Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: Social Media

Social Media and Philanthropy, Start Early

Every year, my kids look to raise money for the American Heart Association. It’s a program their school supports and they’ve become quite the philanthropists. I think it’s equal parts “doing good” and the competitive nature of, who can raise the most funds, that keeps them motivated.

Together they hold the record for most donations, in a single year, with over $2,200. That was 2 years ago. Since starting this program, they’ve raised more money, together, than half the school has. The $2,200 was somewhat of an anomaly, but a great example of using your platform to support your mission. In 2015, Cora, on her birthday, participate in a fireside chat, at iMedia’s Commerce Summit, in Minneapolis. Yes, at 7, she presented…and she rocked it. At the close of her session, she told the crowd about the Jump Rope for Heart program and the donations, came rolling in!

This year, they’re looking to crush it.

What I like about what they’re doing is the realization that it’s harder and harder every hear and it requires even more creativity to drive action. 3 years ago they used their parents’ email accounts. Then 2 years ago, it was twitter and YouTube. This year it’s twitter, youTube, Instagram, Facebook and a twist on the experience. They realized that they couldn’t just do 1 video and call it a day, especially after participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge. So, this year, they created a model where they’ll do certain things, when the donation amount hits a specific threshold. For example, they might donate their time, do some yard-work or write letters to veterans.

As a dad and a marketer, I couldn’t be more proud. I encourage you to donate or offer words of encouragement. Visit their page to learn more.

Remember, if you donate, I’ll buy your daughter’s Girl Scout Cookies, donate to your kid’s project to save a rare half turtle-half horse, in Australia or help drive whatever project is their passion.

If we don’t start them thinking about social, philanthropy and good, early, we all lose out.

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.

Friday Five – May 23, 2014

Anthropologie Chooses Pinterest To Launching A First Look At Their June 2014 Catalog
In another example of how important Pinterest is becoming to retailers, Anthropologie chose Pinterest, not email, not their website, not Facebook, to tease customers with the new items that are going to be featured in next month’s June printed/mailed catalog. As part of the Pinterest launch they partnered with Sarah Yates, a noted and influential blogger, that’s already being read by their customer base. I’m clearly not the target, but these shoes are something else http://bit.ly/1vM4g62

How Glamour is rethinking content for the mobile era
Big data. Yep. Big data. That’s what’s driving Glamour’s new approach to content. “Glamour, using data from Parse.ly, Omniture and Chartbeat, saw fashion readers tend to come in around lunchtime and again at night, when they’re planning their outfit for the next day. They tend to read on the desktop, whose bigger screen is better suited to perusing outfits than smartphones.” But, then “around 2 p.m., traffic to Glamour’s celebrity content spikes. Entertainment-seekers typically come from Facebook via their smartphone and look for updates on stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Glamour started posting later in the day, which led to an 11 percent increase in unique visitors and 23 percent lift in pageviews to its entertainment channel.” Simple, smart and strategic. You can’t assume people will consume your content the same way across all screens, devices and times of the day. This is one of the things that makes creating a strong content strategy so challenging.

What Are You Drinking?
No really, what are you drinking. This beautifully built site experience from The New York Times, is a brilliant example of simplifying choices and helping people make smart decisions. I highly recommend you spend a few minutes playing around with the experience. It impresses and inspires.

Saatchi Launches Digital Training Program
Not the first and certainly not the last; advertising agency Saatchi is launching a new program aimed at improving the digital skills of all their employees. It’s not just agencies, it’s also our vendor partners like General Mills who are investing in programs aimed at improving the digital knowledge and skills of employees: http://bit.ly/1vMa7bB – The quest to be digitally fit is continual. It never stops. Hopefully Friday Five is one of many building blocks you’re using to stay sharp.

Doctors Check Online Ratings From Patients and Make Change

About 25% of U.S. adults consulted online physician-rating sites, and more than a third of them went to a physician or avoided one based on the ratings, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

That’s a big change from a few years ago. As social media feedback becomes a decision making criteria for patients, doctors are making adjustments to avoid being given more bad grades. My favorite quote from the article is this:

“First we did what anyone would do, we just ignored it,” says Dr. DeNicola. “Then new patients were actually canceling appointments because of reviews and we realized this could be more serious than we thought,” he says.

