At the risk of the MWB Blog looking increasingly like a tavern, I feel compelled to write a postmortem on our latest #MWBeer30 event. Jon Fisher, Donnie Brimm, and Bethany Cooper from Oxford-based FNC gave a great talk reviewing many of the practices and protocols their company has put in place designed to stir innovation and creativity. I think attendees of this event (4/17) will agree that it really was inspiring to hear a Silicon Valley-esque approach to innovation being undertaken by a company who is committed to being headquartered in Mississippi.
Like I’ve said a million times before, Silicon Valley was an apple orchard 60 years ago. There’s no reason we can’t turn the Delta, red clay hills, pine woods, gulf coast, and mini-Appalachian landscapes that are Mississippi into something at least equally as impressive. And I don’t want to gloss over the fact that FNC – like so many other thriving entities – is committed to a robust corporate headquarters in our state. The company counts the majority of the top 20 banks in the U.S. as clients utilizing their applications. They are rapidly expanding operations into Brazil and Canada. I have a feeling new products are in the offing. FNC basically invented a category and is the market leader. Not bad for Oxford, Mississippi. Heck, that wouldn’t be bad for Oxford, England.
But back to the main point, the latest #MWBeer30. We had a great crowd attend representing Innovate Mississippi, the Mississippi Development Authority, the Clarion Ledger, EatShopPlayLiveJXN, C Spire, and various other highly innovative individuals. After a brief announcement about TEDxJackson 2015 (coming 11.12.15) and watching the newest Star Wars Trailer (yes, it looks uber cool) the folks from FNC took the floor. Here’s what we learned from their 6 minute 40 second presentation:
1. A 6-minute, 40-second, 20 slide presentation is called “Pecha Kucha.”
Here’s Jon Fisher from FNC getting into their talk. Many of you may be familiar with the “Pecha Kucha” approach. I was not. This is a presentation that consists of a total of 20 slides and each slide lasts no more than 20 seconds. Jon’s pictured here taking us “through the wormhole” that is FNC’s innovation process. The story I was told was that #MWBeer30 was the first time these guys had used Pecha Kucha in a talk… and they didn’t practice, either. They really had it down seamlessly, so I don’t know that I necessarily believe that “we didn’t do a run-through” story. Either way, they nailed it. This was a highly effective and engaging way to present information, so three cheers on the style points!
2. Play-Doh isn’t just for kids anymore.
Bethany Cooper of FNC talked specifically about some of the (dare I use the phrase) out-of-the-box exercises that the company utilizes to get the creative juices flowing. These include actual Play-Doh planning sessions. Don’t be skeptical. There’s a reason four-year-olds think they can do anything.
Other hyper-cool practices FNC has implemented include developing and maintaining their own internal Innovation Team, an annual all-night hackathon called The Forge (props to Jon Fisher for having a product from The Forge now in development), and their implementation of the “80/20” work principle. The latter of these, being a concept pioneered by 3M and really made famous by Google, roughly states that an employee has the freedom to spend 20% of their time working on pet projects they believe will contribute to a company’s mission, outside of “sanctioned” job functions.
3. People will show up and talk… for beer… (and for other reasons, too).
Many, many apologies to FNC, but I didn’t learn until they pulled into our world headquarters about 2:45 p.m. that they had actually missed out on the annual FNC crawfish boil to some speak to the attendees of #MWBeer30. I hate the thought of making someone miss their own event like that, but I will also say that we’re not BYOB. We had great craft beer (much of it brewed here in the great state of Mississippi) on hand for sampling. There are so many innovative people in Jackson and across Mississippi that we feel honored to provide a forum to evangelize the growing nature of our state’s knowledge economy, the great creative assets that we possess, and the how companies, organizations, and individuals are really fostering a culture of innovation.
Tasha Bibb (top) and Lynlee Honea (bottom) were among a contingent from Innovate Mississippi who attended #MWBeer30. Innovate Mississippi is a great organization who are champions of innovation culture and entrpreneurialism across our state. Always very glad to see these folks in attendance.
