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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

27 Aug 2015 10:52 AM
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Affino has been working with Nick, Katrina, Marc and Rachel of Humanity Direct for the better part of a year now, to update and improve its brand and site experience. Right from the start it was felt that the core branding needed updating to better reflect the values of the organisation. Much of Humanity Direct’s activities are focused on Africa, so we looked for graphical references and inspirations from that continent. Settling in the end on African poster art of the 50’s and 60’s - particularly ones that had been used to promote tourism in the various member countries - these were the most significant influencers in the branding process.

 

The resulting logo has very much a hand-made / hand-cut feel to it, and carries an appropriately rustic / organic colour palette. We experimented with a variety of different symbols before arriving at the hand-touching-hand ident in the final version. This was felt to best represent Humanity Direct’s hands-on and direct involvement approach.

 

 

The newly formed logo then had an enormous impact on the site look and feel as it’s colours were extrapolated to that framework, and worked in to duo-tones on much of the photography. We were also asked to prepare an ad for Runner’s World - which you can see below. This took the slogan ’Choose Life’ evolving from the process onsite - where you choose directly who to benefit, as 100% of your donation goes to life-changing operations for one or more personally selected candidates / patients - you choose exactly who benefits and how much.

 

 

In the wake of what happened to Kids Company, it is more important than ever for charities to be fully transparent, and totally accountable to their fundraisers. Humanity Direct is pretty unique in being wholly staffed by proper volunteers - meaning that every last penny donated goes directly to the cause - nothing is subtracted for any reason. You can clearly see the cost of the operation - per patient, and the money goes direct from you to the hospital or clinic to fund whichever operation the patient requires to improve their life. Many of these operations are life-savers, where no national health service exists, and there’s a cost to the most routine of procedures. The infant mortality rates are still way too high for Africa, and something as

... Humanity Direct Rebranding and Replatforming Enhances Stature
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

26 Aug 2015 5:26 PM
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It used to be that Tagging content was a key part of SEO, and ’Dublin Core’ format Meta Tags were very much in evidence on all leading websites. Over the last few years though, the search engines upped and changed their algorithms to do away with Meta Tags and Meta Descriptions, and so for many, the habit of categorising and tagging up content fell out of practice.

 

For our digital business platform Affino though, Tagging has remained a core element, even as its purpose has shifted and changed. We still find that the discipline of categorising, grouping and organising your content is essential for the ongoing viability of your site. All content exists to serve a particular purpose and a specific target audience. At the top level, Content Tags or ’Topics’ as we call them, are used for two key purposes:

 


Navigation & Filtering

 

Applying Topics / Tags to content identifies the type / category, location and purpose of content. It places it within a hierarchical taxonomy, which in the best cases mirrors the organisational structure of the site to a large degree. Even when tags are no longer used by search engines, they are an essential part of site organisation and can be used to filter down and target specific content on the site. They can also identify additional characteristics of content - whether it is ’sponsored’ (Native Advertising) or has some other key attributes and / or specifc usage requirements.

 


Preferences & Personalisation

 

Once Topics / Tags have been applied for navigational / content identification purposes, those same categories can be used to apply Personalisation via User Preferences. The Topics are simply made a part of the Registration process / User Profile Update - so that users / customers can select their key interest areas at any time. Depending on how you set up your website, these preferences can then be applied as either automatic or manual filters. When using Affino, the same filters apply to Affino’s Campaigns and Messaging - meaning you have a totally targeted and personalised environment on a per-user basis on and off-site.

 


The new style of SEO means that site structure is increasingly important (Headings), along with Keyword reinforcement and repetition. This means having a clearly delineated Topic Map which punctuates the

... The Importance of Content Categorisation and Tagging
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

20 Aug 2015 9:58 AM
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With the recent ongoing milk crisis, Farming in the UK is a hot subject at the moment. UK citizens though know relatively little about the typical daily activities of this major industry - which essentially feeds the nation and keeps us healthy and well-nourished day-by-day.

 

Farmers Guardian is the home of Farming in the UK, and is curating and live-blogging a series of events and activities over these next 24 hours - to give the nation a real insight into the daily goings-on of different farmers’ lives. ’24 Hours in Farming’ is essentially a Live Blog - which broadcasts events as they happen from 05:00 today through to 05:00 tomorrow.

 

It is still not too late for farmers to participate by tweeting with ’#farm24’, emailing to 24hours@fginsight.com or calling 01772 799401.

 

For all us others, it is a fantastic opportunity to support our farmers and follow their travails through this coverage. You need but hit the home page of FG Insight to catch what’s going one, with coverage also coming via Twitter and Facebook.

