever he had an idea and made himself known in the organization.

Hunt Technologies soon realized they needed to sponsor him, or they would lose a very good thing. So they did.

After 2 years with Hunt, Björn started thinking about the next big thing. During that time in 2001, he met a girl, and soon realized that an 80-page report or S.W.O.T. analysis wouldn’t impress her. So, he developed a Palm Pilot educational tool and showed it off to her as one final attempt to win her over. It worked. That was the start of MentorMate.

Fast forward almost 15 years ahead.

Now MentorMate is a mobile development, design, consulting and strategy company. Along the way, Björn has built out his vision for technology, especially in the mobile space. Currently, his eyes are set on the continued evolution of mobile, such as building out predictive models and discrete wearables. He’s brilliant, tenacious and truly inspiring.

Special thanks to Paul Batz, Founder of Good Leadership Enterprises, for inviting Björn to speak at his leadership networking event and for the warm introduction! 

 

France 44 Desktop

Crafting an integrated digital experience for France 44

A new app or website is no longer enough to distinguish a business. Only by singing the same song across multiple platforms can brands create continuous experiences that unite users rather than isolating them. Why? Consumer habits are fragmented. Some users may download a business’ new app. Some will visit a new site. Others will do both. Today it’s ever more difficult for a single digital asset or differentiator to break through the chorus of other products looking to solo.

That’s exactly what we helped one Midwest wine, beer, spirit and charcuterie retailer do — break through the chorus. Our integrated digital experience for France 44 leveraged a new app, website and beacon technology all created to enhance or mirror the in-store atmosphere.France 44 Responsive Design

Pruning the vines to define business needs

Just like any vineyard cleanup after a season of growth, we began by guiding France 44 through an initial rapid ideation session to define their top goals for the digital campaign. By pruning the wants from the true needs, we arrived at four key goals.

  1. At its most basic, sell wine, beer, and liquor online.
  2. Grow web sales.
  3. Create a flexible web experience that can evolve as the needs of the retailer do.
  4. Support a top shelf experience for all and forward a premium digital image.
  5. Develop a two-step backend payment transaction.

An interactive brand needs responsive design

Core to the France 44 digital initiative was building a responsive website optimized for mobile devices. The website launched with a new skin and navigation that reflected the improved user experience design.

Unlike its predecessor, it is able to render well on desktops, 10” tablets, 7” tablets and smartphones like the Galaxy S 3 / 4 or the iPhone. The touch-enabled interface works on any form factor due in part to the 40 pixels of safe distance present around each component in the design.

France 44 Product Recommendations

Connect the in-store and remote customer experiences digitally

Walking into the brick and mortar France 44 location is an experience. Bottles of wine, gin, liqueur and more line the shelves resolutely — each seemingly confident it will provide a new experience. Frequently, the flagship France 44 hosts tasting events or classes. Celebrating an atmosphere where exploration is encouraged makes France 44 unique.

We reflected that commitment to customer education on the new France 44 website by featuring retail space goings-on prominently on the homepage through news and event activity tiles.

France 44 Desktop Events

Architecting complex transactions

Unlike appreciating a fine wine, architecting the transactions required to sell and ship gift baskets around the world was far from simple — but it appears that way to users. Why the complication?

By law liquor and cheese can’t be sold together as a single financial transaction — problematic because both items are included in the gift baskets France 44 wanted to feature and sell online. Beyond that, some states require liquor purchases to be taxed at a different rate than food. It certainly didn’t make sense to have customers check out twice during the online process if they were buying a single gift basket.

Ideally the experience would consist of a single credit card entry, with a single receipt and result in two credit transactions. We built a custom web form and interaction allowing the user to select the gift basket via a meta item. When the customer enters their credit card, two independent system transactions are made, and the results of these transactions, including tax calculations, are brought back together into a single receipt.

Creating a smart algorithm for product recommendations

Customers walking into France 44 generally know what they’re looking, maybe it’s vodka distilled locally at the new-to-Minneapolis Du Nord Craft Spirits or a sampling from the now nationwide name Surly. Just as customers can seek help from France 44 staff in the retail space, the app we designed to complement the web experience also offers recommendations based on customers’ preferred tastes.

We created an algorithm just for France 44. The more users engage with the app the better it is able to recommend options and learn customer preferences.

