3 Marketing Tactics to Use at Your Thanksgiving Table

3 Marketing Tactics to Use at Your Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to reconnect with loved ones over a savory meal, but it can also be a holiday filled with family drama, political controversies, and confrontational questions as the above Saturday Night Live skit portrays.

If piping in Adele's latest tunes won't keep impertinent dinner guests at bay, why not try applying one of your marketing best practices? Not only will it get you in the right mind-set for the weekend ahead, but it can also turn an awkward meal into an enjoyable gathering.

So, here are three marketing best practices you can use at your holiday table this Thanksgiving—trust me, your customers and dinner guests will thank you.

For the relative who asks too many questions about your personal life: Preference centers

Whether they're fishing for details about a new significant other or asking a couple about their plans to expand their family, there are always those relatives who ask those bit-too-personal questions. Instead of getting frustrated about their attempts to acquire your personal data, clearly state your preferences and let them know what you are and are not comfortable sharing. Maybe you're happy to talk about your raise at work; however, you're not quite ready to bring around your new beau. Or, perhaps their delivery is wrong. Maybe you'd rather not broadcast your recent medical scare to the entire family, but you'd be willing to talk to the inquirer one-on-one after dinner.

Whatever the case, make your preferences known. After all, it's not until preferences and boundaries are established that behaviors can change.

For the relative who you have nothing in common with: Personalization

Stuck sitting next to that relative with whom you have absolutely zero in common? You could sit through dinner listening to the clinking of silverware, or you could apply personalization. Ask your relative about their likes and behaviors, and really listen. Tailor your conversation based on their responses. Once the person sees that you're interested in his preferences, he may be more likely to engage. Just don't turn the conversation back to a humble bragging opportunity. There's nothing worse than a one-way conversation filled with self-promotion. 

For the relative who talks about politics or religion at the table: The unsubscribe

Few dinner conversations are as polarizing as ones regarding religion or politics. If you find voices rising and tempers flaring at your table, don't be afraid to unsubscribe from the conversation. Tell your rambunctious dinner guests that the topic is making you uncomfortable, and if they fail to listen to your request, feel free to disengage. They won't be adding any value to you by making you upset and you won't be adding any value to them by sitting there quietly. And as email marketing has shown, a valueless relationship isn't one worth engaging or investing in. Besides, it's more fun at the kids' table.

3 Abstract Aspects of Digital Culture

3 Abstract Aspects of Digital Culture

As digital culture continues to exert its dominance over business and commerce, millennials and other digital-oriented consumers will wield increasing influence over marketers' success. Plenty of businesses are actively executing on this reality, to the point that “millennial” has become one of the top buzzwords in business, especially in marketing.

Often, marketers speak about millennials and their value in absolute terms, with specific channels or tactics that marketers can use to better engage these elusive young consumers. This is nothing outside the realm of norm, as marketers need actionable insight at every possible turn. However, the abstract concepts of social media and digital etiquette are often lost in this line of business pragmatism.

Here, I've isolated three attributes of digital culture that brands can market against to drive relevance with digital audiences.


When it comes to the Web, memes are the ultimate tribute. They're a celebration of people, products, or corporations; fun that often comes at the expense of the meme's subject. Indeed, memes can often spawn from a place of negativity. No marketer wants their brand to be the butt of a viral Internet joke. However, marketers must understand the subtle differences between memeification and an untempered roast.

While many memes poke fun, they also function as a tangible representation of shared ideas and perceptions. Generally speaking, people don't meme people or products they don't care about or aren't invested in, except, perhaps to meme their apathetic stance on said people or products. Even in the latter case, marketers can derive insight into their customers, their opinions, and their interests by monitoring the memes they share. In the best case, marketers can take cues from a growing celebrity trend and intentionally provoke the Internet meme machine, ala Drake or Dos Equis.

Social consciousness

There was a time where brands, like journalists, were wholly prohibited from expressing bias on social issues. Brands especially ran the risk of alienating groups of customers at the opposite end of whatever polarizing stance they took on an issue. This has somewhat eroded in the digital age. Consumers find validation in the art and entertainment that enforces their world view. The same is true of brands.

Many brands in the food business, for example, market through an anti-GMO, anti-pesticide, cage-free lens; a lens through which many young consumers now view their food in a post Food Inc. world. LGBT Pride Day, and other LGBT events, represent a similar trend, with businesses across multiple industries augmenting branded content with rainbow colored creative in support of the gay community. Most recently, brands around the country changed logos and colors in a show of solidarity with the people of Paris in the wake of terror attacks. Marketers, however, must take care to avoid subversion when tapping into the vein of social conscious.

Candor and transparency

It takes a certain degree of vulnerability to thrive in today's digital culture. We see evidence of this each day through social media. For much of the history of modern business, brands have stood behind a curtain of sorts; operating as separate, non-human entities from the consumers they target. This is still the case, as it should be to a degree. But, part of what enables a brand to exhibit a social consciousness, or a personality in general, is in the brand's transparency and open communication.

The Truth About Holiday Marketing

The Truth About Holiday Marketing

The holiday season keeps creeping up earlier and earlier. And shoppers are learning to expect deals sooner and sooner. Here are 10 stats that'll help marketing teams prepare for those moments that matter—while they still matter to shoppers.

1) Analysts project 2015 holiday sales to rise 3.7%. Compare that to 4.1% in 2014, and 2.7% in 2013 and 2012. (National Retail Federation)

2) Despite the extra opening hours, online shopping, and extending special sales on Thanksgiving, 64% of shoppers plan to shop in-store on Black Friday. In fact, 18% of shoppers say they are more likely to shop on Black Friday than Thanksgiving Day. (Retale)

3) Eighty-two percent of millennials say word-of-mouth is a key influencer to their purchase decisions. (Synchrony Financial)

4) Sixty-two percent of surveyed Baby Boomers say online shopping sites are the number one purchase influencers, followed closely by advertising and advice from a sales person. (Synchrony Financial)

5) Of people who watched videos to help with holiday shopping, 80% watched product reviews and ratings.

6) Analysts say this holiday season email will remain the most effective marketing tool for retailers. (Forrester Research)

7) Seventy-five percent of millennials plan to shop on Black Friday compared to only 44% of other shoppers. (Retale)

8) Twenty-five percent of customers interact with at least three devices daily. (Blueconic)

9) Baby Boomers have the most disposable income and make up nearly 50% of retail sales; compare that to about 10% for millennials. (Synchrony Financial)

10) Fifty-three percent of those who shopped online used smartphones or tablets in 2014, up from 41% the previous year. (Ipsos MediaCT)

The 3 Emails I Fell for This Fall

The 3 Emails I Fell for This Fall

As the associate editor of Direct Marketing News, I tend to write a lot about email. I usually cover industry reports or interview experts on what they say comprises a perfect send, but I rarely take a consumer stance and share my own two cents about what I think drives opens and clicks (OK, there was that one time).

So, I decided to look at my own inbox for inspiration and share the three emails that caught my eye this fall and why.   

(Click on image to see full email)

Brand: easyJet

What I love about this email. Personalization

Personalization can be a tricky thing to master. Marketers have to walk that fine line between offering value and projecting a Big Brother vibe. This email from British airline easyJet succeeded in presenting me with one of the greatest values of all: a fond memory.

When I received this email from easyJet last week, I was immediately transported back to the trip to Europe that my fiancé and I took in February. I couldn't believe that it had been 261 days since we flew from Austria to Germany, and seeing that we traveled 511 kilometers was a fun nugget of information. Plus, the list of 20 favorite experiences across Europe at the bottom of the email led me to start daydreaming of potential honeymoon destinations.  

easyJet could have simply celebrated its 20th anniversary by focusing on the company's milestones; however, this type of messaging wouldn't have had the same sentimental appeal. By focusing on customers' experiences, rather than the brand's, marketers can form emotional connections with patrons that drive loyalty and purchase.

(Click on image to see full email)

Brand: Blue Apron

What I love about this email: Unattached customer value

Here's the thing about Blue Apron: I'm not a customer, and there's a good chance that I never will subscribe to the meal delivery service (I actually love planning out my meals and going to the grocery store. I know; I'm weird.). However, I do subscribe to the brand's email newsletter. Why? Because every week Blue Apron sends me the same recipes that it mails to its customers. If something catches my eye—like its shrimp and pineapple soft tacos—I can click on the recipe and access it for free—even though I'm not a paying customer. Plus, if I want a refresher on how to slice an avocado or prep my herbs, I can watch one of Blue Apron's video tutorials. And if I want to reference a recipe later on, I can find it on Blue Apron's website through search or by filtering the recipes by main ingredient, cuisine, or season.

Put simply: Blue Apron provides me with real value with no strings attached.

The brand's timely Thanksgiving email is no different. It provides subscribers with 10 different meals they can make for their family and friends this Turkey Day. And while I already have plans to stuff my face with my aunt's cheesy potatoes this Thanksgiving, I definitely intend to take a stab at those mac and cheese recipes this winter.

To be fair, my relationship with Blue Apron sounds a bit one-sided. And for the most part, it is. I definitely receive more from the brand than I give. However, what I don't offer in monetary value, I make up for in advocacy. My fiancé now consults Blue Apron's recipes too. So while conversion and sales are marketers' main objectives, offering subscribers unattached value can also produce delectable results when it comes to advocacy and engagement.

(Click on image to see full email)

Brand: ClassPass

What I love about its email: Easy engagement

Unlike Blue Apron, ClassPass is a brand that I patron. I subscribe to the emails sent by the fitness studio network to receive reminders for upcoming workout classes, new studio announcements, and content from its blog. But the email provided above is one message that truly caught my attention.

I love how the brand created a workout schedule and recommended different activities for each day of the week—such as boxing on Tuesday and tennis on Saturday. This tactic introduced me to studios and workout activities that I didn't even know ClassPass offered. Plus, I like how it paired each fitness activity with a fun recommendation relating to the time of day. For instance, the brand advised patrons to checkout a local stargazing telescope after their evening workouts and provided them with Sunday brunch spots to enjoy after their weekend classes. Finally, the inclusion of links to each fitness studio mentioned made it easy to schedule a workout.

We're all victims of routine, and sometimes it can be difficult for brands to get customers to venture outside of their comfort zones. With ClassPass, I generally stick to the same workout activities—dance and yoga. Instead of depending on me to search its website for new sources of fitness inspiration, ClassPass did the work for me and presented the options in a fun and creative way. The bottom line for marketers: Don't make your consumers search for your products and services, put them right in front of them.

Marketing's Toughest "Boss" Battles

Marketing's Toughest "Boss" Battles

The toughest challenge gamers face in video games is the boss fights. These climactic encounters are often designed to test players' knowledge of the game's systems and mechanics by having them face off against monstrous, unique foes. As tests, these battles can instruct, reward, or punish players; sometimes all at once. Successful marketers in the digital age may find this concept quite familiar, or at least they should.

While marketers put their experience and education to use every day, certain events—such as the crunch of budgeting season, reacting to the spontaneity of social media, Black Friday—can push marketers to their limits in much the same way that video games benchmark and test players through boss battles. Here, we explore five situations or circumstances in marketing that parallel the boss fight experience of games.


Boss sequences in video games often follow a formula—pre-rendered cinematic cut scene followed by the boss fight, followed by another cut scene. The marketing process is rarely this binary or predictable, especially not now. But, if there's one aspect of the job that marketers can consistently count on for challenge and tension, it's budgeting. In fact, marketers' ability to meet the challenges discussed in this list will frequently depend on the fluidity of their budget.

With the ever-increasing pace of technological iteration, planning a marketing budget for six months, or even a quarter, has become a regular and predictable source of marketing crucible.

Adopting a new tech solution

The toughest boss battles in gaming don't simply test players' skills with the game's systems, but often challenge players by removing functionality. Marketers face similar challenges when the business switches to a new technology solution.

Whether CRM, marketing automation, or even corporate email providers, transitioning to a new technology can tax employees and customers alike, regardless of how seamless the transition. The adjustment period following new tech adoption can be grueling, especially in older companies. However, like a boss fight, businesses can rarely avoid these growing pains, and when the payoff is a potentially streamlined area of operations, businesses can't really afford to either.

Tentpole events

The same hallmarks of traditional narrative arcs are present in many games, and often end up telegraphing a boss battle hours before the encounter. Players have plenty of time to grind out character levels to earn new weapons and skills, or practice mastering mechanics that the game introduced in the wake of the last boss fight. Even with all of this preparation, the boss can still prove immensely challenging. The marketing parallel here is yearly tentpole events.

Black Friday, the various holidays, the Super Bowl; marketers have incredible lead time over these events. Even still, these annual occurrences present some of the toughest challenges of the year for many businesses, despite years of experience.

Social Media

Social media is unpredictable and highly volatile by its very nature. Even with robust data sets and social media marketing strategies, no one can account for the wild swings in social trends, or the intensity of viral criticism on the channel. Like gamers adapting to random or unavoidable encounters with elite enemies in games, marketers must be prepared for virtually anything when they feature their brand prominently in social channels, which they absolutely should do. After all, just like in games, the challenges that demand the most with the least amount of preparation often prove the most rewarding once they are overcome.

Define Your Brand, or Else

Define Your Brand, or Else

Last Thursday, my coworker and I needed to catch a cab in New York.

The problem was that it's practically impossible to catch one of those iconic yellow cabs during the bustling evening in the heart of Times Square, which is exactly where we were trying to hail a cab. So I decided to pull out my iPhone and use my apps to catch a cab for both of us. The two apps that I have on my phone are Uber and Lyft.

While the two of us were putting in our information to take each of us home, we realized a few things. One: Neither one of us had a preference—or any loyalty—to either brand. Two: When the drivers from Uber and Lyft called my phone to update us on their statuses, neither identified themselves with the company that each works for. So I had to ask, “Is this Uber or Lyft?” And when each car pulled up to the curb in front of the venue where we were waiting, only one—Uber—had an identifier of the company on the vehicle.  So when the Lyft car pulled up first, I had to ask which company he worked for—again.

My point: I feel both companies need to do a better job in marketing the distinct differences in their services, missions, and customer benefits. And from this experience, I have a few suggestions on brand marketing.

1) Work to boost customer affinity and brand loyalty. Remember that everyone has many options at the tips of their fingers. Consumers today don't necessarily need to maintain loyalty to any brand when so many options are available. If they're the least bit dissatisfied with their customer or simply are looking to try something, they won't hesitate to turn to another brand. So building loyalty, advocacy, and affinity should be a high priority for every marketing team.

2) Define your brand. The Uber and Lyft drivers should answer the phone and identify themselves to customers with company names each time that they begin a conversation. Both Lyft and Uber have glow-in-the-dark symbols, which are supposed to be on display so that customers and even bystanders can easily recognize those brands. Part of defining a brand is to be consistent, which both of the cab services were missing.

3) Rev up your internal staff. One truth so often gets overlooked: Your employees make some of the best brand advocates. More times than I care to share, a Lyft driver tells me—while on my way to a destination—that he's also an Uber driver and vice versa. The employees, many times, don't feel a sense of loyalty to either company and as such don't advocate a particular brand to customers. Have a mission that your employees can believe in. Distinguish the company from all competitors. Those who work for you will be the best advocates, better than money ever could buy.

My Acceptance Speech

My Acceptance Speech

The Direct Marketing Club of New York hosted is annual Silver Apple Awards last night. The lifetime achievement award honors those who have contributed greatly to the direct marketing industry over the course of their careers. I was fortunate to be among this year's honorees.

I'm so ecstatic about receiving the award I want to share the moment with all of you. So, here, my acceptance speech:

Thank you so much to the DMCNY for this incredible honor. And thanks everyone for coming tonight to celebrate. Most of all, a special thanks to my mom for being my number one cheerleader, and to my amazing daughter, Claudia, and cousin Ginny, who continually inspire me by having the guts to forge their own path and accomplish whatever they set their mind to.

Of course, congratulations to my fellow honorees!

Claudia and I have a tradition when we eat ice cream at home: it's always topped with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and sprinkles. One day not that long ago Claudia asked me if I would make her a bowl of ice cream. I was in the middle of something but I said yes and made it anyway—in a rush. When I handed Claudia the ice cream, her enthusiastic thank-you and broad smile quickly dissolved into disappointment.

"What happened to the whipped cream and sprinkles?" she asked.

What happened was that I delivered a subpar customer experience because I ignored my top customer's known preferences and instead focused on what was best for me at the time.

It's exactly the same with marketing.

Companies that ignore what they know about their customers are bound to disappoint them. Instead, brands should develop what Don Peppers and Martha Rogers call learning relationships: building on and using the customer data they have and gather over time to deliver increasingly relevant customer experiences and interactions.

Remember, as Sam Walton said, "Customers can fire everyone from the CEO on down simply by spending their money somewhere else." [Full, original quote is here.]

I've obsessed over and evangelized customer-centric marketing for the past 30 years because, done well, everyone wins.

Direct marketing—data-driven, one-to-one, integrated, marketing—works. It worked for 100 years before Lester Wunderman took home the first Silver Apple, and with the all the amazing technology and reams of data available today will continue to work, better than ever before, for 100 years after Don and Martha come back for their Golden Apple.

The fact is… Customers want, and expect, their whipped cream and sprinkles--and direct marketing delivers it.

Marketeering Turns to Electioneering

Marketeering Turns to Electioneering

“If you air it, they will come,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter about Tuesday night's GOP presidential debate on Fox Business Network. The Donald and The Doctor's travelling circus has turned into a reality show rivaling The Apprentice. This week's 8.9 rating and the 9.5 rating for CNBC's previous airing of the conservative candidate conga line both topped the 8.3 earned by the Royals and Mets in Game 2 of the World Series. The 2016 election has become a major branding event and publicity machine. It's no wonder, then, that digital marketing companies have taken notice and, to paraphrase the great Jimmy Durante, everybody wants ta get inta dee act!

Last month we reported that Fluent, a lead optimization specialist, had established the digitally charged Political Pulse polling service, opened a Washington office, and hired veteran campaign operative Jeff Pavelycsyk to run it. Since then, press releases from digital agencies jumping on the political bandwagon have been filing into our inboxes, well, like GOP candidates onto a debate stage.

Two programmatic ad platforms threw their hats into the ring in just the past week. The CEO of one of them, Eric Bosco of ChoiceStream, said that traditional GRP-happy political campaigns had to go programmatic in 2016 due to the “importance of social media, the rise of mobile advertising, and the ability to target specific audiences.”

Xaxis unveiled Xaxis Politics with a candidate-like claim of being the first programmatic product to help candidates leverage offline data to inform digital campaigns. “Voter data is the lifeblood of political advertising, with a lengthy pedigree as the engine of successful direct voter marketing,” CEO Brian Gleason said in a press release. His reference to the timeworn electioneering channel of direct mail was well-placed, because mail is still playing a key role in Election 2016, both paper and digital. It was an old-school political direct mail impresario named Bruce Eberle who helped a National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee raise more than $12 million for the candidate before he ever announced for the presidency. And it was a New Age master of community organizing who showed political candidates the way around an inbox.

No matter what his legacy in foreign policy or healthcare ends up being, Barack Obama will go down in marketing history as the man who put the small "e" into electioneering, riding an ocean of emails into the Oval Office and building a segmented list that remains political gold to this day. The Obama organization began building its list in 2008, a campaign operative involved in the 2012 presidential election told us, and has kept on building and honing it to this day. The Obama campaign fairly steamrollered Romney in inboxes, and the bounty he reaped there paid off in customer segments, donations, and, most important, votes. In an email post-mortem of that election, eDataSource executive GB Heidarsson found that Barack sent 20 emails for every one sent by Mitt and that his list of individual supporters was 40 million to Romney's four million.

Email, veteran political marketers says, and not social media or display ads, will be what gets the president elected in 2016. If they're right, the rousing crew of Republican candidates knockin' 'em dead on prime time had better get their behavioral and contextual engines running. An analysis performed by eDataSource in September had Hillary Clinton displaying Obama-like form in inboxes, while the squad of GOP candidates were all tearing at bits and swatches of the same Republican National Committee list.

Most exposed in email marketing may well be the front-running Trump. He boasts about not asking for any money to run his campaign, but his self-funding could prove his undoing. Candidate emails sent at this early stage of the campaign are mostly about fundraising, to be sure. But that list of contributors shines brighter as election day draws nigh, because donors also tend to be voters.

Don't Say "I Do" to Brand Comparison

Don't Say "I Do" to Brand Comparison

This September I experienced one of the best nights of my life: My high school sweetheart proposed.

The outpour of love we received from our family and friends was overwhelming. We had so much fun calling our closest colleagues, enjoying celebratory dinner and drinks with friends, and receiving a plethora of cards full of well wishes.

But as we got deeper into the planning process, I started to lose my sense of elation. It was hard not to compare my ring to the other beautiful rocks (or in some cases boulders) popping up on friends' Facebook feeds. And the more I flipped through bridal magazines and pinned images on Pinterest, the more I started to doubt my own vision: Were these the right colors for the bridesmaids' dresses? Is six groomsmen too many?  Did I even wear the right dress the night of my proposal?

Basically, I became a victim of self comparison. And the more I compared my dream day to others, the more I refrained from making any decisions at all.

It wasn't until recently that I came across this quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” President Roosevelt's words truly resonated with me, and I realized that I was happier and more confident in my decision-making when I focused on what I truly wanted—instead of trying to constantly meet social media's standards.  

With so much competition in today's industry, it can be easy for marketers to feel the same pressure: What are their competitors doing? How can they top last year's campaign? What are people saying about them?

Granted, it's important for marketers to be aware of what consumers and competitors are doing in the marketplace; however, this shouldn't fully determine their brand vision and goals. So even though I'm still fighting this battle myself, I thought that I'd share six pieces of advice for fighting self comparison.

1. Stay focused on your own mission. After my fiancé and I got engaged, we each wrote down three words that we wanted our wedding to encapsulate. Keeping these adjectives in mind has helped us narrow down what we want—and don't want—from our venue and vendors.

Marketers can perform a similar exercise. Identify what the brand truly stands for and then identify if the team is delivering on those values. There are always going to be distractions, such as what other companies are doing. But straying away from brand values to simply follow the pack can make companies seem inauthentic and cause them to lose loyalty (remember the outcry sparked by New Coke?).

Clearly outlining company goals and values can help marketers determine whether they're actually delivering on their promises. If they are, they must be doing something right. 

2. Let competitors inspire your work; not define it. When I see a center piece or décor element that I like from another wedding, I try to home in on what I like about it. Is it the color? The texture? Then, I try to take that idea and personalize it to fit my overall vision—instead of just copy it.

Marketers should do the same. Did one of your competitors have the campaign of the century? Pick it apart and try to identify what made it so successful. Then, see how those successful tactics could apply to your brand—or if it even makes sense to apply them to your brand. But don't just dish out a secondhand version of your competitors' campaign. Consumers can detect a poser a mile away.

3. Be realistic. It's easy to gawk at the $15,000 wedding dresses on shows like Say Yes to the Dress. But truthfully, that's just not in my budget—and I have to be OK with that reality.  So instead of sulking about how I'll never have a dress dripping with Swarovski crystals or swan feathers, I look for attire that's within my price range.

Likewise, marketers have to accept that their dollars might not stretch as far as their competitors'. But marketing isn't a game of who spends more; it's a game of who spends smarter. In today's digital age, there's a number of ways marketers can drive brand awareness or conversion for relatively little to no money. It's just up to marketers to find those opportunities and execute on them fully.

4. Make people feel like their voices are being heard. When you start planning a wedding, everyone wants to give you their opinions. I've had people weigh in on what my hairstyle should be, why my dress shouldn't be strapless, and where I should buy my centerpieces. Sometimes, this input can be a bit overwhelming—and that's putting it kindly. However, I recognize that this day is a celebration for my friends and family, too. So, I try to make them feel like their voices are heard by inviting them to participate in certain activities—like venue shopping—and thanking them for their input (even if I don't use it). But at the end of the day, I know that I have to ultimately go with what my fiancé and I want. And if I feel like I'm struggling with making a decision, I consult the people who I know truly understand my vision.

Consumers love to provide feedback, too. But that doesn't mean that marketers should act on every suggestion or complaint made. Marketers do, however, have to make consumers feel like their opinions matter—such as by responding through social media or sending a thank you email after a consumer answers a survey. And marketers shouldn't write off their feedback right away. Many times consumers can offer key insights into how marketers can enhance the brand experience.

Professionals from other departments can also be tempted to offer marketing their opinions. The key to evaluating feedback—whether it comes from consumers or internal staff—is to assess whether it aligns with the brands' overall goals. Running these ideas past others who fully understand the company's objectives is a good idea too. Sometimes, this involves pitching ideas to professionals in other departments, such as IT or customer service. Getting a broader perspective can not only help marketers determine whether the feedback is a good idea, but also whether it's a feasible one.

5. Have a timeline that works for you. When my fiancé and I first got engaged, my mom encouraged us to start telling our friends and family the good news right away. However, I wanted time to soak in the moment. So, we waited an extra day to start calling people, and we didn't post anything on social media for a full week—a near lifetime in today's digital world.

Whether you're planning a wedding or a campaign, you have to create a timeline that works for you. I think Uwe Ellinghaus, CMO of Cadillac, phrased it best in his Industry Spotlight column about Cadillac's new marketing strategy: “We're running a marathon, not a sprint,” he wrote. “It's easy to get distracted by the day-to-day pressures in an industry that's still driven primarily by a monthly sales target. We need to constantly remind ourselves not to just do something because ‘that's how it was always done.'”

Don't worry about how quickly others are pushing out campaigns or introducing new products. Focus on the quality of your offerings and set deadlines that you know your teams can meet. 

6. Know what truly matters. At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what color my tablecloths are or whether I went with salmon or fillet as the main entree. What matters is that I'm marrying my best friend. As long as I do that, then the wedding is a success.

Marketers should reevaluate their success metrics, too. It's easy to obsess over open rates and likes when marketers should really be focusing on whether they're driving conversion. As long as they're meeting their main benchmarks, they don't need to sweat the small stuff.

The Memeification of Political Marketing

The Memeification of Political Marketing

Internet culture has matured exponentially in the years since President Obama's 2008 election. Social media reigns, memes abound, data is life, and content is king. Understandably, marketers have taken notice of these shifts, and adjusted accordingly.

The marketers and campaign strategists behind the 2016 presidential candidates have shown nearly as much know-how in this new digital environment as the candidates themselves—which in some cases isn't much. Yet, the hallmarks of modern marketing are everywhere. But there's something noteworthy that stands apart from the digital savvy of Obama's 2008 campaign marketing: oddities that surround the forthcoming presidential election based on some candidates naïveté marketing to millennials: the memeification of political marketing.

I present as examples two of the most dominant political figures in social media as of this writing: Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson and Donald Trump. Both recently made grandiose attempts to appeal to younger audiences; Carson with a rap ad placement on Urban radio, and Trump with a parody of the insanely popular “Hotline Bling” music video—originally performed by pop rap sensation Drake—during a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live. Both cases embody some of the most obtuse marketing of the day; they seem to have successfully inflamed, though in some cases entertained, social media–savvy millennials—turning the candidates into memes in the process.

Storytelling on Social Media

Storytelling on Social Media

At the heart of social media is engagement. Few know this better than Don Steele, head of audience development at Tumblr—the micro-blogging site owned by Yahoo. For many B2B and B2C companies, Tumblr continues to be an effective tool in a greater social media strategy to share content and build engagement. DMN caught up with Steele at Engage 2015 in New York, an event that focuses on leading social strategies, innovation, and successes. Here's that one-on-one, which first published via DMN's Periscope.

Exactly how important is social media to a marketing strategy?
I think these days it's critical, and obviously that's why the [social media] industry is so big and so important. I think the relationship that people can have between brands and customers—customer service, the ability to sell people more, the ability to connect in a way that they've never had before—it's just critical. Understanding how valuable that is, and that social can enable that, is just a great marketing strategy.

How do companies pick the right social media platform for their audiences—whether Tumblr or another platform?
I think that all of the platforms have a role in terms of how you connect. But as we were talking about on the panel [at Engage 2015], it's a lot about being great on the platform that you're choosing to be present on. For Tumblr it's the demographics; it's the type of content that works really well; it's the type of brands that demonstrate success in using those platforms to be effective and successful. And so we think about Tumblr as a great platform where other brands like to participate, but the Tumblr brand does participate on other platforms to tell our story.

Should marketers use a social media platform to build an audience or maintain an audience?
Well, at Tumblr it's a way to extend the relationship with the audience because the content that works great on Tumblr and the brands that do well on Tumblr bring experiences to life through a social media platform.

Why might micro-blogging be a good place to spark conversations with current and potential customers?
Well, it's a great place to tell a story with pictures, with audio, with video, and all of those types of things that you can't use on other platforms. At Tumblr you can say so many things. Every brand has such a rich story.

What would you define as a good marketing strategy?
Good marketing strategies are ones with goals that you're trying to achieve and a specific plan on how to get to those goals. Take a look at how you're setting those goals and the tactics you're using to get there.

How might social media strategies differ for small- and medium-sized business versus a major brand?
I think that you have to think about the relationship that you're trying to have. If you're a small- or medium-sized business, you're probably going to have a more one-to-one communication with people. Their social media strategy is very different than one that is global in nature and has to tell a worldwide story.

Is there ever a time that social media should not be a part of a bigger marketing strategy?
Every social media strategy should have some social element to it. Because I think that the relationships consumers have and that the way that they want to participate in the world call for participation in social media from companies.

Describe social media of the future.
Well, as long as it maintains its magic and people realize that it's this great tool for self-expression then the more people will feel positive and connected with social media in the future.

Has Scalability Reached its Limits?

Has Scalability Reached its Limits?

The town hall on ad blocking at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Ad Operations Summit in New York this week began at the beginning: Is it even a problem? IAB chief Randall Rothenberg (below) asked all the publishers present in the crowd of about 300 people to raise their hands. He then asked those who had a conception of the extent of ad blocking on their sites to keep their hands raised. More than half remained aloft. When he asked who could point to a material change in their revenue because of it, about 10% of hands stayed up.

“The first step in approaching this is to determine how much of it is a public relations–induced problem and how much of it is real,” Rothenberg said.

You want real, Randall? You got it. People who at first seemed reticent to address an issue that threatened their very existence began to pour forth on existential issues of their own making.

“The IAB has been beating a drum for a long time on using creativity and design to serve the consumer, and everybody in the industry nods very vigorously and then goes back to doing exactly the same thing,” one publisher said. “Brands call for more and more scale and lower and lower prices. But they also ask for new, novel, never-been-done-before content. The upshot is the consumer is assaulted with voluminous, look-alike crap from every side, and they just can't process it.”

This town hall was sounding more like a 12-step support group. Was ad blocking the real problem? Or was ad blocking a mere side effect of a more serious ailment afflicting the internal operations of marketing and advertising?

“We've grown addicted like crack to the data we use to target these ads and reach these users,” another publisher said. “At the publisher level, we've become addicted to data on data and marketer on marketer and system on system to eke every penny out of every page. We're all guilty of this. It's all got to change.”

A Google representative posited that the ill-effects of ad blocking could act more like a virus. “If what you measure [on your own sites] seems to be pretty small, the problem is that, once a consumer takes that action the ad blocker is in effect on all sites,” he said. “So, if you place a pixel and it makes a unit open a little slower, that affects everyone in the room.”

One member of the crowd likened the rapid adoption of ad blockers to a consumer referendum. “It's like the world's largest petition,” he said. “It's not a technological solution we need, it's a trust solution.”

The group seemed to be coalescing around the idea that masses of teed-off consumers were not the desired effect of scalable marketing programs. Consumer experience might have to at last be given its due.

“Publishers, start thinking like your mom and your Aunt Tillie and go to your site and see what it feels like when you navigate it and you're not thinking about the dollars. If the ads turn that experience into a nightmare, change it,” admonished a stalwart voice in the crowd. “And tech vendors, you have to change from introducing solutions that just add to the norms. If we start to think in the realm of the overall ecosystem and not just our little piece, things will get a little better. The three words you want to avoid are, ‘But it works.' If ‘but' is before ‘it works,' then it doesn't work for the consumer.”

A Race to the Finish: 10 Last-Minute Holiday Marketing Tips

A Race to the Finish: 10 Last-Minute Holiday Marketing Tips


November is upon us, and marketers are counting down the days until Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holiday madness ensues. With only three weeks until Thanksgiving, it may be too late to make any major strategy adjustments; however, there are certainly last-minute tactics marketers can implement to end up on their customers'—and CFO's—nice list this year.

Based on data from the e-tailing group and MarketLive's holiday survey of more than 1,000 consumers, here are 10 merry methods marketers can put into place before holiday shopping kicks into high gear.

1. Merchandise with the mobile shopper in mind.

Mobile's effect on the shopper's journey has snowballed this year. According to the study, 28% of consumers say the quality of a brand's mobile experience always causes them to consider purchasing from a particular retailer. In addition, 53% of respondents consider their visit to a retailer's mobile app or site somewhat or very influential in prompting them to purchase.

Ken Burke, founder and CEO of e-commerce platform provider MarketLive, says marketers need to focus on highlighting the mobile site features shoppers engage with the most—such as the search bar and store locator. He also urges marketers to make it easy for mobile consumers to purchase. Promoting gift cards on the mobile site, for instance, is an effective tactic because consumers can buy them quickly, he says. Finally, Burke reminds marketers to ensure that their site content and images can be easily viewed and downloaded on a mobile device.

“Everybody thinks [they] have to provide the exact same experience [as on a desktop] going forward,” he says, “but the mobile customer actually has different needs.”

2.  Provide enough content to help mobile consumers make decisions in-store.

Today's consumers rarely shop in-store without their mobile phone in tow. According to the study, 63% of consumers are likely or somewhat likely to use their smartphone in-store to access promotional codes for in-store redemption. Similarly, 54% are likely or somewhat likely to use their mobile device to check product ratings and reviews.

Marketers need to provide customers the same level of information on a mobile site that they would on a desktop site, Burke says. Doing so, he notes, keeps shoppers researching on a brand's site instead of on Amazon's. After all, 63% of respondents are likely or somewhat likely to use their smartphone in-store to visit the marketplace behemoth and compare prices.

3. Let there be Wi-Fi.

Retailers may be tempted to keep their Wi-Fi to themselves to prevent showrooming, Burke says. However, he claims that marketers shouldn't concern themselves with this issue. Instead, he urges them to offer guests Wi-Fi to provide faster, more self-sufficient shopping experiences and to encourage browsing on their websites.

“Frankly, all of our studies have showed that showrooming does happen, but it's really not a concern,” he says.

4. Make amends.

First impressions are always important. In fact, 64% of the study's respondents say their past experiences with retailers will always influence whether they'll make an online purchase from them this holiday season. But if your brand made a blunder last year, don't fret. Burke says marketers can still win back shoppers' trust.

One way he says marketers can do so is by identifying customers who had negative experiences with a brand and sending those shoppers personalized emails with special offers. “Messaging can go a long way,” Burke says, “but also giving them something goes an extremely long way, especially during [the] holiday for our price-sensitive shoppers.”

5. Hold off on heavy discounts

Every consumer loves a good sale. Actually, 79% of respondents say the right price this holiday season will always get them to purchase from particular online retailers. And 57% plan to check for sales or coupons weekly on their mobile devices prior to visiting a store.

However, Burke discourages marketers from offering heavy discounts too early. In fact, he says that marketers might not have to implement deep discounting at all this holiday season. Instead, he advises marketers to promote product availability, customer service, and convenience.

“These are the areas that are actually going to win this holiday season over things like ‘I have the cheapest price always,'” he says.

The study's data supports Burke's emphasis on convenience. Having products in stock and guaranteeing online delivery always results in an online purchase for 62% and 52% of respondents, respectively.




6. Start early.

With the holiday season upon us, there's not a moment to lose. Data from Google and Ipsos MediaCT shows that 61% of shoppers will start researching gifts before Thanksgiving weekend—a 17% increase compared to last year. Burke says marketers should already start pushing out their holiday gift guides.

“We're going to see a really good start,” he predicts.

7. Avoid over-emailing.

Email is consumers' channel of choice this season. According to MarketLive's data, email is the most preferred means for receiving promotions among respondents, beating out print, text, and social. In fact, 55% of respondents say they are highly likely to take advantage of retail emails revealing new products or personalized product recommendations.

Given this, it can be tempting for marketers to bombard consumers' inboxes every chance they get. But Burke advises them to refrain from doing so. Instead, he urges marketers to only send an email if they have something to say.

“Make sure that when the consumer opens the email that there's a benefit—there's something there,” he says. “It could be a discount; it could be content; it could be something that's meaningful and relevant to them.”

8. Segment your messages.

Segmentation and personalization play huge roles in terms of influencing consumers' purchasing decisions. MarketLive's data reveals that 55% of respondents say they are highly likely to take advantage of retailers' email recommendations this season, and 60% consider emails containing online or localized promotions somewhat or very influential in terms of prompting purchases.

Burke says marketers still have a chance to start segmenting their messaging this season. He advises them to start by creating personas based on customer data, even if these personas are only based on a few attributes. For instance, marketers can segment their customers by gender, he says, and tailor their email content accordingly. Men tend to focus more on convenience and be less price sensitive, he adds, while women often look for sources of inspiration.

“You want to make more money this holiday season? Segment. Personalize,” Burke says. “Your emails will be much more effective and they'll get read....They'll get read because you actually sent me something that I'm interested in as opposed to something that's silly, and random, and stupid.”

9. Don't overly rely on social.

Marketers will want to increase their number of tweets and posts this season to reflect the current surge in holiday activity, Burke says; however, he discourages marketers from investing too much time and resources into social media.

“Here's the deal: Social doesn't convert,” he argues; however, he does acknowledge that it can be influential. According to the study, 27% of consumers have made a purchase as a result of social media engagement.

Instead of using social as a sales opportunity, Burke says marketers should leverage the channel as a hub for inspiration and education, such as by posting gift guides, product recommendations, and sales announcements on their networks. After all, 56% of study participants consider looking for gift ideas on social sites like Pinterest very or somewhat important, and 54% say the same for product referrals from friends and family via their networks.

“It's not where I would initially put my time outside of the necessary things that you need to do to keep your customers updated through those channels,” he says.

10. Prepare for next year.

The best way to prepare for next year's holiday rush is to start prepping this holiday season. Burke advises marketers to set up an email or phone number capture program so they can start leveraging these data points this year and have them ready for next year. Brands can even provide incentives to store associate and consumers, he adds, to make the collection process a bit sweeter.

Is Your Customer Loyalty Level as Hot as Chipotle?

Is Your Customer Loyalty Level as Hot as Chipotle?

Like most Monday afternoons, I sat outside Fashion Institute of Technology enjoying my lunch: a burrito bowl from popular Mexican food chain Chipotle. A woman approached.

