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Dr. Augustine Fou, Chief Marketing Science Officer for The Advertising Research Foundation and myself are writing a series of blog posts inspired by our recent roundtable at CES.  Each time, we’ll both write a post on the same topic to provide a wider range of views.  Here is my first post on the evolution of geo-location. Will post Dr. Fou’s next.  

We now live in a world where we can identify all public conversations at the neighborhood level.

This level of technology advance has the potential to revolutionize how we look at the 1,9,90 model.  Today, we can identify who the influencers are who create content (the 1%) and who shares and shapes the conversation (the 9%) to reach those of us who choose to benefit from all of their work (the 90% who lurk and learn).

So now we can identify, via geo-location, who has influence by neighborhood, which means that we can correlate who has influence at the store level.  It means that we can see who has the most influence in a town or city vs. a region or country.  It means that we can see how word of mouth actually moves across a region.

In the future, we’ll be able to map out the entire retail network for BestBuy or Walgreens and show exactly who the right people are to go to for a promotion of a new PC or for a health screening.

And this is where we start to realize the power of geo-location and the limitation of Internet of Things.

Geo-location allows us to understand the “public you”.  IoT allows us to understand the “personal you”.  The only problem is that our personal data is most often stored and owned by companies who provide us with sensors to track our body, house, car and other relevant data in our life.  We don’t keep that data and it can eventually go away, never to be seen again.

Why is this important?  Here are four key reasons:

Preventing and managing our health – knowing how many steps we take each day is cute, but not the answer to managing a disease, like diabetes, for example.  We need to combine the knowledge of our bodies (heart rate, blood pressure, steps), our choices (which restaurants do we choose) and our educational needs (Q&As, ideas on how to live healthy) and be able to access all of our data to share with our family and our physician.  We need aggregation of data across all Apps.

Providing the information we want – we don’t want most coupons, deals and emails outlining the wonderful new idea du jour for us.  If we can see, holistically, what we talk about publicly, where we go physically and where we are near over time, we can see that just because we are near BestBuy, we don’t want a deal sent to us, but if we have been searching for a new HP PC in the last 30 days and we’re now walking into BestBuy, we probably are interested in a deal for that system, but not unrelated merchandise we have never looked for.

Learning how to improve our lives – biometric sensors could tell us that we need a backpack, since the briefcase we carry on our shoulder is going to wear out our body over the next 10 years.  Or we can get advice on how to change our posture to avoid lower back problems.  Or we can see that we’re not heating our house optimally and we could save $75 per month if we adopted a new routine.  We need cumulative data and aggregated sensors to tell us this.

Understanding the real boundaries of privacy – when we see the data that is being created related to what we do and say, we also develop a better understanding of what we are comfortable with sharing.  Today, too much of this information is not known.  We’ll get the privacy situation right with full transparency and access to our own data.  Our own data should not be a mystery to us.  With the “public you”, we can see and keep it all.  With the “personal you”, it sits behind a walled garden.

The result is we’re making great strides in understanding the “public you” but we have a long way to go to understand the “personal you” and combine this data, so you (all of us) are better off for it.

Walled gardens of data will never get us there.  We are all smarter, companies and consumers alike, when we have full access to the data that is appropriate to help make the best choices in our lives.

This will require a consolidation of the IoT world for us to get there.  It won’t happen via individual companies creating better sensors and apps.  It will happen when some of the larger companies in the world start buying 20 or more IoT apps per year and start mashing them up to get the insights we really need.  We’ll have to create the ability to access, store and learn from our data over our entire lives.  We’ll become our own Google, in a sense.

Enjoy, @bobpearson1845


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I have a lot of respect for the pioneers of advertising who created a discipline that has shaped how we communicate, market and sell.  Bill Bernbach, one of three founding partners of Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1949, was one of those amazing people.  His impact lasts well beyond his own lifetime.

Bill wrote an impassioned letter to the management of Grey Advertising where he was creative director in 1947.  Here we are in 2016, 69 years later, and we’re about to host a roundtable at CES on Wednesday with top thought leaders in this same world to discuss what is relevant to our future.  In preparation for our roundtable, I thought I would “respond” to Bill’s note due to its timeless common sense.

Here are quotes from his letter and my response.

“I’m worried that we’re going to follow history instead of making it, that we’re going to be drowned by superficialities instead of buoyed up by solid fundamentals.” 

