Disrupting the Music Industry – Vodafone and Spotify buddy-up

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Today’s announcement making Spotify Premium available to Vodafone mobile subscribers amps up the pressure on the music and media industries with more disruption on the horizon.

They say that the number one reason that startups fail is due to distribution. It’s not a poorly designed product, or an inexperienced team or even bad customer experience. The challenge, as it is for any new business, is reaching a market.

Now, it used to be that we knew where to find music – on radio stations, at record bars and on Countdown. As a kid, I’d go and see Mrs Fry at Sandy’s Music in Dee Why (and yes, it is still there). With her son, Nigel, they were the go-to people when it came to new music – from the most interesting punk coming out of the UK through to the emerging Birthday Party more locally, they had their finger on the pulse. They could steer you through both country and western, knew the difference between Boy George and Marilyn and would even keep an autographed single behind the counter for you.

Nigel and Jenny were the central node in a local music marketing network. And each week, they inspired their customers with stories of new music, artists and breakthrough video clips. Their knowledge and passion was extensive and their enthusiasm was contagious. Each person would leave the shop knowing just a little bit more about the music they were about to listen to. In effect, they were creating and cultivating advocates – people who would influence their friends and family through music.

But the shift to digital has transformed this kind of relationship. Our music discovery is no longer curated in the same way by the programming directors, radio hosts or record bar owners. It’s at the mercy of algorithms, networks and big data stores. And it feels like it … but I digress.

Most importantly, we are playing under new rules of distribution. Music needs to find its audience – and increasingly, that audience exists at the end of a data stream. The device that transforms that stream into music is a phone. And this places mobile phone networks in a powerful position.

With the ink now drying on the Vodafone + Spotify partnership, Voda customers will have access to the Spotify Premium package as part of their plan – that’s $11.99 a month in value. And while the deals are not yet up on the website, I’d expect you can chat with customer service about it.

But this is not the end of the line for the music industry. Nor is it for the media industry. After all, disruption also breeds opportunity – and the very thing that made Sandy’s Record Bar popular is still the thing that we crave. And for all the technology under the sun, we haven’t been able to replicate that yet.

Audience Disruption and Lessons from the Music Business – How to cultivate and amplify a fragmented audience

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It doesn’t take a genius to know that the days of mass marketing are over. But it is taking some time for us to disentangle ourselves from old ways of thinking. Gone are the days when you could produce an ad and blast it out to the compliant masses who would watch, absorb and then automaton-like file out of their homes to purchase our products direct from retailers next day. These days, advertising is a much more complicated business. It’s complicated by technology, social media and the proliferation of channels. But above all, it’s complicated by our audiences – the people who, at the end of the day, buy the products we pitch them. Because people choose the channels and the media that they are interested in, we need new tools to reach, engage and inspire them.

And by new tools, I don’t necessarily just mean technology. I also mean strategy. Products. Processes. We need staff who are interested in the needs and aspirations of others. How do we do this? How do we make it happen? These are some of the things that we are work with clients on at Disruptor’s Handbook.

The thing is, “disruption” doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem. In fact, it can be a catalyst to innovation. This is also something that we work on – reframing disruption to help organisations capitalise on the opportunities that come from disruption. A great way of understanding this opportunity comes from this fantastic presentation from Michael Goldstein.

In this presentation on cultivating and amplifying audiences, Michael talks about the way that we discover, experience and enjoy music. He suggests that we are moving away from “taste dictatorships” and are rejoicing in “genre discovery”. This is a trend that music streaming platforms like Spotify and Pandora are leveraging. But platforms like Boiler Room cultivate a different style of engagement and audience. Beginning as a single live streamed event, Boiler Room has evolved into a live music platform and has now hosted events in over 50 countries and produces around 100 new videos a month. Their eagle-eye focus on both emerging talent and audience engagement has seen enviable growth for the platform along with a growing community.

Does this mean the end of radio stations? Or labels?

Not at all. The long tail takes quite some time to snap the back of the incumbent. But without the benefits of aggregation, we will see further fragmentation of audiences and budgets. While this is a problem for the “Music Industry” (capital M, capital I), it just signals a rockier road ahead. It also signals disruption and opportunity. And it also means we need to work harder – to spot talent and cultivate communities. And we need to delight audiences too. After all, it’s the “music business” – and there’s money in opportunity.

