Explaining the Explainer (animation for marketing)

Guest post by friend and digital smarty, Susanne Schantz, Co-Founder of Small Island Studio

You may have noticed a small explosion in the number of animated videos on the web lately. They are everywhere now, especially the (sort of) ubiquitous one-minute ‘Explainer Video’. Why are animated videos so compelling, and so Zeitgeist right now? What makes an animation better than regular video at conveying a complicated idea and making it memorable?

The example that springs immediately to mind comes from the fantastic TED speech given in 2006 by Sir Ken Robinson called “Schools Kill Creativity.” It was an epic speech. First of all it’s important to note that Ken is one of life’s gifted speakers, with a gentle, Monty-Pythonesque style of talking that pulls you into the topic, using humour, a depth of knowledge and his incredibly sharp intellect to make you listen with more attention than you naturally would.

So watching that speech was compelling. I became a bit of a disciple of the topic after viewing it, and would demand friends, family, colleagues all watch it as well. Then one day, while searching it out on Google for the umpteenth time to show to yet another person, I saw that there was a new speech by Sir Ken in the results, created by “RSA Animate.”

So of course I looked. And suddenly, what had been an interesting topic became unbelievably compelling.

The RSA (Great Britain’s ‘Royal Society of Arts’) had created an animation of a Sir Ken speech, in a style known as “progressive illustration.”

Adding visuals to words is hardly a new idea; currently it’s huge in the modern digital space (just look at the explosion of Infographics). But in this case, adding motion and graphics to what was already a great speech (good writing still matters) perfectly demonstrates the power that animation can have in a business context.

The “Explainer” video business has been born on the back of this idea. There are dozens of companies that have sprung up (our own, Small Island Studio, among them) to provide companies with one-minute long videos to explain complex ideas and concepts in a simple, easy to consume and memorable format.

Explainer Videos have become popular for a bunch of reasons; their short, web-friendly format makes them easy to use across all types of mediums (and they work well on mobile), and the flexibility of animation means it can tackle a wide variety of topics without the limitations of live action.

And what’s in store for this space is even more compelling from a marketer’s point of view. Adding interactive elements, which compel the watcher to get involved with the video, will increase retention substantially. Gamification, the process of adding game design elements and game thinking/mechanics, will create a competitive environment among viewers, giving them a sense of ownership over the content that will be hard to match.

Location Based Marketing for Business

This was originally posted on WCG’s blog.

This morning, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel titled “On the Location-Based Services Horizon” at the second annual Foodservice Social Media Universe (FSMU for short). Joining me on the panel were three of the smartest folks not only in the restaurant industry but also in the world of location-based services. This group included Rick Wion, director of social media at McDonalds, BJ Emerson, VP of Technology at Tasti D-lite and Lauren Barash, director of corporate communications at Moe’s Southwest Grill.

  • During the hour long conversation, I kicked us off with a few relevant mobile/location-based facts including:
  • Smart phone penetration has reached 50% in the U.S. (mobithinking.com)
  • As of May 2012, 74% of smart phone users claimed having used a location-based service. This includes things like Google Maps. (Pew Internet Study)
  • According that same report, 18% of smart phone users claimed to have checked into a venue like a movie theater using a service like foursquare. That number is up from 12% year over year. (Pew Internet Study)
  • The leading location-based service, foursquare, has approximately 24 million users (LBMA September, 2012)
  • Photo sharing service, Instagram (now part of Facebook), has grown to 80 million users in just 18 months (C|Net)

Following the industry stats, each panelist took some time to talk about what their companies were doing on the location-based marketing front. Here are a few of the key take aways from each:

McDonalds: 1) during key pilots, they have gotten good traction with foursquare in driving increased checkins. 1) After analyzing their mobile web traffic, they realized that a) store locations with details about drive thrus and playscapes b) nutritional information and c) job applications are the top three most visited areas of their site. Their mobile app features those three items. 3) In order to train franchise owners, they have used location-based scavenger hunts (check into a bar/get a tip/complete an action). This has worked well in helping their franchisees understand foursquare and how it works better).

Moes: 1) They have a check-in club that allows customers to connect their foursquare accounts to Moe’s loyalty program. Customers earn points through check-ins and can achieve “rock star” status on Moe’s leaderboard. 2) Changing offers requires a lot of training for staff which sometimes slows the pace of innovation at many retail locations. 3) Moe’s is also working together with their cheese vendor to sponsor a free queso day tomorrow.

