Our brains are the most powerful “computers” on earth.  We store memories from childhood onward that stick with us for the rest of our lives.  We create habits that shape how we think for decade after decade.  We’re exposed to thousands upon thousands of images, articles and ads every day that refine how we think.   Our brains are always on and they are capturing far more information than we realize.

We create our subconscious mind for our entire lifetime.  It drives our intuition.  It helps us form our immediate first impression.  It causes us to flinch or laugh immediately.  Our subconscious drives more of our decisions than we truly appreciate.  It is the best partner of our conscious mind.

Of course, we don’t often appreciate this as intensely as we should in the marketing world.

We often ask questions of our potential customers, which means that short-term memory kicks in and we can only remember an average of 3-7 items per topic.  So, our life’s knowledge reservoir remains largely untapped.

We monitor conversations of our customers to judge how they view our brands, yet 90% of us don’t engage in writing content or speaking online on a regular basis.  We are really analyzing the 1% and the 9% who do shape the market, but don’t represent the total market.

Too often, we focus on the conscious mind and forget the subconscious aspects of reaching our customers effectively.

The cynic might say “yeah, but if we really know exactly what everyone is saying, we basically know all we need to”.   My simple response is the following: “Would you mind sharing all of your political, religious, familial and other personal updates on all social channels every day?  If you have any health questions or issues, could you share those with us also?”  All of us know we don’t do that.  We ask our “friends” at Google or Bing to help us out in private.

In the future, we’ll think of search as not a tool to just reach people who ask questions, but as a body of evidence that shows exactly what the subconscious mind is of a customer or a market segment or even an industry.

It sounds daunting, but it isn’t that bad at all due to the simple fact that human beings always follow predictable patterns.  When it comes to queries, you can usually focus on about 100-150 queries made for any topic, look at as many screens as you like (let’s say 10) per query and then analyze this body of content to come up with a gold mine of insights.

We can see which outlets matter and why.  We can see which people and organizations drive the SEO experience.  We can see which topics are trending well before they make a difference in the mainstream.  And more.

We are basically peering into the subconscious mind of our customer.  If we look close enough, we can find new answers and see what’s next a tiny bit earlier than our peers.

The result is that “search” is really about to become (Re)Search and it will lead to a series of new models that improve media relations, issues management, media planning, trend analysis, competitive intelligence and, of course, search itself.

My colleague, Alan Garcia, is pioneering a new suite of models that can address many of the core customer experience issues raised for years by luminaries such as Pete Blackshaw, start to build new media efficiency models that will make it far more clear where waste exists for advertisers and it will make it easier for all of us to create solutions that represent the whole brains of customers.

It also means we need to stop thinking of search in the way we’ve been taught and start thinking of search as a gold mine of customer experience and a way to increase our knowledge base.

In Prince’s case, he changed his name to disassociate himself from his record label.  In this case, we just need to stop pigeon-holing search as “one tool in the toolbox” and realize it is a Permian Basin of insights ready to tap into.

Will be fun.  More in posts ahead.

PS/Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers out there.  Make sure you thank the Mothers and Grandparents who make it possible to be a decent Father.

Recently, I was asked to speak at the USF Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass MediaWayne Garcia, director and senior instructor at the school, interviewed me and joined the conversation on what matters.  Guy Golan, thank you for this invite plus the chance to speak to your media planning class.

We packed in a lot in our one-hour talk in front of 150 students. Check out the video below:

Here are a few highlights of our discussion:

Fake Content – we are at the beginning of a new era of propaganda.  We’re not going to stop it, but we can learn how to be more precise, how to track bad actors more effectively and do our best to outsmart them. We have to keep in mind that bad actors innovate as fast as we all do.

Language – we discussed how you can summarize the plot of the Dune story all in emoji’s.  The trend is simple. As we improve how we communicate via visual images and start to create “new dialects” of images and text, we’ll break down barriers to language worldwide.

Advertising – we’re moving towards ads that will get our attention within 2-3 seconds, not 15 or 30.  It’s the journalistic pyramid applied to gaining our attention.  Headlines matter in news and in video/ads.

The New TV – there were more than one trillion snapchats last year.  That’s more than all of the photos taken on all of the cameras in the world.

Career Advice – In this talk and in class, I outlined five key success factors for today’s student that I have applied throughout my own career.

Always focus on building new skills and experiences.  Never leave a job for money or title.  Move to the next job to gain a new skill/experience and keep building your career strength.

Be a continual learner for your entire life.  Ask yourself how you learn every day.  What news digests do you get? How much time do you spend to learn each day?  It’s no different than practicing a sport.  You have to practice to improve.