4. Mississippians are engaged and ready to support our knowledge-based companies.
Plain and simple, we (Mississippians) get a bad rap. “We’re a backwater…” “we really can read and write…” “thank goodness for Arkansas…”. Well we say phooey on all that nonsense. And apologies to our friends from the Travelers State, no disrespect intended. I’m just trying to convey the point here that we’re poised and ready to springboard into a prominent place in the 21st century.
Here’s Donnie Brimm from FNC talking. Donnie and the rest of the FNC crew got peppered with questions after their 6 minutes and 40 seconds were done. And I don’t mean peppered in a “Mike Wallace from 60 Minutes GOTCHA” kind of way. The people at #MWBeer30 were genuinely curious and supportive of great knowledge-based business like FNC and wanted to know more about the industry, the development aspect, and especially what kind of stumbling blocks had the company encountered in implementing a real culture of innovation.
They say that an indicator of creativity and intelligence is the ability to ask great questions. That being said, we certainly had a highly creative and intelligent group of people who attend #MWBeer30. Being a connoisseur of great craft beer is simply a plus. By the way, our craft beer is courtesy of the great guys at LD’s Beer Run, serving a huge selection of local, regional, and national craft brands. Stop by and see them if you’re ever in the neighborhood.
5. Star Wars The Force Awakens looks super cool.
One of the warm-up acts for FNC’s presentation was screening of the new trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To quote Mississippi icon Marshall Ramsey, “I watched it at least a dozen times and I felt my heart swell when Han said, “Chewie, we’re home.” To quote MWB VP Keith Fraser, “OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod.” Yes, it certainly sends chills throughout your spine. The folks gathering at MWB world heaquarters gave a standing ovation after the trailer. Well, technically they were already standing, but I feel certain if they could have levitated, they would have.
6. It’s ok to hire people with purple hair.
This was actually a happy little coincidence of parallelism. A couple of years ago FNC CEO Bill Rayburn was giving the luncheon keynote talk at Innovate Mississippi’s annual luncheon. During his impassioned delivery (those of you who have ever heard Mr. Rayburn give a talk know exactly what I’m talking about), he made the statement – I’m paraphrasing here – that in the new economy we have to get over not hiring people because of things like tattoos and purple hair and instead be meritorious in our approach. Basically, hire the most creative, innovative, and driven person for the job at hand.
Well MWB new hire Erica Robinson just happened to show up at her first #MWBeer30 sporting a rather glamorous “Friday wig,” as she calls it. Everybody loved it. She’s a great addition to our creative staff and innovative culture and certainly the embodiment of how not to let individualism and self expression be an impediment to raising your organization’s intellectual talent. Can’t wait to see this Friday’s colour-de-jour.
In fact, one of the best TEDx talks I’ve heard was given by purple-haired Heather Crawford at the TEDxAntioch event I also spoke at in 2014. Check out Heather’s talk here, titled “You really ARE what you eat.”
Correction, 1:37 P.M. Also do not be afraid to hire people who’s names are spelled in unconventional ways. I just realized her name is actually “Hether Crawford.” Our apologies, Hether.
So anyway, a great time at April’s #MWBeer30. Again, many many thanks to FNC for sending down some of their most impressive folks to give a great 6-minute, 40-second presentation. We’re already working on the agenda for #MWBeer30 in May, so if you want to keep up with this and other #MWBeer30 events, please opt into our MWB Tap special alter system. Cheers!
Ray Harris (MWB), Tasha Bibb & Lynlee Honea (Innovate Mississippi), various unidentifiable pairs legs.
All photography via MWB’s Tate Nations.
We’ve launched a new digital magazine focusing on creativity and innovation in the world of marketing. MWB staff Tim Mask, Randy Lynn, and Marc Leffler are the magazine’s primary content wranglers. The magazine is created via a platform allowing for optimized viewing via tablet or smart phone. New editions will be available every 7 – 10 days, and will chronicle the innovation happens that make advertising one of the world’s most rapidly evolving industries. The publication, called INNOVATIONS is available by subscription or can be viewed by clicking here. MWB’s Twitter feed will also note when a new issue has been posted. We all hope you enjoy!
If you happen to hear a heated conversation at MWB about dark matter, parallel dimensions or world history, you can be pretty certain Tim Mask is behind it.
