Review of “The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era”

The Idea Writers – Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era by Teresa Iezzi with an afterword by Lee Clow and Jeff Goodby is an in-depth look at the state of today’s copywriting and brand creativity in today’s advertising. With insight on creative process and campaign development from the industry’s leading creatives, Iezzi provides solid advice for copywriters at all stages of their career – from those trying to break into it to those trying to become more involved with branding. A useful guide for industry professional understand brand creativity today, the book actually starts with a detailed examination of the changes in the digital realm that have completely remade the advertising industry before jumping into a number of case studies.

The rise of smart phones, social media and other internet phenomenon’s have fundamentally changed that manner in which advertising and copy-writing relates to consumers of media. Iezzi quotes New York University Interactive Telecommunications Program professor Clay Shirky in the book Here Comes Everybody, to make her point on the depth of this change: “We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race.” Because of this the general rulebook that governed advertising affairs for over a hundred years is no longer applicable and for that reason, it’s a more exciting and potentially creatively rewarding time for those in the “since Bill Bernbach put art directors and copywriters together and proved that effective advertising could be witty, quotable and uplifting rather than a dreary recitation of “unique selling points.”

Though this is the case, Iezzi doesn’t dismiss the importance of the ad work created and books written by the Fathers of Modern Advertising such as Rosser Reeves – a pioneer in writing for the emerging media of television, the man responsible for the idea of the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and the person who was the inspiration for Don Draper in Mad Men. What does Iezzi see as the thread that connecting those such as Reeves, Bill Burnbach, and David Ogilvy? Simple. Effective story-telling.

Quoting the book A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink, Iezzi points out how it is the ability to detect patterns and create narratives, to understand human interaction, to seek and convey meaning that are the new marketable skill sets rather than the ability to write a perfectly crafted headline according to a pseudo-scientific formula. These skill are important not only as many marketing agencies in the present are just likely to be producing an app or a web experiment as a form of commercial communication but also in the age of greater corporate scrutiny it’s important for corporations to at least appear that they are doing the right thing.

Another challenge of today’s copywriter is being able to telling a story across multiple platforms while involving the consumer in that story – something also gone into detail in Storyscaping. Here the views of Gaston Legoburu and Darren McColl matches that of Iezzi on the future of advertising. They both state that design and story are key for informing the interaction that plays out between brands and consumers. With this in mind, creatives can achieve the goal of having their customers message proactively talked about and shared by people that will at best transition into brand ambassadors and at least increase sales during the increase in brand awareness.

Building on this Iezzi adds the following:

“The copywriter (is) responsible for putting things into the world, and those things should be useful, entertaining or beautiful, or all of those things. They should make people feel better, not worse, about them- selves, the brand involved and living in the world in general.”

Advertising has to offer an entertaining reason for people to even acknowledge its existence. I’ve heard a variety of numbers but I’ve yet to see a source for the number, but I’ve heard that it’s something like 85 percent of ads go unnoticed by people. Not surprise given the large amount of messages that are being sent past them every day. As Gossage himself words it: “The fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.”

In addition to the analysis of the history of marketing and how the qualities of the new digital age impacts modern marketing, Teresa Iezzi provides a lot of valuable case studies for effective campaign processes and final products as well as giving instructions for those that are establishing themselves as a brand.

The book closes with a number of considerations for career development one someone is already in the field that could be distilled into the words “influencer marketing”. If there are events where what you do will be discussed, put yourself forward as a speaker or panel member. If there’s a story written about the kind of work you do, contact the writer and send her some of your work to keep in mind for next time. Apply the same self-promotion guidelines to your personal projects and you’ll always be wanted by people in the marketing industry.


40 e-Commerce Key Performance Metrics to Track

Retail is undergoing a massive shift due to mobile devices and shopping from personal computers such that an ever increasing number of retail  stores are either teetering on the brink of bankruptcy or have already gone under. Why? Consumers spend more and more time on mobile devices discovering, researching and purchasing products. Here are some numbers to consider:

From 2014-2015 online sales grew by 23%.
From 2015-2016 online sales grew by 15.6%.
From 2016-2017 online sales grew by 14%

According to Forrester Research, which tracks various metrics to predict customer engagement trends, by 2022, online shopping will account for 17% of all retail sales.

No surprises there as even at a brick and mortars stores customers will use their mobile devices to discover, compare and ever purchase competitors products.

To develop their online business presence in order to  increase sales, marketers in the e-commerce field need to ensure they are tracking web conversions and measuring the right KPIs. Here are 44 essential metrics every business engaging in e-commerce should be measuring.

Business Sustainability Metrics


Sales Revenue


Customer acquisition cost (CAC)


Amount of revenue gained from inbound marketing.


Cost to acquire a customer.


Average order value


Average revenue per business transaction.


Customer lifetime value (LTV)


Predicted sales amount over the entire future relationship with your business.


Percentage of returning customers


Percentage of people who come back and buy more after making the initial purchase.


Sales conversion rate


Percentage of visitors who convert into customers.


Revenue generated from marketing campaigns (marketing ROI)


Calculate how much revenue is generated for all marketing activity


Website Engagement Metrics


Site availability


Determine if you can access a website by going to its URL and view the site’s content as expected


YoY traffic changes


Compare the number of visitors for one period to the same period the previous year


Time on site


Measure how much time visitors spend on your website


Number of pages visited


Measure how many pages a visitor views per session


Sales conversion rate


Calculate the percentage of website visitors who become your customers


Average order value


Calculate how much revenue each order brings to your business


Orders by session


Measure how many orders each session (visit) brings to your business


Shopping cart abandonment rate


Calculate the ratio of the number of abandoned shopping carts to the number of initiated transactions


Customer/User Experience Metrics


Pageviews per user


Measurement of how easy/engaging is the website.


