In a World of Technological Novelty, Execution Prevails

In a World of Technological Novelty, Execution Prevails

Marketers today enjoy an unprecedented technological advantage in delivering the right messages to the right people. At the same time, the world is enjoying a period of unbidden technological innovation, constantly disrupting whatever edge marketers gain in their constant pursuit of the consumer. Conference panel discussions and board meetings are filled with novel ideas on ways to address the issue, but perhaps novelty is the wrong approach entirely. Rather than continually conjure “wow- esque” ideas, marketers should focus instead on executing ideas, argues author and marketing consultant Kevin Kelly (see below).

In his recently released book DO! The Pursuit of Xceptional Execution, Kelly explores the stories surrounding marketers and businessmen who found success despite challenges such as lack of funding or industry knowledge. Here, Kelly explains just what exceptional execution is and how marketers can work toward achieving it in their business.

What exactly is an “exceptionally executed” idea?

Most people think they have to wait for an apple to fall from a tree or levitate like a yogi to come up with a “wow” idea. The reality is it's not about having a “wow” idea; it's about exceptional execution of any idea. I talked to the CEOs of start-ups like Outfit 7 and Globent and found that most of these people didn't have a new idea or a compelling business plan, didn't have money, and didn't have insider knowledge. What they had was exceptional execution. For example, Ben Milne, the CEO of Dwolla, started in the financial industry with zero background. He actually owned a company that sold audio speakers and at the end of each year he saw $55,000 in credit card fees. He was wondering how he could mitigate it. He found his answer by starting Dwolla and the rest is history. There's billions of dollars going through his system already.

If not unique ideas, what does it take to be an exceptional marketer?

There are two elements to exceptional execution and it doesn't matter what the discipline is. The first is self-awareness and the second is attention. Understanding yourself, your fears, understanding what failure really is. All the exceptionalists I speak with [such as Milne] had a strategy around the fear of failure. Fear of failure is the number one thing worldwide that prevents people from setting up a business. We all have fears. I don't buy the theory that you can just smash these fears or move them to the side. You need to psychologically understand the sources of your fears and move with them. You also need to understand gut and intuition.

Kevin KellyWhat about attention?

Attention is at the forefront of an exceptional execution strategy. Recognize [that] even satisfied customers will leave. As a marketer you need to pay attention to the business and understand that the concept of a customer is dead. Your focus should be on building friendships, not customer relationships. I don't mean social media friendships. I mean quality, authentic relationships. As marketers we're always looking for the next big thing; the next edge. Well, listening could be the next frontier, as it were. Clearly, we're having problems with this. As people who want to develop their business, marketers have to be aware that attention is an absolute. It's a very rare commodity at the moment. If you can build a strategy around delivering quality, authentic attention and listening that, on its own, could be your exceptional execution edge.

Sounds like it'd be tough to get an entire company on board with this. How should marketers go about convincing colleagues of the importance of this?

You can't change anyone but yourself. You can, however, take the trip toward exceptional awareness yourself. Forget about everybody else for a second because you need to focus on self-awareness. It is, after all, self-awareness. It's not just about the one person making this move, clearly. But, again, it has to be the one person. It's all about the culture in which you work. If the leaders are on board with these key messages [they] can create a culture around it. If the top is disconnected from the middle and the bottom then there's a problem. The middle and bottom can be as excited about this as they like, but at the end of the day they're going to hit the ceiling.

Président Replaces Cheesy TV Spots with Digital

Président Replaces Cheesy TV Spots with Digital

Not every marketer likes the taste of change. But relying on time-honored tactics can sometimes make marketing strategies seem a bit moldy. Président Cheese relied on television advertising for about 35 years. However, the specialty cheese brand realized that—unlike a vintage cheddar—not all marketing channels get better with age.

“Our biggest frustration was that you only talk about one product for 15 or 30 seconds,” says Karine Blake, marketing director for parent company Lactalis American Group.  “But here in specialty cheeses, there's so much education to be done [and] so [many] stories and romance to be told.”

So, the brand abandoned television advertising in 2011. Seeking a riper, more interactive channel, Président began dabbling in digital. The cheese connoisseur launched its latest interactive initiative, The Art of Cheese, at the beginning of April and broadened its digital palate into social. This new digital-social flavor combination enables the brand to help educate consumers about the specialty cheese category and drive engagement.

Getting a Gouda-mount of data

Transitioning from traditional to digital media wasn't the only challenge Président faced in recent years. After conducting a series of focus groups and shopper observation studies, the cheese brand discovered that many consumers felt overwhelmed by the specialty cheese category.

“Not only are they intimidated by the product itself—because the tastes are very foreign and they're not familiar with them—but they're also intimated by the shelf,” Blake says. “When they get to the store and they look in the specialty cheese section, it's usually cluttered [and] disorganized. Many products from many different origins and categories are mixed together, and it's hard to distinguish what you really need and what you're really going to like.”

Offering a wide selection

Keeping this information in mind, Président created the Art of Cheese campaign to guide consumers through the specialty cheese experience. The hub of the campaign is the Art of Cheese website, which includes a selection of contests, coupons, and mouth-watering images and product information. The site also features recipes and entertaining ideas from popular bloggers. Not only do bloggers extend the reach of Président's content, but they also provide a sense of authenticity and consumer trust.

“People can relate more because the stories are real and they can go make those dishes and recipes at home,” says Laure Habbouse, senior marketing manager for Lactalis American Group.

In addition to the site, Président is promoting the Art of Cheese campaign through search and paid media, including featuring banner ads on its retailers' site, as well as lifestyle and food websites.

Wheeling into social

Président added other new flavors to its marketing mix by partnering with HUGE and launching Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter accounts. Although this is the first time Président has leveraged Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, the brand has dabbled with Facebook in the past, Blake says. It's past Facebook foray included launching the Skinny Cheese Facebook page—a source for fat-free cheese recipes and education—in 2011. Now, the brand promotes the entire specialty cheese category across its website and social channels and engages more with consumers, Blake says. In fact, it's this interactivity that inspired Président to dive deeper into the social realm.

“We don't think consumers want to hear from the brand,” Blake says. “They actually want to own the brand, own the products, and make it their own.”

Président's Web and social content enables the brand to convey the versatility and visual appeal of its products. However, Blake says that the brand has to strike a balance between portraying delicious recipe images and coming off as intimidating.

 “We didn't want [the pictures] to look like paintings in a museum. We wanted them to be real,” Blake says. “[We] don't want it to look so beautiful that the consumers didn't want to touch it...We want people to think it's actually easy, versatile, approachable, but so beautiful that you want to eat it.”

Mild results

Although Blake declined to share the initial results of the campaign, she says that the brand has been “overwhelmed” in terms of consumer response. According to the brand's social pages, Président has accumulated 137 Facebook followers, 132 Pinterest followers, 81 Instagram followers, and 51 Twitter followers so far. And while the brand's results are somewhat pungent at the moment, Blake says the brand will track a range of metrics—including sales, awareness, and impressions—as the campaign runs throughout Président's peak seasons of Easter, summer, and the winter holidays.

“It's not tracking for the sake of making sure that everything is going easily,” Blake says. “It's making sure that we're having the right attitude about morphing and moving.”  

But perhaps the lessons Président has tasted so far are more savory than the initial results. For example, learning to relinquish control in the digital world is one lesson that has left a permanent aftertaste. “TV is very directive [and] it's very one-way: This is our message, this is how we're going to say it, take it or leave it,” Blake says. “Once you decide to go digital and to work with different have to be comfortable with who you are, know exactly who you are, and just let go.”

Unhidden YouTube Talent

Unhidden YouTube Talent

YouTube is like a teeming, swarming Petri dish of potential viral gold—the question is: How can brands tap into it?

Gone are the days (if they ever existed) of pure experimentation. “Let's just post this video and see what happens?
It's not that earned media is dead—it's just been replaced, in most cases, by science.

“How often does a viral video result in the audience you want to reach actually seeing it?” says Mike Henry, CEO of Outrigger Media, a company that works to connect brands with relevant, meaningful video content. “I have nothing against brands producing cool video content that creates water cooler chatter in the moment—but should that even be the goal for brands in terms of their creation or sponsorship of content?”

Of course, there are those amazing breakout hits that take the Internet by storm, but re-creating ‘What Does the Fox Say' for your cereal brand is fairly pointless. Not only is that kind of momentum hard to get—it probably won't move the needle for your brand, anyway. Rather than focusing on going viral, brands should focus on being relevant. It's the difference between five million random people watching your video but not buying anything—and targeting fewer people with the highest likelihood to be truly interested and take action.

One way to do this is to unearth—and then partner with and capitalize on—up-and-coming talent on YouTube, whether that means co-creation of content or strategic pre-roll. Outrigger's OpenSlate platform, for example, analyzes the nature and quality of more than 150,000 YouTube channels and roughly 70 million videos with the aim of “demystifying YouTube for brand advertisers.” Outrigger partnered with DigitasLBi last year to use OpenSlate data for the agency's “Emerging Talent Tracker,” a tool that looks to identify the next big YouTube stars with the highest potential for growth, reach, momentum, and influence.

It's science over magic, Henry says.

“If you want to sell sneakers, find the next up-and-coming basketball channel on YouTube and get together with their program in a legitimate, organic way,” Henry says. “That way, you get to be a part of their growth over time, not virally, but consistently.”

YouTube “weblebrities“ (if you will) can be a good investment. They're more affordable than big name celebrities, they have extremely loyal audiences, and they have truly authentic voices. “There's a way to break down predicting virality into a science,” says Michael Fasciano, associate director of the Social.Content division at DigitasLBi. “But good video is also about connecting with consumers in an emotional manner.”

Speaking of which, here are some examples of YouTube stars on the rise:





The Honeymoon's Over: How to Fix the Agency/Client Relationship

The Honeymoon's Over: How to Fix the Agency/Client Relationship

Just like with any relationship, the bond between a client and its agency takes work. It doesn't matter if love brought them together at the beginning, someone's going to leave the toilet seat up one too many times and the animosity will slowly build (if not dealt with) to the point of no return.

‘Why can't we all just get along?' isn't a rhetorical question, and the answer mostly has to do with communication—or, to be more precise, the lack thereof. Without total transparency and clear lines of communication, clients don't know what to expect and agencies fall back on what Richard Whitehead, AtTask's senior GTM director for marketing solutions, refers to as “the illusion of productivity.”

If clients don't establish the right expectations on project updates from the get-go and don't demand standardization in how their agency's creative team manages and tracks work, visibility breaks down and clients start hearing certain unproductive phrases that act as roadblocks standing squarely in the way of fluid, transparent dialogue between marketers and their creative teams.

Whitehead puts it more succinctly: “Give me accuracy, don't give me fallacy.”

Creatives, perhaps because they're really busy or don't want to admit they don't know the answer to something, will often utter meaningless buzzwords that drive their brand clients up a wall. But more important, these clichés mask a deeper, systemic problem—a reticence to tell the truth out of fear of losing business. And that just leads to ‘meh' work.

But, as it turns out, ‘Do I look fat in this?' is not a trick question. Clients want to be told the truth; to engage in a frank discussion that moves the work forward in a truly productive way. Mitel CMO Martyn Etherington has experienced the opposite firsthand, and he doesn't mince words about how it makes him feel.

“Instead of saying, ‘I don't know,' they'll go on and on with platitudes—but I'd rather be told that my ideas suck, I'd rather have someone with a point-of-view than be told what they think I want to hear,” Etherington says. “Many agencies today are unwilling to potentially upset, unnerve, or challenge the customer or the client, so they end up giving you something way more vanilla that what you need or are looking for.”

Another thing that gets Etherington's goat is when agencies insist on “the big reveal.” If there's one thing marketers don't like, it's surprises at zero hour. “Make me a part of the process and bring us along for the ride,” Etherington says. “That gives me the chance to evaluate what you're doing with our number one constituent: the customer.”

Situations like that are one reason why some brands are moving away from AORs and retainers and moving towards internal creative teams, where information sharing is baked right into the collaborative process.

“We're bringing more and more of the creative work in-house,” Etherington says. “Or we tend to work with boutique agencies that go deep with wide knowledge in a few areas, because we don't have that in-house yet or what we do have is embryonic in terms of technology right now.”

Agencies should be aware that marketers are looking for a holistic approach that includes testing, metrics, and decisions based on meaningful data—not creativity for creativity's sake.

“They would get more of my business if they'd tell me and my team that we're wrong based on facts and data,” Etherington says. “Many creatives seems to forget that they're actually supposed to be selling something and that they're in the business of creating and keeping customers.”

In other words, good marketing should be creative—but it also needs to be data-driven.

“You'll often hear all about ROI at the opening pitch,” Etherington says. “But in answer to our next question—'Can you demonstrate how you achieved ROI for your client and what's the anticipated ROI for this project?'—all you get is talk.”

That's just a taste. Tune in on April 30 to watch the free webcast “5 Unproductive Phrases Creatives Say and How to Avoid Them, Part 2: 'It's 80% Done.'” Richard Whitehead and Martyn Etherington will be on hand to answer all your questions. Click here to register.

Sponsored by AtTask in conjunction with its webcast.

The Age of the Customer Intensifies

The Age of the Customer Intensifies

To succeed in today's competitive marketing landscape, brands must be customer obsessed. No longer can they simply choose a message and then blast a campaign. Rather customers are choosing, and sharing, their own messages and content, and, essentially, are helping to craft campaigns—with everything from tweets to blogs to videos. “We are in the age of the customer,” said David Cooperstein , VP, research director, for Forrester Research, at the company's Forum for Marketing Leaders in San Francisco. “And how well you serve them will determine your success.” He said it's simple: Brands that focus solely on company goals, not customers, will be left behind.

At the event, Cooperstein shared how marketers can move beyond traditional messages to customer-centric campaigns.

Create content, not advertising.
Less than 25% of customers trust offline ads, Cooperstein explained to an audience of more than 900 attendees. And less than 20% of consumers say they trust digital ads. The chief researcher said these numbers show that marketers must go beyond broadcasting a campaign and interact with customers. “Instead provide an incentive to engage,” Cooperstein said. He cited examples such as foodie and beauty apps that reveal users' favorite flavors or colors as they submit more information about themselves. These type of campaigns, he said, drive engagement and educate marketers about their audiences.

Understand that customers call the shots.
It's the customer who chooses how to receive a message—not marketers, Cooperstein says. “Customers choose their routes to you,” he explained. “Serve the customer in the way they want to connect to you.” He said that media has changed from traditional broadcasting—including TV spots and radio ads—and has evolved into shared images, check-ins, and texts. Branding should change as media and technology change if marketers want to produce the most relevant campaigns. “Know how [customers] consume content'” Cooperstein said.

Give customers an experience, not a campaign.
Marketing is not about a brand's message, but rather interactions, engagement, customer moments, and value, Cooperstein added. He said all of these elements will give customers context about the relevancy of a product or service in their lives. “Context must be embedded in all customer experiences,” he explained, adding that context isn't provided through simply populating a name field or other simple personalization methods. He recommended that marketers focus on the buyer's journey and said the purpose of a campaign should be to spark interaction through the entire customer lifecycle. “Brands and experience are inseparable,” Cooperstein said.

Final note
With all of this interaction, comes consumer insights. Cooperstein noted that marketers can use new understanding to craft campaigns that serve, win, and retain customers. “With insights, you can look at your business through your customers' context.” He adds that context will ultimately bridge the gap between marketing and customer experience. “Marketers can't build their campaigns in a vacuum,” he says. “Customer data—and, most of all, insights—should fuel the engine.”

How Mentoring Helps Marketers Rise to the Challenge

How Mentoring Helps Marketers Rise to the Challenge

Marketing is a fast and fluid field, one that's especially susceptible to the transient nature of digital technology. Young, aspiring marketers looking to transition from the classroom to the office were raised in the midst of this technological renaissance, giving them an almost inherit level of digital savvy and comfort. This tech savvy will become more essential. However, college teaches only so much about business strategy and but an inkling of the role data plays in contemporary marketing.

Marketers need mentors—especially marketers just beginning their careers. Indeed, mentors are helpful in any business, but seasoned mentors can help new marketers realize the stability among the flux. “Marketing is a fast moving industry that often reinvents itself,” says Dimitri Maex, president, OgilvyOne New York.

Maex, along with five other top marketers, was recently announced as a recipient Marketing EDGE's Rising Star Award. The award annually acknowledges leaders in marketing education. “For young employees to have someone experienced to talk to, someone who can help them see which changes are truly substantial and impactful, it's important.” Maex says.

Of course, the benefits of marketing mentorships extend both ways. As mentees gain context and learn the tricks of the trade, mentors keep abreast of the changes in their world through the eyes of new marketers.

Here, Maex and several other Marketing EDGE Rising Stars explain ways mentoring can have positive effect outside of what may seem obvious, while touching on ways both mentors and mentees can work to keep the relationship equal parts healthy and beneficial.

  • “You can master the science and art of marketing through training, yes; but mentoring can address everything else,” says Guillermo Novillo, head of global acquisition marketing, Microsoft. “Mentoring addresses the human aspects of the job beyond the workplace.” Marketing is such a broad, complex field that it's impossible to learn all of the essentials in a classroom. New marketers need access to someone who's been through it, someone who understands the human element of the business and can impart that context on them.
  • Many aspiring marketers matured during the digital renaissance, and with that came a broad range of skills and expertise. Mentors must recognize and harness the varied skills young people are bringing to a business. “Young people are going to be digitally savvy, so mentors must take advantage of that and give them opportunities to be leaders in places where they can be leaders,” says Emily Riley, chief operating officer, Evidon.
  • Mentees should seek advice and knowledge from non-marketers to help round out their background. “Mentees should find mentors that may have a marketing background, but now does something else,” Riley says. “That way they can see how marketing connects to other pieces of the business.”
  • In these post-Great Recession times, many employees aren't staying with companies longer than a few years. Marketing isn't immune to the higher turnover rates affecting every business. However, mentors can function as something of a totem for young marketers. Strong mentor/mentee relationships can foster a sense of loyalty within an organization. “Marketing is a promiscuous industry, at least in the agency world,” OgilvyOne's Maex explains. “Mentoring can help companies keep their employees longer and can help young employees, especially gen Y, understand that there are viable career paths within a single company.”
  • “As a mentor you've had a number of life lessons and you can talk to mentees about what you've done wrong as well as what you've done right,” says Carrie Parker, director, American Express OPEN Forum. “There's a mutual opportunity for learning here and it should be embraced. “Everyone makes mistakes, but ambitious marketers often make the same ones as their marketer neighbors. An open, two-way mentoring relationship can help stave off some of those inevitable mistakes that budding CMOs seem to make by keeping an honest dialogue flowing. 
  • Both mentors and mentees should be as upfront as possible about expectations going into the relationship. Mentors should avoid overextending to ensure their advice goes where it's needed most, similar to the way marketers strive to deliver relevant content to consumers. “Don't overpromise. Try to identify more with those you know you can help,” says Alex Wasserman, cofounder and CEO, TapFwd. “If you advise everyone across the board and spread yourself too thin you won't be a ton of value to anyone.”

Digital Marketing Prowess Could Sway Midterm Elections

Digital Marketing Prowess Could Sway Midterm Elections

As we head into what is sure to be a contentious midterm election season, with Republicans staging an aggressive assault on the Senate and Democrats facing an uphill battle to win back the House, we're happy to report some bipartisan activism on behalf of the marketing teams of this November's candidates. Targeted Victory and Well & Lighthouse—digital strategists for Republicans and Democrats, respectively—teamed up recently to poll likely voters and found that 29% hadn't watched television in the previous week. Yet TV is where the lion's share of candidate's media budgets go. Targeted Victory estimates that 80% of the budgets of the senatorial and gubernatorial candidates it represents is spent on earned media, and 75% of that is committed to TV.

“You can't go into election day with one out of three voters not having seen your message and think you've done your job,” says Targeted Victory cofounder Zac Moffatt, who was digital director for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and whose agency is currently working the campaigns of Congressman Paul Ryan in Wisconsin and the gubernatorial runs of Greg Abbott in Texas and Susana Martinez in New Mexico.

Less than half of the 800 voters polled said live TV was their primary medium for watching video content. In total, voters reported spending only 10.2 hours a week watching TV. They spent 12.1 hours viewing content on alternative channels such as desktops, mobile devices, and DVR.

Still, most media directors for candidates for statewide office are focused on obtaining a minimum number of Gross Ratings Points via TV buys, Moffatt says. “In the special elections in Florida last year you saw candidates buying the entire DMAs to essentially reach 10% of likely voters,” he says. “And because 50% of Florida voters cast their votes before election day, only 5% of voters were reached by their final TV push.”

But many campaigns are forward-thinking, and looking for high-end data analytics to divine where their media funds will do the best job for them. “Everybody's talking about data analytics; that's why we have 85 people at Targeted Victory and are growing,” Moffatt says. “Our director of data science is from Marriott, our data warehousing director is from Millennial Media.”

Personalization and segmentation are the by-words for electoral marketers entering this year's midterm battles, and Moffatt is leaning more toward email than social channels to get it done. “Email is the most powerful fundraising tool. It's 50 to 55 percent of our online activity. We have a 20-person email team,” he says. “The challenge with content marketing is that it's hard to put together a big enough team to do it well. Direct mail works well as a fundraising mechanism, but you can't scale it beyond a certain point in time.”

Scale is also a challenge for candidates' social media campaigns. “There are limited resources. How do you activate people and how do you respond to them?” Moffatt says.

One old political factor remains a constant in statewide elections, Moffatt says, and that is that the incumbent holds a big advantage going in. However, the 2013 midterm elections could see some sitting senators and governors having their traditional campaigns upended by digitally attuned upstarts. “Challengers can do much bigger things if they can try more alternative methods,” Moffatt says.

Was Jesus a Good Investment for Kapitall?

Was Jesus a Good Investment for Kapitall?

I was raised Catholic. So when I came across this ad by online investment platform Kapitall, I couldn't help but feel a little offended.


The video is one of five ads Kapitall launched last week featuring “revolutionary” spokespeople. Other historical endorsers of the “next generation” investing tool include Cleopatra, Genghis Khan, Che Guevara, and Leonardo Da Vinci.

I checked the date of the campaign's press release and saw that it was issued on April 1. “OK,” I thought. “It's a gag ad.” But an official tweet and confirmation from the brand's PR team assured me that the crucifixion puns were real.

I wondered if other consumers took offense the way I did or if I was just being oversensitive (this is the girl who cried during Air Bud, after all). After checking the brand's Facebook page, I found consumer sentiment to be rather polarized. While some consumers threatened to close their Kapitall accounts, others “liked” the ad and found those insulted to be “a bit sensitive.”

I) Motivation

So what exactly was Kapitall going for? From the brand's perspective, Pascal Ehrsam, CMO of Kapitall, says that the financial services company wanted to create a campaign that solidified the brand's platform, drove awareness, and highlighted its value proposition of providing investment resources for all. But when the brand's creative agency SWELL suggested using Jesus as the first Kapitallist, Ehrsam—who identifies as Christian—says that he was “a little taken aback.”

“I'm religious and the idea of using someone that has so much meaning made me uncomfortable,” he says. “But the agency did a great job convincing me and the team that they would do things in a respectable way and that the goal was really to say that Jesus was one of the first revolutionaries and he's endorsing the campaign or the platform.”

However, William Miesmer, senior account and brand strategy manager for SWELL, says that the creative agency presented the concept to several Kapitall and SWELL employees before pursuing the idea. When compiling the campaign's “motley crew,” Miesmer—who's not “extremely religious”—says that the companies wanted to respect the revolutionaries without making them seem “too sober.”

“We really wanted to treat it more as addressing Jesus' status as a revolutionary icon than as a religious figure,” he notes. “That may be, to an extent, wishful thinking....We knew that we were stepping into slightly dicey territory. But at the same time, we felt that we could handle it lightly and that's what we strove to do. I feel like we achieved it.”

Despite the mixed feelings, Kapitall went on to launch its omnichannel initiative at the beginning of April. The campaign, which will run throughout the summer and have a second phase in the fall, will run on Facebook, Gawker Network, Google+, Twitter, Yahoo, and YouTube. The brand will also leverage programmatic buying to better reach its millennial target, Ehrsam says. And by the end of the first phase, Kapitall hopes to reach 50 million unique impressions.

II) A great debate

With the campaign now underway, one question remains: Was Kapitall's Jesus spot controversial or was it just entertaining? The answer seems to be neither.

In terms of controversy, Lars Perner, assistant professor of clinical marketing at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, says that the “sacrilegious” ad may offend some people of faith. However, he says that this segment isn't likely to raise any hell, so to speak. “They might remark that it's really inappropriate or something like that,” says Perner, who's agnostic.

On the other hand, some consumers enjoy the ad for the same reason others were offended by it, he says. The ad makes light of a caricature of Jesus, rather than the religious figure, notes Dan Gould—a cultural strategist for trend-tracking agency sparks & honey. “It's not directly saying that anything is wrong with him,” says Gould, who isn't religious.

 But just because a consumer likes an ad, that doesn't mean he's a brand loyalist.

“These consumers will hold nothing against your brand later on,” Perner says, “but I don't see them as being people who would shift in business just because you ran a funny ad at one point.”

Whether consumers found the spot funny or foul, the initial results suggest that the spot isn't controversial--mainly because no one seems to be talking about the ad. There are less than 10 comments on the brand's Facebook page, and the video has garnered slightly more than 2,200 views—not exactly hot-button figures.

As for being entertaining, there's no denying that Kapitall was trying to draw eyeballs with its Jesus endorsement. However, Perner describes the spot as “underwhelming” and Gould says Kapitall's attempt to leverage the “shock” factor actually cheapened its product.

“The product is supposed to be fun, [and] it's a different kind of note than being shocking, offensive, or weird,” he says. “It seems out of synch with the DNA of the company.”

III) The aftermath

So how did Kapitall react to consumers' responses—or lack thereof? Since launching the campaign, Kapitall has apologized to offended consumers, as well as removed the “revolutionary” campaign material from its homepage; although the spots still reside on YouTube. Kapitall's Ehrsam partially attributes this decision to testing results and partially to campaign response.

“We felt that there was no need to create more anxiety or discomfort,” he says.

IV) Lessons learned

Looking back over the course of the campaign's development there are a few things Kapitall could have done better. For starters, the brand could have more extensively researched how the campaign would resonate with its millennial audience. Ehrsam says that Kapitall conducted “informal” campaign testing—meaning that it looked at how its mostly millennial marketing team reacted. But according to sparks & honey's Gould, brands need to be more thorough. Specifically, he advises companies to practice social and cultural listening, as well as understand their target's demographic and cultural makeup.

Taking further control of the campaign's messaging and creative also would have been beneficial. Although including Jesus may have been the agency's idea, according to Ehrsam, it's the brand's name and reputation that's on the line. Hence, it's important for brands to be clear in what their objectives are and assert themselves when agencies aren't headed in the right direction.

“In any client-agency relationship, there's a little bit of a pull and push,” Ehrsam says. “We went through a couple of layers and we negotiated through it. As the client, we want to be comfortable with not pushing it too far. And as the agency, they always pushed it a little further. I think that it was a healthy exercise that we went through.”

Finally, Kapitall needed to evaluate if running a potentially controversial spot would be the most effective way to reach its goals. Teetering between funny and offensive is a major gamble—one in which the losses far outweigh the gains, USC's Perner notes. On the one hand, sparking controversy can generate a good deal of secondary media and social coverage, which is particularly beneficial for brands with limited budgets, he says. And in the current fast-moving environment, it's easy for the brands of today to quickly become yesterday's news. In some cases, however, a brand that successfully embraced a hot-button topic may not know how to trump itself and run something with as much luster in the future, he points out.

On the other hand, sparking controversy with marketing also can cause brands to lose customers or end up with less valuable ones. “It's a really risky approach,” Perner notes.

All in all, Kapitall's campaign seems like a bit of flop. Was the spot offensive? It depends on who you ask. But was it controversial? Not really. Entertaining? Maybe to some, but not based on the figures. It looks like the only thing that can save Kapitall's campaign now is a true miracle.

What did you think of Kapitall's campaign? Did you ever run a controversial campaign? Tell us below.

Patience Is a Virtue (That Consumers Don't Have)

Patience Is a Virtue (That Consumers Don't Have)

How patient are you? Let's toss a few scenarios out there:

1. You have to stand around for 20 minutes waiting for the subway
2. You have to wait 15 minutes for service at a restaurant
3. You have to stand in line for 5 minutes at the drug store
4. You have to wait for 1 minute for the traffic light to turn green
5. You want to buy a pair of shoes online and the mobile website you're trying to look at takes more than one second to load

No matter how patient you are—you may even be the Buddha reincarnate—if the site you're trying to check out on your phone doesn't load in the time it would take you to take one deep breath, you've probably already bounced.

“If it takes more than half a second for your website to load, you lose half of your visitors,” says Kirby Wadsworth, CMO of Limelight Networks and coauthor of Recommend This Book: Delivering Digital Experiences that People Want to Share. “And if it goes up to a whole second? You're going to see a 20% drop off in sales and traffic over time.”

Consumers don't take well to being rebuffed by buffering. They get irritated quickly and head off to check out the competition. It's not totally their fault, though—they've been trained in their petulance. Wadsworth calls it a case of “reverse Pavlov's dog” syndrome. Dogs were trained to recognize that a ringing bell meant food; consumers are trained to expect that a website isn't going to load at all if it doesn't load immediately.

“That reaction is a cultural learned norm and part of it has to do with a lack of definitive feedback,” he says. “We've all been burned by bad experiences when we've waited and a site never loaded; so, now our patience level has become miniscule.”

Consider the fact that Amazon has said that for every 100 millisecond increase in load time, it experiences a 1% sales decrease. That's one-tenth of a second.

“We're getting worse and worse,” Wadsworth says. “It used to be visitors would wait a few seconds before getting frustrated and now we're down to one-tenth of a single second—in as long as it takes you to blink your eyes, people are starting to tap their phones in utter frustration.”

While it may be somewhat irrational to expect your smartphone, as amazing as it is, to be as fast and work as powerfully as a desktop—that's what people demand. And as consumers increasingly use their smartphones as their primary vehicle for interacting with the Web, marketers are just going to have to scramble to deliver.

But herein lies the rub: Mobile sites are so packed with rich multimedia, video, and personalized content—the content consumers expect—that they're slower than a less personalized, less dynamic site would be. In an effort to attract consumers, marketers are pushing those self-same consumers onto the competition. Joseph Heller would like that one.

“Unrealistic expectations have increased the density of the content brands are trying to put out there; images have been replaced by much richer content that sucks up more bandwidth and requires more infrastructure,” Wadsworth says. “Of course, nobody buys anything without checking the Internet first, so brands do need to have all these elements if they want to be effective in business.”

What it comes down to is investment: If you want to provide consumers with a snappy mobile experience, consider putting a little money into a content delivery network—because this isn't just a B2C issue. These days, difference between B2C and B2B buying behavior is practically nil.

“A business buyer is a consumer,” Wadsworth says. “And no one is going to put up with a slow commercial website.”

Four Millennial Marketing Myths

Four Millennial Marketing Myths

There's a major demographic shift happening in the United States—one that marketers can't afford to ignore: The millennial generation is an estimated 86 million strong in the U.S., and these 18- to 33-year-olds are already making an impact on the social, political, and financial scenes. Accounting for nearly $1.3 trillion dollars annually in consumer spending, according to the Boston Consulting Group, millennials are demanding the attention of marketers across multiple industries.

Norty Cohen, founder and CEO of digital ad firm Moosylvania, says the challenge for marketers is to bust past the myths about millennials and make true—potentially lucrative—connections. “Every part of a brand's personality needs to come across as being genuine, real, and connected to the same things that millennials are interested in,” Cohen explains. He urges marketers not to make assumptions and to stay away from traditional messaging—which he describes as campaigns that only disseminate messages and don't tap into the zeitgeist of young consumers. “This is a generation that grew up digitally savvy with a constant slew of messages thrown at them. So there's no singular message that's going to connect with them as they multitask on multiple screens.”

Cohen says although there's no cookie-cutter method for marketing to millennials, dispelling some common myths will produce campaigns that resonate with this generation. Here, the digital strategist dispels four millennial marketing myths.

Myth: Millennials purchase on a whim.
The facts: There's no doubt this generation of young adults is dealing with some hard financial realities. Millennials are more burdened by financial hardships than the two previous generations—with higher levels of student loan debt, perpetually inflated unemployment rates, and lower levels of personal wealth. With so much financial pressure, millennials tend to research before they purchase. “Marketers can tap into this group with the ability to give them simple pleasures that don't cost much,” Cohen says. “Look at brands like Starbucks, Gap, Walmart, and even Kroger—all named top brands by this generation. Marketers at those retailers are finding ways to connect and tap into what money millennials do have.”


Myth: Millennials are easy to win over.
The facts:
A recent study on millennials by the Pew Research Center reports this generation is less trusting than older Americans—with just 19% saying that most people can be trusted, compared to 31% of Gen Xers and 40% of Baby Boomers. That more cautious attitude can also extend to brands. Cohen says marketers can break down the barriers through real connections. “They know when they're being marketed to and when they're being friended,” Cohen says. “Millennials will often stay loyal to brands that aren't necessarily the most famous but brands that connect to them. If you're able to cross the friendship line, the brand affinity is tremendous.”

Myth: Millennials are independent buyers.
The facts:
Cohen says 85% of millennials in a Moosylvania nationwide survey of 1,000 people reported that they live with someone else—including parents, roommates, and partners. “There's always a social community around them, and there's always a digital community around them. So as they follow brands and choose to purchase, the thing for marketers to understand is that millennials are constantly seeking reassurance.” He says that with 57% reporting that they tell friends about their purchases, and 44% admitting they like to show off what they've bought, marketers should know that millennials remain digitally connected for support as they shop. “[This gives marketers] some overriding connectivity opportunities,” Cohen says. “Connect with millennials across multiple touch points. Friend them.” He says marketers can build relationships through social media, blogs, how-to guides, and provide fun insights into a brand.


Myth: All millennials are counterculture, irreverent hipsters.
The facts: In Moosylvania's nationwide survey in January, millennials were asked to cite their top three favorite brands—without being given any choices. The group mentioned 620 brands, with Nike, Sony, Apple, and Samsung surfacing as the top four. Cohen says 620 brand mentions from 1,000 participants shows just how diversified this generations is. “Millennials really don't have any one label,” Cohen explains. He says that marketers need to stay authentic, research the competition, spread content on multiple channels, and invest in content-driven advertising. “They're incredibly renaissance people who like a lot of different things.”

Are Customers Satisfied With Your Multichannel Experience?

Are Customers Satisfied With Your Multichannel Experience?

Traditional metrics are single channel only; but the reality is that customers are multichannel and multi-device. Eric Feinberg, senior director of mobile, media, and entertainment at Foresee, reminded attendees of this tenuous situation at eTail West.

“Customers walk in the door with expectations; sometimes you can control that, sometimes you can't,” he said. “They have an experience. Will they be satisfied and then exhibit the behaviors you want?” Will customers, Feinberg posited, purchase (and in which channel), recommendation, and refer? He also pointed out that customer satisfaction with those experiences will impact not only current, but also future behaviors.

Feinberg went on to explain that many elements of the customer experience are knowable across touchpoints; for example, site navigation and access to and depth of product information. So along with tracking customers' behaviors to infer the pros and cons of the customer experience, marketers should ask for customer feedback directly. Collect in-channel insight and measures. Ask customers where they came from and where they went next. Doing so creates visibility into the cross-channel experience. Feinberg recommended that marketers do all this to uncover the gaps between the experience that customers expect and what a company is delivering, and then marketers can use that information to determine how they can they close that gap.

To accomplish this, marketers should ask themselves: How are we doing, what should we do to improve the customer experience and why, how do we prioritize? The answers should be informed by that customer insight. “Customer experience priorities are best viewed through the lens of the customer,” Feinberg said, adding that marketers should measure the customer experience to see where to focus. But, ultimately, the answer to “Why should we do it?” is revenue.

According to Feinberg, 57% of customers surveyed by Foresee are multichannel and tend to be more satisfied and valuable than single-channel customers. For this reason, he emphasized the importance of delivering a consistently top-notch experience across channels. “Every channel has to be excellent or every channel fails,” Feinberg said. “If a customer has a poor experience with a company in one channel, it's unlikely he'll visit another of that company's channels.”

Enter the Selfie-Razzi

Enter the Selfie-Razzi

Under our very eyes, in a mere matter of weeks, a new marketing medium has been born. Its arrival was presaged in an apparently spontaneous moment when Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres handed her big white Samsung Android to Bradley Cooper and got him to take a selfie of a group of pals whose combined net worth tops that of the gross domestic product of Djibouti. Of course, little is spontaneous in the age of ubiquitous marketing. Samsung was a sponsor of the Oscar broadcast and had product placement in its contract.

And little was spontaneous at the White House this Tuesday when the World Champion Boston Red Sox paid a visit and slugger David Ortiz produced his Samsung to snap a shot of himself and President Obama. In the background, one of his teammates sing-songed, “Cha-ching!” Ortiz, a paid Samsung endorser, had done Ellen one better by capturing himself with the Ruler of the Free World.

The era of the selfie-razzi has arrived, and it is not likely to go away any time soon. The Oscar selfie was tweeted over 30 million times. The selfie Ortiz took with Obama was tweeted out within moments of its capture by Samsung. As I write this, no doubt there are an army of agents at MCA on the phone negotiating selfie rights for their clients.

Their clients, it appears, are only too happy to serve as their own paparazzi. Heck, the punked prez himself unofficially endorsed the practice after his own selfie with comely Danish P.M. Helle Thorning-Schmidt at Nelson Mandela's memorial service. Celebs may gripe about paparazzi, but many cannot live without them. Some, like Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn, even lump up the occasional photog to win the front page of the Enquirer or the New York Post. Now, A-listers can snap away at their private lives with their soigné buddies and get paid for their troubles. Samsung has given them a way to cut paparazzi out of the picture.

Clearly, then, this is a medium with nothing but upside. It's easy, it's effective, and it's lucrative—the celebrity triple play. But there's a problem. Unless the celeb taking the shot is doing so on a live TV program or in front of the White House or such, he or she needs a “second shooter” to photograph him or her taking the selfie, so as to get the Samsung logo on his or her phone in the frame. That's the money shot.

Therefore, I envision a selfie-razzi subclass forming among long-faded B-players. We'll see tweets of Brad hoisting his Samsung over himself and Angelina in the hot tub, captured by Erik Estrada; Jay-Z and Beyonce in their private helicopter shot by Vanilla Ice; Harry Reid and Marco Rubio at the rifle range snapped by Jimmy Carter.

The problem with this new marketing medium is that it's limited to a few manufacturers of cell phones. But, if it takes off like I think it will, it's only a matter of time before we'll see phones shaped like Ford Fusions, Snickers bars, and Obamacare policies.

8 Ways Marketers can Better Target Gmail Subscribers

8 Ways Marketers can Better Target Gmail Subscribers

Gmail celebrated its 10th birthday yesterday. And while it's great to reminisce about the past, it's important to learn from history and apply those learning to the present. Our Gmail gurus summed up years of email marketing knowledge and came up with eight ways marketers can better target Gmail users today.

