Imagination Brings New Reality to Disney World Experience

When the new Walt Disney World opened in Florida in the 1970’s, it offered a new and creative way to make  waiting in line a better and more tolerable experience for visitors.  The once familiar long lines that ran for hundreds of feet around the corner and away from the attraction were replaced by lines that moved back and forth, under protective cover from the elements and never extending out of sight of the popular attraction.

Carefully channeled visitors were able to visit and converse with other “waiters” as they meandered towards their turn to have fun.  Strategically placed, “Time Remaining” signs kept line pedestrians apprised of the amount of wait estimated to be left, before their “turn” to participate in the fun, appeared to appease the usual impatience commonly witnessed in more traditional waits; it was so successful that waiting in line nearly became fashionable.  For decades little has changed and Disney visitors were left to create their own strategies and tactics to shorten the misery of waiting in line to their favorite attractions.

Now Disney is envisioning a theme park where lines for rides and cash for treats are unnecessary things of the past.  The new technology of smart phones and more options for paying for purchases is providing an revolutionary way of shortening waiting times and paying for “on the run” amenities and purchases.  Worn on park visitor’s wrist, the envisioned, “MyMagic +, bracelet will change the way park enthusiast experience the world’s busiest theme park.

The device will keep track of itinerary, alert guests when their favorite rides are ready, without standing in line, and allow them to pay for Mouse Ears and other merchandise without their wallets. The band keeps credit card information using NextGen technology and the bands will also serve as the guest’s admission ticket.  Photo identification cards will double as room keys for those staying in Disney hotels and resorts and all the data will be secured with full encryption.  A new innovation, dubbed “My Disney Experience,” will allow guests to plan and keep track of their entire stay at the parks.  The family orientated theme parks have long been recognized for their creative leadership in developing imagination into reality entertainment.

The Disney’s Imagineers, famous for using the latest technology to give life and motion to still animation and robotics, are now poised to apply the latest advances in communication and mobile technology to enhance the motions of real life.  Disney is expected to roll out the new wristbands sometime this year, first to guests staying at the parks and then to everyone.  What’s next for Disney…Will Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck send personalized message through the wristband? It really has become the Magic Kingdom.

Are You Staying Ahead of Trend with Your Marketing Strategy?

With the ever changing field of digital technology and the ever increasingly savvy consumer, it is imperative that marketers stay focused on what techniques are working best and what strategies are showing signs of decay and obsolescence.  In a 2012 article in iMedia Connection, author Kent Lewis outlined seven strategies that were passé and obsolete.  For 2013 he has added 9 nine more strategies that are quickly falling out of favor.  While most will continue to be used well into the year and beyond, it is predicted that all will fall short of meeting the category of best practices for the year.

Quick Response Codes

Leading the way towards obsolescence is Quick Response Codes, or QR Codes. The invention of founder Garrett Gee, in the beginning QR codes quickly found their way onto stationary, print advertising, giveaways, brochures, vehicles and marketing collateral of all shapes, sizes, and colors but recently have earned a reputation for being a flawed technology. Miss-use and saturation is leading consumers to ignore the square label with the squiggly lines and patterns.  More importantly, newer technologies may offer better solutions in 2013.

Keyword SEO

As Google matures, they are relying less on keyword placements and more on content, requiring marketers to spend more time and effort on content and contextual analysis.  With the trend towards searches being encrypted with HTTPS, it has caused a 171 percent increase in “not provided” results in keyword data.

Content for Content’s Sake

Creating interesting and compelling content is challenging and can be expensive but is essential to effective content marketing.  Content subject matter, poor writing and missing the message can damage a company’s brand and confuse the targeted audience.  Marketers in the coming year must focus on having something interesting and compelling to say and move towards quality over quantity.

Retargeting

Remarketing is a technique that permits you to follow visitors to your website via a third-party website. The practice of using standardized ads is creating confusion and is missing the intended customer or market segment altogether.  Marketers should consider segmenting audiences, create personalized ads, and use frequency capping.

