The power of the dark site: handling crisis communications


Introduction: In times of crisis…

Vader was hard to understand through that mask. We’re pretty sure he really said ‘dark site’.


As a public company with many eyes on you, it’s good sense to have a plan for when something inevitably goes wrong. When a big crisis emerges, the most important aspect in responding is timing and efficiency. Developing a dark website and having it on standby at all times is crucial when handling a corporate crises. And speaking of crises, is that ominous music we hear? We thought we’d provide you with some appropriate background reading music. Less than a month until Star Wars Episode VII hits the theatres! (ICYMI, this is a Star Wars themed post).

While you listen, read up on the basics of dark websites, why you should create one as a company, and what elements are crucial to include.


What is a dark website?


Think of how you behave as an internet user. If an emergency strikes an organization, where is the first place you turn? Their website. You want to know what’s going on and how the situation is being addressed. From the company side of things, there isn’t time to create a section on your website or an entire new website to address the crisis. That’s when you turn to your dark site: a pre-built website that can be ‘turned on’ as needed during a crisis to manage it efficiently. The point of dark sites is that they are pre-prepared and ready to publish at the click of a button, so the hungry internet audiences can be updated and stay informed. Remember: the key is speed. Like doing the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.


Don’t be caught sitting on your butt in the midst of all the chaos with no clue what to do next.

Why are dark sites important?


1. You control the conversation

Control the situation like Luke controls situations with The Force flowing through him. See? The Star Wars comparisons are endless.

The best way to keep a situation from blowing out of proportion and gathering untruths is to be the main source of updates and information. If you’re the ones constantly correcting and editing your statements, the circulating news will stay factual. Rumours and speculations begin when people have to find their own avenues and sources for updates. Dark sites often dedicate themselves to the single issue at hand, so focus audiences on the crucial information only.


2. You gain trust through transparency 

Behaving as transparently as possible during a crisis translates directly into trust. Remaining cooperative and informing your audiences about what’s going on will help you maintain those relationships with clients, customers, and the general public. When you don’t communicate, it can seem like you’re hiding something.


3. You show you’re taking this seriously

Ignoring the crisis on your company website and going on business-as-usual can send the wrong message to your audience. A dark website gives your audience assurances that you understand the gravity of the situation at hand and that your team is meeting and acting accordingly.


 Are all dark sites the same?

Are Ewoks and Wookies the same? Short answer: no. The way a dark site looks and functions is completely up to the discretion of the company creating it. The site’s functionality can also depend on the severity of the crisis. For example, if the crisis is so severe that normal company operations can’t go forth, a dark website can completely replace the everyday corporate site. This action shows a company-wide dedication to the problem at hand. A more common approach for dark websites is a creating a separate site that operates parallel to your existing website. You would direct all traffic and questions about the crisis to your dark site, but others can still browse your normal website.

Whatever you choose, the most important thing to remember is to lead people with your homepage, especially if you’re going with the two separate websites route. It’s your job to make it extremely clear on your homepage that the company aware of the situation and that all available information is available on your dark website. Make sure links back and forth are prominently displayed.


What content do I include in a dark site?

Be like Leia, and make sure everyone on both sides of the crisis knows the facts. Look at her laying out that attack strategy. Get it.

1. Initial opening statement about the crisis

Give a brief description of what’s happening. Don’t assume that people landing on your dark website already know about the situation or your company’s background. A statement from the CEO or a board member may also work well here.

2. Steps being taken by company

Address the basic plan that you’ll be sticking to in the coming days, and lay out instructions to both the public and everyone affected about what they should expect to see from you next.

3. Contact information for media and/or the public

Have multiple points of contact where the media and journalists can go versus where the general public can go to help, find out more information, or donate.

4. Cross-linking platforms

Make sure it’s a breeze for people to go back and forth between your dark site, your regular website if it’s functioning, social media platforms, and any press or news releases.

5.  Access to real-time updates

Give information on how people can receive minute-by-minute updates if they choose. If you’re updating regularly through social media, like Twitter, include an embedded Twitter timeline or tell audiences to follow you. If you’re sending email/text message updates, provide info for where they can sign up.


Just remember to be prepared! The point of a dark site is that you can launch it into space at the drop of a hat. If you’re scrambling to find something to post, you’re already behind. As Obi Wan Kenobi, Jedi master, says, “In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck”.

May the force be with you!

Thanks for letting us be punny this week, and thanks to this awesome site for the Star Wars cinema graphs.


8 content strategy tips that also work for dating (with GIFS because, internet)

Content without goals is like a fish on a bicycle

You can’t write good content on a website without having a content strategy. Creating a strategy may seem like a whole bunch of ‘mehhhh can we do this later?’ but without clear goals for the content on your website, no one will know what’s going on. So before we get into specific content strategy tips, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to the point of any homepage.

