Quality UX For All…Even Decades Later

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Our client called with an urgent request to fix their website. One of their most important customers was trying to fill out a form on their website, but it wasn’t working. This came as a huge surprise.

internetexplorer4

IE4 was released in 1997, pre-dating Google, the Bush presidency and the movie Titanic.

Before launch of the website, the Quell web team thoroughly tested the contact forms, along with all the other functionality on different browsers and operating systems as part of our NASA-like pre-launch checklist. Did an error slip through?

After more discussion with the client, we discovered that the user couldn’t fill out the phone number field in the contact form. We looked through the logs of site visitors, and the user in question stood out like a sore thumb. He was the only visitor still using the outrageously obsolete Internet Explorer 4, which originally launched on Windows 95!

In this extreme case, we ended up changing the way the phone number field is displayed, which allowed that customer to finish filling out the form.

Why Strive for Un-Compatibility

With the ever-moving target of browser compatibility, why not just aim as far back as possible? True, if we had planned for Internet Explorer 4 in the first place, this issue wouldn’t have happened. Ignoring 18 years’ worth of web design advancement would have been a disservice to 99.99% of visitors to the website though.

Take the phone number field as a brief example. In a modern web browser, the phone number field has a few tricks. As you type, it fills in with parentheses and hyphens to format the number. It also checks if it has the right amount of digits when you’re done. This cuts down on mistakes, which could be frustrating for the user and the website owner who would get bad data from the form.

That’s just one small example. Some other tricks in modern web design are things like animated graphics, in-browser video and designs that adapt to different window sizes, which allows for a website to be viewed equally on desktops, tablets and mobile phones. Modern touches like these are essential to get high search result scores, and more importantly, to provide a positive experience for your visitors.

The features mentioned above are currently compatible with 96.45% of web users, according to the website caniuse.com. Is that enough for your brand?

Achieving Balance: Align Tech With Target Audience

Your target audience is a major factor in determining the level of compatibility that we will attain on a web design project. As a general guideline, web design techniques are available to use about four years after they are first released. That’s enough time for the majority of web users to upgrade to compatible software.

There’s a little more to it than that though. Waiting for the majority of users to upgrade might not be important in every case. One of our clients has a web-based tool that they use for sales presentations on a select few employee computers. In this case, it made sense to use the best possible method to achieve the goal of the sales tool, and make sure the computers are compatible later.

On the other hand, a website might be used primarily by shop supervisors looking to order more industrial supplies. In that case, it might be difficult or even dangerous to update the computers there, due to worries about losing compatibility with hardware and equipment. In this case, it is wise to scale back on the technology overhead as a precaution against legacy operating systems and browsers.

As part of the web design process, The Quell Group uses a website planner. In it, we work with you to understand the goals of the website, the target audience, the scope, features, photography, and much more. Together, we will find the perfect balance between compatibility and a rich set of features that will make you stand out from the competition.

Hip to Be Square

By Aron Lawrence

Recently, a Minecraft player released images of an extremely intricate city scene he created solely with the default tools of the game. Even with access to today’s advanced 3D design programs, there’s a timeless appeal to creating something great out of simple pieces.

For some, the appeal comes from the effort it takes to work with a restricted palette. A photo-realistic cityscape can be made with Element 3D, a plugin for the popular motion graphics program After Effects, within a span of a few minutes. It’s technically impressive, and if handled correctly, it can pass for actual footage shot from a helicopter. On the other hand, it lacks the character and personality of a real shot. Creating a much more rudimentary scene block-by-block in Minecraft can take years. Looking at it, one can consider the attention to detail, the craftsmanship and the passion that goes into making such a piece.

For others, it’s more about nostalgia. In the early days of video games, character sprites were made of a few dozen blocky pixels. They were basic and almost featureless, but had charm and originality.

Today, the kids who grew up in beginning of that era are approaching 40.  Video gaming has become a widespread cultural phenomenon that spans generations. The work once considered crude and utilitarian is now regarded as an art form in its own right. The Flint Institute of Arts is currently exhibiting The Art of Video Games, which “sheds light on the prevalent and increasing nature of [the video game] medium within modern society.”

Digital art took decades to get to the point where artists could make whatever they could imagine. Photorealism is in the reach of many artists in the field. However, the minimalist appeal of a simple block- or pixel-based piece still captures the imagination of many. New video games are being released in classic pixel-based style for this reason. Posters and t-shirts with pixel designs are considered retro cool.