Agree.  In today’s world, we can spend too much time analyzing every new social media channel, start-up, unicorn or new technology.  The fundamentals of marketing and communications have not changed.  However, they do evolve.  The key is to stay focused on solid fundamentals, e.g. how we tell a story, how we handle an issue, how we build a brand’s reputation as we concurrently evolve that same model via new technology.  What matters is how we evolve the fundamental models.  If we focus on chasing each new butterfly, e.g. new channels, start-ups and technologies only, we do simply follow history as it is created.  It’s our job to think ahead, yet slow down enough to realize what will actually work in the marketplace.  Don’t let the endless parade of new innovations distract us.

“Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.”

Times have changed.  Great stories now combine science and art to optimize their ability to persuade.  You can create the coolest ad in the world, but if no one sees it, who cares.  In today’s world, we focus on audience architecture, so we know where our customers are, what content they prefer, when they go online, which media outlets matter to them and who influences them.  We can see how persuasion works in a market without advertising.  Now, it is becoming our job to catalyze interest in topics, pull through stories throughout the ecosystem of a customer (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and mainstream media outlets) and identify those customers who are as persuasive as any ad could ever dream of being.  Science shows us “where”, “who”, “how” and “when”.  Great content provides the “why” and that can come from agencies or customers themselves.

“In the past year I must have interviewed about 80 people……..But look beneath the technique and what do you find? A sameness, a mental weariness, a mediocrity of ideas.  But they could defend every ad on the basis that it obeyed the rules of advertising.  It was like worshiping a ritual instead of the God.”

Agree.  In 1947, agencies could defend their actions with their own persuasive arguments.  In 2016, we don’t care, since we can see what our customers think about our campaigns, stories and general content.  Mediocre ideas are exposed for what they are in hours, not months.  Bill would probably love the fact that all of those arguments he thought were bogus would now be exposed.    Our ability to listen to our customers and create agile content that shapes behavior every day is replacing the long-winded, hard to produce campaigns that are outdated the day they hit the streets.  This raises the game for all of us.  Our only ritual now is to listen, learn and act on what the market needs and wants (or could want) each and every day.

“All of this is not to say that technique is unimportant.  Superior technical skill will make a good man better.  But the danger is a preoccupation with technical skill or the mistaking of technical skill for creative ability”. 

Well said.  The answer is never just a data scientist just as it is never just a creative director or never just a consultant.  We now live in a world where we must have the most relevant and timely insights about our target audience from data scientists to inform agile content that is informed by the industry and client knowledge of the consultant.  Creative, Data and Consulting all live as one team.  The speed of the market due to technology and the ability of customers to act self-sufficiently without any intervention from a brand demand that we all get along to build a new approach to creating, delivering and evolving persuasive content.  This is a journey with no end.

“We must develop our own philosophy and not have the advertising philosophy of others imposed on us.”

Agree 100%.  Bill left two years later to start his own firm in 1949.  Entrepreneurs know that they must respect the fundamentals of marketing and communications, yet never just accept what worked yesterday as being good enough.  In fact, those folks who say “well, we used to do it this way at our firm” are often the ones holding back innovation.  The most creative people in our world are forward-leaning in how they apply data and ideas.  They know that Insights + Industry Knowledge + Ideas = Innovation that matters.

“Let us blaze new trails.  Let us prove to the world that good taste, good art and good writing can be good selling.”

One of his most famous lines of all time and his closing sentence.  Insights differentiate.  Being dissatisfied and always searching for the edge matters.  No matter how big or how small you are, nothing changes in this reqard.  We should always “blaze new trails”.

On Wednesday, we’ll discuss how we stay true to the fundamentals of our business as we absorb the continual innovation of industry and blaze new trails that are relevant to today’s brands.  Our job is to stay focused on pragmatic disruption of the status quo.  Innovate where it improves sales, leads to a better health outcome or it makes a difference that our clients and our customers care about.  The rest is just noise.

Thank you Bill for a timeless piece.

Note: My next book, Storytizing (available March, 2016) will discuss more on the history of advertising and its relevance to today’s digital world. 

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of sitting in on a panel titled, Millennials Unplugged: What Are We Learning from Millennials? Moderated by my colleague, Bob Pearson, the panel was part of an event put on by the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) and hosted at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA. Joining Bob on the panel were Natalie Malaszenko, SVP of Marketing at Overstock.com and Founder/Provocateur of MoStrategy, LLC, Maureen Craig.

