Rethinking Marketing: From Media to Experience

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In the marketing industry, we have been talking, writing and even creating a shift in the way that we do business for over a decade. Early blogs and (what is now called) social media provided an inkling into where the shift was going – away from paid media into “owned” and “earned” media. This was a difficult, but relatively understandable transition because we were essentially talking the same language – the language of media. Accordingly we shifted from media planning and strategy towards “content planning and strategy” – we were still talking about the same processes behind the brand curtain – it’s just that some of those activities happened on the other side:

  • Paid media – traditional advertising like print, television, radio, direct mail, retail/channel and the kind of placement that you have to pay for. The benefits of paid media is that you get (mostly) what you pay for – control over the context, content, use of your logo and other branding, messaging, focus and tone of voice.
  • Owned media – your own properties like your website, microsites and blogs, forums or branded communities. To an extent, your Facebook fan pages, Twitter profiles and YouTube channels etc fall into owned media – though you have less precise control over interaction/commentary, overall look and feel (ie your Facebook page is always going to look like it belongs to Facebook).
  • Earned media – the word of mouth, social mentions (tweets, status updates, mentions, reviews, blog posts) and so on that are produced about your brand by your fans. You have little influence over the structure, timing or even appearance of your messaging or branded assets – but it ranks as one of the most influential forms of media.

But while we (marketers) were talking about the different kinds of media, technology companies and startups were out there changing the form and function of that media. They weren’t interested in the marketer’s view of media – looking instead for ways that technology could extend, enhance or accelerate the flow of that media from brand to consumer. Accordingly they focused their efforts on four technology trends – creating an enterprise-scale IT model known as SMAC which combines Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud. And while this works from an inside-out point of view, it must be revisited and reframed to deliver value and relevance to our customers.

Experience as the beating heart of brands

It’s easy to rant about poor customer experience. We see it on social media all the time. Sometimes it is warranted. Sometimes it isn’t. But SMAC has removed the barriers to entry for the vast majority. All we have to do is take a photo upload it to Facebook or Twitter and tag it with #fail and it will reach not only our friends and connections but others who monitor and amplify these kind of failures of brand experience (yes, these people really do exist).

Take a look at this single tweet from Mashable about a “Valentines Day flower failure”. With over 5 million followers and hundreds of retweets – a poor customer experience can turn a bad day into an unfolding disaster.

The point, however, is that we – as consumers – experience brands at a very personal level. With this in mind, it is worth reframing SMAC and media from the outside-in. It’s time to understand the behavioural triggers that arise out of SMAC and create engagement that works for our fans, customers, and advocates.

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  • Social: The Social dimension has the potential to deliver powerful, personal yet scalable CONNECTION. It offers a single conversational channel, builds trust and offers a way to accelerate a resolution or conversion process
  • Mobile: The Mobile dimension delivers LOCATION. With a connected device in your pocket (close to your beating heart), a mobile phone is the convergence point where the digital and the “real” worlds collide
  • Analytics: The power of big data is not in crunching everything known about a customer. The real value is in delivering AWARENESS to a network. This effectively means creating USER context from the social, mobile and business data signals available
  • Cloud: And the cloud provides the mechanism for SERVICE. To remain relevant to customers, brands must re-acquaint themselves with the value of service. And Cloud provides the mechanism to do so.

Combining SMAC with an understanding of customer behaviour means that SERVICE can be delivered conveniently at the right time, in the right space in the right context. And even in the right environment.

Is it the future of marketing? Don’t look too far towards the horizon, for this future has already happened. Only some heard it knocking on the door.

Marketing and Dating: How to Get a Date by the Numbers

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Dating is big business. There are generic dating sites designed to help you find a date, a life partner or someone just to hang out with. There are also incredibly focused dating sites that are designed to introduce you to other people who have the same particular passions and interests as you. Maybe you are looking for a “sea captain” or perhaps you just hate it when Movember finishes and need to sate your passion for the tache. Whatever the case, if you look hard enough you’re bound to find a dating site designed just for people like you (yes, you crazy cat lady).

In many ways, the challenge of dating is the same challenge that marketers face. We’re all looking for that one-to-one connection – though often we struggle to a way to meet and start a conversation. In both cases (marketing and dating), digital disruption is creating both opportunities and challenges. And at the heart of this is data.

