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Having second thoughts about first-person branding? You should be

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Brands and products that refer to themselves as ‘I’ come across as infantile and annoying. Think twice when creating your tone of voice.

There’s no ‘I’ in brand.

No, this isn’t going to be one of those pieces that excoriates individualism in marketing departments and castigates those who step out of the consensus culture with a version of the ‘no-I-in-team’ put-down. Brands can be built either way: in harmonious, consensual togetherness or by brilliantly ruthless lightning strikes of personal genius.

Who would argue that Steve Jobs was not the ‘I’ in Apple, at least until Jony Ive came along and made it a ‘we’? And eponymous, founder-led brands would never get off the ground without the impassioned, often monomaniacal, zeal of the pioneer with their name over the door. From the outset, and for decades after, there was an ‘I’ in Ford and his name was Henry Ford.

But we’re going to come down a few levels from the elevated dichotomies of that subject matter. Many levels, in fact, to the subterranean zones of the branding edifice, to consider a communications trope that would be an unlikely contender for serious marketing comment were it not so very annoying and pervasive.

That trope is ‘I am’ branding, where products deploy the first-person singular to declare their benefits and virtues. ‘I am a green bus’, says the side panel on a passing bus. Why not ‘This is a green bus’, or ‘Get on board our new green buses’, or ‘Look! This bus has gone green’? Why ‘I’? It’s infantilising – a copywriting language straight out of the pages of Thomas the Tank Engine.

And it’s everywhere. On the wrapper of a peanut butter bar: ‘Ta-da! I am one third of your daily fibre fix.’ On a range of cleaning products: ‘I’ll do your dirty work,’ claims one; ‘I’ll give you some sparkle,’ boasts another. On the website of a big-brand sofa retailer that gives its products personal names: ‘Hi! I’m Bluebell.’ Or Isaac. Or Jack.

Taking things to another excruciating level of informality is the message on the brown wrapper of a big block of ice that comes with a recipe box delivery. ‘Ciao!’ it starts breezily, as though it made my acquaintance way back when we were both students at uni. ‘I am an icepack. Don’t worry if I have melted by the time you receive your food. I have used all my energy keeping your food chilled during the trip.’

‘You what?’ I want to say back. ‘You’re just a sodden lump of frozen H2O that’s now oozing in my sink’ – before realising that I have fallen into the trap and dignified an inanimate object with the second-person singular.

And that gets me wondering what these brands’ preferred pronouns are. We do not habitually refer to those who introduce themselves with ‘I’ as ‘it’ further down the conversation. So, is the bus/bar/sofa/icepack a she/her/ he/him/they/them or what?

Stand out from the category

The ‘first-person’ trope is merely the latest expression of what Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam’s head of strategy, Martin Weigel, has bewailed as “the mind-numbing, unrelenting chattiness of consumerism”. In a tweet devoted to that gripe he focused on some Innocent-inspired back-of-pack copy for a shampoo that talked about how ‘your hair is your friend’.

Perhaps I should take a cue from the ever-thoughtful Weigel to make a serious marketing point here. Before mandating a ‘friendly’ tone of voice for your brand, check if it is really what you want – or whether you’re ready for what you’ll end up with once the agency has put its stamp on it. Not everyone wants their brands to be their friends. In fact, does anyone, ever? What if your brand’s gravitas, authority, reputation – or its very category – precludes that level of presumptive chumminess?

Before mandating a ‘friendly’ tone of voice for your brand, check if it is really what you want.

As a precautionary tale here, I offer an example from the serious, often life-and-death world of medical devices. A brand that makes probes that go into the groin and up through the vascular system to locate, and hopefully withdraw, stroke-inducing clots deep in the brain addresses surgeons thus:

OPINION

Having second thoughts about first-person branding? You should be

Brands and products that refer to themselves as ‘I’ come across as infantile and annoying. Think twice when creating your tone of voice.

Helen Edwards marketing columnist

By Helen Edwards  28 Feb 2022

There’s no ‘I’ in brand.

