Thursday, October 03, 2013

Mad Math Men

Why do we need more of them?

The newsletter, conference, webinar circuit is full of content about Data Scientists.  There are articles on how to hire them; how much to pay them; how to organize them.  There are surveys (and client conversations) about the unique value of data - "it is a great asset" and "it is the lifeblood of our company" is heard in every board and conference room.  But there remains a disconnect in connecting the bits in order to create value.

So, what should we be actually looking for?

The nature of the work often described as 'big data' focuses on finding answers to ambiguous questions: How can we turn planes around on the ground faster?  Can we identify life events from shopping patterns?  Can we discern intent from digital signals?   To re-purpose a phrase from Jim Cooper's thinking around building companies these are the BHAP's or big, hairy, audacious problems.

To solve them requires a team that covers data, computer science, and math - but also, and possibly more important, curiosity, experimentation, and creativity.  The first set of skills is what people typically think of in terms of 'data scientist' or Math Men.  The latter set of skills come from a wide variety of non-traditional disciplines.  Art history, psychology and music backgrounds are just as valuable in providing insights into these problems precisely because they've never been solved before.  The ah ha moment that changes how we market is analogous to the big idea of creative agencies and the Mad Men like Don Draper.

In marketing this combination appears most often in the digital realm - understanding the confluence of context and content and how those interactions shape response.

Add to the mix subject matter or domain expertise and you have the makings for a Mad Math Man.

A title I aspire to....

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Segments are the Lingua Franca

How can digital and direct marketers see the same 360 degree view?

The tracing of a consumer's journey across the shopping journey is as much a guessing game as it is a sure bet.   The idea of creating a 360 degree view actually requires making a lot of guesstimates.  To help think thru the idea I look at several different layers of the problem.
  • Anonymous - the bottom of stack where we know something happened, but have few (if any) signals that can help us link things together.  Online this could be visitors with cookies blocked; offline it is store browsers.
  • Recognized - there are enough signals present in an interaction to begin thinking about profiling, segmenting or linking them.  Web visitors, device IDs, shopping baskets, etc. form the basis of recognition. 
  • Credentialed - a semi-persistent identifier exists that increases the odds of knowing it is the same person.  Account information such as email, log-ins and tokenized credit cards fit this model.
  • Identified - the persistent identifiers, e.g. name, are known and usable. 
Thinking and working in all four layers helps with creating the desired view.  So far, there is no silver bullet or a right order of approaching things.  Sometimes we start at both ends and work toward the middle; other times we work on one area in particular.   Campaigns may be designed simply to help make some linkages, e.g. newsletters or white papers to trade value for value in order to improve Credentialed. 

Digital marketers tend to understand this stack quicker than the traditional database marketing crowd. The common ground between these two worlds is the use of segments.  While done for very different reasons (eliminate PII vs. allocate scarce resources) the marketing thinking is very similar - find a homogenous group that responds similarly to marketing messages.

In fact, shipping segments will get you to an integrated view faster than trying to work at the lowest level where natural constraints about what you can and can not do throw up roadblocks.

An interesting exercise would be to think about mapping and modeling consumer vs. customer segmentation schemes.  (More on that in a bit.)

Customers are Simply Consumers with History

Is she or isn't she a customer?

Very often we think in term of consumer marketing versus customer marketing; one focused on acquisition and the other focused on retention.  We even allocate budgets as above and below the line further separating one idea from the other.  However, in the age of showrooming, the distinction between being a consumer and a customer is more often down to a fleeting moment in time and a choice.

Will she buy?

Similar to Schrodinger's Cat of quantum physics that is both alive and dead until we open the box and look in an individual exists in both states until she actually buys.  Since it is just one individual, we might want to consider 'customer' as only an attribute or descriptor rather than a separate and distinct class.  Clearly campaigns can select an audience based on that knowledge, but in the world of 'omni-channel brand experiences' the messaging and marketing needs to be integrated.   One of the worst things a brand can do is create cognitive dissonance thru conflicting programs - like offering discounts to new customers while not rewarding or recognizing loyal ones. 

There are only consumers, some of them just happen to have a history of transactions that we can see in the rear view mirror. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Old and New School Marketing

What can policy wonks teach us about big data?

In a great essay in Foreign Affairs on "The Rise of Big Data" the authors describe the implications and meaning of it all.  Since that is a premium article, I'll summarize a few key points. 

The sacred cows of the analytic kingdom from research to finance have rested on three tenets.
  1. Quality of the data
  2. Representativeness of the sample
  3. Causation of the outcome
For someone who started out in market research, has taught statistics and has an MBA in Finance, these were the inviolable crown jewels - something debated as much as the findings themselves.   However, in the world of 'big data' none of that really matters any more.  In fact,  we now use the terms..
  1. Messy
  2. All
  3. Relationship
as the lingua franca of the realm.   The reason: damn near everything has been datafied - a term the authors use to describe process of reducing everything to a stream of data.  Correlations of events based on all possible data, even if some is messy, is better for a business than a well selected sample from which we try to prove a hypothesis.  Data is now an operational function.

From your butt's imprint on a car seat (think anti-theft) to the spread of flu based on search terms to serving eviction notices based on the risk of fire, data now serves the role of providing the basis of taking action rather than just recommendations.  

Marketing, like many other functions, has been datified. The path-to-purchase is riddled with opportunities to leverage intent signals from one touch point in the business rules for the next.  We should now be asking questions like: 
  • What do consumers do before they do something next?
  • What sequence of content consumption relates to making a decision?
  • Where and when is the best place to facilitate choice?
These are the kinds of business requirements that marketers should be stating.  As marketing technologists, it is our job to architect a solution that provides the means to find and implement the answers.

If we're thinking about a report or a 3" research binder as the output from the data team, then we're thinking old school. 

Monday, June 03, 2013

Top 10 Digital Thoughts from LiveRamp

What were the CEO's talking about last week?

A conference in San Francisco sponsored by LiveRamp on digital marketing focused a lot on the display advertising ecosystem.   Since this was held at the Computer History Museum it was appropriate to see a lot of panels staffed with the CEO's and senior executives of technology and data firms. 

Here are the top 10 things I took away.
  1. The industry is not as advanced or as rock solid as the sales rhetoric suggests.   Expectations (and investment) suggest that several of the challenges will be addressed.
  2. The worlds of "brand advertising" and "direct response" are merging as longer term goals align with short term tactics.
  3. Buying audiences (and creating them) has replaced buying sites where audiences may congregate.
  4. Programmatic and RTB (real time bidding) is moving up the inventory ladder from secondary, remnant levels to premium as publishers get comfortable and see appropriate CPMs.   The display media buying process is filled with inefficiencies and the technology platforms are eying that world.
  5. Leveraging cross-channel data in real time is not yet a reality, but a lot of attention is being spent their in order to improve the consumer experience.   This puts the 'omni-channel data warehouse in cold storage' because it doesn't fit the consumer model of respond now, not next week.
  6. Attribution is 'directionally correct at an aggregated level' - and this from a guy who should know: the VP, Display at Google.    There is no certainty in any of this data – at best we can improve our confidence and that sounds like a service offering from the marketing service providers.
  7. Marketing would pay for a single anonymous identifier that deals with device, browser, OS, carrier, DSP/SSP, email and offline.   Device ID and IP remain suspect, but they're the best we have at the moment.
  8. "Intent signals" the art of separating out what's actually important from a business point of view.   The context of location (mobile) is interesting as services with 700 million devices come on stream.
  9. The money (VC and and advisers) sees opportunities and carnage on the horizon.  Platform proliferation and channel fragmentation is creating unsustainable market for this MANY companies.  
  10. The idea of a 'media plan for one' that is then rolled up into a buy was repeated a couple of times; SVP at dunnhumby made the best case for this.
As is often the case, the sidebar conversations and chance meetings were the most interesting aspect of a conference. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Get Closer to Customers

What is being taught on the conference trail?

