Is Your Website Outdated?

18 Oct

Remember when this snazzy new thing called the ‘Internet’ came out?

I do. I was around 10 years old when I started crawling through the interwebs. I remember setting up personal websites, feeding my Neopets, and discussing nonsense on MSN Messenger.

Remember those bulky computers?

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Whenever I get nostalgic for the early 90’s, I remember this and get over it.

How about those websites we used to visit? We would be greeted by upbeat music, flash animation, and a big banner that read, “Thanks for visiting my website! Sign my guestbook.” We were all excited about the Internet. It was a big deal. Now, fast forward almost two decades later, we’ve gotten spoiled. We are used to crisp designs with succinct content. We are used to getting what we want, when we want it.

And why shouldn’t we be? We’re rapidly advancing our technology. We’ve already got smart technology, touchscreens, wireless devices, and computers in our pockets. So why then, do outdated websites still creep among us?

Just so we’re clear, here’s my definition of an outdated website:

  • Busy background (i.e. anything that’s not a solid colour)
  • Flashing animations (this should be a crime)
  • A million unrelated things sharing a single page. Please, spare us all and create separate pages for content. Don’t be lazy!
  • Hard to read font colours and styles. In fact, the biggest offenders are yellow and red on anything besides black
  • Comic Sans. I have a grudge against Comic Sans. In any context
  • Different font styles on a single page. This is inconsistent, unprofessional looking, and very distracting
  • Music that is startling enough to give your visitors a heart attack
  • Poor grammar
  • Colour disharmony (i.e. between font and background)

Here’s a very funny example of an outdated website, created specifically for the purpose of informing others.

I’m a Generation Y young adult who grew up on technology. For the last 10 years, I’ve been on the internet almost every day (how many pop-up ads is that?!). I also grew up consuming advertisements on T.V. I’m a critical consumer because I grew up bathed in ads, to the point where I’ve learned to block them out. Like other critical Generation Y and Z consumers who grew up surrounded by technology, I have standards.

Last week, I was interested in working for a particular multinational company. I went on their website to browse and apply for positions. Their website was outdated. It looked like it was created in 2002, and had not been touched since. I was ambushed by tons of unrelated content splashed across a busy webpage. Although I was deterred, I proceeded anyways. After navigating through an outdated career portal, I gave up and exited the window. The outdated website with the user unfriendly design was not only a waste of time, but it came across as extremely unprofessional.

Whenever I find myself on a company’s outdated website, I hit the backspace almost immediately. For one, as a Generation Y consumer, I am used to getting information quickly. In fact, I expect it. A busy webpage with a million unrelated things on it is a major turn off. Browsing through it is simply a waste of time. For two, I assume that the company is no longer active, and unaware that their website is still up. And for three, flash animation and (god forbid) startling music, are obnoxious.

The most important thing about outdated websites is that a single page has a million unrelated things on it. This is distracting, intimidating, and ruins the user experience. Your website should be very easy to navigate through. Related things should be clustered together and easy to find. Even more importantly, your website should be constantly updated. Or, at least appear to be constantly updated. Consumers (Generation Y in particular) are impatient. Don’t be cheap and don’t be lazy. Keep your content organized and easy to find. Your customers will thank you.

There you have it. Honest feedback from a critical (and possibly numb to advertising) Generation Y consumer.

Have you ever come across an outdated website? Did it affect your perception of the company?

Thoughts on Last Night’s Debate

17 Oct

I watched Part 1 of the U.S. Presidential Debate last night. I know, I’m about two weeks behind. It was really, really interesting. I’m going to watch the second part later in the week.

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I don’t like Obama’s blue tie.

I’m not American. Some American issues do not affect me. However, I was still really curious about how Obama and Romney would address several pressing issues.

So, I curled up in bed, plugged my earphones into my iPhone, and played the debate off YouTube. All 1h37 of it.

Here are a few things that I noticed:

  1. Romney reminds me of George Clooney’s character in Ides of March.
  2. They’re always smiling. More importantly, their smiles seem really genuine because their eyes crinkle at the creases. Politicians seem to know some sort of fake smiling secret. I totally want in.
  3. They’re both really great orators. They’re both so charismatic. I think that there should be a larger focus on public speaking and communication, in schools. I mean, there’s a huge emphasis on writing. We’re always writing tests. We’re always writing essays and assignments. We should learn how to carry ourselves well, too. This would really benefit us at work, in relationships, and in life. That’s it, I’m joining Toastmasters.
  4. Romney talks a lot. Now, he’s got some ideas I agree with (i.e. healthcare should be at the state level). But, he repeats himself a lot. And he keeps focusing on the “what” instead of on the “how.” Americans are in a vulnerable position and they need to know HOW you’re going to fix things.
  5. Obama numbers his ideas. Number one, we’re going to invest in green energy to create jobs in America. Number two, we’re going to invest in our small businesses…
    This is super organized. You keep your points relevant and [hopefully] avoid repeating yourself. I’m going to start doing this in arguments/debates with other people.
  6. Romney kept denying his “trillion dollar plan.” Obama kept referring to it and criticizing it, while Romney was all “Nope, nope. Nevermind. That’s not our plan.” This is pretty representative of most politicians.
  7. And lastly, Romney made a circular argument about federal regulations. This made me smile. That LSAT course didn’t go to waste after all! Here’s a paraphrasing of how it went: Regulation is necessary. You can’t have a free market without regulations. You have to have regulations to make the economy work. Every free economy has regulations. But HOW do they make the economy work? HOW?!
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We’re all smiles.

I don’t want to tell you who to vote for. Ignore popular opinions. Read/listen/watch both candidates and understand what they want to do. Once you understand what they want to do, ask yourself “Is this realistic? Will they actually do this? Do they know how they’re going to do it?”

The “how” is important because it gives you insight on how realistic the plan is. For example, let’s say I want to launch a start-up business. I’m going to pay off my student debt by launching a start-up business. My start-up is going to create jobs for my friends who too, need to pay off their debts. We’re gonna make money and be successful.

That’s the “what.” Isn’t it more realistic if I tell you how I’m going to launch the start-up? Or, how my business will be successful? Otherwise, I’m just throwing dreams around without any idea how to make it happen. Wouldn’t you have more faith in me, if I proved to you that I know how to do it, and I’m pressing to get it done?

If you’re struggling to decide, consider this: I’m trying to convince you to lend me money, so that I can launch the start-up business. You’d be more likely to lend me money if I know what I’m doing, put some thought/research into it, and figured out how to do it.

You guys are lending [whoever wins] money. You’re putting the faith of your economy (jobs, mortgages, college education, gas prices, etc.) into this man’s hands.

By the way, check out this cool resource from BBC, called “Spot the Fake Smile.” I got 13/20.

Did you watch the Presidential Debate? What are your thoughts? Share in the comments below!

Inconsistent Marketing

2 Oct

This is super funny. I popped into Forever 21 today. Now, I normally don’t shop there because I don’t like going to the mall. And Forever 21 is located in the mall. Unless you think I’m gonna drag myself to the Forever 21 downtown. (Hint: I’m not).

I made an interesting discovery at the bottom of my sunshine yellow shopping bag. It simply said, “John 3:16.” That’s right, a bible verse. In case you’re wondering, John 3:16 refers to, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That’s right, I saved you a Google trip.

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See, there it is!

I was confused. Why would they print that onto their bags? The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Chang are Evangelical Christians and big supporters of Christian missionaries. Are they unaware of the kind of merchandise they’re selling? Or who their customers even are? Needless to say, most people wouldn’t see it, anyways. It was the bottom of the bag.

I did some research, only to discover that this has been going on for a while. Oh, and I’m probably the last to find out. The article, hilariously titled “What would Jesus say about that backless minidress?” gets to the bottom of the situation (not just the bag).

I found a few things downright hilarious in this article.

Asked about the inscription, a manager at the sprawling Union Square store waved her hand. “Oh   that’s just advertising,” she explained…But the discreet placement — and the religious content — of the phrase could be a smart advertising move, according to Pamela Klein at Parsons The New School for Design.

Advertising, you say? Granted, it’s a hidden message. So, you’re less likely to be offended by it, because it’s not in your face. And, you’re more likely to pay attention (i.e. researching its meaning) to it. So yes, it could be perfectly acceptable to say that they effectively advertised faith on that bag.

This contradicts their brand. Hugely. Have you ever been to Forever 21? No? Let me give you a tour.

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I don’t know where this is, but they all look the same.

Here we are. Generic Forever 21 store at the mall. There are tons of clothes here. TONS. They all seem to be organized by room. I still can’t figure out what the categories are. But I know to actively avoid the room with “club” clothes. That’s just me.

Things you’ll notice:

  • Stretchy black minidress
  • Rebellious T-Shirt with cheeky slogan (i.e. “Y for Yummy”)
  • Flashy neon pieces
  • Ripped jeans
  • Gaudy sparkly monster heels

These are just from the top of my head. You probably already figured out who Forever 21 caters to. That’s right. Trendy (perhaps rebelliously so) teenagers and young adults. And people who enjoy the club scene.

