Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

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How I Did With My 2017 Predictions

Snapchat Stock

We’re in the home stretch of 2017. I don’t foresee anything dramatic happening between now and the 31st that would impact the assessment of my 2017 predictions. I’m using the same rules as I always do. Each prediction will be evaluated critically. An accurate prediction will garner 1 point. A miss, earns a fat 0. I try to avoid the middle, but if a situation should arise where a prediction could be considered accurate by some, it will generate 1/2 a point.

For a recap of my 2016 predictions, click here. The headline for 2016 was 8.5/15 or 56.7%. This was even worse than, my 2015 predictions where I scored a 6.5/10. I’ve been treading downward since the high of my 2012 predictions where 90% were right. The 2014 predictions had an 80% success rate, but that was better than my 2013 predictions, which scored 60%.

So, let’s get on with it! The original prediction from 2017 is listed first and in bold font. The analysis follows.

  1. “Voice” will be the new battleground and by the end of the year, we will see Amazon, via Alexa as the clear cut #1, in the category. As part of this, Apple will release a Siri home product, but it will not succeed in besting Amazon or Google. Ding, ding, ding! In June, Apple announced the HomePod. Originally scheduled to launch in 2017, it’s now been delayed til 2018. Apple has a long way to go to catchup with Amazon.
  2. The prevailing theory is that the iPhone 8 will be a revolutionary step forward for phones in the way the original iPhone was. It won’t be, as measured through new hardware and software features. Despite that, the iPhone 8 will outpace iPhone 7 sales, globally. This is the classic case of earning 1/2 a point. The iPhone 8 was not a revolutionary step forward, but it has not outpaced iPhone 7 sales. However, this comes with the caveat that I, nor did anyone else see the iPhone X coming.
  3. In a similar way to how vinyl is propping up music sales, we will see a renaissance in real books. Yes, books, the kind with actual paper, will see growth. Since this is supposed to be the “clear cut” section, I believe as a %, books will outpace the sales growth of digital/ebooks. This definitely happened. Per CNN, “The same trend is on display in the U.S., where e-book sales declined 18.7% over the first nine months of 2016, according to the Association of American Publishers. Paperback sales were up 7.5% over the same period, and hardback sales increased 4.1%.”
  4. The term “predictive analytics” will displace “big data” as the buzzword du jour for marketers. This will happen as companies realize they already have lots of data, but they need to start using it in a way that isn’t about looking back. We will measure this with Google Trends. This did not happen, was not even close. Epic fail. I actually do think this is happening at organizations, but it hasn’t become mainstream enough for Google Trends to pick up on it.
  5. The Verizon-Yahoo merger will continue as planned. It will be the 1st of 3 large such mergers that will be announced or close in 2017. Consolidation is the only path forward, when 99% of the digital ad growth is split between Facebook and Google. This happene. Verizon and Yahoo! became Oath. What were the other 2? Well the AT&T – Time Warner merger was announced, but hasn’t closed. The other? Well, that’s the hotly debated Sinclair – Tribune merger.
  6. We will see a significant decrease in social media sharing, but not necessarily usage. There will be more consuming of “content” than there will be in sharing that content. This drop in sharing will be fueled by 3 reasons. First, with the continued rise of “gotcha journalism” and social justice warriors, people will think before they tweet, so to speak. The fear of retribution for posting something, initially thought of as innocuous, will decrease the willingness to share. Second, the rise in the combination of “pay wall” type approaches to content with “fake news” will make people less inclined to want to share. Third and last, as Facebook and others becomes more and more of media/content creators, the walled garden approach to building networks will stunt cross platform and network sharing. 20%!!!! That’s how much sharing is down on Facebook. Dang! Yeah, I nailed this one.
  7. Facebook will see the wrath of the new administration. In a similar way to how Microsoft was seen as monopolistic and anti-competitive, Facebook will be targeted for the same reason, in addition to being targeted for their perceived control over how what media is consumed. The attempts by Facebook to curb “fake news” will backfire. Fiscally it was a good year for Facebook. But, reputation-wise, it was not a good year. My prediction accurately forecasted that Facebook would be targeted by the administration and the attempts to fix fake news, did not work.
  8. In 2016 we saw a handful “startups” get acquired by the legacy companies they compete against. For example, Dollar Shave Club’s purchase to Unilever and Jet.com’s purchase to Walmart. In 2017 we are not only going to see more of this, but we’re going to see it happen in unique and unexpected ways. For example Whole Foods acquiring Instacart or Target purchasing Refinery29. So, yeah, this happened A LOT this year. Take your pick. We have Amazon buying Whole Foods. Then we have Ikea buying TaskRabbit. I still expect Instacart to be purchased by a retailer at some point.
  9. Twitter will sell to an unlikely buyer. For example, Bezos (not Amazon) will buy it and then bolt it on to WaPo. Another unlikely buyer would be someone like Microsoft, who would then integrate it into things like LinkedIn and Yammer! An example of a likely buyer would be Google. Fail. Total swing and miss.
  10. I’m bringing forward a prediction from 2016. I think I was spot on, but a year early. Snapchat will IPO, but the IPO will flop. Did I say flop? I should have said crashed and burned. The IPO started at $17 and then rose to $24. It sits below $15 now and the future does not look bright at all.