Be it reviews of doctors, restaurants or hair stylists, social media feedback is here to stay and everyone is taking notice.

The Human API Is The Future Of Big Data

You are the next app. Yes, you. And you. And you over there in the back. You are all the next app. Ok, technically, not you. But, your data. No, I don’t mean your name, your email address or your birth date. Those are old school pieces of data that will continue to depreciate in value, over time. When I say you and when I say your data, I literally mean all the data you generate.

On some level, the near future is mobility, big data and personalization. The irony of course is that’s not really a new trend. Companies as far back as the catalogue business models of the 1930’s relied on our data. Where we lived. What we ordered. How much we spent. How often we ordered. Since that boom of the 30’s companies have always valued our data and tried to collect it. Remember those warranty cards you filled out? They were really just an easy way for the manufacturer to learn more about the person who just bought their item. Smart, right? Today, when you login to a site with Facebook Connect, you’re trading your data for simplicity.

Digital DNA

We trade data all the time. But, something is changing. As companies look to advance their product pipeline, they’re more reliant than ever on us to power those products. Let me offer some examples:

  1. For Nest to continue its meteoric growth, it’s going to need more data about you and your home. Devices that are part of “connected home” will take off, provide value and offer a wow factor that leads to broad adoption when it’s powered by more and more data about us. Imagine Nest changing the temperature of your house when it knows you’re within 5 miles of it. How does it know? Because you allowed Nest to track your location so that this happens automatically.
  2. What about Samsung’s entire foray into wearable devices, including the biometric tracking that’s part of the Samsung Galaxy 5? Those “wow” features are only of value and help Samsung provide better phones and better experiences if YOU allow them to have access to your fingerprints, your pulse and more.

Those are just two very simple examples that underscore a simple truth: companies will need our “DNA” to make their products work.

It’s been long said, if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product. That’s helped us accept the pervasive tracking by platforms like Google and Facebook. We get access to their great platforms at no financial cost, because we’re providing them with data that they are able to resell to advertisers for a significant upside.

But, what happens, when you’re not only the product, you’re also paying for the product? Shouldn’t my data lead to some type of financial benefit? After All, without my data, they’re products are underpowered, which slows their roadmap, which leads to poorer financial performance.

We are entering an age of mutual exchange. Never before have we been on such a equal playing field as companies. They need us as much as we need them. Let’s take a relatively small example that proves this theory out. Today, Progressive Insurance gives you a discount for letting them track your car driving habits with their Snapshot product. You’re getting a financial value for your data. That’s mutual exchange. That’s the future.

Now, let’s take a bigger example. Today, Google takes your data and in essence sells it to companies to market you; you don’t see a dime. Yes, you get to access things like Gmail for free, but even with those products, you’re at the mercy of Google’s roadmap. Remember, Google Reader and how Google killed it, despite people not wanting it to be killed? If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.

Well, what would happen if Microsoft’s Bing, said, you know what Joe Consumer, you’re in control of your own data and in doing so wrote you a check every month for how they’ve used it, based on how you’ve opted in. The more data you shared, the more you’re worth and the more you’re paid. Would you use Bing more?

You AND your personal social network are now the new API.  Don’t turn your most valuable asset, your data, into a commodity. You’re worth more than that. Companies should be paying us to access our API, not the other way around.

The 15% Rule Has No Place In Today’s Digital World

Read “Where The Suckers Moon.” Seriously. Before you continue with this post, go to Amazon, add it your cart and check out. Get the Kindle version and the softcover version. Why? Simple; it’s the greatest book ever written about the advertising industry. That’s broad. For the purposes of this post, Randall Rothenberg in a few hundred pages, gives all the background you could ever want or need, to help understand why the 15% model was created and why it’s been so challenging to move off of that outdated model.

In the earliest days of advertising, an agency took a straight commission off of placing and buying media. That commission eventually settled around 15%. There were companies still using this model 10 years ago. Old habits die hard. That 15% commission became a defacto standard for how much an agency should be compensated relative to the media spend. If you spend $10M in media, you shouldn’t spend more than $1.5M to produce the creative needed to satisfy that media buy. Depending on who you talk to or what association you belong to, that 15% is as low as 10% for some categories or as high as 20% in others. But, the general average is STILL 15%.

