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The 7 Pillars of Digital Marketing Blog

Best practices, training and innovations in Digital Strategy.

21 Attributes of The Perfect Agency

March 17, 2014 – 6:23 pm
Arman Rousta

The Perfect Agency…

  1. Gets above-average, positive ROI results most of the time.
  2. Increases Enterprise Value (EV) for its clients.
  3. Has low staff turnover.
  4. Has a high client satisfaction rate.
  5. Has high contract renewal rates.
  6. Has high referral rates.
  7. Feels like more of a partner than a vendor to clients.
  8. Makes its clients and client staff smarter.
  9. Develops talent, at every level.
  10. Has seamless knowledge flow throughout its organization.
  11. Reinvents itself constantly.
  12. Has healthy and well-balanced employees.
  13. Operates in a flexible, agile fashion, without bureaucracy.
  14. Is a good corporate citizen, in its community.
  15. Discovers and invents new methodologies, constantly remaining ahead of the curve and seeking to improve upon how its services are delivered.  They invest in Thought Leadership.
  16. Inspires everyone involved with their projects.
  17. Has staff that sustains a positive, can-do, multi-disciplinary approach towards projects and their own professional development.
  18. Doesn’t put out cookie cutter work and solutions.
  19. Has fun and gets things done – at the same time.
  20. Doesn’t make excuses or employ excessive salesmanship.  They keep their promises.
  21. Doesn’t “fake it til they make it” – they’re making it all the time, and it shows.



David Houle Speaks at Heath City Symposium

March 1, 2014 – 2:10 am
Arman Rousta

Blueliner Shareholder and America’s leading Futurist, David Houle, closes the Health City Cayman Islands Symposium on February 25, 2014. Dr. Devi Shetty, the visionary cardiologist, humanitarian, entrepreneur, is the guest of honor. Medical tourism is a hotly debated topic and a rapidly rising trend in U.S. Healthcare.

“David has been a great mentor over the past ten years” notes Arman Rousta, “He sees the world, its trends and potential in ways that most people do not.  Being with him at this momentous occasion in Cayman Islands, to praise the visionary Dr. Shetty and mark the opening of the groundbreaking Health City facility, is a defining moment for us all.”

This 12-minute talk demonstrates why David is one of the world’s foremost thinkers and speaker on vital topics like the future of healthcare.  David also wrote a poignant blog about his views of Health City as a model for healthcare in the 21st Century, on the popular Evolution Shift.



Cross Platform Marketing in Children’s Media

April 17, 2013 – 3:07 pm
Danny Klein

A Blueliner client in the business of children’s media recently engaged in a series of meetings with Dreamworks Animation regarding one of his feature film screenplays. Dreamworks’ interest was simple and straightforward: is this story marketable, and does it have “cross platform” appeal? From the beginning of the presentation process, story meetings actually included the Dreamworks marketing staff. In fact, story editors there concurrently serve as marketing executives. Simply put, story development is intertwined with product development on all levels – it’s as if the company serves as an animation production house as well as an interactive marketing agency.

The staff’s key question, not surprisingly, was whether or not the story and characters could be marketed across the board: video games, digital games, mobile games, music recordings, television, books, toys, etc.  The story would also have to play for boys and girls. Research included the movie’s title — whether it was simple enough for kids to say, and could exploit search engine optimization. Ultimatlely, what Dreamworks has found in recent years is that funny furry animals have proven to spawn more merchandise than other products (think “Shrek”). And thus, they were on the hunt for a “funny furry animal” project that would translate into the aforementioned platforms for cross platform marketing.

Today’s children’s media executives know that cross platform marketing, or transmarketing, is nothing new. We all remember the days of our “Star Wars” or “Strawberry Shortcake” lunch boxes, Darth Vader masks, and Luke Skywalker figures. (Dare I forget my Star Wars pillow and blanket). Only nowadays, there are more platforms than ever, and they are always changing, always growing. So how do these companies keep up?

