Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Every Business Has an Origin Story: A Lesson in Branding

“We’ve lost our way.”

I’ve heard this from clients countless times. And it’s no wonder people are saying this: today’s businesses have to evolve very quickly because employees rarely stay in one job for their whole careers and technology is growing so fast that it’s a constant battle to keep up with the next new thing. The stress can be overwhelming. I went through it myself at a time before Sub Rosa was what it is today.

Often the best way we inspire our clients for the future is when we connect them to the most indigenous part of themselves, to understanding why they were founded and why they are still here.

We help them reconnect by exploring their:

Origin story: How it all began.

Language: Your shared lexicon.

Traditions: How you engage your community and acknowledge milestones.

Purpose: Your reason for being.

Think about it: these are the building blocks of every thriving community. Whether in a tribe, a religion, or a corporation, these four building blocks are what provide meaning and create the connective tissue that forms a lasting foundation from which to grow.

A Tradition In Denim

At a meeting with a Levi’s executive, he told us that the company had missed a major opportunity by not participating in the “premium denim boom,” and it was now suffering both reputational and financial challenges. The “premium denim boom” had occurred when a number of high-fashion brands entered the market and began selling $200-plus pairs of jeans. During that time, Levi’s had maintained its traditional price point of around $39, and as a result, its jeans had acquired a low-end reputation and were considered less chic and no longer fashionable. The company was experiencing a significant sales slump.

We had been involved in a similar conversation not too long before with Absolut Vodka, whose management felt the company had missed out on the “premium vodka boom.” Apparently this premium boom was a phenomenon in a number of sectors. In the 1980s, Absolut was a top-shelf vodka. But in the 1990s, competitive vodka brands such as Grey Goose and Ketel One came onto the market with a more premium-priced product.

Absolut, like Levi’s, had stuck to its price point and dropped to a midtier status, losing market share to the new entrants. Ultimately Absolut found a way out of this by creating its own specialty, limited-edition lines, such as Absolut Brooklyn, created in partnership with Spike Lee, and premium-crafted versions such as Absolut Elyx, which was sourced and distilled in a manner designed to compete with other premium vodkas.

Levi’s needed a strategy to help it overcome a similar challenge. They had hired Wieden + Kennedy, a wellknown and successful advertising agency, to help rejuvenate the brand. Their campaign, which would later be known as “Go forth,” was being shot by a famous fashion photographer, and it would draw on inspirational imagery and language from well-known American authors such as Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac. It would depict a new era of American nostalgia, and it was sure to capture attention. Levi’s wanted our help in turning that attention into action.

Our job was to make sure that once they had people’s attention, there would be have something to act upon and a real reason to care about the brand. This is the sort of integrated, complex challenge we love to solve, and we first began by focusing on the brand as we knew it. The company made denim and sold jeans (primarily) at a modest price point. They had once been the jeans of Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen and later the jeans of rock stars from the Rolling Stones to the Ramones. But somehow the company had lost its grip. We asked what had come before Brando and Jagger? Levi’s had begun making jeans in 1853. What had the company stood for then, and what was its origin story?

It’s fairly common knowledge that Levi Strauss & Company started out as a brand of pioneers. The men who had set out for the gold hiding in the uncharted lands of California during the famous Gold Rush of 1849 were known as the 49ers, and they had taken a big gamble, often risking life or death, to try to strike it rich. Those tough men needed tough jeans, and that’s what Levi Strauss produced. They had reinforced stitches and held up during hard work.

Over the coming decades, Levi’s rugged jeans continued to be a staple of the hardscrabble masses. Factory workers, laborers, farmers, and all manner of builders and fixers wore Levi’s as they headed out to work. They were the jeans that helped build America. We had to tell the story in a way that would ignite a newfound interest in the hearts and minds of new consumers and (hopefully) would bring back some customers the brand had lost along the way.

Panning for Gold

We asked ourselves, “Who are our modern-day pioneers?” After all, we’re not settling the West anymore, and many hard-labor jobs have since been shipped overseas. We wanted to find people who were embodying that spirit of progress and hard work and pull them into a new conversation, one that celebrated their sense of craft, of making things, of the integrity that comes from doing that kind of work well.

After a few weeks of development, we had created a program we called Levi’s Workshops and sent it off to Erik and his team. We admitted that what we were giving them was “only 75 percent of the plan.” The rest would have to be left open to serendipity. We knew we were going into the unknown, like the gold panners of the nineteenth century, and similarly we knew something about what we’d find but not everything. Like any good prospector, we knew to leave room for the unexpected. After all, you never know where you might strike it rich.

