Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: social

My Take On Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report

Christmas is in December, you say? On the 25th? Well, perhaps it is for society at large. But, for nerdy marketers like myself, Christmas is whatever day Mary Meeker releases her Internet Trends Report. It’s generally considered the official, “State of the Internet.” I like it because it takes a macro look at how global trends are shaping micro moments and decisions. With that said, here’s the report:

It’s always a great read. So much to think about. So much to unpack. It usually takes me a good month or so to form opinions that have implications to the work I do and who I do that work for. That said, we live a world of “now”, and to that end, I look for some immediate take-aways that make me go hmmm.

  1. Voice will overtake typing. I see it happening every day. My daughter loves to ask Siri questions. For her, it’s equal parts more fun and simpler. I struggle with it, right now. But, that’s because my expectations are too high and I want specific and precise answers. The core of voice is still the basic data structure and taxonomy foundation that makes traditional search work. It’s the non-sexy, but significantly important work around SEO, data integrity and APIs that allow voice to be beneficial. Companies who have invested in sound SEO principles, clean data and great content will excel in shifting from typing to voice.
  2. With more people than ever on the web and more options competing for their time, it’s no wonder inflation in digital media is so high. Earlier in the year, I forecasted that 2017 would see a digital media inflation of 12% – 20%. This report seems to substantiate and validate that range.
  3. Apps need to do more than one thing well, to be sticky. Slide 80, does a great job of hitting this point. I’d also add, if you want your app to do just 1 thing well, you might need multiple apps. This is exactly what leaders in mobile, like Facebook, have done. They unbundled the app and are reaping the benefits.
  4. Keep in mind, messaging is still in it’s early days. We’re just now being given the ability to leverage those platforms as a business/brand. But, considering the pace that things move at, just because it’s early days, doesn’t mean you can’t/shouldn’t be experimenting with how to find your place in this channel shift.
  5. Slide 45 is a big time moment for marketers who believe in digital (yes, there are those who still don’t). This is the first time, since the report has been coming out, that advertising spend in digital equaled or surpassed usage. That’s a big tipping point. But, wow, look how underspent mobile is.
  6. Walgreens was founded in the 1900s. Look how many retailers born after us are on life support or defunct. I feel that our longevity is a testament to the innovative spirit and the focus on the customer, that we’ve always had.
  7. Slide 78 is the one area where I’d pick a LARGE bone with Ms. Meeker. The data is very misleading. On the surface it looks like Snapchat outperforms Facebook. But, when you consider that Facebook measures a video view using the IAB standard or equivalent, but Snapchat counts a view, the minute you tap, this chart means is not fairly representative of reality.
  8. There are limited reasons today to outsource your media buying and optimization. In an ad/marketing-tech world, so long as you have the horses in your stable, you’re more efficient going direct, in digital. The toughest part, of course, is getting those horses. It’s difficult to get an unfair share of high talent, out there, today.

Those were my immediate takeaways. Anything you disagree with? What would you add? I look forward to all the dissecting that different people, companies and publishers will do.

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.

Don’t Make Your Strategy Platform Dependent

Two things, this past week, caught my eye. The first, was a great article from The Economist, titled, “The message is the medium.” Take the time to read the article, in its entirety. It’s definitely worth your time. But, since we all now, everyone seems to be TL;DR, these days, this is the one graphic you need to remember:

Texting Is Dying

After years of hockey stick-like growth, we’re seeing SMS, flattening, and ultimately, declining. This doesn’t mean that messaging is declining. WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger…and yes, even snapchat, are exploding in growth and eating SMS for breakfast.

The 2nd thing that caught my eye was this article from AdWeek, that outlined YouTube “star”, Michelle Phan’s plans to launch her own content/influencer network, called Icon. Michelle’s growth came from YouTube. Without YouTube, you could very well argue, many of us wouldn’t even know who Michelle Phan, was. But, to be loyal, in this space, is to miss out…or, as Michelle, stated:

“I’m platform agnostic,” Phan said. “I’ve been platform agnostic ever since I went online. I’m not saying I’m jumping ship (from YouTube). Platforms—they come and go, but storytelling is forever.”