Page abandonment


Measurement of how many visitors leave a page before completing the desired action.


New users/repeat users by pages


Measure how many new visitors your website pages get versus the number of repeat visitors.


Bounce rate


Calculate the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing just one page.


Loyalty Metrics


Customer lifetime value (CLV)


Predict how much profit a customer will bring over the entire relationship with your business

 Repeat purchase rate  Percentage of current customers that come back to shop again


Paid Search Advertising Metrics





Amount of money spent on advertising for a given date range.




Measurement of times users click on your ad.




Quantity of users saw your ad.


Click-through rate (CTR)


Number of clicks divided by the number of impressions.


Cost per click (CPC)


Average cost for a single click (calculated by dividing the total cost of your clicks by the total number of clicks).

Conversions Measure how many times a click turned into a business result – be it sign-up, a sale, orother action taken by the user).

Conversion rate


Number of conversions divided by the number of clicks.


Cost per conversion


Measurement of the price for this form of marketing per conversion.


Social Media Advertising Metrics


Network referrals


Measurement depicting the contribution of discrete social networks to traffic.


Social media conversions


Measure conversion by social networks to understand which ones bring the most valuable shoppers.




Quantity of users clicking on your ad and being referred to your landing page or sales funnel.




Means for determining posting schedule to prevent annoying your audience.


Relevance score


Calculation of how successfully your current ads are performing.


Email Metrics


Open rate


Calculation of the percentage of email recipients who open a given email.


Click-through rate


Calculation of the percentage of email recipients who clicked on links in a given email.


Conversion rate


Calculation of how many people that clicked-through completed a business transaction.


Bounce rate


Calculation of the percentage of emails were attempt at delivery failed.


List growth rate


Calculation of the rate your email list is growing.


Email forwarding rate


Calculation of the percentage of people who forwarded email.

Ready to see the above key performance indicators for your e-commerce business grow and start doing more business transactions? Ariel Sheen will help develop your Facebook and Google ad and content marketing campaigns to help brands engaging in e-commerce increase their ad and search ranking performances. Scale your business faster with his marketing services by contacting me now.

Racial Controversy in Advertising and How To Avoid The Need For Apologies


I was waiting for another “advertisement campaign gone wrong” news story to happen to contrast the way in which the messages in traditional magazine style graphic ads differ with what can be done with content marketing and sure enough Dove does me the favor of running an ad that many are calling racist and is now facing a boycott of their product.

In this article I’m not going to judge the intentions of the people involved in this Facebook-based advertising campaign, but I will defend their intentions by stating I believe the screen grabs below that spread like wildfire across Twitter misconstrue the nature of the ad – which isn’t nearly as direct in implications as this.

Instead, I’m going to show why it is that people claim it is racist; touch upon some of the ways in which a marketing messaging can be engaging and controversial but not offensive; and finally present a brief content marketing proposal that Dove could have instead done which would provide more value for their current and would be customers.

Racism in American Skin Care Marketing


Controversial marketing can be very effective, but if not done properly it can also lead to undesired press. Because of this it is important to always keep in mind the perspectives of the people being depicted or implicated in advertising.

One need not agree completely with all the views of prominent African American cultural commentator Ta-Nehisi Coates as to the power of whiteness to recognize that in the United States whiteness has been lauded as an definitive quality for culturally dominant standards of beauty and truth; legitimate political power and authority; etc. Additionally, one need not agree completely with Malcolm X to recognize that the media has a huge impact in how communities perceive themselves.

In this sense we can come to understand that the brouhaha is less about the manifest content – a skin cream that whitens – but the latent content, or social context, in which it is promoted.

To put it another way the issue at stake, pardon the pun, is not black and white but is specifically about what many people see as a culture that continuing to reinforce a social and economic order that denigrates and exploits black people. Because of this, these these types of advertisements are seen as ideologically supporting such a structure and why Proctor & Gamble’s ad is so celebrated for being the opposite.

Cultural Sensitivity in Polarized Times and What Stays With Consumers


Skin whitening creams aren’t the only type of product and services whose communications run the risk of being labelled racist and alienating customers.

Surf pulled a number of ads like the one above, which is especially ironic given criticism over roles and awards given to black actors in Hollywood films. In the wake of controversy over the defending hate groups prior to demonstrations in Charlotesville and their subsequent Twitter post shown above, the ACLU has changed their position on defending all groups right to free speech and apologized for their posting. State Farm’s Twitter account briefly became

What these and the Dove ads miss is cultural sensitivity that would allow them to see how how black people and their allies could feel that such marketing messaging contributes to a culture that denigrates blackness.

While not speaking on race but sexual preference, Dan Cathy of Chick-Fil-A’s reflection on the comments he’d made regarding gay marriage summaries provides a good insight in what companies should consider when approaching their messaging:

“Consumers want to do business with brands that they can interface with, that they can relate with. And it’s probably very wise from our standpoint to make sure that we present our brand in a compelling way that the consumer can relate to.”

If a consumer feels that a company is attacking them in their advertisement, intentional or not, it puts th consumer relationships at risk.

Great Content Marketing That Deals With Controversial Content

The problem with addressing or depicting controversy in advertisements is not necessarily that it gets attention, but what further message is then transmitted from it. Though many people purchase products such as bleaching creams or Surf detergent in order to get their skin or clothes whiter, the underlying message of “Darkness is undesirable” leads to wasted ad buys and time spent on handling criticisms. It’s for this reason that content marketing is particularly effective.

This is one of the reasons why Zillow and NerdWallet’s Content Marketing is doing such an amazing job. Not only are they both producing functional tools for people to used, but they are also coming out with reports like: Rising Rents, Stagnant Wages, And the Burden of Unstable Housing and Seeking Medical Debt Relief? Crowdfunding Rarely Pays Off the Bills.

