Google’s Third Wave Of Innovation

Is it normal that a search engine is buying up all of the robotics and drone companies?

If you’re in the marketing profession, you have to be scratching your head at the moves that Google has made over the past little while. It’s hard to reconcile how a company that was founded on a search engine (and then optimizing an advertising platform so efficiently that it drove them to a $350 billion market cap) could be spending its war chest on technology so nascent and future-focused. If Google’s main form of revenue is advertising and licensing software, where will the ads be going on all of these robots and drones?

Google’s first wave of innovation.

Google has gone through two dramatic waves of innovation (with many nuances and smaller ones in between). It’s important to understand that in phase one, Google mastered search. The ability to organize the diverse and divergent pieces of data, content and information that were being created in a non-formulaic way across the Internet. It was everything from programs to articles, and (through the years) it’s hard to imagine how we would find anything (let alone remember stuff) in a world where we can “Google it.” The problem with search, of course, is that there was no significant revenue in helping to organize all of the world’s information. While Google didn’t invent keyword-based advertising, they have certainly mastered it. Ushering in the era of performance-based advertising, they nurtured search engine marketing into becoming one of the most effective forms of direct-response advertising. People searching for content would be exposed to contextually-based text ads that did not interrupt the search experience. On top of that, the ads would be sold to brands and media agencies in an auction-based mode where the cost would be charged only if the consumer clicked on the ad (showed interest). Over the years, Google has expanded the offering to individual’s website wishing to run these types of ads in lieu of traditional banner advertising. From there, the company has made several strategic acquisitions to build their GDN (Google Display Network). The acquisition of YouTube in 2006 is also significant in this first wave of Google’s innovation. Years later, they are beginning to understand the types of commercials that works in the online video world as TrueView continues to learn which ads the consumers are watching (and which ones they are skipping). Within a few years, TrueView will become as efficient at performance based commercial advertising as keywords have become. To put the first wave of Google’s Web dominance into perspective, comScore Media Metrix’s rank of the top 50 U.S. desktop Web properties for February 2014 tells the tale: In a world of over 222 million unique visitors, Google’s website account for over 187 million of them.

Google’s second wave of innovation.

Back in 2006, Google acquired a lesser-known mobile operating system called Android. It was, at the time, an acquisition that perplexed the media pundits. It was a bold play and one that has – without question – enabled Google to become a dominant player in the mobile space. Now, Google doesn’t just build applications that run on a mobile-enabled platform (which they do), but they own the actual platform on which our mobile connectivity is playing out. As consumers move from desktops PCs and laptops to smartphone and tablets, Google has continued to innovate and own the mobile landscape, and this includes being hyper-competitive in relation to Apple and the staggering success of the iPhone and iPad. Still, Android (and the supporting Google applications and mobile websites) are the 800-hundred pound gorilla in mobile. Adding some data to this, comScore’s February 2014 U.S. smartphone subscriber market share demonstrates just how much of the mobile Web Google owns: While Apple ranked as the top smartphone manufacturer (41.3%), Android led as the number one smartphone platform with over 52% of the market shares. What makes this more staggering, is that Google sites hit close to 90% of the entire smartphone browsing and app audience. In short, they own mobile as well. 

Welcome to Google’s third wave of innovation.

How does a company like Google grow? The opportunity to scale becomes increasingly difficult (will another 30 million people using a particular app truly help them?). The answer lies in in connecting the last mile of humanity that is currently not on the Internet. It’s nothing new. We have been talking about the digital divide for decades (the chasm that exists between the haves and the have nots). In fact, Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, discusses this very topic in depth in his business book, The New Digital Age – Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business (co-authored with another Googler, Jared Cohen). There are close to five billion people not connected to the Internet. There are countless appliances that aren’t “smart” or online (just yet). That is the kind of scale that Google must now focus on. For that, Google is pushing the envelope of innovation towards drones, robotics and artificial intelligence. Massive and risky bets that will enable a new type of connected consumer. Drones will enable Google to deliver connectivity to that massive last mile. Robotics is primarily based on the idea that we can get machines to work, think and do things somewhat autonomous to human intervention. This requires a new kind of computing coding and architecture – one that is based on machine-learning capabilities (yes, programming a computer to teach something to another computer and having each successive version be able to get better and teach more). While everyone is focused on Google’s most recent acquisition of Titan Aerospace for their drones, or that they have bought eight (maybe more) robotics companies in the past short while (including the very popular Boston Dynamics), not enough people have spent enough time thinking about why they acquired DeepMind in late January.

Getting computers to think better.