10 Must-See Presentations at the DiG Festival

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Last year’s DiG Festival was one of the best conferences of the year. The DiG founders had worked hard to secure sponsors, speakers and workshop hosts – but in its first year there was a sense of uncertainty. In reality, the vibe, energy and focus proved well worth the 90 minute drive to Newcastle to attend. Not only were the speakers world class – the topics were compelling, the workshops oversubscribed and the venue was brilliant for networking, chatting, and exploring topics one-on-one.

If you have not yet secured your ticket, there is still time to do so. But if you have registered, you’ll know there is plenty to see and engage with – not just on digital topics, but a feast of health related topics too. But these 10 presentations are ones you’ll not want to miss. Look for me in the audience!

  1. Zac Zavos, Conversant Media – How to build and shape audiences to increase online traffic
  2. Ian Farmer, Zuni – Digital advertising trends
  3. Rob Innes, Xero – Platform innovation for the connected small business owner
  4. Panel: The Future of Retail
  5. Con Georgiou, One Million Acts of Innovation – How culture eats strategy for breakfast
  6. Trent Bagnall, Slingshot – How corporate Australia can utilise the tools of the start-up community for disruptive innovation
  7. Workshop: Jordan Kind, Vend – Transforming your retail business with technology
  8. Workshop: Nancy Georges – Customer Service in the Age of “ME”
  9. Workshop: General Assembly – Launch your own website in 90 minutes
  10. Workshop: Kim Chatterjee & May Chan, Optimal Experience / PwC – How to Create a Winning Pitch

See the full program
One and Two Day tickets now available.

Bye, Bye Buyosphere – A journey of disruption, disrupted

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Focusing on the customer journey is never easy. After all, customers are fickle, transitory, loyal and contradictory. I am somebody’s customer. You are. We are all somebody’s customer. And being a customer is an emotional experience. We buy on whim, impulse or trigger. We may plan, research and save as long as we like, but decisions can be swayed by friends, connections, a good salesperson. Or even a lingering smell.

But knowing this doesn’t make easy for businesses – even marketers don’t make it easy for marketers. With every click, interaction and purchase, with every review, tweet, blog post or call, connected consumers like us are shaving away the stubble of established brands. We are eroding the protective layers that brands have built up over time to insulate themselves from us.

We know this has been happening for some time. It is a shift of power in the buying process away from brands to consumers. It is digital disruption in its purest form – connected consumers tapping into the opportunities and power of the internet to out flank the efforts of brands. And helping us to chart this disruption – indeed helping us to move from idea to practice, has been Tara Hunt, author of (amongst other things) The Whuffie Factor, coworking pioneer and theorist (in a very accessible way). In many ways, Tara has been a harmonising voice in a technology dominated world – reminding us that its the people that matter most.

Tara’s 2009 presentation on vendor relationship management has influenced the thinking of many (or even found its way into the thinking of many surreptitiously), including myself. But never content to let ideas percolate in isolation, Tara  went beyond the theory into practice, bootstrapping and launching Buyosphere, a fashion suggestion and style matching website. I can remember signing up myself, wondering how it may work out here in Australia. It was an idea ahead of its time.

In late 2012, after growing and struggling to scale, Tara stepped out of Buyosphere, taking a role with Toronto based communications and engagement company, MSLGROUP. As she explained at the time, “If we were going down, let’s go down in a blaze of glory. Or at least with a product we could be proud of.”

Yesterday, in classic style, Tara shared the next stage of the journey – saying goodbye to Buyosphere:

Once upon a time there were three startup founders who had a dream. They were going to build something that solved fashion search. And they spent 3 years of their lives, their entire savings and pretty much all of their energy on it. Fortunately, they built something great and learned a whole bunch. Unfortunately, they ran out of money, time and energy and had to go back to work and once they abandoned the site, it never took off. xoxo Buyosphere. We love you.

Watch this video and you will hear the very personal, emotional and exciting journey that Tara and the team went through. It’s the journey that so many of us take – or wish we had taken. And while I too, feel sad, to see from a distance, that Buyosphere has ended, I also feel great hope. There have been lessons learned and friendships forged. This is a story of disruption, disrupted, not destroyed. And I for one can’t wait to know what’s next – not just from Tara but from all who build on her experiences.

