At What Point Does Personalization Stop Paying?

At What Point Does Personalization Stop Paying?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A double dose of digital

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

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

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

An appetite for data

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

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

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

Tasty results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Socially Conscious Brands Please

More Socially Conscious Brands Please

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

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

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

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


Chipotle

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



TOMS

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



The Tech Giants

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

The Evolution of the Social System

The Evolution of the Social System

 

The way people exchange ideas is constantly evolving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McCormick

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


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

Nike

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

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

Walgreens

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

Coca-Cola

The beverage brand's Freestyle machine enables customers to customize their own drinks by mixing up their favorite Coca-Cola flavors. Some machines even have QR codes, Bonchek explained, so that people can just hold their phones up to the machine to request their regular concoctions. Not only does this co-creation allow people to enjoy a drink that's just to their liking, but it also provides Coca-Cola with a wealth of data that it can then use to come up with new product ideas.


Read on to find out how your brand can strengthen its own social system.

 

So how can other brands pull customers into their own social systems? Here are Bonchek's five suggestions:

1. Find your shared purpose. Brands need to identify their missions and find ways to let their customers co-create with them so that it becomes their missions, too. This will prompt customers to share the mutual missions with others. To better determine if a company's mission meets this shared purpose criteria, Bonchek recommended taking the "T-shirt test": If the mission isn't something that a person would wear on a T-shirt, it's probably not something that he'd be willing to share with others.

2. Find some source of intrinsic value. Marketers must give people a reason to engage with their brands, regardless of whether those consumers end up making a purchase.

3. Look at peer connections. Marketers should not only think about how they can build connections with their customers but also how they can form relationships with their customers' connections.

4. Consider little data. Most marketers are familiar with the concept of Big Data, but not all of them know about little data. If Big Data is what companies know about us, Bonchek said, then little data is what customers know about themselves. Sometimes companies can even help customers learn something about themselves that they didn't understand.

5. Value social currencies. Social currencies—like the applause from the Nike+ Running app—are important. As Bonchek noted in a 2012 Harvard Business Review article, social currencies help brands express and build relationships with its customers, rather than drive transactions. In the article, he cites the offer of pizza and beer to friends who help you move as a prime example.

Taylor Swift Demonstrates the Power of Anti-Influencer Marketing

Taylor Swift Demonstrates the Power of Anti-Influencer Marketing

Apple, with its innovations in digital music and mobile technology, is one of the major drivers of the culture that makes marketing—and practically everything else—difficult in the digital age. In 2015, you're probably about as likely to find an Apple product in someone's pocket or living room as you are to find Kleenex in a restroom. The Apple brand commands enviable equity and staggering ubiquity;  and all it took was a 25-year-old from Pennsylvania to bring it to heel.

In the wake of Apple Music's mixed reception, pop star Taylor Swift recently posted an open letter to Apple explaining why she plans to omit her album 1989 from the streaming service. The letter teemed with rhetoric that simultaneously celebrated Apple's history as an innovator, as well as Swift's own profitable relationship with the tech tastemaker, while leveling heavy criticism at the streaming service's three-month trial period, and its associated dearth of royalty payments to artists during said trail. Apple's response was (pardon) swift.



While Apple's shows good form in its acquiescence to Swift's arguments, the fact that any of this is happening at all strongly illustrates the duality of influencer marketing. Consider Swift's social media following: more than 53 million on Twitter, 71 million on Facebook, more than a million YouTube subscribers, and nearly 35 million Instagram followers. While those millions are certainly attractive from an influencer marketing perspective, it's not hard to imagine the damage such a powerful voice can bring to a business.


'Return to Sender' Is Still High on Mailers' Playlists

'Return to Sender' Is Still High on Mailers' Playlists

I gave a letter to the postman,
He put it his sack.
Bright 'n early next morning,
He brought my letter back.

Elvis Presley, Return to Sender

In 2014, 64.5 billion pieces of First Class Mail were handled by the U.S. Postal Service, a 35% drop since 2004 when almost 100 billion passed through the system. Today, people who continue to use First Class Mail (FCM) are financial institutions sending statements and grandmas sending birthday cards to their grandkids, the kind of folks who are likely to have good addresses, you'd think. But you'd be wrong. According to USPS figures, 3.7% of FCM mail was returned to senders in 2014 versus only 3.4% returned in 2004.

Despite services offered by the Postal  Service, such as the National Change of Address system, as well as several software and data packages available to help keep marketers' lists clean, those lists remain dirty—and expensive. According to Christine Erna of Novitex, the 9,000-person mail management company spun off by Pitney Bowes, the cost to marketers for a returned mailing is at least $3 a piece and can go as high as $50.

“For business mailers, the cost of returned mail is high, just from an operational standpoint,” says Erna, Novitex's senior solutions architect. “That $3 per returned mail piece includes the cost of postage, prep, printing, data entry of undeliverable mail, IT systems, destruction, and research and validation. We have one client in the financial services industry that employs 40 people full time just trying to get addresses right.”

The $50 tab is shouldered by transactional mailers for whom the mails are the chief conduit of delivering cash back to them in the form of insurance premiums, merchandise purchases, credit card payments, and loan installments. But attendant costs go beyond the $3 for all mailers in customer churn and lost opportunities.

Erna, a Postal Service veteran, has unwittingly found her life's mission in correcting the undelivered mail situation and spreading the news that the problem is bigger than everyone thinks. No matter how much the Postal Service and digital pundits talk about electronic payments taking over, more than half of such remittances continue to travel the U.S. Mails, Erna says. Novitex assesses the cost of UAA mail (undeliverable as addressed) to the U.S. economy at $65 billion a year.

It's not entirely direct mailers' fault that they're swallowing this bitter pill. We've become a migrant nation; some 76% of all undeliverable mail is attributable to movers. And different mailers have different issues to deal with in correcting the problem. Healthcare and financial services companies, for instance, must comply with strict regulations preventing them from changing customer records without personal input from customers. But, all companies can do something to stem the flow of return mail and save a lot of money, Erna says. A few of her key recommendations:

  • Use automated services to drive NCOA and other methods to update incorrect addresses. Automation could reduce operational expenses by 70%.
  • Centralize return mail operations.That quickens reaction time and minimizes the risk of postal service audits and lost postage discounts.
  • Take advantage of data technology to get at the root cause of why mail is returned. Tracking mail behavior can lead to a modified approach that saves customers and reduces the downstream cost of returns.

Elvis, it turns out, was more ahead of his time than we thought—actually presaging the advent of one-to-one marketing and personalization at the conclusion of “Return to Sender:”

This time I'm gonna take it myself,
And put it right in her hand.
And if it comes back the very next day,
Then I'll understand.


5 Brands That Celebrate What It Means to Be a Dad

5 Brands That Celebrate What It Means to Be a Dad

Father's Day is just around the corner, so I recently asked one of my coworkers how he planned on celebrating the day with his kids. He told me that dinner at a restaurant may be in order, but that the parental holiday was really a secondary celebration compared to Mother's Day.

As I thought about his response, I started to realize how ho-hum brands can be about Father's Day. Sure, I've received emails reminding me to buy a gift for my father (don't worry, Dad—you're covered), and I've visited retail websites that offer great gift ideas for dad. But I haven't seen a ton of marketing that truly captures what being a dad means.

So to avoid overlooking this holiday any further, I've written a follow-up piece to my “5 Commercials That Remind Us Why Moms Are the Best” and I've compiled a list of five brands that truly captivate what being a dad is all about.

Continued...


Dove Men+Care

One brand that truly understands the emotional and caregiving investments being a dad requires is Dove Men+Care. This is partly because the men's hygiene and grooming brand researches this audience. For instance, Dove Men+Care's "Calls For Dad" film was inspired by the fact that three quarters of dads surveyed say that they're responsible for their children's emotional well-being, yet only 20% see this role reflected in the media. 

Dove Men+Care debuted the one-minute spot last June along with the hashtag #RealDadMoments and a call to celebrate dads. Actually, the film was such a success that the Unilever brand reintroduced the film for this year's Super Bowl along with a new hashtag #RealStrength, which is based on the idea that 90% of men consider their caring side part of their masculinity. "Calls For Dad" currently has more than 12.6 million views on the brand's official YouTube channel and 23 million views overall (including earned media). It also generated nearly 800 million media impressions in the U.S.



As if this ad wasn't enough of a tearjerker, Dove Men+Care introduced a new Father's Day-inspired spot on June 15 called "First Fatherhood Moments." The ad is based on the brand's findings that 82% of men say having a child changes the way that they think about what it means to be a man. The spot shows the emotional moments real men experience when they learn that they're going to be dads for the first time. The video already has more than 1.8 million views.


Besides tying in the TV and social elements, Dove Men+Care does a nice job incorporating digital in its campaigns, such as with its Dove Men+Care website, which includes more videos, social feeds, and information about its products. The brand also launched an online content series this month called "To All Dads" that offers open letters and advice about fatherhood from real dads.  

Continued...


MetLife Hong Kong

I first wrote about this commercial for my “Marketing That Makes Consumers Smile” blog post, and it's still one of my favorites. The insurance provider's spot tells the story of a father and the sacrifices that he makes to give his daughter a better life.


The video struck a chord with viewers who could relate to this concept of parental sacrifice. In fact, the film, which was uploaded to the brand's official YouTube channel this past January, garnered more than 15 million views across Facebook and YouTube, according to a February 2015 MetLife Hong Kong press release, proving once again the importance of leveraging empathy in marketing. 

“The success of this video reflects our commitment to identifying the needs of everyday Hong Kong people and designing customized products and solutions to help them ‘pursue more from life,'” Sunshine Farzan, MetLife Hong Kong's VP and head of marketing communications, stated in the release. “MetLife has great empathy for parents and deeply understands the challenges that they face, as such we provide a broad range of innovative insurance and financial planning solutions and value-added services to help parents plan for their children's education.”

Continued...


General Mills Canada

The next brand takes a more humorous approach to fatherhood. In General Mills Canada's #HowToDad ad, a dad quickly rattles off all of the reasons why being a dad is the most awesome and responsibility-filled job on the planet while getting his kids ready for school. And because Peanut Butter Cheerios is also awesome, he argues, it makes it "The Official Cereal of Dadhood."

“It just made sense to declare Peanut Butter Cheerios as ‘The Official Cereal of Dadhood,' because like great dads, Peanut Butter Cheerios lie somewhere in the intersection of awesome and responsible,” Josh Stein, creative director of Tribal Worldwide (the Toronto-based agency that created the campaign), said in a General Mills blog post. “Dads are awesome and it's awesome to be a dad. The new campaign creatively acknowledges that today's dads play a significant role in raising children, and this celebrates their contribution.” 


Not only is the spot hilarious, but it also shows the dad waking up his kids, getting them breakfast, and driving them to school—all activities that have traditionally been depicted as motherly duties in advertisements. Acknowledging all that dads do and playing into their fun side scores points with viewers. In fact, the commercial, which was uploaded to General Mills Canada's official YouTube channel last July, has close to 1.7 million views. And when adding in views from its follow up videos (like this one),the campaign generated more than five million views. *Furthermore, the campaign produced a total of 179 million impressions, as well as a 300% increase in brand mentions during its launch month alone.

The campaign also includes a robust Tumblr page that includes videos, memes, and even coupons for all members of the Dadhood to enjoy.

*Update: Results added June 17, 2015 at 2:25 pm EST

Continued...


Hyundai

When I was a kid, I was pretty accident prone. I was always scraping my knees from playing outside and developing strange bruises. Needless to say, this commercial from Hyundai promoting the Genesis has a soft spot in my heart.


The ad, which ran during the 2014 Super Bowl, received great recognition, including winning The One Club's Automobile Advertising of the Year Award in the TV commercial category and being deemed as the second most effective advertisement during Q1 2014 by TV and video analytics provider Ace Metrix.

Not only does the spot keep my attention by making me nervous every time the kid nearly crashes into something, but it also reinforces the heartfelt message that parents will do anything for their children—even if it means getting a few bumps and bruises along the way. And Hyundai makes the case that the automotive brand can help look after dads' loved ones, too.

Continued...


Whirlpool

Parents rarely get the recognition that they deserve. And even though they may feel like they're not living up to their expectations, this Whirlpool spot reminds them that doing their best is more than enough.


Customers like to be recognized for all that they do. This Whirlpool commercial, which was uploaded to YouTube this past May and has more than 26,000 views, shows this sense of appreciation by telling a story in which the single dad is the hero (instead of having the brand's appliances play the leading role).

Other honorable mentions include Toyota (here and here), State Farm, and Vicks NyQuil.

Web Wizards, What Awaits You? Untold Riches or Jail?

Web Wizards, What Awaits You? Untold Riches or Jail?

Digital makes everything bigger. It can amplify an old college social introduction tradition into a world-changing social network, a taxi dispatcher into a multibillion-dollar Wall Street darling. It has the magic ability to transform geeky math-er-bators into pop-culture billionaires. But, as we learned a fortnight ago, its power to turn a cool, algorithmically inspired idea into an overnight Web phenomenon can also send you to jail for the rest of your life.

Here's a prison trivia question: What do convicts Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, and Mark David Chapman have in common that newly sentenced convict Ross Ulbricht does not? Answer: The killers of, respectively, Sharon Tate, Robert Kennedy, and John Lennon all are eligible for parole. But when Ross Ulbricht (above), the notorious “Dread Pirate Roberts” who founded the Silk Road marketplace, was sentenced on May 29 for drug trafficking, conspiracy, and operating a criminal enterprise, no parole was in the offing. The 29-year-old engineer got life with no chance of release—times two—plus sundry other decades behind bars. For creating a website. A Dark Web website that trafficked millions of dollars worth of heroin and methamphetamine, to be sure, but a website nonetheless.

Ulbricht amassed a true pirate's treasure in Bitcoins, and knowingly created a conduit for dealers, but he never sold drugs himself. If I'm Jeff Bezos, I'm not feeling very comfortable with Manhattan Judge Katherine Forrest's draconian dispatching of Ulbricht. Who handles more third-party transactions on the Web than Bezos? Who knows, 10 or 15 years from now, what will be considered contraband materials and illegal services by ours or any other government? What if some of the fine art Amazon brokers turns out to be something stolen by the Nazis? What if ISIS or Pat Robertson take control and Match.com is suddenly interpreted as a worldwide prostitution ring?

Digital makes things bigger, and makes them live on in cyber-perpetuity, too. Societal attitudes change, but the data remains forever and is, therefore, constantly subject to new interpretation.

One of the biggest crises that Internet retailers face is the issue of remote sales tax collection being debated by governments municipal, state, and federal. But could a harsher tax be lying in wait for them? In protesting his client's sentence, Ulbricht's attorney, Joshua Dratel, mentioned another Silk Road defendant, Peter Nash, who pled guilty and was released after 17 months in jail.

“I'm not suggesting Mr. Nash and Mr. Ulbricht's sentences should be the same. But this is 17 months versus life,” Dratel said. “The only difference is that Mr. Nash pleaded guilty and Mr. Ulbricht exercised his constitutional right to trial. You could call it a trial tax.”

Digital make things bigger, and digital itself keeps getting bigger and bigger. How can one be sure that the wonderful idea she has for a retail website—an idea hatched to give her family a secure future—won't somehow metastasize beyond her control and transform into something she'd never imagined?

In a pre-sentencing letter pleading for leniency, Ulbricht wrote, “I believed at the time [of founding Silk Road]  that people should have the right to buy and sell whatever they wanted so long as they weren't hurting anyone else. I've learned since then that taking immediate actions on one's beliefs, without taking the necessary time to really think them through, can have disastrous consequences…I learned from Silk Road that when you give people freedom, you don't know what they'll do with it.”

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to receive contraband.

How to Spark (and Sustain) Brand Love and Passion

How to Spark (and Sustain) Brand Love and Passion

Everyone wants to be loved—especially marketers. Unfortunately, sparking and sustaining brand love requires more than just a shot from Cupid's arrow. As with any relationship, it requires give and take.

“Love is a 360 connection, meaning, to receive love you must give love,” John Moore, coauthor of The Passion Conversation and "chief of wahoo" for word-of-mouth agency Brains on Fire, said at the Bazaarvoice Summit in New Orleans.

Love also requires passion. And passion, Moore said, starts when a company is founded. He explained that if marketers can nurture customers to care about the same values and objectives that their brands do, then that passion can grow through word of mouth.

After all, every business's success or failure starts and ends with people. Have low retention rates? Then your brand doesn't have enough people making repeat purchases, Moore argued. Poor customer service? Your company has too many unhappy people. Low engagement? Your business has too many disconnected people.

“If you're not successful, then you're not connecting with enough people,” the former Starbucks and Whole Foods marketing veteran summarized.

Indeed, getting people to generate word of mouth for your brand is vastly important, especially considering that word-of-mouth media amplifies paid media by 15%, according to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

So, how can brands spark a passion-filled conversation with their customers and get them to talk about their products? Here are three triggers for sparking word of mouth, as well as Moore's three tips for maintaining it.

Three triggers for sparking a passion-filled conversation about brands and products

According to the Marketing Science Institute (MSI), there are three signals marketers can look for or create to trigger word of mouth among consumers:

1)    Functional

2)    Social

3)    Emotional

Let's take a closer look at each one.

Functional

Functional conversations, Moore explained, are factual and educational. These dialogues, he added, provide the basic information customers need to better interpret their surroundings and make decisions.

Earlier this year, for example, Starbucks introduced the Flat White to the U.S. and Canada. To help familiarize North American customers with the new espresso beverage, Starbucks put explanatory signage in its stores.



Southwest Airlines, which disrupted the airline industry by allowing customers to select their seats when they board, needed a way to avoid a mad dash down the airplane aisle. So, the airline assigns passengers individual boarding numbers. Passengers with the lowest numbers get to board the plane first and have their first pick of the seats. Of course, getting a throng of people to line up in numerical order can seem like an impossible task. But Southwest Airlines directs them with its boarding signage.

“The functional trigger helps to spark conversations when you're introducing something new or something that could be complicated,” Moore explained.

Social

Social signaling occurs anytime a consumer attaches themselves to a brand. This attachment is obvious through displays of affection such as carrying logo-emblazoned items (e.g. a Starbucks tumbler or Whole Foods tote bag) and uploading pictures (e.g., from their trip to Disney World) to social sites, Moore said. By associating themselves with a brand, he explained, consumers are saying that they're like the brand, and that brand is like them.

“Many times when we engage in conversations [where] we identify with the brands that we love, we start to feel better about ourselves,” he added.

So, marketers' goal should not be to get people to talk directly about their brands, Moore said, but rather it should be to get people to talk about themselves through the brands they buy.

Emotional

What happens when people are extremely happy? They notify their social networks. Same thing occurs when they're extremely frustrated. But when people are indifferent, Moore said, they don't feel the need to tell anybody. That's why, to generate word of mouth, marketers need to get their customers to feel an emotion, whether it's happiness, sadness, empathy, or the just the urge to giggle.

Every company is capable of getting their customers to feel, Moore continued, no matter how dull their sector may seem. Take insurance, for example. Brands like AllState and Progressive have created characters like Mayhem and Flo, respectively, to make talking about insurance a little more enjoyable. He also cited how Whole Foods gets right to customers' hearts by talking about its values and supplier stories in its national “Value Matter” campaign.

Three types of brand stories for sustaining passion conversations

Of course, getting customers to talk about themselves through your brand is only half of the battle; sustaining this conversation is an entirely different feat. And the key to maintaining these dialogues is to have a clear understanding of the brand's story.

“If you do not have a story, then you do not have a strategy,” Moore said.

According to Moore, there are three types of stories marketers can tell:

1)    How their brand improves customers' lives

2)    How their brand rights a wrong

3)    How their brand makes the current state of their industry better

And while being able to tell one of those stories is good, being able to tell all three is the secret to becoming a beloved brand, Moore said. Here's a deeper dive into each one of these storytelling techniques.

Improving customers' lives

Life always seems greener on the other side. So, why not tap into this idea and show consumers how other people have been able to improve their lives through a brand's products and services.

Fitbit is one brand that tells this story very well, Moore said, mainly by conveying how its products help customers' and their social communities live more active lives. The Container Store is another brand that conveys this improved-life benefit, Moore said, by communicating the idea that people spend less time and stress looking for lost items because every item in their homes has its own place through its storage solutions.

Righting a wrong

What brand doesn't want to be a hero in its customers' lives? Moore said stories about brands fighting an injustice are always a win.

Consider TurboTax: The tax preparation software provider tries to right the wrong of having poor people pay the most to have their taxes done, Moore said, by charging a flat, low-cost fee for its services.

Making it better

Myspace was good until Facebook made social networking better, Moore said, and Blockbuster was good until Netflix made movie watching better. The bottom line is brands need to be able to communicate how their company is better than anything else out there. 

Now go give your customers something to talk about.

Photo sources: Starbucks, Southwest Airlines

Which Content Works Best for You? [Quiz]

Which Content Works Best for You? [Quiz]


You know that content is king. But figuring out which content is the most appealing to your audience while still remaining true to your brand voice can be a challenge.

That's why we've created this five-minute quiz for you. OK, we're not saying that after taking this test that you should create an entire strategy around the results. But we are saying that you should consider the questions, your answers, and how you arrived at the final results. Use them to be inspired and to discover what you—and your customers—feel is important in the content that you publish. 

So find out whether fashionable, humorous, inspiring, socially conscious, or unique content fits you most. Then feel free to share your results.

GE Sells Engineering to Women Through E-commerce

GE Sells Engineering to Women Through E-commerce


The ability to determine what elements work to produce a desirable result is a valuable skill—both in marketing and engineering. Technology and innovation company GE proved this to be true when it combined education with e-commerce to inspire the next generation of female engineers through The Maker Shop.

Created in partnership with Brit + Co—a media and e-commerce platform that offers educational and inspirational products for young women—The Maker Shop is an online, curated store that sells fun and informative gifts to help young women tap into their “inner engineer,” explains Sydney Lestrud, GE's global marketing manager. Women can purchase everything from jewelry and champagne flutes to 3D printed roses and programmable tote bags that light up.

“The purpose of the shop was to curate a collection of gifts and tools that we believe would inspire the inner engineer, the inner maker, [or] the inner hacker in all women to use these tools [and] to really think about creativity in a new way,” Lestrud says. “So, how can these new tools help inspire them to build something, fix something, or hack something to make it better?”

Deciding which products to include in the collection was one of the biggest challenges for GE, Lestrud says. Thankfully, the company had a little help. GE called on its own engineers from its different business divisions to help curate the products.

“We talked about not only their engineering skills that they use in the workplace, but also what are some of the daily tools that they use in their everyday lives that they find really useful,” she says.

Besides containing a shopping component, the online store has a content marketing element. There are profiles about the engineers who curated the shop, as well as articles that explain how patrons can use the shop's products in innovative ways. GE also posted a series in which women explain how learning to code changed their life, both personally and professionally. 

“For us, [the goal is] really more about hoping that our audience will read the stories and connect to the engineers we've profiled in the editorials and to help surround the shop,” Lestrud says. “That's what we're looking at most, versus sales, in particular. It's much more about these stories of engineering and hopefully inspiring that next generation of engineers [to] look at engineering in a new light, look at it with this creative lens and relatability, and be inspired by it.”

Not only is GE educating women through its content, but it's also offering to teach them valuable skills through on- and offline courses. For example, every time someone purchases a product, they get a free Electronics 101 video course, taught by Brit + Co's founder. Also, site visitors can take advantage of a $100 voucher from nonprofit Girls Develop It and apply it to in-person coding classes. 

Lestrud says that GE is driving consumers to the site primarily through Facebook targeting and posts, as well as through Twitter. The company's campaign partners are also promoting the site through their social channels, she adds.

The Maker Shop isn't GE's first foray into e-commerce. Lestrud says that the company worked with men's digital lifestyle company Thrillist Media Group and its men's flash sale brand JackThreads last summer to attract sneaker enthusiasts by redesigning a modern sneaker using advanced materials inspired by moon boots that GE had created. 

“What we find so interesting is when we're able to lean into specific passion points…. It's the thing that people feel so strongly about [and] so proud of and they want to share it, talk about it, and have the tools to build even better,” she says.

Using e-commerce as a marketing tool, she adds, allows GE to integrate its brand into consumers' daily lives in a more recognizable way. “For us, it's an opportunity to make our brand a little bit more tangible,” Lestrud explains. “We make very big things—jet engines, locomotives, and gas turbines—and sometimes you can't put those directly in people's hands. We can still find ways to put the brand into our fans' hands; we just have to be a little bit more creative about it.”

The Maker Shop was originally going to stay live until the end of May, but GE has extended its run. Although Lestrud declined to share the results of The Maker Shop thus far, she says that GE intends to track engagement metrics and traffic to the site. But overall, she says that the brand has experienced great response. 

“Women and STEM is such an important topic, and it's such an important issue now,” she says. “And it's extremely important for GE to celebrate women in STEM and recognize women in STEM. So, any time that we're pushing that message and pushing that message of encouraging engineering from all sides of the fence, we see a really great and positive reaction—no matter how we do it.”

Quirky Marketing Trends That Work

Quirky Marketing Trends That Work


I like things that are weird. You know—whimsical artwork, off-the-wall décor, underground music, peculiar restaurants. To me, idiosyncrasies make life interesting. In fact, I'm the girl who wears fake lime-green frames on my face just because they're “cute,” not because I need glasses. I live in a funky little downtown hi-rise with a lively, eccentric restaurant scene. I love being weird. Actually, I take pride in it.

For Memorial Day weekend, I ventured back to Atlanta to visit my twin sis, and we sauntered over to one of the city's most artistic neighborhoods: Downtown Decatur. Actually, Atlanta has a ton of little hippy, artistic gems, including Cabbagetown, East Atlanta Village, Little Five Points, the Old Fourth Ward, Reynoldstown, West Midtown—the list goes on and on. Great places for a writer like me to get inspired.

It just so happened, because of Memorial Day weekend, there was an art festival that brought out some of the city's best and most distinct artwork. Even more than usual, Decatur was teeming with artsy wares and art lovers. And I noticed that the crazier the artwork, the more attention the artists got—and the more sales that they made.

On this particular weekend, we ventured over to peruse the zigzag aisles of Wild Oats & Billy Goats, a funky folk art gallery smack dab in the middle of this hippie haven. I fell in love with a painting of a little puppy. The artist, Robin Anne Cooper, creates original pieces that feature family pets. The only things that she doesn't paint are eyes.

Très cute, right?

The saleslady at Wild Oats & Billy Goats told me Robin's one of the most popular artists. Her work is distinct, and it's, well, a little weird. Quirky. Most of all it's memorable, which makes it a desirable purchase.

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

The editors at DM News have—and continue to—culled the best marketing strategies for you to consider. This week, I want to draw attention to some of the more quirky ones. I encourage you and your teams to not just read about them but truly consider them, and then give them a try. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

"San Andreas" Fails to Capture the True Horror of a Crumbling California

"San Andreas" Fails to Capture the True Horror of a Crumbling California

“The Earth will literally crack open and you will feel it on the East Coast,” says Paul Giamatti's seismologist character in San Andreas, the summer disaster flick also starring Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino and opening tomorrow. Giamatti was being fairly parochial in limiting the fallout of the earthquake to the continental United States. Director Brad Peyton and his team of special effects wizards—while masterfully titillating the American viewer's doom and destruction gene—undershot the terror factor with CGI scenes of flap-jacking skyscrapers and tsunami-riding cruise ships. The truly horrible aftermath of San Francisco and Silicon Valley breaking off and foundering in the Pacific would be played out all over the world, in living rooms and in people's pockets, when they searched Google and got a white screen crammed with code. When they checked their Apple watches and saw them flashing “12:00-12:00-12:00.” 

Where are the scenes in San Andreas of Oracle's Larry Ellison being swallowed by a tidal wave as he attempts to escape San Francisco Bay in his super-yacht? Of Elon Musk giving Salesforce's Marc Benioff a lift up to the cloud in his SpaceX ship as the Transamerica Pyramid takes a nosedive in the background? Of Google headquarters being wiped off of Google Maps?

Let's just skim the top 25 of the San Jose Mercury's SV150 to see what the world will have to do without should, of a day, the San Andreas Fault tear open and turn Silicon Valley into Silicon Island:

# 1 Apple: With $200 billion in sales, it is called by some the most successful American company ever. More than 6 million Americans use iPhones. You may be one of them and, if not, you surely know one of them. Imagine the ugliness that would ensue in front of Apple Stores everywhere when iPhone 7 failed to be released.

#3 Google: The only reason that I'm still making a living as a working journalist at my age is this: Who needs a memory or even a fully capable brain when the knowledge of the cosmos is there at my fingertips? If I woke up tomorrow and found there was no Google, I think I'd just stay home. Anybody with me?

# 6 Ebay: Where would I go to find a cheap, used iPhone 6?

#10 Facebook, #37 LinkedIn, and #50 Twitter: I grouped the top three social networks because together they have changed the way we communicate with friends, business associates, family members, and potential romantic partners. The Federal Government would have to open schools to educate Millennials and certain GenXers how to write resumés, visit their moms, engage in conversation with strangers, and lose the troubling habit of never writing sentences consisting of more than 140 characters.

#19 Netflix: By the time you get to watch the final episodes of The Walking Dead, you'll be among them. Purple will be the new black.

#20 Salesforce.com: Traveling salesmen would once again be loosed upon the countryside!

Imagine yourself walking out of a screening of San Andreas this weekend. You pull out your smartphone to post a terse review on Twitter, find a nearby Korean barbecue joint, and summon Uber to your side. But nothing happens. All that's now impossible. The world has closed in around you. You are confined to the lonely street you walk on and the few scared souls who inhabit it with you. Now that's horror! How could you have missed this, Mr. Peyton?

It could happen. A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey predicts up to a 7% likelihood of an 8.0 or greater magnitude earthquake hitting California within the next 30 years. “The new likelihoods are due to the inclusion of possible multi-fault ruptures, where earthquakes are no longer confined to separate, individual faults, but can occasionally rupture multiple faults simultaneously,” said the report's author, USGS scientist Ned Field.

My closing shot in San Andreas would be from the window of Musk's departing spaceship. As it approaches the stratosphere and the entire West Coast is revealed, the camera zooms back down to the state of Washington and the lair of Bill Gates. He's done up like Ernst Stavro Blofeld from You Only Live Twice—bald, scarred, and wearing a tan, high-collared suit. He's stroking not a white cat, but a model of the blue Explorer logo. “At last!” he exclaims.

A Tale of Two Customer Experiences

A Tale of Two Customer Experiences

The most memorable customer experiences are often those that land on opposite ends of the spectrum: Either they're really good, or they're really bad. And these experiences can have a major impact on brands' bottom lines. Consider the following data from the "2014 Global Customer Service Barometer" report by American Express and Ebiquity: 74% of consumers say they've spent more with a company because they've had a history of positive customer service experiences with that business.

Factors that determine whether a customer's experience is positive or negative are usually the most basic: having empathy, respecting preferences, etcetera. Here are two polar opposite customer experiences that I had on the same weekend, including a breakdown of what one business did right and the other did wrong.

Continued...

The good:

Last April my mom and brother decided to fly out for Easter weekend. I wanted my apartment to look perfect and feel like their second home. So on my way back from work I stopped at a wine shop just blocks from my apartment. I had shopped at the local business before, but the prices couldn't compete with the “Two-Buck Chuck” Trader Joe's offered. Nevertheless, this was a special occasion, and I felt like my family deserved a higher quality bottle.

With about an hour until their arrival, I went in to the wine shop looking for a specific bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that I had purchased before. But when I asked one of the employees to help me locate the bottle, he informed me that they didn't sell it any more. He recommended another Cabernet that he said tasted like a $40 bottle, despite its $16 price tag. Disappointed, I opted to do a little browsing on my own. But with the clock ticking down, I finally decided to just purchase the employee's recommendation. I thanked him for his suggestion and went on my way.

I picked up a few other welcoming essentials on my walk back to my apartment, including a bouquet of fresh flowers and new soap for the guest bathroom. I felt like I had a good hold of all of my items—that is until I tucked the bottle of wine under my arm to fish my keys out of purse. Splat. The bottle shattered all over the sidewalk just steps from my apartment. The aroma of Cabernet on the pavement smelled amazing (shutting out any doubts I had about the wine's quality). To make matters worse, two young men who witnessed my distress let out a big “Oooohhh, that sucks.”

I tossed the broken glass into the dumpster and called my boyfriend down so that he could take the rest of my belongings while I went back to re-buy the bottle.

I walked back to the wine shop and pulled the same bottle from the rack.

“Are you back for another bottle?” the employee who initially helped me asked.

“Noooo,” I whined. “I dropped the last one.”

Then, much to my amazement, the employee told me that if I brought him the top of the broken bottle back he would replace it with a new bottle free of charge. I couldn't believe it. I raced back to my apartment, got my boyfriend to do a little dumpster diving for me, and wrapped the bottle carefully in a bag to avoid any potential cuts.

I brought the evidence of my clumsiness back to the store and, sure enough, the employee gave me a brand new bottle. I was so excited that my $16 didn't end up in the sewer along with my first bottle of Cabernet. I thanked the employee and told him how much I appreciated it.

I scurried home, carefully holding the bottle with two hands, and told my boyfriend about how kind the employee was to me. I immediately went to Yelp and wrote about my experience. My mom and I enjoyed the wine, and knowing that this second bottle was obtained out of compassion made it taste even sweeter.

About two weeks later I went back to the wine shop to purchase the bottle again for an Italian dinner I was whipping up. The same employee recognized me and asked how I was doing. I told him that I was doing well and reiterated how much I appreciated his help a few weeks back. He smiled and told me that if I liked that bottle I should try his favorite Pinot Noir.

Great, I thought as he started to ring up my purchase, an upsell. “How much is it?” I asked, expecting it to greatly surpass my still college-like budget for alcohol.

“Only $12,” he responded. He continued to tell me about the wine and how it actually just made the top 100 list.

Again, I couldn't believe it. He was recommending a product that was cheaper than my last purchase. Here was an employee who was taking my needs, my price point, and my preferences into consideration. What a concept.

He then double bagged the bottle of wine that I purchased and with a smile said, “Just in case.”

I still haven't tried the Pinot Noir he recommended, but my boyfriend and I have continued to purchase from this wine shop. But I will definitely go back and buy that Pinot Noir from the kindest little wine shop in all of Manhattan.

What he did right:

1) He was understanding: All customers want in a sour situation is a little bit of empathy—and that's exactly what I got. The employee could have easily forced me to fork over another $20 for a new bottle. Instead, he considered my situation and did what was best for the customer, and ultimately what was best for the business, and won my loyalty.

2) He remembered me: Not only did the employee remember me once (after I first dropped the bottle), but twice. I've been to restaurants where the hostess has forgotten me after five minutes. The fact that he remembered my business and my situation enough to double-bag my next wine bottle purchase made me feel like I was being viewed as a person, rather than just a sale.

3) He educated me but knew when to stop: Sometimes customers like to be educated on a business's product, and sometimes they don't. The key is being able to identify when enough is enough. Take cues from customers' tone and body language. For instance, the first time I spoke to the employee I was in a rush, and told him that I just wanted to browse on my own after hearing his recommendation. He obliged and left me alone to roam the shelves. But when I returned the store two weeks later I was much more relaxed and willing to learn more about his latest recommendation.

4) He respected my price point and preferences: Knowing that I like red wine and had a less-than-$20 price point may seem like small details to some, but having the employee keep these nuances in mind made me feel valued. Had he tried to upsell me with a $60 bottle, I would have thought that he was more interested in my money and less interested in my level of satisfaction and loyalty.

Continued...

The bad

I had a routine eye doctor appointment that same weekend my mother and brother came to visit. Since watching your daughter as she gets her eyes dilated isn't exactly fun, my mom decided to walk around and do a bit of shopping.

After my appointment, my mom came back and told me that she walked past the cutest boutique just down the street and that it carried a bunch of items that she thought I would love. At first, I thought I should resist. Spring cleaning my closet was on my to-do list. But when she told me they had a $20 sales rack, I gave in.

We walked into the boutique and the employee working there seemed super excited that my mom had returned, especially considering we were the only customers in the store. The employee told me that the store was offering jeans for $50 and that its newer, more expensive inventory was towards the front. I thanked her for letting me know and told her that my mom and I were just interested in perusing the sales rack.

The woman seemed to want to join our mother-daughter outing because she followed us directly to the rack and stood there while we browsed through the clothes. It was so uncomfortable. The only time she did leave us alone was when she went to the front of the store to fetch more expensive items. She'd then return asking “What do you think of this one?” No matter how many times I told her that I wasn't interested in looking at the new merchandise, she continued to bring more items. Strike one.

I then spotted a jacket on the sales rack that I thought was pretty cute, so I tried it on. It was definitely too big and my mom and I both knew it. However, the employee insisted that it looked great on me. Strike two.

Feeling totally smothered and like my needs weren't being met, my mom and I decided to leave the store empty-handed. After we exited the store, I told my mother that I couldn't believe how the sales associate was so pushy. My mother then informed me that when she first told the sales associate that she was going to come back and bring me after my eye doctor appointment, the sales appointment told her that she didn't have to leave and that she should just text me pictures of the clothes instead. Telling my mother how to shop? Strike three.

What she did wrong:

1) She didn't put the customer first: Instead of focusing on my price point and my interest in the sales rack, the sales associate focused on her need: getting me to spend the most amount of money as possible. As a result, neither of us got what we wanted, and I was no longer surprised that her store was empty.

