Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

The Battle For The Right To Be Anonymous

Marketers love to track things about consumers. We track who you are, where you’ve been, what you’re saying, the sites you visit, the apps you download and a whole mess of other characteristics. The idea, for years, has been…the more we track about you, the more we learn about you and the better we can customize offers and content for you. Great in theory, poor in practice…usually.

Marquette Appliances Warranty Card

One of the earliest attempts at this was the warranty card a consumer would send in, after buying a product. When you purchased that new stove, back in the day, the store collected some information about you. They knew your address, your name and how you paid (cash, check or card). If they were sophisticated, they kept a log of what you bought, how often you bought and when the items you purchased, needed servicing. That information rarely made it back to the manufacturer though. The way the manufacturer gained some type of understanding about the consumers who purchased their products, was that warranty card. The carrot (or stick, depending on your POV) they used to ensure compliance, was the warranty itself. There was NO warranty covering your product, without a completed card. Sneaky, yes. Smart, at the time, yes.

Cookie Tracking 101

When we graduated to the dawn of the internet, things got a bit more sophisticated. We had cookies. Cookies left a digital set of crumbs that helped marketers understand where you went and what you did on the web. From there, we made assumptions about who you were and what you were interested in. But, we were bad marketers. Instead of using that information to better the customer experience, we used it to retarget them to death…serving them pop-ups at every corner and forcing them to…

Delete Cookies?

The simple solve for improving any browser/web surfing experience, was to delete your cookies. The minute you did that, marketers, were back to square 1, when it came to tracking, understanding and advertising to customers. This became a constant battle of catch me, if you can.

Track Me If You Can

This chase wasn’t efficient or fun. Thankfully, with social media and specifically, Facebook, marketers finally had a method for understanding just about everything they wanted to know about a consumer. Facebook told us who you were…yes, specifically, who you were. We had name, date of birth, location, relationship status, brand/product interests, what places you’d visited and so much more. As Facebook evolved and launched Facebook Connect, we gained even more information. We knew what other sites you visited and the apps you were using. Quick sidebar – I’m convinced, that at some point, Facebook is going to implement a Facebook tax on every call made from a site/app to Facebook Connect. While this wasn’t a perfect solve, it got us closer.

As mobile went from, “it’s going to be big” to “wow, mobile is huge”, marketers would betrayed the trust of customers. There was probably no greater example than that of Carrier IQ. Companies like Apple, HTC, Samsung, etc. would install Carrier IQ’s software services on phones as a means to collect information that would help them improve the phones. On the surface, not a horrible thing. Except for 1 big detail…Carrier IQ, wasn’t providing information anonymously and they were tracking things that weren’t diagnostic related, like every keystroke you made. No surprise, Carrier IQ was sued. It was situations like this and programs like Facebook’s beacon initiative that, in my opinion, accelerated the movement toward the rise of apps and experiences that focused on anonymity.

Today, apps like YikYak, Snapchat and Whisper are growing leaps and bounds. The minute a company releases a new piece of software or an operating system, articles like this are published to help consumers regain some of their freedom, by disabling features that track them. It obviously didn’t help, that the whole, Edward Snowden “thing” happened. Not exactly a situation that makes you feel comfortable about being tracked. That Snowden revelation lead to the growth of Tor, a free platform, designed to stop advertisers and the government from tracking you.

I believe we’re on the precipice of battle around tracking. The more marketers build new ways to track customers, the more customers will find new ways to remain hidden. How long til we’re wrapping our cars in tin foil to avoid tracking from Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. By the way, it’s completely possible to that…

Wrap A Car In Tin Foil

So, what’s a marketer to do? I don’t have all the answers, but wearing both my consumer and marketer hat, here’s a few thoughts:

  1. I don’t think this can be solved by technology…alone.
  2. I think we’re going to see consumers become brokers of their own data. Imagine a BlueKai style approach for consumers. As brokers of their own data, consumers will get to choose not only what data they share, but with whom. They’ll also be compensated for sharing that data on a case-by-case basis.
  3. We’re going to see some type of dashboard solution provided by companies to show customers the data they’re collecting, why they’re collecting it, who it’s shared with (if anyone) and how to opt-out (along with the consequences of doing so) of that data collection. Google already does this, via Google Dashboard. I think others will follow suit.
  4. Custom, not creepy, will become a mantra. Using data to shape and inform the content, offers and advertising that are put in front of a consumer so that they’re relevant, helpful, interesting and actionable, is going to be the key. Using data in a way to trick, trap or incessantly interrupt a consumer, will become the path to failure.

We’re at an interesting and unique place in time. Never before has there been so much data, so many ways to collect it and so many ways to use it. When that data becomes something truly helpful, our trust in data integrity, increases. If you have a Nest thermostat, think about the moment, when the collection of your data, enabled your Nest to surprise you in a delightful way. Maybe it was coming home to your house, in the middle of Summer, on a hot day, but finding the inside of your home, cool and comfortable. Or, if you’ve ever used Waze, that awesome moment, when you were rerouted on a different path, to avoid a an accident that was causing traffic to back up.

We are all data now. There’s no denying this. We can track our steps, our heartbeat, the purchases we make, the beer we drink and the friends we talk to. The dawn of big data for the little guy, is here. What becomes of that data and how it’s used, will shape the type of relationship we, as consumers, want to have with marketers.

Will Making Us More Connected, Make Us Less Connected?

