Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition

It’s with great pleasure and a little pride that we announce Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat “4th EDITION” part is important. We know lots of people are waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and it’s next in the queue.

But until then…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION is about 100 pages longer than the previous editions and about 10$US cheaper. Why? Because Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation is next in the queue.

Some Notes About This Book

I’m actually writing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation right now. In the process of doing that, we realized we needed to add an index to this book. We also wanted to make a full color ebook version available to NextStage Members (it’s a download on the Member welcome page. And if you’re not already a member, what are you waiting for?)

In the process of making a full color version, we realized we’d misplaced some of the original slides and, of course, the charting software had changed since we originally published this volume (same information, different charting system). Also Susan and Jennifer “The Editress” Day wanted the images standardized as much as possible.

We included an Appendix B – Proofs (starting on page 187) for the curious and updated Appendix C – Further Readings (starting on page 236). We migrated a blog used for reference purposes so there may be more or less reference sources and modified some sections with more recent information.

So this edition has a few more pages and a few different pages. It may have an extra quote or two floating around.

You also need to know that Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History is a “Let’s explore the possibilities” book, not a “How to do it” book. As such, it deals with how NextStage did it (not to mention things that happened along the way). It does not explain how you can do it. This book’s purpose is to open a new territory to you and give you some basic tools for exploration.

There are no magic bullets, quick fixes, simple demonstrations, et cetera, that will turn you into jedis, gurus, kings, queens, samurai, rock stars, mavens, heroes, thought leaders, so on and so forth.

How to Do It starts with Volume II: Experience and Expectation and continues through future volumes in this series. We’ve included a Volume II: Experience and Expectation preview with a How to Do It example on page 302 so you can take a peek if that’s your interest.

That noted, I’m quite sure that you won’t get the full benefit of future volumes without reading this one because unless you’ve read this one you won’t understand the territory you’re exploring in those future volumes.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat’s Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION. It’s so good and so good for you! Buy a copy or two today!


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Whose pages do you trust?

No, really, I’m taking a break, a slight vacation from work. This means (for those who don’t know me) that I’m burying myself in research and reading…

In this case, I wanted to put readers on the alert that I’ll be doing an IMediaConnection column on measuring online trust — do visitors to your website trust the pages they’re navigating, do they believe the products and services listed will live up to their promise, can the company advertised on the site be trusted with the visitor’s business — on or before Jan ’06 [[(it’s 6 Ways to Make Your Ads Sticky)]]. If there are specific items you’d like me to cover in the column, comment here and I’ll do my best to get them in.


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Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1)

We’ve been getting a lot of requests for Sentiment Analysis lately. Based on my fun ride regarding engagement, I decided to find out what Sentiment Analysis was before saying NextStage had been doing it for years, what’s all the excitement about?

So I went to Wikipedia and read “Sentiment analysis refers to a broad (definitionally challenged) area of…” “(definitionally challenged)”???

Ah. Yet another buzzword in a long list of “My gosh, what shall we call something else we can’t really do?” words being slung about in the analytics world.

Okay, fair enough. People selling the stuff are attempting to own the field by telling clients what it is, what it’s suppose to be about and what they should expect. Some of you may know that Susan has a pharma background and that I often advise pharmas. They often say something like “We just discovered that this chemical compound has these effects. Can we come up with some catchy-named syndrome that this concoction will treat?” Same thing, really. “We know what we can do. Let’s give it a name and see if we can sell it.”

But we are NextStage. We follow a different path.

Asking “What do you want a Sentiment Analysis product to do?”

I asked some people to tell me what they would like in a Sentiment Analysis product (thank you, Chris Berry and Stephane Hamel).

I wrote Chris:

Howdy,
I’m wondering what, exactly, you folks would like a “sentiment analysis” tool to do.
Oh, the heck with that. Please give me a list of things you’d like some tool to do such that when you point some content at it, it tells you something about that content that would be valuable to you/your clients.
Remember, you’re talking to Joseph here. Go nuts with this.

<Fair Warning Dept>
This is going to be a long, rambling post, folks.
…and I plan on having fun, too…
</Fair Warning Dept>

Chris responded with:
<Begin List of Unreasonable Metrics>

  1. The aggregate degree of trust between a person (brand) and a social network or contained in the message.
  2. The aggregate degree of affinity between a person (brand) and a social network or contained in the message.
  3. The intent behind a comment (author intent) (Referral: I like this, you’re a friend, you will like this too. Check it out. :: Retribution: You piss me off. I’m telling everybody to avoid you. :: Love: I just want to say how great you guys are. :: Constructive: I like you, this is what I want now. Troll:: I don’t really feel anything towards you, I’m bored and I want to be entertained.)
  4. Is the comment “Positive”, “Negative”, or “Neutral” – accurate to within +/- 5%, 19/20. This is how most social vendors classify it. I don’t consider these numbers to be helpful, but they are ‘standard’. However, they tend to have a much higher rate of error. (3) is where it’s at.
  5. {C, B/e, M} profile of the author of a comment or blog post.
  6. The likelihood that the message will have the desired intent on those who read it.
  7. The likelihood that the message will have the desired intent based on psychographic distance from the author.
  8. The ability for the tool to return a CSV (or some other file) listing the social graph of the {C, B/e, M} profiles in relationship to each other within a specific tribe, in general, for the purposes of segmenting discussions based on expert areas. (Testing the 1957 “Word-of-Mouth” studies and the whole air conditioning patterns for new product introductions.)
  9. The likelihood that the message will be remembered or committed to memory. (Goes to that damned traditional metric: message recall. I don’t think that conscious recall is nearly as important than sub-conscious recall, but I’ll admit being wrong if shown evidence to the contrary.)
  10. The gender and age of the author of a comment or blog post.
  11. The gender and age of the composition of the social network observing the comment or blog post. [Tribe analysis].
  12. The purchase / re-purchase intent of the author.
  13. Identification of who, within a social network, is an influencer, a gatekeeper, or a hub. (IE. Identification of who should I talk to first to get movement on a message.)
  14. Suggestions, based on the {C, B/e, M} profile, of how to frame a message.

If NS wanted to compete on a ‘whole product’ basis:

<End List of Unreasonable Metrics>

I’m being unreasonable. You expected it though?

<Susanism>
I showed Susan Chris’ wishlist. “But we already do all that,” she said. “It’s already in TargetTrack.”[[we broke out the original TargetTrack tool into several NextStage tools]]
</Susanism>

(skip down to the boring stuff)

Zappos Twitter page

I then asked Chris for a webpage to analyze. He sent me http://twitter.com/zappos. As I’m learning about Twitter myself, I kept on clicking the “more” button at the bottom of the page for a while. Eventually I had the page from 3:10pmET 2 June 09 back to “10:41 PM Mar 28th from web”. I broke this into two files, one was just the comment stream, the other was the whole page — graphics and everything — including the comment stream.

Why did I do this? Because people will non-consciously be influenced by all the information presented, not just the comments.

Then I fed both into the ET TargetTrack tool [[The original TargetTrack Tool has been broken out into many of NextStage’s tools. This particular tool has been available since 22 Mar 2001. You’ll find some TargetTrack case studies on our Case Studies page.