2) She didn't realize when she wasn't wanted: In today's world, consumers are much more independent and much more knowledgeable. While the associate certainly could have told me about her new merchandise, she should have given us our space when I told her what my agenda was. A simple “I'll be up at the front if you need anything,” would have been just fine. Instead, we felt completely smothered and uncomfortable.

3) She wasn't honest: When I tried on the jacket, it was very apparent that it was too big. But again, instead of focusing on my needs, the sales associate thought about her own agenda and insisted that the jacket looked great. This caused me to lose any remaining trust that I had with the sales associate and exit the boutique immediately. After all, if I can't trust her to be honest about the fit of a jacket, how can I trust her with my credit card information?

4) She told the customer what to do: Marketers can always try to sway a customer's behavior. But ultimately, the customer will behave how he or she wants. Telling my mother that she should text me pictures of the clothes she thought I would like after she said that she would come back was just out of line. That's not trying to persuade someone; that's outright telling them what to do. Just because a customer doesn't immediately make a purchase, doesn't mean that she's gone for good. In this case, however, there's no chance of winning me back.

Wanted: More Left-Leaning CMOs

Wanted: More Left-Leaning CMOs

Winning in marketing today requires leaning just a bit to the left—in terms of analytical thinking, not political leanings. Indeed, “The Arrival of Left-Brained Leaders and the Rise of the Marketing Department” is the title of a chapter in coauthors Russell Glass and Sean Callahan's book, The Data-Driven Business: How to Use Big Data to Win Customers, Beat Customers, and Boost Profits. And for good reason…

“As data-driven marketing has become the predominant model of marketing,” write Glass and Callahan, head of B2B product and senior manager of content marketing at LinkedIn, respectively, “the kinds of people who practicing marketing and advertising are certainly different sorts than they used to be, even five years ago…”

These new marketers are much more analytical, according to the coauthors, who provide numerous examples. At Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), for example, the director of global brand and digital marketing organizes his marketing team into three marketing “types.”

  1. Content Jockeys: those who write white papers, blogs, and articles and produce videos
  2. Infra-Jockeys: those who design, operate, and maintain the marketing technology environment
  3. Demand Gen Jockeys: those who “optimize demand generation efforts using sophisticated marketing automation systems”

The first category represents a relatively traditional marketing type: folks who can flex their creative thinking and communicate well. The second two categories, which are obviously more technology-focused, represent the present and future of marketing. Glass and Callahan do not claim that creativity is becoming irrelevant; instead, they argue that the technology and analytics skills are becoming much more relevant, and more valuable.

The book provides some useful practices for marketers looking to become more analytical; these include:

Consistent reporting and business metrics: The coauthors point o Joe Payne, former CEO of Eloqua, who emphasizes that he always exhorted his marketing executives to share a consistent report—containing the same metrics—when presenting at weekly executive meetings. These measures, Payne also emphasizes, should be real; that is, tied to performance outcomes. CFOs do not make up their own metrics, Payne explains, and neither should CMOs.

Accountability: Marketers should be held accountable for their investments and the results that their spending produces (or doesn't). The CMO of software firm Domo stresses that this accountability means that marketing needs to report in its revenue contribution, as opposed to reporting that it won a marketing award.

Perseverance: One of the most challenging obstacles marketers face when trying to become more analytical may be “their own innate creative tendencies,” according to Payne and the coauthors. Some marketers view the analytical mandate as a directive to become boring.

They shouldn't, according to another expert the coauthors cite: Glen Cow, CEO of marketing technology firm Crimson Marketing. “The vast majority of CMOs out there—maybe really the entire marketing department—are what we called right-brained people,” Cow says. “They are hired for their creative abilities and their ability to drive outbound marketing campaigns and then do branding. The world has changed very, very quickly, and it requires left-brained talent. It requires people who can make sense of the data that's coming in.”

7 Marketing Musts from the Global Head of Facebook's Marketing Partners Program

7 Marketing Musts from the Global Head of Facebook's Marketing Partners Program

How often do you check Facebook? If you're like most mobile users, the answer is 14 times a day.

Think you're addicted? You're not alone. The social network has 1.44 billion active users, according to March 2015 data, and 936 million of them check Facebook every day. There are also four billion video views on Facebook every day, and one out of every five minutes consumers spend on a smartphone is dedicated to Facebook or its acquired photo-sharing app Instagram.

From a marketing standpoint, Steve Irvine is one of the people responsible for progressing Facebook's growth. Irvine is the global head of Facebook's Marketing Partners program—an initiative launched in December 2009 as the Preferred Developer Consultant program and then dubbed the Preferred Marketing Developer program in April 2012. As the current leader of Facebook's Marketing Partners, he works with marketing technology companies to optimize the social platform's advertising capabilities.

“Our goal at the end of the day is really to make Facebook the best place for marketers to grow their businesses using these technology-enabled partnerships,” he said.

So what is Facebook focusing on this coming year? Four words: Creativity. Data. Measurement. Mobile. I had the chance to sit down with Irvine at ONE Teradata Marketing Festival in Las Vegas last week and discuss how the social network is tying all four into its strategy. Here's what Irvine had to say, as well as the seven Facebook marketing lessons that I took away from that lucid conversation.

1. Targeting requires creativity to be truly effective.

I can target you, but if the content that I'm giving you is still fairly generic and not relevant to you, it actually negates all of the value of the targeting. Trying to find ways to deliver more personalized content and creative, especially in rich formats like video, can be challenging for brands that are used to doing one big TV spot. Being able to change the tools that they used, even change the way that their agency thinks about creating that creative in the first place, has started to be—and continues to be—a big focus for us.

2. Video is a powerful tool, but marketers are still figuring out how to best leverage it.

There's definitely a lot of hype now around video. We've now got four billion video views a day, which is just a ridiculous amount of video that's being consumed on Facebook right now. It makes sense because [Facebook is] a discovery platform.... Even if I'm just snacking—like I have five minutes in line at a Starbucks, and I'm bored; and I want to check in on what's happening in my life—I go there, and I can discover really interesting things.

There's amazing opportunity there for video to deliver the sight, sound, and motion to those people and [provide] that arresting creative. I recently heard it called thumb-stopping creative, which I think is a great way to think about it. [It's] when you're going through a feed, scrolling through, and you stop somebody, get them to pay attention and be interested in your work, for example. A lot of clients are trying to solve for that. We're early. 

There are great examples, and there are folks that have definitely not figured it out yet. But that type of experience is one that clients really want to be able to figure out quickly because it gives them scale, as well as a really relevant way to stay connected to the customer.

3. Marketers are competing with, well, everyone.

This historical model of As long as I'm slightly better at marketing or our creative is slightly more relevant than our competitors, I'm going to win misses the bigger picture. That's not who you're competing with. You're competing with my best friend who just got married and my sister's kid who just started walking—a lot of these big moments in my life. That's a different bar than the one that we set before. That requires some change management on the brand side.

4. That means marketers need to raise the bar to meet consumers' content expectations.

The ambition has always been, for us at Facebook, to make sure that the commercial content that you see in your newsfeed is at the same level as content [and] stories that you'd see from friends. It's a bit ambitious. But when you see a really well-targeted, high-quality ad in your feed that's relevant to you, it does meet the bar....

Basketball is my favorite sport. [So] I might see an ad from Nike, Adidas, or somebody that's just a great piece of creative. Maybe it connects with me; I want to share it; I want to talk about it; it's right in my feed. It's just as valuable as a lot of things that my friends would [post]. If I had a feed full of that type of content, I would love it. I wouldn't need to be able to distinguish between the two. It would give me the same pleasure if I go through [either one], and it would totally fit and meet the bar of the personal updates that I'm seeing from my friends. That's our ambition. I don't think that we always get there, and I think some brands have gotten there faster than others. But the ambition for us at Facebook is to keep that quality bar really high.

5. Mobile shouldn't be treated as a separate channel (especially since it offers many of the same capabilities as other channels).

Mobile should not be viewed as a discreet channel. That's the thing that people get wrong, too. Mobile is a consumer behavior. It's not like one other thing you do. It actually could mirror the properties of any existing [channel]. If the reason that you do TV is because you want sight, sound, and motion at scale, you can get that with mobile. The reason that you do email and some digital is because you can get very targeted and reach people in real-time; you can hit that value proposition in mobile. Why do you do radio? Because you want people on-the-go, out of their homes.... That's the one thing that people get wrong. It's not a vertical pillar in your plan. It should probably be this horizontal transformative thing that actually changes the way that you think about your entire mix.

6. Marketers need to consider the entire mobile experience.

People really need to think about the mobile experience. Part A of the mobile experience is that it's dominated by apps, not Web. Part B is that the real estate [within apps] on the phone is very constructed from what we're used to in digital. So you get a richer experience in...apps, but less space to be able to operate in. That's what is driving a lot of feeds where you can still get a full screen, versus a banner ad, which is [an] even smaller, microscopic thing at the bottom [and] is really difficult to get [consumers] to break through with those formats—even though they were the standard when you look at it on your computer for a long period of time. So [it's] just understanding that [mobile is] a pretty significant change for a consumer and we need to make sure that we understand that reality if we're going to be able to plan for it.

7. Consumers vote with their attention.

Mobile people vote with their attention.... Understanding where they're spending their time and how they're spending their time is really critical upfront to be able to build anything of substance on that front.

Readers Sound Off on the Digital Postal Service

Readers Sound Off on the Digital Postal Service

A couple of weeks ago in this space,we laid out the many positive aspects of the U.S. Postal Service as a marketing channel (high response, exclusive access, mass scale) and wondered whether its reputation as dowdy and deficit-ridden old warhorse could be turned around if it were reinvented as a digital startup. We got some reactions to the story from some notables of the digital world, and here we present their thoughts.

“First, let's understand that the situation for them has changed dramatically. They are no longer the only way to communicate. In fact, they are likely near the bottom half of a long list of ways individuals communicate today. Most of us get way too many items we never asked for via the USPS—and this is where the transformation must begin,” wrote David Trice (left), CEO of Engage.cx, who sold Revenue Technologies to Oracle in 2007 and then helped the company bring FusionCRM to market.

To make the mail more like digital communications, Trice posited, it's imperative for the Postal Service to allow consumers to filter what mail they get from marketers. “As a consumer, I need to get my bills, and I want to hear from Lands End, but I don't want to hear from real estate agents.I also don't want credit card offers by the dozen,” Trice contended. “If the USPS gave me control over what was delivered, then I would give them control to share that data with the respective brands I care most about. It likely goes without saying, but this should all be done via a mobile app.”

The head of a noted Silicon Valley agency saw Trice's idea and raised it one. “It strikes me that there's a great first-party data opportunity for USPS to capitalize on,” wrote David Rodnitzky (left), CEO of 3Q Digital, whose clientele includes Facebook, Fitbit, MyWebGrocer, and Warby Parker. “Marketers already use postal addresses to match the customers in their database to consumers online. The USPS could offer the reverse of this concept. If someone clicks on an ad online, the USPS could use first-party data to automatically send that consumer a direct mail offer that is customized to what they clicked on.”

Dave Wakeman, a political campaign consultant who ran direct mail campaigns for Barack Obama and John Kerry thinks a postal-to-digital transformation must be preceded by a tearing down and rethinking of the customer proposition. “While the USPS has a monopoly on people's doors and mailboxes, it also has a bad reputation for service. By recasting itself digitally, it can reshape its customer experience to create programs like ‘postage on demand' and ‘hassle free shipping' that will tap into the tools and products that the USPS has at its disposal, but translated to the digital age,” Wakeman (left) suggested. 

Trice, too, had some ideas around the Postal Service making the most of what it's already got. He put forth a concept he calls “Community Mail”—a high-value, Uber-inspired, local concept.“Mail going from one side of a ZIP Code to the other is mail between people who know each other—wedding invitations, graduation notices, etc.” Trice wrote. “Here USPS has a distinct and differentiated service offering that should be positioned as such. For instance, they could offer delivery bundled with flowers or partnered with Uber for rides home from events.”

Any more great postal ideas out there? Email them to me at al.urbanski@dmnews.com.

A Bit of Insight Into Customer Analytics

A Bit of Insight Into Customer Analytics


If there's one thing that I've learned about relationships, it's this: You have to spend time getting to know the little details about a person. It's the small, intimate facts that are the building blocks for a strong relationship.

The same goes for marketers.

For them, those tiny details come in the form of analytics. More specifically, customer insights that can help you craft more impactful messages for your audiences. And we all know that intelligent, personal marketing can translate to deep affinity and, of course, heightened sales.

I had a chance to have a one-on-one with Ken Bisconti, IBM's customer analytics business leader while attending the company's Amplify 2015 conference in San Diego. We chatted about how insight can make all the difference, when data can actually hurt your efforts, and the future of analytics.

How are analytics and customer experience tied to each other?
So especially in the world of digital, brands of all different industries are very focused on delivering superior customer experience. And customer experience today—in our multichannel, highly digital world—is going to separate the winners from the losers. That's because if you have a product that's relatively on par with other products or a service that's on par with other services, my overall customer experience and overall relationship with that brand will determine my loyalty to them.

Now in the form of analytics, we use customer analytics—or customer experience analytics—to try to provide holistic understanding of what experience we are actually delivering or even what our customers are enduring, if it's not positive.

Tell me: What do you feel fuels intelligent marketing?
Well, it's a big topic. Marketing is a big topic. I think that knowing your customers—knowing who you're trying to attract to your brand—is key to intelligent marketing. Delivering superior customer experience and building a lifelong, two-way relationship is one of the sort of basis for intelligent marketing. In order to do that, you need to use data. And data is not just in the form of CRM systems, purchased mailing lists, or other demographics. Data is in the form of what to bear to better understand my customer. And understanding them in context is key to intelligent marketing so that I'm able to deliver. Trying to uncover what's their intent is also instrumental in the ability to practice intelligent marketing.

What do you feel like the ultimate goal should be for using analytics?
The goal for using analytics is to make data a competitive advantage. So for a marketer to be effective, you need to be able to make decisions that are informed regarding which investments you are making and which tactics you are going to execute, which will have the biggest impact on achieving your intended result.

And you need to be able to also add to this, which I think is new: visibility and insight on the experiences that you're delivering to your intended customers. I really mean this in relation to a digital world. In a physical world, you can watch people as they move about your store. People come and you see who they are; you see what they're doing; you see if they're sort of browsing or if they're really interested. You have a physical view. Once you move to a digital channel, in most cases you completely lose that visibility. Without analytics, I'm flying blind. I have no ideas expect that a purchase happened. Struggles, intentions, motives. Analytics gives me a look into much of that.

Is there ever a time when data—and the insights derived from that data—can hurt a marketing message?
That's a great question. Um, I think that like any argument, if you're bringing the wrong data or the wrong analytics to the table, you'll make the wrong decisions. It's based on a data point that's out of context or perhaps dirty data. So analytics can have a negative result if you're trying to use the data as a decision-making tool, and you have the wrong info.

So what is the future of analytics?
Well, I'm really excited about analytics. In the world of customer analytics, I'm so excited. I think that we are moving to a position where we will very soon be able to clear and complete insight on multichannel journeys—which is a really interesting challenge. Trying to correlate, for instance, pre-purchase behavior that happens on a mobile device that results in a conversion on the Web or in a store is the way of the future. Being able to stitch together those journeys across channels is exciting.

I also think that the increased use of social and predictive analytics—on top of these customer experience analytics—gives us the opportunity to really optimize our understanding, including intent and attitudinal data. Predictive analytics allows us to take action and get some result on an insight.

Organizational Alignment Succeeds or Fails Through Incentives

Organizational Alignment Succeeds or Fails Through Incentives

The message at SiriusDecisions' 2015 Summit is clear: “Marketing, product management, and sales need to be aligned to drive business growth,” John Neeson said during his keynote. “The hallmark of a high-performing organization is the alignment of those three areas.”

Neeson, cofounder and managing director of SiriusDecisions, cited convincing data from a recent study by the research firm: Alignment can lead to 5 to 36% of an organization's growth. Plus, businesses that closely align marketing, product management, and sales may grow faster than industry peers.

According to SiriusDecisions' research, businesses with high alignment showed 19% faster revenue growth and 15% more profit than the other companies studied. Most organizations are just fighting to get and stay aligned, Neeson said. For those business, and even for the leaders, alignment is an ongoing journey.

Neeson cited six factors to neccessary for improving alignment among marketing, product management, and sales teams: shared strategy, go-to-market approach, and success measures; organizational alignment; common, integrated processes; and shared technology.

One element that can derail alignment, Tony Jaros discussed in his keynote, is compensation. “Incentive compensation is the third rail in marketing, product [management], and sales alignment,” said Jaros, SVP and chief research officer at SiriusDecisions.

You get what you pay for

The wrong variable compensation can cause conflict and create fiefdoms instead of encourage collaboration. Alignment becomes impossible in an environment with competing goals.

Jaros recommended (not surprisingly) following SiriusDecision's B2B Incentive Framework, which encourages business leaders to consider both the strategy behind and the execution of incentive compensation plans.

There are several elements that should comprise an incentive compensation strategy:

Define – Agree on the types of incentives to use.
Decide – Select the variable incentive elements that will work best for the organization.
Evolve – Adjust the expectations of each role based on the new strategy.

Execution is composed of three main elements:

Enhance – Provide the knowledge and skills the staff needs to succeed.  
Support – Improve the infrastructure to help employees meet expectations.
Monitor – Track performance on an ongoing basis to ensure that the incentive compensation                                      strategy is driving the expected actions and performance.

Beware the shadows

When selecting variable incentives, Jaros said, consider that they're meant as a bonus for achieving a specific, stated goal. So, incentive compensation targets should be results oriented, and based on such activities as pipeline growth, revenue, profitability, retention, and offering mix. When selecting targets, he said, consider the company's growth strategy. Is the primary goal, for example, to acquire new customers? Increase retention? A blend of both? Set targets and incentives accordingly.

Jaros cautioned attendees to beware of what he called shadow incentives. These incentives aren't documented and typically are a reward for employees doing something outside of their normal responsibilities. They're usually non-financial in nature. But used incorrectly or unwittingly, shadow incentives can backfire. They may promote behaviors that lead to such problems as employees decreasing time spent on their defined responsibilities or internal competition.

Jaros cited an example of a company that in the past, when hiring new telesales employees, sometimes implicitly or explicitly noted that success in the role is a path to the sales team. Instead of encouraging positive behavior, this shadow incentive caused some telesales reps to attempt to close deals that should have been passed to the sales teams.

“Shadow incentives aren't all bad,” Jaros said, “as long as they're acknowledged and managed to.” Find them, he said, understand why they exist, and make necessary adjustments.

Whether planning variable compensation or shadow incentives, ensure that the related targets are clearly communicated and achievable, or employees won't change their current behaviors. The internalized response will be: “If I don't understand the compensation, I'll just keep doing my job the way I always have been.”

Jaros also warned against setting incentives as an afterthought. “They have to be part of the strategy,” he said, adding that there has to be governance represented by sales, marketing, and product management to ensure that incentive compensation supports alignment among the three teams, versus creating conflict.

In fact, Neeson emphasized in his keynote the importance of each team doing their part to ensure alignment among them. “There are no heroes in alignment, there is only a catalyst,” he said. “Be the catalyst.”


The Plight of the Man in the Plaid Jacket

The Plight of the Man in the Plaid Jacket

Those handful of you who've read my blogs before may recall that my sordid past includes a stint as a New York City cab driver. In my desire to try my hand at some of the more detestable of American occupations, I also sold cars in the early 2000s, when I was involuntarily dissociated from my high-paying career as the chief editor of a noted business journal. (Talk about sordid.) This I'll tell you. Just about all of the bad things you think about car salesmen are true, and then some. We sat in the showroom, scanning the lot for “ups,” which is what we called suck…I mean prospects…and then tried to “put them in a car” for the highest price possible. Now, before you go getting all high and mighty, remember, you're marketers. Do you build brands in an attempt to make your margins lower? Or do you pay Kim Kardashian to wear your flip-flops or your designer sunglasses to make the gulf between your production cost in Jiangsu and your price on Prada.com as wide as the East China Sea? We had an Internet sales manager at Baker Chrysler Jeep Dodge back then, but all he did was scour the Web for leads and turn them over to us shark…um, sales professionals…who would do or say anything to get them inside the showroom.

But digital, as you well know, changes everything, even the time-hallowed American tradition of overpaying for a new car. Today Edmunds, the third-party automotive purchase adviser, launches a new service that will tie car shoppers together with dealers via SMS texts. Car buyers will now be able to text local Jeep dealers to see if they have a 2012 red or green Grand Cherokee Limited in stock. And even more amazingly to this old car jockey, dealers engaging in the program—and there are 3,100 of them signed up—will text back a picture of the vehicle and even a guaranteed price.

“We saw the statistic that 90% of people text at least once a day, and we realized that there were shockingly few ways for people to do outbound texting to retailers or sellers of any kind,” says Edmunds President Seth Berkowitz. “We were eyeing that gap and then, serendipitously, a company called Carcode emerged as one of 12 finalists in our Hackamotive program.”

Hackamotive is a business-acceleration program Edmunds runs for tech startups. Carcode, which set up a system for text communications with dealerships, became one of four Hackamotive finalists, which are given access to the company's clients and internal Web traffic for testing. Any resulting innovation can be further explored by either the startups or Edmunds. But Berkowitz and fellow senior managers were so impressed with Carcode's results that they decided to acquire it, which they did last October.

“The most natural thing for shoppers is to text the dealership,” Berkowitz says. “We believe that for the foreseeable future, texting is going to be the preferred mode of communication between buyers and dealers. People are already checking our website via mobile for inventory on a dealership's Web listing. Until now, they'd have to call the dealership or send an email and wait for a call back. Now they can just text.”

Edmunds' test run of the Carcode turned up some interesting shopper insights, namely the top four things buyers wanted to hear from sellers, in this order:

More...

1.    Is the car in stock?

2.    Price?

3.    Can I get credit?

4.    What will you give me for my trade-in?

This is not surprising. What has been surprising to some of the huge dealer groups that tested out Carcode is that they can come close to closing a sale without ever having taken an “up” for a test drive or made him or her cool their heels in the dealership lounge for 45 minutes while the salesperson did God knows what. Amazing!

“We are also beginning to uncover a whole other order of intelligence, information that over time will help dealers understand what's behind what people are asking,” Berkowitz says. “For instance, if people ask for deep features like a specific color or all-wheel drive, they close at a two to three times higher rate.”

Berkowitz has been with Edmunds since 2000 and has witnessed digital shopping methods cause wholesale changes in the buying process. More than a third of people visiting Edmunds.com for model prices get there via mobile devices today versus only about 5% just five years ago. Also, more than half of the traffic is comprised of people between the ages of 18 and 34, a huge used car-buying segment. (Contrary to comedic lore, the used car salesman is elite. There's little room for bargaining in new cars. It's in used cars where the true artists and earners emerge.) “The final piece of the puzzle is changing the mode of communications between users and dealers,” Berkowitz says.

Few car shoppers will miss the demise of the Mad Men of the Motor Trade. As an alumnus of that fraternity, all I can do is mark the inevitable cessation of that very American pas de deux between wary buyer and confident seller. The tentative dance between the sales desk and the sales manager's office, the ironic glare of the finance guy, the rush to get a buyer to take the car home right away before he can have a day to figure out he overpaid by $500.

Digital technology is remorseless in its dismantling of longstanding American traditions.

Leverage Real-Time Events in Multichannel Marketing in 5 Steps

Leverage Real-Time Events in Multichannel Marketing in 5 Steps

Time is money, and no practice solidifies this adage more than real-time marketing.

But what exactly constitutes “real time,” anyway? According to research and advisory firm Gartner, real time is “an organization's ability to identify, understand, and rapidly respond to opportunities and threats within the right-time moments that can impact business advantage.”

“We're talking about being at the ready between company and customer,” Adam Sarner, research VP of Gartner, said at the ONE Teradata Marketing Festival in Las Vegas.

Companies can leverage real-time techniques in a number of ways, too. As Sarner explained, there's real-time communications (thought leadership in response to breaking news), real-time product management (social plays used to generate ideas in less time), real-time engagement (understanding and responding to customers at the right time), and real-time distribution (producing what customers want at greater speed). 

Of course, as with any opportunity, there are challenges. One of the main issues, according to Sarner, is determining how digital marketers can take advantage of multichannel marketing in real time. To help overcome this hurdle, Sarner broke down the five steps marketers need to capitalize on real-time events in a multichannel marketing world.

1) Identify and prioritize events

Sarner encouraged marketers to write down events that are meaningful for the customer and events that are meaningful for the business. Not all events will be meaningful for both parties, he acknowledged. Create a list of relationship-significant events, he advised, and prioritize them to form a more manageable list of events marketers should pay attention to. There should be some events, he explained, that are significant for each side and create a “meeting of the minds.”

2) Categorize the events into "fixed" and "variable" 

Some events are written in stone, such as a birthday or holiday season, Sarner said, while others are variable and therefore more difficult to foresee, such as a change in address, transfer of funds, or poor customer experience. Sarner advised conference attendees to start working on the fixed events because they're less complex and, hence, a good starting point for real-time experimentation.

3) Monitor events

Marketers need to put mechanisms in place, Sarner said, to detect and monitor defined events when and where they happen. And these specific events, he noted, should be monitored and detected regardless of channel. Granted, this might not be feasible for all companies. Therefore, Sarner advised marketers to start by monitoring just a few channels so that they can check for accuracy and accumulate the right data.

“The problem is [that] every time you add a channel, oh boy, does it become more complex,” he said.

4) Optimize

Identify the best interactions, like an offer, based on triggers and engagement, Sarner said. The variables, he said, can include profitability analysis of segments or propensity to churn. Then, he added, get company buy-in by piloting and testing these triggers and interactions. This optimization is important because it allows marketers to test how they can deliver the right message at the right time via the right channel. 

5) Execute

Put simply, this step requires process and automation to scale, Sarner said. And once marketers have completed the previous steps, they can respond to hundreds of different “right-time” events, he noted, such as by routing a script to a call center agent, cross-selling through mobile messaging, or interacting with customers through social (like Morton's Steakhouse did in this cited example).

“Unless we put those five steps into place… you're not going to be able to do fun stuff like this,” he said.

WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell Is Worried About Marketing

WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell Is Worried About Marketing

“I must admit to being rather worried about what's happening,” WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell said at a book launch event for Does It Work? 10 Principles for Delivering True Business Value in Digital Marketing. “Marketing doesn't have the prominence it should” in terms of being taken seriously as a revenue generator.

Sorrell noted that with so much focused on how much consumers and their behaviors have changed, changes in business aren't getting as much attention. Since the financial meltdown of 2008, consumers haven't changed as vastly as corporations have, he said. “Businesses are now totally focused on quarterly results,” Sorrell said, adding that this often leads to bad decisions. “You can't cut your way to success.”

This focus doesn't surprise Sorrell considering the circumstances. Two examples: Disrupters like Uber are displacing traditional businesses; and C-level turnover is rampant. It's the perfect storm of these circumstances that has led to today's focus on quarterly earnings, he said.

It also leads to clients wanting more for less. “I have no issue with that,” Sorrell said, with the caveat that clients then need to work constructively with their agencies to find a mutually beneficial outcome. He added that clients also need to be comfortable looking at what's ahead and taking action based on that. “They need to stop looking at their shoes and look at the horizon.”

Sorrell talked about four areas WPP focuses on to be successful that any marketer could adapt in their own business. Number one is talent: “You have to have the best talent,” he said. “It's a differentiator.” But you also need to invest in technology, data, and content.

Beyond that, success is about maintaining forward momentum. “We're trying to get traditional [marketing] to be more digital, and get digital to be super-digital,” he said, adding that doing so will help to build more awareness of the value of marketing.

Showing value through results

Sorrell was setting the stage for authors Shane Atchison, global CEO, and Jason Burby, president Americas, of WPP agency Possible, to discuss Does It Work? The new book, which includes a forward by Sorrell, outlines 10 ways to show the value of marketing that Sorrell discussed in his welcome remarks.

In discussing the genesis of Does It Work? Atchison explained that marketers today need to be accountable and measure what matters. “It's rare to see a hypothesis in a creative brief,” he said. Atchison also emphasized the importance of goals in marketing, for accountability and for showing marketing's value—as well as to have a point of reference for success. “If you don't have variance to a goal, you don't have a goal,” he said.

Burby added that marketers should be speaking to their customers as individuals, not as a broad group. “Very few organizations are doing personalization,” he said. And then added, “One size fits no one.” That phrase is one of the 10 principles from the book. 

They are:

Business goals are everything. Enough said.

A collective vision. Teams need to work in a unified manner. Not doing so isn't just a bad business practice, it could lead to costly errors.

Data inspires creativity. Used correctly data supports creativity, versus stifling it.

Finding unicorns. Hire and nurture top talent.

Culture predicts success and failure. Ensure yours encourages success.

Measure what matters. Likes are nice; purchases are what matter.

What it's worth. Use relative-value model to spend marketing budgets wisely.

Never stop improving. Hypothesize, test, measure, and optimize.

One size fits no one. Personalize communications, target wisely, be relevant and contextual. Treat valued customers like you know them.

Framework for innovation. Keep moving forward and innovating or watch competitors pass you by and customers move on. 

Don't Let Digital Give You a False Sense of Precision

Don't Let Digital Give You a False Sense of Precision

A friend once said to me, “When it comes to shoes, ‘need' is a relative term.” We've all experienced a similarly loose definition of need when making purchase decisions.

As Shar VanBoskirk, a Forrester Research VP and principal analyst, pointed out in her keynote at Forrester's 2015 Forum for Marketing Leaders: Most choices are the triumph of “something” over reason.

“We don't reason our way through to the best answer, but marketers presume that we do,” she said. “Marketers believe that we'll choose the right answer…. But we overeat, oversleep, and consistently choose without regard for the consequences.”

The situation, VanBoskirk explained, is that people don't have the processing power to review all the information the way they should. They take mental shortcuts. A long line outside a restaurant means it must be tasty. “We preserve mental energy by making habits,” she said. “We biologically crave comfort, and tend to be change-averse as a result.”

So, although digital disruption creates opportunity for consumers, it also provides stress, VanBoskirk said, adding that this situation can be a boon to marketers who approach it properly: by reducing customers' stress in making a purchase decision, not by coercing a transaction. Doing the latter is a bad practice that's also misleading to marketers. “Digital disruption provides marketers opportunity to prompt decisions without rational consideration by consumers,” she said, adding that, as a result, “digital gives marketers a false sense of precision.”

VanBoskirk advised attendees to invest to be an anchor brand for customers. “There's no more important position to hold,” she said. An anchor brand is the reference point to which buyers compare all other options, and is the go-to option when buyers can't decide. “So, even if you love direct response, you have to invest in your brand,” VanBoskirk asserted.

She cited four types of purchase decisions that marketers can try to help potential customers make through their marketing: Routine, leisure, urgent, and important.

Routine decisions are all about price, habit, and convenience. VanBoskirk cited Amazon Dash as an example of a service that helps consumers form a habit around purchasing from the e-tailer. “Make it as easy as possible to choose you,” she said. “Make your product convenient and habit-forming.”

Leisure decisions are considered decisions that people can get lost in while exploring options. VanBoskirk advised marketers for companies in this category to curate options.

Urgent decisions are about credibility, validation, and risk mitigation. Marketers' role here is to instill confidence. Turbo Tax, VanBoskirk pointed out, prioritizes user content on its site to show the former two, as well as offers its Refund DoubleCheck service, which helps with the latter.

Important decisions require guidance and information. VanBoskirk recommended facilitating important decisions for customers. Allstate's GoodHome app is an example; users are 350% more likely to ask for a quote than those who don't use it.

“Help people choose you,” VanBoskirk said. “Market to reduce stress.”

What if the Postal Service Reemerged as a Digital Startup?

What if the Postal Service Reemerged as a Digital Startup?

Data-driven marketers like to talk a game of following the numbers. Count exactly how many people shared your pre-roll video ad, track how many took another action as a result, count conversions and resulting revenue, rinse, modify, and repeat. Yet there are numbers that float about in the digital world that I really need someone to explain to me. This one, for instance: $41.2 billion.

That's the valuation of Uber, essentially a taxicab company. I never knew anyone who got rich driving a cab. When I was a hack in New York City in the '80s, I'd be lucky if I took home $100 for a 12-hour shift. That might be $300 today, but where are all the billions coming from? Especially considering that, in Manhattan, probably the most active taxi market in the nation, Uber has some 13,000 medallion cabs to contend with. The genius of Uber's owners is that they positioned themselves as a tech company. They're not a bunch of crappy cars with gum wads and vomit stains in the back seat, they're an app! They're a digital button dedicated to free movement. And I'm wondering if the U.S. Postal Service and its new CMO, former tech boss Jim Cochrane, can't find some way to reposition themselves with a digital flair?

But first, more numbers. Consider these annual 2014 revenue comparisons:

Amazon: $89 billion

USPS: $67 billion

Google: $66 billion

Facebook: $12.5 billion

Didn't think that the tired, old Post Office was five times bigger than Facebook, did you? Or that it was the same size as Google, which owns digital pictures of all the addresses that the Postal Service delivers to but doesn't deliver anything to them. News accounts focus on the government agency's troubled financial state, question its survival, and wonder why it shouldn't be privatized. That won't happen for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that members of Congress would have to explain why they signed off on the loss of thousands of good government jobs in their districts. But the fact of the matter is that the old Post Office is showing signs of life. It puts up consistent losses because it is forced to pre-pay retiree health benefits to the tune of $6.5 billion per annum, something no corporate board would dare dream of doing. Last year, had the USPS been relieved of that responsibility, it would have shown an operating profit of $1.4 billion and when (or if) the next postal reform bill is passed, it very likely will be relieved of that burden.

But if that reform legislation does not arrive, I suggest that new Postmaster General Megan Brennan and new marketing chief Cochrane consider a Bruce Jenner-like transformation to digital status. Aside from the new aura of relevancy they will acquire, they will get a pass on bad results from the financial press. Amazon normally posts quarterly losses, which it did again in its most recent quarter. It remains a darling of Wall Street because of the retail power it has amassed, and rightly so. But it still loses money, and that's a fact. At a meeting of the marketing research minds of the three top social media companies a few weeks ago, I heard Facebook's Dan Slotwiner say, “We're still early on in monetizing this thing.” If Amazon and Facebook can get away with investing in the future, why not you, USPS? Especially since your marketing results are so much more firmly established?

Slotwiner mentioned that Facebook did not yet have enough historical data compiled on its advertising business to formulate all the right moves and strategies. USPS does have a history. Back to the stats. Here are response rates for various marketing channels according the the Direct Marketing Association:

Catalogs: 4.26%

Oversized Mail: 3.95%

Letter Mail: 3.40%

Email: 0.12%

Display ad: 0.00%

Paid Search: 0.00%

If I mail 1 million pieces and get responses via BREs or postcards or URLs or PURLs, I can count exactly, say, 39,502 responses. Email can count, too, but the count is much lower (if cheaper to obtain). Response rates from display and search are too far to the right of the decimal point to matter.

So what if the senior managers of the Postal Service had one of those “Let's run it up the flagpole” meetings where they asked themselves to imagine that they were a digital startup and not the descendants of the Pony Express. They could tell investors they were as big as Google. But unlike Google—or even direct competitors like UPS or FedEx for that matter—they owned a monopoly on access to the front doors of homes and businesses in America. What if deliveries became billions of “customer engagements” that they guaranteed to clients via their exclusive rights to transmit to "communications devices" attached to every door in America. And what if they could prove they had the “permission” of every business and resident in the country to fill their "inboxes" with messages? And that people interacted with these messages at a significantly higher rate than they did with email?

If the U.S. Postal Service were a digital startup, what do you think its Series A funding would be? Of course, it wouldn't be easy, Megan and Jim, but it is a notion Uber which to ponder.

5 Commercials That Remind Us Why Moms Are the Best

5 Commercials That Remind Us Why Moms Are the Best

 

When I was in first grade, I decided to buy my mom a Mother's Day present using my own money. I didn't have a lot of dough at six years old. After all, my only source of income was money from the tooth fairy and the occasional dollar bill tucked inside of a birthday card. But I was determined. So I gathered up my change and searched the house for loose coins. With my pennies and nickels in hand, I walked over to the neighborhood candy and gift shop Winkies.

Once there, I scoured the shelves for a present that I could afford on a one dollar budget. Then, I saw it: a beautiful vase for 99 cents. It may have been made out of plastic, but in my eyes it was as striking as Swarovski crystal. It was perfect.

I brought the vase over to the register where I dumped my change onto the counter. The cashier counted my coins, and then told me some startling news. “You don't have enough,” she says. Bewildered, I assured her that she was wrong. “Oh no,” I said. “This vase costs 99 cents.” “Yes,” she agreed. “But with tax, it comes out to $1.05.”

Tax? What's this tax thing she's talking about? I thought. My six-year-old self had never heard of such a concept. “Why would you list the price at 99 cents if the vase cost $1.05?” I argued. But the cashier remained firm and held onto the vase.

Not wanting to leave empty handed or make the five-block trek home—that's quite far when you have little legs—I told the cashier to hold on and I again started scouring for loose change.

After a few minutes of searching, I managed to locate a dime. I'm pretty sure a nice man watching my feverish search dropped it for me to find. I plopped the dime on the counter, took the tissue-wrapped vase from the cashier, and walked back home beaming with pride.

On Mother's Day, I gave my mom the vase and proudly told her how I paid for it all by myself. I even told her about my first unpleasant experience with tax. But unlike me at the time, she was quite familiar with the concept. To this day, my mom says that the vase is still one of the best gifts that I have ever given her. Why? Because she knew how heartfelt it was and how hard I worked to get it for her. But that's what moms do every day, right? They go the extra mile and work tirelessly to ensure that their children are fed, healthy, happy, and loved.