CES came and went. I with it. I started working on a recap of my week at CES, but every time I started to craft it, I felt it was something that was already written. You’ve seen the recaps I’m talking about. They read like an Apple product launch ad:

Thinner: The televisions

Lighter: The cars, with carbon fiber everywhere

Faster: The chips powering cameras, 3D printers and of course tablets/laptops

The above is all true. But, as I walked the trade show floors, talked with company reps and traded thoughts with our media, agency and platform partners, I think there’s something deeper going on.

Internet Of Things?

At a surface level, beyond Thinner, Lighter and Faster, CES 2015 was all about Connected. Some called this the year of IOT (internet of things, because you know, we need another acronym). The concept of IOT is that everything is becoming more connected, all the time, which in theory makes us smarter. A great example of this is Whirlpool’s new line of “Smart Appliances” which can sync with your Nest thermostat. Why you ask? Good question. Your Nest will pull the current rates for gas/electric usage and then run your Whirlpool washer and dryer at times when the rates are cheaper…saving you money. There’s also a companion app that allows you to keep tabs on your washer and dryer. You’ll know that it’s home and not partying – running, working as expected and if it’s being environmentally efficient. Connected. Smarter. Right? It definitely is, but, I’m not sure I need it…at $1699 a device.

There’s a whole host of these types of devices and they’re all getting more connected and smarter. For example we have:

Parrot Pot: “the most advanced connected plant pot” – yes, a pot for your plant that has sensors. With a database of over 8,000 plants, this pot, will provide you diagnostics on the health of your plant and with a special water reservoir that’s sensor based, it will provide the right amount of water at the right time. Of course, it comes with an app, so that you can check in on your plant, while you’re traveling to Davos.

Big Ass Fan’s Haiku With SenseME: An $1,100 fan? Of course you need that. First, it’s made from bamboo, which makes it Earth friendly. Second, it has SenseME technology which among other things, “knows when you enter or leave a room, turning Haiku on and off automatically.” It has an app so I can keep track of its performance. You never know when you’ll be out to dinner and need to “Use the app to set schedules for both the fan and light or select from several unique control modes.”

Motorola Scout 5000: “The Motorola Scout 5000 from Binatone doesn’t just tell you where your pet is — it’ll show you a live video stream and even let you talk to your roaming loved one.” At only $200, how could you possible not buy one? Imagine, you’re at work. You leave your pet at home, per usual, but you wonder, was he abducted, did she meet up with a pack of dogs from the wrong side of town or did he call in sick and take a beach day. You won’t have to wonder anymore. Of course, there’s an app. You’ll be able to stay connected to your pet, even while you’re in your yoga class.

Look, there was some snark there. I’m sure for some there’s a need and these products satisfy that need. I have a Nest Thermostat, a Nest Protect, an August Smart Lock and Philips Hue lights in every room of the house. Add in my WiThings scale and the countless number of fitness band trackers I’ve experimented with and you’d think I’d be all for: Connected and Smarter.

Texting In Meetings

But, like I said, coming back from CES, as I reflected on all the gadgetry (and there was a lot of innovative and interesting stuff…many of which I wanted to buy), something deeper was gnawing at me. Nearly a month later, I think it’s two things, that are very inter-related.

  1. Every device that keeps us connected to it, ultimately makes us less connected the people we’re supposed to be connected to. Let me explain. We’ve all been in a meeting and seen someone pull out their phone to read an email. 5 years ago it was rude. Today, it’s common place. Our phones keep us connected to our email, which make us less connected to the people in the room we’re supposed to be building relationships with. Take email and multiply it by 1,000 to cover notifications and the ability to check in on your: Nest, Hue Lights, Motorola Scout 5000, Dropcam and so on and so on. Staying connected takes time. It takes time to do and it takes time away from things we could and should be doing. Having seen it up close, I think it makes us less human and less connected to people, society and life.
  2. While #1 won’t ever be completely solved, it can be mitigated. The problem with all of these connected devices is they rarely play well with another. Not unlike VHS and Betamax, we’re in a format war. Although, instead of it just being a format war, we’re also in an ecosystem war that looks similar to the mid 90s Mac vs PC battle, where little to nothing was cross platform compatible. Do you want your Samsung Smart Home device to talk to your Apple HomeKit device? Good luck. Not happening any time soon. Maybe you’d really like your We-Mo Crock-Pot to play well with your Jawbone Up; it’s unlikely to happen. Everyone thinks they have the answer to you IOT problem. Samsung thinks they do. So does Google, Apple, Belkin and others. Consumers though, we don’t care about the ecosystem territory wars. We just want things to work. Yep, that simple. If everything worked together (and there’s really no technical reason they can’t), simply, with data moving back and forth via APIs, doing things behind the scenes without our need to stay connected to stay informed, we’d be on to something. We’d see a connected world, become a smarter world, without a connected world make us less connected to the real world and the people in it.

In some respects, it’s still very early days for the Internet of Things. Companies like Wink are trying to solve for a fragmented ecosystem. It’s a good start. But, we need more access, more collaboration and more focus on the end user, instead of each company protecting their walled garden. If not, we’ll find ourselves more connected than ever before to things, but less connected to people. I just can’t see that being good.

So, You’re Starting A New Job

The New Year. It is upon us. The New Yea is full of “new.” There are new promises. There are new resolutions. Some of us have new rituals, like opening up new notebooks. hitting the gym (after not hitting it since a year prior) or a version of “Spring Cleaning” that we do in January. Yes, there’s a lot of new.