“Is that that Chipotle stuff?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I replied through a mouthful, readying myself to extoll my anti-hipster sensibilities.

“You know they've got E.Coli in their food now? There's an outbreak,” she whispered.

“Hopefully, not in that half I just ate,” I said, still chewing. A blend of disgust and embarrassment played across my good samaritan's face as she stalked off, muttering and looking over her shoulder.

By the time I got back to work, news of Chipotle's food poisoning woes had spread through the Web like a head cold in the office. Hypochondria (and ostensibly E. Coli) set in, and I almost regretted finishing the second half of that burrito bowl. Almost.

Almost? What kind of insane loyalty was this? The Chipotle kind, apparently.

Even amidst viral headlines about E.Coli cases linked to the Mexican chain throughout Washington and Oregon, neither myself, nor many of the Twitter users behind the collection of tweets above, seem especially perturbed by a possible outbreak, despite the apparent frequency of contamination in Chipotle foods as of late. As news of the scandal continued to propagate, Chipotle responded by preemptively closing some 40 stores across the Northwest.

It's a deft response to viral negative branding that trades revenue for saved face. The whole fiasco is a phenomenon marketers should analyze: maintaining, perhaps even driving, loyalty by quickly and decisively responding in a customer-centric fashion to a bad situation; in Chipotle's case, an outbreak of food poisoning.

We're the Jetsons, Not the Jedi

We're the Jetsons, Not the Jedi

Show me your average Silicon Valley millionaire tech geek and I'll show you a Star Wars fan. I was in college when the movie came out and I was expressly underwhelmed by it. “A western in space,” was my terse review when people asked me about it then. I was more hifalutin' in my sci-fi tastes, leaning toward Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, and Dick and scoffing at the show-biz pretender Lucas. I worried about a future in the hands of people who thought Star Wars was art and video games were sport. 

Well, those people went on to populate the Valley with their peculiar genius and, in their own special way, conquer the world via algorithms transmitted to everyone's pocket. But the fact of the matter is that the high-tech life of the future they've created is decidedly more mundane than the one that plays out on the volcano planet of Mustafar. As for predicting the future, it appears that the job was best done by a less hallowed and more trivial piece of futuristic entertainment from my youth. The high-tech world is turning out more Jetsons than Jedi.

Much as we talk a good game at Comic Con, we prefer to use our technology to make our lives cushy like the Jetson family's, not arm ourselves with light sabers and starfighters like the Jedi. This mundane reality was brought home to me ever so clearly this week when it was revealed that Walmart was making a move to assemble its own drone force. When Jeff Bezos unveiled his Prime Air drone on 60 Minutes a few years ago, the revelation retained a mad scientist air about it. But Walmart? The mass retailer's involvement with the technology makes it immediately uncool. It conjures up the queasy feeling that you got in your gut back in the Seventies when your Aunt Sophie first showed up at a family party in a pair of bell bottoms.

Back to George and Jane and the kids. While, sociologically speaking, the Jetsons were firmly rooted in the Sixties, their stuff was a straight-on preview of the world today. Huge flat-screen 3-D TVs. Push-button meals (think Seamless). Push-button jobs. Two-way video communication, self-driving vehicles, robots to do the housework, video watches. Even Elroy presaged a 21st Century ruled by a precocious, young technocracy.

The big, bad Empire exists, to be sure. Technology at its highest levels is and will continue to be used to create more—and more destructive—weaponry. Albert Einstein, who wrote the fateful letter to Franklin Roosevelt alerting him to the possibility of building an atomic bomb in World War II, also once wrote, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

Far be it from me to contradict Einstein, but one wonders if he underestimated the power that humanity's penchant for easy living holds over its more atavistic instincts for violence. If you look at the top 10 in The Wall Street Journal's “Billion-Dollar Startup Club,” you find a car service company, a virtual hotel chain, a smartphone maker, and two companies that offer people different ways of posting and sharing pictures online.

So, I say, let us continue on our course to become citizens of Orbit City, and not Tatooine. Let us aspire to sit on our sofas and master "Call of Duty" and not to build death stars. And if you have an undying urge to conquer the universe, summon up Amazon on your Apple Watch and have Jeff Bezos drone you over a copy of “Star Wars: The Digital Movie Collection.”

Is Your Brand Contagious?

Is Your Brand Contagious?

It's that time of year again. No, not Halloween. And no, not the final countdown until the holiday rush. It's the time when everyone in the office gets sick. I fell victim to the office plague last week, and I'm still sniffling and coughing my way through it.

But something else is going around—something that brand marketers may actually want to catch: a high ranking on the Contagious Index.

The Contagious Index is a proprietary social-media monitoring tool created by marketing and technology agency DigitasLBi and University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Professor Jonah Berger based on Berger's book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. The tool, powered by big data platform provider Shareablee, leverages public and content-level Facebook and Twitter data to form a “Contagious Score”—a metric that determines the level of peer-to-peer sharing a brand's social content experiences versus its competitors, according to the press release.

"Contagious content from brands taps into personal social actions of consumers," says Jill Sherman, SVP of social strategy for DigitasLBi. "The simple, but powerful, act of sharing is [a] key indicator of what's resonated with an individual in a meaningful way. Sharing is markedly different from other social media actions—such as commenting, liking, or subscribing—not just in the way [that] it impacts perceptions among personal networks, but in the way [that] it impacts algorithms. When viewed in aggregate, over time, we begin to understand which brands understand how to consistently tap into what makes content inherently contagious."

There are a number of factors that can impact "contagiousness," says Sherman, such as platform use and timing. Marketers can use the Contagious Index, she notes, to better understand how to produce and distribute engaging and shared content and identify "how to win in social consistently."

After analyzing the social content produced by brands across 10 different verticals from January to September, DigitasLBi and Berger revealed the most contagious brands on Facebook and Twitter, based on their Contagious Scores.

Most Contagious Brands on Facebook (Contagious Score out of 100)

Airline brand

Qatar Airways (95)

Arts/humanities brand

Humans of New York (100)

Auto Brand

BMW (98)

Electronics Brand

LG USA Mobile (91)

Food/Beverage Brand

Simply Orange Juice (99)

Gaming Brand

Fallout (96)

Health/Beauty Brand

Mary Kay (100)

Fashion Design Brand

Kardashian Kollection (93)

Sports Team Brand

Kansas City Chiefs (97)

Quick-Serve Restaurant Brand

Starbucks (98)

Most Contagious Brands on Twitter

Airline brand

Delta  (98)

Arts/humanities brand

The Metropolitan Museum of Art  (98)

Auto Brand

Jaguar (99)

Electronics Brand

Microsoft (93)

Food/Beverage Brand

Oreo (99)

Gaming Brand

Pokemon (99)

Health/Beauty Brand

Urban Decay (97)

Fashion Design Brand

Ralph Lauren (99)

Sports Team Brand

Detroit Tigers (99)

Quick-Serve Restaurant Brand

Taco Bell (97)

So, how can other brands become more contagious? According to Sherman, marketers need to have well-developed social and content strategies.

"Brands using their social channels primarily for customer service, broadcast messaging, etcetera, aren't tapping into the power of the platforms," she says. "Not having a thoughtfully planned social strategy and content strategy will inevitably lower your chances of success."

Marketers can also test out the tool and see how their brands rank among their competitors here.

The Two Faces of Trends-Based Marketing

The Two Faces of Trends-Based Marketing

Pop culture's influence on consumers make the “latest,” “hottest,” and “trendiest” especially attractive to many B2C marketers. Certain elements of the mainstream tend to resonate more potently with some consumers, so marketers aiming to reach those buyers often make it their business to tie their brand to these spontaneous bouts of virality—as they should. Done well, this type of guerrilla marketing can do wonders for a brand and its image in consumers' eyes. But, as effective as this tactic might be, marketers run the risk of doing too much; of coming off more corny than culturally savvy. Last week, consumer saw each end of this spectrum as marketers did their best to connect with all the buzz around Star Wars and Back to the Future.

Star Wars

In a year that's been punctuated by Disney's marketing of the franchise, Star Wars once again found itself as a focal point of digital discourse. During last week's “Monday Night Football” game, Disney dropped the first full trailer for December's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in addition to opening presale tickets to the movie itself. Tickets sold out around the country in minutes, breaking records in the process, and in the week since its release the trailer has generated nearly 50 million views on YouTube.

Note the general tone of these tweets. The sample size is small, sure, but the general tone of chatter on Twitter and other social networks about Star Wars' impending seventh cinematic chapter trend toward positive, if not outright feverish. Few tweets touch on the marketing practices of non-Disney businesses attaching themselves to the film.

Back to the Future

While Star Wars held the social Web's attention during the early half of last week, Back to the Future all but eclipsed Disney's franchise by the end of the week, at least in terms of virality. Everyone and everything from the White House to [insert your favorite] auto brand capitalized on the 1980s film's namesake holiday last Wednesday with a slew of hashtags and other themed promotions. Nike even teased its self-lacing shoe, modeled after the famous sneakers that Back to the Future's Michael J. Fox wore in the movie.

While the tone of conversation on social channels was certainly positive for the film, consumers seemed put off by the cross-marketing of other businesses not affiliated with Back to the Future, or the holiday.

Cross-marketing is an old trade, and will likely be a roll of the dice for many marketers. For their part, marketers should probably only attach to trends that reasonably align with their business, because if there's one thing social media has demonstrated, it is consumers' unpredictability when it comes to cultural passion points.

747 Million Good Reasons to Fix Your CX Now

747 Million Good Reasons to Fix Your CX Now

There was a time, it seems not long ago, that the only businesses that needed to worry about reviews were Hollywood production companies and restaurants. Now here we are in a world where too many bad reviews on Amazon can sink your listing even if you have the best price, and where many chief marketers and even some CEOs get rated on their brands' net promoter scores.

It's bad enough if you lose a bonus or some stock options because one-too-many needy customers complain, but how about that sucker punch to the gut getting followed up with an uppercut to the jaw in the fashion of a $747 million fine? That was the total amount of a penalty levied on Bank of America last year—$727 million in restitution to some 1.4 million customers plus a $20 million cash penalty to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Thousands of complaints to the agency uncovered the fact that enrollment materials and telemarketers for a credit insurance plan engaged in deceptive marketing practices. Complainants were told the first 30 days were free or that further steps needed to be taken to complete the enrollment, when in fact they were being enrolled and billed immediately.

The CFPB came into being four years ago to put some fiduciary bite behind bad reviews that has made financial industry marketers yelp, alright. In its relatively short run, the 2,000-person government agency that works in tandem with the FTC and FCC has also collected levies of $700 million from Citibank, $309 million from JPMorgan Chase, and $89 million from American Express. The size of those judgments, a new study finds, had a direct correlation to the number of complaints registered with the agency by unhappy customers. “What the CFPB is telling marketers is that if their first stop on the road to customer experience is deceptive advertising, then their cost to providing customer experience is going to be much higher,” says Alex Baydin.

Baydin is the CEO of PerformLine, provider of an SaaS platform for consumer finance marketers that automates compliance with truth in advertising laws. The CFPB's database is available to the public, so PerformLine data miners dug in to see if they could gain any intelligence on how the agency arrived at the sums of its penalties. All you have to do if you're a financial services marketer is keep the number 2,000 in mind. Stay below it, and you'll skate. Rise above it, and call your company's General Counsel.

PerformLine's study showed that just 6% of companies receiving 2,000 complaints or less at the PCB were hit with fines, the average judgment being $60 million. But 58% of those who were the subject of 2,000 to 10,000 gripes were levied with penalties averaging $134 million, and 60% of financial companies showered with more than 10,000 complaints got slammed with average fines of $758 million.

PerformLine's investigation also showed that the CFPB has become steadily more popular among consumers the longer it's been out there. A smattering of a few thousand complaints in its inaugural year of 2011 turned into over 100,000 in 2013 and 170,000 so far this year. “People are beginning to learn that the complaint box is out now, and it's hosted by the one organization that can actually do something about their complaints,” Baydin says. “So they can call the company to complain, or they can go to the CFPB.”

How long will it be before the overnight success of the CFPB is transferred into other verticals like automotive sales, or issue areas such as data privacy? The FTC and FCC both prefer to choose the violations they take on judiciously, concentrating on the big fish that they can hang up and display dockside as an example to the other big, bad fish. But there's something to be said for businesslike trawlers like the CFPB that can take to the ocean and fill the holds of the U.S. Treasury with fines weighing in at nine digits.

“They're fishing with a dragnet as well as with a fly rod,” says Baydin.

Marketers Must Seize "Magic Moments" This Holiday Season

Marketers Must Seize "Magic Moments" This Holiday Season

Most everyone has heard the sweet croonings of popular doo-wop group The Drifters. In fact their 1960s hit “This Magic Moment” could be marketers' theme song this holiday season. Data from Google and Ipsos MediaCT's "Consumer Holiday Intentions Study 2015" shows that 54% of consumers plan to shop with their smartphones during their spare time throughout the season, small junctures that marketers hope to turn into magic moments. Matt Lawson, director of performance ads marketing for Google, refers to these bits of time as "micro-moments."

"People are busy," Lawson says. "They're traveling; they're commuting; they're watching their kids' soccer games. They're also tethered to their mobile phones, and therefore, as they start to shop for the holidays, they do so whenever they have a free moment."

This optimal use of free time mirrors consumers' behavior during the last holiday shopping season. As Google Trends' data shows, searches for gifts were fairly consistent from October to December with fewer spikes on the historical key shopping days.

With more consumers shopping during these brief interims, marketers have even less time to grab shoppers' attention. In fact, consumers are spending 7% less time in each mobile session compared to last year, according to Google Analytics' year-over-year September data. In an effort to capture shoppers' attention, Lawson says that marketers should follow one simple guideline: Be present.

"We've seen engagement with shopping ads increase by three times when products show up in the top ads on mobile," he says. "Increasing budgets and bids to ensure that your top products are easily discoverable on mobile will reach consumers doing a quick search during their shopping micro-moments. And if those consumers have lost their way or abandoned their shopping cart, use remarketing lists in search ads to tailor your shopping bids and reconnect with them."

Capturing consumers' attention during these micro-moments can have big dividends, too. The data from Google Analytics also shows that the amount of online shopping done with smartphones has surged 64%, and the information revealed that 30% of online purchases occur on mobile phones. 

Of course, consumers aren't just using their smartphones at the point of purchase. On the contrary, they rely on their devices throughout the shopper journey. Take the research phase, for instance. According to Google's global search data from November 2014 to October 2015, mobile shopping-related searches have increased more than 120%—catching up to those on desktop. And according to Google and Ipsos MediaCT's data, 52% of consumers intend to use their smartphone before visiting a store this holiday season. 

Consumers are also using smartphones to break the chasm between the physical and online worlds. The aforementioned data set shows that 82% of mobile shoppers will review information on their phones while in-store. In addition, Google's year-over-year September data indicates that people are conducting 37% more mobile searches in department stores. 

"Recognize that just because people are shopping on their phone [that] doesn't mean [that] they will purchase there," Lawson says. "They may want to call in an order or walk into a store. Make sure that you have formats such as local inventory ads, click-to-call, and location extensions enabled and are able to measure all of the different ways that consumers convert."

So, when should marketers start engaging in these magic moments? According to Google, the correct answer is now. Sixty-one percent of shoppers will have begun researching holiday purchases before Thanksgiving weekend, according to Google and Ipsos MediaCT—that's a 17% increase compared to last year; still, most will wait until later in the season to purchase. 

"The time to start influencing these decisions is now," Lawson reiterates. "In order to do this, take a look at your historical data and try to understand how much and when conversion rates and sales rose last year for your brand. Then, build a budget and promotion plan to anticipate that shift."

Also, not surprisingly, Sundays seem to be the best day to reach mobile consumers. Based on its Q3 2015 data, Google found that mobile shopping searches are, on average, 18% higher on this day versus the rest of the week. 

Finally, Lawson recommends thinking about all platforms, including the Google-owned, video-sharing site YouTube. After all, more than one quarter (26%) of shoppers consider online videos their "go-to source" for gift ideas, according to Google and Ipsos MediaCT's data, and about one third (32%) say they intend to use online video more this year for holiday gifts.

Four Truths That Should Go Without Saying in Modern Marketing

Four Truths That Should Go Without Saying in Modern Marketing

The year 2015 has been one of change and revolution, both in- and outside marketing. As we approach the final stretch of this turbulent year, I thought it prudent to review some of the most prevalent talking points in marketing, and why they probably shouldn't be talking points in 2016. Not because these aspects of the industry are irrelevant. Quite the opposite, actually.

Marketers speaking in boardrooms and on conference panels around the world have waxed poetic about topics such as personalization and omnichannel marketing for years now, and this was necessary for a long time. But, just as life with a flip phone hasn't gotten any easier, neither have the lives of marketers who fail to meet customer expectations in any of these four areas.

Here, a short list of topics that should be firmly grounding into the overall marketing strategy for many businesses.

Customer centricity

Much of the contemporary marketing discourse centers on customer experience, and its newfound import on business success. Of course, this implies that marketing hasn't always been about the customer. True, product-oriented and mass marketing were viable, even standard approaches to marketing for many years. But customer centricity was a priority for some businesses, even during this period.

Now, with perpetual connectivity and the proliferation of social platforms, optimized customer experiences are the standard that virtually all businesses must strive for. In today's reviews-obsessed world, businesses that do not meet customer experience expectations risk experiencing the viral wrath of well-connected consumers.

Responsive content

A year ago 64% of American adults owned a smartphone, according to Pew Research—a figure that most certainly continues to grow. Marketers have been steadily shifting priorities toward mobile for years now, and one of the most appropriate ways to do that is through responsive content.

Whether email or mobile Web, the choice of whether marketers should apply responsive code to their designs isn't really a choice at all this close to 2016. With customers bouncing between devices at the frequency that they do—and with marketing dollars growing ever more precious—marketers cannot afford for their content to behave differently across devices.


It's been more than 20 years since CRM solutions began transforming the way businesses market to customers. With access to increasingly rich customer data, and the proliferation of so many solutions to help manage it all, there are few scenarios where batch-and-blast style marketing tactics remain viable.

A growing segment of consumers have come to expect at least some degree of personalization in communication from brands, especially if they've opted in to their favorite brand's marketing. With customer attention coming at an increasing premium, even rudimentary personalization will prove invaluable. Besides, personalization, and adept use of customer data in general are cornerstones of…

Omnichannel marketing

The omnichannel marketing ideal has never been more within reach than now, with customer data, CRM tools, and marketing technology options as bountiful as they are. For businesses that closely monitor customer journeys, and tailor the customer experience according to customers' context at every turn, ensuring that those journeys are integrated and customer communication is highly relevant should be as natural as a day of standard operation. 

10 Stats That Show Why User-Generated Content Works

10 Stats That Show Why User-Generated Content Works

Recently, I've been highlighting a slew of user-generated content campaigns from marquee brands.

One of the most notable is the new campaign for "The Peanuts Movie," which is slated for release November 6. Film studio 20th Century Fox Animation created a character-generator platform—which is even available through mobile—to jump-start excitement over the upcoming release of the new Peanuts movie. Users are creating fun Peanut versions of themselves, family, and co-workers—and then sharing them on social media.

Yet another great example is centered on Universal Studios biopic "Straight Outta Compton," which sparked a viral sensation with its Straight Outta Somewhere meme generator from Apple and Beats. Even storied brand Western Union got into the UGC game; its marketers launched WU Home Cooked, a fun microsite that captures the strong longing for home and the pleasant memories of native food. Fueled by hashtag #WUHomeCooked, the site features a social media collective of recipes and pictures of customers' favorite dishes from their native countries. And of course, there's the perennial “Share a Coke” campaign that's fueled by hashtag #ShareaCoke.

The list goes on.

The moral of the story is this: consumers make stellar marketers. Shoppers make a brand's content more personal and relevant. Here, 10 stats that might persuade you to consider infusing user-generated content into your own marketing strategies.

1. Fifty-nine percent of millennials say they use UGC to inform their purchase decisions about major electronics. That's followed by cars (54%), major appliances (53%), mobile phones (46%), hotels (45%), and travel plans (40%). (Crowdtap)

2. Eighty-six percent of businesses use content marketing; of those, 70% are creating more content than they did a year ago. (Content Marketing Institute)

3. Seventy percent of consumers place peer recommendations and reviews above professionally written content. (Reevo)

4. Web content increasingly is dominated by user-generated content as Pinterest pin creation is up 75%, Twitch video broadcasts are up 83%, Wattpad stories are up 140%, and Airbnb reviews are up 140% year-over-year. (Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers)

5. Sixty-five percent of social media users from ages 18 to 24 consider information that's shared on social networks when making a purchasing decision. (eMarketer)

6. Consumers who are between the ages of 25 and 54 are the biggest content drivers—contributing 70% of all UGC. (SparkReel)

7. Twenty-five percent of search results for the world's 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content. (Kissmetrics)

8. Eighty-four percent of millennials report that UGC on company websites has at least some influence on what they buy. (Bazaarvoice)

9. Eighty-six percent of millennials say that user-generated content is generally a good indicator of the quality of a brand or service. (Bazaarvoice)

10. Brand engagements rise by 28% when consumers are exposed to both professional content and user-generated product video. (comScore)

The Internet is a Harsh Mistress for Advertisers

The Internet is a Harsh Mistress for Advertisers

TANSTAAFL.com could be an alternative handle for Facebook or Google or any of the other free services the digital age provides to an addicted and adoring following. It stands for “There ain't no such thing as a free lunch,” an adage used as a book title by economist Milton Friedman and acronymed by sci-fi novelist Robert Heinlein in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. We who cover digital marketing hear from practitioners all the time about how the power has shifted from marketers to retailers to consumers, how smartphones have begotten a new race of smart shoppers who don't visit a store or press the buy button before embarking on an odyssey of product research, reviews, and price comparisons. But one wonders if a generation of geniuses with iOS and Android brains in their hip pockets ever think about who pays for all that free access.

The answer is advertisers. Google and Facebook both derive upwards of 90% of their revenues from advertising. Free apps, too, it should be obvious, subsist on ad dollars. Yet one of the most downloaded apps of late is the ad blocker. A recent report from PageFair and Adobe features a line graph that resembles a silhouette of the first stage of an ascent of Everest. It begins charting 21 million global users of ad blockers in 2010 and rises to 181 million blockers in 2015. In Q2 there were 45 million Americans blocking ads, 48% more than were doing so in Q2 2014.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau is so worked up over ad blockers—which PageFair estimates cancelled out $22 billion in ad revenues in the past year—that its anti-blocking document reads like dissident group's manifesto. It calls ad blocking “robbery, plain and simple; an extortionist scheme that exploits consumer disaffection and risks distorting the economics of democratic capitalism.”

The IAB pointed a trembling finger at “walled gardens” like Facebook's Custom Audiences or Google's YouTube, though it didn't call them out by name. “Claiming to represent the interests of consumers and cloaking themselves in the ill-defined mantle of 'better advertising,' several of the largest and most prominent distributors of ad-blocking software are shaking down publishers for payments to circumvent their barriers,” the IAB document reads, adding that “without advertising, digital content and services either will vanish, or the cost for their production and distribution will come directly from consumers' wallets.”

Just this week German publisher Axel Springer announced it would charge a monthly fee of $3.40 to visitors who enter its popular Bild news site with blockers engaged. “Whoever does not switch off the ad blocker or does not pay cannot see any content on Bild.de as of now,” declared a statement released by the publisher.

There is another alternative, one that rests on the shoulders of marketers: Make your ads rewarding experiences that content consumers won't want to wall off. “There is a burden on advertisers to a certain extent to be more interesting. The ad blocker phenomenon could lead to a new age of consumer engagement with better metrics that won't leave advertisers relying on viewability to measure mobile behavior,” says John Busby, SVP of consumer insights and marketing at Marchex, which analyzes inbound phone calls spurred by digital advertising. He envisions a merging of Web, mobile, in-store, and phone data providing a more holistic view of engagement.

Busby also poses the notion that ad blockers might force publishers to pick up their games. “The rise of programmatic buying sort of threatens large publishers. It basically says, ‘Hey, you can reach the same people in a lot of cheaper websites,” he posits. “They should be investing more in analytics, because what marketers are going to do is demand better accountability.”

As a journalist I, of course, think people should accept advertising or pay for good content, because bad content makes smart smartphoners dumb. It's not always free to read an unedited blog or some native advertising selling a product or a notion. There's a good chance you'll pay for those in time wasted and questionable information ingested. I hate the word content, too. It sounds too much like a commodity. Maybe something could be done about that by the likes of The New York Times and Forbes. There's content and there's journalism, or there's content and there's art. One is a free lunch, the other costs a little.

5 Lessons Comic Books Can Teach Marketers

5 Lessons Comic Books Can Teach Marketers

If you live in New York, you've probably noticed an influx of costumed pedestrians and straphangers since last Thursday. Blame the 2015 New York Comic Con, which wrapped up its four day occupancy at the Javits Center Sunday.

The sold-out event is always a spectacle, which reverberates outside the Javits Center walls, and these events are only getting bigger. In many ways, the growth of these events is but a function of the passionate comics community. Marketers can learn much from the practices employed by comic book publishers. Given the increasing size of comics' cultural and commercial footprint, now's a good time to mine this reinvigorated industry for its bountiful marketing insights.

Here are five marketing lessons or trends that lie hidden in the panels of comic books.

Print and digital can be friends

As digital rapidly rose to dominance in the media and creative industries, many professionals pitted the channel against print, and other physical mediums. This is a practice that has waned in the last few years, but some still view the relationship between digital and physical as an adversarial one. That's not the case in the comic book industry, at least not anymore.

The first issue of Marvel comics' latest event series “Secret War” sold more than 500,000 copies in May, with numerous other books hot on its tail, according to IGN.com. These figures represent only print sales from comic book distributor Diamond Comics and does not include numbers from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon-owned comics app Comixology. Increasingly, digital sales from apps such as Comixology seem to play a complementary role in comic book retail, according to Comichron.

This is a reality that marketers and other publishers can replicate with proper care and execution, but not without first acknowledging that…

Having a digital presence is not the same as providing a digital experience

There's a fine line between having a digital presence and providing a compelling digital experience. Marketers, indeed most media professionals, spent much of the Web 2.0 revolution laboring to ensure they had anything and everything available in a digital format. This mandate often manifested in PDF conversions of printed materials for email and the Web. Times have changed, and comic book publishers have been some of the leaders in executing on the concept of unique digital experiences.

Digital comics viewed in the Comixology app (or the various publisher variants) are not simple rehashes of print products—and much more than simple PDF conversions. These apps navigate viewers through the books in a panel-by-panel progression that animates as readers swipe through the panels. It is an addictive experience, one that is difficult to describe but is exemplary in its execution on the idea that digital should be its own valuable experience.

Not every business lends itself to a Comixology approach, but the core concept—that customers will gravitate to immersive, interactive digital content—is one that every business should strive to deliver.

Loyalty is paramount

Customers are drowning in choices. So brand loyalty is paramount, but it comes at a steep premium. Consumers demand more than ever before. However loyalty is imperative; customers function as scions of the brand and champions of its products or services. A loyal customer is worth more now than ever before.

Comics are among the more poignant examples of the power that's ensconced in a loyal base. These super fans are the passionate base that ushered in today's age of superhero cinema and TV, bringing comic books into the lexicon of pop culture alongside music and sports. And marketers should note that comic book fans bring that passion—and purchasing power—with them wherever they go. It's a passion that's given rise to two of the biggest annual conferences to descend on New York and San Diego.

Achieving these levels of hyper loyalty isn't easy for comic creators or marketers. Though loyalty may be the goal, the currency with which bid on customers' attention, the path to loyalty is paved not only in exemplary marketing, but in engaging characters and stories.

Develop stories people can invest in

Many of today's leading comic book heroes have stories dating as far back as the 1960s or 1970s. The fact that children and young adults today are still diving into stories that are 50 years old speaks volumes. Bottom line: People love stories, particularly stories they can invest in.

A growing number of marketers are well aware of this fact, as evidenced by the number of times speakers emphasize storytelling at industry conferences. It's certainly a point worth laboring.

People love Spider-Man not just for his web slinging and wall crawling, but for his witty banter and his tragic origins. Audiences see aspects of themselves in characters like Spider-Man, Batman, or Ms. Marvel.

As long as they tap into the emotions and the moments that permeate real people's lives, marketers do not need a totem or a mascot to create stories that resonate.

Find and tap into cultural overlap

Recently, Marvel comics began issuing variant covers for select issues in its newest books. These print-only collectable covers have proliferated through not just the world of comics, but in hip-hop culture and media that targets the African-American community. The covers recreate popular hip-hop album covers by replacing the original art with Marvel characters and scenery.

This is deft tactic capitalizes on the persistent affection rap artists such Ghostface Killah (who named his first album “Iron Man” and goes by the alias Tony Starks) have shown the comics brand over the years, and expounds on this cultural overlap by driving fans of both comics and hip-hop to purchase print versions of new comics.

From listening to customers to creating value in physical channels, marketers can glean much from Marvel's latest initiative.

The Old? The New? It's All Marketing to Me.

The Old? The New? It's All Marketing to Me.

I will admit that I bring a bias to some of my reporting about the wholesale change happening in the marketing world. It's because I've been reporting on it since the early '80s as a staffer on Sales & Marketing Management, a time when there was talk of an imminent “Information Age,” but no World Wide Web to host it. I remember when the Steves Jobs and Wozniak invented the PC market and then watched it get taken over at scale by IBM. Jobs won in the end, an Edison-in-a-turtleneck industrial icon, feted in the cinema and worshiped by the mobile minions. But, since becoming a reporter on marketing technology, I've noticed a distinct disregard on the part of new-generation marketers concerning traditional methods. They see direct mail as old school, tawdry; TV as wasteful. Yet TV viewing is at its highest level in years, according to eMarketer. Direct mail and phone calls beat digital methods into the dirt for effectiveness with response rates of about 4 and 9%, respectively. It's not that I don't think that social media, geo-location, and cloud-enabled, data-driven platforms are the equivalent of guided missiles in the marketer's arsenal. I do. And it's not just that I'm an old curmudgeon looking to school young whippersnappers (though that's part of it). It's that I feel an obligation to point out to a tech-obsessed culture that methods that weren't “started-up” in the past 10 years still drive most of the cattle on this ranch.

That's why I come away from this week's &THEN event, the Direct Marketing Association's digitally defibrillated trade show, so, well…heartened. At the very first session I attended, I fairly gasped when I heard no less a digital personage than Facebook's head of financial services measurement declare to an overflow crowd that direct mail was the primary channel for financial industry lead generators. “You use digital to make it an even more efficient channel,” said Yongyong Kennedy.

On the show floor, big printers were demonstrating just how digital they are. Don Terkel, Quad/Graphics' executive director of direct marketing operations, talked about a new system that combines customer data with traditional offset printing and inkjet printing to personalize mail pieces as easily as marketers personalize emails. Running at high speed off the same paper roll pre-printed with corporate branding, individual pieces are personalized by address with different offers and content. A piece for cable TV services Don showed us, for instance, contained different four-color show logos based on individual customers' viewing behaviors.

Walking the show was David Cooperstein, a former analyst in the CMO practice of Forrester, who turned out to be the very embodiment of digital-physical transformation. He's now a CMO himself of startup PebblePost, which claims to have invented what it calls programmatic direct mail. The company reacts to activity on retail clients' abandoned carts or email interactions and responds with postcard offers in people's mailboxes within three days. “If you think about innovation in direct mail, ZIP plus four was probably the last thing to compare with this,” Cooperstein said.

You have to extend some props to Direct Marketing Association President Tom Benton and Board Chairman Gunther Schumacher (president of Ogilvy One) for tearing down and rebuilding a nearly century-old show. “Gunther said, ‘Wipe the slate clean. We're going to start over,'” says Lindsay Hutter, DMA's SVP of communications. “Board member Joe Zawadzki of Mediamath told us that no one had ever mastered bringing together all the parts of the ecosystem. There's the old and the new, they've never come together until now.”

&THEN was created in the space of seven months, and Hutter admits there's a lot to still be done—and to be done better. She invites marketers to send all constructive criticism about the show her way. My take is that, sure there were some missteps at &THEN, but they were the first steps of a newborn, and bold ones at that.

8 Content Marketing Don'ts

8 Content Marketing Don'ts

With so many industry best practices, it can be easy for marketers to focus on what they do right; however, they don't always focus on what they do wrong.

To help shed some light on the latter, representatives from an agency, a brand, and hybrids of the two came together at the Direct Marketing Association's &THEN 2015 conference in Boston and discussed key content marketing dos and don'ts. Here are eight don'ts.

1. Don't save distribution until the end.

Producing quality content is important, but it's only half of the battle. Distribution is also essential. 

“You really, as a marketer, can't get a return on investment with a content asset until it reaches its intended audience,” said Chris Schraft, president of Time Inc. content solutions, the content marketing arm of the media company.

Indeed, Matthew Grant, director of content strategy for research firm Aberdeen Group, added that marketers need to establish their distribution strategy early on and figure out how they can tell their stories across different platforms and channels. He also encouraged marketers to use data to shape their strategy.

“Distribution can't be an afterthought,” he said. “It has to be built in at the very beginning.”

2. Don't treat all platforms the same. 

Part of having an effective distribution strategy is realizing that content's life expectancy differs depending on the channel. Twitter, for example, typically hosts in-the-moment content, said creative agency MRY CMO David Berkowitz, while Tumblr's content can live on for a long time and not spike until way after it's posted.

3. Don't focus solely on technology.

Technology can certainly help marketers produce and distribute content, but it's not an end-all solution. Andrew Bailey, manager of content strategy for FedEx, stressed the importance of having the right people and processes in place, as well. 

Bailey explained that FedEx has myriad marketing departments—from international marketing to domestic. “We also have a lot of siloed organizations,” Bailey said. As a result, the shipping company didn't have all of its channels documented or one place where employees could find the appropriate contact for each channel. 

So, after working with a consulting company, FedEx had its employees write down every channel and team contact on paper and define each of its strategies. Bailey said that this created a lot of aha moments for the company. For example, although FedEx's marketers could use a number of channels to deploy messages, the average marketer only leveraged two or three, he said.

The company also reorganized its internal structure. In the case of the go-to-market professionals, people who used to sit on different teams are now all under the same umbrella, Bailey explained. Plus, the company identified key areas of improvement. One was the lack of a defined go-to-market strategy, Bailey said, so FedEx spent time last year developing one.

4. Don't create content without an objective in mind.

Content can serve multiple purposes. It can provide education, offer humor, or make people think. Whatever its role, it's imperative that marketers identify why they're creating a piece of content and what the performance goals are.

“Get to the heart of it,” Berkowitz said. “What do you want this content to do for you?”

5. Don't underestimate the power of emotion. 

Marketers are storytellers, and the best stories are the ones about their customers.

For that reason, FedEx holds a Small Business Grant Contest to recognize its SMB customers. In 2015 FedEx awarded one of the grants to AnaOno Intimates—a lingerie company founded by a woman who designs bras for women affected by breast cancer. The founder shared her story of how she had battled breast cancer and struggled to find the right bra after her treatment and surgery. Now, she uses FedEx to ship her orders. This touching story lives on the brand's online Small Business Center.

“The most powerful person to give you feedback is the customer themselves,” Bailey reiterated.

6. Don't feed everyone the same content.

Not all customers have the same needs. So, why serve them the same content? Don't. Marketers need to tailor their content to appeal to customers at different stages in their lifecycle. FedEx, for example, has seven different customer segments, Bailey said. The company then creates content prescriptions based on where those segment members are in their journeys. So, if a small furniture retailer has been doing business with FedEx for 10 years, the owner might receive content about its freight services, Bailey explained.

7. Don't forget about the value exchange.

Today's consumers are flooded with content across multiple devices. Although they're willing to engage with brands, they demand a valuable experience, Time Inc.'s Schraft said, and they'll abandon an experience if they feel like they're not getting anything in return.

“You want to stack the deck in your favor,” he said.

8. Don't be exclusive. 

Content creation shouldn't be a marketing-only activity. From agencies to IT, many professionals can play a role in the process. Marketers need to include these people in the early planning stages and make sure that everyone has a universal definition of what content marketing means to the organization.

“It's everyone in your organization, from top to bottom,” Grant said. “Make sure they know what they're asking for when they say content marketing.”

Top Tweets from DMA's &Then15 Conference

Top Tweets from DMA's &Then15 Conference

Today is the last day of &Then, the recently rebranded annual conferences hosted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

Throngs of marketers from around the world poured into Boston Sunday to celebrate another year of marketing excellence, but also to access the trove of advice and insight the annual gathering of esteemed professionals. Attendants have enjoyed keynotes from acclaimed individuals such as Toms' founder Blake Mycoskie, entrepreneur and entertainer John Legend, and Jon Iwata, SVP of marketing at IBM.

Twitter has been awash in #AndThen15 and #DMA15 hashtags since the event kicked off. Monday alone saw more than 340,000 impressions on #AndThen15, according to sample data from TweetReach. Below you'll find a snapshot of what attendees are saying about the event, as well as an assortment of insightful snippets from speakers.

Does Customer Experience Need a 911 Call?

Does Customer Experience Need a 911 Call?

Customer experience has a direct impact on loyalty. That impact isn't always positive. Too much email that's impersonal or irrelevant—that's a marketing-driven customer experience that could lead to churn. Spot-on targeting with contextually relevant messaging can surprise and delight customers and get them to stay longer, buy more, and advocate. 

It seems, however, that customers aren't particularly delighted with some brands right now. According to Forrester Research, customer experience (CX) scores for the majority of brands have barely held steady or have declined. The research firm's “2015 U.S. CX Index” study found that CX scores were virtually unchanged for 69% of the brands it tracks; only seven brands' scores improved.


Forrester “isn't ready to call 911 just yet,” but did sound a few warnings:

> Of the 18 industries that Forrester tracks, scores in 15 of them dipped since Forrester's round one study, its prior CX report. Three industries—banking, auto and home insurance, and hotels—held steady.

>  Only 15% of brands covered received “good” scores, a drop from 26%.

> “Excellent” scores remain scarce, with just 1% of brands receiving those high marks.

> Even brands that are typically well-known for feeling the customer love saw their CX scores drop. Among them: Amazon, Charles Schwab, Discover HSN, JetBlue, PNC Bank, and Zappos.

Despite customers' tough love, some brands bubbled to the surface as ones to watch. Perennial top-performer USAA retained its stellar position. JetBlue's precipitous drop (possibly due to its adoption of checked-bag fees, Forrester suggests) shed some positive light on Southwest and Virgin America. Three regional banks—Huntington National Bank, Regions Bank, and SunTrust Bank—saw their CX score rise to on par with leaders USAA and Ally Bank. Round-one high scorers Hallmark Cards, Lexus, and QVC proved that they have what it takes to retain customers' affection. And, ironically, Virgin Mobile US—with the top CX score in the wireless industry—far outperformed parent company Sprint. 