With Mother's Day right around the corner, marketers are striving to produce the most tear-jerking, warm-fuzzy-inducing messages in the industry—all to convince consumers that the brand's products are just what they need to thank Mom for all that she's done. But condensing all of moms' sacrifices and love into one 30-second spot isn't easy. However, the following five brands, in my opinion, have succeeded by relying on storytelling, cutting back on overt branding, and relating to moms by acknowledging all that they do.

Continued...

 
Minute Maid 

Minute Maid's “Parents #doingood” video is one of the more recent odes to moms. In the digital ad, the juice brand asks moms and dads to describe how they think they're doing as a parent. After hearing their responses, Minute Maid asks the parents to read letters from their kids in which they describe their mom's or dad's parenting abilities—enforcing the brand's message that “you're doing better than you think.” Bring on the tissues.

 

The video, which was uploaded to YouTube on April 26, has more than 385,000 views on the brand's official channel. Minute Maid also included a link in the film's description that takes viewers to its website, which includes details about its products, as well as parenting articles—such as tips for better mother-daughter communication and recipes for making rock candy. 

Not only does this ad pull on consumers' heartstrings, but it also offers parents a valuable resource that they can revisit—once again reinforcing the power of quality content.

Continued...

 
Pandora

“The Unique Connection” by jewelry company Pandora is another relatively recent mommy marketing move. In the ad, blindfolded children are guided toward a lineup of women and asked to identify their mothers based on their other senses and instincts. Of course, the video shows the young participants succeeding. Here come the water works.

 

This video, which has garnered more than 14.6 million YouTube views on the brand's official channel, does an excellent job of aligning its brand message with the story's message: Just as jewelry is unique, every woman is different and every connection a mother has with her child is one of a kind.

Continued...

 

Pampers

My mother was quite loyal to the Pampers brand when my brother and I were babies—but that's not why I chose this ad. The video, “Mom's First Birthday” by Pampers Japan, illustrates the hardships and fears women take on during their first year of motherhood.

 

The best part about this video is that you forget that it's even a diaper commercial until the Procter & Gamble-owned company flashes its logo at the end. The film, which now has more than 4.6 million views on the brand's YouTube channel, also resonates with new moms and takes moms with older children on a trip down memory lane.

Acknowledging consumers' life experiences and pain points is always important, especially when trying to relate to a core audience. But showing appreciation for all that your customers do shows that you value them on an entirely different level. Pampers even takes this appreciation one step further by including a link in the video descriptions that, when clicked on, takes viewers to a page where they can send their own thank you notes.

Continued...

 

P&G

Yes, it's another P&G commercial. What can I say? The consumer goods company knows good storytelling.

“Pick Them Back Up" was part of P&G's "Thank You, Mom" campaign for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, as well as a sequel to the “Best Job" film, which debuted at the London 2012 Olympic Games and earned more than 21 million views. The film, which premiered in January 2015, features the mothers of four athletes from around the world and how these women encourage their children to fulfill their dreams, even when they stumble on their journeys to achieve them. When I first wrote about the spot just three days after it originally debuted, it had already earned more than 2.8 million views on the brand's official YouTube channel.

 

Consumers' relationship with P&G evolves as their lives evolve. From diapers to shaving razors, consumers can turn to P&G to fulfill multiple needs as they grow—but only if that brand trust is established early on. Brands need to prove that they understands their customers. And whether the consumer is the mom of a toddling baby or the parent of an Olympic athlete, P&G understands that all moms share similar experiences—like teaching their children to walk, comforting them when they fall, and feeling their pain when they fail. And just as how mom is always there, P&G wants to reinforce that it will be there for every stage in life, too.

Continued...

 

Cardstore.com (American Greetings) 

“World's Toughest Job” is a favorite because it encompasses an element of surprise. In the April 2014 ad, a recruiter interviews candidates for a director of operations position. As the recruiter explains to the candidates that the job requires them to be on their feet all day, work unlimited hours, and refrain from taking any breaks, many of the potential hires question who even would take on such a role. The recruiter insists, however, that there are already billions of people who do—moms. The video concludes with candidates thinking about their own moms, and a call-to-action to send a card on Mother's Day appears on the screen.

 

So far this video has garnered nearly 23.5 million YouTube views and definitely includes a surprise-and-delight factor; plus it sends a clear call-to-action in an appeasing way. Consumers know that they should buy a card for their mom on Mother's Day. But instead of simply reminding them to do so, Cardstore.com, owned by American Greetings, takes a creative route to remind them why they should.

In today's world, consumers are bombarded with messages of what to buy and where to buy it. It's important for brands to find innovative ways to stand out and ensure that their messages are heard loud and clear.


National Small Business Week Makes a Splash on Social

National Small Business Week Makes a Splash on Social

More than half of Americans either own or work for small businesses. And according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), it's those businesses that create about two out of every three new jobs in the United States each year.

Bottom line: Small businesses are crucial to the health of the U.S. economy. And since 1963, Americans have honored these modest businesses every year during National Small Business Week.

Certainly limited budgets, time, and consumer awareness continue to make it tough to market goods and services of small businesses. But during the past few decades, digital tools and marketing have somewhat leveled the playing field.

For small business owners—and the marketers who work for them—digital can be a blessing and a curse. Sure there are ongoing challenges, like trying to rise above the constant digital noise. But one of digital marketing's most staunch benefits is the lowered barrier of entry into entrepreneurship.

So from May 4 to May 8,  brand marketers, entrepreneurs, employees and even customers are taking to social media in celebration of National Small Business Week.

Here are just a few highlights from the first day of  #SmallBusinessWeek, a.k.a #SBW2015.


Finally, Put Social Media Metrics to Use

Finally, Put Social Media Metrics to Use


These days there's certainly no shortage of data—or metrics for that matter. In fact, if you're not careful, you can end up drowning in a sea of vanity metrics.

Recently, I had a chance to chat with John Donnelly III who's the SVP of sales and marketing at social media analytics company Crimson Hexagon. Donnelly insists that marketers should go beyond the metrics and actually use insights from current—and even historical—social data. He says that using those insights from social media can help companies predict purchase intent and craft relevant, impactful campaigns.

Direct Marketing News: In general, how important are metrics?

JD: Metrics are critical. In addition to letting brands measure the success of campaigns, metrics can uncover deeper insights about audiences that can then be used to shape future campaigns. Of course, the key for any marketer is to ensure that you're tracking the metrics that actually matter.

How important are the metrics that we glean from social media?

Social media metrics are huge—and not just for measuring social campaigns. Social metrics can help brands determine the success of TV commercials, billboards, experiential ads, YouTube videos—you name it. Social is where consumers go to discuss their opinions on just about everything, so it's critical for brands to pay attention.

What are the social metrics that marketers should focus on most?

It really depends on the goals of your campaign, but broadly speaking, marketers have an opportunity to focus more on who is reacting to their campaigns and how that audience is reacting. Rather than just count retweets or the number of times a hashtag was used, brands should look more closely at the qualitative insights behind those numbers. In other words, what opinions are consumers expressing when they're using a hashtag? How can that data help you improve or adjust the campaign going forward?

What makes a particular metric important?

Metrics are important when they're tied to a specific goal or can reveal insights that help you achieve your goals. If your goal is lead generation, tracking social referrals to your website is a whole lot more important than counting retweets. In that scenario, you should also be sure to evaluate which posts lead your audience to click a link and which fell short since this will help you inform social messaging in the future.

What unique insights do social media metrics provide that other channels don't?

Social metrics are unique because they help you answer the why. When you have the right tools, you can really dig down and access the conversational data that helps you understand why an audience clicked a link, what they care about and who influences them. It's even better than a focus group because you can tap into the conversations your consumers are already having, leading to more organic insights.

Is there ever a time when social media metrics are not the best indicator of success, change, or trends?

The fact is that social touches almost every aspect of the marketing operations. Social can always give you a deeper understanding of success, even when it's not the most direct measure. Imagine you're a TV network exec; while the ratings of your show are the most direct indicator of success, social still plays in role in helping you assess the traction of and insights behind those ratings.

What impact on measuring does (or should) social media metrics have on marketing campaigns?

Social media metrics can tell you a lot about your marketing campaigns, no matter what channel that campaign is on. It's the reason why you see so many hashtags in TV commercials. Regardless of the campaign you're running, remember to take social metrics into account—the insights can tell you a lot about how consumers perceive your campaigns. If the reaction on social is negative, you have the opportunity to pivot, quickly.

Are social media metrics the measurement of the future?

Absolutely. That's not to say other metrics are going away, but any brand that wants to maintain a competitive advantage must pay attention to how consumers are reacting to their brand and products on social.

Would-Be Presidents Are All About the Dead Presidents

Would-Be Presidents Are All About the Dead Presidents

Why do I write so much about political candidates in a marketing magazine? Because the people who are desperate to become rulers of the free world do things that product and service marketers would never even think to do. From desperation comes innovation!

Take our current crop of 2016 presidential candidates. They all learned from President Obama's 2012 campaign that a robust email strategy—enhanced by issue and geographic segmentation—is crucial to getting people to donate time and money. But the subject lines on Barack's emails primarily focused on the issues. The Class of 2016, it appears in the early going, is focused on the cash. They want you to pay them for the honor of cramming your inbox on a daily basis. What email marketer would dare try that?

Today I visited Hillary Clinton's campaign site and got a box that said “Join the official campaign.” I entered my email address and ZIP Code and pressed a button that said “Count me in.” But all Hill's people wanted to count was my money. The next page asked you to select a contribution amount. Some deftly written copy explained to me that I need to donate to affirm I was a U.S. citizen, that I was using my own funds, and that I was at least 18 and not a federal contractor. I entered my standard political contribution ($0.00) and three screens later, I was allowed to register as a freeloader and attain the honor of being hit up for money incessantly for the next year and a half.

“For about the next six months, the candidates will be, in effect, running lead-gen campaigns. They're still in the discovery phase and focused on fundraising,” says Zac Moffatt, cofounder of the digital political agency Targeted Victory, which is handling former Texas Governor Rick Perry's presidential run. 

Marco Rubio has the same “Donate Now” message and the same dollar-amount boxes and boilerplate about what information's needed to ante up. I typed in “$0.00” on the Rubio site, pressed “Enter,”and suddenly had the feeling I was out on Sixth Avenue getting hit up by the homeless guy on the corner. “Your registration is almost complete,” said the next page, haranguing me with ubiquitous contribution box. “Will you chip in a few bucks now?” No way. I hit a button that said “Return to the site” and got sent to a page advertising a “Flash Sale” for a butt-ugly T-shirt that was mine for the amazing price of donating $20 or--if I were a highly qualified lead--$2,700. An e-commerce option! Only in America.

Rand Paul looks to be my guy in the early going. His site hits you right in the face with a current tally on a big money board. I like a politician who doesn't pussyfoot. I entered my email address and ZIP and was presented with two options: “Donate Now” or “Learn More.” I pressed the latter and got an instant message saying “We'll be in touch.” Woo-hoo! Rand's going to be in touch, just like that! No doubt it will be to ask me for cash. He also uses personalization, running the names and hometowns of recent donators.

How advanced will the 2016 presidential hopefuls' CRM and marketing automation systems be? “Data? They'll all talk about it, but I don't know if they all got the religion,” Moffatt says. “If you want to be leaders of the free world, you're going to have lots of money and little time. It's like flying an airplane while building it.”

Do Not Track: The Internet "Hangover"

Do Not Track: The Internet "Hangover"

 

What do gin and Do Not Track have in common? Both can leave a bad taste in your mouth and give you the spins.

Two weeks ago I attended the Tribeca Film Festival in New York for a gin-and-tonic tasting and the festival's Storyscapes exhibit—a collection of interactive media projects. I spotted the documentary series Do Not Track listed on the exhibit's brochure and knew that I'd have to check it out as soon as I finished my tasting. (Yes, I was completely sober after my gin sampling. I'm not much of a gin drinker and probably drank less than half of my cocktail).

For those who haven't seen the film, Do Not Track is a seven-episode personalized documentary–style Web series. Each episode explores a different aspect of privacy and data collection. For instance, I watched episode one, “Morning Rituals,” which explains who collects consumer data and how they benefit. Other episode topics include the role of cookies and Facebook's tracking capabilities.You can watch the trailer for the series at the top of this article.

The series was created from developers, graphic designers, journalists, and media producers from across the globe—including Canada, Germany, France, and the United States—and offers a global perspective on Do Not Track.

“We're trying to make sense of privacy in the digital age just like everybody else,” says Brett Gaylor (pictured), director of the film series and former leader of Mozilla's Webmaker initiative.

The series also addresses many of the questions—some left unanswered—surrounding Do Not Track, such as how much data should third parties be able to collect and are the advertising and digital industries being transparent enough with their consumers?

“There's a bit of a hangover [from] the Internet party right now,” Gaylor says, “where people are trying to figure out, ‘Hey, we never really realized the social and civic consequences of an economy that's based on gathering data about people.'”

Within 48 hours of the series' April 14 premiere, more than 88,000 Web users visited the film's site more than 105,000 times. And in one week, more than 160,600 Web users made more than 175,800 visits. More than 197,200 Web users had visited the film's site as of April 28.

I decided to follow up with Gaylor and ask him about his views on Do Not Track. Here's what he had to say:

How would you define Do Not Track?

It's the browser header that, [when] a user sets it, tells advertising networks that are compliant with the standards that you don't want any information collected about you. It's an entirely opt-in approach and, unfortunately, it's pretty much failed because of that. At least, in the United States, often the industry is left to regulate itself and I disagree with that. This is far too serious of an issue [for] self-regulation. In fact, the United States has some of the most lax regulation in the developing world around these issues. That's what Do Not Track means in the industry sense, but we thought that it was just a pretty great name, so then we thought, "What would Do Not Track the movie look like?" and that's what we made.

What's the biggest misconception consumers have about Do Not Track?

First of all, people have never heard of it. I don't think it's a matter of misconception. Consumers are just not aware of how this economy works. Consumers believe that when they're on a social network like Facebook that the tracking is crude: So, if they like Taylor Swift, they're going to see advertisements for Taylor Swift's new album. They're not really aware of how the algorithms work because—of course—they can't see that; they're secrets. And they aren't really aware of a profile that's built on them based on their browsing habits. They haven't really thought of the idea that if you go to three different sites, then a profile is built that an advertiser can bid against. That's science fiction to most consumers. Let alone the idea of something like Facebook Atlas where you're browsing activity outside of Facebook is informing what goes on on Facbeook. They've never really thought about that. 

I think that extends to a lot of other aspects of people's lives. The thing that really raises people's eyebrows is their phone.... [It's] this idea that my smartphone is still a radio device that's pinging all of these cell phone towers. When I gave my mobile carrier my credit card information and my social security number, I wedded that to that unique device: “Oh yeah, so it's not just this random phone number. It's my identity and everything that goes with that.” Once they realize that, then they might say, “Well, who can have access to it? How much information about somebody do you need to get a warranty? Am I sharing my location data with an appropriate app?” 

Even though apps need to request those permissions I think people are quite blasé about them. There's been a social conditioning to just accept, accept, accept. Once they see it in a broader concept I think that people are...starting to say, “Hold on, flashlight app. Why do you need access to my contacts? What are you doing with that?” That's a good thing for everybody. Ultimately, if the industry is working with an informed set of citizens, rather than “consumers” that are just in the dark about this, that's a much better place to be.

If you had to summarize marketers' approach to Do Not Track in one word, what would it be and why?

I think it's gold rush.... Companies like DoubleClick figured out a way to track people with cookies, but they were sued. Then in the U.S., federal judges said, “Actually, what they're doing is OK.” Once that happened it was sort of a rush to figure out the best way to build these networks. Of course, then they were bought by the giants like Google and Yahoo. It's sort of a land grab. 

What you see now is that any startup that wants to get into this space has to figure out more and more inventive, and sometimes more invasive, ways of tracking people. What that does is create an entire financial environment where people are incentivized to collect more data. Because if you want access to venture capital, they're going to say, “How many eyeballs do you have and what do you know about them?” 

So, it really is kind of a Wild West. Some [ad networks] are starting to get it and build product and services that are respecting citizens' information; others are trying to operate as close to the edge of the law as they can. Advertisers and marketers need to think about their role in shaping social norms around these issues, as well. It's a whole ecosystem.

Continued...


What do you think that the United States could learn from other countries' approach to Do Not Track and the way they collect consumer data through the Internet?

I'm not an American citizen.... I'm Canadian.... But what I would say is that, as a non-American, I have been surprised at the amount of profiles that are kept on U.S. citizens. If you look at a data broker like Acxiom, it's quite astounding the percentage of Americans that have these profiles that are held by data brokers who are assembling lists. They're taking things like direct mail, compiling that with records that they're able to get from browsing history and other public records, and they're building these profiles. What's the percentage of Americans who know that's happening? It's got to be minimal. I think that it's quicksand to build an industry on something that so few users are aware of and the potential for backlash for something like that is quite large.

Who should be responsible for educating consumers about Do Not Track? Is it the consumers themselves? Brands and websites they visit? Or organizations like the FTC?

All of the above. What we're starting to see now, too, though, is advocacy groups, journalists, and media that's in the public interest, like us, [who are] starting to get people talking. That's our role. 

[Also, it's] going to depend on your context [and] which country you live in. Some countries have government entities that are specifically for protecting privacy. The FTC has done a good job of looking after—to the degree that it can—consumers. 

So, it's really all of the above, but there's some responsibility for consumers to take a role in that.

I think about it in the way that people think about food. Twenty years ago how many people ate organic food? You had to be a super granola hippie to eat organic food. But then people started to realize, “Oh yeah, it's not just about my weight. There are a lot of outcomes from the food that we eat.” If we choose to support a local farmer, for instance, that's going to mean that it's far less likely that there was exploited labor involved in all of this. If you choose a local farmer, it's far less likely that there are going to be pesticides, which not only are they bad for us, but they're bad for the ecosystem around that food. If we eat whole foods instead of processed foods, it has a whole bunch of positive outcomes on our health. Those changes in the amount of food that's eaten correctly did not happen solely because of legislation or solely because Michael Pollan wrote a smart book, or solely because of whole foods being available in more and more stores. That all happens together. 

You're going to have some forces that are market forces, some forces that are legal forces, and some forces around social norms all working together. It's not like people need to pick up a placard and march on the street with it, necessarily. But some of that is helpful—that you have activists who are going out there and pushing some boundaries. Some of it is a consumer piece, and some of it is a perception and general awareness piece.

How can marketers and advertisers be more transparent with consumers about what information they're collecting and tracking?

Marketers should do a better job of explaining what they're doing in plain English. Often, in the terms and conditions of a publisher's website you'll see that they use an advertising network, but that might be as far as it goes. You don't really realize that the advertising networks themselves load in a bunch of third parties. Where does that accountability lie? I don't know. Explaining it all in really plain English and being less nervous to talk about it is a big piece. I think most marketers would say, “We should get ahead of this. We should have a public conversation.” People are ready for it. I think that's on marketers.

There's this notion that often a marketer will say “Hey, we don't actually collect any information about you. This is all anonymous.” I think that's just an easy way out. As the computer science community has repeatedly shown, perhaps the granular piece of information is anonymous, but when you take a larger view, the profiles that are collected are often quite unique and tied to us personally. Acknowledging that is a big piece of the question—and talking about it and being upfront.

Do today's consumers even really have a choice today in whether their data is collected? Can they actually say no?

It's a big question.... If you want to be somebody who participates in this digital economy, is that really optional? I don't think that it is. If you're a parent, for instance, don't you need a cell phone? If you want to be part of the modern Web economy, you have to go online. It is very difficult not to be tracked. That's why I think we need to keep discussing these issues [and] which parts of our life require anonymity. What parts of our digital selves do we not want a profile attached to? That's the stuff that we're trying to discuss in the documentary.

Continued...


At what point do marketers and advertisers go too far in terms of tracking consumers' data?

I believe that there should be a pretty clear wall between your digital self and your physical self. I'm not comfortable with the idea of profiles that are attached to me based on my physical location.

Any reason why?

Everyone has their own [preference] meter.  What bothers me is the notion that I would be able to be A/B tested to see if advertising that I was presented online led to me having an intent to purchase on a website that led to an actual conversion in a store and that part of my universe had something to do with it. That, for me, removes a lot of my agency and freewill as a human being. I don't like the idea that there is an attempt to influence me that strongly. But I know that there's a whiteboard somewhere where somebody is trying to get me into that conversion funnel.

How would you respond to marketers and advertisers arguing that they're trying to provide consumers with value?

That's irrelevant to me. I'm not completely opposed to advertising and sponsorship, but I'm unconvinced that we need to be tracking one another so closely to provide it. Everybody has to agree that banner advertising is totally dead. But what you have is this huge inventory of all of these ads. There's this pressure to say, “Well if we can take this stock of advertising and make it convert 0.000002% we're at least ahead of all of those other jerks that basically have all of this useless inventory.” So, that incentivizes people to try and track a little bit more. It doesn't have anything to do with value, but we've accepted advertising as the defacto business model for the Internet. 

Sometimes I feel like we did that because it was the easiest thing. As the Web came out, it was a hard sell for [consumers] to get on the Internet and pay for it. Advertising was considered a way to underwrite it. It didn't really take off as a model until there was a way to measure it and measure people's intentions and outcomes. For me, it's separated from the value statement. Marketers would say that [they're offering value], but I think that it's creating value for them. It doesn't help as a society if we let them get away with that. 

Let's make no mistake: If you're a multibillion-dollar industry, that's cool and that does create a lot of jobs. But the idea that it's the only way to finance the Web—I'm not buying it. With smart people, we should be able to figure out many ways to do this and there's lots of different models.

What would that perfect Internet economy look like to you?

I think that it would be more varied. We all agree that there is a role for advertising. I'm not sure if it's the one that should support journalism, for instance. The Guardian [wrote about] a depressing survey recently [that discussed] how much [consumers would] be willing to pay for an annual fee, and I think they said like a pound. Part of it is on consumers. We have to say, “We need you to find ways to pay for this.” But people find ways to pay for music streaming, for HBO GO, for lots of things. And there are lots of smart models. In the UK, for instance, everyone who has a TV pays a licensing fee and that's what gives them amazing BBC programming. For radio, they figured out all kinds of licensing models where the radio station pays a flat fee and then they can play whatever they want. It's a win-win. Artists get a royalty statement; the public gets lots of music; and the radio station can play whatever they want. That's hard on the Internet. But just because it's hard that doesn't mean that we shouldn't keep trying. There's lots of unintended consequences when we just move entirely to an ad-supported model, and I think we're seeing that this continued tracking is one of them.

Illuminating Marketing Lessons From Obscure Sources

Illuminating Marketing Lessons From Obscure Sources

These days marketers have more customer data and tools for engagement than they know what to do with, but this technical abundance doesn't always make for the most inspired marketing. To their credit, marketers—like many media creators of the 2010's—must vie for consumers' time in a world of content surplus.

In these times of high pressure and short attention spans, highly focused facets of fandom, such as music and sports, thrive as conduits of high engagement. Marketers who apply the conceptual nuances of these enthusiasts-driven verticals to their marketing efforts stand to gain similarly engaged audiences, and maybe even virality.

Here are five recent articles that highlight obscure lessons savvy marketers can learn from somewhat unorthodox sources.

Lawfully Awful: Bills That Make Bots Look Good

Lawfully Awful: Bills That Make Bots Look Good

I have a recurring fantasy in which I am elected president of the United States on the platform of doing nothing for one year. You've heard of the Know Nothings? My party would be the Do Nothings. I would use the tremendous political capital of my 65% mandate to wrangle Congress into making a pact with me that neither they nor my administration will draw up, sponsor, bring to committee, floors, or even the barber shop any new legislation to add to the mountains of statutes and codes already choking us purple with red tape. The good congresspeople can return to their home districts and spend some time doing nice things for the people who elected them. I'll do crossword puzzles and smoke Cubans (thanks, Barack!) in the Oval Office. For 12 months we will practice the Hippocratic Oath of politics and, first, do no harm. Something tells me that when those months are up, all will be alive, well, and maybe even better off. At the minimum, we'll all be less stressed about Congress not getting anything accomplished because, well, that will be what they're supposed to be doing.

Unfortunately, the reality is that laws exist because people can't agree and so the people who influence the most legislators to go their way get their way. A law passes. A bunch of people are overjoyed. Another bunch is grumpy. Astutely observing that you can't spell the word “awful” without L-A-W, the folks at NetChoice released its annual “iAWFUL” list of crummy bills that the association feels will only limit competition, innovation, and choice on the Internet. Some of the chief offenders:

The ghoulish side of data. More than a dozen states, including Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas are seeking legislation that would make people's digital identities public upon their deaths. No matter that seven out of 10 Americans think their digital selves should die with them, governments want your tweets and Amazon receipts and all the goofy Instagrams in between. “Alcoholics Anonymous now has Yahoo groups. If one of the members of the group dies, everyone else in the group is exposed” with some of these laws, notes NetChoice policy counsel Carl Szabo. “This goes against an expectation of privacy that we've had for 30 years in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.”

The tax that can't be collected but won't go away. You guessed it, it's the ever-morphing, never-dying Internet Sales Tax. As recently as last July, the U.S. Senate executed a backdoor play by attaching the Marketplace Fairness Act to another bill in an attempt to deliver a windfall to state and municipal governments, tax-software providers, and brick-and-mortar retailers. It didn't work. Passage of this bill would countermand the 1992 Quill v. North Dakota decision that demands sellers have “nexus” in a state to collect taxes for it. “The Internet didn't invent interstate sales,” Szabo says. “Cars, telephones, and catalogs have been carrying on interstate commerce for decades and never required a complete overhaul of the tax code.”  Szabo—along with thousands of e-commerce and catalog companies—have high hopes for a quorum on Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte's Online Sales Simplification Act that is still being refined.

The screech of the breach. There are now 47 different data breach notification laws in effect in that many different states, mostly requiring retailers and banks to notify credit cardholders by mail whenever a breach happens, no matter how minor or how benign. Such laws work at cross-purposes, Szabo maintains, instituting a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” effect. “People get important financial notices filled with legal gobbledygook all the time and what do they do with them? Throw them in the trash. Doing the same thing with data breach notifications makes it really dangerous when a Home Depot or Target breach happens and you really need to get peoples' attention,” Szabo says. Netchoice, like just about every other entity in the commercial sphere, would like a comprehensive federal law on breaches. It would save retailers and banks millions in legal fees spent on state compliance.

This law is a real cream puff!  Do you really need a car dealership to buy a car? Elon Musk thought you didn't and started direct-selling his Tesla cars through showrooms and a website. But Arizona, Michigan, and New Jersey bowed to pressure from auto dealers and made direct-from-manufacturer car sales illegal. Texas forced Tesla to comply with special regulations just to advertise its models.

That last example presents a very important lesson to Web sellers, says Szabo: Pay attention to the state legislatures. “Congress is in session year-round and only manages to pass a handful of bills; state legislatures pass them all the time,” he points out. Szabo's chief advice to marketers cheesed off by awful laws: Pick the most offending bill on your list and call both your state and federal representatives and explain to them how its passage would impede your ability to stay open and continue to employ hundreds or thousands of local residents.

So, yes, do something. The time is not yet right to do nothing. I'll let you know.

5 Things Marketers Can Learn from Tim Tebow

5 Things Marketers Can Learn from Tim Tebow

It's Tebow time.

On Monday the Philadelphia Eagles announced that the team had signed Tim Tebow to a one-year contract. The quarterback is known for having a rocky playing history. If he makes the team, this season will mark the first NFL game Tebow has played since 2012 when he was part of the New York Jets, according to ESPN. Prior to playing for the Jets, Tebow spent two seasons playing for the Denver Broncos. He also participated in the New England Patriots' training camp, ESPN reports, but was released in August 2013.

Tebow's roller coaster of a career mirrors many of the highs—and lows—marketers face on a daily basis. Here are five things you can learn from the quarterback.

Don't rest on your laurels. There's no denying that Tebow had a solid college football career. He also made some great plays for the Broncos. Tell me; who can forget when he threw that game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass during overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers? At the same time, however, Tebow's career shows that athletes simply can't rest on their successes because there'll always be new competition.

Like Tebow, marketers can't rest on only their successes. Although Oreo sent arguably one of the best tweets in history and Always launched one of the most empowering campaigns ever, these brands have to find new ways to stay relevant and remain innovative. Otherwise, they run the risk of getting lost in the sea of brands vying for consumers' attention.

Prove your worth. OK. Tebow is signing on to a team that already has five quarterbacks, which poses a major question: How much playing time will Tebow actually get?

Marketers, too, are constantly playing on a crowded team. Whether they work on email, SEO, or social campaigns, marketers don't always feel like they get the game time—e.g. budget, staffing, corporate buy-ins—that they deserve.

Just as Tebow will have to prove his keep on the field, marketers have to show their channel's worth through results. Tebow won't be starting any games if he throws interceptions, and marketers won't get a boost in budget or corporate's attention unless they generate that all-important ROI.

Stay relevant. Even when Tebow wasn't on the field, he continued to be connected with it, working as a college football analyst for ESPN's SEC Nation. This move helped the quarterback maintain his profile in the sports community and avoid becoming a has-been.

Marketers take note: This strategy works. Is your brand tapping into influencers, capitalizing on current events, and organically entering customers' conversations? Get creative; seek out new ways to remain top-of-mind with your consumers.

Don't be afraid to reassess. Eagles fans can only hope that Tebow used his time off to work on his game. Whether he worked on his passing or his timing, it's important for all athletes to determine how they can improve by evaluating what they did right last season—and of course, what they did wrong.

Same goes for marketers. If marketers can't improve their game, it's time to reassess what's not working. In a real-time world, marketers are always focused on launching that next campaign. But if they actually take the time to analyze their strengths and weaknesses, they'll benefit long-term.

Know when to call it quits. Determination is key, but the Broncos, Jets, and Patriots all knew when enough was enough. This season, we'll see if the Eagles eventually throw in the Tebow towel, too. If so, it may be time for Tebow to hang up his cleats.

Bottom line, marketers have to know when a strategy isn't working. Although an initiative may have absorbed countless work hours and thousands (if not millions) of dollars, it's important for brands to recognize when it's time to call it quits and maybe even head back to the drawing board. 

3 Things Marketers Can Learn From Marvel

3 Things Marketers Can Learn From Marvel

Disney-owned Marvel Studios has become the premier brand in superhero action movies. Titles such as 2008's Iron Man, 2012's The Avengers, and last year's Guardians of the Galaxy made Marvel a touchstone in American media and pop culture. The Avengers remains the third-highest grossing movie of all time, according to Wikipedia. The Marvel brand is about to receive another round of fortification with next week's Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Anytime something captivates the world to the degree that Marvel's intellectual property has, marketers should be paying attention. Yes, consumers are probably more likely to engage in entertainment content such as movies or music over marketing or advertising, but that does not diminish Marvel's deft marketing thus far. Indeed, behind the costumes, explosions, and fervor, Marvel's Cinematic Universe (MCU) contains powerful marketing lessons that marketers from any vertical can tap for success.


Organic association

Product placement can be a bit of a dirty word, especially from a consumer's perspective, but this could be mostly connotative. We've all witnessed those awkward breaks in narrative flow during a TV show when a product or service becomes the focus. Disney and Marvel have thus far avoided these episodes of cringe when promoting their sponsors, due in large part to the deep integration of these brands into the series.

Take Tony Stark's obsession with luxury cars for instance. Given his billionaire playboy persona, it's not surprising to see him in the latest Audi or Acura supercar. Audi leveraged this organic connection recently with its latest ad, which predominantly features footage from The Avengers: Age of Ultron.


Leveraging brand history

It's been 54 years since Marvel launched the Fantastic Four, the comic series that popularized the Marvel brand, and introduced many of its characters and stories. These characters have matured with their audience. The likes of Spiderman and Wolverine have outgrown the confines of chat bubbles and thin panels, and are now mainstays in international pop culture. Marvel Studios understands this, and has mined the brand's rich narrative history for both familiar and underserved content to produce media that appeals to nostalgia without alienating new fans. Marvel's is a fine example of the success brands can achieve when leveraging brand equity in meaningful ways.


Serial storytelling

Given consumers' increasingly divided attention, the ability to emotionally connect—or even just entertain—has become tantamount to modern marketers' success in the digital age. As such, storytelling has become an essential skill for marketers to master.

Many brands have grown into powerful storytellers, but few dare to do so in a way that requires or even demands consumers' full attention. Even in an industry predicated on captivating stories, Marvel managed to innovate. Each piece of media in the MCU—be it a TV show or a full-length film—connects to previous or pending works. This serialized method of storytelling mirrors what comic books have been doing for decades—building individual stories and rolling them into an ever-expanding continuity. It's a method that promotes and rewards consumers' consistent engagement without isolating the uninitiated.

The Rise of Emojis in Marketing

The Rise of Emojis in Marketing


Sometimes there's a major shift happening around you, and you don't even know it. I feel that's happening to me right now. Three times in just a few weeks I've had coworkers—and even family members—tell me about this emerging trend. And if it wasn't for them, I think it would have been too subtle for me to notice.

I'm talking about the growing use of emojis in brand marketing. The folks at eMarketer report that we're approaching two billion smartphone users around the globe this year. And of course, most everyone with a smartphone has used an emoticon or an emoji to shorthand their emotions in a text or email. That's not so new. You may have even noticed that Apple recently included more diverse emojis in iPhones and iPads with its release of iOS 8.3.

However, brands are figuring out how to infiltrate the time and attention of millennials and Gen Z by marketing to them in shorthand, digital language. A smile, a wink, some hearts, maybe an angry look or a sad face—emojis are the new standard of communication.

The launch of last week's social media campaign for the next Star Wars film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is one of the most recent—and ingenious—use of emojis to market a product. In anticipation and preparation for its planned mid-December release, Disney and Lucasfilm have teamed up with Twitter to create special Star Wars emojis: Stormtrooper solidiers, BB8 droids, and robot character C-3PO. Twitter created and released an emoji for each of these Star Wars characters, and in the process ignited a firestorm on social media.

This is one of the most recent; but it's certainly not the only example.

CNN recently got into the emoji marketing game hoping to revive the network's former glory days as the world's leader in political news. The marketing team at CNN released a set of emojis—each a digital character for current and potential candidates for the 2016 race for the White House. CNN is hoping to turn that momentum for a particular candidate—say Republican favorite Jeb Bush or Democratic heavyweight Hillary Clinton—into fervor for the CNN brand. Each emoji, not surprisingly, is ID'd with the network's logo.

GE has taken the emoji-branding strategy a step further—not just providing a few emojis but going so far as to create an entire interactive periodic table, if you will. Coupled with hashtag #EmojiScience, GE's Emoji Table of Experiments takes the trend to the next level, encouraging fans of the brand to make their own emoji experiments and then share them with the hashtag.

(Click image to enlarge.)

Even Budweiser's flagship light beer Bud Light got into the act last summer wishing everyone a Happy Fourth with an entire flag made of emojis.

These are some of the best cases I've seen in this emerging style of marketing. What are some of the best examples you're seeing with emojis?

Political Marketing Is in Good Hands With Hillary

Political Marketing Is in Good Hands With Hillary

Am I the only one who went to YouTube to watch the Hillary presidential announcement and kept clicking all over the screen to find the “Skip Ad” button? Here's a young mom talking about going back to work, and a Boomer planning for retirement, and a young business owner reveling in the American Dream, and I'm waiting for the Fidelity green path to appear or the Charles Schwab logo to pop up. The darn thing runs up to 48 seconds and I'm about ready to prepare a story on the advent of minute-long pre-roll video ads when I click on the end of the video bar and see…Hillary? I've used this space many times before to write about the blurring of the lines between political and brand marketing, but this is ridiculous. I'm expecting Dennis Haysbert from the All-State ads to pop up behind her and intone, “You're in good hands with Hillary.” It would, after all, be an endorsement from a man who had already inhabited the Oval Office. OK, it was on a set for 24, but again, the blurring, the blurring!

It wasn't to be. Hillary would serve as her own spokesperson. “Everyday Americans want a champion,” she says at the spot's climax, “and I want to be that champion. So, I'm hitting the road to earn your vote, because it's your time, and I hope you'll join me on this journey.” Like a good salesperson, she asked for the order. Still, I lingered a little at the end, hoping for a cameo from Flo trying to sell her some bus insurance for the road trip.

President Barack Obama whipped Mitt Romney good in 2012 because he conducted one of the most data-driven, segmented, interactive email campaigns in the history of marketing. He didn't hire the same marketers to erect Healthcare.gov, unfortunately, but after the election he emerged with one of the most valuable lists of Democratic donors and voters ever assembled. I mused at the time that he could become the kingmaker of 2016 by bestowing that list on a worthy candidate, but that was unlikely to be Hillary at any rate. Hillary, it turns out, didn't need it. Her brand was already sacred among Dems, and on Sunday she burnished it to the tune of four million views on YouTube. With nary a penny spent, she proved that the proper digital propellant applied to the right brand could launch a bid for the White House—and even begin to position her alongside Flo and Jared from Subway and the wry young gal in the AT&T Wireless spots in the pantheon of ubiquitous spokespeople.

It's estimated that combatants in the 2016 presidential race will spend a record $5 billion. But, counting production costs of Hillary's insurance ad, she's staged an earned media coup by spending less than half a million bucks on data and data management services, such as those provided by NGP VAN, the Democratic National Party's approved provider of database marketing services. We've tried to contact NPG VAN to no avail, but the work they can do for Dems is akin to what the digital marketing firm Targeted Victory did in helping elect Greg Abbot governor of Texas last fall—which was to upend traditional political canvassing as we knew it.