Well, first, she states the obvious, that she’s not leaving YouTube. Difficult to leave the golden goose, eh? But, what’s really important is what she says about platforms. Platforms, indeed come and go. 20 years ago, it was AOL. 15 years ago, you had things like GeoCities. Nearly 10 years ago, Newscorp, purchased MySpace for $580M…only to be sold 5 years later for…$35M.

Strategies can’t be platform dependent. Building your strategy on top of a platform is like building a house on quicksand. It just doesn’t work. Don’t take my word for it, ask Zynga or DataSift. This isn’t to say that a platform shouldn’t be part of your strategy. For example, your consumer connection strategy, might indicate a need to understand, “Hopes, Wishes and Dreams.” That might mean, Pinterest, is a critical part of bringing that strategy to fruition. But, while you’re riding the Pinterest wave, you need to be keeping an eye out for the next wave, and more importantly, the right moment to move on to the next wave.

As exciting and initially lucrative as it can be to invest in a specific platform, your strategy, needs to take into account an understanding of your business, your customer and the macro-level environment. As, Brodie, told Rene in Mallrats, “Breakfasts come and go, Rene, but Hartford, “the Whale,” they only beat Vancouver once, maybe twice in a lifetime.” Today, platforms, come and go. And instead of Hartford (the underdog) succeeding only once, maybe twice in a lifetime, it’s more likely that the underdog, we weren’t paying attention to, becomes the leader. Platforms are quicksand. Be careful where you step.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Biggest Challenge In Creating Quality Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 Reasons Tim Cook Just Bought Twitter

Ok, I lied. Well, technically, I didn’t lie per se. Sure, there’s nothing in this blog about Tim Cook, Apple or twitter. But, I didn’t lie. I just played by the wide open and loose rules of today’s publishers. See, what I did, was I link-baited you. You saw that salacious headline, “13 reasons Tim Cook Just Bought Twitter” and you clicked. If I had been selling ad-impressions on my site, I’d have just made a fortune.

Admittedly, you’re irritated. You expected to find an article outlining why Apple decided to buy twitter, instead, 1.5 paragraphs later, you’re still reading my lecture. You should be irritated.

Tonight, I was a bit irritated too, so, I got a bit cheeky on twitter and started generating semi on topic/semi off topic headlines that were completely made up. For example:


The number of people who tweeted me back asking for the link or thinking I’d forgotten the link was staggering. We have been conditioned to look for headlines/tweets like this…so we can click on them.

WhatsApp Link Bait

When the news first broke about Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, I rolled my eyes and I debated avoiding social media for the next few days. But, I didn’t Being plugged in to social is part of the job and the responsibility that comes from leading an organization’s social marketing efforts. Why did I want avoid? Simple, I’ve seen this news cycle before. The announcement comes out and we end up with hundreds of posts that seem an inch away from the Tyson Zone. They all follow the same formula:

The + X (a number) + Y (a noun) + Z (the actual news) + A (preposition) + (simple phrase)

For example The 18 Ways Facebook’s Acquisition of WhatsApp Is a game changer. At this point, I’m half sure publishers have simply written a script that generates these headlines. After all if Len Kendall can do it as a side project, it stands to reason a large publisher could do it too.

So, yes, I got a bit cheeky, had some fun, but also learned a lot. For example, I’m not the only marketer who’s self-aware enough to realize that:

  1. We have become conditioned to expect headlines like this
  2. We know it’s a problem

This approach to “reporting” the news could very well be called link baiting. An interesting headline rarely is paid off by the actual content contained in the article. The headline is salacious, which of course gets you to click. This bothers me. It’s always bothered me. But, now that I also have the responsibility of our Walgreens enterprise content strategy, it don’t just irritate me, it really concerns me. Let me break this down…at the end of the day branded content can only live in 3 places:

  1. Our owned real-estate: For example our website or opted-in eMails. In this case, we need to think about how we use a variety of paid and organic approaches to drive people to those locations.
  2. Distributed on another platform (e.g. twitter) organically: In this situation, we’d be recognizing that you might not want to leave the experience you’re currently in, but you still want content from us.
  3. On another publisher’s site: Because buzzwords are king, let’s call this content “native.” If it’s native content, in essence we’re paying to have our content embedded on another publisher’s site. The upside here is rather than trying to drive someone from where they already are to my site, I can “engage” them where they already are.

