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Friday, July 25, 2014

I Am Brand, Hear Me Roar: 5 Tips to Help Your Company Find its Sound

I Am Brand, Hear Me Roar: 
5 Tips to Help Your Company Find its Sound

Your brand just hired 20 cubicles worth of writers to concoct snappy statuses and Twitter witticisms, and there’s no doubt your brand has a “voice” on the page.

But what does your brand actually sound like?

According to Fast Company, 83 percent of the branded content we’re exposed to daily is visual, leaving 17 percent for the other five senses. Instead of looking at this 17 percent as the black sheep of branding, brands should see it as an untapped opportunity to make a crucial impact on how consumers recall a product and maintain trust.

A branded sound isn’t necessarily a jingle or a hummable tune; it can be any kind of audible signal that you associate with your consumer experience. You are probably addicted to some of them without even realizing it—the Facebook chat chime, for example. Check out this YouTube playlist to hear what other sounds brands have you hooked on.

The best fictional example of sound branding just occurred to me after watching Spielberg’s Close Encounters of The Third Kind. Aliens brand this certain pentatonic melody by transmitting it to humans via some UFO intercom during their cardinal visit to Earth. The melody becomes a way for people to recognize and communicate with the extraterrestrials.

Down on earth, brands can have close encounters with their consumers by prioritizing audio marketing and integrating this into their visual strategy. This is because sound is a strong memory trigger. Hearing sound is closely associated with strong emotions because music activates the entire limbic system, which is involved in processing emotions and in controlling memory.

I spoke with Steve Keller, CEO/Strategist at iV Audio Branding, and a maestro when it comes to amplifying companies’ muted marketing strategies. His company has worked with some big-name clients such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds, which have some of the most recognizable branded sounds out there. (Full Disclosure: Coca-Cola is a Contently client.)

In order for a consumer to recall your brand when a sound is played, Kelley outlines several factors that must be in effect:

Or how well the sound fits with corporate identity. Who your brand is trying to reach and what it’s trying to say will dictate whether you want to drop a fresh beat or sample a symphony.

Keller points out, “Everything has a ukulele and finger snaps, and it’s kind of developed this trend. The goal is to find something distinct enough that it rises in the category but also cuts through the clutter.”

“You want to recognize a brand when you hear a sound, that’s a matter of time… a classic conditioning,” Keller advises. “McDonalds and Intel have been really effective with that. T-Mobile and Coca-Cola as well.”

“How easily you can adapt the audio signature,” Keller explains. “That’s important because brands grow and evolve. As the brand expands you’ll need to do some cultural adaptations. No matter how it’s interpreted, no matter where you are in the world, you recognize that.”

[Kelley sings the six-tone tune: ba-da-bap-bap-bah] “It’s McDonalds.”

Is the sound’s overall awesomeness enough to make it memorable to a sizable demographic? Does it have that sonic X-factor? Kelly says this is hard to pinpoint but it’s the kind of thing that you know once you hear it.

Market research has already proven what proper sound identity can do to boost sales. According to independent research conducted by Dr. Adrian North and Dr. Hargreaves at Leicester University, “Brands with music that fit their identity are 96 percent more likely to be recalled than those with non-fit music or no music at all.” In this experiment, when North and Hargreaves played French music in a wine shop, French wine outsold German ones, whereas playing German music led to the opposite effect on sales of French wine. They ultimately calculated,“Respondents are 24 percent more likely to buy a product with music that they recall, like, and understand.”

Keller adds that the real ROI isn’t necessarily reaped from the short-term effects of spending more on sound in advertising: “It’s about creating assets that can generate true value. The ROI comes at a sweet spot when you’re engaging consumers that are nailing the brand identity, and are producing revenue through copyright or over time…that McDonalds jingle is worth millions now.”

Now do you hear that? It’s the winds of change rustling your content marketing strategy. Soon you’ll be carrying your own tune, perhaps whislin’ “Dixie.”

Contently arms brands with the tools and talent to become great content creators.Learn more.


Monday, July 7, 2014

UI, UX: Who Does What? A Designer's Guide To The Tech Industry

UI, UX: Who Does What? A Designer's Guide To The Tech Industry

Design is a rather broad and vague term. When someone says "I'm a designer," it is not immediately clear what they actually do day to day. There are a number of different responsibilities encompassed by the umbrella term designer.
Design-related roles exist in a range of areas from industrial design (cars, furniture) to print (magazines, other publications) to tech (websites, mobile apps). With the relatively recent influx of tech companies focused on creating interfaces for screens, many new design roles have emerged. Job titles like UX or UI designer are confusing to the uninitiated and unfamiliar even to designers who come from other industries.
Let's attempt to distill what each of these titles really mean within the context of the tech industry.


