A blog from SoloPortfolio about content marketing.

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Accenture Still Suffering Loss of Tiger

May 21, 2010

Every time I visit Accenture’s website and see their stop-gap, post-Tiger branding strategy I feel a tinge of sadness.

The Tiger campaign was beautiful because of its emotional qualities. The perfectionism and athleticism–mixed with occasional humor–summed up the aspirations of Accenture’s client base. It was the go-to example of rock star marketing for every professional service marketer. 

Notice how the old campaign appealed to both business strategy and personal strategy (It’s what you do next that counts). That personal echo in the Tiger campaign was the secret ingredient. The elephant? You’re never to big to be nimble? No personal appeal. There are other creatures and corny taglines in this compaign, but I’ll spare you the pain. The Photoshopped images are too cute for the macho world of consulting.

Many of Tiger’s old sponsorships are coming back but, mark my words, Accenture won’t touch him. Accenture needs to dig down and take greater risks in their marketing… this current campaign won’t be around for long.

SoloPortfolio’s Website Launch

May 19, 2010

I’m thrilled to announce we’ll be rolling out a website in June 2010. The blog has been my placeholder website since 2008… but hey, the girl is growing up. More details to follow, but here’s a sneak peak of the concept.

I’m also excited to announce that I’ve been invited to become a blogger and instructor for the new Content Marketing Institute, which is sponsored by the rock star of content marketing, Joe Pulizzi at Junta42. CMI will be launching their social media and education platform in the coming month. I’ll be blogging for CMI twice per month and providing podcast-based instruction on topics in content marketing and information design.

Two great new websites in one month. Interplanetary alignment.

Brandkarma: Your Revenge Moment Has Arrived

March 23, 2010

Have you ever felt the need to dump on a brand? Maybe your Comcast technician treated you like a donkey and you want to get even? Your moment has arrived.

Fast Company today tipped me off to Craig Davis’s latest venture: Brandkarma

Launched today, Brandkarma is a social media platform where members can gripe or celebrate brands–and companies in turn can get early information about their brands from the frontline. So far the beta site is in it’s infancy… serious infancy. When I checked in their Facebook fan page had 8 members (including me). Even so, I think this is a concept with incredible potential.

The site asks you to rate brands from the perspective of: planet, customers, employees, suppliers, investors. 

From those ratings, they create a flower of sorts with petals sized to represent the average rating (such as below).

IMO, the infographic they are using is confusing… hard to figure out what size of petal means vs. color. I’m sure if I read the site carefully I would be able to understand their design methods but… why do I have to??

I’m excited to see where the project goes and whether it gains traction in these early months. OK.. I’m off to lay waste to my least favorite brands: Citibank, T-Mobile and Comcast. [Insert villainous cackle.]

A Guide to Infographics… Take Heed Content Marketers

March 17, 2010

The Wall Street Journal’s new Guide to Information Graphics is a great primer on visualizing data–whether you work in the financial field or any other number of disciplines. It covers everything from knowing which chart/graph best suits your data to choosing colors to illuminate your data. As I’ve said before… if you are a content marketer, you have to up your game. Everyone is a publisher these days and very smart people are being drowned out by the tidal wave of online B2B content. Infographics–beautifully rendered–are a sophisticated way to help your content sing.

The Changing Rules of Magazine Advertising… And What It Tells Us About B2B Content Marketing

February 24, 2010

No surprise, Ad Age reports that magazine ad revenues are down again–that’s a ninth consecutive quarter of year-over-year declines. No one is predicting the death of print mags of course, but the industry is only beginning to embrace the kind of cross-integration that’s been needed for years. 

“Any publisher who thinks that magazine spending is going to rebound to their levels before 2008 and 2009 is naive and deluding themselves,” said Lee Doyle, North American CEO at Mediaedge, one of the leading media agencies. “The recession is only accelerating the fundamental changes going on, he said. Spending is moving into other areas — with or without the downturn.