 

Support UK Farmers! Follow ’24 Hours in Farming’ & ’#farm24’!

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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

18 Aug 2015 12:55 AM
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After fielding a number of question this year about site security, alongside general strategic recommendations, Affino has just two areas we want everyone to focus on this year:

 


#1 - Make Everything HTTPS

 

It Used to be the case that only Login, Registration, Checkout and User Account Screens were secured with SSL Encryption. The current advice though is to apply SSL to the entirety of your site - every page.

 

Just as search engines started to give priority to responsive design sites, we believe that similar criteria will soon be employed for HTTPS vs HTTP (some say this is already happening). Yet that is the least of the reasons for why you would want to encrypt every page. Sure it adds to your hosting overheads a touch, and there may be just the tiniest impact on page upload speeds, but it is totally worth it for ensuring that your site is as safe as possible from hackers, JavaScript injections / cross-site scripting, and other forms of digital exploitation. You get additional peace of mind, and so do your customers when they see the HTTPS in their browser and the active certificate notices.

 


#2 - Go Responsive

 

We’ve been going on about this for the best part of 3 years now, and yes our own responsive site is coming along nicely, it’s just that we’re inundated with other more pressing work at the moment, although we do hope to go live with our new site near as possible to the start of September.

 

We all know that that the major search engines are penalising non-responsive sites, and that if you care about SEO, then responsive is something that has to be done. Also if you wish to have an ongoing dialogue with your customers, you had better be targeting them via the only device that is always within reach. For some, the solution is to roll out Native Apps, but that requires a whole lot more work, and you still don’t guarantee that your customers will necessarily download your App. What you can guarantee is that nearly everyone now has a smartphone, with a browser - this same device is being checked an average of 100 times per day (Pew Research Group). Irrespective of whether your customers mostly buy or work from their desktops, there will be times during their working days, and away from their desks, when they will want to connect via their mobile devices, so you better provide them

... Shape Up and Lock Down Your Sites!
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

17 Aug 2015 9:56 AM
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I was born in the very last year of the 60’s and thus had the good fortune to live through three major evolutions of dance music. First came Disco in the mid to late 70’s and this was followed by synthesized dance music in the very early 80’s; the two would then combine and evolve in around 1983/84 to form the many flavours of House Music. I took dance lessons early - from around the age of 6, and after Saturday Night Fever, lived in the shadow of Tony Manero - I was that disco kid - I loved to dance, and above all I loved that dance music. To add to my good fortune, I started University in 1988 - the second summer of love, and the era of Acid House, orbital and warehouse raves. With university came DJ’ing - typically 3-4 slots a week for the next few years, and I started building my record collection for real.

 

Since I started amassing 12" records in ’88, the collection has grown to somewhere in the region of 10,000 currently - I frequently started the count, but never quite got to the end. Throughout these years, I have covered pretty much every sub-genre of House, from the noodliest jazziest deep house, through ravey breakbeats and the funkiest of vocal house to the hardest of techno. You may have read in one of my earlier blog posts that the new Apple Music update totally wiped all my iTunes / Music playlists and I had to build them all up again from scratch - all 350 of them. In fact much of this year has been taken up with building a variety of playlists, which is kind of what brought me around to doing this mammoth post. I though I would do a fairly quick overview of my collection - as much as a reference for me as for other fellow enthusiasts, and for those that are relatively new to House, or have a fairly superficial relationship to it so far, and would like a more solid grounding.

 

This is just the first draft really, and I expect it to be updated fairly frequently, I am pretty sure I must have overlooked something in all of this, even though I have kept on moving the goal-posts and adding more detail over this period of two weeks.

 

What we have here is a listing of the leading record labels that put out the various records I acquired, listed in order of significance to me - i.e. how many records / tracks from those labels do I have in my collection on a relative bar graph scale. Even though

... House Music Label Odyssey
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

06 Aug 2015 7:35 PM
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Most people have issues with email these days - too many messages, too much spam, too much malware, and too many important notices getting lost in the mix. For most commercial companies - email is still a significant part of the communications side of the operation. We have seen some significant inroads with social media messaging apps, but very few of these combine desktop notifications successfully with the more typical mobile device ones.

 

Every few years Mark Zuckerberg proclaims the death of email, yet much like the paperless office ideology, the particalities get in the way of the vision. As a customer service or ecommerce business, those request / order notifications are an essential part of the day-to-day business. With all these different messaging formats and competing platforms, there is still nothing really to challenge the dominance of email. For all its many faults and failings, it is still the only form of messaging sufficiently universal / capable to serve all the required purposes.

