Do you remember the first time you saw a cinemagraph?  

Wait, was that what I thought I saw? It stopped me in my thumb scrolling tracks.  I was mesmerized.  What a cool way to grab someone’s attention.

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Cinemagraphs are designed for immediacy to tell in a faster and more alluring way visual stories while mesmerising through an isolated image and moving element, making it hard to take your eyes away.

Animated GIFs or Cinemagraphs are a powerful way to engage your audience on social and through email campaigns.  According to a survey by Experian Marketing services, 72% of email marketers who have used animated gifs or cinemagraphs have recorded higher transaction-to-click rates, compared with bulk emails to the same customers.

The adoption of cinemagraphs is growing rapidly.  According to Jim Squires, director of market operations at Instagram,  “People love them, advertisers love them, and they really are a great way of drawing attention to certain aspects of the photo.”

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Cinemagraphs are about to take off even further!

Last week, Flixel announced a partnership with Facebook which will allow users to easily create high-quality cinemagraph profile videos and easily upload to Facebook directly from Flixel’s Cinemagraph Pro for iOS app for free.

It all comes down to content stickiness. Cinemagraphs are one opportunity for brands to capture eyeballs for a few precious extra seconds.

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Daddy, will you tell us a story?

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I hear this almost every night from my daughters.  “Daddy, will you tell us story?” From the very beginning of our lives , we are captivated by a good story.  There are many components to a great story, but at the root of most are people – a strong central character, a protagonist, someone to which we can relate.

“The best stories reach us on some elemental level. They talk about a mother’s love for her children, a husband’s pride in his country … There’s something very important that’s always going on in a very simple way in good stories,” says NBC correspondent John Larson.

For brand content creators, this means creating a platform for the brand and their audience to reveal something about themselves and their character.  Today, innovative brands are inviting their fans to co-create this story.  This just makes sense.  The customer has always been the protagonist for great brands.  Coca-Cola’s #shareacoke campaign is a successful example of how storytelling is evolving in the new media landscape of today.

The brands that embrace this method of storytelling will outpace their competitors in the content marketing wars.  As social media platforms proliferate and adoption grows, brands will need a strategic approach to harnessing the voice of the customer, as well as the tools to manage this efficiently.  According to content marketing expert Heidi Cohen, “the curators who will rise to the top will not only need to bring together the best content, but also to add their own “human touch” or perspective to the content they curate through annotation“.

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This is where the power of story boarding comes in to play.  Technology tools like Livefyre’s Storify product allows brands to curate and storyboard their user generated content.  According to CEO Jordan Kretchmer, the path to UGC success is through empowering, interacting, and collaborating with your audience, and then extending the content’s life through story boarding.  Watch the video here.

Don’t let your audience fall asleep at story time – embrace your protagonists in new ways and watch your story come alive.  One of my daughter’s favorite story time books was the series by Mary Ann Hoberman, “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You.” They loved playing an active role in telling the story, not just listening – your customers are no different.

 

Reddit launches a new app

In the news this week is Reddit announcing the launch their IOS and Android App.  While users have been able to access their Reddit content through 3rd party apps, a branded app signals a new chapter in Reddit’s life.   As of Friday, the app was #1 in the App store.

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By the numbers, Reddit has a formidable community – 36M user accounts, 231M unique visitors, and 11,464 communities engaged across 217 countries.  “This is the beginning of our journey with you, our app users. For everyone joining us on this ride, you can expect a lot of updates and new features that we’ll be rolling out to mobile first,” says Alex Le, the VP of Consumer Product at Reddit.

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And there you have it, “mobile first.”  Brands will need to stay ahead of the game in consumer behavior on mobile.  Take a look at how mobile app usage has grown – 90% since 2013, leading all platforms.  From second screen viewing to voice search, marketers must consider their strategies to consider the mobile audience.

You can’t help but wonder if Reddit is looking for ways to drive revenues through mobile advertising, especially given the shift of advertising spend to mobile platforms.  “The company plans on maintaining advertising on its mobile apps for free users, but in a way consistent with its philosophy on keeping it out of the way when possible.”

Big announcement for a big community, reflecting the unavoidable influence mobile usage is having on the media landscape.  Do you think it is too late for Reddit?

Polling Your Way to Greatness

Back in October, Twitter made polls available to everyone, opening up a new opportunity for further engagement.  Even Twitter gets in on the action to gauge their audience’s interest in a topic.  Twitter polls provide an opportunity to discover more about your target audience.

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The polls can also be used to discover which content to invest further resources.  By asking questions related to content topics, a blogger can understand which topics will resonate and garner further engagement.  You will also note how the poll above is combined with a #hashtag,  connecting the poll to a broader topic of interest.  Brands should be sure to leverage polls as part of existing content and even trending topics.

This is also an inexpensive way to gauge interest in product or service offerings. Here is an example of a company conducting price sensitivity analysis using polls.

While the sample size may not be statistically large enough and it would not be considered a random population, the information can be helpful to validate certain decisions or guide strategic direction.

