My colleague Mary Leigh Howell spoke at the 2019 Design Influencers Conference, and asked me to put together a very brief video about evaluating influencers to include in her presentation. Warning: This is what should have been an hour of content, crammed into two minutes.
“Email is going to be replaced by [fill in the blank].”
That’s a repetitive riff I’ve heard for the last twenty years, as I’ve worked with brands on email and marketing automation campaigns. Email is infuriating and intrusive and there are good reasons to wish it would disappear. And there were times I could see it happening. But now, in 2019, there are better reasons it won’t and shouldn’t. That could change (I’ve replaced a lot of email with Slack), but I’m a believer in focusing on the here and now, and what resonates with people today. Email resonates.
Email is a cost-effective sales tool, but I’m going to put that aside for the moment. A sweet spot for email is delivering timely, useful, educational or thought-provoking commentary in a measured way. Social media is all hyperactivity and reaction; email can stand apart from that and project an air of authority and thoughtfulness. Done well, it leverages sound editorial judgment and focuses on what’s right for the brand, without just responding to the daily zeitgeist.
Content varies from newsletter to newsletter, but the best have one thing in common: A strong point of view. Content is an expression of a set of values that are constant from issue to issue. That’s why editorial judgment is so important–knowing what to cut is as important as deciding what to include. What ends up in great, compelling newsletters can be delightfully varied. There are case studies; updates that pull back the curtain on projects, products and processes; and, unexpected perspectives on widely shared stories. Often, narrow focus creates a deeply invested audience.
A few examples
I’m not suggesting any of these will line up with your interests, but these newsletters fit the model I’ve described and are part of my media diet.
Studio D Radar shares perspectives from a design, research and strategy consultancy that works in out-of-the-way places, on under-the-radar projects around the planet.
Noticing takes a deep dive into interesting corners of the Internet. Along the way, it catalogs the changing nature of the web.
Craig Mod is a thinker and innovator in print and digital publishing. In his weekly newsletter Ridgeline he shares thoughts about walking, art and photography.
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Brands often focus on product benefits and attributes, when the process behind them is the key to delivering value. This video I created for CPP Global tells a story about the company’s commitment to lean manufacturing principles and what this means to customers.
I just read the announcement of a new brand position for a famous cycling brand known for its inconsistent approach to capitalization and my immediate thought was, I’m reading The Onion. I won’t shame this brand by name, but will share samples of their overwrought prose: “[Blank] is introducing a powerful new brand position with an inclusive foundation, designed to bring-to-life and directly tie to the depth of its Mission and Values. This positioning will also clearly complement the Brand’s critical efforts around Social Responsibility and a refreshed product line for 2019.”
There’s more: “Here we go” is anchored by one simple, powerful word: Go. Sometimes it’s a word of encouragement. Other times, a call to action. It celebrates the individual, as well as the collective, and elevates riding to much more than a competition. It acts as a rallying cry for all the good that cycling has to offer.”
To quote The Wire’s Clay Davis, “Sheeeeeeit.”
I’ll offer this anonymous brand some unsolicited and sure-to-be-unheeded advice:
A) Write like a person.
B) Say it an a way that another person can understand it.
C) “Here we go” is what the lead singer of a shitty band said just before launching into the six terrible songs that drove me out of a club far too early in the evening. It’s what I might say when I want to signal a desire for progress but lack the energy to say anything smart or witty. It’s lazy marketing.
D) “Go” doesn’t celebrate anything. It’s an instruction. It’s a vague imperative. It’s, you guessed it, lazy marketing.
I know they’re not going to listen. I hope you will.
The JDRF Piedmont Triad Hope Gala raises over a million dollars for type one diabetes research each year. I was asked to produce this year’s Fund a Cure video, which focuses on the story of the gala honorees and their family, and kicks off a series of donations to the organization. This video features Wake Forest University Athletic Director Ron Wellman, JDRF advocate and volunteer Linda Wellman, Ron and Linda’s daughter Dr. Nicole Wellman Rice, Nicole’s family, and JDRF volunteers Red and Marinda Maxwell.
Work on the video included story development, principal photography and editing.
If your work involves measuring and analyzing activity on web sites and social media, or using that data to make business cases, read this.
Here’s the bottom line:
Can we still trust the metrics? After the Inversion, what’s the point? Even when we put our faith in their accuracy, there’s something not quite real about them: My favorite statistic this year was Facebook’s claim that 75 million people watched at least a minute of Facebook Watch videos every day — though, as Facebook admitted, the 60 seconds in that one minute didn’t need to be watched consecutively. Real videos, real people, fake minutes.
The article is a clear eyed look at something those of us in the digital world have long argued with clients, bosses and investors: Numbers can infer exactitude but they often don’t mean anything.
I remember, from 20 years ago, talking with clients about how digital metrics would make advertising more efficient. Instead, we got something that’s not just terrible, but terrifying:
You know how at the end of the day all nuclear power does is boil water? All of the advanced technology that’s been developed over the last decade has ultimately been about being better at advertising than the other guy. We literally broke most of the actual world and almost the entire damn Internet so that a crappy ad for something you’re probably not buying could follow you around the web that much better.
I don’t see much value in talking about metrics, though I still have to do it. Instead, I’d rather steer conversations toward activation. How to get real people to take real actions beyond clicking in ways that a room full of computers and cell phones can mimic.
My friends at Ten Pound Hammer came up with a very on-brand take on marketing mistakes, and asked me to shoot and edit this prototype video which was turned into a series. Any project that requires a sledge hammer is bound to be entertaining.
New Breed Logistics (now XPO Supply Chain) operated more than 70 dedicated client distribution and repair centers across North America and Asia. Frequently, prospective clients would visit these facilities to see operational examples of the company’s innovative supply chain solutions. New Breed asked, how can we improve the appearance of these facilities, which were always in a state of evolution.
The solution went beyond window dressing. I developed large format prints and artwork that served multiple purposes: Art highlighted the clients’ connections with the Fortune 500 brands they serve. Client staff who worked on site were continually reminded of New Breed’s dedication to their brand values. And, the artwork encouraged New Breed employees to see themselves as extensions of those marquee brands.
To develop this long-running program that was installed in more than half of all New Breed facilities, as well as adopted by headquarters staff of some of the brands served, I provided graphic design and art direction, writing, photography, and production and fulfillment services. In some cases, projects involving these large scale banners and framed art for 100,000 square foot-plus facilities went from concept to installation in one week.