Category Archives: Digital Storytelling

LEGO Movie: 100 minute advert strategy or content marketing genius?

You really don’t need me to tell you that there’s a LEGO movie out right now. It’s impossible to ignore.

Heck, even as I write this there’s a Culture Show special on BBC2 right now about how LEGO has influenced architecture. Funnily enough, when constructing our house, the builders ran out of red bricks halfway up and had to finish with yellows and greens.

Warner Bros. began the marketing push seven months ago in June 2013 with a rapturously received teaser trailer and continued with a solid social marketing strategy, which saw very close engagement on social channels that continues through to this week of release.

ITV even turned over an entire advert break during its Sunday night edition of Dancing on Ice to LEGO, during which adverts from BT, Confused.com and Premier Inn were remade with LEGO models.

Of course, amateur and professional animators alike have been remaking existing films, TV shows, music videos, pop culture moments and historical events in LEGO for years now.

LEGO fans don’t need the excuse of a movie to get their old buckets of bricks out from the loft, in fact they never got stored away in the first place.

As LEGO’s brand relations director Michael McNally recently explained in The Verge:

I think what we’ve really found is that Lego is a medium… it’s not a toy, it’s a medium for other people to tell their own stories and create their own adventures.

On a surprisingly low budget for a major Hollywood movie ($60m) The Lego Movie has exceeded its cost in its first weekend, making $69m in the US alone and also looks set to do what every blockbuster dreams of doing by becoming a ‘four-quadrant’ smash.

This is a film which appeals to all four major demographic groups: male, female, and the over & under 25 year-olds.

Marketing definitely has a lot do with it, the examples I’ve mentioned above are just a smattering of promotional material available, but what’s more interesting is how little Warner Bros. really had to do in order to market the film. The LEGO Movie will become a ‘four-quadrant’ success purely because of our affection for the product.

The point when LEGO got its marketing strategy dead-on is when it started treating adult and child one and the same.

From its social channels where it keeps a constant eye on the feeds and is super quick to engage and remain personal to its audience. To its CUUSOO page where it’s built a supportive and consistently imaginative community, LEGO’s invitation to its audience is a catch-all policy:“hey come on in, we’re all the same here, we’re just a bunch of people who love LEGO”.

Almost every media outlet going, including us (this my third article in a row about LEGO), has produced content around The LEGO Movie, not just because it’s topical, but because there is so much love for the brand. Almost every article written about it radiates with positivity and nostalgia.

Criticism

However there are grumbles. I have a friend who laughed in mine and my other friend’s faces because we were excited about seeing The Lego Movie. Four childless, over thirty-year-olds excited about the prospect of a LEGO movie.

“Have fun watching 25 minutes of adverts and trailers followed by another 100 minute long advert” I remember him saying witheringly.

In his hilarious and affectionately spiteful review of The Lego Movie, film critic Neil Alcock states:

This particular ad is for a brand of plastic bricks called LEGO, and the genius of this marketing campaign for the popular kids’ toy is that you actually pay money to watch it. And people will. And then they will pay more money for LEGO, because the ad is so bloody good. Genius.

There may have been a point in all this marketing for the film where we forgot that LEGO is a product. A product being sold to us through fairly exceptional piece of content marketing.

Does that make it less valid?

All we need to do in order to answer that question, is to understand why we love LEGO the product.

LEGO appeals to two completely opposing personality types. Those that crave rules and order, and those that wish to remain as creatively free as their imaginations.

That sounded far more glib than I intended, but the point is that LEGO is timeless because it’s utterly adaptable to the user’s whim. LEGO has rules, if you wish to follow them, and the result – building this working thing exactly how it looks on the box – is a deeply satisfying experience.

Or you can treat the bricks just like a blank paper and pencil and make whatever your creativity allows.

David Beckham recently stated his love for the toy:

The last big thing I made was Tower Bridge… It had about 1,000 pieces. I think Lego sometimes helps to calm me down.