I heard from the attendees at the recent Optimization Summit a couple of interesting points; one very tactical and one strategic.
  • "Get" may be the most powerful verb in the English language, at least from a conversion point of view.  Seems that the term entices consumers to act a whole lot better than the IT-centric "Submit"
  • "Data-driven" is the wrong message.  We should be consumer focused, and it is data that gets us much closer to an understanding.
 Good points to remember....

Off to RampUp and the integration of on and offline data this week.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Reports Don't Produce Opportunities

How does 'data-driven' actually work?

In a post on All Things Digital, Ben Elowitz of Wetpaint makes the case that it is the phobia of being shown up by the data that contributes to the slow adoption of data-driven {marketing.}   In fact, he quoted a friend's dirty little secret. 
"Nobody wants to use the data."   He goes on to argue that collecting data is the safe AND easy part.
Re-imagining the world is the prescription for the problem, not justifying a set of HiPPO decisions.   To that end Ben offers five great questions to consider:
  1. What does my audience love?
  2. How do they want it?
  3. How can I best relate to them?
  4. What secret signals is my audience sending?
  5. Where is my sweet spot? 

So, how does a marketing organization get to this point?  Tools and humans - split 10% and 90%.  Too often we hear of technology as the saving grace to the problem; it isn''t.  Creating new solutions that satisfy consumer needs is a high-risk business (just look at the failure rate of new products).  Data and technology are enablers that allow exploration to happen.  In both the NetFlix and Target examples, there was a general direction stated by business executives:  "Should we buy the rights to the British series House of Cards?" and "can we identify pregnant women?"  These questions provided the compass by which people found the answers - 'yes' in both cases.

Note that none of these questions have to do with metrics, conversions or optimization; nor are they the kind that can be programmed into a report or dashboard.  They are the best kind of question:  ambiguous and in need of human thought.    This is where opportunities are found.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Influence of Revenue Producers

Which is more valuable an 'influencer' or a 'revenue producer'?

When introducing new products there is a temptation to find influencers - those consumers with the capacity to spread the news, either by direct contact through their network or via inference and reputation.   The question becomes: Is this a better strategy than seeding new products with revenue leaders, i.e. those who already are valuable customers?

Recent research in the Journal of Marketing focused on that very question and found the following:
  1. Given that Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is often skewed toward Pareto's world view, revenue leaders can have the dual benefit of producing revenue AND influencing others like them.
  2. The number of consumers used in the 'seeding' process makes a difference.  At low levels of introduction (think 'I hope it goes viral') there is a strong social influence; however, as the number of people you tell increases (Big Seed Marketing) there is a plateau or saturation point reached.  
  3. As a side effect, considering both social influence and direct revenue production widens the natural divide in CLV.  The leaders are more valuable and the laggards are less valuable than one would think based purely on dollars-to-date.
So, as with many aspects of marketing - the old and the new come to provide new insights and approaches.   The tried-and-true method of RFM provides a decent basis of estimating customer value while interests and social graphs offer a means to estimate the contagion effect.  

The introduction of a new product is a very risky business since most fail.  This research suggests that internal data be overlaid with socialgraphics in order to improve the odds of success. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

In An Experience Emotions Trump Price

How do you avoid the race to the bottom?

Over on YouInc I had my first post of a series on marketing for entrepreneurs, small businesses.  It talked about satisfying emotional needs to overcome the temptation to compete on price.
To the extent that you can satisfy emotional needs and express them in a way that resonates with your customers, the more value you provide.
Any choice or decision to buy ultimately comes down to the value perceived by the consumer - a typical cost benefit analysis made in the mind as opposed to a spreadsheet.

In retail, there is a definite trend to offset promotional discounting with a 'better consumer experience'.   And to deliver that we need to think very differently about how people decide.  To help us try to understand what is going on we're beginning to tag content with various typologies to see if we can find out what works in what situations. 

There are two different questions we're looking at:
  1. What kind of stuff does marketing leverage?   emotional, promotional, informational and communal content
  2. How do consumers use content? to inspire, educate, entertain or inform
I'm sure there are others.... 

7 Types of Digital Marketers

How is the industry segmented?

Optify released the following visual for classifying digital marketers.   Me, I'm a cross between old-school (based on demographics) and data whiz (based on career interests).

What kind are you?

The 7 Types of Digital Marketers

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Consumer Journey, Stupid

What is the most fundamental issue facing marketing?

Borrowing the line that became the central theme in the 1992 presidential campaign there is an emerging focus on the consumer journey as the foundation of marketing.  Two recent articles provide good bookends to the evolution of the story.

First, Brian Solis talks about the imminent shift from social to digital engagement.   Toward the end he makes the point...
The digital lifestyle is just a way of life now and businesses that don’t think beyond social or traditional will miss the greater opportunity to lead desirable customer journeys, experiences and outcomes.
Second, McKinsey & Co. writes about the coming era of 'on-demand marketing.'
Across the entire consumer decision journey, every touch is a brand experience, and those touches just keep multiplying in number.
Both articles offer some prescriptive steps that a company can take, but they share a common thread - think differently and from the outside in.   A very difficult prescription for firms rooted in independent P&Ls, autonomous decision making and the inevitable silos that result.  

While clearly directionally correct, there is still room for more than just a pure digital look at the path to purchase.  Browsing a magazine or reading a flyer is just as important to the decision making process as price shopping.

Someone in the organization needs to be not only the 'voice of the customer' but the travel agent as well...

Monday, April 29, 2013

10 Requirements for Data-Driven Marketing

What requirements should you provide IT?

In the continuation of a series (the first one is here) on the thinking behind developing an architecture for a marketing services firm, this one focuses on the implications around data.  

Too often systems are designed around things and technology with data relegated to the plumbing layer or bottom of the stack.   However, in data-driven marketing there are at least 10 requirements that should drive the architecture.
  1. Bake-in performance management from the outset to deliver ROI metrics
  2. Calculate the impact of each interaction on decisions (conversion)
  3. Allow new channels, technologies, and businesses to be plugged in (and out)
  4. Rationalize campaign management across all forms of marketing in order to optimize spend across them
  5. Support seamless segmentation across PII and anonymous domains
  6. Support all stages of consumer journey (shopper/marketing)
  7. Develop a content typology that allows for creative optimization
  8. Design for a consumer dominated commerce process; demote channels to low importance
  9. Combine site-side, advertising and direct-to-consumer business models
  10. Provide unfettered and unfiltered access to the most granular data possible
I'm sure there are some variations, but these ten should give the architecture team enough to think about.  And if they aren't looking at the world thru a data lens, then they're not helping the business.

Federated Marketing

How do you architect a solution in the face of complexity?

One of the most memorable ads I've seen is for Kohler when a couple meets an obviously successful architect and puts a faucet on the desk and says "Design around this."    Designing a marketing environment for a company with a lot of different business units presents the need to find that faucet - the central idea around which all else revolves.

