Joi Murugavell founder of Joi Design, is a designer by trade. She's passionate about 'cutting the crap' and helping her clients make money from good, solid Brands.
Simon Young is a cofounder of iJump, a social media consultancy that helps organisations conduct real, human conversations with their communities through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other forms of social media.
James Mawhinney is the Business Development Manager at PositionMEonline, providing high quality internet marketing strategies to a range of clients including Merrill Lynch, Downer EDI, Hawaiian Group, Citect PLC, and Quest Serviced Apartments.
I recently attended a fabulous event, most of the attendees are still buzzing about the event on twitter. We follow the events hashtag (?) for live updates on speaker slides, videos and a host of incredible blogs, articles and links that have been inspired by the event. Unfortunately within every hashtag there are opportunists - hashtag leaches. When a hashtag is active and trending, some folks try to get in on the action hoping they will win more followers. Twitter is a bit of a popularity contest and you can't blame us for competing for more followers, its just the schoolyard nature of twitter and we tend to forgive this in each other but not commercial entities (yet).
Of late I've noticed a minor sponsor of the event I attended riding on the popularity of the conference hashtag to advertise their product. Their tweets are mainly about their product and at best vaguely relating anything they can grab to the conference. As we're using the hashtag to learn, most of us will be ignoring said spammer (on twitter by week two you learn how to speed read and only pick up on tweets that resonate with you).
Unfortunately, no one owns a hashtag and by that token anyone can spam a hashtag. If your aim is to get some sort of free advertising via a hashtag, you'll have to put in the hard work, mingle amongst the community, learn why they're spending time in the hashtag and THEN gently push your message across in the same 'flavour' and theme of the hashtag - there are no shortcuts here and that's why twitter is so powerful, it takes time to be genuine which naturally weeds out get attention quick scams.
A good blog by Simon Mainwaring - Will Advertising be the death of social media? (re twitter's new ad platform). Simon is ex agency by the way (just to put things in context) some great comments on that post too.
...and so begins another chapter in finding new ways to ignore advertising.
Valmetrics is an independent Swiss business valuation firm serving the private equity community, investment bankers, corporate finance advisors and companies. Valmetrics also offers its customers a web-based application tool which delivers valuation metrics and analysis.
If you look at most websites, images play a big role to soften words and help content communicate. When you're designing a B2B website the first images that come to mind are 'business people' 'sky scrappers' and scarily 'people shaking hands'. You can't view five B2B websites without coming across at least one with an image of a business dude in a suit shaking hands with another business dude as they both pretend to be cordially happy! If you currently own a website with happy business people shaking hands, do something about it asap - a quick change that will make a huge difference.
The main goal of any website is to appear credible. First impressions are extremely important on the web where attention spans last 5 seconds on your homepage.
Our initial research for this project was quickly shifted from the web to (physical) libraries. Financial reports inspired the look of Valmetrics new website from the rigid grid to the product buttons which look like tabs you often see in financial reports. Often, its essential to take your research outside the web (and especially outside of web trends).
Designers, if you frequent design galleries like www.webcreme.com and www.designshack.co.uk like me, you'd be pretty impressed with the cool websites featured there. However, most of the websites featured in these uber cool galleries are personal websites by designers for designers and to be honest when you match purpose with form, most of these websites fail to achieve communication goals. Looking credible should always top looking cool. ('credible cool' is of course, very cool :)
As Valmetrics is very much an online business, the design had to give a sense of a 'web based business' too. We achieved this with rich, dark shades and a tiny tweak to their logo for a 'web glint'. The result is a solid website, credible, easy to navigate and miles ahead in terms of first impressions compared to their competitors. The website is powered by AdobeBC a flexible and easy to use CMS.
We'd like to thank Valmetrics for the opportunity to work on this project, they were an inspirational challenge and fab people with a strong vision.
Three weeks ago I received the inevitable but deeply sad news that my nana (she was 94) was very ill and had about 3 days. So off to New Zealand we went to say goodbye to an amazing human being. My partner and I used to spend some nights at her place with takeaways soaking up her gems (at times watching bad TV but mostly poking fun at her whisky drinking antics). She would always say "you young people should be out having fun instead of hanging around an old lady" and we would always reply "you're more interesting than any of our friends" and we meant it.