<Anecdote>
Chris and others may remember my visit to the Chicago Critical Mass offices in Aug ’08. I was told a client company was interested in modifying their websites for three countries. I asked for the websites, fed them through TargetTrack on my laptop in my hotel room while having breakfast that morning before the meeting (did I mention that TargetTrack, like all ET based tools, is highly compact, extremely accurate and very fast? It’s not sexy, whatever Rene means by that, but compact, accurate and fast? Those we can do), and read the results over a cup of coffee.

<Dr.Geertzism>
Dr. Geertz, who some of you may remember as commenting on my TheFutureOf posts, has become one of my most trusted first readers. On reading through this he offered “With regards to ‘sexy’ as defined by Rene. Think about what a man or woman finds sexy. Focus. Would you describe it as compact, accurate, and fast? Maybe ET needs to become mysterious, exotic, dangerous, and built. There is a euphemism about partnering in business is ‘getting in bed with’ someone. Do a survey and see how many women want to get in bed with someone that describes themselves as fast and compact. Sexy? At least shoot for satisfying, thoughtful, and robust.

What I love about this is that it’s all in how one applies the terms.
</Dr.Geertzism>

When I arrived at the Critical Mass offices, I mentioned off-handedly that two of the sites would do well, one wouldn’t because TargetTrack had determined it wasn’t designed to appeal to that one country’s cultural biases.

I said it off-handedly because I’m use to TargetTrack revealing stuff like that. It was routine and old-hat to me.

And TargetTrack was right on track regarding which country’s website was performing poorly. And why.
</Anecdote>

TargetTrack is simply another implementation of our Evolution Technology (ET). That’s the technology some of you may have heard talk about recently, the technology with the very good scores at recognizing age and gender of site visitors without asking questions, without using forms, without polling other internet databases, and if you think age and gender is all it can do we should talk some time. I’ve been telling people about this stuff since 1999 so I’ve got the patter down pretty well.[[NextStage Members can access the full research paper, Machine Detection of Visitor Age and Gender via Analysis of Psychomotor Behavioral Cues, on the Members’ Papers page. A synoptic paper can be found at Predicting Age and Gender Online]]

ET itself isn’t a tool. For that matter, TargetTrack itself isn’t a tool. They are both tools that make tools (@jdaysy, this is an example of Eliadeianism at work. Most analytics tools that I’ve seen are Maslowian in nature. They are designed to do one thing and one thing only. ET, TargetTrack, etc., are tools that can be used to create more specific tools. As ET is based on human intelligence and humans (I’m hoping) can do more than one thing once taught how to do it, so can ET and its derivatives).

<Anecdote>
One of NextStage’s early investors told me “You’ve invented plastic. It doesn’t matter if they want a baby bottle or a car dashboard, all that matters is that you shape the plastic the right way. That’s what ET is, it’s a kind of plastic that people can shape to do what they need it to do.”

I love the elegance and accuracy of that.
</Anecdote>

An original TargetTrack report

TargetTrack comes in lots of flavors. The example shown here is the basic one pager and is what we provide if a) you’re not using our technology on your website and b) you come in through our TargetTrack page. [[These days you can either become a NextStage Member, take some training and access TargetTrack and lots of other tools on your own or hire us to consult and we’ll use it for you.]] We offer lots of versions based on what you need to know, all machine generated so human minds never touch them. Why is that important? Because human minds — without massive amounts of training [[(and we have that training)]]— can’t be a) neutral when responding to information and b) swap their consciousnesses in and out as required to understand how other people would respond to information. Thus unless you specifically want humans to evaluate your work and you know for a fact that the humans doing that evaluation are exactly smack-dab in the center of your target audience…

<Harrumph Dept>

attract-engage-act.jpg

And allow me a moment, if you will. The TargetTrack report shown in the above figure was produced for a client on 30 Apr 07. The yellow bar in the chart on the bottom right is entitled “Engage” as in engagement, as in “this is how well you’ve been able to focus their attention so that they’ll do what you want them to do while they’re on your site”. I know others define engagement differently than NextStage does. For us, it’s all about getting people to act, to do, so our definition of engagement — which is based on well documented psychologic concepts that have been around for over a century now — is more about getting visitors to respond the way you want them to respond (and we’ve been measuring and reporting on engagement for a long time in internet years) than about determining the ballast mass of their keyboard divided by the number of visits to your sites multiplied by the number of letters in their mother’s maiden name. Or some equally contrived calculation.

You just know Susan’s going to pull this, don’t you?
</Harrumph Dept>

Anyway, It took TargetTrack less than a minute to analyze both the whole web page and just the comments.

How Accurate is a Tool that Produces Results That Quickly?

Back in 2005 Progress Software asked us to determine which of their existing and potential partners would be successful. We used the same TargetTrack tool to analyze some 150 partner sites that was used in this analysis. ET picked the top four performers knowing nothing about the companies, only being able to predict how visitors would respond to their websites.

These four sites were the most successful Progress partners that year.

The only difference between then and now is the number of digital personalities in our system. Then it was 25,000. Now it’s about 10x that, meaning “increased accuracy”. [[And now it’s over 3MM.]] And TargetTrack is the tool we used to predict the outcomes of elections, to change the political landscape in Nova Scotia and of course to help clients save money and make money. Thank goodness there are people out there who care more about results than sexy, yes?

(start of the boring stuff)

What follows are TargetTrack’s responses to Chris’ wishlist. I’ve indicated the things TargetTrack can already do “off the shelf” and the things it can do “kind of”, meaning the best answer would be a combination of our tracking tool and TargetTrack.

The aggregate degree of trust between a person (brand) and a social network or contained in the message. (already in TargetTrack)

10 'Must' Messages

Some people may remember my eMetrics SF ’07 presentation. Part of that presentation dealt with The 10 “Must” Messages, two of which are “We Trust You” and “You Can Trust Us”. These two combine to answer Chris’ first question although it’s better to keep them separate, as we’ll see.

And I guess this is where we start offering trainings on using our technology.

Lesson the First: It doesn’t matter what the score is in isolation, it matters how well the score matches other information in the visitor’s environment. Someone sipping a glass of wine while reading an excellent novel doesn’t want an intruder to come up to them and shout “I TRUST YOU”. Whoever is doing the shouting will be evaluated as an “intruder” at best and a “nuisance to be avoided at all costs” at worst, hence the desire is to communicate “I Trust You” just enough to be recognized and favorably responded to, nothing more.

This image shows the 10 “Must” Messages of the Twitter Zappos page together with their relative strengths. You’ll notice that some messages are being SHOUTED compared to others? Not good, that. As far as it goes, the “We/I Trust You” and the “You Can Trust Me/Us” messages should be of fairly equal value (this is based on Fair-Exchange Concepts. You’ve read my work on Fair-Exchange Concepts, haven’t you?). Here the comment author’s variance between trust messages is just shy of being non-consciously recognizable, meaning readers may get a sense the author is asking to be trusted (message 2) rather than being found trustworthy. What’s worse is that the comparative intensity of the some of the other messages will probably drown out any “trust” messages being sent unless the audience specifically looks for them. This “looking for a message” can occur when the author is very well known to an audience and they’ve come to expect and often desire the variance in message strength.

