Omnichannel Represents a Sea Change in Marketing

Omnichannel Represents a Sea Change in Marketing

Sea change. If the phrase feels cliché it may be because it was first used in Shakespeare's The Tempest, Michael McVeigh and Chris Paradysz noted during their keynote at a recent DMCNY event. Major shifts in thinking are nothing new, but that doesn't make dealing with them any easier.

Omnichannel marketing represents a sea change for marketers, Paradysz, cofounder and co-CEO, and McVeigh, VP of advisory services practices of Paradysz and PM Digital said. Data, analytics, and agility are the tools that marketers need to steer them through it, they added. Prior to omnichannel, marketers used to say, “We need to use X channel” or “We need to improve the results from Y channel.” Now, marketers taking an omnichannel approach say, “How should we go to market?” and, “Which channels should we prioritize?”

The reasons for thinking differently are straightforward, McVeigh and Paradysz said. The more holistic approach of onmichannel marketing helps marketers fight fragmentation, create campaigns from the customer point of view, and drive content creation and delivery based on customer behavior.

Macy's is one company that's adopting an omnichannel mind-set, the two said. The retailer is starting to treat its stores as fulfillment centers for online purchases, and encouraging in-store associates to order items that are out-of-stock in the store for customers from its website.

Another driver of onmichannel marketing is, of course, customers. McVeigh and Paradysz pointed to three areas of customer influence: Customers are using more devices, consulting more sources prior to purchase, and demanding seamless experiences. The average time spent on a mobile device is five hours and 46 minutes per day, up from 2.5 hours four years ago, Paradysz said. He also noted that 50% of mobile users shop on their devices, and 90% of users reference multiple devices. What's more, shoppers search six times on average before making a purchase; they also now consult about 12 sources today, versus five in 2010, he said. And while 32% of conversions begin with mobile, 67% of customers are more likely to convert on a mobile-optimized site.

So how are marketers responding? According to Paradysz, 46% say they're likely to invest a great deal in omnichannel marketing, and 37% are likely to invest in some.

That doesn't mean that they're all rushing to do so. Some marketers “fear the strategic overhaul that omnichannel implies,” Paradysz said.

Data is the key to overcoming that challenge, McVeigh pointed out. Marketers, he said, need analytics and dashboards to help them navigate this shift to omnichannel. These dashboards need to be real time and interactive to give marketers the information they need, when they need it. In other words, they need to pass what he called the Fortune Cookie Test: Are you more likely to open a fortune cookie or a dashboard to get the data that you need to make an informed decision? “If your omnichannel reporting doesn't pass the Fortune Cookie Test, then it's time for a new dashboard,” he said.

Paradysz added that agility and flexibility are also essential for omnichannel marketing. Marketers need to devise the right recipe of content and engagement strategies across the right channels, he said, but also need to be willing to adjust the ingredients “to improve that recipe right up to the point of cooking”—and even then continue to make improvements.

So, although this sea change is forcing marketers to ride some tumultuous waves today, data and agility can ensure smooth sailing for the future.

Will American Wallets React to Jack Ma's "Open Sesame"?

Will American Wallets React to Jack Ma's "Open Sesame"?


In the famed story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Ali Baba, a poor villager, spies the captain of a troop approaching a hill and bellowing, “Open, sesame,” at which point a door opens, revealing a cave full of money and merchandise. When the troop leaves the cave unattended, Ali Baba approaches, repeats “Open Sesame,” enters the cave, and absconds with as much gold as his asses can carry.

Another Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant that has its hands in some 80% of online sales in the world's second largest economy, today concludes a global road show hyping its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. Unlike his company's namesake, Founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma is hardly poor. He and a few dozen other original employees control most of the company's stock, and they're out to make it a global business. The aim of the road trip is to nudge the initial offering price of Alibaba stock into the $66 to $70 range, which would give the company a market value of about $22 billion and make the IPO the biggest in history.

Amazingly, however, e-commerce and marketing industry veterans pooh-pooh the thought that Alibaba might actually take root in the U.S. and challenge Amazon and eBay, which together do not equal the Chinese merchant in goods sold. They say Americans don't know Alibaba, that the company's business model is untested here. "The wise thing would be to start small, investigate the market, investigate the consumers, and investigate the competition and try and build a model that is attractive to Americans," sniffed WPP chief Martin Sorrell to the British publication Daily Finance, sounding as if he were patronizing a wet-behind-the-ears Harvard student over his crazy idea to launch a version of a college freshman's facebook on the Internet.

True, Alibaba does not actually sell any merchandise, like Amazon does. But maybe that's a good thing. It makes the bulk of its money—like Google—from advertising and from brokering sales on its online marketplace Taobao and through its payment service Alipay. In the quarter ending June 30, Alibaba banked profits of $2 billion on sales of $2.5 billion. During the same period, Amazon lost $126 million on sales of more than $15 billion. Could it end up that handling all that merchandise is a chink in Amazon's armor? Will Amazon, ultimately, be the Internet retailer with the faulty business plan?

At his road show event in Hong Kong on Monday, Ma said he planned aggressive expansion in the U.S., and why not? Even if his business plan performs only half as well in the U.S., his return on revenue will be 40%.

One digital marketer thinks the Chinese import could shake up the status quo in the States. “For all the competitive disruption here in the U.S., with new companies springing up every day, it still tends to be a lot of the same venture capitalists and the same vetting organizations,” says Erik Severinghaus, CEO of SimpleRelevance, which offers personalization services to Internet retailers. “There's a fairly well-established process and pipeline for how this innovation happens. As Alibaba advances into America, there's going to be a lot of hand-to-hand combat.”

And let's not forget the smartphone-wielding folks who are purported to have all the power in the consumer marketplace, that being the consumers themselves. Granted, when they have a yen to buy something, some 45% of them go immediately to Amazon, according to a survey released this week by Market Track. But as loyal as the throng may be to America's current king of Internet commerce, they're even more loyal to an age-old ideal: low price. More of them (48%) go to a search engine first when shopping for a product, and 72% said they compared prices on three or more websites before deciding where to buy, according to the study.

“Alibaba could offer more options to shopper and give them more control than they've ever had in price,” says Traci Gregorski, Market Track's VP of marketing.

For years, Wall Street has indulged Amazon's habit of reinvesting profits into new businesses and low prices, but year after year of negative earnings has investors getting impatient. Alibaba, foreign as it may be to American consumers and business practices, packs a lollapalooza of a one-two punch: low prices and huge profits. That's a language that all investors, no matter where they're based, understand.

Getting Email Out of the Friend Zone

Getting Email Out of the Friend Zone

Email has always been that channel that's stuck in the friend zone. Despite its reliability, marketers can't seem to resist chasing after sexier channels—like mobile and social. But after years of neglect and claims of its death, email is finally getting the attention that it deserves.

“People are saying, ‘We're so sorry email. You're awesome,'” says Chad White, lead research analyst for Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud and author of the new book Email Marketing Rules: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Best Practices that Power Email Marketing Success.

So it is possible that the most effective marketing channel is the one that's been with marketers for so along? Here are eight reasons why marketers should give email the twice-over.

1) It doesn't need to be exclusive: Email isn't a clingy channel that demands all of marketers' attention. In fact, email can strengthen customers' relationship with other channels.

“Social media companies use email like crazy—and it's [for] a very good reason. [Email] can drive engagement on their platforms to a very high degree,” White says. “Mobile is the same way. There was a lot of talk about mobile being the death note of email, [but] mobile has only made email more relevant and more entrenched. On smartphones, the number one activity is reading emails—more popular than making a phone call.”

2) It's a people-pleaser: The number of emails customers receive daily can be overwhelming. After all, subscribers receive an average of 416 commercial messages every month, according to 2013 data released by email intelligence provider Return Path. Yet, White claims that people still prefer to receive marketing communications via email than through any other channel. ExactTarget's 2012 “Channel Preference Survey” supports this notion, reporting that 77% of consumers prefer to receive permission-based communications through email.

“Despite years of ever-increasing email frequencies...consumer acceptance of commercial email is still really high. It's still the preferred channel for commercial messages,” White says. “People would much rather get commercial messages via email than SMS, mail, you name it.”

3) It's becoming more sophisticated: Relationships always involve a little give-and-take. With email, the more marketers invest in making the channel more sophisticated, the more likely they are to accelerate a return, White says.

“Email is starting to shake off this reputation of being cheap and simple,” White says. “Neither of those things are really true anymore.... However, the defining factor with email now is that it generates a really wonderful return—generally higher than any other channel, except for organic search.”

4) It can provide honest feedback: Soliciting honest feedback from consumers isn't always easy; however, email testing provides an opportunity for marketers to determine how subscribers really feel about their messages based on opens, clicks, and conversions. However, new and existing subscribers don't always see eye-to-eye. So, when testing design elements, White encourages marketers to test their messages on a fresh set of eyes.  

“If you're testing a new email design, people have already seen your email design many times. They get trained to see things a certain way...It takes time to retrain them to enjoy the benefits of your design,” he says. “So an unbiased group would be new subscribers—people who haven't seen your email before.  Those are the folks who you should cast the new design on because they're not biased by having seen your previous designs.”

5) It can identify when it's not wanted: The topic around whether marketers should send more email is a polarizing debate.  This argument can be settled, White says, by determining email volume based on engagement.

“Inactive subscribers who are not clicking, not opening, [and are] not engaged should receive a lot less—a lot less.... You should try to re-permission them, and if that doesn't work, then you should let them go,” White says. “At the other end of the spectrum, you have really engaged subscribers—people who are constantly clicking or regularly clicking and making purchases.”

Marketers can better determine who their most engaged subscribers are, White says, by leveraging segmentation and sending more triggered emails. He says although engaged subscribers are likely to respond, triggered emails can also provide additional sources of data based on what subscribers explicitly tell marketers (such as their birthdays) or what they implicitly tell them (such as browsing behaviors).

6) It's great for long-term relationships: It's easy for marketers to get caught up in short-term results. However, White recommends focusing on lifetime subscriber value, rather than campaign metrics, to avoid the temptation of using shady tactics to maximize results.

“When you're in a maximize frame of mind, it can cause you to use gimmicks, little tricks, and little deceits [that] end up decreasing engagement in the future,” he says.

7) It doesn't have time for games: Relationships often fail when people start playing games—and it's no different with email. Using vague subject lines to drive opens isn't an effective tactic, White warns, because while it may be maximizing open rates it's not maximizing conversions and revenue—which is what marketers really want.

“Subject lines should be pre-selecting people who are most likely to respond to the call-to-action in the email and open right to offer at the end of the funnel,” he says.

8) It counts its wins and losses: When most marketers think about list growth, they fixate on acquisition, White says. However, they often don't factor in list churn.

“If you're gaining 1,000 subscribers a week, but you're losing 2,000 a week, your list is shrinking,” White says. “You have to acknowledge that list churn, that loss of subscribers, is increasing your replacement rate.”

In addition to considering churn, marketers need to evaluate the productivity of their list, White says. For instance, if marketers lose 100 subscribers who each had a lifetime value of $100, and they use low quality acquisition resources, like sweepstakes, to replace those subscribers with 100 new subscribers who have a lifetime value of $10, then the value of their list has gone down, White explains.

“Some are worth a lot more than others,” White concludes. “How do you find those guys and how do you retain them?”

Get Ready, New iPhones Change the Game for Marketers

Get Ready, New iPhones Change the Game for Marketers

It's official. As of last Tuesday's big Apple reveal of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and the new Apple Watch, I became obsolete as the now archaic owner of an iPhone 5S.

Pre-orders of Apple's latest, sleek gadgets, were available at midnight Friday; they'll hit stores on September 19. Personally, I have no intention of dropping a minimum of $649, without a two-year contract (and more than double that price if amortized over two years) on another phone from Apple. But millions of mobile phone users have contracts that have or will soon expire, and many of them have set their sights on a shiny, new iPhone. (Even my Android-touting mom is planning to get a new iPhone in about a week.)

That provides a huge opportunity for mobile marketers.

The new iPhones are more powerful, dramatically thinner, offer higher resolution, and perhaps most important to marketers, are larger in screen size. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have a 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch display, respectively. Compare that to my current 4-inch display on the iPhone 5S.

So what does that mean for mobile marketers?
It might seem like a simple tweak in screen size and pixels, but Apple is finally answering users' incessant demands for bigger, clearer screens. Today, a growing number of mobile phone users want larger screens to browse the Web, watch videos, and play games. In other words, they want engaging content—and lots of it. That's where wily mobile marketers come in; they can meet those demands for rich-media content with digital campaigns that optimize sight, sound, and movement.

And consumers' torrid love affair with mobile gadgets and content only continues to heat up. Although Android smartphone shipments outperform iOS 82% to 18% (that's according to a June 2014 report from video technology company Ooyala), Apple devices still grabbed the lion's share of video plays in the first quarter—about 64%. Here in North America, iOS video plays outdid Android 60% to 40%. And that same study reports that mobile video consumption continues to skyrocket—an increase of 133% from 2013 to 2014, and a whopping 532% since 2012. Simply put: users want more video and mobile content.

OK, how will that change marketing campaigns?
The iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and even the Apple Watch potentially enable marketers to supercharge their campaigns, and perhaps, boost mobile purchases. All of the new gadgets are equipped with the company's new payment service, Apple Pay. Enabled by a secure chip and a near-field communications (NFC) antenna, each person's phone—or watch—will now be a point-of-sale. That means marketers need to focus on crafting campaigns that make it both enticing and easy for shoppers to buy in the moment. Marketers are now up against the clock—or should I say Apple Watch; campaigns will need to be even more focused on consumers' present needs and desires, and less about moving a potential customer through the funnel over time.

Where do marketers go from here?
You get to have fun; think of yourself as the buyer and determine what would get you to watch, interact with, or act on a mobile campaign. Enhance what you've done in the past with a bigger canvas and faster, more modern tools. And as an editor, I'm looking forward to tracking the deluge of campaigns sure to come over the next few months. Maybe, I'll even buckle and get a new iPhone. Maybe.

The Dawn of Digital Détente?

The Dawn of Digital Détente?


“It doesn't really matter if you're the chief marketing officer of a national retailer or the owner of a pizza shop in a college town—you're a marketer who is making decisions about how to reach customers and drive traffic to your business. And every marketer should be taking a fresh look at mail.”

The name of the man who delivered that remark Wednesday at the national Postal Customer Council (PCC) conference in Salt Lake City won't surprise you. It was none other than Postmaster General Pat Donahoe (above), the Don Draper of the United States Postal Service, whose job it is to question the sanity of anyone who questions the continuing value of direct mail campaigns. But Donahoe's remark brought back to mind a conversation I had just the other day with a Silicon Valley veteran who let on to me that the seeders of the marketing clouds, the progenitors of programmatic buying, the machine-learned masters of data analytics had themselves discovered a new marketing tool. Yes, direct mail, among other quaint offline methods.

David Rodnitzky, the CEO and founder of digital agency 3Q, which counts GoPro, Square, and Warby Parker among its clients, was telling me that the most important part of his job was to always be imagining what the marketing world would be doing 18 months in the future. Commenting that, with the speed of change these days that was like Galileo imagining the Hubble telescope, I challenged him to reveal one of his current prognostications. “You're going to see more integration of offline and online methods, and the trend is going to be led by the companies in Silicon Valley,” Rodnitzky said.

Of course. It makes sense. The woman with straight hair dreams of cascading curls. The rich kid dreams of becoming a proletarian poet. It's only natural that the inventors of digital cookies would be smitten with a real working kitchen. “You are going to see more digital companies integrating their own marketing efforts with TV and direct mail,” Rodnitzky says. “They've realized that it remains an essential way to reach customers.”

As Congress returns to work this week and dithers over whether a legislative life raft is in the cards this year for a foundering Postal Service, the stalwart Donahoe goes about his business. And lately that business is about making digital integration easy for car dealers and credit card peddlers, as well as for cloud creators.

“The Postal Service is doing everything that it can to create a more technology-centric delivery platform. We know that's a key to your growth and the growth of the industry,” Donahoe told the PCC crowd, which was peppered with bulk mailers. “We're geo-fencing every address in America. This creates a digital signature for every delivery location. We're also giving our letter carriers robust mobile devices.”

The PMG preached that the Postal Service has become beholden to four ideas:

  • Leveraging data to make mail more personally relevant
  • Using technology to increase conversions via mail
  • Expanding the functionality of mail by enabling interactivity with mobile devices
  • Becoming more creative with possibilities for direct mail

Is there a digital détente in the works? Are the poles of digital and analog gravitating magnetically toward the middle? Here's an idea for you, Pat. Like Nixon venturing to Moscow to meet Brezhnev, why not pay a diplomatic visit to the Valley? Sit down and sip vodka (or craft Tequila or whatever) with Larry Ellison and Jeff Bezos and bring down the Iron Curtain between online and offline. It won't win you a Nobel Peace Prize, to be sure, but you need something to do while Congress continues to let your fate flutter in the wind.

Customers for Life?

Customers for Life?

As much as marketers may affirm the importance of customer loyalty, their focus more often lies on new customer acquisition. In fact, although 94% of the senior executives surveyed for the “Customers for Life” study by Forbes Insights and Sitecore say that retaining customers for life is prioritized as some level within their organization, only 38% are primarily focused on repeat customers for revenue growth.

“Attracting new customers is by far the number one priority,” Bruce Rogers, chief insights officer and head of the CMO practice at Forbes, said during a session at Sitecore's Symposium 2014. He shared several other key findings during his conference presentation. They include:

The top three priorities for marketing organizations today are:
58% Attracting new customers
40% Turning current customers into customers for life
25% Developing a single view of each customer

Businesses are currently most focused on the following in terms of revenue growth:
49% Acquiring new customers
38% Loyal, regular customers who purchase frequently
12% Current, recently acquired customers
2% Other

More than three quarters (77%) of respondents say that average customer lifetime value (CLTV) is a highly or extremely valuable indicator of marketing performance


58% Regularly calculate CLTV
18% Have plans to do so
24% Have no plans to do so or just don't know its potential

When asked how integrated the various customer communications and data gathering systems are in their organization, respondents said:
27% Fully integrated
58% Partially integrated
11% Not integrated

Not surprisingly, the greater the C-level involvement in strategy setting for that integration, the higher the likelihood of it happening:
Full integration – 63% of CMOs and 60% of CIOs are involved
Partial integration – 28% CMOs and 34% CIOs are involved
No integration – 5% CMOs and 2% CIOs are involved

Siloes and a lack of integration among teams pose challenges to the delivery of seamless, personalized customer interactions, Rogers said. But developing a single view of the customer is a priority for just over half of the executives surveyed:
53% Priority
31% Neutral
16% Not a priority

Technology can be an inhibitor when it company to developing that single view of the customer. The top three technology challenges are:
41% Multiple/duplicate records
38% Too many systems/difficulty keeping track of where data is stored
37% Siloed data

Data analytics, in fact, is an essential component of respondents' ability to personalize their customer communications.
56% of all respondents say their marketing organization excels at ensuring that customer communications make sense for each customer personally
76% of respondents who rate their company's ability to use analytics as high say the same

51% of all respondents say their marketing organization excels at anticipating customer needs reather than sending mass communications
72% of respondents who rate their company's ability to use analytics as high say the same

So, which is more important?
66% Personalized, relevant communication
34%: Staying in regular communications with customers regardless of personalization

Based on these findings, Rogers offered several recommendations:

Prioritize your customer-for-life goals: Increase the prominence of customer loyalty as part of your revenue-growth strategies, and implement technologies that help support retention.

Reconnect intention with action and make regular use of CLTV metrics: Simply put, start calculating customer lifetime value and use it to assist in measuring marketing effectiveness, setting priorities, and directing spending.

Simplify the multiplicity of platforms and programs used to house customer information: It's impossible to provide seamless customer interactions without seamless data access. Integrate the technologies needed to enable that data access, and foster cross-team collaboration.

Implement a single, centralize platform for managing data and communications: Data fragmentation inhibits not just seamless interactions, but also personalization. Use technology to help break down silos.

Enact systems that allow communicationss to be personalized on content and frequency: Anticipating customers' needs and sending relevant, timely communications in response to those needs is an essential element of personalization—and customer experience excellence. So is sending the right content in those communications.

Focus on a whole-organization approach to strateging setting: Include C-level executives and cross-functional stakeholders when setting marketing and technology integration strategies.

“Marketing too important to be left to just marketers,” Rogers said. “The whole organization need to be engaged.”

Getting in on the Conversation

Getting in on the Conversation

Marketers looking to start or join a conversation with the women who comprise their target
audiences need to understand how they prefer to interact. Not surprisingly, millennial and
boomer women have different preferences, but they also have some commonalities,
according to a survey of 3,300 U.S. women conducted by online community SheSpeaks.
For example, while millennials prefer to stay in touch via text, boomers are more likely to
call or email friends and family; but women of all ages are fans of connecting via social media. 

Here, some key findings:

Marketers Get Creative on Instagram

Marketers Get Creative on Instagram

I've recently started to explore Instagram, the über popular photo-sharing platform bought by Facebook in 2012 for an astounding $1 billion. Instagram had just 13 employees at the time.

Today, there are more than 200 million active users on Instagram; more than 75 million people use the mostly mobile platform on the daily—and those numbers continue to grow. So I guess that means I'm a late bloomer, especially since 34% of teens and millennials, 20% of online females, and 15% of online males are already posting, filtering, and sharing photos on Instagram. With that kind of engagement, I can certainly hear the tintinnabular sounds of great sales potential ringing for marketers looking to reach those coveted demographics. 

So I've decided to highlight some of the plucky brand marketers who are crafting social campaigns that educate, engage, and prompt action. Especially since this year's Social Media Marketing Industry Report says that 42% of marketers plan to increase their use of Instagram.  These are just a few, so feel free to share your favorites, too.

No. 1 Alice + Olivia
Alice + Olivia's designer Stacey Bendet is an artisan in the way she gives loyal followers a behind-the-scenes look at one of today's most popular fashion brands. Bendet uses Instagram not only to showcase the clothes through gorgeous images but provides unending inspiration to lovers of style.

No. 2 Porsche
The sleek designs of Porsche are on display with the brand's Instagram page. Marketers for Porsche unveil new designs, feature vintage cars, post videos that show off the machine's amazing power and of course display the worldwide love for the luxury car with colorful, lustrous images.

No. 3 Dylan's Candy Bar

This NYC-based whimsical emporium uses Instagram to merge candy with fashion, art, and pop culture. Dylan's Candy Bar encourages confectionery lovers from every corner of the world to satisfy their sweet tooth with one of the brands colorful treats, by attending a sugary event, or simply ordering a fun creation from a cornucopia of home décor and fashion delights.

No. 4 Williams-Sonoma
The high-end housewares company features much more than kitchen utilities, furniture and linens. Williams-Sonoma shares images of specialty foods, spotlights famous chefs, and highlights the brands most recently published books. Followers can draw endless inspiration for seasonal recipes and creations.

No. 5 Budweiser
This page not only features the brand's libations for those of legal age, but creates a sort of counterculture among music lovers. Budweiser features major artists, concerts, and events—all fueled by the pale lager, of course. Some of the world's most popular musicians, such as pop superstar Rihanna, and dedicated fans are featured on the non-conventional, pictorial blog.

Going Where Analog Marketers Have Not Gone Before

Going Where Analog Marketers Have Not Gone Before

One of the missions we attempt to accomplish here at Direct Marketing News is to keep marketers abreast of developments in technology and alert them to interesting new tools that might—might—make their jobs easier. We stress “might” because cherry-picking the orchards of tech start-ups for solutions that can be easily installed and show revenue gains in short order has become a career in and of itself. It's kind of like the Hubble Telescope, an incredible astronomical advance that has identified a couple of thousand star systems in our galaxy that could support life. Astronomers are actually doubling the rate at which they can make these verifications every two years, but estimates are that the Milky Way boasts at least 100 billion life-supporting star systems. Ever get the feeling that star systems and start-ups have something in common?

This week, Trustradius, an online community of marketing tech users (actual line marketers, not marketing techs on loan from IT) released a “Buyers Guide to Digital Analytics Software” based on 230 in-depth reviews by authenticated users. Trustradius undertook this effort because it believes that, while tech analysts have their place, their recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt. Users, says Trustradius CEO Vinay Bhagat, are the true Hubbles of this marketplace.

“The folks who comprise the review panel are mostly marketers, hands-on users. That's important, because you have to understand where your company is on the digital spectrum before you can make an intelligent decision on analytics platforms,” Bhagat says. “There is no one-size-fits-all answer. The right solution is going to depend on your use case. Even big and small doesn't always matter. You can be a small operation with a high-traffic website or a large enterprise with low traffic.”

One thing that does fit all budgets, however, is free technology, and Google Analytics appeared at the tops of users' lists at small, medium, and large companies alike. “People are often generous with their ratings for something they don't have to pay for,” Bhagat notes. “Most often, Google Analytics is used in combination with paid tools in more sophisticated organizations.”

Indeed, free applications seem to do the trick for companies with under 51 employees. The average rating of analytics platforms from that group was 4.2 out of 5, and leaders were either totally free, including Google Analytics or Piwik, or offered a free version, such as StatCounter.

Ratings from reviewers at midsize companies (51-500 employees) were more rigorous. Piwik here merited only a 3.3 and IBM Digital Analytics didn't fare much better at 3.4. Products rated as “strong performers"—including GoSquared, AT Internet, and KISSmetrics catered largely to e-commerce companies and focused on ease of use and real-time capabilities. Adobe Analytics, a product catering to enterprise-level clients, rated in the top echelon, as well.

Practical considerations emerge in the enterprise segment. Google Analytics Premium ranks high on users' lists along with Adobe because both are designed to crunch larger volumes of numbers. But—and you all know this—even the well-heeled can't turn down a freebie. Piwik, shunned by the mid-market companies, reemerges as a favorite among enterprises.

After doing their own analytics of the reviewers' choices, Trustradius offered these tips for all marketers shopping for software:

1. Get executive-level support for your efforts. From the highest level of your organizations, a mind-set should emerge that digital data should be used to improve the business

2. Ask the right questions. Understand what your needs are before you seek to fill them

3. Build the right analytics team. Make sure they can handle all departments and all of those departments' specific needs

4. Find the tool that fits your analytics maturity level. Where are you on your data discovery journey?

5. Other tools matter. Web analytics is just one part of tracking the customer lifecycle.

Email, 32 Years Later

Email, 32 Years Later

On August 30, 1982, Shiva Ayyadurai changed global communication forever by introducing email. Today, email remains one of the most effective and widely used marketing channels the world over, and it continues to evolve. Like the telephone, email has undergone radical transformations since its inception.

Indeed, the most disruptive agents in email weren't even part of the email conversation a mere 10, or even five years ago. Of course, we're talking about the growth of mobile and the companies behind today's industry-wide mobilization.

People read more email messages on Apple devices than any other platform, according to a recent study by email services company SendGrid. The study, which collected data on more than 8 billion emails sent by more than 125,000 companies over two 10-day periods in 2013 and 2014, found that users opened emails on iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers more than 36 million times per day.

“The fact that Apple devices are being widely used for email hasn't come as a surprise to us.  It's a trend we've seen developing since we started formally tracking email engagement in 2010,” explains Aaron Beach, senior data scientist at SendGrid. “What is perhaps unexpected in our data set is the emergence of mobile, tablet and desktop Windows devices as a fast growth segment for email engagement.” The study shows an average 32 million emails were opened every day on Windows devices, a whopping 147% increase from the previous year and making Windows the second fastest growing platform. “We don't have conclusive evidence for whether the Windows OS is making a comeback, but we are seeing stronger Windows-based email engagement, especially in Europe,” Beach continues.

Linux-based devices, which include Android, were reportedly the fastest growing segment for email opens globally, growing by 329% in just the last year. Blackberry devices saw the third most growth in email opens at 127%. Additionally, email opens on Sony's Playstation Vita platform grew by 10% over last year.

Interestingly enough, email opens in the U.S. fell below 50% for the first time since 2010, with opens in the United Kingdom and Canada now accounting for about 6% and 4%, respectively. The study also notes the continuing expansion of commercial email providers such as Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo, and the increased personalization of spam filters.

“It's still to early to determine whether these trend lines will continue, but these are data points email marketers should be aware of as we move into 2015,” Beach says.

The Top 10 Ways to Keep Your B2B Customers Satisfied

The Top 10 Ways to Keep Your B2B Customers Satisfied

Marketers are constantly in the pursuit of happiness. However, turning customers' frowns upside down is easier said than done. Lynn Tsoflias, VP of customer success at small business CRM provider Insightly, shared her secrets for keeping customers smiling and satisfied.

Remember, customer success equals company success: Happy customers are lucrative customers, and having their needs met is what makes customers happy. So instead of fixating on their own bottom-line goals, B2B marketers should focus on helping their customers succeed, such as by increasing customers' revenue or managing customers' projects.

“Making sure that they're satisfied in their goals and what they see as success is really important,” Tsoflias says.

Make a good first impression: Marketers only get one first impression. So when offering a free trial, it's important for marketers to assist and educate leads about how their products will benefit them personally. Not only will having a better understanding boost customers' satisfaction, but it will also make them more inclined to discover new product features and continue to use the product over time, Tsoflias says.

“The training could be a document, a video, an email communication, or a webinar,” she says. “I always think, ‘That person is so busy. Maybe they're good with technology, maybe they're not. What kind of tools can we provide to help them learn our product?'”

Engage in a conversation: When asking customers for information, it's important to offer them value first, Tsoflias says.

“It's more of a dialogue,” she says. “You're getting information that then helps you communicate with them.”

Listen and learn: Sometimes what customers say they want isn't what they really need. So, marketers should listen to customers' problems and dig deep to better understand how they can help their customers, Tsoflias says.

View your customers as consumers: B2B customers and B2C customers want the same things: a simple product that's easy to use. Tsoflias says that this is especially true for small businesses. As a result, she encourages B2Bs to view their customers as consumers to keep their marketing simple and to the point. 

“Small businesses are not looking for big, complicated enterprise solutions. They want something that's easy to use, that they're going to learn quickly, and help them do what they want to do,” Tsoflias says. “If I'm looking for something online [and] I don't find it pretty quickly or something isn't easy to use...I'm likely going to go do something else.”

Understand that everyone learns differently: Some customers learn best through audio while others consume knowledge better through visuals. Although video can an effective way to appeal to customers' varying learning styles, Tsoflias says, it's important to cater to each one, such as through documents or webinars.

“There's not one thing that fits everyone,” she says. “But in general, I do a see a greater trend towards audio learning and consuming of information.”

Pay attention to what customers implicitly and explicitly tell you: Customer service feedback is always important, but companies should also pay attention to what customers implicitly say, Tsoflias says, such as through product adoption or log-in frequency. A combination of qualitative and quantitative data is also important to validate the other, she adds.

Show your customers that you value them: Customers are businesses' most valued assets, Tsoflias says. So when companies work with vendors, they invest a lot of trust in those vendors to take care of their treasures. Tsoflias encourages companies to acknowledge this trust and convey its importance through their communications.

Have a long-term vision: All marketers want their customers to be customers for life. So it's important for companies to focus on the long-term customer retention, rather than how many customers they gained in a particular quarter, Tsoflias says.

Consider unsatisfied moments feedback opportunities:  No customer is happy all of the time. However, it's important for marketers to learn from those sour moments by soliciting feedback to win back customers or learn for the future, Tsoflias says. She adds when a company does make a change based on customer feedback, it needs to let the customer know that they were heard.

“People want to be asked and they want to be heard,” she continues. “Taking the time to listen to them and make that phone back goes a long way.”

The USTA's Strategy to Ace the Customer Experience

The USTA's Strategy to Ace the Customer Experience

As you stroll through the bustling grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York during the US Open, you may feel that you're at the epicenter of the tennis world. But, as Nicole Jeter West points out, what happens on site is only a “microcosm” of what happens globally as tennis fans from around the world tune, tap, and click in to the event. And according to Jeter West, the United States Tennis Association's senior director of ticketing and digital strategy, USTA's goal is to deliver an outstanding experience for every fan, no matter where they're located or what channel they're using to access the on-site action. “Our priority is to deliver a world-class digital experience on-site, as well as through our apps and website,” she said during a press tour earlier this week. “Fans can get all the information they want via any channel.”

This lofty goal is central to USTA's broader mission, which is “to grow the sport of tennis,” Jeter West said. Fifty weeks of the year the association is focused on community initiatives that deliver on that mission. And the US Open, she said, is USTA's “big fundraiser” to support it. It's an all-consuming two weeks across platforms, buttressed by IBM technology. For example, the USTA sees a 40-fold increase in site traffic in the lead up to and during the US Open without any hitches, Jeter West said. Additionally, the association has seen double-digit increases year over year on its digital and mobile channels as adoption of social and mobile have increased among its fans, and consumers in general. “The infrastructure is in place to ensure that fans can access our [channels] 24/7,” she said.

One reason for this assurance, Jeter West explained, is that USTA begins planning its digital marketing initiatives for the following year shortly after a US Open ends. This year, for instance, working with IBM the USTA launched new mobile apps and improved or redesigned others, Elizabeth O'Brien of IBM's worldwide sponsorship marketing team said. This included adding player and ball position movements to the USTA's popular SlamTracker app, which visualizes point-by-point real-time data from the US Open matches, including serve statistics and winning shots. “It's designed for the casual and avid fans alike,” Jeter West added.

Fans aren't the only ones benefiting from the data IBM collects and processes from  and related to the matches. The USTA is able to track not just player and match data, but also fan sentiment and activity, Jeter West pointed out. As a result it can ascertain such information as which players are popular among fans on social media, who's talking about the US Open, and whether a lesser-known player is growing in popularity. The association can then use that information, as well as such data as device use, to react in the moment and plan for the ensuing year. Jeter West noted that she and her team can see over time what fans are looking for, and then provide that information. For example, she said, “we're seeing fans go deeper into the app year over year,” due to all the new stats available to them.

This year USTA is testing beacons and push alerts, and seeing significant adoption of the latter. “We've seen a 200 percent increase in interest in push notifications,” Jeter West said, adding that fans are going back to their inboxes to view those alerts. “We're careful not to over-send.” And it's that attention to the customer experience that has USTA scoring a win with tennis fans on site and across the globe.

*Image courtesy of IBM and USTA

One Town That Will Track You Down

One Town That Will Track You Down


As you read this, in the lovely Midwestern metropolis of Chicago, city electricians are out on the town fastening curved, foot-and-a half-long sensors to light poles and covering them with attractive metal shades. The sensors will augment the efforts of their brethren, the surveillance cameras, and add traffic, temperature, and cell phone activity to the video footage. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel says it's an effort to make Chicago the first truly digital city, tracking every minute detail of daily life to improve efficiencies and lifestyles. Most of the press around this development has been benign (“Big Shoulders, Big Data,” Bloomberg Businessweek), which is surprising considering the furor whipped up by people objecting to having their email preferences monitored.

I'm a fan of America—even, you might say, a patriot. (Don't read too much into that, Lois Lerner at the IRS.) But I can't be the only one who notices that government officials like West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller get apoplectic over data brokers while saluting the global data warehouse breachers at the National Security Agency. And now we have Mayor Emmanuel able to place unwitting Chicagoans at the scenes of traffic violations with corroborating evidence of photos and cell phone proximity.

That's not to say Emmanuel will do that, but it's not to say he won't, either. "Almost any data that starts with an individual is going to be identifiable," Indiana University law professor Fred Cate told the Chicago Tribune. “You may not care about the fact that it's personally identifiable. It's still going to be personally identifiable."

Already, academics and industrial researchers have voiced desires to have access to the data. Private enterprises, too, are involved in the project. The program received pro bono engineering services from Cisco Systems, Intel, Quallcom, and Schneider Electric.

As for cell phone traffic, the sensors will work much like indoor Wi-Fi routers that identify enabled devices within their range. That simple traffic data is bound to rouse the interest of local retailers, and if they're interested in paying for the data, you can bet there'll be a Chicago official eager to listen. Legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko once wrote that the city's motto of Urbs in Horto (City in a Garden) should be changed to Ubi est Mea (Where's Mine?)

And that's OK. I'm not about to pass judgment on governments that can squeeze a few more bucks out of the citizenry without deducting it from their paychecks. At the same time, one hopes that, the deeper that governments get themselves into the data business, the more understanding that there'll be of data brokers and marketers who, like Chicago, want the freedom to increase efficiencies through data.

Gaming Companies Excel at Engaging GenY

Gaming Companies Excel at Engaging GenY

A good portion of millennials fully understand the role of marketing in today's freemium digital environment. However, it often seems that companies that market to us don't reciprocate that understanding. Part of this disconnect may stem from marketers following the same examples and adhering to practices older than the people they're attempting to engage. Marketers need to spice things up; they need to open things up. If dated examples are an issue, marketers need look no further than the video game industry.

Gaming was introduced with Generation X, but flourished under Generation Y (millennials). Many of us spent hundreds of hours during our formative years shooting bad guys, slaying dragons, and solving puzzles in one virtual world or another. We've grown up with the gaming medium and have a fondness for it not unlike some people's reverence for sports. Game developers know and understand this, not just because they're gamers themselves, but also because we tell them and they listen.

Here are a few gaming companies that do an outstanding job of engaging with, and listening to, their (predominantly) millennial customers. These companies are exceptional examples of customer centricity; other marketers may want to take note.

Blizzard Entertainment

Known best for its “Diablo” and “Warcraft” series, Blizzard is a powerhouse of a studio and is one of the most consistent development houses in terms of product quality. Where some companies might distance themselves from a customer base as massive as Blizzard's, the “World of Warcraft” author does exactly the opposite.

Each of Blizzard's brands (games) has its own dedicated website, complete with some of gaming's most intense discussion boards. Despite the passionate (and often frothing) horde of users, Blizzard representatives wade right into the virtual fray. It's just customer service reps; lead developers and even Blizzard executives participate in these discussions with customers.

Blizzard's customer engagement strategy transcends its forums and extends into the social communities where its customers gather. The company and its representatives have a presence on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, even third-party community sites. Blizzard may well stand as one of the most progressively omnichannel companies in the video gaming vertical, a feat in an industry permeated with customer centricity.


Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's Playstation brands have been fierce rivals since the mid-2000s. For consumers, the advent and expansion of social media turned that rivalry into full-on fervor when each company announced new hardware in early 2013.

With more than 10 million units sold Sony's Playstation 4 has “won” the video game console wars for the time being. The electronics company didn't beat out Microsoft's Xbox One based on the merits of its product alone. Sony closely monitored customer feedback and sentiment toward its console, while also analyzing Microsoft's feedback, as well.

When gamers disparaged Microsoft's policy against used games, Sony promoted its own lack of anti-sharing policies. When gamers complained about Xbox One's $500 price tag, Sony unbundled its PS4 Camera and lowered the system's price to $400. This wasn't just a case of competitive maneuvering either. Sony took to social channels such as Reddit and Twitter to monitor conversations and adjust its product accordingly.

Sony President of Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida embodies much of the company's social agility. With more than 130,000 followers and nearly 30,000 tweets, Yoshida is among the most active and visible executives in the space, and spearheads the company's customer communications efforts to great effect--as in 10 million units sold.


Though Valve's games are vastly popular, the company's greatest contribution to gaming—and its most poignant example of customer-centric strategy—is its Steam platform. Part digital distribution, part social networking, Steam is responsible for near Amazon levels of disruption in the gaming industry.

Though the service got off to a bit of a rough start, Steam now has 75 million active accounts. Part of this success likely stems from Steam's aggressive Summer Sales, the retail equivalent of Black Friday for PC gamers. The sales event generates enormous amounts of social conversations around Valve's service, as well as garnering positive sentiment. Between the Summer Sales and the bevy of social tools available, Steam has grown into something of a staple piece of software, for both gamers and casual PC users alike.

