Creating and Measuring Communication, Effectively

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

We’re constantly looking for innovative ways translate data and information into interesting visualizations for our clients. There are many ways to accomplish this by using bar charts, gauges and graphs, but but I’ve recently found word clouds to be incredibly useful for analyzing text.

Wordle.net provides text-based visualizations, using content pasted from articles, blogs, questions from surveys and more, making the top, most prominently used words in the text the largest in the cloud.

For fun, I entered the URL of our blog into Wordle.

Wordle Word Cloud

The prominent words were: interesting, experience, customer, approach, OrangeBoy, work, time, meetings, process, and so on—all of which explain our mission to help our clients become customer-centric organizations.

This exercise was a reminder about branding and creating effective messaging. It was also a lesson in content analytics.

  • Messaging should align with your target audience, as well as your organization’s mission, brand and personality. I was relieved to know that this was the case with our blog. However, it’s not uncommon to see misalignment. Often I hear clients say, I want our customers to know about XYZ, but it doesn’t align with customers’ needs or their behavior. Communication should relate to the core of what you do as an organization while meeting the needs of your customers. A good example is a library sending targeted email messages about early literacy programs to parents with small children who use the library.
  • Use multiple visualizations to tell the whole story. The blog publisher WordPress has a dashboard tool that displays visitation statistics, views, clicks, and popular pages and topics. Amidst all of this “raw” usage data, there are no metrics to describe the blog’s personality or common message themes. The word cloud helped uncover that. By using Wordle, I was able to visualize the messages we send to our readers and understand commonly used words that describe our blog’s personality as it relates to our brand. In other words, multiple data visualizations resulted in a well-rounded story about messaging and its impact on behavior.

I encourage you to think about your messages and use analytics in a similar way. The next time you craft a message to your customers think about how it aligns with their needs and your organization’s brand and mission. Then, consider the best way to measure the impact of that message, effectively.

OrangeBoy works with organizations to uncover valuable insights about customers and the markets they serve. Insights lead to innovative solutions. OrangeBoy helps clients create personalized customer experiences and communications to achieve measurable results. 

Here I Am… Rock You Like A Hurricane

By: Sandy Swanson

The 80s song by the Scorpions says it best. Hurricane Sandy rocked our worlds this week with a little bit of everything—wind, rain, snow, fire, floods, and massive power outages.

Last week when weather experts were predicting this ‘perfect storm,’ a late season hurricane mixed with a good old-fashioned nor’easter, I found out the name was mine: Sandy.

I must admit, I was somewhat excited. After all, who doesn’t yearn for the spotlight at some point? My 15 minutes of fame were to share a name with this super storm, also dubbed “Frankenstorm” because of its timing with Halloween. Quickly, however, my excitement turned to dread as events unfolded. Headline after headline highlighted the hurricane’s wrath: Sandy Shuts Down NYC Subway, Sandy to Cost Billions, and Sandy Causes 108 Storm-Related Deaths.

(Photo: NOAA)

Every time I would hear one of these stories, it would catch me off-guard. Seeing and hearing my name associated with such devastation made me appreciate the value of names.

I remember in the early 1990s, I worked with a woman who had the misfortune of sharing a name with a newsmaker. Do you remember Joey Buttafuoco and his girlfriend Amy Fisher? Fisher shot Joey’s wife in the face in the midst of an affair with Buttafuoco and resulting scandal. My colleague’s name was Amy Fischer. The last name was spelled differently, but it didn’t matter. I could hear her repeatedly answer, “No, I don’t know where Joey is!” to people over the phone and in person. To them, it was funny, but for her it was a nightmare.*

Sometimes the shoe is on the other foot and we desire to be associated with a famous name. I had a recent conversation with a fellow team member whose mother named her after a 80s sitcom star. I also recently read that celebrities Beyonce and Jay-Z made an unsuccessful attempt to trademark their daughter’s name (Blue Ivy) to avoid derogatory use.

Hurricane Sandy is a good reminder that names (whether personal, company, or product) are important. They are our identities, our brand, and help differentiate us from others. To the best of our abilities, we have to protect them. Certainly, there was nothing I could do to prevent sharing my name with Hurricane Sandy. So, guess I will take my place in history and wait for next season’s hurricane to give someone else the limelight. In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to set up a Google Alert to monitor your name. You never know how might be used.

Share your stories with us about names. Write us below.

* As an interesting side note, the infamous Amy Fisher known as the “Long Island Lolita” has since changed her name, according to Wikipedia. I guess she did not like the notoriety either.

Today’s Clydesdales

By: Sandy Swanson

A few years ago my friend Norman, a contractor, traded in his burgundy-colored van for a white cargo van. As I drove around town, I would see a white van and think it was him. I would see van after van after van, and it was never him. I kept thinking, “Who are all these people in white cargo vans driving around Columbus?” It is now a counting game. I can drive between my home and office, a span of less than a mile, and see 10-15 of these white vans daily. Plumbers, contractors, glass installers, painters—all doing their work with the help of a reliable vehicle to take them to each work site.