The model was simple. It was clean. It enabled planning to be easier and faster, because everyone knew the compensation model. It was also a model that was born when we were only planning against a limited number of communication channels: TV (3 channels at most), print, radio and outdoor.

The model worked well for legacy media channels, because the distribution was expensive, but production was relatively cheap. Let’s take a real world example: the cost to create a commercial is roughly 600K. The media cost for a 30-second Super Bowl spot is roughly $4M. This places the ratio of agency spend to create the ad, right at 15%, which is right in line with historical averages used for the last 50 years. It’s also quite consistent with reports from major industry associations and reports.

Today, where we have such high media fragmentation this model falls apart. Marketing in a digital world, requires a completely different set of models and requires us to rethink how we’re spending our money. With digital, distribution is relatively cheap. It’s the creative that’s expensive. Those who understand and embrace this have settled between 30% and 40% for the dollars needed to support a digital driven campaign. It makes sense. The rough cost to create the famous Oreo Super Bowl tweet was $2,000. That figure is based on the 15 minutes it took to create and publish the image, multiplied by the list of people who were attached to the Cannes submission for the ad, multiplied by a simple conservative blended rate of $200/hour.

Before we continue, let me clear, I’m not suggesting that Oreo actually paid 360i $2,000 for that tweet. I’m sure the cost to create that tweet, from an already once used image, was accounted for as part of a broader client/agency fee agreement. The $2,000 is a real number however. It’s the real dollars needed to create that tweet as a one-off piece of creative…just like the $600K is the relative cost to create a one-off Super Bowl commercial.

With that said, think about that…$2,000 for 1 tweet. What if you need 8 great tweets a day, every day for a year? Well then you’d be spending $4.38M in just twitter creative. Even with a volume discount of 50%, you’re talking $2.19M per year. AND, that’s just twitter? We know the digital patch quilt world we operate in is much larger than just twitter. We need creative and content for Facebook, Pinterest, your emails, Instagram, your website, Tumblr and so on.

But, for the sake of simplification, let’s just focus on twitter. And more specifically, let’s just focus on a 1 day twitter campaign. The most recent publicly documented cost for a promoted trend is $200K. A promoted trend can generate upwards of 90M impressions as seen my Coca-Cola, more is more generally in the 30M impression range. Let’s split the difference at 50M impressions for an average trend campaign.

Creative wear-out is a reality. If you show someone the same ad enough times they either take action or start tuning it out. With digital display, the rule of thumb is you need 1 creative unit per every 1.5M – 3M impressions. The variance is tied directly to the reach/frequency model you need for your category (eg auto vs. CPG). Twitter, of course, isn’t display. We check twitter several times a day. If anything you’d need more messages/creative units because the wear out would happen faster. That said, since there’s no publicly available data to substantiate that, we’ll roll with the following campaign specifics:

  • 1 Promoted Trend Campaign
  • $200,000 for the cost of the trend campaign
  • The campaign would yield 50M impressions with creative wear-out happening at 1.5M impressions
  • The cost to create an award winning tweet is $2,000

So with the above, we would need 33 creative units/messages at a cost of $2,000 per piece of creative for a total cost of $66,000. At that cost and the cost of the promoted trend, we’ve clearly exceeded the 15% “rule.” We’re at 33% (I did the math for you). If we get our bulk discount of 50%, we’re at 16.5%. Based on my experience, when you consider the cost of the account coordinator to open the job # to the Chief Creative Officer to sign off on the job, the cost is going to be more than $750.

Keep in mind, our example is limited to twitter. We haven’t even started looking at the costs to then produce creative unique to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other large social platforms, across the very fragmented digital landscape.

Screens are getting smaller and more varied.  The number of “media” channels consumers are flocking to is exponentially increasing. Consider that Vine, Jelly, SnapChat, Medium and so many others didn’t even exist a year ago. We’re adding more and more places to visit every day…yet the time we’re spending at those places is becoming more and more fleeting. To me, this means we, as marketers, get even less time to make an impact with our consumers. And that’s why you need award winning level creative every single time. You can’t deliver C-level creative experiences. They all need to be A-level. Creating A-level creative, means making your creative unique to each publisher, placement, consumer segment and person.