Your website homepage has two main goals: 

Goal A: to catch a user’s attention so they don’t immediately click that dreaded ‘back’ arrow.

Goal B: to effortlessly direct people to other pages of your website. Here’s one of our favourite tweets that sums up Goal B quite nicely:


With these goals emblazoned in our minds, we can now proceed to how a good content strategy for your homepage is like preparing yourself for a first date. So tuck your shirt in, and we can begin.


1. First impressions are really important 

We’ve all seen the statistic: it takes only 10 seconds for a user on your website to decide if they want to stick around. How do you capture their attention with content? Let’s go back to our running analogy: If you were picking someone up for a first date (which doesn’t happen nearly enough anymore with Tinder and all that, but that’s a conversation for another time) what’s the first thing you would do after they answered the door? You’d smile and say ‘hi’. You wouldn’t, however, start screaming your entire life story at them, from your earliest memory to what you had for lunch that day. They haven’t even put on their coat yet, for goodness sake.

Same goes for your homepage content. In other words, slow your roll. Start with a clear sentence or tagline; whether it explains what your company does or highlights your growth potential. Include a button underneath your ‘hi’ sentence encouraging site visitors to ‘Learn More’ about you.


2. Don’t suck all the air out of the room

If you have caught a user’s attention on your homepage, the next part is super important: what information do you put right on the homepage vs. information you include on the inner pages? Prune what’s not essential. Our friends at RocketFuel put it most vividly when they wrote “a boring website contains overly long paragraphs that threaten to make your eyes bleed (especially on the homepage)”.  Be skimmable, and don’t be afraid of some white space on your homepage (or a break in conversation with our running dating analogy). Lead the reader, but gently.


3. Make sure they know the important stuff 

Though skimming is important, there should definitely be more content on the homepage than crazy images and animations. **Engineer speak moment:** this is especially important for SEO website rankings, because Google likes to see words on your site and doesn’t care about how many flashy visuals you’ve got. When it comes to homepage content strategy, the best question to ask yourself is this: what do they absolutely have to know right now? Think concise company vision statements, killer testimonials, a product statement to get people excited, or blurbs about some awards you’ve won. Make sure people can at least grasp the who, what, when, where, and why. 


4. Watch your tone

Unless you’re a vacuum salesman, the tone of your writing should not be boring. Scratch that, even if you are a vacuum salesman. A common misconception is that corporate websites have to sound, well, corporate-y. That’s just not true. Although you should probably steer clear from quoting Snoop Dogg in your mission statement, your readers know that you’re human and you should speak to them as such. Use informal, more personable writing that people can relate to. And it’s okay to include a little humour! (It should be noted, however, that good humour comes with good discretion. The investor page where you get down to the numbers is not a good place for knock-knock jokes. Know what works best for you).

5. Confidence is sexy…

If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, website users won’t either. Strong call-to-actions are the best form of confidence on a homepage. Use them as buttons under main headers, in banner sliders, or when encouraging people to sign up for an email newsletter. Also make sure when planning content strategy to include strong action verbs, just like you were taught when writing a resume or cover letter. (Grammar 101: an action verb is a verb that expresses a physical or mental action). Your company should be ‘inventing’ ‘creating’ or ‘leading’ the pack.


6. …but don’t be over-the-top

If you’ve won a bunch of awards, that’s awesome and you should be showing them off. If it’s the only thing users can see on your homepage, however, followed by a paragraph as to why you definitely deserved them, it might not be the best use of space. Be proud, but remember to also stay humble and recognize partners or others who may have helped you along the way. Homepage content strategy is about balance. Pat yourself on the back, but also be sure to inform your audience as to where you’re looking to grow next. 


7. Don’t be sloppy, stupid

A website is out there for the world to see. When it comes to your content, formatting is key, as is proper spelling and grammar. Headers should all be capitalized the same way, periods need to be at the end of sentences, and hyperlinks cannot be broken. Though it may not seem like a big deal, it greatly contributes to the look and feel of your website, and lets users know that you’re professional and serious. (Now, time for us to go proofread this blog post to avoid embarrassment and irony).


8. Leave them wanting more

A little mystery never hurt anybody. Remember: the main goal of your homepage is to act as a portal to the other, meatier pages of your website. Have a clear content strategy to address at what point the content ends and the links begin. Your homepage is doing its job if people are enticed and want to click around to learn more about you.


The 10 point checklist for a great corporate About Us page

Introduction: I like the way you work it

The ‘About Us’ section of your company website is where you sell your vision, your opportunity, and where you educate the world about what you can do. This section has the potential to be your most powerful tool in driving business. The sky is the limit when it comes to what you can broadcast about your company, but it’s all about showcasing the most relevant stuff to your target audience. Your company About page is not, then, about throwing up a few photos and a paragraph about how you started with three buddies in somebody’s garage. People reading your About section want to know more about where you’re headed and what skills and investments you’re making to take you there. If you’re not sure where to begin, or what’s essential to add, we’ve created a checklist to get you started. Enjoy!