Together, our two teams became one unit. It didn’t take long for us to develop a working and speaking lingo, a kind of shorthand. When we said “pioneer,” we weren’t thinking of a grizzled old prospector chewing tobacco and swilling whiskey, we were imagining today’s artists, craftspeople, designers, teachers, and builders. When we said, “Go forth,” we knew we were looking for the spirit of adventure and discovery we wanted people to feel when they interacted with the brand. This shared language was built upon the origins of the brand, yet it was contemporized and translated for today. It drew our own teams closer together and became contagious throughout Levi’s organization.

Within months we were ready to open our first Levi’s Workshop in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, which was chosen because the neighborhood was thriving with diversity and craft. It felt like a pioneer town for new ideas.

The programming was built on collaborations with “pioneers” from the Bay Area. Right down the street from us, the writer Dave Eggers had opened his first whimsical tutoring location (themed as a pirate shop), where volunteers taught kids the value of creative writing. We partnered with them and paired the kids’ writing with artists who created original artwork for their stories. The kids got to watch the books being printed in the shop, and they were dazzled as they flipped through a book that had come to life from their story.

We brought in Alice Waters, a pioneer of California cuisine, and designed a beautiful letterpress harvest calendar that supported the work of her charity, the Edible Schoolyard Project. She hosted a small dinner in the space and signed copies for us to sell at auction, with the proceeds benefiting her cause as well as the Levi Strauss Foundation, the company’s charitable organization.

Not only did each project bring into the workshop a compelling pioneer to help create programming, but every piece of programming was designed to reach different subcultures and niche audiences in the Bay Area with authenticity.

These new traditions we were creating for the brand were building on Levi’s legacy of engaging with powerful subcultures. From gold-panning pioneers to punks on the Bowery, Levi’s has always been the uniform of the brave and status quo challenging. We built programming for the literary community, musicians, foodies, inner-city youths, and more. If you were willing to “Go forth” and try something different, we wanted you to know that Levi’s was with you.

Our work with Levi’s showed us the value of looking back to a brand’s indigenous roots and bringing thoughtful inspiration and wisdom into the present. Admittedly not every company has a brand that is more than a hundred years old, but every business does have an origin story.

Excerpted from Applied Empathy by Michael Ventura. Copyright © 2018 by Seed Communications, LLC d/b/a Sub Rosa. Excerpted with permission by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

You can purchase Applied Empathy on Amazon.

Unriddled: Net Neutrality's Second Chance, Facebook's Dubious Breakup, and More Tech News You Need

Welcome one, welcome all, to your unofficial midweek marker: HubSpot's Wednesday weekly tech news roundup.

Traditionally, things start to "slow down" in May. People graduate, vacations are looming, and summer beings to peek around the corner.

But it seems that within the world of tech, things aren't showing any sign of slowing down.

And with all those pre-summer activities taking place, how can anyone be expected to keep up with all the news? Well, that's what "Unriddled" is for: a quick rundown of each news item that grabbed our attention over the past week.

So, without further ado: Let's break it all down. Here's our Wednesday tech news roundup.

Unriddled: The Tech News You Need

1. Senate Passes Resolution to Overturn Net Neutrality Repeal

Last Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted to overturn the Federal Communications Commission's December repeal of net neutrality. The move came in the form of Senate approving a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would reverse the FCC's decision to disband regulations of internet service providers. But it still needs to be approved by the House of Representatives -- and signed into law by the president. Read more about the CRA and what would happen if it makes it through the House from Ars Technica's Jon Brodkin. Read full story >>

2. "Freedom From Facebook"

A group of not-for-profit organizations have launched the "Freedom From Facebook" campaign: an estimated six-figure digital ad campaign targeted toward the Federal Trade Commission with one message: Break up Facebook’s social media conglomeration. The campaign's mission appears to be convincing the FTC to force Facebook's portfolio companies -- Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger -- into separate, independently-operating companies. The hope is that it would allow, among other things, more balanced competition within social networking. Read more about the campaign from Axios's David McCabe. Read full story >>

3. Instagram Unveils Option to Mute Accounts

Instagram has finally released new tools that allow users to mute content from accounts they're following -- without unfollowing them altogether. Need a break from animal-adoption sob stories, for instance? With this new feature, users can hide posts in their feeds from said accounts, but continue following them and manually see posts on their profiles. Once an account is muted, users can unmute it at any time. The new feature arrives on the heels of news from TechCrunch that Instagram recently implemented a "you're all caught up" feature to let users know when they've seen all new posts from the past 48 hours. Read Instagram's full statement on the new mute option >>

