How is a digital marketing campaign like a wedding cake? What's a quick and dirty recipe for user research? How can you drive user engagement and shift brand perception, and how can Mariah Carey help?
These questions and more were answered in Simple UX Principles That Will Improve Your Marketing Campaigns, a recent webinar presented by the American Marketing Association, Aquent and Vitamin T, and Betty Media. Author and speaker Dan Hoffman, and creative director and designer Bettinna Justinien shared ideas, tactics, and strategic frameworks from the field of user experience design, examining specific applications for digital marketers.
In case you missed the webinar, here are five key takeaways that will enable any digital marketer to apply UX thinking today.
Know Your Users
User Experience is a large and nebulous field, encompassing ideas from information architecture, interaction design, evolutionary psychology, gestalt theory, and beyond. In essence, it means designing from the user's point of view, adapting to user behavior rather than demanding that users adapt their behavior to suit a particular interface. Applying UX principles and creating good user experiences demands rigorous research, iteration, empathy, and other skills that are essential for digital marketers as well.
In the webinar, Hoffman and Justinien boil down the UX process to five key directives: Discover, Define, Design, Develop, Deploy. Through the course of most projects, these overlap and repeat.
Creating a successful marketing campaign must start from a firm and honest understanding and appreciation for the needs, desires, and behaviors of the target audience. A marketer cannot simply cater to a potential customer; the marketer must be the potential customer, or at least thoroughly understand that person's thoughts, feelings, and consciousness.
Research In All Phases
Data isn't just for "quant" marketers anymore. Digital marketers have long embraced the revolutionary potential of big data, micro-targeting, and other research refinements made possible by technological innovation and our shifting media landscape.
But in order for all this raw power to be useful, marketers must start with the right questions. What user information is important to the success of a campaign? That's where UX thinking comes in.
Various methods of research should be laced through every stage of a project. Justinien and Hoffman emphasize that most research should be front-loaded - the better marketers know their potential customers in the crucial early stages of a campaign, the better that knowledge will guide its progress.
The speakers offer some "quick and dirty" suggestions for doing research on the fly (get help from professional organizations or affinity groups and, when in doubt, talk to strangers on the street).
Craft Your Message
The message of a campaign must be clear and simple. It should address a real person's real need, in a way that person can easily understand.
Justinien and Hoffman offer a quick formula for clarifying a message. "As a [BLANK], I need [BLANK] so that [BLANK]." For example, "as a health-conscious windsurfer, I need a waterproof smart watch so that I can monitor my heart rate while windsurfing.”
The better you know your potential customer, the more clearly you can speak that person's language. Sometimes it's easier to communicate with one composite character than an amorphous group. Sketching a "buyer persona," or a character who represents common characteristics of a target customer, can be a tremendous help in messaging (and a lot of fun to make, too). Buyer persona templates can be easily found online.
Integrate Social Media in the UX Process Early
The tools of social media are not always well understood or well integrated into larger campaigns. Hoffman and Justinien stress the importance of making social strategy an essential component of the overall initiative, reflecting the same user research and UX principles that drive the campaign itself.
Surveys, games, and other social engagement drivers can get users more involved, strengthening the UX feedback loop.
Justinien has a wealth of expertise on the topic of social media, and provides some illustrative examples, including an effort by HostelWorld to glamorize its image with some help from uber-diva Mariah Carey.
Test, Prototype, and Repeat
Before shipping a new product or launching a campaign, there are many ways to test its effectiveness and discover areas for potential improvement. Wireframes, mockups, user flow diagrams, and other tools of the UX trade can be just as useful to marketers. Hoffman and Justinien show how to use these and how they can help at various stages of a project.
In its essence, UX is an ongoing process of experimentation, iteration, feedback, and change. The project is never finished, as long as there is more to learn. The same is true for an effective marketing campaign. When the campaign begins, UX best practices provide ongoing opportunities for research, improvement, and delight.