Focus on a Glass Full of Reality and Empty of Unreasonable Envy

What thoughts come to mind in hearing mention of celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston?

Let’s take a look Pitt-related Google discussion results:

Brad has a new movie coming out; people want to know why he’s so ‘hot’; and bloggers wax poetic on how he and Angelina stay ‘sexy as ever.’  These are more than kind and positive sentiments related to the international star.

What about Jennifer Aniston, his former wife?  She’s inspiring conversations regarding preparation for her sexy role in current movie, We’re the Millers, a film with an above 80% ‘liked it’ rating and millions in box-office earnings.

Us vs. Them

It’s no secret.  The celebrities are doing well.  If we think about it, it’s likely better than we’re doing.  Amid a country hungry for ongoing entertainment news, it’s easy for Americans to compare themselves to the more rich and famous lives led by chronicled celebrities.

Upward social comparison prompts one to view themselves in relation to someone of superior social or economical standing, such as celebrities.  We want to be like them, and since this is genetically impossible, marketers look for other ways to convince us we can be like them.

However, if constant social cues remind us we are not alike, or at least not viewed to be as prestigious nor lead the lifestyle to go along with the adjective, are we really identifying with particular services and products as advertisers hope?

Advertisers align a product/service (A) with recognized and revered celebrities (B), hoping observers and consumers (C) assume the following logic:

If C desires to be like B (C=B), then C will eventually equal B because A+C and A+B occur.

The consumer becomes more like the celebrity due to the commonly shared/experienced product or service, which can be a cologne, shoe style, workout routine, religion, etc.

Do we actually make such associations?

Some sociological theories observe:

… a firm basis for arguing that advertisements featuring celebrities who closely resemble the potential consumers of the promoted product are more likely to serve their purpose.”

Hornstein, Fitch, and Holmes left wallets around Manhattan, fixed with $2, a note, and a return address, with differences regarding:

  • An articulate English writer versus a supposed foreigner
  • Positive, negative, and neutral tones of voice within

Letters penned by ‘foreigners’ resulted in a 30% wallet return rate, but those written by a ‘native’ using a positive or neutral tone garnered a 65% return rate, making researchers conclude people are more likely to act upon prompts involving those similar to them.

Celebrities and Associations

While only a select few of us will ever achieve the level of stardom similar to the likes of a Pitt or Aniston, advertisers are better off having us ‘compare’ ourselves to people aligned with a reasonable and realistic level of achievement.

Should makeup brands feature super-model faces, health-drink brands host many-muscled endorsers, or guitar advertisers tune ads around prodigies?

This past year, one weight-loss brand started using ordinary people in advertising rather than celebrities; their marketing team’s impetus adjacent to the closing thoughts of the social psychology researchers above:

It’s much easier for an observer to grow agreeable when behavior is ‘modeled’ by a person of similar aptitude and situation.

“We just feel like people don’t connect as much with celebrities…Because they know that perhaps the celebrities also may have had a personal trainer or a personal chef, which normal people don’t have.”


I think they’re brilliant because they feel authentic…They didn’t feel staged, they didn’t feel trite — they were all very believable, and that’s what’s going to make them resonate with people.”

If it makes you feel better, view two clips from Pitt and Aniston early days in film (Pitt was in B-movie, Cutting Class, and Aniston in the first Leprechaun movie.)  Even celebrities compare and contrast; some present moments are better than those of the past.

Reaching the Audience

Advertisers can make better impressions and save more ad dollars by emptying pursuits of celebrities and filling them with representations within the means of ‘the norm’ when aligning products, services, and sought market behaviors.

Effective Environmental Branding & the Parallels with Website Design

Retail stores at the mall, restaurants, hotels, and many other businesses are more successful when they create a brand experience and mood using their location. Branding can be coded into your office’s architecture, decor, music, and packaging, which empowers your company to be associated in customers’ minds with certain aesthetics and values.

For example, Abercrombie and Fitch retail stores create storefronts that create a college house party mentality, with blaring music, the smell of cologne, and decor like shutters and couches that evoke a hip, fashionable home. Apple retail stores also gear every aspect of their environment toward a specific brand image. Grey stone floors and uniform wooden tables create a streamlined, clean experience in stores across the world.

These strategies are known as “environmental branding.” Website design is the digital version of environmental branding, and is becoming more important than ever to build a consistent, effective brand image.Take a look at these five great ways to practice environmental branding both on and offline, and create a memorable experience for your customers.