No, this isn’t going to be one of those pieces that excoriates individualism in marketing departments and castigates those who step out of the consensus culture with a version of the ‘no-I-in-team’ put-down. Brands can be built either way: in harmonious, consensual togetherness or by brilliantly ruthless lightning strikes of personal genius.

Who would argue that Steve Jobs was not the ‘I’ in Apple, at least until Jony Ive came along and made it a ‘we’? And eponymous, founder-led brands would never get off the ground without the impassioned, often monomaniacal, zeal of the pioneer with their name over the door. From the outset, and for decades after, there was an ‘I’ in Ford and his name was Henry Ford.

But we’re going to come down a few levels from the elevated dichotomies of that subject matter. Many levels, in fact, to the subterranean zones of the branding edifice, to consider a communications trope that would be an unlikely contender for serious marketing comment were it not so very annoying and pervasive.

Marketing’s transformative questions don’t start with ‘how?’

That trope is ‘I am’ branding, where products deploy the first-person singular to declare their benefits and virtues. ‘I am a green bus’, says the side panel on a passing bus. Why not ‘This is a green bus’, or ‘Get on board our new green buses’, or ‘Look! This bus has gone green’? Why ‘I’? It’s infantilising – a copywriting language straight out of the pages of Thomas the Tank Engine.

And it’s everywhere. On the wrapper of a peanut butter bar: ‘Ta-da! I am one third of your daily fibre fix.’ On a range of cleaning products: ‘I’ll do your dirty work,’ claims one; ‘I’ll give you some sparkle,’ boasts another. On the website of a big-brand sofa retailer that gives its products personal names: ‘Hi! I’m Bluebell.’ Or Isaac. Or Jack.

Taking things to another excruciating level of informality is the message on the brown wrapper of a big block of ice that comes with a recipe box delivery. ‘Ciao!’ it starts breezily, as though it made my acquaintance way back when we were both students at uni. ‘I am an icepack. Don’t worry if I have melted by the time you receive your food. I have used all my energy keeping your food chilled during the trip.’

‘You what?’ I want to say back. ‘You’re just a sodden lump of frozen H2O that’s now oozing in my sink’ – before realising that I have fallen into the trap and dignified an inanimate object with the second-person singular.

And that gets me wondering what these brands’ preferred pronouns are. We do not habitually refer to those who introduce themselves with ‘I’ as ‘it’ further down the conversation. So, is the bus/bar/sofa/icepack a she/her/ he/him/they/them or what?

Stand out from the category

The ‘first-person’ trope is merely the latest expression of what Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam’s head of strategy, Martin Weigel, has bewailed as “the mind-numbing, unrelenting chattiness of consumerism”. In a tweet devoted to that gripe he focused on some Innocent-inspired back-of-pack copy for a shampoo that talked about how ‘your hair is your friend’.

Perhaps I should take a cue from the ever-thoughtful Weigel to make a serious marketing point here. Before mandating a ‘friendly’ tone of voice for your brand, check if it is really what you want – or whether you’re ready for what you’ll end up with once the agency has put its stamp on it. Not everyone wants their brands to be their friends. In fact, does anyone, ever? What if your brand’s gravitas, authority, reputation – or its very category – precludes that level of presumptive chumminess?

Before mandating a ‘friendly’ tone of voice for your brand, check if it is really what you want.

As a precautionary tale here, I offer an example from the serious, often life-and-death world of medical devices. A brand that makes probes that go into the groin and up through the vascular system to locate, and hopefully withdraw, stroke-inducing clots deep in the brain addresses surgeons thus:

‘I am a balloon guide catheter specifically designed for stroke patients. Before I came along, balloon-based variable stiffness catheters brought all manner of technological constraints. I’m here to change that. With my kink-resistant construction, I can shimmy and twist through the most challenging of neurovascular procedures.’

