Tag Archives: UX

4 things Grad School taught me that the best Event Managers should already know (VIDEO)

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Silvia Pellegrini at Events Uncovered, a great online space for event experts to meet, discuss, learn and share their knowledge of the industry.

In our video interview, I review some of the key marketing concepts discussed in my Masters Program at NYU, and how they relate to the world of event management.

〔Episode 46〕4 things Grad School teaches that Event Managers should know -Marianne Bunton
Video interview for Events Uncovered

In the second part of the interview (members only content) I talk in more detail about sponsorship activation – an area of specialization that I am particularly passionate about. The majority of corporate events are only possible with the support of sponsors, and as event organizers, we are in a position to maximize their involvement and help them achieve their return on investment.  Moreover, with meaningful integration, sponsors can really enhance the event experience for all guests. Silvia and I discuss how this can be done within a framework for managing all partners’ expectations, understanding your audiences needs, and being creative.

I welcome your comments and feedback, along with any insights that you’ve learnt along the way!

Going That Extra Mile for Charity

Charity Miles

Who could have predicted that cellular phones would one day be more powerful than personal computers, and that we’d be living our entire lives through these pocket-sized devices?  And that making calls would only be a secondary function?

Huge advances in personal technology, affordable data and speedy wifi, have all aided our growing obsession with the quantified self.  We now have the ability to track and record all our activities and movements, mining our own big data for insights.  On any given day, I might be using a number of mobile apps to track my sleep cycles, expenses, diet and mobile data.

When I took up running 2 years ago, I relied entirely on the wonderful Couch to 5K podcast to motivate me, and I made sure that every step of the journey was recorded on my Nike+ app.  I’ve got to the stage now where if I can’t track a run, it may as well not have happened (and somehow I convince myself that my iPhone battery life might be the only thing standing in my way of completing a marathon).

So I was really excited to discover an award-winning app that could track my miles, and raise money for charity at the same time.  Talk about doubling the feel-good factor!  Charity Miles is a free app that records how far you walk, run or cycle, and credits each mile with a donation through corporate donations (10 cents per mile for bikers, 25 cents per mile for runners and walkers).

Charity Miles

The app allows users to choose from 26 different charities each time they start a new session, so it really resonates with causes close to everyone’s heart.  Their blog, #EveryMileMatters, is brimming with such inspiring and touching stories.

The app is very easy to navigate and users can start clocking miles within moments of downloading it.  I was impressed that the interface is controlled through swipes once the run has started, as finding small buttons on a flat screen can be difficult once in motion.

The Team Leaderboard lets anyone who uses a group hashtag to view their collective fundraising efforts, which is a useful and fun tool for anyone taking part in an organized run.  Sharing is an essential part of fundraising and has been proven to increase donations.  So I appreciated the pre-populated tweet that the app crafted for me to send upon completion of my run, and through the campaign hashtag #SXSGood I could see just how many other people were also getting involved.

Functionally, the app does have limitations and the aesthetics are fairly basic too.  For example, I would have liked to see an ongoing total of the amount I have raised over multiple runs, as well as my total miles run.  I raised just under a dollar for my run, so showing the incremental impact of each session would have really cemented the feel-good factor and emphasized the purpose of the app.

Also, since the app measures distance through GPS, a map to show the route taken would be a nice feature to include, as Nike+ does below. That said, there is no reason you cannot use it in tandem (pardon the cycling pun!) with this or any of your other favorite apps.

Nike+ Interface

One of the most compelling aspects of the app is the opportunity for brands to connect with users in an un-intrusive and meaningful way.  Throughout my run, the screen showed an ad for the Timex Ironman sports watch.  Upon completion I was asked ‘did you appreciate the Timex’s support?’, and was prompted to click through to their website for a 25% discount.

Timex Ironman Ad

This is such a great way to engage with a dedicated audience who are aligned in their values, so I’m surprised that more brands are not all over this.  There are so many ways that advertisers could enhance the experience even further, such as offering messages of inspiration along the way, giving bonus donations for reaching set goals, and further targeting based on location and demographic profiling.  At a 90 cent donation for my 35-minute run, this must be an extremely cost-effective placement.


The Bigger Picture behind User Experience

User experience goes hand in hand with good customer service and effective marketing.  A company’s homepage is the new storefront.  And today’s online customers are more discerning and fleeting than ever before.

This semester we are analyzing organizations to see how they use digital tools to enhance their storytelling, and how user experience is at the center of this. I chose to look at the website of Oxfam International, arguably one of the largest and most respected charities in the world.

At the outset, I presumed the key purpose of their website would be to raise awareness, enlist volunteers, and perhaps most importantly, to fundraise.  However, the user experience did not meet my expectations for an organization of this stature and through somewhat of a wild goose chase, I unraveled what I believe may be a larger strategy problem for the organization.

My journey went a little something like this:

•A Google search for ‘Oxfam’ led me to www.oxfam.org.  At that crucial first impression, there is a LOT going on in homepage.  The box layout works well to group various pieces of information, but there are still a lot of messages along with their own banner ads competing for my attention.  In fact, the layout looks really dated now that I am used to very minimalist websites with graphics telling the story as I scroll through.

Oxfam International

•The site is very text heavy, which does make Oxfam seem authoritative, but unfortunately it is not presented in an accessible way. It would be more efficient to group information by the key objectives of the user, and then gradually providing more information within each section.