Norman’s van is a Ford Econoline – a vehicle I characterize as the workhorse, a Clydesdale of our day. I did a little research and learned a few interesting facts about this van. This model has been the best-selling full-sized van for 32 years. Secondly, they have not called it Econoline since 2001, replacing it with the “E-Series” model name. Finally, in 2013, Ford will be building a new full-size van, called the Transit, to replace the current Ford E-Series due to new gas mileage rules.*

This got me thinking about brand loyalty. I have never owned a commercial van, but somehow the Econoline name is etched in my memory, though Ford has not branded it that way for more than a decade. If it has such strong brand identity with me, it’s not hard to imagine why it has been such a best seller for the service industry. Who wouldn’t kill for such brand recognition?

We all need tools to do our jobs. For some, it’s a customized piece of software. Perhaps it is a paintbrush or a ladder. Maybe it is a laptop, airplane ticket, or a cargo van to transport equipment. Sometimes, the tools become generic, but we also develop loyalty to certain brands and products. One person prefers Marriott over Hyatt. Another uses Craftsman over Stanley Tools. And clearly, for those in the service industry, the Ford Econoline still commands allegiance. Let that be a lesson to all of us.

The next time you are out on the road, count how many plain, white Ford Econoline vans you see. I think you will be surprised. The color enthusiast in me sees a blank canvas that deserves a logo or splash of color, but there is an elegant simplicity in this unassuming, but reliable workhorse.

What do your products and services offer to build that kind of brand loyalty? Please share with us.

* Ford Econoline Van Reaches the End of the Line, John Voelcker, December 8, 2011

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

The Customer Journey

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

Harley Manning said it best in his recent Fast Company article calling the age we live in the “age of the customer.” I couldn’t agree more. Digital technology, access to real-time information and social media has empowered customers. Today, customers anticipate high levels of service, tailored experiences, and content that is relevant and fit to their needs. What’s more, 88% of American adults have mobile phones, and statistics for smart phones continue to climb—we’re only beginning to scratch the surface on how technology will change customers’ consumption of products, services and information.

So how can your organization keep customers engaged?

I’m sure you are familiar with the famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Well, that statement also applies to business. For your customer, it’s not about the transaction or sale (i.e. the destination). It’s the journey—the entire engagement or experience the customer has with your organization.

Think about the customer journey as a road trip—everything that takes place before, during and after you reach your destination. On road trips, you make several stops, take time to enjoy the scenery, and maybe even try a few new things along the way. Each stop is a touch point, the scenery is your brand, and new things are your organization’s services and products. Combined, each function contributes to a meaningful customer experience.

Let me take you on a customer journey to illustrate what I mean.

Let’s say you have a customer who receives a custom email letting him know that a product he regularly buys, but rarely goes on sale, is 15% off the regular price. (Thanks, Sales and Marketing!) Excited, he uses the Internet to make the purchase on your website. As he shops, he can easily navigate through the website and the shopping cart works wonderfully. (Cheers to the IT Department!) Finally, he makes it to the payment page to discover that your organization accepts multiple payment options, including credit cards and PayPal. So, with the click of a button, he finishes the transaction. (Nice job, Accounting!) After he makes his purchase, he receives the product on time, without damage. (Bravo to Logistics and Operations!) He then writes a grateful online review and the organization responds with a kind thank you note and small reward for his time. (Way to go Customer Service!)

The point is, organizations that fail to realize the importance of the entire journey, or focus only on the destination, miss an opportunity. The best way to keep customers engaged is to remember that it’s all about the customer and the ride. In the end, a great journey makes reaching the destination even better—and that’s what keeps your customers coming back.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

The Ultimate Mash-up

By: Sandy Swanson

On the flight home this morning, I found something interesting in Spirit magazine that combines two interests of mine—racing and color. In Dallas, Texas there is a 5K race called the Color Run (see photo), where runners and walkers begin the race wearing white, and at each mile marker receive a dusting of color bursts.

I have heard about races involving mud (Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, etc.), and frankly, sloshing through the mud and wading through murky creeks does not appeal to me. I have had my share of mud with a couple of triathlons a few years ago. The swim part of the race resulted in an eerie resemblance of The Swamp Thing, crawling out of Buckeye Lake on a hot summer day.

Now, being dusted with color is another thing altogether. I love color. (It is no mistake that we named the company OrangeBoy.) As a child, I could sit down with a coloring book and box of Crayola Crayons for hours. (An opportunity to color with my six-year-old niece recently reminded me just how much I still love it.)

As an adult, paint replaced the crayons of my youth. Not a single wall in my home has been left untouched. Every home I have lived in has seen a kaleidoscope of colors based on my whims and tastes at the time. Come to think of it, there were also few floors and furniture that escaped my paintbrush.