The 10-point checklist for a great corporate About Us page

How to be an expert at live-tweeting for investor relations

So retro. We gave you a cheat sheet over two years ago to help you live-tweet IR events, but we’re coming back bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to talk about IR tweeting 2.0. Twitter has absolutely taken off in the past two years, especially when it comes to investor relations practices and how IR professionals and public companies alike are using social media to circulate news and get people listening. What’s new in the world of live-tweeting, and how can some new practices help more people clue in to an annual meeting or an earnings call?

Here’s what’s new and need-t0-know (as well as some golden oldies) when you’re preparing to live-tweet at an IR event

*Disclaimer:* since we’re IR specific, some of these tips may be a bit different than if you were live-tweeting any big convention or event, especially since the world of investor relations comes with a lot more rules and regulations. We’ve tweaked a few of the best pointers out there so they fit better in the IR world, but some pointers remain true for all parties (everyone, I repeat EVERYONE, loves images).


Before You Go

1. Schedule tweets ahead of time and use templates

One thing’s for sure: during the event you probably won’t even have much time to pee, let alone compose all your tweets with appropriate event hashtags, individual tags, and eye-catching images. Believe it or not, a lot of live-tweeting prep work can be done before you’re actually live. Create tweet-optimized images of those people speaking, whether it’s the CEO, CFO, or other. Leave white space, and during their actual presentation you can quickly fill in the template and tweet away.

2. Cross promote on other social media accounts

Even though live-tweeting is for Twitter, who says Facebook can’t get in on the fun? You don’t have to simultaneously tweet with one account and post to Facebook at the same time (that’s sweaty work) but at least let your Facebook community know that you’ll be live-tweeting the upcoming event. Share the hashtag on Facebook, say WHEN the live-tweeting will begin, and add a link where they can follow you on Twitter.

3. Make them save the date (like a wedding)

Your event is the most important thing that will happen that day, and make sure people know it. Our client NOVAGOLD tweeted out their Q3 conference call date three weeks before go-time. Now that’s prepared.


4. Know the correct hashtag and cashtag

Those people following your event are like sheep. And you–and your Twitter hashtag prowess–are their shepherd. Create an official event hashtag (or find the official hashtag if you’re not putting on the event) and tweet out to your community days beforehand what the hashtag will be. Since it’s an IR event, cashtags are also key. Each live-tweet needs to include the company’s cashtag so investors will easily find all the tweets when searching.


It's Go Time


5. Give people some “insider secrets”

The whole reason many people may be following your live-tweet session is because they aren’t there! Sounds obvious, but think about it. Use your special ‘insider status’ to tweet pictures of what’s going on inside the room, speakers as they’re presenting, and any important presentation slides. Just make sure everything you’re tweeting is IR-okayed and public company approved.

6. Walk people through the itinerary 

Since the majority of your audience isn’t there unless they’re also live-tweeting, make sure you’re very clear about who’s speaking at all times and where the conversation is at. Even if you feel like you’re over-clarifying, that’s ok. We like Ebay’s example below. They tweet to their audience right before the event begins and clearly announce who is speaking first.


7. Tweet out influencer speeches

We talk about ‘quotebiting’ a lot when it comes to Twitter for investor relations purposes, but it’s especially crucial if you’re live-tweeting an IR event. If you need a refresher, when we refer to ‘quote-biting’ we mean tweeting out a crucial quote from the CEO, CFO, etc. during the presentation. The Social Media Examiner also recommends “creat[ing] blank-quote Twitter templates with your logo to capture important points from speakers”.


8. Check your tone

Tweeting for IR is a bit different than live-tweeting for any other big event (so forget those sweaty, Apple enthusiasts tweeting up a storm), as your #1 goal is to clearly share the information that’s being presented. However, make sure the tone of your tweets also matches the tone and personality of the company and leadership you’re representing. Live-tweeting is all about being accessible, so your tone doesn’t have to be full of corporate language. Be informal, but be informative.


The "After" Party

9. Connect with any new followers

This could be as simple as a ‘Thanks for connecting at [event]’ tweet, and reminding people where they can go to ask any further investor relations questions they may have.

10. #ICYMI

In the days following, tweet out a visual representation of the most important numbers from the event in case people missed your live-tweet. Also remind people of the hashtag associated with the live-tweeting, so they can go back and filter out all the IR information after the event.


Extra Credit: (a few extra tid-bits to get you started) 

11. Don’t forget to let your followers know exactly when your live-tweet session is beginning and, more importantly, when ‘that’s all folks!’

12. Remember to use a ‘.’ at the beginning of a tweet where you’re tweeting about someone using their @handle first, if you want your network to see the tweet, and not just that one person.