<FYI>

This image is another version of our TargetTrack tool report. This was a 50 page report produced when a client gave us a brochure for analysis. You’ll notice the 10 “Must” Messaging reports in the lower left corner.
</FYI>

An interesting aspect of the human brain-mind system is that it allows different signal sources to supply similar signals differently. This means someone could be browsing a site while sitting on their backporch (as I am as I write this) and the brain-mind keeps separate shouting from the website and shouting from the woods behind my home. The brain-mind quite easily determines which of these two should get priority attention and they’ll rarely overlap (I’ll rarely have to struggle deciding which one I want to pay attention to. The woods always wins).

However, two competing websites? Or two equally attractive birds sitting in the pines in front of me? So what we often tell clients is that it’s nice to get a reasonable score when analyzing just your own stuff, it’s better to know how well it does against the averages of competitors. This image shows just such a comparison, specifically one company’s “We Trust You” message against all competitive companies’ “We Trust You” messages in our system. What we learned was that a visitor moving between websites — the client’s and their competitors — would feel more trusted hence more at ease hence willing to do business on competitor sites than on the client’s site. Why? Because most competitor sites were communicating “We Trust You” better and just enough better to be noticed, not to make the visitor feel they were being shouted at.

The aggregate degree of affinity between a person (brand) and a social network or contained in the message. (already in TargetTrack)

This is handled by the “We’re/I’m Good People”, “You’re Good People” and “They’re Not Good People” messages. As before, the goal is to have the messages work well together, not stand out on their own. The ideal is to have “We’re/I’m Good People” communicated with just a little less intensity than “You’re Good People”, as in a demonstration of humility followed by a recognition of another’s worth or value (as a person). The “They’re Not Good People” — the message about your competitors — is the one where some definite increase in intensity is allowed. Not a shout so much as a definite statement.

<Anecdote>
We did a comparison analysis a number of years back for Fidelity. They asked for a comparison of their mutual funds product path (the path that must be navigated from a landing page through a conversion) against five competitors (Merrill Lynch, TRowePrice, Schwab, Vanguard and SmithBarney). All of their messaging was quite comparable until you got to “They’re Not Good People” and “We’re/I’m A Leader”. Basically all of their product paths were communicating We/I Trust You…We/I Can Help…You’re Good PeopleTHOSE OTHER PEOPLE ARE LYING, CHEATING BASTARDS! STAY AWAY FROM THEM IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE AND THE LIVES OF YOUR CHILDRENAND WE’RE FREAKIN’ INCREDIBLE.

This needs to be compared to Canadian based companies where the laws are different. Canadian companies can’t openly communicate that their competitors are pooty. Comparisons between companies in verticals there tended to yield results along the lines of We/I Trust You…We/I Can Help…You’re Good People…They’re Not Good People…AND WE’RE FREAKIN’ INCREDIBLE.

Learning the differences in cultures is one of the reasons I love my work.
</Anecdote>

The intent behind a comment (author intent) (Referral: I like this, you’re a friend, you will like this too. Check it out. :: Retribution: You piss me off. I’m telling everybody to avoid you. :: Love: I just want to say how great you guys are. :: Constructive: I like you, this is what I want now. Troll:: I don’t really feel anything towards you, I’m bored and I want to be entertained.) (already in TargetTrack)

One of the things TargetTrack reports on (one of the original core functions, actually) are “hidden” messages. This is documented in several places and you don’t really care about psychobabble at this point, do you? How about some marketingbabble instead, “TargetTrack reporting also scans media content for subtext and hidden messages and creates a unique Key Marketing Messages report which determines how marketing materials communicate value by scanning for content and design features which most effectively denote trust, professionalism, helpfulness and leadership to consumers.

An example of a hidden message that was costing companies money can be found in Site-Penetration Up 225%, Time-On-Site Up 300%, Conversions Up 20% in Four Months. There are other examples where the designer didn’t like the company they were working for, didn’t feel they were appreciated, didn’t feel the project they were on was worthy of their talent and skills and each time their negativity was non-consciously embedded in the work they were doing, each time non-consciously picked up by the audience and each time costing the unsuspecting client time and money.

Some other messages TargetTrack found in marketing material include “Don’t Mess with Me” (perhaps that’s Chris’ “Retribution”), “I’m Different From Every Other Person I Know” and “I can make a career here for myself because nobody else knows what they’re doing here” (a law firm asked us to evaluate resumes using TargetTrack (we actually analyze resumes for lots of companies and how we do it is an example of the TargetTrack tool being used to create another tool, our ResumeReader)).

While I’m disinclined to suggest any hidden messages on this page, I am left wondering how comfortable the author is either Twittering, in their current position or how long they’ve been in their current position.

Hmm…Rene was telling me that several people have approached him about starting a company wherein ET analyzes funds and stocks based on its predictive ability (see Predicting Election Outcomes Via NextStage’s TargetTrack and Working with Prediction Markets via NextStage’s Evolution Technology)…and now lots of CEOs are blogging, twittering…hmm…

You know, several companies have asked us to read through the materials submitted by potential employees, not just their resumes, to get an idea of how well these individuals would fit in…so if we use our ResumeReader tool on this page…

This job applicant’s ability to help and their reliability may cause challenges depending on their position in the company. However, they will work very well with others and require next to no supervision. The juxtaposition of the Ability to Help, Works Well with Others, Requires Little Supervision and Reliable values indicates this applicant will work better in group or cooperative work environments than as an outsider and should not be considered for “work at home” or “remote office” situations. Trustworthiness is acceptable and the Competent value indicates they will probably grow into their job in a minimal period of time.

<Anecdote>
NextStage’s ResumeReader tool passed initial muster when we opened our Toronto offices. Our CEO (at that time) told me he was using TargetTrack to evaluate the resumes of programmers. We were in the conference room and he was synchronizing his laptop to the projector so things were flashing in and out on the screen. He mentioned one fellow in particular and a TargetTrack’s analysis flashed on and off. I knew nothing about the fellow we were discussing, his history, had never read his resume, only glanced at the TargetTrack results for a moment and said, “Well, that resume was written about two years ago and the fellow was very unsure of his future at the time. He was between jobs and trying to figure out what to do with himself.”

Our CEO stared at me. “That’s the report on my resume,” he told me. “The one I wrote two years ago when I’d just sold my first company and was trying to decide what to do with my life.”

Budda-boom.

<FYI>

And you, too, can have that facility with TargetTrack reports. All it takes is a little training…
</FYI>

Two senior people from a large jobsite, starts with an “M”, wanted to use our ResumeReader as part of their offering. During talks, it came out that they wanted to create a company that would sell this service to “M”. And they didn’t want “M” to know about any of our discussions until it was already a done deal. And they wanted all the rights. But don’t let “M” know about any of this. Ever. And they were greedy. Oh, were they greedy. You should have seen their eyes glaze over and heard their cackling laughter when they talked about charging “M” then offering slightly different versions of the ResumeReader tool to “M”‘s competitors.

We said “no.” Okay, I said “no”.

I’m told some people read the bottom of our homepage and consider it rude, that I’m basically saying “…if you’re not willing to put money upfront (and not a little money) don’t bother me.” [[They’d really love the one we’re using now (Susan’s design).]]

Well, that’s correct although not because I’m greedy or money-hungry. Frugal, yes, greedy or money-hungry though? Have you read our Principles? I am greedy with my time, that I’ll grant, and I do recognize posting our prices is the equivalent of “You have to be this tall to get on this ride”.