Blogs (from Brands) That Rock

Blogs (from Brands) That Rock

Stat:  Companies that blog more than 15 times per month get 5X more traffic.

Did that get your attention? Here's another powerful figure from Optimind Technology for you: Blogs are 63% more likely to influence purchase decisions than magazines.

Bottom line: Blogs are impactful. And they're changing the way marketers make impressions on their customers. Without question, brand marketers who use these digital platforms to give their customers a voice can be more persuasive. Blogs are influential; they give customers a creed to believe in, trends to follow, and provide products for consumers to advocate.

Personally, I love perusing blogs from brands that manage to tap into a zeitgeist, raise awareness about an important social issue, or that simply catch me up on the latest trends. These blogs make me feel as if the brand understands me as a person—even helps me define my own likes and interests. And when I'm on the fence about which brands to buy from, I generally go with the company that's made the most impact on my life, often through blogs (and of course through unique, quality products).

So here, I'm highlighting five brands that I feel are currently killing it in the blogosphere. And for those of you looking to find some faves of your own, I've provided a small list of some other impressive company blogs at the end of this article. Feel free to comment and share some of your favorite blogs.

No. 1 General Electric

GE not only empowers its customers (literally) but works to innovate and inspire. The energy company doesn't just use blogs to push its green technology initiatives (which is certainly commendable), these digital posts also illustrate what's new in tech, highlight brilliant machinery, and use moving imagery to do some powerful storytelling. Here's a detailed view of the blades on GE gas turbines at the Greenville, SC facility. This footage was captured by @seenewphoto and is featured on GE's popular Tumblr blog.

No. 2 Uber

This blog goes far beyond tracking the journey of an Uber driver. It promotes local pride with a blog for each area that Uber serves—45 countries and counting; it reports on the rising trends in data science; publicizes worldwide Uber philanthropic events, concerts, and partnerships; and gives a behind-scenes-look at the agile minds of the data-driven car service company. Taxi—or should I say Uber anyone?

No. 3

Whoever thinks that is just an online glossary hasn't visited the brand's blog lately. Marketers for understand that to be relevant in the new millennium, this lexical resource needs to be more than just a writer's utility. The wordbook brand manages to attract—and keep—readers with linguistic insights, infographics, quizzes, writer-related news, tech-product releases, updates on reading programs, fun word facts, and a myriad of other scribe-related interests. It's a wordsmith's haven.

No. 4 Club Monaco

Clothing retailer Club Monaco has granted unfettered access to its Culture Club—an online hub of style, art, food, music, and travel. Professional photographers from around the world contribute to the trendy, Pinterest-style blog and provide chic readers with inspiration, identity, and beautiful content. Owned by Polo Ralph Lauren, Club Monaco is more than a high-end clothing vendor; it serves as a meeting place for fashionistas across the globe—myself included.

No. 5 HomeGoods

Marketers for HomeGoods understand the school of thought among interior designers, craft lovers and homemakers. The chain of home furnishing stores recruits bloggers to craft unique, relatable blogs about everything from décor and dining to gifts and pets. Design Happy is a collective place for readers to get ideas and transform their interior spaces—preferably with products from HomeGoods.

Some other pretty fantastic blogs…

Dr. Laundry, Clorox
With more than 10 years of laboratory research and real-world experience, Dr. Laundry provides tips and explanations to solve your laundry-cleaning quandaries.

Hunger Relief, Tyson
Blogs featuring hunger relief efforts and other philanthropic projects from Tyson Foods.

Whole Story, Whole Foods Market
Healthy lifestyle advice, seasonal recipes, and other diet fodder from food bloggers and nutrition experts.

Coca-Cola Journey, The Coca-Cola Company
A digital magazine that focuses on social causes and news from The Coca-Cola Company.

Common Thread, Alternative Apparel
A lifestyle blog that features personal stories from artists, activists, entrepreneurs, and innovators.

The Glossy, Sephora
Online magazine featuring beauty tastemakers, products, and compelling artwork.

The Cleanest Line, Patagonia
The blog for the outdoor clothing company Patagonia provides frequent updates on outdoor sports and gear, dirtbag culture, environmental activism, green business ethics, and stories from the Patagonia tribe.

My Plan to Replace the Postal Service's Truck Fleet

My Plan to Replace the Postal Service's Truck Fleet


Surely you've seen those dog rescue ads on TV with the mangy Shit Tzus and the war-scarred pit bulls peering longingly out of crates with faces sadder than giftless children on Christmas morning. The spots seem to go on interminably, and even though you have a house full of kids and cats and gerbils and Labrador Retrievers, those pitiful canine eyes beseech you to run out and rescue a pooch while scouring your contact list for someone who might put you in touch with a hit man to visit the last owners of those dogs.

In my world, the entity longingly and interminably asking to be rescued is the U.S. Postal Service, and the Post Office's beat-up pit bull in the crate is the U.S. mail truck. Everyone from the Postmaster General to the COO to the Senators looking to provide USPS with legislative relief use the rickety mail truck as the poster boy for pity. Whenever people aren't fully appreciating their plight, they point to the truck fleet and wail: “They cost a billion bucks a year to maintain.” “The truck that delivered your new Samsung Galaxy phone was the very same truck that delivered grandma her Atwater-Kent radio set in 1927.” “It's gonna cost us $6 billion to replace them and we're already into the Treasury for $15 billion.”

But it doesn't have to cost you $6 billion to replace the fleet, Mr. PMG. I have a plan: Stop thinking about trucks as mail delivery vehicles and start thinking about them as media vehicles!

Back in the 1980s, trucks began showing up in the streets of New York City delivering nothing but ad messages. I thought them a curiosity at the time, but the practice has grown into an industry, with some trucks towing skinny little trailers just wide enough to hold a billboard and nothing else. In big cities, there's big traffic and big numbers of people stuck in or walking by the traffic that are known in the marketing game as “impressions.” Mail trucks are big, square, flat surfaces. Keep the little USPS logo on them, of course, but surrounding those is a lot of white space that marketers would pay good money to fill with their messages.

According to the Transportation Advertising Council of America, “transit advertising” has a 97% recall rate. Ads in transit generate 2.5 times more attention than static billboards, says Perception Research Services, and the Census Bureau reports that 96% of American workers commute to their jobs.

Most transit advertising companies have to fulfill their media plans with logistical analyses that ensure their client's messages are motoring around the right neighborhoods, the ones where their target customers live. The U.S. Postal Service need not trouble itself with such trifles. Their trucks are always in the right place because they're everyplace! USPS already owns the billboard “real estate,” as it were, because they own the doors of every address in the country. All the Postal Service has to do is get new and better billboards. (Trucks, that is.)

Here's what I'd do to jump-start the program. Send RFPs to all the major truck manufacturers, asking them to design the U.S. Mail truck of the 21st Century. But instead of paying the winning bidder with cash money, currently in short supply at the Post Office, you pay them with free designated market area media. If Ford wins, it can use its truck space to crow that it built the vehicle on which the world's largest delivery fleet is based, or it can choose to promote the new F150 or Mustang. When you begin selling truck panels to the nation's leading advertisers, Ford gets orders for tens of thousands of new vehicles. I would be very surprised, Mr. PMG, if you couldn't score at least 10,000 free trucks this way.

You pay big bucks to Interpublic to handle your media, right? Instead of having them just buy your media, why not put them to work selling some for you? Call them tomorrow and ask them to start working up a media kit. Let's release the U.S. Mail truck from its pathetic role as a dying dog. Give it a new script and take it on the road!

Social Is a Key Part of 24 Hour Fitness' Lead Gen. Regimen

Social Is a Key Part of 24 Hour Fitness' Lead Gen. Regimen

Getting customers to refer brands can be a real work out for marketers. But as the old saying goes: No pain, no gain.

Marketers acquire more customers for their brands by enabling current patrons to brag about them in their preferred channels. Health club chain 24 Hour Fitness learned this lesson by implementing Gigya's consumer identity management platform for its social sharing referral program.

Like many gyms, 24 Hour Fitness had a traditional offline referral program, says Joe Beruta, head of marketing and communications for the health club chain. Staff would distribute printed three-day trial passes to existing gym members in hopes that they would share the offer with family and friends. However, relying on printed materials proved difficult, not to mention costly, and limited the brand's reach.

“As you're leaving the gym, you probably don't even have your wallet with you,” Beruta says. “Those print materials could get misplaced, lost, [or] forgotten about.”

As a result, 24 Hour Fitness decided to roll out Gigya's consumer identity management platform in March 2013. The platform would enable gym members to share trial passes via email or their social networks. But 24 Hour Fitness wanted to do more than just make it easier to share. The brand had three key goals, Beruta says: leverage the exponential power of social, drive efficiencies while cutting back on costs, and collect data from social platforms to produce more relevant communications.

Here's how it works: Existing gym members can share trial offers by visiting 24 Hour Fitness's online or in-club kiosk referral system and logging in directly through their social networks, such as Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. The trial offer is then posted on the existing member's page, as well as on the pages of the connections with whom the deal is shared, Beruta explains.

“You get much more exposure and impressions right out of the gate than you normally would any other way,” Beruta says. “And you do that at very reduced costs. So the efficiency is positive for our business.”

Not only do social log-ins expand the brand's reach, but they also provide 24 Hour Fitness with new sources of data. For instance, when members access their account via social log-in, the health club is granted access to that member's public profile information—such as name and email—says Victor White, director of marketing communications at Gigya. 24 Hour Fitness can also ask for permission to access additional data beyond public profile information. Gigya then takes this data and stores it in its identity storage data base, White says, so that it can append additional data when further activities take place, such as a customer commenting on a post. 24 Hour Fitness can also take this information and add it to data stored in its central database to deepen its understanding of a prospect or member.

In the case of a prospect, when a person interested in joining the fitness center walks in, 24 Hour Fitness asks them to fill out a form and provide their name, address, reason for visit, fitness interests, and desired amenities. Even if that person decides not to join the gym but is part of the social sharing program, 24 Hour Fitness can take the information from the prospect's visit and add it to her social sharing record to send more targeted communications. 

As for members who prefer to share the trial offer via email, 24 Hour Fitness can check the email addresses of the recipients against its database to determine how many redeemed the pass. This allows the fitness center to send targeted pricing emails and promotional information based on where prospects are in the purchase cycle.

“The digital side of this [and] the social side of this really helps us get in front of potential prospects or intenders that are looking to join a gym where we normally wouldn't have access to these people without doing heavy digital advertising campaigns with banners and the like,” Beruta says.

Within the first three months of launching its program, 24 Hour Fitness accumulated more than 331,500 direct contact referrals via the program—or about $3 million in online media value. In addition, the brand obtained more than 8,400 direct program referrals in January 2014—which resulted in more than $600,000 from new member units and lifetime value revenue.

Furthermore, 24 Hour Fitness was able to identify which social networks existing members were choosing to share their passes. Within nine months, the health club determined that its Facebook shares had decreased from 77.4% to 58.9% while its Pinterest shares rose from almost nonexistent to 11.2%.

“This also is a positive for us,” Beruta says, “because from a digital advertising strategy, we want to go where the people go and where people are interested to help [them] find fitness and wellness.”

Although 24 Hour Fitness' program has remained fairly similar to its original debut, the company intends to experiment with gamification to play off the competitive nature of a gym, Beruta says. He adds that the fitness club leveraged Gigya's influencer reporting capabilities to identify which customers referred their friends and family the most and reward them for doing so, with perks such as free merchandise.

“Generally speaking, not all users are created equal,” White says. “Some are more responsive [and] some are more influential than others. It's important to be able to identify which ones are creating the most value for your business and simply say thank you to them.”

However, Beruta says that it's important for marketers to be transparent about their use of social data to prevent their pasts from deterring marketers' futures.

"There is a consumer base across the country that has skepticism about their data and their intelligence," Beruta says. "From a marketing perspective there's a lot of opportunity to do this in the right way, permission based, that can benefit the company and not compromise consumers' information. [Marketers] have some work to do because there's been a variety of challenges in the marketplace with a variety of different brands that have made that more challenging today than it used to be."

Not Every Small Business Prioritizes Marketing

Not Every Small Business Prioritizes Marketing

Marketing has evolved into an integral aspect of digital culture. Everyone is a marketer to some degree. We market our events and meetings on social media. We market our friendships, our location. On some level, social media has turned everyone into a brand and we've all adopted marketing practices into our daily social lives. As a result, marketing has become an important aspect of individuals' lives--but some small businesses actually don't care much for the practice or simply can't afford it, according to a recent study by marketing software company Infusionsoft.

The study (conducted by research company Audience Audit) surveyed 837 small business owners, interviewing them about several topics, including challenges and goals, demographics, resources, and their feelings on business ownership. Respondants were placed in attitudinal segments based on their answers. From these segments Infusionsoft created four small business profiles, two of which engage little in marketing, if at all.

Passionate Creators

“These people tend to start businesses out of a love for their craft and take great pride in doing in their companies,” says Lindsay Bayuk, director of product at Infusionsoft and the overseer of the study. Passionate Creators were 46% more likely to spend more than $500 a month on marketing than other respondents, and are the most likely of the four groups to use CRM and marketing automation technology. This group is more likely to email their own lists and use social media for marketing. Additionally, these owners are more likely to support business and marketing decisions with analytics. Unsurprisingly, this segment generates the most revenue.

Freedom Seekers

This group tends to value control and flexibility above all else. “The freedom seekers in business want the freedom that comes with being their own boss and live the life they choose,” Bayuk says. These people prioritize time more than anything. As such, they are similar to Passionate Creators in their use of automation technology. They're 61% more likely to use email marketing automation than other business owners. “Freedom Seekers aren't motivated by revenue per se,” Bayuk notes. “These folks want more time. Money isn't the only measure of success for this group.”

Struggling Survivors

“Struggling Survivors are distinct because they've considered closing their business due to the challenges they face,” Bayuk explains. According to the study, 51% of Struggling Survivors are the sole employee at their company. This solitary management leaves little time to implement a sound marketing strategy.

Legacy Builders

As implied by their title, legacy builders are in business to build familial empires, ones that they can pass down to future generations. “[Legacy Builders] are pragmatic. For them, marketing tech may be fairly new and may not be the most practical investment of time and resources,” Bayuk says, adding that Legacy Builders are the least likely of the four groups to have a website (45%). “Many legacy businesses are driven through word of mouth.” 

Marketers Speak out on Data, Email, and the Customer Experience

Marketers Speak out on Data, Email, and the Customer Experience

Occasionally something said grabs you and makes you really think—or rethink an approach you take. I hear many of these at the conferences I attend and during discussions I have with marketing executives from brands and vendors alike. Here, a roundup of recent thought-provoking comments, quips, and quotes. Of course, data is the prevailing theme.

“The concept of first-party data is essential to customer acquisition, but just as important is third-party data to get additional attributes about best customers, and then go out to find lookalike best customers at scale…. Marrying first- and third-party data makes the data so robust, and gives us a 360-degree view of our customers. –Lisa Archambault, head of demand gen marketing,

“Data-driven marketing is a $156 billion economy. Responsible data-driven marketing is a force for good…. Consumers and policy makers need to learn that they get great value from data. The more customers can tell you what they want and they get it in return, the lightbulb goes on.” –Rachel Nyswander Thomas, executive director, Data-Driven Marketing Institute & VP of government affairs, Direct Marketing Association

“Comedy Central is a comedy brand, not just a TV channel…. How we view ourselves has changed our marketing; we're marketing a brand, not a TV show. It used to be that everything was about getting people to tune in…. Now,  we're marketing franchises. –Don Steele SVP, fan engagement/multi-platform marketing, Comedy Central

“Email brand protection is not just a security concern, it must be enterprisewide. New technologies like DMARC reduce fraud, improve email program performance, and rely on mature authentication mechansism like SPF and DKIM that are hard to game. ISPs like DMARC, too, because it protects users' inboxes from unwanted mail.” –Dennis Dayman, chief privacy and security officer, ReturnPath

“So many retailers are missing the opportunity for storytelling online. I built my business by telling stories through photos. –Sophia Amoruso, founder, Nasty Gal

“Customers are not just waiting for you to shove an offer in their face; there's a journey they go through. You need to understand where they are in that journey. What you can do with data is model out where they are in the journey and move them along. It might not be a sale; it might be more information or taking an advantage of a promotion they haven't used yet.” –David Edelman, partner and global co-leader, McKinsey Digital, marketing and sales, McKinsey & Co.

“Email dwarfs every other digital channel. It drives four times more traffic around the Web than other channels do, including search.” –Dela Quist, CEO, Alchemy Worx

“Tough competition? Oh, boo hoo! Don't whine about the competition, be different and better. Be meaningful to your customers.” –Ken Schmidt, marketing authority, speaker, and former director of communications strategy, Harley Davidson Motor Company

“There's a wholesale shift in how companies are trying to engage customers. The term customer engagement is being tossing around because it's so noisy out there that customers tune out. Marketing now requires a new model of customer engagement around conversations, not campaigns. [People] buy from Amazon because ‘they talk to me based on my behavior, not a segment like me; I buy and say thank you.' Everyone wants to market like that. And now the technology exists to do one-to-one. We can all market this way now. It's a paradigm shift, a different mind-set than pushing offers. It has to be about personalization.” –Sanjay Dholakia, CMO, Marketo

“With the amount of data we're collecting we can provide a customer experience more relevant than ever before.” –David Gudal, CMO, Storkie Express

“Marketers have to stop using last-touch to measure conversion.” –Scott Knoll, CEO, Integral Ad Science

“Our core demographic is men 18 to 34, but our customer isn't just guys—it's people with a data-discovered affinity for a specific item.” The James Franco roast, for example, attacted women who know him from his appearances on a soap opera. –Don Steele SVP, fan engagement/multi-platform marketing, Comedy Central

“Familiarity breeds trust. So, market more, not less.” –Dela Quist, CEO, Alchemy Worx

“If you don't test you don't grow. Adopt a nonstop test-and-learn ethos. ” –David Edelman, partner and global co-leader, McKinsey Digital, marketing and sales, McKinsey & Co.

“Data governance and protection is marketers' responsibility, too. What are you willing to do to protect the value of data?” –Rachel Nyswander Thomas, executive director, Data-Driven Marketing Institute & VP of government affairs, Direct Marketing Association

“It used to be that you'd compete on brand or price or product—and those will always exist—but we're entering the age of differentiation based on customer relationships. That will give companies a huge competitive advantage.” –Sanjay Dholakia, CMO, Marketo

“Connect your marketing and tech teams to make the best data-driven decisions. Together they can tie your disparate data together and leverage it. You're held back from harnessing data only by not having those conversations.” –David Gudal, CMO, Storkie Express

Goodbye Junk Mail, Hello Junk Apps

Goodbye Junk Mail, Hello Junk Apps

When I drove a cab in New York City in the early 1980s, Forbes never did stories about hacks. (That's another term for cabbies. I'm not talking about my writing here.) We were happy if someone didn't shoot us and take our cash and boom boxes. But now, in the age of Digital Realization, cab rides are business news. Last week I got a release from a PR firm announcing that Uber had introduced an app that allows people to share rides. How many data divas spent how many weeks cranking out code to deliver society that piece of progress? Because, you see, in my experience, ride-sharing would take place unassisted by digital tools when two individuals would simultaneously lunge for my cab at 4 a.m. outside of Crisco's Disco (a hotspot in the Meatpacking District when meat was still packed there) and learn they were both heading to the Upper East Side. No matter how thoroughly plastered and digitally deprived they were, the deal was instantly consummated. (So, occasionally, was other stuff in that back seat, but we need not get into that.)

It's amazing how the addition of digital technology can make Mashable editors and venture capitalists froth at the mouth. If all of a sudden you started getting Polaroids in the mail of meals and vacations from your mom and the guy in the cube next to you at work, would you mail them back an approving reply or place calls to psychiatrists and police officials? Direct mail has been derided as junk mail, but direct mail has a tangible reality to it and offers discounts. It may be time to transfer that appellation and start talking about junk apps.

What happened to the time when inventions like the locomotive, the automobile, and the telephone generated all the press and investment dollars? When leading tech industries produced essential innovations that reduced our work days, made us more productive, and enriched our humanity? Thomas Edison would have a hard row to hoe these days—unless, of course, he could discover ingenious ways to re-create farm life.

Two of the 10 most used apps in the mobile sphere let people become digital farmers, ironic in that the majority of the world's population lives in a city, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization. Back in 1990 when the Internet was still largely the plaything of college professors, only 40% were urbanites. Now, sitting in the smelly A train on my ride to work down Manhattan's West Side, I watch building superintendents and rising young executives seated nearby on smartphones tending their blackcurrants and pak choi as we lumber into Columbus Circle. If they're successful in growing their “Cropsies” on Farm Heroes Saga, they get digital pictures of flourishing plants. Something tells me that if Edison were alive today, he would employ the prevailing technology to produce an actual salad.

And that would be a good thing. We could use the food. Following WWII, the population of the world was about 3.5 billion. It's now double that and, according to an ongoing series on food in National Geographic, there'll be 2 billion more mouths to feed by the middle of this century, while farmland will be maxed out. Steve Jobs had a famous quote that said that the people who were crazy enough to think they could change the world are the ones who do. He was talking about himself and his Silicon Valley brethren. Apparently, they are crazy enough to claim billions of potential human work-hours for the mission of cultivating virtual acres of digital broccoli for a soon-to-be starving world.

Even Silicon Valley denizens are beginning to voice their disdain for such digital decadence. One is Sam Altman, who runs a startup accelerator called Y Combinator. In a story titled “Silicon Valley State of Mind” in the current issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, Altman says that “When you have people doing things that seem inconsequential, that aren't changing the world as they claim…people really hate that. That's a special kind of arrogance.”

I like to end on a positive note, so for you millionaire code-writers looking to polish your images, as well as your Maseratis, here are some ideas for apps that just might do you and society some good.

RemoRobot: For remote workers, this app would simulate diligent digital at-home work habits. Sets off a phone alarm to alert users to work emergencies when at the nail salon or golf course.

Alive: Big for Baby Boomers, this would create a digital identity for their dead pensioner spouses so they could continue to collect his/her Social Security checks. C'mon, you one-percenters can afford it.

Fly: Makes people weightless for 8 seconds so they don't have to pay Virgin Galactic $250,000 for the experience.

DeInker: Removes unwanted tattoos. Guaranteed, this would be No. 1 in the App Store in 2025.

TD Canada Trust and Samsung Remember to Give Thanks

TD Canada Trust and Samsung Remember to Give Thanks

"Thank you." These two little words are so easy to say, but some marketers seem to have a hard time remembering to say them. What's more, they appear to forget that paying it forward can have big payoffs, including customer acquisition, word of mouth, and loyalty. Here are two recent examples of how companies--specifically Samsung and TD Canada Trust--showed their customers gratitude and were reminded of the importance of giving thanks.

Gratitude for the Galaxy

Two weeks ago my boyfriend and I went to Barclays Center, an entertainment and sporting arena in Brooklyn, to attend Cirque du Soleil's performance of Varekai. I had come straight from the airport after a quick jaunt to San Francisco and hadn't had a chance to grab a bite. Still, I was dreading forking over some serious cash just for a bag of popcorn and a soda—after all, my boyfriend and I live on a journalist's and teacher's budget.

As we entered the arena, a Samsung brand ambassador approached us and asked if we wanted to download Samsung's Owner Hub app. After living in New York for a little more than two years, I've developed this instinctual twitch to just swat away any offer presented to me on the street. Also, as an iPhone owner, I knew that the app wouldn't be relevant to me. My boyfriend, on the other hand, has a Samsung Galaxy (it's a point of contention in our relationship) and decided to give her pitch a listen.

Here's the gist of it: Galaxy owners can download the Samsung Owner's Hub app through Google Play to participate in the Galaxy Owner's Experience. After downloading the app, owners can tap their phone to the Samsung Galaxy Owner signage device to redeem instant rewards, including food vouchers, seat upgrades, free merchandise, music downloads, and even access to VIP lounges and stadium suites. The rewards are on a first-come-first-served basis, the brand ambassador explained. So the earlier Galaxy owners get to the arena, the more likely they are to get a grander prize.

Not one to ignore a killer marketing opportunity, I later followed up with Colleen McDuffe, senior director of digital marketing for Samsung. She informed me that Samsung created the Samsung Owner's Hub app in April 2013 to offer Galaxy owners a source for device tips, how-to videos, free music tracks, and exclusive content. The Apple rival then decided to expand the experience by partnering with entertainment and sports presenter AEG for the instant reward pilot program this past spring. Samsung is able to offer Galaxy owners rewards by embedding near field communication technology (NFC), a contact communication method, into its signage device, McDuffe explained.

“Our consumers are our first priority, and we're always looking to create new and surprising experiences to reward our owners,” she says. “It's important that our consumers are able to connect with our brand and feel part of the Galaxy family to hopefully create a deeper connection and true fans of the brand for a long time.”

So, what happened next? My boyfriend downloaded the app and redeemed a $5-off instant concession coupon. My grumbling stomach was ecstatic, and I quickly slipped my iPhone into my back-pocket as we went to redeem our prize (notice how I said our prize). In a way, both Samsung and AEG benefit from this partnership: Samsung strengthens its customer loyalty and AEG gets us to spend more money at their venues (the $5 didn't cover our popcorn and soda craving).

On the way to our seats, with us already digging into the buttery-coated goodness, my boyfriend mentioned how Apple would never do a stunt like the one Samsung had just pulled. I told him that he was right (which doesn't happen often), but that Apple had such a religious following that it didn't need to go the extra mile. Still, I appreciated my boyfriend's patronage as I popped another kernel in my mouth.

Although McDuffe declined to disclose the program's initial results, this past July Samsung rolled out its pilot program to 41 other venues. Based on that roll-out, and my focus group of one, it seems to be a success. My boyfriend had previously discussed switching to Apple once the iPhone 6 came out and he could get a better deal, but it's safe to say that Samsung's gratitude gift made him think twice about his move—and those results speak for themselves.

Customer appreciation that makes cents

Like Samsung, TD Canada Trust, the Canadian retail bank of TD Bank Group, knows that a little recognition goes a long way. According to Chris Stamper, SVP of corporate marketing for TD Bank Group, there are only five large financial institutions in Canada. So TD Canada needs to do everything that it can to stand out and acquire and retain business. Over the years TD Canada has done just that. In fact, the bank received the highest numerical score among the five retail banks in the 2014 proprietary J.D. Power 2006-2014Canadian Retail Banking Customer Satisfaction Studies.

But Stamper says that TD Canada wanted to thank its customers in a new way and kick its appreciation up a notch. As a result, the brand launched a new ATM—the Automated Thanking Machine—on July 25.

The Automated Thanking Machine isn't a standard ATM. When customers approached the machine and inserted their cards, thinking they were testing a new ATM feature, the machine began addressing them personally and thanking them for being a TD Canada customer. But more than just kind words were exchanged. Sometimes the Automated Thanking Machine dispensed cash. For instance, it gave a young boy who was a new customer $50 to add to his account. Other times, the machine shelled out larger, more sentimental gifts, including flowers, tickets to Disney Land for a mom to treat her children to a vacation, and a plane ticket to Trinidad for a woman who had been sending money to support her ailing daughter who lives there.

TD Canada had only six weeks to build the Automated Thanking Machine. The brand set up cameras in the bank, and put someone inside of the machine who could see what was going on. In terms of deciding which customers to thank, Stamper says that TD Canada asked its branch staff to think of people who were deserving of a little extra appreciation. The bank also analyzed customers' tenure and banking relationship to get a wide-range of patrons.

However, TD Canada didn't want its other customers to feel unappreciated, so the bank launched a cross-channel thank-you initiative. Understanding that all customers transact differently, TD Canada gave $20 to every customer who was interacted with TD Canada online, over the phone, or in person within a branch with a specific time frame. In fact, TD Canada thanked more than 30,000 people within a five-minute window. TD Canada was able to share the social sentiment by posting and monitoring messages on its networks with the hashtag #TDThanksYou.

“We wanted to acknowledge [our customers] and we wanted to acknowledge that without them we don't have the success that we have,” Stamper says. “It was really a chance to give back and also hopefully a chance for them to pass on and say thank you to somebody else, because sometimes you just want to say thank you. That was the theme of the campaign.”

Not only did the campaign allow TD Canada to show its appreciation for its customers, but it also reinforced how customers feel about the bank, Stamper says. He encourages other marketers to partake in the same two-way exchange.

“Without their customers, [companies are] really nothing,” he says. “The customers are everything....It's incumbent on every brand to be able to stop and say thank you and appreciate what they have and the customer base that they have.”

It's Not Just Omnichannel, It's Omnibrand.

It's Not Just Omnichannel, It's Omnibrand.

The last thing marketers need now is yet another technology solution. Not because these technologies are superfluous or ineffective. There's simply too many of them. If marketers hope to realize the truly customer-centric approach of the Amazons and Googles of the world in their own organization, they must conquer the principal barrier to customer centricity: fragmentation.

“Organizations should be figuring out how to rationalize consumer sets across brand and then across channels,” says David Williams, CEO at CRM agency Merkle Inc. and author of Connected CRM: Implementing a Data-Driven, Customer-Centric Business Strategy.

Here, Williams explains the rationale for customers as the primary business strategy, what's holding companies back from achieving such a strategy, and what needs to happen to fix the issue.

What does it mean to set the customer strategy as the business strategy?

There really isn't a consumer-facing brand in America that isn't trying to figure out what this means for them. They're all trying to put the customer at the center of the business strategy. The world isn't all about having a product and trying to get people to buy it anymore. It's about finding that group of people that love your brand and figuring out how to engage them properly. Equally important, business today is about finding new sets of customers and finding a new value proposition that will engage them appropriately.

What role does today's digital mandate play in customer and brand interactions?

If we look at the big trends in the marketplace, digital is a massive disruptor to the way brands and consumers engage each other. The driving force of that disruption is the creation of digital assets and how consumers engage with those assets. There are three dimensions to this disruption. The first is the idea that these digital assets are becoming very addressable. A consumer can buy something on Amazon and Amazon can understand the context of who that person was, for instance. The second dimension is social networks at scale. Facebook, Twitter, and the like are well documented. The final dimension is mobility, which is to say that none of these other things are happening only at home on a desktop, they're happening everywhere.

What's keeping businesses from achieving true customer centricity?

Part of the problem is that this conversation is too rational. It makes too much sense. It's not like you meet with CEOs or CMOs who say they don't want to know who their customer is. Nobody is saying that they don't want or need to engage their customers on a one-to-one basis. This rationalization of the issue doesn't allow business to put a lot of rigor into the planning of these strategies, so they take a capability approach from different vendors, but the reality is they can't really operationalize those things because they don't have the proper organizational design. There's not been enough rigor put into the business piece of what economic or competitive advantage this level of engagement is really going to require. How much time investment are we talking about over time? How are we going to change our incentive systems and organizational design to capitalize on these strategies? All of these things are meaningfully underestimated in these conversations.

Do you think the growing options in the automation field are part of the problem?

You're going to need all of that automation, but nine of 10 people who build and spend money on this stuff will take two to three times longer to realize its full value, if they ever do. They aren't thinking about their different organizational structures, the competency of their teams, and the incentive systems of their teams. They aren't thinking of these things early enough.

So the increasingly fragmented tech space may be hurting customer centricity then?

No question. The reality is marketing is buying more tech than at any point in history. In my humble opinion the CIO should be playing a bigger role in helping build out the road maps for how that tech will be managed throughout the enterprise. This connected CRM conversation extends beyond marketing. Most CMOs own the media budget. Once these things go out of the domain of the CMO then you have to integrate with another organization. Most CMOs don't own the Web experience or the commerce experience. These initiatives are ultimately going to have to be lead by a COO, a chief customer officer, or even a CEO to really find success.

You're Unleash the Power of Marketing Technology

You're Unleash the Power of Marketing Technology

Consider this a personal invitation.

I'm excited to announce the starting lineup for the Direct Marketing News 2015 Marketing&Tech Innovation Summit—and I'd be delighted if you'd join us for what will be an amazing day.

The fact is, marketers can make magic blending the art of creative and the science of data. Add technology to the mix and marketers can achieve results they can only dream of without it. This is true now more than ever before, with technology enhancing every aspect of marketing.

The Summit, to be held on January 29 in New York, will address the many opportunities marketers now have to juice up their creative, fortify their data, and reframe their strategies by adeptly applying the right technology—and, of course, a dash of just the right data. Join us for a day of presentations, panel discussions, and lightning sessions to learn about all that marketing-tech has to offer today to help marketers innovate and move forward at the speed of the customer.

Sessions will cover such topics as attribution and cross-channel analytics, content marketing and lead gen, data quality and management, mobile and social marketing, and omnichannel strategies, as well as harnesses the silver linings in today's robust marketing cloud. Confirmed speakers include Dell Managing Editor Stephanie Losee on content marketing innovation, Mitel CMO Martyn Etherington on reorganizing marketing around the customer and the increasingly digital future, and Mayur Gupta, global head, marketing technology at innovation, at Kimberly-Clark, who will give attendees a glimpse inside the mind of today's hybrid marketing technologist. Plus, Forrester VP and Principal Analyst Sheryl Pattek will reveal the results of an in-depth study on digital marketing maturity.  

But wait, there's more!

DMN will reveal the winners of its inaugural Marketing&Tech Innovation Awards during the Summit. The awards will honor excellence in the combined use of data and marketing technology in such areas as omnichannel integration, email, marketing automation, mobile, and social. Entries will be judged on strategy, execution, and results. Additionally, one category within the Marketing&Tech Innovation Awards—called the Stars of MarTech—will recognize three individuals for their efforts in supporting marketing: a data scientist, a marketing technologist, and a Web wizard. Nominations will open next week. 

I invite you to participate in this, as well. Tell us how data, technology, and the people behind them have helped you innovate your marketing for a chance to capture the spotlight, and gain bragging rights, as a winner of the 2015 Marketing&Tech Innovation Awards.

See you in January, to celebrate all that marketing-tech has to offer. 

Four Loyalty Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Brett Favre

Four Loyalty Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Brett Favre

As a Wisconsin native, I can say (with a slight bias) that Packers fans are some of the most loyal fans in all of football. They'll endure sub-zero temperatures to watch a game at Lambeau Field and sport their giant cheeseheads with pride. They've even formed their own dating site so that they can mate with their own kind.

But the green and gold lovers have endured some heartache over the years. And no wound brings back a sting quite as strong as the Brett Favre debacle. Favre tugged at Packers fans' heartstrings by delivering consecutive wins and leading Green Bay to two Super Bowls. Yet, his decision to retire and then play for the New York Jets and then Packers rivals the Minnesota Vikings was a tough cheese curd to swallow for many fans.

So when the Packers announced that the team would retire Favre's jersey and induct him into the Green Bay Packers' Hall of Fame on Tuesday, I felt torn. Yes, he was an amazing quarterback—one of the greatest—but his retirement shenanigans, team changes, and sexual harassment charges made my loyalty towards him waver.

As I scanned the social sphere to get a sense for how other fans felt, I noticed that many were happy for Favre—even defending him from people who weren't supportive of his induction or were making wisecracks.

Favre's journey is a play-by-play for how brands can gain, lose, and regain customer loyalty. So, in honor of his Hall of Fame announcement, here are four loyalty lessons marketers can learn from Green Bay's own number four.

Have a clear brand identity and stick to it: Besides throwing touchdown passes, this is where Favre excelled at the beginning of his career. He was the leader of the Pack: I mean you don't get mentioned in the mid-1990s Macarena parody, Packerena, for nothing (which is highly worth a listen if you haven't heard it).

But it wasn't just Favre's athletic ability that caused him to win cheeseheads' hearts. He also showed a lot of personality and emotional vulnerability—not an easy feat during a pre–social media era. The fact that he still played against the Oakland Raiders the day after his father passed away in 2003 and supported causes that were close to his heart, like breast cancer awareness after his wife Deanna completed treatment, helped fans relate to the quarterback and further strengthen their loyalty. With marketers having so much access to consumers through a variety of touchpoints, it's important for them to take a clear stance on what they stand for and identify ways that they can relate to their customers on a personal, deeper level.

At the same time, Favre's original image as Wisconsin's hero is exactly what led to his tarnished reputation later on in his career. When Favre went to play for the Minnesota Vikings (we're going to pretend that brief stint with the Jets never happened), some Favre fanatics felt betrayed (note the T-shirts from Zazzle below). How could he sport a Vikings helmet after wearing a cheesehead? 


The move also created a sense of tension towards the Packers in general, as some blamed Favre's team change on coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson's decision to have current quarterback Aaron Rodgers fill the position. And when Favre started accumulating sexual harassment charges, it seemed like Wisconsin's golden boy was gone.

It's important for brands to stay true to their core values and identity. Failing to do so can result in customers feeling divided or deceived. But if a complete rebrand is absolutely necessary, companies should try to involve their customers in their changes, explain why they're making them, and ask for feedback every step of the way.

Be honest with your customers: No one can forget Favre's decision to retire, then play again, then re-retire, and then decide that he was going to give the game one last shot. And it looks like the Internet hasn't forgotten either.

No matter how many yards he passed or MVP titles he obtained, Favre's wavering retirement play will always be part of his brand identity.

Failing to be honest with customers from the get-go always damages a brand's reputation—take Target's approach to addressing its data breach, for example. The big box retailer is still trying to win back customers' trust. So, it's always better to be upfront with customers, even when what you have to say is unfavorable. They'll appreciate it in the long run.

Acknowledge your shortcomings and be a good sport: Many have moved on from the Favre fiasco, but some may still bear a grudge.

Luckily for Favre, social was still in its rookie stages when he left the Packers in 2008. In fact, Favre didn't get an official Facebook page until 2011 and he didn't join Twitter until 2012. But even if Favre had played in the social arena, it would have been important for him to let his fans vent. When customers are angry, it's vital for companies to listen to their complaints rather than retaliate.

However, that doesn't mean that Favre's been out of the public eye completely. He proved that he could still be a good a team player even after retiring. For instance, he hasn't insulted Rodgers (at least not blatantly). In fact, he said that he drafted his successor for his fantasy team. Taking shots at their new leader would have furthered any animosity Packers fan may have had towards Favre. Instead, he took the high road. And brands should follow suit.

Condescending competitors never makes a company look good. Practice good sportsmanship.

Results matter: Despite what Favre put his fans through, many have forgiven and defended him because he did one thing: He delivered. Favre succeeded at doing what his fans wanted, which was to win. And, in the end, that's all any customer wants.

When brands deliver good results, customers will stand by them and defend them. It just goes to show that fans can forgive—they just might never forget.

Photo Credit: Journal Sentinel 

Making the Case for Aggregate Data Over Individual Data

Making the Case for Aggregate Data Over Individual Data

Big data conversations inevitably lead to discussions about data privacy. With good reason. Marketers have more information on customers than ever before, in some cases to the derision of said customers. Sure, some companies are taking user data and creating vastly improved services or products. Others, however, risk annoying customers with marketing those customers consider overly personalized. Perhaps individual consumer data isn't the way to go?

Aggregate data can often achieve the same effect as individual data, but does so without offending customers, asserts marketing consultant and author Koen Pauwels. Pauwels makes a case for aggregate data in his recent book It's Not the Size of the Data--It's How You Use It: Smarter Marketing with Analytics and Dashboards.

Here, Pauwels discusses what's missing from the big data conversation, makes a case for aggregate data over individual data, and provides advice on how marketers can make better sense of their increasingly tech-oriented responsibilities.

What are marketers missing when it comes to data?

