Creative Best Practices

14 Things To Help Inspire Your Digital Marketing in 2010

Posted by Jonathan Richman on January 5th, 2010 at 12:00 am

As you catch up on all the emails you missed over the holidays and wonder where to start on your massive list of "to-dos," I'm going to recommend you take a moment for a quick read. Today's post is really simple. It's not another "XYZs of the DECADE!" or "The Most Important Things of 2010" type post, of which I'm sure you're seeing plenty. [Note: This is a re-post from my "regular" blog, Dose of Digital, but thought it was worth sharing here as well.] 

Instead, I wanted to start you off with some things that are sure to recharge your creative thinking. I plan to show you things that might amuse, inspire, upset, annoy, confuse, encourage, frustrate, and all of these at once. While I typically write about healthcare related topics, this post is for every marketer out there. There are quite a few healthcare examples included (I can't help it), but the vast majority have nothing whatsoever to do with healthcare.

What you aren't going to get here is a list of things to do. I'm not going to show you a bunch of ideas to copy. You're going to have to work a bit to figure out the applicability to your industry.   In the end, I'm sharing many of these to simply expand your thinking and force you to look at things a bit differently. You'll also probably come across a few resources that might just make your job simpler in 2010. You may have seen some of these before, but hopefully, they still make an impact. I've tried to loosely bunch things together into "topics." It sort of worked, so allow me a little poetic license.
14 Things That Will Inspire Your Digital Marketing in 2010  


  • Been in a drugstore aisle lately? Did you feel slightly overwhelmed with the choices? You walked into the store with an aliment and wanted a solution. Maybe your allergies were acting up. Where's the allergy section? Which of the thousand products do you need? The online buying options on sites like can be equally overwhelming and frustrating. Enter Help Remedies (their homepage below)...

Help Remedies

They have a handful of products (you'll notice that some are duplicates). There are no brand names. Rather, each product is named based on the aliment it treats. Each treatment uses common, generic medications (loratadine [aka: Claritin] for allergies, for example) in simple packaging at a fixed ($4) price.

Make it simple for people to find what they need to fix their problem. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • Sometimes we really over-think things. In our efforts to make things more simple, we have the opposite effect. The more complex idea, the less likely you are execute it successfully. At the same time, the complex execution of your complex idea is more likely to leave your consumers confused and frustrated.

For Windows users out there, you probably hate that little strip at the bottom of your monitor--"The Taskbar"

Windows Taskbar

Did you ever notice that you can't move around the programs in that taskbar? I have and it annoyed me to no end. But Microsoft allowed no way to do this in Windows XP. Rather than a massively complex program or huge upgrade to Windows, someone (not a Microsoft employee) decided to simply write a tiny little script that makes those programs movable. Meet Taskbar Shuffle. It's a tiny 640k-sized "program" that fixes something that Microsoft hasn't. Sometimes a massive project or update isn't necessary when you need a simple solution.


  • What's the "proper way" to use YouTube? You post a video and direct people to it, right? Maybe you embed the video in your site and you sit back and hope that people see it. Well, that's one way to use it, but that might not be the most engaging for your customers. How about looking at YouTube a bit differently?

Did you know you could do this with YouTube? I'll bet you didn't and I'll further bet that you probably watched the second video in the series and the third (and probably more). It's an engaging use of the technology. Try not to be confined by how you think about the technology. Instead, investigate what's possible and see if it's applicable to what you're trying to accomplish.

Speaking of rethinking YouTube, why not put your entire website on YouTube? Not all of your videos, your entire site. What's that you say? You don't want to pay the outrageous "partnership" fees in order to have your own page. No problem. That's not what I'm even talking about. I mean putting your entire site into a video. Think there's no way to do it? Tell that to the folks at Boone-Oakley. They didn't get that memo.

Make technology your friend. How? You've got to invest some time in learning it for yourself. That means more than just reading a blog post about it. It means using it. Do you think the Boone-Oakley people used YouTube for the first time while making this video (er, website)? No. They likely use it all the time and figured out some interesting things you can do with the technology and they put it all together.

  • Blogging is really hard, right? Just the set-up alone is enough to deter most people. Then the thought of using some complex platform and hosting and editing and getting the graphics just right (and on and on) is enough to ensure that there aren't too many regular bloggers out there. I've seen companies send hundreds of thousands of dollars setting up their blog only to watch them do one or two posts and give up. Blogging takes time to write posts and think of interesting topics, but it shouldn't take time to set up or actually use. Meet Posterous. If you can use email, you've got a blog. Here's how complex it is to have a Posterous blog:

Posterous Set Up and Blogging

See for yourself. Right now (I'll wait), send an email to Attach a picture if you'd like or an MP3. Add a little text and see what happens.

Congratulations, you're a blogger.