Using the app, customers can mark favorites, find recommendations based on previous choices, write tasting notes and organize their favorite drinks by mood or occasion. It also integrates with the France 44 rewards program Club 44. Members can download their purchase history, see their club points, update their information and view and redeem Club Rewards credits.

France 44 Club Mobile

Custom deals delivered by beacons when users are nearby

The app we designed also allows France 44 to expand its ability to make recommendations without increasing its staff. How? Through innovative beacon technology, the smart algorithm is able to push out recommendations to customers with the app based on their location in the retail space.

Customers lingering in the beer cooler may receive coupons for an IPA, while shoppers with a previous history buying pinots from the West Coast may get similar recommendations when they pass by again. Through this uniquely targeted marketing, France 44 is able to offer customers value and savings even when store staff are busy.

The results

Following the launch of the website and app, store traffic, revenues and regional SEO search rank improved. Also increased for the Midwest retailer? Digital brand recognition across diverse but complementary platforms.

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The 10 Worst Implementations of QR Codes

You already know what a QR Code is because you have probably rolled your eyes more than once after seeing one on a restaurant menu or billboard. But if you don’t, originally developed by the Japanese automotive industry, a Quick Response Code (QR Code) is a machine readable code that can store data.

Frankly, I would be impressed if the average American has scanned more than one QR Code in their lifetime. Even that scan was probably just for novelty. The running joke around our office is the only people who ever scan a QR Code are those people making sure it works before sending it to print.

But why are they such a joke? It’s probably because of horrible implementations like these:

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There is nothing worse than a recursive QR Code, except for maybe running into a QR Code while browsing on a mobile device. I think we have established that there are plenty of ways to use a QR Code wrong. What about using it right? What exactly are they for? Thanks for asking here are some of the best uses of a QR Code.

  • Helping users access a long and ugly URL

    One major information problem we face is connecting printed media to digital media. Links are great when you can click on them, but printing “Buy tickets now: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/mobcon-2014-conference-nov-13-14-2014-tickets-8995085543″ and expecting someone to access that link is a pretty tall order. In this case a QR Code is a much better user experience.

  • Sharing exclusive content

    Although this is mostly an extension of a long ugly URL, I think it needs a special mention. A QR Code can link to a video, a playlist, or an app download. For example you could send a birthday gift and with it a QR Code to a video singing happy birthday.

  • Exchanging contact information

    Entering a persons phone number is easy, but entering a person’s name, email, title and company is often more trouble than it is worth. All of that data (and more) can be automatically added into your smartphone’s contacts with a scan of a code.

Here is the greatest use of a QR Code I have ever seen. Tattoo studio Bergge Tattoo in Istanbul needed to hire some new artists. So they ran an ad in the newspaper offering a job to anyone that could scan the QR Code. The catch was, first you had to color the QR Code black, proving that you had steady hands and an eye for coloring inside the lines.

tattoo-qr-code

Can you think of any more excellent or terrible uses of QR Codes? Share them with us!

Reason Why Your Mobile App Will Fail to Add Value

6 Reasons Why Your Mobile App Will Fail to Add Business Value

Creating a mobile app for your business is a strategic decision. Not only does it have implications for the image of your brand, but it also has a direct relation with the way customers interact with your products or services. Naturally, for such an important decision, adequate planning at the highest level of the organization is required.

There are more than 1 million apps on both The App Store and Google Play. However, there’s no shortage of business and corporate apps on both these platforms with just a few hundred downloads (in many cases, even less than that). Justifiably, most of them can be considered failures from a business perspective.

Therefore,  it is important that companies avoid all the possible strategic and operational sinkholes found in failed apps that can negatively impact performance and user experience. To ensure that you do not create a forgettable mobile app, like many other companies, avoid these mistakes.

1. Mobile App Without a Clear Business Objective

Simply because everyone else is building a mobile app does not mean you have to get one as well. Before making your move, connect the dots first. Building an app is not an objective itself, it is a platform to achieve your actual business goals. An app is a means to completing your business goals. This is a simple, but often forgotten notion.

The business goal has been lost

Your app needs to contribute directly or indirectly to your primary objectives. Make sure you have clear KPIs and objectives that you want to achieve through the app.