Despite its humble origins, pixel art has evolved into a respected niche. The art of video games has become part of Western culture, and will continue to influence mainstream art and design for years to come. At Quell, we stay on top of current design trends so that we can offer a multitude of options for our clients. From flat design to pixel art to 3D animation, our design team has the capabilities to make your brand’s communications stand out creatively.

by Aron Lawrence

Automated Marketing, inbound fuel 2015 marketing budgets

The next big thing for 2015 Marketing and Communications budgets (especially B2B). Lower the cost and time it takes to generate leads.

By Joseph J. Serwach

Automated marketing – done well – is the next “big thing” for 2015 marketing and communications budgets, allowing organizations (especially B2B) to lower the cost and time it takes to generate leads and customers.

A majority of tech companies already use automated marketing and inbound strategies to drive marketing, sales and customer relationship efforts. Adoption rates are soaring as the technology becomes cheaper and easier to use.

Automated strategies allow Amazon.com to accurately recommend books and movies you’ll want to buy. They’ve learned your tastes and interests through years of online relationship-building.

A Michigan example: Kalamazoo-based Goodbye Crutches shifted from paying people to click on their website (via online advertising) to an inbound strategy using marketing automation. They wound up replacing their ads with less expensive online brand-building  (establishing thought leadership with helpful content including blogs, social media, landing pages, ebooks, etc.).

The result: Goodbye Crutches saw its web traffic leap from 3,000 visitors per month to 52,000 visitors per month.

How marketing automation grows brand relationships

In mid-September, I was sitting near a pool in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, went to Google and typed “Myrtle Beach International Airport.”
Educate, Inform, Help
The first search result, courtesy of Google Flights, told me my flight home was delayed by two hours. Later refreshes told me the delay would be three hours. That information gave me three extra hours to enjoy the beach on a sunny, 85 degree day rather than getting stuck waiting at an airport.

Did such marketing automation make me love and value my relationship with the Google brand? Of course.

Any time your brand educates, informs or helps a customer or potential customer, you’re moving them from stranger to visitor or from visitor to friend or from like to love.

Relationships first, tech second

Relationships first, tech secondToo many early adopters focus on – or get apprehensive about – new technology even as marketing technology gets cheaper and easier to use.

Too often, businesses buy the new “latest thing” and then aren’t quite sure how to use it effectively or (worse) they put off buying it until all their competitors already have it.

The focus needs to remain on the classic brand-building and relationship building that really makes these new tools deliver powerful returns on investment.  The tool (the technology) simply speeds up the process.

PR, marketers are both chasing marketing automation

HubSpot, which dominates automated marketing and inbound, soared during its first IPO last week. HubSpot partners with strong agencies that make the technology work for client brand-building efforts, growing web traffic and online leads via inbound marketing.

Meanwhile, PR software provider Vocus, and others are also offering their own automated marketing products.

Top source of leads.

Top Source of Leads

The just-released State of Inbound 2014 report found 83 percent of marketers were practicing some form of inbound strategy this year (up from 60 percent in 2013) and a full 45 percent cited inbound as their top source of leads.

Inbound ties together a number of “owned media” digital tools including blog and other content creation, landing pages that convert contacts/leads into customers, webinars, social media, emailers, video, e-books, webinars and freemium trials.

In short, inbound is the traffic you draw to you – as opposed to outbound messages you send out. Both start with solid integrated brand communications.

Just this year, Mike’s Hard Lemonade joined Costco and numerous other brands by announcing it was replacing online advertising with a focus on organically building digital interactions.

Inbound replicates the Costco Strategy: Costco is famous for giving shoppers free samples and delighting them with new products and special deals. Inbound marketers, similarly, offer “free samples” of their expertise, educating and informing them and building relationships online. Amazon, for example, offers free sample chapters of most of the books it sells.

Opportunity? Beating most rivals to the punch

While a majority of tech companies already use marketing automation, the market is wide open in other markets:

Beat rivals to the punch

Imagine knowing all sorts of details about a prospect that your rivals have no clue about. Such details help you beat the competition every time.

How does automated marketing work?

Instead of having various people say you “need’’ this tool or that tool, automated marketing organizes the various tools together into one simple, digital hub.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt notes there is more content created in a 48 hour period than there was between the dawn of time and the year 2000. For Google, that means 5 billion searches per day with 20 percent being for something Google has never been asked before.

