How Wordle went viral: lessons for marketers

Charlotte Chan, our very own Digital Marketing Executive, has introduced Fifty Five and Five to Wordle and told us why it’s been such a success. Here, we put her presentation into words (wordles?) and take a closer look at the magic behind the game.

Throughout history, men have found ways to declare their love for women. The Taj Mahal, a sprawling mass of white marble, set with diamonds and pearls, was initially commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife.

Or take the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, complete with fronds of vegetation and rippling fountains. A gift from the King Nebuchadezzar to his wife Amytis, who was homesick for the mountains of Media.

All heart-warming stuff.

The modern example, and appropriate to our tech-centered agency, is Wordle.

For those not in the know, Wordle is an addictive word guessing game, characterized by its colour palette grid of green, yellow and grey. For those in the know:

 

 

Since 2021, the game has won the hearts of millions, and of one woman in particular – Palak Shah, the partner of software developer Josh Wardle (Wordle, Wardle – get it?) Josh knew Palak loved word puzzles and built the game for just the two of them.

By 2022, over 2 million users were playing the game.

Wordle: a love story

I talk about love stories because it gives us an insight into how Wordle went viral. The game was crafted with love, for someone who simply loved word puzzles. It was built without a team of engineers, without a profit-making scheme (there are no ads), and without the frills that accompany most mobile games (prizes, levels, in-app purchases).

Wordle takes place on a simple 5x6 grid. The three colours each have a meaning (wrong character, wrong position on grid, and correct position). And, crucially, users can only play once per day.

The law of scarcity

That play is limited can explain, in part, how Wordle went viral. The game leverages a rule used by salespeople, marketers, and Tinder users worldwide - so called the law of scarcity.

The law of scarcity dictates that if something is scarce, people value it more. It’s often used in sales, usually for luxury brands (think jewelry, watches, cars), but technology companies also employ the tactic to generate interest in a product.

The law of scarcity underpins part of the magic of Wordle, despite it not being commercially designed. The game drives desire by limiting the amount people can play. It also feeds into an “app-aversion” mentality – the idea that people are averse to spending too long on a mobile app.

Cleverly, Wordle both limits addiction (by making the game scarce) and drives it by the same principle. Users feel like they’re not investing much time (even though they’re playing daily) and it’s this illusion which makes them invest more.

Put simply, Wordle is playing hard to get.

In with the in-crowd

The meteoric rise of Wordle can also – and this is an important point - be put down to its “shareability”.

Those who work in marketing will know that generating a piece of content that is “shareable” is difficult to achieve and cannot easily be contrived. It can be hard to predict what makes something popular, and it’s often things which buck a trend that do so well.

In December 2021, a few months after Wordle had launched, the game creator noticed that players were sharing their results by manually tapping out emojis (in the different colours), rather than sharing their score. The focus had turned to the little grid, and Wardle ran with this trend, incorporating this sharing technique into the game.

Shortly after, Wordle exploded in popularity.

Two lessons can be taken from the game’s "shareability” (and can explain how Wordle went viral). The first is that mystery generates curiosity. The colour grid on its own doesn’t make much sense, but since it kept cropping up on social channels, people started to take notice. The second is that people love being in-the-know. The wordle sharing sensation created an in-crowd, before its viral success, who enjoyed the novel way of communicating scores and felt part of a language-loving tribe.

Going off-grid

So, let’s get to the grid – the distinguishing feature of Wordle and what makes it so recognizable online. In a stroke of luck (and with a little tactical thinking from Wardle), the Wordle colour grid (and brand) has become instantly familiar.

To put this feat into perspective, there are only a handful of other brands that have achieved notoriety from their brandmark alone. The Microsoft window is one of them. The blue Twitter bird is another. Most brands require an accompanying wordmark to be recognized, and those brands which are visually familiar to their audience are typically market leaders.

That Wordle achieved this in under three months is impressive. Even more impressive – the grid is not officially Wordle’s logo (for those interested, here it is:)

The game might be all about words, but it’s the colour grid that’s generated so much buzz and, in part, explains how Wordle went viral. Reminiscent of ancient Aztec tiles or perhaps the top of a Rubix cube, each little grid tells a story – of success, luck, or struggle.

And brands have capitalised on this. Lego created the Wordle tiles as Lego bricks and shared on Twitter. IKEA imagined Wordle as a stack of drawers. Other brands, like Chelsea FC, used the single green line as a symbol of success in one try.

 

 

 

The grid, and the meaning behind the colours, tells a better story than words can. And this is the central paradox of the game.

Wordle might sell itself as a word puzzle, but this isn’t really its USP. The puzzle isn’t too difficult and correct guesses mostly come down to luck (with a bit of skill involved).

What’s really interesting about the game is that the colours show the journey involved. A mostly yellow grid, with a final green line, is a stroke of good fortune. A grid of sporadic green tells a story of frustration, struggle, and failure. Our ability to share results online inspires commiseration, congratulation and lots of Twitter memes.

A lasting love?

In January 2022, The New York Times purchased Wordle for a seven-figure sum. The Times announced that it remains free for players and promised to keep the game’s format intact.

That the game remains untouched is a good thing. Easy gameplay is part of Wordle’s appeal. So is its lack of a paywall, in-app purchases, and data collection. The game has a low maintenance relationship with its audience, making little demands of its players and never sending spam.

When we think about how Wordle went viral (and as marketers, the lessons we can take from its success), it’s likely down to a combination of shareability, scarcity, and ease of use. In an online world saturated with data collection and adverts – brands vying for your attention – Wordle’s opposite approach strikes a chord.

Whether Wordle continues to be a success under the auspices of The New York Times is yet to be seen – but it looks positive. There are currently millions of players sharing online. If The Times preserves its distinct features, as it has promised to, the game should continue to embed itself into people’s daily commute or bedtime ritual.