This puts me in mind of those books that you got in junior school that started: ‘I am John’s liver’ and continued from there to tell the tale of all the clever things that particular organ got up to in a typical day. They were a brilliant way of giving you the basics of what the various bits of the body were there to do.

But do you know why that worked so well? Because you were seven. Brain surgeons, conversely, have moved on from junior school to big school to medical school to teaching hospital, and from there to hone their specialist skills in life-critical surgical practice. They might, just maybe, be ready for something a little more – I don’t know – sophisticated.

Another reason for marketer caution is a more fundamental one. Brands are supposed to stand out. They are meant to be different from the others in the category. To have their own distinctive way of being, feeling and communicating. Unless those tonal values, those distinctive brand codes and cues, are very clearly mandated on any design or communications brief, there is a good chance you will end up as a victim of fashion.

And right now, the fashion is to become the big ‘I am’. Should you find yourself on the receiving end of a version of that, my advice is to run a mile. As ever when there is a rush for the cover of cleverness or cuteness or zeitgeisty modes of engaging with consumers, the soundest tactic is to go the other way, keep improving the substantive features of the product and service offer, and communicate with genuine, rather than ersatz, empathy and perhaps a little humility too. Is everyone out there up for that? I know I am.

You can find original article by Helen Edwards here

10 amazing games to learn CSS

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Learning CSS can be quite a challenge. There are no shortcuts, and you will have to get your hands dirty and dive into the magical world of CSS.

But! There are some fun ways to learn this monster called CSS. This article will highlight ten amazing games you can play to learn CSS.

1. Flexbox froggy

Flexbox froggy CSS game

Flexbox froggy was one of the first CSS-solving games I’ve played, and I love it. It’s a super fun way to learn flexbox positions across the board.

You use CSS flex to place the frog on the correct Lilly. It has 24 levels, and you can quickly see the results.

2. Flexbox defense

Flexbox defense CSS game

Another super cool CSS game to learn flex is flexbox defense. In this game, you have to move around towers to defend a road from being attacked.

It has 12 levels, and it’s pretty cool to see multiple answers can be correct.

3. Knights of the Flexbox Table

Knights of the Flexbox table CSS game

If you love Tailwind, this one is amazing! It uses tailwind classes to teach you to flex options. A super combination if you ask me, and it’s well set up.

There are a total of 18 levels that you can clear.

4. Flex Box adventure

Flex box adventure CSS game

Another game much like Flexbox froggy, but with a different setup. It also has some other challenges and hints from which you might learn a lot.

It has a total of 24 levels you can clear.

5. Flexbox zombies

Flexbox zombies CSS game

This game is super well set up in graphics! I am blown away by how cool the storyline is.

It has 12 chapters, with each up to 25 levels. It usually costs money to play this one, but it seems free forever.

6. Grid garden

Grid Garden CSS Game

Grid garden is a super fun way to learn CSS Grid. You have to use grid layouts to ensure all the carrots get water.

It has 28 levels to practice a lot of CSS grid options!

7. Grid attack

Grid attack CSS Game

This game is by the same creator as Flexbox adventure and super well-executed like the other game!

You have to use CSS Grid to change the land so the demons will not survive.

It comes with 80 levels, which gives you many options and time to learn CSS grid in a super fun way.

8. CSS Diner

CSS Dinner CSS Game

This game is actually really interesting! It’s a game to learn about CSS selectors and some modern ones.

The game has 32 levels and entertaining animations to showcase what selector you should target.

9. Guess CSS

Guess CSS Game

This game is very similar to CSS Diner, but you have to guess which selector matches the result you see.

This is an excellent concept as you always get to see the perfect result.

It’s also not limited to specific CSS parts and includes many different ones.

10. CSS Speedrun

CSS Speedrun

In this game, you have to write specific CSS Selectors to target5 the highlighted elements.

However, you have to do it as quickly as possible, making this a great challenge for those who like an extra level of hardness to their games.

The game comes with ten levels, but you can play more often and improve your speed.

Bonus

Once you’ve mastered these games, you can enter some CSS challenges and battles to showcase all you learned.