It has been reported that Google spent close to $500 million for DeepMind (which doesn’t seem like much, if you consider that it also paid over $3 billion for Nest not that along ago). DeepMind was in stealth mode when purchased, but we have been told that the London based technology was developing artificial intelligence to help computers learn and operate like humans. Couple that with connecting more devices, purchasing drones and robots and you can let your mind wander. From a marketer’s perspective, this may still sound quizzical and off-brand, but to anyone willing to expand their horizons, it is clear that Google is a company not willing to rely simply on media as a business model, but rather much more interested in technology and connecting the word. This is important for brands to understand as well. Perhaps the real future of marketing is not in just getting more efficient with advertising dollars, but in following Google’s footsteps to help connect your our brands to more people through technology on a more global scale.

The above posting is my monthly column on marketing innovation for Strategy Magazine. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:


Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #198

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person “must see”.

Check out these six links that we’re recommending to one another:

  • The Uncomfortable – Facebook. “This set of artifacts, designed by architect, Katerina Kamprani, will drive you bonkers. She takes everyday items, and then changes them to render them completely useless. It’s definitely art. Most of these things could only come from a really twisted, deviant mind. OCD trigger warning.” (Alistair for Hugh). 
  • Motivation Wave – BJ Fogg. “As any marketer knows, changing behaviors is hard. Whether you’re trying to improve someone’s health, or convince them to buy your product, changing habits is tough. Stanford‘s BJ Fogg has spent a lot of time researching this in the university’s Persuasive Technology Lab. That ‘persuasive technology’ is a field of study in the first place says a lot about the world in which we live.” (Alistair for Mitch).
  • Demo of Beat It composed using only Michael Jackson’s voice – Rhythm Of The Tide. “I was going to send Alistair an amazing xkcd comic this week (you can look it up on Google: xkcd frequency), but Alistair has probably seen it, and will probably see 22 more amazing xkcd comics this year. Instead, I am sending this, which is more of a one-of-a-kind sort of thing. Michael Jackson, apparently, never truly mastered playing instruments, but he composed and arranged – note for note – in his head. He would record and layer vocals/acapella versions of his songs, using his voice for all the instruments. Here is the amazing vocal arrangement he did for Beat It.” (Hugh for Alistair).   
  • A Growing Number of E-Commerce Sites Are Moving Into Print – AdWeek. “You know what technology has great, finely-honed UI and really, really good user engagement? Paper. Here’s a surprising development: web/ecommerce companies starting to put out old fashioned print catalogs.” (Hugh for Mitch).
  • Knowledge transfer between computers: Computers teach each other Pac-Man – Science Daily. “Have they found that plane that’s still missing? I watch CNN relentlessly when I am on the road… and, I was on the road quite a bit this week. I am in no way trying to minimize the fact that this plane must be found (or the tragedy surrounding it for the families), but I’m amazed that the 24-hour news cycle spins a ‘breaking news’ moment of this missing plane with nothing truly ‘breaking’ at all. Instead, stuff like this comes out and you don’t even hear about it. It turns out that computers can actually train each other and teach skills to one another. What? No way! Way.” (Mitch for Alistair).
  • The Wikipedia For Numbers Just Made My Job Easier, But It Needs Your Help To Be Even Better – Business Insider. “Have you ever heard of Meterfy? Me neither. In fact, most people haven’t, so it ain’t as robust as Wikipedia… but it could be. Yes, this is a Wikipedia for numbers. A way for people to post and share anything and everything related to numbers. This is a smart, cool and fun place. I sincerely hope it takes off. A Wikipedia for numbers. Makes sense to me.” (Mitch for Hugh).

Now it’s your turn: in the comment section below pick one thing that you saw this week that inspired you and share it.


What Is The News Doing To Your Brain?

How often do you check a screen to see what’s going on in the news?

It’s probably a lot more often than you think. Consider your Twitter feed. Consider your Facebook timeline. Consider how many text message alerts you are signed up to receive. The lis…

Ads Worth Watching… And Spreading

Some ads are worth watching (again and again). Totally true.

This week, I am attending the TED conference. TED has been working hard to highlight TV ads that are “ideas worth spreading.” When I hear people say that they hate advertising, I don’t believe them. People hate bad advertising and, unfortunately, a good bulk of the work that comes out of the advertising industry is mediocre at best. If you poke around on YouTube or Facebook, you will discover that people love ads that tell a story. People love ads that make them laugh, think, cry, grow and more. Volumes have been written about what it takes to produce a great spot. Volumes have also been written about the abysmal failure and poor reception that TV ads get. Still, when it works… it just works. Once again, TED has selected ten ads that work. They are worthy of your time and attention. And, if they do the job they are supposed to do, who knows you may just become a customer… a loyal one.

TED 2014′s Ads Worth Spreading:

P&G – Thank You Mom.

IBM – A Boy And His Atom.

Guinness – Basketball.

Adobe – Click, Baby, Click!

Google Earth – Saroo Brierly: Homeward Bound.

Dove – Camera Shy.

New Zealand Transport Agency – Mistakes.

Virgin America – Safety Dance.

Honda – Hands.

Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund – Let’s Save Africa.



The Secret Life Of Social Media

Shhhh, don’t tell anybody anything (even though I just posted this secret online for anyone to see).

