25 August 2015

Full Stack Marketing 2015 – the Rundown


How I Missed the Best Gig of my Life

The date was 1st December 1991, and I’d spent the day at University attending lectures (for once!) and getting some groceries. I headed home. I lived out in Portobello in those days, so 30 minutes on the bus and I was home.

It was the beginning of the nineties so no one had a mobile phone. The Internet was literally just beginning, so there was no social media.

Mind you, kids these days will believe anything. TV was still black and white, and we had to travel to other towns on the backs of goats. The Royal Family still exclusively spoke in French. X-rays meant peeling the flesh back from your bones, taking a normal photograph, and then sewing the flesh back on. Not really, but it’s still all a bit longer ago than I’d like to think.

riding a goat

20th Century transport option

The point is, to meet up with people, you just went out and hoped you’d bump into them. With no Candy Crush Saga and no Farmville, the chances were much higher than they are now. You knew where your friends would likely be. For me, it was Chambers Street Student Union or the Southern Bar.

Tonight, though, I had decided travelling back into Edinburgh centre was too much. I fancied a night in for a change. So that’s what I did.

The next day, I found out what a mistake I had made. The night before, when I had stayed in, Edinburgh band the Joyriders had been playing a charity gig in aid of the Sick Kids hospital, and there had been a set from some special guests. The Southern Bar is not a big pub. To be inside and as far away from the band as possible, you’d be 20 metres away at most. The special guests were Nirvana.

Not only were the special guests Nirvana, but this was the week that Nirvana broke in the UK. Smells Like Teen Spirit reached number 7 in the charts. Grunge – my musical soul – had broken the UK. The set was recently ranked by the Scotsman as number 15 in the top 20 Scottish gigs of all time. The dominos were toppling one by one, and I was asleep to not watch it all.

Photo of Kurt COBAIN and NIRVANA

Kurt ponders what could have been had I turned up.

At least I had enjoyed my early night. Internet rules dictate that I should point out this is sarcasm.

At Least I Haven’t Been Driven to Drink

I frequently don’t bother with the after-party drinks at a conference. For a start I don’t drink any more, and so the whole piss-up thing starts to wear thin. Also, these days I have childcare issues to consider. It suits me to go home, and avoid the irritation of crowds.

I’d love to get into conversations with various people in the industry, including any of the speakers from this year’s Full Stack Marketing 2015, but I also like not crowds. Not crowds suits me just fine.

So when I saw that one of my old friends from University days had met with Oli Gardner for a drink on Saturday, the penny dropped. He must’ve been part of the social circles that I was in around the University of Edinburgh!

Oli Gardner

I was still out on Saturday night, They’d gone home!

Setting this against the disappointment of a lifetime missing Nirvana at the Southern, though, I just feel a sense of irony. I liked listening to Oli speak, but he’s no Kurt Cobain.

Despite this, I have to say, I really enjoyed Full Stack Marketing at the Turing Festival this year.

All of the speakers had some great things to say. I can’t say my knowledge or experience says I agree with everything that was shared, but broadly I thought the messages that came across were great.

The Speakers

Mark Johnstone @epicgraphic

First up was Mark Johnstone from Distilled. He described how to undertake quality control on your ideation process for link-building content generation.

He gave many examples of his work, but the first example he gave is the one that sticks out for me. His team researched the vocal ranges of a large number of singers and vocalists, and released an interactive graphic of the results. This got some traction until the Daily Mail ran with a story proclaiming that a new study had found Axl Rose to be the greatest singer ever. Of course, that isn’t what the graphic claimed, just that he had a wide range. The graphic went viral as people argued over who really was the greatest singer of all time. They needn’t have bothered, though, because it’s obviously Eddie Vedder.

Mark said that there are two tests your proposal must successfully pass before you can really consider it an idea:

  1. What is the one story you can get the data to tell your audience?
  2. Why should they care?

If you don’t have convincing and well-researched answers to these, the chances are your content will fail.

