On Social & Viral Marketing

I was recently asked about using social marketing to make branded content more discoverable, and how to use social to foster a deeper level of engagement with a brand. They asked for examples. Here's my off-the-cuff answer with some hemming and hawing of course--what consultant doesn't like to hem and haw?

Can a Brand Go Viral?

This is still kinda a tough one. Despite what you've read everywhere on the web social is still an emerging space, and brands are still trying to figure out how to make it work for them. I think the most effective current strategies are to emulate the things that work for individuals who are creating their own personal brands through their engagement with social. AKA, find someone who is doing something really interesting, and successful, and copy it. One example of this: I have recently seen a campaign in my Tumblr feed by Holiday Inn, which seems to be copying Humans of New York:


Humans shows up in people's feeds because it gets shared, and because they like the page, and then you read them because we love to read about each other, we love each other's stories, we love to see all the ways we're connected. Holiday Inn shows up in people's feeds because they pay to be there. But they're trying to associate their brand with the human story angle, with a dash of upworthy 'we're all in this together', and hope that association sticks. The trouble with this for me is that Humans comes out of one person's passion, and his singular focus doing what he loves to do, whereas the Holiday Inn campaign is obviously cooked up by an ad agency. It doesn't feel honest, because it's trying to sell that you should stay at Holiday Inn by telling these human stories. To me the various Dove campaigns--The Real Beauty Campaign including the Real Beauty Sketches web videos--are still the absolute best when it comes to this kind of thing, because they aren't selling Dove at all. They are asking questions about beauty that women are currently trying to come to terms with--body image, age, etc. That said, there are still tons of critics out there who have all kinds of negative things to say about the campaign. In a post Marshall McLuhan world we just have a hard time trusting big brands to be the keepers of these difficult conversations, or to be the representatives of these values.

How About Mini-Viral?

I think the current challenge with social is that we don't tend to think of it in a targeted way--going viral is the antithesis of targeting after all--but I think there could be another approach, which is to think of mini-communities that you can offer actual value to, and attempt to go viral within that mini-community. Mini-viral? It's not sexy, but one of the things I learned working on a recent project for a company specializing in workplace law is that they are constantly writing very specific blog posts, and articles about changes in workplace law in the different states, and concerning different topics, and then basically giving all that great insight, and information away for free on their blogs, and newsletters. And then of course posting all that to LinkedIn, and Twitter. A series of user interviews led me to understand how much HR professionals, and corporate lawyers eat that stuff up. It's apparently tricky to keep abreast of all the changes in law that affect the workplace--e-cigarettes being one of the things that's changing all over the country right now--and rather than have to read law journals, and court decisions, etc. these lawyers, and HR folks just want someone smart to sum it all up, and tell them how these changes affect them, and the companies they work for. They subscribe to the feeds, and newsletters of the firm I was working for, and then do a morning read of all the new articles that apply to them. They create a relationship with the firm through these articles, and then, when the firm wants to do something a bit more marketing focused--like promote a new event, or conference--that goes in the feed too. The users are more likely to be interested in these events because they already have a relationship with the company, and might even feel a connection to one of the firm's representatives who will attend the event because that person may have authored one of the articles they've read, and found useful. And, of course, the firm continues to showcase their expertise in all aspects of workplace law through these articles, which is marketing in its own right. They are constantly communicating their expertise. I think for a big brand wanting to increase discoverability and engagement the idea would be to offer some kind of actual value to users, like the firm I worked for does. Provide information that that audience can actually use. Identify specific user segments, identify their very real desires (what they aren't getting right now content wise), and then figure out how the brand can provide that information. De-emphasize marketing, make information and analysis the most important thing, and then get these user segments to subscribe to their specific feed, and then, and only then, market events etc. to them sparingly. I think the only other option is to do something like Holliday Inn--figure out the emotional and aspirational messages that the brand is aligned with, and then figure out a fun way to reinforce that alignment through some kind of clever social campaign, like the way YouTube is currently marketing itself as the voice of young women: http://www.tubefilter.com/2014/04/08/youtube-nyc-subway-ads-michelle-phan-bethany-mota-rosanna-pansino/ Or the Dove beauty campaign perhaps. But that's not something that's easy to pull off. To me, the key is always:

  • Figure out who your audience is
  • Try to understand what they want
  • Figure out the simplest, easiest, lowest cost way to give it to them
  • Determine the ways that giving it to them helps meet business goals
  • And then line 'em up

I was just invited to write another book...

by the Interaction Design Foundation.

