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ArachnidWorks Welcomes New Project Manager, Joel Layman

project manager joel laymanWhen COVID-19 descended on the U.S. earlier this year, we had no idea how it would affect our business. Fortunately, we’ve been able to stay very busy during the pandemic helping our clients update their messaging, improve their website visibility, and position their brand more effectively in light of the COVID-19 challenges.

Another pleasant surprise over the past six months has been an influx of new clients. Having new people is always exciting, but it was obvious that we were not only going to need a bigger boat, we were going to need to bring on more talent– and not just any talent…we needed a person with the right combination of style and experience to be able to get onboard fast.

How lucky were we to find Joel Layman, a skilled project manager with great marketing chops and a real desire to add value to our customers’ brands! For more than 15 years, Joel’s been coordinating collateral and managing creative teams for organizations like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and STX Lacrosse. We love that he’s a utility guy with cross-over skills in web development, video production, social media, copywriting, public relations, retail initiatives, event planning, and grassroots marketing. He’s primarily a project manager, but we love that he’s got the big picture knowledge to understand how all the pieces need to work together to turn a complex vision into reality on behalf of our clients.

“I am beyond thrilled to join ArachnidWorks and help take the team and their clients to the next level,” says Joel. “It’s clear that Monica and everyone at AW are passionate about delivering top quality results to create true partnerships with each and every client. I have always loved building brands through meaningful stories and I am excited to bring my skills and experience to the group on both the agency and brand side.”

Top 5 Post COVID-19 Digital Marketing Trends

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Call it a quarantine, lockdown, shelter-in-place, or a “safer at home” order, unprecedented public health measures forced by the global pandemic drove millions of people around the world into virtual seclusion. During this time, apps and platforms that were once used entirely for entertainment and personal connection have been hijacked for use by digital markers to reach consumers.

However, as the number and severity of COVID-19 cases begins to trend more positively, and some countries and US states are beginning to open back up, these same digital markers are wondering: how different will things look over the next year? Will things go back to normal? How has the novel coronavirus affected consumer behavior? And how will that affect digital marketing attempts to reach a society of consumers that have made significant changes in many areas of ordinary life?

Retailers are moving away from the on-demand inventory model. Extreme fluctuations in customer demand for everything from home gym equipment, to toilet paper, to hand sanitizer, to hair color, caused many retailers who were caught unaware and understocked to leave money on the table when supply could not meet the demand. Healthcare suppliers were unable to provide adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including disposable masks, isolation gowns, and gloves.

Even though ecommerce, which has exploded in recent years and skyrocketed during lockdown, will always be a fact of modern life, there will likely always be a demand for brick-and-mortar stores. Perhaps surprisingly, some had been trending towards online shopping long before the novel coronavirus locked us in our homes. Some retailers are moving away from ecommerce and building in what supply chain strategists are calling a “plan for uncertainty”.

Value is greater than low pricing, even in times of crisis. Consumers choose value over lower prices even where there is an uncertain supply. Product lines that sold at a premium price experienced higher demand than less alternatives during the early days of COVID-19, which continued even after things began to normalize. Multiple scams and faulty products peaked during the height of the pandemic, causing consumers to opt for purchasing higher priced items to ensure better quality.

People appear to value getting the product they need and can trust at an elevated price over getting stuck with inferior product they were able to purchase cheaply. Gearing marketing strategy towards improving brand awareness and developing trust is now more valuable than ever.

Consumers are more skeptical than in the past. Misleading claims and false information were so prevalent during the early days of the pandemic left many people concerned and confused. Conspiracy theories, half-truths, and politically motivated rumors abounded, made worse by the 24-hour news cycle and the additional hours of screen time that became routine for many adults.

Although distrust about “fake news” is now rampant, digital marketers can address these suspicions by using a strategy based on relatable customer experience, interactive content, and a focus on personalization.

Loss aversion psychology is a powerful marketing tool that is on the rise. Loss aversion describes the tendency of people to strongly prefer to avoid losses rather than acquire gains. Studies show that loss aversion is twice as powerful psychologically as the acquisition of something. The uncertainty that came with COVID-19 really ramped up fear and apprehension, which digital marketers used to drive sales. Expect marketing strategies based on loss aversion to move to the forefront as we move into a post-COVID marketplace.

Out-of-home ad spending is decreasing. Billboards, signage, and nearly every type of outdoor or non-digital advertisement has seen rapid decline, while all types of online marketing has increased significantly. This trend was accelerated pre-COVID, but has spiked due to increased screen time during quarantines.