•Lime green must be a challenging logo color to work with! The big green buttons certainly stand out but clash with other colors.  It’s hard to know if there is a system, but it’s not clear to the user.

• I really didn’t know where to start reading the content.  “Emergencies” seemed like it would be the most pressing, and this lead me to more sub-menus by crisis. The “Development” page had a good interactive map to navigate by region.    The ‘“Campaigns” page was then grouped by issue type.  It did leave me wondering though if these sections are internal divisions at Oxfam, rather than the best categories to educate their audience.

Sadly, this site left me a little frustrated.  I didn’t really know where the experience should start or end.   I am interested to know what the bounce rate is from their landing page, as I suspect many users are likely to return to Google to refine their search.  Or worse for Oxfam, find the information elsewhere.

Looking for signs of mobile optimization on my iPad, the homepage looked more or less the same.  But when it came to my iPhone, I was so disappointed. It’s not responsive at all!

Oxfam International Mobile


I end up expanding and panning across each inch of the massive homepage, not really knowing what I was looking for. It felt much like trawling a beach with a metal detector in hope of finding hidden treasure.

I was  surprised that Oxfam didn’t have a mobile site.  I had come through Safari browser on my phone so it should have detected my device.  I decided to try again through Google.   This time however, I tried searching for the phrase ‘oxfam usa donate’.  The top result took me to a very different looking page.  On closer inspection, I saw that this was a page for Oxfam America, which is an entirely different website!

I was happy to find that this site was mobile optimized and offered a much more pleasurable experience, through the layout, the colors and icons used.  Back on my laptop I found a complete user-centered experience at Oxfam America: large, scrolling images; a good content strategy; easy navigation by a few section links.

Oxfam America

But this brought up a huge question for me as to why the two websites are so different.   And how I missed this in the first place.  I went back to the Oxfam International page.  What I had scanned over previously was a box on the top right corner labeled ‘Oxfam Near Me’, which uses geo-location to suggest Oxfam America.

Oxfam International is actually made up of 17 member organizations across 94 countries, and I now realize that each of the members have their own websites.  Member sites are also listed in small print at the bottom of the International homepage and there is far more consistency among the country website, than any has with Oxfam International.  It also allows for each member to highlight locally relevant materials and customize the layout for their local audience preferences.

This ultimately makes me question the purpose of the International site.  Does it contain information that is not duplicated elsewhere?  This could send users away disappointed, and translates as a real lost opportunity for the charity.  Since fundraising is all channeled to local member sites, this is of huge importance for their key objective.

Unfortunately, it makes Oxfam look very fractured and shows a huge disconnect in the personality of the brand.    Is Oxfam International out of touch?  Are their objectives aligned?  Or are they simply last in line for the makeover?  I’ll be checking back for sure.

“So, why marketing?”

“So, why marketing?”  Friends, family and new acquaintances frequently ask me this question, trying to understand my decision to go back to school.  I can tell by their nervous looks that in their experience, marketeers have been solely responsible for pushy advertising, junk mail and general interruptions to their lives.

What I find fascinating though is that as much as we protest that advertising has little effect on our purchase decisions, you can ask just about any skeptic about the car they drive, or if they use a Mac or PC, and they will undoubtedly have an opinion on the brands that define them.  Often a very strong opinion.  And this I credit to organisations who have invested consistently in reinforcing their brand values – not necessarily through extensive awareness campaigns, but in they way they treat their customers.

The organisations that I feel the strongest about, are those which offer a product which is tailored to my needs, and ultimately makes my life easier.  Uber, Dropbox, Netflix, LinkedIn and Amazon are all services that empower me or my business,  and I’m happy to pay a premium to be their customer.

None of these organisations ever sent me an email, or coerced me into signing-up (at least not as a prospective customer – their retention marketing is another story).  In all cases, it was a friend or colleague that recommended their services. Rather than push marketing, these websites were there when I needed them, provided a delightful user experience, and before I knew it my credit card details were flying out of my fingertips.  And I’ve never looked back.

What this means for their brands, is that I in turn become an enthusiastic ambassador.  I feel part of the company’s journey and am invested in their success, and I want my friends to benefit from this too.  Brand loyalty is on my terms and I’m likely to stay with them through thick and thin.

My friend Casey Lau, once tweeted that people in San Francisco would rather use Uber than wait for an ambulance.  I love that anecdote and share it often. Uber is probably one of my favorite brands, because of what they stand for: a start-up on mission to disrupt the taxi industry through mobile technology.  As a city-dweller who can’t drive, they had my attention immediately.  I first had the chance to use Uber when they launched in Singapore.  Their app was seriously impressive, and after the VIP service, I was putty in their hands.  If world-domination is what they are after, I’m on board.

Uber Easy

Uber has recently been criticised for their surge pricing policy, and certainly more transparency is needed to keep their customers happy.   Once understood, it is clear that the strategy is entirely in line with their business model of free market economies.  But to customers who just need to get to their destination in a hurry, they need to cut to the chase.

“So, why marketing?”  I hope that by dedicating this time to learning more about best practices and how to better meet consumer needs, that I’ll soon be working for an organization that puts customers and their experiences first. And I’ll know that we’re achieving our goals when the brand is associated with these values.