For media, that means the 20th century introduced radio, TV, telemarketing and junk mail while the 21st century has (so far) introduced such new platforms as mobile SMS, pop-up ads, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, native advertising, etc.

Marketing automation sorts all that big data out and helps you personalize digital relationships giving every prospect what they need, learning about them, educating them and growing relationships.

Sales research shows that 80 percent of sales occur between the fifth and 12th time you interact with a prospect. You can’t call or email someone five days in a row without seeming annoying but it is simple to call one day, email another and use digital media to build the relationship, using marketing automation to track everything.

At the same time, 60-70 percent of the buying journey now occurs digitally as people use their phones, tablets and computers to look things up before, after (and sometimes during) your meetings with them.

The difference between marketing automation and no automation? It’s like the difference between driving at night and driving at night with your headlights on.

 

Tough Times for Ol’ Flash

 

Quell FlashStay in shape with these promising new options for Flash addicts

By Aron Lawrence

It’s been a tough decade for Adobe Flash animators.

When I was in high school 10 years ago, it was considered cutting edge and sophisticated to design an entire website in Flash. My personal portfolio was done in Flash, with every element on the page painstakingly animated. I thought it was really cool! Cool, yes, but not search-engine friendly, responsive to different browser sizes or compatible with mobile devices.

Flash was soon considered taboo and out-of-date, and there weren’t any other accessible options. Designers lost the ability to animate for the web entirely.

Thanks to new technology, that’s finally changed. Quell’s creative team recently tested three promising options for HTML5-compliant animation for your review.

Adobe Flash. The first, surprisingly, is Adobe Flash CC 2014.  For anyone who hasn’t opened Flash in a while, there’s now an “HTML Canvas’ option, which will allow you to work natively in HTML5. It still uses the same familiar tools unique to Flash. In past versions, Flash had an option to convert a SWF document to HTML and JavaScript, but there were a lot of compatibility issues. We’ve found that to no longer be a problem.

Adobe Edge. We next tried Adobe Edge CC 2014. This is a recent addition to the Adobe line-up, built from the ground up for HTML5-compatible animation. It’s a tougher transition for a former Flash designer, but it’s a great option. The only problem is that it outputs some really crazy code, which is nearly impossible to edit by hand.

CSS3. Speaking of editing by hand, we also tried animating with CSS3 transitions, complemented with jQuery. This is a fun and exciting new way to easily add some simple animation to a website without having to import from another program.

This option has a few issues: it has somewhat limited compatibility and is difficulty to visualize. Writing ‘.3s ease’ just isn’t the same as having a timeline to work with.

Despite a few hiccups and limitations, we’re glad to report that it’s finally safe for Flash animators to re-enter the design world. No longer is it in bad taste to Flash your creative team, they might even join.

For anyone still on the fence about transitioning away from Flash, be assured the software is finally ready. Give it a try. It might make you just as cool and sophisticated as you (thought you) were in 2004.

 

 

Distinct words help elevate brands

Connect with readers by using words we know and trust

We’re all too familiar with those lists of banned words that circulate after every New Year. Taboo terms gagged for 2014 including selfie, twerking, hashtag, twittersphere, and the suffixes –addedon and –pocalyse.  Other words nixed from corporate speak include:

  • Innovative
  • Synergy
  • Solutions
  • Revolutionary
  • Iconic
  • Hi-tech
  • World-class

Words like these bark at readers, “We’re too lazy to come up with distinct terms that uniquely describe this brand.”

Case in point:

A certain global design consultancy describes its creative process this way:

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

Wow. A certain carmaker uses this phrase to describe its innovation:

“We have always been driven by bold imagination and focused, disciplined action to realize the power of those ideas. It is part of our DNA to realize technology’s potential for positive change and to share that vision with the world.”

Compare those two examples with this advertising language for an everyday product most of us use.

“You want a weed eater that can reach all the places your mower can’t, one that won’t damage the trees and shrubs on your property; that’s easy to start but safe enough for the 14-year-old neighbor kid to use.”

What’s so hard about that? Apparently, everything.

Terms like these actually create parity among competitors. If your product is advanced, I’ll call mine revolutionary. Last year’s “out of the box” is this year’s “unparalleled.” If every company is hi-tech, innovative, world class, cutting edge and unparalleled, doesn’t common sense conclude that none of them are?