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2. Irrelevant to the Target Market

You can build an eye-catching and advanced mobile app that links directly with your business objectives, but if it’s not relevant to your target market, your potential customers will not use it. Think from your customer’s perspective. Why would they want to fill their phone with apps they don’t find useful?

Customers do not care about your business objectives, they use apps for their common problems. So, rather than solely seeking customer demographics, seek to fill a niche in your customer’s life.

Solution: Build your brand persona

The secret here is to link your business objectives with the preferences of your target audience. Build your brand persona and research your ideal customer. Give them something useful.

3. Too Many Features

Beware of putting a large volume of features in your app. It may be difficult to navigate, which makes it less usable for your customer.

There is too much

A quick look at some of the more successful business mobile apps will tell you how focusing on a few key features, that address particular problems, is much more effective than adding too many features in your app. Run a few surveys on your target market and study their preference patterns. Short-list their three top problems and create an app that specifically resolves one of them.

Keep it simple.

If secondary problems can also be resolved with the same set of features, great, otherwise don’t complicate your app by trying to offer a solution for all the problems. You will end up resolving none of them.

4. Not Enough Marketing

Creating a useful, high value app is only one part of the equation. But without aggressive marketing, nobody would even know your app exists. They assume that listing their app on app stores is enough to get downloads. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple.

No one knows about it

You need to make your app as visible as possible by listing it on your website and using content marketing for app promotion. Mention it in your blog posts, promote it with guest blogging, notify your email subscribers and reach out to industry influencers to let the world know about your app. Without this, your only app users will be your employees.

5. Forcing Users To Download

Nothing is more irritating than a website forcing its users to download its mobile app. Companies that do not offer a mobile version of their website and instead force their users to download their app often experience higher bounce rates and irritated users. You might get some extra downloads with this approach, but you’re more likely to lose customers as a result.

Solution: Promote

Promote your app aggressively, and encourage users to download it, but always give them the option to browse the full version of the website as well.

6. Not Updating After the App Release

No matter how well you have planned your app structure and user experience, there are bound to be some areas for improvement. Your job is not done after releasing the app. Post-release is also critical because if the initial response of your users is negative, and you do not aggressively move to rectify it, your company’s image may suffer. A large number of companies never release a updated version of their app which proves to be a costly mistake.

Solution: Continue to monitor

Keep an eye on the user reviews and suggestions that your app receives. Look for improvement areas both in the functionality and compatibility of your app.

Conclusion

In order to benefit from your app, you need to perceive it as a powerful platform for achieving your business objectives, not as an objective in itself. If you get this part right, and correctly identify the real needs of your target market, other components of your mobile marketing strategy will fall into place seamlessly.

How To Use Content Marketing To Boost Your Mobile App Downloads

How To Use Content Marketing To Boost Your Mobile App Downloads

Like any other product, mobile apps also need to be marketed aggressively for potential users to find them. After all, what good is an app if nobody uses it? But getting your app listed on the App Store or Google Play is not marketing, it’s a fundamental requirement. Adding relevant keywords in your app title, describing its functions in detail and adding high quality snapshots to the app download page is highly recommended, but it’s not enough.

What you need is a solid content marketing strategy, designed around the core benefits of your app and the needs of your target market, to accelerate your app downloads.

What Exactly is Content Marketing?

Content Marketing, in simple words, is creating high value and actionable content that addresses the core needs of your target market, solves their problems, engages them with your brand, builds your credibility and ultimately helps you sell more products. This includes different forms of content including blogs, social media websites, video marketing, webinars and many other platforms. Content marketing usually leads to much more loyal and long-term customers as compared to SEO and paid advertisements.

So when it comes to increasing your mobile app downloads, here are a few ways you can use content marketing to achieve your objective.

1. Create High Value Blog Content

Text content is at the core of most internet marketing strategies simply because search engines rank websites with regularly updated text content higher than the others. A great way to win favors with search engines is to start a blog that focuses on the core benefits of your app.

In order to create content that truly resonates with your target audience and persuades them to explore more about your app, you need to identify a few things first.

  • List the biggest benefits of your app
  • List the problems that it solves
  • List the reasons why someone should use your app
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Once you have these lists, do a little research to identify the keywords that people are using to search for the solutions that your app is offering. For example, if your app is about weight loss, suggests the right physical exercises and helps users track their progress, then your target audience might be searching for you using keywords such as,

google search

These are the search suggestions that Google immediately came up with when I searched for weight loss. This can give you a good idea about the type of keywords your target audience is using to find the benefits that your app is offering. This general idea is usually enough for you to create relevant content. But if you want to study keyword research in detail, I would suggest reading this resource by Brian Clark of Copyblogger.