Avid Landing Page Testing

Not maximizing conversions through consistent landing page testing program is quickly dying out as a trend.  In a digital world, a lack of ability to convert website visitors into customers can crush a business. Rather than invest in driving more traffic to a website, money is better spent maximizing the value of existing visitors through conversion optimization.  In 2013, companies are leveraging intuitive and affordable landing page and conversion optimization platforms, like LiveBall, to refine page design and messaging in an effort to maximize conversions.

Ignoring Personalization

Marketers in the coming year must target website visitors in real-time with personalized messaging or offers based on behavior and demographic data. The increased availability of GPS location mobile applications is changing the dynamics of timely messaging.  Using the same website content or messaging as a one-size-fits-all solution for a diverse audience is fast becoming an ineffective strategy.

Underestimating the Power of Video

Research shows internet users are conducting informational searches in YouTube, providing an opportunity for effective strategies that utilize creative audio and video presentations that offer greater message retention and better recall from consumers.  Video and audio, once expensive and thought to be unreliable, is proving to be the next creative frontier for attracting complacent and bored consumers.

Faking Reviews

Customer reviews are the number one influencer for making a purchase, but creating false reviews may result in costly penalties to companies who try to trick the system.  Consumers are getting smarter about sniffing out fake or paid reviews and such dishonest strategies risk turning consumers off and pushing them away. Honesty is the best policy and will be rewarded with customer loyalty.

Making Decisions Based on Wrong Metrics

The most common mistake marketers make in regard to social media measurement is relying on absolute numbers instead of relative ratios.  According to Kent Lewis, “The most important metrics are relative: engagement or conversions as a percentage of total “likes,” followers, or fans. Maintaining or improving the ratio will result in a more informed social strategy.”

Effective digital strategies are as fickle and fleeting as today’s sophisticated consumers.  Staying on top of the changing technology and utilizing the many innovative digital marketing tools will be essential to forming tomorrow’s creative and successful strategies.

A Strategy of Assured Destruction

How is it that the vast majority advances in technology, cutting edge products and innovative concepts and designs are born, not from the giants or current industry leaders, but rather from outsiders, the bystanders of the great industries, who have neither the resources nor the obvious capability to make great advancements in technology, product develop or revolutionary marketing advancements.

The once great industry leader Kodak was built on a culture of innovation and change.  It’s the type of culture that’s full of passionate innovators, already naturally in tune to the urgency surrounding changes in the market and technology, the kind of people that keep a company on the cutting edge of innovation and change, developing one new remarkable success after another and always keeping the door of opportunity tightly locked against the competitors entry.  If anyone was destined to become the master of digital imagery, it was Kodak, but of course it was not.

Some look to poor strategy for the failure of Kodak, but others to manager complacency, or the arrogance of entitlement.  The organizations leadership shifted the focus from creating new innovating opportunities to establishing an achievable financial benchmark as the desired organizational target, thus transferring the organizations objective from the innovations to calculations.

Geoffrey Moore, author of Escape Velocity: Free Your Company’s Future from the Pull of the Past, speaks of the phenomena in this way, “In large enterprises typically the annual planning process begins with the CFO circulating last year’s plan, circling the numbers in Q4, with the suggestion that managers multiply these by 4 to get a revenue target for next year, and then put together a plan to reach that number.  By so doing management teams confer an entitlement upon existing lines of business to get “first dibs” at all the scarce resources.  By the time the new business opportunities get to the table, the pickings are slim, and the critical resources for developing new markets are gone entirely.  This makes the enterprise captive to its past, and is at the core of established enterprises’ recurrent failures to achieve breakout growth, even when next-generation categories are booming all around them.

As new technologies threaten to disrupt a company’s traditional product and its market position, the strategy must shift form maintaining the status quo and preserving the time tested products to one of reinventing the company and embracing the new threatening technology.  According to Mr. Moore, there are three “pivot points” to the new strategy; Technology, where the company divests itself of the traditional product and wholly embraces the new technology; pivoting on the customer by maintaining their business and brand relationship while changing to the new product technology, or altering  their management expertise entirely and embark on a new course all together.

