I think its time we update a few older terms used in modern conversation...

For example, "the people have spoken"...

With the advent of twitter, facebook, snapchat, youtube and the like more and more people interact and connect to each other virtually than in all human history...

The days of "a pat on the back" or a "applause" is coming to an end...

Today we "like an update", "favour a tweet" or "upvote a comment"

So phrases like "the people have spoken" can now be better described as "the net has thumbed it"

Like a shiney eyed fanboy I paid my 9.90 euro's to see the midnight screening of The Hobbit, an Unexpected Journey.

Now that I have had some sleep and let The Hobbit sink in... I can give a bit of a review.

First I would just like to say that I am a fan of Tolkien, having read pretty much all of his work at least once, some twice other three times. I am also a fan of what Jackson did with the Lord of the Rings films. So I'm not bashing this because I dont understand the source material or understand how films are made, and yes I will be basing the Hobbit.

So lets start by asking if you know which film im talking about.

"The story about a group of adventurers that first visit the elven city of Rivendell, then take a journey over a big snowy mountain, they enter a deep dark mountain stronghold where they are attacked by goblins and end in a big showdown on a bridge stretching across a chasm and its up to Gandalf to defeat the evil on the bridge so they can escape. This leads to a final showdown where a big bad Orc that has been chasing them finally catches up to them and its up to an unlikely hero to save the day."

If you think I'm talking about Lord of the Rings you wrong.

I really thought there could be nothing worse than 3D movies. Now there is... 3D Movies at 48 frames a second.

It removes the darkness and magic from the movie and makes it look like a cheap australian soap opera shot on hand held HD camera's.

With Lord of the Rings you could believe in the world, you could feel the gritty darkness. You had trouble knowing what was real and what was computer generated.

With the Hobbit you could see EVERY SINGLE CGI effect, everything felt plastic and fake. I had trouble believing in what I saw, and not for a lack of wanting to... I truly wanted to believe... The scenes at Bagend is truly HORRIFIC! and I kept expecting a live audience to clap or laugh at the funny moments.

I honestly think that 48 frames a sec is the true evil that has invaded middle earth and should be taken to mount doom and cast back into the fires it was created in.

Next there is their absolute mind boggling choice in voices. Pretty much every single orc, goblin and Troll sounds like a northerner (North England, UK) hooked on acid and helium.

The most stupid and ridiculous scene was the 3 Trolls scene, one I was actually most looking forward to.

Then there is also the fact that The Hobbit will now be stretched into 3 movies... THREE movies!!! I already had trouble sitting through the first 170 minutes. So much fluff has been added that it totally dilutes the storyline and the various tangents seem to have no bearing on the main storyline.

I actually shudder to think that I will have to spend 510 minutes or 8.5 hours (guesstimation if next two films are also 170min) to see the full Hobbit trilogy.

The ONLY REDEEMING part of the film for me was the meeting and interaction between Bilbo and Smeagol / Golum for a few heartbeats I could once again believe and feel emotion about what I am seeing.

Sadly these were the only times I felt empathy or even ay kind of fear. The rest was just fluffy fluff stuff that fluffed the fluff.

There was a few LOL moments for me where I truly LOL'd, and yes I'm going to call it LOL as those moments are as fake as the use of the acronym LOL.

My only hope is to see it on DVD , not blueray but DVD so that the curse of 48 frames cannot invade my livingroom, or at 24 frames per second. I suspect that might change my perceptions slightly.

In closing, like the abomination that Star Wars episode 1-3 was and the Matrix 2 and 3, I will go see the other Hobbit movies and I will probably see the Hobbit, an Unexpected Journey again just to try to believe in it.

An interesting thought occurred to me today while dealing with the daily  project management grind.

Project managing is really like driving a school bus. You have people of various ages, cultures and experiences forced together on a inescapable journey.

As PM you are responsible for getting everyone to the destination at the scheduled time.