To me, that idea is the 'segment' - a group of consumers with whom we'd like to communicate.   A segment can be large, as in 'women 18-49' for lifestyle magazines, or a size of one, as in a CEO looking for information on manufacturing facilities.

Reaching the same audience from several different points of view ( the story of the 7 blind men and the elephant comes to mind) requires not only coordination across the various styles of marketing governance involved - editorial calendars, media buys, and campaign management to name just three - but the sharing of appropriate information.

Things that should be shared:
  • Knowledge about the segment - who are they, what have they done, what do they respond to?  Managing segments across the enterprise should be the first objective.
  • Any available context about current or previous interactions; this requires establishing a set of  standards about what we mean about common terms like location.
  • A common view of content as a set of assets that are tagged in such a way that we can begin to analyze how it works (which in turn means linking it to sales data).
It begins to look like this...a federated collection of business units sitting between the external world of Audience & Context and the internal service world of Content & Information.

And unlike the Kohler ad, I've purposely left technology examples off of this picture, I find that they tend to a) predefine an architecture or at least a biased point of view and b) confuse the business stakeholders with terms they don't really need to know like SSAS and SSRS.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Customer Experience Milestones

When did common tools first appear on the scene?

Peppers and Rogers recently shared 'milestones in modern customer experience'

It starts with the telephone and winds up with the digital wallet.  The inventions can be broadly classed into a several of groups.
  • Those that focus on a company's reach, or market  - catalogs, contact centers and green stamps. 
  • Efficiency tools that found new uses - QR codes, Point of Sale, online check in and IVR.
  • Disruptive technology that created altogether new markets - personal computer, smartphone and iPad.
  • New concepts that changed how we communicate - wiki, Facebook, and to some degree Amazon.
No one has the crystal ball as to what will come next but some thoughts.

These are either tools or destinations -- what happens if we make information part of the experience itself?

These are content or information repositories - what happens if could infer intent from context?

Interesting times....

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Google Glass Specs and Marketing

What will it mean to be able to see digitally?

We are clearly getting closer to Geordi of Star Trek fame and becoming a cyborg as Amber Case suggests.  Google just released the specs of Google Glass, even my lap top doesn't compete.
25" HD screen from 8'
5 MP photos, 720p Video
WiFi and Bluetooth (but not 3g)
12 GB of memory

And this puts the concept of omni-channel retail on a new trajectory.   It is now an imperative that marketing ensures that the consumer experience is coordinated and there is no chance for cognitive dissonance.    Just imagine encountering a disjointed set of data or campaigns as you walk down the street.

This also requires a shift in thinking about the role of marketing communication.   Traditional advertising is about identifying where it might be appropriate to place a message (demo media buys anyone?).   These glasses suggest that context - both intent and ambient - are much more important to the decision as to what content to make available.

A whole new mental model needs to emerge.      

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Vertical, Horizontal and Singularity

How do we build out the consumer experience?

A discussion worth having is around how to best put the parts together to support marketing.    The traditional parts can be thought of in either vertical or horizontal integration.   In vertical integration companies leverage best of breed tools for each key functional area within the marketing portfolio to maximize a specific interaction.   In the horizontal approach, a platform is aligned with the journey to provide a better chance of improving the experience across interactions.

Like black & white, yin & yang, and Abbott & Costello there is clearly no one perfect answer to which is better.   A lot depends on the brand experience promised and the value proposition offered to consumers - as well as how they want to interact with us.  Not to mention the technical chops of the IT team.  

The case for vertical, or specific functional solutions, rests on the argument that a single interaction must be as effective as possible. This could be email, mobile, web experience, or browsing the Internet.   The challenge then becomes in cross-channel integration.  And it has been said, if you cross 'best of breed' you might end up with a mongrel.

The case for horizontal, or platform solution, rests on the argument that the shopping journey covers so many different options that we need to be efficient as possible across them.  The challenge here is to ensure that each interaction is coordinated and leverages what has come before. 

There is a new player:  Like a black hole, the omni-channel retail model actually concentrates the vertical and horizontal points of view into a singularity.   We need to do both in order to provide the best possible experience anywhere consumers choose to grace us with their attention.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Connecting The Dots

What happens after we integrate all the data?

Given the rapid change in technology there is a rush to connect more data sets to the marketing planning cycle.  Two recent articles:
  • AC Nielsen is overlaying bank/financial/credit card information on to TV and online viewing behavior to provide richer (pun intended) information for selecting audiences.   This is obviously done at the anonymous level, and likely through a third-party.   So they know someone watches Top Chef and bought a new fly reel with a debit card.
  • Facebook is taking the story of targeting based on purchase history on the road.  By segmenting people based on brand/category usage it has determined the number of ads to show an individual in order to optimize ROI.  (This is actually an extension of work done in other media, just new for Facebook.)
The implications of these two items seem to be along the following lines:
  1. There will be unlimited choices in what could be used to improve targeting; to the point that we will act more like conductors orchestrating the fragmented landscape than being an expert in any one of them.
  2. The sheer breadth of information implies we will have to trust the results, we won't know a priori what works or possibly even why as the effects of programmatic buying filter into other areas of marketing. 
  3. With such a wide range of attributes the set of business rules that work to assemble the content to produce the most relevant 'ad' will get more challenging and shift to the realm of prediction or testing at a minimum.   

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Promotional Content and Advertising

What's the difference between advertising and promotion?

In a recent MediaPost article describing the rise of Digital Promotion spending there was a distinction made between advertising and promotions. 
According to Borrell Associates, the study defines promotions as messages or offers generated and broadcast directly by the market. Advertising, meanwhile, involves messages sent through intermediaries.
And it goes on to talk about the blurring of those distinctions online in an increasingly mobile world.

In my mind there are really two different dimensions being discussed.  On the one hand is the distribution mechanism or how the message gets to an interaction or touch point.   Advertising is the paid placement of a message and that can happen in any number or channels or means.   On the other hand we have the intent of the content; in this case we're talking about incenting a transaction since that is the common use of promotions.  There are other types of content that serve other purposes, e.g. branding or informing. 
It is not a question of one or the other, but rather what and how.

The more interesting question becomes:  Does the rise of promotional content, at the expense of other forms, hurt or help over the long term?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Grocery Shopping Could be Digital

What would help me a grocery store?

A recent eMarketer article pointed out the Canadians still consume traditional media.  (Disclosure, I work for a Canadian media/publisher, so this crosses over into my day job just a bit.)

Based on the annual Canadian Shopper Survey conducted by BrandSpark flyers still rule the roost in terms of finding new product ideas in the grocery sector.

The report goes on to highlight some other trends and traditions.
  • Even in the age of digital, 80% of the lists are still on paper.  It is still far easier to write stuff on an envelope than use the digital equivalents.
  • Among users of both print and digital, 71% prefer the print version.  Not too surprising since the digital experience is just now moving away from a paginated publication. 
  • In-store research via smartphones is increasing.  While technology adoption as reached the late majority adoption stage (over 50%), in-store use is now at the early majority stage.
I wonder if this isn't an opportunity to leap frog.  At one time communication infrastructure and land line adoption helped to define the difference between developing and developed economies.  Cellular technology allowed countries to completely skip the building of infrastructure to communicate; they simply went wireless.   It is rare to find a country with less than 65% penetration (Cuba and North Korea being the odd ones on the list) - and that completely changes how business is conducted.

