Over the past year, some of the content Distilled has created has seen the highest metrics we’ve ever had. To reach these dizzy new heights, we stepped out our comfort zone and started trying some new formats (as well as perfecting some more of the tried and tested formats we’ve had success with in the past).
New formats we’ve tried include simple games and photo stories. The results we received helped validate our thinking but taking a chance on these was a risk for both Distilled and our clients. However, if you don’t break the mould once in awhile, content can start to stagnate.
If your campaigns are no longer reaching the audiences they once used to, perhaps it’s time to step out of your comfort zone. Try a new type of idea or a new format; you might find that you reach an entirely new audience along the way. Trends very quickly get old. Learn to buck them. For example, we generally don’t make static infographics anymore, because times have moved on. If something feels ‘seen before,’ it doesn’t generate the spark of interest that it may have done when it made its first tentative steps into the world.
It’s worth noting that snazzy formats for poor ideas are not the same as generating truly great ideas, but it’s the format that can elevate an idea to the next level.
As well as branching out into games and photo stories we carried on creating interactive data visualisations, maps and quizzes too. Let’s take a look at some of the content from last year and the metrics it achieved.
Just Park - Emergency Stop Game
- Facebook likes - 430,000
- Visits - 3.9million
- LRD (linking root domains) - 616 (historic index), (417 fresh index)
- Placements include - The Telegraph, The Independent, i100, Huffington Post, The Metro, Mail Online, IFLScience and The Sunday Times.
Starting with our biggest success story, for Just Park, we traversed uncharted waters with a game. There are no levels, you don’t have to learn keyboard commands, and the graphics themselves are simple (yet still eye-catching).
Often, if you are unsure whether an idea is strong enough, it is tempting to add unnecessary elements. These could come in the form of features, filters, more layers of discovery, visual noise, pull out facts, etc. Stripping an idea back to its most simple and core idea, and finding that it’s still a good idea, really helps to validate said idea.
In this game you drive until a STOP sign appears on the screen, at which point you click to stop the car, you are then given a score based on your reaction speed. It’s honestly as simple as that.
This mechanism is not new, it already existed online and had been very successful. When sense checking our ideas, this is often a stopping point for us. If a similar piece of content has been produced in the last year or so and it has been a success we are likely to scrap the idea altogether.
However, our reaction test took on a totally new guise – a driving game. We knew that incorporating “age” would be a powerful hook, and so it became our main metric for the score: a faster reaction achieves a younger age.
The piece resulted in a substantial amount of top-tier coverage, one of our favourites being I Fucking Love Science.
Concert Hotels - Got Rhythm
- Facebook likes - 300,000
- Visits - 3.3million
- LRDs - 503
- Placements include - Classic FM
For Concert Hotels, an affiliate site for hotels near concert venues, we created a drumming game. Think you are good at keeping a rhythm? We all tap along to music and like to think at least that we have rhythm when hitting the dance floor. But can we keep a rhythm? Do we really have a musical ear?
We created an early prototype and tested using Peek - a free user testing service. This proved to us early on that the game was very playable.
In the game you hear a beat, after a few seconds the beat fades out. You then need to keep that beat by tapping along and keeping the rhythm. Each tap creates a bright shape, this visual feedback makes the game more exciting to play.
The output here is a lollipop chart which maps how fast or slow you were from accurately keeping the beat. The piece became a viral success due to people’s competitive nature.
Interesting, not one piece of the coverage we received was secured manually. All the coverage we eventually achieved was due to the piece being a viral hit on social channels, from it going big on Facebook and Reddit.
Games: key takeaways
Virality is a story - If you are lucky enough to get a substantial amount of social traffic, this will likely turn into top-tier links.
User test in the early phases - This will help iron out user issues, and will prove if the concept is likely to get traction.
Visual feedback is important - A movement on hover / page load is engaging. It’s the details of these subtleties that bring a piece to life.
Have confidence in your own ideas - Don’t be afraid of a great idea, but learn to recognise when it’s not working.
Competition = virality - Having a scoring mechanism is a key driver for sharing.
Somfy - The View from Here
- Facebook likes - 2400
- Visits - 16,000
- LRDs - 76
- Placements include - USA Today, Daily Mail, Stylist, Trend Hunter, Travel + Leisure, CityLab (The Atlantic), Telegraph, Huffington Post, Refinery29, Fast Company, and The Washington Post
This piece was created for Somfy, a retailer and manufacturer motors and automatic controls for the home. Their target demographic is affluent Americans who enjoy travel.
