When is a good time to re-brand?

Saw an interesting post in my e-mail today (care of the generally excellent CB Kickstart newsletter): When indeed is a good time to execute a rebrand for your organization? What should the purpose of a rebrand be? What should you look out for to make sure you’re not executing one for the wrong reasons? It all depends on your organization’s particular situation, but the Johnson Banks piece below is a nice little writeup on the topic.

Johnson Banks – Why brands change

When is a good time to re-brand?

One of the most powerful and legitimate reasons to change is a fundamental change in business circumstances – a merger, or a takeover, for example. Recently two London based property companies, Development Securities and Cathedral Group merged, and rather than subsume one into the other they created a new brand, U+I (United and Industrious). When Singapore airlines sold their majority stake in Virgin Atlantic, there was a point at which the Delta board would have looked at the Virgin brand and had to decide – do we keep it, or do we ‘fold’ it into our brand? Thus far, they have established clear links between the brands without formally merging them.

Sometimes an organisation’s core market changes. This might mean that a brand that was created to ‘fit’ with one product or market no longer works. So Shelter’s previous symbol used a piece of typewritten, ‘angry’ type, which matched their original mission to concentrate on the homeless. But a gradual switch in focus to bad housing meant that needed to be reflected in their rebrand.

When is a bad time to rebrand?

When the original commissioning team moves on, branding’s biggest biggest problems arrive. The first issue is boredom. After about three years, an internal team, their agencies, their advisors – everyone – has had enough, and people start to tinker. Yet, paradoxically, about two-to-three years in is precisely when a new brand has just started to seep into the public consciousness, and arguably that’s exactly when a brand should become more consistent, not less.

The next big problem is ‘not invented here’ syndrome. New teams, often new directors arrive, and the human desire to ‘make a mark’ kicks in. Someone lets the internal team tinker, and slowly things unravel. Every new business manager for every major branding company in the world keeps an eye out for changes at the top of major organisations – because this is when existing branding schemes are at their most vulnerable, new brooms are brought in, and the sweeping starts.

With some recent rebrands there’s also a sense of if in doubt blame the brand. At launch in 2007, the previous Southbank design scheme seemed like a powerful and flexible idea that could flex and modulate across the institution’s communications, but within five years had been relegated to just the ‘logo at the bottom of the poster’.

Google’s comprehensive, up-to-date list of mobile phone and device resolutions

The fine folks at Google have a page up on their Material Design site that lists popular device resolutions, including exactly what values you’d want to input into Google Chrome to accurately emulate that device’s screen:

Why do so many websites offer 3 levels / plans for their SaaS product?

A random conversation I had this week at the Canadian Football League reminded me of a question I was asked and looked up the answer to nearly a decade ago: Why do so many websites offer three levels or plans to choose from when it comes time to purchase their product? And really, what is the optimal amount of choices to make available to a potential client?

The answer is multifaceted, but as you’d expect, the prevailing wisdom is that 3 choices – and elevating one as the best or most popular – works best. Here’s a quick rundown as to why.

The Centre Stage Effect. Formal psychological studies have been done on the positioning of products on a page, and it appears that consumers infer that the middle option is placed there because of its popularity (a self-fulfilling prophecy if there ever was one).

The Compromise Effect. UXmatters has a great paper on shortcut decision making; it mentions a research study that had one set of study participants be offered two microwaves at a $110 and $180 price point; participants chose fairly evenly, with a small majority preferring the cheaper option. But when a second set of study participants was offered three options, a clear winner emerged: The middle price point. The conclusion? When a consumer can’t decide whether to go high or low, a compromise option that sits in the middle is what our mostly logical minds push us towards.

Also: The Bandwagon Effect. Further, studies have illustrated that when consumers are pointed towards a choice and given the information that it is the most popular choice amongst their peers, the middle choice becomes even more compelling. Basically, consumers who may have little information at the time of their purchase as to what “level” fits them best will use whatever information is at hand – like the popularity of a choice – to finalize their decision.

Controlling the PHP error reporting level of WordPress

One of the annoyances of working with WordPress I’ve had for ages is trying to use the error_reporting() function to do something like temporarily turn off deprecation warnings; WordPress ignores these settings entirely.

Turns out the cause of this is the wp_debug_mode() function, which gets called by wp-settings.php and sets error_reporting(E_ALL). As a result, putting your own call to the error_reporting() function in wp-config.php won’t have any effect; you need to place your call after wp_debug_mode() runs. One smart solution is to create a very simple mu-plugin for this purpose.

Of course, it goes without saying that ignoring errors and warnings is done at your own risk.

Making scheduled posts in WordPress public so they can be scheduled / scraped on social media

The basics of scheduling in WordPress are quite simple: If you give a WordPress post a published date set in the future, it’ll remain “hidden” on your website until that date and time arrives. It’ll then appear, right on time, at the top of your list of public posts.