Hiding Controversy in Plain Sight


Chances are as you read what my good examples of controversial choices for marketing content was you may have thought the following contentions:

  • These don’t deal with race.
  • These aren’t controversial.
  • I’m comparing apples and oranges.

Regarding the first point you are absolutely right. I will, however, provide an example of what good content marketing that deals with race looks like below so I hope you’ll overlook this. As for them not being controversial let me explain how they are.

Your friends, if they’re good friends, will certainly give sympathy for expressing anxiety and frustration over your income and how your daily struggles wouldn’t feel so burdensome if you just earned just a few percentage points in your salary and some level of support. Your employer, who holds the power in making such a determination, is less likely to be as welcoming to such expressions and less likely to offer support – though this is changing.

The future of health care in America is so highly contested by a variety of actors that have stakes in saving and losing money that protests and coordinated movements to sway legislators have erupted all over the country. Regardless of one’s view of what is to be done, information is power and this goes to show that private philanthropy is not doing nearly enough to prevent people from death or life-changing debt.

As for the third contention, that’s a partial truth as they are different in format but as they are at their root marketing messages such a distinction is spurious and only gives heft to the claim of many advertising professionals today that content marketing is king. Unlike the visual-only ads, these content marketing projects do not veil the conditions of American political economy but make unveiling it their purpose. The value-proposition of Zillow and NerdWallet’s content marketing is educational rather than mere single grahpic attention grab whose only message is: “This lotion will whiten your skin”.

What Could Dove Have Done to Raise Brand Awareness Instead of Publishing An Ad the Replicates Racist Tropes?

Like many other people,  I Feaking Love Science. Like many publishers, I also love survey based projects. Not wanting to go into too much details, it was with this in mind that I thought of some alternatives that Dove could have developed instead of the racially insensitive ads.

Were Dove to take a content marketing approach instead of the traditional single graphic ad for their campaign they would have had their marketing team produce content that educates about skin and race via an aesthetically engaging depiction and explanation of the science of skin color.

Were Dove to take a content marketing approach they could have presented the findings of a survey asking about perceptions of whiteness that combined analysis of their results with that of previous studies in an engaging manner. There a lot of them on race in relation to aspects of American society and such a study that examines original research (Legal, psychological, etc.) along with the number produced, their findings and analysis of other qualities over time would contribute to the national conversation instead of being seen as just more evidence for one position or another.

Controversial Content, But Without The Baggage

One of the reasons content marketing is such an amazing field is that the value it creates is not as ephemeral, being more than a mere image, but also as it can be continuously updated, and parts of it can be repurposed. Like solely visual advertisements it seeks to gain a consumer’s attention, but because of the format it is able to do so without the baggage and and in a more organic manner.

If you want to assure that your company’s time is not wasted by apologizing for an insensitive advertisement and are interested in learning more how controversial content can help your marketing, reach out to me, Ariel Sheen, and ask about how I can help build up on-site material or how I can build you a content marketing campaign.

Not only do I have a track record of successful content marketing campaigns, but my extensive studies in America’s history and culture means you won’t end up with lots of press about how you inadvertently promoted racially insensitivity.

How To Best Use Data for Storytelling and Content Marketing

In this article I explain how creative strategists like myself can help companies utilize their own data for use in content marketing campaigns or evergreen website content. I review some of the formulas which underlie most of the viral content shared on social media and outline with an examples how it is that data can also be used for evergreen content.

I don’t, however, go into detail why data based content is so important for today’s companies.

Turning Data into Narrative and The Most Viral Content Marketing Structures

Content marketing is both an art and a science.

Its designation as a science stems from being able to obtain and determine the significance of information from a single or multiple sets of data in a methodologically sound manner as well as being able to then track its effects online to determine ROI. This is why the best content marketers often work in conjunction with growth hackers.

Its designation as an art comes from that fact that once a number of these particular findings are uncovered in data, they must then be placed in a narrative structure with aesthetically pleasing components (infographics, gifs, videos, etc.) that is compelling enough to hook and hold the attention of a reader. This is why the best content marketers often work in conjunction with a team able to properly promote campaigns.

Examples of Successful Content Marketing Narrative Structures

Surveys and internal data that use demographic information to tell engaging stories is that which is most likely to be picked up by media outlets and shared on social media.

There are, however, a finite number of ways that such data can be presented and not all of them are equal in the value they bring. Those that exhibit certain traits have a higher tendency to become viral.

Here is a non-comprehensive list of some of the narrative constructions most likely to be shared:

  • People who do X are more likely to to be Y.
  • Having X attribute (big butt) means you are more Y (smart/stupid).
  • X% of children in Y birth order are more Z% than their siblings.
  • Doing X (glass of red wine) easy thing = Y (one hour of exercise)
  • X study confirms Y thing (that everyone already agreed about — such as dogs are better company than people)
  • Being X “good thing” (religious) means you are more Y (bad thing) (mean)
  • People who do X on social media (post selfies) are more likely to be Y (narcissistic)
  • People with X “bad” personality trait (Loner) are Y “good attribute” (more intelligent)
  • Doing X regularly (meditating) correlates with Y (happier life)
  • X type of person (Women) need more Y (sleep) than opposite type of person (men)
  • People who do X (brag) thing to get Y (praise) reaction, actually are the Z (opposite – insecure)
  • X% (high percentage) of Y (common demographic) group admit to Z (taboo thing)

The Psychology Behind People’s Curiosity

It’s possible to go into great depth on the variety of emotional responses and how they are likely to affect various reader personas, so for now an analogy will do. Chances are at some time you’ve been out somewhere in public and heard someone call out your name. If so, you probably can recall the feeling of sudden alertness you get. Where did that sound come from? Who said that? What message do they have for me now that they’ve captured my attention?

