Successful Branding By Design

Love the brand

When it comes to creating a brand, most businesses think they have it covered. They’ve hired a designer to create a logo that represents their company and voila it’s posted to their website or outside their brick and mortar. But with just a logo, your audience — your customer base — is only getting a fraction of your story. Understanding the importance of branding and its facets is a vital step towards crafting a memorable, worthwhile product or service.

Distinguishing how a logo and a brand differ is simple. A logo identifies a business in its simplest form via the use of a mark or an icon. A logo may take a few months to develop, whereas a company’s brand is a little trickier. The brand is the perceived visual and emotional collective response to things like your logo, your advertising strategies, your printed and digital materials and your brand voice.

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Redesign off-track? Here’s how to get a website redesign back on track

Is your site redesign going off-track? Here’s how to stay focused and get the redesign you need to meet your business goals.

At a time when user demands across all platforms are at a peak, it can be difficult to pinpoint your audience’s goals. Understanding your users influences every aspect of your interface, design and content, and it is the difference between repeat visitors and conversions, and frustrated naysayers.

Thankfully, the team at Consensus has developed a unique and simple strategy to keep our projects and clients focused on the creating the best solutions for their users.

When it comes to determining user goals, start with 3 key pieces of information: business goals, target audience, and a focus on goals versus tasks. These 3 things will help you lay out a clear strategy that gets at the crux of what your experience needs to accomplish.

1. Ruthlessly define your businesses goals.

Ascertaining the objectives of the design beforehand can save you a lot of wasted hours. There’s nothing more frustrating than sinking time into something that looks great, but doesn’t accomplish the goal of the organization in a meaningful way.

Common site goals include:

  • Marketing: Including generating leads and engaging existing customers, also increasing awareness
  • Sales & Support: Providing support and easy ways for sign-ups and assistance to improve customer satisfaction
  • Content Contributor and Thought Leadership: Generating engaging content that improves site traffic and overall trust and reliability

2. Know what motivates your users

Figuring out who will be using your product and knowing your audience is the meat of this whole process.

To do this, we create a “Motivator map” — we like this approach because it helps us tease out the sometimes not-so-obvious things your users are trying to accomplish. This requires research, stakeholder interviews, and as much pertinent information gathering as possible to understand important data points like:

  • Personal background, including age, gender, family status
  • Professional Background, occupation, income level, education
  • Psychographics, this pertains to motivations, pain points, interests, etc.

All of these, when combined, allow you to craft a motivator map that can be combined with end user goals and contrasted in specific scenarios or ‘day-in-the-life’ narratives.

3. Differentiate between user goals and user tasks

Being able to parse out the difference between a User Goal and a User Task is as simple as creating a funnel that forces you to look at those newly acquired goals from a big picture perspective.

Tasks are the portion of those goals that are required to reach a certain outcome. For example, if someone’s end goal is to make a charitable donation, user tasks would include navigating to the donation page, entering their credentials, entering an amount to donate. By knowing what the end goal is, tasks can be drastically simplified: Include a donate button with pre-filled information, making a multi-step process that much less of a pain.


From a design, research, and content generation standpoint, gathering information allows marketers and business leaders unique insights into who is using their product or resource and sets up a journey that leads them from point A, to point B in the easiest, most efficient method possible. Taking your users key-end goals and putting them at the forefront of your design while allowing secondary actions to take a backseat ensures that your audience gets to what they need when they need it.

And, in the long-run having these areas of the project defined reduces management costs, reduces the time it takes to complete tasks, and improves visitor satisfaction.

Solving Targeted Marketing’s “Ick” Factor: Creating Irresistible Content offers

A simple rubric for creating irresistible content offers that convert.

As audiences become increasingly wary of marketing messages that follow them around the internet — and resistant to those same ads, our jobs as marketers are getting more challenging.

Our answer: irresistible content offers that immediately resonate, and cannot be ignored.

Here, our 3 steps to creating content your audience MUST HAVE:

1. Audience Mindset
Go beyond job title and function and think: “What does my audience need? How can I help them do their job better?”

