Tag Archive: social

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.

Why You Need A Trendscape Model To Manage Trends

Trends come in all shapes and sizes. The digital space moves so fast that we forget a trend doesn’t just mean something emerging. Something can be both mass and a trend. Trends are important, but it’s not always easy to understand what’s a trend a what’s a fad. That challenge often paralyzes organizations from determining what’s worth investing in and what you should pass on.

I’ve generally tried to use a Trendscape model to help organizations understand what trends are already here and well adopted and which are far out. The Trendscape model has proved invaluable. At the heart, a Trendscape tries to look at 2 spectrums and bring them into alignment:

  1. The awareness of something
  2. The adoption of that something

Trends that have high awareness and high adoption are generally here to stay, are in a mature business environment and have a clear line between leaders and bottom feeders. On the opposite end of that spectrum you have low awareness and low adoption. Just because it’s low, doesn’t mean it’s not important or not poised for breakout growth. Remember the first smartphones?

Here’s a current Digital Trendscape to use for both 2014 planning and for inspiration.

Ring 1: These are trends that are generally well understood and have been adopted by a global consumer marketplace. Great examples of this would be eMail and search. From Shanghai to Omaha the usage and application of eMail and search is mature. We have several competitors, multiple uses, robust analytics and it’s generally easily applied into financial models.

Ring 2: These are the trends with high awareness, high acceptance and solid adoption. The big trend for I’m thinking a lot about is the “expression of me.” From Pinterest which helps us express of wants and hopes to Instagram which enables us to create envy from our followers to twitter, which gives us all a voice, we’re seeing all ages and demographics leap to platforms that enable personal expression. The problem with this trend ring is how fragmented and diverse the landscape is. As trend rings become more mature we end up with less players, not more.

Ring 3: Many organizations struggle with Ring 3 trends because they mistake the maturity of the trend collection for the collection being stagnant and devoid of change or disruption. Here’s a great example; take mobile. It’s not like mobile came out of nowhere to be the juggernaut it is today. And now that’s it here, most organizations will talk about mobile in 2 broad buckets: muli-screen usage (often at the expense of TV) and content snacking. Great, so the simple approach to grapple with this trend would be to integrate calls to action in your commercials that ask people to talk out their phones and create more content designed for mobile. This misses the trend. The real trend is the always connected consumer who has fear of missing out (aka FOMO) and is therefore almost always tethered directly to their phone. The phone isn’t a phone; it’s something personal and an extension of them.

Ring 4: In this bucket we have trends that are well understood, but not well adopted. For example, the concept of quantified lives, or as I often say, big data for the little guy, has emerged. Devices like the Nest thermostat, Automatic (tracks your car driving habits) and the Jawbone UP are becoming more and more understood. When your parents can understand the concept of these devices and your parents are asking if they should get one and you already have one, you know you’re in Ring 4. When your grandparents start asking about them, then you’re in ring 2 :)

Ring 5: These are things that are clearly the tip of the spear, adopted by the most digitally fit and may have zero sticking power. Yes, you read that right, these might never evolve into a Ring 1 trend. Organizations that can spot a Ring 5 trend as one that will become a Ring 1 trend, are the ones who stay ahead and set the space. Most organizations, especially those in the CPG vertical, are gun-shy about investing in this area. They generally take the “fast-follower” or “wait and see” approach, which of course leaves them flat footed when a trend quickly moves from Ring 5 to Ring 1. In this ring you have something like the concept of “disposable content.” Think SnapChat. While SnapChat itself may implode (I tend to think it will), the trend of consumers wanting to take back their privacy and being concerned about their content getting into the wrong hands, is starting to stick.


In today’s very digital world, macro cultural trends have the ability to impact behaviors in every category. My favorite example of this are the restaurants who now encourage you to take out your phone and Instagram/share photos of the food. By understanding the “expression of me” trend they’re connecting with consumers and patrons better than before.

