Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When a picture is really worth more than a thousand words?

A picture is really worth a thousand words.
Advertising, on its most simple and basic definition, is designed to selling products. Through catalogs, brochures, flyers, POP materials, print ads, outdoor billboards and other graphic products, companies communicate to their target audiences the products they do offer, their features and pricing proposal, when it’s neccessary.

For years I have heard the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" and for me has always made a lot of sense and I’ve taken it as a rule. In any given graphic proposal, pictures or images composition must convey a clear and specific message or, in any case, properly complement the contents of the text accompanying the images.

These two elements, graphic proposal and text should always maintain a dynamic equilibrium: Too much of one and to little of the other, and the message could go straight to the trash can.

We have always taken customer's participation for granted.

In any case, we have always taken for granted that the target audience can understand the message we are broadcasting. Whether the photo contains it all, or that the corresponding text would clarify any doubts the potential customer might have, the client, the audience has always been taken as an active participant in the message, at its full capacity.

When I receive catalogs by mail, or when I see a magazine ad that catches my attention, I’ve always been able to read the written content and fully understand the offer proposed by the company and, from that point, make a decision.

So the saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words" has always had kind of a soft meaning. Certain, but soft.

At the end, I always had the written content whenever the graphic proposal wasn’t clear enough, or did not transmit a completely clear message.

What happens when the barrier is the language itself?

This weekend I was visiting my sister in Hannover, Germany. This weekend I had the opportunity to prove, in my heart, what we mean when we say "a picture is worth a thousand words"!

I've always been in countries where language hasn’t been a barrier. English or Spanish, I can manage myself quite well in both, except in a very few instances with English words or phrases with a very strong local color. I hadn’t had problems understanding the content of any advertising.

However, I don’t speak, read or write Deutsch and obviously don’t even understand it a little bit. When I arrived at Bremen airport, where my sister was going to pick us up, I began to feel a strange anguish, because few people there did speak fluid English and not even mention Spanish, so my options were being reduced to just one: Deutsch.

And since I don’t speak Deutsch at all, you can imagine now what my situation was.

I began to search for images.

I found myself desperately searching for images. Graphic symbols. Icons. Words like Ausfahrt, Parkplatz or Lebensmittelgeschäft meant absolutely nothing to me. But the symbols, for example, the little guy walking to the door, showed me where the exit was.

The final test I had it in the small supermarket in Hannover. I had to do some shopping by myself, while my sister stayed in the car with the kids. I then took the printed catalog with offers that stores usually give away at the entrance and, as I could, I began to connect pictures with their corresponding prices so that I could be able to make sure I was buying what I needed and have an idea as to how much money I was going to spend.

In fact, upon arriving at the cash register, I didn’t understand a word the cashier told me but the number indicated on the digital display of the register itself made clear for me how much money I did have to give him. Again, I was depending on graphics to understand the message.

When designing your advertising materials, take this barrier into consideration.

That's why (and when) a picture is truly worth more than a thousand words. Because if the person on the other side can’t read what you write, your graphic proposal has to be clear enough to deliver all the basic information you need. Do it otherwise, and the message will be lost.

Don’t take it for granted that the other person will be able to read the message on its entirety. In my case, a clear and simple graphical approach helped me make my purchases with no problem.

And it also helped the company, NP Niedrig Preis, to serve an additional customer and bring in more money.

Don’t let your message get lost on any barriers. Make sure it’s always clear enough to be effective even if the customer isn’t able to read it.

Keep in mind a picture is truly worth more than a thousand words. At the end, your goal is to sell, right?

Related post: Reciprocation and influence: Why do we share content?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reciprocation and influence: Why do we share content?

Why do we share content?
In a recent article we were commenting on the issue of viral, sharing our thoughts on the fact that viral should always start with a deep emotional impact, the kind of impact that makes a long lasting, memorable impression which stays in our minds for a long time.

While documenting myself for that article, I was also thinking about what makes us share content and closely interact with our peers within this digital environment, and even beyond. Which are the reasons that push us to click the “share” button or "forward" an specific content?