Back to blogging then.

Now that you have a list of the main benefits of your app, the problems that it solves and an idea of the kind of keywords people use to search for it, it’s time to create some compelling blog content. The secret here is not to overly focus on your app. Instead, address the problems of your target users and build a reputation with them.

Let’s take the same weight loss example. Instead of creating a post like “The Best Weight Loss Mobile App” create titles like the following:

  • 9 Ways Fitness Geeks Enjoy Life Much More Than Overweight People
  • How Being Overweight Can Kill You Socially
  • 37 Super Effective Tips To Lose Weight Quickly and Live Your Life to The Fullest

None of these titles directly sell your app, but they’ll help you build a solid relationship with your readers. Readers will start trusting you for weight loss advice and you’ll become their go to source whenever they need help. Now add your app download links within the content (where relevant), at the end of the post or in the sidebar of your blog to help acquire new users for your app.

Just make sure that you’re consistent with your blogging schedule.

2. Use Guest Blogging to Promote Your App

Creating effective content for your own blog is great, but if you add guest blogging to your strategy as well, it will become an irresistible combination. With guest blogging, you can use the strength of more established blogs and address their audience directly. If you do this correctly, you can get hundreds, if not thousands, of app downloads right away. The right way to do this is to look for the top blogs that your target users read.

So, again, if we take the example of health and fitness niche, search for 10-15 blogs that are actively updated, have a high number of comments on each of their posts and also have a good social media following. Approach these blogs with the same quality of posts that we discussed in point no. 1. Most blogs allow you to add an author bio at the end of your guest post. This is where you can introduce yourself, your brand and add a backlink to your app download page.

Note: To learn more about guest blogging on top niche blogs, read this.

3. Submit Your App to App Roundups

Another great way to boost your app downloads is by submitting it to different app roundups. Many established blogs run weekly/monthly app roundups from different niches and describe the pros and cons of the listed apps. This is where you can take advantage. Once again, Google should be your best friend

google-roundup

Use search terms like the following:

  • [niche keyword] android app roundup
  • best [niche keyword] apps
  • top 10 [niche keyword] iphone apps

Once you find such blogs, contact them with the details of your app and ask them to add your app to their current list or consider adding it in future posts. It works most of the time and it never hurts to ask.

4. Use Social Media to Boost App Downloads

No content marketing strategy can be complete without the smart use of social media. There are a number of ways you can use social media to directly/indirectly boost your mobile app downloads. First of all, use it to promote your blog posts, guest posts and app roundups. Additionally, join the different groups, communities and lists relevant to your target market. You can find lots of them on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. But that, of course, is the indirect approach.

To directly impact your app downloads, Twitter is the ideal platform. Last year Twitter introduced Twitter cards specially for promoting smartphone apps, ecommerce websites and digital products. Tweets are usually limited to 140 characters, but with Twitter cards, you can not only increase the number of characters for each Tweet, you can also make it much more attractive by using high quality images. Moreover, with Twitter cards installed your Tweets will contain a direct download link at the end of your Tweet.

Here’s what Twitter cards look like:

image source: Dev.Twitter.com
 

 

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To start using Twitter cards (click here), you’ll need to configure it for your website and mobile app. It’s not anything complex, and it only takes a few steps to complete.

Conclusion

Content marketing helps you build a loyal audience that helps to position you as an expert in your niche. Convincing visitors to download your app becomes much easier. It is much more effective than simple SEO and paid advertising where the users have no prior relationship with you. You can also add things like infographics, webinars, video marketing, etc. to further enhance the visibility of your app on the web.