Digital marketing has a significant advantage over traditional ads that require space, materials, and other resources. Digital ads allow marketers to leverage live video content– enhanced by AI if needed. Advertising in real-time with video marketing helps create a customer journey with digital touchpoints; content marketing excels because it focuses on the customer experience, interactive content and personalization.

Advertising & Marketing in the Time of COVID

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It would be hard to find a segment of American life that has not been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic—and sales and marketing are no exception. Influencer Marketing Hub (IMH), a US-based marketing strategy company, recently surveyed 237 brands of all sizes to see how they the coronavirus public health crisis has affected them, and combined those results with additional COVID-related sales and marketing statistics to create an overall snapshot of lessons and trends.

General Findings

• Some industries have been and will continue to be more affected than others. Luxury, travel, and service-related companies are struggling to survive, while business that have been classified as “essential” are struggling to meet demand.
• Companies that rely on “old media” are especially at risk. Prestigious publishers have already ceased publication of well-known, long-running publications, with more likely to come.
• Both small (less than 50 employees) and large companies (more than 1,000 employees) surveyed express significant concern over the coronavirus’s impact, and are strategizing carefully about how to market their way through the economic downturn.

Findings from the IMH Survey:

Ad Spends

• 69% of brands expect they will decrease their ad spend in 2020. Many companies indicated that there is either a high likelihood that they will be decreasing their ad spend this year, the majority from regions still in lockdown.
• 25% indicated they will increase their ad spend during the latter half of 2020.
Whereas the majority of companies indicated that they have switched to survival mode, it was interesting to note that one company out of four indicated that it would increase marketing activities.

COVID-19 has had a massive impact on the media, but this impact has been very uneven. There are clear winners and losers:

• Winners:
o There has been increased interest in news. This sector saw a 52% increase in ad spending from before the global impact.
o Other areas to have seen rises in ad spending in that timeframe include hobbies & interests (31%), technology & computing (14%), and education (13%). Notably, these are all activities that can be consumed at home.
o e-Commerce companies doubled their ad spending in the four weeks between February 17 and March 9—a trend that has continued. Ad spend from e-Commerce sites doubled from $4.8 million for a trailing four-week period starting on February 17 to $9.6 million for the week of March 9. Brands that operate both an online and physical presence have moved their marketing to the web.

• Losers
o Of course, many sectors have cut back on their advertising activity. At 72%, the most significant drop in ad spending is for law, government, and politics
o At a spending slowdown of 65% is the travel sector, making it the most significantly affected private-sector group.
o There were also noticeable drops in ad spending on sports (40%), science (26%), and family & parenting (24%).

Social Media

Especially in places that experienced strict lockdown, people turned to social media in increasing numbers for information. They have also used videoconferencing and messaging apps to remain in contact with families, friends, work colleagues, and clients.

• In March when stay-at-home orders began, nearly three quarters of the firms surveyed reported having slowed down their social media posting after closing or slowing down activities. This number rose significantly after social media managers settled into working from home.

• Early in the pandemic, IMH’s research indicated that 34% of respondents indicated a shift in social network preference from Instagram to Twitter, presumably because of its focus on news. A significant number of respondents reported increasing their Facebook usage, although this may have been more to check in on their family and friends than for work activities.

• Facebook has seen a definite surge in the use of both Messenger and WhatsApp over the last few months, reporting 70% more time spent across their apps and a doubling of live views in a week. They saw messaging increase over 50% and time in group calling (calls with three or more participants) increase by over 1,000% during March. The countries with the strictest lockdowns have seen the highest use in messaging apps.

Email Campaigns

A possibly surprising stat relates to email open rates during the time that consumers stay at home.

• Email open rates have risen by up to 25% week-on-week in retail. Clearly, people have more time on their hands at the moment and can devote more of it to opening and reading their emails.
• Daily email open rates are generally increasing by 5-10% each week.
• Email opens and resulting interactions have increased more on desktop than mobile. Clearly, more people are working at home on their laptops, which they use to check their emails, rather than their smartphones, as they have previously. Reading email communications on the desktop provides a less distracting browsing experience than on mobile devices, and consumers are taking more time to read longer content.

A study by Pattern89 has noticed a shift in the types of imagery used by brands in social media ads during the pandemic. They found 27.4% fewer images showing models hugging or shaking hands in ads on Facebook and Instagram. According to the study, images and videos displaying water splashing, hand/face washing, or cleaning have risen at six times the regular rate.

