Synthalitics – setting a new benchmark for customer engagement

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Have you noticed recently that your web browsing experience is becoming narrower, more confined and focused? What about those pesky ads that follow you from one website to another? Do they annoy or help you? It seems that all it takes is one visit to a retail website, and next thing you know, that retailer’s ads are stuck to your computer screen, appearing in every available ad spot across the web.

If this sounds like you – then you’re not alone. You’re actually part of the newly emerging real time web that combines big data and analytics to track and target you in search of that all-consuming sales conversion.

Businesses are putting their data to work

There has been significant progress in the world of analytics in recent times. The masses of data that has been collected for decades is now, thanks to the meshing of powerful, purpose built hardware and software, available to business decision makers at the touch of a screen or click of a mouse. This on-premise information is a rich source of vitality data that – with the appropriate mapping and analysis, can reveal hidden truths about our customers, their lives, lifestyles and even their futures.

Meanwhile, customers are themselves, increasingly self-tagging, self-identifying and self-analyzing their daily activities, weekly routines and personal aspirations. This information, in turn, is floating around the web, being stored, collated and cross-referenced to improve the effectiveness of our communal and personal web experiences. From the captcha codes that Google uses to improve its OCR book scanning to the social media check-ins that Facebook and ad networks use to micro-target and re-target advertising, the potential for augmenting a business’ on-premise data with publicly available “big data” is revolutionary.

The emergence of synthalitics will change marketing

“Synthalitics” is the combining of public data with business data, cross-pollinated with customer’s business and credit history, matched with their real time social and location-based information – and made available for a business rules engine at point of interaction. It may sound far-fetched, but it already available in a crude form that will improve as software and hardware improve. Just look to real time bidding advertising networks and ad re-targeting.

These are the pesky ads that follow you from one website to another. The technology clearly works, but advertisers have yet to apply creativity and insight to the re-targeting process. Rather than playing the same ad over and over, ad networks and advertisers will need to become more nuanced in their efforts and connected in their digital storytelling before these feel anything other than intrusive. But this will happen. And what currently appears clunky will, in very short order, become common place – and if we (as consumers) are lucky, it may even become useful.

The growth in real time bidding (RTB) display advertising indicates that businesses are rapidly acclimatizing to this digital world. In the US, RTB spending was expected to hit $3.34 billion in 2013 representing a massive 73.9% growth over the previous year. By 2017, eMarketer suggests this figure will hit $8.69 billion. The automation of digital display will create a gulf between those brands that understand and can integrate digital formats into their strategy and those that can’t – and clearly, this will accelerate through 2017.

Synthalitics deliver one-to-one engagement at scale

However, RTB is just one part of the digital story. Marketers need tools that can absorb the vitality data, augment it with big data-like, location based, self reported data (available through smartphones and social check-ins) and corporate CRM data and synthesize it in such a way that it reveals new and potentially predictive patterns (see diagram below). This is about knowing who your buyers trust.

imageIncreasingly, sales and marketing teams will need to work through a central platform to be able to contextualize business critical information about a prospect’s digital behaviour, needs and expectations. Or if no central platform or suite of tools are available, the need for frictionless data and aggregation points will become vital. The gulf between digitally-enabled and analogue businesses will grow, with the former over-running and out-innovating the latter.

Businesses without a digital transformation agenda need to rapidly reassess their strategy and go to market models. In short order – synthalitics will transform marketing and sales as we know it. And it is synthalitics that will deliver on the promise of one-to-one engagement at scale.

The question for you and your brand is not whether you are READY, but whether you have even STARTED.

Ash Donaldson – Predicting Irrational Decisions

Kōan

I don’t know about you, but I am completely logical. Focused. Directed. I am completely in charge of my own decisions and behaviour.

Or so I thought.

A couple of weeks ago, I caught up with Ash Donaldson, caffeine aficionado and behavioural design guru. We got talking about mobile app design and human behaviour and within seconds, my head was swimming. He was connecting dots that once swirled around my head like stars in the night sky. With a few quick examples, he explained how – through design – we can predict someone’s decisions.