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Is this a shirt or a dress?

Let’s take another look at what Klein said.

But the discreet placement — and the religious content — of the phrase could be a smart advertising move, according to Pamela Klein at Parsons The New School for Design.

How is that smart advertising? If anything, it exposes Forever 21 and its management as hypocritical. Especially since some of their merchandise can be described as ‘skanky weekend clothing.’ I find it bizarre to sell merchandise that is often too tight, short, or low-cut, and then slap on a bible verse on the bag I take it home in. Because a sheer fishnet dress seems like the perfect ensemble for bible study. FYI that’s not what I bought🙂

What do you think of the inscription?

The Most Interesting Man in the World

13 Sep

Police often question him, just because they find him interesting.

His personality is so magnetic, he is unable to carry credit cards.

You can see his charisma from space.

Respected archaeologists fight over his discarded apple cores.

He is the Most Interesting Man in the World.

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This is, hands-down, my most favourite commercial. My ears perk up when I hear the smooth velvety narration of Dos Equis commercials. Apparently, I’m not alone. 

This is a pretty big deal, considering I dislike most advertisements. Commercials are usually annoying. Some companies promote their product by throwing together an annoying jingle (that sadly, gets stuck in your head eventually). Others try to be funny by making fun of a dumb character. The most played out theme is a smart wife/dumb husband combo for household products.

Dos Equis is different. Not only are their commercials actually enjoyable, but their commercials are simple, original, and reinforce their brand. They truly stand out in a sea of beer companies and countless advertising campaigns.

Other beer advertising campaigns try to associate good times with their beer. They show you fun parties. And then they show you someone drinking their beer at that fun party! Did I mention there are lots of girls at this party? Aha! So if you buy that beer and throw a party, you’ll have a great time. Go make a run for the beer store. I’ll wait.

Dos Equis is different. Their ads are fun to listen to. I bet they’re even more fun to make. Their marketing team took a fad in popular culture (ahem, Chuck Norris) and gave birth to The Most Interesting Man in the World. What are Chuck Norris jokes? Chuck Norris jokes are one-liners about something comically impossible. Something that defies the rules of logic. Or something downright ridiculous. Chuck Norris jokes are very popular, especially among people in their 20’s. Here are a few of my favourites:

Ghosts sit around the campfire and tell Chuck Norris stories.

Chuck Norris died 20 years ago. Death just hasn’t built up the courage to tell him yet.

Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.

Chuck Norris doesn’t read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.

You get the picture. These jokes are very similar to the Most Interesting Man in the World facts. So why does this matter? Chuck Norris is a famous actor and martial artist. He has a reputation for being tough and masculine. What man, or boy, wouldn’t want to be like him?

The Most Interesting Man in the World is well, the most interesting man in the world. Again, who wouldn’t want to be like him? Even though we know he doesn’t exist, we secretly look up to him. He’s a rare, sought-after human being. He’s a one-of-a-kind celebrity. This is someone who lives life vicariously, something that very few of us are able to do. He’s a smooth-talker that has a way with the ladies. He’s charming and funny. The perfect dinner guest. The perfect date. His life is more rich and fulfilling than ours.

He also drinks Dos Equis beer.

This brand is effective because it targets the main market for beer. Men. It doesn’t matter if you’re a young or middle-aged man. You are intrigued by the Most Interesting Man, and you want to be like him. Just a little funnier. Just a little more handsome. Just a little more worldly. Just a little smarter. Just a little more popular and well-liked. And by drinking Dos Equis beer, you connect to that brand. If you don’t feel like the Most Interesting Man, you’re at least connecting to him. Like he’s a buddy and you have the privilege of knowing him. He’s not there, but you’re enjoying something that he enjoys.

Stay thirsty, my friends.

What do you think of Dos Equis commercials?

Underexposure

10 Sep

I went to Fashion’s Night Out last week.

FNO is a huge shopping party, naturally, in the spirit of fashion. It’s celebrated by hundreds of stores all over the world. Once a year, stores stay open after hours and host shopping parties with champagne, hors d’oeuvres, D.J.’s, and SALES!

It’s extremely popular in fashion capitals like NYC and Paris.

Fashion’s Night Out

Stores and shoppers in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver participated in Canada’s very first FNO last week.

There were parties all over the city. I decided to stay in the Queen West neighbourhood, because Queen West is one of my favourite parts of Toronto. Plus, it’s the official ‘fashion’ district of Toronto! Ah, I had expectations.