It has been brewing for some time, and it’s a difficult trend for businesses not to understand and embrace. As much as our social lives are now made public in everything from 140-characters of text on Twitter to long-form videos that we post of ourselves on YouTube, there is a growing mass audience (and developers behind them) that are creating an entirely new (and private) layers to social media. And, if all goes according to their plan, it could very well be the proverbial needle to pop the balloon of how brands have attempted to market to consumers using modern technology.

What’s the hottest thing happening right now?

It’s Snapchat, of course. Isn’t it? Lauded by the younger generation because they can send each other photographs/mini videos via smartphones and tablets that are incinerated once viewed (leaving no trace for parents, etc…). The app has become so formidable, that Facebook offered to buy them late last year for a reported $3 billion, which Snapchat turned down. Turning down $3 billion dollars buys a lot of attention and street cred. The private online social network continues to grow, as brands like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Acura and others have been jumping on board to figure out if Snapchat’s community of 30 million-plus users (and growing) cares to get this type of micro-disposable content from brands. Maybe, it’s not Snapchat that is the hottest thing anymore. One could argue that the hottest thing happening right now, is the fact that Facebook bounced back from this rejection and managed to acquire the cross-platform mobile messaging platform WhatsApp for an astonishing $19 billion two weeks ago. With close to 500 million users and growing, WhatsApp is, in its purest form, BlackBerry Messenger (which, of course, is now available for Android and Apple users as well) that works on any mobile device and any mobile carrier. In fact, the deal was so massive that it completely over-shadowed the fact that a similar messaging platform, Viber, was also recently acquired for $900 million by Rakuten (a Japanese online commerce platform).

Think about it: private pictures, videos, messages and more. That doesn’t sound very social, does it?

While companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter monopolize the growing areas of online social networking, what we’re beginning to see is continued growth and interest in private online social networking. The types of content, conversation and sharing that is done outside of the public limelight. Sometimes anonymously. Sometimes between two friends. It just doesn’t feel like the place that brands can insert themselves to monetize a growing user base, does it?

I have a secret to tell.

While they have not been acquired for hundreds of millions of dollars (yet), the San Francisco based startup Secret (that was founded by two former Google and Square employees) is getting tons of attention, followers and fans. In short, you can write anything that’s on your mind, add photos or colors to the background and customize this content while being able to share it – free of judgment – and without attaching any of your personal information or profile to it. It feels like a more modern, mobile and more social version of Post Secret (where individuals physically mail their anonymous secrets on the back of a postcard to a group that then scans and shares the most creative ones online). While Secret isn’t the first or only app like this, it is currently getting the lion’s share of media and consumer attention. Do you really want brands to share secrets with you? Does that even make sense? Secret follows in a long line of increasingly popular platforms that are moving towards more private, restricted and personal interactions. Path (which launched back in 2010) seemed like a more mobile version of Facebook with one major distinction:Path only allowed a maximum of 150 connections (which followed Dunbar’s number theory that human beings can only maintain a total of 150 true relationships). Small stuff, right?

What matters most to you: Public life? Professional life? Social life? Personal life?

What we’re now seeing is motion away from all of this publicness that we have been experiencing at the hands of social media for the past decade, or we’re simply seeing the mass development of a completely different type of private online social networking. In fact, if you look at where the venture capital dollars and user growth is currently happening, we could well arrive at a juncture which finds consumers much less interested in the public chest beating of their semi-consequential day-to-day accomplishments on social media, and a much more focused desire to use technology as a communications platform to add more personal meaning. Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp could substantiate this (why wouldn’t they want to own both the public and private online social networks of consumers?). So, while Ellen may have broken Twitter with her a-list selfie stunt from the Oscar’s, we may be at the nascent stages of seeing a brand new type of social media play that is small, intimate and, seemingly, impermeable to brands, advertisers and media companies. A place where twerking could well find it’s perfect home… behind closed doors and not out in public.

Are private online social networks the future of social media? More interesting will be how brands will react and engage with this new reality. 

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:


Who Do You Really Trust?

Trust. It’s what it all comes down to.

You intuitively know this to be true, don’t you? Trust is everything. Whenever I think about trust, I think about something that my dear friend, Jeffrey Gitomer, would often say in his public sales presentations: “All things being equal, people will do business with those that they know, like and trust. All things being unequal, people will do business with those that they know, like and trust.” Trust is a topic that isn’t approached or appreciated nearly enough in the business world, especially if you consider how important it is. But, what is trust and why is it such an important component of success? Thankfully, there are people like David DeSteno to help us understand and decode it. According to his bio, DeSteno is “a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, where he directs the Social Emotions Group. At the broadest level, his work examines the mechanisms of the mind that shape vice and virtue. Studying hypocrisy and compassion, pride and punishment, cheating and trust, his work continually reveals that human moral behavior is much more variable than most would predict.” With that, he recently published a new book titled, The Truth About Trust – How It Determines Success In Life, Love, Learning And More. To celebrate the launch of the book, he stopped by to present his concepts at the Googleplex. It’s a fascinating near-hour presentation that will reshape how you think about your emotions, your work and your life.