The social media equivalent to this is seeing a headline with one or more demographic qualities featured in it that relates to you or someone you care about. You want to know this new bit of information about people like you or something that interests you.

Using Survey and Internal Data For Content Marketing

Depending on the business, oftentimes the data required to tell a good story is already stored in a Customer Relations Management (CR) database or something similar. Depending on their willingness to publish this information, this can be a great means for producing content marketing with original research. Here’s an example:

A company like BeachBody could potentially use their clients data to illustrate possible differences in likelihood of starting and completing a particular workout program by age, weight or current level of physical fitness. This would be a great piece of evergreen, potentially live updating, marketing content as it would show subscribers the attrition rate for all the programs based on those demographics.

By informing those that might be new to their services that certain exercise programs are more appropriate for people at higher level of fitness, it could help them to lower the monthly cancelation rate as people can now visualize how others have handled their programs and realize that they might need to choose an easier one.

For survey based content marketing campaigns, wherein new data is created through services such as Survey Monkey, including demographic questions is the key for turning raw data into narrative. As you can include a variety of questions that have previously been peer-reviewed and tested to show a number of psychological qualities, surveys typically allow for much more complex data to be parsed that that normally collected by companies.

Why You Should Hire Ariel Sheen to Develop a Content Marketing Plan Using Your Company’s Internal Data; Existent Data or New Data

As presenting misunderstood or misinterpreted data can damage a company’s reputation, it is imperative that at each stage of research and production all findings are fact checked for quality assurance. Thanks to my academic training and content marketing experience, I am uniquely qualified to produce SEO-optimized, original, viral or evergreen marketing content that follows best production processes.

If your business is ready to incorporate content marketing projects that uses internal data, existent data or newly created data as part of your digital media fingerprint, then contact me and together we can craft a statement of work that helps you to achieve your marketing goals.

The Importance of Long Form Content for Marketing

This article will first explain what long form content marketing is, then why it is important in today’s digital marketing age. It will also examine how to develop ideas for long form content marketing as an in-bound strategy and how someone like me can help develop a strategy that provides your company’s digital space with evergreen, high Google Domain Authority ranking marketing content.

For Whom is Long Form Content Marketing Important?

Why should companies today give serious consideration to paying someone to produce long form content marketing as part of their total content marketing strategy? Well, to appease four very important audiences. Most importantly is the AI that Google uses to determine Domain Authority and Page Rank. The other three are those consumers that are (1) already enthusiastic customers that would like to signal their rationale for consuming your brand (2) customers that are not yet enthusiastic enough to become a vector for sharing marketing messaging but could be, (3) those that know about your product but have yet to purchase it and (4) those that didn’t know about your company’s products or services at all.

Why Does Google Care About Long Form Content Marketing?

Understanding how Google’s AI approaches long form content marketing and why it is so important for determining Domain Authority and Page Rank can be explained by asking a single question:

On a scale of one to five, with one being the least amount of trust and five being the most amount of trust, how would you rank the trust-worthiness of the below people to provide meaningful insight on a particular field of human knowledge?

  1. Someone that graduated only with a high school diploma
  2. Someone with a bachelor’s degree in a different field of knowledge
  3. Someone with a bachelor’s degree in that particular field of knowledge
  4. Someone with a master’s degree in that particular field of knowledge
  5. Someone with a doctoral degree in that particular field of knowledge


Most likely your answers were in ascending order: someone graduating only with a high school degree getting the lowest trust ranking and an in-field PhD getting the highest ranking.

The simple reason is that you, like Google, know that subject area mastery is best accomplished through publication of research and academic writing and not a number of small memorandum on the matter. Long form content raises a website’s domain authority, which also causes it to rank higher for certain search terms and lower the costs of Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns.

Why Do People Care About Long Form Content Marketing?

There’s other reasons why long form content marketing is important besides being an oversized textual canvas with which to include many of the SEO specific terms. Long format content marketing earns more backlinks than short form and also receives the most amount of organic traffic.

Ask yourself, would you be more likely to share a 250-word post that explains something you care about in three small talking points or a compellingly written 2000-word article that contains a number of examples; quotes and original or secondary research?

Short-form content is a necessary strategy to drive engagement and build domain authority. But at a time when competition for the attention of potential customers is so high that they are seeing literally thousands of ads a day, it’s important to have a diverse approach to one’s online presence.

Because there is simply so much short form content out there, unless combined with a pay-per-click boosting or a placement/sharing of the content through another media outlet, paid or earned, short-form content’s virtual freshness is brief.

Additionally, long form content done right keep the visitor on the website longer than short form content, which Google monitors and also uses to factor Domain Authority and Page Ranking.

Long form content done correctly is also more engaging and is more likely to help make customers not just purchasers of the product, but proselytizing enthusiasts of it.

What is Long-Form Marketing Content?

Long-form content marketing can be defined as any kind of in-depth content that has been produced with the intent of giving the reader or viewer a large amount of detailed information.

Long-form content marketing can include things like investigation or exposition that uses original research, company data, an analysis of existent research or some combination thereof; a single, long format blog; a blog series; e-books; white papers; and keystone articles – articles that combine and synthesize information found in a number of already published on-site short form blogs.

It should also be noted that the difference between short and long term content is not just about length. Done incorrectly, long form content is similar to the writing of high school students on a test when they’ve not done the reading or paid attention in class – they use a large number of filler words in order to boost their word count. This not true long form content, but short form content writ large.

True long form content is able to provide more examples of style, voice and authority – some of the key components of corporate branding.

