The Swirl: March 21, 2016

It's time to take a break from basketball and give your competitive side a rest. In this edition: mobile expectations, some SXSW craziness, and how to handle big data.  


"Hope is a four letter word." - Carl McIntyre. Listen to his story on how to embrace challenges with perseverance.  


Not to be confused with March Madness, but probably just as important. 61% of consumers own a smartphone and 40% of consumers have turned to a competitor after having an awful mobile experience. That's a lot of missed opportunity, and if you haven't already thought about this, it's time to get on board. The question is not whether you should go mobile - it's how. Is a mobile app or a mobile site better for your business? There are pros and cons of each. The case for an app is that they cut through the noise of websites, reinforce your brand, and provide complete experiences. On the other hand, mobile sites improve search rankings and require zero downloads. If you still need help, read this to help guide your decision.  


Developing an app or building a website is not a simple undertaking, especially for small businesses. It takes a lot of planning and if you don't do it right the first time, it's not cheap to fix. Unfortunately, mediocre mobile sites and apps just won't cut it when it comes to consumer engagement. We're dealing with a high maintenance market today, so whatever method you choose, at least make sure that it's easy to navigate and visually appealing.  


Usability. If brands want to engage users and drive conversions, they have to eliminate all barriers so that they can give their customers a truly helpful experience. Need some help? Start by reading these principles.  


We've all seen crazy brand activations, but there's no better time to push boundaries than at SXSW Interactive. The five-day festival has become a hub for innovation, so brands are eager to get their name out there. And when it comes to experiential marketing, they didn't disappoint. Here's what we saw: DIY paper crafts from American Greetings, virtual beer from Anheuser-Busch, and customized drinks in the Mashable House. Raise your hand if you wish you were there? We sure do.


Experiential marketing is nothing new. It's a way to give consumers a unique experience, but doing so requires a complete understanding of your audience, and in this case, the event. There's been criticism around the presence of brands at SXSW. But as this video proves, if it's a good fit and truly demonstrates innovation, people will welcome brands that support the experience. The reason American Greetings, Anheuser-Busch, and Mashable saw success was because they emphasized what the festival is all about.  


What you stand for and who your consumers are. Brands like Vans are using experiential marketing to bring their mission to life, and it's working. Their permanent House of Vans locations are the prime example of how experiential marketing can become core to your brand. So much so that they are celebrating their anniversary by hosting 10 pop-ups in top markets. The spots feature free concerts, DIY workshops, skateboarding, galleries, and more. It works because it embraces who they are and demonstrates an understanding of their audience. Experiential marketing is less about being live and more about engaging consumers. If you want to see long-term success, you have to give what your audience is looking for.  


Last week ARF David Ogilvy Awards announced the winners of 2016, honoring campaigns that have mastered advertising research and that haunting term of "big data." Lean Cuisine took home the grand prize for their #WeighThis campaign. The key insight: female consumers are leading accomplished lives, yet face a society that continues to only judge them for appearance. By focusing on meaningful accomplishments rather than weight, Lean Cuisine achieved a 33% increase in positive brand perception, 6.5 million reach, and a 178% increase in social media conversation. Feeling inspired yet?  


Getting to that insight was not easy. As scary as big data might seem, it's one of the most powerful tools we have today, but only if you use it right. Lean Cuisine's methodology was successful because they used all of their research in a meaningful way. As did many of the other big winners. You can read more about their technique here, or start with this high-level guide.     


Analytics. We know - it's easy to get bogged down by stats and never-ending piles of Excel sheets. But what is that data really saying? If something seems off or different, always ask why. Giving it meaning by tying all the pieces together is where you'll be able to draw true insights and learnings. We like to call it making the magic happen. And in some cases, the ability to tell a story with your data will make or break your brand.


Ever wondered what's really behind a click? Improve your CTR skills with this guide. Believe it or not, every impression is important.    


Everyone can benefit from mentors, even CMOs.