The point, however, with all of these activities is simple – you need to aggressively and consistently push your app in front of your target users in as many ways as possible in order to boost your app downloads. Content marketing just happens to be a particularly effective way to accomplish this.

google analytics stats website trends 2014

Google Analytics Stats Reveal Website Trends for 2014

MentorMate.com Google Analytics Stats in 2013 vs 2014
DATA AS PERCENT OF WHOLEJanuary – February 2013January – February 2014% CHANGE
Desktop Visitors91.67%85.84%– 6.36%
Mobile Visitors5.46%10.47%+ 91.86%
Tablet Visitors2.87%3.69%+ 28.57%
Average Load Time840 ms511 ms– 39.17%
Unique Screen Resolutions262312+ 19.08%
Unique Mobile Devices88208+ 136.36%
(not provided) Organic Search Phrases53.61%92.60%+ 72.73%
Social Media Visitors6.31%13.33%+ 111.25%

Desktop, Mobile & Tablet Visitors

Of course our percentage of desktop visitors declined since more people are now using smartphones & tablets to browse our website instead. Nothing surprising there; however, it is a bit surprising that the percentage of traffic from mobile phones increased over 3x more than traffic from tablets.

KEY TAKEAWAY
More effort should be placed on ensuring a great mobile experience by utilizing responsive website designs.

Average Load Time

Because of the significant increase in mobile & tablet visitors a fast load time is becoming increasingly important to deliver a great mobile experience. For this reason we made significant efforts to ensure our website was as fast as it possibly could be.

KEY TAKEAWAY
Ensure your website is as fast as it can be to ensure a great mobile experience. Having a website that is technically fast, is not the same as having a website that is fast loading for its users, make sure to account for both scenarios so your website appeases Google and more importantly, your visitors.

Unique Screen Resolutions

Mentormate.com is viewed on over 312 unique screen resolutions and this number is only going to increase with the introduction of new devices. Effort must be made to ensure a pleasant experience on all of them.

KEY TAKEAWAY
The best way to accommodate the plethora of screen resolutions currently out there, and coming soon, is to utilize a responsive website design. Begin by identifying the most commonly used resolutions based on your website’s analytics. Pay special attention to those resolutions as you design your responsive site.

Unique Mobile Devices

The number of unique devices being used to visit our website has grown over 136% in just a single year! Just imagine how many there will be next year.

KEY TAKEAWAY
Ensure that your website elegantly accommodates the varying mobile operating systems and browsers, especially the most popular ones.

(not provided) Organic Search Phrases

At this rate 100% of Google searches will be encrypted (not provided), meaning you won’t be able to tell what keywords your website visitors searched for to find your website. Focusing on ranking for specific organic search phrases is soon to be a thing of the past.

KEY TAKEAWAY
Focus your SEO efforts on high-level categories of keyword phrases and don’t waste too much time stuck in the details. Focus on creating great, relevant content and share it with appropriate audiences to ensure positive social signals and create long-term value for your visitors and your brand.

Social Media Visitors

The percentage of traffic driven by Social media increased 111% in the last year. Social is now a crucial part of any digital marketing effort and its importance is only continuing to grow. Google+ has been the major driver in this trend.

KEY TAKEAWAY
Ensure that you have a solid social media strategy, get your employees engaged in social and make sure you have someone to own this effort for your company.

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oreo dunk fork

Mobile Apps as Content Marketing

If you are even remotely involved in the marketing process, you have probably heard the term “Content Marketing” getting a lot of play. Content marketing is the practice of creating a new piece of media to share with a target audience in an effort to generate business. The benefits of content marketing versus traditional advertising or SEO are numerous, including:

  • useful content is likely to be shared with a user’s social media networks
  • it can create a lasting impression
  • users often return to guides or entertainment
  • it can position your brand as a leader in your field
  • it can build trust with your consumers

Usually the content is delivered in the form of an interactive web tool, a detailed guide or infographic, an informative blog post or something very entertaining. The impressive Web Developer’s SEO Cheat Sheet from Moz is a good example of a guide.

But what about content marketing with a mobile application?

Mobile Video Games as Marketing

What if I told you Oreo has a mobile game about dunking cookies and it’s actually really fun? Oreo’s Twist Lick Dunk is a combination of Fruit Ninja and Slam Dunk King, both fun games with high production values. Check out the gameplay footage to get a feel for it:

Many brands, such as Oreo, are taking full advantage of mobile as a marketing platform. Here is a small set of excellent promotional games: Fruit Ninja Puss in Boots, Fruit Ninja Skittles and Temple Run Brave.

