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This is where smart people and creative breakthroughs converge. It’s about what we see going on around us. We like to share. Whatever we learn, you’ll learn, too. And we’re always learning.


The seven deadly sins of email design

The Internet is a mean place for your email. Your carefully crafted email is released into the wild. If it isn’t mangled by the email service, it might be caught in a spam filter. If it survives, your email might surface in an email app using 10-year-old Web technology. Images might not be displayed. If it gets past those obstacles and is opened, the email likely will be viewed on a screen the size of a business card.

Emails break, get lost and turn ugly. Don’t let this happen to your email.

Here at Bader Rutter, we think about this stuff a lot. We build nearly one email campaign per day (more than 300 in the past year). We brought our best email minds together and locked ourselves in a room with a whiteboard to recount every horror story and every heroic fix. After much discussion, we realized there were seven key weaknesses that will break your email.  We call them the Seven Deadly Sins of email design.

Avoid these sins and watch your email survive and thrive:

Deadly Sin No. 1: Lust. “If it’s on the Web, I want it in my email.”
If it works on a Web page, it should work in an email, right? Nope. For safety reasons, email apps such as Outlook and Gmail, as well as the inbox on your iPhone, restrict an email’s content. Videos don’t play, animated GIFs might not work and custom fonts are sketchy. Even typical features such as columns, multiple sections and borders are not always displayed correctly.

Our advice: Embrace the constraints. Every email (even your competitors’) faces the same challenges. You still can stand out.

Deadly Sin No. 2: Pride. “My email design is so great, it will work everywhere. Right?”
Email programs have different capabilities that affect the layout. Is your audience using Outlook 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010 or 2013? Outlook.com? Gmail? Yahoo? Are they on an iPhone 4S? 5? 5S? Samsung Galaxy S3? S4? iPad Mini? iPad Air? There are at least 40 email apps that your audience might be using. Each one handles email differently.

The appearance of your email depends on the email app used. Look at the examples included here that show email layouts before and after our team tested them in various email apps. Your email developer needs the time and the design flexibility to make your email work across all email apps.

Our advice: The BR team recommends an online email testing tool named Litmus that lets an email developer quickly test an email across all email apps and devices.

Click to read more ...


Addressable TV targets ads one house at a time

You might not know what addressable TV is, but you’ll probably be seeing it. Or maybe you’ve seen it already and just don’t know it.

Addressable TV allows advertisers to target traditional TV commercials by household, rather than focusing on specific programming and times of day that perform well with a large audience. Addressable TV allows advertisers to go after their target audience regardless of what they are watching or when.

Why does it matter?
With the fragmentation of TV viewing across hundreds of cable channels, it’s becoming more difficult for traditional TV ads to efficiently reach a desired audience. Additionally, with the growth of digital ad spending outpacing TV, the television industry needs a better way to compete.

The concept of addressable TV has been around for years, but technology is now making it easier. It offers advertisers and marketers a way to combine the reach of TV with the precision and accountability of direct marketing. Here are some other benefits of addressable TV:

  • It provides advertisers greater measurability than traditional TV.
  • There’s less “eyeball” waste. Advertisers have a better chance of directing their TV spots to the desired target audience.
  • Marketers have the ability to run multiple messages in a desired state or even designated market area. Instead of one message (TV spot), advertisers will be able to run multiple messages across the same geography with the messages uniquely targeting that household.
  • Targeting your audience allows advertisers with smaller budgets to enter the TV marketplace, which previously could have been cost prohibitive

Click to read more ...


Listening to customers is only the beginning

On Thanksgiving Day, a friend and I ran the Drumstick Dash 5K race at Miller Park. Races have diverse personalities. Some have a competitive vibe while others have a community feel. This race felt special. Everyone was in a festive mood. Families created matching outfits, and runners had their heads and appetites set on the holiday meal awaiting them later that day.

Although spirits were high, the course was crowded, and the day-of parking fee was an inconvenience. It was a great race, but considering the cost and crowds, I thought another Thanksgiving race in the future
would better suit our style.

Following the race, organizers sent a survey to gather feedback. I assumed that would be the last time I’d hear from the group until it was time to register for the next neighborhood run. Last month, I welcomed an email outlining changes based on attendee feedback. They vowed to make updates to create a wider course and adjust the route for a more scenic view. The game-changer for me was their decision to include parking in the registration cost. This communication changed my opinion and earned my commitment for future runs. 

Marketers often survey customers to gather valuable insights to understand their target audience and identify gaps in communications plans. Ideally, this feedback moves beyond reporting results to actionable changes.