To create this photo story, we used Upwork, a freelancer site to hire photographers all over the world to take a photo of the view from their window during the day and at sunset, in addition to telling us a little bit about how their view makes them feel.
We are inherently interested in other people's lives, especially those from other cultures and walks of life, so to have the rare opportunity to get a glimpse at the view out of someone else's window on the other side of the world is fascinating.
A horizontal upwards motion, like that of a blind, was used as a transition in the piece to seamlessly change from day to dusk.
Photo stories: key takeaways
Invest in content - Sometimes a data source or pre-existing content for an idea doesn’t exist, don’t let this put you off. Investing time in gathering your own data can see great rewards.
Use freelancers - Freelancers can be great for the kind of work you can’t do yourself, for whatever reason. Use with caution, as while more money in the freelance world generally means a higher quality of product, a small budget may limit the quality you can expect.
Fleximize - PayPal Mafia
- Facebook likes - 5200
- Visits - 114,000
- LRDs - 134
- Placements include - The NextWeb, VentureBeat, FastCoDesign
For Fleximize a company who provide small business loans we have created a range of content focusing on inspiring business entrepreneurs.
This chart represents the 400+ companies that the founders and former employees of PayPal have continued to work and invest in. It is important to captivate your audience on page load, and this piece does just that; using D3 we animated a bubble chart which springs into shape.
Displaying the people in a circle with the complex network of adjoined companies in the middle aids the family/mafioso feel, it was also the cleanest way visually to unite the companies to the tech entrepreneurs.
Pulling out the key stories into a 5 step narrative, copy on the left matching with the changing bubble chart on the right, we helped our audience make sense of the chart before giving them the option to explore alone.
Data visualisations: key takeaway
Make large data sets manageable - A lot of data is overwhelming. It’s your job to find the interesting stories within and visualise them in an easy-to-digest format.
Gocompare - Evolution of Resolution
- Facebook likes - 600
- LRDs - 121
- Placements include - Cult of Mac, Shortlist, Medium
This scrolling story for comparison website Gocompare compares the pixel density of mobile phones over the past 20 years. As you scroll through the piece the positioning of the phone stays constant. As time passes and newer phone models appear it becomes clear how much screen resolution has actually improved.
Using a scrolling format like this helps the user consume a story as you intended, it forces the consumption of content to be in a certain order and leads the user on a predetermined journey. Comparisons are also much easier to show this way. This piece visualises how the pixel size of a Nokia 5110 (released in 1998) compares it to an iPhone 6S Plus.
We chose the phone’s carefully, based on the models that have been most popular over the last 20 years. The selection really heightens the sense of nostalgia. The format we used aims to make the journey as visual and concrete as possible whilst showing just how much screen resolution has improved over two decades.
Scrolling pieces: key takeaways
Leverage nostalgia - Jogging the audience's memories with things from the past is a good way to elicit an emotional reaction and make a user engage with your content.
Scrolling allows comparisons to be shown gradually - Showing how one thing compares to the next, and then the next in a linear fashion can be hard whilst avoiding repetition, a scrolling format is one way to overcome this.
Make complicated ideas concrete - When trying to explain difficult concepts e.g. pixel densities, find a concrete way to visualise the concept. W used a 'zoom' method to display the size comparisons.
Gocompare - What Powers the World?
- Facebook likes - 3500
- LRDs - 101
- Placements include - IFL Science, EcoWatch, The Sunday Times, Richarddawkins.net, Flipboard, FastCoExist, Focus.de, Stern.de
On behalf of Gocompare, we created an interactive map that shows what percentage of energy comes from fossil fuels, renewables and nuclear for the countries of the world. By using a largely black and white design (based on a NASA image of the world at night), with the white elements showing the ‘lights’ of each country, it becomes abundantly clear what individual countries are using to ‘keep the lights on’.
A key story is how reliant the whole world is on fossil fuels. In comparison when selecting just the ‘Nuclear’ or ‘Renewables’ slider, the world goes much darker, highlighting countries such as France (74% nuclear) and Brazil (77% renewables).
To make the piece easy to navigate each on/off fuel variable highlights key stories with a pulsating orange circle, these road maps pull out the most revealing stories, the user can also explore on their own.
Maps: key takeaways
Add instruction to aid the user journey - Using a piece of creative content should be intuitive, however, annotations explaining how to navigate on page load can be useful
Ensure your design choices are relatable - We all recognise aerial views of earth showing light pollution, using light illumination here to show energy being used continues with a visual we already understand.
What's your success story?
What does the next year of creative content have in store for you? We would love to hear about new formats you and your team have tried, what you are finding works and what doesn’t and what you are doing to push content further.