Category Archives: marketing

Understanding Revisions Part 1

The brilliant work of sculptor Antony Gormley seems strangely relevant here.

Something utterly strange happened to me Thursday at work —something I would characterize as a random unexpected occurrence which left me feeling a bit mystified.

A piece of creative I had worked on the week previous for a [unnamed] client’s ongoing digital marketing campaign, came back to our team with zero revisions—as in, don’t change a thing, it’s perfect.

My project manager was utterly floored, dripping with giddiness and laughter. “Wow!” he said, “you’ve done it”, [this is] “really awesome; fantastic work Darryl!” After my initial euphoria had subsided I thought to myself, hmm… this is a bit perplexing. I was actually anticipating one or two rounds of the usual rudimentary changes with this [unnamed] client—be it copy tweaks, colour, make the logo…ehem, you know…, or the commonly neglected trademark legal/copyright symbol addition. But nope, not on this day. In this particular case the client had given us 100% sign-off and approval on the creative work I had meticulously prepared early last week, much to my delight.
When this occurs—and it has happened to me several times before in the past—it’s a nice little boost for the old ego not to mention a boon for the project as a whole.

Maybe on this specific project, with this client, and these particular account executives, everything just magically clicked. Then I wonder, was this maybe just a freak instance—after all, it doesn’t happen all that often. Quite possibly on this occasion a looming deadline has forced the client’s hand into hastily approving creative to meet an overly-ambitious launch date. Or maybe, just maybe, on this day my creative was just bang-on! I don’t know.

While I’d love to think the ‘first-round-bang-on-creative-thing’ is my über-speciality, it’s not. And I’d be kidding myself for thinking I —or any other creative pro for that matter—could realistically expect to deliver such creative work to a client on a regular basis. Acceptance of creative/design solutions at face value, sans revisions, simply does not happen very often—if ever—in our industry.

Sooner or later we all inevitably encounter a project in which the revisions seem to spiral uncontrollably beyond our grasp, setting forth a path of destructive forces that conspire to undermine the integrity of our creative contributions. Amidst these unfortunate circumstances our once pure ideas and well-intentioned concepts are broken down into a series of fragmentary, less coherent elements.

If it sounds as though I’m dwelling on the subject of revisions, well no, this is actually the first time I’ve actually felt compelled to explore this topic at length on my blog. Truthfully I feel this is a subject worthy of critical discussion if we are to effectively manage the sometimes negative consequences revisions can have on our work.

In part 2 of this post I want to examine some of the tangible factors influencing project revisions—creative, technical or otherwise in nature. Like many other creatives, designers and developers, I am curious to understand what motivates the revision process and what we can do to mitigate the apparent side-effects.

So what do you think? Where do revisions come from? —lack of communication—a poorly written brief—politics—personal subjectivity? I would love to hear your thoughts.

In Praise Of Digital Hygiene

start pushing here

Imagine for a moment you meet someone on the street for the first time, they smile and you notice yellow stains—worse, perhaps they’re missing a few front teeth. You’re likely a bit distracted while engaged in conversation and wonder if they’ve neglected to ever follow basic oral hygiene. By all accounts your first impression is somewhat skewed.

I remember my dentist used to have this sinister looking poster on the wall that said “Ignore your teeth and they’ll go away“. Haha ok funny, but what a great analogy for the way some companies regard their level digital engagement with their target audience—often with pure neglect.

Let’s pretend for a moment a company’s presence in the digital space could be represented as one’s teeth. For example, one tooth represents a corporate Web site or hub, another could represent some form of mobile application, another a Facebook group, another for Twitter and so on (…you get the idea). What’s it going to look like when you smile? Am I going to cringe with fear or be pleasantly surprised to engage further in conversation?
While we’re on the topic, how do we prevent the onset of those nasty cavities?  Well, as my dentist always said: brush and floss daily. This is a no-brainer right?
So maybe the brushing and flossing are the conversations and digital interactions with consumers, which I’m guessing would need to occur on a frequent—if not daily—basis. If you subscribe to this theory then regular use of engagement platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will keep our brand identity and level of digital audience engagement sparkling fresh and clean!  Just like our dentists would preach: this needs to be done on a regular basis or we’ll be looking at some expensive dental implants further down the road.

In fact, in a recent clinical survey 4 out of 5 digital marketers recommended brands “check-in” with foursquare on a regular basis to engage consumers more effectively.

Seriously though, neglect these and other digital platforms and cavities will inevitably emerge. I really like Max Kalehoff’s take on establishing a strong level of digital engagement with an audience: “[on the Web] companies have the choice to engage intimately with customers, or instill a cold, faceless façade.” —too bad many companies still choose the latter.