Bob-Natalie-Mo panel

As the title suggests, the focus of the panel was what we (brands/marketers/communicators) can learn from Millennials. It’s clearly an important topic due to the fact that in the U.S., Millennials just overtook Baby Boomers as the largest demographic in the country. This not only changes the way marketers need to market, but also how employers think about the needs of their employees. I spent a little time covering this very topic in one my recent Marketingland articles discussing the real meaning of what it means to be “mobile first.

During the panel, Bob asked (and occasionally answered) questions of Natalie and Maureen. All three did a great job keeping their answers informative and pithy. A few of the key soundbites I took away were:

  • Millennials want to engage with brands differently. They are willing to do it emotionally.
  • It’s important as a brand to have heart, soul, purpose when story telling with Millennials. The key is to the find balance of analytics/insights with gut instincts.
  • Bob mentioned a recent article where Ben Silbermann, CEO of Pinterest announced the visual search tool for the social image site making it a “search engine for experiences.”
  • Metrics are important to understand how customers are consuming content along their journey – but how does this impact how we measure?
  • With so much data, importance on using gut to guide is stronger than ever. Also critical to look at how the consumer’s (and in particular, Millennials) media is shaped.
  • At the end of the panel Q&A, Bob referenced the impetus of the panel which is a blog series he created with his 19 year old daughter, Brittany. The format for Millennials Unplugged is that they pick a topic and then both answer from their own points of view, often with other Millennial voices pulled in.

For the second half of the panel, Bob fielded audience questions through a tool called Pigeonhole. Not only was it a cool technology but made it easy to field questions from the audience in an orderly and weighted fashion (the audience gets to vote on the relevance of each question).

Here were a few that piqued my interest:

How has cutting the cord impacted TV advertising dollars when engaging Millennials?

  • Mo – Millennials get a kick out of Boomers and GenXers anachronistic use of tv (similar to land line phone).
  • Natalie – key word is storytelling. Ads need to be created with storytelling in mind and that ads could/should have life beyond tv.

Beyond the headlines of 3-second attention spans and lack of brand loyalty, what are some positive opportunities for marketers in learning from Millennials’ habits and expectations?

  • Natalie – key is to enable Millennials’ behavior vs. trying to change it.
  • Mo – takes offense at the idea of a three second attention span (not accurate). She thinks of Millennials as t-shaped – tremendous depth and huge reach (via new social/digital platforms). Can apply what they’ve learned from Call of Duty to shopping for groceries. What can we do to congratulate that and take advantage of that?

How do you value sharing vs. reach & frequency?

  • Natalie – don’t diminish importance of reach and frequency but sharing is the ultimate metric. It is a sign of passion.
  • Mo – her company is constantly looking at what it takes to encourage a climate of sharing.

Data and its accompanying insights are having a profound business impact on the value and efficacy of both marketing and corporate communications.

The real benefit is that analytics provide a roadmap for more precise communications – i.e., identifying influencers, including media as part of a larger ecosystem connecting emotion with purchase behavior. Or, moving internal communications from a Broadcast model to a Conversation model, one in which employees can actually make the argument themselves through a more engaged environment, based on dialogue, discussion and debate. Or, predicting new areas to pursue or issues to avoid.

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Digging deeper, the real impact of analytics is how it’s reshaping the relationship between the CEO and the Chief Communications and Marketing Officers (CCMOs). No longer considered running a function, CCMOs are now pivoting to become more of a systems integrator.  That is, they are expected to turn information into new thinking to better enable behaviors that both prepare and sustain leaders, managers, employees, customers and the marketplace for what’s next.

The following reflects how we at W2O Group are learning and leading the transformation of today’s CCMO.

Essentially, we are experiencing seven distinct areas where CCMOs are incorporating data and insights to forge new, strategic relationships with CEOs.  In doing so, they are challenging historical norms, eliminating useless tactical interpretations of effectiveness, and employing unique analytical models to clearly see the organization.

1) Customer Acquisition

“How can I find the next generation of customers?” is a common question we hear from CEOs.

New models designed to identify where potential customers are migrating and how they are behaving can better pinpoint communications and marketing expenditures, helping to cultivate relationships and dimensionalize brands, products and services.