13. This could easily be a two person job. Consider having one person doing all the live-tweeting, while another is checking the engagement, following back relevant new followers, and responding to your community right away. That way there’s both a steady stream of information going out as well as someone engaging with others.

14. Over prepare. Especially if it’s your first live-tweeting rodeo. Come to the event with templates, take pictures before that you can tweet out during the event, and schedule all the tweets you can (like event reminders, presenter bios, and when the live-tweeting will begin and end).

Good luck!


How Warby Parker built a powerhouse brand

warby parker 2


Why is an eyeglass retailer attracting so many eyeballs? 

On the surface, Warby Parker doesn’t seem different than any other company. They sell a product—eyeglasses—mostly online. They have a website where you can shop. They have a blog. They create year-in-review reports.

But what’s truly brilliant about Warby Parker is how they’ve managed to transform every ‘normal’ aspect of a company and its website into a brand worth salivating over. The company is rooted in rebellion, founded by four friends in 2010 who were sick of a few large firms controlling the eyewear industry. This iconoclasm contributes to the fresh young vibes coursing through their brand, as well as the non-profit ‘buy one, give one’ mission that’s a cornerstone of their company.

We’ve taken five ‘normal’ business elements such as a company’s website and year-in-review and examined how Warby Parker has turned each one into something consumers look forward to experiencing.

1. Their blog: a lifestyle teacher

Warby Parker’s frequently updated blog is an organized chaos of staff book recommendations, music playlists for fall, and ’39 things to do before summer ends’. Though they also publish articles about new glasses styles and share their collaborations with various brands, they know that promoting their brand means more than pushing product. They’re not just selling the glasses they create, but the edgy lifestyle that comes with wearing their glasses.




2. The website: function and a lot of fashion

As an e-commerce company, Warby Parker knows that their website drives their business. It can’t just look nice, but must work supremely well for consumers shopping online. When we browsed Warby Parker’s website, the first thing we noticed was how easy it was to get around. Dropdowns offer options to shop the entire collection, but also offer featured selections like their fall 2015, original, and circuit wear collections Every detail of the site has been examined, down to the email signup button asking you to ‘stay in the loop’ and the sketched paper airplanes that zoom by in the corner of your screen.




3. Their tone: not down with being uppity

Warby Parker’s colloquial tone creates a perfect separation from the ‘hoity-toity’ atmosphere often associated with luxury eyewear companies. They poke fun at themselves on their website (like teasing the fact that, yes, they do actually sell monocles) and their blog sounds like real people are offering you style and lifestyle advice. While some companies keep their blog tone conversational but stick to formalities and the hard-sell on their corporate site, with Warby Parker it’s what you see is what you get. As they say on their website, they were “founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price”. 




4. Their stores: like the libraries of your imagination

Warby Parker started as an online retailer, but have since opened numerous locations throughout the U.S. It was important for the company that their stores had a homey vibe: they’re promoted as “featuring glasses, books, along with other surprising treats”. Some locations, however, are more ‘party’ than ‘homey’. A writer from FastCompany describes his visit to Warby Parker’s Los Angeles store as “the space is decked out like a 1950’s beach club…servers offer martinis and champagne flutes and trays of crackers topped with avocado hummus…guests gravitate to the full-length mirrors and the glasses, which are sticked invitingly on open wood shelves”.  It’s a brilliant maneuver. Warby Parker stores include the luxurious feeling of buying designer glasses without the part everyone hates: the high prices of the glasses themselves. Anyone visiting their brick and mortar stores can feel expensive and pampered, while still leaving feeling like they made the right choice going with the Warby Parker rather than a monopolizing corporate brand.

warby parker


5. Their 2014 Year in Review: something you actually want to read

So this is the coolest. To promote their 2014 Year-in-Review, something all companies put out but barely anyone reads, Warby Parker created a fun online generator called ‘Make Your Own Annual Report’. The generator asks you questions like your favourite colour, your average mood, and the emoji that most describes you. Once you’re done they create a nicely designed and hilarious ‘report’ of your own year. At the bottom of your report, you can share on social media as well as  (aha!) view the Year-In-Review that Warby Parker made for themselves. You can still play around with the generator here. Try it out!


Warby Parker annual report


Why General Electric is the smartest brand on social media

What if a 100 year old person was better at social media than you? A lot of brands better be asking themselves this question, because General Electric is 123 years old this year and are rocking every social media platform from LinkedIn to Vine. It’s not just about the brand’s commanding presence on social media, however. We’re more interested in the way a century-old company who most people know best through lightbulbs and refrigerators can take every aspect of social media, from GIFs to infographics, and integrate them seamlessly into their strategy. Here are some main reasons why GE kills it daily on social media.