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The future of the second screen 

According to a recent AT&T survey, 88 percent of U.S. consumers use mobile as a second screen while watching TV. Senior architect Brian Kohlmann recently got back from South by Southwest, and one of his key takeaways was about how marketers can regain the attention of viewers who are using a second screen device.

To learn more about this, check out his video below. Or, to ask him about his experience at SXSW, follow Brian on Twitter at @BKohlmann.

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Want eyeballs? Make your content visual

I hate to say it, but looks do matter… especially when it comes to content. The importance of visual content is one of the hottest topics coming out of the sessions I attended at last month’s South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas.

Why is visual content so important? Consider these statistics presented at the conference by Sarah Hunt, product manager for Adobe Systems:

  • 40 percent of people respond better to visual content than textual content
  • Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster by the brain than text
  • Visuals are 30 times more likely to be shared

That’s why marketers and content developers need to harness the power of visuals. Things such as sketchnotes, interactive infographics and videos make an impact. They not only get attention, but they hold it, resulting in higher engagement — and higher retention.

This goes for reporting, too. We have the opportunity to narrate data and insights, highlighting the best, most useful information in an engaging way by exploring visual options. Tables are great, but they just don’t convey information the way a scattergram or area chart can.

Here’s a video that offers an overview of this and one other major takeaway I unearthed from my sessions.

How are you incorporating visuals into your marketing communications plans? Share in the comments!


Data: Bigger isn’t always better

As I set my plan of attack last month for the 2014 South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, data wasn’t on my agenda. I deal with data on a near-daily basis, and besides, there were so many other future-forward topics to get geeked about — why bother?

So, like many attendees, I went to the sessions I was excited about, missed hundreds more and am back — smarter, more energized and … writing a blog post about data.

Data of all sizes
Big data, small data, nano data, privacy data.  The topic infiltrated almost every session I attended. As systems, programs and devices continue to talk to one another — allowing the transfer and sharing of information — it puts focus on collecting, aggregating, distilling and reporting information. In this post, I am going to peel back the layers a bit on big data, small data and the future — nano data.

Big data
“Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.”Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics, Duke University

Hilarious and true. Everyone seems to be talking about big data. In reality, unless you are Google (which has been dealing with this from day one), the NSA or another extremely large data-driven organization, big data isn’t something you will, or really can, wrap your head around. Big data systems are expensive to implement, more expensive to manage and even harder to distill what really matters as marketers.

Small data

As marketers, what’s meaningful (and what we can wrap our heads around) is small data. Small data is defined by the Small Data Group as this:

Small data connects people with timely, meaningful insights (derived from big data and/or “local” sources), organized and packaged — often visually — to be accessible, understandable and actionable for everyday tasks. 

Click to read more ...


SXSW 2014: Learning to do things better, smarter, faster 

I set out for South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive in Austin, Texas, a few weeks ago to gather as much information and inspiration as possible in five days. In doing so, I tapped the most creative and forward-thinking minds in media, which motivated me as a digital developer to improve collaboration, workflows and the quality of my work back at the agency.

After taking it all in, I’ve narrowed the experience to three key areas:
• There is amazing potential for gaming in marketing.
• What I learned from workshops and networking will improve our work.
• New technology makes it easier to streamline workflows and testing.

My main focus was gaming. I wanted to learn more about creating fun and engaging campaigns for our clients. The SXSW Gaming Expo, a three-day event, included discussion panels, lectures and demos focused solely on games. It was jam-packed with game developers and designers from big, well-known gaming companies to small agencies and independents.  

Feasibility and marketing potential
The Indie Corner, my personal favorite area, featured highly focused games on mobile and tablet devices for app store distribution and marketing. I saw games that contained puzzles within puzzles and creative touch controls that far exceeded your typical swipes and pinches. It was a good chance to meet talented game-makers and pick their brains on how their companies are using games and gamification techniques. With the growing numbers of gamers in the U.S. both serious and casual (and Web browsing time going increasingly mobile), there’s a clear benefit of using games in marketing.

It’s becoming more feasible to deploy and embed games or game-like content across all computers and devices thanks to technologies such as HTML5. Rich banner ads are penetrating the massive touch-screen market. Using game mechanics within these ads will leave long-lasting impressions that far exceed the impact of static or simple animated ads.

