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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:

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It’s A Small (And Strange) World After All, Brands

How much control does a company really have over their brand?

Never has this question in business been asked more than in the past decade. Technology, the Internet and social media have been a virtual can of worms for brands that has extended well beyond the marketing department, and has poured over into everything from customer care, business innovation, the reputation of individual leaders within the organization, how a company hires employees and more. It’s one of the fundamental reasons why I’m such a massive advocate for marketing to become a horizontal function within the organization instead of it’s current role as a vertical. We need everyone (from employees to consumers) to understand what the brand is and how the stories are told, because every single one of us has become a media entity unto ourselves. We can talk about the merits of social media as an engine of engagement and conversation for brands, but the simple truth is that it is nothing more than a public publishing platform. A place where anyone – in text, images, audio and video – can create content, applications and communities about anything and everything. It’s free (in terms of cost, not time and attention) and distributed globally for the world to see (also free, if you’re not thinking about your Internet and mobile monthly bills). While the past fifteen years has brought with it a lot of innovation and depth, we’re seeing how the nuances of the brand have started to shift in more dramatic ways.

What is the face of the brand?

Marketers wonder if there is a structured and prescribed way to dictate the sentiment and actions that we would, ideally, like customers and employees to have when they interact with a brand. What most successful brands still fail to realize is that in an environment of global interconnectivity, humans are also increasingly exposed to newer types of cultures and ways to connect. This means that newer ideas and ways to connect can be crossbred, much in the same way we’re currently breeding very different kinds of dogs to create newer kinds of dogs (care for a Labradoodle, anyone?) or fruits (hungry for a Grapple? – yes, an apple that tastes like a grape). Brands are quickly starting to feel, understand and interact with their own little Frankenstein versions of themselves.

What does a crossbreed brand look like?

Imagine waiting in line for the It’s A Small World ride at Disneyland, and suddenly coming across what looks like a Harley Davidson meets Fall Out Boy group of Disney fanatics. Tattoos of good ole Walt Disney on their calves, ripped jean jackets, piercings, patches of Daisy Duck surrounded in gang-like skulls and crossbones and more. It may feel like something out of a Tim Burton movie, but you have actually come face to face with the Neverlanders. This group of rag tags are more than 30 strong and were recently featured in an in-depth editorial piece by Vice called, The Punks Of Disneyland. It’s a unique story about passionate brand evangelists (the kind of people who visit these properties so much, that they are actually on a first-name basis with the staff and characters) who have taken their love of all things Disney into a dramatic and alternative realm. This is much bigger than the annual Disney conventions for fans (D23 Expo) and the Neverlanders are not the only exclusive, members-only, social club that roams these parks and resorts (there is Main Street Elite, the Wonderlanders, Jungle Cruisers and many more). In the case of the Neverlanders, this group formed through social networking. They began connecting and sharing in spaces like Instagram long before they formalized themselves as an independent social club (some people call them a gang).

What do you think Disney has to say about all of this?   

Here’s the official Disney quote from the Vice article about these roaming Disney fan gangs: “We are fortunate to have guests who share such a strong affinity for Disneyland Resort.” What would you do? What would your brand position be on groups of people who love what you are doing this much, but still run down a much more alternative path than the brand might publicly be comfortable with? Granted, this isn’t the challenge of all brands, but it begs an interesting question: If consumers are actually in control of the brand, and now they have the tools, resources and connections to do these types of things, what is the brand and what does it really stand for?

It’s not just Disney.

For every legitimate and corporately run group like Jeep‘s annual Jeep Jamboree adventure event and meet-up, you have groups like IKEA Hackers. Formed in May 2006 on a blog, this website is now full of passionate IKEA customers who build their own, unique, projects by modifying and repurposing IKEA products. They are embellishing and adding their own elbow grease to figure out new and interesting types of furniture that can be built through various pieces of IKEA furniture. So, whether you would like to build your own iPad kiosk or a laundry organizer from standard IKEA kitchen cabinets, the possibilities are now endless. According to the IkeaHackers website, IKEA does not pay the owner or in any way sanctions or endorses it. It is purely a fan-run website.

