Thursday, March 27, 2014

Master Marketing Profile: New from Adobe

Just how they do that?

At the Adobe Summit this week several core services (much better construct than 'shared services') were introduced.  While not terribly sexy, they do go to the continuing evolution of an enterprise platform.   One of the new elements is "Master Marketing Profile" described as a single identifier or a 'ring to rule them all.'

Conceptually I'm intrigued since we have a need to look at audiences from the perspective of a publisher as well as a marketing services firm.  And as with any new service the gap between the idea described in the opening session on a 50' screen and the explanation of it on a monitor at the booth was quite noticeable.  We had questions and it felt like the answer was "I know a guy who knows a guy" who wasn't around at the moment.

So I thought I'd post my questions.   And to provide context, let's start with the following scenario.  I want to access an audience based on the following:
  • Activity on our owned and operated sites using only content about a category of interest
  • Traffic and events on the networks we represent that fit an 'audience extension model'
  • Email and print subscription information for that category from a related line of business
  • Loyalty and transaction based information from a retailer who promotes items in the category
  • Social graph and interests from an advertiser's customer base that has expressed interest in a brand in the category
While going from site activity to testing on the same site seemed to be the emphasis in the beta testing, the above real-life problem generates a series of questions about the Master Marketing Profile.   I've tried to frame then in general terms, but they are biased to specific Adobe products/constructs.
  1. Is the identifier built bottom up, e.g. a cookie, or from top down, e.g. total business?
  2. Is this the commercialization of the 'universal ID' concept that existed in professional services?
  3. If it is the master, is it safe to assume the existing identifiers are slaves and still remain active?
  4. Is there one or minimum set of IDs required to build the master? 
  5. Must all child identifiers be an existing Adobe ID?
  6. As a core service, can I use it without analytics?
  7. Can I define the master to be the data management platform ID or even a client or advertiser's identifier?
  8. How are conflicts of information handled when dealing with multiple touch points?
  9. What is the logic sequence for aligning the above sources into a master?
  10. How will we know whether the process works or not?  
  11. What percent of a given source can we expect to be mapped?
  12. How do we ensure orphans remain viable entities over time if they are not in the 'audience library'?
  13. How do we know which sources were used in a given profile or segment?
  14. Is there a probability of belonging associated with each source of contribution?
  15. How does the mapping process impact the creation of downstream business rules and event triggers?
  16. If a map is built with incomplete information, how do we avoid garbage in gospel out?
  17. Is membership in a segment based on this identifier a "Yes" "No" proposition, or "Maybe"?  (What is the likelihood that this identifier really does represent what we think we want?)
  18. Is this a precursor to another consumer pool and compete with Axciom, KBM and Liveramp for matching services?
  19. What information is in the payload when shipping segments?    
  20. Does the process provide an audit trail of the mapping such that it can be defended?
  21. Where is PII used and then masked in the process?
  22. How are cookies, digital fingerprints, and device ID's utilized in the process?
  23. How confident should we be we won't piss off consumers because of a technical black box?
If I get answers, I'll post them...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Impact of Store Brands on Store Loyalty

Why and when would I be likely to choose a store brand?

A recent article in the Journal of Marketing analyzed the relationship between the amount of money a consumer spends on private label brands and her loyalty to the retailer.  Store brands now represent 15% of global retail revenue according to AC Nielsen.  The idea that as I add more store brands to my basket (larger share of wallet) the higher my store loyalty will be is not a new one.

But as with all aspects of marketing, different segments and different categories work differently.  The relationship between private labels and loyalty is a bit more complex than 'the more the better.'

The research identified several factors that impact the relationship between the two consumer metrics: Private label share and Store loyalty.  In order of importance:
  1. Low price seekers exhibit a stronger relationship between store brand share and store loyalty.  This is in part due to the tendency that I think of private label brands as less expensive to begin with.
  2. When a retailer occupies a lower overall price positioning in my mind then as store brand share raises so does loyalty.  A collection of store brands from a low-price retailer makes it easier for me to decide.
  3. Categories with high-involvement, or information seeking, are areas where the relationship between the two is also stronger. This suggests that unique content development should focus on categories where I need to find out things.
  4. Highly commoditized categories, i.e., lots of acceptable alternatives available, mitigate the relationship between share and loyalty.  Basically, if all things are equal I might as well just pick one.

Thus, when it comes to distributing promotional content both the audience and the offer matter. 

5 Steps to Accessing Audiences

How do you find me on the Internet?

There is a lot of talk about audience extension, or the desire for a publisher to increase its value to advertisers by reaching site visitors elsewhere on the Internet.   However, the real business need is accessing an audience - not just reaching them off-site.

