Darcy Grabenstein Jan 3

8 Trends Destined to Impact Marketing in 2017


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Annodyne T-shirt design

Yes, it’s time for the obligatory end-of-year trends blog post. Typically, these posts focus on topics such as marketing trends for the coming year.

I’d like to take a slightly different approach. I’ll be looking at upcoming trends and their impact on marketing.

1. Virtual Reality

Like it or not, virtual reality (VR) is here to stay. So are its counterparts, augmented reality and mixed reality. If you’re confused, you’re not alone. This video explains the difference between all three concepts.

How this impacts marketing:

For travel marketers, VR can be at once a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, VR can be used to give prospective visitors a real taste of what they can experience at a tourist destination. On the negative side, prospects who “visit” a place via VR may feel they can skip the real thing. It’s up to marketers to use VR selectively, giving prospective tourists just enough of a preview to make them want to see it all in real time.

2. Anonymous Consumers

TrendWatching refers to this as Incognito Individuals. Lest you jump to the conclusion that big data is “so yesterday,” think of it more as a deconstructing of data. On the one hand, the article notes, you’ve got non-traditional audience segments. On the other hand, you’ve got companies marketing to a “segment of one” at a mass scale.

 How this impacts marketing:

Non-traditional audience segments (TrendWatching cites the first male face of Covergirl as a case in point) must be taken into consideration when developing marketing campaigns. Once you’ve defined your segments, then you need to create ultra-targeted content to meet that segment’s needs. With all the data at our disposal, you’re doing your audience a disservice if you rely on mass marketing.

3. Love for Millennials

Inc. magazine says that businesses will begin to embrace Millennials instead of rejecting them. The stereotypes of selfishness and materialism will fall by the wayside.

This mindset is particularly important in higher ed marketing, where Millennials make up a majority of the audience. And in terms of graduate education, where Millennials are becoming a larger part of the demographic, marketers must shift gears in order to appeal to this segment.

4. Drones

Fortune predicts that drones will be increasingly used to make deliveries of fast food and similar items. While the FAA has eased up on restrictions for drone use, companies still face significant limitations.

How this impacts marketing:

For companies that deliver products, drones take quick, personal service to a whole new level (pun intended). Careful messaging will be needed to overcome consumers’ fears of drones, particularly fears surrounding privacy and safety issues, and focus on how the benefits far outweigh the risks.

5. On-demand work

According to a Forbes article referencing a prediction by the World Economic Forum, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway. Both workers and customers are freeing themselves from the traditional 9-to-5 workday.

How this impacts marketing:

There will be an abundance of freelancers, available to agencies and other businesses that typically hire them. A glut of freelance talent could cause rates to drop, and agencies can pass those savings along to their clients. Agencies that once shied away from hiring freelancers might find it cost-effective to do so. In addition, remote employees will be more commonplace, allowing agencies to remove geographical constraints, expand their staffs with top candidates and hire talent with the skills that match specific projects.

6. Patients as partners

Pharma will have a new strategic partner: patients. PwC Health Research Institute’s annual report says that pharmaceutical companies will better engage with patients in the coming year. Patients, faced with higher medical insurance deductibles, will be demanding better value from their prescriptions.

How this impacts marketing:

Pharmaceutical companies will need to forge more meaningful connections with patients. In order to do so, they must better understand their customer base. At Annodyne, we’ve helped pharma clients do this by mapping the customer journey and launching social listening initiatives. We’ve also created closed online communities that serve as a support group and a three-way source of information among the pharma company, patients and healthcare providers.

7. Less is more

Call it what you want — retro, nostalgia, form simplification, minimalism — the more people are
inundated in their lives with technology, the more they retreat to simplistic themes. Annodyne’s most
recent T-shirt design, shown above, is a nod to the nostalgic look. And it’s no surprise that logo design trends for 2017 harp on simplicity.

Pantone Greenery

Even Pantone’s color of the year for 2017, Greenery, reflects this trend. In choosing this color, Pantone noted: “The more submerged people are in modern life, the greater their innate craving to immerse themselves in the physical beauty and inherent unity of the natural world.”

How this impacts marketing:

For marketers of environmentally friendly products and services, this trend is good news. Marketers of any product/service should use technology prudently, not just for the sake of technology itself. Designs should be clean, copy clear and concise. The glut of promotional content people are exposed to on a daily basis means that advertisers who cut back on bells and whistles may garner more attention in the long run.

8. The voice of Middle America

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the election’s impact on marketing. If we learned anything from Election 2016, it’s that Middle America — which felt marginalized for a long time — finally found its voice and is demanding to be seen and heard.