Virtual reality potential
Aside from learning how gaming pertains to work, I enjoyed trying out new hardware. One of the most exciting innovations in gaming today is the Oculus Rift. This virtual reality headset is sure to be the next big thing in gaming and simulations. I had a chance to demo a game built for the headset and was amazed at its progress and potential. Every inch of my visuals was covered in computer space while I peddled along on a stationary bike delivering virtual newspapers. It certainly will shake things up in the industry within the next couple of years.

Panels and workshops
I attended panel discussions focused primarily on new and current technologies. Through discussions and debates, industry leaders demonstrated how we can build better websites and applications.

Click to read more ...


New leader looks to strengthen BBN’s global reach 

Agency work is demanding enough. Now try coordinating the efforts of more than a dozen agencies worldwide.

That’s the challenge for Annette Fernandes-Poyser, the recently named executive director of the Business to Business Network (BBN), a global network of industry-leading independent B2B agencies. The network offers B2B marketing communications solutions from member agencies that follow common practices when the companies collaborate on campaigns and projects.

Bader Rutter is a key member of the network. BR’s Curtis Gorrell is a BBN executive-board member.

Annette brings strong leadership skills to the team and more than 20 years of experience on both the client and agency side.  After growing up and attending school in the UK, she moved to the Middle East and has been working there since 1996.

BBN is shifting its operational base, BBN Central, from London to Dubai, where Annette and BBN’s executive chairman, Clif Collier, are located. To ensure BBN’s future success, she intends to focus on recruiting new member agencies, improving international client engagement, and creating unison among member agencies.

Annette visited Bader Rutter and spoke about her new role: 

Bader Rutter’s Curtis Gorrell with Annette Fernandes-Poyser, executive director of BBN, during her visit at BR headquarters.

Click to read more ...


Bring balance to your workspace 

How personal is too personal? I’ve been asking myself that recently as I moved into a new workspace at our agency. This was my first move in more than three years, and it was a big one — from a cubicle into a private office. After being handed this new real estate, I’m trying to find the right balance between cold and cozy.

Fortunately, I’m not alone in this quest. Walking around BR, I find a range — from an office where any personal touches appear to be only accidental to a near flea market display of collectibles. I polled my Facebook community, which advised that less is more.

But without a personal touch, I might appear to be heartless (and no one wants that). Even the president of the United States had to think about his own personal touches to the Oval Office.

Click to read more ...


Hank the Dog is a PR grand slam for Brewers

I’m an animal lover. In my spare time, I volunteer with groups working to get more animals out of our local animal control and into loving homes. I’m also a baseball fan, and I’m looking forward to the Milwaukee Brewers rebounding after last season’s dismal finish.

So when a scraggly little dog named Hank came into the Brewers’ lives, these two loves of mine became one. As PR stories go, this one is a perfect pitch.

In mid-February, the stray dog wandered into the team’s training camp in Maryvale, Ariz. It appeared he’d been on his own for a while and injured, possibly by a car. The Brewers took him to the vet, got him cleaned up and set about finding his owners. In the meantime, the team named him after Milwaukee Braves/Brewers legend Hank Aaron.

This 2-year-old bichon frise mix quickly scampered his way into the hearts of Brewers fans and the baseball- and animal-loving nation. By day, he shags grounders with the infielders and keeps fit by running with the Racing Sausages. By night, he has sleepovers at different organization members’ homes. So far, his owners haven’t come forward, and it appears that his days as a stray dog are over.

Click to read more ...


Email marketing best practices (Part 2)

What do you do when you want to touch base with a co-worker during a one-minute window before your next meeting? How about when you want the highlights from your favorite news website?

You check your email. Well, you’re not alone.

Consider, as of 2012, Gmail had 425 million active users. Savvy digital marketers know how to reach people through email. This month, we offered you Part 1 of our top email marketing practices. Here are more tips to help you make the most out of your campaigns.

1. Key messages should go above the fold.
Put your best content front and center where your readers can see it — above the fold. This ensures your readers can find the need-to-know information without scrolling or even opening the message. Consider that users preview emails more than 80 percent of the time before opening them and, according to Nielson Normal Research, typical email viewers spend only 20 percent of their time below the fold. If that preview doesn’t entice your readers, they likely will move on.

Click to read more ...


Quick takes from South by Southwest

Contributors: Brad Manderscheid, Brian Kohlmann and Liesel Olson

Bader Rutter sent three of its top creative minds to the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, to find out what’s happening and what’s ahead in media. Social Media Content Specialist Liesel Olson, Senior Architect Brian Kohlmann and Senior Developer Brad Manderscheid soaked up the information, and they learned plenty. We’ll offer more in-depth thoughts in coming days, but in the meantime, here’s a quick take on what they absorbed:

We discovered 1.2 billion people are doing it, and it’s still growing. New technologies are making deploying and embedding games easier than ever, and data show customers stay on pages or ads when they are given a challenge, a problem to solve, or something that is fun or just plain silly.