And if you are interested in understanding how this might work in practice, take a look at Ash’s webinar on Slideshare. It’s 10 minutes that may just change the way you plan your marketing. And it may just change the way you think about your own choices that you think you make.

MotoCorsa Portland Show Us How to Sell Ducatis

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When I sold my last motorbike, I almost cried as its new owner rode into the cold, afternoon sun. Ever since I started riding as a teenager, I had dreamed of owning a Ducati – and here I was, many years on, relinquishing my much-loved Ducati Monster. But once you have owned one Ducati, it’s in your blood.

As a result, I am constantly on the look out for my next (future) bike. Now, this may never eventuate – but most men live under the constant and unyielding delusion that hope springs eternal, and that the old man staring at them in the mirror is some alien imposter. Old Spice got it right – in our mind’s eye, we all look like Isaiah Mustafa. And in my mind, Ducati is the bike that brings that imaginary world to life.

But the marketing of motorcycles is a relatively unadventurous sport. It largely revolves around the big philosophic binaries – sex and death. On the one hand, we know that motorcycling is dangerous, but the experience pushes us closer to the edge of some other form of being. It’s that futurist convergence of man and machine and all the libidinous energy that it can muster. It creates a gravitational pull that draws us in. And motorcycle advertisers play this for all it is worth.

The end result is that what was once James Dean-level thrilling, is now formulaic, with as little as three key narratives played out over and over across any and all brands:

  • The outlaw: you may be have an honest, humble day job, but the moment you throw your leg over your bike, you’ve left that world behind. It’s you, your bike and the open road. And the only thing between you and the future is the aura of danger that emanates from every pore
  • The master blaster: they say that speed kills, but that’s only for novices. What a bike needs is a master – a MotoGP pilot – and under your firm hand, it’s all under control
  • The rear view mirror: motorcycles were part of your youth. But there’s part of your soul that has never changed. And you can recapture that spirit of adventure – in a modern, more comfortable way. [Side note: I’m selling myself in on this narrative alone.]

The visuals for each of these narratives similarly run to a formula. Edgy typography. Short copy. Aggressive, angled photography laced with scantily clad women.

As a result, there is very little that catches my attention. Sure there may be different bikes, different angles – and even different girls. But we’ve seen it all before.

Or have we.

In support of the release of the new Ducati 1199 Panigale, Portland-based Ducati dealer, MotoCorsa decided to mix it up. They started out with the standard girl-on-a-bike. But then they followed it up with another series. This time, the model, Kylie Shea Lewallen, was gone. And in her place was a series of MotoCorsa workshop blokes, striking the same poses with the same great motorbikes.

Brilliant. Fun. And just check out the calves on the guy in heels. Check out the full photoshoot comparison at ashphaltandrubber.com – but be warned, there can be some things that cannot be unseen.

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Digital is Getting More Fragmented Not Less

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There was a time when the only “digital” device in your home was likely to be an alarm clock.

These days, we live with a range of internet connected devices from refrigerators to lightbulbs, and CCTV systems to VOIP phones. And that’s before we start counting computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. When network security firm Sophos surveyed gadget users around the world in March 2013, respondents indicated that they carried an average of 2.9 devices with them. Smartphones and laptops were the most popular, with eReaders rounding out the list at 29%.

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But these days, “digital” isn’t just about hardware. In fact, it’s not even about software. It’s about BEHAVIOUR.

When we think of digital we are thinking of modes of production and consumption – what we create and what we consume. And since the explosion of the social web, we have seen a massive fragmentation of what can be described (for want of a better word) as “digital channels”. In the early days of the web, the only digital channel you had was email. And then the world wide web came along and began to nip away at the edge of our digital experiences. It promised much but seldom delivered.

When Brian Solis introduced the Conversation Prism in 2008, our digital experience had grown to embrace the fledgling social media platforms like Flickr, LinkedIn, kyte, Zooomr and Facebook. Along for the ride was Ning, Pownce, eventful, WordPress and Twitter (amongst others). Of course, not all survived, but they paved the way for many who followed. And vitally they transformed our digital behaviour, our online body language and set our expectations for online experiences.