Always push yourself to learn new areas of expertise.  What is your one obsession?  Do you know search?  If no, take time to learn about it.  Or Machine learning.  Or media planning.  It doesn’t have to be in your current job.  As Wayne said, “learn how to be professionally curious”.

Learn how to speak publicly.  Participate in Toastmasters.  Always accept a chance to speak.  Practice speaking in a room by yourself.  Force yourself to become decent at expressing yourself.  It helps you in meetings, in managing and in presenting.

Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something.  The world is filled with people who will tell that you are not right for a job or you don’t have what it takes for a new assignment.  If you believe you can do it, that’s all that matters.  Don’t ever let anyone bring you down.  And remember, it’s often those who think they are helping you who do this.  Learn how not to listen, in this regard.

The students of USF are a lot of fun.  Smart students, great questions.   You can tell this is a university filled with students who are going to make a difference in our world.

Best, Bob

Books mentioned during the video — PreCommerce, Storytizing and Countering Hate 

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A home screen has been our way to organize our devices.  It can access the operating system, files, apps and more to make it easy to interact, whether it is a PC or a phone.

We have always thought of a home screen as organizing our software, essentially, for us.

Snapchat is changing that mindset dramatically.  We are now realizing that our camera, which can chronicle our lives, can serve as the next home screen, since it can organize our insights for the day, help us improve our view of a scene due to augmented reality, learn faster from our peers what is hot or not and navigate it all in seconds.  Snapchat is organizing the “software of life”…..better known as our experience.

It is one of the reasons why we took more snaps last year than all of the pictures taken by smartphones in the world. That’s more than one trillion snaps, in total.

Snaps help us learn and improve our experience.  Photos are static, old school and nice to reference but not much more.

This is even more impressive (the one trillion snaps) when you realize that there are 187 million daily users of Snapchat, which means more than 3.9 billion people who are online do not use Snapchat.  And yet the Snapchat community snaps more than the rest of the world all put together…a world with more than seven billion phones.

It makes sense when you think about the utility of Snapchat.

A Snapchat user is really creating a new photo album of their day every day.  The average phone user is just taking an occasional photo when the mood hits them.  The volume per user is night and day.

The Snapchat community is a power user community.  They use three billion filters daily.  Augmented reality is starting to help with the retail experience.   Filters can be plain ‘ol fun.  AR can help you decide what to buy or where to go.

This ability to navigate leads to tremendous trust mainly because the users are deciding what is relevant either on their own or via their peers. As an example, Nike shoes recently held an all-star game event for a new shoe launch.  It was sold out (meaning the shoes) and over 60 percent of the participants shared their experience with their friends, all via Snapchat.

Let’s see.  If we get 0.5% click through on email, we’re ok.  If we get a few percentage points of action on any event, we’re smiling.  Sixty percent of peers are sharing and recommending a new brand.  That’s not even close.

This is why the camera really is becoming the new home screen.  Its why most users create daily with their camera, spend 30 minutes or more and snap at least 20 times per day.

Snapchatters make quick decisions (2/3 of ad awareness lift is achieved in the first two seconds of a Snap ad) and they don’t hesitate to endorse a brand to friends, if it makes sense.

The impact on industry is wonderful.  We have all talked about the need for agile content for years.  Now it is really happening with speed.

Skippable ad units are the norm.  Making one’s point quickly requires purposeful sound design, a single message and the ability to succeed or fail quickly.

Storytelling is changing, since participatory storytelling can drive deep engagement.  Snap is now experimenting with long form content, meaning 5-6-minute stories for Gatorade, Nike and other brands.  The click-through rate is high for a simple reason.  It is engaging and it is aligned with how Snapchatters think.  It turns out that if you make content fun and easy to access, we want more of it.  Who would have known?  😊

Even simple things like ensuring you can watch all video vertically is important.  Why make people flip their phone to watch?  That extra half of a second is totally wasteful in this day and age.

In the future, augmented reality will make it possible for brands to “own a moment”, drive their audience to that moment and then link right to purchase via the new experiences offered.  A great example is the recent BMW ad that shows a new car and when you swipe up, you see a 3D version of the car developed for the Snap audience.

Snap is changing how we view the camera.

Agencies are changing how they think of the creative experience.

Ecommerce is about to change with it.

The result is the camera really is the new home screen…..when used properly, it navigates our lives.

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How many times have you heard the phrase “Content is King”?  Too many, I would say.