4. Amazon Is Marketing Facial Recognition Technology to Law Enforcement

Amazon has developed facial recognition technology called "Rekognition," according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and has partnered with governments and agencies to deploy it. That, says the ACLU, could potentially violate of civil liberties and civil rights. Using artificial intelligence, the technology "can identify, track, and analyze people in real time and ... quickly scan information it collects against databases featuring tens of millions of faces." That's according to Amazon's own promotional messaging of Rekognitio -- which the Associated Press discouraged Amazon from selling to law enforcement in an op-ed. Read the ACLU's full story >>

5. Mark Zuckerberg (Kind Of) Testifies Before European Parliament

Members of European Parliament yesterday challenged Mark Zuckerberg with noticeably tougher questions than U.S. lawmakers did at his congressional hearings last month -- but an unfortunate meeting format left most of them unanswered. Read HubSpot's full story >>

That’s all for today. Until next week, feel free to weigh in on Twitter with your tech news questions or thoughts on what kind of events and topics you'd like covered here.

The Future Will be Tokenized: How Blockchain Will Free You to Control Your Financial Destiny

I believe in freedom.

I believe we should be able to make our own choices and shape our lives however we wish.

I long for a world without borders, racism, sexism, and barriers of any kind.

These are big dreams, but they can gain momentum with small cultural shifts. I believe blockchain is one of those shifts.

I’m passionate about emerging technologies like AI, machine learning and bots not just in a nerdy, code-centric way, but because of what they represent.

Blockchain, specifically, promotes decentralization. As someone who came of age during the 2008 global financial crisis, I watched how wealth and power can breed corruption — even if people start out with good intentions.

Ever since society began, humans have put their faith in powerful figures, like popes and kings. Eventually we realized that individuals tend to make decisions that create optimal outcomes for a small, select group of people. Revolutions occurred and democratic governments began to rise.

The shift from a single cult of personality to a group of elected decision-makers marked our desire for more inclusive societies, where different groups of people can thrive.

The invention of blockchain takes that push for inclusion to another level by decentralizing decision-making — allowing token holders to have a say in how they want society to be structured.


Whether you’re deep in the waters of cryptocurrency or you’re still confused about what these new technologies could mean for your life, I want to cover a small slice of the blockchain revolution.

Tokenization is a great way to understand the philosophy behind cryptocurrency; how it works, but also what it stands for.

This is the future that many blockchain pioneers and enthusiasts envision. Get ready for the Tokenization of Everything (TOE) — and a lot more freedom.

What is Tokenization?

In today’s financial world, everything you own is tied to your name. Maybe you have a house, a car, stocks, or cash in the bank.

In the process of tokenization, all those assets can be broken into pieces. That means you can create a stock or a single proof of ownership tied to any asset.

For example, let’s start with a long-range vision for tokenization. This is the future that I might not even see in my lifetime.


Image credit:

Imagine all my personal assets add up to a million dollars. Kind of a stretch, but it makes for easy math. Those combined assets could be broken into “Justin” coins that represent everything I own. If I created 100 coins or tokens, each would be worth $10,000.

The blockchain technology would allow anyone to trade their token(s) for a Justin coin. That means no banks, no financial managers, no complicated paperwork or red tape. It would be two people making a direct transaction.

The tokenization of everything imagines a world where anything can be traded. Your liquidity isn’t restricted by cash or concrete assets. Instead, it can include anything you own, and maybe even your time.


TOE removes all aspects of the middleman institution. It enables online transactions through a trusted, de-centralized system. It breaks down power and access barriers. We still have to contend with inequality in terms of assets and wealth, but no one can control how or what you trade.

The blockchain technology that powers these transactions also makes investing faster, cheaper and more secure. It liquefies assets and makes investing possible for people who have been restricted by means or geography.

Third-generation blockchain technologies like Cardano are trying to solve the big problem of operability, which means that everything is programmable, with an automated market-maker as the intermediary.

For example, imagine paying for your Starbucks order with airline miles, while the barista is paid in US dollars. That’s interoperability in action.

We’ve already watched the internet tear down gatekeeper layers in entertainment, publishing, communication, sales, and many other industries.

As we dismantle hierarchical financial systems, transaction costs go down, volumes go up, and people are more willing to trade with each other. It creates a more connected, global system.

This long-term vision also (perhaps ironically) takes us back to barter trading, which is where the concept of money first originated.

A Collection of Diverse, Personal Tokens

In the near future, blockchain could give us the ability to create multiple coins for several different assets.

Imagine you own a home worth $1 million (stay with me … this is all about that simple math).

You could again break the ownership of that home into 100 tokens worth $10,000 each. This scenario is much like creating a real estate index or trust fund to manage multiple properties. But now, you could sell partial ownership of your home with individual tokens that you create, trade and control. There’s no intermediary.