Tasti Dlite: 1) BJ and this CEO just wrote/published a book called The Tasti D-lite Way that document’s the companies location-based and social media journey. 2) An early innovator in the location-based space, Tasti D has created a way to connect foursquare, Facebook and Twitter to their loyalty card. When the card is swiped, it auto posts across the customer’s social networks and gives the customer points for each purchase/check-in. 3) BJ thinks that one way retail stores/restaurants can create higher engagement/check-in activity with their customers is to put a customer-facing camera at each register that would capture any willing customers as they checked in.

There were a lot of great tweets from our session as well as from the conference. You can see them here.

  • I said that I believed that Google would ultimately win the race given the recent UI change it made by allowing users from the mobile Google.com page to “use your current location” and then suggest nearby bars, restaurants and coffee shops.
  • BJ thought that a great focus on value exchange from brands and more “celebrating” of mayorships should take place
  • Lauren disagreed with me that Google would win (while agreeing that having one’s place page(s) correct was critical. For her, it’s about more check-ins and better offers/value.
  • Rick suggested that based on activity they are seeing from Radian6 whether or not photos are the new check-ins (McDonalds sees far more customer photo uploads than checkins — to the tune of thousands/day)

Last but not least, here is a list of some resources that I’ve pulled together for the last few LBM sessions I’ve done. Included on that list are links to BJ’s book and a few of the reports referenced in the report. Enjoy!

 

Vintank Shows Us the Future of CRM for Vertical Industries

With the volume of conversations that take place online today — literally exabytes worth — I’m constantly amazed by some companies’ lack of monitoring/leveraging these conversations to improve marketing, product development and customer service. In some ways, ignoring this information is tantamount to having a group of your best customers sitting down in your companies’ parking lot telling you everything they like and don’t like about you and your competitors’ products through a bull horn. Instead of listening, you block your ears and pretend they don’t exist.

We believe that vertical social listening coupled with social CRM creates unprecedented and invaluable context to create more meaningful engagement with customers. -- Paul Mabray, Vintank, Chief Strategy Officer

Fortunately, more and more businesses are realizing that there is a wealth of online information that exists to help them run better. Also helpful is the fact that companies like WCG (the agency I work for), Social Dynamx (the company my sister works for) and Vintank (the focus of this post) are helping companies listen, analyze and then act on the trillions of conversations happening on the social web. To that point, I had a chance last week to sit down with Vintank’s CTO, James Jory, to get an in depth demo of their “social CRM” platform that targets the wine industry. What I can tell you is that I am impressed. Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I sit on the advisory board of Vintank (an unpaid position) so I know a fair amount about what James and Chief Strategy Officer, Paul Mabray, are doing. But what I can tell you as objectively as is humanly possible is that these guys are focusing on all the right things.

After walking through Vintank’s social CRM platform, I am particularly impressed with four aspects of what they do:

  • Vertically focused listening
    Their platform is optimized and tuned to effectively filter conversations for products and brands in the wine industry. According to Jory, this is particularly important for wine due to the various ways consumers identify and describe wine brands and products and the massive volume of product selection (150K wines released in US market just last year and most products stay in market 3-10 years). For example, a general purpose listening platform would likely consider “corked” and “cork” to be the same term in a conversation when in reality these words have entirely different meanings in wine.Also important is the fact that Vintank actively listens to and captures ALL conversations that occur in their segment and not just the conversations related to their clients. This allows them to reach back through three plus years of social media activity in their system to bootstrap new clients and provide historical views for existing clients. During the demo, Paul Mabray framed the importance of this feature by saying, “We  believe that vertical social listening coupled with social CRM creates unprecedented and invaluable context to create more meaningful engagement with customers.” Amen to that sir!
  • Social Commerce or Commerce + Social
    Paul and James believe that that the push to bring commerce to social is putting the cart before the horse. Instead, they feel that social media can be much more effective when it is brought to commerce in the form of customer context and customer intelligence. A winery may have 1 or 2 transactional interactions with a narrow segment of their customer base each year (a tasting room visit, wine club shipments, winery event, e-commerce purchase, etc.). This provides them with an extremely limited context for each customer. However, they know their customers are consuming wine all year long and increasingly sharing those experiences through social media.
  • Rich Customer Context
    Building on the thoughts above, the cornerstone of Vintank’s  social CRM strategy is customer context. This includes stitching together all of a customer’s social profiles, presenting views of mentions of my brand as well as wine general, interactions with owned channels (twitter, FB, LBS), most recent purchase, lifetime value, wine club membership, membership in customer segments, team notes, and so on. This allows both small and large winery businesses to be more effective with their social media activities and interact with their customers with more context and knowledge.
  • Winery Social Index
    Vintank’s Winery Social Index provides a scoreboard of sorts on how wine brands are performing in social media. The algorithm was built specifically to level the playing field for wineries of all size. It rewards engagement (I wrote a post on the importance of this metric last week)  and healthy fan growth over the vanity metrics such as reach. It has provided a valuable KPI for the wine industry as wineries find their footing in social media.