When you talk about branding, people always bring up Apple. Smaller companies say, “Well, we can't be like Apple, so let's not even try.” [Similarly,] everybody looks at the big shining examples of big data: the Internet companies. A lot of folks look at the hype and see these shining case studies and can't relate. The big data hype is actually alienating many marketers. With big data, there's a lot of benefit in analyzing the data you have.

What are some ways marketers can leverage data outside of what may seem apparent?

A lot the application has been in the digital arena; the data consumers give to banks or phone companies. This is data that can be used to track people and there's a ton of privacy issue there. Most of the data you can get at the more aggregate level is going to be much less annoying [for consumers] and much more useful.

There's a car company that lets consumers build their own car on its website. People just put in their Zip Code and make a car. At the end the company asks for emails and most people probably just leave. However, the company still has the ZIP Codes. They can see that these models are in demand in this area, or these features in that area. You don't need millions of individual data points if you can work on an aggregate level like this.

Speaking of privacy, what's your take on the relationship between data and privacy compliance?

There is a lot of privacy that I'm personally ready to give up as long as I trust the company, and actually see them using my data to give me better solutions. I'm happy to keep cookies on if, at the end, I get more relevant advertising. Privacy is important, but I think a lot of people are willing to trade some for better solutions.

Of course, what I see is a lot of companies that continue to serve me ads that have nothing to do with me and I think that's where consumers begin to get annoyed. Companies should be clearer about how they're going to use our data and what they are using it for. They should let consumers select how much data they want to give and who it goes to.

What about when consumers don't want to give up data?

It's the same deal we had 20 years ago with relationship marketing. Brands want relationships with me, but I only want a relationship with particular brands. For the rest of the brands, I'm very happy to just be an anonymous customer. I don't want them to know about me and I don't want them to send me emails. I just want to be their customer.

How can marketers get a better handle on data without getting too deep into tech, or do they need to be more tech savvy?

Marketers need to know what types of solutions are out there so they can evaluate when people try to sell them to you. You don't need software, you need courage and vision.

I use an analogy of a dashboard in my book. When you're driving a car you don't have to know exactly how the engine works. You don't have to know how many little explosions are going on in there. You do have to understand the metrics on the dashboard in front of you; things like speed and fuel levels. You have to understand that if you put your foot on the gas pedal then speed will increase. You don't have to be a technician to understand this.

Voice of the Customer Is Far More Than Surveys

Voice of the Customer Is Far More Than Surveys

Any company that wants to deliver an excellent customer experience has to start with voice of the customer (VOC). But most organizations don't really understand their customers, nor are they able to keep pace with changing customer needs, preferences, and expectations. So said Research Director Jim Davies during a session at the Gartner Customer 360 Summit 2014.

Davies explained that VOC comprises three types of feedback: direct, where you ask for feedback such as through a survey and customers give it; indirect, where customers are talking about you instead of to you, as with a tweet; and inferred, where the actual feedback is in customers' heads but can be surmised based on information such as behavioral and operations data. VOC is about bringing all three together to get a holistic view. It includes collecting, storing, analyzing, and then acting on that feedback.

Putting a comprehensive VOC strategy into place isn't an overnight process, Davies said. He noted that the best approach is multiphased. For example, start with auditing current VOC activities and building a business case; then define the full scope of VOC and assign supporting metrics; and then pilot technologies and roll out specific initiatives. While this takes time, it's also important to be nimble, he said. “Are you a meerkat or tortoise in terms of VOC?” he asked. Meerkats are fast, alert, and community focused; tortoises are slow and plodding.

Davies' recommendations included:

For direct feedback—

When surveying customers, be engaging, personal, relevant, brief, and timely. Also be multichannel; that is, consider which channel is right for that customer and that interaction. Most important, take action. “There should be processes in place to act on what you've learned,” Davies said.

In terms of event-based surveys that are linked to a specific interaction or event, use no more than three or four questions. For relationship surveys—where customers are asked how the relationship's been over X period of time—use 10 to 12 questions. “Be prepared to be open and follow up,” Davies advised. “‘We sucked at A and B, and we've completed improvements on A, and are still working on B.' Customers who feel listened to are more likely to give additional feedback.”

Davies also recommended using strategic surveys with subset of key customers. These surveys are usually phone-based and dive into detail about a specific topic.

Indirect feedback—

When determining where to look for indirect customer feedback, consider which channels provide the best blend of volume, richness, and usefulness. For example, there may be reams of tweets on a brand or topic, but it may be random chatter (“Heading to Starbucks for my morning jolt”) instead of opinion or sentiment. Davies also suggested that marketers consider scalability, cost, and timeliness.

Inferred feedback—

All interaction channels are relevant—from email responses to contact center conversations to website behavior. Look for reporting that shows how a channel is performing in terms of customer experience; for instance, heat mapping a mobile app.

The key to creating a holistic—and more actionable—view of customer sentiment is to put all three together, Davies said. His recommendations for doing so were:

Collect: Prioritize projects to collect all three types of feedback based on the richness of each as determined by pilot programs.

Analyze: Determine the right data model and supporting analytics tools and then use them to transform customer input into actionable insight.

Act: Creative action plans to address opportunities and problems revealed through customer feedback. These may involve changes to people, process, and technology. Distribute relevant insight and the corresponding actions across the organization in a timely manner.

Own: Get commitment from the CEO for a major VOC strategy. Find an owner who has cross-department responsibility to join pieces together.

Collaborate: Create a VOC team with a mix of full- and part-time involvement. Find people who are passionate about listening to the customer and want to use that insight to drive the business forward.

“VOC works and there's business value in doing it,” Davies said.

All the Post Office Needs Is a Little Repackaging

All the Post Office Needs Is a Little Repackaging

Direct mailers' primary interest in the U.S. Postal Service is rates. They like them low. They don't like exigent or emergency or any other kinds of rate increases outside of the price caps set down by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, and they're not so crazy about them. They feel they and their huge Standard Mail volumes are floating this particular government boat while the Internet sucks away First Class Mail like a Dyson DC65 Animal and “underwater products” are allowed to stay buoyant due to their largesse.

Though First Class volume continues to decline at a steady pace, big mailers still need to cheer it on, because it's more profitable on a per-piece basis than Standard and helps keep them from paying even more. In the six months ended March 31, First Class contributed $5.5 billion (the amount of the annual retiree health benefits bill the Postal Service can't pay) more in revenue than Standard Mail did—and did it with 8 billion fewer pieces. But that can't last for long. First Class is in a free fall. What big mailers need to root for most as a rate hedge in the future is USPS's shipping and package business. Not only does it own the highest growth rate of all the Post Office's lines of service at 8% to 11%, but its upside is enormous.

According to a new study from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service, “Package Services: Get Ready, Set, Grow!”, the Postal Service accounts for almost two fifths of the total volume of the shipping business, but less than one fifth of the revenues. USPS's focus on lightweight packages returns it a revenue-per-piece of $3.37 as compared to $9.70 for FedEx and $9.39 at UPS—for whom postal carriers provide last-mile delivery of light packages.

What the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) prescribes is a customer-driven package delivery strategy focused on capturing a larger share of the online retail business. OIG suggests that the Postal Service's personal relationships with customers along that “last mile” give it a competitive advantage, but that, to take advantage, it needs to match value-added services offered by rivals and introduce innovations. Suggestions include back-end fulfillment on printing and payment, scheduled pick-ups, real-time tracking, time-definite service, and mobile apps.

OIG cites an Accenture study suggesting that the Postal Service's shipping business may be giving away too much to its hundreds of millions of customers. It found that consumers would be willing to pay extra for special services such as accelerated delivery, delivery scheduling, and secure delivery and retrieval. What consumers dislike most about all shipping companies, the study found, were packages that were delivered at a bad time, left unattended, or lost or damaged.

Undoubtedly, the Postal Service should be able to find ways to close that $6 dollar gap in revenue-per-package, but you could add the potential solutions to a wish list to be sealed and opened after postal reform is enacted. A delivery company that can't afford to replace 20-year-old trucks has a hard time positioning itself as an innovator.

In the meantime, direct mailers, you send out a few million packages now and again, don't you? Do the patriotic and rate-rationalizing thing and choose USPS for your package delivery needs. I hear they'll be a good buy once UPS and FedEx move to dimensional pricing in 2015.

The State of B2B Marketing Automation

The State of B2B Marketing Automation

The question isn't whether you need marketing automation; it's when. The answer: It depends. According to Sirius Decisions, the overall penetration of B2B marketing automation is about 16%, but it varies by industry. In IT there's 65% adoption, but there's only 8% adoption in manufacturing and 4% in financial services. The growth rate of marketing automation adoption is about 22% per year. At that rate, if you're not in the race you might wind up watching competitors pass you from the sidelines in the not too distant future.

On the plus side, according to Sirius Decisions' Jay Famico, practice director, and Jen Horton, research director, marketers have more choice than ever before. The marketing-tech stack is growing as big vendors gobble up small ones, they said during a presentation at the Sirius Decisions 2014 Summit. Additionally, the market continues to expand, and some new vendors are extending marketing automation further into the customer life cycle.

Even with this growth, all is not rosy. One third of B2B organizations feel they're not getting value from marketing automation, Famico and Horton said. Perhaps that's in part because more than 40% of marketing automation users have less than two years of experience in marketing, thus less of an understanding of both the industry and the technology. Consider: 32% of those with more than six years of experience in marketing have SVP and CXO titles, and 57% of those with more than four year of experience are directors and above.

Another issue with marketing automation: Only 68% of B2B marketers surveyed score leads. Worse, only 40% of salespeople agree or strongly agree that lead scoring is effective.

Famico and Horton shared a few recommendations for improving the marketing automation experience:

  • Understand the market-tech ecosystems, and then prioritize use cases before integrating technologies.
  • Harness the tools to create dynamic websites. Audit and map site content, then align it with buyer personas and stages in purchase cycle.
  • Build in the time to test marketing initiatives and campaigns, and then use the results to optimize them. “No more excuses,” Horton said. 
  • Improve workflow and resources management by auditing process performance and making any necessary enhancements.

“Marketing automation is good when processes are good,” Famico said. “Automating poor processes will make you sink.”

Do You Really Know What Motivates Your Customers?

Do You Really Know What Motivates Your Customers?

At 10:30 p.m. this past Saturday about 1,500 women and a handful of men decked out in the most elaborate brassieres you can imagine gathered at the starting line of the second annual Moonwalk New York City. I was one of them.

What on earth were we doing? We were participating in a power walking race hosted by Walk the Walk, a charitable organization that funds breast cancer causes like research and support for women battling breast cancer. Some of us were going to be walking a full marathon (26.2 miles); others were going to power through a half. All of us were brimming with enthusiasm and had made concerted efforts to raise money and awareness for Walk the Walk.

There are many races and other activities that support breast cancer research and related initiatives. So, why the Moonwalk? It's the unique connection participants have with the event. We want to support this specific and important cause, and we want to have fun doing it. Big fun that makes a statement and gets noticed. More, we want to make a difference for others while challenging ourselves. We're a unique “customer segment” that identifies with Walk the Walk's mission and wants to be part of the action.

What's all this got to do with marketing? Everything about the organization's Moonwalk (and Sunwalk in other cities) is an experience that has marketing build into it. Consider this: 1,500 participants wearing festively adorned bras powering walking their way through the streets of Manhattan on a Saturday night, passing by revelers enjoying a beautiful evening at sidewalk cafes and bars or making their way to a show or party or late night dinner—many of whom stopped their conversation midstream to observe and discuss the uniquely dressed racers, and in somes cases to cheer us on. Yeah, that's marketing in action.

For participants the experience is immersive: You train, fundraise, decorate your bra, power walk for hours, cheer, celebrate, tell everyone you know. For onlookers and friends and family—many of whom are prospective participants—the experience is participatory by extension; it may be as simple as spreading the word by discussing the event or as involved as helping the walkers to train or adorn their bras. There are also the many volunteers whose participation, support, and enthusiasm were invaluable to running the event most of all, but from a marketing perspective were integral to the Moonwalk's outstanding customer experience, as well as the word of mouth through their evangelism.

Assuredly, next time Walk the Walk hosts a Moonwalk in New York it will be much larger than 1,500 participants. 

So, what can direct marketers learn from all this? No surprise here: Learn about what motivates your customers and use that insight to connect with them and inspire them to act: to engage, share, purchase, come back for more. Understand your customers' needs and aspirations and then communicate with them in context and with relevance.

There may be many other terrific races and events that support breast cancer causes, but there's only one Walk the Walk, with a mission and approach uniquely aligned with a specific segment of customers. The marketing is built into the “product”; that is, the connection Walk the Walk has to its participants' motivations is the foundation of its marketing. It inspires participants to donate and fundraise, decorate and discuss, and then power walk a marathon or half, most recently starting at 10:30 p.m. through the streets of New York City. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ms. Conlon neglected to include one detail about the Moonwalk: She won it, tying for first place with a time of 5:55.

5 Trends Influencing Marketing Today and, More so, Tomorrow

5 Trends Influencing Marketing Today and, More so, Tomorrow

Trendwatching is one of those activities that seems both fun and overwhelming. There are so many shiny objects, the challenge is to determine what's real and what's fluff. Anita Gandhi and John Fetto are pros at trendwatching and were tasked to bring their most recent findings to the stage at the Experian Marketing Services' 2014 Client Summit in Las Vegas. Gandhi, VP, strategic insights, consumer services, and Fetto, senior analyst, research and marketing, for Experian Marketing Services, assert that the five trends marketer need to watch now, and over the long term, are:

Internet of Things
Omnichannel consumer


Fetto pointed out that mobile is “a transformational experience more than a trend.” He added that although a few marketers are making headway with mobile, many are still struggling with it and others are on the sidelines waiting to see what leaders do—an unwise approach, he said.

Within mobile, there are a few areas to consider. According to Fetto, we're entering the age of the phablet, and end of the laptop. Laptop shipments are down and phablets sales are up. By 2017 there will be more phablets than computers. Additionally, 91% of smartphone owners are mobile shoppers, and most millennials connect to the Net via their smartphone, versus other devices.

Also, “snackable content is up,” Fetto said, because so many people are reading on mobile in transit. As a result, there's an increase in visual social media like Instagram and Pinterest.

Fetto recommended three solutions trend for mobile:

Capture data – Companies need to collect and verify accurate mobile contact information during an interaction, and then maintain its accuracy.

Link – Know your customers and their preferences in terms of communication channels.

Profile – Determine what content will most engage customers,  as well as via what mobile interaction point (app versus mobile website).


The amount of customers posting reviews is astonishing, Gandhi said. In fact, 82% of consumers post reviews and 81% read them, she said, adding that the reasons they do so include the love of community and addicition to a favorite brand.

What else is behind the trend? Customers enjoy answering the cry for help by providing information about products and services to other customers, Gandhi said, citing Yelp as an example. Also spurring it is the democratization of innovation through crowdsourcing. According to Gartner, by 2017 more than half of consumer goods manufacturers will receive 75% of their consumer innovation and R&D capabilities from crowdsource solutions, Gandhi pointed out. Additionally, companies are leveraging “customer creatives,” customers who love shooting picture and videos, by using that creative for ads—or having customers actually create ads.

Gandhi recommended two solution trends for crowdsourcing:

Profile – Learn what will motivate and engage your customers. “You have to understand what motivates them to do your work,” she said, adding that marketers should use data to create a rich picture of their customers.

Plan – Use the information you have about you customers to determine how to harness the power of the crowd.


Media fragmentation has forever altered the media buying landscape, making it nearly impossible to create an optimal media plan. The average person watches nine networks a week, Gandhi added; plus, there are millions of websites, along with all the other digital and traditional channels.

The result is that programmatic is no longer just for remnants; it's also for upfronts and other premium positions, she said. “In the age of addressability, you're not buying publications; you're buying a specific audience,” Gandhi said, citing as an example consumers who are coming off-lease with the cars in the next six months.

Gandhi's recommendations:

Target – Identify the right audience for specific initiatives or campaigns, whether that segment is off the shelf or pulled from an existing customer list. And then, when you use programmatic, make sure that you're getting the audience you paid to target, not just anyone.

Engage – Once you've selected that audience, buy it across all media to deliver consistent messaging.

Internet of Things

The millions of connected devices—such as cars and home automation—are beginning to

modifying search, and will continue to do so as more devises come online, Fetto said. This creates an in-depth profile of what we're doing throughout the day, he added. This potential for unique insight is resulting in acquisitions and a race for control; for example, Google buying Nest and Apple's upcoming launching of HomeKit. “Home automation is the leading edge of the sword,” he said.

Fetto's suggested solutions:

Link – Identify an individual customer or household's connected devices to get a holistic view of the data available; but do so while maintaining customers' privacy.

Enrich – Add layers of insight in such areas as consumer attitudes and brand preferences to any existing one-dimensional data you may have.

Omnichannel consumer

More than 60% of consumers use four or more platforms per day and 85% of U.S adults are now digital, Fetto said. “Consumers are blind to channels,” he said, except if brands get in the way by providing disconnected experiences. Consider as an example, Startbucks' omnichannel loyalty program, which allows customers to easily purchase via loyal card or mobile, as well as refill their card via mobile, POS, or Web.

Fette's recommended solutions for marketers:

Capture – Ensure that your customer data is correct and current; validate it at the point of purchase.

Link – Synchronize any customer identifiers across channels to create a holistic view.

Engage – Deliver consistent targeted content, messages, offers to customers across channels to create relevant, meaningful interactions.

Analyze – Track and measure customer responses and behaviors and then used that information to create a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement.

It's all about the customer, more than ever before, Gandhi said: “It's the data about your customer that will drive your ability to capitalize on these trends.”

4 Elements of Modern Marketing

4 Elements of Modern Marketing

We all know that customer expectations continue to rise and competition is tougher than ever; the question is how brands can stay relevant to their customers in that environment, Matt Seeley said during the opening keynote at Storytellers, Experian Marketing Services' 2014 Client Summit. Seeley, group president, North America, for Experian Marketing Services, recommends that marketers get back to basics to keep moving forward. He advised attendees to focus on four areas:


Courage: It takes courage to change. Real change starts with company leaders. They need to get out and interact with customers and get a firsthand view of the customer experience.

Whether you're a lead the marketing team or are part of it, you need to be the person who's part of that change, who's willing to collaborate and do what's right for the business and the customer, not just your own silo.

Simplicity: You need to simplify. It's harder than ever to differentiate your brand; one way to do so is to simplify your message. Another way is to simplify the structure of the marketing team. A third is to adopt agile marketing—it's an effective way to evolve quickly, but do so always thinking about the customer. Finally, focus on what matters most. Begin with what you're not going to do so you can prioritize what you should and will do.

Authenticity: Start with what's authentic about your brand. People know when you're disingenuous. Be real.

Customer: Everything should start with the customer at the center, from overall marketing structure to individual campaigns. Also, use data. It tells a story about your customers. It will guide you to the right decisions.

Why rethink your approach to marketing? “I guarantee there's someone in a garage right now trying to take away your customers,” Seeley said.  

This Summer Vacation, Drift Into the Polar Vortex

This Summer Vacation, Drift Into the Polar Vortex

You can attach your business to the marketing clouds of Salesforce, Oracle, or Adobe, but sometimes a connection to clouds controlled by a higher power is the one that delivers you to the promised land of Exceeded Goals. That's where Paul Walsh comes in.

Remember the polar vortex that buried the East in snow and sent the GDP reeling last winter? Well, Walsh says it's back. But this time, instead of multi-car pileups and missed school days, it's gracing the Dog Days with dry air and 70-degree temperatures. And it's bringing marketers an opportunity to make back all the money its icy-mannered cousin stole from them in Q1.

“When the polar vortex hits in winter, it brings the weather that can kill you. Think Donner Party,” says Walsh, who served as chief of weather operations for the 101st Airborne during Desert Storm and now forecasts how weather affects business for The Weather Channel. “But it's just the opposite when it comes in summer. You're going to see tons of people outside spending money traveling, shopping, and just feeling good and loving life.”

I know this is short notice, but Walsh's message for the loyal readers of this blog is, if you have travel plans for the next few weeks, cancel them. Now through the first week of August, when the vortex displays its kinder, gentler side, is the time for marketers to make back all the sales they lost in January, February, and March.

“When it's really hot, people do cocoon. It's happening right now on the West Coast, where it's much hotter than it should be this time of year,” Walsh says. “When the weather's dry and fabulous, as it's been nearly every weekend in the East, people get active and will spend, both offline and online.”

Marketers don't align their plans with the weather nearly enough, Walsh says. Weather forecasting is more an exact science than behavioral analyses predicting who's going to open what emails. “Weather is really, really predictable. Forecasts are correct 95% of the time, and people plan their lives around what those forecasts are going to be,” he says. “What I advise my customers is to support a strategy that gets out in front of that phenomenon. Align your marketing with what the weather will tell you your customers might be needing at a given time.”

With that idea in mind, Walsh has a long-term advisement for those still intent on sitting out this summer vortex opportunity in a beach chair: Don't build your winter marketing and inventory plans on what you did last year. He's confident that this winter will be wetter and milder. Plan on selling more toys and electronics at Christmas, he says, than down jackets and mukluks.

When it Comes to Storytelling, Tyson Is No Chicken

When it Comes to Storytelling, Tyson Is No Chicken

Ah, the chicken nugget. Although it's a simple breaded snack, its dinosaur or cartoon-shaped presentation leaves the impression that it's a food reserved for those stuck at the kiddie table. But for consumers who can't let the bite-sized bird go, there's Tyson Food's Home-style Chicken Fries.

Chicken Fries are a more mature version of the chicken nugget for teens and preteens who are too cool for the child-like cuisine. So when Tyson introduced the “any'tizer” to big box retailer Sam's Club, it needed to show busy CEO moms that its Chicken Fries were a quick and convenient snack for this growing segment. As a result, Tyson launched a multichannel campaign in April 2013, in which it relied on cross-channel storytelling to drive awareness around the product's debut.

“Our past marketing strategy was always about get[ting] as many customers as you can....Now it's very much changed,” says Karen Doan, Tyson's group marketing manager for alternative channels and customer marketing. “It's about retention and loyalty; and storytelling [does] that.”

Hatching stories through social

Knowing that consumers turn to social networks for recommendations from family and friends, Tyson launched a slew of social initiatives to get customers talking about the product and engaging with the brand.

For starters, the brand engaged shopper social media company Collective Bias to leverage its blogger community to generate content, such as recipes. Bill Sussman, president and CEO of Collective Bias, says that the social media company drove traffic to these bloggers' sites via its proprietary syndication platform and through paid media. And because each blogger within Collective Bias' community has at least 50,000 followers, according to Sussman, the company also generated traffic organically. Furthermore, Tyson shared the content via its social channels, such as its Pinterest page.

Given that different platforms appeal to different audiences, Tyson varied its content depending on the social network. For instance, Tyson turned to Facebook to learn more about its customers' eating habits, by including a time of consumption survey on its Club Tyson page. Customers who answered the survey were entered into a chance to win tickets to a Six Flags theme park. The brand also hosted “Twitter parties” to drive engagement.

Doan says leveraging social media helped Tyson shift its engagement mind-set from a “what's-in-it-for-us-marketers?” mentality to a “what's-in-it-for-our-consumer?” viewpoint.

“If we're driving shares, then that would drive the content,” she says, “not the other way around.”

Linking online and off

In addition to reaching moms through social, Tyson relied on a mix of digital and in-store touchpoints, such as banner ads on, as well as point-of-sale dipping sauce and dinner recipes. But if the poultry seller really wanted to reach moms at every touchpoint, it would have to spread its wings and connect the on- and offline experiences.

One way Tyson bridged the digital and in-store experiences was through mobile. The brand relied on geofencing and geo-targeting to reach moms who were within a five mile radius of a store. In addition, Tyson hosted in-store demos where shoppers could sample the Chicken Fries. As for shoppers who couldn't make the demo or had never shopped at Sam's Club, Tyson had its bloggers take pictures of their Sam's Club shopping trips and upload them to Google+.

Roasting the competition

The campaign generated some cluckin'-good results, including a 100% increase in share of voice, more than 4,800 pieces of content created, 32.7 million impressions, and triple-digit growth in sales.

Tyson has introduced new social channels, such as Instagram. In addition, Doan says that the brand has increased its focus on reengaging consumers, including following up with customers who retweet one of the brand's posts.

“It's great that everybody is all excited and [that] you're getting a lot of tweets," she says, "but did we listen and did we take action from that listening?”

A few bad eggs

Still, a few challenges remain. For instance, although Tyson has a dashboard, Doan says keeping track of all of the brand's incoming data remains an issue. She also says connecting the data from customers' on- and offline experiences is an area in which Tyson needs to improve.

However, if Tyson continues to focus on the customer, odds are its competitions' goose--or chicken, rather--will be cooked. 

“Make sure that you're thinking of what the customer wants and everything will come from there,” Doan says. “When you think about customers and what they want, then you're authentic, you'll have loyalty, and you'll have retention.”

This Company Doesn't Collect Data. Here's Why.

This Company Doesn't Collect Data. Here's Why.

If you ask any marketer to list the one essential thing they need to do their job, the majority will undoubtedly say “data.” Data makes the marketing world go ‘round. Want to deploy a targeted email campaign? You need email addresses. Want to customize your preference center? Go get yourself some customer data. Looking to target, customize, optimize, and personalize? Data, data, data.

One might wonder, then, why Lawrence Gould and Tom Donnelly, founders of 99cimages—a new stock site that sells 99-cent single-use licenses for high-resolution images—decided that their business model wouldn't include any data collection. And the answer is simple: “When you go into a store every day and buy your newspaper or milk, they don't ask you for your name or address—they just take your money,” Gould says. “They're local, they're well-priced, and that's why you go there. You don't need to give them your details.”

Visitors to the 99cimages site can browse images and add them to their cart, doing what one would normally do on a stock image site. The difference comes when it's time to pay. At that point users aren't asked to log in; they're taken to a PayPal page to complete the transaction. Unique users are tracked through their buying session to give them a seamless browse-to-purchase experience—but that's where the tracking ends.

This approach means that 99cimages never has to worry about data breaches; it also poses a few marketing challenges. What about lead generation, promotional emails, data gathering for targeted messaging? As Donnelly somewhat cheekily noted in the press release announcing the 99cimages site launch: “Having a username and password makes it so much easier to track users through the system. You can also fire a ton of spam junk-mail at them to send them important marketing messages that you know they will need at some point.” Touché.

Gould and Donnelly came up with the idea for 99cimages while the world was first being rocked by revelations of the Heartbleed bug. The thinking went: Why put yourself and your customers at risk for what's essentially a minor purchase? Why create an e-commerce experience that requires registration, a login, and a complex password, and collect credit card information, only to put out the welcome mat out for would-be hackers?

“We haven't even started to scratch the surface of the consequences of Heartbleed and how many people lost money as a result of failings in the system and the massive fraud that may have been perpetrated,” Gould says. “It's our feeling that there's going to be a sort of backlash and people are will interact with fewer and fewer trusted parties, and with companies like us that specifically don't collect data.”

But it's not like Gould is against data collection. He acknowledges that it does make sense in many cases—just not all cases. For example, at some point down the line, as 99cimages expands and offers more high-value products, asking users to authenticate themselves by creating logins and profiles will become necessary. But the 99-cent PayPal image option will always remain.

In other words, when it comes to data collection, resist the temptation to hoard. Just collect what you need—and what you actually intend to use.

While it doesn't have customer data to rely on, 99cimages does, of course, engage in marketing, including Twitter and Facebook outreach, banner ads, and viral tactics.

As for the data-driven marketing industry, Gould in no way begrudges marketers their data collection ways—but he would give them these words of caution: “Marketeers have to collect data; it's valuable stuff and they've got to send their emails out,” Gould says. “But my feeling is that the pendulum is going to swing and that there will be a backlash when people really realize how much of their information is known by brands.”

Marketing: The 'Yes, We Can Do It—Wait, What's the Question?' Department

Marketing: The 'Yes, We Can Do It—Wait, What's the Question?' Department

What isn't considered marketing these days? Customer service, branding, analytics, tech, even procurements; if something impacts the customer experience, the responsibility—and the repercussions—often fall directly into marketing's already overfilled court.

According to recent research from AtTask, 60% of marketers are either utterly overwhelmed by or just barely meeting their deadlines. That's partially because members of the marketing department, like the members of most other departments, are dealing with mountains of email while repeatedly being pulled into unfocused meetings where buzzwords are buzzed, but nothing gets accomplished.

But the biggest issue marketing has to deal with is the rapidly changing tech landscape, says AtTask CEO Eric Morgan.

“The marketing team has similar problems to those felt by other groups, yes, but there's also a uniqueness to the problems experienced by marketing—we can't forget that the demands on marketing are increasing every day,” Morgan says. “Multichannel digital marketing demands are completely different from what was being demanded of marketing even five years ago, and it's creating a situation of accelerating pain points for marketing folks.”

Everyone and their mother's been banging on about the need for marketing and IT to collaborate—and for good reason. According to research conducted by Gartner, 67% of marketing departments set the marketing-tech strategy, compared to just 13% of IT departments. ROI depends on a good, silo-free relationship. But, as Uncle Ben so famously said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And if I can add to that statement: With great responsibility often comes more work—if not for the department head, then for the worker bees.

“With the advent of the cloud, the demands on IT are lessening in some respects because so much can now be done without the headaches associated with the traditional IT environment,” Morgan says. “The pain is migrating from one department to another, and we need to acknowledge this and deal with it.”

And with 53% of CMOs saying that digital marketing growth has made them more accountable for raising revenue, as per a study by Deloitte and Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, the pressure's on.

So, what can marketers do to up the productivity and decrease the pressure? Mostly, it's just about being realistic.

Take your head out of your silo. Unless you're a farmer, nothing good ever comes out of a silo—ever. “Silos are often about departments drawing proprietary lines around information and communication—the things they should be sharing,” Morgan says. “But if an organization is open, the fewer silos they're naturally going to have, and the more productive they're naturally going to be.”

Don't just shuffle the deck. Every department can absorb a certain amount of extra work or new necessary tasks—but there is a limit. I'm not all that math savvy, but this equation makes sense to me: More work (plus) fewer people to do it = burnout. There's more than ever to do, but you can't just move tasks around the table or reassign them from one person to another and think that's going to solve the core problem.

“If you're asking people to do more work, you need more resources than your current resources to be productive,” he says. “Or, if there really are no more resources, you at least have to help prioritize the work around real, rational business conversations.”

Take stock of what's really going on. Without internal transparency, managers can't fully assess where the productivity issues are—and if there's not a true understanding of current and potential commitments, that's a formula for ineffective workflow.

“Embrace the notion that you need to track and understand all the work and resources you have across your team,” Morgan says. “Even small requests can add up and they need to be managed.”

Don't be a knee-jerk. Know what you're signing up for before you commit your—or your employees'—precious time.

“I often call marketing the ‘Yes. Wait—what's the question?' department because they're often paranoid that if they don't say yes to everything, then it's going to get outsourced,” he says. “Compare that to the IT department, which I like to call the ‘No, that's not in the budget' department.'”

It's not a quick fix, but companies with a culture of transparency and willingness to change are at a clear advantage to the silo-mongers. And it's not going to get any easier, so you might as well start now.

“No matter who you are or what you do, whether it's marketing or anything, when you feel enough pain, that's when you realize it's time for a solution,” says Morgan, who notes that there's no better time than the present. “The problems that are presenting themselves today go above and beyond the things that have historically kept marketers up at night—and it's time for marketing teams to embrace a new way of running their departments.”

When CRM Morphed Into CMR

When CRM Morphed Into CMR

The vast and immediate information resources of the Web--and its numerous and ever-evolving delivery devices--have placed ultimate power in commercial proceedings in the hands of buyers. Not just consumers hardwired to Yelp and Amazon, but B2B buyers, as well.

A study released this week by Harvard Business Review Analytics says that business purchasers, on average, have completed 57% of their due diligence before they engage a sales rep. And educated buyers are needy buyers. HBR's analysis quotes a recent survey of salespeople in which two thirds said their customers' expectations had increased either noticeably or significantly.

Suddenly customer relationship management is morphing into--years-old but rarely used--customer-managed relationships, and sales professionals are scurrying to adjust. “It really hasn't been an overnight kind of thing, but to some degree sales organizations in the B2B space didn't appreciate that it was happening,” says Johann Wrede, global senior director of solution marketing at SAP, which sponsored the HBR study. “CRM was the old paradigm. It was a dictated process. Here's the funnel, take a sale from stage A to stage B in 15 days. But the reality now is that the customer is in charge and the buying process is no longer linear.”

To get in the game, says HBR, sales organizations and their marketing colleagues have to turn the tables and collect and analyze online behavioral data from customers. Along the way, salespeople have to cast off some longstanding habits, such as discussing only positives, steering accounts to certain products, and making believe the competition doesn't exist. “To meet rising expectations,” reads the HBR report, sales reps need to “act as trusted counselors…who can offer decision makers advice on solving problems and preparing for trends—counsel that often extends beyond the products or services they're selling.”

While quota-driven salespeople may find it difficult to adopt such radical behavior on a full-time basis, the challenge presented to their employers is even greater. “Sales is locked into what systems have been provided to them,” Wrede says. “There's been a lag in identifying this trend among companies. Their systems are designed for the funnel approach as opposed to informing salespeople in the Big Data approach.”

Wrede says the technological tools are available to power the transition. In The Mobile Mind Shift, coauthor and Forrester SVP of Idea Development Josh Bernoff says that some of the most successful business apps are ones that put selling information into the hands of B2B salespeople when they're in front of clients. SAP provides free mobile apps to customers and also uses predictive analytics to help them increase their success rates. But the human element must be attached to the tech piece to make it work for the sales rep, and the lone wolf deal closer may become an endangered species, as a result.

“No one salesperson or program can know everything the customer is going to need to know,” Wrede says. “There has to be collaboration across the enterprise. There has to be a virtual deal room with people across the business helping salespeople win accounts.”

Will the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball Ace Multichannel Marketing?

Will the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball Ace Multichannel Marketing?


The World Cup is a time for soccer to steal the spotlight on the global sports stage. And while many have been caught up in the football frenzy, Leonard Armato has been focusing on an entirely different sport: volleyball. As the founder and CEO of Management Plus Enterprises, one of the creators of the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball along with NBC Sports and the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball, he's relying on marketing to bump the sport to the forefront.

The ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball is a week-long beach festival and volleyball tournament that takes place in Long Beach, CA from July 22 to 27. Top athletes from across the globe, including three-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings, compete for a $1 million purse. Fans can also play against each other for cash prizes, and enjoy performances by musical acts.

The event was born out of the success beach volleyball experienced at the 2012 London Olympic games, as well as the popularity and high gross value of music festivals like Coachella and group competitions like Tough Mudder, Armato says. Consider: Tough Mudder has accumulated more than 1.3 million participants to date, according to its website, and garners from $2 million to $10 million increases in local economic activity per event.

“My theory is go big or go home,” says Armato, who is also the former CMO of shoe company Skechers and president of Skechers Fitness Group. “To cut through the clutter...[and] create something that's interesting and has mass appeal, you need to draw from what's trending in pop culture.”

Nearly three million watched the televised event in the United States alone in its inaugural year, and an additional 11 million tuned in outside of the U.S. With the event entering its second year, Armato plans to step up the tournament's positioning. For instance, he's aiming to grow the event's TV viewership to more than 15 million, as well as increase the tournament's attendance by 20% and fan participation by 50%.

To achieve these goals, the tournament is targeting a range of prospects, including volleyball fans, general sports enthusiasts, people who enjoy social competitions, and music lovers.

“What we're trying to do now is really tap into the grass roots who like volleyball as a whole and make sure that we can reach as big of an audience as we can,” he says. “Our goal and objective is to appeal to a mass audience—not just a niche audience.”

The event is also relying on different channels to appeal to different audiences. For instance, the brand is leaning heavily on social—including Facebook buys, blogs, and influencers with prominent followings—to target various volleyball communities. However, the tournament is turning to radio to reach prospects within certain demographics, such as millennials. The competition is using NBC TV spots and PR to appeal to broader audiences.

“We try to fish where the fish are in that respect,” Armato says.

Furthermore, sponsors are promoting the event in their respective channels. For example, title sponsor and athletic footwear company ASICS produced a series of workout videos for volleyball players starring Walsh Jennings and ASICS trainer Michelle Lovitt. In addition, the company has a designated landing page where people can sign up for a sweepstakes, shop ASICS beach volleyball bikinis, and watch other videos about the tournament.

Armato expects the event to be “in the neighborhood” of one billion impressions by the time it kicks off.

But with the event less than a week away, one has to wonder: Have these efforts been enough to stand out amid the World Cup clutter? Although the World Cup is over, Armato is aiming to leverage the “fever” that people have for international competition: “Hopefully, we can transfer the excitement and interest of the people who have been watching the World Cup to the World Series, which is the same kind of thing. “

Get Integrated Analytics—or Get Lost (as in Lost Customers)

Get Integrated Analytics—or Get Lost (as in Lost Customers)

Travelocity recently noticed, and quite alarmingly, that it was losing customers right at the point-of-sale on its car rental page. And it just kept happening. A visitor would select options from the various dropdowns—pick-up airport or city, pick-up day, drop-off day, car type, etc.—and seem just on the verge of making a booking, only to abandon at the moment of truth.

It certainly was puzzling. Travelocity's Web team tried to re-create the problem, but to no avail. Every time they tried to make a booking it worked seamlessly. They were at a loss and they were losing money. Travelocity then turned to IBM's Tealeaf to diagnose the problem. As part of its offering, Tealeaf lets users replay real-life Web and mobile sessions in full-fidelity to help brands identify particular struggles and patterns of behavior with the aim of improving the customer experience.

And this is what Tealeaf discovered: People really were trying to book, but the time of day dropdown menu was defaulting to midnight—a time when most of the car rental places were closed. Visitors who mistakenly left “time of day” blank were, by default, told that there were no cars available when indeed there were…just not at midnight. Travelocity's internal people didn't realize the issue, even when they were troubleshooting, because they always entered a time into the dropdown that fell within business hours, and when you did that, the system functioned just fine.

“As people move more and more into these multichannel, omnichannel worlds and become more digitally focused, there's an increasing demand for better insight on the customer and the ability to provide in-context understanding across the customer journey and across touchpoints,” says Ken Bisconti, Tealeaf business leader at IBM. “This is about getting a holistic understanding of customer lifetime experience.”

In other words, it's a multichannel world, so—logically—we need multichannel analytics or customer experience is at stake. If you want to actually “get” your customers and give them more of what delights them, you need the kind of customer information that doesn't come in a silo. “Companies have an ocean of data on their customers, but they're still struggling to gain insights and actionable data,” Bisconti says. “And that's going to have a potentially significant impact on revenue, loyalty, satisfaction, and operational costs.

Remember Captain Planet's catchphrase, “By your powers combined, I am Captain Planet!”? Analytics should be a bit like that: a combination of digital analytics (quantitative Web and mobile traffic, conversion metrics, etc.); behavioral analytics (understanding the customer journey); social analytics (sentiment, share of voice, etc.); and predictive (using to optimize real-time automation)—all brought together in the service of actionable marketing.

“There's an unwritten rule between the customer and a brand in today's world that if a company has information about the consumer and it's not putting it into action, then the customer either stops giving information to that company or starts doing business with someone else,” Bisconti says. “So let me ask you, why is every interaction with a brand not a marketing opportunity?”


2014: The Year of Transition for Marketers

2014: The Year of Transition for Marketers

Every aspect of marketing needs to be rethought. That's the strong—perhaps jarring—sentiment from James Gross, cofounder of marketing technology company Percolate. Gross says marketers are in a time of major transition; and to rise to and then exceed customer expectations and company demands, modern marketers must innovate, reshape, and transform their approach to strategies and execution.