The key is to target analytics models across channels and networks of influence, encompassing the consumer’s decision journey.  Finding, understanding, engaging, and sharing with customers and influencers online, helps uncover nuances, behaviors, interests, and bias concerning brands, companies, products, services and policies. Recognizing the power of advocacy in purchase behavior and where it has the most influence not only better targets programming but more importantly, helps capture the next generation of potential customers before they even recognize the need or want.

2) Productivity and Engagement

“How can I ensure my employees’ get it?”

Further, deploying your workforce as your most potent sales force through a programmed Advocacy effort is a true differentiator in a crowded, distracted marketplace.

However, to engage employees today requires a granular understanding of how people are finding, assimilating and sharing information about the business.  Analytics provide a forensic study of employee traits in this regard. Employee View is proprietary analytics tool that captures workforce archetypes, in order to better engage employees in the business.

One CCMO from a global enterprise is meeting monthly with his CEO and reviewing a report on employee behaviors related to the company’s key imperatives.  The report identifies employee retention of important information, sentiment of executive messaging as well as tone, cadence and context.

3) Relevance 

“Are we relevant today?”

In our social/digital world, Relevance is the new Reputation.

But how can an organization measure Relevance?  In multiple ways actually.

Every industry possesses its own criteria for comprehending relevance and as such we have designed analytics models to discern what’s important and where a brand or company is viewed on that continuum.  Relevance means organizations are connecting on multiple levels with key stakeholders in areas that are meaningful to them, but also correlate to the business’ core purpose.

4) White Space

“What’s Next?”

CEOs, as we know, are often measured by current results and future prospects.

Our Landscape Analysis/Conversation Blueprint uncovers the anatomy inherent in predictive behavior in a particular category and regarding a specific product or brand.  Knowing where the game is going to be played positions CCMOs as partners in strategy formulation.  White space may result in a brand extension, new product launch schematic, a messaging platform that clarifies a product benefit, a migration of interests, etc.  Discovering such a place keeps the business agile and leaders awake to the possibilities.

5) Strategy Alignment

“How can we get people to hear us again?” Strategy and priority overload afflict every company.  Breaking through is critical if companies are to succeed in a distracted, highly volatile market.  But how?

The Narrative: More often than not, C-Suite leaders are not seeing the business in a clear, coherent manner.  Such a misaligned picture at the top of an organization causes incredible dysfunction at the middle and lower levels resulting in poor decisions and, even worse, paralysis.

Analytics and the insights derived from the right data can lead to an accurate portrayal or narrative on the business from an outside in, and an inside out, perspective.  The narrative aligns messaging and conditions behavior to accurately reflect the business’ current state so as to better navigate the right path.

Refreshing that perspective regularly drives the CEO’s agenda in a more disciplined and pragmatic fashion.

6) Efficiency (The PESO Model)

“Why are we spending our money in all the wrong places?”

In today’s communications and marketing mix, Paid, Owned, Shared, and Earned Media must work in concert with the customer journey. Earned media consists of media relations, influencer marketing and advocacy. Owned media is viewed as any type of media for which you have complete control.  In contrast, Shared media consists of content relationships, in which control is shared with your audience.  Paid media is an accelerator of earned, shared and owned media that deserves larger reach, and as a way to test the market in low-cost ways. Organizing, strategizing, and operating in a cohesive fashion across all communications and marketing platforms optimizes investment.  Orchestrating PESO via analytics achieves precision in both effectiveness and efficiency. The fuel for this journey is analytics and insights.

7) Risk Mitigation

“Are we able to handle a potential crisis situation?”

Nothing keeps a CEO up at night more than a business crisis. Avoiding and/or deftly managing a situation that can potentially damage an organization’s ability to operate is essential to a CEOs fiduciary responsibility if not his/her tenure.

Inception™ is a proprietary software and analytics platform designed to simulate issues and their trajectory toward crisis in an environment where the organization can learn, test its collective agility, judgement, collaboration, and response in a social/digital reality. The result is a more confident, integrated and progressive issues management protocol that maintains relevance and protects reputation.

A New Relationship Emerges

For today’s progressive communications and marketing leaders, analytics and insights are forging a pathway to greater influence and impact on strategy and direction.  This is leading to more sophisticated discussions on business outcomes versus tactical outputs.

