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The Paradox of Leadership

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I’m stealing the title and inspiration from this post from @mitchjoel, which was amongst the posts that entertained me in my journey back home on Boxing Day during the tube strike.

We can easily recognise leadership when we see it. We have key people, products, brands in the market that everyone can point out as being the most successful. It’s also interesting to see that being the most successful is not always related to $$$, except for Bill (yes, we are very close), the others in here are not in the list of the 100 wealthiest people.

So how did they get there?

We all know there are many roads to success. Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook took similar ones. They decided to take risks. At the time when they entered in the market, we can probably say they didn’t have much to lose. Now they are recognised as innovators, making the public expect them to take risks. And no, they cannot go wrong. That’s the price they pay for being the first.

This is the challenge in most businesses nowadays – should they be the first or should they be the best? Ok, obvious answer – let’s be both. But it doesn’t always work that way.

Someone needs to be the first. Does it have to be you?

Some might say that this is the difference between leaders and followers. Leaders are always willing to take risks for things they believe in. But what’s the chance of success? Because you innovate, take risks, it doesn’t mean you will succeed. But let’s be honest, someone needs to be first. That’s the only way we can evolve.

But if you step down from creating the most popular PC operating system, tablet, social network, search engine. Let’s be a bit more realistic. If you look into social media (here I go again, but it’s the best example). You can either choose to be one of the first in your market to have a presence there, or you can wait and see how your competitors do it and learn from it. There’s no right or wrong answer. The important thing is that you know what you have to win and most important, what you have to lose.

I love what @mitchjoel wrote at the end of his article. Here’s the ctrlV, ctrlCed version:

“My takeaways for Marketers: It’s ok if you’re not willing to take the risks. A lot of those risk-takers will be wrong. That being said, our industry needs more innovation and risk-takers.”


Written by Cristina Dresch

December 27, 2011 at 10:16 PM

Posted in Leadership, Strategy

The User is Always Right

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When you are designing a website it’s easy to fall into the trap of designing it to yourself. But you need to remember, you’ve got an audience that might not be the same as you. You need to consider your target audience and what are their interests and behavior. It sounds easy, but it’s not. Even if you’ve got a very specific audience, you still have different people! You need to consider those differences in order to try and please everyone.

Steve Mulder, in his book ‘The User is Always Right’, writes about how to understand the users goals, what are their expectations and needs. There are different techniques that can be used to find those answers, but Steve specifically talks about the use of personas in order to accomplish those things.

User-driven Experience

First, you need to focus in a user-driven experience. This means you need to design features that are going to be useful to your users, they cannot be just cool features that are sitting in your website to make it look cool. To understand what is useful you need, as said before, understand your target audience. From there, you can start creating your personas. Each persona, which can be fictional or not, consists of pictures, names and a background. In order to get those, you need a good qualitative and/or quantitative research.

Qualitative VS Quantitative

Quantitative is based on surveys and usage data. Qualitative is based on interviews and observation. Qualitative usually takes more time and it’s more expensive, but it can be worth it. You just need to know exactly what you need to make the right decision. The best way to do it is to use qualitative to get insights and quantitative to validate those insights.

Building a Persona

Usually in order to create the right personas you will first interview real people. You can start with people you know, who you have easy access. But in case you have a nice budget you can interview people on the streets in exchange for an incentive, money usually works. From those interviews you will then focus in one or more situations you need more research on. As an example, let’s say you are developing an online grocery store. From the interviews you found that a group of people like to stay healthy, therefore nutricional and ingredient information is essencial while buying. You should create personas that are motivated by that, so you make sure those people are pleased with the information and features displayed in the website.

Let’s meet Frank…

Frank, 66 from Sun City, California
Single with two adult children and three grandchildren between ages 2 and 8. Retired financial planner

Primary Goals: Find a well stocked and reliable health food website that notifies you if something is out of stock and gives you potential substitutes that you can choose if necessary.  He is involved in the organic food movement.

Motivations:  Stay fit and healthy so he can play with his grandchildren.  Wants to attract women.

Hobbies: Likes to play golf, shuffleboard, cook for his family and visitors.