One new that often appears is the start of a new job. It’s not uncommon for people to resign in early December, take the last 2 weeks off and start their new job right at the start of the New Year. It’s a good strategy. I should know, I did it last year!

The Roman philosopher, Seneca, eloquently stated “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” That refrain is as poignant today, as it was circa 50 AD, when it was first stated. The thing about new is that to make way for it, you have to have something “old.” Have a new job? Great, it means you’re leaving previous one.

Closing Time

As someone who has left a few jobs, managed people who have left jobs and hired people who’ve left previous jobs, let me offer 3 pieces of advice to those of you who are starting new jobs.

  1. Resist the urge to trash your former employer, manager, team, colleagues. I know you want to. I know it feels good to leave and to start something new. I know there’s some amount of “see, I’ll show you”, but resist. Why? Because there’s no upside to be gained from it, but there’s nothing but downside. You will look petulant. You will look immature. You will look exactly the way that turns a future employer away from hiring you. Make no mistake, this new job you have, it won’t be the last. Also, especially in marketing, advertising and technology, it’s a small world. You may end up working with the same people you just trashed. That’s the very definition of awkward.
  2. Learn from your last job. You’ll be quick to just put your old job behind you. You’ll want to set your sights squarely on your new job. My advice; take 2 days, just a weekend, to think on the time you spent at your previous job. Think on the good. Think on the bad. Think on the things you wished were different. Think on the experiences you wish you could change. Use them. Use them as knowledge to guide how you handle your new role. The best thing about “new” is that you get to paint a new version of you. You get to reinvent yourself. But, you can only reinvent yourself if you’re willing to recognize how to emphasize the good and learn from bad.
  3. Send written thank you notes. To whom? To everyone. Everyone? Yes, everyone. Send them to your mentors, the interview staff, your previous colleagues, etc. Everyone. First, it’s something you should have probably done earlier. Second, the written word leaves and indelible mark. In today’s world of tweets, texts, snaps and what have you a handwritten note goes a long way.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Not every one of my beginnings came from an end that I couldn’t have handled better. I’m certainly not perfect and not every situation was handled perfectly. That said, what I do have is a track record of working with people who would work with me again and at places that would welcome my rejoining.

If you’re starting a new job in 2015, congratulations. I wish you the best of luck in that new endeavor. But, be smart, be mature, be an adult and be professional as your new beginning comes at another beginning’s end.

Here’s What’s Going To Happen 2015

I love predictions. A prediction, at best, is like spinning the roulette wheel. It’s a gamble. No one actually knows what’s going to happen in the future. But, if there’s one thing our industry loves, it’s to pretend like they do.

Let me be clear; I have no idea what’s going to happen. in 2015. But, I will say, over the past 3 years, my intuition about what’s going to happen has been more right, than wrong. My 2014 predictions had an 80% success rate , my 2013 predictions saw a 60% thumbs up rate and my 2012 predictions were 90% right. Thus my 3 year “Lipper Average”, so to speak has been above 85%. Also, if you looked thru my previous year’s predictions, I hope you’ll see, I didn’t opt for softballs.

So what does all of this mean? Nothing. As the pace of change increases at a more rapid rate, it’s more challenging to predict what’s going to happen.

That said, let me offer 5 quick predictions and then 5 meaty ones.

  1. Apple Will Launch A Music Streaming Service, It Will Rival Spotify, Crush Small Players, But It Will Not Be A Universal Success: See #2, but I don’t think an Apple streaming service is going to push out Pandora. I actually think Pandora is going to thrive. Apple’s streaming service, because it will be pre-populated on every iPhone, iPad, etc. will have massive scale, but will struggle to convert users from rival services. It will pave the way for 2016 though, when I think Apple’s streaming model will take off.
  2. We Will See A Resurgence In Radio: Similar to vinyl’s growth and comeback, I think the shift toward a streaming and on-demand world is going to propel radio forward. Additionally, people’s desire for local information and knowledge will keep them coming back. We might see some consolidation in radio stations or a consolidation in large network holding companies, but, the overall health of radio will be much better than it has been the past few years.
  3. Google+ And Google Glass Will Be Retired: Google may evolve these products and then call them something else, but you will not see Google+ and Google Glass as platforms or products, come the close of 2015.
  4. A Governing Body, Most Likely The FDA, Will Crack Down On The Wearables Market, Forcing Many To Fold: Ultimately, these products are edging closer and closer to medical devices. But, manufacturers aren’t treating them as such. They’re instead treating them like casual gadgets, when they are obviously more than that. This is going to cause a problem for these who didn’t take the time to work with governing bodies to ensure they’re products were legit, honest and legally factual.
  5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens Will Become The Highest Grossing Movie Of All Time: Technically, this won’t happen until 2016, but the movie launches in 2015. The total worldwide sales will make Frozen look pedestrian.

A good list for sure, but you might argue that some of these were a bit too easy. That’s fair. So without further adieu, here’s 5 more controversial and meatier predictions.