 

The very nature of emails requires using some often quite involved infrastructure - one or more email servers with secure gateways, to effectively spool, route and deliver all those necessary messages. Yet email servers can get congested and blocked off / up in several ways. Certain strange formatting or anomalous attachments can result in a batch of messages being quarantined or stalled on the server - even causing temporary stoppage of all email. The 3rd party nature of email servers, and the fact that a number of different companies make use of a single server, make for some very interesting times. It is the easiest thing in the world to erroneoulsy report email as spam, and get a mail-server blacklisted. Not all email customers are equally principled in their approach, and too many send copious amounts of unsolicited mail - using some suspect bought-in direct mailing lists.

 

A couple of our clients have had issues recently with receiving email from our email servers. This is usually because their own incoming mail servers have increasingly rigourous anti-spam protocols, many of which can unintentionally prevent the right sort of email from getting through.

 

It has become increasingly necessary for our clients to whitelist our email servers on their own receiving mail servers, and even on their personal desktop email clients.

... The Trouble with Email
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

31 Jul 2015 8:28 PM
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The average smartphone user has between 25 and 100 apps installed on their phone - I happen to have a rather more elaborate 253 currently. Regardless of numbers, the typical user only really uses 25 of those apps regularly. We have discussed the pros and cons of native apps versus responsive-design websites in the past - the key differences between browser bookmarks and stand-alone utilities.

 

In light of better privacy controls coming to browsers (e.g. Safari 9) - which allow users more and better control over their onsite experience - particularly when it comes to advertising, the question is ’have certain types of apps had their day’?

 

Recent news articles have highlighted issues with advertising concerning apps in two ways - firstly the use of interstitial apps on websites to encourage users to ’Download the App’ for a better experience. Secondly, there has been an enormous increase in advertising fraud within apps - where impressions are recorded, but no ads shown - costing the advertising industry millions per annum. Fraud detection firm Forensiq registered up to 20 unseen ads per minute, consuming 2GB of data per day, over a 10 day period. The truth in all of this is that ads are very much unwanted by consumers, an interruption and annoyance - which most would rather do without. There are so many tools and obstructions now for advertisers that the question is increasingly becoming whether the banner format has not just reached the end of its natural useful life, and needs to be replaced with something more congenial (like native advertising)?

 

For those who really don’t like ads then, it would seem preferable to simply block 3rd party cookies on your browser and go with the responsive version over the app. Apps themselves have become more and more devious over the years too, with most now relying on a plethora of different revenue streams, skewing very much in favour of in-app purchases as the primary means of funding. I personally have always preferred to have fixed / known costs, and would rather pay say £9.99 for a fixed cost app, rather than download something free with paid-for upgrades costing up to $100 a pop.

 

In view of what happened with Zynga and how many free + in-app payment scenarios ruined the playing experience of former best-selling games, it is most intriguing to

... Too Many Apps?
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

27 Jul 2015 9:14 AM
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Affino gets asked a lot to recommend and advise on Digital Business Personnel. Even though for most businesses the digital side is growing in significance - both in terms of business impact and revenue generation - very few companies have a dedicated digital department or division. Most companies re-utilise existing staff to a large degree, but only very loosely write new responsibilities into existing job descriptions. The digital realm is often designated as ’additional duties’, and frequently takes a secondary level of importance. Most companies are also relying on part-time, 3rd party and contract staff to fulfil those new / additional roles, which can lead to a number of operational problems - including poor levels of service and unresponsiveness.

 

Most companies need to get better at writing the new roles into job descriptions and allocating dedicated personnel and resources into that side of their business. Here follows a list of the 10 key roles which are needed to run most digital businesses successfully:

 


Webmaster / Web Manager

 

This is the one person primarily in charge of your digital business/es - they are responsible for defining the overall customer experience and managing customer access. They are also responsible for ensuring that all the functional aspects of the sites are maintained, keeping the sites up and fully functional.

 


Editor

 

Person/s responsible for tone of voice, content and context of sites / digital business.

 


Photo Editor

 

Person/s responsible for selecting / providing / formatting site imagery - usually some degree of Photoshop skill required here at the minimum.

 


Contributor / Copywriter

 

Person/s who create / originate all text elements for sites.