Visual focus
It’s time to work with human nature, not against it. Smart, interactive data visualizations appeal to our innate ability to learn visually, reveal hidden connections and enjoy creativity.

Here’s a win-win for marketers and users. When devices “talk” to each other, they enhance the user’s experience. That allows marketers to achieve deeper insights — creating, innovating and solving problems when big data alone can’t. Personal devices such as Fit Bit and Google Glass offer opportunities to capture and respond to consumer data in a human way.

Real humans
Look at hypertargeting as a way to better relate to your consumers by generating meaningful conversations. Then watch your brand loyalty grow.

Click to read more ...


Kickstarter proves the value of different, better

This month, Kickstarter passed the $1 billion mark for pledges via 5.7 million people in 224 countries. More than half was pledged through the money-raising website in the last year alone. Kickstarter didn’t invent crowdfunding. It made it simpler, which made it easier to become a global movement to support creative projects. Note Kickstarter isn’t even 5 years old.

We’re living in an era of unprecedented change in technology-enabled communication platforms. Kickstarter is merely the latest example of the power of thinking differently and thinking big. And while those two notions have long been mainstays of American capitalism, today’s technology enables change to happen so much faster.

While not all of us are entrepreneurial developers with ambitions to change the world, these conquests speak to the power of thinking differently about something already right in front of us.

Here are other examples of companies using technology to simplify or enhance industries and tasks: 

  • WhatsApp didn’t invent free SMS messaging. But it did launch a best-in-class offering at a unique freemium model (one year free, $1 per year moving forward) to achieve a growing user base and viable revenue.

Click to read more ...


Why your business needs employee development

CFO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?”

CEO: “What happens if we don’t?”

For 10 years, I’ve worked to develop employees, improving companies by helping people boost their productivity and strengthen their loyalty. Developing people can be a key business goal regardless of an organization’s size. 

Often, employee training is overlooked or dismissed in favor of things that drive immediate revenue. Many companies view employee training as an option, not a necessity.

But this approach can prove costly. Last year, a CareerBuilder survey showed 32 percent of businesses lost top talent in the previous year and 39 percent believed they would lose top performers soon. When CareerBuilder asked workers what would entice them to stay, they said an increase in training and learning opportunities (35 percent), academic reimbursement (22 percent) and specific career paths and promotions (21 percent).

Companies that don’t focus on employee development lose employees to companies that do. Employees are looking for a company that will invest in them and their future within the company. If they are not getting that, they will look elsewhere. 

Figure 1. What would encourage you to look for new employment?

     Train your employees
People are the most important assets to an organization, especially those who are in a service organization  focusing on the reputation of the business. Here are more reasons employee development should be top of mind:

  1. People care when you are genuinely interested in their development. Do not hold coaching sessions or training courses just to say you did. Do it because you genuinely want your employees to grow.
  2. You’ll foster loyal and productive employees. If you invest in employees, they will have a stronger allegiance to you. This also leads to efficiency and long-term relationship building for your clients.

Click to read more ...


Email marketing best practices (Part 1)

How many emails go right from your inbox into the trash? If you’re like most people, probably quite a few. With messages coming at us from all directions — monitors, smart phones, TVs, tablets — undivided attention is becoming a limited commodity. Consider the fact that the average human attention span is eight seconds. This shift in focus might make emails easier to dismiss, but marketing pros can harness their skills and use this knowledge to create even more effective connections with customers.

When planning an email marketing campaign or drafting a message, consider these best practices:

1. Pay attention to the data.
Your email lists are the heart of any email marketing campaign. By regularly building and updating your lists of addresses, you can ensure your database is up-to-date and your message is reaching the right audience. With more valid addresses come more relevant metrics, and high email delivery rates lead to better recognition (less likely labeled as spam) from Internet service providers. Work to identify dormant addresses and clean out what you no longer need. Email validation services AccuValid or FreshAddress are helpful resources.

2. Gain permission to engage.
Have you ever received emails that you didn’t sign up for? This type of email marketing is poor practice and shows why you need permission to engage. An estimated 70 percent of consumers feel very strongly that marketers should obtain explicit permission to include them in an email list, according to RegReady. Whenever possible, build your list organically and use double opt-in for a more legitimate list. Remember that mass email sign-ups don’t yield results; relevant lists do.

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