Most importantly, fans love to feel like they are part of their brand.  Twitter polls are an easy way for brands to invite fans to become part of the story and influence the future.

IoT seems like more work

I’ve been reading through a review of newly released products deemed to have taken IoT to the “next level” and come to a conclusion.  Smart is not always simple.  I’ve yet to be driving home from work and thought, “I sure do wish I could turn my ceiling fans on to cool the room down before I arrive.”   This just seems to promote even more distracted, unsafe driving.  But in the words of Hunter’s Chief Marketing Officer, John Neilson, “We’ve just scratched the surface of their potential.”

Along the way to design connected, smart products to demonstrate innovation, brands will inevitably create some additional friction in the customer experience.  This is where the brands with anticipatory UX design will win.  Brands who understand how to harness the real time data, dig deep into the context of both industrial and consumer use cases, and help reduce decisions, not increase them, will win the race.

The value of IoT is in the promise of hopefully reducing my decision fatigue.  In the meantime, I’ll keep a keen eye out for products that over promise on the notion of simplicity.  Have you found an IoT product that delivers a new frictionless experience for you?

From the Sweet 16 to Amen Corner

Spring is in the air and two of my favorite sporting events make this a great time to come out of hibernation – the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship and golf’s The Master’s Tournament.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, being a “cord-cutter,” combined with a busy weekend schedule with the family makes watching these events a challenge. Fortunately, both of these events provide an app to keep me up to date and even let me watch live!

I’m not alone, according to one study,  32% of sports fans reported an interest in using their mobile devices to stream live sports.   These apps provide behind the scenes content, highlights, real time scoring, and engaging features – like the ability to keep up with my NCAA bracket or customize a leader board based on my favorite players.

If done right, sports fans who can’t attend the events live can still feel the rush, socialize with their fan networks, and share facts, stats and trivia through these mobile experiences.  For marketers, the apps provide an emerging tactic to engage with this captivated “second screen” audience – both at the event and away.  Brands can partner with sporting event properties to gain access to valuable fan data, create engaging content, and interact in real time.

Now back to my ever dwindling bracket…what happened to my Mountaineers.

 

 

Retail Reality Redefined

The augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) space is starting to gain significant momentum.  By 2020 the AR /VR market is projected to reach $150 Billion.  The advances in this technology are enabling an explosion in new applications, especially in the retail industry.ARVR Forecast

Clothing, home furnishings, and other fashion retailers are experimenting with augmented reality to enhance the in-store experience, connect physical and digital environments, and increase conversion rates with customer.  According to Accenture’s 2014 AG survey (performed with 400 respondents, USA), customers agreed that an AR app would increase the likelihood of buying a product (88% – clothes, 86% – furniture and home accessories, 61% – games).

Watch how IKEA is connecting their catalog to your home with augmented reality.

Even more exciting is how virtual reality technology is coming together to further enhance the in store augmented reality experience.  Lowe’s Home Improvement is pushing forward in this space aggressively with their Holoroom.

For product categories where there is a higher perceived risk of making a bad decision, such as home remodeling, AR/VR can help reduce that barrier. For purchases such as make-up, jewelry, and clothing – the ability to “try things” on without going to the store is getting one step closer and making the online shopping experience even better.  I’m excited to see how this continues to evolve.

Are Cord-Nevers the Tipping Point?

My wife and I cut the cord over 10 years ago, canceling our cable subscription and even getting rid of our television.  At the time, this was a radical personal decision to reclaim some of our leisure time for other purposes and reduce our monthly expenses.  Today, 15% of Americans have cut the cord – dropping their paid cable and television services in favor of content streaming options such as Hulu and Netflix.

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Content consumption among younger generations is evolving even more rapidly.  “Cord- nevers” now represent about 9% of American adults. They have never subscribed to TV channels offered by a cable, satellite or telecommunications provider.

Cord-cutters and cord-nevers represent the arrival of a new media landscape.  The old, traditional content ecosystems are diminishing, replaced by a diverse, on-demand, multi-device landscape of media offerings.  The change in interactive ad spending testifies to the multi channel approach marketers must take to reach someone like myself.  According to an IAB/PwC report, mobile advertising grew 76% from 2013 to 2014.  Even more important for marketers, is that interactive marketing spend is set to outpace television spend in 2016, with social media spend posting an 18% CAGR from 2014 – 2019.

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As new media platforms emerge, they present an opportunity for marketers to deliver messages to highly targeted audiences.  The consumer chooses what they want to watch, when they want to watch, and on what device.  Last night, my wife and I streamed a few clips on YouTube of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on our tablet.  Each clip was preceded by the same Jim Beam commercial.  Five clips. Five strong brand interactions.  We were a highly engaged and captivated audience.  Emerging media allows for one-to-one marketing on a whole new level.

Over the next few weeks I will explore the intersection of consumers, companies, content, technology and media channels in this ever changing interactive space.  We’ll take a look at new brand experiences, mobile marketing, the Internet of Things(Iot), the power of content, and other ways consumer behavior is redefining the customer journey and media.