This is all about taking a deliberately audience-centric approach to delivering the right content offer. Forget about what you want to say about your product or service; think about what your audience needs to know. You are publishing for them, not for you. Make a list of the key points or themes each target audience segment needs to hear, and then craft your offer around addressing those points.

We took this approach when we created the “5 Minute Guide to SDMA” — an infographic about a new life-saving test for cats and dogs — and generated over 500 leads in just under 3 months. Why did it work? Because it was positioned as a solution to our audience’s problem that was also considerate of their time.

2. The purchase funnel determines your medium.
Where is your audience in their understanding of your product and how it can solve their problems? Are you creating awareness for a new product’s features and benefits, or are you trying to drive your audience toward a final purchase? Each moment in the consideration funnel demands different types of content, and a different amount of information.

We are huge fans of “snackable” content — content that’s crisply-written, highly-visual and easily-digestible, in the form of infographics, 30-second silent videos, or slideshows. This kind of content is ideal for the early stages of creating awareness, and it’s also highly-shareable.

One example of snackable video content we created for a client earned the most impressions among their highly targeted Facebook audience than ever before. Even better: we repurposed it into an email campaign that also delivered results.

Snackable content is fun to create and consume. On the other end of the spectrum, highly-researched whitepapers, ebooks and case studies drive folks from consideration to purchase by offering them proof that your product or service works — exactly what decision-makers need to justify an investment in a new service.

3. Solve their pain point.
Positioning your content in a way that solves your audience’s pain points is everything. What, exactly, is their top worry, their biggest fear? Does your offer give them the gift of time, money, knowledge, or all of the above?

We think of positioning as “better than another infographic.” Which is to say, we’re saturated with infographic offers; our designers and content developers are more creative than that.

Case in point: for one of our clients, our creative team collaborated to create a highly-visual and incredibly effective “Roadmap to Customer Engagement” that laid out a plan for executives who wanted to improve customer satisfaction metrics.

Distilling a complex topic into a digestible guide, laying out a conceivable plan of action into an easy-to-understand roadmap, providing trusted research in an authoritative whitepaper — these are all different ways we position content offers to make them irresistible to your target prospects.

Responsive design slowing you down?

Has the promise of responsive design delivered for you?

One of the most talked about areas with any new client or prospect is the importance of a “mobile ready” experience. If the client is even a bit web savvy the term, “responsive” (short for responsive web design) makes it into the conversation. Ethan Marcotte was credited for the phrase Responsive Web Design several years ago and first introduced it in his A List Apart article, “Responsive Web Design”.

Our good friends at the NNGroup define responsive design as follows, “a development technique that detects the client type and dynamically adjusts the layout of a site according to the size of the screen on which it is displayed. Thus, the same content may be displayed in a three-column format on a desktop, two-column format on a tablet, and one-column format on a smartphone”.

But let’s face it, while the benefits of a responsive approach (supports a variety of screen sizes with a single implementation, offers content and feature unity and potentially saves on development time) are many, this approach is no longer good enough. Bloated responsive experiences are crushing the user experience (and your conversions).

It’s time to focus on what matters most to the mobile user – speed, readability and UI clarity. As more and more emphasis is placed on supporting “micro moments” across a user’s journey and Google writes about the importance of sub, three-second response times, (The AMP Project will be covered in a future post) one thing is clear – cramming a bunch of desktop-designed elements into a small area and trying to deliver them over a less than optimal network connection plagues the success of responsive design.

At Consensus, we’ve successfully turned to an “adaptive design” approach (and I need to give a shoutout to one of my former colleagues Scott Jehl, who tried to beat me over the head with a concept he called “Progressive Enhancement”, a sort of precursor to adaptive design). Adaptive design is a version of responsive design in which the server detects the capabilities of a device and only sends the content and features that meet a user’s needs. While some approaches focus specifically on the type of device, we try and stay true to the business needs and primary user goals.

Here is brief outline of our approach as it applies to our adaptive thinking:

1. Mobile factoring. Really focus on the goals of your mobile users and do not support more than 5 primary tasks from the home page (and ensure your search is lightening fast). Hamburger menus were a great novelty, but let’s face it, your users want to get in and get out – user attention is at a premium.