  • Do you have a lot of boring data lying around? You've probably got stacks of binders filled with it and an entire section of your hard drive dedicated to spreadsheets. Do you really use any of this data? Did any of it really change the way people do things where you work? Did any of it help serve your customers better? What I've found from a lot of data is that it's unactionable (if that's a word). You can't do anything based on the findings. That's one problem. But let's assume your data is actionable. The next step is to explain it to everyone else at your company. That's not easy. Data is boring (sorry, analytics friends). However, the presentation of that data doesn't need to be.

After watching this, do you promise to never again show a PowerPoint slide with a spreadsheet embedded within it, and then say, "You can't read this, but..."


  • Tired of car commercials? I am...have been for years. So, I'm glad to see that they're using my money (via government bailouts) to make even more. They're worse than ever of course, but only slightly. So, do you think I can get you to watch a five minute commercial for a car? No? I accept your challenge. Check this out from Volkswagon of Brazil for the Eos and come back (warning: make sure your connected to a solid broadband'll need it).

So, how much did you watch? You've got to give them credit for "forcing" you to pay attention throughout in an entertaining and challenging way. How are you encouraging people to watch your content all the way through? Is it ever good enough that they should watch it all the way through? [Thanks to Adverblog for the heads up on this one.]


  • By now just about everyone has seen this next video. If you're a digital marketing and you haven't, you've got a lot of catching up to do. So, for those who have seen it, my apologies, but watch it again. It's that good.

Instead of spending millions on TV and print advertising, in 2006, Dove took a different approach. It created "Evolution" (credit to our sister agency Ogilvy Toronto). It was a "simple" video all to support a campaign that would later be called "The Campaign for Real Beauty." This concept was borne out of research the agency did that showed that 50% of women say that their body "disgusts them." 50%. "Disgusts them." Clearly, there was an opportunity to change that. So, with little hype (and no mass media buying), "Evolution" was launched.

If that doesn't stop you for a minute, I'm not sure what will. That video, thanks to a massive viral spread, has been seen more than 500 million times. How much would it cost you for 500 million impressions? How about 500 million impressions on people who WANTED to see your commercial? $500,000? $1,000,000? $3,000,000? Nope. Try $50,000. That's how much "Evolution" cost to create. Sure, not everything is "Evolution," but you probably don't need 500 million views of your video. However, you probably want more than the few hundred or few thousand your videos have now.

That's your inspiration. That's the best of the best. If you intend to create a video that people will watch and spread to others, this is your guide. Watch your video and then watch "Evolution." Close? If not, keep working.

  • If you read my blog regularly, I know you've seen this next one, but I'm going to show it to you again. Everything you do can be creative. That means that even the lowly banner ad can be creative. What's that you say? It's not possible to make a banner ad that people want to see and click? Try this one on for size:

Told you so. Even banner ads can be good. The ad for Pringles you just saw (and probably clicked a bunch of times) was the winner of the Gold Cyber Lion at the Cannes Advertising Festival this past year. It's the highest honor you can get for digital work...and it was a banner ad. [Fair balance, my company, Bridge Worldwide, created that banner for Pringles (we are the digital agency of record for the brand).]

Yes, even your banner ads can show some creative thinking. "Can Hands" isn't appropriate for everyone, but the thinking that lead to it should be required for everyone.

  • Coming up with the next big idea is hard. There's only a finite number of people at your company and the time they each have to spend on thinking is pretty limited. But, no one knows your market or products as well as you do, right? What about your customers? Don't they have a pretty good sense of where your brand should go? They certainly have a good idea of where they want it to go and that's worth paying attention to. Moreover, they might be the ones to give you the next big idea.

Both Dell (with Ideastorm) and Starbucks (with My Starbucks Idea) are two companies that have figured this out (along with many others). Dell has implemented 390 ideas that were submitted and voted for on the site. Starbucks has done more than 50. Cost to these companies? Nearly free. It's really just the time investment from a handful of employees. How much would you pay for the next big idea and to have an ongoing discussion with engaged customers about how to improve your brand?


I think there are two problems with this idea. First, who wants to join a community owned and maintained by a pharma company that's likely to be laced with brand selling messages? People don't trust "big pharma," so to think that they'll be willing to have open and honest conversations when they know that "big pharma" is watching and potentially controlling what they say is a ridiculous notion. Second, why join a pharma-owned community when there are so many that aren't controlled by pharma companies? Yet, this is one of the first things that pharma marketers want to do.