Using banal words can insult a reader and put a brand at risk. Such empty terms commoditize a product and diminish its overall value.

So what is the substitute for corporate pseudo-speak? Perhaps the real problem exists, not in the language, but in the branding. Quell eliminates these nonsense words using its unique process called Unknot. Align. Market.®  Quell captures what makes a brand distinct and then creates a unique brand language that becomes the foundation for memorable story telling. The Quell Group insists on using words that are unmistakable to a brand, rather than falling into the trap of corporate clichés, bromides and overworked phrases that do nothing to elevate a brand. Our words create preference for a brand and separation from the pack.

Case in point:

When Apple launched its iPod, thousands of superlative terms could have been used to describe it, such as game changing, revolutionary, first-in-class, exceptional, extraordinary and unconventional.

But instead Apple chose four words and a number:  “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

Simple. Credible. And undeniably unique.

Best of all, these are real words people use in everyday life, but crafted in a way that no one can mimic.

Part of a brand’s identity is its idiomatic language. While tone is equally important, building a glossary of terms is essential when building a strong brand. Many great examples come to mind. The following list of words can only belong to the Disney brand:

  • Magic
  • Kingdom
  • Fantasy
  • Dreams
  • Imagination

Kellogg owns such terms as sugar, frosted, crunch, snap, crackle and pop. KFC owns colonel, original, recipe, secret, bucket and crispy. No carmaker owns “safety” like Volvo, “engineered” like Porsche and “luxury” like Mercedes.

Like a cart before a horse, words without meaning have no power. The first step in talking about a brand is identifying what makes it unique. Once that niche is identified, it’s time to build a glossary of terms your brand can own. Just remember, golden, arches, coca and the prefix i- are already taken.

 

 

Spruce up company brand to draw top recruits

Does your business have curb appeal?

Brandon, an engineering student graduating from All American University, is choosing between two job offers:  one from a little-known automotive supplier; the other, a popular carmaker.

While the supplier job pays more and is a better fit for Brandon, he just can’t shake the allure of the OEM’s “cool” brand.

While branding is often considered a sales and marketing discipline, brands have a significant influence on attracting top talent. Companies searching for new recruits can help themselves by first polishing their brands.

The Quell Group’s Mike Niederquell counsels clients on the importance of brand image as it pertains to drawing in talent. The CEO knows firsthand just how hard it is to catch the eye of a prospective candidate without the aid of a recognized brand.

“Well-established brands like Google, Mercedes-Benz USA, Intel and Quicken Loans have job seekers lined up with pedigreed resumes in hand,” says Niederquell. “These companies have little need for headhunters. Their logo is all they need.”

But not all companies are household names. For firms flying under the radar, filling jobs can be an expensive battle. Niederquell explains even these companies can get their pick of the litter, if they practice a few techniques to promote brand awareness.

The millennial generation is looking for more than just salary, Niederquell says. Today’s job seeker wants the whole package:  a company that is socially responsible, environmentally kind and offers a culture that is inclusive, flexible and nurturing. While a small business can never compete with the resources of a Fortune 100 company, it can target a desired audience with specific brand initiatives.

“It’s the story of David and Goliath,” says Niederquell. “But doing battle against the big guys doesn’t have to end in defeat. We’ve helped small companies land the best recruits just by leveraging the power of their brand.”

Niederquell offers four tips to companies searching for the market’s best and brightest:

1. Get your CEO involved.  The CEO must champion the cause, and drive brand awareness and promotion across the company.

2.  Define your brand. Does your company know what it really stands for? If not, no one will. Neiderquell says market research and branding exercises are helpful in defining the brand’s position, value proposition and what makes it special.

3.  Marry marketing and HR. Cross-functional teams are best suited to crack the code for winning new recruits. Use market outreach together with HR initiatives to find the best candidates.

4.  Curb appeal wins. It’s just like real estate; candidates are attracted to the external package. In branding terms, that means a perception of being smart, strong, unique and passionate. Recruits are looking for the “IT” factor. Share yours via websites, social media, community outreach and corporate activism.

A candidate’s employment decision will be based on a number of elements, Niederquell says. With a powerful brand, any company can increase its odds of attracting the best recruits regardless of its competition.