 


For smaller businesses the above roles may be handled by as few as 1-3 staff members. For larger businesses, the following additional roles may be required also:

 


Commercial Manager

 

Person in charge of key commercial activities - Advertising, Promotions and principal connected revenue streams

 


Ecommerce Manager

 

Person in charge of sales revenue streams - selling products and services, occasional overlap with Commercial Manager

 


Community / Customer / CRM / Contact Manager

 

The Customer Experience manager for larger sites. Responsible for

... Staffing a Digital Business
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

23 Jul 2015 11:10 AM
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Let me start once more by stating that I am an extremely dedicated music fan, who consumes music globally and at high volumes on a weekly basis, and equally importantly pretty much totally legitimately (paid-for). I subscribe to both Spotify and Apple Music, occasionally using Deezer too, and buy from iTunes, Amazon, Beatport, Juno / Download, Traxsource, Bandcamp, 7 Digital, Phonica, Sister Ray, Rough Trade, Discogs and even HMV. In short, I am a very good customer, upper echelon and ongoing supporter of the music industry at large for 35 odd years - first proper record purchased incididentally, was the Pale Shelter 7" by Tears for Fears.

 

It is obvious to all bar a few music industry execs that music is a truly universal and adaptable commodity, art-form and experience. Very varied and different peoples from all the world’s 196 countries formalised and otherwise readily cross territorial boundaries in search of listening pleasures. The earliest days of popular music saw listeners tuning in on ’the wireless’ to catch radio services broadcast from far outside their local territories. Next the Gramophone / vinyl records took off, then reel-to-reel and 4/8-track, then the compact cassette and CD, we’ll skip over the MiniDisc (even though I have a number of those too) and end up currently with today’s pre-eminent format - the very portable universal MP3s.

 

In the past, to satisfy my tastes, I imported records from far and wide - Italo Disco and House, Detroit Techno, Chicago House, New Jersey Garage, Belgian, Dutch and German Techno and French House to name a few categories. All of this was available to me, and still is to a large degree via the remaining record stores and modern music marketplaces like Discogs.

 

In some ways the current state of music has never been better - never has there been greater access to such a large variety of music - YouTube harbours an enormous musical library, and with Internet Radio and a variety of streaming services, the typical listener has pretty much unprecedented access to music. Yet within all of this, there are some significant peculiarities and some quite underhanded means being employed be the music industry.

 

We have lived through ’Home Taping is Killing Music’, ’Video Killed the Radio Star’, ’Napster is Killing Music’

... Music Industry Madness - Caveat Emptor!
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

20 Jul 2015 8:50 PM
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Back in May, The Media Briefing published a piece on Publishers prioritising digital development over paywalls. Obviously there is an increased risk from both Cookie Armageddon and Mobilegeddon, and both offer a significant threat to revenues. Many commentators have also noted the recent porous nature of The Sun paywall-protected website - which seems to be allowing more and more content outside its paywall.

 

The optimal approach is really the gateway / metering system which allows publishers to run on a well moderated freemium model - giving potential subscribers a healthy preview of the experience without being overtly pushy or greedy.

 

To our mind the FT was the first site to popularise this sort of metered gateway access - where unregistered users could view a certain small number of articles each month - before registration or further fees kicked in. I’m pretty sure that initially on the FT, you did not have to register straight-away like you do now, but could view a few articles before the restrictions kicked in. Currently on the FT, you get no unadulterated preview access - all interested parties must at least register to gain access to the minimal 3 free articles per month. When we Affino rolled out the new FG Insight site, it was delivered on the original FT model - i.e. on proper freemium terms - giving all site visitors access to 5 ’free’ articles - before they need to register for further access. The free registration gives you access to most of the content, but there are 2 further fee-paying membership levels which give access to more specialist content, reports and services.

 

I still feel the web is blighted with an over-abundance of irritating banner ads, which interrupt and lower the customer experience - the membership fees should be sufficient to off-set banner advertising revenues - which should in fact really be replaced by co-authored Native Advertising, Area / Topic / Page Sponsorship and unobtrusive product placement.

 

The whole point about the free in freemium is to offer some form of trial and preview - or demo if you wish - of the larger experience. Which is why the paywall / metered gateway usually offers a glimpse of some of the higher level paid-for content too.

 

The other key service that customers are happy to pay for is summary news digests / industry and sector

... Publisher Revenue Streams - Are Freemium Gateways still a viable option?
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

05 Jul 2015 11:20 PM
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I will preface this article by saying that I am a long term music fanatic - having amassed some circa 10,000 12" records over the years, as well as a considerable volume of CDs - music is a constant in my every waking moment. Over the past 10 years I have gradually and almost fully transitioned to digital. I’ve been using iTunes since 2010, and am an early adopter of Spotify. I buy between 2 and 10 albums worth of music on roughly a weekly basis - this comes from a variety of sources - including iTunes, Amazon, Beatport, Traxsource, Juno Download, Bandcamp, 7 Digital, and still some vinyl and the occasional CD. I am still disappointed that a great part of music has yet to be converted to digital and still can only be consumed on an analogue basis. To which ends I have a USB turntable and optical drive to convert my analogue music sources to MP3 format - so that I can listen to them on the go. When you encounter me in public you will almost always see me with a pair of headphones on - either in use or wrapped around my neck in standby mode (Bluetooth!).