In my opinion, and after very closely checking on the reasons that lead me to share someone else’ content and how some of my friends share on social networks, I think there are two fundamental elements: reciprocation and influence.

Reciprocation: One hand washes the other and both together wash our face.

Obviously, the first reason for sharing is reciprocation. You and I are connected. I read what you write, you read what I write. You support me, I support you. It’s a two-ways relationship of mutual sharing which obviously goes a step beyond simply forwarding or clicking a button.

When we correspond to each other, I have on the other side a person who is able - and willing - to approach me to let me know that my last post was not so good, that I had a couple of typos (may be more) or to tell me that I’m simply not making sense at all.

On the same token, I feel closely related to that person in a way that makes me become committed with her professional growth and development, and perhaps even on a more personal way.

For me, when there is reciprocation or correspondence, relationships become highly rewarding and most enjoyable, and tend to continue over time. They are about two people that are genuinely engaged with each other, committed and interested in their mutual projects.

Influence and the real contribution of value.

There are authors whose articles I regularly read and share simply because I feel they add an extraordinary amount of value to my life through the content and ideas they publish.

It’s something like "my mentors" that even when there isn’t a two ways relationship - meaning they don’t share or forward what I write - I’m deeply identified with their ideas and opinions, and feel they’re valuable and relevant enough to share them with the people I am connected to.

When I share because the author is a person who influences me, I'm initially doing it for my own personal and professional growth and development. I read the article in question, I feel I should apply it in my life either for personal or professional reasons, and I definitely feel it brings value to me. And from that confidence, I’m sure that "if it’s nourishing for me, it must also be the equally nourishing for you."

It’s a relationship where the important thing is learning, growing and providing real value to the other side. It isn’t only about sharing based on my identification and commitment with the author, but because what that person writes or publishes, deeply resonates within me.

In either case, whether by reciprocation or influence, contribution of value remains crucial, either to the relationship between two people or for any individual who benefits from this great knowledge universe we call "collective intelligence".

From your own point of view, what other reasons can you think of that invite you to share?

Related article: Viral begins with a strong emotional impact.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Viral begins with an Emotional Impact.

Viral begins with an emotional impact.
We can all frequently find articles published on the web that claim to have found the magic formula to get the content you post to spread virally, receive millions of clicks in just a few seconds, become a trending topic, and have you, the person who published it, become a millionaire overnight or an instant celebrity.

Some others claim not to have achieved such a formula, but instead they do offer you a step-by-step method you must follow if you want your content to become a viral sensation, as if it were a controllable phenomenon.

If it were so simple, and the magic formula existed, life and business of many people with extraordinary intentions and ideas would definitely be better. Fortunately, it’s not that simple.

What do I understand by viral.

First, we must define what is meant by "viral".

"Viral" is defined as the process of self-replication or dissemination of content in a manner analogous to the expansion of a computer virus, through means that can be electronic or not. The viral effect can be positive or negative.

In brief, to be viral your content must be relevant enough to be shared by many people in the shortest time possible. You should also note the very definition of viral doesn’t guarantee its effects are always positive. As a matter of fact, it indicates effects can be either positive or negative.

A few days ago I had the opportunity to experience myself what I understand as "viral". While browsing on the Internet, reading marketing blogs and things like that, I came across two videos that impacted my heart directly.

One struck me deeply because it was about the "Forgiveness Project", based on the real life story of a father who was courageous enough to publicly forgive the drunk driver responsible for the death of his wife and children in an car accident. Would I be able to do the same? Probably not.

The other one was an advertising campaign entitled "A dramatic surprise in a quiet square" and is simply an advertisement, a promotional video for a television network but it was extraordinarily good, at least to my eyes.

The viral thing began with the emotional impact.

In both cases, the common denominator was a strong emotional load. Both videos touched me deeply, they really did. The first made me weep, the second made me laugh till I almost lost my breath.

I was so positively impressed by both that I felt the need to share the content immediately, because it was so good and touching that I couldn’t keep my friends, contacts and relatives from enjoying them. I had to make sure they all had the opportunity to feel what I felt.