It goes without saying that success hinges on quality. I downloaded probably about two dozen big brand marketing apps to research this post. The vast majority of them are impressive failures, usually because they aren’t thoughtfully developed. They are just knee jerk, get-something-into-the-app-store, shovelware initiatives. The apps are glitchy, boring, ugly, useless, or all of the above. Despite the failure though, I applaud those brands for having the foresight to utilize the App Store as a marketing channel. Practice makes perfect. Many brands still haven’t even attempted an app. Why not?

Value Proposition

When you consider how much major brands tend to spend on TV advertising, creating a mobile game seems like a no-brainer. Here is the Super Bowl 2014 Oreo commercial:

Oreo spent 4 million dollars on that ad (A 30-second spot cost approximately $4 million during the 2014 Super Bowl) and that is not including the actual ad production. A high-quality app costs much less. Angry Birds, one of the most successful mobile games, cost only about $140,000 (€100,000) to create. Judging by the Oreo game’s production value, it most likely cost a similar amount.

Compared to a high-volume TV ad, a mobile app is a small bet and in the case of Oreo Twist Lick Dunk, it seems to be paying off. The Google Play Store has it in the 500,000 – 1,000,000 downloads category, and the number is probably similar on the Apple App Store (Apple doesn’t make that data available). That is an impressive amount of downloads for an interactive commercial! This is content marketing at its best. I have been playing this game consistently for about a week. It reminded me how much fun it is to eat Oreos. So much so, I actually went and got some!

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Non-Game Mobile Content Marketing

I realize I have been spending a lot of time talking about mobile games, and a game might not be appropriate for every brand. The good news is, any app can be a successful marketing tool. REI and TheNorthFace are paving the way with useful applications for their target demographic.

TheNorthFace has built the promising hike tracking app for hikers or campers, and REI created a snow report app for skiers or snowboarders. These apps are unlikely to directly increase sales, but through clever cross-promotion they can be used to retain customers and possibly attract new ones. Both brands are also establishing themselves as experts in their respective fields and building lasting relationships by offering a free and useful tool.

When deciding how to allocate your advertising dollars, consider a mobile content marketing strategy. Delivering a good piece of interactive software can do wonders for your brand. Since the Google and Apple App stores both function as search engines, not showing up in results for brand searches is a missed opportunity. But just like any piece of content, it needs to be great to be successful.

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shout

Promoted Tweets as Brand Terrorism

On Sept 2nd a gentleman, Hasan Syed, promoted a tweet about a bad experience he had with British Airways:

promo tweet
Apparently, they lost his bags and proceeded to not be very helpful in finding them. He took an interesting approach to complaining. He tweeted, and promoted his tweet (paid to have it show up in people’s feeds). It is unclear if this has ever been done before, but for whatever reason his tweet went viral (story got picked up by Mashable and other sites) so it was a massive success. British Airways suffered a considerable amount of bad press from a small investment. (Story on Mashable)

This story is interesting in many ways. The amount of trouble this tweet caused British Airways is probably considerable. The story has over 20,000 shares on Mashable and that is only one of many publications that reported on it. That isn’t what interests me however, I am more interested in what happens if this becomes a trend.

Think back to the early 90s before there was Amazon or social media. It was hard to know which companies have good or bad customer service. Product reviews existed in magazines and websites but they were spotty and you couldn’t write your own. Basically if you had a bad experience the best you could do is call and complain and tell your friends about it.

Compare that to now. When was the last time you considered any serious purchase before reading a dozen reviews? Every user has the power to review the product or service on various major platforms like Amazon, Google, Ebay. There are blog post reviews, comparison posts, top ten lists, video reviews, video rants. Oh and let’s not forget “telling your friends.” I put that in quotes because now instead of telling twenty people you know you broadcast it on social media and every friend that sees it has the opportunity to re-share it, exposing your woes with a whole new audience.

reviews
Imagine if promoting a tweet was as common as writing a review. Twitter would essentially have a crowdsourced ad campaign running for whatever company is currently in the spotlight. That is both an awesome incentive for good service and deterrent for bad service. Social media has always been great at holding companies accountable and this is just another avenue for that dynamic.

Is there a question of abuse? It is hard to say. The fact that promoting tweets actually costs money creates a strong anti-troll barrier. A person would need to be motivated enough to purchase their own soap box. This particular tweet went viral, but if this was common practice these tweets probably wouldn’t go viral very often. A critical mass of energized users would be needed to make a strong impact.

