It’s Gut Check Time For Marketing

How do you feel about the marketing dollars that are being spent at your organization?

This is about much more than your marketing mix, and this is much more serious than how creative your advertising is looking these days. Quick question: how much do you rely on data and analytics to build, develop and deploy your marketing? This is not a trick question. It’s a very serious one. We live in a world (finally) where the data doesn’t lie. In fact, there is so much data (and so much depth to it), that acting without data seems incredulous (and that’s using a kind word).

What do you know about your consumers?

What do they like? How do they like it? What are they doing? How are they doing it? How many steps does it take for them to purchase? What is their path to purchase? What is your cost per acquisition? How much of your advertising is being optimized along with these data sets? That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Still, when these questions get asked, the rooms always get quiet. Forget all of that. Be real. Get honest. If you could better understand what, exactly, your consumers were doing and were able to test and try different things against that to see if you could improve their path to purchase, would you?

Of course you would!

Here’s the thing: none of this stuff is all that expensive to do. In fact, I would be willing to argue that there are some awesome free (or even cheap-ish) tools that can make every marketer that much better. This is nothing new. These tools have been around for a while now and they are fairly sophisticated (Google Analytics, anyone?) and have become quite mature. You also don’t need a team of IT professionals to get this stuff up and running. For the most part, the vast majority of these tools are cloud-based and require little more than dumping a simple line of code on to your digital pages. I’ve seen administrative assistants pull this off as well as an IT director. 

In a world where you can do… why aren’t you?

It was a big, massive sigh. The kind of sigh that leaves you shaking your head. This feeling of almost complete defeat. That, with a slight glimpse of glee. Why glee? Because I can help. That was the array of emotions I felt after reading the Marketing Charts news item that was published today and titled, 1 in 2 US Marketers “Trust Their Gut” for Marketing Budget Decisions. Half. Half of all marketing decisions are made with our guts. With all of this data. With all of this big data. With all of this insight. With people like Avinash Kaushik and Bryan Eisenberg telling us this stuff for almost twenty years. We’re still just using our guts to decide? From the article: “There seems to be a consensus among marketers that they need to reinvent themselves to succeed, particularly as the vast majority believe that marketing is undergoing a revolution. But few of those who want to reinvent their role know how to go about doing so. Part of embracing a new approach to marketing also involves experimentation, and 54% of respondents believe that the ideal marketer should take more risks. That risk-taking extends to new technologies, but marketers were twice as likely to agree that they are more comfortable adopting new technologies once they become mainstream (65%) they they were to agree that they make use of new technology even before it’s proven (31%).” 

Depressed much?

As a digital marketing agency dude, this is mostly good news. It means that our runway at Twist Image continues to be both long and wide as nearly half of the marketers in our business are still acting quite traditionally in this world that has so radically changed. Still, as a Marketing Activist (Media Hacker or whatever you want to call me), it saddens me to read how little has changed. We’re still in the era where the CMO would much rather see their brand on a sports arena (mostly a vanity metric) than be working day in and day out to lower the cost of marketing, by being razor focused on the data, optimization and improvements that can be made by integrating technology throughout the entire marketing system. So yes, it’s gut check time.

What kind of marketing department do you want to be a part of in the future? Those that are driven by gut feelings or the data?


What Is The Point Of A Website In 2014?

It’s not all about what the mobile experience will be about.

The one screen world. It’s a concept often written about in these posts and it’s an ideology that was created to force brands to start thinking about true customer-centricity instead of business and brand-driven silos (also check out my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete). We live in a world where the only screen that matters is the screen that is in front of me. We live in a world where screens are here, there and everywhere. They are in the palms of our hands, on our wrists, on our glasses, on our computers, and push out many forms of information and entertainment to us in a myriad of ways. Consumers don’t think about it any more. Screens are everywhere (and, if they aren’t there yet, they will be soon). Billions upon billions of connected people and connected devices. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on what this all means, and how it changes the dynamics of our lives, of business and the brands that need to stay afloat.

Still, don’t forget about your website.

It may sound cliché, but we live in a world where brands are increasingly leaving the information, data capture and power of building the direct relationship to chance or to someone else. We are seeing an increase in brands leaving their true engagement to social media (be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube or beyond). They are letting these online social networks do the heavy lifting of nurturing the brand narrative, while they focus on building mobile apps and other ways to connect. What we’re beginning to see (in a post-PC and post-Web browser world) is a knowing abandonment of the website, instead of re-imagining it to become the powerful engine of business that it truly can be.

What is the point of a website in 2014?