Every organization should have a Trendscape. Your organization might only need 3 rings or it might need 7. There’s no right answer to the number of rings. The single biggest piece of advice I could offer you though would be to think about trends as cultural, not category specific. Too often we only look at category trends, which in my opinion, limits our field of view.

Friday Five – January 3, 2014

Google And Audi Likely To Announce Infotainment Partnership At CES
I’ve been saying it for nearly 2 years, but the future is mobility, not mobile. Our cars are one of the most mobile “devices” we own and yet it’s been fairly technology limited. Ford really changed that with their Microsoft Sync relationship. It was only a matter of time til someone turned your car into something that resembled your phone. If the rumors are true, it’s Audi and Google who are committing to bring you the future of mobility.

Wendy Clark: All Marketing Strategies Should Start With ‘Why’
I love this article, penned by Wendy Clark, Coke’s VP of Marketing. Brands are built over time and with relentless focus. There’s a reason Coke, as a brand, is recognized, understood and appreciated across the world. To hear Wendy explain it, it’s their focus on their mission. “In these moments, when we lead with the product (what) and not our mission (why), our decisions get smaller, our perspective less brave, our work less memorable, our world impact more limited.” Purposeful positioning matters. It gives a brand a foundation to build upon and to thrive on.

Zappos is going holacratic: no job titles, no managers, no hierarchy
It’s the kind of thing only Zappos could do AND be successful in doing. Instead of a top down hierarchy, “…there will be around 400 circles at Zappos once the rollout is complete in December 2014—and employees can have any number of roles within those circles. This way, there’s no hiding under titles; radical transparency is the goal.” I love this approach. Then again, I’ve always loved the idea of accountability. Roles are much more valuable than titles. It’s your role that enables you to feel purpose and drive impact beyond your box on an org chart.

More Than 300 Sharks In Australia Are Now On Twitter
“Government researchers have tagged 338 sharks with acoustic transmitters that monitor where the animals are. When a tagged shark is about half a mile away from a beach, it triggers a computer alert, which tweets out a message on the Surf Life Saving Western Australia Twitter feed. The tweet notes the shark’s size, breed and approximate location.” That sums it up. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Pew Internet Life Project: The 2013 Social Media Report
Always a fan of the work done by Pew. Their reports on internet/digital/social use and adoption always have me leaning forward. In their 2013 report on social media trends we see a few interesting things.

  1. If you thought Facebook was on the decline…think again.
  2. Just about everyone uses social. Ok, not everyone, but 73% of adults online. That’s significant.
  3. While Facebook isn’t on the decline, people are diversifying their time across many social networks…especially Instagram.

The full report can be found here.

Friday Five – December 20, 2013

Why Advertising Is ‘Dead Last’ Priority at Outerwear Marketer Patagonia
Great reminder that purposeful positioning is more important today than it’s ever been. Mission focused organizations are finding an easier go in digital, because story-telling is simple and effortless for companies that stand for something bigger than just selling more cases.

The top visual design trends for 2014
Solid infographic outlining the major visual design trends next year. As a dad of 2, I’m especially thrilled to see “Hands on Dads” as an emerging category. Personally, I don’t think dad’s get enough credit for all we do. Also, pay special attention to #11. The idea that photos that aren’t professionally taken or styled will be expected and more impactful, will prove difficult for companies that like to over-edit EVERY visual.

Text messaging will look boring after you try this app backed by Betaworks and Dave Morin
I’m not bullish on SnapChat as a business driving platform, nor do I see it ever living up to it’s valuation. Dave Morin, famous for launching and overseeing the slow death of Path, backed a new platform called “Context.” This will be one of several new messaging apps that will hit the street in the next few months. Each one will erode away at SnapChat’s audience. Teens are fickle and they certainly don’t want to be on the same platforms as their parents (see Facebook). As Gen X, Y and Boomers invade SnapChat, Context will be one of many alternatives teens and tweens will join.