According to Geoffrey Moore, “What you cannot do is to stand pat”, the tendency of many iconic companies, resulting in a strategy of assured destruction.

Junction Lends Agency Perspective to Financial Marketers’ Events Featuring Industry Leaders

The Journal of Financial Advertising and Marketing (JFAM) hosted back to back events in its JFAM:Live! series of financial marketer’s conferences in New York City, attracting leaders from the world’s largest financial brands to engage in sharing ideas and insights about their marketing efforts in 2013.

Bill Wreaks, CEO of The Gramercy Institute, publishers of JFAM, led attendees through the two day’s events; first a private reception at Le Cirque on the evening of March 13th featuring a panel discussion on building strategic connections with customers in the financial services industry, followed by a half-day conference at Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ US headquarters during which 5 addition panels addressed best practices for implementing a variety of new marketing technologies and techniques.

The day was focused on ‘Transformative Marketing,’ a major trend suggested and reinforced by the findings of a extensive study conducted by the Gramercy Institute, which was first reported earlier this year at the JFAM:FORUM-NYC event.

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) CEO Julie Gareleck represented her firm on a panel focused on crafting better customer experiences. She joined SVPs and Marketing Directors from major financial firms including TD Ameritrade, Citi, Prudential, and PWC, adding an agency’s unique perspective to the conversation about customer needs and wants. “Consumer trust in big bank brands hasn’t yet been completely restored, but has vastly improved since the significant damage of the economic downturn,” said Gareleck. “Financial brands must prioritize initiatives geared towards first rebuilding this trust, such as delivering honesty along with tangible rewards and benefits; these are crucial steps towards making marketing communications more effective in the aftermath of this difficult period.”

“Junction is extremely pleased to joining in an open dialogue about how to maximize the impact of these large financial brands while being mindful of available resources and delicate reputations,” added Gareleck. “We have learned a great deal from the influential individuals sharing the stage, and it is our hope that sharing our philosophy of adopting the ‘big idea’ only if it is the ‘right idea’ helps them take away a better understanding of marketing that is plugged-in and powerful.”

Read more about Junction’s involvement with JFAM at www.junction-creative.com.

Duane Reade: Not The Neighborhood Drug Store Anymore

For those who remember the traditional drug stores from the 1960’s, the new Duane Reade Drug Store, located at 40 Wall Street in New York City, has to be quite a shock to your traditional concept of a place where you can get your  prescription  filled or purchase some favorite toiletries and tooth paste. It has been a long time since the soda fountain was a staple in neighborhood drug stores.  For decades now it has been common to find pharmaceuticals sharing the spot light and shelf space with everything from personal care items to candy, cards and carry home snacks and beverages. The new Duane Reade in New York City stretches the concept beyond what any of us could have expected from the practiced, tired and well established drug retailers of the last four decades.

The new Manhattan Reade’s, which replaces the World Trade Center store destroyed on September 11, 2001, encompasses 22,000 square feet of space and is the 254th store under the Duane Reade flag. Duane Reade president Joe Magnacca said, “This is our learning store,” and in anticipation of its reopening “it was the right time to come home”.

The new store features innovations like; “Find Your Look,” a computer that takes your photo, lets you scan in makeup items, then retouches your photo to show how you would look in those products; an in-store salon offering blowouts for $35 to $45 dollars (an unthinkably low price for pricey Manhattan); a juice bar where employees whip up made-to-order $4.99 smoothies; a Coca-Cola machine that dispenses 130 drinks at the touch of a computer screen and refrigerated cases filled with New York-centric foods like pastrami from the Carnegie Deli, Zabar sandwiches and glass-bottled Ronnybrook milk.

If that is not enough to challenge your apothecary shopping expectations, how about Justin and Steven Song, Duane Reade’s resident Sushi Chiefs who will whip up fresh offerings  while you wait for the professional pharmacy staff to  fill your prescription or give you a Flu shot. The new sushi bar will be staffed by two sushi chefs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. They’ll hand-make sushi to order, including spicy tuna rolls or salmon avocado rolls for $6.99.