The more appropriate phrase, Le roi est mort, vive le roi! translates to “the king is dead, long live the king”.  At first it sounds a bit odd to say that, but there is a reason.

The phrase picked up steam in 1422 when Charles VII ascended the French throne after his Dad, Charles VI died. Besides the fact that naming of your children wasn’t very imaginative back then, the purpose was to say goodbye to the old king and welcome the new one.

So, if content is no longer king, what is?  This is why I asked Mike Marinello, SVP, Strategic Communications at Turner, to join me in thinking this through. Here are our Sunday musings.

Bob: Mike, it seems pretty obvious that the content, television, advertising world we grew up in is ready to go through an evolution like never seen before.  Yet we often hold on to our old models like a life raft.  Why?  What’s a good example.

Mike: The Nielsen-only days are over. You can’t tell me that 18-49 year-olds are the only audience that matters when considering who is viewing your content and who is important to your advertisers. We know a lot of people over the age of 49 that are active viewers, active consumers and have a decent amount of disposable income.

Bob: True, I know a few.

Overall, we’re seeing content consumption increase around the world if we factor in TV, social media, search and the many new ways to view content, ranging from Hulu to Netflix to  In reality, we have a new King and Queen.  The King may be “content” but the queen is “experience” and if you excel at both, you will build your audience.  Accurate?

Mike: Agree, if we understand and know our audiences (not just track them) like the online giants do, the content that reaches our audience is more relevant and connected to their interests and lives.

Bob: The old models had us measuring what we do in our living room and making most of our judgements on spend based on our viewing habits. If we start thinking of “experience habits”, we look at what we view on Facebook (more than 8 billion video views per day), how we interact on Instagram, what we find relevant on twitter, what is trending on YouTube and what we watch when we decide to relax.  But even there, it matters which device we are using, whether we are viewing content with our friends and family or on an airplane or in the back of a taxi. Basically, the experience is completely changing how we define “content”.   We can reach people in more ways on more devices in more places.  So, what is really changing inside of each of us?

Mike: We are no longer in the business of capturing peoples time.  We need to win their hearts and minds as well.  We want to serve them with the content and advertisements that resonate with them creating a deeper connection that allows you to change a consumer, to a customer, to a fan.   Content is no longer king – it is now linked with experience.

Bob: Great points.  Fans are loyal (think of Eagles fans).  Customers change based on price or just because they feel like it.  Mike, is the television industry moving with enough speed in our “TV to social back to TV world” we live in to adapt to all of this change?

Mike: No.  TV advertising is becoming more personalized, but adoption of automated TV marketing has been very slow, with less than 10% of the $70 billion TV advertising market being sold digitally today.

Bob: Not surprised.  What I keep thinking about is how content itself is changing.  As traditional media companies like Viacom, Fox and Turner compete with and maybe Apple soon, it makes one wonder what it takes to succeed.  You are inside a very successful company.  What will it take?

Mike:  When you are competing against new entrants into the market that are spending billions on original content production, it has a way of focusing your efforts..  The future leaders need to stay focused on four key areas:

  1. Improving technology and data capabilities to compete in non-linear environments.
  2. Making strategic investments in people, products and processes to modernize your in-house technical capabilities.
  3. Create premium content AND create experiences for customers that are more relevant across multiple consumption platforms and opportunities, which expands the reach of advertisers.
  4. Work to create a level playing field.  If technology giants are competing against media companies for the same customers (or fans), why not have the same standards for reaching large audiences and making large sums of money.

Bob: Ok, a quick lightning round to end.
Bob: How do you capture the audiences that matter most?

Mike:    Own more – if not all – of the end to end consumer experience.

Bob: How does the advertising industry modernize fast enough to ensure linear TV – which still has a massive audience – remains a vibrant and relevant platform?

Mike:  Linear TV still has a massive audience, so there is a  basic need to accelerate the modernization of technology and  data collecting so that advertising can look, feel and act more like online advertising.

Bob: What bothers you that is easy to change?

Mike: We need to get to a world where we are selling audiences not demographics.

Bob:  What is your favorite show on Turner channels?  Mine right now is Rick and Morty.

Mike: Well it’s hard to pick just one. My kids love everything Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. And I am a huge fan of “Good Behavior” because of Michelle Dockery – and “The Alienest” is amazing. But what I’m most excited about right now is our deal with UEFA and the Champions League, because it embodies in so many ways how we are bringing to life John Martin’s (Turner CEO and Chairman) vision of reimagining television and what Turner brings to the table.

Thanks Mike, very insightful.  My key takeaway is simple.  Content is an integral part of the experience.  Experience is the driver of future success.  And the winners will be a combination of content creator and technology expert.  The journey continues….