For some players, it may well be a lasting love.


Want to create a viral sensation? Or just fancy challenging us on Wordle (we’re competitive – don’t take us up lightly!)

At Fifty Five and Five, we produce smart content that gets shared. If you have a brilliant new idea, or want us to brainstorm one, just get in touch with our team.


The client-agency relationship is not a battle

Issues are bound to arise in any client-agency relationship. Client briefs will change, budget issues can arise, and feedback can (too often) be fuzzy. It all comes with the territory, some will say, but at Fifty Five and Five we try to ensure that issues, when they do crop up, are navigated smoothly.

Building client trust is at the centre of everything we do. At Fifty Five and Five we try to approach issues with clients as we would our own employees: with transparency, honesty, and kindness. It’s inevitable that problems in a project will arise, so here are our tips on how to handle them when they do.

How do we keep the client-agency relationship running smoothly?

In our experience, the overarching cause of client-agency tensions is driven by ineffective communication. With the two sides sometimes wanting different things, it’s inevitable that friction occurs. Building client trust can be hard, but most problems can be easily resolved if communicated early on.

Regular check-ins and meetings are a great way to prevent tensions from building. And if any problems do occur, they can often be diffused by a well-prepared catch up (or a video call these days). Let’s take a look at some of the most common client-agency problems.

1. Managing expectations

A big part of managing client expectations comes down to the project brief. A well-defined brief is like gold dust for agencies. Often, a brief will contain too much information, which the agency must then dissect. Or information will be sparse, leaving the Account and Project Managers asking more questions.

> How to fix it

Communication and an approved brief! Make sure there is a constant stream of communication with the client. And make sure that most of this communication happens early-on. There is nothing worse for a content team than a vague brief, and this is usually where most problems arise. Ensuring that a brief is well-defined saves the content team a headache and minimizes rework down the line.

2. Deadlines

Whether it’s feedback from a client, or a deliverable by the agency, missed deadlines occur on both sides. With agency workers charged to deliver a service, the onus is often put on them, but delays on the client side can also impact an agency’s schedule. In whichever way it occurs missed deadlines happen, meaning a solution is needed to both a) limit the issue occurring, and b) manage it when it does.

> How to fix it

At Fifty Five and Five, we have two people (or should I say, two types of people) who can solve this issue. The first are Project Managers, who are responsible for the timely delivery of assets. Project Managers form the main bridge between the client and the content team - they prompt deliverables on both sides.

The second is the Account Managers, who manage, in a broader sense (although the two roles overlap) the client-agency relationship. When there’s a problem to be fixed at Fifty Five and Five, we bring in both teams. The Project Manager can offer a revised timeline. The Account Manager is there to pacify, building client trust and de-escalating tensions.

3. Taking a long-term view

A great client-agency relationship is built on trust. Crucially, this trust is developed over time. Many agencies make the mistake of seeing the client relationship through a short-term lens: completing the work and profiting from it.

> How to fix it

An agency worth its salt will deliver great work in the short-term, but also look to the future. Establishing a great relationship, with frequent catch-ups and check-ins, and a more strategic approach to client deliverables (what are their goals in the long-term?) will help build a strong relationship on both sides. With a great relationship established, problems will naturally be solved more quickly. And if the lines of communication are open, both agency and client will be able to turn to one another in times of need.

 

If you’re a client looking for great marketing content, we’d love to chat with you. Whatever your ambitions, we aim to deliver the best results on every project.


Untangling the Tangled Web of Web 3

There’s a new buzzword on the tech horizon, joining the ranks of AI, robots and Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse. I am of course talking about Web 3, or - as many people think of it now - THE FUTURE OF THE INTERNET.

…Or is the future the Metaverse? Or IS the Metaverse Web 3? The truth is no one really knows, and that’s because, in reality, neither yet exists.

In a way, Web 3 sounds pretty rudimentary (are we only on Web 3? We’re already on the iPhone 13!) But remember we are talking about the concept of the web itself: the way it is structured and governed. For a system born alongside Taylor Swift, it’s done well to have two iterations, let alone three. In the space of thirty odd years, that’s a lot of reinvention.

So… the big question… What IS Web 3?

Let’s start at the beginning. Before we try and define web 3, let’s ask ourselves: what exactly is the web? Here’s a definition:

The world wide web is an interconnected network of public pages, available through the internet.

Available through the internet. I’ve highlighted this because we often use the terms “internet” and “web” interchangeably, but they actually refer to different things. Whereas the internet is a network of connected computers, the web is a collection of pages accessible via the internet. i.e. the internet provides the infrastructure on which the world wide web sits.

Why is this important?

It’s important because the web, as it was conceived early on, was about the readability of pages. Web 1 (or Web OG, as I like to call it) is often called the “read only” web, and that’s because it was seen as a static resource. Really, it was a kind of digital book, or collection of books. We call webpages, well, pages. And early web sites were just text-based, allowing users to simply look at content.

 

Here is a screenshot of the first ever webpage (taken in 1992, as there were no screenshots before this time).

 

The web is described as an initiative giving access to “a large universe of documents”, and this was the idea. A small group of users could upload information as webpages, and a larger group of users would have access to those pages. Academic roots underpinned all of this: the web was a resource for knowledge and data. Best of all, that knowledge was free.

So what changed between Web 1 and Web 2?

In a nutshell, Web OG became socialized. Around the time that Taylor Swift discovered boys (and lots of them), Web OG also threw off its studious credentials. It went to parties, drank alcohol, and had that first sweet SWEET drag of a cigarette. Okay, not exactly - but it did become more social, emphasising user-generated content and a participatory culture.

Web 2.0 is also commonly referred to as the “social web”. Under the umbrella of the social web sits interactive web applications (e.g. Google Docs), video sharing sites (Youtube), blogs (Wordpress) and social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest and, of course, Facebook. Yes, in the early 2000s, Mark Zuckerberg makes his debut on the Web 2.0 scene.