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The latest version of the Conversation Prism has now been released. And you can see that consumers are presented with a vast array of options for both production and consumption of content. There are many more ways to engage online – more platforms, more approaches and more niches. And with each of these comes rules, regulations, terms of service, user etiquette and community cultures. It can be a minefield for users and a battleground for inexperienced marketers. This presents marketers with serious challenges:

  • Strategy is execution: We have to make our peace and realise that the pace of change is never going to slow. We must now view strategy as execution – something that happens in real time with real customers. We need to work with a continuous digital strategy to not only survive but vitally, to remain relevant.
  • Digital skills must be prioritised: This is not to say that traditional marketing skills no longer have a role. Far from it. But digital will continue to grow in prominence. If you have not begun to refresh your skills, start now. Check out cheap and low cost online courses from Coursera, Skillshare and Udemy. For those in Sydney, Vibewire also runs regular skills based workshops that are tremendous value. Also check out what is on offer from ADMA.
  • Automation for marketing at scale: The dream of one-to-one marketing is upon us – but comes with discipline, requires strategic planning and technology investment. Identify those repetitive marketing tasks and investigate the marketing automation solution that is right for you and your business. You’ll be amazed at the revenue impact.

So before you go wading into the sea of digital channels, be sure you’ve got your floaties on – and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Marketing Provocations from We Are Social, Singapore

My Chernobyl Adventure part 2: Fallout Danger

The WeAreSocial team in Singapore consistently produce thought provoking research and showcase the powerhouse that is Asia. Their regular reports (available on Slideshare) aggregate data from across the web and make connections between the trends and the reality on the ground. And for those wanting to understand the shifts in marketing in Asia, they provide a great series of primers. (Of course, the best thing to do is to GO.)

The latest presentation by Simon Kemp, shifts this up a level, offering eight provocations on the future of marketing. No matter whether you are  client-side or work for an agency, these provocations offer a powerful challenge to the status quo of the way that we carry on the BUSINESS of MARKETING.

  1. Social equity drives brand value. Think participation rather than broadcast.
  2. Communities have more value than platforms. Think outside-in rather than inside-out.
  3. All marketing must add value – Think why rather than how.
  4. On the go is the way to go – Think mobile only rather than mobile first
  5. From big idea to leitmotivs – Think traction rather than blast
  6. From selective hearing to active listening – Think signal rather than noise
  7. Experiences are the new products – Think benefits rather than features
  8. CSR evolves into civic engagement – Think doing good as the price of doing well

Now, if these indeed are provocations, they are aimed precisely at the way that we marketers do our work, conceptualise it and execute on it. It becomes personal very quickly. So the question we must ask ourselves is – “which of these most impact me, my work and my customers – and what will I do about it”. I would love to know your thoughts!

Tablet Market Up for Grabs

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When the iPad appeared on the scene its dominance was all encompassing. But just as the battle for marketshare in the smartphone market is shifting away from Apple’s iPhone towards the plethora of various Android powered devices, the tablet market is seeing a similar pattern emerge.

Apple now holds less than 30% of the tablet market which is down from almost 50% at the same time last year.

In this infographic, eBay Deals, took a different approach – and rather than just relying on pure sales data, they analysed thousands of tweets, search data, YouTube views etc. The aim was to reveal not just market share (which we know), but aspects of behaviour, sentiment and – dare I say it – love.

And in this respect, Apple’s products continue to perform well. But interestingly, it is Google (not Android) that seems to be emerging as a strong competitor in the “tablet passion” stakes. And that – for Apple at least – should be more worrying than the sales figures – after all, one is a leading indicator of the other. And that early dominance can easily be squandered.

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"iPaid too much" Asim Bharwani via Compfight

Mid-Year Digital Marketing Trends 2013

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Report-2013trendsAs we begin to ramp up our efforts for the second half of 2013, it’s always worth taking a moment to reflect on what has emerged, what is emerging and the gaps that are becoming obvious in our marketing strategy and tactics.