“It’s a business of people,” he says. “If your brand appeals to a person on an emotional level, your company will receive the consideration it deserves.”

Spring 2014 Industry Trends

The Quell Group. Brand innovation, Market motivation. Since 1994.
In The Market

Spring Industry Trends

1.

Websites must be responsive –
whether you have an app or not.

By 2017, 87 percent of connected devices will be tablets or smartphones, replacing laptops and desktop computers. The new 2014 Google algorithm has a significant impact on SEO through mobile devices – it now accounts for the mobile “friendliness” when determining search rankings.

2.

Social media for B2B –
an external form of internal communication.

Build a positive, connected culture for employees and use social media as a platform to demonstrate why your company is the best place to work.

of companies say candidate quality improved when socially recruited

of employees are friends with managers and co-workers on Facebook

people in the U.S. have used social media to search for a job

3.

Integrated advertising across multiple mediums reinforces your message and reaches the greatest audience.

Similar to print, digital ads should have quality, useful information and striking visuals to grab reader attention. Also, the more places someone sees the ad – on Google, on Facebook, on the side of a bus, in a magazine – the higher probability it’s remembered.

4.

Instagram is the up and coming social platform for branding and reaching customers.

With no links and limited written content, Instagram has still become an ideal platform for telling your company’s story. Brands can show potential customers what lifestyle experience its products or services can make possible through creative and symbolic visuals.

28% 14% 100 Million

U.S. aged 18-29 use Instagram

U.S. aged 30-49 use Instagram

monthly users

Bold and Flat
5.

Design should be simple, bold and flat.

Two-dimensional, flat, saturated colors that are abstract and bold are trending. Creative typographies alone are now distinct brands and logos.

6.

The best media relationship you can have is with social media.

Social media sites are increasingly people’s first point of contact with news content, following links to stories posted by their social connections. Beyond posting your company’s media hits, mix “newsworthy” information into your content as well.

of adults in the U.S. report using Facebook as a source of news

think that social media is an important way to get news

report clicking on links to news stories through Facebook posts

report “liking” or commenting on news stories posted on Facebook

The Quell Group

The Quell Group

2282 Livernois Rd.
Troy, Michigan 48083
248.649.8900
quell.com

 

To post, or not to post: that is not the question

Finding balance in social media strategy

A friend who works at the Wall Street Journal was recently tipped off to a scandal involving bogus bibs faked for this month’s Boston Marathon. Apparently, a female runner posted a photo of her official race bib on Instagram prior to the race. That photo was hijacked, manipulated, printed on Tyvek and sold on Craigslist as counterfeit. The incident is sending shockwaves through the running community for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the breach of race security in light of last year’s tragic bombings.

This situation leads one to rethink the popular debate, “What should be publicly available online?”

The sides are drawn. One school, we’ll call it the new school, subscribes to the “more the merrier” philosophy. Using primarily social media, these modern-day town criers advocate bombarding the public with information of all types – written comments, photos, video, audio of private conversations with Donald Sterling – you name it. As PR practitioners, they believe all publicity is good publicity. Opening the fire hose of content increases the likelihood that a client or cause will go viral. By flooding the virtual airwaves with words and pictures, they bet – on average – the results will ultimately turn out in their favor.

The old-school thinkers use more caution. They are selective about what is posted, fearing the kind of outcome experienced with the Boston bib bandits. They err on the side of secrecy and are often faulted for lack of transparency. At the extreme, these old-timers can be delusional, thinking they can contain information and hide a story from playing out in real time on the Web

There is, of course, a middle ground that should be considered. And maybe the folks at the NYPD were trying for just that in their recent social hit and miss.

The NYPD stubbed its toe in a recent Twitter invitation for New Yorkers to share feel-good photos of themselves posing with the city’s finest. What resulted instead, according to the AP, was the posting of feel-bad images: photos of baton-wielding cops arresting protesters, pulling suspects by the hair, unleashing pepper spray and taking down a bloodied 84-year-old man for jaywalking.

Unintended consequences, for sure.

Police Commissioner William Bratton acknowledged that the Twitter campaign to rebrand the department might not have been fully thought through. D’uh.

Does, as one academic rationalized, our eagerness to embrace social media tools overshadow our common sense?

Maybe it’s too convenient to try to lump all of these social media foibles into one neat pile. A social media strategy is much more than a Shakespearean muse, “To post or not to post?” And, there are big differences between what “I” the individual, versus what “we” the company, would share with the Web world.