Web 2.0 describes, for the most part, the current state of the world wide web. Rather than a “new web”, something to replace the old, the social and user-generated platforms are built on top of the existing OG structures. We still use the web for its readability. The difference is users, on a mass scale, can generate and interact with content. Web 2 (whether we like it or not) is a voice for the people. In political terms, it’s a democracy. Everyone has a say.

Or do they?

The problem with Web 2 is that, whereas users can participate in “conversation” and generate their own content, much of the control lies in the hands of (yes I’m going to use the term) TECH GIANTS. They hardly need mentioning, but for those living in a cave they are companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon. It’s unclear how much data these companies own individually. Collectively it’s estimated to be over 1000 petabytes. A petabyte equals around a million gigabytes (it goes kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte, terabyte, petabyte). Basically, it’s a lot of bytes.

With web 1, users were taking content from the internet; with web 2, we are giving it. But what are we, as users, actually giving? Well, we upload photos of our cats. And little thoughts on Twitter. We give away our names, phone numbers; on Google Maps we announce our whereabouts. On Facebook we “like” political posts - or perhaps not. Perhaps we show that we are angry. Yes, angry, sad, happy - with emoticons, we hand over our feelings - and that’s not all. The creators of Google are privy to humanity’s most burning questions and desires (and, of course, how to unplug a light bulb).

In actual fact, web users are giving away a lot. And so the question remains…

What are we getting back from online data?

Of course, an obvious thing we are getting back from our data inputs is advertising. Our Google searches drift back onto our screens in the form of little geometric shapes. THERE’S those shoes I was looking at! THERE’S the bag I really wanted, but shouldn’t buy, but I really wanted, but - ah go on then! Ads are like sometimes friendly, and sometimes not so friendly, ghosts. They remind us of products we need, or bother us with products we don’t.

Good marketing in the digital age often comes down to good data. A campaign which leverages data in an intelligent way will achieve intelligent results. It will reach the right people and provide users with products they are searching for or, if they haven’t been searching, that might be of use. This is the power of good marketing: connecting people to the goods and services they need. Bad marketing will leverage the wrong data, or use data in the wrong way, leaving ads to drift aimlessly into the web stratosphere and never reach their audience.

So where does web 3 come into all of this?

The “problem” with the Web 2 (as people see it) is all about data. If Web OG was boring, then Social Web is a bit too wild. Or at least unregulated. Or regulated by the wrong people. As we move through Web 2, we are leaving a little trail behind - an email address here, a like there. Little pieces throughout the day, but over time building a fairly intimate picture.

Let’s be clear though. Data collection is not bad. Generally it’s a good thing for the user, creating a more personalised experience on websites and making life, well, easier. Collection of our data allows website browsers to remember login details, save items in a shopping cart, and deliver content in the right language or currency. It mitigates the over-saturation of adverts designed for another audience.

But - and there is a but - the collection of data by a small group of third-party governors cannot be entirely good. It leaves users, to some extent, “out of the loop”, handing over complex data profiles which can, in theory, be used for purposes other than personalisation. Web 3 (blockchain) enthusiasts aim to solve this, by creating an architecture that is both open (i.e. transparent) and decentralized.

So WHAT IS web 3?

Since web 3 has not yet happened, there is no solid definition. However, here are a few likely properties:

> Decentralization

Web 3 applications will run on decentralized networks, which do not rely on a lead server. Blockchain technologies, like Bitcoin and Ethereal are examples of decentralized applications (Dapps). In the blockchain, data is collected in blocks, each of which has a limited storage capacity. When filled with data, they are closed and linked to another block. This creates a string of data, with no one party in control.

> Trust

The goal of decentralized networks, like the blockchain, is that data can be distributed, but never tampered with. Since data exists in a string of blocks, there is no one “place” in which data exists. Every piece of data is time-stamped, and there is a clear audit trail, meaning information is immutable. The blockchain could be used for transactions that involve fraud or rigging, such an election votes, legal contracts, or product inventories.

> Semanticity

Web 3 will be based on technologies which allow computers to better understand data (in a more “human” way). At the moment, machines use things like keywords, alt tags, metadata etc. to understand web pages and offer back relevant search results. The way machines and humans look at web data is completely different, and humans have had to adapt to the way machines look at things. This is what SEO (search engine optimisation) is about: manipulating the content so that it can be understood by computers. A vision for Web 3 is that this dynamic will work in reverse, with machines able to better process data on our behalf (i.e. in a more “human” way).

> Ubiquity

In a Web 3 era, there will be more applications connecting via the internet. This includes everyday items - and we’re already on this trajectory, with wearable technology (Apple watches) and smart speaker devices like Amazon Echo. AT&T are already collaborating in the first “smart city”, powered by AI, 5G, and edge technologies, and will offer things like immersive retail shops, self-driving vehicles, and an automated sustainable infrastructure.

So how will Web 3 change advertising?

If Web 3 is about rebalancing, with users taking back control, then what does this mean for digital marketing? As a marketing agency, we’ve been trying to figure this out - and we’ve come up with a few suggestions.

> There will be less need for SEO

With a semantic web, machines will operate more in a “human” way. Or they’ll process data more like us, with a focus on linguistics and meaning, rather than keywords, tags, and numbers. SEO has evolved as a specialism, a kind of mediator between human and machine - after all, we speak very different languages. But with AI-driven computers becoming more human, or at least processing data in the way humans do, SEO (as we see it now) could become redundant. At the very least SEO professionals will have to adapt: there may still be a need to bridge the gap between humans and machines - just in another form.

> There will be more user control

It’s unclear what form this will take, but there will almost definitely be more user control in a Web 3 landscape. Think less spammy ads, more relevant ones. Think less pop ups and a more structured advertising space. This should all work in marketers’ favour: with no deluge of online ads, customers will be more inclined to engage with brands.