1. They encourage conversation and participation

GE always has a social media contest going on. Last year they took to Vine to get people talking about science. Their #6SecondScienceFair invited everyone to interact with their brand by capturing a 6 second video of the coolest science experiment they could create. GE posted their favourites on their own social media page, and created a tumblr account for all the best videos. Like the experts they are, GE made sure to tie the fun contest back to their main message of influencing science and technology. (They also won a shiny award for this educational video series at the 2014 Cannes Lions advertising competition).

6 second science fair


2. They experiment with new sharing platforms 

General Electric is known for being early adopters of new social media platforms (for instance they got on Vine one day after the video-sharing app launched). Now, GIFS within tweets is the new image within tweets. One brilliant aspect of GE’s social media strategy is that they know how to take each emerging platform or trend and seamlessly integrate it with their mission. Check out how they put GIFS to work in the example below. An inside glimpse of a new ice nugget maker? Sweet, I’m in.


GE has also been all over Periscope lately, the new video live-streaming app. Their most recent endeavour included a ‘DroneWeek’ where, using a modified drone, General Electric gave social media followers an up-close and personal look at the biggest and tallest machines.

Live on Periscope

3. They personalize their brand

General Electric is proud of everything they create, and they let people know. Their Instagram account is full of behind the scenes images and videos detailing a day in the life of a GE employee as well as glimpse s of testing facilities, aviation grounds, and wind turbine fields. Their Instagram is a machine enthusiast’s fantasy: who doesn’t like giant pictures of airplane engines and gas turbine load compressors? Behind the scenes snapshots are also smart because they increase the brand’s positive reputation and build enthusiasm and trust between the company and its social media followers.



4. They teach as well as promote

GE promotes the new technologies they’re working on through social media the best possible way: they educate users about what they’re building. Their YouTube series ‘Invention Factory’ provides an investigation on some of humanity’s biggest questions, and how GE is looking for answers. They’ve produced many videos such as the one below to create enthusiasm about their big picture work.

5. They embrace the light-hearted aspect of social media

GE seriously promotes their technology and their mission, but they also know when to loosen their ties and have a little fun. They’re big fans of emojis on Twitter. (And in general, check out their whole EmojiScience campaign).


6. They keep investors in the loop

While some companies may believe that social media and investor relations doesn’t mix, General Electric challenges that idea with a seamless integration between the two worlds. (We also think it’s a perfect marriage, and we’ve written about it before). General electric releases investor highlights on their social media channels with bold images for easy sharing and consumption. Keeping investors in-the-know on social media makes for a more engaged investor audience.


7. They love engaging other brands

It’s clear that GE has a lot of fun on social media, and they love engaging other brands. A lot of times GE’s Twitter will publish an Emoji puzzler concerning a historic scientific breakthrough and will call out other companies and invite them to take a guess. They also love congratulatory tweets, and spread love to everyone from NASA to Bill Nye the Science Guy.





6 lessons from companies on creating a killer brand

Take some tips from the masters. There’s a reason we’ve all heard of these names, and although size, budget, and success may all be different between factors between these brand curators and your company’s brand, there’s still valuable lessons they can teach you about standing out. Take a look at these six lessons from companies who’ve mastered everything from email newsletter copy to reviving 90’s hip hop.

Lesson #1: Know your legacy and let it influence you

The expert: Sprite

Sprite’s been doing a bit of marketing speed-dating lately; they just switched creative agencies for the fourth time in three years. Flashback to 1994 when they launched the now iconic ‘Obey Your Thirst’ slogan with a campaign featuring underground hip-hop up stars and freestylers like Nas, AZ, and Grand Puba.



Over 20 years later, Sprite is returning to the ‘Obey your Thirst’ campaign and to their hip-hop roots. Sprite partnered with The Fader magazine to create a video series aptly titled ‘Obey your Verse’ featuring big names like Drake and Nas, alongside shining up-and-comers Vince Staples and Isaiah Rashad. The Fader president Andy Cohn spoke to Contently about the campaign, saying “I think Sprite had a really good handle on how they wanted to relaunch ‘Obey Your Thirst’ because I think they realized they had a legacy they could trade on“. The new twist on the famous 90’s campaign has been very successful; the series has totalled more than 1 million video views so far. Cohn also spoke of how the legacy of ‘Obey Your Thirst’ with famous rappers was so easy to rejuvenate because “ever artist we talked to…knew about Sprite and ‘Obey Your Thirst’ from 20 years ago'”.


Lesson #2: Speak to your audience like human beings

The expert: Mailchimp

If you look up Mailchimp’s public Style Guide, you’ll get pages and pages of content explicitly explaining a Mailchimp employee’s responsibility to help customers in a friendly and informative way. They’ve even created a whole website called Voice and Tone full of potential conversations between a user and Mailchimp, and appropriate way to respond. What you’re seeing is Mailchimp nailing the importance of frank and personable communication. Isn’t it refreshing when a company’s support line speaks to you like, well, the real human being that they are?


