Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

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.

Friday Five – August 29, 2014

Want to See Aziz Ansari’s Next Stand-Up Show? Check Twitter, Then Give Him Your Phone Number.
Talk about a heck of a promotion and a great use of twitter to build personal relationships and tap in to your most rabid fans. “Here’s how it works: Ansari sends out a message from his Twitter account, telling fans who live in Chicago to head to his site, where they enter their cellphone numbers, which enters them into a lottery for tickets — all without knowing where the show will be. When Ansari did this in San Francisco, he got 35,000 signups in three days.”

A closer look at the #Emmys
Social and TV, go together like beer and brats, BBQ and bourbon, and of course happy and healthy. The twitter insights team composed a detailed breakdown of how viewers tweeted, during the Emmy’s. “There were 1.1 million Tweets about the show (+-3 hours) during the live telecast (8-11 p.m. ET) according to Nielsen.” Not too shabby, eh?

Newcastle Asks Fans For Photos, Which It’ll Convert (Very Badly) Into Ads
Must have beer on the mind…I know, it’s the 2nd beer themed content for this week’s Friday Five, but it comes from Heineken’s competitor: Newcastle. They’re asking fans of Newcastle to submit photos, which Newcastle will turn into ads to promote their beer. This is crowdsourcing at its finest. It’s a simple and cost effective way to scale content, while making the customer part of the brand experience.

If a Self-Driving Car Gets in an Accident, Who—or What—Is Liable?
Bonus time!!! Yes, this week you get 6 in Friday Five. This is just such a cool and interesting article. As the ideas of self-driving vehicles starts to become a reality for consumers, who’s to blame when an accident happens? The answer might surprise you!

E-Commerce Is Not Eating Retail
This article will make you feel great about the direction we’re taking. It’s not about Ecommerce vs retail; it’s all about serving the needs of the Omnichannel customer. Think “and”, not “or”, when it comes to commerce.

The Biggest Challenge In Creating Quality Content

You will find no shortage of lists that outline the Top Content Marketing Challenges. From team size to budget and from the lack of tools to the lack of process; everyone has at least one challenge. There’s nothing wrong with these lists. They’re a great start to understanding the challenges being faced by organizations large and small.

That said, I’d encourage you to dig beyond the top 10 lists. When I think about the biggest challenge facing marketers today, in content, it’s much more ambiguous and complex, than the need for a tool to manage content. To me, the biggest challenge is the lack of agreement on what “quality” means. I’m serious. In most organizations there’s a process to generate quality content. It often starts with research, which leads to an insight, that becomes the foundation for a brief, which enables a team/company to develop creative that’s high quality. Simple enough, right? Except, that quality, in traditional marketing channels is generally determined by a combination of research (Eg focus groups, copy testing) and a checklist that governs the usage of colors, fonts, logos, photography, tone and more. In digital/social channels, the checklist still exists, but it’s rare that digital/social creative is placed in front of focus groups.

While, the checklist approach to quality ensures that content is on “brand” it doesn’t mean it’s high quality. The focus groups and copy testing are designed to help predict performance, but clearly, if that research was devoid of flaws, no agencies would ever be fired and everyone would hit their forecasted numbers. The truth is that great content is both art and science. Despite hundreds of years of advertising history, nailing the right blend between art and science, has gotten more difficult, not easier. The number of ad formats, marketing channels and means for consuming content, have contributed to making this tougher for marketers.

In theory, no one wants low quality content. Ask a room of marketers if they want high quality or low quality content and you won’t find a single brave person who raises their hand for low quality content. Think about it, just term “low quality”, sounds bad. When most people think of high quality, they think of high-resolution images that are shot (not stock). They think of a perfectly edited/retouched photo – after all, clearly a crack in a baked cake never happens, unless of course you’re a real person. High quality means professionally produced. It also means expensive. Quality, as you can see, conjures up a lot of thoughts and feelings.

When we think about evaluating marketing initiatives, we often want a defined objective or KPI. But, when one of the KPIs is, “produce high quality content”, we have a challenge, because the definition of quality is often completely ambiguous and arbitrary.

As an example, let’s review the following, widely considered, successful content marketing efforts.

We have to start with the obligatory Oreo, Dunk In The Dark, tweet. If you’re reading this at a conference, drink!

The genesis of the tweet has been covered to death. I won’t rehash that information, but I do want to call out the following:

  • The image used, was a reused and recycled image; something that had been used by Oreo earlier in the year.
  • It’s overly compressed – you can see the JPG artifacts from over compression
  • It was produced in roughly 15 minutes, but if you look at the Cannes Lion submission form and apply a general billable rate to each role, it took $2,000+ to create this recycled image. If you needed 4 tweets like that per day for 365 days a year, you need a $3M a year budget for just twitter content.