> Semantic web = more personalization

With the semantic web, machines will better understand humans. Online data will be scanned more accurately; more intelligent AI-driven computers will deliver more intelligent results. As machines get to know you more, they’ll offer up better products, and better services. Online ads will become less invasive and more useful, and with 5G, advertising will take place in real-time. We’ll be offered the things we need exactly when we need them.

> Content anytime, anywhere

IoT applications will deliver an online experience that follows us everywhere. Or at least, that’s the idea. More everyday objects will become “smart”; refrigerators, washing machines, coffee cups all could in theory become robotic. Sounds eerie? Perhaps - but with data control and better online privacy, a connected universe should help humans, anticipating needs and providing tailored solutions. And with more everyday objects connected online, this (again, in theory) offers up more platforms for advertising.

Marketing agencies will boom as there are more “spots” for adverts to be filled. OR, it might go the other way, with privacy restrictions limiting the amount of content we view in our homes. With more “online” products, product marketers will also gain better data on lifestyle trends, seeing how specific products are being used. This will, in turn, inform better products. The relationship between consumer and marketer - already brought together by a social web - will become entwined.

And so what about the Metaverse?

Yes, the Metaverse. Mark Zuckerberg’s creation and, as many see it, the future of the web.

The Metaverse builds on the concept of Facebook - connecting people through the web - but transports social media to a VR landscape. Users will wear VR headsets, can “teleport” to the office or to events, and chat to people as little holograms - beyond the constraint of screens.

Okay, so, the Metaverse does seem to fit in with some Web 3 ideas. It will leverage 5G and IoT technologies, with our online reality becoming more immersive and happening in real-time. But in another way the Metaverse seems opposed to a key Web 3 idea: decentralization. Facebook and other social media giants currently operate as centralized entities (with data stored in one place), and Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t offered up the Metaverse as having any kind of decentralized governance. Although in Meta’s founder’s letter, he did say this:

“Privacy and safety need to be built into the Metaverse from day one. So do open standards and interoperability. This will require not just novel technical work … but also new forms of governance.”

What these new forms of governance are remains to be seen. Either way, the Metaverse will likely be a shaping force in the Web 3 movement. If successful enough, it may become synonymous. Mark Zuckerberg has a talent for reinvention. And, in the fast-changing world of the world wide web, that may be all that’s needed.


It’s expo season and we’re still grounded

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is still causing many exhibitions and conferences to rethink how they host events this year. For many, seminars, keynotes and workshops have moved online. And while it’s impossible to replace the networking and chance encounters you find at in-person events, thanks to cloud computing and some nifty platforms, you can still attend and create online events that pull in the crowds and bring you face-to-face (sort of) with potential leads and partners.

This blog looks at how, even if you can’t attend a show IRL, you can still obtain the benefits of online event marketing and promote your digital brand presence. This is for companies who want to know how to get the best out of expo season (both in terms of attending and staging events) from the comfort of your home or office.

Online event marketing and virtual networking

First, for those who regularly attend expos and events in person, you’ll know. It’s almost impossible to replace the ad-hoc encounter that leads to something great. However, with a good plan of action you can attend even more events online (without the travel or hotel costs) and up your networking numbers that way.

> Create a digital version of yourself

When it comes to putting your best foot forward online, it’s important to update your social media profiles (largely LinkedIn and Twitter) to represent your current circumstances. So, for individuals, that means making sure your job title and work profiles are not out of date. So, for LinkedIn you should connect with your colleagues, like and share your company’s posts, as well as connect with people who are relevant to your professional world. Think about who you’d like to meet in ‘real life’ and try to befriend them online.

For organisations, this also means posting up-to-date content that is relevant to your audience in the run-up to any online events. Choose from the events that are out there and tailor your content and other posts to fit. If you’re thinking about creating a webinar or other kind of online event, posting quality content to engage your audience is also a must.

> Attend events

To make the most of ‘event season’, search around for the usual events your sales, marketing or developer teams usually attend. Find out when and where they are happening. Then make a schedule of events, encourage your teams to pick and choose events they will get value from, and book yourself in. This way, you can keep a profile of what events are happening, who’s attending and what you hope to get out of them.

Looking for value from expos and events will vary depending on what your organisation does. For most of our clients, attending keynotes from large technology partners, networking with other partners and amplifying their product or services to gain leads is a key reason they attend these events in the first place.

Host online events

The last year has taught many of us that it doesn’t actually take that much to create and host an event yourself. This can be a great way to amplify your digital brand presence. Thanks to cloud computing tools, setting up several webinars, inviting guest speakers and presenters over consecutive days is cheaper and faster than you might imagine.

> Webinar for leads

Creating a webinar is more straightforward than you might think. It’s also a tried and tested way of bringing in those precious leads. Our advice:

  • Consider your subject: what does your audience want to hear and see?
  • Bring in a big name: who can you bring in as a guest speaker to liven things up?
  • Create your presentations: much in the same way you would for sales or marketing proposals. Add multimedia to make your webinar as engaging as possible.
  • Start a conversation: the great thing about hosting a webinar is you get a live response to your work. Make sure to include a Q&A session, so your audience can contribute.
  • Promote your event ahead of time: use social media, blog posts and other marketing channels to make sure your audience knows when and where your event is happening.

> Web summit for industry presence

Create a web summit where you showcase your company’s thought leadership and/or demonstrate the value of your solutions live (and on-demand) to your leads. This is an excellent way to create essentially a several-day event that showcases your company’s expertise. Our advice:

You could think of a web summit simply as a series of webinars. You can tie them together thematically or separate different subjects on each day of the event. Creating a landing page or even microsite is a good way of making sure all the right information for your audience is in one place.