1. Lighting

A romantic visit to a gourmet restaurant should evoke a mood that’s different from entering a startup tech office. Lighting plays a crucial role in conjuring either of these experiences. Couples chatting and laughing over their food should be illuminated by the soft glow of candles, whereas a tech office will probably have bright fluorescent lights to keep coders away during late hours.


Just like on a movie set, lighting can contribute to a branded experience, making the atmosphere more memorable for customers. The type of lighting you choose for your office, restaurant, or retail location should gibe with the feelings your product evokes.

Similarly, your website should convey colors that portray your brand image, or make your users feel comfy and cozy while they visit.

2. Signage

While this may seem obvious to many storefront owners, we have all seen poorly made signage. Taping a sheet of printer paper onto a window is sloppy; it shows very little care for public presentation. No matter how trivial the message, the font, medium, and display should be tailored for your brand.

Bookstores and antique retailers may consider rustic signage with serif fonts, which create a sense of reverence toward history and tradition. Modern furniture stores and design offices may wish to use digital signage with san serif fonts and abstract artwork. Signage should mesh with your brand image.

When it comes to website design, think about your brand logo and the overall look and feel of your site, and what sorts of thoughts or emotions they might evoke.

3. Textures

Some people might not think that the texture of fabrics, walls, and carpeting matter when they visit a store or office. However, these details contribute to the overall brand experience.

Can you imagine walking into an Apple store and finding the walls covered with antiquated wallpaper? This would detract from the modern and minimalistic look that Apple seeks to convey with its products and atmosphere. As you tie together your space with furniture, pay attention to the upholstery. The textures should not work against the three-dimensional space of your office or store.

Textures are important in website design, too. Most websites have a background texture which acts much like the the texture on physical wallpaper to evoke emotion. Is it smooth or rough? Is it light or dark? Is the embossing deep or shallow? All of these can lend to your brand image and improve user experience online.

4. Scents

Specific smells evoke memories, like the way the smell of crayons takes you back to kindergarten. Scents don’t need to be overwhelming; subtle smells work for environmental branding just fine.

Restaurants know the value of using smells to market their food. Bakeries often vent the smell of fresh cookies and bread out to sidewalks, which draws in hungry pedestrians by creating memories of delicious scents.

And if you’ve ever been to the Aria at Las Vegas, you know the pleasant, patented smell that permeates the casino floor. This smell has been shown to keep gamblers on the casino floor longer, causing them to spend more money.

When it comes to website design, scents aren’t a part of users’ website experiences yet, but wouldn’ that be cool if the technology was developed in the near future?

5. Trade-fair Booths

You can recreate a brand image and experience at a trade show, enabling visitors to feel what it’s like to walk into your shop or office. Use booth signage, presentation monitors, banners, and other visual markers to get brand logos and messages out.

Decor should reflect the same color themes and textures as your store or office furnishings. If your retail location is filled with particular scents (like baking smells or potpourri), try to reproduce that in your trade fair booth. Brands with this type of continuity will guide customers to expect a particular type of experience wherever they encounter your company’s presence.

The parallel between trade fairs and online marketing can be seen in external publishing efforts. For example, participating in a forum discussion where your target market and/or peers are engaging. Another example would be publishing a guest blog on an external publisher. Even participating on Twitter or Facebook and engaging in discussions with your target market or peers is an example of a parallel. Essentially, your goal should be to get your brand out there and interact with others, build relationships, and build brand awareness.

Enrich Your Data With These Free Visualization Tools

Living on a college budget has conditioned me to always keep an eye out for anything free that will help me accomplish my goals. Well, data visualization is a specialty of mine, so I’ve pulled together a list of free data visualization tools with a wide variety of uses and applications.

Every tool reviewed in this post came from Annie Cushing’s Must-Have Tools Google doc under the Data Visualization tab. The Google doc has fourteen tabs of amazing tools covering all the bases of internet marketing, so definitely check it out.


Creately is an organizational tool that allows users to easily create flowcharts, mind maps, Unified Modeling Language diagrams, database models, and mockups.

Free Features:

  • Drag and drop interface
  • PDF, JPG, or PNG exports
  • Five public diagrams
  • Search engine exposure
  • Ability to securely embed diagrams in webpages
  • Real-time collaboration for 3 members
  • Online only

Upgrade Features:

  • Unlimited private and public diagrams
  • Real-time collaboration for an unlimited amount of members
  • XML exports
  • Project sharing with clients and coworkers
  • User management on projects
  • Online tool and/or desktop application

An example of a wireless network diagram made with Creately’s software:


Price: Free with uprade option is an online tool that allows you to create your own infographics.