So, how did I do? 7.5 out of 10. I missed on Twitter selling, predictive analytics over taking big data and the while the iPhone 8 was in fact not revolutionary, it did not outpace iPhone 7 sales. If we go back to 2012, my 5 year total to 71% (42.5/60). This was a good rebound year. Over the next few weeks I’ll be working on my 2018 predictions. There’s going to be a lot chew on for next year.

Is The Internet Of Things Making Us Dumber?

J.A.R.V.I.S

What isn’t connected to the internet, these days? Toasters? Yep. Thermostats? Check! Lights? You bet. But, what about crockpots? Oh, most definitely. Just about anything that could be connected to the internet, is in fact already connected or will be. That is, by definition, the internet of things. We were promised, the “smart home.” The idea being that with our devices connected to the internet, they would become more intelligent and that new found intelligence would create efficiency, save money, reduce friction and bring about joy.

“Machine learning” and “automation” aren’t consumer facing terms, but they are the underlying reasons why a smart home, could be, just that. Your Nest Thermostat learns your preferences. It knows when you’re home, when you’re gone and when you’re sleeping. It adjusts the temperature to align with those factors and to save you money. That’s the very definition of “smart.”

The past few years were focused on making all of our devices smarter. On some level, they’ve succeeded. Today, the focus is on the combination of internet connected things, machine learning and automation coming together to bring you some form of artificial intelligence. That sounds exciting. After all, who wouldn’t want their very own version of Iron Man’s J.A.R.V.I.S? Amazon has Alexa. Google has Home. Apple has Siri (though not in a device beyond your laptop, phone or tablet). There are more. They’re coming.

I have booth a Google Home and an Amazon Alexa. Considering my own usage and what I’ve observed from other owners, I am convinced, that these devices, in their current format, are making us dumber.

Go back 20 years and imagine a debate in a bar, during a basketball game about whether Michael Jordan had 6 MVPS or 5. That debate would rage on. You would ask other patrons. In doing so, you’d interact with them. You might engage the bartender to answer this question. At some point, you might go to the library or use your computer, after you’ve left the bar, to find the answer and thus, settle the debate. The smart phone came along and it changed that experience, forever. We had answers in a handful of taps. On one hand we were more informed, with limitless knowledge at our fingertips. On the other hand, we became people incapable of making eye contact with one another for more than 10 seconds.

“Personal Assistants” like Alexa and Home are a natural extension of the phone, right? Instead of typing, “how many MVPs does Michael Jordan have?”, I can now just say, “ok google, how many how many MVPs does Michael Jordan have?” For the record, he has 5. He was robbed of a 6th, because writers felt bad that no one else was winning MVPs. So, one year, they gave it to Karl Malone. I digress. Back to the topic at hand; so, why do I think these devices are making us dumber?

  1. Erosion of People/Social Skills: as explained above, we’re losing the ability to carry conversations. While, yes, there will be more and more technology in our lives, I don’t foresee a world, where we never work with, nor have to interact with people.
  2. The Dumbing Down of Language: to get the most out of Alexa, Siri, Home and others, you speak a broken down version of your natural language. Our “English”, if you will, has become laughable. Because we’re being trained to issue commands that are understood by the software, we omit words or convert the proper spoken word into something so basic, it resembles a toddler first learning to speak.
  3. The Elimination of Context: Part of why you’re taught “why” in math instead of how to “ask” a calculator for the answer, is so that we have foundational knowledge. Why? Because, that added context will help us learn how and when to apply the foundational knowledge in real world situations. Geometry teaches us to play pool better. Seriously. Answers, without context, are not just lazy, they undermine our thirst for knowledge. Information, is not, knowledge.

