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.

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!

Consuming Big Data–The Internet in 2015

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Everything that we do on an internet connected device leaves a digital trail. Whether it is an internet enabled refrigerator, a PC, smartphone or tablet – somewhere there is a log file recording of what your device did, what it connected to and when. And if that involves sending files, or creating or consuming content – then that data grows – for those files would be copied, replicated or cached in each location.

Google’s Eric Schmidt famously suggested that from the dawn of civilisation through to 2003, the human race had created roughly 5 exabytes of data. But in 2010 (and beyond), the equivalent is being created every 2 days.

Clearly the proliferation of data since 2010, the growth in devices and digital data consumption has skyrocketed. Not just in Australia. Not just in the US or Europe. But across the globe.

How BIG is big data?

Understanding the scale of data on a massive global scale is challenging. But this infographic from the folks at Cisco provides some great examples (see the “Great Wall of China” quote”).

But the most interesting part of this infographic is not that scale – but the patterns of consumption. Sure we know that video is hot, and will continue to be so. But I like the way that types of video have been broken down. Here are some brief thoughts on each:

  • Short form: This is much like our current viewing behaviour – short clips on YouTube and Vimeo are consumed as entertainment snacks. As we shift our attention from the TV to the device, we will also dedicate more time to longer forms (as suggested in the data)
  • Long form: We will see an explosion not just in entertainment content, but in education and other forms of interactivity. Connected Consumers will challenge production houses, brands and broadcasters to adapt their content to be more interactive, engaging and yes, social. Longer form video will drive demand for those with storytelling and narration skills and experience. Look to see specialist practices and capabilities growing in the areas of short and longer form video.
  • Live internet TV: What live blogging did for events of all kinds will translate to the web. We’re seeing small experiments with apps like Vine, but we can expect this to accelerate in the next two years. If
  • Ambient: The use of music and sound to influence buyer behaviour in retail environments has been long understood. In the coming years, we will see the same sophistication applied to video. This is likely to prompt a deeper connection to analytics products that can measure retail and behavioural impacts.
  • Mobile: For many people, the mobile experience will be the FIRST SCREEN and ONLY SCREEN. This will drive greater innovation in storytelling as well as in the use of location based targeting and services. Video without big data will become irrelevant (not to producers) but to consumers. Video will need to become strategic.
  • Internet PVR: We are already seeing this happen – but can expect moderate growth. But with a growing on-demand culture, the focus will shift away from patterns of collecting to patterns of consuming and sharing.

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Advertising in 2020 – Let’s Hope There’s Fire

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John Willshire and Mark Earls make you think. They chisel and shape ideas until they are sharp enough to be carved into your mind.

As part of the Wharton Future of Advertising program, they put together this presentation that provokes a conversation around advertising and what it might look like in the year ahead. Take a look through, it’s quick and it will challenge you. Then read on below …

One of the things that caught my attention was a simple statement. “Make things people want [is greater than] Make people want things”.

This seems to be self-evident, but in practice it requires an alternative way of thinking. Almost all of our marketing theory and practice centres on the stimulation of desire. We deliberately create items, objects and experiences that are limited in their availability and then we amplify not only the fact of existence, but the fact of their scarcity.

And yet, we live in an age of abundance. We all know it. Yet we still play out this game of scarcity. I find it interesting. I find it fascinating that we are complicit in this form of cultural production that we call advertising. But I also predict a seachange ahead.

We are going to have to work a whole lot harder to generate the kind of engagement and interest that advertising once commanded. Our connected consumers have outflanked, outranked and even out-performed us. Mark and John are right. We will need marketing and advertising that is bolder than we have been in decades. And decidedly more primal. We’ll need to relinquish the calculator and the paperclip and step out from behind the mirrored glass and meet our customers face to face.

Big data may hold the answers – but we’re far from understanding the most basic of questions. Mark and John have lit a signal fire but it’s not off in the distance. Look down, it’s right under our arses.

A Palpable Dis-Ease – Graham Brown’s Mobile Youth

We don’t have to look far to see that we are living in a digital world. On my desk sits half a dozen connected devices, wifi enabled, flashing, beeping, spewing updates from sites, friends and acquaintances thousands of miles away. But for me, this is a world that I have chosen to participate. For many in the Gen X and Baby Boomer demographics, adoption of technology has been a conscious choice. We grapple with this changing world for work or for pleasure – sometimes for both … but always with the knowledge that the off button is only a short distance away.

But for succeeding generations – the always connected Gen Y and Gen Z groups, there has never been a time of “non-connection”. A battery or wifi failure is not just a technical issue. It’s an existential crisis.