No matter how busy you are, work is just work when life slams you in the face. The 3-5 days I planned to spend In Auckland turned into 3 weeks, she always had a very strong will, so we weren't surprised. So anyway, when I said work is just work when life turns up? that may be true when you're talking about 3-4 days, 3 weeks is a whole different story:)
I worked on my laptop, at times by her hospital bed (not strangely that inspired some good designing) but work was building up, which I am still catching up on now. I had to start telling a few clients what was happening.
It was natural and easy to tell some clients but others not so much. We all have a variety of clients, some are formal, very work focussed, others are more relaxed, everyone does their business to business communication differently. When you're faced with telling a client something highly personal, it isn't just awkward for you but for them too (at times even more so).
No one really knows what to say "sorry Joi, now about my website, it has to go live as the Ad campaign I paid a lot of money for kicks in next week". You can see how that puts someone in a very awkward position, which made me asses the situation. Clients who absolutely needed a deadline met, had no idea I was working from a hospital and their deadlines were met. Clients who could delay things, were told the truth so they understood I wasn't being slack.
Business to Business grieving is tricky, be honest but only when you have to, as being honest isn't always the best thing when you can help it.
I attended the ConnectNow conference last week. The speakers were fascinating and a bunch of awesome communicators with a great depth of knowledge. But knowledge isn't the only thing to be gained at a conference like ConnectNow. Networking, meeting people, exchanging ideas and picking up leads is a major motivator too.
If you're an extrovert you'd have no problems walking up to a speaker like @garyvee or @missrogue for a chat, that would feel great if you've been reading their work for a while, nothing compares to speaking to someone in person. You'd also chat with them, then @tweet them right away so they remember the chat and then MAYBE they'll follow you :) and who knows you could have met a unique, talented individual who could work with you in the future. Its a clever thing to do, if its you.
If you're an introvert like me, the thought of walking up to a stranger doesn't feel natural, much like having mustard with cornflakes. I sometimes hear introverts say "I'm not a people person" and many of us get branded as that. Its far from the truth. I love people but I'm wired in a way that if I don't find a connection right away, communication becomes a real effort and may take a lot longer.
I've run Joi Design for 9 years (its run me too) and my awkwardness with what seems to me like strange networking encounters has improved, but not by much. That's what I'm like out of business so that's what I'm like in business. I've never been able to separate my business self from my every day self. In the early days I tried to bury my 'every day self' - that was a silly thing to do.
These days being my every day self in business is actually paying off. I've been engaging with clients whom I have a lot in common with. We understand each other and working with these clients turns a 'job' into a wonderful adventure and challenge.
If you're an introvert, just be yourself, its the best way to attract the right clients, for you. At events I attend, I always remember a few people I've made a connection with. At ConnectNow I bumped into @simonmainwaring's mum who is the most interesting, funny, insightful person I've met in a while. I ended up missing a workshop as I was talking to her and lost sense of time. That's when I don't feel like an introvert. I passed her my card as I'd really like to take her out for a meal when she visits Melbourne next.
Introverts love people, I feel most of us are just a little awkward when communication doesn't result in an instant connection. And I win many jobs from being my introverted misfit self. If one thing was repeated throughout the entire conference it was be yourself (even if you suck, sucking is in the eye of the beholder, it really is) and find clients you make a connection with.
Like many people I enjoyed avatar, it was one of the most immersive movie experiences I've had. But like Peter Calder, I agree the story line itself was more than a little predictable, almost insulting when you break it down like he has. But a good, original story line does not make a good movie. Just like a 'nice person' alone, does not make a good spouse.
Perhaps saying Avatar is the future of film making is what's wrong here, it's the future of 3D's immersive powers. Many things lend a movie immersive qualities. For example, some theoretically bad movies are fantastic just because the actors make it so. I hardly enjoy a movie when I'm not immersed it in and that's what makes a good movie, it doesn't matter why or what you're immersed in.
The same applies to businesses. At times you bump into a business and think how on earth do they even survive? Less than average product, done to death formulaic branding, but yet! so successful! People are immersed in consuming and even promoting these less than average products. Looking at it deeper, they probably have fantastic marketing behind the average slop they market, they know how to immerse people in their brand/product/services/promise (pointing at you The Golden Arch of sloppy, cardboard tasting cholesterol).