 

I rely on an iPhone 6 Plus 128GB paired with a Philips Fidelio M1BT headset - which combination is my daily musical companion / jukebox. The vast majority of the iPhone’s memory is occupied by music - currently in excess of 11,000 songs (circa 50% of my total iTunes library). As I said previously, this music soundtracks most of my daily activities, and is with me while I work and on every journey. Cloud-streamed music will never be fully reliable for me though, as there will always be some sort of reception black spots and occasions for Signal drop-out. The most significant part really, is that no single source can or could ever fulfil the broad spectrum of music I like to listen to.

 

Spotify I use mostly for music discovery / exploration and to help me to decide whether it is worth adding a particular collection of songs to my own collection / library. As the 30 seconds to 2 minutes song previews on iTunes etc. are usually inadequate to properly gauge the character of an entire album. For ease of use I buy most of my MP3s through iTunes, then Beatport, Juno Download etc. for more specialist tracks which aren’t available from Apple.

 

Before and while upgrading iTunes and iOS to the latest versions (i.e. featuring Apple Music), I had fairly familiar memories of Apple&

... Apple Music - The Verdict
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

02 Jul 2015 11:38 AM
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It really does not matter what type of business you have, these days the most likely contact you will have with your customers is via their smartphones. People already order more pizza through their phone; movie, theatre and concert tickets; read news feeds, digests and updates; order a taxi, post a picture, rent a room, save their place in a queue, pre-order their sandwich, and conduct a hundred different services and purchases generally within a typical day.

 

Here are the key headline criteria:

 


100 Glances per Day

 

As reported by Pew Research - the average person glances at their smartphone circa 100 times each day, it is the only device they have which is always typically within reach. If you want to reach out and connect with your customers more regularly, it has to be via and through their mobiles / smartphones.

 


60% of current news views

 

More-and-more news is currently being consumed on mobile - usually via a myriad of mobile apps, be it newspapers, news delivery services, or smart apps like the Yahoo News Digest or The Economist’s Espresso. News print is still dwindling, and every week / month still sees more casualties on the news stand. Whether you like it or not, in the future, the vast majority of news media will be accessed via mobile technologies.

 


Cookie Armageddon

 

Ghostery, Adblock Plus and soon Apple’s Safari 9.0 Browser will add to the already 200+ million users who nullify / disable 3rd party cookie-served ads, content and services - using ad blockers and privacy protectors. Many traditional ad-supported businesses are already down 20% on revenue year-on-year, and it’s only going to get worse.

 


Mobilegeddon

 

First Google, and then Bing started giving preference to mobile-optimised sites in search results. Since all of the traffic growth is on mobile, this is hardly surprising.

 


Ecommerce Growth

 

Ecommerce figures for desktop / laptop are static - i.e. showing little variation between years. As IMRG keeps telling us, all the Ecommerce growth is on mobile formats - if you have a shop or retail operation of any kind - you really need to make sure your mobile experience is a great one.

 


Page load speed

 

For mobile formats, page loading speeds are paramount. 3rd party cookie services significantly slow down page speeds

... The Mobile Imperative
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

01 Jul 2015 9:07 AM
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This was far from a vintage year for Glastonbury - none of the headline sets were really up to previous memorable performances. There was little musical or stage show innovation here, and nothing too much to write home about. Florence and the Machine on the first night was just like every other performance we have seen of theirs, Kanye was too minimalist, a little disjointed and woefully out of tune on the Bohemian Rhapsody Kanye-Oke, and The Who looked somewhat tired.

 

Headline sets are supposed to be things of wonder which reveal depths of musical richness not witnessed before, or a proper show with surprise superstar cameos, pyrotechnics and Hollywood-level production values. Of everything I saw, I enjoyed Mark Ronson’s, Pharrell’s and Lionel Richie’s sets the best, all 3 were packed with moments of pure listening pleasure - and Pharrell’s new track ’Freedom’ went over amazingly well for something so new. Nothing though came close to personal all-time highlight - the Radiohead headline set from 1997. I thought that last year’s performers and performances were by-and-large preferable to this year’s lot - bar a few notable exceptions.

 

Yet the BBC digital coverage goes from strength to strength though, and the actual live iPlayer broadcast was pretty flawless this year. The major innovation was the new ’Timeline Navigation Bar’ which allowed you to rewind the stream to watch earlier sets - something that YouTube has been doing for years for their Coachella coverage. The BBC innovation is that the the relevant slots are named on the timeline and you can simply click on a band name to be taken to the start of that set - versus YouTube’s Coachella where you need to kind of guess and then manually adjust backwards or forwards.