For a good long while, Tim’s favorite word was “balkanization,” and he sprinkled that word liberally throughout several marketing proposals. That is, until I started poking fun of him for using arcane geopolitical buzzwords in situations where arcane marketing buzzwords would work just as well. Kidding aside, Tim is a deep-thinking kind of guy and I recommend his blog to anyone that’s interested in marketing, electronic media, technology or other related stuff. Here’s an excerpt from his terrific post, Chaos, Creativity & Sober Englishmen.
Great moments in mankind’s history—Einstein’s revelations about the relationship of space and time, Newton’s epiphany about gravity, Steve Job’s development of simple and beautiful technology, Tim Berners-Lee and the innovation of hyperlinks—countless other moments when the clouds parted, the blinding rays of innovation shown directly into the grey matter of some contemplative individual, and the world was forever changed. We have, really since the enlightenment of the 16th and 17th centuries, kept this idea surrounding the inspiration of genius. Great thinkers, in contemplative moments of solitude, reach the epiphany which had for so long eluded them.
Tim goes on to discuss how, more often, creativity is the product of chaos, not solitude. Interesting point. As a creative person and a writer, I can see both sides of this perspective. When I’m focused on ideas, a little chaos can be a good thing, as it’s often helpful to gather creative inspiration from a wide variety of sources. Alternately, when I’m writing, I like as much solitude as I can get. Writing is, for me, a more focused process. I can’t even listen to music. The difference may be due to the fact that creativity is more of an “open” process. The more input, the better. When I write, it’s less about being creative and more about translating the idea into words in an effective way. Okay, I’m starting to get pretty deep here, myself. Back to Tim.
In his post, Tim talks about how England’s entrance into the Enlightenment period was preceded by a transition from beer, as the favored beverage, to coffee and tea. I can relate. My “enlightenment period” lasts approximately five minutes when I am drinking beer. I have a tolerance on par with Sunday school teachers and recent blood donors. Coffee works much better for me. Good thing, too, as I don’t think my boss would appreciate me having a morning beer at my desk during the week.
So creativity thrives on both chaos and alert sobriety. I would add another factor: discontent. People invent things because they’re not happy with the status quo. Sometimes the invention is simply a means of escape from a miserable situation, as was the case with the blues and its invention by impoverished black sharecroppers years ago in the Mississippi Delta.
Other times, the discontent is fueled by the realization that there just has to be a better way. After a hundred years of shaking ketchup bottles vigorously and smacking the bottle just so, somebody had the brilliant idea to make a container that opened at the bottom. Wow. It seems so painfully obvious. When this product hit the store shelves, I bet a hundred thousand people said, “why didn’t I think of that?” Well, why didn’t you? You’d be a ketchup millionaire by now if that bottle had been your baby.
More than anything, the role of discontent in creativity gives me reason to be hopeful about the future of Mississippi, the state that I chose to call home some 18 years ago. Yes, we know: We are a long way from being the smartest, the fittest or the wealthiest state in America. But we are not content, and we are ready to do something about it. Let’s get innovating, people!
My colleague Tim Mask had posted an article a few days ago about not allowing negative circumstances to overpower your brand. Based on my experience, I wanted to offer my take on this idea. Before coming to Maris, West & Baker over a year ago, I held positions in project management and marketing for many years at the storied wireless communications company SkyTel. For any of you not familiar with the company, SkyTel was founded in Mississippi in 1988 and became the worldwide leader in two-way paging (yes, back when paging was ‘cool’). Thinking about it now, the company basically invented commercial wireless communication, which takes us right to the age we live in today. (more…)
BOUNCE RATE . . .killer of web ROI. When we think of measuring effectiveness of our interactive campaigns we tend to focus on impressions and click-throughs, but the real underlying indicator is bounce rate. Regardless of your success in attracting eyeballs to your website, if you consistently maintain a high bounce rate, you’re actually likely doing more harm than good.
“Bounce Rate” can have a highly technical definition, but in layman’s terms let’s just say that a “bounce” is essentially a visitor that lands on your website doesn’t stay there any significant amount of time. Sometimes this is due to user error – clicking the wrong link, entering the wrong address, etc. However, more often a bounce comes as the result of a user not relatively immediately finding information that is relevant to their query, not interacting further with your site, and “bouncing” right off your URL.