This is the truth about trust…


Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #193

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person “must see”.

Check out these six links that we’re recommending to one another:

  • Tupperware! – American Experience. “This is an hour-long documentary. It’s also a time capsule. And to understand modern North American society, you need to grok the tug-of-war between this technical optimism and the post-Vietnam, post-9/11 mistrust that pervades much of media today. But for now, go back to a time when the future was bright and plastic, and a generation of women found themselves building a business empire one plastic tub at a time.” (Alistair for Hugh).
  • How Cash Would Be Seen by the Media if Invented Today – CoinDesk. “I once spoke with a proponent of electric cars who pointed out that, if we were trying to get the internal combustion engine approved today, nobody would allow it — it’s essentially an explosive on wheels. Well, Bitcoin proponent Antonis Polemitis took a similar approach to Bitcoin, writing this satirical piece about cold, hard cash. He makes a few good points about just how antiquated modern currency really is.” (Alistair for Mitch).
  • This Looks Like A Charming Little Cabin. And It Is… But It’s So Much More Than That. Trust Me. – ViralNova. “Oh, to live in a tiny, wonderfully-designed cabin in the woods…” (Hugh for Alistair).
  • A Simple Strategy To Get More Replies To The Emails You Send – Buffer. “When you write: ‘Let’s schedule a call – how do things look for you next week?’ what you are really saying is: ‘a) I am too lazy to look at my calendar b) I want you to do the work of looking at your calendar c) I am going to make this a 4 x email exchange (1. how does your schedule look? 2. what about Tuesday? 3. no, Wednesday. 4. OK.)’ Instead of a 2 email exchange (1. Tuesday 10am? 2. OK!). Learning to be efficient and clear in emails is so much kinder to your contacts, and to yourself.” (Hugh for Mitch).
  • How to Get a Job at Google – The New York Times. “Do you think it takes an awesome GPA and Ivey league college diploma to score a great gig at Google these days? Remember the countless blog posts and articles about the highly intricate questions that they were asking in the hopes of scoring the world’s best and brightest talent? Well, guess what? Grades (obviously) matter in some of the more technical jobs, but as Google grows and continues to employ more and more people, they’re looking at other – more fascinating – attributes to decide on who, exactly, they consider to be the best of the best. What are those attributes? You will have to read the article to find out (I am such a tease). But, more importantly, start asking yourself this: if Google is looking for people with these kinds of dynamic skill sets and thinking capabilities, just how well are the schools of today prepping kids for the workplace of tomorrow?” (Mitch for Alistair).
  • How Much My Novel Cost Me – Emily Gould. “I read this post on Medium and I didn’t know what to think. We live in such a strange world when it comes to book publishing. On one hand, because of social media, it has never been easier for great content to get noticed by people like literary agents and book publishers. On the other hand, it is so hard to get people to care about buying books (let alone reading them). If you look at the landscape, it doesn’t feel like there is much hope. Then again, I know countless people who are doing well financially on their books, because they understand how to either play the game or do things on their own. This is a fascinating piece that will make you think deeply about the true nuances that exist in the book publishing world and how we define success.” (Mitch for Hugh).

Now it’s your turn: in the comment section below pick one thing that you saw this week that inspired you and share it.


Crazy, Sexy, Cool: Attributes Of The Most Clickable Ads

How entertaining is your brand?

On the surface, this may seen like a simple question to answer. If you produce movies, energy drinks or running shoes, you probably have something that is highly entertaining. Most of us don’t work for brands like that. We sell valves, insurance policies, accounting services and the like. Not the kind of stuff that evokes deep emotions like laughter and tears. Still, we live in a day and age when most brands are forced to be out there. Not just with television commercials, flyers and ads on the radio, but actively engaged online. We need to get people to like our brand on Facebook, pin our images on Pinterest, subscribe to our YouTube channels, retweet our 140-characters of goodness on Twitter and more for attention. In fact, when it comes to the modern marketing mix, you will often find many companies struggle so desperately, that they are willing to buy media to promote their content posts or spend money on fan acquisition (there’s an oxymoron in there, if you think about it). There are countless strategies that marketing pundits will put forward in order to help brands understand where and how to create value in a world that has never been so cluttered with advertising.

Screaming louder than everyone else.

If you go back a mere fifteen years, marketing experienced a new dawn. Social media brought with it the ability for brands to have real interactions with real human beings. As powerful and profound as that was (and still is), the waters have become quite murky. The current arms race for likes, friends, followers, subscribers, retweets, pins and more has brought with it an over-simplification of what a brand should be pursuing. Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like are no longer encouraging brands to figure out a way to create a depth of meaning and connection with their consumers. If you scratch slightly beneath the surface, everything that they offer is sold much in the same way that traditional media outlets have sold their traditional advertising. It has become just another type of marketplace, where the brand who screams the loudest gets the most attention. So, is the promise of social media dead? Do we really need to care about depth of interactions, building true relationships, nurturing people towards engagement, or are we looking for just another quick fix in a long history of advertising’s version of the one night stand?  

