Your Brand Voice: How to get it right
28/04/16 Sparkcell # , ,

Your Brand Voice: How to get it right

“It’s great, but that’s not our voice.”

How often have you heard this phrase after you’ve presented a piece of content? Everything from social media editorial calendars to ad creative to videos can receive this feedback.

It’s enough to make you bang your head against the nearest wall. And it can get worse. Often you receive the same, vague feedback revision after revision until, after countless agency hours burned and several drinks later, you happen to land on the “right” voice.

So how can you avoid this frustration? Start by defining your voice. Here are some tips for how to find your voice.

Verb cloud

Create a word cloud of verbs that “fit” the voice. Verbs are action words, and as much as possible you want to define yourself by what you do. So what do you do? How do you act and what makes you dynamic?

Name your voice

Voice is important because it captures your personality. It’s your style and the fingerprint of your brand identity. When thinking about your voice, ask yourself, “What is the personality of my brand? Who am I, and what am I about?”

Once you have an idea, put a name to it. The name helps people understand the message behind the message. Maybe you’re “high-brow humorous,” or “hip, anti-establishment.”

Define it

Try to define your voice in a short paragraph. Here’s an example of a voice definition we put together:

“Refined Edge”: We’re a brand with a refined edge—we’re street-savvy and edgy, but refined. We smart to the latest trend—hell, we set them—and we can throw down and push boundaries of convention when challenged. We’re cool. We cut our knuckles in the rough part of life, but now we inhabit a sleeker realm. We’re smart, look good in a suit and the boardroom, and we’ve got a rough charm everybody loves.

Find examples

In some ways, voice is intangible, so you probably won’t have exclusive rights to a voice. That’s okay. You will find other brands, from your industry and beyond, using a similar voice as yours.

Take time to research those brands. It will give you ideas for how to bring your own voice to life. Start by capturing content that best demonstrates their voices. Then ask questions: What are their personalities like? In what ways do they sound like you? How will you differentiate your voice?

Create “Do, Don’t” examples

Try this: take a phrase about your business—maybe a tagline—and write it three different ways. The first you will write in your voice. Write the other two off-voice in the extreme. Write a series of these on- and off-voice tag lines. Tangible examples will help you calibrate your voice.

At first, this exercise may feel a little like capturing a steam with a bucket. But it’s worth the effort to avoid endless rounds of edits. When you find yourself receiving this feedback, you can pull out this voice profile and use it as a tool to keep the team on track.

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Sized just right: 5 ways boutique agencies enhance brands
28/04/16 Sparkcell # ,

Sized just right: 5 ways boutique agencies enhance brands

More and more we hear industry buzz about companies moving away from traditional styled agencies in favor of boutique or specialized agencies like SparkCell.

Why all the hype?

There are a ton of reasons boutique agencies make ideal partners. Here is my top 5:

1. They take creative risks

Boutique agencies survive by pushing creative farther. They take the risks that committee-led agencies can’t.

In this world, standing out is becoming increasingly harder to do. Boutique agencies have the personalities that can help a brand create programs remain authentic and heard.

 2. They test new approaches

Testing new approaches is critical to a successful marketing program, but tests (plural, because it often takes several) are hard to justify when they come with a big price tag. That’s where a boutique agency comes in. They’re cost-effective and can move quickly through a series of tests and iterations to develop best practices that make bigger marketing programs more effective.

3. They give every project priority

Boutique agencies have to prove themselves with every project. So they treat small projects as golden opportunities instead of a bother to be handed down to a junior team member.

4. They can spin up, fast

Zero bureaucracy and a willingness to take on projects at a moment’s notice make boutique agencies ideal for fast-moving projects.

5. They show up each day, every day

Agency leaders, regardless of agency size, are usually pretty smart people. But getting time from the CEO of a blue chip agency can be a frustrating—not to mention expensive—experience. The senior leaders of boutique agencies keep their hands on every project. It’s this leadership that delivers the precision, speed and priority that brands need in a fast-paced market.

Plus, boutique agencies are more fun. Anything to add?

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How Golf Can Improve the Conversion Rate of Your Ads
11/04/16 Sparkcell

How Golf Can Improve the Conversion Rate of Your Ads

The other day I had one of my worst rounds of golf ever. But as bad as it was, the day provided a good lesson on why so many ad programs struggle to hit their conversion goals.


Off the first tee box I hooked the ball out of bounds and scored an 8 on the hole. The frustration of hitting a bad drive was in my head, so I spent the whole game trying to hit my driver straight.