It’s also a block to certain kinds of people. Look through those Principles and you’ll see several ways to alter the prices we charge. Lots of people do. There are lots of ways to be tall and not everyone is willing to stretch. As I wrote, those prices are a block and only to certain kinds of people.

Sometime when we’re at a conference ask me to talk about cultural and social taboos, such as the taboo against discussing money but lack of taboos around discussing financial matters within certain groups and cultures. It plays a lot in designing culture and group specific information.

Or you can take one of our trainings as we often cover the same material there.

But greedy versus frugal? Moi? (Stephane loves my Frenglish)

True story: Someone said they’d help NextStage with marketing “for only 20% of the company”. I asked “Can you prove you’re worth it?” and they couldn’t. I don’t mean they couldn’t prove it to my satisfaction, I mean they couldn’t prove it, period. Nor could they demonstrate it. Anywhere. So I said “No thanks.”

Had they been able to prove their worth at all, I would have considered their offer. As it was, I would call them greedy. I would not call them greedy if they could have proved their worth, but do so because they could not. I would call myself frugal. I don’t accept someone telling me their worth without a demonstration of same, but once they demonstrate it? They can fail, all they need do is demonstrate the effort and my world is theirs.

You really should read those Principles.
</Anecdote>

Specific to Chris’s list and only comparing the values against themselves, we find that the strongest non-conscious intent is retribution. However, the relative strengths of Referral, Retribution and Constructive indicate that such non-conscious messaging is probably part of the author’s psychological makeup and nothing specific to these posts. This is where a helpful exercise is comparing this author’s material against similar material elsewhere, such as a competitor’s twittering or even the author’s own writing not contained in these twits.

I think what’s more important here is that if you can form what you want to know into a question or statement such as Chris did, ET can answer it. Most of the reports we provide are based on questions clients asked us, usually blue-skying their hearts out while doing so.

Is the comment “Positive”, “Negative”, or “Neutral” – accurate to within +/- 5%, 19/20. This is how most social vendors classify it. I don’t consider these numbers to be helpful, but they are ‘standard’. However, they tend to have a much higher rate of error. (3) is where it’s at. (already in TargetTrack…kind of…)

It’s one thing to be positive, negative or neutral in general, it’s a completely different thing to be positive, negative or neutral as defined by your target audience. The world may love you but if the people you want to do business with think ill of you, it doesn’t matter what the world thinks. Likewise, if your target audience thinks the world of you, do you care what opinions others may have?

And do we mean negative, positive or neutral to a specific person, some cultural or ethnic group, some product or service, government, …? TargetTrack can fine tune it’s answers based on what you want to know.

How accurate? It will be accurate to within 83% based on the author’s {C,B/e,M} matrix at the time of their writing. For those who haven’t seen my presentations, the {C,B/e,M} matrices are the Cognitive, Behavioral/effective, Motivational neurologic, psychologic and sociologic methodologies that people employ to get through their day (and usually without knowing they’re doing so). Someone who’s always upbeat has a different {C,B/e,M} matrix than someone who’s shy, for example. Someone from Espania has a different one than someone from Alba Nuadh. Discovering where these matrices overlap and how they overlap is the key to cross-cultural marketing even when the cross-cultural aspect is just NH versus Tennessee and so on.

What I will offer is that this question is best answered by a combination of TargetTrack and our tracking tool (yep, the one Rene mentioned). It’s often fun to match an author’s intent with the readers’ perception of that intent. Doing this requires our tracking tag be on your site/blog/whatever. Interesting things can come out from that kind of study.

For example, if we learn than an author is habitually more negative than positive in their discourse AND we know that readers’ level of interest peaks during those periods, then escriva negativa, my lad.

{C, B/e, M} profile of the author of a comment or blog post. (already in TargetTrack)

Click on the above TargetTrack examples and you’ll see that much of the {C,B/e,M} matrix information is included as statements about gender, age (yes, I know. Gender and Age again. And since 2001. Who knew?), so on and so forth. We can include as much or as little of the {C,B/e,M} matrix information as you want.

This, for example, is an analysis of some marketing material that’s well designed to appeal to what we recognize as a K13 Rich Persona. I’ve written about Rich Persona on this blog, on iMediaConnection, lots of different places. What’s a Rich Persona? It’s the heart, gut and mind of the persona you create during your marketing discussions. Doesn’t matter if you create “Jeep Driver Joe” or “Soccer Mom Sally” or anything else, you’re simply creating a true fiction with no basis in reality other than your own machinations until you imbue that persona with dreams, desires, pains, pleasures, hopes, anxieties, desperations, relationship problems, and most importantly ways they would deal with all of these things, how they think about them, how they would respond to them, what and how they would ignore them and so on. Put all that together and your persona is now Rich.

People who saw my eMetrics Toronto ’08 presentation may remember that I shared how the {C,B/e,M} matrices for different parts of Canada were shifting over time. This happens all the time and translates to “Keep your materials fresh because what works today might not work tomorrow.”

And before I forget, this author is demonstrating an A9 {C,B/e,M} matrix or Rich Persona. Their material will most strongly influence readers who:

  • make decisions based on what might go wrong

  • learn best when what they’re learning can be directly applied to a harmful or painful possible future event
  • often seem mentally absorbed
  • often seem to loose focus on what’s going on around them
  • engage in internal dialogue (usually in the form of self-directed statements) in order to make decisions
  • will listen to others’ advice only if the advice has a negative form (“Oh, you don’t want to do that because…” “There’ll be problems with that because…”)
  • focus on the negative
  • are motivated to take action by arguments and/or explanations which cast things in a poor or bad light
  • pay more attention to what’s not working when evaluating situations
  • often need to confirm their beliefs (whether valid or not) with visual information

  • will only accept visual confirmation if what they are shown confirms the problem rather than the solution
  • base final decisions on anticipated problems or errors in their or other peoples’ judgements
  • pay little attention to what’s going on right now when making final decisions
  • are strongly influenced by the possibility of pain or difficulties down the road (although they will not intentionally seek pain or difficulties out they are still sure the pain and difficulties exist and are waiting “to greet them”)
  • will ignore any difficulty or pain they’re presently in if a future pain or difficulty is inferred, threatened, demonstrated or explained

  • ignore emotional appeals unless the appeal takes the form of a conversation or lecture in which a worse or negative outcome is defined or identified
  • demonstrate that a conclusion has been reached or something has been learned by some small, outward sign or motion, such as a slight or single nodding or shaking of the head, a slight clenching of the hands or movement of the fingers, or a slow, deep breath.

No wonder their writing showed up as slightly negative, huh?

Anyway, this {C,B/e,M} matrix information can be for the author, the audience, let us know when you ask for a TargetTrack (depends on which one you ask for) and we’ll provide the information for you.

For example, a law firm gave us an ad to analyze along with some responses from different people to that ad (this is documented in Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History. TargetTrack could individualize gender, age, geographic location and job description of the respondents by analyzing their responses.

But really, how useful is knowing this unless you know how to design for whatever {C,B/e,M} matrix information and Rich Personae your dealing with (and did I mention we offer trainings on just that)? Some of these images contain suggestions for improving audience (oh, dare I say it?) engagement, attention to, interaction with, whatever the buzzword de jour is, with your material.

