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The technology that drives interactive content marketing, part one - Ceros

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher October 3, 2016
You don't need a ton of technology to get going with content marketing. But, as Barb Mosher Zinck reports, the tools for interactive content marketing are getting better. In the first of two part series, Zinck gives a view through the lens of one such tool - Ceros.

Interactive content marketing can happen without technology. But technology makes it a whole lot easier, especially the kind that is available in the market today. So I thought it would be a good exercise to look at a couple of these: Ceros and ion Interactive. For this piece, let’s look at Ceros.

Creative origins

Ceros comes at the world from a creative point of view. Its CEO, Simon Berg started out in the creative production agency business at sixteen years old. His experience over the years focused on creative, product management and the distribution of content. He described himself to me as a techie at heart and believes that creativity and technology in the right combination is what’s required to enable marketers the freedom to create great interactive experiences.

Ceros is not like most of the other interactive content marketing products out there. Berg says that other solutions attempt to solve the problem of interactive content in a scalable way, and what they do in the process is hamper creativity out of the box.

That alone should give you an idea of how Ceros works. This is not a solution to pump out volumes of content quickly. It’s also not a solution for people who aren’t design-oriented.

A SaaS solution, Berg says there is a growing category of companies out there focused on design thinking. These companies are shifting their much of their marketing budgets from outside agencies to internal spaces inside the organization, and they need to include their creative people in the process.

Ceros Studio looks similar to Adobe InDesign or Photoshop, which gives you an idea of where the market is for this solution. It’s not template based, but it also doesn’t require a developer. Ceros' goal is for creatives to tell their story any way they want within their brand guidelines. With it, you can create a wide range of interactive content from big content items like ebooks, microsites, lookbooks and magazines to smaller items such as infographics and other embeddable content.

Integrating with the marketing stack

Ceros integrates with third party services such as the Noun Project, an open source graphic library, along with marketing systems like analytics and marketing automation. You can bring in cloud content from places like YouTube, and it provides an SDK if you want to go a step further and build in logic for quizzes, games or personalized text based on profile information in your marketing automation or CRM solution.

The text tool in Ceros acts like a print tool, Berg explained. This gives you much more control and design accuracy when placing content that will be viewed in different form factors.

Collaboration, analytics, and real-time previews

One of the things I really liked about Ceros is that you have a real-time preview of content as it’s being created without having to reload the browser window. Berg gave me a preview link to view as he was creating a content item. Everytime he made a change; it was immediately reflected in my browser without my doing anything.

Berg said you can also link Studios together to enable marketers to work collaboratively (he said it’s similar to Google Docs live). When would you want to use this kind of capability? When the project is in the finishing stages, and you want to collaborate on final touches; it’s not necessarily functionality you would use up front. It would also be beneficial when showing the final “draft” version to a review group who could suggest tweaks you could easily make in real-time.

Finally, analytics. Ceros has an analytics dashboard that shows content usage. Metrics such as time spent on a page, objects clicked, engagement score (a new metric they have introduced), video completion rate and much more are available.

There is a lot that Ceros can do. I’m only hitting the highlights that stuck out for me. One thing that is important to point out though is that Ceros is not a tool for huge amounts of text driven by a database. This is a visual tool designed to help you tell a very visual story.

An important addition to the designer’s toolset

I was curious to know why someone would use Ceros when they could simply use InDesign or Photoshop (although to be fair to Ceros it provides much more capability than these products).

Berg said that many companies use Ceros as an addition to the designer's toolset. He said some use InDesign or Photoshop to create icons or graphics, or early designs and then use Ceros to bring those designs to life. Plus you add in the integrations with other marketing systems, the analytics, and single click publishing capability, and it does make sense.

With Ceros adding new features every four weeks, Berg said many are starting to design directly inside Ceros. He also sees companies start to use Ceros for different use cases such as sales for product marketing content and service and support.

I’ll leave you a couple of interesting examples:

There are more use cases on the Ceros example page.

Final thoughts

I can’t deny that I liked Ceros. Although my first impression was that it looked complex to use, Berg’s demo showed me that it’s actually very straightforward and still packed with functionality (most of which we didn’t even scratch the surface of).

It’s not a tool for every marketer, but if you have a great in-house designer, you can do a lot with it. Ceros also provides the Ceros Academy, a set of tutorials designed to not only show you how to use the tool but also how to decide what kind of interactive content is right for you and how to develop a workflow around creating interactive content.

Ceros is one of growing number of interactive content solutions available. Next time, we’ll look at ion Interactive. I think looking at these two solutions gives you a great starting point on what’s out there to use.

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