AniBlurbs (Column)

Anibal's thoughts on Online Marketing Strategy, Service Design, Tech, Innovation, Business and more…

Branding The Obama Identity

Two short interviews with Sol Sender, the Design Strategist behind the excellent adaptable and strong brand identity of the US President-Elect Barack Obama, wherein he shares the history, strategic branding process and key take-aways thereof.

As stipulated by Karl Long in the original referring post over at, this could become the most iconic brand identity of our time -even more so when we consider the various ways in which it was deployed: the ultimate contemporary case of product quality (the candidate AND his message) first and marketing perfection second in a sweet marriage with The Crowds if we ever saw one.

Bonus: For the nitpickers out there:  In part 1, pause at 06:46 to see a screenshot of an Outdoor Dummy on a Dutch Public Transport Company bus stop , taken in the city of Amsterdam! [hometown of yours truly ;) ]

Sol Sender – Obama Logo Design Part 1 of 2

Sol Sender – Obama Logo Design Part 2 of 2

Here’s the teams blog post

Original Post:

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Interactive Marketing In Times Of Crisis (Thinking Anti-Cyclic)

Cutting deep in your Marketing budget (and thereby seeing it on default as a cost instead of an investment) is a short term tactic that isn’t going to help your company weather these uncertain times ahead of all of us. Instead it would be more sustainable to take a long term approach; a more critical look at what channels your spending this budget on and whether the story you’re telling is in line with the quality of your services or products.

And though your Marketing Department may stop talking about your company, products or service, the consumers are not: Au contraire; their conversations (in the Social Media space) are increasing exponentially!

Furthermore don’t forget to also take into account that most of your competitors are probably not as comfortable with such a progressive world view and will focus instead on the short term outcome. This means that by keeping your budget stable, but spending it more wisely, you could seriously gain competitive advantage.

“So, then since online has the reputation for being measurable, we’ll just cut back in our offline efforts.”

Contrary to popular belief among some of my peers, right now is NOT the time to cut in offline Ad spending: If there’s one thing we’ve learned so far, it’s that in times of Crisis there is a peak in the amount of readers, visitors, viewers and listeners to (in this particular case financial) news papers & websites, TV and radio. People are looking for guidance and a steady rock to cling on to. This means that if you have a relevant story to tell there’s never been a better time to reach out to your customers and core audiences than right now!

The core thing to keep in mind here is of course that the Old Media are by their very nature geared towards Branding, and thus, -though it’s not really scientifically-rock solid-proven-effective in generating revenue- it is a perfect instrument to instill customer thrust in your brand, if handled the right way and in conjunction with Social Media Marketing and other forms of Online Marketing.

The key challenge would be timing, as you wouldn’t want to have a multi-million dollar tagline –Here Today, Where Tomorrow?– proven meaningless overnight…

One way to manage your Marketing budget would be to higher or lower it every Financial Quarter, in a wave as it were, analyzing the results and reacting accordingly. Moreover reallocate the money spent on different channels based on campaign directive. So, depending on the field or sector your operating in, decrease the amount of money spend on Branding through offline channels and shift the resulting saved money towards Online Results Based Marketing, such as SEA and in optimizing the Task Completion Rate by Primary Purpose on your website…

Yep, I’m not advising you to plainly look at Conversion Rates, I’m suggesting to take a more holistic approach ;) Back in 2006 Google’s visionairy Web Analytics Evangelist Avinash Kaushik already foresaw that the Focus (should be) Shifting from Conversion to Task Completion Rate by Primary Purpose.

Upcoming Interactive Channels that haven´t quite fully lived up to their potential yet like Social Media and Mobile are likely to be confronted with closed wallets and plummeting ad spending, not just because of advertisers cutting back in costs and investments, but also because the consumers themselves are being hesitant to spend money on luxury products and services including Mobile Internet and Mobile Wireless Internet Devices.

Yet again here it would be wise to be wary of and avoid the FUD; for example here in the Netherlands the mobile version of the largest news website (translated: is also the largest mobile news site. It is known that CTR’s in mobile enhanced sites are up to 7% or even higher, putting Display efforts on the desktop internet to shame; so though it’s understandable to make a Pavlov Reaction and eschew Mobile altogether, the contrary might be a better move. Whether your campaign is geared towards gaining a high CTR in the first place is of course a different thing altogether (I’d beg to differ, basing a campaign on CTR alone isn’t the most cost-effective way of spending your Marketing Euro).

As for Social Media, as I’ve pointed out at the beginning of this post: Your target audience, consumers and people in general aren’t going to be less critical, or dependent of peer advice and ratings and they’ll definitely be looking for bargain deals on price comparison communities, so keep joining that conversation!