Know how many Gmail users are in your database

Gmail has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years. According to the “Q4 2013 Email Marketing Compass” report by email marketing software and service provider Yesmail, Gmail users accounted for 43% of all new Q4 2013 subscribers, compared to AOL (7%), Hotmail (18%), and Yahoo! (32%) subscribers. These subscribers appear to be more active, as well. Nineteen percent of Gmail users had been active with marketing emails within a year versus AOL (10%), Hotmail (12%), and Yahoo (14%) users, according to the same report.

Keeping this in mind, Brad van de Woerd, director of deliverability and market intelligence for Yesmail, advises marketers to know exactly how many Gmail users are in their databases. Besides knowing which ISP addresses tend to be more active, identifying which consumers have Gmail addresses can help marketers ensure that their messages display and render properly, he says. It can also help marketers improve their ability to measure which Gmail tab their messages landed in.

“If you're sending email to Gmail and AOL, Gmail is going to cache your image where AOL isn't,” van de Woerd says. “If you have any sort of dynamic images or content within your message, that image caching is going to prevent it from working in the way that you intended to when you sent it to Gmail versus another ISP.”

Segment by interest, not by ISP

While van de Woerd urges marketers to know how many Gmail users reside within their databases, Matthew Grove, deliverability engineer for email marketing solutions provider MailChimp, recommends segmenting by interest instead of by ISP.

“Rather than defining your list as a series of ISPs, you'll get better results by figuring out what your subscribers are interested in,” Grove says. “Segmenting your list by interest group can be hugely powerful.”

Have consistent sender addresses

Marketers want to establish relationships with their customers. However, it can be difficult for customers to get to know a brand if its constantly changing its sender address or sending messages from various From addresses. Think about it, would you remember a friend's name if they introduced themselves with a new name every time you met them? It would also be kind of creepy.

Hence, Grove suggests using consistent From addresses to avoid coming off as spammy.

“You build a personal reputation on that address, but it's also true that spammers like to send the same content from a lot of different addresses,” he says. “Using a consistent From address helps to identify you as a marketer and not a spammer.”

Track inbox placement rates

Marketers should be measuring inbox placements rates for every message they deploy, says van der Woerd. For instance, a marketer may hit the inbox Monday through Wednesday but end up in the spam folder on Thursday, he explains.

“The most important thing in that situation is that the marketer is taking a look that that's happening,” van der Woerd says. “You can't do that unless you're properly measuring your inbox placement rates.”

Inbox placement rates can also serve as a “warning sign” for marketers, van der Woerd adds, and indicate that they need to improve the relevancy of their messages.

Be wary of shorteners

Marketers often have a lot to say in a little bit of space—that's where link shorteners can come in handy. However, spammers leverage shorteners, as well, Grove notes, and frequently disguise their links with shorteners.

“Gmail's anti-spam automation latches on to bad domains very quickly, and they end up blocking some of the most popular shorteners,” he says. “If you have to use a shortener, go with something custom.”

Test constantly

Success isn't achieved by sitting on the sidelines, and it often isn't obtained the first time around. Grove encourages marketers to get involved, actively test, and generate their own data.

“The companies [that] I see with the best engagement and the best deliverability don't sit back and send the same email over and over,” Grove says. “They test subject lines with A/B splits, and they're looking for new ways to segment their list. They want to target just the right group for each piece of content, and they're willing to remove addresses that aren't engaging if it improves their reputation.”

Rethink email marketing

Not every subscriber is a potential customer; however, van der Woerd says that many marketers struggle to shake this mentality.

“[It's] moving away from the thought process that ‘everyone in my database is a potential buyer' ‘not everyone is this database is worth sending to,'” he says. “I need to know my audience, what kind of messages they're interested in, what kind of messages they're actually acting on and purchasing from, and focus more on the relevancy of an email marketing program overall.”

Don't fear the inevitable

If there's one thing marketers know for sure, it's that change is inevitable. Rather than crying wolf and saying that “email is dead” (again), marketers should embrace change and face it head on.

“I've learned to not be afraid of change,” says Chad White, lead research analyst for digital marketing software provider ExactTarget. “Social was supposed to destroy email, but it has only made it more powerful. Mobile has made email more powerful, as well. And all the changes that Gmail and other ISPs have put in place to give their users more control, to make their time in the inbox more efficient, ultimately, are good for email as both a communication and marketing channel.”

Psych! April Fool's Day 2014, Marketing Style

Psych! April Fool's Day 2014, Marketing Style

Rev up your truth machines, it's April Fool's Day—a time when marketers roll up their sleeves and try to get in on some of that sweet, sweet social media action.

But it's not always easy for a brand to pull off humor. As Devra Preywes, VP of marketing and insight at Unruly Media, told Direct Marketing News: “Marketers think humor creates a favorable association with their products, but few succeed in it. The problem with being funny is that most of those who try it hover around amusement instead of hilarity.”

But some marketers do know how to bring the funny:

The World's First Underwear Iron

Nobody wants wrinkled underpants. That's just gauche. Thanks, Fruit of the Loom and Crispin Porter + Bogusky:

 Disclaimer: Please do not iron underwear while on your body.

What's That…Smell?

Rain—it's a gift from nature. But what if companies could add their brand's scent to the very droplets that fall from the sky for a truly multisensory brand experience? That's “Brand Drops,” the result of a fictitious and unique partnership between Publicis Seattle (hey, they get a lot of rain), and the scientific community, to make It possible for brands to distill scents like “French fry,” “new car smell,” or “fresh cut grass” and seed them right into the clouds above. #BrandDrops is the next big thing in biotechnical marketing, don't you know.


Publicis Seattle went all out for this one. There's an info-packed microsite, a LinkedIn profile for the Brand Drops CEO, and an email address ( where you can ostensibly write to learn more about how to line up your next aromatic rain campaign.


But it's not always easy to tell the fakes from the genuine article. In a world where Facebook just paid $2 billion to acquire virtual reality technology Oculus Rift, Google's 2013 April Fool's joke “Google Nose” (a beta feature that claimed to allow users to be able to search the Internet by smell) isn't that totally insane. Who really knows what's real and what's for giggles?

And some things that do sound like April Fool's jokes—I'm very happy to report—are actually real, like Catstarter, Meow Mix's Kickstarter for cats, where cat-lovers can crowdfund cat-centric projects like the “Twister Dish,” a dish that funnels food from the edges of the bowl to the center, and “Meal Machine,” which allows you to feed your cat through Twitter.

We weren't sure ourselves, but Meow Mix put us at our ease:

So, You Want to Go Viral?

So, You Want to Go Viral?

Sometimes a piece of video content takes on a life of its own—a kind of magic. Some say it's impossible to truly predict. Others claim it's all about the numbers. Mostly, it depends on your definition of what virality means.

For Cat Jones, director of product innovations at Unruly Media, virality equals pure science, and that's that. Direct Marketing News chatted with Jones about the nature of and psychology behind what makes a viral video.

Is there a secret to “viral-ness?”

There are two main factors that contribute to viral content that resonates. One is the quality of the content and the second is the distribution. You can have the best content in the world, but just uploading it to a YouTube channel with no subscribers isn't going to work. You might have some really sharable stuff on your hands, but you need to understand what kind of impact your distribution plans will have on that.

Is it possible to predict when something will go viral organically?

If you do have strong content, it takes smart investment decisions to make it into a hit—because you might have strong content, but people have to see it to share it. The question you have to ask yourself is, ‘What do I need to do to increase the proportion of people who will share my content?' And there is a science to this, because if you can understand why your audience wants to share your content, you can get under their skin and use that to plan your distribution. If you know what kind of reaction you can expect, you can know if you'll have a viral hit from the word ‘go.' People do have control if they have the power of insight.

What makes someone want to share something?

The two most important factors that go into sharing are psychological response and social motivation. There are three main buckets for psychological response: emotional response, cognitive response, and primal response. Any of those at a high intensity will drive sharing.

What's the difference between those three types of responses?

Primal response refers to how we're wired to react to certain stimuli. Cognitive has to do with knowledge, which is related to surprise or confusion, will drive sharing at high intensities—‘Oh my god, this is incredible; you have to see this' rather than ‘Oh yeah, that's pretty interesting.' Emotional response relates to things like happiness, exhilaration, hilarity. It's worth highlighting, though, that negative emotions like contempt and disgust will also drive sharing. That's not always what brands want, but it does work really well in some cases, usually for things like causes and animal charities that play on anger to try and rile people up.

Where does social motivation come into the equation?

Social motivation is vital—that's about giving people a reason to share. You can make someone feel something strongly, but unless they have a reason to pass it on, they're not going to share it. Whereas psychology is related to feeling and that tends to be similar for a large number of people—people will laugh at funny things or cry at sad things—social motivation tends to be highly personal. For one person snowboarding might be their passion—for someone else, snowboarding might not move the needle at all.

Read The (Art and) Science of Viral Video in our April 2014 issue for more about what you can do to increase the Gangnam factor of your video content.

Gen. Colin Powell: Big Dreams, Big Goals, and Big Data

Gen. Colin Powell: Big Dreams, Big Goals, and Big Data

Big Data. It's a driving force that continues to shape marketing campaigns and business models in virtually every industry. On a more individual level, Big Data sometimes even influences the decisions of most everyone else—from shoppers like me, who make purchases based on targeted email messages, to the most accomplished leaders of our day.

Last week I attended the 2014 SAS Global Forum Executive Conference in Washington D.C., where General Colin Powell shared his vivid experiences and lessons from his tenure as a four-star general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor, and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Forces Command. More specifically, the decorated leader recounted his life as the nation's 65th Secretary of State and his dealings with Big Data. At the forum, Powell described to a captivated audience how Big Data played a role in his career—even before the term was coined. And he revealed how Big Data affected his daily decisions as the head diplomat at the U.S. State Department. Powell says, however, that his journey with information and data started long before time at the State Department.

“Many years ago the Army saw fit to move me into the world of computers and information,” Powell said after describing himself as a “kid from the South Bronx” who got through school with a C average, and ended up attending City College of New York. Powell said that after six months in college he found his calling and was drawn to the ROTC. He said his introduction to Big Data in the military was only a matter of time. “Actually,” Powell said, “the military always has been in the forefront of analytics technology and data information."

The retired general explained that it was members of the military who encouraged him to get his MBA at Georgetown University with an emphasis on data processing. And that education—coupled with his military experiences—gave him the foundation for a life and career influenced by Big Data. It's that understanding of information that made him acutely aware of the changes that needed to be made in major government entities, such as State Department. “As the Secretary of State, I realized we had some challenges with our info system,” Powell said. “So I bought 44,000 computers to put in offices, embassies, and organizations around the world. Without the modern flow of information, we in the State Department couldn't do our jobs. We learned to make sense of all this data.”

Powell explained that the agency's aging technology wasn't the only problem. “As Secretary, I had to change the hardware, software, and eventually the brainware.” The retired general said that he worked with his staff to think differently not just about how to use Big Data, but also how to collect and process it. “That's what leadership is all about—using the right tools so you can gather all of the data, and make sense of it.”

The retired general said his tenure at the State Department taught him several other poignant lessons to always implement and share. “One of the most important things you can do is to create trust in an organization. Trust is a sort of glue that holds an organization together. It's the lubricant that keeps an organization going.”

On his final note, he pointed to one specific lesson about data analytics that continues to hold true: “I want everyone to remember, the most powerful business analytics tool is the human brain.”

Ethics: The Achilles Heel of Big Data?

Ethics: The Achilles Heel of Big Data?

Big Data is changing the world in ways that are both interesting and terrifying. As marketers accumulate more data, they shoulder more responsibility and should consider the ethical ramifications of taking action on that data. But one question remains for marketers: what's considered ethical use of customer data?

Christopher Surdak, author of Data Crush: How the Information Tidal Wave Is Driving New Business Opportunities, defines those ethical lines for marketers today.

Surdak, who is also an information management consultant, talks data growth, the internet of things, and explains where the boundaries exist in contemporary direct marketing.

How fast are companies collecting data these days?

A lot of the numbers we're seeing thrown around suggest company customer data will double every 18 months or so. However, according to a lot of the businesses that I talk to, it's not every 18 months. It's more like every 12 months, maybe even every nine months, and it's accelerating. It wouldn't surprise me at all if we saw data growth doubling every six months within the next couple of years, as more and more people and devices get connected to the Internet. It's not the fact that it's doubling so quickly. It's that the rate of growth is accelerating that I think is intimidating.

Where do you see things going, as we move closer to harvesting the “internet of things?”

By 2020 there'll be about one device sending data to the Net for every square meter of surface area on the earth. That's something like five or six trillion devices. The amount of devices out there watching us will increase dramatically over the next five or six years. We're going to take that as normal. People are going to think it's normal for their toothbrush to measure how long they are brushing their teeth. It will send that data over the Net. That will be normal.

Is that what you mean by “socialfication” in your book?

Socialfication is this idea of clicking “Like” or friending someone. I make the jump in the book that in literally two or three years, when you buy a new refrigerator, it will first ask for access to your home Wi-Fi. Then it'll ask to be your friend on Facebook. You will be friends with your fridge. You will be friends with your microwave, and they'll start communicating with you. This idea of liking things—of connectedness—will be pervasive throughout our lives.

What about the ethics involved in something like that?

The ethical and legal issues behind this are tremendous. The thing that scares me is that at no one's reining in Google, or Apple, or HP. I think the NSA will be reined in at some point because so many people are talking about it. No one is reining in these companies that are commercially collecting, using, and analyzing this data. They use it however, and whenever, they want to, and we cannot opt out. I find that tremendously intimidating. Knowing what I know about how we can manipulate people's thoughts— combined with all of this— is scary. Technology has no morals. Technology just is. How we apply the technology is the real question that we need to be asking.

Is it unethical to commercialize data?

It's a tough question. These companies aren't doing anything illegal because there are no regulations against it. Ethical versus legal is out the window simply because no one has regulated this [collection and use of data]. If you're walking down a New York street, and you pass a Starbucks and end up buying a drink—even though you weren't thirsty—was Starbucks' marketing unethical? That's what we're doing, making you buy stuff when you didn't want to buy it, or you didn't need it. Is that ethical? I struggle with the morality here. We're getting better and better at psychological profiling of customers to make them believe they wanted something that they really didn't.

Consumers volunteer a lot of data, but can't they just ignore marketing or opt out if they start to feel uncomfortable?

We're so good at modeling and understanding behavior. What's happening now is that we're starting to model the absence of behavior, which is even creepier. The customers may be creeped out, so they stop behaving in certain ways. But that's what we're looking for. Now I can look at why you stopped a behavior and can understand you more deeply. The more you try to get out of this rat race of constant analyzing the more interesting you become.

*Update 3/28/14: The article incorrectly credited Mr. Surdak as the CEO of AIIM. John Mancini is the CEO of AIIM and wrote the forward to Data Crush.

The Secret to a Great Customer Experience

The Secret to a Great Customer Experience

Ah, remember the mad Mad days when marketing was, at least partially, about looking good with a brandy snifter in one hand and a storyboard in the other?

Today, it's 100% about 360-degree insight—marketers need a comprehensive customer view to provide the kind of top-line, seamless, consistent, cross-channel customer experience (CX) that consumers not only expect, but demand.

“When I started out in marketing, it used to be really, really simple,” says Darrel Kammeyer, executive director of marketing solutions at Teradata. “Campaigns were usually directed at large groups of people; we didn't really use segments or personalization, and broadcast was the primary vehicle.”

But consider this: Pre-omnichannel, roughly 80% of consumers made their purchase decisions in-store. Now, about 80% of shoppers know what's on their shopping list before they even enter a store. The dilemma is how to make it onto that list.

And that's why marketers need to optimize their CX programs—and embrace the dramatic changes in customer behavior—by strategically collecting customer data and combining it into an overall view of the customer. “This stuff isn't brain surgery anymore; you can get real time data delivered to your iPhone or iPad or anywhere and act on it,” Kammeyer says. “But gluing those data points together and getting it all to your executives and your frontline staff—that's the challenge.”

And it certainly is a challenge. Just take a look at this (Kammeyer says his customers jokingly refer to it as his “wheel of terror”): “It's supposed to look complicated because it is,” Kammeyer says. “There are so many fractured touchpoints—the question becomes, how do you get out there with a strategy to implement an effective customer experience?”

Considering the complexity involved, it's no wonder that about 55% of companies have hardly started executing their strategic omnichannel programs. In a straw poll conducted as part of a recent Teradata-sponsored webcast, it was revealed that 25% of respondents don't have any omnichannel strategy in place. Just 1% of the listeners surveyed currently have a fully functional omnichannel program.

These findings correspond to data from Teradata's 2013 Data-Driven Marketing Survey, which found that nearly half of marketers feel that data is the most underutilized asset within their respective organizations. Eighteen percent of marketers said they feel pressure to become more data-driven.

Well, there's no better time that the present, Kammeyer says.

“The biggest challenge is that a lot of companies are still so overwhelmed that they don't know where to begin, so they don't do anything—but not doing anything is the worst mistake you can make,” he says. “If you try things and execute them to the best of your ability, then at least you're putting your toe in the water.”

Omnichannel is here to stay. Here are some actionable tips from Kammeyer to help you get started:

  • Define and prioritize channels and customer focus to differentiate your brand
  • Identify the type and quality of data required and acquisition process for successful customer analysis
  • Leverage new and proven analytic methods to explore and understand customer behaviors
  • Provide KPIs and reporting methods to monitor business results and initiatives
  • Adapt processes and systems based on customer insights, while maintaining optimal business results
  • Create a relevant dialog to influence customer behavior and loyalty

“We've crossed over from the world of what I would call campaign management to a world of customer interaction management,” Kammeyer says. “If you're not democratizing your data and [bringing it] together, you're missing a very important opportunity to connect with your customers.”

There's a lot more to learn on the topic. Click here to view Teradata's “Delivering a Best-in-Class Customer Experience” webcast on demand.

Sponsored by Teradata in conjunction with its webcast.

Lee Rainie Talks Wearables, Tech, and Privacy

Lee Rainie Talks Wearables, Tech, and Privacy

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, is man who knows his data.

Rainie participated in an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit yesterday afternoon in which, as the name of the session denotes, anyone could ask him anything. And they did:

Tablets are quickly becoming ubiquitous in American households. What do you anticipate being the next technology to significantly revolutionize personal computing?

Rainie: Everybody is talking “wearables” now—especially for health and fitness contexts. We haven't asked a question about that in our surveys because the hardware is so new and so few people have any kind of wearable. I bet by the end of this year or early next year we'll try to get our first survey reading on that.

How can the US/world implement an "Internet of Things" and still maintain some level of personal privacy/security?

Rainie: We will be issuing a new report in mid-May about this very issue and how hundreds of experts who responded to our online query on this issue are very anxious about privacy in an era where data capture and data exhaust make data a "third skin" for people. These experts are not confident in the trends they see. You can get a flavor of that in the material we just released on predictions about the Internet in the year 2025.

I was curious on the backgrounds of the researchers that work at Pew (including yourself). How did they become research technology trends and what experiences best prepared them for the work they're doing at Pew? What are typical skills found in the skill sets of the researchers?

Rainie: There is an interesting mix of skills here. Some folks—like me—have a background in journalism—with a bit of a wonky tilt. Others are PhD pollsters, statisticians, demographers, economists, and we're just begun to get data scientists. In the next year or so we are going to figure out how to incorporate people with computer science, computational social science, other analytics backgrounds.

I even popped a question of my own:

Should people have any expectation of privacy on the Internet and on social media or is it more like this: If you take advantage of these tools, that's your business, but data is data and if it's out there someone is going to use it.

Rainie: We are in the midst of a sustained look at the present and future of privacy. People are becoming more nervous about their privacy, less confident they can control it, more anxious that current laws are not good enough. (See: Anonymity, Privacy, and Security Online).

In social media, the nuances we see are fascinating, especially when it comes to teens: Teens, Social Media, and Privacy.

Please believe our data that, contrary to the belief of many, teens care about their privacy and are pretty active reputation managers.

We probably have lots more lawmaking, lots more legal strife, and lots more adjustment of norms as people try work through the tradeoffs you cite in your question. The story isn't over yet, but we'll probably come out in a different place on privacy in the next decade from where we are now.

Of course, Reddit users also posted the truly hard-hitting questions:

Would you rather fight a horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?

Rainie: I learned in my take-the-kids-and-stale-bread-to-the-duck-farm days that I'm not even a match for 100 duck-sized ducks. One giant duck or 100 micro-horses would inflict the same damage. I'd rather be ignored by my cat.

In Search of a New Postal Paradigm

In Search of a New Postal Paradigm

Next week in Washington an eclectic and expert collection of postal stakeholders will meet to discuss a topic that is near and dear to direct mailers—the future of the U.S. Postal Service and the art of global delivery.

The founder of the conference, now in its fourth year, is confessed postal junkie John Callan. After merging his Calico Air Courier with DHL Express, Callan spent the next few decades deliberating better delivery with DHL and Purolator before becoming a consultant for USPS. His annual Postal Vision 2020 confab plays on the cutting edge of the postal game, this year tapping the insights of insiders such as PRC Chairman Ruth Goldway and Postal Inspector General David Williams, outsiders like Poste Italiene business development chief Ulisse Del Gallo and leader of Deutsche Post's E-Post venture Peer Bentzen, to forward thinkers such as MIT information economics professor Marshall Van Alstyne and Brian Bieron, executive director of eBay's Commerce Policy Lab.

We recently spent some time with Callan to get his singular insights into one of our favorite topics: The future of the U.S. Postal Service.

Is the mail in danger?

That's the existential question, isn't it? There will always be a consumer demand for it. And if we can afford to continue to provide mail as we know it, it will play a critical role in a multimedia mix which becomes more and more important in the e-com world. But there's a huge challenge here. We can't continue to provide it within the current cost structure.

I worked for Polaroid for a number of years. The culture was chemistry and manufacturing based, and the company could not adapt to a new marketplace. The Postal Service can and is adapting, but it's going to mean right-sizing, investing in technology, and delivering on the theme of “Stronger Together” coming out of  the National Postal Forum. If the Postal Service works with mailers, shippers, and consumers, then we can all work together as an ecosystem to keep mail relevant.

What will be the biggest challenges in the next few years?

In the coming year, to change the attitude in the Post Office, to think positive. They've been so beaten down in recent years. There's been a lot of discouragement and they've lost a lot of good folks and institutional knowledge. So, the first thing they need to do is is get over the hump, to say ‘We're not in that bad a shape.' Put their minds right. They can and will succeed by adapting to the new paradigm—that it's not going to be a volume-driven business in the future, it's going to be a value-driven business. [USPS CIO] Jim Cochrane, for instance, is can-do guy and has his finger on the pulse of all this. They need to think of themselves as more of an information business than a transportation and delivery biz.

As a result, they do have to embrace their partners—the mailers, third party service providers, and ultimately the consumer. Because of the current business mode, where the mailer is the payer, I think the Postal Service doesn't know what consumers really want.

A recent financial report on the Postal Service from the Postal Regulatory Commission noted that real estate is its biggest asset. Can it not be argued that its most valuable asset is its exclusive access to every door in the nation?

Kent Smith, a former market researcher at the Postal Service who works with us, likes to say that the pointed end of the spear is the carrier. The only USPS employee who got a standing ovation at the Postmaster General's keynote address at Postal Forum was the letter carrier. Every delivery and every transaction—that's the greatest asset. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I'm not so sure that moving to cluster boxes is a great idea. I know the Postal Service is adopting this as a cost cutter, but to me it's a retrenching of this enormous strength they have. That's proving itself out with Parcel Select, which is USPS's fastest growing business.

Speaking of Pat Donohoe's keynote, it sure was a paean to marketing-driven mail, wasn't it?

I was astounded by the opening presentation on the power of direct mail. I think they hit on the right theme. By using technology, IMb, and information tracking, there is a great opportunity for direct mail as part of the total marketing mix. Direct mailers have to think more about their role in that mix of catalogs and mobile phones and websites in driving a transaction. It's a virtuous cycle in that each channel plays a key role. The reason that direct mail became so popular in the first place is that it was measurable. It's a power point in the multichannel transaction.

What are your thoughts about the elasticity or inelasticity of postal rates and the effect the exigent increase will have on volumes?

If the mailers that play into the whole marketing mix adapt, they will prove that there is some inelasticity there. But they've got to adapt to these new technologies and get more value out of what they do. With this new information, they can get a lot more targeted with personalized mailings, so maybe they can get higher response with smaller mailings. But volume for the Postal Service is a long-term problem. It's not going to grow.

Will technology integration be a big theme at Postal Vision?

We will have good representation from the digital community. [Former Wired editor] Chris Anderson will be interviewing [What Would Google Do? author] Jeff Jarvis about new digital factors in postal. We'll have a global view from posts that privatized many years ago and invested in technology and have succeeded, like Deutsche Post and Poste Italiane. We'll have Matt Sweeney, an Australian who started a company that's using drones to deliver textbooks to college students, and Andreas Raptopoulos from a company called Matternet whose vision is to create an Internet for atoms and matter.

I love the “Stronger Together” theme, and I think we're going to identify key areas where we can all work together and build some excitement for a Postal Service for the future.

How Marketers Can Reinvent Their Corporate and Personal Brands

How Marketers Can Reinvent Their Corporate and Personal Brands

Marketing is in a constant state of evolution. While it's easy to focus on the technological and behavioral changes occurring in the industry, it's also important for marketers to recognize how their own roles are altering. According to the Digital Roadblock: Marketers Struggle to Reinvent Themselves study by Adobe Systems, 64% of marketers believe that their roles will change within the next year. 

For the most part, marketers are open to switching up their roles. In fact, 40% of marketers say they want to reinvent themselves, according to the study. Yet, just 14% know how to do so. Reinventing marketing's organizational roles has to come from the organizational itself, as well as from the individual marketers. Adobe SVP and CMO Ann Lewnes hosted a panel at the Adobe Summit and discussed how today's marketing organization is changing. Here are a few organizational and individual changes marketers can make to not only strengthen their corporate brands, but also their personal brands. 

I) Organizational 

Promote cross pollination

Knowledge is power. And the more knowledge that organizations spread across their departments, the more powerful they become. For instance, Pete Stein, CEO of digital agency Razorfish, said that when clients bring together different divisions to solve one common problem and achieve one common KPI, they often glean success. Not only does this tactic increase cross-divisional education, but it also breaks down silos. 

However, industry lingo can make it easy for marketers and IT heads to get lost in translation. So it's important for organizations to look for employees that can speak a common language.

“We look for marketers who understand how to communicate with technologists where they can concisely state their business objectives or business challenges,” said Jeff Titus, GM of digital technology and solutions for Audi of America.

Don't rely on organizational changes to fix everything

When problems arise, fingers often point to management. But a lack of data quantification may be more to blame than a particular position. For instance, marketers struggling to strengthen customer relationships may need to more clearly define customer experience metrics, Titus said. “[Data quantification] is where we're finding the most pertinent information,” he said. “You can't just go solve a problem with an organizational change.”

Outline your team before going to an agency 

Partnering with an agency can help lighten marketers' workloads and expand their creative horizons. But when it comes to choosing an agency, it's important to look before you leap. Marketers should define who they need on their team to accomplish their goals before selecting a partner, Titus advised. Pinpointing business objectives before reaching out to an agency will help a brand identify whether they need a large full-service agency, or a small specialized company, he said. 

II) Individual

Specialize in something

Today's marketers are forced to wear many hats. And while possessing a wide range of skills is critical, owning a niche talent is what separates leading marketers from their peers, said Jana Rich, managing director of executive search firm Russell Reynolds associates. “We need to know what is the thing that people are uniquely great at,” she said.

Hire to complement your skills

No matter how versatile a marketer may be, no person can do it all. When expanding a team, marketing heads should look for individuals whose skill sets complement their skill sets. This gives both parties the opportunity to shine and learn from the other, Rich says. 

Fail Fast

No one wants to fail. However, Rich said that employers prefer to hire marketers who have made a blunder or two because it shows that they embrace a test-and-learn culture. But if marketers are going to fail, it's important for them to fail fast and identify what went wrong early on, Titus said. Short-cycle investments can be an effective way for marketers to test and discuss what works and what doesn't within an organization, he said.

“Divorce yourself from any stance that you're always right,” Titus said. “Fail fast. We want answers immediately.”

Don't Waffle Around With Your Content Marketing

Don't Waffle Around With Your Content Marketing

I have some very important news to share with you: Today is International Waffle Day. Seriously.

In and of themselves waffles are delicious; no argument there. But what makes waffles, and the day that honors them around the world, even tastier, is their potential as inspiration for relevant and, more important, fun content marketing initiatives.

There's an international or national day to commemorate pretty much anything you can think of—tomorrow, for example, is National Nougat Day (yep); Wednesday is National Spanish Paella Day (really)—and each one is a golden opportunity.

One agency that does a particularly good job is Austin-based Proof Advertising, whose clients include Cargill (parent company of hot dog brand Schweigert Meats and turkey sister brands Shady Brook Farms and Honeysuckle White).

“Our social team is tasked with being aware of and on the lookout for holidays of obscure relevance, but it's not always about being surprising—sometimes you do need to embrace the day because it just makes sense,” says Craig Mikes, creative director at Proof. “You also need to know what's going on culturally and be ready to jump on it—for example, by poking a little fun at Joey Chestnut after the hot dog eating competition or by commenting on it if the president says his favorite food is broccoli.”

In other words, sometimes it's about being straightforward…

…and sometimes it's about lateral thinking:

But in essence, it's always about knowing your brand and understanding how it fits in with established “days of” as well as what's happening in the world at large. Denny's did a nice job of that after Auburn lost the College Bowl this year. (According to Denny's CMO Frances Allen, the tweet below, which was posted by the brand's social agency, has garnered more than five million impressions.)

Speaking of knowing your brand, Ly Tran, director of digital strategy and architecture at Proof, knows turkey. While she was on the phone with me, Tran was able to come up with a great Cargill/Waffle Day tie-in idea that would fit right into “Turkify,” Proof's ongoing campaign for Cargill. (Fun fact: Tran's birthday is May 15, National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. My birthday is July 3, National Eat Beans Day. We can't all be so lucky.)

“The idea behind Turkify is that you can make any food tastier, healthier, or easier for yourself or your family by using turkey,” Tran says. “So if we were going to leverage Waffle Day, we'd probably think about the connection between waffles and chicken and then extend that to turkey—‘If you like waffles and chicken, why not try waffles and turkey?'”

If a brand is willing to have a little fun, the possibilities are endless. There's no reason, for example, for Shady Brook or Honeysuckle White not to jump on the ice cream bandwagon on Ice Cream Day (it's the third Sunday in July, if you're curious) with a little turkey bacon ice cream suggestion for its customers.

“There are lots creative, surprising ways for turkey to enter the conversation,” Tran says.

No doubt.

But turkey aside, here are some universal tips to keep in mind if you want take advantage of National Whatever Makes Sense For Your Brand Day as part of your content marketing strategy:

1. Know what's what: Proof uses an app from that lets you easily look up food holidays for any day of the year. “Then we create a content calendar tied to the different holidays,” Tran says. “The app helps us make connections between the days and our brands.”

2. Sometimes it's just too much. “But try not to over-abuse the food holidays,” Tran notes. “Every single day is a food holiday.”

4. Make sense: “Try and find something that's at least in some way relevant to your brand,” Mikes says. “For Waffle Day, we don't have an Aunt Jemima in our back pocket, so we'd have to play off what we do have, to do something that complements our brands—but then also be ready to zag if we need to.”

3. Don't shill: “These aren't ads,” Tran says. “Create fun quirky stories with memes, videos, or images—but don't make them look or feel like ads.”

4. Be engaging: “Incorporate some kind of multimedia with whatever you do in digital and social; video is especially good,” Tran advises. “Everyone thinks they have to produce something slick, but with smartphones anything is possible.”

5. Tell people: “Acknowledge what you've done,” Mikes says. “Tell your fan base so they can be aware and share it with their social networks.”

[And lastly, a quick footnote of sorts: Just to be clear—March 25 is International Waffle Day, a holiday celebrated primarily in Sweden. August 24 is National Waffle Day in the U.S., commemorating the invention of the waffle iron in Troy, New York. You now have two days on which you are officially sanctioned to stuff your face with waffle-y goodness. You're welcome.]

When Webinars Meet Social

When Webinars Meet Social

Webinars and social media each remain effective marketing tools that drive engagement and generate leads. Combining the two, however, continues to be a golden strategy for marketers looking to promote, educate, and interact with audiences before, during and after each digital presentation. “Infusing social into webinars is a great way to draw an audience, get the message out, and most important, keep the conversations going,” says Mairead Ridge, senior manager of marketing at Offerpop. Ridge says that if done right, social media will strengthen the performance of webinars in a marketing campaign. They key is to know what steps to take, and when, for maximum results. She offers a few simple, but valuable tips on how social can be helpful at each stage of a webinar campaign.

Building the hype
A social media strategy must be in place long before the actual event, Ridge warns. Marketers should leverage the power of social media to build interest and excitement. “Social is getting the word out. Influencers, social ads, discussions with LinkedIn groups are all great ways to promote participation.” Marketers can do that by soliciting influencers to tweet, post, and chat about the event, which Ridge says creates buzz and encourages the target audience to pre-participate. She adds that great promotion, in effect, means more registrants, and potentially, more leads.

Without a doubt, the production behind a social campaign is imperative during the webinar. Live tweeting and hashtags in tandem with the event are a must, but marketers should do more. “Use a so-called fangate—where viewers are required to like your brand if they want receive content,” Ridge says. She encourages marketers to simply ask viewers to share and post by using a call-to-action. In addition, offering extra incentives, such as coupons and gift certificates—perhaps in the form of promo codes given during the webinar—can be a great motivator that will get an audience to watch, participate, and share.

Reaping the benefits
Although important, webinars do more than generate leads, Ridge explains. Webinars keep the conversation going—particularly on social media. “When the webinar is over, that doesn't mean the campaign is over.” Evergreen content can have a second, third, or even an infinite amount of lives, she explains. Marketers can continue to educate their audiences by sharing factoids, blogging about the event, and promoting interaction through discussions on platforms such as LinkedIn.

One more thing
Remember to involve your brand advocates, Ridge says. Brand advocates are not only familiar with your products and services, but also are engaged, loyal, and valuable customers. They expand the reach of a marketing campaign, especially through social media. In fact, 18% of brand advocates have between 300 to 600 people in their online networks, according to digital marketing firm Ciceron. “Make a connection with your brand's advocates. You might even use them as speakers on the webinar,” Ridge suggests. She says that the more you identify with brand advocates—and include them as part of your marketing plan—the more they'll become involved.

Agility, the Crucible of Modern Marketing?

Agility, the Crucible of Modern Marketing?

Marketing and technology will only become more intertwined as we move further into the 21st century, and with this “new age” comes new rule, trends, and ultimately a new culture. In his book A New Brand of Marketing: The 7 Meta-Trends of Modern Marketing as a Technology-Powered Discipline, author and blogger Scott Brinker delves into some of the major shocks to the marketing status quo inherit in the industry's technological shift.

Here, Brinker, who also serves as cofounder and CTO of Ion Interactive, discusses the relationship between digital and traditional marketing, the future of media silos, and the necessity of agile marketing models.

What do you mean when you talk about going from traditional to digital?

 It's not that the latter is wholesale replacing the former. It's more of an augmentation. The fact is, almost our entire marketing infrastructure is driven by software. Even in direct mail. Sure, the actual piece that's being delivered is tangible, but you're most certainly using sophisticated software for determining who you're sending it to, scheduling, managing return, and conversion rates. You see this everywhere. Everything that's happening these days, whether it is in a physical channel or a digital channel, is being correlated or coordinated by digital technology. Marketing is a digital world at this point, regardless of the channels you use to execute.

Why are silos such a detriment in today's marketing ecosystem?

Look at how the customer is interacting with us. Silos are an internal construct. The reason we've organized this way is that we need some way to break up an organization into manageable chunks. A lot of these channels are specialized. Customers don't see these silos. They're jumping across four, five, or even six silos within a company; but as far as they're concerned they're interacting with the same company.

We need to rethink how we're managing marketing because these silos do not operate independent of each other. We have to be coordinated enough so that customers jumping through these silos at least get a coherent presentation. If you're a marketer of any real scale then of course you're going to need some specialization in the organization. We need to think more about how we're going to leverage technology and put in place certain management processes so that even if we have specialization within a department, we're still coordinated when it comes to effecting customer experience.

Technology is a fluid, iterative industry. Marketing is much slower in general. How can marketers keep up?

It's imperative that we, as marketers, understand that the environment we're operating in is changing more quickly. The cost is just growing much faster than it used to be. Marketing has a rich legacy of being driven by long-term planners. The problem is that sort of planning is at odds with the ability to adapt and be more flexible to changes in the market. I'm not suggesting you go out with no plan whatsoever and wing it from week to week. Rather, we want to see something that's a little more of a hybrid. You still want an overarching plan or vision. What you're trying to do, the audience you're targeting, how you want to reach them—high-level strategy. When it comes to executing, you want to leave more white space for priorities to change, for tactics to change, etc. There's a lot of precedent for this in software development projects. It's a solution and can make you more effective at being adaptive, but it's also a culturally, managerially different way of handling marketing.

It's hard to change minds. What needs to happen before companies can shift to a more agile marketing model?

It really helps to have the CMO say, “Hey, we're going to change the way we do marketing.” The other way of doing it is instead of converting the entire marketing team to an agile structure, take a group of people really struggling with the idea. Let them pilot this and you have a lower-risk process and a way for the organization to see what this agile structure is like. As that group becomes successful you now have an example you can point to and you can start to add new groups, spreading it from there.

Postal Service CIO Makes a Case for Intelligent Mail

Postal Service CIO Makes a Case for Intelligent Mail

During the Postmaster General's keynote presentation at the National Postal Forum, Postal Service CIO Jim Cochrane made a point that cannot be asserted too often in marketing circles. “Direct mailers,” he said, “were the first movers in data analytics.”

I am ever amused by practitioners of “new” digital marketing methods who, through complicated machinations of SaaS software programs and unholy alliances with megalithic ISPs, “invent” behavioral targeting methods that direct mailers have been using since Sears invented catalogs. List brokers are the original data brokers.

Digital's seizure of the marketing mind-set has, in effect, coated the Post Office and the direct mail houses with a patina of past glory. Cochrane's mission is to break out his own mainframe feather duster and put a new luster on direct mail. “Our primary goal is to generate revenue, not a goal we share with the Department of Defense or any other government agency,” Cochrane says, “But a new goal that we're really getting focused on is customer experience. We think direct mail fits well with digitization, and so we're collecting data and trying to marry it with our customers in an omnichannel approach. Our strategy is to improve intelligence in the mailstream.”

For marketers to take full advantage of what the new, data-driven Postal Service has to offer, they'll have to adopt Full Service Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) systems. But a significant number of mailers large and small are reticent to enlist in the cause. Keeping abreast of often confusing USPS tracking reports and complying with the reporting needed to obtain IMb discounts requires mastery of new software systems, the hiring of a dedicated IMb operatives, or both.

Last December the Postal Regulatory Commission denied a Postal Service request to expand Full Service IMb requirements, ruling that such a move would constitute a de facto price increase for Standard Mail customers. The Postal Service subsequently appealed the decision to the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, where a decision is still pending.

“We do believe we'll be supported in the courts,” Cochrane says. “We've gotten to the point where the credibility of the data has become so important.”