The digital opportunity should be on how do we reduce the friction in the process of filling a basket.   I cook, so here are my pain points in a grocery store:
  • Why can't I find an item on a recipe/list easily while I'm walking thru a store?
  • I need .25g of zanthum gum to make chili, what the hell else can I do a jar of this stuff?
  • What's new and why should I try it?
  • What goes well with that special cut of meat?
  • How do I find inspiration among 40,000 items organized by department, when I don't fix categories?
Time to rethink the experience and journey....

Thursday, March 14, 2013

ROI Defined in a Nursery Rhyme

How would Dr. Seuss define ROI?
Is the money we made more than the money it took us to make the money we made?

Dealing with Fragmentation

How can we simplify the marketing landscape?

A breakfast conversation at the Adobe Summit got around to discussing what common concepts, semantics if you will, sit on top of a highly fragmented {digital} marketing environment. 

Here's a snapshot of my take-a-way from the discussion.

First, I need to put some scope around what it is we're trying to describe and architect.   One role of marketing is to "inject interesting content into the consumer journey in order to facilitate choice."   This is broad enough to have a lot of moving parts - touch points, media types, channels, devices, content archetypes, outcomes, etc. It is also focused on marketing communication or 'getting the word out' with an execution point of view.

Some food for thought:
  • Campaigns: a vessel for managing budgets designed to achieve temporal objectives. This provides structure and eliminates the 'could do' and 'should' do from the approved 'will do.'
  • Audience: a group of people with common needs or characteristics, a common way to access them, and a likely common reaction.  This can be broad for branding, awareness efforts, targeted to a behavioral segment, or focused on a personalized experience as in 1:1 CRM.
  • Content: a delivered container of information assembled from assets for the purpose of eliciting a response.   This may be predefined as in flyers, or email or dynamic as in websites and display ads.   Content can be rolled up into packets for cross-channel delivery.
  • Context: the circumstances surrounding the interaction.  This ranges from location to ambient environment to previous actions to preferences; all are required in order to improve relevancy.
  • Response: the outcome that forms the basis for assessing success. It is often rooted in the metrics and data that can be captured rather than those we need to capture.

The implementation, or resolution, of these concepts becomes a tactical exercise.  And it is the application of business rules and/or judgement that weaves all the parts together to create unique experiences.

Imagine what we could do if all the functions used and shared the same concepts.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Measuring the Consumer Journey

How do we deal with 'the rise of the digital omnivore"?

Back in December comScore released their manifesto for measurement and analytics in the "Brave New Digital World". 

The 10 points were written as a consequence of media fragmentation and more screens than we know how to count.  They are:
  1. All media - including TV - are going digital; measurement must follow the path
  2. Measurement must translate from pixels to people
  3. Multi-Platform measurement must integrate census-level digital data sources to deliver reporting at big data scale
  4. Holistic reporting should provide a unified, platform-agnostic view of consumer behavior
  5. Viewable impressions are the standard needed for true cross-media comparability
  6. Common metrics should be used to facilitate multi-platform planning and optimization
  7. Measurement of ad effectiveness should use metrics that matter, not just those that are easy to measure
  8. End-to-end advertising analytics should speak the same language
  9. Measurement must evolve towards real-time - and eventually predictive - analytics
  10. Data should have a common global framework, but provide local insight
Taking a step back, there is a clear implications in all of this for marketing.  We need to understand the path consumers take, how they come to a decision, and what influences exist along the way.  Only then can we surround them interesting content to facilitate choice.

Social Media and Advertising Symbiosis

How do we communicate and satisfy needs in a 'world of mouth'?

The most recent whirlwind review of Social Media by Erik Qualman gives enough stats to fill any presentation. Here's the video....

While the factoids are interesting, if not out right impressive, the link to marketing and the buying process is still somewhat illusory and tenuous.

While there are more people involved, that doesn't necessarily equate to easier reach thru a connected world.  The first degree of separation between friends, followers, and connections for any one individual isn't growing nearly as rapidly as the universe itself.  So, the question of scale always crops up: What is the most effective way to reach people?

The most common approach today to reach an audience on social media is still plain old advertising - the paid placement of a message - be it a box ad, a sponsored story or a promoted tweet. In fact when the revenue officers of the major platforms talk about monetization and value creation, they mean getting someone to pay for those eyeballs. The likely advantage that social sites have is that interests and interactions should help with both efficiency and effectiveness. Whether consumer engagement or interaction is required is a function of the business objective and payment model. 

Fishing where the fish are means that a large share of the impressions are on social media sites and/or include a social call to action, e.g. 'like', as various comScore reports indicate.  In Canada, 27% of the impressions go to social media platforms. 

Seems that we can't talk about one with out the other.... 

Here's a comparison of Facebook and Google display ads from back in the day when FB had 845 million users.

Monday, March 11, 2013

7 Points of Marketing Integration

Where should we really pay attention?

In the marketing world, there appear to be seven areas of integration that often get less attention than they deserve.  
  1. Physical with Digital: as long as we can touch, smell and walk around it will be an experiential world.   Neither traditional marketing nor digital marketing will win out; it will be the combination of the two where one reinforces the other.
  2. Services with Products: most brands today are a combination of intangible and tangible offerings serviced by different parts of an organization; but consumers don't see org charts they simply want a solution to their needs. 
  3. Our Brands with their Journey: unless you adhere to the principles of direct response, "but wait there's more", then the journey is not going to be about a single brand.  We need to focus on understanding the decision making process in order to facilitate choice.
  4. Identifiable with Anonymous: consumers exist in both worlds simultaneously since they may provide permission at one touch point and simply browse at another as they surf the landscape.  We must respect those decisions while trying to improve the experience.
  5. Creative with Execution: the ability to assemble assets in real time based on the context of an interaction implies that we need to be able to optimize creative and substantiate the claim "we know how content works".
  6. Analysis with Planning: feedback loops are the foundation of analysis; the question shouldn't be "did we get what we paid for?" (reporting) but rather "why are the results different?" and "what should we try next?"
  7. Campaigns with Results: too often the metrics are simply what we can measure with the data at hand, not what we need to measure to better understand the future value of a relationship.
Time to think of new use cases....

Friday, March 08, 2013

Adobe Summit Take-a-ways

What did I learn at Adobe Digital Summit?

The last two days were the whirlwind of the annual Adobe user conference -- a chance for for them to announce new products, train us on existing products, and illustrate potential new products.   The reuse of the term 'product' was intentional -- it is a very biased point of view for which we pay money to see.  That said, it is still good to see 5,000 people in attendance and hear the stories from 'people like me.' 

Here are my thoughts
  1. The tag line from the plenary session of "Listen, Predict, Assemble and Deliver" seems to be a much better mantra for what they are actually trying to do than the title that focused on the 'last millisecond.'  The phrase is more pragmatic from a business case perspective and actually forms the bridge to their step-brother "Adobe Creative" and publishing. 
  2. The rationalization of individual products into five suites (or solutions in their terms) makes a lot of sense.  Now there is just Adobe Analytics that bundles a variety of related tools, e.g. web analytics, data warehousing, and analysis.  Similar strides are made with Target, Social, Experience Manager, and Media Optimization. One can now at least envision a horizontal flow, even if the hand offs are a little rough.
  3. Analytic use cases almost always related to business outcome.  While easier for brands to do than service provider it is refreshing to see analysis changing how we market or conduct business.   Examples ranged from creating new products (Conde Nast) to quickly identifying a browser-specific bug (SkullCandy).
  4. It still takes smart people to run these products.  While integration is improving, the skills required to work in a single area remain high.  Scene 7 and connecting to the Marketing Cloud labs required preexisting domain knowledge.  Not to mention the required integration; heard one rule of thumb: plan on 3-5x the software cost. 
All-in-all it provided ample information to generate a new set of use cases and potential ideas.