Behaviors: He likes to do his big food shopping online and then buys smaller, specialty items locally.  Since he is very involved in his grandchildren’s lives, he does not always have time to get to the local stores before they close.

You need to know what is right for you

There are thons of different templates to display personas. You need to know the information you need in order to build them in a way you will have everything you need. Building personas can be fun! But you can’t forget you’re building them in order to achieve a goal, give your website a user-driven experience.

Written by Cristina Dresch

July 24, 2011 at 12:17 PM

Ratings and Reviews – The Social Validation in Websites

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It’s funny how we as human beings always have the desire to fit in, to be like the crowd. Interestingly, there are studies that prove that in a social situation we will look to others to see how we should behave. It’s not considered a conscious process, since we don’t really know we are doing it. Susan M. Weinschenk, author of Neuro Web Design, calls this behavior social validation.

How to use social validation in websites

  • Tell a story – It’s easier for people to associate with others they believe they can somehow relate. Whenever you are adding rating and review, you should add a mini persona or scenario, which will help to add a narrative element to the story.
  • What do they think? What did they do? Online ratings and reviews is a feature that is becoming more and more popular, especially in ecommerce websites. Weinschenk says it affects us “most powerfully at a non-conscious level.” For this reason, ratings and reviews should always be very visible for users, whenever they are browsing the website. Another effective way to do the same is by showing what other users have bought before. If we go back to the theory of wanting to fit in the crowd, this makes a lot of sense.  But it’s always good to keep in mind that ratings and reviews can sometimes get suspicious, so make sure you use story telling also as a way of making sure the user understands that’s real.
  • Be logical – Ratings and reviews help us in a non-conscious level, but it’s also part of a rational decision. So it’s always important to include data, charts, graphs, and statistics to present the ratings in a more logical and visual way.
  • Right reviewers – It’s not only about telling a story. If you don’t have the right characters, this won’t solve any issues (it might even create bigger ones). So make sure you understand your audience and add reviewers according to that. Reviewers who can somehow connect to your potential customers.
  • Experience – You need to remember that not everyone is a contributor (remember the social technographics ladder?), so make sure to count every interaction. As an example, on Youtube, you can see the ratings but also you can see the views in each video. This will influence us to watch it, contributing to our behavior. So it’s not everything about products, it’s also about experience. Showing what other actions were performed by different users in a website can be very persuasive.

Written by Cristina Dresch

July 4, 2011 at 10:00 AM

The Elements of User Experience – The Five Planes

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Jesse James Garrett, author of The Elements of User Experience (great book, by the way), says the user experience design is a process applied in order to ensure all actions of the user happen as planned. To accomplish this is necessary to understand the user’s expectations and behavior, which will affect how the product you are designing looks, how it behaves and what it allows the user to do. It’s not a simple process, for that reason, JJG breaks it down in five different planes – surface, skeleton, structure, scope and strategy.

Strategy Place

This is the first plane, “the foundation of a successful user experience”. It defines both what businesses and users want to get out of the product. Sounds simple, but this has to be clear and straightforward. Every decision in the process has to be backed up by this definition. It’s also essential at this stage to define the success metrics, indicators that will be used to track whether the product is meeting the right objectives.

Scope Plane

When your strategy is determined, you need to start focusing on the scope, which is fundamentally defined by the strategy itself. In the scope you identify the content, features and functions that are going to be used in your product. By going through these requirements, you’re forced to address potential issues right at the beginning.

Structure Place

At this stage the scope turns into a conceptual structure of the product, which cares about how the system behaves in response to the user. It’s also about the arrangement of elements that will facilitate the understanding of the user about the product being designed. It’s important to define which options patterns and sequences will be presented to users, how they will perform and complete tasks focusing on delivering the right information to the user.

Skeleton Plane

Here the structure is further refined, where aspects of interface, navigation and information design will be identified. This will “make the intangible structure concrete”.


Interface Design “is about selecting the right interface elements for the task the user is trying to accomplish”, and then arranging them in a way that will be easily used and understood. Remember: Focus! What is the most important element in your interface? Make sure the users notice them.