In May 2012, when young Chinese student, Xiao Zheng, sold his kidney in order to buy an iPad2, the headlines around the world amplified the outrage. From the outside it’s easy to point a finger and call out the insatiable materialistic desires of a morally bankrupt generation. But surely there is something deeper going on.

Graham Brown’s new book The Mobile Youth digs below the surface to reveal a compelling story of dis-ease. Peppered with statistics, insight – and most importantly – an anthropologist-cum-storytellers eye for observation, Graham reveals a hard truth that we all share in:

The rise of technology isn’t undermining the social fabric of society. Technology’s rise is a response to our loss of a meaningful social world.

As a reader of a lot of business communication (books, blogs, papers, presentations), I am often disappointed that the power of the writing doesn’t match the power of the ideas. This book is the opposite. It’s a business book written in the style of a page-turning blockbuster. For anyone interested in the changes taking place in our society and the collision of generations, culture and communication, it makes for compelling reading.

But most importantly, it provides an insight into the seemingly disconnected nature of our ever-more connected lives. Download your copy of The Mobile Youth and let me know what you think. I found it fascinating.

News Analysis: Google Takes on Financial Services

In the UK, Google is set to launch a new financial services division with a new credit business the first product to market. As Adam Clark Estes reports, the initial offering will provide businesses with a small line of credit linked specifically to Google’s AdWords program.

A number of items within the announcement are worthy of attention:

  • It’s a new product within a new division of Google
  • The plan is to expand to countries beyond the UK in the “next few weeks”
  • Credit cards will be issued with very competitive rates

Why This Is Important

  • Financial services is a fresh field ready for disruption: Disruption in the financial services sector has been a long time coming. The sweeping tide of digital has washed through most sectors but has been held back from regulated sectors like financial services, healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Innovators are seeking a way into these lucrative markets
  • Google understands speed to market: Many industries rollout new offerings over extended time frames. It can take years for innovations in one national market to reach another. Google’s intention clearly intends to move very quickly to cement a foothold
  • The loan book is the thin edge of the wedge: As I suggested at a recent personal lending conference, disruptive competition is likely to come from outside the financial services industry. Cash Converters in the UK last year saw 154% growth in their personal loan book; in Australia they experienced a not insubstantial 28% growth. This is not about bit players – it’s about trends – and there is a wave of change coming. Google plan to be surfing this wave

The Bottom Line: Connected Consumers Shift to Where their Sense of Trust Takes Them

Despite advertising and branding blitzes over the previous 24 months, most financial services companies are viewed with suspicion by many of their customers. Long term lock-in has allowed FS companies to claw back GFC losses and to grow. This move by Google (and the accompanying announcement by Amazon) will capture the imagination of Connected Consumers – the tech savvy early adopters of a disaffected consumer world. Google has been building trust with Connected Consumers for years, turning every search result, every click and every app login into a brand experience. This may be the first step in what could truly be a transformative monetization strategy.

Your POV

Would you take a loan from Google for AdWords? What about cash? Where do you see this leading? Add your comments or send us an email.

Please let us know if you need help with your digital strategy efforts.  Here’s how we can assist:

  • Assessing social business/digital marketing readiness
  • Considering new digital community strategy
  • Developing your social business/digital marketing  strategy
  • Designing a data to decisions strategy
  • Create a new vision of the future of work
  • Deliver a new customer experience and engagement strategy
  • Crafting a new matrix commerce strategy

Trust and the Marketer

Consumers have always suspected marketers. Of something.

But this “something” has always been elusive. Hard to pin down.

In the back of the mind of most consumers, there is a small voice – a remnant of our evolutionary instinct – that warns us of a potential risk, a trap. The limbic system is part of our pre-verbal brain that we commonly refer to as “gut instinct”. And because it works without language, we are often challenged to put these feelings into words. As a result, we are left with a sense of mistrust. Something vague. Indiscernible.

But the limbic brain is also the space of creativity. It is the place of imagination and symbolism. And it is the essential playground of the marketer.

Each day, as consumers are bombarded with 3000+ messages, it is the limbic brain that acts as a first level of defence. Most droll pieces of advertising or communication are discarded – with only the most creative and most relevant breaking through.

These days, marketers have to work even harder to cut through the noise and confusion. It’s not just about creativity. It’s also about psychology, human behaviour (change) and analytics. We need to cover all four.