That said, for me the highlight had nothing to do with digital marketing, Adobe or my day job.   Sal Khan of the Khan Academy talked about the genesis of the global learning platform.  Quite the story.  

Monday, March 04, 2013

Three Data Issues of Omni-channel Marketing

What new issues does a seamless consumer experience present?

In mapping the consumer journey across touch points there are three specific data challenges to address.

First, as consumers move thru time and space some things are knowable and somethings aren't.   Email credentials provide both recognition and permission, browsing web sites provides segments at best, and the jury is still out about what happens in the store. Being able to seamlessly move data between those two worlds is uncharted territory.  

Second, the events that are logged as the result of interactions remain as different as night and day.  At one end of the spectrum is an ephemeral view at the other is sales history.   Being able to connect those dots presents challenges not usually found in either ad networks or data warehouses which have well-formed practices and assumptions.

Third, there is no one path; people choose their route each time.  Touch points need to record not only the event but also the surrounding context in order to allow downstream interactions to be more effective thru the application of business rules and/or models. 

All this flow has to happen in near real time.  So, guess I need to fill up another whiteboard...

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hiring Guidelines for Insights Talent

What do I tell HR when looking for people to join the insights team?

Sometimes analysis and insights are hard to quantify from a traditional job requisition perspective.  Here's a quick open letter. 

Hey HR:

Before we talk about experience and skills, let's outline the real requirements.
  • We need a very scarce skill.  So, I need a compensation model that doesn't require senior level staff to manage people, products or places.
  • We know we have the need, but we can't articulate the job details.  So, I need the flexibility to specify objectives, outcomes and success criteria in the broadest terms.
  • We are going to ask big questions that cause all kinds of disruption.  So, I need to provide him with the freedom to work across P&Ls, business, and technology without fear or roadblocks.
  • We are creating gold, not mining for it.  So, I need a culture that embraces experimentation; in return we will apply the learnings broadly.
  • We need to support this role to provide job satisfaction.  So, I need an organization that asks "What do the data say?"  "What do they imply?" to give her a fighting chance of succeeding.
Now that we have the important bits out of the way, I just need an alchemist.  


Planning for the Adobe Digital Summit

What do I expect to be doing next week?

Last year was my first time attending so this year I should have a better sense of what to expect.
  • By definition, the sessions will be very product centric.   Consultants will provide better context on the problems and solutions than product marketers.  So, I've skewed the sessions in that direction.
  • There will lots of future CMOs and senior marketers in attendance since in the not too distant future the adjective 'digital' will be dropped and this will just be marketing.  I'll be talking to as many as I can introduce myself to.
  • The discussions will be range from practical 'how do I implement evar' and the theoretical 'where is marketing headed?'.  I'm looking for something in between 'how can we migrate offline spend to digital and ensure a steady growth in sales?'
  • There are always off-the schedule meetings to be had.  This year I want to talk about accessing audiences across touch points, figuring out how content works in the customer experience, and leveraging transaction data re-targeting. 
And of course there are the evenings...more meetings.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Implications of Big Data on Marketing

Can past advertising campaigns help explain what to do?

A colleague recently shared SapientNitro's "Insights 2013"; a collection of trends, discussions and case studies that center on their idea of connected thinking.   At 218 pages (and 40mb) it is a lot to digest at one time - but worth the read.  

The tome is organized around four trends:
  1. Real Time Control: New Consumer-Oriented Devices and Data
  2. Predicting Desire: Building the Infrastructure to Anticipate Consumer Needs in Real Time
  3. Continuous Experiences: How Companies are Blurring the Online and Offline World
  4. Globalization: The Global Marketer and the Rise of the Global Consumer 
All of this leaves me thinking about the implications for an organization, particularly around the use of data.   So, using some famous advertising taglines - here's what it means to marketing.
  • Think different (Apple 1998) - it is not business as usual.   Applying approaches that worked in the past will not suffice in a consumer-connected world.  We should be asking different questions and to use Cloudera's tagline "Ask bigger questions."  How are decisions made? How do we facilitate choice?
  • Don’t leave home without it. (American Express 1975)  This is an interconnected world - and not just among people, but devices as well.  The smartphone has made us first generation cyborgs; Google glasses and contact lenses are next.  The explosion in data exhaust is from sensors and events, not just from humans.  What is the context and intent surrounding the interaction?  Can we figure it out as it occurs (or even before)?  What could we do if we knew?
  • Hey, Mikey...he likes it! (Life Cereal 1972)  Testing and experimentation allows for new services/plans to be created.  Google has around 500 experiments going on at anyone time to improve their products.  What things are we testing right now?  Why didn't that idea work?       
  • We bring good things to life. (General Electric 1981) The shopping journey is often expressed as an experience.   This requires understanding what people want and how a brand could best satisfy those needs.  This turns the question on its head and inside out.  What would make our journey more interesting and useful?
  • Reach out and touch someone. (ATT 1979)  Social sharing (or just plain links) changes the dynamics of the sales process.  It isn't just us and them as direct response teaches us and it certainly isn't a linear funnel - it could be flipped, a doughnut or any other shape you can imagine.   What content are consumers consuming? Where will they go next?  Who will they rely on for information?  How does content work?
  • Where’s the beef? (Wendy's 1984) All this data requires new ways of thinking about and organizing analytics. Consider what New York City has done - they reduced ambulance response time by 1 minute by understanding how food/coffee/restrooms impacted response time.  They also reduced injuries to firefighters by 15% by predicting illegal apartment conversions thru the integration of disparate data sets. What can we learn from mash-ups?
  • Just do it (Nike 1988) You can't put the right plan in place since there are so many unknowns and changes occur at the speed of thought.  Execute - Track - Adjust will replace Plan - Execute - Track.  What will we do next that we've never done before? 
Time to hack something...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Metrics can be Technically Correct and Precisely Wrong

Why do we have issues with data and metrics?

Data and metrics are unique in their ability to be both technically correct yet precisely wrong at the same time.   It is like they exist in a quantum, parallel universe.

Consider the case of Unique Visitors and Publication Opens.  A recent report showed 9,931 publication opens as well as 13,410 Unique Visitors.   And to help provide insights, the ratio of the two is computed as 'publications/visitor'.  

But 0.74 is less than one publication open per visitor.  

Something, that on the surface seems odd, if not outright wrong.  If publication opens happen by visitors then shouldn't the average be at least one?

The answer depends on how those two numbers are defined.
  • Publication Opens: a fairly precise technical event logged by the system based on an individual opening the index page (usually) of a document.  Given that definition it is easy to count.
  • Unique Visitors: a business definition is required to answer the question:  What set of events do we want to include in the definition of 'unique'?  If I open two publications;  I am counted once in Unique Visitors and twice in Publication Opens.   If I start a session, but don't open a publication the numbers are 0 Opens, 1 Visitor.   Hmmm….
All is revealed by looking at the way it is implemented, ie at the business logic used in the code and not the raw data.   The definition of "Unique" according to the business requirements, and hence code, covers not only "Publication Opens" but five other events as well.   So, it is quite possible that there are visitors who do NOT open a publication.   And in fact that is exactly the case. 