I’ve been to Toronto Fashion Week before. So I knew that most people in the fashion industry have a quirky (and very forward) sense of style. I expected racks and tables filled with brand new goodies. Inspirational designs. I was looking for some FALLspiration, and this was my salvation.

I was nervous, too. I expected mile long crowds of conceited, designer-clad, and leggy models fighting over the smaller sizes. Bouncy techno music. Pretentious conversations over bubbly pink champagne. And microscopic amuse bouches.

Thankfully, all of my expectations were wrong. I arrived at a laid-back yet stylish loft. It was full of people. There were racks of clothes neatly organized by designer. There was a D.J. and there was a bar. Although I couldn’t hear most conversations, nobody (except for a handful of people) looked pretentious. Most people were hanging out on the couches and chatting each other up. Drink in hand.

Although there were at least 15 designers and at least 30 racks of clothes in the loft, it didn’t feel like a sale. Each designer’s station had a salesperson. Nobody was accosted to buy anything. Everybody was there to have a good time. And nobody was in a hurry to leave.

The Bazaar at Queen Street West.

This venue ended up hogging most (if not all) of the Queen West crowd. Seriously. Nobody was leaving. I ventured out onto the street to visit other boutiques. I didn’t see any other FNO shoppers out and about. And most boutiques were closed past 7 p.m., which I found extremely disappointing. Don’t they know it’s FNO?! They’re missing an amazing opportunity for exposure!

I was greeted with enthusiasm at the boutiques that were open. Salespeople seemed excited to see me. Probably because they haven’t seen anyone all night. I was greeted with a glass of bubbly and informed that everything was 30 % off. This a sale, not a FNO party. I looked around, chatted with a few people, didn’t buy anything, and left.

On my way home, I spotted a few FNO volunteers scouting stylish pedestrians. FNO was promising, but not popular enough. They needed more exposure, and quick.

From a consumer’s perspective, FNO deserved more exposure. I heard that Holt Renfrew on Bloor attracted thousands of shoppers. Not bad for a first try. It’s ironic that the fashion district of the entire city only had a few hundred people in a loft. Even then, most of them seemed to be sticking around for the drinks, conversations, and freebies. The streets were barren.

What can be done for next year’s FNO? Well, we need more exposure. Honestly, I didn’t even know about it until a friend in fashion told me about it!

But it’s not enough to tell people about it. You have to give them a reason (other than free drinks) to be interested and show up. Not everyone is a fashionista. You need to offer something regular people would want. Competitive prices. Unique and interesting clothes. Basics. A good time. Kudos to Yorkdale for featuring a panel of stylists offering style tips. As for the empty and hopeful boutiques, 30% is only incentive to your regular clients. Even then, you should make sure that all of your regulars know about the promotion. Facebook. E-mail. Twitter. Or pick up the phone. Be persistent. Hype it up.

It would also be a huge benefit if you had a rack alongside other designers at a loft party. Sure, there’s competition. But if your products are unique and your prices are competitive, you’ll do fine. As a boutique, your goal isn’t just to sell things at FNO, but to represent your brand and encourage customers to come back.

What did you think of your city’s FNO?

McDonald’s Grows Up

10 Aug

Today’s post is about McDonalds’ successful re-branding strategy.

McDonald’s is one of the largest, most successful, and most well-known franchises in the world. Their name and logo (oh, those symbolic golden arches) are as recognizable in the U.S. as in Russia.

The “every day” McDonald’s experience

McDonald’s has a kind of nostalgia. Let’s take a walk down memory lane. You’re a kid in the 90’s. Your family takes you to McDonald’s for lunch one day. You scarf down your Happy Meal and play with the toy. You crawl around the brightly coloured play-place with your friends. It’s just another Tuesday afternoon. But, for you, it’s a special Tuesday afternoon because you got to go to McDonald’s. You’ve shared this moment with your parents. Your friends. Your grandparents. And your neighbours. McDonald’s has a special spot in your childhood.

Does this look familiar?

As you got older, McDonald’s became your go-to spot for a cheap and quick lunch. It wasn’t special anymore. Maybe it even became a part of your regular routine.

Now try to remember a McDonald’s commercial you saw recently. Did you see happy people doing regular, everyday things? Maybe they were enjoying a coffee with friends. Or indulging in a breakfast sandwich alone. Do these sound like things you do?

Yes, they do. And McDonald’s knows that. Their commercials all run on the same philosophy: let’s communicate warmth and a slice of real, everyday life. They even make an effort to stay culturally relevant. Why? Because they need to connect to you. If you see people doing regular things that you do, you’re more likely to connect to them. Oh, and consume McDonald’s next time you’re hungry or in the mood for a coffee. Have you noticed the themes in their commercials? There’s always something season-related. If it’s winter, people are treating themselves to a cup of hot coffee or tea. They’re indulging. They’re cozy. It’s winter. It’s cold. Everyone wants to cozy up to a hot drink. Don’t you?