Ken Faier, president of Nerd Corps, executive producer of “SlugTerra”, and presenter at the “Creating Brands in the New Digital Age” panel, concurred that when his company evaluates any new property (storyline, or show), they always evaluate what media will be used to advertise to that demographic, and of course the potential for retail products associated with the brand. Lori Camm, a Senior Content Producer and programmer for BBC Children, asks, “Is the core of transmedia just marketing? Or is it getting to a good story?” She suspects it’s a bit of both. “If you’ve got a good story and good characters, the kids will go to where they are.” Ville Lepisto, animation producer with Rovio, the company that produced the surprise hit “Angry Birds”, sees the cross-platform strategy as basically telling the same story over and over again, with different media.

“Angry Birds” used Tumblr as their key media content hub, and had a live Google hangout leading up to the release. Keeping their focus on the fans and delivering different content at the same time on different media platforms, where their fans would be, launched the property successfully with games, toys and other associated merchandise. Note that more platforms means that products associated with a brand can be launched at the same time.  This differs from past marketing strategies, in which products were launched in cautious phases.
Another effect of today’s digital media is that children are receiving so many messages online, via social media, all the time. When movies and television were the key marketing platforms, products generally hit movies first and then became television series (so as to hedge the television investment). Or, if a television show proved to be successful, it then became a movie (ie. Hannah Montana, The Simpsons, etc). But then kids had time to process what it is they were watching. With omnipresent social media, products must be launched at once in order to leave an imprint. Especially when the consumers are children and parents. Today there are Facebook groups and blogs that generate more viewership than expensive, high-risk television programs.

The lesson, which extends well beyond children’s media clients – to create properties that can be launched on a variety of platforms, and preferably at the same time (or close to it). The days of 6-12 month brand “roll outs” are  long gone!




Bing search results- between authorship and subjectship

March 26, 2013 – 5:33 pm

Search results have always been important both for SEO and sales . While the algorithmic  formula is kept secret, many search engines are trying  to push the “creativity” further.Let’s compare Bing and Google.When someone starts searching for a particular keyword, the results  surprise, especially because they are confusing. For instance, the Bing results for author images seem to show exactly as the ones from Google. With one exception: they cannot be called author images,because they get more into subject images (which may be an attribute specific only to Bing search results).Example of authorship image from Google:






This is a  picture of Jim Crammer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money and a co-founder and chairman of In this case, Google associated my search with his picture and biography.Now moving forward with this analysis, let’s take a look at how Bing proceeds in terms of showing search results.




















Both arrows reveal that Nick Goodman’s picture shows he is author of those articles instead of … topic. In the middle of the search results page, instead of Nick’s picture (since he is the founder of the company that is subject of the article), one can notice a picture showing a plane  - the cover picture of the article in Forbes Magazine.While constantly trying to improve their search results,  engines have the tendency to become more confusing instead of creative. I think the best way to bring improvements to your search results  is using clarity and avoiding as much as possible misunderstandings. People get confused very easily, and if they are not particularly interested in a specific topic, and will go further with their readings, (so if  they just take a look at the Bing page) they will not understand who Nicholas Woodman is.


Continued Innovation on Facebook

February 13, 2013 – 12:15 pm

What happens when a medium becomes saturated with advertisers? Companies all around the world are competing for attention and for potential customers on social media. The good news is that social media can be very cost-effective. The bad news is, it is becoming more and more saturated every day.

Facebook users ‘like’ an increased number of brands. The proportion of ‘Likes’ to number of users has increased and thus decreased the value of each ‘Like’. This was inevitable; as companies became accustomed to posting content that ‘Likes’ for the simplest things. ‘Like if you Love Fridays’, ‘Like if you think kittens are cute’, and so forth. A ‘like’ has become so common for these posts that the number of likes almost becomes irrelevant.

In November, Nars took on a unique challenge. They sought to promote a new cosmetics collection using social media, but without giving away free products or even paying for advertising. The company developed a Facebook application for the Andy Warhol-inspired collection that would allow Facebook users to match their profile photos and/or cover photos in the style of Warhol, with prominent Nars branding throughout. (To see it the app in action, check out the video from Nars below.)