My drives did get a bit better but to my surprise, I still ended up with a horrible overall score. Upon reflection, I realized that the biggest reason for my bad score was that I was focused on only one aspect of my game (my drives), and I didn’t pay attention to my iron shots, chipping or putting.

Similarly, when marketers get a bad score on their ad programs (their conversion rate is poor) they generally blame it on the ad itself. So they focus on tweaking the creative, copy, targeting, bid strategy, etc. These tweaks are important, but to perform well you cannot forget the other elements that affect conversion.

What are some of those other elements?

Landing Page Experience

You’re going to lose conversions if your landing page doesn’t align to your ad. So make sure everything aligns, including the creative, copy and messaging of the landing page. Also, make sure you’ve provided enough content to be informative, but not so much that you distract customers from the main call to action. Speaking of which, make sure your call to action is clear and prominent and aligns with the call to action of the ad that drove them to the landing page.

Signup or Purchase Experience

This is a critical element. Often an ad campaign drives customers to a site but fails when the signup or purchase experience is too long or confusing. If you want to score well on your campaign, optimize the signup or purchase experience. For example, limit the number clicks to conversion and integrate the signup form into the landing page.


Many customers will engage with your ads while at work, on a trip or when they’re out and about. They may be interested in your offer, but they don’t have enough time on their first visit to engage deeply enough to convert.  So make sure retargeting is a central element in your conversion campaign. Here’s a suggestion: begin by allocating 10-15% of your budget to retargeting and modify the retargeting budget based on results.


Similar to retargeting, email can improve the conversion rate of your campaigns. Depending on your product or service, customers may provide an email address for one reason or another, but they don’t actually become a “customer”. If this is the case, targeted emails are an effective way to bring customers back to your site and convert them into paying customers.

What other clubs do you have in your bag for improving conversion? Let us know.

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Techniques for a Successful Music Blogger Program
05/04/16 Sparkcell # , , ,

Techniques for a Successful Music Blogger Program

Music blogs like Consequence of Sound, Brooklyn Vegan, Gorilla vs. Bear and others have become highly influential among young audiences and music fans of all ages. As a result, they have become attractive channels for many brands.

But getting these blogs to cover a brand can be notoriously difficult because they rarely cover products that aren’t bands or music platforms.

The good news: there are several meaningful ways to insert your brand or product into these sites. You’ll need to pay, but it’s affordable. And done properly, these investments can boost site traffic and improve conversion.

Sponsor a Content Series

Sponsor a popular reoccurring blog series, like “New Artists of the Week,” or create a new series that reflects your core product messaging. Include product call outs, brand messaging and links throughout the series.

Pro Tip: Provide product giveaways or other incentives bloggers can use to promote the series.

Test Email Blasts

Some of these outlets have email lists north of six million readers. For a very reasonable fee, they will work with brands to create custom blasts.

Pro Tip: For maximum impact, work with the blogger to customize the content in these email blasts. They know their audience best, so get their help. Your standard marketing collateral will probably flop.

Cherry Pick High Traffic Pages

Pages dedicated to festivals and festival guides see disproportionately high traffic. Explore creative ways to integrate your product into these pages.

Pro Tip: Ask about partnership opportunities at these events. Sponsoring showcases (small music shows) hosted by blogs can be an affordable back door to participation at some festivals.

Support with Display Advertising

On its own, display advertising isn’t super effective on these pages because music blog audiences don’t often click them. Instead of purchasing stand-alone display programs, use display ads to augment your sponsored content or pages.

Pro Tip: Most of these sites won’t have robust reporting or tracking. Use UTM links, or similar techniques, to track clicks, conversions and other actions.

Brief the editorial team

At the outset of your partnership, ask to brief some of the editors on your product. Don’t expect coverage out of the gate: it likely won’t happen. But it opens the door to editorial opportunities by educating those editors on a product they wouldn’t otherwise have top of mind.

Pro Tip: Send the editorial team cool stuff, whether it’s product swag, tickets to a show or event you’re attending, or product. Again, no strings attached, but those things can go a long way to building a positive relationship with the editorial team and keeping your brand and products top of mind.

Once you’ve tested some of these tactics and refined your approach, try combining them into an integrated campaign for maximum impact. At this point, I’d suggest throwing your marketing collateral out the door completely and partnering with the blogger to create marketing content that resonates with readers.

Anything to add?

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