The idea of accessing an audience requires thinking differently about traditional content and visitor concepts.   Since we're no longer interested ONLY in what visitors do on our site, we have to rethink tagging, signal detection and the organization of traits/segments.

To illustrate, we (and yes I work for a publisher) have tags related to the existing content and its purpose for a given site.  But when looking across sites similar content may have very different contexts.  Add to the mix that similar looking tags may also mean very different things and you have a recipe for confusion.   And speaking of recipes, here's a set of tags that make perfect sense when the content is in fact a recipe:

meta property="article:tag" content="Kid-Friendly"
meta property="article:tag" content="Spring"
meta property="article:tag" content="Vegetarian"
meta property="article:tag" content="Bake"
meta property="article:tag" content="Pitas"
meta property="article:tag" content="Cheese"
meta property="article:tag" content="Tomatoes"
meta property="article:tag" content="Cabbage"
meta property="article:tag" content="Pineapple"

I can almost picture precisely what those tags mean.  Something like....

Rainbow Veggie Pizzas
But what would those tags mean if used elsewhere on the Internet?  Without more context the tags "Spring" and "Bake" are terribly ambiguous.

The challenge is ensuring content and tags are both used in a way that can be useful to reach audiences.  

From a text book perspective, the five-step approach for accessing audiences should be:
  1. Develop the segmentation strategy – which audiences make the most sense to access across touch points.
  2. Standardize the concepts – what ideas are core to the audience and how common are they across the entire spectrum? (dare I say, build a taxonomy)
  3. Modify the tagging – allow the tagging of content to be both dynamic and link to the common concepts.
  4. Capture the signals – actually, it is the classification of the signals that is more important.   We need to understand audience signals rather than site-specific signals.
  5. Organize the traits – being able to build segments from pan-site signals requires a new way of thinking and organizing things.
For instance, imagine creating a 'fashionista' segment across food sites, style sites, and financial news….one can imagine linking 'formal dinner parties', 'walk-in-closets for shoes' and 'fashion week' as potential evidence of interest in fashion.   In a site-centric world the tagging strategy would be obvious and literal; in an audience-centric world the tagging is a little more about concepts and human judgement.

The reality is that we actually have a chicken and egg problem:  We need to collect data first in order to determine if we should/should not combine different traits into a valuable segment.  This is very much a test and learn environment.  And I'll save that discussion for a later post….

There are some good resources that explain more of the mechanics of audience extension; for instance AdMonster recently issued a of playbook on the topic.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tim's Vermeer - Go See It

How does a painting come to be?

Last weekend in Toronto we went to see "Tim's Vermeer"...the story of Tim Jenison's quest to figure out how what could be the best painter - ever - did it.   What made his paintings stand out and stand the test of time (as in several centuries)?

The answer to 'how' is that he most likely had help in the form of mechanical aids - a simple lens and a simple mirror.   This combination allows the painter to ensure that the color he paints matches the color of the setting.   Now, there is no letter from one of his contemporaries like Pieter de Hooch saying,
"Dear Johannes...can I borrow your studio and lens/mirror contraption for the next 18 months to paint, can't seem to get the light quite right here across the river."
But as the scholars in the movie discuss, the painting itself gives clues on how it might have been done.  The light raking across the wall, the curve in the seahorse's tails most likely wouldn't have been painted the way they were - without help.  Using tools of the era, including grinding/polishing his own lens, Jenison takes us thru the five years it took to go from concept to final painting. 

The painting in question is "The Music Lesson" hanging in Buckingham Palace.

Is this the original, or the one created by a man who didn't paint?


ABCs of Successfully Distributing Promotional Content

How can we improve the odds of consumers paying attention to what we have to say?

In the development of anything dealing with the marketing of promotional content (disclosure: part of my day job), there are three challenges to overcome:
  1. App Abandonment: with less than 25% of mobile apps being used more than once, there is obviously no silver bullet from a functional point of view.
  2. Banner Blindness: recall, relevancy and results are often in the realm of single digits or lower making the shift from media tonnage to targeting an imperative.  We simply don't remember what we saw.
  3. Coupon Clutter:  the impact of 329 billion coupons being distributed in the US alone has to drown some segments to the point of not even wanting to deal with coupons.
Since a PhD dissertation in 1999 first described the irony of consumers skipping the creative designed to help then find the information they were looking for there has been a lot of research into what makes for engaging experiences.  There is even an organization dedicated to banner blindness that quantifies the impact tuning out.   (Great infographic here.)