In their words:

You have been nominated by several of our readers to publish with us. One of the reasons given for your nomination is:

'Jason Nunes is the co-author of a very inspiring introduction to user centered design'

Like our other authors, you get lots of writing invitations. However, this one is different: We are the first and only Open Access publisher of top-quality books in the world. We offer complete, unrestricted and free access to our books in online version.

Thanks, guys! I'm flattered, and I'm tempted. I like what the organization stands for, and they seem to have published some really interesting ID books from some smart people.

Only problem is, I have no idea what to write.

What do you guys thinks? Are there any UX/ID topics that you find fascinating that you'd like to see a book written about? Product strategy from an ID perspective? ID and physical computing? Something about storytelling across multi-platforms (which I'm loathe to call transmedia)? Branding from an ID perspective?

What do you think?

The power of designing for real people

Want to innovate? More importantly, do you want what you design to actually be built, and used by real people? Amos Winters, an engineer from MIT, makes a great case for the value, and power of user-centered design in this TED talk where he presents his under $200 off road wheel chair.

Such a brilliant case study! It would have been perfect for our book--Interactive Design: An Introduction to the Theory and Application of User-centered Design. Maybe we can include it in the next printing. ;-)

"...one of the best new interface books on the market."

Wow! Great review on Embody 3D for our book:

Simply put, Interactive Design is one of the best new interface books on the market. It is comprehensive, easy to understand and extremely relevant using case studies and modern mediums to help connect with the reader. The book is designed for both students and professionals as the concepts are timeless in nature and although some of the topics can be fairly technical the way the book presents information using nice full-page quotes, beautiful diagrams and feature works makes it easy for even a novice to take on board. Although most of the examples cover graphic design interfaces like portable computers and website interfaces, it is absolutely relevant to product designers. The principles are very much universal, things like competitor analysis, user-path diagrams, research, testing are all great ways to improve your product designs. Unusually I don’t have any major faults of this title, so that is definitely saying something! Although it is heavily branded as being a theoretical book the information takes on its own lessons and breaks up the information well. The title is not text heavy or extremely weighty at 224 pages, so for true theologians this might not contain the analysis and literature references you may desire. However for the 99% this book hits all the right spots!

Thanks, guys!

NYFF Convergence

Or "You can have my buzzword when you pry it from my cold dead lips..."

Despite my web 1.0 bias to the term (we beat "convergence" into the ground at every pitch, client meeting, and presentation back in the late 90s) I had a great time at the NY Film Festival's first ever transmedia conference--Convergence.

If you work in advertising, or media and entertainment, "transmedia" as a buzz-word is approaching the late 90s beaten-like-a-dead-horseness of "convergence", but I'd be willing to bet most ordinary folk have no idea what the word means.

At its simplest, what transmedia means is to tell a single story/story experience using different types of media and formats (if you want to get all buzz-wordy, we call 'em "channels" or "platforms"). For example you might tell your main story in the form of a movie at movie theaters, but you might expand upon the world you've created, explore sub-plots and characters, and even do some much needed exposition as a cartoon on TV or the web, in novels, comics, video games, and even games in the real world.

Star Wars is the media property us horse-beaters talk about when we talk about transmedia. In the Star Wars universe (storyverse) a regular old audience member can watch the main story unfold in the 6 blockbuster movies, but more engaged fans have so many other places they can go to learn about the Star Wars world--The Clone Wars TV Show, video games--including the awesome ones created by LEGO--in comics, and novelas, not to mention the legion of fan created content that's out there... which may not be official "canon" but I maintain is still a valuable chunk of transmedia.