Kirsty Hulse @Kirsty_Hulse

Second up was Kirsty Hulse, from Linkdex. She described how the low barrier to entry for content marketing meant for a glut of low-quality content, which was driving users away from brands.

She went on to describe how to segment your audience to identify what kinds of content they will relate to, and how you can reach the right audience with the right piece of content.

Who wouldn’t like a trip to Uranus?

She gave an interesting example of a company that does content marketing very well. PornHub. Of course, I haven’t heard of them, but everyone else seemed familiar so let’s go with that. PornHub have created a microsite to crowdfund the first porn film to be made in space. Of course, the plan is to make it on Uranus. Despite the fact that Uranus is a Gas Giant, and current technology couldn’t carry enough food, oxygen or water far enough to keep both (I’m assuming they’ll want two) actors alive all the way there, let alone the film crew, and the key-grip, whatever one of those is, they have still managed to raise over $250,000 so far. More to the point it has been shared and linked to so many times.

This is knowing your audience. People who don’t understand how space works like porn.

Phil Nottingham @philnottingham

Phil Nottingham from Wistia spoke about how to use video to humanise a brand. I have a lot of time for Phil, as I do for most Distilled and ex-Distilled people. He speaks a lot of sense.

He began by describing how the evolution of commercial transactions has dehumanised them, as buyer and seller become further and further removed from each other. This distance has a tremendous impact on trust, meaning that brands need to consider how they can work to help their customers trust them.

He argues that at Wistia, they achieve this by being human. Wistia learned this after setting up as a four-man outfit initially. Their corporate information described them in a way that made them sound like a thousand-man corporation. Business was slow. But by creating some fun video content showing the four man operation at work, they created a brand that their audience could relate too, and business hasn’t looked back.

Amber van Natten @moxieingreen

Amber Van Natten, is from NewsCred who came to Full Stack Marketing with two messages. Her colleague in New York is single, and told Amber to announce that. I’ll pass the message on, I guess. Secondly, that you are more likely to be struck by lightning than click a banner ad.

Allegedly. Although I doubt that.

Ignoring for a moment that banners ads aren’t really designed to be clicked – they’re there to carry messaging and build brand, lets take a look at some numbers. The chances of being struck by lightning are 1 in 960,000 in any year. The click-through rate I typically see through banner ads is a bit above 0.05%, sometimes higher. We use DSPs to target users, which raises click-through rates much higher than traditional direct buys, but still that means about 1 banner ad in 2,000 is clicked. I can’t say how many banner ads a typical internet user is exposed to, but to be more afraid of lightning than clicking a banner ad, they’d have to see fewer than 1/480th of a banner ad per year. Yes, I did the maths. That’s probably why I get early nights when I could be catching impromptu gigs from my heroes. I digress.

The rest of Amber’s discussion was thankfully less likely to drive my pedantry. She talked about how to know your audience, and that doing so helped you make better decisions. Useful stuff, but I think my hackles were still raised by the banner ad thing.

Mike McGrail @mike_mcgrail

Mike tried a bit of subliminal advertising on the crowd.

Our old friend, Mike McGrail introduced some colourful language to the occasion, to match his colourful slides.

He spoke about the changing social media landscape and the challenges that presents to brands.

We can no longer rely on organic reach through social media, and brands must consider embracing paid social channels.

He described what kinds of KPIs you should consider paying for. Likes? Ugh! Follows? No, thanks. Leads, sales, engagements? Yes, please. All very useful stuff.

Stacey MacNaught @staceycav

Stacey MacNaught’s presentation was possibly the one I found most interesting. You rarely see people considering different stages of the conversion funnel for organic search and content marketing strategy, and it was refreshing to see this approach laid out in such a simple and straightforward manner.


Dogs v Cats. Armageddon!

On a separate note, Stacey bravely announced that she hates cat gifs. In a room full of Internetty people, that takes guts.