Note that I'm not saying at this point that I knew the content was viral or not, or if it was going to become a trending topic or not. At that moment, the only thing that mattered to me was to share it, because it was a content worth to pass it on to other people, not only to share but to recommend it widely.

If I hadn’t felt so deeply, emotionally impacted, I wouldn’t have had that strong desire to share it. A desire that certainly surpassed me.

Viral is not controllable and can’t be guaranteed it will have positive effects.

No one could ever have controlled in any way the emotions I felt that day, because they were simply mine. And those emotions were caused by the quality of the content I saw, and by nothing else. Those emotions came from deep inside. How could anyone get there?

So when people talk about ways, methods, strategies or tips to guarantee the creation of viral campaigns, all I can say or recommend to you is that everything must start with a deep emotional impact, an honest and real one.

If you try to fake it, it’s not gonna happen because the connection is not going to be there. But if you do it really from your heart, on a sensitive way, appealing to emotions rather than reason, very interesting things can happen.

Related post: It’s not called social media for nothing.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Oranges Bag Management Model.

The Oranges Bag Management Model.
In the past days I’ve been thinking about the HHRR management model used by some companies to maximize their performance and increase the volume of their business and, from my own personal experience, I couldn’t help but think of an oranges bag.

You know I always like to use simple, clear words, like those we use every day, to talk about issues that could be discussed on a more formal environment.

That’s why I came up with the oranges bag, because for sure, at least once in your life, you've made a delicious, freshly squeezed orange juice or have eaten a tasty dessert prepared from the husks of the fruit.

And it’s precisely there where I’m starting from today. There are at least two ways to make use of an oranges bag, both of which clearly reflect the way things are done nowadays in many companies and how I think they should be done.

Let’s begin by squeezing some oranges to make fresh juice.

In every family the easiest way to prepare orange juice is to take the fruits out of the bag, wash them with water to keep strange things from happening, slice them in half and squeeze the juice either with your bare hands or a special tool created for this, be it the traditional squeezer we’ve all known for years which used to leave our hands crushed, or an electric one. Your choice.

Then we squeeze oranges until the strength of our hands allows us to or until no more pulp is left to squeeze on the fruit. The seeds are collected in the squeezer’s filter and usually discarded along with the shells.

Voilá. Our delicious juice is ready, with all its vitamins, with all its medicinal properties, and, especially, with its wonderful flavor.

So far, so good, right? You bought oranges for making juice and your drink is now ready to sip. A management model so commonly used, that it’s difficult to discover its flaws.

How can we get more from this management model?

This management model I shared with you above is applied by many companies to manage their employees and, perhaps, it’s the model you apply in yours: You hire individuals to perform a specific task, then squeeze them (little by little, or down to the metal) to get the best results from them and once that person's ability to do her job has decreased or has completely stopped, the employment relationship ends. That’s it.

What happens to the shells and seeds? Many houses take advantage of the shells to prepare delicious desserts or even, in the most scientific cases, to make medicines, perfumes, cosmetics and even biofuel. You can obviously use the seeds to plant orange trees that will produce more fruits to make juice for ever.

When it comes to individuals, the shells are like all those hidden talents and skills the person has that may allow her to effectively perform a different task, or be promoted within your own company to a department in which she will be more productive for your business.

And the seeds are like the ideas the person can produce for you, new things you could develop, new products, strategies, plans, and many other things.

Don’t limit yourself to only evaluating the performance of specific tasks.

People are somehow like oranges: All of them can give juice, ie, can perform a specific task, but also, like oranges, they have additional talents and skills, and can continually produce ideas to help you develop your business on a positive  way.

Don’t limit your management model to the evaluation of performance, based on a specific task only. Dive deep into the management of your employees so you can discover how you can help them reach their full potential, motivate their growth and continuous development, and open avenues for developing and sharing new ideas with them.

Open your business mind so you can learn from each and every one of the people working for you today because you don’t know if tomorrow you buy an oranges bag that don’t produce much juice, have fewer seeds or shells which are very hard to extract more out  of them.

Related article: Working for Free: When? How? and for how long?