Walgreens completed its deal to acquire 257 Duane Reade stores in the metro New York area and the acquisition is credited with adding 3% to the rise in Walgreens revenues in the first month, and helped boost overall sales, which cashed in at $5.7 billion. The Duane Reade New York City stores are anything BUT your average neighborhood Walgreen’s, but Joe Magnacca still  looks forward to the opportunity to share some of the more successful concepts of his new store with other Walgreen’s and Duane Reade locations.

The message the new store at 40 Wall Street is sending to the marketing world is “Up Market”, and while this location is unique, even to the extreme, the company is forging a strategy that will allow the chain to become more geared toward specific neighborhoods and focused on connecting more effectively with its customers. If you are in NYC, it’s worth a visit!

Junction CEO To Speak on Creating Better Customer Experiences on Panel at Two-Part Financial Marketers’ Conference

This week, Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) CEO Julie Gareleck is slated to represent her firm at two important financial marketing industry events in New York City. The Journal of Financial Advertising and Marketing (JFAM) is presenting back-to-back days encouraging the top minds in strategic financial media to share best practices and promote thought leadership.

First gathering at the legendary Le Cirque for a private reception on the evening of March 13th, a panel of senior marketers from influential brands including Vanguard, TD Ameritrade, Citi, and PIMCO will discuss Strategic Customer Connections in Financial Services. Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Social and Corporate Board Member of Starbucks, will be on hand to deliver keynote remarks.

Next, on the morning of March 14th, the tenth annual JFAM Live! Financial Marketer’s Conference will bring together leaders from across the financial services marketing industry as The Gramercy Institute, publisher of JFAM, presents findings from an extensive study on ‘Transformative Marketing,’ a significant trend for 2013. The research includes insights culled from a detailed survey and interviews with high-ranking marketers from the world’s leading financial brands.

Featured during this event will be 5 panel discussions covering subjects related to the findings of the Institute’s research. Gareleck will join other experts, including representatives from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Prudential, to talk about crafting customer experiences that strategically speak for the brand in ways compatible with marketing messages. Other panels will tackle topics including internal marketing strategies leveraging employees, the role of innovation and new tools in financial services marketing, and the importance of company culture as financial brands rebuild their reputations.

“These two events will bring together some of the most progressive, plugged-in minds in the financial services marketing world to take a good look at the state of the industry,” says Gareleck. “Continuing this conversation is a key component of knowing where we stand as marketers, and where we should be going next. I am very much looking forward to sharing the stage with some of the industry’s sharpest minds to contribute Junction’s philosophies on how to get more out of marketing in 2013.

Registration for the events is still open. More information about Junction is available at www.junction-creative.com.

BYOD – Power to the People

In recent years, companies have been effectively mobilizing clients and colleagues to participate in the marketing conversation. Through this kind of ambassadorship, businesses are more effectively spreading B2B brand messages via various peer-to-peer (P2P) techniques.

Because of this trend, as mobile continues to explode, it has been reinvigorating B2B efforts, with more of these brand-carrying employees working off of their own laptops, smartphones, and tablets thanks to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement. With BYOD practices, employees are allowed or even encouraged to bring personally-owned mobile devices to the workplace and use them to access privileged company information. Aside from some risks related to data security, BYOD has been lauded for making workers comfortable with the devices they are spending the most time with, translating to happier and more productive employees.

As devices continue to become more capable and more readily available, members of the workforce are better connected than ever before. Now, B2B marketers are finding ways to make this new level of mobility even smarter.

BYOD is one of many results of the consumerization of IT, in which consumer preferences are driving the adoption of new technologies instead of corporate interests. International advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather reported that executives perform more mobile searches from personal devices today than they did from company computers a year ago. The same report suggested that the BYOD movement has enabled B2B mobile in-app advertising to engage its audience as well as the highest profile B2C advertising categories, like retail or automotive. These preferences and user behaviors are precisely the activity that B2B marketers have been after in the years since employees emerged as more powerful brand assets; getting through to a brand’s people is vital, and it is becoming easier to build those connections.