Bucket 1 has been around since the early 90s. Be it web-rings (yes I said web-rings) or the earliest form of display ads (remember the 120×90?) companies have been “buying” ads across the web to drive people to their sites.

Bucket 2 isn’t quite new, but, it’s not quite a mature space. Brands are still figuring out how to balance the value of building a base of followers on someone else’s platform, for the purposes of marketing to them. Yes, I said marketing. I didn’t say engaging, which, let’s be honest, is simply a more polite way of saying, marketing.

Bucket 3, though, well that’s an interesting one. You can call it “native” or any other name, but it’s still an ad. I won’t get into the merits of native ads vs. traditional display ads, here. It’s a subject I’ll tackle at a later date. With native ads the publisher is selling traffic. They’re ultimately claiming, hey, we get X millions of eyeballs to our site, thus your reach is some % of X. Simple enough, right? After all, that’s really not too different than bucket 1. We’ve been buying ad inventory on CPM models for years. In those CPM models, an advertiser chooses to advertise on that publisher’s site, because they reach X millions of eyeballs.

The big inherent difference though between bucket 1 and bucket 3 is that bucket 1 created and built during a time when portals (e.g. Yahoo, MSN) were the starting point and people browsed for content. There was a certain assumed intent. In bucket 3, when you’re essentially advertising inside the stream, the intent is debatable. Publishers are selling reach in the form of impressions, which come from clicks. Well, if I were a publisher, I’d publish outrageous headlines, just like the one that brought you here. It’s smart economics after all. As the publisher, I craft the slightly misleading, slightly on topic headline, you click, I claim your traffic, I then aggregate all the people who clicked on the link and I tell advertisers, see look how much traffic we have.

But, doesn’t it beg the question, is it really quality traffic? And that’s the rub. I applaud Facebook for taking steps to change the newsfeed algorithm so that link-baiting sites, like Upworthy were de-prioritized. Shouldn’t the headline match the actual content on the page? Jack Marshall at DigiDay recently covered this topic, in superb fashion.

We have become conditioned to look for links that fit the: The + X (a number) + Y (a noun) + Z (the actual news) + A (preposition) + (simple phrase) formula. We can’t help but click. And doing that, allows the problem to continue.

As someone focusing on an enterprise content strategy for a beloved, large and progressive organization, I’m concerned and I’m pausing. I’m tending to scrutinize the numbers publishers are providing. I have to ask myself, how much of that traffic is actually legit and how much of it was manufactured through link-baiting headlines. The difference for some marketers could millions of dollars wasted on empty clicks and impressions.

But, see, that’s something a brand cares about. That’s something the advertiser would care about. There’s little incentive for publishers to change and the associations that should be providing leadership, like the IAB, don’t even have brand-side representation. That’s quite a conundrum and I have a feeling it’s going to change. As content strategies become ever more important for organizations, there will be many others who are asking the same questions I am. I hope that has a ripple effect and we see other platforms like Twitter start to de-prioritize content that’s clearly link-bait.

How can we expect our leadership to us seriously, when we, as an industry, perpetuate such debatably unscrupulous behavior? That’s not a sexy headline, but it’s something you should think about.

At iMedia Summit Old Challenges Become New For Marketers

I love iMedia Summit. It’s on my must attend list, every year. Great locations, great content and great people, make for a valuable experience.

At this year’s summit, it was clear we’re getting closer and closer to dropping “digital” from titles and org structures. We are on the precipice of people across all industries accepting, it’s less about digital marketing and more about marketing in a digital world.

As I connected with marketers across a wide range of industries, there were 3 familiar themes that could not be ignored.