That is the question. If you go back in time (and we’re talking within this past decade), most companies used their websites in two way:

  1. To provide a level of information.
  2. To sell their wares.

Breaking that down a little bit more, brands used the Internet as a way to create more interactive brochures of their wares, or as a way to sell directly to their consumers. Nobody is going to argue that these still act as important functions in the business world, but there is something more. If advertising is a vertical function within the marketing department and the marketing department acts as its own vertical within the organization, we’re missing the bigger business opportunity and, with it, the biggest opportunity in developing a stronger brand.

Advertising is a vertical, but marketing becomes horizontal.

If you think about marketing in its purest form (the engines of developing and optimizing the product, it’s pricing models, how it is distributed – in both physical and virtual formats – and how it is promoted), we can’t deny that the role of marketing must adapt to meet the inter-connectedness of the world. In short, marketing has to move from a vertical within the organization into a horizontal functional that goes across the organization. Marketing, clearly, needs to touch everything. If the websites can think, act and demonstrate this variance, what we have is a new model of Web efficiency. It’s also the type of function that can’t be done efficiently on mobile (yet, but that could be changing).

What a Web of efficiency can look like.

Instead of letting the website wither on the vine, as the brand focuses on social media, content marketing, mobile apps and beyond, re-focus the website as the digital embodiment of the brand. In a world of micro-content and real-time marketing, this seems like the logical step for brands to take (but most are not). What is the first true brand impression that people receive? Even in a world where word of mouth has digitized with global reach, most people looking for anything will still default to some form of search prior to purchase (and, we’re even seeing layers of data to support that this is happening with “impulse buy” products as well). Whether it’s a Google search box or a post on Facebook, consumers turn to digital channels to better understand a product and/or service. This is nothing new. It’s been happening for close to twenty years, at this point. The difference is that brands can now use their websites as an engine to change the sales funnel and build better marketing interactions. It’s hard work, but it can be done. My close friend and colleague, Avinash Kaushik (Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google and the author of Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0) best defines this by understanding what a true conversion is. Most brands define “success” or a “conversion” if a customer buys from them or calls for an appointment. This zero-sum race to a conversion is not the actual path to purchase for consumers (we know this, and it’s basic). Still, we build these massive websites, with hefty investments with that being the sole focus. What Avinash says is that we need to break this up. We need to think about all of the things consumers want on their way to make the purchase, and to quantify each of these steps as micro-conversions. This is when things start getting exciting. Maybe a consumer watches a video, signs up for an e-newsletter, likes your brand on Facebook, etc… each one of the touch points can (and should) be assigned a micro-conversion, with a scoring system attached to it (you can use points, dollar amounts, whatever). Using simple (and free) analytics, this information can easily be tracked, and then turned into a more realistic sales funnel that depicts both a path to purchase, and can validate just how good your creative and content is (or how poorly it is performing). This is all about efficiency and cutting the fat. It’s not about adding more stuff.

… And there is so much…

Multivariate testing, landing pages, leveraging targeted keywords to see what drives people where, and how engaged they become are just the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t even begun to think about eCRM, creating a testing and learning environment, getting smarter about where things go and how they persuade the path to purchase… and beyond. It’s enough to make your head spin. And, that’s the point. It’s 2014, and most websites still want you to read and/or buy, instead of being that true digital embodiment of the brand. So, if all your website does is sell or inform, it seems easy enough to leave it behind and let the online social networks do this work (because that is where people are congregated and connected), or to do this on a mobile app (because that is where people are, increasingly, grabbing or doing this type of stuff). What happens is that a massive chasm of business opportunity gets lost because brands live in dogma. Their old ways of doing things. The thing about these web engines of efficiency is that it’s not easy to do. You can’t just hire an agency to build you something. It’s a collaborative  process that is hard and requires a different way of operating (both internally and externally). It requires a brand to re-think how they get new customers and keep old ones. And, while this may sound scary, it also provides one of the biggest opportunities to truly grow a business. It’s (sadly) something that most brands are dismissing because of the classic shiny, bright objects that are out there or their belief that this new way of thinking is risky. This is isn’t about risk. It’s about efficiency. It’s about actually looking at how people buy and making everything (from you advertising to your content) work for you, instead of giving you more work to do.

Your website is – and could well be – the true heart of the soul of your brand, it just takes the courage to accept it and the hard work to do it.   


The Porous Web

Are we close to the end of owned media?

When we think of a solid marketing mix (from a promotional perspective), there is no doubt that brands need to now find balance in a world where paid media (buying ads) dances cheek to cheek with earned media (getting attention via media outlets without paying for it) and owned media (websites, blogs, e-newsletters and more). The holy trinity of balance is one that most brands struggle with, as they so easily fall back on paid media as the best way to garner attention, build interest, create desire and get consumers to buy from them (and stay loyal). Many marketing professionals (myself included) became overzealous with the potential of owned media when social media became popular (almost a decade ago). Along with that, the sentiment that the Internet is like an elephant (it never forgets) added fuel to the fire that brands needed to think beyond the paid and earned media models to owning the relationship with the consumer. Getting their email address. Getting them to their corporate websites. Getting them to read their blogs. Engaging with consumers and rectifying customer service issues in public for all to see. And more. The thinking was salient: no more gatekeepers. Own the direct relationship and everything that comes with it. Plus, if anyone ever does a search on a brand, that will be the raw brand experience (good, bad or neutral). With this massive history and memory comes the true brand story (and not just the one that is created by an ad agency).