So, why would I want to sell partial ownership?

Great question. I would tokenize my home for two main reasons:

  1. I want to make my assets more liquid. Maybe I’m traveling, starting a business, going back to school, or investing in something I think has great value. A home token would allow me to leverage some of the value in my house without selling it outright.
  2. I believe my home won’t appreciate as fast as what you’re giving me in return. Maybe I’m trading my home token for your business token — and I think your business will gain value at a much faster rate than my home.

On the other side of the trade, you might want a share in my home if you believe it has better appreciation potential than your company. Our different perspectives on the asset valuation would allow us to reach a trade consensus.

If we can do all these different trades, it doesn’t matter where we live. Artificial geographic borders could break down when we don’t rely on a single entity or regime to prove our value.

For example, the global currency system determines how much our assets are worth, depending on the stability (or volatility) of our native currency and how our home country’s institutions reach consensus with other markets.

When assets are tokenized, that value is stored in a single profile with fully decentralized transaction paths.

Technology can streamline this brave new financial world.

If these scenarios feel complicated and time-consuming, I hear you. The idea of valuing your assets, making the trades, and ensuring you’re not getting duped in the process can sound more than a little overwhelming.

Again, I’m bullish about emerging tech because it has the power to help. I see a future where humans, aided by artificial intelligence, can make more efficient and effective financial decisions.


We might trust the people who currently control and manage our money — and in many cases this trust is well founded — but even “experts” don’t have all the answers.
Investment requires educated decisions. No one has a crystal ball (unless they’re conducting insider trading).

Technology won’t provide foolproof investing, but it does remove industry greed from the equation.

Running your own trades eliminates high bank and investment fees. It ensures that you’re buying a stock because you think it’s smart, not because it pays kickbacks to the broker.

You won’t question the intentions of a financial institution, because they don’t have a hand in your assets.

Let the bots do the busywork.

Chatbots are arguably today’s most relatable AI application. Most people have used Facebook Messenger or interacted with a chatbot while shopping online or asking their telecom provider about those weird mobile charges.

Currently, chatbots are built to solve a specific set of problems. We’ve builtGrowthBot, for example, to deliver marketing and sales information without leaving your task or productivity platform (such as Slack).

You can ask questions about top posts, organic site traffic, or get company overviews. And instead of switching to a web browser and getting lost in a Google spiral, you can stay focused while GrowthBot digs up the details.

Now, apply this kind of “assistant” technology to your financial life. The bot could do everything from researching investments to calculating an asset value, in real time.
Remember, the bot is not taking over. This isn’t a dystopian sci-fi plot. Instead, it’s providing the information you need to make a smart and highly personalized decision.


Then, the chatbot could actually conduct the transaction as you instruct. That means no more calls to your bro-ish financial advisor or trying to recover a lost login password.

We Still Have a Long Way to Go

I do realize that the utopian future of my dreams is a long way off — if it’s ever going to be possible.

We will still face complex, ongoing issues about who holds wealth in our society and how to level the field. I’m not na├»ve about these challenges, nor do I believe that technology is a magic solution.

Even cryptocurrencies are promising, but they’re still rife with problems. These are totally unregulated assets, for better and worse.

At this moment, the “worse” is an approximately 90% rate of fraud among Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), according to the People’s Bank of China.

Yet, I’m still motivated by the possibilities. Tokenization is just a tiny example of what a more decentralized, egalitarian, and direct financial system could enable.
Technologies are ultimately just tools that we can harness to lead cultural change — and whether we’re talking AI, bots or blockchain, the code is inconsequential. What really matters is our intention.

It’s time to decide how we’ll organize our society, for hundreds of years to come.



Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Comprehensive Guide to Kerning in Typography

I’m willing to bet you already know what kerning is -- you just don’t realize it.

While you might not recognize when kerning is done well, you certainly see it when it’s done poorly.

Here’s an example of bad kerning: M a rk e t i ng .

Kerning is adjusting the space between letters, and either increasing or decreasing the distance to ensure better readability or appearance.

Interestingly, it’s not always best to have equal spacing between each letter. Each letter has different shapes and curves, so sometimes kerning actually helps the letters look less conspicuous. For instance, a “cl” can sometimes appear to be a “d”, so you might use kerning to space them further apart.

No matter what your job title, it’s important to understand the power of kerning. Kerning can help you create better designs, produce more visually appealing copy, or construct better presentations. Kerning is one of those actions that can push your deliverables from ordinary to exceptional.

If you don’t know how kerning works, don’t worry. Here, we’ll show you how to use kerning in Photoshop, Word, and Illustrator. Plus, we’ll provide examples of bad kerning, so you know what to avoid when using kerning for your own text.