For me, one of the things that has solidified is the notion that consumers are not only king, but the entire universe. As such they have become the centre of gravity around which brands now orbit.

Understanding and navigating this new “consumerverse” is a core requirement for any marketer.

My snapshot report on Succeeding in the New Consumerverse reveals four strategies to help marketers win in a state of disruption as usual:

  • The shift from participating to serving with purpose
  • Becoming connected and connectable
  • Realising that channels are dead
  • Embracing tech sector innovation

Register and download the report from the Constellation Research Inc website.

And if you would like to learn more about how this connects to real businesses, some of the interesting proof points that are emerging and how businesses can embrace disruption as a business imperative, take a look at my interview with Which-50’s Andrew Birmingham.

Is Facebook the New Las Vegas?

The Way to the Penthouse

You know how it goes at the international airport check-in counter.

  1. Greet customer: “Hello sir”
  2. Determine destination: “Where are you travelling to today?”
  3. Check passport, print boarding pass etc

It’s all pretty functional.

From time to time, there might be some off-script personality sneaking through, but it’s rare. Unless you are travelling to Vegas.

When I checked-in for my first ever trip to Las Vegas, the routine started as usual. But when we got to point 2 – and I explained where I was heading, the woman stopped and looked up.

Her eyes glistened and she smiled. She nodded and just said, “Veeeegaas”.

It was at this point that I knew that there was something special in store. The thing is, Vegas is a place whose story precedes it. It is a place where stories are born and where we can become wrapped in a story beyond our imaginings in the blink of a showgirl’s eye.

Now, it used to be said that what goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But that was “back in the day” – which in Gen Y speak means about 2009. It was a time when being in a city in the middle of a desert afforded a certain isolation. It was a time before my nanna was on Facebook. And now, as we all know, what goes on in Vegas, lives forever on Facebook. Or Google. Or the computers in the NSA’s secret PRISM data centre.

And this means that the stories that are the lifeblood that is “Veeeegaas” … are no longer contained. Furthermore, those stories are amplified, hyper-real simulacra flashed across a variety of digital networks in multi-format content from pictures on Instagram to collections on Pinterest and videos on Vine and YouTube to collections on Storify.

But just as Vegas transformed itself from family destination to adult playground, it seems that Facebook too is experiencing this kind of shift. With teens and young adults starting feeling Facebook fatigue and dropping away from the social network, it’s leaving a hard core adult population to connect, share and engage. And with a revitalised MySpace and a plethora of low demand/high impact alternatives like Instagram and SnapChat it may well be that Facebook enters a new era of adult-focused engagement.

Perhaps.

But which ever way that dice rolls, one thing is for certain. Before posting a new photo to Facebook, ask yourself the hard question. Should I?

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Note to Brands: Make Things People Want

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Have you ever wondered why marketing and advertising is such hard work?

We are constantly trying to change the way that people behave and think – positioning brands and businesses in the centre of a relationship that is only ever on the peripheral of our customers’ worlds. And while for us – for the business owner, brand manager or agency – there is a real centrality to our relationship with the brand, it is simply not the case for the vast majority of the people that we want to talk to.

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As Hugh MacLeod explained back in 2006, “if you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face”.

And while social media awareness has become widespread, many businesses still struggle with it. Where’s the ROI they ask. Where’s the relevance? How will it drive sales? And while these are important questions, they are important questions for a mature channel. Very few businesses have the knowledge, expertise and capability to determine the answers – let alone the capacity to integrate these answers into a comprehensive brand and engagement framework. The channel has matured but our organisational understanding of it continues to lag.

But there is another way.

Rather than making people want things – spending our precious resources creating awareness, inspiring interest and stimulating desire in our customer base, what if we just made things that people want?