It’s a small world, for brands, afterall.

Brands now have a deeper optic into what, exactly, their heavy users want. In fact, what these examples demonstrate is that we can often never truly understand what consumers want, and when they do things like hack our products or roam our properties in a way that it was never intended, perhaps brands should be doing a better job of supporting, encouraging and helping them to be successful. Instead, most brands are attempting to keep them at arm’s length. Steve Jobs from Apple once famously said: “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Perhaps, in today’s age of connectivity and social media, brands need to pay attention when the reverse comes true as well.

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:

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Where Is The User Manual?

How does that coffee machine work?

I’m not a big coffee drinker. Too much caffeine does not play well with my biology. I’m anxious enough. A heavy does of it, and I’m spinning like a top, I get a headache and it’s all regret. Still, occasionally, I like a cafe au lait (who doesn’t?). Tasty. We’ve had the same coffee machine in our office at Twist Image for as long as I can remember. I walk by it multiple times a day. There are only a handful of buttons on it. I have no idea what those buttons mean or how to use it. I also recognize that we live in a world of coffee pods, where you simply slide these little tins into a coffee machine, hit a button and “poof,” you have a French cafe style coffee pumped into your “Friday… my second favorite F Word” mug without any pretention. Still, I am clueless. It’s just a bunch of buttons and sliders that I don’t understand. I’ve tried. Sitting next to our coffee machine is a binder. On that binder, it says, “Coffee Machine User Manual.” It’s a binder. For a coffee machine.

How does your iPad work?

Do me a favor, take a look at the instruction manual for your iPad. How about the one for your iPhone? Your Android smartphone? Hmmm… no manual. That’s interesting. Turn it on, slide to unlock it, touch and go. If you make a mistake, don’t worry, you won’t break the thing. It may take an extra second to figure it out, but you won’t be punished by scolding hot water. Think on this for a moment: what is a more complex technology with a myriad more of functionality? That coffee machine or that iPad? That coffee machine user manual makes me laugh every time I see it. We talk about marketing, advertising and communication as a way to inform the public about the existence or nuances of the products and services that we sell, but marketing is so often left out of the actual development and experience, that what marketers are really left to do is to simply talk about something that may be overly complicated to explain and use.

Marketing includes design, usability and experience.

Don’t forget about that. We often do forget about this or get lost in the erogenous zone of simplicity. Steve Jobs from Apple forced the world to look at design, usability, experience and marketing as one, holistic, thing. Business books, articles, case studies, documentaries, blog posts, annoying Instagram quote pictures deluge our eyes/brains with the idea of focusing on simplicity. I’d offer this thought: don’t focus on simplicity. Simplicity is the outcome of bringing together the right people in the room that can get you to a specific point of resolution for your business. It’s like trying to create something viral. Viral is a result of doing a lot of things brilliantly. Same with simplicity.

How to do away with the manual?

That specific point of resolution should be this: is it possible for your business to create something that does not require a manual or training? Ugh. Sucks to read that, doesn’t it? Sucks to think about it. I know many business-to-business companies that will scoff at this notion, simply because this is how they ensure regular (and ongoing) revenue – through training, support and other value-added services. Fine, it may be impractical to completely do away with instruction manuals and trainings, but what if the real goal was to reduce it to its bare minimum? For my dollar, this is the highest form of marketing: creating something that is both needed and completely frictionless for the consumer (these are the things that consumers love to use and talk about). Find me a product that does this and was not accepted by a strong customer base, and I’ll call you a liar (in the nicest way possible). Oh, and if you think it’s one hundred percent impossible to drive your products and services to the point where instruction manuals are not needed, feel free to study (in-depth) some of the design thinking that the Apple team (and other folks – like the people at IDEO) are bringing to market. How they did it, might just surprise and inspire you and your teams. Lastly, remember that we have reached a very unique inflection point in time (and, it’s something I discuss in a lot more detail in my second book, CTRL ALT Delete). We are finally at this amazing point in society when technology has removed the technology from technology. This stuff is intuitive, it does not require an instruction manual and it’s accessible to all people – across demographics and psychographics. From the very young to the very old, to everyone in between. That is something to cherish, celebrate and integrate into all of our business. Always.