Personally, I’m a member of the R-party – the party of restraint. No selfies, no shocking revelations about my personal life, no hidden treasure that should remain ever hidden. I don’t take photos of my lobster bisque and post them on Facebook, no matter how delicious it looks

Professionally, I’m also a bit of a Nervous Nellie. I’m the gal who starts every sentence with, “Why?” While assuredly annoying, it helps to frame a discussion about strategy. Which, from all accounts, appears sorely needed. Especially when even the best of the best, companies like McDonald’s, Home Depot and British Airways, are missing the mark by a country mile.

Like members of a rowing team, every salvo into the digital space must be synchronized. You would no more throw an oar into the water or start paddling backward than you would launch a digital campaign that is not consistent with an integrated marketing strategy. Developing strategies, while always the right way to proceed, rarely provide instant gratification. Perhaps the pull to be trendy and sit at the cool kid’s social media table is just too tempting for some to pass up.

Whatever the case, balancing restraint against the holy grail of “going viral” will be an ongoing challenge for the foreseeable future. That’s why the guidance and counsel of a trusted social media adviser has never been more important. Just like a sense of humor and decorating skills, not everyone is social media savvy. Most of us are not born with an innate understanding of social media, its powers of good and evil, and what its future holds.

Find a trusted firm that knows from experience how to navigate the digital currents. Ask for success stories and case studies. Whether you are managing a personal brand or marketing a Fortune 50 company, you never want to be the “bad” example. For every brilliant Kmart “Ship My Pants” campaign, there is another that’s gone horribly wrong. I’m sure there were many folks at Ford who chortled over drawings of Kardashian-like characters gagged in the trunk of a cartoon Figo. No one harder, perhaps, than the quasi-celebrities’ legal team. If it’s your campaign, always make sure you get the last laugh.

Unknot your company’s true value

The Quell Group specializes in helping companies unlock the true power of their brand with its Unknot. Align. Market.® method.

 Using this rigorous process, Quell helps businesses unknot their value, align with constituents and more effectively market to those they depend on for success. While deceptively simple, Quell’s method is decidedly effective and distinctly unique.

 Unknotting helps companies recapture their essential passion, purpose and value proposition. It is the first, hardest and most critical step in the process.

Objective assessment equals competitive advantage

Assessment is part of our everyday world, though not generally recognized by that term.

Yearly physicals, portfolio reviews, report cards and performance appraisals are pervasive in today’s society. We even conduct wardrobe assessments to keep pace with fashion trends. After all, who would be caught dead in last year’s pastel pumps or peak lapels?

Assessment in business is also critical; however, many companies fail to assess the seemingly intangible elements that are key to its success. Therefore, Quell assesses the elements that define a company’s passion, its relevance and the imprint it is making – or not making – in the marketplace.

This first step is called “Unknotting” – a technique of determining a company’s distinct marketable value. Quell forces top executives to focus on why they got into business in the first place. While most clients want to jump directly to ad campaigns and flashy websites, none of that can be accomplished without first unknotting a company’s true purpose.

Companies – like people – can get lost

We’ve all seen it: a preeminent company begins to fall out of favor. Its once-compelling value and unique selling proposition are lost. Leaders are out of touch. Employees forget the firm’s purpose. The business becomes irrelevant to customers, and its products lose their aim. It can take years or happen seemingly overnight, as in the loss of an iconic founder or exodus of intellectual capital. While it seems unthinkable, even the most robust companies can lose their way.

Unknotting sounds a wake-up call. It helps companies recapture their unique core and competitive position. Using a variety of research techniques, Quell returns a company’s singular focus. It creates a value proposition that no other competitor can claim. This is how Quell moves companies from being lost, to liked, to loved.

Consider this example: Pepsi can no sooner claim to be Coke than Coke can claim to be Red Bull. Each is defined by attributes intrinsically unique to their brand. Without claiming a value position, a company is destined for failure.

Unknotting starts with Quell’s MarketSight™, an in-depth immersion interview with a firm’s leaders and critical thinkers. During this interview, Quell uncovers a company’s view of its strengths, weaknesses and position in the marketplace. Does the company want to be a market leader like Coke? A niche player like Mr. PiBB? Do they define a new category like Red Bull? Or are they repositioning themselves like V8 Splash?