I recently chatted with Gross about how marketers can not only survive, but thrive in a neo-age of ubiquitous technology, ongoing interaction, and deep personalization. Gross challenges marketers to embrace an industry-wide evolution—from the content that marketers create and the audiences they target to the various channels they use and methods they deploy. In this candid interview, Gross explains how an epoch of impactful campaigns is emerging right before our eyes.

Q: Why do you consider 2014 a year of transition for marketers?James Gross of Percolate explains why this is the year of transition for marketers.
James Gross: Well, at some point in 2014 we're actually going to [reach] more than 3 billion Internet users [or roughly 40% of the world's population]. That's an amazing feat. There's no other technology or service that enables [that many users] other than the Internet. And what's interesting is that the network only gets stronger with the more people that [use] it.

Why is this so important for marketers? Well, [analysts] predict that from 2014 to 2019 Internet users will reach about 6 billion people—basically the amount of people will double over the next five years. So that [growth] will enable and allow marketers to do things that they've never thought of before with vast sharing and culling of stories, info, and content.

Q: So, how should marketers rethink channels?
Gross: Well, channels are a really interesting concept.  We're moving [away] from a world of what used to be very finite channels—you know: network television, radio, billboards. The channel model is moving from what was a limited amount of channels to a world of infinite channels. So, essentially, strategy has to change from only reaching mass audiences at very specific times to reaching anyone in the world at anytime. [Marketers'] channel strategy needs to be totally be rethought [to reflect the change] in this new world.

Q: What about changes in content?
Gross: Marketers are going to have to move from just thinking about stock content. And what I mean by that is content that's built to have a very long shelf life; [for example], a commercial is meant to be in market for about nine months. They're going to have to move from that content to what we call flow content. These are quick hits of content—smaller, bite-size pieces of content that are often relevant in the moment but not relevant outside of the moment. So, the brand has to [make a] move to create more of this flow content in order to be relevant all the time. Of course it's not just about flow content. [Brand marketers] need move from just stock to [a combination of] stock and flow content.


Q: And what new approach should marketers take when defining their target audiences?
Gross: I think the thing marketers need to remember is that audience [size] is just getting bigger. I mentioned the number of Internet users reaching 6 billion. The other thing [to think about] is there's a growing world middle class; it's a sort of metric built out by the World Bank. It includes anyone who makes between $10 and $100 a day. It's a different middle class than what you would think about in the United States, but it's the global middle class.

What's amazing about that stat is that the World Bank predicts that the number of people in the middle class will swell to 5 billion; so, we're going from the current 1.8 billion to 5 billion. For most [brand marketers] who sell most of their products or services [to the middle class] this means your [potential] audience size is nearly tripling in the amount of people you could possibly reach. And, again, with a vehicle like the Internet [that allows marketers to] reach [potential customers] your audience is just going to grow.

Your ability to ascertain—and win that market share over—basically comes down your ability to now reach these new audiences and communicate why they might want to buy your products and services. It's exciting. It means marketing as a discipline is growing. Marketers need to think bigger about their reach.

Q: How should a modern marketer reconsider processes—or the way they're getting to an end result?
Gross: It just goes back to this idea of how marketers traditionally worked. Marketers made their buying decisions months in advance, then built campaigns around those [times and channels].

We're moving from that model—which still works—to a much bigger opportunity. The process of marketing—sort of, what's been a small, internal marketing team, and possibly an agency of record—needs to be rethought. Those changes stem from the natural [evolution] that technology has brought. Modern marketers and the marketing department have to expand their impact through systems technology.

Vids Are Meant To Be Seen and not Viewed

Vids Are Meant To Be Seen and not Viewed

Where were viewability standards when my father would hightail it to the bathroom during a break in McHale's Navy and miss the commercial for the '65 Oldsmobile Cutlass? Let's face it, advertising has always been a dicey game, metrics-wise. You try to tailor your creative to your target audience, pay big money to plop your spot in the middle of your demo's favorite show, and then hope for the best. In the pre-digital days, you depended on Nielsen families to make entries in diaries to determine the TV ratings of a nation. Were we even sure all Nielsen families were literate? A crapshoot at best.

Now that actual opens and views of ads can be digitally recorded and compiled, you'd think there'd be no more griping about the accuracy of metrics. Think again. Last week the Media Ratings Council (MRC) pronounced a final benediction over its Ad Impression Measurement Guidelines. A display ad is considered viewed if at least 50% of the pixels are viewable for one second. Same for videos, except that two seconds of a video has to play for it to be kosher.

“This is just more of the same. It's still very complicated to create a standard that suits everyone,” says WebSpectator CEO Andre Parreira. “At the end of the day, no one wants to buy a premium video slot for two seconds. They don't want their video viewed, they want it seen.”

WebSpectator promises its advertiser clients at least 20 seconds of exposure for their videos by targeting their ads to users whose behavior the company tracks. “We create impressions. Our system knows that when we make an RTB request, that user is likely to spend 20 seconds with that video,” claims Parreira. His point is that his definition of a viewable ad hardly squares with the MRC's definition, and so no advance has been made.

The MRC, which was charged with crafting a definition acceptable to both advertisers and publishers, disagrees. “We did a lot of research and found a balance point. At the two-second mark, we think the publisher has provided the opportunity for the ad to be seen,” says MRC SVP David Gunzerath. “If the buyers and the sellers of advertising want to consider something beyond that and negotiate it, that's all well and good. But for a baseline metric, we think two seconds is appropriate.”

The negotiating is likely to be hot and heavy, as the viewability standard inevitably deflates the premium video inventory. “We all understand the value of a viewable standard, but viewable impressions are not all seen, and once the supply goes down, publishers are going to have to make up for the loss in revenue with premium pricing,” says Craig Simmons, manager of product strategy and operations at Exponential.

Simmons is of the opinion that the MRC definitions give advertisers a starting point from which to create their own definitions of viewability with publishers. He says that ComScore and Double Verify are just as capable of measuring videos as viewable at three or five seconds as at two. But, as has always been and likely always will be the case with advertising, measurement must be merged with gut feelings and common sense.

“As an advertiser, you have to set expectations accordingly. I can't stress that enough,” Simmons advises. “A lot of marketers say that what they want is 100% viewability, but that's not realistic. That's not how our industry works.” Fifty percent is more like it, he says.

Spangler Candy Is No Dum Dum When it Comes to Email

Spangler Candy Is No Dum Dum When it Comes to Email

There's no sugar coating it: E-commerce sales are booming. Forrester Research expects online retail sales to reach $414 billion by 2018 and to account for 11% of total U.S. retail sales, according to its “US Ecommerce Forecast:  2013 to 2018” report.

But this isn't exactly sweet news to candy manufacturer Spangler Candy Company. Less than 5% of the Dum Dum and Saf-T-Pops maker's customers purchase its products online via Jim Knight, VP of ecommerce and IT for Spangler Candy, says that the company's products are often considered “giveaway” treats for banks and barber shops and that most companies, as well as consumers, buy the sweets at major retailers, such as Walmart or CVS. While consumers tend to only purchase a few pieces of candy at a time in-store, business customers purchase candy in bulk. Hence, the purchase cycle is much slower for B2B customers, and it can take them longer to refill their orders. So, Spangler Candy needed to find new ways to gently prod them to do so.

As a result Spangler Candy worked with retention automation provider Windsor Circle and digital marketing software provider ExactTarget to send out automated emails that remind previous purchasers to order their sweets.

“They say that your best customer is your current customer,” Knight says, “and it takes a lot less money to have that customer order again than to generate a new customer. We're trying to find ways to use our current customer base to prompt them to reorder and generate sales from that as opposed to spending money trying to convert new customers.”

Finding customers' “sweet spot” through data

Spangler Candy analyzes its sales data to find out where its customers are in their purchase journey, and then sends targeted emails based on that information. Spangler Candy sends its B2B and B2C customers one of three types of automated emails: win-back campaigns, thank-you emails, and new customer emails. Although the brand started sending the win-back and thank-you emails in September 2013, since July 2010 it had been sending welcome emails to customers who signed up for its newsletters to confirm their subscription.

The initial win-back emails were sent to customers who hadn't purchased Spangler Candy's products for more than six months, according to Windsor Circle. These emails contained a “We've missed you” message along with a discount code. As for the thank-you emails, Spangler Candy sent these messages of appreciation to customers who had made only a single purchase since February. These emails thanked customers for their business, offered promotional codes, and encouraged customers to sign up for the company's newsletters.

Because it was working with two different flavors of customers—B2B and B2C—Spangler Candy had to adjust its marketing accordingly. For instance, B2C consumers were encouraged to sign up for the company's “Candy Connection” newsletter, while B2B customers were urged to sign up for the "Candy2Business" newsletter. The consumer-facing newsletter contains such content as flavor updates, calls-to-action to its social channels, and notifications about its app, Knight says; the business-centric newsletter includes promotional codes for bulk purchases and information on why it's important to thank and reward your customers—such as with candy.

“We try to give appropriate content,” Knight says.

Delectable results

Each of the initial automated emails delivered scrumptious results. The win-back email generated a 30.1% open rate and a 9.1% click-through rate—both roughly two times higher than the 2013 averages. In addition, the win-back email generated a 2.38-time lift in Spangler Candy's average weekday sales numbers, and the day it was sent out was the highest revenue day the company's had since 1998.

In fact, the campaign was so successful that Spangler Candy built another win-back series targeting customers who made their last purchases four months, eight months, or 12 months ago, according to Windsor Circle. The four-month emails generated a 24.4% open rate and a 6.3% click-through rate, the eight-month emails generated a 24.5% open rate and a 6.2% click-through rate, and the 12-month emails generated a 28.4% open rate and a 9.9% click-through rate.

Furthermore, the September thank-you email generated a 45.4% open rate and a 7.9% click-through rate.

Spangler Candy decided to send out a series of three thank-you emails after seeing the success from its first campaign, according to Windsor Circle. These emails were sent within a certain number of predefined days since a customer's first purchase. Customers were then removed from this list once they made a second purchase. This campaign also generated tasty figures, including a 23.8% open rate and a 4.2% click-through rate.

Finally, over the course of July 2010 to September 2013, the welcome campaign for "Candy Connection" subscribers generated an average open rate of 42.9% open rate and an average click-through rate of 14.2%; the "Candy2Business" welcome campaign generated a 50% open rate and a 19.3% click-through rate.

Knight says that Spangler Candy decided to communicate with customers via email as opposed to another channel because customers had opted in to receive the communication. “They signed up for a newsletter about our product, so they're probably a loyal consumer or a loyal business,” he says. “They have an invested interest.... Pay-per-click works very well, too, but it's going out to anyone.”

A sticky situation

Despite Spangler Candy's finger-licking figures, a few challenges remain. For instance, Knight says that the brand is unable to connect customers' in-store purchases to online sales.

“Right now, our fulfillment center operates as a solely separate business,” he says. “We don't have any way to share any data with our sales department that's selling to retail versus our ecommerce customer. We can have people buying from both, one or the other, or switching back and forth, we don't really have a means to track that.”

Fortunately, Knight now has a consultant to help him mine Spangler Candy's data. Learning how to transform data into insight has been one of the biggest leanings from this experience, he says. “The main thing is taking data and turning it into information, rather than just data,” Knight says. “Information that you can make decisions [from].”

What's the World Cup Coming to? Mobile.

What's the World Cup Coming to? Mobile.

The number of smartphones users will total roughly 1.75 billion globally in 2014, according to estimates by eMarketer. By 2017 that number's likely to reach more than five billion.

Social engagement dominated the World Cup this year, partly because everyone lives with their phones in their back pockets. As the games--and cultural phenomena around the games--unfolded, fans shared the various moments on their smartphones in unprecedented fashion. The Super Bowl ain't got nothing on the World Cup.

But not all smartphone usage is social. In fact, only about 30% of people said they planned to use their mobile devices during the World Cup for social-related activity. According to The Wall Street Journal and  Statista, 58% said they'll be using their phones to check information like scores and news; 46% said they'd be engaging with content, like watching live-stream games; and 37% said they'd be using their phones for transactional activities like phone-based ticketing, gambling, and downloading paid apps.

But no matter how you slice it, one thing is clear: Fans love their phones. The World Cup may be almost over, but these experts all agree: The second screen wins every time—but you need a strategy to match.

“The World Cup is a cluttered arena for advertisers, from major sponsors down to the little guy, everyone wants in on the action, so whatever you do, start with strategy,” says Howard Hunt, executive director of client service at MXM Mobile. “Identify what content you're going to share with the world and then use savvy mobile activation to enable your story.”

Scoring with contextual messages

The World Cup is an event that “transcends sports,” says Jeremy Sigel, client director of mobile at digital agency Essence. For that reason, brands should consider what fans are doing at all times—for example, watching television at odd hours, visiting bars during certain key games, etc.—and make the most of those opportunities with contextual messages that enhance the user experience.

“Utilize dayparting [delivering marketing messages during precise time slots] and capitalize on second-screen use,” Sigel says. “Know the World Cup schedule by time zone. With nearly half of all Americans using mobile devices while watching television, align creative messaging on both social and paid media channels with the current match to make your brand relevant and additive to the consumer.”

No need to reinvent the wheel

Coke is an exemplar of this. The brand currently is using the QuizUp to serve World Cup trivia to the app's more than 20 million registered users. And at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Coke called on agency MXM to create a global Web experience that invited millions of fans to share and vote on mobile videos of their most ecstatic goal celebration moments throughout the games. The winner snagged a ticked to the final match.

Although Coke certainly has the cash to create its own app, it tapped into QuizUp and YouTube—places where fans were already engaging—rather than creating something totally new.

“For any major event, there will already be some really useful apps, so unless you have the budget to create something truly unique—don't waste your time,” Hunt says. “Plan for your search, social, and standard mobile activation channels to drive traffic consistently, and if you already have a robust mobile applications, then simply integrate your Web experience there and activate through push notifications.”

Tech is cool, but don't forget about the user

Brands certainly should take advantage of mobile technology, but also should “focus on your customers first,” says
James Smith, VP of North American marketing at Sitecore. “Work with your developers and content teams to find out what existing content can be made more valuable to users. Even if you don't have time to build a mobile site, you can still produce content that will perform well on mobile, like optimized videos that tend to drive engagement better than written content or images.

Another reason to consider the customers experience: For many people around the world, soccer is like a religion, and brands need to be deferential when it comes to promotion. Think about the emotional state of your potential customers as they nail-bitingly watch the games. In this regard, Dr. P.K. Kannan, professor of marketing science at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, calls mobile a “double-edged sword.”

Let's say a fan is served an ad while checking on the scores. It might seem innocuous at most times, but—depending on the tone and content of the messaging—the ad could certainly feel like salt in the wound if that fan's team is on the rocks or has just been eliminated.

“Such intrusions can be bad and the negativity of the situation might rub off on the marketer tying to pitch their offering,” Kannan says. “Have built-in rules that say things like, ‘Run this mobile ad if the U.S. is ahead or winning, [but] don't run it when they have lost a game.' Sensitive marketing is key in such situations.”

15 Digital Facts Every Marketer Should Know

15 Digital Facts Every Marketer Should Know


In 2014 digital is at the heart of everything for brand marketers and their campaigns—from email and social to webcasts and mobile. This digital marketing age, no doubt, underscores the importance of omnichannel messaging in a time when consumers expect marketers to be always on. Of course, marketers can meet and then exceed those expectations with the right digital know-how. Here are a 15 trends, tips, and stats that every modern marketer should know to create seamless, successful marketing campaigns in the digital age.

1. Blogs are 63% more likely to influence purchase decisions than magazines. (Optimind Technology)

2. Emails with no subject line were opened 8% more than those with a subject line. The reason: An email without a subject line shows more email preview text. (Signals)

3. Forty-seven percent of Americans say Facebook is the number one influencer of their purchases. (Social Media Today)

4. Seventy percent of marketers used Facebook to gain new customers. (HubSpot)

5. Seventy-seven percent of buyers are more likely to buy from a company if its CEO uses social media. (War of Words: Myth-Busting Social Media, SEO & Content Marketing) Here's a great example of engagement by General Electric CMO Beth Comstock:

6. Yet, 36% of executives say their CEO either “does not care,” or “cares little” about the company's reputation on social media. (Polaris B)

7. The average buyer consults 11 consumer reviews on their path to purchase. (Optimind)

8. Seventy-eight percent of CMOs think that custom content is the future of marketing. (WebDAM)

9. Forty-two percent of U.S. consumers site familiarity with the sender's name as the main influence on deciding whether to open a promotional email on their mobile device. (MarketingProfs)

10. Seventy percent of brands now have a presence on Google+, up from just 4% in the last quarter of 2012. (Social Media Today)

11. Seventy-one percent of marketers say they plan to have Big Data solutions in place in the next two years. (ZDNet)

12. Eighty-six percent of companies are comfortable marketing with social tools, but only 41% use social tools for communicating with customers. (Forbes/Aberdeen Group)

13. Americans spend 4X more time on mobile devices compared to newspapers and magazines. (Percolate)

14. The leading platforms for U.S. smartphone use are Android (53%) and iPhone (40%). Blackberry now accounts for just 3% of the market. (Heidi Cohen)

15. Using videos on landing pages can increase conversions by 86%. (Optimind Technology)

This Really Is the Year of Mobile. Seriously.

This Really Is the Year of Mobile. Seriously.

People's lives have become so dominated by their mobile devices that they not only find themselves constantly able to do new things with their magic machines, but they also expect new things from them. Which means they expect new things from marketers and their mobile apps--and not just new things, but the right things. That's one of the themes put forth in The Mobile Mind Shift, a new book from Forrester analysts Ted Schadler, Josh Bernoff, and Julie Ask. We asked Bernoff, the research company's SVP of idea development, for some marketing intelligence on providing memorable mobile moments.

Has mobile thrown a monkey wrench into the best-laid plans of marketers and enterprises?

Yes, while they weren't looking, the main locus in which people interact shifted. It's no longer Web, it's mobile, and mobile requires a completely different way of thinking about how to interact with consumers. You have to connect them to services as quickly as possible and give them the information they're looking for. Marketers concentrate on telling you what you should hear right now, but people connecting with mobile devices are interested in solving their current problems.

Marketers have christened each of the past three years the “Year of Mobile.”  Why is this the year that was?

I think this is the year because of what I see in the marketplace. There are two completely opposite trends happening at the same time. There is a high degree of need, and at the same time a low degree of capability. A lot of companies are saying mobile is taking place, but the number of companies that have it under control is very small. There are a lot of them coming to us saying, “We need your help.” About 80% of the effort involved in mobile engagement is in reengineering back-end systems to connect with mobile. We project that companies will spend $189 billion in 2017 to redo their systems.

We worked with a healthcare company that had an excellent app, but had poor customer ratings on it. People said that when they tried to execute the features, they didn't function properly. The reason is that reworking the back end in healthcare companies is very hard.

So rewiring companies' back-end systems is the business to be in. Who's poised to clean up?

KPMG's Cynergy unit, Mobiquity, Sapient Nitro--these are some of the companies that have proven themselves adept at delivering successful mobile applications.

What kinds of tricks do IT systems need to be able to do to synch with mobile?

They need to be effective at connecting with mobile devices. They require a new kind of platform. You have to have as much [of your mobile capabilities] in the cloud as you can to deliver at the speed you need. You need to line up with third parties like Google Maps, for instance, on capabilities you can't build yourself. You need to be able to deal with enormous surges in traffic. Think about an airline operation. A passenger is at the airport and opens his airline app to find his gate. You have to respond quickly to deliver that. These apps have to be developed rapidly and they need to iterate rapidly. It typically requires an agile development team that can deliver results in a matter of weeks and then review and improve on them in a matter of weeks. Big companies have mobile steering committees to determine how to allocate resources.

Marketing apps are notorious flops. Name three things they must have to succeed.

The first thing companies have to do is to understand the difference between apps and sites. They need to invest in a site that's ready for mobile. Many people will find you through search first, so that site has to be designed to take as much traffic as possible. Adaptive design is not sufficient; you need to design for reach. Also, for an app to be workable, it has to actually be useful. That's where most marketing apps fall down. Columbia Sportswear has an app called "What Knot to Do in the Greater Outdoors." Some hiker is out on a mountain and needs to tie a certain knot, and this app tells him how. It's utility marketing, the next step beyond content marketing.

What about B2B enterprises? Have they been as affected by the shift as B2C companies have?

I get that question all the time and, yes, of course, there are several ways mobile has changed B2B. B2B customers are human, and like everybody else they're using mobile all the time. There are far fewer effective B2B apps, however. One place where apps can be very effective are in selling situations. To explain something complicated in a sales call, a visual like a table or chart can make a salesperson much more effective. Trane, the air conditioning company, increased its close rate from 35% to 65% with an app for field reps. They used to crawl around somebody's house, then go out to truck and write a quote on a business card. Now they can enter the information into the app, show it to the customer, and say, “Here's why you need a higher-end system.”

In your book you write that “mobile is not a channel.” Please elaborate.

We learned, in some sense, the wrong lesson from online. Remember when e-commerce was new? People in retail thought they had figured it out. Online is like a channel, a separate store. But mobile is not a very good selling channel. It's more of an informational channel. You're not going to buy a lawnmower on a mobile phone, but when you're in the store it can help you choose what lawnmower to buy.

Now that the Year of Mobile has arrived, do marketers who are behind still have time to catch up?

You really can't wait at this point.  More and more companies we talk to tell us that more than half of the traffic on their websites is coming from mobile. This is a complete shift in the way people interact. So unless you are prepared for it now, you are going to be way behind. You can't declare this the Year of Mobile and then miss it.

Nike, Coca-Cola, and Emirates Clench Top Three World Cup Social Spots

Nike, Coca-Cola, and Emirates Clench Top Three World Cup Social Spots

Argentina, Brazil, and the Netherlands may all be positioned to take the World Cup, but Nike, Coca-Cola, and Emirates are the current champs in terms of social mentions. Social monitoring company Engagor analyzed World Cup sponsors' social campaigns between June 12 and June 24 and discovered that, although not an official sponsor, Nike scored 357,000 related brand mentions while Coca-Cola and Emirates trailed with 297,000 and 169,000, respectively.

“Social media is allowing brands to engage with the three billion-plus football fans worldwide,” says Folke Lemaitre, founder and CEO of Engagor. “It has given teams the ability to grow their fan bases immensely...and has provided fans with the ability to connect with each other about the game on an even larger scale.”

A winning roster

Although Nike is not an official World Cup sponsor, the sportswear company is backing 10 teams—including Brazil, France, and the United States—to compete with opponent and FIFA partner Adidas. In addition, Nike featured several popular athletes—both in avatar and human form—in its “Risk Everything” and “The Last Game” films.

The company also has a “Risk Everything” landing page where fans can shop the official Nike World Cup jerseys and create customized avatar action shots to share with their social circles. To keep the momentum going, Nike is launching the Nike Soccer App on July 10, which will allow users to chat with fellow football fans, shop gear, learn about the athletes, and receive alerts for Nike Academy—the brand's pro-level training program. 

As for official FIFA partner Coca-Cola, the beverage company has been pouring its marketing dollars into several World Cup initiatives, including its Happiness Flag, television and digital films, and a music anthem. Similar to Nike, Coca-Cola has also created its own soccer program called Copa Coca-Cola Camp.

Finally, official FIFA partner Emirates showed its football fervor both on and off the ground. For instance, the airline displayed the 2014 FIFA World Cup Winners Trophy in the Dubai Airport and hero images from its #AllTimeGreats commercial—featuring soccer legends Pelé and Cristiano Ronaldo—at airport checkin desks.

Passengers flying one of Emirates' 16 new Boeing 777 aircrafts can watch matches live. Emirates even had Pelé autograph it first Boeing 777 plane—or “Pelé-ane.” Travelers flying via another aircraft can also opt to receive goal-by-goal text updates via the plane's digital screens.

Engagor's Lemaitre says that Nike, Coca-Cola, and Emirates' active fan engagement is what's driving the brands to victory.

“These brands are continuously engaging with followers about the World Cup,” he says. “Each has built a strong social media campaign around the event, showing that they're not resting on their brand name alone.”

Foul moves

However, where there are winners, there also must be losers. Pepsi, Visa, and Continental have the fewest social mentions with 32,000, 13,000, and 6,000 respectively.

“The brands at the bottom have made very little push to engage with the World Cup social audience,” Lemaitre says. “Most of their social engagement around the tournament has been reactive and each seems to be primarily focused on other initiatives.”

Pepsi, although not an official sponsor, created a “Now Is What You Make It” TV commercial featuring music artist Janelle Monáe and top soccer players. The spot also has an interactive digital version that allows fans to click on it to unlock hidden features.

Other notable World Cup initiatives from Pepsi include a vending machine that requires people to mimic the pros moves to earn a soda and “Pepsi Beats of the Beautiful Game”—a series of visual soundtracks that pairs short films with anthem songs to illustrate the spirit of the games.

In regards to FIFA partner VISA, the financial services company is promoting its “Everywhere You Want to Be” tagline in full force through social. For instance, the organization asked 32 filmmakers—one for each of the qualifying countries in the World Cup—to create a 90-second video showing what the World Cup means to their country. All of the videos featured the same soundtrack to create the “Samba of the World” microsite. VISA also launched a World Cup-themed video game to teach people about personal finance, appointed a group of “fanbassadors” who capture and curate fans' experiences through video and photo content, and created a “teletransporter” that allows fans to upload an image of themselves in different World Cup scenarios—such as on the field or in a dinner setting with footballer Fabio Cannavaro.

Official sponsor and German automotive manufacturer Continental has also created an entire site dedicated to World Cup coverage. 

The championship continues

But as the World Cup shows, rankings are not always clear cut. For instance, although Coca-Cola has more social mentions than rival Pepsi, Pepsi's mentions have more positive sentiment. According to Engagor, 58% of the sentiment around Pepsi was positive compared to just 14% for Coca-Cola—82% of Coke's sentiment was neutral and 3% was negative.

“This is likely because [Pepsi's marketers] aren't attempting to make a social splash around World Cup or taking advantage of the buzz,” Lemaitre says. “By staying out of the conversation, they are limiting the risk of negative sentiment.”

Likewise, although Nike had nearly four times as many social mentions as Adidas, only 16% of them were positive compared to 23% for Adidas.

If marketers want to have a game-winning social strategy, Lemaitre says that they need to be nimble by engaging with fans consistently and adjusting their campaigns on the fly.

"By actively engaging with fans on an individual basis, brands are able to capture the attention of more followers and create more buzz around their message," he says. "Brands that adjust their strategy in real-time, keep a close eye on the trending topics during the World Cup, and create dedicated campaigns [through hashtags, competitions, etc.] are able to stand out in the crowd."

Looks like the games are not over yet. See the complete social roster below:


Number of Mentions

Positive Sentiment

Negative Sentiment

Neutral Sentiment


































































The First Truly Social Cup

The First Truly Social Cup

Sochi who? Less than halfway through the games, the number of World Cup-related social interactions already trumped that of the Academy Awards, Olympics, and Super Bowl combined. So sayeth the Facebook, amen.

It's not surprising, considering the international nature of the World Cup and the sky-high Facebook usage rate in Latin America. According to Brazil-based media and marketing company IMS, more than 97% of Latin America residents (those with an Internet connection) use social media, and the continent overall has 13% more Facebook users at 179 million than the U.S.'s 158 million. Not to mention the mobile adoption rate in LatAm, which eMarketer estimates saw a 45%+ increase in 2013.

Social media is a notorious leveler of the playing field (soccer reference!). A small brand can have as big a share-of-voice as, say Coca-Cola, if it knows how to use social right. So the question in my mind is why brands even both sponsoring big events like the World Cup. Seems it would be easier, and significantly cheaper, to hijack the opportunity on Twitter, Facebook, or wherever the audience happens to be.

According to research from GlobalWebIndex, 38% of consumers have no idea that non-sponsor brands like Nike, Pepsi, and others, who've been running full-on World Cup campaigns, aren't, in fact, official sponsors. If a brand's on social media, it can align itself with the World Cup as easily—and as vocally—as any other brand that's shelled out millions on an official sponsorship.

Volkswagen's a good example. Without spending a penny on sponsorship, VW and its agency Deutsch LA created 288 mini videos, each featuring a computer-generated VW Golf spinning around a soccer pitch while the animated crowd screams “GOOOOOOLF!” The videos were deployed one by one right beside's live-streaming of the matches each time a team scored. The videos were even color-coded to match team colors. It's designed to generate buzz, and that it's doing.

The social engagement potential at the World Cup truly is staggering. Social intelligence company NetBase created live dashboards (here's one) to show all the social media activity swirling around the World Cup in real time, including mentions, impressions, emerging topics, sentiment, and a map detailing geographical hot spots. When I happened to check last week, the dashboard showed that there'd been roughly 11,700 tweets in a single hour, generating about 11 million impressions. In just one hour. #WorldCup2014 has been trending on Twitter basically since mid-June. It's a social bonanza out there, and brands, sponsors or not, should be capitalizing on it.

I caught up with Craig Elimeliah, SVP and director of creative technology at RAPP, to talk social strategy and what brands can do to tap into the raw social power of events like the World Cup. Here are his top tips:

Hash it up. Hashtags, the really relevant ones, don't just capture moments—they aggregate those moments and allow brands to organically (one would hope) piggyback on culturally relevant conversations as they're happening.

“Brands are becoming more comfortable jumping on non-branded hashtags,” Elimeliah says. “As culture bubbles certain hashtags up into the mainstream, brands should take advantage of those moments and adopt those hashtags.”

A little context never killed anyone. The World Cup is a big social opportunity for brands—but only if they develop messaging that jibes with the zeitgeist.

“Brands should look to create reasons for people to share and provide rich context with a focus on what's happening around the world and how people are talking about it,” he says. “It's a chance to dial up the emotions and map them back to the brand pillar so that the brand can try and own certain moments—which in a way is ‘real-time marketing,' but I'd rather call it ‘right-time marketing,' because it's about activating the right message at the right time based on what's happening contextually.”

Look beyond the games themselves. The matches are a big deal, of course, but what's happening off the field is just as important, at least culturally.

“Look at the periphery of what's going on around the games and what you can do within the white space between games,” Elimeliah says. “Really track what's going on so you can have the right people putting out the right communications at the right time to activate the right responses.”

But try not to be annoying. Realize that sometimes, fans just want to focus on the football. “Advertisers have to be wary about disruption and putting out too much,” he says. “Timing is important, so brands need to think about when and how it's appropriate to reach out to audiences.”

And now I leave you with Elimeliah's favorite piece of World Cup advertising, the Beats/Apple/Nike collaboration for “The Game Before the Game.” It's got it all: emotion, good storytelling, context, a non-branded hashtag (#gamebeforethegame)—and none of the brands involved are official World Cup sponsors. Of course, athletes have since been banned from wearing their Beats by Dre headphones on the pitch because of FIFA's official partnership with Sony; but that doesn't stop the players from sporting their Beats at every other opportunity.

Spontaneous Strategy: The Art of Viral Content

Spontaneous Strategy: The Art of Viral Content

Viral content has the reputation for being a spontaneous, unplanned form of content marketing that gains its own momentum.  But as CEO of Alexander Debelov explains in this lucid Q&A, behind most viral brand content there are detailed, marketing plans.

Why should viral content be a goal for marketers and their campaigns?
Viral content should definitely be integral to marketing campaigns. But I think there's a misconception [about viral content]. First is when we think of something as viral, a lot of people tend to think of this element of surprise or something unexpected. Or we think viral content is something that simply took off [or gained momentum] on its own. Things do go viral, sometimes, on their own. But generally, [viral content] stems from a very defined process with steps in order to become popular on the Web.

The challenge for marketers today is to get people [in their target audience] to share brand-related content with their friends. Basically [marketers] enable consumers to become brand advocates for them. Traditional messages—TV or radio—don't do this. Viral content does.

So, can you define viral for us, and explain the varying degrees of viral content?
The way that I look at viral content is any content that gets the consumer to engage and then share—particularly on social media. It also means some level of high engagement, either in great numbers or resonance among a specific audience.

As for varying degrees, there really are a number of levels in which content can go viral. Articles, videos, and other content can go viral without mass numbers but reach a goal of a particular sect of people in a particular region. And on top of that people share that content. You don't need millions of people sharing it—just the people in your target demographic. You have to understand that markets are limited. You can create content with mass appeal, but there's equally effective content that is more niche.  It's that niche content which can appeal to a particular community. And it's those people in that community who become brand advocates.

How important is a viral video in an omnichannel campaign that has several moving parts?
That depends on the marketer and what the goals of the campaign are. The role of a viral content plan depends on the campaign that the marketer is planning to run. If you have a successful piece of content and have several channels available in an omnichannel campaign, use that content's success to your advantage. Look at [the channels] where the most engagement takes place and strategically position the content that you would like to go viral into those channels. This is a great strategy to get the word out. People will begin to recognize and relate to that content right away.

Exigency, Round 2

Exigency, Round 2

After poring through untold, mind-numbingly dull and repetitive legal documents relating to postal issues as a regular part of my job, it's refreshing to see that white-glove Washington lawyers can throw down as well as Beyoncé and Solange—or even Darrell Issa and Elijah Cummings! Both the U.S. Postal Service and the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers have appealed various aspects of the Postal Regulatory Commission's (PRC) exigent rate decision, and last week both parties filed briefs on the matter with the D.C. Court of Appeals. In both cases, the white gloves were off.

The glaring bone of contention: USPS feels it's entitled to its exigent increase in perpetuity; mailers feel that the Postal Service should have no increase at all.

Mailers are of the opinion that the Post Office should have taken into account the Internet's drain on its revenues and adjusted to it years ago through downsizing. The Postal Service holds that the Great Recession—the exigent circumstance that delivered it the 4.3% rate increase—forced cash-strapped citizens away from the mails and onto the Web.

The USPS brief calls the mailers' exigency argument “absurd,” and charges that they are “flatly wrong to suggest that the U.S. economy has recovered from the Great Recession.” The mailers retort that the Postal Service's “permanent loss” hypothesis suffers from a “gaping absence of proof” and that the PRC was forced to put a two-year/$3.2 billion (whichever-comes-first) limit on exigency “by the USPS's failure to propose any other alternative recovery period (short of forever).”

Mailers say that Postal Service executives gambled on an all-or-nothing litigation strategy in their original exigent petition to the PRC and lost. They argue that, minus a defined timeframe for recovery, postal regulators could have sent them home with no increase at all. Buck it up and take what you've been given, is the mailers' attitude.

The Postal Service brief claims, however, that PRC made it clear in an earlier order that USPS would not be required to quantify the recession's impact with absolute precision, but with credible proof. So the Postal Service employed the volume forecasting methodology it uses for its business forecasts and concluded that it lost 189.7 billion pieces of mail and $25.7 in revenue between 2008 and 2012. It meekly asserts that all it was asking for was a $1.78 billion per year payback—a little over $7 billion. Instead, it got stuck with what it obviously considers chump change.

“The Postal Service's models showed that it had lost $7.7 billion of contribution due to the recession in 2012 alone,” reads the USPS brief, “but the Commission allowed it to recoup just $2.8 billion for the entire recession.” The italics belong to the Postal Service lawyers. They are not amused.

The Postal Service says it was looking for recompense for 2008-2012 (the recession officially ended in 2009), but then ascribes blame to the downturn for causing “pronounced shifts” in consumer behavior and asserts that it continues to have “ongoing negative impacts on mail volume.” (Again, italics are theirs.)

Mailers point out that USPS saved $14 billion in annual expenses from 2008 to 2012 through work hour reductions alone, and suggest that postal executives continue down that road instead of morphing into exigency highwaymen. “The necessary premise of the USPS's perpetual loss hypothesis is that the USPS can never shed costs enough to offset volume losses. This is nonsensical,” sniff the mailers.

Which case makes the most sense will be determined by the D.C. Court of Appeals at summer's end. Oral arguments are scheduled to begin on September 9.

GE Explains the Mechanics of "Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow" Through YouTube

GE Explains the Mechanics of "Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow" Through YouTube

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you read the words “suck, squeeze, bang, and blow”? The physics of a jet engine, of course. Innovation and technology behemouth GE launched its new YouTube series GE Masterclass on June 16 to explain the mechanics of how its "brilliant machines" work at a comprehensible—and somewhat comical—level.

The roughly two-minute videos feature Baratunde Thurston, CEO of comedy and digital agency Cultivated Wit, who interviews GE employees and breaks down the complexities behind the company's jet planes, locomotives, and turbines. Viewers can even tune into GE Masterclass's Extra Credit segments to dive deeper into the workings of the machines. The series is part of the company's overall strategy to generate more awareness around what GE does and the role the company's technology plays in people's lives.

“Most people know us for the things in their home—[such as] for appliances and light bulbs—and don't necessarily know that we make jet engines, locomotives, turbines, and so much more,” says Katrina Craigwell, head of global digital programming at GE. “Our goal is just kind of open our doors and let people in.”

The videos primarily target science and technology enthusiasts, such as students. And while this audience might not be in the market for a new jet engine, Craigwell says that it's important to attract this segment to draw future career and shareholder interest. 

GE has turned to YouTube to show off its “beautiful machine eye candy,” as Craigwell calls it, and illustrate different scientific principles for the past few years. The reliance on the platform, Craigwell notes, stems from GE's use of visual storytelling to grasp people's attention, ignite their imaginations, and convey concepts succinctly.

“Whether it's photography, video, or GIFs, the more that we can show rather than just tell, the more we're able to connect with our audience and start to spark that imagination and that curiosity about what we're doing, but also about the future of technology,” she says.

Although Craigwell insists that “suck, squeeze, bang, blow” is “serious science” and actual terminology used by engineers, she says that the lightheartedness of the videos makes the topics and the content more approachable for viewers.

GE Masterclass host Thurston says that, depending on the product, humor can be an effective way to humanize businesses and the people involved in the company. However, he says that it's important for brands to identify the following to avoid coming off gimmicky: What the company stands for, what kind of story the company is trying to tell, who it's trying to reach, and why? Still, he admits that comedy isn't for everyone and that, ultimately, it depends on the brand's voice and identity, especially when it comes to bordering between funny and offensive.

"If your business was a person, would this person say this out loud?" he asks. "Or, would this person be ashamed that their mother heard them say it? Or would this person get hoisted up on someone's shoulders and be like, ‘Yeah, you did it. I respect you so much for telling it like it is.'"

GE has been promoting the Masterclass series via its social channels, including Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Twitter. Thurston has also promoted the video on his social channels and plans on blogging about the experience. According to Craigwell, GE will be tracking conversations, engagement, and overall reach surrounding the videos.

GE hasn't “quizzed” its audience on whether the content is helping them understand the technology, but according to Craigwell, viewers' feedback has been positive so far. In fact, she says that she would like to expand the program across the globe and feature other forms of technology. “People are saying that they're interested in the materials or videos, and that they're happy to see this out there,” she says.

As for getting those enthusiasts to share the content, Thurston points out that there's no secret formula. But he points out that there are a few crucial elements for ensuring that a brand's content is seen and shared: Make it good, make it look good, and have a smart release and distribution plan for putting the content in front of an audiences that are "predestined" to be interested.

Why We Decided Gamification Isn't in Our Game Plan

Why We Decided Gamification Isn't in Our Game Plan

Direct Marketing News
writes about marketing (well, duh). More specifically, in addition to industry news, we share advice, tips, strategies, and analysis on how to engage your customers and keep them smiling in a world of ever-increasing digital noise.