So, the implication is that the 0.74 is technically correct.    There are 9,931 events logged as an open; and there are 13,410 unique visitors to the site based on six events.  

However, the ratio and thus the business interpretation are clouded because the number doesn't answer the question the client is probably asking:  Among people who open publications, how many do they open?   

Language may be powerful, but it is imprecise.

We (myself included) often rush to say the data are bad…what we are really saying is:  We don't really understand the business requirements we conveyed nor do we have the skills to ensure what we meant actually shows up in the results.  It is experience with clients' business and marketing that allows us to at least apply a sniff test.   Does less than one publication open per visitor make sense?  What is my client going to think?  While I got what I asked for, is it what I need?

The data are what the data are. 

It is the logic conveyed by the business and the language used to implement where most issues arise.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Innovator's DNA

What does it take to disrupt the status quo?

I'm currently reading "The Innovator's DNA" - the most recent in the series on disruptive innovation (co)authored by Clay Christensen.   This one looks at the skills of disruptive leaders and tries to figure out what's different - how did they discover their idea?  According to their research, it comes down to five traits. 
  1. Associating - the ability to look at a variety of things and connect the dots in new and novel ways.  
  2. Questioning - poking holes in the status quo by asking "why does it have to be that way?"
  3. Observing - the art of seeing is grossly under-appreciated
  4. Networking - getting ideas and feedback from as a diverse source of inputs as possible
  5. Experimenting - since these ideas haven't been done before, learn by doing, discarding and defining
These are not the typical traits we look for in managers, in fact they are the polar opposite since we want experience with delivering results within a defined business model - not a new model altogether.

In the context of marketing, and digital in particular, these traits make sense when trying to deliver a seamless experience across the touch points.  

There are some interesting self-assessments on the website as well.  I lean toward the 'discovery' vs. 'delivery' side of things.

Friday, February 15, 2013

360 Degree Views and Reality

Is there one 360-degree view of consumers?

As a consumer, I'm viewed thru one of three lenses from each marketer that has an interest in a baby boomer with a penchant for fly fishing, being a foodie, and travel (at least for work). Each and every marketer looks at me in one of three ways:
  • I'm a customer for the few I buy from, so they know I exist
  • I'm in a segment for others who have a vague idea that I exist
  • I'm hiding in the dark for those who know I should exist, but can't prove it
The result is that I'm completely different in the eyes of each firm's desire to establish a relationship.  In media planning rooms all across the country I'm on the board in one of those three buckets.

So I'm bombarded with all types of marketing campaigns based on different points of view. The mix includes broadcast, targeted, and personalized 1:1 each attempting to influence a very different "person."

And to reduce cognitive dissonance I tend to filter them out because I'm still just me - one person.

Now it is unreasonable to assume that companies will each take turns marketing to me - they have their objectives to meet.   So, how should you gain access and get thru the bubble?
  1. Recognize that reach, targeting and CRM are simply different layers of the same objective - influencing my choices.  I exist in your three media plans, please don't think of them as separate functions.  Package them up.
  2. Surround me with interesting content along the journey.  At any point in time I will be 'in different buying stages' for a lot of different things.   Since the brain is hard wired to filter out the irrelevant you need to find a way to fire those neurons. Don't be boring and predictable.  And by all means be consistent across the touch points. 
  3. Since we're not talking about the base of Maslow's need hierarchy it is the experience and the resulting emotions that really matter.  It takes more than a coupon.
From my perspective, there is no singular 360-degree view but rather a set of parallel universes.  Your job is to make it easy to decide which one I want to exist in.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dear Vendor: Listen First, Discuss Second

How would I act if I were on the client side?

Having spent my career on the vendor side of the table talking with marketers and technologists about their needs I recently sat on the other side. And it was quite the eye-opening experience.

We were listening to pitches to develop research around shopper marketing and the path-to-purchase and here's what I noticed.
  1. While there was a project brief and opportunity to discuss in detail well before presenting, the opening gambit consisted of canned scripts.  "We're this; we've worked with them; we do the stuff you asked for."  Boring and not relevant; we did our homework - that's why you were invited in the first place. Cut to the chase.
  2. Our needs don't fit a standard model - in fact that's precisely why we're not doing the work ourselves - so presenting a canned approach doesn't help your cause much.  Teasing this out of a written brief might be difficult, but a little research on our company - and who would be in the meeting - would have shed some light. Do your homework.
  3. Style and personality matters a lot more than I thought.  Just like an ad agency, we know that whatever is pitched now won't ever see the light of day - there's work to be done to get it right.  We're looking at you asking the question:  'would you deliver the results and make our decision look good?' Project passion, not a project.
  4. The level of interest in the work ranged from:  "We don't do precisely that, we'll get back to you." to "That would be really different and cool."   I have respect for both answers, be honest with yourselves.  It is OK to not win our business if it isn't your business.  Fold or go all in.
  5. While we asked for pricing, it wasn't really meant to be the final number but rather a means of testing the assumptions - both yours and ours.  So, don't get upset that the rules of the game changed (usually by adding stuff we hadn't considered.) Custom doesn't come from a price list.
So, don't present at all.  Come in, sit down and ask questions and listen.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

3 Rules for Presenting Analytics

How should we present the results of analyses?

Three rules to keep in your mind when sharing the results of analyses throughout the business and with clients in particular. 
  • First, admit it:  We don't have (nor can we get) all the answers.
  • Second, speak with conviction and as realistically as possible. Remember, this is not the time for hyperbole, beliefs or a vision of a new-world order. 
  • Third, gain a high-level understanding of the 'how' before sharing the 'what'.
When presenting any analysis based on data mining, digital exhaust, or raw transaction data it is helpful to literally go thru a set sequence to avoid disillusionment after the fog wears off and reality sets in.
  1. Define the business objective and what you trying to achieve   
  2. Outline the methods used to collect, manipulate and process the data.
  3. Articulate the limitations, assumptions, and known unknowns.
  4. Show the key results of the analysis, backed up by an appendix of details.
  5. Discuss the business implications as well as ways to improve the measurement plan itself.
These will help you prevent Garbage In; Gospel Out.

The corollary to this: unless you understand how the results were prepared and the attending limitations don't present them.

Data Mining isn't Like Looking for Gold

What's wrong with comparing data mining to gold mining?

Fire River Gold in Alaska goes through about a half a ton of dirt at the Nixon Fork mine to produce enough gold for just one ring.  The productivity of gold mines is measured in GPT - Grams per Tonne - and the whole process is focused on maximizing productivity as efficiently as possible because gold mining comes with a very high fixed-cost business model.  

Working with data, either digital or transactional, has been related to gold mining since a lot of raw material has to be processed and we're looking for nuggets.  But the similarity stops there - in mining and prospecting for gold, we know precisely what we're looking for and are trying to eliminate areas with low value or probability as quickly as possible.  In data mining the converse is true, we're trying to find the smaller pockets of insights that can be leveraged in our relationship with consumers.

Data mining creates gold, it does not find it. 

(Actually it creates understanding, and that is much more scalable than creating a mountain.)

And the bigger difference is not in the volume or even variety of data, but rather in the process that turns data into marketing recommendations.   In gold mining the excavation, smelting processes removes all the impurities and uncertainty until we are left with a known result -- Au.