But the Web is a technology, and technology evolves and advances quicker than most of us can understand.

Snapchat seemed innocuous enough. An online social network that enables people to share photos with one, little, nuance. Once the photo is viewed by the person it is being shared with, it disappears. NSA issues aside, this type of platform opened up an entirely new type of Web experience. One where consumers quickly realized that there isn’t a need to archive every character or every type of engagement. There are moments when people want to share and hold on to memories, and countless other fleeting moments that have no need to become a part of any digital public record or legacy. Something I called, The Impermanent Internet, was born. With more and more consumers ditching their media collections for digital downloads and more and more of those consumers ditching their hard drives full of media for streaming services (like Netflix and Spotify), the Internet is quickly ushering in a new era where user generated content can have impermanence, content needn’t be owned (it can be shared, streamed or borrowed) and suddenly, consumers are becoming increasingly efficient and open to more communications and content while needing a whole lot less of stuff (digital and physical) in their lives. Everyone was aghast that Snapchat turned down a three billion dollar offer to be bought by Facebook, but this Business Insider chart demonstrates something powerful: Snapchat Now Has More Photos Uploaded Daily Than Facebook. Facebook can’t afford to let Snapchat (or whoever is coming after that) own the mobile – social – photo space. And, as it turns out, people are enjoying this new form of impermanence.

The impermanence and efficiency of brands.

Perhaps brands need to become more efficient by actively embracing this as well. While everyone talks in amazement about Oreo‘s massive year in validating real-time advertising, the true bleeding edginess of this brand is better illustrated in where the brand is putting its energy. The media pundits would tell the brand to leverage that real-time advertising moment to drive to owned media, but take a look at the Oreo Facebook page (close to 35 million likes as of this writing). The brand is embracing the notion of both impermanence and efficiency by allowing their Facebook page to do the heavy brand lifting in the digital channels. Those same pundits will tell you that this is a strategic mistake, because if Facebook’s popularity wanes, if something else comes along, if that platform matures too rapidly that Oreo will have no way of retaining those likes and transferring them to another hub. This may be true, but if you look at this trend of impermanence and efficiency, who cares? The brand could (and should) simply float along with their friends and followers to wherever they may roam.

The Porous Web.

What we’re seeing is a porous Web. It’s not one that stores every little bit and byte of data. It’s not one that drives a consumer to our owned properties where they navigate and flow through the website as we have designed it. What we’re seeing is a very different Web. It’s a Web where people have multiple platforms, multiple screens, multiple personas, multiple needs, multiple desires and they are all very porous. They drip in and out of one another. This is going to force marketers to up their game (even more) and get smarter (much smarter). It’s becoming clear that driving consumers to owned media is getting harder and harder, so marketers are upping their investments in places like social media and content marketing to drive that attention spike upwards. That’s a traditional tactic (similar to buying impressions) instead of thinking about how much more content a brand should be producing, it’s time to understand that a porous Web means a better content distribution strategy is necessary (more on that here: The Failing State Of Content Marketing). Whether brands like it or not, the Web has become porous and with screens everywhere and an estimated 75 billion connected devices by 2020 (of which many will not have screens like we have known to date), the ability for a brand to have any semblance of owned media may quickly dissolve as consumers become increasingly interested in impermanence and streaming. Amazon Founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, once said: “In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.” As we watch the Internet and connected devices evolve, those percentages may shift even more.

Brands are being put on notice. The porous Web is just getting started. Marketers are going to have to adapt (dramatically… and again).


Fame Is Exhausting, So Don’t Seek It Out

Don’t all famous people look exhausted?

Of course that’s probably just a simple man’s interpretation and can be easily psycho-analyzed to death. Still, I have been thinking a lot about fame lately. What does it mean? Why do we seek it out? What is the point? I have had a strange life, in that I have been surrounded (from a young age) by people who are famous. Even now, I can count some famous people as true friends, and when I take to the stage to speak, I am (more often than not) bookended by some pretty famous folks as well. The truth is that these people don’t look all that exhausted, and while they probably have similar issues that regular folks (like you and I) have – I’m sure they fight with their spouses, that they’re disappointing their kids, that they grapple with addiction and are faced with stress and anxiety – it seems like they are content with how things have played out. They’re probably just busier than the vast majority of us and are put in front of more opportunities because of the attention that they’re getting.

The secret about fame.