Kerning in Photoshop

Kerning in Photoshop is incredibly easy, once you figure out where the “Kerning” tool is. If you’re designing a presentation or email template in Photoshop, and your words look a little sloppy, this is an easy way to clean up your text to improve the appearance.

1. First, ensure your cursor is in between two letters. Next, select the “Character” panel, as highlighted by the red arrow below (If you can’t find it, try searching “Character” within the Photoshop search tool).

3. Within the “Character” panel, you’ll see a V/A (with a little arrow below the A). That’s the “Kerning” tool. It’s automatically set to “Optical”. Click the down arrow to see your options for kerning.

4. For instance, I chose the number “75”. If you’re unsure how much space you want between your letters, test out a few different options. The negative numbers make your letters closer together, and the positive numbers create more space between the letters.

5. Now, there’s a nice “75” point space between my “K” and “E” (of course, this is probably an example of bad kerning … ).

Important note: There’s a quicker option to use the “Kerning” tool in Photoshop. If you click in between two letters, you can hit “Option” and then hit the “Right” arrow. This will create more distance between letters.

Kerning in Word

If your writing copy in Microsoft Word, or using Word to design a poster, you might want to use kerning, especially if your font is bigger and the letters look awkward.

Fortunately, it’s easy to do.

  1. Within a Word document, go to “Format” and then click “Font”. FYI, I left my cursor in between the “K” and the “e” in the document, because that’s the space to which I wanted to apply kerning.

2. Next, click “Advanced” within the Font panel.

3. Under the “Advanced” section, you’ll see “Kerning for fonts” with an empty box to the left of it. Check that box. Then, input a number (I put “20”, which you’ll see circled). The number you choose will depend on how much space you want between the letters.

4. There’s now “20” points of kerning in between the “K” and the “e”.

Kerning in Illustrator

Finally, let’s take a look at kerning in Illustrator. Since many designers and marketers use Illustrator for clients or for personal projects, it’s important to know how to apply kerning to your letters.

Kerning in Illustrator is an almost identical process to how you’d do it in Photoshop (which makes sense, since they’re both Adobe products). Nonetheless, here’s how you do it.

  1. First, click the “Text” tool and put your cursor in between two letters -- I put mine in between the “K” and the “E”. Then, find your “Characters” panel.

2. Similar to Photoshop, there will be a “V/A” tool, with a little arrow underneath the “A”. That’s the kerning tool. With your cursor placed between two letters, increase or decrease the number beside the kerning tool -- as you can see, I set mine to “200”.

3. Now, I have a (admittedly, very ugly) space between my “K” and my “E”.

Examples of bad kerning

I’ve probably already shown you plenty of bad kerning examples throughout this piece, with my own attempts at kerning on various software.

But if you’d like to see more, don’t worry -- we’ve got some hilarious real world examples, to show you just how important (good) kerning is.

Here are a couple examples of bad kerning:

1. Bus sign gone wrong.

2. What's up with this spacing? 

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 1.53.18 PM

3. I think fixing this sign would be worth the investment.

4. Watch out for bad kerning, too. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 1.56.18 PM

5. This gives me a headache.

Where’s Video Going? 10 Trends to Watch [Infographic]

Once upon a time, a focal point in the family room was a sizable, heavy box that delivered picture shows into our lives. Families arranged the furniture so you could see its magical screen while listening to its simple little speaker.

When you turned it on entertainment and information came a-flickering into your life.

You controlled this thing called the television by twisting its dial. If you didn’t like the program, you had the option to watch what was playing on another channel. You might have had up to three or four choices.

Of course, if you fast-forward to 2018, you can control the signals with remote controls, smart phones and your voice. But far more importantly, you now control:

  • When you want to watch
  • Where your want to watch
  • On what device you want to watch
  • And above all, what you want to watch

Speaking to the last point above, consumers can now find and enjoy content about any subject -- free, or paid, or both.

The definition of “television” you’ll find in the dictionary isn’t inaccurate today, however, what we consume now is more often described as “video.”

A new form of freedom has kicked in. We care mostly about the content and enjoy insane new levels of choice for controlling how and when we consume it.

“Where’s video going” is a far more interesting question than “Where’s TV going.” And so I explored the topic by collaborating with my friends at where a new generation of video content creators go to sell lessons and programs about everything from learning magic, to mixing music, to training dogs and everything else you might image.

This development, OTT, or “over the top,” where content providers sell media directly to the consumer over the Internet (think Netflix), is just one of ten trends marking the rapid evolution of video. All of the trends have interesting implications for marketers, sellers, trainers, content creators, and consumers.

Let’s have a look at 10 trends streaming across the online video landscape.