UX designers are primarily concerned with how the product feels. A given design problem has no single right answer. UX designers explore many different approaches to solving a specific user problem. The broad responsibility of a UX designer is to ensure that the product logically flows from one step to the next. One way that a UX designer might do this is by conducting in-person user tests to observe one's behavior. By identifying verbal and non-verbal stumbling blocks, they refine and iterate to create the "best" user experience. An example project is creating a delightful onboarding flow for a new user.
"Define interaction models, user task flows, and UI specifications. Communicate scenarios, end-to-end experiences, interaction models, and screen designs to stakeholders. Work with our creative director and visual designers to incorporate the visual identity of Twitter into features. Develop and maintain design wireframes, mockups, and specifications as needed."
Example of an app's screens created by a UX designer.Credit: Kitchenware Pro Wireframe Kit by Neway Lau on Dribbble.
Deliverables: Wireframes of screens, Storyboards, Sitemap
Tools of the trade: Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator, Fireworks, InVision

You might hear them say this in the wild
: "We should show users the 'Thank You' page once they have finished signing up."


Unlike UX designers who are concerned with the overall feel of the product, user interface designers are particular about how the product is laid out. They are in charge of designing each screen or page with which a user interacts and ensuring that the UI visually communicates the path that a UX designer has laid out. For example, a UI designer creating an analytics dashboard might front load the most important content at the top, or decide whether a slider or a control knob makes the most intuitive sense to adjust a graph. UI designers are also typically responsible for creating a cohesive style guide and ensuring that a consistent design language is applied across the product. Maintaining consistency in visual elements and defining behavior such as how to display error or warning states fall under the purview of a UI designer.
"Concept and implement the visual language of Airbnb.com. Create and advance site-wide style guides."
The boundary between UI and UX designers is fairly blurred and it is not uncommon for companies to opt to combine these roles.
A UI designer defines the overall layout and look & feel of an app.Credit: Metro Style Interface 4 by Ionut Zamfir on Dribbble.
Tools of the trade: Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator, Fireworks
You might hear them say this in the wild: "The login and sign up links should be moved to the top right corner."


A visual designer is the one who pushes pixels. If you ask a non-designer what a designer does, this is probably what comes to mind first. Visual designers are not concerned with how screens link to each other, nor how someone interacts with the product. Instead, their focus is on crafting beautiful icons, controls, and visual elements and making use of suitable typography. Visual designers sweat the small details that others overlook and frequently operate at the 4x to 8x zoom level in Photoshop.
"Produce high-quality visual designs — from concept to execution, including those for desktop, web, and mobile devices at a variety of resolutions (icons, graphics, and marketing materials). Create and iterate on assets that reflect a brand, enforce a language, and inject beauty and life into a product."
It is also fairly common for UI designers to pull double duty and create the final pixel perfect assets. Some companies choose not to have a separate visual designer role.
A visual designer lays out guides and adjusts every single pixel to ensure that the end result is perfect.Credits: iOS 7 Guide Freebie PSD by Seevi kargwal on Dribbble.
Tools of the trade: Photoshop, Sketch
You might hear them say this in the wild: "The kerning is off and the button should be 1 pixel to the left!"


Remember the subtle bouncing animation when you pull to refresh in the Mail app on your iPhone? That's the work of a motion designer. Unlike visual designers who usually deal with static assets, motion designers create animation inside an app. They deal with what the interface does after a user touches it. For example, they decide how a menu should slide in, what transition effects to use, and how a button should fan out. When done well, motion becomes an integral part of the interface by providing visual clues as to how to use the product.
"Proficiency in graphic design, motion graphics, digital art, a sensitivity to typography and color, a general awareness of materials/textures, and a practical grasp of animation. Knowledge of iOS, OS X, Photoshop and Illustrator as well as familiarity with Director (or equivalent), Quartz Composer (or equivalent), 3D computer modeling, motion graphics are required."
Tools of the trade: AfterEffects, Core Composer, Flash, Origami
You might hear them say this in the wild:"The menu should ease-in from the left in 800ms."


A UX researcher is the champion of a user's needs. The goal of a researcher is to answer the twin questions of "Who are our users?" and "What do our users want?" Typically, this role entails interviewing users, researching market data, and gathering findings. Design is a process of constant iteration. Researchers may assist with this process by conducting A/B tests to tease out which design option best satisfies user needs. UX researchers are typically mainstays at large companies, where the access to a plethora of data gives them ample opportunity to draw statistically significant conclusions.

"Work closely with product teams to identify research topics. Design studies that address both user behavior and attitudes. Conduct research using a wide variety of qualitative methods and a subset of quantitative methods, such as surveys."
UX designers also occasionally carry out the role of UX researchers.
Deliverables: User personas, A/B test results, Investigative user studies & interviews
Tools of the trade: Mic, Paper, Docs
You might hear them say this in the wild: "From our research, a typical user..."


Front-end developers are responsible for creating a functional implementation of a product's interface. Usually, a UI designer hands off a static mockup to the front-end developer who then translates it into a working, interactive experience. Front-end developers are also responsible for coding the visual interactions that the motion designer comes up with.
Tools of the trade: CSS, HTML, JavaScript
You might hear them say this in the wild: "I'm using a 960px 12 column grid system."