Cochrane said Full Service IMb will provide three big advantages to mailers:

  • Immediate access to address change records and corrections

  • Increased move update information (hence, increased postage savings) for companies required by law to mail to the last known addresses

  • The ability to use digital integrators such as QR codes and near field communications chips in mailings

“Establishing an intelligent mailstream is critical as the rest of the marketplace moves to a digital solution,” Cochrane maintains. “The investments are significant, but it's one of those things we can't afford not to do.”

Cochrane makes a valid point, to be sure. The question is whether mailers can afford the added investment to take part in Full Service IMb while they're still attempting to swallow a 6% rate increase.

Honey Maid Shows the Evolution of Families and Products

Honey Maid Shows the Evolution of Families and Products

The makeup of today's family is changing and brands need to decide whether they're going to change along with it. For instance, there are nearly 20 million single parent households, according to the “America's Families and Living Arrangements: 2012” report issued by the United States Census Bureau this past August. In addition, about 8% of all U.S. married adults have a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, according to Pew Research's 2010 to 2012 Current Population Surveys.

One brand embracing these changes is Graham cracker brand Honey Maid, as evidenced by its “This is Wholesome” integrated marketing campaign, which features vignettes of actual families.

“We feel it's critical to share stories and advertising that reflect our consumers, and we're committed to demonstrating what the American family looks like today,” says Gary Osifchin, senior marketing director of biscuits at parent company Mondelez International. “We're celebrating the diversity of families. And while we could never be fully inclusive of all families, the campaign is a representative cross-section of some of the diversity we see in American society today.”

The campaign, which launched March 10 and will run into the “foreseeable future,” includes four television spots, media partnerships, PR, and digital and social media programs. For instance, Honey Maid fans can share pictures of their families via Twitter and Instagram along with the hashtag #thisiswholesome. In addition, consumers can visit the brand's Facebook and YouTube channels to learn more about Honey Maid's products. Osifchin also notes that the TV ads will be running on multicultural channels that cater to today's American family. And because the brand found it challenging to whittle down the family footage into a 30-second TV spot, Honey Maid produced longer films highlighting the families.

“The campaign is focused on sharing the stories of some real-life, diverse American families [and] illustrating that while families may look different...than they did in the past, the family connections they have, like our Honey Maid products, remain wholesome at the core,” Osifchin says.

Honey Maid isn't the only brand to focus on diversity. Coca-Cola is another. Its Super Bowl commercial featured a rendition of “America the Beautiful” sung in several different languages to highlight the various cultures that comprise the United States—a spot that earned more than 11 million YouTube views. Similarly, Banana Republic pays homage to “true relationships, true style, and true emotions” in its “True Outfitters” campaign by featuring different couples and families, including interior designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, as well as European models Sara Blomqvist and Jeremy Young.

However, not all consumers support these brands' marketing efforts. Although Osifchin says that the overall reaction to Honey Maid's spots has been “positive,” the campaign has received some unfavorable comments, as well—including consumers posting on YouTube that they will no longer purchase Honey Maid products.

In the article “Modern Family: A Reality for Today's Marketers,” Terry Young, CEO of culture-tracking agency sparks & honey, told Direct Marketing News that consumers tend to be more open to brands featuring certain family dynamics over others. He said that this is particularly true when it comes to addressing sexual orientation.

“I think there are certain configurations that have been around long enough that it's not controversial at all,” Young said. “When you bring sexuality into it, it becomes controversial because it gets tied back to religion. This is going to have to be something that every company decides for themselves.”

Honey Maid has responded to consumers' comments both in aggregate and individually on social, including posting the following message on its YouTube channel:

“Today we celebrate all families. From working moms to two moms; stay at home dads to single dads; adopted kids to surrogate kids. Honey Maid recognizes that the reality of family has changed, but the wholesome connections that all families share will endure. #thisiswholesome.”

Granted, not every brand may choose to respond to its consumers' comments. In the same article, Young told Direct Marketing News that the choice to respond really depends on the brand's overall philosophy.

“We're celebrating wholesome families of all types in this campaign, and our fans recognize that,” Osifchin says. “Just like our products, Honey Maid believes that no matter how things change, what makes us wholesome endures.”

Speedo's Stroke of Content Genius

Speedo's Stroke of Content Genius

Think about the last video you watched all the way through until the end on YouTube, Vimeo, or wherever. As viewers and consumers of media (and there's a lot of media out there to consume), we're not likely to sit through stuff we're not interested in. Personally, I can't click the “You can skip to video in 5…4…3” prompt fast enough when an ad plays before something I actually want to see on YouTube.

That's why content, especially video content, has to be engaging or it won't get shared—let alone viewed in the first place. The best, and ultimately most viral, video marketing examples of recent memory—Dove's “Real Beauty Sketches”, Blendtec's “Will it Blend?” come to mind—are authentic, funny, entertaining, on-brand, and not overly self-promotional.

“If a brand story is going to reach people and be successful you need a human component for them to relate to,” says Alyssa Igawa, marketing director at Speedo. “Unless you're going beyond just trying to sell a product, people are going to dismiss the content.”

Case in point: Speedo's recent “Art of the Cap” campaign, which tapped into the personal experiences of five Olympic gold medal-winning swimmers who collaborated with artists to design limited edition swim caps sold exclusively on, the proceeds of which went to support charities close to each Olympian's heart.

Speedo also released a series of beautifully shot, earnest videos in which each swimmer explains his or her personal connection to the chosen charity. Eleven-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte, whose cap raised money for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, lost a close relative to Duchenne. Olympian Dana Vollmer, who raised money for Simon's Fund, a charity dedicated to providing heart screenings and educating parents and coaches about sudden cardiac arrest, underwent cardiac surgery herself when she was 16 after being diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia. Vollmer's mother had to keep a poolside defibrillator handy in case of a sudden potentially fatal spike in her daughter's heart rate.

“As we sat down with each one of these Olympians, we realized how sincere their connection is to these causes,” says David Lai, CEO and creative director at Speedo's digital AOR Hello Design, the agency responsible for “Art of the Cap.” “We knew early on that being able to tell these stories through video would be a core component of the campaign because it was a great way to bring these stories to life—people naturally want to engage with a good story.”

Other than the usual suspects (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube), Speedo and Hello Design didn't put much of a media push behind the content; they seeded the videos organically, asked the Olympians to share them with their own networks, and sat back to see how people would react. “We didn't overthink it or ask ourselves what it would mean for ROI,” Igawa says. “We just wanted to tell a really nice story, so we created the content and the rest happened by itself.”

All of the caps sold out in less than a week and Speedo's social fan base increased by double its average growth rate during the campaign sales period. Total impressions for the campaign capped out at 18.2 million. But the most noteworthy stat is one related to engagement: the audience retention rate for the Art of the Cap videos was 86% better than the average YouTube video of similar length (about two and a half minutes).

“You can never really predict viral-ness, but for us that was never the goal,” Lai says. “We were looking to create quality over quantity; to make sure we were connecting with the right audience—people who love swimming and the water—which was more important to us than just saying we got tons and tons of views.”

Video views aside, you know you've got a hit on your hand when people actually use your branded hashtag voluntarily. Spontaneous UGC means you've done your content right:

Marketing Chiefs Talk Big Thinking

Marketing Chiefs Talk Big Thinking

Marketing today is not for the faint of heart. And complacency is completely out of the question. Today marketing requires thinking differently—and thinking big. A drove of esteemed marketing and business leaders shared their thoughts on thinking big in marketing at The Economist's Big Rethink. Here, a roundup of 15 of those marketing chiefs' advice, insight, and opinions on how they approach and achieve success in marketing today.

“As marketers we're seduced by technology, but we need to think about customers first.” –Laura Henderson, director, U.S. media and communications, Modelez International

“In this time of technology stripping out humanity, how do you bring back the humanity?” –Ester Lee, SVP, brand marketing, advertising, and sponsorship, AT&T

“We were the original social network, so how do we take new technology and apply it to the tentacles we already have? Our spend is going more toward digital because we're trying to find a way to get our message directly to consumers…. We're very engaged in social; you want to make sure that you're part of the conversation.”  –Candace Matthews, CMO, Amway

“How do vanity measures translate to conversion? You can't look at one without the other. And, you have to look at the quality of conversion, not just [the number of] conversions. Are you creating engagement? ‘Have you gotten me to want to think about your product?'”  –Anindita Mukherjee, SVP and CMO, Frito-Lay North America

“If it's core to the business, we collect as much data as customers will accept. We use the ‘sunshine test': If customers find out we're collecting a type of data about them, will they be OK with it?” –Tariq Shaukat, EVP and CMO, Caesars Entertainment

“Our line for collecting data is: Is it in service to the consumer? ‘If I give you my data, will you help me solve a problem or improve my experience?'” –Deanie Elsner, CMO, Kraft Food Group

“[Marketing] is different now because we have access to so much data. It's a data-first world that we're living in. Real-time marketing has changed the face of marketing. But you need to have a defensible budget to do real time [consistently]; you can do it one-off.”  –Amit Shah, VP online, mobile, and social,

“Real time is a fundamental element of our marketing strategy because it has business impact. [We] think of real time as an always-on approach. Real time is a natural way to engage with consumers because that's how they're engaging with media.” –Laura Henderson, director, U.S. media and communications, Modelez International

“You need to start with the seed of what's incredibly true to your brand, and then carry that forward into mobile video and social media. You can bring the brand to life…. We're in a duopolistic competitive environment, so we're trying to create an emotive response, which is more in the spirit of how we go to market.” –Tom Lamb, CMO, Lowe's

“Mobile video has to be relevant to your brand and to the experience customers are having. I worry all the time: ‘Will this be great content and can I tie it back to my brand?' Don't just run an extension of your national campaign; you may miss an opportunity to engage your customers…. Instead of ‘Will this go viral?', think, ‘Will consumers watch it again?' –Scot Safon, EVP and CMO, The Weather Company

“Today, the brand is a joint-custody situation between a company and its customers.  I enjoy [that]…. Our best content comes from the testimonials and experiences real women have with our products. The principles [of content] haven't changed, just how you serve it has.” –Sheryl Adkins-Green, CMO, Mary Kaye

“The days of being able to stand up and just talk about yourself are long gone. You need to tell a great story in the manner of the channel in which it's consumed.” –Neil Bedwell, global group director, digital strategy and content, The Coca-Cola Company

“Interactive fans are more important than avid fans.” –Simon Wardle, chief strategy offer, Octagon

“We view ourselves as more of a technology company… that connects buyers and sellers. We want to facilitate your journey so you can enjoy your passion seamlessly and effortlessly.” –Michael Robichaud, SVP, global sponsorships, MasterCard

“Total Rewards…is really a data collection platform. If we don't use that data [to be relevant to Total Rewards members], customers complain.” –Tariq Shaukat, EVP and CMO, Caesars Entertainment

“The Holy Grail [in marketing] is real-time decisioning…. With real time I can see what's working and what's not and make changes on the fly. It will be a profound change to the marketing industry.” –Deanie Elsner, CMO, Kraft Food Group

“The body language of a brand has to be in synch with what it's saying.” –David Droga, founder and creative chairman, Droga5

“In the world of marketing, now more than ever consumers are empowered and jaded and have seen it all, so we have to create [things that are fresh and different.]” –Anindita Mukherjee, SVP and CMO, Frito-Lay North America

“Marketers have a marketing problem…marketing has to feel like it's not marketing.” –Neil Bedwell, global group director, digital strategy and content, The Coca-Cola Company

Five Ways to Develop a Successful Marketing App

Five Ways to Develop a Successful Marketing App

The launch of innovative technology continues this week at SXSW in Austin. This ongoing explosion of new tech creations is one that marketers should examine—not just for inspiration—but for applicable lessons to create more modern, effective campaigns. In particular, which trends marketers should consider when designing an app or social campaigns for their brands. DMN recently featured one of these innovative apps from Texas daily newspaper, Austin American-Statesman.

Recently back from SXSW, CEO and founder of Obviously Social, Mae Karwowski, weighed in on the topic. “Apps are a great way to relate to customers,” Karwowski says. “But the majority of brands aren't doing it right. Apps should add value to the customer experience.” The social marketer gives us five top trends marketers should consider when designing apps and social media campaigns.

1. Provide instant gratification.
News stories, friend updates, recent likes—all provide instant satisfaction, Karwowski says. And that immediate fulfillment can be a powerful tool for marketers. “It's psychological,” she explains. “For marketers who can provide an app that taps into the mental aspect, that's huge.” Karwowski adds that instant gratification in a marketing campaign keeps customers close and connected.

2. Give the customer an identity.
Customers are often looking to brands to help shape their identities and marketers should be there to do just that. A growing number of consumers embrace brands as part of their personalities. Karwowski says features like quizzes can provide insight for a customer and make a connection to the brand. For example, which type of flower or drink represents you best? Then connect the results to your product or service. “This is key for marketers,” she says. “Customers feel you've given them insight into themselves.”

3. Embrace anonymity.
This may sound counterintuitive, but Karwowski says one major trend among app and social media users is the idea of remaining anonymous to brands. So how can marketers ride the wave of such a discrete trend? Karwowski says that allowing the user to participate while remaining anonymous can still leave customers engaging with your message and help make a memorable impact. “It's tricky. The app needs to add entertainment, give info, or provide interaction with others using the app.” She cites the popular application Whisper and social news site Reddit as examples. Both, Karwowski explains, allow customers to shift from public facing to anonymity. She says these types of apps solve the customers' concern of being overexposed.

4. Share content in a way that's new and fun.
Don't simply include an app in your campaign and neglect to make updates, Karwowski warns. “The last thing you want is for your customers to stop using your app because they feel it's getting old and boring.” Marketers, she says, should be constantly updating and reinventing an app or social campaign. Take inventory of what's working and what's not.

5. Talk to a few people at a time. For traditional marketers, mass audiences are king. But Karwowski suggests a more intimate approach in reaching out to customers. “Marketers need to learn to become [app] users themselves and not simply disseminate a message. But instead, reach the user who is committed to the brand.” She says that may mean chats that are one-on-one, one-to-two, perhaps one-to-a-few, versus traditional mass communication. “Marketers should realize it may not be the fastest, but it can be more impactful.”

Big Data Makes Sense (and Cents) and Dollars

Big Data Makes Sense (and Cents) and Dollars

Whether you run a dentist's office or a Fortune 500 company, data needs to be a part of the conversation. Such was the sentiment expressed at the Direct Marketing Club luncheon on March 13, where execs from Citibank, Hearst Magazines, and Forrester gathered to answer this question: “The New Analytics: Sense or Nonsense?”

The answer is, of course, a resounding “SENSE,”—if you have any desire to relate to your customers in a relevant way and make money, that is.

According to Forrester, companies that include data as part of their overall marketing strategy are able to implement their plans three times as fast and up to twice as profitably. Not bad.

Data drives modern marketing; no one disagrees with that. The question is less, “Should I use data?” and more, “What data should I pay attention to and how should I use it?”

Most marketers are still in what Citibank chief analytics and database marketing officer for consumer and small decision management Tony Branda, refers to as “research and development mode,” meaning they're still trying to figure out how to operationalize Big Data, especially unstructured data, to attract and deepen relationships.

“In this world of digital footprints and customer-engaged, customer-driven multichannel marketing, there's no social data infrastructure yet,” Branda said. “We're still trying to integrate our infrastructure with all of the unstructured data coming out of Big Data.”

Step one is asking yourself what you want to get out of your data, noted Sheryl Pattek, Forrester VP and principal analyst serving CMOs.

“Data has been so over-spoken about in the industry as a whole, but many of our clients are not quite sure what to do with it [because] they see it as this huge, overwhelming mass of stuff,” Pattek said. “But there's possibility in being pragmatic; focus on what specific questions you want answered and what data is going to help you answer those questions.”

Data is less overwhelming when you view it through the window of practical strategy. If you think of data as a way to help you increase customer acquisition by 10% or bump up cross-sell by 3% rather than as a general panacea (or implacable monster), you'll see results.

It also doesn't hurt to listen. Dell, for example, uses its social media command center as a listening device to keep tabs on what its customers are saying about the brand in the social space. At one point, after a recent launch, Dell noticed that people were complaining about the high price of its new product. Dell was able to bring that feedback to the product management department and take an action that not only mitigated the trash talk, but also boosted sales.

The more channel-agnostic consumers become, the more integrated marketers need to be. If someone hears about a product on social, researches it on their phone, then visits the company website, opts in to email, finally buys the product on a desktop, and then goes back to social to tweet about their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the whole process—why does their final key stroke (or tap) matter? It's time to toss last click attribution out the window.

“We need to move away from channel attribution because the channel basically doesn't matter anymore,” Pattek said. “If you optimize a single channel, you might be missing an important part of the buying journey.”

Because it's a whole new world out there—one in which a single tweet is all it takes to make a magazine fly off the shelves, as was the case with Miley Cyrus and the March 2013 issue of Cosmo:

“Everyone did it and sales went through the roof,” said Charles Swift, VP of strategy and marketing operations at Hearst Magazines. “Now the challenge for us is, ‘How do we make that happen again?'”

It's a good question, considering Miley tweeted that on her own, not as the result of a directive from Hearst.

“We spend a lot of time testing social media, but it's new for us,” Swift said. “Now that we've seen some evidence of success, it's hard to say what we have to do to repeat it.”

60 Minutes Data Broker Report Has Cracks in It

60 Minutes Data Broker Report Has Cracks in It


Here are two realizations I took away from 60 Minutes' report on “data brokers” last Sunday:

1. 60 Minutes thinks American consumers are dumb as dirt, and

2. 60 Minutes has no clue that global commerce now dances to a digital tune and will cha-cha over anyone in its path, including the United States Congress and TV magazine shows that sell digital ads on their websites

Let's take number one first. 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft starts out the report by insulting consumers' intelligence. After mentioning the National Security Agency and its recent privacy gaffes, Kroft tells viewers that “what most of you don't know…is that a much greater and more immediate threat to your privacy is coming from thousands of companies you've never heard of in the name of commerce. They're called data brokers.”

According to eMarketer, smartphone penetration is at 74% in America. People get smartphones because they can use them to check email, engage in social media, and install apps that connect them to everything from sports betting services to their airlines. But what 60 Minutes believes is that the preponderance of Americans carry little computers with GPS tracking in their pockets from which they post pictures of themselves on Pinterest, summon Uber cars to pick them up in specific locations, and have Pizza Hut deliver them pies via apps; but they're positively stunned that the for-profit marketers with whom they've entrusted their names and locations might track their behavior and market stuff back to them?

I watched the report on 60 Minutes' Web page, and I got served a video ad for Viagra before it started plus a banner ad offering me a free trial. Could it be that the 60 Minutes webmasters just made a great guess that I was a 57-year-old male? Or could it be, Steve, that there are third-party companies on your site who, in the name of commerce and paying your huge salary, served me a (possibly) relevant ad?

Sure Americans have never heard of data brokers. Data brokers never heard of data brokers until the U.S. Congress and the Federal Trade Commission concocted the term a few years ago and arbitrarily assigned it to a couple dozen companies. But if you believe most Americans think there's a free lunch on the Internet in the form of computer games and driving directions and, well, free lunch delivery, then Steve, you hang out with some pretty dopey Americans.

On to number two. Last week Forrester Research released a survey of some 1,600 executives of large global enterprises who said that the future of their businesses were challenged and that the great majority of them were doing quite badly at competing with digitally nimble tech startups. So badly that one of the Forrester analysts who prepared the report said it would not be surprising if, 10 years from now, two thirds of the Fortune 500 might be displaced.

The global economy, like it or not, Steve, is driven by data. Don't use data brokers and SaaS technology platforms to learn who your customers are and the way they'd like to be served, and you die. Economists John Deighton from Harvard Business School and Peter Johnson from Columbia University completed a study last year that found that, in 2012, producers of goods and services related to data—what the professors called the “Data-Driven Economy”—employed 676,000 people and added $156 billion to the economy.

Kroft paid homage to Sen. Jay Rockefeller and his vendetta against the “dark underside of American life,” namely data brokers. But here's the thing, Steve. Politicians care more about bringing jobs back to their states and districts than putting tech companies out of business. And with coal mining coming under fire of late, one wonders if the Senator from West Virginia might not be eyeing some of those hundreds of thousands of data jobs in a more positive light.

Data brokers aren't some seamy little side street in corporate America. Data brokers are corporate America. Every major company that keeps and sells customer data, and that's just about all of them, can be considered data brokers. And every company that appears on the scene, like those startups the Fortune 500 fear, are founded on data collection, analysis, and implementation strategies. Sink data brokers and you sink the economy.

“You can't look at the data-driven economy as if it's a vertical like energy or hotels,” says Direct Marketing Association CEO Linda Woolley. “It's a horizontal that cuts across all of the verticals. Exxon Mobil can just as easily be part of the data-driven economy as Hilton.”

Woolley, who was interviewed on background for the broadcast, also deftly points out that the legendary investigative reporters at 60 Minutes failed to present any consumers with horror stories of how their lives had been upended, or even jostled a bit, by marketers in possession of their Facebook liking habits.

I'm going to go back to the 60 Minutes site and watch the report again to see if there was anything else I missed. I might also click that free Viagra offer. That stuff's expensive—or so friends of mine tell me.

Content Marketing and Data Make Up's Brigade

Content Marketing and Data Make Up's Brigade

Learning how to effectively market to a specific audience can take years to nail down. That's why the Automated Housing Referral Network ( spent more than 10 years fine tuning the house hunting and selling experience for military members and their families.

A salute to its consumers

Paul Giese, product manager of parent company Runzheimer International, describes the military audience as a “very defined market niche.” For instance, there are certain policies and procedures members must obey—such as living within a certain base distance—Giese notes. In addition, military families will often have to move to a new location without securing their housing situation.

To better cater to this demographic, spent 18 months working with the Department of Defense and evaluating the existing military housing referral process. The company then spent an additional year developing its beta site before launching the first version of its site in June 2005. has continued to upgrade the site ever since—including making the site optimized for mobile in November 2012, as well as introducing content and ads in January 2014.

When visiting the site, former or active military members must register and create an account. solicits the type of service members are in, their rank, marital status, number of children, intended move date, installation location, and housing allowance. Registrants are also asked to fill out a housing profile to inform of the type of housing they're looking for. Based on this insight, customizes the site and its listings to fit those members' needs. To stay abreast of new listings, members can opt in to receive email alerts or push notifications, as well as use's live online support. However, military members aren't the only ones who benefit from the site. Giese adds that also allows property managers to control their properties within the system without having to call or fax a housing office.

Currently, garners two million unique visitors a year, according to Lisa Klinkhammer, CMO of Red Door Group,'s marketing agency.

Content marketing boot camp

To maintain engagement with after they find a residence, started bulking up its use of content marketing this year, such as by providing moving, decorating, and property management information. Klinkhammer adds that the company is partnering with bloggers, including Katie del Castillo, an army officer and author of the blog Life with a Dash of Whimsy. To ensure that the content resonates with its audience, also has Klinkhammer and her team—who are all military spouses—produce and manage it.

“It deepens the trust, adds credibility to the content and to the site, and increases brand equity,”'s Giese says.

In addition to building trust, experienced a 45% increase in registrations and a 25% increase in page views this past January, as compared to December.

Advances in advertising

However, developing its content isn't the only enhancement has made recently. In January 2014 opened the site up to advertising and sponsorship opportunities. “Many brands offer discounts to military members. We see it as a win-win,” Klinkhammer says. “We're looking to bring high-value brands and discounts to connect with military members.”

So far, Giese says, has a “few [brands] in stage one, [or] stage two” of the advertising process, adding that the company is still getting the word out.

In addition to forging this new frontier, Klinkhammer says maintaining the brand's market share among its competitors remains a challenge. However, she says, plans on upholding its niche by continuing to provide rich, engaging experiences. And while Klinkhammer acknowledges that data is important, she says that the trust has developed with military families throughout the years is a major component of the brand's overall success.

“Trust is so important,” she says. “Yes, there's a lot of data….. But the data behind it is all trusted.”

You Wouldn't Put the Wrong Info on Packaging, So Why Do It Online?

You Wouldn't Put the Wrong Info on Packaging, So Why Do It Online?

Whether a brand sells muffin mix or luxury sports cars, the accuracy of its digital product information can make or break the sale—but for the muffin mixes of the world, the stakes are actually much higher.

CPG brands rely on the continual loyalty of their customers to buy their products day after day, week after week, and with the proliferation of smartphones, a large part of the consideration process is happening online.

If consumers research a product online and find inconsistent, inaccurate, or disjointed information where they were expecting reliability, clarity, and transparency, they'll go from in-market to ‘no thanks' in a trice.

Brands have a fairly short window to build trust. If you're standing in an aisle in front of a muffin mix display with your phone (not sure why I'm harping on muffin mix; I must be hungry) and you either can't find more information about the product online or there's a disconnect between what you're reading on your device and what you're seeing on the shelf—or worse, you scan something with your phone and see “page not found”—you're likely to move onto something else. There's no lack of muffin mix brands in the world. According to research from GS1, 40% of shoppers said they wouldn't buy a product if they didn't trust the digital product information they read online—so there you go.

“As marketers we've trained consumers to expect perfection,” says Steve Cole, CMO of Gladson, a company that helps brands get their digital product info ducks in a row. “Whether we go to an e-commerce site to buy something immediately or we do online research and make a mental note for the next time we're in a store, we're trained to expect that we'll have all the information we'll need at our fingertips.”

Part of the problem is logistics. Who's responsible for keeping all that information up-to-date? Marketing surely has enough to do already.

“A lot of companies are going through an evolution making that decision and haven't quite figured out who owns the digital assets for product information being used by retailers,” Cole says. “It seems to fall somewhere between marketing, the product people, operations, the supply chain folks, and sometimes even a digital agency.”

With so many people involved—and so many siloed departments contributing their little piece to the whole—it's like a massive game of digital product info telephone. Even some big brands aren't on the stick.

“Some leading companies out there are only active in managing probably their top five or 10 retailers and the rest of the work is being done by interns and through pencil-and-paper systems,” Cole says. “It'll improve over time, but it does require companies to transform what's been a very analog system into a continuously governed, high-quality one.”

Marketers can pooh-pooh this aspect of the path-to-purchase as outside their purview, but to me it seems like something they should actively own. An inconsistent digital presence erodes trust and band value—exactly what brands spend untold amounts of effort working to foster.

Cole refers to it as a “battle for brand loyalty.”

“Marketers are spending hundreds of millions, even billions, of dollars, to establish brand loyalty, and this directly undermines that spending,” he says. “If you can't deliver in the last five feet when the shopper shows up in front of the shelf, looks at a package, and thinks, ‘This isn't what I saw online,' then the whole thing breaks down.”

It'll require work—you need to create the content, gather hi-res images, update them when necessary, and develop a clear distribution channel—but it'll be worth your while. You can't build a house without a foundation—and you can't sell muffin mix without information.

“If you buy a Super Bowl ad, say, and you spend $100,000 on it, you darn well better be sure that when I pick up my iPad and look for more information about your revolutionary breakfast cereal, or whatever it is, online, it looks the same on my iPad as it will in the store,” Cole says. “If I go to the store and what I see is different from what I expect to see, that runs counter to all the effort marketers are putting into awareness and building brand loyalty.”

The Modern Age of Coupon Marketing

The Modern Age of Coupon Marketing

For some, the word “coupon” evokes thoughts of Sunday newspapers stuffed with promotion-laden inserts. But a new report from Experian Marketing Services shows that for today's marketers, email, SMS, MMS, push notifications, and other digital channels are the way to go. These are today's “coupons.” Experian's 2013 Q4 Email Benchmark report shows that emails with some form of coupon have a 14% higher unique open rate, a 34% jump in unique clicks, a 27% increase in transaction rates, and a whopping 48% boost in revenue per email, compared to other types of promotional emails.

“Nowadays, marketers aren't offering solely traditional coupons,” says Liz Gould Zito, Experian's director of strategic accounts and cross-channel marketing. “Mobile is so hot right now. There's an ability to understand the customer's location, past transactions, propensity to buy, and create a personalized offer.” Zito says that most marketers today are able to use detailed customer data to create a campaign that's more meaningful for each consumer.

And although few customers and marketers identify these digital discounts as coupons, Zito says that's exactly what they are. “These days, people don't say ‘coupon.' It's all digital.” Rather than traditional direct mail, promo codes, barcodes, and alphanumeric codes are playing a major role and changing the landscape of coupon marketing, Zito says. The Experian report shows, for example, a 50% year-over-year increase this past holiday season in the number of email campaigns with coupons.

Zito adds that even though the bulk of the digital discounts are offered by retailers, this strategy can prove to be effective across industries—from financial and healthcare to travel and manufacturing. “Each business has to determine what type of coupons work best for them. Every company is different,” she says. “Marketers can make those decisions based on testing, reports, industry trends, and of course their own ROI.”

What's more, coupons can also be an effective marketing tool when customers don't buy. “Coupons give marketers the chance to implement a reactivation campaign,” Zito says. She adds that marketers can use automated trigger emails to further remarket if a customer doesn't take advance of a discount. Trigger emails can woo customers back and get them through the funnel to make a purchase.

There are times, however, when a digital discount is not the most effective campaign, Zito points out. She says welcome emails and abandoned cart emails are great examples of communication that do well without any sort of discount. “Abandoned cart emails have such a strong transaction rate; vendors don't necessarily need a coupon.” But the Experian report did show that welcome emails coupled with coupons had transaction rates that were more than double those with no discounts.

In addition, the report showed that mobile is a great way to mesh the digital world with the physical space. According to the report, more than 20% of digital offers encourage customers to use their mobile devices to show an in-store coupon to sales associates. “It's probably because of the [traditional] notion of coupons,” Zito says. But digital coupons, she adds, are measurable in terms of effectiveness of an email campaign. They also tend to be more personal and are great for multichannel promotions, she explains. Marketers who use this strategy have the opportunity to make the shopping experience more relevant and engaging for their customers.

Office Depot Puts Customer Experience at the Center of Its Marketing

Office Depot Puts Customer Experience at the Center of Its Marketing

“Few marketers would say that their website experiences are perfect,” Kevin Moffitt, VP of eCommerce strategy, Office Depot, suggested during his keynote at eTail. He added that in many cases there are opportunities for improvement in, for example, site search or checkout.

“I certainly don't feel special on most of the sites I visit,” Moffitt said of his customer experiences. “It's certainly not for a lack of tools, and not for a lack of data. We have access to more data than any other retailers who came before us. Then what's holding us back?”

The answer, he said, is a lack of customer centricity.

“Customers want us to care about them as individuals,” Moffitt said, pointing out that if a brand is focused on customer centricity then its customer experience would show it. “Everyone is unique, and…everyone is trying to interact with you for a different purpose. So start there. Be easy to use and intuitive to start.” Moffitt reminded attendees that what marketers and designers think is simple isn't necessarily aligned with what customers think is simple. So, he said, involve customers in the usability process, which is one way Office Depot ensures that it delivers a stellar customer experience. Be creative about it. In one case, Moffitt took gift certificates to an Office Depot location and offered them to shoppers to participate in a virtual shopping experience. He got a 90% take rate.

That was one small part of an ongoing effort to ensure that the retailer's customer experience is satisfactory. “You have to integrate customer feedback into everything you do, not collect it once or twice a year,” Moffitt said. “We start every morning by reading customer feedback from the day before.”

One way customer feedback and customer satisfaction studies comes to life is in how Office Depot builds and manages its online customer experience. Over the past 18 months the retailer has updated its website, leading to significant increases in satisfaction and conversions. “We made small changes, iterative, over that time,” Moffitt said, noting that it took six months to move from the site's old navigation style to current one, which includes a more visual and simple design that works better on mobile. “If you introduce a large change at one time customers have to reorient themselves.” Small adjustments are less interruptive, he added. Another benefit of taking a more deliberate approach was the ability to use A/B testing to ensure that the changes didn't negatively impact the business. “If we found issues from testing or feedback it was easy to make adjustments since the changes were small.”

Other aspects of Office Depot's online customer experience that are a hit with customers is its 24/7 chat and social sign-in. But these aren't just customer conveniences. The data allows Office Depot to deliver a more relevant experience. “Once a customer creates an account and gives us more detail, we want to ensure that we make their experience as relevant as possible,” Moffitt said. The retailer currently does this through personalized product recommendation, and is planning to launch personalized promotions “We've been experimenting,” Moffitt said, adding that personalization leads to double and triple percentage increases in click-through rates. In fact, Office Depot has seen a 700% increase in email performance when its emails are personalized. “We need to focus on optimizing segmentation to maximize this,” he said.

Of course, customers today are multichannel, so the customer experience is, as well. For marketers, that means ensuring that it's easy for customers to interact with you in their preferred channel at any given moment. “When you're a multichannel retailer, it's hard to know where conversion is happening,” Moffitt said. “But most sales are still happening in-store.” So Office Depot makes it easy for online and mobile customers to locate a nearby store, know what's in stock, and find in-store promotions, he said. “We make online purchase to in-store pickup easy, and arm store associates with customer information so they can deliver a relevant experience to customers picking up their orders.”

Office Depot is using mobile as part of its customer experience to empower associates and customers alike. Mobile in-store gives associates access to the same information that customers have, so they can better assist customers. And in the in the past year the retailer updated its mobile app significantly to make the mobile customer experience as simple as, if not easier than, it is on the desktop, Moffitt said. “We focused on small real estate and specific behaviors.”

The retailer is succeeding with its multichannel customer experience for several reasons, Moffitt suggested, including a willingness to take risks, testing, and a dedicated omnichannel team. But most of all, Office Depot considers its experience from the individual customer's point of view. “We treat different customers differently,” he said. “All marketers need to think about customers not as an ID number, but as individuals.”

Just How Good a Digital Campaign Manager Are You?

Just How Good a Digital Campaign Manager Are You?

I rarely use this space to promote productive and even time- and cost-saving offerings from digital marketing suppliers, choosing instead to fill it with half-baked but amusing (I think) opinions on the state of Marketocracy or horror stories about bots. This week, however, in the interests of a quaint but noble journalistic aim called “reader service,” I make an exception. During a catch-up call with Patrick Tripp, product manager of Adobe Campaign (nee Neolane), I learned of a website his unit had just put up called the Campaign Management Self-Assessment Tool that offers what may be the best 20 minutes an inquisitive digital marketer can spend on the Web.

The program presents seven capability areas—among them  customer knowledge, channels and execution, real-time engagement, and reporting and analytics—in which you are asked to gauge your performance in five categories. “We use or import predictive models to help reporting and targeting” and “We have fatigue rules in place to avoid reaching out to individuals too often” are the types of things you're asked to rate your operation on.

Once that's done, Adobe scores you from 1 to 5 in each of the seven general areas and each of the individual questions. Being the inventors of Photoshop, Adobe even present your results in a colorful pie chart benchmarked against five industry verticals. Before constructing the tool, the company surveyed 300 marketers across all the big verticals to assess their campaign proficiency. You the user can therefore be informed as to whether you are a beginner or a world class player in the game of digital campaign management. You can also match your results against any one of the different verticals.

“This can be used as a great team exercise. Getting your key people together and drilling into each question is a great way to set goals,” says Tripp, who then turns devious. “Of course, you can also use it to root out gaps in perception of your efforts among staff. Have them do the survey individually and see where they disagree.”

After all this effort, you have to fill out a form with your personal contact information to get your complete assessment and action points returned to you in a PDF report, sure to be followed by a call from an Adobe sales rep. (Something tells me Adobe probably aced its own test.) You know the drill. You do it yourself with your website visitors and white paper readers. So, when an Adobe rep calls you, just tell him or her that Al Urbanski told you that Patrick Tripp told him that you didn't have to buy anything.

Unless, of course, your results so move you.

Why Writing Subject Lines Is a Lot Like Dating

Why Writing Subject Lines Is a Lot Like Dating

When it comes to subject lines, marketers are constantly on the prowl to find “the one.” But often, they end up settling for losers. You know, the bossy ones (“You need this shoe. Now.”), the slightly immature (“Who Charted?”), and the ones that are way more into you than you are into them (“Elyse, we really like you”).

It's OK. We've all been there.

“It's almost like dating sometimes,” says Jerry Jao, CEO and cofounder of customer retention solution provider Retention Science. “If you give too much information, then the person loses interest. But if you're a tiny bit secretive, then the girl or boy you're trying to date will be a little more interested.”

While there's no Cupid's arrow for crafting the perfect subject line, Jao advises marketers to focus on three key elements: being clear, being concise, and being real. Here are four ways marketers can write one-liners their subscribers will love.

Be Clear

Don't play games: Honesty is crucial in any relationship—especially the one brands form with their customers. When writing subject lines, marketers should always tell the truth. If an email contains information about a webinar, don't write a subject line hinting towards a sale or new blog post.

“You don't want to say things that are misleading but are going to capture someone's attention and, as a result, get higher open rates,” Jao says. “You're not going to carry them throughout the entire funnel through click-through and, ultimately, conversion. You're also hurting your brand along the way.”

Be Concise

Don't talk too much: According to a recent Retention Science study, subject lines containing six to 10 words perform the best and have a 21% open rate while subject lines containing 11 to 15 perform the worst and generate a 14% open rate. Yet, 52% of emails sent still contain 11 to 15-word subject lines.

While Jao doesn't know why shorter subject lines perform better, he suspects that the increase in mobile email opens plays a factor. He also presumes that marketers cram as much information into subject lines as possible out of fear that they'll leave something out that could generate a click.

Be Real

Test the waters: Thirty five percent of emails are now opened on mobile devices, according to Retention Science's research, and Jao suspects that some companies see even higher mobile open rates. As a result, Jao encourages marketers to make their mobile emails responsive and to test their appearance before they go out. In other words, try out a few different outfits in front of the mirror before settling.

“Look at your own iPhone before you run a campaign and then count the number of words you can fit in,” Jao says. “A lot of times marketers forget that that's the easiest [way] to just test whether things are going to work.”

Be interesting: We generally like to date people who know what's going on in the world. Consumers like to know that their favorite brands are on top of pop culture, as well. In fact, subject lines containing movie or song references generated a 26% open rate, compared to traditional subject lines that generated 16% open rates.

Jao says that movie and song references can make email seem timely, relevant, and interesting. For instance, one Retention Science customer referenced singer/songwriter Adele with a "Rumor Has It" subject line. The company experienced results that "jumped out of our stats board," Jao says.

"It 's very short, and doesn't tell you anything," Jao says. "But because Adele was so popular, everybody opened the email."

Omnichannel Challenges and Opportunities

Omnichannel Challenges and Opportunities

Retail today requires being where customers are. And since customers are omnichannel, retailers must be, too.

During a session on “migrating from multichannel to onmichannel” at eTail West, moderator Jonathan Ricard, SVP, sales and business development, North America, for BrightTag asked panelists from Gamestop, Seventh Generation, Toms Shoes, Williams-Sonoma, and 360pi to discuss where they are on the omnichannel journey and what it takes to move forward successfully. Here, an account of their responses.

What does omnichannel mean to you?

Angela Caltagirone, VP, online marketing, Williams-Sonoma: Omnichannel is about creating an integrated experience for customers and how that drives your vision.

Leah Stigile, VP, global eBusiness, Toms Shoes: Being where your customers are when they want you to be there.

Reid Greenberg, director, consumer, creative, and digital, Seventh Generation: Omnichannel has the social blending, which multichannel doesn't have.

Jason Allen, VP, eCommerce, Gamestop: It's about understanding how our customers are shopping and want to interact with us and then delivering than.

Alexander Rink, CEO, 360pi: It's marketing and responding to customers in real time across all channels.

How are you investing in omnichannel analytics?

