Boxed in – the great email tragedy

By Charles Ash, Senior Front-End Developer at G&G Digital

In the current great creative explosion of our time, I’m all for freedom, bucking the system and doing the unconventional. When it comes to the really big things though, one quickly realises that unbridled freedom can be a major bugbear in getting even the simplest things done.

Heck, I’m even losing my faith in humanity ever agreeing on the big, really important things, like achieving consensus on matters of the environment, objective morality and global justice, when we can’t even all agree to drive on the same side of the road.

World Wide Web or Wild Wild West?
If you’re in the web development world, you’ll have an even greater appreciation for the global adherence to standards. Not too long ago, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the WWW in your favourite URL stood for Wild Wild West. The browser market was dominated by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and standards and methods of rendering data on your screen differed wildly from browser to browser.

The greatest villain in this technological sham was Microsoft with their divergence from any semblance of technological sanity. The result was the birth of the Firefox browser and the Mozilla Foundation which sought to bring technological consistency and sanity to the world’s browser market.

Almost immediately, Firefox started eating away at the Internet Explorer fiefdom and Microsoft was brought to heel through market loss and other players (including Google Chrome) taking a more co-operative, rational approach to the enforcement and adherence to web standards.

The email challenge
The email market now finds itself at the same nexus the browser market found itself in 10 years ago. The market is fractured and wildly inconsistent. With the rendering of HTML in email clients varying so wildly, it’s enough to bring even the most accomplished web developers to their knees.

You see, while the world races ahead technologically, the market for email clients and the rendering of HTML emails has remained obstinately stuck in the past. Even the lowly animated GIF and transparent PNG enjoy very spotty support (at best) in email clients.

That jaw-dropping design your creative team produced for the next award-winning mailer? You may want to rethink those background images, paddings, margins and CSS3 effects. Unless you’re planning on emailing a link for people to see your creative wizardry in their browser.

The case for simplicity
So how does one distill sanity and send out functional, viewable mailers that don’t bring the design team to tears; alienate the client and don’t cause your developers to want to immigrate to Antarctica? You can start by taking a back-to-basics approach.

Uppermost in your mind is that most of your end users will likely be viewing your emails on their mobile phones, so it makes sense to target this particular segment first and scale up your design to cater for users who may be accessing your emails in Outlook, Apple Mail, Thunderbird and heaven-forbid, Lotus Notes or Groupwise.

Only one click away
Until the technology underpinning the rendering of email gets dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, we need to shed the notion that the HTML email must be as creatively expressive as the website you’re trying to lead the end user to.

This isn’t 1999, where only a select group of people had access to the web and so it made sense that the email touch point be as flashy as the website you hoped to lead them to. Don’t lose sight of the fact that almost every recipient of your email in the world today, is just one click away from the website you’re trying to lead them to.

Be realistic. Save time. Save tears. There’s wisdom in simplicity.

Digital and TV, sitting in a tree

By Kathryn McConnachie, Head of Copy & Content at G&G Digital

When it comes to powerful marketing combinations, digital and TV go together like peanut butter and syrup. Sushi and wasabi. Thick-framed eyewear and creatives. It’s the yin to TV’s yang, or the Kim to TV’s Kanye. Here’s why:

Digital is growing
While digital has historically been considered the elite playground of the higher LSMs, the data is starting to suggest otherwise. Facebook, for example, is consistently seeing digital engagement across the spectrum in South Africa. This is hardly surprising considering that 19-20 million South Africans are now online thanks to increased smartphone penetration and lower data costs.

TV is no longer the dominant screen

A large percentage of mobile phone usage is happening at home – while users are in front of the TV. Watching TV as an activity has evolved to become less of a passive experience and more about active engagement. And this engagement is happening online, in social spaces where audiences can feel connected. This is particularly during live screenings, major events and (especially for South Africans) weeknight soapies and popular dramas.

People are curious
If a viewer wants to know more about a character, they’ll Google it. If they missed something in the show plot, they’ll Google it. If they’re intrigued by an ad or product, they’ll Google it. In fact, a significant 27% of ‘second screeners’ look up product information online after seeing a TV ad.

This means that if you’re doing TV but not looking after your digital presence – and more specifically, your search presence – you’re missing out on a major opportunity to get closer to consumers and potentially close the loop in the path to purchase or conversion.

Measurable impact
Adding a digital layer to a traditional campaign can provide a new level of insight into the impact of your marketing effects. Going well beyond reach and impressions, proper digital monitoring and measurement can tell you sentiment, track user behaviour and correlate awareness with sales.

It can tell you, to a large extent, what type of action your TV campaign inspired. Whether viewers Googled the backing track of your ad or immediately went to purchase your product online. It’s an invaluable tool to evaluate the success of your above-the-line marketing.

Adding depth
If you invest in TV media, you should ensure you get optimal value from the extra exposure for meaningful brand interactions. If a TV ad piqued the interest of a viewer enough to have them type your brand’s name into Google, make sure that when they find you, they like what they see. Also make sure your digital platforms are optimised for conversions – whether e-commerce or building a consumer database, close that loop.

Better together
To get the most out of digital to support a TV campaign, its essential to ensure the campaign is aligned from the outset. This means digital cannot be seen as an afterthought – it should form an integral part of the original conception and ideation phase.

Establish your conversion objectives upfront and gear your TV collateral to drive people to your digital platforms. Research shows that when TV and digital are used together for a campaign, there is an 18+ point increase across all brand markers.

The bottom line? Don’t waste the opportunity.

Awards baby, awards

We experienced the sweet taste of success in 2015,
And we’re hungry for more.

So in 2016, let’s do the work that matters.