MailChimp voice and tone


Lesson #3: Understand your core message

The expert: Dove

Growing from a brand who sold soap to a well-known advocator for all women’s beauty is quite a feat. Dove’s “Campaign for Real-Beauty” evolved in 2004 and still runs strong in their ads today. In the past few years, they’ve also become experts at making viral videos. The brilliance of these videos comes with the underlying core message in each of them: a move to inspire self esteem in women and encouraging all girls to reach their full potential. Whether their ads focus on Real-Beauty sketches, choosing whether to walk through a door that says ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Average’, or teaching young girls to embrace their curly hair, each of Dove’s ads trace back to their social mission statement of creating “a world where beauty is a source of confidence, and not anxiety”. Other brands have begun to follow Dove’s lead, such as the Always #LikeAGirl campaign and CoverGirl’s #GirlsCan empowerment ads.


Lesson #4: Don’t be afraid to take risks 

The expert: GoDaddy

2015 marked GoDaddy’s 11th ad appearance in the Super Bowl. Over the last decade, GoDaddy’s Super Bowl commercials have been some of the most controversial and some of the weirdest ones out there, but definitely also the most talked about. Their bold marketing moves and insistence on being surprising year after year has cemented them as one of the country’s most recognizable brands. And what’s their thing? Providing website domains. It’s not the spiciest industry out there, but it’s a safe bet that anyone you ask has at least heard the name ‘GoDaddy’, even if they’re not sure what exactly the company does. But that brand recognizability is exactly what the company needs to keep doors open. This isn’t to say taking plunging risks like GoDaddy is always the smartest move (they’ve definitely fallen on their faces a few times), but the idea remains an inspiring one. If a website domain company can be one of the most talked about companies out there, they’re certainly doing something right.



Lesson #5: Be brilliant at something unexpected

The expert: Lululemon

Lululemon’s brand dominates their industry. The yoga-inspired athletic apparel company has been so successful for many reasons, especially the way they encourage an entire healthy lifestyle as well as selling their product. Lululemon’s ‘good vibes’ and lifestyle branding are driven by their lesser known talent online: their killer content creation. Lululemon’s daily email newsletters are brilliant moments of witty copy, and their blog is a space for everything from wellness articles to profiles on up-and-coming folk singers. They’ve recently also released a seven part podcast as part of their one week meditation challenge. The constant contact a user receives online from the podcasts, interviews, and blogs establishes Lululemon’s brand beyond simply producing comfy yoga pants. The become that super healthy friend who you’ve always admired who’s also there to motivate you with some good vibes and great reads.


lululemon podcast

lululemon podcast


Lesson #6: Keep raising your own bar 

The expert: Tesla

Heard of ‘Ludicrous Mode?’ Well, it’s Tesla’s new addition to the Model S sedan and Model X SUV that’s going to kick the car from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, and the SUV in 3.3. It’s also a nod to one of the greatest movies of all time (no judgement, it’s a classic). Elon Musk announced the new speed last month,  as well as promising his adoring fans audience that “he’ll launch an all-new Roadster in four years” (Bloomberg). This announcement comes only a few months after the unveiling of Tesla’s next venture the ‘Powerwall’, their own sustainable home battery. The lesson here, in essence, is that Tesla refuses to quit. They’re pushing into multiple industries and demolishing  all expectations along the way. There’s a reason they’re called “the brand of the year, decade and possibly century” (Forbes). Even if you’re not on the Elon Musk level, there can be strong value in refusing to settle and constantly pushing out new ideas and ways to evolve as a company. The energy surrounding Tesla and its supporters seems more like fans at a rock concert than shareholders and consumers. That’s a sign of how crucial Tesla’s brand has been in their success. Now, it’s all about where they’ll go from here. Maybe all the way to plaid? If you didn’t understand that, you didn’t click the movie link.


Tesla Powewall


Stunning data visualization for digital annual reports

While data visualization is nothing new, some companies are beginning to see its benefits in creating their annual reports. From highlighting important yearly numbers to encouraging audiences to share the visual experience, infographics and other forms of data visualization are the perfect match for any company’s Year in Review. See below for some of our favourites of the past few years.

1: General Electric – interactive visualization of 120 years

General Electric created an interactive visual experience with the annual reports of all 120 years they’ve been in business. A user can now browse every report from the years 1892-2011. GE writes how they “trac[e] the company’s evolution in the words of its participants…keywords provide navigation through thousands of scanned pages”. Choose a keyword such as ‘aviation’, ‘manufacturing’, ‘technology’ or ‘global’ and see every mention of these words in their annual reports. Clicking on a specific year brings up the exact scanned page and a highlighted paragraph.