The future is going to be digitally driven and internet connected. There is no doubt. But, if the starting point for what my kids, Cora (age 9) and John (age 7) learn, is a broken down form of language, that teaches them to conform to the norms of an algorithm over traditional social skills and that they shouldn’t have to learn about the underlying context to an answer, aren’t we just raising robots?

Things That Will Happen In 2017

Nostradamus

Here’s a recap of how I did with my 2016 predictions. The TL;DR for 2016 would be, not very good. But, a new year brings about new hope and opportunity to be more right than wrong. For reference, these are the rules I’ve used for the past several years; they govern how I approach predictions.

  1. My predictions generally cover the marketing, advertising and technology industry. On occasion, I veer into pop culture.
  2. I try to avoid softballs. Mashable is so good at it, there’s no sense in serving them up.
  3. Predictions are made with no insider info. They’re based only on what I think will happen.
  4. What I think will happen and what I want to happen, are, in fact, 2 completely different things.
  5. At the end of the year, I grade myself on how I did. Each prediction is analyzed and either 1 point (completely right), a .5 point (partially correct) or 0 points (totally missed) are awarded.

In 2016, I took a high volume approach and provided 15 predictions. This year, I’m going to pare back the list to 10, but divide the 10 into 3 categories:

  1. Clear Cut / Binary: For example X company’s stock will grow 10% YoY. Assessing if this happened or didn’t, will be easy. There will be 5 of these.
  2. Hail Mary / Swinging for the Fences: I’m anticipating getting only one of these right. There will be 3 of these.
  3. Gray areas / Open for Interpretation: Through one lens, it could could like I nailed it, but through another, not so much. There will be 2 of these.

With that out of the way, on to the show!

Clear Cut / Binary

  1. “Voice” will be the new battleground and by the end of the year, we will see Amazon, via Alexa as the clear cut #1, in the category. As part of this, Apple will release a Siri home product, but it will not succeed in besting Amazon or Google.
  2. The prevailing theory is that the iPhone 8 will be a revolutionary step forward for phones in the way the original iPhone was. It won’t be, as measured through new hardware and software features. Despite that, the iPhone 8 will outpace iPhone 7 sales, globally.
  3. In a similar way to how vinyl is propping up music sales, we will see a renaissance in real books. Yes, books, the kind with actual paper, will see growth. Since this is supposed to be the “clear cut” section, I believe as a %, books will outpace the sales growth of digital/ebooks.
  4. The term “predictive analytics” will displace “big data” as the buzzword du jour for marketers. This will happen as companies realize they already have lots of data, but they need to start using it in a way that isn’t about looking back. We will measure this with Google Trends.
  5. The Verizon-Yahoo merger will continue as planned. It will be the 1st of 3 large such mergers that will be announced or close in 2017. Consolidation is the only path forward, when 99% of the digital ad growth is split between Facebook and Google.

Hail Mary / Swinging for the Fences

  1. We will see a significant decrease in social media sharing, but not necessarily usage. There will be more consuming of “content” than there will be in sharing that content. This drop in sharing will be fueled by 3 reasons. First, with the continued rise of “gotcha journalism” and social justice warriors, people will think before they tweet, so to speak. The fear of retribution for posting something, initially thought of as innocuous, will decrease the willingness to share. Second, the rise in the combination of “pay wall” type approaches to content with “fake news” will make people less inclined to want to share. Third and last, as Facebook and others becomes more and more of media/content creators, the walled garden approach to building networks will stunt cross platform and network sharing.
  2. Facebook will see the wrath of the new administration. In a similar way to how Microsoft was seen as monopolistic and anti-competitive, Facebook will be targeted for the same reason, in addition to being targeted for their perceived control over how what media is consumed. The attempts by Facebook to curb “fake news” will backfire.
  3. In 2016 we saw a handful “startups” get acquired by the legacy companies they compete against. For example, Dollar Shave Club’s purchase to Unilever and Jet.com’s purchase to Walmart. In 2017 we are not only going to see more of this, but we’re going to see it happen in unique and unexpected ways. For example Whole Foods acquiring Instacart or Target purchasing Refinery29.

Gray Areas / Open for Interpretation

  1. Twitter will sell to an unlikely buyer. For example, Bezos (not Amazon) will buy it and then bolt it on to WaPo. Another unlikely buyer would be someone like Microsoft, who would then integrate it into things like LinkedIn and Yammer! An example of a likely buyer would be Google.
  2. I’m bringing forward a prediction from 2016. I think I was spot on, but a year early. Snapchat will IPO, but the IPO will flop.