How Does Long Form Content Marketing Different from Short Form Content Marketing?

Besides just the length of the writing and the number of audio-visual assets that can be incorporated with it in an aesthetically pleasing manner, long form content marketing is qualitatively different from short form marketing content. Some of the many ways in which it is different are as follows:

  • Long form content marketing availability means that an email subscription pop up could be added to grow a company’s contact list.
  • Long form content marketing can be held behind a survey, the shorter the better, in order to assisting in greater understanding of purchasing profiles.
  • Long form content marketing can contain an active feedback section can make it a page where potential customers and current service/product enthusiasts can engage in conversion conversations.
  • Long form content marketing can contain an active discussion component that can make it a page where questions are answered that would normally go to support staff.

This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive but instead just a few examples of the benefits that can be gained from having long form content marketing.

How To Develop Long Form Content Marketing As An In-bound Strategy

In order to develop a strategy for long form content marketing you need to know how to produce so it meets Google’s preferred formatting to achieve the most effective SEO ranking possible, but you also need to know how to present the subject matter to your human audience in a manner that is pleasing. Your human audience will break down into four subcategories:

  1. Your existent customers.
  2. Those that are at some part of your sales funnel.
  3. Those that could be in your sales funnel.
  4. Those that won’t be in your sales funnel but may share the material.

Prior to looking at internal marketing data, an ideation session would occur wherein from potential topics those are chosen that best meet the SUCCESS criteria.

Based upon the different buyer personalities that exist, the ideas are adapted to fit the proper audience. Content is then ordered into a production calendar that matches cyclical or topical events and is then produced from according to any pre- or co- determined branding guidelines.

The Development Process for Long Form Content Marketing

Long form content marketing is a complex process and requires either a team or a person that is able to complete all of the following:

  • Co-ordinate with the existent marketing team to determine the metrics for success, targeted audiences and how prior content marketing campaigns have fare.
  • Ideate share-worthy ideas for long form content marketing that are informed by statistical insights gleaned from your existent customer profiles.
  • Create a content production calendar.
  • Determine which promotional route is best to follow for each and to execute according to that judgement.
  • Produce engaging textual and visual content the follows Google’s formatting guidelines to maximize SEO as well as existent or newly created branding guidelines.
  • Co-ordinate with the webmaster to place content on the client’s website.
  • Track mentions, shares, backlinks, changes in domain authority, etc. for marketing reports.

Why You Should Hire Ariel Sheen To Plan and Execute Your Long Form Content Marketing Project

If your business is ready for increased sales via new in-bound sales funnels, decreased costs for PPC marketing, and greater brand exposure then you are likely considering the benefits of beginning a long-format content marketing project. If so, know that the full ideation and development process is part of my basic and premium level long form content marketing packages.

Contact me with what your goals and hopes for a long form content marketing campaign and together we can craft a statement of work that helps you to achieve your marketing goals.


Review of “Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising”

Ryan Holiday’s book Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer, is less a “how to” guide than a large number of case studies on how some of the most well-known companies today were able to get to where they now are. Dropbox, Hotmail, Uber, Spotify, Twitter, Groupon – all of these companies and many more used non-traditional marketing techniques, growth hacking, as a means of achieving massive market share growth.

Growth hacking is really more a mind-set for maximizing ROI than a tool kit. It’s an expansion of what the traditional definition of marketing was prior to the advent of social media and the digitization of everyday life. It can include those that produce content designed to be viral; product experience optimization; using platforms and APIs to reach large amounts of people, etc. Whereas all marketing focuses on “who” is receiving their message and “where” they are receiving it, a growth hacking mindset sees marketing as a more fluid process that includes new ways of looking at business. Here are a few of the many examples:

  • Creating an aura of exclusivity with an invite only feature.
  • Create hundreds of fake profiles to make your service look more popular and active than it actually is.
  • Targeting a single service or platform to cater to exclusively so as to piggyback off their growth.
  • Host cool events.
  • Bring on influential advisers and investors.
  • Do other things that are written about in Ryan Holiday’s other book Trust Me, I’m Lying

Because of the lower costs of “growth hacker marketing” in comparison to traditional outlets, with their press releases and media buys, it allows for the greater freedom in experimenting with what works. The evolution of Instagram and Airbnb’s company model are excellent examples of this. Rather than continuing to their original iterations, which is far from what they are now, they used data obtained from their customers use in order to develop a Product Market Fit, a dynamic wherein the product and its customers are “in perfect sync with each other.” While the decisions about areas such as the design of the product is typically given to the Development and Design teams, having in depth knowledge as to who the customers are, what their needs and and how to excite them are also marketing decisions. Growth hackers help structure these through data and information that is testable, trackable, and scalable – be it lead generation or internal optimization. Understanding and applying the principles contained herein can help turn start-ups into growth engines.

Review of “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator”

Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday is a great read for a variety of reasons. First, it presents an account of all the ways in which different blogs, new media and traditional media outlets can be manipulated in order to get press coverage for products and services. Secondly, it is an explanation for why this newly formed digital media landscape is to the general detriment of society combined with a mea culpa for helping to have created such an environment. Ryan’s writing style is such that the combination of braggadocio for being able to serve his client’s needs so well with the recognition that it contributes to an abhorrent style of discourse comes off

The book opens with a variety of case study-style examples of various tactics that a media manipulator, or digital publicist, can use in order to obtain press coverage and social network shares for their client. Ryan’s clients, which include among many other Dov Charney of American Apparel and author of the book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, Tucker Max, provide most of the specific stories, however many other clients and many other examples are provided through out. It’s these that media manipulators such as myself will find useful to be familiar with.