Another unique and useful feature of these promoted review tweets is the ability to interact with the original poster. You can ask follow-up questions, even get into a conversation about the product or service and discuss alternatives. The company in question can directly and publicly address the tweet allowing for a more transparent and honest discourse.

The opportunity to put your money were your mouth is has arrived. Do you have any horror stories that, if the thought occurred to you in the heat of the moment, you would promote?

wrecking ball

What Miley Cyrus Can Teach Us About Bing & Google Image Search Results

In a previous blog post we analyzed the differences between identical searches in Google and Bing; however, we never compared image search results. They are probably pretty similar right?

Actually they are wildly different! Stephen Fluin brought this to my attention. Take a look at a Miley Cyrus image search on Google and Bing.

Google Image Search: Miley Cyrus


miley cyrus google image search results

Bing Image Search: Miley Cyrus


miley cyrus bing image search results

As Stephen delightfully put it:

“Bing is like a loving grandmother who is in complete denial about her granddaughter’s behavior.”

Bing’s image search is completely devoid of Miley’s entire 2013 MTV VMA performance. The twerking, the tongue, the short haircut make no appearances. That performance is arguably the biggest splash Miley has ever made and Bing is pretending it didn’t happen?

Clearly the image search algorithms employed by Google and Bing are very different. Lets look at another pair of examples and see what we can figure out.

Google Image Search: Lindsay Lohan


Google Image Search Results for Lindsay Lohan

Bing Image Search: Lindsay Lohan


Bing Image Search Results for Lindsay Lohan

Google Image Search: Amanda Bynes


Google Image Search Results for Amanda Bynes

Bing Image Search: Amanda Bynes


Bing Image Search Results for Amanda Bynes

In all of the Bing results not a single “bad” or “negative” photo is shown on any of these three female celebrities. My from-the-hip guess is that Google values social signals higher. Images with a greater amount of social shares appear more frequently and higher than lower scoring photos. Mug shots, or explosive pop culture photos often get shared quickly and appear on many gossip news sites which score large social numbers. Bing might take a more traditional approach and show pictures from highly authoritative websites?

Let’s use the example of Lindsay Lohan. Bing’s top 10 images from from:

mantoos.com
fanpop.com (two times)
blog.screenweek.it
stud-center.com (four times)
fotoblogx.blogspot.com
iwritealot.com

I don’t personally recognize any of these. Following through some of the links, I wouldn’t consider these sites reputable. Compare this to the Google’s sources:

businessinsider.com (two times)
nydailynews.com
hdwallpapersdj.com (four times)
imdb.com
vogue.fr
perezhilton.com

IMDB, Business Insider, and Vogue? I think most people would agree that these sites are certainly more reputable and authoritative. So what is going on here? I enlisted the help of our Director of Inbound Marketing and search engine wizard Andy Forsberg to provide analysis. First he put together this spreadsheet comparing the top five Miley Cyrus images:

image-search

And provides the following analysis:

Bing images search places little to no emphasis on the date or authority of a given website when pulling images for its search results and sorts its images by their resolution (largest photos first). The higher resolution images tend to be professionally taken and are therefore, more likely to be more “appropriate” for a general audience.

Google image search places significant emphasis on the date and the authority of a given website when pulling images for its search results and sorts its images primarily by domain authority, page authority, social sharing metrics & recency. Since the more shocking photos are more likely to be linked to more frequently and shared more frequently on social media channels, they are more likely to show up near the top of Google’s image search results.

Clearly the algorithms the two engines use are very different. Of course, analyzing search engine algorithms is more than a full time job. The sample size we used here is not large enough to draw any real conclusions, only for fun speculation. So based on our limited research, which engine is better?

If you are looking for a high quality, beautiful photo of Miley Cyrus to hang over your fireplace, Bing will deliver. Using Google you would likely have to use advances search and set a higher minimum size and do some hunting before getting the perfect picture. If, instead, you keep hearing things about Miley Cyrus and you want to find out what the fuss is all about, Bing will be almost no help. The most recent image it provides is from May 2012. Google is better suited at bringing images from the latest events to the top. It is thought-provoking how the engines attempt to satisfy different needs when faced with a search like “Miley Cyrus” and no additional context. I am now curious how these tendencies manifest themselves when searching for things other than female pop stars…

If you have any other insights, or simply prefer one search to the other let us know!