Tell me what you want… what you really, really want.

You would think that as your business adds digital marketing into a more prominent position within a marketing mix, that the true value will come from time spent digging deep into what adds value to the consumers life. How can your brand – in a world where anyone can publish anything in text, images, audio and video – create something so compelling that it becomes an integral part of a consumer’s digital experience. Well, it turns out that the pace with which consumers are ignoring advertising messages has not dissipated in a world where we have an incredible ability to target, customize, personalize and build a true relationship. According to a Research Brief news item published earlier this week titled, Four of Five American Consumers Ignore Online Ads Most Frequently, the digital world is having just as much trouble capturing a consumer’s attention. “82% of Americans ignore online ads, ahead of television ads at 37%. 92% of Americans ignore at least one type of ad seen every day across six different types of media,” according to the article about the first annual Goo Online Advertising Survey. “The online ads Americans are most likely to ignore included: online banner ads (73%), followed by social media ads (62%), and search engine ads (59%). The highest wage earners, those with a household income of $100k+ per year, were statistically more likely than those households making less than $50k per year (86% vs. 78%, respectively) to say they ignore online ads. Overall, the 65+ age group ignored the most, while the 35-44 age group ignored the least.”

Advertising revenue would beg to differ.

If that one study is reflective of the industry at large, the fire alarms should be clanging from Madison Avenue to Silicon Valley. We continue to see a sharp increase of ad spend shift from traditional channels to digital ones in hopes that customization, analytics and targeting will create a more effective form of advertising. So, what do consumers really want? The Goo Technologies went on to report that consumers would like advertising to:

  • Look more interesting.
  • Not feel like an ad (whatever that means).
  • Be funny.
  • Be entertaining.
  • Have stunning graphics.
  • Have a sexy man or woman in the ad (I can’t make this stuff up).
  • Be more interactive.

Nothing new in new media.

If you’re wondering why all of that technology, analytics, retargeting and more is not moving the needle in your advertising, or why that last YouTube video didn’t find the viral success that you were hoping for, it turns out that consumers – no matter how evolved they are in their technological prowess around media channels, content creation and devices – are overwhelmed. There is a sheer brunt force of advertising everywhere. They are either completely ignoring advertising or simply want it to give them a chuckle or raise an eyebrow and move on. As simple as that sounds, not many brands are in the business of entertainment, and that’s the true rub. Consumers are online, connected, creating, curating, sharing and more. As intellectual and powerful as that is, nothing will get them to act on your message unless you can really entertain them. Smart advertising is good entertainment. Surprise! Nothing much has really changed in the game of advertising no matter how sophisticated and evolved the platforms and opportunities have become.

So, how entertaining is your brand?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for Inc. Magazine called Reboot: Marketing. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:


The Psychology Of Online Persuasion

Episode #397 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

What does it take to get a consumer to do something online? We can’t argue that we live in a world of brand saturation. From very small, in…

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #191

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person “must see”.

Check out these six links that we’re recommending to one another:

  • The Little Girl from the 1981 LEGO Ad is All Grown Up, and She’s Got Something to Say – Women You Should Know. “This article revisits Lego‘s iconic ad showing a pigtailed redhead playing with Lego. It provoked all kinds of reactions online — from those lauding it for pointing out gender bias, to those wondering why liking ‘girly things’ is somehow less worthy. Wherever you stand on the issue, it’s interesting to see how Lego has changed over the last few decades.” (Alistair for Hugh).
  • Dinner Party – Oliver Walker. “I’m a big fan of changing formats to shift how people interact. It’s something I try to do at Bitnorth. But I’ve never taken it this far. Here’s a social-experiment-slash-art-piece that investigates just how much of our interactions are nonverbal. I really want to try this sometime.” (Alistair for Mitch).
  • Hi, I’m Jack – “Take a healthy dollop of BitTorrent, add a dash of BitCoin, shake until you get a decentralized browser with decentralized domain ownership: SyncNet. Early, experimental days. Fascinating direction for the ‘Web’, as the original idea of a independent, decentralized Internet is slowly getting gobbled up by a small number of mega-centralized behemoths (Facebook/Google/Amazon/Verizon etc).” (Hugh for Alistair).
  • Conrad Black: This anemic recovery – National Post.Conrad Black is the most famous ex-convict former newspaper baron Canada has produced to date. Since his release from US prison (for various fraudulent uses of company money), Baron Black of Crossharbour (long story) has been penning long-winded and delightfully grouchy essays for Canada’s National Post newspaper (the right-leaning paper he founded back when he was a newspaper baron). Black is one hell of a personality, whatever you think of him, and a renaissance man to boot. His articles are pompous and wide-ranging, and pretty great reads. Here’s one about the 2008 economic collapse and Canada and a few other things.” (Hugh for Mitch).
  • This Dad Coloured-In His Kid’s Art To Kill Time On Business Trips – We Interviewed Him – Lost At E Minor. “If you ever have those moments when you think that you’re not that great of a father, don’t worry because there’s always the Internet to confirm it for you. You may think that you’re an awesome dad, but you’re not this awesome. Of course, I’m kidding. I’m sure everyone is a great parent (including you, Alistair), but this hyper-creative dad takes it to a whole new level in what can only be described as the most heart-warming story that I have read all week. Truly beautiful and powerful.” (Mitch for Alistair).
  • Wikipedia vs. the Small Screen – The New York Times. “Sometimes you read something on the Internet that gives you pause. Most people (myself included) take Wikipedia for granted. After all, I don’t contribute, edit or even correct anything on the platform. Yet, I use it constantly (and I love it). Sure, I am more than happy to support them on their annual giving campaign, but I take more than I give when it comes to Wikipedia. Well, what happens in a mobile world where creating and editing content is not as easy as it is in a Web-browser-based world? I had not thought about this, but Wikipedia is going to be in lot of trouble if they can’t figure out how to encourage people to contribute to Wikipedia in a world where most people are simply using their smartphones for content.” (Mitch for Hugh).