Whenever I attend a conference, I find myself drawn to speakers who are candid, honest and knowledgeable (from experience not theory). I'm not drawn to speakers with the best voice, intonation and confidence from being well read - they do nothing for my attention span and I hardly have an attention span unless I'm immersed in something. I suspect that's the case for most people.
The point is, it doesn't matter how (theoretically) bad a script, speaker or product is - if you know how to immerse people into your 'slop', an audience you shall have. Don't look to be elitist in theory when you want to make money.
P.s re speakers - there's something about imperfection that draws me to speakers and people in general, that guy who has a squeak at the end of a sentence, the girl who doesn't know what to do with her hands, it's probably why I liked Gollum's clunkier than Goofy movements in LOTR. Perfect movement would have wrecked Gollum.
Like many people I know, I'm in a state of continuous partial attention when it comes to the rather exciting but chaotic method in which I acquire information. If you're on twitter you may know what I mean, 100s of amazing things to read and digest, so little time.
There is order in chaos of course and purpose in the way we have adapted our attention spans to ignite every 2 seconds. Or at least it feels like some sort of acceptable order until you attend a conference or read a book and realize we were once so happy doing just one thing - I have nostalgia for chewing before I swallow (but I'm probably not going to give up indigestion, its way too much fun).
Last year I attended Marketing Now, a conference held in Melbourne focusing on marketing, social media and emerging technology. It was an eye opener, a calming experience that taught me so much more than 140 characters x 360 days could. The speakers were amazing old school 'story tellers', they knew how to get your attention, calm your mind down and make it porous. They were effortless teachers, the kind that find it easy to impart knowledge because they live it. The conversations that were shared on Marketing Now live on in this blog http://marketingnow.posterous.com/.
This year Marketing Now is organizing a 3 day conference in Sydney www.connectnow.net.au, view the speaker list here (the early bird rate expires at the end of January).
If you're a (happy) victim of continuous partial attention, you'd often find yourself skimming through a blog and re-tweeting before digesting? because you have to look for that next byte of knowledge, and the next... After a while you're sort of left with the end of a big slushy, too much water, lacking flavour, but its kinda there - so why not drink it.
I'm attending connect now as I want to be read stories by colourful story tellers. And I want the full flavour of knowledge. Apart from the romance of knowledge, Connect Now will help you market effectively to the mindset of today.
Hope to see you there
Follow the twitter list - connect now speakers 2010
Launch: A new identity and website for #sy, a Social Media Consultancy in Auckland. At any given time we're designing identities and websites for a diverse range of clients and yes it does make you a little schizophrenic at times. But you get used to it, then schizophrenia just feeds the process.
When #sy approached us, I remembered my first thoughts were "stay away from being literally friendly". At the time so many of the big boys were re-branding themselves to look friendly and almost going back to crayons. It was/is all too literal, calculative and predictable (very much like twitter at times). Many of the crayon branding efforts give off a feeling of being condescending. Yeah we're all social humans, we get that. Its like laugh tracks, good sitcoms don't need it, laugh tracks are almost insulting: what, you don't think I know that was funny?
The challenge was creating an identity that would live in a fairly new category 'social media' but at the same time consultancies are as old as coca cola and matchbox cars. We looked at a range of Marketing/Consultancy websites, but not many had a good feel for this old new thing we call social media. A week into research, I realised the word I kept looking for was 'respectable'. Not many Social Media Consultancies looked respectable. When you're in an industry that every amateur also claims to be in, you better look respectable.
I bumped into a few good PR websites and liked the fluidity and spontaneity of designs in that category. These designs spoke and listened. Traditional marketing websites tended to only speak. Another website I felt had a very 'respectable' feel was http://www.dachisgroup.com. And when I say respectable, I mean it has a sturdy old school trust me look about it which so many Social Media websites lack. Dachis Group's footer philosophy is of course mesmerising, like dancing skeletons in a closet. The big brand client logos immediately lend credibility. Many big brands that have now re-branded to look 'social', have given old school credibility a flick, so it was refreshing to see Dachis Group stand strong and respectable.