Video-infographic-UPDATED600pixel-01 (1)













Monday, May 21, 2018

5 Things to Know Before Mark Zuckerberg's European Parliament Testimony

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is due to testify before members of European Parliament (MEPs) tomorrow, in an appearance that was confirmed by President Antonio Tajani on Twitter last week.

Zuckerberg is due to appear before the Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), where he'll likely be asked questions about protecting the personal data of EU consumers, as well as Facebook's role in election processes and integrity.

The session -- which is scheduled to begin at roughly 6:15 PM local time in Brussels (12:15 PM EST) -- was speculated and predicted by many in the weeks leading up to Tajani's confirmation.

In addition to some outlets reporting that such a meeting was in the works, several events took place soon before and after the announcement that indicated another appearance from Zuckerberg before legal officials, ranging from official statements on Facebook's new initiatives, to changes within its organizational chart.

Before Zuckerberg makes his next official appearance, here are some key things to know.

5 Things to Know Before Mark Zuckerberg's European Parliament Testimony

1. The testimony was originally scheduled as a closed-door session.

Shortly after Tajani's announcement, Bloomberg reported that Zuckerberg's initial appearance before EU lawmakers would take place behind closed doors, and that European Parliament would schedule a separate, public hearing with representatives from Facebook that may not necessarily include Zuckerberg himself.

While a secondary hearing has yet to be scheduled as of publishing this piece, Tajani announced this morning that Zuckerberg agreed to permit the session to be live-streamed -- likely due to pressure from several parties, including MEPs.

In our own survey of 313 consumers in the UK -- which was conducted prior to the announcement that the session would be live-streamed -- 61% of respondents said that they believed the testimony should be public.


Verhofstadt has since reversed his statement on the matter, after the decision to cast the session. However, the degree to which the event will be "public" is arguable, as it's not clear if members of the press or other concerned public parties will be permitted to attend.

2. Not long before the testimony was originally announced, Facebook's executive org chart had a major shakeup.

On May 8 -- just over a week before Tajani's confirmation that Zuckerberg would be testifying before MEPs -- Recode reported a major shuffle to its executive organizational chart, with changes made among the leadership at WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, and the core Facebook app.

Here's a visual peek at the overall changes:

In addition to the general re-org of leadership within existing Facebook teams and umbrella brands, a new team has been created to focus solely on privacy products, such as the Clear History feature announced at F8. 

When word of the executive shuffle first arrived, we anticipated that an official appearance from Zuckerberg could be imminent -- especially with the creation of an entire division dedicated to one of the issues (privacy) for which Facebook has received the most scrutiny, and continues to answer the most questions.

But privacy isn't the only topic for which Facebook has faced particularly heightened scrutiny -- which brings up another important item to keep in mind going into tomorrow's session.

3. The day after the testimony was announced, Facebook announced a partnership with the Atlantic Council for its election integrity efforts.

Facebook has also continued to receive criticism and questions about the weaponization of its platform by foreign actors to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Since then, consumer and authorities alike have been especially vigilant of the spread of misinformation and hate speech on the site, especially where divisive issues that often cause contention during election seasons are concerned.

That prompted Facebook to release its first-ever Community Standards Enforcement Report, which includes a preliminary inventory of rule-violating content and the action Facebook took on it between October 2017 to March 2018.

But it also led Facebook -- whether strictly for appearances or out of genuine concern over the weaponization of its platform -- to partner with outside experts to boost its election integrity efforts, which Zuckerberg is likely to be questioned on by MEPs.

To help combat "fake accounts – the source of many bad ads and a lot of misinformation," Facebook has partnered with nonprofit Atlantic Council, whose mission includes "stimulating dialogue and discussion about critical international issues in the Administration, the Congress, corporate and nonprofit sectors, and the media among leaders in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Americas." 

The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab -- the primary team partnering with Facebook -- released a statement about the collaboration, in which it elaborated on that mission. Specifically, it pointed to the importance of closing the "information gap between governments, tech companies, and media in order to solve for challenges like disinformation."

It was an interesting statement to make the day after it was first revealed that Zuckerberg's session with MEPs would be a closed-door one, limiting the very transparency between governments and tech companies to which the statement alluded.

It also came after a recent and repeated refusal from Facebook of requests from UK Parliament for Zuckerberg to appear -- which is another key item to note before tomorrow's session.

4. UK Parliament has requested an appearance from Zuckerberg repeatedly -- and Facebook has continued to decline.

On May 1 -- just over two weeks prior to Tajani's announcement -- House of Commons Culture Committee chairman Damian Collins issued an open letter to Facebook UK Head of Public Policy Rebecca Stimson, stating that "the committee will resolve to issue a formal summons for [Zuckerberg] to appear when he is next in the UK." 