But we're also a brand ourselves, with many of the same challenges and needs as any other brand out there. We have to engage our audience and keep them loyally visiting for the content we produce every day.

That's one reason we launched Marketing Mavens, our circus-themed online social rewards system, on just about a year ago. All registrants on the site were automatically enrolled, and players earned points and badges for engaging in a variety of activities—everything from reading a blog post to sharing an article—as they moved through a series of predetermined levels. Every time players earned points, little notifications would appear on the right-hand side of their screen. Activity was tracked on a public leader board, although users could opt-out of being visible on the board.

But starting tomorrow, we'll be removing Marketing Mavens from after research showed that it was, well, less than compelling. We're always trying to find new ways to appeal to our audience—but if what we're doing doesn't appeal, we take it as an object lesson learned and move on.

We polled readers of to see how users were enjoying the experience. There were a few fans, but most of our audience, it seems, just wasn't feeling it. Others had strong words for us:

“Is it really necessary to ‘incent' adult professionals to read a publication that is well-edited and consistently delivers useful information and ideas? Or should they (as I do) already appreciate the value of the content you produce? The bottom line: ‘Engaging' customers is good…unless such engagement engenders negative attitudes about the product.”

“I do not associate game-style awards and achievements with a professional source of business news. I'm a gamer; I play video games. I have since I was young. I'm also a professional. I play to relax and de-stress from work. I don't play at work; I take it seriously and work at work. So mixing the two is a really strange juxtaposition that simply doesn't work for me.”

Some will aver that gamification can work for anyone, regardless of their business—it's just has to be done correctly. Last month I chatted with Aaron Price, cofounder and CEO of livecube, a company that uses interactive game mechanics to motivate social sharing and engagement, mostly at events.

When I asked him if any brand or company could gamify their experience, he basically said, "Yes," noting that, “It's about coming up with the right game mechanics for your particular needs, whether you're a publication, a Fortune 500 company, or a brand sponsoring an event, so that you're driving the desired behaviors.”

So, perhaps we just didn't come up with the right game mechanics—we're more than willing to admit that and we're still glad we tried something new. This is a case study in learning from your experiences.

We want to make as useful—and enjoyable—to our audience as possible, and we're open to suggestions. Please feel free to leave us a comment below.

To all of our active Mavens users who might be sad to see it go, thanks for playing!

The Neo-Age of Mobile

The Neo-Age of Mobile

Mobile marketing is changing—fast. For most consumers, mobile's on-the-go use has rapidly evolved into an everyday, at-home necessity. And marketers need to not only recognize this change, but also figure out how this evolution affects their mobile messages, and of course, their relationships with customers, who often multitask on multiple screens.

This changing landscape has even the savviest marketers revamping their mobile strategies. And a piercing discussion reflected this movement at Neo@Ogilvy's annual mobile event, Mobile…WTF?—an acronym for what the facts. In an effort to advance the conversation beyond sheer size of mobile and into how marketers can leverage it, panelists, ranging from chief mobile strategists at Facebook to progressive app developers at Bottle Rocket, weighed in on a range of topics. Here are some of the highlights from this year's event in New York.

Building a strategy

“Don't just design a blanket campaign; figure out what makes sense for mobile.”— Dan Silver, director of marketing, xAd, @DanjSilver

“Step back and look at your audience's persona. Then use mobile to enable that campaign.”— Drew Breunig, VP of strategy, PlaceIQ, @DBreunig

“Remember, mobile is not just another channel or touchpoint. It plays a role in the transformation of how to do business.”—Julie Ask, VP and principal analyst, Forrester, @JulieAsk

Setting goals

“It's not about the taps or clicks that you get [on a mobile ad]. It's about the relevant, insightful clicks that you get. [Marketers] want engagement from people who truly want receive their messages.”—Karin Wurm, mobile engagement manager, Bottle Rocket, @KarinWurm

"Marketers should know that mobile moments are everywhere. They encourage impulse buying, guided sales, and product use."—Julie Ask

"At the end the day, [brands] are not trying to sell clicks. They're trying to sell outcomes. Remember that." Dan Chapsky, ads data scientist & researcher, Facebook

Executing a mobile plan

"Forget screen size. Think more about the effectiveness of campaigns to provide customer value."—Nick Jordan, SVP of product & strategy, Tapad, @Nick_Jordan

“Extend mobile throughout your customer journey. Choose the right mobile moments for that journey. And always, always keep innovating along the way.”—Julie Ask

"Mobile messaging is all about the right message, with the right context at the right time."—Paul Gelb, head of marketplace development, Twitter, @PaulGelb

"Mobile has changed the expectations of customers. Be immediate, simple, and contextual." —Julie Ask

No More MAC Attacks Is Good News for Marketers

No More MAC Attacks Is Good News for Marketers

The privacy-sensitive had a real scare before the 2012 Olympics when a digital startup located recycling bins on London streets that accepted a bloke's drained Newcastle Ale cans and then, if he had his phone on, followed his trail to the local pub and thence to the neighboring police constabulary. This was accomplished by tracking the media access control (MAC), which is transmitted willy-nilly by devices seeking Wi-Fi connections, tracking a person's movements and locations even if no connection is ever consummated. At least two companies—Euclid and Nomi—bake their bread offering such services to clients. No personally identifiable information gets transferred, just the singular MAC identifier, but that's enough for retailers to track customer movements and infer certain things about the owner of the address, such as shopping habits and product preferences

It's also enough to really tee off the average mobile phone user who may be OK with receiving location-based offers from a store whose app he downloaded, but is skeeved about being digitally followed by no one in particular. Apps you can dump in the digital dust bin. Brand relationships you can opt out of. But you can't opt out of a MAC address. It's inextricably linked to the device's hardware ID. “If you're data is hacked through the MAC address, the only thing you can do is throw your phone away,” says Drew Breunig , VP of strategy and mobile marketing services provider PlaceIQ.

But the worries of the privacy paranoid will be assuaged this fall, when Apple introduces iOS8. The new operating system will randomize the MAC code each time it connects with Wi-Fi, making it impossible to track iPhone or iPad users over time. (MAC addresses on other operating systems will still be able to be followed.) This is also good news for marketers, since it begins the removal of one of consumers' biggest fears about data collection.

“MAC addresses are a world of hurt for marketers,” Breunig says. “If Apple hadn't come in and changed this, it would have run afoul of legislation sooner or later. Anytime someone goes public about using this stuff, like with the trash cans in London, it almost always ends up rolling it back.” Following consumer backlash, London courts issued a cease and desist order to Renew London, placers of the offending trashcans.

Apple got burned by users before over MAC addresses, when it stored unencrypted data about Wi-Fi addresses. It learned, and made the subsequent correction in iOS 8. Euclid, Nomi, and other companies like them will also have to shift gears, especially if Android operating systems follow suit. But, for marketers en masse, it's one less obstacle blocking their way to one-to-one connections with customers.

“This may cause short-term pain for some people, but in the long term I think it's good for everyone else,” Breunig says. “This delays regulation for years.”

Q&A: How Marketers Can Foster Better Relationships With Data Analysts

Q&A: How Marketers Can Foster Better Relationships With Data Analysts

Likes and retweets may be pretty to look at, but they don't drive revenue. Marketers are on the hunt for more ways to make social meaningful--and they're willing to dedicate the dollars to do so. In fact, when it came to their 2014 budgets, 61% of marketers planned on increasing their investments in social for customer acquisition, according to the "Marketing Budgets 2014 Report" by Econsultancy and Responsys, and 60% intended to increase their social spending for customer engagement and retention.

However, if marketers really want social to impact their bottom line, they'll have to call on their colleagues, including analysts. Direct Marketing News sat down with Jordan Enright-Schulz, product marketing manager for Adobe Social, at Adobe's Digital Marketing Symposium in New York last week and discussed how marketers can enhance these relationships and what's going to disrupt the social sphere next.

What role does social play in today's marketing world?

What we've seen over the last few years is that social touches pretty much every stage in the customer journey.... Adobe thinks of it similarly to mobile as sort of a layer. We used to talk about it as a channel. First, we had an evolution: There was listening—that's what people did on social. Then there was publishing to social networks, which we all called "social marketing" (published posts on Facebook or retweets). Now, it's like social is a layer that sits across everything, which I think is part of the challenge of social. Measuring how well you're doing there and what you should be doing is ubiquitous.

How can marketers make sure that social is an accountable layer and that it actually impacts their bottom line?

First of all, there's no easy answer to that. There's no one-size-fits-all approach. Our goal, when talking to customers about that, is to open their eyes to different ways you can think about it…. Basics: Measure everything you put out there. You have to be tracking. So many of our customers still aren't. [If you're] publishing links, you have to be tracking. Adobe Social automates processes like that, like appending campaign codes, but stuff like "like" buttons on your site [and] social log-ins—all of that stuff should be tracked.

The most basic [thing] you could [do is] direct attribution. At least then you're starting to get a sense of that Facebook post drove real KPIs, whether it's revenue, site visits, or time spent on site. That's at [one] end. A lot of our customers do that and that's' great. It's the first time they've been able to tie social to real KPIs. But then they also say, "Social doesn't look very good when I'm looking at it against email or against paid search." When you're moving along in maturity, you want to be thinking about multichannel attribution. You can do all of that with a Web analytics tool, as long as you're tracking everything you do. Then you can look at maybe these people didn't click off social and buy, but they came back later and they bought.

You previously mentioned that collaboration between social marketers and data analysts remains a challenge. Do they tend to butt heads?

No. It's more traditional silos.... Often, analysts in companies feel a little bit like data janitors. People are always bugging them [and saying] "Give me this report, right now." They might be so drowning in those one-off requests that they don't feel like they ever have the chance to provide real insight.... With most of our customers, that's always how it's been. The social people are over here and the analysts are over here. [The analysts] are crunching numbers, but the social people may not be tagging their content, so that's not going into the Web analytics tool. It's just historical silos.

Is there anything that marketers can do to better foster their relationships with data analysts?

Having an integrated technology stack is huge. Adobe Social is very deeply integrated into Adobe Analytics, and they're all part of this one marketing cloud.... It's not the only thing by any means. But if you're over here using 18 different social, publishing, moderation tools that are not at all tied to [the same analytics tool], it's an extra challenge. It makes these analysts much more like janitors.... So technology is key, but so are executive buy-ins. You have to have that coming from the top. You have to have dedicated social analysts. It's this idea that you have either social marketers who do everything or you have analysts who are responsible for all digital marketing. Social data alone—there's so much there. You want a dedicated role for that.

Do you think that this partnership between data analysts and marketers will spawn any new roles?

We do think of social analysts as a relatively new role.... In general, this role of social marketers is changing a little…. Now, we're seeing people with social expertise across the organization. It's no longer necessarily just the social marketing team. You've got social people in HR and social people in support. I think that's a trend that we'll definitely see. Then the social analyst becomes even more necessary as part of a hub or a nexus among those people. I think that's the trend. I was reading something recently that said the number of jobs with ‘social marketer' job postings was decreasing a ton. That's not to say that social isn't a valued skill. It's just getting much more specialized—like you're going to be a social support specialist. You have cross over. You understand how people engage on social, but you also know how to do support.

What's the biggest mistake you see marketers make when it comes to social?

The biggest mistake is if you don't have governance of your handles and somebody tweets out something that's hideously offensive.…That's the worst. Get your governance and your security in order. This isn't life or death, but I think not tying what you're doing in social to metrics that the business cares about is a big mistake. You're never going to get the budgets, the resources, and everything that you need. And people like those vanity things. Even your C-suite is going to be like, “We got 300 comments on that?"

Do you think that we'll see a new social channel break out on the scene within the next five years?

I don't know. There are so many. To me now, the chatting [and] the SMS-based apps are huge. Waiting to see what pans out there for marketer is super interesting.... There's a little bit of this backlash to sharing with everyone to really this one-to-one thing. I don't know if you saw [that] Salesforce just announced this integration with [mobile messaging app] Line…. They're like. "We're going to bring one-to-one marketing to mobile messaging" and all of this stuff. I don't know if we know what that means yet. I certainly don't know if consumers are interested in that on those platforms. I'm interested to see what changes there.

Tag Management Beyond the Tag

Tag Management Beyond the Tag

These days, saying that tag management is just about managing tags is a bit like saying social media is just about managing a Facebook page—there's way more to it than that.

But first, a few definitions are in order. What, without fanfare, is a tag, and why should marketers care?

“As an industry, we do tend to overcomplicate the matter, but we can say it in English,” jokes Darr Gerscovich, CMO of enterprise tag management solution provider Ensighten.

Tags are simply little snippets of code that influence how a website or webpage performs when a visitor visits it. Invisible to the user, tags can be used for a variety of marketing's most favorite things: third-party tracking, data collection, remarketing, conversion tracking, website personalization, attribution, and segmentation.

Back in the days of what Gerscovich refers to as “tag management 1.0”—around 2007 when tags first hit the scene—it was mostly about updating tags and keeping them in working order. But in the current era of tag management 2.0, tag solutions are available for any device, be it laptop, tablet, or smartphone to give marketers visibility across the breadth of digital touchpoints in real time.

“What we're really talking about when we talk about tag management is data,” Gerscovich says.

For example, let's say you're booking a trip. You buy your ticket online, you check in using a kiosk at the airport, you finally get on board and start fiddling around with the digital display on the seatback in front of you. Generally, each of those steps and the others in between are disconnected from each other—but there's no reason they have to be.

“Imagine a brand knew in real time what consumers were purchasing based on CRM data in addition to offline activities to give them a totally personalized experience, from the moment they buy their ticket to the moment they get on the plane,” Gerscovich says. “Done right, the consumer doesn't even realize it's happening—they just see what's relevant to them, without being aware that something else, also relevant, is being served up to someone else.”

Gerscovich sat down with Direct Marketing News to imagine the world of our not-too-distant future—“I actually know people with touchscreen fridges,” he says, with a laugh—in which experiences are always integrated and personalization is par for the course.

One-to-one marketing: Are we finally there?

The industry has done itself a disservice by overpromising one-to-one for so long that now—when we're truly able to deliver it with new technology and solutions—there's a lot of mistrust. We'll soon move away from calling it one-to-one and instead talk about personalization and delivering a unified customer experience.

What's the right amount of personalization?

My background is in online advertising for LinkedIn and Yahoo. When I first started doing behavioral targeting, there was the sense that an ad based on your behavior could get a little creepy. But today we're not talking about out-of-context or retargeted ads, and leading brands aren't thinking about personalizing for personalization's sake; they're doing it to create a better customer experience. Done wrong, consumers aren't ready for it—but done right, the consumer will always welcome a better experience. And to do that, you need to know what's happening all over, not just on laptops or just on mobile.

How would you define real time?

When we say “real time,” we mean leveraging data the moment something happens. Here's an example: Let's say you're a preferred customer of a particular services company. You visit the company's website, but you can't find what you're looking for so you click the “Let's chat” button. But what if, in real time, instead of going to the bottom of the queue and waiting for the next available representative, the company knew right away that you're a highly valued customer? They'd immediately see your history and where you've been on the site. In a case like that, not only can the company give you the best representative and move you to the top of the queue—they can try and upsell you based on their CRM data.

At the end of the day, if you're not acting on your data, then you're not getting its true value. The closer you can get to acting in the moment—that's where you can increase your ROI tremendously.

What will happen to brands that don't keep up?

All leading brands are using personalization today. Those that aren't personalizing their content will have lower overall ROI, and lower ROI means they'll have less money to spend. If they have less money to spend, that could lead to decreased market share and revenue. Throw whatever buzzwords you need in there to scare people—but personalization is effective, and not to do it will hurt the longevity of your business.

World Cup Social Campaigns Score Big

World Cup Social Campaigns Score Big

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is officially underway, and that means potentially big business for brands aligned with the event. Although officially there are only six FIFA Partners, eight FIFA World Cup sponsors, and eight national sponsors, the unofficial World Cup campaigns are certainly riding the wave of the worldwide soccer craze. Fans expect their favorite brands—whether official sponsors or not—to connect with them digitally about the tournament and the events surrounding the action. Marketers can meet those expectations by listening to and even creating dialogue among World Cup fans.

Here are just a few well-crafted, unofficial campaigns that brilliantly promote products, tap into the soccer craze, or simply kick off a conversation.

Beats by Dre

Maker of some of today's most popular consumer headphones, earphones, and speakers, Beats by Dre is executing a formidable digital campaign: The Game Before the Game. And it's taking Twitter and YouTube by storm. The campaign promotes the electronics company's new Solo2 and Beats Studio headphones, and marketers for the brand hope to reignite the desire for Beats products that has arguably waned in recent months. The social campaign provides fans an intimate look at some of the game's star players in their pregame rituals—wearing, of course, Beats headphones. Tapping into the social culture of the brand's younger audience, Beats' hashtag, #GameBeforeTheGame, and its poignant video have already gone viral.

My guess is that Beats may see a global spike in sales in the coming weeks, but only time will tell.

Dollar General

The chain of general stores gamified its social campaign with its Going for the Goal virtual game. Dollar General is leveraging World Cup fever by encouraging wishful customers who couldn't travel to Brazil to play a fun online soccer game. Hoping the game would be an addictive fan favorite, Dollar General encouraged customers to share it with friends, effectively bringing attention to the brand.


Not surprisingly, Twitter is aiming to transform the World Cup craze into a marketing and growth opportunity. Marketers for the social networking platform are trying to make Twitter the first choice for World Cup social interaction and has put in motion a number moving parts in its soccer campaign. The World Cup of Tweets focuses on the voluminous amount of World Cup mentions sure to come over the next few weeks. This widget calculates who would win the tournament if the champions were named by the most Twitter mentions.


And an instant hit during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Twitter announced on Tuesday the return of national hashflags—simply, hashtags with a three-letter symbol for a specific competing World Cup team. Twitter hopes to ride the national pride as fans around the globe wave their hashflags.


Twitter is also promoting this minute-long video spot that revs up fans and reminds viewers to connect with friends—along with their favorite players and teams—on Twitter.

What's on Marketers' Minds?

What's on Marketers' Minds?

I spend a great deal of time at conferences, attending briefings, and nosing into conversations about industry trends. There are always juicy bits to share from sessions and discussions. Here are a collection of thoughts, advice, and insights from my latest jaunts.

“There's a transformation going on in retail and I think we're all feeling it. And it's pretty exciting.” For American Eagle Outfitters, that transformation includes eliminating gaps in the omnichannel customer experience, resolving attribution, increasing and sustaining mobile app views and downloads through mobile reviews and other enhancements, and expanding globally.
David McBride, senior director, omnichannel analytics, American Eagle Outfitters

“We don't believe in digital marketing. We believe in building brands in a digital world.”
Mayur Gupta, global head, marketing technology, at Kimberly-Clark

“When you look back over the past 20 years it will look very small as compared to what's possible [over the next 20]. Most [online ad] campaigns are still done manually.... ‘Mechanization' [in terms of fully automating online advertising] will be the best of human creativity with the best of machine scale.”
Tim Armstrong, chairman and CEO, AOL

“Companies need to think about how they use their data to transform themselves into a service for their customers to help them at any point along the buyer's journey. Most companies offer a ‘catalog' experience online. When you use analytics to see patterns of behavior and predict future behaviors, you can change the experience based on deep personalization. The Internet of services, that's where we're heading.”
Martin Rugfelt, CMO, Expertmaker

“Omnichannel marketing is about understanding behavior and context, as well as implicit and explicit customer information, and then using it across channels omni-directionally. Personalization is the glue for the omnichannel experience. The more we know the better, richer, and more accurate picture we can paint about a consumer. The nuance is that you may use five channels, but you may not use them all equally. Consumers always have a preferred channel. If you deliver a more individualize experience to the customer, everything else will come [in terms of sales and revenue].”
Meyar Sheik, CEO and cofounder, Certona

“Marketing needs to align its change initiatives to the buyer journey and its outcomes. And marketers need be proficient in and leverage analytics to drive investment decisions and measure results.”
John Neeson, managing director and cofounder, Sirius Decisions

“You have to make digital and software central to your business. Bring business and IT together to improve your competitive position.”
Alan Trefler, founder and CEO, PegaSystems

“One of the responsibilities that come with marketing enablement is providing the same level of information across channels. You can't have misaligned messaging across channels. That's no easy task. But customers have no patience for poor experiences. Retailers set the bar; we have to adhere to it.”
Robert Schwartz, VP, global marketing platforms, IBM

“We have a proliferation of channels, power shifting into the hands of consumers, and a transformation based on customers' research prior to purchase. The real thing that's changing, though, is customer cadence.  Consumers expect immediacy, but business process cadence is out of synch with consumer action. To be fast you need to be agile, not depend on technology projects that [take a year to implement or update].... The cadence issue is also due to latency that's due to fragmentation. Most companies have multiple databases of customer information that are records for a specific purpose—CRM data versus email or call center data. The only way to stay agile is to create one record by bringing together all the data as a record of engagement. It's all about the data.”
Dale Renner, founder and CEO, RedPoint Global

“The convergence of marketing and technology is upon us. [But,] no platform will ever substitute for human instinct; instead technology should enhance it.”
Bob Lord, global CEO of AOL platforms, AOL

“The alignment between sales and marketing teams will determine whether marketing automation will succeed or fail. Key marketing people need to attend sales meetings and key sales leaders need to align with marketing. If those two groups act independently, there's no room for success.”
Lawrence DiCapua, director, Global Marketing Center of Excellence, GE

“Our focus was on simplification: We looked at most the critical customer journeys, took difficulties out of the processes, and reduced costs as a result. Now it's about digitalization.”
Bruce Mitchell, CTO, Lloyds Banking Group

“How do you move from data to analysis, from analysis to insight, and from insight to action? How to you find the moments that matter to customers and then act on that to drive value for customers? Turning data into insight and then into action is marketers' biggest challenge.”
Kyle Keogh, industry director, telecom, Google

Are the Days of Batch and Blast Behind Us?

Are the Days of Batch and Blast Behind Us?

In reviewing the findings of this year's Silverpop Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study, the company's VP of Industry Relations Loren McDonald couldn't believe one number staring him in the face. He was sure his analytics people had messed up and he had them run the data a second time, but the same number came up:  The median hard bounce rate had declined 95% between 2012 to 2013, from 0.8% to 0.04%.

“We seem to have crossed this chasm in the last 18 to 24 months where marketers have finally gotten the message. Whether it's the ISPs or the blocked sites, if you don't clean up your data, you're not going to get through,” McDonald says. “Not getting emails into people's inboxes for three or four days means millions in lost revenues. When we go to see clients, CMOs and GMs will walk into the room and say, ‘You are going to help us not get blocked, right?'  And we say, ‘No, it's up to your guy sitting here at this table to clean your data.'”

Silverpop's results—which breaks out performance quartiles for all emails sent by 3,000 brands in 40 countries—truly indicate a clear divide between best and worst in email marketing. Emailers operating in the top quartile worldwide all have bounce rates of 0.00. It was lesser performers getting with the program who moved the ball last year. The median bounce rate in the U.S., for instance, was 0.037—more than 100% under the mid-range from last year's study.

Ever since email established itself as the primary direct marketing vehicle for everyone from big-box retailers to neighborhood dentists to global financial institutions, the targeting formula has been simple: You don't need one.  Just batch and blast to every name you can get hold of, then blast again, and repeat. Let email's 40-to-one ROI ratio do the rest. So what if half your list hasn't bought anything from you in two years? So what if they've moved to Argentina, or they're deceased? Buying software and hiring data analysts to clean lists and customize messages in such a way as to increase things like repeat business and brand advocacy is nice, but it's expensive. Why bother if the cash continues to flow and the bottom keeps getting blacker?

Last year, however, that attitude apparently began to lose esteem. Companies began to realize that stricter attention to customer lifecycles, Web behavior, and preferences could build a stronger brand and send ROI even higher. “These are the kinds of conversations we're having with our retail clients these days,” McDonald says. “They're seeing so many people on their databases not buying and going inactive. If 25% of your database hasn't opened an email in 18 months, why would you continue to keep sending to them?”

U.S. companies in the top quartile for unique opens in the U.S. in Silverpop's study put up a rate of 38.5, more than double the 16.8% median number. Top performers' click-to-open rates—which gauge clicks as a percentage of emails actually opened, an indicator of relevance—came in at 30.8%, more than three times higher than the median. You can drive a USPS trailer truck through the gap between the good and bad players in email market, but McDonald is of the opinion that more and more are striving to be good.

“The people getting A's in email are moving to marketing to people more on a one-to-one basis,” he says. “Instead of basing everything on a calendar and sending everybody the same message at a given time, the top quartile is saying, ‘Lets create 10, 30, 40 messages and tie them to cart abandonment, post-purchase, and browse abandonment.”

Batch and blast may not be dead, and it most likely will always be with us. Among serious direct marketers, however, it is now officially disgraced.

10 Out-of-this-World Social Content Tips from NASA 360

10 Out-of-this-World Social Content Tips from NASA 360

Producing content that consumers want to engage with is challenging in any universe. But for NASA 360—a TV and online broadcast program developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and strategic partner the National Institute of Aerospace —engagement is essential to NASA's survival.

NASA 360 primarily targets young adults, 18 to 34 years old. While this demographic is one of the most plentiful—the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that there were about 73.7 million U.S. citizens in this age bracket (24% of the country's population) in July 2012—it also knows the least about NASA, said Becky Jaramillo, senior educator for the National Institute of Aerospace, speaking at the Vocus Demand Success 2014 conference in National Harbor, Maryland. Educating this audience is vital in order to spur funding for NASA and interest in science-related careers, Jaramillo said.

To reach this target, NASA 360 launched a 30-minute broadcast on public access channels and university stations. However, the program never aired at the same time in the same location and it didn't resonate with young audiences. As a result, NASA 360 uploaded the program to NASA's website. Yet the site proved to be a “black hole” of information, as Jaramillo put it, and made it difficult for people to find the content. So, NASA 360 explored a new frontier and created short YouTube webisodes that would hold its audience's attention and answer specific questions. Even that wasn't enough.

“It still didn't take us to that targeted audience that we wanted—that broad audience,” Jaramillo said.

But not even gravity could bring NASA 360 down. Having orbited around several other channels, NASA 360 turned to social, although it knew right from the start that it would have to do more than just post content if it wanted to attract young audiences. NASA needed to engage and converse with its target.

“Social media is just a tool,” Jaramillo said. “You have to know what to do with it.”

Here's a countdown of NASA 360's top 10 content marketing and social tips that can help marketers reach for the stars.  

10) Ask open ended questions

Instead of asking consumers 'yes' or 'no' questions, NASA 360's team recommends posing questions that solicit more engaging responses. “What are the societal impacts research and development have on science and technology?” and “How does it shape our future?” are some of the questions NASA 360 asks on its Facebook page. The post featuring these questions received 96 comments, 924 shares, and close to 6,700 likes.

“Don't just talk at your audience,” said Scott Bednar, NASA 360's media manager. “Whenever possible, talk with them.”  

9) Show don't tell

Although NASA 360 could write an entire tome describing the Small Magellanic Cloud, the program instead relies on NASA's stellar imagery to elicit emotional responses and catch people's attention when they're scrolling through feeds.

For those who want to learn more about “one of the Milky Way's closest galactic neighbors,” NASA 360 also includes a brief description and link to an article in the post.

“A picture is going to stop you, and there's a better chance a follower will check you out,” Bednar said.

8) Acknowledge what's going on in the world

During the government shutdown, NASA 360 went silent for 17 days.

Once the shutdown ended, the program published the following Facebook post to reengage its audience and prove that it was going to pick up right where it left off.

Similarly, NASA posted tongue-in-cheek photos on Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, and even National Pancake Day.


7) Thank your fans

It's important for marketers to celebrate their milestones and to thank their fans for being a part of their success, Jaramillo said. So, when NASA 360 reached one million Facebook fans, it showed its appreciation by telling its fans that “we're just over the moon for you.”

“If it wasn't for them, you wouldn't have those numbers,” Bednar said.

6)  Be humorous

Humor is one way NASA 360 brings its complex subjects down to more comprehendible altitudes. For instance, the brand will post “Global selfies” or images of craters that resemble Cookie Monster on its social channels.

“Most of our public doesn't care about the intense scientific content,” Jaramillo said. “We have to find a way to make it human for them.”

But moon-walking the line between funny and offensive can be tricky. This past February NASA 360 posted a meme of NASA's rover Curiosity shooting a laser beam at a cat with the words “Curiosity killed the cat.” Although the post had close to 16,000 likes and more than 4,900 shares, NASA 360 also received some unfavorable comments, including these gems: “When did killing cats become funny?” “Not funny, cruelty” and “What's a cat doing on Mars? (I think Mars).”

But a few negative comments didn't disrupt NASA 360 from continuing on with its social mission.

“Failure is not an option at NASA,” Jaramillo said. “It's a requirement.”

5) Show consistency

When Bednar and Jaramillo both came down with a case of bronchitis, NASA 360 didn't post anything on Facebook for two days. Once they returned, it took them two weeks to get their follower count back up to the standard daily number.

“Fans are fickle,” Jaramillo said. “If you don't give them all of the love and attention [that] they want they're going to go find it elsewhere.”

4) Don't annoy your followers

While it's OK for marketers to post content multiple times a day, it's important for companies to ensure that they don't become associated with spam, the duo noted.

3) Don't assume

Facebook changes its algorithms frequently, Bednar said, so it's important for marketers to do their research and discuss how changes will affect a company's messaging and audience.

2) Change the voice for your audience

This past April NASA announced the winners of its Exploration Design Challenge: a year-long competition that challenged students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), asking them to address the risks of radiation exposure during human space travel. The winning group of high-school students snagged the opportunity to have their experimental design built into the Orion spacecraft's crew module and launched into space in December.

Knowing that its audience would be more interested in space exploration than the design challenge, NASA 360 posted a picture of Orion and a description of its exploration with a brief sentence about the design challenge and a link to an article about the winners underneath.

“More people opened that post from NASA 360 than from any other source,” Jaramillo said.

1) Have fun

“That's really the most important,” Bednar said.

Science doesn't always have to be serious. To show off its playful side, NASA 360 posted a video featuring a Ke$ha impersonator singing about astrobiology to the tune of “We R Who We R”.

“Because Ke$ha and NASA go together,” he added.

Multi-Screen Means the Right Screens—Not EVERY Screen

Multi-Screen Means the Right Screens—Not EVERY Screen

It's a cliché by now to talk about “shiny objects.” The rate of technological change and tech adoption is exhilarating—but it can also be bewildering. It seems like there's a new tool on the scene nearly every day, and there's no shame in admitting to feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing.

The problem comes when marketers get so hypnotized by the tech that they don't put the consumer first.

“We live in a creative, innovative time, but sometimes we get so focused on the technology that we forget we're supposed to be marketing to people—not these devices,” says Natasha Hritzuk, global senior insights director at Microsoft Advertising. “And some marketers seem to have lost their way, not sure of how to effectively market in this technology-rich and complex world.”

But part of the point is that it's not so complex. Smart marketing strategy is the same as it's always been—solid content, intelligent placement, engagement—it's just taking a new form.

Hritzuk advises doing it old school before jumping into a multi-screen campaign. First, think about what you're trying to accomplish from a brand perspective and then consider how that will dovetail with consumer need. You don't have to be everywhere to make an impact.

“A mobile campaign doesn't mean you need something on every device; multi-screen means being on the right screen, not every screen,” she says. “Pick the devices that help you deploy your brand strategy, and create genuinely immersive content for them.”

By concentrating on consumer behavior and understanding how consumers act differently on different devices, brands will be able to deliver content based on audience insights to address their needs in a way that aligns with the brand's objectives. “The multi-screen stuff will flow naturally out of that.”

In other words, don't sweat it. Look at the ‘why' (as in why people do what they do) and you'll know the ‘what' (as in what the heck you should do about it).

“People are using these devices—and switch between them—for specific reasons,” Hritzuk says. “They want to get something done or investigate something or learn something. When you focus more on that, patterns of simplicity start to emerge.”

In Hritzuk's recently published book Multi-Screen Marketing, she and coauthor Kelly Jones, head of thought leadership at Microsoft Advertising, delve into what they refer to as the “multi-screen pathways,” meaning the various paths to engagement.

Getting a handle on why consumers do what they do and where they do it is the first step in building a data-driven cross-screen brand strategy:

1) Content grazing — I can relate to this one. Basically, this is what happens when you have a few minutes during a commercial break to do a little research on your phone or tablet. You might be doing it to be efficient, but more likely you're just watching a cat video or checking your email or Facebook while you're waiting for your show to come back on.

2) Investigative spider-webbing — (This is not, by the way, a synonym for Peter Parker's day job, which is the first thing that occurred to me, I must admit.) A bit more serious than your grazers, consumers engaged in investigative spider-webbing are usually doing research after being triggered by a specific piece of content. It's about finding deeper information to complement your primary screen experience; for example, when you're watching a movie and something on screen makes you whip out your phone to corroborate a detail and suddenly you're sucked into an IMDB wormhole.

3) Social spider-webbing — The social spider-webber is like an extroverted version of our investigative spider-webber above. Social spiders feel compelled to share something they've just seen through their social channels. In fact, according to research from Microsoft Advertising, one in five consumers will engage in this particular pathway while watching live events on TV. The upcoming World Cup is sure to be a prime example.

4) Quantum journey — This one's the big one. Consumers on a quantum journey mean business. They have a goal in mind—say, booking a restaurant or researching a vacation—and they're taking action using multiple devices. The hope is for their experience to be seamless, although we all know it's usually pretty disjointed. Consumers will use whatever screen is easiest to accomplish each task; for example, a laptop to explore flights, a tablet to look at hotels, and then, maybe, a smartphone to check out an app with sightseeing tips. It's one journey, but the consumer is using various screens to get to their end point.

Once brands know why people do what they do, they can start to consider how that behavior fits into the mobile experience. Get that cart after the horse and you'll be fine, Hritzuk says.

“Stop worrying about the actual screens,” she says. “If you don't focus on the screen first, you'll probably have the best multi-screen strategy you've ever had.”

It's Time to Be Digital by Design

It's Time to Be Digital by Design

Digital is no bolt on. More and more, it's core to how customer-centric business operates. “You have to become digital by design,” Pegasystems Founder and CEO Alan Trefler said during the opening keynote of Pegaworld 2014. 

Doing so takes three superpowers, he said: the powers to engage, to simplify, and to change. Trefler said companies need to be able to react quickly to customers, interact with them on their terms, and be proactive. They also need to simplify their operations by creating end-to-end processes that bust silos and enable the organization to create a consistent customer experience across channels. And, they need to be able to quickly adapt to change; to use agility as a competitive advantage and differentiator.

“The majority of our clients believe they're on a transformational journey,” Trefler said during a press and analyst meeting. His advice is to take that journey in steps, not in great leaps. “Develop a rhythm of change,” instead of a big bang.

Making that transformation requires understanding customers and where they are in their lifecycle, as well as interacting with them where and when they prefer and expect it. In other words, being omnichannel and using analytics to dynamically calculate potential outcomes and present customers with the next best action. “Responsive channel engagement,” Trefler said, is how marketers can interact seamlessly with customers across channels and in context.

Companies need a unified architecture that is direct, situational, and powerful to support this, he said. It should enable business leaders to directly set and capture objectives, model best customers and outcomes, and provide a common visual language. It needs to be situational, i.e. layered, by qualities like geography or customer segment. And it needs to be powerful enough to enable a company to deliver the next big thing.

Business process management, Trefler said, is a critical technology for the digital age because it enables companies to operate with the agility they need to stay ahead of the competition today. It's not about the processes themselves, he said; it's about thinking of them in the context of outcomes. “What do you want to accomplish?” he asked. Start with the end in mind and think in stages of the customer lifecycle; some processes will be within a stage and some will go across stages. That way, the steps don't need to be so rigid. They can be guided by an organizing principle that enables the speed of change that today's digital environment requires.

“You have to make digital and software central to your business,” Trelfer said, adding that business leaders need to bring business and IT staffs together “to improve your competitive position.”

CMOs and CIOs need to lead that transformation together by collaborating and learning more about how each other think. Trelfer pointed out that many executives in a CIO role today have a business background and see themselves as businesspeople as much as technologists; and more and more CMOs have a tech background, especially in digital technologies. Teams that will build the next generation of systems to support customer-centric, digital-oriented business need to blend business and technology, he said. It's the same with the CIO-CMO relationship. They need to collaborate and understand both marketing and technology or they'll get killed by competitors that do, Trefler said. “Those with passion for both will be the winners.”

Why Email Marketing Remains So Effective

Why Email Marketing Remains So Effective

Except while on the job, I rarely use email to communicate.  If I want to share fun pictures or a compelling news story, it's Facebook or Instagram. If I'm looking to fire off a random thought, you guessed it: Twitter.  And if I want a response in five minutes, or less, it's the speedy text message. For the past few years I've prided myself on evolving past email and morphing into a social maven.

Turns out I was wrong.

Earlier this week I had an epiphany: I carry on conversations through email all the time—with marketers. Email marketers are always grabbing my attention with some of the most enticing, compelling, and informative email messaging. And I respond by either buying a brand's products and services or extending the conversation to others or with the brands on social media. (Most certainly, social can be an extension of your email campaigns.)

Truthfully, email messages remain a strong channel for brands and their messages. In fact, a 2013 study from predictive analytics firm Custora shows that customer acquisition through email had more than quadrupled in just four years and accounted for nearly 7% of customer acquisitions.

These figures seem to match my experiences. So, I've plucked a few of the best email marketing messages from my inbox, and thought I'd show you some of the campaigns that were most effective in terms of prompting me to take some action.  I find my most valuable email messages usually fall into one of four categories: the abandoned cart email, the apologetic note, the thank-you message, and the reward email. Of course keep in mind others can be just as effective, such as loyalty programs or geo-targeted emails.

But these are just some of my fave examples that got me to purchase from or praise the brand.

Shop, shop on: The abandoned cart email
I had already bought a much-deserved handbag from Kate Spade, and considering I'm over budget this month, I decided to abandon a few of the items in my virtual shopping cart from the brand's new, less expensive extension, Kate Spade Saturday. However, Saturday reminded me just how much I need these items, by sending me an abandoned cart email. I think I'll be rummaging through my cart again.

Oops, my bad: The apologetic email
Tell me, who doesn't respect someone who can admit she's wrong? That respect extends to brands, as well. An email can be a great way for marketers to acknowledge, apologize, and then take action. I have much respect for for offering this major discount after broken links made ordering my Mother's Day flowers difficult.

And kudos to Optimum cable for apologizing for its disrupted cable service during my highly anticipated, couch-potato weekend.

Dude, you rock: The reward email
Loved this one from Amazon. For the umpteenth time, I rented The Devil Wears Prada on my Kindle, despite my family's protests to give up the movie. But Amazon showed its appreciation with this nice reward for my purchase: a promotional credit to my account.

¡Gracias!: The thank-you email
Who doesn't want to feel appreciated? I received this little note of appreciation after attending a fun night out hosted by Live in the Grey, a social movement to mesh your career with your passion.

Is Social Media Safe for Marketers?

Is Social Media Safe for Marketers?

Last week the Poneomon Institute, a noted Internet privacy research firm, released a study reporting that half of adult Americans—some 110 million people—were victims of computer hackers in the past year. Getting less attention on the Internet is another, perhaps less controllable, brand of bad behavior. A survey of more than 1,000 Americans released today says that nearly half of those under the age of 35 have been bullied, harassed, or threatened online. Six out of 10 of those polled said the nasty business took place on Facebook; Twitter came in second at 24%.