I could go on... and I will, in future blog posts. Why? Well, mostly because in some form or other I've been "converging" and involved in the creation of transmedia properties for the past 15 years or so. Not quite as long as the term has been around--Marsh Kinder first wrote about transmedia in 1991--but long enough to have accumulated some thoughts on the subject.

I'd love to hear what you think, what's transmedia to you?

Pre-order Interactive Design: An Introduction to the Theory and Application of User-centered Design

You can pre-order Andy Pratt's and my book--Interactive Design: An Introduction to the Theory and Application of User-Centered Design--on Amazon. The book, published by RockPort Publishing, will ship September 1st.

User experience design is one of the fastest-growing specialties in graphic design. Smart companies realize that the most successful products are designed to meet the needs and goals of real people—the users. This means putting the user at the center of the design process.

This innovative, comprehensive book examines the user-centered design process from the perspective of a designer. With rich imagery, Interactive Design introduces the different UX players, outlines the user-centered design process from user research to user testing, and explains through various examples how user-centered design has been successfully integrated into the design process of a variety of design studios worldwide.

The 22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar

On Twitter, Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats has compiled her 22 rules of good storytelling:
  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

What would you add to the list?

Some great feedback on PDA

from the WILDsound Screenplay Festival...

For the uninitiated, PDA is a dark romcom I wrote in 2010 about a serial killer librarian who abducts a handsome casanova so he can teach her how to date.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from their feedback:

It is a testament to the talent of the writer to have been able to make such a detestable theme comedic and entertaining.


The plot... is great, it’s original, entertaining as well as having that effect of making you want to turn away but keep watching none-the-less, like a car crash, you don’t want to see a dead body but you look anyway.


...we always suggest that people should not change and be true to who they are, but what if they are just horrible people on the inside? Any theme that makes the audience question their own values is going to be great.


Comedy is serious stuff...

Or, just because something's serious, doesn't mean it can't be freakin' funny, yo. Comedian Chris Bliss "explores the inherent challenge of communication, and how comedy opens paths to new perspectives" in this fantastic TED talk. As a writer of serious comedy, and funny serious stuff, and as a Venn diagram nerd, and  a fan of over explaining things, I was excited to watch this. If you're an over analyzer like me, you'll probably enjoy it too.

The Ghost Club - In the news

Horror movie review site, Shock Till You Drop, published a post about The Ghost Club--a film I wrote and acted in, which included new photos, and the trailer.

The film, directed by Hank Blumenthal, finds William Forsythe in a story about a team of reality TV paranormal investigators who have yet to truly "make contact.  They decide to try their luck at an abandoned mansion in the deep-south with a long history of hauntings. As the night unfolds, and the evidence begins to pile up , their skepticism turns to terror, and their initial goal of contact turns into the primal one of just making it out of this real haunted mansion alive.

Learn more about The Ghost Club on Facebook.

Freak Show & Bachelorette Party are being performed

Two of the first plays I ever wrote, Bachelorette Party (my very first), and Freak Show, have been restaged, and are being performed at a theater near you... assuming you're in New York City.

It's a quick, fun night of absurdity, with some darkness tossed in for good measure. Great performances by an ensemble of young up-and-coming actors. Fabulous direction by Li Murillo. All produced for Double Down Theater Co, by Tony White.

Check it out:

Where: The Beckmann Theater @ ATA 314 W 54th St (bet 8th and 9th)

When: Jan 8th @ 5 Jan 9 & 10 @ 8 Jan 14 & 15 @ 5

How...? Tickets are $15, for reservations call 646 430 8978

My first academic paper... The Ghost Club Storyscape: Designing for transmedia storytelling

Check it out, I'm a co-author of The Ghost Club Storyscape: Designing for transmedia storytelling, a paper by Hank Blumenthal, the producer director of The Ghost Club. Here's the abstract:

One of the key questions about transmedia storytelling is how to design a participant's experience across different media so that it is connected and perceived as a whole. We extract four components for building such connections from current work in media studies and production literature and practice. These proposed design components are mythology, canon, character and genre. To test this approach we have designed and developed a group of connected digital media expressions, The Ghost Club Storyscape, to experiment with these four ingredients on multiple media.