Caltagirone: Williams-Sonoma strives to understand which customers use specific channels based on their activities across touchpoints. So attribution modeling is essential. How are we driving transactions? What's the social impact? How does mobile fit in?

Allen: Gamestop's loyalty program, PowerUp Rewards, has 25 million members who deliver more than 70% of the company's revenues. The program allows Gamestop to track those customers' behaviors, including purchases. “Forty six percent of PowerUp members who visit our site purchase in-store within 48 hours,” Allen said. “That lets us have that discussion about the omnichannel experience.” And it takes the guesswork out of decision making.

Greenberg:  Analytics shows that customers who are Seventh Generation Facebook fans and on its email list have a $25 higher average order value than other customers.

Stigile: Toms looks at conversions and traffic, as well as campaign metrics. For example, it aims to track campaign performance back to sales and ROI. “For our brand it's not always about dollar ROI,” Stigile said. “We invest in brand ROI, too.”


Greenberg: “We try not to activate campaigns in silos,” he said. Seventh Generation analyzes what channels and devices customers are using, and then aims to be there and be relevant to its customers at those touchpoints. Additionally, the company works to ensure that its shopper marketing efforts are cohesive and that it is present and responsive in social.

Rink: It's essential that companies have a strong brand identity that serves as the foundation for its marketing strategy and initiatives.

Allen: It's necessary to step out of a myopic departmental view and show how a decision can make a larger impact on the overall company. For example, Gamestop asked the e-commerce team to think about driving sales across channels, not just via the website. As a result, sales actually grew online.

Stigile: “Luckily, we have buy-in from across the organization for omnichannel,” she said. But the company still takes steps to ensure that cohesion over time. For example, Toms' annual “One day without shoes” event helps people across all of its customer touchpoints come together around a single message and drive awareness about the issue of some people lacking such a basic as shoes.

Caltagirone: “Make the experience easy for the customer, not just the company,” she said. It's about using each channel's strengths to serve the customers who are there at that time. For example, Williams-Sonoma use store associates to acquire customer email addresses. Additionally, don't think in silos, and have an organizational structure that helps achieve that. At Williams-Sonoma, IT, online marketing, and Web analytics are now a part of one team that looks at what's best overall instead of for one channel or group. “Making it easy internally makes it easy for the customer,” Caltagirone said.

Greenberg:  Marketing is a 24/7 role. “We always need to know what our customers are talking about and be ready to respond appropriately,” he said.

Stellar Customer Service Is a Marketing Investment

Stellar Customer Service Is a Marketing Investment

Is outstanding customer service a marketing asset? Brad Wolansky, president, consumer direct and CMO, Yankee Candle, asserts that it is.

Consider: A customer has an issue that's resolved or not. At a minimum, resolving it saves the relationship; doing so also may create a raving fan and increase lifetime value. Not solving it leaves the customer dissatisfied. She buys less or leaves—and then you need to replace that customer. “Do the math,” Wolansky said during his keynote at eTail West. “Customer service is an investment, not an expense.”

In fact, Wolansky recommends that companies fund customer service from marketing. “Invest in it and run it like any other marketing program,” he said, adding that marketers fund programs like retargeting, so why not do it for service? “Service is a marketing interaction.” And that interaction reflects on the brand and bottom line.

Wolansky shared his top 10 reasons to get service right:

10. Price isn't the only differentiator

9. The current sales tax advantage will go away

8. It's not that hard to do

7. It doesn't require leading edge software

6. Happy customers are good customers

5. It's cheaper to retain than acquire customers

4. Any company of any size can do it well

3. Happy customers find new customers for you

2. It pays for itself; think of good service as a marketing investment

1. Most others are lousy at it, so here's where you can win

Bringing marketing and customer service together may seem impossible, but there are companies doing it. To sell the CEO on the partnership, use math to show the benefits of having customer service be a part of the marketing organization, Wolansky said. “Math convinces all CEOs and CFOs,” he said.

Indeed, measurement is integral to the success of the service-marketing partnership. As the adage goes, Wolensky noted, what gets measured gets done. So, measure how customer service impacts marketing performance and revenue. Measure what you can, he said; 80% is good enough. “Don't wait to be perfect,” he said. Measure what matters most to your goals—and avoid measures that can lead to bad service. For example, measuring talk time in a call center often creates a poor customer experience that may lead to negative word of mouth—bad for brand image and propensity to repurchase.

Another measurable area where marketing and customer service overlap is in social. “Create great service in social,” Wolansky said. “Be present and respond. If you're not going to do those things, don't be in social media.” The more present and responsive you are, the more positively it reflects on your brand.

Wolansky reminded attendees to listen to customers' feedback in social and elsewhere, like the contact center and via surveys.  He recommended that marketers ensure that buyers are listening to customers, too, and taking action on what they learn to better meet customers' needs and expectations.

“Everyone in the company has a role in customer service” and delivering an outstanding customer experience, he said. It's about attitude, but also about the programs you create and how they're executed. When all employees consider themselves part of the “customer service team” is when a company will deliver a level of service that will be a competitive differentiator.

“Pay back your customers with excellent service,” Wolansky said. “Raving fans will evangelize your brand. Like all your acquisition efforts, think of customer service as one element of your overall marketing strategy.”

Go in For Strategy, Not Magic Bullets

Go in For Strategy, Not Magic Bullets

Magical thinking never got anyone to click on a link. If you're spending time and energy on producing quality content (and I know you are—according to the Content Marketing Institute, 58% of B2B and 72% of B2C marketers said they were looking to increase their content marketing budgets this year), then it makes sense to be systematic. In other words, if you're not measuring the impact of your content marketing, you're a bit like this guy—and as much as I love faux hawks, you don't want to be this guy. 

To make sure you never have that look on your face in a departmental meeting, focus on strategy and metrics. However: “There is no one set of metrics that's the [magic] bullet for all content marketing programs,” says Alex Krawitz, VP of content development at Firstborn. “Prior to determining how best to measure content performance, marketers need to have a clear picture of how they want consumers to respond to their content, what actions, if any, they want consumers to take, and, most important, how that ties in with the brand's goals and marketing objectives.”

But it's not just about tracking the impact of the content itself—marketers need to measure what kind of effect it's having on the overall mix.

“What typically isn't measured is the effectiveness of each piece of the content strategy as a function of the whole, so while success is measured by each type of content, how each type affects the other is often overlooked,” says Liju George, Firstborn's associate director of analytics. “For example, if a print ad includes a call-to-action on a social site, adding a unique hashtag that appears on that print ad adds in a layer of measurement that's cross-platform [and] measuring the effectiveness of this cross-platform outreach allows [you] to understand a brand's success within its content platform and as a whole.”

But, of course, it all starts with the content itself. It doesn't matter what you're creating—if your eBook, advertorial, infographic, or microsite isn't engaging, there won't be any impact to track.

Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? If so, Karen Helweg, VP of user engagement at WebMetro, suggests asking yourself these seven prep questions. If you can answer them, you're well on your way to creating content that drives conversions.

1. Who are you talking to? Know your audience. For example, if you're targeting the B2B space, your content should concentrate on how your brand, product, or service will solve a business problem and improve the bottom line. B2C audiences are generally more interested in the specifics of the “what,” as in how a certain soft drink will quench your thirst like no other or how a particular skincare product will make your face as smooth as that of a newborn babe.

2. What's on their collective mind? Do research. Social and search data are a great place to start. See what kinds of questions your customers and potential customers are asking, where they're being asked, and what key topics or phrases they're using. A review of your competitors' customers also wouldn't go amiss.

3. How's the content landscape looking? Conduct a broad media review and audit. Analyze your website content, blog posts, press releases, whitepapers, videos, etc., to give you an idea of what can be leveraged and what might be missing that needs to be created. It's also crucial to see what your competitors are doing.

4. What's the storyline? Make sure your story centers on the key differentiators of your product or service. Make it easy for consumers to understand what sets you apart.

5. What are the optimal content formats? Create an adaptive content plan to maximize your investment in content creation—that way you can create content once, repurpose it multiple times, save production money and time, and, most important, ensure that your message is consistent (and recognizable) across all touchpoints.

6. Where will consumers be interacting with your content? Having answered the questions above, you should know where to distribute your content to reach the intended audience. If your audience is Facebook-obsessed, turn to Facebook. If your audience is composed of YouTube junkies, get some TrueView ads in the mix. Does your audience respond well to email? Well, you know what to do.

7. Did it work? To determine the success of your content marketing, you need to measure reach, visibility, and impact. With reliable tracking tools and by collecting integrated data across all the touchpoints you've tapped, you'll be able to determine the value of actual transactions at any given point, as well as your content's value in the overall media mix.

Having done all that, there'll be no need to cross your fingers and frantically furrow your brows. You don't have to rely on hope when you've done the legwork.

Now, you're this guy: 

And the Winner Is...the Customer

And the Winner Is...the Customer

The biggest night in Hollywood, Oscar Night, is not only a winner for the stars, but also for customers who marketers want to woo during award season. Major events—including the Academy Awards, the Grammys, and the Tonys—provide great momentum and attention that marketers can leverage in their campaigns. A number of marketers across varying industries are riding the wave and crafting campaigns that tap in to the interests and wants of customers.

“Marketers have the ability to make use of the brand and personality that's already there,” says Tim Halloran, president and CEO of Brand Illumination, a brand strategy firm. “But be sure to pick the right awards night.” For example, the Academy Awards are great for brands that focus on fashion, sophistication, and glamour, Halloran says. He adds that marketers can and should choose the best event for their brands—events including everything from NASCAR and the Super Bowl to the Olympics and rap or rock concerts. “The idea is to personify your brand with something that already has a personality that's in sync with yours.”

So, which strategies can marketers use to ride this momentum? No longer are marketers limited to the traditional—and expensive—30-second TV or radio spot. Today, a growing number of marketers are getting in on the social media buzz already in play well before the big award night. Savvy marketers know that most viewers aren't just sitting idly by watching the Oscars; most spectators have cell phones, laptops, and devices in hand. And customers are ready to tweet, post, and comment—not just about the big night—but also about the campaigns, contests, and promotions that share the award night theme. Halloran cited as examples several major brands and their creative Oscar-night campaigns that harnessed the power of social media and event buzz. Banana Republic hosted a red carpet event on YouTube featuring the retailer's spring collection. Evite invited customers to dress as their favorite celebrities and tweet the pictures with hashtag #AwardsParty2014. Other brands, such as People magazine, reached beyond the virtual space and held sweepstakes for subscribers. “[Marketers] often think social media is a panacea. But it's a tool that has to be used to tie in to an experience.” Social media, he says, should be part of an integrated plan.

Halloran adds that marketers don't have to have a big budget to make a major impact. The same principles apply no matter the size of the business. “Every campaign should make customers feel special. Go beyond functionality. Create an emotional connection.” He says it's that connection that builds customer relationships.

One of the best ways to create an emotional connection is to include a customer's story in a campaign. Another is to share customer stories on the brand's platform. Halloran says once consumers have fallen in love with a brand, they're more likely to be committed to it. “When [customers] are infatuated, they're not so easily persuaded [by competitors].” But they will try to persuade others, especially during major events such as the Oscars. “Let the customer spread the word,” he says. “Word of mouth is one of the best types of marketing.”

Private Lives and Brands: 'We love you; we love you not.'

Private Lives and Brands: 'We love you; we love you not.'

Americans are a tad more paranoid than their consumer counterparts in other English-speaking countries when it comes to privacy concerns. But all consumers are looking for ways to engage in safe relationships with brands online according to a new report called “Marketing Data and Consumer Privacy: What Your Customers Really Think.” Perhaps not surprisingly, digital interactions between brands and people carry some of the same unrealistic expectations of relationships between people.

“There's this expectation around customer experience. Brands are compelled to deliver it. They constantly hear that it's a requirement. They're supposed to know their customers, to know where they're coming from when they engage them. Then consumers have the experience and get creeped out,” says Paige O'Neill, CMO of SDL, a global provider of customer experience analytics that produced the report from a survey of more than 4,000 consumers in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia.

Even though mobile-tracking of shoppers in stores is a new pursuit—and one used largely to inform merchandising and staffing decisions based on aggregate traffic patterns—82% of Americans surveyed told SDL they worried that retailers were tracking their every move. Brits (74%) and Aussies (75%) felt digital eyes on them in stores, too, though to a lesser degree. More than 60% of all those surveyed fretted that their personal information was being used for marketing purposes, yet an even greater number felt it wasn't their job to see that it wasn't. Nearly three quarters of the sample said they rarely or ever use “Do Not Track” features and that they expected consumer protection groups to monitor how brands use their personal information.

O'Neill has seen this all before. As a public relations staffer for IBM's fledging e-commerce business in the mid-1990s, one of the biggest obstacles she had to overcome with consumers was online payment. “It was one of the first platforms in what we then called ‘electronic commerce,' and there was a lot of trepidation by consumers in entering their credit card numbers on the Internet,” O'Neill says. “We're on a similar place in the timeline now with customer data.”

Brands still have an opening, however, to get consumers to trust them with their email addresses as much as they trust them with their bank accounts, according to SDL's survey. When asked what would make them surrender personal details, more of them said they'd do it to join a branded loyalty program (49%) than would give it up for free products and services (41%). What's more, nearly 80% of them said they would share personal information with “trusted brands.”

Attaining that status requires a three-part strategy, O'Neill says. “Prove that you're being responsible with the data over time, be transparent, and leverage the data to provide specific value-added service,” she says. “We have to change consumers' expectations about the way data is traded in the modern world.”

Personalization Is Hiscox's Best Policy

Personalization Is Hiscox's Best Policy

Small businesses owners can often feel like Goldilocks when selecting services. A database might be too small, or a technology solution might be too big. But rarely do they find services that fit their needs. Global insurance company Hiscox sought to change all of that by using data and segmentation to deliver personalized experiences that are just right.

Hiscox started selling small business insurance three years ago and claims to be the first U.S. insurance company to do so direct and online. “Think of the GEICO and Progressive model for auto,” says Phil Thorn, head of U.S. marketing for Hiscox. “We're trying to replicate that for small businesses.”

The small business owner is Hiscox's target demographic. And after listening to feedback from focus groups, the company discovered that this segments' primarily insurance-related complaints were regarding non-responsive policy brokers, drawn-out renewal processes, and complex terminology.

“It really is the business owners who are doing everything,” he says. “They're running the business and finding new customers. And if they need insurance, they put it on hold because it's static, it's complicated, it's confusing, and they don't know what products they need.”

Hiscox wanted to enable small business owners to buy the plans they want directly. But not every business has the same needs; an IT consultant might need different coverage than a graphic designer, for example. To provide tailored experiences for each industry, Hiscox partnered with multivariate testing and website personalization company Maxymiser in 2012.

Counting your losses

One of the main objectives of the partnerships was to narrow the gap between key performance ratios. For instance, Thorn noticed a gap between the number of site visits and the number of start quotes. There was also a difference between the number of people starting a quote and the number of people completing a quote. To solve this dilemma, Hiscox inserted a line of Maxymiser's JavaScript into the header of each page on its website. This code enabled Hiscox and Maxymiser to either modify a page or track an action on it, explains Michael Blumenfeld, consultant for U.S. financial and insurance services at Maxymiser.

Hiscox and Maxymiser then analyzed ways the insurance company could push people through the quote process—such as by looking at which pages had the highest traffic, bounce rates, lost leads, and opportunities—and conducted multivariate testing for about six to eight months. For example, from January to March 2013, the companies tested redesigns of the Start Quote page and measured the number of online quotes submitted.

The insurance company also decided to implement Maxymiser's MaxSEGMENT technology to segment its incoming site traffic and tailor the content accordingly. If a prospect enters the Hiscox website from a brand search, for instance, Hiscox can direct her to a page that talks about Hiscox as a company, Thorn explains. On the other hand, if a prospect comes to the site from a pay-per-click keyword, Hiscox can direct him to a page that showcases different Hiscox products. The company also can segment its audience by whether they're a first time visitor.

In addition to tailoring its content based on different segments, Hiscox can customize its content through the information it collects onsite. For example, when consumers inquire about a quote, Hiscox asks them for two main data points: the industry they work in and their geographic location. The brand is then able to customize the rest of the quote process, including the policy application questions, product suggestions, savings messages, and testimonies.

“If I'm an IT consultant, I might see a testimony from an IT consultant like me,” Thorn explains. “These small messaging points through the journey reinforce this idea that we specialize in your industry and that we customize our coverage to your needs.”

Through this combination of data and segmentation, Hiscox has been able to identify the top 10 occupations that are most likely to buy and provide them with specific user messages.

Breaking down the basics

But if Hiscox wanted to empower small business owners to make informed policy purchases, it needed to educate them on how to do so. For instance, Hiscox discovered that about 12% of its audience spent more than five minutes on the first page of the quote process before clicking “Start Quote.” Consumers were spending a “significant” amount of time on this page, Maxymiser's Blumenfeld says, because they were searching for product information. “They should be educated before,” he says.

To inform its prospects before they started the quote process, Hiscox produced an educational video campaign in 2013. These 60-second videos were featured on Hiscox's product pages and helped break down the complex policy terminology so small business owners could go through the purchase process and buy the insurance policies on their own, Thorn says.

“It's not like you're buying a movie online or a video game,” Blumenfeld notes. “It's something that's going to impact them in the long term.... To [prevent] someone from leaving and abandoning, we really needed to make the content not only pop to increase page stickiness, but we needed to give them the right education.”

The videos generated an 8.97% increase in conversions for started quotes and a 9.58% increase in conversions for completed quotes. In addition, there was a 9% increase in conversions for Start Quotes and a 9.6% increase in conversions for completed quotes by testing the sizing and placement of the “Start Quote” button.

In terms of future developments, Blumenfeld says that Hiscox plans on investing in predictive modeling. But for now, on-site customized content continues to be Hiscox's claim to fame.

Brands: Don't Be a Boring Boasting Bully Who Begs

Brands: Don't Be a Boring Boasting Bully Who Begs

Imagine yourself in a real-life social situation. You're at a cocktail party hovering by the cheese table wondering when the waiter's going to come around with another tray of those tasty little mini quiches. A distant acquaintance sidles over and strikes up a conversation…

Scenario #1: Boring

“Hey there. Wow, that cheese looks good. Stilton, eh? I love Stilton. But I also really like feta. Feta is good, but if you really pushed me—I mean, like really pushed me to the limit—I'd have to say my favorite cheese is plain old cheddar. That said I wouldn't kick string cheese out of bed, but…”

Scenario #2: Bully

“You're eating American cheese? Kinda lame. Just saying. No one eats American cheese at a party.”

Scenario #3: Boasting

“I know everything there is to know about cheese. Ask me anything. I spent seven years working under the tutelage of an Italian affineur in Southern Italy.”

Scenario #4: Begging

“I know we don't really know each other, but…can we be friends? I'm lactose intolerant, but if you like cheese, I like cheese. I'll just take a pill…every day for the rest of my life.”

When it comes to interacting with consumers via social media, the intuitive etiquette that applies in reality applies online. It's what McCann Truth Central, the research hub housed within agency McCann Worldgroup, refers to as the “4 Bs,” the avoidance of which is ground zero for brands that don't want to turn off their consumers.

“Who wants to live with jerks and boring bullies?” joked Kevin Nelson, global planning director and global telecom lead at McCann NY, speaking at Social Media Week in New York City. “I certainly don't.”

Simply put, brands need to behave themselves online, just like people do (or rather, should) at parties. According to a recent piece of qualitative research from McCann Truth Central, 57% of people think automated “personalized” messages are uncool. Genuineness goes a long way—and so does letting consumers have control of their own data.

“We all know what it feels like to be a bit bullied by a brand when they're going at you with a lot of content and emails and requests—and honestly, the way to make this better for brands is to let consumers feel like they've let you in,” said McCann Truth Central's Deputy Director Nadia Tuma. “Empower them; make them feel like they want you there. In fact, in our research, we found that consumers are much more likely to opt in than companies think.”

Because I like analogies, I'm going to belabor the cheese-related metaphor above.

Scenario #5: Balanced

“Hey, what's up? I'm just hanging out by the cheese table because there's a good sight line to the kitchen door. Can't wait till they bring out those awesome little mini quiches. Oh, you too? Ha, totally. So, anyway, what do you do…?”

Converse with your consumers like it's a conversation and not a creepy barrage, and you'll reap the benefits in sentiment and dollar signs. The same goes for data—use it wisely, said Laura Simpson, global director of McCann Truth Central.

“When it comes to using consumer data, there's a bit of delicate balance: If you don't use any consumer data as a brand, consumers actually start to get a bit irritated now, like, ‘Don't you know me better? Show me things I actually want,'” Simpson said. “But then, if [a brand] starts to use too much…people started to get creeped out.”

So, just remember the cheese table. If you wouldn't even talk to you...then how do you expect your customers to want anything to do with you?

Guest Blogging or SPAM?

Guest Blogging or SPAM?

Guest blogging is a powerful tool for marketers. The potential benefits are endless: enhanced credibility, bolstered company reputation, industry insight for customers—you name it. During my days as a fledgling writer, guest blogging allowed me to expose my personal brand as a freelance writer to editors and potential hiring managers. (Plus it built my confidence in my journalistic skills.) And after I sent those guest blogs as writing samples to hiring managers, I got a job offer. In the same way I used guest blogging to illustrate my writing skill set, marketers can show off their knowledge, products, and services through guest blogging. They can boost SEO, gain links, and build authority.

But in recent weeks guest blogging has come under fire. The spark was ignited by Matt Cutts, head of the Webspam team at Google. In January, Cutts published a post, “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO.”  Cutts' new position? Anyone using guest blogging as their primary way to gain inbound links is abusing the system. “Over time it's become a more and more spammy practice, and if you're doing a lot of guest blogging, then you're hanging out with really bad company,” Cutts says. Ouch. That audacious post left readers to assume that Google is fine tuning its ability to detect the authenticity of links and content.

Granted, if employees are guest blogging solely for link building and higher page ranking, they should consider revamping their marketing plans. In this case, Cutts is right to urge us all to take a good look at our content marketing strategies. However, marketers shouldn't throw out the baby with bathwater. Guest blogging—in its purest form—remains a respectable, effective strategy in marketing.

For the many marketers who want to continue to use authentic blog posts to help build a brand, consider these effective practices for guest blogging.

1. Be selective. When someone on your marketing team writes a guest blog, he or she should be judicious about the topic, where the blog will be published, and for which company the marketer is guest blogging. Choosing a company whose reputation, products, and mission are respected may help to boost your company's credibility. Selecting a company with a damaged reputation could have a negative reflection on your products and services. Take the time to research and build relationships with other companies that provide great exposure, similar target audiences, and have a mission with which your company can be aligned. And remember that selectivity goes both ways.  If your marketing team has a blog, be selective of the writers who are allowed to write on your company's platform. Selectivity will help boost your company's credibility.

2. Focus on building a brand and a reputation. Remember that guest blogging is all about exposing your brand to the right people and getting those people talking. Write about the unique aspects of your brand. Have a clear message that you want the readers to know. Part of building a brand is positioning your company as an established authority in your industry. Guest blogging is a great way to show that the people on your team have valuable information, can identify trends, and can add to the conversation.

3. Provide lots of insight. Give your target audience a behind-the-scenes look at your business. Share business tips that may help small business owners. If your company has an amazing, dynamic office space, post those pictures with your guest blog. Most importantly, give your readers an understanding of your industry. Your marketing team has a plethora of knowledge that readers want to know. When marketers provide insight to customers, they often reciprocate that insight with loyalty.

4. Be original. Every guest post should be unique. The goal isn't to churn out innumerable posts in an effort to gain backlinks to your company's site. The goal is to build a brand, make a connection with your target audience, and provide potential customers with original stories, insight, and advice. The more original and distinctive your content, the more likely others will want to share your company creed, advice, and products. Also, be genuine. Guest blog only when your company has a message to share or a story to tell.

I Scream Social (Data)

I Scream Social (Data)

Toby Daniels, CEO of Crowdcentric and founder and executive director of Social Media Week, took a few minutes to chat with Direct Marketing News about how to focus on the word, rather than the buzz.

There are so many buzzwords out there. Is “Big Data” one of them?

“Regarding data and Big Data, in general there's a level of misinformation out there that can send marketers off down the wrong path and after the wrong kind of outcomes. Big Data needs to be stripped down and simplified. Harper Reed, who worked on the Obama campaign, spoke at a [Social Media Week] session where he talked about the expanding role of CMOs and what Big Data means. His overall point was: Let's just focus on the data. There are so many tools out there for analyzing data. Harper looked around the room and asked, ‘Who here has Excel? If you have Excel, then that's all you need.'”

What can brands do with social data?

“Of the data a brand can actually collect on a particular individual, a channel like Facebook provides the richest amount of data on individual preferences and behavior; what people like, what they share, what they're talking about. As a result, the profile on that individual is going to be much more granular than the dataset you might collect through other means. The next part is being able to target these individuals contextually and behaviorally—and, obviously, in the environment where there's a high propensity for that person to take some kind of action, whether that's clicking on something or making a purchase.”

How big does Big Data need to be?

“Some people are saying you should collect more data than you need. Measure everything you possibly can because at some point, as your methodology for analyzing data becomes more sophisticated, you'll be able to make use of it more. But if you don't have legacy data, it's going to be hard to make good decisions in the future. Adopt a methodology that can be iterated upon over time. You don't necessarily have to analyze all that data on Day One, but at least make sure you have it.”

Because then, when you're ready, you can use that data for smart targeting?

“Targeting opportunities now exist across multiple platforms so brands can target you in every environment in which you spend your time, but in a consistent and coherent way. If a particular brand is targeting and retargeting me because I've indicated that I have an affinity for or an interest, it's very powerful for that brand, product, or service to be able to find me in the environment where I spend my time and to be contextual.”

What's the general industry vibe out there right now?

“It feels like we're constantly in a state of transition. To a certain extent this is obvious and natural as we move forward, but the transitional state we've been in, which has felt quite chaotic, has actually been in existence now for more than a decade. Not that the situation hasn't changed and improved, but new opportunities are emerging faster than we can get on top of. It's a mess, honestly. There are more questions than there are answers.”

What's Better Than an Ad? An Experience.

What's Better Than an Ad? An Experience.

Why do so many people pay a premium for Build-a-Bear  teddy bears when, at their core, they're not patently different than other stuffed bears? The answer is simple: Folks are in for the experience, paying to be a part of the brand's story. That's the future of advertising, according to SapientNitro's Chief Creative Officer Gaston Legorburu and Chief Brand Strategy Officer Darren (Daz) McColl, who wax episodic about storytelling in their upcoming book Storyscaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating Worlds.

Direct Marketing News recently spoke to the authors about what narrative means for marketers, what plots work for different verticals, and how marketers can use storytelling to make bestsellers of their products and services.

What's a good example of storytelling in marketing?

Legorburu: Look at the Cabbage Patch Kids doll. The product itself isn't very unique and it doesn't really do much. Frankly, it's not even cute by some standards. The reason it commanded a premium is that it came with a story. It got the consumer to be a part of the story. Those things still go for 50 to 100 bucks.

How about an example of a brand that delivers a great experience but is light on story?

Legorburu: Build-a-Bear is an example of experience-based differentiation. People are willing to spend a lot more money to go through the experience of creating and naming the bear, but again, the product itself isn't anything remarkable. The challenge with experienced-based differentiation is that they're easy to duplicate. You could open another Build-a-Bear, call it something else, throw it in a mall, and it'll work. There isn't much affinity to the actual Build-a-Bear brand. It's really the idea of putting together the bear that's appealing and, frankly, the idea isn't very ownable. There are plenty of examples in the book that do a good job of combining story and experience in a way that creates something that both the consumer and the brand share.

Is good storytelling especially important for direct marketers?

 McColl: Direct marketing is still about building a relationship between the brand and the consumer. The tools we have are many and varied now. We need to assess what that relationship actually means at this point. Is someone following your brand or retweeting your content a relationship? Or is that simply part of a behavior pattern? Where do principles and tools of direct response and personalization play out in all of that? It's about how we build a world around those principles through different channels and have those worlds connect. There's no premise for having things disconnected anymore.

What about businesses in other verticals? What about B2B companies?

Legorburu :We're talking a multi-dimensional approach to marketing here. It applies to any business in any vertical. Another example, UBER [a New York taxi hailing service]. It's an experience.  If a brand comes to an agency asking for help the first thing we'd say is ,“let's craft a compelling story about your product and find a clever way to put it in front of people.” Whether it's B2B or B2C, this same idea has worked for decades and it will continue to work. What's different today is that we could have come up with something like UBER for that hypothetical brand and maybe made some ads too. You have to leverage technology and create unique, memorable experiences for your customers and connect them to your brand purpose and story. If you have a pizza parlor and you choose bring in new customers through offering a buy one-get one free coupon, you'll probably have some short term success but eventually you'll run into problems. You have to think about how you differentiate that business?

McColl: American Express is doing this in the B2B sector with its Small Business Saturday Program. The core relationship is AmEx to small business. Through socialized content and operational tools, AmEx has created a world for these businesses to be a part of. I think it's really forward thinking B2B play because it actually takes the small business to the consumer.

How can experience and story based marketing be quantified, if at all?

Legorburu:  It absolutely can be quantified. I think that folks should really think about marketing mixed-modeling as opposed to the more myopic view of media-mixed modeling. As marketers, much of the data we're driven by looks at paid media much more it looks at earned or owned media. Data is incredibly important to doing this successfully. There's so much hat you can do but you have limited resources and time. That said, one of the things we say in the book is that once you have crafted your brand story that's when data and spreadsheets become nifty tools. We don't believe you can build a brand on a spreadsheet.

If you start with math to develop your story then you end up with the same answers as everybody else. Once you have that story crafted, math and all the other tools we have help our ability to create worlds and provide insights to help us continue to improve what we're doing. That's amazing! It really is a right-brain, left-brain connection you need to shoot for.

McColl: In the book we share a model we call the “return on experience.” It represents the inclusion of experience optimization to the mix of metrics we already measure as marketers. Everyone looks at ROI in media and channels, but no one is really looking at the experience. For us, experience is the third part of the triangle and gives us a more selective viewpoint of the relationship between experience and the other metrics.

Quantum Computing? Fuggedaboudit.

Quantum Computing? Fuggedaboudit.

I realized a long time ago, back in about the fifth or sixth grade when they threw fractions at us, that I was not someone who was going to be on a fast track to MIT and Bell Labs. I remember watching Carl Sagan on TV and saying, “He's making this stuff up.” There are people so smart that, well, I don't know why they even bother trying to explain their theorems and formulae to such as me, and I'm guessing such as some of you reading this. Let's face it; if you were the guy who invented the algorithm to print money, you'd be off captaining a competitive yachting team and conferring with Vladimir Putin, not sitting in a cubicle 10 hours a day marketing that guy's money machine.

Last week, Time magazine ran a cover story about a company called D-Wave that builds and sells $10 million computers based on quantum physics that are capable of performing 2512 operations simultaneously. For nonmembers of the Math Club like me, that's more operations than there are atoms in the universe. In quantum computing, there are no measly binary bits that can represent only 1 or 0, but “qubits” that can be either 1 or 0 and essentially blow computer mechanics out into 3D.

This is made possible by a quantum concept called “superposition.” (So they say. This could all just be Larry Ellison or Warren Buffett punking us.)  A mega-brain named Erwin Schrödinger explained this with a “thought experiment” in which you have a cat in a box with a flask of poison and some Strontium 90 that could break the bottle and release the poison. Old Erwin's thinking was that, until you opened the box and observed the cat, it was in superposition—in other words, the cat was simultaneously alive and dead. Someone call Stephen King, quick!

Why do I bother pressing this feeble wordsmith's mind against the overwhelming questions of the universe? Because of the solemn oath I took to spend my working hours deducing and writing about what busy marketers should and should not be concerned with, that's why. There was a lot of media pickup of the Time story last week and I pictured some of our poor readers—already fighting a bloody battle with Big Data, hampered by small budgets, and bad IT relationships—hearing a magazine plop on their faux wood desks and looking up to see the company president lurking overhead and asking, “So what are we doing about this quantum computing thing?”

Your suggested answer: “Nothing.”

You're welcome. Don't mention it. It's my job.

How do I know that's the right answer? Because I did what I do just about every day when some mindboggling new technology crosses my desk: I asked a former member of the Math Club. But because this particular question had cosmic implications, I turned to the club member who also played bass in a rock band—Todd Cullen, chief data officer at Ogilvy & Mather.

“This calls to mind a time 50 or 60 years ago when we were first able to build computers,” Cullen mused. “We said, ‘Let's build a rocket and go to the moon.' So I'm not sure that we should use quantum computing to solve every marketing problem as fast as possible and put things in front of people at exactly the right time. I think we should let the rocket scientists figure it out before we give marketers a go at it.”

1-800-Flowers's Mobile Marketing Blooms, but its Customer Service Withers

1-800-Flowers's Mobile Marketing Blooms, but its Customer Service Withers

Mobile is a blossoming channel for many marketers. Floral and gift retailer 1-800-Flowers is consistently looking for new ways to integrate mobile into its multichannel arrangement. And while innovation may be sweet, a Valentine's Day fiasco reminded the retailer that basic customer service is what really causes business to bloom.

1-800-Flowers has a history of adopting budding technologies. In 2002, the retailer implemented AdWords. Google first introduced the online advertising service just two years prior and released a revised version of AdWords the same year as 1-800-Flowers's implementation. In addition, 1-800-Flowers adopted mobile search ads in 2010 to drive customers to its mobile site and app. 

“The history of the company has been very intertwined with being innovative in both the marketing and the communication that we put out,” says Amit Shah, VP of online, mobile, and social for 1-800-Flowers. “It's very much a part of our DNA to be experimenting ahead of our customers to make sure that we are relevant to them when they do become part of a certain medium.”

To ensure that its multichannel marketing continued to bloom, 1-800-Flowers also implemented click-to-call ads. Click-to-call ads allow retailers to list location-specific business phone numbers within mobile browser ads. Customers viewing the ads on their smartphones can then click on the phone number and call the business directly. Shah estimates that 1-800-Flowers first instigated click-to-call ads in early 2011. Today, about 8 to 10% of 1-800-Flowers's revenue comes from click-to-call advertisements. Shah says click-to-call advertisements enable customers to get in touch with the brand through multiple touchpoints.

“At the end of the day, customers might have specific questions for us,” he says. “Maybe you want to send something for a funeral, but you're not sure what the appropriate item is. In those cases we think having the click-to-call extension is a big win for the customers.”

And the role of mobile only continues to grow. Using estimated cross-device conversions—an element of Google's new Estimated Total Conversions metric—1-800-Flowers discovered a 7% increase in conversion when a conversion started on one device and finished on another. In addition, the brand discovered a 4% increase in total mobile conversions when it tallied up the number of conversions that began with a mobile ad click.

Given that 95% of 1-800-Flowers's transactions involve two people—the purchaser and the recipient—it's important for the brand to deliver positive customer experiences for both parties, Shah notes.

“We are obsessed about customer service,” Shah says. “That's one of the distinguishing features that we have. Because [1-800-Flowers is] such an easy-to-remember phone number, we are just a call away if you have any problems. We tend to think that those are the key message points that resonate with customers.”

However, 1-800-Flowers found itself in the weeds this past Valentine's Day after customers took to social media to vent about their failed deliveries. Customers ranted about no-show orders, dead flowers, and unresponsive customer service representatives.

“Their biggest money-making holidays are Valentine's Day and Mother's Day,” one customer wrote on Facebook. “They will never again see a dollar out of my pocket. They don't answer anything. Ever.”

1-800-Flowers has been messaging individual consumers on Facebook and Twitter to rectify the situation. Shah says that the average social response time is about five minutes. However, on February 15 the brand posted on Facebook that customer service “wait times are longer than we would like” due to inclement weather and high volume of customer service requests.

Content, Pure and Simple

Content, Pure and Simple

Sometimes a word or phrase becomes so bloated, so overused, it's hard to know what it means anymore. (Big Data, calm down. I'm not talking about you right now.) In this case the offending term is “content marketing,” which seems to mean anything from a tweet to blog post to a webcast to a whitepaper, depending on who you're asking.

The act of naming often can elucidate; other times monikers act as a sort of handy fog. They obfuscate rather than clarify—but they're also convenient. That's why buzzwords are widely used despite having little real meaning. Of course, I'm personally guilty of using the term "content marketing" and I'm sure I'll be guilty again in the future. Probably even later today.

But to my mind, good content marketing is basically just good marketing—it's simple, it's clever, it's memorable, it sells. There's not really a need to tack “content” onto the beginning.

I checked in with Troy Hitch, ECD at EnergyBBDO/Xi Chicago and one of the minds behind “You Suck at Photoshop,” to talk about what makes good content marketing.

Is there a secret sauce marketers need to brew up really delicious content?

Hitch: Tell a story, something indispensable to the brand. The story you tell has to make sense for the brand. One brand that did a really great job of that was IKEA and the ‘Easy to Assemble' series it did with Ileana Douglas. The story was told inside an IKEA and it brought the brand idea of having fun inside an IKEA to life. There were even people dressed up in bad blonde wigs. IKEA let itself be the butt of a joke, and it never let its pride get in the way of telling a really great story.

What's more valuable, emotional loyalty or behavioral loyalty—or are they linked?

Hitch: They're sort of inextricable, but for me, the trump goes to emotional. If you have someone committed to you emotionally, you can eventually trigger the behavior you want, but the other way around is impossible to do.  You can knee-jerk a consumer into doing something,  but if there's not a deep, emotional connection there, the behavior won't last.

What kind of tone should a brand adopt on social media?

Hitch: Keep it authentic. What's so beautiful about social media—and so scary and horrible for some brands—is that it gives them the chance to do the things they espouse to stand for. For example, if a brand says it's about social change, like TOMS, for example, social media gives that brand the power to prove it. It's one of the things brands haven't really had to do for the last 150 years. A lot of brands don't know who they are and that's a big problem. Their products are well-defined, but not who they are as a brand. When you start to chip away at that veneer, it's the strong brands with something underneath that will win out.

I've heard you're really into the Curators of Sweden, where a different Swede takes over the country's Twitter account every week. What about that ongoing campaign does it for you and why has it had such lasting power?

Hitch: The ‘why' is because it's so simple—but it's not just simple, it's also perfectly formulated. The brief was to demonstrate Sweden as an open, authentic, democratic place, and the medium, the message—everything—correlates to exactly that. It's also an excellent use of an existing platform that took zero extra technology or support and very little cost.

But when you do something like this, you also have to be prepared for what authenticity really means. They give the password to the country's Twitter handle to someone new every week. When the council of the elders of Sweden, or whoever it was who okayed this thing, decided to go ahead, they put a lot of faith in people, and there's something so emotionally powerful about that.

People are the essential fuel that makes it work, and that's why it's such a timeless idea.   

If at First You Don't Succeed, Market, Market Again

If at First You Don't Succeed, Market, Market Again

Cart abandonment emails. They're becoming a standard among marketers in retail and ecommerce. My guess is that if you are a heavy online shopper like me, you've experienced them yourself.

Abandonment emails are those emails you receive after putting at least one item in an online shopping cart, but for some reason, you don't buy. Although you've chosen products—and in some cases even dared to submit your personal contact information—you don't follow through. But a few hours later, or perhaps the next day, you receive a reminder email of what you first though about purchasing.