You often have to stop the bus to ask the teenagers in the front seat to stop their frantic kissing. You have to pull the big kid and the small scrappy one appart before they start hitting each other and explain to the boy lying under the seats crying, that its not their fault and that in life not everyone is going to like them.

At other times you need to kick everyone off the bus and tell them to start pushing else they not going to make it home in time for their dinner.

The worst is when the kids want to get on an off  at unscheduled stops, often jumping through the windows when you not looking.

Occasionally an inspector turns up and you have to amuse them with answering endless questions about subjects they wont understand in anyway, just for them to make a few notes and wander off at the next stop.

From time to time it might look like the wheels are going to fall off, but you learn to spot the warning signs and pull into the depot to get the nuts tightened, gas tank filled up and the wheels inflated.

And just when the nothing else can go wrong, you get a flat tire... everyone gets off the bus running around shouting and starting fights. So with  one had lugging a tire, the other holding a wheel iron threatening to knock sense into the next kid who tries picks up a rock.

In the end everyone arrives safe and sound and the kid who you though hated you the most, even though you could not care less, thanks you greatly.

When dealing with system generated emails it is very important to keep the messages as plain and as simple as possible.

The email should be in Plain Text and minimal to none HTML should be used. This will increase the deliverability of the email and decrease the chance that the email will be flagged, rejected or quarantined as spam.

When a URL is to be embedded, use the full URL and do not use URL shortening services.


It should be mentioned that the email is an automated response to a query or submission and that the mailbox is not being monitored. An alternative email address or contact mechanism should be given. For example "Please contact info@an-approprite-domain.com"

Disclaimers could be added if required but there is no US or EU legal regulations that enforced it. What is legally required is a valid opt out mechanism and full company registration details. http://www.out-law.com/page-5536

Unsubscribe: A valid opt out mechanism must be included in the email. Please see for a list of anti-spam laws http://www.spamlaws.com/world.shtml

Or if the email is of a serious critical nature include an email / mailto (no automatic) opt out method, for example: “This is a system generated message and is of a critical nature. If you feel you have received this message in error please contact info@domain.com

Company Reg Details:
Your company's registered name (e.g. XYZ Ltd)
Your company registration number;
Your place of registration (e.g. Scotland or England & Wales); and
Your registered office address

What exactly impacts on the success of an email campaign?

I've often had people coming to me trying to understand why a certain campaign worked or why it was a failure.

I decided to shed some light on what your stats actually mean and why most of them is not worth the paper it's printed on

I want to look at the 4 main elements of any email blast / eshot:
1. From email address
2. Subject line
3. Creative (Images)
5. Layout
6. Body Copy (message you are trying to get across)

I also want to use the following success criteria's:
1. Delivery rate
2. Open rate
4. Click rate

I deliberately left out any website / landing page success criteria's as I want to focus on email.

Ok so lets first look at delivery rate.

Delivery Rate.
A successful delivery is when the email sender's server gets a "message accepted" from the receiving server. However this is often a false statistic as accepted by no means mean delivered.

Between acceptance and delivery a number of  firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spam devices can intercept and quarantine your message.

This is one of the few places that the creative and bad design can have a major impact. Most anti-spam devices uses "spam signatures"and various holistic scanning methods, first it looks at the from address,   subject and the body text. Some will also weigh the content of your email with the amount of coding (HTML) and the ratio of image to text.

So if you have a spam like subject from an invalid email address with  overly complex HTML or big images with very little text... well then there is a high probability your message will not be delivered.

So Pretty much all of our configurable can directly impact on the delivery, however a good compliant design will not, but bad inexperienced design will.

Open Rate.
So lets say your email made it past all the anti-spam an anti-virus gauntlets, now we can look at open rates.

Yet again, open rates is a red herring. Why you may ask? well lets look at how you measure an open rate.

Most images are linked in an email, that means the image is stored on the sending email server and a URL link to the image is embedded into the email. Each image will have a unique URL. The moment you open up the email and the image is downloaded the sending server records an "open".