That’s a lot for a year. Can’t wait to see what happens!

How I Did With My 2015 Predictions

It’s always easy to make a bold prediction about what will happen. It’s much harder to hold yourself accountable for what you predicted would happen. Every year, I evaluate, with brutal honesty, how I did with forecasting what would take place in the current year.

For reference, her was my post last December that outlined everything I thought would happen in 2015. Additionally, please keep in mind, my 2014 predictions had an 80% success rate , my 2013 predictions saw a 60% thumbs up rate and my 2012 predictions were 90% right. While my 3-year average of being 85% on the mark, is great, it’s by no means an indicator of how this pas year’s predictions will go. If you will, sometimes, it’s better to be lucky, than good.

Without further adieu, here are my 2015 predictions, with analysis and scoring in bold font.

  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. This was a home run, across the board. Apple purchased Beats, turned it into Apple Music, launched a free trial and now has nearly 1/3 the number of paying subscribers as Spotfiy. Depending on how you cut the data, it’s either #2 or #3 in the marketplace. As they propelled forward we saw upstarts like Tidal flop and mainstays like Pandora and Last.FM are beginning the death spiral.
  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. A mixed bag here. If you look at radio as being live traditional radio, digital radio streaming (eg I Heart Radio) and satellite radio, I was wrong. It’s flat or slightly down. But, if you account for podcast usage, I nailed it. Podcasts (who knew) are driving radio growth. Given that Nielsen and other reporting services consider podcasts, “radio”, I’m taking this as a win.
  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. Depending on your perspective this was a 50% right or 100% right, perspective. Google Glass is dead; yes dead. Officially, Google+ isn’t dead and it’s shifted as to being a connection platform . But, that’s like saying, technically, Tidal isn’t dead. By technicality, I’m going with 100% right, because I didn’t say Google+ would die. I did say it might pivot, which it has.
  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. Total miss. Never happened. The FDA even said, they have no interest in regulating this industry, right now.
  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.
  6. 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. No matter how you look at it, Google had a down year for traditional search. Here’s two great articles, one from Business Insider (yes, Business Insider) shows the macro shift and this article covering Google’s Q3 financial results, shows search to be struggling, though not failing. Revenue up, CPC’s are down and usage is down, except in mobile. This prediction came true.
  7. 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. Happened. It’s a billion dollar business. The Apple Watch is #1 in the smartwatch category, but the smartwatch category is still tiny.
  8. 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. There were some pretty hefty data breaches. I’m looking at you Snapchat…again. But, there was nothing that was widespread to the point that it acted like a daisy chain and impacted dozens of companies. I missed on this.
  9. 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. So, I went big on this one. It’s a mix of right and wrong with the predictions. Let’s start with the C-Suite emphasis on digital. I nailed this one. Take your pick on the examples. You have Barnes & Noble, The White House, LVMH and so on. C-suites are recognizing the need for digital talent at the most senior level. What hasn’t seemed to happen, which is surprising to me, is that the people taking these roles aren’t younger or from more non-traditional backgrounds. I imagine that will change in time. With respect to the job eliminations, there weren’t many to speak of, which is a good thing. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t drama or a lot of firings for doing or saying dumb things. But, there wasn’t a C-level person at a large organization or startup that was relieved of his/her duties for saying/doing something that society deemed unfit. Net-net, this was a 50/50 prediction.
  10. 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. Total miss. Never happened. There were some minor things done by Publicis. But, there was no mega merger, and apparently, for good reason.

Not bad. Not perfect. But, not bad. By my count I was correct on 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7. I whiffed on 4, 8 and 10. 9 was 1/2 correct and 1/2 wrong. The jury is still out on 5, but there’s no doubt it’ll be the highest grossing movie of all time, based on the early sales performance of pre-purchased tickets. With that in mind, I’m taking it as a win and will modify if proven wrong. Thus the tally is 6.5 right and 3.5 wrong, for a 65% hit rate. Considering how much bolder these predictions were, I’ll take it! That brings my 4-year tally to 75.7% (26.5/35). If this were Vegas and I was playing the tables or sports book, I’d be rich. But, alas, there are no prizes here.

I’ll have my 2016 predictions up by Christmas. Thanks for reading.

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.

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.

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.

Friday Five – July 18, 2014

Google contact lenses: Tech giant licenses smart contact lens technology to help diabetics and glasses wearers
http://ind.pn/1zN0MSO
Talk about the internet of things, being something more than just a scale that can tweet your weight. Google and Novartis are partnering up to create contact lenses that among other things, could measure a wearer’s vitals and eliminate the need for painful blood tests.