Using A/B testing and data modeling in interactions with Texas voters, Targeted Victory was able to identify likely Abbot voters who were unlikely to bother showing up at the polls. Neighborhood ward-heelers, then, directed their canvassers to knock only on the doors of those qualified customers, that is, voters. And vote many of them did, to the tune of a 20-percentage-point victory for Abbott over Democratic opponent Wendy Davis.

I'll be watching to see what marketing innovations candidates and their data masters devise this year, and you should be, too. I expect great things from Hillary, as well as from Jeb and Marco and Rand. (They all have good, brand-worthy first names, don't you agree?) When all is said and done, I invite you to discourse with me on why they can't do as slick a job running the country as they do getting elected.

Finding the Right Emotional Language Can Be Taxing

Finding the Right Emotional Language Can Be Taxing

April 15 marks the culmination of tax season. And while dreams of substantial returns bring smiles to the faces of some, the nightmare of coughing up hefty payments can bring others to tears. Automative persuasive language generator Persado analyzed how tax industry marketers conveyed these emotions through language and whether their efforts delivered a profitable return this season.

To conduct the research, Persado reviewed email subject lines and display ads that TurboTax, TaxACT, and H&R Block generated in February and March of this year. Using its platform, Persado analyzed the language that tax software providers used to persuade consumers to take a particular action (such as click through, open, or convert). The company then looked at which of its 19 categories of emotion the language fell into.

The results? Let's just hope that these marketers got more back on their own returns.

“What we found is that none of our top-performing emotions for financial services types of brands were included in any of the promotions that were analyzed from these three companies,” says Julia Spano, Persado's director of marketing. “Exclusivity is an emotion that's actually one of our highest performing emotional values relating to the financial services industry and that was obviously missing from all of the promotions that were used for both the display and subject lines. Anxiety and gratitude are other ones that typically perform very well in the financial services sector. Because we saw other ones, such as urgency, being prominent it just goes to show that not only are these other companies not aware of the categorization, but they're also not aware of the actual impact using the right emotions [can have] on the engagement of their company.”

So, which emotional categories did tax industry marketers choose to invest in this year? Celebration and encouragement were two emotions that TaxACT used this tax season—its display ads featured messages such as “Celebrate Free! Totally free federal returns” and “Mama says, 'You got this.'” According to Persado, both of these emotions ranked in the bottom three out of 19 plausible emotions TaxACT marketers could have used to drive click-throughs or conversions.

TaxACT's email subject lines were also a flop, according to Persado. The brand used urgency in its messaging, such as by creating a “Time Is Running Out…” subject line; however, this tactic ranked 5% under the industry average in terms of opens and clicks.

TurboTax's engagement wasn't much better. In addition to using encouragement and urgency, TurboTax incorporated gratification in its display ads, such as in the following example: “Get your biggest refund fast. Don't wait! You can start today.” But overall, TurboTax used emotions that ranked among the bottom 10, according to Persado.

But it was H&R Block that had the most profitable tax season. The company leveraged gratitude in its subject line “Thanks for starting your taxes with…” Although, using gratitude-based messaging only produced a 0.09% lift above industry average for subject lines designed to drive opens and clicks, according to Persado. 

Even though it may be too late for these tax software providers to change their emotional language strategies this season, marketers in other sectors can learn from their mistakes. For instance, Spano says that it's important for marketers to vary their emotional language and try to  come up with different ways to convey a message.

“By limiting yourself to specific types of emotions in your campaign, you're actually limiting the impact that you have and the effect that you have on customer engagement,” she says. 

But the biggest mistake that marketers make when it comes to emotional language is not even thinking about it in the first place, argues David Atlas, Persado's CMO. And no financial services organizations seems to lack this emotional luster more than the IRS—producing messages like “File Your Return,” “Get Your Refund Status,” “Pay Your Tax Bill.”

“It is basically as dry as possible,” he says.

Atlas encourages marketers to be thoughtful when it comes their messages, test out different variants, and let the response rates do the talking. “Obviously, the key thing is to recognize that the act of copywriting need not be random and it need not be something [where] you can swap an A and a B based on a guess,” he says. 

File that under advice to keep in mind for next year. 

4 Trends Marketers Should Monitor for Potential Disruption

4 Trends Marketers Should Monitor for Potential Disruption

The future of marketing isn't easy to predict. Sure, marketers can guess—with a fair bit of accuracy—what concepts or practices will eventually permeate the market. Virtually every marketer understands the value of word of mouth, for instance, and so will continually do what they can to encourage it. But who could have predicted the explosion of word of mouth in social media, and this new communication model's impact on businesses' reputations, and even revenue? Before its 2007 release, few marketers could have anticipated the success and proliferation of the iPhone, and now a host of other smartphones—and the opportunity those devices would present in terms of marketing. Savvy marketers who followed the early but steady rise of smartphone adoption, however, likely foresaw the potential of mobile marketing.

Marketers today face a much more fragmented and technologically transient world than their pre-2007 counterparts. From mobile payments to the Internet of Things, the possibilities for disruption are as numerous as they are game-changing. However, just as the seeds of the mobile and social revolutions were sown years before the fact, the signs of the what's next are already upon us. Marketers just need to know where to look and, more important, what to look for. Here are a few areas of advancement to consider to help marketers prepare for the next phase of disruption.


Mobility

Mobile will continue its meteoric rise in popularity among consumers. Not just because mobile technology is advancing at an alarming rate, but because consumers have grown used to carrying their email, photos, and videos with them. If any change is to disrupt mobile, it's likely the growing popularity of the phablet because of the increased screen size and content real estate. Wearable technology may also play a significant role in the expansion of mobile. The key here is that consumers want to take their tech with them. Marketers who accommodate this desire—especially while facilitating seamless cross-device experiences—will rule the day.


Hassle-free commerce

Apple made a big splash with its announcement of mobile payments via near field communication (NFC) late last year, but the mobile payment market has been primed for quite some time now. Retailers in big cities such as New York and L.A. have been accepting mobile payments for years through services such as Google Wallet and Paypal. Now, with Apple's massive brand following, mobile payments could very well become the norm.


Outdoor Screens

As mobile grows, so too does the necessity of mobile integration, where applicable. Outdoor screens, especially those of the interactive variety, could prove essential as consumers grow more comfortable with interacting with these screens. We see the potential for this market all over New York City. Between the Verifone screens in the city's cabs, the new interactive digital kiosks in the train stations, and all of Times Square, this technological initiative is all but assured to take off in the next few years.


Media Streaming

If the success of Hulu, Netflix, and Spotify weren't enough to take streaming seriously, consider treasure trove of streamer data available to marketers who aim to deliver relevant, timely messages to consumers. With the future of cable TV as cloudy as ever, and high-profile networks such as HBO entering the streaming market, marketers should prepare themselves for the inevitable dominance of media streaming.

It's Not Marketing, It's a Movement

It's Not Marketing, It's a Movement


This week I have to point out another great marketing campaign. No. An excellent marketing campaign.

This campaign is one that has all the right elements: social media, compelling video, a message that enters an existing conversation, and then sparks new discussion. It's got it all.

Plus-size clothing retailer Lane Bryant launched a new campaign last week, #ImNoAngel. It's a massive effort to bring attention to its intimate apparel line, Cacique. But perhaps more important, marketers at Lane Bryant are capitalizing on a conversation that exploded last November which centered on a major messaging snafu by sexy lingerie brand Victoria's Secret

Victoria's Secret suffered major backlash when it launched a campaign to promote the brand's Body by Victoria bras. The error, however, came when Victoria's Secret marketers dubbed the campaign “The Perfect Body” and coupled an image featuring a group of models—all similarly tall, svelte—with the caption, "The Perfect 'Body'" and branded it on social media with hashtag #IAmPerfect.

The gaffe sparked major criticism and prompted Victoria's Secret to later issue an apology.

In this new campaign, Lane Bryant has released ad creative—photos, videos, and the hashtag #ImNoAngel—that rides the wave of a growing number of consumers' intolerance for traditional, narrow stereotypes, body images, and roles of women.

Take a look at this video:

Lane Bryant is doing more than promoting a lingerie line. Marketers are tapping into a zeitgeist, a call for change, an existing movement. They're listening to what shoppers are saying that they want from brands—in this case organic, genuine messages that promote self-empowering, positive images to girls, women, and the supportive men in their lives.

Without actually saying it, marketers at Lane Bryant are telling consumers that they get it. The brand is putting its values out for display. For many shoppers this campaign is not about a plus-size lingerie line. It's about body image acceptance. In fact, women have jumped on the trending hashtag, posting their own photos and declarations with #ImNoAngel. Lane Bryant has created a collective of these images on its site, along with personal stories from the models. This campaign gives people something to believe in and not just another product to buy.

Touché, Lane Bryant. Touché.

Interestingly, the campaign also holds Lane Bryant to a higher standard as critics of the campaign remind the brand not to err the other way by promoting only plus-size models, rather than a campaign that's all inclusive.

Including my own reaction from this weekend, here's a look at that social media fodder—some positive; some critical. All poignant and honest.

How to Get Your Way in Washington

How to Get Your Way in Washington

It was the mid-1990s and Bill Gates and Microsoft were riding high. Gates lorded over the World Wide Web. He was sequestered in his rainy Northwestern fiefdom, far from the legislators and bureaucrats in the nation's capital. He'd never reached out to them. He never thought he needed to. Then, one day, the FTC decided that Microsoft might have an operating system monopoly.

Longtime lobbyist Alex Vogel, who now heads the political analytics firm VogelHood Research, was chief counsel to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist when Gates deigned to pay his respects to the Washington power elite. He arrived late for his audience with one of the nation's most powerful legislators, but that wasn't his chief mistake; it was arriving without an agenda. “Gates came in with his government affairs person and took a seat,” said Vogel, who sat behind Frist in high-level meetings of this sort. “The Senator asked him what he could do for him, and there was silence. He looked back at his government affairs guy, who had a look on his face that said, ‘Maybe we should have done some preparation for this meeting.' When Gates left, Senator Frist looked at me and said, ‘Really? That's it?'”

Vogel's first rule of engaging with Washington power brokers: Know what you want from them, and let them know what you want from them. They're very busy, their attention is diverted in a hundred directions, and they need you to get to the point. “Know the ‘ask,'” Vogel said. “Know the bill in question, know the title of it, and know the underlying issues you'd like addressed.”

Not knowing the ask and not knowing anybody in Washington cost Bill Gates about 10 times what it might have to settle his antitrust case, Vogel said in prepping members of American Catalog Mailers Association prior to their own Capitol Hill visits this week. Some other words of lobbying wisdom from Vogel:

Know your elected officials and interface with them early and often. Write to them via email and the post (they'll get the letter two weeks later, after it's been irradiated, and it'll be like a follow-up). Every letter and email is cataloged. Phone them. Donate money to them. Engage with them at town halls. Invite them to tour your office. If you really want attention, enlist in their campaigns.

Be happy to meet with their 22-year old assistants. Washington is run by underpaid assistants who investigate and vet every issue in detail. “Clients complain they came to Washington and only got to meet with a staffer and not their representative," said Vogel (at left). "I tell them, ‘Sorry, but that's the person who makes the decision on your issue.' In every committee hearing, which is where bills live or die, there is an assistant sitting next to them who's versed in that issue. The Senator leans over to them. They say, ‘I suggest you do this, Senator,' and that's what they do.”

Build coalitions. Every issue that affects your business in some material way is likely to be affecting businesses in other verticals similarly. Find out who they are and bond with them. Do an assessment of how many jobs or how much contribution to GDP will be affected by the passage or non-passage of a bill and arm your elected official with that information when the bill goes to committee.

Let them take credit. If things go your way on the Hill and your business thrives as a result, invite the representative or senator who helped you to cut the ribbon on the new facility or branch you're opening. They will jump at the chance. “They love the opportunity to walk your facility and get their pictures taken with employees so they can appear on the news saying, ‘I'm creating jobs,'” Vogel said. “It also gives you the opportunity to spend time with them and ask for more help. That's really important.”

Push your position. Vogel said he knew a wealthy business owner who kept his political activities separate from his business, thinking that it would be untoward of him to ask for favors based on his support of candidates. Wrong move. “If you're involved politically, share your views,” Vogel stressed. “There's nothing tawdry about it. There was a time when candidates wouldn't discuss special interests during an election. No more. Now they will talk about anything to anyone at any time.”

Have an ongoing dialog with Washington. “If you just think to call when you need something,” Vogel counseled, “it's too late.”

One company that has learned that lesson well--perhaps from Microsoft, a predecessor of theirs in the Internet domination game--is Google. Last month The Wall Street Journal reported that Google reps had visited the White House an average of once a week throughout the run of the Obama administration. Google protested that many of those 230-odd visits were tech calls to fix Healthcare.gov, and perhaps so. Vogel would say, however, that it didn't necessarily matter what they were discussing. They showed up early and often.

Oberto Aims to Drive Brand Awareness With March Madness Campaign

Oberto Aims to Drive Brand Awareness With March Madness Campaign

                                                                                                                                                                        Photo Source: Oberto

The Duke Blue Devils are the victors of Monday's March Madness championship game, but it's all-natural jerky company Oberto Brands that's hoping to leverage the tournament and come out on top with a boost in brand awareness.

Vying for the top spot

According to David Lakey, Oberto's VP of Marketing, the meat snack provider currently holds the second-seed spot in the jerky category. So the company wanted to find a way to increase brand awareness among its target audience: physically active adults. Knowing that many of its target consumers are college sports fans, Oberto's marketing team launched a March Madness-inspired campaign in February.

“We want to not only be the top seed but win the championship for the big time” Lakey says. “We're still building.”

Playing a coordinated game

But in today's arena, marketers don't have possession of where and how customers interact with their brand. The team at Oberto determined that if they wanted to remain top of mind, they would have to deploy a multichannel campaign strategy.

“To be effective in creating awareness, we really have to find people in more than one channel,” Lakey says.

Starting with television, Oberto created an ad starring basketball sports analyst and broadcaster Dick Vitale and ESPN host Stephen A. Smith. In the TV spot, Smith serves as a voice inside of Vitale's stomach that tells him to eat Oberto jerky to satisfy his hunger.


 

Oberto also carried over Vitale's presence onto the digital court. For instance, Oberto launched a contest in which participants can submit videos with their best Vitale impression for a chance to win a trip to meet the man himself.

And with each contest entry, Oberto is scoring big.

Participants have to fill out a form on the campaign's landing page to enter the contest and in the process provide their names, email addresses, and ZIP codes along with their video submissions. Oberto then stores this info into its database, Lakey says, to encourage participation in future contests and events. He says that anyone—at anytime—can opt in to receive updates and offers from Oberto via email when they sign up for the contest.

In addition to the contest, Oberto leveraged digital by sponsoring content and running ads on college sports news website Campus Insiders. The jerky brand also promoted its campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

Oberto promoted the campaign offline by featuring point-of-sale displays of Vitale and the contest details at several stores.

Creating all of these engagement opportunities keeps the brand at the forefront of consumers' minds and inspires repeat and impulse purchases—which is key, Lakey says, given that a 10 ounce bag of the jerky costs about $15. He adds that an omnichannel campaign is also important because it reiterates a brand's message across touchpoints.

“It's important to coordinate your digital messages with other types of messages—in our case broadcast television, cable television, [and] social,” he says. “If we attempted to do the digital campaign all by itself, it [would have been] a little difficult to break through. But when it reinforces a message that our target consumer has maybe seen elsewhere—or [maybe] they see it on digital—then they get a reminder while they're watching a game on TV, and they see a TV ad. The synergy of the two is much stronger.”

Analyzing performance

Lakey says that Oberto intends to analyze third-party research to help measure the success of the campaign by comparing attitudes before and reactions after the campaign. He also notes that the brand will track sales rates, market share, and speed of sales. But given that the tournament just ended this week, Lakey says that it's too early to determine results.

Rebounding from challenges

Granted, every marketer faces challenges when launching campaigns. But what's important is how they bounce back. So often, for instance, people try to skew contest results; however, Lakey hopes that requiring people to upload a video of them imitating Vitale will decrease the number of frauds. In addition, he says that getting all channels to work as one team can be difficult.

However, Oberto isn't letting these opponents block their chances of brand awareness victory. Now that March Madness is over, the jerky brand is sponsoring all of the 2015 Tough Mudder events in the U.S. and Canada. Lakey hopes that partnering with Tough Mudder—an obstacle course provider—will help the brand reach more athletic adults and identify brand influencers. 

Like the March Madness campaign, the Tough Mudder initiative features a TV spot about the “little voice in the stomach” starring athletes—in this case, the 2014 World's Toughest Mudder Champions Amelia Boone and Ryan Atkins. The brand is also promoting the event on social and will be onsite at the races. Oberto is even sponsoring an obstacle called the “Beached Whale.”

It looks like there's no off-season for this brand.

Don't Know Your Customers Too Well

Don't Know Your Customers Too Well


Walking a mile in your customers' shoes may not be such a good idea after all.

This thought struck me twice recently: after reading about new research on customer empathy, and again when speaking with Nutrisystem EVP and CMO Keira Krausz.

Krausz surprised me with a heartfelt discussion about the way she personally relates to her company's brand and its weight-loss products and services. Both of her parents have battled weight issues for much of their lives; her father has relatively severe complications from Type 2 Diabetes.

“Genetically speaking, I was not destined to be a Skinny Minnie,” Krausz said. “I relate on a very personal basis to our customers.” She tried to downplay that emotional connection a bit by pointing out that a lot of marketing executives can point to a personal connection with their company's offerings and its customers. But, really, not every CMO can do that. I'm not buying it if the CMO of an automotive parts vendor says the same thing—or even if the marketing chief of a CPG company pledges her passion for her company's cereal. (Call me a skeptic, but I bet she'd fall for a different cereal love if she worked for a rival.)

Krausz has a deeply personal and emotional connection to the very same challenges that her customers grapple with every day. Which is why I was impressed when she added: “Now, I'm not going to say that I assume I understand the mind of the customer all the time. We are a heavily research- and testing-based company…”

She's certainly onto something about customer empathy that other marketing executives ought to emulate. Namely, that too much customer empathy may cause marketers to disregard objective data.

Research that Imperial College's Johannes Hattula and fellow researchers Walter Herzog, Darren Dahl, and Sven Reinecke have conducted examined how empathy influenced marketers' personal preferences for a selected product or service. “The more empathetic managers were, the more ‘egocentric' they became; that is, the more likely they were to say that the customers' preferences were the same as their own,” writes Scott Berinato, who authored Harvard Business Review article about the research.

The researchers kindled feelings of empathy in marketing managers by describing customers and asking the subjects to imagine those customers' thoughts and reactions. The marketing managers were then presented with objective market research to apply to “test” marketing initiatives, including selecting the features customers would want in a new car, designing a luxury-watch campaign, and pricing a sandwich. The more empathetic marketers were, according to a survey, the less likely they were to use the objective market data in their decision-making.

This tendency to rely too much on empathy-driven instincts and too little on objective research is present regardless of age and experience, the research shows. There's a way to guard against this tendency, according to the research: Marketers who were reminded that this bias is common were more likely to avoid the tendency.

A candid organizational culture also can help guard against misguided empathy—just ask Krausz. Recently, she expressed an opinion about the price of a Nutrisystem product to one of her executive colleagues. “I said something about the price like, ‘Oh, I wouldn't really look at that,'” she recalls. “And our CFO laughed and then said, ‘Do you think your price sensitivity might be different than that of our typical customer?' We get in each other's face like that when we need to.”

It's good that they do. “I think one of the great dangers of being a marketer is thinking that you know the customer when you don't,” Krausz adds. “You often do know the customer, but you always better check your assumptions.” Objective research confirms her point.

 

The Subtle Differences Between Gen Y and Gen Z

The Subtle Differences Between Gen Y and Gen Z

Millennials are widely considered the most powerful generation of consumers since the Baby Boomers, and for good reason. We've matured in lockstep with the Internet, and catalyzed the current global coalescence around the Web. We've presided over some of the most disruptive and destructive changes in nearly every industry, and have demonstrated a clear shift in cultural, political, and social paradigms. We're the generation that popularized social media, and mandated Apple and Google. Yet, for all of that, millennials--that is, Generation Y--could very well prove to be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Despite its inability to purchase alcohol, or even apply for credit cards, Generation Z is already highly influential in household buying decisions. Almost all Gen Z parents (93%) say their children have influence on their family's spending and household purchases, according to digital agency Deep Focus' 2015 Cassandra Report on Gen Z. This influence has Gen Z paying more attention to careers, money, and success at earlier ages than their Gen Y counterparts, according to the study.

Money, specifically, is a powerful  early motivator for Gen Z, with 60% claiming that having a lot of money is a sign of success. Just 44% of millennials shared this sentiment at the same age, according to the study. Additionally, 39% of Gen Z prefer to save their money, and 66% aspire to more traditional ideas of ownership such as owning cars and homes. Sixty-two percent of Gen Z want to own their own company instead of working for established brands, with 89% claiming that their free time already goes to cultivating productive skills and interests conducive to entrepreneurship or self-improvement; 51% are dabbling in graphic design, and 50% exploring video editing and production, as well as building apps.

When it comes to consuming marketing, 67% of Gen Z prefers narratives and storytelling. They're nearly twice as likely to prefer advertising that doesn't feature celebrities, according to the study. This preference for relatability seems to be a major driver in Gen Z's desire consume marketing through YouTube, with 40% claiming that they prefer to engage with brands on the popular video platform. Gen Z is 85% more likely to visit YouTube than any other social media site.

Genera(tional)lly speaking, Gen Z and marketers' current focus, Gen Y, couldn't be more different. Beyond these early differentiators, Gen Z will be the first generation of consumers to grow up fully immersed in digital culture. Marketers haven't seen anything yet.

Marketing Isn't About Hype—It's About Help

Marketing Isn't About Hype—It's About Help

Even with today's deluge of new tools and robust data, most marketers will agree that forever-increasing digital noise, distractions, and competition for shoppers' time and money make things, well, challenging. Savvy marketers, however, realize that helping the consumer—not hyping a product—is the most effective way to grab and keep the attention of your target audience.

That was author Jay Baer's main message at Oracle's Modern Marketing Experience conference last Wednesday in Las Vegas. Baer, a New York Times bestselling writer and author of Youtility, stressed that shoppers don't necessarily want fancy, scintillating campaigns but rather information that's useful and simply meets their needs—even if the solution is not a brand's product. “Stop trying to be amazing and start being useful,” Baer said to a large audience of enthralled marketers on the open floor of the Venetian ballroom. “If you sell something [to a shopper], you have a customer today. But if you help someone, you'll have a customer for life.”

Baer stressed that by simply helping customers, marketers build trust. And with trust comes loyalty, advocacy, and eventually sales. “Youtility is marketing that's so useful that people will pay for it,” he explained.

Baer's colorful keynote address ignited a continued conversation on Twitter. Check out the chatter. Then simply ask yourself: Is my campaign merely hype or is it helpful?

Are You Just a Habit Your Customers Can Break?

Are You Just a Habit Your Customers Can Break?

Behavioral loyalty is a nice-to-have. For some marketers, it's good enough. “Who cares,” they say, “if customers ‘love' us, as long as they buy from us?” The problem with behavioral loyalty is that it's tenuous. If something better comes along customers will drop you like a bad habit.

Not so with emotional loyalty. Think about it: Would someone with a Harley-Davidson logo tattooed on his arm switch to a Ducati when shopping for a new motorcycle because the latest Ducati model is on sale? Not likely. Would someone (me) who packed enough Shout laundry stain remover to last a one-year stay in London (what if it's not sold there?!) ever switch to Resolve or OxiClean—even if they cost less or are sold in more stores? No way. Shout has saved more clothes than I care to mention, and not even a big-money coupon would sway me to try a competitor. 

The attitudinal edge

One way many companies are endeavoring to foster emotional (i.e. attitudinal) loyalty among their customers is through their loyalty programs. A majority of these programs, however, are more about points accrual than customer experiences that lead to emotional loyalty, so they don't do more than encourage behaviorally-driven repeat purchases. Admittedly, any purchase is a good one, but there should be more to these programs than accruing points. Fortunately, some companies realize the real power behind loyalty program transactions: customer data.

“Loyalty programs should inform the customer experience,” Bond Brand Loyalty President and CEO Bob Macdonald told me when we met to discuss the company's latest study, “2015 Loyalty Report.” “These programs provide data that marketers need to get to know their customers personally.” Using that data at the point of sale is the ultimate one-to-one marketing, he said.

Currently, however, not enough marketers are thinking that way. “They need to move past discounts to areas that are both differentiating and less costly,” Sean Claessen, EVP, strategy and executive creative director of Bond Brand Loyalty, said during the discussion. Some of these areas are as simple as making a loyalty program easy to use, enjoyable to be a part of, and mobile friendly, according to the report. But, most important is the data. Claessen echoed Macdonald in saying, “Loyalty is about engagement, and program data helps marketers to connect behaviors, which allows them to better engage customers.”

And, based on the study's findings, customer engagement is essential if loyalty programs are to help deliver loyalty, not habit. Here are stats from the report that stood out most to me.

Bad behaviors

Consumers are enrolled in more programs than ever: 13.3 this year, which is up from 10.9 in 2014. But they're active in fewer programs than they were before—6.7 in 2015, as compared to 7.8 last year. This suggests that some consumers are joining programs not because it's a preferred brand, but because if they happen to purchase from that brand they want to accrue the benefit. (Think about travelers who sign up for multiple airline loyalty programs.) In other words, program membership isn't always a purchase driver. Nor is it always a loyalty driver: More than a third of those surveyed (37%) say that a program doesn't make them more loyal to a brand, and 38% assert that the program doesn't improve their brand experience.

Further, 34% of consumers polled say that they're only loyal to those brands whose loyalty programs they're members of because of the loyalty program—which means, frankly, that they're not really loyal at all. A better program comes along and, whoosh, those customers will move on. Or, at the very least, will divide their “loyalty” between the old and new brands. But on the positive side, 62% of respondents agree that “the program makes my experience with the brand better,” and 63% say, “the program makes me more loyal to the brand.” In fact, 76% of respondents think that loyalty programs are part of their relationship with brands. And that's where the real opportunity lies: in using those programs to build the relationship—that is, to help foster emotional loyalty.

The way to do that is to think beyond the points; to use the loyalty program data to inform and improve the whole customer experience. “It's all about engagement,” Claessen asserted. He cited home automation company Nest as an example of a company that uses loyalty-program-like gamification to create emotional loyalty. Nest rewards positive behaviors (e.g. lowering the heat) with “Leafs,” which are what Claessen referred to as “emotional currency” because most Nest customers don't accrue anything but feeling good about their choice to conserve energy. (In some locations customers are able to trade Leafs for rebates from their energy provider, he said.)

In fact, the Nest is one example of what MacDonald called a loyalty brand: one that weaves loyalty drivers throughout the customer experience, using program insight to help engage and captivate customers; to move past points and breakable habits to loyalty and advocacy; and to tattoo their brand, if not on customers' bodies, then at least in their hearts.

“It's time to be a loyalty brand,” he said, “not simply a brand with a loyalty program.” 

Charts courtesy of Bond Brand Loyalty

Email and Phone Uber Alles

Email and Phone Uber Alles

 

A marketer lecturing senior management on the merits of direct mail and call centers is about as common as a clean-shaven hipster in a Brooks Brothers suit. But while mobile and social may have captured the hearts and minds of consumers and marketers, email, phone, and direct mail continue to do a better job of capturing sales.

That's among the findings in the latest edition of the Direct Marketing Association's new Response Rate Report. This may well be the most succinct handbook available to direct marketers. It gets right to the heart of the direct matter: measurable results. Whenever an interview subject of mine questions why anyone still uses direct mail, I always respond that it's because it gets much higher response and conversion rates than digital and direct them to the 2012 Response Rate Report.

The new study--which calls on a survey of 485 marketers conducted in December and January--doesn't tell a much different story about the efficacy of the old standbys. To wit:

  • Email, while eliciting one of the lowest response rates among channels, continues to be the leader in ROI. Campaigns conducted with house lists achieved an average 30 to 32% ROI. Those done using prospect lists achieved 15 to 17%. Conversion rates among digital media types were best in emails sent to prospect lists (5 to 5.9%). Mobile came next with 5%.
  • Direct mail outperformed all forms of digital media for response rates, with house list campaigns generating 3.73%. Such campaigns earned an average ROI of 18 to 20%. Social media, by comparison, had average click-through rates (CTRs) of 2.1 to 2.5% and ROI of 15 to 17%.
  • Spending on online display advertising in the year ahead will decline 17%. The display ad came in last among digital devices for CTR, at between 1.1 and 1.5%.
  • Phone calls registered the highest response rate of 9 to 10% and also earned one of the highest ROI percentages—though more than half of survey respondents said they were unable to determine the ROI of their call programs.

Be apprised that these are but a few data points lifted from the report for dramatic effect and, though authentic, must be weighed against all the other channel metrics for full effect. “Email is always going to have a high ROI, because people are going to say, "It didn't really cost me anything,'” says Jerry Rackley, chief analyst of Demand Metric, which conducted the study with DMA. “But if you look at all the costs of data and technology that could be applied to email campaigns today, there should be a cost.”

So, just as I have done the past three years with the 2012 report, I suggest you get hold of the new one and send it around to your teams as a conversation starter for strategy sessions. It's an easy read, packed with juicy numbers about every marketing channel. What will be hard is deciding how you'll deal with some of the facts it presents.

Century 21 Makes BFFs Through Competitive Content

Century 21 Makes BFFs Through Competitive Content

If there's one thing every brand wants, it's a BFF—a Business Friend Forever. And while forming this relationship isn't easy, Century 21 has managed to establish a rapport with consumers through "Internet competitive content."

According to Matt Gentile, director of social media for Century 21 and creator of its BFF term, Internet competitive content is any form of content that captures consumers' attention for the two to three seconds that the brand has them in their social feeds. Visual content such as memes, infographics, and videos do particularly well, he adds, and helps produce a consistent “digital drum beat” that gets people to return to the brand's properties.

Century 21 uses this content to capture new customers via social media and then drives them deeper into the funnel by producing other engaging content that keeps them coming back for more, he explains. Once Century 21 establishes a relationship, it tries to market to consumers based on a more database-focused structure, such as through email newsletters or targeted campaigns, he adds.

And it looks like the brand has seen its share of successes, as a result. According to Gentile, the real estate company generated more than two billion impressions last year through PR and social campaigns, as well as more than two million leads that are attributable to its affiliate programs.

And although Century 21 may be a leader in the space, Gentile acknowledges that there's still much to learn.

“The media environment pre-Facebook [versus] what we have as media environment today is comparable to what we knew about the solar system pre-Hubble Telescope compared to what we know about the universe today,” he says. “People continue to expand [their media knowledge] as rapidly as our knowledge of the universe is expanding.”

To help all marketers better their understanding of how to get the most from Internet competitive content, Gentile shared how Century 21 leverages it, during the ClickZ Live New York digital marketing conference. Here are a few examples:

Stay relevant

One way Century 21 draws eyeballs is by producing content that aligns with pop culture and news events.

For example, the real estate company's marketers knew that there would be a lot of online conversations about the series finale of Breaking Bad. So, to get in on the action, Century 21 created a listing for the fictional home of the TV drama's main character Walter White. The company posted the listing on Craigslist and included a description of the house's features that hinted at the show's plot line. It even created a voicemail for people who called the fictional realtor. The brand then shared the listing with key social followers. The listing got picked up by the media and shared on social—generating more than 80 million impressions within 48 hours of the show's finale.


 

“Sometimes if you want to be successful you have to break bad,” Gentile said.

Likewise, when Twitter announced its IPO, Century 21 created a video suggesting that the social network with the little blue bird upgrade to a bigger birdhouse. The company also created a hashtag for the video: #HomeTweetHome.


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Create mini ad campaigns

Even if marketers produce a successful piece of content like Century 21's Breaking Bad listing, they don't have the luxury to sit back and watch the numbers go up. Instead, they have to move on to the next campaign, Gentile explains. One way the brand is able to maintain a content flow is through miniseries.

Take Century 21's Gingerbread House Listing. The real estate company's marketers produced a series of videos in 2013 starring fictional agent Ginger B. Redd who showed clients a series of gingerbread houses for the holidays. In addition to producing several videos, the brand created a blog post about the initiative and even created a Facebook page for their sweet agent. All of the videos also linked to the brand's website and social channels.

 

“You're not just developing social creative to fill the channel,” Gentile says. “You're now developing mini ad campaigns that create a lot of buzz in the industry.”

Be bold

As with any form of marketing, it's important for brands to take risks and think differently. Century 21 certainly went beyond the norm with its psychedelic #Tryptophan Slow Jam. The video, which debuted in November 2013, garnered more than 105,000 views on the brand's official YouTube channel.

 

Gentile says that executives are generally more likely to be open about doing something “aggressive” or “different” in the digital space, versus traditional media, for two reasons: If it flops, it may only reach a targeted audience, compared to mass one. Also, marketers have the ability to change digital content or just take it down all together.

So as Gentile puts it, "Don't be afraid to propose ideas that may seem out of the box for whatever company or brand you're working for."

Jay Z Makes Waves in Music Marketing With Tidal

Jay Z Makes Waves in Music Marketing With Tidal

In what could go down as the most meta marketing moment of 2015, prolific influencer Jay Z unveiled his newest, and long-awaited, music project Monday with a host of other luminary artists, including wife Beyoncé, singers Rihanna and Madonna, rapper Kanye West, and superstars Nicki Minaj and Usher.

All gathered at yesterday's highly orchestrated announcement in New York to promote and celebrate the relaunch of Tidal, a subscription-based music streaming service. Tidal—formally WiMP, which Jay Z purchased in January—could contend with the likes of music-streaming giant, Spotify.

Aside from its emphasis on high-fidelity (HiFi) audio, details on the service remain limited. Jay Z, his followers, his compatriots, and their followers stormed social media, making waves with bright cyan and global trending hashtags, such as #TIDALforALL. The campaign might prove to be a paradigm for marketers of the future.



Responses to Tidal—and its attached fanfare—have been surprisingly mixed.



The ultimate success of Jay Z's Tidal campaign may lie in its instant—and sustained—viral momentum. The staunch and poignant criticisms of Tidal seem largely balanced with the sense of puzzlement and excitement, at least in Twitter conversations. Regardless, the launch of Tidel will likely go down as one of the most impressive displays of influencer marketing this side of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Facebook's New Changes Might Shake Up Things for Marketers

Facebook's New Changes Might Shake Up Things for Marketers

F8, Facebook's premiere conference for developers, didn't just pique the interest of techies last week in San Francisco. It also garnered the attention of marketers who are monitoring some of the social network's newest features that can have a profound effect on digital campaigns. The reigning social platform wants to give third-party developers—and marketers—confidence in Facebook's longstanding stability.

Some of the major Facebook moves include:

  • Launch of a new app analytics tool which lets mobile marketers track user behaviors in apps, as well as keep tabs on ads that promote the apps. The tool is available now—and it's free.
  • Allowing users to embed Facebook videos on other sites—which can lead to more video ads and marketing messages.
  • Ability to place an order with an online retailer, then change the order or shipping details later via Messenger. Facebook says Messenger now has more than 600 million monthly active users.
  • Enabling GIF searching, goofy voice changers for voice messages, and a doodling pad.
  • Support for 360-degree videos in the newsfeed so users can pan around 3D videos.

These are just some of the features announced at F8.

Here's what some attendees are saying about the news on Twitter:

Photo via Twitter

Real Value of Postal Monopoly: $18 Billion a Year

Real Value of Postal Monopoly: $18 Billion a Year

The value of the monopoly enjoyed by the U.S. Postal Service is apparently far greater than previously enumerated--four times greater than the government estimate of $4.5 billion a year, according to economist Robert Shapiro.

In a forum on the future of the Postal Service at the Brookings Institution yesterday, the Georgetown professor and former chief of economic affairs in the Clinton Administration, applied an economist's sharper pencil to the subsidies enjoyed by USPS and pegged them at closer to $18 billion per annum. “I'm not saying there's a problem in the [government] accounting,” Shapiro said. “I'm just saying this is how an economist would conceptualize it.”

Government bean-counters underestimate the advantages gained by the Postal Service in competitive markets such as shipping due to its exclusive access to business and residential mailboxes. Because USPS's package deliveries ride along on its regular delivery routes, and because other shippers like FedEx and UPS must deliver to customers' doors, the additional burden on private shippers amounted to $14.9 billion in 2013, according to Shapiro.

Unlike those free-market competitors, the Postal Service is exempted from paying state and local property taxes. Based on a real estate valuation of $27.5 billion in 2012, the Postal Regulatory Commission put USPS tax savings for that year at $315 million. But a subsequent report from the Postal Service's Office of the Inspector General assessed the fair market value of USPS properties at a much higher $85 billion. “At at average tax rate of 1.8 percent, that exemption produces a $1.5 billion subsidy,” said Shapiro (at left).

The Postal Service is exempt, too, from paying state vehicle registration fees, road tolls, fuel taxes, and parking tickets.

The Postal Service enjoys a particularly sweet deal from the IRS that doesn't figure into the PRC's calculations. USPS is required to pay taxes on profits it realizes from the sale of competitive products. The Treasury deposits those payments into something called the “Postal Service Fund,” which the Postal Service may freely access for the payment of any expenses. “So the tax payments circulate back to the Post Office,” Shapiro said. “That was $850 million last year.”