Suggestions are included in all our TargetTrack products. That was one of the first things TargetTrack was designed to do, provide direct, actionable suggestions on how to get your material into the hearts and minds of your target audience as quickly and as economically as possible.

I mean, all these TargetTrack reports may or may not be pretty and (according to Rene) aren’t even sexy but who cares if you don’t have real, you can do it, actionable items provided with your report? You’re just shooting in the wind if you don’t, right?

So we give suggestions, to-do’s, action items, call them what you will, and in some cases listed in Critical, Important and Desirable order.

The likelihood that the message will have the desired intent on those who read it. (already in TargetTrack…kind of…)

We can determine what an author’s desires regarding their audience response are via TargetTrack alone.

To know if the desired intent is actually being realized while people are reading the material requires our web tracking tool.

The likelihood that the message will have the desired intent based on psychographic distance from the author. (already in TargetTrack…kind of…)

See above.

The ability for the tool to return a CSV (or some other file) listing the social graph of the {C, B/e, M} profiles in relationship to each other within a specific tribe, in general, for the purposes of segmenting discussions based on expert areas. (Testing the 1957 “Word-of-Mouth” studies and the whole air conditioning patterns for new product introductions.) (already in TargetTrack)

Compare the above Quebec Thought Progressions with this chart from that same eMetrics Toronto ’08 presentation, this one for all of Canada or the one below for British Columbia, all during the same three month time period. These are actually from our Personae Mapping Tool, yet another variation of ET and TargetTrack (there’s that “using tools to make tools” thing again, @jdaysy).

Anywho, these are graphs of the {C,B/e,M} matrices within different tribes and groups within those tribes. ET can do this for whatever you describe; areas of expertise, geographic locations, ethnic factors, language of origin, …

The likelihood that the message will be remembered or committed to memory. (Goes to that damned traditional metric: message recall. I don’t think that conscious recall is nearly as important than sub-conscious recall, but I’ll admit being wrong if shown evidence to the contrary.)(already in TargetTrack…kind of…)

This is another one that requires our tracking tool be on your site.

ET’s original function was to make sure educational material was being delivered optimally for each student, hence it would modify my class material on the fly based on how individual students were navigating the site in order to match the {C,B/e,M} matrix of the material to the {C,B/e,M} matrix of each student (the original NSE site did this in real time for each visitor. There are examples in the “Anecdotes of Learning” section of Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History and referenced above in that lawyer segment). The reason to do this was to insure that the material would be both committed to deep or long-term memory AND be immediately actionable in consciousness.

Yes, actionable, as in “they can and will be able to use and act upon the information” right now.

Remeber and Use, Branding, etc.

And while I’m here, let me offer something that (I believe) is a demonstration of “going one better”. I gave a presentation to the Boston KM Forum in Aug ’06 entitled “Increasing Knowledge Transfer By Adapting Information Presentation Styles On the Fly”. Wordy, I know, and the third slide in that presentation is relevant to this discussion in so many ways. Item #5 on that slide is “Cognition, retention, etc., went high”. That’s how people in my field talk about “branding, engagement, usability, understandability,…” things like that.

The end result was that people were able to remember material as content three times longer, in context seven times longer and be able to utilize that information (ie, “work with it”) ten times longer.

Consider this a “two-fer”. We can recognize and adjust content on the fly for specific “tribes” and deliver targeted messaging by recognizing a tribe then customizing that message so that only the tribe remembers and can use it.

The gender and age of the author of a comment or blog post. (already in TargetTrack)

Read all of the above again (you didn’t skip anything, did you?). Go ahead. I dare you.

The gender and age of the composition of the social network observing the comment or blog post. [Tribe analysis]. (already in TargetTrack…kind of…)

There are two ways to answer this. I’ll start with the part that is “…kind of…”. To determine all visitors would require the tracking tool on your site. We could do it with just TargetTrack for people commenting and do some creative mathematics to guesstulate the entire audience composition. It would be easier and cheaper to use our tracking tool and just have it report the network’s composition.

Or we can answer “Who is this material best suited for?” That’s a pure TargetTrack question as I’ll demonstrate below.

Age appeal for the comments only

“Who is this material is best suited/designed for?” is where differences between just the content and the webpage — graphics, fonts, etc., and content — demonstrate great differences. They make differences everywhere, here they are very pronounced. This chart is from TargetTrack analyzing just the comment stream and determining “What age group is this material is best suited/designed for?”. No graphics, no images, no colors, no fonts, no backgrounds, only the pure text. Forget that there are three lines for now, just remember that this is TargetTrack’s analysis of the comment text only.

This image is TargetTrack analyzing the entirety of the page — graphics, colors, images, fonts, the whole shooting match. See that the yellow line is near flat on this chart? That’s an indication that the introduction of the images, graphics, colors, fonts, etc., etc., etc., are a major distraction to visitors both understanding and using the information presented.

And now, a little more ET Trainings and what are those three lines for again, Joseph?

In the charts above, the red bars are Appeal, the yellow bars are message Clarity and the green bars are message Actionability. Both position on the chart, height and positional relation to each other are extremely important. NextStage’s TargetTrack uses three items because Age is demonstrated by multiple intelligences, ie,

  • the visual intelligence that governs whether or not something will Appeal to a specific Age group,
  • the cognitive intelligence that governs whether or not something will be understandable (Clarity) to a specific Age group and
  • the psychosensory intelligence that governs whether or not something will be Actionable(ity) to a specific Age group

If you wanted, you could group them all together into a single Age metric but you’d lose a great deal of actionable information by doing so.

The point at which each line intersects an age group is an indication of how much of that specific age group is captured. The “just the comments” chart above, for example, indicates that just the comments on the page being analyzed would appeal (red line) to (ie, “get the attention of”) 55% of the 45-54yo market, about 28% of the 35-44 and 55-59yo markets and so on.

The next line of interest is Clarity (ie, “is this understandable?”). The human mind likes to understand things, too clearly see what things are about. But you don’t want people to work for it when you’re selling them something, at least not too hard. This means you want Clarity to target a slightly younger age group that the material appeals to. In other words, you want to get their attention then have them easily understand it, this Clarity (yellow) needs to be a little to the left of the Appeal (red) line.

Now you have to look at Actionability (green). You got their attention (red), they understand your value proposition (yellow), now they must act on that understanding. You want the green line to be just to the right of the red line because people will only act when they recognize value, hence must “reach” and that “reach” and value is detected as requiring slightly more neural effort than both Appeal and Clarity.

Thus the ideal is that the relational position of the lines be Clarity, Appeal, Actionability (yellow, red, green). Further, you want the Appeal (red) to be the highest peak while Clarity (yellow) and Actionability (green) can be even or Actionability just a little higher than Clarity (yellow). Again, this is that “you want them to reach” thing.

Appeal (red) governs whether or not your target audience would give this page a second look, that something on the page would catch their attention and make them stop for a moment or two before going onto something else. In many cases, a well crafted webpage (email, tv ad, radio spot, report, etc) for a given audience would cause them to stop, period, and spend time interacting with the material.

The question about what’s good or bad message Clarity (yellow) has to do with the intended age group for the material. Being understandable by a younger audience is both good and bad. A complex subject written to be clear to a young audience must perforce leave out some of the more complex elements of that subject. A mature audience interacting with the material might consider the material overly simplistic and determine the material incomplete or in error. The goal is to craft material with a Clarity peak close to the target age group.