Navigation Design deals with three main goals: provide users with a means to get from one place to the other, communicate the relationship between different elements and make sure users understand the relationship between the content and the page he’s currently viewing.

Information Design is about making decisions on “how to present information so that people can use it or understand it more easily”. It’s very easy in theory, but in practice it might get complicated. Remember to always ask for the opinion of the user!

Surface Plane

Here is where “content, functionality, and aesthetics come together to produce a finished design that pleases the senses while fulfilling all the goals of the other four planes”. You need to decide how the design will be presented. Depending on the product designed, difference senses (vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) should be used.

Written by Cristina Dresch

June 27, 2011 at 11:40 AM

Permission Marketing – From strangers to friends. From friends to customers.

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Seth Godin, a very famous entrepreneur, author and public speaker (I’m sure you know him, if you don’t, please google), wrote Permission Marketing in 1999. Even though it’s not a new book, its principles are still considered essential for any marketeer. Here I’ll sum up some of ideas Seth put on the book.

Interruption Marketing

Did you remember when we used to have only five channels on TV? Everyone was part of the same community, watched the same commercials, discussed the same programs and bought the same type of things. This made it all easier for marketeers, they basically relied exclusively on one type of advertising, which Seth calls – Interruption Marketing. This is defined by “the science of creating and placing media that interrupts the consumer and then gets him or her to take some action”. This used to work in a world where the audience wasn’t as segment, people nowadays don’t care as much as they used to.

From Mass to Niche – The evolution

Companies have noticed that mass market strategy isn’t working as well as it used to. They’ve tried to overcome this by spending more advertising in odd places, such as ads on parking meters, floor of the supermarket aisle, etc. Another technique used was making ads more controversial and entertainment, and changing those ads more often in order to keep them interesting and fresh. The last approach was to abandon ads and replace them with direct email and promotions.

Although this worked for a while, interruption marketing still fails because it is unable to get enough attention from consumers.

Permission Marketing

Different from a mass marketing approach, “permission marketing encourages consumers to participate in a long-term, interactive marketing campaign in which they are rewarded in some way for paying attention to increasingly relevant messages”.

Most of us understand now that targeting customers individually isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Staff and budget doesn’t have to be that huge. “Permission marketing takes the cost of interrupting the consumer and spreads it out, over not one message, but dozens of messages”. Interruption marketers are all about spending money with strangers, people they don’t know but assume might be potential customers. Permission marketers think this is too risky, and it doesn’t drive as much result. Instead, they “move as quickly as they can to turn strangers into prospects who choose to opt-in to series of commutations”. You create a relationship with consumers since the beginning, and motivate the consumer to five more and more permission over time.

The Pros and Cons

Permission marketing campaigns require patience. You need to believe in the concept, growing it over time. Even a not very good interruption marketing campaign gets instant results, while permission campaigns take longer, they are build a stronger relationship and are easier to measure.

Getting a new customer is expensive, you need to get his attention and educate him about your business. If you think about it, it’s also expensive for the customer, who has to learn and evaluate the benefits and features of a product he does not know. Permission marketing, instead of focusing on getting new customers, it’s all about keeping customers longer and getting more money from each of them over time.

The New Process

Seth says the process of getting new customers needs to be reengineered. Some of the marketers “don’t notice, track or interact with people until they are a customer. And some don’t even pay close attention until the consumer becomes a loyal customer”. It looks simple, but it’s essential to look at it like this if you want to create meaningful relationships and long term customers. It’s necessary to nurture strangers from the moment they indicated interest in your business.

Strangers – Friends – Customers – Loyal Customers – Former Customers

But remember, you can’t build a one to one relationship with a customer unless he explicitly agrees to it. Similar thing happens when you have a current customer which is not inside this process, which doesn’t mean quality for the future of business. You might think about firing him! I know this sounds harsh, but Seth’s got a point. “A customer that distracts you, or one that cherry picks your line of products, or one that requires a disproportionate percentage of your company’s time and resources, is going to cost you money”.