Last week, despite the prediction that the global ad market would shrink by 7%, or $42 billion, a new study from Viamedia shows marketers are quickly adapting. According to the study, 83% of US businesses have overhauled their marketing strategies for a post-pandemic world. (Viamedia’s findings are based on a survey among business owners [59%] and advertising agencies on behalf of businesses [29%], conducted between May 15 and May 27.)

The study found that despite the economic downturn, there remains a strong need for advertising—45% of business owners from various industries say they’re seeking creative incentives for advertising. 40% of respondents also reported an annual marketing budget of at least $75,000—over half of which was allotted to advertising.
More than 46% of respondents say they’re offering incentives and promotions to drive sales and continue operating during the downturn, while 10% have shifted to digital operations, and 9% plan to expand. Still, 28% report that they are looking for guidance on how to change their marketing strategy to weather the pandemic.

This latest study reports that many respondents expressed optimism over their post-pandemic futures, with 36% saying they felt their business would be the same as it was pre-pandemic.

Marketing in the Post-COVID Era

lady touching marketing & automation on digital screen
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, most state and local governments created and enforced stay-at-home orders to help slow the transmission of the novel coronavirus. With movie theaters, swimming pools, bowling alleys, churches, and other large venues locked down, people turned to other activities to fill their hours—and much of those involved screens.

According to the first edition of Zenith’s Communication’s Media Consumption Forecasts published in 2015, the typical adult spent 80-130 minutes per day online. By 2021, says Zenith’s Head of Forecasting Jonathan Barnard—spurred on by fewer outside entertainment options, faster connections, and more live-streaming events—the average consumer is expected to spend 479 minutes per day consuming media online.

If this sounds outlandish, check your own recent mobile Internet usage on your smartphone or tablet. Now compare that with your usage from earlier this year. Surprised? Most people are.

If you’re in business, let’s talk about how this increased usage impacts data collection, and what you need to be aware of to leverage this new information in a way that benefits your bottom line.

So many consumers at home and online during the coronavirus pandemic has caused a spike in data collection. But more is not always better. While this vast increase in data may seem beneficial, without a baseline, relying on it too heavily to predict future behavior would be a mistake. At least a moderate level of historical data is critical to understand the meaning behind the new data.

In the future, entrepreneurs and/or business leaders should take care to avoid relying too heavily on information from this recent data windfall. According to Gartner, Inc, a leading research and advisory company in the global marketplace, bad data can cost a business an average of $15 million per year in losses. Instead, use your intuition and the insight you have gained from past experience to drive future decisions pending a more thorough, comparative understanding of what new data appears to indicate.

Consider the following points as you move forward:
• Continue building your brand and communicating your values in clear, robust ways.
• Take advantage of the average consumer’s skyrocketing screen time to leverage digital marketing fully. Enlist the help of digital marketers with a thorough understanding of data analytics to help sort and interpret data and convert it into helpful information for you and your team to consider when making business decisions.
• Inbound marketing remains the best way to convert leads into loyal customers. Pay special attention to it so you can build relationships online in the absence of more frequent in-person meetings and encounters. According to HubSpot, 61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority. A recent study from think-tank Forrester Research would seem to indicate that companies can generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower costs through creative, effective inbound marketing.
• Content remains king. Emphasize its creation and quality as a key portion of your inbound marketing efforts, positioning it strategically with your other online products and solutions. A survey by HubSpot also revealed that 55% of marketing professionals surveyed said blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority.
• Revisit your marketing personas. Have they changed in light of the pandemic in any way? If so, modify your marketing messaging to be sure you are continuing to reach them.

Your business should never be static, even under stable, normal conditions. How you respond to the pandemic will ignite even greater changes in the way you do business. Be intentional and use your intuition and industry knowledge to keep driving leads, closing sales, and increasing revenue.

Few people anticipated the sweeping impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet here we are, like it or not, living through historic times. Some companies have chosen to draw inward and wait out the storm; others are modifying everything but their core values on the fly. How a company markets itself during the pandemic is a powerful indicator of how well they will be able to re-enter the post-COVID business arena.

How the Coronavirus is Impacting the Advertising Business

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As of mid-May, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide has surpassed 4.5 million, killing more than 310,000 people and upending every aspect of U.S. life as we knew it. Sectors of society most affected by this global health crisis have been the healthcare and educational systems, but efforts to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of coronavirus have affected nearly every area of the economy.

The advertising business is no exception.

Even while online sales of essential products including food have skyrocketed, sales of discretionary items have plummeted. In the face of these challenges to their bottom lines, rather than ramp up their marketing efforts to encourage sales, many enterprises have greatly reduced or eliminated their advertising budgets as they struggle to prevail.