The Guardian’s Rupert Myers also makes an excellent point about the appeal of collecting LEGO as an adult:

Perhaps the novelty of returning to a much-loved toy in adulthood is that you can finally spend the sort of money that as a child you rarely got to blow on plastic figures; the realisation of long-held desires to build bigger, better, and to fulfil boyhood aspirations.

So why a movie?

The market’s desire to see a LEGO movie was at its highest point. US sales of LEGO increased to 26% in 2012, and this growth is largely attributed to its licensing deals with major film properties (and The Lone Ranger).

Lego is striking right now when it knows its stock is at its highest, and tactically using the strength of its partnerships to appeal to the largest audience possible.

That’s the other fascinating point about the movie: how it ties in all kinds of other franchise properties, from Batman to Lord of the Rings to Star Wars. It sounds like a ground-breaking prospect, although it is possible that Who Framed Roger Rabbit may have stole the march on that one.

LEGO has a far deeper emotional connection with its worldwide fans than other attempts at toy-based movie franchises. Transformers are a fondly regarded toy and the film was a novel experiment in marketing that nostalgia to a grown up audience, however those grown-ups didn’t carry on buying those toys into their adulthood.

Whereas I often sneak in a packet of LEGO minifigs into our shopping basket when we visit the supermarket.

In plain terms, we care about LEGO. Who on Earth really cares about Battleships? Or a Transformers franchise that has outstayed its welcome by three movies?

But then, quite objectively, those films just weren’t very good. The LEGO Movie is excellent, therefore it perhaps transcends criticism of whether it’s just an overlong advert for LEGO or not.

It’s a thoroughly entertaining, expertly crafted hour-and-a-half of superior escapist fun that happens to be based on a product we’ve loved for 65 years.

Would it have gotten made if it wasn’t set in a LEGO world? Probably not. Would it still be any good if it wasn’t set in a LEGO world? No.

I’ll leave the final word to McNally, who reveals this justification for making the movie.

It wasn’t like we needed a movie to help us sell more stuff.

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Content Marketing in 2014: What You Need to Know

Brands of all shapes and sizes continue to publish a vast array of content. From blogs and infographics, to eBooks and whitepapers, there has never been so much content produced by so many companies and organizations at any one time.

It is projected that more than 90% of all B2B marketers are now actively using content marketing to generate brand awareness.

So as you continue to formulate and revise your content marketing strategies for 2014, the new infographic from Media Mosaic shared below serves as a critically important snapshot of the current state of content marketing and how this landscape itself is poised to grow and evolve throughout this new year.

infographic

Who’s Reading Though?: 10 Next Steps After Starting A Company Blog

Blogging and content marketing are hot digital buzzwords these days for good reason: “92% of companies who blogged multiple times a day acquired a customer through their blog.” (HubSpot State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)

Now that you’ve decided to go ahead with the process, you’ll need to take the necessary steps forward to ensure that you’re getting the most from your content and community.

1. Determine your purpose. The first step in creating your company blog is to determine why you have it — to educate customers, attract potential customers, share company information, sell more, etc. These are all valid reasons, and likely more than one of these describe your intentions. Those ones will dictate the kind of content you read, where you share it, etc.

2. Design navigation around your ultimate call to action: selling. Ultimately, you want your customers to buy or give you their e-mail addresses, so be sure your navigation is always supporting the purchasing process — ads for your products, links to buy, easy navigation to input credit card information, etc.

3. Brand your design. Every bit of your online presence should be branded, therefore making you noticeable. Be sure your logo is somewhere in the header, there are links back to your home page, and the coluor scheme supports your overall look.

4. Formulate a content calendar. A blog needs content, and for a business new to curating blog posts this frequently, it’s imperative you create a content calendar. Not only does this keep you focused on churning out new content, but you can use it to collaborate with sales. Coordinate blog posts with promoted products or promotions.

