Ensuring Cross Channel Consistency in Brand Management

“Having the people,systems and governance in place to facilitate a cross channel view of marketing assets and customer experience is a critical challenge many organizations are facing”

Laura Keller, Strategist at MISI company

Silos Revisited

In many organizations the responsibility for creating marketing assets is decentralized and siloed by channel. One group is working on email marketing, another on web commerce, others on social media and still other groups on more traditional print and broadcast. Without solid governance and systems to support a view across these channels, companies are missing a tremendous opportunity to:

  1. Re-use marketing assets
  2. Realize value from cross channel synergies
  3. Evaluate the consistency and quality of marketing assets

A great deal of  time and money is wasted creating new assets because of a lack of awareness of existing assets.  Assets also need to be managed across channels in order to maintain consistency and measure effectiveness of programs and maximize impact from spend.  Any organization engaging in cross channel marketing programs will benefit from core tools and approaches that, when put into place, can improve response times and save money.

A centralized repository of marketing assets that is supported by consistent organizing principles (taxonomy) is a requirement for facilitating cross channel views and re-use of assets. Unfortunately, the following scenarios are all too common. Continue reading

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SEO vs. TNBP or “Where was I going again?”

Much has been written on this blog about the value of SEO when it comes to taxonomies.  As Stephanie mentions its’ a huge weapon in the battle against outdated legacy terminology and spur of the second marketing speak. Jeff’s posts on keyword research, taxonomy and SEO are indispensable primers on the topic. So what haven’t we talked about yet?

How about SEO as the enemy of navigation?

Is there such a problem as too much of a good thing? When it comes to taxonomy navigation best practices and SEO, you bet.  Think about it this way: imagine you are meeting a friend for drinks after work and she tells you a story about something that happened to her during the day.

“I was in my office, and I had just poured myself a fresh cup of coffee.  I was in my office and the phone rang but I was tempted to ignore it. I was in my office and picked up the phone and it was my husband calling, did I mention I was in my office? Anyways I was in my office and my husband told me to sit down because he had incredible news. I was in my office and I sat down. I was in my office and my husband told me that we had just won the lottery?

Right, so… where were you again?  In your office, ok we get it!

Now have a look at the following taxonomy navigation suggested to us on a project for SEO purposes: Continue reading

What A Cute Bunny: Taxonomy as Liberator

I spent this past week testing a taxonomy as part of a digital asset management project we are currently working on. One of the test scenarios involved giving art taggers a series of images and asking them to code them using the taxonomy we had developed.

Taggers see taxonomy as a blessing and a curse. On the one hand controlled vocabularies are a tagger’s dream; a nice list of consistent terms that alleviate the problems of free-tagging (e.g. five variations on the same term, plural vs. singular, spelling mistakes, etc.) However, these same vocabularies quickly become a tagger’s nightmare when they perceive the values to overlap or be ambiguous – especially if you are used to only being able to select one value from the list.

Have a look at the following image

Easter Bunny

How would you describe it?

Style= Cute? Silly?? Whimsical???

(note: extra ?s  added to denote level of rising anxiety in tagger)

Taggers are a lot like us (us being taxonomists): we like it when things fit neatly into categories.  In this case however, the beauty is that this faceted taxonomy was specifically designed to accommodate the fact that most images don’t fit into one category. Watching the nervousness and anxiety wash away when we explained to taggers that they could use as many taxonomy values as were appropriate to tag an image was the highlight of the week. Instantly the taxonomy transformed before their eyes from a categorical prison into a structure of possibilities.

This is not say to that ambiguous values and overlap are desirable – we definitely want to minimize that. Just that the flexibility in applying values makes it less critical that they all be strictly mutually exclusive. We can be silly, cute, and whimsical, or sometimes just plain silly. The important thing is that options are there.

Evangelism Marketing

Testing and validating a taxonomy can go many ways.  With a little luck and some hard work, usually it goes pretty well, you watch users click through the structure, find the right terms, and you go home feeling like everything’s in its right place. 

There are always the nightmare scenarios, the tester who can’t find anything and randomly clicks through the taxonomy as though they were sight seeing on a Sunday drive in the country, the tester who looks in the same category for everything… don’t ask me why but it’s always accessories, the tester who freely admits volunteering for this session to escape an insane co worker, if only for 45 minutes…  But I digress.

This last testing experience was by far and away the most rewarding I have ever done. Not because the taxonomy was perfect…it wasn’t.  Not because the testers were brilliant enough to intuit our mistakes… they weren’t, but because almost everyone left the sessions excited about taxonomy in general, and thought it would make their life, at least the part that had to do with information management, better.

I know, its sounds crazy, you don’t expect a positive response when you tell someone that from now on when they create a document they are going to have to use this elaborate structure in front of them to tag it…but they were. Everything from “Its about time”  to ” this is going to make finding things later a lot easier”.  Now certainly a large part of this positive reaction had to do with the fact that the overall structure and vocabulary of the taxonomy really resonated with them, but an even bigger part of this positive reaction had to do with the sense of participation in the overall project the testers felt when truly engaged and asked for feedback. 

What I am really trying to get at here is that taxonomy testing can be about more than just getting confirmation that you are great taxonomist, that people can find what they are looking for and that you will in fact most likely work again. 

Socialization of a taxonomy project through user testing can help to build project momentum and a sense of ownership of the taxonomy well before you ever actually force someone to tag a document with it.  So test early and test often, and try to ensure that when eventual users walk out of the room they feel they have contributed something meaningful to the taxonomy development process.

It may be a stretch to think your taxonomy project will be the subject of water cooler conversation for weeks to come, but if you can get your testers excited enough about taxonomy to market it for you then you are one step closer to a succesful project. 

 Let your users be your evangelists

The Popularity Contest: Taxonomy Development in the Petabyte Era

Forget taxonomy, ontology, and psychology. Who knows why people do what they do? The point is they do it, and we can track and measure it with unprecedented fidelity. With enough data, the numbers speak for themselves.” (1)

Recently Chris Anderson wrote an article for Wired magazine called the The End of Theory. The thesis of the article in a nutshell is that the impending petabyte era of data storage signals the end of the traditional scientific method of discovery. No longer are we bound to the outdated model of observation, hypothesis and measurement. Computers (developed by Google & IBM) “can throw the numbers into the biggest computing clusters the world has ever seen and let statistical algorithms find patterns where science cannot.”

Continue reading

The Case of the Ubiquitous Headphones

In our work of building and maintaining e-commerce taxonomies, we often run into the problem of products not fitting nicely into one single category. Although this problem is not specific to e-commerce taxonomies, their use for navigation and browsing presents a special categorization challenge; the need to lead a wide range of customer types down an intuitive path to the product they are looking for.

Think about something as simple as a pair of headphones: where do they belong in the following hierarchy? Continue reading