Inga Ting reveals that what we say in our dating profiles and what we want are often completely different. Dating sites – just like data-driven marketers – are less interested in “stated intentions” and more interested in actual behaviour. By looking at online behaviour – the things that we like, connect with, share and return to – marketers can adjust their profiling to reach and more deeply engage potential customers. This algorithmic approach relies not on focus groups and market research but on an adaptive approach which operates between your stated profile (self designed) and the actions you take online. In the world of online dating it means operating in-between spaces:

Behaviour-based matching is adaptive. It compares what you said you wanted with how you behave to work out things you might not even know about yourself.

For example, you said you wanted a partner with a steady income but you keep messaging “pro-bono computer game testers” and “freelance writers”, so the algorithm changes its recommendations.

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But, of course, while there can be volumes of data about ourselves online – we are also highly visual. The rise of photo based apps like Tinder for example shows that sometimes dating (and even marketing) is only skin deep. Relying on your photo and your location information, Tinder matches people based on whether they are close and interested (you swipe a prospective date’s photo to the left to reject and to the right to connect).

For those who are serious about dating, perhaps a single app is not the answer. The “multichannel” approach that works for marketers may yield better results. Take for example, the data from Axciom’s infographic (ht Will Scully-Power) that reveals that, in Sydney:

  • Single females outnumber males at all ages except the 18-24 age group
  • Potts Point is home to the most singles
  • Wine enthusiasts are most likely to reside in the Eastern and Inner West suburbs

If you were a male in the highly competitive 18-24 age group, a multichannel (or omnichannel) marketing approach to maximising your chances would include:

  1. Establishing your base profiles on high traffic sites
  2. Create a profile image that shows your passion for fitness and interest in fine wine (please be tasteful)
  3. Spend time in cafes in Potts Point using Tinder

Of course, you could pepper your profile with quotes from Shakespeare, but that may be overkill. Remember, that the algorithms will override your stated profile anyway – so your true intentions will always be revealed in the data – based on who you swipe right and who you swipe left, who you message, like and connect with. And like all good marketing, the question comes down to ROI, engagement and outcomes. I hope you get your algorithm right!

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How to be a Digital Survivor

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Whether we like it or not, we live in an outside-in world. It is no longer good enough for our marketing to be “good enough”. It’s no longer safe to “play it safe”. And it’s time we learned to adapt in the same way that our customers have learned to adapt – with social intelligence, technology and impact. For it is clear that the innovative nature of our customers is, for the most part, outstripping our own capacity to innovate.

This is no longer a function of competition. We no longer make the markets that we once could conjure through a force of will (and a huge media budget). Marketers must work smarter. Listen better. Respond impeccably. These days, relevance is not a buzz word, it’s a matter of survival. And at the heart of relevance is one thing. Customer experience.

What does this mean?

To shed light on the 50 shades of customer experience, Sitecore have curated a “Digital Survivor” webinar program. Featuring 12 of the most innovative digital experts, marketers and public speakers from Australia, New Zealand and around the world, it’s a great way to deep dive into some of the great marketing challenges of our time.

So far, the line-up includes:

Scott Scott Stratten
UnMarketing: Stop marketing, start engaging
Author of NY Times bestseller, UnMarketing, and voted top 10 marketing guru by US Business Review magazine.
13 February
Edward Edward Murphy, Web Services Manager, CPA Australia
Driving customer engagement through personalisation
Responsible for digital design, user experience and interaction, web CMS, accessibility, SEO and analytics, Edward shapes and delivers on digital strategy.
5 March
Gavin Gavin Heaton
The new physics of the consumerverse – How the buyer’s experience has been transformed by digital
Co-author of Age of Conversation and founder of the ‘un-agency’Disruptor’s Handbook.
12 March
Clare Clare Swallow, General Manager – Digital & Peter McHannigan, Strategy & Web Analyst, Cucumber
Content first: the approach to websites in 2015
Clare’s background includes sales, marketing and digital consultancy across the logistics, agri-business, retail, professional services and education sectors.
16 April
Rich Rich Parker
Developing a digital content marketing strategy
ADMA Content Marketing Strategy course instructor and Head of Strategy at Edge Publishing.
23 April
Dietmar Dietmar Dahmen
Digital wolves
Austrian futurologist and digital expert; previously held senior creative positions at DDB, Ogilvy and BBDO.
7 May
gabe Gabriel Ponzanelli, Digital Strategy Director, Sitecore
It’s just a few steps to a personalised experience for your customers
Gabe is a veteran digital thinker and strategist.
14 May
Tom Tom Webster
The Mobile Commerce Revolution
Tom Webster is Vice President of Strategy for Edison Research, a custom market research company best known as the sole providers of exit polling data during US elections for all the major news networks.
4 June