What of we went further – and understood our customer’s journey from the outside-in? So, rather than pushing messages out designed to interrupt and stimulate – what if we could participate and engage? What if we provided so much incentive, surprise and delight that this engagement prompted purchase, created a business relationship or turned a “detractor” into an advocate?

What if what we did made someone’s life better?

John Willshare argues exactly this – that brands are fracking the social web – and missing the real opportunity presented by digital and social media.

But what can you do? Practically? Why don’t you start:

  • Small: Rather than thinking of the vision that will change the world, what is your vision that will change one person’s experience of what you do. Have the big vision in your back pocket, but start as small as you can bear.
  • Quick: Stop thinking about doing and start acting. Raid the petty cash tin and think about what you can do with a budget you can hold in one hand.
  • Inclusive: Don’t sit in a room planning – go talk to your customers. Engage with them on social media. Bring them into your process

And I bet that within a week you’ll have a deeper understanding of the problems your customers want you to solve than you have resources to deliver. And that’s the whole point, surely.

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Marketing to Marketers – Just Add ICE

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The five forces of the Consumerization of Information Technology (CoIT) do not just affect the chief information officer (CIO). The impact of social media, Big Data, analytics, mobility, cloud computing and unified communications will be felt across every business unit and across every enterprise.

However, it is the office of the CMO – the organizational executive responsible for the “front of house” – which will be increasingly exposed to the challenges presented by consumerization. As a result, marketing leaders will face significant new strategic and technology decisions in the next two years.

Outdated theories and metrics, however, frame the practice of business marketing and continue to inhibit the ability of marketers to respond to the rapidly changing consumerized landscape. CMOs need to plan and execute against a new vision of the connected consumer.

The connected consumer, who uses a range of digital and social networking technologies, discovers, debates and decides on purchases in a completely new way. These processes occur almost completely independent of your brand, your communications and the messages they carry. The connected consumer may share your Facebook fan page with friends and buy your products on the way home. She or he may be your greatest critic or your staunchest defender. They blog, tweet, write reviews, self-publish books and hold online film festivals. They are influencers in their own right.

Marketers need to adopt a long-term view that demotes the campaign-based thinking that has dominated the marketing agenda for decades, replacing it with a focus on relationships, value and customer experience.

Companies that are prepared for the future do three things right when it comes to digital marketing. First, they understand the customer journey as a series of flows between touch points over time – and plan and execute their marketing plans accordingly. Second, they understand the power of data and analytics to create a deeper understanding of that customer and the approaches that can deliver customer engagement at scale. And finally, CMOs are recasting the marketing funnel to model and map the customer journey to better direct their marketing investments.

My report into re-casting the marketing funnel for consumer engagement set out the new touchpoints that marketers need to map against their buyers journey. But this, of course, requires an understanding of that journey not from the brand point of view – which is inside-out – but from the outside-in. And this requires additional thought, planning and preparation. In fact, it needs education.

One of the great successes of Google has been it’s relentless focus on technology. This has also been one of its great failings – and lies at the heart of its lack of success with social networking. With search – where Google clearly dominates, they have followed the ICE approach:

  • Interest – create interest and intrigue in the solution by generating immediate VALUE
  • Contextualise – help EDUCATE the audience in this new world by contextualising the old vs new with patterns of user behaviour
  • Evangelise – show, support and evangelise the OUTCOMES of the new behaviour in the new context

Not only have new behaviours emerged thanks to Google search – whole industries have been built, careers have flourished and our personal and professional lives have been shaped in new ways. Except in small pockets, this has not happened with other Google solutions.

But things are slowly changing.

GoogleBuyers The Think with Google website has become one of my favourites over the last year or so. Their recent work on the How to Go Mo website took a huge step in educating and empowering marketers in their quest to understand mobile marketing. And now, this planning tool on the customer journey helps explain some of the complexity around multi-channel / omni-channel marketing, analytics and attribution.

If Google wants to see more marketers getting value out of their digital marketing investments (which is in everyone’s best interest), then more of this work will be required. Having great technology is only half of any answer (or maybe even less). Without the people, you don’t have a party. For that, you need ICE.