Yes, it’s important. You can’t expect your audience to interact with your site if you don’t give them a reason to.
A decent bounce rate is less than 40% (4 out of 10 visitors to your site do not remain on a landing page or interact with the site). An average bounce rate is around 65%. Analytic services (e.g. Google) reads your site’s bounce rate and uses such as a metric when calculating site relevance, which is a determining factor in how highly (or not) search engines rank your site in search results.
As with all things digital, there are best practices that help you lower your bounce rate and increase your site’s relevance. A major factor is, of course, content. You can’t expect your audience to interact with your site if you don’t give them a reason it. So having content in place that users are looking for is one of the “no-duhs” (as the kids said when I was in school).
So if content is the “artistic” side of making your site relevant, the way in which the information is served to your audience would be the technical side. Traditionally, this has been the trickier aspect to get right. Even to the point of website best practices contradicting other website best practices.
Clearing the Digital Kudzu.
A cardinal rule of website design is to not overload the user with information on the homepage. Keep it clean, simple, and visually engaging. Problem is, how can your expect to serve relevant information for specific search queries if that’s the case? A solution to this problem came in the form of Micro-sites and custom landing pages. Search queries or other advertising would drive users to content-specific landing pages that would then link viewers back to your main website, or relevant sections on your website.
Technically, this worked. Practically, it was the digital equivalent of bringing in kudzu to control land erosion.
So the issue of serving relevancy was nominally solved, but landing pages and micro sites created more work. A lot more work (just ask your friendly neighborhood web developer). And from a branding standpoint, it often had the result of producing more brand confusion, and less awareness for the brand itself. No good. Throw into the mix the rapid proliferation of mobile devices – which necessitated the need for mobile versions of websites – and the problem was only compounded.
So to in order to maintain optimum user experience combined with effective brand promotion and organizational efficiency, we needed to find a way to clear the digital kudzu. The overgrowth of mobile sites, micro sites, and landing pages needed to go. The ability to reduce bounce rates need to stay.
Intelligent Responsive Content (IRC)
New technologies have emerged which seem to be a good solution that addresses each side of the problem. Collectively, I’ll call the approach “Intelligent Responsive Content,” or IRC. We’ve been implementing IRC solutions for clients now for several months, and have documented success with the approach.
In an IRC model, the technology addresses two aspects. The manner in which the content is served – particularly to the homepage – is dynamic and user-defined. Not to get too technical here, (you can contact me if you have further questions), but basically your website determines what content a user sees based on a series of “if/then” scenarios. The “if’s” can be derived from a series of factors – nature of search query (what did the user search for), manner in which they reached your site (display ad, facebook post, linked article, search engine, etc.), even aspects like geographic location, time of day, etc. One of more of these variables is then associated with a “then” that tells the site to service specific content.
For instance, let’s say you own a company that makes various products, including a Flux Capacitor. Let’s also pretend that the Flux Capacitor has a large profit margin, but represents a small portion of your overall business. It doesn’t make much sense to feature the product on your home page, but sales are still highly profitable to small group of people. You want to make sure that if someone if looking for a Flux Capacitor, they can find it on your site.
An IRC system can identify this person through their own actions – i.e. they search for Flux Capacitors on Google, or they read an article about Flux Capacitors, or they see a Facebook post that your company makes great Flux Capacitors. Then if that person comes inbound to your site, the technology behind IRC reads their intent, and “serves” information on your home – text, or visual – related to Flux Capacitors. Being hit with highly relevant information immediately will reduce bounce rate and also increase conversions.This system functions from code, with the content being served dynamically. Thus, you are able to have the effect of a custom landing page or micro site without having to maintain separate landing pages and microsites. One URL, multiple versions of the information on your site.
That’s the “I” component of IRC. The “R,” being “responsive,” is a relatively simple way of making your site mobile friendly without having to maintain separate mobile sites. Again, through a coding process, your site can recognize the browser window size of an inbound visitor, and re-order the information on your site for optimal viewing. So your information can be presented in customized layouts for smart phones, tablets, mini-tablets, and desktop screens.
A lot of Kudzu grew up around the Internet. IRC strategies can help to clear the vines.