For years, traditional marketers have taken issue with a “shotgun” approach to marketing. The argument is that it’s too broad and not focused. Some I’ve worked with, favor a “champagne pyramid” approach to marketing, where you fill up the top glass (usually TV) and only delve into another marketing channel, after the first glass is full. This trickle down approach to marketing spend simply isn’t consistent with today’s digital world; it’s antiquated, but easy to manage.

Is it any wonder that people who cling to a champagne pyramid approach to marketing, still cling to the 15% rule; something created over 50 years ago?

I can’t tell you if the right percentage is 20%, 30%, 50%. But, I can tell you the 15% rule has no place in today’s digital world.

Now, go buy Where The Suckers Moon…now!

Friday Five – February 14, 2014

What Would Happen If You improved Everything by 1%: The Science of Marginal Gains
Probably my must read of the week. Great post. Real world application. Can’t beat it. In short…not a whole lot changes by improving something 1%…initially. But, over time these small improvements add up in big ways. There’s not right or wrong answer here. You could bet big like Google and want to change the world instantly. Doing so could lead to complete failure (eg Knoll, Google Wave and so far Google Glass). Or you can take the slow and steady path.

Pinterest Is Impacting The Real World
So I know this is supposed to be 5 links total, but 3 different pieces of interrelated Pinterest news happened this past week. First, Target announced it would launch “collections” from top pinners. Yes, I’m serious. Then Caribou Coffee created a 5-story Pin Board, built around #CaribouInspires. They of course, placed it in the Mall of America in Minnesota. I saved the best for last. The Redwood City police are using Pinterest to share items that have been stolen. That. Is. Brilliant.

Native advertising: Too expensive and too much effort for agencies?
Surface level analysis, but they’re spot on. The reason why it’s too expensive and too much effort is simple. It’s the shackles of the old media world, holding agencies back. Let me explain. In the earliest days of advertising, an agency took a straight commission off of placing and buying media. That commission eventually settled around 15%. There were companies still using this model 10 years ago. Old habits die hard. That 15% commission became a defacto standard for how much an agency should be compensated relative to the media spend. If you spend $10M in media, you shouldn’t spend more than $1.5M to produce the creative needed to satisfy that media buy. This might work for TV or Print, where distribution is expensive, but production is relative cheap. For example, the average Super Bowl spot costs between $800K and $1.25M to create. The media cost for a Super Bowl spot is roughly $5M. But, in digital, distribution is cheap. It’s the creative that’s expensive. Those who understand and embrace this have settled around 40% for the dollars needed to support a digital driven campaign. It makes sense. The rough cost to create the famous Oreo Super Bowl tweet was $1,500. That figure is based on the 15 minutes it took to create and publish the image, multiplied by the list of people who were attached to the Cannes submission for the ad, multiplied by a simple conservative blended rate of $200/hour. Think about that…$1,500 for 1 tweet. What if you need 8 great tweets a day, every day for a year? Well then you’d be spending $4.38M in just twitter creative. Even with a volume discount of 50%, you’re talking $2.19M per year. AND, that’s just twitter? Native ads shouldn’t be churn and burn banners. They need to be crafted specifically for that publisher and that placement…just like a tweet, or a pin or a status update. Right now, most clients still live in a 15% world and that’s just not going to cut it for agencies. The juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

Event Marketing Media Releases in 60 Seconds
It’s all about reducing friction and making it easier to get great social done. One of the single biggest friction points for organizations is making sure the appropriate rights for images and assets. Percolate has been attacking this space, with their platform, for years. Their most recent feature, acts like the mobile checkout at an Apple Store. Images are taken and the sign off for the usage rights are done right on your iPhone’s screen. Smooth, simple and awesome. Although, I’m sure some in-house counsel will find something wrong with it. When it comes to social media and legal, it’s a lot like whack-a-mole: there’s always some new issue to smack down.

Ordering fast food by mobile app is the new drive-through
Great mobile apps offer great utility. Taco Bell is now letting you pre-order your meal before you even go through the Drive-thru. I know his technology isn’t new. Chipotle has been doing this for some time. But while Chipotle and Taco Bell both offer Mexican food, they offer completely different experiences and in theory target different consumers. This starts to change the dynamics of the traditional fast-food restaurant experience.