5. Create 10 evergreen pieces. As you start gaining readers, you’ll want to have 10 evergreen pieces. Evergreen pieces are those which will always be educational, beneficial and relevant. Create five of these before taking your blog public to ensure you have plenty of content for readers as they trickle in.

6. Repurpose other content. Feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of creating all this content? Look to your whitepapers, newsletters and any other content you’ve already produced, and consider how you can repurpose it into a blog post, graphic or infographic.

7. Get social. The most important aspect of your blog is to be sure it’s sharable — while creating awesome content is an integral part of that, no one will share if you don’t give them the resources to do so. You should have sharing buttons at the top of your content, at the bottom and on the side. I find a sliding social plugin for the side works best.

8. Encourage engagement. Other than sharing, you want readers to engage with your content via comments. You have the opportunity to build up your community of readers and customers; this will give them a reason to come back and be invested in the content.

9. Invite your readers. Once you’ve got all the pieces in place, you can invite your readers to come check it out. Share via social networks where you have a strong following and good relationships.

10. Invite your customers. Finally, you want to invite your customers. The best way to do this is to share it via e-mail blasts — introduce the blog in the first one, and then be sure to include a link to various blog posts or the blog in general within each newsletter. It is recommended that you link to the blog from your home page, as well.

Blogging is a great way to provide value to your current customers and invite the casual reader to become a customer, as well. With so many blogs out there, be sure yours is focused on the call to action, has been well-branded, and is ready for your eager readers.

Now What: 12 Musts Do’s After Writing A New Blog Post

Writing a blog post is not just about slapping up some content and crossing your fingers. It is about strategy, implementation and execution. There is a reason why some blogs are so much more successful than other blogs.

The folks at DivvyHQ recently put together this helpful infographic piece showcasing all the major steps each blog owner or writer should be taking when constructing new blog posts.

Here is a quick break down of the info below:

  • Always use keywords in your post
  • Use syndication to further spread the word
  • Keep your URLs short and sweet
  • Custom craft status updates
  • Use other sites to your advantage
  • Social bookmarking still works
  • Leave comments on other blogs
  • Use Twitter
  • Add it to your email signature
  • Stick them in your newsletter
  • Ask other bloggers to mention

Writing Blog Posts

Over It: 4 Tips To Avoid Blogging Burnout

You’ve always loved blogging and you’ve been happily reeling out compelling, dynamic, witty blogs for a good few months/years now but just lately something hasn’t been feeling quite right. You don’t really know how it happened but you think somehow *deep breath* you might have fallen out of love with blogging.

Suddenly the thought of creating yet another clever, creative blog on a certain theme now fills you with dread and right now you’d happily watch paint dry if it meant you didn’t have to write yet another blog.

Sound familiar? Don’t panic! We’ve all been there – in fact, if I’m perfectly honest, I was there last week – the point where you just feel well and truly burnt out with blogging.

Symptoms of blogging burn-out syndrome can include a lack of inspiration, having to rewrite an article at least five times before you’re happy with it and shamelessly nicking bits from other people’s blogs because you can’t for the life of you think of any new ideas.

As a fellow writer, I know how horrible blogging burn-out can be and I know it can feel like the end of the world but the important thing to remember is that it won’t last forever!

And if we’re being honest, it was only a matter of time before you were struck down! Think about it; you’ve been churning out great content upon great content for ages now so, just like your otherwise healthy body picks up colds from time to time, it makes sense that your creative juices and amazing ability to write epic blogs and copy in general can’t always be on its A Game 365 days a year.

Think you can protect yourself from this dreaded affliction? Forget it! Blogging burn-out is notorious for striking at the worst possible time and no blogger is safe so you need to always be on your guard!

Convinced you’re suffering from a nasty case of blogging burn-out? Here are my top tips for getting through it.

1. Don’t Panic: Like I said earlier, writer’s block doesn’t last forever so there’s no need to panic and start looking for a new job.