Actionability (green) measures the amount of education, life experience or maturity required to make use of the information and understand the meaning as opposed to understanding the words (which is what Clarity measures). The phrase, “The true cost of a car’s easy drivability is paid by the consumer” is easy to read but it (probably) takes some life experience to appreciate that as cars have become easier to drive the number of people driving has increased, the amount of training available and skill required to drive has decreased, more accidents occur, the cost of insurance climbs, fuel costs rise due to increased demand, … Making the automobile accessible to the masses may not have served the masses well, necessarily.

You can read more about this at Websites: You’ve Only Got 3 Seconds.

Gender. Yes, we do gender. You really want me to go into details?

The purchase / re-purchase intent of the author. (already in TargetTrack)

It’s in the complete {C,B/e,M} matrix information that we provide clients.

Identification of who, within a social network, is an influencer, a gatekeeper, or a hub. (IE. Identification of who should I talk to first to get movement on a message.) (already in TargetTrack…kind of…)

Depending on what you mean, this is already in TargetTrack or requires TargetTrack plus our tracking tool. I presented The Blogging Power Continuum: How Bloggers and Their Audience Share and Assign Power in a Knowledge-Based Medium at a SNCR conference in both Boston (Dec ’07), “Whispering to Be Heard: The Art and Science of Buzz Marketing” at the New Communications Forum 2008 in Apr 08 and a variation of the Boston presentation in Montreal at the Communicating for Social Impact, International Communications Association Conference 2008 in May ’08. One of the things that I shared was the research into how to recognize influencers and such, how to gain control of blogs, direct them, all sorts of stuff. Perhaps some conference organizer who’s reading this might smile upon me and invite me to present this information at their conference…

Suggestions based on the {C, B/e, M} profile, of how to frame a message. (already in TargetTrack)

I think I’ve exhausted this particular item, yes? Again, if you skipped things, you shouldn’t have as I covered this above.

We do give suggestions for doing this. Depending on what level of TargetTrack you want, these suggestions can be just a few items or several pages long.

Breakdown of conversations based on topic area. (already in TargetTrack)

You tell us how you want it sliced and diced, TargetTrack will report on it.

So, Chris, not one unreasonable thing in the bunch.

I mentioned to Chris that I doubted he could come up with something we hadn’t done already. Remember, NextStage’s tools were doing these things back in 2001 as “tools” and before that as pure technology. The things we’re doing now…?

…pant, pant, pant…thank goodness. Two days of writing. Done. Finito. yea for joey…

Stephane, I’ll get to canoe.ca soon, I promise.


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The Complete “AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing” Arc

Note: Another long arc now as a single post. Thank you, thank you, thank you, wee mice…

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q1: History of Color Marketing

I was recently interviewed by AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund on NextStage’s five year study of the best uses of colors, color imagery and color iconography in marketing. The study includes NextStage original research and research from other sources. This post starts the arc with Chris Bjorklund’s first question; “Can you tell me a little about the history of the use of color in marketing? How far back does it go?”

The posts in this arc provide content that didn’t make it into the podcast, just as the podcast has content that isn’t provided in this arc. You can hear the entire podcast at The Best Way to Use Color and Imagery to Improve Your Marketing. An extensive bibliography will be shared in the last post in this arc. Chris’ questions are in normal font, my responses are in italics.

Wow. We’re starting with the tough ones right off the bat, huh? My opinion is that the use of color in marketing goes back…oh, I’m guessing about 4.5 billion years, and I’m very serious. I think photo-receptor cells first developed about that long ago. Basically once animals could detect mates, predators and prey visually, the use of color in marketing was established.

(I’m guessing your listeners are thinking, “Good grief, another NextStage rant” and maybe so, but knowing something’s history can often provide useful clues about better ways to use it)

Anyway, marketing’s evolutionary predecessor is “survival of the fittest”, what’s known as evolutionary biology. The baboon’s inflamed rump, the peacock’s plumage, moths that look like tree bark, walking sticks, spiders that look like flower petals, flowers that use colors to attract pollinators, and octopi and squid that change color to match the sea floor are all examples of marketing. We might think of the marketing messages as “I’m a good mate” or whatever but the real marketing message of the baboon and peacock is “I can help you be successful”. Isn’t that what marketing is all about? Predators that mimic the environment, such as the spider and mollusks, are basically sending out spam, “Hey, trust me. I’m safe”. Flowers that use color to attract pollinators are involved in a word-of-mouth campaign. The viral component is “Hey, this flower has some good eats” and the benefit to the flower is survival and capturing more territory. Show me a company engaged in a word-of-mouth campaign with the ultimate goal is NOT surviving and capturing more territory and I’ll change my opinion on this.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q1: History of Color Marketing Part 2

So color marketings origins has an evolutionary basis.

Once you get a lock on that you extend the metaphor to human society and human systems – cultures, man-made environments, etc. As soon as humans figured out how to create and use pigments, color advertising was in bloom. Prior to that color marketing relied on using flowers and animal hides in our hair, on our loin clothes, whatever.

Our ancestors saw their animal cousins using colors to attract mates, warn off enemies, establish community and territory and said, “Hey, I like that!” and the genie was out of the bottle.

Certain colors were reserved for royalty because they were expensive to produce. Okay. You wear those colors, you’re advertising that you’re a member of the royalty, then the aristocracy, then upper-income America. Other colors became the property of the wise-ones because they represented the Animal Powers. Again, these colors went from wise-ones to wisdom-keepers and here an interesting thing happens; the wise-ones and wisdom-keepers split into two often competing roles in history; religion and science. These roles were combined in a single individual until recently. Their choices of colors to represent their callings still show this to some degree.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q1: History of Color Marketing Part 3

What we recognize as commerce – the exchange of goods and services – goes back to at least 10,000 BCE (as mentioned in The First Sale (is the Next Page). Town markets encouraged the use of color in marketing and advertising. The trade- or crafts-person who could attract the most people to their tent or wagon had the most customers, regardless of the worthiness of their product or service. How do you attract the most customers? One way is big signs with pretty pictures.

Colors and pictures have incredible importance in marketing to all cultures and specifically cultures and societies without written text. How do I let you know I’m a dentist if you can’t read “D E N T I S T” in my title? A big picture of a tooth outside my office.

Let’s add some color to this one example so listeners can begin to get an idea of just how important and subtle color usage can be. Think about that big picture of a tooth outside an office. Split that sign in half. Place a tooth image in the upper left, make the tooth just off-white and show a black spot, a cavity, in the upper right of the tooth. Have red, blue, green and gold arcs over the cavity in that order, red closest to the cavity and gold furthest away and larger than the other color arcs.

Down in the bottom right have a bright, white, shiny tooth, no cavities, gold aura all around it.

That sign tells a story anybody with a toothache will respond to. It makes use of color, color imagery, color iconography, image placement, emotional cueing, everything’s right there for people who want to market something.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q1: History of Color Marketing Finale

Now let’s up the timeline to Gutenberg, printing, color printing, tv, color tv, movies and finally color cinema.