  1. Google’s Search Business Will Have A Down Year: Yes, I’m serious. Their dominant core product is going to run just a tick above flat. I want to make sure I’m clear here when I say “core product.” At the end of the day, Google’s core product is making money of off search results. The majority of those results take place in the traditional Google.com experience. It will retain it’s overall dominance on broad searches, but as people continue to browse and discover, we’re going to see search volume shift to places and platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Spotify, Flickr, fourSquare and YouTube. Yes, YouTube. Instead of going to Google and typing in “Star Wars Trailer”, people are going to start going directly to YouTube to perform those searches. Net-net, we’re going to see a big shift from “search” to browse and discover.
  2. The Apple Watch Will Be A Success For Apple, But Will Fail To Propel The Smart Watch Category Forward: You might be saying huh? Ok, let me explain. Apple has a problem. Specifically, they have a problem with the iPad. The core iPhone business is great, but the iPad is so good, it doesn’t require people to upgrade often. The Apple Watch will fill the void of the slumping iPad sales, but it won’t be a big enough to make smart watches a must have accessory for the broader consumer market.
  3. There Will Be A Major Cloud Services Hack That Will Take Down A Number Of Major Platforms: I don’t know which service is going to hacked. What I know is that something is going to get hacked and it’s going to have a major impact. For example, imagine Pandora getting hacked and having that hack impact all the cars that have Pandora installed. It’s going to be something like that.
  4. The C-Suite Will See A Major Overhaul: Two things are going to happen. One, we’re going to see a premium on digital experience and background. For example, instead of seeing the traditional CMO model (brand management + MBA), we’ll see someone that comes from a tech background. Additionally, we’ll see a premium on ethics and “clean” backgrounds. You can’t pull another Gurbaksh Chahal and stay employed. It just can’t happen. To be bold, I think we’ll see 3 C-Suite execs, from startup/tech organizations, eliminated because of public / negative PR. Additionally, I think we’ll see a major organization, like Target, follow the Walgreens playbook and elevate a digital leader into a CMO role.
  5. Publicis Or Another Large Agency Holding Company, Will Take A Run At A Major Merger: Following the failed Publicis-Omnicom merger, we’re going to see pride, ego and financial pressure force an attempt at another mega merger. I could see IPG and MDC combining forces, or WPP and IPG. This will happen, if for no other reason than the world isn’t big enough for 5+ holding companies.

So that’s what I think. What do you think? Where am I wrong? Where am I right? Time always tells the truth. A year from now we’ll do the reflection needed to see if I was right or wrong. Accountability, I’m a fan.

My Top 10 Whiskeys You Have To Try

There are no shortage of lists that attempt to outline the best Bourbon, Scotch or Whiskeys on the planet. Some will use quantitative analysis. Others skew to qualitative. That’s the thing about a good Bourbon, Scotch or Whiskey; everyone has a different opinion, because everyone’s taste profile is different and everyone value’s different characteristics. My wife, when I first met here 3+ years ago, swore by her love of Jameson. To her, it was in fact, the best Whiskey in the world. Today, she wouldn’t be caught dead drinking, let alone owning a bottle of Jameson.

A photo posted by Adam Kmiec (@adamkmiec) on

Over the past 3 years, I’ve tasted more whiskeys than I can remember. I think that’s a good thing. I’ve tasted rare and hard to find Whiskeys. I’ve sadly tasted cheap and horrible tasting Whiskeys, like Fireball. I’ve had great tasting and cheap Whiskeys; a rarity, but so satisfying when it happens. Some of these Whiskeys are great for mixing, some can and should be had neat, while others taste better with an ice cube or drop of water. That’s what I love about Whiskey; there’s no right or wrong way to drink it and they all taste different.

Before I go any further, it’s important to understand that every Scotch, Bourbon and Rye is a Whiskey. But, not every Whiskey is a Bourbon or a Rye or a Scotch. So when I say, “My Top 10 Whiskeys” you’re going to see Bourbons, Ryes and Scotches mixed together.

So, with that said, here’s the best of the best, based on my tastes, preferences and palate.

W.L. Weller 12 Year: Made irrationally famous because Julian Van Winkle said it was his favorite and it was then shown to have the same mash bill as the famed Pappy Van Winkle 15 year, it’s a gem. But, all that hype made it hard to come by. At $25 a bottle, it’s a perfect example of great Bourbon, not having to be expensive. Good luck finding a bottle though. Even on Craiglist market, this $25 bottle will sell for nearly $100. W.L. Weller 12 is my go to bourbon, when I want something neat or with a cube. I never use it as a mixer.

Four Roses Yellow Label: At $20, it’s a steal. Yes, it’s like they’re paying you for it. I love Four Roses Yellow Label. My wife loves the more expensive Single Barrel. Four Roses is what is my must have bourbon in an Old Fashioned. It’s smooth and balanced.

Michter’s 10 Year: Another, impossible to find, great bourbon. If you see it in-store, it’ll retail for $85. On the secondary market, expect to pay $200. Where Weller and Four Roses are incredibly smooth, with virtually no finish. Michter’s is smooth, with a pungent nose and a complex finish that sneaks up you. Love this bourbon. No ice needed. Serve neat.

The Glenlivet Archive 21 Year: The first Scotch to make the list. I went back and forth between this and The Macallan 21. Both are phenomenal. But, The Macallan is nearly twice the cost at $300 a bottle. The Glenlivet 21, however, can be had for $140. Yes, that’s expensive. But, it’s so freaking good. Smooth, no bite and big flavor. If I could afford it, I’d be drinking this every day.

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year: The first and only Pappy to make the list. I have the 10, 12, 15, 20 and 23 year. The 10 is raw and unfinished. Not my style. The 12 year “Lot B” is good, but isn’t something I’d drink neat or on the rocks. It’s very nice for livening up a good Old Fashioned. The 20 I really love. It doesn’t get enough love out there. The 23 is the hardest to come by. That scarcity, I tend to think, clouds people’s judgement and evaluation of the Bourbon. Personally, I think it’s too aged. But, the 15, yeah, it’s just right. It’s so full of flavor, but not overpowering. I can sip on this all night long.