Friday Five – February 7, 2014

Johnson & Johnson Takes Newspaper Readers Back With Ads That Smell Like Baby Powder
Print advertising doesn’t have to be boring. It can be fun, interesting and multi-sensory. I love how Johnson & Johnson took a relatively predictable ad channel, like print, and turned it into something you’re intrigued to interact with.

This just in: Paper is the best Facebook app ever
I think the Facebook team has been really smart in how they’ve approached mobile. By building stand alone apps that run outside of the core Facebook app experience, they can test different designs, features and approaches, without messing with the core experience. Then, after they’ve learned enough, they fold the best features into the base/core app. This allows them to innovate and improve quickly. It’s smart. It’s also why I like Paper. The other reason I like Paper is how simple, intuitive and fun the interface is. Definitely worth the time to download.

Foursquare Gets $15M And Licensing Deal From Microsoft To Power Location Context For Windows And Mobile
I guess all that Foursquare data must be worth something? Good move by Microsoft and another validation that Foursquare’s stubbornness to sell or change strategy, is going win, long term.

Arby’s Social Media Manager Gives Inside Scoop On Tweet To Pharrell That Rocked The Grammys
Sometimes being lucky is better than being good. But, when preparation meets lucky/opportunity, you get something truly outstanding. I love this article from Arby’s social lead on how they quickly took advantage of Pharrell’s strange hat choice during the Grammy’s. Three things really stuck out. First, there was no warm room or command center. Sometimes simple, wins. Second, they were prepared and clearly didn’t have 100s of layers of approval to work through. Third, I loved this quote “Our CMO has created an environment for our team to have freedom and flexibility.” It’s nearly exactly what I said in predicting why most Super Bowl Real Time Marketing Efforts would fail: “Fast doesn’t come from committee. It doesn’t come from running every single tweet by the brand team, legal team, corporate communications team, media team and so on. Fast comes from trust.” Kudos to their organization and to Josh Martin for being prepared, on brand and fast.

Hashtags win in Super Bowl ads, and Facebook gets even with Twitter
The game was a snoozer. The ads were hit and miss. But, one thing that was clear, social integration is here to stay for a while. 58% of Super Bowl ads integrated hashtags into their commercials. Some did it really well. Some just tacked it on at the end. The 58% number shows us that more and more brands are trying to solve for the multi-screen use of their consumers.

Why Your Super Bowl Real-Time Marketing Will Fail

The Super Bowl is a peculiar American tradition. Over 100 million people will tune in, with the advertisements as big a draw as the game itself.

Last year, with the success of the tweet from Oreo heard around the marketing world, a new tradition was born: big-event real-time marketing through the second screen. Since the Oreo tweet, brands big and small have attempted to recreate the perceived success of that one tweet. No doubt, judging from what we saw at the Grammys, we’ll see many, many more attempts to replicate the “Oreo moment” during this year’s Super Bowl. And they’ll all fail.

Having been on the inside of large complex organizations and having worked at agencies challenged with leading large complex organizations, I have seen up close and personal how brands grapple with being successful in social media.

From our couches, it’s always easy to second-guess a brand’s decisions and motives for engaging in real-time marketing. It’s even easier to critique those efforts. It’s become a bit of an event within the event, for marketers to make fun of a brand’s efforts and tag their efforts with the dreaded “#fail” hashtag.

That said, here’s why real-time marketing will come up short at the Super Bowl.

Immature client organizations.
Can you believe it’s 2014 and organizations still debate the value of digital and social marketing? It happens more often than you think. When you’re part of a team trying to change that fact, you’re looking for anything to demonstrate the merits and value of your team. You’re hoping that one tweet, that one blog post or that one Vine video catches lightning in a bottle and starts creating some type of buzz internally. Buzz eventually leads to interest, which leads to funding. It’s tough to fault an organization that’s so early in their digital maturity, for delivering something not at a Cannes Lion-worthy level. That said, you probably shouldn’t step onto the Super Bowl field, if you’re playing at a junior varsity high school level. Rarely, does something good come from that.