Color is so essential, so culture specific, so industry specific, so gender and age specific that Asian color palettes won’t sell American products and vice versa, Nigerian color palettes won’t sell Scandanavian products and vice versa, male color palettes won’t sell to women, over-50yo color palettes won’t sell to teenagers, …

But everything goes back to finding mates, watching for predators and evaluating prey. One of the most interesting ways this fell out (for us) was recognizing the presence of what’s called “koinophilia” – what you can think of as “survival of the prettiest” in marketing. We can identify what models and what coloring to use on those models if you want to sell something now versus in the future and to which gender. It’s remarkable stuff, really.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q2: What Colors Attract Attention? Part 1

I don’t think it’s a strain so much as it’s an inability to expand beyond their own paradigm.

For example, you mention that people know what colors they favor, what attract their attention but most people don’t know why. I accept that this is true for the lay person and have difficulty believing it’s a challenge for marketers and advertisers who are willing to do their homework. There’s a lot of material available on the subject. We were stunned at how much research there’s been. We cited 95 separate papers in our research and we’ll probably add more before we finish writing it up.

Favorite colors and attraction colors all have neuro-, socio- and psycho-linguistic reasons for being what they are. I wrote in Usability Studies 101: Follow the Eye, an IMediaConnection column, that listed the six colors everyone recognizes regardless of culture, language, age, gender, … . These colors are the ones the brain is hardwired for. Once you get beyond that you’re into the areas of culture, language, nature v nurture and more.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q2: What Colors Attract Attention? Part 2

These six colors — black, white, red, yellow, green and blue – are “attention” colors. Now remember that “Attention” isn’t the same as “Attraction”. I probably have your attention if you’re attracted to me but I can also have your attention for lots of other reasons; I’m giving you a warning, you’re watching where I’m putting your birthday present, I’m driving like a lunatic and you want to get out of my way. Recognition and response to colors and color iconography deals with something called “signal detection theory” and the size of a recognized and responded to “attention” signal can much, much smaller than the signal size of a recognized and responded to “attraction” signal.

As I wrote in wrote in Usability Studies 101: Follow the Eye,

  • These six easily recognized and understood colors are around or at least leading to your decision points
  • Important information is highlighted by these colors
  • These colors lead the eye where you want it to go

That’s the basic and applies to all cultures, to all ages and genders. Beyond that you need some training that’s available but that most people don’t know how to find. I mentioned in my Emetrics presentation, Quantifying and Optimizing the Human Side of Online Marketing: An eMetrics Summit Case Study, that there are classes available at the college level. NextStage also offers training on these topics. One challenge with learning this stuff is that people who need the information “right now” will do a web search or listen to a webinar. That will provide basics but to get enough to be productive you need at least 1-2 days of intensive training followed by ongoing updates of what’s changing, why, and how to respond to it. This gives you the cultural and demographic basis to increase business.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q3: Big, Costly Mistakes? Part 1

Companies spend millions of dollars developing their brands and logos and the colors to go with them. Have you seen some examples of big and costly mistakes?

Yes, interestingly enough one of our researchers found an online list of products that didn’t make it for a variety of reasons (Stonewall’s Findings: Tech Naming Failures). What often happens is that marketing decides something “will ship and will be a success” and doesn’t do enough homework to figure out if the market really exists for the product or not. The Segway, for example. It didn’t matter what color you painted it, nobody was going to simply go out and get one. The Apple Newton is another example. Products must fill a need, either real or imagined, in the consumer’s mind. Great examples come from the automotive world.

The Jummer, for example, is what I’ve heard people call the Jeep Commander because it’s a Jeep that looks like the Hummer so as to capture that market. GM’s problem was that they got rid of one of the most popular and reliable products on the road, the Jeep Cherokee Sport, replaced it with the Jeep Liberty, pushed it at the Cherokee audience which thought the Liberty was a joke and have been coming out with different models playing catch up ever since. The latest is the Patriot and it pretty much looks like what a Cherokee Sport would look like if automotive evolution had been allowed to fulfill its course.

Again, marketing, the use of color and color iconography has models in evolution and biology. Here we’re seeing animals that evolve to fill a biological niche, only the animal that’s evolving is a GM product to fill the niche created by the extinction of the Cherokee.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q3: Big, Costly Mistakes? Part 2

Companies need to remember that filling a niche is one thing, making something appealing in that niche is marketing. That’s where color comes in. High price cars will only show up in ads in royal and authoritative colors. I’m sure people have seen expensive cars on the road that are these bizarre, unnameable colors. The response is “Who thought that was a good color for that car?”

But the funny thing is, chartreuse wouldn’t work on a BMW 7 series and it will work on a Toyota Matrix because of the differences in the target market.

I’ll offer a general rule of thumb; bright and shiny works for younger audiences in all things. It works for older audiences re-experiencing their youth. Somebody my age buying a Corvette or Lotus Elan wants to be seen. A royal or authoritative color ain’t gonna do it. Whatever you’re selling, cars or toothpaste, you need to remember that all colors make a statement. You need to know what that statement is to your audience. I wrote about this in Intelligent Website Design: Expand Your Market and it’s something NextStage really emphasizes; know your audience better than you know yourself.

Part of that knowledge involves color choice. Most people can’t tell you their partner’s favorite color yet if you just look at their wardrobe you’d know it in a second. Want to know your target demographic’s favorite colors? Go walk among them for half a day. The whole key is observation, ideally what’s called “participant observation” and precious few people are trained to do it properly. Doing it properly means getting yourself out of the way of what you’re observing. Unless you do that you’re only documenting your own prejudices, not what you need to document. NextStage teaches classes on documenting observations properly and putting prejudices aside.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q4: B&M to Online and Back?

A big challenge today for companies of all sizes is how to move their brands from brick and mortar to online and vice versa. You’re spending a lot of time studying this issue – you’re on the cutting edge with your analysis. Let us in on some of your findings.

Good question. I’ll give you four things that fall right off the top:

  1. Only brick&mortar brands long established within a given demographic should consider transferring their brand directly online
  2. Long established b&m brands transferred to e-brands are more easily recognized by older demographic groups
  3. It is possible to make a b&m brand more recognizable online by subtly changing its color scheme
  4. Changing a b&m brand’s visual orientation can increase e-brand recognition and may also produce a negative feeling towards the brand

There’s quite a few more and I’m sharing these because they’re pretty obvious when you remember that “age” usually equates to “experience”.

#1 and #2) “Long established b&m’s can put their existing brand directly online” and “are more easily recognized by older demographics” because their audience has already had lots of experience with it simply because the brand is long established. In other words, the audience will look for what it already knows, thus “age” = “experience”.

#3 and #4) The human brain is wired to look for and find patterns. This is something I wrote about in AllBusiness.com’s Want to Increase Business Traffic? Play This Game to Learn a Design Trick

Familiar patterns – the layout of your living room, the newspaper showing up at 4pm everyday – let us know our world is safe and can be anticipated. You don’t really notice the layout of the living room or that the paper hasn’t arrived until the pattern changes.

It’s the same thing with transferring and existing b&m brand online. A subtle change in a b&m’s color scheme or visual orientation online sends the brain two contradictory messages; a) this is the familiar so it’s safe and b) this is different so pay attention. Good marketing exists where those two messages intersect; this is safe and pay attention. You don’t want to dramatically alter the color scheme or visual orientation because then the “pay attention” message overpowers the “this is safe” message and you have loyal consumers no longer comfortable with the new brand and unwilling to accept the new brand identity.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q5: Offline to Online Worries

Unfortunately the opposite is true and falls out from your previous questions. Lesser known brands – b&m or otherwise – have fewer problems going online (as far as color and color iconography in marketing are concerned) simply because people don’t have enough history and familiarity with them. They can make bold moves and just state “this b&m brand equals this online brand” because they’re basically providing the consumer with new information.