Judging By Google Searches, Here Are The Things Americans Were Most Clueless About in 2013
I think this is a combination of the things Americans were clueless about (eg twerking) and interested in learning more about (eg Boston Marathon). While the data isn’t included, it’s clear the power TV has on search. TV is a stimulus that leads us to explore. And today, when we want to explore, it’s google that we turn to. In 2014 it will be interesting to see if twitter chips away at that decade + trend, especially as people want real-time and frequent updates.

Beyoncé Rejects Tradition for Social Media’s Power
Great background on how and why Beyonce chose social media over traditional marketing to launch her new album. I especially love this passage:

“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” Beyoncé said in a news release, which so far represents the only public comments that she or Columbia, her label, have made. “I am bored with that.”

Perhaps if more marketers adopted this philosophy we’d see a quicker transition away from the copy and paste approach to marketing campaigns. The album itself is mediocre, but this is brilliant marketing. What I love about this, is that it speaks to why I got into marketing and advertising in the first place…to keep reinventing brands and breaking molds. That’s the fun part. Great marketers are ever curious and antsy. We like to tweak, plan and re-tweak. Then when we launch something, there’s a void, not a relief. That void is filled by thinking about how to set an even higher bar.

Looking Forward, My 2014 Predictions

It’s that time of year. It’s time for predictions about what the next year will bring in the marketing, advertising, social and technology space. As I’ve done for the past few years, before we start talking about 2014, let’s see how I did in 2013.

  1. “We’re going to see less emphasis on hiring heads of social and digital and more emphasis on hiring heads of analytics and insights.” I completely missed on this. I thought we were going to see the industry evolve. Instead we saw heads leave their organizations for other organizations. For example Shiv Singh left Pepsi to join Visa. Maybe 2014 will be the year of the mass hiring spree on analytics and insights folks.
  2. “We will see a run of acquisitions by older/established organizations on startups or young organizations.” I sorta nailed this one. It happened, but there wasn’t a run on these types of companies. Yahoo! of course, was the big player in this space, buying just about every startup company in the world. And Newscorp’s acquisition of Storyful for $25M certainly helped me feel better about my performance with this prediction.
  3. “There will be too many companies trying to solve the “social TV” question. They will all offer different metrics. The lack of standardization will cause a big problem and set us back. At the end of 2013 or the start of 2014 we’ll see one clear winner.” I missed on this too. Thankfully, twitter made some major purchases, like BlueFin Labs, which has helped bring greater clarity to the social TV question. This is one case, where I’m thrilled to be wrong.
  4. “Twitter will file for IPO. Simple as that.” Nailed it, simple as that.
  5. “Facebook will become less friend and more frenemy. To soften their transition toward frenemy, they will offer a tiered structure/classification that will essentially become a pay for access/feature model.” I’m giving myself a win on this one. While there wasn’t a tiered pricing structure, Facebook’s recent announcement that companies will need to pay if they want their content to be seen by fans, is starting to undo some of the great strides they made this past year thru partnerships with DataLogix.

Well, 3 out of 5…not exactly setting the world on fire. Keep in mind, in 2013, when I looked back on 2012, I nailed 90% of my predictions. That brings my two year average to 80%. Let’s see if I can do better in 2014. Here’s what I think is going to happen.


  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.
  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.
  3. Google Glass will come to the mass market, but will flop, UNLESS the consumer version has a built in cellular connection.
  4. Amazon will purchase a grocery retailer to expedite the growth of their Amazon Fresh service. If I were betting, it would be Supervalu.
  5. Über will IPO.
  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.
  7. Mobile payments will finally gain traction, making up for the poor launches from ISIS and Google Wallet over the past few years.
  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.
  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.
  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.

I feel really good about 5 of the 10. Now, all we need to do is wait and see, if I’m right.

Digital dad to Cora and John. Love ironing, bourbon and BBQ; no necessarily in that order. Living life, like I stole it. I'm always up for a

spirited conversation. These are my thoughts and ramblings, not those of my employer.
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