Above and beyond these calculations are the unrealized savings that USPS would be able to present to the U.S. Treasury were it forced to operate as a free-market player. “The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that, between 1987 and 2012, productivity at the Postal Service grew an average of seven tenths of a percent each year,” Shapiro said. “Private companies in shipping, storage, and delivery recorded productivity increases averaging 2.5 percent over the same years. By 2012 that higher productivity would have reduced [USPS's] costs by $20 billion. That's a lot of money.”

And that's a lot to think about as the Postal Service, the PRC, Congress, and business mailers and shippers reshape the configuration of mail and package delivery in the years directly ahead.

Marketing That Makes Consumers Smile

Marketing That Makes Consumers Smile

We all have little things that make us happy. For me, it's eating cheese, watching reality TV, and listening to Broadway/Disney/bad ‘90s music (oh—and spending time with my friends and family, of course). What's important is that marketers recognize these fuzzy-feeling generators and capitalize on them to produce results that make both their CMO and CFO grin.

However, what marketers say makes consumers happy and what actually does isn't always aligned. Don't get me wrong: New cars and clothes are nice; however, Action for Happiness—part of the registered charity The Young Foundation—knows that happiness extends beyond material things. Based on psychological research, the organization developed the “10 Keys to Happier Living” in 2010, which it spells out through the acronym GREAT DREAM.

Giving (doing things for others)

Relating (connecting with others)

Exercising (taking care of oneself physically)

Appreciating (acknowledging the world around oneself)

Trying out (learning new things)


Direction (setting goals)

Resilience (coming up with ways to bounce back)

Emotion (looking at things in a positive light)

Acceptance (being comfortable in one's own skin)

Meaning (being part of something bigger)


But making consumers happy doesn't mean that marketers have to suffer. Here are four brands that have incorporated at least one of the “10 Keys to Happier Living” into their marketing over the past year and have produced results that would leave any marketer beaming.

Continued...


Clean & Clear


Buying acne products rarely puts a smile on consumers' faces. But Johnson & Johnson skin care line Clean & Clear sought to change that with its “See the Real Me” campaign. 

The campaign, which launched in early 2014, plays off of the happiness key Acceptance by showing girls that beauty is being confident and comfortable in one's own skin. The brand sends this message through a video series. For instance, the first video features an aspiring ballerina named Emma who aims to be the best she can be, even if her “crazy” hair and “wider” shoulders make her look different than her fellow dancers. 



Clean & Clear went on to produce other videos in 2015, including one featuring a young woman named Alana who breaks gender stereotypes by being a competitive skateboarder and another starring a young lady named Precious who proves that her being blind doesn't define who she is. 

Clean & Clear posts videos and images of its stars on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with the hashtag #SeeTheRealMe—and people have been taking notice. For instance, one video featuring WNBA All-Star Skylar Diggins earned approximately 1.7 million YouTube views and another featuring transgender teen and activist Jazz Jennings earned almost 1.9 million YouTube views.



Always


Procter & Gamble (P&G) feminine product brand Always made headlines last year when it debuted its #LikeAGirl campaign in June 2014. The brand hired documentarian Lauren Greenfield to interview young girls about what they thought doing things “like a girl” meant. The film, which aimed to help maintain adolescent girls' confidence, showed girls that they shouldn't feel insulted when someone says that they run like a girl or throw like a girl because being a girl is a pretty amazing thing. The viral video earned more than 85 million views across 150 countries, according to P&G, and generated more than 1.5 million shares.



But #LikeAGirl has become more than just an inspiring spot: It's become a movement. According to Always, only 19% of females 16 to 24 had a positive association with the phrase “like a girl" before the campaign. But after watching the video, 76% agreed that “like a girl” is no longer an insult. Fifty-nine percent of men say that the video changed their perception of the phrase, as well.

Always propelled the movement's momentum by airing its #LikeAGirl spot during this year's Super Bowl. The commercial earned more than 400,000 social mentions—86% of which were extremely positive, according to Adobe Marketing Cloud. And instead of stopping there, the feminine product brand debuted a follow-up spot this past March in honor of International Women's Day. The video shows a compilation of clips of girls demonstrating what it means to play basketball, calculate, and fight like a girl. The video, which has earned more than 370,000 views on the brand's YouTube channel alone, also invites young women to share their own #LikeAGirl stories.



Not only does the campaign empower young women, but it also plays into the happiness key Meaning by inspiring girls to be a part of a movement that's bigger than themselves.


Stella Artois


Corporate responsibility is important to many modern consumers. Consider the following data from Nielsen's June 2014 “Doing Well By Doing Good” report: More than half (55%) of the 30,000 global consumers surveyed say that they'll pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. In addition, 52% of respondents have made at least one purchase in the last six months from one or more socially responsible companies.

Beer brand Stella Artois is leveraging this knowledge and adhering to the first happiness key, Giving,  with its “Buy a Lady a Drink” campaign. The company is partnering with water and sanitation nonprofit Water.org to help bring water to women around the world who walk a combined 200 million hours a day to collect clean drinking water. For every limited-edition Stella Artois chalice people buy for $12, the beer brand will donate $6.25, which provides clean drinking water to one person for five years. Stella Artois agreed to make this donation for up to 20,000 chalices.



The campaign, which launched this past January, includes a spot featuring a few women who walk several hours a day to collect water, as well as actor and Water.org cofounder Matt Damon. It also has a series of follow-up videos that dive deeper into each woman's story. Stella Artois premiered these films at the Sundance Film Festival, which it sponsors, along with a “Water Wall” to educate people about the initiative. The brand also created a designated landing page for the campaign.

According to the Amazon page where consumers can buy the chalices, Stella Artois is currently out of stock. The beer brand also made a $1.2 million donation to Water.org.

MetLife

It's hard for this MetLife Hong Kong commercial to make you smile without first making you cry. The insurance provider's commercial, which was posted on YouTube this past January, shows the sacrifices a father makes to give his daughter a better life. 


 

The campaign was part of MetLife Hong Kong's broader “Pursue More From Life” global advertising and digital marketing strategy, which aimed to drive brand awareness and engagement, according to the brand's official press release. And it seems to have worked. As of mid February, the video had earned more than 15 million views on Facebook and YouTube.

While the spot is certainly a tearjerker, it also encompasses a number of happiness keys. For instance, it shows Resilience in the way that, despite his financial challenges, the father continues to work hard and make sacrifices to give his daughter a better life. The spot also taps into the Emotions aspect by showing the father embracing the happy moments in his life—like his daughter winning an essay contest or her simply enjoying a ride on his shoulders. 

But what makes the commercial really tug on consumers' heartstrings, in my opinion, is the way that it incorporates the Relating and Appreciation happiness keys. For instance, the commercial connects with other consumers in that many viewers have had parents who've scarified for them or they are parents and they know what sacrifice means firsthand. In addition, the little girl's description of her father at the beginning of the letter shows how much she appreciates all of the little things he does for her—whether it's buying her a popsicle or simply making her laugh. And the “pursue more from life” call-to-action reminds consumers to appreciate life's moments—both big and small.

So although the commercial may cause a few tears to shed, overall, the spot plays into the one thing that makes every good parent happy: providing a better future for their child. And although I'm not a parent myself, I can only imagine the overwhelming sense of joy that must bring. 


Customer Engagement in the (Very Near) Digital Future

Customer Engagement in the (Very Near) Digital Future

Marketers will understand customers better in the future, asserts Hung LeHong, research VP and Gartner fellow. Data-driven marketers will be better equipped to draw from the wealth of information available through sources such as mobile, social, and the Internet of Things. But that won't make marketers' jobs any easier. Customers will have different and higher demands, LeHong said during a presentation at the Gartner Customer 360 Summit. They will expect their preferred brands to be available in every channel and to be transparent about service and price.

Marketers need to prepare for that future reality today. LeHong offered 10 considerations in three areas: customer service and relationship management; customer insight; and transaction and loyalty.

Customer service and relationship management

1. Automate what you can. It's impractical—if not impossible—to automate an entire relationship, but marketers will need to automate some responses. There's a steadily increasing number of channels, thus an ever-increasing number of interactions; brands need to scale to respond effectively. Additionally, marketers need to spend more of their time personalizing communications and interactions, so they need to balance those personal interactions with automated ones.

2. Think social reverberation. Nearly every interaction with a prospect or customer will also be an interaction with that individual's social graph. It's best to assume that customers will share their brand interactions with their network. As a result, marketers should determine how to use technology to assess and track social impact, as well as to influence it. Also, marketers need to compose communications that are meant to be shared—or not. That is, marketers need to be deliberated about what they'd like customer to share or not share.

3. Be real (time). Customers will demand real-time transparency for customer service, which means it will be a must have. Customers can already track package status, flight changes, and more. A real-time approach to service provides reassurance to customers, as well as the ability for them to take an alternative action when necessary. Not only is this level of proactive service a marketing asset, but customers will expect this kind of visibility. They'll want to know how long a line is or where parking is.

4. Build in service. Not every product can or should have a built-in service component. But for certain products, more companies will digitally build in ongoing customer engagement. This is the Internet of Things, LeHong said. The supply chain used to end with the physical delivery of a product. Today there's a digital supply chain that continues in the home—for example, a company sending a software update or a recipe to an oven—and this will only increase in the future.

Customer insight

5. Get personal. Personalization in the future will based on blending intent data (e.g. social comments or online behaviors), context, and customer interaction history. Personalization engines that consider all three will serve up the optimal offer at the best time.

6. Understand social influence. The voice of the customer is not equal. Commenters—and their positive or negative comments—don't influence equally. If someone with 50 friends posts a complaint on Facebook and Twitter, it won't have the same impact as someone with 50,000 friends.  Marketers need to understand that, as well as understand how social influence actually impacts sales (or not). When an influencer comments about a brand, does its sales or share prices go up or down? Marketers should use technology that assesses social influence to find out and plan accordingly.

7. Respect privacy. “Privacy can be bought, trust must be earned, and security will be expected at all times,” LeHong said. Marketers can “buy” privacy (i.e. data) from their customers if there's a fair value exchange—and, if there's an easy way for them to opt out. Brands can't buy trust, have to earn it. They earn trust by offering great products, services, and experiences. In terms of security: There's no excuse, he said; companies have to build it in—and then prove to customers that they can trust that security.

Transaction/loyalty

8. Make buying easy. Payment is becoming its own customer experience—and has the potential to be a complicated one that frustrates customers. There's a plethora of options companies can add to the experience; for example, biometric authentication, coupons, mobile payments, loyalty points, PIN, real-time fraud detection, real-time offers. The experience will be good or bad depending on what's added and how customers need to use those options. Craft a payment experience that's so simple it's almost invisible.

9. Open the price kimono. Price visibility will become the norm. If a price is visible everywhere, it likely will become the same everywhere, so companies will need to compete on personalized deals instead. Pricing is often a competitive lever; visibility removes that lever. So, price competition will move from being based on a product's regular price, to being based on special offers and personalized pricing such as context-aware pricing.

10. Think long-term loyalty. Today customers earn miles, points, and the like after a purchase or interaction. In the future loyalty recognition will move instead to one that spans the entire customer engagement cycle and lifespan. For example, companies may award loyalty points pre- or post-transaction, for such activities as checking prices online, viewing an ad, liking a post, checking in, adding an item to a shopping cart, or doing physical activity.

Behavioral Data Gives Diesel a Fashionable Edge

Behavioral Data Gives Diesel a Fashionable Edge

 

It's a common situation: A company has enough customer data to be fairly relevant, but its marketers know that with just a bit more they can get a view of customers that allows them to get, well, personal.

That was the situation Diesel faced when Dasha Gastol joined the fashion brand as digital marketing manager last year. “We had limited insight into our consumers,” she said to me when we met at Salesforce.com's ExactTarget Connections conference. “We wanted to know more about their online behaviors and how we could market with more relvance.” Another goal was to bridge the gap between Web and email.

One solution, she said, was to implement ExactTarget's Predictive Intelligence product. It allows Gastol and her team to see prospects and customers online and market to them based on their online behaviors, such as what they search for and which products they look at. “We can take that [behavior] data and use it to create personalize messages on our site,” she said. But that's just the beginning. “We're also going beyond only sending blast newsletters, which we still do for, say, new collections,” she added. “ Before, we couldn't speak to [customers] in a cohesive way. Now we can embed personalized recommedations based on actions subscribers took on our website, which creates a connected experience.”

According to Gastol—and not surprisingly—these personalized recommendations online and in email campaigns are driving conversions. “All of our email metrics have gone up: opens, clicks, etc.,” she said, noting that personalization is also driving more engagement and discovery.

One approach especially has garnered unexpected results: rethinking cart abandonment reminder emails. Gastol and her team were surprised by the high engagment with abandon cart emails that show the cart items plus additional recommended items based on customer behavior. The Predictive Intelligence product is recommending especially relevant products, she said. Gastol noted that the tool is also useful for determining what not to show. For example, not promoting women's products to men.

When I asked Gastol if there was one type of data that was most useful, she pointed to behavioral data as particularly beneficial. “Behavioral data has been most helpful to us. Behavior shows intent, which has helped us evolved our strategy,” she said, noting that purchase data is also important and useful for segmenting.

“For us it's been an evolution,” Gastol added. “We wanted to get a granular level of data and start personalizing the customer experience; to create unique experiences for each customer.”

Today, Gastol and her digital marketing team are using that data to “understand the customer at the point of discovery.”

Traveling the Winding Path of the Customer Journey

Traveling the Winding Path of the Customer Journey

“You have to wrap yourself around the customer journey,” GE SVP & CMO Beth Comstock stated. Speaking on a panel at Salesforce.com's ExactTarget Connections conference, Comstock added, “Customers do their homework; they expect you to do yours: ‘What do you know about me?'”

The point is that marketers need to understand their customers and the paths they take to make a purchase. No excuses. “We need to understand the customer journey and how we can add value,” Nick Besbeas, VP of marketing at LinkedIn said during the panel. “We also have to understand customers' needs.”

That understanding is what creates the opportunities for relevant interactions with customers—interactions that lead to advocacy, engagement, and sales. “The intersection of company and customer needs is what's powerful,” Besbeas said.

One powerful company/customer intersection is collaboration. It's also an opportunity for marketers to put customer input into action. “The expectation is that we collaborate with customers,” Comstock said. “Customers say, ‘I expect you to help me; to take my feedbackand put it back in a product.' That's exciting because peope will want what you have because they helped invent it.”

Those engaged customers will also help spread the word. “The ability to tap into communities to evangalize brands has never been greater or more powerful,” Twitter Chief Customer Officer Gabriel Sticker added, noting that every customer interaction is also an opportunity to build loyaly. “It's the intersection of real time and long term; the series of incrementally compounding interactions that build up to the long-term relationship.”

All of this focus on advocacy, collaboration, and understanding points to one thing: customer centricity. “Marketers need to put customers at the center,” Comstock said. “Customers are expecting a unique experience. They're also all dealing with exponential grow in technology. [In B2B] you have to understand the business nuances beyond their bottom line. What's their business about?”

“Some of the best work in marketing focuses on putting customers at the center and telling their story,” Besbeas added.

Putting the focus on customers also helps to cultivate innovation, the panelists said—noting that marketers can take a leadership position in embedding attention to both across an organization. “We say marketing is about innovation. Marketers have to be the force for the company that know where's the world's going,” Comstock said. Sticker added, “Innovation needs to be baked into all teams, and competitive spirit should be part of that, too.”

As should marketing leadership. “Someone needs to be the integrator in the company, to take the company by the hand and pull them along the customer journey—and who better than the marketers.” Comstock said. “You have to be an agent of change; show people, don't just tell them.”

If that sounds like a great deal of responsibility, it is. But it's also an amazing opportunity. As Besbeas asserted: “It's an awesome time to be a marketer.”

The Issue of the Open Internet Is, Well, Open

The Issue of the Open Internet Is, Well, Open

Why is it that when the discussion comes around to Net Neutrality, no one seems very neutral on the subject? Tuesday's hearing of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee on transparency at the Federal Communications Commission had Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) calling FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (above) a liar, Wheeler proclaiming that he himself was an independent agency of the federal government, and the FCC Inspector General apparently opening an official investigation into the process that led to the passing of regulations that will treat the Internet as a public utility.

For those who have not been keeping score:

Last May the FCC circulated a rule-making draft floating questions about whether regulation of the Internet should be based on the Telecommunications Act of 1996 or Title II of the 1934 Communications Act that governs utilities. In November President Obama made a public statement expressing a preference for Title II. Thus ensued a series of meetings and communications between Wheeler and the White House that Capitol Hill Republicans assert led to Wheeler announcing Net Neutrality rules on February 4 that would ban paid prioritization. One of those Hill Republicans was Chaffetz, who asked Wheeler to explain himself at a hearing on February 25. Wheeler politely declined and, on the very next day, was one of three Democratic FCC commissioners to pass those rules in a 3-2 vote.

All that business being out of the way, Wheeler chose to attend yesterday's assemblage of the Oversight Committee. He delivered an opening statement explaining that he had changed his mind about Title II when it occurred to him that the concept of “commercial reasonableness” put forth in the later law would be reasonable for commercial Internet users, but not consumers. Pressure from Pennsylvania Avenue had nothing in the least to do with it, Wheeler insisted.

Chaffetz, however, could not be moved off the notion that all the trips to the White House had iced the deal. “Are you saying this rule did not come up in any of those meetings but one?” Chaffetz asked Wheeler.

“I can't recall the details,” the FCC chief said. Nor did he remember how many there were, though Chaffetz was kind enough to list them for him. Wheeler maintained that several topics were covered in these meetings, and that he couldn't recall anything particular about the Net Neutrality rule being said, and that, anyway, he was a free thinker.

“So, you met with the White House multiple times during the open comment period and after the comment period closed,” Chaffetz said, “and we're supposed to believe that one of the most important things that the FCC has ever done…that this didn't come up and you didn't have any discussion on it and that they didn't come back to you on what you were doing?”

“The administration was very scrupulous,” Wheeler responded, “in making it clear that I was an independent agency.”

Chaffetz agreed that, of course, Wheeler should talk to the White House and to all interested parties, but that he should also have spoken to Congress before calling a vote on the rules. “I had other committees to appear before. In my response I said I would look forward to meeting with you…,” Wheeler said, before Chaffetz cut in.

“Yeah, and I didn't believe you then and I don't believe you now.”

A messy business this neutrality, and getting messier. In his closing remarks, Chaffetz asked Wheeler if he was aware that the FCC Inspector General had opened an investigation into the process leading to the passage of the Net Neutrality rules.

Wheeler replied that he was not.

6 Things Marketers Can Learn from Cheese

6 Things Marketers Can Learn from Cheese

In case my Twitter profile and Wisconsin roots haven't made it clear enough, I love cheese. Swiss, truffle, or goat—I love them all. And there's more to this dairy decadent than its taste. Here are six things marketers can learn from cheese to make their marketing strategies feta than ever.

                                                                                                                                                    Photo Source: Golden Age Foods

Aged Cheddar

When it comes to cheddar, older is better. Years of aging bring an undeniable sharpness to the cheese that make it worth the wait.

In many cases, data analysis works the same way. There's no question that most marketers want to obtain data in real time and rid their databases of any outdated information. But when it comes to looking at trends, sometimes analyzing data over the long term is more beneficial. When marketers jump on data patterns too quickly, they run the risk of investing in fair-weather trends—rather than significant shifts. And while I wouldn't recommend waiting 10 years to analyze data every time it's collected, it wouldn't hurt to see how patterns have fluctuated throughout the years to see if your organization is missing a bigger picture.

                                                                                                                                                              Photo Source: Walmart.com

Port wine

Port wine cheese, in my opinion, is seriously underrated (the kind pictured above is my personal favorite). The decadent combination of port wine and cheddar swirled into a single bite produces a layering of flavors that simply can't be beat.

Like port wine cheese, marketers' multichannel strategy should contain several different elements that work well together. So if a marketer's mix includes email, social, direct mail, and mobile—for instance—it's important that all of the channels complement each other in terms of the information and experiences that they provide, as well as offer a unified flavor for the consumer.


                                                                                                                                                             Photo Source: Kitchen Daily

Parmesan

Parmesan cheese is definitely a fan favorite. However, you have to buy the freshly grated stuff. Even though powdery imitations may be cheaper, I find myself disappointed every time I sprinkle it over my spaghetti or salad.

Similarly, marketers should aspire to only obtain the freshest of data. Although it may require more work or money to obtain, there's nothing quite like the real, first-party stuff. When marketers acquire it straight from the source, they know that it's real and that it's high quality—something that can't always be said when you buy it from third parties and don't know where it's been.



Brie

Brie is another crowd-pleaser (seriously, have you ever met someone who doesn't like brie cheese?). One of the things that makes brie so alluring is its texture. It's so rich and creamy that it can make snacking on cheese and crackers feel like a truly indulgent experience.

Marketers' customer experiences should be just as smooth. Inconsistent pricing, crashing apps, and unresponsive email designs can all leave a bad taste in customers' mouths. So it's important for marketers to make it easy for customers to access their brands wherever they are and whenever they please.

Customers' expectations, however, are growing. Rather than trying to meet those expectations, marketers should aim to exceed them. Use behavioral, transactional, and preference data to surprise and delight customers. Give them the indulgent experience they deserve.


Mozzarella

When you first buy mozzarella, it comes in a giant white ball, and it's super thick. But considering its density, it's surprisingly easy to cut through and then layer onto other foods.

The amount of Big Data marketers deal with today can also be quite dense. And while it's not always easy to slice and dice, it's important for marketers to shred through their data to uncover rich insights. 

But simply finding these insights is just the beginning. Acting on them is where marketers really see results. Therefore, marketers must be willing to layer the insights gained through their data with contextual relevancy and customer preferences to deliver an experience that's truly scrumptious.


Blue Cheese

Not everyone enjoys blue cheese. Indeed, its unappealing color and pungent taste (not to mention smell) can deter people from sampling it all together.  But when you eat it, such as in a salad or in a dip, its powerful taste definitely packs a punch and changes a meal's flavor profile entirely.

Blue cheese is like a daring moment in marketing. Many organizations are too afraid to run that bold campaign or try a new technology. Instead, many prefer to stay mainstream and follow suit with whatever their peers and competitors are doing. But it's these daring moments that raise the standards for the rest of the industry and inspire marketers to be better. Be like blue cheese; do the thing that so many others pass on.

6 Keys to Innovation and Opportunity

6 Keys to Innovation and Opportunity

Low barriers to entry have flooded many markets with me-too brands, products, promotions, and messaging. This makes it exceptionally difficult for marketers to stand out from a sea of competitive sameness, as well as to reach their inundated customers. However, today's relative ease of access to technology works in marketers' favor.

Here, Jeremy Gutsche, founder and CEO of Trendhunter.com, and author of Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas, details the six patterns of opportunity in today's business world, and why marketers must approach business differently in 2015.

Why do you think marketing, and business in general, is so different these days?

We're experiencing history's highest rate of change, but we aren't really wired for it. People and corporations are wired to repeat and optimize and farm whatever contributed to last year's harvest. Because of this, you consistently see examples of bright people and businesses missing out on ideas that were so close to their grasp. We saw this with Kodak and the digital camera. We saw this with Blockbuster, which pioneered a lot of online video, and had three opportunities to buy Netflix for $50 million, but didn't. Smith Corona invented grammar and spell checkers, and the laptop word processor. They got into computing, and retreated out. All of these brands didn't just miss spotting a trend, they invented entire markets, but then they retreated back to what they were already doing. They went back to farming their existing market.

What does innovation mean in a world like this?

I like to think of innovation as a splash in the water, and that splash creates ripples of opportunity. Let's say you're an entrepreneur in 2007, and you're trying to take on Facebook. If you tried making a bigger, better Facebook, even if you're Google, it's too late. Google tried many different ways to market its own product. [It] linked up with Gmail and everything, but Google couldn't compete with Facebook even with its unlimited marketing budget. But, if you broke down what Facebook was in 2007 you could see lots of opportunity. In 2007, Facebook had 50 million viewers, and it was a site for friends to archive photos of their everyday life. If I diverge from that, I could find an opportunity in a site that's not for friends, which would now be Twitter or LinkedIn. If you don't want photos up forever there's SnapChat, and if you want to recapture the art of photography there's Instagram. These are examples of divergence, one of the patterns of opportunity discussed in the book.

What are these patterns?

The key to the patterns [is] that you don't always have to take your competitor head on. In fact, if you try to compete with someone [by] doing the exact thing they're doing, you're going to spend more and not get the results you're looking for. The patterns in the book are based on there being quicker, easier paths to finding opportunity. Over the last seven years we've studied more than 250,000 ideas using 100 million visitors. Kind of like a giant innovation focus group. The thing that jumped out was that whatever industry you're in there seem to be these patterns of opportunity: acceleration, cyclicality, convergence, reduction, redirection, and divergence.

Can you explain these six aspects of opportunity?

Acceleration is the idea that you aren't trying to make something bigger and better, but you are trying to pinpoint what your customers care about, and then taking that and accelerating it.

Cyclicality is repeating patterns like retro, nostalgia, teen rebellion, etc. The clues for success here are often already present, but to see them, you have to step back and move fast. Too often, [marketers] can see a million different little things happening, but they assume they have more control over the situation, and that the world is going to take a bit longer to adjust. [Marketers] end up taking too long to act and miss out. Convergence is about reimagining the combinations through which your product or service can manifest. That can be things like co-branding. Reduction is simplifying things by removing layers. You see a lot of this in today's apps and dot-coms. AirBnB is an example. Redirection is rechanneling the momentum of another force or trend. Divergence is viewing outside the mainstream,which could be counter culture, but it's also status, personalization, and anything that can be about diverging from the mainstream that no one wants to be a part of.

It's Time to Shake Up Email Marketing

It's Time to Shake Up Email Marketing

Email is an effective, mature channel. Research from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found that email returns $39 for every dollar spent. Even so, the time has come for email to don some stilettos and head out to the omnichannel party if it's popularity is to continue.

“Marketers have really rich, email-centric data,” Kristin Naragon, director of email solutions for Adobe, told me during a recent conversation about the state of email marketing. “And there's lots of talk among marketers today about adding other channels [to their email campaigns], but it doesn't mean much if there's no cohesion.”

According to research by Adobe and DMA, 60% of email marketers say email is part of a larger cross-channel strategy, but only 36% said it's “the central means of communication for our cross-channel marketing strategy.”

“Remaking email as the heart of the cross-channel strategy is a huge opportunity,” Naragon said.

So, Naragon's goal is to “disrupt the chaos” and get marketers to think past an email-centric view. And based on the Adobe/DMA research, now is the ideal time to shake things up. More than half of respondents (51%) say they're challenged by a limited email-only view instead of having access to a true 360-degree customer view, 41% are stifled by the inability to automate email campaigns with multiple touchpoints in their entirety, and 38% are challenged by an inefficient connection with other marketing tools. In fact, only 54% of email marketers surveyed coordinate email with offline channels and just 46% use information from other channels to guide their email campaigns.

Another reason the time to shake things up is now? Only one third of email marketers surveyed are happy with their current email service provider (ESP). That means that two thirds are potentially open to something new, Naragon pointed out, adding that it's a great opportunity for marketers and vendors alike. “Email is still the glue and delivers the best marketing ROI, but it's been a bit stale,” she said. “So, now it's time to shake up the market.”

Indeed, email marketers are looking to get more from their email efforts. Those surveyed say their priorities include having real-time integration with analytics tools (44%), taking real-time actions based on customer behaviors (44%), and tapping into their company's content library to deliver more personalized communications (45%). Other strategies that respondents consider potentially high impact: 72% say technology that enables a 360-degree view of interactions and 64% say technology that enables real-time, cross-channel email insight; 68% cite the ability to test and iterate email campaigns; and 67% say the ability to share email content seemlessly across silos and channels. Additionally, 60% claim that a CMO who values the integration of email with other channels would be a high-impact strategy.

“Respondents' priorities are encouraging for us and debunk the naysayers who say that email's dead or passé,” Naragon said. “But the research also points to a mature market that until recently hasn't needed to change. Now's the time…to change it.”

Naragon pointed out how closely email marketers' challenges and priorities are linked. The marketers surveyed are looking for better data and analytics integration to deliver more contextually relevant messaging, for example. This includes conducting A/B testing at the email open to ensure that what's displayed is relevant based on location or a recent customer action, or using real-time data to decide the next best action, whether that's an offer or content. “There are ways to make that happen,” Naragon said. “This is real, here, and now; it's no longer aspirational.”

And the marketers who are first to the party will outshine those who are fashionably late.

“We're at a cool moment,” Naragon told me with enthusiasm. “The market is shifting. It's ripe for disruption. Consumers are giving brands more information, but they're expecting something in return. They're forgiving brands now for the misses, but not for long. Soon their expectations will be even higher than they already are. Marketers with big aspirations are great, but change isn't always fast.” Today, it needs to be.

The Beauty of the Amazon Buy Box

The Beauty of the Amazon Buy Box



Brick-and-mortar retailers and online sellers all hate Amazon, but they all hate Amazon for the wrong reason. They think it's because of the bargain basement prices that force them to slash their own margins. The real truth, however, is harder to swallow. While enlightened businesses have come to agree that they could triumph if only they could get customer experience (CX) right, Amazon is the one who has. Here's proof.

If you type “Lego Darth Vader” into the search bar on Amazon today, the top item to appear will be a Lego Darth Vader Minifigure with a Lightsaber. Now here's a pop quiz: Why did that particular item land in the top spot instead of the nearly identical Darth below it, or the Darth Lego Kids Watch below that, or the hundreds of cute little Nazi-helmeted figures below that? Because it's sold by Amazon's retail unit? Nope. Click on it and you'll see it's sold by an outfit called Brick Dudes. It's the cheapest, you say? No again. Look to the right of the large display offer for Brick Dudes and you'll see listed two other sellers of the same item, both with prices below Brick Dudes' $19.99.

The correct answer is that Brick Dudes won the Buy Box competition for that category. The Buy Box is the top spot for an item on any selling page in Amazon, the equivalent of the store window at Macy's or the end-cap display at Kroger's. Anyone can obtain those much-desired placements, as long as they're willing to pay the equivalent of the price of a Mercedes S-Class Sedan. But on Amazon it's the seller that treats the buyers the best that wins the placement. The “How the Buy Box Works” page on Amazon explains that “If more than one eligible seller offers a product, they may compete for the Buy Box for that product. To give customers the best possible shopping experience, sellers must meet performance-based requirements to be eligible to compete for Buy Box placement.”

Doesn't it gall you that the killer e-com you love to hate is so egalitarian?

While Amazon explains in three simple sentences how the Buy Box works, the algorithm behind it is more complex, rating in real time such factors as price, of course, but also shipping proficiency, inventory status, and most important, numbers of positive reviews. The principal reason that Brick Dudes won the Box over runner-up Brick Takeover Germany despite a $2 higher price is that the Dudes had a 100% positive rating based on 2,600 reviews and Takeover had a 97% rating based on much fewer than that.

Here's the real beauty of the Buy Box system: Not only does it ensure Amazon of some 24-carat CX on the part of hard-to-control, third-party merchants, but sophisticated sellers can finesse the game to grab hold of the top spot while charging the highest possible price it can to remain there.

“We change our customers' prices 100 times a day per item. Not only are they at the top of the page, but they're at the top at higher prices than competitors,”says Shmuli Goldberg, director of marketing for Feedvisor, an Israeli company that performs on-the-fly Amazon price optimization for a thousand-plus retail companies. “We'll look at a company that is selling something at $29 with 7-day delivery and has 95% positive ratings and determine that it can still hold the Buy Box if it charges 5 cents more. If its chief competitor runs out of inventory, we may raise it another quarter.”

Goldberg has worked in the Amazon sphere for several years and is an admirer of the hard line it's taken in customer experience. Amazon, which is also a retailer in its own marketplace, has the ability to put its own items in the Buy Box, but usually defers, he says, preferring to take its standard 15% cut on a third-party sale in favor of better customer ratings.

“Amazon worked something out which nobody else had picked up on before them,” Goldberg observes. “Forget the profit margins and sales numbers, I just want know the customer loves me more than anyone else. That's all that matters.”

Don't you just hate them?

Happiness Bubbles Out of Coca-Cola's Customer Experiences

Happiness Bubbles Out of Coca-Cola's Customer Experiences

Rare is the neutral customer experience. “At each touchpoint, we either win or lose,” Brad Rencher said during the opening keynote at the Adobe Summit 2015. 

According to Rencher, Adobe's SVP and GM of digital marketing, two key elements of the customer experience—being consistent and being continuous—will determine whether brands win or lose with their customers. These factors require marketers to recognize their customers, love them, and acknowledge their histories wherever and whenever they are, he said.

And even though today's connected devices and access to data enable marketers to deliver more delightful experiences to their customers, he said, it also gives them more opportunities to fail. “Being consistent and continuous is more and more important than ever,” Rencher said, “and it's becoming harder and harder every day.”

Adobe customer Coca-Cola is one brand that has delivered consistent and continuous experiences for customers for 128 years. 

“When you think about what we're trying to do, it's continuously create happiness experiences,” Lorie Buckingham, chief development officer at The Coca-Cola Company, said during the presentation. 

But this hasn't been easy. Coca-Cola has to find new ways to create these consistent and continuous happiness experiences over the years. Consider, for instance, Coca-Cola's Happiness Flag. As a sponsor of the 2014 World Cup, Coca-Cola wanted to find a way to bring soccer enthusiasts together to celebrate the sporting event. And while creating a sense of global camaraderie seemed easy to achieve among game attendees in Brazil, Coca-Cola also wanted to generate a sense of togetherness among people who were watching the matches from home. So, marketers at Coca-Cola decided to create a flag based on a design that a local artist had painted that incorporated images of soccer and Coca-Cola fans. 

The brand asked people to send in selfies--which people from 207 countries did. Designers for Coca-Cola then pieced together these images to create a digital flag that replicated the artist's original design. But that's not all. Coca-Cola then made a physical flag based on its digital design and unfolded it on the field at the World Cup. Participants could go online and zoom in on the flag to find their actual selfie image.



“For us, it's creating these experiences and then [thinking] how do we leverage them?” Buckingham said.

But creating consistent and continuous experiences doesn't mean being predictable. “You need to surprise people in this world,” Buckingham added.

To do that, Coca-Cola created the Coke Hug Machine. Here's how it worked: During college finals week—often a stressful time for students—Coca-Cola set up a vending machine at a college campus in Singapore that dispensed Coke cans for the price of a hug.


 

Consumers aren't the only ones who benefit from these experiences. Coca-Cola also benefits--by gaining insight. Take the beverage brand's Freestyle Machine, for instance. The machine provides consumers with their own personal soda fountain, Buckingham explained, and enables them to customize their own beverage. Analyzing what beverages customers create provides priceless insight. “You didn't just connect with us in the moment,” Buckingham said, “You created the next product for us.”


Buckingham added that Coca-Cola has also placed beacons on its vending machines to help stores better identify where its customers are roaming. “We had machines where no one even walked,” she said.

However, marketers can't create these consistent and continuous customer experiences alone. They need to go beyond marketing, Adobe's Rencher said, and implement silo-free, data-driven approaches across the rest of the organization. Now that's an idea that's truly refreshing. 

7 Infographics to Help Modernize Your Marketing Strategy

7 Infographics to Help Modernize Your Marketing Strategy

If you've been following DMN for any length of time, you've probably noticed the weekly works of our Associate Editor Elyse Dupre and Art Director James Jarnot. The two collaborate on the production of our Friday infographics. Campy, kooky, fun, and insightful, these infographic articles tend to isolate a particular facet of marketing, such as analytics, budgets,content marketing, digital, or interdepartmental collaboration.

I often write about modern and emerging trends and practices in marketing. From social media to fostering relationships with millennials, I focus much of my editorial efforts on helping marketers stay relevant in today's increasingly disrupted world. Data from our infographics helps me tremendously, and I think it can do the same for marketers everywhere.

Here are seven of my favorite infographics dealing with today's most robust marketing channels and methods, such as digital, mobile, or social; areas of marketing that will only grow more prominent and impactful as the digital age continues to mature.

Weaving the Customer's Story Into Your Brand Narrative

Weaving the Customer's Story Into Your Brand Narrative


So often, I like to highlight a particularly creative campaign that I feel can be a paradigm for marketers in any industry.

Last week iconic sneaker brand Converse launched its “Made by You” campaign, which celebrated 100 years of Chuck Taylor All-Star shoes. Once worn by an estimated 90% of NBA players on the courts, the favored sneaker enjoys great popularity today, with everyone from cash-strapped millennials to mainstream hip-hop artists touting the cultured kicks.

I'm drawn to this campaign because it's a great example of how to entangle customers' personal stories into the brand narrative. Rather than simply creating a promotion that solely honors the sneaker's centennial, the Nike-owned company instead crafted a campaign with several moving parts: Chuck Taylor murals and art displays across the globe, video ads, and perhaps the most prolific prong, the #ChuckTaylor hashtag, which brand lovers can use to share their personal Chuck stories. Everyone from small-town, underground bands to popular artists are posting Chucks with their individual stories and thoughts, in effect creating a sort of social consortium of Chuck Taylor images.

The campaign has no official end date and allows Chuck lovers to extend the brand's story with their own. Here you'll find just few of those fun tweets that I've culled from Twitter. They're personal and poignant, and some are downright quirky and mysterious.


Marketing Has a Branding Problem

Marketing Has a Branding Problem

 

Marketing in 2015: exciting and terrifying. There's more of everything: data, channels, technologies, opportunities for customer interactions. But that “more” makes marketing tougher; it's harder to select the right data, optimize the channel mix, choose the ideal vendors, connect with the best customers at the most appropriate time.