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Consumer Creates Advertising for Dell

Two things I’d like to discuss after seeing this and reading the article by Jeremiah from Forrester as I believe that in his enthusiasm about this initiative he’s forgotten to take a few important factors into account.

Number One:

This is an outstanding example of using Social Media to co-create a buzz and empower the community that you’d like to connect with to spread a message. The mind boggles:

Can you imagine using this example of Social Media and applying it to, say Employer Branding, to engage the ever elusive, out-of-reach prospects and candidates?  You could challenge them to go out and create an advertisement, mini-site, whatever, that shows their values and thus their desired dream job. This would give you very useful insights into what candidates really are looking for when moving on to a new job and gives your organization not only a shot at starting a meaningful conversation with them, but at free publicity as well.

Number Two:

Though this may seem at first as a big step forward in the way advertisers see, treat and engage with their target audience, there’s one Big Question people tend to overlook: It’s an intermediately great PR stunt, especially for Dell, but will it draw in more customers or change the attitudes of the target audience towards Dell in particular?

Personally I don’t believe so and here’s why: If I’m going to buy a € 1.200 + desktop or spend around the same amount of dosh on say a notebook, what are the key selling points for me? What are the conscience and subconscious decision making processes that I walk through before pulling my wallet? These are in random order and depending on whether like me you’re a power user or not;

  • 1. Functionality -does it meet your user requirements (family PC? Design workstation Powerhouse? Gaming Dark Horse?);
  • 2. Absolute Quality -what do the tests in the specialist press say, does it run Vista as it should? Etc..
  • 3. Perceived Quality -how does the specialist press, the fora and/or the influencers in your direct vicinity talk about and review the product;
  • 4. Brand Thrust/Reputation- some people are real fanboys when it comes to their gadgets, clothes or means of transportation;

The Total Cost of Ownership and the budget are of course other factors that weigh in when making such a decision.

Now when we take a look at the list above we must conclude that there’s no way that getting a few fanboys/artists/creative professionals or students to participate in such an endeavor  is going to noticeably up your sales now or in the near future. At any rate it’s not measurable.

So then we must make an educated guess that for Dell “hard sales” probably isn’t the main KPI for this campaign. So, the main goal of their campaign must be… branding. If that is the case than whatever way you’d look at it they’ve achieved at least the following:

  • Free PR;
  • Innovative and creative profile in the creative community, the media industry and in their own Tech sector, early adopters and influencers;
  • Creative, friendly, innovative and non-corporate image towards the participants and their direct social hemisphere.

Now these are all great things to achieve, especially for Dell, I for one have personally never really been a fan of them as a customer so I must admit that I was positively surprised by this move and that it could reflect a change in the way they operate. But does  it change their helpdesk or their customer service, does it make the quality of their products and services any better?

No it does not and that’s wherein the threat lies: This -for Dell- high profile action could backfire on them in a big and ugly way, unless they manage to keep their story authentic and consequent along the whole chain, from product quality up to customer service. In other words: Live up to your promise Dell.

If they don’t succeed in doing so than all of this was nothing more than a nice exercise of what could be and a reminder of why online / social media strategy shouldn’t be an afterthought but part of your total business plan to begin with.

On the other hand it’s heartening to see that molochs such as Dell are willing to take these kind of innovative steps and are showing that they’ve at least got the intention to be willing to reach out and really get in touch with the consumer. These are exciting times indeed.

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Google As Your Context-Sensitive Corporate Homepage

Nowadays the general notion of Marketing, Communication, PR and HR(!) is that it’s not just about branding and influencing the attitudes of your core audience by connecting with them.

It’s about the big picture, about adding value to their -shared- experiences, or even better still, the big story you create together with your customers, empowering them to become your ambassadors. Your Corporate EQ if you will. All this undoubtedly requires a lot of hard smart work, but it can be as fun and as fulfilling as you’re willing to make it.

From the quality of your product/the service itself and the way you communicate about it with your consumers (and handle their feedback), up to the way you give out, say, a profile-customized receipt after a successful transaction took place. It ranges from cold-calling to After Sales, all the way up to Customer Services and helpdesks. Offline and online, back and forth. And also the core-values you hold, portray to, and share with your employees.

So, if all of the above is true, then why this post?

Because when we take all these facts and zoom in on your Online Marketing/Strategy in general and your online corporate presence in particular; than somehow in spite of all the research, proven best practices and cases of how it can and should be done, some of us still tend to forget (or rather just plainly fail to see) that your company’s online presence doesn’t just end with the mandatory neatly SEO’d corporate website, banner campaigns and the use of Google AdWords and the like.

It’s about the Search Engine Results Page (SERP): For many prospects and consumers indeed Google is the context-sensitive corporate homepage and this  article by Mr. Owyang from Forrester outlines the strategic considerations to take into account when sharing your story online. Once again essential reading by Jeremiah. Amen.

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