Holiday’s analysis of the new media environment is both compelling and frightening. While the books was published before it happened, it’s worth noting that what he’s talking about is a major social issue. Social media influence by the Russian government is being cited as a major factor in the most recent presidential election, the term Fake News is being used to dismiss a variety of news outlets and Facebook has implementing digital algorithms in order to prevent the dissemination of deceptive information on through its service offering.

Holiday starts with an analysis of the growth and influence of blogs, which he considered to be a variation of yesterday’s newswires. Blogs need not be solely personal affairs, like this, but include a large number of well-known outlets such as Business Insider, Politico, Huffington Post, Drudge Report, Buzz Feed and the now defunct Gawker. These, and other, outlets may not always have the largest readership – but their consumers are often people that work as producers for television and writers for national newspapers.

Frovocation, or faux provocation, is one of the many specific types of methods that the modern media manipulator uses in order to to exploit public perceptions and sell product. Manufacturing controversy, even if means making up fictions to spread about a client, creates a situation that allow for media content about a person or company to be traded up the chain. Training up the chain is when smaller blogs with lower standards publish groundless gossip or invented critical clamor for a certain group and because of its virality other outlets soon cover it as well. Holiday cites examples such as fake ads disclosed to bloggers so they could decry sexist ads, untrue rumors spread to gossip websites to obtain New York Times coverage and even Dick Cheney’s anonymous-at-the-time leak that, once it was “in the air” he then cited to support the invasion of Iraq. I include the last example as even though it’s not related to marketing, Holiday points it out as an example of the spread of the new digital media norms to the traditional media landscape that leads to widespread public deception and high-jacking of the political process.

The economics of media outlets are described as one of the primary driving features for the degeneration of the truth online. Ad revenue for companies are determine by page clicks, leading many to publish information that hasn’t always been vetted as felicitous and once proven wrong, isn’t retracted but left as is with an addendum on the bottom (re-working the whole piece takes too much time, so new information is merely copy and pasted near the end, meaning the reader is taking in lots of information as truth and then, if they even get to the end, comes to learn that everything above was false). This quest for scoops and exclusives, which builds reputation and traffic, incentivizes deception and poor reporting.

Holiday gives straight descriptions of a number of the ways that he’s taken advantage of this system – helping bloggers by investing in them early on; telling them what they want to hear (even if it’s not true); helping them trick their readers; selling them something that they’ll be able to sell up (and thus gain in influence); formatting enticing headlines for them that may not always reflect the reality of the article and a variety of other tactics. A short but compelling history of news media from the yellow journalism of the late 19th century to the subscriptions services of the early 20th century followed by analysis of the blogosphere and its relation to modern news institutions shows just how far people have come to again accepting misinformation as reality.

These qualities of a news publication all helps drive clicks and make things sell, yes, but at a cost. One example that I related to specifically, as I recall it getting shared by people back in 2009, relates to disaster-porn photos of Detroit. One set of photos shared many times depicted Detroit like New York looked in I Am Legend. Another set on another blog included people within the images, and wasn’t shared nearly as much. Thus, as a result of an ad-revenue incentivizing system people come to be alienated from the very depressing reality of massive job loss and community flight and instead perceive a nearly spiritual narrative as to the impermanence of man’s socio-economic achievements. Bad feelings, unless they’re directed at someone who caused the problem, simply don’t sell. As Holiday himself puts it, “What thrives online is not the writing that reflects anything close to the reality in which you and I live. Nor does it allow for the kind of change that will create the world we wish to live in.” Another quote worth citing in whole is this: “The death of subscription means that instead of attempting to provide value to you, the longtime reader, blogs are constantly chasing Other Readers – the mythical reader out in viral land. Instead of providing quality day in and day out, writers chase big hits like a sexy scandal or a funny video meme. Bloggers aren’t interested in building up consistent, loyal readership via RSS or paid subscriptions, because what they really need are the types of stories that will do hundreds of thousands or millions of pageviews.”

When I reflect on my own experience doing content marketing, I which was on a smaller level than what Holiday was doing, this rings true. In ideation sessions the purpose was rarely to use available or paid-for data to honestly depict the truth but instead try to create something viral. Some of the tactics that we would use included excluding certain survey data that didn’t align with the narrative we were trying to pitch to bloggers; failing to disclose that the small sampling size meant that in no way was the questions we surveyed people on were in no way representative of all of America, even though our write ups would certainly say that; and ignoring counter-factual data that ought to be included in content claiming to be authoritative on a particular issue.

I’m not a frequent reader of Breitbart, but from what articles I have read I’ve noticed a large similarly de-contextualized information. In large part this aversion to nuance is driven by Warnock’s Dilemma – or the dilemma as to why it is that some posts receive many comments from readers (thus driving up Domain Authority) while others do not. For one, context more takes time to produce and second, with that context it’s more difficult to take a simplistic, binary stance on the position. I use the example of Breitbart specifically as their blogging (I dare not call it reporting) does this so well. In an age where attention spans are so short due to the never-ending assault of media on our senses, they know that readers are fickle and, for the most part, prefer entertainment and salacious or rage-inducing subtle mischaracterizations and misleading information to longer format education and enlightenment. Holiday points out that people tend to confer authority to such content due to the “link illusion,” or the delegation of authority to articles with a number of HTML links on them, as it seems to replicate the academic methodology of publication – however this is, as the term suggests, merely an illusion. I too, for example, have done this in my own professional work so can relate.