There are more webinars and speakers to be announced. Register for one or all of the webinars. They are free and offer particular insight into the challenges that we all face today.

Why Clients Really Fire Agencies-And other insights from the SoDA Report

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No matter whether there is a change in CMO or marketing director or whether it’s time for a review, agency management can be an emotional challenge. Over years of collaboration, organisations build collaborative ways of working together – processes, systems and tools become intertwined. People become friends. Colleagues. Even partners. So what really happens when a client fires an agency? Darren Woolley has an answer that may surprise you.

As Founder and CEO of TrinityP3, Woolley has a particular view on how and why the client-agency comes undone. “The sum of the parts equal an underlying whole … which is they no longer feel the love and commitment”. The challenge, however, is that this is an emotional response to a situation, but the business focus remains on the work being performed. As a result, the agency may respond to the client’s feedback technically or creatively while not addressing the client’s feelings of dissatisfaction. This is a recipe for disaster.

In his chapter for the SoDA Report on Digital Marketing, Woolley goes into more detail, suggesting that there are four critical junctures for the relationship:

  1. When a new marketing leader is appointed – it’s review time, so the focus on rapid relationship building is essential
  2. Before the honeymoon ends – don’t wait until the goodwill is gone, start proactive account management from day 1
  3. Quiet periods – the challenge is to remain visible, provide value but don’t appear to be wasting time and money
  4. Performance pressure – when the work is underperforming, tensions are bound to arise.

Navigating the professional and emotional tightrope is always challenging. But going that extra mile really never hurt any relationship.

The SoDA Report’s Digital Marketing Outlook is a great snapshot of the industry. Covering topics from the modern marketer to technology, with a couple of handy case studies thrown in, it’s a fantastic resource to inspire your 2015 planning.

The Surprising Truth about Transforming the Customer Experience with Digital

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Are your employees doing the right thing? Are your teams empowered to make the right decision for your customers? At the Constellation  Research Connected Enterprise conference, moderator, Esteban Kolsky, Board of Advisor, Constellation Research, grilled a panel of customer experience innovators on just how “digital” was transforming the customer experience.

The panel included:

  • Dan Steinman, Chief Customer Officer, Gainsight
  • George Wright, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Thunderhead
  • Howard Tarnoff, Senior Vice President, Ceridian
  • Dave Pennington, Principal, Business Strategy, Microsoft.

It’s a great, short video with a few surprises. Some of my favourite quotes:

  • There’s no such thing as a sales process – there’s only a buying experience
  • It’s time for marketing to shut up
  • What’s the next disruptive thing? It’s engagement
  • The days of the check-in call are over
  • It’s not all about the data
  • Engagement doesn’t mean offer management

The Surprising Truth

But the most interesting thing to me was the focus on culture. We see it over and over again – and it is the most difficult challenge for organisations. While you can buy technology, you can’t buy the hearts, minds and engaged focus of your employees.

And while they may have all the customer data ever needed, without the right focus, support and attitude, you still won’t get the sale.

Need to harmonise your approach? Or bring technology and people together? We can help.

Oracle and the Future of Enterprise Software

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Constellation Research’s annual customer conference, Connected Enterprise is like no other conference you’ll have the pleasure of attending. It is two intense days of keynotes, forums and meetups. But it’s also immensely collegiate. Anyone you meet in the audience at this conference could have been presenting on the stage. In between sessions you will rub shoulders with startup innovators, enterprise CEOs, analysts, inventors and even artists.

But if you were unable to make this year’s conference, some of the sessions are now available online. In this interview, R “Ray” Wang, founder of Constellation Research, speaks with Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle. They discuss the future of enterprise software and delve into the disruption that large scale businesses will face in the coming years.