Written by Cristina Dresch

June 24, 2011 at 1:03 PM

Posted in Marketing, Media, Strategy

Social Media and Customer Engagement Cycle Stages

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As I already said here, social media is a great way to engage with your current and prospect customers, creating a more meaningful relationship that will hopefully lead to higher loyalty and awareness, resulting in increase of sales. Basically this means social media can be influential in any of the customer engagement cycle stages – awareness, interest, conversion and advocacy. But don’t try to do it all! You want to focus in one stage, which will hopefully naturally lead to the others.

So, before starting to use social media it’s necessary to identify which goals you, as a business, is planning to achieve. Let’s check some different scenarios:

1. Returning customers level is low

You managed to achieve one of the most important goals in any business, gain customers! Unfortunately, you’re not keeping them, which is a huge issue. This might be happening because of different factors: (a) your product is not good enough (b) there’s no value to the customer in keeping a relationship with your brand (c) customers are quickly forgetting about you. You can solve any of these issues through social media, by engaging with your customer and asking for feedback. Why not create a channel for customer service, which will be responsible for contacting the customer after one week he purchased from you? This way you make sure he doesn’t forget about you and that he actually enjoys the product. But remember, you need to add value for him as well. Depending on your brand, value can range from offering good content to giving good discount in future purchases.

2. Business needs more clients

Your sales are simply not good enough? And you have already tried reaching to current customers and offering them deals to make sure you increase revenue over one single customer? This might not be enough. You need awareness! People need to know your business exists in order to gain new customers and reach a new audience. Social media is the perfect place for that. First you need to clearly understand who your audience is. Then go through different channels (Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, etc) and find them! You need to know who they are and then create your social media presence around that. Don’t wait for customers to go where you are, you need to go where they are. Then you need to start reaching out to them, don’t be shy; you must be confidence about your product. If you believe it’s going to be beneficial to them, why not? If you’re targeting the right audience, they will thank you for that!

3. Customers are not converting

So, you’ve got traffic but people are not doing what you expected them to do. This sucks. There are so many different possibilities for why this is happening, so first, research. This might be solved without any help of social media. Analytics is the best tool for that. Make sure this is not an usability issue. If it’s not, move on the content strategy. People need to understand what your business is about. Ask friends, family, and colleagues to go through the content and make sure at least they understand what is going on. You might realize your product is not easy to market, and there’s when social media can be a strong player. Social media is a great place to educate people about your product, make people interested. You can do that by creating multimedia content, which always helps with interaction and engagement. Identify people from your company or in the market who can add value, are passionate about the products. If you can’t think of anyone, do it yourself! What a better advocate then the business owner? Of course, don’t be too selly. The whole goal is to educate people and make them interested, and then they need to find the value by themselves.

So what does that mean?

If you work on specific goals your business is trying to achieve, the success in social media is always going to be more measurable and reachable. Again, don’t try to do it all! Hopefully by focusing in one specific stage of the customer’s engagement cycle you will then influence the others, leading to a complete successful cycle achieved through social media.

Written by Cristina Dresch

June 17, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Posted in Planning, Social, Strategy

Ben and Jerry’s Social Media Strategy

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I’ve written this quick analysis about Ben and Jerry’s for my Advanced Social Media class in my Digital Marketing Masters. I’ve chosen this brand because I considere myself an advocate, I really didn’t know ice cream could taste that good before I tried B&Js. Simply ♥ the brand.

Ben and Jerry’s is a global ice cream brand, originally from Vermont, United States. The brand has build different communities around each country, especially because of language, cultural and distribution issues. I’ve analyzed their UK community, where their main platforms are Facebook, Twitter and their UK website.

Global UK
Facebook Fans – 3m Facebook Fans – 200k
Twitter Followers – 10k Twitter Followers – 4k

Interesting to notice that although the regional community has a smaller number of followers, it generates more interaction compared to the global. I believe people are more interested in joining a group where deals are more targeted and members are from the same region. This way there’s more room for conversation.

Fair Trade – Overall Theme

Ben and Jerry’s is currently running a campaign about Fair Trade. At first, by the way they are advertising it, it seems that the campaign is about bringing new flavors from the US to Europe. With a bit of investigation, we can figure out that Fairtrade is actually a foundation that the brand supports. According to the website, Ben and Jerry’s “will be going 100% Fairtrade in the UK and throughout Europe by the end of 2011 and globally by end 2013 – which means that every ingredient they use, from sugar to nuts to cocoa, that can be Fairtrade certified, will be.”