 

The BBC Glastonbury site is still generally poor for social media, and switching the stream between stages was clunky - while for YouTube’s Coachella you just have a tabbed menu to switch across - so still plenty of room for improvement on the BBC side.

 

If the YouTube Coachella interface had the band names superimposed on the timeline tracker (like the BBC) it would be the perfect live-streaming experience. YouTube already has the edge with a longer timespan timeline, better switching between stages /acts, and better ’what&

... BBC improve Glastonbury streaming with iPlayer timeline navigation
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

25 Jun 2015 9:32 AM
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I am often asked for advice on writing promotional mailings - targeted emails to be specific. I have long thought that there must be some simple formula to refer people to, and for such purposes, I have come up with the following H.O.P.P.A. acronym:

 

 

H = Hook

 

This is really your email subject or title, and should consist of an appealing offer or contain a promise of some degree of enlightenment if the recipient reads further. Many professional people receive 100’s of emails each day, so you have to project something which stands out and seems worthy of their time.

 


O = Occasion

 

With hundreds of emails received, they obviously need to be prioritised in some fashion - messages with near due dates usually take priority. Which is why it’s important to include some degree of urgency / time limit / immediacy into your body copy, frame it as an event - or else the email may never be prioritised to be read or dealt with.

 


P = Personalisation

 

I pretty much delete immediately anything which is not addressed to me personally. ’Dear Stefan’ or ’Hello Stefan’ is the absolute minimum. If I see ’Dear Member’ or similar - it’s straight in the bin. It’s also best practice to have the email be signed off by a real person - it’s much friendlier to know who you are dealing with, and being able to look them up on LinkedIn or other social media sites.

 


P = Persuasion

 

Once you’ve hooked someone in with an enticing offer, you need to back up that offer with sound rationale - it needs to contain just the pertinent details and be quick to the point (inverted pyramid) ... naturally drawing the reader towards the actionable part of the mailing. Too little text looks insubstantial, and too much simply won’t be read - normally 2-3 short paragraphs are optimal.

 


A = Action

 

All proper marketing assets must have an actionable function - that is to say a singular call-to-action. Even if it is just ’contact me personally for further insights and information’. You should offer multiple contact options so that the recipients can get back you via their preferred means. As I mentioned above, some sort of event / briefing with a near due date increases the importance of your mailing. The more singular your purpose,

... H.O.P.P.A. - The 5 Rules of Promotional Mailings
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

25 Jun 2015 12:15 AM
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Upon recently advising my older brother on marketing strategy, I realised the obvious parallels with military planning - in terms of how you set objectives, gather intelligence, select targets and deploy assets with laser-guided precision. I advocate the scientific approach to marketing which simply means following up measurable objectives with progress reports and final analysis.

 

Here follows the analogy:

 


Mission

 

The starting point is of course setting the goals and defining the aims of the campaign - what are you trying to achieve and how do you know when you have reached those objectives.

 


Targets

 

This is what you are intending to aim your cross-hairs at, or specifically the ’target audience’ in marketing terms. For the mission to be succesfull you need to know exactly whom you are targeting, their motivations, movements, and key modes of behaviour.

 


Reconnaissance

 

You need to know your targets really well to have a good chance of success. Some further field work or research may be necessary to supply the full operations intelligence you need in order to precisely calibrate your plan of attack.

 


Field of Engagement

 

Where will you most reliably encounter your targets and where can you strike with the most impact. In marketing we need to know where our targets gather in significant numbers - whether this is on certain websites, membership associations, publications or communities, TV spots or even passing by placements of certain billboard ads.

 


Joint Strike Force

 

To strike with full force and achieve maximum penetration as it were, you probably need a multi-level approach. In military operations you may combine air, sea and land forces to hit the target with the best chance of success. For marketing you need to use typically more than one channel too - be it direct mail / email, banner advertising, editorial, sponsorship, call-backs and otherwise. You need to maximise your likely contact points and multiply the ’opportunities to view’ - for in order to achieve any degree of lasting effect requires multiple impacts.

 


Assets & Ordnance

 

Your weapons of mass distraction are your marketing materials - ad copy, literature and other forms of promotion. Each asset has a different purpose and is suited to a particular task

... Military Strategy in Marketing Campaign Plans
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

23 Jun 2015 12:36 PM
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’New and improved’, ’Transformative’, ’This changes everything’, ’Younger and more supple’... These are several phrases that are more likely to make us sit up and listen, some slightly tired now and over-used, but others which are still successful in hammering home a definitive competitive advantage for those that make use of them. Yet there are still far too many copywriters that do not take benefit from setting themselves a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Framework when composing their functional prose.