Speaking at a WWD conference, Heather Park, the digital media director at Nars, explained the entire philosophy behind this successful new way of engaging customers via social media. The aim was to target the cover photo section of users’ profiles. The team found out that once a Facebook user changes his profile picture, it appears in the friends’ feeds as a unique and not as a group update.  The outcome was a quite small number of users: approximately 3,100 BUT a really impressive number of engaged people. All together, the app’s users made over 5,000 images and spent over 7 minutes on using the app. Less than half of the users came from the US, with a surprising number coming from Brazil (approximately 23%).

Earned media impressions totaled 151 million, a figure obtained in majority from press coverage (tech and beauty blogs), Park said. Nars calculated that figure by adding up the monthly unique readers of each site that covered the campaign and, in the case of Twitter, by multiplying each tweet about the campaign by the number of followers that particular Twitter user had.

This example is important, not because of the great impact the campaign had, but because the company generated a high reach without any kind of sweepstakes, giveaways, or paid Facebook advertising. It goes to show that Facebook still has room for innovation. Success is not determined by the number of likes or comments. Sometimes, creating a great, engaging tool is better than curating daily content to promote your brand.



February 6, 2013 – 11:55 am

Capturing the images of an event plays a crucial role in the event’s marketing plan. The post media plan in many instances can be as significant as the preparatory ones. Following through can propel a single event past the limitations of its time-frame. It can also be an easy and cost-effective manner in which companies can curate existing content. This rehashed content can feed social media networks, blogs, and more. It becomes another opening in which to create a conversation between the consumer and the brand.

The event experience is subject to the perception of those in attendance. A lone photographer’a lens is able to tell a unique experience, but may not be representative of all attendees. All sides represent a crucial part in the telling of a complete and compelling story, also ensuring that the outer limits of your own demographics are reached. However, gathering these event photos to tell this story can be trouble-some at times.

Marketers are currently granted a few options. Flickr has been a popular tool for constituting and distributing an online album. Free accounts allow users to host images accessible to all. The complication with this approach is that images are controlled by a singular source. Thus, in order to display a broader perspective, the account owner(s) would have to encourage others to submit their photos to them, which they would subsequently upload and accredit to the user. This method is both time-consuming and uneconomical.

Facebook mends an element of this. Users are able to tag a fan page, attributing their pictures to it. These images are pigeon-holed into a ‘Tagged’ album on Facebook. They do not directly correlate to the event it pertains to. If a user aims to view all the images of an event, they may be sorting through multiple galleries across multiple users. This is hardly convenient if one yearns to see all the images associated with an event.

At its core, Pixlee addresses this issue. This aggregate allows users to contribute photos to a single event gallery, assorted by hash-tags. Images are pulled from across the web, ranging from Facebook and Twitter, to Instagram and more. It requires no registration from participants, only inclusion of a provided, event-specific hashtag. Thus, users looking for photos of an event can easily view a single album containing thousands of unique user perspectives from all across the web.

This Brooklyn startup is already servicing several high profile clients across an array of verticals, including the Oklahoma City Thunder, the San Francisco 49ers, and more. While still in its infant stages, their recent San Francisco 49er’s campaign may be a precursor to its potential. Together with Pixlee, the 49ers collected fan pictures on game day. A moderator that controls all images put into the web portfolio (based on parameters set by the client) filtered photos with those of 49er’s jerseys. Pixlee placed un-intrusive calls to action on the user-generated photos. This turned the fan photo into a pseudo banner advertisement. In the case of the 49ers, clicking on a user photo featuring a player’s jersey directed the user to a site where that specific jersey can be purchased.  The result was a spike in the sale of football jerseys, only compounded by the 49ers trip to the SuperBowl.

In concept, Pixlee is simplistic but offers something Facebook cannot. On Facebook, calls to actions on photos can only lay to the far right of the image light box, where the description is placed. The problem with this is more often than not, there is a stark contrast between the whitespace of the description section and the photo. Thus, when a photo is opened, the image’s dimensions define the user’s spectrum and the limitations of their attention. Hence, when placing calls to actions in the description section, we can begin with an assumption a lesser-quality CTR and a diminished chance of converting the social observer to a direct lead.