These emails are getting more creative, personable, and alluring. So much so that Pinterest users are paying homage to some of the most creative abandonment emails. Yes, entire Pinterest boards are dedicated to some favorite designs of these emails.

A couple of weeks ago I received a cart abandonment email that stood out to me. I love unique fashion. And I found a pair of leggings from London designer House of Holland that caught my eye. (The stockings had the letters of the alphabet all over them. Très cute, right?) So, I went to the designer's ecommerce site, put the leggings into my online cart and filled out my contact information. But when it came time to type in my credit card information as the final step, I decided to not purchase leggings, and wait for my next paycheck in a couple of days. But even before 24 hours passed, I got a sleek, fashionable email from House of Holland, reminding me that I didn't finish buying those fabulous leggings.


Abandonment emails help marketers reconnect with customers, reinforce a brand, and possibly recapture a lost opportunity. (You can see I'm still thinking about those Alphabet Black leggings.) They allow marketers to collect actionable data—email addresses, ZIP Codes, addresses—or even predict similar products shoppers may like. These email campaigns are successful because they're relevant, and are becoming more creative, engaging, and personal. For those reasons marketers often are seeing higher conversion rates than with batch-and-blast emails.

When I think about abandonment emails, a mantra made popular by British writer W.E. Hickson comes to mind. “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.” From a marketing standpoint, these emails help you to market, market again with customers who have shown that they're interested in buying your products. If your marketing team has never used or considered this strategy, it may be worth incorporating abandonment emails into your campaigns. And be creative with the design and message. You never know. Your reminder emails may even be featured on the latest Pinterest boards.

Evian Spreads Consumer Love Through Social

Evian Spreads Consumer Love Through Social

Valentine's Day is often associated with long-stem roses, heart-shaped candies, and Hallmark cards. But sometimes these tangible tokens replace the sharing of sentiments Valentine's Day is supposed to be about. So instead of running a commercial that mimicked the “cheesy” card shop experience, Evian allowed consumers to express themselves through social with its “I Love You Like” campaign.

“People are often reluctant to get caught up in the usual Valentine's cliches, so we're hoping this campaign encourages them to have some fun with their loved ones instead,” said Laurence Foucher, global digital manager at Evian, in the campaign's official press release.

To participate, social savvy consumers can share Evian's “I Love You Like” valentines—which include messages such as “I love you like a chef loves an empty plate,” or “I love you like Jamaica loves their bobsled team”—along with the #ILoveYouLike hashtag.

“Once we got an original content idea, it was about how can we really drive engagement around this concept?” says Amy Hambridge, account director for social media agency We Are Social. “That's when we started looking at the social channels available.”

Evian let its Cupid consumers spread their love through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. And while Evian produced content for all of its markets, each local market was responsible for determining the best ways to leverage that content and engage its regional markets, Hambridge says. For example, Evian posted the phrase “I love you like” on its Facebook page and asked consumers to fill in the blank with their own comparisons. Some local markets—including France, the UK, and the US—rewarded participants with candy from Evian partner and professional tennis player Maria Sharapova: Sugarpova.

Evian also encouraged people to tweet their Valentine's Day messages along with the hashtag to its UK and US Twitter handles. In addition, the brand pinned its content on Pinterest along with generic hashtags, such as #love, so that its “I Love You Like” images would show up in more search queries. And to stay true to Instagram's organic nature, Evian hid its “I Love You Like” messages in photos displaying real-life scenarios. For example, the mineral water brand showed an “I Love You Like” picture that featured headphones lying next to a smartphone with the words “headphones love knotting” on the phone's screen.

The campaign, which also promotes Evian's ‘Live Young' campaign, launched on February 5 and is running until February 14. Evian accumulated more than 1.2 million Twitter outreach impressions within the the first 48 hours of the campaign, Hambridge says.

“The benefits of launching a campaign like this on social [is that it] gives the ability to reach a large amount of people in a very cost effective and engaged way,” she says.

And like in any relationship, a brand's relationship with its social consumers needs to be built on communication and a sense of give-and-take.

“The biggest mistake is when you think too much about what your brand message is, and it becomes too much of a push message on social,” Hambridge says. “Ultimately, it's all about driving conversation. You're not going to drive that conversation unless the content that you're creating resonates with your audience.”

Where Experiential and Direct Marketing Meet

Where Experiential and Direct Marketing Meet

Experiential marketing is all about giving customers a taste of a brand through in-person experiences. Pepsico recently took that literally with PepCity, a three-day celebratory event in Bryant Park in New York leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII that centered on tastings of its food and beverage brands as reinvented by three well-known local chefs. I had a chance to visit the installation and speak with Kristina McCoobery, managing partner at inVNT, the company that produced PepCity for Pepsico. McCoobry explained that everything in the space was designed to be a reflection of the brand, especially the 200 staffers there to serve and interact with guests. “During training we emphasized, ‘You are Pepsico,'” she said.

About 4,000 people visited PepCity each day to taste food and beverages created from Pespico brands by local chefs David Burke , Marc Forgione, and Michael Psilakis. Also on site were several art installations, including a re-creation of the famous Pepsi sign in New York's Long Island City visible to drivers traveling along the FDR in Manhattan. The event included entertainment, as well. There were three concerts—Austin Mahone, Prince Royce, and Ziggy Marley—a rap battle between rappers Yonas and Dylan Owen with New York sports as the theme, and Broadway performers from such shows as Chicago, Mama Mia!, and Rocky.

Because experiential marketing aims to make direct connections with customers and prospects, and direct marketing is about making relevant connections with customers to drive specific actions, I asked McCoobry for her thoughts on where the two met for Pepsico.

What is PepCity and what's behind it?

Pepsico decided that because Super Bowl was in its backyard this year it would give a gift back to the residents of New Jersey and New York with PepCity, a 10,000-square-foot brand activation event space. It's free and open to the public and includes food, entertainment, and art installations, and at the center of it all is Pepsico's products—from Pepsi and Mountain Dew to Fritos and Cheetos. Pepisco has taken its products and brought on celebrity chef such as David Burke and created unbelievable food and beverages using its products. Entertainment includes Broadway performers, a rap battle, the Tony-award winning spoken poet Lemon Anderson, and much more.

Every night there's a free concert. The first night was Austin Mahone; we had about 750 screaming teenage girls in the space. Prince Royce and Ziggy Marley also performed.

How do you take the experience and make a “direct” connection:

One of the strategic goals of Pepsico in creating this, in addition to sharing its world with the public, is to grow the personal relationship it has with its customers. Coming to this space where you can touch and feel and taste and see its products come to life, it's a personal connection between the brands and consumers that, in my opinion, is unmatched. There are social media components, of course.

It's a visceral response that people have as they come in and have an experiential time with these brands. And then when they leave, every time they log on to Facebook or Twitter they'll have that visual and personal memory of having that time here, and that experience. I think it's invaluable for the brand.

How's the social buzz?

The tweeting has been out of control. And it changes with the audience that's here. We've had such a wide breadth of people here, from the young girls coming to see Austin Mahone and sampling Flavor Splash, to the guests coming to see Ziggy Marley, to the general public coming during the day to see the Broadway performers and taste the food.

We've taken the tweets and projected them into the space; we're interacting on Facebook—mostly with older consumer because the teens are interacting with us more on Instagram. It's been great.

The Sky Isn't Falling for Direct Mailers

The Sky Isn't Falling for Direct Mailers

While legislators continue to debate over the looming postage increases, direct marketing consultant and mailer Craig Simpson remains bullish on direct mail. Simpson, with author Dan S. Kennedy, recently released The Direct Mail Solution: A Business Owner's Guide to Building a Lead-Generating, Sales-Driving, Money-Making Direct-Mail Campaign to help other mailers remain positive, as well—by improving their results.

The book comes during a period of uncertainty for direct mail marketers, but Simpson believes that things may not be quite as bad as they seem.

Here, Simpson discusses why direct mail is coming back in vogue, how mail and online support each other, and how mailers can make lemonade out of exigency-flavored lemons.

You say this is the first comprehensive direct mail book in 10 years. Discuss what's been going on with direct mail over the past decade and why it's time to rethink direct mail.

I think there have been a lot of other shiny objects out there than direct mail over the last few years. People have been focusing more on online marketing, email marketing, SMS, things like that. People haven't necessarily forgotten about direct mail, but it hasn't been that shiny object that marketers are attracted to.

The timing for this book is good because now a lot of these companies are coming back to direct mail. They tried online media, they've tried SMS, and many of them found [that] ROI wasn't that great. Many of them are turning back to the more traditional practice of direct mail.

What I find interesting is that just last year Google was the eighth largest technology direct mail company in the U.S. Why are they sending out millions of pieces of mail? Because it works. They're using this traditional, old, offline media to drive customers to their online advertising service Ad Words.

As a mailer yourself, what trends are you seeing in the direct mail business?

I send out almost 300 mailings a year for a variety of niches. About 100 of them are using direct mail to drive customers online. It seems we're combining the two methods. We're taking direct mail, an offline source, and using it to drive customer online to take the next step whether it's to watch a video, make a purchase, or whatever it may be. This method of marketing is working extremely well right now.

According to a USPS study you cite in your book, 60% of people who received a catalog in the mail were driven to that brand's website. Can you speak more on the interplay between direct mail and online marketing channels?

With any kind of marketing, the more channels you can involve the better. Even though I'm a direct mail guy I encourage my clients to use more than one form of media. Online is great. Direct mail and online used together is even better.

Given the current state of technology, direct mail can still get you very targeted prospects and you can move them to an online sales funnel. A lot of times businesses will have an online store or other sales funnel that's proven to work well for them. A way to tap into a group that may not be online is to pull them in using a different source, which can be offline mail.

From what I'm seeing, most customers' lifetime values are higher when pushed from direct mail to online than those that originate and close online.

What would you say to direct mailers who are concerned about the postal reform bill?

Anyone that's doing direct mail wants to see reform happen and it is discouraging to see the postage increase. But this is what we have to work with. I don't see the increase as something that will make me cut my budgets or the size of my campaigns. It's actually something that will work to our advantage in many ways.

Mail isn't as saturated as email in the first place, but there are going to be a lot of companies pulling out of mailing due to the costs increases. That reduces the saturation of the mailbox.  I'm not happy about the postage increase, but it's not necessarily a bad thing either. It gives you a better chance to stand out in the mailbox each day.

If you look at response rates and compare them to mail volume you'll find response rates are higher when volume is lower.

Drawing a Bead on Always-On Consumers

Drawing a Bead on Always-On Consumers

Twenty-five years ago, before the Internet ruled the world, marketers had limited opportunities to connect with target customers. They might grab a few minutes of their time via broadcast and newspaper ads while these customers showered and ate breakfast, maybe bang them with some with some outdoor branding on their way to work, and then make a big play with direct mail and TV appeals when they got home, opened the mail, and collapsed into their Barcaloungers.

Today's Americans, however, rarely put their feet up. In fact, they're hardly ever separated from a connected device wherever they go. About half of the Americans are what Vivaldi Partners call Always-On Consumers. Some 92% of them own smartphones and 78% have tablets, as opposed to only 55% and 62%, respectively, of the general population. More than 70% visit social networks every day, and 56% share content on a weekly basis, according to a study of 574 consumers released by Vivaldi, a strategic branding and consulting firm whose clients include Adidas, General Motors, Marriott, Schering-Plough, and Unilever.

A far cry from the TV dinner crowd of old, Always-On consumers own an average of three connected devices and regularly access the Web from at least three different physical locations. When they're not sharing and downloading information on devices, they're buying stuff. They are a bobbing brace of digital ducks traversing a targeted marketers' shooting gallery on a 24/7 basis. But not all ducks swim the same way, and Vivaldi was kind enough to sort them out for us:

Mindful Explorers: At 27%, this is the most common variety of the Always-On Consumer, according to Vivaldi. They're news junkies and gamers and they closely guard their personal data and reputations online. Explorers can quickly transform into evangelists for the right brand, however. They're less likely than most AOCs to spend time on social networks, but more likely to take surveys and join online brand communities. They make just one online purchase a month, but they spend five hours a day online and value recommendations, customer reviews, and information received directly from brands and retailers.

Social Bumblebees (22%): They have an average of 400 Facebook friends and post up to four status updates a day, often with links. Busy professionals, they know that clients and marketers can see their posts, but they're not overly concerned with privacy. They're very likely to post funny video content, branded or not. iPads are their favorite shopping medium and they're impulse buyers. If an item's pricey, though, they'll Google it, read reviews, and delay a decision for a day or two.

Ad Blockers (20%): To this group, social media is purely social. They pay little notice to any online content that's not from someone they know, though they're not overly protective of their online privacy. Ads, branded videos, and blog posts hold little interest for them. Blockers spend less money shopping than other AOCs, both on- and offline and, when they do buy, it's practical items like household staples.

Focused Problem Solvers (18%):  Mature, upscale professionals, their online activities are business-driven—managing finances, booking flights, and making restaurant reservations. Solvers have a stable of tried-and-true brands they cling to, though customer reviews and friend recommendations can steer them on to new things. When it comes to big purchases beyond personal and household items, they prefer the hands-on experience of brick-and-mortar.

Deal Hunters (13%): Though Hunters spend more personal time online than any other AOC segments (seven hours a day) and may have in excess of 500 Facebook friends, they tend to listen more than they broadcast, and when they're listening, they're looking for deals. Groupon is very likely to be among their most-used apps. They spend lots of time online researching products and prices, and while they will frequently visit brand and retail websites, they're not overly engaged with branded content.

The Vivaldi report cautions marketers that AOCs are truly a moving target, with their product preferences shifting by the day and even by the hour. While brands spent decades shaping the attitudes and perceptions of consumers, AOCs are an independent lot. To reach them, marketers have to focus on influencing their behavior and solving their problems.

In other words, unfortunately, marketers have to always be on, as well. Nike Fuel Bands just don't wear well on Barcaloungers.

A Picture Sparks 54,000 Shares

A Picture Sparks 54,000 Shares

Getting the word out about a product is always challenging. But photo sharing may be one answer to those marketing woes. Billions of photos are shared every day on prolific social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. However, as HTC Corporation discovered, even when social media users share photos and post comments about a company's products it takes a creative approach to cut through the noise.

The challenge:

HTC Corporation, a China-based creator of cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices, wanted to launch a campaign for HTC One, a popular smartphone, to drive engagement and sales. The campaign strategy was to incorporate social media and user-generated content in a way that cut through the typical social media chatter. The campaign needed to work in several markets with varying cultures and include a personal element that would encourage individual connections to the brand.

The strategy:

The HTC One digital campaign, which had a theme around “beautiful” (referring to the phone's design), asked consumers in China, Taiwan, the UK, and United States to submit personal photos of themselves, friends, family, pets, or anything they deemed beautiful via email, HTC's website, and social media sites including Twitter and Chinese-based Weibo and Wiexen. “The campaign went to another level because of its multichannel nature,” says Sanjay Manandhar, founder and CEO of Aerva, a mobile-connected digital signage company that HTC worked with for the campaign. “These days, consumers demand cohesive, multichannel branded social experiences that allow them to take part in their brands' stories.”

Aerva powered the 11-week campaign and displayed select user photos on billboards in New York's Times Square and on “The campaign gave us a unique and visible way to engage consumers,” says Ben Ho, CMO of HTC. 

Adding to the momentum, participants received a Digital Keepsake, an image of their photos as displayed in Times Square. “The campaign skyrocketed because of the Digital Keepsake,” Manandhar says. “Having proof that your picture was displayed in Times Square makes friends want those pics and continue sharing them.” The campaign culminated with a substantial HTC One giveaway:  a holiday season drawing awarded a few chosen customers 24-carat gold plated HTC phones worth $2,500 each.  HTC gave two of those phones to winners in the U.S.

The results:

Users actively engaged in a photo sharing digital campaign that allowed them to make personal connections to the brand. Consumers shared more than 54,000 photos through multiple platforms. “People love [the campaign's] emotive nature. It's a very emotive thing to have your personal photos displayed anywhere, especially in a place like Times Square,” Manandhar says. And the same principal can work for smaller businesses, he adds. “Lots of small brands have smaller screens of their own, LCDs in retail locations for example. Small businesses can replicate the campaign with their resources.”

The HTC One campaign continues to live on as selected pics are housed in the Keepsake Gallery on As a result of the campaign, HTC amassed a collection of personal, actionable data, such as email addresses and Twitter handles.

Entrepreneurship 101: Lessons Learned

Entrepreneurship 101: Lessons Learned

David Steinberg was only 16 when he started his first company. That was in 1985. As of today he's founded and run three $100 million companies—and we're just talking so far.

Of course, it hasn't always been smooth sailing, but Steinberg, CEO of the recently rebranded CRM firm Zeta Interactive (formerly XL Marketing) is an inveterate optimist. He understands that if you don't learn from your mistakes, they'll either haunt you or they'll be repeated. It's part of what makes him a successful entrepreneur.

Steinberg took a few minutes to chat with me about start-ups, the rise and fall of his second major multimillion-dollar company, and the lessons he learned from it.

In 1999 you founded a company called InPhonic, whose main business was selling wireless phones over the Internet. For a while, it was wildly successful. What was it like in its heyday?

At one time, we were a pretty fast-growing company, and by 2004 we were the number one company on the Inc. 500—and in the same year we took the company public for a billion-dollar IPO. People went from not buying any wireless phones on the Internet to that being the dominant market share at 30 to 40%.

So, what happened next?

Well, much like a lot of companies that grow very quickly, we didn't have good internal control processes in place. We took a company from zero to $400 million a year organically in about five or six years—and then we ended up getting caught in the 2007 debt crisis. We had a very large loan at a big national bank and they called our debt. They were calling everyone's debts at that time, and we didn't have the ability to refinance.

What were the big takeaways for you from that experience?

There's an interesting lesson there about growing a business that quickly. We tried to grab the tiger by the tail—and there was too much tail wind, so to speak. At Zeta, we're still growing the company—we went from zero to almost 1,000 employees in about five years—but we're doing it slower and with more thought.

The hardest thing you have to learn how to do as an entrepreneur is to be able to pivot. I was not as willing to do that in my earlier career as I am now.

Do you have any tips for staffing a start-up?

This might sound callous, but the people who get you where you are, aren't always the right people to take you where you want to go. One thing a lot of entrepreneurs do is focus heavily on loyalty. Of course, you don't want to be disloyal to your people, but at the same time I would argue that if you outgrow people and keep them where they are or find a new place for them in the organization, that's not the best way to help you or them.

What advice would you give the marketing-tech start-up kings and queens of tomorrow?

First of all, be true to yourself. Raising money for a start-up is akin to the political process in the U.S. For candidates to win the nomination they have to move so far to one side or the other that by the time any election comes around they've already been tagged as either a crazy conservative or a radical liberal. Often entrepreneurs have to do a similar thing. They say whatever they have to say to raise enough capital to get started—and then when they get to the part where they actually get to run the company, the company isn't what they started out to create.

The other thing—and everyone says this, but so few people do it—is to understand your own weaknesses and hire people are really good at that stuff. When I was 23 I thought I was the best at everything—sales, marketing, accounting, organizational stuff, you name it. It took me 20-plus years of running my own companies to understand the fact I'm not good at a lot of things. Hire people to compensate for your flaws.

Number one piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur?

You've got to be positive. People don't want to follow someone with a negative attitude—I don't care who you are.

A lot of entrepreneurs get started in their college dorm rooms. You got started when you were still in high school. What was the first company you ever founded?

I started a nightclub production company in New York City when I was 16. I was out in the Hamptons one summer. I was already 6'3" and I walked into a bar called The Polo Club, which was a pretty hot club in West Hampton back in the day. OK, now I'm really dating myself. Anyway, it was empty and I said to the owner, "You give an hour of open bar and I'll charge a $20 cover at the door. I'll keep what I make at the door and you keep what you make at the bar." He went for it and it worked. That was the start, and I did it right up through college. It was a pretty great job for a 16-year-old.

Carrie Hammer Swaps Runway Models for Role Models

Carrie Hammer Swaps Runway Models for Role Models

The catwalk is usually reserved for women with Amazonian statures and microscopic waists. But Carrie Hammer, founder and creative director of the eponymous professional women's apparel brand, replaced runway models with role models by having female executives and philanthropists strut their stuff at her February 6 New York Fashion Week debut show.

“You have to be looking up to the role models, not the runway models,” Hammer said at her show.

To illustrate the importance of beauty and brains, Hammer featured 21 role models, including Nana Meriwether, Miss USA 2012; Kristen Morrissey Thiede, business development leader for Google Fiber; Shenan Reed, CMO of interactive marketing agency Morpheus Media; and Lizz Winstead, founder of The Daily Show.

“It's more important what you do, what you put out in the world, and who you are on the inside,” Google Fiber's Thiede says. “And if you're not six feet tall [and] 13 walking the runway, that's OK.”

Leslie Hall, CEO of digital marketing agency ICED Media, admits that sauntering her 5'2” frame down the catwalk seemed daunting at first. But after learning more about the show's women-empowerment message, she agreed to participate. “After the initial shock [and] learning more about was very refreshing and exciting,” Hall says. “I was so honored to be asked."

Before delving into fashion, Hammer served as an advertising sales executive at Tremor Video, a video advertising solutions provider that went public this past June. But after spending a summer at Parsons The New School for Design in Paris, Hammer knew she needed a career change.

Despite the transition, Hammer hasn't abandoned her advertising roots entirely. For example, most of Hammer's designs are made to measure. But after realizing that many women don't know how to take their own measurements, Hammer created a series of videos showing women how they could measure themselves at home. Women can then enter in their specific sizes and place orders online. Women who prefer to be measured in-person can also visit Hammer's studio or have a representative visit their homes. Hammer says providing both online and in-person experiences is critical because custom-made clothing isn't as popular for women as it is for men.

“Standard sizes—two, four, six, eight—are really arbitrary,” Hammer said. “It's important for customers to know that a dress is supposed to fit them and that they're not supposed to make their body fit into a dress.”

In addition to her online and in-person experiences, Hammer maintains her own blog. She also promoted her fashion show, which she managed to pull together in three weeks, through social media. Hammer says that Facebook and Pinterest are particularly valuable in terms of portraying the visualization of the clothes.

Hall of ICED Media, whose clients range from Kmart to Louis Vuitton, agrees that visualization plays a major role within the fashion industry and says that fashion brands are often early adopters of emerging technology and marketing trends.

“The new trend of visual sharing, [which is] really driving the consumer discovery process, is perfectly suited for fashion brands because the level of creativity that you're seeing, as well as the newness of the trends, lend themselves well to how people are consuming content online,” Hall says. “Fashion brands have an advantage over other products [in that] the lifetime of each collection may not be so frequent. Fashion brands have new collections every season—beautiful colors, bold patterns, everything from illustrations to sketches. All of that serves as amazing content.”

Direct Marketing News will be hosting its own women empowerment event—Marketing Hall of Femme—on March 21. The Marketing Hall of Femme recognizes 18 women who are leaders in the marketing realm.

The Key to Innovative Marketing Is Relevance

The Key to Innovative Marketing Is Relevance

Many marketers struggle when it comes to innovation. A few tech start-ups managed to obliterate the status quo almost overnight, and marketers have been trying to keep up ever since–but to some of those marketers, it's not clear why consumers have taken so well to these new companies. Companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Simply put, it's because those companies know their customers. They understand them. They are relevant to them.

Brodeur Partners CEO Andrea Coville teamed up with long-time New York Times contributor Paul B. Brown to address relevance as a marketing concept in their forthcoming book Relevance: The Power to Change Minds and Behavior and Stay Ahead of the Competition. Here, they discuss the concept of relevance marketing and why relevance is the key to innovation.

Why should marketers care about being relevant?

Coville: Marketers are famous for being incredible about using data. The idea of relevance is that it goes beyond just the data; the data is a part of a more holistic experience.  Other things like values, the sensory side of an experience, the community, are important, as well.

[But] marketers struggle with creating long-lasting creative concepts—ones that stay popular outside of the traditional campaign. So much of our thinking is around annual campaigns.  What I've seen missing…[is] connecting marketing communications more directly to behavioral change. To do that your marketing has to be relevant enough to…gain an individual's attention.

Brown: Relevance is something useful that will make your life better, something you use to forge a relationship as a marketer with your customers, or people you'd like to become your customers; people who's behavior you'd like to change. If you think about direct marketers, this is exactly what they do. They have something useful, they communicate it in a way that resonates, and they solve problems.

You mentioned, Andrea, that marketers are famous for their love for data and analytics. How can marketers measure relevance?

Brown: What we argue in the book that any marketing communication at all that doesn't boost sales is a waste of time. So, if you implement a relevant campaign you should be able to see a rise in metrics that are important to you. If repeat visits are important to you, after the relevance campaign, you should see a rise in repeat visits. If it's reaching millennials, you should be able to see that you are.

Coville: This is the area of our research that we're focusing on right now. Yes, there is a return on relevance. We believe that the more relevant you are, the better chance you have of capturing new customers, and once you do, retaining that customer over a longer period of time. It goes back to the classic customer value chain where you get far more profit from a long-term customer.

What exactly is a “relevance campaign” then? What are some examples of relevant campaigns?

Coville:  A relevance process starts as a strategic planning process [that includes] some form of qualitative and quantitative research.

Brown: If you want a bad [relevance campaign] then you'll go…in and say, “I know what's relevant to my customers. I know everything there is to know about every part of my customer.” That's just stupid. And yet, you'll hear marketers say this, and then they'll outline what's relevant to them. That's lovely if they're selling to people exactly like them, but most people aren't like them. By doing both the quantitative stuff and then the four pillars [of community, sensory, thinking, and values] you get a deeper understanding of what's relevant not only to people like you, but to everybody else.

Coville: A great example of sensory relevancy is what Apple's done to revolutionize the sensory elements of smartphones via the touch screen.

How about relevance for B2B marketers?

Coville: [One] example is what we did with a client. They had just came up with something they coined Gorilla Glass. This protective coating is now on most of the smartphones on the market. At the beginning they wanted to make their product relevant to both consumers and businesses.

Using research, we worked with an advertising firm on a series called “A Day Made of Glass.” It was based on insight and data and the content was so relevant to consumers that it set a record for YouTube views in a B2B category.

Relevancy can work anywhere, in any market.

You mention in the book that innovation and relevance are hopelessly intertwined. What did you mean?

Brown: One of the things that happen when your company is stuck with innovation is your boss will come in and say, “If money were no object, if gravity didn't exist, what would you do?”

The problem with that is that money is always an object. Gravity will always exist.  If you make relevance part of the innovation process it becomes a way to check yourself at every step of the process. There's pressure on every company to innovate. But if you come up with new ideas that don't make money then you've wasted time or created a hobby. You have to check that you're creating something useful that resonates with people. 

10 Rules for Customer Experience Transformation

10 Rules for Customer Experience Transformation

“If you want exceptional results, you need to deliver exceptional experiences.” So says Lior Arussy, president of Strativity Group.

This applies to marketing as much as it does to other customer-facing teams, such as customer service and sales. In fact, customer experience (CX) often starts with the customer journey, Arussy told the audience at the CXPA's New York Local Networking Event on February 6. And marketing is integral to moving customers along that journey.

But as Arussy pointed out, “no one needs customer experience for the sake of customer experience; they need a financial driver.” He asked attendees to determine what the driver is for their organization. “What's the real issue, where do I start, and how does it connect to financials?” he asked.

CX today, Arussy noted, should be strategic, driven by the CEO, designed to drive the business, branded, organizationwide, and transformational. And if it's not going to be those things, then don't bother focusing on it. “We're living in a new world of exceptional or nothing,” he said. “This is what customers expect and what we need to deliver.”

For companies that plan to rethink or reinvent their customer experience, including the many elements of marketing that influence it, Arussy outlined 10 rules to help ensure their CX success:

Rule 1: Know why you're focusing on the customer experience. What's the financial driver? What money are you leaving on the table by not improving the customer experience? Business leaders need to define CX as a value proposition. Talking financials changes the conversation.

Rule 2: Create an exciting vision. CX isn't customer service. It's not the fix-it department. It's about delivering exceptional experiences at every touchpoint. So paint a vision that employees want to be a part of. And clearly articulate the full scope of the transformation.

Rule 3: Develop a CX discipline and supporting skill set. Enthusiasm is not enough to get you past “random acts of customer experience.” Develop a comprehensive long-term plan, recognize the available skill set in the organization, develop those skills in others, and appoint ambassadors to maintain the momentum.

Rule 4: Integrate with other initiatives. CX shouldn't complete with other ongoing initiatives like customer engagement, leadership, and innovation. CX complements them, so identify mutual agendas and linkages. “All of these initiatives are about creating a stronger organization that delivers exceptional value to customers,” Arussy said.

Rule 5: Design measurements with impact. Develop metrics that will have consequences and that are clearly connected to customer-related measurements. Metrics that are siloed means no one is accountable to the customer measures. And, of course, develop accountability processes.

Rule #6: Unify customer information. Break down customer data silos to enable better decision making. The more holistic the view of the data, the smarter—and more fact-based—that decisions will be.

Rule #7: Create a sustainable customer-centric culture. “The number one enemy in your organization is the people who think you're doing customer experience already,” Arussy said. According to a Strativity study, 76% of employees said, “I often go above and beyond,” but only 26% of their customers agreed.  To change the mind-set, focus on the impact of CX on customers and on business performance, and create a clear line of site that connect each employee's role to the customer experience.

Rule #8: Active your number one asset. CEO involvement is not optional. The CEO is the only one who can break down silos and approve the budget required for real transformation. “CX is a strategy for growth, not the initiative of the day,” Arussy said.

Rule #9: Put people ahead of products. “Are you in the people business that happens to have processes and products, or are you in the product business?” Arussy asked. “Only people can exceed customers' expectations and surprise and delight them.” Products and processes are too easily copied, but human interactions are unique.

Rule #10: Appoint everyone to be in charge. Avoid complete centralization of your CX efforts; every employee should have a stake in the customer experience. CX leaders should provide the training and tools to empower employees to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

Bonus: Celebrate big and often. Demonstrate what you can do in your organization, loudly. Recognize early CX adopters and ambassadors in a big way.

Data, Data Everywhere...

Data, Data Everywhere...

Like data, content can be overwhelmingly plentiful—but exceptionally useful. So I've pulled together some of our top content on data to help you find quick answers to your data-related questions. Here, in case you missed it, select advice, insight, and opinion on ways to quench your thirst for data-driven marketing.

Set your strategy: “Businesses, especially businesses getting into the analytics game for the first time, should really scope out what they want to do before they try to do it,” says John Foreman, chief data scientist for and author of Data Smart. “Rather than just reading a bunch of news articles about what other people are doing, actually look at your business and the problems you're having and the places you can see the most gain from using analytics. It's best to pick one problem and try to solve that.”
When (and How) to Bust Down the Data Door

Follow the leader: “I feel like I have a canoe full of data and there's a cruise ship right next to me full of data that I don't know how to use,” Jeff Mirman, VP of marketing for Turner Sports, told the audience at the Direct Marketing News Marketing&Tech Partnership Summit. So, instead of trying to redefine its own data model, Turner Sports decided to emulate the leader in the video-on-demand (VOD) Big Data space: Netflix.
Turner Sports Uses Big Data to “Future Proof” its Media

Be clear: “I don't think [Big Data] is a particularly helpful term because it's sort of lost all meaning through terminological inflation, hype, and so on. So I argue that you should be clear about what kind of data you're using,” says Professor Thomas H. Davenport, author of Big Data @ Work. “You'd be better off saying something like, ‘We're trying to understand customer perception through analysis of video at ATM machines,' which would actually tell you something rather than saying, ‘Oh, we're working on a Big Data project,' which sounds pretty much useless.”
Q&A: Why Big Data Works

Share responsibility: “[Customer data] is about partnership…about cooperation. This is not about ownership,” says Bruce Biegel, senior managing director at Winterberry Group, noting that not only should marketers foster and nurture a collaborative relationship with IT, but they also should include legal as early in the process as possible. “They're the ones who understand what's going on in Washington and on the regulatory landscape.”
Who Really “Owns” Customer Data

Rethink what you measure: “Given the almost universal acknowledgement on the part of marketers that first click, last click, or subjective rules-based measurement methodologies for attributing marketing success are flawed, it was extremely surprising that the overwhelming majority of marketers still use these techniques,” says Manu Mathew, CEO of Visual IQ.
CMOs Are Measuring Data All Wrong

Differentiate by using data you have in-house: “We were able to optimize marketing spend based on this in-house Big Data,” says Eric Helmer, T-Mobile's senior manager of campaign design and execution, “and that's a competitive advantage that some other industries don't have.”
Subscribers Follow the Leader

Be customer centric: “We keep our guests at the center of our attention,” says Menka Uttamchandani, VP of business intelligence at Denihan Hospitality Group, “and to do that we must understand what they experience, their preferences—it's a great window for us.”
Customer Data at Denihan's Service

Read between the lines: “Your data analysis won't come without establishing an understanding of the nuanced parts of your business—the data that's not being used,” says Michael Caccavale, CEO of Pluris Marketing. “It's the data that's not in the system—or is in the system but deserves an asterisk. It lives between the lines.”
Counting Context: The Sneaky Data that Moves Margins

Consider tracking social data: “Any organization [can gain] some benefit from using analytics. But the correct type of data to look at is dependent [on the] industry,” Erick Brethenoux, director of business analytics and decision management strategy at IBM. “In spite of the big talk from many organizations, few businesses today take advantage of social media data in their decisions. They talk a lot about it, but not many use it pragmatically. But think about it: If I post five or six reviews on TripAdvisor every year, for example, and so do you, and so does everyone, that's a lot of information.”
Q&A: The Power to Act

Get personal: “[Our] ‘Your Personal Sale' functionality…was a true collaboration between technology, marketing, and merchandizing, and it allows us to create a truly personalized customer experience,” says Tamara Gruzbarg, senior director of analytics and research at Gilt Groupe. “There is no shortage of data and frankly, with as much as we know about customers, we don't have an excuse not to be personalized.”
Data: Go Big or Go Home

Marc Jacobs Launches Tweet Shop for New York Fashion Week

Marc Jacobs Launches Tweet Shop for New York Fashion Week

Marc Jacobs Fragrances, the perfume division of Marc Jacobs International, has a blossoming social following. The creator of the popular scent Daisy has nearly 111,600 Facebook likes and 17,000 Instagram followers. In addition, the fragrance brand promotes its products on Marc Jacobs International's social channels, which exposes it to more than 1.3 million Facebook fans and 1.45 million Twitter followers.

And while the brand has gathered quite the bouquet of fans, it's the amount of engagement—rather than the number of followers—that really generates buzz. “Not only do we have a lot of fans, but they interact and engage with us more than any other fragrance out there,” says Lori Singer, group VP of global marketing for Coty Prestige—the licensing company for Marc Jacobs Fragrances.

Social media gives followers a place where they can express their brand affinity and be heard. Singer says that Marc Jacobs' followers frequently conduct their own product photo shoots and share their images with the brand. To thank its followers for their engagement, and in turn drive future interaction, the fragrance division turned followers' creativity into currency with the launch of the Daisy Marc Jacobs Tweet Shop.

The pop-up Tweet Shop will debut on February 7 during New York Fashion Week and run until February 9. During this time, fans will be able to pay for Marc Jacobs products with their social posts, rather than with their wallets. People visiting the shop can post pictures of their Daisy inspirations along with the hashtag #MJDaisyChain on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in exchange for a deluxe sample of Daisy or a travel-size rollerball. And participants will really want to get their creative juices flowing because the post-to-prize ratio is scaled. For instance, those who post a more creative perfume picture can win necklaces containing a solid form of the fragrance. The brand will also be giving away several Marc by Marc Jacobs bags every day for the most inspiring images.

“There are a lot of fragrances out there on the market, and we're fortunate to have consumers of who are loyal and fans of Daisy and Marc Jacobs in general,” Singer says. “It's just a way to give back and say thank you.”

But the Tweet Shop is only one component of Marc Jacobs' campaign. In addition to the shop, Marc Jacobs is promoting Daisy through print ads, in-store materials, and TV and digital commercials. The print ads will start running in March while the commercial, shot by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Sofia Coppola, will debut within the next few months, Singer says.

“Print has always been the backbone of what we've done since the beginning of time,” Singer says. “As far as TV and digital [goes], we certainly know that our consumer is so involved in the digital channel. By having TV commercials that are shot by Sofia Coppola, we can not only run them on TV, but certainly online, which is where many of these young girls are.”

Furthermore, the brand is inviting bloggers to cover the Tweet Shop and share exclusive content with its followers. And to ensure that the campaign flourished from the start, Marc Jacobs hosted Daisy Day on January 28 in London, New York, and Berlin. To celebrate the day, the brand handed out daisies to people on the street.

Singer admits that trying something new, like the Tweet Shop, without knowing what to expect can be a challenge for marketers. However, she says that the brand is prepared to learn and to continue to keep consumers at the center of its developments.

“We have to meet their needs,” Singer says. It's not really about what we marketers want. It's about what our consumers want.”   

For Every Season There Is a Reason

For Every Season There Is a Reason

Seasonal marketing is about relevant marketing—and relevant marketing is often about identifying an opportunity and then systematically planning to capitalize on it. The Super Bowl, back-to-school, Mother's Day, spring cleaning—if you do the research and leave yourself enough time to act on your findings each one of these annual events is a golden chance to relate to consumers.

Newell-Rubbermaid, the global CPG marketer responsible for brands like Sharpie, Paper Mate, Goody, and Rubbermaid, has recently started taking serious advantage of seasonal marketing opportunities, namely the Super Bowl. Sixty-seven percent of Americans follow two or more sports (football tops the list), and about 180 million people tuned into the big game on Sunday—which is one heck of a captive audience.

But Newell-Rubbermaid's Super Bowl strategy didn't include flashy TV ads—it went deeper than that, relying on insights that the company used to pair its brands with consumer need.

Take Rubbermaid food storage containers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Super Bowl Sunday is the second largest food consumption day of the year. (Thanksgiving of course takes home the trophy in that category.) And Shopperscape and Kantar Retail recently released data stating that nearly one fifth of all shoppers prepare a special meal or entertain guests. Invariably there are leftovers (and popped buttons).

Now take Sharpie. Fans like to support their teams with handmade signs and posters—so why shouldn't they be using Sharpie marketers to do so?

“Be relevant. I wouldn't exactly call it our mantra, but it certainly is smart,” says Joe Cavaliere, chief customer officer at Newell-Rubbermaid (right). “Consumers are looking for different things at different times of the year, and it's easier to get an extra item in the basket if it's tied into what he or she is thinking about when they're shopping.”

Newell-Rubbermaid also works with participating retailers to extend their football promotions to cover the entire quarter, a push collectively referred to as “Game Time.” As big as the Super Bowl is, it's only one day, and consumers care about football throughout the entire season.

“You buy certain food items for ‘Game Time,' so if a display placement is in the right place at the right price at the right time, you might get a consumer to pick up something like a Rubbermaid container or a Sharpie, something they weren't planning on purchasing but that makes sense,” Cavaliere says. “Insights lead to action—everyone knows the Super Bowl is big; we dug deeper and extended that passion.”

Part of what allows Newell-Rubbermaid to so seamlessly implement its seasonal marketing strategies is the company's recent transition from a collection of separate brands operating independently to a cohesive organization that shares insights across its many brand holdings.

It's all part of Newell-Rubbermaid's overall push to become more “customer intimate.”