For Chief Communications and Marketing Officers, the time is here to fundamentally reshape the relationship with your CEO and other C-Suite leaders through a more data-oriented, disciplined approach to both the marketplace and the workplace, systematically forging insights that lead to new choices and strategies designed to achieve organizational excellence.

Gone are the traditional outputs, structures, and anecdotal rationales that underpinned the function, but are now obsolete.

So, as a CCMO what are you talking to your CEO about?

Gary F. Grates is a principal at W2O Group and a recognized expert in strategic communications including change management, organizational communications, labor relations, corporate positioning, and M&A assimilation.

In 2014, Eastman Kodak Co. named Steven Overman @Stevenoverman, former Nokia Marketing Executive, Chief Marketing Officer and charged him with leading the global brand renewal of Kodak. In this new role, he led the strategic development of a brand that seemed to have missed the connection to the rest of the industry with the beginning of the digital era.

At the W2O #PreCommerce summit in London, he talked about the challenges to adapt long-term strategy to an ever-changing environment and the positive impact of increased connection on our behaviour in a fire chat with James Morley, Managing Director at W2O Group.

James Morley: The Kodak business understands more than most the impact of digital technology.  Can you give us an insight into the impact on Kodak and what it has done to adapt?

Steven Overman: If we go back only a few years ago, Kodak was actually one of the most valuable stocks and companies globally. And some did not want to believe it, but the digital revolution has actually challenged a business model that remained successful for many decades. While we are now looking at platforms like Instagram and how successful it is, we still wonder what the actual business model behind it is. Consumables, as the Kodak product from the past, have been substituted by technology and non-tangible platforms. In order to adapt to this development, we have brought back technology into the family and are now bridging with B2B offerings between digital workflows and analogue outcomes.

James Morley:  At WEF last week there was a lot of discussion about the importance of innovation within business.  How does Kodak deal with this issue?

Steven Overman: Innovation is a very interesting concept, because it is actually against human nature. Within our nature we have a strong resistance to change, and look for safety and stability. However, innovation is necessary to remain sustainable in the future and true innovative ideas only thrive in a culture that brings in fresh thinking and is willing to take risk. For us, we see a lot of innovation come to life by working with our scientists from the labs. They do have this natural curiosity that you need to be creative and think beyond of what already exists.

James Morley: What do you believe will be the biggest innovations for Digital in the next 2 years?

Steven Overman: I actually see one important trend that actually involves the past, the present and the future. When we look at how much our behaviour has changed by an increased level of connectivity, we can only imagine what impact it will have when the rest (64%) of the world’s population will be connected to the Internet. I believe that in the near future everyone will be connected and with this connectivity comes great power for everyone in the ecosystem. The digital revolution not only changed the way we live, work and create today, but also our increased connection creates a conscious and a growing shared sense of what is right and wrong, which impact the way we do business in the future, but also the way we act as empowered consumers, patients and marketers. 

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About Steven Overman

Steven Overman was previously VP Global Head of Brand Strategy and Marketing Creation for Nokia, and is founder of Match & Candle, a brand strategy consultancy. In 2014, he published his book “The Conscience Economy: How a Mass Movement for Good Is Great for Business”.

 

 

In Texas, we would say “Nancy Zwiers?  Yeah, she’s done a few things in her life”.  Typical Texas understatement, of course.  Nancy has held multiple executive positions for Mattel, the #1 toy company in the world; she led worldwide marketing for Mattel’s $2 billion Barbie doll brand; she re-launched Polly Pocket and grew the #1 Cabbage Patch brand.  And she has advised clients ranging from Disney to Hasbro to Spin Master about the area of kids and play.  Yeah, Nancy knows a few things.

So we thought this Millennials Unplugged should be an interview with Nancy to learn more about youth marketing and what it all means.  Here’s excerpts from our talk.

Q: You were selling over 100 million Barbie’s a year, inventing new Barbie’s and learned a lot about what matters.  What did you learn about how we think as kids? 

A: I like to say that we had big data before there was big data—with so many transactions, we were able to see patterns that others missed that helped us develop our understanding of “Core play patterns.” These play patterns are amazingly consistent across time, geography, and culture.  We have concluded that play comes from the inside out.  It is a biological drive.  If you tap into these core play patterns, you are more likely to be successful in engaging kids.

 Q: That’s fascinating.  We always think we are so unique.  Why are we actually so similar?