 

At Affino we always encourage our Clients to create a full Brand Profile, where they list the various Brand Values, Keywords and Phrases that the company / product / brand stands for. Much like with SEO work - where there should be a degree of repetition and reinforcement, so should be the case with marketing communications - that is to say you use component words and phrases repetitively to drive home a positive association for your potential, intended and current customers.

 

It’s an advanced form of word association and context. The idea is that positive words or words which inspire positive values, will help your consumers develop a positive image of your company. The aim is to steer wholly clear of any negative words, as consumers focus on differnt things, and may grasp the wrong meaning, may recall the negative rather than the postitive, or simply just see the words in isolation and wrongly associate them with your brand.

 

Affino’s current positional strapline is ’Collaboration. Solution. Success.’ - in effect encapsulating what we do and what our ’offer’ as such is to our customers.

 

In our articles and communications, we frequently mention current hot potatoes - ’Unified Platform’, ’Complete digital front-end solution’, ’Seamless customer journeys’ and ’Single customer views’. We also talk significantly about digital business transformation, evolution and innovation. We also touch on improving commercial activities and generating new sources of revenue. All these form a positive image of what we are about and connect those positive actions and activities directly with our brand and our work.

 

There’s another significant element that needs to be mentioned too - which is

... The Importance of NLP in Marketing Communications
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Posted by Stefan

16 Jun 2015 12:57 PM
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There are some who still aren’t fully au fait with the different types of advertising available, so we will start with a brief introduction before explaining the merits of each. Anyone who has bid for Google AdWords will have some degree of understanding of the basics of Programmatic Advertising. Even though Google AdWords is not exactly display advertising, rather text-only search results advertising, it is still the same basic automated mechanic which gives advertisers / media buyers direct access to buy ad-space. In traditional advertising you have the clients negotiating with their agency / media buying teams, who in turn deal with people working for an ad sales department of a publication / broadcaster / digital property. Programmatic Advertising in effect cuts out all / most of the middlemen and additional commissions allocations and gives those wanting to advertise direct access to the ad-buying process, in theory at more favourable rates too.

 

In the above visual, I have pictured the most advanced form of Programmatic Advertising - where a signed-in ad-buyer can see the ad slots available on-site and bid for whichever ones are deemed positionally and topically appropriate. With this most advanced version, a would-be advertiser can buy a slot and upload their artwork through a fully-automated process. In most cases though there is a separation between ad-buying and slot allocation. A lot of Programmatic Advertising is very much about Real-time Bidding (RTB), which should be familiar to users of eBay - where you have several buyers bidding to get the best slots / positions available to them. Depending on how the automation works, ad-buyers can buy the placement slot outright, or secure a priority / first-view placement on the rotation, and those who pay less appear further down the rotation. In most cases of Programmatic Advertising there is usually some degree of human involvement needed, even if it is just to approve the artwork for suitability for display.

 

If you look again at the visual, then you can see that the News Article in the bottom left hand corner has a ’----- Sponsored Article -----’ label appearing underneath it, which is currently considered best practice for displaying / identifying Native Advertising. For Native Advertising, think Advertorials of old - often articles which have been written by the

... Programmatic Advertising vs Native Advertising vs the Future of Digital Advertising
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

12 Jun 2015 9:06 AM
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The above visual demonstrates the impact of Cookie blocking on a typical commercial website; all 3rd party services on the referenced site have been blocked by a privacy tool like Ghostery, meaning:

  • No Ads
  • No Registration / Sign Ups
  • No Search
  • No Social Sharing
  • No Classifieds
  • No Native Ads
  • No Sponsorship
  • No Analytics or Tracking
  • No Personalisation
  • No Video
  • No Lead Generation

These are just some of the services that are typically rendered via 3rd party cookies, and all of these can be blocked by privacy tools

 

We’ve been talking about Cookie Armageddon for over a year now, and its impact and influence is finally nearing its rapid growth phase. A recent Economist article estimates that 200 million users already use some form of Ad Blocker or Privacy Protector Tool. This means that for many publishers, advertising and other commercial revenues have been impacted by as much as a 20% annual reduction, and this will obviously escalate exponentially when Apple’s new Safari browser (9.0) is soon launched with its own cookie-blocking extensions:

 

"The new Safari (9.0) release brings Content Blocking Safari Extensions to iOS. Content Blocking gives your extensions a fast and efficient way to block cookies, images, resources, pop-ups, and other content." - from Apple iOS Developer Library pre-release documentation: Here

 

Our CEO Markus called this one several months ago - warning publishers then that certain platform owners - with Apple the most likely, would build Privacy options into their application platforms and browsers. As Flash advertising falls away also for similar reasons, publishers have a pressing need to know what options are still available to them for deriving revenues on mobile and online.