If I ever find myself teaching media literacy again, I’m going to make sure to include a photocopy of Holiday’s chapter XXIV, How To Read a Blog. I’ve never made list as to what I look for in trying to determine whether or not content is “true” and thankfully I need not as he has made it here. The assessment as to “where things go from here” which follows is not at all optimistic and the proposals for change are not likely to be adopted anytime soon as it would mean a drastic re-structuring of the monetization process for blogs, online newspapers and online marketing content. What is likely to continue to flourish, at least until people are able to assert that their media outlets follower stricter editorial guidelines, is the continuation of media manipulation using the methods that Holiday describes through-out this book. In the case such a book is great for those, like me, who work in such a field and those that want to better understand how much of what they consume digitally is absolute garbage. People ought, as I says in his closing statement and which I have long agreed with, to read more books and less of the messes that get shared as “news”.

Review of “Storyscaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating Worlds”

As part of my professional development as a Creative Director, despite my title of “Creative Strategist”, I decided to read a book by the Chief Creative and Brand Strategy Officers of Sapient Nitro, a very large brand and content marketing agency. Storyscaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating Worlds, written by Gaston Legoburu and Darren McColl could easily have been one of those shamelessly self-promotional type of works, which seeks to show in book form a number of client successes and merely hint at the type of research and creative work that goes into the marketing projects they manage. While they certainly do include a number of their success stories, this is done primarily to illustrate the developmental and publishing process related to “storyscaping”.

To put this new form of marketing action the books begins with a delineation of the power of human narrative going back to the time of man when we sat around fires and told each other stories to distract us from the fear of animals and tribes surrounding them. In reviewing the elements of short narratives I found myself recalling much of college elective course in Storytelling. This is actually a knowledge set that I’ve found myself consistently drawing on in my ideation for Fractl, which I find amusing as after I’d decided to take it a number of people said that this was something that’d I’d never use. Following this the authors provide an overview of the various ways that the internet has changed the development of effective business to consumer marketing communications. They point to a digital/traditional divide that exists in marketing and are even handed about it saying that while the latter still has its place, it’s due to the dominance of virtual worlds for mediating decision-making processes and the more number of contact points with customers that it’s something that companies neglect at huge potential risk to their bottom line.

The application of Joseph Campbell’s ethnographic and literary/mythic concepts related to the hero’s journey was, for me, surprising but also sensible as it’s appropriate for relate the product of a brand to the hero’s quest. It frames desire as, well, heroic self-development rather than personal satiation.

The recent Pepsi television ad that has been receiving much, deserved, flak for its social insensitivity is a great example of this. In the video while a heroic goal is met, the cessation of social strife stemming from systemic economic and racial marginalization and oppression, the cause for it – mutual enjoyment of Pepsi – is, well, stupid.

A more appropriate example of such heroic help is provided in the analysis of campaigns that SapientNitro did for a UK gambling company and a ski resort. For the gambling company they were able to apply UX principals to their app – there’s always a co-constitutive relationship between marketers and producers – such that they were able to provide an improved “excitement” level for bettors. For the ski resort they were able to consultancy that would lead to investment in digital photography equipment and smart chip technology so that guests were able to share their experience and thus encourage the most convincing form of marketing – word of mouth.

By “building worlds” the opportunity is created for people to connect with brands in immersive and cooperative ways. With the emotional responses to these “Experience Spaces” that lead to sharing as the goal, consumer research helps improve the response and helps to build brand identification and loyalty. At this point Legoburu and McColl outline relationship between the steps leading from brand strategy and product positioning to an organizing idea and experience space that leads to the “storyscape”. They’re clear to point out that this is not a linear path but a conceptual totality that adjust to the many variables which exist within consumer insights and their purchasing journey.

Part two of the book switches tracks to focusing on how it is that an organization’s purpose can be clarified, uncovered and applied in the office and in marketing to increase brand value. The purpose is something that Legoburu and McColl say is not found from talking with the president of the company but an internal assessment of their operation due to the fact that their can be an excessive focus on profits on the part of management such that they lose sight of what they are actually delivering. Lest this seem esoteric, let me provide an example given in the book. Whereas Hanna-Barbera’s leadership defined themselves as purveyors of cartoons, Walt Disney conceived of themselves as providing family entertainment. Because of this wider scope of their operations, Disney was able to rapidly diversify their productions into other profitable areas while Hanna-Barbera slowly stagnated.

The chapters Walk the Walk, Insight to Desire and In Their Shoes, all provide an outline for how a creative, marketing department can transform various forms of research and data points in order to better understand the typical consumer narrative. For someone like myself, who is familiar with Marxist and Freudian interpretations of social and commercial activity, the book reads like a bowdlerized Marcuse with aphoristic rather than baroque formulations. Lest there be some confusion on my evaluation of the book here, this is a compliment to the authors. The author’s discussions on marketing mix modeling, adaptive worlds, and their relationship to the epistemology of customers is, I dare say, incredibly insightful for determining how to influence behavior and maximize on opportunities. This is a great book that I marked up significantly and I definitely fore see myself revisiting in the near future.

Review of “Contagious: Why Things Catch On”

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger is one of the books that inform the unique grading rubric for determining whether or not a certain campaign conceived in our daily Ideation meetings will be proposed to our advertising clients, send back for further details how it would be completed or shelved. The TL;DR book review format can turn the book into a short acronym, STEPPS, that stands for and encourages marketers to ask the following about their products:

Social Currency – Does sharing information about this make you look good?

Triggers – What cues do people have with your product, how can this be expanded

Emotion – What sort of emotion is elicited by discussion of you product and how can this be changed?

Public – What can be done to make private purchasing decisions private?

Practical Value – Can you assist others in some way by this information

Stories – Are you framing the information you want transmitted into a narrative format or just a list of product specifications?

Delving deeper into these principles, Berger presents a number of case studies that illustrates various advertising campaigns in action using these principles, correctly or incorrectly.