How this impacts marketing:

Marketers must understand the pain points of this segment of American society and address them in an authentic manner. Anything less will be looked upon with disdain.

So there you have it. The upcoming year will be filled with immense challenges and opportunities for marketers. Let the games begin.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.


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Darcy Grabenstein Nov 29

Don’t Overlook the Importance of Brand Building


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At this time of year, consumers have visions of gifts being exchanged, and retailers have visions of record sales. While Q4 is key for retail and other industry segments, businesses that focus solely on moving product do so at their own risk.

In fact, branding may be even more crucial at holiday time to distinguish yourself from the competition. So what exactly is branding? It’s more than slapping a logo and tagline on your ads, products and packaging and calling it a day.

Some of the most effective seasonal branding campaigns could actually be construed as promoting the spirit of the holiday over the commercial aspect. Here’s a partial list of stores closed on Thanksgiving. Instead of cashing in early on Black Friday sales, these companies show that they value their employees. This can go a long way in winning over customers.

  • A.C. Moore
  • American Girl
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Bed Bath & Beyond (Select Locations)
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Burlington
  • Cabela’s
  • Christmas Tree Shops (Select Locations)
  • Costco
  • Crate and Barrel
  • Dillard’s
  • DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse
  • Gamestop
  • Guitar Center
  • HHGregg
  • HomeGoods
  • IKEA
  • Jo-Ann Fabrics
  • Lowe’s
  • Marshalls
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Nordstrom / Nordstrom Rack
  • Office Max / Office Depot
  • Patagonia
  • Petco
  • PetSmart
  • Pier 1 Imports
  • Raymour & Flanigan
  • REI
  • Sam’s Club
  • The Container Store
  • T.J. Maxx

Brands that reflect the spirit of the season with cause-related campaigns are definitely on the right track. Burlington Stores’ annual Warm Coats & Warm Hearts drive is a perfect example. Not only does it directly tie to its products, it encourages customer participation.

 Burlington Warm Coats & Warm Hearts

However, even the best-laid branding plans can backfire. Last year, Starbucks introduced a plain red holiday cup instead of its traditional Christmas cups and came under attack from many customers. This year, its festive red cups are making a comeback.

Starbucks holiday cups

A Starbucks news release reinforces the brand’s seasonal tradition: “Since 1997, Starbucks has welcomed the holidays with a special red cup that celebrates the spirit of the season.”

Think about it. The commercial side of Christmas itself has excellent branding. There’s Santa Claus, a charismatic spokesperson; the use of red, an exciting color; interactive elements (writing letters to St. Nick, exchanging presents); and brand symbolism in the form of the Christmas tree.

And to all those non-believers in branding during the holidays, I say: Bah, humbug!

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.


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Michelle DeVirgiliis Oct 31

How to Transform Alumni into Brand Evangelists


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Call it what you want — brand advocate, brand ambassador, brand evangelist — this is an individual who enthusiastically supports (and promotes) an organization and its products/services. At Annodyne, we prefer the term “brand evangelist” because it describes someone who has complete faith in your offerings.

When it comes to your Executive MBA program, what audience segment is likely to be your best brand evangelists? Your alumni. They have already gone through your application/admissions process, experienced your curriculum firsthand and hopefully are on to bigger and better things in their careers.

Marketing guru Guy Kawasaki is credited with coining the concept “brand evangelism.” He not only talks the talk, he walks the walk. Kawasaki was one of the Apple employees originally responsible for marketing its Macintosh computer line back in ’84. He currently is brand evangelist for Canva.

Kawasaki maintains that the key to brand evangelism is a great product. He has come up with the acronym DICEE to illustrate what constitutes a great product:

Megaphone

 

  • • A great product is Deep. That is, it does not run out of features after a few weeks of use. In the EMBA world, this could mean offering your alumni executive education courses to keep on top of industry trends or holding networking/reunion events to maintain connections beyond graduation.
  • • A great product is Indulgent. With the price tag of most EMBA programs, this is a given. Keep in mind that you don’t want to be the cheapest option available. However, you must provide value (think ROI) to your cohorts.
  • • A great product is Complete. The total user experience should be exceptional. If you have the greatest EMBA program around but a lousy admissions process, for example, you miss the mark.
  • • A great product has an Elegant user interface. Think about it. Are your faculty members accessible? Is the post-enrollment process (course selection, housing, transportation, etc.) a seamless one?
  • • A great product is Emotive. It is so awesome that consumers (i.e., students & alumni) can’t wait to tell others about it.