Now it’s your turn: in the comment section below pick one thing that you saw this week that inspired you and share it.


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.   


Facebook Is Looking Smarter Than Ever

Facebook is looking smarter than ever. It happens in a flash.

It seems like only yesterday, when everybody was complaining about Facebook’s lack of a mobile presence. Their initial strikes at a mobile app were simply lesser versions of their Web-based…

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #189

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person “must see”.

Check out these six links that we’re recommending to one another:

  • Burnt: A heated hullabaloo over $4 toast – Edible San Francisco. “The always-quotable Alex Howard once told me that tax rates are simply the cost the rich are willing to pay to stop the poor rising up, or something like that. There’s a class war brewing in the Bay Area (and even Tom Perkins has agreed Kristallnacht might not have been the best choice of words). But whatever side of the burbclave fence you’re on, something’s got to give. And apparently, it’s toast–hipster, organic, toast for the one percent. On a recent NPR comedy show, the host remarked that he ‘hadn’t seen thin, scruffy men in hats this excited about toast since the great depression.’ That might make for good copy, but the story’s a bit deeper. Here, then, is a piece in defense of toast, suggesting that perhaps it isn’t the perfect lightning rod for income-inequality debaters.” (Alistair for Hugh).
  • Former FCC commissioner thinks it’s time to go nuclear on ISPs – BGR. “Decades ago, the US federal government gave carriers billions of dollars to build out broadband. The carriers pocketed the money, the US is still miles behind other countries in terms of access to fast bandwidth, and carriers want to treat traffic that makes them money differently from traffic from, say, Google or Facebook. Well, things are about to get worse. Earlier this month, the FCC‘s regulatory framework for forcing carriers to respect net neutrality was thrown out. The FCC still has a trick up its sleeve, though: reclassify Internet service providers as common carriers, the way they treat phone companies. This would have wide-reaching consequences for the fortunes of every ISP, and who makes money from communications. Watch this space.” (Alistair for Mitch).
  • The Three Leakers and What to Do About Them – The New York Review of Books. “One of the defining debates of our time will surely be: what to do about privacy now that (almost) all our communications, locations, buying habits, reading habits, watching habits, among other things, are trackable? These kinds of questions cut in many directions: what should states be able to know? What should states be able to conceal? What do journalists have a responsibility to expose? Not to mention, what all those private companies should  be allowed to do with our data  the Googles and Facebooks everyone frets about; the Visas and Mastercards no one seems to notice; and the ISPs and telcos on whose wires and towers our communications travel. In this age of data, spying and just-about complete capture (of private citizen information; of government secrets) three people  Snowden, Assange and Manning – have more or less given up their lives in exchange for bringing these questions front-and-center. And the conundrum, especially for the American government, is: what to do about them?”  (Hugh for Alistair).
  • The Paratext’s the Thing – The Chronicle Of Higher Education. “Why the aside, the conversation, the Tweets and blog posts and Facebook comments are becoming more important than the things they are talking about.” (Hugh for Mitch).
  • Everything I need to know about management I learned from playing Dungeons and Dragons – Quartz. “I was at my parent’s house earlier this week. It is the house that I grew up in. On my journey to rediscover the electric bass, I was trying to find all of my old books from school on the subject. Of course, it was all just where I had left it. Right next to the stack of books, I discovered my original Dungeons & Dragons starter kit box. It included instruction manuals, adventures, the famous dice and even some characters I had developed. It transported me back in time to my early teens. I didn’t think I was a nerd (or I didn’t care), but I loved creating characters with friends and taking them on adventures. It was much more than a board game, it was much more than role-playing, and it was much more than something we did to kill time. I learned a lot from building these characters and these worlds. It’s quite possible, that I never realized just how much…” (Mitch for Alistair).
  • What You’re Worth To Facebook – The New Yorker. “Facebook had a great week. Just look at their stock. Just look at how they’ve managed to embrace and run with mobile. Just look at the pending launch of stand-alone apps like, Paper. The question becomes this: is there any chance that Facebook can outdo Google at this point? The real promise of Google’s revenue from advertising is that they are able to put a message in front of people who are searching for something, in specific. Is it possible, that Facebook can take this a step further by putting messages in front of people that are hyper-relevant without those people even having to search for it? Facebook thinks so. Let’s see if they can pull it off and what this means to companies like Google and Yahoo.” (Mitch for Hugh).