I was having breakfast with some colleagues and someone implied that I was famous. I brushed it off. It felt weird. No one was interrupting our meeting and asking for an autograph. I’m anonymous in my day-to-day life. The implication was that I may be too busy to do something. Anything. Too busy to respond to email. Too busy to look at a new business opportunity. To busy to help and mentor someone. Too busy to give some time to a local charity. Whatever. When I prodded them a little bit more by scoffing at the notion, they said that my content is everywhere and that it’s hard not to look at the digital marketing landscape and not see my name pop up. They were being kind. I was being defensive.

It’s not about the fame.

When I think of fame, I think of individuals who are solely focused on being famous. You probably know people who have a lot of friends and followers like this on social media. They like to let you know how much of a big deal they are on Twitter, and the like. You probably know some celebrities who are famous for being famous (*cough* Kardashian *cough*). It’s not about the fame. I don’t wake up and think (or dream) about being famous. In fact, most of the famous people that I know are the same. I wake up and want to make the marketing industry better and more respected. I wake up and want brands to find better (and more human) ways to connect with their consumers. I wake up and have a deep desire to uncover some kind of relevant nugget and share it with clients and you. If the by-product is that people like this, share this, connect with this and want to be a part of this, then that is magical… and it’s very flattering.

Don’t confuse fame with chasing an audience.

In the massive hit song Fame by David Bowie, there’s this line: “Fame, it’s not your brain, it’s just the flame.” It’s a great line because it’s true. Brands try to get attention and (some) are willing to do just about anything to get it. What most fail to realize is that fame isn’t a destination. Fame is a minor outcome of doing something that people want to connect with. AdWeek reported yesterday that the Super Bowl ads for this coming year are sold out. The article states:Fox has sold the last of its available in-game Super Bowl spots, securing an average rate of $4 million per 30 seconds of airtime for the Feb. 2 broadcast. Media buyers said that latecomers who urgently wanted to break into the NFL‘s marquee event invested as much as $4.5 million per :30.” If you don’t think brands and people are desperate for fame, you are not paying attention.

The thing about fame.

Fame is exciting and it’s seducing. I don’t believe that I am famous (not for a minute), but I can tell you about its seduction powers by watching those that I know who have a modicum of it. Those who aren’t exhausted by it are the ones who aren’t thinking about what it is and the value of it. They don’t let fame go to their head (which is not easy). Instead, they are head down and deeply focused on creating whatever it is that is important to them. They want to know that it has meaning, because it gives their lives meaning. If you advertise for fame and not because you’re trying to inform people of something new, it’s probably going to blow up in your face.

Don’t think about becoming famous. Think about creating a impact with the work that you do. Let’s hope the Super Bowl ads deliver that kind of value.


What Keeps The Chief Marketing Officer Awake At Night? – Part 3

Is Gartner right about Chief Marketing Officers spending more on IT than the Chief Information Officer in the coming years?

A very senior Chief Marketing Officer at one of the largest telecommunications companies in North America leaned over my shoulder after someone mentioned the famed Gartner report at an event, and sighed, “if I hear about this report one more time, I am going to blow a gasket.” Still, it is hard to argue that every business is now a digital business. We’re not just talking about the availability of that much more consumer information or data to help brands make better decisions and connect more powerfully with their consumers (you can read more about that in the last installment: What Keeps The Chief Marketing Officer Awake At Night? – Part 2), we’re talking about the actual infrastructure of the marketing department and what keeps it humming along.  

Are marketers still scared of technology? 

When we started Twist Image in 2000, the vision was to help the marketing community understand and embrace the power of the Internet. The timing was – somewhat – precarious. Back then, if the brand even had a website, it was being developed, handled and maintained by the IT department. As the commercialization of the Internet increased and brands began to understand the power of e-commerce, online ordering, social media and more, the best-in-class players extradited the website from the clutches of IT, but a lot had to happen for this to work. Back in 2000, it was common for marketing professionals to be scared of technology and the IT department (that being said, there are many marketers who still have their collective heads stuck in the sand), and the IT department didn’t trust the marketers with the technology (that being said, there are many IT pros who still don’t, and think we’re mucking it up pretty good). Fast forward to this date and things have improved, but we still have a vast chasm that needs to be collapsed.

Can we get the CMO and CIO to shack up?

You probably won’t find a CIO who doesn’t think that they need better alignment with the CMO, and the feeling from the marketers is mutual. As data and analytics take a more predominant role in business decisions, marketers are going to face a world where IT (both hardware and software) to operationalize the department of marketing is going to hit some exponential growth curves.  

The strategic partnership between marketing and IT.