And that's not all. Many marketers are finding themselves working deeper in the sales funnel or in service interactions. Marketing today is not for the faint of heart. No—marketing today is for executives who are chameleon-like: adaptable and able to blend with their changing environment.

“Marketing is going through an identity crisis” as marketing blends more with sales, service, and the like, Schneider Electric CMO Chris Hummel said during a panel discussion at The Economist's The Big Rethink 2015 conference. The result? “There's a branding problem in marketing,” Hummel said, adding that there are innumerable inconsistencies in organizational structure, staffing, roles, and the like across today's marketing operations.

That problem is an opportunity: to redefine what marketing should be. “If you define marketing as wherever a customer touches a brand,” Salesforce CMO Lynn Vojvodich said during the panel, “then you as a marketer need to be where your customers are and take them on a journey across all those touchpoints.” In other words, Vojvodich said, marketing and the customer experience are synonymous. And considering that, it makes sense for marketers to have increasing influence on and collaboration with sales, service, and other customer-facing teams.

“Marketers aren't talking about organizational design, but they should be,” Brian Wieser, senior analyst, Pivotal Research Group, noted during the discussion. “Some are powerless in their own organization.” If the CEO and other senior executives don't prioritize marketing as a demand generation engine and business driver, he said, the CMO becomes an evangelist with no power to drive real change.

That's not a good place to be. “If you don't become a powerful CMO you'll be out of a job,” Neeraj Agrawal, general partner of VC firm Better Ventures, said during his Big Rethink panel.

Fortunately, marketers are used to ambiguity and working with multidisciplinary teams, Schneider Electric's Hummel pointed out. The opportunity, he said, is for marketing to move faster than the rate of organizational change in most companies today; to focus on internal change management first, adapt quickly, and use that speed to stay ahead of the competition.

“Where marketing is perceived as a core part of the company,” he said, “my instinct is that the valuation will be higher,” because those marketers are more likely to talk about what's important to customers versus their products' shiny features and functions.

“It's the most exciting time to be in marketing,” Salesforce's Vojvodich said, noting that chief marketers can take a leadership role in reimagining the business and driving the transformation needed to win in the market today.

One essential element for marketers' success in that leadership role? “CEOs must recognize that marketing is actually a skilled position,” Hummel said. “Not just anyone can do it; there's a functional expertise.”

How I Was Seduced by the Bachelor

How I Was Seduced by the Bachelor

About a year ago, my daughter Oona transferred to New York from Cincinnati for work and she moved in with me in my Manhattan apartment. One night Oona threw on a jacket and told me she was going to her brother Jake's place in Brooklyn for a bachelor party. “Oh no,” I thought. “My daughter's a stripper! Where have I gone wrong?” Turned out she was heading there for a Bachelor party, as in the long-running ABC-TV reality show. “Jake's a huge Bachelor fan,” she informed me. “Oh no,” I thought, “My son's a huge Bachelor fan. Where have I gone wrong?”

Fast-forward to the current season of the show, which will culminate on Monday when farmer-boy Chris Soules hands the final rose to the Bachelorette who will, ostensibly, spend the rest of her born days as Chris's wife in Arlington, Iowa—which is about the same fate that awaits some of those 100 misguided souls who were named finalists in the Trip to Mars contest. But back to the Monday of the opening episode: Oona warned me not to plan on moving her 40-inch HDTV off of channel 7 that night. “No problem,” I said, “I've got headphones for my piano and lots of practicing to do.”

Then the show began and lovely young ladies by the limo-load pulled up to the Bachelor mansion and made their cringingly pathetic first passes at Chris, the lone entrée at a state dinner for 25 hormonally charged women. I found myself glancing over at the scene from the keyboard, until the headphones came off and I plopped on the sofa to take in the whole spectacle. I had perceived The Bachelor as fare exclusively designed for millennial women. Suddenly I saw the male appeal to the show. One guy, two dozen ridiculously gorgeous women—an unrealistic fantasy made into reality TV. Bach could wait, The Bachelor couldn't.

Within a couple of weeks, it pains me to admit, I could have fit in with the iPhone crowd in a nail salon. I was handicapping potential brides with the best of the Pinterest set. Kaitlyn, the dance instructor was clearly the choice, I thought. Cute, and with a good sense of humor. I bemoaned the threat to the petroleum reserves posed by the makeup consumption of Ashley I., the virgin Jersey Girl (that's not truly possible, right?). I cherished the singular wackiness of Ashley S., and despised conniving Hollywoodite Britt along with, apparently, 99.9% of the female Bachelor viewing public. But it was when I made a comment one week about Texas widow Kelsey that I realized I had attained true Bachelorhood.

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“I think she killed her husband,” I told my daughter, after this potentially deranged farmer-suitor gleefully bleated what an “amazing story” she had, a story that had climaxed when her husband Sanderson suddenly dropped dead, for reasons apparently unknown to her. Less than a minute later Oona let out a laugh from her side of the couch. “I just texted my friend Lauren what you said about Kelsey, and she thinks she killed him, too!”

Here's where I finally get to the point of why I'm writing about The Bachelor in a marketing publication. I'm an old geezer. When you say the word “bachelorette,” I see the aviator-spectacle-wearing Jim Lange on the set of The Dating Game, circa 1968. When I watch TV, I watch TV. My cell phone is in another room, and I rarely go to it even if it rings. But my daughter and her friends, and by extension, I surmise, millions of others like them stay engaged on their devices throughout the marathon two-hour length of these reality shows. If I make a remark to Oona while we're watching Bachelor, I have become accustomed to allowing for a 20-second delay in response while she finishes texting or reading a text. In my job, I had written several times about the power of second-screens teaming up with televisions to turn the home viewing experience into a powerful targeted marketing occasion. I didn't really believe it until Farmer Chris let me watch him make out with more twentysomething girls than the entire female population within a 100-mile radius of his tractor shed.

My daughter's re-appearance on the home front gave me greater insight into the sheer power of social media, too. My first week on this job about three years ago was nearly my last. I was in the office late writing a story, and my boss had asked me to edit a piece by my young colleague, Elyse. The story was about a Volvo campaign, and she had written that the company's major thrust was to be on Pinterest. I told her that was preposterous (in my indelicate old crusty newspaper hack way), and that Pinterest was but window dressing to a TV campaign. Harsh words were exchanged, some tears shed, and the next day the editor pulled me into an office where I expected to meet a premature demise. Instead, she wisely forbid me from editing anybody's copy anymore. Yes!

Today I have a deepened appreciation for the value of social media as a marketing tool and the only disagreements Elyse and I have are over whether or not eliminated contestant Jillian is on steroids.

So back to the serious stuff. There are only two girls left—Whitney the fertility nurse from Chicago and Virgin No. 2, Becca (above), who's not from Jersey and so actually may be telling the truth. My daughter is positive that Whitney will be Chris's choice. I say Becca. Anyone who's gone 25 years without a steady boyfriend or without having had sex can do 10 years in Arlington standing on her head. I think Chris realizes this, too.

Get Customers to Binge on Your Brand

Get Customers to Binge on Your Brand

Unless you've been completely disconnected from the online world, you know that Netflix released season three of the political drama House of Cards this past Friday. Maybe you even binge watched a few episodes yourself.  

Binge watching should be a rather coveted concept for marketers. After all, what brand wouldn't want to have the number of eyeballs Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright drew for hours on end? And while nothing is as addicting as watching countless hours of your favorite program, here are my four tips for getting customers to binge on your brand.

Leave consumers wanting more.

Remember ABC's drama Lost and how every episode ended with a mind-blowing, what-the-heck-just-happened moment? It was these moments that caused fans to throw their I'll-just-watch-one-more-episode logic aside and completely enrapture themselves in the castaways' lives for hours.

While it's hard to replicate the edge-of-your-seat intensity created by TV dramas, marketers need to find creative ways to create their own captivating moments for consumers that'll lure them back for more. Sometimes, this is achieved through storytelling. Take the daredevil excitement of the Red Bull Stratos jump, for instance, or the what's-going-to-happen-next feeling generated by Bud Light's “Up for Whatever” Super Bowl campaign. Other times, marketers can use timing to keep consumers' attention. Think of the long lines around Apple stores when a new iPhone comes out or the buzz around Starbucks's seasonal drinks like the Pumpkin Spice Latte. It's up to each brand to figure out how they can create their own magnetizing moments and then capitalize on those moments to drive engagement, purchase, and even loyalty or advocacy.

Make it easy for them to find you.

After I returned from a recent trip to Europe, I immediately hit the couch to catch up on my favorite TV shows that I had missed. And whether it was through an app, online, or repeat airings on TV, I was thankfully able to find my not-to-be-missed programs and catch up quickly. 

Marketers should take the same multichannel approach when it comes to their content and campaigns. After all, consumers are on their own schedules—not the brand's—and marketers need to take an always-on approach and be available wherever and whenever consumers are ready to engage with them.

Create a sense of community.

One of the best things about watching a show is the sense of community it creates among viewers. Some shows even have names for their devout audiences, like ABC's The Bachelor's “Bachelor Nation”—an association I am proud to be a part of. Having places where people can talk about the show, such as through social media or viewing parties, drives word-of-mouth promotion and deepens their connection with the show.

Likewise, it's important for marketers to have places where consumers can talk about their brand freely, whether it's again through social media, events, or forums. Doing so, again, generates word-of-mouth marketing, as well as engagement. It can also help brands identify who their true advocates are. However, it's important for brands to make these places a true breeding ground for organic conversations. Deleting comments or restricting conversations—other than ones that go against social networks' regulations—can make it seem like a brand is trying to have too much control and make consumers feel like their real opinions aren't being heard.

Incorporate some consistent elements.

As much as people love a good plot twist, people watch shows because they consistently deliver certain qualities. For instance, when I watch The Bachelor, I expect to see a lot of crying, marvel over unrealistic dates, and hear the words “journey” and “amazing” in every episode. But, hey, that's what I love.

Similarly, I hold the same consistency standards with my favorite brands. For example, I expect my burrito bowls at Chipotle to be mouthwateringly delicious every time I order them, and I expect to receive two free checked bags every time that I fly Southwest Airlines. Consumers become loyal to brands for a number of reasons, whether it's their customer experience, the quality of their product, or their convenience. Whatever the reason, it's important for brands to pinpoint why customers are loyal to them and continuously deliver upon those expectations. Failing to do so can make consumers question what the brand stands for and tune it out for good.

The Variances of Viral

The Variances of Viral

Mere hours after the Internet became an official public utility in the U.S., the Web experienced two of the most sensationalized viral events so far this year; one in the form of two runaway llamas and another worldwide debate about a (blue-and-black) dress.These social media singularities represent the latest, and perhaps strongest, examples of social media's profound ability to generate awareness—quickly.

Marketers have been courting virality since the advent of meme culture and social media but made little progress in establishing defined, surefire steps to create an Internet sensation.  In many ways, that's how it's supposed to be. Few brands successfully aligned themselves with 2013's Harlem Shake craze. Fewer still successfully latched on to Kim Kardashian's wave after she broke the Internet late last year. For the most part, marketers experience viral content the same way as consumers do—in the passenger's seat and after the fact.

Sure, anomalies do exist; the most prominent example is last summer's Ice Bucket Challenge, which the ALS Association co-opted into the premiere example of viral marketing. But, there are levels and variances in viral content. While marketers may want their offerings to become the next Dress, there's nothing wrong with being the next Oreo.

The Direct Marketing News team has written several articles and blogs about how to catalyze a modest level of virality in marketing content, as well as how best to conduct a brand's social persona once a message has gone viral—whether for better or worse. Take a look at some of my favorite viral marketing coverage from DM News.



Turn a #Hashtag Into a Brand

Turn a #Hashtag Into a Brand


I
f you've been following my work during the past year, you may have noticed that I like to write about social media—a lot. Particularly, I've been harboring on the power of hashtags and what they can do for brands. The truth is that I can't talk about hashtags enough. Whether for nonprofits, for-profits, startups or established businesses, hashtags are the social amplification of a message or movement.

Simply put: Hashtags can build a brand.

Driving home this point was a fervent panel at Social Media Week in New York for the Friday session entitled “Turning a Hashtag Into a Brand”. The speakers—all of whom, at least in part, built their brands with hashtags—shared a few golden nuggets to an audience of about 200 listeners on the open floor of Highline Stages in the Meatpacking District. All have created social messages that, several times over, have gone viral; and each stressed the untapped potential of social media.

Here, I've culled just a few of the more poignant sound bites on how hashtags can prompt virality, cultivate a following, and help marketers ride the wave of a movement.

“The hashtag, when added to brands, gives it that boldness—that underline, that power. Even if a brand is new, [a hashtag] gives it power. That's what I love about hashtags.” —Elliott Wilson, CEO of Rap Radar and co-creator of the #CRWN series, which features popular hip-hop artists

“Hashtags give you the unpredictable. With hashtags, you'll discover how much your message or your movement will grow. And they allow you to have that string that's constantly connected to your audience.” —Kazeem Famuyide, founding editor at STASHED and creator of HennyPalooza.com

“How do you own a hashtag? I guarantee that someone has used the hashtag before—at least most of them. So when you choose a hashtag, be comfortable with the content that's already associated with that hashtag. Determine if that content will distract or confuse people. Then own it, and let it go. It's a bit like control and chaos.” —Lauren Fleischer, senior associate brand manager, Mondelēz International

“When you create a hashtag, put your own stamp on it, your own identity on it. You don't have to be the first; just take it to the next level. There's a difference between being the first to do something and being the best at it.” —Famuyide

“With hashtags, you're creating your own world of curation. I'm saying what I think is important, and I get to see what others are talking about.” —Wilson

“You want to be part of the culture. We want to be what others are talking about. Ask how you can infiltrate and then connect in [the audience's] world. Your connection can be through hashtags. You just have to think about what you can bring that's fresh to the culture and to the conversations.” —Fleischer

“As we look out into the future of hashtags, we're going to begin to see hashtags that drive action. Right now, we're using them to spark or enter a conversation. In the future, they'll drive more action for brands.” —Fleischer

“The future of hashtags? More hashtags.” —Wilson

Sales Pros More Likely Than Marketers to Win the CEO Seat

Sales Pros More Likely Than Marketers to Win the CEO Seat


Marketing and sales are infamous for their ongoing rivalry. But could their competitiveness escalate all the way to the C-suite? Marketing and sales automation provider CallidusCloud surveyed global employees from both professions to find out. The results of its "Sales and Marketing Sentiment Survey" (rounded to the nearest whole percentage) may surprise some marketers: 43% of respondents say that sales professionals are more likely than marketers to earn the title of CEO; only 21% of survey participants thought marketers would surpass their sales comrades.

Despite the odds weighing in sales' favor, CallidusCloud SVP and CMO Giles House suspects that the scale would tip more towards marketing were the automation vendor to conduct the survey again next year, mainly due to the department's increased focused on business outcomes.

“There's an accountability to have the leads and processes in place [and] to make sure that the deals are getting done,” he says. “That's something that hasn't been prevalent in the marketing role for a number of years, but it's starting to come into that.”

Still, 36% of respondents believe that marketing and sales professionals have an equal chance of securing the CEO position. And to be honest, neither division is perfect. Consider the following: About 9% of marketing and sales professionals say that they're very satisfied with their counterpart's performance, versus 37% who claim to be somewhat satisfied. What's more, about half of respondents (52%) say that their sales or marketing team is only somewhat successful at achieving sales goals and that they meet or exceed objectives occasionally. In fact, 20% say that their counterpart is somewhat disappointing in terms of their effectiveness in meeting sales goals, claiming that they infrequently meet or exceed expectations.

Marketing automation is one area in which both departments need to improve. According to CallidusCloud's data, one third of respondents have less than 25% of their sales and marketing processes successfully automated.

“I think that we're just at the beginning of it all,” House says. “A third is a good start. But even in that third, I think that it's pretty basic entry-level alignment processes. The technology that's out there, certainly in the marketing space, far outstrips what people are ready for.”

Indeed the increased reliance on data and technology has caused marketers to shift from simply fulfilling a creative role to serving more of an operations one, he says.

“It's not, who's a hardcore veteran of the industry who has been doing demand-gen programs for 10 years...? It's more, who's analytical enough to pull together the reports and shift through the data? Who's got the program management skills to be able to put these integrated campaigns together?” House explains.

One challenge marketing and sales teams face in terms of collaborating is that their teams take a siloed approach to technology. According to CallidusCloud, 41% of respondents have separate applications in sales and marketing, versus 31% whose company has a single integrated sales and marketing suite. Additionally, 16% of survey participants say that one department has automation while the other operates manually or uses spreadsheets and 12% say that both departments run this way.

Data analytics is another area in which both departments face challenges. Although 36% of respondents say that analytics has changed their team's marketing or sales practices significantly, 28% of respondents say that others in their company don't understand the value of data, and 23% say that they can't make their data actionable. Furthermore, 22% say that they can't guarantee the quality of their data, and 20% say that they don't have the right skills to analyze their data.

Marketing and sales alignment is essential to tackling these challenges, and data accessibility is at the center of this alignment.

“Being able to pull the data together, being able to get at the data easily, and consistently having the data available [are] the key[s] to being able to understand it,” House says. “If every week you're looking at a different set of data [or] format and there's no connection to the other things--[such as] the other programs or other tactics that are happening--then you're really kind of shooting in the dark.”

CallidusCloud's data suggests that marketers are doing well in the data sharing realm. About half (48%) of respondents share some reports between sales and marketing, and 37% say that their data is fully shared across the two divisions. However, 14% admit that their data is siloed between the departments.

And although 56% of professionals surveyed say their marketing and sales teams are somewhat aligned, House suspects that “they're probably not as aligned as they could be” and that there's just likely “some basic stuff going on.” Being fully aligned, he says, is ensuring that all of the lead processes, definitions, and priorities are in sync across departments and match up with customers' behaviors and conversations.  

“It's having the whole lead management process buttoned up,” he says.

Granted, becoming a fully-aligned organization doesn't happen overnight. However, House advises marketing and sales professionals to spend a day walking in the other's shoes, such as by having marketers hop on a few sales calls. Doing so, House says, can provide a good source of honest, anecdotal feedback.

“The campaign people should still try to join sales calls and see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears what's working in the field [and] what challenges customers are having,” he says, “because the best source of information about your customers is from your customers.” 

Who'll Pay the Price of Beauty (and Privacy) on Ello?

Who'll Pay the Price of Beauty (and Privacy) on Ello?

Post-modern posts on Ello, this one courtesy of artist Mark Lovejoy

Rene Alegria has what tens of thousands of middle class immigrants streaming into New York City from the cultural deserts of America's Heartland can only dream of--a cheap apartment with nice landlords in a brownstone on the Lower East Side. On this day, however, he speaks to us from his new outpost in snowy Burlington, VT. He misses the city, yes, but he's on a mission. He's a marketing guy figuring out a way to commercially sustain a social network called Ello that accepts no advertising in order to keep users' personal data out of the hands of the world at large. So that if one, for instance, has seen Fifty Shades of Grey seven times and visited a B&D site to purchase four-way restraints and an Arabian leather whip, no one's the wiser for it. (I said one.)

“We don't collect data, we don't serve ads. Whoever enters Ello cannot serve ads on the network. There's a growing frustration about what social networks have become, and what they've become are advertising platforms,” says Alegria, who previously was the CEO of Mamiverse, a digital platform for Latina moms, and the founding publisher of Rayo/Harpercollins, a Latino book imprint.

Problem is, there's this social network called Facebook that's got 1.3 billion active monthly users and has Facebook Ads and Facebook Audience Networks and rides herd over a global ad empire David Ogilvy never saw coming. And you have Twitter, whose survival is continually questioned by media pundits noting that it has merely 115 million monthly actives, hardly scalable.

“Our aim is not to have 2 billion people. Our goal is to have a social network with a different, positive vibe. People who are happy with each other,” says Alegria. When you sign up for Ello, you're presented with a set of Utopian rules: Don't threaten people, don't hate, don't post others' personal information. Repeat offenders are warned they will be asked to leave the digital love-in.

But Alegria maintains that Ello--which is still in beta and which he claims signed up a quarter-million new users last week—does have a monetization plan. He's a bit sketchy on exactly what form it will take, however. The site caters to an arty set—and know this--the site is visually beautiful, a digital monument to the myriad undiscovered artistic talents in the world, an example of which heads this story. Artists are allowed to sell their art, and the monetization vision appears to be something along the lines of a social art marketplace in which Ello will extract a percentage of transactions.

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“We're not a not-for-profit, but we feel strongly there's a better way of doing business in this world,”  proclaims Alegria (pictured below). “A lot of artists and celebrities have grown disillusioned with Facebook. We will never manipulate our algorithms. One hundred percent of the followers of any profile will see 100% of the posts.”

Digital marketing experts are skeptical. “I think it's a shallow promise. It's not filling a need in a new way. Artists have Tumblr and Etsy on which to demonstrate and sell their work,” says SapientNitro's Global Head of Social Experience Nathaniel Perez. “You can't survive on a warm and fuzzy premise alone, regardless of what it means to users.”

Adds 3Q Digital COO Dave Yoo: “I'm not convinced that the ad-free model will sustain. It hasn't yet virally exploded for others that preached this model—like App.net and Diaspora—and Ello is relying on a passionate response to ad-free from the get-go."

For its part, Ello has a founder with a track record of succeeding with offbeat ideas. While still at Yale working on an art degree, Paul Budnitz sold artistically modified items of apparel in museum stores worldwide, a transmogrified pair of Air Jordans fetching as much as $16,000 a pair in Japan. He later founded the highly successful company Kidrobot, which blurred the lines between toys and art. "My grandfather was a small-town doctor and he used to say that I was missing a gene that told me that some giant risk I am about to take with my life is both stupid and dangerous,” wrote Budnitz on the website of another of his ventures, Budnitz Bicycles. “I'm grateful for this. Everything beautiful that we create in life requires a leap of faith."

I'm rooting for Budnitz and Ello. I' m not as smart or creative or successful as he is, but I have something that the drivers of social media—members of the now-dominant Millennial Generation—don't have. As a Boomer, I remember a time when some dashboard jockey at an e-com in Oakland didn't know what I had for dinner, what my cat's name was, and what I bought from Macy's and Corona Cigar Company last month. I remember when you could “share” a secret with a friend and not have it broadcast to the world, when you could slide by a red light at two in the morning and not get a ticket in the mail with a picture of yourself in mid-perpetration.

So I'm hopeful that, some way or another, people longing to recapture the lost joy of anonymity will prove the digital agency guys wrong and find a way to make Ello survive and thrive. There will most certainly come a time when social media addicts will long to embrace the warm, safe feeling of being nobody. In the words of the great Emily Dickinson, “How dreary—to be—Somebody! How public—like a Frog.”

Also, if this doesn't work, I'm going to have to…. I mean one is going to have to… make certain purchases the old-fashioned way--in a store, at night, wearing a hoodie.

How Enthusiasts Have Disrupted Marketing

How Enthusiasts Have Disrupted Marketing

Brand advocacy may be one of marketers' most coveted achievements in today's increasingly digital and social world. I'd argue that this relationship between brands and people has evolved, and now extends far beyond advocacy for a particular brand or product. As SyFy President Dave Howe said during last year's Advertising Week, we're living in the age of the superfan.

It is this culture of passionate enthusiasts that helped grow the video game streaming service Twitch into a $1 billion purchase for Amazon last year; an acquisition made necessary by Twitch's broadcast TV-level traffic during prime time. Examples abound, actually. The infamous console wars between fans of Sony's Playstation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One, which both translated to millions of units sold worldwide within months. The renowned success of fitness products such as Nike's Fuelband, Fitbit, and the health culture that gave rise to such gadgets. The comic book and movie fans who came out in the billions to support Marvel's Avengers, or Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. The numerous and passionate sports fans who helped turn the Super Bowl into one of the premier marketing events of the year. Reddit, with its thousands of micro-communities, each of which functioning as a hub for enthusiasts—advocates—to gather.

Marketers must now not only pay attention to these powerful communities, they must ingratiate themselves in them. When doing so, marketers should consider the following:


Lurk in the right places

Whether it's a Reddit community, forums, or a hashtag, marketers should make sure they have fingers on the pulse of their community and boots on the ground actively engaging with people who have a need for their product or service. Listen to these people, analyze the vernacular of the community, and watch how they react to mentions of your brand.

Be relevant

I mean beyond targeting ads correctly. Tailor campaigns and tackle issues relevant to the people. By monitoring the chatter of enthusiasts in their field marketers can learn which products they should promote, or even purse, in the first place. If marketers, for example, are near unanimous in their desire for centralized data solutions, promoting another fragmented software solution may not be the best move.

Prioritize excellence

As an enthusiast in several categories myself, if there's one thing I can't abide it's mediocre products or services. Far too many brands develop and promote products that are clear carbon copies of other products. People invested in your space, who live and breathe what your company creates, will notice this. No one likes a copycat. Worse still is a copy that's inferior in every way to the original.

Marketing From the Inside Out

Marketing From the Inside Out

Music is all about feelings—gut feelings.

Think about it. Musicians create melodies and write lyrics to convey their feelings or the emotions of those around them—and even to portray shared thoughts and movements within massive groups of people. The most skilled artists use sounds and words, not only to tell stories but to create deep connections with their fans.

Few musicians do this better than underground artists—both in rock and hip-hop. Recently my coworker—DMN's Digital Content Coordinator Perry Simpson—introduced me to mixtapes. Although I'd heard of them before, I had never actually listened to one.

Mixtapes are compilations of music produced by an artist. They're usually released online, for free. So, the idea is that an entertainer will create an entire album—i.e. drop a mixtape—and fans will download the free album, listen to it, rave about it, and then share it. Subsequently, they help build some much-needed buzz, bolster the musician's reputation, and increase the fanbase. That super-connected, passionate fanbase enables the artist to: one, get a record deal with a major label. And two, get a head start in marketing to the masses, rather than trying to release a commercial album and then build a following from scratch.

Interestingly, even some of the most commercially successful artists are dropping mixtapes, despite having impressive album sales and accolades; it's a marketing strategy meant to spark those same fervent, coveted reactions from music's most devout. Recently, Grammy-winning recording artist Drake released his fourth official mixtape, entitled If You're Reading This It's Too Late.

Drake's surprise album set records on Spotify.

Representatives for Spotify say the rapper's new mixtape set the record for most streams from a U.S. album in its debut week; fans streamed it more than 17 million times—in just three days.

A photo posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

So why would an established musician—who's already sold millions of albums and won dozens of awards—release a mixtape?

It's because Drake (and many other musicians) has learned how to market from the inside out. One of the best ways to build hype around an album, a product, your service, or a brand is to galvanize a base group of listeners, users, shoppers, or prospects. Rather than creating a product and then trying to market it, marketers must build brand affinity by connecting with consumers—first. Share your ethos and draw like-minded people to your brand and its core belief system. It's an effective strategy, even if you're a marketer for an established brand.

You can foster those ties with current and potential customers by creating forums (both virtual and on-site) where consumers can link up and share sentiments. Develop a movement that people can believe in. Tackle social issues that attract fervent sets of your target audience. These passionate consumers will be some of your best advocates and devoted customers.

This wily strategy has even worked on me. For weeks (OK, I'll admit it—months), I've been streaming free mixtapes from an up-and-coming artist, Logic, who in October released his first commercial album. I bought the album, convinced my twin sister to buy one too, and now we have two tickets to his New York concert in March. I'll talk about Logic to anyone who'll listen. I'm an advocate for the Logic brand.

You can do the same. Market from the inside out and get more bang for your marketing bucks. Spend the time to create those die-hard brand advocates. They're the fuel in the word-of-mouth engine. If you do so, you'll find that you're able to energize your target customers more than any batch-and-blast campaign ever could.

Data-Driven Marketing: Oxymoron or Reality?

Data-Driven Marketing: Oxymoron or Reality?

 

Data-driven marketing seems to be more panacea than reality. Despite the fact that 78% of more than 1,500 marketers surveyed by Teradata for its “2015 Global Data-Driven Marketing Survey” claim that data-driven marketing is either embedded in their organization or is strategic, only 50% routinely use it to personalize their marketing messages and offers to improve their customer experience.  Yet, 87% of respondents consider data to be the most underutilized asset in marketing organizations.

Further, 38% of marketers surveyed say their biggest challenges are customer acquisition and retention, followed by proving their support of corporate goals (29%), and meeting regulatory compliance (26%). And, for two thirds of respondents, one significant benefit of using data is faster, more accurate decision making. In fact, 45% leverage data to measure ROI and 41% believe that using the insights from data-driven marketing would help better allocate budgets for marketing activities. But only 3% of those surveyed consider proving the effectiveness of marketing a priority.

Is it surprising, then, that 90% of respondent say that individualized marketing should be a priority? Perhaps “should” is the key word here.

According to the report, responds claim that they want to use data-driven marketing “to move beyond segmentation to true one-to-one personalization in a real-time context.” Clearly, this is a long-term goal. At least the passion for relevant marketing is there.

But, there's action too; it's not just rhetoric.

Marketers surveyed have more than doubled their use of data-driven marketing over the past year and a half. And, 78% of those surveyed are using data systematically. One advantage that some respondents have in terms of making data-driven marketing a reality is data ownership: 43% say they control their company's customer data.

Even so, although 83% of respondent marketers claim that they take an omnichannel approach to reaching their customers, 44% admit inconsistency in their omnichannel marketing efforts. Further, 80% say that silos within the marketing organization prevent them from determining how campaigns are performing across the different channels they're using. But 43% of respondents say they're satisfied to have achieved a fully integrated view of the customer across different teams.

Despite the extent to which marketers are currently using data-driven marketing, many of them are feeling the heat. Nearly half (49%) of marketing executives surveyed say they feel significant pressure to become data-driven.

T-Minus 10 Years and Counting: MarTech's About to Blast Off

T-Minus 10 Years and Counting: MarTech's About to Blast Off

Currently worldwide, about a $1 trillion is spent by brands to market their products. Almost half is spent on advertising. Marketing services grabs about a third of that total and agencies account for 12%. Software and other tech tools merit a piddly $10 billion, or about 1%.

But that lineup is going to be shaken up in the coming decade, according to a new report from Foundation Capital, a VC firm that was an early investor in more than 60 technology-based companies, among them Netflix and Responsys. The company predicts that advertising and the agencies that enable it will begin to crumble in the oncoming, data-driven digital earthquake, and that the biggest beneficiary of the rebuilding of the marketing edifice will be technology. Foundation predicts that tech's share of the pie will multiply 10x by 2025, to an estimated $120 billion.

“The underlying drive behind this eventuality is the shift in consumer behavior to an all-digital world,” says Foundation General Partner Ashu Garg. “I think we all know it, but most of us don't realize how fundamental this shift is and how organizations will be shaken up in the coming decade. The pursuit of customer satisfaction is going to blur the lines of sales, marketing, and all other disciplines.”

Foundation predicts that in 2025:

  • The value of context and, by way of association, media, will decline dramatically. Super Bowl ads will be worth half what they are now.
  • Agency fees will be flat to declining.
  • Direct mail will survive but decline; other marketing services will be digitized and automated.

Foundation, which has thrived for 20 years forecasting the fortunes of tech startups, sees marketers needing more powerful technology to stitch together disparate data and distribute it cross-channel, to measure the relative effectiveness of each touchpoint on the path to purchases, and to make informed recommendations to optimize efforts and strategies in real time.

Garg counsels CMOs of the future to hire Math Men, not Mad Men. “Chief marketers will lead the way and make fundamental changes in their organizational structures. They'll be in charge of the data, and the data will be the number one drivers of change,” he says. “They'll become the C-little E-Os—the chief experience officers—and in time many will become the CEO.”

10 Ways to Create a Stellar Customer Experience—and Host an Awesome Party

10 Ways to Create a Stellar Customer Experience—and Host an Awesome Party

I love to entertain. Whether I'm hosting an around-the-world wine tasting soiree to celebrate the Olympics or a chili and scary movie night for Halloween, I'll throw a party for almost any occasion. But being a good hostess comes with great responsibility. And as I thought about it, I realized that many hosting responsibilities align with creating top-notch customer experiences. Your customers are your guests after all and they should be treated as such. So, here are my 10 tips for how to be a perfect hostess, whether in your home or for your brand.

1. Plan ahead: Hosting a successful event requires thoughtful planning. From the theme and the date to the guest list and the menu, every element (and its cost) needs to be considered. And while it's often the details that make an event stand out, it's important not to get so caught up in the nuances that you feel stuck and don't make any decisions at all.

The customer experience should be thought of in the same way. Life stages, touchpoints, and calls-to-action all need to be planned out, and costs for each initiative should be budgeted. And although the objectives and strategies should be mapped out, it's OK if marketers don't have every subject line or social post squared away—that's what testing is for.

2. Remember, timing is everything: When hosting a party, timing is of the essence. The host needs to allocate enough time for the wine to chill, for the appetizers to cook, and for the house to be cleaned (my least favorite part). If the timing is off, the host could end up serving warm wine in smudged glasses.

Timing is also crucial in marketing. Sending an email immediately after a customer visits your website screams creepy, but waiting too long to follow up on a prospective lead can cause a company to lose a sale all together. And getting timing right applies in all channels. I can't even tell you how many times I've abandoned an in-store shopping experience because an overly energetic salesperson approached me the second I picked up an item. Clearly, it's vital for marketers to not only consider how they engage with their customers but also when.

3. Offer a variety: Not every guest has the same tastes or dietary restrictions. So, it's always important to offer a variety of options. For example, I like to have both red and white wines at my events to satisfy everyone. Likewise, if I serve a heavy dinner I'll try to balance it out with a lighter appetizer or dessert.

In marketing, not all customers share the same contact preferences. Some enjoy a lot of engagement; others prefer minimal contact, for example. A preference center can be a great tool to find out which channels consumers prefer to engage with and how often. And because today's consumers are always connected, it's important to offer them a variety of touchpoints so that they can interact with a brand wherever they are and at whatever time they prefer.

4. Be clear: As the world becomes more digital, I find myself missing the days of the mailed invitation. They presented all of the necessary party information in such a clear, concise, and attractive way. Now, people just skim over Facebook events or Evites, which can cause them to overlook crucial details. So, when inviting people to a party digitally, it's important for the host to make sure that all of the key information—like if there's a theme or if the party is a surprise—is displayed at the top where people will see it (not buried in the middle or at the bottom). This will help guests know what to expect.

Clarity is essential in marketing, as well.  For instance, having separate prices in-store and online will only confuse customers and lead to frustration. Also, brands need to be up-front with customers in terms of the data that they collect and how it's being used to prevent any unwanted surprises.

5. Set the tone: Are you throwing a 1920s mixer? Make sure to throw on a flapper dress. Hosting a relaxing dinner? Create a chill playlist and light some candles. A good host always sets the tone for her party and helps her guests follow suit.

Marketers need to do the same with their customers. If you want customers to click-through an email, make sure that it has a clear call-to-action. Similarly, if you want customers to provide more data, clearly explain the value exchange that they'll get in return. Customers can't read marketers' minds, so it's important for marketers to state their intents and guide customers down the path to purchase. 

6. Make everyone feel welcomed: It's always easy to spend the whole night chatting with your closest friends at a party. But as a host, it's your responsibility to talk to everyone and ensure that they feel comfortable. Did your significant other bring a few coworkers to the bash? Introduce yourself, ask them if they need anything, chat a little, and thank them for coming. Who knows? You may even make a new friend. Guests who feel unwanted or socially awkward will usually flee the party quickly—and nobody wants that.

Often, marketers devote all of their time and resources to new customers and leave their existing customers on the side. This favoritism can make patrons feel undervalued and result in the company losing business. Clearly define your life cycle so you know where each customer is in her journey, and then develop targeted and relevant communications for each phase so everyone feels included.

7. Don't panic when things go wrong: If there's one thing that I've learned about party planning over the years, it's that things rarely go exactly as planned. People cancel last minute; spills happen; the weather is less than ideal. It's up to the host to remain calm, find a solution, and keep guests at ease—because if the host panics, the guests will panic, too.

As marketers well know, the industry is full of challenges. From lower than expected campaign results to rising unsubscribe rates, it's important for marketers to stay calm, identify the problem, and work towards a solution. If a brand appears frantic, customers will become concerned and only elevate the problem with inquiries and complaints.

8. Take feedback in stride: People love to talk about parties—both the good and the bad. Think of how many times you've heard people complaining about the food at a wedding, for instance. Generally, negative feedback doesn't get back to the host as it can come off as rude. But if it does, it's important to consider the guest's comments. Was your food a little burnt? Was the temperature a bit too cold for your outside soiree? This is all valuable insight that you can apply to your next gathering. Positive feedback is important, too. Did you get a lot of compliments on your bean dip? Maybe bring it to the next football game tailgate party. Did people love your flower arrangement? Perhaps you should use that local florist again. The key is to listen to both the good and the bad.

Likewise, as much as marketers love to hear customers rave about their brands, they have to consider both the positive and the negative feedback. Hearing directly from customers is marketers' most valuable source of data. However, listening is only half of the work; acknowledging customers' feedback and then turning their insights into action is a necessary but entirely different feat.

9. Show your appreciation: A little appreciation always goes a long way. Following up with guests and thanking them for attending an event is a polite gesture; plus, knowing that their time and presence was recognized may make them more inclined to attend your next party.

Similarly, it's important for marketers to recognize customers' patronage. Whether they're a lifelong customer or a newbie, just thanking them for doing business with the brand can strengthen their loyalty—not to mention make them more inclined to forgive you when there is a party foul.