A: Play is nature’s way to ensure we learn what we need to learn to survive.

For example, the original play pattern is “exploration & discovery,” which starts at birth—or maybe even before.  It’s innate in us and it drives us to explore our environment.  As we grow up, that same play pattern is fueled by curiosity and the little thrill that goes with each new discovery. 

Q: Very cool.  What are some examples we can relate to?

A: Reading flows from this play pattern.  Our desire to travel is a form of exploration & discovery.  Scientists feel like they are playing as they are driven to explore their scientific fields.  We want to learn in order to survive and we play to discover and learn.  The second play pattern we all share is “challenge & mastery,” which is at the heart of sports and most game play.  It drives us outside of our comfort zone to help us grow.

Q: How is entertainment viewed compared to play?

A: Entertainment flows the opposite direction of play.  It comes from the outside in.  That said, the new “discoverability” of entertainment content is a manifestation of exploration & discovery.  Further, the more entertainment is interactive, the more the lines are blurred between entertainment and play. 

Q: We realize it’s hard to ask you what your favorite toy has been…..but we will……

A: My favorite toy of all time is Barbie.  And the most innovative Barbie dolls are the ones that I like the most.  We created the first radio-controlled Barbie (Dance n Twirl Barbie), Becky the first “differently abled” friend for Barbie, the first mass customized doll (University Barbie) and even Barbie’s baby sister, Kelly, so we could facilitate the nurturing core play pattern.

Q: What’s the importance of nurturing as it relates to toys? 

A: Girls, especially, are irresistibly drawn to nurturing play—whether a baby doll or a pet.  Girls are also drawn to toys that let them explore what beauty means to them—think fashion dolls and arts & crafts. Frozen’s famous star Elsa personifies girls’ beauty fantasies.

Q:  What happens when we grow up? 

A: Our behaviors change but the drive behind them stays the same, so instead of Chutes and Ladders or Candyland, now we play with X Box or Minecraft.  You know, boomers didn’t have as many opportunities to play with a wide range of toys.  We only had a few TV channels*, but we were ok with that.  Now, kids and millennials have a wide range of toys and they see play as digital or physical.  Plus, they have an expectation that we can personalize our play experiences.  Customization and interactivity are the big things.

Q: When we think of the movies, what is happening when we love a character?

A: We find that you need an aspirational lead character that is also relatable.  Aspirational means “I want to be like her/him.” and relatable is “He/she is like me.”  These are the characters we most want to play out fantasies with. The real life Princess Diana illustrates this.  She was actually a princess, she was beautiful AND she had flaws.  Having a weakness makes us love characters more.  Think of Superman and kryptonite.   One quick note:  In the key imaginative play years of children from 3-6 years old, they will often fantasize with a toy/character that often reflects gender stereotypes.  Many adults think this should change but it is part of an overall process of developing one’s identity. 

Q: What is the future of the toy industry?

A: 3D printing will have a big impact on the toy industry…..digital (and physical arts) and crafts will grow…..kids are getting more focused on wanting to express themselves more……the need to differentiate from our peers is growing….customization and personalizing experience is important.  The Internet of Things will have powers we never realized.  Imagine a new 3D view master with augmented reality or having Siri-like interaction with dolls?  Or learning how a child is using a toy and then suggesting what else they may like based on sensors in the toy itself, sending back data to headquarters that is meaningful. 

Q: Nancy, what was your favorite toy growing up?

A: It was my microscope.  I loved it.  I still remember what my hair looked like under the microscope.

Thank you Nancy, this was fantastic.  Very insightful!

Brittany Pearson (millennial) and Bob Pearson (boomer)

*Bob’s favorite Saturday shows were Speed Racer and Jonny Quest. 

Lifecycle of a Technological Revolution_today

With the revolution of media and technology disrupting the marketing industry, and business models altogether, marketers are trying to navigate through the storm. On the communications side, TV dollars are shifting to digital. But, digital ads aren’t nearly as effective nor transparent as we want them to be. The traditionally distinct and siloed roles of marketing communications (once upon at time, just known as ‘advertising’) and PR are converging.