Following MarketSight™, Quell conducts external interviews with customers, journalists and industry thought leaders. A company’s marketing, public relations, media coverage and advertising placements are also reviewed. The same measures are taken of top competitors in the segment, and then compared.

MarketSight™ and the external audits do not measure trends or fads. They are unbiased environmental assessments to determine a company’s perceived place in the market.

The results of these surveys are compiled and analyzed. Perhaps a company believes it is known for quality, but media perceive it to be a value leader. A business might think it is forward thinking, but the market may say otherwise.

With all of this unknotting information, Quell can begin phase two – Align. There, Quell aligns a company’s unique position in terms that resonate and that help it achieve its business objectives.

Assessment sustains business growth and increases relevancy

The complexities of today’s business require regular assessment, analysis and review. MarketSight™ and Quell’s other measurement tools help start-up businesses and mature companies alike conduct reality checks. They provide an objective way to see a company as others do and help businesses create a genuine connection in the marketplace. Quell’s Unknot. Align. Market.® process is invaluable in helping a company develop a distinct voice, reach critical audiences and move customers into positive action.

Everything I thought I knew has changed, and everything else I have forgotten

According to the 2013 edition of The Associated Press Stylebook, I have officially become irrelevant.  To those 30 years old and younger, that statement is hardly news.  I’m the one in the office whose references are lost on most of the staff – the nods to ‘80s music and movies, to Hollywood stars long dead and politicians long ousted from office. I fight the desire to tease my hair and wear MC Hammer pants to work, and not just on casual Fridays. I long for the days of mix tapes, waterbeds and music videos that made sense to me.

Nostalgia aside, I’m not resistant to all change, so long as it’s logical and well presented.  I’m afraid updates to the 2013 Stylebook are neither. I’m not so much alarmed by what the new edition writing bible has chosen to include.  It does not surprise me that cultural references like red carpet, hot spot, stem cell, WikiLeaks, DVR and Breathalyzer are now listed. Nor am I troubled by the 30 pages devoted to Social Media guidelines. I applaud any attempt to reign in all the nonsensical Tweeting and Skyping and texting. To those born post 1981, LOL is not a real word.

I’m not certain in which edition the AP began including sport identification codes, food and fashion guidelines, and a section on info graphics, but I say, “Welcome aboard.” I’m a gal who believes in structure—the more the better.

But I do start to cringe at the rephrasing of words, perhaps in an attempt to become politically correct or, worse yet, to be cool. I never thought of anyone working at the AP, especially the folks whose job it is to flyspeck copy for jots and tittles, to be concerned about their “popular” status.

According to the AP, we are now required to call a large container of trash a dumpster. A doughnut is no longer a donut, under any circumstance. Global warming or climate change? The good people of AP say use the terms with aplomb, and interchangeably if the spirit moves you.  Disabled or handicapped? Don’t even bring them up. And avoid such terms as afflicted, confided, suffering and (God forbid) cripple.  For the record, the AP also bans the terms illegal immigrant, Smokey ”the” Bear, high blood pressure and asylum.

I knew that life for me would never be the same after Pluto was stripped of its planet status and Steve Jobs unveiled the iEverything. But changing the stylebook is akin to changing the Constitution or disputing the irrefutable Laws of Physics. When people start playing with the placement of punctuation marks, abbreviations, capitalization and other grammatical rules, for me the fight is on.

The fact is, I’ve forgotten more than I ever leaned in my four years studying journalism. But some things did stick. I know how to spell under way and work force. And that mike is short for microphone.  That a province name follows a Canadian city in news reports and that state names are abbreviated in ways other than postal codes.  Eskimos live in Alaska and Hawaiians are residents of Hawaii.

That much I know.

Or I should say used to know? We now live in an underway, workforce, mic, Inuit and Hawaii resident universe.  A universe where Canada is not divided by provinces in news articles, where we no longer abbreviate and parenthesize the names of organizations on first reference, and where the pope and president are lower case p’s and Internet stands proud with a capital I.

I guess it all makes sense, since this same universe has supplanted Washington’s Birthday with Presidents Day (no possessive). Here, homophobics no longer exist but flash mobs (two words) do.

I’ve lost my way, a wordsmith without her familiar words.

Now I’m just a writer without a roadmap.  And a woman who still loves Duran Duran.