10. Don't be afraid to try something new: Everyone loves a good wine and cheese party. But some of my favorite parties have incorporated themes that I've never tried before. For instance, I hosted a really fun Crayola crayon party in college in which everyone had to dress in one color and come up with a name for their shade. Admittedly, some parties have been more successful than others. But trying something new creates a sense of excitement for both the host and the guests, alike.  

In the same way, marketers need to be willing to experiment. Introducing customers to new products, campaigns, or technology generates buzz, which often results in helpful feedback for what's working and what's not. Plus, it inspires teams internally to push the envelope and be innovators in their industry.  

Why Gaming Companies Are Unsung Heroes in Marketing Innovation

Why Gaming Companies Are Unsung Heroes in Marketing Innovation

For all the disruption brought on by open source code banks and coding communities, gaming companies somehow continue to innovate in their marketing.

Brands such as Blizzard, Sony, and Microsoft have shown remarkable tact and agility in today's turbulent digital ecosystem, and have been the drivers of some of the most viral memes and social conversations this side of the ALS Association's famed Ice Bucket Challenge. Beyond that though, games marketers are pushing boundaries using a variety of marketing tactics across a bevy of channels, including physical retail.

Here is some of our recent coverage of the gaming world's innovative takes on marketing staples.


Customer engagement

“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.”

Read the full story here.


Content marketing

“The best marketing doesn't feel like marketing at all,” says Guy Welch, global product manager for Xbox. “We make sure that whatever we put out, including content that's part of a promotional partnership, is worthwhile of our players' time and consistent with the expectations they have of our brand.”

“Welch and Hartman say that game marketing is much more than positioning a disruptive product placement or ad inside a video or mobile gaming experience. It's “using access to a game's customer base to target a segment of the population with relevant content and value,” according to Hartman.”

Read the full story by Natasha Smith here.


Brick-and-mortar retail

“GameStop generated $1.2 billion in trade credits in 2013—76% of which were spent on new games, according to GameStop's April 2014 Investor Day presentation. But the greater attraction is the in-store relationship GameStop forms with its customers. “As an industry, we get so wrapped up in the technology that we lose sight of what we're really trying to accomplish, which is that human relationship,” says Frank Hamlin, who signed on as GameStop's CMO in June 2014.”

“To enhance these relationships and continue to drive customers in-store, GameStop activates its three secret weapons: data from PowerUp Rewards, an enthusiastic gaming community, and an emphasis on convenience.”

Read the full story by Elyse Dupre here.


Multichannel marketing

“Mazda is teamed up with Xbox and, for the second year in a row, the two companies have crafted an interactive campaign that targets two groups: gamers and car lovers—the perfect combination for a passionate base. Marketers have created the Mazda MX-5 Livery Design Contest, which players can find only in Xbox's Forza Horizon 2—an open-world, motorsports video game developed for Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Xbox One.”

Read the full story by Natasha Smith here.

It's Good to Be King—or Chief Marketing Guru

It's Good to Be King—or Chief Marketing Guru

Forget CEO. That's so hum drum. King is far better if you're running the company. And, if you're also the founder, well, you can assign yourself any title you want.

And chief marketing officer? CMOs are practically everywhere these days. Chief marketing guru, that's the way to stand out.

Inspired by the variety of titles I come across when editing DMN's content, I asked Tracey Harilall, our circulation manager, if there was an easy way to dig into our database to find readers with the most creative titles. In my inbox this morning was a list of unusual titles (thanks, Tracey!). Here's a selection of those designations that I thought you might enjoy.

The Chiefs The Rulers
Chief Ambassador Commandista
Chief Entrepreneur Czar
Chief Ideonista Head Wrangler
Chief Imagination Officer King
Chief Marketing Guru President & Relationship Evangelist
Chief Vision Officer Presidential Shlepper

The Specialists
Emailologist
Marketing Data Maven
Master Facilitator
Technology Guru
Web Searchandiser

What cool, crazy, fun, inspiring, or unique marketing titles have you come across?

"Email Is Deceptively Complicated"

"Email Is Deceptively Complicated"

You've probably heard it 1,000 times already, but less is more when it comes to email marketing. The surprising thing about hearing it this time? The advice came from Brennan Carlson, SVP of business development and product strategy at email service provider Lyris, whose job is to provide “input into what we build and how we make money from it.”

When we met to discuss trends in email marketing, Carlson was no holds barred in giving his opinion—pro-email or not. “Email is deceptively complicated, whether it's in-house or in the cloud” he said. “But, it's the Trojan Horse of digital marketing. It delivers the most efficient return in digital marketing; it's a better contributor to website traffic than search and display.”

Better, that is, when done right. “There needs to be a shift in how email is done,” Carlson asserted. “Using email as a bullhorn is not the way to go. Most customers are not on a ‘customer journey' or looking to engage with your brand. Marketers think in touchpoints; customers think, ‘Please don't touch me.' There's lot of talk about customer experience, but most of the action is still company focused.”

One example of that inside-out approach, Carlson said, is customer lifetime value. “CLV is about extracting value from a customer. Marketers need to think about how to deliver value to a customer,” he said, adding that the idea of moving customers and prospects through a purchase funnel is old school. “The supply chain industrialization of marketing is bad. Email drip campaigns are a great concept but they're inhuman. This type of approach misses the point of getting the customer in the center of everything. Marketers need to create a win-win environment. It's time for supply chain managing a pool of customers through to a transaction to be dead.”

Putting customers at the center translates to relevancy, Carlson said. “Relevance isn't just for savvy marketers,” he said. “Everyone needs to be relevant or they'll wind up in the spam filter. You need to know your audience—and know what you don't know.”

Two other assets that email marketers need, according to Carlson: an authentic brand voice (what's the brand's tone and message and how accurately does its email marketing reflect that reality); and  digital marketing prowess, which includes mastery of right tools. Plus, “vendors need to provide a set of tools that [marketers] can build with, so there's more innovation faster,” he said, adding that this is especially important because “email will continue to be a stalwart pillar of digital marketing.”


How a 5-lb. Bag of Gummi Bears Made the World Squat Down and Take Notice

How a 5-lb. Bag of Gummi Bears Made the World Squat Down and Take Notice

Go to Amazon. Type the word “sugar” into the search bar. Unless you are in the Triangulum Galaxy, the first item to appear should be “sugar free gummy bears.” Click on it. Once again, if you're not currently dodging asteroids in your Geonosian Solar Sailor, the first product you will see is a five-pound bag of Haribo Gold-Bears, a “Product of Turkey.” Note the number of customer reviews, which is 1,278 as I view the page. Now search M&M's, the top selling candy in America. If you're reading this prior to February 14th, you will most likely see the limited edition Valentine's Day package leading the selections. You will also notice that the pretty pink package is, like a forlorn lover, awaiting its first review.

There's something strange going on in the State of Amazon—thoroughly rotten, in fact, if you take the time to read some of the reviews, which bring new, digital meaning to the word “scatological.”

“I didn't feel the need to plan my weekend around 5 small gummybears,” opens the initial review by Douglas Pope, who then describes in graphic detail a Gold-Bear induced romp in the men's room before concluding with “So happy with my purchase, would recommend to friends and definitely buying again!” Awarding the Haribo bears five stars and pressing the enter button, Pope set off a low-brow, e-commerce literary competition themed to the laxative effects of the bears. The “Can you top this?” anthology of bathroom humor ranges from the terrible to the terse, such as arturogiovani's authoritative, if xenophobic, précis: “I love Haribo. Usually they are made in Germany and delicious. This product is made in Turkey and made me sick to my stomach!!”

A sure sales killer for Haribo, right? Ah, my friends, not in these Uber-unpredictable times. Nope, according to Shmuli Goldberg, sales of five-pound bags of the jewel-colored, ursine confections could not be better. Goldberg, director of marketing for Feedvisor, an Israeli company that performs on-the-fly Amazon price optimization for a thousand-plus retail companies, says these questionable reviews (a thousand of them five-star) are bringing Turkish Gold-Bears out of hibernation. Essentially, he says, there's no such thing as bad reviews if there are this many of them.

“This is a product that would usually sell a couple of units here and there. Instead, it's doing millions of dollars in sales,” Goldberg says. “The huge number of reviews created false demand within Amazon's platform, and so it moves it higher and higher up on the search list.”

Before you go pulling out your compendium of classic lavatory stall graffiti, know that this is not a phenomenon that can easily be duplicated. The magical element that sends product reviews viral has yet to be discovered. In fact—call it human unpredictability, call it chaos factor—but Feedvisor came across it in its everyday investigation of demand.

More...

 

“We set a price and look at many, many variables. Price elasticity. Future value. Sales,” Goldberg says. “These products kind of buck the trend, but they still follow all the rules of economics. Yes, this is a joke item and a joke page, but it actually sells, so this false economy created by Amazon becomes real over time.”

Real like a rad T-shirt with three wolves on it howling at the moon? The “Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee” is what apparently started all of this. This item that you most expect to see on an episode of Duck Dynasty had 1,451 reviews at press time and, yes, scads of sales, according to Feedvisor. The Internet Ibsen who set off this creative review-writing seminar is the anonymous “Amazon customer.”

After checking to ensure that the shirt would properly cover my girth, I walked from my trailer to Wal-mart with the shirt on and was immediately approached by women. The women knew from the wolves on my shirt that I, like a wolf, am a mysterious loner who knows how to 'howl at the moon' from time to time. The women that approached me wanted to know if I would be their boyfriend and/or give them money for something they called meth. I told them no, because they didn't have enough teeth, and frankly a man with a wolf-shirt shouldn't settle for the first thing that comes to him.

AC hit it out of the park with this summation:

Pros: Fits my girthy frame, has wolves on it, attracts women
Cons: Only 3 wolves (could probably use a few more on the 'guns')
 

There is a lesson for marketers in all this, says Goldberg, and it's probably not what you think it is. The moral of all these terrible tall tales is one you've heard and will continue to hear for the remainder of your careers: Give great customer experience.

“If you work hard to deliver the best customer experience and get good reviews, you will sell more and sell at a higher price,” he says. “Reviews are not ever to be taken lightly.”

Nor are these wolf T-shirts. I think I'm going to go for the black one with the fluorescent green wolves that looks like I'm seeing them through my night vision goggles. Watch for my review.

50 Shades of Grey Area in Marketing

50 Shades of Grey Area in Marketing

Marketing isn't the sexiest industry. But with so much confusion around buzzwords, attribution, and technology, it does leave much to the imagination. So to coincide with the premiere of 50 Shades of Grey this Valentine's Day weekend (I know, I know but go with it) I've decided to compile a list of the 50 shades of grey area in marketing and link to stories that address these provocative perplexities.


1. What's the difference between omnichannel and multichannel?

2. Is there even such a thing as Big Data today, or is it all just data?

3. Is all marketing today direct?

4. Does television actually impact consumer behavior?

5. "If you think Christian Grey had a complicated work relationship, just look at how many organizations' marketing and sales teams communicate—even in successful, growing companies. The marketing industry is still catching up on what truly effective sales/marketing alignment looks like, and because of the baggage that relationship carries, plenty of grey area still exists on how to repair it. We're seeing more organizations adopt a data-centric approach, which is an excellent foundation. But like any relationship, the soft skills matter just as much as cold hard data. Many marketing and sales organizations are still unsure of how to set up proper communication channels with one another, provide and solicit feedback, and share the actions they're taking based on past performance so each team truly feels heard and empowered.” - Corey Eridon, managing editor for HubSpot

6. What is the optimal email send time?

7. What's the right number of emails to send?

8. Is it better to build or buy your list?

9. What's the deal with hashtags? Do they really matter?

10. "A classic gray area in marketing is dissevering between the meanings of social media versus social media marketing versus content marketing versus community management." - Matt Knell, VP of social media and community strategy for About.com

11. Can social actually impact ROI?

12. Is dark social measurable?

13. Is mass marketing a goner?

14. What kind of role do wearables play in today's marketing space?

15. “One of the biggest issues we are facing right now in B2B experiential marketing is the notion that spending and attention should focus away from ‘events' and toward ‘digital' tactics. The reality is that events are digital in so many ways, and the debate should be more about ‘online digital' and ‘offline digital' working closely together to give brands a more complete view of their buyers and prospects—as well as to improve the performance of their marketing communications and content investments.- Kurt Miller, SVP of strategy and planning at George P. Johnson

16. Is direct mail yesterday's news?

17. Are consumer finally OK with sharing their data?

18. Does data help or hurt creativity?

19. Should marketers even track vanity metrics?

20. “The biggest grey area for marketing today is how to apply Big Data—first needing to turn data into insights and then to turn insights into action. There isn't any grey area around Big Data buzz or around marketing recognizing the vital role analytics can play in using this data to improve marketing.Today, the area between storing Big Data and actually doing something with it is murky. Not only is there an unprecedented amount of customer data being generated each day, but consumers are willing to share it. 

According to Gartner, 80% of consumers will collect, track, and barter their personal data for cost savings, convenience, and customization. Their only ask is simpleuse their data to better meet their needs throughout their brand journey. The issue today is that departments within organizations are hoarding their data, with the customer service team, for example, using it to improve their one slice of the customer experience. However this 'tunnel visioned' approach is limiting the overarching potential of the datawhich can deliver powerful customer experiences throughout each person's entire journey, whether in the store, on their tablet, or on the phone with the call center. By sharing all of this data, teams connect all of the analytical dots and, in doing so, obtain a complete picture of each customer so they can serve them the way they demand.”-  Jay Henderson, strategy director of IBM ExperienceOne

21. What will marketing look like in the future?

22. How will Amazon's WorkMail affect marketers?

23. How quickly should marketers send triggered emails?

24. What constitutes as an impression

25. The meaning of personalization remains an area of confusion in the marketing industry. As DMNews has previously reported, marketers define 'personalization' to mean all sorts of different things, ranging from segmenting their lists to 'if this/than that' triggers. True personalization comes from using as much data as is available about the user to drive a dramatically improved customer experience.” – Erik Severinghaus, founder and CEO of SimpleRelevance.

Continued...


26. What about native advertising? What's the right way to do it? 

27. Which year was the year of mobile?

28. Will the USPS ever bounce back?

29. Are preference centers worth the effort?

30.“Though it's far from what Christian Grey is involved with, one area of confusion is that DMA's regulatory guidelines apply only to DMA members. They are in fact enforced across our entire industry, and the worst actors are largely non-members.” - Senny Boone, General Counsel for the Direct Marketing Association

31. Is it sales' fault for not being able to close a deal, or marketing's fault for sending them poor leads?

32. What are the best content marketing metrics?

33. Is DRTV dead?

34. Is consumer spend always the best way to measure loyalty?

35. Don't be handcuffed by IT. Technology is transforming the marketing function, but should marketers go for a best-of-breed approach or integrated stack? Simply put, it doesn't have to be an either-or approach. Marketers can now select integrated platforms that reduce complexity while providing an open ecosystem that gives them the flexibility to quickly and easily add new capabilities. It's a win-win that doesn't require marketers to submit to the IT department or be handcuffed to an individual platform.” - Nick Bell, senior director and modern marketing expert for Oracle Marketing Cloud

36. Can marketers truly track reach?

37.  When do email marketers cross the line between aggressive and intrusive?

38. Who is responsible for educating consumers on their rights to privacy?

39. How can marketers quantify emotion?

40. “Are the consumer and the shopper really the same target?  A grey answer is sometimes. They're not the same in categories like kid's cereal or, for even less obvious reasons, men's shaving. In kids cereals, Mom, the shopper, is heavily influenced by what the kids like or their emotional attachment to the brands, as well as what she personally believes about its nutritional and budget value in the family's breakfast routine. In men's shaving, [Dad] knows what he likes, but [Mom's] doing the shopping 70% of the time and can be persuaded to encourage him to break his routine. In categories like cosmetics and automobiles, the shopper is most often also the consumer but needs to be engaged in a different way when in the active mode of shopping.” - Charlie Anderson, CEO of Shoptology

41. Is personalized marketing the same as customer-centric marketing?

42. Who really owns customer data?

43. At what point does guest blogging turn into spam?

44. What exactly is a data broker and what do they collect?

45. "As we embrace those European adland ways stateside—whether to kiss your client goodbye after the first meetinghow many times should you kiss and is it all dependent on the success of the meeting?" - Patrick Armitage, account director at Victors & Spoils

46. What exactly constitutes as “real-time” marketing?

47. What does a post-marketing world look like?

48. Which touchpoint gets the attribution credit? First click? Last click? 

49. Is retention the same as loyalty?

50. “How will marketing organizations evolve to better meet their customer's needs and requirements for content? Clue: Please use this opportunity to break down silos, rather than add another. Your customer will thank you, if you do.” - David Brown, EVP of MXM

Fashion Chatter Is About to Take Over Social Media

Fashion Chatter Is About to Take Over Social Media

With New York Fashion Week looming, social chatter about fashion and fashion brands will see a marked increase this week, perhaps even more so than it has in the weeks leading up to the semi-annual event. Social engagement with fashion brands—particularly Victoria's Secret, Forever21, and H&M—saw sharp spikes during the last month or so, according to social listening data compiled by customer engagement platform Engagor.

Between December 29 and January 22, Victoria's Secret's brand was mentioned almost 3.5 million times; nearly double Forever21's 1.8 million mentions during the same period, and more than five times H&M's 651,000.

The data ranked Victoria's Secret as the most engaging fashion brand in the past month. H&M and Banana Republic rounded out the top three most engaging brands. This was a feat for Banana Republic, given its 71,000 social mentions in the past 30 days or so.  Most of this social chatter took place on Instagram, with more than 6.3 million mentions occurring on the picture-based social network. Facebook and Twitter split the rest of the social mentions, with 1.4 million taking place on Facebook, and 204,000 happening on Twitter.

At 61%, Banana Republic chatter contained the most positive sentiment, with H&M and Kate Spade not far off at 57%.

This whirlwind of social chatter has been largely contained on mobile, with just 19% occurring over the traditional Web.


(Click to enlarge)

11 Marketing Campaigns That Will Inspire You

11 Marketing Campaigns That Will Inspire You

At one point or another, most marketers have asked themselves this question: How can I make my campaign successful?

And not just meet-the-requirements successful; we're talking over-the-top, abundant, viral success.

The answer, so often, depends on how you define achievement, which varies in every industry and changes at each company. Some marketers are looking to improve customer sentiment and boost social engagement while others work to establish an ethos or directly drive sales.

No matter the aim, reaching a company's end-goals takes a combination of creativity and resources, such as finances and partnerships—all mixed with passion.

In recent weeks, the Direct Marketing News team has culled a host of successful campaigns, ranging from marketers at agile startups to nimble strategists at household names. Each campaign is unique and relevant—qualities that enabled these brands to not just reach but surpass their goals.

Here, I've highlighted some of the more poignant ones. Feel free to share some of your favorite marketing campaigns making waves today.

CMOs Can't Go It Alone

CMOs Can't Go It Alone

Kimberly-Clark marketing tech chief Mayur Gupta (r.) with Al Urbanski of Direct Marketing News.

Tweeted photo courtesy of ion interactive's Scott Brinker, @chiefmartec

"CMOs can't go it alone. They need to partner to succeed." 

Mayur Gupta was referring to the partnership CMOs should have with their CIOs, as well as other key constituents, to deliver an outstanding customer experience when he made that assertion during the opening keynote of DMN's 2015 Marketing&Tech Innovation Summit. Considering his role—global head, marketing technology and innovation, at Kimberly-Clark—Gupta should know. He added that collaboration is just the beginning; marketers need to become technologists (to an extent) and vice versa if they're to successfully help their company meet customers' ever-increasing expectations.  

That sentiment had attendees atwitter, as did Gupta's insight on the roles that data and technology should play in marketing. 


Gupta wasn't the only presenter causing a stir among attendees. With advice, declarations, and revelations flowing from a cast of marketing leaders, #mtis15 was buzzing. Here, just a few of the many tweets that caught my attention:


It Ain't Heavy, It's My Website

It Ain't Heavy, It's My Website

And the load doesn't weigh me down at all. He ain't heavy, he's my brother.  -- The Hollies

Look, it's understandable. Mom's sausage stuffing. Uncle Bob's three-cheese guacamole bacon dip. Your husband's Icebox Cake. You're going to slog through the holidays carrying some extra weight, moving a little slower. But your website?

This past holiday season Internet retailers loaded up their websites like pack mules crossing the Sierra Nevadas. In increasing numbers, shoppers were viewing stuff and buying it on their huge Samsung Galaxies and iPhone Sixes. Verizon introduced LTE, which is 10 times faster than 3G. For online marketers, it truly was Christmas. They crammed product images into their websites as if they were digital versions of the old Sears catalog. As a result, page load times rose to dangerously high levels. According to Catchpoint Systems, desktop load times went from 2.03 seconds during Holiday 2013 to 2.43 in 2014. Mobile load averages, which were a speedy 1.33 seconds in '13 ballooned to 2.17. In a too-fast world, two seconds is the point at which a significant portion of people harrumph and check out another site.

“These websites are starting to look like the 50-pound turkeys on steroids at holiday dinner. If you look at how fast things are getting, load times should be going down. Instead, they're going up!” says Catchpoint CEO Mehdi Daoudi (at left). “The size of some of these images! You ponder what the heck are they thinking.  Maybe the phone has a bigger screen, but it's still a freaking phone on a network that is saturated.”

The proliferation of cell phone towers has not kept pace with either improvements in device technology or the imaginations of eager digital marketers. A product manager loads a cool image, but it's two megs big and he doesn't compress it. Users of iOS are the biggest buyers in the e-com ecosphere, and marketers wanting to accommodate them cram tons of new code into pages for retina display iPads.

“The size of the images is enemy number one,” Daoudi says. “You've got to optimize the images. Size matters.”

Marketers also need to take stock of everything that's happening on their sites on a regular basis. Ghostery, which recently launched an enterprise software version of its “who's on my session?” app for consumers, found that many e-retailers have a dozen or more concerns tagging their sites that they have no idea about. To Daoudi, whether they're authorized third parties or intruders, tags are getting out of control. “They've added up from one or two tags to 50, and they don't add up in a good way,” Daoudi says.

Perhaps marketers should take some inspiration from The Hollies and try to work a little brotherly love into their relationships with IT. “Really, it all goes back to the biggest challenge we face: How does IT and marketing work together?” Daoudi says. “That's the thing, and with all the apps and all the technology we have, we still can't solve it.”

In the meantime, e-commers, the holidays are long gone. It's time to shed some unwanted kilobytes from your sites. Because you're not The Hollies, and your website ain't your brother, it's your business.

Mercedes-Benz Drives Home a Super Bowl Victory

Mercedes-Benz Drives Home a Super Bowl Victory

Super Bowl XLIX was a costly one for marketers. According to The Wall Street Journal, NBC commanded $4.4 to $4.5 million for each 30-second spot. But now that the confetti has fallen and the Lombardi trophy has found a new home, one question remains: Was it worth it?

Like football, there are always marketing winners and losers. And in this year's automotive league, Mercedes-Benz was the one to secure a victory. Car shopping platform Edmunds.com compared its Game Day traffic (from the pre-game show to the after-game show) to previous Sunday averages and discovered that its pages for the 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT experienced a 2,189% increase in cumulative traffic.

Brand

Vehicle

Cumulative Traffic Increase

Mercedes-Benz

AMG GT

2,189%

BMW

i3

583%

Lexus

RC 350

568%

Fiat

500X

503%

Jeep

Renegade

405%


The win was a landslide victory for the zippy, two-door sports car from Mercedes-Benz. In fact, cumulative traffic to the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT pages nearly quadrupled that of the BMW i3—an urban electric car that produced the second highest cumulative traffic increase at 583%.


Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com's senior analyst, attributes the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT's rise in traffic to the fact that the two-seater was one of the newest cars featured in the Super Bowl commercial breaks. The car, however, doesn't officially come on the market until this spring. So as a result, it simply didn't have the brand awareness that other vehicles had, and that lead Super Bowl viewers to do a bit of digging on the Web.

“The biggest thing is that it's a new product, and it's virtually not really known,” Caldwell says. “[As for] the BMW i3, it's for sale. It's not old by any means; it just went on sale, but it's probably something people have a bit more awareness [of]. The AMG GT is probably the most unknown vehicle shown at the Super Bowl, so I think that's why there's such a big lift.”

But when analyzing lifts in site traffic for all of a brand's pages (not just the pages for specific models), Lexus was the winner. The car manufacturer experienced a 37% lift in site traffic; although, Mercedes-Benz was right on its heels with a 36% increase.

 

Brand

Cumulative Traffic Increase

Lexus

37%

Mercedes-Benz

36%

Fiat

35%

MINI

18%

BMW

16%

Chevrolet

13%

Jeep

3%

Kia

2%


“The brand could have had a halo effect because they showed cars that aren't really well known, and they had two spots with the Lexus RC and also the Lexus NX,” Caldwell says.

Actually, the Super Bowl spot for the Lexus RC 350 outperformed its initial commercial for the Lexus NX. The Lexus NX ad, which ran during the second quarter of the game, generated a traffic increase of 341% when compared against Sunday averages during that time period for that same car. However, the Lexus RC 350, which ran in the third quarter, experienced a 5,702% surge compared to the vehicle's normal Sunday averages during that time frame. 


But not all car brands scored the same winning results. Despite Jeep experiencing a 405% increase in cumulative site traffic for its Renegade model, the brand only experienced a 3% increase in cumulative site traffic when looking at all of its pages. However, the Jeep Renegade did receive a 1,031% boost in the third quarter, when it was advertised, and a 5,720% increase in the fourth when compared to normal site traffic during those time frames. Likewise, Kia's Sorento didn't even make the top list for vehicles with the highest cumulative site traffic, and the brand only experienced a 2% lift when looking at all of its pages on Edmunds.com.


Rather than considering these Super Bowl spots failures, Caldwell says that these low figures are most likely the result of existing brand awareness. Plus, she says that these car brands were already experiencing high site visits pre-Super Bowl, especially Jeep because low gas prices have inspired people to look at SUVs.

“I wouldn't say that the ads were ineffective," she says. "There just was a lot of traffic happening anyway."

Other car companies still managed to get their 15 minutes—or rather 30 seconds—of fame. The Fiat 500X, for example, experienced a 3,981% increase in site traffic right after its second quarter ad aired and a 986% lift during the third quarter. Caldwell suspects that this was due to the conversation generated on social media from the racy spot. Chevrolet, which ran four Colorado ads and sponsored the pre-game show, experienced a 25% increase to the vehicle's pages during the pre-game and a 1,104% lift during the first quarter.


The initial question, however, remains: Was the $4.4 to $4.5-million price tag worth it?

It depends on the goals.

If the goal is brand awareness, then yes—especially for brands introducing new vehicles. But if the answer is conversions, car companies may want to think twice before shelling out so much dough.

According to a blog post by Rocketfuel, car companies that advertised during last year's Super Bowl experienced an average increase of 14.9% in conversion rates in four weeks following the game. Although, after looking at Edmunds.com's sales data, the artificial intelligence advertising solution provider reported that the increase “simply mirrored” monthly sales data for the industry overall, suggesting those pricey Super Bowl ads had little to zero impact.

Ultimately, it might be better for car manufacturers to refrain from Super Bowl spending to drive sales, and instead, leverage their dollars to fuel more profitable initiatives.

7 Do's and Don'ts of Email Deliverability

7 Do's and Don'ts of Email Deliverability

                                      

“The more email you send, the less money you'll probably make.”

Why this bold assertion from Spencer Kollas, VP of global deliverability, Experian Marketing Services? During his session at DMA's Email Evolution Conference 2015, Kollas explained that due to the volume of email that Internet service providers (ISPs) need to parse through—99% of which is true spam (i.e., scam mail)—ensuring that your marketing is actually welcomed by your customers is essential. “ISP want to protect their users,” he said.

How welcomed your email messages are is the only aspect of deliverability that marketers need to consider, Kollas explained. There are numerous moving parts of deliverability.

ISP's responsibilities include accreditation, authentication, sending characteristics; the sender's responsibilities include content, reputation, and list management. “Just because you can send emails [to a large group of recipients], doesn't mean you should,” he said.

Kollas reminded attendees that every sender has a reputation—whether good, bad, or questionable. “Just one act can negatively impact your reputation,” he said. “And reputation is everything.” Kollas offered seven do's and don'ts for ensuring email deliverability:

Don't send to dead accounts. Some of these may be spam traps. Better that you have a smaller list of real email addresses than a larger one with useless ones that could hurt your sender reputation.

Don't send to obvious spam traps. There are three types of spam traps. The first is emails with clear typos (for example, “@hotmail” with three l's); Kollas stressed the importance of data quality here. Second are pristine or “honey pot” emails, which some ISPs will seed to see whether companies are using emails scraped from the Web to build their lists. “Be careful of a lack of data associated with an email address,” Kollas said. The third are recycled email addresses. Some providers will give an email address to a new person after only three months of a user canceling his use of it, he explained, adding that this is one of the key reasons that it's essential to keep your email lists clean and fresh.

Don't bounce. As all email marketers know, there are hard and soft bounces; Kollas referred to them as permanent versus temporary bounces. Kollas recommended using a system that can tell the difference between a person who doesn't exist versus the ISP saying, “We think this may be spam, so we're not delivering it.”

Do try to keep complaints to a minimum. Watch frequency and relevancy. Use a welcome message or welcome series to reduce complaints, Kollas said.

Do stay off blacklists. “If you get on Spam House, 80 to 90 percent of your email will be blocked,” Kollas said. He explained that one company wound up on a blacklist after hitting only five bad email addresses out of the millions it sends per day. Again, he asserted, list hygeine is vital.

Do be cautious of your data sources. Reputation management includes ensuring data quality from the get-go. Kollas cited eAppended addresses as a high-risk data source. He said that lead-gen efforts and affiliate marketing are significantly risky sources; one reason is that people may not realize that they're opting in to you versus a partner. Sister-brand permission and in-store checkout POS are moderately risky, he said. And direct newsletter sign-up and registration from online purchases are low-risk data sources.

Do consider engagement. What's your percentage of inactive users (who haven't opened/clicked in more than 12 months) versus engaged users? Find ways to engage unengaged users, Kollas said. Ask customers for more information. Test how much data customers will give to get more personalized emails. But don't ask for information you're not going to use, he said. Trade a benefit for the information you're asking for.

Missy Elliott Called the Best Play During the Super Bowl

Missy Elliott Called the Best Play During the Super Bowl


215212442 by YardieGoals

Everybody's talking about the Big Game—that terrible call on the one-yard line, Tom Brady's fistfull of Super Bowl rings, and the ads. With the Super Bowl comes numerous nuggets of knowledge that marketers can marvel at, or simply pack away for later use. One such nugget has surfaced in the wake of the game's halftime show.

The show was exciting enough on its own—between Katy Perry's fire dress; the stunning light show; the singing, bipedal sharks; and the strolling diamond-beast thing—but the magic wasn't so much in the show as it was in its effect. Perry brought out two of the most celebrated musicians of the 2000s in Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott, the latter absolutely stealing the show. The word-of-mouth and social media buzz that Elliott's three-minute segment generated led to a notable increase in music streams and single sales for the emcee.

Elliott's total streams increased by 676% following the halftime show, according to data from Spotify. Streams of the songs Elliott performed, “Lose Control,” “Get ur Freak On,” and “Work It,” grew by 1396%, 922%, and 896%, respectively, with “Work It” jumping to number 10 on the iTunes top 100 songs list on Monday. Similarly, Kravitz's streams rose by 103%, and Perry's by 85%.

The boost in Elliott's brand isn't unlike that of Oreo's two Super Bowls ago, or Always' last year.

Listen to the Drip, Drip, Drip of Data Leakage

Listen to the Drip, Drip, Drip of Data Leakage

Yesterday was Data Privacy Day in America, a time for all ethical business leaders to unite in a show of goodwill and security regarding people's Personally Identifiable Information. It's a sensible practice, and a necessary one. Like peace on earth, love of your fellow man, and justice for all, it's a noble ideal, though one impossible to fully achieve. Earth Day's like that. It's nice to see hordes of people gathering in parks to promote green lifestyles, but group sings of Big YellowTaxi haven't done much to stem rampant population growth or turn the tide of global warming.

Data leakage is the global warming of the marketing community. Like global warming, its effects are widened and exacerbated by the advance of technology. That complexity is graphically displayed in this illustration supplied by Ghostery CEO Scott Meyer that pictures the flow of data from Sears.com.

 

“The circled areas are areas of concern,” Meyer says. “They're outside the control of the tag manager, Signal. Signal can't directly control them one at a time. Frequently, neither the tag manager nor the brand knows which companies are actually collecting data from the site.”

What makes data leakage nearly uncontrollable is the fact that it often occurs without the intent or even the knowledge of bona fide data partners on a site. More than 100 companies are in the business of putting code on retailers' websites, mostly with the purpose of helping that retailer make more money. But data from an innocent cookie dropped on a visitor to the site could find its way into the hands of an unknown data broker. All the good intentions of an Internet retailer to protect the privacy of its customers can't and won't stop it from being shared with a party far off that retailer's radar.

“The multidirectional arrows emanating from the blue Rubicon circle indicate that these companies are cookie-synching and data is flowing both ways,” Meyer explains. “They are using data collected on other sites to target Sears users, and they are collecting Sears data to target people on other sites.They could be taking data on Sears customers and selling it to Walmart.”

Big retailers are aware of the situation and are taking steps to address it. One of those steps is enlisting the services of companies like Ghostery, which provides e-coms with the digital equivalent of a security cam video showing them what's going on behind the scenes in their online stores. Ghostery, which introduced a privacy tracking app for consumers six years ago, released its enterprise solution a little more than a year ago. Since then it has signed on more than 125 retail clients, including six of the top 20 retailers, according to Meyer.

The irony of the situation is that online businesses have the same privacy problems as online consumers. It's difficult to assure one's customers that it is keeping the data wolves away from their PII when those same wolves are robbing the retailers' hen houses.

Happy Day After Data Privacy Day!

5 Ways to Deflate Your Marketing Strategy

5 Ways to Deflate Your Marketing Strategy

The Super Bowl is just around the corner. But instead of discussing Richard Sherman's elbow sprain or Tom Brady's potential fourth Super Bowl ring, all of the attention has been around "Deflategate"—allegations that the New England Patriots intentionally deflated the footballs used in the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts. 

I mentioned the upcoming game during an interview with Sergio Balegno—the CEO of Ascend2 and a Patriots fan. In his mind, the Patriots are in a lose-lose situation: If the Patriots win, people are going to say it's because the team cheated. If the team loses, people are going to say it's because the team couldn't cheat. 

No brand ever wants to find itself in a lose-lose situation, or face this kind of animosity from the public. So, here are five pitfalls marketers should avoid that could otherwise result in a deflated marketing strategy.

1. Silos

A lack of interdepartmental communication is never a good thing—just ask Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the equipment managers (and now maybe the locker room attendant?). Indeed, working in silos can result in delayed work flow, confusion, repetitive processes, and gaps in information. 

2. Only looking at data that supports your theories

When Bill Belichick revealed the results from the Patriots' study a few days ago, it appeared as though atmospheric conditions were indeed the cause of the deflated footballs—that is until Bill Nye the Science Guy and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson disproved his theories. 

Marketers should always use data to back up their calls. However, it's vital that they look at all of the data available—not just the information that supports their claims. In fact, finding data that disproves a theory can be just as valuable as uncovering data that favors it.

3. Lack of attribution

This whole Deflategate dilemma is the result of a lack of attribution: No one knows (or will admit) who had the footballs last. 

Marketers often struggle with attribution themselves. Failing to connect the dots prevents marketers from identifying problems or crediting successes. Instead, all they have left is the blame game—and in this game, there are no winners. 

4. Poor communication

When Bill Belichick took the podium at the initial Deflategate press conference, the entire football community expected answers. Instead, all they got were a bunch of “I told you everything I know” responses—thus heightening the skepticism surrounding the controversy.

Like those inquisitive football fans, customers expect answers when a brand messes up. Whether it's a monumental data breach or a single missing package, customers want brands to inform them on the severity of the problem, how it happened, and what the brand is going to do to fix it. Being transparent with customers and updating them frequently helps maintain customer trust.

5. Giving in to external distractions

If the Patriots devote all of their attention to disproving Deflategate, then they won't be able to concentrate on gearing up for the big game and their lack of focus will be their own demise. But while Deflategate may be a nightmare for the Patriots, it's a dream scenario for the Seahawks. With all of the media attention on the controversy, hardly anyone is asking about the Seahawks' injuries or preparation for the game. All the Seattle-based team has to do is keep their heads down and stay focused. 

Likewise, it's important for marketers to keep their overall business objectives in mind and not let hype around shiny objects, industry drama, or internal setbacks distract them from achieving their goals. There's so much in this industry that marketers can't control; it's important to home in on the things they can.

3 Loyalty Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Musicians

3 Loyalty Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Musicians

Fostering customer loyalty has long been among marketers' highest priorities. With  expanding choices, and today's consumers' general empowerment, truly loyal customers are hard to come by. Data helps, and rewards help. But, the game has changed. Today's customers are simply fickle when it comes to brand loyalty, and that goes for nearly every business in every industry.

There is progress, however. Many businesses and industries are experimenting with different ways to cultivate loyalty. Success stories abound, but few seem to look toward the recording industry and its recent penchant for producing fiercely loyal customers; customers who will pay hundreds for an album, or even protest for an album's release.

Here are three lessons I believe marketers can learn from musicians.


Sometimes, no marketing is the best marketing.

Word of mouth has always been a powerful marketing medium. Its power has risen exponentially with the advent of social media, so much so that artists are legitimately benefiting from releasing albums with little to no promotion. Beyonce's self-titled fifth studio release may be the most notable example of this, but it's certainly not the only example.