Now let’s shift gears and start thinking about building some of these beautiful digital engagement assets. Ok, how about we roll with another oral hygiene concept (seems to be working so far).

Digital projects are like giant tubes of toothpaste.

If we could think of the creation of a new Web site, mobile application or individual digital component as a giant tube of toothpaste, we know from experience (and years of brushing) things are relatively open and easy in the beginning. It’s not until we reach the home stretch—the tail end of the digital pipeline—where things start to become challenging.

Fact: A digital/interactive project will always run smoother and we will ultimately get more out of the tube (our digital pipeline) if we apply pressure evenly and consistently throughout the entire length of the process, from initial concept through to final QA testing and client delivery. When I say ‘apply pressure evenly’, I’m referring to everything and anything that could improve our chances for a successful outcome.
Quite frankly, the digital production pipeline is complex and full of constantly evolving techniques.

Here’s another fact I’ve learned to appreciate over the years:

Web Developers are the unsung superheroes of digital marketing.

Without their experience and expertise that technology xyz-driven CMS back-end Web app coming down the pipe is just a black box quandary. Celebrate your dev talent and cherish their varied contributions.

On the other hand, let’s say we apply uneven pressure throughout the life of our digital project (e.g. not enough planning in the beginning, misallocating efforts towards the end) we potentially run the risk of wasting valuable time and resources. Remember, we want to get all that glorious toothpaste out!

Our worst-case scenario is the stuff that gets left behind. Think for a moment about a project nearing completion. Perhaps the objective is to extract that last little bit of precious toothpaste to brush our brand’s teeth before we can move on to a new tube—but due to unforeseen variables we’ve pushed the tube (our digital pipeline) unevenly early on and we’re now stuck going back to where we initially missed our first time through. Yikes! Not a good scenario!

I suppose the point I’m trying to make here is that it’s not just how we push but also where and when (i.e. how frequently) which can determine success or failure in the digital hygiene game.

The App Bandwagon

Would we have an official OxiClean® App had Billy Mays survived to witness the rise of the mobile Web?

Applications are trendy right now. Like a digital bandwagon rolling into town, ‘apps’ are touted as the latest must-have for our smart phones and mobile devices. Similar to the proliferation of browser add-ons in recent years, designed to improve our Web surfing experience, apps are seen as essential tools enhancing our increasingly mobile connected lifestyles.

I am a huge proponent of well-designed applications—especially those able to improve our experiences with technology, empowering us to better utilize information. However, recently I’ve become slightly weary of the flood of applications upon our collective consciousness.

As of November 2009 there were over 100,000 applications available for the iPhone through Apple’s App Store; by March 2010 30,000 applications were available for the Android platform -these numbers continue to grow each month as more and more people enter the mobile market. I imagine we’ll soon have an app for everything including, ironically, an app to help us sift through the sheer cornucopia of apps available to determine what’s worth installing and what we could perhaps do without.

Don’t get me wrong, I think apps can be extremely useful in our daily lives—but do we really need a Huffington Post application coded specifically for the iPad platform?
Last time I checked, you could access all the great content available on huffingtonpost.com through Safari—on the iPad of course.
There’s also an app for Wired Magazine which has received a great deal of press lately. But I wonder if Wired just wanted to hop on the tech bandwagon just to say “Hey, we’ve got a Wired app”.
Naturally, technology is Wired Magazine’s bread and butter, so it might be strange if they didn’t offer an app-ified version of their traditional Web site. Then again, does the Wired app really offer anything unique above and beyond their existing Web site? I honestly don’t know because I personally haven’t tried using the Wired app, so I’m not really in a position to critique the user experience. Others however, have weighed-in likening the experience to (ehem) a 1990’s CD-Rom, among other things.

While the popularity of app-ifying Web sites continues to rise on closed platforms like the iPad, ironically of late, we see established plug-ins like Flash demonized by Web standards groups and open source proponents who would very much like to see a Web—and a mobile Web for that matter—completely devoid of proprietary technologies, like they somehow inhibit the Web from moving forward.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I really don’t see a difference between a site designed to run as an iPhone app and a site designed to run with the Flash Player plug-in. The Huffington Post and Wired apps aren’t really apps in this sense—just Web sites re-purposed for smaller mobile screens with multi-touch interactivity in some cases.

I suppose I am more of an idealist, because I envision a Web free (or at least with a minimal number) of competing platforms designers and developers need to contend with when coding and building our clients digital assets.
If I own an iPhone or similar mobile device, does someone out there envision a world where I would need to install a separate app for each and every site I visit online?—oh but wait!—I, like many other people, visit 100’s of sites each month—that’s a lot of apps to install. Seems a bit over-engineered of a way to experience digital content wouldn’t you say?