A recent addition to the McDonald’s menu

So how is McDonald’s rebranding itself? They’re trying to be more health-conscious. They’ve put nutritional information on their website. They introduced leafy salads into their menu. They swear they’re using real beef in their burgers. They’re also trying to be more transparent. McDonald’s is a big company. They’re trying to be honest and close to their consumers.

In this video, a Toronto McDonald’s takes us behind-the-scenes of a Big Mac photoshoot. A lot of work goes into these photoshoots. McDonald’s wants everyone to know that they only use McDonald’s ingredients in prepping the Big Mac for the shoot. What you see is what you get. Except it looks better than what you’re actually eating.

McDonald’s also got a major face lift. The old-fashioned restaurants with cheap beige chairs are long gone. Most of us have grown up with McDonald’s. And now McDonald’s is showing us that they grew up too. Freshly renovated restaurants are sleek and modern. They also have free wi-fi. They’re a great study spot for students. They’re also attracting older crowds with their new environment and classy McCafe menu.

A renovated McDonald’s

Did McDonald’s successfully rebrand itself? Yes and no. Yes, because McDonald’s improved it’s overall image and product line. It’s an extremely successful and multinational franchise. They already have a consumer base. But they’re still making an effort to attract and keep different consumers. They’re also accommodating their aging loyal consumers. Now, nobody can grow out of McDonald’s. Eating at McDonald’s can become a lifetime habit. Introducing salads and McCafe was effective too. You can still eat at McDonald’s if you think you’re too good for their burgers.

While their rebranding efforts were effective, McDonald’s can’t fully shake their bad reputation. At least not now. Documentaries like Supersize Me linked McDonald’s to morbid obesity in the U.S. Other documentaries drew attention to the preservatives used in McDonald’s fries. When foreigners think of the U.S., they think of fat people. And McDonald’s.

One of the most popular pictures on the internet

McDonald’s has come a long way from being a tacky fast-food joint reminiscent of the 90’s. Their menu has expanded and improved. Now, they want you to feel good about eating at McDonald’s. But McDonald’s still has a long way to go. A reputation for driving America’s obesity rates is a hard one to shake.
Do you think McDonald’s can ever be completely rebranded?

Brand Maintenance

11 Jul

Today’s post is about brand maintenance.

We all know that BMW is a luxury sports brand. We know this because they keep reminding us.

If you’ve ever driven one, you’ve felt freedom at your finger tips. Your foot on a cloud. And the wind in your hair.

Take it all in: a breath of crisp freedom.

I’m not a fan of BMW solely because I prefer Japanese engineering over German. But this commercial almost converted me.

All of BMW’s signature elements are there. And not a detail to be spared! Stylish and shiny new car? Check. An accelerating purr? Check. A few crazy stunts and a virtually unscathed vehicle? Check and check.

Most car commercials try to emphasize the first-person driving experience, and how great it feels to drive their car. They expose you to open and picturesque roads, ripe for your ahem, speeding. They don’t show you the things we hate about driving. Traffic. High-maintenance fees. Tight parking spots.

This all makes sense. They want to connect to you. They want you to feel emotionally connected to their product and want it. You want freedom? How about comfort? How about an exhilarating driving experience on a picturesque road? What they’re saying is, this new car will give it to you.

But this commercial is different. It’s unique because it combines art with the thrill of driving. This isn’t just another car commercial. It captures your attention and then holds it, from beginning to end. You’re at the wheel. It takes you on the ride of your life. Then, everything slows down and you can appreciate the beauty of the road. The fragility of nature. And the secure comfort of the BMW M5. It’s over. You’re in awe. Letting go slowly. You walk away with a warmness inside of you. Like you just witnessed something amazing.

With the first-person driving stunts, slow motion scenes, and classical music, this commercial must have been inspired by the movie Drive.

Brand maintenance is all about maintaining an existing brand. BMW is reminding us of the things we love about BMW. It’s sporty. It’s fun. It’s beautiful. You’re a king behind the wheel. BMW doesn’t need to turn cartwheels in desperation for our business. There’s no cheesy dialogue. There is no eccentric driver trying to relate to you. BMW is staying fresh and relevant by playing up its biggest assets. And they know that.

Kudos to BMW’s marketing team for creating such an effective experience that stands out from other car commercials.

What do you think of BMW’s M5 “Bullet” commercial?

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