> Release an industry report

Industry reports demonstrate your expertise and show that you truly have your finger on the pulse of your target audience’s wants and needs. Understanding your industry and going really in-depth with your subject matter is a differentiator and will make you stand out in a crowded marketplace. Our advice:

Decide on your subject matter. So much of your success will be tapping into the right subject that engages your readers. You already have reams of experience and expertise at your fingertips. Use it. Create a team in your business who can come up with a good idea for a report. Consider creating a survey for your customers, both current and potential, and get some on the ground data that you can use to create some electrifying content.

Partner with the experts to bring your online event to life

Even if you have a lot of experience creating online events, you could always use a helping hand. And if you’re only thinking about dipping your toe in the water, a marketing partner with experience of creating online events is a good way to go.

At Fifty Five and Five, we use our extensive online event marketing experience to develop content that speaks to our clients’ audience. And that includes helping create the narrative and strategy around your online events. Get in touch today.


I hate ‘things’

I hate 'things'. Or more accurately, I hate being asked for 'things'. It's a pet peeve of mine.

We frequently get asked if we can create a whitepaper, a video, an infographic, a podcast, a blog post, etc. And I always wonder "why?"

I'm not questioning whether we're the right agency to create these kinds of impactful, effective marketing materials. We do this sort of work all the time for clients like Dell, Arrow, Microsoft, Google, etc.

And it's not the formats per se. All these might have a place in your strategy but if you ask for a 'thing', I am going to ask 'why?'.

Raison d'être

Our whole business is built on the belief that we can't solve a problem we don't understand. It’s the reason we're called Fifty Five and Five. It might be that the things you want are exactly what are needed but we need to take a step back first and consider what you are trying to achieve.

Whether you’re a new client (especially if you are a new client) or we’re working with a new brief or department of someone we've worked with for years – we always start with the why:

Why are we doing this? How does it help you achieve your business objectives?

Digital marketing has become insanely commoditised over the last 10 years. Everyone, regardless of their marketing experience, is only a few clicks away from all the tools they need: email and CRM services, DIY website builders, podcast broadcasting, blogging platforms, even automated brand identity tools.

And machine learning and automation might make 'things' even easier to create and launch. But as these tools get smarter, they will only truly add value to your plans if applied in the right way.

Disclaimer

This is not an agency land grab - "give it all to us and we'll be your marketing arm and (slightly cliched) 'extension' to your team".

We're not afraid to tell you if we're not right for a particular assignment. Whether that's because you have the tools and skills in-house or an existing partner that already does what you need. But we won't know if we don't ask.

So, if you come to us with a request for an animation, yes, of course. We'd love to help. But I'll want to know why, specifically, do you want an animation? How does this fit into the broader strategy? Who is the audience? And what are we ultimately trying to achieve?

We'll ask these questions before we start quoting, storyboarding and scripting. You might have all the answers. An animation might be perfect. And you may already have all the right tools in place to help create, test, broadcast, measure, the work.

But it should always start with the question, 'why?'.

We can't add value if we don't understand the context

P.S.

As well as 'things', I also hate:

  • The term 'eBook' (what is that? an electronic book? a PDF?)
  • Replacing the printer paper only to see someone else's job queued up (argh!)
  • Peas (I know I'm in the minority here)

For balance, there are some things I love:

  • Clients who are passionate about their businesses
  • Anybody with an open mind who is willing to challenge the status quo
  • People with the patience to listen to my questions (sorry, but sometimes I don't know what I don't know!)

If this sounds like you, then drop me a line. I'd love to hear about you and your business. I'll come with the questions.


Virtual team collaboration, Microsoft Viva and why organisation change doesn't have to suck

For the past year, businesses and workers everywhere have been facing a working situation that can most politely be described as ‘uncertain and fluid’. ‘Change’ has been one of the words that’s defined 2020 and 2021, often combined with the phrase ‘at relatively short notice’. Virtual team collaboration has been the hero of the hour, helping countless people and organisations to keep soldiering on and keep communication going – both externally and internally.

With all this in mind, we’ve been thinking about change and how businesses can best communicate it to employees – from mergers and acquisitions to internal restructuring – as well as how they’re getting it wrong. And (because we’re a tech company as well as a marketing agency) we’ve been mulling over the role technology can play in ensuring organizational change doesn’t, for want of a better word, suck.

Changing the channels

We conducted a survey recently that asked this question: “How has your company communicated organisational change during the pandemic?” Here’s how people responded:

  • Chat (Slack, Teams, etc.): 29%
  • Group video meeting: 29%
  • One-to-one video call: 18%
  • Email: 24%

As you can see, in total more than three quarters of the people we polled said that their organisations communicated change via platforms like Teams and Slack or via video meetings/calls, rather than by email. This is encouraging – it indicates that businesses are taking advantage of new channels for virtual team collaboration and not just sticking with email, that overly formal old stalwart of internal comms that’s not too many rungs above a letter.

Organisations – and the creators of the tech they use – are clearly giving some consideration to how remote employee communication can do the job it needs to. That means helping to maintain company culture and unity and ensure change is conveyed and handled well.

Nurturing virtual team collaboration for the heart and soul of your business

The release of Microsoft Viva earlier this year shows that Microsoft, for one, has been thinking about how customers can do a better job of employee comms, engagement and support. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Well, maybe a year earlier, but they’re not Nostradamus, are they?

Microsoft says that Viva is designed to help organizations to amplify culture and communications, balance productivity and wellbeing, harness knowledge and expertise, and accelerate skilling and growth. It does this via a series of modules:

  • Connections – curated, company-branded gateway for news, talk and resources
  • Insights – a data-driven, privacy-protected view into productivity and wellbeing
  • Learning – encouraging and empowering employee education and development
  • Topics – organising organizations’ content and expertise and facilitating access

Sounds good, right? We’ll be sure to let you know our verdict when we’ve had a chance to test out this new set of tools over a proper period of time, but right now we can say that Viva looks extremely promising. And if you want to try Viva for yourself, you can learn more about it here.