Talent: The conversation about digital talent has evolved. At one of my 1st summits, nearly 10 years ago, the conversation was about getting funding to hire someone…anyone…who could be that digital subject matter expert. While we’re definitely past those days, talent remains a thorn. Today though, it’s a thorn because we need new recruitment models to find the right talent, we need a better talent investment plan to retain talent and we need a better plan for creating leaders in organizations who have a deep and wide grasp of digital.

Content: It’s king, right? Every marketer I talked with identified different challenges in dealing with content. The most consistent pain points were how to produce enough content in a financially viable way, how to safely source and share content (legal and Pinterest apparently are still not good friends) and how to distribute content the right way. With respect to distribution, this is a battle waiting of happen in a very epic way. The old model that classical marketers still adopt where your cost to create content should not be greater than 15% of the media but, is dead and doesn’t apply to digital and social content. You will spend more than $100k to create enough quality content to support a $1M ad but across twitter and facebook. In digital, unlike TV, distribution is cheap, but the content is expensive.

New Operating Models: What should you be doing internally? What should your agency’s role be? When do you bring social in-house…and do you bring it all in-house? We need new models and approaches to building internal capabilities and for setting our partners up for success. This will require our partners to pivot quicker than they ever have before. They will need new offerings, new types of talent and different pricing approaches. We are in a sea of disruption that’s not going to calm down any time soon.

This year’s iMedia summit reaffirmed some thoughts I had and offered new perspective to think about as I lead our Social Media and Content efforts for Walgreens. It’s also fair to say, iMedia once again reminds me of why I’ve stayed in digital for 16 years…the pace of change isn’t for the weak and it’s bloody good fun to try and keep up.

Friday Five – January 31, 2014

21 real-time marketing Super Bowl prop bets
On Sunday, most of America will tune in to watch the Super Bowl. I’ll be one of them. A smaller group, will be watching the “2nd” screen just as much as their TV, to see what advertisers do during the Super Bowl. Arik Hanson has put together a very funny list of prop bets that outline some of the seemingly preposterous, but potentially likely actions by brands on Sunday. You’ll chuckle.

The Death Of Expertise
This is a long read. I’m just warning you. But, it’s also a great read. In an always on and always connected world, are we losing the reason to learn and retain knowledge? This author seems to think so. I think he’s on to something. How many times have you been in a situation where someone asks you a relative basic question and you offer the response of “just google it.” I’m guilty. Is that behavior contributing to a slow down in the development of critical thinking skills, which negates the ability to create expertise? Grab a cup of coffee and read this thoughtful post.

Millennials Not That Into ‘Things’ and That Goes for Cars Too
Solid short read. If given the choice between renting/leasing or buying, millennials would choose the former. That behavior goes across things big (cars) and small (phones). Perhaps this behavior and mindset is why marriage rates and home ownership rates are on the decline with this demographic. As a marketer, you need to rethink the value of the carrot you put in front of these consumers. Experiences will be viewed as more valuable, than tangible items.

TV Remains the Reigning Champ, but Display Internet Ads are the MVPs of 3Q
Lots of great data in the latest report on Nielsen, covering media spending habits. Nearly 60% of budgets go to TV, with only 5% going towards digital. On one hand, shocking. On the other hand, not really; old habits die hard. Keep in mind that massive gap is even AFTER digital investment increased nearly 33% year of year.
Nielsen Ad Spend Shift

Full report can be downloaded here.

13 Things You’re Not Outsourcing (But Totally Should)
Loved this post. A great mix of things you could be outsourcing at work and things you could be outsourcing in your personal life. My personal favorite on the list was “waiting.” Totally agree with how much of a life suck waiting can be.

Friday Five – January 17, 2014

There Is a Digital Talent Gap
Such a solid article from Adweek on the challenges that exist in finding strong digital talent. As an organization, your goal should be to get an unfair share of a limited pool of strong digital talent. In basic economics principles, there’s a significant amount of demand and a limited amount of supply. Get your talent locked up now…if you have it.