One of the first determining  factors for a marketer in selecting media is environment. Is the content/look/ tone/ambiance of this TV show/magazine/website consistent with my brand's image and message? If you're Clairol, you can feel fairly safe about an ad on The Bachelorette or a video clinic on, but how can you avoid damning your brand forever with sponsored posts on the Facebook pages of teenaged girls alongside posts taunting them about their looks? You'd run the risk of having an impressionable young lady construe your well-meaning message as just another taunt that she's not pretty enough.

Women report being digitally harassed more often than men, according to results of the poll, conducted by Rad Campaign, Lincoln Strategies, and Craigconnects. More than half of the women responding (57%) said they had been slurred online, versus  43% of men. Sexual harassment leads the trash-talking parade at 44% of all incidences, followed by attacks on a person's professional ability (28%), race (23%), religion (18%), and politics (16%).

It's one thing for marketers to expect that some of their display ads or videos might end up on bogus bot pages or websites not named on their media plans; it's part of the Wild West, programmatic-buying world of digital marketing. But it's a different kettle of fish when you're trying to cuddle up with prospective brand fans in their social mingle, only to find that you've plopped yourself in the middle of a vitriol-spitting, hair-pulling, text-and-image melee.

As environment goes, social media is the Love Canal. Nearly 30% of those surveyed said they feared for their lives after being harassed and 20% were afraid to leave their houses. Very few--just 25%--reported the harassment, though the ones who  did received positive action from social networks. In 61% of cases reported, according to the poll, the network shut down the offender's account.

A lack of metrics and intelligence in social media makes the problem tougher to handle for direct marketers. And a lack of attention to the problem promises to keep social media marketing a blind, three-legged sack race for the foreseeable future.

"We are surprised that there has been so little public research on this topic given the role of social media in most of our lives," says Stefan Hankin, president of Lincoln Park Strategies. "With the high levels of harassment reported by those under 35, this problem will likely continue to grow if not addressed. We hope this poll will provide the needed data to take action."

11 Ways Facebook Can Help SMBs Grow Their Business

11 Ways Facebook Can Help SMBs Grow Their Business

Facebook likes small and medium-size businesses (SMBs)—and it turns out that SMBs want to befriend Facebook, too.

More than 30 million SMBs have an active business page on Facebook, over 19 million manage their pages via mobile, and in excess of one million spend money on ads, noted Dan Levy, director of small business for the social network, speaking at Facebook Fit New York—a boot camp that teaches SMB owners how to grow their business through Facebook.

Of course, no one understands how Facebook can impact businesses better than SMBs themselves. Four individuals shared their success stories and advice during Facebook Fit's Small Business Panel. Here are their 11 tips for how SMB owners can leverage Mark Zuckerberg's brainchild to drive engagement and customers.

1) Know your audience and how to reach them: When Tavy and Assaf Ronen purchased The Yarn Company on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 2011, the two co-owners decided to relaunch the shop, originally established back in 1979, and give it a modern flare.

“We wanted to create a place that was all about aesthetics, fashion, and textile all at the same time,” Tavy Ronen said.

However, the siblings knew that their “more traditional” and “old-fashioned” customers might not appreciate their new vision, Tavy said. So the Ronen duo set out to build a new customer base by reaching out to international prospects rather than neighborhood locals.

To spread word of their relaunch far and wide, the Ronens relied on Facebook and other digital marketing methods. For instance, the co-owners created a gallery of their textiles in-store and then posted images from the gallery on Facebook. This allowed remote prospects who weren't physically come to the store to experience the colors and beauty of the textiles. The company also sends an email newsletter containing new products and trends to about 9,000 people.

2) Invite customers to engage with you: If SMB owners want customers to engage with them, they shouldn't be afraid to ask them to do so, said Emanuel Peña, owner of Harlem-based Astor Row Café. For example, instead of creating a website for his restaurant, Peña directs consumers to the café's Facebook page where they can view images of the food and beverages, as well as like and share comments. He said that he also asks customers to like Astor Row Café's Facebook page or to check in. In fact, customers must check in to receive the café's Wi-Fi password.

“Being able to track down this data—it's essential,” Peña said.

3) Get more customers with existing customers: Grocery chain Fairway Market might not seem like an SMB—especially considering that the brand's advertising and display costs were approximated at $9.5 million for the end of the 2013 fiscal year and that its marketing costs were estimated at another $1.2 million, according to its annual report. However, Fairway's VP of Marketing Jacqueline Donovan said that the company shares many of the same challenges, including awareness.

Fairway has 15 locations across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut; however, many associate the brand as solely a Manhattan chain. So when Fairway opened a new location, it asked its Facebook fans why they love Fairway for a commercial.

“There is nothing more powerful than the fans that you already have,” Donovan said.

4) Let customers do the marketing: Instead of constantly posting his own pictures of dishes, Peña encourages customers to share their own images and other forms of user-generated content. Hey, what's better than free publicity?

5) Enable bragging: Of course, if SMBs want customers to brag about them, they have to give them the means to do it. When Donovan started working at Fairway five years ago, she discovered that the brand had an avid fan base—but nowhere to profess their love for the company. So Donovan helped Fairway launch its own Facebook page to give its customers a platform for engagement. Today, Fairway has more than 89,000 likes.

She also helped Fairway broaden its customer advocacy efforts. In the past, Fairway prohibited customers from taking pictures in its stores. But after receiving a complaint from an Australian shopper who wanted to take a picture of the store to send to his friends back home, Fairway had a change of heart, Donovan said.

“It's not the competition trying to find out what we're doing,” she said. “It's our customers trying to brag.”

6) Be current: It's important for SMBs to be current and know what's going on in the world, said Alexandra Barber, digital marketing associate for Roundabout Theatre Company. This can help companies appear relevant in their campaigns. For instance, Roundabout Theatre Company produced a show in which the audience voted on the ending during an election season.

7) Think multichannel: When Tavy Ronen sends out her email newsletter to the 9,000 people on her list, she also promotes her Facebook page. Likewise, she said that she promotes the email newsletter on Facebook. And the fusion doesn't end there. Ronen said that she recently started importing her email list into Facebook's Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences to reach more people and increase The Yarn Company's number of likes.

8) Learn from others: SMBs shouldn't turn the other cheek when it comes to competitors' marketing. To get ideas for how she could make grocery shopping seem “sexy,” Donovan started browsing the Web.

“It's not plagiarism,” she said, “that's called search and reapply.”

9) Engage in a dialogue: SMBs like when customers engage with their brand, but customers like a little feedback, too, Donovan said. Hence, she encourages SMBs to take the time to like and respond to consumers' comments.

“Those super fans are the ones that are going to really drive your business,” she said.

10) Don't always focus on the sale: “Even though we're a retail store, our retail-geared posts are less than 20% of our [overall] posts,” said Tavy Ronen of The Yarn Company.

Instead of constantly trying to pitch customers, Ronen encourages SMB owners to be conversational. For instance, she said that she posts on Facebook about three to five times a day and that only one of her posts is retail-focused. The other posts, she said, might be responses to a customer or a simple “good night” message.

11) Just try: While SMBs may worry that no one will care about their posts, they'll never know until they try, Donovan said. Plus, she said, Facebook's measurement capabilities will inform SMB owners which posts and ads perform well.

“The worst thing that could happen is [that] you take down the post,” Donovan said. “The world is not going to end.”

For Marketers, Every Day Should Be Hug Your Cat Day

For Marketers, Every Day Should Be Hug Your Cat Day

The Internet is suffused with cats. Cat memes, cat videos, cat GIFs, cat celebrities—and lots of brands are taking advantage of the hype. Tomorrow is National Hug Your Cat Day, so marketers, you can thank them then.

There's just something about a cat photo that's deeply shareable. Not to get too simplistic, but I think this is a pretty fair assessment of the current landscape:


Cats are hot, so to speak, especially on social channels.

Yes, one could argue that part of the reason so many people liked this post (46,000+!) is because it's purely about the sharing. George Takei isn't trying to sell you anything; he's just being George Takei. But there's definitely a case to be made for at least attempting to get a taste of the reflected kitty glory.

I don't mean that brands should hop on any bandwagon that happens to be going by or that brands should shoehorn something into their marketing that doesn't fit in with their ethos. But all brands should be paying attention to what their customers are interested in, and if their customers are interested in cats, then so be it.

It's about organically tapping into the zeitgeist of the day—but without being lame. But brands also need to realize that they can't always keep up with the speed of the Internet, and that's OK. You don't have to create a Harlem Shake video with cats doing Gangnam Style if your customers just aren't feeling it.

But some brands instinctively have their proverbial finger on the pulse. Buzzfeed knows what I'm talking about. You can't swing a cat on without…hitting a cat on The Buzzfeed cat listicles are legion. (“The 100 Most Important Cat Pictures Of All Time,” “21 Cats Who Just Want To Travel With You,” “19 Cats Who Have Absolutely Had It,” and “27 Cats Who Are Masters Of Making Biscuits,” just to name a few.)

Buzzfeed even recently announced its intention to go seriously native and launch a branded video branch. In addition to big success with GE and Clean & Clear, Buzzfeed partnered with Purina for a video that isn't quite an ad but isn't quite not an ad. What's for sure, though, is that it has nearly five million views. See for yourself:

Other brands have also successfully capitalized on the crazy cat lady inside us all. Take UK milk brand Cravendale and its #CatsWithThumbs campaign from a couple of years back, which asked the unlikely question: What if cats had opposable thumbs? Terrifying world that would be. (Polydactyl cats are cats born with six toes, which makes it look like they have thumbs. Fun cat fact: Ernest Hemingway loved polydactyl cats. If you visit his house in Key West, now a museum, more than 50 polydactyl cats are free to roam about the grounds, just like they did back in Ernest's day.)

Cravendale even created a series of videos in which its polydactyl spokes-cat Bertrum answered incisive fan questions, such as: “Can a thumb cat drive a car?” “Can a thumb cat make mankind tremble at the awesomeness of thumbs?” “Can a thumb cat catch a fish using a rod?” (You can get the whole playlist here.)

Even Direct Marketing News is on the cat-wagon. We've got a Pinterest board dedicated to Cat-vertising and a mascot named Diego the Cat. He's our senior nap strategist.

When he's not snoozing, he's hard at work. We brought him along to the DMA2013 conference in Chicago last year to do a little reporting, and he attended our Marketing Hall of Femme awards back in March.

But we're not doing it as part of our marketing strategy. We're just doing it because it's fun.

How to Kick Off a World Cup Social Campaign

How to Kick Off a World Cup Social Campaign

The 2014 FIFA World Cup will kick off June 12 in Brazil with 32 teams competing for the championship title, a predicted one billion viewers of the finals, and an estimated 1.73 billion social network users around the globe.  Those numbers add up to big opportunity for marketers looking to ride the social media wave of the tournament.

“The World Cup gets a lot of people out of their day-to-day activities; it gives them something to be excited about and to band together around,” says Cole Sletten, senior art director at digital marketing firm Ready Set Rocket.  “Social media does the same thing, so it's a perfect combination for marketers.”

Naturally, when consumers take an interest in major events there's bound to be social media buzz and opportunity for marketers to create relevant campaigns and connect with fans. “The drive to celebrate will make people want to share more than normal,” Sletten says. “The World Cup promotes sharing behavior that you don't see all the time, and that's golden [for marketers].”

The self-proclaimed soccer fan says marketers don't need to wait until kickoff to leverage the World Cup social media buzz. Sletten shares four ways marketing strategists can get in on the social action.

1. Expect the unexpected
With every major event, Sletten says, there are unexpected breakout moments and trends. Marketers should be aware and prepared to identify those spontaneous elements and then use them in their campaigns. “There's always one unexpected thing that becomes the thing everybody talks about, and it's not always about the sport.” Sletten says marketers should monitor the event closely and jump on trending topics that mesh with the brand, and then draw a link for consumers. “There are a lot of topics, such as fashion trends, that happen outside of the game that are very much a part of the World Cup party that would be good to leverage for your brand.”

2. Understand the game
With knowledge comes power—and in this case Sletten says a deep understanding of the World Cup will enable marketers to identify the most opportune time for a social campaign. He notes that some of the best times may not be during the soccer matches. “It's really important to understand the tournament calendar.”

Sletten explains that the tournament is divided in two parts. The first half consists of tournaments every day where each team plays at least three times, hence the huge global audience and feeling of celebration. “All the teams are represented, so that's when brands need to establish themselves on social media simply because that's when all of the fans are involved.” Sletten warns that the second half of the tournament is not as continuous and may be harder to plan campaigns for without consistent attention. He says that, in addition, marketers should monitor attention spikes around game time, particularly in the hour leading up to the game. “Consider the hour before the game that magic hour; fans are waiting and killing time.” He says that downtime can prove favorable for marketers and their messages.

3. Acknowledge the hot-button issues
Despite the World Cup's celebratory nature, major events often spark controversy. Marketers should monitor hot-button issues that may stem from the event and address the concerns of their audience in numerous channels, including social. “Leading up to the World Cup, we've already seen protests and some discomfort about [the amount] of money being spent around this tournament while there's [high] poverty [in Brazil],” Sletten explains. “Listen to your fan base, and see if these issues are important to them. Then, be bold enough to talk about it [on social media].” He says that staying in the middle might upset customers and harm a brand, rather than help.

4. Understand U.S. soccer culture
Soccer fans in the United States have a unique culture that differs from that of World Cup fans around the globe. “It's important for brands to know that U.S. soccer culture is unique from the rest of the world,” Sletten points out. He says game watchers in the U.S. are Web-driven, second screeners and knowing that will help marketers craft social campaigns. “An American soccer fan is going to be very social. They'll get a bulk of their soccer news [and updates] from the Internet and Twitter, not traditional media. So anything that brands can share that can be passed along is incredibly valuable.”

The Return of Mass Marketing?

The Return of Mass Marketing?

I have a plan to establish campaign finance reform for Congressional Elections once and for all. Our mistake has been attempting to control how much money candidates can collect, but what if we approached it from another direction? What if we enacted a law requiring candidates for statewide office to spend their campaign dollars evenly across all 50 states? Then perhaps a three-term senator with a boatload of corporate donations would actually have to knock on doors and participate in town hall debates to get reelected. To install this new system as chairman of the Federal Election Commission, I nominate Julie Brill. She is, after all, the inspiration for this plan.

Current Federal Trade Commissioner Brill, it appears, finds digital targeting of consumers inappropriate and urges marketers to become more democratic with their appeals. With the issuance of the FTC's data broker report this week, Brill took the somewhat unusual step of issuing her own six-page statement interpreting the meaning of the report and its implications for legislation regulating so-called brokers, which the Commission interprets as list brokers as well as companies such as Acxiom and Experian. In so doing, she makes the assertion that marketers that employ the services of data brokers engage in discriminatory practices.

“Perhaps we are described as ‘Financially Challenged' or instead as ‘Bible Lifestyle.' Perhaps we are also placed in a category of ‘Diabetes Interest' or ‘Smoker in Household,'” Brill writes. “Data brokers' clients use these profiles to send us advertisements we might be interested in, an activity that can benefit both the advertiser and the consumer. But these profiles can also be used to determine whether and on what terms companies should do business with us as individual consumers, and could result in our being treated differently based on characteristics such as our race, income, or sexual orientation.”

In essence, Brill calls into question, if not the legality, the morality of the very practice of marketing. Marketing, to be sure, is discrimination, though not of a racial or ageist or sexual variety. It is segmentational discrimination that identifies and targets potential customers to make the most of limited marketing dollars, and to best satisfy consumer needs. But Brill seems to suggest that marketers should cast a wider, if less effective, net, even if it winds up offending or wasting the time of said consumers. If you are a member of the Financially Challenged with a decrepit old Kia in the driveway, does it do your heart good to receive emails from BMW? And what might result if Bible groups were blanketed with display ads for swingers clubs?

Brill rings an alarm that “Data brokers examine each piece of information they hold about us--where we live, where we work, and how much we earn, our race, our daily activities (both offline and online), our interests, our health conditions, and our overall financial status--to create a narrative about our past, present ,and even our future lives.” But marketers are salespeople, not scriptwriters. They are businesspeople, not defamers. Most reputable enterprises that gather digital data never capture an individual's name unless offered. Nor do they hold on to customer information for long. For one thing, data brokers often stipulate length of time or purpose that clients can use purchased data. For another, holding too much Big Data is a drain on financial and people resources.

Brill is justified in claiming that old information or sketchily drawn inferences about people could harm their financial standings and cause them not to receive preferred offers from financial institutions. But marketers are not loan officers. Marketers are there to round up the usual suspects who might benefit their companies' bottom lines. No one is stopping any mortgage-seeker from getting on the Internet, or visiting a bank branch, or picking up a phone to apply for a loan using accurate records.

Still, Brill seems to be of the opinion that marketers should spread their offers equally across all consumer segments. “Nothing in the Commission's report suggests that data brokers or their clients are running afoul of anti-discrimination laws,” she writes, adding, “It is foreseeable, however, that data that closely follow categories that are not permissible grounds for treating consumers differently in a broad array of commercial transactions.”

Is the good commissioner suggesting that marketers return to a bygone age of mass marketing? Should they abandon the Huffington Post for the Saturday Evening Post? YouTube for The Ed Sullivan Show? Is she blaming the Internet for being the Internet? Furnishing consumers with knowledge, access, and power while at the same time providing marketers with demonic segmentation tools?

Brill used a quote from Othello as a lead-in to her statement, but something tells me all this data broker business is Much Ado About Nothing. Forget our intractable Congress. The powers that be at corporations like Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, Facebook, and Salesforce—which depend on the free exchange of digital data to make sizable deposits into the national GDP—might have more to say on the matter.

Creative Bravery Helps McDonald's Achieve Golden Results

Creative Bravery Helps McDonald's Achieve Golden Results

Seventy million—that's the number of customers fast-food chain McDonald's serves across its more than 35,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries every single day. But this “Happy Place's” financial results aren't exactly making shareholders smile. According to McDonald's Q1 2014 results, the restaurant chain experienced a consolidated revenue increase of 1% and a net income decrease of 5% compared to the previous year.

"In the near term we are prioritizing our efforts around those elements of the restaurant experience that are most impactful—offering  the best food and beverage options and delivering outstanding service,” Don Thompson, president and CEO of McDonald's, stated in a press release. “For the long term we are focused on more effectively leveraging consumer insights to guide our global growth priorities of optimizing our menu, modernizing the customer experience, and broadening accessibility to brand McDonald's. We are intent on pursuing initiatives that will strengthen our relationship with our customers to reignite our business momentum."

The company has to maintain a balancing act. One one hand, it has to deliver the traditional and affordable favorites its customers expect. On the other hand, it has to “modernize” the enjoyable customer experience and make McDonald's accessible to consumers across all touchpoints. So what's McDonald's secret sauce for staying true to its roots while still being considered an innovative player? In short, “creative bravery.”

“We embrace and encourage creative bravery,” says Matt Biespiel, senior director of global brand strategy for McDonald's. “Creative that's disruptive makes a positive and long-lasting impression. It surprises, excites, and informs our customers and has the ability to differentiate the brand and our menu.”

Because I'm Happy...

Introducing new characters—and breathing life into old ones—is one way McDonald's exercises creative bravery. Last week McDonald's introduced its Happy Meal brand ambassador “Happy” to the United States. According to the company's official press release, Happy encourages children to eat more “wholesome” foods, such as the apple slices and soon-to-be-available Go-GURT Low-Fat Strawberry Yogurt that McDonald's offers in its Happy Meals and Mighty Kids Meals. However, this recent video by Grub Street suggests that the only thing that the red Happy Meal box with big eyes and giant teeth stirs in children is fear and confusion.

Although Happy is new to Americans, the animated character isn't a stranger to other parts of the world, Biespiel says. Happy originally debuted in France in 2009, he notes, and has been scaling across European and Latin American markets, as well as parts of Asia, the Pacific, and Middle East.

However, Happy's journey to America doesn't signal an out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new mascot shift for McDonald's. In fact, legendary brand figure Ronald McDonald received an image revamp—complete with shiny new red and yellow threads—about a month before Happy's arrival. The world renowned clown will actively engage consumers across McDonald's social media channels while Happy will promote McDonald's healthy meal options. To further advocate a healthy lifestyle, the golden arches company also pledges to solely promote milk, juice, or water with its Happy Meals and Mighty Kids Meals on menu boards and on in-restaurant and external advertisements later this year.

“Kids love Happy and the Happy Meal,” Biespiel says. “Happy and Ronald McDonald give the brand an unbeatable combination of fun for the entire family.”

Chasing after a new GOL!

But the brand's redesigns don't end with the mascots. For the first time in company history McDonald's is revamping its iconic red fry box—for its 2014 FIFA World Cup GOL! campaign. The company hired 12 artists from around the world to feature street art on McDonald's medium and large fry boxes that reflects their passion for soccer, Biespiel explains. The newly designed boxes hit a majority of McDonald's restaurants this past Monday and will be available throughout the World Cup tournament. 

To extend the new fry box experience, McDonald's launched an augmented reality app called “McDonald's GOL!” with Qualcomm Connected Experiences Inc. and Trigger. After consumers download the app they can hold their iOS or Android device screen up to the box. The app will then recognize the design and turn the fry box into an AR soccer goal. Substituting their fingers for legs, consumers will then “kick” a soccer ball past obstacles and try to score a goal.

“We're always exploring new ways to engage with and add value for our customers,” Biespiel says. “Our solution is a campaign that taps customers in-store and digitally with a fun, engaging experience.”

Innovative advertising? McDonald's is “Lovin' it”

Improving engagement with customers every time they interact with the brand is always a campaign objective for McDonald's, Biespiel notes. And innovative advertising, he says, helps the brand resonate with consumers and make McDonald's a company that they can proudly associate with. “Our goal is for [a] genuine connection,” he says.

So whether the brand is introducing freaky red boxes with eyes or asking consumers, “Did somebody say McDonald's?” creative bravery and delivering fun and enjoyment across channels remains at the core of McDonald's brand strategy.

“While the words have shifted slightly over the years, the spirit remains the same,” Biespiel says. “McDonald's is a happy place—a hap, hap, happy place.”

The Creep Line

The Creep Line

There's a constant push for marketers to provide customers with even more personalized, relevant, valuable experiences with brands. Of course, it's customer info—those personal details—that make that happen. In fact, there seems to be this insatiable demand for customer data. But as marketers try to craft the ultimate multichannel experience for consumers, there remains an underlying question: When have marketers crossed over from being personal to just plain creepy and intrusive? Weighing in on the topics of trust, Big Data, and security in this lucid Q&A are Andrew Delamarter, director of search and inbound marketing at Huge, and Jon Gibs, VP of analytics for the digital marketing agency.

Q: There's this ongoing discussion about “The Creep Line”—the benchmark where brand marketers have gone too far with customer data. Can you define that line?

Jon Gibs: I don't think we can. I think that's one of the reasons we're doing this work [on a current research project at Huge], and it's one of the reasons we're holding this panel, tonight. It may be cliché to say this, but you know [the creep line] when you see it. But one of the things that [researchers for Huge] are finding is how different segments [of people] interpret the lines for different brands. Some people have a lower threshold than others, and that impacts how they interact with brands. Of course, different types of brands are given different leniency. We're still trying to determine what creates the sensitivity, but we've discovered [in our research at Huge] it's not demographics—namely race, age, or geography. It's more how people think or tick.

Q: So is there ever a point where brand marketers are collecting too much data?

Gibs: In my mind it's not the collection of data that's an issue. It's the use of that data, the security around that data, and of course the value exchange with the user. And when I say ‘value exchange,' I mean the user has to get some value out of giving up their data. In other words, I'm getting something back for giving you my data. If that value exchange doesn't exist, then that's when things become much more problematic. That's when it can move into a place where consumers are being taken advantage of.

Andrew Delamarter: Yeah, it's more what [marketers] do with that data that may turn people off. One of the things that's pushing this [topic] to the forefront is the strategies of remarketing and behavioral targeting—even display ads [that are] online. The ROI on these are actually very positive for marketers; marketers are tempted by the ROI. But at a certain point you don't want to begin to stalk customers if that display ad is chasing them around the Web and on different devices. Marketers can creep out even those who are aware of these strategies. It'll be interesting [during the next few years] to see if marketers restrain themselves or if they go overboard and deal with a backlash.

Q: Obviously, there's been a lot of talk in the media about data breaches in recent months. And whether that security breach happened at your company or another, marketers are affected across several industries. So how can marketers gain trust back once the trust is broken?

Gibs: You know one of the initial findings we've had in our [ongoing research project on data privacy at Huge] is that even though people say privacy is the most important thing that a digital brand can provide them, they'll report high amounts of satisfaction and trust with brands that have relatively low [data] privacy ratings.

Delamarter: Yeah, I'm not sure [customers] blame the brands. They realize these systems [have some vulnerabilities]. Let me tell you. My credit card [with a particular bank] has been stolen nine times. It's ridiculous. But I still do business them. There's this spreading awareness [among customers] that maybe it's not the brand's fault and [an understanding] that even the best systems can be broken into.

Q: Who's more concerned about data privacy: marketers or consumers?

Gibs: I would actually say there's a third group—the media. It's very newsworthy when you hear about a big company taken down by some anonymous hackers. Gets a lot of attention. But in truth, [data breaches] often make more of an impact on storytelling than true impact on an individual or specific brand. However, the media is creating an awareness [among customers], which isn't a bad thing.

Delamarter: Yeah, I agree. Obviously, I'm personally concerned about [data security]. I don't see a lot of impact on business from [these breaches], and I don't see a lot of concern [from customers] about them either. But that doesn't mean people won't begin to think about this in the future, and [breaches] do pose a risk. Smart brands and marketers need to be thinking about this or it will get worse, especially as we move into an era with the Internet of Things. Big Data is only going to get bigger.

In Concert with Your Mobile Audience

In Concert with Your Mobile Audience

Five thousand members of your target audience are standing in a room just waiting around. Every person there is packing some kind of mobile device and they know how to use it. In other words, these people are ready to rock—but there's not much more for them to do other than mill about, glance at the stage, glance at the time on their phone, buy a beer, and probably take an ill-advised selfie while they watch the roadies do their thing.

Live events—concerts especially, but this applies to trade shows, conventions, and online events, too—are the ideal place to take a humdrum sponsorship opportunity and turn it up to 11, Spinal Tap-style.

Most forms of entertainment in which an audience gapes up at a stage while performers perform are passive; essentially “one-way experiences,” says Aaron Price, cofounder and CEO of livecube, which uses interactive game-based mechanics to motivate social sharing and engagement at events. But it certainly doesn't have to be that way, especially in the age of the always-connected consumer.

“When you have people's attention in one location over a specified period of time, you also have the opportunity to communicate with them and prompt them to engage with you in some way,” says Price. “It's a way to drive meaningful conversations and even networking opportunities.”

But before you go off and start gamifying everything that moves in the name of enhanced engagement, Price advises asking yourself (and honestly answering) a simple question: What are you trying to achieve? Because if your gamification strategy doesn't align with your business goals and you're not providing the proper rewards and incentives, not only won't your audience care, but you'll be wasting your time and resources.

“It's about coming up with the right game mechanics for your particular needs, whether you're a publication, a Fortune 500 company, or a brand sponsoring an event, so that you're driving the desired behaviors,” Price says. “You can't just gamify something and think it's going to be automatically awesome.”

A shift in mind-set might help. Instead of sponsoring an event, brands should think of it as sponsoring an experience, like what Heineken did as the official malt beverage sponsor of the Coachella music and arts festival in California. The beer brand partnered with SnapChat to tease users with ephemeral, tightly cropped photo clues about special, unannounced acts throughout the festival.

Sponsors often have access to cool rewards that fans really want—and we're not talking about $100 gift cards.

“Sometimes the best rewards are things like status or access to power rather than just stuff,” Price says. “Money or an object is far less motivating than the chance to get up on stage or to meet your favorite artist.”

Take Inc. magazine, for example, which used livecube to up participation levels at its GrowCo conference, an educational event aimed at budding entrepreneurs and business leaders. Inc., which knew from having collected feedback that people were interested in more and higher-quality networking experiences, took action on that insight. After engaging in a series of tasks designed to encourage networking among conference attendees, players could win the chance to watch mega-businessman Mark Cuban's keynote address at a special VIP table with Inc. columnist and senior contributing editor Norm Brodsky.

The reward was perfect in this case because a) it was something GrowCo attendees really wanted to win, and b) it didn't cost Inc. a penny.

“You don't have to run a million-dollar challenge or do a big, huge expensive thing,” Price says. “When brands reward people for what they actually want to do anyway, then game mechanics can massively accelerate and amplify an experience—and it's a lot more engaging and fun than static, one-way marketing.”

In Digital Town, Talk is Dear

In Digital Town, Talk is Dear

I made a wish, I said it out loud
Out loud in a crowd
Everybody heard
'Twas the talk of the town

—Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders

I've had this feeling for some time now about the absolute worst side-effect of the digital revolution. Not the humiliation of Internet dating. Not the deification of the Kardashians (though that's high on the list). Not even the horrific fact that every idiotic bleat floated into cyberspace by simple-minded sociopaths or attention-starved semi-literates will exist in perpetuity as the defining document of the human experiment. No, the worst development for the future of society springing from our techno-centric lives is that people don't speak to each other anymore.

It's easier to get a phone audience with Pope Francis than with either of my sons, who are, yes, busy with their careers, but now essentially exist as text-Tamagotchis in my life. Traversing the sidewalks and subways of New York is a silent occupation these days. Recently, my bulky frame was blocking a passageway in Penn Station when I felt some eyes on me. A young lady trying to pass was standing there waiting for me to move instead of simply saying, “Excuse me.” Staffers on this publication speak to each other at the weekly editorial meeting, but communicate via email from mere feet away the rest of the week. I'm inundated with press releases from PR folk desperate to get their clients mentioned in website news alerts and, being on deadline, I'll often pick up the phone to call them for details. Yet a growing number of them do not include their phone numbers on their emails! (Marketers, if you employ any of these hacks, fire them immediately.)

Digital communication, I have long suspected, has freed people from the necessity of looking fellow human beings in the eye and conversing with them, a messy and possibly hazardous business that has been obsoleted by email and SMS text. While history has proved that my suppositions are rarely correct, a survey from IntelliResponse has provided proof that I may be on to something here. It's also something that marketers who have to deal with the even messier business of making customers happy should pay attention to.

IntelliResponse, whose Virtual Agent systems protect consumers from actually having to talk to human customer service agents, surveyed 1,000 consumers recently and found that only 6% of them think of picking up a phone to call the company if they need information on a product or service or have a problem with the company. Two-thirds of them believe all the answers can be found on a corporate website, and 10% prefer to ferret out a solution on social media in between pinning pictures of their gourmet slider dinner from the night before.

Now, brace yourselves, all you brands that seek to create a persona and engage with your customer base in an unending relationship of mutual appreciation and caring. Your customers don't love you or your brand. They're users, only in the relationship for what they can get out of it in the easiest and cheapest way possible. They don't want to cuddle and chat after they're done. When asked by IntelliResponse what type of relationship they want from the companies they buy from, 58% were all business, saying that being serviced efficiently was their sole aim. Brands on the personalization bandwagon can take heart in the knowledge that 24% of customers said they wanted a “friendship” in which they received personalized service. A mere 3% said they desired “romance,” and that they looked forward to interacting with brands.

Be warned that that lonely 3% includes those such as me, old warhorses of the conversation game who actually find it easier to ask someone how to navigate the remote control for my HD cable instead of searching for the solution on a website. The type who likes to ask customer service reps where they are, and how's the weather there in Texarkana?

I can, with great certainty, tell you this, my digital marketing friends. The customer service agents you employ are some of the most wondrous people extant in our increasingly impersonal world. Their uncanny ability to stay calm and polite throughout my assertive and often insulting questions and accusations—and the countless others like me and worse—is a model for the species. They should be off making big money directing group therapy sessions instead of working for you. They certainly are a better investment in your brand than your standoffish PR people.

P&G's Qualitative Study Produces Hair-Raising Insight

P&G's Qualitative Study Produces Hair-Raising Insight

The Hispanic population is growing rapidly within the United States. Research firm Nielsen expects the overall population to increase 42% over the course of 2010 to 2050, and predicts that the Hispanic segment will surge 167% during this same time frame.

When it comes to marketing to this community, Procter & Gamble (P&G) primarily targets bicultural consumers. This segment tends to consist of first-generation or U.S.-born citizens who are bilingual and reside in urban areas, notes Jill Bos, senior scientist for P&G. They're also deeply rooted in their culture, she says, and often act as they would if they were still living in their region of origin.

But the unfavorable stereotypes Hispanics sometimes associate with Americans fuel a sense of distrust, Bos says, and make it difficult—and expensive—to solicit data and feedback.

“When you recruit them as a stranger, there's a lot of mistrust and you don't get a very good response,” Bos says. “So without establishing relationships with potential candidates, it's very hard to get consumers to respond to your attempt to reach.”

Based on its census data, P&G discovered that Latinas—the female portion of the Hispanic market—tend to have a strong interest in hair care. The population takes pride in putting time and effort into its appearance, Bos says, and is more likely to experiment, use heat tools and coloring treatments, and perceive hair as damaged compared to non-Hispanic consumers. This segment is also likely to infuse natural ingredients and remedies into beauty routines. To resonate with Latinas and show how its products could address their hairy issues, P&G examined the population's hair care desires and shopping habits through qualitative research during the summer of 2012.

Instead of reaching out to the few Latinas it had in its database as a stranger, P&G partnered with Latin American recruiting agency SusOpiniones to find Latinas who were between the ages of 25 to 55, use shampoos and hair treatments regularly, and perceive their hair as damaged. To overcome what Bos refers to as “the barrier of the unknown,” the recruiting agency also encouraged participants to invite a friend to join the study. Not only did this help build up the company's database, but it also created a sense of trust between the brand and the consumer, she says. 

After recruiting 18 women, P&G asked the participants to download an app from mobile and Web-based qualitative research technology provider Revelation Global. Then, the women were asked to visit Revelation Global's site and fill out a profile to familiarize themselves with the other panelists.

“They actually got to know each other virtually,” Bos says. “This was my first time doing Internet research, so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to create a corporate environment as I would if I had six to 12 women living together for weeks. One of the things that surprised and delighted me was how quickly these women formed a bond.”

Once the women filled out their profiles, they were asked to complete three exercises over the course of three days. Some of the assignments asked women to describe their hair care experiences. For instance, P&G asked the participants questions that were similar to the following: What does a good hair day look like? What are some of your biggest hair frustrations? And what would your ideal hair care product be like? Participants could write out their responses in English or Spanish. Other exercises asked women to go shopping and take pictures of products of interest or those that have ended up in what Bos refers to as their “graveyards”: products that they've tried but ended up disliking.

Taking pictures allowed P&G to capture consumers' mentalities at the shelf and enabled shoppers to convey their hair care regimen in a single snap, Bos notes. She also says conducting a qualitative study gave the company more details regarding how consumers felt about the hair care category than a quantitative study ever could.

“A quantitative study can't get down to the emotional impact that these women are experiencing when they have a bad hair day, have to put their hair up in a ponytail, and just give up for the day,” Bos says. “You just can't get that richness from a quantitative study. Depending on the exercises that you do, qualitative [data] can really bring that to life and paint a picture.”

The insights from the study confirmed that Latina consumers highly valued the inclusion of natural ingredients in their products and on the product's packaging. As a result, P&G changed the label of Pantene's Nature Fusion hair collection by featuring avocado oil and melon extract—some of the collection's natural ingredients—front and center. The brand relaunched the collection in the U.S. in January 2014. And while Bos admits that she hasn't had access to the sales data yet, she says that the “word on the street” is that the redesign is effective. She adds that P&G has also taken the insights from its qualitative study and is currently applying them to its hair coloring products.

The qualitative data gleaned from the study has impacted P&G outside of the hair care category, as well. For instance, Bos says that the laundry detergent Gain has a strong Hispanic following because its scent brings back memories of the population's heritage and culture. Hence, the company is looking to take the insights from its study and apply it to Gain's campaigns to create a more sensual experience.

“There's a lot that we're doing and cross-fertilizing with our brands,” Bos says.

But perhaps one of the greatest wins for P&G is overcoming the population's sense of distrust of the unknown. According to Bos, 100% of the participants said that they would do a similar study in the future.

Although it was Bos's first attempt at online research, it seems that it won't be her last. Not only does Bos find online research to be just as rich as in-person research, but she also finds it to be quicker and cheaper. And with mobile becoming more prevalent, Bos says P&G will have to stay nimble to continue to be where its customers are at all times.

“We're going to have to continue to be agile in capturing these consumers,” she says.

Social TV Analytics That Go Beyond the Buzz-Numbers

Social TV Analytics That Go Beyond the Buzz-Numbers

: Millions of Americans are tweeting daily about what they've watched on television, often using slang, made-up words, regrettable spelling, and dubious grammar. Also fact: Attempting to manually score all those tweets every day is a case study in how to drive a network analyst slowly, or not so slowly, insane.

But beyond the logistics of processing the sheer volume of tweets, the real challenge is doing it in a way that produces some kind of actionable info. Knowing how many people are tweeting about your brand or program is nearly irrelevant without knowing the context—but so is using a simplistic, opaque scoring system.

“Historically, the focus in the space has been on sentiment—designating tweets as ‘positive,' ‘negative,' or ‘neutral,'—but what does that really mean?” notes Jared Feldman, cofounder and CEO of Mashwork, parent company of a newly released natural language social TV insights tool called Canvs. [Fun fact: Feldman developed Canvs with his former NYU professor Sam Hui, who now serves as Mashwork's chief scientific officer. Now that's education in action.]

Let's say a viewer of BET's The Game (a super-popular program that follows the lives, trials, and tribulations of professional football players and their significant others) tweets something along the lines of: “I CAN'T STAND Jason Pitts in The Game. That guy just annoys me!!!!!!!!”

The tone of that tweet is clear. Cut and dried, right? But multiple things are actually happening there. Yes, the tweet is seemingly negative in sentiment—this person doesn't like a particular character on the show—but he or she is still actively engaging with the program. If a viewer loves to hate a show, that's not negative sentiment—that's ratings and social gold.

The opposite is also true—and also potentially quite unfortunate from a marketing perspective when automation gets involved.

“Let's say you mention Coca-Cola and Pretty Little Liars in the same tweet. Traditionally, that would be interpreted as, ‘This person has an affinity for Coca-Cola and for Pretty Little Liars—but that's not necessarily valid,” Feldman says. “Because what if this was the tweet: ‘I can't stand Coke and Pretty Little Liars in the worst effing show on TV.'”

Feldman aims to reframe the conversation by bringing emotion to the table. The goal with Canvs—a play on the concept of canvassing an audience—is to act like a real-time opinion poll that outlines for network execs exactly what the most engaging or important moments are in a particular show. The tool only looks at emotional tweets, rather than tweets or retweets in which people are just sharing links. Reflexive shares aren't emotional and muddy the insight waters. Canvs then analyzes the natural language used in the reaction tweets to paint a convincing picture of how people truly feel about the content they've just consumed combined with other relevant data like demographics, average income, interests, and brand preferences.

In essence, an impossible, and yet possible, real-time focus group of the masses.

“Imagine you've got 23,000 people, or whatever, in a room and you ask them what they think of a particular episode,” Feldman says. “This is how they'd respond.”

It's where the social TV insights space is moving. Just like any marketer out there, networks are looking for actionable data and the ability to create meaningful segments from the social mayhem.

Recent research from Adobe found that while the vast majority of marketers are using social media, a mere 12% said that they're confident in their ability to actually measure their efforts—so there's definitely room in the industry for more effective and nuanced analysis tools.