Product designer is a catch-all term used to describe a designer who is generally involved in the creation of the look and feel of a product.
The role of a product designer isn't well-defined and differs from one company to the next. A product designer may do minimal front-end coding, conduct user research, design interfaces, or create visual assets. From start to finish, a product designer helps identify the initial problem, sets benchmarks to address it, and then designs, tests, and iterates on different solutions. Some companies that want more fluid collaboration within the various design roles opt to have this title to encourage the whole design team to collectively own the user experience, user research, and visual design elements.
Some companies use "UX designer" or simply "designer" as a catch-all term. Reading the job description is the best way to figure out how the company's design team divides the responsibilities.
"Own all facets of design: interaction, visual, product, prototyping. Create pixel-perfect mocks and code for new features across web and mobile."


This is the single most common phase I hear from new startups. What they are usually looking for is someone who can do everything described above. They want someone who can make pretty icons, create A/B tested landing sites, logically arrange UI elements on screen, and maybe even do some front-end development. Due to the broad sweeping scope of this role, we usually hear smaller companies asking to hire a "designer" rather than being specific in their needs.
The boundaries between each of these various design roles are very fluid. Some UX designers are also expected to do interaction design, and often UI designers are expected to push pixels as well. The best way to look for the right person is to describe what you expect the designer to do within your company's process, and choose a title that best represents the primary task of that person.
A version of this article originally appeared here. It was republished with permission.
[Image: Abstract via Shutterstock, GIF: An interaction designer is responsible for deciding how the menu should fan out. Credit: iOS Menu Concept by Jeremey Fleischer on Dribbble.]

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What Lady Gaga Can Teach You About Analytics

What Lady Gaga Can Teach You About Analytics

What do meat suits and analytics have in common?
A lot actually.
It turns out, Lady Gaga and her (now former) manager, Troy Carter, realized the importance of social media early on. In 2008, she was one of the first artists to begin utilizing Twitter to interact with fans. It made sense, because of her brand platform, but they soon realized that, while they didn’t own their Twitter followers or Facebook likers (Gaga has an amazing 66 million likes), they could drive them to their own space, LittleMonsters.com, and use the resulting data in fascinating new ways.
Gaga can customize set lists for concerts based on the listening habits of her fans in a particular location on Spotify—be sure to play this song, leave that one out. She’s taken fan-created artwork, uploaded to her website, and printed it on t-shirts, driving merchandising sales up more than 30 percent.
And the music industry is catching on. A service called Next Big Sound, which counts all the major record labels as customers, can predict (with great accuracy) which acts will be huge hits before they’re ever signed to a label by mining social media.
But it’s not just the music industry that can use big data to its advantage. Any company—or indeed anyone—can, and should use data to make better decisions. And companies who don’t do that will be left behind.
Data is changing your cabs, cigarettes, and corn.
When it comes to the impact of data, there are other great examples of how some companies are challenging traditional industries by learning more about their customers with data and technology.
Uber, a much talked-about car sharing service, has made waves both with it’s app-based bookings to request a car, and it’s acquisition by Google for a huge price. It’s also just one example of a new wave of services that are part of what’s being called the disruption economy. Companies like Uber, AirBnB (a web service that allows people to rent out rooms in their homes as hotels) and Coursera (a free education company) are using data and technology to outpace their traditional counterparts in the service economy.
They’re also being hit by a wave of regulatory backlash, but as Bloomberg notes, the writing seems to be on the wall, that service companies which don’t embrace technology will be on the way out.
The rise of ECigarettes, the smokeless electronic nicotine inhalers, isn’t due solely to the technology that makes the actual physical product possible; they’re also utilizing technology in other ways. Smokio is an eCigarette that comes with an app that monitors your nicotine intake. QuitBit is a “smart” lighter that connects to your phone via Bluetooth to keep track of your smoking habit, and IntelliQuit is the world’s first smoking cesation biosensor—a lighter-sized carbon monoxide detector that purports to help you quit smoking the way you started: one puff at a time.
Even the good, old fashioned family farm isn’t so old fashioned any more. Tractor and farm equipment manufacturer John Deere now uses data and analytics and many farmers rely on data to optimize fertilization and productivity. The company employs automated crop reporting that provides in-depth information about crops for farmers to assist in filing crop insurance claims. The data can also help farmers make difficult decisions about planting, harvesting, and more. Deere also provides a web-based solution for farmers to manage their fleets, decrease downtime, and save on fuel all based on sensors built into the tractors.
Companies that are embracing technology and finding ways to put data to use for their customers are not just ahead of the curve, but setting the standard for the way their industries will work in the future.
Does your industry embrace technology and data? Or are you lagging behind? I’d love to hear your ideas, concerns and examples in the comments below.