#sy's identity is a skip and a solid jump
The #sy identity leans towards a PR/Marketing company. The 'jump and skip' of PR with the sturdy, solid, building blocks of a traditional 'marketing company'. The name #sy? I made it up.
What does #sy stand for?
Yes, SY was derived from the initials of Simon Young. Simon is the Director of #sy, sure not very creative of me :) but its a short and snappy name to remember, and it makes an awesome hashtag. Hashtags may not always be around of course, the logo was designed to function just as well when it comes time to drop the #. For now as you would have seen (good and bad) the #sy hashtag has been a success, its easy to remember, simple. Social Media demands so much of our time, instead of trying to remember your name, your hashtags and your message, give people time to do other things, like retweet.
The importance of breaking text
Websites without images tend to make viewers feel like a heavy time commitment is needed to go through the website, its a huge put off. Like speaking to someone who doesn't blink. For obvious reasons we stayed away from cliche images of people being all social like. The only photographic images on #sy are on the homepage. A set of photos from the fantastic eye opening conference Simon spoke at, Marketing Now.
The rest of the imagery on the site is iconic, going back to the basics of communication, which is a large part of #sy philosophy. The illustrations create an essential contrast on the stark red identity. They form part of #sy's brand and will be used consistently in their collateral and banners. Essentially, it gives them consistent #sy 'marks' to leave behind on everything they do.
Then I got a little crazily passionate and decided to add a downloads page with #sy art. Designers are essentially egoistic, our very profession begs us to feed our egos, wanting to be loved via our creations, drives us. How else would you survive making logos bigger.
Apart from that, always assume someone is going to love your brand and give them some means to love it. Fisting Feathers is about being brave on twitter and going back to basics, what Social media is making me lose my social instincts is about.
Actually the title 'fisting feathers' was the only title Simon questioned and I don't blame him :)
#sy will offer workshops from Jan 2010. Marie Young #sy's other Director will be heading the workshops and is an amazing teacher. She's been helping many businesses get clued up with social media tools. If you've met Marie Young, you'll know what I mean when I say: if you're having a bad day get a smile from Marie, she has one of those personalities, naturally uplifting.
Workshops are one of those things that can very quickly sound generic, making it difficult for prospects to compare apples with apples. I liked Marie's name, it's friendly and down-to-earth just like its owner, so Marie Workshops was born. I looked through her Facebook photos for a suitable image to sketch. The Marie brand was inspired by the famous Lynda.com and emma, using a face is a good, memorable thing - when you have a good face like Marie. By creating an 'identity' for Marie's workshops we've essentially given her 'apple' a name.
Little quirks on the #sy website
The website has little quirks like a drawer that juts out when you click on follow me on twitter. Linking a follow me icon on your website to your twitter page is pretty abrupt. Twitter is not as new now and many people have been using it long enough to be impatient and want to know why they should follow you right away.. too little time too many people to follow. Simon wrote a very respectable, precise description on what people will actually be getting back when they follow him. I'd like to think mine was respectable as well, but I have a very consistent, growing, love/hate relationship with twitter so I guess it shows in my sometimes childish rants.
View a case study written by Sy on how to build buzz online for your event via Social Media (what to do and what not to from their personal experience).
What I personally thought of the infamous #sy launch.
Quite often I find myself negotiating with clients. Pretty normal, most things we do require some level of negotiation. When presenting a design rationale, sometimes arguing comes after negotiating :)
Scenario: for the past few months, I've been arguing with a client and we've gone back full circle now, which has prompted this blog.
My client wants to have people 'subscribe' before he reveals basic information (like a class timetable, they are a gym!). His argument was "I don't want them to just get the information and go away, I want them to call me and then I can sell them my services". My argument was, if you hold your prospects hostage, they'll find another company that doesn't. Unless you're a celebrity, its hardly ever about what you want, especially so with a service based business.
This reminded me of being on an Emirates flight recently. I've flown with Emirates on many occasions and they are brilliant. Lately though, they've decided to introduce torture videos. It's like someone at marketing said "hey we have a captive audience lets torture them".