It is a rare opportunity to hear directly from Oracle’s new CEO. Some of the standout topics include:

  • The challenge of the next generation of leaders and how Gen Y will change the way we consume software in the enterprise
  • Oracle’s clear strategy around “The Cloud” (“best of breed in applications, segment by segment … AND suite”)
  • The flexibility of integrated SaaS and PaaS and the challenge this presents for system integrators.

This also means that Oracle will be well positioned to tackle the challenging mid-tier and small business end of the market. And that will make it interesting for the startups who survive on servicing smaller customers. What’s that? More acquisition targets for Oracle?

Content Marketing in Australia 2015 – Are you creating content worth sharing?

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At a recent event hosted by Livefyre, Neal Mann, digital strategist for News Corp Australia posed a challenging question – would you share the last piece of content that you created? Answering his own question, Neal revealed the single largest challenge facing Australian brands and marketers using content marketing as part of their strategy:

Most people don’t say yes. They don’t. Because they’ve not actually created [content] to engage an audience, they’ve created it to get it out the door … It’s worth highlighting engagement on Facebook and marketing. There’s a big difference between paying for engagement which is kind of the initial stages of what happened with social. Now, if you look at the US brands in particular that are notoriously in news, they’re creating content that’s cool.

The Pepsi Max test drive pranks, for example, saw widespread engagement, with some of the videos – like the one below – delivering over 40 million views (and counting). And the Pepsi YouTube channel has also grown as a branded media channel with over 729,000 subscribers.

But this kind of content is rarely being produced here in Australia. There is sill a focus on buying engagement rather than producing engaging content – material and media that are worth sharing.

The release of the Content Marketing Institute – ADMA benchmark report for 2015, seems to provide at least some of the answers to why this might be the case. Presenting the findings from over 250 Australian marketers, the report shows:

  • Content marketing effectiveness is lagging: Only 29% of marketers consider their companies effective at content marketing – though this extends to 44% where there is a documented content marketing strategy in place
  • Marketers need to commit and plan content marketing: Only 37% of the respondents indicated that they have documented content marketing strategies in place. A further 46% indicated that there is an undocumented strategy
  • A disconnect between demand generation and marketing: With 60% of marketers indicating that web traffic is a measure of success for content marketing, sales lead quality languishes at 29% with customer renewal rates at 19%.

Interestingly, the report also reveals that 63% of marketers intend to increase their content marketing budget in 2015. And with this in mind there are some key activities that marketers can work immediately:

  • Develop and document a content marketing strategy: Unless a strategy is clear in the minds of the marketers, agencies and suppliers – as well as the business management – it’s almost impossible to track effectiveness. For assistance in developing your content marketing strategy, reach out to us here
  • Measure and innovate to improve effectiveness: Once you have a strategy, you need to stick to it. Simple frameworks and dashboards can help you measure what works, change what doesn’t and consistently improve over time
  • Commit to creating content worth sharing: Almost every business has employees who are also customers. If you can’t encourage your own employees to share your content with their friends, family and business networks, then you need to reassess your creative approach. It’s time to invest in creative rather than paid media.

As Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute says:

There are two critical factors that differentiate effective content marketers over the rest of the pack – having a documented content marketing strategy and following it very closely. Those two things make all the difference.

And with budgets under scrutiny and competition fierce, it may be time to reach out for assistance. After all, isn’t it time that you started making content that you are proud of? You know it is.

#Digitalks: Digital Disruption – how to thrive through change

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Each quarter, Firebrand host a lunch time seminar for the Sydney marketing community. This quarter, hosted by Adobe, I presented on the topic of digital disruption – and how marketers and innovators can apply the principles of the lean startup to transform their businesses.

We covered the three things you’ll need to pay attention to in order to build your business:

  • Marketing innovation: How to think and act like a marketing-led startup to innovate your way to profitability
  • Metrics: The key metrics that give you insight, focus, and control
  • Momentum: How focused action yields data and drives outcomes

You can:

 

Disrupting Banking? It happened in a snap

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When we think of banking, as consumers we rarely think of the complex mechanisms behind the scenes. We just think of our financial institutions as very large, powerful brands – rather than individual businesses that focus on deposits, investments, mortgages and loans, payments and clearing, risk management and insurance, broking etc. But the reality is far more complicated.