I’m know I’m not writing much about Stacey’s topic here, but frankly I think I might write a longer piece on this later. It deserves it. Top presentation. If I had to award a cup cake for best presentation content, it would have gone to Stacey.

Lexi Mills @leximills

In fact, as it was her birthday, there genuinely were cupcakes for Lexi Mills. Lexi is a PR SEO specialist, and she described the inner workings of the PR industry from an SEO perspective. It was fascinating to listen to. Quite how much someone without the PR connections would be able to put into practice her techniques might be open for debate, however.

3 ducks

Is this how you connect ducks and threesomes?

The message, I guess, is to appoint a PR specialist and work with them on the SEO benefits of what they do.

Lexi gave some great examples, including mentions of threesomes and ducks. They weren’t the same example. You probably had to be there.

Special Guest: Rand Fishkin @randfish

Rand Fishkin

Whiteboard Friday

A special guest appearance was next up, with a pre-recorded Whiteboard Friday by Rand Fishkin, just for attendees. I’m a great fan of WBF. Yes, I agree, I don’t often learn something new. I don’t always agree that Rand’s examples are the best, but it is always interesting to hear, to provide some context to everything else I experience in the industry.

Rand had originally been meant to attend and give his talk in person, but a family bereavement meant he couldn’t. I hope he comes to Scotland in the future.

Cyrus Shepard @CyrusShepard

However, it was Cyrus Shepard who really gave me my “we are not worthy moment” (© Wayne’s World).

Again, a great talk about how to optimise content for human consumption, not search engines. By doing so you are optimising for search engines. Of course, you still sprinkle some SEO magic over the top (as is how people think my job works), but user experience is a key driving factor. I’ve been saying this for a few years now, so maybe that’s why I like Cyrus so much, but a lot of people listen to him because, well, Moz.com.

We're not worthy

How I feel when Cyrus speaks

I grabbed Cyrus for a brief chat at the next interval, and may have scared him away from Edinburgh. For that I apologise. Please come back, Cyrus.

Oli Gardner @oligardner

Finally, Oli Gardner. Oli’s presentation was exceptional. By far the most stylish presentation of the day, he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand, flipping from misheard lyrics to recommendations about how many form fields to have on a landing page.


Correlation? Causation? Only one way to find out. Fight!!!

If I had one criticism of Oli’s talk, however, it would be that his presentation implied that there was a perfect formula for a landing page. We know really that that is not the case, and that you start with your best guess and then test and optimise, and test and optimise. No two landing pages are the same.

I’d have loved to have had that conversation with Oli over a quiet drink. After parties are not that quiet, so I didn’t bother. If only I’d known.

Follow me on Twitter @indicium or follow @stormid.

Thanks, of course to organisers and sponsors:

digital marketing campaigns




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  • Man, I can’t believe the intro story. I was supposed to go to that gig at the Southern but for some reason I *also* bailed. I believe Nick was there or maybe my other mate Alan.

    Thanks for the feedback from my talk. I believe 100% that there is no perfect landing page. The data is simply there to generate some discussion from some of the occasionally exciting storylines it sets up, or to qualify that, for example, too many links really does hurt your conversion rates.

    One extra note – on the bottom of the slide you included, there is a foot note that says that particular one had a small sample size and was included only for shits and giggles 🙂

    I’ll definitely be sure to remind people that as averages, these aren’t things to blindly implement, and that they should *always* be tested to see if they fit your own situation.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  • John Hughes

    Cool, Oli. No problem.

    Hopefully, it’s not too long until you’re in Edinburgh again. We could take a couple of acoustics to the Southern and play out own impromptu gig!

    Good point about the slide screengrab. In my defence it’s hidden by Slideshare’s deck player in fullscreen mode. There’s a UX comment right there!

    Once again, great presentation; I really enjoyed it.

  • Great story and great summary John, thanks for coming and for writing this.

  • John Hughes

    Thanks Mike 🙂

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