The colors bled from my personal life to my professional life when we had the opportunity to design and decorate our Columbus office four years ago. Let’s just say it’s a happy place to work, and we live our motto “Think in Color” every day.

The Color Run is someone’s vision to add new flavor to the myriad of racing events, giving it its distinctive flair. Isn’t that what we all seek to do with our organizations? That is, find a way to make it stand out and set them apart from others. I think it’s brilliant and demonstrates that innovation is everywhere—you just have to view things differently from time to time.

Next time you are faced with a problem that seems insurmountable, try a few mash-ups of your own. You might be surprised and find yourself awash with a colorful solution.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

Voodoo Doughnut and Branding

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

OrangeBoy President Sandy Swanson visited the Portland office this week. Wanting to share something uniquely Portland with her, I took her to Voodoo Doughnut, a Portland doughnut shop made famous by its odd flavor combinations and shapes. For example, the voodoo doll doughnut filled with red raspberry jelly and a pretzel stake through the chest; the Mango Tango doughnut filled with mango filling topped orange Tang; or my personal favorite, the Maple Bacon Bar with maple-flavored frosting topped with two strips of bacon.

Voodoo Doughnut truly embraces the culture of Portland and the City’s slogan: “Keep Portland Weird.” It is no wonder then that Portland named Voodoo Doughnut’s Portland Crème the official doughnut of the City in 2008.

The doughnuts have become so popular locally and nationally that it is common to see a constant stream of people (sometimes with long lines flowing outside the door), waiting to order doughnuts morning, noon or even in the middle of the night.

Talk about building a successful brand.

Pink boxes, doughnut-filled wooden coffins, and a ghoulish logo are just a few things that illustrate this one-of-a-kind brand. Beyond that, the experience is quirky (pink everywhere, coffin-shaped seating, and even a place to hold weddings), creating interest from the moment the customer walks in the door.

A successful brand and customer experience, such as the one created by Voodoo Doughnut, stems from the vision of the company’s leaders. Owners Tres and Cat Daddy recognized the need for a doughnut shop in Portland, so they set out to create one—one so unique that it would eventually reinvent the doughnut industry. Who ever thought that would be possible? (Just think about the last time you were at a grocery store. Did you see a cereal-covered doughnut? Well, that was because of Voodoo Doughnut.)

Great brands demonstrate to customers what a company does or can do better than any other company can. The overall experience and everything about the brand defines how a company delivers on that promise. Voodoo Doughnut, for example, promises customers, “Good things come in pink boxes.” Every time a customer opens a Voodoo Doughnut box, they can expect the same quality and good doughnuts. And, every time they walk in the door, they can expect the same quirky experience. I think any brand that delivers that level of consistency and drives awareness and loyalty like Voodoo Doughnut is a success. Check them out the next time you are in Portland.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

Leave the Camera at Home

By: Sandy Swanson

You may remember when taking photos was a big deal. The cameras were relatively inexpensive, but the film and processing added up. You had to think long and hard about what was photo-worthy. Today, not so much.

In fact, we are bombarded with images on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, websites, blogs, and e-mail that we seemingly document everything we do in our daily lives. Forget about taking a few snapshots on family vacation in Yosemite. Now, we capture everything. Look at this beautiful buffet table. How about a picture of my salmon entree? Maybe a fun shot of a co-worker who laughed so hard coffee ran out of her nose?

Don’t get me wrong. Digital photography is convenient, and the accessibility of a camera built into my phone has been handy many times. Instant photos also make it fun to share experiences with those who cannot be there in person.

I sometimes wonder, though, if we’ve created a culture where we are focusing too much on the photo opportunity—in essence, staging the activity rather than enjoying the moment. I have witnessed this at several weddings I’ve attended in recent years. The bride and groom are so busy posing for pictures that they miss the celebration.

I think this speaks to a key theme from our blog post two weeks ago, “what you pay attention to determines what you miss,” but it also speaks to the importance of editing, and the editing process. Where do we draw the line? Has it become necessary to share everything in our lives with the rest of the world? How much is too much?

In the business world, I think the same questions apply, especially when it comes to communication and delivering meaningful content our customers. So, before you send your next email, or even consider uploading your next photo to Facebook, consider the application, importance, and consequences of what you share.

  • Application. If you are taking a photo, what purpose does that photo have and what do you plan to do with it? Think about its best use and application and how it helps tell your story.
  • Importance. How important is this to share with others? How does this post, photo or other content help fulfill a client or customer need, or a friend’s curiosity? Will it help a customer use our products or services better? Think about how to capture the true meaning or purpose of the post in as little words or photos as possible to make your point.
  • Consequence. It is always important to think about the consequences of everything you write about or capture in a photo. Think about it. Would you want your next photo or post to appear on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper? If not, consider editing or when in doubt, leave the camera at home.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012