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marketing

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Ad servers and Google Analytics: who to believe?

Sharing her tips and tricks, Rebecca Buchanan, Digital Marketing Officer, writes about how to analyse Facebook campaigns to achieve the most accurate results. 

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Storytelling: The superhero of communications

In the first of three blogs, Craig Melcher, our Digital Content Manager, opens the book on the most enduring and powerful form of digital content.

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‘Storytelling’ was once an innocent word, belonging to the bedtime ritual between parents and children or legend-sharing rituals within indigenous cultures. Then around five years ago the marketing world got its mitts on it, turned it into an ‘essential engagement tool’, and it became the topic of every agency blog, brand summit and industry podcast.

But rather than do its run as a marketing trend and fodder for buzzword bingo, storytelling is now flourishing through digital channels. Stories have become the online content people gravitate to, share and talk about – and the volume, quality and variety have mushroomed.

Aside from how successfully the most dominant modern story forms – films and books – perform online, the telling of stories has found other, more innovative forms. Major news websites have helped lead the way, using HTML5 and other web innovations to combine text, video, photography, graphics and audio into rich, interactive stories like the Guardian’s Firestorm, SBS’s The Other 9/11 and Baptism by Fire from the New York Times.

For our ears, on the back of last year’s record success of Serial (and, long before that, its progenitor This American Life), documentary and interview-style podcast series like Radiolab, Outlook, SBS True Stories, Love + Radio, Porchlight and StoryCorps have built huge audiences. Live event podcasts like Risk! and The Moth are getting big download numbers by featuring everything from story slams to people sharing personal tales onstage.

For our eyes, the web’s visual strengths make it a photographer’s playground, and professionals and amateurs alike are publishing potent photo essays, not only on Instagram but also platforms like Exposure.

For lovers of written stories, the movement has led to sites such as Longform, Wattpad, Medium and dozens more, as well as waves of online learning and collaboration options like Figment, LitLift, The Story Emporium and truckloads more.

The arc and the oxytocin

What caused all this? It turns out we humans have a thing for stories. They are how we connect to each other, generate empathy for people we don’t know, and are moved to do something for them. We’re hard-wired to tell and listen to stories.

We can explain why this happens through some basic science and basic story structure. At its most stripped-down*, the arc of a story has three stages:
1. Exposition – when a main character is introduced along with details like setting, time, situation and, importantly, what that character wants.
2. Crisis – when something happens to the character that gets in the way of what they want.
3. Resolution – when the enemy is beaten, the disaster averted, the solution found, or the first kiss finally happens.

Classic-Story-Arc-storytelling

* In books and courses by the thousands, the universal dramatic structure has been pursued, dissected, analysed, prescribed and over-complicated. But if you want one good read that truly explains the ‘why’ of humankind’s need for stories, I recommend John Yorke’s Into the Woods.

Now the science bit (your brain on stories). We all have four main ‘happy chemicals’, or hormones that act as neurotransmitters in our brains:
- Dopamine – to motivate us. Released when you realise you have a 5pm deadline on the report you thought was due next week.
- Seratonin – to make us feel valued. Released when someone compliments you on that stylish belt.
- Oxytocin – the all-powerful social bonding chemical. Between mum and baby, it facilitates childbirth and promotes breastfeeding. Between two partners, it triggers feelings from warm and fuzzy to sexual. Between two strangers, it fosters generosity.
- Endorphins – the euphoria chemical. Released via all sorts of triggers: through laughter, as response to pain and stress (the athlete’s high), favourite aromas (hello, bacon), and of course chocolate – amongst many others.

So where does the brain science meet the story arc?

1. Exposition: When we’re introduced to a main character, we connect with them to at least a small degree – and our brain releases oxytocin. The more we connect or identify with them – maybe they remind you of someone close, or their situation is one you’ve experienced, or they’re from your town – the more we go on their journey with them, and the more oxytocin we produce.
2. Crisis: As something bad happens to our character, our oxytocin levels increase. And the more we relate to them, the greater the oxytocin surge.
3. Resolution: The moment our character saves the planet and gets the boy, or just finds health and happiness, our oxytocin levels drop and our brain produces endorphins.

That’s why we’re all story junkies. And it’s why civilisations told stories before they could print. They’re the most effective vehicle of communication we have because of their power to move and connect us. Stories are how we entertain, educate and inspire. The yarns we tell in pubs, office kitchens and taxi cabs prove that storytelling is the original form of social media.

‘You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.’
- Margaret Atwood

And when you combine the enduring power of the story with the nearly unlimited ability of web channels to reach people, build niche audiences and let them spread content, you get the boom in storytelling explained above, times a thousand.

What does this mean for Macmillan?