Let’s assume your EMBA program is a great product. How do you encourage your alumni to become brand evangelists? You can pray that they’ll see the light, or you can take active steps to foster their relationship with your brand:

  • • Segment your marketing strategy to target the alumni audience.
  • • Connect with and friend alumni on social networking sites.
  • • Invite them to share their enthusiasm in info sessions and class previews.
  • • Create a closed alumni/student group on LinkedIn and encourage alumni to acts as mentors.
  • • Better yet, set up your own private networking site (ask us how) where alumni can seek answers to work challenges, post job openings, announce & bid on RFPs and more.
  • • Interview your alumni to create case studies that can be used to market your program.
  • • Curate/create content alumni would be proud to share, comment on or like.

We can’t stress enough the importance of social media. In terms of alumni giving, donations have dropped at schools nationwide in recent years. However, Philadelphia’s Drexel University is bucking that trend, thanks to a social media engagement campaign. David Unruh, senior vice president of Institutional Advancement at Drexel, says in the Philadelphia Business Journal that seeking large donations wasn’t the main goal of the campaign. “[The campaign events] are not intended to generate large dollar amounts… they’re really designed to engage the broader Drexel community.”

We’ll take it a step further. Don’t just milk your alumni for donations. Milk them for prospects.

It’s all about social proof or social influence. Include alumni testimonials on your website and in your marketing materials. Alumni videos can be repurposed; include them on your website, your social networking sites and in online ads. Third-party “endorsements” — such as testimonials, rankings and news placements — are extremely effective in forming a positive impression of your program among prospective students.

To recap, create a great product. Maintain your connection with alumni. When you do, they’ll become  believers, brand evangelists who will help you convert your prospects into students. Amen.

Want to explore how to engage and connect with your alumni in a secure, private online environment? Learn about Ziel, Annodyne’s proprietary audience engagement portal.

Michelle DeVirgiliis is an account manager at Annodyne.

 


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Darcy Grabenstein Oct 27

3 Ways to Refine Your Email Testing Process


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Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or relatively new to email marketing, you’ve got to think outside the inbox when it comes to A/B testing. If you’re not already running A/B tests, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to optimize your email campaigns. If you are conducting A/B tests, don’t get complacent. Test various elements to ensure that your content continues to resonate with your subscribers.

However, resist the temptation to test multiple elements at once. To avoid skewing the results, test one element at a time. For instance, test a subject line in one email campaign, a call to action in another.

Also keep in mind that you should test a large-enough email sample to make the test statistically significant. What exactly constitutes a statistically valid sample size? Most email marketers will suggest at least 1,000 email addresses. That doesn’t mean you need to run every test on your entire email list. If your list is smaller than 1,000, test 85 percent to 95 percent of the list to ensure valid results.

For larger lists, you may want to test using the 20/80 rule. Send Version A of your email to 10 percent of your list, and Version B to another 10 percent. A couple hours after the email is deployed, the email with the most opens is determined the winner, and that version is sent to the remaining 80 percent of your list. Most email service providers (ESPs) have built-in functionality to automate these types of tests.

Now that we’ve got the technical aspects out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the more creative aspects of A/B testing. Following are three concepts to consider the next time you launch an A/B email test.

1. Go “old school”

Pit a text-only email against an HTML email and see which one converts better. Take a look at your inbox. You’ve undoubtedly got dozens and dozens of HTML-designed emails, filled with eye-catching graphics. When is the last time you remember seeing a text-only promotional email? The absence of distracting graphics may actually cause a text-only email to perform better than its image-filled counterpart. A case in point:

 Purdue

Note that a text-only email, such as the one above, doesn’t mean you should forsake all branding. Including your organization’s logo at the top of the email lends credibility and recognition to your communications.

Special characters in subject lines are so “yesterday,” which is why you just might want to test them again. This site is a good place to start if you need some ideas on what icons are available. The charts also include both Unicode and UTF-8 codes, one of which your developers will need for production. Here’s an excerpt from one of the charts:

 unicode

If you’re targeting a B2B audience, though, you should know that Outlook and Gmail will display the special characters slightly differently. As with any email, you should do test sends with various email clients and browsers to make sure the email renders properly before sending.

And while personalization is nothing new, when done right it’s worth testing. Remember, personalization is not limited to the subject line. The following email also inserts the first name into the body of the email:

 PZ

Be sure to use best practices when adding personalization to an email. Always include a generic subject line version in case the email record in your database does not include a first name. For example, the generic version of the Ticketmaster subject line could be “Your Ultimate Live Event Guide.” If you are personalizing the body copy, the name should be the same font/size/color as the rest of the body copy. Otherwise, it will look out of place and defeat the whole purpose of personalization.