Social media by committee.
Social media is a team sport. Since it’s the Super Bowl, let’s look at a football analogy. The Broncos have a game plan that they’ve created for the game. The coach created that game plan. Members of the team know their role in executing that game plan. Some are meant to block and tackle. Some are meant to score. When Peyton gets into the huddle, it’s his huddle. The plays are chosen by a single person, not a committee, and only one person (Peyton) can audible the play. The person you’ve empowered with the responsibility and accountability for hitting the “send” button to deliver something on brand, on message and in context is in effect, Peyton Manning. He or she needs to have their finger on the pulse of the game, what people are talking about online during the game and how their brand fits in, if at all. For them to be effective, they need to be fast. Fast doesn’t come from committee. It doesn’t come from running every single tweet by the brand team, legal team, corporate communications team, media team and so on. Fast comes from trust.

Not enough preparation.
Measure twice, cut once. When it comes to social, 90 percent of the time should be spent on preparing and 10 percent on executing. If your planning is poor, if you haven’t thought through scenarios, if you haven’t identified your goals and if you haven’t pre-created a base foundation of content to pull from quickly, you’re not preparing enough. You can’t prep on the fly. You can make adjustments to the game plan in real time, but you shouldn’t be creating your game plan as the game is unfolding.

The wrong objectives.
What’s measured matters. It’s a tried and true maxim of corporate America. If your objectives are to make sure you drive “frequency of message” or drive “reach,” you’re more apt to post often; even when you don’t have great content to deliver at the right time. If your objectives are generic (e.g., engagement) or if they aren’t aligned with the nuances of each social platform and how people consume, share and interact with branded content, they won’t be successful.

Mistakes happen.
If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. Peyton Manning has thrown 219 interceptions in his career. But without forcing it sometimes, he wouldn’t have 491 TD passes. The best thing you can do after you make a mistake is learn from it and apply the knowledge to the next effort. Being able to do that is made so much easier if your organization understands that mistakes happen. And sometimes being lucky is better than being good. For example, Miley Cyrus could incorporate your product into one of her songs and all you need to be doing is paying attention to hit social media gold.

There is no formula for real-time marketing success, even if the endless debates over it seem to expect one to emerge. On Super Bowl Sunday, there are only two guarantees: One team will win, and real-time marketing won’t.

Please note, this post was also published on DigiDay.

The Beta Fallacy

Beta. As an industry, we seem to love that word. It conjures up ideas of excitement. Things that are in beta aren’t fully baked. They’re rough around the edges. They have cracks. Beta means, it’s not perfect. When technology and software companies would offer a beta preview of their latest creation, geeks like me, would get giddy. Getting access to something beta wasn’t something everyone received. We were part of an exclusive club by getting to experience something in beta. We were all a little cooler…in our own minds.


Somewhere along the way, as social platforms and behaviors grew, we created this belief that if something is in beta, people and companies were some how courageous for sharing it with you and the world. Our comfort with letting you look at, play with and experience something in beta is supposed to mean we’re heroic.

I’ll raise my hand and call myself out. Guilty. Yep, I’m guilty of perpetuating that concept. After all, to live your life in beta is to acknowledge we are, in fact, not perfect. Fail fast, right? Launch something, “throw it out there” and let’s “listen” to feedback in “real time” is better than testing something behind closed doors, right? Have we become a voyeur society? Perhaps. At least, that excuse, would help explain our love affair with beta.

Betas has some how grown from a purely technical term to define the current evolution of a product to the word that gives license to be mediocre. Calling something beta has now become the way to absolve ourselves for creating things aren’t very good. I mean, how can you call something bad, if it’s in beta? If it’s in beta, we’re still refining it and frankly you should just be thankful for the privilege of seeing this half baked idea, product, experience before it’s out of beta.

This has been going on for quite some time now. So what’s got me blogging about it, you ask? We’ll get there. Let’s start with a few quotes:

Being the first to do something new and complex is usually hard and expensive. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not the future.

For now, brands have to start somewhere.

Nobody tries. Nobody fails. Nobody wins.

And trying will only make it better.

If the marketing “community” is successful at tearing itself down in the pursuit of building up the profiles of individuals too fickle to be bothered, then we all lose.

At the heart of it, these are nearly all excuses for why something isn’t good. Because, it’s in the “early days”…because we all need to “start somewhere”…because if you don’t try, you’ll never “win.” At this point, let’s just quote the entire line of Successories, starting with “You can’t steal 2nd base and keep your foot on 1st.”