Dump the instruction manuals. That’s the beginning phases of brilliant marketing.

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The Best To-Do List

How do you handle your To-Do list?

I’ve been stressing over my to-do list. How about you? It’s funny, I’m not stressed over the growth of it and the activities that I need to get done. I’m actually stressing over the actual/physical list. Let me explain. I used to carry around a hard cover Moleskine notebook that I loved dearly. It had everything in it from to-do lists to book ideas to client meeting notes to random thoughts gathered at a conference and so on. It got to a point, where I was carrying it around and hardly looking back to any of the older pages of notes that I had taken in the weeks and months that had past. Along with that, if I were asked for my notes on a client meeting, I found myself shuffling through the pages and my digital calendar to figure out where these thoughts might be. I was also an early adopter of Evernote. Once I got heavily vested in the digitization of my notes, I found myself having lists in multiple places. Along that journey, I started getting worried that Evernote could get hacked or my info could get lost (again, this is long before the company had become the juggernaut that they are today). A couple of times, Evernote froze/crashed on me and I started getting really worried about the stability of it as well. So, I wound up switching to the native notes application on the iPhone. At that point, I had notes in a physical notebook, stuff in Evernote and other stuff on the native application. At that point, I became interested in using my iPad for close to everything, and feel madly, deeply in love with writing notes on the iPad with a stylus and the Penultimate (now owned by Evernote) and NoteShelf applications. Yep… I was screwed. Now, I had stuff all over the place.

Getting organized.

At the end of last year, I recognized the error in my ways and the trouble I was experiencing. In short, I was spending a lot of time trying to get more efficient at using the tools that were simply supposed to make me more efficient. It was very meta. I was downloading apps, trying them out. Some were better on iPhone and some weren’t great at being integrated with the MacBook Air and my current email/calendar system, etc… I was reminded of this unholy mess of notes, ideas and content earlier in the day because Business Insider had a little news item titled, The Best To-Do List App For iOS Is Free For Today Only. Many people are very excited about the amazing to-do list app called, Clear. It’s typically, $4.99 but it’s free for the next little while (so go and grab it, if you want it). My initial reaction was, “awesome! Gotta grab me that!” And I did. It’s gorgeous. It’s easy to use. Tons of cool little usability tricks with swiping and pinching. It seems like a total cinch to use. Then, that sinking feeling came over me again. Am I starting over with another note, list, to-do app… again? Nope. Not me. I deleted it. Sorry Clear.

What has been working?

Perhaps you will view this as the most anti-technological way of getting organized. So be it. It has been working so well for me, that I’m almost a little embarrassed to admit it. Here is my system for staying organized. I hope it works as well for you as it has been for me:

  • Paper. I use a simple 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. I put my to-do list on it. Only the immediate/short-term things that need to get done. This sheet stays on top of all other notes. I also have one sheet dedicated to business development needs for Twist Image. That’s it. I keep it all in a manila folder. If the sheet is more than half marked off, I start a new sheet and copy the items not done over to a clean sheet. If I’m not around the folder and need to add an item, I email it to myself and add the item later in the day. If it’s a client meeting, it gets a new sheet of paper and once the notes are filled or no longer immediately pressing, those notes get put in a client-specific manila folder (historically, I have rarely had to go back and access these older notes). If I am doing an interview for a podcast, blog post, book, etc… I use another new sheet of paper and once the interview is done, I have an interview folder (again, I hardly ever need to go back once that content gets published). In short, I never have more than 3-5 sheets of paper to carry around.
  • Notebook. Moleskine. I. Can’t. Quit. You. I carry around a soft-cover Moleskine for all of my more creative thinking (ideas for clients, posts, quotes, podcasts, conference notes, book ideas, presentation ideas, etc…). Quite frankly, I could use the same one-page technique as above for this, but I just love the feeling of writing creatively in the Moleskine. Plus, it does feel like a separation of client work/business-related stuff to the deep thinking stuff.
  • Technology. I use a password protected resident note application for more sensitive things. If it’s something that really needs to be on a to-do list, I only use the technology to email myself a note about it. That’s it. Kinda lame, right?