Marketing analytics is quite different since we are adding uncertainty along the way to create those useful nuggets of understanding.  Using digital data as an example, we have...
  • the logs of actions and we need to classify them into relevant business events, e.g. turn a click into a publication view.  But there remain anomalies like bounces, uncompleted events, etc. that require business rules to clean up.
  • a variety of methods that allows us to guess at a visitor; certainly credentials (email) or recognition (cookies) makes this easier but there remains a gap between inference and knowledge.
  • uncertainty about the value of what we may find.  The ROI of gold can be computed before hand (grams produced * $pg - less cost of production).  Data mining has no spreadsheet or planning formula.
So, data-driven marketers should think of data mining as an on-going business process rather than as a discrete manufacturing site.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Real Level of e-flyer Usage

What's wrong with omitting an adverb?

In an interesting article about digital promotions, and eflyers in particular, there is this sentence:
E- flyers, on the other hand, aren’t nearly as popular. Only six per cent of Canadians use them, according to a 2011 KubasPrimedia poll.
The comparison is to the overall readership among Canadians - which is near saturation levels at 75% plus depending on source.   If three-out-four read weekly flyers, does it make sense that less than 1 in 10 use the digital equivalent?  Particularly in the age of smartphones and tablets.

Looking for the original report from Kubas I ran across this comparison of print to eflyers which contains this bullet point:
  • A relatively small number, 6%, use e-flyers exclusively.
Sound familiar? The key is that last word.

In the Kubas report the usage of flyers is reported in a nice graph.
This looks like 62% of the measured audience uses e-flyers - or 10x what the Canadian Grocer article states.   I'm sure that difference matters to marketers and merchandisers. 
  • Since there is little incremental reach, the role of the digital promotions is not a pure acquisition play; it reinforces the brand.
  • The form factor for the delivery of promotional content in page form is still "OK" for the moment.  Although, the article does list out some interesting trends - aggregation across retailers, personalization and repurposing.
  • Cross-channel marketing and consistently delivering the content along the shopping journey matters.
So, check the source of those claims...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Post-Digital Retail Marketing

Where are the opportunities now that digital is so 2012?

First, let's use David Cooperstein's description of what post-digital means. In a year-end post in Forbes, he described several key characteristics of the new marketing landscape.
  1. Budgets will be based on outcomes, not silos.   Since consumers don't think or care about channels, there will be an emphasis on more integration to achieve objectives.
  2. Campaigns (programs) will be designed the way consumers think and act.  Start with the questions: How do they want to engage?  and Why do some hate doing business with us?
  3. Push digital into the physical realm to facilitate choice and decision making by making interesting and relevant information ubiquitous along the journey.  
  4. Leading organizational structures will no longer be driven by media type; agencies are sure to follow.
These trends suggest there are new opportunities within retail that simply aren't re-purposing existing thinking on digital platforms.   Here are two likely candidates:

  • Broadly speaking, this is the use of a mobile device in store as part of the shopping experience.  The more specific definition continues to include later purchasing online making it evil in the eyes of some.   Some baseline metrics:
    • While it varies by country, showrooming behavior exceeds 40% among Millennials
    • Stores still matter (for now) since 80+% of transactions occur in store.   However, when viewed from online purchases nearly half were Showroomers.  That is, given an online purchase - about 50% of those consumers got some information in store first.
  • This behavior suggests that consumers are simply trying hard to minimize their risk.   They want to...
    • Avoid buyers remorse. Often done by checking reviews to see how other people feel about the product.
    • Be assured of a good enough deal. Price comparison (and matching) is a way to ensure we're not getting screwed.
    • Trade off the right benefits.   Convenience of the here and now, as well as click to store, are powerful factors in the purchase process.
  • Given given that value is the ratio of benefits to price there are numerous things that retailers can do on the benefit side of the equation. And that means looking for emotional, promotional, informational and communal content opportunities.
  • Retail remains on a course where marketing and merchandising will continue to intersect.   And this is no more evident than in the area of promotions.
    • The principles of CRM are being used to deliver targeted offers - whether in an email or in-store.  Tailoring offers based on purchase history works.
    • Digital and print circulars are complements, not substitutes, thus allowing for different consumer experiences based on the same offer library.  In the post-digital age consumers will want to access more information from whenever and wherever.
    • The incremental reach from flyers is probably less than 10% (given the dominance of print reach) suggesting that merely replicating the page experience is only the first step toward providing consumers value.
  • Price isn't the only attribute of a promotion.   Exclusivity - either in time or person - makes offers more attractive. 
    • Personalization drives sales; as do "Deal Chic" and intermittent reinforcement. But special needs to mean special, not just a word used weekly.
    • Since consumer needs vary across retail segments (expert opinion is important in pharmacy, not so much in apparel) the offer should include what consumers value most.
  • The competitive nature requires that offers get in the hands of as many consumers as possible; and this still means physical distribution.  
    • The digital equivalent to the door knob is the banner ad; and it doesn't take much to imagine linking POS data with the delivery of display ads in a kind of "Merchandise Re-targeting" scenario that leverages geo-targeting in both worlds.
I'm sure there is much more....but these seem like a good place to start thinking.


Big Data is Not a Thing

Is Big Data a thing or an attitude?

We often read stories that use Big Data as a proper noun, either as representative of the future - "Big data: The next frontier.." or just something to deal with - "Is Big Data too big to back up?"   But as a noun, we run the risk of trying to characterize it with adjectives we understand and verbs we commonly use.

The opportunities provided for by the recognition and manipulation of streaming events (even if they're static for the moment) are quite new.   We now have the opportunity to work at the most granular events of processes rather than with surrogate aggregates.   Early in my career I worked with data from 300 customers and monthly warehouse withdrawals as a means of predicting new product success.  Today, the volume, velocity and variety of the available data allows for all kinds of nuanced simulated test marketing models.  All of which provide a better understanding of how and where consumers decide to try a new product.

Maybe we should look at the burgeoning field of data journalism - the purpose of which is to ultimately tell a story.  Mirko Lorenz depicts the process as follows, where data by itself has no real value.

Looks like a strategic planning or creative brief to me; just change 'public' to 'consumer'.   In most organizations, marketers are in the best position to do the filtering and visualization aspects - and those are activities not things.  

The early adoption of this approach is likely to be to confirm the stories we're currently telling - Do the data support what we claim?   The big data phase will be to create new stories from the ground up.  And it is there that game-changing stories will be found.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Implications of Being Digital

What do we have to do to be 'digital'?

Some quotes and comments that reflect the changing face of marketing:
"You can't think or strategize to perfection." BCG
"What do people hate about doing business with us, and can we use digital to fix it?” Forbes
"if you have 100,000 employees and you’ve got only 14 that actually know this stuff ..., you’re not going to get sustainable change."  McKinsey
The above represent some serious challenges to most organizational cultures.   We will simultaneously have to learn that a) facts replace opinions, b) marketing isn't fluff, and c) analysis is everybody's job.  Guessing won't be good enough.

Based on the above articles, a company can be considered digital if in 2013 it...
  1. Boasts deep in-house digital skills (or at least leadership)
  2. Marries brand and technology
  3. Understands how consumers choose and use technology 
For the marketing ecosystem (agencies, marketing services, technology vendors) that support such clients change is coming.   No longer will we have separate and distinct roles - we are going to have to play nice with others because the solutions will be framed from the consumer's point of view and they don't care about us.