The Power of Sticky Notes: Strategies for Identifying and Prioritizing User Experience Goals

Check out this excerpt (currently the lead story on the RockPaperInk blog) from my and Andy Pratt's book, Interactive Design: An Introduction to the Theory and Application of User-Centered Design, due out in September.

The Power of Sticky Notes: Strategies for Identifying and Prioritizing User Experience Goals - RockPaperInk.com.

Blackout Trailer

Please check out the trailer for Blackout, a documentary from Atmosphere Pictures directed by Scott Colthorp, and produced by Meghan Scibona that I've been writing for.

I'm really proud of my small part in this fantastic project. It's about an important issue that is very close to my heart.

If you're interested in updates on when the film will be released, please like the Atmosphere Pictures Facebook page.

Roots and Leaves: Collaboration: Two minds come together to write and design a book


Andy Pratt and I are co-authoring a book called Interaction Design an Introduction by Rockport Publishers, which will be out in September. Andy wrote this great blog post about our writing process, and collaboration in general. I think he makes some great points. Here are Andy's key ingredients for successful collaboration:

  • Trust and respect: Everyone on the team must trust each other and know that the other team members will deliver. Don't focus on what others are doing. Don't micro manage. Do what you do and do it well.

  • Egoless team members: Confidence is important. Be confident in your skill set, your opinions, and your voice. But listen to what others have to say and let others talk. Collaboration is about dialogue. Your contribution is not measured by how much you talk. It's measured both by what you say and how you listen.

  • Clear responsibilities: Everyone needs to be clear on who owns what. Other team members should be able to critique. After all, you're working with professionals who bring their own experience and opinions. A project manager should be able to give their opinions to a designer, a developer to a user experience designer, and so forth. However, in the end, the owner of that decision or task needs to make the final call. And because there is mutual respect and trust within the team, everyone should be comfortable with that.


    What do you think? When you collaborate what are your ingredients?

    More than just a movie...

    The Ghost Club is a fun, roller-coaster ride of a movie, but it's more than that. The Ghost Club is a storyscape that can be experienced in multiple ways, on lots of different kinds of screens--movie, computer, and mobile. Our goal of introducing The Ghost Club through a transmedia storyscape is to emerse fans into an alternate reality that will engage and entertain them, enabling them to discover, explore and even participate in the world of ghosts and hunters... maybe even uncover their own personal haunting.

    The Ghost Club storyscape is told through twitter feeds, websites, exclusive webisodes of The Ghost Club Girls - a prequel series - that will be released to our supporters through Kickstarter, and, my personal favorite, an augmented reality mobile game that lets you hunt your very own ghosts.

    The Ghost Club Augmented Reality iPhone Game from Jason Nunes on Vimeo.

    Donate to The Ghost Club

    Help us finish The Ghost Club

    Last year, close to this time, I was down in Atlanta hunting ghosts. Of course, I didn't find them... so much as they found me.

    The Ghost Club--a film I co-wrote and acted in--is about a reality TV ghost hunting show that has a nasty run-in with real dead ghosts. In other words--be careful what you wish for.

    The film was shot in 2011 in 2 weeks of nights, and is very close to be finished. We just need some finishing touches--sound, special effects, color correction, and a final edit.

    We are raising the money we need on Kickstater, a website that let's you crowd-source funding for creative projects.

    Please consider helping us out.

    Donate to The Ghost Club

    I'm co-writing a book...

    ...titled "Designing Interactions for People" with Andy Pratt creative director at Funny Garbage, fantastic designer and illustrator, and all around awesome dude. Here's the result of our first meeting where we brainstormed the table of contents:

    Stickies are my friends. If there is something they can't do I don't want to know about it.

    We're writing the book for Rockport Publishers. It will be part of their intro to design series.  Our goal is to introduce the basic concepts and process of user-centered design in an engaging, fun and visually interesting way. We are using case studies of wicked cool projects that utilize some aspect of UCD in their process to highlight the different ways to design for real people.

    What about UCD do you think we should talk about?

    Do you have any cool projects that highlight UCD?

    Wanna share 'em?