It seems to work.

From my vantage point, having that physical paper open on my desk – and within constant view – seems to be the best/most functional way to ensure that stuff gets done (plus, that folder is so easy and light to travel with – be it from meeting to meeting or country to country). This simplification of the process also keeps everything very clean and organized in my mind. That being said, I am left wondering if I’m missing something by removing all of the technology, bells and whistles that seem to get some many people so excited? I’m reminded of Michael Hyatt and how passionate he is about Evernote, and everything it has done to simplify his life in terms of organization (check out his post: A Handy Index to All My Evernote Posts).

What’s your take? How do you stay on top of everything? Has technology helped or hindered you?

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My Love Affair With Pocket

Where do you save and read your online content?

You would think that with all of this technology and content that we’re constantly creating, publishing and reading, that it would be a whole lot simpler to save, share and consume it. It’s not. It’s a mess. And, I’m guess that if it’s a mess for me, it’s an even bigger disaster for those who are less inclined to spend the time figuring out which services are the best and which ones can be trusted. If we go back to the early days of online content, I quickly became enamored with Delicious (which, at the time, was a bookmarking service coupled with an online social network). You could not only save and retrieve content on Delicious, but you could follow friends and see what they were saving. Most of that technology was driven by the nascent days of tagging content. Over the years, other services came online, Delicious got acquired by Yahoo, RSS readers (like Google Reader) came into play and, well, things just started getting messy again.

A system to save and find content.

For years, I would bounce back and forth. From taking physical notes of things to check out, to using Google Reader to having specific folders in my email program for areas of interest. In short, it just felt like everything was all over the place. It was less about trying to capture and consumer everything, and much more about having an efficient and unified place to get it and keep it. When Instapaper came out, it provided the most ideal place for me to save articles that I wanted to read, but proved less efficient for other pieces of content that I wanted to store (little pieces of data, ideas for clients, videos from YouTube to watch, concepts for a future book, column ideas for the Huffington Post or Harvard Business Review). Still, it felt like I was adding in another place to save my content. Then, Pocket came along. Pocket changed everything. I love Pocket.

Why I love Pocket.

Pocket seems to do everything that a lot of other tools did well, but it just works on many levels. Pocket allows you to save anything that you see on the Internet to an asynchronous experience (meaning, it is cloud-based and once an item is saved, you can view it from a computer, tablet or smartphone, so long as you have the apps and are signed in). If you see something in your email, you can forward it to a specific email address and it shows up in Pocket. If you add the Web browser bookmarklet, a little button appears in your Web browser, so you can add that piece of content. And, best of all, you can add tags to everything. It’s simple, fast and easy (I know, this sounds like a commercial, but it’s true). Because the tagging system is so well designed, Pocket makes it extremely simple to not only save content, but keep it organized from day one.

It gets better.

Perhaps one of the best features of Pocket is (much like Instapaper), is that once you save something in the app, it automatically downloads the content. This is huge. It means that while you’re not online, you can still read, review and work with the content. Sure, the vast majority of us are connected all of the time, but this is also magical because the speed of which you can access content (without Pocket having to run off into the Internet, find the link and pull the content down) makes it that much more magical. From flying to public spaces, having all of that saved content on the app (without needing connectivity) is a massive plus.

Everything in your Pocket.  

Of course, as you start using Pocket more, you start seeing the tremendous amount of work that these people are doing to make it better. They have integrated their tool into several apps like Twitter, Flipboard, Zite and more (close to 300 applications). And that is part of the magic too. Pocket made me realize how transient I can be with content. My context for content consumption is so different from when I’m on my MacBook Air to my iPhone to my iPad. Being able to save, consume, share and annotate the content that I’m devouring as an Infovore – no matter what type of hardware I’m staring at – seems to keep the tsunami of publishing from washing me away. Pocket is a true one screen world system.