Think about the number of marketing messages you see during a typical day: Your morning begins with a commercial on your clock radio. You turn on the TV and a car dealer shouts at you as you brush your teeth. You get dressed, and there’s a logo on your pants, your shirt, your watch. You see billboards on your drive to work. And, at work, you see Google search ads and banner ads on websites. At lunch, you check Facebook and see their ads, too… (more…)
Every time there has been a media “revolution,” it’s been accompanied by a background chorus crooning “this will change advertising forever.” The printing press allowed for ad placement. Radio was “mass communicatin'” (to borrow a line from O Brother Where Art Thou). Television brought video to the masses. Then, later, DVRs allowed the masses to control how they watch it. And the Internet, well, that was supposed to totally change the advertising landscape.
Truth is, none of these channels did much of anything to fundamentally shift the advertising paradigm. Each either allowed advertisers to 1) communicate with more people at once, or 2) better target their advertising to a more applicable group of people. But, at the core, the dynamic remained the same: a company/organization was trying to sell something to the people. “They” were trying to convince “you” to buy something “they” were offering.
As an embryonic advertising platform, interactive social media may have the potential to actually change everything. Social media isn’t corporate-authored messaging trying to get people to buy. It’s a mass peer-to-peer network where consumers can recommend purchases to each other. Brands aren’t leading the messaging. Rather they are trying to encourage participation in the channel. Brands aren’t telling consumers what they want them to believe, they are encouraging people to insert their brand messaging into the medium via dialogue.
The call to action is quickly moving from “buy now” to “like us” and “tell your friends.” Wow.
Long ago, the only advertising was through word-of-mouth. Not since our ancestors first hung out “ye olde tavern” signs, have brands been focusing so intently on returning to this medium. Used to be “word-of-mouth” campaign was code for “we don’t have any money.” That’s not the case anymore. Media tracking shows that advertisers are moving an average of 20% of their budgets into social media. The big players are engaging this word-of-mouth space.
Of course, “word of mouth” now is spoken by a keypad and through a URL. But it is still interesting that if, indeed, the latest technology is fundamentally changing the advertising paradigm, it’s doing so in a way that essentially capitalizes on word of mouth over mass communication.
This may change everything…back to the way it was.
Choosing the right advertising agency is an important key to effectively promoting your business, and will save you countless hours and unnecessary expense in the long run.
Here are five common mistakes to avoid and suggestions to keep you on the right track:
1. Choosing the wrong size agency
An ad agency should be large enough to handle your current needs and grow with your business. But bigger is not necessarily better. If you’re a relatively small account at your agency, you’re likely to get less experienced staff members working on your business.
The solution: Examine an agency’s client list before you hire them and make sure it isn’t dominated by companies much bigger than your own.
2. Putting too much emphasis on experience in your specific business category
Relevant experience is important, but see what your agency can do outside for other types of clients, too. It’s easier for a smart, talented agency to learn your business than it is for an experienced, but dull, agency to think outside the box.
The solution: Look for an agency whose work showcases an ability to project a distinct and appropriate personality for each client.
3. Going with the low bidder
The success of an ad campaign hinges upon your agency’s skill, creativity and capabilities. Often, the least expensive vendors are priced accordingly because they are lacking in one of those three areas.
The solution: Ask for a proposal disclosing all costs and a disclosure of the agency’s compensation. Ask for a complete listing of all full-time staff (excluding freelancers or part-time workers) and get several current portfolio samples showing work that has been done by the current staff.
4. Being charmed by personality
No question, you should have a comfortable working relationship with the people on your account. But make sure there’s real substance there, too.
Solution: Ask to meet the team that would be working on your account. Look for people who challenge you to think in new ways about your business, not those who agree to every word you say.
5. Expecting too much upfront
The amount of time and effort an agency will put into winning your business is directly related to your account’s potential profitability. It’s tempting to ask agencies to jump through hoops and answer thick, detailed requests for proposals. But if your account isn’t large enough for agencies to justify the time expenses required to answer, you’re not likely to get many takers. At least not many well-qualified ones.
Solution: Base your decision on personal meetings with the proposed team for each agency, a portfolio of recent work and a written estimate of costs. And be wary of any agency that promises to deliver “champagne taste on a beer budget.” In most cases, you do get what you pay for.