Our CEO’s advice for internal communications

Like most organizations out there, Fifty Five and Five has handled its own fair share of organisational change during the last twelve months – you’d be surprised if we said we hadn’t, right?

As he captained our ship through the strange and stormy seas of the COVID-19 pandemic, our founder and CEO Chris Wright has his own insights into how best to communicate change. Take it away, Skipper:

  • “Communicating change only via chat messages is 100% the worst idea. Even if it’s harder to do it (nobody likes delivering bad news) change should always be shared face-to-face first or at least video.”
  • “Re-enforcing important messages in posts is fine, but that isn't how people should find out in this kind of information the first place. I think you owe it to people to explain it properly, in your own voice.”
  • “Company-wide change is hard to communicate in one go. I often think it’s best to share news about change with the people who it will have the most impact on first of all. Then tell the wider group.”
  • “Giving people a forum to ask questions is important. People need time to collect their thoughts after the initial announcement, and if you provide more Q&A opportunities, they’ll always think of new questions or remember thing they missed.”

There you have it – while making posts or sending messages via virtual team collaboration tools may be perfect for keeping business going during times of widespread remote working, it’s not the best channel for conveying organization change. For those purposes, there’s no substitute for talking face-to-face – even if those faces might be appearing in video feeds, rather than directly facing each other.

Toba’s tips for communicating organization change

Toba Shahabi is Fifty Five and Five’s Head of Project Management. And as a member of the Leadership Team as well as the Employee Representative, she also plays a central role in communication between management and the rest of the agency.

So, who better to consult on a topic like this? Toba shared her own thoughts on communicating organization change:

  • "Adaptable and fluidity are key. Change should be up for discussion if possible. The idea that the people in your organisation won't have an opinion on a particular change could be a huge oversight. And you as a company should strive to be able to take on feedback about change in a responsive way. Things should be able to adapt towards a more practical and hopefully more efficient future after employees voice their feedback."
  • "Keep it frequent. Adopt a variety of styles of comms to suit different people's preferences. More importantly, provide consistent and frequent touchpoints to check in with employees. This allows leaders to have a pulse on the feelings of the company at any given time. That allow them to either continue or change track depending on positive or negative feedback."
  • "Don’t be a dictatorship. Being rigid in terms of policy and not asking for feedback is a sure way to find your colleagues and employees frustrated and looking for other companies to work for, especially, ones who will listen."

Good advice, I think you’ll agree. Transparency and opportunities for open dialogue are always appreciated – after all, communication is a two-way street. Remembering that is sure to set organisations in good stead – whatever changes they need to communicate, and via whichever methods they choose to communicate it.


Illustration man on sofa listening to a B2B podcast with headphones

Now is the winter of our audio content: the B2B podcast boom

The popularity of podcasts is a strange phenomenon. A long-form, linear, audio-only format in an age of two-minute YouTube videos and 30-second attention spans. Whether you reckon they’re an evolutionary throwback, a welcome return to chunky pieces of ‘real content’, or somewhere in between, people love them. And they certainly have their place – after all, you can’t watch a video or read a blog during your morning run. Or at least I wouldn’t recommend it.  

The format has blown up to such an extent that even the B2B world has cottoned on to the power of the podcast. In fact, in November 2020, Fifty Five and Five launched our own, available now on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. But enough shameless self-promotion – what does the B2B podcast boom mean for you?

Summary 

  • Bringing out your business’s story 
  • Inviting customers to participate 
  • Why the office is the new recording studio 
  • The importance of planning and strategy 
  • Ensuring success with the right help

Telling your story in your own words  

Podcasts are a way to tell your organisation’s (and your employees) stories in a way that feels honest and authentic. After all, these are your own words, spoken by you, directly to your audience’s ears. That can be extremely powerful. 

Podcasts are great if you want to:  

  • Show your expertise, thought leadership, and passion for your field 
  • Humanise your brand and create better connections with your audience 
  • Build a loyal following who’ll be receptive to other communications 

The sky’s the limit with this relatively new form of audio content marketing. Our Head of Content Stephen Reilly agrees:  

I think what fuels the popularity of any podcast is the intimacy it conjuresIt lets us as a business speak to our audience. We’re no longer just a brand slogan on our website, we’re people speaking to guests about the topics we’re all passionate about. And we get to share that. Which sort of helps bring everything else we do alive.

Introducing some happy customers 

Bringing in past or current clients as guests is one way to display that you’re good at what you doIt could have the flavour of an audio-testimonial or case study, or a discussion around industry talking-points – the latter, in particular, may be compelling to your audience.  

I asked our Head of Creative Barnaby Ellis for his thoughts, as he’s hosted many a podcast featuring our special guestsHe didn’t mince his words: Getting your clients involved is a bit of a no-brainer. Your audience want variety in topic and tone, and you benefit from the association with genuine experts. Plus, engaging clients in conversation outside of a commercial context (and showing genuine interest in their point of view!) will only strengthen your relationship with them. Well said, B.E.!  

If you give your audience the opportunity to learn new things or explore new developments in their worldthat’s certain to impress them and build some brand love. On that note, it’s important to always keep the audience’s interest in mind. You have to give people a reason to listen – remember the ‘content’ part of the phrase content marketing. Something valuable, something interesting... your podcast has got to have something – not just an undisguised and unadulterated sell.

Mic? Check. Voice? Check.  

One of the big benefits of the B2B podcast is that it’s relatively simple format that will give you great output without draining your resources. In its plainest form, all you need is a microphone and a way to record and polish up the audio. This may account for the format’s newfound popularity among businesses everywhere who are trying to ‘do more with less’ in a challenging economic climate.  