Because of the advent of social media, and the frustration with traditional and digital advertising, marcomm is moving into earned media with influencer marketing, native advertising and more responsive campaigns and editorial content teams. Because of the rise of the new influencer – everyday people and celebrities using blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, SnapChat, Periscope and other platforms to create personal media companies – PR is expanding beyond traditional media relations and ‘the pitch’, and into influencer marketing, sponsored content and responsive editorial content teams as well. It’s a race to the middle where the lines are blurred. That’s why agencies and publishers are partnering to create wholly new content companies that service brands.

If we take a step back from the race, though, things haven’t changed much since 2009. The big three: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter had launched and matured as three distinct and valuable social communications platforms for users. Since then, other social platforms have launched – Foursquare (and Swarm), Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, SnapChat, Meerkat and Periscope being the most touted. But, each of these just feels like an iterative evolution of the discontinuous leaps that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube made. Platforms, and the content they enable, shifted to become more visual, shorter and ephemeral. When Meerkat and Periscope launched, didn’t it feel like they already existed? And, the fundamental rules for how to engage audiences on those platforms is the same; we must adhere to the Reciprocity Theory.

So, I actually take a contrarian point of view: innovation has slowed in media technology. We’re at the tail end of our current technological revolution’s lifecycle, moving past the discontinuous revolution and into the iterative evolution. While folks in the industry are making claims that: “Advertising is dead.” Or that, “Data will tell us what content to make, so we don’t need creatives anymore.” I’m claiming that we need creative more than ever. The discipline just needs to evolve too. As the roles of advertising and PR converge, storytelling becomes an even more critical discipline for marketing.

Just pushing the message through TV and radio and print and display ads is lazy creative and lazy advertising. Great creative has always been about great storytelling. Now we just tell that story across new media platforms/channels in partnership with the new social influencers and in partnership with our customers. Sometimes those influencers and customers are the same. Great creative (‘the story’) is the glue that holds the story together, wherever we’re telling it. It’s what inspires people to participate.

In the late 2000s in the entertainment industry, we began exploring transmedia storytelling. This is where we would develop a core story – characters and the world in which they lived. And, then we’d plan out those stories across media (books, graphic novels, movies, TV, web series). It was a shift away from the linear model of: writer publishes book –> studio buys book and makes movie –> network turns movie into TV series. Instead, we developed it all at the same time. They lived together as extensions, or chapters, of the same story instead of separately as different and distinct adaptations of the story. This style of storytelling became particularly popular in the fantasy/gaming/comics genres, as we could delve deep into the story of a world we were creating.

Now, in marketing, we have the opportunity to take the same approach. How do we create a core story – the story of our brand, which reflects the story of our customers and employees – and tell that story through new (and traditional) media platforms and people? Like a vision, the story we tell requires an intuitive leap of faith. It must inspire. It must create new possibilities. Is that so different from great advertising fifty years ago? Maybe. Maybe not. But, in an increasingly ephemeral world, wouldn’t it be nice to have some moments that impact and last?

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This post originally appeared on The ReciprocityTheory blog.

Snapchat has increasingly become a topic of discussion among brands in terms of driving business value and ROI. It has evolved since our initial evaluation of it in 2014, citing it’s lack of data tracking and its ephemeral nature, but it still has some gaps to fill. Our team has some strategic ideas around optimizing the platform currently and some that could hopefully come to life in the near future. You can view the complete list of insights here and below:

 

#1 If Snapchat can provide full transparency on users of their service, advertising can be done in an appropriate and highly focused manner. The data can be anonymized to respect privacy, while still achieving targeting goals. This data must be accessible to the brands advertising. It cannot be held only by Snapchat, since it is critical for planning.

  • IDEA — Open up a limited API, ala Facebook’s 30 days of data – brands must be able to access anonymized data to plan. Facebook has shown the way on how to do this and still preserve the integrity of the data.

#2 – Work with brands to develop relationships with Snapchat Stars – we all know the power of influencers. The stories feature of Snapchat is where influencers are emerging that have major impact for a brand. These stars are similar to what is occurring on YouTube, Vine, Instagram and other channels. For example, if BRAND X focused on beauty brands and emerging influencers for make-up tips, how- to’s for skin care and other related topics, this increases authenticity, supports the drivers of Snapchat traffic and helps your brand understand who has influence in Snapchat vs. other channels.

  • IDEA– Enable a brand to work directly with influencers in a category – this leads to more targeted earned and paid media; it helps the influencers gain additional influence; and it adds much needed authenticity for any advertiser. It is widely believed that advertising alone will not be accepted by the Snapchat audience, so new models of partnership are key to success.