Best, Bob

Note: Sunday Musings is a new series where I will either riff on a topic of interest or interview someone who is an expert in the area and reflect on what we’re learning together. 

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This holiday season, I focused on reading books that represented events or people that changed our perspective on the world for better or worse, plus I added in two books for fun. Here’s a brief summary:

American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind behind the Silk Road by Nick Bilton – this is an extremely well-written book that describes the creation and operation of the Silk Road in the style of a page-turning thriller. Ross Ulbricht, who created Silk Road is from the town that we live in (Westlake in Austin, TX). On the one hand, it is scary to think of what he created in such a short-time frame. On the other hand, it illustrates how hard it will be to truly slow down illicit activity via the dark web with the present rules we have in place. Impossible would be the right word. Recommended by John Cunningham.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann – this book describes the early days of how the FBI began by centering on a series of murders that occurred in Oklahoma impacting the Osage Indians. This is another well-written book that is a great reminder of why we need a strong FBI. Recommended by Christopher Martin.

Kissinger by Walter Isaacson – Walter Isaacson has become my favorite biographer to read. This volume on Henry Kissinger is unsparing in its unveiling of how Kissinger, Nixon and their teams developed policy, focused on world order and, quite frankly, lived in a continually semi-paranoid state. Isaacson has a gift for putting all of the information out on the table in a reader-friendly approach. Next book I will read of his is on Leonardo da Vinci.

Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day by Joel Selvin – Woodstock was heralded as a breakthrough event that was not nearly as well planned as many thought. The west coast version of Woodstock turned out to be Altamont, an event where “planning” was not necessarily an operative word.   It became symbolic as an event that signaled the end of the “innocence” of the 60’s. The Stones, by the way, are one of my favorite bands of all time, so easy to read. Recommended by Mike Marinello.

Since it was a time to chill out during the holidays, I also read two fiction books, which I don’t do a lot of.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty – this satirical book about a fictional town called “Dickens” within Los Angeles and a race-related trial that ends up in the US Supreme Court are all you need to know, other than this won the Man Booker Prize, which automatically puts this in the “must read” column. Love the Man Booker Prize selections each year. Recommended by Michael Roth.

The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille – I have been a long-time fan of Nelson DeMille’s work, particularly The Gold Coast. A fun, relatively quick read about a plot that rolls out in Cuba. Will stop there.

In Q1, I plan to read more on Blockchain, related technologies and global issues.

Happy New Year! Please keep the recommendations for books coming in.

Best, Bob

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Many of the answers in life are common sense.  We just choose to ignore them.  We always have a “good reason”, but every now and then, we just have to call ourselves out and say to ourselves “nope, you’re not as smart as you think.”

Slightly more than one year ago, I finally admitted this to myself and on November 17, 2016, I received a vertical sleeve gastrectomy performed by Dr. Paul Cirangle.  This is otherwise known as “making my stomach smaller”.  Today, I am 95 pounds lighter and a lot smarter about how I stay healthy.

I like to say that the answers were always hiding in plain sight.  I just chose to ignore them.  In the spirit of inspiring others to think about their long-term health, here are my top 11 insights.

#1 – Listen to your friends – Jim Weiss, who had similar surgery nine years ago, is someone I talk about business with on a regular basis.  He would occasionally ask me about my weight, mention his experience and provide me with Dr. Cirangle’s information.  Jim knew I would eventually see the answer right in front of me and act before I knew it.  I’m thankful Jim cared more about my health than I did at the time.

#2 – Focus on the numbers that matter – what’s your waist size and your BMI (body mass index)? If you are putting on weight, just admit it.  Don’t rationalize that it is ok.  Weight gain is a slow-motion movie.

#3 – Weigh yourself every chance you get – maybe your blood pressure is fine.  Or you don’t have diabetes.  You have some rationale.   You are ignoring the part of the iceberg you can’t see.

#4 – Think of fuel vs. food – my food pyramid starts with protein, then vegetables and usually ends there.  I don’t start with carbs or sugars or anything else with no real value.  I think of how the body is fueled, not how it is fed.

#5 – Imagine your coach blowing the whistle – would your coach say it is ok to sit on your butt watching games or would they tell you to get moving?  I imagine my coach is there every day.  So, if I need to, I do a workout at 10pm or go out for a 2-3 mile walk at night in whatever city I am in.  It’s not that hard actually.  It’s really just taking that first step each time.  Right coach?