All this suggests consumers (or a least a sizable segment) don't want to deal with the hassle - they just want the benefit.  This point is confirmed in Inmar research (free registration required to download.)
There seem to be so many rules to coupons. I don't want to have to carry around the store coupon policies in order to get a deal.
So, entering the market are digital coupons of two types - Print-at-Home and Load-to-Card - to help remove the friction in the process of saving money.    The research ends with a consumer survey stating the obvious: Consumers want "easy" couponing.  More specifically, they don't want to do it -- they want somebody else to ensure they get the benefits.
  • 65%  "I want coupons loaded to my store loyalty card for products that I normally buy."
  • 65%  "I want stores to email me with coupons for products that I normally buy."
  • 58%  "I want all available manufacturer's coupons to be loaded onto my store loyalty card."
  • 63%  "I want all available store coupons to be loaded to my store loyalty card."
Q5.10: Now I want you to think specifically about coupons that you can access online using your computer, mobile phone, or tablet.  Please rate your agreement with the following statements (top 2 box -- Agree/Strongly Agree).

The answer to the opening question appears to be another question:  Should we identify a loyal segment where we can simply take coupons out of the equation?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Viral Marketing of Apps on Facebook

What form of sharing should I use?

A recent article in the Journal of Marketing analyzed the success (or failure) of 750 Facebook apps in an attempt to understand how various mechanisms of social sharing impact acceptance or reach.

While a lot of ink has been given to influence (Gladwell) and seeding-strategies (Watts) this research looked at what tools marketers can deploy to facilitate sharing.

Specifically, marketers can choose to use one or more of the following tactics
  1. Unsolicited Messages vs. Solicited Message 
    • A message appears in the inbox about a new app vs. see what apps appear on a members "About" page
  2. Messages with incentives vs. those without
    • "Try and get a month free" vs. just "Try it out"
  3. Direct messages from friends
    • Communication among 1st degree contacts (similar to forwarding an email to a specific individual)
  4. Broadcast messages from strangers vs friends
    • Timeline posts viewed by 2nd to n-degree contacts on others vs. own timeline
The analysis focused on how those choices impact the adoption rate of leisure vs. business apps (or in the language of academe - low utility vs. high utility). 

The key takeaway: the techniques that garnered 100m users for FarmVille in roughly 40 days would be counter productive (and possibly detrimental) to a business-oriented apps.    From the research:
The very mechanisms that made FarmVille so successful is a recipe for failure when used in a different product context.  Unsolicited and incentivized broadcast messages from friends are the least effective sharing mechanisms for primarily utilitarian [business] products.
You rarely see such strong language in journals.

And speaking of context, the results would theoretically be different on LinkedIN because it is by nature a business/high-utility social network.  The mechanisms of how people choose, and what information cues they use, differ depending if they're looking for a job or playing Candy Crush.

So, as we design campaigns with "Share This" functionality, we need to understand what the usefulness of the app/content is as well as the distribution platform and choose our tactics accordingly.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Shift to Digital: Part 5 - Operational Savings

Where does the money we want to shift come from?

The previous two posts in this series focused on Driving Growth and Building Leadership, but at some point we need to think about how to free up resources to dedicate to the new mix.   It is great to have a vision of two pie charts that split out the entire marketing budget into completely different approaches.   But we do need to find ways to allocate a reasonably fixed set of resources - moving 50% of a budget is vastly different than growing a budget by 50%.

So, here are a list of questions focused on operational and tactical topics.
  1. Where is marketing needed vs. not needed?
  2. Where is the ROMS (Return on Marketing Spend) strong/weak? 
  3. What business and geo-demographic elements explain the variance in ROMS?
  4. What is the value of each action leading a sale – by channel/source of traffic? 
  5. What is the value of social sharing? (Interesting facts for e-commerce here.)
  6. What is the value of an “Offer View” – by channel/source of traffic?  (single offer centric)
  7. How do we align the digital footprint with terrestrial sales activity?
  8. What value would creative optimization bring to improving conversions?
  9. How can we leverage targeting, bidding and interaction history to reduce ‘wasted impressions’?
  10. What is true cost of execution of a digital budget?
  11. What is the financial contribution of individual touch points?
  12. What are the reach, frequency optimums by channel and segment?
  13. What is the difference in cost models of reaching consumers on-site and off-site?
  14. To what extent does spend on loyalty programs offset ink and airwaves?
  15. What is the most effective means of reaching a consumer/segment?
  16. Where else can we amortize fixed costs of content production with the most bang-for-the-buck?
  17. Which data sets should be integrated in which order to gain efficiency?
  18. What is the dollar value of what we know to our suppliers, vendors and market in general?
  19. Which loyalty or transactional segments work best for targeting?
  20. How many digital impressions does it take to replace a TV ad or a page in a flyer?
I don't know if the answer to that last question is 100,000 or 1,000,000 or even 10,000,000 but it seems to be a worthy goal for an analytic program to focus on.

There are a variety of ways we can approach the shift to digital, but hopefully these 60 questions help provide some guidance on how the analytic program could be developed and managed.