2. Give It Time: The best cure for blogging burn-out? Time and patience! The worst thing you could do is rush it and try and force a recovery! Your brain’s trying to tell you it needs a break so don’t try and deny it one. Seriously, just take a bit of time out and put blogging to the back of your mind.

3. Find A New Approach: Once you’ve taken some time out, it’s time to attempt to get over your case of blogging burn-out and the best way to do that is to try a new approach.

Think about it; what you’ve been doing might have worked well for the last couple of months/years but it’s obviously not working now. Take a step back from your blog to work out what type of posts work well and what posts get the best response and try and bear these in mind when crafting your new blog strategy.

4. Fall In Love With Blogging All Over Again: Okay, so you didn’t fall out of love in the first place but something went wrong somewhere so it’s time to rediscover your passion for blogging all over again.

Read up on your favourite blogs, have a look at what your competitors are doing and try and work out what posts you most enjoy and why – chances are if you enjoy them, other people do too! Remember what it is that attracted you to blogging in the first place and try and keep this in mind when blogging in the future.

Just like any other affliction, when it comes to blogging burn-out, your body needs a total reset and your mind just needs a bit of a rest! Remember, you’re great at blogging (that’s why you’ve been doing it for months/years) so try not to beat yourself up when you have the odd bad day or week.

With a bit of time, patience and enthusiasm you’ll be able to beat the infamous blogging burn-out syndrome and you’ll be back to your brilliant blogging self in next to no time!

You Wrote What?: Are Having Guest Bloggers Worth The Risk?

Since Penguin 1.0 first exploded onto the scene last April, I think it’s fair to say that guest blogging has become the link building method of choice for many SEOs and online marketers in the industry. The process of creating (what should be unique) content and posting it on other people’s blog, guest blogging has two major benefits for any site; it helps to drive valuable traffic to the site and it also helps to up the number of links (and unique IP addresses) feeding back into the site.

Now, in the early days of guest blogging (which incidentally hark back to pre-Penguin times), everything was great. Only a small number of blogs in any one niche accepted guest posts which meant quality was always the focus and securing a guest post on such a blog for a site was seen as a major win for SEOs and link builders alike.

Penguin Changes The Game

These days, that’s not the case. Thanks to that nasty Penguin stamping down on every other old-school link building technique, guest blogging quickly became the favourite link building method and as a result, lots of sites opened their blogs up to guest bloggers in an attempt to cash in – in some cases quite literally!

The problem? Quality went out the window – and so did the hard work that went with it! Suddenly guest bloggers were popping up all over the place on the most random blogs you could imagine – and securing a guest blog was now no longer considered a major win but a part of everyday life.

Of course, with any new link building technique, the question of how risky and viable guest blogging was as a technique quickly arose and, while many ‘experts’ threw their two cents into the debate, a month on from the release of Penguin 2.0, we’re still no closer to a real definitive answer.

Matt Cutts Speaks Out

Google’s opinion? Well, thanks to their new ‘open and honest’ policy, Matt Cutts actually waded in to the debate and released not just one but two videos on the subject last year. I’ve embedded them both below (if you can’t see them, you may want to refresh this page) but if you don’t have time/can’t be bothered to watch them, I’ll fill you in.

As you can imagine, there’s no clear-cut answer here. In the videos, Matt says that when it comes to guest blogging, it all depends on the site and the writer. If the writer is of a high quality, is an expert and has a clear message that they want to put out, guest blogging is definitely a viable option because it allows them to bring their expertise to another platform and reach a new audience.

He goes on to say that it’s when guest blogging is taken “to the extreme” that it starts to become an issue. He says that Google are “less likely to want to count” links from guest blogs that are of low quality (spun articles, same blog appearing on multiple sites), while they’re more likely to “want to count links” that have come from more high quality articles where it’s obvious a lot of work has gone into it.

In the second video, Matt pretty much clarifies what he said in the first video and also goes on to say that Google will take action if they come across instances of low quality guest blogging (spun articles etc). He says you should “be cautious” if you’re using guest blogging as “a primary link acquisition strategy” and you should be wary of sites that let anyone post. Finally, he says that you should think about whether the site you’re planning to guest blog on would make the end-user happy because if it wouldn’t, that’s the type of site they’re most likely to take action against.