2. Readability. One of the most important factors in a successful mobile experience is readability. Mobile devices have limited pixel real estate, which means you will be tempted to fit a lot of information into a small area – don’t do it! Text content HAS to be legible. A few heuristic rules for mobile – text should be at least 14px, line height and letter spacing are appropriate based on the font type and screen contrast.

3. Speed. The research teams at Google continue to emphasize the importance of speed (< 3 seconds response times). While technology advances assist in this area, we can control the experience by limiting the number of elements, focusing on core user tasks and using technology that supports nanosecond response times.

4. Design for micro-moments. The mobile device will be used “on the go.” Users often have to quickly accomplish one core function in a mobile experience – this includes things such as find-a-doc, contact a location and login.

5. Make an amazing first impression. Your mobile experience doesn’t get a second chance. If you disappoint the first time, you can bet (with 80 percent confidence) a user won’t be back. Show just what users need to know to get started—nothing more, nothing less. Keep it simple and you will see an increase in usage.

6. Design for the finger. When you’re designing mobile experiences, it’s best to make your targets big enough so that they’re easy for users to tap. Your UI primitives should be 30px to 40px in size. Also, it’s important to remember the height and width of input and search fields!

7. Plan to land. Many times landing pages or article detail pages are overlooked in the planning process on mobile devices. All of that fantastic SEO and media planning work and the user lands on an experience that feels like Professor Swearingen’s algorithm class! Keep the experience simple and contextual.

8. Emotion. A great user experience is about emotion. It is the little things that can make your user experience truly elegant and memorable. By injecting subtle details—like micro-animations or animated feedbacks—into design, you can make users feel like they are interacting with something that has a personality.

Want to learn more? Please feel free to contact us at

High Fidelity Prototyping

Critical parts of user-centered design, such as prototyping and usability testing, are often misunderstood and may appear to increase the cost of a Web project. But these design methods actually have their legitimacy in cost effective development. Though they add a few percent to the development expenses up-front, they can reduce the cost of making changes due to unanticipated client and user requirements by 10 to 100 times.

Prototyping can save you both time and money because it’s a fast and inexpensive way to convey behaviors, what a requirement specification fails to do. Since prototypes can visualize the product’s workings to the client, you can deal with the shortcomings and misconceptions that tend to appear as the site, tablet or mobile app takes form.

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The Secret to Constructing Crazy Effective Media Campaigns

Or, how to distill the complexity of audience targeting, channel options, timing, and analytics into focused campaigns that convert.

As marketers, we’ve never had more options for advertising our products and services to our desired audience. And with increased spending on social advertising, it’s clear programmatic digital media campaigns are here to stay. Creating effective media campaigns has never been more exciting — or more complicated.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the prospect of creating long-term, complex omni-channel campaigns. With all the consumer data we have to work with, it’s important to have a strong media strategy in place in order to make the most of your budget. Targeting your audience is one thing, but speaking to your audience across multiple channels, with multiple offers over an extended time period takes an incredible amount of thought and planning.

The truth is, constructing exceptional omni-channel campaigns requires a fanatical dedication to data analysis, a deep understanding of your audience, airtight organization, and focus.

Here are the 5 steps we take to constructing exceptionally effective media campaigns.

1. Stay Focused on Your Goal
Before you start to create ads and pick your channels, you need to be clearly focused on the desired outcome of your campaign. Are you hoping to generate leads? Drive sales? Simply bring more traffic to your website? All of these are valid goals, but each requires a very different strategy, tactics, landing page environments, and possibly budget.

Different channels have different ad formats and different levers for controlling your audience targeting. It’s critical to stay focused on your number one goal with every campaign, in order to present a consistent message across channels and tactics, and build toward your end result.

2. The Magic Behind Audience and Channels
Understanding your audience is key to success in any kind of media campaign. Whether you’re looking at Personas, Segments, or Technographics, what you need to know is: where does your audience spend time online, what kind of content do they engage with, and what are their pain points.

It’s critical to be where your audience is. If your segment is more likely to engage with content on Facebook than they are on LinkedIn, why spend the money on LinkedIn’s higher CPCs? If you know your audience is more likely to research something online before buying, it may make sense to allocate more of your budget to paid search.

