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...