Being familiar with internet lore in general several of the examples provided in each of these sections, or variations therein, were those that I was familiar with. For example the $100 sandwich and the  connection between 1980s anti-drug advertising, which made the private public, being seen in part as a cause for the rise in teen drug use. A larger number of them, however, I was not. Thankfully the books was written in such a way that though it consists primarily of case studies illustrating the aforementioned messaging qualities the book does not take an overly formal tone.

Reading these analyses and commentary on the over-importance of influencers, varieties of physiological arousal, presenting information in an appropriate context all are very useful not only to those seeking to raise awareness about products for sale but also for those seeking to engage in any sort of public awareness campaign. An anecdote about a healthier eating campaign on college campuses, for instance, is described how a different choice in wording (A/B testing) could have a 25% greater likelihood in encouraging students to eat more fruits and vegetables. The difference in wording? Using a general food associated terms “When you eat” versus “when you fill your tray”. The latter was more effective as it had a stronger contextual trigger – students saw this in a cafeteria.

I found the “fool in the pool” anecdote – the story about Ron Bensimhon’s break in to the Olympics and jumping from the divers deck while wearing polka dot tights and emblazoned on his chest – to be particularly useful as a reminder for the need for correct triggers/context and being attuned to the psychology of sharing. As a content marketer, depending on the client, much of the material we produce can be quite tangential to those whose products or services we are seeking to help bring greater exposure to.

The book is a quick and easy read and I was happy to learn that some of the practices that I’ve applied to my project decisions are those that Jonah Berger endorses. This isn’t necessarily a result of my own genius, but likely from my having read Berger’s teacher’s book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. For example, a project that I’m working on I was ready to use a single broad survey as a data source for a campaign. After having read this I’m now more confident in pursuing a slightly different direction that queries less people but gets more information that will likely lead to others relating to it at a deeper level. Previously open to pursuing the least time intensive route that would likely still make the customer happy, now I can cite evidence why a small pivot could be result in much greater visibility.

Review of “The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization”

Unlike any time before in history, people have access to vast amounts of free information and with the right tools and training they can structure data in an aesthetic manner that allows non-specialists in the field to see patterns and trends that would otherwise be invisible or difficult to derive meaning from. The Functional Art by Alberto Cairo presents an epistemological overview of how people read infographics and then demonstrates how to most effectively use statistical data to make charts, maps, and explanation diagrams. Cairo does not merely present us with a list of what he considers his best works but shows the steps taken to create successful infographics and how certain forms of quantitatively measurable changes should typically be associated with certain types of illustrating change – such as box and whisker plots.

By transforming numbers into graphical shapes, readers can come to spot the stories in the data and learn new things from it with greater speed than in text regardless of the type of data you’re working with. Cairo states that most people new to the field jump too soon to the “look and feel” part, without first asking the right questions. Based upon his experience, he believes that people should first ask about what information is most important to display, how consumers of it will want to explore the information – especially if it is interactive – and then at this point start to determine the look and feel of it. Cairo, like myself, views much of the decorative additions typical of infographics, i.e. symbols or icons included that don’t really add anything other than flair, as poor design. Not that it is ALWAYS bad to include these, just it’s become the trend for them to be included at the cost of reducing effective communication.

Exegesis on this issue of approach to graphical forms takes the form of a discussion of “engineers” versus “designers”. On one extreme is Edward Tufte, who espouses a minimalistic approach to visualization. On the other extreme is graphic designer Nigel Holmes, who takes a more emotional, mimetic approach to graphic design. Cairo argues that there are benefits to both approaches and that the project itself should dictate how one processed rather than personal preference.

In the first part of the book, Cairo explicates the three main tenets of good data visualization practice: first, good graphic techniques and strategies (minimal use of pie charts, reducing non-data ink, etc.); second, how to create eye-pleasing graphics (how to choose color, fonts, layout, etc.); and, most importantly, how to use data visualization to tell a story. I think this is where The Functional Art really stands out as a great reference – Cairo shows you how to use data visualization not as a way to just show your data or to create a tool for people to explore your data, but as a way to be a storyteller with data.

One of the model’s Cairo created to help him ideate on how to develop a visualization is called the “Visualization Wheel”. The top part of the wheel indicates increased complexity and depth and the bottom part representing simplicity and lightness. The key takeaway is to provide balance to a visualization with the audience in mind. Certain audiences are likely to gravitate towards one than the other.

The next part of the book explains the eye-brain connection – how humans perceive different shapes, colors, etc. – in relation to designing good infographics. Cairo isn’t a cognitive scientist, but the skill with which he addresses these issues illustrates the depth of study he’s done of the literature and how to use this knowledge to create better graphics. These two first parts of the book are helpful for anyone those in the visualization and the graphics Cairo has chosen to include are all inspirational and make this not only a good overview of the field but also a good reference book.

In the last section of the book, Cairo profiles and interviews 10 prominent data visualization designers and visual journalists, including The New York Times’ Steve Duenes, The Washington Post’s Hannah Fairfield, Condé Nast Traveler’s John Grimwade, National Geographic Magazine’s Fernando Baptista, Hans Rosling of the Gapminder Foundation, and others.

This section is beneficial as it gives brief insights into how it is that leaders in the field approach different challenges created by their projects and to see how journalists work with the information visualization professionals in their teams in leading newspapers in different  ways based upon the workplace.

In closing, The Functional Art touches upon all the important issues related to infographics such as:

  • Why data visualization should be conceived of as “functional” rather than fine art
  • A general outline of when to use bar versus circle charts
  • How to use color, type, shape, contrast, and other components to make infographics more effective
  • Differentiation between symbols and icons and help versus hurt their readability.
  • The science of how our brains perceive and remember information
  • Best practices for creating interactive information graphics
  • The creative process behind successful information graphics

It’s a great book for those new in the field and the clarity of expression found within was so good that I look forward to reading more of Cairo’s work.