#3 – Create a “Snap to Buy” feature – we need ROI. If Snapchat creates a “snap to buy” feature where users can purchase products or download important buying information for later use, we can better track funnel activity. This can work for a brand by partnering with emerging stars, “map” them discussing a topic, provide the option to buy direct (within the chat), and deliver directly or to a local outlet. For consumables, this scenario could generate simple couponing or co-marking opportunities.

#4 – Develop new content partnerships between talent, media networks and brands – a traditional ad won’t work in Snapchat. However, new models can open up opportunities. In other words, brands will sponsor other brands. Snapchat’s new media service called Discover, which will host branded propertieis for Yahoo, People, Cosmopolitan, the Food Network, Daily Mail, Vice, CNN and others.

  • IDEA – an example can be given for a TV show and a BRAND X brand. BRAND X works with the talent on a TV show. The talent on this show then Snapchats on a key topic that also includes the BRAND X brand. This would be a powerful way to integrate great content, keep the topic aligned with Snapchat user’s interests and work in a brand appropriately.

#5 – Innovate in geo-location – Snapchat is already innovating with picture filters automatically uploaded from your location.  Since interaction with geo-location based content is already accepted by Snapchat users, we think of new ways to build value.

  • IDEA 1– this is purely a matter of creativity.  We could create a contest based on geo-location use of certain backgrounds.  Once a certain level of use is reached, prizes are made available.  New filters that are highly topical could be provided by BRAND X brands, e.g. Olympics and any sports-related shots for certain sports, however the backgrounds feature the local athletes for that user to make it more personal. Or BRAND X sponsors Movember with idea that men are all shaving in the near future.  And on and on.
  • IDEA 2 – align Snapchat content from brands down to the store level.  If the retail networks of a country are aligned to geo-location, BRAND X can offer unique content and coupons/offers at the zip code level and you can snap to buy and it goes right to your closest store.

#6—Improve how “Stories” is handled within Snapchat – the “Stories” experience does not appear integrated with how users typically use the app, which is to interact with friends.

    • Stories are essentially paid content from brands in the Snapchat app
    • Most of the time, people use Snapchat to interact with friends
    • Stories do not appear “inline” when you interact with friends, but rather only if you go to Explore —> Discover in the app, which is a couple clicks off the beaten path
    • This is like moving paid content on cnn.com off the front page and into a section called “Paid Content”
    • If brands are having success, that’s what matters — but it’s an odd way to integrate paid

#7 – Partner with users to create a “brand studio” – populate the studio within Snapchat with brand content (images, video, quotes and other content) that can be used by anyone.  And encourage users to add their own ideas, make requests and participate in making each brand studio as cool as it can be.

  • IDEA – co-create content with communities directly.

Innovative ways brands are using Snapchat:

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

All the best,

Bob Pearson

I always enjoy speaking at the Internet Retailer Conference, which is the largest e-commerce meeting of its kind in the world.  This year,  I was asked to discuss “how to choose the right social media partners”.   My deck is here and below if you’d like to read it.

I was a client for many years at Rhone-Poulenc Rorer (now Sanofi), Novartis and Dell.  And, today, I’m often asked by our clients who they should consider for various social media activities.

Here’s a brief summary of what I believe we all can do to improve the search process and identify the right partners.

We need to acknowledge that the current way that most agencies are selected is a broken process.  We have checklists, requests for information (RFI) and requests for presentation (RFP) documents that ask the same questions each time and check off the same boxes over and over again.

When questions are predictable, so are the answers.  Think of when you were in school.  If you just have to memorize material for a test, you may pass, but you didn’t learn much.  We know that is not the right way to go.

Instead, we need to move from an RFP to a Request for Knowledge or an RFK.  Clients need to test the working knowledge of the agencies who may be hired.

Every agency says “I wish they would give us a chance to show them how much we know on X topic”.  Well, in an RFK scenario, you sink or swim on what you know, what you have done and how you will innovate in the future.

My presentation walks through 12 areas that are important to address.  In each case, you’ll see the questions I recommend asking of agencies to assess who will be the best partner.  You don’t have to use all of them every time, but it is important to learn about each other in new and more effective ways than we often do today.

I look forward to your ideas on how to further improve the process.

Enjoy, Bob