So what are these “fundamental changes” that are taking place? What really are the new models out there? Let’s take Lonny Magazine, a digital shelter magazine, as an example. Lonny’s founder and editor is Michelle Adams, former editor at the now-shuttered Domino Magazine. When I opened Lonny’s digital pages for the first time, it blew my mind. Why?? 

Lonny takes a whole new approach to magazine content. Yes, it offers ad pages much the same as a print magazine, but Lonny also offers something else. If you flip through the e-magazine, you’ll find that many of the items shown in the photos are linked to the retailer selling that item. Take the image below…. Do you have to have those ceramic horns or that gingham-check lamp? Just click on them and Lonny will take you to the online retailer. 

The line between content and advertising is indeed blurring, and in Lonny’s case, that blurring happens quite gracefully and effortlessly. 

So what’s a B2B content marketer doing talking about an online shelter magazine, you ask? Well, in my role I develop strategies for professional service firms to reach their audience through content–digital and print. Content marketing is that funny place between journalism and marketing, and my brain is over-full thinking about that barrier region of thought leadership and marketing. How do marketers inhabit that space gracefully? How to showcase your intelligence in a way that markets your services… without the strong-arm pitch? And what can a magazine like Lonny tell us about how quickly old models of information + advertising are changing? 

I’ll be devoting the next few blog entries to this dilemma: What are the next wave of innovations available to business marketers who favor intelligence-based marketing? As I said, my brain is over-full teasing out all the implications… but the good news is, it’s a crazy-exciting time to be a business marketer.

Oh WSJ Infographics… How I love thee.

January 19, 2010 2 Comments

I’ve been harping a lot recently on infographics. Why? I think we are at a cross-roads with content marketing. B2B Magazine reports that 70% of companies their surveyed are using e-newsletters. Let me repeat that: 70% of B2B companies in the US have adopted e-newsletters. There’s a lot of spam in that category, I dare say. 

What’s a marketer to do? Design is absolutely critical in winning over readership. I want to be careful to say that good design is not the only ingredient necessary (otherwise known as lipstick on a pig), but excellent idea sourcing and writing, coupled with an intelligent use of information design and graphics, can be a powerful mix. My favorite e-newsletter design these days: PwC’s 10 Minute series

For those who are interested in information design, I recommend the Wall Street Journal’s interactive section. For a subset of articles they publish each day, the WSJ develops interactive charts and graphs to help their readers dive deeper into the subject. Their coverage of the Galleon hedge fund debacle in interactive visuals last Fall was a great marriage of journalism and visual design.

For businesses using content marketing as a core marketing and business development strategy, you should think closely not only about developing great written content, but also how to illuminate that content through design. For the budget-conscious, it may be as simple as using call-out boxes to aid folks who may be skimming. For those with larger coffers, infographics are a powerful way to reinforce your message and show off your intelligence. After all, smart graphics can be a beautiful amalgam of the analytical and creative—which may be just the message you want to send about yourself if you work in professional services. 

Another good resource: the WSJ’s new book on the subject.

I’ll be speaking on this subject tomorrow at Seltzer Design’s Breakfast Forum, which will take place at Greenberg Traurig’s offices at 1 International Place in Boston.

All About Content Marketing: A Killer eBook.

December 27, 2009 1 Comment

Velocity Partners‘ eBook entitled, “The B2B Content Marketing Workbook” is a stunner. An excellent overview of content marketing (otherwise known as thought leadership marketing) packaged up in a beautiful eBook. This project perfectly illustrates why design matters so much when communicating big ideas. As readers on the web, we are scanners. There is so much out there that we are trained to skim content for main points and every so often, the content+design is so intelligent and appealing that we are drawn in to read more closely and truly engage with it. This is what we are all after in content marketing, isn’t it? A compelling story and an engaged reader?

The B2B marketplace is still struggling with how to manage content—and whether they should outsource this core marketing activity. Unless the marketing team can truly balance expertise with information design, I believe it is imperative that content marketing is outsourced. Read this (“Multi-tasking Makes You Stupid“) if you have any doubts.

Happy New Year!