Over the last few years, Australian TV show, Gruen Planet, has peeled back the layers of the mysterious advertising onion. It has laid bare the role of planning and strategy, creative, copy, image and production. Blogs like Adam Ferrier’s Consumer Psychologist provide insight and analysis into what people buy and why they do so.

Infographics like the one below, provide a neat way of understanding some of the techniques used in advertising – but my limbic brain also tells me that we need a different approach now. Sure these approaches will continue to work – but we need to go further. We need to build a different kind of marketing – one that does not set off the limbic alarm bells. We need to address the deficit of trust experienced by consumers.

What if we could create marketing with a purpose (not marketing with a cause). Imagine what that would mean for our customers. Imagine what it would mean for our employees.

And imagine what it would mean for the marketing industry.

Sound dangerous? Don’t worry, it’s just your limbic system acting up.

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Trust is the Gateway to App Sales Success

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When we search on the internet we are investing a small amount of trust in the speed, responsiveness and accuracy of the search engine that we are using. After all, the future of your brand is micro. We trust that Google or Bing is reliably trawling the web for the latest information, indexing knowledge to the deepest level and connecting the dots between what we need to know and where it can be found.

Both Google and Microsoft invest significant resources in improvements to their search engines. But it’s not just about the information source – it’s vitally about relevance. This is the scary truth about search – that the search engines already connect a vast amount of information about us and make it available to the public – to people, brands and businesses.

But this fantastic chart from Silicon Alley Insider reveals that when it comes to recommendation – specifically for app discovery – social referral accounts for almost as much as search. The research carried out by Nielsen indicated that 63% of Android and iOS users use search to discover new apps in the various app stores – only slightly in front of personal recommendation from family or friends at 61%.

But the thing that drives both of these figures is trust. We trust search and we trust our friends and family. We trust search and social. And together they can be a powerful driver of sales – for whether we like it or not – we are all retailers now.

The Hard Work of Radical Transparency

I remember feeling like my jaw had hit the floor.

I had just started my first week of working for IBM and had read about an article published by an analyst firm. Days earlier – working as a freelancer – I had tried to contact this very same firm to discuss another topic – and gave up, stonewalled at every turn. And when time is money (and that money is your own), you have to choose your battles.

But this time there was something different. “Gavin Heaton from IBM” sounded so much more important. I was FROM somewhere – and it was somewhere with a big brand name. And within seconds I was speaking with the document’s author – discussing some of the findings and thinking through how this might impact my new role.

Over the years that follow, I fell in love with branding. I loved the way it extended into people’s lives – how it opened the door to opportunity and how it could change our experiences – as customers, employees and partners. But these days, branding is a different beast. It’s been inverted.

Sure, many of the strengths and benefits remain, but we have to work harder now. We cannot rest (or hide) behind the brand in the way that we used to. We have to inhabit a world of radical transparency … one where our brand does not stand alone in the public sphere – but is accompanied into the spotlight by our governance processes, decisions, data and even the personalities of our staff, executives and stakeholders. Take a look below at this video from the SEOmoz team.

Are we ready for radical transparency? We’d better be – for it is already upon us.

SEOmoz on Radical Transparency in Business from Dan McComb on Vimeo.

With Mobile Commerce, We Are All Retailers Now

Closing DownThe early days of eCommerce were a hard slog. The technology was cumbersome and unreliable, the gateways were expensive and the business community was sceptical. And the shoppers … well even the early adopters were hesitant – concerned about credit card numbers, identity theft and having to pay for goods in advance that may never arrive.

But over time most of those issues have been overcome. And even those that still concern us – like identity theft, security and so on – are traded for convenience. After all, we are generally happy to share our credit card information when a deal is ready to be done.

Mobile commerce – or mCommerce – however, has been able to ride the shirt tails of eCommerce. In many ways, the success of sites like Apple’s iTunes and Amazon have not only changed our sense of trust – they have changed our consumer behaviour. Just think, for example … when was the last time you bought a DVD or a music CD from a shop? For many of us, digital experience is at the core of our understanding and acceptance of so many brands.

And as we follow the bridge of convenience through our mobile devices, we will find ourselves using what businesses call mComerce (though we will just view it as convenience). And this makes me think again – that for the future of our brands, we need to think mobile first but with a social heart.

But our businesses challenges do not stop at the mobile gateway. In fact, they are just the start of a business trend that is going to transform our industries. A couple of years ago, well respected content marketing evangelist, Joe Pulizzi  urged us to think about EVERY business as a “publishing business” – but now in the same way – we have no choice but to consider ourselves RETAILERS too. We are always on, always connected and always SELLING as the infographic from BigCommerce, below, shows. The question is … are you ready?

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