“We're starting to become a truly customer-centric organization by looking at customer insight,” Cavaliere says. “Once we have that, we can then have true customer intimacy.”

Don't drop the ball in 2015

The Super Bowl may have just ended—but according to Cavaliere's clock, it's just about time to get started planning for next year. Below are his tips for implementing a seasonal marketing strategy that'll totally score:

1. Start planning at least a year in advance. (Tick, tock.)

2. Ask yourself: Is what I'm planning relevant?

3. Be creative—just make sure your ideas make sense. “The more ideas you give people to use your product the better,” Cavaliere says. “Our ideas come from insight-based research—getting people to use Sharpies to make banners and posters at their Super Bowl parties isn't a stretch.”

4. Stick with it—Consumers won't suddenly associate you with a particular season just because you want them to. Says Cavaliere: “You've got to build and build and continue to cement the idea in the minds of your consumers.”

In Short: 2014 Marketing&Tech Partnership Summit

In Short: 2014 Marketing&Tech Partnership Summit

It was a day packed with insight, networking opportunities, laughs, revelations, and an agenda starring industry luminaries from Huge, Winterberry Group, Gilt Groupe, Ogilvy & Mather, and Mondelēz International and many others.

The 2014 Marketing&Tech Partnership Summit brought together marketers and their IT colleagues in a uniquely collaborative environment to discuss the major trends in the ever-evolving marketing-tech space. Whether or not you were able to join us, the content below will give you a taste and serve as a handy refresher.

Don't Fight Hackers, Join Them: If you want to win the digital marketing wars
of the future, you've got to start hacking, says Mondelez International's
VP of global media.

Digital Isn't an Oddity, It's a Necessity
: Like it or not, today all brands are
in the technology business, says Aaron Shapiro, CEO of Huge.

Collaboration May Be Key to Improving Customer Acquisition: Marketing teams
can't do it alone. Collaborating with tech teams is key in growing customer base.
Data: Go Big or Go Home: The million dollar question posed at the Summit:
What can marketers do to take best advantage of the Internet of Things?
Marketing Conversation Starters: 20 opinions, observations, and recommendations
that will get you thinking about how to approach marketing in 2014 and beyond.


Turner Sports Uses Big Data to "Future Proof" its Media: The sports media
company attempts to emulate Netflix's model to provide a greater viewing experience.

J. Hilburn's Customer Experience Is Made to Order: Say what you will about
direct selling, for custom men's luxury clothier J. Hilburn, direct-to-consumer is the
perfect fit.

For AOL Paid Services, Optimization Is the Name of the Game: The organization implemented a new marketing solution to target customers with more relevant offers.

Who Really "Owns" Customer Data? With Big Data comes big responsibility.
So, between marketing, IT and legal, who exactly owns this data? Winterberry
Group's Bruce Biegel breaks down data ownership once and for all.

The Future Is in Present Tense Marketing
: Lifecycle campaigns need to
be placed in the context of a customer's daily activities.



The Hammer-Throwing Big Brother of All Super Bowl Ads

The Hammer-Throwing Big Brother of All Super Bowl Ads

“Write something that's going to stop the world!” That was the admonition Steve Jobs gave to Chiat Day creative director Steve Hayden (the future Ogilvy vice chairman) at the conclusion of the October 1983 meeting that gave birth to the Big Brother of all Super Bowl ads.

We know that because we heard it from the mouth of a man who was in the room, then Apple CEO John Sculley, the father of the Pepsi Generation hired by Jobs to rebirth the Apple brand. Sculley recounted the moment at an event commemorating the 30th anniversary of the “1984” spot, just off “Super Bowl Boulevard” in New York.

The commercial conceived by Hayden and executed by director Ridley Scott created a stir far beyond the world of football fans who watched the 49ers defeat the Dolphins at the stadium at Stanford University (home of so many future i0S programmers; how apropos). Scott presented an Orwellian vision of colorless masses obediently huddling before an image of their Big Brother, when in sprints a blond beauty in a white-and-red track suit and hurls a Thor-like hammer at the video screen. The crawl: “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce McIntosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like ‘1984.'”

“It was the first viral ad,” said David Steinberg, CEO of Zeta Interactive, which sponsored the celebratory event, “except the social medium was the office water cooler.”

But Scott's marketing masterpiece almost didn't make it out of the Betamax in Apple's boardroom. After securing two minutes of Super Bowl advertising time, Jobs convened the board of directors and showed them the spot, which didn't include even a parting shot of the product. “There was dead silence,” Sculley recalled. “Then one board member turns to me and says, ‘You're not going to run this thing, are you?' The board discussed it and told us to sell the Super Bowl time.”

Ah, but Steve Jobs is not the hero of a generation for nothing. He and Sculley sold one minute and kept the other. The spot ran, and if it failed to stop the world, it at least paused the hoisting of millions of Bud Lites to millions of lips. Advertising, computer, and football history was made. Indeed, says noted adman Y&R CEO David Sable, it was an historical achievement rarely replicated to this day.

Sable, who was also on hand for the event, said that “1984”--as well as a subsequent Apple spot that launched the iPhone during an Academy Awards broadcast--displayed a level of customer insight and inspiration that is now sorely lacking in the rush to achieve video virality. He questions the current trend toward pre-releasing Super Bowl ads on YouTube prior to the big event. “So you get millions of views on YouTube, but by who?" Sable said. "In 1984 people saw the ad and went out and bought Macs.”

Sable maintains that today's Super Bowl advertisers play a silly numbers game, eschewing data-informed targeting, and instead practicing what he calls GMOOT, or “give me one of those.”

“Instead of looking for customer insight, they look at what gets shared and emulate it. They're juking the system,” Sable said. “A cat pissing on somebody's shoes gets shared a lot, but nobody remembers it. Ninety-five percent of stuff shared on the Internet doesn't sell anything.”

Marketing Conversation Starters

Marketing Conversation Starters

Insights abounded at the Direct Marketing News 2014 Marketing&Tech Partnership Summit earlier this week. Here, 20 opinions, observations, and recommendations from the Summit's speakers that will get you thinking about how to approach marketing in 2014 and beyond.

“The interplay of mobile with other channels is where the opportunities lie for customer engagement. Mobile with TV is twice as effective as TV alone.” –Bonin Bough, VP of global media and consumer engagement, Mondelēz International

“Everyone is the technology business, and if you're not acting that way, you're not set up to succeed.” –Aaron Shapiro, CEO, HUGE Inc.

“Technology is the strongest foundation for customer experience.” –Banafsheh Ghassemi, VP, marketing, customer experience, and CRM, American Red Cross

“Today there's no excuse not to be personalized with your marketing.” –Tamara Gruzbarg, senior director of analytics and research, Gilt Groupe

“Marketers are stewards of customer data. It's a noble and responsible calling to handle customers' data.” –Todd Cullen, chief data officer, OgilvyOne

“The emphasis should be 20% on technology, 30% on process, and 50% on people to succeed with any marketing-technology initiative.” –Barton Goldenberg, president and founder, ISM Inc.

“You have to get email right the first time. It's often the first impression customers have of a company's communications, so it sets customers' expectations of future communications.”  –Greg Grdodian, CEO, Reach Marketing

“If you don't have original content on your site, our SEO will be limited.” –Adam Reinebach, EVP of marketing solutions at Source Media

“The four key use cases for customer data are attribution, insight, optimization, and targeting—and they all required a different approach.” Bruce Biegel, senior managing partner, Winterberry Group

“The biggest offense marketers make is not to treat customers and prospects differently.” –Katrina Conn, VP of marketing services, StrongView

“It's scary and exciting to be a marketer today.” –Pete Scott, VP of emerging media, Turner Sports

“People ask how we were able to react so quickly with the Oreo tweet, ‘You can still dunk in the dark.' The 100 days of the Oreo Daily Twist developed the muscle memory we needed to react in real time.” –Bonin Bough, VP of global media and consumer engagement, Mondelēz International

“Technology strategy is often the biggest inhibitor of organizational success. Marketers should approach their technology with a Web ethos that allows for iteration, [not a CapEx approach].” –Aaron Shapiro, CEO, HUGE Inc.

“It's great to have data, but what does it mean? What story does it tell? It's that insight that's valuable.” –Tamara Gruzbarg, senior director of analytics and research, Gilt Groupe

“Marketers should think of themselves as anthropologists when using data to [better understand customers].” –Todd Cullen, chief data officer, OgilvyOne

“Every marketing email needs an IOU: generate Interest, provide an Offer, and have a sense of Urgency.”  –Greg Grdodian, CEO, Reach Marketing

“Ninety-three percent of marketers [we polled] plan to increase their marketing budget in 2014; 52% plan to increase spending on email marketing; 34% expect to spend more on lifecycle programs; and 38% will spend more on automated or triggered campaigns.” –Katrina Conn, VP of marketing services, StrongView

“We've transformed from a company that took data for granted to one that's focused on harnessing it.” –Jeff Mirman, VP of Marketing, Turner Sports

“Millennials expect a digital orientation. They're 52% of the population…and expect instant access. If you're oriented to provide that, you won't succeed long term.” –Aaron Shapiro, CEO, HUGE Inc.

“Competing on analytics is table stakes in marketing today.” –Todd Cullen, chief data officer, OgilvyOne

Oikos Uses 1990s Flavor to Capture 2014 Customers

Oikos Uses 1990s Flavor to Capture 2014 Customers

I've only been alive for two full decades. But I have to say, I strongly prefer the first. The 1990s were a blissful time. There was great fashion (just look at my stylish turtleneck in the picture below); amazing music (Backstreet Boys Millennium was my first CD); and awesome television. And when my brother and I weren't tuning into Doug or Rugrats, we were watching Full House (listen to the epic theme song here).

For those deprived of 1990s pop culture, Full House is about a single dad, Danny Tanner (played by Bob Saget), who moves in his two best friends, Jesse (John Stamos) and Joey (Dave Coulier), to help him raise his three daughters. My brother and I used to tape episodes onto VHS, and I'd wish that a hot Uncle Jesse or a goofy Joey would move into our house.

So, when Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt announced that it was reuniting the trio for its Super Bowl commercial, I couldn't help but feel giddy.

“This is meant to be a very and entertaining spot,” says Lexie Leyman, communications and community affairs associate for The Dannon Company. “Our community will be able to laugh, have fun, and engage in a way that has not traditionally been focused on for better-for-you snacks.”

Oikos launched a Super Bowl teaser on January 20 and ran the sneak-peak on the brand's YouTube channel and campaign site: So far, the teaser has accumulated more than 1.26 million YouTube views. Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations for The Dannon Company, says that the teaser also achieved a like-to-dislike ratio of more than nine to one. Five days later Oikos released its official Game Day commercial on YouTube, which now has more than 2.28 million YouTube views.

Oikos's decision to debut the spot on YouTube prior to Sunday's game was fueled by competition for consumers' attention, Neuwirth says. Although he admits that competing for attention is a challenge for Super Bowl marketers, he says that it also inspires them to deliver highly creative messages in a short period of time.

“We launched our Super Bowl ad on YouTube [and] that's not something that a traditional marketer would normally do,” Neuwirth says. “But we chose that route because of the scale that YouTube affords leading up to the game. We wanted to break through loud and early.”

However, the TV commercial isn't the only ingredient in Oikos's Super Bowl mix. In fact, the Greek yogurt brand whipped up an entire multichannel campaign. For instance, to demonstrate how Greek yogurt can fit into the traditionally unhealthy Super Bowl spread, the brand provided recipes on Oikos also posted behind-the-scenes videos of Saget, Coulier, and Stamos on the site that feature the campaign's hashtags #fuelyourpleasure  and #oikosbromance. This multichannel approach, Leyman says, is critical to driving engagement both before and during the Super Bowl.

“Part of the fun about the Super Bowl is that you have the opportunity to engage weeks before the actual event,” Leyman says. “It's a chance for us to really spread our reach to different consumers.… Not every consumer may be watching the Big Game on Sunday, but they may be tuned into social media and different channels. It's also a way for us to engage in different channels and bring some awareness outside of just the Big Game.”

After the Super Bowl, Oikos plans on driving sampling trucks across the country to give consumers the opportunity to try the yogurt featured in the ads, Neuwirth adds.

This is Oikos's second Super Bowl appearance. The brand made its first Super Bowl debut in 2012, and Neuwirth says that the company is going into this year's event with a more agile game plan.

“We went into 2012 with a pretty clear idea of what our plan would be from the very early stages,” he says. “In the process of the execution in 2012, we made a lot of adjustments…. Part of our thinking for the 2014 plan is to have a clear idea of where we want to land, but to maintain flexibility in how we get there. It's made us more nimble in our decision making.”

Oikos isn't the only brand to use nostalgia to its advantage. Last year Internet Explorer, through “Child of the 90s,” showed the maturation of the company and trends by featuring major 1990s fads in its ad.The spot has accumulated nearly 48.6 million YouTube views to date. Similarly, Samsung showed clips of iconic characters using its smart watches—including 1990s live action heroes the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers—for the launch of its Galaxy Gear this past October. This spot has earned more than 3.5 million YouTube views to date.

Jonathan Perelman, VP of agency strategy and industry development at BuzzFeed, says tapping into nostalgic sentiments can help brands relate to their consumers on an emotional level.

“As humans, we love to look back at times gone by. We love being brought back to the foods we love, shows we watched and grew up on, and other shared experiences,” he says. “It's part of being human. Add a favorite brand into the mix, it heightens the experience and emotional connection that we have.”

However, brands must understand the context of wistful references if they hope to leverage them successfully, Perelman says. And taking consumers down memory lane helps marketers expand their reach. For instance, when consumers relate to a brand's memory, they're likely to share that memory with those in their social tribes who can also relate, Perelman notes.

“You can never force it,” he says. “To do it well, a brand needs to understand the cultural place that they occupy.”

So whether you embraced the Beanie Babies era or couldn't wait for the days of the scrunchie to end, knowing how to leverage consumer emotions through memories is one marketing tactic that will live on for decades.

When (and How) to Bust Down the Data Door

When (and How) to Bust Down the Data Door

John Foreman, chief data scientist for, learned an important lesson from the 1992 movie Sneakers, a lesson marketers might do well to learn, too. There's a scene in which Robert Redford and Dan Aykroyd's characters struggle to hack a keypad to open an office door. Eventually, Redford just kicks it in. “The takeaway there is you don't have to hack the keypad if you can just break down the door,” Foreman says.

In his new book, Data Smart, Foreman argues that many businesses are metaphorically hacking keypads with their approach to analytics and data. We spoke with him to get some clues as to when that's needed, and when it's time to go all Robert Redford on the door.

What are your best pieces of advice for marketers struggling to turn all of their data into insights?

Businesses, especially businesses getting into the analytics game for the first time, should really scope out what they want to do before they try to do it. Rather than just reading a bunch of news articles about what other people are doing, actually look at your business and the problems you're having and the places you can see the most gain from using analytics. It's best to pick one problem and try to solve that. What I do in my book is go through a bunch of techniques and the types of problems they solve so people can know what's possible. If you know what's possible then it's easier to pick out a problem to solve.

What would you say are some of the most common issues companies run into with data?

Some people run into issues with trying to build the perfect solution when often an 80% solution will do. You'll see companies hire some Ph.D. who's extremely proficient in some type of analytics and they'll try to build some gold-plated solution that would've gotten them recognition in academia or something. That's not terribly useful for a business. Rather, you should build an analytics solution that can live on even if the person who built it gets hit by a bus.

At what point is it is an analytics model too complex?

People should try to avoid complexity, specifically the kind of complexity that requires that they care for and feed their data-driven models all the time. It becomes such a real hassle that no one wants to use it and then you turn it off and you've wasted your time. You have to balance ease-of-use and complexity with whatever you're getting out of it.

Do you think marketers put too much or too little emphasis on performance of their data?

I've seen marketers run into issues with performance a lot where they think, “I've got to get bigger and better performance out of whatever I'm building with this data.” It's often important to step back and figure in what context are you going to be using this model or data tool. Is this the kind of thing you need to run in one second or is it the kind of thing that can take an hour? Can you change your business so that taking an hour to run this thing is acceptable? I think with analytics projects in particular people just tend to spin their wheels trying to make them perfect when often that's not necessary. You get a better product in the end by releasing it into the wild faster and learning from how it does than you do from sitting there making it so good that you've gone bankrupt or something.

What other advice would you offer marketing people in terms of handling data and analytics?

Companies will often segregate the data or analytics people from the marketing folks. You'll get people that are in leadership that will come up with a problem that they'll want the analytics folks to solve, and they'll just kind of throw it down to the basement. That can often be the wrong approach because the analytics people will solve the exact problem they've been told to solve, but was that the right problem to solve to begin with? You enter a situation where a problem that's been given to analytics is one that's been interpreted by management and leadership who might not understand analytics at all. They cast the problem in a light that might actually obscure the original goal. I encourage people to include the analytics team as early as possible.

Dance, Dance, Marketing Solution

Dance, Dance, Marketing Solution

You're cleaning your apartment or you're driving to work. Nothing too exciting. Then a song comes on the radio. It's your favorite song. Or it's just a snappy tune. Doesn't matter. Suddenly, you're dancing around the living room using the broom handle as a microphone or tapping your feet—somewhat dangerously—on the gas pedal in time to the tune.

Music just does that to people. It happened to this guy.

It's also the idea behind the multichannel “Music Unleashes Us” campaign for the 56th annual Grammy Awards, which went down last night in Los Angeles. Developed by TBWA\Chiat\Day and production company Tool, the campaign's CTA goes something like this: Dance like nobody's watching. Dance like everybody's watching. Just dance.

“Music Unleashes us” features a cocktail mix of print and out-of-home, social media, TV ads, digital activations, and video content, including these gems:

But one of the coolest elements by far is a video of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis taking over a New York City bus for an impromptu rendition of “Can't Hold Us” (see the video at the very top of the page). It's a fun video just on the surface, but there's also a little secret lurking within. For eight hours yesterday (between noon and 8 p.m. on 1/26), the video was available via a special player on, where it was actually “backmasked”—as in, when you played it backwards, hidden footage was revealed, just like the cryptic messages the Beatles and Led Zeppelin snuck onto their albums in the mid-1960s, but with a twist.

With a record, all you have to worry about is the audio. With a video, every second of the choreography, space, and overall narrative has to be spot-on and strategically arranged for the thing to work.

“Nowadays, more and more people are experiencing music via digital videos, so we thought it would be fun to bring the technique back using modern technology,” says Bob Rayburn, creative director at TBWA\Chiat\Day. “Once the video finishes playing, the viewer is prompted to click on a special vinyl button to ‘unleash' a new story; [then] the scrubber bar begins to move backwards and the new video plays.”

Backmasking aside, filming the video itself—without leaking anything before its release—was a feat of organization. The bus was specially rigged with 12 hidden cameras and a troop of extras were hired to serve as the “passengers.” But they weren't told any specifics about the project (just that they were being taken to a secret film shoot), so their on-camera reactions are genuine.

“We also had to carefully plan Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's entrance; we asked them to arrive at the shoot wearing hoodies to conceal their faces, and without any members of their entourage,” says Tool Director Geordie Stephens. “After the shoot—which only took about 20 minutes or so—we had everyone sign nondisclosure agreements and carefully explained the importance of keeping the project off social media.”

Until it was time to keep the project on social media, of course. YouTube views of the video were at three million after a week. The stunt also garnered quite a lot of media and major network coverage.

TBWA\Chiat\Day Creative Director Rick Utzinger attributes the high engagement levels to the simplicity of the universal “human truth” behind the campaign. “We focused on the undeniable fact that we are powerless against music,” he says. “It will tap our toes and shake our hips for us, whether we want to or not.”

It's also not always about a having a big celebrity star in your video.

“I would encourage marketers to focus on coming up with a simple, relatable idea, and to execute it in a simple, entertaining way,” Stephens says. “Of course it helps to have someone like Macklemore show up—but often the best commercial work I've done has involved no celebrity talent at all.”

Revamp Your Email Marketing

Revamp Your Email Marketing

The first step to overcoming an addiction is admitting the problem. Ryan Phelan, VP of global strategic services for Acxiom, did just this and admitted that email marketers are "addicted" to the word “sale.”

“And sale's cousin ‘discount' and third cousin ‘free shipping,'” he confessed to the crowd at the closing keynote of the Direct Marketing Association's Email Evolution Conference.

This “sale” obsession, he said, causes marketers to forget the customer mind-set. Once marketers lose this mind-set, they forget that customers experience different brands in different ways, he said. As a result, they start “naming” their customer segments. This approach causes marketers to blur customers together, send batch-and-blast emails, and ultimately, treat customers like a list, rather than like individuals, Phelan said. 

“[It's] like we're paying them to be friends with us,” he said. “Humans don't act that way.”

And customers are beginning to detect this lack of empathy. According to Acxiom's research, 72% of consumers read email when they're bored. Not to mention, solely focusing on customers who don't care detracts from the customers who do, Phelan noted.

“We have to be realistic in that consumers care as much about the email we send as we put into it sometimes,” he said.

So how do marketers design a brand experience when every consumer experiences a brand differently? And how can marketers service their customers when they don't understand how to piece all of their multichannel experiences together? After asking these questions, Phelan said marketers need to initiate a new conversation with customers, as well as adjust the way they think, act, and market. “Look at the experiences our customers have with our brands…beyond, ‘What's the discount for next week?'” he said. 

Here are the four ways Phelan said marketers can get back into the customer mind-set. 

Focus on strategy, not on tactics

Gather your social, mobile, and other marketing teams together for a day-long, strategy meeting.

“We're in an industry that's incredibly good at tactics…but we don't spend enough time with the strategy of our program,” Phelan said.

During the session, focus on the following four objectives, he advised:

  • Define your current programs and optimizations
  • Discuss what you'd love to achieve. Don't bring cost or system integration into the conversation. Remember, this is about strategy, not tactics.
  • Set priorities about what you can do now. Assign responsibilities and determine what needs to be fixed.
  • Track your progress and remember that mistakes are part of the learning curve.

“Remind yourself that it's OK to not be perfect,” Phelan said.

2) Analyze current programs

Instead of hitting your subscribers with a hard sell, envision how they'd use the product and build a campaign around this notion, Phelan suggested. Then start small. Test one email, see how it performs, and ask the boss if you can try another one, he said.

“Develop one email that seeks to engage the consumer and have a conversation that talks about the experience of the product and the experience of the brand,” Phelan said.

3) Evolve reporting concepts

The world didn't end at the end of 2012 like the Mayans predicted. But Google did introduce Gmail tabs five months later and that was sort of the same thing from an email marketing perspective. Phelan recalled marketers' despair when they claimed that their open rates were plummeting. However, this calamity occurred, he said, because marketers looked at their open and click-through rates as a whole. So, they looked at one giant user base population instead of smaller segments, such as those who made a purchase or those who are new customers.

“We have to change our concept of reporting [and] look at not the aggregate number, but at the cluster number—our group of customers and who they represent,” Phelan said.

4) Test more

When it comes to testing, subject lines get all of the attention. But it's important for marketers to test other email components, as well—such as calls-to-action, imagery, and placement and length of text—Phelan explained.

“We're in an industry of people who know how to write really good subject lines. We have to be better at building really good emails,” he said. “You can only do that through testing.”

Six Oldie, but Goodie Email Rules

Six Oldie, but Goodie Email Rules

There's plenty of email jargon in the marketing industry today, and these buzzwords can make the simplest concepts seem complex. At the Direct Marketing Association's Email Evolution Conference yesterday, four email marketing gurus went back to basics and discussed a few old-school email life cycle rules that still apply today.

Listen to what customers don't tell you: To solicit more data, or not to solicit more data: That is the question many marketers ask when evaluating their signup processes. Asking for more data allows marketers to send more targeted emails; however, it can deter customers from signing up altogether. Sam Crosby, marketing program manager for daily deal site LivingSocial, addressed the dilemma by considering how consumer resistance—such as not wanting to provide an email address—ultimately affects email performance.

“If someone won't give us more information…we might not want to email them in the first place,” he said.

Read between the lines: But a blank field shouldn't discourage marketers from obtaining the information that they seek. For instance, Rajan Mohan, VP and GM of social commerce for media company Gannett, said that while many consumers are hesitant to list their gender, they are willing to provide their salutation, such as Mr. or Mrs.

“Look at the fields you collect and infer data,” he said.

Think outside the inbox: The great debate around unsubscribing inactive addresses is a heated one. While Crosby admitted that LivingSocial has unsubscribed inactive people in the past, he said that the company doesn't count them out right away.

“A significant portion of our revenue comes from people who haven't opened an email in a year,” he said.

Before removing subscribers from its list, LivingSocial cuts back on its number of email sends, such as only sending emails once a week or once a month instead of every day. He also said that the company ranks subscribers on their activity.

However, Mohan—a “firm believer [that] nobody goes off the list”—argued that inactive subscribers can still be active customers. So it's important, he argued, to look at signals outside the inbox—such as purchase history.

“If you're an email marketer, you have to be open and working to leverage data outside of your ESP,” added Erik Severinghaus, founder and CEO of digital marketing company SimpleRelevance.

Encourage engagement: An attention-grabbing pre-header can lure consumers into opening an email. But if used incorrectly, it can also discourage consumers from interacting with a brand. Putting “unsubscribe here” in the preheader is one of the most common misuses, Severinghaus pointed out. “They're encouraging me to unengage with their brand,” he said.

Forget the Magic Hour: Marketers like to try to test and pinpoint the one optimal time to send an email. But Phil Davis, CEO of Rapleaf—a division of email solution company TowerData, argued that this “magic hour” doesn't exist. Instead, he argued, it's individualized per customer.

Don't be afraid to start small: Personalizing email can seem like a giant, intimidating feat. But Crosby encouraged marketers to take baby steps. He said that LivingSocial started by differentiating between male and female consumers and eventually became more granular, such as using personalization to provide relevant interest and life-cycle messages. 

“For the most part,” he said, “the most blunt personalization has the most obvious impact.”

Girl Power, Marketing-Style

Girl Power, Marketing-Style

“Her all-in personal investment makes her a driving force for our organization and customers.” This quote from a colleague about 2014 Marketing Hall of Femme honoree Protection 1
Chief Marketing & Customer Experience Officer Jamie Haenggi is representative of the laudatory sentiments expressed in all of the nominations submitted for the Direct Marketing News' 2014 Marketing Hall of Femme.         

As most of you recovered from your New Year's Eve celebrations, the editorial team here at Direct Marketing News was immersed in reading about the amazing accomplishments of the nearly 50 chief marketers nominated for the 2014 Marketing Hall of Femme. As I read through each, I could barely sit still; popping up from my seat to give air high-fives to women who were there only in spirit, or turning to my colleagues longing to ask whether they had read about this accomplishment or that, only to bite my tongue until after the judging was complete.

This year's honorees—18 exceptional female marketing chiefs—stand out not only for the success of their marketing strategies, but also for their outstanding leadership. Their methods have improved marketing performance for their current and previous companies alike, and have yielded measureable results, from revenue growth to increases in customer engagement. Their leadership inspires colleagues to achieve greatness; their stories are ones of dynamism, decisiveness, and determination.

Who are they?

The 2014 Marketing Hall of Femme honorees are…

  • Frances Allen, EVP, Chief Brand Officer, Denny's Corp.
  • Amy Bohutinsky, CMO, Zillow
  • Kathy Button Bell, VP, CMO, Emerson Electric
  • Leilani M. Brown, CMO, Starr Companies
  • Susan Cohig, SVP of Integrated Marketing, National Hockey League
  • Dorothy Dowling, SVP, Marketing & Sales, Best Western International
  • Peggy Dyer, CMO, American Red Cross
  • Jamie Haenggi, Chief Marketing & Customer Experience Officer, Protection 1
  • Teri Llach, CMO, Blackhawk Network
  • Kristin Lynch, CMO and VP, Brand Marketing, World Kitchen
  • Nagisa Manabe, Chief Marketing & Sales Officer, USPS
  • Stephanie Marchesi, CMO and Senior Partner, FleishmanHillard
  • Tricia Melton, SVP of Entertainment Marketing, TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies, Turner Broadcasting
  • Trish Mueller, SVP & CMO, The Home Depot
  • Karen Quintos, SVP & CMO, Dell Inc.
  • Mary Novak-Beatty, VP of Marketing and Call Center Sales, Mayflower Tours
  • Sheena Oliver, VP, Marketing, Oticon Inc.
  • Ann Sung Ruckstuhl, SVP & CMO, LiveOps

Their successes are truly inspirational. It's our honor to highlight their achievements. Watch for their full profiles in March.

Additionally, Direct Marketing News will celebrate this award of distinction on Friday, March 21 in New York City at a festive awards ceremony set amid a half day of education and inspiration. The day will feature a keynote presentation and panel discussion on how to succeed as a chief marketer and on marketing leadership, as well as the awards ceremony and brunch. It's an event you won't want to miss.

We Need More Cowbell, Not More Email

We Need More Cowbell, Not More Email

You know that classic Saturday Night Live “Cowbell” sketch? The one where Christopher Walken plays a music producer and tells big-bellied Will Ferrell that his band's song needs more cowbell. As the skit goes on, and as Jimmy Fallon continues to lose his composure, Ferrell beefs up the bell. And the more he bangs on the bell, the more Walken loves the song.

Often, email marketers sing the same tune: The more email they send, the more likely they are to engage subscribers. In fact, marketers send so much email that the average worker receives 11,680 emails per year, Barry Gill, enterprise consultant and product marketing manager for Mimecast writes in the Harvard Business Review. But Brian Solis, principal analyst for Altimeter Group and author of the book The End of Business as Usual, says that more isn't always better.

“The answer isn't more email—maybe more cowbell, but not email,” he told the audience during his keynote at the Direct Marketing Association's Email Evolution Conference in Miami. “The answer is spending more time thinking like a human being again.”

The mentality of today's human beings is to be constantly plugged in. Solis referred to this connected segment as Generation C and defined the population as anyone with a smartphone or tablet. So instead of just trying to engage a single audience, marketers now have to attract “an audience of audiences”—audiences that are constantly communicating and sharing. 

But connecting with this group is challenging. For one, everyone uses technology differently; yet marketers assume they use their devices the same way they do, Solis says. And this audience doesn't sit still. They switch between the on- and offline world seamlessly and expect marketers to know who and where they are at all times. But while traveling across digital and offline channels is intuitive for consumers, executing these integrated experiences isn't intuitive for marketers, Solis said. 

Thankfully, there's something that all consumers, including those in Gen C, share in common—empathy, and the desire for shared experiences. Solis said that this involves focusing on the main "P"s--not product, price, place, and promotion, but people, promise, and purpose. So instead of focusing on what message they want to say to consumers, marketers need to focus on what experiences they want them to have and want them to share.

"Email is about dialogue [and] it's about communication," he said. "It's not just one-way talking to people."

So how can brands humanize their marketing? To create this empathy, marketers need to rethink the term "omnichannel." Omnichannel should mean using multiple channels to create experiences that unlock emotions all humans share, Solis said. A break in this experience, he says, can cause consumers to abandon their journey altogether. But creating empathy-infused experiences designed around devices and desires attracts consumers and brings their "moments of truth" together, he said. This makes consumers more apt to listen to future messages and keep those messages in their inbox, he added.

But humanizing this data is no easy task. To help, Solis advised appointing someone who's responsible for making sense of complex data and why it matters from a human perspective. 

So stop adding to all of the email noise, and start ringing in the empathy.

"More email is not the answer," he said. "Strategy and empathy is how we win."

Direct Mail's Day at the Oscars

Direct Mail's Day at the Oscars

Bruce Dern got the nomination for Best Actor in Nebraska, Alexander Payne for Best Director, and June Squibb for Supporting Actress in this picture that presents a stark accounting of a common American family. But the central instigator of plot in this film is a classic piece of direct mail that all who read this column have seen, or maybe even sent. It serves as the switch that ignites resentment, greed, longing, familial love, familial resentment, pettiness, and, ultimately, hope.

Dern plays Woody Grant, a slipping into senility ex-mechanic in Montana, who receives a letter in the mail that infuses his life with new promise. It's one of those magazine clearinghouse subscription pieces that says, “We are now authorized to pay $1 million to Woodrow T. Grant of Billings, Montana.” Woody either doesn't see, or refuses to acknowledge, the fine print that adds “…if yours is one of the winning numbers.” He tells people he wants to use his windfall to buy a new truck and an air compressor, but it soon becomes clear that Woody sees the letter as his ticket to a higher plane, his final chance to rise above his unremarkable life and thump his chest in front of loved ones and despised ones alike. With no driver's license, he takes to the highway on foot and only state troopers can delay his pilgrimage to contest headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska.

His wife and oldest son recognize his behavior as a sign that it's time to dispatch pops to a nursing home. But his younger son David (Will Forte) realizes that the only way to get Woody to see the light is to drive him to Lincoln to confront his destiny. On the way, they stop in Woody's Hawthorne, Nebraska, birthplace, where he lets on about his windfall and is hailed as a local celebrity. He's then frisked and set upon by members of his family and his old business partner who angle to grab shares of the winnings. Ultimately, two of his nephews mug him for the letter, see what it is, and make him a laughingstock.

But the arrival of this mail piece incites revelations. David learns that his dad almost died in the Korean Conflict when his plane was shot down, that the kindly and educated owner of the hometown newspaper once hoped to marry Woody, that he ended up losing his garage in town because he was too generous with his friends.

I don't mean to overstate the role direct mail plays in this compelling film. It's just that, while watching it, I couldn't help thinking about all the attributes that list brokers and printers and bulk mailers ascribe to the marketing tool. That it's intrusive. That it arrives in your mail box and forces you to deal with it. That it can offer pleasant promises of cures to the mundane through colorful magazines or vacations.

When Woody finally arrives at the marketing agency office in Lincoln, director Payne keeps it real, as he does throughout the movie. The office is not a plush, scammers' paradise. It's a small, two-story brick affair on an industrial side-street littered with collateral. The receptionist respectfully takes the ticket Woody proffers, checks her computer, and says “Oh, gee, I'm sorry, Hon, but yours wasn't one of the winning numbers.” She offers Woody a consolation prize, which he accepts, and that, plus a loving contribution from a newly enlightened son, allows Woody to finally ride high, one more time, through Hawthorne, Nebraska.

All thanks to direct mail.

Kahlúa Gets in the Multichannel Spirit

Kahlúa Gets in the Multichannel Spirit

When it comes to the point of purchase, CPG brands can feel like they're in a long-distance relationship with their consumers. Although shoppers seem distanced and detached, CPGs yearn for an intimate connection. To ensure that the relationship endures, CPGs have to offer consumers value both on and off the shelf throughout the entire purchase process.

Liqueur brand Kahlúa did just that it in its “Taste the Spirit of the Holidays” campaign by helping target shoppers prepare for their holiday festivities. The coffee-and-rum spirit leveraged in-store and digital touchpoints to better understand and engage shoppers all the way to register.

“Having access to that consumer throughout the shopper journey creates a more intimate relationship between Kahlúa, or any Pernod Ricard brand, and the shopper,” says Tim Murphy, VP of digital and media for parent company Pernod Ricard USA. “It helps us understand more deeply what content, assets, or values are going to drive consumers through to purchase.”

One of the campaign's key digital ingredients was the Kahlúa Pinterest sweepstakes. To illustrate the versatility of its products, Kahlúa promoted eight cocktail recipes and eight baking recipes through interactive advertisements. The ads were hosted on the brand's partner sites, such as, and pushed consumers through to the sweepstakes. Participants then had to pin six Kahlúa-inspired recipes, cocktails, or gifts to their Pinterest boards. In addition to pinning the recipes featured in the ads, consumers could pin their own inspirations. Kahlúa even asked bloggers to create their own recipes and videos to generate more "pinspiration." The winner of the sweepstakes received $5,000 for their holiday party preparations. The contest ran from mid November to mid-December and was also pushed out through the brand's Facebook page and a campaign landing page.

After partnering with Curalate to analyze the sweepstakes performance, Kahlúa determined that more than 8,000 people entered the contest. These participants generated more than 10,400 pins and 1.4 million impressions. Kahlúa also acquired more than 3,800 Pinterest followers during the 35-day campaign—a 1,432% increase from its 267 follower count before the campaign—and more than 16,000 entrant emails.

But the sweepstakes wasn't the only way Kahlúa helped customers tackle their party preparations. The brand also pushed out recipe banner ads to party hosts who sent invitations via online invitation company Evite. And to make sure that guests didn't show up without a gift, Kahlúa sent banner ads containing liqueur coupons to invitation recipients. Kerri Owen, brand manager of liqueurs for Pernod Ricard USA, says that ads containing a recipe--such as those featured on Evites--saw response rates that were 3.5 times greater than Kahlúa's standard media ads.

“We knew that we had to put recipes, coupons, and a great sweepstakes all at [shoppers'] fingertips,” she says. “There were several different tactics and sites that we knew [prospective customers] were using to find them so that when they showed up at the point of purchase, they already knew what they were going to buy.”

However, if Kahlúa wanted to get as close to the point of purchase as possible, it had to target consumers while they were in-store. So Kahlúa also sent consumers mobile coupons to retailer shoppers via mobile ad network Jumptap (now Millennial Media). The brand also hosted cocktail and dessert tastings in-store and handed out recipe cards.

And to reward its customers for shopping in-store, Kahlúa teamed up with mobile shopping app Shopkick. Consumers could use the app to scan in-store items to earn points. Once they earned a certain amount of points, they could cash in their points for products. After consumers scanned one of Kahlúa's product, the brand distributed a short survey asking shoppers if they actually purchased the product.

And while every brand craves consumer engagement, Murphy says that it's important to not lose sight of the end goal: a purchase.

"It's all about driving that purchase," he says. "One of the challenges that we all have as marketers is that we talk in terms of likes, shares, retweets, tweets, followers, and so on. But if you can't convert that engagement into a purchase, then you have to wonder if you're doing the right things."

Murphy says that the percentage of consumers who said that they did make a purchase after scanning an item “over-indexed Shopkick's benchmarks.”

And the app doesn't just benefit consumers. It benefits brands, as well. Brands can use the app to serve out messages to its in-store consumers. For example, Kahlúa sent its customers mobile look-books featuring different Kahlúa-inspired cocktail, gifting, and baking ideas.

Owen says providing digital utility allowed Kahlúa to adjust its advertising on the fly. For instance, after learning that the brand's Jumptap coupon downloads didn't perform as well as the brand's recipe interactions, Kahlúa shifted its game strategy and added more recipe content. Murphy points out that the best way to determine what works for a brand is to just give it a go. “Just try it,” he says “If it works, scale it up. If it doesn't, move on.”

Based on the success of its efforts so far, Owen says, Kahlúa plans on continuing to interact with shoppers across channels in other key spirit seasons.

Create or Analyze?

Create or Analyze?

With our 2014 Marketing&Tech Partnership Summit coming up, I asked a few of the speakers: What's one piece of advice you'd give to marketers looking to improve collaboration with their technologist counterparts?

They said:

As creatives and geeks, we are all dealing with a paradox (create, or analyze?) but we all share a noble calling. As highly trained experts in our fields (marketers and technologists), we've been entrusted with one of the most valuable assets our society has ever created: Information about people. It's a noble calling because people matter.  The way we view and handle data shapes how people interact with their world. Keep this calling in mind as you deal with the marketing paradox.  

—Todd Cullen, chief data officer, OgilvyOne

There's something incomparable to throwing yourself into new experiences in a corporate environment. Through my experience creating J.Hilburn, I have upheld this learn-as-you-go mentality not only with my own education, but also with my employees', as well. I urge all employees to try to grasp projects from other departments' eyes. 