Reader-Friendly Marketing Content

December 26, 2009

An excellent blog entry: “Is Your B2B Marketing Content Reader Friendly?”  Too often great copywriting is compromised by poor information design. Albee has some great tips for designing white papers.

Everyone’s a Thought Leader

December 1, 2009 2 Comments

“Thought leadership” is the most abused term in professional services marketing. Let’s get real, people. The democratization of self publishing tools (from CMS to blogging and podcasts) means that any person with a laptop and a vague notion of an idea can call themselves a thought leader. True thought leadership takes an area of study or a topic and introduces a new perspective or a whip-smart analysis. If you are in the business of professional services, you are an idea broker and your thought leadership library should demonstrate your ability to think in new and refreshing ways. 

Just yesterday I was writing a note to a colleague, telling her that “thought leadership is dead.” And low and behold, this morning I discover that Paul Gladen, CEO of Muzeview, and Chris Koch, B2B marketing consultant and blogger, writing in the same vein over the last month (Gladen here and Koch here). I think Gladen is right on the money when he writes:

Firms can provide value to their clients and prospects in a number of ways, such as:

  • keeping them up to date on news and developments relevant to their business and roles
  • helping them understand the implications of those developments and suggesting potential courses of action
  • sharing their insights and expertise on handling other issues and challenges that arise in the regular course of business

This material will rarely be cutting edge.  It may be relaying information that is readily available elsewhere and providing guidance that is accepted wisdom or simply good practice.  Clients and prospects may be receiving similar content from competing firms.  But this information still plays a useful role as a resource for clients and prospects as well as reminding them that you have the knowledge and expertise to help when the need arises.

Most successful professional service firms are capable of doing a reasonably good job in the areas that Gladen mentions above, even if they don’t always execute well. But one thing PSFs need to keep in mind: if you can’t execute it well, do not execute it at all. Better to publish just a small handful of truly insightful, well-designed, articulate pieces than a boat-load of mediocrity. Just because you publish something in a podcast form doesn’t make it awesome. Trust me on this one.

Another area for differentiation in a sea of so-called thought leadership is in information aesthetics. Too often, thought leadership reports are too long and too dense. Stand-out thought leadership helps readers to grasp the “a-ha” moment through excellent information graphics (presenting complex data in an way that highlights the key findings and aids in understanding) and information design (call-outs of key points and memorable ideas). After all, the discipline of information design helps professional service firms to convey yet other areas of competence: 

  1. How well they can relay findings in clear language/visuals and an educational approach?
  2. Are they merely analytical “bots” or are they able to use metaphor and design to show-off their left-brained, intuitive skills?
  3. Are they respectful of their clients’ time and attention?

My latest, greatest example of strong information design comes from GE’s new Healthymagination content. Their Cost of Healthcare and the Cost of Death  infographic series are incredible in both relevance of information, interactive design, and beautifully imagined graphics.

RSM McGladrey’s New Campaign

October 28, 2009

I am a student of professional services marketing and I was impressed by RSM McGladrey’s new campaign, “Natalie is Understood.” Too often, B2B marketers think they are targeting the “enterprise” and forget that their message needs to touch real people with real aspirations. RSM McGladrey’s campaign–though some may consider it derivative of the famous Accenture Tiger Woods branding–tries in it’s own way to appeal to their customer base through intimacy and conversation. I have now seen the campaign in three different places (banner ad and two print ads). 

Amazingly enough, very few professional service firms try this kind of emotional appeal. Most are cookie-cutters of one another. Why is it that consumer brands have mastered the emotional appeal while B2B still thinks we are all robots? An interesting article in AdAge recently tackled the subject here (“Why B2B Branding is Like the Awkward Girl in High School.”)

My absolute favorite example of rock-star status emotional B2B branding: IBM Global Services. It’s smart, it’s quirky, the graphic design is stunning. And the biggest feature of IBM marketing: IBM employees talking in conversational (and often humorous) terms about the work they do to change the world. Emotional B2B branding at its best.