So, what does it take to keep today's demanding customers happy? Along with relevancy and a personal touch when it comes to marketing:

Think positive. On average, the 299 brands covered in this study delivered seven positive experiences for every negative one. Comparatively, top performers delivered 24 positive experiences for each negative one.

Get emotional. Consumers are more apt to recall negative experiences, according to Forrester. Making emotional connections helps to ensure more positive experiences. Forrester recommends empathy-building rituals such as USAA employees reading letters from deployed military personnel to get a more direct view into how much they worry about family back home.

Measure right. Not all CX scores are created equal. Forrester suggests that marketers track the variables that will enable them to determine the CX quality for high-value customers. Resist the temptation to make CX changes that address the wrong audience.

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association's Blog Carnival "Celebrating Customer Experience." It is part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day. Check out posts from other bloggers here. See more at: http://cxday.org 

Top Lessons From Advertising Week

Top Lessons From Advertising Week

(Mary Gail Pezzimenti: The Huffington Post, Vincent Geraghty: Leo Burnett, Rowley Samuel: Energy BBDO)

The lessons from Advertising Week are plenty, and after spending four days scuttling from session to session, I wanted to share what I found to be a few of the more worthy pieces of advice. Here are just some of the trends, insights, and even warnings from throughout the week that I culled from various seminars.

Feel free to continue the conversation in the comments area below, and share some of the lessons you learned with #AWXII on social media.

Fast, Good, or Cheap: Reality of Today's Content Creation

1. Serve up content, and then be in the conversations about it to be relevant.

2. Align content around your audience by polling for insights; analytics will reveal how to plan your content strategy. How important are insights and data to the creative process? Insights help brands figure out how to craft content plans in a way that's cost effective.

3. Content plans must be sustainable. 

4. A waterfall of content does not equal content strategy; marketers need a good plan to distribute content properly. 

5. Good insights lead to compelling content.

6. Third-party, or outsourcing for your content, is somewhat of an outdated concept; there's too much content production for outsourcing. Insourcing is the way to go. Hire teams of people to create your content.

7. Use influencers to pull audiences towards your brand.

8. Putting an approval process on a digital platform as if it were a broadcast property will cause inefficiencies in time production and management.

9. Marketers must have always-on content.

10. Companies will have an extremely negative impact on their brands if they ignore where people are going: mobile and social.

Social Disruption: Securing Your Voice in the Crowd

1. Forty percent of customers expect their financial institutions to be social.

2. Brands must unify their efforts to engage with customers as one brand voice and experience.

3. Drive awareness, drive intent, and then, ultimately drive action.

4. Each social media channel lives differently; each community has its own culture and language.

5. Social advocates are able to help build loyalty and cause positive disruption for a brand.

6. Without social tools, marketers are investing in a plethora of content but don't learn or pull insights from social data.

7. Engagement opportunities add up to great experiences; the more people interact with companies, the more their experiences are defined.

8. Mobile and social should be highly contextual, personal, and frictionless—without hurdles.

9. Have a unified brand position (i.e. how customers perceive and interact with the brand) across all platforms, e.g. TV, digital, apps, and social.

10. Put the human back into the marketing equation; the more marketers know about customers and their needs, the better they can relate.

11. Consumers, while important, aren't just online. They live and operate in an offline world, which is an extremely important world for marketers to remember.

12. Don't go into marketing with preconceived notions about strategy, consumers, data, likes or dislikes, etc.; remain open to possibilities.

Disrupting News for the Digital Generation

1. Social is great for building big audiences, but can be tough to monetize. It's a way to reach people in new creative ways at generate scale. Scale plus brand affinity is the secret sauce for success.

2. Social is a platform to extend the brand, establish new connections, and drive traffic. Brands should provide a beautiful, seamless customer experience via mobile.

3. Provide platforms where people can consume content via Web and social, and then tailor your content to users' tastes.

4. The consumer shift to mobile has forced marketing strategy to be focused on personal and intimate experiences; users can have moments of privacy, discovery, and learning all while on mobile.

5. Ideally, content goes beyond providing perfunctory information to fill customers' emotional needs. Stand out by adding value and have something to say that's worthwhile to your audience.

6. Start with mobile first as the premise of your marketing strategy; everything else will be easier to create and make relevant.

7. Your brand has a relationship with the consumer, and it's up to marketers—i.e. the brand—to provide a relevant experience.

Mailers: Forge a Presence in DC or Stop Your Griping

Mailers: Forge a Presence in DC or Stop Your Griping

A flash quiz for mailers: Are members of Congress more likely to get re-elected by supporting A) more jobs for middle class Americans or B) lower business costs for large corporations? All those who answered “B” need to sit in on your high school kid's Government Studies class. And if you happen to be a direct mailer or cataloger, you need to do some serious soul-searching.

I write a lot of stories about rising postal rates, and a lot of people who depend on the mail to conduct their businesses read them. They're interested in postal rates because their businesses are in danger of going away if those rates get too high. At the outset of 2007, the year the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) took effect, Standard Flats and Carrier Route volume was in excess of 23 billion pieces and some 16,000 catalog titles mailed in the United States. By 2013 flats volume had plummeted to about 3 billion pieces and about 6,000 of those catalogs ceased to exist. The scourge endured by the catalog industry led to the formation of the American Catalog Mailers Association (ACMA).

“It all started in 2007 when we really didn't have a seat at the table and our mission is to change that,” says Brad Darooge, CEO of the catalog company Baudville and board chairman of the ACMA. “Our challenge is that—if and when new legislation moves forward—we want to make sure we are a party to those discussions.” (Listen to the full interview with Darooge in the podcast above.)

The big question for catalogers and direct mailers is how big a shindig they can put together. Their presence on the Hill as PAEA took shape was negligible, and while the catalogers have significantly upped their game under the guidance of coach Hamilton Davison (ACMA's exec director), they still have a recruiting problem.

There are three key stakeholders in postal operations: big mailers, postal worker unions, and the Postal Service itself. The four major postal unions have voluminous membership rolls and full-time staffs. They are all planted in D.C., know all the players on Capitol Hill, and can muster tens of thousands of workers to demonstrate on a day's notice. The Postal Service is a government institution with annual revenues of $67 billion. It fields an army of lawyers and has a chief lobbyist known as the Postmaster General, an office once held by Benjamin Franklin. The mailers have the Direct Marketing Association, The Association for Postal Commerce, and the ACMA, but they lag the other players in both gravitas and sheer numbers when it comes to playing legislative tag at the Rayburn Office Building. I recall hearing one cataloger new to the game talking about cooling his heels in the anteroom waiting to introduce himself to a member only to see him emerge laughing and back-slapping with a couple of postal union officials.

It's not that the game is rigged, it's just that it's skewed from the grasp of thousands of disparate mail houses, printers, catalogers, and marketers for whom mail is but one channel among many. Darooge, in his first year as board chairman, is quite aware that his people are never going to win in a numbers game. Still, he is determined to ratchet up those numbers. The ACMA has scheduled a D.C. fly-in for October 20 and 21 and is actively recruiting current members and potential new ones. It's a prime opportunity for mailers to personally ask their reps what they'd like to see included in the final version of Senator Tom Carper's iPOST Bill of 2015 rather than settle into an old DeLorean and go back to the future of 2007.

Darooge promises a well-planned and rewarding experience. “Participants will fly in, meet with our experts who'll give them talking points and refresh them on the issues, and then we're off to the Hill,” he says. “When we can have people coming in who are living in the backyard of that congressman, particularly when they employ people in their districts, we can have an effect.”

Capitol Hill denizens call it “The Ask.” If you call on your senator or representative, be prepared to have him or her ask you for something back home. But he or she will also be expecting to hear what you want. If you walk into their offices without an Ask, you'll confuse them. Ask and ye shall receive—maybe.

I'll sign off with advice from two noteworthy Americans, Dale Carnegie and Woody Allen. “First ask yourself,” Carnegie once wrote, “What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst.” For now, though, just lean on Woody, who said: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Six Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Big Bird

Six Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Big Bird

The first time I saw Caroll Spinney was when I was a baby. Like many children, my brother and I grew up watching Sesame Street and developed a fondness for Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch—the two characters for whom Spinney provides the voices and puppetry.

As time passed, I stopped tuning in to learn the letter of the day. But when I saw Spinney at a screening of the documentary I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, I was reminded of my affinity for the characters. I guess you're never too old to love that eight-foot-tall yellow bird. Spinney is living proof of this. Although Spinney plays a six-year-old bird on TV, he's 81 years old and has been donning the bird suit for 46 years.

So when I saw that Spinney would be speaking at Advertising Week in New York, I knew that I had to attend his session. Spinney sat down with DigitasLBi's Chief Content Officer Scott Donaton and discussed the secrets of successful storytelling, as well as what it takes to create beloved characters today. Here are six tips I learned from the self-described “oldest child star.”

1. Be human. This tip might seem strange coming from a man who's spent most of his adult life dressing up like a giant yellow bird. However, Spinney said that Big Bird portrays a lot of different, relatable emotions.

“He gets to be almost more human than the humans on the show because he's able to express a lot of emotion,” he said.

For instance, in one episode Big Bird explores the topics of death and grieving after learning that Mr. Hooper—Sesame Street's local shop owner—passed away. He conveys the same confusion any child may feel when he learns that someone he loves isn't coming back and then expresses sorrow.

So what can marketers learn from Big Bird's sentimental side? Don't be afraid to express vulnerability in campaigns. Tapping into real emotions can be an effective way to educate an audience or prove that your brand empathizes with their pain points or needs.

2. Embrace humor. Not all of Big Bird's most memorable moments are sad ones. On the contrary, Spinney said humor plays a vital role in Sesame Street's success.

“They realized that it was important to be just as funny as it was educational,” he said. “It kept people hooked.”

Indeed, humor helps Sesame Street introduce children to sensitive topics, like bullying, and educate them on these subjects.

Marketers should follow Sesame Street's lead and be open to leveraging humor to educate, entertain, and engage consumers.

3. Know that inspiration comes from everywhere. Some of the best ideas come from life's simplest moments—like how Spinney found Oscar the Grouch's voice after a cab driver asked him “Where to, Mac?”

Take note of your everyday paint points, routines, and needs—your consumers will likely share them, too.

4. Be prepared to evolve. As a show that's been on for nearly half of a century, Sesame Street has seen a wave of social and political change. And according to Spinney, the cast has always adjusted its characters to reflect what's relevant at the time.

“By being an experiment in television, we can adjust ourselves to what it is now,” he said.

Consumers are also constantly evolving. Marketers need to adopt Sesame Street's test-and-learn approach and adjust their marketing to reflect consumers' most current state—whether that involves acknowledging a change in preferences or sending different targeted messages based on where consumers are in the purchase funnel.

5. Leverage consumers' attention wisely. Few brands can captivate an audience the way Sesame Street can. So when marketers do have consumers' attention, they need to make the most of that time. 

For instance, instead of filling a 20-second spot with a brand's name and slogan, Spinney said, marketers can use that time to tell a story.

“Quite a lot can be said in that period,” he said.

6. Understand that digital isn't always best. Sesame Street has evolved quite a bit since its 1969 debut. The brand now has apps, offers online videos, and Big Bird even tweets.

One of the most recent digital developments is Sesame Street's agreement to run new episodes on the cable network and streaming service HBO before airing them on PBS. Spinney acknowledged that this move will help the show increase its yearly new episode count.

But Sesame Street hasn't gone completely digital. In fact, Spinney said that he still moves Big Bird manually inside of the feathered suit. When asked why he hasn't tried maneuvering Big Bird digitally, Spinney said that manual puppetry allows the characters to react more instantaneously to other cast members and what's around them.

In today's world, marketers are constantly turning to digital to target customers and serve them in real time. However, as Spinney showed, sometimes going with the more traditional method is best. Therefore, marketers must make sure that they're not completely ignoring their non-digital channels, like in-store or the call centers. After all, nothing beats a good, old-fashioned customer experience or helpful person-to-person communication.

5 Truly Game-Changing Aspects of Modern Marketing

5 Truly Game-Changing Aspects of Modern Marketing

NASA scientists announced yesterday that liquid water likely exists, or existed, on Mars in what could prove to be a game-changing development in extraterrestrial exploration. It got me thinking about that phrase—game changing. It's a word that we liberally tag behind new trends and technologies, especially in marketing. But the art, science, and execution of marketing has changed so much from the romanticized days of marketing portrayed in “Mad Men” that the phrase isn't entirely lost on this space.

Though much has transpired to bring us to this point, I've listed five marketing practices or trends that have had obvious, persistent effects on how marketers approach their trade, and how consumers absorb marketing content.

Proliferation of augmented and virtual reality

Between the rapid pace of innovation in display technology, mobile hardware, and wearables lies the consumerization of augmented and virtual reality. This frontier technology was once confined to the imaginations of science fiction writers, before a brief and rudimentary stint in arcades around the country. Now, with the convergence of the innovation points I mentioned before, immersive virtual reality is fast becoming…a reality. >> 5 Growth Areas in Video That Marketers Should Watch

The evolution of word-of-mouth

Word-of-mouth is a powerful thing. To organically generate conversation about the brand—and especially recommendations of its products—has long been a coveted outcome for marketers. Unfortunately, the scale of this discourse was largely out of the marketer's control, or it was before social media came along.

Now, marketers can monitor, participate in, and (best of all) drive conversation about their business on social networks, with the added bonus of the possibility of the ever-elusive element virality. >> How to Spark (and Sustain) Brand Love and Passion

Marketing without marketing

The advent of social media saw the evolution of an age-old human practice (talking) in the form of word-of-mouth. However, as social media has grown more integral in our daily lives, so too has the phenomenon that is organic virality. Through viral content, marketers can enjoy free and widespread pseudo-promotion of their campaigns and products. The downside? A profound lack of real control over these brief spats of memedom. >> The Most Viral Moments of 2015 (So Far)

The power of user-generated content (UGC)

What better way to drive engagement than to bring consumers in on content creation? This is a question that undoubtedly made the rounds during many marketing meetings of yore, but it wasn't until the Internet democratized virtually everything that UGC really started to reverberate.

The video game industry is perhaps the most serial and effective practitioner in the enabling of UGC, but many brands have tapped this well of marketing gold as of late, including Coke and Peanuts. >> Consumers Make the Best Marketers

Inundation of customer data

Marketers' access to customer data has forever changed the art and science of marketing; more so than any item on this list. Never in the history of business have marketers had such insight into their customers' behaviors and preferences, their very identities.

With this data, marketers can now ensure their content is deeply personal and relevant, bringing marketing closer than ever to the one-to-one ideal. However, with this abundance of data comes greater responsibility and scrutiny for marketers in its ethical handling. >> How an Abundance of Data Is Changing Segmentation

Consumers Make the Best Marketers

Consumers Make the Best Marketers

ew things are more fun than creating something that can be shared with the world. It's one of the reasons that I love being a journalist; my words reverberate beyond the page and into people's lives. Audiences love sharing their ideas too—hence the never-ending popularity of social media—and smart marketers recognize that. Agile marketers take the creativity of consumers and weave it into the company narrative.

One of the most recent examples is the new campaign for "The Peanuts Movie", which is slated for release November 6. Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts comics strip featured good ol' Charlie Brown and that loveable beagle Snoopy­­—and now the franchise features fans of Charlie and the gang.  

Film studio 20th Century Fox Animation created a character-generator platform, which is even available through mobile, to jump-start excitement over the upcoming release of the new "Peanuts" movie. The idea is to get moviegoers excited with a quirky campaign that's rooted in user-generated content—much like Universal Studios biopic "Straight Outta Compton" reveled in a viral sensation with its Straight Outta Somewhere meme generator from Apple and Beats.

With the rising popularity of this latest UGC campaign, even I've been Peanutized:


Some other cute characters shared on Twitter:

Social media allows you to include the stories of your target audiences into your company stories. Better yet, UGC that's amplified by social allows the consumers' stories to take center stage and allows current and potential customers to get excited about your products and services—because those goods now are part of each person's personal tale. There's never been a better time to infuse user-generated content into your marketing strategies.

Pope Francis Has Arrived and Is Cleared for Marketing

Pope Francis Has Arrived and Is Cleared for Marketing

Pope Francis arrives in New York today, and Papal bobblehead dolls, dog costumes, pizzas, T-shirts, and life-sized standees are for sale all over town. His Holiness's celebration of the American economy is underway, and everyone's invited to the party. When the Catholic St. Jude Shop site markets an $89 Musical Pope Mobile and The Catholic Company sells a Pope Francis Bobblehead for $19.95, it's clear a dispensation's been granted on Papal profiteering. (Hey, this is the religion that invented Bingo.) E-commerce sites and third-party sellers on marketplaces are all over Francis, but we wonder if some other direct marketers are leaving collection plate money on the table. From our view, some missed opportunities:

The Pope in the Cloud: For $25 on the Shop PBS site you can own a Solar Pope (more closely resembling Georgie Jessel than Francis), who “Whenever a beam of light touches him [will] reassure you with a wave that everything is going to be okay.” Now, I'm assuming  Salesforce's Marc Benioff has been to the Sistine Chapel and has seen the pantheon of saints floating on clouds. Stevie Wonder presenting Benioff with a rendition of “Superstition” at Dreamforce last week was pretty cool. But could you imagine Pope Francis descending from the rafters on a cumulus chariot belting out “Ave Maria?” Even Benioff has only so much juice, I guess.

The Pope and Dope. OK, it may sound sacrilegious to link the Pontiff to the growing legal marijuana economy in the U.S., but let's be real, the bong has to be the second-biggest producer of religious experiences next to the cathedral. Amazon is selling a “The Pope Is Dope” T-shirt. Why couldn't pot pioneers in Colorado have taken this idea a step further? Colorado Marijuana Marketing owns a mailing list with tens of thousands of marijuana consumers. The company could have worked a licensing deal with former Plastic Ono Band guitarist David Peel to do a shirt carrying the title of his only hit record: “The Pope Smokes Dope.”

The Line to the Vatican. Is there a more intense omnichannel battle for customers being waged than that between wireless carriers? Did not marketers at these companies take note of the Pope's visit and ponder using divine intervention to snare a share point or two? And did not one telecom in particular notice the closeness of its name to that of the Pope's homeland? “Verizon at the Vatican” is a campaign that could have used pre-roll video tours of Vatican City, offered a donation to Catholic Charities with every phone number "conversion," and maybe even scored a deal with Francis himself to record a Papal greeting for the Verizon call center. You never know; sometimes prayers are answered.

Speaking of which, why did it not occur to data analytics providers the likes of Epsilon, Acxiom, SAS, Adobe, and Experian to try and sign Pope Francis to a tour sponsorship deal? Their similar core business propositions of unique customer data enabling relevant customer interactions seems new, but it is in fact an old, old idea in the Catholic Church. My devout Polish Catholic mom would nightly guide my prayers as a young child and once, when she told me I could ask God for something I really wanted, I was skeptical (a journalist from the get-go, I guess). “How can God answer everybody's prayers,” I asked. “Because God can do anything,” she replied. I remained skeptical about that my whole life—until Amazon came along and started consummating 30 million discreet transactions a day. Answering everybody's prayers—not a bad motto for data-driven marketers, is it?

Six Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Childhood Fables

Six Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Childhood Fables

Reading bedtime stories with my dad is one of my most treasured childhood memories. Every night, my brother and I would take turns picking out a beloved book and pile into his bed. My dad would then lie in between us so that we could both see the pages and act out the voices before sending us off to sleep.

These stories usually had a moral of some kind—such as the importance of sharing or trying your best. But if you read between the lines, they can also offer valuable lessons for marketers.

So, here are six of my favorite childhood stories accompanied by the lessons marketers can learn from them.

The Little Engine That Could

For those unfamiliar with this childhood classic, The Little Engine That Could is about a little blue train that agrees to pull a group of abandoned toys over a mountain so that they can be enjoyed by boys and girls in the next town—even though several bigger and stronger trains declined to help the toys before.

What marketers can learn: There are always going to be challenges in marketing, whether it's sorting through big data, taking on a difficult client, or getting a campaign out the door. The important thing to remember is that challenges are learning opportunities, and there are always going to be consequences, whether people choose to take them on or not (think of how disappointed the children would have been if the little blue engine had turned the toys down).

So the next time your organization has a mountain in front of it, evaluate how taking that challenge on will affect your customers, technology partners, and staff. Also, don't be afraid to tackle a predicament that others in the industry were too afraid to try to solve—those successes can be the most rewarding and offer the most valuable lessons. Remember, just think to yourself: “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”

The Giving Tree

This Shel Silverstein story is about a boy's relationship with a tree. As a child, the boy would climb the tree's trunk, eat its apples, and swing from its branches, which made the tree happy. But as the boy grows older, he starts visiting the tree less, which makes it unhappy. And every time he does visit the tree, he takes more from it, such as its apples to sell for money, its branches to build a house, or its trunk to construct a boat. Finally, all that's left of the tree is its stump. When the boy revisits the stump as an old man, the tree offers itself again as a place for the boy to sit and rest.

What marketers can learn: Marketers can certainly learn from the tree's generosity. After all, sometimes it's important for marketers to offer customers value without expecting anything in return, such as a token of appreciation after an unpleasant customer experience. At the same time, the overall relationship between marketers and customers has to be mutually beneficial. Marketers should be able to offer customers value (e.g. products, services, content) in exchange for data, purchases, or advocacy. If the mutual exchange isn't there for either party, then it may be time to move on.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie follows a series of events that one boy experiences after he (you guessed it) gives a mouse a cookie. Every action produces a chain reaction. Consider the following text from the book:

"If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk. When you give him the milk, he'll probably ask you for a straw. When he's finished, he'll ask for a napkin. Then he'll want to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn't have a milk mustache.”

What marketers can learn: The boy doesn't know what the mouse will ask for next; in the same way marketers don't always know how a customer will move down the path to purchase. Sometimes a customer will take a more linear approach and other times he'll totally jet off course. The key is to know how to react—because each brand action will result in a different customer reaction. Therefore, it's important for marketers to map out all possibilities—as much as one can—and to provide opportunities for engagement at each touchpoint. Predictive analytics can also be a useful resource.

The Cat in the Hat

One of the most famous Dr. Seuss tales, The Cat in the Hat is about a cat who surprises two bored children on a rainy day and unveils a bunch of wacky games and a few crazy friends (a.k.a. Thing One and Thing Two). But what starts off as fun and games for the Cat quickly turns into trouble for the children as they watch their house become a mess. With their mother on the way home, the children throw the Cat out of the house and are left with a mess. Thankfully, the Cat returns with a cleaning machine to dispose of the mess before the mother returns.

What marketers can learn: Given today's crowded industry, it can be tempting for marketers to pull a bunch of crazy stunts to get customers' attention. But in those instances, marketers—much like the Cat—are thinking of their own wants and needs, as opposed to those of their customers. This can cause shoppers to turn brands away—similarly to how the children toss out the cat near the end of the story. That's why it's important for brands to keep  customers at the center of their marketing and to act on their pain points—just as how the cat cleans up the mess at the end.

In the words of the Cat in the Hat: “It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how.” 

Bread and Jam for Frances

It's hard not to love this little critter. Bread and Jam for Frances is a story about a badger named Frances who only likes bread and jam. She turns away her mother's soft-boiled eggs at breakfast, trades her chicken salad sandwich at lunch, and discards the veal cutlets her family eats for dinner. But after her family gives into her picky eating habits, Frances grows tired of bread and jam and learns that it's better to eat a variety of foods.

What marketers can learn: Frances's tale is a perfect lesson on customer preferences. For one, it reminds marketers that there can be different customer preferences within the same household. So while Frances's father enjoys the veal cutlets, Frances does not. It also exemplifies that preferences can change. So even though Frances is hung up on bread and jam one day, she could be into tomato soup the next.

It's crucial for marketers to stay on top of customers' evolving preferences and to adjust their marketing accordingly. Preference centers can help them achieve this.

Strega Nona

Strega Nona is a story about a “grandma witch” who warns her assistant Big Anthony not to touch her magic pasta pot. But Big Anthony doesn't listen and ends up cooking so much pasta in the magic pot that it nearly takes over the whole town.

What marketers can learn: Strega Nona emphasizes the importance of listening. If marketers fail to listen to what their customers say explicitly and implicitly then they—like Big Anthony—can end up in a lot of trouble. It's also important for marketers to practice their listening skills inside of their organizations. Make sure to pay attention to the CFO's reasoning as to why you can't obtain a bigger budget, or to the IT head's instructions on how to trouble shoot problems with your email campaigns. Listening to your coworkers the first time can break down siloes and avoid big (and usually unsavory) messes.

How Marketing is Growing From Cultural Catalyst to Cultural Participation

How Marketing is Growing From Cultural Catalyst to Cultural Participation

Tent-pole marketing is among the oldest of the modern-day marketing tactics; older even than the Emmy Awards itself, which ignited the Web Sunday night, and will likely continue to drive social discourse throughout the week. In pursuit of branding and relevancy, business attach themselves to events like the Emmys that stimulate conversation and dominate the news cycle. These events tend to drive discussion broadly across segment lines, so, of course, marketers want their brands close to the ruckus. The Super Bowl, the Grammys, the Academy Awards, and now the Emmys. Consumers, in large part, enjoy marketers' additions to these events. In many ways, marketing is a central element of the culture that these events drive.

Although Emmys-style tentpole marketing is an age-old marketing practice, it has morphed with the times.

At the convergence point between social media proliferation and the ascension of hip-hop culture lies an interesting marketing reality; one where brands work in concert with musicians to touch audiences and convert them to loyal consumers. Now, it seems, tentpole marketing also applies to ongoing cultural conversations. Take Sprite for instance.

Spite, an established arm of the seminal Coca Cola brand, has worked tirelessly as of late to associate itself with hip-hop icons such as Drake, Nas, Rakim, and Vince Staples. Doing so has brought the brand Red Bull levels of urban relevance. Brands such as Adidas, Hennessy, Marvel Comics, and Reebok have achieved similar cultural alignment through superstar rappers, and other prominent elements of hip-hop culture. Perhaps the most resonant and recent example of this marketing in concert with hip-hop culture came last month during the infamous Drake and Meek Mill battle.

What seemed another—if massive—moment of contention in the niche hip-hop market blew out into a social media frenzy, with brands proving themselves nearly as incendiary as the anonymous mob of hip-hop fans on these digital networks.

As hip-hop continues to dominate pop culture, brands' insertion into the social discourse will surely increase in frequency. This isn't a good or bad thing, it's business, obviously. But, it will be interesting to watch as marketing continues its evolution from cultural catalyst to participant.

Marketers Aim to Take a Bite Out of Apple Ad Blocking

Marketers Aim to Take a Bite Out of Apple Ad Blocking

In marketing, we're always talking about disruption. That's so often a good thing because the idea is that a campaign, idea, or trend is so revolutionary that it changes the game in a positive way for companies and their customers.

But last week, there was a major disruption that most brands are not so happy about.

I'm talking about last Wednesday's Apple launch of its new software update for the iPhone. With the release of iOS9, users can now surf the Web on their mobile devices without ads cluttering up their screens. That's because Apple's software now supports ad-blocking. And as of last Friday, three of Apple's top paid apps in the United States are ad blockers.


This latest development in mobile marketing reeks of trouble for publishers, ad-tech companies, and marketers who as of late have been relying on native-content strategies, not just pop-up and banner ads. The blockers also track scripts, cookies, images, and auto-play videos. Although the impact of the operating system's new update won't be felt so much on in-app ads, the knees of marketers and advertisers on Madison Avenue are knocking because their content will be affected on the Safari browser and the mobile Web.

Already, brand marketers who have built entire strategies around serving native mobile ads are crying foul, insisting the move threatens not only the lifeblood of their businesses—but also the economic foundation of the free Internet. Marketers are beginning to mull over what they can do to keep their messages at the fore of mobile users' minds.

Many users, however, seem to be in a state of euphoria with more control of their mobile Web-browsing experiences. I culled just a few of their responses from Twitter. And I have to say one thing after reading these: I don't think ad blocking is going anywhere soon.

It Had to Happen: The Video Sales Force

It Had to Happen: The Video Sales Force

I like talking to call center operators. It could be because I'm a divorced empty-nester and I'm just lonely. Truth is, I take inspiration from these under-appreciated human beings. You can scream at them about their company's crappy service and outrageous prices, call them names, and accuse them of insulting your intelligence. But no matter the extent of the bluster, they remain calm, contrite, and on message. (“Sir, I promise that I won't leave you until your problem is resolved.”) Their only annoying habit is incessantly asking if they've satisfied you. On second thought, the absence of such sentiment is probably the reason I'm divorced.

But we Baby Boomers are now outnumbered severely by Gen Xers and Millennials who grew up “tech” and are much more comfortable taking care of business by punching keys on devices instead of engaging with living organisms. If I'm right, and that's the future, Pitney Bowes' corporate digitization is heading in the right direction.

Senior executives of the company, which is in the middle of a five-year plan to sail beyond its offline identity as “the postage meter company,” were in New York this week for analyst meetings. I caught up with Greg Van den Heuvel, SVP of customer engagement solutions, at a cocktail reception and asked him how the transformation was going. “I've gotta tell you about our EngageOne Video program,” he said.

Video? Pitney Bowes? Van den Heuvel started telling me about personalized, interactive videos that could be emailed or accessed via QR codes that people were watching for up to 40 minutes. I wanted to ask Van den Heuvel how many bourbons he'd had, but I didn't.

EngageOne Video, which Pitney Bowes rolled out this week, has already been tested by insurance companies, industrial suppliers, and video game marketers. They employ “virtual presenters,” actors who address customers by name and invite them to use interactive features to, for instance, find out why their utility bills are so high or what their insurance policies will do for them if their garages burned down. It's automated call center stuff, but with more of the control in the hands of the customer, plus options to talk to live representatives.

“We have a customer, Security First Insurance, that got 50% opens on these videos in emails,” Van den Heuvel said. “You ever read your whole insurance policy? Nobody does. But people come on and input their individual concerns and three quarters of them watched for four minutes or more. The cool thing is that if people see they have holes in their policies, they can interact with the virtual presenter or go to the website or choose to talk with somebody about it.” It's video, he said, that works as a direct sales tool.

EngageOne staffers sit down with clients to identify their key selling messages and tips from their best salespeople to develop scripts and interactive responses. And the presenters address people by name. “We video the actor reading off names. They can do 3,000 in an hour,” Van den Heuvel said.

Me, I prefer hearing my name pronounced, even if poorly, by Sandy in Little Rock or Surendra in Bangalore, over the phone. (I always ask them where they are and “How's the weather out there?”) But I'm not the future. You can check out more about Pitney Bowes' new venture on this video. It's a bit long, but check out the “personalization section” and one of the case studies in “service tour.”

Pitney Bowes, mail facilitator and video producer. Who knew?

Lovesac Proves that Brand Awareness Requires a Bit of Heavy Lifting

Lovesac Proves that Brand Awareness Requires a Bit of Heavy Lifting

Let's face it: Moving is the worst. As someone who has moved 10 times in the past seven years, I would know. 

Most of my residence hopping took place in college. I left the Midwest and headed east to attend Boston University, where I switched dorms or moved off campus every year.

Just writing this blog post brings back a flood of distressing moving memories—like the time I dropped my television on my toe and had to finish packing with a bag of frozen peas wrapped around my foot. Good times. 

Thankfully, I was never alone in my moving-day misery. September 1 is the one day when more than half of the city's renters begin a new lease. Actually, The Boston Globe reports that 63% of rental property leases in Boston start on this day. What's more, the City of Boston revealed that there were 2,282 moving truck permits issued for August 28 to September 3 this year.

If there's one thing every good marketer knows how to do, it's turn a customer pain point into an opportunity for engagement and service. Furniture retailer Lovesac proved that it could do just that when it decided to get in on Boston's moving-day madness and drive brand awareness through its #MovingDayLove campaign.

Boxing up the old brand perception

Lovesac has come a long way since its freshman year.

In 1995 Shawn Nelson developed the Sac: a giant beanbag-like creation that's filled with foam instead of beanbag beads. After a few years of selling the Sac at local and college events, CEO and Founder Nelson opened his first store in 2001. Then in 2005 he debuted the Sac's sister product the Sactional—a configurable, expandable couch. Now there are about 60 retail locations across the country, as well as an e-commerce destination, all of which he grew through word of mouth.

However, the company has a brand perception problem. Although Nelson started the business selling Sacs to his college classmates, he doesn't consider Lovesac a college furniture company. In fact, he claims that most of the brand's products exceed a typical student's budget. For instance, the smallest Sac costs $560 and a 10-seat Sactional can cost upwards of $16,000. 

“Given our name and our history, Lovesac has always been perceived as this happy-go-lucky, almost college furniture company…. The truth is we've always been too expensive for most college kids,” he says.

Instead of luring college students, Lovesac primarily appeals to affluent, millennial families—“want-it-all parents,” as Nelson calls them. But the company needed a way to better attract this audience and convey the versatility of its products. 

To generate this brand awareness, Lovesac's team decided to tackle the one problem that many furniture owners face: moving the couch. 

According to a study conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Lovesac, 40% of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed agree that the couch is the most stressful piece of furniture to move. In fact, 25% of respondents admit to abandoning their couches altogether.

So the brand launched the #MovingDayLove campaign and used social media to rescue Boston movers in need.

Reaching out to the community

The campaign was fairly straightforward: On September 1, Bostonians could share their moving day struggles on Instagram and Twitter by tagging @Lovesac and including the hashtag #MovingDayLove.

Lovesac worked with advertising agency Mullen to identify these posts in real-time and then message people privately to acquire their contact information and housing address. Once the brand obtained this information, Lovesac's team was able to meet up with the distressed movers and, through its partnership with moving company Gentle Giant, offer assistance, such as physical help, cold water, cleaning supplies, or a new Sactional.

“It comes back to our name,” Nelson says, “We can't wear the word ‘love' on our chest on a T-shirt and not give back to the world.”

Moving across channels

To promote the campaign, Lovesac ran Facebook and Twitter ads targeting non-homeowners in the Boston area in the weeks leading up to the initiative. The company also sent emails to its subscribers in the Boston area, and encouraged engagement through PR, radio, and social media. Plus, the brand hosted a blogger and influencer party in late August to spread word about its Sactionals.

As for maintaining buzz after the campaign, Lovesac worked with social media influencer agency Clever Girls to host a Twitter party on September 3 and generate conversation around Lovesac and moving. Participants had the opportunity to win Lovesac giftcards and couches. The brand also created a video summarizing the campaign (shown above), which it posted on its social media channels. 

“The campaign through and through was one where people really got a chance to experience the love, whether they were in the Boston area or just taking part on Twitter,” says Lovesac Marketing Specialist Mike Majlak. “We really loved how we were able to extend the story from a local activation to a national story through that process.”

Bringing home the results

The campaign may have moved a few couches, but was it enough to move the needle? At the time of this writing, the campaign video had received 75,507 views—with the majority of them coming from Facebook. Majlak also says that the brand has seen an uptick in traffic and sales for its Boston store locations.

It looks like this campaign was a great move for Lovesac's marketers and consumers, alike.

10 Ways to Prepare for the Adventure That Is Dreamforce

10 Ways to Prepare for the Adventure That Is Dreamforce

Salesforce's infamously extravagant annual conference Dreamforce kicks off today in San Francisco. The event will likely command much of the marketing world's attention for the next week, as Salesforce and its many partners make myriad announcements on the latest CRM and marketing-tech developments.

One topic that will no doubt permeate the conference and the industry's conscious in its wake is CRM, or more specifically, customer data, how marketers acquire and handle it, and how they use it to enhance customers' experiences.

In light of this, I've compiled a list of recent Direct Marketing News content that marketers can peruse to prepare for some of the topical elements of Dreamforce, as well keep pace with the cadence of CRM conversation that will surely succeed it.

Marketing to the New American Mainstream

Marketing to the New American Mainstream

It's interesting combing through the notes from readers that I get in my inbox as a journalist, especially with the topics that I cover. I get a lot of “You know what you should report?” and “That was great, but…” or “I couldn't have put it better myself.”

About a week and a half ago I got a particularly interesting note. It was from the president of a company that sold powerboats. When I opened the note, I thought that I'd get the usual critique, comment, or praise letter. But this one was different. It read:


I just saw your article on American Express and diversity marketing. I am on the board of [a boating association], and we are interested in learning more about the changing demographics in our country and the best way to market to the new consumers. I was wondering if you can [help] in this area?

So I gave him a call, and we chatted. And I asked him for more details. He candidly explained to me that the association was beginning to recognize that if their industry was to remain relevant—and grow—then they would have to do a couple of things. One: Acknowledge the changing landscape of American consumers—one that's the more racially diverse, female, and younger. Two: If companies in that industry wanted to grow their revenues, they would have to begin to market to communities that, traditionally, have been ignored.

I did some research, and about a week later I give him several reports on consumer spending and income—broken down by age, gender, racial groups, and sexual orientation. I want to stress that marketers should recognize today's shift in who might be an ideal or target consumer. Marketers need to cast a much wider and more diverse net for their products and services because if they don't, they stand to lose a lot of revenue, market share, and respect from potential or current customers.

It's important for marketers to understand this: One of the best ways to market to a particular group—whether minorities, females, young adults, or perhaps the LGBT community—is to hire people who are either in that group and have a true understanding of the subculture and its needs. Or hire people who have a desire to meet the needs of that community. That's what the reader who I mentioned earlier saw in my Amex article. Amex has an internal team of employees who are part of the LGBT community, so they brought their natural interests—and business needs—to Amex.

Here, I wanted to share a few facts about the demographics of the millions of women, young Americans, and minorities in the United States. Right now, some of you may be contemplating how to include diversity marketing in your plans for 2016, and hopefully beyond. Others may be trying to determine how to further your current efforts. Either way, I think you'll find these statistics sobering and possibly inspiring.