Here’s what we know: the social layer of technology is still running at full bore. Brands are diving deeper and deeper in the realms of digital marketing, and we are seeing the media dollars continue to shift (especially as mobile ramps up on advertising). From the TechCrunch news item, Digital Ads Will Be 22% Of All U.S. Ad Spend In 2013, Mobile Ads 3.7%; Total Global Ad Spend In 2013 $503B, on September 30th, 2013: “mobile is growing seven times faster than desktop Internet spend, with mobile ads growing by 77% in 2013, 56% in 2014 and 48% in 2015., driven by the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets. Globally, internet advertising will grow at an average of 10% a year.” Marketing departments are going to soon push beyond the data and media component as newer needs arise. Currently, we are seeing strong investment in technology companies that specialize in contextual marketing solutions. The wealth of information that provides marketing context now extends well past things like simple location. Because of smartphones and tablets, the ability to understand environment, emotion, culture and economic factors is here. Wearable technology and the Internet of things is only going to push this further. Yes, we have ten billion-plus wireless connected devices today, but it’s looking like that number will triple by 2020 to over thirty billion devices (more on that here: 10BN+ Wirelessly Connected Devices Today, 30BN+ In 2020′s ‘Internet Of Everything’, Says ABI Research). If everything that can be plugged in or has a battery is also online, just imagine the technology infrastructure that brands will require to better connect messages and products to their consumers?

The humanization of technology.

Technology has removed technology from technology. Look no further than the iPad for proof of this. A simple button to turn on and it works like electricity (switch it, and it’s on… no boot up time). Also, no instruction manuals. These devices are as easy to use as plugging in a lamp and flipping the switch (just slide to unlock). Because we have arrived at this inflection point, it’s safe to say that everything from cloud computing, personalization and localization are going to become increasingly more relevant for marketers to pay attention to. What this leads to is a world of marketing automation (yes, more IT and technology). What sounds like more buzzwords and a means to scare the professional marketer, is really just another way to say this: if the CMO does not become increasingly adept at IT and technology, they will get left behind. These tools, services and applications aren’t just engines to push advertising conversion in a more positive direction, they are quickly become core tools of the marketing trade.

The technology can’t be stopped.

As the CIO’s role continues to evolve within the organization, the CMO must be deeply connected to the technological infrastructure that will be driving business results. It doesn’t take much more than some general sniffing around Google to see how profound and dramatic the infiltration of IT and technology in the marketing department has become… and how much more pervasive and important of a role it is going to play. The marketing function of an organization is a technology-driven one. That fate has been sealed. Now, we just need the marketers to accept, embrace it and work with it.

What does this mean for media and communications?

In the next post (in about two weeks time), we will look at how the Chief Marketing Officer is dealing with convergence, disintermediation and the massive shift from advertising as a means of producing revenue to a world of true business solutions (where advertising may just be one of the many mechanism that a brand will use to inform the public of something new and/or different). We will look at the transition to the one screen world (where the only screen that matters is the one that is in front of the consumer) to how CMOs have been at dealing with the signal to noise ratio in a world where content is both king and so easy to produce and distribute.

And, in case you missed it…

There are five core foundational reasons why the Chief Marketing Officer’s role within the organization is in such a fragile state. Over the next few months, we will deconstruct the following five areas that the Chief Marketing Officer must pay increased attention to, in order to figure out what the next decade of marketing will look like for businesses.

The five areas that Chief Marketing Officers need to pay attention to:

As always, please feel free to add your perspective below…


The Price Of Personalization

What kind of advertising do you want?

It’s a serious question. It’s a question that most consumers don’t ask themselves, but they should. I was invited to speak at Vogue magazine’s leadership conference in New York City the other week. One thing is certain about that magazine: people buy it for the ads as much as they’re buying it for the content. They’re not the only ones. Many people can’t wait to go to the movie theater to see which previews they’re going to show. When an upcoming movie is going to be previewed before certain movies, there are individuals who go to the film just to catch a glimpse of the preview. Personally, I look forward to the monthly editions of Wired and Fast Company in paper format, to not only enjoy the content, but the ads that are a part of it.

Sometimes we forget about the role of advertising.

Advertising doesn’t have to be a nuisance or annoying. The true role of advertising is that it acts as a commercial vehicle of information delivery. The intent of it is to create interest, desire and even action in consumers. Not all consumers. Just the ones that it is aiming to appease to. Sadly, we have spent decades being bombarded with ads everywhere (and not very good ones at that). So, here we are. The day and age when certain types of media outlets can now target and deliver an ad that we, the consumers, might find that much more relevant. We’ve seen it in the nascent stages of behavioral targeting and now in a much more pervasive way with remarketing.

But, there’s a big problem with marketers today.