Consider our organisational ambition: To reach and improve the lives of everyone living with cancer, and inspire millions of others to do the same. So how do we inspire them? What’s the mechanism that moves them to seek help and information when they’re affected by cancer, or to give us their money, time and other support? Chances are, it will be someone’s story that plays a key role, motivating them to action.

We’re in an enviable position in that we represent the human side of cancer. (As sometimes said, we are the care, not the cure.) The stories of the people we help and the people who help us are the most vivid, compelling and authentic ways we can communicate to our audiences. A principle of our brand is ‘For and by real people’, meaning we allow them to tell their stories and, in doing so, we’re able to express what we do, the need for our services and the impact we can make.

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Across our website, we use stories to give weight to a message and lend personal voices to information. On our story hub you’ll find a wide range of stories covering various challenges people have faced along their cancer journeys. Many of these were produced as part of Macmillan’s ongoing Not Alone brand campaign. We’re always adding more stories and finding more places to use them, working with content-producing teams to plan the most effective story content.

A story for another day

In our next instalment on storytelling, we’ll take a closer look at how Macmillan and other charities are telling personal stories and building broader narratives, and the techniques, content and measurement needed to do it well.

Further reading

The Science of Generosity (Paul Zak), Psychology Today

The Three-Act Structure, The Elements of Cinema

Samsung Gear VR

As mentioned in the ‘What next for Digital Marketing in 2015’ blog article, virtual reality (VR) headsets are coming. Many of the big players have recently moved to purchase VR companies, the most notable being Facebook acquiring Oculus Rift in 2014 which is a sure sign that they believe there is a future for the technology.

Until now the headsets have not been particularly user friendly and are certainly a long way from becoming a must have. However as Mashable reports Samsung’s Gear VR Innovators Edition is the closest thing to a consumer-ready virtual reality headset and has now been released. It is still primarily for developers rather than the general public and it appears that despite improvements on previous attempts, it is still a long way from the finished article. The below video explains how the cons still outweigh the pro’s.

 

However it does seem that this technology is moving in the right direction. It remains to be seen what the potential is for advertisers, but it may not be too long before even more interactive content can be produced and served through VR headsets. Due to the large amounts of money companies such as Facebook have already invested in this field it is likely that advancements in this technology will happen quickly and VR will form a big part of the future digital landscape.

 

A sign of the times

Let’s face it, we’ve become a nation joined at the hip with technology. So what better way to get an advertising campaign into the public eye than by putting an interactive spin on it? Interactive ads are a brilliant way to engage the public and inspire support for a campaign. And now, more and more advertisers are jumping on the interactive band waggon. We’ve been sharing plenty of them among the creative team, and here’s a pick of some of the best.
Sounds like a plan

Plan are on a mission, a mission to give girls more choice about their future. And they’re doing it with the help of some very clever bus shelter ads.
Their ads have a built-in facial recognition scanner which cleverly detects your sex and shows you a  different video depending on your gender. Girls receive the full ad which includes various success stories to inspire them to give support. And boys receive some shocking statistics and only half of the ad to demonstrate the lack of choices girls have around over the world. They’ve already had great success with more than 100,000 youtube views and 1,000 Facebook mentions. Which gives hope that Plan’s plan is grabbing some attention.
Down on the farm

Ever wanted to feed a pig without trudging through a smelly, muddy field in your wellies? Of course you have, and now thanks to Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) you can do just that.

CIWF have created the world’s first real live feed which allows shoppers to feed Patsy the pig on a giant Westfield shopping centre billboard. All it requires is a £1 text donation, after which you are sent a unique URL link which connects you to an online broadcast of Patsy. The broadcast then connects you to a machine that scatters feed for the pigs, and you get to watch Patsy scoffing away on your donation. Your donation goes towards CIWF’s campaign for free range farming and better welfare standards for animals everywhere. And we think it’s definitely something to squeal about.  
Hope to millions

Welcome to The Hope Tank, the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) first interactive billboard. Supporting their Mending broken hearts appeal, it encourages shoppers to add a zebra fish to The Hope Tank with a small text donation.

‘Why a zebra fish?’ you ask.

Well, a zebra fish has the amazing ability to heal its own heart, something the BHF want to achieve for people everywhere. They are hoping to raise £50 million for research into the fish’s regenrative abilities, which could give hope to millions of people with damaged hearts. After sending your text donation your fish will be plopped into The Hope Tank for all to see. And what’s more, you’ll even get a personalised message on the billboard, thanking you for your support.


Every cloud has a silver lining

It’s that cold, wet and miserable time of year which gets us all wishing for white sandy beaches and Palm tress. And now lowcostholidays.com are capitalising on our winter blues for their Wish you were here campaign.