1. Wages are trending upward for women and downward for men in the U.S., although women still make only about 80 cents for every dollar that a white male earns. It's less for women of color, just 65 cents by many estimates for every dollar. (Pew Research Center)

2. Blacks and Hispanics spend more than whites with comparable incomes on so-called visible goods—clothes, cars, and jewelry. A lot more, in fact—up to an additional 30%. (Slate)

3. In 2011 the typical white household had a net worth of $91,405, compared with $6,446 for black households, $7,843 for Hispanic households, and $91,203 for Asian households. (Pew Research Center)

4. Young women today are the first in modern history to start their work lives at near parity with men. In 2012, among workers ages 25 to 34, women's hourly earnings were 93% those of men. By comparison, among all working men and women ages 16 and older, women's hourly wages were 84% of men. (Pew Research Center)

5. Fifty-one percent of surveyed marketers say that they have a multicultural marketing initiative in place. (CMO Council and Geoscape)

6. About 3.8% of adults in the United States—some nine million people—identify as a member of the LGBT community. (Williams Institute)

7. From 1968 (the year that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act) to 2014, the percentage of whites working in high-paying technical professions (engineering, science, software, and medical) doubled from 3.2 to 6.7%. For blacks, the rate quintupled, from one percent to 4.9%, improving the relative position of blacks to whites. (Brookings Institution)

8. Forty-three percent of Americans with more than $500,000 in assets are female. (She-conomy)

9. Women make 85% of brand purchases, yet just 3% of advertising creative directors are women. (She-conomy)

10. In 2012 73% of white households owned their own homes, compared with 44% of black households, 57% of Asian households, and 46% of Hispanic households. (United States Census Bureau)

Is Internet Privacy a Contradiction in Terms?

Is Internet Privacy a Contradiction in Terms?

I got a new cell phone this week. It's one of those big Samsungs that looks and feels like a NASA Mission Control device. I couldn't even figure out how to turn it on, let alone how to sync my Gmail accounts or add new phone numbers. But I needed to hit the ground running with my shiny, white onboard computing system on Tuesday, the first work day after Labor Day weekend, so I just started checking boxes and hitting “Agree” with no consideration of the consequences. Gotta feed the pig, ya know?

And so do all of the direct marketers who read this fine publication. It's no secret that the Internet was the best thing that ever happened to them, but it's the worst thing that ever befell one of the few rights ever to be agreed upon by every nation in the world: the secrecy of correspondence.

In an article in the British publication The Guardian a few weeks ago, Shawn Powers, an assistant professor of communications at Georgia State University, drew a stark portrait of the difference between mail and email. The former is a global institution founded on the sanctity of private correspondence, the latter can exist in its present state only within a secrecy vacuum.

“The modern Internet economy in many ways evolved out of a casual disregard for secrecy and privacy; it is dependent on gathering and analyzing individual user behavior and benefits a handful of western countries and companies,” wrote Powers. "Targeted advertising accounts for the vast majority of Internet revenue. It is a technique incompatible with the principle of secrecy of correspondence."

When it comes to the issue of privacy, then, a topic covered fairly regularly on this site, the Internet is in direct opposition to one of its chief rivals for direct marketing dollars: The U.S. Postal Service. Indeed, Powers points out, the U.S. postal system was founded in large part to prevent British overlords from casually riffling through people's letters to root out dissidents. This privacy protection was so valued by politicians and people alike that it worked its way into the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

But despite the hue and cry raised by privacy groups worldwide, Web users like me are so entranced by the pocket screens that give us our (monitored) email, free (platform-linked) videos, and (privately owned) apps that summon us cabs and pizzas, that we cavalierly click “OK” to three-page-long legal agreements. Hell, I don't care if you know who and where I am and what my credit card number is and what I eat and drink. How are you gonna get me my large pepperoni with artichoke hearts and Malted Milk Balls otherwise?

Powers provides an outline of how global postal privacy accords created the Universal Postal Union (UPU), hailed by Josef Zemp, the head of Swiss Rail and Post, as “the most powerful work for peace which history has ever seen.” As technology advanced, the tenets of the UPU influenced those of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which in 1932 added to its charter a provision to protect the confidentiality of messages across international borders.

“The UPU and ITU,” Powers wrote, “were so integral to international politics that adherence to their provisions were often among the first commitments made by newly established governments.”

So where, Powers asked, did the principle of secrecy of correspondence go as the Internet began to slowly but surely envelop the world? He points a finger, ironically, at the Queen of Private Email Servers, Hillary Clinton. Okay, she can't bear the full brunt of the blame. After all, she didn't invent the Internet. That was her husband's VP, Al Gore. But Powers points to a speech Clinton made as Secretary of State in 2010 on the “Internet-freedom paradigm” in which she described the Internet as a shared, public space. Powers contends this was a deliberate effort on Clinton's part to link the Internet to the Western legal doctrine that individual rights to privacy are curtailed in public spaces so that authorities can preserve the security of the space.

Which goes to show you two things. One, you can still keep correspondence private on the Internet if you're a high-ranking cabinet member who can afford to hire State Department employees to maintain private email servers and make those emails disappear at the appropriate time. And two, the guarantee of private correspondence is one thing the U.S. Mail will always have over the Web. Persons convicted of mail theft face up to five years in jail and fines of $250,000. And the Postal Service has a police force.

Patriots Fans Prove to Be the Real Loyalty MVPs

Patriots Fans Prove to Be the Real Loyalty MVPs

The National Football League's 2015 season kicks off this Thursday. And while many die-hards will be sporting their favorite jerseys this week, new data from Brand Keys suggests that some teams' fans are more loyal than others.

Indeed, Super Bowl XLIX wasn't the only victory the New England Patriots clenched this year. According to the research consultancy's 2015 Sports Fan Loyalty Index, a national survey of self-classified fans, the Massachusetts-based team have the highest fan loyalty ranking—for the second year in a row—proving that not even a scandalous season ending can deflate its fans' devotion.

The Green Bay Packers have the second-highest fan loyalty ranking (naturally), followed by the Seattle Seahawks, the Denver Broncos, and Indianapolis Colts. 

As for teams with the lowest loyalty rankings, the Oakland Raiders came in dead last with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins, and Cleveland Browns rounding out the bottom five. 

Top Five Teams   Bottom Five Teams
 1. New England Patriots  26. Cleveland Browns
 2. Green Bay Packers  27. Washington Redskins
 3. Seattle Seahawks  28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
 4. Denver Broncos  29. Jacksonville Jaguars
 5. Indianapolis Colts  30.Oakland Raiders

“Loyalty is a leading indicator of behavior and profitability and...a key statistic professional sports teams should track as it tells us what fans are going to do,” Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, said in a statement regarding the Index.

As far as what drives fan loyalty, winning isn't everything, said Passikoff, a Patriots fan. Every fan has a vision for his or her ideal team, he noted, and it's how teams live up to these expectations that shape fans' loyalty. “Everybody loves a winner,” he said, “but...there are other powerful and emotionally-based factors that have to be taken into account.”

Indeed, according to the study, history and tradition—such as being a part of fans' rituals and beliefs—account for 30% of fan loyalty and engagement; fan bonding (e.g., having players who are respected and admired) accounts for 29%. Other emotionally charged factors include pure entertainment (how well the team plays), which accounts for 21% of fan loyalty, and authenticity—how they mesh as a team—which accounts for 20%.

“All teams show up intending to win,” Passikoff said. “But...[to retain loyal fans] you have to know what the fans expect—beyond a winning season.”

As for what marketers from other industries can learn from these findings, Passikoff tells Direct Marketing News that by understanding customers' loyalty drivers, marketers can better determine how well they're meeting their fans' expectations and what areas need reinforcement. 

However, like Tom Brady, I'd like to appeal this ruling of which team has the most-loyal fans. As I have unbiasedly said, on several occasions, I believe that the Packers have the most loyal fans in the nation. I mean, how many fans would wear chunks of cheddar on their head in sub-zero temperatures? Plus, the team's fan bonding is exceptional. How many teams have quarterbacks that are Jeopardy champions—proving that they have beauty, brains, and brawn (not to mention an incredible sense of humor)?

I rest my case. 

Photo Source: Bernard Gagnon

How Marketers Can Score on National Video Game Day

How Marketers Can Score on National Video Game Day

Relevancy has become a key component of impactful marketing in today's cluttered digital environment, and one of the easiest ways for marketers to to resonate with consumer groups is through guerrilla marketing centered on quirky, unofficial holidays. One such holiday, National Video Games Day, will be celebrated this Saturday, and could be a great opportunity for marketers to gain resonance with the passionately engaged gaming community.

Here, we've collected five recent articles that offer insight into the rules of engagement with millennial gamers, as well as two tips to consider for crafting guerilla campaigns for the approaching holiday.

Subtlety is your friend

Gamers solve problems for fun, and after years of hunting and discovering hidden references in their games (known as easter eggs), marketers can count on gamers appreciating a more subtle hand in marketing execution.

Geico recently published an exemplary piece of branded content on Buzzfeed that—in addition to providing a fun, shareable experience—accented the brand's connection to the gaming community in the most nondescript way possible; through the post's URL. Amidst the collection of browser reference elements, the post's URL contains “up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-b-a,” a reference to the famous cheat code found in many of Japanese games publisher Konami's older games. Entering the code on the page actually alters the content itself.

This native ad campaign hits all the right buttons for gamers; doubly so for its goal, which was to promote a Geico sponsored gaming event, which brings us to our second tip...

E-Sports are a force to be reckoned with

The rising popularity of game streaming on sites, such as Twitch TV and YouTube, has shifted the competitive gaming community from fringe novelty to international spectacle in just a few years. Considering popular multiplayer battle arena game “League of Legends” recently held its North American Summer Finals at Madison Square Garden, it's safe to say marketers should pay attention to this fervent subsection of gamers when attempting to intersect with gaming culture.

Oh Say, Can You Produce?

Oh Say, Can You Produce?


When I read this morning that Branch founder Josh Miller had left Facebook—which acquired his company last year—to become the first director of product at the White House, I thought, “How perfect!” Miller, at 24, is the godfather of discreet chatter on social networks. Branch enabled Twitter users to form groups for private confabs. He was developing a similar clandestine chat service for Facebook until it dawned on him that his talent would best be put to use in government. And why not at the historical nexus of embarrassing political leaks, the White House?

“Director of product” has become a singularly digital industry title, and one that I could never quite wrap my head around. It's like when financial institutions started calling investment accounts and CDs “products,” whether they produced anything in the way of a return or not. In the digital sphere, product is even more intangible—an algorithm, some code, in the clouds. My parents belonged to the United Auto Workers union. When I hear product, I think Cadillac!

At the White House, according to a blog by Miller (at left), product sounds like websites, which, following the Healthcare.gov debacle could use a director over there on Pennsylvania Avenue. But Miller's goal, it appears, is to turn the federal government into a secure social network. “Imagine if talking to the government was as easy you talking to your friends on social networks?” Yes, Josh, I can imagine that, and it scares the bronzer off of me. I don't want to talk to the government and I don't want the government talking to me. When the government wants to talk to you, it's rarely a good thing. But Josh is young. He can learn.

So, I'm using this space on the occasion of Miller's first week on the job to ask him to use his powers of discreet discussion—be it with congressmen or citizens or foreign governments—to produce something of true value to Americans. I'm talking about a balanced budget. Our national debt totals $18 trillion. Time magazine recently ran down what that kind of cash could buy:

  • One year of healthcare for all Americans ($3.3 trillion)
  • A pay-down of all consumer debt, including mortgages ($3.07 trillion)
  • Every NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL team ($68 billion)
  • Four years of college tuition for every American under 75 (at an average of $60,088)
  • 2015's national defense budget ($631 billion)
  • Apple Computer ($742 billion)
  • A year of fast-food and casual dining meals for all ($1.2 trillion)

If Miller can bring his algorithmic might to getting that done, it could possibly produce a third term (by Congressional acclamation) for President Obama, with about $9 trillion left over for ice cream and Ferraris all around.

Of course, we all know that even a Silicon Valley dream team of  Zuckerberg, Ellison, Bezos, and Benioff couldn't bring the national debt to its knees. But if the executive branch is to have a director of product, shouldn't it aim a little higher than cool, discreet websites?  How about pumping out some more traditional hoped-for products of government; things like peace, prosperity, and freedom for all?

Nah, strike that. Paying down the $18 trillion would be easier.

The Ultimate Marketing Playlist

The Ultimate Marketing Playlist

We all have our pump-up jams. You know, the songs that get us motivated and moving. 

With all of the challenges marketers face on a daily basis, I decided to create my own playlist to keep them inspired and striving for more. Check out my marketing song choices below.

The customer acquisition song: One Way or Another – Blondie

The lyrics: “One way or another I'm gonna find ya. I'm gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha. One way or another I'm gonna win ya. I'm gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha.”

The message for marketers: Blondie's lyrics may seem a bit like a stalker at first, but marketers can actually take on this same obsessive mentality when it comes to acquiring new customers. In fact, many spend a significant portion of their time and resources attempting to win over fresh faces. However, it's important for marketers to focus on retaining existing customers who, in turn, can help them acquire new business through word of mouth and user-generated content.

The customer journey song: You Can't Hurry Love – The Supremes

The lyrics: “You can't hurry love. No, you just have to wait. She said, ‘Love don't come easy. It's a game of give-and-take.' You can't hurry love. No, you just have to wait. You gotta trust; give it time. No matter how long it takes.”

The message for marketers: All marketers want their customers to be loyal advocates. But as mama says, “You can't hurry love.” Like the song says, a relationship has to be a give-and-take—or in the case of marketers and customers, an exchange of value for data. And every customer sets the pace of his own journey; some customers will become loyal advocates quicker than others and some won't become devoted followers at all. However, you can't rush customer loyalty. As Diana Ross sings, “You gotta trust; give it time. No matter how long it takes.”

The unsubscribe song: Bye, Bye, Bye – NSYNC


The lyrics: “I loved you endlessly when you weren't there for me, so now it's time to leave and make it alone. I know that I can't take no more. It aint no lie. I want to see you out that door. Baby, bye, bye, bye.”

The message for marketers: If marketers fail to provide the value their customers crave, then their customers are going to opt out of their communications. Therefore, marketers need to provide unique engagement opportunities at each touch point yet still ensure that they're not bombarding their customers with messages. Otherwise, it will be “bye, bye, bye.”

The preference center song: Wannabe – Spice Girls

The lyrics: “Now don't go wastin' my precious time. Get your act together. We could be just fine. I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want. So tell me what you want, what you really, really want.”

The message for marketers: The best way for marketers to know what their customers want is to ask them. Preference centers are a great way to know what kind of messages customers want to receive, how often they want to receive them, and through which channels.

The win-back song: I Want You Back – The Jackson 5

The lyrics: “Oh, baby give me one more chance [to] show you that I love you. Won't you please let me back in your heart? Oh, darlin' I was blind to let you go (let you go, baby). But now since I see you in his arms, I want you back.”

The message for marketers: When it comes to choosing a brand to do business with, consumers have multiple options. And if marketers don't meet their growing expectations, consumers can easily choose another brand that will. If a brand does make a mistake, it's important for that brand to own up to it, apologize, and try to rectify the situation. To fix the problem, however, they must live up to their promises; failing to do so can result in a greater sense of distrust and lost customers forever.

The personalization song: Say My Name – Destiny's Child

The lyrics: “‘Cause I know how you usually do—when you're saying everything to me times two. Why can't you just tell the truth? If somebody's there, then tell me who. Say my name. Say my name.”

The message for marketers: Customers want personalized experiences, and they know when marketers are sending the same offer to someone else. So be upfront with your customers. Don't claim to offer personalized recommendations when you're presenting the same generic content to every customer.

The omnichannel song: Any Way You Want It – Journey

The lyrics: “Any way you want it, that's the way you need it. Any way you want it.”

The message for marketers: Customers are in full control of their shopper journeys.  So marketers need to be ready to engage wherever and whenever their customers wish.

The customer experience song: Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley

The lyrics: “Never gonna give you up. Never gonna let you down. Never gonna run around and desert you. Never gonna make you cry. Never gonna say goodbye. Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.”

The message for marketers: All marketers should follow Rick Astley's lead and sing these words to their customers. Marketers need to convey how much they value their customers' business, how they're in these relationships for the long haul, and how they're going to offer an honest, valuable experiences that will surpass anything their competitors can offer.

The motivation song: Eye of the Tiger – Survivor


The lyrics: “So many times it happens too fast. You trade your passion for glory. Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past. You must fight just to keep them alive. It's the eye of the tiger. It's the thrill of the fight. Rising up to the challenge of our rival. And the last known survivor, stalks his prey in the night, and he's watching us all with the eye of the tiger.”

The message for marketers: Keep on fighting the good fight.

How to Choose the Right Social Platform for Your Business

How to Choose the Right Social Platform for Your Business

I'm the first one to tell you about social media and how much of a great marketing tool it can be. Recently, I featured Purina ONE for using live-streaming app Periscope to boost engagement with the brand, even if followers weren't in the area. And I chatted with chic furniture brand Z Gallerie to highlight how marketers use Twitter to get people to request and then display the company's print catalogs on individuals' social media accounts. From Facebook to Twitter, or Snapchat, Tumblr, and Vine, there's a cornucopia of options that marketers can consider infusing into their strategies.

Choosing the right social platform for your businesses can do several things: First, it can increase reach, influence, and audience engagement—all of which help grow a business. The idea is that with more brand awareness and more brand advocacy, you'll be able to translate that into more sales. Large social followings can spark more downloads, more Website visits, and potentially more clicks on those Buy Now buttons.

I think that one of the biggest questions that most marketers have is how to determine which social media platform is right for their companies. So I wanted to provide a few guidelines:

Understand that you don't have to be on every emerging social media platform.
Even on a personal level, I've done this before—signed up for the new, swanky social media site and then realized that I either don't have time to keep it up, or I'm simply not interested. As a marketer you only have so much time and resources (e.g. money and human capital), so be judicious. Let the platform go through its growing pains before jumping into the deep end.

Know the makeup of each social media site you're considering using and match it with your needs.
Demographics, engagement, language, and user expectations change with each platform. Instagram is the only platform that's demographics skew toward blacks and Hispanics. Google Plus skews male, while Pinterest is overwhelming female. LinkedIn draws 38% of Internet users with an income of more than $75k. It's important to know and understand these characteristics of fans and followers of each platform so you can match your needs with the right audience. Marketing software Wishpond did a great job of breaking down the demographics and attributes of several social media sites. I'd start by reviewing this analysis to get a feel for which platforms might be right—or wrong—for you.

Just try.
The key to success—at least in my opinion—is courage. I define courage as being afraid and then doing it anyway (OK, I stole that from speaker Joyce Meyer. But it's as good of a definition as any). That courageous attitude is the one that marketers need to take on for the growth of their brands. You don't have to be a rock star on Periscope or Meerkat. It may take you a little while to figure out what your audience wants and what you're able to provide; it may take some time for people to discover your content on YouTube; but it's worth the try. Many brands have discovered that a platform's users are organic to your message and target audience. If your plan doesn't meet your expectations, you can always change it or just move forward without that platform. Nothing gained, nothing lost—except you'll have a little more experience under your belt.

CMOs Do IT Fast, CIOs Do IT Slow

CMOs Do IT Fast, CIOs Do IT Slow

It's the everyday, never-ending tussle of the digital marketing era. Why can't the CMO and CIO put aside their petty differences, tear down their silos, and lead their companies to digital supremacy? In fact, that might be the wrong way for senior managers to wrap their heads around the problem, argues an 18-year IBM veteran who has evangelized the company's middleware across the globe. CMOs and CIOs are different, he says, because they're supposed to be different. There are two different types of IT: fast, the province of marketers; and slow, the bailiwick of IT people. CIOs and CMOs need only to recognize it and shore up their skills at managing their stations in the fortress—marketers on the battlements, techs in the command center. The rest will come easy because each of their efforts should feed the success of the other.

“You have two worlds in tech today: fast and slow,” says Dario DeBarbieri, global director of IBM Middleware. A mutual acquaintance recommended that I speak with DeBarbieri because he, if anybody, would be the one able to explain to me the API economy. “One is the front end. That means your mobile apps, your tablets, your computers, everything you can see,” DeBarbieri held forth in his affable Argentinian accent. “That's what we call the fast-moving IT. You basically are at mercy of clients. Why? Because clients and end-users have the power they didn't have in the 1990s and early 2000s.

“Slow IT is the back end. It needs to maintain secure, accurate, constant communication throughout the ecosystems,” he continued, making the point that marketing still keeps its eyes on the four P's and IT still controls the mainframes. What's difficult for enterprises is synchronizing the disparate timing of the two operations.

Not only do marketers need to track the demands of  smartphone-spoiled customers and monitor their trash-talking on social media, but they also have to stay on top of emerging digital business models such as those of Uber and Airbnb. “You can imagine how car rental companies and hotels are taking a new look at their operations,” DeBarbieri says. “There are a lot of new businesses being created by this API economy that are turning old businesses on their heads.”

That message, says DeBarbieri (at left), formed the central theme of a presentation he gave to 50 CMOs just last week. “I told them it was vitally important to their futures that they develop an ability to identify which are the core business assets of their companies that could extend their business models if they exposed them through APIs. That is the role of the CMO today. The CMO should be in charge of the strategy surrounding fast IT, but he must work more closely than ever with the development team in slow IT. Together they can start pushing buttons and changing business models.”   

CMOs are also responsible for deciding what kind of API fits the purpose, which could be anything from brand recognition to revenue generation to customer satisfaction. DeBarbieri outlined the four basic API models with examples of each:

Developer pays. This is used by Amazon Web services, which charges fees for developers to launch APIs and for additional services.

Developer gets paid. Google Ad Sense, for instance, pays developers that run its ads on their apps.

Free. Facebook doesn't charge publishers that add APIs to the network because they end up driving new traffic and business to Facebook.

Indirect channel linkage. eBay lets developers link APIs in return for the opportunity to expand its ecosystem and its business.

But before API expansion can get to this stage at a company, fast IT jockeys must be tracking real-time events and slow IT operators must be identifying long-term trends and commercial corporate assets. If they're vigilant and they're working well together, the API economy can help them churn gold from, well…

“Elephant dung,” DeBarbieri says. “Every day the world creates 2.5 quintillion bits of data. I tell clients it's elephant dung. It's s—t. But if you sift through it and understand the API economy, you can find opportunities.”

What Are Your Customer #RelationshipGoals?

What Are Your Customer #RelationshipGoals?

Want to know what everyone is talking about? Just turn to Twitter. Yesterday, for instance, the hashtag #RelationshipGoalsIn3Words was trending.

Some people took a more sentimental approach to the conversation.

Others sent more humorous tweets.

Even some brands got in on the action.

In marketing, no relationship is more important than the one marketers have with their customers. So I asked four loyalty experts to sum up the ultimate relationship goals marketers should aim to have with their customers. Check out their #RelationshipGoalsIn3Words on the following pages.

Engagement. Loyalty. Mutual Satisfaction.

"Engagement is all! It informs a marketer how well a brand meets consumers' expectations and is what a marketer needs to do to successfully compete in the marketplace.

Loyalty because it is a leading indicator of profitability, and consumers are six times more likely to behave positively toward the brand.

Mutual satisfaction because the consumer is looking for primacy of product or service, and the marketer is looking to make money."

- Robert Passikoff, founder and president, Brand Keys Inc.

*Note: This first one is technically four words—but we'll let it slide.

Mutual Value Exchange.

"Loyalty programs are predicated on the idea of a mutual exchange of value. The value for the business is a better understanding of customers in order to improve their sales, margins, and operational efficiency. Customers agree to let companies track and analyze their purchasing data in exchange for additional recognition and rewards."

- Jeff Berry, research director, COLLOQUY

Simplicity. Listening. Aligned.

"[These words are] based on our many conversations with brands—the ones that have measurable deeper relationships [and] loyalty with their clients all have strong ability [or] propensity in those areas. Yet, they can be quite challenging as listening is [an] active and two-way value exchange, and simplicity is ever more challenging in the data-driven world we live in."

- Mark Johnson, CEO and CMO, Loyalty 360

Customer Experience Focus

"Companies and brands overly focus on price and product availability, but those are table stakes. The overall customer experience is the key, and customer service is the true differentiator. Investment in a quality customer experience can yield a long-term benefit of deep customer loyalty, which is a competitive advantage in a landscape where consumers would otherwise follow the lowest price. A March survey shows that approximately half of 2,500 U.S. consumers polled reported experiencing a problem on their last shopping trip. Of those customers, 81% decided not to contact the retailer about the issue. Among these silent shoppers, 32% said they were unlikely to recommend the retailer to friends and family, putting these shoppers at risk of decreasing their spend with the retailers. A dysfunctional customer experience can be detrimental to the customer relationship and risk significant retail losses."

- Dennis Armbruster, LoyaltyOne Consulting VP and managing partner

We'd love to know, what are your customer #RelationshipGoalsIn3Words? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us @dmnews or @DMNreporter.

5 Growth Areas in Video That Marketers Should Watch

5 Growth Areas in Video That Marketers Should Watch

With video set to play an increasingly important role in the marketing landscape, businesses need new ways to keep the channel engaging. Luckily for marketers, these are the times of intense video innovation.

Brands are taking huge strides in the areas of interactive video and virtual reality, and consumers are loving it. Marketers can get in on this action as well, but they may need to explore some of the recent developments in the channel before inspiration strikes. Here are five videos, or video practices, that are changing the ways consumers consume video content.

360 Cam

A relative newcomer in the interactive video space, 360-degree videos took the Web by storm soon after YouTube enabled 360-degree playback on Chrome browsers and its mobile app. The most mundane videos, such as subaquatic tours and browsing a store, become exciting feats of technological prowess. Imagine the experiences marketers can craft.

Oculus Rift

As the most apparent and visible disrupter in video technology, Oculus Rift was headline gold even before its $2 billion acquisition by Facebook. Originally touted as the gaming community's launch pad for virtual reality, interest in Oculus Rift has grown considerably in the last couple of years. With the potential to completely change the way consumers interact with digital content, marketers would do well to experiment as much as financially possible with this tech.

Google Cardboard

While Oculus Rift may be the biggest name in VR tech today, Google Cardboard is shaping up to be a viable, and accessible, competitor in the space. Whether the applications end up as rich as those ostensibly available on the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard brings VR capabilities to virtually any smartphone user, with a near negligent cost. If Cardboard follows the trends of the tech titans' other offerings, marketers may be happy they got in early.

Interactive Video

Interactive video lies in the natural progression path to virtual reality, and is the video technology most primed for superlative marketing campaigns. With the right creative approach, and proper execution, marketers stand to make truly engaging visual content that can't help but go viral.

24 hours of Happy

Bob Dylan - Live a Rolling Stone. Interactive Video

Live Streaming

After a brief and bitter battle for market share with Meerkat, Twitter-owned live streaming app Periscope appears to have become the de facto name in mobile streaming. Brands have already began utilizing the tech, but live streaming still has room for growth. Marketers can be conduits of this growth, or trail behind it as more consumers take interest in streaming apps.

Celebrity, Candidate...What's the Diff?

Celebrity, Candidate...What's the Diff?

“Donald Trump is a celebrity, not a candidate,” trumpet critics of the leader—by 10 points and more—of every Republican presidential poll. And we respond, what's the difference? As we've propounded several times in this space, the lines between marketing campaigns and political campaigns have blurred. The five-story-high Smart Water billboard I pass on my bike to work every day features Jennifer Aniston, not Carly Fiorina. Likewise, every news site, newspaper, magazine, and cable news network showers attention on Trump, not Kasich. 

The model presidential candidate of our times is Ronald Reagan, governor of California and star of TV's Death Valley Days. Only Arnold owns that perfectly crafted presidential CV today. Too bad for him he was born in Austria and can't run.

CallFire, a voice and text platform used by political candidates, recently had Harris Interactive ask a nationally representative sample of potential voters to cast ballots in mock presidential elections pitting celebrities against politicians. The results? Let's just say Carly should talk to Jennifer about standing in for her at the next debate.

  • Clint Eastwood (72%) crushed Donald Trump (28%)
  • Ben Affleck (59%) cruised by Ted Cruz (41%)
  • George Clooney (57%) outshined Jeb Bush (43%)
  • Jimmy Fallon (55%) operated on Dr. Rand Paul (45%)

Surprisingly, Hillary Clinton (55%) bested Oprah Winfrey (45%), but Oprah's been off daily TV for some time now, while Hillary has been active on the campaign trail and afoot in the media, even if largely for Emailgate. Brand impressions, it has become clear, are now as important to presidential candidates as big appetites and full heads of hair.

“Hillary is a brand, Jeb is a brand. Hillary announcing her candidacy on social media was huge,” says CallFire CRO Barbara Palmer. “There's this instantaneous effect that's taken hold in political marketing now. People have immediate access to everything and candidates can be exposed to them constantly and in snippets. They used to have to show up in Iowa, show up in New Hampshire. Now they can phone and text it in.”

Most serious-minded folk I talk politics with are appalled that The Donald (maybe the best brand, with the exclusive cachet of the article) is controlling the consciousness of the electorate. I don't know why they don't understand it. Do they not go home and witness their educated, professional mates and kids watching “Desperate Housewives” or “Duck Dynasty?” Have they themselves never guiltily absorbed “The Apprentice?” The press is putty in Trump's hands. Plus, he's done his homework on issues troubling this generation's Silent Majority and he plays the themes like a Beethoven sonata.

Palmer thinks The Donald will inevitably be brought to heel by superior digital execution on the part of other candidates, however. One who has taken an early lead in sophisticated digital voter engagement, she says, is Bernie Sanders. He regularly packs halls with 10,000 to 20,000 people. He also beat his celebrity in the CallFire poll, Jerry Seinfeld, 54 to 45%.

“The political specialists on our staff did an evaluation of the digital marketing assets of all the candidates, and Bernie Sanders came out head and shoulders above the rest,” Palmer says. “His campaign makes use of several digital channels to send out his message and then uses text to get an immediate response. Most of the others are still at the stage of collecting people's names.”

One other former president who could challenge Reagan as the perfect candidate is John F. Kennedy, who though not an actor had a Hollywood connection through his father, his brother-in-law Peter Lawford, and his alleged mistress, Marilyn Monroe. That's why I'm waiting for Brett Stimely to throw his hat into the GOP presidential ring. Who's he? Actor Stimely has forged a small business playing JFK, displaying his full head of hair and put-on Boston accent in four films and TV shows over the past six years. I wonder how many Twitter followers he has.

User Content Reigns In "Straight Outta Compton" Campaign

User Content Reigns In "Straight Outta Compton" Campaign

Between rave reviews and a $56 million opening weekend, Straight Outta Compton, the Universal Pictures biopic chronicling the rise of West Coast rap outfit NWA, is nothing short of a hit—just as the group's debut of the same name was in 1988.

Like most major box office hits, exemplary marketing played a large role in Straight Outta Compton's success. TV spots, pre-roll video ads, tremendous word-of-mouth, as well as a big-ticket play on consumers' nostalgia; all of the usual suspects of great cinema marketing were present. But, the movie's marketers struck true gold by successfully harnessing influencer marketing, user generated content, and virality by way of Apple and Beats Music's Straight Outta Somewhere meme generator.

We're all straight outta somewhere. straightouttasomewhere.com #StraightOutta #StraightOuttaCompton

A photo posted by Straight Outta Compton (@outtacomptonmovie) on

Straight Outta Somewhere memes continue to proliferate the Web through traditional social channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and also peripheral digital communities such as discussion boards and music forums. Users not only represented their neighborhoods and hometowns through the memes, but also contorted the viral movement to poke fun at other pop culture components.

A Blast From the Past

A Blast From the Past

Everyone has favorites. In my neighborhood, I have a favorite little organic burger place named 25 Burgers; it serves up every type of burger or sandwich that you can think of. I have a few favorite clothing brands and designers: Vince Camuto, Tracy Reese, Kenneth Cole, and, of course, good ol' Macy's. I have a favorite musician (Drake), book (The Devil Wears Prada), and movie (Malcolm X).

I also have favorite stories that I've written for Direct Marketing News. Often I scour through these pieces to determine which conversations to continue, which performed the best, and which have the next big topics to feature. I thought for my blog today, I'd feature some of my favorite topics that I've written about in recent months. Some were popular—others less so. But all have great information, and are great for reviewing and sharing. Give them a read. Then leave a comment about what you'd like to see next—not just from me but from all of my colleagues from DMN. I can't wait to hear your thoughts.

I Was Paid to Write This Blog

I Was Paid to Write This Blog

Just like personal relationships with friends and lovers, one-to-one relationships with customers can be a messy business. Countless efficiencies can be gained from the ability to engage the right people with relevant messages via digital channels, but data-driven empowerment is a worldwide phenomenon, and it's a wild and woolly world.

Since the dawn of the Net Promoter Score, the marketer's golden mission has been to enlist legions of aficionados eager to recommend products and services to friends and family. That's not easy, so marketers use several methods to remunerate bloggers and active reviewers to say kind words about them and their products. Today, that's most likely to happen via social media, a rangy and unruly realm, to say the least. Recognizing that, the Federal Trade Commission recently updated its endorsement guidelines FAQ list to address some social media specific quandaries. All social media participants, not just marketers, should take note.

“The liability can be with both parties,” says Internet lawyer Karl Kronenberger of San Francisco-based Kronenberger Rosenfeld. “The FTC is going to focus its attention on large companies with funds, but people writing reviews need to pay attention, too.”

Here are some issues to ponder for regular folk paid to write reviews and for marketers awarding themselves five-star ratings on Yelp.

Awarding reviewers $1 coupons can be considered payola. The FTC guidelines say that actual endorsements from customers must be “truthful and not misleading.” Discernment between the two can come down to a matter of what's in the reviewer's heart. A $1 coupon may not seem much of an enticement to shill, but, the FTC says, “continually getting free stuff from an advertiser…could suggest you expect future benefits from positive reviews.”

One gift can mean a lifetime of disclosure. A company sends a free product to a blogger and asks him to write a favorable review about it. He discloses the gift in his first review. Does he have to mention the relationship every time he writes about the company, in perpetuity? Perhaps. “Each new endorsement made without a disclosure could be deceptive because readers might not see the original blog post where you said you got the product free,” the FTC says.

Fitting ‘sponsored post' into a tweet. Even a seemingly benign mention on Twitter could be considered deceptive and requires disclosure if the tweeter has a financial link to the company. The FTC helpfully points out that “paid ad” would deplete just seven of your 140 characters, and that “sponsored” or “promotion” each waste only nine. It even suggests a hashtag disclosure you can use to begin your kiss-up tweet: #ad.

If you work for the company you post about, say it. Several enterprise-level social media platforms have emerged in recent years that guide employees in creating favorable content about their companies and posting it on social media under their own names. That's fine, the FTC says, but each and every post must also disclose that an employee wrote it.

Just as in matters of privacy violation on the Web, the FTC is most likely going to pick on the biggest, most egregious violators to hang on a legal post as examples. Companies that set up vigorous compliance programs for disclosing paid endorsements will receive brownie points in court and likely side-step the purview of the FTC. “A good compliance program will go a long way toward insulating against a class action or a government lawsuit,” Kronenberger says. “That includes instituting explicit guidelines for ad agencies and media buying services. It's a fairly low-cost way to demonstrate that you're making an effort at complying.”

Kronenberger has some high-profile clients. He's currently defending one in a $200 million suit involving fake testimonials. So, we ask him: Wouldn't many large enterprises with established brands welcome endorsement standards that make it a clean game for all? There is a long pause on the other end of the phone line, then…

“Well, that would require a complicated answer,” Kronenberger says. “Unfortunately, marketing in a very noncompliant way can be highly lucrative.”

How to Not Suck at Marketing

How to Not Suck at Marketing


Think back to when you were kid—a time when the world was your oyster. Everything seemed possible (of course you could be an actress/animator/dolphin trainer when you grew up). You were fearless and full of energy.

Then, the inevitable happened—you became an adult. The world made you more cynical; monetary and parental responsibilities put a few gray hairs on your head; and you couldn't run or bend the way you used to.

Let's face it: Getting old sucks.

Maturing in the business sector isn't always favorable either. Startups seem to embody these enviable youthful traits. They're nimble; they're always on the cusp of what's cool; and they're not afraid to disrupt the space. Public-listed companies, however, seem to lose these budding characteristics as they age. As Joseph Jaffe points out, the pressures to produce short-term results and please investors can cause brands to lose the spark that made their company a winning organization in the first place.

“There's that wonderful saying ‘Let's see how big we can get before we suck,'” says the CEO and cofounder of Evol8tion—a company that connects brands to startups. “And as I often say, especially when I'm talking to small businesses from a B2B standpoint,...corporations were built to suck at the end of the day.”

The key to not sucking, Jaffe says, is finding a balance between being a risk taker and being risk adverse so that businesses can scale. So how can marketers strike this equilibrium? Here are Jaffe's three tips on how to suck less.

1. Invest in experimentation.

Many people are familiar with Google's 70/20/10 rule for innovation, and marketers can apply this framework to their budgets, as well.

Coca-Cola refers to this structure as “Now, New, Next.” And in a February 2013 blog post, Josh Leibowitz, then a partner at consultant firm McKinsey & Company, explained the budget breakdown as follows:

  • 70% of funds goes to “now” or established marketing activities
  • 20% goes to “new” or emerging trends
  • 10% goes to “next” or untested ideas

So the next time you're divvying up your dollars, remember to allocate a few to innovation and experimentation.

“Whether it's 30/60/10 or 70/20/10, it's really built on this idea that 10% of every single budget—or one out of every $10—should be spent or invested in rapid prototyping, experimentation, tests, pilots, or risk taking—but really on innovation, on things that have no precedent,” Jaffe says.

2. Remember, trying something new doesn't mean automatically discarding the old.

Even though testing new ideas is important, that doesn't mean that marketers should forgo all of their tried-and-true best practices. There are several best practices that are no longer relevant or effective, Jaffe says, and there are also new practices that are simply noise. To identify the best of the best, Jaffe recommends following this structure: Keep the best of the old; discard the worst of the old; embrace the best of the new; reject the worst of the new.

“It's not just binary of old and new—old is bad, new is good,” he says. “Heavens forbid. A lot of the old is bad, [but] a lot of the old is fantastic; and a lot of the new is quite frankly crap. It's very important to find that balance.”

3. Focus on retention and your “super consumers.”

The idea that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customer base is a time-honored teaching. Yet, marketers still dedicate the majority of their dollars to acquisition. In fact, the “Marketing Budgets 2014” report by Econsultancy and Responsys shows that 34% of companies planned to increase their focus on acquisition last year, compared to 18% who intended to do the same for retention.

“There is no more important balance or equilibrium to find than the balance between acquisition and retention,” Jaffe says. “And if there is any optimization that has to take place that isn't taking place, in particular [with] B2B, it's to start to cross that chasm between how we neglect, under utilize, and under invest against not just our most important segment—which is our existing customer—but even the super consumer, which I would define as the tenured, promoter influencer.”

The “super consumers,” according to Jaffe, are customers who have been with a brand for the long haul, adore the brand, and have some sway when it comes to the brand's audience. Marketers should use these “super consumers” to build an “inside-out model,” Jaffe says—one that uses existing customers to gain new ones, such as through testimonials, content creation, and referrals.

Jaffe describes this idea of using existing customers to acquire new ones as "flipping the funnel" and calls this method the Marketing BowTie framework.