Carolina rapper J.Cole released his third album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, last December with little promotion outside of an announcement three weeks before the album's release. Cole sold nearly 400,000 copies of the album within the first week of release, and another 100,000 by the second week. Similarly, R&B provocateur D'Angelo broke a near 15-year hiatus last December with the surprise release of his third studio album Black Messiah. Along with universal acclaim, the album sold more than 100,000 copies in its first week.


Give the people what they want, or else.

Few musicians have had a more public, troubled relationship with their record label as Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco has with Atlantic Records. The rapper announced that he had turned in Lasers, his third album, to Atlantic in early 2010. The record was released in 2011, but not before fans petitioned the label. The petition amassed more than 5,000 signatures within a week, growing in number until Atlantic finally conceded a March 2011 release date. Still, thousands of fans gathered outside Atlantic Records' New York office in a peaceful demonstration supporting Fiasco and the forthcoming album.

This happened again last year with Fiasco's fifth album Tetsuo & Youth. Though announced in 2013, Tetsuo & Youth didn't have so much as a rumored released date by October last year. That changed when Anonymous, the infamous hacktivist movement, took to Twitter, threatening to hack Atlantic if it continued to withhold Fiasco's album. The record company relented soon after, and granted Tetsuo & Youth a January 20, 2015 release date.


Leverage the advocacy.

The great thing about loyal customers is, well, their loyalty. When people are truly passionate about a brand or product, they will go to almost any lengths to make it known. The various trending album and song titles are one example of this. Another is the rising trend of charging premium prices for music.

Artists such as Eminem, Nipsey Hussle, and The Wu Tang Clan have each released music that retailed for $100 or more. Nipsey Hussle sold 1,000 copies of his Crenshaw mixtape, even after a free digital release of the same product. Following Hussle's example, Eminem sold out of deluxe packages of The Marshall Mathers LP 2, the Detroit rapper's eighth release, which ranged from $40 to $300. The Wu Tang Clan is rumored to be in talks to auction a secret album for millions later this year. Combine these examples with the steady rise of vinyl record sales, and it becomes clear that music fans are more than willing to pay a premium for their favorite artists' work.

The 5 Biggest Changes in Social Media

The 5 Biggest Changes in Social Media

2015 will be a year of major change for marketers—especially those focused on social media. Much of what we knew about the space just five—or even two—years ago has pretty much been altered or is downright void today. So, in an effort to keep up with the pace of the social evolution, I've highlighted what I feel are the five biggest changes in social attitudes, behaviors, and platforms. Feel free to comment, and tell me some of the changes you're seeing.

No. 1 Marketers are paying the price—literally.
In social's fledgling years, we learned that organic content is king; that is, until Facebook's forever-changing algorithms made it more difficult to reach audiences organically. Today, brands must pay to play. And the price of those ads will likely continue to rise.

Adding insult to injury, Facebook announced last year that it will curtail posts that seem too promotional. So, in the coming months companies will need to increase their Facebook ads (and budgets) to help offset the shorter reach of their unpaid (organic) posts. That content will need to be less self-serving and more consumer-focused.

No. 2 Yes, most everyone is still on Facebook, but more people are using multiple sites.
Let me be clear: Facebook is not dead, as some bloggers continue to proclaim. In fact, Facebook remains the most popular social media platform, with 70% of its users on the site daily. The notable change, however, is that more people are using multiple social media sites. Instagram, for example, increased its users by about 9% from 2013 to 2014, and even surpassed the number of Twitter users in December, reaching more than 300 million. Compare that figure with Twitter's 285 million users.

No. 3 Content on social media is more visual than ever.
Sight, sound, and motion are the pillars of engagement on social. Photo posts simply perform better than text-based posts. In fact, Web analytics company Kissmetrics reports that photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based Facebook posts. A collection of photos is even better. According to marketing software company Wishpond, photo albums get 180% more engagement than the average post.

More people use multiple social media sites

No. 4 The Internet of Things is appearing on social.
Everything seems to be smarter these days; smartphones, smart watches, smart fitness bracelets, smart beds—you name it. Cheap sensors have led to an explosion of smart devices. Many of these devices are sending push notifications to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, a trend sure to continue in 2015.

No. 5 Shopping (finally) comes to social media.
Last summer Facebook and Twitter began to test buy buttons. Strategists for both platforms hope that someday the feature will encourage impulse shoppers, on a massive scale, to purchase everything from sneakers to furniture. Also in the not-so-distant future, these social sites could keep a percentage of those retail sales. Could these sites be the next eBay?

Twitter users

It's All About the Innovation

It's All About the Innovation

I can barely contain my excitement. On January 29 I get to spend the day with a group of modern marketers who are marrying marketing and technology in ways that set the stage for innovation and competitive leadership. But I won't be the only one having all the fun. There will be plenty of opportunity for everyone there to learn what more they can do to innovate their marketing.

Let me give you a sneak peek, because I'm hoping you'll join us.

The confluence of marketing talent I'm talking about is our 2015 Marketing&Tech Innovation Summit in New York. The day is bursting at the seams with sessions that will elucidate and entertain. We kick off with a keynote from Mayur Gupta, global head, marketing technology and innovation, at Kimberly-Clark. During the keynote, Gupta will share the ins and out of his role and how he's helping his company create and sustain a competitive advantage. For marketing execs who are increasingly charged with using technology to push boundaries, this discussion is a can't-miss.

Finalists from our inaugural Marketing&Tech Innovation Awards will also be there, revealing their success secrets. Ryun Lambson, marketing manager at Best Western International; Geoff Sanders, SVP digital marketing, U.S. credit cards, at Citi; and Joseph Wanandi, manager, email marketing - global campaigns and programs, for InterContinental Hotels Group, will talk about how they use technology and data to innovate their email programs. Plus, Jessica Stamer, senior recruiting operations specialist for Cetera Financial Group, and “Stars of MarTech” finalist Siping Roussin, senior manager of optimization and personalization at Lenovo, will discuss how their companies use marketing automation in inventive ways that are delivering a competitive edge.

But we're not stopping there. The day also features special presentations from Mitel CMO Martyn Etherington and Dell Managing Editor Stephanie Losee. Etherington will take us through the journey of modernizing his marketing team, budget, culture, processes, and staffing—which helped double Mitel's shareholder value in the process. As for Losee, she'll share her innovative approach to content marketing. “It's a fluid job; I rarely repeat anything,” she says. “I want to keep innovating.” And that she does. Fortunately, for us, she's going to share her insightful and collaborative approach.

Knowing that many marketers today feel overwhelmed by the array of technologies available, we've assembled a panel of experts to demystify complicated marketing tools. Led by moderator Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, CEO of AirPR, the panel features notable insiders, including Scott Brinker, president, cofounder, and CTO, of ion Interactive—who recently released his 2015 Marketing Technology Landscape supergraphic; Bhavesh Vaghela, CMO of ResponseTap; David Hahn, SVP of product management at Integral Ad Science; and Ari Lewine, cofounder and chief strategy officer at TripleLift.

But wait, there's more…

We wrap up the day with not one, but two special events.

First, Forrester Research VP and Principal Analyst Sheryl Pattek reveals the results of a joint study the research firm conducted with Direct Marketing News on digital marketing maturity. She'll discuss such topics as marketers' top three priorities for marketing in 2015 (spoiler alert: content marketing leads the list), the percentage of overall marketing budget dedicated to experimentation, and the percentage of 2015 marketing budget earmarked for digital. She'll also discuss marketers' overall readiness for an increasingly digital future. Are you prepared?

Next, and the grand finale of the day, is the big reveal of the winners of the 2015 Marketing&Tech Innovation Awards. There will be cheering—and cocktails.

If that isn't enough, there's a host of other sessions to attend and learn from.

The Summit is a must-see event—if I do say so myself.
By the end of the day attendees' notebooks, iPads, and laptops are certain to be overflowing with ideas and to-do's to reignite their marketing. I hope to see you there, notebook at the ready.

"Gone With the Mail?" Postal Museum Readies Mail Industry Saga

"Gone With the Mail?" Postal Museum Readies Mail Industry Saga

When I first noticed the National Postal Museum as I exited the 1st Street entrance of Union Station in Washington, my initial reaction was, “Holy cr*p, that's a lot of stamps.” The white marble, neo-classical edifice takes up the entire block. It served as the Capital's main Post Office from 1914 to 1986. My next thought was that this was a classic misappropriation of federal funds. I mean, in the era of online dating, fantasy football, and Call of Duty, who had either the time or inclination to collect stamps anymore?

But, being the dogged type of fact-ferreting journalist that I am, I ventured into the cavernous palace of postal things to find out—two years later.

First, there's still a working Post Office inside and most of the rest is office space. Only about 100,000 square feet is dedicated to the museum, which is a joint effort of the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Postal Service. Stamps, it turns out, comprise but a small part of the museum collection. In the atrium were two of the first airplanes that ever flew, both in the service of the mails. There was Owney the Dog (left), the mascot of the Railway Mail Service in the late 1800s, stuffed and dressed in a vest of metal postal tags. There was Amelia Earhart's leather flight suit, the handcuffs that Postal Inspection agents used to subdue the Unabomber, and a Seventies era mail sorter that you could operate yourself. The stamp collection didn't disappoint, either. There was the world's first stamp (from 19th Century Britain), four priceless inverted Jennies, and the original art for the Elvis stamp. To put it succinctly, the Postal Museum is a much more interesting place to wait for the 5:05 Northeast Regional to New York than the Au Bon Pain in Union Station.

Here's the big news about the National Postal Museum; the news that will have direct mailers and catalogers spending layovers there by the droves. The museum is hard at work assembling its next big exhibit: “The Mailing Industry.”

“It's the one story we haven't told,” says Museum Director Allen Kane, a 30-plus-year veteran of the Postal Service who ultimately served as its chief marketer. “It's a huge story, and we didn't know how to tell it.”

Now, however, the outline for the narrative is underway. The museum has hired a project director—mail industry veteran Karen McCormick, former president of Fulfillment Express. It has identified a dozen segments of the mailing industry and begun collecting ideas and information from groups such as the National Postal Policy Council, the Mailers' Technical Advisory Committee, and the Volume Mailers Group. The main story points “The Mailing Industry” hopes to present are:

  • How companies and entire industries adapt to serve communication needs through the Postal Service;
  • How entrepreneurs, innovators, and multi-generational family businesses helped enhance and grow commerce channels through the Postal Service;
  • How important the USPS-mailing industry partnership is to the U.S. economy; and
  • How the USPS network helped to build the mailing industry.

The project will first find life as a website, which the Postal Museum is now building. As it transforms the site into a full-blown exhibit, it's looking for involvement from the actors in the mail community who helped develop the story. “There are so many people and families that have been part of this industry for decades,” Kane says. “We'd love to hear what they have to contribute.”

Those interested in being a part of this singular undertaking should contact Karen McCormick at mccormickk@si.edu. Or just stop by next time you're in the Capital. You might be surprised by what you see.

The Secret to Loyalty, According to a Packers Fan

The Secret to Loyalty, According to a Packers Fan

To say that I'm devastated by the Packers' loss to the Seahawks would be an understatement. What appeared to be a Super Bowl-qualifying victory quickly turned into a heart-wrenching defeat in a mere 44 seconds. I spent two hours after the game lying on my bed—replaying Brandon Bostick's mishandling of the ball over and over again and wishing that we had gone for those early touchdowns. 

While I sulked, I tried to pinpoint why exactly I was so upset. I realized that the root of my despair stemmed from one simple fact: It was over. And “it,” I realized, had multiple meanings. “It” wasn't just dreams of winning the Super Bowl (although, I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't part of it). “It” was sitting on the curb outside of the Kettle of Fish Packers bar for hours just to watch a game with fellow fans; “it” was wearing my green-and-gold Packers cap to work after a victory; “it” was singing “The Bears Still Suck” with my friends; and “it” was having the excuse to pig out on brats and Bloody Mary's on game day.

I didn't always feel this passionate about the Packers. Truth be told, I wasn't even a die-hard Packers fan growing up. Sure, I would attend our family's Packers parties and root for the team while living in Wisconsin—it's kind of a sin not to there. But it wasn't until I moved to New York that being a Packers fan took on a whole new meaning. Cheering on the green and gold strengthened my loyalties in related areas, like my home state pride and the sense of community that I formed with other Packers fans.

Just as how most fans don't randomly select which sports team they stand behind, many consumers don't arbitrarily choose which brands they're loyal to. Consumers are loyal to brands because they encompass other things that they're devoted to, like values, hobbies, charitable causes, lifestyles, or even memories with family and friends. And when marketers tap into consumers' extended loyalties, both teams win.

For instance, in a previous blog post, I wrote about how Budweiser, IKEA, Subaru, and KLM leveraged people's loyalty toward their pets to build emotional connections and drive their messaging. Brands can also align with causes that their customers are passionate about and represent the companies' values, like Bank of America's commitment to the Wounded Warrior Project or Teen Vogue and Toyota's devotion to safe driving among teens. Tapping into customers' beliefs can be another way companies drive loyalty. Consider Always' commitment to female empowerment, Dove's focus on Real Beauty, and Honey Maid's inclusion of all family types. Brands can even play off of the pride customers and organizations have for certain geographic locations, like Chrysler's Imported From Detroit 2011 Super Bowl commercial.

Of course, as in any relationship, loyalty has to be a two-way street. After all, customers can't be loyal to brands that don't return the devotion. Brands can show their customers loyalty through a number of forms, including customer appreciation offers, winning service and experiences, and even simple notes thanking them for their patronage.

I know that there's been speculation over whether the Packers will be able to bounce back from this loss, especially with the morale so low. And in my opinion, Green Bay's future is partially determined on how much the team shows its loyalty toward its fans. Packers fans have supported their team through and through. Now, it's up to Green Bay to return the favor by dusting themselves off and giving next season their all. This in turn will further strengthen fans' loyalty toward the team and inspire them to cheer on the Pack once again.

Former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi said it best: “I have been wounded, but not yet slain. I shall lie here and bleed awhile. Then I shall rise and fight again. The title of champion may from time to time fall to others more than ourselves. But the heart, the spirit, and the souls of champions remain in Green Bay.”

Photo Source: Jim Biever & John Harmann, Packers.com

Updated: 1/21 at 1:25 pm, initial paragraph removed.

It's Time for a Marketing Revolution

It's Time for a Marketing Revolution

Fred Studer is on a mission. Recently appointed as CMO of Netsuite, the marketing veteran aims to start a revolution—not just at the cloud technology company, but among all marketers.

“I want to create a movement,” Studer asserts. “How does everyone get as passionate as we are? Marketing has to be perceived as authentically true; to achieve that you need to take a modern marketing approach that's more organic, one that allows you to understand what the customer needs at a specific moment in time and be ready at the moment the customer is to respond.”

The real opportunity, Studer says, is to blur the lines between sales, marketing, and customer care—which includes seamlessly sharing data among those organizations. “If you think about nurturing the customer across the whole lifecycle, you can only do that by having integration across all those teams,” he says, adding that it's essential to have a plan to do so that everyone buys in to. “It's not just about what we want to do with the customer. The customer has shifted to a completely new decision-making process. No longer a sales cycle; it's a buying cycle. We need to engage customers along that buying cycle when it makes the most sense, so we need the right information to engage them at the right time and help them make a decision. Successful marketers are doing more pull than push. It's a switch we've made at Netsuite.”

But that's just the beginning, Studer says. “Brands need a purpose and a differentiated story to create brand advocates who will tell that story,” he says. “Yes, marketers still have to think about efficiency and measures like views and clicks. But there are new measures like specific targeted conversions that are growing in importance.”

Studer, a professed “long-term software monogamist” has held marketing leadership roles at Oracle and Microsoft—most recently as GM of Microsoft Dynamics. “I wanted to join a company that, of course, has great technology and customers, and I saw how wonderful Netsuite is,” he says. “When I met the team, and resellers, everyone was so excited about the possibilities. Now, I want to go meet with as many of our customers as possible; I want to galvanize them to be evangelists who advocate for us.”

But that's not just about getting people to buy Netsuite's software, Studer insists. “We want to genuinely help our clients improve their business and help them help their customers; to be there for them with the right information at the right time. That's the noble purpose I want to encourage among all marketers,” he says, noting that it's something he'll have the opportunity to pursue in his current role. “It's great to join a company led by a passionate marketer; here at Netsuite that's [President and CEO] Zach Nelson. I get a creative genius collaborator willing to reinventing marketing—not just at Netsuite, but across the broader market.”

The Lesser of Marketing's Four P's Rears its Head

The Lesser of Marketing's Four P's Rears its Head

Nearly half of all online traffic to retail websites this past holiday season arrived there via mobile devices. That compares to less than 7% only four years ago, according to the the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark. So do you think all that traffic was due to people reading product reviews? Probably quite a few. Watching brands' video ads? Not so many. Comparing prices? Bingo!

One of the hot topics percolating beneath all the hype on the show floor at the National Retail Federation show in New York this week was price transparency. Price is the least ballyhooed “P” of the famous “Four Ps” of marketing, an element taken for granted among luxury or discount brands, or merely considered an accounting addendum after product, place, and promotion had been established. But consumers and their handheld digital research tools have changed all that. Mobile devices have forced the conversation levels up on pricing.

“Pricing is now the game in data analysis,” said Michael O'Sullivan at the Teradata Booth. He works with the company's Big Data Analytics News Services. “Pricing is what's going to be driving data-driven marketing at retail. It's about putting the power of timing and relevance together to address price.”

Teradata's savviest customers are not stopping at collecting data from cell phone traffic, but from interaction with customers in the aisles and even—with opt-in—fitting rooms. “It's all part of a new movement called ‘clientelling,” O'Sullivan said.

At the LoyaltyOne booth, VP Graeme McVie observed that price transparency is causing disruptions in retailers' pricing and promotion strategies. Most have well-established images as discounters or high-quality providers, but those positionings are being tested by the best-informed shoppers in history. “Many are not pursuing the right price strategies. There's only a small percentage even looking at it,” said McVie, who pointed out that several supermarkets have done away with loyalty programs at a time when they could be the preferred conduit through which to offer personalized pricing to customers.

Price has long been at the forefront of marketing strategies in the UK's compressed retail environment, said Accenture Senior Managing Director Chris Donnelley, who's done a stint for the consulting company in England. “Imagine Albertson's, Kroger, and HEB all operating within a geographic area the size of New England. It's brutal,” he said. “The bottom line is that price is the biggest factor to consider in setting the rest of your marketing strategy. And the two biggest things that marketers can use to compete with in the shadow of price is promotion and customer experience.”

Price is already the most important product metric among buyers. No doubt, it will be receiving a lot more attention from sellers in the coming year.

6 Marketing Lessons From the Packers-Cowboys Game

6 Marketing Lessons From the Packers-Cowboys Game


There are a lot of life lessons in sports: Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose; there's no “i” in team; and practice makes progress. Often, these lessons can be applied to business, including marketing.

After watching last Sunday's Dallas Cowboys versus Green Bay Packers game, and hearing the debates that unfolded from it, I couldn't help but compare the highs and the lows of the game to the trials and tribulations marketers face.  

So, although I'm admittedly a biased Packers fan, here are the six marketing lessons that I took away from this past Sunday's game. 

Identify your weaknesses and use your strengths to overcome them: Every organization has shortcomings, be they siloed departments, restricted budgets, or small staffs. But if marketers want to totally Clay Matthews these limitations, then they need to leverage their strengths to do so.

For instance, Aaron Rodgers' torn/strained calf muscle restricted the Green Bay quarterback's mobility. However, playing mostly in the pocket helped Rodgers prevent any further injury and exert just enough energy to throw a touchdown pass to Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers in the fourth quarter.

Know the rules: From the Canadian Anti-Spam Law to Facebook's ever-changing privacy policies, there are myriad rules and regulations that marketers have to abide by. Having a clear understanding of industry laws can keep marketers out of trouble and feeling more like this:

Instead of like this:

Accept that not everyone is going to agree with you: Not everyone agreed with the call that the pass from Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to wide receiver Dez Bryant was incomplete. Likewise, few marketers will gain buy-in from every executive within their organization. Disputes over campaign ideas, budgets, and strategies will always ensue. The only thing that marketers can do is present data and evidence to support their proposal—just as how Green Bay Coach Mike McCarthy cited the Calvin Johnson rule to backup his challenge.

Remember, just because you're down that doesn't mean that you're out: Near the end of the third quarter the Packers were behind the Cowboys by eight points (13-21). Instead of throwing in the towel, the Packers adjusted their game plan and were able to narrow the gap with a touchdown thrown by Aaron Rodgers to Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams.

Things aren't always going to go the way marketers want them to. Whether it's lower-than-expected open rates or a drop in sales, marketers must always be willing to reassess their strategies, find what's not working, and tackle it head on.

Keep your eye on the prize: Far too often marketers focus on single campaign metrics instead of whether they're actually achieving an organization's overall goals. The same must hold true for football teams and their fans. The Packers can't let one win break their focus on the overall objective: winning the Super Bowl. Likewise, the Cowboys mustn't let one loss detract from all they achieved this season and how they can improve next year.

Always be ready for real-time marketing: This piece of advice is less about the Packers versus Cowboys game and more about the tweet from the Detroit Lions that took place shortly after. Minutes after the controversial call in the fourth quarter (see above) the Detroit Lions sent the following tweet:

The tweet showed an image from a 2010 game in which the Detroit Lions lost to the Chicago Bears also due to the Calvin Johnson rule. While some publications considered the tweet an act of “heartfelt sympathy,” others viewed it as “subtle jab” in reference to last week's game in which the Lions lost to the Cowboys in another controversial call.

My call: It capitalizes on a perfectly-timed opportunity and is real-time marketing at its best. 

Photo Sources (in order they appear): Louis DeLuca, Staff Photographer for The Dallas Morning News; The Onion; SB Nation

Marketing Needs More Polymaths

Marketing Needs More Polymaths

Many consider journalism the last bastion of the professional polymath, which makes sense considering the nature of the work. Journalists live and die by their ability to facilitate discussion and communicate information en masse, which necessitates general knowledge in as many areas as possible. Journalists and marketers have much in common in this regard, yet the terms polymath and marketer are rarely used in a single sentence.

Perhaps it's time for this to change.

The Internet has been a major source of functional and tactical disruption in the marketing industry, much the same as in most other industries, including journalism. The Internet poses a different set of challenges, however, for marketers; challenges that the industry is addressing with increasing aptitude through content marketing, social media, omnichannel marketing, and other means. But there's still room for improvement, particularly when it comes to cultural and technological savvy.

Culture drives the social conversation, and the communities that take part in those conversations. Technology is, of course, the great facilitator. Marketers who are one dimensional  won't get far in a multi-tiered world dominated by culture, community, and technology. It's going to take marketers who are jacks-of-all-trades; those who are informed on the myriad topics that their customers care about. Those areas include:


Culture

Movies, music, politics, sports. These are perhaps the main drivers of online conversation. No matter the business or verticle, your customers are intimately interested in one, or all of these subjects. In a world where relevance rules, marketers must understand and embrace the cultural forces that move their customers.


Community

Polymaths—especially those in communications fields—are known for their general expertise, but when this jack-of-all-trades is a marketer, she must be a master at understanding the inner workings of the community her business represents and serves. Understanding a community begets understanding of the culture of that community.


Technology

There was a time when technology was the sole domain of the curious techie. That time is long past. Consumers follow tech brands, such as Apple and Google, much the same way that they follow a  favorite sports team. From smartphones to 3D printers, marketers cannot afford ignorance in the ever-advancing area of technology.

6 Buzz Phrases Marketers Should Take Seriously in 2015

6 Buzz Phrases Marketers Should Take Seriously in 2015


As a magazine editor, my ear is always to the ground.

I am forever on the hunt for what's in and what's out; what's hot or what's not. One of the best—and most fun—parts of this gig is that I get to listen and report on some of the most impactful trends making waves in the field of marketing and beyond.

Every day, I'm chatting with some of the brightest minds in the business. So I often cull golden nuggets from those conversations about current trends and future movements—sometimes before they begin to pick up momentum.

It's only the second week of January, and already I'm hearing some buzzwords and phrases that, I feel, marketers should have a strong command of. Some of these are continuously relevant from year to year; some are just picking up steam. Over the next few months I'll be delving deeper into several of these topics, so look out for that.

In the meantime, these are just a few buzzwords already rising to the surface. Feel free to leave a comment about what you're hearing.

Attention Metrics
Marketers are constantly looking for metrics that matter. However, page views, link clicks, unique visitors, and even social interactions—such as likes and favorites—just aren't cutting it anymore. These more shallow metrics tend to measure volume rather than consumption of content. This year focus on attention metrics or measurements that track the total time audience members spend with content and their level of engagement. For example, measure the percentage of people who play videos in their entirety. In the words of Chartbeat CEO Tony Hail, “It's no longer just your clicks [that marketers] want; it's your time and attention.”

Dark Social
Tracking Web traffic through search engines or a social network, like Facebook or Twitter, is pretty straightforward. Through methods like cookies, marketers often can tell from where their Web traffic is coming.

But there is one major blind spot: under-the-radar social sharing, i.e. dark social.

Dark social, a term coined by The Atlantic in 2012, is traffic and information that's hard to measure because it's information that's on chat, messaging apps, and in email; it's outside that basic core of the social network ecosystem. The Atlantic reports that most social referrals are done via dark social (69%) and is downright difficult to measure.

Viewability
Marketers no doubt want ad views, but what actually constitutes as a view is up for debate.

In fact, marketers worldwide are investing a gargantuan amount of resources—to the tune of nearly $138 billion last year—just to make sure every ad and video served to an audience has the maximum number of viewable impressions. That investment, according to analysts for eMarketer, will rise to more than $656 billion in digital ad spend by 2018.

But what exactly is viewability?

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has set a standard for viewability; for viewable video impressions, IAB identifies an ad that is at least 50% in view for at least two continuous seconds. For display impressions, it's a minimum of 50% of pixels in view for a minimum of one second. IAB says viewability—the metric that's used to determine whether an ad was seen—is designed to let marketers and advertisers pay only for media that users could possibly and truly see.

Conscious Capitalism
Today, conscious capitalism—also referred to as social marketing and purpose marketing —is a method that brand marketers use to woo potential customers by convincing them that the company is indeed socially responsible and in tune with community needs. Although already a tried-and-true method, a growing number of analysts are calling it the “marketing of the future,” as study after study shows that millennials—the future of most every customer base—are interested in these do-good philosophies. They want to make a difference, so begin to appeal to them now with higher-purpose messaging.

Internet of Things
Researchers say a vast network of data-collecting devices—i.e., the Internet of Things—will enable marketing in the future. This projected rise of embedded and wearable sensors will revolutionize marketing in homes, communities, goods and services, the environment, and even our bodies. Brands should step in and provide services that we wouldn't think of them providing today.

Big Data
This is a perennial—and oft-overused—term in marketing. But marketers should work to get a clear understanding of Big Data. Big Data is a large or diverse set of information that's too massive to use in its current state.

Marketers must learn how to leverage Big Data.

The idea of Big Data carries great promise. If leveraged effectively, Big Data can be a major problem solver. It can improve customer experience, boost customer interaction, increase revenue, reduce costs, and identify breakdowns in infrastructure and the sales funnel.

100 (or so) Ways to Market Better Over the Next 365 Days

100 (or so) Ways to Market Better Over the Next 365 Days

Over the past few weeks the DMN team has compiled some great advice for marketers to consider in 2015. I thought it'd be handy to have it all in one place. So, whether you're looking for what's next in email, what to expect from customers, or what will influence marketing in the coming year, it's all here at your fingertips. Enjoy!

What Will Influence Marketing in 2015? 25 pundits predict the Next Big Thing on the marketing horizon—as well as what, if anything, will disappear.

Marketing Do's and Don'ts for 2015 Here, marketing forecasts, predictions, and recommendations based on insights from nearly 100 analysts, pundits, and practitioners about what to expect in the New Year.

What Marketing Approach Will Be Critical to Master in 2015? Experts recommend where marketers should focus their learning next year—everything from mobile to predictive analytics and from integration to partnership make the list.

How CMOs Can Inspire Marketers in 2015 Words of wisdom marketers can use to motivate their staffs in the New Year.

Advice for the Young Marketer in 2015 Five experienced marketers share what they wish they had known when starting their careers.

What One Change Should Marketers Make in 2015? Marketing experts share their advice on what marketers can do differently to improve their performance next year.

5 Ways to Spend Your 2015 Marketing Budgets Here's some concrete advice on how to make the most of your funds in the New Year.

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Old Postal Soldiers Never Die

Old Postal Soldiers Never Die

Photo: National Postal Museum

Washington got hit with two or three inches of snow on Tuesday morning, which is to say that Washington was semi-paralyzed. At 9 a.m., streets around the Capitol were white and icy as the hired plows from Virginia slowly rolled in. The wait for a cab at Union Station was 40 minutes.

But I waited. I was early for Postmaster General Pat Donahoe's swan song performance at the National Press Club. Even in New York, whose widespread subway network makes storms less of an excuse for late commuters, this accumulation would have delayed any early morning event by at least 20 minutes. But when we squeezed into the small room packed with reporters and photographers and walked to the front row (where, for some reason, people don't like to sit), there sat the PMG, serenely greeting people he knew and waiting to be called to the podium.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…

I flashed back a month or so to an exhibit hall-turned-auditorium holding a few thousand people, and the Harlem Gospel Choir heralding the arrival on the circus-like stage of a Salesforce.com SVP. We cover all forms of direct marketing here at DMN, digital and analog. We don't discriminate; we just write about what works best and when. But I couldn't help thinking as I sat there, watching the Postmaster General blithely accepting being ignored, about Douglas MacArthur's remark to Congress after Truman deposed him as head of forces in Korea. “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”

Postal officials are the polar opposites of digital marketing executives. Siliconites tend to be shooting stars who rise to ungodly heights or burn out before their wisdom teeth have been extracted. Postal executives are long-haulers. Donahoe started as a postal clerk in Pittsburgh 39 years ago. His successor, Megan Brennan began her career as a letter carrier 28 years ago. Chief Information Officer Jim Cochrane has been in the service as long as Donahoe, also starting as a clerk. This career-long devotion to one organization used to be common in the private sector, but no more. The fact that it still exists somewhere is, to this writer at least, heartening.

You see this throughout all levels of the Postal Service and into the printing, equipment, and direct mail agency world entwined with it. So many of the people who work in allied industries (more than a few of them USPS vets themselves) have personal relationships with senior postal executives. There is a high level of postal nerdism in this world, a life-embracing devotion to the logistics and the free-world duty of picking up mail pieces and packages in one place and delivering them to a doorstep, or a palace, or a barnyard.

The nerdism extends to the general populace, as well. Last year nearly 400,000 people visited the National Postal Museum, crammed with loads of cool stuff that you'd never find in, say, a Facebook Museum. There's Owney the dog, the late-19th century mascot of the Railway Postal Service, in the taxidermied flesh. There are some of the first planes ever to take flight, which did so in the service of delivering mail. There are the handcuffs that Postal Inspection agents used to subdue "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski. There is the first stamp ever produced (by England in the 19th century), four priceless “Inverted Jennies,” and the original art for the Elvis stamp—the most purchased of all time. With some time to kill after Donahoe's speech, I stopped by the museum and got a tour from Director Allen Kane, a one-time USPS marketing chief. He started as a letter-sorter in Queens in the Seventies.

Call me old, call me dated, and you won't be wrong. But there's something appealing to me—and I think to most people—about things that can be touched, things that are long-lasting and slow to change. (Anybody recently stick a pine tree in your living room?) That's the Postal Service in a nutshell, and that's not digital marketing, where a new form of message delivery or data collection is born each week, continually spinning the heads of already confused marketing practitioners.

That was, in a way, the leitmotif of the PMG's speech yesterday: Our pockets were rifled by the Treasury, our most profitable product has been superseded by email, Congress doesn't care a whit about us, but you still can't kill us!

Donahoe presided over the Postal Service in a time of great challenge and great change. During his tenure 305 mail processing facilities were consolidated, and 82 more will follow by the end of this month. Some 23,000 delivery routes were eliminated, as were 212,000 positions—all by attrition, as Donahoe was proud to point out. “I remember seeing 100,000 jobs leave Pittsburgh as steel mills closed in the Eighties. That's something that always stayed with me,” he said at the National Press Club event.

There, too, the Postal Service announced that it had set a record of 28 million packages delivered on a single day this holiday season, on December 22. The old soldier will now fade away but, Donahoe vowed, the Postal Service will never die.

“That's a testament to an incredible organizational effort and employees who are highly dedicated to their public service mission,” said the longtime veteran of the routes as he prepared to hang up his Postal Service blues. “With all of the technology changes and disruptions, the Postal Service still remains a critical part of the American economy and American society.”

An Open Letter to Target

An Open Letter to Target

Dear Target,

Let's be honest: 2014 was not your year.

Granted, you had a pretty rough start. The news that approximately 40 million credit and debit card accounts had been affected by a holiday data breach carried over from mid-December to January. And when customers found out that 70 million customers' personal information—including names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses—had also been stolen, they were not pleased. Clearly, this wasn't an ideal way to ring in the new year.

I know you tried to salvage the situation by contacting impacted customers, offering discounts, bulking up your call centers and technical systems, and reminding customers that they would not be liable for any fraudulent charges. You even posted answers to common data breach questions on your website and offered free credit reports and identify-theft monitoring to customers.

Unfortunately, these efforts were still not enough and both you and your customers suffered. At the end of February, you announced your 2013 fourth quarter net earnings, which had dropped 46% from $961 million in 2012 to $520 million due to costs affiliated with handling the breach (sorry to remind you). Then in March, banks claiming to be "damaged" by the breach filed a class action lawsuit against you and your corporate information security vendor Trustwave. And by April, customer analytics company ClickFox named you the least trustworthy retailer. Yikes!

It appears that a change in management was what you thought you really needed. After all, you hired a new EVP and chief information officer, Bob DeRodes, in April to enhance your security and implement MasterCard chip-and-PIN technology across your REDcards. And by May, Gregg Steinhafel—former chairman of the Target board of directors, as well as president and CEO—had left the company. Later that month, you brought on Kristi Argyilan, SVP of media and guest engagement, to work on the organization's marketing. And in June, Brad Maiorino joined the team as chief information security officer. In July you found a new chairman and CEO: Brian Cornell. It was evident that you were taking every precaution to build up your image, bring in fresh ideas, and ensure that this data debacle never happened again.

For a while, things seemed to calm down a bit. Yes, you had to rehash the whole data breach expense issue in August and announce that costs surrounding the breach reached $148 million. I'm sure that wasn't fun. But on a cheerier note, you made a lot of innovative moves. That same month you worked with visual marketing platform provider Curalate to implement Like2Buy—a tool that lets Instagram users purchase products featured in brands' feeds—and integrated Apple Pay in September. In October, you announced that conversion on your digital channels was up 40% this year (that's something to smile about) and debuted new mobile and digital properties for the holiday shopping season—like your Wish List app. You also brought on another security hire (better safe than sorry, right?) by introducing Jacqueline Hourigan Rice, SVP and chief risk and compliance officer, in November. And, of course, who could forget the buzz Alex from Target generated?

You posted a 3.1% net earnings increase for the Q3 2014 compared to the year prior. Things were starting to look up. The holiday shopping season was just around the corner. Nothing could stop you now.

As the year came to a close, December had its ups and downs. I know that the federal court rejected your attempt to put an end to the bank's lawsuit (better luck next time), but you also brought on five new executives across the following divisions: strategy and innovation, guest experience, corporate social responsibility, digital and mobile, and investors relations. That's exciting.

So let me ask you, Target: Considering everything that you've been through in 2014 (and the fact that you're in a better place), why stir up more controversy now? I'm referring to the in-store ads for your Annie-themed clothing line that feature a white model—even though the star of the new Annie film, Quvenzhané Wallis, is black. I know that one of your spokespeople told The Huffington Post that the campaign features “girls from a variety of backgrounds,” but come on—can't you stay under the radar for once? I mean there's even a petition on Change.org asking you to swap out the ads.

I like you, Target. I really do. I bought a great laundry hamper from you about a year ago, and I even purchase a few grocery items from you on occasion. Plus, your dollar section by the checkout is so addicting. I'd like 2015 to be a better year for you, and I'd like you to succeed. With that said, there are a few things that I think you should consider.

1) You don't always need to make big changes to have a big impact: Yes, bringing in new talent can be a great way to generate fresh ideas. But you already have an endless pool of inspiration from your customers. Feedback provided on social media, call centers, or in-store can offer valuable insight on how to prevent and solve problems, as well as what kind of products and marketing your customers prefer.

2) Don't be a data hoarder: As you well know, customers are protective when it comes to their data. And while they're willing to provide information in exchange for value, brands need to know when enough is enough. Therefore, going forward, I would encourage you to only ask shoppers for the data that you need to create relevant and personalized experiences. The more data you have, the more difficult it can be to manage. Plus, it can cause the true valuable bits of information to become buried.

3) Always be transparent: I'm sure coming forth about the data breach wasn't easy, but it was the right thing to do. Customers appreciate when a brand is honest with them and they tend to be more forgiving when the brand makes a mistake. So should another crisis arise (hopefully, you've already paid your dues), continue to give your frequent updates on what you know so that customers can feel educated on the matter and in-control of their experience with you.

4) A little thanks goes a long way. I know that this has been a rough year for you, Target. But it's also been a trying year for your customers. A little customer appreciation can make a big impact. So don't forget to thank the customers that have stood by you and continued to do business with your company. It's amazing how much a simple email, letter, or coupon thanking customers for their business can brighten their day.

Wishing you a better year ahead,

Elyse 

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