#6 – Partners matter – my wife, Donna, is highly focused on eating right, exercising and staying in shape.  It allows us to keep a clean house and limit temptations.  If you live with someone else, you are in it together.  So, if you are that other person, ask if you are helping or hurting.

#7 – Don’t overthink devices, but use them – I didn’t sleep enough.  I didn’t weigh myself often.  I didn’t track what I ate every day.  Now I do via a Fit Bit watch, a Fit Bit Aria scale and the MyFitnessPal app.  For the cost of one expensive dinner, I can now track myself every day all year round.

#8 – Realize why we overeat – our stomach contains cells that contain Ghrelin, the hunger hormone that drives our appetite.  With far less Ghrelin receptors, I am just not all that hungry.  Your need for that next slice of pizza is more your body playing with your head than it is a physical need.

#9 – Who needs sugar? – I drink my coffee black, drink water with crystal light and just don’t drink sodas anymore.  The world hasn’t ended.

#10 – Moderation is my middle name – I took a one year hiatus from alcohol. It wasn’t really that bad.  And now I have new rules in place.  I won’t drink unless I am at a special event on a personal level.  Gone are the days where I will drink on an airplane, for example.

#11 Establish new rules – I exercise 3-4x per week.  I don’t miss.  I always reach 90-120 grams of protein a day.  I don’t miss.  Basically, I have rules for how I will live each day.  None are hard, all are easy to follow.

So, on a weekend of being thankful, I want to express thanks to my wife, Donna; my surgeon, Dr. Paul Cirangle; my friend, Jim Weiss; and all of my friends who have been encouraging, inspiring and behind me 110% to get healthy for the rest of my life.

Note: surgery is a personal decision.  I found that the surgery was the right move for myself.  I can take the weight off and keep it off forever, which is my goal.  How you lose weight is a personal choice, so I will never advocate one way. 

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This fall I chose a theme of “science and technology” and then realized via this reading list how, once again, teams are so important to anything successful that occurs in life.

Here is what I read and learned about:

No One Cares About Crazy People – by Ron Powers – the author’s family includes two sons with schizophrenia, which provides Powers with a bird’s eye view into our broken mental health system.  In great detail, he interweaves the history and failures of our approach to mental health in parallel with the struggles and bias his own children have faced.  A worthy read and one that you hope becomes outdated soon.

Machine Learning: The New AI – by Ethem Alpaydin – the MIT Press has an excellent series of books describing what’s next in as close to laymen’s terms as you can hope for with otherwise highly technical subjects.  Machine learning (ML) is a discipline that we use every day at W2O Group to power our analytics work. In my view, ML will be mainstream knowledge for every communicator and marketer within five years.  We all tend to think that new technology is just for the geeks, but advances like ML are actually making it easier for all of us to geek out and make a real difference in how we analyze our world.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End – by Atul Gawande – Dr. Gawande is an exceptional author, who chooses, in this book, to make us think about how we age in U.S. society and how we can improve on a healthcare system unprepared for change.  My biggest takeaway is that we’ll do more for those in the last years of their lives via common sense decisions than we will, in most cases, through medical interventions.  A wake up call on how to think about geriatrics.

Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes – by Richard A. Clarke and R.P. Eddy – the authors illustrate how “Cassandras” often tell us what will happen, but we choose to ignore them.  From Katrina to Fukashima, few disasters were surprises.  I found a real parallel here for all of us who innovate.  It is often hard to convince people about how the world may change, since they like to root their decisions in the current environment.  It’s more comfortable.  Until ISIS forms or a city floods or a power grid is shut down.  Exploring why we fail to listen is…..worth a listen…..

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry — by Neil deGrasse Tyson – this is the holiday gift choice in this list by a wide margin.  Neil does such an excellent job of explaining our universe in bite size chunks that we can all understand.  I know more about our moon, supernovas and how the universe is expanding from this book than what I learned from all prior books put together.

Together is Better – by Simon Sinek – you know him as the famous Ted Talk guy who “starts with why”.  Using a similar approach, he talks about the power of teams and how we can all more effectively work together.  I found it particularly resonant as I thought about how important it is for the mental health world to partner more effectively or how the best care occurs when healthcare professionals team up to provide the best care for the aging patient, regardless of their position or how we could all do a better job listening to new ideas to further our goals.

It was an interesting set of books to read.  Now, for the winter, I am planning to focus on individuals who have impacted our history (e.g. Kissinger) and just read some books for fun, many of these books are past recommendations from all of you.  Thank you to Will de Groot for the Being Mortal book and Jim Weiss for Together is Better.

Best, Bob


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