Why Fantastic Four Is a Cautionary Tale—for Marketers Especially

Why Fantastic Four Is a Cautionary Tale—for Marketers Especially

Marketers know better than anyone: If you do nothing else, at the very least listen to the people you are targeting. The customer is always right, as they say. Despite years worth of successful efforts to the contrary, 21st Century Fox seemed to forget this fundamental marketing truth this weekend, but it will likely remember in the coming weeks as it endures the wrath of comic book fans around the world over the quality of the studio's latest film, “Fantastic Four.”

Between comic book characters dominating cinema, TV, and video games, and the phenomenon that is Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), fans of this material—often categorized in the past as nerds—have grown into one of the most powerful consumer segments around. While it indeed comes with great responsibility, this power works in favor of the fans, and the fans didn't favor Fox's “Fantastic Four” reboot, which opened over the weekend to a paltry $26 million, and some of the harshest criticism of the year.

Now, flops happen, and in the grand scheme of Hollywood, filmmakers probably won't approach their craft differently in the aftermath of this single failure. However, marketers stand to learn much by analyzing the marketing missteps Fox took that led to its current predicament. Here are the three marketing failures that made “Fantastic Four” the cautionary tale that it's sure to become.

Not listening to customers

Despite months of negative feedback from fans on leaked details throughout the film's production, Fox ostensibly remained committed to its vision of the film, possibly in hopes of franchising the material in lieu of the MCU. The problem is that the vocal majority of fans haven't been clamoring for a Fox MCU; they've been asking for the opposite, actually. If customers seem to be in consensus around a particular issue, brands should listen to these vocal contingents of their audience.

Not unifying the team

Rumors abound about the relationship between Fox executives and “Fantastic Four” director Josh Trank. Trank was distant and destructive; Fox was manipulative and meddlesome. Regardless of the truth in such accusations, the fact that these reports are so prevalent speaks to some level of disharmony and unity behind the scenes. Of course, marketers know all about the dangers of disharmony through the unfortunate prevalence of silos. Cohesive, omnichannel experience struggles to manifest when the teams behind their creation struggle to communicate, or cannot do so productively.

Not polishing the finished product

Consumers are growing used to clean presentation and expertly designed experiences in a post-Apple, post-Steve Jobs world. Marketers must contend with this trend in all aspects of the creative process of campaign implementation. Is the experience optimized for mobile? Does the creative work across browsers? Does the ad slow down Websites? Combine this expectation for polish with moviegoers' expectations for high production values, and it's easy to understand why fans who paid for “Fantastic Four” are miffed by the film's lackluster CGI and negligent editing.

National Holidays Are a Gift to Marketers

National Holidays Are a Gift to Marketers

Everyone loves a national holiday. National holidays give people a common cause to rally around or an event to celebrate. They generally honor the accomplishments of our past or the good things that are in our lives right now. Nowadays, there seems to be a national holiday for everything. Some are better than others. In fact, today, August 10, is National Lazy Day and National S'mores Day (what a perfect excuse to take some time off, go camping, and eat unlimited chocolate). Smart marketers track these quirky national days and ride the wave of conversation and enthusiasm. Here's what the marketers at Fruit of the Loom did for for August 5, National Underwear Day.

My personal favorite is June 5, National Doughnut Day. Doughnut chains across the country gave away free doughnuts, and in many cases, people would buy coffee or more treats with their free pastries. It got the media talking and water cooler chatter buzzing (even I sent out an email to the entire editorial and sales departments at Direct Marketing News promoting the holiday).

Several doughnut companies and coffeehouse chains got in on the conversation on Twitter and used the holiday as a perfect way to connect with current and potential customers. Krispy Kreme won me over when they ran out of pastries in New York's Penn Station, which caused me to miss my train. The team sent me a voucher for a dozen free doughnuts.

Marketers at a local Krispy Kreme in San Francisco kept the momentum going by creating a follow-up national holiday—National Doughnut Day Part 2.

Here are some other fun holidays in August that marketers can use to draw attention to their brands:

August 12: National Vinyl Record Day

August 13: National Filet Mignon Day

August 15: National Relaxation Day and National Lemon Meringue Pie Day

August 16: National Roller Coaster Day and National Rum Day

August 17: National Thrift Shop Day and National I Love My Feet Day

August 18: National Mail Order Catalog Day and National Ice Cream Pie Day

August 26: National Dog Day and National Women's Equality Day

August 30: National Toasted Marshmallow Day

August 31: National Trail Mix Day

The Millennial-Baby Boomer Divide

The Millennial-Baby Boomer Divide

One of the risks of being friends with or related to journalists is that they often use those relationships as inspiration for stories. I'm definitely guilty of this. I've written about my family, friends, and significant other dozens of times on this site. And this week's blog post is no exception.

During a catch-up call with my dad last week, my father told me about a fantastic article he read in The Wall Street Journal. He said he could send it to me, and I willingly accepted his offer.

I checked my inbox regularly, but still didn't see his email address pop up. It wasn't until I checked my mailbox two days later that I found an envelope containing the following.

I couldn't resist sharing the clear symbol of a generational divide with my social network. So, like any good millennial would, I snapped a photo of the newspaper clipping with my iPhone and uploaded it with the hashtag #ClassicDadMove to Facebook, where it received numerous likes and an approving comment.

I decided to call my dad later that week while waiting in line at Chipotle to inform him that I had received the article. When I asked him why he didn't email me the story, my dad's answer was simple: “Because it was in the paper.” I told him that he could have just found it online and sent it, but he argued that The Wall Street Journal's gated content policy made it too difficult to do so (even though a quick Google search later granted me immediate access to the article).

As I weaved my way to the front of the Chipotle line, I asked my dad to hold on a second so that I could order my veggie burrito bowl. “Dad, have you ever eaten at Chipotle?” I asked while fishing for my wallet inside of the black hole that is my purse. He said he hadn't but informed me that the company's stock had done well this past year.

I could sense the generational differences piling on like the extra-cost guacamole.

Now, I'm not saying that my dad is totally out of the technology loop—he did head a major software company's legal team for years—nor am I generalizing that every Baby Boomer has the same level of digital savvy that's portrayed in this Amy Schumer clip:

What struck me, though, is how different our mind-sets are. The thought of sending my parents an article in the mail would have never crossed my mind; yet for my dad, it was the logical thing to do.

This split in thinking led me to wonder what other generational differences exist between the 18- to 34-year-old millennials and the 51- to 69-year-old Baby Boomers. So, I compiled a list of four key divergences marketers should consider when targeting each audience.

1. Millennials have higher expectations. Millennials have set the bar high for brands, more so than any other generation before. The following graph from marketing consultancy Brand Keys shows that millennials scored higher in overall customer expectations than both Baby Boomers and Gen X consumers.

Marketers should want to keep their millennial customers happy. Consider: The Boston Consulting Group estimates that U.S. millennials account for $1.3 trillion in annual spending, of which $430 billion is discretionary. To better serve these young shoppers, marketers must address their emotional needs, such as the desire for personalization and the feeling that their voice is being heard. After all, Brand Keys' research shows that 80% of millennials' brand decision-making comes from their emotional values, compared to the 20% that comes from their rational ones.

2. Millennials crave innovation. Millennials like to be the first in their circles to test drive a new product. In fact, data from research firm Lab42 shows that 45% of millennials buy first-generation products, compared to only 6% of Baby Boomers who like to do the same. So, make sure to reach out to this young audience the next time your brand launches a new product.

3. Millennials live in a digital world. According to “The Global Mobile Report” by comScore, millennials comprise 37% of the United States' total digital population, while Baby Boomers make up a quarter.

It's important for marketers to take consumers' preferences into consideration when communicating with them. If marketers know that millennials are digital natives, for instance, then they should reach out to them via digital channels, such as through email, online content, or social. At the same time, marketers must ensure that they're not alienating their Baby Boomer clientele and provide alternative engagement opportunities, like knowledgeable in-store employees. The best option? Consider implementing a preference center to take out the guesswork of how your customers want to engage.

4. Millennials embrace mobile. At 90%, millennials have the highest smartphone penetration rate in the U.S., according to the same comScore study. And at 57%, Baby Boomers have the lowest. In fact, 61% of the time that millennials spend consuming digital media is spent via smartphones, versus 31% via desktop. Contrastingly, Baby Boomers spend 51% of their digital media consumption time on desktop devices and only 30% of it on smartphones.But, Baby Boomers are more likely to consume digital content on their tablets than millennials. To put this into perspective, 18% of the time that Baby Boomers spend consuming digital media is spent on tablets, compared to only 8% for millennials.

So, it's vital that marketers make their emails, videos, and other forms of digital content suitable for any device. Also, marketers may want to rethink the content they send each target audience. Instead of sending Baby Boomers an email encouraging them to download an app, for instance, marketers might want to direct them to their brand's website. 

Ultimately, though, there's one thing both generations can agree on: It's all about meeting the customers' needs and preferences.

Marketers Are Communicators, So Act Like It

Marketers Are Communicators, So Act Like It

Recently, I had a chance to speak to a group of B2B journalists at an annual conference for the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) held in the Kimmel Center at New York University. I taught a workshop on how to add creative elements to B2B content.

Lots of great feedback:

This week I realized that many of the suggestions that I gave to a room full of journalists applied to marketers too—simply because we're all communicators who want to convey a message to an audience. The main theme of my presentation was to think of ourselves as artists. I encourage marketers to do the same.

Those in the marketing industry should be colorful in their campaigns with messages that appeal to the human senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. It's these companies—whether B2B or B2C— that excite people's imagination, pique their interests, and ultimately fulfill a need with your products and services.

A few things that marketers should do with their messaging:

Add the human element in all of your campaigns. The message isn't really as much about the product as it is about the people who you are trying to reach. Make your campaigns about them.

Excite people with your words. I find, many times, marketers—especially with B2B products and services—can get lost in jargon and the technical aspects of their offerings. Although the nuts-and-bolts of any product is important, make sure to use messaging that's exciting and appeals to the needs of consumers, rather than hypes only the bells and whistles of your products. It should be a more balanced message.

Talk about real life. Current events and personal narratives are an opportunity for brands to make real—and potentially profitable—connections with shoppers. Learning to connect with consumers through major events like, say, Election Day or major holidays establishs a personable, relevant bond; it enables marketers to create campaigns that convince consumers to buy products both over the short and long term.

Push your limits. One of the best ways to market a product is to be distinct and quirky. Without going completely off brand, it's the marketers who aren't afraid to create a strategy that's off the beaten path who get consumers talking and sales spiking (think GEICO's Hump Day ad or Snickers' perpetual You're Not You When You're Hungry campaign).

Is Amazon Really Bigger Than Walmart?

Is Amazon Really Bigger Than Walmart?

Back in the early 2000s I was the editor of Progressive Grocer magazine, which did a “Super 50” list of top supermarket chains by revenue. In the first few versions of the list, however, the true top dog was missing. Walmart had been building Supercenters and Neighborhood Market grocery stores at an aggressive pace, but it didn't report its transactional data to IRI. We finally worked with several data companies and did square footage analyses to come up with a number to attach to Walmart's grocery sales and confer top honors upon it. It was a relief to us on the editorial staff, because everyone knew Walmart ruled the roost. It appeared there was nothing Sam Walton's troops could not conquer. 

Then came digital. 

Last week news outlets rang out with the news that, following a great run on Wall Street, Amazon had attained a market capitalization of $250 billion, some $20 billion higher than Walmart's, making it the most highly valued retailer in the world. We in the business press love to play with numbers. And, if we play a little fast and loose with them, making, for instance, a pronouncement based on a market cap that could easily fall from the sky like a Prime Air drone, well, so be it. Another day, another headline.

Unfortunately, busy businesspeople who consume and repeat news with great rapidity off their Twitter feeds pick up a story like this and a game of business Telephone ensues. “Didja hear, Sally,” they'll say at some social media conference, “Amazon's bigger than Walmart.” Sally tells Harry, Harry tells Monique. Before you know it, a trick of numbers becomes settled fact.

When I think of who's bigger in business, I think of who makes the most money, so I called up the two retailers' most recent annual reports. Walmart's, for the year ended January 31, 2015, reported revenues of $486 billion. If you run that number up on the International Monetary Fund's GDP ranking of countries, it places Walmart ahead of Austria and just behind Norway at 28th. During the 2014 calendar year Amazon posted revenues of $89 billion. Those of you who may now be repeating that thing about Amazon being bigger will kindly notice that that's about $400 billion less than Walmart, an amount in and of itself equal to the GDP of the United Arab Emirates. Amazon would be the 64th largest country in the world, $10 billion behind Slovakia at 63rd.

Amazon, it should be noted, lost $241 million last year (as is its custom), while Walmart turned profits of about $17 billion. That kind of cash can fund new store expansion, create jobs, and help build the nation's economy, a sure sign of a healthy, growing business. But that's mere hogwash in a digital economy. A digital business is not so much about building a business at this early stage in the Internet's existence as it is about building a business plan. A founder of a successful digital business like Jeff Bezos, at this juncture in history, may spend his entire career measuring success using scalability and market cap as indicators, not bottom-line profits. Just last week Amazon competitor Jet.com appeared on the scene pledging to bleed out $300 million over the coming five years just to build market share.

One hundred years ago the progenitor of national chain retailing was opening its 1,600th store. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, a.k.a A&P, added groceries to its New York City tea and coffee shop concept and took it nearly nationwide. In the 1930s it had 16,000 stores, innovated a large-format concept, and was operating 4,000 of its new "supermarkets" by 1950. A few weeks ago the once invincible A&P filed for bankruptcy and announced plans to sell or close the 300 stores still under its aegis.

Nothing's forever, and chances are that one day Walmart could suffer a similar fate at the hands of an Amazon. Digital has come, and digital is a different way of doing business. 

7 Ways to Build Brand Value

7 Ways to Build Brand Value

Life at the top is often short-lived. The Hollywood “it” couple becomes yesterday's news; the golden athlete gets replaced by a younger, faster rookie; and the CMO burns out after two or three years. However, the companies featured in WPP's "BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2015” report know what it takes to reach—and stay at—the peak of performance in terms of translating customer appeal into corporate sales. In fact, 58 of the brands featured in the report, conducted by research agency Millward Brown, have remained on the list for the past 10 years.

To celebrate these brands' achievements and help other companies reach their full potential, the marketing services company hosted a Top 100 10th Anniversary Roundtable in New York. Global Head of BrandZ Doreen Wang kicked off the event with a keynote presentation, and then David Roth, CEO of WPP's retail practice The Store in EMEA and Asia, moderated a panel that consisted of agency and brand executives. Here's a list of the top seven lessons I learned from each session that can help brands grow their value.

Don't be afraid to be different.

So often in life, going against the grain has a negative connotation to it. Thoughts like “What if I fail?” or “That's not what our competition is doing” can deter marketers from venturing outside of their that's-what-we've-always-done comfort zone. 

But being different is vital for value growth, Wang argued, because it makes brands seem creative, in control, and trustworthy in the eyes of consumers.

“In the world of so much product sameness, being different makes the difference,” she said.

However, being different doesn't mean throwing a brand's entire strategy out of the window. On the contrary, Wang said that marketers need to think of ways they can diverge from the norm while staying true to the company's value proposition.

Have a strong brand proposition.

Every organization has a purpose—to make money. However, the brands that can clearly articulate their mission beyond the financial incentive, Wang said, are the ones that deliver a prime customer experience and stand out in the marketplace.

Ask the right questions.

Is your company's brand value growing? Whether a brand has been around for one year or 100 years, Wang recommended having marketers ask themselves the following questions:

  • How can we, as brand builders, make people's lives better?
  • Do our customers really believe that we care?
  • Do we build meaningful difference?

Help marketing empower the entire organization.

Technology has enabled employees to be more collaborative than ever.

“The world where somebody sets a direction and tells everybody what to do—that way is over,” said Marc de Swaan Arons, CMO of Millward Brown Vermeer.

If marketers can clearly define their brand purpose, he said, then they can help other divisions better understand how that purpose applies to their roles.

Remember, great people build great brands.

When most marketers think of brand advocates, they tend to think of fiercely loyal customers; however, Jim Stengel, president and CEO of the consultancy The Jim Stengel Company, said that marketers shouldn't count out their employees.

“Your employees are your greatest advocates,” he said.

Without question, hiring and maintaining the right talent is essential in marketing. For instance, Chris Curtin, chief brand and innovation marketing officer for Visa, said that he hires “human Swiss Army knives”—marketers who can do it all. And Linda Boff, executive director of global brand marketing for GE, likes to give her employees freedom to do what they're good at. She recounted a story of how one of her employees suggested that GE join Instagram about five years ago. Today the company has 189,000 followers and counting and uses the tool as a way to give people an up-close look at its Brilliant Machines.

Be nimble.

Big brands seem to have it made. Their budgets are generally bigger, and their heritage offers them a committed following. However, Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, warned large organizations not to get stuck in their old ways. He said that instead they should leverage the resources of a big brand while working with the heart, mind, and soul of an entrepreneurial company.

“With age comes Scoliosis—so I can attest,” he joked.

Make learning a KPI.

No marketer knows it all. That's why de Swaan Arons advised marketers to make learning a priority and a key benchmark. After all, he noted, those who learn faster than their competitors are the true winners.

An Historic Week for E-Commerce?

An Historic Week for E-Commerce?

This past week could end up as a footnote in e-commerce history. Last Wednesday Amazon had the temerity to inaugurate its own special shopping day, promising that it would rival Black Friday, and naming it after its $99-a-year Amazon Prime membership program. Prime Day got panned by the mainstream media, which seems to have abandoned bona fide business experts in favor of social media posts as the primary sources in their reporting. Social media is hardly the workhorse of commerce. The Direct Marketing Association's “Response Rate Report” notes that only 30% of marketers use social media in campaigns, compared to 50% for direct mail and 82% for email. But most news outlets focused on comments from peed-off shoppers who failed to get to their buy buttons in time to get in on Prime Day's Lightning Deals. Their verdict: Amazon laid an egg.

What Amazon more likely laid was a foundation for a bigger base of Prime Members and a claim to ownership of what could be the key summer sale day for years to come. Flat-footed competitors like Walmart and Sears double-promoted their planned summer sales to get noticed on Prime Day, but they lacked Amazon's aura of exclusivity. Americans want not just cheap merchandise, but bragging rights. They want to crow to the neighborhood that they scored the $159 widescreen HDTV on Black Friday, that they attended the Super Bowl, that they were present at the presidential inauguration. Exclusivity breeds attention and polishes brand value. So, when Walmart reacted to Prime Day by offering deals for 30 days and not making anybody join an exclusive program to get them, it missed the point. Thirty days is not a special event; 30 days is a month.

Channel Advisor, a provider of optimization software for third-party sellers on Amazon, reported that its clients transacted Prime Day business equal to 97% of Black Friday 2014. In a survey of members of the online shopping community SheSpeaks, two thirds said they made Amazon purchases on Prime Day versus only one fifth who said they bought from Walmart.com. On the social front, mentions of Walmart were flat on the big day, according to the Adobe Digital Index, but Amazon's were up 50%.

There are some wags in the e-commerce world who venture that Amazon's true impetus for Prime Day was to sign up as many subscribers as it could before Jet.com could launch this past Tuesday. Amazon, the all-powerful master of online retail and customer service, worried about a competitor? Sounds unlikely, yet Marc Lore and his brand new online marketplace could one day elicit concern from Jeff Bezos and company.

Bezos slashed diaper prices on Amazon.com to sweat Lore into selling him his successful Diapers.com site. Lore wasted little time putting the $600 million bounty to work on a return engagement with Bezos via Jet.com. He amassed a VC warchest in excess of $220 million to give him time to expand product selection and build a clientele that would allow him to wrest customers from Amazon. By looking for profits from membership fees only and not taking a cut of sales from third-party sellers (as does Amazon), Lore expects those sellers to provide him the lowest prices online.

Insiders think Lore's epic quest could prove successful. Third-party sellers are flocking to the Amazon alternative, says ChannelAdvisor CEO David Spitz, as are retail partners including Macy's, J.Crew, and Crate&Barrel. Feedvisor CMO Shmuli Goldberg, whose living it is to help sellers find the optimal price to charge on Amazon, says that about 14% of online shoppers care only about price. “That's enough for Jet to build a business on,” he notes.

In the digital marketing world, the prime change agents are innovation and disruption. The e-commerce world this week was rife with both. We'll watch to see if it was enough for history to have been made.

Showing Thanks Gives Brands a Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi

Showing Thanks Gives Brands a Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi

Two weeks ago my boyfriend and I went to a Bastille Day street festival in New York. I'm an absolute sucker for macarons (I can easily devour a whole sleeve in one sitting), so I wanted to find a box that we could take home and “share.”

As we shuffled our way down the crowded streets, we passed numerous macaron vendors. We would stop, inspect the pricing and flavors, and continue to peruse other options. At one point we stopped at a vendor that offered a whole rainbow of macarons. Red strawberry cookies; teal pistachio morsels—I could go on and on! I asked one of the sellers how many cookies I would receive in a standard box and for what cost. She politely answered my question and smiled. There was no denying that the vendor had offered the best deal of the day so far; however, we wanted to finish walking through the street fair and check out our other options. So, we left. 

Once we reached the end of the festival, we decided that the vendor with the colorful macarons really was the best choice; we went back to the stand and asked the same seller for a box.

Surprised, she responded, “Oh, you're back!” and then proceeded to tell us how much she appreciated our business and that the sale actually meant more to her knowing that we had returned after seeing other options.

Now, it's possible that the seller was just trying to secure our dollar. However, her enthusiasm really struck me. I mean, I can't remember the last time a brand thanked me for coming back to their website to complete a purchase. And would it really be that difficult to trigger a thank-you email with a token of appreciation after I clicked through a shopping cart abandonment email and converted?

The more I thought about this lack of gratitude, the more confused I became that brands weren't expressing it. After all, aren't they the ones trying to get me through the purchase funnel? Why should I be the one seeking a little appreciation? Wouldn't they want to thank me for interacting with them?

Clearly, some brands need to brush up on their manners. Some companies do have this whole thank-you thing down pat. Here are three Direct Marketing News articles that explain how brands can better show appreciation for their customers and what are the benefits of doing so.

Oh, and you're welcome. 

The Quirks of Successful Young Marketers

The Quirks of Successful Young Marketers

Every year for the past three years, Direct Marketing News has identified and highlighted top-performing marketers who demonstrate exemplary savvy and finesse in their craft, and whose work helped elevate their business. Each year, we select 40 such marketers and celebrate their accomplishments, on the condition that they've performed extraordinary marketing that furthers their brand, and that they're under the age of 40.

We've assembled another batch of 40 superlative marketers under 40 years of age, and as we prepare to celebrate this prestigious collective of marketing talent at this year's 40 Under 40 Awards Ceremony, I thought it prudent to look back at past 40 Under 40 coverage for a glimpse of what drives these special marketers.

Many—probably most—marketers rightly covet the stature and success of these individuals in their own business endeavors. Well, here are 10 articles that explore the men and women behind the 40 Under 40 plaques of yesteryear, and illustrate the goals, interests, and general mind-state of this caliber of young marketer.

It's Not Digital Marketing; It's Just Marketing

It's Not Digital Marketing; It's Just Marketing

I find it interesting how some marketers still make the distinction between digital and other types of marketing. Most all of marketing has several digital elements—even direct mail pieces are collated, designed, and distributed with an infusion of digital strategy and technology.

Recently, a reader of Direct Marketing News wrote an interesting comment in reaction to one of our articles, Direct Mail Has a Greater Effect on Purchase Than Digital Ads. The article featured results from a recent Temple University study that asserted direct mail tops digital media for engagement time, recall, and ultimate purchase. There are certainly some compelling statistics.

But the fervent reader, Michael Bann, responded with an interesting and noteworthy reaction. He wrote:

Personally, I would like less focus on raising any one channel's arm in victory. I'm sure digital channel advocates have conducted a study with conflicting results. The reality is that true success lies in the balance of effective cross-channel. Often those digital ads that might not be clicked on can have an impact on conversions. Marketing is not a zero sum game, and testing has already proven that.

Continue to run digital ads; continue to use direct mail; continue to test. (Edited for clarity)

I found the comment interesting because I realized that even we, the editors at DMN, often make that distinction and focus more on channels rather than strategy, trends, and the holistic picture. I believe there are marketers out there who are more focused on the consumer rather than whether one channel trumps the other.

So, this week I thought I'd highlight a few marketers who are creating campaigns that are rooted in an omnichannel approach—that are meeting customers wherever they are at any time—with videos, mobile, direct mail, email, etc. Share some of your favorite campaigns that embrace myriad strategies and channels.

Is Marketing Discriminatory?

Is Marketing Discriminatory?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary lists two definitions for the verb discriminate. One is “to recognize a difference between things,” the other is “to unfairly treat a person or group of people differently from other people or groups.” Marketers should be able to agree without hesitation that their craft depends on a skillful execution of the first definition. What, after all, are those pricey CRM and programmatic buying programs for besides discerning between the buyers and the non-buyers? But what about definition two? The honest marketer must concede that he or she treats different groups of people differently. But is their segmenting and targeting applied “unfairly?”

In a column called “When Alogrithms Discriminate” published in The New York Times last week, Claire Cain Miller wrote that thought leaders in the realms of both law and computer science think that algorithms can reinforce human prejudices. “There is a widespread belief that software and algorithms that rely on data are objective. But software is not free of human influence,” she held. Miller mentioned Federal Trade Commission reports of people in low-income neighborhoods being served ads for high-interest loans. She called out a study done by Carnegie Mellon researchers, who had built a tool to simulate brand new Google users without search histories. An ad for career coaching services for $200,000 earners was served to 1,852 of Carnegie Mellon's straw men, but only 318 of its straw women.

Miller's column took me back to a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee I covered in December of 2013. It was chaired by now-retired Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who was more attack dog than watchdog when it came to data-driven marketers, especially the so-called data brokers who sell third-party customer information. “The dark underside of American life” was how he described the likes of Acxiom and Experian.

But it was two other senators at the microphone in that session—convened to discuss a new report on the data industry—who gave me pause. I had covered marketing for most of three decades, but I had never until that moment heard legislators question the basic legality of the practice. 

Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) seemed incensed over the idea of dynamic pricing and the notion that different offers and prices could be delivered to people depending on their past behavior. Then DMA head of government affairs Jerry Cerasale, who was on the hearing panel, responded that widely used frequent flier and shopper programs commonly offered different prices to different people. But Blumenthal argued that marketers' use of personal information for this purpose could lead to “discrimination and exploitation” in other areas. 

“This could be devastating to long-term unemployment,” Blumenthal said. “I've joined Senator [Elizabeth] Warren in a bill that would deny use of credit scores for hiring. An employer could buy that information [from data brokers] and use it to discriminate against certain job applicants.”

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), however, questioned the discriminatory liability of marketing itself. “There's a practice of attaching a propensity score to individuals, scores created without the consumers' knowledge or consent, that become the basis of targeted offers and prices to consumers. Some get discounts regularly, some not,” Markey said. “This is not redlining, but ‘weblining.' You're the wrong financial group, the wrong racial group, the wrong sex.”

Rockefeller did not hesitate to rush into the breach. The hearing was held around the same time the National Security Agency was under public scrutiny for monitoring the Web activities of regular citizens. The senator from West Virginia appeared to view the NSA's discretions as mere misdemeanors compared to the felonious conduct of marketers.

“[The NSA is] only going to interact at point-zero-zero-zero-one-percent of people they conclude need further observation, but this is everybody,” Rockefeller said. “It's divided into race, economic activities, education. You can't prove it's wrong, but there's something lethal about it, something unfair about it.”

It may appear unlikely, laughable even, to imagine being hit with a discrimination suit for doing marketing-as-usual. My instincts tells me, though, that this is not a topic that will go away, especially as marketing technology's power grows daily. Never underestimate the size of the fire that can be started by a few people in Washington with “Honorable” in front of their names. Rockefeller may be gone, but his ideas about the legalities—and illegalities—of modern marketing still live in the halls of Congress.

Four Campaigns Unworthy of the Final Rose

Four Campaigns Unworthy of the Final Rose

It's that time of year again, folks. No, not summer's midpoint. And, no, not the one-month mark until football season. It's that wonderful moment when we're finally down to the final two contestants on The Bachelorette. This past Monday Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe narrowed her potential suitors down to Nick Viall and Shawn Booth.

Both Senior Editor Al Urbanski and I have admitted to being addicted to the ABC reality franchise, and one of us (slowly raises hand) is still hooked.

What makes the show so enticing is that every season's cast of characters is the same: There are the nice guys who finish last, the bad boys who are there for the wrong reasons, and the kicked-off fan favorite who continues the show's legacy by becoming the Bachelor next season. Oh, and who could forget the standout oddballs? Here's looking at you, Ashley S. So, it shouldn't be surprising that the show's track record of successful couples is quite low.

With all the opportunities marketers have to upend customer relationships with irrelevant or oddball marketing, I thought I'd step in to help you, our readers, have longer, healthier, and happier customer relationships. Based on the show's previous contestants, I've compiled a list of the four types of campaigns that aren't worthy of marketers' final rose and should be sent home in the limo.

1. The campaigns that are there for all of the wrong reasons. There are always a few contestants who go on the show for fame or to promote their companies. As soon as the Bachelorette finds out that the suitor isn't there for love, she sends him packing.

Marketers can be guilty of launching campaigns for the wrong reasons, too. Marketers should always create a campaign with a particular goal in mind—one that can be measured and tied back to a brand's bottom line. Many marketers, however, can be tempted to launch campaigns focused on solely vanity metrics (like impressions or likes) to build up their image. But, focusing on surface-level metrics won't provide any valuable insight or potential areas of growth, and, ultimately, your marketing will suffer. 

2. The campaigns you don't see a future with. The Bachelorette goes on the show to find a forever love; similarly, marketers should create campaigns that fit into their long-term strategies and objectives. Focusing on short-term stunts and measuring temporary gains may lead to fleeting successes, but they won't make a lasting impact on a brand's business. Instead, marketers should try to build on their initiatives and produce campaigns that will create long-term benefits.

3. The campaigns that don't get along with the rest of your marketing. It's always a red flag when a contestant doesn't get along with other suitors in the house. The same is true in marketing. Marketers should be concerned if a campaign doesn't jibe with the rest of a company's marketing or brand voice. After all, if a campaign doesn't create a seamless experience for you, it probably won't create one for your customers. So, if there seems to be tension, reevaluate the campaign and decide if you can make some tweaks or if you should ditch the initiative altogether. You may have invested time, money, and emotions, but it's better to evaluate and optimize now than to have a confusing or inauthentic campaign that negatively affects customers down the line. Testing is the key.

4. The campaigns where you're way more into your customers than they're into you. There are always going to be customers who are more passionate about your brand than other customers are. Sure, marketers may try to win over these less enthusiastic few, but they also have to know when to call it quits. If a subscriber hasn't engaged in more than a year, it may be time to remove them from the email list, for example. Persistence is important, but it's also critical to know when it's time to walk away and invest your marketing dollars in those who are more committed. Because, just like a relationship, marketing has to be give-and-take.

Newsflash: Pinterest Is Not a Social Network

Newsflash: Pinterest Is Not a Social Network

We have learned, from a highly reliable source inside the company, that Pinterest is not a social network. That's right. You heard it here first, people. All you ladies who pin pictures of three different pairs of pumps from a shoe store to enlist opinions of your girlfriends, all you guys who share photos of the Baby Back rib racks you served up to pals on the Fourth, well, be apprised that what you were doing was not considered social discourse. Not at Pinterest, anyway.

We found this out by chance, which is how so many big stories have been broken throughout journalistic history. In an interchange about an unrelated story, an employee of the social net…er, undisclosed entity…pointed out to us that “since Pinterest isn't about sharing with friends (it's about planning for your own personal future and following the boards and people you're interested in), we don't consider it to be a social network.”

Okay, okay, I think I get it. Pinterest is playing in a league with the likes of Lifehack.org, Mindtools.com, and Tuhana.org—the top three Google listings for “personal planning”—and not Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, the rulers of the digital communications universe and deciders of the fortunes of questionable celebrities and disgraced submarine sandwich salesmen. 

Wikipedia defines social media as “computer mediated tools that allow people to create, share, or exchange information, ideas, and pictures/videos in virtual communities and networks.” As examples of networks, it lists Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and—what's this?—Pinterest! Clearly, Wikipedia did not get the memo and, astoundingly, no Pinterest employee has considered its non-status as a social network important enough to go into Wikipedia and edit the company out.

We tried to get a Pinterest executive to explain its competitive situation to us more clearly, but no one was compelled to come forth. (A hallmark of social networks, which are patently unsociable with the press.) In the absence of any official spokesperson, then, I can only imagine how such a conversation might go, which is what I do here with a make-believe company official I'll call Ms. McPinny. (Hey, it's a blog. I can do what I want.)

So Ms. McPinny, we were quite surprised to find out that you do not consider Pinterest a social network. Could you explain?

McPinny: What's to explain? Just check our Web listing and read what it says, which is “visual discovery tool.”

Yeah, okay, I saw that, but, I don't know, if you asked me to name a “visual discovery tool,” I'd probably say a telescope. I guess what I don't get is… why wouldn't you want to be known as a social network? Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are the communications glue of modern society. Why wouldn't you want to be in that elite club?

McPinny: Because we're so much more than Twitter or Facebook. Can Facebook sell croquet balls and meatballs on the same page? Can Twitter show you how to crochet doggy mittens? 

Oh, so you're about commerce, not people. That's why you put in those “Buy it” buttons.

McPinny: Ummmm….could be.

But when you look at your pins, there's little circles underneath them with people's pictures and names, and other people comment on them, like on Facebook. Isn't that social discourse circulating around all the merchandise?

McPinny: Facebook, Facebook! We're not into faces. There's a word you used there: “little.” Little is the key word when it comes to people here at Pinterest. You'll notice we keep those faces teeny-tiny and the pictures of the jewelry and the dresses really big. Our merchandise is beautiful. Our pinners? Not so much.

My 25-year-old daughter was at my place the other night. She's going to be in a friend's wedding, and she was on the sofa pinning pictures of dresses and shoes and sharing them with other people in the wedding party and discussing them. Isn't that social media, and in the milieu of one of the most social of occasions, a wedding?

McPinny: That kind of activity is frowned upon. Do you by any chance know her account name?

5 Marketing Lessons We Can All Learn From Pixar

5 Marketing Lessons We Can All Learn From Pixar

Pixar Animation Studios is home to some of the best storytellers in the world. The company's ability to appeal to adults and children creates a virtually unmatched, fiercely loyal fan base—one that lasts a lifetime. 

I'm one of those loyal fans.

I was about six years old when my brother and I saw first saw Toy Story. Fast forward almost two decades, and I'm still lining up outside the theaters to see Pixar's latest flick Inside Out.

One of my favorite things about Pixar, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is its ability to tap into real emotions that most people experience at one point in their lives. I remember bawling my eyes out when Andy gives away his toys before heading to college in Toy Story 3, for instance, because I could relate to that feeling of leaving childhood behind and entering adulthood.

These emotions resonate with viewers long after they leave the theater, and they also teach moviegoers valuable lessons, like the importance of family, friendship, and facing your fears.

It turns out that companies can learn a few things from Pixar's animated films, too. Here are five lessons marketers can take away from the film studio's beloved movies.

Inside Out

Inside Out is an absolute must-see if your kids haven't dragged you to it yet. In the film, a young girl named Riley undergoes some major life changes (like moving to a new city, joining a new school) and her emotions—who are the main characters in the story—try to help her deal with her new surroundings. Although they don't always agree on how to handle every situation, the emotions—Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness—realize that they all need each other and that every feeling is valid and plays a crucial role in Riley's life.

Each emotion adds a different value to Riley's psyche, but it's when they're balanced that she truly thrives. Marketing channels work the same way. Email, social, direct mail, etc. all provide different benefits; however it's when they're completely in sync and create an omnichannel experience that both marketers and consumers profit—and avoid any meltdowns.

Monsters, Inc.

Fear of the unknown is a common theme in marketing, and it's also a reoccurring idea in the 2001 classic Monsters, Inc.

Although monsters are the ones usually doing the scaring, Monsters, Inc turns the tables and shows how monsters are actually afraid of humans—particularly one adorable little girl named Boo who makes her way into the monsters' world. And while main monsters Mike and Sulley are afraid of Boo in the beginning, they end up befriending the little girl and go from scaring children to entertaining them.

Data and technology are two of marketers' most monstrous challenges. And while the overwhelming amount of data and technology options may cause them to cower back in fear and retreat to doing “what they've always done,” it's only because they don't truly understand how to harness the value each one brings. So, it's important to face big data and new technology head on and to push those fears and doubts back under the bed.

Toy Story

Woody and Buzz Lightyear weren't always the famous friends Hollywood knows them as today. In the original Toy Story, cowboy doll Woody becomes jealous of Buzz when the space ranger becomes their owner Andy's new favorite toy. But after escaping an alien-infested claw machine and the house of naughty neighbor Sid, Woody and Buzz become friends.

Woody and Buzz's relationship is similar to that of a CMO and CIO. There can be power struggles between the two leaders. But when they set their differences aside and work together, they can generate results that are anything but child's play.


WALL•E is an adorable film about a robot named WALL•E who is left on Earth after all humans have vacated the planet to clean up their waste. Although he is only a machine, WALL•E has his own unique personality and proves that he is capable of love when he meets a new robot named EVE.

One of my favorite things about this movie is that there is hardly any dialogue between the robots; however, Pixar still manages to clearly convey each robot's personality and emotions through other modes of storytelling, such as their behaviors and body—or hardware—language.

Marketers are constantly looking for innovative ways to convey their brands' messages, and I think WALL•E reinforces an important lesson they should all keep in mind: It's not the technology that tells the story; it's the story you tell through the technology.

Finding Nemo

I couldn't compile a Pixar list without including this aquatic tale. In Finding Nemo, an overly protective clownfish named Marlin goes looking for his missing son Nemo who was captured by divers. With help from his newfound blue tang friend Dory, Marlin overcomes a series of challenges in the ocean—like nearly being eaten by sharks and jelly fish stings—and reunites with his son.

Like Marlin, all marketers face challenges. The important thing is how they handle them. Sure, they could feel like giving up when a campaign delivers less than stellar results or be tempted to throw in the towel when their budgets are cut. The important thing, however, is to keep trying, testing, and optimizing. Or as Dory would say, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”

Image Source: All images are from Disney/Pixar

Amazon Unveils Prime Day to Compete With Black Friday

Amazon Unveils Prime Day to Compete With Black Friday

With its 20th anniversary looming, Amazon announced a new pseudo-holiday for its Prime members in Prime Day—a day of discounts and sales the super retailer boasts will not only rival but eclipse November's infamous Black Friday.