Now it’s your turn: in the comment section below pick one thing that you saw this week that inspired you and share it.


What’s Bigger Than Big Data?

How’s your big data business strategy coming along?

I jokingly tell colleagues in the marketing world, that you can’t throw a professional marketer down a flight of stairs these days without the words “big data” tumbling out of their pockets. There’s no need to benchmark brands against their competencies with big data because, quite frankly, most brands don’t even have a proper definition for what big data means. Plus, even if they did, there are but a small, few brands who have the technical and strategic capabilities to truly benefit from it. On top of that, most brands are still incredibly weak at leveraging their current data sets to improve outcomes in a faster, more efficient, way. Translated: you have brands worrying about big data, when they’re still pretty sucky at small data. That doesn’t diminish big data’s ever-growing importance or its pending dominance, but it does take a lot of the steam out of the shiny bright object syndrome engines that we’re all faced with these days. So, while some media pundits dive on big data like it’s a Superbowl football, you will also find many people looking to see what’s next.

What if what’s next is not about bigger sets of data?

What makes big data work is the lack of human intervention. It is the ability for technology to merge data sets normally inaccessible to a human being’s capabilities, and run it with a velocity that no human being could ever do. The output of this should be some kind of unique insight or new spin on the information that would be almost unimaginable for a human being to uncover and develop. It takes a massive amount of automation for this technology to be feasible. The question then becomes, what are human beings good for? At this moment in time, human beings should be looking towards real-time opportunities with analytics. No, this isn’t about Oreo and their famed Superbowl power outage ad from last year, it’s about bringing an entirely new philosophical approach to business outcomes.

Putting big data aside for real-time analytics.  

What do your ad campaigns look like? How are they performing? Most brand marketers get these interesting reports (some quarterly, some monthly, some bi-weekly and some even get them weekly). The question isn’t really about when a marketing report is delivered, but much more about what actionable outcomes are done once that report is viewed? The failing state of traditional advertising lies in the fact that once an ad is placed, it’s hard to do/know anything about it until long after the effects of it are felt on the economic value it drove to the business (if any). Don’t kid yourself, this is one of the main reasons that Google‘s market cap is currently riding in the $385 billion range. Their advertising business is based on the paradigm that advertising can be both performance-based and optimized in near-real-time. Now, we’re starting to see a slew of new marketing solutions-based companies deliver real-time analytics for all forms of digital advertising (including data on retargeting efforts like time-to-conversion and even time-of-conversion). Now, it’s less about what you can fix on the next ‘go round and much more about how to optimize and create in this real-time environment.

The problem with real-time analytics.

You would think that these types of advancements in marketing measurement would be heralded as the future by marketers (and adopted a lot quicker than their passion for big data). It is when it comes to things like being quoted in the media or taking the podium to present for an industry function, but go ahead and ask the people in the foxholes just how excited brands are about this newly-available opportunity? They’re not that excited because it’s simply not being done. Massive opportunities lie ahead for advertising. This sudden interest in real-time analytics is not only driving a significant amount of venture capital investment, but it is ushering in the opportunity for brands to make even better (and more informed) decisions. What we’re currently faced with is a world where the data is available in real-time, but actions to do anything about it are still very “human.”

Making “human” the opportunity.           

We live in a world of real-time bidding for media purchasing, real-time analytics to track performance, visualizations of data through dynamic dashboards and hoards of performance-based marketers shilling paid search optimization along with retargeting as a engine to grow dead email lists. Almost anything seems possible as an engine for marketers to digitize advertising, and make it seem that much more efficient. With that, you might think that the machines are taking over. They very well may be, but the trick is to leverage all of this data, analytics and performance in a way that machines can’t. Imagine a world where we take all of this new and amazing information and add the human element into it. To think differently about how to advertise, when to advertise and how to optimize it. We’ve been heading down this road for close to twenty years, at this point. The technology and data is simply getting faster and easier to understand. Now, it’s just waiting on us, the humans, to take action quicker, to iterate, to optimize and to think in real-time, instead of campaigns based on seasonality, yearly quarters and the holiday season.