Yamazaki 12 Year: For a while I was really into the art of Japanese Whiskey. Where the USA and Scotland favor single malts and blends are considered cheap, Japan views blending as a way to be creative and develop unique flavors. I like Hibiki 12, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Yamazaki 12.  Everyone who samples my bottle, remarks at how incredible it is. A different Yamazaki; one finished in a Sherry Cask, was recently anointed the title of Best Whiskey In The World.

Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year: I really like Bulleit. I don’t love it neat. I don’t love it on ice. But, I really like it in a Manhattan, Mint Julep or Old Fashioned. There’s something about it’s taste profile that makes it the perfect compliment to so many other ingredients. It’s the classic team player on a sports team. Bulleit isn’t the leader or the best player, but without Bulleit, you just don’t win.

Basil Hayden: This was the Bourbon that got me started into dark spirits. It was the first Bourbon I ever ordered. There’s many similarities to Basil Hayden and Bulleit 10. They both have a certain lack of refinement. They have an edge. But, where as Bulleit has too much edge to be something I drink neat, Basil Hayden, when in the right mood, is definitely something I can enjoy with a cube.

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength: Received this as a gift and was instantly blown away. Cask Strength Bourbon has generally proved to be just too powerful for me. Too much bite, too much finish. Even as much as I love Four Roses, their 2014 Limited Edition Single Barrel Cask Strength is just too much for me. But, for whatever reason Angel’s Envy has figured out how to give you something powerful, but not overpowering. This, my friends, will keep you warm on cold winter nights.

Larceny: In all my Whiskey sampling, I realized I prefer wheated Bourbons over rye Bourbons. The wheat is smoother, with less bite than rye. Again, palate, is personal. You can find this gem for about $28 at most liquor stores. If you’re just getting into Bourbon and can’t find the W.L.Weller 12, this is a great introduction into the world of Bourbons.

Beyond the top 10, some other Whiskey’s that I’ve sampled that are worth your time as you explore would be Lagavulin 16, Kings County Bourbon, Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14, Whistle Pig Rye 10 and Makers Mark (original). All are interesting, unique and different.

Taste is personal. That’s the beauty of Whiskey. There’s something out there for everyone. These be my favorites, but your’s could be something else. Get out there and start sampling.

How I Did With My 2014 Marketing, Advertising And Technology Predictions

If all you have time for is one sentence, here it is…I was 8/10. If you have even more time, thanks. Before we start the analyzing, I want to provide a few pieces of context. A few years ago I started offering predictions in the marketing, advertising and technology space. These predictions would come out in December and would look ahead at the next 12 months. Because I believe accountability is important, towards the end of the year, I critique my own predictions to see how well I did.

This was the original post from 2013, that analyzed my 2013 predictions and outlined what I thought would happen in 2014. Without further adieu, let’s see how I did. Text in bold is my commentary and analysis.

  1. Agencies will feel the squeeze from two ends of the spectrum. On one front companies like Accenture, IDEO and smaller boutiques take a chunk out of the strategy portion of budgets. On the other front clients will start transitioning functions like social media and insights in-house. This will cause a ripple effect that will lead to more large consolidations. These consolidations will be big, but not quite at the scale of the Omnicom/Publicis merger. Definitely nailed this one. We saw big acquisition/mergers like Publicis’ purchase of Sapient Nitro and small ones like VML acquiring Biggs Gilmore. More and more clients started bringing social in-house, including Apple, who hired Musa Tariq away from Nike. There were ripple effects, with Mass Relevance being acquired by Spredfast and Sprinklr acquiring The Dachis Group.
  2. SnapChat will implode. It will grow it’s user base, but won’t figure out how to monetize the platform. All the while, Facebook/Instagram, twitter and Google will come up with extensions to their platforms that will provide the basic utility of SnapChat, but for a mass audience. While we still haven’t seen a full on nuclear implosion, we’ve see Snapchat deal with everything from data breaches, privacy concerns and SnapChat’s CEO coming under fire for misogynist comments. Beyond that, they’ve continued to struggle to generate ad revenue, with most large brands still avoiding the platform. We saw Facebook acquire WhatsApp to boost their messaging game. They also spun of FB Messenger as a separate product. The big surprise here was Apple rolling out SnapChat like features as part of iOS 8. I’m giving myself a check mark in the yes column.
  3. Google Glass will come to the mass market, but will flop, UNLESS the consumer version has a built in cellular connection. Flop, well Flop would be an understatement. I’ll let you enjoy the irony of this set of Google Search Results that call for Google Glass’ death.
  4. Amazon will purchase a grocery retailer to expedite the growth of their Amazon Fresh service. If I were betting, it would be Supervalu. I missed on this. While Amazon did NOT purchase a grocery store they did expand Fresh, significantly, including offering unique delivery services in New York City.
  5. Über will IPO. No IPO yet, but we still have 1.5 months to go.
  6. We will see a major movie studio release a semi-major movie available for stream/download before it comes to theaters. My money is on Netflix pulling this off from a distribution standpoint. I want to be fair. The real question is how you define “major.” For martial arts fans, Netflix announcing Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2, as a Netflix exclusive and something that won’t launch in theaters, was BIG. I feel good about this prognostication. Netflix is disrupting like crazy, and that’s a good thing.
  7. Mobile payments will finally gain traction, making up for the poor launches from ISIS and Google Wallet over the past few years. Um, you might have heard about this thing called Apple Pay. Kind of a big deal. Win!
  8. Companies of all walks of life will start creating “products.” For example, we might see Nestle create a product similar to FitBit, that will integrate with their Lean Cuisine line. P&G might create a wearable technology type of device for babies. It’s coming. P&G didn’t create a wearable device for babies, but they did launch Swash. Also, apparel manufacturer Under Armour purchased Map My Fitness. We didn’t see as many as I thought we’d see, but we did see it. That’s a win.
  9. iBeacon and other proximity driven messaging/communication platforms, designed to sync and communicate with your phone, will struggle to take off. The problem won’t be interest or cost. The problem will be the continued relative poor battery life of phones and the privacy concerns of consumers. Got this one right. I think we’re going to see this change in 2015. Longer battery life for phones and better understanding of how to use Beacons (it’s more than offers) will see this go from 50% of retailers testing beacons to more than 50% using them in a meaningfully beneficial way.
  10. The next big mobile platform, won’t be a phone, it will be a car. Ford, BMW or another car manufacturer will bring a custom version of Android to their vehicles. Boom! Nailed this, in a BIG way. Apple launched Car Play and Google is bringing Android to manufacturers like Audi and GM.