Prime Day is scheduled to start July 15 at midnight, with continuous introductions of discounts throughout the day and new deals appearing at 10-minute intervals, according to a press release. In addition to the bevy of deals, Amazon will host a photo contest to help promote its Prime Photos service, the winner of which will win a $10,000 Amazon gift card. The perks of Prime Day are exclusive to Prime members and those under the 30-day Prime trial.

What's especially interesting here is the potential for Amazon to actually deliver in its mission to trump Black Friday. The announcement of Prime Day achieved near instant virality, as any mass e-commerce sale likely would, but the excited tone of the Twittersphere, an oft-hostile environment for brand-related viral news, could translate into palpable momentum for the disruptive retailer.

At What Point Does Personalization Stop Paying?

At What Point Does Personalization Stop Paying?

R2integrated CEO Matt Goddard has a specific definition of personalization: “The most relevant message to a customer at a given time.” He's happy to deliver on it for clients ranging from Hershey to Mastercard to the University of Michigan. To a point. Goddard has a belief about personalization that he says is not shared by many other agencies, or considered by many clients. His credo is that doing personalization correctly—acquiring the data, doing the analytics, executing all the creative iterations—is a pricey game to play and that it should be shut down at a point where investment exceeds return.

“Say you're a big IT company and you've invested in customer lifecycle marketing and gotten trial and purchase and want customers to renew,” Goddard explains. “You're gathering information on them from the website and the call center and are trying to map issues they have with the product. You cut them into 10 segments and create tutorials to address them, but at what point does all that work, all that creative energy…at what point in time does the return on all that investment start to wane?”

Goddard (left) and his management team is working on what he calls a “Google-like equation” to help marketers determine when it's time to shut the personalization engine down. Actually, they're working on two different equations, one for high-consideration and another for low-consideration products, because it's also his belief that the return on personalization varies greatly by vertical. The equation must be different for a candy bar company, his thinking goes, than it is for a machine tool company.

“E-coms are great at personalization, but even Amazon, which is often considered the best, needs to address this issue,” Goddard says. “Because Amazon sells a mix of considered and unconsidered products, they can't necessarily use the others-who-bought-this-also-bought-this strategy for everything. Maybe if we looked at it, we'd find Zappos or Nordstrom.com are returning a higher ROI.”

Central to Goddard's conviction is that all marketers and all agencies owe it to themselves and each other to have a formula in place to determine when to stop wasting resources and shut down certain functions on their costly data-driven machines. For one of its clients in higher education, R2i executed a complex content “wireframe” of where each prospective student persona intersected to make maximum use of creative. The client went the agency one better, deciding its budget could only handle a single landing page, that R2i then equipped with multiple personalization points.

“In an ideal world,” Goddard says, “we could get this to the point where we have customer data, upload behavior, do an API call, and put this on a dashboard running in real time so that a marketer can make the call that, once the sixth piece of creative is done, the ROI starts petering out.”

Call it the Personalization Petering Principle, but it's a long way off. Goddard predicts it could be years before R2i's equations have been perfected.

Kellogg's Rewards Program Doesn't Flake Out on Digital

Kellogg's Rewards Program Doesn't Flake Out on Digital

Americans hold 3.3 billion loyalty memberships, according to Colloquy's 2015 Loyalty Census; that's 29 loyalty memberships per household. But if brands don't make rewards programs an easy experience for customers to partake in, then they'll be the ones losing points.

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) giant Kellogg learned firsthand what it takes to create a seamless rewards experience from both a consumer-facing and back-end perspective when it enhanced its Family Rewards program this past June.

Loyalty isn't just something you snack on...

For Kellogg, loyalty is all about driving share of purchase in a particular category.

“We might have 35% share of a consumer's or household's requirement in cereal,” says Dan Keller, VP of database marketing for Kellogg, “but in that household, we may only have 5% share of their cookie purchases and maybe 7% share of their cracker purchases, where we'd like to get 20 or 30%.... We always like the household to bring home an extra package more than they would have purchased previously within their category requirements.”

And few customers experience more category crossover than the eight million members of Kellogg's Family Rewards program.  

The Kellogg's Family Rewards program first launched in June 2012. Members could earn points for purchasing Kellogg products by logging in to their Family Rewards program account and entering the 16-digit codes printed inside of product boxes. Participants could then cash in their points for coupons, gift cards, sweepstakes entries, or charity donations. 

Not only did the program provide Kellogg with a wealth of transactional information but it also rewarded customers for purchasing products they may not have otherwise realized were owned by the CPG company.

Unfortunately, the customer experience wasn't as delectable as the company's Cheez-It crackers or Pringles.

“There's always been a bit of a struggle for consumers being able to read the codes, enter the codes, find the codes,” Keller says.

In August 2014 the company started brainstorming ways it could make its program more palatable. After surveying its customer database, Kellogg discovered that people were more likely to engage in or join the rewards program if it were easier to collect points, such as with a loyalty club card or receipt scanner.

The company then worked to enhance its rewards program by introducing new digital components to both the consumer-facing and back-end sides of its program. Doing this, Keller says, would hopefully boost engagement among its current rewards members, as well as encourage non-participating customers to join.

A double dose of digital

From a consumer-facing perspective, the digital elements are all about ease of use. Instead of forcing shoppers to dig through boxes of Fruit Loops or Corn Pops, Kellogg is now asking consumers to collect their points in one of two ways: First, shoppers can take a picture of their receipt and send it to Kellogg's mobile site, desktop site, or via text. Second, if customers have a loyalty card for a participating retailer, they can simply enter the loyalty card number in their account on Kellogg's website, which the company recently redesigned, and then present the card at checkout when purchasing their Kellogg's items in-store.

However, the back-end and data collection side is far more complex. To facilitate all of this incoming purchase data from its website and texts, Kellogg built a new infrastructure called “bus.” Here's how Keller says it works: When a customer scans a receipt, the scanned image goes to a receipt processor called Snipp. Once Snipp validates the receipt, the platform sends the participating product information back to the central “bus.” Once back in the “bus,” the data is collected by Kellogg's rewards partner Aimia, which provides a platform that handles the points accounting. After the point amounts have been assigned, all of the data flows into Kellogg's database, which is built by Epsilon. The customer is then able to view his reflected rewards balance on Kellogg's website. 

If the customer decides to forgo the receipt scanning and instead simply enter a loyalty card number into Kellogg's site, then the process is slightly different. In that case the loyalty card number flows through the “bus” to SavingStar's platform where the loyalty card is validated. SavingStar then recognizes the participating products, passes them back through the “bus,”  and Aimia collects and assigns the points. Then the information is displayed on Kellogg's website and stored in the Epsilon database.

An appetite for data

Kellogg can get right down to the nitty-gritty of what consumers purchased too.

“We're able to pick up Kellogg purchases essentially down to the SKU level,” Keller says. “We know that the item you purchased [was] Special K, 10 oz, red berry—[that's] what we would pick up [from] the receipt.”

The company is able to use this data to enhance its marketing. For instance, Kellogg can use the data gleaned from the rewards program to send targeted offers to consumers via email based on what and where they buy. “If we know that you shop at Meijer, we can tell you about Kellogg products at Meijer,” Keller explains.

Tasty results

Kellogg officially launched its enhanced rewards program on June 2, and promoted the initiative through several channels, including email, social, digital, and product packaging. The company is already seeing appetizing results. According to Keller, the brand saw “thousands” of people participating in the program within its first few days in-market.

These results are especially sweet considering the challenges Kellogg needed to overcome to completely revamp its rewards program in roughly 10 months. For one, the company wanted to get this initiative done quickly and had to balance working with many technology partners.

“The key is to have a really strong, solid project manager in the middle of it to keep everyone organized and a group of partners that all understand their role and understand that working together for the common good is a great way to go and [leads to] a great outcome,” Keller says.

Not only did Kellogg have to wrangle vendor alignment, but it also had to align teams internally—a challenge Keller says many marketers face. “It requires a fairly significant investment, [and] it requires a strong belief that the program will work,” he says. “Once you get it going, you need to have a way to accurately measure results and prove to [y]ourselves or prove to the company that it's working. We've been able to do that and the return on investment that we're making is incredibly positive; the enthusiasm for the program continues.”

Finally, Keller says that the company's marketers knew that not all of Kellogg's reward members would be excited about changing their behavior. They tried to remain sensitive to this by providing several resources—including video tutorials, website and email instructions, and call center support—to help less tech-savvy customers navigate this new digital world.

All in all, Keller says keeping the company's end goals in mind helped the revamped rewards program snap, crackle, and pop its way to success.

“We, as a collective team, have stayed focused on getting this program launched in a timely fashion and continuing to focus on the member or the consumer and making it the absolute best possible experience for the member," he says. "We're recognizing and realizing that we're asking a number of people who signed up for a program with the intent of entering codes to switch to new technology.... We've been totally cognizant of the significant amount of change that we're asking our members to go through. So, every step along the way we've been working incredibly hard to make sure that we make that change as easy as possible for the consumers.”

More Socially Conscious Brands Please

More Socially Conscious Brands Please

Millennials are among the most highly coveted consumer segments today, and that's not for nothing.

We are incredibly empowered influencers and often the first adopters of new products and technology. We're the largest and most diverse generation, and we're poised to become the most educated generation in history. Many of us are flexing our newfound financial muscle, while continuing to permeate the labor force; with millennials expected to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. By 2026, we're expected to catalyze the next economic boom, so it's no wonder marketers are so enamoured with us. We're quite literally about to inherit the Earth. But, for all of the studies and psychographic speculation, marketers can't forget how absorbed we are with the cultural, economic, and social welfare of this world.

Now, at the closing of a particularly poignant Pride Week, we're reminded of the benefits brands can reap by acknowledging—however subtlety—social issues and progression. As brands continue to lead conversations through content marketing and social media, brand equity and point of view will likely factor into millennial consumers' loyalty. Many brands understand this now, and frequently utilize socially consciousness to further their narrative or reinforce their brand identity.

Here, I'm lauding a few brands that effectively meld social awareness and responsibility into their marketing with hopes that brands across the industry spectrum follow their leads in bringing about a more human perception of businesses.


Chipotle is easily one of the most socially aware brands of the day. From its widely publicized temporary retirement of pork (Carnitas), to its vocal Twitter account, the Mission-style burrito chain always has its eyes on the betterment of a group or a cause. For June, the brand dove into the fight against AIDS with its RED campaign, but it also tweeted a rainbow-themed burrito in celebration of the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage during Pride Week.


With its mission to shod the unshod around the world, TOMS made an early name for itself as a brand with a strong sense of purpose. Its “One for One “ policy has grown from giving shoes to citizens in developing parts of the world, to providing safe drinking water, prescription glasses, and safe birth assistance. TOMS, in turn, has grown into one of the premier footwear brands in less than 10 years.

The Tech Giants

Not surprisingly, the tech deities that so strongly affect the world are among the most philanthropic brands in business today. Apple's CEO Tim Cook is rapidly becoming a beacon in the politics surrounding gay rights and Internet privacy. Both Facebook and Google have launched initiatives to bring internet access to the developing world. In the wake of the shooting massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, Apple and Google both pulled all apps and games that celebrated confederacy. In addition, Bill Gates' consistently donates to healthcare and education over the year along with the host of other contributions from tech tycoons.

The Evolution of the Social System

The Evolution of the Social System


The way people exchange ideas is constantly evolving.

In the 1450s—during the days when 15th century publisher Johann Gutenberg brought the printing press to light—people communicated by broadcasting their ideas to the public in a one-to-many fashion, explained Mark Bonchek, founder and chief catalyst of thinkORBIT. Fast forward some 500 years, and the birth of the Internet gave people the ability to respond to ideas through a one-to-many dialect. By the early 2000s social networks entered the scene, he said, and people no longer had to take the words of others as law—or even respond; they could form their own communities and bring their ideas to life.

This "Gutenberg-to-Zuckerberg" progression introduced what Bonchek called “the new world of value creation.” Rather than having companies push out their ideas to customers, shoppers now are able to connect and collaborate with each other. And if wise, companies will listen to and then learn from customers' interactions to better their own businesses.

“How do you enable and empower that peer-to-peer connection in a way that you get to play a role?” Bonchek asked the audience at Adobe's Digital Marketing Symposium in New York.

And this new world of value creation opens up a whole other solar system for marketers—or what Bonchek likes to call a whole new "social system."

A brand lives at the center of the social system, Bonchek explained, and all of its constituencies—including its employees, customers, and influencers—orbit around it. These constituencies, he added, have their own communities surrounding them. So, it's the marketers' job to pull these constituencies into the brand. How? By enabling them to identify with the brand and become members—instead of just customers—through a series of interactions (other than purchases). Bonchek referred to this concept of pulling customers in as “brand gravity” and called the series of touchpoints O.R.B.I.T.—Ongoing. Relationships. Beyond. Individual. Transactions. If marketers achieve brand gravity, then they'll pull in not only their own constituencies, he noted, but they'll also attract their customers' constituencies.

“That's what advocacy is,” Bonchek said, “it's a pull model versus a push model.”

Some brands have already mastered this social system concept. Here are a few examples Bonchek cited.


McCormick's FlavorPrint solution asks consumers a series of questions about their dietary and taste preferences to identify flavors, recipes, and products that most align with their palates. The more questions consumers answer and the more they interact with McCormick's food experiences (like its recipes), the more the spice brand is able to fine tune their FlavorPrints. People can also share recommended recipes with their social networks.

All consumers can identify with struggling to figure out what's for dinner. McCormick provides a solution to this problem and offers a tool that can easily become part of users' daily routines—even if they don't buy the necessary spices from the brand.


People can use the Nike+ Running app to map their runs, track their progress, and set motivations, Bonchek said. And if people post that they're going for a run on social media, Nike will play a round of applause through that runner's headphones every time he gets a supportive, motivational comment.

“It's not about Nike's connection with you,” Bonchek said. “It's about your connection with people in your orbit.”


The pharmacy's Balance Rewards program offers members points for syncing up their digital tracking devices and taking actions that help them live a healthy life, like going for a walk or getting a blood test. In some cases, the brand is rewarding members for activities they already do; but the program helps them achieve personal goals, whether losing weight, quitting smoking, or just achieving overall better health.


The beverage brand's Freestyle machine enables customers to customize their own drinks by mixing up their favorite Coca-Cola flavors. Some machines even have QR codes, Bonchek explained, so that people can just hold their phones up to the machine to request their regular concoctions. Not only does this co-creation allow people to enjoy a drink that's just to their liking, but it also provides Coca-Cola with a wealth of data that it can then use to come up with new product ideas.

Read on to find out how your brand can strengthen its own social system.


So how can other brands pull customers into their own social systems? Here are Bonchek's five suggestions:

1. Find your shared purpose. Brands need to identify their missions and find ways to let their customers co-create with them so that it becomes their missions, too. This will prompt customers to share the mutual missions with others. To better determine if a company's mission meets this shared purpose criteria, Bonchek recommended taking the "T-shirt test": If the mission isn't something that a person would wear on a T-shirt, it's probably not something that he'd be willing to share with others.

2. Find some source of intrinsic value. Marketers must give people a reason to engage with their brands, regardless of whether those consumers end up making a purchase.

3. Look at peer connections. Marketers should not only think about how they can build connections with their customers but also how they can form relationships with their customers' connections.

4. Consider little data. Most marketers are familiar with the concept of Big Data, but not all of them know about little data. If Big Data is what companies know about us, Bonchek said, then little data is what customers know about themselves. Sometimes companies can even help customers learn something about themselves that they didn't understand.

5. Value social currencies. Social currencies—like the applause from the Nike+ Running app—are important. As Bonchek noted in a 2012 Harvard Business Review article, social currencies help brands express and build relationships with its customers, rather than drive transactions. In the article, he cites the offer of pizza and beer to friends who help you move as a prime example.

Taylor Swift Demonstrates the Power of Anti-Influencer Marketing

Taylor Swift Demonstrates the Power of Anti-Influencer Marketing

Apple, with its innovations in digital music and mobile technology, is one of the major drivers of the culture that makes marketing—and practically everything else—difficult in the digital age. In 2015, you're probably about as likely to find an Apple product in someone's pocket or living room as you are to find Kleenex in a restroom. The Apple brand commands enviable equity and staggering ubiquity;  and all it took was a 25-year-old from Pennsylvania to bring it to heel.

In the wake of Apple Music's mixed reception, pop star Taylor Swift recently posted an open letter to Apple explaining why she plans to omit her album 1989 from the streaming service. The letter teemed with rhetoric that simultaneously celebrated Apple's history as an innovator, as well as Swift's own profitable relationship with the tech tastemaker, while leveling heavy criticism at the streaming service's three-month trial period, and its associated dearth of royalty payments to artists during said trail. Apple's response was (pardon) swift.

While Apple's shows good form in its acquiescence to Swift's arguments, the fact that any of this is happening at all strongly illustrates the duality of influencer marketing. Consider Swift's social media following: more than 53 million on Twitter, 71 million on Facebook, more than a million YouTube subscribers, and nearly 35 million Instagram followers. While those millions are certainly attractive from an influencer marketing perspective, it's not hard to imagine the damage such a powerful voice can bring to a business.

'Return to Sender' Is Still High on Mailers' Playlists

'Return to Sender' Is Still High on Mailers' Playlists

I gave a letter to the postman,
He put it his sack.
Bright 'n early next morning,
He brought my letter back.

Elvis Presley, Return to Sender

In 2014, 64.5 billion pieces of First Class Mail were handled by the U.S. Postal Service, a 35% drop since 2004 when almost 100 billion passed through the system. Today, people who continue to use First Class Mail (FCM) are financial institutions sending statements and grandmas sending birthday cards to their grandkids, the kind of folks who are likely to have good addresses, you'd think. But you'd be wrong. According to USPS figures, 3.7% of FCM mail was returned to senders in 2014 versus only 3.4% returned in 2004.

Despite services offered by the Postal  Service, such as the National Change of Address system, as well as several software and data packages available to help keep marketers' lists clean, those lists remain dirty—and expensive. According to Christine Erna of Novitex, the 9,000-person mail management company spun off by Pitney Bowes, the cost to marketers for a returned mailing is at least $3 a piece and can go as high as $50.

“For business mailers, the cost of returned mail is high, just from an operational standpoint,” says Erna, Novitex's senior solutions architect. “That $3 per returned mail piece includes the cost of postage, prep, printing, data entry of undeliverable mail, IT systems, destruction, and research and validation. We have one client in the financial services industry that employs 40 people full time just trying to get addresses right.”

The $50 tab is shouldered by transactional mailers for whom the mails are the chief conduit of delivering cash back to them in the form of insurance premiums, merchandise purchases, credit card payments, and loan installments. But attendant costs go beyond the $3 for all mailers in customer churn and lost opportunities.

Erna, a Postal Service veteran, has unwittingly found her life's mission in correcting the undelivered mail situation and spreading the news that the problem is bigger than everyone thinks. No matter how much the Postal Service and digital pundits talk about electronic payments taking over, more than half of such remittances continue to travel the U.S. Mails, Erna says. Novitex assesses the cost of UAA mail (undeliverable as addressed) to the U.S. economy at $65 billion a year.

It's not entirely direct mailers' fault that they're swallowing this bitter pill. We've become a migrant nation; some 76% of all undeliverable mail is attributable to movers. And different mailers have different issues to deal with in correcting the problem. Healthcare and financial services companies, for instance, must comply with strict regulations preventing them from changing customer records without personal input from customers. But, all companies can do something to stem the flow of return mail and save a lot of money, Erna says. A few of her key recommendations:

  • Use automated services to drive NCOA and other methods to update incorrect addresses. Automation could reduce operational expenses by 70%.
  • Centralize return mail operations.That quickens reaction time and minimizes the risk of postal service audits and lost postage discounts.
  • Take advantage of data technology to get at the root cause of why mail is returned. Tracking mail behavior can lead to a modified approach that saves customers and reduces the downstream cost of returns.

Elvis, it turns out, was more ahead of his time than we thought—actually presaging the advent of one-to-one marketing and personalization at the conclusion of “Return to Sender:”

This time I'm gonna take it myself,
And put it right in her hand.
And if it comes back the very next day,
Then I'll understand.

5 Brands That Celebrate What It Means to Be a Dad

5 Brands That Celebrate What It Means to Be a Dad

Father's Day is just around the corner, so I recently asked one of my coworkers how he planned on celebrating the day with his kids. He told me that dinner at a restaurant may be in order, but that the parental holiday was really a secondary celebration compared to Mother's Day.

As I thought about his response, I started to realize how ho-hum brands can be about Father's Day. Sure, I've received emails reminding me to buy a gift for my father (don't worry, Dad—you're covered), and I've visited retail websites that offer great gift ideas for dad. But I haven't seen a ton of marketing that truly captures what being a dad means.

So to avoid overlooking this holiday any further, I've written a follow-up piece to my “5 Commercials That Remind Us Why Moms Are the Best” and I've compiled a list of five brands that truly captivate what being a dad is all about.


Dove Men+Care

One brand that truly understands the emotional and caregiving investments being a dad requires is Dove Men+Care. This is partly because the men's hygiene and grooming brand researches this audience. For instance, Dove Men+Care's "Calls For Dad" film was inspired by the fact that three quarters of dads surveyed say that they're responsible for their children's emotional well-being, yet only 20% see this role reflected in the media. 

Dove Men+Care debuted the one-minute spot last June along with the hashtag #RealDadMoments and a call to celebrate dads. Actually, the film was such a success that the Unilever brand reintroduced the film for this year's Super Bowl along with a new hashtag #RealStrength, which is based on the idea that 90% of men consider their caring side part of their masculinity. "Calls For Dad" currently has more than 12.6 million views on the brand's official YouTube channel and 23 million views overall (including earned media). It also generated nearly 800 million media impressions in the U.S.

As if this ad wasn't enough of a tearjerker, Dove Men+Care introduced a new Father's Day-inspired spot on June 15 called "First Fatherhood Moments." The ad is based on the brand's findings that 82% of men say having a child changes the way that they think about what it means to be a man. The spot shows the emotional moments real men experience when they learn that they're going to be dads for the first time. The video already has more than 1.8 million views.

Besides tying in the TV and social elements, Dove Men+Care does a nice job incorporating digital in its campaigns, such as with its Dove Men+Care website, which includes more videos, social feeds, and information about its products. The brand also launched an online content series this month called "To All Dads" that offers open letters and advice about fatherhood from real dads.  


MetLife Hong Kong

I first wrote about this commercial for my “Marketing That Makes Consumers Smile” blog post, and it's still one of my favorites. The insurance provider's spot tells the story of a father and the sacrifices that he makes to give his daughter a better life.

The video struck a chord with viewers who could relate to this concept of parental sacrifice. In fact, the film, which was uploaded to the brand's official YouTube channel this past January, garnered more than 15 million views across Facebook and YouTube, according to a February 2015 MetLife Hong Kong press release, proving once again the importance of leveraging empathy in marketing. 

“The success of this video reflects our commitment to identifying the needs of everyday Hong Kong people and designing customized products and solutions to help them ‘pursue more from life,'” Sunshine Farzan, MetLife Hong Kong's VP and head of marketing communications, stated in the release. “MetLife has great empathy for parents and deeply understands the challenges that they face, as such we provide a broad range of innovative insurance and financial planning solutions and value-added services to help parents plan for their children's education.”


General Mills Canada

The next brand takes a more humorous approach to fatherhood. In General Mills Canada's #HowToDad ad, a dad quickly rattles off all of the reasons why being a dad is the most awesome and responsibility-filled job on the planet while getting his kids ready for school. And because Peanut Butter Cheerios is also awesome, he argues, it makes it "The Official Cereal of Dadhood."

“It just made sense to declare Peanut Butter Cheerios as ‘The Official Cereal of Dadhood,' because like great dads, Peanut Butter Cheerios lie somewhere in the intersection of awesome and responsible,” Josh Stein, creative director of Tribal Worldwide (the Toronto-based agency that created the campaign), said in a General Mills blog post. “Dads are awesome and it's awesome to be a dad. The new campaign creatively acknowledges that today's dads play a significant role in raising children, and this celebrates their contribution.” 

Not only is the spot hilarious, but it also shows the dad waking up his kids, getting them breakfast, and driving them to school—all activities that have traditionally been depicted as motherly duties in advertisements. Acknowledging all that dads do and playing into their fun side scores points with viewers. In fact, the commercial, which was uploaded to General Mills Canada's official YouTube channel last July, has close to 1.7 million views. And when adding in views from its follow up videos (like this one),the campaign generated more than five million views. *Furthermore, the campaign produced a total of 179 million impressions, as well as a 300% increase in brand mentions during its launch month alone.

The campaign also includes a robust Tumblr page that includes videos, memes, and even coupons for all members of the Dadhood to enjoy.

*Update: Results added June 17, 2015 at 2:25 pm EST



When I was a kid, I was pretty accident prone. I was always scraping my knees from playing outside and developing strange bruises. Needless to say, this commercial from Hyundai promoting the Genesis has a soft spot in my heart.

The ad, which ran during the 2014 Super Bowl, received great recognition, including winning The One Club's Automobile Advertising of the Year Award in the TV commercial category and being deemed as the second most effective advertisement during Q1 2014 by TV and video analytics provider Ace Metrix.

Not only does the spot keep my attention by making me nervous every time the kid nearly crashes into something, but it also reinforces the heartfelt message that parents will do anything for their children—even if it means getting a few bumps and bruises along the way. And Hyundai makes the case that the automotive brand can help look after dads' loved ones, too.



Parents rarely get the recognition that they deserve. And even though they may feel like they're not living up to their expectations, this Whirlpool spot reminds them that doing their best is more than enough.

Customers like to be recognized for all that they do. This Whirlpool commercial, which was uploaded to YouTube this past May and has more than 26,000 views, shows this sense of appreciation by telling a story in which the single dad is the hero (instead of having the brand's appliances play the leading role).

Other honorable mentions include Toyota (here and here), State Farm, and Vicks NyQuil.

Web Wizards, What Awaits You? Untold Riches or Jail?

Web Wizards, What Awaits You? Untold Riches or Jail?

Digital makes everything bigger. It can amplify an old college social introduction tradition into a world-changing social network, a taxi dispatcher into a multibillion-dollar Wall Street darling. It has the magic ability to transform geeky math-er-bators into pop-culture billionaires. But, as we learned a fortnight ago, its power to turn a cool, algorithmically inspired idea into an overnight Web phenomenon can also send you to jail for the rest of your life.

Here's a prison trivia question: What do convicts Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, and Mark David Chapman have in common that newly sentenced convict Ross Ulbricht does not? Answer: The killers of, respectively, Sharon Tate, Robert Kennedy, and John Lennon all are eligible for parole. But when Ross Ulbricht (above), the notorious “Dread Pirate Roberts” who founded the Silk Road marketplace, was sentenced on May 29 for drug trafficking, conspiracy, and operating a criminal enterprise, no parole was in the offing. The 29-year-old engineer got life with no chance of release—times two—plus sundry other decades behind bars. For creating a website. A Dark Web website that trafficked millions of dollars worth of heroin and methamphetamine, to be sure, but a website nonetheless.

Ulbricht amassed a true pirate's treasure in Bitcoins, and knowingly created a conduit for dealers, but he never sold drugs himself. If I'm Jeff Bezos, I'm not feeling very comfortable with Manhattan Judge Katherine Forrest's draconian dispatching of Ulbricht. Who handles more third-party transactions on the Web than Bezos? Who knows, 10 or 15 years from now, what will be considered contraband materials and illegal services by ours or any other government? What if some of the fine art Amazon brokers turns out to be something stolen by the Nazis? What if ISIS or Pat Robertson take control and Match.com is suddenly interpreted as a worldwide prostitution ring?

Digital makes things bigger, and makes them live on in cyber-perpetuity, too. Societal attitudes change, but the data remains forever and is, therefore, constantly subject to new interpretation.

One of the biggest crises that Internet retailers face is the issue of remote sales tax collection being debated by governments municipal, state, and federal. But could a harsher tax be lying in wait for them? In protesting his client's sentence, Ulbricht's attorney, Joshua Dratel, mentioned another Silk Road defendant, Peter Nash, who pled guilty and was released after 17 months in jail.

“I'm not suggesting Mr. Nash and Mr. Ulbricht's sentences should be the same. But this is 17 months versus life,” Dratel said. “The only difference is that Mr. Nash pleaded guilty and Mr. Ulbricht exercised his constitutional right to trial. You could call it a trial tax.”

Digital make things bigger, and digital itself keeps getting bigger and bigger. How can one be sure that the wonderful idea she has for a retail website—an idea hatched to give her family a secure future—won't somehow metastasize beyond her control and transform into something she'd never imagined?

In a pre-sentencing letter pleading for leniency, Ulbricht wrote, “I believed at the time [of founding Silk Road]  that people should have the right to buy and sell whatever they wanted so long as they weren't hurting anyone else. I've learned since then that taking immediate actions on one's beliefs, without taking the necessary time to really think them through, can have disastrous consequences…I learned from Silk Road that when you give people freedom, you don't know what they'll do with it.”

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to receive contraband.

How to Spark (and Sustain) Brand Love and Passion

How to Spark (and Sustain) Brand Love and Passion

Everyone wants to be loved—especially marketers. Unfortunately, sparking and sustaining brand love requires more than just a shot from Cupid's arrow. As with any relationship, it requires give and take.

“Love is a 360 connection, meaning, to receive love you must give love,” John Moore, coauthor of The Passion Conversation and "chief of wahoo" for word-of-mouth agency Brains on Fire, said at the Bazaarvoice Summit in New Orleans.

Love also requires passion. And passion, Moore said, starts when a company is founded. He explained that if marketers can nurture customers to care about the same values and objectives that their brands do, then that passion can grow through word of mouth.

After all, every business's success or failure starts and ends with people. Have low retention rates? Then your brand doesn't have enough people making repeat purchases, Moore argued. Poor customer service? Your company has too many unhappy people. Low engagement? Your business has too many disconnected people.

“If you're not successful, then you're not connecting with enough people,” the former Starbucks and Whole Foods marketing veteran summarized.

Indeed, getting people to generate word of mouth for your brand is vastly important, especially considering that word-of-mouth media amplifies paid media by 15%, according to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

So, how can brands spark a passion-filled conversation with their customers and get them to talk about their products? Here are three triggers for sparking word of mouth, as well as Moore's three tips for maintaining it.

Three triggers for sparking a passion-filled conversation about brands and products

According to the Marketing Science Institute (MSI), there are three signals marketers can look for or create to trigger word of mouth among consumers:

1)    Functional

2)    Social

3)    Emotional

Let's take a closer look at each one.


Functional conversations, Moore explained, are factual and educational. These dialogues, he added, provide the basic information customers need to better interpret their surroundings and make decisions.

Earlier this year, for example, Starbucks introduced the Flat White to the U.S. and Canada. To help familiarize North American customers with the new espresso beverage, Starbucks put explanatory signage in its stores.

Southwest Airlines, which disrupted the airline industry by allowing customers to select their seats when they board, needed a way to avoid a mad dash down the airplane aisle. So, the airline assigns passengers individual boarding numbers. Passengers with the lowest numbers get to board the plane first and have their first pick of the seats. Of course, getting a throng of people to line up in numerical order can seem like an impossible task. But Southwest Airlines directs them with its boarding signage.

“The functional trigger helps to spark conversations when you're introducing something new or something that could be complicated,” Moore explained.


Social signaling occurs anytime a consumer attaches themselves to a brand. This attachment is obvious through displays of affection such as carrying logo-emblazoned items (e.g. a Starbucks tumbler or Whole Foods tote bag) and uploading pictures (e.g., from their trip to Disney World) to social sites, Moore said. By associating themselves with a brand, he explained, consumers are saying that they're like the brand, and that brand is like them.

“Many times when we engage in conversations [where] we identify with the brands that we love, we start to feel better about ourselves,” he added.

So, marketers' goal should not be to get people to talk directly about their brands, Moore said, but rather it should be to get people to talk about themselves through the brands they buy.


What happens when people are extremely happy? They notify their social networks. Same thing occurs when they're extremely frustrated. But when people are indifferent, Moore said, they don't feel the need to tell anybody. That's why, to generate word of mouth, marketers need to get their customers to feel an emotion, whether it's happiness, sadness, empathy, or the just the urge to giggle.

Every company is capable of getting their customers to feel, Moore continued, no matter how dull their sector may seem. Take insurance, for example. Brands like AllState and Progressive have created characters like Mayhem and Flo, respectively, to make talking about insurance a little more enjoyable. He also cited how Whole Foods gets right to customers' hearts by talking about its values and supplier stories in its national “Value Matter” campaign.

Three types of brand stories for sustaining passion conversations

Of course, getting customers to talk about themselves through your brand is only half of the battle; sustaining this conversation is an entirely different feat. And the key to maintaining these dialogues is to have a clear understanding of the brand's story.

“If you do not have a story, then you do not have a strategy,” Moore said.

According to Moore, there are three types of stories marketers can tell:

1)    How their brand improves customers' lives

2)    How their brand rights a wrong

3)    How their brand makes the current state of their industry better

And while being able to tell one of those stories is good, being able to tell all three is the secret to becoming a beloved brand, Moore said. Here's a deeper dive into each one of these storytelling techniques.

Improving customers' lives

Life always seems greener on the other side. So, why not tap into this idea and show consumers how other people have been able to improve their lives through a brand's products and services.

Fitbit is one brand that tells this story very well, Moore said, mainly by conveying how its products help customers' and their social communities live more active lives. The Container Store is another brand that conveys this improved-life benefit, Moore said, by communicating the idea that people spend less time and stress looking for lost items because every item in their homes has its own place through its storage solutions.

Righting a wrong

What brand doesn't want to be a hero in its customers' lives? Moore said stories about brands fighting an injustice are always a win.

Consider TurboTax: The tax preparation software provider tries to right the wrong of having poor people pay the most to have their taxes done, Moore said, by charging a flat, low-cost fee for its services.

Making it better

Myspace was good until Facebook made social networking better, Moore said, and Blockbuster was good until Netflix made movie watching better. The bottom line is brands need to be able to communicate how their company is better than anything else out there. 

Now go give your customers something to talk about.

Photo sources: Starbucks, Southwest Airlines

Which Content Works Best for You? [Quiz]

Which Content Works Best for You? [Quiz]

You know that content is king. But figuring out which content is the most appealing to your audience while still remaining true to your brand voice can be a challenge.

That's why we've created this five-minute quiz for you. OK, we're not saying that after taking this test that you should create an entire strategy around the results. But we are saying that you should consider the questions, your answers, and how you arrived at the final results. Use them to be inspired and to discover what you—and your customers—feel is important in the content that you publish. 

So find out whether fashionable, humorous, inspiring, socially conscious, or unique content fits you most. Then feel free to share your results.

GE Sells Engineering to Women Through E-commerce

GE Sells Engineering to Women Through E-commerce

The ability to determine what elements work to produce a desirable result is a valuable skill—both in marketing and engineering. Technology and innovation company GE proved this to be true when it combined education with e-commerce to inspire the next generation of female engineers through The Maker Shop.

Created in partnership with Brit + Co—a media and e-commerce platform that offers educational and inspirational products for young women—The Maker Shop is an online, curated store that sells fun and informative gifts to help young women tap into their “inner engineer,” explains Sydney Lestrud, GE's global marketing manager. Women can purchase everything from jewelry and champagne flutes to 3D printed roses and programmable tote bags that light up.

“The purpose of the shop was to curate a collection of gifts and tools that we believe would inspire the inner engineer, the inner maker, [or] the inner hacker in all women to use these tools [and] to really think about creativity in a new way,” Lestrud says. “So, how can these new tools help inspire them to build something, fix something, or hack something to make it better?”

Deciding which products to include in the collection was one of the biggest challenges for GE, Lestrud says. Thankfully, the company had a little help. GE called on its own engineers from its different business divisions to help curate the products.

“We talked about not only their engineering skills that they use in the workplace, but also what are some of the daily tools that they use in their everyday lives that they find really useful,” she says.

Besides containing a shopping component, the online store has a content marketing element. There are profiles about the engineers who curated the shop, as well as articles that explain how patrons can use the shop's products in innovative ways. GE also posted a series in which women explain how learning to code changed their life, both personally and professionally. 

“For us, [the goal is] really more about hoping that our audience will read the stories and connect to the engineers we've profiled in the editorials and to help surround the shop,” Lestrud says. “That's what we're looking at most, versus sales, in particular. It's much more about these stories of engineering and hopefully inspiring that next generation of engineers [to] look at engineering in a new light, look at it with this creative lens and relatability, and be inspired by it.”

Not only is GE educating women through its content, but it's also offering to teach them valuable skills through on- and offline courses. For example, every time someone purchases a product, they get a free Electronics 101 video course, taught by Brit + Co's founder. Also, site visitors can take advantage of a $100 voucher from nonprofit Girls Develop It and apply it to in-person coding classes. 

Lestrud says that GE is driving consumers to the site primarily through Facebook targeting and posts, as well as through Twitter. The company's campaign partners are also promoting the site through their social channels, she adds.

The Maker Shop isn't GE's first foray into e-commerce. Lestrud says that the company worked with men's digital lifestyle company Thrillist Media Group and its men's flash sale brand JackThreads last summer to attract sneaker enthusiasts by redesigning a modern sneaker using advanced materials inspired by moon boots that GE had created. 

“What we find so interesting is when we're able to lean into specific passion points…. It's the thing that people feel so strongly about [and] so proud of and they want to share it, talk about it, and have the tools to build even better,” she says.

Using e-commerce as a marketing tool, she adds, allows GE to integrate its brand into consumers' daily lives in a more recognizable way. “For us, it's an opportunity to make our brand a little bit more tangible,” Lestrud explains. “We make very big things—jet engines, locomotives, and gas turbines—and sometimes you can't put those directly in people's hands. We can still find ways to put the brand into our fans' hands; we just have to be a little bit more creative about it.”

The Maker Shop was originally going to stay live until the end of May, but GE has extended its run. Although Lestrud declined to share the results of The Maker Shop thus far, she says that GE intends to track engagement metrics and traffic to the site. But overall, she says that the brand has experienced great response. 

“Women and STEM is such an important topic, and it's such an important issue now,” she says. “And it's extremely important for GE to celebrate women in STEM and recognize women in STEM. So, any time that we're pushing that message and pushing that message of encouraging engineering from all sides of the fence, we see a really great and positive reaction—no matter how we do it.”

Quirky Marketing Trends That Work

Quirky Marketing Trends That Work

I like things that are weird. You know—whimsical artwork, off-the-wall décor, underground music, peculiar restaurants. To me, idiosyncrasies make life interesting. In fact, I'm the girl who wears fake lime-green frames on my face just because they're “cute,” not because I need glasses. I live in a funky little downtown hi-rise with a lively, eccentric restaurant scene. I love being weird. Actually, I take pride in it.

