Research methods you can use to move your brand.


The Effects of Gas Prices on Consumer Attitudes

Throughout the past few months Americans have been hearing a great deal of negative news regarding gas and consumer prices. Recent studies have shown that the current increase in gas prices has “reversed” Americans’ more positive opinions of the economy in the last few months. Thus, a general trend is that consumers tend to express a more negative perception of the economy as gas prices rise.

Additionally, the rise of gas prices has increased Americans’ attention to current news headlines, specifically stories/events that directly effect gas prices. According to Pew Research, consumers have been following the news in Libya more closely than any current headline. The latest interest in Libya arises because of the direct effect the events have had on America’s gas prices. Consequently, the rise of gas prices inspires the public to pay more attention to news stories pertaining to gas prices.

Furthermore, studies indicate that the rise in gas prices may cause a shift in consumer attitudes toward the importance of fuel-efficiency vehicles. The more the gas prices rise, the more likely consumers will begin to take interest in purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles. president and chief executive officer Chip Perry explains, “when gas prices rise, interest on our site in smaller/more fuel efficient vehicles increase, when prices go back down shoppers return to their normal shopping habits.”  Ultimately, per gallon prices will affect car buyer’s enthusiasm for bigger vehicles next year.

The fact remains that price is central in consumers’ minds. Across all demographics, consumers said that they would change their behavior to save at the pump.


Design in 2011

For the world of design, 2011 is the year where function outweighs beauty. The new and upcoming trends are focused around responsive design, constant connection and virtual reality. For consumers and designers this year and the decade to come, design’s main goal is to captivate users in an entertaining, original manner. To do this successfully, here are the top 11 trends that designers should follow so they can succeed on computers as well as smart phones, netbooks, tablets and more in 2011.

1. More CSS3 and HTML5

2011 is the year where designers are starting to get away from Flash and focus more on web design with text shadow, border radius and image transparency.

2. Simplistic Color Schemes

2011 is all about simplicity. Green, yellow and red are the new black, white and grey. It is important to limit your design to only two or three colors and to work within the shades of the colors you are using.

3. Mobile Ready

It is important for web design to be responsive to multiple viewpoints with the growing amount of mobile products. Though it is good to have a dedicated mobile site, but make sure it is optimized to the original site as well. It has been forecasted that smart phones will outsell personal computers in 2011.

4. Parallax Scrolling

2011 design is all about creating a sense of depth. This can be done by using layers to present an illusion of 3-D dimensional space. It can also be very beneficial as a 2nd element on any design element.

5. Designing for Touch Screens

Due to the overwhelming usage of smart phones and iPads, online destinations are at consumer’s fingertips. With fingertip navigation, it is important to incorporate horizontal scrolling since hovering (like with a mouse) isn’t necessary anymore.

6. Depth Perception in Web Design

Website depth perception is all about creating dimension. With a crisp and simple design, replicating depth deems necessary in 2011.

7. Large Photographic Backgrounds

Large scale backdrops have surged in 2011. To grab the attention of the audience, web design is focused around high resolution, soft and slightly transparent imagery as well as being appropriate to the content.

8. Creative Domain Names and Integration

Web domains are getting away from the usual .com and being replaced by more “whimsical” names like .us or .me. .Me is good for personal portfolios, blogs or even creating a separate identity their a corporate brand.

9. Quick Response Codes

1n 2001, barcodes are popping on business cards, magazines and much more. Camera phones can take a picture of the barcode that will then take them to the website associated with it. This allows for a short cut to a mobile site and the ability to track visitors on special referral codes.

10.  Thumbnail Design

Thumbnail browsing enables consumers to clock on a magnifying glass and hover over the site before actually going to it. In 2011, the average Internet user has become “surfing-savvy” so this trend makes it easier to browse through the web more easily.

