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.

Disrupting Work: 2015 is here. Are you ready?

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Some years ago, while working at SAP, I was involved in a global workforce enablement program. Our challenge was to look ahead to 2015 (yes, we are now almost there), model the future demand for software, services and skills and put in place programs that would ensure there were enough skilled and experienced SAP practitioners available to deliver to the expected demands of our customers.

What we realised was that learning could no longer be seen as a single event. It was not good enough to rely on a stream of barely qualified candidates streaming out of universities. To achieve sustainable, professional outcomes for customers we needed to encourage life long learning and professional employee development. Moreover, we needed to be flexible enough in our thinking and education delivery to create competencies which were not yet in demand. So this meant innovation in education delivery – so we designed our programs with formal courses and partnerships with universities, put in pace informal mentoring and collaborative systems and ensured that self-directed learning was available as broadly as possible.

Some of the areas of expertise we focused on included Analytics, Cloud and Mobility, and social media.

In a recently released study, Oxford Economics, sponsored by SAP, reveals that this challenge continues. Looking ahead again, out towards 2018, there are skill predictions including:

  • Analytics – a current skill gap of 21% will grow by 131% over the next three years
  • Cloud – currently experiencing a 15% gap, this will almost double to 30% by 2018
  • Mobile – the skill gap is expected to grow from 16% to 27%
  • Social media – already at 24%, this is expected to reach 38% in three years time.

How is your company preparing your workforce for the future?

We are already facing a skills shortfall. And as the Baby Boomer generation continues to move into retirement, we will face not just a skills challenge but an experience crisis. How well is your company prepared for this challenge? How will you thrive through change?

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The SMEG Police Brought to You by Adobe

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You’ve probably met the type – or had them pitch you. They’re the FUD masters, sewing fear, uncertainty and doubt, knowing that at the end of the conversation they have a lead to follow up or maybe even a project. They talk big numbers, after all, 40% of the Australian population use Facebook, 3 million on Twitter and well, everyone in the country on Google. Surely you can’t afford NOT to have a presence in these digital territories.

In the world of small business, we’ve been hearing these pitches for years. These “Social Media Expert Gurus” (SMEGs) would sweep in, dazzle business owners, soak up budgets and then disappear when it came time to report back on results and outcomes. More recently, we are seeing larger enterprises follow this same course. Sometimes the entree comes through the Board or senior executives. They are swayed by the “social media savvy” and “digital swagger” of the SMEG and quickly find themselves signing up for hefty retainers attached to uncertain outcomes.

But the immediacy and impact of social media can be addictive. And even the most cynical executive can find themselves enthralled.

Every time someone reads, clicks or shares a link or piece of content that we have created, it sends a small dose of dopamine into our brain. This release provides us with a sense or reward, pleasure – and encouragement. It’s why (for the marketer) digital marketing or social media can be addictive. It is also why those who don’t use social media fail to understand the way that participation can become contagious – or how content can go “viral”.

Adobe have taken aim at this phenomena with their Mean Streets video. It’s a fantastic take on the rollercoaster of social media vanity metrics – Likes and Fans. Will it help you spot a SMEG in the crowd? Perhaps not, but you know who to call when you need to be bailed out.

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.