Their billboard asks passersby ‘Where are you thinking of going today?’ while capturing them with a hidden camera. It then relays the image back at them with holiday destinations in thought bubbles floating above their heads.

It’s proven to be a brilliant way of grabbing shoppers’ attention, as seen in their promotional video. And it’s even better for a lucky few who view the ad at it’s competition times for a chance to win a holiday. That would be enough to banish anyone’s winter blues.

Power up

What better way to advertise a new energy efficient car then with an energy efficient ad?

Well that’s exactly what Glue Isobar set out to do to to promote the new Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Partnering with PaveGen, a company which harvests energy from footsteps, the campaign uses PaveGen’s floor tiles to highlight the power of renewable energy. Using Ocean’s Eat Street location to showcase the car, shoppers walking past the screen and over the tiles help to create some of the energy to power the screen.

Each time a level of energy is produced, the car is ‘released’ to give one lucky shopper a free ride home. It’s aleady leaving footprints in the advertising world, winning the Ocean Outdoor digital competition. And it’s definitely got our stamp of approval.

Christmas comes but twice a year

If you’re a designer that is. Like the rest of the population, every December we experience the joys of over-consumption, surprise presents and extended time spent with seldom-seen relatives. But we also get to spend a magical month or two in the middle of the year immersed in a glittering, marzipan-scented world of santas, robins and all things Christmas. Yep you’ve guessed it: the Christmas gift catalogue.

Hot-off-the-press copies of Macmillan’s Shop to Change Lives catalogue that I worked on earlier this year have just landed on my desk and they’re looking good. Along with a healthy sprinkling of that staple, the charity christmas card, this year’s edition also features an expanded range of gifts and festive accessories. From delightful tree decorations to tasty baking goods, our sales team worked really hard sourcing stuff that’ll hopefully appeal to all our supporters and keep the much-needed money rolling in. And our job in the Creative team was to beaver away putting together photoshoots, concepts, copy and page layouts to show them all off at their best and make it easy for our customers to find what they want. (Phew! managed to finish the paragraph without slipping in an elf reference.)

I’m sure the suspected robin and Santa overdose I suffered in May will be worth it when the virtual cash registers start ringing at macmillan.org.uk/shop 

Only 158 shopping days ’til the big day so get clicking

Post it War

Image via The Guardian, via Postit War

What makes a good brief

Saw this last night, a whole bunch of people talking about what makes a good brief. “Use large type” is my fave. There’s also tonnes of other really interesting articles about marketing in general. Bookmark it!

http://bigorangeslide.com/2011/03/big-orange-slide-asks-what-makes-a-good-brief

Mr X Goes on Holiday

Mr X, The Average British Family Holidaymaker, image via www.travelmatch.co.uk
Travelmatch.co.uk have produced a wonderful illustrated info graphic, illustrating the holiday habits of the average british family.
Check it out to find out just how many of us are loving the Cabaret…

Turn your marketing skills to social good

Do you like the idea of doing your bit for charity – but get a bit nervous/lazy/busy when it comes to commiting to regular volunteering?
Sparked.com is a clever solution for the busy professional – it matches up people with skills (including design, marketing strategy, media and tech) with non for profits that need expert support on their projects. The clever bit is all the work can be done online – from the comfort of your own home, at a time that suits you.

So with just a bit of the time normally given to facebook, youtube or the DailyMail gossip pages you could critique a website or redesign a banner ad and make a difference to a charitable organisation. Over 150,000 people have signed up to volunteer so far and 10-30 non-profits are said to be registering every day day.

What’s also nice is the design and navigaition of the site are so fun, visual and simple that it makes you excited about seeking out an opportunity.

You can read about someone who’s tried micro volunteering with Sparked here.

The Perfect Partnership

A sweet little email to Eva…

She was a marketing professional. He solved marketing problems. When they met, it was ‘the perfect partnership’ 

Starring Eva Lake and Brian Woodcock. A Taurus Solutions Production in association with Macmillan Cancer Support

The Perfect Partnership is a heart-warming story of how a busy marketing professional (played by Eva Lake) manages to make her campaigns even more effective by using a ‘Clever Campaign’ from Taurus Solutions. It all started over a cup of coffee when Eva met their campaign specialist (Played by Brian Woodcock) who explained how Taurus-designed direct mail campaigns for Aon Insurance had achieved a massive 500% increase in response over their previous campaigns. While Siemens PLM had used a Taurus campaign to reverse a decline in interest for their international conferences.

In fact, a unique ‘Clever Campaign’ from Taurus Solutions can deliver unbelievable results for just about any company interested in direct marketing to increase the number of qualified prospects and gain new customers.

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