Frederick Wilcox Quote

The quotes were taken from two different people writing about the state of Real Time Marketing. The idea of course is we should recognize that all Real Time Marketing is in “beta” and therefore:

  1. You can’t judge or critique it
  2. You should accept and excuse mediocrity, in the name of progress

When did it come to this? Really? I’m sorry, but when I think about my role at the Campbell Soup Co., I know I have a real responsibility to do no harm to a beloved, cherished, admired and respected brand. It’s a responsibility I take seriously.

Delivering mediocrity under the guise of “beta”, won’t advance our thinking or our execution. Accepting mediocrity doesn’t create future leaders. Embracing mediocrity doesn’t make us better. Is everything we do, perfect? No. But, do we accept it something that’s not perfect, shrug our shoulders and say, “well, it’s in beta.” No. That’s just not our culture. We have higher expectations for ourselves.

I think Google really nails the use of the label, “beta” Beta, for Google, doesn’t not mean a buggy, unusable, mediocre product. Those types of products and ideas are housed under their “Labs” group. Beta for Google means significant changes may be made to the product. Gmail spent 5 years in beta and Google News spent 4 years in beta. They were not mediocre. Google didn’t say, “hey, we’re trying here, please overlook how bad this is right now…because technology will change, making it better…and if we aren’t trying and failing, then we aren’t focusing on the future.” They have a higher standard to bear for their consumers.

The marketing and advertising industry is in a significant state of flux. As we all look to make sense of the ever changing landscape, we’re trying to navigate, don’t be mediocre. Don’t offer excuses. Don’t become a “me too” in search of catching lightening in a bottle. Be better than that. Be much better than that.

We should never trade the promise of a short term gain at the expense of long term pain. I learned that in 1998, from Kevin Flatt, when I was working at Fallon. Brands are built over years. They’re built by having purposeful positioning, insights driven strategy and roadmaps that ensure they’re able to remain culturally relevant. These principles haven’t changed, just because we now have social media, big data and a sharing economy.

Think before you tweet. Don’t be a gimmick. Know your brand, it’s heritage and where it’s going.

Oh, also, please don’t judge this blog post. It’s in beta.

Social Media Brings Us Closer

Social media is such a fascinating behavior, isn’t it? No doubt, it takes it’s fair share of arrows for being something that’s destroying the concept of private moments and face to face conversations. For all that it does that’s disruptive, it certainly has a way of bringing us all a little bit closer.

On Monday this week, a great friend and colleague of mine, posted on her Facebook page that she was thankful for all the people who reached out to her and her family, during such a trying time. In her status update she included a key piece of information that had me paralyzed. She linked the tragedy to her 2.5 year old son. There were no details. I wasn’t sure what had happened. Despite that, I posted to let her know I was thinking about her and despite not knowing all the details, was hoping her and her family could persevere through this trying time.

The next day, as other people poured in with support, I learned that my good friend and her husband, lost their 2.5 year old son, unexpectedly, in the middle of the night. I had chills. As a father of two little ones, I couldn’t imagine what they were going through. My father often remarked to me that, the one golden rule of parenting, is that fathers should need not bury their sons. I was sad. I was sad for her, her family and those who had been blessed to know her son.

Throughout the week as others learned of the tragedy, they shared their thoughts and expressed their sadness. On Wednesday, there were two things that happened that really made me lean forward.

First, people started sharing photos of her son, telling stories and in essence eulogizing this boy who never had the opportunity to become a man. It was poetic. You could see how this was keeping the memory of their son alive, while introducing those who’d never met my friend or her son, to a boy who clearly created so much happiness in people’s lives.

Second, someone created a fund to help the family financially get through this situation. The target goal was $10,000. The fund exceeded that number within 24 hours. I shared the link to the fund on twitter. Random people I’d never met, but whom follow me on twitter, told me they were saddened and contributed. Strangers helping strangers…it’s a beautiful I thing.

Could this have happened without social media? Yes. These tragedies have been happening for centuries. But, as I look at just me. I’m not sure I’d have ever known about my friend’s tragedy til months dish the road. I certainly wouldn’t have known about the fund that was created, or the details of the funeral.

For all that social media gets wrong, it gets so much right. It makes us aware of the key seminal moments in our lives.

My heart goes out to my friend and her family. I don’t want to imagine how I’d survive a similar tragedy.