“It's an unbelievable stat; there's this enormous thing that's infiltrated how everyone thinks about media now—and most marketers don't think they're doing it right...though it's easy to understand why when they're just looking at buzz-numbers,” Feldman says. “The question every network always asks about their show is, ‘How did I do last night?'—but it's impossible to answer that without really understanding your audience's true emotional reactions.”

Really, Every Week Is Internet Week, So...

Really, Every Week Is Internet Week, So...

The fireside chat with Mike Lazerow, CMO of Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, at Internet Week was billed as a discussion about the “current state of advertising and marketing technology” and the startup space. It meandered greatly into a kind of general talk about company culture and the importance of philanthropy.


Apparently Salesforce is an awesome place to work—basically all the execs from companies acquired by Salesforce, including Lazerow's baby Buddy Media, are still deeply involved, which is pretty rare—and CEO Marc Benioff is huge on philanthropy. Salesforce was built on the philanthropic precept that, as Lazerow put it, “we can do good as we do well.”

Even before Salesforce was Salesforce and making utter bank, Benioff insisted on donating 1% of all profit, and a good chunk of stock and employee time, to nonprofits. To this day Salesforce employees get six paid days off to do whatever they want to give back to the community, whether that's helping build a house or lending a hand at their kids' school. Apparently the company has donated something like 50 million hours of community service since its founding which is, admittedly, whoa.

“If you're just a company that's profit-driven, the customer is not going to be connected to you in a fundamental or meaningful way, and neither are employees,” Lazerow said.

Other than that, this is what I learned:

1) Lazerow went to journo school at Northwestern back in the day, followed by a stint after graduation as a writer for The Delaware State News covering the poultry industry. In that role he became well acquainted with then (DE-D) Senator Joe Biden.

2) Lazerow loves apps because they're the “purest way” to use your phone. “Great apps transform your life,” he said. “We live with these phones and every company needs to be in their customer's pocket, whether that happens through credit cards, their mobile phone, or through social.”

And Salesforce, of course, practices what it preaches with Salesforce1, which is like the marketing cloud to end all marketing clouds. “Anyone who wants to talk about my business, see me afterwards,” Lazerow quipped. “It's in my pocket.”

3) Lazerow is such an avid angel investor that he's happily sunk money into more than 40 ventures and counting. His friends jokingly refer to him as a “drunk baby.”

“I've never met an idea I don't like,” he said.

4) Lazerow has cool glasses.

5) Lazerow predicts that Buzzfeed will at some point in the near-ish future become the largest media company on the planet.

6) If Lazerow had his druthers there would be a better infrastructure in place to encourage and train programmers.

“I'd like to see a culture of creators in New York that's not just creating content and media, which we have a lot of already [note from the writer of this article: mea culpa], but a culture of creating code,” he said.

7) When Lazerow first moved to New York in 2006, right before he founded Buddy Media with his wife Kass, the world was a different place. YouTube didn't exist, Facebook was only two years old, and if you wanted to be involved in tech then San Fran was really the only place to go.

“Now it's like Internet Week is every week,” Lazerow said. “It's all we do.”

Overcome Silos With Integrated Marketing Management

Overcome Silos With Integrated Marketing Management

“The number of opportunities to engage customers has rapidly expanded and exploded,” Gartner Research VP Kimberly Collins said at the Gartner Customer 360 Summit—and far more so than marketing budgets have.  What's more, few marketers ever “throw things out”; they just add to their ever-expanding marketing mix, Collins said. But many of these channels are and remain siloed. As a result, customers are often left “confused and unhappy with inconsistent and contradictory messages and treatment across channels,” she said.

So how can marketers create a more holistic, consistent customer experience? Collins recommended adding a new set of four P's to the marketing roster: align people, automate processes, measure and optimize performance, and make marketing a profit center. Marketing may never have a P&L, she said, but there needs to be insight into how marketing impacts revenue. (And yes, the old four Ps of marketing—product, price, promotion, and placement— still apply, she said.)

This means departmental and channel-based silos within marketing need to be aligned and integrated to create collaborative marketing; in other words, integrated marketing management, Collins said. There are three process areas within this that marketers need to focus on, she pointed out. The first is executional processes, or campaign management processes such as in- and outbound marketing, segmentation, and lead management and nurturing. “It's about driving that top line,” she said. The second is operations processes, or marketing resource management (MRM) processes including planning and financial management and marketing fulfillment. “Saving money here allows marketers to do more of the sexy, innovative things that can differentiate a brand,” Collins said. The third set of processes is analytic processes such as marketing mix optimization, marketing ROI analysis, and marketing performance management. Collins noted that there are areas of overlap among the three, like voice of the customer and content marketing.

But where should marketers focus first or emphasize more? Just about every area is hot in marketing today, Collins said, so it can be difficult to prioritize. It comes down to what type of customer engagement strategy an organization wants, she said. For example, active, or real-time, marketing focuses more on event-triggered marketing, personalization, and contextual marketing. There's also emotional, or customer experience and loyalty marketing, where the goal is to strength the customer relationship. Another area is rational, or social marketing, which includes crowdsourcing and online communities. A fourth are is ethical, or moral, marketing such as affinity marketing.

Integrated marketing management drives closed-loop customer engagement that supports and helps to blend those areas, she said.

Collins recommended several steps that marketers can take to help make integrated marketing management a reality. The initial steps are to start the dialog between marketing and IT, and to assemble a team with participants across the marketing ecosystem and IT to audit marketing processes and technologies and identify opportunities. Once those are in place, appoint a marketing operations director, determine the organization's customer engagement strategy, and then set supporting objectives and KPIs. Additionally, determine which marketing strategies and processes require automation and set a timeline to implement the needed tools. Finally, develop a flexible integrated marketing management roadmap and a marketing optimization management strategy.

“Marketing is [arguably] the most complex department within an organization today,” Collins said. CMOs are dealing with a complicated ecosystem and face a nexus of disruptive forces, including pervasive access via mobile and circles of influence via social. Integrated marketing management is what marketing leaders need today to help conquer that complexity and deliver on customers' expectations for a consistent and relevant experience.

Future Success Lies in Customer Centricity

Future Success Lies in Customer Centricity

There's a huge culture chasm between customer and businesses today, Leigh McMullen and Gene Alvarez asserted in the opening keynote of the Gartner Customer 360 Summit 2014.

According to the two Gartner managing VPs, transparency has exposed companies' faults even as customer expectations continue to increase. Organizations will have to stay nimble and transform to meet those continually changing expectations. “Customer-centric organizations will always win,” McMullen said, adding that enterprises will have to transform to be customer centric if they're not.

But how can companies transform and transition to cross that culture chasm?

One challenge, McMullen and Alvarez said is that there are multiple sub-cultures with their own objectives within each organization, so it's challenging to get everyone aligned around the customer.

But “culture [change] is a not wicked problem,” McMullen said. “It's deceptively easy.” It starts with strong, authentic leadership.

The way forward, Alvarez added, is to build an organization powered by purpose. Purpose helps to build organizational collaboration, and helps employees understand the corporate mission and how their role aligns with it. This starts with creating and communicating the enterprise mission, is followed by strategy that aligns with and supports that mission, then drives each manager's personal goals, which then drives each of their team's personal goals. It's an idea Gartner calls “a leader of one” and provides more clarity of purpose. “Leadership sets the tempo and metrics set direction,” McMullen said.

Alvarez cited Gartner's 12 ways to create a customer-driven culture, show here in a photo by attendee Antonio Wanderley:

McMullen and Alvarez stressed that to change an organization's culture its leadership needs to change the personal brand of each employee. “An organization's brand is basically the aggregate of everyone's personal brand within it,” McMullen said, adding that the personal brand is the most effective lever for real change—and will enable  a customer-centric culture to become self-sustaining. Employees want to learn and grow, he said. So use the tools you have to drive change and then turn the process over to the employees who should own them.

Governance is how you wire all this together, McMullen and Alvarez said.

What you measure impacts culture. Consider service availability versus service recoverability, McMullen said. How does measuring one versus the other impact your culture? Service availability is about managing risk; it's where failure is not an option. Recoverability is about problem solving and being agile. Neither is “right.” You have to find what works to drive the culture that you want, he said, adding that given no other direction, metrics will guide people's behaviors. “This is where you prove your values; to put your measurements where your mouth is.”

McMullen cited Dan Pink in saying that what's really motivates people is autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Companies need to have incredibly clear mission boundaries. For example, push decision rights down to the employees who need to make decisions in real time; make leadership roles dynamic, so the person who's the “leader” at a given moment is the person who should or needs to be in charge based on circumstances; have the team own process improvement; and provide values-oriented incentives and values-centric measurements. Financial incentives won't work with someone who's driven by innovation, for example; what motivates that person is having the time to be innovative.

Companies that are committed to customer centricity have leadership that communicates and lives the organization's values, Alvarez said.  They also have a clear vision and strategy, metrics that align with customer-centric objectives, employee rewards that are tied to customer values, and activity seek and listen to customer input, among other approaches.

Transforming to a customer-centric culture is hard, but it's not complex, McMullen added. “It's like walking out of the desert: Put one foot in front of the other.”

Companies that will succeed long term in today's customer-focus market will build an agile culture that is powered by purpose and personal brand, thus self-reinforcing and self-sustaining. The organization's culture then becomes an engine of continuous improvement, Alvarez said, that's able to keep pace with changing customer needs and expectations.

A Snapshot of the 21st Century Marketer

A Snapshot of the 21st Century Marketer

Nowadays, evolution is the name of the marketing game. But marketers don't need to look back 50, 20, or even five years to see the exponential change in the industry over time. In just the past few years marketers have been inundated with new technologies, innovative strategies, and pressing customer expectations.

“The number of channels that [marketers] have now has just exploded,“ says Deborah Fain, an adjunct professor teaching integrated marketing at New York University and customer relationship management at Pace University. “ Twenty years ago [marketers] were doing a huge volume of direct mail, telemarketing, and the Web was fledging. Also, we hadn't figured out how great of a tool email can be—and of course, we had no social channels whatsoever.” Fain says modern marketers, however, have an unprecedented number of tools that provide access to customer feedback, give them an ability to respond instantly to customers, and present a holistic view of the consumer. “We've evolved to looking at the customer as opposed to looking at the product,” Fain says.

There's no doubt that in today's marketing landscape, it's survival of the fittest. Alex Lirtsman, cofounder and digital strategist at Ready Set Rocket and Emily Wengert, VP of user experience for Huge, insist that if modern marketers want effective campaigns in this competitive climate, their plans must be digital, mobile, social, personal, and always on.

Millennials are the largest generation in U.S. history; as these 86 million young adults come of age, they'll eventually hold the majority of buying power. It's a fact that marketers should not—and cannot—ignore. Millennials, along with progressive Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, are more apt to be innovators and early adopters of all things digital. “It's fascinating how millennials do more and more shopping online and less and less shopping in stores,” Huge's Emily Wengert says. “And it's amazing that the storefront of a lot of businesses used to be a physical, brick-and-mortar thing. Now more and more often, the actual storefront—even the initial touchpoint—is digital.” She says the role of a physical store has evolved into an opportunity to provide an experience, rather than serve as a utility. The conversation, research, and consumption of content—that's increasingly digital. “Digital is really at the heart of everything,” Wengert says.

According to eMarketer, more than 5 billion people across the globe will be mobile phone users by 2017. Compare that to an estimated 4.3 billion users today. Mobile continues to evolve—growing past its on-the-go reputation, instead becoming an everyday, at-home necessity. “Mobile is so big,” says Ready Set Rocket's Alex Lirtsman. “The modern marketer needs to understand that people are using multiple devices to complete a transaction. And they really need to understand cross-device attribution starting on mobile, but still ending on a desktop.” He says that as marketers continue to track customer behaviors on mobile, they'll be able to attribute specific purchases to mobile campaigns. “The reality is customers discover on mobile, then purchase on desktop.”

Social media gives modern marketers the ability to encourage advocates, keep loyalists, prompt engagement, and create content—all strategies that can lead to a lift in sales. Wengert says social also gives brand marketers platforms with large audiences: “With social there's now volume. [Marketers] can get so many people on their platform; it isn't an option to not be on [social media].” She says modern marketers are learning that social media isn't just another broadcast tool, but rather is an instrument to befriend customers, share content, and provide fun experiences. “Marketers have learned more and more to integrate [their plans with] what people want to do on social media: share thoughts and content with friends, rather than talk to brands,” Wengert says.

Personal customer data fuels the creation of relevant, relatable, and valuable messages. Most certainly, it allows marketers to talk directly to individuals, rather than an entire audience. “It's really all about relevance,” Lirtsman says. “A brand that has a personal relationship with me is relevant to me. Communication needs to be timely [and] relevant to the stage of my journey with that brand.” Lirtsman adds that with personal customer data, marketers can understand consumer needs, and then simply meet them. “[Marketing messages] need to leverage any information that a brand has on the customer.”

Always on
Modern marketers are always on—ready to engage and eager to have ongoing communication with customers. What's more, marketers today are increasingly able to provide consumers with a continuous, uninterrupted customer experience. “There's no question that we're all on many devices throughout the day,” Wengert says. “From your personal items to the screen in the back of a taxi cab, the volume of those marketing messages has increased. In order to be heard above that fray, [marketers] need to give the sense that their brands are everywhere—always available.” That doesn't mean marketers need to be on every channel, she notes. “You just need to create a really smart, cross-channel campaign.”

This Is How CX Is Done in Email

This Is How CX Is Done in Email

Ah, personalized email. Even basic personalization like using a customer's name in the greeting can help maintain engagement. Woe to the marketer who gets it wrong.

Unfortunately, however, mistakes do happen. Whether it's human error or a technical glitch, it behooves marketers to act, and fast, to resolve the error. And when your business is marketing or customer experience, there's even more pressure to save face.

Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) did just that, excellently, and with humor. Following on the heels of its 2014 Insight Exchange, the association sent an email requesting feedback on the event from attendees (as it would, of course). However, instead of the emails being addressed to the individuals who attended, everyone received an email addressed to “Shannon.”

Within just a few hours, CXPA sent a clever follow up with the subject line, “You're Not Shannon...” and a witty apology that included the actual recipient's name, and a call to action that involved Shannon. Plus, the association got the real Shannon to take a photo with a note about the conference to include in the message.

Now that's what I call a full and speedy recovery.

Before (subject line, "We Want Your Feedback | CXPA's 2014 Insight Exchange"):

After (subject line, "You're Not Shannon..."):

Some Trashy Ideas for Your Content Marketing

Some Trashy Ideas for Your Content Marketing

It must be so easy to be a marketer. Why? Because while 70% of people say that overconsumption is putting the planet at risk, and half of them admit they'd be happy without most of the stuff they own, they keep consuming new stuff and tossing old stuff at an alarming rate. But here's the most delicious part of a global survey of more than 10,000 people released by Havas Worldlwide: Though the vast majority of consumers are convinced that current economic models aren't working, they're equally convinced that high levels of consumption are critical to economic growth. As Dana Carvey's Church Lady used to say, “How convenient!”

P.T. Barnum continues to be right, though perhaps his famous quote could be updated to, “There's a self-righteous yet self-entitled sucker born every minute.” The Earth Day merchandisers have this game down pat. Every year they come out with a new logo for the event, and municipalities and universities also do their own designs, forcing the millions of environmentally concerned Earth Day celebrators to buy new T-shirts that they wear once and then toss. Brilliant!

This is reverse-permission marketing. Consumers, by virtue of their appellation, want to consume. They're guilty about it, but they're more than eager to do it as long as they get permission. And that's where marketers come in. They already want to buy your product, but just imagine how much more they'd buy if you focused your content marketing on endowing them with some form of green certification with purchase? 

In that spirit, we consulted the Clean Air Council for intelligence upon which to base some surefire green issue-based content marketing ideas. The italicized facts all come from the “Waste and Recycling Facts” page on

The Rubber Manufacturers Association estimated that 275 million tires were in stockpiles. I and my cubicle mate Ava are members of a tiny minority. We are among the 0.8% of New York City workers who commute to the office on bikes. That's a huge marketplace opening for a bike manufacturer willing to work on commuters' environmental guilt and narcissistic self-images. A bike brand could circulate infographics illustrating what a quarter billion auto tires look like next to a similar number of bicycle tires. (Everest vs. Hamburger Hill) How about bus shelter ads with a fit lady biking past a mountain of old tires with the headline, “Bike to work for your body…and for everybody!”

The average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups every year. This is a slam dunk in the office wastebasket. An entire branding campaign can be built on this one. Starbucks, or Tassimo, or Folgers, fields a social media-imbued, multichannel campaign to get individual offices (floors, departments) to use their own mugs, sign no-paper-cup pledges, and report on their progress. Offices that stay engaged for a month and report a 50% decline in paper cups get free (brand-marked, of course) mugs from the marketer.

Only 10 percent of the 140.3 million cell phones retired in 2007 were recycled; 40 million computers became obsolete that year, about twice as many as in 1998. 304 million electronics were disposed of from US households in 2005. Two thirds of them still worked. Recycling one million laptops saves enough energy to power 3,657 American homes in a year. What's more important to Havas's green-leaning consumer, do you think: recycling mountains of old feature phones or getting a new iPhone model every 18 months? Judging from the fact that thousands of them line up for two days in front of Apple Stores for the latter, the answer appears evident. Why doesn't a Dell or a Blackberry look to gain some traction in the market by creating indestructible, reuseable laptop and cell phone “shells,” something simple and elegant, personalized and permanent, that could be updated with new guts as technology progresses? The brands could start with a design contest via website and social media and sell these “new consumers” on the idea by having them originate it.

This last idea plays right into an interesting finding in the Havas report. More than half of consumers surveyed said that, in the future, they expected to belong to a number of sharing services that would save them money and keep functional products in service instead of in landfills. Three quarters of these people said they expected brands to act as guarantors of the used products that individuals sell online.

When Brand and Customer Experience Are One

When Brand and Customer Experience Are One

As customers, we all know the certainty of this: Customer experience is personal.

“Your customers have different needs and you have to do what you can to meet them,” said Bob Johnson, president of Sprint Retail and chief service and information technology officer for Sprint, during his keynote at the 2014 CXPA Insight Exchange. It's not easy, but it's worth the effort, he said, noting that Sprint has cut about $7 billion in costs over the past few years in part by improving the customer experience in ways that led to reductions in churn, increases in self-service, and fewer calls to its customer service and care teams.

In fact, the American Customer Satisfaction Index cites Sprint as the most-improved company in customer experience across 47 industries during the past five years.

These improvements to Sprint's customer experience also reflect its brand image. As the telecom's customer satisfaction bottom-two box scores decrease, so does churn. And as the top-two box scores increase, Johnson pointed out, so do marketing efficiencies, word of mouth, and retention. “It's like free money,” he said.

But delivering a top-notch customer experience that aligns with corporate goals is no easy feat. Johnson said it requires three things: top-down support, perseverance, and a link to revenue. “It's very hard. There's no magic bullet,” he said. “You have to stick with it and stay passionate about it. And if you improve the customer experience, you have to show the impact to the bottom line.”

Fortunately, customer experience excellence is among Sprint CEO Dan Hesse's top-three priorities. According to Johnson, they are: improve the customer experience (which means extending customer satisfaction leadership); strengthen the brand (thus drive profitable growth); and generate cash (which includes reducing costs). These priorities unify the company around shared goals and have been critical to the company' success, Johnson said. This approach helps to communicate internally how employees impact the bottom line; in part, through showing that as customer satisfaction goes up, churn goes down.

A focus on customer experience pervades the organization, especially in sales, customer service and care, and IT. “There's a great synergy between these groups,” Johnson told me when we spoke prior to his keynote. “The retail, service, and care customer experiences are all enabled by IT.” In fact, everything from the point-of-sales systems at retail, billing tools, and the systems that the service and care teams use are all run by IT.  “We want to make sure that when customers sign up it's a great experience, when customers call the care team we want that to be a great experience, and even when they review their bill it's a great experience—and IT support all that,” he said during his keynote.

But the customer experience isn't just about when customers come to Sprint; it's also about outreach. “You have to go where your customers are,” Johnson said. So Sprint created an online community to provide a place where customers can help each other, and it launched a team of “social ninjas” to help respond to customers in social channels. Currently, there are 3,300 employees who volunteer as social ninjas. Additionally, employees volunteer to send handwritten thank-you notes to customers; last year they sent 900,000 in total.

“It's everyone's responsibility in the company to help customers,” Johnson said. But it's not forced. Management communicates the benefits so employees will want to take part. Clearly, it works.

But Sprint executives don't just cross their fingers and hope for customer-centric outcomes. There are customer and operational metrics that support customer centricity; for example, post-interaction churn rates, first-call resolution, and Net Promoter Score. Additionally, care agents are compensated to own and resolve issues instead of transferring calls—and call transfers have dropped 50% since Sprint began focusing on it. The mantra is “service, solve, and satisfy.”

“The front line is the brand,” Johnson says. “Sometimes it's the only personal interaction customers have with the company, and it leaves a lasting impression.” 

Along with inside-out customer experience initiatives, Sprint responds to customer input by making changes to, say, pricing or devices; for example, launching its unlimited data plan in 2011.

“We focus on customers' moments of truth,” Johnson said, citing purchasing, receiving a first bill, and calling to resolve technical issues as examples. “We're taking all customer touchpoints, mapping them to our functional peers, and saying, ‘Here's how you affect the customer experience, and here's where you need improve' or ‘Thanks, keep up the good work.'” Part of this is showing the financial impact that those areas have in terms of customer experience. “I make sure my teams understand their role in customer experience,” he said.

Ultimately, customer experience for Sprint is about churn reduction, service and IT excellence, and contribution to EBITA, Johnson said. “The single biggest financial metric in telecom is churn,” he said. “If you can positively impact the customer experience, you can reduce churn, thus increase revenue.” 

We're Living in a Post-Marketing World

We're Living in a Post-Marketing World

You're about to take a flight. Let's say you're about to take a flight to the 2014 IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Tampa (because that's where I am right now).

You check in on your phone or maybe you interact with a kiosk upon arrival at the airport. Then you're marketed at to join the airline's loyalty club or to upgrade your seat. You grab a stool at the airport bar and use the airline's app to make sure your flight's on time. Your flight is blessedly not delayed by weather, so you board a plane and sit down. There's a touchscreen on the seat in front of you. You receive an immediate alert if your bag goes missing and a second alert when your bag is, hopefully, found. You arrive at your destination and you get a follow-up email asking for feedback on your experience.

Every one of those touchpoints is an opportunity to interact, and if the experience is integrated, so much the (much, much) better. It might sound like a tautology, but it's not: Everything is marketing and marketing is everything.

“I like the idea of a post-marketing world, because what I care about as a customer or as a business buyer is whether the engagement I have with a company delivers value to me,” says Kevin Bishop, VP of IBM ExperienceOne Solutions. “And when it comes to an integrated experience, more and more of the interface is happening through mobile devices, and we're seeing less of a difference between marketing, sales, and service.”

In other words, an omnichannel customer journey that includes everything from social media and customer service to multi-screen mobile engagement is the #1 ticket.

Or, as social media/content strategist Jay Baer put it: “Big Data isn't the goal. The goal is big understanding. And big understanding is all about innovation.”

And how do you get to big understanding? Oh, easy...or not so easy: All you need to do is understand the customer in context. One-to-one is great—and increasingly possible—but smart segments and patterns of behavior still guide the course for customer interaction. And it's not as complicated as it sounds if you focus on simplicity and fulfilling actual, or anticipated, customer need.

But to do that, you don't necessarily have to slap someone's name on your message. That's not personalization, or not always. Relevancy is personalization. If you're walking past a sandwich shop at lunchtime and your phone buzzes with an offer for a free coffee and half off your next panini (you've opted in for mobile push), the message you see doesn't have to say à la Hal 9000: “Hello Allison. Here, is your sandwich offer, Allison. We hope you like it, Allison.” It more than suffices to say, “Hey! Hungry? Why not grab a coffee and a sandwich?”

But sometimes it makes sense to use a customer's name. Bishop is a frequent flyer. When he gets on an airplane, it might be nice if the flight attendant said, “Good morning, Mr. Bishop. It's lovely to have you with us again.”

In essence: context. Ask for the data you need and use that data where it makes sense.

“You can build profiles that are about what customers do and why they do it by assembling data in pieces over time in a gentle way,” Bishop says. “I don't care if something has my name on it—I care whether it reflects what I need when I want it in a way that makes sense.”

Because good selling doesn't feel like selling.

Says Bishop: “Thoughtful cross-sell and upsell isn't perceived as selling, it's perceived as useful—but that's because it actually is useful.”

Small Business Marketing 101

Small Business Marketing 101

Last week, I wrote a blog about my mom's journey to launching her own small business. She's experienced a lot of highs since opening her boutique two months ago, including making her first $600 sale this past weekend. But she's also faced a lot of challenges—mainly, delving into online marketing and just figuring out where to start.

It turns out that my mom isn't the only one frazzled by the array of marketing options. A new survey by online marketing company Constant Contact shows that 35% of small businesses don't know how to measure success across channels and 32% say getting everything done across platforms is too time consuming. Furthermore, 48% of small businesses find learning how to use different interfaces to be a hassle and 46% struggle with maintaining a consistent look and feel across channels, according to the data.

So in honor of Small Business Week, I interviewed Drew Tonsmeire, area director for Kennesaw State University's Small Business Development Center, on where new small businesses owners should begin when it comes to marketing. Here are 10 of his starter points:

1) Find out who your customers are: Before small business owners can market to potential customers, they have to know who they are. Owners must pinpoint if their customers are local, regional, or strictly online, Tonsmeire says, and then market to them through corresponding channels.

After identifying where customers reside, Tonsmeire advises small businesses to break down their target audience, such as by age, gender, and whether they have children. Talking to stock suppliers and other small business owners can be an effective way to obtain this information, he adds. Of course, asking actual customers about their preferences, such as whether they're more sensitive to price or brand name, is another valuable source.

“The goal is not to market to everybody,” Tonsmeire says. “The goal is to market to 20% of the segment where 80% of your customers can be found.”

2) Make a budget for money and time: While it's important to keep track of dollars and cents, monitoring how much time small businesses spend on marketing is also crucial, Tonsmeire says. Creating a marketing budget can be an effective way to do both. He suggests starting with a calendar and creating one column for the amount of money small businesses expect to spend and one column for how much time they expect to devote to marketing.

“It's a direct relationship to effort,” Tonsmeire says. “That effort is a function of time and money.”

3) Identify how you want your customers to engage: Many small businesses have websites; however, it's what businesses want customers to do with their online information that's truly important, Tonsmeire says. For instance, if the goal of the website is to drive customers into a business's shop, the owner should include its address on a prominent page or on every page, he notes. Similarly, if an owner wants customers to place orders by phone, he or she should feature the store's phone number in a place where they don't have to search for it, he says. Google Analytics can be a solid tool for identifying who is visiting a business's site, what pages are customers engaging with, and for how long, Tonsmeire notes.

4) Remember, old-fashioned marketing works best: With so many online avenues, it can be easy for small business owners to lose sight of time-honored marketing practices. And there's no better form of marketing, Tonsmeire says, than the classic referral.

“Word of mouth is still most important,” he says. “It's just that, nowadays, word of mouth can go from traditional—people talking to each other—to now sharing online.”

5) Ensure that your business card makes a statement: Business cards are one of the most common and most widely distributed forms of marketing, Tonsmeire says. Like a website, a business card should tell customers what they should do next. Again, if a business owner is trying to drive traffic into his store, he should include the store's address—or even a map—on the card, Tonsmeire says. Turning business cards into formal invitations or coupons are also effective ways to induce people into trying products or stores, he adds.

6) Don't forget the local paper: “The smaller the community, the more important the local media is,” Tonsmeire says. So he suggests that small businesses reach out to local newspapers and magazines for editorial or advertising opportunities. But if owners go the advertising route, they must make their ads creative and run them in a series to stand out from the crowd and stick in customers' minds.

“It's not an event,” Tonsmeire says. “It's a process.”

7) Get to know your community: Sponsorships can be an excellent way to become affiliated with local organizations, Tonsmeire says. So whether it's sponsoring the church bulletin or the little league team, small business owners can find numerous ways to impact their community, as well as their bottom line.

8) Visit a trade show: Trade shows can be an effective way for regional businesses to find people within their target market. Tonsmeire advises small business owners to attend a trade show before exhibiting to determine whether it would be worth their time and money.

9) Use social as an avenue for conversation: Social media allows small business owners to engage in dialogues with its customers, such as by having customers post pictures of them using a business's product. However, if businesses can't devote time to holding conversations with its customers through social, then the channel might not be worth their time, Tonsmeire says.

“What you want to try to do is get more people talking with [you rather] than just listening to you. That's what a website is for,” Tonsmeire says. “A website is a one-way communication that says, ‘We're going to tell you about us.' Social media is about, ‘We're going to exchange ideas.'”

10) Keep your four Ps in mind: Crossing your T's and dotting your I's is always important. However, marketers need to look over their four P's—product, place, price, and promotion—as well.

Product: When promoting a product, small businesses should focus less on what the product is and more on why it's applicable to customers, Tonsmeire says.

“People do not buy the features of a product,” he notes. “They buy the benefits of a product.... It's the why that people want, not the what.”

Place: Small businesses need to know the market their businesses are in—local, regional, or online—and where their customers can be found, Tonsmeire says.

Price: Pricing strategies tell customers a lot about a business, Tonsmeire says. While providing the lowest price may seem like the best way to get customers in the door, it doesn't always radiate a sense of high quality.

“If I were a plastic surgeon, I probably don't want to be known as a plastic surgeon,” he notes.

Instead, Tonsmeire advises small businesses to stick to whole pricing if they're a quality producer and odd-end pricing if they're more of a discount store.

Promotion: There are a number of ways to promote a business, including time-of-sale displays, media, and direct marketing. Tonsmeire encourages small businesses to engage in one-to-one marketing as much as possible.

“One-on-one contact gives you a better opportunity to connect to your customers,” he says. “Marketing is a whole lot more than just an ad. It's thinking through the process.”

Meet a Marketer Who Owns Customer Experience

Meet a Marketer Who Owns Customer Experience

Those who get the lion's share of their information online may question the relevancy of the public library. Not so at Ohio's Columbus Metropolitan Library, where there are 17 million visitors a year and a commitment to growth and expansion, says Alison Circle, the library's chief experience officer.

Circle, a marketing veteran who's experience includes nearly a decade at agency Jack Morton Worldwide, is using her marketing prowess to guide that transformation—and to ensure that Columbus Metropolitan Library continues to be relevant for the foreseeable future. During her keynote at the 2014 CXPA Insight Exchange, Circle shared the five steps that underlie her approach to creating and maintaining a customer-centric culture.

1. Change the conversation

There are few organizations more transactional than the library, Circle pointed out. “You check [books] out and check [them] in,” she said. “That's no longer enough in this age of information.” So she's been leading the charge to “reimagine the customer experience” and evolve and change Columbus Metropolitan Library to meet the needs of its community and customers. 

“People remember the highs and lows of their relationship with a brand, and their last interaction with it,” she said, adding that for too many library customers that last interaction was paying a fine for an overdue book. “That's not a good experience, so we're eliminating fines by 2015.”

That's $800,000 in fines annually that will come to an end. “Our board of trustees said, ‘Why do we have fines?'” Circle said. Often, the cost of a book being even a day or two late means that some of the library's customers—often at-risk children—wouldn't have access to necessary resources. “We're blocking our most vulnerable customers from our services,” she added. “We had to get beyond that and do something bold. We needed to find an incentive for people to be responsible and return books, not punish them for being late.”

The library, Circle noted, should be about access, not penalty. Now, a book auto-renews up to 10 times if no one else has requested it; and if someone does, the library will reach out to ask for a return. “This eliminates the shame and embarrassment of a book being late and turns around the experience for our customers,” she said.

2. Remove barriers

“We need to provide access to what our customers need when they need it,” Circle said, adding that the library is “in an ambition and aggressive rebuilding program” that includes major renovations, as well as adding several new libraries over the next few years. 

One new building opening in July will be spacious and open with lots of light and windows, instead of the often dark, brick libraries of the past. “Libraries were built as warehouse for books, to house collections,” Circle said. “We're building them to be about connections.”

But the changes go beyond the buildings. The library has a “library on wheels” truck that brings books to the community, as well as a team that goes to the homes of at-risk families, such as teen moms and their children, and brings them books that will help them in school and life. “One of the greatest predictors of success in kindergarten is books in the home,” Circle said, noting that unfortunately, most teen parents won't go to the library. “We can ignore it or we can do something about it, so we go to them.”

One growing area of outreach is homework assistance. Ohio has what it calls the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Third graders need to pass a reading test to progress to fourth grade. Sixty percent of kids in Columbus recently failed the test. So the library is stepping up its efforts to help. “How is library still relevant?” Circle asked. “By helping kids pass third grade.”

3. Redefine the experience

Library renovations and rebuilds are a significant area of renewal in terms of its customer experience. One 6,000-square-foot building is expanding to 20,000 square feet with a performance space in the center of one room. Additional building renovations include a Kindergarten Readiness Zone with interactive whiteboards and other items common in today's classrooms.

The library isn't about books, it's about learning, Circle said. So the customer experience at Columbus Metropolitan Library is all about how it can help its customers do just that.

4. Hire differently

“We have to change who we hire,” to fit within the library's increasingly customer-centric culture, Circle said. But she's “in a pickle” because as part of the local government the library has restrictions on changing the status of current staff; yet, some employees are retiring within five years and are resistant to change or don't care.

Another challenge is that the library's own culture is that reference librarians, who work near the library entrance, typically don't talk to children. But somebody needs to be there to greet children so they feel welcome. As a result, Circle hired a group of people this past March to work three hours after school each day to be greeters and learn kids' names. “They're on fire and loving it. We have people who have so much passion for what they do,” Circle says, citing the homework help staff as another example. “And they can impact the community in a positive way.”

Of the many customer-centric employees in the library's employ, several are award-winning within the Columbus Metropolitan Library system and in the industry—and Circle makes sure to call out their accomplishments. For example, she's created a Wall of Fame to showcase their successes. “We have a culture of appreciation, and that builds trust,” she says, especially when encouraging employees to embrace shared values.

5. Managing change

Another way Circle is building shared values is through a common language for change initiatives. She and her staff all read the book Managing Transitions and now have a shared language, and consistent four-step process methodology that illustrates the why and how of each initiative.

Circle explained that the library is shifting to focus on outcomes instead of output. “How do we take our data and tell a different story?” she asked. “We need to dig into that.” For example, how many kids who came to the library passed their third grade reading test because they came to the library? That's difficult and potential costly to figure out, but it's where the library is headed.

“We're trying to dream big,” Circle said. “If we're not envisioning greatness we're doing a disservice to our tax payers.”

We Can Do It? We DID Do It.

We Can Do It? We DID Do It.

What do you think of when you hear the words “marketing mix?” Email, social media, content, data—any number of tactical channels that combine to create a marketing strategy?

While that's one right answer—it's not what got the 2014 Marketing Hall of Femme honorees into the chief marketer seats at their respective companies. Of course, they're expert marketers who know what it takes to develop marketing strategies that yield measurable results. But they also understand that a true marketing mix isn't complete without a little inspiration, personal dynamism, open-mindedness, and a lot of passion.

“Being an agile learner is especially important for marketing people right now,” says Kathy Button Bell, VP and CMO at Emerson Electric and 2014 Marketing Hall of Femme honoree. “We have an inherent ability to do that because we're always communicating—communication is what we do.”

One might be forgiven in thinking that retaining a top seat in the C-suite is about control—but it's actually about having the strength and self-confidence to relinquish control. 2014 honoree and Denny's EVP and Chief Brand Officer Frances Allen knows that firsthand. By trusting her social media agency, Allen and her team hit content marketing pay dirt with a clever tweet after Auburn lost the College Bowl. The tweet, which lamented the loss with a cheeky plug for comfort food, was posted late in the evening by someone at the agency—and if Denny's had more traditional, stringent rules of approval in place, the brand would have missed its chance to be highly relevant in the moment.

“Given the speed at which everything is changing, you've got to move fast yourself,” Allen says. “If you try to control the conversation and follow the classic approval guidelines we grew up with in the marketing world, it's just not going to work anymore.”

Trust is also a vital ingredient internally.

“You've also got to hire great people and empower them to work their magic,” Allen says. “I have the most amazing team and they're the ones who make this all happen.”

If you're going to effect change, you've got to keep your ears and your eyes open, says 2014 Marketing Hall of Femme honoree Susan Cohig, SVP of integrated marketing at the National Hockey League. The voices of colleagues, business partners, and employees are just as important as the voice of the customer.

“To be successful in whatever you do, you need to learn all about it; it doesn't matter what it is,” Cohig says. “If you're working on hockey as I am, then you need to know how a team runs and you need to know how the business of sports and entertainment works. You also need know what's happening from an operating perspective—from the perspective of a salesperson working on a sponsorship deal all the way to the perspective of an usher taking the tickets.”

That's when you'll see the kind of real results that come from dedication. Because the title is nice—but the title is not everything.

“People can be very focused on just getting to the next job and the next, but they don't have a set of true accomplishments they've achieved along their path,” says Leilani M. Brown, CMO of Starr Companies and 2014 Marketing Hall of Femme honoree. “Take the job where you can own something end-to-end and say, ‘Yes, this is what I did and here is the proof.'”

Learn more about our honorees by downloading our free eBook, “18 Leaders Who Put the Femme in Phenomenal.”

The Secret Ingredient for a Successful Email Campaign

The Secret Ingredient for a Successful Email Campaign

I always enjoy experiencing real-life examples of how clever marketers can influence everyday purchasing decisions.  Recently, my family's indecision about lunch on a warm, sunny Saturday in Atlanta proved to be a great lesson in targeted email marketing.

Anyone who's familiar with Atlanta knows about the city's swanky, eclectic Buckhead neighborhood.  High-priced homes, high-end fashion, and highly flavorful food are all staples there, making cheap, tasty eats a bit of a harder find.  Recently, my mother decided to visit my twin sister in Atlanta, and the two of them eventually sauntered over to Buckhead during lunchtime. Famished and jetlagged after a long flight from Houston, my mother prodded my sister to find them a modestly-priced lunch—a tall feat since the two of them were smack-dab in the middle of this pricey, uptown district.

Leave it to the crafty marketers of Barberitos to solve my family's dilemma.  My family eventually made their way to the Peach Shopping Center, off of Peachtree Road (virtually every street and shopping center in Atlanta has the word peach in the name), where there are a few reasonably priced options, including Barberitos, a Southwestern grill and cantina chain that serves up Mission-style burritos.

My sister and mother were walking along the sidewalks at the shopping center looking at the menus posted outside each restaurant, including this small southwestern-style eatery.

Enter the wily marketers at Barberitos.

A well-timed offer pinged on my sister's phone: Pay It Forward today at BARBERITOS. Save your receipt from today and take the same amount off when you come back next Saturday 04/26.

Timely. Relevant. Enticing. Valuable.

 Barberitos used beacons to identify potential customers (my sister and mom) who were in the area (Hotlanta) looking for a cheap lunch (ostensibly a Barberitos burrito). Increasingly, marketers are leveraging Bluetooth-powered beacons, devices that communicate with a shopper's smartphone in the hopes of improving the shopping experience and prompting an in-store purchase. During a previous visit, my sister and I had volunteered our email information, but neither of us had received an offer from Barberiots until she was actually in the area to make a purchase.

So, Barberitos managed to do two things: First, collect information on customers who were previously at the point of sale with the goal of providing a relevant offer at a later time. Second, capitalize on the moment to send appropriate ads, coupons, or supplementary product information.