Where is the red herring?

Some people have their email clients set up to automatically download images. So if they have the preview pane on, it will count as an open.

Others, myself included, have automatically download images turned off, so I get a "please click here to download images" message. I often read the email but hardly ever download the images.

So here is the problem, we have some people flagged as an open that never reads it and others flagged as non-openers that actually reads it.

What makes me open the message and download the images? A good, strong, relevant and informative subject line which ties in with the body copy. It does more to get me to open an email than any other single element.

Ok so does the following elements help with the open rate:

1. From email address? yes, fake, nonsensical email address will get your email deleted.
2. Subject line? Yes beyond a doubt. Its the single most important element in an email as its often the only element a person will see.
3. Creative (Images)?  Not at all, as you need to actually open the email to see the Images.
4. Layout? Only if the layout presents the information clearly and concisely in text. A layout that's reliant on imagery to deliver the message, will not help at all.
5. Body Copy? Plays a big factor, its the second most important element, after subject line, that will get someone to open the message. Rule of thumb, an email can do without  images, but not without text.

Click Rate.
Click rate is probably the only and most reliable measurable you can have in an email campaign.

When someone clicks, it means they're actively engaged and willing to take the next step to find out more.

Everything in an email should be focused on achieving the perfect balance. I have listed them in order of importance.

1. Clear concise messaging.
2. Clear layout with strong intuitive call to actions.
3. Strong, interesting, memorable imagery

The biggest mistake marketeers make is wanting to use new call to action delivery methods or imagery, thereby breaking away from the industry standard approach, In the hope of standing out. Unless your one of the big boys setting the web user interaction standards (facebook, google, twitter etc), stick with what they are doing.

Ok so does the following elements help with the Click rate:

1. From email address? Not really. It might impact on trust and thereby increasing the likelihood that the recipient might click.
2. Subject line? Again, it wont have such a big impact on a click.
3. Creative (Images)?  It will help to capture the recipient's attention and draw them into the body copy.
4. Layout? Absolutely, clear message layout with intuitive and visible call to actions will get you those clicks.
5. Body Copy? Yes! why would the recipient even bother clicking if your body copy did not engage them enough to want to take further action.

In conclusion. 
As you can see, each success criteria is dependant on various elements. The trick is to get the balance just right. Big strong jaw dropping graphics is useless without engaging copy, and the most amazingly engaging copy is useless if the recipient does not know how to take the next step.

Spend as much time as possible getting the copy and subject lines right and let your designer worry about the pretty pictures. Your copy is the most important aspect of it all.

Brand is a living breathing visual language that evolves and changes as your company and the world around it changes.

Like all dead languages, if a brand is rigid stoic and not open to change it will eventually fade into obscurity.

This does not mean you should give a designer free reign. No, it means careful observation of the company, the world,  the people who interact with your brand and the communication channels and platforms they use.

The secret is to evolve the brand instead of trying to retrofit and adapt it.

A lot of the times a brand is strong enough or your designers clever enough to retrofit a brand. Sadly this is often not the case and it has led to some great brand blunders.

So do I need to change or evolve my brand?
That is often a very difficult question, but let me ask you a few questions:

  1. Does your brand reflect the current values and focus of the company?
  2. Does your brand reflect the current issues or conciousness of the world?
  3. Does your brand inspire you? 
  4. BUT More importantly, does it inspire, create confidence and pride in your target audience? 
  5. Does your brand work in new media and new media channels?
So keeping all your answers to the above in mind, what do you think?

Should you make a change?

Still not sure? ok let me ask a few more questions:

  1. Can your brand be transferred to different mediums and communications channels?
  2. Can you see your brand working on Facebook?
  3. How about on Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube or on one of the hundreds of popular on-line channels?
  4. What about in an email or enewsletter?
  5. At a tradeshow?
See where I am going with this?

At the end of the day, your brand should reflect you,  it should resonate with your target audience and be usable across multiple channels and formats.