GE Annual report

BONUS: General Electric also has an entire blog full of data visualizations for website visitors to peruse. The blog is broken up into four sections: powering, curing, building and, moving, based on the areas that GE is involved in.  Explore different data visualizations they’ve created for every industry they assist. Cool! (We’ve probably made it obvious by now that we have a crush on GE. Stay tuned to the blog in the following weeks for a more detailed breakdown of their social media brilliance).



2. UStream – 2013 annual report

UStream, an HD video streaming platform, won many awards for the stunning visualization of their 2013 annual report. At the end of 2013, nobody was really thinking of annual reports as thrilling reading material or engaging visual experiences. UStream was one of those early adopters doing it right. Their interactive website animates every important number, graph, and chart to keep users interested. Check out the full thing for yourself here.

UStream annual report

3. Warby Parker – ‘Make-Your-Own’ annual report 

Warby Parker, the New York eyeglasses startup, decided that the way to attract audiences to their 2014 Year in Review was to allow people first to create a ‘choose your own adventure’ type annual report of their own to share. Go to their ‘Make-Your-Own Annual Report’ website and answer some goofy questions like ‘what is your preferred reading position?’ and ‘what nicknames do you have?’ Warby Parker then generates a wonderfully visualized annual report for you. Cue goofy words like ‘canoodling’ and ‘puttering’. At the end of your annual report, you have the option to see the Year in Review that Warby Parker made for themselves (very sly). Their method worked. Their annual report went viral on social media, shared almost 2,000 times. I mean, who doesn’t want to find out what their ‘Spirt Animal of 2014’ was? Our Senior Digital Designer tried it out below:



Can’t get enough? Why don’t you check out some ways you can keep your investor marketing hot over the summer.

8 creative ways to use Instagram for business

It’s 2015, and many companies now have the hang of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Instagram, however, is the newer, slightly trendier cousin who’s shown up to the party late and not everyone knows. Although it’s true that Instagram is a perfect space for fashion brands and their summer catalogues, we’re interested in ways that all companies can benefit from a little Instagram for business. You don’t need to be Starbucks or Lululemon to have a rockin’ account. Here are some ways to have fun with an Instagram account for your company while still sticking with your brand and staying informative.

1. Teach your audience something new

Short Instagram videos are a great way to create product demos or just produce some fun how-to’s.  Buzzfeed Food’s Instagram often publishes food hacks like the infamous bacon taco-shell below to provide their followers with helpful mealtime tips.


2. Prove you’re experts in the industry

General Electric’s Instagram is out of control (aka they’re one of the most followed companies on Instagram). GE alternates between animations, nicely designed quotes, and short videos to really give their page some spark. In the post below they promote their aviation testing ground with a fun fact about the engines they produce. This is a great idea. Be your followers’ ‘helping hand’ in the industry and share valuable info and fun facts with them, along with a visual they’ll want to share.


3. Introduce someone from your team

Get personal and share those smiling faces you’re so proud of. Ben and Jerry’s pulls out all the stops with a full video about one of their ‘flavour guru’s. The video is pretty cool, but a team member introduction can also be as simple as a nice picture and a fun writeup. Ask them to introduce themselves, talk a little about their job and day-to-day duties, and end with a little fun!


4. Give people a behind-the-scenes glimpse

Lasers to create smoothie labels? Who knew? Even if you think your company’s day-to-day routine might be a bit, well, routine, it’s not that way for anyone else! Your followers will be interested in some BTS glimpses into the life of your company. Capture a boardroom meeting, a day on-site, or some after work Friday bonding and put a filter on that fun.


5. Use your followers as your testing ground

Covergalls Workwear is a Canadian (woot woot) company inspired by the female mining experience to design and develop working clothes for women. In their Instagram post below, they shout-out to all their followers and ask for an opinion on a new product. This is a great way to show your audience that you’re listening to their feedback and determined to produce a product that everyone will love.


6. Send your community some love

Speaking of shoutouts…give your followers and customers some thanks. Instagram is a great platform for getting personal with those you do business with. Tag a company who has been supporting you the whole way, make a fun video for a special individual, or tag those who recently came to an event of yours with a word of thanks. A little really does go a long way.


7. Preview new content you’ve published

If you have a regular newsletter or frequently publish blogs, promote them on Instagram. It’s a little annoying since Instagram won’t let you hyperlink in a post, but tell people the link is your bio and then add a subscribe link to your profile page. Previewing content is a great way to generate some interest around what you’ve been writing. Or reach out to your followers and ask what they’d like to hear about next.


8. Tell a continuous story

Turn your Instagram into a series. Verizon Wireless  got really into it with their ‘The Call’ campaign. Conduct an interview with a notable industry professional, have a week-long ‘Instagram takeover’ internally where someone different from your company posts to the page, or promote a series of blog posts with multiple part Instagram posts. Make sure to label each one ‘1 of 5’, ‘2 of 5’ and so on. By connecting different posts, your followers are more likely to come back to check out what’s happening the next day. Instagram also becomes more than just a snapshot of company life, but a more in-depth way to learn about your company’s story.

tell a continuous story


Just can’t get enough? Why should you? Now check out 6 tricks for using Twitter for investor relations.