Organization as part of your New Year’s resolutions.

If you want to get a handle on the content that you’re seeing, and put it to better use, I can’t recommend Pocket enough. As an example: the content that I cover on my Monday morning CHOM FM radio segment is, typically, more of the general news-y things in technology and social media that I don’t bother delving deep into on the blog, in my columns or in books. With Pocket, I can just tag all of that content from Mashable and BuzzFeed as “CHOM” when it comes in, so when it’s time to build the topics of conversation for the radio show on Sunday night, it’s all there… in one click. Once the segment is done, I delete everything with that tag in a very simple way. As human beings, we have never been faced with this much content from so many disparate places, finally you have the right tool on your computer, tablet and smartphone to keep you perfectly informed and totally organized.

If you have some down time during this holiday season, go and check out Pocket. You won’t be sorry.

(full disclosure: Pocket is not a client of Twist Image, I am not invested in this company and I don’t think I know anyone who works there. I just love it :)

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What To Get The Person Who Has Everything (Without Breaking The Bank)

Do you know who has been naughty and who has been nice?

‘Tis the season to fight for a parking space at your local mall to dealing with unruly people as they battle the aisles to find the perfect gift for those that they love. There are few people who love this part of the holiday season. If you’re grappling with what to get that person who has everything, here are some suggestions that may be a little bit off of the beaten path:

  • Write. Get them a nice notebook (my preference would be a larger hard-covered Moleskine) with some Pilot Precise V5 pens. Let them know that this notebook is meant for inspirations, ideas, thoughts and other starters to help them build a better life. As cool as Evernote is, there’s something about writing down one’s thoughts in a great notebook with some fine ink.
  • Read. There are tons of great new books out there for you to buy (just check out Amazon or your local bookseller), so why not get them something that they probably wouldn’t buy for themselves? A subscription to some magazines. Fast Company, Wired, The Economist, The New Yorker, The Atlantic or even The Paris Review (if they love to write and read). The idea here is to buy them a subscription (or many) to a magazine that they like, but that they would never subscribe to. Plus, they’ll think about you every time a new issue arrives!
  • Mobile. If they use their smartphone all of the time, consider getting them a Mophie Juice Pack or some other kind of additional power pack. Most people complain about how bad the battery life is on their smartphone, but won’t spend the bucks to buy one of these battery rechargers. I’ve enjoyed my Mophie, and it has been there for me when my battery was fleeting. If they already have an additional power pack, buy them a handful of cases for their smartphone. This way they can change up their look whenever they like. I’m also  a big fan of the Belkin docks for iPhones and iPads. These docks are great for keeping by your bed or on your desk. They not only charge your smartphones and tablets but you can replace your traditional clock radio with these.
  • Computer. Whether their main computer is a laptop or a tablet, get them an extra charger (or two). Most of us bring our devices to work or we travel with them, but we only have one power supply. If you buy them a couple of these, they can leave one at home, one at the office and have an extra one to keep in their briefcase for travel. They’ll love you for it. Trust me.
  • Travel. If your loved one travels, get them the ultimate carry-on bag (I stand by my Eagle Creek Tarmac 22), but if that’s too steep of a gift, get them some of Eagle Creek’s amazing Packing Folders and Pack-It Specter Sac Set. If you want to do something really loving, enroll them in either Nexus or Global Entry so that they can breeze through the security and custom lines at airports all over North America.
  • To go. Buy them another backpack for their computer. They can use it on the weekend or to take to the coffee shop instead of having to carry around their day-to-day briefcase (which is usually stuffed with a whole bunch of stuff they don’t need for a quick jaunt on the weekend). Check out the incase line of backpacks or Ogio. The trick here is to keep it light, small and compact. It’s just for running to the cafe with a laptop/tablet, notebook and not much else. Let them know that this is their weekend pack.
  • Give. Most people don’t really need anything. Make a donation in their name to a cause that matters to them. Sometimes the best gift is the gift of helping those who need it more than most of us do. Not being preachy here, but it’s true.

Any other ideas? Feel free to share some of your better/different ideas…

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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…

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