Brain-Train to Fight Brain Drain
I just signed up for Lumosity. I’m only a week in. I was on the fence. Not 100% sure it will/would work. After reading this outstanding review of Lumosity by the ReCode team, I’m even more excited. Check it out, you might become a convert.

Can Performance Be Quantified? Wearable Tech In The Office
The quantified lives trend is more than just tracking your steps and sleep patterns. Companies are turning to wearable tech devices to start tracking and improving the performance of employees. I love this idea and think it’s here to stay. We already see it in sports, where we want athletes to performa at their best so that the org is maximizing their investment. Big data for the little guy is FitBit, now we’re going to seeing Big Data ABOUT the Little Guy, for Companies.

2014 – The Embolden Years: Change agents lead the way for digital transformation
Your must read of the week in my opinion. Digital is primed for a breakout role and a seat at the adult table in organizations. Finally, we’re at a point where we aren’t questioning the need for digital. We are still questioning the role and value of it at an organization. Each org is different, but one thing’s for sure, digital change agents are going to lead large organizational transformations. Having been in this role before, it’s not easy…it’s complicated.

‘Anchorman 2’ box office: What happened?
Full disclosure, I don’t get Will Ferrell’s humor. I don’t find him talented. I walked out of the first Anchorman and demanded a refund. For a campaign that had all the stunts and a lot of buzz, the sales just haven’t been there. The LA Times does a outstanding job breaking it all done. Remember folks, buzz doesn’t always equal sales.

Friday Five – January 10, 2014

Amazon Confirms That the Giant Amazon Box From Reddit Is Real
I love this. I love this for so many reasons. Bezos often says something to the effect, he’s in the business of delivering anything to anyone, anywhere in the world. I love that. As part of a lengthy marketing campaign with Nissan, Amazon just delivered a new Nissan Versa to someone. While it may take years for car buying to become a core competency of Amazon, these types of initiatives create energy around Bezos’ lofty aspirations. It’s a classic example of understanding that sometimes you’re not going to get a big immediate return on investment from an initiative, but there’s still many great reasons to invest in the initiative.

inMarket Rolls Out iBeacons To 200 Safeway, Giant Eagle Grocery Stores To Reach Shoppers When It Matters
So, yeah, mobile, it’s going to be big. If you don’t have someone at your organization who’s focused 100% of the time on mobile, you’re missing out. Mobile can’t be 5% of everyone’s job. The minute that happens, it slips thru the cracks. Apple’s iBeacon product was a smart extension. We’re going to see these types of platforms become commonplace in 3 years. Instead of just 10% of stores as a test, we’ll see NFC styled platforms in nearly 100% of locations. The only bummer from this announcement is the lack of creativity. The first thing retailers want to do with iBeacon is………..deliver coupons! C’mon it’s 2014, we’re better than that, aren’t we?

A closer look at Belkin’s Crock-Pot WeMo Slow Cooker (hands-on)
As a slow cooker aficionado, I’m excited by this. As a marketer, it’s yet another example that the “internet of things” is here and it’s not going anywhere, any time soon. Look at your home, look in your car, look at everything on your commute to work. If it could be connected to the internet, it will be. That’s why, to me, it’s not about digital marketing. It’s about marketing in a digital world. That’s a subtle, but very important nuance.

If a tweet worked once, send it again — and other lessons from The New York Times’ social media desk
Probably the best post I came across in the past week. There’s too much to cover in a brief snippet here, but the team at Nieman Labs did a great job of breaking down what the New York Times learned this past year, in social media. There’s basic stuff, that seems so obvious, but it’s also things we forget about too often. Definitely find time to read this one.

Six Things Every CMO Should Be Watching This Year
I like David Armano. We don’t always see eye to eye, but I like how his brain is wired. This article on Forbes from David does a nice job of painting a picture of things CMOs need to think about in 2014. I’d make some adjustments to the list. For example I’d combine his buckets for “Ephemeral Media” and “The Responsive Brand” into a larger bucket called the Content Conundrum. Every CMO is going to grapple with how to create enough content across a wide variety of networks, platforms and locations to make an impact…without breaking the bank. The mix of content providers and partners needed to deliver on this, will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before.