But here’s an interesting problem: Social media is now a major driver (maybe the driver) of traffic to digital media websites. When you schedule your post in WordPress, you’ll also naturally want to schedule that post to appear on Facebook and Twitter – but that would require the WordPress post to be public, which in its “future” post status isn’t yet.

// Allow site visitors to view posts in the "future" post status.
function show_future_posts( $posts ) {
   global $wp_query, $wpdb;

   if ( is_single() && $wp_query->post_count == 0 ) {
      $posts = $wpdb->get_results($wp_query->request);
   }
 
   return $posts;
}
add_filter('the_posts', 'show_future_posts');

Reference:

What makes a great product manager?

There’s a terrific post by Brandon Chu on Medium titled MVPM: Minimum Viable Product Manager that does a great job at explaining that while it’s impossible to have in-depth knowledge of the technical, business and user experience legs of the product tripod, knowing key elements in each area makes you so much more able to handle the decision making that you’ll be doing every minute of the day.

How to drop a MS SQL Server database

Dropping a database in MS SQL Server is not a one-step process; you’ll need to do the following:

USE master;
ALTER DATABASE [databasename] SET SINGLE_USER WITH ROLLBACK IMMEDIATE;
DROP DATABASE [databasename];

Reference:

How are Canadians using their mobile devices? What kind of devices do they own?

The folks at Yahoo! / Flurry Analytics regularly post Flurry Insights, gleaned from data accumulated from their analytics SDK that’s embedded in hundreds of thousands of mobile devices. Back in 2015, they posted data they’d accumulated about mobile device usage in the Canadian market:

time-spent-canada

Some quick notes from the above:

  • 86% of time on a mobile device is spent in an app; only 14% of the time are users in a web browser
  • Social media apps (Facebook, Twitter and various others) gobble up 37% of time – roughly a third of the time someone is using their phone/tablet – all on their own
  • Playing music, reading an e-book or watching a video is how 9% of time is spent by Canadians on their mobile device

Of course, that’s not to say that you can’t create an app that takes up 50% of someone’s time on their devices, even over the long haul. But it’s clear that for the average Canadian, there’s only a small slice of time that they’re likely to spend using the new app you’ve created for them.

Next up: What kind of devices are in use out there? Flurry Analytics has a second post (from 2016 this time) with a global form factor breakdown:

mobile-device-form-factors-2016

References:

How to get WordPress post permalinks directly from the MySQL database

While generating a CSV of old-and-new URLs for a site I’ve been busy migrating to WordPress, I ran into this brilliant bit of semi-working code to get the permalink for Posts using a pure SQL query (for MySQL):

SELECT wpp.post_title, wpp.guid, wpp.post_date,
       REPLACE( REPLACE( REPLACE( REPLACE( wpo.option_value, '%year%', DATE_FORMAT(wpp.post_date,'%Y') ), '%monthnum%', DATE_FORMAT(wpp.post_date, '%m') ), '%day%', DATE_FORMAT(wpp.post_date, '%d') ), '%postname%', wpp.post_name ) AS permalink
  FROM wp_posts wpp
  JOIN wp_options wpo
    ON wpo.option_name = 'permalink_structure'
 WHERE wpp.post_type = 'post'
   AND wpp.post_status = 'publish'
 ORDER BY wpp.post_date DESC;

References:

How to disable WordPress’s internal search system (while still using its search page templates)

On websites like Sportsnet.ca ( http://www.sportsnet.ca/ ) and Maclean’s ( http://www.macleans.ca/ ), the amount of content on those WordPress websites long ago exceeded the level that the built-in WordPress search system can capably handle.

Third-party search solutions such as Google CSE (Custom Search Engine) are being utilized instead, but there is a momentary slowdown before the page loads that is caused by the WordPress site executing its own internal search query before it displays the search results page. In order to remove this delay (and the unnecessary database request), add the following code to the theme’s functions.php file:

// Disable WordPress's internal search query (as much as we can), letting Google CSE handle that.
function internal_search_disable( $query ) {
    if ( !is_admin() && $query->is_main_query() ) {
        if ( $query->is_search ) {
            // Add a filter that effectively returns no results ever.
            add_filter('posts_where', 'internal_search_filter_where');
        }
    }
    return $query;
}
add_action('pre_get_posts', 'internal_search_disable');
 
// The WHERE search filter for disabling the internal search system.
function internal_search_filter_where( $where = '' ) {
    $where = " AND 0 = 1";
 
    // Once added, remove the filter to stop affecting other queries on the page.
    remove_filter('posts_where', 'internal_search_filter_where');
    return $where;
}