And we'll need to bring something of value to the table.  Be it a curious mind, a blend of business and digital acumen or analytic chops.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Migrating from Beliefs to Hypotheses

Is there a difference, and does it matter?

A recent set of conversations about how various marketing campaigns were performing all included the phrase: "I believe".
  • I believe the drop in acquisitions is due to the holiday period
  • I believe the lift in sales is incremental
  • I believe the best to time to contact consumers is before or after work
Beliefs are premises that we hold be true based on personal conviction.  Challenging them can get ugly, so we often condition ourselves not to offer alternatives - particularly when dealing with HiPPOs (Highest paid person's opinion.)  In comparison, hypotheses - which can be stated with equal conviction - are meant to be challenged and proven to be correct or rejected. 

Sometimes it is easier to work under a belief system than a hypothesis-driven one for the simple reason: there is a lot more work to do.
  • What are the right questions?
  • How do we go about answering them?
  • How can we be sure?
In a post about 'The Year of Measured Retail', the folks at RSR make the point:  Lame questions lead to lame insights and that "if no one asks the right questions, no one will get the game-changing answers."  And that means being free to get creative rather than shot down. And their research suggests that the best performing retailers have an outspoken visionary leading the change.

And to be creative, we need to be able to see the shopping experience from the consumer perspective.  As evidence of this view, the Media Decoder blog of the NYT highlighted a set of M&A deals that reflect a roll up along the journey in order to provide clients with end-to-end solutions.   No more silos means lots of unknowns.

The surety issue suggests that we need the tools to reduce risk by quantifying uncertainty - and that is the domain of analysis in general and statistics in particular.   These disciplines are grounded on the notion of testing hypotheses.  Thick skins required; it won't be personal.

So, how do we transition from a belief system to a culture of testing?  Some recommendations:
  1. State what assumptions have to be true for a belief (or opinion) to be valid.
  2. Focus on confirming the assumptions, one at a time, where being proven wrong has less impact.
  3. Build to the conclusion slowly, in bite size pieces, to allow it all to sink in since the mind is the hardest thing of all to change.
In the end, try to get everyone in the habit of asking questions rather than stating opinions as facts.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blog Post Number 500

What I have I learned by writing this blog?

This is the 500th post I've written since late 2006.  So, I thought I'd interview myself and see what I have to say.

Why did you start a blog?
At the time blogs were both a source and outlet of thinking ans analysis.  So, I thought I should share some of my thinking as well as interesting ideas.  At the time the posts weren't written around a single topic, but rather an anthology of topics.

How has the blog evolved?
Over time it tracks the discussions happening in the marketing world. For example, both social media and data-driven have been common themes.  More recently it has been more focused around the implications of such trends. 

From a communication point of view, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are now much better sources for reference material.  As a result, I try to think more about what value I can add to the mix. 

Having a different point of view and an opinion seems to work best.  For instance, arguing that we need social media strategies because everyone is on Facebook is akin to arguing we need a billboard strategy because everyone drives.

What do you want a post to do?
Since there are a lot of detailed analyses, how-to, and news oriented sources I try to take a different approach and synthesize a variety of sources and roll them up into a conclusion or implication.    Since people are likely to scan web content, I try to make them succinct and pithy, often with a sense of humor.   

In the end, I simply hope they stimulate thought and more conversation.  One of the most circulated was entitled 'leveraging communities of interest' which looked at common interests as the new demographics.

What is the benefit of blogging?
For me it started as a personal project and it remains so today.  But I'll admit it, while I like the retweets I really feel good when people say 'interesting take on...'

Now, back to figuring out marketing in the fluid fog - what we need to do when everything is interactive and people are the media. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

7 Traits of Data Driven Marketers

How do you know a marketing organization is data driven?
  1. The CMO talks about hypotheses not just strategies, freeing you to test them.
  2. Creative briefs and manifestos are equal part aspiration and analysis.
  3. Every manager has a 'just say yes' budget for testing crazy ideas.
  4. The interns the company just hired speak HTML, Java and particularly R.
  5. People are obsessed with how to find and fix what's broken (digitally).
  6. Every presentation starts and ends with: "We still don't know...."
  7. Everyone asks 'what do the data say?' when responding to HiPPO (highest paid person's opinion.)
The above points come from a collection of sources, interviews and articles so apologies to the authors for not finding the links to their original thinking. 

Monday, January 07, 2013

Marketing with the Five Senses

Can a smartphone smell or feel?

Each year IBM posts the annual"5 in 5" - trends that their analysts see occurring in the next several years.   The question of interest: how will the five senses be integrated into technology?

While the examples cover everything from monitoring soil to reading MRI's for anomalies there are implications related to retail marketing.  
  • The goal of satisfying needs profitability requires a) making it easy to decide in the face of hyper-choice and b) providing a frictionless path to purchase/consumption.   A lot has been done in the latter arenas, e.g. click-to-store and text2buy.  These five trends suggest that the experiential part of choosing will be next frontier in retail.
  • Of the five senses, they will be adopted in the order in which consumers find them useful to filter out noise and uncertainty.  The trends suggest that devices will provide input on the environment, not just show features.  
  • Examples of these trends abound today...
    • Sight: virtual and augmented reality is used in a number cases where information is overlaid based on context and location.
    • Hearing: SoundHound and Shazam make building playlists easy by identifying ambient tunes.
    • Touch: tactile products abound - from Corinthian leather to shag carpet - that need to be felt to buy.
    • Smell: breathalyzer apps like Alcohoot use the same process as smell.   Can a wine app be too far behind?
    • Taste: the business rules for food pairing are continuously evolving.  Thus, it seems likely that judging the freshness of fruit and seafood can't be far behind.
Some broad thoughts about the future that are broad, strategic 'facts of life':
  • The future comes slower than we think, but change happens faster.  Thus, any predictions are likely to be vaguely correct but precisely wrong.  Remember, ATT passed on the mobile market in the early 80s when the number of handsets was estimated to be less than 1 million in 20 years time.
  • Miniaturization allows for portability. We have willingly morphed into cyborgs where technology is used to enhance our normal capabilities.   The smartphone/tablet is a step in the communication pathway and glasses will be next.
  • Disruption will happen on the fringe where problems are solved rather than products being sold.  LifeWatch, the first medical device based on current mobile standards is in development based on patents filed 10 years ago.
Time to get creative about putting the smart into a device.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Marketing in 2013

What does the future hold for marketers?

The season for highlighting consumer trends for 2012 has come to a close.   Firms like JWT Intelligence, Trendwatching and Global Trends identified a number of trends that can be summarized as follows...
  • Technology will be used to do anything, anywhere at any time - with shopping and knowing leading the list of personalized tasks.
  • Social connections, both known and unknown, will be leveraged to make decisions or get help- from opinions to content to money.
  • The choice to interact with a brand will be based on our values or well being, e.g. green or organic. At a minimum our expectation is that the senses will be stimulated.
So, what does this suggest for marketing?  Some thoughts:
  • If an organization isn't buzzing with activity and doesn't look somewhat frenetic then it is going too slow.   The number of options in the 'unknown unknown' category is simply too large to try to sort it all out before executing. 
  • Share of wallet results from providing a frictionless, enjoyable experience worth talking about.  This requires leadership from marketing generalists with a strong understanding of technology, not subject matter experts or [adjective] marketers.
  • Purpose trumps offers.  We need brand marketers to provide the guidelines required to keep from falling into the short term realm of exaggeration
Time to create a 'just do it' budget.