And fortunately, we’re living in the age of the citizen content creator. Everyone and their aunt’s got a YouTube channel these days, and we’re now very used to watching and listening to content that’s homemade and a little rough around the edges. It can even add a bit more of a sense of authenticity.  

Nobody’s expecting a big-budget production. As long as your content is interesting, valuable, and not recorded on a Dictaphone from 1985 you found in the back of the storage cupboard, people will listen.  

I asked our account manager, agency podcast producer and frequent host Roxy Ghirbomean for her thoughts: ‘Podcasts aren't meant to be difficult. From a production standpoint, all you need is a good microphone, a guest and a topic. I'd recommend starting with a structure, an outcome and to let the conversation flow.’ So, there you have it: no need to book that studio time after all.

Don’t neglect the planning and strategy 

However, just because you don’t need a full-blown recording studio doesn’t mean you can just wing it all the wayYou may already be raring to go, but let’s get back down to Earth for a moment first.    

You do want to apply some degree of production values, and you may not have the requisite skillsets in-house to achieve the level of professionalism you want. Bringing across your branding, hitting the right notes in terms of tone and style – that needs some thought and work.  

And then there’s the all-important strategic part:  

  • What’s the purpose of this podcast?  
  • How does it fit into your content strategy 
  • Do you even have a content strategy yet?  
  • How will you generate and select ideas for each episode?  
  • What will your criteria and overall editorial policy be?

Those are all things to be considered before you hit the record button. If not, you won’t be sure your podcast will represent your business in the way you want and help you to achieve your goals. Don’t create a podcast just for the sake of having a podcast – make it count.  

Our founder and CEO Chris Wright has long been a devotee of the podcast-as-B2B-marketing-tooldriving Fifty Five and Five’s adoption of the format and developing our in-house capabilities for creating audio content.  

Here’s Chris’ take: A podcast can make a real difference as part of a joined-up marketing strategy. The rewards your business receives all depend on the thinking behind the content, however. You get out what you put in  and that should be solid planning and a focus on your USP, customers, and goals. That’s how you make sure your podcast provides value for both your audience and your business.'

Ensuring your B2B podcast is a hit with a little help 

If you need some assistance with your B2B podcastFifty Five and Five can guide you through this weird and wonderful new territoryWe’re here to help with every aspect of your audio content marketing, whether that’s:  

  • Nailing down the strategy 
  • Devising and creating content together 
  • Being available on an ongoing advisory basis  

We want your podcast to keep your audience coming back – and engaging with your business and brand more positively than ever. If you do too, let’s start turning listeners into leads.  

Want to find out more about launching and maintaining a successful B2B podcast to drive marketing success? Get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.


Illustration woman at computer researching B2B DIY marketing

Getting real: B2B marketing goes DIY with citizen content creators

In the tech world, we’re all aware of the idea of the ‘citizen developer’Thanks to low/no-code platforms, software development is rapidly being democratised. And that’s empowering employees everywhere to seize greater roles in creating technology solutions for their businessesEven if they may not be able to build software from scratch themselves, these citizen developers can still play a far more valuable part in the development process, ensuring their new tools and services do exactly what they – and their customers – need. And that's where the idea of citizen content creators comes in.

Content creation democratised 

I’d argue this is part of a wider sea-change. Unprecedented access to technology, more affordable and intuitive than ever, has opened up new possibilities for people and businesses to create all kinds of things that take them closer to their goals. That includes content creation, which is now more accessible for ‘citizens’ of all industries and professions – and the organisations they work for.  

And I think a lot of that is thanks to a certain video-streaming platform you might have heard of.

The YouTube Effect 

Since YouTube launched in 2005it has become the place to host original video content. And today, when smartphones and laptops have cameras capable of recording in HD, creating that content has never been more accessible to more people. Billions are now able to live out their dreams of being a sort of Internet-age TV star, uploading self-made content to a truly gargantuan potential audience across Planet Earth 

Most YouTubers barely manage more than a relatively small number of views – so maybe they’re more like public access TV stars. But some find their own sizeable (and valuable) niche audience, and a lucky few hit the big leagues 

And it’s all possible with a relatively small outlay in terms of equipment expenses. Obviously, the better your camera and mic, the more professional your results. But, largely due to the YouTube Effect, people have now become accustomed to consuming content that’s a little more lo-fi and DIY. So, video content no longer needs to be the stuff of big budgets, studios and production companies. Sorry, Mr Spielberg – we’ll take it from here.

COVID-19 and the at-home ad 

I’d argue that the YouTube Effect – our willingness to consume content from citizen content creators – has also been given a boost by the COVID-19 pandemic. All of a sudden, film studios and production houses were forced to lock their doorsand filming had to take place wherever people were. It’s become common to see e-commerce photography shot in models’ houses and apartments, and even at-home ads  TV commercials filmed in the stars’ real-life living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms.  

The new sense of realism, honesty and vulnerability in these at-home TVCs has had the effect of humanising celebrities and the brands they represent. Wcan see they’re dealing with the same strangedifficult new reality we all are facing. And when you can relate to someone or something, you become more receptive.  

Record that ad in a studio and I’m overwhelmingly aware you’ve been paid to push a product. Film it in your kitchen? You’re working from home because that’s what we do nowand I know exactly how that feels, and btw I like your spice rack. This sense of greater reality counterbalances the inherent artificiality and obvious commercial motive of a TV spotand as a result puts me at greater easeAs a marketer, that’s very interesting stuff.

Showing your audience the real you 

In the B2B world, this pandemic-born twist on cinéma vérité translates to webcam-shot footage from your staff-members at home, or socially distanced how-to videos filmed on your COVID-safe premises. Nobody cares if the lighting isn’t just so, or you’ve forgotten to tidy up a few coffee mugs 

And the B2B podcast boom has arguably followed this zeitgeist. Recording your own audio content is now more accessible and affordable than ever. The fact that multiple participants can join over a Teams call means the show can go on even if restrictions mean you can’t all get together in the same room. And just like with video, audiences no longer expect everything they hear to be a big-budget production. Thanks again, YouTube.