These behavioral insights into your audience should play a large role in constructing your media roll out plan.

3. The Right Content for Each Channel
Once you know how you want to engage your audience, you’ll need to understand more specifically how those users will respond to different content on different channels. For instance, we’ve found that users for one client are 25% more likely to convert on the same landing page with the same content offer when coming from Facebook than they are when presented with similar ads on LinkedIn.

This is where we recognized that this client’s users are willing to digest long-form content when presented with it on Facebook, while on LinkedIn we needed to present them with brief, more easily consumable content.

Seeing and being able to adjust to these trends with a highly specific audience is a great step toward building out a highly successful multi-channel media campaign.

4. Timing Really Is Everything
The time of year in which you run your ads can dramatically impact the level of engagement you are likely to receive.

There are obvious things to remember – engagement generally dips around the holidays, and if you are running a B2B campaign, take care around times of year when employees may be out on vacation. But there are also more specific calendar items you need to consider. Is there a seasonal push to get people to sign up for your service in September, but you also have a 3 month sales cycle? How many touches does it usually take with your audience before they are willing to convert?

Beyond the overall campaign timing, you also need to know how users will engage with content in various mediums throughout the life of your campaign. We recently ran a B2B campaign around some very specific subject matter, pushing thought leadership content. Because the subject was highly specific, when the search campaign launched (which was focused around similarly specific keywords) we saw very little traffic. But, after our campaign creative made the rounds on outbound channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Display, we started seeing an increase in searches on our highly targeted keywords.

Your channels will work together over time; pay attention and then allocate your budgets to take advantage of the moments when users are most likely to convert.

5. Data Visualization Empowers Effective Optimization
As with everything else in digital marketing, measurement is crucial to sustained success. You don’t have to wait until the end of your campaign to take stock in the numbers.

Connect your systems to a Data Visualization tool and create some automated dashboards, so you can tell at a moment’s notice what’s working, what needs adjusting, and what is just wasting your precious advertising budget. This is key in learning which variations of ads are resonating with your audience, what search terms are really driving users to your landing page, and when creative fatigue has set in.

There are endless ways to tweak a campaign when you’re able to easily measure performance, and these tweaks can make a huge difference in both your ad costs and ultimate conversions or sales.

There are so many details to consider when you’re developing and planning your campaign, but these are the pillars we follow when creating successful campaigns for our clients. Having a strong plan in place ahead of time, and being able to adjust on-the-fly based on performance can make all the difference in the world between a campaign that delivers a high ROI, and one that you have to chalk up as an operating expense.

Do you need help crafting your next successful omni-channel media campaign? Reach out to our team of crack marketers, designers, content developers and decision scientists. We would love to help!

Why the Headless CMS Changes Everything

How the headless CMS empowers content creators to publish quickly, everywhere, anytime. And why every company should adopt it now.

As a former CMS product manager and leader of an emerging technologies team, we continue to evaluate solutions for our clients across a number of technologies (PHP, .NET, React, Ionic and Angular) and vendors — Acquia, Kentico, Sitecore, WordPress, etc..

In doing this, we focus on many areas – product features, roadmap strategy, market presence, capabilities, mobile support, cloud deployment and integration with components such as marketing and commerce. Read more

How Content Marketing Can Change Behavior

The 3 steps to creating content that engages, persuades, and ultimately, changes behavior.

We’re a bunch of endlessly curious word nerds who love to tell a good story backed up by research and a strong point of view.

But more to the point, we love to create content that changes behavior, because we’re suckers for outcomes that drive business metrics. Read more

How to Design CTAs for a Maximum CTR

Our 5 rules for how to design calls-to-action that get clicks, every time.

We’re inundated with digital display ads these days. But how many times has one of those little ads made you click?

What grabs a person’s interest as they’re browsing through the latest political Buzzfeed article or pulls them away from another HuffPo Top 10 Most Adorable Puppy Moments?

Instinctively we know (and the data supports this) that relevant, actionable copy and supreme clickability are the 2 keys to CTA performance. But what does that really mean in terms of design? At Consensus there are a few guidelines and best practices we follow when we design CTAs in order to make the biggest impact and get audiences clicking.

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