11.  Constant Connection/Life Stream

2011 is the year where consumers are focusing on a constant connection. Web design can help this by sharing our lives in an open forum and enabling personal blogs/portfolios to be live Twitter feeds. Sites, like foursquare, help dedicate this lifestream for all of consumer’s online activity.

Social Media to Offer Increased ROIs

Brafton has reported that marketers will need to monitor social ROIs this year, and the results of a new survey indicate that CMOs are hopeful about returns on investment in social media.

The majority of respondents (81 percent) expect their annual revenues to be linked to social media in 2011. This is up significantly from expectations last year, when just 44 percent of CMOs anticipated linking revenues to social media.

The report indicates that marketers will, indeed, need to develop new methods for monitoring their returns on leading social platforms

Of CMOs, 64 percent say they will increase their social budgets within the year. Moreover, 72 percent of respondents say they will hold social strategies accountable for sales. The majority of respondents believe social investments will account for up to 10 percent of revenues this year.


The Life and Times of Facebook

Facebook has been the engine, steering wheel, gas tank, and tire treads of the vehicle driving the social media trend into mainstream and utilized media. Unfortunately enough, there are three explicit and supported reasons why the glamorous life of the Facebook machine may soon come to an end. It’s just a matter of time before Facebook’s honeymoon is over. Although, it seems that social network juggernaut is indestructible, I don’t think the fairytale will last for too much longer. Here is why I think they fail:

1. Too much clutter — what turned me on Facebook from the beginning was the simple, clean user interface which Myspace drastically lacked. This has all changed since mid 2007 when they launched the Facebook platform allowing 3rd party apps on the site. Great idea at the time, but now the site has become a cluster of useless widgets that, for the most part, don’t provide much value and are quickly forgotten. This will come back to haunt them.

On the part of Facebook, I think this was a strategic mistake. Instead of throwing up all of these apps in a 3rd party free-for-all (there are currently 22,408 apps), they should have considered a more regulated, phased approach. For example, wait until the lifecycle of one app is coming to an end, before you introduce another one. This way users are not inundated with all the garbage and that squeaky clean UI can be maintained.

Moreover, I can see things only getting worse as the need for advertising dollars prevail and Facebook slowly becomes a virtual billboard with more ads — this why most people jumped the MySpace ship.

2. The ‘cool’ factor is long gone — when your uncle has a profile and is facebooking, you know the cool kids are not going to stay for long. This is a natural occurrence and we’ve seen it many times. Case in point = friendster. Friendster started off as social network for a lot people in the ‘in’ crowd and soon became overcrowded by the mainstream masses. When this happened the cool kids left the party and the rest soon followed. This is how fads are started, and this is how they die. Cool kids find something that quickly becomes popular, the masses follow, the cool kids leave, the masses follow.

3. Too many social networks, not enough time — more and more niche social networks are popping up and users will eventually spend more time on sites that focus more directly around their interests than large, general social networks. I think the MySpaces and Facebooks serve as great learning tools for the masses to understand how to use social networks. But eventually FB and MS will lose their appeal and only serve as gateways letting users find niche social networks that are more in line with their specific interests with more meaningful interactions.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website a web page in search engines via the “natural” or unpaid search results.

The higher on the page and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search and video search. When a web user visits a search engine, the order of appearance of those being searched is based on space bought by those companies, and also key words associated with each search. Companies and brands want to be a part of SEO and the online communication between keyword searches and the results they yield. The web has not traditionally been a forum for which organizations and advertisers can seek out their customers, but through the use of SEO they can do just that. Associating themselves with important key words and aligning themselves higher on the page than their competitors is both a visual representation of those which consumers should choose to reach their searching goals.

Marketing vs. Spam

When we begin speaking in terms of marketing on Twitter, invariably the question comes up, “how do I market my company without people viewing my efforts as spam?”

Spam is about taking the choice away from someone and delivering them information about products and services without their permission. Spam comes in the way of unsolicited emails, junk mail and telemarketing. Spam makes many of us switch off, and for good reason. We have not asked to be inundated with the information that we find floods our inboxes and letterboxes these days.