Just before you take off you're subjected to something like 20 minutes of an intro video which was like the most boring about us page you could read. And just when you thought it was over, they repeated it again in a different language. And just when you thought that was over, they played another long video about what you could buy from their wonderful airline store (and repeat again in a different language). Emirates has a captive audience, quite literally and that's exactly how I felt, captured and tied up like cattle while they completely took over my mental space and milked my brain dry.
I will fly with them again, if they have good deals, next time I'll remember my ipod. We have many choices when it comes to flying? but not that many when you think of it, so yeah play your insanely boring videos, I'll block it out but still fly with you.
You don't have a captive audience on the web though. On the web we have more choices than we know what to do with and many fun ways to block you out, so play nice.
I am a student of social media as you can't really be a good designer unless you know how to communicate through todays channels, design is all about communication.
I follow some amazing, insightful social media experts on twitter and am learning every day. Lately I've realised all this reading I'm doing on social media is weakening my social instincts. The more you read the more you think and the more you think, the more you second guess yourself. Going on a hunch and trusting our natural social instincts has become a lot harder, ironically.
It used to be if someone asks you a question, be helpful, its the nice thing to do, and yeah of course stop talking about yourself constantly, listen just as much. Even though we humans are sort of programmed to take turns to talk, most of us like talking and not listening, its a human thing and technology isn't going to change that. But today there are many theories on how to be genuine. (the upside is of course, the sheer wonderful humour in irony! :)
If you literally concentrate on your breathing, you'd immediately start to either breathe funny or hyperventilate a little and that's the feeling I get when I examine my 'social human business' too much.
On twitter I've realised time and time again, 'genuine' people are often the most popular. People pretending to be genuine get found out eventually, as you can't fake being genuine all day in 140 characters. This is brilliant of course, twitter is like a nice-o-meter constantly judging, constantly posting judgments.
Of course the downside of twitter's nice-o-meter is it also creates a little bit of panic, pressure and fear of judgment, it's like we're in the playground again. Its also causing a barrage of 'nice campaigns', carefully crafted campaigns, a constantly increasing number of businesses re-branding themselves to connect with the people, be casual, be human!
Social media is teaching us to be more human but in theorising what it is to be socially human, many genuine people who popped into the world with good instincts are losing the plot a little.
So anyway, I will keep being a student of social media of course and it does excite me, but I've been consciously thinking about using my social instincts a lot more and giving social hostage a bit of a birdie.
Working on a website now, biggest problem is not really what they hired us for, but I had to say something. I have old fashioned values (thanks mum and dad) if someone gives you their money, give them honestly.
Anyway, I can't mention their name here but picture this : you sell mangos, your name is oranges. I didn't need to do a whole bunch of research to find out what their clients thought, with permission I called a few of their clients and every single one said (initially) they didn't know what said company even did, because of their name.
They have been in business for 4 years, confusing Victorians with their name no doubt, very little advertising budget to back up the strange name choice. Change it now I said! your name makes up a gargantuan portion of your 'brand. No! they said. Why? Because they have purchased a domain name (purchase another one, its not expensive) they love their logo (get another one to love) they can't afford the rebrand (do it in stages). No! they said to my pleas. They're very excited about the new website and have been excellent clients to work with, the kind who pour a lot of energy into content (rare). The website looks fantastic, though its nothing but a little plaster on a big broken brand.
If you don't have a large budget for a rebrand, in order of importance, focus on:
This involves your time and you'll get some amazing ideas from this brainstorming session that goes beyond writing copy. We've seen clients come up with fantastic growth and strategic plans from answering the questions "how do I give my clients what they want" "how do I speak to them" "how do I empower them to speak back". Its often a lot simpler than you think. In fact keep it simple.
If you can't afford a logo but you've hired a good designer to build a website, ask them to pick a good font to 'type' out your company name, the result will be a lot better than trying to do it yourself or using a dangerously outdated logo. Logos have to look professional, yes, but they don't have to be 'fancy' to stand out, its what you make of it. Its how you express your business that matters, that builds a brand.
Make it an empowering simple brochure website for stage one (don't just talk, allow prospects to converse with you), nuke the bells and whistles.
Fix the message, fix the strategy, fix the brand first. Then get a fancy website, glossy brochure and big fat billboard otherwise you're spending wasted money trying to put little plasters on a big ol broken brand.