Marketing, Animal Style: 4 Lessons from In-N-Out Burger

Introduction: That California Vibe

In-N-Out Burger, the popular American west coast burger chain, is a marketing force to be reckoned with. Last summer, one of In-N-Out Burger’s famous “pop up shops” opened for one day only in front of a restaurant in Toronto, and hundreds of people arrived 5-7 hours early to wait in line before the 11 am opening. An eager man told The Toronto Star, “When you go to one of their locations, you really just get that California vibe.”

What gives In-N-Out Burger that “transporting” quality? Even countries away, people feel like they are sidling up to a booth in California when they eat the company’s product. What is it about In-N-Out’s brand that captures the attention of so many, and creates a following wherever the burger chain decides to open? They’re a company who knows exactly who they are and what they’re about. Here’s four marketing lessons you can learn from In-N-Out Burger: 

Lesson 1: Remember Your Roots

In-N-Out founding family, Harry and Esther Snyder, in 1948.


One of the secrets of In-N-Out’s success comes in the brand’s dedication to their California “birth story.” The company was founded by Harry and Esther Snyder in 1948, and is widely believed to be the first drive-thru burger shop in the U.S. Since this iconic moment, In-N-Out’s marketing efforts have revolved around the culture and environment surrounding the burger chain’s birth. Bloomberg Businessweek writes that In-N-Out, in “playing up its roots as a drive-through” is “echoing the days when roadside diners attracted travellers with their kitschy neon architecture, stores strategically placed along free-way off-ramps”. In-N-Out Burger makes sure to infuse a back-story into every marketing strategy. Without even realizing it, you’re not just buying a three dollar burger, but 80 years of road-trips and family memories.

Lesson 2: Sacrifice Makes for Beautiful Simplicity

Current In-N-Out Burger locations.

The AdAge article “What Doesn’t Your Brand Stand For?” notes, “It’s easy to stand for a lot of things, which is where a brand usually makes its biggest mistake. A brand becomes bloated and fuzzy when it tries to stand for too much”. In-N-Out Burger, however, is hailed for its “courage and discipline” in making sacrifices in the name of their brand. “They’ve given up aspects of their business and turned down opportunities that others might have considered vital. But, through their sacrifice, they’ve become [a] worshipped brand”. With a firm grasp on who they are as a company, In-N-Out is able to make calls about what aspects of their brand are crucial to showcase and what others can be saved for another space, or done away with all together. Continuing with their quaint California road-trip feel, In-N-Out elected against rapid expansion, instead seeping ever so slowly into a single state at a time (they only operate in five).

It can seem a bit of a contradiction, but representing less in a marketing strategy can actually garner more attention. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin; trying to represent the interests of everyone will only make your company seem scattered.

Lesson 3: People Remember Quality

The In-N-Out motto.

Quality of ingredients may be what In-N-Out Burger is best known for, and is one thing they absolutely don’t sacrifice. They famously don’t have microwaves or freezers in any of their locations (one explanation for their slow expansion, as they must be located near a distribution centre). A woman who waited in line at the pop-up shop in Toronto said “it’s the freshest burger I’ve ever tasted” while another explained, “I haven’t had one in five years…but that’s how memorable it was.” IN-N-Out Burger’s mission statement talks about serving the highest quality foods, the best service, and a “sparkling clean” environment. The company’s commitment to high quality extends beyond just food: they also support a happy working environment with higher pay and by calling each of its workers “associates” rather than “employees.”

Quality people, quality service, quality product. Sound like your goals? Putting in quality time to perfect your digital marketing strategy is important. Trust us, people remember that stuff. They remember prompt email responses, mobile friendly sites, and eye-catching investor presentations. Every piece of material online with your name on it represents you. Make sure you like what it’s saying.

Lesson 4: Know what you do Better than Anyone Else

In-N-Out’s simple menu.

IN-N-Out resides in an overwhelming market; one where competitors have tried everything to make their burger stand out as the best. We’ve seen square patties, cactus burgers, and half-naked women on TV spots munching away in efforts to stand out from the crowd. In-N-Out, knows, however, that they’re not just selling a burger. They’re about the experience, and about trust. There’s a reason that in the 70 years they’ve been operating, In-N-Out has stuck with their simple menu of double-double, cheeseburger, hamburger, and fries (not counting their secret menu with the famous Animal Style burger). They know what they do best, and they know what people like to see.

So what do you do better than anyone else? What is the one message you really want to get out with your digital marketing strategies? One strong, amplified message gains a lot more traction than several scattered ones. The “don’t spread yourself too thin” lesson works here too. Figure out what you do better than anyone else and don’t only highlight it. Specialize in it. Lead with it.