On Twitter we each have an option as to who we will follow. And one might suggest it is that choice that gives others the right to ‘spam’. Wrong. Spam is irresponsible and annoying. More will tune out than tune in, and those spammers will find themselves being un-followed.

Social Media is about connecting, sharing and helping people.

I respond to people who ‘mention’ my name on Twitter (ie who have ‘sent’ me a message), except if they have blatantly used the functionality to promote something to me. You know those tweets, the ones that say something like “find out how I made a million using Twitter; click this link @jododds”. I immediately unfollow anyone who sends me a tweet like this. As far as I’m concerned it is not an attempt to connect with me, it’s an attempt to blatantly sell to me.

Would that ever be acceptable? Well, if I tweeted, “how can I make a million using Twitter”, it might be ok, but clearly that’s not something that I am very likely to tweet!

So, take time to consider your message and how it will connect with your followers, remembering the ‘connecting, sharing and helping’ rule.

* Are you sharing a valuable service, product or resource?

* Do you take the time to share on a personal level as well as sharing on a business level?

* Have you established a relationship with your followers?

* Is the information you are providing timely and appropriate?

If you can answer these questions with a yes answer then you are likely to be marketing, not spamming. Your followers will welcome your post rather than turn away from it. Share your tweet with others and in turn respond in kind to their own messages and tweets. After all, marketing is all about the relationship and interplay between you and your potential customers and spam is about nothing more than spreading what you want people to know whether they want to hear it or not.

Future of Facebook

As we spent our first year at college, all of my classmates became Facebook guinea pigs; we were the first generation that would go through college (and the rest of our lives) with the site in our bookmarks. Social networking was as new to us as a frat party, a discussion section or a telephone call home. But we learned quickly. By the end of freshman year, I had stopped visiting each of the networks I had signed up for the year before because they were courting a demographic different than my own: Friendster was for old people (which, at the time, meant thirtysomethings); hi5 was for people in Europe, or Canada, or somewhere foreign; MySpace was for… well, we all know where Tila Tequila comes from.

It took just five years for the social network to reach this point, moving its way quickly from a college dorm site, to incorporating in Delaware as a company (five years ago this month), then moving to California and securing venture capital funding, adding access to every college in America, then every high school, then every person who wanted to join. Now, as the site is going international, 70 percent of current users are coming from abroad—many who first downloaded Facebook’s translation application, which users have used to morph the English site into 50 languages, all so that their friends who don’t speak English can join. “Our favorite story to tell is that 4,000 users translated the site into French in less than 24 hours,” says Naomi Gleit, Facebook’s project manager for growth. “It’s pretty insane, right?”

As a private company, Facebook does not release earnings, but a recent stock buy-out option valued the site around $6.5 billion. That said, many attempts for the company to make money (mostly through user-targeted advertising) have been rebuked by the users themselves. “If you try to count the products Facebook is testing, it’s almost mind-boggling,” says Jeremiah Owyang, a senior analyst in Forrester Research’s social media department. “Facebook hasn’t yet figured out the formula that’s going to work for the needs of the users or the brands.” Even so, Marc Andreessen, who sits on the board of Facebook (along with Don Graham, the CEO of the Washington Post Company, NEWSWEEK’s parent) told Reuters that Facebook would do over $500 million this calendar year, with billions in revenue by 2012.

But revenue projections are, well, just projections. Here is the current reality: Even as Facebook marks the anniversary of its incorporation this month, nearly every other social network has shrunk. MySpace recently cut almost 500 employees, close to 30 percent of its work force, after the site’s visits dropped by five percent in May from the year before. Friendster has all but disappeared. And while it’s clear that Facebook isn’t going anywhere for some time, the company certainly can’t rely on hundreds of millions of people contentedly poking and gifting each other into perpetuity.