For example, with marketers looking to improve collaboration with their technology counterparts, I urge these seemingly opposite departments to come together to educate and brainstorm. Push technologists to go through the full product experience if at all possible. Motivate them to understand and become more involved in the sales process. Fully understanding the inner workings of each department will only make them stronger at their own job.

Taking this a step further, executives should require technologists to create a case study or other project specifically incorporating one of the company's business problems—even if it's swayed toward a marketing/sales challenge. It's probable that their solution will not be dead on, but the point is to use this as an exercise to see how each of the departments think and problem solve and determine how the two separate departments can better partner with one another.  

Veeral Rathod, cofounder,  J.Hilburn

First marketers need to understand what else is on their technology counterparts' list of deliverables for others in the company. Then marketers need to be able to speak to [technologists] in a common language, with clear scope and definition of the project(s) that need to be completed. The more information that can be provided, including the longer-term plan, the better the collaboration will be.

Bruce Biegel, senior managing partner, Winterberry Group

Marketers need to be very clear with their technology counterparts as to what they're trying to accomplish from their Big Data analysis and insight activities. It's important to undertake a small analysis effort initially with a keen focus on the interpretation and actionability of the resulting data analysis.

Barton Goldenberg, president, ISM Inc.

Have scheduled, recurring meetings on your calendar. The best way to ensure positive collaboration with your technology counterparts is to involve them in your planning and development. By getting them onboard from the ground up, they'll have a vested interest in your program's success, and contribute significantly more in both strategy and execution.

Greg Grdodian, CEO, Reach Marketing


To hear more on collaboration strategy like how marketing and IT should collaboratively “own” customer data, as well as the business benefits of a marketing-tech partnership, join us at the upcoming Marketing&Tech Partnership Summit in NYC on January, 28, 2014.

It's Better to Give Than to Receipt

It's Better to Give Than to Receipt

I generally don't keep paper receipts, and when I do, it's usually by mistake. Getting undressed at the end of the day I might find three or four crumpled receipts from sundry bodegas or coffee shops stuffed into the pockets of my jeans, all of which immediately make their way into the trash bin. Sometimes when I'm rooting around in my wallet for my driver license I'll come across an old receipt with such faded print it might as well be blank. Into the circular file.

From that vantage point, receipts are not the most inspiring medium…or really a medium at all. But according to Square CEO Jack Dorsey (you know, the guy who also cofounded that Twitter thing), digital receipts are a potentially rich, interactive communication channel—”if you consider the receipt to be more than just a piece of paper with coupons on the back that you probably throw away.”

Large, medium-size, and small businesses between them produce millions of (usually unwanted and quickly discarded) receipts every day, and the lifespan of the vast majority of those ill-fated receipts goes a little something like this: print receipt, hand over receipt, discard receipt into nearest trash receptacle.

“What's the one thing people walk away from every single transaction with?” Dorsey rhetorically asked the NRF crowd. “Commerce has been with us since the dawn of civilization, and so has the receipt—for every transaction a receipt is given, but often it's not taken because it's not useful.”

Traditional receipts also don't do much for retailers in terms of data collected. Phone numbers, email addresses, names, preferences—there's a lot of good data out there not currently being mined at POS; data that many consumers would be more than willing to hand over if they knew it would be used responsibly and to provide them with a better, more personalized experience.

Square's technology, which allows merchants to accept mobile payments by attaching a nifty little card reader to their tablet or smartphone, is about revamping the humble receipt into something better. A corresponding app acts as a kind of digital wallet. Consumers download the app, create an account, and associate a credit card. Having done that, they never have to hand over a credit card to a Square merchant, as in any business that accepts Pay with Square, ever again.

In other words, you could stroll through the door of your favorite coffee shop and the barista behind the counter will already know your name and your favorite/most frequently purchased items. He or she will also see your photo pop up on the POS screen. No money has to change hands. The purchase is automatically put onto your credit card followed by a push notification after payment, and you can browse your past purchases and access your digital receipts whenever you want from the app itself. You can also rate your experience, the store can send you specials right to your phone, and you can share your purchases with your friends—all that good stuff. When was the last time you shared a paper receipt with your friends (homophonic receipt hoaxes aside)? (A: probably not recently/ever.)

It's a simple idea and that's why it's so potent; a totally frictionless experience powered by technology.

And the possibilities here are endless, Dorsey said—it's just a matter of keeping your eyes peeled for opportunities to make the retail experience smoother, more intuitive, and mutually beneficial for brand and consumer alike.

In the words of Dorsey's favorite science fiction writer, William Gibson, author of Neuromancer and coiner of the term “cyberpunk:” “The future is already here, it's just not very evenly distributed.”

Q&A: Why Big Data Works

Q&A: Why Big Data Works

As a term, Big Data has become a bit too nebulous and loaded. Bestselling author and distinguished IT management Professor Thomas H. Davenport's new book Big Data @ Work grounds the marketing world's newest challenge and examines the utility of big data analysis.

Davenport has written more than 100 articles and 13 books on analytics and IT management. We spoke with him about some of the issues covered in the book and asked for a deconstruction of Big Data: What does it actually mean? Who does it help and who could it help more? What about small businesses that don't have the budget for advanced analytical tech?

Big Data has become a pretty loaded term. Deconstruct the term for us and discuss the merit behind the hype.

I don't think [Big Data] is a particularly helpful term because it's sort of lost all meaning through terminological inflation, hype, and so on. So I argue that you should be clear about what kind of data you're using.

Is it the unstructured aspect of Big Data that you're focused on—which is in fact much harder to deal with than the size for most organizations?  Do you have a particularly high level of volume—which isn't particularly difficult for most organizations to deal with? Or is the fast-moving nature of it that's continually flowing and you're trying to address how to make decisions and take actions on data that's changing all the time?

So, I'd say you'd be better off saying something like, “We're trying to understand customer perception through analysis of video at ATM machines,” which would actually tell you something rather than saying, “Oh, we're working on a Big Data project,” which sounds pretty much useless.

What separates Big Data from past marketing trends like OLAP or business intelligence?

When I first started researching [Big Data] I had written a few books on analytics; I just thought it was analytics under another name. But I do think the unstructured nature of Big Data does put it in a different category. Basically, what it means is that you have to do a lot of things before you can do the kinds of analysis you describe. You have to get it into rows and columns.

If it's video you have to do facial recognition on it. If it's text you have to count word frequency, that sort of thing, before you can do any real analysis and make any decision on the basis of it.

The other difference is that because analytics have gotten a bit more advanced compared to OLAP and BI, it's a little bit more likely for people to do statistical analysis on it. There's a very high interest in visual representation of Big Data. That's not terribly different from BI, but there's a little stronger emphasis I would say. Obviously, we have some new visual tools that are a little bit more sophisticated like heat maps and moving bubble charts and so on.

Which industries stand to gain the most from Big Data?

There are some industries that could have done a lot with data in the past, but didn't really do much—at least not in any way that benefits their customers—so I call them underachievers. Big Data gives them sort of a new chance to do more. I would say banks, consumer financial services, are a good example of that. With some new data that is a little bit less structured—as I mentioned, video or maybe cell phone location data or something along those lines—they could start to do more.

Telecom has been a real underachiever with its data in the past, and now that we have smartphone location data, some companies like Verizon (I use them as an example in my book) are starting to do a bit more with that kind data.

I think healthcare is coming on strong. It was not an underachiever in the past; it was just sort of disadvantaged because there wasn't much data at all. But we're pouring a lot of U.S. taxpayer dollars into electronic medical records and we have all of these connected health devices. So, that's coming along quite strongly.

Retail has always been pretty strong and will get stronger with this sort of thing. Travel and transportation have always been relatively good, but are already doing more. Companies like UPS and Schneider National are doing a lot with Big Data at an early stage.

Those would be some examples.

Would you expand on some the companies you think are shining examples of Big Data done right?

Well, the companies that were the earliest adopters of this, of course, were the online companies. The eBays, the Amazons, the Googles, and LinkedIns, etc. I think to some degree what we're seeing now is that more large, traditional companies are saying, “You know, we can do some interesting things too in this regard.”

Some of them are industrial companies. GE is doing a huge amount with Big Data, putting sensors on air craft engines and gas turbines and so on. You have companies like Proctor and Gamble, which are not direct marketers because for the most part they don't have direct access to consumers, but are doing a lot with things like social media data on customers. They've been really big consumers of third-party syndicated data about what consumers are up to. They're certainly playing a very strong role in terms of being early adopters in the consumer products space.

As I've mentioned, UPS is doing a whole lot with Big Data to plant its roots more effectively. You know, saving tens of millions of gallons of fuel already—even though they aren't entirely finished in this space. I've been very impressed with USAA and I talk a fair amount about them in the book. [USAA has] done a lot with Big Data to understand customers better, to understand the implications and effects of its advertising. This whole marketing mix analysis, they've been quite active with. Another company I'd put into that category is Fidelity Investments, which has done a lot to figure out, “Does my advertising really, really pay off.”

How would you suggest smaller businesses go about using the millions of gigabytes of data they've gathered?

Well, I think some human labor, in terms of analytical labor, is still required. The good news for smaller businesses is that it's getting less and less expensive. The software for doing Big Data analysis is largely free; much of it is open source. The hardware tends to be quite cheap and commoditized; you know, cheap server farms. And you can get it in the cloud if you don't want to make the capital investment. Expertise is still somewhat expensive in this area, but increasingly you can get it off-shore. Other organizations will provide some analytical capabilities for you as a service so you don't have to build it all yourself.

I think the biggest thing that's lacking for small businesses is some sense of what the possibilities are. They too can play in this space now. It's typically been the larger companies and the online companies in Silicon Valley that have been the early adopters, but it certainly doesn't have to be that way.

Has Digital Wallet's Time Arrived?

Has Digital Wallet's Time Arrived?

If you're a marketer who hasn't bothered to look into digital wallet technology, there are two reasons you may want to start looking, according to a panel convened at the National Retail Federation show in New York:

1. In 2017 Millennials will eclipse Baby Boomers as the largest generation extant

2. In 2015 EMV chip-and-pin credit cards standards take over in the U.S.

The first reason is a marketplace driver. Smartphones are essentially appendages of Millennials' bodies. They use them intuitively, and every mobile device in the marketplace will soon be equipped with mobile wallet apps. Not only are Apple, Amazon, eBay, and Google in the business, but last year AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon teamed up to form Isis, a mobile wallet provider that offers a standard platform for all devices from those leading wireless services' ubiquitous stores. (Isis sponsored the NRF panel.)

The second reason is a financial driver. This year nearly every business that accepts card payments has budgeted for converting their POS systems to accept EMV (Europay, Mastercard, Visa) standards in which magnetic strips will be replaced by computer chips identifying the particular cardholder. The system helps protect ID theft by requiring the holder to insert the card in a payment terminal and enter a PIN. The card must remain in the cardholder for the duration of the transaction, however, which is troubling for both customers and retailers, who must train employees to be sure to return it. Customers with digital wallets enter their PINs on their phone apps and pay by waving their phones over a terminal configured with near field communication (NFC) technology. As a result, it's expected that retailers who have already budgeted for POS overhauls will consider NFC, as well, so they can accept “contactless” payments from digital wallets and EMV cards alike.

“We want to be tech agnostic and support multiple digital wallets,” said panel member Robert Notte, CTO of Jamba Juice, which completed a test of NFC installations in Austin and Salt Lake City, Isis's initial markets. NFC technology allows customers to employ Isis's SmartTap technology (and similar ones from Google, et al) to complete purchases by opening the digital wallet and waving it over a terminal.

“NFC is quick, easy, and secure. It gives us entry to the entire ecosystem and allows us to amplify our message to our consumers. It's another consumer channel,” Notte said. A single tap of the app not only completes the transaction, but also automatically awards loyalty points or prompts customers to spend points.

“It's very interesting to speculate how companies will be able to use this technology to interact with their customers,” said Daniel Thomas, senior director of professional services at Epicor, a retail systems software provider. “You could use it to promote loyalty memberships or to feed customers offers.”

Although all members of the panel (save Notte) were in businesses that will benefit from widespread implementation of digital wallet, they answered convincingly in unison when moderator Tony Sabetti of Isis asked for their chief advice to retailers. “Do it now,” was their reply.

“In the last few years, we chipped away at mobile wallet. Many acceptance devices couldn't handle it,” said Erik Vlugt, VP of product marketing for VeriFone. “But now all the elements you need to do it are here. If you don't do it now, you'll be chasing your competition.”

One of those expecting to be chased is Jamba Juice's Notte, whose company is expanding digital wallet chainwide in the U.S. following Isis's nationwide rollout last fall. “Digital wallet is a great fit for us. Our customers tend to be tech savvy. They're on their phones while waiting for their smoothies,” he said. “We did 100 million customer transactions through digital wallet last year. We find it is enhancing customer experience as well as the speed of spend.”

A/B Testing Helps RunKeeper Keep Pace with its Customers

A/B Testing Helps RunKeeper Keep Pace with its Customers

Mobile is an essential part of a healthy marketing regimen.

“We're seeing many organizations where mobile represents 50 to 60% of the traffic,” says Bernd Leger, VP of marketing for Localytics, a marketing analytics platform for mobile and Web apps. “If that's the case, you have to have a different mind-set of ‘how do we engage users on mobile, and what's that experience like?'”

Jon Gilman, product manager of fitness technology company RunKeeper, admits that apps are the “bread and butter” of the brand (carbs aside). More than 25 million organically acquired users have downloaded RunKeeper's flagship iPhone and Android apps to track their workouts, share their successes, and integrate their activity data into other health-related apps.

Traditionally, RunKeeper focused on the cardio activity market by offering tracking and integration capabilities for biking, running, and walking workouts. But after listening to its users, the company discovered that many people were participating in other forms of exercise, such as downhill skiing and meditation. So RunKeeper decided to redesign its app to enable those engaging in other fitness activities to track their progress.

“What we wanted to do was start expanding the base of RunKeeper beyond just running, walking, and biking and move to activity types like yoga [or] strength training," Gilman says. "Though we knew those activities were an important piece of our users' fitness lifecycle, they weren't [being] captured."

But RunKeeper didn't want to jump the gun and overhaul its app without knowing how that might affect metrics. So the company decided to focus on its starting screen first. RunKeeper then teamed up with mobile A/B testing organization Vessel and Localytics this past July and conducted a one-month A/B test to see if people would be more likely to log fitness activities other than running if given the option.

To conduct the test, RunKeeper randomly assigned Android users to one of two groups: A and B. Group A users saw the app's old starting screen, which featured a form listing users' activity type, attributes associated with that activity (such as whether they shared their workout), and a start button. RunKeeper automatically set the activity type to running. If group A users wanted to select a different activity, they would have to change it manually. For group B users, however, RunKeeper didn't automatically select an activity. Unlike group A, group B saw a new screen featuring eight different activities to choose from.

RunKeeper saw a 235% increase in non-running activities logs when it showed consumers the group B version. Furthermore, RunKeeper didn't experience a decline in GPS-tracked walk, run, or bike activities. Since conducting the A/B test, RunKeeper has improved entry flow by eliminating extra starting page steps, and increased the number of people who complete an activity after manually logging it.

While A/B testing can seem like an intimidating exercise, Gilman says it can lead to big benefits.

“It's OK to try testing big things,” Gilman says. “The benefit of having an A/B testing and analytics framework is that you can make wholesale changes to an experience that you think are risky or may not work. But, being able to measure and quantify the exact impact of those changes against your old experience gives product managers [and] designers a lot of flexibility to try new things and think outside the box.”

Lead Cloud on the Horizon

Lead Cloud on the Horizon

It's the Catch-22 of B2B marketing: If you want lead quality, you probably have to sacrifice lead quantity; if you're looking for lots of leads, quality's out the window.

But that kind of thinking is a bit retrograde, says Amnon Mishor, founder of Leadspace, a company that describes itself as something like “ for business.”

A traditional lead database isn't going to cut it anymore because it doesn't scale and it doesn't pull in dynamic customer data. In Mishor's view, the future belongs to something he refers to as the “lead cloud”—the real time and on-demand analysis of information gathered from the social Web and married to ideal buyer profiles. In other words, using Big Data analytics to get a bead on your leads before they even engage with you.

To get that done, B2B marketers need to model their ideal customers and think about investing in tech solutions to gather a volume of relevant data—and it all comes back to quality versus quantity, although from Mishor's perspective, if B2B marketers get on the tech train (predictive analytics, machine learning, natural language processes, automation), “quality versus quantity” can easily become “quality and quantity.” No need to choose between them—which is good because one is just as important as the other. A quantity of bad data won't serve your marketing goals; but too few leads, even if they're of quality, won't make an impact.

“If you can get rid of the junk, it's good, but you must have the quantity, as well,” Mishor says. “Don't believe any solution that tells you you'll get a better lead base with Big Data analytics without scale.”

Take a traditional lead gen effort. Let's say you're trying to reach out to IT people. What do you do first? You hit up your database or you buy a list of however many thousands of IT job titles you think you'll need. Then you try to market your product to them.

“When you just stick to inbound marketing, all prospects fill out the same form; they all choose from the same categories—‘Yes, I'm in IT;' ‘Yes, I'm in marketing,'—but it doesn't matter if they're a consultant or if they're high level or low level,” Mishor says. “In that case, all the leads just look the same.”

But if you're making an effort to collect more nuanced data about prospects—culled from comments they leave on blogs, from what they tweet about, from what they share—you can go well beyond the job title to pull in information like seniority level, interests, whether a person is in a position to spend money with a vendor.

The same goes for qualified leads garnered from, for example, event attendance. When a prospect attends an event, it's pretty clear he or she is interested in what you're about, but that kind of lead is costly—maybe even hundreds of dollars each. By looking at what prospects say online, you can identify their interests and target them just as accurately—but infinitely more easily and cost-effectively.

It seems like the future of database marketing won't actually include any databases—at least not in the conventional sense.

What Does 2014 Have in Store for Marketers?

What Does 2014 Have in Store for Marketers?

One thing about marketing, it's never boring. Change and challenge are ever-present. In fact, 2014 promises to be filled with as much opportunity and angst as last year.

At Direct Marketing Club of New York's Annual Outlook luncheon, keynote speaker Bruce Biegel senior managing partner of Winterberry Group, not only shared  the management consulting firm's predictions on 2014 marketing spending (e.g., “direct and digital” marketing spending will increase about 5.5%), but he also revealed 10 marketing trends to watch.

1. Content. Big Data's days as a marketing darling are numbered. Content is the next big thing. “Content matters because people consume content, they don't consume data,” Biegel said. Mobile content marketing that is app driven and device driven will increase in importance. Director of content marketing becomes a job. Sponsorship will grow, fueling content marketing further. But marketers are still trying to figure out formats, ways to measure success, and how to automate delivery, he said.

2. Direct mail. Winterberry Group projects that direct mail spending will increase 1.1% in 2014, but the recent decision on exigency may negatively impact that growth. “The exigent increase may have marketers saying, ‘I don't know if I can afford this.' This is a real threat,” Biegel said. “I don't quite believe [the exigent increase] temporary.” Even so, Biegel believes that direct mail “should be growing because it works.”

3. Programmatic. “This is a freight train coming and either you're on board or not on board,” Biegel said. Programmatic real-time bidding (RTB) accounted for $3.56 billion in 2013 marketing spend,  which was 23% of all display ad spend last year. Winterberry Group expects programmatic RTB to reach $4.45 billion in 2014, and predicts that, in 2016, 35% of all digital display ad spending will be RTB programmatic.

4. Attribution. The industry is getting to where a measurement standard for digital display ads is becoming a top priority. “There's no ROI for an ad that was never seen,” Biegel said. Viewability becomes a key issue in 2014. Performance and quality will improve as a result of implementing viewability metrics, so prices will go up.

5. Social targeting. Increasingly, companies will use their CRM data to target customers on social sites. “This is one of the most fascinating things going on,” Beigel said. Facebook has custom audiences, Twitter announced tailored audiences, and Yahoo just jumped into the fray with its own service. “Other platforms will follow,” he said. “And it will perform more like direct mail. Expect it to outperform search.”

6. Merging on- and offline data. Marketers need all their data in one place to build optimal segments and take an omnichannel approach. The spend and growth are coming in data management platforms and tag management as marketers collect and use more and more online data.

7. Campaign management platforms. Marketers want to manage their campaigns centrally and vendors are responding with solutions. “Vendors are saying, ‘How many campaign channels can I add so I can be the platform to manage all campaigns?'” Biegel said. “It's going to take a while to integrate all these platforms, but we'll see some providers get there this year.”

8. TV and video evolve. Most consumers don't care about pixels, they want a great connected experience, and marketers need to address that by sending communications and content in the right format. Additionally, tablets and connected TVs will fuel cross-platform video advertising. “It's all about connectedness,” Biegel said.

9. Marketing talent. The demand for marketing talent will continue to evolve. Many marketing layoffs in 2013 represented a shift in talent needs and roles, Biegel said. Companies are reallocating their marketing staff; reducing lower-value, less efficient functions as programmatic grows and moving more staff to strategic roles.

10. IPOs and consolidation continues. “Who's next?” Biegel asked. “We probably don't need as many companies as we have out there.” Consequently, he predicts a strong M&A and IPO year. Companies don't want to fall behind the curve if they're mature and they don't want to leave money on the table if they're younger, fast-growth companies, he said.

“This is what you should be thinking about not just for the next 12 months,” Biegel said, “but for the next 12 to 36 months.”


To hear more from Biegel on data and privacy issues, and on how marketing and IT should collaboratively "own" customer data, join us at the upcoming Marketing&Tech Partnership Summit in NYC on January, 28, 2014.


They Got Those Post-Exigency Postal Blues

They Got Those Post-Exigency Postal Blues


Joe Schick wasn't surprised by the lumps of coal left in mailers' stockings by the Postal Regulatory Commission on Christmas Eve. Like other stakeholders who'd been following the exigency drama, he'd hoped a reduced number might be put into play by the PRC, but he didn't blink when he learned that the PRC went for the full 4.3% increase. Instead, Quad/Graphics' long-time director of postal affairs had the resigned attitude of a man whose wife had run off with his best friend and stole his car to do it.

“I'm never surprised at what comes out of the Postal Service or the Commission,” Schick says, though it's clear that the timing and the aggressiveness of the Christmas assault on mailers had cut to the bone. “When we used to do rate cases, there would be some work-sharing opportunities that would let us reduce costs for our customers, but there's none of that here. A lot of mailers were not happy about it coming down on Christmas Eve, and then two days later they file for an advisory opinion on load leveling that takes some Monday deliveries away from us. So that's the way it's going to be going forward. If the Postal Service has a problem it can't fix, it can raise prices and cut services, like it did Christmas week.”

The fact that the PRC limited the exigency to two years or the collection of $2.8 billion in added revenues gave mailers little solace. Even if exigency were to be phased out—and no mailers we spoke with were optimistic that the federal government would shut off a running revenue stream—their businesses are and will be handicapped by the rate hike for years to come.

AmeriMark, an online retailer of apparel and general merchandise for which mail order is still a huge component, sees its mailings declining by more than 13% within two years of exigency rates being put in place. What's more, it sees an 8% decrease in the mailing costs it will pay to USPS as a result. “The exigent increase leads to reductions in circulation which actually leads to lower gross revenue for the Postal Service,” says AmeriMark president Louis Giesler. “It can set in place a death spiral.”

USPS won't see the decrease initially from catalog companies, most of which have already printed catalogs for their initial 2014 mailings. However the drop-offs will come fast and furious from catalogers and direct mailers alike, most likely culminating with cuts during the fall, a period USPS counts on to bolster its Fiscal Q4 numbers.

“We're a P&L oriented company, so we're going to cut our circulation more than what the postal increase is,” says AmeriMark VP Marketing Dale Fujimoto. “We can never really recover from the postage increase, we can only mitigate it. So, we're going to take away the mailings that fall below our profit cutoffs. Cutting out prospects leads to shrinkage of your 12-month file, and once that happens, it's hard to build it up again. We're going to have fewer orders and less customer retention.”

Paul Ercolino, president of US Monitor, which tracks and measures direct mail campaigns for large mailers and fundraisers, sees this becoming an industry-wide dynamic. “You're not going to prospect as much when you're facing a 6% postal increase,” he says. “If you planned on doing 12 campaigns, you cut it to 10.”

Ercolino actually sees the exigent increase as a potential boon to US Monitor's business, as clients endeavor to explore efficiencies. However, he doesn't see it being a net revenue boon for the Post Office. “It's going to take some time to regain that [$2.8 billion] because of the declining volume,” he says. “It's going to be difficult to get it done in two years.”

The irony is that the organization that stands the most to lose in new customer acquisition as a result of the exigency increase is the Postal Service itself. That's the view of Brian Kurtz, EVP of Boardroom Inc., a newsletter publisher that relies almost exclusively on mail to prospect, as well as to deliver its printed products.

“Direct mail still works, it still scales beautifully. It has so many advantages over digital, like merged and purged lists with upfront credit scores. It gives us the opportunity to send bill-me offers instead of up-front credit card purchases. That gives us a four-time greater response, and more than half are going to pay, so it's two to three times the conversion rate. ” Kurtz says. “A lot of digital marketers are starting to figure out how to use direct mail in their mix. This is a huge new potential market for the Postal Service, but the Postal Service is pricing a lot of them out of the business.”

Amid the flying arrows and slinging stones filling the direct mail skies in recent weeks, there remains a whiff of hope, like the lingering aroma of the perfume of that two-timin' wife. It's called postal reform, and it was a constant topic of discussion among both congressmen and mailers until exigency passed and the topic was apparently dropped. Mailers, by and large, remain confident that the passage of a new reform bill might lift the horrifying specter of exigency and allow them to go back to business as usual.

“I think postal reform should take exigency off the books,” US Monitor's Ercolino says. “If they get the reform package and they eliminate Saturday delivery, savings should already be in the $2 billion range.”

But Quad/Graphics' Schick is not so sure that even reform will have mailers smelling roses again. “The indications given by the Postal Service is that this exigency will give them enough to carry them through 2017, so I don't see why Congress would even consider it,” he says. “[Rep. Darrel] Issa has come out and focused on the five-day delivery, but I don't see that as a positive for mailers. The Senate wants to take away the governance of the regulatory commission. It's only bad stuff.”

What once was a symbiotic relationship between post office and mailer is over. They still need and depend on each other, but the separation papers have been filed and approved by the PRC. “We'll muddle through,” Schick says, “but it's not going to be easy.”

Be a Brand Leader, Not a Brand Follower

Be a Brand Leader, Not a Brand Follower

Marketing is all about taking risks and being bold. And it's always the leaders, rather than the followers, who reap the most benefits. Here are four brands that set the 2014 marketing bar high with their ingenuity.

Old Spice:
I first spotted this Old Spice commercial while watching the Green Bay Packers versus the San Francisco 49ers football game last Sunday. (Don't even talk to me about it. To say that I'm heartbroken over the outcome would be a true understatement.) The creepy moms spying on their sons from behind their bedroom doors, on the back of their convertibles, and at the beach definitely caught my attention, as well as the attention of others. The 60-second spot featured on the P&G brand's official YouTube channel has racked up more than 3.1 million views since being uploaded January 3. Fans can even download the “Mom Song” track from SoundCloud so they can listen to moms gripe about their sons' entrance into manhood on repeat.

Old Spice has also been humorously promoting the spots, done in partnership with Wieden + Kennedy, on its website, Twitter, and Facebook channels as part of its “Smellcome to Manhood” campaign. And whether customers consider the ad funny or downright disturbing,it generates word of mouth either way—proving that humor, when used appropriately, can sometimes go further than any marketing budget ever could.

Charmin and Denny's: Oreo's Dunk in the Dark tweet during last year's Super Bowl blackout taught brands that providing timely, relevant content can have big payoffs in terms of earned media.

“Creating content around up-to-the-minute happenings is something that consumers have been doing ever since Twitter launched—and until recently, brands have moved too slow to get into the act,” Shankar Gupta, director of social marketing strategy at 360i, told Direct Marketing News for its July 2013 “Under (and so over) the Influence” feature. “But if you can set up your brand and your agency to take advantage of this white space, you can reap enormous benefits.”

Toilet paper brand Charmin and family restaurant chain Denny's followed Oreo's lead this week by creating humorous tweets surrounding the BCS National Championship. For example, Denny's tweeted an image of a map showing Auburn fans all of the places they could score a Denny's meal on their drive back to Alabama. The tweet generated more than 6,433 retweets and more than 2,993 favorites.

Likewise, Charmin's tweet about college football fans getting ready to “sheet their pants” achieved 1,470 retweets and 828 favorites.


These tweets support the trend that TV and social are becoming more interconnected. So it's important for marketers to have the right staff and resources in place so that they don't miss a game-winning opportunity.

Don't even watch this ad unless you have a box of tissues next to you. In P&G's touching “Pick Them Back Up" spot, four mothers of Olympic athletes discuss the role they play in helping their children achieve their dreams. The online film is the latest addition to the company's ongoing Thank You Mom campaign and the sequel to the film “Best Job,” which debuted at the London 2012 Olympic Games and earned more than 21 million views.

The brand debuted the two-minute film on January 5 in preparation for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games and has since received more than 2.8 million views. The film, also done in partnership with Wieden + Kennedy, will be shown in more than 20 countries in the form of shorter TV spots. P&G is also promoting the film, as well as its “Raising an Olympian” video series, via its social and online channels.

Not only do the spots capture all of the emotions and national pride that go into the Olympics, but it also pulls on the heart strings of its target audience—making it relatable to moms everywhere and causing P&G to bring home the gold.

Even Executives Need to Get Their Learn On

Even Executives Need to Get Their Learn On

It's easy to succumb to the so-called ostrich effect, especially in the face of something intimidating, new, and seemingly unpredictable. But you can only put your head in the sand until you can't put your head in the sand anymore. Avoidance is not a long-term strategy—but it's one that many people, even top-level brand executives and agency heads, adopt when confronted with the digital world.

So says Tim Leake, global creative innovation and partnership director at Hyper Island, a Sweden-based digital education company that offers media and communications programs attended by executives from big-time companies like Capital One Investments, McCann, Target, and L'Oreal, at locations around the world.

In fact, the idea that digital is daunting or in some way inscrutable is one of the biggest misconceptions floating around the water cooler today.

“It can be scary if you didn't grow up with it, but feeling like you can't understand it is not true,” Leake says. “If you get curious about something and you want to understand it, it's easy.”

The antidote is actually fairly simple. Mostly, it's about a perspective shift—and realizing that you don't have to do everything yourself. Take apps. To integrate them into your mobile strategy, you have to know why they might work for your audience, what marketing problem you're looking to solve, how they'll fit into what you know about the way your customers use or don't use mobile devices…

…but it's not like you actually have to know how to build an app from scratch, though it does help to have a basic understanding of how things work to keep your ideas grounded. In other words, don't get hung up on the tools; do get hung up on the human behaviors.

“People do put that expectation on themselves, that they have to do everything on their own—but it's really about understanding what the attraction is to a piece of technology,” Leake says. “You have to get to a place where there's confidence around digital—otherwise you're just adrift in a sea of buzzwords.”

If you're producing a TV commercial, it's not like you have to go to film school to learn about camera angles and how light refracts off a lens, Leake jokes. “But if you're writing a script for a TV ad, it does help to have a basic understanding of how something gets filmed,” he says.

Leake and his Hyper Island cohorts see buzzwords as particularly nefarious.

“A lot of so-called digital gurus try to overwhelm you with the tech, but that's because they get ‘digital' and ‘technology' confused,” says Leake, who himself spent seven years at Saatchi & Saatchi before joining Hyper Island. “People go to a digital class or a conference and all they hear is more and more buzzwords—but the screen's not the thing; it's connecting to people that's the interesting part.”

I sat in on part of a recent three-day Hyper Island master class held at the NYC campus in mid-December to get an idea of the kind of things that make these top-level executives tick. There were about 30 people in the room, which was a cool, stripped down space with concrete floors and boldly colored accent walls in orange and teal. The day was a mixture of discussion, interactive sessions, and what the Hyper Island crowd referred to as “reflection,” during which the attendees jotted down and then discussed their biggest takeaways from the previous day.

Nearly every person shared something, and what seems to have been the most common revelation is that we're not living through a technology revolution—we're living through a customer behavior revolution. Technology is just there to help. Once you understand customer behavior, it becomes a matter of using technology to address it, rather than running about in a controlled panic acquiring the latest tech first and trying to figure out where to squeeze it into the mix later.

As one person noted, “We're not born having learned how to swim. It's comforting to know we're all going through similar things and it's good to know we can help each other.”

Feel the Marketing-Tech Love

Feel the Marketing-Tech Love

Marketers have kind of a bad rap. Their ability to get along with customer service and sales has long been questioned. Now the same is happening with marketing and their technology counterparts in IT, web development, and the like. But succeeding at these relationships has become an imperative. Marketers use more and more technology to communicate with and engage customers, and even with the proliferation of SaaS tools, they can't go it alone.

Consider Timex and J.Hilburn, both of which were able to profitably improve their online customer experiences through marketing, IT, and e-commerce collaboration.

In the case of Timex, the goal was to enmesh its brand experience with its customers' lifestyles. While its marketing teams worked to craft engaging content—i.e., relevant to individual customers' preferences and locations—its IT and Web teams worked to ensure consistent site performance. The result is an online customer experience that successfully blends content, community, and ecommerce.

For men's custom luxury menswear brand J.Hilburn, the goal was to create a highly interactive online experience that “integrates” with the in-person experience its customers have working with its stylists. “They don't have to replicate each other; they just have to work really well in harmony,” says Veeral Rathod, cofounder of J. Hilburn. For example, the site has an online configurator for purchasing shirts. When the IT team was developing it, they initial tried to re-create the experience a customer would have with a stylist, but the resulting purchase process was becoming too complex. The marketing team advised IT to keep it simple online—and leave the complexity to the stylists. Once the website team launched the simplified configurator, there was an immediate lift in sales.

“There's a natural tension between technologists, who want to develop the latest and create sizzle through technology, and marketers, who are focused on how to engage the customer and generate transactions and conversions,” Rathod says. “When you have a team that works well together, the technologists are committed to solving the business problem for the marketing folks and the marketing folks are aligning with the technology to say, ‘Here's what we're ultimately trying to deliver, let's work together to get there.”

In other words, when marketing and technology feel the love, sparks ignite to create a sizzling customer experience.


To get the full story behind these marketing-tech successes, as well as those of Gilt Groupe, Turner Sports, and AOL Paid Services, join us at the upcoming Marketing&Tech Partnership Summit in NYC on January, 28, 2014.

Will There Be an End to This State of Exigency?

Will There Be an End to This State of Exigency?

$2.8 billion versus $6.6 billion.

That might be a quick way to sum up the outcome of the U.S. Postal Service's request for a 4.3% exigent rate increase, which was approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) on Christmas Eve—approved, but for a limited time only. The PRC recognized the Great Recession as a valid reason for the unprecedented price hike, but ruled that the Postal Service must surrender the increase once it recaptures the $2.8 billion in revenue the Commission figures USPS lost to the devastating economic event. The Postal Service, for its part, had pegged its recession-related losses at $6.6 billion and wanted the increase to be permanent.

So, although mailers welcomed their unwanted Christmas present with howls of execration (to borrow from Camus), the PRC's decision handed them an unexpected gift they could put some stock in: Exigency isn't necessarily forever.

Indeed, figuring that the exigent increase will add $1.8 billion a year to Postal Service coffers, the PRC placed a limit of two years on the 4.3% surcharge and requested a quarterly revenue tally from USPS that could end the State of Exigency sooner.

In its decision, the PRC stated that it considers the recession to be a continued contributor to mail volume loss only until: “(1) a sufficient number of relevant macroeconomic indicators demonstrate a return to positive trends; (2) the rate of change for Postal Service mail volumes is positive; (3) the Postal Service regains its ability to project mail volumes; and (4) the Postal Service demonstrates an ability to adjust operations to the lower volumes.”

“Not getting the 4.3% baked into the rate base forever is a significant victory,” Paul Miller, VP & Deputy Director of the American Catalog Manufacturers Association (ACMA), wrote to members earlier this week, adding that “there are at least a few positives we can take away from what's otherwise an abomination.”

Echoing Miller, Janet Lockhart-Jones, a postal education expert for Pitney Bowes, wrote in a company blog that “this is a huge win for the mailing industry; the exigent price increase is not a permanent one.”

The PRC, in alignment with the thinking of mailers, stated that “the Postal Service proposal to collect this rate adjustment [is] indefinitely inconsistent with the fundamental policies underlying the price cap.” Further, the Commission directed the Postal Service to develop a plan for phasing out exigent rates once the $2.8 billion recovery had been made.

But ACMA President and Executive Director Hamilton Davison wonders if mailers will ever see that day. “The decrease in volume that will occur due to the exigent increase may take the recovery period beyond two years and give cause to the PRC to extend the increase,” he said.

The Campaign Beat: A Round-down Count-up

The Campaign Beat: A Round-down Count-up

It's the end of the year. In fact, it's the last day of the year. December is the month of countdowns, roundups, and lists of every description, so I thought I'd get my own in, just under the wire.

Please to enjoy this listicle (yeah, I said it) of five neat campaigns from 2013:

A Pollo 13: Soy Vay slow-cooks marinated teriyaki chicken in space (as in, outer space)

Some food is just out of this world—literally. To demonstrate the versatility of its sauces—and to boldly take its kosher, preservative-free marinades where no marinades have gone before, sauce brand Soy Vay (best name ever) put together a crazy little stunt that saw it send two perfectly innocent chicken breasts into the stratosphere in a specially designed polystyrene “space cooker” made to resemble a Soy Vay bottle and to withstand the sub-zero temperatures of the upper atmosphere. (Check out the video above.)

A squad of actual physicists and rocket scientists built the thing, inside of which was deposited one pound of organic, free-range chicken breast marinated in Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce and vacuum-sealed in plastic and suspended over a water bath. The chicken, which was launched from a park in Nashville, reached a height of 104,572 feet and spent just shy of two hours slowly cooking at 155 degrees Fahrenheit, before returning to Earth. A team of Soy Vay “chicken chasers” tracked down the Soy Vay pod using GPS and sampled the chicken within. The verdict: Yum.

Yeah, it was kind of silly. But it was also kind of hilarious. And it wasn't just a stunt for the sake of doing a stunt. Soy Vay made sure the crowd that had gathered to watch the chicken launch was packed with bloggers, all of whom were sent little care packages—which included astronaut ice cream, light saber chopsticks, and NASA-branded oven mitts—to get them in the mood. Results were also pretty tasty: Just two weeks after the event in October Soy Vay garnered more than one million organic social impressions across Facebook and Twitter, and gave away more than 20,000 product taste samples to Nashville-based consumers.

IBM gets smart

IBM's Smarter Planet ads, created by Ogilvy, have been around for several years and I really dig them, I must say. They're stylish, they're boldly colorful, the taglines are simple and informative—I wouldn't mind wearing these ads if they were made into t-shirts. (IBM, you can use that idea for free.)

Each ad takes on a different aspect of IBM's Smarter Planet initiative, which is all about streamlining technology to make the world a better place to live. One ad talks about how IBM analytics are being used to cut crime in NYC; another demonstrates how the healthcare industry is being personalized in Spain.