Another throwback approach would be to use the tried-and-true direct mail technique of adding a “P.S.” line. According to Professor Siegfried Vogele in Handbook of Direct Mail, over 90 percent of people read the P.S. first in a direct-mail letter. Granted, a recipient may have to scroll down to see the P.S. line in an email, but a strong P.S. can reinforce the call to action.

2. Take advantage of technology

If you don’t think you have the bandwidth to conduct A/B tests on a regular basis, think again. The technology is out there to make A/B tests as simple as A-B-C. Take advantage of these tools of the trade (both free and inexpensive), and take the pain out of email testing.

The email isn’t the only thing you should be testing. If you want to test conversions, then you need to test the landing pages, too. Unbounce, as it states, lets you build, publish and test landing pages without the need for IT. Rates are as low as $49/month. The site also offers landing page templates.

Spaces’ Image Resizer makes the task of resizing images a no-brainer. It’s not only free, it’s handy for both A/B testing and for sharing your email content — especially when an offer is involved — on social media.

 Sweets-lg Sweets-sm

Email on Acid, which conducts email rendering tests (as recommended above) for its clients, has provided a list of sites that offer free email templates. The company offers its own free templates as well, including responsive templates such as these:

 Mobile

Any email you develop, whether from scratch or using a template, should be responsive. Mobile-friendly emails are a must, as more than half of all emails are opened on mobile devices.

You can test your email and landing page designs outside your own lists with UsabilityHub’s Five Second Test. Pricing is on a subscription or test basis. How it works: Your design is shown to testers for 5 seconds. Then the testers are asked questions to see what they remembered. It’s a way to get a quick read on different treatments of an email, landing page, etc.

3. Test. Analyze. Repeat.

Over time, your list demographics will change and it pays to re-test elements that you previously tested. Or your product/service offering may vary, necessitating new tests. So what else can you test in your emails? The options are seemingly endless:

  • Preheader text
  • Email segmentation
  • Number of links
  • Colors
  • Navigation elements
  • Video
  • “From” name
  • Testimonials
  • Incentives
  • Day/time you send email

Regardless of what you ultimately decide to test in your emails, it’s important that you test. It’s equally important to analyze the results, and then apply your findings to future email campaigns.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.


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Marisa Albanese Oct 13

Art and Data: The New ‘It’ Couple


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In case you haven’t noticed (because you’ve either awoken from a 15-year coma, raised by feral wolves, or a little of both), 2016 is an election year. Don’t worry — I will refrain from any political discourse.

The election did inspire me and two friends to take a day trip to Washington, D.C. to see the sights. We tried to venture to different types of attractions and eventually ended up at the Renwick Galley at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. One of my friends, Amanda, is an art teacher. She also possesses a crazy knowledge of all things art, so I love going to galleries with her.

The Renwick focuses on contemporary craft art — sculptures, pottery and installation pieces. While exploring, I stumbled across Norwood Viviano’s “Global Cities.” On the floor lay separate white panels with black outlines of the continents with the names of major cities geographically highlighted. The panels were arranged to provide an almost seamless view of the map. Above the panels were 29 pieces of blown glass, each a different size and shape. The glass hovered above a specific city.

The size and shape of the glass corresponded with amount of time humans had inhabited the area and how the population had grown or declined. It was a breathtaking sight. An exhibit specialist at the Renwick explained that population data was used to create the blown glass. The piece was meant to showcase the true distribution of populations through the use of a grand visual display.

This piece showed what all data nerds like me feel: Data can be beautiful.

While I stood transfixed, Amanda explained  that artists were beginning to utilize data more in their pieces. I honestly never saw the connection before her statement. Art is, well, art. It can be anything. There are no rules. Data is the exact opposite. It’s regimented and structured. Their marriage, though, has the ability to create understanding for a whole slew of people. Ergo, art is able to unlock the true job of data, which is bringing information to light.

This brings up an intriguing insight. Perhaps things we had a preconceived notion about in marketing bear a second look. Maybe an audience who was perceived as not being receptive to a message should get a deeper dive. A failed campaign re-examined to understand what went

20160924_130906-min

“Global Cities”

If you ever get a chance to check out the Renwick and this piece, I highly recommend it. You may find it as inspiring as I did. I also recommend taking as many ridiculous pictures as you can in front of the Washington Monument. Why? No real reason, except to possibly annoy everyone around you.

 Marisa Albanese is database marketing analyst at Annodyne.


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