In my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, I delve much deeper into the problem of how marketers have done a terrible job of explaining the difference between privacy and personalization. It has become such a problem, that the pitchforks came out when I suggested that personalization is a good thing in a recent national newspaper article (Financial Post – Bell’s move to track customers’ web history, TV viewing sparks probe by privacy regulator). There are a couple of things that must be better defined for everyone to understand why I (and all marketers) feel so strongly that personalization creates the best win-win scenario:

  1. Private account information must remain private. That highly personal and sensitive information (who you are, where you live, your account information, payment methods, etc…) should never be shared or used without the explicit permission of the account holder.
  2. All other information that is being used to create a more personalized experience must be both anonymous and clearly explained to the account holder.
  3. Permission must be granted by the account holder to have their usage tracked for marketing personalization.
  4. The ability to opt-out – at any time – must also be clear and permitted.

Why we must not confuse privacy with personalization…

I believe this to be an amazing moment in time for brands, advertisers, media companies and yes, the consumer, as well. The more personalized the advertising, the more useful and good the experience will be for the consumer. The more personalized the advertising, the more media companies can charge for ads (hopefully, this means that the quality of ads will improve along with the price of admission). The more personalized the advertising, the more brands will ensure that they’re not wasting their time, money and/or energy on people who are only being annoyed or disrupted by the engagement (that would be an expensive waste). Still, we can’t get over this whole “privacy” thing. It’s too bad. If you ask consumers – over the history of time – what kind of advertising they would prefer, the answer has never changed. In all of the research, you will always see the same answers. They want “relevancy,” “personalization” or ads that, “speak to them.” Well, that time is here, and instead of embracing it, they’re rightfully being scared off because marketers have done a terrible job in the past of both protecting their privacy and rights, and clearly explaining that we can now personalize and optimize their experience without breaching any real privacy issues that can uniquely attribute their usage to anything but the usage.

It’s too bad.


A Simple (But Hard) Truth That Will Change Your Marketing Forever

It’s about something more than authenticity.

It is, somewhat, amazing that we live in a day and age when people talk about brands and authenticity like it is some kind of given. Just because brands have been forced to engage with consumers in a much q…

What Keeps The Chief Marketing Officer Awake At Night? – Part 1

There is no doubt that the current role of the Chief Marketing Officer is fundamentally changing.

What was once considered to be one of the most interesting and creative positions within the corporate environment, has now become one of the most contentious job titles any business professional could have (if they can even hold on to it). It’s hard not to imagine how challenging of a position this can be, in a world where the marketing landscape has shifted so fundamentally in the past decade. It’s not just about how technology, the Internet and social media have changed the way that brands connect to consumers, and how consumers connect to brands (and to one another). It runs much deeper than that. It runs much deeper than financial meltdowns, funky things out of Wall Street, a mortgage crisis, globalization, and more. It wouldn’t be brash to say, that there are those who feel that there is no longer even a need for a Chief Marketing Officer within an organization. Don’t believe me? Google it.

Heresy you say?

There are five core foundational reasons why the Chief Marketing Officer’s role within the organization is in such a fragile state. Over the next few months, we will deconstruct the following five areas that the Chief Marketing Officer must pay increased attention to, in order to figure out what the next decade of marketing will look like for businesses.

The five areas that Chief Marketing Officers need to pay attention to:

  1. The corporate function.
  2. Data and information.
  3. IT and technology.
  4. Media and communications.
  5. Talent and recruiting.

Let’s start with the corporate function…

Peter Drucker once famously wrote that a company only has two key functions: marketing and innovation, and that all other functions within the organization should support this. It feels like nothing could be closer to the truth in this technologically advanced and sophisticated day and age, and yet it feels like the Chief Marketing Officer’s stock within that mandate continues to plummet. If you take a close look at some of the world’s most respected brands, the Chief Marketing Officers are not much more than Chief Advertising Officers. If we are going to go back to the fundamentals of what marketing is – as a function of business – it’s hard not to think of the classic Four Ps of Marketing that we all learned about in college: product, price, promotion and place. Think deeply about just how much the marketing department truly affects these four areas of business. It’s quite obvious that the “promotion” piece has become the bread and butter of the marketing department. Most marketing departments act, fundamentally, as brand stewards and have little insight and input into what the product or service actually is, and how it better serves customers at large. It feels like the true marketing work is actually being done by the COO, the CFO, and the R&D department. Marketing is usually brought in way after the fact, to figure out how to best polish the look and feel of the product or service, and make it look sexy for the customers. At best, the marketers are also responsible for what happens after the product is purchased. Congratulations, these marketers are linked to customer service, and maybe get a chance to actually own the Twitter feed.

What is marketing?