Let’s take on the campaigns that make your competitors think: ‘Damn, wish we’d thought of that.’

Let’s create unforgettable experiences.

Let’s create out-of-this-world content.
The content that makes people stop mid-scroll on Facebook.
The articles that make you stop, think and ask: ‘Hey, did you see this?’
The videos that you just have to share. Immediately. With everyone.

Brave ideas need to be backed by even braver clients.
So let’s push each other to think bigger. Think smarter.

Let’s solve problems.
Let’s make an impact.
Let’s win some awards.
Let’s make 2016 the year we break through.

Let’s do this.

Digital marketing trends for SA in 2016

By Desiree Gullan, Creative Director and Co-founder of G&G Digital

Even though the year’s skidding past at breakneck speed, it’s important to stay in touch with sweeping trends – they might just force you to rethink how to speak to your desired audience. Here are four key trends that will shape the approach to digital marketing in 2016.

1. Eschewing product-focused content

The ‘infomercial’ approach to branded content on social media and digital channels isn’t working for anyone. You cannot claim to be successfully mastering storytelling if your story is: “Our product is the best thing on the planet and is 10% more amazing than everything else. Everyone who bought it lived happily ever after. The end.”

Think about the way Dove went from generic soap ads to transforming their brand narrative through the ‘Real Beauty’ campaign.

To broaden your perspective on branded content, think of your brand as a person – consider what their interests would be and draw your content pillars from that. Compelling storytelling involves removing the product blinkers and looking at the broader context within which your brand exists.

Consider your scope of content as a series of concentric circles. The bigger the circle, the broader the appeal and the greater the potential objective value of the content.


2. Paid content distribution

As content marketing becomes the new normal for brands, the reality is setting in that publishing content and having it discovered online are two very different things.

Even the best content needs to be backed by spend to spark engagement and broaden reach. As a result, in 2016 brands will begin to see content distribution strategy as being just as important as content production itself.

Facebook has emerged unequivocally as the most successful paid content distribution platform for brands and publishers alike. With the right targeting strategy and the right content crafting, Facebook is the most effective way to put your content in front of the right people at the right time. And it doesn’t hurt that a quarter of all global web traffic is currently channelled through the platform.

That said, brands will also be experimenting with new opportunities for native advertising as publishers explore new mutually beneficial models.

3. Engagement analytics and ROI

As brands invest in creating higher quality content, they’ll also demand a higher standard of analytics to prove ROI. Looking beyond vanity metrics such as impressions and reach, brands will want to measure value by deeper metrics such as time spent on site (and specific articles), comments and, all-important, sharability.

In line with this, it will also be increasingly important to analyse the quality of referral traffic driven by paid content distribution platforms. All of these insights must be fed back into the content production and optimisation process in a constant feedback loop to ensure optimal ROI.

4. Influencer relationships and content co-creation

As content takes centre stage, it will become increasingly important for brands wanting to win at content marketing to partner with the professionals. This means working with video production experts when video is required, photographers for amazing imagery and professional writers and journalists for compelling articles.

(Hopefully) gone will be the days of influencer endorsement simply for a once-off fee. Audiences see straight through the one-dimensional ‘endorsements’ and influencers and brands alike lose credibility because of them. Brands will need to be thinking in terms of long-term, mutually beneficial relationships based shared values and the desire to create quality content.

We’ve got a thing for WordPress

Originally created as a blogging platform eleven years ago, WordPress now hosts around 23% of the top ten million websites in the world, and it’s easy to see why.

The open source software is constantly transforming to allow developers (and average joes) to craft interactive and engaging websites. WordPress represents the evolution of the website as we know it, and allows digital experts (like us) to push boundaries when building websites.

By virtue of the fact that WordPress was created for the everyblogger, there’s a preconception that it’s simply a template-based platform that requires little or no development and creative process. This simply isn’t true. The growth of the programming language behind WordPress has made it infinitely flexible, with no limit on the design, behaviour or functionality.

Here’s why we use WordPress to make your brand’s website breakthrough:

  1. Accessibility and fluidity

The freedom to upload content from anywhere in the world, anytime, is what makes WordPress such an enamouring platform on which to build a website. Using WordPress means we can manage timely uploads of news updates or new, topical information with complete seamlessness, so your website remains relevant.

  1. Integration with social media and SEO

WordPress is constantly being edited and fine-tuned to integrate social media channels. Social icons can be stylishly incorporated into the design the website, and there’s a myriad plugins available to ensure your website’s content is easily shareable. Facebook and Twitter posts can be automatically shared from WordPress itself, cross-linking new and relevant content on your website to connect with your brand’s followers in real time.

WordPress was built with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) in mind from the start. We use WordPress as a powerful partner to customise pages and posts for SEO purposes which in turn makes your content more discoverable and keeps your website at the top of a Google search.

  1. Made for audio and video

These days, it’s not enough for some brands to simply populate their website with stunning visuals – they need to keep viewers enticed with video and audio content too. If you want to use branded multimedia as a content marketing tool, WordPress is the best way to ensure it plays easily and is hosted safely. Curated content can also be embedded into your WordPress site, adding depth to any page.

  1. Syndication made simple

As a digital marketing agency, we know email marketing and newsletters are invaluable tools to get return visits to your websites and enamour people to your brand. WordPress makes syndication of this content easier than ever before, and even allows for automated email newsletters to be generated in custom templates when new content is uploaded to the site.

  1. Fresh designs

Although WordPress is template-based, we use premium (paid for) templates that are completely customisable, with no limits on original design or creativity. The templates we use are like blank canvases with endless possibilities. And the efficiency of using WordPress as a starting point leaves time for us to create a website that’s modern and stunningly unique in design, as well as functional and responsive.