Disrupt Your Strategy – Planning for Audiences not Generations

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I have never been a fan of demographic profiling. Sure, this information, at scale, can reveal certain things about a population – and this can be useful to understand whether there might be a connection between our age and (for example) our propensity to over-eat. Or contract disease. Or buy new cars every four years.

But populations don’t interest me. They feel like a dead weight around my sense of, and interest in, humanity. Instead, I prefer audiences – which is perhaps why I studied theatre rather than statistics.

It’s also why I am continually fascinated by digital technology and transformation – and it is why social media continues to attract the attention of people, corporations and governments. For digital transformation is not just about bringing the non-digital world online – it’s challenging the very nature of what we consider “our selves” to be.

As marketers, we are constantly drawn to the idea of demographics – the cashed up profiling of the Baby Boomers, the anxious, try-harder Gen X-ers and the slacker Gen Ys. But like any generalisation, these labels are easily unpicked. There are plenty of Baby Boomers who are slackers and plenty of cashed up, power wielding Gen X-ers. And Gen Y are just starting to flex their creative, financial and intellectual powers – and there is more goodness to come. Rather than simply relying on this style of profiling, we should be working harder to understand these audiences. We need to map their behaviours, attitudes and interests, not just their age, sex and location.

This is why I quite like the work that marketing automation firm, Marketo, has done on Generation Z. And while, yes, they have started out with the age-focused label, the research carried out by agency, Sparks and Honey, reveals the patterns of behaviour, interests, attitudes and insights that can help build a deeper understanding of this audience. While the data reflects a US-based audience, there are cultural parallels that are useful indicators such as:

  • Do-Gooders – an interest in making a difference in the world
  • Shift FROM Facebook – Facebook lost its allure when the parents arrived. Gen Z are embracing newer platforms like snapchat, secret and whisper
  • Creation trumps sharing – Gen Z embrace the prosumer ethic of digital media creativity.

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But to really understand this “Gen Z” audience, I would go further. I wouldn’t stop at the age of 19. I would ask:

  • Why would my brand be relevant to audiences exhibiting these behaviours
  • Why would these audiences choose to purchase my product/service/thing
  • Which values embodied by my brand augments the life, behaviour, experience or purpose of this audience
  • How do these behavioural profiles help me understand my customers regardless of age / demographics

And when it comes to planning, insight and future proofing your brand, I’d look to opportunities to self-disrupt your strategy. Ditch the path of lazy profiling, put the work in to really understand your audiences, and then invite them into the process of creating a brand that has a purpose. Start by delving into the data behind the Sparks and Honey research (below) – and then work on your own business by starting with the audiences you rely upon.

More Waves of Digital Disruption: From DoubleClick to Twitter via Facebook

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FB-adcreation When DoubleClick launched their self-service advertising network it was a revelation. It provided marketers with a powerful sense of control over their advertising, its placement and spend. At the same time, it caused a level of disintermediation – with marketers taking on the media planning that was once the domain of agencies. Technology was, in effect, causing an in-sourcing within marketing departments – by providing the tools, techniques and education to succeed, DoubleClick was putting the power and knowledge in the hands of marketers who began to understand the intricate power and relationships between data, planning and budgets. DoubleClick represented a wave of digital disruption that we are still feeling today.

It was a no-brainer for Google to acquire DoubleClick in 2007 and roll its advertising network into its product line. And as they leveraged their massive advantage in search to bring additional context, targeting and data insights to bear, this advertising network became available (and useful) to smaller advertisers – to small business owners and startups – monetising the “long tail” of the internet and generating another wave of disruptive innovation in the marketing world.

And while Google has done wonders with its AdSense product, the DoubleClick heritage and its clunky user interface left it open to disruption. Into this gap stepped Facebook with its billion strong, socially connected audience, offering a slick, audience oriented interface.