Some great website for that are:

All these websites have a particular example you have to recreate most efficiently most of the time.

There are some excellent communities around these websites, and you’ll have fun solving them.

Let me know what your favorite CSS game is 🙌.

10 New Instagram Features Marketers Should Be Using in 2022

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With TikTok on its heels, Instagram is rapidly rolling out new features to benefit both brands and creators alike.

These upgrades come as no surprise — especially considering the competitive nature of social media. But for marketers, the volume of new features can be overwhelming.

Let’s look at these exciting upgrades and how to leverage them in your 2022 Instagram strategy.

1. Partnership Inbox

Partnership Inbox Instagram

Gone are the days of missed opportunities because of a busy inbox. Now, brands and creators can quickly find and manage their communications in one location — partnership messages.

Partnership messages is a sub-folder in the Direct Messages tab. These messages skip the request folder and get priority placement — making it easier than ever to find and manage branded content partnerships.

2. Story Links

Story Links

Remember when story links were an exclusive feature to those with 10,000+ Instagram followers? Here’s some good news — it’s now available to everyone.

No matter your follower count, you can use a link sticker to direct users to your website, product pages, blog posts, and more. This is a win for marketers who use the platform to increase traffic.

Here’s how it works — after creating an Instagram story, click on the sticker icon, then tap the “Link” sticker. From here, enter the desired URL and voilà — you have a link in your story.

3. Add Yours

Add Yours

You’ve likely seen this feature while browsing Instagram stories — but how does it work, exactly?

Add Yours is a new sticker for Instagram stories. It’s fairly simple — someone writes a prompt and shares it to their story. Then other users can respond to the prompt with their own spin. When you click on the sticker, you can view everyone who has contributed to the thread.

For example, if you create an Add Yours sticker with the prompt “Outfit of the Day,” other users can respond to it with a photo or video of their outfit.

This feature adds another layer of interactivity to the platform. Due to its shareability, it’s known to kickstart trends and challenges. But for marketers, it’s especially useful for sparking conversations and showcasing your brand’s creative side.

4. Find Creators

Find Creators

Instagram is officially playing matchmaker. The platform is testing a new suite of tools to help brands and creators connect.

Let’s start on the creator side — users can add brands to a preferred brand list. Then, when a brand searches for creators to partner with, those who have the brand in their list will appear at the top of search results. This makes it easier for brands to find creators who already show an interest.

Brands can also filter creators by follower count, age, gender, and location — which Instagram believes will help brands “organize shortlists to easily manage multiple campaigns.”

5. Story Auto-Captions

Story Captions

If you’re like me, you rarely watch Instagram stories with audio — which is why the new caption sticker is a game-changer.

This feature automatically converts what someone says in a video into text so that users can watch without sound. For some users, this feature is also available on Reels, its answer to TikTok.

Now, audiences can engage with your videos — with or without sound. This feature also takes a big step in making Instagram content more accessible.

6. Social Fundraising

Social Fundraising

In response to the effect of COVID-19 on the economy, Instagram launched a new social fundraising feature. Users can create fundraisers for their business or a cause that’s important to them. According to Instagram, it’s seen “a large wave of digital activism responding to the global conversation around racial justice.”

This feature aligns with a simple truth about today’s consumers: they’re belief-driven. These days, consumers are looking for brands that take a stand on the issues that matter to them. Now, it’s easier than ever to create fundraisers directly on Instagram that benefit such causes.

Keep in mind that all fundraisers go through a review process. Once approved, you’re ready to start raising money.

7. Collabs

Instagram Collabs

Instagram is testing a new feature that allows you to co-author content with a fellow Instagram user — meaning, whatever you post will appear on both of your profiles. You share likes, comments, and view counts on these posts.

For brands, the collabs feature opens up a new way to partner with influencers, boost brand awareness, and engage with another community in a meaningful way.

8. Calendar Tool

Instagram Calendar

Here’s some exciting news if you have a business profile — Instagram is planning to double the data tracking period within Instagram Insights from 30 to 60 days.