A good example of this is any regional company that goes national or international via the web. Their locally recognized b&m brand isn’t recognized elsewhere so they can go with a redesign, a rebrand, whatever. I was asked these very questions by a major home supply chain and documented my answers in How does one rebuild or redevelop his brand? What are the steps?

Anyway, the world is wide open to the lesser known brand going online. That’s not the case for the well known brand going online for the reasons I mentioned previously. You need to create marketing material that says “Hi, remember me? I’m your old friend and you need to pay attention to this.” Sometimes a direct approach like that can work well, other times not. It depends on gender and age to a large degree.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q6: Gender Differences

Men and women see the world differently – react to colors differently and color imagery differently. What have you learned about that with regard to e-branding? (eye-mind-brain systems are so different…..)

I’ve learned that this question can get me into lots of trouble when I’m speaking at conferences. We discovered in our five year study – and we’re continuing with this research, by the way – that women are universally better at identifying b&m brands online than men are. There are anthropologic and neurologic reasons for this and I can really bore you to death with it if we have time.

The nutshell for marketers is that women can tolerate greater variation in offline and online brands than men can. I’ll ask right now that your listeners and everybody else forgive what is going to come across as a chauvinistic statement; women see a b&m brand modified for online and are basically being asked by an old friend, “does this dress make me look fat?”

Now the other half of the audience can despise me; men see a b&m brand modified for online and ask their old friend, “what happened to you, buddy?”

These two responses are so different and speak at such a high level to gender marketing differences. Women are being asked by their friend if their friend is still acceptable. Men are questioning if the old relationship still exists. The difference is “I need your help” versus “You’re different. Can I still trust you?”

The best thing to do when transferring a male-oriented b&m to online is to make as few changes to the brand/logo as possible. You can go nuts with the rest of the page because once men realize it’s their same old friend they’ll get in the car and go for a ride with them. Altered brands/logos can stop the male audience from even getting in the car.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q7: Examples, Part 1

Analyze a few websites here for what works and what doesn’t…

FlyTed.com as it appeared when doing this interview

Let’s look at FlyTed.com. Today, as I call up the homepage, everything about this page is good except the border color. I’m not even sure what the color is. This goes back to the six colors everybody can see thing. I’m pretty sure the design goal was to create contrast that would drive the eyes to the central content. What can happen is that the border is so distracting that it drives people away at a non-conscious level. I wrote about the 3 second rule in Websites: You’ve Only Got 3 Seconds and it applies here. The border color can drive business away before it even occurs.

apple%20into%20the%20mystery.jpg

Contrast FlyTed with the Apple (note to readers: this wasn’t the actual site I was commenting on in the interview. Apple had their “iPhone” homepage up during the interview. What is shown here is very close as far as color, imagery and iconography is concerned) and Jitterbug sites. These sites are so beautifully done for their respective audiences they need to win awards.

Jitterbug

Apple’s color scheme and images communicate “come into the mystery” and that’s exactly the message iPhoners want at a non-conscious level. They want to know they’re part of an ultra-group that not everyone can enter (due to cost, availability, etc). There’s not much text. Either you get it or you don’t, a kind of “If you need to know the price you can’t afford it” mentality.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q7: Examples, Part 2

Jitterbug boldly and directly shows you its products. The menu system is like the product, simple. The text is simple. The options are simple. The best thing about it is the use of color and contrast in showing off the two products. Your eye may scan the page but it will end on those products. You know within seconds that you’ve found what you’re looking for. This is excellent use of color to drive eyes where you want them. Unlike Apple’s “enter the mystery” color scheme, this audience doesn’t want mystery, they want obvious. The whole page is designed with that audience in mind and is a wonderful demonstration of color and color iconography done correctly.

(note to readers: this wasn’t the actual site I was commenting on in the interview. Apple had their “iPhone” homepage up during the interview. What is shown here is very close as far as color, imagery and iconography is concerned)

I was recently on vacation. That’s another way of saying I got to do research differently. In the course of a week I must have seen 2-3k people. Nobody my age had an iPhone. People who did have an iPhone fit a younger, more upscale, tech-savvy demographic exactly. One of the first projects I got involved with upon my return was analyzing audience responses to presidential candidates at rallies. Again, iPhoners at these rallies fit a demographic perfectly. The rest of us might not have been Jitterbugging but I think lots of us wanted to.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q8: Image Tricks

Some companies play with product/logo orientation in ads in print and on the web. What is the point of that? Can you explain the work you’re doing with looking at image rotation? How is this used to freshen a brand?

The web used to show static content (meaning text and images) and that’s changing. 30-40% of Americans are still on dialup and even so, static content doesn’t play in marketing much anymore because of the “big signs, bright colors” thing. The problem with Rich Media, RIA, Web 2.0 and the rest is their cost. Companies that have these elements as part of their strategy need to realize that the audience that accepts this type of content also tires of it quickly. One trick that can be successfully used is to imply dynamism with an image by rotating it, using perspective, haloing, content gestalt. These are things painting’s Old Masters knew well and they apply directly to web based marketing. Tilt the picture of a car slightly and the car must be moving either up or down hill. That’s the way our brain translates the image.

That’s another lesson that has a long history behind it and you can see it in any home. Go into someone’s house and, when they’re out of the room for a minute, slightly tilt a few of the pictures hanging on the walls. Not enough to fall, just a little. People will re-enter the room, demonstrate confusion, lock onto the offending image and right it. Obviously the picture wasn’t falling, it was still on the wall. But the slight tilt implied motion, action, and that needed to be stopped.

On the web, though, it gives the illusion of dynamism. A little trick of the mind-eye-brain system that can be exploited well for smaller companies wanting to make an impact.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q9: Colors Showing Value

What specifically can companies do to not only get a brand recognized, but also accepted as having value? Who does a good job at this?

What we found was that red, yellow, white and black will cause site visitors to stop scanning and focus, especially when those colors are in contrast with the brand’s colors.

The goal is to use these “attention” colors to draw attention to what you want visitors to focus on. In a way this might have been what FlyTed was going after, that combined with a halo effect. I don’t think they did it well or correctly, though. On the other hand, Apple and Jitterbug do it beautifully.

AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund Interviews Joseph Carrabis on Color Use in Marketing, Q10: Jogging Memory with Color

Is there a difference between the colors you might use to get a consumer to remember a brand accurately versus for a longer period of time?

Here’s another example of something simple coming out of the research. The use of sharp or “hard” colors increase the ability to remember an image accurately, the use of “soft” colors such as white, blues, grays and greens increase the ability to remember an image longer.

Here’s how to take this and apply it directly. Let’s say your product path is three pages long or three screen lengths long, meaning a single webpage that needs to be scrolled to get to the action item. The first product image is on the left and in sharp colors, the next image is on the left and is hard, on the right, same screen, is the image using soft colors. The last image is also on the right and uses soft colors.

What needs to be remembered is that you can’t have these three visual elements in sight of each other. They either have to be scrolled into and away from each other or on different pages to have the correct impact.


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