I think the most important nugget is #1; it was a recycled image. Blasphemy! Having worked at agencies for 11 years and with them for another 6, I can tell you the idea of recycling a creative asset is usually a no-go. Creative team members never want to do the same thing…even when it clearly works. We don’t really have an on the record anecdote from Modelez, but it’s widely accepted that the Dunk In The Dark tweet was a quality piece of content that was very successful. With Oreo out of the way, let’s talk about Samsung’s efforts during the Oscars. With more than 3.4M retweets of the original image taken by Bradley Cooper, this out of focus (gasp!) photo from a cell phone broke the record for the most retweets ever. 

With that type of scale, this had to be a piece of quality content. After-all, if it wasn’t quality, it wouldn’t have been retweeted so many times, right? By, all measures of scale, an out of focus, fuzzy, low detail image bested the White House’s hi-resolution and historic photo. Many people think this was a cheap photo. It was anything but. without Samsung’s $20M + sponsorship of the Oscars, it’s likely that photo never happens. Thus, if you thought $2K for Oreo’s tweet was expensive, there’s no doubt, the “Ellen Selfie” was more than 100X the cost of the Dunk In The Dark tweet. By, the way, I also think it’s fascinating to understand the impact that distribution played in driving the 3.4M retweets. This chart does a great job of showing that despite Brad Pitts, bigger start power, Ellen, herself generated 2.5X more retweets.

Moving away from scale and virality as benchmarks for success, let’s look at interest. Interest leads to intent and intent leads to purchase, right? That’s the model, just about every marketer coming out of school, has been taught. Red Bull’s Stratos project, that had Felix Baumgartner jumping from just outside the Earth’s atmosphere, into the desert in New Mexico.

The jump was historic. It broke all sorts of records and became must see content. As we know, must see content, is high quality content (I mean, there’s a reason people watch The Bachelor and Michael Bay movies). At the time, the Stratos project, broke the record for concurrent youTube streams; with nearly 8M people viewing the jump, in real time. Impressive, right? What I like more is that they turned that stunt, into an ongoing campaign. Footage from the jump was integrated into commercials, end caps, packaging, print ads and more. As someone who worked on BMW Films, the re-usage of the content impresses me more than anything. The more often ways you reuse the same footage, the more efficient that investment into the original piece of content, becomes.

Now, if there’s one thing we all know, it’s that what consumers say, really matters. Last Super Bowl, people, just like you and me, crowned the Budweiser ad that featured a dog and a horse, the best Super Bowl commercial of the bunch.

If you don’t think these polls matter, check out the story about Career Builder essentially firing its agency because their Super Bowl ad, wasn’t voted the best. Yes, I’m serious. If consumers love it and love it enough to vote it the best, it must be high quality, right?

Now, for me, I like to go a bit old school. With no internet, no mobile, no tablet, no streaming and still with the majority of people having black and white televisions, the first moon landing was seen by more than 500M people.

Buzz salutes the U.S. Flag.jpg
Buzz salutes the U.S. Flag” by NASA / Neil A. Armstrong – Apollo 11 Image Library (image link). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Think about that for a second. There were more people who tuned in to watch grainy footage on their black and white televisions, without the internet, than there were people who watched Felix Jump and retweeted the “Ellen Selfie” and shared the “Dunk In The Dark” image and watched Budweisers’ Puppy Love commercial.

We walked through a lot of examples of “quality” content. Hopefully, what you’ve taken away is that it’s really difficult to determine what quality, really means. Quality is unfortunately, quite subjective. There are people who believe Just Bieber is an amazing musical talent. The millions of records/songs sold would seem to justify that. To his fans, he makes quality music. To me, he is a blight on the music industry. I like Michael Bay movies. Some people don’t. There are even people who think Nickelback makes quality music. You can find out which of your friends on Facbeook like Nickelback and unfriend them, by clicking on this link. You’re welcome.

At Walgreens, we don’t have it all figured out. From the many conversations I’ve had with my peers, across the industry and the globe, I don’t think anyone has it mastered. For me, that’s part of the fun and the excitement. It’s why I love the role I’m in and the company I work for. While we haven’t cracked the code 100%, there are a few elements, that I think are important:

  1. Have a clear definition of quality. Every company needs their own approach and “formula.”
  2. Protect the customer experience. Every piece of content, even gasp! content that’s designed to sell (I know, I know, crazy…) should eliminate friction in the actions you’re asking the customer/user to do.
  3. When creating content, take into account 3 things: Your Brand (the content needs to be on brand), Your Customer (it needs to be relatable to your audience), The Platform Context (content that works great in Facebook, doesn’t necessarily work well, in twitter and etc.).

It’s early days in some respects. In others, as the moon landing shows us, the challenges quality compelling content has been around for a long time. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been to link up a feed from the moon to people’s living rooms in 1969?

Set your bar high and be clear in what you’re willing to accept as quality content. Remember, a perfectly perfect circle, that’s the right color, with the right logo, with the right font, isn’t necessarily quality…even though it checks all the boxes.

On Food

I love a good meal. I love food, but I’m not a foodie. I can appreciate the effort, thought and creativity that chefs bring to a dish, but I won’t value presentation over substance. All sizzle and no steak, does not, a good meal, make. A good friend of mine, who loves food like me, but is definitely more on the foodie end of the spectrum recently asked for recommendations for a place to eat at in New York. Specifically he wanted “Something new and exciting that takes food in unexpected directions. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but it has to be unique and different.”