TV networks that pull down a large portion of their revenue from ad sales during major sporting events are facing a disastrous impact on their annual revenue. Centralized media brands resource and ad-buying agency MagnaGlobal predicts that the measures to slow or eliminate the spread of COVID-19 that have forced cancellations, postponements, and other modifications that will result in decreased viewership, fewer advertising contracts, and far less revenue for TV networks.

According to the think tank, cancelled NBA and NCAA events will cost TV networks up to a 25% drop in viewership. Major League Baseball in the United States and the European Formal One Grand Prix racing circuit have both proposed shortened seasons without fans in the seats. Perhaps most significantly, says MagnaGlobal, the International Olympic Committee and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics— while a prudent public health measure— will force advertising projections that will have a deleterious effect on TV networks around the world.

Although one industry source estimates that cancelled ad campaigns have resulted in a reduction in advertising revenue approaching 60%, the good news is that advertising hasn’t completely stopped. Astute ad agencies are taking great care to be sure that all their clients’ messaging is right for the times— even if it means shelving entire campaigns for the moment. The most effective agencies are also making sure that they continue to stay in close contact with their clients through every digital avenue available, and that they are leveraging the most sophisticated video-conferencing applications available to keep their existing clients well-informed on real time changes. The current advertising climate is also a good time to foster relationships with potential clients who may need assistance navigating the post-COVID world of advertising and marketing.

Digital media companies like The Verge, Gizmodo, and others are facing the worst downturn in a generation. Silicon Valley startups launched on business models dependent on meteoric growth driven by online spending appear especially vulnerable as people reduce discretionary purchases and prepare for possible unemployment or furloughs.

According to industry insiders, advertising companies will not only sustain temporary body blows as the country weathers the current COVID-19 outbreak. Instead, the advertising companies should anticipate fundamental changes in how they do business, well past the resolution of the current pandemic.

Coming Soon… A New Home for AW!

arachnidworks office building in frederick
When our founder and CEO Monica Kolbay realized that ArachnidWorks was fast outgrowing its current home, she set her sites on finding us a new one. She approached her search in the same way we approach every client— with fresh eyes and a view toward new possibilities.

At the top of her wish list was a historic building in Downtown Frederick that she could purchase and adapt for use by our modern, creative business. She envisioned a building near the epicenter of our community that was easily accessible to our clients from Baltimore, Washington, and Virginia…with space for our staff of a dozen employees and growing with plenty of room to spread out…and a place where we could comfortably welcome clients and host the occasional AW happy hour on a Friday afternoon.

aw office interior

When she toured 47 South Carroll Street late last year, she knew she had found everything she wanted in a new home for ArachnidWorks before she had even reached the top floor.

Today we are proud to officially announce our new headquarters in downtown Frederick, MD.

Just steps away from Frederick’s Carroll Creek Linear Park and across the street from the Delaplaine Center for the Arts, the circa 19th century brick building was ideally located and extremely well-constructed. A former owner, a talented architect, had designed the interior space with a view toward historic preservation and future sustainability. From the weathered brick facade to the original cross-grained wooden floors, the building is functional, practical, and beautiful!

Monica and Brian Kolbay purchased the building earlier this year, paving the way for moving day later this spring. We look forward to sharing our new space with you and the rest of our clients and friends very soon.

We’ll keep you posted!

arachnidworks rooftop view

Advertising Trends To Watch For in 2020

billboard advertising designers
There are basically two types of advertising. The first kind gloms onto the latest tricks and trends for novelty’s sake and looks dated in a matter of months. Type #2 relies on a select group of promising trends and manages to look fresh while remaining classic and timeless.

Which kind of advertising strategy do you want?

Let’s look at a few trends that are out in front for 2020 that are worth learning and adapting into your business’s advertising.

Voice Search

One of the most popular ads aired during Super Bowl LIV was “Before Alexa,” in which power couple Ellen DeGeneres and Portia DeRossi talk about life before the advent of the voice assistant. At least 25 percent of adults in the US could relate, as that’s the number believed to own a smart speaker like Alexa or Google Home. What implications does this have for your advertising? Make sure your site is voice-search enabled so that people can access it using their smart speaker.