If you were keeping score at home that’s 8 right (1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) and 2 wrong (4 and 5). Not too shabby. I’ll take an 80% success rate. There’s also still time for Uber to announce an IPO or for Amazon to buy a grocery chain. Though, if I were a betting man, I’d say Uber announcing an IPO is much more likely.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be working on my 2015 predictions. Would love to hear your thoughts on how I did in 2014 and what you think is going to happen in 2015.

The Invaluable, But Lost Art Of Mentorship

Do you have a mentor? Think on that question for a second. If you’re like most professionals today, you don’t, or worse, you think you do, but you really don’t.

My sophomore year of college, I took a class called BA-3000 (at least I think it was, it might have been BA-3015), taught by Mike Henle. The class was structured around helping you become a more valuable and attractive asset for a company. We covered everything from resume writing skills, to the value of internships, presentation skills and yes, how to find and leverage mentors. I didn’t know it then, but many years later, that class has proven to be incredibly valuable as I’ve grown my career.

So what makes for a mentor and why are they important? Let’s start with the first part of that question. In my opinion, too often we blur the lines between advisors and mentors. Both are valuable, but they are not the same.

I have several advisors, ranging from my dad, who I seek out for both advice in life and work, to Bob Gilbreath, the former head of one of the best agencies I’ve ever worked with. I call them, frequently, for advice and council. The scope of that advice is generally limited to specific situations and decisions that must be made in the next 90 days, that will impact the next 12 months.

To borrow from a movie analogy, good advisors are like Robert Duvall’s character, Tom Hagen, in The Godfather. But, similar to a presidential cabinet, you can’t have an infinite number of advisors. You instead need a small, but mighty group. I limit myself to no more 12 advisors. My advisor group is comprised of 1 former agency president, 2 former professors, 3 former colleagues Sr. to me, 2 current CEOs, 1 VC head, 1 ad tech founder, 1 great dad and of course my own father. My advisory group is diverse in background, thinking, industry, age, gender, ethnicity and availability. All of them, at some point in my career, have enabled me to understand and consider a needed alternate perspective.

Advisors often provide council to help in the short term and they can be changed out over time. My list of advisors today looks a lot different today than it did 5 years ago, let alone 15 years ago. Where as my list of advisors is large and diverse, my list of mentors is small. There are only 3. If advisors are akin to Tom Hagen, in The Godfather, mentors are The Don.

Mentors take an interest in you. Yes, you. They have an interest in your growth, your advancement, your evolution and your success. They are in fact investing their time in you. With time being the only resource you don’t get back, for someone to spend their time helping you over many years, makes for a pretty special relationship. To me a mentor is 3 very important and distinct things:

1. Coach: they’re helping you improve your skills in a way that’s designed to maximize your potential and help you reach your long term goals.

2. Teacher: a good mentor unlocks your mind. They stretch your to think about things you haven’t considered and to confront challenges in new ways. Beyond time, the most valuable resource is wisdom. Mentors make a decision to transfer their knowledge, in hopes of improving your wisdom.

3. Measuring Stick: mentors are smart. Really smart. Part of what keeps them so smart is they have mentors of their own. Every time you think you’re closing the gap between the two of you, your mentor drops a knowledge bomb that makes you realize now much more you still have to grow, evolve and improve.

I see mentorship dying a fast death. The skills are no longer being taught by parents, educational institutions and managers. Our Tinder-Snapchat world, where we expect instant feedback and impact is at odds with the thoughtful, lengthy, patient investment needed for mentorship to thrive. We’ve traded the long term value of mentorship for the quick fix that advisors provide. This is a mistake. It’s akin to spending your paycheck on the immediate itch you have to satisfy (aka yet another outfit from Nordstrom, despite all the outfits you have from Nordstrom, hanging in your closet, with the tags still on), instead of investing it into the future.

If that weren’t bad enough, the pool of people who know how to provide mentorship is shrinking, exponentially.

It’s been more than a decade since I graduated from “the U” (which by the way is the stupidest of all university descriptions, since it in fact, can mean just about any college out there) and I still stay in touch with Mike Henle. I got more from that class, than just about any class I took over my 3 years at The University of Minnesota. I’ve tried to pay it back, whenever I can.

Every year I look to be an advisor to no more than 12 people. This allows me to give back in a way that hopefully helps and impacts many people over my career.