How The World Cup Played Out On Facebook Versus Twitter
http://onforb.es/1zMVoiI
Good insight. I won’t bury the lead, “Twitter is where people go to talk about surprising, unexpected events as they’re unfolding. Facebook is where people go to record their feelings about big, shared milestones somewhat after the fact. The World Cup told us what we already know.” definitely worth reading and for a more in-depth analysis check out twitter’s publicly released info about the activity surrounding the World Cup http://bit.ly/1zMVxCM

People remember ads more when they binge on TV shows
http://bit.ly/1zMVHKj
“A binge watching audience is different than the traditional one because binge viewers are more invested in the content on the screen, and that includes the ads, said Pamela Marsh, director of primary research and insights for Annalect, which conducted the study.” While this is great for advertisers, it could be bad for people in general. A recent study indicates that binge watching TV kills us faster http://nbcnews.to/1zMVPtc

Publishers have an updated evergreen strategy: Make the old new again
http://bit.ly/1zMWfjr
Publishers are starting to realize that “news” and “content” doesn’t have to be new to perform really well. Content from a few months to a few years back can be just as engaging, if not more, than content that’s new and fresh. This really isn’t too crazy when you consider the great images that are shared by people, across social networks, on every Thursday (aka Throwback Thursday). As Don Draper once remarked, nostalgia is potent.

An Actually Useful Version of Yo Is Warning Israelis of Rocket Strikes
http://wrd.cm/1zMYLWJ
Have you heard of “Yo!” – it’s a messaging app that lets you say “Yo!” to all your friends. Yes, I’m serious. Stop shaking your head. It’s real. There’s no shortage of jokes about the app. As ridiculous as the concept seems, Yo! Is now serving a higher purpose. “Yo users can now follow “RedAlertIsrael” to get a “Yo” at the same time that the sirens go off. The user typically receives a warning via smartphone 15 to 90 seconds before a rocket hits.” Impressive and innovative.

Friday Five – January 24, 2014

How Spotify, Netflix and Amazon control your online habits
http://bit.ly/1asCeFB
“The more we know about you, the better the engine can be,” says Spotify’s Donovan Sung. This is why I’m still a big believer that the best is yet to come for Facebook. Choice Architecture is one of the most difficult things to grasp. When you have 3 ice cream flavors, choice is easy. When you have 100 it’s substantially harder. How information is presented will impact the consumer’s decision. This is why I think in-store design is so important, yet unfortunately overlooked.

Former Apple CEO backs virtual doctor’s office to create the ‘consumer era’ of medicine
http://bit.ly/1asDCbg
First, this is pretty damn cool. Second, do you realize we’ve been talking about this concept for roughly 10 years? The first doctor to get mainstream coverage of this was Dr. Jay Parkinson. In a Wired magazine article from 2007, he shared how he was using email, video chat and IM to treat patients. Perhaps, the world and technology needed to catchup to his trailblazing ideas. This is a great example of why I believe we are living in the Now Economy and it’s not going to change.

Target Tests Small Store for Urban Shoppers as Young People Pick Cities Over Suburbs
http://bit.ly/1asEuN7
Interesting isn’t it? Stores were once small and in the heart of the city. Then we went to the super sized Wal-Mart and Target format. From there it was on to the mega sized Sam’s Club approach. But, as people are sticking in the city and foregoing cars, we’re headed back to a smaller format. This is why I think the omnichannel approach Walgreens is taking by leveraging their 8,000 store footprint and adding larger format stores into the mix, is a win. It’s always easier to make your smaller footprint a little bigger than it is to downsize your larger format store.

Trends Come and Go in Retail, but Technology Is the One Trend That Is Here to Stay
http://bit.ly/1asFq3V
I think you could also call this post, “Job Security For Those Who Love And Can Adapt To Change.” This could and should have been a longer post, instead of a primer to get people to sign up for a white paper. I don’t normally include these types of links, but even in the relatively short post, I think they may a very important point – you need a model for managing and forecasting the rapid change in technology and its impact on your business.

Our Mobile Planet
http://bit.ly/1asGa98
If you made it down this far, thanks. This post is your reward. I spent hours playing around with the Our Mobile Planet tool that Google created. The tool lets you slice and dice a large variety of data about mobile. The data spans everything from app usage to mobile shopping and you can slice the data by age, gender and geography. This is the one link you’ll keep revisiting this year. Bookmark it. Yes, I said “bookmark.”