Social media marketers can finally ditch the third-party apps that provide a longer tracking period. Instead, this information will be readily available within Insights. This is a great example of Instagram listening to feedback from users who have been requesting such an upgrade for months.

9. Subscriptions

Instagram Subscriptions

Instagram launched Subscriptions just this year – a feature that allows creators to charge a monthly subscription fee in return for exclusive content and benefits.

Here’s how it works — creators set a monthly subscription price of their choice, and a “subscribe” button will appear on their profile. They can offer a range of benefits to subscribers — like exclusive livestreams and Stories.

It’s part of a greater effort to help creators make a living on its platform – thus staying active on it. This also enables creators to develop deeper connections with their followers.

This new feature comes shortly-after Twitter recently announced a similar subscription model — Twitter Blue — and we suspect more social media platforms will follow.

10. Visual Replies on Reels

Visual Replies Reels

Instagram recently announced a new way to respond to comments on Reels — with another Reel.

If you create short-form videos on Instagram Reels, you can now make visual replies to comments, which is similar to TikTok’s reply function. It’s a highly engaging and interactive way to engage with both followers and leads, and vice-versa.

Final Thoughts

Instagram has become one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. However, the platform isn’t just growing – it’s also evolving. It only makes sense that your social media marketing strategy also evolves to leverage these new features.

Original article by Erin Rodrigue can be found here

Genius examples of 404 pages

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These 404 pages offer wit, tech wizardry and great UX.

Designing 404 pages might not be your first priority when you’re creating a new website, and with a bit of luck your users won’t often encounter them when browsing. But a stellar 404 page can be an effective tool for conveying your brand identity, entertaining visitors and keeping them on your site rather than clicking away in annoyance. Of course, you don’t actually want visitors to find themselves there at all but adding some personality and clever design can add a silver lining to an error.

These awesome 404 pages use innovative UX, humour, stunning design or even games to negate any irritation for the user and make them memorable and shareable. You could add some CSS animation or cool parallax scrolling, but sometimes all you need is some entertaining copy.. We’ve chosen our favourite examples below to provide inspiration to help you think outside the box with your own designs.

The best 404 pages

  1. Netflix

Netflix has a whole host of content to pick from for its 404 page, and it has appropriately included a full page still from the movie Lost in Space. The site asks, “lost your way?” and provides a clear button to take you back to the homepage. The only improvement we could imagine would be to provide a range of films like IMDB does (see it further down the list) so you never know which one you’re going to get.

02. M&Ms

The candy company utilises its characters for its 404 page. When stumbling upon the 404 page, you are met by a worried looking m&m, who is facing down the trouble alongside you. This simple graphic reinforces the m&m branding and raises a smile before you head back to safety.

03. KonMari

A good 404 page should convey a brand’s personality. Marie Kondo has become hugely popular for her cleaning and organisation tips and products, and the copy on her site’s 404 page humorously espouses that same philosophy of clearing out clutter. It’s a small, concise detail that fans will immediately recognise.

04. Marvel

Marvel’s has multiple versions of its 404 pages, which are (of course) all themed around the MCU. We’ve spotted references to Hydra (one of which is above) and the eye of Utau, to name just a couple. Check out the Marvel 404 page to see which one you get.

05. LEGO

The Lego 404 page is pretty simple but exudes personality. The Lego man’s horrified expression, plus the push on a brand tagline (‘everything is still awesome’) creates an error page experience you’re not sorry you stumbled into.


You can find full article by Ruth Hamilton here

Wordpress exploit

WordPress force installs UpdraftPlus patch on 3 million sites

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WordPress has taken the rare step of force-updating the UpdraftPlus plugin on all sites to fix a high-severity vulnerability allowing website subscribers to download the latest database backups, which often contain credentials and PII.

Three million sites use the popular WordPress plugin, so the potential for exploitation was substantial, affecting a significant share of the internet, including large platforms.