They could have done a better job trying to make this more clear to the customers, since it represents the kind of brand Ben and Jerry’s is in a very positive way. Interestingly, Ben and Jerry’s decided to use Fairtrade as a theme for various campaigns in Social Media, which seems to be working very well.

Unfairly Desserted Flavors Facebook App

  • Goal: Vote in the new flavour for the UK
  • Best interaction bit: Flavour personality test
  • Best aspects: Fun, engaging, sharable and informative

First, the cuteness of the app is great. The brand has a very distinct style and this is well represented in the app. The attention to detail is great and the layout is very easy on the eyes. The app opens with an introduction explaining (in a fun way!) that some flavours from the US have never arrived in the UK, and now its up to the users to decide which flavour is going to make it.

The users should vote in their favourite flavour. In case he has any doubts, since all of them look yummy, he can choose to take the personality test. This is a very fun test (I almost forgot to take screen shots, because I was really enjoying it). There are five very simple, and again, fun questions to be answered. At the end, the ‘Doctor Cow’ shows the user what flavour suits best his personality. The user can easily share the flavour with his Facebook or Twitter friends.

Fairtrade Arcade Facebook App

  • Goal: Play games and have fun
  • Best aspects: Fun, wide audience reach, interactive

The user has five game options. Some of them are inspired in well known arcade games, which makes it easier for the user to interact and start playing. All games are easy and fun, attracting a very wide audience. Again here they don’t forget to add the social bit by allowing users to share their game results on Facebook and Twitter. Even though the app is not about the ice cream itself, everything is very well branded. Several bits are inspired in the brand’s main characteristics such as – fudge brownie, nuts, and milk.

Fair Tweets Campaign

  • Goal: Promote the World Fair Trade Day
  • Best aspects: Supports a good cause, easy to spread, creative

Ben and Jerry’s launched Fair Tweets to celebrate the World Fair Trade Day, which happened on May 14th. By entering in the campaign’s website or using its browser extension, the user could tweet as he normally would and the application would use the characters left to promote the fair trade day, together with a link to an article about the fair trade movement. In this campaign Ben and Jerry’s didn’t promote the brand as much, except for a few details highlighting the logo and a link back to its website. The campaign has its own Twitter account, and even though the day has passed, the application is still running and people continue to tweet about it.

SWOT Analysis


  • Brand is seen as informal and fun which helps with their social media presence, making it a natural environment for the brand
  • Global brand, higher reach
  • The community is segmented by country, which allows for easy content targeting and meaningful conversations

  • It relies on third party platforms
  • The country segmented community should be better advertised in the main page, so customers understand which page they should like in order to receive more valuable content
  • It might be seen as a childish brand, diminishing the brands reach

  • Customers tend to be brand advocates
  • Brand could invest more in brand awareness
  • Promote more in Social Media the Fairtrade Foundation, so the brand can be instantly perceived as ethical
  • Give a better reason for customers to interact with the brand (aka: prizes)

  • Change of seasons can increase/decrease the amount of participation in the community
  • Malicious users can get in the middle and ruin the positive community’s atmosphere
  • Other game apps on Facebook could steal potencial users from the Arcade Game app


Ben and Jerry’s is definitely a successful story with lots of good cases to tell. They are doing an excellent job by interacting with their customers in a fun and innovative way.  It was very smart to create an overall theme around fair trade, which is a global cause that says a lot about the brand’s values and quality. It also helps to connect each separate campaign and channel, giving almost like a narrative feeling to the customer’s journey through the campaigns.

The customers’ response has been very positive, and there’s been a lot of engagement with the brand. Most of the campaigns are aimed at brand loyalty and they do the job by either empowering the customer or engaging him with the brand’s content. Even though the campaigns have a lot of social sharing features, they should go beyond and focus more in brand awareness in order to acquire new customers and followers.

Written by Cristina Dresch

June 2, 2011 at 11:16 PM

Posted in Social, Strategy

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