The cool thing to do this month (I hear) is “aught” lists, year-end wrap-ups, lists of lists, and lists of lists of lists. In the spirit of jumping on the bandwagon, here’s a quick round-up of the retrospectives and perspectives that can help you remember the last few years and think more about connecting with customers and doing business smarter in the New Year:
And if you just can’t get enough of the list craze, Jason Kottke’s Noughtie List should give you enough reading-material to fill your time until next year’s wind-up lists roll around.
Company, Marketing Musings
It’s the holiday season and we’re giving you a sneak peek into all of the goings-on at Projectline! Have a happy holiday season and great new year. We’ll look forward to hearing from you in 2010.
A visit to Accenture’s website these days is a disorienting experience. The venerable consulting powerhouse has always been a paragon of disciplined branding, but their current web presence is quite obviously in the midst of a rapid overhaul. I’m sure Accenture’s web team had a hurried holiday as they rushed to erase Tiger Woods’ ubiquitous presence from—well, everything.
Suddenly, the images of Woods golfing have been replaced with non sequitur speed-skaters, birds, stock-photo people, or (in one particularly awkward instance) an empty golf course. If I’m recalling correctly, the entire color scheme has also been changed, and the previously cohesive site is generally a little cobbled-together. It doesn’t look awful, and I’m sure it’ll be holistically redesigned and revamped soon, but the contrast with the old site does raise some questions about the dangers of hitching your brand to a star—and what to do when that star falls.
Accenture used Woods so heavily that its public brand became nearly synonymous with his. I can understand why; golf was a perfect extended metaphor for Accenture’s work. The balance of skill, deliberation, data, perspective, and equipment needed to succeed at golf made sense for consulting, staffing, and technology services. Plus, golf has always been shorthand for business leisure. It was a good fit.
But the pairing of Tiger Woods and Accenture had very little to do with his marriage or character. It was about his skill, precision, reliability, and golf’s aesthetic appeal. Was it strictly necessary for them to drop him when he was disgraced? I’m not sure. Here’s what I think their options were:
- Freak out, take down the website, and refuse to answer questions. To their credit, they didn’t attempt this, though I’m sure it was tempting for the first few days.
- Decide to rapidly, deliberately distance themselves from the disgraced golfer. They answered questions clearly and briefly and began the process of overhauling all imagery in advertising materials.
- Ride out the several weeks of media maelstrom with a clear message about the private/professional division. This would have been hard (and gutsy), but given how rapidly the hubbub seems to have settled, it’s possible it could have worked.
What do you think? Did they handle it the only way possible? Where will they go next with the brand? How can brands avoid the pitfalls of star-bound branding?
Community, Marketing Musings
Last week marked the completion of Projectline’s holiday drive. We filled a 14 ft. U-haul (three times) and my car (twice) to fulfill the holiday wishes of 67 women and children receiving aid from New Traditions, a chemical dependency treatment center. We donated so many new and used items that we were able to adopt additional individuals that weren’t on our shopping list.
From bicycles and playpens to much-needed sheets, socks, and dishes, we donated over $12,000 in new gifts, used goods, and cash.
On a personal note…last week, as I was dropping off a truck full of donations, I came across a young woman (probably under 18 years old) crying as she filled out her intake forms to start treatment. Without New Traditions, this girl would have nowhere to turn when she needed help. I’m very proud of Projectline and our outpouring of support for New Traditions. This facility is less than 8 miles from Projectline headquarters and gives women and children a better chance at living a healthy, drug free, and productive life. Projectline’s support of the families receiving treatment at New Traditions has been a heartwarming demonstration of Projectline’s commitment to making a positive impact in our community.
I’ve been watching Dustin Curtis’s dust-up with American Airlines since his original post in May, so I was certainly interested to read last month that American Airlines had fired the employee (“Mr. X”) who wrote to explain the design process and complications behind AmericanAirlines.com.
The responses have been unusually split, with some claiming the incident is about bad customer engagement and others claiming it’s about bad self-promotion. Both arguments have been made well (I especially like this take on it), so instead of rehashing them, I took the opportunity to chat with Projectline consultant and user experience expert John Shields about why Dustin Curtis and American Airlines seem to have missed each others’ points. Here’s what I asked and what I learned:
Seems there’s a huge gap between a single person designing an ideal homepage and the day-to-day functioning of a large-scale corporate web presence. What are the biggest contributors to that gap?
- First off, there are often several teams that need to be involved: tech, marketing, legal, and sales—at the very least. They all have different priorities and strengths, so with all that help a website can wind up looking like Frankenstein’s monster. But, at the enterprise level, none of them are optional. You can’t just throw them out in favor of an ideal design because the stakes are too high and their contributions are often vital.
- In an established organization, you’re never starting from scratch. You can’t. There are old databases, old content, and old workflows. Each is there for a reason. In order to move from a site bound by the old processes to a site that looks and feels fresh, you need a business analyst to make sense of why the old systems are there and where they can afford to change.
- A large website isn’t a one-time thing; it’s a process. Throwing up a new design or a new feature is all well and good, but the ongoing maintenance and support is where the real work gets done. Without a web team (or at least a person) to be the gatekeeper, even the prettiest minimalist design will be a hodgepodge in no time.
- User experience means a lot beyond the homepage. In a large company, maintaining a smooth user experience depends completely on having someone (or several someones) willing and empowered to fight for the customer’s needs.
Wow. Sounds hard. How does anyone do all that?
It’s mostly a matter of two things: a design vision and a business unit that can drive it. A dream-design is a great thing to have, but you have to be able to take that to other stakeholders and work towards a compromise that works for them. To keep things under control and sustain that vision, you need a team in charge of the website in the long term—it might be an internal team, an embedded program manager, an external web team, or some combination, but they have to be empowered to keep putting the customer first and serve as gatekeepers for all the other stuff that tends to wander into websites and muck them up. With that in place, it’s pretty phenomenal the kind of difference you can see in usability, customer responses, and revenue. It might be tough, but it’s worth it.
Company, Marketing Musings
In 90 seconds (or maybe a few more) Brooke gives you a quick recap on everything that Projectline has to offer, with a fun little song to boot.
Marketing Musings, News
Last year around this time, Projectline noticed Toys for Tots was in trouble and pitched in to improve the holiday for a whole lot of kids. We’ve hit the holiday season with big plans again this year. Our holiday charity campaign this year is a little more serious, but no less important; we’ve decided to help out local treatment center New Traditions by meeting its participants’ needs—and hopefully a few wants—this holiday.
What is New Traditions?
New Traditions is a chemical dependency treatment center for women and their families. The program aims to sidestep some of the common roadblocks to recovery for addicted mothers “by providing…on-site childcare and a multi-layered support network.”
How is Projectline Pitching In?
Projectline made a commitment to sponsor 67 people’s holiday wishes by donating everything from baby bottles to kitchen appliances. In all, we’re hoping to donate over $10,000 in new and used items to the families receiving treatment from New Traditions.
On December 15th and 16th, Projectliners will be renting a U-Haul and driving around the Seattle area to pick up large used items for donation. If you would like to sponsor an individual, a family, or donate used items to New Traditions, please contact email@example.com.
Projectline, in true holiday spirit, has committed to matching all donations.