But, when it comes to mentorship, I never have more than 3 mentees. What I’ve found over the past decade is a blatant disregard for the value of mentorship. Several of the people I had been mentoring for years, started treating the relationship like an advisor scenario. They were too strapped for time, lacked vision on what they wanted out of life and simply put, were not making me feel good about the time I was investing in them.

I dropped them. If they weren’t going to take mentorship seriously, I wasn’t going to invest my time and wisdom, in them. From 2008 – 2012 I had at least 2 mentees. Today, I have 0, by my own choice. That change saddens me because it speaks to an inability to see the forest for the trees. It also means we’re building a pipeline of “leaders” who lack a North Star of what they want to become.

Mentorship is valuable. It’s an art. We need, not only more mentors, but more people ready to invest in having a mentor.

It’s never too late to be a mentor or to find one. Think about it.

We All Operate In A Global Economy

For a while, the biggest problem with Silicon Valley is that it huffed its own exhaust. It was very reminiscent of the famed South Park episode, “Smug Alert!” In that episode, Kyle’s family buys a Prius, becomes overly high and mighty, then moves to San Francisco where they can be surrounded by people who are high and mighty, like them. Rather than breathe regular air, people in San Francisco, breathe their own farts. I’m serious. Watch this clip.

That video while, tasteless, is a great example of what the valley was like. There was a belief that if it wasn’t from the valley, it wasn’t cutting edge, different, unique, exceptional, innovative, etc. We saw companies open up “West Coast” offices in San Francisco or the valley. The idea of these offices was to get closer to the companies (eg Facebook, Google) who were shaping the world and to attract better talent.

5 years ago, this made a lot of sense. The epicenter of innovation was San Francisco/The Valley. That was the hub. If something game changing was going to happen, it was going to happen there and certainly not in Chicago, New York, D.C. or any other city in the country. But, over the last 5 years, we’ve seen two interesting shifts happening:

1. “Startup Culture” and the innovation that comes along with it, was being seen in markets like New York. For example, Brooklyn created the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, which has spawned MakerBot and Etsy. At an even broader level, there’s the Made In NYC initiative, which has credible startups like foursquare, Adapt.ly, BirchBox and Timehop. Today, cities like Austin, New York, Chicago and Seattle have just as many smart people and innovative companies as the San Francisco bubble. Innovation is happening everywhere, it’s no longer, just in one city.

2. The Valley realized that they’d become myopic. The best talent and thinking wasn’t happening in their backyard. No, it was happening in places like Sydney, Berlin, Stockholm, India, Shanghai and Seoul. As the rest of the country chased Silicon Valley talent, Silicon Valley was chasing talent across the globe. Smart companies realized this early on and essentially cut out the middleman. They forged partnerships with companies based in Mumbai, Croatia, Costa Rica and Slovenia. You need only to look at the efforts by Zuckerberg to advance immigration reform, to see how important the global talent marketplace is.

Despite these major ripples, companies have been slow to adjust. Large organizations today, still believe the quick fix answer to their problems is to open up a San Francisco office, maybe run a few hackathons, create an app and launch a few pilots with some startups. Problem solved, right? Hardly. That’s not even a bandaid. With a global playing field, it’s quite narrowminded to think that the only path to future growth and innovation is thru Silicon Valley.

Even if you’re an organization that doesn’t “sell” globally or doesn’t have an office beyond the borders the United States, you operate in a global marketplace. Talent, supply chain, financial investments, manufacturing, etc. are all global. Like it or not, you’re global. You’re competing with companies for talent, partnerships and pure natural resources. The world is bigger than San Francisco. It’s bigger than the United States. Readjust your sights. Think global.

Friday Five – September 19, 2014

Polaroid’s real-life Instagram logo camera can also print your photos
In what can only be described as life, imitating art, imitating life…Polaroid (yes that Polaroid) is bringing out a digital camera that’s modeled around Instagram, which of course is modeled around the Polaroid. What I like about this story is that it shows, they’re are still new ways to capture the emotion in creating a moment…and then convert that emotion into printing a photo, to savor the memory. Photo printing is not dead. We just need better reasons to print.

How H&M Churns Out New Styles In Just 2 Weeks
A lot of it, is logistics. But, those logistics mean nothing without the big data being used to spot trends that will stick and drive sales. Predictive analytics, not regression analytics is what’s driving H&M forward.

CoverGirl Ad Becomes a Protest Tool Against NFL’s Roger Goodell
A very powerful article that shows how easily brands can be dragged into a conversation that they don’t want to be a part of. Cover Girl launched a campaign, as part of their NFL sponsorship, that highlighted how to use makeup that helped consumers embrace the “look” of their team. Great idea! But, with the recent domestic violence cases surrounding the NFL, the ads were edited by consumers to highlight the fact that P&G (maker of Cover Girl) was paying money to support an organization that was seemingly taking domestic violence, lightly.

Tech has raised the bar on customer experience higher than ever; here’s why you should care
We’re an organization that’s focused on the customer. We want to understand her, her needs and be there for her, at the right time with the right message and the right feeling behind that message. Technology, in some ways has created barriers between people and companies and at the same time, made us all closer and certainly more accountable and accessible. This interview gets to the fundamental reason why it’s so important to be customer first.

Southwest Airlines Understands The Heart Of Marketing Is Experience
A great in depth look at Southwest Airlines’ major rebranding effort. “The average distance between the stem of the brain and the top of the heart is nine inches. Great brands don’t just bombard the eyes and the ears. They understand true advocacy begins only once you reach the heart of your customer.” Brands have a soul; they’re more than the glass, metal, nuts, bolts and logo.