For Memorial Day weekend, I ventured back to Atlanta to visit my twin sis, and we sauntered over to one of the city's most artistic neighborhoods: Downtown Decatur. Actually, Atlanta has a ton of little hippy, artistic gems, including Cabbagetown, East Atlanta Village, Little Five Points, the Old Fourth Ward, Reynoldstown, West Midtown—the list goes on and on. Great places for a writer like me to get inspired.

It just so happened, because of Memorial Day weekend, there was an art festival that brought out some of the city's best and most distinct artwork. Even more than usual, Decatur was teeming with artsy wares and art lovers. And I noticed that the crazier the artwork, the more attention the artists got—and the more sales that they made.

On this particular weekend, we ventured over to peruse the zigzag aisles of Wild Oats & Billy Goats, a funky folk art gallery smack dab in the middle of this hippie haven. I fell in love with a painting of a little puppy. The artist, Robin Anne Cooper, creates original pieces that feature family pets. The only things that she doesn't paint are eyes.

Très cute, right?

The saleslady at Wild Oats & Billy Goats told me Robin's one of the most popular artists. Her work is distinct, and it's, well, a little weird. Quirky. Most of all it's memorable, which makes it a desirable purchase.

I've noticed during the past year that one of the best ways to market a product is to be distinct and quirky. Without going completely off brand, it's the marketers who aren't afraid to create a strategy that's off the beaten path who get consumers talking and sales spiking. (Think GEICO's Hump Day ad or Snickers' perpetual You're Not You When You're Hungry campaign).

The editors at DM News have—and continue to—culled the best marketing strategies for you to consider. This week, I want to draw attention to some of the more quirky ones. I encourage you and your teams to not just read about them but truly consider them, and then give them a try. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

"San Andreas" Fails to Capture the True Horror of a Crumbling California

"San Andreas" Fails to Capture the True Horror of a Crumbling California

“The Earth will literally crack open and you will feel it on the East Coast,” says Paul Giamatti's seismologist character in San Andreas, the summer disaster flick also starring Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino and opening tomorrow. Giamatti was being fairly parochial in limiting the fallout of the earthquake to the continental United States. Director Brad Peyton and his team of special effects wizards—while masterfully titillating the American viewer's doom and destruction gene—undershot the terror factor with CGI scenes of flap-jacking skyscrapers and tsunami-riding cruise ships. The truly horrible aftermath of San Francisco and Silicon Valley breaking off and foundering in the Pacific would be played out all over the world, in living rooms and in people's pockets, when they searched Google and got a white screen crammed with code. When they checked their Apple watches and saw them flashing “12:00-12:00-12:00.” 

Where are the scenes in San Andreas of Oracle's Larry Ellison being swallowed by a tidal wave as he attempts to escape San Francisco Bay in his super-yacht? Of Elon Musk giving Salesforce's Marc Benioff a lift up to the cloud in his SpaceX ship as the Transamerica Pyramid takes a nosedive in the background? Of Google headquarters being wiped off of Google Maps?

Let's just skim the top 25 of the San Jose Mercury's SV150 to see what the world will have to do without should, of a day, the San Andreas Fault tear open and turn Silicon Valley into Silicon Island:

# 1 Apple: With $200 billion in sales, it is called by some the most successful American company ever. More than 6 million Americans use iPhones. You may be one of them and, if not, you surely know one of them. Imagine the ugliness that would ensue in front of Apple Stores everywhere when iPhone 7 failed to be released.

#3 Google: The only reason that I'm still making a living as a working journalist at my age is this: Who needs a memory or even a fully capable brain when the knowledge of the cosmos is there at my fingertips? If I woke up tomorrow and found there was no Google, I think I'd just stay home. Anybody with me?

# 6 Ebay: Where would I go to find a cheap, used iPhone 6?

#10 Facebook, #37 LinkedIn, and #50 Twitter: I grouped the top three social networks because together they have changed the way we communicate with friends, business associates, family members, and potential romantic partners. The Federal Government would have to open schools to educate Millennials and certain GenXers how to write resumés, visit their moms, engage in conversation with strangers, and lose the troubling habit of never writing sentences consisting of more than 140 characters.

#19 Netflix: By the time you get to watch the final episodes of The Walking Dead, you'll be among them. Purple will be the new black.

#20 Salesforce.com: Traveling salesmen would once again be loosed upon the countryside!

Imagine yourself walking out of a screening of San Andreas this weekend. You pull out your smartphone to post a terse review on Twitter, find a nearby Korean barbecue joint, and summon Uber to your side. But nothing happens. All that's now impossible. The world has closed in around you. You are confined to the lonely street you walk on and the few scared souls who inhabit it with you. Now that's horror! How could you have missed this, Mr. Peyton?

It could happen. A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey predicts up to a 7% likelihood of an 8.0 or greater magnitude earthquake hitting California within the next 30 years. “The new likelihoods are due to the inclusion of possible multi-fault ruptures, where earthquakes are no longer confined to separate, individual faults, but can occasionally rupture multiple faults simultaneously,” said the report's author, USGS scientist Ned Field.

My closing shot in San Andreas would be from the window of Musk's departing spaceship. As it approaches the stratosphere and the entire West Coast is revealed, the camera zooms back down to the state of Washington and the lair of Bill Gates. He's done up like Ernst Stavro Blofeld from You Only Live Twice—bald, scarred, and wearing a tan, high-collared suit. He's stroking not a white cat, but a model of the blue Explorer logo. “At last!” he exclaims.

A Tale of Two Customer Experiences

A Tale of Two Customer Experiences

The most memorable customer experiences are often those that land on opposite ends of the spectrum: Either they're really good, or they're really bad. And these experiences can have a major impact on brands' bottom lines. Consider the following data from the "2014 Global Customer Service Barometer" report by American Express and Ebiquity: 74% of consumers say they've spent more with a company because they've had a history of positive customer service experiences with that business.

Factors that determine whether a customer's experience is positive or negative are usually the most basic: having empathy, respecting preferences, etcetera. Here are two polar opposite customer experiences that I had on the same weekend, including a breakdown of what one business did right and the other did wrong.


The good:

Last April my mom and brother decided to fly out for Easter weekend. I wanted my apartment to look perfect and feel like their second home. So on my way back from work I stopped at a wine shop just blocks from my apartment. I had shopped at the local business before, but the prices couldn't compete with the “Two-Buck Chuck” Trader Joe's offered. Nevertheless, this was a special occasion, and I felt like my family deserved a higher quality bottle.

With about an hour until their arrival, I went in to the wine shop looking for a specific bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that I had purchased before. But when I asked one of the employees to help me locate the bottle, he informed me that they didn't sell it any more. He recommended another Cabernet that he said tasted like a $40 bottle, despite its $16 price tag. Disappointed, I opted to do a little browsing on my own. But with the clock ticking down, I finally decided to just purchase the employee's recommendation. I thanked him for his suggestion and went on my way.

I picked up a few other welcoming essentials on my walk back to my apartment, including a bouquet of fresh flowers and new soap for the guest bathroom. I felt like I had a good hold of all of my items—that is until I tucked the bottle of wine under my arm to fish my keys out of purse. Splat. The bottle shattered all over the sidewalk just steps from my apartment. The aroma of Cabernet on the pavement smelled amazing (shutting out any doubts I had about the wine's quality). To make matters worse, two young men who witnessed my distress let out a big “Oooohhh, that sucks.”

I tossed the broken glass into the dumpster and called my boyfriend down so that he could take the rest of my belongings while I went back to re-buy the bottle.

I walked back to the wine shop and pulled the same bottle from the rack.

“Are you back for another bottle?” the employee who initially helped me asked.

“Noooo,” I whined. “I dropped the last one.”

Then, much to my amazement, the employee told me that if I brought him the top of the broken bottle back he would replace it with a new bottle free of charge. I couldn't believe it. I raced back to my apartment, got my boyfriend to do a little dumpster diving for me, and wrapped the bottle carefully in a bag to avoid any potential cuts.

I brought the evidence of my clumsiness back to the store and, sure enough, the employee gave me a brand new bottle. I was so excited that my $16 didn't end up in the sewer along with my first bottle of Cabernet. I thanked the employee and told him how much I appreciated it.

I scurried home, carefully holding the bottle with two hands, and told my boyfriend about how kind the employee was to me. I immediately went to Yelp and wrote about my experience. My mom and I enjoyed the wine, and knowing that this second bottle was obtained out of compassion made it taste even sweeter.

About two weeks later I went back to the wine shop to purchase the bottle again for an Italian dinner I was whipping up. The same employee recognized me and asked how I was doing. I told him that I was doing well and reiterated how much I appreciated his help a few weeks back. He smiled and told me that if I liked that bottle I should try his favorite Pinot Noir.

Great, I thought as he started to ring up my purchase, an upsell. “How much is it?” I asked, expecting it to greatly surpass my still college-like budget for alcohol.

“Only $12,” he responded. He continued to tell me about the wine and how it actually just made the top 100 list.

Again, I couldn't believe it. He was recommending a product that was cheaper than my last purchase. Here was an employee who was taking my needs, my price point, and my preferences into consideration. What a concept.

He then double bagged the bottle of wine that I purchased and with a smile said, “Just in case.”

I still haven't tried the Pinot Noir he recommended, but my boyfriend and I have continued to purchase from this wine shop. But I will definitely go back and buy that Pinot Noir from the kindest little wine shop in all of Manhattan.

What he did right:

1) He was understanding: All customers want in a sour situation is a little bit of empathy—and that's exactly what I got. The employee could have easily forced me to fork over another $20 for a new bottle. Instead, he considered my situation and did what was best for the customer, and ultimately what was best for the business, and won my loyalty.

2) He remembered me: Not only did the employee remember me once (after I first dropped the bottle), but twice. I've been to restaurants where the hostess has forgotten me after five minutes. The fact that he remembered my business and my situation enough to double-bag my next wine bottle purchase made me feel like I was being viewed as a person, rather than just a sale.

3) He educated me but knew when to stop: Sometimes customers like to be educated on a business's product, and sometimes they don't. The key is being able to identify when enough is enough. Take cues from customers' tone and body language. For instance, the first time I spoke to the employee I was in a rush, and told him that I just wanted to browse on my own after hearing his recommendation. He obliged and left me alone to roam the shelves. But when I returned the store two weeks later I was much more relaxed and willing to learn more about his latest recommendation.

4) He respected my price point and preferences: Knowing that I like red wine and had a less-than-$20 price point may seem like small details to some, but having the employee keep these nuances in mind made me feel valued. Had he tried to upsell me with a $60 bottle, I would have thought that he was more interested in my money and less interested in my level of satisfaction and loyalty.


The bad

I had a routine eye doctor appointment that same weekend my mother and brother came to visit. Since watching your daughter as she gets her eyes dilated isn't exactly fun, my mom decided to walk around and do a bit of shopping.

After my appointment, my mom came back and told me that she walked past the cutest boutique just down the street and that it carried a bunch of items that she thought I would love. At first, I thought I should resist. Spring cleaning my closet was on my to-do list. But when she told me they had a $20 sales rack, I gave in.

We walked into the boutique and the employee working there seemed super excited that my mom had returned, especially considering we were the only customers in the store. The employee told me that the store was offering jeans for $50 and that its newer, more expensive inventory was towards the front. I thanked her for letting me know and told her that my mom and I were just interested in perusing the sales rack.

The woman seemed to want to join our mother-daughter outing because she followed us directly to the rack and stood there while we browsed through the clothes. It was so uncomfortable. The only time she did leave us alone was when she went to the front of the store to fetch more expensive items. She'd then return asking “What do you think of this one?” No matter how many times I told her that I wasn't interested in looking at the new merchandise, she continued to bring more items. Strike one.

I then spotted a jacket on the sales rack that I thought was pretty cute, so I tried it on. It was definitely too big and my mom and I both knew it. However, the employee insisted that it looked great on me. Strike two.

Feeling totally smothered and like my needs weren't being met, my mom and I decided to leave the store empty-handed. After we exited the store, I told my mother that I couldn't believe how the sales associate was so pushy. My mother then informed me that when she first told the sales associate that she was going to come back and bring me after my eye doctor appointment, the sales appointment told her that she didn't have to leave and that she should just text me pictures of the clothes instead. Telling my mother how to shop? Strike three.

What she did wrong:

1) She didn't put the customer first: Instead of focusing on my price point and my interest in the sales rack, the sales associate focused on her need: getting me to spend the most amount of money as possible. As a result, neither of us got what we wanted, and I was no longer surprised that her store was empty.

2) She didn't realize when she wasn't wanted: In today's world, consumers are much more independent and much more knowledgeable. While the associate certainly could have told me about her new merchandise, she should have given us our space when I told her what my agenda was. A simple “I'll be up at the front if you need anything,” would have been just fine. Instead, we felt completely smothered and uncomfortable.

3) She wasn't honest: When I tried on the jacket, it was very apparent that it was too big. But again, instead of focusing on my needs, the sales associate thought about her own agenda and insisted that the jacket looked great. This caused me to lose any remaining trust that I had with the sales associate and exit the boutique immediately. After all, if I can't trust her to be honest about the fit of a jacket, how can I trust her with my credit card information?

4) She told the customer what to do: Marketers can always try to sway a customer's behavior. But ultimately, the customer will behave how he or she wants. Telling my mother that she should text me pictures of the clothes she thought I would like after she said that she would come back was just out of line. That's not trying to persuade someone; that's outright telling them what to do. Just because a customer doesn't immediately make a purchase, doesn't mean that she's gone for good. In this case, however, there's no chance of winning me back.

Wanted: More Left-Leaning CMOs

Wanted: More Left-Leaning CMOs

Winning in marketing today requires leaning just a bit to the left—in terms of analytical thinking, not political leanings. Indeed, “The Arrival of Left-Brained Leaders and the Rise of the Marketing Department” is the title of a chapter in coauthors Russell Glass and Sean Callahan's book, The Data-Driven Business: How to Use Big Data to Win Customers, Beat Customers, and Boost Profits. And for good reason…

“As data-driven marketing has become the predominant model of marketing,” write Glass and Callahan, head of B2B product and senior manager of content marketing at LinkedIn, respectively, “the kinds of people who practicing marketing and advertising are certainly different sorts than they used to be, even five years ago…”

These new marketers are much more analytical, according to the coauthors, who provide numerous examples. At Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), for example, the director of global brand and digital marketing organizes his marketing team into three marketing “types.”

  1. Content Jockeys: those who write white papers, blogs, and articles and produce videos
  2. Infra-Jockeys: those who design, operate, and maintain the marketing technology environment
  3. Demand Gen Jockeys: those who “optimize demand generation efforts using sophisticated marketing automation systems”

The first category represents a relatively traditional marketing type: folks who can flex their creative thinking and communicate well. The second two categories, which are obviously more technology-focused, represent the present and future of marketing. Glass and Callahan do not claim that creativity is becoming irrelevant; instead, they argue that the technology and analytics skills are becoming much more relevant, and more valuable.

The book provides some useful practices for marketers looking to become more analytical; these include:

Consistent reporting and business metrics: The coauthors point o Joe Payne, former CEO of Eloqua, who emphasizes that he always exhorted his marketing executives to share a consistent report—containing the same metrics—when presenting at weekly executive meetings. These measures, Payne also emphasizes, should be real; that is, tied to performance outcomes. CFOs do not make up their own metrics, Payne explains, and neither should CMOs.

Accountability: Marketers should be held accountable for their investments and the results that their spending produces (or doesn't). The CMO of software firm Domo stresses that this accountability means that marketing needs to report in its revenue contribution, as opposed to reporting that it won a marketing award.

Perseverance: One of the most challenging obstacles marketers face when trying to become more analytical may be “their own innate creative tendencies,” according to Payne and the coauthors. Some marketers view the analytical mandate as a directive to become boring.

They shouldn't, according to another expert the coauthors cite: Glen Cow, CEO of marketing technology firm Crimson Marketing. “The vast majority of CMOs out there—maybe really the entire marketing department—are what we called right-brained people,” Cow says. “They are hired for their creative abilities and their ability to drive outbound marketing campaigns and then do branding. The world has changed very, very quickly, and it requires left-brained talent. It requires people who can make sense of the data that's coming in.”

7 Marketing Musts from the Global Head of Facebook's Marketing Partners Program

7 Marketing Musts from the Global Head of Facebook's Marketing Partners Program

How often do you check Facebook? If you're like most mobile users, the answer is 14 times a day.

Think you're addicted? You're not alone. The social network has 1.44 billion active users, according to March 2015 data, and 936 million of them check Facebook every day. There are also four billion video views on Facebook every day, and one out of every five minutes consumers spend on a smartphone is dedicated to Facebook or its acquired photo-sharing app Instagram.

From a marketing standpoint, Steve Irvine is one of the people responsible for progressing Facebook's growth. Irvine is the global head of Facebook's Marketing Partners program—an initiative launched in December 2009 as the Preferred Developer Consultant program and then dubbed the Preferred Marketing Developer program in April 2012. As the current leader of Facebook's Marketing Partners, he works with marketing technology companies to optimize the social platform's advertising capabilities.

“Our goal at the end of the day is really to make Facebook the best place for marketers to grow their businesses using these technology-enabled partnerships,” he said.

So what is Facebook focusing on this coming year? Four words: Creativity. Data. Measurement. Mobile. I had the chance to sit down with Irvine at ONE Teradata Marketing Festival in Las Vegas last week and discuss how the social network is tying all four into its strategy. Here's what Irvine had to say, as well as the seven Facebook marketing lessons that I took away from that lucid conversation.

1. Targeting requires creativity to be truly effective.

I can target you, but if the content that I'm giving you is still fairly generic and not relevant to you, it actually negates all of the value of the targeting. Trying to find ways to deliver more personalized content and creative, especially in rich formats like video, can be challenging for brands that are used to doing one big TV spot. Being able to change the tools that they used, even change the way that their agency thinks about creating that creative in the first place, has started to be—and continues to be—a big focus for us.

2. Video is a powerful tool, but marketers are still figuring out how to best leverage it.

There's definitely a lot of hype now around video. We've now got four billion video views a day, which is just a ridiculous amount of video that's being consumed on Facebook right now. It makes sense because [Facebook is] a discovery platform.... Even if I'm just snacking—like I have five minutes in line at a Starbucks, and I'm bored; and I want to check in on what's happening in my life—I go there, and I can discover really interesting things.

There's amazing opportunity there for video to deliver the sight, sound, and motion to those people and [provide] that arresting creative. I recently heard it called thumb-stopping creative, which I think is a great way to think about it. [It's] when you're going through a feed, scrolling through, and you stop somebody, get them to pay attention and be interested in your work, for example. A lot of clients are trying to solve for that. We're early. 

There are great examples, and there are folks that have definitely not figured it out yet. But that type of experience is one that clients really want to be able to figure out quickly because it gives them scale, as well as a really relevant way to stay connected to the customer.

3. Marketers are competing with, well, everyone.

This historical model of As long as I'm slightly better at marketing or our creative is slightly more relevant than our competitors, I'm going to win misses the bigger picture. That's not who you're competing with. You're competing with my best friend who just got married and my sister's kid who just started walking—a lot of these big moments in my life. That's a different bar than the one that we set before. That requires some change management on the brand side.

4. That means marketers need to raise the bar to meet consumers' content expectations.

The ambition has always been, for us at Facebook, to make sure that the commercial content that you see in your newsfeed is at the same level as content [and] stories that you'd see from friends. It's a bit ambitious. But when you see a really well-targeted, high-quality ad in your feed that's relevant to you, it does meet the bar....

Basketball is my favorite sport. [So] I might see an ad from Nike, Adidas, or somebody that's just a great piece of creative. Maybe it connects with me; I want to share it; I want to talk about it; it's right in my feed. It's just as valuable as a lot of things that my friends would [post]. If I had a feed full of that type of content, I would love it. I wouldn't need to be able to distinguish between the two. It would give me the same pleasure if I go through [either one], and it would totally fit and meet the bar of the personal updates that I'm seeing from my friends. That's our ambition. I don't think that we always get there, and I think some brands have gotten there faster than others. But the ambition for us at Facebook is to keep that quality bar really high.

5. Mobile shouldn't be treated as a separate channel (especially since it offers many of the same capabilities as other channels).

Mobile should not be viewed as a discreet channel. That's the thing that people get wrong, too. Mobile is a consumer behavior. It's not like one other thing you do. It actually could mirror the properties of any existing [channel]. If the reason that you do TV is because you want sight, sound, and motion at scale, you can get that with mobile. The reason that you do email and some digital is because you can get very targeted and reach people in real-time; you can hit that value proposition in mobile. Why do you do radio? Because you want people on-the-go, out of their homes.... That's the one thing that people get wrong. It's not a vertical pillar in your plan. It should probably be this horizontal transformative thing that actually changes the way that you think about your entire mix.

6. Marketers need to consider the entire mobile experience.

People really need to think about the mobile experience. Part A of the mobile experience is that it's dominated by apps, not Web. Part B is that the real estate [within apps] on the phone is very constructed from what we're used to in digital. So you get a richer experience in...apps, but less space to be able to operate in. That's what is driving a lot of feeds where you can still get a full screen, versus a banner ad, which is [an] even smaller, microscopic thing at the bottom [and] is really difficult to get [consumers] to break through with those formats—even though they were the standard when you look at it on your computer for a long period of time. So [it's] just understanding that [mobile is] a pretty significant change for a consumer and we need to make sure that we understand that reality if we're going to be able to plan for it.

7. Consumers vote with their attention.

Mobile people vote with their attention.... Understanding where they're spending their time and how they're spending their time is really critical upfront to be able to build anything of substance on that front.

Readers Sound Off on the Digital Postal Service

Readers Sound Off on the Digital Postal Service

A couple of weeks ago in this space,we laid out the many positive aspects of the U.S. Postal Service as a marketing channel (high response, exclusive access, mass scale) and wondered whether its reputation as dowdy and deficit-ridden old warhorse could be turned around if it were reinvented as a digital startup. We got some reactions to the story from some notables of the digital world, and here we present their thoughts.

“First, let's understand that the situation for them has changed dramatically. They are no longer the only way to communicate. In fact, they are likely near the bottom half of a long list of ways individuals communicate today. Most of us get way too many items we never asked for via the USPS—and this is where the transformation must begin,” wrote David Trice (left), CEO of Engage.cx, who sold Revenue Technologies to Oracle in 2007 and then helped the company bring FusionCRM to market.

To make the mail more like digital communications, Trice posited, it's imperative for the Postal Service to allow consumers to filter what mail they get from marketers. “As a consumer, I need to get my bills, and I want to hear from Lands End, but I don't want to hear from real estate agents.I also don't want credit card offers by the dozen,” Trice contended. “If the USPS gave me control over what was delivered, then I would give them control to share that data with the respective brands I care most about. It likely goes without saying, but this should all be done via a mobile app.”

The head of a noted Silicon Valley agency saw Trice's idea and raised it one. “It strikes me that there's a great first-party data opportunity for USPS to capitalize on,” wrote David Rodnitzky (left), CEO of 3Q Digital, whose clientele includes Facebook, Fitbit, MyWebGrocer, and Warby Parker. “Marketers already use postal addresses to match the customers in their database to consumers online. The USPS could offer the reverse of this concept. If someone clicks on an ad online, the USPS could use first-party data to automatically send that consumer a direct mail offer that is customized to what they clicked on.”

Dave Wakeman, a political campaign consultant who ran direct mail campaigns for Barack Obama and John Kerry thinks a postal-to-digital transformation must be preceded by a tearing down and rethinking of the customer proposition. “While the USPS has a monopoly on people's doors and mailboxes, it also has a bad reputation for service. By recasting itself digitally, it can reshape its customer experience to create programs like ‘postage on demand' and ‘hassle free shipping' that will tap into the tools and products that the USPS has at its disposal, but translated to the digital age,” Wakeman (left) suggested. 

Trice, too, had some ideas around the Postal Service making the most of what it's already got. He put forth a concept he calls “Community Mail”—a high-value, Uber-inspired, local concept.“Mail going from one side of a ZIP Code to the other is mail between people who know each other—wedding invitations, graduation notices, etc.” Trice wrote. “Here USPS has a distinct and differentiated service offering that should be positioned as such. For instance, they could offer delivery bundled with flowers or partnered with Uber for rides home from events.”

Any more great postal ideas out there? Email them to me at al.urbanski@dmnews.com.

A Bit of Insight Into Customer Analytics

A Bit of Insight Into Customer Analytics

If there's one thing that I've learned about relationships, it's this: You have to spend time getting to know the little details about a person. It's the small, intimate facts that are the building blocks for a strong relationship.

The same goes for marketers.

For them, those tiny details come in the form of analytics. More specifically, customer insights that can help you craft more impactful messages for your audiences. And we all know that intelligent, personal marketing can translate to deep affinity and, of course, heightened sales.

I had a chance to have a one-on-one with Ken Bisconti, IBM's customer analytics business leader while attending the company's Amplify 2015 conference in San Diego. We chatted about how insight can make all the difference, when data can actually hurt your efforts, and the future of analytics.

How are analytics and customer experience tied to each other?
So especially in the world of digital, brands of all different industries are very focused on delivering superior customer experience. And customer experience today—in our multichannel, highly digital world—is going to separate the winners from the losers. That's because if you have a product that's relatively on par with other products or a service that's on par with other services, my overall customer experience and overall relationship with that brand will determine my loyalty to them.

Now in the form of analytics, we use customer analytics—or customer experience analytics—to try to provide holistic understanding of what experience we are actually delivering or even what our customers are enduring, if it's not positive.

Tell me: What do you feel fuels intelligent marketing?
Well, it's a big topic. Marketing is a big topic. I think that knowing your customers—knowing who you're trying to attract to your brand—is key to intelligent marketing. Delivering superior customer experience and building a lifelong, two-way relationship is one of the sort of basis for intelligent marketing. In order to do that, you need to use data. And data is not just in the form of CRM systems, purchased mailing lists, or other demographics. Data is in the form of what to bear to better understand my customer. And understanding them in context is key to intelligent marketing so that I'm able to deliver. Trying to uncover what's their intent is also instrumental in the ability to practice intelligent marketing.

What do you feel like the ultimate goal should be for using analytics?
The goal for using analytics is to make data a competitive advantage. So for a marketer to be effective, you need to be able to make decisions that are informed regarding which investments you are making and which tactics you are going to execute, which will have the biggest impact on achieving your intended result.

And you need to be able to also add to this, which I think is new: visibility and insight on the experiences that you're delivering to your intended customers. I really mean this in relation to a digital world. In a physical world, you can watch people as they move about your store. People come and you see who they are; you see what they're doing; you see if they're sort of browsing or if they're really interested. You have a physical view. Once you move to a digital channel, in most cases you completely lose that visibility. Without analytics, I'm flying blind. I have no ideas expect that a purchase happened. Struggles, intentions, motives. Analytics gives me a look into much of that.

Is there ever a time when data—and the insights derived from that data—can hurt a marketing message?
That's a great question. Um, I think that like any argument, if you're bringing the wrong data or the wrong analytics to the table, you'll make the wrong decisions. It's based on a data point that's out of context or perhaps dirty data. So analytics can have a negative result if you're trying to use the data as a decision-making tool, and you have the wrong info.

So what is the future of analytics?
Well, I'm really excited about analytics. In the world of customer analytics, I'm so excited. I think that we are moving to a position where we will very soon be able to clear and complete insight on multichannel journeys—which is a really interesting challenge. Trying to correlate, for instance, pre-purchase behavior that happens on a mobile device that results in a conversion on the Web or in a store is the way of the future. Being able to stitch together those journeys across channels is exciting.

I also think that the increased use of social and predictive analytics—on top of these customer experience analytics—gives us the opportunity to really optimize our understanding, including intent and attitudinal data. Predictive analytics allows us to take action and get some result on an insight.

Organizational Alignment Succeeds or Fails Through Incentives

Organizational Alignment Succeeds or Fails Through Incentives

The message at SiriusDecisions' 2015 Summit is clear: “Marketing, product management, and sales need to be aligned to drive business growth,” John Neeson said during his keynote. “The hallmark of a high-performing organization is the alignment of those three areas.”

Neeson, cofounder and managing director of SiriusDecisions, cited convincing data from a recent study by the research firm: Alignment can lead to 5 to 36% of an organization's growth. Plus, businesses that closely align marketing, product management, and sales may grow faster than industry peers.

According to SiriusDecisions' research, businesses with high alignment showed 19% faster revenue growth and 15% more profit than the other companies studied. Most organizations are just fighting to get and stay aligned, Neeson said. For those business, and even for the leaders, alignment is an ongoing journey.

Neeson cited six factors to neccessary for improving alignment among marketing, product management, and sales teams: shared strategy, go-to-market approach, and success measures; organizational alignment; common, integrated processes; and shared technology.

One element that can derail alignment, Tony Jaros discussed in his keynote, is compensation. “Incentive compensation is the third rail in marketing, product [management], and sales alignment,” said Jaros, SVP and chief research officer at SiriusDecisions.

You get what you pay for

The wrong variable compensation can cause conflict and create fiefdoms instead of encourage collaboration. Alignment becomes impossible in an environment with competing goals.

Jaros recommended (not surprisingly) following SiriusDecision's B2B Incentive Framework, which encourages business leaders to consider both the strategy behind and the execution of incentive compensation plans.

There are several elements that should comprise an incentive compensation strategy:

Define – Agree on the types of incentives to use.
Decide – Select the variable incentive elements that will work best for the organization.
Evolve – Adjust the expectations of each role based on the new strategy.

Execution is composed of three main elements:

Enhance – Provide the knowledge and skills the staff needs to succeed.  
Support – Improve the infrastructure to help employees meet expectations.
Monitor – Track performance on an ongoing basis to ensure that the incentive compensation                                      strategy is driving the expected actions and performance.

Beware the shadows

When selecting variable incentives, Jaros said, consider that they're meant as a bonus for achieving a specific, stated goal. So, incentive compensation targets should be results oriented, and based on such activities as pipeline growth, revenue, profitability, retention, and offering mix. When selecting targets, he said, consider the company's growth strategy. Is the primary goal, for example, to acquire new customers? Increase retention? A blend of both? Set targets and incentives accordingly.

Jaros cautioned attendees to beware of what he called shadow incentives. These incentives aren't documented and typically are a reward for employees doing something outside of their normal responsibilities. They're usually non-financial in nature. But used incorrectly or unwittingly, shadow incentives can backfire. They may promote behaviors that lead to such problems as employees decreasing time spent on their defined responsibilities or internal competition.

Jaros cited an example of a company that in the past, when hiring new telesales employees, sometimes implicitly or explicitly noted that success in the role is a path to the sales team. Instead of encouraging positive behavior, this shadow incentive caused some telesales reps to attempt to close deals that should have been passed to the sales teams.

“Shadow incentives aren't all bad,” Jaros said, “as long as they're acknowledged and managed to.” Find them, he said, understand why they exist, and make necessary adjustments.

Whether planning variable compensation or shadow incentives, ensure that the related targets are clearly communicated and achievable, or employees won't change their current behaviors. The internalized response will be: “If I don't understand the compensation, I'll just keep doing my job the way I always have been.”

Jaros also warned against setting incentives as an afterthought. “They have to be part of the strategy,” he said, adding that there has to be governance represented by sales, marketing, and product management to ensure that incentive compensation supports alignment among the three teams, versus creating conflict.

In fact, Neeson emphasized in his keynote the importance of each team doing their part to ensure alignment among them. “There are no heroes in alignment, there is only a catalyst,” he said. “Be the catalyst.”

The Plight of the Man in the Plaid Jacket

The Plight of the Man in the Plaid Jacket

Those handful of you who've read my blogs before may recall that my sordid past includes a stint as a New York City cab driver. In my desire to try my hand at some of the more detestable of American occupations, I also sold cars in the early 2000s, when I was involuntarily dissociated from my high-paying career as the chief editor of a noted business journal. (Talk about sordid.) This I'll tell you. Just about all of the bad things you think about car salesmen are true, and then some. We sat in the showroom, scanning the lot for “ups,” which is what we called suck…I mean prospects…and then tried to “put them in a car” for the highest price possible. Now, before you go getting all high and mighty, remember, you're marketers. Do you build brands in an attempt to make your margins lower? Or do you pay Kim Kardashian to wear your flip-flops or your designer sunglasses to make the gulf between your production cost in Jiangsu and your price on Prada.com as wide as the East China Sea? We had an Internet sales manager at Baker Chrysler Jeep Dodge back then, but all he did was scour the Web for leads and turn them over to us shark…um, sales professionals…who would do or say anything to get them inside the showroom.

But digital, as you well know, changes everything, even the time-hallowed American tradition of overpaying for a new car. Today Edmunds, the third-party automotive purchase adviser, launches a new service that will tie car shoppers together with dealers via SMS texts. Car buyers will now be able to text local Jeep dealers to see if they have a 2012 red or green Grand Cherokee Limited in stock. And even more amazingly to this old car jockey, dealers engaging in the program—and there are 3,100 of them signed up—will text back a picture of the vehicle and even a guaranteed price.

“We saw the statistic that 90% of people text at least once a day, and we realized that there were shockingly few ways for people to do outbound texting to retailers or sellers of any kind,” says Edmunds President Seth Berkowitz. “We were eyeing that gap and then, serendipitously, a company called Carcode emerged as one of 12 finalists in our Hackamotive program.”

Hackamotive is a business-acceleration program Edmunds runs for tech startups. Carcode, which set up a system for text communications with dealerships, became one of four Hackamotive finalists, which are given access to the company's clients and internal Web traffic for testing. Any resulting innovation can be further explored by either the startups or Edmunds. But Berkowitz and fellow senior managers were so impressed with Carcode's results that they decided to acquire it, which they did last October.

“The most natural thing for shoppers is to text the dealership,” Berkowitz says. “We believe that for the foreseeable future, texting is going to be the preferred mode of communication between buyers and dealers. People are already checking our website via mobile for inventory on a dealership's Web listing. Until now, they'd have to call the dealership or send an email and wait for a call back. Now they can just text.”

Edmunds' test run of the Carcode turned up some interesting shopper insights, namely the top four things buyers wanted to hear from sellers, in this order:


1.    Is the car in stock?

2.    Price?

3.    Can I get credit?

4.    What will you give me for my trade-in?

This is not surprising. What has been surprising to some of the huge dealer groups that tested out Carcode is that they can come close to closing a sale without ever having taken an “up” for a test drive or made him or her cool their heels in the dealership lounge for 45 minutes while the salesperson did God knows what. Amazing!

“We are also beginning to uncover a whole other order of intelligence, information that over time will help dealers understand what's behind what people are asking,” Berkowitz says. “For instance, if people ask for deep features like a specific color or all-wheel drive, they close at a two to three times higher rate.”

Berkowitz has been with Edmunds since 2000 and has witnessed digital shopping methods cause wholesale changes in the buying process. More than a third of people visiting Edmunds.com for model prices get there via mobile devices today versus only about 5% just five years ago. Also, more than half of the traffic is comprised of people between the ages of 18 and 34, a huge used car-buying segment. (Contrary to comedic lore, the used car salesman is elite. There's little room for bargaining in new cars. It's in used cars where the true artists and earners emerge.) “The final piece of the puzzle is changing the mode of communications between users and dealers,” Berkowitz says.

Few car shoppers will miss the demise of the Mad Men of the Motor Trade. As an alumnus of that fraternity, all I can do is mark the inevitable cessation of that very American pas de deux between wary buyer and confident seller. The tentative dance between the sales desk and the sales manager's office, the ironic glare of the finance guy, the rush to get a buyer to take the car home right away before he can have a day to figure out he overpaid by $500.

Digital technology is remorseless in its dismantling of longstanding American traditions.

Leverage Real-Time Events in Multichannel Marketing in 5 Steps

Leverage Real-Time Events in Multichannel Marketing in 5 Steps

Time is money, and no practice solidifies this adage more than real-time marketing.

But what exactly constitutes “real time,” anyway? According to research and advisory firm Gartner, real time is “an organization's ability to identify, understand, and rapidly respond to opportunities and threats within the right-time moments that can impact business advantage.”

“We're talking about being at the ready between company and customer,” Adam Sarner, research VP of Gartner, said at the ONE Teradata Marketing Festival in Las Vegas.

Companies can leverage real-time techniques in a number of ways, too. As Sarner explained, there's real-time communications (thought leadership in response to breaking news), real-time product management (social plays used to generate ideas in less time), real-time engagement (understanding and responding to customers at the right time), and real-time distribution (producing what customers want at greater speed). 

Of course, as with any opportunity, there are challenges. One of the main issues, according to Sarner, is determining how digital marketers can take advantage of multichannel marketing in real time. To help overcome this hurdle, Sarner broke down the five steps marketers need to capitalize on real-time events in a multichannel marketing world.

1) Identify and prioritize events

Sarner encouraged marketers to write down events that are meaningful for the customer and events that are meaningful for the business. Not all events will be meaningful for both parties, he acknowledged. Create a list of relationship-significant events, he advised, and prioritize them to form a more manageable list of events marketers should pay attention to. There should be some events, he explained, that are significant for each side and create a “meeting of the minds.”

2) Categorize the events into "fixed" and "variable" 

Some events are written in stone, such as a birthday or holiday season, Sarner said, while others are variable and therefore more difficult to foresee, such as a change in address, transfer of funds, or poor customer experience. Sarner advised conference attendees to start working on the fixed events because they're less complex and, hence, a good starting point for real-time experimentation.

3) Monitor events

Marketers need to put mechanisms in place, Sarner said, to detect and monitor defined events when and where they happen. And these specific events, he noted, should be monitored and detected regardless of channel. Granted, this might not be feasible for all companies. Therefore, Sarner advised marketers to start by monitoring just a few channels so that they can check for accuracy and accumulate the right data.

“The problem is [that] every time you add a channel, oh boy, does it become more complex,” he said.

4) Optimize

Identify the best interactions, like an offer, based on triggers and engagement, Sarner said. The variables, he said, can include profitability analysis of segments or propensity to churn. Then, he added, get company buy-in by piloting and testing these triggers and interactions. This optimization is important because it allows marketers to test how they can deliver the right message at the right time via the right channel. 

5) Execute

Put simply, this step requires process and automation to scale, Sarner said. And once marketers have completed the previous steps, they can respond to hundreds of different “right-time” events, he noted, such as by routing a script to a call center agent, cross-selling through mobile messaging, or interacting with customers through social (like Morton's Steakhouse did in this cited example).

“Unless we put those five steps into place… you're not going to be able to do fun stuff like this,” he said.

WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell Is Worried About Marketing

WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell Is Worried About Marketing

“I must admit to being rather worried about what's happening,” WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell said at a book launch event for Does It Work? 10 Principles for Delivering True Business Value in Digital Marketing. “Marketing doesn't have the prominence it should” in terms of being taken seriously as a revenue generator.

Sorrell noted that with so much focused on how much consumers and their behaviors have changed, changes in business aren't getting as much attention. Since the financial meltdown of 2008, consumers haven't changed as vastly as corporations have, he said. “Businesses are now totally focused on quarterly results,” Sorrell said, adding that this often leads to bad decisions. “You can't cut your way to success.”

This focus doesn't surprise Sorrell considering the circumstances. Two examples: Disrupters like Uber are displacing traditional businesses; and C-level turnover is rampant. It's the perfect storm of these circumstances that has led to today's focus on quarterly earnings, he said.

It also leads to clients wanting more for less. “I have no issue with that,” Sorrell said, with the caveat that clients then need to work constructively with their agencies to find a mutually beneficial outcome. He added that clients also need to be comfortable looking at what's ahead and taking action based on that. “They need to stop looking at their shoes and look at the horizon.”

Sorrell talked about four areas WPP focuses on to be successful that any marketer could adapt in their own business. Number one is talent: “You have to have the best talent,” he said. “It's a differentiator.” But you also need to invest in technology, data, and content.

Beyond that, success is about maintaining forward momentum. “We're trying to get traditional [marketing] to be more digital, and get digital to be super-digital,” he said, adding that doing so will help to build more awareness of the value of marketing.

Showing value through results

Sorrell was setting the stage for authors Shane Atchison, global CEO, and Jason Burby, president Americas, of WPP agency Possible, to discuss Does It Work? The new book, which includes a forward by Sorrell, outlines 10 ways to show the value of marketing that Sorrell discussed in his welcome remarks.

In discussing the genesis of Does It Work? Atchison explained that marketers today need to be accountable and measure what matters. “It's rare to see a hypothesis in a creative brief,” he said. Atchison also emphasized the importance of goals in marketing, for accountability and for showing marketing's value—as well as to have a point of reference for success. “If you don't have variance to a goal, you don't have a goal,” he said.

Burby added that marketers should be speaking to their customers as individuals, not as a broad group. “Very few organizations are doing personalization,” he said. And then added, “One size fits no one.” That phrase is one of the 10 principles from the book. 

They are:

Business goals are everything. Enough said.

A collective vision. Teams need to work in a unified manner. Not doing so isn't just a bad business practice, it could lead to costly errors.

Data inspires creativity. Used correctly data supports creativity, versus stifling it.

Finding unicorns. Hire and nurture top talent.

Culture predicts success and failure. Ensure yours encourages success.

Measure what matters. Likes are nice; purchases are what matter.

What it's worth. Use relative-value model to spend marketing budgets wisely.

Never stop improving. Hypothesize, test, measure, and optimize.

One size fits no one. Personalize communications, target wisely, be relevant and contextual. Treat valued customers like you know them.

Framework for innovation. Keep moving forward and innovating or watch competitors pass you by and customers move on. 

Don't Let Digital Give You a False Sense of Precision

Don't Let Digital Give You a False Sense of Precision

A friend once said to me, “When it comes to shoes, ‘need' is a relative term.” We've all experienced a similarly loose definition of need when making purchase decisions.

As Shar VanBoskirk, a Forrester Research VP and principal analyst, pointed out in her keynote at Forrester's 2015 Forum for Marketing Leaders: Most choices are the triumph of “something” over reason.

“We don't reason our way through to the best answer, but marketers presume that we do,” she said. “Marketers believe that we'll choose the right answer…. But we overeat, oversleep, and consistently choose without regard for the consequences.”

The situation, VanBoskirk explained, is that people don't have the processing power to review all the information the way they should. They take mental shortcuts. A long line outside a restaurant means it must be tasty. “We preserve mental energy by making habits,” she said. “We biologically crave comfort, and tend to be change-averse as a result.”

So, although digital disruption creates opportunity for consumers, it also provides stress, VanBoskirk said, adding that this situation can be a boon to marketers who approach it properly: by reducing customers' stress in making a purchase decision, not by coercing a transaction. Doing the latter is a bad practice that's also misleading to marketers. “Digital disruption provides marketers opportunity to prompt decisions without rational consideration by consumers,” she said, adding that, as a result, “digital gives marketers a false sense of precision.”

VanBoskirk advised attendees to invest to be an anchor brand for customers. “There's no more important position to hold,” she said. An anchor brand is the reference point to which buyers compare all other options, and is the go-to option when buyers can't decide. “So, even if you love direct response, you have to invest in your brand,” VanBoskirk asserted.

She cited four types of purchase decisions that marketers can try to help potential customers make through their marketing: Routine, leisure, urgent, and important.

Routine decisions are all about price, habit, and convenience. VanBoskirk cited Amazon Dash as an example of a service that helps consumers form a habit around purchasing from the e-tailer. “Make it as easy as possible to choose you,” she said. “Make your product convenient and habit-forming.”

Leisure decisions are considered decisions that people can get lost in while exploring options. VanBoskirk advised marketers for companies in this category to curate options.

Urgent decisions are about credibility, validation, and risk mitigation. Marketers' role here is to instill confidence. Turbo Tax, VanBoskirk pointed out, prioritizes user content on its site to show the former two, as well as offers its Refund DoubleCheck service, which helps with the latter.

Important decisions require guidance and information. VanBoskirk recommended facilitating important decisions for customers. Allstate's GoodHome app is an example; users are 350% more likely to ask for a quote than those who don't use it.

“Help people choose you,” VanBoskirk said. “Market to reduce stress.”

What if the Postal Service Reemerged as a Digital Startup?

What if the Postal Service Reemerged as a Digital Startup?

Data-driven marketers like to talk a game of following the numbers. Count exactly how many people shared your pre-roll video ad, track how many took another action as a result, count conversions and resulting revenue, rinse, modify, and repeat. Yet there are numbers that float about in the digital world that I really need someone to explain to me. This one, for instance: $41.2 billion.

That's the valuation of Uber, essentially a taxicab company. I never knew anyone who got rich driving a cab. When I was a hack in New York City in the '80s, I'd be lucky if I took home $100 for a 12-hour shift. That might be $300 today, but where are all the billions coming from? Especially considering that, in Manhattan, probably the most active taxi market in the nation, Uber has some 13,000 medallion cabs to contend with. The genius of Uber's owners is that they positioned themselves as a tech company. They're not a bunch of crappy cars with gum wads and vomit stains in the back seat, they're an app! They're a digital button dedicated to free movement. And I'm wondering if the U.S. Postal Service and its new CMO, former tech boss Jim Cochrane, can't find some way to reposition themselves with a digital flair?

But first, more numbers. Consider these annual 2014 revenue comparisons:

Amazon: $89 billion

USPS: $67 billion

Google: $66 billion

Facebook: $12.5 billion

Didn't think that the tired, old Post Office was five times bigger than Facebook, did you? Or that it was the same size as Google, which owns digital pictures of all the addresses that the Postal Service delivers to but doesn't deliver anything to them. News accounts focus on the government agency's troubled financial state, question its survival, and wonder why it shouldn't be privatized. That won't happen for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that members of Congress would have to explain why they signed off on the loss of thousands of good government jobs in their districts. But the fact of the matter is that the old Post Office is showing signs of life. It puts up consistent losses because it is forced to pre-pay retiree health benefits to the tune of $6.5 billion per annum, something no corporate board would dare dream of doing. Last year, had the USPS been relieved of that responsibility, it would have shown an operating profit of $1.4 billion and when (or if) the next postal reform bill is passed, it very likely will be relieved of that burden.

But if that reform legislation does not arrive, I suggest that new Postmaster General Megan Brennan and new marketing chief Cochrane consider a Bruce Jenner-like transformation to digital status. Aside from the new aura of relevancy they will acquire, they will get a pass on bad results from the financial press. Amazon normally posts quarterly losses, which it did again in its most recent quarter. It remains a darling of Wall Street because of the retail power it has amassed, and rightly so. But it still loses money, and that's a fact. At a meeting of the marketing research minds of the three top social media companies a few weeks ago, I heard Facebook's Dan Slotwiner say, “We're still early on in monetizing this thing.” If Amazon and Facebook can get away with investing in the future, why not you, USPS? Especially since your marketing results are so much more firmly established?

Slotwiner mentioned that Facebook did not yet have enough historical data compiled on its advertising business to formulate all the right moves and strategies. USPS does have a history. Back to the stats. Here are response rates for various marketing channels according the the Direct Marketing Association:

Catalogs: 4.26%

Oversized Mail: 3.95%

Letter Mail: 3.40%

Email: 0.12%

Display ad: 0.00%

Paid Search: 0.00%

If I mail 1 million pieces and get responses via BREs or postcards or URLs or PURLs, I can count exactly, say, 39,502 responses. Email can count, too, but the count is much lower (if cheaper to obtain). Response rates from display and search are too far to the right of the decimal point to matter.

So what if the senior managers of the Postal Service had one of those “Let's run it up the flagpole” meetings where they asked themselves to imagine that they were a digital startup and not the descendants of the Pony Express. They could tell investors they were as big as Google. But unlike Google—or even direct competitors like UPS or FedEx for that matter—they owned a monopoly on access to the front doors of homes and businesses in America. What if deliveries became billions of “customer engagements” that they guaranteed to clients via their exclusive rights to transmit to "communications devices" attached to every door in America. And what if they could prove they had the “permission” of every business and resident in the country to fill their "inboxes" with messages? And that people interacted with these messages at a significantly higher rate than they did with email?

If the U.S. Postal Service were a digital startup, what do you think its Series A funding would be? Of course, it wouldn't be easy, Megan and Jim, but it is a notion Uber which to ponder.

5 Commercials That Remind Us Why Moms Are the Best

5 Commercials That Remind Us Why Moms Are the Best


When I was in first grade, I decided to buy my mom a Mother's Day present using my own money. I didn't have a lot of dough at six years old. After all, my only source of income was money from the tooth fairy and the occasional dollar bill tucked inside of a birthday card. But I was determined. So I gathered up my change and searched the house for loose coins. With my pennies and nickels in hand, I walked over to the neighborhood candy and gift shop Winkies.

Once there, I scoured the shelves for a present that I could afford on a one dollar budget. Then, I saw it: a beautiful vase for 99 cents. It may have been made out of plastic, but in my eyes it was as striking as Swarovski crystal. It was perfect.

I brought the vase over to the register where I dumped my change onto the counter. The cashier counted my coins, and then told me some startling news. “You don't have enough,” she says. Bewildered, I assured her that she was wrong. “Oh no,” I said. “This vase costs 99 cents.” “Yes,” she agreed. “But with tax, it comes out to $1.05.”

Tax? What's this tax thing she's talking about? I thought. My six-year-old self had never heard of such a concept. “Why would you list the price at 99 cents if the vase cost $1.05?” I argued. But the cashier remained firm and held onto the vase.

Not wanting to leave empty handed or make the five-block trek home—that's quite far when you have little legs—I told the cashier to hold on and I again started scouring for loose change.

After a few minutes of searching, I managed to locate a dime. I'm pretty sure a nice man watching my feverish search dropped it for me to find. I plopped the dime on the counter, took the tissue-wrapped vase from the cashier, and walked back home beaming with pride.

On Mother's Day, I gave my mom the vase and proudly told her how I paid for it all by myself. I even told her about my first unpleasant experience with tax. But unlike me at the time, she was quite familiar with the concept. To this day, my mom says that the vase is still one of the best gifts that I have ever given her. Why? Because she knew how heartfelt it was and how hard I worked to get it for her. But that's what moms do every day, right? They go the extra mile and work tirelessly to ensure that their children are fed, healthy, happy, and loved.

With Mother's Day right around the corner, marketers are striving to produce the most tear-jerking, warm-fuzzy-inducing messages in the industry—all to convince consumers that the brand's products are just what they need to thank Mom for all that she's done. But condensing all of moms' sacrifices and love into one 30-second spot isn't easy. However, the following five brands, in my opinion, have succeeded by relying on storytelling, cutting back on overt branding, and relating to moms by acknowledging all that they do.


Minute Maid 

Minute Maid's “Parents #doingood” video is one of the more recent odes to moms. In the digital ad, the juice brand asks moms and dads to describe how they think they're doing as a parent. After hearing their responses, Minute Maid asks the parents to read letters from their kids in which they describe their mom's or dad's parenting abilities—enforcing the brand's message that “you're doing better than you think.” Bring on the tissues.


The video, which was uploaded to YouTube on April 26, has more than 385,000 views on the brand's official channel. Minute Maid also included a link in the film's description that takes viewers to its website, which includes details about its products, as well as parenting articles—such as tips for better mother-daughter communication and recipes for making rock candy. 

Not only does this ad pull on consumers' heartstrings, but it also offers parents a valuable resource that they can revisit—once again reinforcing the power of quality content.



“The Unique Connection” by jewelry company Pandora is another relatively recent mommy marketing move. In the ad, blindfolded children are guided toward a lineup of women and asked to identify their mothers based on their other senses and instincts. Of course, the video shows the young participants succeeding. Here come the water works.


This video, which has garnered more than 14.6 million YouTube views on the brand's official channel, does an excellent job of aligning its brand message with the story's message: Just as jewelry is unique, every woman is different and every connection a mother has with her child is one of a kind.




My mother was quite loyal to the Pampers brand when my brother and I were babies—but that's not why I chose this ad. The video, “Mom's First Birthday” by Pampers Japan, illustrates the hardships and fears women take on during their first year of motherhood.


The best part about this video is that you forget that it's even a diaper commercial until the Procter & Gamble-owned company flashes its logo at the end. The film, which now has more than 4.6 million views on the brand's YouTube channel, also resonates with new moms and takes moms with older children on a trip down memory lane.

Acknowledging consumers' life experiences and pain points is always important, especially when trying to relate to a core audience. But showing appreciation for all that your customers do shows that you value them on an entirely different level. Pampers even takes this appreciation one step further by including a link in the video descriptions that, when clicked on, takes viewers to a page where they can send their own thank you notes.




Yes, it's another P&G commercial. What can I say? The consumer goods company knows good storytelling.

“Pick Them Back Up" was part of P&G's "Thank You, Mom" campaign for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, as well as a sequel to the “Best Job" film, which debuted at the London 2012 Olympic Games and earned more than 21 million views. The film, which premiered in January 2015, features the mothers of four athletes from around the world and how these women encourage their children to fulfill their dreams, even when they stumble on their journeys to achieve them. When I first wrote about the spot just three days after it originally debuted, it had already earned more than 2.8 million views on the brand's official YouTube channel.


Consumers' relationship with P&G evolves as their lives evolve. From diapers to shaving razors, consumers can turn to P&G to fulfill multiple needs as they grow—but only if that brand trust is established early on. Brands need to prove that they understands their customers. And whether the consumer is the mom of a toddling baby or the parent of an Olympic athlete, P&G understands that all moms share similar experiences—like teaching their children to walk, comforting them when they fall, and feeling their pain when they fail. And just as how mom is always there, P&G wants to reinforce that it will be there for every stage in life, too.



Cardstore.com (American Greetings) 

“World's Toughest Job” is a favorite because it encompasses an element of surprise. In the April 2014 ad, a recruiter interviews candidates for a director of operations position. As the recruiter explains to the candidates that the job requires them to be on their feet all day, work unlimited hours, and refrain from taking any breaks, many of the potential hires question who even would take on such a role. The recruiter insists, however, that there are already billions of people who do—moms. The video concludes with candidates thinking about their own moms, and a call-to-action to send a card on Mother's Day appears on the screen.


So far this video has garnered nearly 23.5 million YouTube views and definitely includes a surprise-and-delight factor; plus it sends a clear call-to-action in an appeasing way. Consumers know that they should buy a card for their mom on Mother's Day. But instead of simply reminding them to do so, Cardstore.com, owned by American Greetings, takes a creative route to remind them why they should.

In today's world, consumers are bombarded with messages of what to buy and where to buy it. It's important for brands to find innovative ways to stand out and ensure that their messages are heard loud and clear.

National Small Business Week Makes a Splash on Social

National Small Business Week Makes a Splash on Social

More than half of Americans either own or work for small businesses. And according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), it's those businesses that create about two out of every three new jobs in the United States each year.

Bottom line: Small businesses are crucial to the health of the U.S. economy. And since 1963, Americans have honored these modest businesses every year during National Small Business Week.

Certainly limited budgets, time, and consumer awareness continue to make it tough to market goods and services of small businesses. But during the past few decades, digital tools and marketing have somewhat leveled the playing field.

For small business owners—and the marketers who work for them—digital can be a blessing and a curse. Sure there are ongoing challenges, like trying to rise above the constant digital noise. But one of digital marketing's most staunch benefits is the lowered barrier of entry into entrepreneurship.

So from May 4 to May 8,  brand marketers, entrepreneurs, employees and even customers are taking to social media in celebration of National Small Business Week.

Here are just a few highlights from the first day of  #SmallBusinessWeek, a.k.a #SBW2015.

Finally, Put Social Media Metrics to Use

Finally, Put Social Media Metrics to Use

These days there's certainly no shortage of data—or metrics for that matter. In fact, if you're not careful, you can end up drowning in a sea of vanity metrics.

Recently, I had a chance to chat with John Donnelly III who's the SVP of sales and marketing at social media analytics company Crimson Hexagon. Donnelly insists that marketers should go beyond the metrics and actually use insights from current—and even historical—social data. He says that using those insights from social media can help companies predict purchase intent and craft relevant, impactful campaigns.

Direct Marketing News: In general, how important are metrics?

JD: Metrics are critical. In addition to letting brands measure the success of campaigns, metrics can uncover deeper insights about audiences that can then be used to shape future campaigns. Of course, the key for any marketer is to ensure that you're tracking the metrics that actually matter.

How important are the metrics that we glean from social media?

Social media metrics are huge—and not just for measuring social campaigns. Social metrics can help brands determine the success of TV commercials, billboards, experiential ads, YouTube videos—you name it. Social is where consumers go to discuss their opinions on just about everything, so it's critical for brands to pay attention.

What are the social metrics that marketers should focus on most?

It really depends on the goals of your campaign, but broadly speaking, marketers have an opportunity to focus more on who is reacting to their campaigns and how that audience is reacting. Rather than just count retweets or the number of times a hashtag was used, brands should look more closely at the qualitative insights behind those numbers. In other words, what opinions are consumers expressing when they're using a hashtag? How can that data help you improve or adjust the campaign going forward?

What makes a particular metric important?

Metrics are important when they're tied to a specific goal or can reveal insights that help you achieve your goals. If your goal is lead generation, tracking social referrals to your website is a whole lot more important than counting retweets. In that scenario, you should also be sure to evaluate which posts lead your audience to click a link and which fell short since this will help you inform social messaging in the future.

What unique insights do social media metrics provide that other channels don't?

Social metrics are unique because they help you answer the why. When you have the right tools, you can really dig down and access the conversational data that helps you understand why an audience clicked a link, what they care about and who influences them. It's even better than a focus group because you can tap into the conversations your consumers are already having, leading to more organic insights.

Is there ever a time when social media metrics are not the best indicator of success, change, or trends?

The fact is that social touches almost every aspect of the marketing operations. Social can always give you a deeper understanding of success, even when it's not the most direct measure. Imagine you're a TV network exec; while the ratings of your show are the most direct indicator of success, social still plays in role in helping you assess the traction of and insights behind those ratings.

What impact on measuring does (or should) social media metrics have on marketing campaigns?

Social media metrics can tell you a lot about your marketing campaigns, no matter what channel that campaign is on. It's the reason why you see so many hashtags in TV commercials. Regardless of the campaign you're running, remember to take social metrics into account—the insights can tell you a lot about how consumers perceive your campaigns. If the reaction on social is negative, you have the opportunity to pivot, quickly.

Are social media metrics the measurement of the future?

Absolutely. That's not to say other metrics are going away, but any brand that wants to maintain a competitive advantage must pay attention to how consumers are reacting to their brand and products on social.

Would-Be Presidents Are All About the Dead Presidents

Would-Be Presidents Are All About the Dead Presidents

Why do I write so much about political candidates in a marketing magazine? Because the people who are desperate to become rulers of the free world do things that product and service marketers would never even think to do. From desperation comes innovation!

Take our current crop of 2016 presidential candidates. They all learned from President Obama's 2012 campaign that a robust email strategy—enhanced by issue and geographic segmentation—is crucial to getting people to donate time and money. But the subject lines on Barack's emails primarily focused on the issues. The Class of 2016, it appears in the early going, is focused on the cash. They want you to pay them for the honor of cramming your inbox on a daily basis. What email marketer would dare try that?

Today I visited Hillary Clinton's campaign site and got a box that said “Join the official campaign.” I entered my email address and ZIP Code and pressed a button that said “Count me in.” But all Hill's people wanted to count was my money. The next page asked you to select a contribution amount. Some deftly written copy explained to me that I need to donate to affirm I was a U.S. citizen, that I was using my own funds, and that I was at least 18 and not a federal contractor. I entered my standard political contribution ($0.00) and three screens later, I was allowed to register as a freeloader and attain the honor of being hit up for money incessantly for the next year and a half.

“For about the next six months, the candidates will be, in effect, running lead-gen campaigns. They're still in the discovery phase and focused on fundraising,” says Zac Moffatt, cofounder of the digital political agency Targeted Victory, which is handling former Texas Governor Rick Perry's presidential run. 

Marco Rubio has the same “Donate Now” message and the same dollar-amount boxes and boilerplate about what information's needed to ante up. I typed in “$0.00” on the Rubio site, pressed “Enter,”and suddenly had the feeling I was out on Sixth Avenue getting hit up by the homeless guy on the corner. “Your registration is almost complete,” said the next page, haranguing me with ubiquitous contribution box. “Will you chip in a few bucks now?” No way. I hit a button that said “Return to the site” and got sent to a page advertising a “Flash Sale” for a butt-ugly T-shirt that was mine for the amazing price of donating $20 or--if I were a highly qualified lead--$2,700. An e-commerce option! Only in America.

Rand Paul looks to be my guy in the early going. His site hits you right in the face with a current tally on a big money board. I like a politician who doesn't pussyfoot. I entered my email address and ZIP and was presented with two options: “Donate Now” or “Learn More.” I pressed the latter and got an instant message saying “We'll be in touch.” Woo-hoo! Rand's going to be in touch, just like that! No doubt it will be to ask me for cash. He also uses personalization, running the names and hometowns of recent donators.

How advanced will the 2016 presidential hopefuls' CRM and marketing automation systems be? “Data? They'll all talk about it, but I don't know if they all got the religion,” Moffatt says. “If you want to be leaders of the free world, you're going to have lots of money and little time. It's like flying an airplane while building it.”

Do Not Track: The Internet "Hangover"

Do Not Track: The Internet "Hangover"


What do gin and Do Not Track have in common? Both can leave a bad taste in your mouth and give you the spins.

Two weeks ago I attended the Tribeca Film Festival in New York for a gin-and-tonic tasting and the festival's Storyscapes exhibit—a collection of interactive media projects. I spotted the documentary series Do Not Track listed on the exhibit's brochure and knew that I'd have to check it out as soon as I finished my tasting. (Yes, I was completely sober after my gin sampling. I'm not much of a gin drinker and probably drank less than half of my cocktail).

For those who haven't seen the film, Do Not Track is a seven-episode personalized documentary–style Web series. Each episode explores a different aspect of privacy and data collection. For instance, I watched episode one, “Morning Rituals,” which explains who collects consumer data and how they benefit. Other episode topics include the role of cookies and Facebook's tracking capabilities.You can watch the trailer for the series at the top of this article.

The series was created from developers, graphic designers, journalists, and media producers from across the globe—including Canada, Germany, France, and the United States—and offers a global perspective on Do Not Track.

“We're trying to make sense of privacy in the digital age just like everybody else,” says Brett Gaylor (pictured), director of the film series and former leader of Mozilla's Webmaker initiative.

The series also addresses many of the questions—some left unanswered—surrounding Do Not Track, such as how much data should third parties be able to collect and are the advertising and digital industries being transparent enough with their consumers?

“There's a bit of a hangover [from] the Internet party right now,” Gaylor says, “where people are trying to figure out, ‘Hey, we never really realized the social and civic consequences of an economy that's based on gathering data about people.'”

Within 48 hours of the series' April 14 premiere, more than 88,000 Web users visited the film's site more than 105,000 times. And in one week, more than 160,600 Web users made more than 175,800 visits. More than 197,200 Web users had visited the film's site as of April 28.

I decided to follow up with Gaylor and ask him about his views on Do Not Track. Here's what he had to say:

How would you define Do Not Track?

It's the browser header that, [when] a user sets it, tells advertising networks that are compliant with the standards that you don't want any information collected about you. It's an entirely opt-in approach and, unfortunately, it's pretty much failed because of that. At least, in the United States, often the industry is left to regulate itself and I disagree with that. This is far too serious of an issue [for] self-regulation. In fact, the United States has some of the most lax regulation in the developing world around these issues. That's what Do Not Track means in the industry sense, but we thought that it was just a pretty great name, so then we thought, "What would Do Not Track the movie look like?" and that's what we made.

What's the biggest misconception consumers have about Do Not Track?

First of all, people have never heard of it. I don't think it's a matter of misconception. Consumers are just not aware of how this economy works. Consumers believe that when they're on a social network like Facebook that the tracking is crude: So, if they like Taylor Swift, they're going to see advertisements for Taylor Swift's new album. They're not really aware of how the algorithms work because—of course—they can't see that; they're secrets. And they aren't really aware of a profile that's built on them based on their browsing habits. They haven't really thought of the idea that if you go to three different sites, then a profile is built that an advertiser can bid against. That's science fiction to most consumers. Let alone the idea of something like Facebook Atlas where you're browsing activity outside of Facebook is informing what goes on on Facbeook. They've never really thought about that. 

I think that extends to a lot of other aspects of people's lives. The thing that really raises people's eyebrows is their phone.... [It's] this idea that my smartphone is still a radio device that's pinging all of these cell phone towers. When I gave my mobile carrier my credit card information and my social security number, I wedded that to that unique device: “Oh yeah, so it's not just this random phone number. It's my identity and everything that goes with that.” Once they realize that, then they might say, “Well, who can have access to it? How much information about somebody do you need to get a warranty? Am I sharing my location data with an appropriate app?” 

Even though apps need to request those permissions I think people are quite blasé about them. There's been a social conditioning to just accept, accept, accept. Once they see it in a broader concept I think that people are...starting to say, “Hold on, flashlight app. Why do you need access to my contacts? What are you doing with that?” That's a good thing for everybody. Ultimately, if the industry is working with an informed set of citizens, rather than “consumers” that are just in the dark about this, that's a much better place to be.

If you had to summarize marketers' approach to Do Not Track in one word, what would it be and why?

I think it's gold rush.... Companies like DoubleClick figured out a way to track people with cookies, but they were sued. Then in the U.S., federal judges said, “Actually, what they're doing is OK.” Once that happened it was sort of a rush to figure out the best way to build these networks. Of course, then they were bought by the giants like Google and Yahoo. It's sort of a land grab. 

What you see now is that any startup that wants to get into this space has to figure out more and more inventive, and sometimes more invasive, ways of tracking people. What that does is create an entire financial environment where people are incentivized to collect more data. Because if you want access to venture capital, they're going to say, “How many eyeballs do you have and what do you know about them?” 

So, it really is kind of a Wild West. Some [ad networks] are starting to get it and build product and services that are respecting citizens' information; others are trying to operate as close to the edge of the law as they can. Advertisers and marketers need to think about their role in shaping social norms around these issues, as well. It's a whole ecosystem.


What do you think that the United States could learn from other countries' approach to Do Not Track and the way they collect consumer data through the Internet?

I'm not an American citizen.... I'm Canadian.... But what I would say is that, as a non-American, I have been surprised at the amount of profiles that are kept on U.S. citizens. If you look at a data broker like Acxiom, it's quite astounding the percentage of Americans that have these profiles that are held by data brokers who are assembling lists. They're taking things like direct mail, compiling that with records that they're able to get from browsing history and other public records, and they're building these profiles. What's the percentage of Americans who know that's happening? It's got to be minimal. I think that it's quicksand to build an industry on something that so few users are aware of and the potential for backlash for something like that is quite large.

Who should be responsible for educating consumers about Do Not Track? Is it the consumers themselves? Brands and websites they visit? Or organizations like the FTC?

All of the above. What we're starting to see now, too, though, is advocacy groups, journalists, and media that's in the public interest, like us, [who are] starting to get people talking. That's our role. 

[Also, it's] going to depend on your context [and] which country you live in. Some countries have government entities that are specifically for protecting privacy. The FTC has done a good job of looking after—to the degree that it can—consumers. 

So, it's really all of the above, but there's some responsibility for consumers to take a role in that.

I think about it in the way that people think about food. Twenty years ago how many people ate organic food? You had to be a super granola hippie to eat organic food. But then people started to realize, “Oh yeah, it's not just about my weight. There are a lot of outcomes from the food that we eat.” If we choose to support a local farmer, for instance, that's going to mean that it's far less likely that there was exploited labor involved in all of this. If you choose a local farmer, it's far less likely that there are going to be pesticides, which not only are they bad for us, but they're bad for the ecosystem around that food. If we eat whole foods instead of processed foods, it has a whole bunch of positive outcomes on our health. Those changes in the amount of food that's eaten correctly did not happen solely because of legislation or solely because Michael Pollan wrote a smart book, or solely because of whole foods being available in more and more stores. That all happens together. 

You're going to have some forces that are market forces, some forces that are legal forces, and some forces around social norms all working together. It's not like people need to pick up a placard and march on the street with it, necessarily. But some of that is helpful—that you have activists who are going out there and pushing some boundaries. Some of it is a consumer piece, and some of it is a perception and general awareness piece.

How can marketers and advertisers be more transparent with consumers about what information they're collecting and tracking?

Marketers should do a better job of explaining what they're doing in plain English. Often, in the terms and conditions of a publisher's website you'll see that they use an advertising network, but that might be as far as it goes. You don't really realize that the advertising networks themselves load in a bunch of third parties. Where does that accountability lie? I don't know. Explaining it all in really plain English and being less nervous to talk about it is a big piece. I think most marketers would say, “We should get ahead of this. We should have a public conversation.” People are ready for it. I think that's on marketers.

There's this notion that often a marketer will say “Hey, we don't actually collect any information about you. This is all anonymous.” I think that's just an easy way out. As the computer science community has repeatedly shown, perhaps the granular piece of information is anonymous, but when you take a larger view, the profiles that are collected are often quite unique and tied to us personally. Acknowledging that is a big piece of the question—and talking about it and being upfront.

Do today's consumers even really have a choice today in whether their data is collected? Can they actually say no?

It's a big question.... If you want to be somebody who participates in this digital economy, is that really optional? I don't think that it is. If you're a parent, for instance, don't you need a cell phone? If you want to be part of the modern Web economy, you have to go online. It is very difficult not to be tracked. That's why I think we need to keep discussing these issues [and] which parts of our life require anonymity. What parts of our digital selves do we not want a profile attached to? That's the stuff that we're trying to discuss in the documentary.


At what point do marketers and advertisers go too far in terms of tracking consumers' data?

I believe that there should be a pretty clear wall between your digital self and your physical self. I'm not comfortable with the idea of profiles that are attached to me based on my physical location.

Any reason why?

Everyone has their own [preference] meter.  What bothers me is the notion that I would be able to be A/B tested to see if advertising that I was presented online led to me having an intent to purchase on a website that led to an actual conversion in a store and that part of my universe had something to do with it. That, for me, removes a lot of my agency and freewill as a human being. I don't like the idea that there is an attempt to influence me that strongly. But I know that there's a whiteboard somewhere where somebody is trying to get me into that conversion funnel.

How would you respond to marketers and advertisers arguing that they're trying to provide consumers with value?

That's irrelevant to me. I'm not completely opposed to advertising and sponsorship, but I'm unconvinced that we need to be tracking one another so closely to provide it. Everybody has to agree that banner advertising is totally dead. But what you have is this huge inventory of all of these ads. There's this pressure to say, “Well if we can take this stock of advertising and make it convert 0.000002% we're at least ahead of all of those other jerks that basically have all of this useless inventory.” So, that incentivizes people to try and track a little bit more. It doesn't have anything to do with value, but we've accepted advertising as the defacto business model for the Internet. 

Sometimes I feel like we did that because it was the easiest thing. As the Web came out, it was a hard sell for [consumers] to get on the Internet and pay for it. Advertising was considered a way to underwrite it. It didn't really take off as a model until there was a way to measure it and measure people's intentions and outcomes. For me, it's separated from the value statement. Marketers would say that [they're offering value], but I think that it's creating value for them. It doesn't help as a society if we let them get away with that. 

Let's make no mistake: If you're a multibillion-dollar industry, that's cool and that does create a lot of jobs. But the idea that it's the only way to finance the Web—I'm not buying it. With smart people, we should be able to figure out many ways to do this and there's lots of different models.

What would that perfect Internet economy look like to you?

I think that it would be more varied. We all agree that there is a role for advertising. I'm not sure if it's the one that should support journalism, for instance. The Guardian [wrote about] a depressing survey recently [that discussed] how much [consumers would] be willing to pay for an annual fee, and I think they said like a pound. Part of it is on consumers. We have to say, “We need you to find ways to pay for this.” But people find ways to pay for music streaming, for HBO GO, for lots of things. And there are lots of smart models. In the UK, for instance, everyone who has a TV pays a licensing fee and that's what gives them amazing BBC programming. For radio, they figured out all kinds of licensing models where the radio station pays a flat fee and then they can play whatever they want. It's a win-win. Artists get a royalty statement; the public gets lots of music; and the radio station can play whatever they want. That's hard on the Internet. But just because it's hard that doesn't mean that we shouldn't keep trying. There's lots of unintended consequences when we just move entirely to an ad-supported model, and I think we're seeing that this continued tracking is one of them.

Illuminating Marketing Lessons From Obscure Sources

Illuminating Marketing Lessons From Obscure Sources

These days marketers have more customer data and tools for engagement than they know what to do with, but this technical abundance doesn't always make for the most inspired marketing. To their credit, marketers—like many media creators of the 2010's—must vie for consumers' time in a world of content surplus.

In these times of high pressure and short attention spans, highly focused facets of fandom, such as music and sports, thrive as conduits of high engagement. Marketers who apply the conceptual nuances of these enthusiasts-driven verticals to their marketing efforts stand to gain similarly engaged audiences, and maybe even virality.

Here are five recent articles that highlight obscure lessons savvy marketers can learn from somewhat unorthodox sources.

Lawfully Awful: Bills That Make Bots Look Good

Lawfully Awful: Bills That Make Bots Look Good

I have a recurring fantasy in which I am elected president of the United States on the platform of doing nothing for one year. You've heard of the Know Nothings? My party would be the Do Nothings. I would use the tremendous political capital of my 65% mandate to wrangle Congress into making a pact with me that neither they nor my administration will draw up, sponsor, bring to committee, floors, or even the barber shop any new legislation to add to the mountains of statutes and codes already choking us purple with red tape. The good congresspeople can return to their home districts and spend some time doing nice things for the people who elected them. I'll do crossword puzzles and smoke Cubans (thanks, Barack!) in the Oval Office. For 12 months we will practice the Hippocratic Oath of politics and, first, do no harm. Something tells me that when those months are up, all will be alive, well, and maybe even better off. At the minimum, we'll all be less stressed about Congress not getting anything accomplished because, well, that will be what they're supposed to be doing.

Unfortunately, the reality is that laws exist because people can't agree and so the people who influence the most legislators to go their way get their way. A law passes. A bunch of people are overjoyed. Another bunch is grumpy. Astutely observing that you can't spell the word “awful” without L-A-W, the folks at NetChoice released its annual “iAWFUL” list of crummy bills that the association feels will only limit competition, innovation, and choice on the Internet. Some of the chief offenders:

The ghoulish side of data. More than a dozen states, including Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas are seeking legislation that would make people's digital identities public upon their deaths. No matter that seven out of 10 Americans think their digital selves should die with them, governments want your tweets and Amazon receipts and all the goofy Instagrams in between. “Alcoholics Anonymous now has Yahoo groups. If one of the members of the group dies, everyone else in the group is exposed” with some of these laws, notes NetChoice policy counsel Carl Szabo. “This goes against an expectation of privacy that we've had for 30 years in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.”

The tax that can't be collected but won't go away. You guessed it, it's the ever-morphing, never-dying Internet Sales Tax. As recently as last July, the U.S. Senate executed a backdoor play by attaching the Marketplace Fairness Act to another bill in an attempt to deliver a windfall to state and municipal governments, tax-software providers, and brick-and-mortar retailers. It didn't work. Passage of this bill would countermand the 1992 Quill v. North Dakota decision that demands sellers have “nexus” in a state to collect taxes for it. “The Internet didn't invent interstate sales,” Szabo says. “Cars, telephones, and catalogs have been carrying on interstate commerce for decades and never required a complete overhaul of the tax code.”  Szabo—along with thousands of e-commerce and catalog companies—have high hopes for a quorum on Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte's Online Sales Simplification Act that is still being refined.

The screech of the breach. There are now 47 different data breach notification laws in effect in that many different states, mostly requiring retailers and banks to notify credit cardholders by mail whenever a breach happens, no matter how minor or how benign. Such laws work at cross-purposes, Szabo maintains, instituting a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” effect. “People get important financial notices filled with legal gobbledygook all the time and what do they do with them? Throw them in the trash. Doing the same thing with data breach notifications makes it really dangerous when a Home Depot or Target breach happens and you really need to get peoples' attention,” Szabo says. Netchoice, like just about every other entity in the commercial sphere, would like a comprehensive federal law on breaches. It would save retailers and banks millions in legal fees spent on state compliance.

This law is a real cream puff!  Do you really need a car dealership to buy a car? Elon Musk thought you didn't and started direct-selling his Tesla cars through showrooms and a website. But Arizona, Michigan, and New Jersey bowed to pressure from auto dealers and made direct-from-manufacturer car sales illegal. Texas forced Tesla to comply with special regulations just to advertise its models.

That last example presents a very important lesson to Web sellers, says Szabo: Pay attention to the state legislatures. “Congress is in session year-round and only manages to pass a handful of bills; state legislatures pass them all the time,” he points out. Szabo's chief advice to marketers cheesed off by awful laws: Pick the most offending bill on your list and call both your state and federal representatives and explain to them how its passage would impede your ability to stay open and continue to employ hundreds or thousands of local residents.

So, yes, do something. The time is not yet right to do nothing. I'll let you know.

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SK&A is a leading provider of U.S. healthcare information solutions and databases. As ...