I love the bar he set. But, quickly the conversation turned into a who’s who of New York restaurants. We of course had Nobu, Eleven Madison, Momofuku and the like. These are great restaurants. I’ve eaten at several of them. But, just like a designer pair of jeans, part of what you’re paying for and part of what skews your pov on these places are the name. Instead of being the name on the label, it’s the name of the chef. Why stop at Nobu? Let’s add Per Se, from Thomas Keller or Daniel or Le Bernardin. It’s now that these aren’t great places, but when I want a food adventure, I think of adventure in the way Anthony Bourdain sees the world, not the way the Michelin group hands out stars. You’re in New York, maybe the best city in the world for food and we end up with a list that reads like Business Insider’s Top Restaurants of New York list, which is basically a shrunken down version of the Michelin Guide.

Ultimately, there are only 3 things I want in a meal at a restaurant:

  1. I don’t want to leave hungry. I’m serious. The problem with so many “high-end” or Michelin rated places is they trade flash for substance. I get foam, which while beautiful, doesn’t exactly fill the belly. I once ate at La Belle Vie in Minneapolis, which while lovely, left us so hungry that we went to McDonald’s after we left. Thankfully, the dinner at La Belle Vie was paid for with a gift card…a $300.00 gift card, but hey, a gift card.
  2. It needs to be something I can’t make. Yours truly, can grill a damn good burger, but I can’t make the burger at Au Cheval, a burger so amazing, it’s life changing. I can make a great smoked brisket on my Green Egg, it’s not even remotely as good as the brisket from Franklin’s BBQ in Austin, Texas. What I love about this filter is that not only am I introduced to something that’s unique, it inspires me to cook something different.
  3. The overall experience needs to be worth getting off the couch and not ordering in. With platforms like GrubHub, Postmates and TaskRabbit, I can get a steak from Uncle Jack’s in NYC delivered to me, if I wanted. But, eating that steak, at home, is not the same as eating it at the restaurant and having Uncle Jack’s legendary service, killer Old Fashioned and deep fried, chipotle bacon, fresh from the kitchen.

I don’t think my bar is high, but it surprisingly difficult to find places that satisfy all 3 things. For example, Alinea, considered the greatest restaurant in the world, is great on #2 and #3, but woefully under-delivers on #1. I’ve been there twice and both times I ended up eating at Portillo’s on the way home. Yes, I’m serious. On the other end of the spectrum you have a place like Lugo Caffe in New York City, which has never sent me home hungry and creates a deep fried Lamb Shank that can’t be copied, but doesn’t offer a great or unique experience.

With that said, in no particular order, here’s my top 10 list of food places, across the United States, that deliver on my criteria.

  1. Katz’s Deli (New York, NY)
  2. The Slanted Door (San Francisco, CA)
  3. L&B Spumoni Gardens (Brooklyn, NY)
  4. Table 52 (Chicago, IL)
  5. Brasa (Minneapolis, MN)
  6. Morimoto (Philadelphia, PA)
  7. Franklin’s BBQ (Austin, TX)
  8. Crif Dog’s / Please Don’t Tell (New York, NY)
  9. Aureole (Las Vegas, NV)
  10. Rye (Louisville, Kentucky)

And more specifically, just so you don’t think I punted on the original question from my friend, these were my recommendations for places that provide “Something new and exciting that takes food in unexpected directions. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but it has to be unique and different.”:

  1. Fette Sau – this would take you to Williamsburg, so right off the bat, it’s a new experience. You get legit BBQ, that while not as famous as Dinosaur, is outstanding. You wait in an alley to get in, but you can drink while you wait. The fantastic selection of bourbon almost makes you wish the wait was a bit longer than it is…almost.
  2. Ajisen Noodle – There’s 3 locations, but the best and most legit of the bunch is in Chinatown. You can’t get more authentic than Mott Street. They’re located at 14 Mott Street which is just a few doors down from the iconic 8 Mott Street arcade that at one point in time had the famous Tic Tac Toe chicken. The food is simple, in that there’s not a lot of options, but what’s there is tremendous. In my opinion and the opinion of many other more credible sources, Ajisen has the best ramen noodles in the country.
  3. Tacombi at Fonda Nolita – First, visit the site. Look at the scene that is Tacombi. Yes, that’s a VW van in the middle of the restaurant, serving tacos. Only in New York. Oliver Strand of the New York Times said it better than I ever could “Tacombi at Fonda Nolita doesn’t feel like a restaurant as much as an art installation, a gallery with a taqueria set up in the middle of a concrete garage just off Houston Street.” It’s a completely transformative experience.

One of the things I love about food is how passionate people get about the subject. What I love, could be something you loathe and what you think is exceptional, I might find to be “meh.” Food is a personal thing. Similar to music, there’s more than enough options to go around, to satisfy everyone’s palette.