Nathaniel Ward

Why you are personalizing your messaging?

Meghan Keaney Anderson warns against personalizing content just because you can: “Personalization without a good reason breaks the cardinal inbound rule: Marketing should be driven by the prospective customer’s needs. At its core, marketing should be useful.”


A sign you might need to rethink your web design

The Salvation Army's tips on how to navigate their website.

If you have to provide step-​​by-​​step instructions on how to navigate your web site, including a whole section devoted to your home page, perhaps you need to rethink how your site is designed.



Be careful what you learn from your tests

Pilot programs and other trials can often lead us to the wrong conclusions, Megan McArdle warns:

This is one more installment in a continuing series, brought to you by the universe, entitled “promising pilot projects often don’t scale”.  They don’t scale for corporations, and they don’t scale for government agencies.  They don’t scale even when you put super smart people with expert credentials in charge of them.  They don’t scale even when you make sure to provide ample budget resources.  Rolling something out across an existing system is substantially different from even a well run test, and often, it simply doesn’t translate.


The importance of color to web design

Tommi Kaikkonen explains why so many websites have light-​​colored backgrounds:

The whole Google network of websites and applications is based primarily on white. They aren’t very exciting or arousing to our senses. But what if they switched the background color to a different one, such as red? My guess is that while the sites might look more exciting, you wouldn’t be as comfortable using them. The color red causes a non-​​conditional physiological reaction, increasing your heart and respiratory rate. This reaction is something we humans are born with.


Diving into Obama’s online campaign

Inside the Cave

Engage’s Patrick Rufini has put together a thorough analysis of the Obama campaign’s technology efforts.

Drawing on data from public sources and private briefings, the 93-​​page report covers:

  • How the campaign structured itself to directly integrate its online and data analysis teams, including its hiring practices;
  • The innovative techniques the campaign used to measure, analyze, and model its supporters and the electorate;
  • What the campaign did to optimize its online fundraising, including A/​B testing, so it could meet its $1 billion fundraising goal;
  • The campaign’s use of custom-​​built technology tools and cloud-​​based services to give itself an edge over Mitt Romney; and
  • How social media and online advertising played a big role in reaching voters and bringing them to the polls.

The report (behind a registration wall) is definitely worth your time.


See web typography in action

Simple typographical changes like line spacing and column width can affect your website’s readability. Tommi Kaikkonen has created an interactive guide so you can see these changes in real time.

(Via Inspect Element.)



Tradition lives on

Tim Stanley: “How reassuring to know that the British are still capable of carving up large parts of the world and renaming them after monarchs!”


Your gut instincts as a marketer are probably wrong

Obama landing pages a/b test

Time’s writeup of the Obama campaign’s online and data efforts, linked earlier, is fascinating reading.

Constant optimization with A/​B testing played a big role in the campaign’s fundraising efforts (emphasis added):

A large portion of the cash raised online came through an intricate, metric-​​driven e-​​mail campaign in which dozens of fundraising appeals went out each day. Here again, data collection and analysis were paramount. Many of the e-​​mails sent to supporters were just tests, with different subject lines, senders and messages. Inside the campaign, there were office pools on which combination would raise the most money, and often the pools got it wrong. Michelle Obama’s e-​​mails performed best in the spring, and at times, campaign boss Messina performed better than Vice President Joe Biden. In many cases, the top performers raised 10 times as much money for the campaign as the underperformers.

Chicago discovered that people who signed up for the campaign’s Quick Donate program, which allowed repeat giving online or via text message without having to re-​​enter credit-​​card information, gave about four times as much as other donors. So the program was expanded and incentivized. By the end of October, Quick Donate had become a big part of the campaign’s messaging to supporters, and first-​​time donors were offered a free bumper sticker to sign up.

The Obama campaign succeeded online in part because it didn’t know what worked–and admitted it. That’s the hallmark of a good marketer: humility about your skills, a willingness to constantly check your core assumptions.

To succeed as a marketer, you have to take risks and put your ego on the line. As Pixar president Ed Catmull reminds us, “if we aren’t always at least a little scared, we’re not doing our job.”