Free Features:

  • Six infographic templates
  • Ability to add photos, video, charts, text, and maps to the infographic
  • Your own library
  • Social media sharing buttons that you can add directly to the infographic

Pro Features ($18/month):

  • 10 infographic templates
  • PDF or PNG downloads
  • Private URLs for sharing
  • Password protection infographic examples:

Languages Infographic

Languages Infographic

World Survey Infographic


The interface:


Price: Free with upgrade option


Pixlr is an online photo editor that allows you to create your own charts, infographics, and images for free.


  • Online tool, no downloading necessary
  • Ability to save created images as a JPEG, PNG, BMP, TIFF or PXD (layered Pixlr image) to your computer, Flickr, Picasa, Facebook or your own Pixlr library online, if you create an account
  • All the basic functionalities of Photoshop

This is also a great tool to have at your disposal for those times that you need a photo editor but aren’t at your usual work station and don’t want to use Paint. (Eww.)

The Pixlr interface:


Price: Free

Many Eyes

Many Eyes is an online data visualizer and chart maker tool.


  • 22 data visualization types to choose from
  • Ability to upload XML data or free text to create visualizations
  • Ability to create interactive HTML data visualizations you can embed in your website
  • Embed codes or as a static image option you can share via email, Facebook, or Twitter

Important: You have to publish the visualization to download it, and all data entered into Many Eyes is publicly viewable, so don’t put confidential company info into it.

Many Eyes data visualization examples:



Price: Free


Word clouds are all the rage but can be really useful to marketers. There are so many applications we can use as marketers, such as visualizing all the title tags of our website (or a competitor’s!), anchor tags (from inbound OR internal links), URLs, ranking keywords from a source like SEMRush or Keyword Spy, etc. Wordle makes that pretty easy and has a surprising number of customizable options for a free tool.


  • Allows you to create a word cloud from a sample of text or the URL of any blog, blog feed, or any other web page that has an Atom or RSS feed
  • Generates a random word cloud from your text with options to customize the language, font, layout and colors used
  • Advanced option allows you to assign weight and hexadecimal colors to words that you would like emphasized
  • Option to either print your word cloud or publish it publicly and receive an embed code to put the word cloud on a webpage
  • Ability to maintain phrases by replacing spaces between words you want to keep together with a tilde character (useful for mapping actual keyword phrases and not just individual words)

Here’s a word cloud I created from the United States’ Constitution:


Price: Free

What data visualization tools are you using?

How To Transform A Basic CSV Export Into Actionable Data [VIDEO]

Exporting data can be very helpful. But what do you do with a .csv data dump? This tutorial takes you by the hand and walks you through how to take an export and turn it into some gorgeous (and useful) data.

If you would like to follow along, you can download the raw .csv used. Or download our formatted template to use whenever you would like.

Pro Tip: Make sure to select the 1080HD option while watching the tutorial.

Make Tutorial HD



The Most Effective Link Request Email

As soon as marketers figured out that links helped your site rank in Google, SEO blogs started writing posts about how to get more links.

Over the years we’ve burned through several link building ideas and trends including reciprocal linking, link wheels, widget spam, paid links and link networks.

And, while many SEO agencies now have “outreach” teams spamming webmasters with guest posting requests, few if any agencies are using the most effective link request email I’ve found.

Copyright Infringement

As the son of a graphic artist and husband to a talented photographer, I’ve become extremely (perhaps overly) sensitive to copyright infringement.

While it may be news to many bloggers and website owners, you can’t just slap any image you find in Google image search on your site. You also can’t just copy and paste an entire blog post on your site for your readers to enjoy.

Content and images, even those published on the web, are subject to copyright restrictions.

And while copyright can be a pain in the neck when you’re trying to find just the right image for your blog post, it can also be a gold mine of links and occasionally additional income. [Read more...]

The Consumerist Commits SEO Suicide

It’s not often we get to watch an extremely popular site commit SEO suicide but that’s exactly what’s going on over at Consumerist.

On September 20th the site was apparently hacked and began redirecting users off to other spam sites. As is often the case, the site was compromised via “systems maintained by our former hosting provider.”

Upon discovering the hack, the website was taken down, and remained down for nearly a week. While site downtime isn’t great for a site in terms of SEO, it doesn’t have to be a full fledged disaster. In fact, the 503 HTTP result code (Service Unavailable) is made precisely for this kind of issue and is Google’s recommendation in a situation like this (hat tip to John Andrews for teaching me the value of a 503 years ago).

Unfortunately, it appears the Consumerist folks either don’t have an SEO on staff, or don’t have a competent one. Instead of serving up a 503 code while they investigated the hack, each and every single URL on served up a 200 status code and displayed the same message alerting their readers to what was going on.

[Read more...]