In response to that letter, Stimson wrote a response on May 14th indicating that "Mr. Zuckerberg has no plans to meet with the committee or travel to the UK at the present time."

Zuckerberg's resolve to not appear before UK Parliament raises several questions. While other Facebook executives have undergone questioning from the committee, like CTO Mike Schroepfer, Zuckerberg himself has steadfastly refused to appear, despite committing to back-to-back U.S. congressional hearings, as well as tomorrow's testimony before MEPs.

So, why the resistance to testifying before UK MPs?

One possible reason is that Zuckerberg's appearances before U.S. lawmakers were voluntary -- as will be his testimony before MEPs -- whereas UK Parliament has reached the point of issuing a formal summons.

“It’s not entirely clear why Zuckerberg is resisting appearing before UK members of parliament,” says Henry Franco, HubSpot's social media editor. “We know that the tone from the UK has been a fairly vindictive one, and we also know Zuckerberg (and Facebook) doesn’t want to open the door to negotiation and questioning from every governing body. They want a free and independent Facebook, which means answering the bare minimum number of questions necessary to keep it that way.”

5. The testimony is taking place three days before the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in the EU.

This Friday -- three days after Zuckerberg's scheduled testimony before MEPs -- the GDPR comes into force in the EU, marking a major shift in European data privacy laws and consumer rights.

Whether the timing was deliberate is somewhat speculative, but it appears to be slightly more than coincidental -- at least on the part of European Parliament. Facebook has received criticism for its approach to the GDPR, and Zuckerberg has frequently evaded questions about how he would apply similar protections to non-EU consumers, or backpedaled on previous answers to them.

Many wonder how these imminent regulations -- which are much stricter than those, if any, in the U.S. -- will influence MEPs' lines of questioning tomorrow, and if those questions will reflect the tougher nature of European laws than those in the U.S.

The general consensus seems to be that, yes -- they will. When we asked 302 consumers in the UK if they believe MEPs will be harder on Zuckerberg during tomorrow's hearing than U.S. lawmakers were in April, 48% responded with "yes."

UK_Do you think members of European Parliament will be tougher on Mark Zuckerberg during his testimony tomorrow than U.S. lawmakers were_302

In a survey of 303 U.S. consumers, meanwhile, 53% of respondents had the same answer.

US_Do you think members of European Parliament will be tougher on Mark Zuckerberg during his testimony tomorrow than U.S. lawmakers were_303

"My sense is that the big difference between the EU and the U.S., is that consumers in the U.S. kind of don't care," says HubSpot VP of Marketing Jon Dick. "We just assume we're being taken advantage of, and are okay with it."

The heightened level of concern among European consumers, meanwhile, could be reflected in a tougher line of questioning from MEPs tomorrow.

"Consumers in the EU care. They want proper notice and controls, and they want companies to be held to account if they violate their data privacy," Dick continues. "So my expectation is that EU Parliment will be far tougher on [him] than the U.S. Congress was."

We'll be following tomorrow's testimony. According to a tweet from Carlo Corazza, a spokesperson for Tajani, the event will be live-streamed on European Parliament's website

Video or Images: Which Performs Better in Facebook Ads?

“Video marketing” is one of today’s hottest industry buzzwords -- and, of course, we at Animoto agree that video is a priceless tool when it comes to engaging your audience, sharing stories and information, promoting products and services, piquing interest, and more.

But we also know that video in and of itself isn’t a magic bullet. You should never go into any marketing initiative assuming what’s going to work. You need to test to find out what works for your company, your audience, and your objectives.

To that end, we set out to take Animoto’s HubSpot-inspired video templates for a spin. We ran thousands of dollars worth of tests with Facebook Ads Manager to see how video stood up to other types of content -- when it worked, when it didn’t, and how to optimize its performance.

We were interested in answering these questions:

  • Do videos really perform better than images or links?
  • When it comes to videos, which types perform best?

Here’s what we found out.

Videos or images? Which perform better?

The first question we set out to answer was: do videos really perform better than images in Facebook ads?

The answer: it really depends on the video or image!

Test 1: Video vs. Blog Post Meta-Image

We started with a test driving traffic to a post on the HubSpot blog, 22 Companies With Really Catchy Slogans & Brand Taglines. We tested a video teaser, with a taste of what the blog post had to offer, against a simple shared-link posting that auto-pulled the meta-image from the blog post.


Screen Shot 2018-05-18 at 12.05.20 PM

The Results

What did we find? The video outperformed the image … by a lot. The video got 20 percent more clicks than the image.