Volumes of books, articles and blog posts have been written by some of the smartest business minds out there, attempting to define what marketing is? You could ask the top ten marketers in the world to define what marketing is, and you would get a different answer from each professional… and there is a possibility that you might even get a different answer from the same individual on different occasions. A definition that we can all wrap our arms around isn’t going to happen in this column. What we do know is that marketers might get a much higher level of credibility, if they, themselves, could bring some clarity and definition to the practice. If marketers can’t easily define what the role and function is within the organization, how can we expect the CEO to give us the keys to the car? Simply put: most people don’t know what marketing is anymore. If marketers want to improve their position within the corporate organization, a clear definition of what, exactly, marketing is would be a prime place to start.

It’s a numbers game.

Our world is filled with people who are financially illiterate. Just look at the credit card debt crisis in North America. You would think that after decades of advertising and communications from banks and investment advisors to help people better manage their money, that things would be better. You would be wrong. Recent studies suggest that financial literacy is at an all-time low. Some of the most telling articles on the topic start off by saying that the vast majority of Americans lack basic money skills. Why should we be surprised that marketers are any different? For the Chief Marketing Officer to regain their credibility within the organization, there is a dire need for them to become much more financially literate. Marketing needs to be directly linked to both sales and the overall corporate performance in terms of the P&L. Associate Professor and Distinguished Professor of Marketing, Kenneth Wong, from Queen’s School of Business often says that no marketing should be done unless it “adds to the economic value of the brand.” Business is a numbers game and marketers – who should be nothing short of rabid over the math – have somehow relegated themselves to the more touchy-feely parts of the business. It’s time to break out the abacus and find a balance between the creativity and the numbers. Chief Marketing Officers will struggle desperately through the data and information phase, if they can’t wrap their heads around the foundational numbers first.

It’s a global jungle.

Why should marketing be any different? The mass globalization of corporate affairs has struck at the heart of marketing as well. There has been global consolidation of marketing and communication services from most of the major brands, and we have even seen mass consolidation from the advertising agency networks themselves (think about the Publicis and Omnicom mega-merger). On the brand side, we’ve seen the purchasing of marketing and communication services become that much more of a procurement-driven process than anything else. If you look towards the industry at large, there seems to be more brands moving towards agency partners that are completely integrated. An agency that is able to provide both traditional mass advertising services along with digital expertise, coupled with direct marketing, experiential marketing, promotional marketing, partnership marketing and beyond. While brands seek out these “pink unicorns,” and the large advertising agency networks continue to PR that their networked agencies can provide such seamless integration, we have yet to see an integrated shop that is unified and integrated. What this has led to is the commoditization of marketing. With every large agency claiming that efficiencies can only be achieved through this model. A desire to have a truly integrated agency – in a world of deep personalization with media fragmentation across a myriad of platforms, channels and technologies – is more myth than reality. This idea that one agency of record to rule them all can beat out specialists – each with their own deep, rich and knowledgeable pool of experts and experience – has yet to be proven. At the corporate level, the Chief Marketing Officer is going to have to get a lot more knowledgeable about how to build “teams of record” rather than an “agency of record” relationship. Creating alignment with multiple agency partners (across multiple departments) in a bid to ensure that “best in class” isn’t just something that will score them some points in marketing jargon bingo is another prime directive.

Once the corporate function of marketing is secured, the Chief Marketing Officer can get down to the real work of data and information.

In the next post (in about two week’s time), we’ll look at how the Chief Marketing Officer must straddle between the future promise of big data, while grappling with the reality that they’re not doing nearly enough with the reams of data and information that they currently have. Along with that, we’ll dig deeper in the paradox of privacy and personalization, and how the link between data management and creative services must evolve, as our world begins to look more and more like George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

As always, please feel free to add your perspective below…


The Shape-Shifting Reality Of Shopping

Welcome to the one screen world of shopping.

One of the five major movements that have changed brands forever (that corporation are doing little-to-nothing about) that are defined in my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, is the notion of the one screen world. In simplistic form: the only screen that matters to me – the consumer – is the screen that is in front of me. We live in a world where brands are still thinking in digital ghettos. They’re worried about their Web strategy, their mobile strategy, their social media strategy and so on. That’s a bad strategy. The only strategy that matters is a one screen strategy. We live in a world where screens are ubiquitous, cheap and hyper-connected. Plus, the data just keeps pointing us further down the road. PC sales have dropped at a dramatic pace as more and more consumers buy tablets and smartphones. Some have called this the post-PC era, while others have tagged it as the post-Web browser era. I like to think of it as the one screen world. Screens are everywhere (walls, pockets, hands, whatever) that are at our beck and connected call.

It’s happening… and it’s happening fast. 

It wasn’t even two years ago that I would poll audiences all over the world about how long it would take for us to do everything that we can do on our personal computers as effectively (if not better than) as we can do on our mobile devices. By looking at channels like Twitter and Instagram, one could argue that the mobile experience is actually superior to that of the Web-based one. That being said, there were always two areas of contention:

  1. Content creation. Whether it’s writing a document, editing a spreadsheet or building a presentation.
  2. Commerce. Looking through merchandise and actually buying right from the mobile device.