In essence, the description is not meant to convert the user. The goal for Facebook is for the user to interact with the section below it as opposed to a sponsoring an off-site, ‘bottom-line’ conversion.  The next level of engagement after viewing a photo is to partake in its virality. This is why we see the comment box in-between the strong fallow and terminal areas. Within that whitespace, it uses colors to bring the focal point of the user, from the ‘description’ to the ‘comment’ section. Facebook does this with a contrasting white/blue color scheme. By highlighting the comment section, Facebook increases the image’s comments, increases its reach, and ideally, indirectly influences the conversion funnel.

Pixlee’s model is the next step up from allowing user-generated photos to indirectly influence conversions. Not only can it organize them, but by collecting these photos, Pixlee is able to seamlessly make them collateral in an ROI driven, direct response campaign. It packs both a commercial and agency appeal and even if stripped, contains functionality that would prove invaluable to other networks looking to increase the capabilities and sophistication of their own advertising platforms. At it’s core, Pixlee is the next step in identifying a numerical attribution for a company’s social media marketing endeavors and provides one with better insight as to the return on investment for such efforts.



M-Commerce: New Possibilities for Marketers or Less?

January 30, 2013 – 5:55 pm

In December of 2011, I wrote a piece on mobile commerce experiences and its increased significance,citing a Tesco case study. At the time, I asserted that mobile commerce will continue to change the way consumers interact with brands and their products. The more sophisticated smartphones get, the greater influence they will have on a conversion. Their sophistication has only been compounded by the growth in mobile connectivity; taking smartphones from entertainment and communication devices to providing a familiar e-Commerce environment for a unique and convenient shopping experience.    
Now, one year later, mobile commerce has gained traction and anticipated to be one of the most powerful trends in 2013. Traditional payment methods have been replaced by more convenient technologies, like Google Wallet or Apple’s Passbook. Like a lot of new technology, consumers have not yet been enthusiastic or trustful of these apps. Their purchases have been diverse and range from small items to very expensive ones, with the expectation that more consumers would be willing to give up the traditional method of going into their wallets or purses to enter a credit card number; and would instead embrace online payment services already tied to them.
According to Perception Research, 76% of smartphone owners use their devices while shopping and in showrooms – mostly for comparative pricing but more importantly, to purchase.
The comfort users have with the increased capabilities of their smartphones can largely be attributed to the handful of large companies that have been on the forefront of this technology. Companies like Amazon, PayPal, Google and Starbucks have made significant strides in integrating mobile devices in the everyday interaction consumers have with their brand. Single click checkout processes were one of the ways some of these brands were able to slowly introduce the use of the mobile phone in the conversion funnel. For many of these brands, it signified a stepping stone to launching a more aggressive mobile campaign in which they expect users to be comfortable enough to participate in.

According to RSR’s latest survey, 44% of respondents reported their primary form of payment is credit card with 20% expecting that some form of digital payment, including mobile, would be their primary form of payment in 3 years’ time.
Retailers however, have shown some apprehension to this concept in its current state. “The payment networks get the most credit for leading innovation in payments, followed by Google and PayPal,” said Nikki Baird, managing partner at RSR Research. “But the payment networks are also overwhelmingly tagged as the biggest inhibitors to innovation, followed by mobile network operators such as AT&T and Verizon.
“Over two-thirds of respondents say that they are waiting for the dust to settle from fights among bigger players like Google and Apple before they’ll feel comfortable making any significant investments in digital or mobile payments,” she said.
Tom Nawara, Vice President of Acquity Group adds that there probably will not be a mass mobile wallet adoption in 2013, but the industry will definitely see growth.
What is to be seen, is how marketers will adapt their campaigns and how efficient their messageswill be in targeting this new audience. Will M-Commerce drive a significant ROI in 2013, or will it be a
distraction in the effective target of a campaign’s demographic?