My Week On Tinder, A Marketer’s Point Of View

I was on Tinder, for a week. Yes, I’m married. Don’t worry, it was an approved experiment. Let me take a half-step back. Every month I pick 1 new social platform to experiment with. In the past that’s lead to a month with Vine, EyeEm, SnapChat and others. The month I spend with a platform is designed to:

  1. Make me smarter and more knowledgable about the platform
  2. Help me understand the customer experience for the platform and what, if anything, we can glean from it to enhance our digital, mobile and social products and capabilities
  3. Enable me to speak intelligently about the marketing opportunities for the organization. I’ve always felt that it rings a bit hollow to offer a perspective on an opportunity, without actually being someone who’s actually used the platform…not just read Mashable’s writeup about it.

With that in mind, I recently connected with a sales rep from IAC. Now, you might be scratching your head about IAC. They’re the holding company organization that owns Match.com, OKCupid.com and yes, Tinder. IAC is no small fish and from an advertising reach standpoint, they’ve proven to have a very sustainable digital advertising/marketing business. So when someone from IAC said, there’s some amazing things we could do together, including some future opportunities on Tinder.

Far be it for me to say that there’s no marketing opportunity for our organization and Tinder. Up until a week ago, I wasn’t a Tinder user. Up until a week ago, I never downloaded the app or saw someone else use it, live. Screen grabs, write ups and jokes on late night TV was everything I knew about Tinder.

Before I explain what I learned and what I think, let me first explain the ground rules I had for using Tinder:

  1. I Swiped right for everyone. Everyone.
  2. Ok, technically, not everyone, because if I saw someone was related to someone I knew, I swiped left. I didn’t want to get into explaining this experiment/trial to a friend.
  3. I was 100% focused on the advertising and marketing opportunities. I didn’t read bios, I didn’t look at picture sets, etc. I just focused on the potential marketing opportunities.
  4. If there was a match, I didn’t message a user, nor did I respond to anyone’s messages to me. I wasn’t hear to find a “date”, I was here to understand the marketing opportunities.

So with that out of the way, here’s a marketer’s point of view about Tinder.

  1. It will have an ongoing, but limited user base. If you believe that people date multiple people, then date 1 person, then get engaged, then get married, Tinder plays in the dating part of the lifecycle. As people mature out of dating to just dating 1 person, Tinder will loses active users, but those users will always be backfilled by new user entering the dating lifecycle. This could be people new to dating or people who have exited a relationship are back at step 1 of the dating lifecycle.
  2. Dating sites are usually manual entry driven. That leads to inaccurate data. Tinder is built on the best, richest, most accurate data set ever, in the history of marketing: Facebook. As a marketer, I’d feel better about targeting ads on Tinder than I would on Match.com.
  3. Being a mobile only platform is also intriguing because it brings in location based data for the purposes of marketing. This would allow us to be more contextually relevant than relying on user entered location info.
  4. Tinder’s entire customer experience is genius. It’s a fantastic game. Swipe. Swipe. Swipe. It’s fun. The layering of push notifications keeps you coming back in. Notifications make sense, in this case. Someone swiped you back. Someone sent a message. These are both things that stoke the flames of our natural curiosity and keep us using the app. I’m sure their daily active user rate is off the charts. If my goal is frequency of messaging, Tinder’s model is intriguing.
  5. Scale and frequency are great. Most companies want to make sure that they’re marketing is on brand and it’s reaching the right users (demographics, psychographics, etc.). For most companies, then, Tinder is probably a fantastic option. But, I believe you need to go a little deeper; you need context. Just as it would be somewhat insensitive for Kleenex to run Facebook ads targeted at people who recently changed their relationship status from married to divorced, does an advertiser really want to be “talking” to people while they’re having personal conversations and looking for Mr./Mrs. right, even as joked about, it’s Mr./Mrs. “right now”? I’m not sure and I’m sure for some companies, the answer is yes.
  6. The user experience that Tinder created is fun. I know I already mentioned that, but let me talk about it from a different angle. The experience is so intuitive and smart, that it won’t be long before see it adopted across an entire host of categories. For example, imagine Tinder’s interface leverage for recipes or if Netflix were to adopt it rather than their current method for building out a customer profile. The 1 button sign up, combined the simple aspect of swiping, is brilliant. I think we’ll see it become a widely adopted model, just as the the “pull to refresh” interface has been copied by just about everyone.

Taking my marketer hat off for a second, I have to say, Tinder is equal parts the future and a sad state of the world. The game mechanics make “dating” fun. If I were in the dating market, I could completely understand the appeal. It’s simple to join. Simple to participate. Simple to stay informed. But, it does reduce us all to a headshot.

Maybe that’s reality and Tinder, like the Matrix, is showing us what reality, truly is. That as much as we talk about looks not mattering, and beauty being more than skin deep, the reality is we’re all visual people and a headshot is in fact the bast way to find compatibility.

I sure hope that’s not the case. I’d like to believe that dating is still about the butterflies we get from a voice, a moment, a single touch, a look, a whisper and of course the grand gesture.

With Tinder, everything is instant. As a marketer, that’s exciting. As a hopeless romantic, I want to believe that finding a match, goes beyond a swipe and is more along the lines of what Pablo Neruda once wrote

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”

By the way, you won’t find me on Tinder anymore. I deleted my account (surprisingly easy) and the app.