The vulnerability affects UpdraftPlus versions 1.16.7 to 1.22.2, and the developers fixed it with the release of 1.22.3 or 2.22.3 for the (paid) Premium version.

The flaw was discovered by security researcher Marc Montpas of Automattic and is tracked as CVE-2022-0633 and carries a CVSS v3.1 score of 8.5.

Flaw and exploitation

UpdraftPlus helps simplify the process of backups and restoration with scheduled backup functions and an auto-download option to a trusted email address.

However, due to bugs found in the plugin, any low-level authenticated user can craft a valid link that would allow them to download the files.

The issue is improper user validation on whether or not they have the required privileges to access a backup’s nonce identifier and timestamps.

The attack starts by sending a heartbeat request containing a “data” parameter to obtain information about the most recent backup.

The heartbeat request that initiates the attack
The heartbeat request that initiates the attack (Automatic)

Having this info, the attacker triggers the “send backup via email” function after manipulating the endpoint request.

This function is normally restricted to administrators only, but anyone with an account on the target site can access it without limits due to missing the permission check.

Of course, the attacker would need to know how to download database backups, and for now, Updraft reports that they have seen no such cases in the wild.

“At this point in time, (the appearance of a PoC) relies upon a hacker reverse-engineering the changes in the latest UpdraftPlus release to work it out.” – Updraft.

As noted in the Automattic report, some indirect checks were still present in the vulnerable plugin versions, but those aren’t enough to stop a skilled attacker.

Timeline and fixes

The flaw was discovered on February 14, 2022, and UpdraftPlus was notified immediately, while technical details followed the next day.

The response from the developers of the popular plugin was almost immediate, and on February 16, 2022, WordPress began force-upgrading installations to version 1.22.3.

According to the WordPress download stats for this plugin, 783,000 installs were upgraded on the 16th and an additional 1.7 million were updated on the 17th.

Montpas told Bleeping Computer that this is one of those very rare and exceptionally severe cases where WordPress forces auto-updates on all sites regardless of their admins’ settings.

If you want to update immediately to the secured version, you can manually apply the security update from the dashboard. The latest version available today is 1.22.4, so this is the recommended one to use.

Note that this vulnerability introduces no risks for sites that don’t support user logins of any kind or don’t hold any backups.


You can find original article by Bill Toulas here

WooCommerce 6.3 to Introduce New Product Filtering by Attributes

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The WooCommerce development team released the first RC for version 6.3 this week. The upcoming major release is expected on March 8, 2022, and is set to introduce an exciting, long-awaited feature: a new lookup table that will offer the ability the accurately filter products by attributes.

Shop owners who sell variable items have been frustrated for years by WooCommerce’s broken filtering of variable products. Automattic developer Néstor Soriano explained the problem when the new lookup table went into testing last year:

The problem appears when there are variable products where some variations have stock and others don’t, and the “hide out of stock products from the catalog” option is set. What happens is that when an attribute is selected for filtering, all variable products having a variation that corresponds to that attribute will be displayed, even those not having stock for that variation (as long as at least one variation has stock).

Merchants who have experienced this have become frustrated because customers end up having to search through all the items to see if their selected variation is available. Sometimes they abandon the process after the first few items don’t have the one they are looking for.

The new lookup table in WooCommerce 6.3 solves this problem in a way that should improve performance – by creating a table row for each combination of product and attribute, including individual variations and stock status. This will be immensely helpful for any store owner who sells variable products, such as clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc.

This update will require a database migration. It will also introduce a new “Advanced” section under the Product Settings tab with options for the new product attributes lookup table.

WooCommerce 6.3 has updated to the 6.9.0 version of the WooCommerce Blocks feature plugin and version 3.2.0-rc of WooCommerce Admin.

Shop owners who have variable products may want to give the update a test run during the next 12 days before the release lands. It is available for download from WordPress.org or via the WooCommerce Beta Tester plugin.

 

you can find original article by Sarah Gooding here