There is no doubt that Amazon and others have made it increasingly better to transact and purchase from a mobile device in the past short while. Mobile banking also helped pushed this forward as consumers gained confidence in the mobile transactions. Last Friday, MediaPost published the news item, Time Spent Shopping Shifts From PC To Mobile, that stated: “Time spent visiting retail Web sites on tablets and smartphones has eclipsed that of time spent shopping via the desktop. A combined 51% of time on retail sites took place on devices as of February (37% on smartphones, 14% on tablets) compared to 49% on PCs, according to a new study by mobile ad network Millennial Media and comScore. The desktop share is down from 84% in 2010. But comScore indicates that while time spent is shifting toward mobile, it’s helping extend the desktop audience by 45% as consumers that start on PCs continue their shopping experience across devices. So there’s a fair amount of overlap among platforms.”

…And so it begins.

The one screen world is also the convergence of a more important movement: digital becoming physical and physical becoming digital. Companies like Nomi bring the power of web analytics to understanding the movement of physical people that are at the retail level. Companies like Square use digital technology to remove the need for cash registers. Retail has never been so digital and the pervasiveness of both e-commerce and the ability to transact on a mobile device turn shopping into something that transcends typical store hours and the physical limitations of inventory.

This always on consumer.

In short, the vast majority of brands are still, sadly, tinkering away at very traditional e-commerce websites that are cumbersome and already out of date. They’re racing to keep pace with brands like Amazon and Fab who have not only figured out the digital commerce model, but are equally engaged in their consumers wherever they may be. These same retail brands have a loosely focused social media strategy that is rarely connected to their digital commerce and – more often than not – the digital commerce division is rarely connected to the physical stores. The numbers don’t lie. As these brands fumble over org chats and attribution, the consumer has decided. So, what is a brand to do? These retailers are still busy trying to get ownership of their mobile environments out of IT, while consumers are happily transacting anywhere they please… with brands who understand just how quickly the entire landscape has shifted.

Here’s a clue: who owns the mobile experience and how closely linked to the business and marketing channel is it for the companies you deal with? The answers might surprise/depress you.  


The Problem With Allowing Consumers To Opt Out

You have a right to opt out of anything and everything.

As a marketing professional, there is nothing I hate more than receiving any form of communication (email, Web experience, social media, mobile, whatever) and not see an obvious place where I can…

What’s More Important To A Consumer: The Price Or The Brand?

Before you go spouting off the answer to this question…

Please read this article from The New York Times titled, E-Commerce Companies Bypass the Middlemen. If you think that branding and retail have become complicated because of stuff like showroomi…

How To Curtail Showrooming: Charge Admission

What would you pay for an opportunity to browse a store?

There have been a couple on instances in the news this week that highlight the general challenge that retailers face in the age of showrooming. For those uninitiated, showrooming is when consume…

Where Content Goes To Die

Who amongst us is able to consume all of the content that we save?

Long before RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook and more, I was a heavy subscriber to email e-newsletters (in fact, I still am). But I no longer have the same habit that I used to have. I use…

Are Consumers Smart Enough For Smart TV?

Smart TV growth is about to explode.

That’s the news out of MediaPost yesterday according to the article: Smart TV Growth Is Set To Explode. But, the bigger question is this: are consumers ready and knowledgeable enough to make this work? I believe th…

The Content Crash

At what point do consumers push back, unfriend, unfollow, unplus and whatever else?

This does not spell the end for social media, but there is a common thought in the digital universe that goes like this: create relevant content and consumers will con…

Tracking, Personalization And Screams Of Privacy

Any tracking of information of consumers without the consent of your consumer is a breach of privacy, right?

In my forthcoming business book, CTRL ALT Delete (out May 21st, 2013), I go in-depth on the notion that consumers need to better understand th…

The Mobile-Only Strategy Imperative

How long will the personal computer – as we have known it to date-  be relevant?

If you look at any data points surrounding mobile (and putting it in context on a global level), it seems like nobody is using a computer anymore, doesn’t it? How of…

Do Shopping Centers Have A Future?

Retail, consumerism and how we buy has changed in the past few years, like never before.

If you speak to a brand that has retail as one of their primary transactional channels, they are nervous. How we buy has so fundamentally changed, that it’s not u…

To Sell Is Human. To Be A Marketer Is Human

You have to watch this conversation.

Daniel H. Pink is one of the best business book authors and thought leaders on business out in the wild. He’s written some of the most compelling books including, A Whole New Mind, Drive and his latest, To Sell Is …

The One Screen World – Take Two

How many screen are there? You’ve heard of the three screens? The four screens? The companion screen?

The three screens are: television, computer and mobile. The fourth screen became the tablet (it’s debatable). The companion screen is whatever other …