The Domino Game of Duplicate Content

January 2, 2013 – 3:23 pm

In the digital marketing era, many companies rely on organic search as a way of fostering interest in their brand and gaining leads. Organic search is popular because of its low cost, high ROI possibilities, with some companies able to rely on search engine optimization as their primary or even sole marketing engine.
Search engine optimization includes targeting specific keywords related to your website – in which you aim to rank for in user-generated searches. In a constant effort to eradicate the SERPs of ‘unworthy’ content, Google penalizes a number of elements that are aimed at taking down those that ‘SPAM’ their websites to trick search engines into ranking them. One of these factors is duplicate content.
In the past, optimizers were able to duplicate keyword rich content on their site. This did several things. It allowed search engines to index a higher number or pages – a ranking factor as well as opened up the number of entrance paths to their website. It also allowed several pages of keyword rich text to be tied to the domain, regardless of how relevant it was or if it were previously on the site. Nowadays, the existence of duplicate content on a website is a ranking factor – so webmasters must do all they can to ensure that content is relevant to a page and that it is unique (both to their own domain and to other sites online, and not just copied from someone else).

There are several tools available to check if you have duplicate content. You want to check both title tags as well as the copy itself. SEOMoz is a great tool that will compare your site to other pages within your domain and alert you to duplicate content. Google Webmaster Tools will also alert you to duplicate title tags.
Sometimes webmasters duplicate content and don’t even realize it. This happens one of two ways. We link to a particular page on our site and that exists in more than one subfolder. For instance, a page links from both the homepage and an inner page. Instead of linking a single URL, the webmaster will make the content available in both sections in an effort to keep the subfolder organized.
For instance:

While it may make sense to some webmasters follow the URL structure on individual pages, what this does it put the exact same content on two different parts of the site. This is most common on e-Commerce sites, with items in a ‘Sale’ section and their regular parent group as well. Search engines will read this as duplicate content and should be flagged for review. Unique content should only exist on a single page of your domain.
Another common cause for duplicate content issues is URLs themselves. URLs that feature varying upper and lowercase letters can be indexed by search engines, creating two identical pages of content without you knowing. Without checking in a tool, you can try this on your website by simply entering two different ways to write a unique URL.                                                                                                                                                                                        For instance:


If all these URL variants were honored by the site (and you were allowed to visit each variation rather than be redirected), you may have a duplicate content issue.  Your next step is to check if these alterative URLs are being indexed.
If you have a small website, you may be able to rel=canonical the URLs with varying capitalizations. It’s important that all URLs canonical to a URL of similar structure. Thus, all should redirect to lowercase URLs (standard) and no uppercase letters should be honored.
It is possible that your URLs are too long or the site is too big and it’s not reasonable to rel=canonical URLs. A simple IIS rewrite rule (dotNetNuke) or script written for your .htaccess file can correct this by ignoring cases and matching URLs [A-Z].
There are several other instances of where duplicate content can appear, but these among the most common. Duplicate content can have very negative implications. While SEO is a long term plan of optimizing several smaller parts, fixing duplicate content issues is one of the few things you can correct and almost immediately see a positive impact. A duplicate content audit should be one of the first tasks undertaken in an SEO undertaking.




Video Marketing: 2012

December 28, 2012 – 1:10 pm

This year like every other, we’ll see oracular predictions on the state of marketing in the New Year – What will the next big thing be and which specific tactics will drive the greatest influence. ‘This is going to be the year of mobile’ we’ve heard for the past 5 years. It’s arguable as to whether its potential has been fulfilled as of yet – I think not. QR Codes is another that has come up the past 3 years, but I think we can all agree that it hasn’t taken off in the United States the way many have been anticipating.

Video however was a prediction that we’ve seen thrive in 2012. The creativity granted by video makes it a cogent marketing engine as it can be seamlessly tailored to a campaign’s voice, intention, and branding.

Online video ad spending has increased 27% alone in 2012 and projected to grow another 20% in 2013. Improvements made to Google’s video advertising platform has helped ads to stay relevant to the content, increase click through rates, and increasing conversions from video ads like never before.