BYOD has become prominent enough that entire mobile strategies have been redesigned to fit the requirements of having more personalized technology in the hands of workers. Messages and applications must be tailored appropriately.  By delivering dynamic, interactive content to prospects, the experience shifts from ‘presenting the information’ to having a real conversation. The individuals, not the enterprise, have become the final decision makers.

Junction Creative Solutions Unveils Brand Refresh

Atlanta-based strategic agency Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) unveils a refreshed brand, reflecting its new creative direction. Junction was motivated to enhance its brand look to showcase the breadth of capabilities and experience of the agency.

“The Junction brand has certainly matured since we started in 2009,” says Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, Junction. “We recognize the importance of using creative to tell our story. As a hybrid agency truly focused on business strategy and creative execution, it’s difficult to articulate both sides effectively.”

The enhancements and new features included in the new website include easier site navigation with a clean, user-friendly design aesthetic, a more robust portfolio containing creative examples and detailed client case studies, expanded biographical profiles of company leadership and key account team members, and a redesigned multimedia newsroom featuring current and past company news, publications, and video highlights.

Junction’s company blog, Strategy. Impact. Results. also received an facelift in order to carry the updated brand experience across multiple platforms. As always, readers will find frequently updated insights and commentary on topics related to business, brand, marketing, advertising, strategy, and technology.

“In this vastly competitive industry, we stay true to our own philosophies – we ‘drink our own Kool-Aid,’ so to speak. We want our brand to reflect the very best that it can so that our clients can trust in our abilities to deliver amazing solutions for them,” comments Gareleck.

The new website is live and viewable at www.junction-creative.com.

Drawing the Lines on Graph

After a few short months of anticipation since its initial announcement, the live rollout of Facebook’s new Graph Search is now just on the horizon. Billed as the latest in a long line of ‘next big things’ that rarely make too big a splash, Graph Search is actually generating quite a bit of actual buzz. The reason is simple: it is the first concept to have a real chance at disrupting the deep-seated user behaviors engrained from using traditional search engines for the past 15+ years.

The idea is basic enough; presenting search results about people and activity in a visual style, and personalizing findings to a user’s own network to bring up more relevant information. Although Google, Yahoo!, and Bing certainly aren’t too difficult to operate, this style of search also comes off as a bit more intuitive, accepting criteria based on speech and the way a social citizen, not a programmer might think (you don’t need an advanced degree in Boolean logic to get more precise, localized results).

There are the requisite concerns over issues of privacy – some worry that companies are trying to explicitly monetize Facebook users and collect their personal data. But Graph results are restricted by user sharing preferences, allowing social networkers to control this information to some degree. When it goes live, many users will play around with Graph, but the platform will likely only be utilized by a certain segment of the overall FB population; one that includes a plethora of brands.

Because of this, far more important to note is the way that Graph may flip current SEO and SEM practices on their respective heads. A study by IT firm Mainstay Salire found that on average, local Facebook pages receive five times more marketing reach and as much as eight times more ‘engagement’ per fan than corporate brand pages. Graph is positioned to potentially make these numbers even greater. What brands wouldn’t want to build a more localized, more focused fan base?

Although comparable in practice, Graph must be viewed as an entirely different channel for businesses than typical search engines, requiring its own strategy if it is to be implemented effectively. Even the key metrics are different – ‘likes’ actually become more important, and goals should move away from linkbuilding and traffic in favor of building the kind social capital that has been revealed as the real driver in social media marketing.

Search can be a way of discovering customers’ intentions, but the assumption that users will adopt Graph as their search engine of choice, if at all, remains untested. Although the network is large, even immense, the quality of content found is really the most important factor for search engines, and the big 3 have that market fairly well covered. What if the launch of Graph simply puts more users off than it turns on? Facebook’s business could be taking another step in the wrong direction.

Facebook has had both great successes and more than its share of missteps in the past. Graph is emerging as the next big gamble – whether it lifts the social network to new heights of personal and brand engagement or acts as the straw that breaks the camel’s back for users is up in the air.