With Facebook advertising, there was none of the legacy media planning/buying jargon or process dominating the interface. It was about creating very limited (or should I say “constrained”) styles of ad units and then targeting them by a range of data points – from the standard demographics (age, sex, location), to the more sophisticated  targeting of interests, connections and combinations thereof. Facebook took its cues from the disruptive trend that began with DoubleClick and pushed it further, generating a massive business in the process. Recent results showed that Facebook’s revenue rose 61% to $2.91 billion in the second quarter of 2014. This more than doubles Facebook’s profit year-on-year, up from $333 million to $791 million.

Recently, Facebook streamlined their ad creation process by following good user-experience design – focusing on the desired outcome rather than the process of advertising. By asking “what kind of results to you want for your adverts?”, Facebook were able to help novice advertisers improve their advertising. It didn’t require education or training. And it certainly did not require some certification. They used their knowledge, insight gleaned from the data generated by millions of ads and design expertise to help their advertisers make better ads.

Sure there is the more advanced ad building tools, but for many, this is good enough – and a vast improvement on the previous toolset.

And now, Twitter are also upping their game. I suspect they are hoping to disrupt the markets that DoubleClick created, Google grew and Facebook co-opted. Taking a similar approach to Facebook, Twitter now offer objective based campaigns – again, turning their big data to the advantage of their advertisers, customising workflows and creating niche outcomes like “app installs” or “leads”.

It’s an advertising product that is still being rolled out across Twitter’s global client base. It will be interesting to see how it performs when it starts being trialled by local Australian clients. But one thing is for certain – it won’t be the last wave of disruption in the digital marketing sphere. Learn more about the new Twitter offerings in the video below.

Challenges Facing the Digital Economy #SMWsyd

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As part of the planning and advisory work that I am doing with Social Media Week, Sydney, we took a few moments out recently to share our thinking on the challenges that are facing Australia’s digital economy. This video captures the hot topics according to Tiphereth Gloria, Joanne Jacobs, Katie Chatfield, Ross Dawson, Jeff Bullas and myself.

It’s shaping up to be an excellent conference. Hope you can make it.

Tell the Story of Your #BigData with QuillEngage

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Big data, small data, analytics. Blah blah blah.

It all sounds like a load of waffle, right? At least until we find a thread of narrative running through the information.

For many of us, the closest we are likely to get to a large amount of usable data is on our own websites. And believe it or not, even small amounts of web traffic, visits, comments on a blog etc can generate a substantial amount of information. If you get a chance, log in to your server and download the “log files”. You’ll soon see just how much information is generated by visitors to your website.

The thing is, raw log files are relatively useless. Sure they might help your webmaster pinpoint a problem or recurring error, but thousands of lines of information only make sense in aggregation. Or when they are decoded. Translated.

And that’s where Quill Engage comes in. You simply sign up, provide access to your Google Analytics information and then each week, QuillEngage will email a report explaining what’s going on with your website.

Now, I have been a fan of web analytics before there were web analytics. I have created my own reports, created simple tracking systems to collate conversion data and so on, but in a world where there is ever increasing pressure on our decision making capabilities, handing off the data processing tasks to an artificial intelligence engine may be the smartest thing you can do. Especially when it produces not just a report, but insight.

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My latest report highlighted a few important things to think about:

  • My mobile traffic was up 3% over last month and now accounts for 19% of total traffic
  • The most visits to Servantofchaos.com come from Sydney and NSW (which is big change over previous years)
  • Facebook replaced Twitter as my top social network referrer, up a massive 250% on the previous month

Why is this important?

Well, these days I hardly have time to write let alone check the performance of the site. But if I do check, I am unlikely to connect all the dots in this one email report in under 10 minutes. In fact, the email report from QuillEngage is so quick to read and easy to consume that you’ll be using those 10 minutes to think about what you might do differently next month.

And that’s really the point.

From what I can see, QuillEngage is a no-brainer for any business owner or marketer. Sure, you’re not going to get the detail that comes straight from Google Analytics, but the report should give you some quick thoughts on what to interrogate and act upon. And it’s free, at least for the time being. Get started here.

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.

The New Physics of the Consumerverse

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If you weren’t able to get along to the inaugural DiG Festival in Newcastle, you certainly missed an amazing event. But not all is lost. The DiG Festival team are making a great number of presentationsavailable for viewing. They’ve just posted mine – and it seems they’ve nicely edited out some of the glitches I had with the slide controller. Would love your feedback – drop me a message in the comments below.