This increase in advertising has been directly tied to the increase in videos watched online. Some studies have indicated that online videos hold as much as a 2% higher viewership than television. This past November alone, the average person spent 1,182 minutes looking at online video content. 72% are reported to have forwarded, shared, or posted video content to their social networks.

In concurrence with providing better results to users, YouTube’s own algorithm has had to make adjustments in 2012. Much like Google, YouTube sought to reward highly engaging content rather than those with a copious number of clicks. Thus the percentage of time watched for a video has replaced the number of times the video has been loaded in YouTube’s algorithm’s favorability.

By far, one of my favorite video authors of this year has to be Jason Silva. Silva is often referred to as the Timothy Leary of the viral video age. The former Current TV media artist and film maker has made a name for himself as a performance philosopher/pseudo-futurist. His poetic, inspirational, and Carl Sagan-esque take on scientific and technological advancements combined with his enthusiasm, delivery style, and creativity has been a vital part to his videos, their virality, and his success.

Silva’s videos are notably short and strive to capture the attention and then the full capacity of the viewer’s imagination. Silva refers to them of shots of ‘philosophical espresso’, as they play like movie trailers for concepts. His use of ‘intense music’, colorful images, and graphic visualizations counter the long standing practice of futurists using hard numbers and cold graphs to get their point across. Silva has found a formula to retain the attention of the viewer for the entire length of his 2 minute videos.

The results have been great for Silva who has been able to penetrate a general market that is typically closed off to futurist and philosophers alike. Lots of information, thought provoking and almost demanding postliminary action, his videos embody the very best of advertising. Commercials wish they could be that engaging. His fresh take on this content is tailored to a younger audience and has allowed him to flourish on social networks – the driving force to his success. Not only do I expect to see more of Jason Silva in 2013, but I predict companies will take notice of his video style and incorporate some of these concepts into their own advertising.



Mashable Redesign

December 7, 2012 – 2:10 pm

Since 2005, has been one of the go-to sources for internet related news, covering entertainment, video, web development, technology and more. Articles feature popular news and analysis to helpful digital marketing tactics for social media and web design. Mashable has done a stellar job over the years of developing fun, creative and sharable content.

This week, Mashable unveiled its new site redesign. The website is an artistic shift from its previous traditional ‘large feature section, right side-bar’ converting standard to a tablet friendly, widget –style design. It was done to accommodate a growing tablet market. As the US has embraced tablet computers beyond the iPad, it’s become more important than ever to maintain this audience’s level of engagement.

The Pinterest/widget style display has been popular this past year, largely because of the success Pinterest has had with it. The Pinterest design of course is based on an old advertising mood board. The great thing about this layout is that it quickly conveys messages and ideas through colors and patterns, easily featuring items and puts all the information is an easy-to-access format. Its responsive design is also very adaptable to tablets.

This is part of the reason it works so great for Pinterest, whose entire website is dedicated to custom mood boards. How well does this translate into websites holding a significant amount of information like That’s up for discussion. I’m not a huge fan of the redesign, not yet at least. It feels like an intimidating amount of information for the user when they first get onto the site. It may be difficult to find something you’d like to read because the it can be so easily distracting.

I tend to like websites that are built to drive specific actions; whether it be conversions, heading to specific pages on the site, etc. With the new, the user’s eyes are not directed anywhere in particular. They have free range over all of the articles and ads at the same time (with the exception of positioning and some varying sizes). The website risks holding little command over how the user will view the site. It may just be too much to take in. Not only are there pictures all over the front page, but excerpts as well.

Why would this design pass review at Mashable? It’s possible that the redesign will work well. It’s possible that Mashable has no interest in what you click on, only that items are clicked. It makes it easy for the user to navigate throughout the different articles in the site – my only question is if they’re getting what they’d like out of it and fast enough. Only time will tell how users react to the new design and how it changes the reading habits and the visibility of posts further down the line.

But that’s just my opinion. What do you think of the Mashable redesign?