 

Affino has long been preparing publishers for the onset of ’Cookie Armageddon’, including co-hosting breakfast briefings at the PPA. If you missed the March briefing, you can catch up by reading the summary PDF: Here

 

Affino’s last PPA briefing was on Integrated Digital Platforms for Publishers, and the next one will be about Programmatic Advertising on June 25th.

 

If you need further information on any of these subjects, our CCO Jonathan Collins would be delighted to give you a recap, with additional insights. You can contact him at jonathan.collins@affino.com or on +44 (0

... Impact of Cookie Armageddon growing and set to escalate further with new Safari browser
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Posted by Stefan

09 Jun 2015 1:30 PM
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I have been writing for several years now about the need for retailers to fully integrate their online / digital and in-store services - i.e. evolve a properly joined-up service solution. Most high street retailers still maintain several different disparate inventories - physical stores, online and outlet for instance. This usually means that there is typically no correlation between what you search for on your desktop or mobile and what is available in-store. It usually means that you receive some kind of marketing mailer or social alert - announcing new goods, which you click through to view on the website, but when you physically get to the store they are either not stocked locally, not arrived yet, or already sold out - in your chosen size, colour or otherwise. I am beyond frustrated with so many of my in-store retail experiences. Shop service has markedly dwindled for me these past 10 years, most noticeably at M&S which used to be the bastion of good service. My local Waitrose is now where I get the most consistently good service, while I find John Lewis not quite as good as is used to be and service can be inconsistent.

 

I have lost count of the number of times I have been told in-store that something I was after was ’not-in-stock’. Fair enough, and understandable, but what is not understandable is that you typically get no follow-on - so OK, it is not in stock - is it back in soon? Available somewhere else? Are there like-for-like alternatives? Only once in these last 12 months have I received what I would have thought should be standard service - and this was at T.M. Lewin on Jermyn Street. I had started out at their Strand store - which is where their website directed me to go for the item in question. The Strand store staff told me ’not-available-in-store’ and said I should check out their flagship store on Jermyn Street. Here I was met with courteous and well-considered service, as it quickly transpired that the item I wanted was only available ’online’. The lady shop-assistant swiftly retrieved an iPad and walked me through the whole ordering process for next day delivery - all beautifully and efficiently done, and exactly as I would expect in this day and age.

 

Yet how many times have I had to eke out, bit-by-bit any kind of service in-store - having to cajole and prompt a shop assistant

... Retailers are still failing to provide a Seamless Shopping Experience
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Posted by Stefan

05 Jun 2015 11:35 AM
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A big part of our daily operation involves design - designing logos, icons, screens, applications, infographics and interfaces. We spend many hours browsing through image, video, sound and font libraries - all in pursuit of the best possible results. The trickiest thing about design though is the language of communication and reference, maintaining objectivity and overcoming the challenges of singular perspective and personal bias. There is a subjective component to design for sure, but we try to reduce its impact to the minimum, so that the end results can be properly weighed up and judged by all.

 

When I worked in advertising, I quickly realised the importance of a good brief - this is essential for efficient management of resources, reducing wastage and actually achieving the right result. For each design task, there are a thousand different paths that can be taken, but only a few will yield the optimal outcome. This is proper ’applied design’ which I often term as ’results-oriented-design’. Another of my essential lessons from advertising is that every marketing asset / deliverable should have a measurable function - usually some sort of call to action / call and response.

 

The difficulty most people have with design is threefold - consolidating and organising their ideas coherently; separating their own subjectivity and bias out of the mix - so that they can tackle the brief wholly objectively and from their customers’ perspective; and thirdly - how best to communicate requirements clearly and without obfuscation (confusion!) ... which leads me nicely into automotive, cake and housing analogies.

 


Automobiles, Cakes and Houses

 

Before you design anything, you really need a clear idea of exactly what you are looking to achieve with the design. In advertising, we often used car analogies, and I will explain some of those approaches here. First we will talk about cakes! - think of the design brief as being a collection of ingredients which you need to bake your metaphorical cake - however, unless you know what kind of cake you are aiming to bake - i.e. have a proper recipe, a list of disparate ingredients on their own simply cannot work - you need the recipe first before you start mixing up the ingredients or the results will be less than palatable.

 

In terms of Cars - I always say that

... Using Scientific Principles in Design and Branding
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