Even within one area – like payments and clearing for example – there are several different dedicated systems. From cash to cheques, direct entry and EFTPOS to BPAY and credit cards and beyond, these systems ensure that our economy ticks over day-in, day-out. And while the banking system – especially in Australia – is highly regulated, we have seen a great deal of disruptive activity taking place over the last couple of years. Innovators like eBay and its flagship PayPal have had their eye on the lucrative payments prize for some time. And with the iPhone 6, Apple is moving into the space with its Pay product.

And now, Snapchat – the massive online messaging service that turned down Facebook’s $3 billion acquisition offer – has stepped into the contest, partnering with payments innovator, Square, allowing Snapchat members to pay another member by sending a message with a dollar amount (eg $19.50). Called Snapcash it takes online payments to a whole new level, bypassing banks altogether.

Currently only open to Snapchatters in the USA, it requires that the member have a debit card and be over 18 years of age.

It’s an audacious move. And one that is bound to be rolled out to other countries in the near term.

But more than that – its a warning to all slow-acting executives – especially in countries like Australia where the pace of digital transformation has been abysmally slow. A recent report by Frost and Sullivan calls out Australian executives as some of the most digitally complacent in the world, leaving plenty of opportunity for smaller, more nimble innovators to sweep up market share faster than you can say Bankcard.

Looking more closely at the financial services sector, however, I see a much graver issue. Take a look at the launch announcement. Look at how it was amplified. Look at the production and messaging. And then think about who it targets and where their financial allegiances lie.

If the Boards of Australian banks are not rethinking their strategies, then the problem runs far deeper – and change will come faster than we (or they) could possibly imagine. In fact, it could happen in a snap.

Brewing Disruption: Percolate’s Future of Retail

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When it first launched, Noah Brier’s Percolate was a daily filter of quality social media content delivered directly to your inbox. But there was a deeper, darker and stronger agenda lurking beneath the surface of the Percolate news – a marketing platform that seeks to become the system of record for marketing. Now boasting clients as diverse as GE, Unilever, Converse and Pandora, Percolate have begun to amass a big data warehouse that can yield up-to-date information across a range of industry categories.

In their Future of Retail report, the Percolate team have curated 50 charts that signal the changes that have occurred and that are projected into the near future. Broken into six sections – macro trends, industries, eCommerce deep dive, consumer behaviour, path to purchase and offline strikes back – there is plenty to think on for the traditional, hybrid and digital retailer alike.

You can register to download the report for free – but there are few charts that caught my attention and are worth a closer look.

Percolate-6 Price and Coupon Search Leads In-Store Phone Use:  Perhaps there is no great surprise here, but this research lends weight to anecdotal evidence and data analysis that suggests smartphone use in-store can play an important role in closing a sale.With 31% of respondents indicating that they use their phones for comparison shopping in-store, it’s clear that there is an opportunity to use technology to influence a sale with an almost immediate impact.Question for retailers: Have you invested in “right time” technologies that allow you to target, reach and engage shoppers who are in-location and ready to buy?
Percolate-1 eCommerce Growth Driven by Mobile: We’ve been saying this for a while, but it’s clear that transacting via smartphones is becoming commonplace. And when we read this chart in conjunction with the one above, the message for retail laggards is equally clear – disruption has arrived.This disruption has been made possible because of the gulf between customer expectation and the retailer’s ability to deliver.Question for retailers: What do your competitors look like? How do they approach eCommerce?
Percolate-5 Social Traffic Conversion Rates are Growing: For years it has been accepted that social media is more about brand building than about sales. But the data reveals some growth here. And as with anything digital, those experimenting and learning from their efforts now, will reap the benefits further down the track.Question for retailers: What are you learning from your social media eCommerce / conversion initiatives?
Percolate-4 Consumers Will Pay More for Sustainability: In all countries/regions, there has been a significant year-on-year rise in the percentage of consumers who will pay a premium for sustainable products and services. This puts social responsibility on the brand agenda precisely at a time where sustainability is under pressure from the political classes.Moreover, it has never been easier for consumers to determine the scale of a brand’s commitment to social responsibility.Question for retailers: Have you gone beyond “greenwashing” to make a true commitment to sustainability? How does this play out in other aspects of your business beyond the product?

You can download the full Future of Retail report and charts on the Percolate website.