The Bubble View

I’ve written about guest blogging before on this blog and taken you through how some sites are now starting to charge for guest blogging, the top mistakes people make when offering up guest posts and the Dos and Don’ts of guest blogging but I’ve never really talked about whether I think it’s worth the risk before because, as you can see from the contents of this blog, it’s a bit of a tricky subject – and in a way, I agree with everyone who tweeted in.

Yes, just like every other well known link building technique out there, guest blogging as a technique is being massively exploited and taken to the extreme right now – but I definitely don’t think that means you can rule it out as a link building or traffic driving technique as a whole.

When it comes to the risk-factor, at the end of the day, I think it all comes down to specifics. Remember how it’s all about quality over quantity when it comes to link building these days? The same goes for guest blogging. Don’t just post on every site that lets you – in fact, I’d say don’t go for any site that just accepts posts from anyone and everyone. Take your time. Be picky. Look for the best sites and make those your target. Think about the sites that have the biggest audience, are the most powerful in your niche and which site’s audience would benefit most from your content – yes, it’s great that you’ll get a link but you also want to drive traffic and raise your profile.

Just like any other link building technique, guest blogging does have its risk but I think if you’re careful, approach it responsibly and always think about how useful the link would be for the visitor before you post, you won’t have that much to worry about when the next Penguin, Zebra or Skunk (hey, I’m going with the black and white theme here!) update rolls around!

No Blog Section?: Why Your Website Is Missing Huge Traffic Leads

Blog posts serve many purposes for a business or organization. They provide current and prospective clients or customers with information that can assist with their decision making. It’s an avenue to share some brand personality and showcase specific employees within the organization, allowing target audience members to feel more “connected”.

From an SEO perspective, blog posts provide an additional opportunity to target keywords, specifically long tail keyword variations that will generate traffic from the search engines. Blog posts are also an integral part of a social media campaign. Sharing blog posts in social media helps to keep the account active and stimulates social activity which is tied back into the search algorithm.

Of course all of this is great and serves the purpose of gaining the attention of both the search engines and target audience members, but ultimately what do you want a visitor to your blog (and website) to do? You want them to take some sort of action! A business website should be a lead generation tool, and every blog post that you write and publish should assist in that effort. Getting traffic to your site that reads your blog posts is beneficial, but getting a blog reader to take that additional step is really the prize that you are searching for.

One of our tips for business bloggers is to write blog posts that are purely informational, as opposed to promotional. What does that mean? Well, it means writing a post that provides target audience members with information that they are looking for or answering questions that they have without mentioning your services or products specifically. It’s an indirect way to sell yourself. You aren’t making a sales pitch directly, but by showcasing your knowledge and expertise in a specific industry you will be thought of as a trusted resource and therefore more likely to make a sale when the time is right.

So how do you write blog posts that are lead generation tools if they aren’t promoting what you sell? The key is to make the most of the web page real estate that surrounds your blog post. The first item to include is a call to action somewhere on the blog post page. It shouldn’t take away from the blog post content, but it should be there. It could be a button that says “Click here to learn more about our services” or “Call 555-4321 to speak with our sales team”.

Different websites have different site conversion goals. If you want a website visitor to download a recent whitepaper, include a call to action like “Like this blog post? Download our whitepaper to learn more”. If you have a form on your site for a visitor to contact you or to sign up for your newsletter, it should be on every page of the site including on every blog post page.

Whatever action you want someone to take when they land on your site, be sure to point it out to them! No need to by shy about it. Don’t assume that people will click around your website to figure out a way to get in touch. Have the information right there. If you have a great writing team and are actively posting and sharing content in social media, it’s likely that it’s your blog post pages that are going to be getting the most attention. Make the most of these pages by turning blog posts into lead generation tools.