So what can your company learn from Vintank and the way they help their customers look at the market? At a minimum, the fact that you shouldn’t be ignoring that “group of customers with their bull horns” in the parking lot. Beyond that, you may also realize that paying closer attention to how you are engaging with your customers versus how your competitors are doing it is also key. And finally, what role can social play in your commerce and customer relationship management strategy? Hopefully, the answer is “a big one.”

 

 

 

Search Inside Yourself [Book Review]

Several weeks ago, I was asked to review the book, Search Inside Yourself, written by long-time Google engineer, Chade Meng-Tan (Meng for short). His official title at Google is “Jolly Good Fellow,” and after reading a couple of chapters of his book, it’s easy to see how he earned his title. Most impressive is that the lessons Meng shares in this book — essentially how to develop a greater sense of mindfulness — have been codified into a course that is offered to all Google employees. Given the success of the company over the last ten plus years… I’d say he (and they) are doing something right.

Before diving into some of the core elements of the book, it’s worth noting that I am a fairly spiritual person. And while I’ve grown up in organized religion, I am a great respecter of all religions, particularly those that focus on the positive elements of man, God and the universe. Because of that attitude, a lot of Meng’s book made total sense to me and I can honestly say that I’ve been unofficially practicing/living many of the tenets of the book without knowing it. With that said, you don’t need to be a religious person to appreciate Search Inside Yourself. However, before you decide whether you want to read the book, it’s worth asking yourself a simple question. Do you believe that you can become a better person by being more introspective, mindful, empathetic and humble? If the answer is no, then you are probably better off skipping this book (and the rest of the post).

Two things in particular struck me about this book that validate its credibility well beyond anything I could offer:

  • The pull quotes are arguably the most impressive I’ve ever seen. Case in point, when you get a former U.S. President (Jimmy Carter), the Dalai Lama and John Mackey, the co-CEO and co-founder of well respected, Whole Foods, that says something.
  • Meng knew that in writing this book he would have a number of skeptics questioning his methodology and possibly writing off his innovative course as quackery steeped in eastern religion and philosophy. Instead, Meng backs up all of his research with 3rd party studies and research and digs into the scientific and physiological reasons behind what he’s advocating.

Five pragmatic things that I took away from the book were:

  1. Strengthening one’s mind and getting good at focus and mindfulness is akin to riding a bike. The first several times you do it, your balance (focus) falters and the corrections to stabilize yourself are exaggerated. Over time, the adjustments become less noticeable and riding evolves into a subconscious and often, calming, activity.
  2. One of the important steps in the book is learning how to better focus in order to be more mindful and thus more in control of one’s own emotions. On page 55 of the book, Meng teaches us a simple exercise that takes place during walking.
  3. On page 57, Meng also provides details on an exercise that anyone in business could benefit from and that is mindful listening. As someone that has spent the last 15 years of my life getting better at listening, this easy-to-implement advice was a welcome recommendation.
  4. For anyone that lacks the empathy gene, the exercise on page 169 is straightforward yet transformational in its ability to remind us to be a better human being.
  5. Who in life hasn’t had to have a difficult conversation with a boss, child, client, vendor, spouse or employee at some point in their life? In many cases, some of us are unlucky enough to have several difficult conversations a month. The process Meng spells out on page on 223 is one that I plan to start using immediately.

The good and bad of this book is that the concept is relatively simple. It is singleminded in its approach. But it can only be effective to those that are willing to spend time putting it into practice. It’s hard to say whether or not business people will adopt the smart lessons and philosophies Meng shares in this book. Taking a look at the pervasiveness of the company that Meng works for — Google — I’d say he’s got better than a fighting chance.