A recent customer loyalty survey from ClickFox shows that 64% of those surveyed prefer to be contacted via email or text, compared to direct mail (15%) and website promotions (8%). As Barberitos strategy shows, sending the right offer, at the right place, and the right time can prove to be profitable. It certainly was on that sunny Saturday in Atlanta.  My mom and sis decided to take Barberitos up on its offer and have lunch.

7 Skills New Marketers Must Master

7 Skills New Marketers Must Master

Marketers often ponder what success requires in today's data and technology-driven environment. Top marketers are agile, they listen, and they've put the customer at the fore. But how?

Industry advice often points toward conceptual tools for success. In no way is this negative; conceptual nuance can make or break a CMO's career, but it takes time to get enough experience to understand those nuances.

However, aspiring marketers have an immediate need to cultivate specific attributes and skills. Fortunately, newly minted marketers have a wealth of educational opportunity. For instance, with the lines between functional departments blurring, marketers can tap into the expertise of sales and tech teams to build their skills. Students are even better poised to cultivate unconventional marketing knowledge through their access to various courses.

Whether student or new grad, today's aspiring marketer has an unprecedented level of access to resources that can help nurture the suite of attributes companies pay top dollar for. Here, this year's winners of the MarketingEDGE Rising Star Award highlight some of these specific skills, what value they have in today's market, and how to learn them.

Stay curious

Successful professionals in any creative field must maintain a strong sense of curiosity. This is especially true in marketing, where math, writing, and visual art must meld seamlessly in unique ways—emphasis on unique. The ever-curious marketer can stay ahead of the industry trends, and perhaps even start them. “You have to be really curious about all the different ways you can connect your customer and what delights them,” says Yvette Lui, director of global data and audience partnerships, Facebook. “Not only that, but you need to have a voracious appetite for all the new forms of marketing and communication.”

Test, and test again

“Many years ago I heard the term ABT, always be testing. You must be comfortable with this,” explains Guillermo Novillo, head of global acquisition marketing, Microsoft. “You always need to be testing and trying new things because there's always room for improvement.”

Indeed, all of that curiosity means little if the theories it births aren't tested. Marketing has always heavily emphasized the importance of gain insight from data, and one way to do so is through testing. Marketers must develop and maintain a habit for testing as early as possible.

Understand finance and accounting

Whether or not the Great Recession is truly over, many companies have yet to loosen marketing budgets. Marketers who have difficulty executing campaigns or implementing strategies that  align with their organization's financial goals are doomed to fail. Aspiring marketers should be as familiar as possible with financing and accounting. “If you're in college I highly recommend taking a financing or accounting course so you can learn to manage a marketing budget,” says Emily Riley, chief operating officer, Ghostery.


Generally speaking, the more varied and… general a marketer's interests are the more agile and successful that marketer will be. However, mastery can go a long way in the budding stages of a marketer's career. “Don't try to be a generalist too early,” OgilvyOne New York's president Dimitri Maex advises. “The first couple of years you need to specialize. Be patient in the beginning and focus on building a strong set of tools early on.”

Fail fast

Marketing requires guts. Not necessarily because the work is arduous, but because failure happens often. Marketers must maintain a thick skin and be ready for criticism; be it of the constructive variant from colleagues or the more hostile kinds often found on the Web. “You have to be willing to fail fast and recover,” says Chris Paradysz, co-CEO of Paradysz. “In a world of indecision, what often happens is no choice is made. As opposed to making decisions that feel all-or-nothing (and they rarely are) learn how to fail. Otherwise, you never stretch.”

Think like your customer

“You have to think like [the] target. You have to put yourself in their shoes. You have to understand what problems your customer is trying to solve. It's really like a muscle you just have to use over time,” explains Carrie Parker, director, American Express OPEN Forum.

Like physical muscles, the earlier marketing conditioning starts and the more consistently it's used, the stronger the muscle becomes. Amid all of the data, analysis, creative, and the other elements of the craft, marketers must work diligently at keeping the focus on the customer. In today's omnichannel world, this is paramount.

Learn design

Marketers with even a basic understanding of design concepts, elements, and technology have a leg up in today's increasingly visual world. Savvy marketers are familiar with the capabilities and potential of creative software such as Photoshop. With creative continuing to factor so heavily in marketing, marketers who ignore these tools risk their careers. “The younger generation needs design skills. They need to know how to work in Photoshop and they must understand design principles,” says Alex Wasserman, co-founder and CEO, TapFwd. “Bridging the gap between user interface and user experience design in marketing is crucial from a product perspective.”

Back in the U.S.S.R.

Back in the U.S.S.R.

Ah, you just can't keep a good totalitarian state down. Vladimir Putin's mad grab for the Ukraine and his undisguised lust for Azerbaijan, the Baltic States, and Kazakhstan suggests that Stalin's, not Gorbachev's, portrait hangs in his drawing room. He may not bring back the Hammer and Sickle (though the new flag does look too much like France's), but it's clear he wants to reinstate some of the cultural nuances, as well as the geography, of the Soviet era. And let's face it, how can that be accomplished without some good old-fashioned Bolshevik censorship?

The Russian parliament recently passed a bill that would require digital communications networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google's Gmail, and Microsoft's Skype to locate servers within Russia to service their Russian traffic. An amendment to the nation's anti-terrorism laws, the “Information, Information Technologies, and Protection of Information” law (too much information?) would give Russian security and intelligence operations complete access to the networks' Russian data. Putin's old KGB pals will know exactly whom the Ukraine girls will be knocking out and what the Moscow girls will sing and shout. They'll also know what capitalistic entreaties the imperialist American industrial complex is emailing to its citizens.

At press time, the legislation was still awaiting Putin's signature, but word is that it could go into effect by the end of this year. Google, Microsoft, and others are likely to acquiesce to the Russian Bear's demands rather than surrender access to largest country in the world, which is also a digital gateway to China.

As for emailers with global business profiles, the new order in Russia might mean nothing more than another exercise in deliverability. “Their emails will be subject to Russia's scrutiny and their filtering,” says Bob Sybydlo, Yesmail's director of market intelligence and deliverability. “We'll do the usual deliverability reporting. We'll probably start seeing patterns in rejections and identify buzzwords that trigger them.”

Our suggestions for a few subject lines to avoid: “Putin Models Our Fall Dress Line;” “FREE in UKRAINE;” and “We're Having a Pussy Riot!”  Ultimately, it will be interesting to see if Facebook or Google or Microsoft avoid complying with the new law. Google, after all, shut down its search engine in China because of that country's censorship of results. LinkedIn, on the other hand, recently announced it would enter the Middle Kingdom after recruiting Google China veteran Derek Shen to lead its effort there.

As for me, someone who pines for the simple times of the 1970s, when good was good and the Soviet Union was evil, I appreciate Russia's return as the bad guy of international affairs. Its filling of that role provides the counterpoint that reminds us how good we have things back in the U.S A. They're back. We don't know how lucky we are.

An Ode to My Favorite Small Business Owner

An Ode to My Favorite Small Business Owner

Case studies are my favorite type of story to write for Direct Marketing News. I enjoy hearing how renowned brands overcome trials and tribulations to reach their objectives and obtain ROI gold. However, these companies are often big-name brands with big-name budgets. When it comes to writing small business stories, it's hard to ignore the challenges owners face in terms of being strapped for resources and not having vendors meet their needs. You don't hear too many small business hero stories.

So when my 55-year-old mother, Geri Dupre, informed me that she wanted to open her own business in Pewaukee, WI, I wasn't the most supportive. I mean, this was the woman who still refers to Siri as “Series” and calls one of the most popular social networks “The Facebook.” How was she ever going to master email marketing, social media, and online analytics, if I still had to give her instructions on how to copy and paste?

In a weird way, my mom's announcement sparked a reversal of roles. I obsessed over my mom's well-being the same way she distressed over teaching me how to drive or sending me off to college: Is she ready for this? Does she have everything she needs? Is there anything I can do to prevent her from getting hurt?

Of course, I should have known that my mom would take the same can-do attitude she had bestowed upon me. So despite my pleas for her to put her dream on hold and research what exactly running a small business entails, my mom signed a lease in late December and set out to open her store—Books and Looks LLC—two months later in March.

“When you have the opportunity to fulfill a dream that you have, you should go after it no matter what age you are,” she says.

My mom describes Books and Looks—an accessories, books, and fashion boutique—as a “combobulation” of past experiences. Geri graduated from Mount Mary University with a degree in fashion merchandising. She went on to work as an assistant buyer in women's fashions in the late 1980s and worked at a jewelry store part-time while my brother and I attended grade school. After eventually taking a stab at being a flight attendant, my mom decided to explore the beauty sphere and received her aesthetician license from the Aveda Institute of Beauty and Wellness. She then took a few years off from working and finally (or what I thought was finally) decided to work as a bank teller at a credit union.

“For every job opportunity that I've had in my career, they've all been beneficial to me,” Geri says. “I may not have felt that the job was important at the time I was doing it. [But] now owning your business, you realize how important everything in your life that you did to get to this point has been.... I am so thankful that the jobs that I had dealt with the customer or were customer service related [because] that's what I'm doing now.”

But throughout her many career changes, Geri's most important role was always being a mom. And it was her desire to provide a greater life for her son that inspired her to make her dream of opening a store a reality. My brother Forrest, 27, was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Other Specified) on the Autism spectrum at the age of four. Although he's intelligent and high functioning, businesses never gave him a chance. Watching him apply for job after job only to be rejected was disheartening. And while a few companies agreed to give him two- or three-month gigs, they never turned into full-time employment as we had hoped. So my mom opened Books and Looks and brought Forrest on as an intern to give him experience working among the very thing he loves the most: books.

Having two of my family members live out their dreams made my fear of them failing that much greater. I shared many of the emotions my mom felt when I first moved into my dorm: I felt compelled to do everything for her. I thought working for Direct Marketing News required me to write her whole marketing strategy and take charge of promoting her business. After setting up her work email and instructing her on the importance of Facebook pages, I realized something I assume every parent learns at some point: I had to let her grow up and do it on her own.

Looking back, I really should have had more faith in my mom. After all, this was a woman who sculpted a cake to look like Mount Rushmore for my brother's history project. And I have to say, she's turned into quite the marketing maven. Since launching her business Geri has run print ads in local magazines that are sent to homes within a certain income bracket and has conducted interviews with local news outlets. She also still maintains her Facebook page—even if it only has 38 likes at the moment—and even launched her own email newsletter. Although she's only sent out two newsletters so far, they've had open rates of 31% and 28.9%, respectively.

Working in Wisconsin requires Geri to deal with the state's seasonality, including its frigid winters. Given that Geri's business is located on a beachfront off of Pewaukee Lake (yes, we have beaches in Wisconsin), she's challenged with driving traffic to her store year-round. To keep people coming in, Geri turns to event marketing. From makeup demonstrations to scarf tying demos, Geri does whatever it takes to get people through her door. And to further advocate Autism awareness, Geri hosts fundraisers for local organizations for adults with disabilities. For instance, she hosted a book signing event this past April in which she raised $210 for the Adaptive Community Approach Program—a social service that my brother attends twice a week. Hosting her own social events for adults with disabilities is another one of Geri's main business objectives.

Most important, Geri relies on her community connections. For example, she has promoted her social gatherings via the Autistic Society of Southeastern Wisconsin's website. She also set up a table at her local bank to promote her store and is even providing discounts in the gift bags for her alma mater's upcoming fashion show.

As much as I love to brag about my mom, I have to admit that her marketing isn't flawless. She needs to learn that her target audience can't just be “anyone with money” or simply based on her community instincts. Her email list also needs some serious cleaning. Plus, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't worry about her going overbudget on her merchandise purchases (except, when she's throwing in an extra dress for me--then it's fine). However, I still have to give her kudos for putting the customer at the center of her business.

“I not only want to sell them the product, but I get to know them as best as possible,” Geri says. “My store is not just about selling things. There's a whole story behind it with my son, and I think people like stories and they like to hear about why you're in business.”

In terms of offering advice to new small business owners, Geri recommends creating a budget and having a clear business objective in mind. Yet, when it comes to providing marketing suggestions, she says that it's really up to the individual.

“It's kind of like you're shooting dice,” she says. “You hope that what you went with or where you put your dollars for advertising is going to be beneficial.... I think if [people] knew all of the answers to advertising and what's the most successful, we wouldn't have all of these different outlets to choose from.”

Don't Be at Cross-Screen Purposes with Your Customers

Don't Be at Cross-Screen Purposes with Your Customers

Silos are the ultimate time suck—because by the time you've optimized one corner of the customer experience, your consumer's already moved somewhere else…and then back again.

That's the cross-screen reality. People are switching devices faster than you can say, “A consumer named Jack Robinson used his phone to look up a price, his tablet to learn more about a product, and his laptop to ultimately make a purchase.”

Direct Marketing News caught up with Tapad CEO Are Traasdhal last week at the company's first annual Unify Tech conference to talk about why the marketers who embrace a holistic view of the customer will thrive—and why those who don't probably won't survive.

“When consumers visit a brand or publisher from five different devices, they look like five different people,” Traasdhal says. “This creates a problem for data, for optimization of content, for attribution—basically, it creates a problem for everybody in the $300 billion marketing ecosystem.”

The research Tapad just released with Forrester found that 66% of consumers discover products or services through digital rather than offline. Are you surprised by that number?

I was actually surprised when I heard that—sometimes tech entrepreneurs can live in a bit of tech bubble—but I find it encouraging to see that consumers are using multiple devices to make purchase decisions and that it's become firmly incorporated into consumer behavior. Phone speed, screen size, and the browsing experience are all improving, and brand sites are becoming increasingly mobile-optimized. In the past 12 months we've seen enormous investment from brands to make the consumer research experience better both on smartphones and on tablets.

Is there still a place for traditional media?

There is, one hundred percent. I'm a big believer in getting a unified view of the customer across all touchpoints and screens, both digital and analog. The digital side is important, but direct mail is a $25 billion industry for a reason. It's all about figuring out how digital and physical channels interact with each other and then starting to tie all that data back into a single view so you can really understand your customers.

Should retailers fear showrooming—or is showrooming actually a retailer's secret best friend?

Research has shown that there is a 60% discrepancy between what consumers say they think they're going to buy before entering a store and what they actually buy when they're there—so clearly consumers are being influenced by a lot of what they experience in the store. But it's also the hardest place for marketers to get access to consumers. Consumers aren't carrying around a computer or a newspaper with them—they're carrying around their phone, and brands can use the phone to influence consumers when they're close to the cash register. People's phones are important to them and always close by.

You recently made the observation that ‘in three years, there won't be any mobile companies, any computer companies, or any tablet companies—just companies that truly embrace cross-channel devices.' What do you mean by that?

There's often a reaction of fear when people have to change—but we need to accept that consumers are switching between screens 27 times an hour, and just optimizing for one siloed part of the experience makes very little sense. That only creates more fragmentation. It's hard for CMOs today because to deliver a banner on a mobile phone they have to work with one company, and if they want to serve video they have to work with someone else—and then a third company to do other things. All of these companies need to get together around a single organizing principle: the consumer. The companies that insist on being good in one silo are going to miss out on 40 or 50% of what's going on in other channels—but the trend-makers are moving towards a more unified approach.

What's a good example of this in action?

Let's say your mobile company is specifically focused on location. Yes, you can send a message to a consumer when they're close to a store using geofencing—but a lot of information about the consumer is missing. Maybe three days earlier the consumer clicked on but didn't buy something online, say a blue blazer—wouldn't it be better to show that person a coupon for a blue blazer rather than just a general coupon for the store? If you tie all the data together you can create a better experience for everyone.

The Periodic Table of Content Marketing

The Periodic Table of Content Marketing

I think most marketers can agree that the industry is part creative, part technical, and certainly part mathematical with the constant tracking of metrics, KPIs, sales, and other numerics.  But I don't know if most marketers think of themselves as scientists. I'd like to challenge that line of thinking and consider the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of an exact science:  science, such as physics, chemistry, or astronomy, whose laws are capable of accurate quantitative expression.  Although some of marketing is instinctive, the field is—at least in my opinion—evolving more into an exact science every day with quantitative expressions that can be measured for accuracy in seemingly every marketing channel—social, email, mobile, display ads, and of course, direct mail.

One of the most scientific—and calculated— forms of marketing is content marketing. Curating and crafting valuable content can be executed and measured in a myriad of ways—from the creation of blogs and webcasts to case studies and polls.  Marketers must first determine the strategy, format, and platform then quantify the success of their campaigns through metrics and goals. Sound likes science to me.  One chief content marketer, Chris Lake of Econsultancy, drives home the idea of marketing as a science with his Periodic Table of Content Marketing.  Lake is inspired by Russian chemist and inventor Dmitri Mendeleev—who created his own version of the periodic table of elements (which I'm sure most of us remember from our high school chemistry classes).  In this colorful chart, Lake gives us a playful, yet acutely reflective depiction of content marketing in 2014.

Without question, content marketing can bolster brand awareness, advocacy, and of course sales. The Periodic Table of Content Marketing is a great way for marketers to embrace their craft as an exact science—and have a little fun too.

The Periodic Table of Content Marketing, by Chris Lake.

The Periodic Table of Content Marketing


Digital and Mobile are The Godfrey Hotel's Greatest Amenities

Digital and Mobile are The Godfrey Hotel's Greatest Amenities

The occupancy rate for Chicago hotels reached 75.28% in 2013, according to the city's official marketing organization Choose Chicago. So when The Godfrey Hotel Chicago entered the scene on February 1, Adam Schomaker, director of sales and marketing for The Godfrey, knew that he had to find an innovative way to distinguish the hotel from its competitors.

In alignment with the hotel's “discover your element” theme—a play on the periodic table—Schomaker wanted to centralize all of the elements that make up a guest's experience, such as dining, shopping, and upcoming attractions. But because travelers are often on-the-go, Schomaker needed to be able to deliver this information through mobile.

To that end, The Godfrey partnered with interactive interface and software platform provider Nervana Group to create a digital reader board that would reside within the hotel's lobby and on its fourth floor. The 55-inch tablet-like interface acts as a “digital concierge” and provides information about attractions and services in the hotel and around the city, explains Rhon Daguro, CEO of Nervana. Shopping, dining, and event information are all featured on 20 to 30 portrait-style digital cards that slowly flow from the left-side of the screen to the right-side in what Daguro refers to as the “lazy river.” Guests can also filter the board to only view cards of certain categories, for example just restaurants or retail locations. Once guests spot a card of interest they can stop the digital river's flow with the tap of a finger and enter in their email address to send the card's content directly to their mobile device.

“When people travel now, their concierge is their phone,” Schomaker says. “Everybody has Siri, everybody has Yelp, [and] everybody can use Google Now. Why not just add to that and make it a little more convenient for those in the market if they're already going to be using their phone for travel?”

From a marketing perspective, the technology enables The Godfrey to control what content appears on the board, Schomaker explains, including hotel events, flyers, and nearby attractions. And while The Godfrey discussed enabling guests to send content via text, the hotel stuck with email due to budgetary concerns and because it's how the hotel most frequently communicates with its guests, he says.

However, this decision seems to play in the hotel's favor. The board also enables The Godfrey to capture email addresses entered into the board. Schomaker says that if he were to use the acquired addresses, he would send the users a message asking them if they want to opt in or opt out of the brand's email marketing program first.

“When they enter [in] that information, they're looking to just get the information that's on the board,” he says. “They're not saying ‘I want future promotions' or anything like that. They're not opting into that.”

Since opening the hotel earlier this year, The Godfrey has experienced about 848 board interactions—including taps and swipes—per day. Now that the hotel has been open for a few months, Schomaker says he can start deeply analyzing these interactions, such as what guests tap on and which visitors—for example, local Chicagoans versus business travelers—use the service the most. The board also enables the hotel to remarket to users, such as by sending a restaurant coupon to guests who scroll through dining options, although The Godfrey isn't currently leveraging this capability.

“The board is absolutely being used,” Daguro says. “[But] we need to see how much of those interactions are meaningful—meaning what exactly are they touching?”

The Godfrey has already made a few changes to enhance its digital and mobile experience. For instance, the company has integrated a QR code into the board that guests can scan to download UrbanBuddy—a mobile app that allows people to ask local experts for recommendations. Social additions, like ratings and reviews, have also been discussed but not yet implemented. Furthermore, Schomaker says sensitivities around providing information in a public space may limit certain consumer interactions.

But if one thing is for sure, it's this: Mobile and digital will be extending their stay at The Godfrey.

How to Get a 360-Degree View of an Email Subscriber

How to Get a 360-Degree View of an Email Subscriber

Emails without intel don't do much good for marketers who want to craft relevant campaigns. About 40% of marketers say sending compelling content is the most effective email strategy. Another 11% cite segmentation, and an additional 10% point to personalization, according to Ascend2. But to apply any of these strategies, marketers need to know the person behind an email address. And for many marketers, that task can prove to be challenging.

“[For] a complete picture of a subscriber, marketers have to look at a digital mosaic, comprised of all [customer] interactions—both with your brand and others,” says Tom Sather, senior director of email research at Return Path. “We're in the age of data. So use that data to help paint a full picture of your customer.” He says, ultimately, this holistic view will help marketers craft targeted, more effective campaigns. Sather, and Silverpop product strategist, Dave Walters, share four ways marketers can get a 360-view of their email subscribers.

Use competitive intelligence
Sather suggests that marketers look outside of their own data—and focus on that of their competitors. He says marketers should track their email subscribers' purchases of similar brands and products. Then create campaigns around those interests. “This data can help paint that full picture,” Sather says. “[Marketers] can look at this competitive intelligence and note what else [customers] are purchasing from competitors; [they can] see what other email lists customers subscribe to. That gives a good idea of what's resonating.”

Track customer behaviors
Silverpop's Walters says that what customers say—compared to what they do—can vary immensely when deciding to buy. “When [marketers] ask people what customers want and then compare that to what they do it can be radically different,” he says. “Marketers are left confused.” He encourages marketers to look at behaviors and market towards those actions. “For example, if a woman is buying clothes for her husband, she's purchasing men's clothes,” he continues. “In this case we would want to market towards the behavior [of buying men's clothing] versus stated preferences about women's clothing or demographics, such as gender.”

Monitor subscriber engagement
Sather says engagement—whether positive or negative—can revel what's important to customers. He adds that opens, purchases, complaints, opt-outs—even an opt-out of competitor emails—show marketers what's working and what's not. “It's a warning flag when subscribers interact more with another brand,” Sather says. “Conversely, if you share the same subscribers, and another brand is doing poorly, you'll know what not to do.”

Set goals at the start
One of the best ways to get to know your email subscriber is to identify what you'd like to know, Walters says. “Marketers often struggle in the first ask for information,” he explains. “Many times they ask for too much or too little.” He says by setting goals, marketers can encourage subscribers to volunteer more revealing information. “We [as marketers] don't have an inalienable right to know everything about everyone,” Walters says. “But creating great content or building a community can help marketers meet goals and encourage people to volunteer the right information."

8 Ways to Succeed in Today's Marketing Environment

8 Ways to Succeed in Today's Marketing Environment

Marketing in 2014 is almost an entirely different business than it was just five years ago, let alone 10 or 20 years ago. The Internet has all but completely disrupted conventional marketing practices, as more and more marketers shift their budgets in favor of strategies more conducive to the digital channels consumers use day-to-day.

“Those big, splashy ad campaigns are now one part of a portfolio that must include blogging and social media content,” says Emily Riley, chief operating officer, Ghostery, and a winner of Marketing EDGE's Rising Star award.

Then, of course, there's the massive influx of customer data—something marketers have dreamed of for decades. Between Big Data, and the many privacy issues that come with it, what should be a boon often manifests as a significant challenge to marketers. All of this without even mentioning the ever-increasing array of marketing technology.

Despite the challenges that come with these advancements, marketers that understand the true nature of the business have much to gain in today's data- and tech-driven environment. Here, Ghostery's Riley and the other winners of Marketing EDGE's 2014 Rising Star award offer advice to novice and veteran marketers alike on how to succeed in 2014 and beyond.

Listen well

For many marketers, staying ahead of the consumer is paramount. But  attempting to do so can seem like sheer folly. Consumers are simply too fast, too agile for some marketers to keep up with. Fear not; as we slip further into the age of listening to customers, marketers who do, in fact, listen to them will see their business soar. “We are listeners now,” says Chris Paradysz, co-CEO at Paradysz. “There's no way to keep up with consumers. They can travel up and down channels so fast. We need to make sure we're a part of the conversations they're having.”

Invest in storytelling

If the content marketing craze tells us anything, it's that customers consume content on their terms. This content must deliver value to said consumers, lest marketers risk losing their attention. Compelling stories have proven essential in today's marketing world. Savvy marketers must assume that storytelling and delivering valuable content will remain one of the best investments marketing budgets can buy. “In the 1980s there was a concept of adver-tainment. This is becoming relevant again,” says Guillermo Novillo, head of global acquisition marketing for Microsoft. “People like and understand stories. You can say you have the best product, but if you say so through a story, it'll stick.”

Focus on the customer

Data and technology are awesome marketing tools. However, when internal meetings center solely on data and technology something gets lost: the customer. “We have all of these different features and channels. Part of what gets lost in all that technology is the basic focusing of marketing messaging to the right customer. You have to focus on the customer,” says Yvette Lui, director of global data and audience partnerships at Facebook.

Embrace the science behind marketing

“Marketers have to be experts on a variety of topics these days. Math is a bigger part [of marketing] now,” Ghostery's Riley says. “It's important to embrace the science behind what we do. The creative is important, but it must be supported by rigorous stats.” Indeed, marketing has evolved to the point that science and data are as essential as creative. Marketers today must have a firm understanding of the role data plays in their business, or risk their creative efforts on an audience that's potentially uninterested in their brand.

Stay inquisitive

Even with the ease of access to data, it's simply impossible to know everything about the many intricacies of marketing. So marketers should strive to always be learning. “Always assume you only know 70% of what you're supposed to know,” Paradysz says. “You cannot possibly know everything. You're should be in this constant state of learning. It forces you to be open to thinking and ideas from everywhere.”

Be mindful of overextension

Marketers often attempt to chase their customers across channels—especially new ones that manage to capture people's wandering attention. “New mediums come up all the time. Each year there's a new flavor of the month. Understanding which ones are relevant is tough and the learning curve is steep for some mediums. A lot of math is pointing to a decline in Facebook advertising for instance. You have to be careful,” says Alex Wasserman, co-founder and CEO, TapFwd.

Cultivate writing skills

There's no denying the ubiquity of the Internet and, though visuals certainly have their place, the written word still holds the lion's share of digital content. “Marketers need the ability to craft great stories. Story telling is so important today,” says Carrie Parker, director, American Express OPEN Forum. “Successful marketers need great writing skills.” Marketers who struggle in written communication will also struggle with narrative. After all, it's hard to write a great story with bad writing.

Have keen business sense

“Accountability got a big push during the recession. Being able to prove what the business contribution is is very important now,” says Dimitri Maex, president, OgilvyOne New York. “Marketing is being scrutinized more and more and has had to grow up from a business perspective.” Marketers must be sure their efforts translate to more and better business for their companies. Given the expansive nature of contemporary multichannel campaigns, and the pressure to show a return on marketing investment, wasting money is not an option.

Growth Hacking and the App-Spam Scam

Growth Hacking and the App-Spam Scam

The pressure on legitimate apps to blow out their user bases has spawned a form of quasi-hacking that has become accepted as a bona fide growth strategy. “Growth hacking” is a practice employed by popular networking, gaming, and directions apps such as Glide, Meow, Skout, and Tango, whose terms include permission to send SMS texts to the downloader's entire contact list. And it's a growth strategy that's growing at an alarming rate. A study conducted by security firm AdaptiveMobile discovered mobile players sending 8.5 more invitations per app in the past six months.

“We did the study because we started coming across a lot more complaints from people receiving texts asking them to join an app,” says Cathal McDaid, head of data intelligence and analytics at AdaptiveMobile. “App companies approach it in different ways, but it can be very difficult for installers to avoid texting all of their contacts. And because so many mobile numbers are recycled, people are receiving texts from other people they don't know.”

Glide, a video texting app, and Tango, which allows video calling, are the chief offenders. AdaptiveMobile's investigation uncovered that Glide was responsible for 57% of the SMS invites texted by app companies during February and March. Tango sent 20%. By contrast, WhatsApp, the company acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in February, sent one tenth as many invitations as did Glide. Though Tango allows users to easily opt out of inviting contacts when installing, the app has an “Invite on Activity” feature that leads to invitations being sent when, for instance, a user takes a photo using Tango.

AdaptiveMobile identified 15 apps as being responsible for the majority of the 5 million to 6 million “app-spam” texts sent each day. The explosion of text invitations led Google to update Google Play terms with a condition that apps in the store must not be involved in “unsolicited promotion via SMS” services. More such restrictions are sure to follow.

“The messaging wars are only getting started, and this practice will continue because it's so effective when the text comes from the phone of a friend,” McDaid says. “The thing is, this is an artificial form of growth. To truly grow, apps have to look at giving users value rather than using them as conduits for expansion.”

4 Ways to Make 140 Characters Count

4 Ways to Make 140 Characters Count

Bigger isn't always better, especially when marketers are trying to craft succinct Twitter bios that connect with potential customers. The 140-character limit can prove to be daunting for marketers who don't always know which information will lead to follows, engagement, and eventually purchases. There's one thing, however, marketers should know: Twitter bios are a golden opportunity to make direct connections with customers.

“Essentially, if you want to be able to communicate with people, you need to first get them to follow you,” says Jennifer Spivak, managing director of digital marketing firm Social Fulcrum. “The bio is the window into that. That's the sound bite opportunity that you have…to get people to follow you.” She says more engaged followers can equal greater opportunity to market to people interested in your brand. Spivak, along with Likeable Media cofounder and CEO Carrie Kerpen, explain how to market a brand successfully in 140 characters or less.

Include a call-to-action

Twitter bios, Spivak says, should ask customers to take action. Remember, the bio will likely be the first message users see when reading your Twitter page or after getting an email prompted by your follow, should you do so. “Call-to-actions can be [executed] in a variety of ways,” Spivak explains. “Use shortened links at the end of your Twitter bio that have some sort of call-to-action. ‘Visit here,' ‘Sign up here,' ‘Get more updates here,'—whatever you would like the customer to do.” Spivak warns that the call-to-action should be different than the company URL. “You want to get people to accomplish a specific objective, such as sign up for an e-newsletter.” Other call-to-actions can include requests for questions, comments, or ideas coupled with hashtags and your brand's Twitter handle.


Create a brand persona

Likeable Media's Kerpen reminds marketers that Twitter is—at its core—a one-to-one medium; people are looking to have personal conversations. Kerpen says creating a persona in your bio and then weaving it into your feed can create personal connections. “Remember, it's one person engaging with another person via 140 characters,” Kerpen says. “Typically when you're talking to people, you wouldn't want to have a conversation with a logo.” She cites Twitter accounts, such as DKNY, that use personal avatars representing the brand, rather than company logos. “It's a much more human touch.”

Speak the Twitter language

Each social media platform has its own culture and nuances—and Twitter is no different. One of the most effective marketing strategies, Spivak says, is to use specific Twitter language in your bios. “Don't use your standard [company] tagline or bio. Be native to the platform.” She encourages marketers to use the short, perhaps funny, even snarky language often used on Twitter—if it suits the brand. Include searchable hashtags, at symbols, and trends. “That small change [in your Twitter bio] can communicate to people, ‘We understand Twitter, and we're speaking the language.' Find ways to make your bio Twitter-specific.”

Get specific about your products and interests

Ultimately, Twitter bios are designed to get to the point. “The best Twitter bios are the ones that succinctly say who you are, what you do, and what you tweet about,” Kerpen says. She explains that if someone's going to follow or engage with your brand, they care much more about what types of things you tweet about, not company missions. Essentially, Kerpens says, marketers should bullet point the things their brand chats about on Twitter, and eventually the like-minded will follow. “Spelling out exactly what you tweet about will be more much effective [in gaining followers and boosting engagement.]”

It Ain't Easy Being a Green Marketer

It Ain't Easy Being a Green Marketer

There's almost nothing a consumer is better at than sniffing out brand hypocrisy like old garbage in a landfill and then complaining about it on Twitter. Consumers can tell if you're green-washing, and you don't want to be at the receiving end of an #earthdayfail.

But there's an easy solution and it goes something like this: Be authentic and engage in true corporate social responsibility that makes sense for your company, and consumers are likely to respond positively.

In other words, brands need to focus on “‘being green' rather than ‘talking green,'” says Denise Delahorne, SVP and group strategy director at DDB U.S., which released its annual “Life Style Study” today, delving into behavioral and attitudinal predictors of “green living.”

“There's nothing worse than espousing ‘green' in messaging and then having the public find out that a company is doing something environmentally irresponsible, like contaminating resources with production byproducts or waste,” Delahorne says.

Dawn dish soap, for example, was one brand that suffered some backlash after its self-appointment as savior of adorable tiny crude-covered animals following the BP oil spill off the Gulf Coast in 2010.

It's crucial for brands to keep their behavior in line with their messaging—something Italian automaker Fiat really gets, and the welcome kit it created for its new zero emissions electric 500e proves it. The kits, developed with help from Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, are recyclable, of course—but that's not the really cool part. The stock is actually made from sustainable seed-infused paper.

Fiat owners, who were encouraged to download the Fiat 500e Owner App or download a digital version of the kit, could actually take their brochures once they were finished with them and plant the paper for a crop of orange poppies—which represented both the primary paint color of the car and the state flower of California—the only state where the 500e is currently available. Thirty-six percent of owners who received the seed mailer accessed the digital welcome kit.

“Fiat 500e owners expect Fiat to be as environmentally conscious as possible while still imparting the details needed to have an optimal owner experience,” says Casey Hurbis, head of communications at Fiat North America. “We knew we needed to find a clever and memorable way to deliver key messages while staying true to our customers' expectations.”

But the poppy mailer isn't just a one-off thing for fuel-efficient Fiat; the brand tries to embrace a green ethos in everything it does, from the “Into the Green” charity auction it hosted in conjunction with the Motion Pictures Television Find last October, to, a matchmaking site of sorts that helps California consumers find the best Fiat to meet their needs.

Green thinking is also a year-round thing for LA-based creative agency David&Goliath, which launched an initiative last fall to get its employees to stop using paper coffee cups (apparently four discarded paper cups produce one pound of C02 emissions!!) by offering a more environmentally friendly option—Defiance Club mugs. (David&Goliath, if you're reading this, please send me one. I think my 2-cups a day bodega coffee habit is killing the environment.) To support its effort, D&G created and hung posters made entirely from used paper that was lying around the office.

Another brand that gets it is garbage bag manufacturer Glad, which commissioned the eye-opening “Waste in Focus” photo series from award-winning photojournalist Peter Menzel and writer Faith D'Aluisio, who went into the homes of eight diverse families across the U.S. to examine what trash they were recycling, what they were composting, and what was getting sent off to the landfill. (Check out the slideshow up top for some examples from the series.)

For David&Goliath, Fiat, and Glad, green makes sense because they did it right. For others, well…

Going green can be rewarding—but it's a path littered with potential pitfalls. If you're considering adding a little green to your strategy this Earth Day or next, bear in mind these tips before you get started:

Do be authentic. “In this day and age, it's virtually impossible for a brand or agency to do anything that reeks of BS without being called out for doing so,” says David Angelo, founder and chief creative officer of David&Goliath. “Thanks to the infinite power of social media, a consumer's megaphone is now sometimes more powerful than that of a brand.”

Don't be gimmicky. “It isn't as much about capitalizing on official days as it is about understand your customer's personality and the type of content that's most relevant to them,” says Andrea Marcaccio, group account director at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing. “The most successful content marketers are those who first develop content that's true to the brand and is guided by consumer insights—and then find contextually relevant milestones to tie that content to.”

Do know what you're getting yourself into. “If a company want to message around being green,” says DDB's Delahorne, “they'd better be in it with their boots on and prepared for the scrutiny it invites.”

Relevance Is the "Sole" of Finish Line's Remarketing

Relevance Is the "Sole" of Finish Line's Remarketing

Today's marketers often struggle to keep pace with their multichannel consumers. The intense pressure to be where the consumer is at all times can lure marketers into batch-and-blast approaches. But when marketers don't provide customers with relevance—by delivering the right message, to the right consumer, in the right place, at the right time—they can become out-of-step with the customer journey and miss an opportunity to drive potential buyers further through the purchase funnel. 

Athletic footwear retailer Finish Line partnered with marketing automation platform provider Smarter Remarketer to drive relevancy across channels through its remarketing efforts.  

Finish Line started using Smarter Remarketer three years ago for its automated email remarketing programs, such as for abandoned carts. After growing its audience size and driving more personalization, Finish Line expanded its relationship with the marketing automation provider to more closely monitor customer behavior across channels; for example, through browse-and-abandon campaigns, says Aaron Buchanan, Finish Line's digital personalization manager. 

In one case Finish Line conducted a back-to-school campaign in which the brand tagged its website to monitor how consumers engaged with landing pages designed for specific segments. Angel Morales, founder and chief innovation officer of Smarter Remarketer, describes the landing pages served as digital “lookbooks” containing outfits with various athletic shoe and apparel combinations. Determining which looks and products consumers showed an interest in allowed Finish Line to remarket to them by featuring those same looks in its emails. Buchanan says that this form of remarketing drove a “considerable” lift in conversion for the brand. 

Based on Finish Line's previous success with email remarketing, Buchanan wanted to see if the same tactics could be applied to Facebook advertising. Although Buchanan says that Finish Line's Facebook display ads had performed “fairly well” in the past, he wanted to see if he could make the ads more relevant to consumers. 

So, about nine months ago Buchanan decided to run a test. He looked at specific site behaviors—such as consumers interacting with the women's running shoes and apparel—and  extracted a list from Smarter Remarketer that specifically identified consumers engaged in that category. Then, Buchanan sent that list to Facebook. The social network fed the list into its Lookalike Audience and, based on modeling, extended Finish Line's ad reach to consumers who looked similar, shared similar interests, or liked similar brands. For instance, to promote Adidas's launch of the Springblade running shoe, Finish Line set its Facebook ads to display only to running fans, rather than basketball fans, Buchanan explains.

“A lot of retailers run ads on Facebook and they're not really targeted,” he says. “Our intention was [to] be as relevant and as engaging as possible and [to] honor the experience that customers are already having on our site by continuing it on Facebook so that we have a much more relevant, engaging, and ultimately, more profitable relationship with our Facebook fan.”

Finish Line has seen a “considerable” lift in conversion since it started using Smarter Remarketer to retarget via Facebook, Buchanan says, and the brand is seeing about a nine-time return on ad spend, compared to a  previous four- to six-time return. In addition, Smarter Remarketer was so impressed with Finish Line's use of Facebook that the company decided to build a full Facebook integration suite.

Smarter Remarketer's Morales attributes Finish Line's success to its understanding of “who” and “what.” Because the retailer was able to identify who was looking at its products (e.g., highly engaged running fans), as well as what their actions were (e.g., checking out a new shoe collection online) the brand was able to clearly define its targets and engage in a conversation with them, Morales explains. Having a specific definition also enabled Finish Line to extend its customer base by finding consumers who resembled the specific segments, he says.

“It's the age-old saying, relevance drives revenue,” Morales says, “and it's true no matter where we are.”

Buchanan encourages marketers not to simply use Facebook as a “megaphone” for their brands. Similarly, Morales says that if a brand isn't gleaning success from Facebook, it's not because the social network doesn't work—it's because the marketer isn't putting in enough work for Facebook.

“Facebook isn't about having a conversation about your business,” Morales says. “Facebook is about facilitating a conversation people want to have.”

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.

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