Professional B2B marketing with DIY authenticity 

B2B marketing’s new DIY possibilities allow organisations to shape all kinds of new content that vividly showcases their value and USPs. But it would be a mistake for citizen content creators to take on too much and neglect certain considerationsDIY’ doesn’t mean shoddy, and you want to go viral for the right reasons – not because people are forwarding your URL with the subject line: ‘look at this, lol’.  

For instance, even if you can handle the recording part in-house, you may still need a hand with editing it all together. You may also benefit with some assistance when it comes to scripts and ideas – especially for an extended series of films or podcasts. And then there’s ensuring everything is aligned with your brand and content strategy 

And that’s what we’re here for. Fifty Five and Five are keen to help our clients harness every new and innovative method of connecting with their audiences and nurturing sales leads. We can help you create a firm foundation, with the right strategic underpinning, for your citizen content creators to build onAnd our experienced team have the creativity and craft to ensure your content really shines.  


Illustration woman looking confused

Behavioural science; gimmick or a marketer's secret weapon?

Have you ever wondered how Derren Brown can predict how people will behave when put in certain situations? Does he have supernatural powers, or can anyone influence behaviour if they have the right skills? This got us thinking about how we could help our clients lead their customers towards desired goals and, ultimately, improve the effectiveness of their marketing. Hint.. it is all about behavioural science.

If you’re not familiar with Behavioural Science, it’s the study of human behaviour and why people tend to do completely irrational things. We make decisions based on biases that we’re unaware of and make choices that defy logic. It’s why people regularly play the lottery even though the likelihood of winning is minuscule; they over-estimate their odds of success (optimism bias) and under-estimate their chances of failure.

Here are a few of our favourite biases below that we think every marketer should be aware of with some tips and advice you can implement right away.

Decision paralysis

Customers want to feel they have control of choosing, but don’t want to spend too much time making decisions. When it comes to how you market your products and services, limit the choices you give them to avoid choice fatigue in increasing conversion rates. This is a 101 behavioural science tip.

icon lightbulb

Immediate advice

Count how many choices you are offering visitors to your website, both in places you want them to click and/or products and services you are selling. Perhaps the number of them is interfering with the decisions you are trying to achieve. Can you reduce this number without limiting the user journey?

 

Social proof

We tend to copy the behaviours of others, especially in unfamiliar situations. Framing your marketing messages by showing why existing customers selected you, helps encourage new customers to pick you, too. That’s why testimonials, client reviews and brand ambassadors are such powerful behavioural science techniques.

icon lightbulb

Immediate advice

Evaluate the customer testimonials on your homepage. Or, if you don’t have any on the homepage, consider how easy is it to navigate to where they are elsewhere on your site?

 

The IKEA Effect

Did you know we’ll pay disproportionately more for something we’ve helped create? Providing low-risk personalised options to your products and services early on (whilst avoiding decision paralysis) builds an emotional connection and often triggers an uplift in sales figures.

icon lightbulb

Immediate advice

Consider how customisable your products or services are. Are you offering your potential customers enough options when it comes to what you provide?

 

Framing

People tend to make very different decisions based on how a fact is presented – like a milkshake that’s 90% fat-free vs contains 10% fat. You can significantly influence decision-making by reframing information through imagery and context according to your needs. And if you need an additional boost, set the statistics against a different data set, e.g. don’t focus on a 20% staff turnover rate, instead highlight that it’s 5% better than the industry average.

icon lightbulb

Immediate advice

If you want to see the importance of contextual factors in how audiences perceive a product or service – take a look at this brilliant video: would you have paid the $2?

 

Loss Aversion

We feel twice as bad losing something than the positive feeling associated with gaining something. This loss aversion may be impacting our attitude to risk. If you can offer free trials or delayed payments, your buyer is more likely to purchase – since we are predisposed to want to avoid the loss we would feel once we give up the product.

icon lightbulb

Immediate advice

Consider offering a demo or a free trial of your product and see if there is a difference in the response rate. If you are a service-based business perhaps free consultation of your services can help your leads see what they are missing out on.

 

Decision-science in marketing

When decision-science is used in the corporate world, especially in marketing, it can have a profound effect. By understanding customers, and their behavioural science biases, marketers can tackle objectives head-on and nudge them towards the desired outcome.

icon lightbulb

Immediate advice

Take an audit of your current marketing strategy, with the biases we’ve discussed above in mind. How much thought have you put into your strategy when it comes to customer decision-making?

 

Choose an agency that puts data into decision-making

At Fifty Five and Five, research and data are the foundation of our work for clients. Whether it’s the role of behavioural science or the insight behind a joined-up marketing strategy, we put thought into what we do. If you want to see a greater return on investment from your marketing, contact the team at Fifty Five and Five and see how we can help.


Illustration retro microphone

Is Microsoft Teams the future of all business collaboration?

Is Microsoft Teams the future of all business collaboration? In episode #4 of our podcast, we discuss a recent change in the way businesses interact with Microsoft collaboration software. Once upon a time, Microsoft collaboration technology centered around SharePoint, Outlook and Yammer. Now Teams is becoming a ‘base of operations’ for the way people work, with SharePoint and Outlook left out in the cold. Is Microsoft Teams the future of all business collaboration?

We’re joined by Lesley Crook, a Microsoft MVP and Modern Workplace Consultant for Symity Ltd. Symity specialise in Teams meeting rooms and telephony services, and Lesley has plenty to say on: The reasons for this change in collaboration habits, Teams’ potential as a ‘base of operations’, the limitations of Teams and the potential for the future.