The data is waiting for your human input.

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:


Everything That You Plug Into The Wall Will Be Connected To The Internet

Every morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital me…

What A Three Billion Dollar Company Looks Like

Who is Tony Fadell?

He has had many successes. Prior to January 14th, 2003 most people knew Fadell as the person that Apple called in 2001 to help design a MP3 player that would work with their iTunes platform, because the company felt that most of th…

Is It Safer To Use Your Credit Card Online Than At A Store?

Every morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital me…

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #186

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person “must see”.

Check out these six links that we’re recommending to one another:

  • When tech culture and urbanism collide – Ascent Stage. “This year’s International Startup Festival‘s theme is, The City and the Startup, and we’ve been looking for relevant content. This piece by John Tolva argues that tech companies are bad urbanists, and that the old myth of a company ‘started in a garage’ suggests a suburban bias, even as tech titans live in cities like San Francisco.” (Alistair for Hugh).
  • 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World – A Sheep No More. “I’m a visual thinker, so I love maps. And here’s a great resource: forty maps of the world that help you understand a variety of topics. Knowing where Google street view is available tells you a lot about the world’s economies; seeing the only 22 countries that Britain didn’t invade reminds us of how far the empire once reached; and so on.” (Alistair for Mitch).
  • The Darkest Place on the Internet Isn’t Just for Criminals – Wired. “Now that we know that everything we do on the internet is watched by government spies as well as the all-knowing eyes of Google and Amazon, it might be time to start taking privacy seriously.” (Hugh for Alistair).
  • A Glimpse Into The Future of NPR, From It’s First-Ever Creative Director – Fast Company. “I’m a bit of a ‘radio’ junkie, or anyway, an ‘audio’ junkie, since I do almost all my listening to podcasts these days (using the Stitcher app, mostly). It turns out that most of the ‘podcasts’ I love are public radio shows from around the world: BBC, Australia Radio National, and NPR. And most of the best stuff these days is coming from National Public Radio, NPR. In the early days of podcasting, NPR really jumped in with two feet. They have continued to build not just an impressive network of ‘radio’ shows, but a lot of stuff tailored to modern, web-connected podcasty listeners: shows like This American Life, RadioLab, On The Media, Bullseye, and 99% Invisible. What’s in store for NPR in the next few years? Read about its new Creative Director, Liz Danzico, and what she’s got in mind for our ears. (As a sad sidenote, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, once a source of much tasty audio, has declined to the point that it is hardly recognizable).” (Hugh for Mitch).
  • How to Build a Productive Tech Economy – The Atlantic. The Atlantic has an amazing online property called, The Atlantic Cities, that focuses on urban centers and the evolving world and the cities that we live in. This article by Richard Florida (who is the author of The Rise Of The Creative Class, along with many others) looks at cities and their real abilities to turn themselves into a technology hub. We often head mayors and other leaders talk about the need for their cities ad states to become ‘the next Silicon Valley.’ Well, Florida has some data and thoughts on what is (and what is not) possible…” (Mitch for Alistair).
  • TED isn’t a recipe for ‘civilisational disaster’ – The Guardian. “There is a very persuasive TEDx talk that is making the rounds titled, New perspectives – what’s wrong with TED talks?, that is also an article in The Guardian titled, We Need To Talk About TED, by Benjamin Bratton. I can understand Bratton (and others) perspective, but I just don’t agree with it. The fact is that I have been going to TED for many years and believe (without sounding all snooty about it), that it’s hard to understand what the event is like until you attend it. I often tell people that the TED Talks (which is what everyone talks about online and watches) account for, probably, five percent of the whole TED experience. It’s easy to sit back, watch an 18-minute talk and wonder what that is going to do to truly change the world or solve some of our very real problems, but I thought that TED’s curator, Chris Anderson, did a great job of trying to explain to the masses what the conference is really about. For my dollar, no other event has inspired me more. From business success to community involvement and more, I learn so much at each event that I can’t imagine having a successful year with TED not being a part of it.” (Mitch for Hugh).

Now it’s your turn: in the comment section below pick one thing that you saw this week that inspired you and share it.


Consumer Electronics Show Is This Week: Wearable Technology Is Ready For Its Closeup

Every morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital me…

What’s Your Mother Worth?

Before getting all harsh on me for this blog post title…

This is a fascinating Talks At Google from Joshua Klein. Klein is a hacker. Now, if the term “hacker” scares you, consider him a technologist who is fascinated with systems thinking. Some people may recognize him as the guy who trained crows to fetch lost change (no joke). He starts off this presentation by asking, “what’s your mother worth?” and it just keeps getting more fascinating after that. This is all about reputation economics. In a world of Klout, social media and even digital currency, this one is a must see. What are you worth? What’s your reputation worth?

Watch this…