Disrupt Your Strategy – Planning for Audiences not Generations

file000500940833

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.

Generation-Z-Marketings-Next-Big-Audience

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

file0002083689554

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

2014-07-13 17.24.16

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

QuillEngage1_thumb.png

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.

QuillEngage1

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

image_thumb.png

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

Prime_position__digfestival

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.

The Digital Tool Landscape

DigitalTools

DigitalTools

For years, I have been collecting tools that help me get things done. Some of them run on my computer or on a web platform. Some of them have become obsolete or were closed down when the startup money ran out. But almost always, digital tools have some value to the marketer – even if it is just to stimulate our thinking about the way that consumers engage and participate online.

As the market has matured – and as we have found more business focused benefits that come from digital engagement – categories of use have begun to emerge. We can now find various use cases for digital technology, white papers, research and even case studies. But often we still struggle with determining which tool to use when. For example, we may look at crowdsourcing for insight rather than ideation, or collaborative platforms for brainstorming rather than development.

Now, rather than just applying trial and error, this great interactive tool from strategy+business can help you choose the right tool for the right job. Now, you can spend more time doing and less time trying to figure out how. No more excuses!

Digital is Getting More Fragmented Not Less

ConversationPrism2013XLarge.jpg

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%.

averageDevices

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.

Conversation-Prism-2013-XLarge

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!

Kickstart Your Campaign with Video

kickstartervideoinfographic.jpg

The crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter, is a fascinating microcosm – it brings together all the elements and challenges of a business often before that business exists. So in many ways, a Kickstarter project is a pre-startup startup – and accordingly it faces many of the same immediate challenges. But where startups sprint towards product, Kickstarter forces a path towards market development. Those who can’t market, don’t win. And like current marketing trends indicate, video plays an increasingly important role in that process.

Research from MWP Digital Media shows that Kickstarter projects that have a video are 85% more likely to achieve their funding goals. This tends to match some of the trends we are seeing in broader marketing circles – with YouTube and Vimeo consumption continuing to rise – impacting not just brand and engagement metrics but also working at crucial junctures in the path to purchase.

Video, however, is a steep learning curve – so there are obvious benefits to outsourcing. But new features in familiar apps/platforms like Instagram and Twitter (via Vine) make it easy to experiment. And I have a feeling that the role of user (or brand) generated video content is only going to accelerate in the next 12-18 months. I have already begun testing this out for myself and with clients.

These days marketing never sleeps. I hope this shift isn’t catching you napping.

kickstarter-video-infographic