But wait, we asked ourselves. Was that really the best image to promote this blog post? What did a cityscape really say about catchy slogans and brand taglines? We went back to the drawing board on our next test to see if video would still perform better than image if the image was optimized.

Test 2: Video vs. Optimized Image

For our next test, we decided to promote a different HubSpot blog post, How to Recover From a Bad Sales Call. This time we tested two different video variations -- one listicle, featuring three of the tips from the post, and one with more or a narrative appeal that speaks to the viewers. Check out both in the following video:

The two videos were run alongside an image test, but this time we pulled a relevant screenshot from the video that made it clear what people would get if they clicked through.

The Results

With an optimized image, things turned out a little differently. This time, the image actually beat one of the videos -- the listicle. The image got more clicks at a lower cost than this video.

However, the narrative video won out in the end with the most clicks and a 3 percent lower cost per click. The narrative video had a 34 percent lower cost per click than the listicle.

Takeaway: It’s all about testing.

In the end, it turned out that videos don’t always perform best, and images don’t always perform best either. It really depends on the content. We saw image perform better than some videos, and videos perform better than some images. But testing different types of marketing collateral allowed us to figure out what type of ad and content would maximize ROI for the particular use case.

Optimizing Ad Creative

So if you’re embarking on a Facebook ad campaign, or really any type of social ad campaign, how do you ensure you’re getting started with optimized creative? We’ll break down some general rules to help you get started, based on the findings of our tests.

Optimizing Videos

First things first, we did learn a few things from our tests about what you can do to optimize the videos you’re creating for advertising:

  • Go square. Square videos take up 78 percent more space in the News Feed and have consistently outperformed landscape videos. In one of our tests, we created a video to promote a HubSpot blog post, 22 Handy Slack Hacks Everyone Should Know. We created square and landscape versions, and the square video performed better across the board, with a 50 percent lower cost per click and 45 percent more engagement.
  • Think about your objective. This is important. Your video needs to address this objective. If you want to tease a blog post, for instance, you’ll want to make sure it’s clear what the blog post is about and you’ll need to include a clear CTA letting them know where they can read more.

Optimizing Images

We also learned that an optimized image can do wonders for the success of your ad. Here are a few tips to help ensure your image is optimized:

  • Watch the text. Facebook ads may run with reduced impressions, or not at all, if too large a percentage of your image is covered by text. Use Facebook’s Image Text Check to make sure your image doesn’t exceed the limit. This is what we used to create the optimized image for our second test above.
  • Be clear. Make sure that the image makes clear what people will get when they click through to learn or read more. This’ll help ensure that the folks that are coming to your page are actually interested in the content and will help reduce bounce.
  • Be eye-catching. Choose something bright, clear, or unique to stand out in the News Feed.

But as we discovered, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so it’s important to test --try a few different things, see what works, what doesn’t, and iterate.

Optimizing ROI with A/B testing

Whether or not you’ve used A/B testing in the past, thinking about testing in the context of video can be a lot to wrap your head around. There are all sorts of things to test, from CTA copy to colors, fonts, what photos and video clips you use, what story you tell, and everything in between. Test videos against images; test videos against other videos; test everything and improve your results over time.

What Variations to Test

Not sure which variations to test? Here are some suggestions:

  • Media variations: Try using different photos or video clips in a video to see which performs for you. Or, if you’re testing an image, try to optimize the image to suit your needs, as we did in the second test above. In this example, WV Skydivers tested two video variations—one starting with a photo and one starting with a video clip. The video clip variation reached 10K people, while the photo variation reached only 1.2K.
  • Text variations: Try a couple different CTAs or change up the text to present your video differently, as we did in the test of a narrative vs. a listicle.
  • Length: See if a short, medium, or long video gets the best results. We tested 0:15, 0:30, and 0:45 versions of the same video in one of our tests and the 0:30 video had a stronger click through rate. But we’ve seen instances where a long video has performed best and those where a super short looping clip has won, which is why testing is important!

How to Set up A/B Tests

You can set up A/B tests in Facebook. To get started you’ll need a Facebook page, a Facebook Ads Manager account, and some ad variations -- two or more videos, two or more images, or a combination of images and videos. Simply run two versions of your ad and be sure to keep everything the same except for the variation you are testing. This includes the ad objective, budget, target audience, and any copy that runs alongside your ad (unless the copy is the variation).

As you test, you’ll begin to understand what resonates with your audience and can hone your strategy going forward. By not assuming that one type of content will work best for your advertising you can start creating ads that perform.

Animoto and HubSpot recently joined forces to create a collection of video templates for business owners looking to create professional marketing videos to promote blog posts, boost event registration, or collect leads for a product.