This year, one ad in the collection got a little competitive, informing the public about IBM's standing in the cloud-computing race. As the ad, which ran in The Wall Street Journal (click image to enlarge), saucily asks and answers: “Whose cloud powers 270,000 more websites than Amazon? If your answer is IBM, you're among the well informed. The IBM cloud offerings also support 30% more of the most popular websites than anyone else in the world.”

Gimme some sugar

God help us all: The word “Selfie” (self-portraits taken with a smartphone) was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. (Sorry, posterity.)

But however you feel about selfies, SugarCRM successfully harnessed the power of the selfie for a cute engagement effort at this year's Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. The concept behind “Escape Dreamforce,” which SugarCRM created with help from Gyro San Francisco, is simple and fun: Dreamforce attendees who snapped selfies of themselves wearing SugarCRM t-shirts—tagged #SugarSelfie and #DF13—were automatically entered into a contest for the chance to win a vacation to Hawaii or a cash prize.

SugarCRM promoted the effort on taxi-tops in the San Fran area and through geo-targeted mobile banners. Each of the 4,000 T-shirts distributed by the company was emblazoned with the words: “This is how I CRM.”

Hilarity on (fantasy) draft

So, I don't know anything about Fantasy Football and I still think this is funny: Lenovo, an NFL sponsor, partnered with DigitasLBi and king of sarcasm The Onion for a mockumentary Web series called Tough Season about the trials and tribulations of Brad, a hapless fantasy football coach who's desperate for FF glory after coming in last place in his fantasy league eight years running.

As a “sponsor” of “Brad's Awesome Team,” Lenovo gets lots of nice product placement in the series and it's not forced at all. Several NFL stars—including Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte—even make cameos. But the series is just a jumping off point for a nicely integrated interactive campaign.

Not only did Lenovo host a “Fantasy Football Coach of the Year” contest on—grand prize: a trip to Hawaii (seems like everyone's giving away trips to Hawaii) to help select one of the 2014 Pro Bowl squads—fans of the series were able to interact with the Coach Brad character on Facebook and Twitter.

The whole thing was very polished, with real celebrities, seamless social engagement, quality digital video, and a multichannel push that included everything from email to mobile display. In total, the Web series and related social content generated more than 12 million video views.


Exorcisms 101

The back story is this: Apparently there has been a growing number of requests from the Spanish populace for exorcisms and to meet the demand, the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid actually selected and trained eight Catholic priests to take on Satan. Yep. That happened.

Anyway, Spanish distribution company Betta Pictures, with help from Proximity Barcelona, decided to cheekily hinge the promotion of horror flick “The Last Exorcism Part II” on this bizarre-but-true news by offering the eight exorcist priests free VIP access to a special premiere screening of the film to help them complete their training. Free entry was also offered to any and all Catholic priests looking to learn more about exorcism. Interested priests could sign up for their free tickets via a microsite at (add /en to the end of that if you want to see it in English).

The archbishop was also invited as a guest of honor, but nowhere could I find online whether he actually attended.

10 Email Marketing Musts

10 Email Marketing Musts

The year may be winding down, but email marketers are busy gearing up for 2014.

So, in case you missed it, here's a list of must-see advice you can use in your 2014 planning from 10 email marketers and email industry insiders who shared their stories and opinions with Direct Marketing News in 2013:

Respect customer preferences. “We can expect that deliverability will continue to be a challenge, as [will be] maintaining mailer reputation,” says Jeannette Kocsis, EVP of digital engagement at The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks, adding that “when a customer chooses channels, content, and frequencies, their preferences need to be respected.”
--Email: What Should Marketers Expect in 2014?

Be relevant. “We don't want to bother people with an email about something that's happening in Texas when they're in Alabama,” says Kathy Doyle Thomas, EVP at Half Price Books. “You get a better return, and you don't tick off your customers.”
--Channeling the Customer

Keep it fresh. “As a company...we're relatively risk-averse,” says Jarrod Purchase, email marketing manager at Best of the Best. “But on the flip side, because email is such a strong revenue driver for us, we need to keep it fresh and keep trying new things as a way to stand out in the email world and stand out in the consumer's inbox.”
--One Email That Packs the Punch of Three

Think (differently for) mobile. “A few years ago we didn't have to worry about [conversion]. We knew that if [consumers] checked their email they would be at their desktop and it would be very easy to complete a transaction,” says Jordan Cohen, VP of marketing for Movable Ink. “Email on the mobile phone is not at all the same as it is on the desktop in terms of how likely a consumer is to respond to it.”
--Not all Mobile Emails Are Created Equal

Don't fear unsubscribes. Make uninterested folks unsubscribe. The more emails you send that are not opened or clicked, the more ISPs will identify you as a spammer," says Eddie Howard, senior product manager at Vocus. "Plus, this is a great step in list hygiene: You're not wasting resources emailing people who don't want to hear from you."
--3 Counterintuitive Tips to Boost Your Email Marketing

Maintain a good mailer reputation. "Every IP address and domain has a reputation based on factors such as history of hard bounces and spam complaints," says Kate Nowrouzi, director of product policy at Message Systems. "Domains and IP addresses with a good reputation have a better delivery rate, so building and maintaining a good reputation should be central to the mission of your email operations."
--The Dollars and Cents of Email Deliverability

Use email as a conduit to content. “Our email program has become content leveraged through automation,”  says Nathan Decker, senior manager of e-commerce for online retailer Evo, adding that instead of focusing solely on transactional messaging, “now there's all kinds of fun stuff in our emails.”
--Emailing in Synch With the Customer Lifecyle

Pull the trigger. "Triggered messages like browse emails..., abandoned cart series, and even thank-you-for-purchase emails are extremely effective," says Liz Gould, director of strategic accounts for cross-channel marketing at Experian Marketing Services. "We've seen a 54% lift in revenue when sending a second abandoned-cart reminder, a 3.4x increase in revenue with browse emails, and 13x increase in revenue with thank-you-for-purchase emails.
--Overlook This Email Issue and Customers Will Opt Out

Be bold, but brief. “Historically, people spent up to five seconds on a desktop email, but on mobile devices they're spending less than two,” says Wacarra Yeomans, director of creative services at Responsys. “So you need a combination of copy and images, which can get a complex message across in less than two seconds.”
--Email on the Move

Build trust. "There is a penalty for irrelevancy in email marketing that doesn't exist in other channels called the Report Spam button," says Stephanie Miller, VP, member relations at DMA. "Clicks on that button, whether the cause is dissatisfaction, ignorance, or annoyance, affect our sender reputation, and thus our ability to reach any inbox at all."
--Email's Role in Customer Trust

Are You a Direct Marketer?

Are You a Direct Marketer?

With so much focus shifting from traditional to digital channels, you may ask yourself whether you're actually a direct marketer. Since direct marketing is a practice that's channel agnostic, even if your focus is primarily on digital marketing, it's likely that you may very well be a direct marketer.  To be certain, consider these 10 signs that point directly to direct marketing.

You're a direct marketer if you:

Obsess over lists. Creating and maintaining customer lists tops your to-do list on a daily basis. You're in contest turmoil over how best to balance list purchase with organic list growth. You have lists for prospects and customers by segment and a finely honed process for moving them to more appropriate lists as they move through the customer lifecycle.

Love data. Big, small, first-party, third-party—you don't discriminate. You collect as much data as you can about your customers so you can segment and target them with precision, craft the perfect message, determine the optimal channel mix, and measure marketing performance.

Use testing. Every campaign, website design change, subject line, and promotion is subject to testing Control groups, A/B and multivariate testing, and more are staples in your marketing processes. You just sit back and watch your results improve as you hone your messaging and design, and dispatch the top performers to the rest of your customers or into the broader market.

Measure your results. Fear marketing accountability? Ha! You live to track the performance of your marketing initiatives and campaigns, measure outcomes, and use that information to make improvements to future marketing efforts.

Live to optimize. The data, testing, and measurement are all about one thing: optimization. You optimize your channel mix, timing, segments, and anything else you can to perfect your marketing strategy and improve your marketing performance.

Segment your customers. You don't create just a few basic customer segments; you build personas, segment customers in multiple ways. Your segments have segments. And as a result, your targeting hits the bull's eye with the right message or offer to the right customer.

Learn from customers then act. You seek customer knowledge from direct channels like surveys and branded customer communities and indirect ones like social conversations. You track customers' behaviors and interactions via transactions, email opens and clicks, and digital body language. And then you take that information and use it to inform your segmentation, targeting, messaging, and more.

Trade value for data. Sure, customers are happy to provide you with information about themselves—for a price. More masterful at enticing customers than Monty Hall, you determine what that price is and make an even exchange; offering a discount or unique experience in trade for invaluable customer insight you can use to better reach, target, and serve those customers in the future.

Drive action. The point of direct marketing is response, and your campaigns and communications get high-value prospects to convert by making a purchase, and get customers to repurchase. What's more, your finely honed, targeted messaging gets engaged customers to share their good fortune in purchasing your brand with their social networks.

Acquire and retain high-value customers. You use your focused approach to capture the attention of the right prospects and maintain the loyalty of existing customers—perhaps not in equal measure, but certainly in a continually optimized mix of acquisition and retention efforts. And your obsession with lists, data, and segmentation help you concentrate your efforts on the prospects and customers who matter most to your organization.

Why the Postal Exigent Increase Is a Mistake

Why the Postal Exigent Increase Is a Mistake

Was the Postal Regulatory Commission's startling award of the full 4.3% exigency increase to USPS a fait accompli?

So much of what gets handed down to us by people in power depends on their definitions and interpretations of words. The Postal Regulatory Commission's definition of the peculiar word “exigent” is in line with Merriam Webster's interpretation of “needing to be dealt with immediately.” It is, however, the Commission's interpretation of the “exceptional circumstance” behind the 4.3% surcharge on direct mailers that is questionable.

The PRC denied the Postal Service's first request for an exigent increase in 2010 on the basis that USPS failed to provide enough financial evidence that the Great Recession represented an exceptional circumstance. This time around, USPS came loaded for bear with extensive econometric models presented by financial consultant Thomas Thress. But the irony of the PRC decision handed down on December 24, 2013—a date that will live infamy in the history of direct mail—is that while it recognized Thress's assessment of the recession's cataclysmic effect, it ignored evidence in his report that showed many of the recession's effects to be permanent, thereby eliminating it from the category of exigency and placing it into the realm of the “new normal.”

That was the assessment of the lone dissenter in this week's decision, PRC Vice Chairman Robert Taub, who wrote that “the principal flaw in the Commission's order is the failure to recognize that, regardless of the volume loss found due to the Great Recession, the financial harm of that loss does not end immediately.”

In granting the Postal Service the 4.3% increase for a period of two years or less—rescindable when losses due to the recession are deemed to have been recovered—the Commission stamps the effects of the recession as exigent when, in fact, they have permanently altered the habits of the marketplace, Taub contends. He wrote that USPS and his fellow commissioners failed to factor out the loss in mail volume that occurred, and continues to occur, due to electronic divergences such as email.

“How is it,” Taub wrote in his opinion, “that the Postal Service suddenly experiences no further impact from the Great Recession and that the continuing financial harm attributable to volumes lost due to the Great Recession has ended?”

What's more, Taub avers that his colleagues chose to deny such evidence presented by the USPS's own economist, Thress.

Order No. 864, which sets parameters for the establishment of exigency, holds that the Postal Service must support its request with credible proof based on econometric models and expert opinion. “The Postal Service, through Thress and its entire postal demand analysis group, provides both,” Taub wrote. “However, the Commission now dismisses critical aspects of the Postal Service's data. The Commission claims that Thress's conclusions regarding the relative roles of the Great Recession versus ongoing electronic diversion, and his choice of macroeconomic variables are ‘not justified.' The Commission criticizes Thress for not including certain variables in his model, yet acknowledges that no commenter offered a model that included these variables and that the record is void of a model that is available to do so. The Commission appears to believe Thress should have developed one nonetheless.”

While mailers can take some solace in PRC's decision to limit the duration of the 4.3% hike by establishing a formula to rescind the increase based on a quarterly evaluation of additional revenue, the ameliorative can also be interpreted as an irritant. The time limitation on the increase ultimately identifies the recession as an exigent cirmcumstance, a quantifiable one-time belly blow to the Postal Service, which to Taub's way of thinking it was not.

Taub also is of the opinion that mailers' voices were quelled in the granting of the exigent increase and will continue to be during the process put in place to rescind it. “I am concerned that this formula is being imposed without the full benefit of broad public input and an opportunity to fully assess potential unintended consequences on both the Postal Service and mailers,” he wrote.

How'd They Do That?

How'd They Do That?

What makes marketing compelling? Stories. The story a brand tells may be implicit: “Coke Adds Life.” The customer fills in what that means to them. Or a brand's story may be explicit, like Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty. When brands use storytelling well it can capture customers' attention, spark their imagination, and build the kind of engagement that leads to advocacy and sales.

But storytelling isn't a phenomenon for B2C alone. B2B marketers can use storytelling to engage current customers and attract new ones. One of the most persuasive types of storytelling in B2B is customer case studies. Executives are hungry for insight on how to succeed in their job, solve problems, and harness opportunities. B2B brands can use storytelling to share insights with prospects into how customers successfully use their product or services to accomplish those outcomes.

It's no wonder that content marketing continues to grow in popularity. Content marketing in part is about communicating a brand's promise through storytelling. Customer success stories are an integral element of that approach. Whether it's a two-sentence testimonial or a 2,000-word case study, the story of a customer success can motivate prospects to become customers and inspire customers to stay engaged.

Why all this harping on storytelling? An insightful campaign or customer success story can help make the case for marketing investments as surely as they move prospects and customers through their company's funnel. Learning about and keeping up on strategies and trends is important, but they're made concrete when exemplified by a related real-life experience—when the “What's in it for me?” is clear. Storytelling can provide that clarity.

At Direct Marketing News, we're always looking for compelling customer success stories to share with readers. And we know you have them. So, what's your story?


This post was recast from a blog post written by me for Direct Marketing Club of New York.

This Just in from Washington: Marketing May Be Illegal

This Just in from Washington: Marketing May Be Illegal

Silly marketers. All day long I listen to them tell how they will, through the wonders of modern data science, get the right message to the right customer at the right time. Their marketing automation and CRM systems will tell them exactly what return to expect on what investment. Their business plans will be sewn tightly with binary code and their worlds will be ensconced in a bright bow, like the neatly wrapped packages they will present to their perfect families at precisely the right hour on Christmas Day. The scientific fact almost all tend to forget is that there are flesh-and-blood people on the receiving ends of their methodical, data-driven appeals and that people are irrational and unpredictable. Some of these people are United States Senators, and they proved their humanity all too plainly yesterday at a hearing of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology investigating data brokers.

Direct marketers, while you read the following, ask yourselves this question: How can one expect the masses to understand and respond to your appeals in the way you expect when some of the best educated people in the country do a year-long study of data-driven marketing and emerge from it sounding like they'd never purchased a voter list or joined a frequent flyer program?

At least 20 years ago, a company called Scarborough Research had split the nation up into large-scale segments with telling names along the lines of Up-and-Comers and Urban Blighters. Other demographers did the same to aid efficient deployment of marketing dollars. But Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, great grandson of one of the most astute and successful  businessmen in history, was incensed that marketers placed consumers into categories such as “Rural and Barely Making It” and “Zero Mobility.”

“I want to know why [data brokers] are putting people into categories like these,” Rockefeller insisted. Could it be to provide them with stuff they need and can afford and do so in an efficient fashion that leaves some room for discounting? Sen. Rockefeller fails to see the logic in that. Apparently, he finds it discriminatory that people living at or near the poverty line don't get offers to test-drive Audis.

Sen. Blumenthal of Connecticut was appalled that marketers offered different prices to different people based on their purchasing habits and affluence. It's surprising that a man who served for more than 20 years as a state attorney general doesn't grasp the concept of discounting. Think plea bargaining, counselor. Perhaps it has something to do with his disdain for the Federal Election Commission's $2,600 limit on personal campaign donations from manual laborers and magnates alike.

Sen. Markey of Massachusetts found it demeaning that marketers would buy lists of people with certain diseases (even though the only reason those people would end up on those lists is because they chose to be on them.) “Oh, let's put these guys over here and avoid them,” he sniffed, as if reciting a Bible tale about lepers. Marketers don't buy lists to shun the people on them, Senator. They buy lists of arthritis sufferers to give them offers on anti-inflammatories, and of paraplegics to educate them about funding programs for wheelchairs.

Among the key findings of the committee's investigation into data brokers:

  • Data brokers collect a huge volume of information on hundreds of millions of consumers without their knowledge.
  • They then use the information to create marketing products that group consumers into categories.
  • Some of these products are used for targeted online marketing.

The Senators' big discovery: Marketing exists! Now just hope they don't discover it's illegal.

Dailydo Proves That Email Marketing Is the Real Deal

Dailydo Proves That Email Marketing Is the Real Deal

Revitalizing a brand is always a challenge, especially when it comes to winning back customers. But focusing on reengagement, rather than sales, can help marketers breathe new life into customer relationships. New Zealand's first group buying website Dailydo experienced its own reincarnation and turned to email to regain customer interaction.

Dailydo acquired three of its competitors since October 2012—Groupy, Spreets, and Yazoom—and now operates all four brands in parallel. However, Spreets had not sold a single daily deal since June 2012.

So at the end of October 2013, Dailydo relaunched Spreets, and turned to email service provider CakeMail to reengage Spreets' inactive subscribers.

Instead of blasting out deals to Spreets' database, Dailydo attempted to recapture Spreets' subscribers through a prelaunch email campaign. Rather than sending out a commercial message, Dailydo explained Spreets' comeback and described some of the brand's changes. The company also provided an unsubscribe link at the top of the email so that customers who had moved on to other daily deal sites could remove themselves from Spreets' list.

On October 28 Spreets sent out its first deal offering consumers a frozen yogurt with up to three toppings from Wendys Supa Sundaes for $2 (a $4.50 value). The company sold 5,287 deals. Dave Healy, managing director of Dailydo, says that although the deal didn't generate significant profit, it did generate engagement, such as getting people to log in or create a new Spreets account.

“The margin wasn't a lot,” he admits. “But that was a promotional thing for us.”

Emailing consumers who actually want to engage with the brand has helped Spreets see consistent open rates of more than 20%, Healy says. But it isn't all smooth sailing. For instance, the site's dormancy caused many customers to forget their account information. Some customers forgot their passwords, while others were under the impression that they had created an account in the past, even though they hadn't. As a result, customers would become frustrated and abandon their purchases. To solve this dilemma, Spreets employees had their friends test the account log-in and account creation process. The brand also solicited feedback from customers. As a result, Spreets reduced the number of clicks needed to create a log in, and learned to detect whether a customer was a member, an email subscriber, or neither so that it could tailor its messaging accordingly.

“It's really listening to your customers and almost not assuming that just because [something] worked once previously that it's going to work again,” Healy says. “You really have to put your ego aside and listen to what they say.”

Mind the Gap (Visa Card)

Mind the Gap (Visa Card)

If I were to sum up my recent interaction with Gap Visa and GE Capital Retail Bank in tweet form, it would go something like this: "#ThatAwkwardMomentWhen your credit card is declined at a diner and the cashier looks at you like you're a #totaldeadbeat Thanks @GAP @Visa."

Several months ago there was some fraudulent activity on my Gap Visa card. Gap cancelled the card and issued me a new one. Totally standard operating procedure with which I have no complaint whatsoever. It's what happened about a month later that got my dander up.

Having received my brand new card in the mail, I that very day went online to Gap's eServices payment portal to associate my checking account with my new Gap card. You know, so I could pay my bill on time because I'm a good customer. In entering my checking info I transposed a couple of the numbers, which meant I wasn't able to successfully make a payment. After two unsuccessful attempts, I phoned Gap customer service to iron out the problem and while I was at it I made my payment by phone.

It was a case of human error and human resolution. I made the mistake and then I spoke to a person who told me everything was back on track. But then automation kicked in and messed with my credit score, which is when I got a little angry.

Fast forward to one month later. I'm at a diner in Tenafly, New Jersey, and I'm picking up the check after dinner. I hand my card over to the cashier and—declined. Concerned that there was a hold on my card as the result of more fraudulent activity, I called Gap customer service again to get the scoop. And the scoop was this: Apparently it's GE Capital Retail Bank policy (GE is the consumer lending unit that powers the Gap credit card through Visa) and GE Capital Retail Bank prerogative to, without notice, cancel any card within 30 days of two unsuccessful payment attempts. In other words, despite the fact that I'd spoken to multiple customer service people and made a large successful payment after the two unsuccessful attempts, neither Gap nor GE thought it pertinent to tell me that my card was akin to a ticking time bomb. I was allowed to keep using the card for 30 days and then, at the end of that time, it was closed without even an automated email to tell me.

The customer service representative I spoke to reopened my card, but told me that the credit bureaus had already been notified of the closure. They would, within 30 days, be notified that Gap had reopened the card, but by then it's possible that the brief, temporary closure would have already negatively impacted my credit score.

When I mentioned to the customer service rep that I was a little ticked off not to have been informed over the course of the previous month that my card was destined for closure, I was told rather brusquely that “that's not the way it works. It's not like we purposely didn't tell you, OK? It's just that the information doesn't show up on our screens that way.”

Now, I know that it's perfectly legal for a credit card company to cancel a card without warning and I also know how credit cards work. Credit does not = my money. Credit is a privilege, not a right. But it's a privilege I think I've earned with a clean record of always paying on time—and 99% of the time in full.

In an ideal world a long-time customer—I've been with Gap Visa since 2010—would receive the benefit of the doubt before having her account shuttered without so much as a by-your-leave. At the very least, although it's not a credit card company's obligation to do so, it would have been nice to have received an automated message informing me of the account's closure so I didn't have to find out from a disapproving cashier. Having your card declined is embarrassing, to say the least. So is promising you'll “be back in a second, I swear!” and running off to find an ATM to settle your debt.

Gap's Visa is just one of hundreds of credit card options out there—and in the age of the empowered consumer, brand loyalty should be the first thing on a credit card company's proverbial mind.

I sent a complaint email to both the general Gap customer service address and to GE Bank on Friday afternoon. (You can read it above by clicking the link under the headline if you are so inclined.) There was no automated message to confirm receipt, so I assumed it had slipped into a kind of email wormhole, never to be seen or heard from again. Then on Monday morning at about 9:15 a.m. I received a phone call from a woman named Jennifer in Rapid City, South Dakota, to tell me that GE had received my email and would be reviewing my case in the next one to two days. She said GE would be responding in writing within seven to 10 business days.

I asked Jennifer if all complaints to are acknowledged with a real, live phone call, and she answered in the affirmative. It's a nice touch, but an automated response immediately upon receipt would do the same thing; just saying.

Now, that's all well and good, and I look forward to hearing what GE Bank has to say, but the damage to my credit score is done, and the way I feel about the brand has been seriously tarnished. Whereas before I might have recommended the Gap Visa card to someone (“It's great! You get all these discounts on Gap stuff."), my feeling now would be more along the lines of: “Well, they closed my card without warning. And all you get is discounts on Gap stuff. Whatever.”

I'm not asking for special treatment, but I am saying this: A little customer service goes a long way in filling the gap between brand and consumer.

Updated Wednesday, December 18:

When I got home last night from work a letter from GE bank was waiting for me in my mailbox. Dated December 10 (the same day my card was terminated), the letter informed me of the card's closure. About a week too late, but thanks.

A few things wrong here, I think:

1) Has GE Bank ever heard of email? There is no use in sending a physical letter than takes a week to arrive in a case like this. Clearly a card owner will encounter difficulty, confusion, and/or embarrassment in trying to use his or her card before the letter arrives. It's kind of like having someone sneak into your bedroom at night and shave your head and then send you a postcard to tell you about it. The next time you look in the mirror, it's going to be pretty clear you have no hair. Seems to me as if some kind of lazy automation system spat that letter out of its corporate maw.

2) If an automated system can produce a letter, it can easily produce an email, which would have been way more appropriate and could have gone out the day before the closure to warn me. I have an excellent history with Gap. That should count for something in my dealings with the company's incompetent credit arm.

3) Why didn't the customer service representative I spoke with who reopened my card for me tell me to watch out for, and ignore, the letter that was already on its way? If she forgot, fine. If she didn't know, why didn't she know?

Stay tuned.

Updated Thursday, December 19:

Today a man named Kevin Maher, senior operations leader at GE Capital, called me on my cell phone. He was a “real person” in every sense of the term: a human with a job title and a direct phone line who knew the particulars of my specific case. He'd looked into my complaint personally and listened to a recording of my actual customer service call from the day after my card was closed.

When you have an issue with a company and you send a complaint email to a general address, this is the kind of follow-up you want.

First, he apologized profusely for the inconvenience and gave me a little more background on the ‘why' behind the closure. GE Capital, like any creditor out there, has to stay on top of fraud and potential fraud. “We have lots of strategies to prevent fraud, and even I don't understand all the intricate details,” he said.

Just look at what's going on with the massive Target data breach.

He explained that there's a trend out there right now for people to open credit cards, inflate the available credit while a payment is being processed—a payment they never intend to make because they've purposely provided bogus payment information—and then scoot off like a fraudster in the night. To combat this kind of behavior, GE's policy is to close cards after several unsuccessful payment attempts. When a card like mine gets closed, that's the “unintended consequence of us trying to stop fraud, and unfortunately that impacts some of our really good customers,” Maher said.

And I accept that. Maher said GE has had several issues in the recent past of customers complaining about sudden card closures, seemingly without cause, and the bank's looking into creating a fraud prevention strategy for this scenario that doesn't ensnare innocent bystanders. Another fraud prevention strategy currently in play means that my card could be closed anytime within the next three months if there's another unsuccessful payment attempt. After three months I'm in the clear. That's just the way the system works at the moment. Maher said he and his team are also looking into that.

Maher assured me that my card's brief closure would not affect my credit score; the credit bureaus had been immediately notified about the situation. He also apologized for the embarrassment at the restaurant and said he'd be adding a $100 credit to my card for “a nice dinner on GE.” I thanked him.

So, what do I take away from this whole situation?

1) It pays to stand up for yourself.

2) Consumers (and I of course include myself in that designation) want to be treated well by the brands they choose to do business with. But brands aren't people. Brands can make mistakes, but it's up to people to fix them.

3) $100 will buy a lot of diner food.

Getting Customers Into the Brand Habit

Getting Customers Into the Brand Habit

The axiom that we're all creatures of habit extends to what we purchase, or don't. And to what we pay attention to, or don't. “Much of our daily behavior is habituated, so a marketer's job is to break—or break into—customers' habits and rituals,” Marsha Lindsay told me during a recent conversation about marketing strategy. “How marketers do that often lies in connecting with a customer's subconscious.”

Lindsay, CEO of brand strategy firm Lindsay, Stone & Briggs, went on to explain that we as consumers are driven by our subconscious and our emotions; we create rituals and form habits to get us through our daily routine. So, the trick for marketers is to help their brand become a part of those rituals and habits. She cited as an example KFC. To reach on-the-go customers—whose usual habit is to have a beverage within reach in their car's cup holder, and who sometimes eat while driving—KFC created a container for chicken nuggets that fits into a cup holder. It's a simple way to be a part of an existing habit among some of its customers, she said. 

The trick for marketers is to frame their objectives differently, Lindsay pointed out. “Most marketers' goals are more focused on gaining awareness or trial: ‘I need an ad that generates X.' Instead, they need to frame a brief in terms of, ‘How can I break into customers' autopilot?'” To do so, she recommends considering what's not top of mind for customers; what's in their subconscious when it comes to a specific product or service?

Amazon's one-click purchase is masterful in this regard because it makes purchasing “mindless,” Lindsay said. “It's simple: The tougher you make it to complete a purchase, the less likely customers will complete it. So, the question marketers need ask is, ‘How do I habituate engagement?'”

One answer, she said, is to step back from day-to-day marketing tactics to take a broader look at your marketing strategy—and see how you can weave in messaging or interactions that address customers' habits and underlying motivations. “Behavioral marketing is coming of age,” Lindsay said. “Marketers need to understand customers' subconscious rituals to find creative ways to break through and become a part of those habits.”

The Challenge of Targeting in Mass Channels

The Challenge of Targeting in Mass Channels

As mom walks the perimeter of her son's dented car, he waxes poetic about the amazing Allstate QuickFoto app she can use to submit a claim. Our hero mom is one step ahead. Proudly holding up her phone, she gloats that she's already done so. For a moment mom is modern and cool. As a consumer I'm starting to identify with her, building toward an affinity with her and the brand.

And then we see dad pulling up in the distance and suddenly it's 1950, as mom tells her son while gesturing toward the dented car, “Maybe you can find an app that will help you explain this to your father.”


Now, I'm all for both parents being involved in parenting, and certainly the “is there an app for that” joke is amusing. But let's just say that it turned out that I'm clearly not in Allstate's target audience for this ad, so the ending disappoints. My affinity is lost.

Allstate isn't alone in its targeting (at least in this instance) of families where dad still (mostly) wears the pants. Medication Eliquis is another brand that aims for Men Wearing Pants. However, while the Allstate ad engages at the outset—and for some, likely the whole way through—the Eliquis ad is just awful start to finish. The man speaking in the commercial seems to be telling his wife about Eliquis, but he never actually looks at her. Plus, it looks like he doesn't really care if she's there or is interested in what he has to say, he's just going to talk anyway.

Fast forward to the end of the commercial: The guy's now outside shooting hoops in the driveway with his son as the wife looks on through the kitchen window. Ick. He sinks a basket and the wife's arms go up in celebration—except his back is to her. Double ick. Why bother even having the poor, ignored woman in the ad at all?

My guess is that Eliquis conducted some research and this ad was actually appealing to, well, someone.

Of course, these ads aren't meant to appeal to everyone. But many ads—especially those on TV, on the radio, or in other more traditionally mass channels—will reach beyond their intended audience. Sometimes this is a good thing and a brand catches the attention of an interested consumer it might not have reached otherwise. In other cases an ad turns off a set of viewers and may even generate negative word of mouth.

This is the challenging of targeting in a more typically mass channel like TV. But when doing so, better to be more like Allstate, where there's plenty of appeal for even non-target customers who might spread the word to friends or family who are in the target segment, than like Eliquis, whose ad misses just about every mark.

Do Unilever's Job Cuts Signify a Rebirth of Consumer Marketing?

Do Unilever's Job Cuts Signify a Rebirth of Consumer Marketing?

Last week Unilever sent shivers down the spines of marketers everywhere by cutting 1,000 marketing-related jobs as part of a restructuring that had a total of 5,000 employees clogging the circuits of But interested parties would err if they interpreted Unilever's action—or similar moves made this past year at H.J.Heinz, Energizer, and Colgate-Palmolive—as a decrease in emphasis on marketing. Hardly. It's more a decrease in emphasis on the marketing of the past and the mass-marketing practices of a bygone era that have continued to hold sway in a slow-changing CPG industry.

But it's not just CPGs challenged by serving demanding customers on 40 different channels instead of four. All B2C marketing departments are up against it. A survey of senior consumer marketing executives released today by Forrester research showed that direct marketing, digital tactics, and content marketing were claiming a third of their budgets. Meanwhile, only 6% was devoted to the data analytics that would show them just which of all the new gew-gaws and gimcracks of the social, mobile, and Web worlds were working for them. Big consumer companies like Unilever are fumbling about in the depths of a dark, scary coalmine, and they need to find some new canaries and dig back in.

“What you might be seeing [in the Unilever move] is not so much a change in spend, but in allocation of resources. The marketer is becoming more of a systems integrator of third-party tools and agencies, and that requires a new skill-set,” says Rich Walker, managing director of the Winterberry Group, a marketing strategy consulting firm. “As tech becomes more scalable, you work with providers in a different way. I wouldn't be surprised if what you're seeing here is a harbinger of innovation to come, a clearing of the way to bring in more third parties and adopting new technologies and data analytics.”

In fact, what we may be witnessing here, like the first entomologists who sat down and watched a chrysalis metamorphose into a butterfly, is the ultimate blossoming of consumer marketers into…direct marketers!

“Direct marketers are constantly retraining their people and making adjustments on the fly. It's the nature of their business,” Walker says. “CPGs business cycles are much slower. They have less frequent, bigger reactions. Reactions like [Unilever's] indicate that the face of marketing is changing dramatically.”

Are Millennials Commitment-Phobes?

Are Millennials Commitment-Phobes?

The first few years out of college are an awkward time. You realize that life no longer contains summer or winter breaks, you decide to learn how to cook because the dining hall (which you so often took for granted) is gone, and you start to think that going to bed at 11 p.m. doesn't sound like such a bad idea. But probably the biggest shock to your system is that practically everyone you know gets married.

My former college roommate was invited to a wedding a few weeks ago. When she asked the bride what the wedding attire was, the bride had a one-word response: “Designer.” Now, I don't need to tell you that weddings are already crazy expensive. There's the attire, the gifts, the bachelor/bachelorette party, and the travel costs. All of these expenses can quickly chip away at an entry-level budget. So instead of buying a dress that she would only wear once, my collegiate comrade rented her gown from Rent the Runway—a membership-based site that rents out designer clothes and accessories for a four-day or eight-day period at a fraction of the purchase price.

It turns out that my former roommate isn't alone in her renting inclination. Thirty-seven percent of adults 18 to 28 years old have rented instead of bought in the past year, according to “Walker Sands' 2014 Future of Retail Study.” This number is expected to surge to 63% (a more than 52% jump) in 2014. In fact, 18- to 25-year-old consumers are 90% more likely than those 60 years old or older to have rented a product instead of bought one last year. But that doesn't mean that millennials are the only ones jumping on the renting trend. According to Walker Sands, 27% of consumers across age groups (ranging from 18 to 61 or older) rented instead of bought last year and 56% intend to do so in 2014.

Given that many millennials have lived through the recession and are now graduating from college with loans, their tendency to rent makes sense from an economic perspective, says Tory Patrick, account director and lead of the retail technology practice for Walker Sands. She also notes that millennials tend to be more willing to adopt new technologies.

“The 18- to 25-year-old age group has grown up with cell phones, Facebook, and Instagram,” Patrick says. “So for them to go to an app and rent something, it seems more second nature than a 60 year old who's used to balancing a checkbook and trying to come to terms with [new technology].”

According to the study, some categories are experiencing more rental growth than others. The tools category is expected to experience 129% rental growth in 2014, and the sporting goods and luxury categories are expected to grow by 123% and 113%, respectively. Consumer electronics (90%), books (69%), and clothing and apparel (48%) are also expected to see high rental growth in the new year.

Boutiques and small etailers seem to be driving this trend, but the big box retailers have yet to catch up, Patrick says. She attributes this divide to the notion that major retailers would have to implement new technology that many smaller companies have built their foundation on.

And renting has many benefits. Besides being cost effective, renting can alleviate common shopping pain points. For instance, 76% of consumers have ordered a product online that didn't meet their expectations. But out of those consumers, only 59% returned the product, meaning 41% did not, the Walker Sands study notes.

Rent the Runway addresses these pain points—like fit and quality—by having customers share their own garment experiences through photos and reviews. For example, my former roommate submitted a picture of herself at the wedding along with the following: age, height, body type, occasion, size she usually wears, size she ordered, and a description of how the dress actually fit. She also included a star rating and wrote a paragraph about what she liked and disliked about the dress. Customers can also flip through a digital look book to see how other customers wore the garment and click through to rent the featured outfit. This allows customers to find the right items by relating to others who share a similar body type.

Patrick says that, like Rent the Runway, it's important for marketers to keep customers' needs and wants in mind when creating a rental strategy. “When we talk omnichannel and what retailers can do for consumers,” Patrick says. “It's [about] responding to what the consumer wants.”

#OyVey: Misadventures with Hashtags

#OyVey: Misadventures with Hashtags

The best laid tweet chat plans of banks and brands often go awry. When mega-bank JPMorgan sent out the first tweet announcing its ill-fated Twitter Q&A with vice chairman and lead rainmaker Jimmy Lee, it surely did not expect to unleash an unholy storm of cynicism, anger, scorn, wisecracks, bad press, and general acrimony from all directions.

It was just supposed to be a nice little Twitter chat, but when a colossal bank whose name has become almost synonymous with the financial crisis creates a hashtag as open-ended as #AskJPM and just tosses it out there with a goofy smile on its face, it's hard to expect anything other than a sh#tstorm.

This happened not because JPMorgan is too big to tweet—but because the bank didn't do any planning and because it seemingly checked its self-awareness at the door.

It's easy to see what the JPM execs were going for. Social media means engagement, engagement is good—let's get people talking about JPMorgan. And considering how the whole thing turned out, that's probably as far as the planning discussion went.

JPMorgan began soliciting questions the day before the chat was scheduled, presumably to grease the conversation wheels, although, clearly, no grease proved necessary. JPM ultimately aborted the Q&A less than 24 hours before it was slated to begin. And no wonder. There are literally thousands of negative tweets tagged #AskJPM. Reading them, I can feel the hot prickle of sweat and semi-nausea that probably washed over whoever was managing the @jpmorgan handle when he or she read some of these gems:

Even semi-legitimate #AskJPM questions were quickly derailed (although, note the replacement of # with $ symbols in the hashtag):

Now, seeing all this, some brands might get scared off. Why bother trying something new when you could be setting yourself up for a harrowing, and embarrassing, debacle? No one wants to become the poster child for how not to do something.

But that's not the right way to think about it, says Brian Martin, SVP of marketing and communications at Project: WorldWide. Martin applauds brands for experimenting. There's no rule book and everyone's bound to make some mistakes. The point is to be self-aware and have a tight little game plan in place before firing up the Twitter machine.

I mean, brands and executives plan for press conferences like soldiers equipping themselves for war, mapping out every possible contingency and girding themselves with answers to any conceivable question that might pop up. Social forays really aren't all that different. In fact, something like Twitter leaves you even more exposed than a traditional press conference.

Having drunk copious amount of its own Kool-Aid, JPMorgan somehow neglected to appreciate the enmity lying in wait for its hapless social venture.

“You run into that a lot; people get so caught up in the company culture that they build up a kind of callous to the company's vulnerabilities,” Martin says. “That's why it's always smart to bring in outside agencies to paint more realistic pictures for you.”

The amorphousness of the #AskJPM hashtag was also problematic. Several years ago, McDonald's vague #McDStories hashtag suffered a similar fate. A more specific hashtag and a more clear directive regarding the kind of questions JPMorgan was looking to get might have saved #AskJPM from its ignominy.

“Brands need to be more diligent in understanding how someone might take the opportunity to hurt them, especially when we're talking about big brands,” Martin says. “I think JPMorgan meant well, but it left itself very vulnerable.”

OK, so let's just say the milk is already spilled. You're a brand and you messed up big time. What should you do to fix the snafu? People love a comeback kid. If you acknowledge that you made a mistake and deal with it right away, your customers will respect you and, likely, forgive you.

Just look at and the way it dealt with the controversy over the Dreamforce hackathon, where its $1 million prize for the best team of developers was given to a group that, it was later revealed, had broken the rules. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff immediately calmed the Twittersphere by saying he would get to the bottom of it. Shortly thereafter he announced that Salesforce would award another $1 million to the second place team.

“It ended up costing Salesforce an extra million, but that's a drop in the bucket for them—and it's an especially small amount to eliminate all the snarky responses and bad press,” Martin says. “They did the right thing by acting quickly and decisively.”

JPMorgan's response, by contrast, was a little tepid.

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