Increased Artificial Intelligence

In 2011, tech researchers predicted that by 2020, 85 percent of customer relationships would be enabled by Artificial Intelligence (AI)— that is, managed without human interaction. Sound unlikely? Actually not. The latest data says we are on track to not only meet but exceed that benchmark before year’s end. In fact, the latest predictions indicate that number might hit 90 percent by New Year’s Day, 2021.
AI is not only available 24/7, it drives the customer experience in ways we could only have imagined. It allows us to get our questions answered more quickly online, and provides personalized content on YouTube, Netflix, and Spotify. Banks are linking with Alexa and Google Home to allow customers to schedule transfers and pay bills. Movie theaters use AI to allow customers to purchase tickets, select seats, and pre-order popcorn and Raisinets before they pull out of the garage.

So how does Artificial Intelligence impact advertising? Start with this: AI can offer you in-depth information about what your customers want. It can leverage apps to learn what an individual’s preferences are, and direct you to construct and place ads based on past purchases.

Bottom Line? If your company isn’t already exploring how AI can inform your advertising, what are you waiting for?

Personalized Advertising

Technology allows advertisers to tap into the generalized preferences of buyers and also to the specific needs of individuals. In fact, simple efforts to make a brand more personal causes the likelihood of a purchase to skyrocket. 80 percent of consumers report they are more likely to purchase when an app they access greets them by name, reminds them of past purchases, and offers suggestions for similar products based on these items.

Social Media

Social media is already a popular advertising platform, and that trend is not slowing down. The number of users currently using social media is estimated at nearly 3.2 billion, pretty much ensuring an audience for just about any type of business. As an added bonus, you can write, design, and create ads that target age, location, gender— even interests. The actual sites that are most popular might change, but social media is here to stay.

Large Format Printing

Large format printing in the form of billboards, ads on the sides of buildings, and oversized banners at conventions and trade shows are increasing in popularity. These large format options grab attention, making up for their lack of targeting through the sheer number of people who see them.

Shoppable Posts

Emerging technology will allow users to click directly on the image of a product to get a description, price, and clickable link to order. While a version of this is available now, the newer version will be more streamlined— and in a world where time is of the essence, that will translate into more users. The new version of the shoppable post experience will be more interactive for customers, allowing you to publish ads that don’t necessarily look like ads.

Immersive Experiences

Expect Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to become increasingly popular. Start exploring ways to use these emerging technologies to provide your customers with more opportunities to interact with your products.

Open Composition

Another design trend that is impacting how advertising looks and feels is what’s called the “open composition” concept. The look is free of harsh edges, and elements don’t line up perfectly on a grid. Picture an image where the edges fade into smoke and recede into the background. Websites designed with the open composition look and feel seem more fluid, and adjust well to varying screen sizes. The look also works for billboards and magazine ads. Look for more open composition styles, especially online.

Advertising is a creative field that invites risk-taking. That’s one reason that advertising trends change quickly, making it impossible to predict what will stick around and what will disappear before it’s even noticed. Our best advice? Mentally bookmark a few brands whose advertising styles you admire, and whose customer base is similar to your company’s. Keep an eye on what they’re doing. What seems to be working for them? The answers to those questions will inform your own advertising mix, and help you develop an ad strategy that will work for your business.

ArachnidWorks Named to Frederick’s Top 50 Workplaces

arachnidworks staff
We are so pleased to announce that we have been recently named one of Frederick’s Top 50 Workplaces by the Frederick County Office of Economic Development (OED)!

To develop the list, OED identified a variety of data points that are important to economic development, such as the number of Frederick-based jobs, local property taxes paid, how many square feet the business occupies in the county, and how long the company has been in business. Final selections were made on the 132 nominees’ responses to questions regarding employee benefits, median salaries, community involvement, work environment, growth opportunities, and work-life balance.

You can check out the full press release here!

ArachnidWorks Welcomes Director of Client Engagement & Strategy, Jean Radish

client strategist
We are very excited to welcome a new team member to ArachnidWorks! Meet Jean, our newest Director of Client Engagement & Strategy.

Not only has she already taught us what a “Schnauzerpalooza” is (hint: it’s when her two adorable Schnauzers come into the office), but she also brings a multidisciplinary approach to many facets of marketing and project management. We can’t wait to see what new level of benefit Jean will bring to our clients and their marketing strategies!

ArachnidWorks Celebrates The Season With Its Annual Holiday Party

ArachnidWorks at Stumpy's

Our 2019 holiday party was a huge success! We had a really fun time throwing hatchets at Stumpys Frederick – as all of us got the hatchet on the board at least once! We also had a wonderful time at The Wine Kitchen, where we hosted our 2nd annual ADUB Awards and had a delicious four-course meal.

We can’t wait to see what 2020 brings AW, so feel free to stay up to date on our Facebook/Instagram pages or right here on our blog!

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