Okay, I get it. You want to do it regardless of what I say. Fine. Here's my only request: make your community better than what's out there. If it is better, then people might join up even if "big pharma" owns and controls it. If you're not going to make it better, it's a waste of time and resources. Need to know what your comparators are? No problem. If you want to see what true community engagement looks like, then look no further than Tu Diabetes. There are more than 12,000 members and it has an extremely engaged and active community. It's alive and you can tell right away that you're dealing with a group of people who are passionate about an issue. By the way...interested in knowing what they think about pharma or healthcare companies participating in their community? You should be. Check out this thread all about it. Think you'll be welcomed with open arms?

Need another example? How about Patients Like Me? If you're thinking about including tracking tools in your community, this is the gold standard (in healthcare at least). Not only are the tools used by a very large percentage of users (and used regularly), the data that people provide are used to help others determine the best treatment for their disease. Are you willing to provide this kind of help on your website even if it's help that might include telling someone to stop taking your treatment? If not, then your community doesn't stack up well.

Patients Like Me Profile

Everything Else

I've got a few more that didn't quite fit into a neat category, so I'm lumping them together here as things you should know about (and likely don't). Some of these are simply to show you some really interesting technologies just for the "wow" factor and others are essential to being a good digital marketer. 

  • If you haven't figured out how to incorporate Facebook Connect into what you're doing, then you're missing out. Of course, many marketers have figured it out and now use Facebook Connect. If you aren't familiar with it, then check out this primer from Facebook (be sure to check out all the tabs). Very simply: "With Facebook Connect, users can easily share your content and their actions with their friends on Facebook. As these friends discover your content, they click back to your site, engaging with your content and completing the viral loop." Think of it as a way to connectyour site with Facebook. People share you site's content with their friends on Facebook and these friends, hopefully, come check out your site for themselves.


And that's the way most marketers have used this very powerful tool. They simply make it easier to share links on Facebook and pray that others click on them. However, Facebook Connect is far more powerful than that. When you give permission for a site or application to use your data, they have access to everything your friends do. This means all your updates, your pictures, your information (job, interestes, etc.) to name a few. What you do with this information can be pretty amazing. Think completely customized experiences.

If you want a great example of how you can use Facebook Connect to create a VERY memorable experience, then you should try the Discovery Channel's Frenzied Watersused to publicize its "Shark Week" or Activision's The Prototype Experience to promote its platform game, Prototype. CAUTION: you might not like the ending of the former and you might be a tad bothered by the latter if you're not a fan of first-person shooter games and the storylines behind them. If you want to see some other, more tame, examples, check out this post from Mashable.

  • All right, here's a little technology "wow-factor" you can share with your friends. Try out Photosynth from Microsoft. Try clicking on different parts of the image, zooming in and out, and scrolling around. Essentially, Photosynth takes hundreds of photos of a single place and stitches them all together so that you can view the place from multiple angles almost as a 3D experience. Can you come up with a way to use this technology for your next promotion? Check it out here. (I would embed it, but the blogging platform at iMedia is somewhat unusable.)
  • Slightly less cool, but more likely to impact you day-to-day is Get Satisfaction. What is it? In their words: "Get Satisfaction is a direct connection between people and companies that fosters problem-solving, promotes sharing, and builds up relationships. Get Satisfaction is open, transparent, and free. Tens of thousands of companies use this neutral space to support customers, exchange ideas, and get feedback about their products and services. Everyone is invited and encouraged to participate."

In my words, it's a place where people are complaining about your brand and looking to each other to solve the problems they are having. Well, that's what's going on if you're not there. You could be there though. You could be officially representing your company or brand and answering questions as they come in and cutting down on unchecked, Internet-based, brand firestorms. Is anyone talking about your brand and looking for answers right now? Go to the site and check it out (use the search box in the upper right).

If they are talking about your company or products, I'd recommend getting officially involved. To me, this service started as a tool for small, start-ups to help them manage customer service, while big companies relied on their call centers. But now, big companies are joining in because their customers are used to going to and using Get Satisfaction. Big companies like who? How about Nike and Microsoft for starters?

  • And finally, to close this out, I thought a glimpse into the future was necessary. Here it is:

Hearts Built to Order

What is it? Here's the description from Popular Science's The Year's Most Amazing Scientific Images (number 24): "A dead heart beats again, thanks to the efforts of scientists at the University of Minnesota. To rebuild and reanimate the organ, which was harvested from a rat, scientists first stripped the old heart cells away with a detergent typically found in shampoos. That left behind a collagen matrix—the protein fibers that hold groups of cells together and help give organs their overall shape—which they then reseeded with heart cells from a newborn rat. They attached the organ to electrodes and waited. Then it happened: The heart started to beat regularly."

Wow. If that doesn't inspire you to think that anything is possible, I'm not sure what will. Best of luck for an inspired 2010.

Jonathan Richman is the author of Dose of Digital, a blog about e-marketing in healthcare. He works at Bridge Worldwide as Director of Strategic Planning. You can follow him on Twitter (@jonmrich).  

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